How we learn – reverse engineering and such.

Going from a glorious “time off” in the jungle for International teacher training in Costa Rica to falling very sick in Guatemala and adding more illness and injury while trying to recover between flights in LA, I found myself tasked with learning a mindful approach to working through a hailstorm of tasks – all while supposedly recuperating – and returning to working with our clients in Sydney. No worries…

If you are new to my blog, welcome. If you live a busy life, I am a little bit like you. I was brought up to achieve and perform. Even as a wellbeing business owner and yoga and Pilates teacher, I kept my drive. Born from necessity when I was a child, I now pride myself on an unusual resilience and capable, can-do attitude. Like many of our clients. I’ve also tested my limits with endurance sports feats. I’d been working on slowing down through meditation and yoga for about two decades but it took a stroke of bad (?) luck for me to come to a complete stop.

Not so secretly, I had been burning myself out building a company and covering for sick team members as well as trying to get new people up to speed and taking shortcuts wherever I could. I made rushed and less than thoughtful decisions, gave control over my life to others – after all, I was living in service to others. As a wellbeing professional, I felt a particular failure for not living what I was teaching. I kept up a manic schedule, thinking to myself: ” I only need to get to December. Then I have time off at teacher training.”

Of course, I knew better than to push myself so – don’t we always deep down know what’s best? I just felt I had no options. Keeping up what I had started and upholding the image actually mattered to me – through a false sense of responsibility for those around me. Enter sickness after misfortune following sickness and injury and I skidded through two months away by a sliver with the basis for a good life – my health – so thoroughly diminished, I could not return to work for another two months and am still on a very restrictive diet right now with my exercise routines much reduced.

And regardless of whether you are spiritual, subscribe to the law of attraction or believe only what you can see and touch, learning from past experiences is the only way we can void making similar mistakes in the past. (So if you believe I energetically called in the lesson or my approach was so flawed it would have necessarily led to a downfall sooner or later, the outcome is the same.)

My lessons were pretty obvious: I was overstretched, overwhelmed and overtired and gave myself zero room for error, space for myself or time to prepare. My self image bound up entirely in not allowing myself to fail, deriving my self worth so much from working in service of others and my common theme through life being that of resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity, I met my match in a parasite infection gone bad.

For a while, I had to adopt the polar opposite approach: slow, gentle, prepared to the max where possible, unconcerned with other people’s opinion of me, willing to accept compete failure and making my time about me and my recovery.

The question this latest lesson offers to you and me is, how, in our image-obsessed society, where even yoga has become a bikini-fied commodity with starry-eyed junior teachers reading Rumi quotes to help you find inner peace while asking you to perform fancy arm balances, do we find a genuine approach to being quietly with ourselves. How can mindfulness and movement practice help us develop a real, raw and compassionate approach to ourselves?

I believe adding in moments and activities of doing and being the complete opposite to what our society stands for is where the magic happens. By creating stops, experiencing ourselves in stillness and motion we become aware of our own innate nature. As we sit and breathe, gently and then maybe more powerfully move our bodies, we wake up to our true potential. Between what we think we must do or want to do is where life gets real, raw and utterly beautiful.

Here are a few ideas of what I mean:

Instead of focusing on your image – connect with your feelings.
Instead of taking shortcuts – 7 Ps (prior preparation and planning prevent piss poor performance).
Feeling rushed – create breaks in your day. Do nothing.
Under the phone pump – turn your mobile off all weekend.

See what I am doing here? It’s pretty simple really. But no less effective in my opinion. The aim is to stop all the demands that are pulling on you – so you can discover your true beautiful nature. And that, my friends, is yoga.

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