Cycles

Life is a cyclical experience. We undergo 24-hour cycles, weekly cycles, monthly cycles, yearly cycles, and so on. It is no wonder then, that our growth, healing, and circumstances are not linear, but rather cyclical themselves.

In one day, one week, one month, one year, we may encounter numerous ups and downs; happy and sad moments; positive and negative experiences. This is a natural and beautiful gift of life to constantly learn from different situations. It is only in our thinking, in our minds, that these experiences attain a label of “good,” “bad,” “positive,” “negative.” Without such labels, they would simply be part of our cyclical experience as humans. It is interesting then, to not deny our less energized, darker days, but to flow with them. To experience them without judgement.

We seem to put less attention on the days we feel excited, and light, as if these are our normal. So why not put less attention on the opposite as well, and accept that all is our normal?

To let go of our expectations of any day, any cycle in our lives, and to go with it is to experience the beauty of life. We do not need to quickly change our thoughts if something unpleasant comes up. We can allow, flow, and be kind to all thoughts. Give all thoughts their moment, and then move on with the flow of our cycles. The more we learn to move with the waves of life, the more we are able to relax, float, and enjoy.

Woman

Forever flowing and growing like the oceans at high tide
moving with the wind;
freely and effortlessly.
Changing direction with ease;
growing like a tree reaching high toward the sun
and deep into the earth as she discovers her roots.
Always finding a way to adopt to her environment
and not allowing storm clouds to obstruct her way.
She is the earth and the stars, the moon and the seas.
She has the power and beauty to conquer the world;
yet the humility and grace to live harmoniously within it.
She is fierce.
She is gentle.
She is woman.

She is you.

‘Finding Yourself’ – A Cliché or a Transformative Phrase?

We hear the term ‘finding yourself’ quite often in our modern age. It is a byproduct of a time in which liberty and exploration due to economic conditions and access to resources are being experienced on a large scale (though this is certainly not the case for many people who do not have the same opportunities).

It is a catchphrase, often used to patronize others, “she went to India to ‘find herself’” – when someone takes a step away from their daily life to travel, introspect, or otherwise look for something beyond themselves.

It purports that I have yet to know myself and that I must search outwardly to find who I am; however, this is a misconception. This phrase indicates a journey into the self.

Finding yourself is not the same as searching through the mall to find the perfect dress for an occasion. It is about journeying inward, clearing away the clutter, clearing the conditionings of a life influenced by societal information, and coming back to who we are. It is about finding what we’ve always had yet forgot or misplaced along the way.

Finding yourself is similar to washing the dust and dirt off an old glass frame, revealing a beautiful piece of artwork that has always been there, yet was covered by debris from years of hanging on a wall. It is searching deep within ourselves, dusting ourselves off and revealing the beautiful artwork that we all are.

It is not a graceful journey either. It is painful, uncomfortable, lonely, and vulnerable. It is difficult to shed the layers we have grown to protect ourselves from life. It often feels like we have exposed a wound before it is ready, and we want to reach for the gauze to cover it back up. But it is in these most vulnerable, uncomfortable times that may bring us clarity and allow us to become comfortable with the uncomfortable. It is in these lonely experiences that we are forced to sit with ourselves and become reintroduced to who we are.

‘Finding yourself’ may be a cheesy cliché, but there is true value to this phrase. It is when we begin to know ourselves fully and deeply; when we sit with our darkness and our lightness; when we learn that our internal world influences everything outside of ourselves, that we can transform our lives. In finding ourselves, we find our true expression, our true authentic self, and learn to love ourselves fully as we are.

One Year as a Yoga Teacher

One year ago today, I completed my 200-hour yoga teacher training (YTT) in the beautiful country of Costa Rica. I cannot say exactly what drew me to my training beyond simply wanting to deepen my own practice. I had no desire, or perhaps no confidence, to ever teach yoga. I had practiced on and off for a few years, but it wasn’t until I went through a painful heartbreak that I found myself devoted to my practice and desiring the deeper meaning behind the physical yoga asanas.

So, after two intensive weeks of training, which were not only physically and mentally draining, but also very emotionally taxing, I became certified as a yoga teacher.

Now what?

I didn’t think I would be able to find a job teaching, nor did I think I was good enough to teach. I compared myself to others, looking at the Instagram yogis who lacked any body fat and could bend like pretzels, and I allowed this to fill my mind as proof I would never be worthy. Thankfully, one of the trainers at my YTT took me aside toward the end of the two weeks and instilled hope and confidence in me with his belief I could and should be a teacher.

So, I left the training with his voice in my mind, while attempting to push aside my many doubts, and I wasted no time before practicing my newly learned skills.

I still had many months of traveling ahead, so I began teaching yoga in a hostel on the island of Ometepe in Nicaragua. I found the teaching difficult and I was dreading it more than enjoying it. I had a taste of “yoga politics,” in which other, more experienced teachers made me feel very incompetent. However, I used this as a lesson and tool to help push me forward, and I continued on. I then made my way back to Costa Rica where I taught informally at another hostel I worked in.

When I arrived back in Canada, I assumed the chances of being hired as a yoga teacher were next to none, as yoga studios expect two or more years’ experience, and usually a recommendation from another teacher.

I was very lucky to find a job rather quickly though, and I began teaching a few classes a week. At first, I felt resentment and frustration because I took over for a teacher who had taught the same class for over 15 years, and her students were not happy to see her go. I was met with a lot of resistance and found it difficult to find my own way of teaching these students.

It took a few months to finally feel confident with my own teaching style, and I could see the students noticed my new found confidence, meeting me with enthusiasm and willingness.

I have now been teaching yoga for one year, and I have learned so much in this time. Being a new teacher is one of the most challenging and emotionally vulnerable things I have ever done. I am constantly met with people who either love my style or who want it to be quite different. It seems that there is not one way to please everyone – which is obviously true in more than just a yoga class.

I have begun to feel more confident in my abilities, in who I am as a person, and I am opening up and allowing others to view my vulnerabilities.

It is truly a challenge to show up, no matter what is going on in my personal life, and lead a meaningful practice. It takes a lot of courage to stand in front of a group of strangers and speak, move, and guide them. I find teaching now to be immensely rewarding, and often find that after a class I feel I just experienced a transformative therapy session. To be so vulnerable, to be willing to make mistakes in front of groups of people, and to welcome criticism is such a difficult, yet humbling experience.

I am so grateful to call myself a yoga teacher, and I am eternally grateful for all those who have led me to this point in my life. Teaching will never come without challenges, doubts, and fears, but it is a beautiful path to be on.

2018 – The Year of Self-Love

Happy New Year and 2019!

I am so excited and grateful for the start of another year, and for the opportunity to experience growth, renewal, and expansion.

However, before I dive into 2019, I think it is a good idea to reflect on what brought me to this point, to be thankful for my progress, and to contemplate 2018 – my year of self-love.

2018 was a year like no other for me. I left on January 4th for a trip to Costa Rica, where I completed my Yoga Teacher Training and volunteered in hostels. The sudden urge to book this trip was murky, if not completely unknown to me. I woke up one day with an overwhelming need to travel to Costa Rica and within two days I booked a plane ticket. Though somewhat unexplainable, this trip was detrimental to my health and well-being. Perhaps it was not the travel specifically that I needed so badly – it was the change of scenery, the expansion of my world-views and the reintroduction to myself.

When I arrived in the little surfer town of Puerto Viejo, where I planned to live for a month, I noticed how kind and happy the people living there were. Of course, the sun, warm weather and a home in paradise contributed to their glow, but there was something more to it. There was something else that brought a sparkle to their eyes and an extra friendly smile to their faces. It was their love.

It hit me like a brick-wall when I realized – no, I felt the love these people were emanating. I felt so cared for and surrounded by so much warmth. And yet, I didn’t understand why people who barely knew me made me feel so warm and loved and why I had never felt this way before.

It dawned on me that the reason my new friends had so much love to give others was because they worked on loving themselves each day. It began when I told one of my new friends that I was “so stupid” for whatever I did – a very common retort I’d use when speaking about myself after the most minor infraction – and she looked at me and said, “Love, you don’t deserve to be spoken to that way.”

I began noticing the comments I consistently made to put myself down and how unnecessary these words were. It didn’t end with little put-downs after I made a mistake either; I constantly criticized my body, personality traits, and I would compare myself to others with the notion that I would never measure up. The more I became aware of my habits, the more I realized I never actually had a nice thing to say to myself.

My epiphany, followed by guidance from the amazing women I met, led me to a place where I was able to question the way I have treated myself my entire life, and my ingrained belief that to speak with self-confidence means you are narcissistic and self-absorbed.

During those months of travel a lot of things came up that I had to deal with and overcome. I had to talk myself through a lot of insecurities, a lot of traumas based around old relationships and this constant feeling that I was not deserving of my own or anyone else’s love. I spent a lot of time alone, and a lot of time in stillness, which effectively led to a weight gain, causing even more body-image issues to surface and work through.

Of course, this is an ongoing process that I did not overcome in one year; however, the first step is to become aware of our toxic patterns, and I certainly did in 2018.

Since this discovery I have felt changes in myself. I have begun to develop a healthier self-image and my thoughts are shifting from criticism and discontentment to kindness and patience. When my internal chatter starts listing off perceived reasons why I am not good enough or why I am incompetent, I redirect my thoughts to focus on positive aspects of myself, and I remind myself that every mistake is an opportunity for growth. I have started telling myself “I love you”. I have begun questioning the social norms, advertisements and messages I have grown up consuming that indicate we can never be happy just as we are.

I have begun to work on being happy just as I am.  

2018 taught me the importance of reminding myself I am good enough and I am deserving of love from others and from myself. It taught me that love starts from within and flows outwards to others, and in order to exist within a place of love, we must work on loving ourselves first.