Comment

The Herm Autumnal Yoga & Wellbeing Retreat

31b34e42-44ac-4ae9-9e59-262cf3277e0c.JPG

Mahāvākya – ‘great saying’ 

Om asato mā sadgamáya

-       may I go from what is unreal to what is real 

Om tamaso mā jyotirgamāya

-       may I go from darkness to light 

Om mrtyorma amrtam gamáya

-       may I go from what is passing to what is eternal

  

This was the beautiful mantra that I chanted in my room on Herm on Friday afternoon with a beautiful view of the sea, just a short while before the boat arrived from Guernsey with the participants of the Beinspired Herm Autumnal Yoga & Wellbeing Retreat.

I’ll admit I needed some grounding and calming. About six weeks ago, Herm management had told us that things were changing in the hotel this retreat, which meant that we were no longer able to use our usual yoga space.  Instead we would be using a darker, and what appeared to me to be a slightly smaller space, and I couldn’t quite let go of the concern about how we were all going to fit in. 

I love Vedic chanting and have been studying it for about 18 months now. I also love Sanskrit and have just started learning this in earnest too. The chant was most definitely helpful in easing my slightly challenged state of mind as that boat arrived, reminding me that energy spent worrying is indeed wasted (one of the Reiki principles is “just for today, do not worry”, so I know this really!) and that what will be will be.

It helped enormously that the sun was shining (and due to continue shining during the weekend) and that I knew I had a wonderful bunch of students attending. It was still a relief however when my wonderful fellow yoga teacher and friend, Vicki, managed to figure out a way of fitting everyone in and we had all settled into the space. 

Needless to say, chant or no chant, the weekend was amazing (I’m biased I know!). 

We had a record number of 19 swimmers for the 7am Saturday morning swim; blissful as the sun began to rise and lightened the sky with a planet (potentially Mars) still twinkling to the south.  I stayed in far too long with Charley and took a good long while to warm up (thanks Charley, fab swim!), but I couldn’t not, as the sun rose into the sky. 

It was Eben’s second birthday that same day, which seemed rather fitting given what happened two years ago on retreat (you’ll have to read my book “Dancing with the Moon” to read about that!). Amazing though to think that this year (quite a contrast to two years ago!) we spent an hour or so late morning on Belvoir Beach, basking in the sunshine and enjoying our second swim of the day…in late October (I doubt he’ll enjoy many birthdays in the UK in shorts and t-shirts on the beach!).

We managed a third swim of the day that same afternoon, this time with Debbi and my Mum, Jill. This reminds me, thank you Mum, I’m very grateful, more biscuits next time though please, ha ha (the joke being I said no to the biscuits and she insisted and they all ran out…I opted for the chocolate and that ran out too!)

Swimming was followed by my favourite session of the weekend, Bhajans, where we sung devotional mantra together. I just adore these sessions, what a treat, with my little helper Elijah dishing out sage and crystals (and interrupting me in the middle of chanting to ask how many dried apricots he was allowed to eat, nothing quite as grounding as having children with you on a retreat!). Regardless of the distraction of Elijah, I felt the tears rising on the Gayatri Mantra, profoundly moving. Thank you ladies. 

The food was astounding throughout the weekend and a huge thank you to the team at the Mermaid for this. The chef really rose to the challenge and produced some incredibly clean and tasty gluten and dairy free vegan food for us so that everyone was able to eat every dish (if they wanted!), including me (I’m still breastfeeding Eben who has insensitivities (read my book to find out why!). It was a real treat, no cooking all weekend, and yummy and healthy food to eat and not an animal killed as a result (lighter energy therefore!).

The yoga was fab, I know I’m biased as I was teaching (!), but I really had a sense that everyone was embracing the opportunity to deepen their practice, not just asana but also pranayama and to really feel into the energy of the practice. That’s what it’s all about really, the energy, and I was really keen that we let go of whatever wasn’t needed over the weekend (“what is not necessary in our lives in this moment…thoughts, people, clothes, behaviour patterns…”).

This morning 13 of us met for another 7am swim…we were joined by a seal.  It was the weirdest thing.  I’ll admit I had found my way onto Facebook at 6.15am as I drank tea and attempted to enjoy some quiet time before the children woke.  It didn’t last long as Eben noticed I wasn’t in the bed, and started crying, but long enough for me to watch a short video that someone had posted of a diver swimming with a seal and stroking said seal…

…as we were entering the sea in the dawn light, it suddenly came to mind that maybe we might see a seal…

…fast forward eight minutes or so and there found Charley, Cate and I swimming out a little deeper than the others when all of a sudden I was made aware that a seal had indeed joined us – the law of attraction!

I turned towards the shore, swimming a little quicker than I had been swimming and trying not to panic! 

I experienced three seal encounters last winter.  One at Shell Beach on Herm when a seal popped up minutes after I got out when I’d been swimming on my own, and then with my sea swimming ladies, once at Saints and another time when the rather large fella got rather close to us at Petit Bot. I’m not entirely comfortable swimming with them, because…hmmm, not sure…fear…teeth…irrational I know. 

Fear aside (silly fear!), it was pretty special though. [Yes, I swam as quickly as I could back to shore, freaked by the seaweed that brushed my leg, “arghhhh”]. 

The last class of the weekend (first thing this morning) was fun.  My energy was hyper (I love Herm, I’d seen a seal, the moon and star shone brightly overhead each night, I slept metres away from the sea - warm in my rather huge bed but close enough to hear the sea lapping the shore- and I just love retreating) so I was well up for the class! It was fun, we breathed, we moved, we laughed and we relaxed!

I’ll admit, soft touch as I am, I had a bit of a lump in my throat as we finished the session.  I love retreating, they might be hard work in preparation, but there is something ever so special about joining together with the common purpose of enjoying yoga and retreating from the rest of the world. The boys love them too, and it helped enormously that my lovely parents were on hand to help Ewan with them. 

It’s been a very special weekend and I’d like to say thank you again to all you wonderful beings who joined me this weekend and it made it such a special one, a huge thank you to my Mum and Dad, and to Ewan and the boys – and I love the fact that some of you have been joining me regularly since the first Herm retreat in 2009!

We only took one photo this year, Vicki took it too, we were very lost in the moment, which can only be a good thing, so apologies to those of you on the retreat that igjt have hoped for more visual recording, but you’ll have to remember how it felt!

Mahāvākya – ‘great saying’

Om asato mā sadgamáya

-       may I go from what is unreal to what is real

Om tamaso mā jyotirgamāya

-       may I go from darkness to light

 Om mrtyorma amrtam gamáya

-       may I go from what is passing to what is eternal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comment

Shifting around the autumnal equinox!

Comment

Shifting around the autumnal equinox!

IMG_7809.JPG

After what was an amazing retreat in Glastonbury, it’s been a little tricky fitting back into “life” in Guernsey this week.  This has not been helped by the rather challenging shifting energy of the autumnal equinox.

I’ve a sense that this equinox is always rather tricky but this year it’s been particularly testing.  And we haven’t even reached D-day just yet!

Work has been especially difficult. Most people don’t realise that I’m a company secretary by profession, working part-time and flexible hours for a wealth management company. Well, this week, the egos have been out in force – I suspect I’m a little more sensitive to it due to Mabon and the Glastonbury experience, but nonetheless, phew, it’s been a touch interesting.

It seems that the fact you have “Head of”, “Director” or some other inane title to define your role means that for some reason you think it’s OK to treat others as if they are less worthy. Umm hello people, we’re all people, right? One day we’re all going to die and titles will be utterly meaningless in the grand scheme of things. People won’t remember us for our job title, they’ll remember us for how loving, compassionate and kind we might have been (and forget us quite quickly if we haven’t been any of these things) and whether we’ve made a difference to people’s lives/the world.

I find it incredible that people – sensible, intelligent, responsible people - can create such a divide within an organisation, and yet not have any awareness of this or the impact on people’s lives, nor on society and the world as a whole. We need to remember that we are all connected and our actions affect everyone, not just those immediate to us. 

We are all the same. Human. People. Living. Breathing. Remember! The sooner we realise this the better for everyone.

I can’t tell you how happy I was yesterday reading about the landmark ruling against two leading drug companies, which could save the NHS hundreds of millions a year. The case centred on the treatment of patients with a common eye condition, wet age-related macular degeneration. Twelve NHS bodies in the north east of England were offering these patients Avastin, a cheaper alternative to the licensed drug, Lucentis. The drug companies were trying to prevent the NHS from doing this. 

Drug company Novartis said they were "disappointed" because patients were being asked to accept an unlicensed treatment to save the NHS money. The truth is, unlicensed or not, the drug was doing the job. Crazy that the drug company thinks the NHS should have to pay more for a drug in the first place – don’t they want to help people? Perhaps they do but clearly making money is much more important.

The pharmaceutical companies have been holding people to ransom for years and putting profit ahead of people’s wellbeing. I don’t doubt that there are scientists working for these companies who truly want to find a cure and make a difference to people’s lives. But I’m also well aware that the bottom line is what is important to these companies. This saddens me beyond belief. People’s lives hang in the balance because of a balance sheet and a profit and loss account.

But sadly this is the very nature of many companies, especially the bigger ones – maximising profits regardless of the ethics. Not only do they put people’s lives at risk for the bottom line, but so many people sell their souls to work in these organisations, trapped because they don’t see they have an option as they have to pay the mortgage. I’ve lost count of the number of times someone tells me that they work for an organisation that they have little interest in, but they feel they have to do it to afford to live.

Perhaps fundamental to this is the fact that we live in a debt-driven society. It keeps the masses controlled so I can’t see this changing any time soon. Ridiculous when you think about it, that so many are sadly and effectively ‘trapped’, spending their lives working in jobs they don’t enjoy to pay mortgages for houses that they rarely inhabit as they’re at work paying for them. But that’s how life has become and there doesn’t really seem to be many options to live differently.

What’s even worse is that many end up sick, suffering with stress, depression, anxiety and/or paranoia as they try to live a life that doesn’t truly suit them. This isn’t helped by the modern pace of life that sees us constantly rushing…always rushing…there’s never enough time, always too much to fit in, too much to do, too many deadlines, too much choice, too much of everything.

And we destroy our beautiful planet in the process of all this rushing, because we don’t have time to do things differently. We put redundant “stuff” in landfill because we can’t be bothered/are too busy to recycle them, we continue to buy products wrapped/held in plastic even though we know we shouldn’t but they’re easy and we’re too busy. We ignore litter at the side of the road because we think it’s someone else’s job and we don’t have time. We clean our houses, our schools, our hospitals and our offices with chemicals that get flushed or washed into the water system.

We’re also too busy rushing that we don’t always have time to look after ourselves, not properly. We don’t have time to grow our own food, or to pop to the veggie stall, choosing some plastic-packaged produce from the nearest shop instead, too busy to cook from fresh, putting foods into our body that have very few nutrients and certainly lack the love of good home cooking cooked by those of a loving heart.  

Then there is the land being utterly destroyed with all the building and the quarrying and the reaping of the natural resources so that we can keep living as we’re doing, and so we can keep rushing. I’ll never forget a little 4-year old boy I met commenting that my car emitted pollution. I was quite taken aback because my car was no different to anyone else’s and then I realised. Yes. My car does excrete pollution. So does his Mummy’s, he wasn’t judging me, just making me aware. Using my car means that I can rush more easily! 

Elijah is fascinated by smoke coming out of a vehicle. On our trip to Glastonbury he was always looking for exhausts with smoke. It was heartening to see so few now really emit smoke, but emit we do. Pollution. Into the air. That we breathe. That nourishes the plants we eat. 

On and on.

We’re living in a way that isn’t sustainable but who really cares? We just keep living the same way because that’s all we know and because that’s how society goes. I can tell you from experience that it’s difficult doing things differently, going against the norm, but perhaps it’s time that we all started doing this a little bit more.

This week it has gotten to me a little bit and I’ve been thinking about the many ways that I don’t live in harmony with my inner truth and with the world as a whole. Plastic is a good example of this. I loathe plastic and seek to reduce my use of this. But still I continue to buy plastic packaged fruits because there is no other option if my sons want to continue to eat the berries they love. I’ve tried to overlook it or make excuses for it, but how can I expect things to change unless I, the consumer, make the change.

I haven’t yet managed to avoid buying the berries, but I was delighted to come across www.theplasticfreeshop.co.uk where I invested in a number of plastic free products including deodorant, toothpaste, dental floss and lunchboxes. I was delighted when my goodies arrived in record time and beautifully packaged and with a thank you note from the lady running the site.

I also finally got around to ordering a starter pack of reusable and environmentally (and vagina) friendly sanitary pads from www.honouryourflow.co.uk. I’ve been meaning to buy these for a while but the initial cost always seemed so high… I wish I hadn’t waited so long because they’ll more than pay for themselves before long. Until now, I’ve tended to use the Natracare range, but I find that they can leak and cause soreness. 

The Bodyform stuff doesn’t leak, but it’s non-environmentally friendly (made entirely of plastic) and definitely creates soreness, especially with that awful scented stuff. So these soft and beautifully packaged and presented pads are a revelation and every menstruating lady should get themselves a starter pack - you get a free couple of goodie things and a thank you note from the owner too. I can’t tell you what a difference these thank you notes have made – people selling products that they actually care about, that come with heart energy, a revelation after the ego events this week!

So while I’ve been a little despondent this week, it has spurred me into action and I’m pleased I’ve finally made some progress to reduce my reliance on plastic - plus there have been many other positives like that drugs case. It seems I’m not alone this week though in becoming increasingly aware of how badly we are treating this planet. I almost laughed out loud therefore when I read the astronomical reading for this week in my moon diary (written at least a year ago);

”The innovative and revolutionary T-square continues to hold between Taurean Uranus, Mars, still in the earliest degrees of humanitarian Aquarius and Venus, now in Scorpio and is guaranteed to bring the shocks and uncertainty that raise adrenalin levels. Evoked by deep-seated anger from the collective, a new awareness is awakening – of the limits of existing attitudes to acquisition, growth and natural resources.”

So it seems it’s in the field and change is afoot.  

Change is afoot in other (and yet related) ways, because the cycle of the wheel is turning and yesterday was the autumnal equinox, when the night time becomes equal to the length of the day time and the sunrise and sunset align exactly east and west. The final fruit harvest time is upon us and root vegetables are now plentiful – it’s time to prepare for the hard winter times ahead.

Some call this the festival of Mabon in honour of the God of Light, son of Modron, for others it is Alben Elfed “the light of water”. The God of Lights is defeated by his twin and alter ego, the God of Darkness, and many stories talk of the gods and goddesses returning to the underworld.

It’s a time of shifting as we too shift to find our new balance. You might feel therefore totally out of balance, and a little all over the place as some of the older ways of being drop away and the new has yet to come in. These periods of transition can be tricky and this is the reason I’m always keen that we’re aware of transitioning in yoga – how we move from one place to the next? This is the reason I love to flow (consciously), not simply focusing on the beginning and the end, but on that place in the middle too, the link.

The transition is a practice in its own right because how we transition on our yoga mats might give us an insight into how we transition in our lives. Can we retain our balance when everything around us is in flux? Can we hold true to ourselves when everyone else is doing something different? Can we stay centred as everything falls apart to be rebuilt again in a way that might be better aligned?  Can we resist the fear and maintain a solid base, rooted and trusting (always a challenge when fear kicks in!).

It seems to me that this truly is a time for letting go of all that’s been and trusting that we end up where we now need to be, re-aligning and re-adjusting to a new way of being, of both endings and new beginnings. This is also a time of purples and greens (think blackberries and hedgerows), and trusting in the intuition and the heart, as we get truly to the heart of things.

I really hope that this seasonal shift creates a shift in how we’re living and that we start being a little kinder and compassionate to ourselves and to each other and that we start taking better care of this beautiful world in which we live – we’re lucky to be able to call it home.  

Happy equinox!

Comment

Going with the new moon flow

Comment

Going with the new moon flow

Beinspired Yoga_ Stone Circle_4.JPG

That was a potent new moon for me and Rebekah Shaman was spot on when she said it was all about going with the flow (see her reading here https://mailchi.mp/rebekahshaman.com/newmoondec011218-875949?e=eae0fe6be6).

When I initially read it, a few days before the new moon, I kind of thought, “yer, yer, this whole going with the flow is such a cliché”, but now, a day after the new moon and after a 48 hour healing crisis on the back of a Jo treatment, I totally know it to be true.

 I’ve been resisting a number of things recently and especially Elijah starting school.  We had a traumatic pre-school experience when he was two and half and I’ve been fretting about school ever since. In fairness that experience was a lesson in itself, in not istening to anyone else about what to do with your child – while everyone may have told us we should put him in pre-school to socialise him, he wasn’t ready and the pre-school managed the situation badly.  Lesson learned- never listen to anyone else about how best to parent your child.

So I’ve been resisting school, and the change that this brings.  Admittedly I do have my concerns about the school “system” but that is beyond the scope of this blog.  More so the point here is that in worrying about school, I was getting myself rather worked up and focusing on the negatives rather than trying to see any positives (beyond the fact I know the head teacher, deputy head and head of reception very well, what a gift!).

It didn’t help – although of course it did – that the new moon energy was ramping up the energy of not knowing and of going with the flow regardless – lesson is of course to trust. I became very aware of the uncomfortable nature of not knowing, of being in doubt, of sitting with ambiguity.  It’s horrible!  Much more comfortable to have certainty, to plan and to know.   

In my role as a company secretary, I do a lot of planning, often years ahead to know when meetings will be held.  In yoga too, I’m often planning retreats years in advance, plus workshops and even classes. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for going with the flow, or just doing what you feel in the moment. It also means that you get used to things being fairly certain (as much as anything is ever certain). 

So sitting with uncertainty is tricky. Well at least it is if you want things to be black and white. But life is never ever black and white. There is always grey. So being with the grey can be challenging.  It involves trusting. Trusting that everything will unfold in the way that it is meant to.  That if something doesn’t feel right, and yet doesn’t feel wrong, that you just need to stay with it, be patient, and wait until you have a feeling/clarity about what is right, Then you ‘know’ and then you can act without doubt or questioning, however crazy your decision might be to someone else) I can certainly relate to this!).

I struggled my way through the new moon with my fixed mind thinking it knew what needed to happen to provide certainty, but without truly knowing, so I ended up feeling pretty anxious about that (anxiety was definitely in the field) and being pretty challenged by this going with the flow thing. This was not helped by a healing crisis and old energy coming up, cue monetary depression, not me, I wasn’t depressed but just fighting inside myself, between what I thought and reality and the sense of hopelessness that comes with this, the “I can’t be bothered” attitude and just when you feel deserted by all your friends (as they too go through their own moon thing!).

So we always come through the other side, the light always follows the brief darkness, as if you need to see one to recognise the other. Elijah enjoyed his first day at school (long may it last), the school drop off and pick up wasn’t so bad, the sun shone, Eben and I got onto the cliffs, life carried on, the sea manged a super low tide and a super high tide, it did it’s thing, went with the flow.  Amazing! Imagine if the sea resisted its flow, what a mess that would be!

I had to laugh though because here I was exhausting all this energy questioning the flow of things, and there was E just living each day as if it is his first and last. It’s annoying he has the ability to do this without a second of mediation or yoga or inner searching.  Just compartmentalising and being present. Still, all our souls are on different journeys…always learning something…just got to trust in it.

So we’re off to Glastonbury this weekend, I’m not planning, honest, just going to go with the flow and see where that amazing Glastonbury energy takes me! Hoorah for going with the flow…and sitting with ambiguity!

 

x

 

Comment

The light of the shadow, delving in

Comment

The light of the shadow, delving in

IMG_7531.JPG

The wheel has to turn but I’m not sure I’m ready for autumn yet; summer has just been too much fun and I’m grateful that the sun continues to shine easing the transition!

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed taking a break from working and spending my time playing with the children instead. We’ve managed our first festival as a family of four in the UK (and finally got to visit the uplifting Stroud) and a camping trip to Sark, plus daily sea swimming, visits to the beach and many Guernsey adventures. 

I’ve also made the most of the extra time to myself to delve a little deeper into the shadows and indulge in some inner healing work - I’ve enjoyed receiving Reiki, massage and a couple of sound baths, and to have the opportunity to practice lots of yoga through Yoga International and at Wilderness too. I’ve also rested to some Yoga Nidra and enjoyed some Vedic chanting too.

This all helped to support the monthly work that I’ve been doing with the wonderful Jo de Diepold Braham. Jo is by far the most intuitive and gifted healer I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. She helps us to see, feel and potentially release the ‘stuff’ that we’re holding in our body and energy field that no longer serves us, and which is potentially (and negatively) impacting on our relationships (with self and other) and in our daily lives.

I’ve also been taking Ayurvedic herbs for a little while now (prescribed by my Ayurvedic doctor), initially focusing on healing the solar plexus following hernia surgery at the end of last year, but continuing on from there (there’s always another layer!). I managed to get to the Ayurvedic clinic for a healing and transformational Pancha Karma session back in March, which resulted in me spending the whole of May consumed by writing, as the old stuff poured out of my solar plexus and onto paper. 

A rather bemused E didn’t see much of me during the month (I don’t think I saw a single friend either, apologies!) as I spent every evening writing, ending up with a whole manuscript. Whether I publish it here or elsewhere remains to be seen, but my solar plexus feels better for it, not so clogged up with all the stuff that I hadn’t been able to digest or process at the time, and that had been weighing me down ever since (it gets awfully tiring dragging our past around with us). 

Despite having worked with Ayurveda for over 12 years now and having undertaken a few Pancha Karmas over that time, I’ve been blown away recently by the healing and transformative nature of the Ayurvedic process. I am reminded that we just never truly know our potential, and that we limit ourselves repeatedly through fear of change and stepping into the unknown (lack of trust and faith essentially).

Shadow work has been the focus these last few months and I’ll admit that this is never easy because we have to come to terms with parts of ourselves that we’ve kept hidden in the dark, those parts we’ve denied and those parts which we have found hard to accept so we pretend that they are not a part of us. Thus the work can get messy, and I’ve certainly shed a few tears and experienced a couple of outbursts of rage and anger as some of the pent up energy has released and things felt like they got worse before they got better, a healing crisis then.

Still, this is all part of the process, and after many years now of working on myself (how indulgent, I know, especially when you think of the Syrian refugees who are merely trying to survive, but that’s a whole other story for another time) and trying to shift old patterns that no longer serve me, and negatively impact on my life and relationship with self, I am aware that you do get to a point where it’s more painful to avoid the pain then to dive head first into it.

It’s important to do this work too. The more we ignore the shadow, the more it plays out in the world, affecting our relationships, not only with others but with our selves. Further, the more fragmented and discontented we feel, the more the world will feel fragmented and disconnected too – we are a reflection of the bigger picture.  Thus I believe that we have a responsibility as citizens of Planet Earth to do what we can to be as whole (all parts in union) and inwardly peaceful as possible so that this is reflected in the outer world too (and positively effecting everyone, including Syrian refugees).

Perhaps this was one of the most revealing aspects of the recent healing work; the recognition that it boils down to loving and accepting the self, because this alone totally shifts our vibration and therefore the vibration of the world (if you’re new to all this, I appreciate this sounds a bit ‘out’ there but have a think about it).

This is not just those aspects of self that we like (that’s the easy bit), but the whole package, allaspects of our self, the good, the bad and the ugly – because let’s face it, it’s only us who define in this way anyway, and that’s on a subjective basis so has no weight. What’s good to one, is bad to another, what’s ugly to one, is beautiful to another and so on.

It’s a sad and dark world we live in though, not least when we become desensitised to the plight of others (think Syrian refugees again) but when we have little respect for the self. I was shocked (and yet not) to recently read that a fifth of 14-year old girls in the UK self-harm. The Children’s Society report (as reported by the BBC) said that gender stereotypes and worries about their looks were contributing to unhappiness and those who felt boys should be tough, and girls should have nice clothes, were least happy with life.

On the one hand it seems utterly crazy to me that at the age of 14, teenagers have already decided that they are not good enough, and that they loathe themselves and their lives to the extent that they will self harm. Yet on the other hand I was only two years older when I also felt a deep loathing for the self. 

I know only too well, therefore, that self loathing messes with your mind and makes you feel pretty crazy fairly much all the time. At itscore it means you don’t really like yourself very much and there’s this voice running through your head constantly telling you that you’re not good enough, that there’s something fundamentally wrong with you. The inner critique runs wild; the narrative is always negative. 

You loathe the way you look, loathe the way you feel, loathe your body, feel inadequate and loathe absolutely everything about your life. It’s all consuming and at times terrifying with the manner in which it takes over your life and keeps you shackled, playing over the same story in your mind and creating a life that’s fairly much always hard going and lacks any joy (anxiety and depression go hand in hand).

Like so many of us, the seed of “I’m not good enough” has likely been laid in childhood, and been growing a little ever since.  But now, at the age of 16, after a trigger event where I didn’t get the boy I fancied (the skinny popular girl in our year did instead) it was as if the sun shone brightly on it, and the seed started flourishing.  Within six months I had developed an eating disorder as I attempted to become skinny because maybe then, or so I thought, I might be good enough.

Only that you can never be good enough.  Not really, not once you’ve started playing that silly game. Having an eating disorder is a terrible thing, an extreme expression of self harm.  It is utterly exhausting and all consuming and absolutely never creates the intended result of feeling worthy and liking yourself again.

While 18 and when at university, I started smoking and polluting my body with nicotine and tobacco, another way in which we harm ourselves and create a smokescreen. I also discovered that drinking alcohol helped to quieten the destructive voices and numb the insecure feelings inside, at least while I was drinking. Of course I always felt worse the next day, but the momentary relief was enough to keep me wanting to drink more cider or wine or blue curacao or whatever it may have been at the time.  Smoking pot helped enormously in numbing out too. 

After graduating I returned to Guernsey and fell into my first full time job in the offshore finance industry that I hated from the first day and the self-loathing became even worse, as I tried to fit into a world that didn’t fit me. One night I tried to cut myself. I didn’t like that feeling much, so I hit myself with my fist instead.  I was so full of self loathing that I actually hit myself!  I also hit my head against the wall once too, as if to knock the sense back into it!

Another night I was so repulsed at what I felt was a fat tummy, that I grabbed the flesh and squeezed it together and reached for the scissors and thought that perhaps I’d just cut it off there and then and teach my tummy a lesson. I was acting insane! But actually I was just very depressed and desperately unhappy and loathed myself to the extent that a few years later I actually thought life was no longer worth living. 

There was no where left to go. Fortunately, though, my desperation and the thought of truly ending my life that fateful evening, and my Mum’s intervention, woke me up from my madness of mind. I was desperate, the pain was deep. Fortunately, the magic of the angels ushered yoga into my life shortly afterwards, which truly saved my life as the practice helped me to slowly come to appreciate and accept myself just as I am. 

Of course this process hasn’t happened overnight, it’s ongoing and I shall always be grateful to the practice. Sometimes its difficult to truly know the impact that it has because it’s such an integral part of my life, and I don’t know how life might be without it, nor do I have any intention of finding out as I suspect it would lack a certain strength, nourishment and vibrancy. 

It’s become a cliché recently this whole idea of self care, and rightly so at times because in many circles it’s an opportunity to avoid responsibility, but I do believe that we need to look honestly at the way we are living our lives. We need to figure out what is truly working and what is not working, regardless of what society is telling us and whether it is deemed ‘normal’ or not. We need to care for the self. 

The trouble is, sometimes we blindly follow like sheep even though we know that the current speed of life and the way we exploit Mother Earth is not sustainable and that our lives can become so busy with meaningless distraction (think overworking, too much social media, filling our children’s lives with activities so that we don’t even get to embrace our inner child and play with them) that we forget to care for ourselves – meals become hurried, our yoga practice happens once a month (but in our head it happens regularly) and before we know it we loathe ourselves all over again because we’re totally out of balance and out of synch with nature’s flow. 

It’s hardly surprising that so many suffer with depression and anxiety and as a yoga teacher I see it show up all the time. Still, it came as a bit of a shock recently to talk with a friend and find out that anumber of her twenty-something friends are taking antidepressants to deal with their anxiety and depression.  I had no idea! There’s a whole generation numbing their pain via pharmaceuticals. 

Mind you there’s a whole generation numbing themselves out on alcohol, and a whole other generation numbing out on legal highs, let alone sugar. Numbing out can be subtler than that though.  We can numb out on TV, and on working too much, and on anything that distracts us from ourselves and from our pain, that gives us an excuse to never have to go there, because we’re too busy doing something else. 

I’m not a fan of ‘blame’, but I do feel that the media hasn’t done humanity any favours in giving us the idea that life has to look a certain way, or that we, as people, need to physically look a certain way. As if to prove this (as I was mulling it over), I recently came across a podcast interview with Jameela Jamil which really caught my attention (what an incredible lady she is by the way!

I’m a company secretary by profession so I tried to transcribe a part of what she said but there’s value in listening to the whole recording - https://www.channel4.com/news/ways-to-change-the-world-jameela-jamil):

I had an eating disorder. I didn’t eat a meal between the ages of 14 and 17. I didn’t menstruate for three years because I was starving myself to fit into an ideal... I had all these different talents and gifts none of which I thought were important, none of which I remotely cared about because I felt that I would never be good enough unless I weighed six and a half stone.  

I was bombarded with a narrative that had no alternative. There were never any women who were celebrated for their intellect. They’re not given any attention in the Press. I wasn’t reading about wonderful astronauts or great scientists or musicians. I was just seeing highly sexualised popstars who were very, very skinny on my TV. Or I was seeing skeletal actresses who were obsessively…their weight was obsessively spoken about. And all of my magazines were selling weight loss products or telling me to be thin otherwise I wasn’t worth anything”. 

It’s so true, that so many feel a deep sense of dissatisfaction with them selves simply because they are comparing themselves with the media’s superficial and warped perception of what it means to be to good enough. Furthermore, there is this underlying idea that we must continuously seek perfection, whatever that means, as if we need to embody our own utopia, which of course never truly exists, it’s just a concept in our heads that can create so much inner disharmony and dissatisfaction.

A few week’s ago I was swimming far out from shore on my own at high tide at Petit Bot, and I looked back at the beautiful Guernsey south coast cliffs and just thought, “Wow! This landscape is stunning, absolute stunning!”.  I was so moved by the moment and the beauty of it all that I couldn’t resist literally shouting out, “You’re so beautiful” to the cliffs, to the land, to the sea, to the sun, to the rocks as I tried to soak it all in! 

I thought to myself, “That cliff over there, it doesn’t question its beauty, doesn’t give itself a hard time, just is what it is, it’s accepting of its everything”. This made me think again how crazy we are, to give ourselves a hard time for being anything other than just ourselves, fully accepting of all aspects of ourselves, even those bits that we’ve decided that we don’t like for whatever reason.

All this conditioning, so much of it so insidious in our society and culture that we are unconscious of it, lurks in the shadows shaping our reality as we play out the unconscious time and time again. It’s often subtle and yet sometimes not so subtle too. It’s always so much easier to see it in someone else than in ourselves.

That’s the joy of this work though, because we start to see the mirrors all around us, in those with whom we come into contact – especially those who we find challenging, who mirror back to us some unresolved side to ourselves. Irritated by your princess friend? Yep, then perhaps you’re a princess too, but don’t recognise it because it’s not a side of you that you’re comfortable accepting, ‘better’ to think of yourself as humble and without needing attention, less ego then right?!

Shadow work may be tough, but it’s also very enlightening (you’re bringing in the light) and amazingly liberating because all of a sudden (once you’ve done the integration), you stop pretending to be someone that you’re not. You don’t need to say ‘yes’ when really you want to say ‘no’, Your boundaries become tighter and you’re OK being all the things you didn’t think you were. 

Inevitably things will shift for you and perhaps relationships that once resonated won’t resonate any more as the dynamics change and you stand firmer in your sense of self.  You’re less likely to give yourself away, and less likely to give yourself such a hard time – or at least you might catch yourself when you’re triggered and about to give yourself a hard time. It’s all good and it’s all a process, a never ending one I suspect, as we do our bit to step further into authenticity and cut the cr@p!

This is one of the many reasons I love yoga, not least because a regular and dedicated practice will help to make us stronger, more flexible and more balanced in body and mind, but it will also help us to develop a healthier relationship with self. The practice will also allow us to sit with our pain and allow it to transform into something that no longer has a hold over us. 

We need to learn to love ourselves, however tough that might be, because maybe then, the world will finally start to be a more loving place for everyone to live.  It may also help the younger generation to stop harming themselves, and start to recognise their beauty –there is beauty in everything!

So remember that there’s always a bigger picture to all you do in your lives. You’re not just practicing yoga for yourself, for example, and while I joke about healing work being indulgent, this is merely because I think of all those who don’t have the space/money/time/support to do this, but therefore it becomes even more important for those who can, because it does make a difference to the bigger picture of life. 

What we do does have an impact on others and please never forget that.  If you’re reading this, then it’s likely you already recognise this, or maybe you’re just starting out and will always remember this.  We need to heal ourselves to heal the world, the more we do the inner work the more the outer world benefits. 

Have a fabulous end of summer and beginning to autumn, the wheel is turning and we’ll soon be retreating further into the darkness!

 

 

Comment