Ah balance. The great mystery. I was always told I was ‘an all or nothing kind of gal’. It’s not actually true. I just used to drink a lot and laugh really loudly and that led people to think I was extreme. I also used to work crazy long hours as a brand consultant and then go work in a bar till 6am and I would never say no to an invite or a piece of business. In fact, saying no was something I was not great at. I think folk would say I’m ‘more balanced’ these days, which, for me, is the difference between being in your twenties and being in your thirties. And it’s down to being aware, getting connected to my body, wanting to nourish myself and knowing what’s good for me. Waking up from a three day party to find yourself in Amsterdam is just not as fun as it used to be.
So how do we stay connected, continue to nourish ourselves and get clear on what’s good for us? According to the Native American Shaman, Don Juan, “in order to become a man of knowledge, a warrior-traveller, you will first have to learn to stop the world”.
Hmm. Stop the world. Sounds like a pretty big ask but stay with me. The pressure to be ‘successful’ is huge so we hop on our whole hog, working all of the hours, filling our faces with all of the screens, packing our heads with noise, closing our ears to silence, consuming bonkers crazy amounts of information, processed food, social media, social dysmorphia. It’s too much. Sometimes you just gotta make it stop. How, in the name of Shiva, are we meant to wake up, to truly know ourselves, to truly evolve if we are in a state of high alert and constant distraction?
Contemplation is one of the great yogic practices and both meditation and asana help us to access this wisdom. They help us to slow down. Stop. And begin to ask the right questions. How did I come to be this way? Think these thoughts? Hold these beliefs? How can I change the patterns that appear to define and confine me? Who am ‘I’?
You may or may not have heard of Monsieur Patanjali but he wrote the classical text the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali some 2000 years ago. The first two Sutras go like this:
Now, the teachings of yoga.
Yoga is to still the patterning of consciousness.
Yoga is not Eka Pada Galavasana. It’s not knowing where your chakras are or whether Lululemon is better than Lifeforme. Yoga is now. It’s paying close attention to what is really present and to do that we need to get still. In his fantabulous book, The Wisdom of Yoga, Steven Cope breaks it down, like so: “Yoga is to still the thought waves of the mind. Yoga is to bring a natural quiet to the mind and body – so that we can, for the first time, see clearly. And in this stillness – miraculously, outrageously – the knots undo themselves. Inner realities emerge.” A-Ho. What a succulent description of yoga magic.
Now, this is all very well but it’s not 2000 years ago and we don’t live in a cave so where do we find more time to contemplate? More time to yoga, meditate, get still, switch off, stop the world? Get thee to a retreat! Retreats are a great way to stop the world because you can leave the city, turn off your phone, leave your laptop, escape Facebook, block out your diary and make work wait. There is rarely wifi, it’s unlikely you will make it to the pub unnoticed, and there’s nothing to do other than rest, read, write, paint, dance, dream, eat, meditate, chat, laugh, be still, swim in a pool, walk in a forest and indulge in retreat-sized servings of yoga. (Sounds awful, I know). But mostly, retreats are the best place to stop the world because the world is stopped for you. You are held. Supported. Nourished. Space is held so your true self can emerge and be met. But crucially, you have the chance to learn how to hold space for yourself so you can find more time to get still, #everydamnday.