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.

Patience, Work in Progress

A few days ago, my husband took the initiative to do some home improvements. He decided to build a library in our living room. He didn’t take this task lightly and researched online for a day or two to find out the best way to approach the task. He finally decided to recycle a couple of shelves we had on the ground floor and add some more elements he bought at IKEA. To begin with, it was his project, but once the shelves were done, I started helping sort out books.

We moved into our current house almost ten years ago when our kids were aged 6, 5, and 3. We chose to buy a new house so we didn’t have to spend time renovating it in order to spend our spare time with the kids. We couldn’t afford to furnish it fully from the moment we moved in, which we thought was also an advantage since we felt we needed to get to know the house first and then decide how we were going to use the space.

Throughout the years, we’ve changed how we use some of the rooms, often ending up with a bit of a patchwork. The kids were young, we were tired between work and everyday life, and didn’t want to spend much of our spare time in the house since we enjoy being outdoors.

So, when we started searching for all the books we had in the house, we realized they were everywhere, and the moment I entered a room and started sorting ‘my’ books, I realized there were other things that needed to be sorted into three categories: to keep, to give away, to throw away.

Initially, I approached the task with enthusiasm, but towards the end of the second day of sorting and tidying, I started getting frustrated. We will never finish! , was my dominant thought. Then, I remembered that one of my goals for the rest of 2022 (and the rest of my life!) is to develop patience. What a great opportunity to work with my goal!

So far, the shelves have the books we want to keep, we have two boxes with books we would like to give away/sell, and are working on it, and we have thrown away old papers and other rubbish that we had accumulated during the last ten years or even longer.

This little project of ours has reminded us of other things we have been wanting to change in the house but haven’t taken the time to do. Again, I had to accept that we can’t do everything during our summer break because we want to do other things, and we can’t spend all our holiday money on changing the furniture and lighting in the house.

So, for the moment, things are good enough with potential for improvement, which reminded me again of my goal to be patient. If ten years of living in the house and adding things sometimes without thorough planning will take a while to declutter and change, imagine attitudes and patterns of thought that have developed for over forty years!- if we only count this life. During the last seven years, I keep studying Yoga, reminding myself to work with what I consider most important, but I keep discovering new ways I limit myself through my mind. I am a work in progress, and I need to be patient, kind, and compassionate towards myself.

I have discovered that a great way to work with my patience is during my asana practice too. I stay longer in poses or do more repetitions of the same exercise. I try to keep my daily practice even simpler than before to discipline my restless mind. When I sit in meditation, I stay a bit longer after my bell rings, just to let go of the impulse of ‘finishing’ and moving on to the next thing.

I am also trying to remind myself to take a pause before I speak while in a conversation (not being very good at this yet), maybe to realize I don’t need to say anything at all.

It is going to be interesting to observe myself go back to everyday life. Will I remember to work towards my goal? I certainly hope so.

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.

Slow progress that often feels like going backwards

First, in January, I wanted to quit my job and do something else. I came to a point where I felt that I had had enough of the high tempo, the stress and the increasing demands of being a teacher. I felt that I wasn’t qualified for these demands and that I probably wasn’t skilled enough to have this job. I started seeking for a new job. I thought I could change professions. Maybe become a baker (I am not kidding), or something “more practical”.

When I calmed down, I realized I do like my job and I wondered if the problem is not the job in itself but the attitude I have towards it. Yes, it is demanding, yes I am often running against the clock, but a lot of the stress comes from my constant worry of not doing things “good enough”, my anxiety of not being “as good as”, and believing that I have to solve all these challenges and problems that my students encounter in and outside school. However, if I tone down the “I”, the job becomes lighter. If I try to see each situation as it is and not as something related to me, it makes it easier to deal with it. It also helps to have a more pragmatic approach to the job. In a day, I have the time I have to do my work, and if the tasks keep piling up all I can do is prioritize and the rest can wait. Maybe most importantly, do my job with the right attitude but avoid putting my worth in my job. Stop worrying about how I am perceived by my students and their parents and rather concentrate on why I do things as I do.

The second semester turned out to be less stressful. I want to believe it was partly because of my change of attitude.

However, shortly after that, my worries about my kids and marriage started. I must say that I have to laugh when I think about it, but I haven’t been laughing much related to that during the last few months. And the same questions kept coming just in another setting, am I doing enough? Have we done enough? We should have this and we should have that. Why don’t we do this? Why don’t we have that? Why is our relationship like this and not like that? Why am I not able to fix all these?

From the self-blame ride, I slowly but steadily move towards the ‘other-is-to-blame’ ride. This other is, of course, my husband, and as usual, when I get caught in this way of thinking the spiral goes downwards.

Luckily for me, I was invited to take part in a group to study the Upanishads through the guidance of my Yoga teacher, Prasad, and with some time, mindful silence and reflection, I managed to remember that I tend to get caught up in a big mental knot. Do you see the same pattern as with the job? I do! Self-doubt, an exagerated sense of responsibility, and what I think is pure and simple a restless mind that for some weird reason likes to invent drama.

To begin with, it annoys me that I still get into this negative spiral and don’t manage to get out of it before I make a big deal about things, but I feel at the same time that these mini-crises have their purpose. They allow me to see better my patterns of thinking and thus adjust my attitudes and actions.

I see that my husband and I dread having “difficult” conversations. I thought it was just him, but I am the same. The minute I sense some resistance from his side, I give up, or I give in. I need to gather the courage to push a bit more, to argue and listen, and maybe the answer is still not the one I want to hear but at least we have a better understanding of what we think or want.

I think we are in a transition period as a family and also as a couple. Our kids are getting older. We need to make some changes in the way we “run” the house, and in the way we see the kids and we see ourselves. We need to accept that they have to make certain choices that we don’t agree with, but we also need to be clearer about what we stand for. I tend to worry that the kids don’t feel like we care enough and maybe sometimes give in to things they ask for that go against what my husband and I believe in or sometimes even can afford. But my husband made me realise today that the most important has been to have a safe home for them to grow up in where we are present. At least we have managed that and the basics like schooling and having healthy routines, the rest, is just a bonus. And let’s face it, they are teens now so no matter what we say and do, they will be in some opposition, it is part of growing up and growing out of our home.

It is nice to know that we both want to live a simpler life. We both find meaning in slowing down, being in contact with nature, staying physically active, eating what we believe is healthy, and otherwise, trying to enjoy life. We both want to be more in contact with friends and family. Each on our side, we have noticed that we have isolated ourselves from people because we have been overwhelmed for years by the day-to-day life, but we believe that one of the points of being here must be to have close relationships that keep teaching us lessons about ourselves and others. To help each other.

So, I still get caught up in the mess of my mind, and keep forgetting to go inward when things feel heavy and overwhelming, but luckily, I do manage to change my perspective and learn from it. For that, I am thankful, and I have to say that this is thanks to the practice and study of Yoga.

Things are not and will never be perfect, everything is in constant change, and I am more and more convinced that the best way to go is towards silence beyond the noise of my mind.

Transferring skills

I love working with my hands. Ever since I was a kid, I think. The difference is that when I was little, and as a young adult, I had a fixed mindset when it comes to handcraft and art. I somehow believed that either you were born with the talent to do something or you didn’t so I didn’t explore much since I often felt that I wasn’t good enough.

In the last ten or fifteen years, however, I have learned to knit, sew and bake my own bread. Last summer, I started baking with sourdough, and it is by far my favorite way to bake bread. I love how, since I bake every single day, I am starting to ‘understand’ the dough. When it is ‘happy’, when I should let it rest, when it needs more water or more flour. In most handcrafts, with experience, one learns to feel the material one is working with, and how to make the best out of it. It is the same when I sew using old garments. It is a process of exploring the fabric, the shape the garment already has, and figuring out, what is the best way to approach the task. What can this become?

I was talking with a friend about it this week. She’s a great painter, and she was telling me that the work I have been doing on living a more mindful life most probably is benefiting my handcraft skills. Maybe. I have a more relaxed approach to what I make. If it doesn’t work, I will learn something and try again. I do spend time observing and feeling in between my fingers and deciding how is the best way to continue. I am not an excellent seamstress… yet, nor a knitter … yet, and I am still experimenting with my bread, but all these activities bring me calmness and joy, and a feeling of achievement

So I told my friend I wished I had the same feeling when it comes to human interactions. Especially in my role as a teacher. The biggest challenge with human interactions to me is that we talk, and things go way too fast. I have developed the skill to see people and understand their needs, but communication is still tough. I find myself often being misunderstood or wanting to say something and then something else comes out of my mouth. Maybe I don’t have as much patience with people as I have with my dough, and I want to develop it. Maybe, I need to get past the words to feel the other person and myself and act more skillfully. Maybe, just like with any handcrafted project, I need to know when to put it down for a while to let ideas come to me.

This week, as I was about to start a yoga class, this quote popped up on my phone screen when I was searching for soothing music:

“Look past your thoughts, so you may drink the pure nectar of this moment” – Rumi

This is also what we do in yoga, we try to get past our thoughts to be with what is knowing that our deeper self (if I can call it like that) is the same as any other living being’s deeper self. If we manage this, we certainly ‘drink the pure nectar of this moment’.