At the bottom of every real conversation about Yoga is the theme of advhaita - non duality. To condense it to one sentence; nothing is separate, everything is one and the same.
We all crave deep connection, and spend most of our lives either chasing it, or lamenting its absence in our lives. On the journey that is Yoga we are travelling within - working through our many layers of existence - to find that at the very core of who we are, we are everything, we are connection. We touch this infinite centre in moments of deep immersion in practice, and as we practice more and more have a more sustained experience of it.
Yoga teaches that we don’t have to look outside of ourselves for connection; how can we seek something that we already are? In theory, it’s simple - all we need to do is get past the barriers, the obstacles that create the illusion that we are separate. These barriers exist everywhere externally, in the form of people, religions, corporations and businesses, seeking to control and overpower us. But, as we learn to sharpen the lens to the outside world, and not be so influenced by our outer surrounds and circumstances, we come up against a much greater barrier - the internal obstacle that is the mind. Many of you are meditators, I'm sure you know what I’m talking about!
Even after more than a decade of solid, disciplined practice I find myself in awe of the mind’s power…just when I think I’m making progress another incredible layer of attempted separation is presented by the mind. I’ve begun to call in “advhaita sabotage” - because naming the mind’s play, and laughing at it, is the best way I know to disempower it.
Last week I was in Bali teaching on a section of the first ever Gertrude street 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training, a training that I am proud to be creating and presenting with a truly wonderful, experienced team. There’s absolutely no logical reason to believe that I don’t belong there, but for a good 24 hours my mind worked over time to make me question my worthiness and credibility. I could tell you about all the truly amazing things that happened, but that's not what this blog is about. I don't want to pretend that I have it all sorted, all the time...I don't want to tell you I have all the answers, and then sell them to you after a free webinar! I share this because I want to weaken my mind’s power. And, I believe that in sharing our stories and vulnerability we weaken the power of the ‘collective mind’, and can push through this obstacle together.
So, this is a brief encounter of what happened during those 24 hours…
My partner and 4 year old son were in the long car ride with me as I started to unravel into mild panic. We’d just dropped my older son off at Green School for a 5 day camp, a huge event for me as a parent to prepare for, and we were on our way to meet the group at the Balian beach Yoga Centre. I was premenstrual - a wonderful time to really see your deepest shadow. I was aware of this, of course, but that awareness didn’t hold back the stampede of the mind. It started with a sinking feeling of not being prepared enough for my sessions - I don’t really need notes, I could talk about Yoga philosophy and the subtle body all day (and frequently do), but this was not something I was willing to see in that moment. We had been through a week of relatively sleepless nights in Bali villas, for various reasons, mostly parent-related. I had never really had the day I had been counting on for to write my notes out properly. And, I was always craving more time for my own practice…someone else always needed my attention. To add to the heat the program had just been changed and I no longer had the afternoon of the first day to prepare - I was on straight away. This unpreparedness swiftly led to how being a mum makes it impossible to be a 'proper' Yoga teacher, teaching beyond regular studio classes. I sunk into the bottomless feeling of not belonging to the beautiful tribe of Yogini Goddesses that travel the world endlessly, and can put on a workshop without having to consider swimming lessons, school lunches and babysitting. In this field, they are everywhere. The other teachers on this training are those such Goddesses, and I clearly didn’t belong with them. This bottomless feeling stretched then to my family, who were ‘giving up’ whatever else they could be doing instead of this; putting our precious time & resources into me to pursue something that I shouldn’t be doing in the first place. I was wasting their time as well, and they deserved a better wife/mother.
In short I was doing nothing right and belonged nowhere. My beautiful friend Clare calls it 'Imposter Syndrome'. Writing this now it seems too ridiculous to give light to, but the fact that this belief is not rational or true is not actually relevant - when the illusion takes over the moment so completely, it is your experience of reality - we are, quite seriously, our thoughts. The mind is that powerful.
Of course, there was a deeper layer of wisdom present that could see this unfolding, in the distance. And as we arrived and settled in I was able to slowly, progressively, lean into that layer of wisdom, little by little the obstacles dissolved. As I presented my sessions I pushed past the separation stories, reaching for the centre of my being, the part that knows that true connection and love are the only reality. My mind continued it’s attempts to sabotage me (and succeeded quite well at one point as I stumbled desperately over teaching a mantra I have chanted at least a million times), but I was able to name it out loud - right in the moment, and have a little laugh, and keep on reaching in...reaching deeper.
Here I am on the other side, ready to present the next module of the training - this time with a little more awareness of what I’m internally up against. I am grounded in the knowledge that I’m exactly where I should be, and that the stories my mind presents are just attempts to keep me “safe”, by keeping me small.
I know that my integration of Yoga with motherhood does not hinder my ability to teach, it actually informs a deeper experience. My partner’s incredible support highlights the fact that I’m ready to share my knowledge to new Teachers, and, I'm pretty sure the fantasy Yogini-Goddess-Dream-Life is an illusion, filled with it's own shadows - equal and opposite to mine.
The irony is that this sense of separation, unworthiness and not belonging are something that actually unify us all to some degree - we are connected by our sense of disconnection! If we can truly name it together, we can all have a good laugh at it, and hopefully reach a little deeper towards advhaita.
Who knows what might be possible if we could push beyond this obstacle that is the mind...
ps - I've had lots of requests for a Retreat in the School holidays, so here it is! I'll be announcing the January 2018 Goddess Retreat dates and opening up places in early September. If you would like to be on the 'first to know' list please register here. The November 17 one sold out before it hit the stands so make sure to register your interest if you're keen. This super-special week of Shakti Yoga & adventure is open to all women, regardless of Yoga experience, who want to explore, understand and strengthen their connection to the sacred feminine.