So, the last time I wrote a blog was a month into lockdown, in April 2020 (you can read it here). It was really interesting to read it back and feel how things were then. When we couldn’t see people. When most people were onboard with whatever was being recommended. When we were outside on Thursday nights clapping. When it seemed like everyone was either doing yoga or fitness online or making things or baking or drawing rainbows.
In truth, I think I was in a bit of shock.
I was desperate to do some things with no idea when that would be, like meet friends for food, and go in my parent’s house. Now several months later, a lot of these things have become everyday again. In another few months, it will be the same with other things. In another few years (hopefully) coronavirus will be a distant memory and we will say to each other, “Remember when we were in lockdown?” Hopefully.
I dealt with it in the beginning way better than I did last month (July 2020). And after
speaking to a few people who have been as quiet as I have, it seems that a lot of us have been struggling more recently than we were when it started. A lot of things culminated at the end of June. In the US, the Black Lives Matter protests quickly spread worldwide and lots of comments and opinions were being shared all across social media. In the UK, the protests began just after the country went mad about one politician breaking the rules, so people were particularly upset that after all of the sacrifices they had made. People were petrified that the protests would spark a rise in coronavirus and prolong lockdown. Let’s just say all around, tensions were high.
One Thursday morning, I just became completely overwhelmed with the ugliness and anger I saw all across the world. I had a couple of disagreements with people about BLM and coronavirus that left me upset. After being so eager to see people again, it felt like the challenge of human relationships was forced upon me. I let myself get angry, and I was looking too much at social media, weirdly drawn to the comments I knew would fuel it.
This post, as funny as it was nightmarish, was an honest reflection of what July felt like.
Some people couldn’t and they went out and screamed on the streets. I don’t blame them.
I spent some time feeling deeply uncomfortable. When you feel yourself overwhelmed with emotion, it is excruciating and you should, as I did, talk to someone you can trust about it. Someone who will listen to you and do what’s required – like I did for my friend in the post I wrote at the beginning of lockdown. Someone who will raise your spirits and give you the energy to go out for a walk.
Funny how you also somehow feel a magnetic pull towards particular people who trigger you at these times. I say funny, but actually at a workshop with Jamie Catto I attended, he explained this rather well – (paraphrase) - Your soul is trying to offload past emotional constipation. These people who trigger you are like walking laxatives.
So, when you are full of shit, you gravitate towards people that will help you offload it. Unfortunately, as in the physical sense, offloading can be particularly uncomfortable and downright painful.
If you can stick with the discomfort and allow yourself to really feel it, it’s possible that you can come out the other end with more understanding, more resilience and a little lighter than before.
As always, I was directed to the right lecture at the right time. As I mentioned in my latest yoga newsletter (if you are not signed up, click here to subscribe) I found myself completely tuned in to Ram Dass. I had heard of him. His teachings had been recommended to me by another teacher (I am sure it was the lovely Ruth) but it needs to be the right time for it to strike a chord. I was looking for a lecture I had heard that mentioned hallucinogens to send to someone and instead I found this - https://youtu.be/kjh1BAG5Pfs and I listened to it several times. It was everything I needed to hear right in that moment. And the lesson was clear to me. It’s time I learn how to love everyone.
I can experience the feeling of peace a lot of the time when I am on my own and with nature, but I really struggle to open my heart unconditionally to other people. This inability to wholeheartedly love other people is tied up with the fact that I believe people will only love me conditionally. The truth of the matter is not that at all. Many people love me including all of the bad, neurotic, difficult traits I have and all of the shitty things I have done. And I love people despite the things they do and have done.
“When you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is.
You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.
The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying ‘You’re too this, or I’m too this.’ That judging mind comes in. And so, I practice turning people into trees.
Which means appreciating them just the way they are.”
- Ram Dass
Sometimes, we all get very carried away together and I think there was a little taste of that this Summer. There are often waves of action that people get caught up in together and once the force of the wave starts to gather strength, it becomes like a Tsunami, and it takes everything with it. It’s frightening and it does cause destruction. But I also go for the mystic view that destruction, chaos and death are as natural and necessary as anything else that exists in the Universe. Don’t ask me the how or why or what it is. Because I have no idea.
I have started listening to another book, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It has also come to me at just the right time. She quotes something that is about the most honest thing I have ever heard anyone say about how the Universe works:
“Something unknown is doing we don’t know what.”
- Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington (English astronomer, physicist, and mathematician).
Sometimes I get really caught up or “hooked” as Pema Chodron would call it. I can feel myself getting sucked in to the current, but I also know that to be part of the destruction is not my purpose here. In everything, including in yoga asana, balance is when there are opposing forces of the same intensity. I’m of no use to anyone when I am angry. The best thing I can do is write. I don’t know how to channel my angry energy into something useful – like change. Some people do, some people are really good at that. But not me. I have to step back, or in some way, step up and look down and see things from a bigger perspective. Where it is all chaos, but at the same time, it is also harmonious and I trust that whatever that unknown thing is, it knows far better than me what it’s doing. It doesn't need me to try and manage it. Not as a human being.
That means it’s ok to freak out. It’s ok to get anxious. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. We’re surrounded by people telling us different things. We have no idea what the truth is. The future is uncertain. We are having to deal with constant change. No one seems to be in control. But the truth is – this is true all of the time – this situation is just drawing our attention to it more.
Let go of the idea that you know what will happen next – we never know. Let go of the need to be right – it’s often painful to be right, it’s disconnecting to be right.
I feel like I’ve just come out of a dark cave and I’m feeling a little vulnerable and afraid. My ego needs reassurance and sometimes you just have to let it ask. I am lucky enough to have some people who understand enough to humour me with that reassurance. I had to burst out laughing the other night when a friend and I exclaimed emphatically to each other, “But, I have been feeling lonely.” It helped so much to be able to express that. I have not felt lonely for a long, long time, but if you think about it, if you don’t stay with an immediate family right now, of course you will be lonely. Some of us are spending most of the week inside the house on a computer. It’s not how we're supposed to roll. We're supposed to interact and at the very least be around each other.
I haven't been feeling like this the whole time. There have also been lots of wonderful moments. I had a fantastic week off during the most gorgeous weather. I had the best yoga practice ever with a blindfold to trippy music. I did yoga on the beach with this wonderful Ram Dass album in my ears and Alan trying to hit me on the ass with a drone. I have spent time with lots of lovely people. I am still thriving, I am aware how blessed I am in so many ways. These times have just been interspersed with short intense periods of gripping anxiety - a bit like my life.
You might wonder why I am sharing this at all. Big Magic has refreshingly reminded me that I am writing it for me. I write and I share it because I need to let this shit out. It's too heavy. I’m aware that most of it is bullshit and may very well just be stories my ego is making up, but the truth is exactly as Liz says:
“If I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something – myself, a relationship or my own peace of mind.”
- Elizabeth Gilbert
If I am not using my imagination to create, I am using my imagination to invent reasons to panic and putting myself in scenarios that justify my panic.
So, as excruciating as it has been some of the time over the last few months, I have done as Ram Dass suggests, and I have taken the curriculum to learn the lessons. I learned that I need to write, I need to ask more questions, I need to express myself more. I need to trust more - not just other people, but life, the Universe, the unknown.
I’ve learned that there is nothing I need that is not already available inside of myself. When I can share my weirdest, most stupid, most embarrassing insecurities with people who understand, I feel connection. I also realise that those insecurities are nothing to do with anyone else at all. The person who triggers me is not responsible for my response. My only responsibility is my own response, my understanding of that response and my subsequent actions.
I am again reminded that I need to awaken my 'Trickster' as Elizabeth Gilbert calls it. The playful side of myself. Just in case I didn't get the message from the book I was listening to, I met my 80 year-old neighbour, Fred as he was walking along the beach. Every time I see him on the other side of the road, he is looking straight down - watching his step. I always think to myself, 'If he looks up, I'll go over.' He always looks up and seems to see me immediately.
"How are we supposed to have a love affair if I never see you?" He asked.
I laughed, "Where are you have been, you haven't been out in a while."
"Oh it's this hip, it's killing me. Let me look at you. Mmm. You look... I don't know if tired is the word, but you need more playtime. Let's go down the beach and build some sandcastles."
Fred is spot on. I need more playtime. You need more playtime. Writing, drumming, dancing, singing, and building sandcastles.
As Elizabeth Gilbert says in Big Magic. We need more wonder.
And on that note, Himalayas anyone?
Varrie and I are doing a mini online retreat in September that will encourage you to turn inward and reflect on what your curriculum has been over the last few months. Get your candles and cushions ready for a mindfulness meditation to help you process what you've learned, a meditative flow to get you in touch with your seasonal instincts, some deeply restorative postures to release tension and a relaxing Yoga Nidra. Go to www.vhairislavenyoga.com/workshops to read more.