Tag Archives: introspection

Open

I’m sure there are big things that I’ll look back on in however many years and attribute to this [nearly] year I devoted to seeing the world. In foresight, I’m grateful because I can’t think of a piece I’d rather be placing in the puzzle of who I am becoming… But I’m also grateful right this second. I’m in the back of the family CRV driving the 16 hour journey home from Seaside, Oregon and for the first time since we first came over a decade ago, I’m marvelling at the scenery. The lush greenery leading up rigid peaks to the East and rolling hills of golden grass past the Columbia river to the West. We’re breaking the drive to two days, 8 hours a day, toilet breaks, food stops, lingering salt water taffy…compared to 24 hours with a squat toilet and Asians just a little too comfortable with bodily functions, I’m laughing.

The 8th and final semester of my Human Ecology degree was the most important to my degree. Not because it literally determined whether or not I’d get the 40,000 dollar piece of paper, but because it all started to make sense. Not to say I was in the dark for four years, but I always felt like I was going through motions, learning semi-useful theory, and doubting my post-graduation opportunities. In that final semester every presentation I made seemed a little easier, each paper contained ‘aha!’ inclusions from research done in other classes, and most importantly I finally integrated my core values with the profession of Human Ecology.

Academically it all started to mix, but that final component followed an assignment to write our mission and vision as practitioners. I’ve had jobs with a couple big ‘brand’ companies; mission statements weren’t a new concept, in fact I was sure I’d find a perfectly cheesy tag line to satisfy the passing criteria easily. But when I sat at my computer type out a simple sentence for 5% of a 4th year course, I was stumped. I felt like I had to choose in that moment what I wanted to do with my life because mission statements are goal specific. So if I chose to pursue HR it should be about recruiting, targets, development…but a position in cancer care should be about compassion, support, and empowerment. In writing this simple (changeable) statement, I felt I was choosing my career path forever. Obviously I wasn’t.

My personal values weren’t conflicted, I just didn’t understand until the eleventh hour what my whole degree really meant. If ‘Human Ecology’ were greek and I were giving you that disproportionately long translation, I would say it means ‘it’s all connected’. And when I stopped writing company mission statements and started writing my own I realized that no matter what career I was targeting it at, it turned out the same. Go figure. I strive to empower individuals and communities to achieve their highest potential through providing accessible resources, inspiring education, and being a role model for integrity. Sure, a recruiter may want to hear about my success in achieving sales targets for business versus my volunteering and understanding of families for patient care…but in terms of my personal attitude and intention towards what I’m doing, that’s all same same but different.

The last couple months of travel have been sort of like that last semester; every weird moment, accident, and world wonder fit together in just the right order for me to experience situations and meet people at just the right time so that in the end the ‘why’s melted away and my confidence that I was meant to do it all is unwavering.

I’ve been in Oregon with family for the past week in what a friend of mine referred to as a state of suspension. I’m not home, but I’m not still travelling; I’m with family, but not friends; it’s familiar, but not home. It’s a pleasant yet potentially detrimental place for introspection (…and job searching) . It has been good though, to condense my whole ‘speech’ before meeting the masses and facing job interviews.

As I drafted cover letters I found myself doing the same thing I did with my mission statement over a year ago. Using ‘organization, adaptability, cultural awareness’ on business letters and ‘empathy, understanding, humanity’ on patient care positions…then I stopped. I took a step back and thought about what nearly a year, 4 sub-continents, and hundreds of people met ultimately meant for me…hoping that it would be something a little more profound than characteristics I could get just as well from being part of multi-racial school club or petting some cats at the SPCA. What I’ve decided is this: travelling has shown me the value of an open mind and heart; an openness that empathizes with needs, appreciates all perspectives, and recognizes every opportunity for growth.

Sure, there are other great by-products to travel like Aladdin pants, bargaining skills, using a squat toilet, or knowing how to describe the taste of zebra…but in the end, even the less lame things like saying yes when you would say no, acting with right intention, letting go of outcomes, and recognizing the contentment that can in fact be found in simplicity all lead back to having an open heart and mind. I would have heard every golden nugget of advice or food for thought just for being in the right place at the right time. It was the openness that allowed me to accept, processes, and live it.

So, when I really think about it…after a month of Yoga Teacher Training, making my body (and probably my heart) as physically open as it’s ever been….it’s really no coincidence that the months following were when it all ‘came together’. Whether we realize or not, our discomforts arise from a lack of openness, in hips or in life…

Carolyn said on day one of training, “People are happier when they do yoga”. I heard it, I smiled, and thought of my own superficial benefits from practicing asana. Somehow though, in this state of suspension it has returned to me and I’ve brought it all together. You know how they say body language says it all…like if you’re standing in a circle, your feet and hips may point to who you’re most interested in…duh, it’s in cosmo…maybe right, maybe that’s the angle your blisters don’t hurt in. What is true though is that the more open your body is, the more open you are. Your posture improves so your aura can shine bright and you are open to receive the love and opportunities headed your way. Years of running will produce tight hips, it doesn’t make you a close minded person. However, in working through the tightness physically you are allowing yourself a greater range of comfortable motion which subconsciously is mirrored by the heart and mind.

So my friends, travel young…not because you can’t travel old, but because you will have that many more years to share your stories, see things more openly, and go again. And do yoga. Stick with it. Trust me.

Impermanence

I’ve been reading lots of books lately…partially because I’ve been on many terrible bus rides and am still too stubborn to buy an ipod after leaving mine at home (that’s right ladies and gents—6months sans—ipod!)…partially because June 3 marks the beginning of my 200 hour Yoga teacher training in Thailand. I’ve been a bit reluctant to share with people that I am doing my training because I felt that by Western standards my network of friends may not accept my decision whole-heartedly. That people might judge me for doing a qualification so brief after dedicating 4 years to a bachelor’s degree. That people wouldn’t understand that I actually really just want to learn more about yoga because of how much more positive I feel my life is when I’m actively practicing. I felt like as a past employee of lululemon athletica it was a bit cliché…and I think most of all I feared that (knowing if I do teach it will be part time) I wouldn’t be the ‘best’ yoga teacher. I’m so used to doing everything I do with commitment to excellence, and knowing (now at least) that I’m taking training to deepen my personal practice and maybe teach as well might be the first time I’ve really invested (time and money) in something purely for my enjoyment and interest. I probably won’t be a headliner at wanderlust or a lulu ambassador…and it’s OK.

I’ve definitely always struggled with acting based on ‘what other people will think’…oddly, I have a pretty thick skin…my issue is that I think (perhaps because I was an only child until I was almost 7) or have thought, that other people care a lot more about my life than they do. I’ve done a lot of digging recently as to why this is, and come out with a less negative conclusion than I had anticipated when I began my introspection.

I care a lot about other people…not out of gossip or malicious intent, but out of curiosity and simply caring what people I care about are going through. I may talk a fair bit about myself, but typically I remember every detail of what people tell me about themselves. Because this is how I think about others, I assume they are equally as interested in me….but that’s not always the case. The shift that has happened in this realm for me, is that I have surrounded myself (or connect myself with) with people who will communicate with me. Not saying “omg! I love that shirt!” but saying “I’m proud of you for getting through that situation” or (more commonly) “you’re overanalyzing”. I don’t have to wonder because my network is supportive, honest, and genuine and I would feel not only comfortable, but expected to share my thoughts with them.

The other branch of this discovery is that the less judgemental I have become through travelling, the less I feel others are judging me. We assume the same tendencies in others that we see in ourselves. Those who are judging others care most about what others think because they assume that they must be doing the same thing. I think back and…I don’t think I’ve actually been the worst for judgements…I’ve had my moments, but they are directly correlated with negative people in my life. If anything people tease me for having a “collection of friends” because I tend to branch out to all sorts of people, and ‘groups’ that wouldn’t usually associate. I’ve realized how toxic these few people over my life have been to my core psyche. I don’t care what people are wearing, but being so close to people who used it as their only yard-stick for friend-worthiness made me start to care about my own possessions out of social survival.

So, why did it take me so long if I’ve come to all these revelations? Because nobody’s perfect…but mostly because what you have in your own head you assume others will also have in theirs. I was fighting my own ghosts and blaming what I assumed of others.

After leaving Bali, my prior debates to do a teacher training were crystal clear. My good friend Josh said “no dramas? Bali must be your bliss” and I couldn’t help but agree. I thought “shit, my bliss is not close to home”….then realized that I have the power to re-create any given environment in my life in a different geographical location. It is my degree after all…. So I looked back and thought—what was Bali? Why did I love it?…I won’t be as cheesy as to say ‘yoga’ and act like I had some sort of enlightenment….but it was who I was in the studio overflowing to every aspect of my life. I was focused, calm, I gave praise, I was confident, grateful, and I cared about my body. I ate vegan, got to bed on time, hydrated, and practiced. I had people in my life that had no problem waiting an extra hour for dinner so I could do a late night class, and for the first time I was able to practice yoga without competing with others (I totally was that person thinking ‘heck yes my half moon is better than yours’). If I was curious about somebody or something, I asked. The simple solution to not creating assumptions… Because this was how I was acting, I expected the same in others. I didn’t think teaching yoga was the solution, but I did know I needed to better understand the history and theory behind the yogic lifestyle (and it is a lifestyle not a ‘workout’).

So what does impermanence have to do with this? Well…this state of bliss, of needing yoga and the community that comes with it in my life, this motivation to change…it was impermanent. Somewhere between stuffing my face with thalis in Penang and volunteering in Phnom Penh I felt like a total fraud going to YTT because my life no longer coincided with anything it did in Bali. I was buying the cheapest food possible, practicing infrequently and inconsistently, and finding myself having more raging reactions to pushy tuk tuk drivers by the minute.

I read a book recently called Buddha or Bust about spiritual tourism and one of the author’s main learnings was impermanence. I suppose it’s the Buddhist version of ‘this too shall pass’…but I feel like we have put that saying in a box referring to negative times. What I took from the book was that impermanence applies to everything in life including life itself.

Depressing? It shouldn’t be…it should light a fire under your ass. Yes, cravings and broken hearts are impermanent. But so are love and success. To me, impermanence eludes to my freedom and ability to manage a situation (one some may call life) not the fate of happiness ending. I realized as I got further from Bali how impermanent that lifestyle was. It made my yoga training all of the sudden seem far fetched. I opened up to Josh about being afraid I would be ‘bad’ at yoga…which in my head I was just thinking, what if you’re a yoga poser? His response “can you breathe”…I must admit (and I know you’re reading…)I rolled my eyes a bit. But as I read my first prerequisite book The Heart of Yoga today soaking up each word like gold, I came to a sentence where the author essentially says the exact same thing to the reader… and something clicked.

To have this life of happiness, calm, focus, ambition…every quality you or your mom thinks is needed for ‘success’…you just need to breathe. Being as intentional with your time and energy as you are with your breath in yoga will lead you to activities you want to be doing, people you want to be with, and skills you want to have. As much as you can end negativity as simply as re-focusing your breath and choosing for something to be over, you can also start a new beginning just as easily. I can hear my friend Dylan saying “she really has lost track of what real life’s about”…but to be quite frank, I don’t really care. This is impermanent. I must enjoy it [the carefree, responsibility-free, loftiness of travel] while I can.

I can hear the ‘wtf’s’ about my comment that love and success are impermanent. But they are. First, to address the latter…balance effort and surrender my teacher Noga said. If you are always succeeding, how are you learning, how are you challenging yourself, and really….how can you appreciate your triumphs. Now ‘love’…it is impermanent. It is ever-changing. It develops, it gains depth, loses intensity, re-ignites, and to stay in love or leave love, is a choice. Impermanence doesn’t necessarily mean (to me) that something always has to end (although it often will)…it means you will have to actively choose to keep something around. Being intentional with what you chose to have in your life, and having the ability to do so freely.

So, somewhere between Bali, breathing, and reading about breathing…I’ve chosen to stop judging myself for everything I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post. I oddly don’t have any of those thoughts about other yoga teachers in my life…I think I respect them all so much I fear I can’t fill the shoes…But I’ve realized that my insecurities have been the result of me not choosing to stay focused, of me being lazy with my practice, and making excuses to mask my fear of the road less travelled. The road less travelled was always my motto when I was young, but I was always on the road I had planned. It may not have been what others were doing, but I always did what I ‘knew’ I wanted to do. Even travelling….I’ve always known I wanted to do it, maybe not to this scale….but in a way the scale of this trip is a version of me over achieving. Doing yoga training is my road less travelled, I’m nervous, I didn’t plan on it at all when I stepped on the plane to Sydney over half a year ago. But I’m choosing it actively, and finally full—heartedly.

Yogini Life

The grass is always greener…the whole time I was in Oz/NZ all I could think about was how cheap and awesome Asia would be…then on my flight to Bali I started to realize all that was awesome about Oz and NZ….what gives. Anyway, while I was on the 6 hour flight trying reallllly hard not to succumb to the scheme that is 3 dollar in-flight soft drinks I had a lot of time to myself and my thoughts….dangerous, I know.

I started to think about what I wanted from Bali, Asia, this trip…I came to the conclusion that although I wasn’t pulling an ‘Eat Pray Love’ (the new adjective for ‘finding oneself through extensive travelling’), I wanted to have more than a tan to show for my time. After all this is working out to be a projected 15k+ investment in the end….to say I have no tan lines and ate lots of curry would be a bit disappointing. Yes, there is the experience…but the experience you get is only what you put in. I don’t have unlimited funds, but I do have a heavy abundance of time and effort. I put the guide book aside (which I’d been reading cover to cover daily) and wrote a list of what I wanted to do in Asia.

The list is long and doesn’t include getting tanned and wasted on beaches…Fun will be had, but perhaps less belligerent fun with better decisions…. That being said, I sat back and wondered what I really wanted from Bali…was it just the novelty of ‘bali’…did I want to party? Surf? Hike?…I wanted to do yoga. I realized quickly that its not really a part of the local culture as everyone that goes seems to be a tourist and studios have ridiculous local deals that aren’t even utilized (like a 10th of the price!)…but there’s something about practicing yoga that reminds you to be humble and accepting, to drop the ego….and to breathe. Mostly, that it’s not a competition, and as my teacher yesterday said, “life must be a balance of effort and surrender”.

Basically eluding the notion that we can’t get too addicted to success…that mastering a posture and only doing it to be great at it isn’t enough, once mastering, we must push ourselves once again. It made me realize that maybe I had gotten to a point of ‘success’ with Oz and NZ…It had become easy. I am an expert, I like being the expert…I like being right. Who doesn’t? Anyway….I have gotten a week unlimited at Radiantly Alive, a gorgeous studio with 2 rooms, and plenty of classes from Flying Yoga to Radiantly Alive Vinyasa, and tons of guided meditation….only set me back 40 bucks as opposed to the 90 dollar 10 class pass with the famous Yoga Barn and I have LOVED every class and instructor. Nevermind the fact that Bali’s ridiculously hot and humid climate makes every class warm for juicier poses. I have had some of my best practices ever…I attribute it to the fact that I have nowhere else I’d rather be…which makes me think about how we have the power to be successful if we are choosing to be present and focused in whatever we’re doing wherever we are…If you’re there and you aren’t leaving you might as well utilize the time fully-right?

Pretty much everyone I practice with is creating their own retreat for either a week or month like I’ve chosen to do (for a week). Going to 1 meditation and at least 2 classes a day. I hurt like hell, but I’ve done my first unassisted handstand, I’ve done hanging belt restoration, Flying Yoga (acro/thai massage), yin, level 2 vinyasas and more. All of the instructors are foreigners…but they all know their stuff. Jose, who does Vinyasa, Iyengar, and hanging belt restoration is one of the best instructors I’ve ever had, and Samuel can guide even my busy mind into a deep meditation. The only thing local about the studio is the front desk staff…but the attitude of Yoga is very much in line with that of Bali, and has in fact made me feel Radiantly Alive, as it would claim. I feel no need to ‘Facebook’…I’d rather be at meditation..I spend my hours between classes chatting (or trying to ) with the locals trying to find the best food while guzzling coconut water and discussing what color of sarong I ‘have’ to buy before I leave.

Also I’ve discovered Soma….I will write a post on it individually…but its basically Edmonton’s Noorish (Tons of raw, vegan, g-free options, elixors, fresh fruit smoothies…a link to the yoga community…free range, local ingredients) at a tenth of the price. It’s funny how North America has created an image around healthy food that it has to be ridiculously overpriced making it pretentious and trendy. I read an article about fasting where the author (paraphrased) said that fasting makes him re-evaluate why we eat….continuing on to say we eat to nourish our bodies with essential nutrients, not for the caloric needs…that will come naturally… And more importantly not for emotional need or taste…Food that tastes ‘so good’ is our way of associating food with emotional benefit which we should be getting from activity, and sociability…not food. Understanding how your body can function without the food helps to center the attitude towards food…we should all respect our bodies as much as we would a Lambourghini….and we wouldn’t put Regular fuel in one if we had one, so out of respect for ourselves, and the desire to live the healthiest, longest life possible we should be putting premium products into our system. That being said, I still love food….the taste, the calories, all of it…it’s just an interesting take on fasting and food.