Archive for August, 2015

All the lovely lulls in life

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I was recently reading something I had written long ago in which I had said that yoga was about getting the inside right while working on the outside.  I was glad to have gone back and read this as I have been feeling, over the past few weeks, that my own personal yoga practice had hit a plateau.  I have been watching the students in my classes make leaps and bounds and taking much delight in their individual journeys.  It is in enormous privilege to be part of this.  To watch them blossom and expand.  To see them face their fears and overcome anxieties.   To engage with them as they make space in their bodies and lives.

Within my own practice I have become frustrated with seemingly little progress over the last month.  I have felt tightness in my hips and this has resulted in not finding the depth in my flexibility that I desire.  I have found that I have not mastered a new challenging pose for a while.  Watch my ego talking here.  Ego ego ego.

So upon re-reading my own words I am reminded that plateaus are okay.  That they are an inevitable and necessary part of life.  More than that though, I was reminded that reaching a lull in my physical practice does not mean that work is not being done.  Everyday when I roll out my mat and use that 6 x 2 space to twist and bend my body into unimaginable poses I am wringing out my stresses and engaging my heart.  I am making space in my body and mind. When I go upside down I am listening to my breath and finding stillness. I am pausing.  I am reminded that, with all things in life, we need these lulls and plateaus.  We cannot be seeking, growing and expanding every day.  That there will be times when we go forward in great leaps and bounds and then time when we pause and reflect.

It is during these pauses and reflections that we do most of our internal work.  Imagine for a moment it is a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon.  You decide to tackle a moderate mountain or hill climb.  During the climb you concentrate only on putting one foot in front of the other.  You are engaged with supplying your muscles with oxygen and with the process of moving your muscles.  Then finally, after much effort you reach the top.  The plateau.  Here you pause.  You inhale, expand and your heart fills with joy and pride.  You stand for a moment or two just taking in the beauty of this exquisite planet we call home.  Deep breath after deep breath you fill yourself up.  You smile.  Perhaps you sit for a while in quiet thought and contemplation.  You made it and now you are full of pride and happiness.  As your breath becomes calm you lose yourself in all that is.  You think about how you have just challenged yourself.  How you did not think you would make it but you did.  You begin to think about the meaning of life.  Your mind wanders to some of the challenges in your own life.  Somewhere there on top of that mountain you find answers.  So you begin the slow gently climb down.  It seems easy compared to the climb.  Your heart is happy and your soul content.  Your mind is quiet and you feel a new sense of peace.

So it is in life and yoga.  There are lulls in everything as there was on top of the mountain and it is here in these lulls that we do our contemplation.  We cannot only be doing the physical work.  We need the lulls and quiet to make sense of it all.  So I am reminded that this lull in my physical practice is similar to that time on top of the mountain.

There are lulls in all areas of our lives.  In our relationships and in our work.  I cannot possibly be constantly creative in my photography.  I need the time of the lulls to retreat back into myself.  To find the quiet contemplation that is the seat of all our creativity.  The lulls and plateaus are when we do our internal work.  It is when we turn inwards and apply what we have learnt.  It is a little like dreaming.  We cannot be awake all the time.  We need to rest and sleep and during our sleep we dream.  During our dreams our minds are sorting and making sense of what we learned during our waking hours.

I think to some degree we fear these lulls.  We fear that we will not move forward again.  That it is not a lull, and that it is perhaps a wall.  This is rarely the case and if it is we simply feel our way along the wall until we find the edges and a new way round.

So remember to engage fully with all the beautiful lulls in your life. Sit in quiet contemplation until such time as it is done.  Do not rush this process for it is here that all the answers will find you.

 

 

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So many brave warriors

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This last weekend I braved an early and somewhat cold start, attached my fastest and biggest lens to my camera and headed off to take some action shots of the Ironman triathlon being held in Durban.  As I left my house the sky was alive with promise of a beautiful day and I felt the sweet breath of anticipation somewhere deep within me.

I arrived at the starting point just as the sun was edging its way into the new day, creating black palm tree silhouettes against a flaming red sky.  Three and a half thousand men and women stood shivering in their wetsuits waiting to start this half ironman competition that started with a two kilometre swim out past the back line and in again further up the beach.  From here the competitors cast aside their wet suits and head out on a one hundred kilometre bike ride. When done with that they would then have to face a twenty one kilometre run before they make it to the finish line.  My goodness this is only a half Ironman!! Families, friends and strangers mill around waiting for the start before walking the distance to where they come out of the water to start stage two.  I am struck by the tense sense of excitement.  An almost breathless anticipation of the day ahead.

The competitors came in all shapes and sizes along with all ages.  Each one of them prepared to push themselves physically and mentally beyond the norm.  Each one of them setting themselves an seemingly impossible target.  The waves that day were enormous.  Probably over three metres and to be honest, not being a water baby, there is not even a possibility I would have ventured out there in a worthy vessel let alone under my own steam.  As the swimmers came back towards the shore you could see the massive waves filled with tiny black dots being swept high and pounded down to be tossed about like buttons in a shaker jar.  Not for the feint hearted.  However, age was not a deterrent to these people.  There were plenty of competitors considerably older than me.  Size was not a deterrent.  They came in every possible guise.  As they stumbled out of the water I was already in awe.

They set off on their bicycles and we made a dash to drive to a half way point.  Firstly because it had coffee (having been up since five thirty this was becoming a priority in my life at this time) and secondly so that I could get some photographs like the one above.  This guy is smiling.  Seriously!

Then we drove back to the finish line to watch them run.  The run was done by way of a ten or so kilometre loop so the runners came past several times.  Supporters lined this route, leaning up against the barrier and passing endless words of encouragement to the runners who by now are starting to look like finishing is not even a possibility.

I was overwhelmed by the support these complete strangers gave to the competitors. Every man and woman that passed was handed a huge dose of kindness.  Their names would be called and words of encouragement would follow.  The people next to me made sure not to miss out anyone.  They clapped and cheered and gave courage to those that had seemingly lost their own.  This was beautiful.  By now the sun was warm and I found myself surrounded by strangers helping strangers.  The unknown supporting the unknown. I soaked it up and revealed in the joy of being human.  How incredibly sweet this all was.

We are capable of so much more than we think.  As humans we have the mental capacity to overcome almost anything.  Seeing these people push themselves to the limits of their endurance and physical capability moved me in a way I cannot describe.  They were truly courageous.  Each facing whatever it is they have to face and doing so for their own reasons.  Each with their own story.

The kindness that humans show to each other is so beautiful it is beyond words.  Why I ask myself do we have wars and why are people so intolerant of one another.  It is not our nature.  We are not born this way.  We are born with soft open hearts and this is how it should stay.  When people come together like this, hold each other up and open their hearts to one another there is an energy that sinks deep into your soul.

It should be like this everyday.  Be kind to one another.  Open your hearts and hold each other up.  We are all courageous and we are all just writing the pages of our own stories.

As in the words of Ram Dass – “We are all just walking each other home”.

 



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