Yoga Teacher’s Course: What am I doing here?

This was a tough week. Head and hand stands, extending the visa (which in itself was a whole adventure taking an entire day for something that should easily be done in a morning) and the growing nervous mood for the anticipation of the exam. There was a day that was particularly hard on me and in order to understand why we have to travel back a few weeks back when I was finishing the oil massage course and severely hurt myself in the shoulder. After a trip to the hospital with the incredible help of an angel that appeared my way (people are incredibly nice here and I feel truly blessed for such marvelous human beings around me) and a few days of agonizing pain, the muscles started to heal and doing basic tasks such as brushing my teeth, putting on my t-shirt or washing my hair became normal again. So my shoulder is still recovering when I decide to engage in a Yoga Instructor’s Course (maybe not the best idea I’ve ever had).

The day that was particularly hard was the hand stands day: when I was just standing there, observing everybody and with my shoulder making itself feel noticed from the intensive trainings of the last weeks. It was frustrating! Not that I would be able to do it if it wasn’t for the sake of the shoulder, but at least I could have tried. I was also feeling a bit lonely and alienated from most of my peers. There I was wondering: what the hell am I doing here? Why did I get into this?

Luckily I was able to engage in my vision of the person I want to be and pick myself up with all the activities I could think of: journaling about my emotions, writing in the gratitude journal, listening to my cheerful music playlists (instant mood changer), take long walks by my favorite place: the beach, pick up sea shells to bring the ocean with me to my next destination, talk to my friends back home (to whom I am deeply grateful for all the support and for being a part of this journey with me) and remind myself that even though it may sometimes feel like we are alone, we are never alone in this journey. We carry with us each person that has crossed our way and even the people who are no longer with us, exist inside of us. Thinking about my Grandmother, I felt her happy, I felt her presence here with me and it reminded me of a beautiful excerpt from Miguel Sousa Tavares:

And once again I believe that nothing of that’s truly important really becomes lost. Wejust delude ourselves thinking that we own the things, the moments and the others. All the dead I loved walk with me, all the friends that are not here walk with me, all the happy days that faded walk with me. I didn’t loose anything, but the illusion that it could all be mine forever.

I also started to focus on the wonderful people I have here as well and fully engage into helping them and lift them up, without adopting their fears or whatever emotions that they are going through as my own (one of the biggest challenges of being an empathic person is to take the necessary distance for not letting yourself be identified with the emotions and experiences that your peers may be facing).

In the end, it turned out to be another great week and I’ve learned six important things. Here they are:

1 – Dharma or The Incredible Art of Acceptance

One of the reading requirements of the course is The Bhagavad Gita. This week we had the discussion lectures on this topic. Something that stayed with me since I read the book was this excerpt, which became clearer this week:

“A sage, seated beside the Ganges, notices a scorpion that has fallen into the water. He reaches down and rescues it, only to be stung. Some time later he looks down and sees the scorpion trashing about in the water again. Once more he reaches down to rescue it, and once more he is stung. A bystander, observing all this, exclaims, “Holy one, why do you keep doing that? Don’t you see that the wretched creature will only sting you in return?” “Of course”, the sage replied. “It is the dharma of the scorpion to sting. But it is the dharma of a human being to save.”

Two things here:

1 – Accept other people as they are, not only makes life much easier, as it weights us down from any burden of expectations that we may be carrying towards someone. Just because you helped someone or were there when they needed doesn’t mean they will be there for you. And that’s just fine! Because you should do it for the joy of doing so and not expecting to get something in return.

2 – The fact that it is our dharma (or our nature) to act in a certain way, it does not mean that we can’t evolve and develop and improve. We can! And the first and maybe most important step to change something: is accepting things as they are, accepting ourselves as we are today! Only then, can our Dharma be improved if there is the need to do so.

2 – Yoga is like Maths

Back when I was in my senior year in High School, I remember my Maths teacher saying in the beginning of the semester when we still had a whole year until the National Exams: “Mathematics doesn’t enter through your eyes, it enters through your fingertips, by doing exercises. You don’t have to do a marathon of exercises. You only need to do one per day. But it has to be done!” She was right! Those wise words always stayed with me throughout the years. And so is my Yoga Instructor, the amazing Johnny Nasello, when he says: “Every day you show up to your mat.”

Indeed, showing up to our mats makes the difference not only in the “microbendings” that our body makes and are noticeable as regards strength and endurance after three weeks (and should also be noticeable in terms of flexibility some day) but it also re-engages us with the person we want to be, each breath, each movement, each practice, each day we show up to our mat(h).

3 – “You can not save people. You can only love them!”

Sometimes there are people who remind me of that Magic Mike XXL scene when the guy is just trying to make her smile (and he has to make a whole lot of trying luckily for the viewers) until she actually shows her teeth. I guess there are people who are just like that: not easy “smilers” no matter how many smiles, compliments or jokes you throw at them. Again: the incredible art of acceptance!

So here one has two choices: be frustrated and even insecure or focus on the people that matter and that may be more aligned with the vibes we’re (trying) to put out in the universe. Insecurity often comes from this need to please others, which may be an underlying cause for love/approval. And quoting P.T. Barnum’s wife from The Greatest Showman: “You don’t need the whole world to love you. Just a few good people.” Starting with ourselves. Once we get this straight, we understand that we don’t need no one else’s approval or love, except our own. And we know that with ourselves we are always in the best company, which may even lead to moments such as that beautiful scene in The Thin Red Line:

“Do you ever feel lonely?

Only around people!”

And after a while we vibrate in such a loving frequency, irradiating it and we understand that Anaïs Nin, as usual, was right when she wrote in one of her many wise quotes: “We can not save others, we can only love them!”.

4 – It Takes Two To Tango

I have never considered myself a competitor. I’ve always tried to support others and I know that we always rise when we lift others. I have never indulged into any high competitive activities, although I was dancing for many years, but mostly as a social pleasure. As the competitive levels were rising, I had to take a step back and see where exactly was that coming for. Was it external or internal? You can only get into something, if you accept to do so. Kind of like Martin Luther King Jr’s “A man can’t ride your back unless it’s bent.” And as I so learned in one of my favourite dances: “it takes two to tango”. So you’ll only indulge in other people’s feelings or emotions like fear, negativity or competition if you allow yourself to do so. And once you realize that you may be following a road that is taking you further apart from the person you want to be and you may be acting like an idiot because you’re reacting from a perspective of fear or defence, you should take a step back and observe yourself and re-engage into acting from a perspective of abundance and gratitude.

You should focus on yourself and be mindfulness to the entirety of your efforts because “The only person you should try to be better than, is the person you were yesterday.”

5 – Mind is Hell

Jean Paul Sartre revolutisioned the 20th century with his ideas whose essence was: “L’enfer sont les autres.” According to this perspective, we have to admit that in that case, heaven are also the others. I think Sartre may have had it all wrong here, since we come to realize as we live and as people and situations change over and over again in a constant flow of endless cycles that our mind is the hell. But, once we realize this, we also have the tools to acknowledge that our mind can also be the heaven. As we acknowledge that: we surrender, finding that peace and stillness we long for right where it has always been: inside!

6 – Meditation is the key!

So if we have that serenity inside of us, how do we do it to go back there over and over again?

Through the constant practice of meditation! Meditation is the road to get from a lower energetic frequency to a higher one. And in a day to day basis we can use mnemonics, we can use little tricks to remind ourselves. I use an object, not just any object, a fabric bracelet that I have and that has been on me all the time. Not for the bracelet itself (even though we all know how much I LOVE bracelets), although looking at it may help, it’s a beautiful object and it has the infnity symbol.

The particularity is that since being a fabric object, I can impregnate it with a few drops of my favorite essential oil. And as I go back to that fragrance, there is a trigger in me, due to the amazing (scientifically proven) powers of Aromatherapy. And that is my mnemonic! These are little tricks that one may use in the long and winding road of mastering the mind. So always go back to your object, just like Inception’s characters went back to theirs to remind themselves that they were only dreaming and that was not the reality. Go back to your inner peace. That brings me back to this taoist parable from Lao Tze:

“Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was myself. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.”

May the force be with you! Happy week!

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