I fall in love everyday,
with ideas and sensations,
people I see.
I hold them long enough to let them go,
but I keep them in my heart
and in my soul.
I've been in Goa the past ten days. It's been fairly relaxed - 2.5 hours practice in the morning and 2 hours theory in the afternoon with plenty of time to enjoy the sea and sunshine and to sit with ones own thoughts and feelings. Oh dear. Yes. Time to dig deep and spend time with one's self again. Ordinarily I avoid it, choosing to have long lunches and discussions with the people I meet instead, but this time its been different. I came away knowing that I needed to make some changes and so I've retreated into myself and made space to listen, to really listen to my soul.
Some of us relish this down time - space to think, to be creative, to reflect. For others this alone time can be confronting - space to hear the song in our hearts, and for me; time to acknowledge how far I may have wondered from my path. I can never quite decide if time alone is really welcome: a moment with no one to look after, to manage, to teach, no one requiring or expecting anything of you. Or if I feel lost, lonely, inadequate, and that the silence is actually completely deafening.
My challenge is that I'm never short of ideas, schemes, passions, loves, interests. Like the poem from Attica above, I fall in love all the time, I feel deeply. But, in a culture where passion - love, anger, sorrow, joy - is somewhat frowned upon, especially in working life, I've learned to dampen my feelings, to push them deep down and to rarely speak of them. Yoga has given me a channel for release, a space to come together with others who want to feel, to connect, to deepen their experience of life and the world around them. Yet the deeper I move into yoga, the more work I see to be done.
I'm not in danger of standing still. But, how to really listen? How to really hear the song in my heart? What if I mis-hear? What if I go in the wrong direction all-together?
If you are struggling to understand your calling, struggling to hear your heart, struggling to stay on track, try the following. These practices have made a big difference in creating space in my mind this week and helping me to tune in to the divine that exists in us all.
1) Get away.
We're taught not to run away. To stand and face up to what's going on in our lives. Sometimes this is good advice, other times we need to remove ourselves from the things that are making us unhappy or that cloud our judgement
2) Be quiet.
If like me you tend to fill the silence with sound; music, TV, conversation, reading, STOP! Sit with yourself and your own thoughts. Nothing else
Whilst I teach meditation, it is a practice that has come much less easily to me than the asana practice. Even if you find meditation nigh on impossible try to sit for just 10 minutes to start off with. Remember that for most of us the mind will not be 'empty'. Thoughts will come. That's OK. Try not to get caught up in them, simply notice that a thought has come up and put it to one side. Perhaps to be replaced by another. Keep going. Even if the space between the thoughts is hardly noticeable. Over time you will notice the spaces become longer and you can sit for longer. Build up your practice adding a couple of minutes every week. If you really can't manage to start with 10 minutes try taking a walking meditation in nature or if you're lucky enough to live by the sea try fixing your gaze on the horizon, allowing your eyes to soften and meditate on the moving waves.
4) Practice Pranayama
'Exhale'. I have always struggled with my pranayama practice. Since being away however I have really connected with it. Try building it up slowly. Our wonderful teachers here in Goa gave us the following sequence as a starter for ten. Try it for yourself and see what it brings:
- Breathing through both nostrils, in for 3, hold for 4, out for 4, x 12 rounds
- Breathing through left nostril, in for 3, hold for 4, out for 4, x 12 rounds
- Breathing through right nostril, in for 3, hold for 4, out for 4, x 12 rounds
- Alternative nostril breath starting on right side, in for 3, hold for 4, out for 4, x12
- Kapalbhati x 3 rounds of 30-50
- Bhramari x 8 rounds