Autumn and gratitude

End of October always brings the most beautiful autumn days. It’s still warm enough to enjoy long walks in the park, and the last sunny days offer a wonderful view on the fallen leaves. For me, autumn is the season of reflection and inner journeys.autumn on its wayAutumn is associated with melancholy. I would put much more positive on what autumn makes me feel, as it’s the time to take a step back, reflect on everything, from the adventurous summer to all that was learned this year. Winter is coming, Christmas and a whole new year, which means new beginnings and hope.

The fallen leaves in autumn are a sign of the end of a cycle. But it is not something negative. We all know they will be alright. Seasons change, nature goes to sleep, but there’s nothing sad about that. Everyone knows that once spring comes, everything will blossom again. And this is the miracle of life.

Take this lesson from autumn and bring it into your present. Nothing lasts forever, not the grey days and not the strong winds. Even when you’re down, overwhelmed by storms or snow, the belief in the warmth of that very first ray of sun keeps you going.

On this same page, I dreamt last week about a grey chimpanzee that told me:

“Don’t worry, as long as our hearts are beating, everything is going to be alright.”

WisechimpanzeeI was told this is a pretty wise chimpanzee, and my dreams are strangely insightful. But the bottom line is that we are all going to make it. It sounds cliché, believe me, I know it. But I also know that after the rain comes good weather, like in a book I used to read regularly when I was young (“Après la pluie, le beau temps”, Comtesse de Ségur)

One important lesson yoga taught me is gratitude. People tend to get stuck in their problems, fear or routines, and forget to be grateful about everything that they have. This is, in my opinion, one of the biggest issues of our society. We are programmed to be in the search of the perfect life, with a happy family, a good career, enough money for all the comfort we can imagine, and, on top of everything, exciting adventures everyday. What happened with simplicity? What happened with the beauty of holding somebody’s hand? What happened with feeling grateful for small things, such as being healthy?

I once read an interesting article, stating that people rarely think about health, unless it is in danger. We do not notice how well things are going for us, unless we start feeling bad – that is when health becomes important. What if we tried a small change of perspective? Stopping sometimes to think how nice this day is, because we are full of energy, capable of carrying out with our daily tasks? We have food on our table, and a shelter on our head. These ‘basic needs’ Maslow would say are so often taken for granted. But they offer our support system, and we should really appreciate what we have. These are small sources of happiness, and acknowledging them would improve our quality of life.

Are you upset you cannot afford eating fish twice a week, and you don’t often have time to prepare pancakes for breakfast? What about imagining for a second eating just bread with butter every day? Terrible, no? This lack of variety. Unimaginable. What about imagining eating a piece of bread once in a day? … Are you happy with your life already?

Autumn is the season of reflection. Reflect on who you are. On what makes you happy and what makes you sad. If it makes you sad, have you stopped and tried to understand why you are sad? What makes you tick? Go deeper into your inner world, do it today, and try to know yourself better. And then be happy for the opportunity we have to do this inner journey. Cause it’s one of the miracles of being human.

Yoga and Competition

“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” (The Bhagavad Gita)

I don’t know about you, but I am a pretty competitive person. I was raised to aim for the best, to try to push limits and do more. I got a secret rush from being better than others, or recognized for my merits. I loved contests and classaments, and would always strive to get higher. Being introduced to yoga, I was on unknown territory, where everything moves slowly and smoothly, and I wasn’t the best anymore.

I felt it’s so challenging, that I could never do it. I hear many people saying they cannot practice yoga, because they are not flexible enough. This is one of the biggest myths about it, since very few of us are. But gradually, through regular practice, flexibility increases. You start out by not being able to touch your toes, and you can end up after a while in a beautiful dancer pose.dancer_pose_yogaYoga teaches you many things. Among others, patience is one of them. You cannot just do everything from the beginning. You need to work your way through poses, learn to listen to your body, understand and respect it. There might be days when your body cannot balance as well as in others, and you shouldn’t force it. It will come back, when you are ready. This is one of the wonders of yoga, and this is what many of us fail to understand. It is more than a “sport”, it is more than a race to be able to do all the cool poses you saw online. You might never be able to do some of them. And that is okay.

My competitive self started by checking out the instructor, and wanting to be like her. She was so flexible, I assumed it just takes more practice, so I pushed myself. I started practicing daily and I was improving. However, I could always discover cooler poses, different girls online holding impossible positions. I started setting goals for myself: “next month I will be able to do the split”. My motivation got shaky when I felt I was not improving anymore as quicky as before, and reaching my goals felt very difficult.

This is when I met an amazing instructor, in a random gym in Seville, Spain. She opened my eyes towards yoga and myself on so many levels, I couldn’t be more grateful. Each of her classes was different, and she took us on inner journeys and introduced us to so many aspects of the practice. I have never met any other instructor like her. She was showing us how to believe in our body and in ourselves and explaining that sometimes we just need to shup up the mind. It is the one that tells us we are afraid or we cannot achieve something. Our body can do much more, if we just believe in it.

Sometimes, when holding a difficult pose, she would encourage us to think about something we are afraid of. To feel it, understand it completely. And then comprehend that we can overcome anything. Yoga is more than a body challenge to reach certain position. It’s discipline, hard work and relaxation. Sometimes it is okay not to achieve something, and other times we just need to be more patient and allow our body to get there. If we listen carefully to our inner self, we will understand our needs better.

serenityThis made me stop looking at others. Not compare myself anymore with instructors, fellow yogis in the class or skilled and flexible ladies on the internet. We all have our inner journeys, we all have our own challenges and limits. What matters is what we learn about ourselves after each practice.

Finally, I learned more about flexibility. I used to wish to be able to do those amazing back bends, and I’m sure you’ve felt like that. However, I read more on the topic and learned that this increased flexibility is more than regular practice and hard work. Some people are just born like that, but others are hypermobile. That might look cool, but can be painful and sometimes dangerous. So I decided to be careful what I wish for, and focus on what my body needs.

The only competition for me is knowing myself and my body more. Not wanting what the others achieve, but treating myself better. Improving whom I was yesterday, not necessarily physically, but emotionally.

“The study of asana is not about mastering the posture. It’s about using posture to understand and transform yourself.” (Gary Kraftsow)

Who is the most important person in your life?

Internet is full of articles, questionnaires and books about knowing yourself and self-development. We hear it everyday: love yourself or no one will love you. But we are social beings, and studies have showed that we are happier among others. Why is that? Because happiness is contagious – and this goes both for introverts and extroverts! Being among happy people makes us more positive and confident. This also influences our health, since it is easier to recover from illness for people who benefit from love and support of family and friends. Being among others also contributes to our sense of identity, since we feel accepted and belonging to a group. Not to mention the benefits and motivation others can bring, for example by encouraging you to continue a healthy lifestyle, go for that half-marathon or apply to your dream job.

This being said, why are so many of us so individualistic? I recently came across this question in an article: “Who is the most important person in your life?” and it got me thinking. There are so many factors you can take into consideration when looking at this: whom you care about the most, whom you spend the most time with, who is always there for you, whom influences your decisions, whom you make compromises for.

Knowing yourself

I asked this question to a couple of close friends, and the answers I got were interesting. From their life partner or their family (parents), to themselves. All these choices bring interesting considerations. Of course, it is an individual decision and many times it is understandable that it is difficult to choose. Choosing family or your relationship is tricky, especially when you are faced with distinguishing between different types of love. Firstly you have the love for the ones who gave life to you and have formed you to be whom you are now. Secondly there is that one person who is with you day after day, chasing away your demons, loving and supporting. You may be so lucky as to have both of them around you, and then why on Earth would you even choose?

Interesting for me was to hear the answers of those choosing themselves. What does it mean? Are they more self-centered than others? Are they afraid to let love in? Or are we just naive to ever believe we are anything but alone?

I am a believer in personal connection, learning from others, helping others, sharing your life, experiences and knowledge with others. I know I am happier when I surround myself with those I care about. Some may say this is insecurity – this is why it is important to know, understand and accept yourself, without needing constant confirmation from the outside world. Others may say that you are happiest when you follow your dreams and do what is best for you no matter what. In this case, you become the most important person in your life, since you independently choose your path, with small or even no outside influence. In the worst case scenario, this leads to the well known image of the person ending up alone in his/her 50s, with a lot of money and no one to share them with. This is, of course, an extreme case, but it successfuly underlines my point – making decisions only based on your needs will eventually lead up to disappointing those around you and alienating them.

I am not a big fan of compromise, who is? But I believe it is important to see the difference between putting yourself on the second place on the one hand, vs. not considering anyone else, on the other. You may make all your decisions based on what your needs are – but then, how much are you willing to risk for love? How much are you willing to give? How deep is the nature of your personal relationships?

friendship