This week’s mantra

Sunday evening I often try to spend some time to mentally go through the next week. What can be challenging? How do I want to deal with possible challenges? What attitude do I want to keep?

In the rush of the day, I often forget the conversation I have with myself Sunday evening, so I have to keep reminding myself during my sadhana or before bedtime.

This week, I want to keep verse 10 from Ch6 in the Gita in mind:

“To attain this godly state, Arjuna, you must become fully immersed in the True Self through the process called meditation (dhyana yoga). You have to control your mind, body, and senses and become free of possessions, expectations, desires, and greed. You must live alone, at least internally, in a quiet place. This inner discipline called meditation is imperative because it is the means for achieving lofty and necessary ends.”

I made myself a little mantra ‘I am free from possessions, expectations, desire and greed’.

I like the idea of living ‘alone, at least internally’. In my interpretation, it means to find contentment and peace internally, to stay centered and let the world be what it needs to be and flow with it.

New week, here we go.

A simple question

My youngest daughter is in her pre-teens, and often talks with me when there are conflicts between her and her friends. She has also had a boyfriend or two and although I wish she could wait longer, she has to make her own choices.

What is cute to observe is that the behaviour of pre-teens is not that different to the behaviour of adults. Some of our emotions are difficult to accept or even recognise and make us behave in strange ways. Sometimes in hurtful ways.

I keep repeating to her that the way people act has very little to do with her and a lot to do with their own feelings and perceptions. This applies to all kinds of human interactions really. When we feel vulnerable or insecure, we can act in ways that send very confusing messages. We can act in hurtful ways. I know it because I have experienced it and maybe more importantly, because I have behaved like that too. Knowing this, we can avoid or at least reduce the emotional distress we can experience when someone behaves like that towards us, and rather try to show some compassion and understanding. At least mentally.

This said, I encourage my daughter to think about what kind of people she wants to have around her and what kind of people she’d better keep a distance from. Not because they are ‘mean’ but because of the energy she spends in the relationship.

Reflecting further about a conversation I had with her the other day, I came up with a formula, next time someone treats you in a way that makes you feel bad, ask yourself, would you ever consciously treat someone like that and feel good about yourself ? If the answer is no, then why do you keep hanging out with people that do so towards you? Some people aren’t aware of how their behavior affects others, and it is a good idea to try to talk about it in a constructive way, but if the behavior continues, I believe it is better to take a distance. No need to be nasty, no need for a big drama. I think we need to consciously decide who we spend mental and emotional energy on, and who we can keep at a healthy mental and emotional distance from.

Lastly, it is good to observe this kind of patterns in others to recognise it in ourselves and work with it. We can sometimes hurt others unintentionally, and it is okay as long as we recognise it and learn from it so we do not repeat it.

Back pain, mental pain and Yoga

I love cross country skiing, and I feel the season here i Trondheim was shorter this year. Therefore, I was very excited to see on Saturday morning that it was snowing. I booked a car (we are part of a car collective), and I agreed with my husband that I would go for a trip on my own. I wanted to be as early as possible to make sure I was in the forest before too many people had the same idea as I had.

I was so early that there were no prepared tracks yet, and it was snowing so much that it was a bit challenging to actually ski, but I didn’t mind, I love it when it snows like that, and I was outdoors, on my own.

At some point, I got a bit lost, and I wasn’t sure where I was, but I just kept going knowing that I would find a sign somewhere some time. I had been going mainly uphill, so when I saw the first downhill, I was happy and relieved thinking that I must have been going back somehow.

The snow was heavy and sticky, and my skis weren’t gliding much and at a turn, I lost balance and fell on my knees. Nothing dramatic, just a little fall. But when I stood up again, I felt it. A sharp pain on my lower back. Good old lower back pain that takes the breath out of me. It’s been a while since last time, but I recognise it very well.

I couldn’t call myself a yoga practitioner if I didn’t use the tools I have learned for this kind of situations, so I tried to calm my mind that was going all over the place with ‘where am I?’, ‘how am I going to get to the car?’, ‘I’m completely alone here’, ‘it’s so painful’, and so on. I took some deep breaths, tried to straighten myself up, and attempted to continue and see what happens. I soon decided to take off the skis and walk down the hill. I took out my phone, found the right app, and to my great relief, I found out I wasn’t far from where I had parked my car. Somehow, I had made some sort of loop.

I was, of course, slightly disappointed with my trip and the back pain, but I was glad I was able to walk back. What is more, I know this old friend of mine, the back pain, it comes unexpectedly, it gives quite a lot of trouble, but it ends up leaving at some point.

The practice of Yoga asana has allowed me throughout the years to get to know my body better, and when an injury like this one happens, I know most of the time what I need to do for a speedy recovery. What is maybe more important is that since I know I suffer from lower back pain, my daily practice is focused on keeping my core muscles, my glutes and my legs strong and flexible.

So I drove home and did what I usually do, a combination of relaxing, going for walks and doing soft movements and some gentle stretches to release tension in the muscles that tend to contract when I hurt my back.

After a couple of days, I was much much better, and that is when I remembered that maybe two or three years ago, when I already had a quite steady yoga asana practice, I hurt my lower back just like last week, and I was devastated. I couldn’t understand how I could be in pain again when I practice asana every day and am very cautions of what I do to avoid getting hurt. The funny part, is that I have experienced the same when it comes to everyday life. I know my triggers, I know my mental and emotional weaknesses, and every time I would end up in an emotional situation, I would be so disappointed feeling that ‘I haven’t learned anything!’ To this, my yoga teacher has always said the same: develop patience.

So I have been reflecting about how, the practice of yoga as a holistic approach, does not necessarily prevents me from getting into situations where old patterns of thought and behaviour arise, where I feel bad about myself, or hurt, but I come out of such states of mind faster. Just like with my lower back pain. I am more capable of bearing the pain, observe the pain, and do what I need to do to get through it without making a bigger mess, without creating more mental and emotional distress for myself.

That is life, isn’t it? Keep walking, enjoy the highs and bear the lows with as much calmness as possible to not spend precious energy on making things worse for ourselves… I love what Yoga is bringing to my life.

Observing the seasons

We live by the Trondheim fjord, and just a few meters from our place, there is a long path of about 10 kilometers with varied natural landscape. We’ve been living close to this path for fifteen years now.

Throughout the years, I have learned to be more observant of the changes that each season brings. Spring probably being one of my favourite. I can notice the changes almost from day to day. From hearing the song of the robin and the blackbird, to the first sprouts on the trees and the ground. It first goes relatively slowly and all of a sudden, with some days of stable sunny weather, it is like an explosion of shapes, light, colour and sound.

It is with the same awe but also a pinch of sadness that I observe the end of the Summer and the start of the Fall, and the same way as Spring just explodes in front of our eyes, the wonderful warm colours of the Fall suddenly invade the landscape. Before we know it, the first snowfall comes, and the long Winter starts.

With the changes in temperature and weather come also the changes in daylight. I think this change is the one that has the most impact in the rhythm of my family’s everyday life. Every year, it takes us some weeks to adapt and find a new routine.

During the darkest months, from November to the end of January, we spend a lot of time indoors. During the weekends, we allow ourselves to sleep in, and spend our evenings watching movies or playing board games. In February, days start getting longer, and we suddenly discover that the sun is out while we are still in our pyjamas so we make the conscious change in routine of getting up earlier during the weekend and get out of the house for a skiing trip or at least a walk in the sun.

During the summer, which can be quite short here in Trondheim, as soon as we get some days of sun and hot weather, we are out the whole day, maybe even part of the night as the sun goes down only for a few hours. Its the summer holiday so we can allow ourselves and our kids to sleep less, or har slightly messier sleeping routines, just to be able to enjoy the nice weather.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this cycle, and how, the changes in the weather and daylight influence our lives, and most of the time, we just make the necessary adjustments without much resistance. When it snows, I check the online skiing map and I plan for a skiing trip. When the snow melts, we put on our hiking shoes and go for a hike in the forest or by the fjord. If it’s raining, we take our rain clothes, if it’s hot and sunny, we put on a hat… Sometimes, I go out with my winter coat to discover that it is about time to change it for the thinner one, and I just make that change next time I go out.

This adaptability and flexibility we need to show with the change of seasons, and the trial and failing that we also experience, are good lessons for life otherwise. Life is full of changes. The most certain one is ageing. When our kids are born, they have certain needs, and as they grow up, these needs change, and we have to adapt our parenting to better meet these needs. As they grow older, we start giving them the tools to meet their own needs instead of catering all the time for them. But, just like with the seasons, it the changes require that we sometimes stop and observe what is going on. Ask ourselves what are we doing and why are we doing it that way. Consider a change of course, or just a change of attitude.

One thing that I keep reminding myself about is not to panic when I notice that a habit or routine is not working, or when one of my kids is struggling. I’ve noticed that unconsciously, my mind goes to what I like to call the ‘that’s it’ modus. It all seems hopeless and lost, but as my grandmother used to say “everything has a solution except from death”. As long as we are alive, we are always capable of changing and adapting to create a harmonious life for ourselves and our loved ones. We can make it as easy as putting on our rain pants by avoiding mental and emotional resistance and trying to just flow with it. Sometimes we also have to accept that our kids go through tough periods and all we can do is be present, give them love, understanding and compassion, and allow them to find their way.

Although the changes we experience in our lives seem linear as opposed to the changes of season that are cyclic, we can also see our lives as cycles. Changes might sometimes bring a period of confusion, of chaos, of instability, but with work, we find a certain balance and stability until a new change comes.