Christmas eve 2017, a cool summer night in the Blue Mountains. I’m back home to wrap up the year… and while I await the arrival of my other half to come home just before the clock strikes midnight, I sit here with my thoughts in the quiet of night.
Year-end is when searching questions are asked. It’s that time of the year where we give ourselves permission to momentarily believe in reindeers and unicorns, elves and Santa, perhaps pause for a reflection or two. These moments create a space where we can indulge in the excitement of uncertainty, celebrate the fears we have had to keep at bay most of the functional year, and revel in the brimming promises of the new year. We can ask big questions, 'fess up on what we could have done better, untangle our hearts and minds from the vines of shackling thoughts and beliefs, and find courage to hit a reset button in our life.
This year I battled with a number of debilitating illnesses, from a sacral-iliac joint injury to a viral infection that hit me like a landslide crushing me into the deepest trenches, a discovery of a genetic blood disorder, and finally a decision to go under the knife for the first time in my 42 years in this body.
This year I moved to a foreign land and experienced the true meaning of solitude. I confronted bouts of anxiety and shadows of depression. I was broken and put back together many times over.
This year I learn that gifting myself the option of being vulnerable brings me clarity and resilience.
This year I had to let go of belief systems and conditionings that were the cornerstone of my yoga practice and teaching.
This year I’m humbled by the sheer joy of having good mental and physical health. I learned, through so much of my own resistance and ego shattering moments - that awareness is gained through deep and sometimes difficult self inquiry coupled with relentless practice in what we preach. I learned, heartbreakingly, to first acknowledge that it is easy for us to run away from the moment we are dealt with any discomfort, but we often end up treading on a hamster wheel of made-belief volitions.
As the wise ones say, life is a journey that is often times shrouded in darkness, interspersed with light. When we honour the duality of shadow and light we see that they are two sides of the same divine coin. Too often we get caught up in chasing the light that we spend the rest of our life running away from our own shadow.
In our current internet finger-swiping era, we tend to live our lives like we know it all, and if we don’t, google is there to help. No-thing should be left in wonder because we’d create a fix for every known problem. We expect life-changing, transformative understanding at every point, reflected in the current smorgasbord of intellectual, spiritual even emotional pursuits on offer.
In the last year many people have asked me what made me decide to take a seemingly “pointless” approach in the style of yoga I’m teaching now. Why don’t I facilitate the much more physically challenging and ego gratifying, sweat inducing, endorphins loaded practices anymore? Why do I choose to go out on a limb with a slow, somatic, process-oriented, experiential, inquiry-based, why-am-still-trying-to-feel-the-connection-between-the-arch-of-my-foot-and-my-pelvic-floor methodology that can be infuriating for the quick modern minds and bodies waiting to be pumped? Why don’t I just teach the set poses to do for this condition or that injury, or better still, on how to get into that handstand? How can "planting a seed in the subconscious” be therapeutic??
Mary Taylor, a well respected teacher of the Ashtanga tradition, wrote in a recent blog about teaching yoga -
"People will always try to put you on a pedestal, to simplify their path into one that avoids the necessity of not knowing. All of us as students go through phases where we want the shortcut - someone to do the work for us, a path that doesn't require courage, patience and insight. So as teachers we need to carefully hold space for our students - providing enough support for them to stay grounded without imposing our own ego-driven agenda onto them. This means that as teachers we need to stay awake so that we don't identify with other's projections "
I also read somewhere lately that we need to allow oneself to swim in the sea of uncertainty, and in those moments, we’ll be touching reality; that we don’t have to understand all things, and that the end of every thought process does not have to be a conclusion.
As I delve into my own evolution as a human being and inquire into the many roles I play in this lifetime, particularly in my work as a yoga teacher, these are now the searching questions that I ask: how do we first create equanimity and honesty in our own relationship with ourselves? How do we recognise, allow/accept, investigate and not-identify (quoting the RAIN practice by Buddhist teacher Tara Brach) with discomfort? Can we develop equanimity with this body, these emotions, these thoughts, the very experiences of pleasure and pain? Can we then recognise the same self in others?
Come January I’ll be facilitating the third instalment of Yoga with Daphne’s therapeutics and bodywork residential immersion. This will be the last training before I take a little hiatus to go into surgery and recovery. I'm very excited about facilitating this intensive from the inner work and studies I've done the last year. If you’re looking for a way to understand more about mind-body connection, neuroplasticity, yoga therapy, trauma & mental health etc., as well a foundational framework to apply this knowledge therapeutically for self care and in holding space for another through movement and bodywork, please join me in this week-long inquiry, set in the charming UNESCO heritage old town of Luang Prabang. I fell in love with this special place with its gorgeous natural landscape and rich cultural offerings when I first visited in July.
May peace be with all this holiday season.
There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado.
Dam a stream, and it will create a new channel.
Resist, and the tide will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry you to higher ground.
The only safety lies in letting it all in -
the wild with the weak; fear, fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of the heart, or sadness veils
your vision with despair, practice becomes simply
bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your known way of being,
the whole world is revealed to your new eyes.
~ Danna Faulds, “Allow"
Registered Yoga Therapist, Somatic Movement Educator, Bodyworker, Yoga Teacher Trainer