When the universe is trying to say something, I do my best to listen. The universe speaks all the time and the listening part is what’s difficult. Recently, I have been repeatedly receiving the messages of acceptance and gratitude. Acceptance and gratitude are showing up in books I read, while teaching and taking yoga classes, in discussions with other people - these ideas keep finding their place into my world.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, the past year has been a time filled with transition, waiting, and preparing for the future. It has been a challenge to live in the present moment, practice patience, and not live for what is yet to come. Since moving to Sweden two months ago, I have worked hard to get my career going and find a place for myself in the Stockholm yoga community. While two months is not such a long time to adjust to living in a new culture, start a new career in an unfamiliar city, learn a foreign language, and try to advance my yoga and spiritual practice, my mind tells me that I should be further along in the process. I should be working more, understanding Swedish better - my ego is trying to tell me that my current state is simply not good enough.
Yoga teaches us to accept where we are now and to not listen to the anxiety about the future that the ego chatters about constantly. The goal of a yoga practice is not to put your foot behind your head or pop up into a perfect handstand every time. Yoga is acceptance of our current state of being, our current physical practice, or stage of meditation, and to enjoy the ride wherever it takes us. Yoga teaches us not to practice inversions so that we can post great looking photos on social media but to practice inversions for the sake of the practice, the journey. Challenging ourselves to see how our egos, our minds, and our hearts respond to that challenge and learning from the experience. There is no ideal state of mind nor a perfect, advanced yoga posture.
As Westerners, we have been taught that goals are the stuff of success and advancement and, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing. It is helpful and healthy to have milestones in life that create cause for celebration once reached. However, the trouble lies in not being satisfied with where we are now while, at the same time, looking at a future goal. Often, once we achieve that goal or milestone we are no happier than we were before. Instead, we are only aiming at different goals and future ambitions and the ‘new’ becomes ‘old’ all too quickly. It wasn’t that long ago that my focus and ambition was to live in Stockholm with Peppe and Pablo, teaching yoga. Well, here I am and my mind is only telling me to want more - that this is not good enough. Again, it is fine to want more just as long as we can accept where we are now! It is time for us to turn off our egos, our Beta brainwaves, and start listening to the heart, to what the universe is trying to tell us. Set goals, work hard to reach those goals but do not sacrifice the beauty of accepting where we are right now for the anxiety and worry of reaching some future accomplishment.
A big part of accepting our current state of being, is practicing gratitude for all that we have right now. What comes first, the acceptance or the gratitude? Maybe they both arrive together, carpooling into our consciousness at the same time. After all, how can we feel, really feel, gratitude for what we have without accepting our current state? And vice versa - by finding acceptance, we then become grateful for all that we have in the present moment! It is a beautiful cycle.
Lululemon has created the Fuel Happiness campaign which consists of weekly themes to inspire happiness and joy in every day life. Last week, when I taught a community class there, the theme was gratitude (coincidence?! I think not!). At the end of the practice, I lead the group in a simple gratitude meditation that I would love to share with you all now. This is something that you can do commuting on your way to work, standing in line at the grocery store, or laying in Savasana when your mind just wants something to do. Focusing on the breath, take a long, slow, deep inhale through the nose and then gently let it go. After 2-3 deep rounds of breath like this, on your next exhale mentally repeat, “I am grateful for” and on your inhale, mentally say something that you are grateful for in your life right now. It does not have to be something grand, or something unique to you or your life - it can be something as simple as giving thanks to the sun, the moon, the warm sweater you’re wearing, etc. This meditation always leaves me feeling lighter, with my heart more joyful. May we accept where we are in life right now and be grateful for all that we are and all that we have.
And Happy Holidays!!