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creating outside your comfort zone

It sounds cliché to say but stepping out of your comfort zone and forcing yourself to do something brave and new is hard. It’s challenging. It’s going to be tough – maybe even painful – but that’s growth.

Before we headed back for the summer, I was really starting to feel settled in our new Caribbean community ; I was making friends, I knew people to wave to on my bicycle, I had a routine, I had a teaching schedule, I knew where to buy the best avocados in town, and where to eat the best brownies… I felt I had things sort of figured out.

But, when thinking about returning after our holiday hiatus, I felt called to make a bigger impact. To integrate myself further into this community bursting with like-minded people, interested in conscious living, healthy lifestyles, yoga (union), and being a community.

During a previous new moon cycle, when I was journaling and contemplating new goals and dreams to manifest, I wrote: “host Sister Circle by the end of the year – 2018”. This was among many other longer-term intentions that seemed big and scary and far away enough to maybe (not) happen.

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At my yoga teacher training, one of the things we participated in a lot was ceremony and ritual. It was a new concept for me, women gathering in a circle and sharing how they felt, opening up and being vulnerable in a sacred container, free of judgement. In the world I came from girls were mean about other girls and if there was a support network it was found over coffee or a glass of wine. But these sacred rituals that uplifted women and held space for whatever emotion arose turned out to be one of my favourite events. We didn’t have those things in London, or so I thought. But of course there were – I just wasn’t aware of them.

Women have been gathering in circles for millennia, and while these ceremonies allow women to open up and communicate without fear, they are primarily a beautiful ritual; a coming together of souls; of women walking the same path; of women who are looking for support and sisterhood. And that’s what I wanted to find in my new community. I wanted to be part of it. I wanted to be seen and to see others.

So, rather than wait to be invited to one, or to find one, I thought – hey, I can do it myself. I can host a Sister Circle.

Errrrrrr, I can? Came the little doubting Debbie deep within my comfort zone.

Sure, how hard can it be? I retaliated.

limitations

Before I left Puerto Viejo for the summer, one of the first friends I made was Marina and it was to her that I floated the idea, during one tea and cake date, that we should start a Circle. While the idea was mine initially, to be completely honest I needed the support and I wasn’t sure I could do it by myself. I needed a Sister there with me. I was stepping out of my comfort zone, but also allowing myself the comfort of doing it with someone. And, as they say, two heads are better than one!

She was thrilled. Let’s do it! she said.

So that was that. We were going to do it.

While I was away on holiday the idea – the INTENTION – was sizzling on the back burner of my mind, cooking away, stewing the how’s, the when’s, the who’s, the where’s…

At the same time, Doubtful Debbie would come tip-toing back in uninvited, trying to persuade me to stay inside my comfort zone where it was nice and safe and easy. I don’t know enough people, who were these ‘sisters’ I was going to invite? I’ve never hosted a Circle before, how am I going to do it? I hate public speaking, how am I going to lead? How am I worthy of guiding and holding space for women in the community? Don’t be silly, concluded Doubting Debbie.

But who was anyone to tell me I couldn’t do it, so why was I telling myself?

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I honoured my courage and my conviction to manifest this intention that I felt so called to create, challenging myself to step out of my comfort zone and putting myself forward in a new community and being vulnerable to share my vision. I am worthy of hosting the Circle. I can figure it out. I have support and Sisters to invite. Even if only 3 people show up, I’m going to do it anyway! And so what if I get nervous butterflies and stumble over a few words (which I absolutely will because I’m HUMAN!) it’s a learning experience and I want to grow. I want to give back. I want community. I want to create and share and be in ritual with these women in my community.

The Circle slowly shaped up over the next few weeks after my return as I sat down at my laptop, scribbling out ideas, noting down quotes, thinking of places to host it, themes to talk about… It was exciting. It was new. It was different. I was slowly breaking down the walls of my comfort zone and that’s what made it all the better.

On the 23rd September, Marina and I finally brought this intention, this little seed of an idea, into fruition. We teamed up with my friend Aly who kindly offered her beautiful home and space in Playa Chiquita, a house-come-community centre, perfect for the occasion. It was open, warm, inviting; we lit candles, incense, laid out an altar, picked some flowers – and then waited for the Sisters to arrive. We had no idea how many people would show up! I had accepted that if it were just Aly, Marina and myself we’d have it anyway and it would still be great. In the end we were 10! A beautiful number, filling all cushions we’d laid out expectantly, serendipitously.

Of course, I was nervous before but I felt calm and assured that I was doing the right thing. I honoured myself and my integrity and I honoured the Sisters who had chosen to join us in this Circle and chosen us to spend the evening with.

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Everyone came willing to share, to open, to take part in this ritual. People had brought their own items for the altar, food to share, hearts to welcome in new people, voices to speak and chant. One of the best things about it was that it was a coming together of souls who, mostly, didn’t know each other. By me being the new girl and wanting so badly to meet new people and fit in with the community to create this circle, I had actually inspired many other new faces to also come along and meet new and likeminded souls, too.

So many more beautiful things happened that night all thanks to just stepping out of that comfort zone. By pushing the limits of what felt safe and easy allowed me to grow and achieve and create something that benefited so many others. In the ritual and ceremony we shared, we laughed, we cried, we shed, we set intentions, we meditated – all together. Had I had stayed within my comfort zone, there would have been none of that.

Now, we have the next one planned for the end of October and I can’t wait. I can’t wait to gather with this strong tribe of Sisters in the community again this month, and again next month, and the months after. I’m excited to have watched this intention manifest and come into fruition and excited to see how it develops and how we develop in our Circle as Sisters, united in this ritual we hold sacred.

It’s so true that beauty and magic lie outside of your comfort zone, so think – is there anything that makes you a little scared? If there is, that’s your goal. If a dream doesn’t scare you, it’s not big enough.

I dare you to be bold and step outside your comfort zone and just see what happens.

For those of you in Puerto Viejo who are interested in our next Circle, we’d love to have you join us! https://www.facebook.com/events/1856035761099798/?ti=icl

focusing your drishti

Drishti (IPA: [ d̪r̩ʂʈi ]; Sanskrit: दृष्टि; IAST:dṛṣṭi), or focused gaze, is a means for developing concentrated intention

Is there someone (a different ‘you’) that you believe you are supposed to be? Does this dream of who you want to be set your heart a-flutter? Do you think about being able to be this person, this authentic you, in the quiet moments when your heart can speak its truth? If you do, then my advice is to not let that idea of that person go. Keep hold of that dream, that desire for authenticity. Harness that feeling of living your truth and direct your drishti, your focus, to embodying this person, fully.

A drishti is called upon in yoga to direct the gaze or focus, usually between the eyebrows to the third eye, to help cultivate concentration and withdrawal of the senses for deep meditation. For the sake of this blog post, I will use the word drishti as a metaphor – as the intense, unwavering focus we can apply in our lives towards achieving and living out our dreams, our greater purpose, our true authentic selves.

Do you ever feel like you are working towards a greater purpose or are destined to be/become something more? And I don’t mean ‘being’ or ‘becoming’ someone superficially, like ‘being’ a state: better/happier/skinnier, or a title: dr/mrs/manager, nor do I mean it in terms of achieving material worth, money or status. I mean ‘being’ or ‘becoming’ in a deeper sense. Without the ego. Being more authentically you.

authentic living

Ask yourselves, who do you want to be, truly?

This question might hit hard. You might not feel you can be your authentic self. Or you might not know; ‘How can I can be someone other that who I am now? Huh?’ If you don’t know yet, that’s totally fine. But I want to float the question in case there are those of you who believe that underneath the ‘person’ you present to the world is in fact someone else entirely, someone more you.

For those who have an inkling that there might be someone else, a you you really truly want to be, embody, and express, then I urge you to feel empowered to honour that person, that authentic you, and let them come into the world.

Does what you do in your life bring you joy and align you with who you really want to be? Or is there something else you’re not expressing, some other you that you’re keeping bottled up inside…

I have discovered over the last year and a half, thanks to my eye-opening travels, countless conversations with Lucas and hours of doing and breathing yoga, is that living here, living a life that nourishes me in mind, body and spirit, and in an enivornment where I can truly appreciate the beauty of the world is where I can live in my authenticity, practicing yoga and teaching yoga, too. But that wasn’t always the case. The ‘me’ that is now wasn’t even imaginable when I lived in London, no way Jose. I felt so disconnected from everything and was living all in the ‘I’, the ego.

That yoga would play such an integral part in unravelling this ‘authentic living’ I only realised about a year or so ago. Before then, yoga (asana) had just been something I liked to ‘do’ physically but it was during those quiet hours in practice that would allow me the connection to my authentic self. At the time I didn’t realise its significance and my drishti, my focus, was on something else entirely. I was all ego and all external. But over the last 18 months, the deeper I have dug within myself and asked myself what really makes me feel like ‘me’ and makes me feel more ‘whole,’ and the more I began to deepen my practice, the more I found clarity: yoga (union, the eight limbs) was part of who I wanted to be; it was tied to being able to fully express and live in my authenticity, and live a life that nourished me, and so it became the target of my metaphorical drishti.

My (loose) ‘focus’ previously had been climbing the career ladder in London, like most people’s are. I was blinded and numbed by the distractions of city life running at a hundred miles an hour, overloading my senses, which was definitely keeping me separated from any sort of authentic being.

My focus next moved onto travelling the world, quite a leap from corportate life to a life of leisure! It was from the toxic ego-driven city environment that I was slowly peeling off the layers, and inching off the shroud, that hid away who I really wanted to ‘be’ while unlearning those years of conditioning that had come part-and-parcel with living in today’s world.

Now, many of those layers have been shed (and some are still a work in progress) and my drishti is on point. There’s nothing to distract me from who I want to be. I already ‘am,’ I’ve become this person more than I’ve ever been. I am living the life that I want to and in it I am incomparibly happy. I am driven to stay aligned with this life, to supporting my authentic being, my authentic living through yoga. I practice yoga, I teach yoga, I live a ‘yogic’ lifestyle as best I can; we eat organic food, we live in the jungle and breath fresh jungle prana every day, and we are surrounded by a community which uplifts us and offers endless opportunities for growth. Here, and through yoga, I can find greater purpose while living a life I love and being my truest and best self.

Now, this isn’t to say that I am a mental off-grid, gluten-and-dairy-free, straight-edge vegan, t-total crazy person. Don’t be silly. My drishti is inclusive, not exclusive; it includes things like chocolate and wine. Who am I kidding, I’ll never give those up! It aims for balance with nourishment and challenge.

By living in inclusivity and not exclusivity allows me to keep a better and much larger perspective and keep an unwavering focus on the bigger picture developing in the background, on my authenticity and being the real me. I’ve learnt from my mistakes and I’ve binged on all the fun and bad things, squashing and silencing the the real me, blinded by overindulging on things to heighten or dull my senses, and it has thrown me off completely and, no surprise, that led to dissatisfaction, frustration and unhappiness in myself. And long term, what does that achieve? Instead, holding a steady gaze, keeping my drishti consistent while finding balance is a much better strategy.

find focus in your life

So who is this person that, when you think about this ‘you,’ lights you up and makes you want to get out of bed every day and be that person? Be someone empowering. Someone who makes you feel whole, someone who you feel nourished by, fulfilled by. Then all you have to do is focus that drishti of yours on being this authentic you, all the time. Focus, focus, focus.

Again, I’m just sharing my experience; there’s no pressure to figure out this ‘you’ and direct your drishti one way or the other if you’re not ready or not sure of who you want to be, of if you have absolutely no idea about what I’m talking about. As I said, we’ve been conditioned to follow certain paths (careers, marriage, kids) and follow conventional rules set by society (job, house, pension), so digging deeper and listening to the little voice within telling you who you really want to be and what you really want to do might be a scary thing to do. Hey, it took me nearly 30 years to figure this out and still, who knows, in a few years’ time, my drishti might be pointing somewhere else and my ‘authenticity’ looking a whole lot different. But for now this is it and I welcome in change, too.

What I would like you to ask yourselves is what can you do to start becoming more true to yourself? Can you look outside your ego and into who you really want to be? Where can you direct your drishti to embody this truth? Honour that little voice that might have been silenced.

Allow yourself to start believing in the authentic you.

 

 

 

*Drishti definition by Wikipedia.

 

journalling

When I was younger I used to keep a diary. I remember it had bears on the cover and a padlock that I locked religiously to keep my brothers out. I used to write all sorts in there; which boy I fancied at the time, whose house I was sleeping over at – deep stuff – but also things I wanted to manifest, my deepest desires (usually to go out with the boy I fancied) and other wishes and goals important to a pre-pubescent.

I fell out of the habit of writing in my diary during my teens when I didn’t think it was ‘cool’ enough, I suppose. But what a shame.

It’s taken me a long time to get back into the habit of writing, personally, intimately, for noone else but myself. I write my blog, but that’s different, I’ve written for magazines, for my work, all for other people, but I found it hard to write for a reader closer to home: me.

For years I have noted down thoughts, inspirations, quotes, and intentions on my phone but putting pen to paper and striving for a consistent journalling practice, for some reason, was so much harder to do. I didn’t think it was important enough, I guess.

journalling - dharma dreaming

Recently, that’s changed and I’ve tried my hardest to make it a routine – surprisingly, it actually came quite easy. Now, I take the time, usually each night before bed or during a quiet moment in the hammock, to write. To release. Whatever comes out; stream of conscious, zero censor, verbal diarrhoea, to be crass. It’s not all gushy ‘Dear Diary’ dreaming, some days I’ll have nothing to say – as much as I try. Others I’ll surprise myself and write pages and pages at a time cramping up my hand. There are also days I’ll be more attuned to my emotions, deeper needs and higher Self; there are also days I feel uninspired and unmotivated and the only thing I can think to write about is what I had for dinner. But that’s ok. It’s the process of writing that’s the point – and sticking to it.

Journalling is cathartic. You’re releasing, no matter what you write. Some people even go back and make a habit of rereading their entries to chart their growth or changes in their life – not a habit I do, personally. And not for any reason in particular other than I don’t feel the need to. If I’ve released, I’ve released. But maybe I should. One day.

So my question to you is: when was the last time you wrote anything that wasn’t a shopping list or a to-do list? Did you have ‘Dear Diary’ days like I did as a kid? If you did, I challenge you to try and rekindle that habit of writing, of journalling, and to look within. If you didn’t, I still challenge you to try. Humour me.

I want to encourage you to start writing for yourself. About yourself. About what inspires you. What scares you. What ails you. Even if it feels like escapism rather than release, it doesn’t matter.

What you write doesn’t have to be an essay-length entry, just a few sentences at first. You can even start with what you did that day. Then move onto observing how you’re feeling. Maybe try putting into words your deepest desires, goals you want to manifest. Later, you can reflect on how you are moving forward to achieve these goals.

Allow your journalling to be a stream of conscious; an uninterrupted flow of words, thoughts. It’s ok for your mind to be on one track and then suddenly switch to another, like that game of lateral thinking. Just keep writing. And whatever you write be truthful. Write honestly. There’s no judgement between these pages. Use your journal as a place of 100% transparency. It’s only you who will be reading it – and maybe not even at that.

journal and ritual

Once you start, you might find you enjoy journalling so much you keep your journal in your bag or take it out with you in case you feel called to write something down spontaneously. Even if you don’t have it with you when you need, jot your thoughts or inspirations down on your phone or a scrap of paper to remember for later. Sometimes if I’ve had a burst of inspiration I literally stop myself in my tracks and get out my phone to write it down then and there. If I don’t, I forget – the curse of a colander brain.

Your journal – physically – doesn’t have to be anything fancy. I bought mine (a bright yellow exercise book for school kids now water damaged from the beach) in the sale at the supermarket. Classy. It doesn’t have a padlock on it either, like it used to, and I no longer hide it away under my pillow or stuffed deep at the back of my drawer. Usually it’s lying open, pages to the sky, beside my side of the bed. [My boyfriend will never read it. That’s an unspoken rule.] You can get a fancy journal though if it helps you cultivate this ritual and a feeling of sacredness. Also, if you feel like you want to keep yours more private and secure then do whatever you need to do. What happens between you and your journal is your business.

Ok, then what? It might help to have a nice bath or enjoy a contemplative yoga practice or meditation beforehand. Next, sit down, open up a clean page and try muster up a few sentences. See how it goes, even if what comes out seems forced or a little twee at first – it doesn’t matter. Then, can you can dig a little deeper… What are you really feeling. Be honest.

Don’t be afraid to let your pen run away with you. And remember there’s no wrong answer.

You’re just doing this for you.

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Some questions to kick off your journalling practice:

  1. How did I feel today? (Or: How do I want to feel today?)
  2. How did I step out of my comfort zone? (Or: How can I?)
  3. What am I avoiding?
  4. What am I taking for granted?
  5. How can I grow?
  6. What can I let go of?
  7. How can I show more compassion (to self and others)?
  8. Who can I appreciate more?
  9. What did I learn from today/yesterday?
  10. What is my goal (short or long-term)?
  11. And if all else fails – What did I have for dinner?

[image credits]