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Filtering by Category: Conscious Living

A yoga awakening

Bridget Wood

The Beach Shala at Samahita Yoga Thailand, Koh Samui

The Beach Shala at Samahita Yoga Thailand, Koh Samui

By Bridget Wood

It was 2011. Married a year, I was getting my body and mind ready for babies. I was resenting my job. My head was elsewhere. You know that feeling of ‘just going through the motions’? That was me. There had to be something more.

Mum said, why don’t we go and do a yoga retreat? It felt incredibly indulgent but we’dnever done a mother-daughter holiday before and thought we may as well make it count. Samahita Yoga Retreat on Koh Samui, Thailand, beckoned. I now understand that an inspired life flows when matter and spirit join together as one; this is where we can create from our inner reservoir of inspiration, and we are virtually unstoppable when we operate from this place. At that time in my life, I felt like I was all matter, no spirit. I needed a recalibration.

And so began seven days of what was bliss for the senses; tropical island, invigorating (and tough!) yoga and pranayama, incredibly nourishing food, massages, colonics (!), nightly chanting and meditation, reading, and connection with my mum. What I wasn’t ready for was the bubbling sadness and sense of inadequacy I felt in who I was. Free from all the distractions of ‘life at home’, and faced with yoga poses that brought my subconscious to the surface, there was just as much pain as there was pleasure in the experience. What I understand now but didn’t recognise then, is that when we make space for retreat, we also make space for the deep inner work that is yearning to be done, but that we can so often efficiently avoid in our day-to-day lives.

For many women who are experts at performing this avoidance tactic, motherhood can be our awakening; our children the spiritual teachers so expertly pushing our buttons.

We often have a fantasy that the holiday, the dream job, the perfect family or the magazine-worthy home will make us fulfilled and happy. The more unrealistic the fantasy, the greater the nightmare when we actualise what we so desperately seek. This is nature’s method of getting us back into balance. We can take that beautiful trip, sure. But the stuff you’re seeking to avoid or disown will still own you when you return, if you don’t address it. As the ancient poet and Mystic, Rumi said, ‘What you run from, runs you’.

Of course, take that holiday, do that renovation, achieve that next big leap in your learning or career, but find your own way of doing it with awareness. Whether that’s on the mat with the wisdom of the yogic teachings, or reflective time in the garden, meditation, introspection, or even mindfully washing the dishes. When you feel like negative emotions are running you, ask yourself ‘What’s going on for me right now?’ and listen to your intuition for the answer.

We arrived home from the yoga retreat on my 27th birthday, and I spent most of the day in tears and subsequently angry at myself for being so ‘ungracious’ and ‘who was I to feel this sad’. Judgements. Belittling. Social conditioning of ‘how I should be’ all coming to the surface. This is what it means to embrace our humanity. We grow when we see our emotions, physiology and the people around us all as a feedback system. Not things to be numbed or shut out, but to be understood.

Embrace the life that is quietly trying to work it’s way into your consciousness; all the messy, human, painful, exhilarating, inspiring parts of it. The moment you recognise you have everything you’re looking for, is the moment the Universe gives it you.

Why 'Positive Thinking' is Futile

Bridget Wood

By Bridget Wood

Have you ever tried ‘positive thinking’? It’s one of many tools recommended in this era of self-discovery, mindfulness and ‘being your best self’. In a world that’s increasingly trying to mould you into something you’re not, pursuing that long journey to understanding your true self is wise – but here’s a tip: you may just find you give up ‘positive thinking’ because it makes you too sad.

This is because negative thinking is an essentially biologically healthy thing you must have, and to attempt to disown this part of yourself and be an one-sided ‘happy person’ will breed the opposite in order to bring you back into balance. Just like physical body is always seeking to maintain homeostasis, the mind seeks to maintain equanimity. The more extreme the happiness, the more extreme the sadness in order to counteract it (it’s no coincidence that comedians are prone to depression).

Like a magnet has both positive and negative charges, Chinese philosophy has yin and yang, and nature has simultaneous creation and destruction, we humans are no different. Our emotions are a feedback system to let us know we have a lopsided perception about something, and our intuition is always attempting to guide us to see both sides. The more polarised our emotions (extreme happiness or sadness, anger or depression), the weaker our intuition becomes and the more we look outside of ourselves for answers.

Zeus has ordained that there be summer and winter, plenty and poverty, virtue and vice and all such opposites for the sake of the whole.
— Epictetus

The pursuit of fulfillment is wiser than the pursuit of happiness. Fulfillment means to fill your life with what’s inspiring to you, and it’s most rewarding when you can provide a meaningful service to others through what lights you up most. A key aspect to fulfillment is practicing gratitude for all that you are, and all that you experience. Happiness is an emotion that is fleeting; it’s not ever-present, therefore the endless pursuit of it perpetuates human impulses for instant gratification and hedonism.

A beautiful analogy for the mind says if you don’t plant flowers there, you’ll continue to pull weeds. When you organise your day, and your life, with high priority tasks that inspire you and fill you with energy, you have less room for lower priority things that frustrate you and deplete your energy. Every single thing we do in life has elements of both pain and pleasure (which is what makes the whole), and we will more readily endure the pain on the journey of pursuing what we love. Since it’s at the border of support and challenge that we grow the most, it’s wise to choose your own inspiring challenges (or the Universe will do it for you – you can’t escape growth).

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way
— Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Gratitude turns what you have into enough. Let’s focus on that.

On Camping and Letting Go

Bridget Wood

By Bridget Wood

There are many things to love about camping. Immersing yourself in nature, wide open spaces, star-gazing and chats by the fire.  What camping also does, especially for city folk, is it forces you to get out of your comfort zone. Daily shower? No way. Technology? No reception. Any food you like, on a whim? Not a chance. Flies with your lunch? guaranteed.

But with this comes the opportunity to observe yourself, and how you deal without those creature comforts, and annoyances. Throw in the extended family living in each other’s pockets and it’s a recipe for lots of learning about yourself and each other. So what did I learn?

  1. Hiking the Inca Trail has made me very comfortable going four days without a shower
  2. It’s confusing being a toddler when your mum thinks it’s cool to get muddy and your dad is duct taping your gumboots to your pants
  3. Marshmallows. There is no stopping at one (and don’t you dare read me the ingredients!)
  4. Connection with my family is way more possible and effortless without chores and to-do lists looming over my head
  5. Kids really don’t need as much in the way of toys. Give them the chance to get a little bored and then watch their imagination flourish.

Now that we’re home, I again feel that low-level anxiety that comes with feeling torn in so many directions, having so many balls in the air and feeling like i’m doing nothing particularly well. It’s the modern dilemma of our time, and a hallmark of motherhood. The stillness and lack of distractions offered by camping in nature, holds up the light to our wounds, limiting beliefs, and paves the way for inspiration and intuition to come through so we can shine our light once again.

The stories we tell ourselves become our reality. In fact our lives are lived twice; first in the mind, and then in practice. Creating the space for stillness and observing the flow of life, holds up the mirror, just like our children do, on how we view the world.

Right now, it’s back to the work of life (while my toddler watches a movie) but i’m so grateful for the opportunity to pause, connect and reflect with those I love. Like the seasons, light and dark and the waxing and waning of the moon, the laws of nature show us how to live.