Ever since coming back from India, I feel like I’ve stepped into a freedom I can’t explain, can’t quite put into words.
In Part 1 of this post, I’ve talked about some of the great things that YTT has taught me - celebrating the small victories, practicing gratitude daily, how expectations ruin everything and how we should just still more often.
Today I’m sharing some more, and some very deep, experiences that have helped shape and shift my mindset ever since I returned.
Side note: from the moment I returned from India, I was stressing to writing these two blog posts as quickly as possible for you guys. But in the end, I’m really happy that it’s taken me so long to get these out, because a lot of these things didn’t actually ‘click’ for me until recently. Well, they ‘clicked’, but they didn’t manifest into my life to the point that it actually changed the way I lived and did things on a daily basis. Which I feel like they now do. It's sublte changes in life perspective that have slowly crepped up on me, and now, as I sit down to contemplate on things, I realize how they have found themself into my life.
I could probably write a part 3 and 4 to this, but for now this shall suffice. Without further ado…
6. No one has their shit figured out. “The only normal people are the ones that you don't very well yet.”, as Alain de Botton famously said.
True story. At the surface, it seems like everyone else is cool, calm and collected 24/7. While you might feel like a crumbling mess 99% of the time. The thing is this: as humans, we are programmed to always put our best selves forward and show ourselves from our brightest, shiniest side. Hence why most people that we meet in passing or don’t know very well leave such a composed and put-together impression on us. But once you get to know that person (granted they allow themselves to be vulnerable), you will learn things about them that you would have never guessed. Or had no idea that they were dealing with.
Example: At the time when I was at my worst, people around me thought I was living the dream. Dream boyfriend, dream family, dream friends, what more could I want, right? I still get messages today from old uni friends/acquaintances who tell me they would have never guessed that I was struggling at the time.
So how does this affect me post-India? I’ve come to realize that there’s absolutely no point in comparing my low-lights to someone else’s highlight reel, because I have no idea what goes on behind closed doors. I’ve also learned to stay open-minded and to always see the best in people, because they might be going through a rough time and that’s why they are being rude, annoying, aggressive etc. Most importantly, I’ve learnt that it’s OKAY to not have my shit together. And to admit it if I don’t. Because we all experience these emotions.10. The body holds on to emotions, stress and trauma on a deeply cellular level.
7. Love yourself unconditionally NOW.
For many years I knew the importance of loving yourself, yet I could only access the idea through my intellect, never my heart. But here is this: if you wait to love yourself unconditionally until you are at XYZ (insert: dream weight, dream job, dream partner, dream yogi flexibility) that you imagine you need to be to respect yourself, you will never love yourself unconditionally, because the message you will be giving yourself as you reach your goal is that you are damaged and cannot trust, your longings, your dreams, your true essence. The time is now.
I’m not sure what about my India experience made me look at this idea from a different perspective, but for some reason, it just clicked. Maybe it was seeing how content the locals are with their simple life, maybe it made me appreciate how truly blessed I am, and maybe it was because the combination of those two things made me realize that life is too freaking short to worry about the size of my thighs.
I have no concrete answer for those who want to know the quick-fix secret to long-lasting unconditional self-love other than to keep showing up for yourself and putting in the work (self-care, healthy routines, self-reflection, educating yourself, surrounding yourself with good-vibe people etc.) and hopefully eventually it will all come together for you too.
8. The body holds on to emotions, stress and trauma on a deeply cellular level.
Why do Western Medicine treatments like Acupuncture and Reiki work? This is a very loaded question, but to answer it simply: these treatments are healing modalities that treat the whole body and address the underlying emotional, mental and spiritual factors. The body keeps score of any negative experiences we go through, and if not dealt with, they can build up in our energy channels in the body.
In our 3rd week, instead of our usual morning Vinyasa class, we did something called shankaprakshalana - essentially drinking a gallon of salt water and vomiting it all out again. The idea behind it is to cleanse your intestines and hence detoxify the body. I'm not going to lie, it was a horrific experience for me; I couldn't get the water out so I had to induce it by putting my fingers down my throat (sorry for the TMI), something I never thought I'd ever do again (read here for my ED story). The moment I realized I had to do it, I panicked and just couldn't get myself to do it. I started crying and shaking uncontrollably and felt like an animal trapped in a cage. Long story short, I eventually did it and was haunted by flashbacks to the days where this was the norm for me.
A couple hours later when the initial shock of the experience dissipated, I looked in bewilderment at how intensely my body had reacted. I couldn’t control the crying, the shaking and just felt out of control of y own body. And then it dawned on me: even though I’ve worked through my ED on a rational and even subconscious level, there were still parts of my past buried in my body on a deeply cellular level. I needed to go through this to get the last bit of my past out of my system. You know how they say your body has muscle memory? It has an emotional memory too - I feel like my body had somehow internalized the purging process & that this whole thing triggered the memories to resurface. As horrible as it was, I felt such a sense of relieve and inner peace afterwards that I really do think I had to go through this in order to let go these memories completely.
To bring it back to the point: the body stores trauma, stress on a deeply cellular level. If you think you have some sh*%t from the past that's 'trapped' in your body, it might be worth it to look into alternative healing modalities as well.
9. Take time for yourself when you need it. Being alone does not equal being lonely.
I know for myself that I am an empath that takes on negative energies of others, so when week 3 hit and everyone was getting all cranky and frustrated, I was feeling the intense urge to retreat and spend some time by myself - and so I read, listened to podcasts, went to the rooftop to watch the sunset while listening to music, all by myself...I'm glad I had the self-awareness to do this , because if I hadn't tuned in to the voices between my ears, I would have missed out on very important messages that my brain was trying to show me and maybe I would have gotten too much affected by other people's mood.
If you are an empath yourself, you need to be super selective with who you let into your space, who you give your energy to. And you need to be hyper-aware of when other people's energy's affect yours, because you are more sensitive to it than others.
Which brings me to the next point...
10. Self awareness is the key to all your problems - "Study thy self, discover the divine."
Why do you go for comfort food when you are having a bad day? Why do you pull away from a potential partner when things get too serious? Why do you always feel that weird knot in your throat when your boss calls you in for a chat?
When you are curious and when you are questioning, you are practising Svadhyaya, which is Sanskrit for the study of self in alignment to the yoga principles.When you explore yourself, your thoughts, your actions, your words, it has the potential to create a deeper connection with yourself.
Overcoming my eating disorder had a lot to do with becoming more self-aware. I knew I was getting in my own way by having self-destructive habits, though at the time I didn't really understand why I was doing the things I was doing. Like eating something long past the point of enjoyment, just for the sake of diving into oblivion rather than remaining conscious & sitting with myself & waiting out whatever it was that filled me with anxiety & pain.
Can you imagine how your life would be different if each time you were feeling sad or angry, you'd say to yourself "Come here, sweetheart, tell me what's going on. It's OK, we can talk about it. Why are you sad, why are you angry?"
Self-awareness is a constant work in progress, and I try to be as open-minded and honest with myself as possible. At the moment, a big one for me is my tonality and choice of words when I talk to myself. I’m bringing huge self-awareness to this at the moment and am actively overwriting the inner mean girl voice whenever it pops up by choosing kindness above all to go along with my words.
As Geneen Roth says:
Our work is not to change what you do, but to witness what you do with enough awareness, enough curiosity, enough tenderness that the lies and old decisions upon which the compulsion is based become apparent and fall away.
11. We must constantly challenge ourselves and step outside our comfort zone in order to grow.
There’s nothing like being thrown into a powerful community of yogis to shake up your sense of self. Everyone who's there already has some self-awareness and is probably dedicated to being their authentic self, so there will be plenty of opportunities for deep internal reflection. Be prepared for lots of old emotional baggage to bubble to the surface. You’ll be confronted with the parts of yourself you usually choose to push away. We all have our shit, and most of the time it's not pretty when that shit gets stirred. Your lifelong conditioning and limiting beliefs that you unknowingly have carried around with you for years will suddenly come out - 'I'm not good enough' , 'I can't do this' and 'I don't deserve this' are especially popular.
As you know, I had already done a lot of spiritual work on myself before embarking on this journey, so I can't say that a lot of new things came up for me. Expect maybe the cleansing ritual drama. But apart from that, I didn't suddenly discover new daemons that had been hiding out in my subconscious all along. That said, putting myself into this environment and having the time and space to reflect really allowed me to go that next level and analyze every yet so small thought and emotion that came up in the 3o days. And I learned a lot from it.
Challenges help us grow. Pain is a teacher. Stepping outside our comfort zone is a must if we want to move forward and learn. So don't ever be afraid of challenges and pain, because without them, we would be stagnant and life would be boring.
12. It's easy to do yoga, but harder to live yoga.
Who can relate to the following scenario: you go to a yoga class and have a beautifully relaxing flow. Shavasana is pure bliss and you lie there thinking just how zen and at peace you are. You leave the studio thinking nothing can get in your way that day. But then something small happens that pisses you off and BAM you're back in the non-yogi version of yourself where frustration, annoyance and aggressive swearing at drivers who cut you off, are the norm. Although carryover is one of the promised benefits of yoga, it's not that straight forward.
But if you keep showing up, the benefits of your practice will sooner or later bleed into other parts of your life. Your practice will start affecting your behavior, your thoughts, your actions, your food choices and so much more than you ever thought possible. Just stick with it and watch the magic unfold. Until then, you might want to warn your family and friends that just because you do yoga, you're still going to get pissed at them from time to time. You're human, after all.
13. Stop hiding under a mask and let your true self be seen.
It was so easy to connect with my fellow yogis in India. It feel like in this type of environment, your true side really comes up because you have no place to hide, and the intensity of the yoga and the program cracks you wide open. There are no typical superficial how-are-you-what-do-you-do-for-a-living type small talks, but you go straight to the juicy stuff, the stuff that makes you cry for someone else's suffering and brings shivers down your spine. True human connection. On a physical level that meant not wearing make-up for a month and not giving a crap about how I looked, and on a deeper level it meant acting in congruence with my true authentic self. Saying yes when I meant yes, and no when I meant no. Allowing myself to be vulnerable. And gosh it felt so liberating, so free, so natural.
I know the Western world doesn't make it easy for us to just BE. Social media, status, reputation, success, money, fame, material possessions, the list goes on. Then there's the emotional masks - not feeling powerful so you become a bully, feeling insecure so you become the class clown, feeling unloved so you become angry at everyone and everything. Ask yourself: "What mask(s) do I wear?
How do you feel about the face you’re portraying for the world to see? Are you truly yourself? Do you feel that you can be you, no matter what social situation you’re in?
What I've realized over the years is that it's exhausting to live an inauthentic life. It also robs us of our fullest potential and prevents us from being able to heal our deepest wounds. We weren't born with masks, rather we were conditioned to put them on. That means we can learn to take them off again. As Oscar Wilde said,
I could go on and on about what else I learnt at YTT, but ultimately I can say this – go do it yourself and watch your life transform. Everything I read before I went sounded so cliché – “Oh it will change your life bla bla bla…” , but looking back at it now I can say that it’s true. If you ever thought about doing a yoga teacher training yourself, this is your sign, go and do it.