I am not my pain

I am not a gymnast. I am not a ballerina. Calisthenics? No. Martial arts? Nup! Growing up, I never did the sort of activities which helped children to gain amazing balance, flexibility or strength in their body. I tried ballet once (for about 8 weeks), when I was about 6, but the teacher told me I was fat and too old to start. You can imagine I left pretty quickly after that! (Hello life long self-esteem issues!). At school the Tri Skool came a couple of times over the years, letting us play on some temporary gymnastics equipment, but this was usually just for a lunch time. That was the extend of my gymnastics training!

Long story short - I played all the usual sports like netball, softball and basketball. I did sprint and cross country running at one point and even tried my hand at tennis (total fail here).  I was also a horse rider, which certainly didn’t help in the flexibility arena. Scoliosis also meant chronic pain in my lower back and limited flexibility in my spine… or so i thought.

You see - for much of my life I have defined myself by my past experiences.

I never did ballet or gymnastics so I can never do the splits.. or

I have a bad back so I will never be able to do a backbend..

On and on it went. I was my own worst enemy when it came to trying new things, or believing (which is more accurate) that I could try new things. I was extremely good at pigeonholing myself, labelling myself - making sure I did nothing outside of that label.

Turns out - these labels are not only extraordinarily unhelpful, but they are damaging too. Turns out, just like ballerinas and gymnasts learn early on, I too have the potential to move my body in amazing ways. Whilst this is a much slower progression as I’m about to hit 30 and my body is not as supple as a child or teen, turns out there is possibility to train my body to reach these new, seemingly impossible heights.

I never needed to be defined by my perceived weaknesses, because they are only that - perceived. It’s taken a little while, but I’ve come to understand (through experience) that I am the creator of my own reality. Should I want to be weak, then I can make it so. Should I want to be strong and flexible, then this too can be achieved.

At a time in my life when I felt like everything was falling apart, I traveled to India where I met a man, Guruji, who saw potential in me. Correction - he sees potential in all. One day, I went to this wise man privately, in tears, to speak about my back pain. How I felt so limited by it. He said something to me that day that I have never forgotten and that I will hold close for the rest of my life.

I am not my pain. My pain will only exist if I allow it to be so. Should I choose to be strong, then I will be strong. But if I choose weakness, then this is all I will ever know. Physically, mentally…. It will touch every aspect of my life.

An interesting thing happened after that conversation - not only did I begin telling myself positive messages about my back, about who I am in the world - but I began to notice changes. My body felt stronger, my mind calmer. I felt at ease with my body and mind, more confident.

This is not to say the back pain has disappeared. Absolutely not. It’s still there. But I am not defined by it and it does not haunt me the way it once did, for so much of my life. The pain fluctuates; but rather than give into it, I challenge it. I give it the most minimal attention.

So today I finally did Pincha Mayurasana on my own. The most difficult part of this asana, this posture, has been the bend in my spine. I’ve fallen more times than I can count and the pain in my back was intense at times. But finally, with a little self belief and determination, here I am. Every day my spine is becoming stronger and more flexible - because I believe it can be so.

 
 
 
 

This asana has been possible only because of three key things:

  1. Having the courage to face fears

  2. Finding the will to keep trying

  3. Being inspired by a man who could see beyond the surface. At the time, he could see what I couldn’t, and I will be forever grateful for his belief in me.

As a final note - we do not need to be our pain. We do not need to let it hold us back. If we do, then we lose the possibility of achieving amazing things in this lifetime. Ask yourself - “Why do you keep yourself small? Why do you play the safe card? What’s the payoff for this?” Whilst these questions are confronting, they could be key to unlocking parts of yourself you never realised existed.

Namaste xx

One year ago today...

One year ago today I left Australia and everything comfortable in my life to embark upon a new, exciting but also terrifying journey in pursuit of something more meaningful. I can’t help but feel quite emotional when I think about what this day meant for myself and Owen in particular. Holding each other tightly at the airport, we were devastated by the knowledge that as soon as we let go we could not hold each other again for three long months. But this was a sacrifice we both needed to make. Owen made this sacrifice as a symbol of his unconditional love and support of me and my dreams; I made this sacrifice as a symbol of my determination and commitment to pursuing a life that has meaning, that is authentic and that is chosen by me. A sort of self respect if you will. But despite knowing how important this was - for both of us in the end - it didn’t make those goodbyes any easier. Owen and I, and our Chug (pug x chihuahua) Tyrone are an inseparable trio. We like to think of ourselves as a tripod. We support one another. We are always there for each other. So for me to step away from our little family for so long was immensely challenging.

But here I am, one year later and soon to return to India for a second time.  My life has become  everything yoga - and I’m committed to teaching yoga full time. I let the corporate world slip away as it no longer serves me. Rather I’m on a path that is focused on health and well-being. On encouraging self respect, self love, self awareness. A path that has brought some of the kindest, most gentle and compassionate souls into my life. Once upon a time, when I was the corporate employee trying to escape the prison I had created for myself, I was that person, that employee who was desperately seeking a way out. I was the person who turned to yoga in search of solace. To allow my tired mind to rest. To look for strength when I felt weak. It is now me who is offering this to others. I mean - what an incredible gift I now have. An amazing opportunity to support and nurture people who are in a similar boat to where I was and assure that life can be ok. We can get through the challenges. We really can find stillness among the chaos.

Now - to be clear - this is not to say that yoga has made my life perfect. Far from it in fact. It’s highlighted just how imperfect my life is. But that’s ok. My life is real and it’s mine. Rather than look at challenges as barriers, I see them as opportunities. Rather than feel angry with myself for not being ‘strong’ today, I see that as a chance to look a little deeper and find out why. Rather than feel bitter toward the world for my life not turning out as I had hoped, I feel gratitude, choice and acceptance. Of course there are days where I feel victimised if something doesn’t go as planned. I want to blame others and receive the quick fix to a problem. I wouldn’t be human if this weren’t true. But it is through my practice that I’m able to quickly return to a place of understanding, acceptance and peace in knowing that it’s ok if things don’t always work out like we imagine. There is a reason for this and we just need to open our eyes to understand why - rather than become arrogant or naive to this knowledge.

For me - typical me - by now I had ideas for having a full blown studio with people bursting through the doors trying to get in. Turns out - this isn’t how business necessarily operates. Harsh wake up call. Money is not being thrown at me for memberships, investors are not banging down my door to get in on a piece of the action and I’m certainly not about to have this happen in the next few weeks. It would be nice but it’s just not very likely. Rather, I’ve been exposed to how tough the market is out there. How competitive this industry is. I’m not interested in that game though. I’m here to teach yoga for the love of yoga. I won't sell out just to make a buck. It is my responsibility to make sure I remain true to my practice and the philosophy of my practice. This has meant learning to organically grow my business and establish a community of people who respect my approach. Who seek the deeper aspects of yoga rather than look to yoga as a weight loss fad. This sort of following doesn’t come overnight. It takes time to build. I know this now. I also appreciate this now. For had I had a studio thrown into my lap without having gone through these struggle times, the humbling experiences of  going from a six figure income to nil (initially), learning how to negotiate when you have next to no authority to do so - I would not be the person I am shaping up to be. You see, every experience is a stepping stone to being better - in the task at hand, a hobby, in how I communicate, how I think, how I live. Whilst I have days where I truly hate these tougher times and wish it were easy, but at the end of the day, it is through these experiences that I am becoming a more well rounded human being. Whilst I’ve always tried to think this way, it has only been since I’ve made such huge changes in my life, (and experienced the never ending challenges as a result of my decision I might add), that I am knowing this to be true.

So today, I’m continuing to work on my speech where I will be presenting to over 200 people in a weeks time about Strength through Vulnerability. At the #GoFestival - Melbourne’s Women’s Expo and Conference. I’m absolutely terrified, but I’m also super excited to share this crazy journey with the world to show what is possible in this life. A year ago today I had no idea I would be preparing for something like this - which is huge for me. Nor did I believe i would have taught at multiple festivals in front of hundreds of people. Never in my wildest dreams or imagination would I have believed this to be true. But, it is. My life has taken a completely different turn, through nothing other than my choices, and I’m now on a crazy, whirlwind adventure which certainly keeps me on my toes. There is never a dull moment.

In just over a month's time I will be returning to India - a place I now consider to be my second home. Assisting Guruji with his next teacher training and continuing my personal training, I cannot wait to begin the next chapter of my life. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s hard work. And, yes it’s overwhelming at times. But it is real and it makes me smile every day. This is what it’s all about.

Namaste.

Self belief - so fickle. Wouldn't you agree?

Let’s just say today was one of those days of fluctuating between believing in yourself and thinking you’re an absolute joke. Chatting with Owen today, the theme of self belief came up. If you’ve read my blog or know me personally, you would know my intentions are to share my learnings from India with the rest of the world as a teacher. I also intend to own my own business one day, with a studio and also hosting retreats in luxury accommodation. Where my students are treated to a few days of complete respite, to allow their tired bodies to rejuvenate, relinquishing all worries for a few days. To experience the absolute bliss yoga can offer. This is what I dream to do. But today I was really honest with Owen about my personal doubts in my own ability to actually ‘pull this off’. The negative voices in my head, which try so hard to take over, are there constantly. But I know I cannot give into them. I know any self doubt will stop me from carving the path, the life, I dream of. So I have to actively cancel these thoughts. Not pay attention to them. To remind myself that anything is possible if you want it enough. If you work hard enough at it. I truly believe this, and I know my dreams for yoga will be realized soon. But again, as I mentioned before, there are days when I need to work harder to conjure up positive messages of self belief. I think this is called life.

I’m a doer in life. As the baby of eight children, I worked out pretty early on if I wanted something, I needed to get it myself. Especially as an adult, this is how I have always operated. Because I am fortunate enough to have found a true passion which gives meaning to my life, yoga, I am now committed to realising these dreams. To achieve my goals. I am firm about the opinions I will listen to and accept versus those which offer nothing and should be ignored. One has to be. This also goes for the messages I tell myself, as I said earlier. I am so strict with what thoughts/beliefs I will allow into my life and which ones I will choose not to indulge. Anything which says I can’t do something, for example, is something I choose to ignore. If I don’t do this, (and I believe this to be true for everyone), then I wouldn’t be here in India following my heart. Or if I made it this far but allowed self doubt to creep in, then I certainly wouldn’t see my training through. It would be far easier to fly home to the man and pooch whom I miss desperately. But what kind of life would that be? I know I cannot give up on myself. And nor should anyone.

I guess the point I’m getting at is - everyone else can see potential in others and yet the person themselves often cannot see the potential in themself. Why do we all struggle so much to see the good in ourselves, to see the immense strength and courage we all possess within? If everyone were brave enough to look inside and trust themselves, the possibilities of what could be achieved are limitless. Boundless. Maybe we all need to take a huge look in the mirror and ask ourselves - “am I living my life how I had always hoped to live it?” If the answer is no, then ask “what do I need to do to create that life?” Then do that. And let go of the self doubt. It does not serve you.

The clock is ticking and we don’t know when it will stop. So if ever there is a time to listen to yourself and just go for it - it’s now. That’s is why I’m here. Because I suddenly realised, tomorrow will never come. Food for thought.

Namaste xx


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