Self-sufficiency – the yoga practice is not always a walk in the park.

An important aspect of the spiritual practice of yoga is the concept of self-sufficiency and self-responsibility. The practice should guide us little by little to the realisation that the source of love, peace and freedom comes from inside ourselves and not from the external world. Once we manage to detach from the idea that the outer world should fulfil these three basic needs, we can reach an independent state of contentment.

Therefore, we are encouraged to make sure that the intention at the base of our actions and interactions is not a need for validation of the ego or to satisfy emotional needs.

During the last six months, I have been more observant of my actions and interactions, and I can honestly say that when I manage to detach from my need of a reward from the outer world, I can act from a place of peace and the end result doesn’t affect me as much as before especially when it is not what I perceive as in my favor. It requires that at every moment, I ask myself what is the nature of the role I am playing and what is required by me in that role.

Needless to say, this is a quite difficult practice, especially when it comes to interpersonal relationships. The unconscious principle of trade is so embedded in me. When I give good, I expect to receive good back. On this note, a fun exercise is to remember that what I perceive as good might not be received or perceived as good on the other end. Or maybe not as good enough.

I recently had an episode with my husband where I went back to the idea that he never actually sees me. The feeling is that I do my part in our partnership, I work with myself to be a positive member of our family by observing my attitudes and trying to adjust them not to add stress and distress to our everyday life. Still, at times, I feel like I am completely invisible, and what is worse, whenever I say something that is perceived as silly or incorrect, I can then be sure to be noticed and not necessarily in a way that I appreciate. The amount of fun my ‘silliness’ can bring to the table is limitless. Joke after joke about what I said. I know there are no bad intentions behind this, but I did notice myself getting upset about it recently.

I am trying to be more assertive and to communicate in a positive way, so I took this up. I explained that in my view, in a relationship, there needs to be a certain balance between positive and negative attention. I can take criticism and even be made fun of at as long as from time to time, I feel appreciated too.

The response from my husband was positive, but this episode stayed in my mind, as it often does when something upsets me. I kept asking myself, am I right? Is it just my perception? Am I being needy?

I don’t have very concrete answers, but I did come to one sort of conclusion. There is of course, no harm on being assertive, but if I really want to be self-sufficient, I could say that sometimes, I attach to my role as a wife and what I believe I am entitled to in that role. If I detach from from it, I would then be ok with what is because 1) I don’t need anyone’s actions to validate me. 2) Maybe I am being appreciated all the time but I don’t see it.

I have another example. As a middle school teacher, I work with teenagers. They are lovely kids, but from time to time, like any teenager, they push the limits. One thing that I have observed really pushes my buttons is respect. Whenever I perceive my students being disrespectful, I struggle to keep my cool, especially if I am tired. After reflecting a lot about this, I came to one way to deal with it. As a teacher, I believe it is my duty to teach my students certain important values that will allow them to live peacefully in any society, and respect is one of them. Whenever they are disrespectful, I can react in a much more skilful way if I detach emotionally from the situation and react only in my role as a guide and mentor. So, it is not my hurt ego responding, or my need to be respected by others. I respond as someone that is supposed to guide them through their years at our school. I must confess that I am still practicing this, but when I manage, I reduce the amount of stress to zero, and I believe it benefits both me and the concerned student(s).

When I started experimenting with these ideas, I had a period where I felt disconnected and maybe even distant from all and everyone. It kind of scared me. Was I becoming like a robot? I felt like I was building a wall between me and the rest of the world.

It is too early to say whether I am or not becoming a robot (he he), but as I continue experimenting with these attitudes towards life, I feel some sort of calmness growing inside me, and at times a stronger feeling of connectedness. I can even say that I feel compassion when I am challenged by someone because I can see where my emotions come from, I can accept them instead of reject them, and I can show understanding for the other person’s behaviour since I know how challenging it can sometimes be to interact with others when we live trapped in our own perceptions, needs and expectations.

Busy bee? Not today

I need to start creating moments during the day to take a pause. It doesn’t matter if it is five minutes, ten minutes or a whole hour. I tend to get caught in the misleading idea that every minute of the day needs to be used in a ‘productive’ way. Either at work or at home. Why do I keep falling into this silly pattern? I don’t know.

Sometimes, some extra time falls from heaven like today. Thursday last lesson, I teach yoga as an elective to some students in our school, but I had forgotten that their class was on a trip today. I prepared  myself and the classroom and nobody showed up. It felt so good to then spend the time to do my own asana practice and I even took five minutes to lie down in shavasana. It would have been too time consuming to change back to my regular clothes and tidy up just to try to get some work done before the end of the school day.

Sometimes, I have to create the time for myself like this week. I just didn’t feel like rushing through the house to get it cleaned during a weekday evening, I didn’t feel like hurrying up. Instead, I invited myself for a run by the sea in the gorgeous Spring weather, and left the cleaning for later this week. I genuinely felt revitalised that evening and the next day.

Everyday, I create a space and  time in the early morning to do my sadhana. This is non negotiable, but I keep forgetting that if I need something, the best person to provide it is myself. Never expect anyone to give you what you need, you need to take self-responsibility to take care of yourself. No one is going to ask you to stop spinning around because we live in a society that cultivates and encourages business, and you know what? That is nonsense.

Stormy weather and refining the mind

Early one morning
feeling the storm coming
I went for a walk
I reached the shore promenade
the mood in nature was in sync with my heart
When the storm hits my heart
I no longer believe in the stories my mind serves me
These storms form somewhere deep inside me
So I walk, and I kindly ask my mind to cease
For I won't blame it on the world I perceive
I keep walking, until I stop to observe
The sea is moving with the wind
A bird in the sky is flying in the wind
The trees are moving with the wind
For what I see no one blames, no one feels guilt
The storm is just here doing its thing
Has the storm in my heart a function?
Why the need to blame or regret?
I don't know why this storm comes
but no matter how much I reject it, it keeps coming back
Today, I'll be like the sea, the bird and the trees
I'll allow the storm to be
Maybe one day, I'll let go enough
To allow the storm be the guide towards the place it needs to take me.

We all suffer from mood swings, I presume. I think I have already talked about mine in other post. I have periods where I feel overwhelmed by everything and everyone. I have periods in my life where I feel alone.

My mind serves me with a bunch of thoughts to engage with that will feed into these challenging moods. All from analysis to justifications of why I feel how I feel. So lately, I try to observe my thoughts and tell myself that I am getting entangled in my stories again . I let go of the stories so I stop blaming everything and everyone for my mood.

What I discovered today is the level of self-loathe that I experience now when this emptiness hits me. I feel guilty for going back to that space. I feel helpless as it seems like I can’t get myself out of it so easily. But what if I just accept that I have these stormy days? What if I allow the storms to come instead of try to run away from them?

I know about these moods, and I am working on refining my perceptions. I obviously can’t stop these moods from coming yet. Can I accept that? Maybe these storms just need to happen, and the less importance I give them, the less damage they make.

Interestingly enough, after acknowledging that, I felt some relief.

I recently heard on a podcast that mindful living is a full time job. Refining the mind is so too. When we think we’ve got it, we discover it is just the tip of the iceberg. It might help to think that we are explorers in unknown lands, and approach the mind with the enthusiasm an explorer has. 🙂

On self-responsibility and the climate change

A concept in the yoga practice that I find most appealing is self-responsibility.  In order to improve our well-being, we need to stop pointing our finger at the world and take a look at what is happening inside us. The fact that life is tough at times is not denied, but precisely because life can be tough because life is unpredictable, we need to learn to stand our ground and do our best through storms.

I am a mum and a teacher, and I have been reflecting a lot about the youth movement that is going on to save the environment. I think it is great that a young girl has taken the initiative to bring awareness among children and adolescents about the challenges our natural environment is facing because of years and years of unconscious use and misuse of resources and uncontrolled development of cities and industry.

What worries me, is kids and adolescents learning to point their fingers by blindly going out on the streets, especially in countries like Norway without even knowing who the ‘bad guy’ is.

I know many countries in the world need to put the conservation of the environment higher in their priority list, I know the Norwegian government could do much better than they already do. I think marching and protesting is good, but I don’t think it is good enough.

As a teacher, I think that I can support students striking and going out on the streets to protest only if they are knowledgeable, and see the whole picture. They need to set this movement in context and know exactly what they are asking for. I cannot accept empty words like “We are marching for the environment”. How does the environment benefit from my students and my kids skipping school and going out on the streets and yell words they don’t even understand?

Consumerism is a known word in rich countries like Norway. Almost everybody nowadays has to have a certain amount of things. As a mum, I am often trying to find the right balance between educating conscious kids by reflecting on what they want and what they actually need, and not raising super alternative kids that don’t fit in. I have heard so many times parents say they just have to give in because everybody has this or has that. I admire those parents that don’t give in. I have some students in middle school that don’t have a smartphone, and even though I know they do think it sucks, they still have friends and live a meaningful life. The smartphone is just an example, but maybe we can spend more time with our kids reflecting before buying.

We adults get carried away too. We want the house, and the cabin (and maybe even two cabins), and the car(s), and the boat, the trips to faraway places at least twice a year, the clothes, the full equipment for every little hobby we start, etc, etc. Maybe we too need to reflect on how much we want and how much we actually need.

Going back to the idea of self-responsibility, yes, let’s demand from our authorities to have better policies to protect the environment, but in addition to going out there and point our fingers, let’s take a close look at our lifestyle and start making some changes. Let’s get a bit uncomfortable, eat less (or no) meat, buy less, teach our children to need less. Look at what we buy, where it comes from and investigate the impact its production has on the environment. Take our family out to nature and teach them to respect it.

Let’s allow this youth movement to open our eyes to what we do and reflect on the changes we can make to contribute to save the environment. Don’t allow this movement to become another way to escape from our responsibility.

Honestly confused

So, how honest can one be on a blog that potentially all the people that I interact with can read? One thing that I decided from the first minute when I started writing was that this was going to be about myself. Yoga, is the path of taking self-responsibility. It is practically a waste of energy and time when we’re struggling to point our fingers outside.

I have been two days home from work, sick. I have to be honest, I consider myself as a strong and tough person, so, if I had tried, I could have pushed myself to go to work. I wasn’t that sick. But I just didn’t have the energy to push myself.

Spending two days at home alone have made me realize how tired I am. I am tired of pushig myself through the day. I am confused because I honestly don’t know how much is enough. I don’t know where the self-care stops and the selfishness starts. I don’t know where the society is being unrealistic with its expectations towards a mother, a teacher, a friend, a daughter, a daughter-in-law, a woman, and where I am right to say “Stop! Stop! This is not what I want!”

My yoga practice tells me to be self-responsible. My yoga practice tells me to give without expecting anything in return. I want to believe in this, but what happens when I get so tired that I can’t go to work? I am very confused right now.

I think this starts when we are kids, we are told what we should do, what we should think how we should feel and we loose contact with ourselves. This makes me think about how I am raising my kids and pushing my students. I push my kids to do this and do that, to be “balanced”  by going to school and doing their best, by having after school activities, by this and that. But how much am I listening to them? I often ask myself this question. And it is difficult because as a child of the 70s and a teacher, I have been believing that children and adolescents don’t know what is best for them…is this ture?

I push my students to do their best in my subjects. I expect the best from them. But the rest of the world is also expecting things from them. And what about what they want to do?

I am calm in my confusion. I think this confusion is good. I think some confusion is good to sometimes check the compass and see if we need to adjust our course. But I need to get better contact with the inner compass because the outer compass is too confusing at times…