I lie on the new hammock and look up at pepper tree branches lace their twigs through the soft blue sky on a warm morning. I breathe and feel the fullness of my stomach from the blueberry pancakes I just ate for Sunday brunch. I move my hand to my knotted belly and breathe slowly to gently encourage digestion.
I haven’t always been this kind. I often just eat and then run off to the next thing. Or my eyes spy some junk food when I have ignored my hunger and I find myself devouring it. For example, I was steaming veggies for dinner and making a fresh salad but was so hungry that I ate almost a whole bag of salt and vinegar potato chips while cooking the healthy food. I may also reach for chocolate when I feel stressed. It soothes me for a minute, but then I crave more, and the backlash is often indigestion.
I reach over and use my hand to push against a heavy flowerpot while lying on the hammock. This makes the hammock rock my body back and forth. I close my eyes as my mind wanders to the past. Who rocked me as a baby? I picture my mother holding me as an infant, but then I hear toddlers squeal and cry. Mom lifts me off her lap and puts me down to take care of the older kids. I picture my grandmother, Nana. She held me for a while but also had to watch the toddler twins and my older brother. So, she had to put me down too soon also. I probably cried or smiled in order to be held longer but it often did not work. I had to soothe myself.
I am still not very good at it. I believe in it, I preach it, but I often don’t take the time I need to comfort myself. I work for hours, overdoing it, then am surprised when a headache or stomachache signals that I need a break. This past week, I was proud of my productivity, working long days on tasks. Then this weekend, I lounged around, not doing much. I fear that if I rest too much, I won’t get back to work, and I will swing to the other side and get lazy. But I have found that the new hammock has not swallowed me. It is more like going through a carwash. I slow down and the water and soap pour over me and the brushes swish side to side to make me shine like new. I feel refreshed and renewed and ready to move on.
After a few minutes of relaxing on the hammock, I tune in more closely to my body and ask, “Do you want to work?” If the answer is yes, there will be a slight sense of excitement in my solar plexus, signaling that I am ready to get up and do some task. Or I ask, “Do you want more rest?” If I yawn and my head gets fuzzy, I may take a nap. The hammock is helping me listen to my body.
Buying the hammock was a conscious step toward valuing the world of leisure. A world I sometimes have trouble climbing into and feeling at home in. Now I climb into the hammock and rest after meals or anytime I am drawn to take a break. The hammock invites me to follow a back and forth rhythm of my breath as it rocks me gently from side to side. I sink deeper into relaxation and am soothed. We all need to pay attention to what our bodies need, and the hammock is one way that is helping me. What about you? No hammock? No problem. Lie down or sit down. Focus on your breath and follow the natural rise and fall of your belly. This is one way to come back home to the body, a body that will tell you your next best move, if you slow down and listen.