Ghosts, hauntings and a boost of confidence

 
 

Well, I made it through the night. No ghosts. Owen is interstate for the next few days which means it’s just me and my guard dogs – my pugs. Whilst I might appear all independent woman… the reality is I still sleep with a night-light. I’m terrified of the dark. And yes, I’m very away I should get counseling for this.

Our family has suffered a number of losses over the years, one of those losses being my elder brother. A twin to my sister. I also grew up in a house we all believe to be haunted. We’ve all had too many unusual experiences happen to convince us otherwise. This was our family home and my father refuses to leave it. I know I shall never spend another night in that place for as long as I live. If it were up to me, it would be leveled.

So having experienced a lot of death in my lifetime, I have some very deep psychological issues when it comes to ghosts and fear of hauntings. Whilst I’m very aware of how crazy and irrational this all sounds, and I have had therapy to address these fears, they are so deeply ingrained that I can’t imagine ever feeling comfortable in the dark, alone. At the end of the day, my mind is wanting to play tricks on me and I need to make a conscious effort not to allow that to happen. But my goodness it’s difficult. So last night, the entire house was lit up like a Christmas tree so that if I needed to go into a room I don’t need to look into a dark room first before switching on the light. I can already see in. Silly, I know!

This leads me to another point though. I mentioned earlier how my family has experienced a lot of death and tragedy over the years. Well, there is nothing more blatant about how finite life is than being faced with death. There is a Buddhist meditation called the Death Meditation. As morbid as this sounds, you do this by visualizing your death. That this is your last day on Earth. You start to look at what is meaningful for you, what you wished you’d spent more time doing, or less time doing, the dreams you wished you’d pursued but never did, the phone calls to your mother to tell her you love her just one more time, the mending of a rift between you and a sibling. You begin to notice what is actually important in your life and what is just fear, or pride or excuses holding you back. When we wake up to these realizations, we develop a confidence to go after what is important for us, because we have been reminded that we sadly do not have much time to do so. I come to this place daily. 

I live every day knowing it could be my last. I wake up so grateful for what I have in my life. My snoring pugs beside the bed, my snoring Owen beside me too (he’s going to kill me for that one)… my students, teachers…. my family as crazy as everyone is. I love them all and miss them terribly. To have food in the cupboards, money to pay rent and a warm home. The smell of incense, the candle burning below Ganesha’s feet in my living room… these are all simple things but they are things which mean so much to me. That I know if I didn’t have them in my life then life would feel so empty.

So whilst I’m scared of the dark and more afraid of ghosts than I am humans (badies) coming into my home, I’ve used these fears and my experiences with death to my advantage. To remain grateful that I am here. Alive. Well and with possibilities all around for as long as I shall be on this Earth.

Life is short people. Live it to the full, even if you need to put on a few extra lights in the house to give a boost of confidence.

Much love to you all,

Jessica xx

 

Letting Go

 
Jessica Dewar Yoga_Letting Go
 

This blog has been sparked off by my reading about Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga. As an Ashtanga practitioner, I personally do my very best to follow these Eight Limbs in my daily life. I deeply resonate with these and as a devout follower of the practice, I hold these principles close to my heart. This morning, I was doing some deeper work into the first limb, the Yamas. These are referring to the behaviours which regulate how we relate to others. One of the Yamas is what’s called Aparigraha. This is about non-possessiveness, or non-attachment. In today’s day and age we are becoming increasingly impatient and we want what we want yesterday. Whilst I could say modern advances in technology are somewhat responsible for this impatience we all seem to have, (or some other ‘first world’ problem), the truth is we all have the ability to choose the type of person we want to be. How we want to live our lives. Patient or impatient. Calm or relaxed. Kind or unkind. So when I think about ways I can become attached, I realize it is possible in every corner of my life. From the clothing I wear, to the money I earn to the postures I can perform.

I will be the first to say I struggle with Aparigraha, non-attachment. I’m not a fan of change (owning a business has certainly pushed those buttons), I place huge amounts of pressure on myself to provide for my family, and the ongoing challenge of feeling limited in my body due to injury and pain frustrates the hell out of me. When looking specifically at yoga and movement – I’ve become attached to a life without pain, to postures I know I’m strong in, to being better at postures that I’m restricted in. I maintain poor, lazy habits because I have become attached to lazy ways of thinking about my body and my practice. For example, this morning my teacher showed me how my touching of my toes onto the floor before jumping from Bakasana to Caturanga is simply laziness. I’ve become attached to the habit, because I feel safe there, and so my mind is unwilling to alter how I transition between asanas. She can see I don’t need to do this, but years of poor technique and a reluctance to change is stopping me from reaching higher potentials.

I’ve also become attached to my pain. Sounds crazy, I know. But if I am completely honest with myself, and you it seems, I know this to be true. My pain has become a part of who I am. It has formed a part of my identity. I identify myself as a sufferer of chronic lower back pain and sciatica. By being so open about pain I feel it validates what I experience. That there is a purpose for it. It shows that I too am human and have struggles of my own on this journey of life. However, whilst this is true and there is no intention to gain sympathy or empathy for having a crooked back (or is there?), I am clearly attached to it, which is delaying my recovery and if anything, exacerbating the problem.

For years I worked with people who were so attached to their injury/illness that they would make themselves more unwell even when their doctors confirmed a full recovery had been made. Clients struggled to accept this medical conclusion and would often return with reported exacerbations physically or psychologically. A psychological sequale (think of this like a psychological condition such as depression developing as a result of a physical injury, like a broken arm), was extremely common to follow a full recovery from a physical injury. This raises interesting questions about why we can become attached to uncomfortable problems like pain. One theory I have is we seek validation. It gives us an excuse for being lazy, for not trying, for giving up. Reality check Jessica - it’s not pains fault. It’s mine.

I absolutely had this mentality this morning during my practice. I gave up in my mind and then like the flick of a switch – volia! Hello back pain! If I hadn’t given up, I would not feel it, my body would be supple and my strength like never before. But for whatever reason, today I chose the other. I’m not beating myself up about that but I’m sure as hell going to face facts and be honest about it. It doesn’t help if I put my head in the sand, as I would often prefer to do.

Don’t get me wrong, when there is an injury we need to be mindful of it and do what is right for our bodies. In my case, back pain, when given authority, stops me from achieving some of the simplest postures (i.e. what I believe I should be able to do daily without force) and equally some of the stronger postures I aspire to achieve. This leads to another form of attachment I know many people resonate with. That is, attaching to the mastering of postures. The perfect handstand. The beautiful jump throughs and jump backs. The steady balance. This type of attachment can only lead to dissatisfaction for it is never good enough.

What I need to do is take a big step back and remember to enjoy the journey. To let go of thoughts and behaviours that do not serve me. To remember that attachment to anything in life is a root cause of much pain (physical and emotional) and that there freedom in letting go. This is yoga; for me anyway.

Sending big, warm hugs on this frosty Melbourne day,

Jessica  

Simple things that I KNOW help me... But I forget to do!

 
 

I’ve been struggling to write lately. I don’t know what that’s about? I’ve been finding myself getting caught up in the busy work of business that I’m not taking time out for just…me. Whilst my morning yoga ritual is a given, there is something profoundly special about journaling or blogging. I tend to get so wound up in my head at times that this space offers me an avenue of letting everything out. Whatever comes to mind. That’s exactly what I’m doing write now. I don’t plan these blogs. Rather, they come as I feel ready to explore whatever is going on for me. And following a busy week and reflecting on why I’m feeling a little more tired than normal, I’ve come to realize a big part of that has been due to not journaling as I regularly do.

I began journaling as a little girl. Before bed each night I would write in the journal that I placed on the bookshelf above my head. I wanted to keep a record of my days and how I felt that day. What I did that day. I dabbled with journaling on and off as I grew up, but I use to get so frustrated when I felt forced to write about my day. I placed pressure on myself to note every single detail of my day because I feared forgetting these memories. Turns out, this is not the most effective way of journaling or blogging. It wasn’t until I gave myself the freedom to just write absolutely anything that popped into my mind - coherent or not, legible or the artwork equivalent of a two year old – that I began to experience the true power and joy of journaling. When I gave myself this freedom, journaling became not too dissimilar to meditation. I was giving my mind a chance to let it all out. The to-do lists, the conversations, the worries, the joys, the what-the-hell-do-I-do-next dead end thoughts… All of it was flowing out onto the page (my preference is a hand written journal), freeing my mind from the mental chatter that it’s so good at holding onto. It is often through this approach to journaling and blogging that I have my most profound realisations – about myself, my relationships, my business… It’s like a thick fog gets lifted every single time I put pen to paper.

So as I write this now, I’m working out (as I go) why I’m feeling a little run down this weekend and I now realize a huge part of this is because I didn’t commit to my regular ritual of journaling every morning. It’s not helpful to get frustrated with myself for this, but I often stop and wonder why I choose not to do the things that I know helps me most – journaling being one of them? I guess we all do this right? With what we eat, drink, when we go to bed, how much exercise we do. I guess this is part of our journey. We just need to make sure we don’t beat ourselves up when we fall off the wagon and instead dust ourselves off and jump back on.

I don’t have any special way of trying to end this post. Whilst proper writing would require a summary or conclusion of some sort – as you all know by now, I’m not a proper writer. Just an honest one who is sharing insights into my life that may or may not interest you. That you may or may not resonate with. If you do – great. If you don’t, oh well. Nothing lost.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I’m not sure how to help people out of different ruts we’re get ourselves into. My only suggestion could be to try what I try – and that is to stop, sit, be still and think. Extend the pause and then when you feel ready, write. Anything and everything that comes to mind. There is knowledge from this place.

Turning Yoga From Obligation To Necessity

 
Jessica Dewar Yoga_Svasana
 

If there was one word to describe my practice this morning… lazy. My alarm went off at the usual 3.30am and I grudgingly got up and into my clothes pre-laid out at the end of my bed. I was so annoyed with my practice this morning. My back has been playing up due to the cold, I got to bed late due to no ones fault but my own and I knew I had a busy morning ahead – 6 back to back classes and all before 1.00pm. But, being as strict as I am with my practice, I know it’s important to at least get on my mat. From there, movement will inevitably follow.

I lit my single candle that sits at the feet of Ganesha (the Elephant God) and burned sandlewood incense, which I bring home from Mysore, India each year. My morning ritual had begun. But my usual motivation to move was lacking. As I sat on my mat, I felt a little sorry for myself. I wanted to crawl back into bed and snuggle up to my pillow for a few more hours. I closed my eyes and convinced myself I was meditating but in actual fact I was just falling asleep sitting upright. After a good ten minutes suspended in a state of deep meditation, or deep sleep, I chanted my morning prayer and then stumbled to my feet. Standing at the top of my mat, preparing to take my first inhalation and stretch my arms to the sky in honour of the sun, I felt a sense of dread wash over me. My body was aching for no good reason, my eyes were itchy from being overtired and my mind was far from steady. But whilst everything in my being was drawing me back to my bed, as soon as I began to move, a sense of peace washed over me. A feeling of total safety in the vulnerability of my practice.

The reality is, despite the discomfort of an early practice, every time I step onto my mat I feel like I’ve returned home. The spiritual experience is like no other and every day it looks a little different.

Yoga use to be a practice that I felt obligated to do, and truth be told, I still have those moments of feeling this way – this morning was one of them. But following many existential crisis throughout my life, I’ve become acutely aware of my limited time here which fuels my desire to live a full and meaningful life. So what do I consider to be a full and meaningful life? Simple. It is a life chosen by me, not for me.

So as I step onto my cold mat, still wrapped in my bathrobe as I prepare to raise my arms in salutation to the sun, I take a moment to feel gratitude for choosing to live a meaningful life. For choosing to deepen my connection with myself on every level – spiritual, physical, emotional. I’ve always considered my practice to reflect the sort of person I endeavour to be. Disciplined, sensitive, powerful, and human.

And so whilst my practice may demand of my physical body and of my mind, which can result in a lazy morning practice once in a while, I know to stick with it as it equally nurtures both.

Remaining Inspired - Because We All Need A Little Encouragement

 
Jessica Dewar Yoga Lotus Posture Padmasana
 

I’ve never been precious about the fact that not all students will resonate with me as a teacher. Some people will come to a class of mine and love it, feel connected and that they’re exactly where they need to be whilst others will feel completely out of sorts, uncomfortable and never want to set foot in another class with me again. From the perspective of a student – I get it. I’ve travelled near and far to find my teacher(s). I’m particular about who I practice with and I must feel connected with them and their philosophy toward the practice. Over the years, as I delved deeper into the practice I’ve come to understand that all teachers are different. We tend to expect that going into any yoga class should result in a sensation of complete bliss, connection and calm. Whilst this can be the case, should we not trust or feel connected with our teacher then the experience can be quite the opposite. One of frustration, worry and inadequacy. The reality is, the relationship between a teacher and student will never be egalitarian and so it is crucial we feel this positive connection to ensure we feel supported in our practice and safe to be vulnerable. For it is only when this has been achieved, that we can experience the true benefits of our practice, hence why I’m so particular and why I encourage others to be particular also.

If you’ve ever walked into an Ashtanga Shala/studio, you would know it can be a little intimidating at first. The discipline possessed by these students is admirable and I thrive on being surrounded by it. This morning I was introduced to one of the most wonderful Ashtanga teachers who too practices in Mysore. I connected with her immediately and felt right at home in her presence. Tick!

Her calm, soft demeanor makes her so approachable and yet there is a strictness that one would never question or disobey. I respond well to this type of teacher as it forces me to remain focused. There is no time for my mind to wander. I am here, in the moment and connecting with each and every breath. Considering I teach most 6.00am classes at the Jessica Dewar Yoga studio, I am restricted with my ability to train with other teachers. Recently I have been granted this freedom and since training under the guidance of an expert, my personal practice has been revitalized. As I maintain a self-practice at home 6 days a week, it can be difficult to progress without the guidance of another. It is also very challenging to maintain motivation to continue with a strong practice. And I know I’m not alone when it comes to motivation. Whilst I have my morning rituals, that I would never neglect, I’ve recognized that I’m becoming stagnant in my practice. That I’m not moving forward as I would like – and I know this is because I don’t have someone assessing how I move and helping me to push the boundaries.

Well – this morning those boundaries were pushed. Full body-to-body adjustments, forcing my hips open, my spine to lengthen and my breath to come under control – I came out of my practice feeling reinvigorated. Excited to learn the new boundaries I’ve just reached. I can only be with my new teacher once weekly, but I achieved more today that I have in the past two months since returning from India.

Many new students come to our studio with similar concerns around motivation and a lack of progression. As I maintain with each of them, I believe two things to be true:

  1. Making time to come into a sacred space once a week, and really dedicate that time to themselves without other distractions is important for mental clarity, inspiration and learning.

  2. Maintaining a personal practice where the principals learned in class are then applied at home is key to progression.

I do not believe anyone should feel tied to a Shala/studio, but rather know that our space is there to support students as they deepen their self-study and to reinvigorate their practice also – just as I know my teacher’s space will be there for me when I can be with her. At the end of the day, we are all human and sometimes motivation does dwindle. So make some time in your diary to step into a class and/or get on your mat, be present in the moment and just Be. There is only good that can come from this place.

Sending big, positive and invigorated hugs to you all,

Jessica xx