Facebook, April 14, 2022
Loneliness is not the absence of connection but the full presence of God and a total experience of the Self. It is total "isolation" which is not isolation at all from the perspective of Infinitude. Loneliness contains its own cure, if we are willing to dive in, courageously, or without any courage at all. The dive is everything. Loneliness is utterly misunderstood in our culture, or rather, it is only understood on a very superficial psychological level.
Everyone is running from loneliness, keeping busy just to avoid it, never coming to know and taste its sweet and merciful healing nectar.
For many, loneliness is an enemy, something shameful to be avoided or covered up at all costs. We reach outwards, habitually, automatically, unconsciously, just to keep our distance from loneliness, just to avoid the deafening silence at the heart of all creation. We fill our time and senses up, addict ourselves to projects, create false personas on social media, try to stay “connected” as much as we can, never letting ourselves rest, to avoid the “void” and the gaping chasm of loneliness. But in its terrifying depths, loneliness is not harmful or shameful at all; it is a highly misunderstood spiritual experience of Oneness with all creation, a full and life-giving immersion in the staggering beauty – and utter horror - of life itself, a deep and timeless connection to all living things. Loneliness is not an emptiness but a full presence and an abundance of life. It is pure potential and freedom and surrender all at once, but as long as we are running from it we will never know its nourishing, healing and transformative powers.
Loneliness is not a negative state or some mistake in our being or biology, it is inherent in existence itself, built-in ontologically to our very consciousness and it transcends the psychological story. It is connection, not disconnection. It is wholeness, not lack. Loneliness is a naked spiritual state and subsumes all other states. It is an utter letting go, a paradigm of pure receptivity and perfectly tender openness. It is the ground of being itself, and the base of our subjectivity.
We run from it at our peril.
Nobody can experience our joys and sorrows for us. Nobody can live for us and nobody can die for us. Nobody can experience our own subjective reality, see what we see, feel what we feel, experience what we experience, love what we love, heal from what we need to heal from. We can act as witnesses for one another but we cannot enter each other’s subjectivity or breathe for each other or process each other’s pain. We exist in utter aloneness and uniqueness always, and this is true even when we are in deep connection and relationship. Our ability to relate authentically has its roots in our profound loneliness, and this is what makes every connection with another being such a miracle. When we run from our loneliness, we run from the miraculous and we run from ourselves.
Without loneliness, we exist in utter spiritual poverty, no matter how 'evolved' we believe we are.
Loneliness is a journey we must take alone. Like falling in love, or like dying, we must fall, without protection and without guarantees. Loneliness is the artist in the midst of creating something utterly new, the scientist on the verge of a breakthrough. Loneliness is the woman crying out on her deathbed, the child being born, the spiritual seeker kneeling prostrate before the ordinary world, the adventurer forging a new path in the dark forest. Loneliness is a risk, but utterly safe. Loneliness is the heart of trauma but it is a loving heart after all. Loneliness feels like shame and total abandonment from the perspective of the mind but for the soul loneliness is a full encounter with the timeless mystery of creation and an utter celebration of all there is.
Loneliness takes us out of our minds. It breaks us, grinds us down to our essence, erodes us back to purity and innocence and beauty, brings us close to death but then rebirths us, stronger and more courageous than ever before. Its terror breaks our defences and, then, vulnerable and soft and open, we re-enter the world, more sensitive to its beauty, more aware of the fragility of form and more tender towards the ache of humanity.
We don’t always know if we can endure loneliness, but we do.
When we are in loneliness, it is total and all-consuming and even time recedes. Everything disappears into loneliness - it is like a black hole, and we don’t know how long we can survive its ferocious embrace. But we are stronger than we know and we endure it beautifully. Through meeting our own loneliness and letting it touch us deeply, and ravage us, and cleanse us, and renew us, we come to know directly the loneliness of all beings, their yearning for the light, their deep ache for God, their search for home. We recognise others more deeply as ourselves. Loneliness makes us look beyond appearances and touch the depths of the world soul. If we have truly plumbed the depths of our own loneliness, we can never again close our hearts to the loneliness of others, to the yearning of their humanity, to the horror and awe of creation itself.
Loneliness breaks us open to a devastating compassion for all things, it matures us spiritually and increases our empathy a thousand-fold. We become more caring, more compassionate, more deeply considerate. We become more able to look into the eyes of another without shame or fear. We become less able to turn away where we see suffering and pain. We value our connections more deeply than ever before. Each friendship is a miracle. Each moment with a family member, or partner, or stranger, takes on a strange new melancholic beauty. We become more fearlessly alive in our dying. We embrace paradox as a lover and a friend.
Loneliness is the gravity of love, a sacred pull into the heart core.
Loneliness brings with it a sense of rest and contentment, a deep inner happiness and satisfaction. It slows us down to a snail’s pace and breaks our addiction to the clock and to second-hand notions of "success". It makes us less distracted, less restless, less manipulative, more content with the present moment. The black hole in our guts becomes our unexpected church, our solace, our sanctuary and our mother, and the source of all our genuine answers. We listen to our loneliness and it brings unexpected gifts. New creativity and new inspiration pours out of the lonely place inside. New music comes from there, new and unexpected words, new desire and new paths to follow. Loneliness is the source of all great art, music, poetry, dance, and all works touched by authentic loneliness are authentic works filled with truth and humility and the light of life itself. The nectar of God pours through the broken place inside. Loneliness crucifies us yet shows us that we cannot be crucified.
We do not lose ourselves in loneliness. We find ourselves there more clearly and directly than ever.
Loneliness is the experience of pure intimacy with the senses. It is the erotic experience of being fully alive. It is Jesus on the cross. It is the pulsating ache of a universe longing to be born. It is the end of all things, and a new beginning. It is holding a friend’s hand, not knowing how to help them, not knowing how to take away their suffering, but giving our heart to them totally. It is facing our own death, no promises, no guarantees, no story anymore.
Loneliness is the Beloved beckoning us. Those who have let themselves touch the black hole of loneliness, those who have given themselves up to its relentless pull, who have let the darkness penetrate and infuse and shake and reawaken them, are unmistakable beings. They have a depth and a strength of character that others lack. They radiate genuine warmth and understanding. Their melancholy is the fount of their greatest joy. They are not content with surface things any longer. They have been broken but they are playful too, and full of humour. They love the night-time as much as the day, the shadows as much as the light, the wolf as much as the songbird. Their not-knowing is the source of their wisdom. Their spirituality is simple. They hold no dogma anymore. They have become like little children once more. They are poets and artists and wild lovers of the night.
Loneliness is the experience of being in a body, but not of a body, and knowing that all things will pass, that all loved ones will die, that nothing lasts, that everything is made of the most delicate substance. Loneliness is a deep and unshakeable awareness of the transience and brevity of things, of illness and endings and new beginnings. Loneliness is a love of the night-time, the shadows and the moon. It is present in every moment and saturates every hour of every day. Once you have tasted loneliness, truly sipped from its sacred fount, you cannot run away from it ever again. You are haunted by it, yet you know it is the friendliest of ghosts.
Loneliness opens your heart wider than any other experience ever could. It brings with it youth and innocence. It makes you weep at the sight of sand on the beach, or the sound of a baby crying, or the feel of the morning sunlight on your skin, or upon the contemplation of time itself. Loneliness takes us to our most painful places but helps us fulfil our highest potential. Without loneliness, we are just shells of human beings, frightened skeletons. Loneliness fills us up with warmth from the inside, gives our lives the deepest kind of purpose and direction and meaning. Loneliness makes us realise we are never alone, and we are always loved, despite our imperfections and lack of faith. Loneliness is a religious experience, a lovemaking with the Universe.
Loneliness will save you if you give yourself to it totally. It will not separate you from the world and others but will bind you to them more powerfully. Through the dread and devastation of loneliness you will discover that you are more vast and more capable of love than you ever thought possible. You will be shocked at how much life you can hold.
The more you run from loneliness, the lonelier and lonelier you will feel, and the more you will fear being alone, even if you are surrounded by people. In loneliness is the utter paradox and mystery of creation. It may be last place you want to touch in yourself, and it may sound like madness, what I am saying to you here. But your loneliness may hold all the secrets to your very existence. You may find that your loneliness is not “loneliness” at all, in the end – it is your umbilical cord to God, unbreakable, infinite, death-defying, a cosmic pathway of love and forgiveness and utter, utter humility.
Let your loneliness pierce you, then, and shake you, and nourish you, and let it connect you to the world - and your authentic self - more deeply than ever.
“When we go out with other people or to an event or a party, Brad can’t seem to help distancing himself from me. He avoids showing any sign of affection or love for me in public.
If I ask him in advance if he would look after me a little if we’re going to an event with his friends, he says ‘yes’ but the reality is I feel abandoned when we get there. I’m so sensitive to him doing that, and am always expecting it now.
It makes me feel confused, like there’s something wrong with me, and I feel hurt and angry. Then I withdraw from him and go into self-protect mode. The atmosphere between us when we drive home every time is not pretty!” Miriam (not their real names, but a true story)
How could it be better?
1. Check in with each other ahead of time. How do you both feel ahead of time about the event? Speak from your own sense of self-responsibility and also vulnerability.
For example, Miriam from the example above realised she was letting go of her own responsibility to 'make' Brad become responsible for her well-being while they were there. He told her that this left him feeling unfree, fettered, and with a feeling every time they went to a social event together that he was always doing something wrong.
2. Important: are either or both of you reacting to something deeper? Chances are, the answer is often yes. Miriam realised she was reacting out of a deep-rooted sense of being unseen and unacknowledged generally in life, going back to her early beginnings in life. Brad realised he was reacting out of a feeling of never being able to get it right or to be good enough, from his childhood experiences, expectations, and conditioning.
Brad and Miriam worked hard at realising and naming the old wounds that surfaced, over conversations together and working on their own, over time.
Brad worked with his feelings of not being good enough so that he would be able to stand for them as a couple, to be able to show his affection for her in a way that felt true to him, and check in with Miriam as needed at the event so she would feel his love and support.
Miriam realised she could choose to trust Brad to support her while she also took responsibility for herself in social situations, not letting herself shut down, not letting herself expect that he would drop her.
They went to a birthday party with his friends.
They talked beforehand how they both felt about going, what they needed from each other, how they could support each other.
Miriam: ‘I will try and be open to your friends, maybe even just finding one person to have a decent conversation with. If I feel too isolated, I'll come to you and give you a look that will say, ‘Could we go soon?’. I will try not to turn away from you but will trust you.’
Brad: ‘I realise you don’t feel naturally comfortable with my friends and I really appreciate you’re coming with me tonight. And I also do appreciate that you’re going to see if you can have some interesting conversations even just with one person. I'll be ready to leave when you feel you’ve had enough, and I’ll make sure I check in with you, too, putting an arm around you and giving you a little loving squeeze now and again if that would make you feel good.’
Can relate to this scenario?
I can. All during my relationship with my ex, I couldn't find a way for us to feel like we 'had each other's back' at parties with his friends. It often felt like I had to go it alone without his support. If only I had come across this story before, and the learning that Miriam and Brad went through together.
Maybe we could have made it different. I can see that it wasn't that he wanted to ignore me, he just didn't know how to support me and he had his own feeling of insecurity to cope with.
(Adapted from Stan Tatkin, 'Wired for Love')
Your desire might be to buy a new car, or take a holiday to Thailand, or buy nice new clothes. Great! Nothing wrong with that. But I want to talk about your deeeeepest desires, about the specific, deepest longings of your heart.
For a masculine-oriented person, it might be the experience of absolute freedom and expansiveness and raw power you get on a mountaintop out in nature, or the longing to be awash in the beauty of a feminine open heart and body.
For a feminine-oriented person the ache in her heart might be for her masculine partner to fully know her, to see her, to love her exactly as she is at that moment, and for her to see that love in his eyes.
When you get caught up in the attachment or sense of entitlement to attain these deep, divine desires, the desires lose their power and their radiance as they become entangled in unconscious (or conscious) attempts to possess them, to grasp them. It’s so easy to get caught up in the ‘shoulds’ of your longings – and there lies potentially so, so much suffering.
What if you could let go of the attachment, of needing to achieve those desires you long for so much? What if you could experience the desires, fully, wholeheartedly, simply for their own sake? What if the desires themselves become the goal? What if you could allow yourself to radiate that ache, that longing, to open to encourage desires to flow through you – desire purely for the sake of desire.
Our deepest desires as a gift to ourselves, to the world.
Our deepest desires - without the hooks of attachment - are powerful, magical, divine expressions of who we really are. Many people don’t know what their deepest desires are, or they may feel they don’t have any. Or they can vaguely relate but don’t have clarity about what their deep longings might be.
We can easily become disconnected from being able to experience our deepest self. It’s so scary to acknowledge. In society we’ve been conditioned not to have deep passions and longings that move us to the depths of our soul. We’ve been conditioned to think our desires are selfish, we’re wrong to feel them, we feel ashamed of them.
But this is so not true! Our deepest longings are the expression of our deep self. The longing for pure freedom is about becoming who we truly, powerfully can be. The longing to be truly loved, to be deeply seen, is about a profoundly deep connection with another person.
Recently I was feeling frustrated and sad for not being able to find a partner yet. Then I attended a John Wineland (johnwineland.com) online masterclass about the power of desire. Everything changed for me during that masterclass and the penny dropped!
Now, much more often, I am able to let myself become immersed in my deep longing for connection, for the one who can look deeply into my eyes, seeing my open loving heart, my longing to be connected to him in intimacy too.
This longing in itself feels so good, when I let go of the feeling that there’s something wrong with me for not finding the right person yet, or that my life is ticking on and I’m running out of time. No! Just experiencing the longing for its own sake is like offering myself to the world, radiating such electric magnetism and bliss even though the longing is an ache. An ache but a lovely one! To let myself experience the desire in its fullness itself is the goal.
I find I am not afraid of that ache any more, and when I can steer clear of getting hooked into the goal of finding a perfect match, I am free to live in the fullness and radiance of that mystical, exquisite desire for its own sake. It gives me energy and meaning and freedom from frustrated suffering.
And I get the pleasure of meeting interesting men without the pressure of needing them to be The One.
Recently this verse has given me comfort: ‘I give this situation fully to You (God? Energy of Life? Nature? The Goddess? We get to choose who we’re appealing to). Please, please keep me open and show me the right actions. And if there isn’t currently a solution, please at least help me accept it for now and show me what I could learn from this.’
Why do I need to be saying this verse to myself? I recently started a relationship with an amazing man, which I thought was really it. I practiced what I preach – ie open-hearted trust, I let him in emotionally, we were experiencing a sexual energy between us. But I didn’t see it coming, he ended it suddenly. He was right that we weren’t actually all that suited to each other. But it was the abrupt nature of it that threw me – one minute I was part of a new and developing relationship and the next minute all those dreams were dashed.
On top of that, because of the new Covid Omicron I will probably NOT go to my immune-suppressed friend for Christmas, and with no family in this country I face the possible prospect of Christmas on my own.
Back to the verse I’ve been comforting myself with. I love it because it helps me avoid or move out of my old story of ‘I’m meant to be alone’; that old belief that comes from childhood that makes me shut down into my old inner dungeon rather than staying open and flowing both to the pain of a relationship not developing and also the fear of being on my own. And it helps! I am feeling sad, yes, a bit devastated for short bursts, afraid of being alone at Christmas – but I also can see that if I found one great partner I can find another. And that I can be creative at Christmas, maybe to find other friends/acquaintances who might have to be on their own for whatever reason and to meet up together. That could be great! And it’s good to know I am not powerless, stuck and defeated. Allowing myself to stay open is the key.
How do you support yourself to stay open to new possibilities, rather than shutting down into your old habitual reactions?
Stress, anxiety and panic have been such a huge part of many of our lives this past year, for many different reasons: fear of becoming infected with Covid - fear of infecting those we love - fear of being alone - fear of not having enough income - fear of the frustration we feel towards our family when we can't have the usual space or breaks from each other - or fear of not being able to see our family members enough - fear of the unknown - fear of breaking down - fear of overwhelm and situations too big for us to bear - fear of death...and more.
I've suffered from occasional headaches all my adult life, more so in the last ten years or so, brought on by an inner stress of expectations and 'shoulds'. For much of this time I've felt bad about this. In my head the dialogue would go like this (accompanied with panic or at the very least, anxiety): 'I can't have another headache, I had one last week! I'm a yoga teacher, I'm supposed to be above stress and able to manage tension by doing yoga (which sometimes made it worse and sometimes made it better), I'm obviously not a very good yoga teacher and NO ONE must know about this terrible weakness of mine!'
Needless to say this line of thinking did not help my headache to ease. Neither did tablets.
But, finally, I came to a new insight that changed everything. It was so foreign to me at first that it took a couple of months to be able to take it in and do it.
I learned that instead of turning away when I feel a headache coming on, trying to push it down or repress it, trying yoga or shoulder releases or other movement to desperately try and stop it coming, I learned to turn towards it, to welcome it into my experience. Actually, it is a part of me. I don't need to be ashamed of it. Oh no no no. It is helping to tell me that there are emotions within me that I can't access at the moment, and it is presencing itself to help me feel. Better to feel something than to push it all down so far that my body eventually can't cope with it all. All that emotion needs to go somewhere. And then I learn, one headache at a time, that it is no longer the master of me, causing overwhelm, but joy of joys, I am the master of it!
There seems to be so much stress and anxiety around at the moment, causing distress in so many ways, that I felt my next workshop needed to be about this theme.
Join me on Saturday April 17 from 10:30am - 1:00pm (with generous breaks) as we actively explore the ways we can transform and melt away anxiety and fear. Physical, practical, simple things can be truly empowering! More information is here.
Here we are at the cusp of a new year. Strange to think back to this time last year, when we had no idea that all our lives would change so much. Even for those who already worked at home before any lockdown, life will never look the same again.
When people offer as a kind thought 'let's hope 2021 will be better', it makes me wonder: what if we also offered the wish to each other, 'I hope in 2021 these experiences of 2020 (pain, fear, isolation, overwork, economic hardship, illness, death, existential emptiness, joy, connection, love, compassion) will reap generous rewards for us all: making us wiser, deeper, more open, more able to connect with each other, more in a flow of Life.'
May this difficult, troubling, frustrating, isolating year that is finishing - although the struggle is not over - give us the awareness that we are stronger than we thought, we have deeper resources of Love and courage than we thought, our compassion can be boundless when we allow ourselves to connect to a mysterious deep well of limitless support, that we remember life is so much more than gathering things around us.
I recently discovered this beautiful prayer:
Change me. Open me.
Make me receptive to the unexpected.
May I receive all that is meant for me over these next weeks and beyond.
Let me know my own worthiness to receive.
Let me play with new ideas as an adventure.
And then, let me embrace what happens according to Your Energetic Flow.
I am Yours. You are mine. We are one.
All is well.
(Tosha Silver, It's Not Your Money, edited)
We’ve all heard about being grateful for the good things in our lives. I realised how lucky we are to have clean running water in our homes, for example, when I watched a video recently about those who don’t; and how disease and suffering can so easily be the result of having to drink filthy water.
The reason I got to thinking about gratitude is this: when lockdown started in March, as a yoga teacher and workshop facilitator I was thrown into the deep end with zoom classes and sessions. It was overwhelming, a lot to learn and adapt to, all at once, and I lost around a third of my regular students who didn’t want to take classes online, which was a bit scary.
After lockdown (1) I realised I could run my sessions from anywhere…so I went for 2½ months to volunteer on a smallholding near Salisbury, working on the land and with the animals around my yoga session times. I had a whole new experience that I could never have had otherwise.
I felt lucky that I could be so flexible and if not for lockdown I never would have put all my classes online. Even now that I’m back in the Stourbridge area where I hope to resume as soon as its sensible to teach again in person, I still have the freedom to work online from anywhere – all I need is a big enough room and a good internet connection! Gratitude can be an obvious response when good happening from difficult circumstances is easy to see.
But more than that. I feel it’s also so relevant for my inner health and growth, to look for gratitude for the less obvious outcomes, for the things that are still difficult or painful in my life. What hidden gem, what nugget of truth can I winnow from the struggles, that I might keep meeting in life again and again until I take in the truth of what is being offered to me?
For example, I’ve always found it hard to notice and stand up for my needs with others, particularly men. So, of course, when I was volunteering at the smallholding I mentioned above, I had to contend with a particularly complicated host who didn’t seem to realise that his volunteers were human beings, more than just another pair of hands. Diff-i-cult!!!
Did we get there in the end? No - I left instead. But it gave me a whole new perspective to focus on and I realise I have work to do in this area that I really want to understand and work through, growing myself beyond that old habit of not noticing I have needs in my default response to others.
So I can genuinely ask, how has this difficult experience happened for me, rather than to me?
In particular, of course, this year with Covid has changed so much in our lives in so many different ways, causing real hardship, anxiety and unimagined suffering and worry. But even now, there can be the small and hidden beginning of a whole new, happier, more connected future waiting for you patiently to be uncovered and embodied. Perhaps you have already experienced this in big or small ways, or you have a glimmer of a feeling - how this time could lead to your growth and freeing up of something.
Katherine Woodward Thomas, best-selling author and therapist says: This is what will ripen us into the people we were born to become, and enable us to realize our higher potentials in life and in love. How can I turn these difficulties into gifts of clarity, new ways of being, growth, moving out of the old unhelpful habits?
You've got a space in your house all set up, you've set the alarm 15 minutes early, and you are READY! But...what should you do when you get to your mat each morning for those 5 - 15 minutes? Meditation? Postures? Breathwork?
This is what I suggest. The most important thing is that you connect to your body. You can make yourself do 10 sun salutations, but if your body doesn't enjoy it, you won't be able to keep up your daily practice. Having said that, lots of people love doing sun salutations. This is a nice description of the simpler version and a more challenging variation too.
So how do you connect to your body? You can try different things, but the simplest might be just - breathing. Breathing consciously. You could spend all 5 - 15 min just sitting and consciously breathing. Or you can imagine the inhale flowing into your body, flowing through any tight or uncomfortable areas, and the exhale can release that tension, emotional pain or physical pain.
If you feel like doing some postures, here are the ones I consider to be the best when time is short and you're looking for maximum benefit.
1. Start sitting comfortably and just breathe, taking your awareness into your body with each breath, softening with each exhale.
2. Come to all fours and let your body sway forward and backwards, side to side, pressing hands into the floor.
3. Angry cat/happy cat. On all fours, round your spine, releasing your neck. Arch your spine, being careful of your lower back, lifting the head. Do 5-10 repetitions.
4. Downward facing dog. Tuck your toes under, lift your knees and bring your body into the shape of an upside-down 'V'. Press into the base of your index fingers, and lengthen through the arms, back and legs too.
5. Come into a lunge, bringing one foot forward, sway and rock if that feels good, helping hips to release. Change sides.
6. Bring the second foot forward and hang in Uttanasana, standing forward bend: knees bent, upper body relaxed. When it feels like long enough, come up to standing.
7. Breathe deeply, swing your arms up from your sides so that you are reaching overhead, looking to the hands and let yourself feel the joy of being able to do this bouyant movement!
8. Come back into Downward Dog, from there to sitting with legs crossed or however you feel comfortable.
9. Sitting twist. Breathe in deeply as you sit upright. Turn to your right, taking the left hand to the outer right knee and the right fingertips (not palm) to the floor just behind your hip. Enjoy a few breaths here, releasing the shoulders down. Do the other side, and then come to lying on your belly.
10. Low cobra. Hands under shoulders, elbows tucked in. As you breathe in, press hands to floor to lift head and shoulders. Keep chin gently tucked until you feel you have lifted upper body as high as you want to, then lift head, looking forward as long as your neck is comfortable.
11. Roll over on to your back, tuck your knees in with hands clasped on shins or thighs, and rock side to side. Come into any other movements your body would appreciate in order to be able to release any tightness.
12. Lie there, still, on your back for one minute minimum - longer would be better!
You're finished! Enjoy the rest of your day knowing you've done your body and soul a great favour.
I often hear people say that they would love to do a regular home yoga practice but they don’t know where to start. So, here we go – step by step, so you really can do it. Yes, you!
Step One. Why? Why do you feel you want a home yoga practice? Connect to your ‘why’ as powerfully as you can. Is it to connect into your self each day, to give your body what it needs each morning, to find a quiet minute to organise your thoughts, or a quiet space where your day can begin on your terms? Do you have a real motivation to keep your body healthy and fit or to reclaim some of the strength and fitness you used to have? Knowing your real 'why' will help keep you going when you make it conscious. Write it down, get really into the nitty-gritty – why does it matter, and does it matter a little, or a lot? Is it just a whim, or if you have the tools and the guidance, will you really commit to it, even for just two weeks to start with and then you can re-evaluate?
A morning practice is often something that people grow into. If you set an intention to commit to your morning yoga for a certain, achievable length of time, this becomes something you can truly commit to. It's easier to commit to days, 21 days or 28 days rather than - forever! Then you can let it go after those days have passed, until you feel again the urge to make a new commitment for another length of time. Or perhaps once you’re on a roll of however many days you’ve committed to, you find that you’ve established a new habit and you will keep going just because it feels good.
You don’t want to feel the dreaded ‘should’ as in, ‘Oh no I SHOULD go and do my morning yoga again now, sigh’. If you’ve committed to it for just two weeks, it might be easier to keep motivated. And you know, it’s perfectly ok to let it go after your two weeks, for now. Maybe you’ll pick it up again in due course and maybe you won’t. Don’t let yourself go to that inner critic place that tells you what you should be doing and all the reasons you’re no good because you’re not doing it. That’s how to kill your motivation and enjoyment of your practice!
Step Two. Find your special yoga space. If you can leave your mat unrolled and ready for you, that’s a great way to set yourself up. Your yoga mat symbolises your sacred space, the place you go where you can be completely yourself. You will roll into your 5-15 min daily yoga practice most easily if it’s all set up and ready for you.
However, it would be, ideally, a respected space. The kids are not allowed to eat sticky jam sandwiches on your yoga mat. The dog is not allowed to lie on it after being outside in the rain. If it’s not possible to teach everyone else in your household that it’s only for you (with the possible exception of your cat, as long as she doesn’t flex her claws on that lovely surface) – don’t leave it out. It’s about everyone – including you – respecting your needs and your space…and this might not be easy for you to stand for!
Step Three. Set your alarm something like 5-15 minutes earlier each morning. Be realistic. What will you really manage to stick with? 90 minutes of yoga before work could be blissful, but who would ever manage to do that every day? Except yoga teachers, of course. (Do I really do that?? I’m not gonna tell ya).
Step Four. START! Turn up. Every. Single. Day. For those five minutes, for those two weeks, even if you have no idea what you’re going to do when you get there. Don’t expect to go into handstands or complicated postures. Don’t expect to know what you should do. Don’t think you’ll do a warm-up, some tricky postures, some pranayama (breath practice) and savasana (relaxation) along with a little dose of meditation, all within your fifteen minutes.
Step Five. What you could actually do when you get there – will come in my next newsletter in a couple of weeks! Sorry to keep you waiting. You could google ideas to get you started. Meanwhile, just turn up. Sit there/lie there/be on hands and knees. Be in a quiet space. Keep it simple. Turn your attention inward and listen to how you are. Take lots of deep breaths. Come into rocking movement or circling movements or stretching movements. Even five minutes of BEING STILL, BREATHING DEEPLY, and CIRCLING/STRETCHING MOVEMENTS will do you a world of good. Do it every single day if you can! And if you miss a day, please please don’t give yourself a hard time and throw your whole practice away, thinking you’ll never get it. Just turn up again the following day, or the one after that. Have patience and kindness with yourself. We are our own worst critic, aren’t we?
Next time: suggestions for your yoga practice each day.
And, why does that matter??
Do you find that too? When I do consciously to allow myself the time to just look out the window, I find myself picking up my phone (so I put that out of reach deliberately) or the nearest magazine or book (anything will do!) to distract myself or to feel as if I’m DOING something. Where does this difficulty in being able to be still come from and why is it so hard to allow ourselves to do?
Our Western world is so geared towards productivity. Probably much more than we are even aware of. We are programmed to be doing, achieving, crossing things off the list, ‘getting it done’. You feel that too? It’s as if we have become wired to ‘Do’; and if we’re not Doing we’re not being worthwhile people. We’re not earning our right to exist on this planet. We’re not validating our existence, in a society that intrinsically values accomplishing, not ‘just’ being.
And yet, there’s so much about self-care around at the moment too. Surely, self-care includes the possibility to just sit and look out the window, to daydream, to not think about anything in particular. To catch up with ourselves, to connect with ourselves, to not feel pressured to get on with the next thing.
Why does this matter? It’s actually pretty essential, I feel, to allow ourselves to be able to sit and Be. I find when I’m in one of those moods where I just can’t do that, I’m restless, I start ten different things and am distracted to the next thing before I’ve finished any of the others. When I notice that this is my frame of mind, I realise that I am caught in a web of adrenalin (or cortisol), ‘fight-flight-flee’ mindset. This will not do long-term because I will wear myself out! Like burning a candle too brightly. Focus, intention and clear thinking are gone – ‘It has to be done! Now! Or else!’
When I find that, magically, I AM in the frame of mind/body to just sit and Be, there are so many benefits happening behind the scenes. My body is relaxing, via the parasympathetic nervous system, that tells my being that I am safe and I can digest and rest. It gives me the space to connect with myself, my body, my emotions, my needs. Sooo important if we are going to take seriously the need to look after ourselves.
It can also be a real issue that somehow we just don’t’ feel we deserve to spend time ‘doing nothing’. We have subconsciously absorbed the learned behaviour that we are supposed to be looking after others, not mollycoddling ourselves. Not lounging when there’s work to be done and people to look after, others’ needs to be seen to. Our needs don’t matter like the others’ do! This surely has a deeper origin and will be the subject of a future reflection.