Because I Need To Be Strong For Her

 
 

Life is finite. I live with this dreadfully sad awareness every day – as do we all whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. This means life is precious. Every moment of every single day is precious and nothing is a bigger reminder of this than when we are faced with the loss, or potential loss, of someone we love.

Owen and I are currently in and out of the emergency vet hospital in Collingwood because early Sunday morning, out little pug Lola took a dramatic turn for the worst. She went from being her usual, happy, cheeky little self to suddenly in the intensive care ward which she remains in today. I’ve never been so devastated in all my life.

Little Lola came into our care in February 2017. Lola was a rescue and even though she has suffered so many traumas in her life, she maintains the happiest disposition of any animal I’ve ever met. Blind due to no fault of her own – purely a case of neglect – she has now been diagnosed with liver disease. For the past three days she has been poked and prodded with needles, been drugged to the point of losing control of her bladder and barely able to lift her head, and had most of the hair on her tiny little body shaved off. There is nothing more horrific than seeing a creature who is so vulnerable being pulled around and tested the way she has been. Of course this has to happen so we can find out how to help her, but it is nothing short of cruel. When will this little girl get a break!

 
Monday lunch time.

Monday lunch time.

Monday night after many more tests. She's exhausted.

Monday night after many more tests. She's exhausted.

 

My partner and I are heartbroken going through this awful process. Little Lola came barging into our lives earlier this year and ploughed her way deep into our hearts. We adore our animals and would do anything for them, so as you can imagine these past few days, being totally out of control and dependent upon the expertise of others, has been nothing short of horrendous. My phone is glued to me in case of an update.

With swollen eyes from having non-stop cried since the weekend, I’ve sat quietly most days reflecting upon our lives. On my life. I’m reminding myself of how precious our lives are. I feel so sad for people who hold onto anger or negativity because I’m mindful that it is just a waste of their precious time on this planet.

To calm the anxiety and slow the tears, I’ve spent hours walking quietly through parks with my other little man Tyrone or sitting on my mat focused on my breathing. I’m taking time to remind myself to take slow, controlled inhalations and exhalations to bring steadiness and clarity to my mind. Whilst this doesn’t change the reality of the situation, it allows me to regain the strength I need to get through this awful time. It reminds me of how important it is that I remain calm so I can be strong for her.

Granted, when I need to cry and just let it all out – I do. But there is a time and a place for this. Rather, by connecting with my breath I feel more in control of a situation that is totally out of my control, namely my thoughts and how I respond to the situation. Let’s just say I’m very good at thinking the worst, which is a painful, neurotic habit I need to constantly shut down (and I mean every minute of every day I’m having to cancel these thoughts). So as I breathe, I consciously focus on seeing Lola getting stronger and healthier. There is peace in this place and suddenly the anxiety starts to relieve, even if just for a moment.

So rather than dwell on the worst, I’m preparing for her recovery and I’m excited to say Lola has new PJ’s to keep her now shaved little body warm as well as a bravery teddy and comfy new bed to snuggle up in. This bravery package is waiting for her at home when we are given the all clear to bring her back. We all have different ways of coping, and my way is to prepare for her homecoming. It keeps me positive even when the news is not the best.

 
Jessica Dewar Yoga Lola Care Package
 

We are now waiting for the Medical Specialist team to contact us with steps moving forward and the results of a recent liver aspirate test. All fingers and toes are crossed this is positive.

I’ll keep you posted with an update.

Thank you everyone for your support and well wishes for Lola’s speedy recovery. Your energy is surely headed her way and I know she can feel it.

Much love,

Jessica xx

 
Sunday before heading to the emergency vet. One very sick little girl.

Sunday before heading to the emergency vet. One very sick little girl.

 
 
 

We Are What We Do

 
Jessica Dewar Yoga Niyamas
 

One of the eight limbs of yoga, which I follow as an Ashtanga student, are Niyamas. These are commitments to ourselves. There are five Niyamas, one of which is Svadhyaya – Self Study.

Svadhyaya explains that it is important for us as students of yoga to maintain a regular self-study. That the lessons we learn in class must be applied to our lives if one wants to heal or move past whatever it is that troubles them (be it pain or mental anguish). Our ability to sit with discomfort during practice is an common example of one such lesson. Discomfort may manifest itself physically in the back, the hips, cramping in the foot, pins and needles. But it can also present itself mentally where we feel agitated, bored or frustrated.  

Yoga teaches us how to sit with this discomfort and work through it. To delve deeper and challenge what is going on for us. Sometimes we prefer to live wearing rose coloured glasses, but this way of living can never lead to the meaningful, healthier lives we seek. For it is through adversity, through pain and vulnerability, that we become stronger and wiser. Not through ignoring or avoiding it.

If I’m holding an uncomfortable posture, which is often anything related to my back or left hip, and I am agitated in that posture, then I look for the knowledge in this. It says a lot about my state of mind at the time. It could be that there is too much on my plate and I need step back and give myself more space to breathe. It could be that there is something worrying me that I’ve been suppressing and really should address, as confronting as it might be. And then there are other days where I don’t feel the same agitation even though my back may still feel tight or the hip sore. But I have allowed myself to just Be. I am totally present to my body and the moment. There is a lesson here also..

When my teacher is encouraging me to connect with my breath, whilst I may be excellent at doing this in a yoga class, the real challenge comes in trying to maintain this same awareness outside of the classroom. When things feel like they’re falling apart around me, do I lash out, over react, hyperventilate and lose all control, or do I remember to breathe, pause and centre myself before responding?

Going to class, or practicing at home, is one example of self-study. But to truly incorporate the lessons learned on the mat is through a daily practice. Yoga is not a quick fix to make people happier, healthier or more aware human beings. Rather, yoga is a tool that can show us a door to this happier, healthier, more aware life we seek. It is up to us if we choose to walk through it.

Jessica xx

 

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