Posts In: Self-realisation

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.

What’s in a name?

May 7, 2017

What’s in a name, huh? Apparently quite a lot actually – as I’ll unfold for you in today’s post. We jump about a bit so bear with me, and allow me to start with a story about a t-shirt I bought this week…

It’s a plain grey and fairly unremarkable t-shirt, apart from the word feminist emblazoned across the front. I wore it the day it arrived (isn’t that always a sign that you love something – when it’s on the minute it’s been bought?). I’m normally pretty blasé about slogan tees but this one is different somehow, because being feminist is a big part of who I am, and behind the word is a set of principles I believe in most strongly.

I believe in equal rights, and a just, contributory, fair society where we’re all judged very simply on who we are and how we behave as our most beautiful, unpolished, unedited, natural selves. I hate any suggestion that we should conform without good reason, and I loathe seeing judgement passed over others because somehow they don’t conform to a norm.

In this vein, I also believe in my right as a woman to be the sole ‘owner’ of myself – free to represent ‘me’ in any manner I wish, including by the name I wish.

Which brings us some way back to the point of this post.

Where names (and women’s names in particular) are concerned, I don’t believe that if you get married you should necessarily take your husband’s name. And I also don’t believe that you should necessarily adopt the title ‘Mrs’.

[Now that’s not to say I believe you mustn’t. If this is your choice, then of course it’s your choice – and I stand by what I said earlier on letting each other be our own selves, however that manifests. I have no beef whatsoever with this, and many of my friends have gone down this road. My feelings are that I don’t believe you should have to. So do what you want, not what you feel you should, and all kudos to you.]

Unsurprisingly then given the above, I was adamant when I got engaged that I wouldn’t be taking his name after marriage. And that the only transition in my title would be from Miss to Ms. Until somehow my mind was changed.

I was born Miss Lisa Nichols and on my wedding day I became Mrs Lisa Innes. And if I’m honest somewhere along the way I became excited about it too. The husband was never keen on me keeping my name, and definitely not keen on the Ms. – and nor were many others I mentioned it to either. So the alter ego that was in charge then (the one I called my ‘autopilot’ in this post almost a year ago now) got me on board.

Except then I got divorced. And immediately that this happened, I shifted from Mrs. to Ms. (which felt good!). I kept the Innes though – it was all too overwhelming to make any decisions about that – too unstable, too new, too raw and too turbulent. But things move on. And so today, 7 years since getting married and 3 years since getting divorced, I’ve begun the process of changing my name…again.

It’s taken such a time because I’ve been unsure of what to do with it to be honest. I’ve known I didn’t want my married name for some time, but reverting back to my maiden name has never seemed entirely right either (though it would be simpler!). Don’t get me wrong, I’ve toyed with the idea but it just bothers me on a number of levels. At a symbolic level for example, on the day I was married I was handed to somebody else and I don’t now want to be ‘handed back’. If there’s anything I’ve learned these past few years (full disclosure – am still learning) it’s how to be me and so I want a name that is representative of this individual self.

So it was no to Innes and no to Nichols.

[An aside… The former is hopefully easy enough to understand, the latter perhaps less so. For sure though there’s no hidden statement, or agenda. It’s simply that that person is gone – gone 7 years now – and I’ve grown and evolved so much since then that taking the name again is an impossible step backwards. It also feels to me like clouding what is a positive and empowering decision with something that seems like (though believe me it’s anything but) a showcasing of failure. Even just practically, facilitating a change back to my maiden name means producing my divorce certificate for all and sundry – which is something I’m not willing to do.]

Which means what then?

It’s been percolating for some time but now I’m sure. I’ll be changing my name to that of Ms. Lisa James.

It is a family name actually – from my Mum’s side – but there’s no hidden statement in that either. It’s a name that has roots for me but is one that I’ve not held before – which makes it at the same time new, forward-facing, and representative of an evolution of self.

If I’m honest some of the delay in me making the change this has been in not wanting to be seen to be making a choice between one parent and the other (my parents are also divorced) but I hope I’ve now been able to explain myself well enough to both that this is avoided (and if not then fingers crossed this post helps).

What’s also solidified it for me these past couple of months has been a speeding up of my understanding and acceptance of self. I’m finally ready to just be me. I know who that is, and I’m ready to give her a name.

So, James gives me ‘me’, James gives me roots, and James gives me my future. It’s not quite official yet but it’s coming. So hello Lisa James – I’m very pleased to meet you.

NB – my personal Twitter and Instagram handles have now changed so you’ll find me on both as @_lisjam. All other change will follow as the paperwork is signed, and official documents changed.

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!).

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.

A girl has no name

May 31, 2016

So it’s been a while…
…27 days to be precise.

Because, after a prolific couple of months, it’s fair to say my blogging activity has taken a bit of a nosedive. Which you might assume is due to being ‘blogged out’…but in actual fact boils down to what you might call a crisis of identity. A face-off, if you will, between an autopilot that seems to have been running the show for some time and an authentic self that is straining to find her voice.

As you may already know from earlier posts this last couple of years has been a period of significant change for me. Change that, with hindsight, was likely driven by a rebelling of this authentic self, but change that, in reality, has been pretty organic – led by my gut rather than any rational thought.

From leaving my marriage to re-engaging with yoga to enrolling on YTT, it’s all been instinctive. Almost non-negotiable too if I’m honest – things I’ve simply had to do, whether I understood the reasons or not.

But nowadays there seems to be a maturing of this authentic self (I like to call her the ‘me’ me – or mimi, for the fun!) as she realises that to effect long lasting change she’s going to have to take a more active role in life.

But the thing is, the autopilot is strong – significantly older than mimi, quite shouty and very deeply entrenched. And pretty much whenever I’m in doing mode (as opposed to being, the simplest explanation of which I found here) this is what takes over.

Which means that though mimi (me in my heart of hearts, in my very soul) no longer wants to accept being pushed to one side – benched in favour of the familiar – she’s not really sure how to go about changing things. Because even though the old (autopilot) patterns of behaviour have been falling away for some time now, no proven replacements yet exist.

A therapist I recently visited said she recognises this tearing up of old patterns as a distinct stage in a transformation journey that usually happens about two years in (interesting that it’s two and a half years now since I left my old life). A friend of mine though put it in plainer terms – likening it to untying yourself from the harbour only to realise you’re at sea without a map!

IMG_1503

So I have a strong sense at the moment of her reaching to assert her authority but coming up empty-handed as she tries to find the tools (something this therapist is going to try and help with). Which of course helps explain why I’ve been feeling a bit voiceless these past couple of months (well the true me anyway). And why I probably seem a bit more withdrawn, and harder to get hold of, than might be usual.

It’s not that I’m ignoring anyone. Or even that I’m in a bad place. It’s just that I don’t quite know how to be this new me – and if I don’t give her the space and time she needs to consider what, how, or where she might contribute I’ll be back to that autopilot all over again.

 

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.

X

 

 

Some of the negative feelings I was having towards myself last week (see ‘Let it go’) hinged almost entirely on things that someone else had told me about myself. But the thing is, I know that path is a doomed one – I do know better than that.

In the past couple of years, I’ve come to understand who I am. Not who I’ve been told I am, nor who people might think that I am, but – deep down – who I really am.

I also know what I want to do and I know what makes me happy. (And sad, and calm, and angry of course. As well as everything in between.)

I know that the only one in control of how I feel, and how I behave, is me.

And I know that I’m now a more authentic, and better, me. Who has more authentic and better life.

But of course it’s not all quite that simple and rosy. Because even when we’ve identified that better and truer self, there are things we’ve been told about ourselves (as seen last week) that hang around and rear their ugly heads, often at the most inopportune of times. Not to forget insecurities we’ve grown attached to that come back to haunt us, unwanted and unbidden. All of which can trigger a host of negative thoughts and inauthentic behaviours that we end up pretty ashamed of.

Maybe these moments don’t quite veer us off our path (although sometimes this too) but they most definitely jar with us and create some uncomfortable discord.

It’s not just the scenario I talked about last week either, where some negativity from an old relationship came back to haunt me. It can also happen with more innocent, even well-meaning, things…

Just a couple of examples…

  • My Dad sees me as a chip off the old block whereas I know I’m similar but different. Often this leads to friction on my part and I react badly (in ways I don’t respect) to not being seen as an individual.
  • Plus, while we’re on the subject of parents, mine always wanted to see me be the best at things, which I think contributes to my sometime tendency to look to others for validation about performance. (Even today, I reached out to Dad to say some yoga teaching had gone particularly well and when the desired validation didn’t come it made me feel (albeit momentarily) like I wasn’t good enough. Though I know I am. And I know that the satisfaction I get from teaching far outweighs any external validation I could receive anyway! But even knowing all this I slipped back into that old pattern…)

[Interlude: that sounds like a pile of of parental issues there but I assure you I had a very happy childhood, and I have very lovely parents! The point I’m making is that there’s all this life detritus, from everywhere, around us that we have to work through and process to uncover the true us inside.]

Self-observation and self-awareness

Self-observation and self-awareness of course is the key (and a lack of negative self-talk – that horrible, mean little voice in your head). Which, yes, requires work. But it’s work that’s essential if you’re to understand yourself and separate what is really, truly you from all the noise, finally finding fulfilment and living a life that you can be both proud of and at peace with.

It makes sense, no? In understanding yourself – your positive and negative traits, your strengths and weaknesses, your core values and desires – you know both what is you and what isn’t you plus you can recognise those triggers that set you off down an inauthentic path.

It’s one of the reasons I’ve come to love yoga so much: it’s helped me practise standing back – to simply observe, and come to understand. And of course, as  T.K.S. Desikachar said, “Yoga is the practice of observing yourself without judgment.” so it helps with that too.

It’s also taught me how to find space, within which to pause and decide how to act.

But even if you’re not (yet!) sold on yoga, you can start to understand yourself better, and begin finding your own truth by asking a couple of simple questions:

What does the real you – the best you – look like? How do they behave?

What about the circumstances that allow this person to be?

Plus the flip side:

What does that ‘not you’ version of you look like? And how do they behave?

Then…what about the circumstances that allow this person to be?

Then with answers to these questions you can start to identify where you might make changes in your life – to better align with your truth, and allow your true, best self to thrive.

My own best self

My best self is a caring, creative and soulful person – intuitive and sensitive to those around her. She’s passionate, present, calm and positive. Driven to helping others and making a contribution to the world.

My not so good self is often short, snappy and impatient. Incredibly negative towards themselves. And too quick to judge others too.

For me to be my best self, I have to step back and live to what I today saw described as my natural rhythm – plan downtime, protect my boundaries, address conflict and avoid negativity. Be capable of saying no when it’s needed, of listening to my body always and of investing in me-time as required. Switching off from social media! Reading. Doing yoga. Getting out to run. Writing. And, importantly, spending time in the outdoors.

I have to eat well (and avoid gluten!). To surround myself with only those people who make me feel good. To not worry too hard about trying to please everyone. To celebrate imperfections – both mine and everyone else’s.

To check in with myself and decide my own response to a situation. And to be ok with whatever that is (no judgement or negative self-talk remember!).

There’s still a way to go of course, but what’s most important is that I’m working on it. And I know that I’m my best version now, far more than I was before. Plus, it’s a journey right – a lifelong goal. And a good one, I think too – after all, it’s all any of us can really hope for isn’t it, to be the best self we can be?

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