Bend and Stretch: A Non-Yogi’s Discovery of Self-Yogament

Let me just preface this by saying that I’m NOT trying to claim I’m all at one with the world and all that razzamatazz. I’m not a walking ball of light and fulfillment. I’m not at peace with my inner being. You can’t steal my sunshine, I cannot be your guiding light, I am not a firework – my sunshine is mine so rack off.

I did however, do a yoga class last week.

On my lunchbreak. As part of a 10-week pass that I bought from the yoga studio around the corner from my office.  And I also just recently booked in for class no. five.

“Ooooooh, how impressive”, I hear all 15 of this blog’s followers utter mockingly.  Yeh, but no. It is impressive, for me, OK?  It’s impressive because I was once the lady who worked through her lunchbreak, worried incessantly about something or other, already suffer from a full-on stress disorder anyway yet still put myself through the misery of never slowing down, never catching a breath, never taking stock.  And yoga, at least once a week IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY, lets me slow down, catch my breath, take stock.

And I fuckin love that it does that.

In 2006, I was a little lost.

This feeling would last until 2011, when I would tell myself, “stuff it, it’s your life, lady, live it how you need you”. But anyway, 2006. I felt I had accomplished nothing of note, I could see everyone else excelling in whatever the hell it is they were doing, and everyone just looked so damn happy.  Outside of my circle of friends (dramatically changed now, since that time), the people who looked the happiest were the yoga teachers from my gym.

I sort of idolized them.  They slinked into the room like agile cats. They wore little, or no, makeup. They looked fit and healthy. To me, they looked like they were living a life free from stress, living as if they were free from the grasp of consumerism. And then, you know, there’s all the bendy-bendy shit, which surely helps them in the nighttime hours, know what I’m sayin’?

So I incorporated yoga into my workouts. I made sure I did it regularly, and while I felt looser and energized after the session, I couldn’t say I felt any happier overall. It wasn’t like little yoga angels embraced me as I huddled over in my Child’s Pose. I’d return home and there’d be booze with the flatmates, stress with the demands of work, something not going right in my love life. Something, always something, and the yoga wasn’t doing anything to make me feel better, really.

But now I’m realising that yoga isn’t about being like other people.

It’s not about emulating anyone, or aiming to be another version of yourself.  At least, that’s not how I’m looking at it.  Coz I’d suffered from comparisonitis for a long time, and I realise that life’s not about keeping up with the Joneses or the Kardashians or the yoga devotees.  So my yoga practice now is about what I get out of it in my busy day, when I’m answering a billion emails, reading through complicated contracts, living inside my brain trying to come up with copy that doesn’t read like crap.  For me, yoga is about stepping away from the everyday busyness and allowing my mind to take a breather, to focus on what I carry around with me all the time (my body) and letting myself take stock of how my mental and physical selves are coping.

photo credit: kaibara87 via photopin cc

photo credit: kaibara87 via photopin cc

Mindfulness is a funny thing, isn’t it?

When I first heard that phrase I thought, “ohhh, poo-poo, I’m totally aware of everything, I think in fact I’m HYPER-aware of everything”.  But that wasn’t helping.  Now mindfulness to me is about taking in even the things that I want to brush away – loud noises, negative thoughts, little stressful reminders, letting them run through my brain, and then letting them peter out.  I will get to them, but I’ve heard them.  And I love how yoga really lets you be mindful of your body.  For people who have been doing yoga for a while, this sounds like duuuuh … basic stuff, but for me it’s a revelation.  You’re allowed to focus on tiny little minute muscles.  The way the backs of your legs touch the floor.  How you’re standing in certain poses, how you hold your breath when you’re trying to balance.  I’ve even noticed me clenching my teeth sometimes.

It’s nice, you know, to know what your body does when it’s under stress, and also when it’s allowed to let go.

But it’s nicer that I don’t have to compare myself to anyone else in the room.

Some people in my class do the lunchtime classes to get away from their desks.  Some people do it to avoid injury.  Some do it for relaxation.  I do it for all those reasons, but also for the simple fact that it’s training my brain to think a different way.  Not through goal-setting, hitting deadlines or number-crunching.  It’s not even like other physical exercises where you weight gain or loss, muscle gain etc.  It doesn’t have to be about that.

The things I’ve noticed about my body and my mind since I’ve just accepted that yoga is a part of my life now include:

  • My body not moving and working like it used to, like it did when I had these lofty ideas of being as agile as a ballerina if I did “enough yoga classes”.  I’m older, I’ve had injuries, my lifestyle has changed.  I can’t pretend it hasn’t.  I can’t go back to the way my body used to be.  I just have to make do with what I have now, and not take my movements for granted.
  • The non-comparison thing is a big one for me.  I don’t have to look around the room and feel inadequate. I don’t have to measure up to anyone, except to how I was in the last session.  Can I go further this time, or should I take it easy?  It’s up to me.  And it doesn’t matter what I do – as long as I don’t injure myself.
  • It’s nice to think about my body in a serious way, the way I do with work and finances etc.  You know how being “detail-oriented” is a good thing in certain careers?  It’s great with yoga too.  OK, so my left side moves a little better in a certain pose than my right side.  Interesting. Like, seriously.  It IS interesting.

So like I said, I’m not joining a yoga teacher’s camp or anything, but I think I’m finally understanding what all the yoga fuss is about.  And I didn’t need to buy fancy yoga clothes to figure it out.

Peace OUT!

XXX

The path to fame and fortune isn’t paved with gold and inspirational memes

Maybe because I’ve seen so many of them, maybe because I no longer connect with them, I dunno, but I know that those inspirational memes like this:

From photo credit: symphony of love via photopin cc

Photo credit: symphony of love via photopin cc

Or this:

Photo credit: deeplifequotes via photopin cc

Photo credit: deeplifequotes via photopin cc

…no longer have that strong an effect on me.

OK, so the last one was nice.

But these inspirational memes do very little by way of giving me tools to overcome difficulties, or show me how someone aspirational has overcome whatever challenge he or she had.

I love when Hollywood stars come out with really insightful things to say. Viola Davis was recently featured in a Vulture article called Viola Davis’s 14-Step Guide to Happiness and the article said this about her thoughts on fear and failure: 

“Nobody tells you about failure,” Davis argues. “People always talk about winning, vision boards, getting what you want. People also don’t talk about fear. It’s always keeping fear at bay. Squelching it. Throwing it away. I’ve embraced fear and failure as a part of my success. I understand that it’s part of the grand continuum of life. I’ve been through it all. Breakups, heartache, and I’ve lost a parent already. So now I get it at this age, I get that that is it. That life literally is what you make it.”

I love that she says that fear and failure form her journey to success.  A lot of the time whenever I read about someone who’s achieved a lot in their lives, it’s always as if they’ve had clarity the whole way, they never wavered, they had this unyielding passion and tunnel vision attitude to success.

Which is great for them, but what if you don’t work like that? What if your idea of success is very different to the more traditional notions of success? What if success doesn’t mean fame but more a recognition of a job well done and recognition that you’re a thought leader or expert in your field?  What if success doesn’t mean riches but is more along the lines of comfort and not excess?  What if success means not reaching goal after goal and being disheartened after each goal is reached, but rather living through your life’s direction (I learnt this last idea from Sze Wing Yip, who told me that living a life based on your path and journey rather than goals was a better way to live – totally paraphrasing, but I’ve lived by it since she told me this)?

So Viola Davis’ article really got to me, it means that fear and failure are part of my journey to live my life’s direction, and as long as I keep reminding myself of what that is (so that I’m always asking, “what is the purpose of this?”) then I should be fine.

Living all the days of your life

Maybe it’s because I’m a hundred thousand years old, maybe it’s because I’m sick of wasting time, maybe it’s because I keep looking for more and searching for more, but I’ve started actively looking for ways to improve my overall life. I’m more conscious of the time I spend procrastinating (which is a LOT, thanks Buzzfeed), because I don’t want to be wasting my time doing useless things. At the same time though, I don’t want to busy myself with simply being busy for the sake of it, and I’m more aware of quality downtime too.  I’ve also taken a good hard look at the exercise I do (or don’t do) and the food that I eat (I use the term “food” loosely), and I’m acutely aware of the fact that while I don’t feel the effects of my complete lack of pride in my fitness and health, I will soon, if I keep this up.

So when I wrote about SzeWing Yip’s services as a life coach at Intuitive CoachingI was interested in more than just promoting her business properly. I was looking for some kind of divine intervention.

AN OBJECTIVE PROFESSIONAL

I’d always been open to seeking the advice of an objective professional regarding how I should get my ass into gear and do stuff, but I always thought somewhere in the back of my mind that their services were only really reserved for people who had gone through a major life change or were seriously lost and floundering. Was I floundering? Are my wheels spinning? I suppose so, but what I got out of my time with SzeWing was … totally worth the time.

SzeWing operates her business from the Life & Balance Centre in Glebe, a cute little hub of like-minded practitioners who use the space to offer health and wellbeing services. SweWing herself is very bubbly and outgoing, has a lot to say, and has a lot of ideas about things she wants to do and what she wants to develop.  It’s very clear she’s passionate about her work as a life coach.  I’ve read somewhere (in a lot of articles of late, actually) that when a person is passionate about something it will show in their work, and this is SzeWing to a tee. She’s a dancer and a teacher and it’s obvious she’s a people person.

COACHING INTUITIVELY

I didn’t know what to expect when I went to meet SzeWing for the first time. She was dressed smartly (not like a banker) but casually (not like a uni student). Perhaps because I already pre-associated this to her, I was already assuming her to be the picture of someone who has her shit together. She looks it. She looks healthy (also in no small part to her dancing). I guess this is what you want in a person who’s made their career into helping others. Coz if they don’t look like they can help themselves …

A majority of Intuitive Coaching’s client base are in their 30s-50s, mainly women. Most of them are well-educated, upwardly mobile, professional.  Most of them are looking for “something more”. Ironically, SzeWing says a lot of her close female friends are in this age bracket to. Instantly, I’m impressed by this – to me, it shows that SzeWing is “of the people”: she can relate to anyone of any age.

During our session, we discussed my career (actually, she asked me about my career.  Actually, she asked me, “Tell me about you”, and then I launched into my career).  Without giving all the ins and outs of what I told her, I was basically just dumping all my niggling thoughts and doubts that had been swirling around in my brain into the session.  I really thought that SzeWing would turn around and say, “yes, you should follow your passion”, but she didn’t.  She told me that what I do now will help in the bigger picture of how my career will unfold. She used a mix of straight out pragmatic coaching techniques and even some Angel cards to communicate this to me.  I found this comforting, somehow.

PERCEPTION

One of the most poignant pieces of advice SzeWing gave was about perception. Because most of the session was about my career, she said my perception of my role needed to change, so I could be objective and look at the skills  I was gaining in the role, rather than thinking of my role as an all-encompassing career. I liked that. It made me see that there was a time for everything, and it helped me organise, albeit in my head, what I needed to focus on right now and when to know that I’d had my fill.

She also said during my angel reading that I need to give myself time to step away and think, perhaps take a holiday, or meditate, or do something. I am thinking she is talking about re-grouping or taking some time each day.  Not sure I can take the break I would really love to have right now (seriously wondering if I can convince my fiancee to sell all our stuff, pack it all in and chill on a beach in Bahia, Brazil for 6 months!), but since this session I’ve been acutely aware of how much time I take daily to clear my mind, get some exercise in and shake it off. As a result, I’ve taken steps to try to be more active. I’ve looked at jogging as a form of exercise and I’ve become better at even just stepping away from my desk at work. SzeWing was spot on though – meditation and clearing your mind is fast becoming an important part of my daily routine.

YOUR LIFE’S DIRECTION

The most striking piece of advice SzeWing gave, and which has pretty much remained embedded in my mind since my session, was about the difference between direction and goals, and how thinking of your life as a whole in terms of the direction you want to go in, rather than thinking of the goals you have to hit, you’ll be much better placed mentally and spiritually to be happy about the path your life is on. Going by goals may stop you from going further, and can limit you from other opportunities and experiences around you. Goals should be thought of as milestones, each milestone in line with your life’s direction. Your direction is a wider path than goals, so you can think of taking steps to keep you on your direction, rather than focussing on the steps as if they weren’t part of a bigger plan.  If someone had told me that after uni …

I felt really uplifted after my mini-session with SzeWing, particularly when she said everything I was doing career-wise was all joined together and it would all fall into place.  I felt more hopeful about my situation.

JUST KEEP GOING

Maybe because I’m more attuned to it right now but I’ve been picking up a lot of these helpful notes of late. I read something online regarding the phrase, “Just keep going”, when you’re feeling helpless or fading. Perhaps that person also got that from “Finding Nemo” (just keep swimming). But I think it ties in with SzeWing’s point above about direction. Just keep going in the direction of your life’s path. Just keep going …

Maybe it’s also because I’m in the middle of reading The Happiness Project that I am totally open to everything SzeWing has told me.  I find this complements my own exploration of personal wellbeing and happiness.

I’m still on that path, still striving daily to live a full life, but I’m glad that I can finally recognise that this is a much better way to live than only focussing on one area of life.  There are a lot of things I need to do and want to do, but now just remind myself about my life’s direction, and whether the choices that I’m making are in line with my direction. Which may or may not lead to the fridge door.

 

The pot calling the kettle fat

Fat like a wombat

My previous post was balls-out about empowerment and not caving to society’s pressures to be a certain ideal.

Today, I realise I am not taking care of myself, and while I don’t want to look like a Hollywood doll churned out by the Plastic Surgery Machine, I also don’t want to look like I can’t be fucked doing anything about my health and wellbeing.

See that?  Even that phrase, “I don’t want to look like”.  Now I’ve outed myself, because the kicker is that the reason I want to get my health back on track is not solely because I want to live well and feel well and appreciate my health and my life and the world, it’s because I’m starting to look gross.

Urrrgh.

So I’m just as superficial as everyone else. Bleccccccccccccccch.  I sent a msg to the boy about how I look like a wombat.  A round ball of no discernable shape. Cute as they are, they are just … round. I don’t want to be a wombat.

I’ve also tried, tried and tried and tried again, to get up early to get my writing done and about 90% of the time so far I have failed, failed failed.

I keep telling myself, “If you want to stop starting from scratch, then stop giving up“.

So I’ve failed. Well, fuck it. I’m gonna keep failing untill I don’t fail anymore. Which I WILL DO. I will get there. I have to be less of a “it’s all over” type of person.

And so … this leads me to lunch. Healthy salad it is, then …

The Body Beautiful is real.

As in, it’s a real body. Designed to, you know, DO STUFF. Like move one foot in front of the other and propel you forward. Like get your brain to tell your arms to lift up into the air, and wave around like you just don’t care. All that kind of stuff.

SONY DSC

 

Lately I’ve been pressing my nose a little too close to the mirror to scrutinise the wrinkles around my eyes and the size of my pores on my nose and little blemishes on my face. When I’m done with that, I take off my shirt and stand in my undies, turn sideways and bemoan my little pot belly and my nothing boobies and my everything that is wrong with me. 

But what the hell is wrong with me?? 

Bloody nothing, except for the fact that I do not look like anyone from Who Weekly, or these women in the pics above (who I’m sure are lovely people). I shouldn’t care, because for the most part I am healthy and well fed, and anything that is unhealthy about me is my own fault because I over-indulge in lazing about and eating lots of stuff that does my body no good (there’s a tub of Cookie Cream Commotion in the freezer whispering, “Graaaab a spoooon … do it nooooooow”). 

So nothing’s wrong with me, body wise. I can run and jump and walk and see and hear and smell and taste and all the rest of it. 

So it was with great pleasure that I found a post by young mum N’Tima Preusse called Babies Ruin Bodies, and what she says is that her body is NOT ruined by the birth of her baby, but enhanced because of it. Because her body is now a mother’s body, one made to give nourishment and care and support and shelter to her baby. 

I’m not a mother, and I’m not even really thinking about motherhood in the immediate future, but I am so happy that there is someone out there who hasn’t lost the plot and gone the way of thinking that the only beauty out there is artificial or Hollywood-inspired and that if you don’t fall into that category you are not beautiful. It’s made me hopeful that the future isn’t doomed to superficiality, and beauty isn’t always based on a Kardashian’s paparazzi shot. 

I’m hoping it won’t get to the point where aesthetic plastic surgery becomes the norm and everyone gets it, and then in generations gone by we won’t even know what “real” looks like anymore, or we will know it so well we won’t want it. 

So really chuffed I found N’Tima’s blog and post. The world is safe. I’m not bikini model beautiful, but I’m cool with that. My body is in reasonable working order and it’s up to me to ensure it continues to run on all cylinders. 

 

 

Can’t STOOOOOP!!!

First day back at work after the long luxurious silly season (although I did work from home) but maaaaaaaaaaaaaan listening to TED talks whilst working has been GREAT.

So gonna hate when it’s a full office again on Monday, or tomorrow. Two awesome soundbites I took from my talks this arvo include:

When you achieve your dreams, it’s not so much what you get, but who you have become in achieving them …
– Henry David Theroux

When you can’t relate to someone, you don’t envy them
– Alain De Botton (why we’re not envious of the queen even though she’s rich and lives in a big house)

Seriously.

That’s a bit dramatic. Still, that’s how I feel.