The pandemic has been an invitation for myself to reflect on the vision I have been having for Equilibrium. When I left the software company I was working for in 2006 – at the age of 27 – I told my work colleagues that I would be opening a yoga centre. There were only a few who did not think I was a little crazy.
Opening the studio in Peterborough was definitely not an easy birth and I’m pleased that I did not really know what was involved in starting a business. The building works took longer, were more expensive and we encountered problems along the way which we did not know existed. When Brian, my now husband, and I opened Huntingdon in 2011 and we encountered some of the same problems, even though in a much milder form, he could not understand that I had agreed to opening a second centre having experienced the horrendous birthing pains in Peterborough. I guess… one forgets.
The vision for Equilibrium has always been about an interdisciplinary approach where a community of practitioners, clients, teachers and therapists can come together to create something bigger than the sum of the individual parts. It was always meant to be a place of growth, exploration, healing and a space to simply be. For me, it has always been about the physical space and the energy that gets created when we are together in a room. I loved the first yoga studio I went to in Edinburgh in 1999, which has been a huge inspiration for Equilibrium.
And at its core, the vision is the same: it’s about creating balance. I feel that this is more current than ever. I can see so much polarisation around me. I hope as a centre we can strive for balance and come into equilibrium:
My vision is that Equilibrium can create a great balance within the team of teachers and therapists, in what we deliver, the people we attract and the space we create.
One of my teachers in the body psychotherapy world often talks about group dynamics and how we relate to people. She describes two relational systems: dominance/submission and the supportive companionable. The first way of relating is comparing ourselves to others in the group and start to feel inferior or superior. In other words, we go “one down” or “one up”. The other way of relating is to move into the “supportive companionable” where we can relate as equals – no matter what functional role we are occupying. When we are in the “less than” space we often experience powerlessness. In body psychotherapy terms: we lose our inner authority. In that moment, we sense that we don’t have a choice. We feel that things are happening “to” us and that we don’t have an impact on our environment. To work with trauma and stress it’s crucial that we get out of the patterns of dominance (thinking too much of ourselves) and submission (thinking too little of ourselves) and move towards the supportive companionable.
The current situation is stress inducing, can be potentially traumatic and I have been tracking in myself that occasionally I’m moving into the one down position. In those moments I feel things are done to me and the world is unfair. When I’m stopping and recognising that I have choices, albeit sometimes not great ones, I can reclaim my inner power and take charge of making things work for me, which is a crucial aspect in moving through the current difficulties in a healthy way.
To maintain inner authority, it’s pivotal that we take small breaks, sense into how we are, slow down and integrate our experiences. We need to take charge of making things work for us. The inner feeling of being in charge gets diminished when we just “suck it up and get on with things".
When do you lose your sense of inner authority? What is it like in your body? Where do you collapse? What choices do you actually have?
For Christmas I was a gifted the book of “The Midnight Library", which I've found a very inspirational and thought provoking read. In this novel, the philosopher Thoreau is named and quoted numerous times. One quote in particular made me stop and reflect:
"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see." (Henry David Thoreau)
I've been contemplating a lot about projections, how we view the world and how our narrative shapes our reality. It's interesting to observe in myself what story I put onto a one-liner email, how I interpret a facebook post or what I read into a simple text message. Ultimately, I'm restricting myself and closing opportunities that are there, but I can't perceive as such. My intent is definitely to catch those moments when I'm filling in the gaps with all sorts of speculations that are neither helpful nor true and then to stay present with what really is vs. my wild interpretation of it.
I'm wishing you a happy new year 2021 where we hopefully can distinguish a little bit more between what we look at and what we see. And maybe there is space to see things and situations differently.
Part of my supervision is to reflect on my own process and how it is moving through me. The word that came up recently during one of my sessions is “gestation”, which medically means the period of maturation inside the womb from conception to birth. More generally, it’s about the development of something over a period of time. The normal limits of the human gestation period are from 37 to 42 weeks. It has now been about 34 weeks since the start of the first lockdown and in myself I get the sense that something new will be born in the near future. Since March of this year I’ve completed one of the biggest projects of my life (UKCP registration as a psychotherapist), I let go of a role that I had been holding for the last eight years within the Forrest Yoga community and of course I have stopped travelling completely, which brought about a huge change in the way I deliver my work. I have felt that there has been a true integration within myself of the different passions I have: yoga and body psychotherapy. For me, it’s culminating in a two day training I will be teaching online at the end of the month where I’m bringing together different aspects of my work. In some way, I’m being more un-apologetically me in my work.
What has been developing within you? What new beginnings are lurking around the corner for you? What are you giving birth to?
Watching a recent video on you tube with Lisbeth and Ditte Marcher, I was struck by the notion of “Justice does not exist”, i.e. things are unfair at times. We develop a sense of just and unjust between the ages of 2 and 4 years old. It’s the time the child learns to make decisions and how to choose. The understanding of duality, such as good and bad, is being developed then. During that time, the ability to understand consequences is also established. In the video, both women make clear that choosing something means letting go of something else. In order to make decisions we need to fully embrace the consequences of that decision, including the fact that things might not be fair. We can get stuck in that developmental phase thinking that things are either black or white, fair or not fair. Subsequently, we have difficulties making decisions, because in reality there are no perfect choices. Sometimes the decision is between pest and cholera.
I, personally, feel that this has so much relevance right now. My sense is that we really need to let go of the notion of justice and be real that we have choices, but that they might not be fantastically great.
Where do you get trapped when making decisions? What happens within you when you get stuck in the position of “The world is unfair?”.
In one of the sessions with my client, the word autonomy came up, which I have been reflecting on since. In Bodynamic, which is a form of body psychotherapy, the stage of autonomy is a developmental phase from 8 months to 2.5 years. It’s the time where we learn to keep our impulses whilst being in relationship. The question is “Who am I when in contact with another?”. One of the risks we are running is that we lose ourselves in the relationship. The challenge is to stay in contact with our own centre, power and feelings whilst being in relationship with another human being. It’s about an open heart without needing to shut down or abandon ourselves.
I invite you to track when you lose connection to yourself, when you start to follow another person’s rhythm, pace and timing, thereby losing your own and when you give your power away in order to stay in contact.
Sometimes a week or days can be summarised by or explored through one word. For this and last week, this word has been "discernment" for me. It has come up for me in a session with my supervisor, who has trained in and taught a psychotherapeutic tradition that is based on Buddhism. One of the definition of discernment (not in the Buddhist sense, but in the broader sense) is "the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure" (Merriam Webster Dictionary). Other definitions include words like insight and being able to judge well and accurately. A lot of the work I have been doing is about understanding what is my real and authentic self and where am I stuck in my patterns. Sometimes being triggered, or in transference, can feel like reality. However, I know that when I take my time and importantly slow down, I can distinguish, i.e. discern, between my defences and coping mechanism and my real self, i.e. between what is the immediate and real experience and what I have fallen into, unconsciously.
For me personally, when I'm in my pattern, there is a sense of urgency to do something, a feeling of not wanting to be with what is emerging and a desire to discharge the overwhelming emotions. This is often accompanied with a lack of grounding and thoughts that are in a constant loop. On the other hand, when I'm in contact with my authentic self and what is truly emerging within me vs. the secondary more interpretative energies that are often layered on top, I'm more centred, more grounded and slower. I am in contact with my centre and with what is real.
The art is to discern: what is real and what is made up; what is coming from the core and what is story.
Walk in beauty.
Since I have finished my personal psychotherapy sessions, my relationship to my two supervisors has become increasingly important. Regular supervision helps me to reflect about the work with my clients, but also about my own personal process and how I'm touched by my clients and what they stir up within me and mirror back to me. Unlike common belief that supervision is about the client, it's really about the teacher or therapist and their own process.
A couple of weeks ago, I felt ungrounded, overwhelmed and definitely not in my body. I felt that I was "failing" my clients and that I was not sure about what I was actually doing as a mentor and therapist. I had a session with my supervisor and I was asking him how I can "tackle the problems" some of my clients were experiencing. I was in the space of needing to find another "solution" for the problems that have been reoccurring - and I needed that solution fast. Metaphorically, my supervisor held up a pin and popped the balloon of busyness with a simple question: "So, there is somewhere to get to, Sandra?". In that moment I realised that I had fallen into the trap of needing to get somewhere and especially fast. I completely forgot that we are already here and that the only moment we have available is the present moment. By frantically trying to find a solution, I had also sent the subtle message to my clients that they need to be different to how they are right now. The fact is: they are whole human beings who simply disconnected from whom they truly are. I felt immediately lighter, more at ease and more embodied.
I feel that this approach is so beautifully summarised by Beisser (1970) in his article "The Paradoxical Theory of Change":
"Change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not. Change does not take place through a coercive attempt by the individual or by another person to change him, but it does take place if one takes the time and effort to be what he is-to be fully invested in his current positions. By rejecting the role of change agent, we make meaningful and orderly change possible".
Be who you are fully and have your own back.
Walk in beauty.
In January, I decided not to continue with my UCKP accreditation for Body Psychotherapy through the training organisation I had been with for almost 9 years. Because I was seeing my therapist at the centre in Cambridge I also decided to finish my personal psychotherapy. After some what's app messages to my therapist, I wrote her an email to say that I needed to take a break. After I got no reply from her, which upset me a lot, I decided to block her number. This was after what felt like an eternity, but in reality was after two weeks. Then in September, I decided to restart my work towards accreditation but through a different training provider and also felt the urge to go back into therapy. I knew I needed to contact my previous therapist, as things were left unfinished. In my first session, she told me that I never reacted to what she wrote in February. I insisted that I did not get the message. Of course, I did not get the message, because I blocked her number!
She ultimately supported me, but not exactly in the way I wanted her to. I have been thinking about this a lot. I often have had feelings of being unsupported in the past when in reality I have had a lot of support from amazing people around me. At times the support has come in different ways to what I wanted it to be - failing to see that it was there. I then, just like with my therapist, have closed myself off and decided that I can only rely on myself. That further isolated me and confirmed my belief that the only way forward is self-reliance.
My commitment to myself is to open my heart and allow myself to deeply receive and feel held and supported by the people I trust - in whatever form it comes. We can only freely give, if we allow ourselves to receive. It's an act of courage and vulnerability. Join me.
Walk in beauty
Last weekend I went on a CPD course for Body Psychotherapy and we looked at aversion, attraction and conscious goals. The movement and feeling that helped me to understand how to bring forward more of myself when setting goals was the feeling of being pregnant. My belly was loose, my hips were open and there was a sense that I was taking my weight more into my heels than into the balls of my feet.
My shoulders were relaxed and I was swaying from side to side while at the same time rubbing my belly. It had a soothing effect on me, which is quite the opposite of how I normally approach my goals: wanting to attack it, get on with it and be generally quite cut off from myself while at the same time being totally focused on what needs to be done.
The swaying movement with loose hips and belly was a reminder about the natural process and incubation time of ideas, goals and life in general. The person I was working with remarked: “The pregnant woman does not need to go and find the baby. The baby is within her.” This felt incredibly profound and eye-opening to me. I did not have to search for the wisdom, the ideas and goals, but they were actually already within me. I just need to allow life to flow through me.
I would like to encourage you to find your own movement that helps you to bring more of yourself into life and into the way you approach your goals and visions in life, so that whatever you're doing is coming from within you and is an extension of your authentic self.
Yoga, well-being and mindfulness... always walk in beauty.