FLASHBACK to The Present: 6 April 2014
I am writing this in the early hours of the day. I love these hours. They are all mine. I still find it fascinating that this is how I see it these days. I have never been an early riser. In fact, if I didn’t sleep for eight hours of a night I was sure to feel quite physically ill during the day. My Mum once told me this was her story about her relationship to sleep. I’m not entirely sure if I used her story to understand my experience, or if it is a story that we share. But these days I am lucky if I get five or six hours a night. My disrupted sleep patterns started after a car accident a few years ago and so I was sure that it was a sign that something wasn’t right, something was broken, and hopefully with time it would heal and I would go back to ‘normal’. According to Chinese medicine, depending on what hour of the night you wake up, relates to a different body part’s ailment. If memory serves me, the 4am slot is associated with the respiratory system and anxiety. With this in mind, I tried to work through where I thought I needed help and healing. But to this day, I’ve never quite managed to go back to whatever I was before. It didn’t quite work out like that. And I find myself up before dawn more often than not. This is the new me. However, what I have discovered only recently is that I haven’t lost my sleep – my all important time for rest and repair – I have gained invaluable time for other things that I always thought I never had time for before. So now I write a lot, I read, I meditate. My story changed and then I changed my story of me.
This feels like a pretty amazing time for this kind of reflection to have cropped up, as it is the day that I am about to walk into teacher training and teach my first class with Natalie. Just us. It’s all ours. And so… what is it that is important to me – what do I want to share? What is my intention for the class? Why am I becoming a yoga teacher?! What does that mean to me?
Yoga is not just about a physical practice. Yoga is about connection. And we access this through stories. The stories we read about, the stories we hear about, and the stories we tell ourselves. Stories can be very powerful, wherever they come from. For example, I can read about Virabhadrasana and learn where this pose comes from – why the yogi’s before us have continued to tell this story. Why they – and now we – continue to practice this pose. If you’ll entertain me for a moment, I will summarise it for you now…
Shiva, the Lord of the Universe, had a wife called Sati whom he loved greatly with all his heart. However, her father, King Daksha, did not approve of their partnership. Since the beginning of the universe, his job was to oversee and regulate rituals and make sure they were done properly. Daksha, clearly making a point, made the terrible mistake of not inviting Shiva and Sati to a very special religious ceremony, a fire sacrifice. Distraught, Sati went along anyway and found that the ceremony was a farce; it was more about Daksha flaunting his wealth than any meaningful ritual. More importantly though, how can you hold a sacrificial ceremony without The Lord of the Universe – The Destroyer, as he is known – in attendance, from whom all sacrifice comes?
Sati could not bear it and took it upon herself to be the sacrifice. She threw herself into the fire.
Shiva, upon hearing what had happened, was overcome by grief. This soon turned to rage and he tore a hair from his head and threw it to the ground. This hair transformed into the personification of his emotions. Thus the warrior, Virabhadra, was born – the symbol of righteous anger, nobility and the defender of the innocent.
It is mostly irrelevant to me that this just happens to be a tale attached to the ancient religion of Hinduism, insofar as to say, where the story comes from is of less importance to me than the message behind it. Whilst I deeply respect the religious traditions, for me, yoga itself is not a religion, rather it is an art, a science and a philosophy for life. So, when I come to my mat, it is the message that resonates with me – the religious element does not get in the way for me. When I work through the warriors, yes, I am going on a physical journey; yes, my mental faculties are turned on in order to allow my body to work through the asanas, however what is most powerful is my state during this practice – what am I focusing on? What am I practising? These stories offer a point of focus i.e. what does noble mean to me? Where do I find strength or power? What do I stand in defence of – or quite simply, what do I stand for? Am I a warrior of peace? Of love? Of strength? Or am I practicing sadness, fear, anger, resentment; righteousness born out of ego rather than out of intuition and innocence?
By practicing in this way and by reflecting upon the way in which I practice, I can shift my focus not only on the mat, but also out in the big, wide world that is my life. This is when the practice becomes its’ most powerful. This is how it can open us up to allow our full potential to be illuminated: when we begin to rewrite those stories that we tell ourselves, in particular the ones that do not serve us.
FLASH FORWARD to Then and Now: The Unrelenting Mind Stuff
Righto. Thanks for sharing. So… what? You really think you’ve worked it all out? You think you’re ‘The Shit’?
Wow, ok aggressive…I never said I was ‘The Shit’.
Thank goodness. You’re not. Trust me.
I know that.
Do you? I don’t think you know who you are.
Oh ok, we’re playing that card are we? Careful! ‘Don’t make the baby cry!’ That’s sarcasm, in case you can’t read it.
You really think it’s that easy? You think you can just get up there, spout a few stories, assist a few people, project your voice, pretend you’ve got your shit together and people won’t notice?
Why are you doing this?
Why are YOU doing THIS?
Because I love yoga. I love teaching. I love…
You love…what?! Go on…you can’t even say it.
I was pausing for effect!
What do you want me to say?
I want you to say ‘I accept who I am. I love all of my weaknesses and all of my strengths!’
It’s just fucking yoga. You don’t need to get so intrusive.
Oh yeah? Go on then. If it’s just ‘fucking yoga’ then say it.
Why should I?!
Because it’s not ‘just fucking yoga’– this is ‘your fucking life’. Wake up. Get involved.
What’s that supposed to mean?
It means, stop ignoring this conversation with yourself. It means keep blogging, keep exploring. Keep in touch with people. Be vulnerable. Actually find your edge, don’t just look at it. You need to stay on the path to your authenticity. Only then can you truly start to live in the present. Enough of this flashing back and forward in time, arguing with yourself, with your habits of mind, your ego.
Really practice. Really live. Really talk to people. Really love. Really feel. Really connect. Really be here. In your body. In the world.
‘Unite the blueprint with the reality. Be the change I want to see.’ That kind of thing?
Are they your words?
Well, no, but I believe them.
Ok. But what’s your story?
‘Only you can create your own happiness’. You said that, remember?
Yeah, yeah. I remember.
What are you waiting for?
It’s time to fly…
…are you coming?
I’ll tell you what, if you like stories so much, why don’t you start here…this should get you going…