Have you ever felt a very strong pull to do something? A calling deep down somewhere inside that is almost like a whisper? I certainly have heard such whispers and a few times now, have listened and been called into action.
In 1997, I travelled to East Africa for a few months as a volunteer to teach about HIV and AIDS, attempting to dispel some of the myths around its transmission and the stigma attached to the disease. I honestly don’t know if my time there made even the slightest difference but that’s okay.
Then in 2009, I felt a very strong pull to enroll in Moksha Yoga’s teacher training in Kerala India. I had been to India in 1998 after completing my volunteering in Kenya. Some of the 33 countries I have travelled to call me back, and India was one of them. I had fallen in love with yoga and what is was doing for my body, as well as my mind and spirit. I wanted more and to be able to share with others through teaching yoga. That decision was one of the most pivotal I’ve ever made. My life has changed and grown in ways unimaginable at the time. My passion for teaching just keeps growing!
Last October, the whisper returned but this time as almost a shout. I awoke from a dream of witnessing someone drowning in icy water beneath thick snow. Somehow I knew that I had the answer to how they could get out! By the end of that day, I had contacted anyone I could find related to the Syrian Refugee crisis and knew I was on the right path. The CVIMS (Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society) responded and connected me to someone else in town who had just reached out to them. It turns out she was a former colleague and we immediately connected to start forming our sponsorship group (ORG Nanaimo: Our Response group.) This group now has 6 other extremely committed, caring and generous people I am proud to call my friends.
Many folks have already generously donated money, time, and household items to our family of 6 arriving within weeks. One of the biggest donations so far is from Kristen Butler and Moksha Yoga Nanaimo. Moksha has always had a strong value of supporting those in need through their Karma Yoga program and also the New Leaf Foundation bringing yoga to inmates. Each month, studios around the world hold Karma classes which collect donations for a chosen charity. This also allows students who may not normally be able to afford the regular price of a hot yoga class as the minimum donation is usually around $7-10.
Well, much to my delight and gratitude, Moksha Yoga Nanaimo is donating all of their February Karma funds to our sponsorship group. My heart is bursting!!
Please join us for one of the many Karma classes in February. I’ll be teaching 2 extra special classes with the talented Nico Rhodes who will be sharing his love for music during class (February 6 and 13.)
I’ve often been curious about the way life seems to rush by and how measures of success are based on how much gets done each day, how many ticks on my list. Looking back on those kinds of busy days, however, I have noticed there are many periods of time, almost voids, where I couldn’t pinpoint having accomplished much, but they seemed to comprise a good chunk of my day. Feeling less productive during these voids (reading the paper, sitting quietly with my child or petting my dog, surfing social media, waiting to pick up the kids after school, watching a TV show, driving between appointments…. you get the picture), I felt somehow that these were wasted moments where I couldn’t find much value. This would leave me feeling as though the day was not a success, that I was not a very useful or productive person.
I recently came across a Sanskrit word that started me thinking about these places and times ‘in between’ a little differently: Madhya. It can be applied to those times between or in the void which I have described, but also smaller, subtler times such as between poses on the mat, between thoughts, or even those tiny pauses just after a breath in or out. There are so many moments in the day which could be deemed ‘unproductive’ or ‘useless,’ and yet is it possible to value them in a new way? Could these moments be cherished just like all others? Could we watch for these tiny breaks and transitions with relish, enjoying moments of reprieve where nothing needs to be done? Enjoying the momentary sense of ease that can be found in the pauses? Not having any judgement, only acceptance and reverence.
Another interpretation of Madhya is ‘in the middle’ or ‘centre.’ This definition made me ponder whether the moments in between the ‘productive’ times could be seen as the centre or ‘hub’ of my life, the important and valued moments, rather than the other way around. How would this change my perspective on each day lived, on a life lived?
Madhya, my new search for those blissful, in-between moments of peace and making them the centre of my life!
This month, being my first after leaving a long career, and feeling almost like this is a new beginning of the ‘next phase of my life,’ I signed up for a month long “Mindfulness Summit” online. It seemed serendipitous that I begin my new life with an effort to be more in the moment, more aware of my thoughts and emotions as they come and go, and learn about how to get the most out of every moment from here on.
Life had been feeling in recent years like it not only raced by at break neck speed, but also that I spent much of my time looking ahead to the next event: school activity, work trip, vacation, dance competition, kayak regatta, bill payment, meal preparation….. you get the point. It felt like life was filled with a myriad of things to come, rather that what was happening right now. Then I realized my memory of some events was not very clear. Rather that assuming I was getting early onset dementia, I had the insight (or maybe sincere hope) that maybe I just wasn’t fully present during that hour or day, so that my mind couldn’t possible hold onto clear images when the memories were clouded with distraction. It is quite ironic that all the effort I put into these events in my life were sometimes lost due to my lack of being present, already onto planning the next event.
So this first month has become an exercise in slowing down, practicing mindfulness in even small moments, and enjoying those seemingly little things that make up our daily lives. When I look back, small things sometimes become the big, important moments of life. What do we have if not this moment, right now; the touch from my child, a sweet song of the bird outside my window, or the delightful aroma and taste of that freshly brewed Latte on a Sunday morning?
On that note, I’m off to make my second cup.
If you are interested in learning more about Mindfulness, there are still 2 weeks left in the free summit hosted by ‘Mrs Mindfullness:’
A few years ago, I embarked on a quest for World Peace. Yes, a lofty goal for almost anyone, especially a mother, wife and nurse in a small town on Vancouver Island, Canada! I applied for Rotary International’s Peace Ambassador scholarship to study abroad: a Master’s degree in Conflict Resolution and to become an Ambassador for Peace. Needless to say, I didn’t get chosen for the scholarship (I did make it to the final round though.) Needing to redirect my path, I realized that I really should begin by finding a bit more peace within myself, building up my own repertoire of skills and resources, before embarking on the lofty goal of world peace! That is what led to my Yoga Teacher training. My teacher at the time spoke of noticing that voice in my head and techniques to quiet my ‘monkey mind.’ Around this time I also heard a quote from the Dalai Lama who said that world peace must begin within. Since then, I have been on the very bumpy road of searching for some inner peace!
Recently I had a conversation with a lovely woman at a party. Due to the upcoming elections, I find so many conversations lead to this topic. The woman explained to me, with a worried look on her face, that she was afraid of people from other cultures due to the actions of extremists within those cultures. She admitted that she was suspicious of and feared all members of those cultures. When I suggested that maybe we could first assess each individual based on their own merits, giving them the benefit of the doubt (after all, aren’t the majority if people inherently good?), she replied that she was too afraid to take that chance. At that point, we agreed to discuss something much more neutral like the weather.
I was taken aback, not truly grasping the depth of this fear-based state of mind and have returned to ponder this conversation many times since. As I listen to politicians and Canadians express their opinions and fears openly during this election time, I realize that fear is the root of most actions of our world today. Whether the impetus is basic freedom, a need for more money and power, or just a safe place to rest our heads at night, fear motivates so much of what we do.
Feeling a bit helpless and overwhelmed by the enormity of this, I know I just need to keep coming back to my own life, taking precious moments like right now to be grateful for what I do have in my life, how lucky I am to live in this wonderful country, and keep working on cultivating peace within. If I stay grounded, acting from a place of love instead of fear, maybe one day I’ll be ready to tackle a bit more of the world out there.