So I’ve been busy the past couple months as many know. I was asked to write an article for a studio that is in the process of being published so that took up any time I had for writing on my blog. As many know I had to figure out directions to take in my life recently and have been busy interviewing and finding out in the process that I’m ready to teach full time. I left my full time job in recruiting and did go to work for a yoga studio to build out a new role within the operations of the business.
I knew going to work for a small business has it’s risk; new role and as in anything in your life when you work for one employer and they decide to change directions, the risk is that it cuts your entire income. It leaves you scared and afraid of course. I look back on that time though knowing that I was so out of balance. I was very overworked, stressed and the employer just kept adding to the role; which I gladly did because I tend to handle doing more, eager to help and make things better. That is just my tendency. What was supposed to be a better worklife decision wasn’t though. Without warning I was told that the role was cut and without severance I found myself unemployed for the first time in my life. Over 25 years of knowing exactly the directions and steps to take here I was with a blank page for my future.
I say this as a useful example because I think it is important to realize that each person is human and has faults; yes even in the yoga world. I know of a young woman who just started teaching yoga and a friend of ours told me that she finds it hard to think of her friend as a yoga teacher because she knows the person isn’t very calm or patient. She admitted thinking this is crazy but she thinks of her yoga teachers in this way; they should be patient, kind, loving and never angry. We all tend to do this. We have certain conditions and expectations of those in our life. All we can do is focus on what the person isn’t – rather than what they have to offer. Others know of this very well and play right into it as well to build their business operations; knowing they can sell an image even if that isn’t realistic or healthy. Most advertisements are this way. Yes – even in yoga. The point of yoga is to approve of yourself but don’t be fouled. Many know that they can sell more classes if the promote their image, style, look and advertisement in hopes you will want to be just like them. Kind of goes against the point though of a yoga practice though.
So the question is – am I better off or motivated more by the lie or fantasy that ‘I too can be like you if I work hard enough at it”? Or that I want to believe you are perfect? Or am I better off knowing you aren’t this way, that you too truthfully struggle with various conditions in your life? That you too have faults? Could I learn from the ‘perfect imperfections’ just as much? I personally feel that I’m motivated more by the later. It makes me feel that the person is more trustworthy because none of us are without fault.
Yoga, no matter the style, is a philosophical path where we work with human nature and conditions. Therefore it is always exploring both our strengths and weaknesses. This is why Yoga is more than a physical exercise. On this path we can observe and redirect our mind , thoughts and therefore make better decisions. Sometimes though we don’t make good decisions. We eat incorrectly, we get mad, we don’t sleep well, overdo or under-do. So we make mistakes, hope it doesn’t cause harm and observe our intension in the choice we made. Hopefully with the practice we build more awareness to really observe when this happens.
In know that whenever something is wrong in my life I tend to check in on my intensions. If my intension was pure, to do good, be truthful, not harm or steal, then I can start to let go of what happened and move forward. Stop worrying so much about “Why”. Sometimes bad things happen – too all people. Especially when I’m faced with uncertainty of which direction to go or how to get there I have to learn to just trust.
This is why I love mediation. It has helped me to trust that my feelings were never wrong or something to be embarrassed about. It helped me to tap into an inner knowledge and intuition. Sometimes we try and struggle so hard when faced with change. We can find ourselves in a flight or fight response. Thinking that was the only choice – one or the other. Anxiety will set in with fear to make a quick rash decision or we will be so scared that we freeze still. Avoidance of either though won’t prevent it. Pause, breathe and listen. That is another choice we often don’t think about. It takes practice.
Now I could logically tell you this over and over – but it still doesn’t mean much. Fact is we have to be aware that this is what is happening. We have to do the work. The big items are easier to identify but in our everyday we can let it slip by. It is in the little things – how we do, say or go about our actions. Sometimes we have hard choices to make or we have to deliver difficult news but it is how we do it that can make the difference.
So how do we start to practice this? I’ve found it helpful to just call out, or Popcorn Out as we said at Kripalu, the words, feelings, emotions. Not worrying so much about being “PC”. Of course I can’t just do this out in the open. I have to have a person I trust that I can communicate this openly with. Trust that they aren’t there to judge me but to let me be myself. I’m also making sure I”m not directing my action in a harmful way.
I have a friend going through some very tough times right now. Faced with some of our darkest fears; no job, debt, where to live, an ex-husband who has been using the court system to be controlling and verbally abusive, and really questioning her career path. On-top of that are things she wants right now that she is learning she has to either let go of or be patient for. I could tell she was resisting from really letting go so we just did this exercise I mention above on calling out the feelings and emotions. Just give it a name. No worry about what is right or wrong. Just say what comes to mind. Often it is layers of emotions that we are blocking.
When I was Kripalu last year I learned a valuable practice and excercise on the art of listening. It sounds easy but trust me it is quite challenging. You sit with one partner; side to side, shoulder to opposite shoulder, so you can hear each other but can’t make eye contact. Our communication is 90% non-verbally. So more important in this exercise is to just hold the space to listen to the other person. Without redirecting it with our response and this includes even our eye contact. So in this practice no nods, moans, smiles or touches; you just listen. At first it feels strange to talk and not have feedback. Once the time is done the other person is not there to respond, approve, disapprove,fix or solve. You sit in silence. Nothing more needs to be done. The person communicating starts off each sentence with “I feel” or “I am aware of”. If there are moments of silence that is ok too. After complete, you sit, feel the quiet and then you switch roles.
I recently did this exercise with a couples prenatal workshop I teach and it was quite powerful. I’ve been teaching this workshop for years and found that many come hopeful that I will transform their partners into better listeners for their childbirth experience. I’ve found this technique to be a better tool that helps them learn how to communicate and listen not just now but for the rest of their life. Nobody suggested I do it, but when I experienced it last year I just felt it would be wonderful for a workshop like this. I’m proud to report that out of everything we do in the workshop this exercise is the one more of them feel they would keep up more often.
So what has been happening to me lately? I just kept going and found myself teaching yoga and meditation in groups, privates and corporate offices. Most days I’m busying teaching 2 or 3 times a day. Most are still subbing and I continue to look for permeant roles but keeping myself working in many areas right now. I feel that somehow I’ve found myself working for some amazing people in my life. Without a set plan I can now see how I found them and ended up teaching with them. A force larger than myself was at work.
In the meantime I have found more of the balance I needed in my life. I have time to be with my family, go to the store, walk, garden, read and rest. Really rest, which I have found even 32 month post stroke, that it is required more in my life right now. Gone are the days I could work 10 hours without a break.
One other area I noticed that was out of balance in my life was the phone. Text, email, social media – I was so used to the panic in my life – each ring possibly meant something was wrong. Not just with work but my Mother who is dealing with multiple health issues. I could feel my chest get tight and I was able to be aware of the feelings, how my breath was short and that this reaction was not healthy. So I made a change. I no longer have my cell phone by my bed. I was tired of waking up to see if there was a message and starting my day off handling the emergencies. Stimulation like this is not healthy to wake up too. So now I get up, shower, get ready, take the dogs out and then check the phone, email and life. I also realized as much as I love to crank up the tunes in the car, that the sounds I listened too really set the tone for how I feel. Digestion is more than food. It comes from what I take in with my five senses. Once I made this change I found myself even more aware of overstimulated areas; how mad, angry and upset others may be. Much of the world has just accepted this but try noticing it the next time you go out. The good news is you have choices in how much you take in and digest. Balance is what I’m describing and it is hard. We can go both ways. We can go to far the other way and be so isolated from the world that we can become depressed.
People tell me that I look better which I appreciate but more importantly I feel better and my mind feels clearer. I am seeing this too in my teaching. It isn’t unusual for any teacher to layout plans for a class and sometimes we can fall victim to our habits. Lately I find myself easing into my teaching and somehow for the first time ever I find a word or words that just fit in a way to describe the practice that I never prepared for that rise up. I think moments like this often go unnoticed as the students think you had that ready all along. However it can happen to those who teach anything as well as anyone who does public speaking. I am noticing it more though and appreciating the chances I have to do exactly what I’m doing.
Finally, for those of you who are reading this article who are now trying to figure out who I’m referring too, piece it together in the various stories above I merely suggest you need to do something for me. Go back up to the part about the “art of listening”. Be the listener for me. You don’t have to solve, respond, figure out, deflect or protect. As I said earlier it is tough and challenging. If that doesn’t work, consider practicing Metta; this is the Buddhist word for empathy or an act of service/willingness to see another point of view. To walk a mile in another persons shoes. Loving kindness. Shanti! (Peace).