One of the approaches I take as a yoga teacher and also psychotherapist is to pay attention to what is coming up. I follow what is emerging in the energetic field and my intent is to bring curiosity, acceptance and neutrality to it. It’s a very organic method of working led by the process vs. me trying to take control and direct things in a certain way, which is definitely a go to place of mine. I like certainty and I like to know where I’m heading. Yoga and Body Psychotherapy have taught and continue to teach me to stand in an empty room and wait. Instead of wanting to make things happen or having a pre-conceived idea where life takes me, I’m working on allowing the process to move through as it needs to. My intent is to hold space for the people I work with in exactly that way. And as my therapist used to say: It takes a lot of courage and nerve to stand in an empty room. It’s about creating space, not filling it back up and then waiting what is coming to the surface. In the current times with all the uncertainty, I feel this is more relevant than ever.
What happens when you stand in an empty space? What are your go to places? What happens when there is space in your life?
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.
Words and concepts that have been coming up over the last couple of week are: balance, paradox, juxtaposition, polar opposites, integration and abandonment. They are all qualities of the fourth chakra, the heart chakra, which is the middle point and the centre of the chakra system. Interestingly, on a physical level this chakra includes the heart and the lungs. According to Anodea Judith (Eastern Body, Western Mind), in the heart chakra we continue our individuation, i.e. our journey of finding ourselves and becoming who we are, by developing balance of the inner female and male, anima and animus. This is less about gender than about opposites forces that are residing in each of us. We all carry paradoxes: On the one hand we might want to really come out of the lock down, on the other hand, we might be scared of and tread it. Instead of needing to choose one over the other, Anodea Judith suggests that "the more we allow one kind of energy, the more the other can come through". It's not about either looking forward to OR being scared of it, it's about looking forward to AND being scared of it at the same time. Both are true and the work is to make room for the paradox, in that sense widening our identity and not abandoning parts of ourselves.
Thank you all who contributed to these reflections.
We hope that yoga enables you to expand and contain seemingly opposing aspects of yourself. Here is a free recording - thanks to Janet's generosity.
Here is the link to our Timetable including Recordings:
Finally, we'd like to remind you that we've reverted back to our regular refund and cancellation policy. We, however, continue to suspend our 24 hour notice of cancellation policy. You will be able to cancel free of charge up until the class starts. Classes will be charged in full if not cancelled at all. This policy is in place until 8th of May 2020. Please understand that we unfortunately cannot extend passes or membership.
Thank you all who have been supporting us by purchasing memberships, drop-ins and class passes!
Walk in beauty + enjoy this bank holiday weekend
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.
The title "Under Construction" has been inspired by one of the people I work with.
One emerging theme I have been observing - within myself and my clients - has been the one of things being constructed, deconstructed and reconstructed at foundation level. In other words the process of being under construction has surfaced. This in turn has created a feeling of being uprooted, not fully grounded, and shaken up. Within that, there has been a sense of persistency, a feeling that everything has been intensified or in the words of one of my clients "magnified". Emotions are heightened and interactions are at times explosive. Relationships, communities and organisations have been tested, destroyed, solidified, re-defined and re-evaluated. Physical building structures and objects have been broken, deconstructed, rebuild, replaced and repaired.
Even though my personal intent is to stay present with at times a painful turmoil and an intense phase of structural change, my curiosity and excitement are also with the possibilities and openings that are being created through this foundational shift.
In the words of my supervisor: "What needs to be left behind and what needs to be brought forward?" What do we need to let go of and what is worth pursuing and fighting for, so we can bring it with us?
Walk in beauty,
Last weekend I taught a three day continuous education programme for yoga teachers. One of the emerging statements, which had a lot of gravity, was: "the middle is difficult".
Throughout this week I have been feeling that this is so true for many people including myself. It's easy to move one way or another. The middle ground is so much more difficult, since it requires feeling into the body a lot more. Going to one extreme or another does not require sensing into the body; these responses are often more habitual and guided by our head and ultimately seeking some sense of control. Being German I like things to be neat, black and white and generally I enjoy order. It's however in the less defined areas, in the grey ones where we can find the most growth and a lot of creativity - and most importantly a sense of contentment and equilibrium.
Hang out in the beautiful middle!
I've been observing over the past two to three weeks what's been moving within me and also within the people I've been working with and the theme of being in "limbo" has emerged. It's the strange "in-between" state where we leave the old behind and are about to embark on the new, but have not quite taken the steps yet for whatever reason. Someone else described it as "being on the edge" with the sense of uncertainty around where we are heading and whether we'd like to move forward or not. Often previously dealt with patterns come up strongly and try to call us back. Very old challenges might surface and there is a sense that we've taken multiple steps backwards. Frequently it is in the moment we feel the most lost that we are about to enter the new and a huge shift is going to happen.
My personal challenge has been to hang out in the state of limbo trusting the process and knowing that something big is going to move.
Walk in beauty
As we are transitioning into autumn with the weather starting to change and the nights drawing in, I feel it's a good time to reflect on what we can let go of. In the four directions, a ceremony we do in Forrest Yoga, autumn is placed in the West. It's the location of where the sun goes down, where things come to an end and also where death resides. It's the season where the trees shed their leaves and prepare for winter. It's the season of letting go.
I've started to read Marie Kondo's book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying". The author suggests that the first step in tidying is to "discard" and the criteria to choose whether to discard an item or not is: "Does this spark joy?". It's so simple and yet so profound. She says that if an item sparks joy, keep it, if it doesn't, throw it away. One of the ongoing learnings for me is to make my life simpler and I'm very excited and curious about applying this principle to more areas of my life.
What is it in your life that you can let go of? What does not spark joy in your life?
Tidy in beauty.
In Ana Forrest's book "Fierce Medicine", she talks in the first chapter about her "fear training", i.e. she would deliberately do things that she was afraid of. She came to the conclusion that even though it was not possible to banish all her fears, she was able to make a choice to not allow them to rule her life.
When I was on holidays last week at the lake in Northern France where we always go, my 65 year old father did a backward somersault into the water. I remembered how I used to do this as a child. So, I decided to get up on the platform, which was about one meter of the water - with my back facing the lake. I could sense the fear; it almost made my head spin.
I first just jumped backwards into the water feet first and then did a couple of backward rolls in the water. Then I went back onto the platform and I stood there - very scared. I was feeling the fear in my entire body and there was a sense of paralysis and indecision creeping up on me, which in some respect was a great motivation for me.
I completely understand Ana's decision not to allow fear to rule her life, so I connected to my legs and feet, took several deep breaths, pushed off and did a backward somersault. It was not the kind that earns you points at gymnastics. It was definitely not pretty, but it was totally and utterly exhilarating. It was not about being able to do a somersault, which did not alter my life, it was about doing something that I'm very scared of. I felt the fear and did it anyways. In my mind possibilities opened up, I felt empowered.
Ana's steps to walking through the "spook zone":
... and do the somersault anyways.
Somersault in beauty
I have written about the experience of overwhelm in the last blog, but I've been very compelled to write some more about it, because it is something that is so prevalent in myself and also in the people I work with.
Last week the first half of the Forrest Yoga Teacher Training finished and one of the things I always tell trainees at the end is to leave enough space to digest the content and the experiences of the programme. Often, the tendency is to get back home and into a routine as quickly as possible. There is no downtime or in body psychotherapy terms there is no "downswing". The nervous is continually fired up without chance for the body to actually absorb what has been learned and experienced. There is not enough space to absorb fully and get nourished. Creating space and keeping that space is something I continually have to pay attention to. It is not something that comes natural to me.
As one of the people I work with very aptly said:
"My heart's desire is for lightness, simply "being" and joy."
It's about leaning back more into oneself and resting in order to live life to its full.
Rest in beauty!
Yoga, well-being and mindfulness... always walk in beauty.