FINDING YOUR WAY BACK

“This morning, I opened two gifts. They were my eyes.” Unknown

Sometimes, I wake into a sleepy state of forgetfulness. Do you know that feeling? It has a bass note of anxiety and a through line of not good enough. It’s vaporous and shadowy and hard to pin down. An aged ring of insidious discomfort that quietly wriggles its way into those opening moments of daybreak. 

It tends to happen if I’ve been traveling or thrown out of rhythm. Adapting to new hotel rooms, cities, landscapes, languages, food, air quality, space. My particles take their time to catch up after flying too many miles in too short a time. And so the old cloak drapes itself over my sensitive head.

One of my dear friends recently shared about how her self-care practices had slipped since Christmas. How work had taken over and how easy it can be to breathe the morning shadows bigger with cruel whispers of disappointment. When, really, our practice is to simply pause, listen and tune into what is alive inside us. To listen to what our being is truly calling for. We get fooled into thinking it’s chocolate or beer or distraction but, if we look a little closer, it’s often rest, nourishment, touch, connection or the edges of an emotion that hasn’t been traced.  

And this is the practice. To strip away the stories and dissolve old patterns so we can move closer to what is really happening in each moment. To get closer to truth. To what is referred to as first order reality. Reality before you have a thought about it.

“The presence of stillness opens the body and soaks into you like a sponge, if you allow it. A silent understanding happens that is not in words but is the direct experience of what is.” Adyashanti, Emptiness Dancing

There are many portals into presence and ‘what is’: stillness, touch, art, music, movement. I’m always looking for new ones and this is a small selection that might help you find your way back home:

  1. FOLLOW THE INNER PROMPTING

If you’re feeling heavy when you wake up, break your routine and let yourself be guided to your journal, your mat, your lemon water, your shower. Mix it up. Don’t do what you always do. Let your inner voice take the lead and see where you end up. I always give myself 90 minutes in the morning to get ready, eat and allow for whatever is needed – writing, moving, dancing, meditating, breathing, sitting, sipping some warm elixir. 

  1. DO ONE THING

Whatever it is, focus entirely on just one thing. Maybe its walking outside your front door with bare feet and breathing the morning air. Maybe it’s five minutes of meditation. Maybe its being completely present while you polish every tooth. Maybe you grab your journal straight away and let the pen move across the page in words or pictures. Which leads me on to tip two.

  1. WRITE

I did this today. I sat up in bed, pulled out my laptop and started to write about the shadows. It turned into a poem. Which turned into this blog. Let life move through you and see where you end up. And then take that principle into the rest of your day. When you go into a story, feel your feet, breathe, listen, then follow the inner prompting again.

  1. BE A CREATURE

Because you are one. This really goes out to my friends in the UK and Northern hemisphere. Sleep, rest, snuggle, eat warm soups and stews, do less and be more. Go to bed earlier and catch the quiet of the winter mornings.

  1. MICRO MEDITATE

If sitting to meditate has fallen away or feels out of reach then do micro meditations throughout the day. Close your eyes and tune in to the contents of the moment. Use your senses to anchor you into presence and sit quietly for a few minutes. Ask yourself, ‘what is the quality of this moment before I have a thought about it?’ Or put your earphones in and enjoy a guided meditation for ten minutes at lunchtime. It will make all the difference.

You can practice presence in each and every moment. The portals are always there and meditation allows us to abide there more fully but you can step in at any time.

How do you find your way back to yourself when the shadows creep in? What are your ways ‘in’ when practice is out of reach? Please add to this little list and guide us all into your own magic doorways by leaving a comment ❤

MORNING SHADOWS

Still, sometimes, 

there are mornings 

where that yawning

shadow hangs

a papery lace,

yellowed and stained,

like my mothers nicotine walls.

It suffocates my deeper knowing,

rivering so freely below. 

A heavy widow’s cloak

blocks out the light and

that part that knows 

this new day is complete.

But I am sleeping

and the edges of not enough 

are sharp and ragged.

Lodged in old grooves,

achy wheels that get stuck,

carrying the ghost of uncertainty

so she can sit lightly on my chest,

almost imperceptible,

her heavy layers 

tremble with short breaths

until I let her pass through.

I died a thousand times

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“Every yoga practice is an experience of death.”

Nameless Yogi

What is certain? Certainly not the future. So what is happening right now for you?

Listen. Let the sounds reach you. Become aware of the temperature of the air on your skin. The breath that breathes you. The quality of light that surrounds you. What is happening right now in your body? Become aware of your posture. Your shoulders. The slight tension in your jaw or your brow. What can you hear. And smell. And taste. And what is the texture of your emotions as you read these words? How do they find you today?

Take a moment.

Close your eyes.

And listen.

“We practice yoga, not for life but for death. If any of you are practicing for the life you are mistaken.”

I don’t know his name but it’s not important. I’m more interested in the life force that is joyfully animating his slight Indian form. There is a lift and dance in his movements that reflects the impish arc of his smile, widening with his eyes as he teaches from the front. Witty and provocative, he amuses himself as he watches our addled brains lumpishly wrap around the esoteric enquiries of the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita.

“The only thing that is certain is death. In pranayama we are controlling the life force, no? We hold our breath. We stop the life that is breathing us.”

In every moment there is a death. Each moment that has just past is gone. To sit inside that moment and this moment and that moment is to live more fully. To experience the moment as it passes away is to live and die in a heartbeat. Or at least, that’s what I thought he was talking about.

What I also thought he was talking about was the power of yoga to transform. That gradual metamorphosis of who we are, how we see ourselves and begin to experience the world. We peel back the layers of conditioning, shedding the old skin that doesn’t fit any more. We begin to notice our recurring patterns, start to see through the traffic of our thoughts, catch ourselves in our shadows and, as we practice, something luminous begins to sing in our words and ways. In how we treat our bodies, listen to our loved ones and get closer to ourselves. As the dead cells fall, we rise up to live.

Asana, meditation, and the ancillary practices, burn and burn and burn till we reach the stillpoint. We move our bodies to still our minds and come home to this expansive state of being that anchors us so fully into the now that everything else diffuses. Through the practices we die a thousand times. And, conversely, the parts of ourselves that we have cast away and denied get to live again. The judgements, the expectations, the chaos and the ideas about who we ‘should’ be are replaced with something far greater. A truer sense of what lies beneath. One that pierces through those tired concepts of ‘self’, allowing them to perish so we can become fuller.

In a previous lecture, our artful guide challenged us to consider that yoga is not union. Yoga is separation. This was dangerous ground, I thought. Yes, we are separating ourselves from our thoughts and our concepts but we can all too easily separate ourselves from our feelings in a bid to ‘transcend’ our ‘suffering’. In my understanding, it is only through uniting with our suffering that it can pass away. We must experience that which is painful to allow it move through. As with death, we can’t avoid it. If we push it away, deny it, separate from it, bypass it, our spirit will die from the toxicity of what remains buried. In contrast, if we recognize what is truly living in us, if we see the certainty of our pain and the root of our suffering then it can dissolve. When we shift from the consumption of thought to the consciousness of feeling, we learn to honour the whole spectrum of human experience and facilitate flow. By not getting caught up in the story that surrounds what is happening, by ‘separating’ our thoughts and ‘uniting’ with our feelings, we become more alive as those concepts die a death.