The illusory fear of failure

I was writing a list of my deepest fears today, and noticed that most of them are based on the underlying false belief that I’m not good enough; that I’m fundamentally flawed and I will fail. My fear is so often of failure, whether this be in terms of ‘failing to be a mum’, ‘failing to recognise and walk my dharma/fulfil my soul mission’, ‘failure to support myself’, ‘failure to form lasting love relationships’, ‘failure to recognise my own ego blindspots/negative traits’, ‘failure to fulfil my potential’…

I realised it is this bedrock false belief that causes me to agonise over decisions and choices all the time – I am so fearful of ‘getting it wrong’ and I don’t want to fail.

But after my list today, I carried on writing and received some great clarity on the sheer illusory nature of this fear of failure – it really helped me at the time, so I’ll share it below in case it helps someone else… ūüôā

We cannot fail! It’s impossible – against what criteria are we judging ourselves? Any perceived criteria are self-created illusions/delusions – a meaningless mirage in the grand scheme of things. Any sense of end result is nonsensical in an infinite universe. We never arrive at our destination. We never suddenly become complete. Our life is an experiential journey, a dance of creation, a song that our soul sings. There’s no inherent meaning to it, beyond the meanings we choose to assign to it, but these too are self-created illusions/delusions. It’s all a big game, an infinite tapestry, the great dance of life. The best thing we can do is find as much heartfelt joy as possible along the way, feel grateful for every single experience and love and learn as much as we can. Connection is the key to happiness, contentment and joy.

So, whatever happens, whatever choices I make or decisions I take, I cannot fail. Being here is enough – it matters not what I do. Neither myself nor anyone else can judge me really – not in any true sense of the word. Therefore all my fears are unfounded. They are apparitions of illusion, created by my mind. My heart doesn’t know, understand or recognise these fears; it couldn’t give two hoots. Heart knows. If I follow my heart, this ride will be a sweet one.

All paths have a heart. We are the heart, we bring it with us wherever we go. We cannot escape the heart, we only need give it space to let it sing out its melody, loud and clear. The you can rest in the knowledge that you can never put a foot wrong. And, even when we squash heart and refuse to listen to its wisdom, or even forget that it exists within us, still we can’t put a foot wrong. It just means we’ll need to step out of the joyful, easy flow of connected life for a while into the icy coldness of perceived separation, whilst we learn a few important lessons and grow our experiential wisdom and empathy. Nothing we ever do is for nothing,¬† no experience is wasted. Each step is a triumph. Failure does not exist, except in the prison of our mind.


Posted in awakening process, evolution of consciousness, Love, Meditation, Mindfulness, Positivity, Power of change, Self-love, Turning fear to love | Leave a comment

Celebrating not berating

I woke up the other day with the following phrase in my head:

“Whenever you want to negatively judge someone, celebrate them instead!”

It’s a deceptively simple phrase. But, the more I contemplated it, the more I felt the immense punch that it packed. Think about it – if everyone literally followed this simple guideline as a matter of course, what a different world we would live in!

We invest so much energy in negatively judging ourselves and others daily. For most of us, if you tune into your thoughts at any given moment then you’re more than likely to find some kind of negative judgement in the mix before too long.¬† How often do we judge ourselves and find ourselves lacking? And how often do we lash out at others in harsh judgements, to distract us from our own ill-feelings towards ourselves?

I know this all seems a bit negative but, that’s the point, most people’s inner worlds are pretty negative, once you become self-aware and brave enough to begin to delve beneath the debris of superficial positivity that we scatter around the surface of our mind (think facebook, TV, hobbies, alcohol etc). And, by god I know, it takes a long, long time to unpick these negative thought patterns we’ve fallen into, but it is possible to change them one by one – where there’s a will there’s a way. And, as we do, our life changes around us to reflect back our new, more positive world-view.

I really do think we’re at a time in our species’ evolution where we need to each take personal responsibility to do this now. And the simple statement above seems to me a helpful tool¬† – and, as I always say, ‘fake it ’til you make it!’ – even if you have to think the celebratory thought through gritted teeth (not that we think through our teeth but you know what I mean), then at least it gets us into the good practice of seeking out the good in ourselves and others on a moment-to-moment basis rather than automatically pin-pointing the perceived failures. It’s all about getting into new, more beneficial habits that serve us and the world around us in a positive growth-filled way. We’ve all got work to do!

Here’s one to get you going:

‘You are a radiant soul with beautiful eyes!’ (And I know this to be true even though I may never have met you… ;))

Posted in awakening process, evolution of consciousness, Love, Meditation, Mindfulness, Positivity, Power of change, Self-love | Leave a comment

Love Revolution

As I write this in front of my woodburner, with snow filling the sky outside and lying many inches thick on the ground already, my thoughts briefly turn to sunny southern India, and how I could just as easily have been supping a post-yoga fresh coconut on the beach¬†in my flip flops and sarong right now. Yet, I don’t feel any pang of regret, I actually feel a deep joy bubbling up and a gratitude that I am here in this moment, in the depths of a proper Scottish winter, with the deep magic of the solstice just around the corner.

Isn’t it funny how things often turn out very differently from how we had naively planned they would go? It’s been a strange old time for me of late, of feeling pushed and pulled around by the playful nature of the universal flow. A few months ago I had felt an inexplicable and non-negotiable¬†impulse to sign up to an ‘astrology-dance’ retreat in India this November, and my mind/ego was incredibly confused by this impetuous decision! Then, once I arrived here at Anam Cara retreat centre as a volunteer, there was a very strange sense of coming home, and I instantly felt a peace descend and just knew I was in the right place. So much so that I ended up cancelling the astro-dance retreat so that I could stay longer here, with a surety in my heart that this was the right thing to do.

I remember thinking when I cancelled that I wished I could gift my place to a good friend of mine, who I knew would love to attend. Then, the next day, that very friend got in touch out of the blue to say she had been looking into dance retreats in India (where she was travelling at the time) and the only one that matched her dates was¬†the very same astro-dance retreat, and she had contacted them to find out if there was space¬†and heard there was one space left because they had just had a cancellation. I couldn’t believe the universe’s cheeky sense of humour and immediately replied to say that the cancellation was me!! So, it almost feels like I was playing my role beautifully by booking the place and ‘holding’ it for my friend until a time that she was ready to take it for herself – you can’t make this stuff up!

Anyway, who knows how the mysteries of the universe work, certainly not I. But I am increasingly thinking that the more we can laugh at the craziness of it all, the easier it flows.¬†And the more we can let go of the reins and allow a higher intelligence than ours to flow through us, the more ‘sense’ there is to the ‘non-sense’!

There is no doubt that we are living in absolutely crazy times, with so many institutions and systems crumbling and imploding¬†spectacularly and so much corruption finally arising to the surface to be seen in the clear light of day. It doesn’t take much scrutiny to feel a helpless sense of bewilderment at the madness of it all.¬†How on earth did we get ourselves¬†into this mess?! It feels as though we are globally beginning to wake¬†up to quite how much we’ve had the wool pulled over our eyes and quite how much modern life is not working out in the idyllic ways in which the¬†marketeers would have us believe. And there is definitely a growing, uncomfortable realisation¬†that we cannot continue to exist in this way for much longer, and simultaneously hope to survive¬†as a species on our precious planet long-term. If we don’t get our act together soon, we could become like the dinosaurs, just another fascinating geological stratum of bones buried deep in the earth for future self-reflective species to examine, if the earth survives our madness, that is.

And yet… we can choose to react in fear and feel we are powerless to change anything. Or, we can issue an incredulous laugh at the crazy world we live in, and trust that this is all part of a much bigger plan, that there is a much greater intelligence behind the apparent nonsense, which¬†is too vast for us to comprehend at our current evolutionary level of consciousness. A sign of this greater intelligence is perhaps the pockets of ‘light’ that are springing up across the planet as a direct counter to the increasingly obvious ‘darkness’ of corrupt and no longer viable old ways of existing. Examples of this are how yoga and other holistic healing modalities are becoming increasingly mainstream, how there is a growing trend amongst younger folk to look after their bodies and trade nights out at the pub for nights training at the gym, how vegetarianism and veganism are exploding in popularity and how most major superstores now have a hugely expanding ‘healthy alternatives’ section. I see so much positive change around me, despite the thousand and one problems we’re faced with¬†as old systems cease to work for us, and I believe in the inherent goodness, creativity, resourcefulness and resilience of humanity to continue this positive trajectory, even in the face of such seemingly unfavourable odds.

To me it feels like we are living amidst the chaos that precedes the phoenix rising mightily from the ashes. Positive change does not occur as a result of complacency, it tends to arise when dissatisfaction of the status quo reaches a critical threshold that can no longer be ignored. It feels to me like we’re hitting that threshold round about now and, contrary to the surface view, this feels to me a fantastic and exciting time to be alive. Things will change for the better as a result of this maelstrom of madness we’re in, there’s no doubt about that in my mind. The pendulum will always swing, and the universe will always seek to move towards equilibrium.

One thing I feel very strongly is that the thing that’s going to get us out of this mess and onto the next phase of our evolution as a species is love. It’s certainly not fear, and it’s not anger either (although, once the wool is removed from our eyes, the inevitable¬†anger that arises from clear vision of¬†injustice can be harnessed to move towards positive change and love). We can point fingers and rant and rail about others’ poor behaviour until the cows come home but, ultimately, if we want to evolve towards a better way of living together,¬†we have to move beyond such separatist judgements and reactive behaviour¬†and instead begin to cultivate feelings of love and compassion towards all, knowing everyone is playing their role in this mysterious universal dance, even the ‘villains’ (for example it is ironically the increasingly desperate actions of the ‘villains’ that are waking us up and shunting us towards an evolutionary paradigm leap). And to do this, I believe it is vital that we focus our attentions on healing ourselves so that we can love ourselves as we are meant to do, thereby expanding our consciousness and re-empowering ourselves.

I believe unconditional love and connection¬†is the natural state of the universe, which includes every one of us as integral parts of the universe. Yet we cannot experience unconditional love for ourselves when it co-exists¬†with fear, and most of us live in fear most of the time, whether we are aware of this or not. Fear causes us to forget that we are all intimately connected and infinitely powerful, and instead feel separation and impotence. We may have flashes of feeling in love with everyone and everything in the universe, but rarely does it become a constant state, due to the rapid resurgence of fear as ‘reality’ sets in once more. But who is dictating our reality?

It’s time that we delved inside to examine these fears that run our lives, and shed them, one by one. It’s possible;¬†it’s the journey I’ve been on for the last few years and, although I know there are still some deep fears in there to root out, it’s becoming easier and easier to let them go – it’s just a matter of where you place your attention. It’s the process of awakening, well-documented in all spiritual traditions, although often shrouded in esoteric and nigh impenetrable language, when in fact it’s simply a return to our natural state, which is pure love. And I really believe that the more people that take this decision to do the inner work and (re) awaken to the truth of who they are, the more a snowball effect will occur¬†and it will become progressively easier to move through this process¬†as we begin to collectively support each other in our endeavours. In fact it seems this snowball effect has started already, another symptom of the ‘light’ of truth fighting back.

So, I truly think that a really good thing that we can all do in this madness is to retreat inwards and learn to love ourselves unconditionally, and to move past the myriad negative judgements we hurl at our good selves each day, yet to simultaneously extend our support outwards to our friends, family and community, to encourage and help others do the same.

To me it is the¬†inner revolution that¬†is going to save us – it has to start with ourselves. Only when we love ourselves truly can we reflect this onto the outer world. We all have the power to change the world, in this I do believe – we change it with every thought we have, choice we make, word we speak. And moving towards self-love through inner work and holistic healing comes hand in hand with expansion of consciousness. This is what is next for humanity’s evolution, if we can get through this craziness. It is, as it always has been, in our hands. How can we not take individual and collective responsibility for arriving at the situation we find ourselves in? Taking responsibility is the first step towards re-empowerment. And the positive flip-side of this is that we get to choose how the future will look for us too.

I have such a great respect for our species – in the face of such trauma and nonsense, our resilience is formidable. We still get through each day as best we can:¬†sharing smiles, connecting with¬†and helping others when we can, laughing often, inventing and creating solutions, committing mind-blowing acts of compassion and self-sacrifice when it really counts. It seems that our inner spark¬†is indomitable – we are a force of light to be reckoned with, and it’s time we remembered that.

So, to rein myself back into a ‘yoga’ context (which, as a reminder, means ‘union’ ;)), next time you take to your yoga mat or sit down to meditate or indeed do anything that is for the purpose of nurturing yourself, know that you are doing this for yourself, for your soul expansion, for your inner healing. Yet, in giving yourself precious time for self-nurturing, you are in fact also doing it for every other being in the universe too, and you are actively playing your role in saving the world from madness and creating a positive future of love, harmony and collaboration. The question to ask yourself with all choices you make is: ‘Is this making me kinder and more loving towards myself and therefore also to others?’ If the answer is yes then do it as much as you can! And if the answer is no then perhaps re-think – we always have a choice, and we always will.

And, finally, when in doubt, my advice is to laugh at the madness! Or have a cup of tea. For me, both actions seem to work wonders at dispelling fear, which inevitably moves you closer to the love that you truly are… ūüėČ


Posted in awakening process, Community life, Connecting with the natural world, Detoxification, evolution of consciousness, Healthy eating and nutrition, Love, Meditation, Mindfulness, Positivity, Power of change, Self-love, Yoga | 1 Comment

I don’t understand – but I trust

So, once again I am on the brink of leaving my ‘regular’ life behind to leap into the abyss and explore some more of what this crazy, beautiful planet has to offer. It has been such a journey getting to this point, and it still feels strange. I am a bundle of emotions – sadness and grief at what I’m leaving behind and might yet lose, yet wonder that this sadness is only there because of the deep love and gratitude that lies beneath it. And of course there is huge excitement, joyful curiosity and fear in the mix too – I often feel I’m in the middle of a furious maelstrom of emotions these days, yet there’s a deep strength underlying it all, and I seem able to stand firm and trusting at its still-point centre, even when my mind can’t possibly explain what’s going on!

Many people have asked me what I’m doing this year, and sometimes also asking, ‘why?’. It’s a natural question, and one I’ve struggled to answer. I’ve struggled in part because I am shy to bring my explorations out into the open. And I’ve also struggled because my mind can’t make sense of what I’m doing – it can’t rationalise it, put it into a tidy, neat box and justify it. So I’m often left without many words, just a sheepish look and a helpless shrug. But I know that I need to lose the sheepishness and instead own and honour what I’m doing without fear of judgement and without any feelings of embarrassment or shame. Why? Because I am following a deep, deep instinct. It is that crazy, inexplicable thing that we all have, if we can only quieten the mind long enough to listen: intuition. No, I can’t explain it in my head, but I feel it deeply in my heart and gut and it’s impossible to ignore. Sometimes we have to leap, even when we don’t know why. And in that leap of faith, that act of surrender and trust, invisible arms appear to support us and carry us to the other side, from where we will look back and see the method in the madness, the thread of truth through running through the mists of confusion.

So what am I doing with myself this winter? Well, firstly, I am revisiting a beautiful and magical retreat centre in Inverness ( where I attended a course recently, entitled ‘Plant Spirit Medicine’, which signalled my first ‘official’ foray into shamanic practices. I have been drawn to shamanism for many years, pretty much since I began my inner questing in earnest, and it has become increasingly obvious that, through my own inner journey, of which connection to nature is a massive part, I’ve adopted many of its practices intuitively and naturally, without ever having ‘learnt’ these, and I think this is its appeal. To me, shamanism is an umbrella term for intuitive, innate and timeless healing wisdom that comes from connecting deeply with the land and with yourself as an integral part of the land. It is no coincidence that every ancient culture across the globe has some kind of ‘shaman’ healer and/or knowledge-keeper as an important member of the community, and that the practices used by shamans across the world are eerily similar. And if these practices are both universal and, seemingly, timeless, then we would be foolish to write them off, especially when so many of our existing systems are so clearly failing us.

Shamanism is about bridging the gap between the seen and unseen realms, and honouring every living thing as equally sacred. This is a path I’ve been walking anyway, but now I’m ready to give it some kind of framework, and I have found the perfect teacher at Anam Cara, and the perfect place to immerse myself in the sacred celebration of the land. I will be volunteering at the centre for around six weeks, and hope to learn more about running retreats and managing a large piece of land, which follows permaculture principles, as well as exploring community living again, as these are all things that I am very interested in and that I think will become increasingly woven into the mainstream as humanity opens its eyes once again to the old ways, and rekindles a longing for deep connection to land that is crying out to be fed within us.

Then, after six weeks of retreat living in Scotland, I am off to India to, firstly, study astrology via the medium of dance (yes, really), and then immerse myself in yoga for a couple of months. Again, I’ve felt sheepish confessing this newfound love of astrology to people, but it’s a passion that has found me. It has grown within me stealthily until, like the shamanism, I feel it’s time to honour it by dedicating time, money and energy to learning more. ¬†Just like the shamanism, it’s an ancient, timeless practice – the alignment of ancient sites with constellations is but one of many illustrations of how our ancestors valued astrology as a potent science. And, like shamanism, it has grown within me as a natural, intuitive extension of my persona rather than as a conscious intellectual exercise. I literally feel the effects of the planetary movements on my being, and my studies into it are more affirmative than illuminating, just like the shamanism, although of course I realise there is so much to learn – again, hence the need to delve into this world and provide a framework of sorts for the intuitive wisdom that is gradually being remembered within me. I feel these different worlds are all just facets of the same complex totality of existence, but we need some form within the freedom, and the mind likes to learn, even if the heart and spirit already know it all. Like all things in life, it’s all about the balance.

So why have I felt reluctant to share my new direction with people? Fear of negative judgement of course. Fear that my yoga students will drop away, thinking I’m becoming too weird and far-out hippy. Fear that friends will disown me for the same reason. Fear, fear, fear…

The thing is, this fear is abating fast. Of course, it’s still there. But I now understand that if I don’t honour and respect my decisions then how can I possibly expect others to do so? Furthermore, I now place personal authenticity above feeling the need to please others. Because I have finally realised that the only way I can ever please others is by being true to myself first. And I know that I have to teach my truth too, and that this is the greatest honour I can give my students. I’ve always struggled with the ‘teacher’ label anyway – I just want to share my passions with those keen to learn, that’s all. So I have to allow my teaching to grow as I do.

And, here’s the funny thing. It’s all yoga anyway! I have always struggled to fit myself into any kind of box – I resist labels when I can, and it’s been a long journey to accept that yoga is a big enough container for my personal growth. But yoga means union, which means bringing everything together, and in this I can believe. Yoga is taking us towards the experiential understanding that we are all one and the unconditional love that follows such a revelation, and in this I also believe.

And, as I learn more, I see how shamanism and yoga are but two sides of an infinitely multi-faceted coin, and I notice that references to astrology appear as aspects of the ‘siddhis’ (special powers that committed yogis will start to eventually experience) in Patanjali’s yoga sutras (III.26-III.28). I used to think the siddhis were all-out bonkers, but these days they just seem a very natural part of expansion of consciousness, which any kind of healing/inner work is contributing to – but the proof will always be in the pudding (hurrah for puddings); all the great truth teachings are merely affirmative of your own experiential findings – we have all the answers we need within us already. And all great¬†‘teachers’ will just remind us of this and help us to extract them. As one of my recent teachers/mentors said, ‘we are the Patanjalis of our time’.¬†So I think my forays into shamanism and astrology are actually very much a positive sign that yoga is working for me. And, it’s all one anyway, so I don’t even know why I’m quibbling… ūüėČ

So, this doesn’t mean my weekly yoga classes will now include astrological discussions or shamanic rituals, but it does mean I might occasionally weave these into my teachings, if it seems to fit, which it does surprisingly often. And it does mean that I continue to expand and grow my body of knowledge and experience in a way that feels intuitively right to me, and this is surely one of the best teachings I can give to others; to be true to yourself, to follow what makes your soul sing and your curiosity soar with joyful excitement. And, more than this, to follow that deep, deep knowing within you, even when it makes no sense at all.


Posted in Community life, Connecting with the natural world, crystals, Detoxification, India, Love, Meditation, Mindfulness, Patanjali, Positivity, Power of change, Self-love, Stone circles, Uncategorized, Yoga, yoga philosophy | Leave a comment

Growing Through Vulnerability

I’ve been putting off writing my monthly newsletter for a couple of weeks¬†now, simply because I couldn’t focus on what to write about in this month’s article. I listlessly flicked through the Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita, hoping for some drop of wisdom to jump out, but nothing pulled me in. I was too distracted by what was going on in my personal life. Then it hit me today… I should just write about what I’m going through!

Striving to be as authentic as possible is really important to me,¬†especially as we live in a world where this is often not readily supported. In the spirit of ‘being the change you want to see’ (thanks, Gandhi!) I aim to share as honestly as possible my own struggles and joys, in order to inspire others to do the same and to find the courage to speak their own truth, even when this seems¬†at odds with societal expectations and convention. We are all gloriously unique, and will only find true self-fulfilment when we embrace this and begin discovering and unapologetically living that truth, rather than trying to fit into prescribed boxes that don’t suit us.

So, part of my truth is to try and overcome the stiff-upper-lip Britishness/modern-day humanness of not admitting our own weaknesses by sharing my dark times as well as my wonderful times. I am well aware that this raw emotional sharing often makes people feel very uncomfortable, but then change is always uncomfortable and, as I see it, our inability to share our truth with each other, especially when it comes to emotions, has got us into rather a sticky situation as a species, where loneliness, superficiality and confusion are rife, and I sense a deep hunger rising within us for a change in this respect.

In addition, I am aware that the reluctance to share weakness with others often stems from the competitive tendency that we have fallen into as a modern, achievement-focused species, which awards approval based on what we do not rather than who we truly are.

I am also aware that this truth I feel and share often makes me sound quite negative about our species, but in fact the opposite is true. It is because I believe in us so very deeply, and know it doesn’t have to be this way, that I feel committed to being part of a positive shift in how we interact and communicate with each other, by re-establishing our sense of connectedness and allowing emotions and heartfelt truth their rightful place as¬†essential components of healthy and happy living. This is, in essence, what yoga is all about really – union, unity, connection; the realisation that we are all one, there is no separation. Big stuff, I know, but I feel it so very deeply and I see that others feel it too on some level – those random acts of kindness and conscious self-sacrifice¬†that we as a species are uniquely¬†capable of on the planet can only come from such a place. I believe love and connection are our natural state yet for some reason we have had to learn and teach a different way and now suffer from the resultant enforced separation and competition. Yet, despite this, we can and, I believe, will inevitably eventually¬†return to our true state, through self-preservation if nothing else. And the return journey will be so much easier than the original tangent, for it being so natural to us. I believe there is no limit to how deeply we can love ourselves and each other, but we will never plumb these depths by keeping our truths locked inside.

Anyway, I am off on one of my involved tangents! So, to sum up, I find courage today to put myself out on an honest limb of sharing this truth I feel in full awareness¬†and, in addition, I share with readers that¬†I’ve been struggling ni my personal life of late! Yes, I do existentially and experientially¬†believe that, underneath all of our negative illusions, we are pure love and light. But that doesn’t mean love and light abound in my life all the time! We have to keep moving through the illusions, learning the lessons they are here to teach us and, meanwhile, dealing with whatever pain they throw up. And, even whilst¬†having the awareness that the pain is ultimately an illusion that stems from a false sense of separation¬†– it’s still pain, and it feels very real indeed as I struggle to deal with it. My life is unravelling somewhat as I write this, the familiar gradually dropping away. And what will be left? The thought is terrifying and exhilarating in equal measures. I feel like a hermit crab that’s outgrown its shell and is struggling, naked and vulnerable, across the sand, desperately seeking its new home. I know good times lie ahead, they always do. But I am not afraid to own my sense of doubt and fear during this transition.

I don’t think even the bravest souls ever lose their fear, they just deal with it well and know it’s a tool to sharpen the mind and keep the focus on growth. What is known cannot be unknown and we can never go back to where we were before. These things I know. So I will keep crawling towards my bigger shell, and know that, at some point again in the future, that shell will become too small for me and I will have to make that terrifying scramble towards my next home once more. But of course our only true home is the one we house deep within us, and each leap to a bigger shell is really just a step closer towards the infinite wonder of our own authentic being. And I wouldn’t have it any other way… ūüôā

So, whether you’re on your yoga mat struggling through your nemesis pose or off the mat facing something equally challenging, just keep going full steam ahead, forging onwards through the sand, and know that if you do, a bigger and better you lies on the other side.


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Sometimes Less is More

I’m just back from an idyllic week of teaching my summer retreat in sunny Spain. As always, I was reminded that this is something that I really enjoy doing, perhaps above all else. I love watching the journey that everyone goes on, myself included, as we all slowly release the binding ties and prescribed masks of our ‘normal’ life and gradually relax and unwind. It is as though we enter another realm or dimension, where time doesn’t play such a critical role and where expectations, labels and identities are able to be released, with sweet relief. By the end of the week, it really did sometimes seem like time was standing still – people moved more slowly, organised activities were blissfully sparse and¬†just merged effortlessly into each other, with minimum organisational input required. The less we worried, the more the universe flowed, placing us all exactly where we needed to be at the perfect time. With outer protective layers dropping away, the beauty of heartfelt communication, supportive friendship, body wisdom and intuitive healing were able to rise¬†to the fore.

But, it takes a while to get to this point. We fight the sparseness, we fear the empty hours and the lack of structure. In a world that is so organised and obsessed with efficiency and profitability, where our time is so compartmentalised, it can feel like a brutal wrench to suddenly break away and be faced with the spaciousness of clear days to just be with ‘me, myself and I’. You would think that we would embrace this with open arms – how many times do we find ourselves¬†saying things like, ‘God I need a holiday!’ and, ‘I just need some time to myself!’. But, often, when such a thing is gifted to us, it can¬†throw us into even more of a headspin.

I do think that’s why so many people spend their holidays avidly sightseeing; really, it’s often just an extension of the busy, pressured life we’ve left behind. And I very much speak from experience here – I used to feel a deep sense of duty and self-imposed pressure to fill every little pocket of time with¬†‘productive’ activities, whether I was on holiday or not. But I now see this as a symptom of an imbalanced society, which places way too much emphasis on ‘doing’ at the expense of just ‘being’. In fact, ‘being’ is often criticised as being self-indulgent, a waste of time, useless, selfish etc. But, I would argue that this is most definitely not the case and in fact the world is crying out for us to just stop what we’re doing and sit still with ourselves for a while, to catch up with ourselves and enter the inner, bodily world of feelings and emotions rather than remaining trapped in our minds, where we are mercilessly controlled and censored by our persecuting ego. We need space for true insight, clarity and inspired creativity to emerge, and for peace to descend.

The problem is, modern society is now so entrenched in this efficient world of doing, that most of us¬†have lost the ability to just be with ourselves. ¬†It almost panics us, creating feelings such as,¬†‘If I haven’t got anything to do, then how can I possibly be of value?’ ¬†We feel we have to prove our value through our achievements and our possessions. But have you ever thought that you came into the world as a precious gift to the universe, and that this hasn’t changed – you’re very being here is enough? We don’t look at a newborn baby and expect it to start doing something to prove its worth, before we will accept it into the world. And we tend not to chastise children when they ‘space out’ and become lost in their daydreaming reveries¬†and imagination and create with joyful abandon. Yet, as we grow into adults, the external expectations and pressures begin, and we start to feel we aren’t good enough as we are, and that instead we need to start proving ourselves to others, to meet others’ expectations of how we should be.

The other issue is that, in a world focused on productivity, emotions tend to be downplayed, suppressed and even denied¬†as, when they take us over,¬†we’re not in total control of ourselves and therefore not as efficient at what we do. How can we meet our tight deadlines when we’re also dealing with huge emotional rollercoasters? So what do we do? Often we distract ourselves from our emotions through all kinds of techniques, some obvious, but some very stealthy indeed. Drugs and alcohol¬†are an obvious distraction, but so is over-working, and even over-playing – we can kid ourselves that going to the gym, watching TV, going to the pub etc¬†is helping us relax, but what is our motive really? Is it possible that we are distracting ourselves from painful emotions that we fear to truly enter and experience, in case our ‘efficient’ life unravels? Another one to look out for is when you spend all your time looking after everyone else, and solving their problems. You can justify this quite easily as kindness and generosity, but are you being kind and generous to yourself first? Or are you running away from yourself…? (I’ve definitely been very guilty of this one in the past!)

Like any other activity, even our yoga practice can be a distraction if we’re not mindful, perpetuating our sense that we’re not¬†good enough as we are, that we need to do more, try harder, work harder. I certainly have experience of this – I strictly followed¬†a very dynamic yoga practice for many years, telling myself it was for relaxation and personal development, but really I was continuing an old pattern of punishing myself due to a deep but as-yet unacknowledged¬†self-loathing, and distracting myself from truly entering the hugely painful emotions that were buried deep within me. In short I was in denial, and yoga was at first just another layer that I built up to help keep those emotions trapped inside, where I couldn’t feel them so acutely. But, of course, we can’t bury and avoid our emotions forever.

So, although it’s immensely difficult, I think finding space in our days where we have no plans whatsoever, except to be kind to ourselves, to enter our inner world of feelings and emotions with self-compassion, could really help change the world, and help us to find our way out of the negative trajectory towards self-destruction that our human species finds itself on. Each of us is an enmeshed balance of mind, body and spirit as all ancient wisdom and indigenous cultures know intimately, yet somewhere along the line we have lost the path. We’ve lived too much in the mind for far too long now, and now we’re feeling a¬†void within us due to our systemic suppression of heart and spirit, and we’ve forgotten how to reconnect to these essential parts of our being. I confess it¬†frustrates me that concepts like emotions, heart, love and spirit are often spoken of with derision by society as wishy-washy, ‘hippy’ ideas, even though I feel they are what will save us as a species. Yet I do understand the disconnect, because I felt it myself for much of my life. In the end, it was only when I became more mindful and conscious in my yoga practice that I was able to honestly acknowledge some truths about myself that I had been running from, which helped me to¬†shift my perspective and raise my awareness of the huge imbalance that we’re suffering from. I finally began to understand that, above all, I needed to be kind to myself and come to love myself, so I began to give myself space¬†to delve within, truly, and to allow those buried emotions to start being released so that I could begin to heal myself.

And, in effect, healing is what we all need. We are all suffering from the planetary imbalance of mind dominating¬†heart/spirit,¬†and we all need to heal from this. But we fear to enter the space¬†where this might become a possibility, because we know deep down it will utterly rock the bedrock of our perceptions of ourselves and our world, which is a scary thought. But if we can go there together, it’s far less threatening, and we can support each other through the huge shifts that are required. The power of community is immense, and is something else we’ve become disconnected from through living in our minds at the expense of our hearts. Mind is separation and competition, heart is unity and collaboration. Of course I’m not saying we need to drop the mind completely – we very much need it for our survival. But we need to rebalance, and allow heart and spirit an equal voice.

So, to draw this to a close (although,¬†I’m just getting going really, lol!) this brings me back to my original point about the power of allowing yourself to take time out to go on retreat, ideally in some kind of group or community setting. When we stop still, time expands to embrace us, and we can begin to remember that we are perfect, beautiful and lovable just as we are – the universe needs no corroboration of this and, as a vital, integral part of the universe, we will¬†eventually realise that we need no evidence either and self-love can flourish, as it longs to do. This is what the universe is calling us to remember as it seeks to come to a peaceful equilibrium and this is what I feel humanity needs to move towards positive evolution¬†… ūüôā


Posted in Community life, Connecting with the natural world, Depression, Detoxification, Love, Meditation, Mindfulness, Positivity, Power of change, Self-love, Yoga, yoga retreat | Leave a comment

Growing pains

Isn’t it strange that the only constant we can rely on in life is change, yet change is something that we seem to resist?

If you watch animals, they seem to take change in their stride pretty naturally; they live in the moment and accept what ‘is’ rather than expending energy on thinking about how things actually should be, or how much better things used to be. I love watching my parents’ dog for that reason; he teaches me so much about endless patience and acceptance. ¬†Yet, with our expanded consciousness, we humans have somehow lost that quality – we tend to live in the past or in the future way more than in the present and this brings with it an illusory sense of being able to control what ‘is’¬†and a resultant resistance to unlooked-for change (this is why we tend to hang on to the past and fear the future – it’s all tied in to wanting to feel in control). When you start to observe yourself and others around you, it soon becomes painfully apparent how much we detest change and will do anything we can to avoid it.

But, the thing is, we can’t avoid it. Change will always come for us. ¬†We can arrange things in our lives delicately, to create an illusion of being in control and then, whoosh, the carpet is swept from beneath us. ¬†A loved one dies, we have an accident or become ill, we lose a job, a relationship ends, a friend moves away, the local supermarket stops stocking your favourite food, we begin to notice wrinkles and grey hairs, there are roadworks on your way to work! Life is full of events that are totally out of our control. And, if we’re not ready for it, this can leave us reeling, struggling to cope.

But, if we can gradually come to understand all of life is inherently transient, then we can begin to form a better relationship with change, and see it as the beautiful lubrication that allows life’s wheels to keep turning. Without change life could not exist, it is the dynamic aspect of evolution and growth. The problem is we focus on its shadow side, which is loss. To grow, expand, evolve and live fully, we have to allow loss into our lives.¬†And, truly, loss is as beautiful as gain, as you can’t have one without the other; both are as much an integral part of the human experience as the other, and our suffering comes from resisting this fact of life. Sometimes the pain of loss is so huge it seems impossible to see beyond it, to the positive growth that it will lead to. But the growth is always there, if we allow it in.

So, in a way, the inner path is about consciously altering¬†our relationship with change and beginning to work with it not against it. ¬†We start to invite change into our lives, dance with it and see it for the great friend and teacher that it is. Because the inner path is all about personal growth and transformation, and to allow this, we have to let old, stale beliefs, thought patterns and identities fall away, over and over again, so we can constantly be reborn, bigger and better each time. ¬†For this reason, to begin with at least, the path is terrifying, and that’s why most people avoid it. ¬†The number of times I’ve heard people say something along the lines of, ‘Yes I want to change, but I’m scared of rocking the boat’ or ‘I’m scared of what I’ll become and what this will mean for xxx’ etc. Well, yes, it will rock the boat and, yes, you will change, but you will be moving further towards the truth of who you are, beneath all those beliefs, thought-patterns and identities, and you will therefore be a happier and more peaceful version of yourself as a result. And, do you know what? Those around you will feel the ripples of this change themselves; usually the boat is crying out to be rocked. ¬†Healing is a non-local event – if you work to heal yourself, you help to heal those around you and, ultimately, the world, as we are all inherently connected.

The reason I write these words today is because I am once again in that deeply uncomfortable place of knocking on the door of change and inviting it into my life. And, even though I have been here many times before, and I am excited to be here because it’s a sign of my progress,¬†this doesn’t make it feel any easier at all when I get to this place – the emotions of fear and unease are¬†still there, especially because each layer of illusion we move through is deeper and therefore can be trickier to work through in some ways. But I just try and sit with these feelings, welcoming them as the positive signs of a change in the air rather than resisting them and disallowing them, understanding that the unease is inevitable, no matter how many times we come to this place, and that there is beauty in it if I am able to shift my perspective in this way. And¬†I also know this uncomfortable period is in itself temporary and will change in time too. On the other side, if I have the courage to knock loudly on the door and walk through it, lies a bigger, better, brighter version of myself.

And what are my fears of? They are of not being accepted or approved of by those who know and appreciate this current version of myself, if I change too much, of not rocking the boat of course! But I know this is me projecting my own, stale old fears onto others, and that I have to allow my old leaves to shed and have confidence that things will work out and that my boat is well and truly ready to be rocked again. And things always do work out, one way or the other, because nothing is permanent anyway. Good times lead to bad lead to good, and in the end they are all the same, it is only ourselves that allow the judgements of good and bad to be assigned to our experiences. It is all just life, playing out in shades of black, white and everything in between, as it always has done and always will. The best thing we can do is begin to dance with change and enjoy and learn from the ride as best we can.

heart ferns

Posted in Connecting with the natural world, Love, Meditation, Mindfulness, Positivity, Power of change, Self-love, Yoga | Leave a comment