Closing 2022

It’s been a long time since I had taken the time to sit and write here. I do write in my journal a bit more often, and I realize that my reflections tend to go in circles. It is as if I had at least two inner voices. One is the limited one that keeps falling back into old patterns of behavior that only bring stress and distress, and the other one is the one that “knows better” but unfortunately isn’t always heard by the first one until it is too late.

All in all, however, I think I have managed to more or less keep my peace of mind for most of the Fall semester. There have been some small challenges and some bigger ones, and one thing that always helps is to tell myself that worrying on its own will never bring solutions. So, I do what I can, and let go of the worry. It requires work, but I am getting there.

I am grateful for the people that surround me. My husband, my kids, my colleagues, and my friends. I have allowed myself to experience new things this Fall, mingle with new people, and it has brought lightness and moments of fun to my everyday life. I have decided I need to dance more, but since I am not super keen to go to nightclubs at this stage in life, I have found alternative arenas to do so, and every time I spend some hours dancing, I feel lighter in my head, and my body feels relaxed. I join from time to time something called The 5rythms, such a cool way to let the body move! I believe dancing is a very nice way to express ourselves. I think I can compare dancing with the asana practice. When I do my asana practice, I go into a flow of movement and breath and that makes me feel safe and light. It is the same when I dance.

I still need to work on being assertive at the right time. I tend to put aside what I need or want because I am afraid to make the other person feel bad, or because I don’t want to be seen as ‘difficult’. The problem is that when I don’t clearly express my needs, small frustrations keep accumulating, and I end up coming to a point where I lose my patience and all the accumulated frustration comes out in a rather hurtful way.

In my defense, I have been trying to figure out what are “reasonable” expectations towards the few close people I have in my life. I have thus come to the conclusion that no expectation that causes distress can be a reasonable expectation. My internal needs are nobody’s responsibility but mine. I need to work on them. We all go around with our own luggage and the more I experience, the more I realize that I just have to let people be and do as they best can and rather focus on what I do and say. I think I will bring two keywords to 2023 with me: compassion and understanding. Both towards my own limitations and towards others.

There is another side to this reflection, and that is to stop seeking what is not to be found in certain people. Sometimes this means turning around and walking away from a relationship, other times it means releasing that relationship from wanting the person to do something he/she isn’t able to do.

Lastly, I really need to work on using the tools I have learned through my Yoga studies. Use my breath to be present, let go of my tangling thoughts, and keep redirecting my attention inwards.

I hope, that in 2023, I will finally come closer to setting my mind free from the limitations I have been struggling with all these years and start focusing on what is really important.

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.

Changing my prayers

I didn’t grow up in a religious family, but I still have had the habit of praying since I was a kid. I remember talking to ‘someone’ in my head asking for help in a situation or wishing for something to happen. Maybe it is a cultural thing?

Since I started studying Yoga, my concept of God has been gradually changing. I can relate to my teacher’s explanations about what God or Divinity is in some Yoga traditions. He often describes Them as Pure Potential. In my understanding of my teacher’s explanations, God is not a ‘super-being’ outside me but rather something bigger than me and at the same time something I have in me. It is a very nice way to define God because it also reminds me that every single being in the world is part of this same Whole as I am.

In Karma Yoga, we are taught that God has nothing to do with our joys and sorrows. The life we have is a product of our actions in both this life and past lives. Because we have lost contact with this inner-divinity – what in Yoga is called the True Self- we keep searching for lasting love, freedom, and bliss in the outer world oftentimes making mistakes that bound us to the circle of Karma – life and death. God doesn’t ‘punish’ us, we experience the consequences of our actions either here or in our next lives.

Furthermore, we are here to experience the world through our mind and senses but to transcend both the world and our idea of ourselves so we can see this True Self. Therefore, Faith is an important part of the Yoga practitioner. Faith in the process, Faith in the Guru, Faith in Divinity, and Faith in oneself.

I believe that Faith is very important because non-attachment is a very important part of the spiritual path. We are invited to let go of what we don’t need for our spiritual development. The path of Yoga is a path of letting go of the attachments that create pain in our lives. It can be ideas we have of ourselves, it can be material things, and it can also be people. We need to surrender to this idea and have Faith in the process to be able to let go.

Coming back to the title of this post, I am changing my way of seeing life and its challenges. I have always been the cautious type and dread difficult situations. I don’t like the idea of meeting obstacles and challenges. I often worry about the well-being of my family and loved ones. In short, I don’t like suffering.

However, according to the Yoga tradition – and other Indian traditions such as Buddhism- pain can be the path to self-development when approached with the right attitude, and even better, since the nature of the outer world is to be transient, no pain is everlasting.

I have been reflecting on my worries and anxieties during this summer, and realize that they are most of the time (if not all the time) unfounded and they rather limit me. Every time I have encountered a difficult situation, I have been able to get through it, and there is always a lesson to learn at the end of the tunnel. Maybe difficult situations are often invitations to let go of our perception that makes the situation painful?

In any case, we all know well that meeting the world with fear is what brings suffering for us and for others because fear blinds us and hinders us from acting in a skillful way.

So, lately, when I catch myself praying to ask for a problem-free situation, I rather ask for the strength and clarity to better handle the situation no matter what, and I must say that it makes me feel freer and lighter than when I ask “please let this happen like this, or like that.”

I have created the habit to connect with this Divinity or Pure Potential every day and especially before I go to sleep to give thanks. I give thanks for another day here. For the moments experienced and for having a nice and soft bed to rest in until the next day. I think Gratitude is an important part of my prayers that also help me change my mindset from worry to positivity.

Patience

Every morning, after my sadhana, I read a page in Eileen Caddy’s book Opening Doors Within. She has a page for each day of the year with what I see as inspiring and useful reminders to align myself towards a more harmonious life. Towards the path I want follow.

Here’s July 10:

HOW VITALLY IMPORTANT is your right and positive attitude towards today and all that it holds for you! You can make or mar the day for yourself simply by the way you approach it. Your reactions to things as they take place can make all the difference. When your reactions are negative and aggressive, you immediately put up barriers and create opposition, finding fault and blaming everyone else. You are so blind you fail to see that you are the one at fault, and you go around with a chip on your shoulder. When your reactions are positive and constructive, all barriers come tumbling down and you will find you will get help and cooperation from every side. If you have made a mistake, admit it, say you are sorry and move on. Then no precious time is wasted in trying to justify yourself and prove you are right. You have many lessons to learn. Learn them quickly, and try never to make the same mistake twice.

If you have read some of my blog posts this summer you might have noticed that I have been reflecting a lot about the moments where I get carried away by frustration and/or anger.

When I read this page, I thought ‘Yes! That is what I want to strive towards!’ Who doesn’t prefer life to flow instead of creating opposition and conflict? Why is it, then, that I still see myself in certain situations shutting out? In opposition to what is happening?

My Yoga teacher, Prasad, once told me ‘Patience will be your most important asset in life’. He was so right! Lack of patience is often at the source of my unskilled way of dealing with my thoughts and emotions especially in challenging situations.

Does it ever happen to you that you wake up in a weird mood? That from the first moments in the morning you notice some sort of inner discomfort? I am learning to observe this and be with it during my sadhana and remind myself that whatever happens during the day, it is more ‘the mood’ that will throw me off balance than the outer circumstances. This requires patience towards myself, not to try to escape from ‘the mood’ and patience towards what happens during the day.

Unfortunately, I don’t always notice ‘the mood’ or in the haste of everyday life, I forget my morning’s reflection. Too much to do and the wish to things to ‘go my way’, and a feeling of self-righteousness are often the reason why I forget to open up, to listen, to slow down and be constructive. In other words, lack of patience.

What can I do? Keep practicing. Keep giving myself the time to sit in silence in the morning to notice my mood. Keep reminding myself to be mindful. Slow down. Do less at a time. Let go of my perceptions when they are not helping.

I have managed this year to be better at accepting my mistakes. Not to be too afraid to see them, and apologize. Accept that I can’t do everything according to everyone’s expectations, and move on. This has been rather liberating.

Trust

Is it a given or is it earned? Does the responsibility to create trust lies on the one who trusts or the one to be trusted?

Since it is a word, a concept that we have created, I believe there is no absolute answer to my questions. However, it is important to reflect on it and maybe create clarity around it.

There are behaviours and these behaviours, when repeated, turn into patterns. Either in the one who has the behaviour or in the one who experiences the consequences of it. Or both.

Following this line of thought, if you constantly behave in a way that does not match my expectations, I might lose trust in you. If there is a discrepancy between what you say and do, or if I ask for your help and you let me down, or if you lie…

On the other side of trust, there might be people who, because of past experiences, are distrustful. Either generally or towards people in specific roles. One could then say that we have to strive towards gaining the other’s trust.

Last week, I did something that I think cost me the trust of one of my students. It was, of course, a mistake, and I will now have to work next school year towards gaining their trust again. If I am given the opportunity. If this student leaves the school for some reason, they might then decide that teachers are not trustworthy.

I struggled with trusting last week too, and this is partly what led me into a distressed state of mind. I had an overly strong reaction to a change in my roles at work, and I wonder why I am so distrustful. Is my lack of trust directed towards the person? The role that person plays? Or me? Is my lack of trust in reality insecurity in disguise?

In any case, I think that the best I can do is to approach situations with curiosity. Ask the difficult questions both to the other person and also myself. I need to understand where my distrust comes from and work with it because, like in any relationship, it is difficult to have healthy interactions if there is no trust. Can we build that trust together? What is my part to play?

Most importantly, not take my mind so seriously. Take a break from it. Question my perspective before acting. The longer I live, the more surprised I am by my limitedness that, to begin with, seems so ‘real’ and ‘clear’…