So truth be told, the mindfulness course and the mindfulness practices have helped me to realise that this last year has been very stressful, that I have been stressed.
It is funny really, a yoga teacher admitting to being stressed. But I am only human after all. There was a time when I used to out all yoga teachers on pedestals and believe them to be pure and sorted and calm and serene. I finally realised that this is indeed far from the truth, that we all have a shadow side, we all have our issues that we are working through. We are none of us perfect, we are human that is all!
Still it is one thing to recognise one’s state of being and quite another to do something about it. However I do believe that once one has come to recognise and accept the aspects of one’s life that are no longer working, well the Universe intervenes and change occurs. I guess this is a reflection of the change in perception on the inside…and with that a change of being on the outside. This reminded me, again (always a good reminder) that the way to make positive changes in one’s life is to make positive changes to one’s mind.
This new awareness has seen me identify stressful triggers. It has also found me reminiscing about the good old days without responsibilities, when I was footloose and fancy free and could spend months at a time chilling out in Nepal, practicing yoga, writing, drinking chai and spending a lot of time on my own in silence. What bliss!!
These days with a partner and a 15 month old son it is a challenge to find any time to be with oneself. Even going to the toilet I am usually accompanied by Elijah (my son!). In fact last week he wouldn’t even let me put him on the floor, he actually sat on me on the toilet while I went for a wee, oh how life has changed!!!
Others will identify with this I know. The other ladies on the mindfulness course and I were all reminiscing about our different times in Nepal pre-children, and that care free way of living, and yet we also recognised that much of the time spent on our own was wasted in our heads dreaming about a future (or praying for a future) of partners and children!! Oh how the human mind is always looking back to the past with longing or forward to the future with desire for how things should be different.
I also had a really interesting conversation with one of my spiritual friends about how our challenges in life change, in terms of the challenges that help us to grow and develop as compassionate, awake and spiritual beings. So that one time our challenge was to learn a new yoga pose, and another time to learn how to exist with depleted sleep and a small child depending on you for his/her survival.
There was a time where I thought I had mastered my anger and I accredited this to my yoga practice. So it came as somewhat of a surprise when I found myself increasingly angry post Elijah – at myself (or life) not at him or anyone else for that matter, it is the anger of frustration rather than the anger of wanting to hurt someone. I thought much of this was probably due to hormonal changes but it is only recently that I have come to realise that all that has happened is that the triggers have changed.
You see living on my own as a care free travelling yogini it was very easy to live a life of little responsibility, no one to think about other than myself, no mortgage, no work deadlines, just a lot of travelling and “me” time spent on my mat. Those were indulgent days I now realise, very little to challenge me really apart from this niggling concern that I may not create the one thing in life my heart truly desired – meeting my life partner and having children.
Now I have those things and yet here is the anger again, reminding me of long days gone by, before I brought yoga into my life. And it is only recently after much berating and frustration (see how we are our own worst enemies) and chats with others who have gone through the same process, that I have come to realise that the anger never went away, I just removed all triggers for it from my life.
Now I am back living in the real world again with mortgages and deadlines and not so much “me” time, well herein lies my challenge. Herein lies the opportunity to grow. To make my life as stress-free as possible, to rest, to make time for me, to catch myself, to be mindful of the moment, to let go of expectation, to accept whatever is happening without wanting to change it, and just being present. But oh so difficult!
But this is no less a spiritual way to live than by taking oneself on countless yoga retreats. The path is simply the way. They all lead to the same destination. We are all seeking inner peace, greater balance, harmony and compassion to self and all beings. Some take themselves away from the real world and some throw themselves straight into it. It fascinates me how our lives flow, how it provides opportunities for growth, how people come in and out of our life at the right time (often when we have almost lost hope), how we keep going despite life’s ups and downs.
However it also fascinates me how easily we give up on making positive and courageous changes in our lives. On the one hand yoga and mindfulness and holistic practices are expanding at an extraordinary rate and yet I can’t help feeling that we are not actually getting anywhere with it. On my mindfulness course there has been quite a bit of resistance and a few have dropped out, perhaps life was just too busy, but then isn’t this the point.
The same with yoga, so many times recently I have met students who tell me they would love to come to class but they are just too busy. I think we all know deep within that we cannot continue to live like this forever, so out of touch with our bodies, with nature, with the very essence of life itself. How many of us have time to notice the full moon, the stars shining brightly, the new buds on the trees, the subtle changes in nature from season to season. How many of us give any concern to where our food is grown, to how it got to the shelves in the supermarket, to the impact this has had on the environment.
How many of us notice all the suffering in the world, in our rush to get to and from work, to pick up children, to manage all the things we are expected to manage today. How many of us notice our neighbours, how many of us stop to let people cross roads, to let cars pull out of drive ways, how many of us notice the shop assistant, to look into their eyes to even be aware that they are indeed a fellow human being just trying to survive in this world, how many of us truly listen to those in our lives.
We practice yoga and then perhaps it gets a little bit too much, we don’t often like what we see, we don’t want to go that deep. So we drop out. Or perhaps we start doing hot yoga or something that keeps us on a level, that keeps us focused on the perfection of the body, rather than the messages the body is trying to tell us. But isn’t this just a reflection of how out of balance our lives are these days, where it is all about pushing and striving and trying to get somewhere, always doing, not so much being, and certainly not a lot of being with the self.
But aren’t we are all in some denial. It is always so much easier to see it in someone else rather than in ourselves. My parents recognise my denial a long time before I am able to recognise it in myself. Yet how powerful when we come to recognise a level of this denial (even if it is annoying to have to admit that they were right!). How liberating indeed. And this is where we find the space, the courage then, the ability to transform into a truer and more lighter being…which of course makes our life more in resonance with our truth and allows our light to shine that little bit brighter and – I hope – has a positive impact on those with whom we interact.
It is all about the practice, however that comes to be. It is about commitment to the truth and being curious of what is in there, inside yourself. It may mean that you find yourself in uncomfortable territory, but better to be uncomfortable in the short term, rather than spend your whole lifetime aware that something just isn’t quite right and finding yourself incapable of doing anything about it. Now that is one long lifetime of anxiety, frustration, depression and just feeling a little bit irritated.
So if you know, if you are stressed or just too busy, just catch yourself for a moment. Go and stand outside in the moonlight and take a deep breath in and out. Really smell the air and feel the breath within your body. Ask yourself why are you so busy, why? Find yourself a yoga class and go and take some time out. Or lie down and listen to a Yoga Nidra transcript. And if you have one near you, sign up for a mindfulness course, and commit to it. It really is that easy!