Jillian Prantsky, Deep Listening
in conversation with Susan Lisovicz
Thursday, Oct. 26, 7 p.m.
Watchung Booksellers, 54 Fairfield St.
By GWEN OREL
Montclairite Jillian Pransky has taught yoga for more than 20 years. She currently teaches at Jai Pure, 575 Bloomfield Ave., among other places, and offers instruction online. Her son was born with a severe anaphylactic allergy to wheat and gluten. Pransky writes that through a study that introduced him to microscopic amounts of gluten, he went from someone who could die if kissed him on the lips by someone with traces of wheat, to someone who can eat a full slice of pizza. In “Deep Listening: A Healing Practice to Calm Your Body, Clear Your Mind and Open Your Heart” Pransky provides a 10-step journey on relaxing and self-awareness “to nurture your own well-being.”
I love the idea of the pause and reset, but how do we not multitask, and continue to get things done? For example, this morning the book I read while letting my muscles relax in a hot bath was your book on relaxing, so I could prep for this interview.
I’m a yoga teacher, but I’m also on the road several times a month. I write manuals and lead workshops. I have a 14-year-old son, a husband, a dog. The yoga teacher is as busy as the next person.
We’re so used to racing through our list of things to do, and we’re stressed out about how much is on our list. We don’t take time to breathe and drop our shoulders as we’re racing through the day. If we’re more relaxed and less stressed, we make wiser decisions. It’s not that the list shrinks, it’s how we talk about that list, what we take on, what becomes important.
The truth is I make more choices to pause while I can. I don’t multitask as much. If there are five lunches, I might take three of them and only eat, instead of eating all of them while working.
You feel like you can’t stop, but three breaths a couple of times a day, or a walk, or five minutes of meditation won’t take time from the list. You will meet it more refreshed, with more energy. At the end of the day, you’re not as daunted or frazzled.
I’m not a bad person if I don’t do the dishes or laundry. Most of us go until we can’t go anymore and are forced to quit. We squeeze self-care out of the schedule.
If we rejuvenate all day long, we end up with more ease and more ways to enjoy what we’re doing.
So, are you saying you can actually do more?
It’s not loading more on your schedule or looking to achieve more, but getting more grounded and relaxed. As we handle busy schedules, we focus more on what we’re doing. We get it done in a more satisfying way. We’re meeting that business differently.
For me, books on clutter tend to become part of the clutter. When I look at this book with its suggestions of different types of things, including yoga poses, I find myself adding to my to-do list: buy yoga mat, buy pillow…
The instant “pause and reset” takes three breaths. There’s no mat, no chair. You could sit on the couch, or do it on the grocery line. It’s a commitment to practice, whether it’s three breaths five times a day, or a yoga mat and 20 minutes. It’s a willingness to commit to paying attention.
The whole offering is how not to feel bad about anything, but to encourage and befriend yourself, do any amount.
The tools are effective in themselves. Each has its own potency. Some people don’t want to sit on a yoga mat, or journal.
If you can set an alarm clock… When I’m most busy, the list of things to do is impenetrable. I set an alarm clock on my iPhone for every two hours. I pause and take three breaths, get back into my body, and go about my day.
I get so stressed about news of the world that twice my dermatologist has ordered me off Facebook and Twitter. But when I turn my phone off to review a play, I often come out to find the world has changed. How can I be calm and yet informed?
Are we reading social media and holding our breaths? If we can breathe and be in our bodies while on social media we’ll get more information. Our view will be wider. It won’t only be a place of fear. It turns off the stress response. We engage more in the prefrontal cortex. It allows us to respond, rather than react habitually.
We can all use a couple of minutes of spaciousness. It’s good for our health, digestion, immune system, and also good for relationships. We can’t meet our friends or come to the dinner table or office when we’re so stressed by what’s coming at us.
It’s not a magic answer. It’s just not possible to care for what’s going on in the world if we’re depleted ourselves.
I really believe we can all make changes in tiny increments. We don’t have to change our lives and lifestyles to handle stress better.
If your best friend calls you and says, “Hey, I really need to talk to you,” you’d give it your attention.
But we don’t do it for ourselves.
When we expose ourselves to new nourishment, like any bank account, it adds up. A little bit, often, can make a big impact on our lives.
Every time I practice, the first thing I do is pause and welcome myself.
Imagine for a moment what it’s like to show up somewhere and feel welcome — really, really welcome. Imagine that moment when you truly sense how delighted someone is that you’ve arrived.
When we feel welcomed, we show up more.
There is no more powerful message we can send to ourselves than greeting ourselves with open arms.
In whatever way you’re showing up here…
wherever you may have been…
gather your whole self up
and let yourself know you’re welcome here.
Whether you’re showing up with expectations… or with fears…
whether you’re showing up in joy… or in sorrow…
take a moment to greet yourself
exactly as you are right now.
Gather yourself up and welcome all of you:
your mind, your body, your breath.
Sit for a moment and welcome yourself
along with each breath as it fills you.
Welcome your breath into your body.
Welcome your mind onto your breath.
Welcome your body into the room.
Your breath is always welcoming you.
Meet your breath with your body.
Greet your breath with your body.
Take a moment to be with your breath.
Take a moment to be with yourself.
When we feel welcomed, we show up more.
WE’RE ALL A LITTLE BREATHLESS
The thing about an asthma attack (and breathing in general) is that the harder it is to breathe, the more anxious we get. Our fear center is alerted, and our body reacts. We become tighter and more rigid, then breathing becomes harder still. This cycle begins and then feeds on itself, leaving us even more tense and anxious.
And when we are in this cycle, it is neurologically impossible to feel okay.
But this phenomenon does not apply only to asthma. Every time we don’t feel okay, we are pulled out of our relationship with our body and away from our breath. And the truth is that most of us are in some version of this cycle all day long.
In fact, we typically don’t even realize how minimized our breathing is most of the time. We’ve gotten so used to feeling restricted, we don’t have any idea that it’s not the way our body is naturally meant to feel.
Our restricted breath actually begets stress.
It perpetuates the feeling of low-level anxiety that most of us live with.