Navigating the Road Less Travelled
We all know we are living in times of olympic levels of distraction and busy-ness with the epidemic of stress sweeping the globe leading to serious dis-ease in body and mind.
Never have the words slow down been so desperately needed as they are now. Without them, burn-out can ensue, followed in some cases by the vehicle flipping over a few times before full head-on collision - and I am a case in point.
The reader’s digest version of the story is: At age 18 I had a life-threatening encounter with a glass table which left my nervous system in a state of severe shock. The medicine I have received from my yoga mat over this past decade has been the keystone in my quest towards health during a long-time skirmish battling post-traumatic stress symptoms of anxiety and insomnia.
Due to these recurring stress symptoms, I was forced to leave my full-time career in publishing and walk the road less travelled in search of my own health and happiness. The questions that I now wake with every morning are: What does it mean to live fully awake and passionately on purpose? What am I more curious about than afraid of?
I believe it starts with realising the promise and potential of every single day. To awaken a commitment to live in a way we will be proud of when inevitably it’s time for the ultimate Savasana.
As American author Dawna Markova eloquently states: “We’ve been so trained to do, in order to have, so that maybe in some distant future we can be.” But we know this is all backward. What about living in the here and now?
Overcoming PTSD with the Body’s Intelligence
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a deeply curious and very misunderstood phenomena, which needs it’s own dedicated discussion. However what it has taught me, and still teaching me, is that the intelligence of the body cannot be ignored.
I have always been an incredibly tactile person with a passion for creative expression through movement, so yoga was a natural follow-on from that. It made me feel alive and connected to my essence, my passion, my purpose, and I just couldn’t get enough. But also, it began to offer insights into what was going on in my body-mind and provided tools for copig.
So when my full-time work fell away, yoga was there to catch me. From that point on I pledged my way forwards to peace and health for body and mind for myself, and all who I am lucky enough to work with.
Learning to Listen
If I had to sum up what yoga is in one word, I believe yoga is listening. Listening to the body with curious, compassionate, loving attention, revelling in the experience of being human, in all it’s pleasure and pain. It requires exiting the fast lane and moving into the slow river of wonder. I would like to suggest that rather than “finding” joy, we cultivate it by searching for the preciousness of small things, the ordinary miracles such as the delight in taking a shower, in touching something soft, enjoying a delicious mouthful of food, the texture of breath entering and leaving the body...
In yoga, we’re constantly harping on about the breath - what’s all the fuss about? In this context, it is a powerful anchor to keep us present, where past and future merge into the same moment instead of feeling pulled apart or trapped between the polarities. The effect of mindfulness practices, of which yoga is one, is that everyday actions - such as lifting an arm above the head - becomes sublime.
When we apply fascinated attention towards whatever it is we’re doing, there is the potential to drop out of pure thinking mind and connect with the feeling, intuitive body. In that mode there is no where else to be but fully submerged in the present moment. I believe the biggest gift we can give ourselves is to pay attention, to serenade ourselves with conscious breath and every meaningful mark or movement. For me, being creative and working with my hands also has that effect.
What I have come to realise is that living with ‘struggle’ has brought me into daily conversations with myself. This path has inadvertently demanded for my own authentic expression, innovation and replenishing solitude. I constantly have to be reminded of my dedication to slow down, to put one foot in front of the other, taking a sacred pause to stop and appreciate the smell of the roses, the warmth of the sun, the flavour of the morning dew, the vast beauty all around me. And only then can I hear the true sound of my own heart song.
By Lara Zilibowitz
Yoga Teacher, Artist, Retreat Host