Desperately seeking sanity
What is spirituality anyway?
I never really knew what being ‘spiritual’ meant. I still struggle with it. I have practiced yoga now for over 14 years and I feel like I have only scratched the surface. And just when I thought I was making a little progress, we became parents and wow did that throw any kind of feeling of spirituality out the window. I have never felt more out of control, angry, sad, distressed, worried, anxious, and tired in my entire life. All that working on myself with my practice felt like I’d gone backwards 14 years in a blink of an eye. Most of the time in my mind I was on constant loop of “This is so hard, I need help, I don’t know what I’m doing, I can’t do anything by myself anymore, My life will never be the same again, I’m hopeless”…blah blah blah
After a year of slowly turning myself insane with my thoughts I came back to one of my favourite yoga books in the hope for some light in the tunnel of severe sleep deprivation. I needed help. Judith Lasater’s Living Your Yoga has time and time again been an important resource for my practice, my teaching and my life. So simple yet so profound are her words. The first chapter is about Spiritual Seeking and it spoke right to my heart. She too had the same kind of experience where years of yoga practice were unraveled by something that life threw at her unexpectedly and left her wondering what was it all for if it would just be out the window when things got tough.
Lasater explains “whether we seek something called spirituality, holiness or enlightenment, the route to it is through our humanness, complete with our strengths and our weaknesses, our successes and our failures”.
I realised all this struggle has not been a waste or sent me backwards. It’s all taught me so much and has ALL been worth it.
What is yoga?
To be in a state of yoga it is to be whole. Yoga cannot stop life from throwing difficulties at us. And to be honest life is hard. A yoga practice helps us to be aware, to wake up out of our thoughts and notice our emotions and reactions to the experience we are having at the time. It is through this awareness of our emotions, that we are released from them. Like watching someone else go through it instead of being consumed by it. The physical ashtanga yoga practice helps us with this awareness. Such a physically demanding practice of the same postures day in day out forces us to get to know our bodies really really well. Emotions are not only felt in our mind but more importantly felt in our body. Because of all the physical work I have done with my yoga practice I now know the physical signs of when I am stressed… I feel hot, and I need to sit down, my arms go numb (sometime even my legs feel wobbly and my stomach churns). It’s not much fun! Once we start to notice these physical sensations it’s like a light bulb “Aha I’m stressed” and hopefully before I react I can stop myself and go “Aha I’m stressed… why is that?” And more importantly I can communicate this to whoever is around at the time “OK it’s not you I’m cranky at, I’m just stressed because…” I can then objectively figure out what it is that is triggering me and see if I can do something about that right now. Most of time I need to just stop and have a drink of water. But it’s this awareness of the emotions that instantly releases the suffering from those emotions and the clouds part and I have clarity…I can breathe.
The opposite of wholeness is suffering. Yoga is awareness and a feeling of wholeness. When we are not in a state of yoga we are unaware of our emotions, we are deeply buried in our thoughts and almost feel as if we are those thoughts and those thoughts/worries/feelings are all desperately true. We feel clouded by them, engulfed by them possibly even buried under them at times and we are said to be attached to our thoughts (more on detachment in another post) and we suffer. It’s then our responsibility to notice this and then do something (or nothing!) about it!
Another way to do this is to ‘reframe’ and this has been groundbreaking for me. We change the frame or the lens through which we are looking at something. To reframe, we simply step back from what is happening/being said and try to look at it another way.
When I get myself in a ‘tizz’ and more importantly I notice I’m in a tizz, I try to ‘reframe it’. I look at the situation objectively and try to see what is ACTUALLY happening right now and not be clouded by my tiredness or self-defeating beliefs. Most of the time, life is pretty good. This technique has been so powerful and has helped me through the toughest of days.
Lasater writes “The real beginning of spiritual practice is evident when we accept responsibility for our selves, that is, when we acknowledge that ultimately there are no answers outside of ourselves, and no gurus, teachers and no philosophies that can solve the problems in our lives. It is our dedication to living with open hearts and the commitment to the day-to-day details of our lives that will transform us”
This year for me is all about awareness, reframing and responsibility…and I have my ashtanga yoga practice to thank for giving me a system to practice all of these on a daily basis….what is your focus this year? I’d love to know…