"It is not possible to heal the world or others, if we do not do the work on healing ourselves. When we are in pain we spread suffering, we are a magnet for drama. We must take action - do what it takes to heal ourselves, there is a fire, a discipline required to eliminate that which is hindering our growth, our progress. Here is where we let go of suffering (Vairagya). And fall in love with our own personal growth." The late Michael Stone, 1974-2017.
Discipline has definitely been, and still is, my biggest challenge. Even though Yoga practice has been a part of my life for more than 25 years now, it has not always been a disciplined one. With my Yoga in my 20's I got bored quickly and moved onto the next style. Just like tv, social media, drugs and alcohol, Yoga can also be an addiction, a distraction. We are often just looking for the quick fix and if one doesn't work we move onto the next. These days I take a moment with breath to ask my "why" when I land on my mat, so I can get to a deeper purpose for my practice rather than just 'doing it because I should' or using it as a distraction from how I am feeling. Michael Stone said "there is just enough suffering to get you through the (yoga studio) door". We all seek Yoga for a different reason, for most there is an underlying suffering that we are seeking to be liberated from. For me it was physical discomfort from a number of conditions, low self-esteem, a curiosity and craving there must be so much more to life than what I had been brought up to know. Why did you seek Yoga? What is the suffering you seek to be free of? What are you yearning for? What is your go to when you are hard pressed against change, pain and suffering?
My youthful and easily distracted mind (Vata mind) found some much needed steadiness in flowing with breath in Vinyasa movements, then some serious determination from the intensity of heated Bikram, but it was not until I challenged my mind without the distraction of heat or movement into stillness with asana and the micro/subtle movements of Yogalates and breath work that I found my discipline in the practice. I started to be able to sit for longer periods of time in meditation. This is where I found gold. It was excrutiating to begin with, I really did not like being still, in a pose or in meditation, I was much happier being distracted by movement or thinking about 'stuff' and making stories inside my head (including stories as to why I should remove myself from the pose!). Even trying a thousand different ways to meditate is a form of distraction from mediation. I really disliked the micro patterns and movement in Yogalates teacher training, it was the bigger gross movement I wanted, it felt useless like I was doing nothing, I wanted the big range and fancy poses achieved. However with breath work practices and persistence, it was as if I was driven by a deep knowing there was something really special about to happen for me, I continued. Apparently the simpler I made the practice, the easier it became, the less complex I became.
Somehow these subtle movements and changing of breath took me deeper, my mind became calmer, my body became stronger and more comfortable than it had ever been. Eventually, I cannot tell how long it took, just at some point I realised I had landed in a deep place of knowing, like I was seated inside of myself instead of caught up in the big crazy world, the lives of others and my monkey mind. A place of peace, of understanding myself, of being able to see clearly, to accept myself and others, having compassion for myself and others. To see my judgements and let them teach me more about myself, then to let them go. To be able to make light of myself and have kindness in my inner dialogue, to see and hear all my weirdness, my reactions to triggers, my fears and hurts, and then there is space to acknowledge them and decide to move beyond them, to not be limited by them. Without needing to dismiss or suppress, just to notice when I am triggered and having the space to choose whether a reaction is required or not, no longer needing to project out onto others my hurts, nor be triggered by theirs. Maybe just needing a calm inner voice to say 'it's ok that's not real anymore for you, it's not truth' and allow myself to fall back into that seat of peace, of awareness. Trust.
That doesn't mean when the going gets tuff that is how easily I roll, no way! These past two years have been some of my most challenging - in my physical body, my career and business, family and relationships. I have really needed to step up and be stronger, wiser, more steadfast than ever before. I couldn't have managed my way through these challenges without my practice, in the most part I feel as though I managed with as much grace as possible. In particular the discipline it took to rehabilitate from my knee injury, to then giving up my studio and starting from scratch - strangely throughout both these it felt 'right', weirdly so good, like I could trust even in the most painful part that what was on the other side was even better. That could not have been more true! This trust is what fuelled me forwards. I gained so much resilience, physical and mental strength from these experiences.
In the last few weeks whilst taking a Retreat in Bali I was out of practice of my usual daily rituals, and noticed the slide of old ways. So this week I reignited my Daily 6 Sacred Choices and the lift has been instant. I have been doing this for around 6 months now. In Yoga philosophy the word 'Tapas' is Sanskrit for discipline, but it also stretches its meaning to mean 'to burn off'. I honestly believe it to be true for me that when I have a discipline it does 'burn off' what I don't need. I start each day fresh with intention, yet with the flexibility to go with whatever may come up - so never missing an opportunity because I am so rigid in my expectations! (one of the many I am 'burning off')
Each day I wake before 6am and sit in my fave spot and practice (first 4 take 7-20mins depending on how long I meditate for) my Daily 6 Sacred Choices;
Gratitude - write what I am grateful for today
Mantra - I look at what my day involves and choose a Mantra for the day depending on my mood/what I need, maybe its an affirmation or a Sanskrit mantra
Song - I pick a song that resonates with what I need for my day and add it to my 'Daily Playlist' on Spotify (so it is filling with awesome motivated songs for road trips) and play it at times throughout my day before I teach and in the car/kitchen
Meditation - I either sit with my song, or in silence, and breathe. Nothing fancy, just breath awareness. Watching what physical and mental states come and go. Settling into no judgement, no attachment.
Then at some stage before the end of my day I have 20-30mins of each;
Movement - Yoga play, a walk, the gym, HIIT session, online or studio Yoga class, Pilates reformer
Learning - reading a book, doing one of my online courses, watching a documentary, listen to a podcast
Without ritual or some form of discipline we can so easily be distracted, led off our path, goals mislaid, and quite possibly spiral into forms of anxiety and depression. Journalling is another beautiful practice I have often used as a way to purge, clarify and work through 'stuff', and to manifest.
If you had just one thing you did each day, with purpose and complete awareness, and you did it for 3 weeks straight, every single day. Even if it means you have to get up 3 mins earlier just to write what you are grateful for today. What would it be? Set a date in your calendar in 3 weeks time and check in with how it feels then.......my guess is on your way to feeling liberated from what is holding you back. In truth the only thing holding us back is ourselves, sometimes we just need to get out of our own way with the act of discipline. We will come up against our self-worth, so notice how it feels to give to yourself, journal it. Giving ourselves the ultimate gift is not easy, but it is priceless.
The Inner Tradition of Yoga by Michael Stone
The Abundance Hub Podcast "Why a successful morning routine can absolutely lead you to abundance" (dealing with anxiety and self-worth)
Brene Brown "Daily gratitude makes us Joyful"