slow, mindful yoga & small group classes in St Kilda, Balaclava, Elwood, bayside

Yoga Me Well Blog

Manage the Inner Storms

Every year-end, a few lovely people, dangling from the end of a tether, get in touch with an urgent need for support.

THE STORM BREAKS

They share challenging stories, ones that I tackle in my own practice: career or family issues, exhaustion, loss of direction. These are compassionate, intelligent, frustrated people who feel themselves unravelled, floundering in discomfort, straining to see the way forward.  

It takes courage to acknowledge when we are not coping.

I love this quote, borrowed from yoga teacher Donna Farhi’s newsletter:

“​​It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.” 

~ ​​Wendell Berry

 

ADRIFT AND AFRAID 

When we find ourselves stuck on the pin, wriggling in discomfort, we yearn for release.

Our coping mechanisms may be over-eating, drinking, exercising, or drug-taking.  Venting on those closest to us is popular, adding to our discomfort and theirs. Or, we turn the frustration inward, gnawing dangerously at our resilience. A well of angst eventually propels upward to gush out.

Then we shake our fist at the moon, pound a pillow, slam a door or drive around screaming in the vacuum of our car, roughly handle a child, a pet.  

Like the leaves on drought-stricken trees, parched and withered from the lack of healing rain, we sometimes fall to the gutter, spent.

FIND A WITNESS

Perhaps it’s the Darwinian gene prodding us to survive, amped by the cultural dictum “to strive” that pushes us to the precipice before we act.

Too often, only then we ask for support. If we are lucky, we have a Witness, a trusted person to turn to. Or we employ one.

The Witness is a gift. Unflinching, they listen without offering a fix and acknowledge that we are in the fire. They reflect back that our pain has foundation and that we are not going mad.

That pure support can be enough to lift us back into the life raft and uncover our reserves.

BECOME THE WITNESS

Yoga teaches us to witness when we are not coping.  Yoga philosophy calls this “ahimsa”, or the practice of non-harm to self and others. It is one of the “yama” principles, part of the 8-Limbs of yoga, or guidelines for yogic living.

Acknowledgement begins the process of dealing with the angst. We commit to treating ourselves gently, and reassure ourselves that this period is temporary.

“Yes, I have lost my ground, I feel overwhelmed and vulnerable, and it’s going to be okay. Maybe not today, but with self-care and patience. No matter how long it takes, I will be okay.”

We being to observe ourselves intimately. In daily life, we catch ourselves– in thought and action – and recognise the warning signs of self-defeating patterns of behaviour that contribute to poor, often cyclical, outcomes.

In the evenness and peace we find after a mat practice, for example, or gardening, long walks, time in nature, we build on a foundation of ‘knowing’ that quietness exists palpably within.

When crisis flares, we are less afraid to acknowledge it.

 “Okaaay, my thinking and behaviour suggest I’m having a crisis!” And invites us to do something about it. So we go wild for a bit. That’s pretty standard. And tiring and it increases the spiral.

When it’s time to move on, we distract ourselves productively in self-soothing activities (time with friends, comic movies, walks, spring cleaning, travel). As we experience the pay-off of yogic practices, the mind becomes more agile at diminishing thoughts that promote spiralling.

Once the freneticism of crisis settles, we reflect on how we have contributed to that difficult time, and sit tenderly with that confronting knowledge. Humbled, but wiser for the experience, we renew our commitment to stand up, dust-off and attempt things differently.

Paying attention to our Self on every level, we discover the practice of sitting with and moving through inner storms. Genuine climate change takes commitment and patience and agreement from all parts of our Self.

Join Liv’s friendly small yoga groups for practice on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays in St Kilda and East St Kilda.

Inquiries: 0409 473 162 or livmitchell@ozemail.com.au

 

Liv Mitchell

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Liv Mitchell is a senior yoga teacher and freelance writer/editor.

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How to Change – Part 2

It appeared to be an ordinary rose, just another of the botanical gardens’ bouquet, but I stopped. Drew closer.

 

 

 

The heart of this flower revealed its radiance. And I was utterly stilledHere was power, undisclosed, until one paused to take it in. Others too distracted to see, remained unaltered. Striking in its glory, yet a humble presence in a flooded petal garden. It moved me to wonder and inspiration. It reminded me again of the subtle nature of change (see How to Change – Part 1 below). 

 

Your Centre is a Know-All

The heart of you and me is like this. The teachings handed down by Sri T Krishnamacharya and his son, TKV Desikachar, speak of the heart as our true centre.  It offers us guidance that is beyond thought and which comes directly from a place of illumination and radiance.

“We may have received a good education, been exposed to remarkable teachings, have an impressive curriculum vitae and accomplished many extraordinary things, but when it comes down to what really matters in life, these are all secondary compared to being close to our heart. We must evolve towards more simplicity and listen to our feelings, which come from our heart.” 

From: What are We Seeking? by TKV Desikachar with Martyn Neal.

When we are unhappy with our circumstances, we need to reach toward our heart centre.

The Way In…

How?

Through our yoga practice we learn to breath and move with a focus that creates stillness. We sit in that stillness for many moments in the hour of class. When we choose to practice at home too, we cultivate that centre. We find ourselves enjoying quiet moments throughout the day, more often, where we think nothing, and feel peaceful.

 As we grow toward it, the heart blooms to reveal paths forward previously hidden. It knows who we are back to our infant innocence and before it. Our heart is our surest guide but we must first learn its language of feeling, intuition and silent whisperings, which we experience as ‘Knowing’. This is the right thing to do. This is what I really want. Here is the way forward.

And slowly, we change.

 

Liv Mitchell

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Liv Mitchell is a senior yoga teacher and freelance writer/editor.

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How to Change – Part 1

We know the frustration of living the same circumstances over and over again. How we find ourselves landing in the same dysfunctional relationships, job circumstances, confrontations with family or friends. Or repeating annoying daily behaviours like one of my favourites – carrying too many things awkwardly until they predictably topple and halt my inefficient progress.

“Oh the pain, the pain,” as Dr Zachary Smith would say (Lost in Space, 1965-1968).

Our best support through change 

Our regular yoga practice teaches us the self-awareness to unmask our thinking. Over time and periods of daily quiet we learn to tune into our thoughts, and keep track of the misguided ones. We may begin to suspect that we are contributing to these cyclical events through our own thoughtless action. We become more prescient, aware of those thoughts and actions before delivering them into the world.

Why stumbling helps

“Oh no,” we acknowledge quietly, “I’m doing that thing again!” Hurrumph! We may do that thing again many times more until we muster enough presence in the moment – a pause – to try something different.

In that moment of honesty with ourselves is the birth of, and commitment to, real change.

The big pay off

Genuine change is a continuum. We remember our commitment, we forget, we act on it and then we don’t. But each time we become aware of a poor thinking pattern or response, the neural pathway to change it is strengthened.

Then one day the old thought and response is gone. The ‘breakthrough’ is a huge, quiet achievement  so deeply rewarding that we share it with no one. Instead, we revel humbly in the gathering of our wisdom which required the vulnerability of seeing our errant Self at work. The reward unfurls as we observe how our internal change now allows others to alter their response to those situations too.

Subtle, powerful, incredible this living matrix, don’t you think?

Liv Mitchell

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Liv Mitchell is a senior yoga teacher and freelance writer/editor.

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