I used to think that Yoga was a great lesson in how to shift edges. Like the perimeter of an ocean bowl; I’d breathe into the layers or boundaries of my skin, recognising that here was a permeable layer, connected to everything. As the body expands and contracts, the tiny fluctuations ripple out and in, creating new edges, new tides, new softer and less defined ‘fences’ between my inner world, and that around me.
But last year there was a huge shift in my approach to Yoga. Suddenly, the priority was no longer about shifting these lines; creating new edges. It became apparent to me that what was of most reward, both on and off the mat, was to embrace space. It was less about the definitive edges. And more about how I was filling up the space.
Lockdown (a phrase I’m not all that down with, but for lack of a better word, I’ll use it here) has been a great wisdom provider.
We’ve seen how the world just can’t stop, be still, drop in or settle down. We were (in the UK) given freedom to stay at home, away from work (which, for the majority of us, is a chore we usually detest) and paid to just ‘be’.
But it didn’t prove so easy. And we learnt that people crave constant distraction. The world wide web lit up like a star-flooded sky. Internet news, chat rooms and gaming sites were heaving.
The inner sounds are difficult territories to wander; here are intuits that stir up deep forgotten wisdoms. And so, when the masses were forced to retreat from work, shopping, driving, do-ing….they sought distractions of other kinds.
Even we were resistant to just being in the beginning (only a little….and it was well hidden from us). Half empty paint pots finally became emptied onto walls; shifting colours of our inner spaces. We cleaned and cleared out the external physical places. Our abode is now crystal clean, beautiful and comforting to lounge in. We’ve lived in our current home for about 18 months now and it amazes me that such magic could unravel in rooms that were long overlooked before. Now, the energy is much clearer and feels right.
As days turned to weeks, we, too had to pause. Now that our home was balanced and restored, we had to allow space and time, for our inner to settle.
There have been many flashbacks; turning memories over in our heads and our hearts. Initially there was a lot of noise, but as seasoned meditation practitioners, we knew that the noise never subsides. It’s not so much about stilling one’s thoughts, as it is about knowing which ones to focus on.
And so, eventually, we found centre. The place where we could drop in, tune out, just ‘be’. With it all.
And some amazing lessons revealed. Much of them are what we share over and over here in our ‘reflections’. Tiny bite-sized interpretations, trying to put into words that which can never really be understood by human words alone.
Here are our top five lessons from lockdown. Keira’s first and then mine. They’re pretty similar. But it’s like a Yoga pose; they look the same to a non-observant seer, but every single time, the lesson is raw. Every single time is the first time.
They’re all the same lessons. It just happens that they are presented in different ways, over and over, so they are never forgotten. And they are received, Deep; deep into the space.
You must be empty in order to fill up.
Time is precious
So many evenings. That’s the first thing I noticed. All these evenings I’ve missed while I’ve been facilitating space. I missed the temperature drop between day to night; the silence as birds go to sleep, evening snuggles with my doglets and walks by the ocean as the stars began to shine. After a few weeks, I began to value every precious moment even more than I had done before. Even the constricted parts of deep anxiety that came. Every second became a moment to just savour. I’ve changed my practice to include so much more meditation; I eat breakfast one spoonful at a time and position myself in front of the garden to watch everything move. Nothing is still. Everything is speaking this soundless language. The darkness would sometimes be difficult, but even that’s been an opportunity for much to change. I journal when I want now; I really value this act of putting pen to paper, rather than typing onto a keyboard.
Time is money
We don’t need so much. It’s been a big wake-up call. If you start equating what you spend on material things into time, it becomes obvious that we don’t value our time as much as we should. This isn’t a rehearsal. Time is irretrievable. It’s important that we spend it wisely. Don’t waste it. Drink it up and spend it being present, as much as possible.
Currently I’m not seeking to explore other places. Usually we would travel to other places, take huge walks many miles away. But, right now, what is on our doorstep has become a map to new places. We’ve discovered new walks, new sights and sounds, all within walking distance from home. Everything we need is here.
I’ve spent months (near on a year) looking forward to visiting India, only to have it not happen; and that was incredibly difficult to deal with at first. But then I recalled what that trip meant to me; it meant time. And I can sense that here, now. It’s not about where we are; it’s about our perspective and appreciation of this moment we call ‘now’.
Do I really need that shampoo that costs two hours wage? Or can I forego it and use some essential oil and gain two hours out on the beach, with my family instead? And technology? I’ve got no time for it. Sure, it’s necessary for a few things, but now more than ever, I avoid all the sensationalism of the ‘news’ and choose to use my time in more beneficial ways.
Life is short
Italy was the start…then US….then UK.
We’ve lost quite a few people so far in our own lives. What’s happening now globally is a real awakening. It’s so painful and fearful for many.
Death and grief are always a reminder of our own mortality. Life is short. Too little. Such a waste to worry about what everyone is thinking, to live according to societal conditioning. I learnt this precious lesson living in India; watching women wash their clothes in muddy rivers and leave them to dry, flapping beside the road. Watching the street dogs work in their packs, either accepting newcomer hounds or mauling them as they entered their territory. Befriending the outcast and letting her sleep in my hut at night. When our mother asked whether it was the first of February, and then held on to pass away when it arrived a few days later. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned over time; more now than ever, is that life is to be lived. You can be whatever, whoever and however you want to. But the only way to do it, is to remember that life is too short. No one cares what you’re doing. And if they do, that’s a waste of their own life.
Live in the moment
Don’t wait for life to happen. Make your dreams happen now. Don’t worry about the next moment, what’s going to happen or what has occurred. The only way to beat anxiety is to be here, now. It’s really difficult to master. Never as easy as it sounds.
Pause to adore the landscape (and listen)
The quieter we become, the more we can hear. Don’t let the landscape pass you by. Pause, look, listen, smell, feel. Do whatever you can to get into this moment and observe. Just like being on the mat, it’s valuable to take the same quality of attention out into all your moments. Even if you have a packed day, there’s always a few moments when you can just stop and really look at where you are; through the eyes and all your senses. Bare feet and naked skin help.
Nature restores at fibre-optic speed:
Not only have we noticed the land around us flourishing during the past few months, but there has been a return of the wildlife. Deer have ventured to the borders of our gardens, undisturbed until our four-legged friends get view of them. There have been muntjac and large deer all around the greens that surround us. We have a family of blue tits nesting in a house we set up last year in our garden. Without looking to Google or having read it in a book some place, these little creatures instinctively knew when our tamarisk tree would burst into blossom, and they timed their hatchlings perfectly. Now that the tree is covered in beautiful pink bloom, there are many trips to catch caterpillar as food for their baby chicks. We had an adder come into our garden and sit on my foot as I was sowing seeds from a wild flower mix. I didn’t even look down at first; assuming it was my tiny dog’s wet nose brushing my foot. But as it glided along the top of my foot, I looked down and jumped so high; screaming so loudly. A winding long pale white adder with the most delicate black patterning slid away and out beyond into the neighbouring land. We’ve had birds visit us from the nearby reserve, bats in their hundreds sweeping at night. Grasses grew metres high and everything seemed to sigh at the silence. The sea seemed louder as it swayed back and forth. All is quiet.
Not only do humans create internal sound, but we create so much external noise:
The first weekend that lockdown eased a little, there were hundreds of visitors here. Motorbikes, music, voices, drones overhead; all making so much noise. A cacophony of chaos. Too much noise. So much that it disturbs the wildlife; deer and rabbits retreat. Birdsong turns down a few notches, as the artificial sounds take over. People can’t just be. They sit with car doors open and radios blasting out; like the sound of wildlife, of nature, is too unappealing. Even the motorbikes blare out dance tunes over and over. We sit. Straining to hear the bird’s lullabies.
Why is it we seek to separate ourselves from nature so much? Is it because the realisation is so overwhelming that the panic would be real?
But it’s okay; when you catch it, it amplifies and the attention streams onto their sound. My sister taught me much about silence; I usually facilitate Yoga with accompanying music, and she often does not. She always tells me that the most nourishing sound is the breath. And I have to admit that whenever there is a group just riding on breath, the lull is immense. That’s potent power right there. Natural sounds; they’re always the way ‘in’.
That’s natural meditation; picking and choosing what to focus on. Searching out that which is nourishing. And leaving the rest to the sideway.
In a way, it’s good to embrace a noisy gathering of humans; it lets us see how far we’ve come in the art of meditation and connection that is Yoga.
Chaos encourages stillness
How to deal with all the noise created by bipeds? Focus on the birdsong.
The flashbacks have served a purpose, in that we’ve come to recognise that the times that felt really sticky, or dark; all the real struggles and events that left us blindsided…they drew real strength and magic. So, it only seemed right to us, that we didn’t offer any ‘online’ teachings or Zoom classes while the world was forced to pause. Because we genuinely value those moments of pause. Yes, we panicked about money and thought it was illogical from a ‘business perspective’ to press pause on our sharing. But it just didn’t feel right to either of us. Besides, sharing the greatest love of our lives has never been about money for us. Of course, we value our teachings and there has to be a fair exchange, but the minute money takes over, it’s game over for the true process of unity (for us).
This chaos of fear and sudden loss of life worldwide, meant that we had to pause to process. Space was required personally by us. So we could reflect and revive. Heartbreak can be a great catalyst. Grief is a huge awakening. We knew deep down that we needed some downtime. In order to heal and to ‘be’.
So when the world is ready to share, to receive…we’ll be full and overflowing. Not drained or empty.
It’s a strange duality; in that sharing that which fills us up, can be emptying in many ways. But that’s the lesson right there; in knowing and understanding that not everything has to be understood.
This chaos and unexpected times have allowed us time and appreciation for the gift of life. To remember our dreams and visions. And to unite stronger than ever before.
The practice is ongoing
It feels so good to practice with no goal in mind. To sit and wander; playing in transition and lightly feeling into every single part. With no need to mentally take note of what is occurring. We have learnt new and old stories; remembered new rhythms. We are so grateful to have this tool during these exceptionally difficult times.
It’s been soul-affirming to really play light. And now, we feel whole again. Ready to act from centre. There’s a valuable lesson in reaching outward, as opposed to being pulled in all directions. This crazy artificial world wants us to be busy; it will pull your attention every which way; any way so long as you are not looking inward or upon the present.
The practice is forever and ever. The lessons keep coming. The sly tricksters that are greed and Ego, are ever pulling silently. The need for fame, power, money, greed…it’s all there for the taking in this modern way of living. But the current pandemic has meant that people have become more grateful for eachother, for love, life and for hardship, struggles, the light, the dark.
This has proved, more than ever, that the only thing we can be sure of, is the uncertain.
Life is precious. And we value it more than ever before.
The end…if you made it this far, then we salute you! It’s a pretty long read and none of it is anything ‘new’ or ‘wise’ or ‘enlightening’. These are just thoughts put to paper. Letters strung to make sentences. Trying to make sense of a world that doesn’t.
And if you couldn’t be bothered to read this far (and we wouldn’t blame you; there are many better ways to spend your precious life) then here is the core of it all; you’ll be better than okay. Use this time as a lesson. Go out and do good in the world. Be kind to yourself and others. Play. Light.