“When we let go of our battles and open our heart to things as they are, then we come to rest in the present moment. This is the beginning and the end of spiritual practice. Only in this moment can we discover that which is timeless. Only here can we find the love that we seek. Love in the past is simply memory, and love in the future is fantasy. Only in the reality of the present can we love, can we awaken, can we find peace and understanding and connection with ourselves and the world.”
Starting Where You Are
Ever since I returned from my long-term trip abroad in 2015, I have become an observer of society. I’ve become a reluctant participant because my values have changed. I have come to recognize the values of simplicity, doing less and slowing down. This doesn’t mean I am amazing at honoring these values. In fact, my biggest struggle has been in applying them to my daily life while living in the United States.
Life here feels set to fast forward. We rush and we strategize, occupied with the latest technology and comfortable convenience. In every customer service transaction, I attempt to personalize the experience. I slow down intentionally, allowing the person serving me on the other end to take a breath. I take my mornings and my evenings slow, practicing rituals like making tea and lighting candles. I read, practice yoga and I write a lot. And as I simplify, I reflect.
Reading through The Yamas & Niyamas, I was particularly struck by how Deborah Adele talks about the ethical practice of Asteya.
“We are captured in a culture where our very identity is tied up with our accomplishments. We wear all we have to do like a badge on our shirt for all to see. In this rush to get to the next thing, we have left no time for ourselves to digest and assimmilate our lives; this may be our biggest theft of all. We need time to catch up with ourselves. We need time to chew and ponder and allow the experiences of life to integrate within us. We need time to rest and to contemplate.”
For months last year, I stole from myself. I made myself so busy I couldn’t think straight. I worked as a Spanish tutor, a yoga teacher, a writer, a waitress, a nanny… I still felt like I needed to do more. I was scared to put myself out there as a full-time yoga teacher. In a town that is oversaturated with yoga studios and teachers, I didn’t want to compete. Even though I knew that my classes offered something special, something nurturing and safe that other teachers can’t always encapsulate, I was scared that if I put all of my energy into teaching, I would be disappointed with empty pockets. So I settled for teaching some classes at a studio several times a week and cramming my schedule full of part-time jobs without pausing to integrate my experiences and reflect. The results?
In creating a compilation of jobs to rebel against the 9-5 grind, I had the freedom to go swimming in the middle of the day and enjoy cooking my own meals. I did enjoy moments of savoring my surroundings. But nothing had room to grow. Even though each of my jobs expressed my strengths, I spread myself too thin to experience the benefits of my hard work. My yoga teaching had no opportunity for growth because I wasn’t willing to truly invest in it. The same goes for my writing.
When we practice Asteya, we shift our focus away from others and onto ourselves:
“It asks us to get excited about the possibilities for our own life. When we attend to our own growth and learning in the area of our interests, we are engaged in the joy and challenge of building ourselves. From the fullness of our own talent and skill, we automatically serve the world rather than steal from it.”
Adele challenges us by asking, “Are you available for what you want?” Are you open to it? Have you built the competency to appreciate it when it comes and hold on to it? When we take the time to cultivate our skills and essentially manifest what we want, we will have the competency to nurture and maintain what we ask for so that we can truly receive it into our lives.
I’ve recently accomplished the daunting task of updating my Linkedin profile, my Upwork profile and posted on some online groups about my availability for teaching yoga and writing. This took some honesty. I had to look real hard at all of my jobs and ask myself, “What do you want to focus on?” I am learning to check in with my body when I ask these questions. When I’m in my head, I wander. I give excuses and I doubt myself. When I’m listening to my core and I’m centered, sitting with the question until I have a sense of an embodied “YES!” or a “Hell no!” or, what comes up for me often, “Hell if I know!”
The Embodied YES
When my heart feels full, enveloped in that peaceful easy feelin’, that’s an embodied yes. When my body relaxes and I feel the center of my body being drawn towards the answer, that’s my body letting out a gentle knowing that says, “Let’s go.”
With so many opportunities and options here in the states, it can be difficult to sense this “yes” within the core of your being. I’m finding that the more I learn to check in with myself, the greater awareness of how my body is responding to situations. When my shoulders tense up, that’s a “Hell no!” When I feel that pushing and pulling between my head and my belly, that anxiety that spins me in circles, that’s a great time to go back to the things I know for certain. Putting hands in the dirt, loving on an animal, or laying under a tree brings me back to the present moment. The present is always true, even as it changes with each passing moment. Those truths are my anchors. They help me sense what is needed and most valuable within each moment, guiding me down the path.
I started thinking about horses again after going for a few rides with my friend when I was in Nicaragua in February. One morning about a month ago I woke up with horses on the brain. I found a woman who was offering lessons with a picture posted of her and her horse. My heart leaped out of my chest. The picture reminded me of something I had imagined before. The picture of a woman riding a horse with confidence and direction, breeze blowing through her hair. My heart remembered. “I have seen this before!” And I immediately contacted her for lessons. There was no question.
Right now I’m taking my time. I’m slowing down to keep myself present within my body and my surroundings. My body has been asking for attention for quite some time. Anxiety is usually a clue that something’s off. I talk to my heart a lot these days… when it shakes… when it’s sad. Our bodies never lie, and the heart speaks when you’re willing to listen. She knows. And before I take my next leap, I am pausing to nurture my heart.