Posts In: Musings

Words

July 3, 2020

As I sit here this morning I am overflowing with awarenesses. I feel words seeping out of my pores and filling the space around me. The air is so thick with them that I am holding them in my hands. Frankly, there are so many words that I can never hope to capture them all – and yet I know I have to try.

Their truth is at the same time overwhelming and astonishing. Life-affirming. Rescuing. But I have to capture at least a number of them to understand them, absorb them. And the others? Those I try and sit with, slowly letting them absorb unseen – like a heavy rain slowly percolating into the ground.

As an experience, this does happen – it’s not brand new, but it’s been a little while. It’s a beautiful, graceful, awe-inspiring and privileged experience – a coming together of hundreds of micro-learnings. An alchemy of things experienced, seen, read and understood. Magic.

In the past couple of weeks I’ve taken up watching Netflix’s Queer Eye. I remember it from the first time around as a ‘makeover’ show but this new rendition is so much more than that. I’ve felt it touching my heart over and over again – at times sending me into tears. Its fundamental message is one of acceptance. Of understanding. Of unconditional love. And while these are things I believe in so hard that it’s almost painful, rightly or wrongly I spent a long time believing them to be inaccessible to myself.

Somehow I acquired the belief that to be acceptable to the world, you needed to conform to the expectations of those around you. Well let me tell you wholeheartedly that this is NOT TRUE.

But knowing something and embodying that knowledge are two different things – and while I’ve known it intellectually now for some time I still today am learning to embody it.

Which brings me back to today. I’ve been let down this week in a very familiar way, but in a way that I haven’t experienced since we went into lockdown. The space of lockdown however has made it abundantly clear that today I can choose to play this out in a different way – I can, and will, advocate for myself, shouting from the rooftops that this is not ok.

Because I know in this moment that I am more than just enough – I am exceptional. And, in the same way that I will not stand for others being made small, I myself am not to be made small either. No matter what lessons I’ve previously taught myself to the contrary

And you know what else? I know in this moment that I can also do other things that life has over time told me I cannot – I can draw. I can dance. I can write. I can be my quirky, sensitive and, yes, perhaps slightly odd self and make the world a better place for it.

I can and will continue to process my own self-realisation publicly – in the knowledge that somewhere along the way it helps someone else too.

Which segues neatly into my final realisation – around the struggle I’ve had with stepping up to work in a space that’s been calling me for an age. I broached the idea of a journalling offer with students a couple of weeks ago, but I can feel the lingering doubt in my mind that I have the authority to do so. It feels like a big step outside of my comfort zone and (literally) as I write I realise why… I’ve not been told that this is something I can do. Instead it is very much borne of my own artistry, my own vision, my own creative soul. It is me – and that is scary.

And yet. Journalling is quite simply one of my most powerful tools – allowing what I feel in my body, what I feel today in the air, to be expressed and seen. To be seen and realised. To be acknowledged and put to bed. Which makes sharing this work an embodiment of my learning that I need not be afraid, I need not be alone, I need not be anything but myself.

So I say it again, largely for the benefit of myself, it is one of my most powerful tools. And I take the hand of the little girl inside of me who is still very much afraid, and encourage her to be brave.

Reflections…

April 21, 2020

Three more weeks in lockdown – at least. Can I be totally honest and confess that a part of me is relieved? Primarily because my nervous system is without a doubt in the best place it’s been in ages, but also (and these things are strongly interrelated) because I’m moving so much more than I was, and I have buckets of newly-discovered time – which for me is one of the most precious resources of all.

I’ve been musing on what it is exactly that’s allowing me to see the situation in this way and so far I’ve landed on a few key things. Before I get to that though, let me be clear: I’m of course making a distinction between the lockdown and the virus and it is in no way is it my intention to take away from the seriousness of the situation we find ourselves in, nor the danger posed to so many. The broader picture of where we are right now is pretty grim and, even for us, the effects of the virus are starting to knock a little closer to home but, that said, I think the positive aspects of where we find ourselves deserve interrogation – particularly if we’re to learn from them going forward. 

Firstly then, as an introvert, an INFJ and a highly sensitive person I get easily overwhelmed by the world around me (though this is perhaps a surprise to many who experience me as being extremely capable in complex and stressful situations (see my previous post)). The huge reduction in the stimuli in my life as a result of the lockdown is having a significant and positive impact on my wellbeing – one that I can feel every single day. My breath is easier, my digestion better, my skin clearer, my mood (in general) happier. I mean I have no idea what I do with this realisation as we start returning to normality but I really can’t ignore how evident it has been. My nervous system, quite simply, has been rescued and I no longer spend anywhere near as much time hyped up in a sympathetic state.

Secondly, and massively interrelated with the first point, I have been moving SO much more than I do in my normal day-to-day life. And by moving I mean consciously engaging in movement practices – rather than racing back and forth to work, class and everywhere else – and expressing what I feel so that’s it not just all bound down inside of me. On top of my yoga, I’m dancing when I need to dance (it’s not always pretty but I’ve decided I don’t care!), running when I need to run, looning around making nonsensical shapes when it’s needed and I’ve even now ordered some boxing gloves and pads so I can work out my anger when that’s appropriate too. I talk ALL the time about sensing, seeing and feeling when I teach and I now get a chance to embody that in an infinitely broader sense than I was able to before.

Continuing the theme of expressing what you feel, I’ve journalled my morning pages almost every day since this began. They don’t need to make any sense and I never read them back but when I miss them the accumulation of ‘stuff’ in my body is palpable – case in point last Sunday when I had to run around the park (and I quote my own words) “like a highly strung dog that’ had just been let off its lead”. If you take one thing away from this post, perhaps make it this (the pages not the dog!) and see what kind of an impact it has on the way you feel.

Sunday aside, with my nervous system more balanced I’m better able to sustain quality interactions with friends, family and loved ones. The value in and regularity of the time I’m now spending with these people is far improved from before (even though it’s all online) and I’m treasuring our regular catch-ups in a really big way.

Another outcome of the time that’s now available (a result of both the lockdown itself, as well as the nervous system reset) is that I’m properly able to appreciate the small things in life. From taking lunch outside to bumping into students in the street (such a joy to connect with them as real-life humans and not just faces on a screen!) and seeing the garden develop day-by-day, it’s all so much more joyful than anything I was distracted by before. Furthermore, what I would have previously thought of as another tedious task to be completed (putting up pictures, watering the garden, cleaning the cats’ water fountain, even doing the dishes…) is now just a part of the richness of life. I’m not struggling to rush through these things just so I can finally sit down and that makes a massive difference to how they’re approached

And then finally… one last thing that I cannot ignore – the impact of, the glorious weather! My entire life I’ve been more alive in the warmth and the sunshine than in any other conditions and, while it’s impossible to quantify how much of an effect it’s having on my mood, I suspect it’s serving to significantly enhance the effects of everything else I’ve described above. Tomorrow I get to spend my entire birthday sitting in the garden in the sun – and I’ll take that as a celebration any day of the week.

So yes. For me the additional three weeks is not unwelcome, and I might even go as far to say that the thought of being allowed out again is actually more stressful for me than being told to stay in. Which isn’t to say I don’t have my moments (and I do believe there are probably even harder times ahead) but I’m learning so much right now about how I’d like to live my life if I could and I need more time to work out how that might be allowed to continue on in the future.

Am I alone? What’s your own experience? I’d love to hear how you’re all dealing with this lockdown so please do use the comments to share…

Download

March 20, 2020

It’s 5:30am. I’m awake and won’t sleep again until I’ve written this down.

I’ve been writing ‘morning pages‘ for a while now – not needing to write what I’ve written and overwriting my words as I go so that eventually it’s just one big garbled mess.

These past days however I’ve found myself scribbling down thoughts that don’t want writing over – that want to stand as they are. To date it’s been a practice of private catharsis but today it’s something else. Today it wants to be seen.

[Morning pages is a practice of offloading garbage thoughts – to clear your mind before starting the day and create space for creativity.]

We are not alone.

Because what I’m feeling this week is far from unique and it strikes me that there’s comfort for all of us in knowing we’re not alone.

This week has been tough. Really tough. And, despite appearances perhaps, I’ve struggled. I’ve not slept well since the weekend – and on Wednesday I wasn’t that far from a panic attack. My sense of wellbeing changes moment to moment. There’s been worry about income, and uncertainty around travel plans. I’ve lost some future work for sure with other work hanging in the balance. My (landmark… shhhh!) birthday celebration has been cancelled. And yet… there’s also been so much community, collaboration, connection. Plus, in our house, laughter and dancing too (you have to check out this coronavirus playlist on Spotify!).

[On the birthday front, I’m pretty sure it means I can stay 39 forever…]

What were streams of messages are now video calls (my raspy voice is testament to the amount I’ve been talking!). And so many beautiful souls have gathered around in SUCH a supportive way.

But there is no getting away from the fact that where we are right now is unprecedented and, quite frankly, bonkers. It’s no wonder we’re struggling.

I’m both built and not built for this.

Jaime and I joke about how it’d be fun to swap brains for a day (in truth I don’t really think he’s all that keen). Day-to-day, where he’s maybe holding onto a handful of thoughts, I’m grappling with what feels like a thousand. And where he can recognise experiencing perhaps a couple of emotions at a time, I could make one very long list. You can start to see why this week has been a challenge.

Some of this, for me, is there to be worked on. It’s important for my mental wellbeing that I ground myself in the moment and I continue to do that through my practices – whether journalling, movement, psychotherapy etc…

And yet what sometimes presents as problematic is also a source of power. Being able to hold all these thoughts and implications in my mind makes me an exceptional problem-solver and I’m pretty damn good in a crisis. Faced with any kind of ‘situation’, I’m already 10 steps down three or four different paths in my head as I decide what to do – meaning I’ve already unblocked many of the challenges that are about to present.

A case in point… Last Sunday, waking up with a sore throat, and realising that I probably shouldn’t be socialising with people, I put classes online for a week. And then, with Boris’s announcement on Monday, the problem-solving ability kicked up a couple of gears. We were online for the foreseeable, student comms were out, a community WhatsApp was up and running and social updates were live. Yay!

[Until Wednesday when I paid the price for all the adrenaline I’d been pumping…]

Another thing about me – I seem hard wired to help people. On Monday night, all I wanted to do was wrap my arms around everyone and hold their confusion, panic and concern. Which is essentially what I was doing – within my own sphere of influence. My first thought was PROVIDE. It comes from being a sensitive soul.

It’s a much-maligned quality however, and many people in my past have requested that I minimise it. That I “not be so sensitive”. Yet it’s also another superpower – I see and feel what others are experiencing (often regardless of whether they want that known) and am therefore able to help.

The flipside of this is that I tend to seriously overlook my own needs – again a contributor to that anxious Wednesday crash.

Rollercoasters.

All day Wednesday I wobbled – shortness of breath, panic, anxiety, tears… And then I turned the skills I’d been directing at everyone else in on myself – I breathed, moved, walked, journalled. And slowly things got better.

[In case you’re a Springsteen fan… I watched Blinded By The Light on Wednesday night – a great bit of light relief]

I felt better, slept better and woke in a markedly different place. And then promptly got into panic mode again when I totally forgot that teaching online required I actually send students a link at which to meet me!

What do we do about X? What if I have to cancel Y? Will Z be ok? I should call persons A, B, C, D…. My thoughts as I head off to sleep Thursday night.

This morning at silly o’clock I’m sat on the sofa writing this.

And then, later this morning, I dropped the marmite on our tiled kitchen floor – obviously it smashed. Jaime came home from a run to find a carrier bag of goopy marmite/glass mix on the counter and wryly asked ‘what did the marmite do to you?’. I became a little hysterical – firstly laughter, then tears then I don’t know – a muddle of it all together. We called it craughter…

In short, it’s SUCH a fricking rollercoaster and I know all of you are feeling this too. I suppose what I’m saying is, I see you. And I am you.

To those of you who seem to have seen all of this and have been reaching out with eerily timed messages, I am exceptionally grateful (I suspect you have some of this same ‘sensitive’ gene I do). If I’m managing to reach people as you’re managing to reach me I’ll be very happy.

Back to today…

Teaching online continues to be a journey. I said it at class last night but, even if I appear to have all this sorted out, I can assure you that I am very much still finding my way – just like everyone else. Sometimes classes will run really smoothly, other times it’ll be a bumpier ride.

It turns out I can’t teach back-to-back sessions – because holding this space online is exhausting, who knew! I need to drink more water, because talking all day is knackering my throat. I have to make more time for myself.

I’m off to take an online class myself now and, as I go, I’m reminded that I am not a superhero, no matter that every now and again it might feel that way. And neither are you.

Be gentle with yourself. Be soft, be forgiving and be patient.

Thank you.

I continue to be deeply grateful to all of you around me for standing by and supporting what I’m doing. And I will continue to support as many of you as I can – while continuing to resource myself deeply too.

Signing off with love,

Lis x

[I think it’s worth noting that though I picked up the laptop to write this directly this morning, the only way it would exit my head and land on the page was by putting pen to paper. As we continue to spend so much stuff online right now, there might be something in that to bear in mind…]

The case for slow…

November 18, 2017

Anyone in my classes will tell you that the past few weeks have been pretty slow. Fewer poses, longer holds, more consideration, more time to be.

Classes last week of course were an exploration of yin for many – after the week I spent in training with the fabulous Norman Blair. But even before then, and now since – a very definite movement towards slow. I joked the other day that it was a reflection of the dark outside but I actually think it’s a bit more than this.

Because life for so many of us (and I am very much included) is so, so very fast. Filled with all of the next things that need doing, and the next places that we need to be.

And even now as the days turn darker (there is a link – just not the only link!) we’re pushing ourselves to maintain our spring/summer levels of activity – and as Christmas approaches to perhaps do even more! No matter that at a deeper level we’re naturally programmed to do less.

So my practice, and by extension yours if you’re a student, is slowing.

And for it I feel infinitely better. More grounded, more at ease, more nourished, more able to make the right decisions – in every walk of life. I sincerely hope you feel it too.

Slow, right now, is definitely where it’s at. And if you’re not already trying it, maybe it’s time to give it a go!

Choices

June 25, 2017
Choices - yogalustco

For much of my life I’ve taken on responsibility for the choices made by those around me – people close to me, people not so close to me. Ultimately, I’ve made whatever people have thought of me (and how they’ve behaved towards me) my cross to bear.

I’ve made it my fault when they’ve chosen to attack rather than understand. I’ve made it my fault when they’ve assumed rather than asked. I’ve made it my fault when they’ve chosen to (whether quietly or loudly) judge rather than accept. I’ve made it my fault when they’ve decided to mock, not hold out a hand. In this latest walk of life, I’ve made it my fault when they’ve chosen him over me.

I’ve been judged to be too much, not enough and everything in between.

And all of it I’ve assumed responsibility for. Somehow my choices, my behaviours, my knowledge, my appearance, my love have not been enough for them. My ‘me’ has not been enough.

The thing is it’s not really my responsibility at all what other people choose to do or think, it’s theirs. Which, writing this today, seems pretty simple but somehow is a revelation that eluded me for years. Weird how sometimes the pieces just click.

Because I’ve been half a foot in one world and half a foot in another for all this time. And I wonder how many of us are doing similar – because we’re choosing to make others’ choices our own.

It of course can be a hurtful realisation in some senses – there are numerous times where people haven’t chosen to stand with me but against me, explicitly or otherwise. But being hurt by someone else’s belief that you’re somehow not good enough is far less painful than being hurt by you yourself believing you’re not good enough – which is what I’d been doing over and over. For years.

Perhaps it’s about time that stopped.

Intentions? Or goals?

Quite regularly at the beginning of class I’ll ask my students to think about their intention for that day’s practice. I often give them examples too – such as moving through the practice with ease, being kind to themselves, or working with a sense of the ground beneath their feet.

I’m conscious though that the idea of an intention is very easily confused with that of a goal, even though the two are vastly different. Sometimes I’ll try and explain this as I open class but other times I decide that there’s quite enough of me blathering on as it is!

Long story short then I decided to write it all down – so I can give people some food for thought before they come to class (and even if they’re not coming to class at all!).

Differentiating intentions from goals

A really simple way of differentiating intentions from goals is to remember that whereas intentions are internally-focused (about how your inner self relates with itself and others) and very much about the present moment, goals are externally-focused and driven by our desires for the future.

Put a different way, if an intention is about how we wish to behave, a goal is about what we want to achieve.

Let’s take an example – the age-old ‘I want to/need to/am going to lose half a stone’. It’s all about the destination (the future), and about how we appear to the outside world. ‘I’m going to make mindful decisions about what I eat’ on the other hand is both about the now (the present) and our internal decision-making processes – our relationship with ourselves.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, a set of (considered) intentions can actually help manifest the goals that we have set in life so it’s true that one may lead to the other (or it may not!) but crucially you can sense that there’s an authenticity, or truth, to the latter that just isn’t present in the former. There’s a kindness too – a more gentle touch.

Intentions guide us in our decision-making – not just once but many times, over and over. So to come back to the example, mindful decision-making about food is around for the long-term, whereas the half a stone weight loss is here and gone – forgotten once it’s achieved, or if never achieved at all providing us with yet another stick with which to beat ourselves.

Why intentions?

We tend to think that happiness is caught up in what we have or how we look – it’s perhaps why we have such goals in the first place. But the reality is that focusing on the external to affect the internal is, frankly put, a road to nowhere. There’s no happiness in this, bar a fleeting rush of adrenaline as the goal is achieved. And what happens next? You just set yourself another, and kick the whole cycle off again.

The reality is that true happiness is borne of living authentic, in touch with ourselves, lives. And one of the ways that we can facilitate this is in setting and living by intentions – because, when they are true and authentic, these intentions have immense power to both change the way that we live and to change our experience of life.

But how?

Now all this is well and good, but how do we go about setting our intentions? Let’s take a look…

We set goals by using the mind to create an apparently desirable picture of the future. So it stands to reason that to generate authentic intentions we have to bypass the mind, and get a bit deeper. Meditation is one way, and asana (the physical practice of yoga) another. Simply allowing oneself to exist in silence for a little while too can work – the common theme being the removal of distraction and tuning in to that subtler, harder to hear, voice within.

When we’re working on setting intentions and something arises say it out loud if you can, or test it quietly in your head if you’d rather. Remember that your intentions are meant to be guides not dictates, so check in with how it makes you feel. Empowered? Or disempowered? If the latter, it’s probably time to start again.

My own intentions

To conclude this entry then, how about a look at my own intentions? I have a number – including a few that I’ve been working with for some time! Here’s a quick peek:

  • I intend to make mindful decisions about what I do with my time (I’m prone to people-pleasing and exhausting myself doing the things I think others want me to do)
  • I intend to be kind to myself, to be my own best friend (I can easily be my own worst critic – and there’s really nothing more miserable and demoralising than listening to yourself give yourself a hard time)
  • I intend to find ease, in even the most difficult of situations
  • I intend to live a life that is authentically mine

What about you?

What are your intentions?

(And if you’re not quite sure perhaps this was the prompt you needed to begin an intention of exploring what it is to live from the inside out, rather than the outside in…)

yogalustco_loveandlight

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”  – Viktor Frankl

For the second time this year I’ve awoken to face the day only to find that our reality has shifted. In June it was Brexit and today it’s Donald Trump.

Now this isn’t a political site nor a political blog. But whatever your political and economic beliefs it is very hard to deny the intolerance that has underwritten both these campaigns. And it’s that intolerance that for me more than anything else is hard to swallow.

In yoga we recognise everyone and everything as possessing the same energy, the same light (if you’re more scientific perhaps reframe this as matter). And that likeness makes the idea of intolerance very alien. How, for example, can we choose to judge someone who is made of the same stuff as ourselves? How can we hate someone who fundamentally is the same as ourselves? How can we challenge their rights? How can we attack their freedoms?

Where in all of this is our humanity?

(Humanity being defined as ‘humans, collectively’ and/or ‘the quality of being humane – of benevolence’.)

Where is the collectiveness? The benevolence? Kindness? Compassion?

Patanjali’s yamas and niyamas teach us to be non-harming (ahimsa), to act from a place of truth rather than fear (sauca), to share and give back (asteya) and to dedicate our lives to living life with one eye on how it impacts the wider world and benefits the greater good (isvarapranidhana).

All I can really conclude this morning is that more than ever we have to dig deep and come together – celebrating our connectedness and finding similarity in our differences.

Find yourself a yoga class today – drop in, connect and find peace – ready to move forward again as one.

The power of equanimity

November 4, 2016
Equanimity_yogalustco

Equanimity. It’s a word I think about more and more these days, which in itself is interesting given that it’s not something that I would associate with the vast majority of my life to date. I’m (correction: I was) that person who got pulled from pillar to post by both her own feelings and those of the people around her. Who rode a rollercoaster of emotions every day – extreme highs and extreme lows all bundled in together. And who was probably a bit unpredictable to be around – my Dad once described me as lighting up a room, you just were never sure what colour that light was going to be…

But now…equanimity. Or for sure a growing amount of it.

Equawhat?

Simply defined (thanks Google!) equanimity is “calmness and composure, especially in a difficult situation”. There’s more to it than this though – you just have to dig a bit deeper.

Because this definition implies that it’s a transient state – something admirable to achieve in the face of a challenge, for example: ‘it was impressive to see that she remained equanimous in the face of such disastrous results’. But in Buddhism however, equanimity (upekkha) is described as one of four sublime states of mind (the other three being loving-kindness, compassion and sympathetic joy), not a passing thought or emotion but rather a “steady conscious realisation of reality’s transience”.

We try our hardest to grasp onto things and not let them go but – whether it’s happiness or hurt we’re so desperately trying to cling on to – the reality is that at the moment you reach for it, it’s already gone.

And if that sounds somewhat dry and boring, think again. There’s immense power (see my previous post on samtosa) in realising and accepting that the world around us, the reality we live in, is constantly changing – not just from day to day but second to second. Reaching for things that no longer exist encourages longing, makes us feel lost and engenders a belief that our lives are somehow lacking.

It causes us pain.

Living life with an understanding of the bigger picture however,  with full knowledge of its inevitable transience and change, provides us with space within which to not react to such things as pleasure and pain, success and failure etc. It allows us to develop a centred approach to life, from which we become less embroiled in events and emotions, and from which we can develop an inner strength and balance – that equanimous approach.

Freedom

Aware that our personal sense of well-being is entirely of our own making then, ultimately equanimity delivers us freedom.

Imagine that – finding a freedom to just be in the moment, without expectation. A freedom to experience, and be experienced just as we are right now. A freedom from all of our stories.

Sounds good to me…I’ll be continuing to cultivate this one (and introducing it to class too!).

All change!

September 11, 2016
All change!

Well. What a month it’s been!

I’ve been uber busy in work, uber busy with yoga, ramping up the running and trying my hand at being a website developer. It’s been a bit full-on if I’m honest, and, yes (not news to anyone who knows me), I’m a little bit exhausted.

But….it’s here! The new yogalustco website is live and I really hope you like it. It’s early stages yet and there’s plenty more to do, not least getting a new timetable and booking engine up and running. But for now a breather.

I’m (yay!) off paddle boarding this afternoon – a well-needed break – and then it’s back to work.

Thanks for being with me on the journey all.

With much love
Lisa

I loved you

June 18, 2016

I loved you.
You hushed me.

I loved you.
You stifled me.

I loved you.
You squashed me.

I loved you.
You mocked me.

I loved you.
You belittled me.

I loved you.
You shamed me.

I loved you.
You disrespected me.

I loved you.
You ignored me.

I loved you.
You denied me.

I loved you.
You abandoned me.

I loved you.
You broke me.

I left.
You blamed me.

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