Council of Hens

March 27th, 2023

There is nothing that causes me more anxiety than one or two, ok if I am honest, three glasses of white wine. Like the bottle should just have a woman looking out over a sunset with the words, “Anxiety, Napa Valley,” written on the label.

For the most part I stay away from white wine but sometimes something just comes over me and if I am with the right friends, the right kind of warm day or the perfect napa kind of vibe, the white wine pops open.  9 hours later however, I wake up with a gasp…. the clock always reads 3:30 AM and I know I am up, wide awake with the very serious job of  trying to save the world.

I have learned over the years that there is this little pill called Advil PM and if taken before bedtime after a few drinks guarantees that I sleep through my 3:30 meeting with what I call “the council of hens.” The council of hens are the incessant clucking of voices in my head that go over in detail everything wrong with me, everything I failed to do and every bad thing that may happen for the next 20 years.   Important things that arise include never flipping the laundry in time, my children getting caught in an avalanche while heliboarding, what to do with leftovers, Maya never deeply resting and Scott leaving me to become a semiprofessional golfer.


So, what do I do?


When I was little and woke from a bad dream, I would grab my mushy pillow and green flowered polyester comforter and plop down on the floor with my dog Heidi.  Sometimes I would stand in the threshold of my parent’s room and considered waking them but for some reason I just knew they were stressed and needed their sleep.  Heidi however didn’t’ need sleep.  If I woke, she woke.  Often, she slept at the door of the bedroom my sister and I shared.  Heidi was an English lab with the softest ears.  Instead of waking anyone, I would curl next to her, place my blanket over both of us and wrap my arm just right so I could rub her ears a bit.  She never seemed to mind. My dad would wake early, find me and tuck me back into bed.  It was magical waking up that way.


Many years later when began to drink socially, I realized that I was unable to drink very much without getting vertigo.  I was the girl that would go missing and when you found me would be laying on the ground somewhere hugging the earth until I could turn over and look up to the night sky.   Because of this reaction I never drank too much.  The world is always spinning and hurling through the universe and for some reason too much alcohol puts me in the front row of the fast lane.


So it is not surprising that I woke at 3:30 this morning with a gasp after having a glass of white wine and no Advil pm (I have sworn of its magic). Instead, I grabbed my pillow and a blanket and headed to the floor in the living room where I could watch the sun come up.   Walter is very attentive of my moving through the dark rooms of the house until he realized he is not going to be fed.  Once he understands there is no food involved, he finds his way back to his bed leaving me on the cold floor missing Heidi.  I think Walter also deserts me because he holds a very serious grudge over not being allowed on my bed.  Whatever the reason, even without the bed spins, I find the only thing that settles me down after a council of hens wakeup call at 3:30 in the morning is laying on the floor.


And I think that is why yoga found me so early I life.  The one thing we all do when we find yoga is ground.  We place our hands, our knees, our head and our spine all on the ground.  We roll and twist and settle and balance.  Grounding, grounding, grounding.  So much of the magic of yoga is simply this plugging into the earth.   I tell my students… the earth can handle lightening.   it can take fire and ground it in an instant.  When you are anxious, scarred, disorganized or confused, go to the ground for a little bit.  Take a big pillow and do child’s pose.  Wrap yourself around the pillow and feel your spine open to the air, feel your arms pull the pillow deep into your wise gut, say over and over, “I know… I hear you.. its is ok.. your are safe,”  Feel your butt up in the air a bit.  Tell your flight or flight, “I’ve got you.  This is not real.”  Tell it, “This is just you spinning, hurling fast through a cycle of your body clearing out the sugar.. this is just your adrenals saying, “fuck you man I am going home!”


The light is coming up as I write this, there are birds singing their morning song. Even birds need to touch down from time to time. Now, when I go to the floor, I also have my computer nearby because I know that after I calm down, I will listen and feel the soft morning that gratitude brings and the words will come and the council will go quiet listening, knowing their job is done.


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