"We make our minds like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, or perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet." - William Butler Yeates
"Why do you worry about where you are headed? Are you afraid? Does this worry add to your life or change the outcome?" These are the resounding questions that entered my head on day 21 of my 30 day yoga challenge. I think if I'm honest, I am afraid sometimes, that I'm on the wrong path or somehow at a crossroads where there could be a good or better choice. Of course I want the best for my life. I'm sure you do too. Yet, in creating this quiet, this space for myself where I can listen to my own thoughts and dialogue, I was instantly at ease. Letting go of the uncertainties, fears and worries with my exhales and then taking a deep breath of care, love and oxygen with my inhales. Knowing that this, right here is life.
It's interesting to see how people respond to a more still and quiet existence amidst the busy rush and race of life. How easy it is for it to become a relay race, passing a baton from one thing to the next, hoping to get closer to an arrival point. No intention, just reaction. This is why we love to finish books or why we beat ourselves up when we don't. This is why we set goals and give ourselves gold stars for achieving them. This is why our entire society is built on merit, climbing an invisible ladder of importance.
I thought going into the challenge that reaching my 30 day mark would be the point. I couldn't have been more wrong. I'm finding that it's more about thanking myself for carving out time for self-care, making it a priority because we don't know what tomorrow will bring and we certainly can't beat ourselves up about yesterday's shortcomings. I have very high expectations, so this is a huge one for me.
On the weekend I planned to go to two classes on Saturday morning but I missed my alarm, slept in, still tried to make it to the second class but was a minute late and the doors were locked. I decided to grab a muffin instead and took the time to garden. The next day I had a client meeting booked and got stood up. Instead of feeling pissed that I got out of bed at an ungodly hour on a long-weekend Sunday morning, I took the time as a gift and read a little more of The Rosie Effect. God I'm loving that Graeme Simsion series.
I love my plans but when they don't work out I can either choose to embrace that new found time as a gift or let it put a kink in my hose all weekend. Not sure what that means. Just seemed to flow off the page. Okay it got weird.
I find that when I tell people that I'm taking time for this challenge I get mixed responses. Some people are excited and proud of my choice, others respond with a bit of envious resentment in their tone, relaying a sense that they feel I'm lazy or the opposite, that I'm pushing myself too hard, and in some way they end up pushing their own inability to take time for themselves out on me. I'm learning to recognize what's mine and what's not. How to respond with dignity, grace and respect, without having to prove my choices to anyone, but instead trusting in my own decisions for my life.
After all, when I die I want to be able to say that I lived my life, not the one expected of me. I want to be okay with my decisions and not feel they were influenced by others but rather out of a deep sense of knowing myself. Isn't this the pilgrimage we are on?
My sister returned home from her pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago this week. She was beaming with life when she walked through my door. There was this maturity and rootedness about her. She looked like herself. She wasn't playing the role of my sister, or the youngest daughter in the family, she didn't hold back. For that moment she was completely undone, unguarded, honest, true. My eyes welled a bit when I hugged her because we were just two humans, being. It was beautiful and I had missed her company so much.
I asked her what it was like and she said "tough to describe. There's almost no words." I asked her what her favourite part was and she said, "Oh. So many parts, but if I had to choose, meeting all the travellers. Sometimes you would meet someone and because the opening question was 'why are you on the Camino?" and not 'what do you do?' you would instantly get to know someone, an intimate piece of them that's dear and usually unspoken, sometimes even before knowing their names." She said most people were at a cross roads in life, looking for an answer to an important question or trying to discover more of themselves.
My favourite reflection from her was when she spoke of the importance of walking at your own pace. How listening to your body is vital on your journey. This, at times, meant walking alone, not worrying about keeping up with someone else's pace or lagging behind so the person taking slower steps would feel okay or included, but rather it was about walking at your rhythm and getting to know what that was. Day-to-day it could change. She said that everyone was heading to the same place, Santiago, that there were detours along the way that you could choose to explore and arrive later than the others, but really there was no end time to the journey and even after Santiago, the pilgrimage continues. This image brought me so much ease and hope; I'd like to experience it for myself someday.
This person that Yeates is talking about, we are all capable of becoming. We are all capable of making room within ourselves so that we are living from a place of abundance and not strife or scarcity. My sister is a very good example of this. She really understands solitude and how to make her mind like still water. It's one of her most lovely qualities.
So take time for yourself. Don't feel guilty or selfish for stopping to breathe, take time alone, an hour of reading in the tub or an evening walk. Learn to rely a little less on someone else's quieter mind for your fierce, glorious and clear-headed life. Instead, embody your own.
Go at your pace.
Make your mind like still water.