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

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]

yogini on the road

It’s been a while since my last post (5 months and a new year!) and I don’t have any excuses other than we’ve been having far too much fun. But, to be honest, I was lacking the motivation to write as I was busy dedicating my time to my yoga journey.

Recently, my life has taken a more focused turn – and turn for the better. For those who don’t know, I’ve been dedicating myself more fully to my yoga, both in practice and in life choices. Recently, I completed my 200-hour Teacher Training in a permaculture farm in the jungle of Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. It was a transformational experience – not just a ‘yoga teacher training’ – and one that’s given me a giant kick up the butt (ahimsa, yogi style, obvs).

shala

Myself and 21 other goddess yoginis (their only all-girl group!) were immersed in the jungle for a 3-week intensive where we were up with the howler monkeys for a morning practice, followed by hours of technique, anatomy, philosophy; lectures on wom(b)en wellness, our menstrual cycles, our intimate relationships with the moon and mother nature, learning – and sampling – the magic of plant medicine; we did a cacao ceremony, had many, many, MANY healing and releasing exercises in catharsis… the list goes on. There were wounds opened (and healed) that I didn’t even know were there. I cried tears I hadn’t cried in years and sang more than I’d ever done my whole life in kirtan, ceremony and mantra. We ate delicious farm-grown food and produce locally sourced from Costa Rican organic farmers, all meals vegetarian or vegan, gluten and dairy free. Oh, and we stayed in upcycled shipping containers and pooped in compost toilets. Saving the planet, one go at a time!

But rewinding a bit. Before my training, way before, I’d felt something was missing. For a while. I felt misaligned. I felt lacking, spiritually, and I felt like I was going in a direction that didn’t fully serve me. Travelling was/is great, but it wasn’t enough. All throughout Asia I missed my yoga practice terribly (which had started a few years back, first in freezing cold gym halls, then in Uni on the floor of bouncy karate crash mats, later in London in fancy – and overpriced – hot yoga studios, and finally under the wonderful instruction of my Mum who is a yoga teacher herself).

In Asia I easily found reasons (excuses) as to why I wasn’t practicing: not having a mat, being hungover, it being too hot. The thing is, I could have gone to yoga classes here, there and everywhere if I’d have made the effort. I just didn’t – and then punished myself for it, mentally, guiltily, after.

I knew I needed a reset, falling victim to the temptations of travelling like late-nights, crap food and copious amounts of alcohol, so I took myself off for a retreats in Thailand and Sri Lanka to reconnect with my practice, and myself. Aside from those two retreats I’d lost my yoga, my ‘union’, and really, the connection to myself – though I didn’t know it yet. As soon as I would step back on the mat, my whole outlook on life, on myself, would change. It was as if an electric current had been shot through me, sparking me alive again. What was I doing? I asked myself. Why wasn’t I making my practice – myself, my wellness – a priority? I got so (SO!) much from yoga, why couldn’t I sustain it in my day to day nomadic life; didn’t I have all the time in the world? But again, I was making excuses.

Something had to change.

Later, when we were travelling in Europe, I decided I had to start practicing again. It was time to reignite my passion and reconnect with who I was and what I wanted. The next year would involve more travelling (we were already in Europe and had planned out the next 6 months and a skeleton plan for the 6 after that) so I couldn’t put it off any longer. I had to find a way to make yoga and travelling work. I couldn’t’ feel ‘meh’ like I did in Asia, I’d procrastinated for 8 months too long and enough was enough. And yes, it was worth schlepping my mat, another item of hand luggage, around for the foreseeable future, without a doubt. Why hadn’t I done that in the first place? (The beauty of hindsight…)

I remember the day I first rolled out my travel mat in our Airbnb in Amsterdam. We were cat-sitting, too, and I was watched with curiosity from my suspicious feline companion. It was a rusty practice, but oh it was so good to be back. The next time I managed to roll my mat out was between our two single beds in Slovenia (FYI, a country keen on separate sleeping arrangements) so you can see I was still working up to a regular routine! Regardless, whenever I managed to find time, and space, it gave me wonderful moments for self-expression, self-reflection and just time to myself, which is precious when you’re travelling with someone 24/7. Those moments are like gold dust.

Not used to practicing without instruction, usually having followed the lead of a teacher, I was getting to know how to move by myself, for myself. I was nervous to practice in front of Lucas so would have to banish him from the room or make him turn around. I was also easing back into my body after so long, it was like working with a long-lost friend. My back was still a niggle from the disastrous cliff jumping experience, so I was also learning how to move more cautiously, with modifications, but it was ok; bodies change and I was learning accept that. Now I have a whole list of clicks and cricks that come with getting older!

yoga bled

As we were travelling over the summer I was able to practice outside, too, in the dewy meadows after sunrise in the long grass, or out on a balcony overlooking the sea. I tried to make it a routine, to practice daily (which realistically worked out at 3-4 times a week) and Lucas would often join me, after I got over my shyness, as I tried to teach him the basics of a vinyasa flow. It was then that the lightbulb moment happened.  I had already (re)realised the joy I got from yoga was not worth giving up again, changing my travel routine to include yoga, but now I wanted to make something more of it. I realised I wanted to learn to teach. I wanted to help people experience the joy that I felt in my practice with theirs.

I remember the moment I committed to this idea, in Bosnia & Herzigovina, and placing the deposit for the teacher training with a beating heart. I’d done it. The money was spent. I’d committed. This was back in August last year. The training was in March this year. In Costa Rica. So, there was a leap of faith to be made; a) that I’d still want to do it in 6 months, and b) that we’d make it to Costa Rica! Or at least I had to!

Within just a few months of reigniting my passion, and stepping back onto the path of becoming more ‘myself’, I had decided to turn yoga into more than just a lifestyle and a practice; deep down I knew it was what I’d been waiting for. Yoga was now more than just something to wake up for and ‘do,’ now I was trying to align it with my dharma.

From that day I dove into preparing for my training: watching videos, lectures, reading books on Eastern Philosophy, the Bhagavad Gita, the Sutras, e-books on the chakras, teaching myself the Sanskrit words for the poses. Everything. I felt alive again. I had a purpose. Whenever I could in the morning I’d roll out my mat first thing and flow. Feel into my body and create sequences inspired by previous mornings, other classes, Instagram videos, or muscle memory. I’d move differently every morning and give myself compassion for the ebbs and flows. Yes, some days I did more than others, some days nothing at all. I also had to be lenient about the days I would have to miss a practice by being stuck on a bus, or staying in rooms that were, literally, too small to swing a metaphorical cat let alone roll out a yoga mat. I’d often feel bad about it, like I was cheating myself of something, almost like I wasn’t feeding myself by missing a meal, but I would try to let it go and read instead, or mediate on-the-go. I didn’t want it to become an obsession. Non-attachment, one of the key practices in yoga!

My new routine stuck throughout our travels around Europe and Northern Africa – Lucas and I even went on a retreat in Croatia and Morocco together – and I only became more and more dedicated to my practice and to living with integrity in the run up to my training. And now, fast forwarding to May, I’ve done it. I’ve completed my 200-hour training to become a yoga teacher. The 6 months of preparation all paid off. It was worth every penny, every drop of sweat, every tear shed, every wound opened, picked at and healed.

But then what? Trying to align travelling with living a yogic lifestyle had its challenges. I knew that before, but it got to a point that I decided I really had to start putting myself and my yoga first. It was time to start becoming the person that I wanted to be; the best version of myself. It was time for a change. While travelling was/is SO nourishing, so educational, so inspiring, and so challenging, I needed to challenge myself, nourish myself, educate myself and inspire myself in different ways.

roof yoga

After a conversation over dinner one night in Nicaragua, Lucas and I – mutually and excitedely – decided that it was time to hang up our backpacks for a while and focus on how we want to live; sustainably, environmentally-conscious, healthily, and spiritually. More inline with our core values, which had taken a back seat in the many months we were on the road. We chose a spot to call home and have settled down for the foreseeable future in a small town on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, where I completed my training, to try and live a (relatively) ‘normal’ life and live the way we believe will nourish us.

It was time; I missed community. I missed sangha. I missed having options to eat well. I missed treating my body well. I missed self-care not being a priority. These things seem so ‘duh’ but when you’re on the road, seriously, it’s hard to prioritize yourself and your wellbeing when things like brown bread and fresh fruit are hard to come by, or beer is cheaper than water! And you can probably guess which option we would go for.

We’ve only been here a week or so but I’ve already managed to find jobs teaching, we’ve shopped at the organic food shops and the farmer’s market, there are volunteering opportunities in permaculture farms Lucas is considering, women’s circles that I want to join and, of course, yoga, yoga yoga! Everything we had wanted to find in one place seems to be here. I’m excited to take my yoga journey to the next level, both in personal practice and living a yogic lifestyle, and also to have a job that I want to wake up for every day. Basically, having the option to do the things that will align me with who I want to be.

It’s time to adult again and put myself (and my wellbeing) first. After all, whose cup can I fill if I’m not filling up my own?

 

Stay tuned for most posts on my yoga journey, yoga on the road, and other yoga-related tid-bits and tales.