One thing leads to another

Whilst drowning on one thought
Sitting in front of my laptop
For a moment
I lift my gaze
Who catches the beautiful patterns
the clouds make in the early evening sky
Why obsess about the one thing that didn't go my way today?
I ask myself
When my world is full of wonders
And while contemplating the vastness and awesomness of the world
and the Universe
I remember
what I have most at hand
Me

On wishes and desires

Most of us experience if not often, at least at some point in life wanting something that is difficult to get or even that we cannot have. I remember when we were trying to have our first child. It took us a while, and at some point, we were told we probably wouldn’t be able to without ‘help’ from specialists. I remember the feeling of desperation and helplessness. Of feeling that it wasn’t fair. Why us, why me? We talked a lot about it and decided we didn’t want to go through the process of trying with in vitro. I tried to understand why I had such a strong need to become a mother.

Thinking back, I think I was still relatively immature, but I was able to understand that I had a need to nurture someone, to give love to someone. I said this to my husband, and we decided that it didn’t matter if the baby was born from us or not. We contacted adoption agencies to start the process of adoption.

It turns out that the Universe had other plans for us, and I got pregnant some months after we received the papers with the information, and not only did we have one child but three! Almost one after the other.

I have had other periods in my life where I have felt a similar lack like the one when we were struggling to conceive. I have wanted to have something that I don’t have. Maybe the need to become a mum wasn’t the first need I felt in my life that was difficult to fulfill, and it certainly wasn’t the only one.

Yoga came to my life in one of these periods of lack. It has taken me years to understand where it comes from, accept it and direct my attention to what I have and can create. Yoga has given me the tools to go a bit deeper, to turn my gaze inwards. Of course, on the surface, there is always something out there that I might desire but looking closer and reflecting I realise that the lack was all a product of my perspective. Maybe the feeling of lack of validation comes from a deeper need to see my worth that is independent of what I do or don’t do. My lack of connection with someone might be a lack of connection with myself which then makes it difficult to connect with others. My lack of love might be my inability to see that I have love inside me. And so on.

The challenge when we seek to fulfill our needs with a very specific wish is that 1) we risk not seeing what we do have 2) we don’t realize that what we seek, is deeper than the material thing, and thus we can give to ourself and others.

I thought to write this post partly because I have teenagers in the house. They all want things, and of course, I think that this is partly positive since that is what drives us to keep going in the world. But sometimes, they can get so obsessed with what they “lack”, that they don’t see what they do have. I know, this is a typical phase in life, and there is maybe a scientific explanation to it, the problem is when we become adults, some of us might never realize what I describe above. We might spend a lot of energy and time chasing that single thing that we think will make everything be better.

Right before I sat down to write this, I saw a short video from a Yoga teacher I follow on Instagram (@yaeleshy1), and I was surprised to see that she was talking exactly about the same thing I’ve been reflecting on these days. She put it beautifully: when you feel you lack something, sit with that desire, feel it, and try to see if you can define what the deeper desire is. Is it love, is it safety, is it happiness? If yes, how can you create it for yourself and others? There is nothing wrong with wanting as long as we manage to understand where this want comes from and evaluate whether we want to spend all our lives chasing that specific form that we think this want or this need “has to” have, or if we can invest our energy and time in seeing what we have inside ourselves and thus what we are able to create around us.

Reflections from a reluctant traveler

It is so easy to trick myself into believing my own limiting stories. One is that I don’t have the extra energy to get out of my comfort zone. I work as a middle school teacher, and even though I have a schedule and a plan for each day, every day brings unforeseen situations and extra tasks. The same at home with three teenage kids, a husband, and a cat. At the same time, I am trying to get my yoga teaching up and going, and it is taking time. So, lately, just the idea of planing anything that requires a bit of effort seems overwhelming.

Thus, last week, when the date for a trip with some of my students was approaching and my to-do list kept growing, I regretted volunteering for this trip. My tired and overwhelmed mind kept going through all the worst-case scenarios that could happen during this trip. Oversleeping and not catching the bus to the airport, the plane being canceled, students getting sick or even worse, hurt…

Sitting in the bus on the way to the airport, I started wondering why I was dreading traveling so much. I used to love to travel, but now, I was filled with anxiety. I think it was partly because I haven’t been traveling since before CORONA.

The trip went smoothly, and just a few hours after the event we joined had started, I realized what a great experience this was for both my students and myself. We spent three days in a camp learning about the importance of democracy. There were students from several schools in Norway, each small group accompained by a teacher. Students and teachers had slightly different programs each day. It was so inspiring in so many ways.

I realized how easy it is to get caught in going around in circles when we stay in the same place without being exposed to different ways of seeing things, and new knowledge. I would argue that it is almost dangerous for our growth and mental health.

During the last day of our camp, while talking with one of the other teachers, we agreed that this trip was worth the effort, and that unfortunately, not all courses or conferences we can attend are as good.

This made me think about the importance of getting out of my comfort zone from time to time to meet new people and learn new things, but it needs to be done with awareness and clarity of mind, not just for entertainment.

According to Yoga philosophy, one can classify our attitude towards life’s experiences into two: one can have the attitude of a bhogi or the attitude of a yogi. A bhogi is someone who seeks experiences for the sake of experiencing, and most of the time the goal is to satisfy the senses. A yogi is someone who uses life’s experiences to reflect on her attitudes and behaviour and improve them. A yogi‘s main goal is to continue transforming herself for the better. To get closer to her Truth. A bhogi can easily fall into indulgence and restlessness, while a yogi has to constantly create inner clarity to be able to discern between acting to please the senses and the mind and acting with awareness for her long-term benefit avoiding harming others.

When the yogi steps out of her comfort zone, it is at a different level than the bhogi. It is not to experience strong emotions, it is to challenge the limitedness of the mind. Emotions do arrise, but the yogi does not get stuck in the emotions, the yogi needs to see past them and learn something about herself and the world around her.

At the stage I am in life and in my willingness to integrate Yoga teachings to my life, I think I am still somewhere between acting like a bhogi and acting like a yogi. I do reflet a lot about my attitudes and behaviors, but I tend to seek what is emotionally safe for me and reject what feels challenging. I get stuck in situations out of fear of letting go and experiencing pain, but oftentimes, when I let go, I experience freedom. Freedom from being attached to something that doesn’t help me develop, that doesn’t allow me to go a bit deeper in my quest for the Self.

This trip made me think of that, and the importance of getting out of negative spirals…

What do you need?

I went for an evening walk with my youngest who is now 13 years old. Together with her friends, she is going through changes, and with those changes seem to come challenges related to friendship. It is interesting to observe that their conflicts are not that different from what we could experience as adults, but with the lack of life experience, these conflicts feel much more dramatic than we might experience them after a few years of life (45, for example).

She started the conversation by telling me everything that frustrates her with her friends, and I tried to patiently listen asking sometimes if it wasn’t her own perspective. It is tricky to try to give advice, but here is what I told her that I think can help even ‘experienced’ adults when in conflict, especially with close friends and/or in a romantic relationship.

  1. Try to always remember that the other person, just like you, has more than enough with their own insecurities, inner struggles, and feeling of lack, so, whatever they do, is 8% about you and 90% about their inner life. So, if a friend suddenly acts cold, ‘ditches’ you for another friend, or doesn’t want to do something you used to do together, before assuming it is about or against you, talk about it. Try to not talk when you are upset. Wait until things are calm and ask. AND, even when it is about you, it is often a matter of perspective. If, however, the other person tells you there is something you have done that has hurt them, be open to reflect and consider saying sorry and avoiding doing the same again.
  2. Avoid talking with your friend by listing what is ‘wrong’ with them, or what they do ‘wrong’ (Very difficult!) Focus rather on expressing how you feel (or felt) in a given situation and wait for a response. Listen with an open heart. Most of the time, the intention behind the action is not to hurt. But when it is, try to find solutions together. I know, this one is difficult for a teenager, but at least expressing how they felt is better than ‘attacking’ the friend.
  3. Say clearly what you need. Write a short list of what you think you need from your friend to feel valued, safe, and included. Try to be as concrete as possible describing actual actions your friend can take.
  4. Listen to what your friend has to say. Consider their point of view.
  5. Consider accepting some of the sides that you see as challenging for the sake of those you value/like. Write a list of the pros and cons of your friendship with this person and decide if you want to continue investing time in it.

As I have been hearing since I started studying Yoga, when we move the focus inwards, when we are aware of how we perceive things, what we need vs what we think we need, and what we can give, it often is easier to communicate with others. It sometimes brings you to a better space in a relationship (although it might take time), and it sometimes might mean you need to let that person go, but at least you don’t feel like you are constantly banging your head on the wall.