When you make big changes in life you trust.
You trust that through your inner wisdom that you have made the right decision.
You trust that those around you, your nearest and dearest, will love and support you through those decisions…
…and you trust in the universe, that it will hold you whole through each challenge along the way.
My transition these last months from my home in the UK via Thailand to my new home Myanmar has been… a change for sure. I’ve read so many blogs over the years about change, and constancy and “change being the only constant in life” and I’m like… yeah we all know that, that's not helpful right now…!
I had no expectations, I left London with excitement in my belly… (I’ve spent time in this beautiful country before) but, there is no denying it, this month has showed its fierce side. I’m pleased to say with all my tears (and boy have there been buckets full!), I have (in the words of Jon Bon Jovi) kept the faith!
Yangon… ‘the garden city of the east’… and then there is the stuff that smacks you straight in the face (none of which I didn’t know was already here remember)…the smells, rubbish, mould, bugs (I have sweet blood), rain …and last but by no means least…the poverty - much like London!
Then there is the stuff that is out of your control, news back home. My dearest mama being rushed into hospital, my sweet sister coping as she does so well switching into doctor mode. My guilt for not being physically there to play my part.
Then there is the ‘collective psychosis’. There is pain everywhere on this globe right now. I am lucky here in Myanmar not to be bombarded with too much English news, I can chose what I read, but when I do… there is Trump, Korea, floods, hurricanes, shootings, terror … Myanmar itself hitting the headlines…the list is endless.
And then finally (or perhaps this should have been the first thing I listed) there is the me stuff….I can’t…buy tampons or candles that smell good. I can’t buy books of interest written in the English language; download to spotify as there is no licence here; go running without falling in a hole; get my clothes to dry because it won’t stop raining; find 100% cotton sheets for my bed so I don’t sweat every night! I go days without running water in my new flat…and most importantly there is the longing in my spiritual body for you all, my community, my dearest of family and friends and my beautiful students.
There is truthfully nothing that would have prepared me for this.
In true empath form my body has responded something chronic. I awoke one morning, day 5 in Myanmar, without being able to move, my whole body paralysed with these shooting pains up my lower back. This pain, emotional contagion, showing up in my physical body as grief. I incubate feelings (a huge amount of which don't belong to me) and this pain manifests in my body. But…
Here I am.
This is real, this is truth, this is my everyday now.
There are no masks, no disguises here. It is raw.
And what can I do?
First I had to be honest with myself, as to where I was, I couldn’t practice yoga asana. I couldn’t go running or swimming, I could barely standup, sit down, walk…then, with true integrity, I had to select a practice that was appropriate. Reminding myself that one does not have to be strong or flexible to practice but will still receive blessings through a committed integrated practice no matter how simple that practice is.
When you are physically broken the only thing you can do is go deeply into the body and be present with the pain.
Call it out.
Make it a meditation.
“Know that which pervades the entire body is indestructible. No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul.” Bhagavad Gita 2.17
There are so many ways, so many portals into a mediation practice.
Meditation is a simple formula of rest, self-acceptance and connection to your self and the world in which we live. Anyone can do it.
You just need to allow yourself, here's an invitation to try…
To Practice: Take ten to fifteen minutes and make sure you are somewhere quiet with no external distractions. Sit on a chair but try not to lean too far back, make sure the back is supported. Make sure the body is relaxed. Close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths - feel the body expand and contract on each inhalation and exhalation. Then bring your attention to the entire inner energy field of the body. Don’t ‘think’ about it. ‘Feel’ it. By doing this you are attuning to your central line, your essence nature, the simplest part of you. You reclaim consciousness from the mind. Something I find useful, which you might too (particularly if you are suffering with physical pain), is to visualise “light” in a particular area of the body and then feel that light or warmth expand and grow within the energy body. Once you feel the inner energy body clearly, let go (if possible) of any visual image you have created and just focus on the feeling. Then, drop any visual image that you have still in the mind of your physical body. Then remain present with all that is left, an all encompassing sense of presence or being. No boundaries. Next take your attention even more deeply into that feeling and merge with it so that you become one with it and grow. See if you can stay in this presence.
People often wonder why they can’t find ‘it’, their glimpse of an ‘enlightened’ life. You can’t access it if you are over thinking it. When you go looking for yourself you don’t find yourself. You can’t find the ground of your being as an ‘object’ of your awareness. You can’t see it or touch it, you can only BE it.
Another obstacle this month… I have had people integral to my life, and those not so much so… let me down. (I’m sure another huge contribution to my chronic back pain). People who tell you they are going to do one thing and then rescind on that promise. People who's support and love should not be something you have to ask for. I was wondering where all this had come from. I started to blame myself….why didn’t she return my message? why don’t they see my view point? why did he leave out a certain bit of information?
In the west we live a culture of blame, a culture where there is a lack of accountability, where we can shift responsibility if only we have the right people behind us, the right words to voice our opinions, if we have the right avoidance techniques. People shy away from truth, they lie to themselves because they are full of fear.
With my body responding to the truth of everything with total innocence, I realised that perhaps this lack of integrity was coming from me. Perhaps this was all my giving off. We go on with our crazy story-reality, thoughts of wwho mistakenly think we are, and what we mistakenly think we know, then we base our actions on those misunderstandings.
So much of what yoga and the spiritual practices are about is wrenching us out of our self-induced coma of fake assumption (both about ourselves and the world). It's an attention training, a sensitivity training.
So each day, twice a day, (sometimes three times a day if my back is really bad) I return to my meditation practice… to the integrity of my practice, to shifting my internal energy body so there is consistency. Ensuring with each practice, and with each breath after that, that nothing is being corrupted.
I let go or anything inauthentic and all activities that don't mirror my highest intentions for myself. If something in your life isn’t working, be willing to release it. When we open our hands and release unhealthy situations circumstances heal.
When I returned to this idea of integrity my body started to mend and I managed to … slowly… get back onto my yoga mat.
Through this clarity about my new and present reality I was healing.
There was no need for any more thought, or discussion, no analysis. Insights had happened and I was moving forward.
On my mat I worked with a focus of integrity in each pose. Alignment in postures, breath mirroring movement, muscle hugging bone. Everything working, no matter how slowly, together. Yoga being integrity itself - the state of being whole and undivided - unified.
Off my mat I practiced satya - truthfulness - (the second of the Yamas of Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras). The word staya literally translates form the sanskrit as ‘not telling lies’. ‘sat’ being your true nature; unchangeable; that which has no distortion; reality.
I asked myself questions….how am I engaging with my problems so that I might grow and evolve for the better? or am I justifying them? manipulating others? and / or ignoring them for various distractions?
I have looked back at my karmic seeds - what have I been planting? What behaviour have I subjected other people to? Is it really ok to think of integrity as a virtue? And how do I stay true to myself when no one around me is doing what I do?
Then I kept doing it.
My practices on the mat, off the mat, with love in my heart, with faith, with commitment and repetition - as imperfectly perfectly as I possibly could.
And things started to shift further… I begun to see the beauty once again, of this country, of the incredible Myanmar people I am working with every day, of their generosity and integrity. Being surrounded by a culture very different to my own… it highlighted for me once again our responsibility to BE an expression of the divine. There is no need for spiritual arrogance here in Myanmar (or anywhere for that matter) - there is no room. There is only room for practice, practice with honest integrity. Setting intentions that are appropriate for your current situation. Honouring all resistance and working with sensitivity.
The results… an inevitable transformation of the elements within me that initially resisted where I was. I have become slowly stronger, a thousand times more patience, and my heart opens with a greater self-acceptance.
You too can work to transform…
(Remember any effort to eliminate a part of yourself or your experience is a treacherous practice.)
Start with some intentions… can you acknowledge your resistance without judgement? and then work closely, slowly, intimately with yourself to meet your resistance head-on.
Let each mediation practice be an exercise in clarifying your integrity and commitment to your own healing and thus the healing of the world. Allow each practice to be an active embrace of what a spiritual practice can offer, and a simple acknowledgement that your deepest truth might just change your whole life.
Some people criticise us ‘navel gazers’ … our society doesn’t give mediation much value. We have socially conditioned needs to get back into “reactive mode” as people aren’t comfortable with you just “being”. Western culture is organised to make us uncomfortable with quiet presence, but yet this self-study and refinement is vital for the benefit of all.
In my own life, I am a living contradiction. I am endlessly more supported through my practices to face the stronger tides in life whilst being so much more sensitive. Everything is intense. My feelings are heightened which in turn challenges my resources to my core.
Truth is truth
To th’end of reck’ning.
William Shakespeare - Measure for Measure 5:1