I’ve joked in classes recently about the change in pace at yoga classes everywhere that is magically brought on by the arrival of autumn. It’s like just before they hand us our teaching qualifications they imbed all yoga teachers with a chip controlling our speed. The minute the temperature starts to drop and that first leaf turns orange, a switch goes off in our yoga addled brains to wind down, like the batteries coming to the end of their life in the Duracell bunnies in the old adverts. The drop in temperature and the shift in daylight makes us all want to focus our attention on change, rest and recuperation.
Problem is, this goes against every natural behavior and habit I have. I run off of high energy and feel frustrated and fidgety if I’m not keeping myself constantly busy. I naturally spend my day filling it with as much doing as possible. Working, planning lessons, teaching, seeing friends, checking in with family, making things, cooking, writing, running, baking, and practicing yoga… its doing, doing and more doing until I have to sleep. Unsurprisingly, this often leads to me to getting overwhelmed and burning out.
So why do I do it? Because, my brain is running at a million miles an hour and the rest of me feels the need to try and operate at the same speed . I talk way too quickly and I rush around. Sure, I get loads done… but I’m frantic and often on edge.
I build up lists in my head of all the things I have to do and convince myself it needs doing immediately and at 100% energy and effort. I don’t allow myself to stop until everything is done and if I fail to complete something on my epic to do list, or don’t do it perfectly I berate myself. It’s exhausting!
October rolled around and I decided to jump on the bandwagon and adopt this intention of slowing down.
At first, it felt like failure, like giving up.
I wasn’t pushing myself, so how was I going to get everything done? I wasn’t pushing myself, so how was I going to improve and get stronger/ faster/smarter/better? Despite feeling exhausted and no matter how much I needed this, I kept pushing against it. Because I thought I was being lazy!
Then something shifted. For the first time in a long time I give myself permission to ease off. I started to move a little slower and let go of the idea that I always have to push. If my alarm went off and I was exhausted then I lay in. If I was enjoying watching trash TV, then I allowed myself to watch another episode. If I got on to my mat and didn’t feel like sweating my way through an hour of vinyasa, than I didn’t; I still practiced, but restoratively.
I started to genuinely slow down, allowing myself space between the doing and my mind started to follow.
(This is the bit where I go off on a bit of a tangent… stick with me, it will make sense).
When the SAS go through the training phase in the jungle it breaks many of them, because they push against the conditions. They are being physically, emotionally and physiologically pushed to their limit, but this is made so much worse by their environment of stifling heat, humidity and everything else the jungle has to throw at them. The soldiers who try to fight and push against nature and the elements inevitably break. But the ones who don’t try to fight nature adapt to it. They learn to work with the jungle and make it through their training stronger and more prepared.
Our mind is like a jungle. If we allow our body to try to fight it and compete with its speed and noise, if will win. It will consume us and we will burn out. Sometimes it is shouting at us to get our attention and if we start to slow down and focus on what both our mind and body are trying to tell us, we will stop fighting against how we feel and start embracing what we need.
For me, that little bit of concentration, time and space I have allowed myself this month as left me feeling more connected and harmonized than I have in a long time. For me the jungle in my mind is no longer hostile and I am starting to appreciate its beauty, complexity and vast unexplored landscape.
So, imagine if you allowed yourself to give in, stopped fighting and submit to the pressures you put on yourself. Now imagine what you might find if you allow yourself to slow down, listen to how you feel and start accepting and embracing your wild untamed beauty.