Nature Connection

Understanding our biology as humans is incredibly important to me. Our bodies are our best teachers in how we connect to our environments. Recent studies show that our bodies are not as equipped to handle the daily stresses we have been putting them into in our new technological and developed age. It’s starting to manifest in symptoms of mental illness such as anxiety.

These days, a doctor will try to subscribe to you a pill to cure your mental illness and treat the symptoms of it rather than trying to figure out what is causing the illness at the root. Now, this is not to discredit some of the more serious mental illnesses that are caused by chemical and hormonal imbalances which do require some more advanced medical help. That being said, those serious mental illnesses still need a deeper level of therapy and understanding in order to cope with them.

I do not have a diagnosed mental illness but I can recognise that I have the symptoms of anxiety and depression. I have seen varying degrees of these symptoms in others and can place myself on a scale of sorts. There are times when I don’t want to leave my house because my will to do so is just not there. Then there are days when all I want to do is be around people, talk with them, and socialize. I am thankful that I am starting to recognize my patterns.

I have been doing some reflecting on where I grew up and what kind of a life I lived in my formative years. I lived out in the countryside and a fairly remote area of my hometown. I spent a lot of time on my own keeping myself company. This is where I developed a very active imagination and a knack for storytelling. The upside to this lifestyle was that I feel very at home with myself and moreover, when I am out in nature. I cannot tell you how many hours I spent outdoors growing up.

Whenever life got too stressful, I would take a walk and sit down by the river that was only a mile away from my home. I would take my dog for protection and that’s it. Somethings don’t change, I still go out into nature with my dog when I need to ground myself. These days, I tend to go to a dog park so that my dog can run around while I sit and meditate. There’s a great one next to a creek just on the outside of town.

Sometimes, all I need is to just sit outside on my patio in order to ground myself after a long stressful day at work. Just sitting and watching my dog play in the backyard or listening to the breeze through the wind chimes is enough for me to feel more relaxed. I will miss being able to do that once winter settles in. Granted, if I wanted to fire up my propane fire pit, I can do that and enjoy the warmth of the fire while listening to the stillness that snow brings.

It’s spring now and the long dark of winter is over. It was a hard winter for me and my dog. We didn’t get outside very much because it was too cold. I managed to escape the worst of winter and go on a trip to Hawai’i with my family. It was nice to get out of the wet and damp for a while. The last few months have been hard though, trying to get out of the slump of winter and a rainy spring.

Today, it was warm enough for me to pull out one of my dresses to wear. I knew that it was a bit of a gamble because of how quickly the weather can change in the spring. I have been able to go outside without a long sleeve shirt or a jacket the past new days. I look forward to getting out to my favorite hiking locations this week to enjoy being out in nature again. I want to reclaim for the areas that I missed due to my depression last spring and summer. I can’t wait until it’s warm enough to go swimming in the lake!

Being the Witness While in Customer Service

I have been reading “The Untethered Soul” by Mickey Singer lately and he talks about being the Witness and noticing things. As the Witness, you notice and let go and while working in customer service, I am blown away by the amount of negativity that gets passed my way each day.

For the most past, the negativity is not directed at me specifically but I am the filter it needs to pass through on its way to the appropriate location. Being that filter is exhausting when I don’t let it pass through me. I am a sensitive person by my nature, I have only learned to build up resistance to it as a defense mechanism. I am learning now that those defenses take a lot more energy out of me than they protect me from.

I am trying a couple of things this week to try and learn to sit with the negativity that gets blown my way. The first is to notice each time a feeling or reaction is stirred up in me. Once I notice it, I am giving it a name like: guilt, fear, insecurity, shame, anger, disgust, humor, pain, joy. For the time being, I have only been noticing the more negative emotions and feelings but it’s been helpful to label them. By labeling the feelings, I am able to bring myself back up into my higher brain functions which keeps me out of the stress response lower brain functions.

After I have labeled the emotional response, I take in a large breath and say: “Let it pass through me,” and imagine the feeling to disappear on the exhale. Sometimes this takes more than a few breaths in order to feel the emotions pass. It’s been helpful to try this and believe me, I see and listen to a lot of unnecessary negative feedback during a shift. It’s part of the job but the trick is letting the feelings it brings up in me go.

This could honestly be a game changer for me in many aspects of my life. Even just now, I saw a black VW golf drive down the highway, the car driven by my ex and it brought up all kinds of stuff and I just labeled all the feelings: regret, pain, abandonment, hurt, betrayal and took a deep breath and allowed the feelings to pass through me. I don’t know that I would have noticed it if it hadn’t been an example in the Untethered Soul as a trigger. Of course, thinking back on it now – every time I see a black VW golf of a certain generation, I get all kinds of feelings. Now I have something to use to help me get passed those feelings.

Being in customer service may give me the best amount of experience I need in order to master this practice. It’s too bad that it took me two years to really “get” the practice and understand it. I mean, it’s one thing to be told this is what you can do and it’s another to understand how I can put that into practice. It might be that I needed someone else to explain to me how to use the tools because for some reason when my teachers tried to explain it, I wasn’t grasping the how-to. “Ride the wave,” they would say but I still get the feeling of what the wave was and now after reading “The Untethered Soul” by Mickey Singer and listening to videos from Carrie-Anne Moss on her Annapurna Living site, I am starting to get it. “These are the deep practices,” my teachers would say and yes they are but I know now that when I was learning them, I wasn’t ready to put them into application and practice.

Sādhana

Sādhana in Sanskrit literally translates to, “A means of accomplishing something.” It is the term given to basically any spiritual exercise, physical or otherwise. Sādhana can be your asana practice, your meditation practice, your dialogues with colleagues, your spiritual writings, prayers, trance work, dancing, whatever you want it to be.

I haven’t thought much about Sādhana in a long time and since migrating my yoga blog post to my new website, I am getting a chance to read over my older posts. I wrote this one about Sādhana journaling over a year ago and I would like to expand upon it now that I have had some shifts take place in my own life. To be honest, I haven’t spent a lot of time in understanding the deeper meaning of Sādhana or my yoga practice in the last few months. I have been too focused on getting my feet back under me and figuring where to go next. Logically, I know that my Sādhana would have helped me but I was too much in my lower brain to even get that far.

I am not teaching yoga at the moment, at least not to anyone but myself. I am my own teacher right now and believe me, I am enough of a student for myself. I have been reviewing my text books, drawing on new inspirations, and making new connections that I didn’t get the first time around.

When I was in my yoga teacher training, my teachers had us do a journaling exercise at the end of each of our own Sādhana practices. It was a way for us to keep track of any changes or shifts in our practice.

As a yoga practitioner, it’s easy to forgot any progress you may have made in your previous practice. Here are a few journaling props that my teachers gave us to help keep track of own Sādhana:

How long did you practice for? Was that enough time or did you feel like you needed more?
Did you have an intention set before your practice and what did you want to focus on? (Intentions can be anything from focusing on your breath, achieving a peek pose, finding your edge, mindfulness of details, etc.)
Did you have any areas of tightness in your body? Did you feel any energy blocks?
Did you feel areas of your body open up more? Where did you feel energy moving?
Did you come across any challenges in your practice?
Were there any experiences that you would like to take with you and apply it to your time off the mat?

You can use these questions to help improve your yoga Sādhana time both in your home or if you are taking regular classes. I recommend that you keep a journal with you for when you finish your practice and write down what you experience before you lose it. I would also recommend that you journal how you are feeling before you start your Sādhana.

While my first experience with Sādhana was in regards to my daily yoga practice, I have tried to bring Sādhana into my great spiritual practice which includes journal writing, meditation, and asana. I would say that those three practices are the pillars of my spiritual practice and that they are my Sādhana.

I am an avid journaler and I love the process of putting ink onto paper and getting my thoughts, feelings, and emotions out where I can see them. Over the summer, I did a lot of journaling in a special journal that I made myself to help be process the grief, anger, and hurt I was feeling. Once those feelings had passed and I let them go, I went over those pages again but this time I pasted over them with messages of love and release. In a sense, I was doing my Sādhana through my journaling.

I am not great at doing a daily journal and I have a hard time keeping up with things like: Write ten things you are grateful for today. As promising as a gratitude list is, I find it doesn’t work for me. I end up repeating the same things everyday and it looks more like a shopping list to me. I can certainly pick one thing a day and for someone like me who has trouble finding things to be grateful for, it might be that I should stick to one until I feel like I have more than one.

My journal practice is more of a weekly practice or when I need it. Sometimes I journal daily and other times it’s once a week or every two weeks. I am not exactly regimented with anything that I do. I also keep a bullet journal to help keep me focused on the tasks, events, and activities I would like to complete. I use the bullet journal to help me set intentions for the week, month, and year. I try to keep one journal a year and I am currently working on my fifth one. However, I only started using the bullet journal method just over a year and a half ago.

My meditation practice is spotty at best. While I have been a bit more regular with it as of lately, I have not been traditionally good at keeping it regular. I had opted for distractions such as internet time, watching movies, or reading books to keep me occupied. As of late, I have been trying a timer of five minutes a day to sit and meditate at my altar. I have been using some of the elements that I am learning about in the book “The Untethered Soul” by Mickey Singer, a book that was referenced a great deal during my yoga teacher training. It’s been challenging but I have already felt a bit of a shift.

As for my yoga practice… Well, that’s been basically not happening for months now. Not since I got back from vacation. I can make all the excuses I want in the world but I know the truth of the matter. I haven’t felt like getting down onto my mat. I want to but that’s not enough. Wanting to do something is never enough, I need to actually do it. As of late, I have been able to get to the gym on a regular basis and that’s been helping my body but it’s not my body that needs help now, it’s my body and spirit.

I don’t mind being open about the state of my Sādhana and where I am today. It’s my hope that by sharing my experience, that I might inspire someone else in their own Sādhana and help them move forward. Sādhana is a practice and by definition is not perfect.

When You Can’t Breathe

I haven’t written about yoga or meditation in a long time, not since before I shutdown my old yoga website and moved it over to claradmunro.com. To start things off, I haven’t been doing a lot of yoga or meditation lately. For whatever reason, I just can’t seem to get down onto my mat. This weekend, I had been hoping to start up my practice again and of course, I got sick. Not the kind of sick where you toss your cookies, no, the head cold kind of sick where your throat burns like it’s being stabbed with a thousand knives. Then your system clogs right up and then you can’t breathe.

When you can’t breathe, you get light headed because your brain isn’t getting the oxygen it needs to sustain itself. For someone who is a deep breather like myself, I find that I can barely concentrate when I can’t breathe properly. Point of fact, I can’t do much of anything when I can’t breathe properly. This is why I would rather death with a flu than a head cold any day of the week.

So, instead of taking some time to work on my yoga and meditation practice this weekend, I started doing some research and inspiration seeking. I found a website called Annapurna Living – which is partially run by the Kundalini practitioner, Carrie-Anne Moss (you might remember her from such epic films like The Matrix). BC born, Burnaby home-girl, Carrie-Anne Moss created Annapurna Living as a way for her to share her Kundalini teachings and help other mothers bring balance back into their personal lives and families.

I come from a Kripalu background, which is a Tantric/Kundalini tradition but not labeled exclusively Kundalini. Kripalu and Kundalini are both what are called “House holder” traditions and have been modified for our current age to allow these ancient practices to be accessible to everyone. The basics of yoga and meditation are not hard to do and with a little shifting in mindset I should be able to incorporate them into my daily lifestyle. I learned how to do this during my yoga teacher training but I didn’t put it into daily practice.

I made a pretty big mistake when I was doing my yoga teacher training, I got into a relationship with another person. That relationship moved way too fast, way too soon. All the while, I was doing the deeply personal work during my training and I barely had enough space for myself, let alone take on someone else’s work. I didn’t know how to handle myself and thus, I couldn’t handle his stuff too. The truth of the matter is, I wasn’t ready to be the supporting kind of person my partner needed me to be and he wasn’t ready to be the supportive person I needed him to be. I can admit now that the whole relationship was just wrong and it brought back into focus how much I don’t know how to deal with personal relationships in long term and how much work I need to do on myself.

To come back to Annapurna Living for a moment, I have been watching some of the back videos on their YouTube page and there was a video on Having Empathy for Those Who Hurt Us.

I wish that I had watched this video a year or two ago when things were starting to boil up for me in regards to feeling like I was being taken advantage of during my relationship. Not that I think my relationship would have ended up in any other way other than the way it did because we just were not meant to be together. After the relationship ended, so the did the friendship. He doesn’t talk to me anymore and I haven’t made the effort to speak to him. I kept my distance from him because I didn’t want to continue the behavior of care-taking that I had been doing during our time together.

What I have taken from that learning experience, I have brought forward into my living arrangements with my roommate. I have stopped expecting anything of her. I take care of place I live in because I want to, not because I expect her to do the same kind of work that I do. She is not me and I can’t hold her to my level of expectations for myself. We have reached a balance in our living relationship as a result of that switch in my mindset. I like that place we are in right now and I want to continue to live there. I also want our place to be clean and open for visitors. With three hairy pets, I know that means cleaning the floors and furniture a little more often than once a month or even once a day.

Checking my expectations at the door when I enter into any conversation or interaction with other people is challenging. Even checking expectations of myself is hard enough. Learning that expectations are just another way we cause ourselves suffering has been a brutal lesson and my ego certainly hasn’t enjoyed learning it. Yoga isn’t just about the physical practice of the asana, it’s about bringing the principles into your everyday life that you can breathe with ease. Letting go of attachments to things like expectations is part of my everyday yoga practice. Go figure that it was a case of not being able to breathe due to illness that brought me the realization I needed to more forward with other aspects of my life.

~Clara