I took a much needed full week off last week. Hands down this is one of the best things I've done for myself in quite a while. I haven't had a solid week off in over a year. While I have two vacations planned this summer I knew I needed to take a week to myself to go and visit my family in Ohio. The last trip I made was literally for one day at Christmastime. It was way too short. I needed to drop my anchor in the place where I come from, the place where I often feel I can truly just find some solid rest. Seeing my family was something I knew would feed my soul.
An interesting thing happened to me while driving with my dogs on the 7 1/2 hour car ride-my mind drifted to all things of the past. I knew on this trip I would be visiting my old college stomping grounds to see one of my best friends and her new family...immediately my mind went back to the time we spent together in college. It was as if I had found the switch in my brain to time travel. I was feeling all of the sensations that I had once felt as I remembered the summer between sophomore and junior year, one I would consider to be the best summers of my life. Those memories flooded my soul and felt just like they had happened yesterday. I found myself laughing, crying, questioning, and grieving for the past. This ended up being the theme for most of my trip, this vivid journey into the past.
It was perspective that I so badly needed. I use to travel into the past and feel some resentment, anger, loss, and even had the sense of "I'm better than that person I used to be." On this trip I found myself really resting on the past, for the first time being able to see how the past served me and made me who I am. I saw my former 22 year old self, and for the first time was able to thank him for his experiences, forgive him for the things I wish he would have done differently, and still recognize that without him I wouldn't be where I am now. A large part of me (more of this is in my book that I'm writing) felt I had lost that carefree 21/22 year old me...and as I drove through my old college campus and teared up, I realized that I was happy because he was finally starting to come back into my life in new and exciting ways. I was able to see the bridge from my past into my current life. I could see the connections, and how it all started to piece together. What a relief to me, and what a sweet way to rest. It was that delicious moment of pause that I have longed for.
We often yearn for our past because we feel that a part of ourselves was lost. As we get older and become more "responsible" we start to forget to have a sense of play and fun in our lives. We lose the mystery that comes along in life. That play and mystery is very present in our younger selves. I was always grieving for that 22 year old who didn't care what tomorrow brought, who didn't have a 10 year plan, who rode with the wind and felt free, who didn't sulk over every artistic and creative choice. I kept seeing myself in my present life as someone who was too careful, planned too much (though hates it), who needed to have a solid black and white answer for all questions, who needed to have one career path (how can you be a yoga teacher and an artist??), and mostly someone who needed to put the weight of the world on his shoulders and work so hard otherwise it didn't matter. In the past year there has been much transformation in my life. One of the organic things that has really happened to me is the bridge from the past me to present me has started to really take shape. I am finding myself being more spontaneous, being less black and white, finding more vigor in being my authentic self, and mostly finding that I am letting go of the idea of a "final" picture (it doesn't exist). How did all of this realization come to me in a week?
I RESTED. I didn't sleep long 10 hour nights of sleep like I imagined I would as I left for Ohio. I felt so exhausted that I was just imagining myself lingering in a deep sleep with no alarm for hours. In fact I was surprised when I awakened early every day and had energy. But I made the conscious choice to truly REST for a week...which meant listening to myself, not answering any emails that could wait, disconnecting from my phone for hours at a time, not practicing yoga every day, giving myself permission to eat what I wanted to eat without worry, taking naps, spending time with those I love, and sitting on my ass and watching tv. It was because of that vacating from my normal life that I was able to step away, get perspective, and see where things truly were in my life. Of course we don't want to just wait until we have a vacation to rest, this is something we need to put into our every day lives. Most of us don't do that and that's how we're becoming fatigued, ill, and burned out.
On our yoga mat we have this wonderful opportunity to escape from our lives and have this "rest." This is why so many of us come to our mats every day. It's a way for us to drown out the noise from our lives and find some active rest. It's also an incredible way to rest on the past, to see that bridge from where we were to where we are now and to connect the dots. When we move through the physical practice we are able to transcend our daily responsibilities and connect to our higher selves.
Do you remember the first time you came to your mat? Do you remember the curiosity you had for the postures when you started practicing? Do you remember leaving that first class feeling that delicious sense of accomplishment? Maybe you're at a season in your practice where your practice is feeling less and less like a rest and more like a chore. How can we connect the bridge from the past to the present for you? Can you find some excitement in how your body feels when you spiral your heart to the sky in triangle, after you've sat at a desk for 9 hours? Can you feel the joy in maybe going a little more into a new edge in your forward folds?
This week I want us to connect the bridge from our past to our present...to use the practice as an active place of rest from our day to day life. I want us to take the pressure off of ourselves to have the perfect asana, and instead to focus on the feelings and the sensations that rise up in our bodies. Those feeling and sensations, like the ones I felt as I traveled back in time, are our guides. Those feelings and sensations bring us into that state of rest from our lives, liberating us from all that weighs us down in our day to day. I want to also encourage us to consider making a practice of finding ways to rest in our daily lives off the mat. I'm holding myself accountable listing these ideas here, as well as offering them as suggestions for you to find rest:
1. Stop looking at your phone when you wake up in the morning. (I'm buying a real alarm clock today instead of relying on my phone). I'm tired of opening my phone first thing and getting inundated with chaos first thing in the morning.
2. Set specific times to check your email and social media. You'll have more purpose to your browsing if you know you have limited amounts of time. Most of those emails don't need a response right away, they can wait.
3. Give yourself at least an hour of downtime every day, no matter how busy you are. Let yourself sit in front of the tv and watch your favorite show, get lost in a book, take a long hot bath, take a long walk (without your phone), or cook your favorite meal.
4. Give yourself a break from your yoga practice. Yes I know this is a surprise. Most of us want to practice every single day. I find one day a week off from any kind of physical activity be it yoga or working out is GOOD for the mind, body, and spirit. I often come back into my practice MUCH stronger after some rest.
5. Prepare your stuff for your day the night before. You can stay in bed a little longer if you know that everything is ready and waiting for you.
6. Make your bed. Every. Day. Coming home to a made bed that is made will give you a delightful sensation as you crawl into it at night to go to sleep.
7. Meditate. Even if just for five to fifteen minutes a day. Do it, it will change the trajectory of your day and life.
Let's connect this week on the mat! I'd love to see you there.
With love and always....NAMASTE-