When I tell people that I teach yoga for a living I am immediately met with the question, “Wow! You must be so peaceful and happy all the time.” Yes, for the most part I am. I love what I do, and I love the connections I make. However, I stress out just as much as the majority of the American population. In my default mode, I catch myself worrying about bits of the past or obsessing over parts of the future. I ask myself questions like, "Am I doing this right? How will my actions or words be perceived? Will people understand me?" As you can imagine, this makes it hard for me to get things done due to my indecisiveness.
Although I am a yoga teacher, I too can get caught up in the busyness of everyday life that I forget to practice the very thing that I teach. From teaching public and private classes to leading workshops, trainings, and retreats, I find it to be a very delicate balance between finding time for my own practice and offering it for others.
Due to a build-up of recent stress and tension causing a lack of sleep and stiffness in my neck, I began seeing an acupuncturist. During my evaluation, the acupuncturist asked, “Do you obsess over your thoughts?” Hmm. Such a simple question and yet so precise.
Ironically, a friend and student of mine gifted me a book called, Radical Wholeness, maybe a day or two after I saw the acupuncturist. As she handed me the book she said, “I think you will really resonate with it.” After just reading the first chapter, I already felt a deep connection to everything the author had to say. It was a combination between a coming out party and an intervention. I felt relieved to unveil an underlying cause for why I create my stress/anxiety and yet surprised by the parallels I identified with in the book.
In the first chapter, the author discusses what he calls the Chosen Five: the western cultural construct asserting that touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight are the senses that activate our intelligence. The author, Philip Sheperd states, “What each of our senses supports is an aspect of the Story that is foundational to its message about what it means to be human: the self-contained within a boundary.” He introduces Kathryn Linn Geurts who studied the senses of the Anlo-Ewe culture of West Africa. In her studies she finds that the Anlo-Ewe culture contrastingly consider speech and balance to be a sense. The way in which we view speech reinforces our cultural belief that the self is contained within a boundary, therefore, we use speech as a way to present our ideas, opinions, and even ourselves to try to manipulate a certain response. Whereas the Anlo-Ewe people see speech as a means of discovery and learning through the experience of connection. They also see balance to be a sense in that way. They believe that balance is “a felt relationship between your center of gravity and that of earth.” Philip Sheperd elaborates on the Anlo-Ewe culture by breaking down one word, Seselelame which translates to, ‘feel-feel-at-flesh-inside.’ This word refers to what is perceived through the sensations of the body. As Philip Sheperd boldly states, “A nurturing of seselalame is nowhere to be seen in our formal education of children. Rather than ‘feel-feel-at-flesh-inside,’ we are teaching ‘think-think-at-head-inside.’
Perhaps that is the problem; the fact that stress has become so normalized in our culture that is becomes tolerable, acceptable, even encouraged in some instances. I too am guilty of suppressing my anxiety and stress until I become so disconnected and forget to be open to life. But, much like the practice of yoga, I am reminded that the point is not the be perfect or to have all the answers. Instead, it is to experience the process of feeling, being, and connecting to everything that makes me whole. And through the act of being whole, I can become more present.
Hi, I'm Lauren and I am here to support people to find freedom in being authentic and the power to carry that out in their lives and community. Writing is one way I like to explore that for myself. Here is my archive of reflections.