I admit it; I have been experiencing the post-holiday blues this week! Long haul travel doesn't help of course, there is always a sense that some part of your energy body has been left behind and another part is still hanging up in the air somewhere, leaving you feeling a touch disjointed and uncentred; a part of you here and a part of you there.
It has been good to get back to teaching though, albeit that the classes feel so short in comparison to the 2 hour classes back in Byron where you have ample time to lull around on your mat and drift off into a deep relaxation at the end. Still, live is busy over here, and whatever time we can spare for a Yoga practice can still makes a difference.
While the sun has blessed us with shining skies, I have been finding it rather cold, and it appears to be getting even colder over the next few days. This is our excuse for shying away from the sea since our return, although it has looked tempting driving into work with the tide high and the sun above, we are lucky to have such a pretty town sea front. Maybe today...no doubt it will be quite a shock after the temperature of the sea in Byron; good for the soul nonetheless.
Moving out of winter and into Spring has made me very aware how hard we can get during the winter months and I was fascinated to receive a newsletter from a fellow Phoenix Rising Yoga therapist in New York, whose thoughts echo my own. A theme that keeps appearing in her life is one of being gentle. Strangely, or not as the case may be, this is a theme that has been popping up in my life quite a bit recently. Not least a reminder from friends and family, but also the inner voice, that I am so good at ignoring as I continue in the habitual way of being (my shadow side).
I am reminded of Patanjali's sutra 2.46 sthira sukham asanam "asana is a steady and comfortable posture". In this regard there should be no gripping or tension or pushing or grasping. Asanas are a balance of strength and sweetness, establishing your foundation and with it a lightness, be that in Warrior 2 or in child's pose. I admit that my recent Yogic experiences in Byron, the dynamic form which inspired me to initially undertake my teacher training, have encouraged a sense of hardening, a bias towards the Yang aspects of an asana practice, masculine and strengthening.
Not that this is a negative per se. Only that there needs to be some balance and sadly Lance was so passionate about squeezing in as much asana and pranayama as he could into those 2 hour classes, that there was little time left for any relaxation - which would of course soften the Yang aspect of the physical practice. Still it is good to experience the extremes, not least to recognise - as a teacher - the importance of true relaxation in a Yoga class and life generally, but also to be reminded of one's own tendencies and how the way we practice on a mat, is often a reflection of the way we live our lives. Thus if we want to soften our lives, we need to soften our practice.
Going to one extreme, is not necessarily a negative thing either. I like to think of the pendulum. If it swings excessively one way, it will swing excessively the other way so we can find our balance again. I guess the more experienced we become at recognising the extremes in our life, the more easily we can catch ourselves before they become exactly that. In theory. Often we need reminders, as I have been reminded recently and hence the mad swinging!
So back in Guernsey, it is perhaps no surprise that I have been drawn to a much gentler practice than I have followed for some time. I have been sitting more than usual in my daily practice and hanging out in inward forward bends, and listening to a Yoga Nidra transcript to help to take me deeper inside, to truly relax and nourish and let go of that stuff no longing serving me. What a relief to finally let go and give in, rather than fightening and resisting.
It blows my mind how this Universe works. That we are always given what we need in that moment. The Yoga Nidra, for example, has been on my mind of a while, the draw to rest this way more regularly, not least for its transformative potential, but also the healing it offers(although you could argue that you can't have one without the other). Plus of course taking on board all the reminders out there to calm down a little, especially after the craziness of activity in Byron.
Then lo and behold at the airport in Brisbane aqs we were leaving Australia, I came across the Australian Yoga journal with a CD attached to the front, strangely from the Byron Yoga Centre, which essentially started me on my Australian Yoga journey. It seems that John is destined to come in and out of my life because now, in the comfort of my own Yoga room, I can hear his voice leading me through a gentle asana practice. Furthermore the voice of Leila, a Hare Krishna friend who I initially met at Govinda Valley, a spiritual retreat centre near Sydney, some 6 years ago, who was instrumental in introducing me to the joy of Bhakti Yoga, now soothes me into an alpha state of being in her beautifully led Yoga Nidra.
There has been other stuff too. Like me resisting the need to be still. And wanting change but forgetting that for change to happen on the outside it has to happen on the inside first. And of course that wonderful quote that if we always do what we have always done then we will always get what we have always gotten. It is all about a softening. And taking each day as it comes.
Perhaps not surprising, whe my spirit is low and I know I need to take action in some way or form, I have been drawn to Reiki this week. Not only re-reading my old course material because I find that each time you read such literature it means something different, I guess your perspective changes and essentially you wake up a little more. But also to receive Reiki myself. I give myself Reiki of course, but there is nothing quite as wonderful as having someone else channel you Reiki for an hour or so. I have been fortunate to finally find a practitioner over here with whom I resonate - well actually truth be told she found me and I am eternally grateful for her following her intuition on that one.
I had a session yesterday and it was lovely. Like I say I believe that when you have been travelling long haul, a part of your energy body gets left up in the air, and my feet certainly sucked in the energy to ground and center me back together again. It was, however, profound on other levels too. Not least that I have had a few twinges with my left knee recently, I can read into this emotionally/mentally, but I do believe there was some issue on a purely physical level too. Jo kept her hand on my knee for at least 10 minutes and aside from the burning heat, it actually felt like my knee was repairing itself, it was the strangest sensation and a massive reminder that Reiki really does promote our body's own healing process.
Plus the general heat and the aching in my right foot, which Jo picked up and fed back to me after the session. I can relate to that too, on some level, it really is mind blowing the intuitive nature of Reiki. I am really very thankful to you Jo and look forward to the next session!
I slept so well last night, albeit lots of mad and random dreams of people and situations that have clearly rested heavily on me. It was like the Reiki helped to work them through, from the body, from the mind, so that I feel lighter as a result, no longer carrying that "baggage" along. Plus of course I feel a softening, or at least a realisation of the resistance I have been experiencing to this concept of resting - going through the motions yes, but on the other hand thinking about all the activity I should be doing next. Now I am conscious of this habitual way of thinking, it should be easier to let go of it. Phew.
Actually (and again I am reminded of the coincidence, or not, in terms of how this Universe works) I was reading an article in a Yoga magazine last nigh, which kind of touched on this. It is called "Me and my shadow - shine a light on the dark side of yourself to discover your negative tendencies and change them". Essentially the shadow includes all aspects of your psyche that you prefer not to look at, the traits you have been ashamed of all your life and the things about yourself that you keep in the psychic basement. They tend to be hidden from our conscious awareness and will drive our emotions and behaviours in unpredictable ways.
In fact the unconscious shadow attitudes become the lens through which we look at life. Refusing to "own" a shadow tendency just makes us less conscious that it is distorting our perspective. When we can't see something in ourselves, we inevitably project the quality onto someone else, either judging or admiring that quality in them. Learning to recognise our shadow can transform our relationship to other people and ourselves. You'll have an easier time accepting constructive feedback once you have recognised that your perfectionist inner critique (I know this one well!!) is the one who is beating you up and not the person who's trying to give you a useful critique.
What is really interesting is that making friends with your shadow helps you to dissolve many of the negative feelings you have about yourself, such as feelings of shame and unworthiness, or the sneaking suspicion that you are not the person you pretend to be. It also helps you to let go og unconscious behaviour patterns like blowing up at your mother and other family members, choosing romantic partners who tend to take advantage of you and being deceitful with co-workers.
To resolve the polarised opposites within ourselves we need to shine non-judgemental, conscious awareness on to our shadow. A good place to start is considering the traits for which people generally critise you. It is also important to notice an encounter that leaves us feeling emotionally charged. As we start to look closely at the hidden Shadow feelings they begin to lose their charge and power over us.
Essentially it is about recognising this side to ourselves, without judgement - sounds so much easier than it is, because we tend to be our own worst enemy, beating ourselves up constantly. Imagine how light we would feel if we didn't have the inner critique berating our every move! Oh what a joyous world it would be! Still bit by bit, by witnessing both the light and dark aspects to ourselves, our awareness will allow both sides to integrate, releasing the energy that has been tied up in privileging one side over the other.
I find it all rather fascinating. I am sure you have had the experience of someone else projecting their "stuff" on to you. Essentially blaming you for the way they feel, blaming you for what you haven't done, which has left them feeling as they do. And of course I am quite sure we do it to people too. It is all about becoming more conscious. And that is where Yoga, meditation, Reiki etc can really help. They help to make us more conscious of ourselves, warts and all. The key is not to berate ourselves for the side that we don't like so much and to give in to ourselves.
Another prfound thing to hit me this week was re-reading a chapter of the wonderful Cyndi Lee's Yoga book where it talked about the heart. To quote, "Well known Yoga teacher Rodney Yee once asked a class, "If you could hold your heart in your hands, how would you hold it?" Ask yourself how you hold it now: tighly, tenderly, firmly and gently, carefully and attentively?"
That really made me think. Not only again in terms of how we are our own worst enermy and how we think we are being kind to ourselves - sitting in meditation, practising Yoga, eating well - that it is our thoughts about ourselves that can create so much harm. And how do we hold our hearts. Do we truly nourish them and hold them as gently as we would if they were in our own hands.
So you see it has been a week of revelations and realisation for me, probably the effect of all those Yoga classes seeking integration...quite a relief to begin the process, often I can get stuck in a depression, suffocating my soul by not allowing it the space to grow by staying stuck in the habits and condition of the mind. It is all about letting go and following the intution to enable that to happen, be that different from last time or the time before that.
Anyhow enough of my waffle. Be kind to thyself is the motto for the weekend and on that note I am off to work in the greenhouse, ground myself a little bit more back to this earth.
With much gratitude.