Here’s a few little life lessons for not only finding health and happiness but for avoiding burn out - something in which listening to ourselves has a pretty big role to play. And what are the tools that help us listen? Yoga and meditation of course :-)
So finally I am willing to admit that I had a tough year last year. This was something very hard to say for a very long time because quite frankly I hadn’t fallen over and I wasn’t having a burn out so everything must still be fine - right? Last year my friend (and husband of one of my closest friends) was suddenly and violently killed , my grandmother died on the other side of the world at home in Australia whilst I was up a mountain somewhere in Switzerland, my body was wracked with asthma over the summer and I lost my voice completely on my birthday. But hey - still standing so I must be ok right?
I kept practicing yoga, I kept meditating because that’s what I do and these are two of my key investments in my own health and continued resilience but nothing changed. I still felt easily tired and regularly emotional, I still didn’t care about much, I noticed that long past dysfunctional eating habits resurfaced and all the usual hiking and nature appreciation injects of happiness lasted for a very short time but were quickly squashed by negative feelings. Honestly, I was worried I was depressed except I knew I wasn’t and I was really worried I wouldn’t find this incredible joy for life that I had been enjoying for so long and had worked so hard for.
And then at the end of the year I took two weeks holiday without much agenda and spontaneously found myself on a meditation retreat over the new year. When I stopped I could suddenly hear what my mind had to say and not all of it was pretty and positive let me tell you. Meditating with others and with guidance proved to be a timely reminder that I am (we are) never alone in our struggles. Through guided meditations I was able to start re-framing my compassion for others into something more meaningful and shifting what had become a very functional gratitude practice into something deeper and more genuine. This temporary stillness and silence also enabled me to begin to change my stale yoga practice from one of ‘doing the poses’ to one of slow listening and exploring what I needed to heal and rebuild my personal resilience.
Some of you will know that I had a meditation practice long before I ever busted out a single yoga asana. This mini-retreat over new year was an incredible reminder of all the old lessons I had learned through meditation and a kick up the butt reminder that when life throws you a curve ball it’s better to catch it than let it hit you in the face. But oh wait - here’s the reality…. for all these wonderful, motivational quotes, sometimes the curve ball hits you in the face anyway. And I’m writing this little blog to tell you that that’s ok. It happens to everyone at some point. Some days the curve ball comes when you’re not looking and there’s not a damn thing you can do about where it lands.
I find the curve ball to be a great metaphor because what any good Red Cross first-aider will tell you (and I’ve been one of those) is that if you’re suddenly injured then stay still so they can assess the situation and the extent of your injuries. But of course life in the 21st century is about picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and keeping moving. I think those first-aiders know a thing or two and I’ve decided after the last year that there is great value in standing still, listening and assessing after the curve ball hits. I can’t help but wonder if I had allowed myself to grieve, rest and heal in the moment if I would have felt so utterly beaten for so long by all those curve balls that 2018 brought with it.
Yoga and meditation are both practices that allow us to pause and create the stillness in which we might just hear what we need to know to be the most well and happy versions of ourselves. For me the two practices are one and whilst they can be practiced separately, they have exponential positive impact when brought together. They are also practices of authenticity which is also a practice that keeps us healthy. It is VERY hard to be a fake version of yourself when you are alone with your mind or when you are on your mat with your body not following the orders you give it. In these moments the concepts of surrender and acceptance are transformational because they allow us to be ok with exactly who we are in whatever state we are in. This is the gift that yoga gives us all.
Teaching yoga is the most authentic practice of my life and my constant reminder to keep it real and deal with my own mental and physical health. I just cannot turn up on the mat with people and preach about self care and being present, and getting rest and surrendering and being kind to ourselves if I am not doing those things myself. It literally feels like my insides are tearing into two pieces, like I can physically feel myself un-aligning if I’m not keeping it real.
And so this is the deep gratitude that I have for every single person that turns up to one of my classes, retreats or events. It is all of you who keep me on track, who keep me authentic and who keep me healing. Because I am just not prepared to tell you to do that unless I am doing it myself. And what that also means is that we are all in this big messy, wild thing called life together and we are not alone.
And so I want to invite you to join me in being still enough to listen and hear what you need for your health and for your happiness. I want to thank you for keeping me authentic and for being an important part in helping me put some deposits in my own personal resilience bank. For every time you stepped on the mat with me whether in person or online, you reminded me to keep it real and that my own health and happiness are critical in being able to contribute to yours. My favourite translation of the word yoga is ‘to be yoked’ together and this year has been a reminder that without you I am not me and so I offer up my deepest gratitude to you all for the healing you have given me. NAMASTE.