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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.

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

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