Posts In: Musings

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.

Lessons from lessons

June 12, 2016

As is pretty normal in my world (being INFJ and all), I was busy running hundreds of disparate thoughts around my mind as I walked to work one morning this week, when a number of them converged to form the basis of this blog post:

  • An instagram challenge – #invertalert – that I’ve been participating in this month (where I attempt an inversion a day and post a corresponding picture)
  • A blog post I read about taking responsibility for the way you view the world (credit where credit’s due – shared with me by the other half)
  • The lessons I’ve been learning from teaching over the past couple of months

think it all started with the Instagram challenge but in truth it was likely overlaid with the worldview blog post too. But I guess the roots of it aren’t really what’s important…

Because whether you want to call them Instagrammer yogis or yogi Instagrammers – people who post yoga selfies on Instagram get a pretty bad rap. And it only takes a quick Google of the term “yoga selfies” to prove it. The general argument? It’s not ‘yogic’. To quote this article, it “inspires lust and desire” and results in us “trivializing yoga” while in this one they’re simply classed as both “creepy and hypocritical”.

So I’m thinking about all this in relation to this Instagram challenge and wondering if I’m doing a bad thing by participating in it… Am I a hypocrite? Am I somehow bringing shame to the practice? Am I indeed less of a yogi for it?

And then (so perhaps the Instagram thought did come first!) I transitioned to Benjamin Hardy’s worldview article – remembering not only how I’d agreed with his statement that “Whether you’d like to admit it or not, you’ve chosen your beliefs.” but how its closing lines had included the statement “What will you believe?”

So what did I believe? What did I choose to believe?

I needed to answer the question of why I was participating in the challenge – why I was posting all of these selfies online. And I’ll tell you what I realised – it’s got nothing to do with showing off! Just as in no way is it about trivialising yoga. Rather it’s about growing my own practice, developing my focus, building a fitness and strength that enhances and deepens my (very personal) asana practice and that, in turn, enables me to make better inroads towards a consistent and beneficial meditation practice.

And am I alone in this? Not at all. Because if you take a proper look at what’s going on with yoga selfies on Instagram what you’ll see is this enormous, global, community of people working and learning together. Practising together. And teaching…together.

Which does not (in my opinion!) deserve a bad rap.

These people, in general, aren’t pretending to be perfect but being open and honest about their fallibility and the challenges faced in both achieving their poses and completing the prep work required to get there

Which took me to my teaching and the lessons I’m learning from my lessons…

Because I teach from a place of absolute honesty – where I’m just as fallible as my students, and where we work together to achieve things. Which means that when I’m teaching them something that I find difficult I’ll say so – chaturanga (or as one of my students calls it, “no”) being just one of a number of examples. And when someone in class is strong at a particular pose we’ll examine why – so that we can all learn something along the way.

And I’m learning that this is the only way I want to teach. Inclusively. Accessibly. Authentically.

I’m teaching not because I want to help people look great. Or become more bendy. Or feel like they’re a cool yogi type who can wear fancy leggings. I’m not even teaching to make money! Instead I’m teaching because I want to help positively affect people’s lives – my students directly by improving their wellbeing and mental health, and then others in the world by bringing more yogis into being. And if that sounds a bit sucky then I’m sorry, but that’s just the way things are.

As is the fact that I’ll be continuing with #invertalert (with some less than perfect yoga selfies below to prove it!).

Tim…

April 30, 2016

…I’ve had this post written in my mind for a while. Because, whatever you may think, my feelings for you are still largely love, patience and compassion.

First things first, let me say happy birthday – 33 today! Believe it or not, I do still wish you happiness and I hope you’re being well looked after by those around you, today of all days.

I’ve sent you a message of course – I always do – but no doubt it will fall on deaf ears which is why, unfortunately, I no longer send cards or gifts (this goes for your daughter, my niece, too). Because there’s only so long that you can keep doing something and be ignored.

Which means that this year I’ve instead decided to write you a blog post – something honest, transparent and hopeful. And yes, perhaps you won’t read it but at least it’ll be here in the future for you – when you’re finally ready.

It’s been over two years now – almost as many months as you have in years – since our relationship broke down to nothing at all, and even longer since it first hit the rocks. We don’t have other siblings – it’s just me and you. And we don’t have another family – so it’s this (in all its craziness) or nothing. But even knowing this you’d rather cut me out, which makes me more sad than words can say.

How the hell did we get here? Why is it still going on? If past conversations are anything to go by you’ll no doubt say it’s my fault but I can’t believe that you really think that – not in your heart of hearts.

Its roots are in that time just after June 2010 – when I’d come back from honeymoon and when you were splitting up with R. We talked (remember we used to talk?) and it turned out that you were attracted to someone else and had decided it was time to move on. R was a part of our lives though (she’d been with you for what, 7 years?) and you made it clear that you wanted everyone to move on peacefully, with all of us staying friends.

The whole split, and new relationship, was tumultuous to say the least. But we continued to talk – often for hours – as you looked to me to help you navigate your way through.

But quite suddenly everything shifted. And everything I did or touched became wrong. I can pinpoint the exact moment things changed – your new girlfriend was moving in, you’d had a huge argument and again you and I had talked things through. I was obviously concerned that you were ok but when I checked in with you the next day, there was nothing but silence. And after that, we were done – our relationship was quite simply no more.

Yes we spoke in the years following but it was always underlined by tension. And a sense that I somehow didn’t measure up for you any longer. Where we had once spoken regularly we now barely spoke at all. And where we’d have once happily spent fun weekends together, it became that we rarely even saw each other – and when we did the time generally maxed out at an hour.

For probably around four years we existed in what I can only refer to as a twilight zone, and then came January 2014. When my birthday gift for your daughter arrived late, my whole life fell apart (and yes, if you think for a second, maybe you’ll draw a line between the two) and you cut me out of your life.

I don’t think there’ll ever be a time to voice all the pain and hurt of these last 6 years, though there’ll always be time to talk about the joy of the previous 27.

We have a long, involved, sometimes complicated and at times frustrating history Tim but I will always love you, and I will always be here for you. I just hope that, as well as the history, we also have a future.

With love
Lisa

Volcanoes and lifeboats

April 26, 2016

Just as I sit down to start writing this post I realise I have a meeting starting in 10 minutes and the tears well up in my eyes. Because I’m angry. And upset. And though all I want to do is write it out, instead I have to put it all to one side and put the ‘everything’s great’ mask back on again.

Which, quite frankly, pisses me off even more (sorry Mum). I spend so much of my life worrying about other people. Putting them first. But when the hell am I supposed to make time for myself?

I’m fizzing like a volcano, ready to erupt and I have no idea of what to do. If I try and absorb it it’ll eat me up but if I let it out I’ll surely regret it later. And it’s clear I need to do something. Because right now, it’s just manifesting itself all over the place!

Over the weekend when the other half was beeping the car horn every time we came to a tight corner driving down to the beach.

Last night as I should have been enjoying my Skype call with a friend in Amsterdam.

Super early this morning when the cats would not stop banging the cupboard wanting to be fed. And when I saw one of the phones having been plugged in overnight to charge…again.

And now later this morning as I’m going about my day.

Coming back to last night for a minute, I was looking at my notes from the last training weekend for the first time in an age when I freaked out on realising there was a task there I’d forgotten about. A teeny, tiny task in truth, but it tipped me over the edge. I reached out to my fellow trainees for some love and support and within minutes was being calmed and soothed by their awesomeness (and a whole raft of boat emojis…).

We’re all in the same boat was the message (hence the emojis…). And we could rely on these friendSHIPs (pun shamelessly stolen from one of them!) to get us through. It made me feel better of course but one thing in particular got me thinking.

One of the group suggested that my panic might perhaps be stress from another area of life. Stress that was manifesting itself here because it was only here that I felt it to be acceptable. And yes, she’s absolutely right. Because, in fact, if I was left to my own devices to get on with it is I need to do I’d be perfectly calm and content.

Which leads me to the root of the stress. The cause behind my angst.

[Prepare yourselves!]

I’m angry with my brother who hasn’t spoken to me for years and who has suddenly decided that it’s time to turn the treatment he gave me on my Mum, the woman who’s done nothing but be there for him his entire life.

I’m angry that my Dad didn’t get a card in the post for my birthday this Friday just gone. And that despite him saying he’d call me about perhaps meeting up that afternoon he never did. Particularly because he had plenty of time to take my brother to London on the weekend and I’m now scrabbling around trying to find a convenient time for him to meet me – all for him to say happy birthday.

I’m angry following a contact update meeting yesterday that my other’s half’s kids continue to curtail our freedom in seeing each other whenever we’d like. That they insist on referring to me as a wicked witch and making out that I couldn’t be more horrid if I tried. That they seem to forget that it’s my car driving them around and my input that helps make sure they have good and fun weekends, Christmases and birthdays.

I’m annoyed with his ex, who is one of the most selfish people I’ve ever known and has dragged this situation out for over two years, playing manipulative and harmful little games with no thought to anyone else, kids included.

I’m mad at him for making me love him so that I simply cannot (and don’t want to) walk away.

And I’m mad at myself, for being mad at all these people and situations! Because it’s a shameful emotion isn’t it, anger? At least that’s the belief I seem to have picked up somewhere along the way. But even that aside, there’s almost always something worse going on in the world (another friend is trying to save her husband’s life!) and there’s also inevitably a flip side that means you shouldn’t actually be angry at all.

Talking of which…

My brother is controlled by his partner and I don’t think has much say in anything he does. Which means I can’t blame him can I?

My Dad has a lot on his mind and, regardless, is notoriously bad at remembering to call when he says he will. I know this – have always known this. So I simply shouldn’t expect anything else. Plus, it’s just a birthday, and I’m not a child!

The kids are all under 10, don’t know any better and, in truth, are being blindly led by their mother. They’re kids. What kind of awful person gets mad at kids?!

His ex’s feelings for me are entirely my/our fault. This is my cross to bear.

[Addendum 27/4/16: this is my cross to bear but not when the vitriol is channeled via three innocent children]

And him. He’s just lost his Mum. Is there anyone I should be getting less mad with right now? I’m sorry my love.

So. I have lots of friendSHIPs but I right now I need a lifeboat – before I lose it entirely and hurt someone along the way. Answers on a postcard (please)…

Body image

April 7, 2016

I always knew that somewhere on this blogging journey I’d end up writing a post about body image. And then yesterday it got very naturally bumped up the priority list.

Wednesday is one of my teaching days and so I was up early yesterday morning, getting dressed in my leggings and (somewhat figure-hugging) vest in readiness for class. I remember catching sight of myself in the mirror and thinking how “I’d better remember to keep my belly tucked in today” but before I could really dwell on it I was out of the house, getting on with business.

rsz_img_1077So I get to the office, and I’m running around prepping mats and props and belts and the like, when I see someone who usually comes to class but who couldn’t make it this week. I was busy trying to persuade her to borrow my mat and come and join in when she gave me a bit of an ‘up and down’ look.

Instantly I remembered the earlier ‘belly’ thought and went to suck it in. A questioning look must have passed over my face though, as pretty much immediately she exclaimed “oooh, you’re so teeny!”. The exact opposite of what I’d assumed…

“Really?” I said, “But look at my belly!!”
“What are you talking about?!” she said
“Look at it” I insisted, “If you looked at me from the side you’d think I was pregnant!”
“Are you crazy?!” she responded
“I guess we’re all crazy” I said as I left to go and teach.

It was a funny exchange and we had a good laugh about it but it’s true, we are all crazy when it comes to body image, and we have a totally messed up way of looking at ourselves. But in spite of knowing it’s crazy, we all continue to do it – make these judgements about ourselves that really we ought to look like something, or someone else.

So how do we stop the crazy? How do we not pass it on? How do we help ourselves, and others, to think differently about it all?

We put all of this pressure on what we look like, but we don’t think about how we’re functioning. We don’t look to our bodies for example, and ask what they can tell us about what’s going on in our lives – even though the body is such a great indicator of how healthy, in the holistic sense of the word, our lives are.

It tells us pretty quickly if our lives aren’t in a good place, and can speak volumes about where our stress levels are at, how happy we are and how nourished we might be. For me, imbalance manifests itself in digestive issues, eczema, dizziness and exhaustion. It’s all symptomatic of other things going in my life, yet normally when I look at my body I’m not asking “How are you? What can I learn from you?”, but rather “Hmmm, how fat/thin are you looking today?”.

I know that since increasing the amount yoga I do, I’ve put on weight. I have a bigger bum (more junk in my trunk as a friend of mine would say!) and bigger legs and, all in all, I’m carrying around about 10lbs (4.5kg) of extra weight. Sometimes I get a bit miserable about it but the truth is I’m stronger, less prone to injury, less tired and less weak.

And as I’ve covered before, I’m also getting less crazy. Which means that, most of the time, I can recognise the extra ‘junk’ for what it is – muscle, not fat, and eminently healthy muscle at that.

Other times, I wake up in the morning thinking I’m the size of an elephant! Which I know is utterly ridiculous. Just as I know I can’t possibly be slim one day and overweight the next – whatever my mind might say! So if it’s not physical, if it’s in the mind, it has to be controllable or ‘let go-able’…

Which means it can be stopped. Stopped from being a measure of how capable, competent and successful we are. And stopped getting in the way of us doing things. We’ve got to put all of this to one side, and just get on with life!

I read an interview with Cameron Diaz earlier, about ageing and, though on a slightly different topic, she said one thing that I thought was really pertinent:

“We don’t have to do this to each other and we don’t have to do it to ourselves… We need to start honouring ourselves and honouring each other, instead of beating ourselves up and judging other women.”

And I have to say it’s been interesting to see how my own body image has evolved these last few months. Well these last couple of years really, but the shift has definitely sped up since I started YTT and began getting much more philosophical about everything in life. The old negativity and obsession about conforming to a certain ideal isn’t gone, definitely not (see the elephant thoughts above!), but I do have much more peace with it.

Again from Cameron Diaz:

“We, as individuals, are the only ones who can release ourselves from the burden of feeling like we need to be something that we can’t be.”

In ‘living’ yoga I find myself releasing from it all… But even in this community it can be a challenge. I use Instagram and as soon as I started tapping into the yoga community there, I saw all of these slim, beautiful people, in beautiful clothes, doing amazing yoga poses in amazing places. And because you follow these accounts, you get led to more… And before you know it you’re on a path where yoga has somehow become about aspiration, and desire. Which it is absolutely not.

There’s a whole host of talk and discussion about where this all stems from, and whether it’s teachers themselves that are driving it, with a level of irresponsibility in their teaching. But arguably it has as much to do with the people following this stuff as those who are being followed. Because there are actually inordinate numbers of people on Instagram posting about yoga (19,836,823 posts with the hashtag #yoga when I just checked) – not all of them skinny, in beautiful places, wearing beautiful clothes.

Perhaps then, if you’re already inclined to give yourself a hard time about your body, you somehow get led down this road of only seeing and engaging with the stuff that you think represents what you ‘should’ be. The stuff you (mistakenly -see this post from Rachel Brathen aka Yoga Girl) think represents happy, and successful.

I myself have added quite a lot of variety recently to my followers – from the (inspirational – read some of their posts) plus-sized @mynameisjessamyn and @glitterandlazers to a whole raft of ordinary people doing yoga at home in their PJs (@rudabagel_, @movewithjude, @aareeliitaa…)! I think once you understand (or more to the point are able to hold on to the understanding) that yoga isn’t about being beautiful, tall and toned but actually setting aside all that is not significant or not-‘Self’ (in the words of Patanjali, “the restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff”) you become open to other images and role models in life.

Which in turn helps you to back off a little, from all this crazy body image stuff. But it’s a work in progress, of course, as is everything!

I can’t be the only one thinking all of this – I’d love to hear your own stories below…

I’m sat in the sunshine, in a park looking down over Bristol, at the end of the third day of my second stint of yoga teacher training (YTT). There’s been a lot to process already and I find myself taking a moment of reflection, on what a privilege it is to be on this journey.

I wrote already about the first weekend of training, back at the end of February. It was both hugely intense and exhausting – not just because of the sheer amount of information that needed to be learned, but because of the newness of the situation, people and environment too.

And this weekend is again proving to be intense, educational and illuminating…but in a completely different way.

There have been plenty of truths and the most honest of sharing (I’m not sure I’ve ever been surrounded by so many wonderful and open people) but, as we’ve worked each day through asana (physical postures), pranayama (breathing practice) and svadhyaya (study of the sacred yoga scriptures), there’s also been a shifting of prana (or energy) that’s resulted in outpourings of emotion from a number of the group. Myself included.

No-one else’s story is for me to tell of course; mine however is thus…

I travelled to Bristol as usual, but this time left behind my other half who has very recently lost his Mum. I was due to spend the three overnights here but, for the first evening, I travelled back to be with him. I could feel something brewing even as I drove home that evening – a rawness in my chest and throat that I could identify as emotion but that I was, as yet, unable to really define. As I arrived home and got into the flat it seemed to pass – only to resurface the next morning on the 45-minute drive back.

In our morning circle on day one, it turned out there’d been lots of ‘wobbles’ during our time apart – with doubts around capability and capacity creeping in. I however was feeling grounded, and shared with everyone how secure and firm I felt, and how certain I was about my choices and path.

By day two however, everyone seemed to have again found their feet. Apart from me who was apparently losing them! Even as I talked things through that morning, I sensed a stirring of the emotion I’d been carrying around – even though for now it still seemed rooted where it was. I explained the feelings to the group and warned of possible tears to come. Still, I had no idea of what it was.

Talking to Laura that morning I came to understand the feeling as a shifting of prana that had likely been ‘unlocked’ through practice (also known as a kriya, or physical manifestation of kundalini), something unresolved within me that was now releasing. It was ok, she told me, to be unable to identify its source – some of these locked-up energies are formed during very early experiences and might potentially never be named.

So with that I settled into the day…

That afternoon we began discussing Patanjali and the 8 limbs of yoga, in particular the ten yamas and niyamas (or restraints and observances) that should guide a yogis life. Splitting into pairs we each took a couple to discuss before feeding our thoughts back to the group. Then, as we worked around the group, each pair making their contribution, it came. A flood of tears that though not entirely unforeseen did still seem to erupt from nowhere -one minute I’d been absolutely fine, but then the next there were all these tears.

And as they came I slowly started to identify their source. We were discussing ten pieces of guidance about how to live (not at all dissimilar to the ten commandments): ten simple, basic principles of living that are core to yoga, and that I also identify with as core to my being.

[Very briefly – there’s a later series coming on these – we’re talking about things like not harming yourself or others, respect and self-respect, community, sharing, compassion…]

But not always, I realised, had these principles been applied to me. And, in particular, my marriage had been full of instances where they were rather flagrantly ignored. I was told by my husband that he simply didn’t like some parts of me. I was told that I was clumsy. Jokes were made at what I felt was the expense of others. And in other aspects of life I was judged too. My driving. My social life. My desire to spend time together…

It wasn’t like this to begin with I don’t think, but it’s definitely there in the latter years. And not just once in a blue moon either, but with a fair level of frequency. Enough that, as I look at it now, I know it was a large contribution to my leaving.

The not liking parts of me thing was repeated. And about more things than I care to remember or write down.

Then the clumsy thing – which at first was a bit of a joke. And if I’m honest I think that, as women, our periods can often be accompanied by a bit of general spaciness or loss of spatial awareness. So maybe in some instances it was true. But it became a ‘thing’. And I was just clumsy – always clumsy. I often thought (and objected) towards the end that this was a self-perpetuating statement – in telling me I was clumsy, he was making me clumsy – but by then the damage was done.

Any time we went somewhere and I drove, my driving would be scored out of 10 at the end (and I was criticised throughout for the slightest of errors). Unsurprisingly my driving became more nervous, and the errors more frequent. I asked for it to stop. Explained again that it was self-perpetuating, this repeated statement that I was a somehow lacking as a driver.

My social life wasn’t big enough. I didn’t pursue people for new friendships. I should go do things with this person, or that person. Be part of this club. Join that society…. I’ve written before about discovering I’m introverted but at this time in my life I simply had no idea – I just became accustomed to the idea that I was lacking again, albeit this time in social skills. And instead of being supported and assisted I was, in a way, told to sink or swim. Get on board or stay home alone. Which I often did.

I remember talking to my Mum about this, a number of times. About how I felt alone, and worried for our future. About how my husband didn’t understand my desire to spend time with him. He’s not an introvert of course and was out all the time, doing his thing while I languished at home living on a diet of TV.

The thing is though I knew nothing of this bigger picture at the time. Each instance of disregard for me was just a teeny tiny thing. But in time those teeny things become bigger noticeable things: a general lack of comprehension about who I was; a flagrant disregard for my wishes and feelings; an absolute offloading of responsibility onto me for the various ‘stuffs’ of life – washing, ironing, travel plans, groceries…

A number of situations I remember clearly:

His brother’s wedding. I was new to the family; he was the best man. I was hugely intimidated by the thought of a day meeting all these new people (there were so many guests, one of them collapsed and needed medical care!) without him by my side yet he couldn’t even bring himself to help me understand how (and with whom) I’d be travelling to get there. I protested; he said I was silly.

My brother. There’s been an ongoing issue between me and my brother for years (again, more on this another time!) and, to cut a very long story short, my then-husband simply never had my back once.

And sausages! This is a little silly, but strong relationships are built in the little things as well as the big ones. I was a most-time vegetarian, because I didn’t like the texture of meat, but I did have a penchant for the kinds of things that lots of proper carnivores scoff at – Big Macs, for example, and a particular brand of sausage. We’d go to stay with family members and he’d tell them I’d eat sausages but never explain the idiosyncrasies of it. I asked every time but nope. I’ve lost count of the number of occasions I’ve forced down a cooked breakfast that I couldn’t stand just so as not to appear rude. I couldn’t make a fuss – it’s an introvert’s worst nightmare being a figure of attention like that – and so I’d ask him to explain beforehand, to pave the way in advance of a visit. But he’d just brush it off. It was another thing he couldn’t understand and therefore just chose not to listen to my request.

So there it is – big things, and little things. But in the whole one massive thing that resulted in me leaving my relationship.

As I explained on Yoga Teacher Prep, I met someone else and hurt a lot of people, and of course I would go about things differently if I had the time again. I lost friends and family over it, I was called all kinds of names, and I was judged in all kinds of ways. But you know what I realised in that session yesterday? I was not being treated very well in that marriage and it had compromised me at my very core.

But I just didn’t understand any of this at the time. And it was the most confusing place.

I still don’t think I’m done understanding it if I’m honest, but for the first time in two years I feel a sense of peace, resolution and compassion towards myself in relation to it all. Carrying around guilt is exhausting – today I feel some of that lifting and I move forward with life cleansed of an awful lot of negativity.

There may be people reading this who know both me and him, and who perhaps question my telling of events (unfortunately, those who are no longer my friends will probably never read it!) . All I can say to that is imagine for a second that you are a building, remembering that buildings are only ever as strong as their foundations. Your foundations however have been chipped away at, piece by tiny piece, day after day. What do you think would happen in that situation?

I also ask that they take a minute to reflect on the person I am today – how peaceful and calm I am in comparison to what I was. Then perhaps they might see that something bigger than just my infidelity was going on.

Love is love is love. And you love all of someone or not at all. I know that now, I knew that then. But I’m stronger today – more self-aware, self-reflective and self-respecting.

Time to move onwards and upwards.

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