Control issues and working with our blind spots

I’m writing this on a crisp April day and, while there is blue in the sky, there are warnings of a huge blizzard coming to disrupt our wavering steps towards spring.

Cue panic!
Cue despair!

If there was ever needed another reminder that we can’t control everything, then here it is (again). We really can only do so much!

It’s interesting to observe how much energy we spend on worrying about things we can’t control (like clouds, or say, the past). How much time do we lose wondering what others think of us? How much brain power do we expend trying to stop the inevitability of change itself?

We all do this. Maybe we just get caught up, or it’s a distraction from dealing with our own things, but we leak energy over this and that as we try to control what is beyond our personal control – until we don’t have enough energy for what we really want to do, or what we actually have control over.

anxiety is information - adrienne shum

Practice is a way to regather energy, to plug the leaks. We can get both rest and power from our practice. When I’m on my mat or cushion, there is nowhere else to be. And when I rise, I ask: where can I be effective? Where can I serve?

We all have blind spots. Through practice, we can learn to see them, bit by bit. We hold ourselves in compassion as we uncover embarrassing and vulnerable things about ourselves. We hold ourselves in our human-ness. And then, whenever we know better, we try to do better – this to me is the definition of maturity and wisdom.

Here’s to uncovering our blind spots with humility and grace,

Clean pain, dirty pain

It’s almost March of 2022! You’ve made it this far! Woooo!!

For some odd reason, the term, “army crawl,” popped into my head this morning. Odder still, it felt like the perfect way to describe how moving through the past two years has been like: crawling on all fours, with great exertion and stealth, trying to avoid an enemy attack (e.g. a virus, eep!).

I’m looking forward to the warmth of spring, but before it arrives, I think it’s worth pausing to reflect on what has passed. We’ve all been through a lot.

In his book, My Grandmother’s Hands, Resmaa Manakem explains how emotional pain can be “clean” or “dirty.” When we avoid or silence our suffering, it becomes dirty pain. This unwillingness to address what we’re going through creates more pain – and we repeat the harmful patterns of the past.

In contrast, when we turn towards our suffering in the moment, it can be clean pain. We recognize it, move through it, and grow from it. We can reduce future harm. It doesn’t fester into dirty pain.

Clean pain is still pain, so it is bound to be uncomfortable at times. Thus it is important to have a structure in which to do this kind of work. A yoga practice can certainly be that, but there are many ways – may we all find what works best for us.

Take good care,

Yoga for the brokenhearted

Pursuing the practice of yoga has given me many things, and one of these things has been a broken heart.

Let me explain.

Yoga is about cultivating awareness of ALL things, without discrimination. So when we open ourselves to the ways of the world, we experience both the joy and the sorrow. We see the generosity and the greed; both intelligence and idiocy; the caring and the apathy.

Yoga means resolving to bear witness to the way we both help, and harm, eachother. In the easy times, we can just drink it all in and bask in the glow! In the hard times, it requires greater determination: how do we keep showing up? How do we keep our hearts from breaking?

If we truly engage in this complicated and messy world, our hearts will break. It is inevitable. We must let them break. We have to let the world in.

So yoga didn’t break my heart, per se – it helped me realize it was already broken.

Before you start sending me referrals to therapists, hold on: it gets better.

Once we realize the state of things, only then can we do something about it. Yoga gives us the tools to mend our hearts. It gives us the chance to practise starting again, with compassion and curiosity. Every breath can be a fresh moment, a fresh start. It is a practice of forgiveness.

If we think others are incorrigible, how does that affect the way we treat ourselves?

Let’s not give up on ourselves. Let’s take care of our broken hearts, together.

We can always begin again (yes, it’s true)

As arbitrary as it can feel, a new year draws a line in the sand: it’s time to reset and start again.

A sect of the wellness world seems to dislike the word “resolutions” – I’m not sure if this due to feeling badly about not sticking with something, or not being chill enough, or…?! To me, the word resolution means clarity and vigour. It means direction.

If you prefer to call it “intentions”, then go for it! Whatever semantical acrobatics you want to use, I think there’s nothing wrong with wanting to evolve, and that desire can include appreciating who you are at this moment.

Yes, it can be both.

My resolution / goal / intention / manifestation / to do list for this year is to REST more. I spent most of my teenage years and 20s in a sleep-deprived fog because I was so hell bent on doing, doing, doing. I’m quite sure that in many ways I was just working against myself.

just facing in the direction of wellness helps

In the past few years, I have set about shifting how I think about work / rest. It is a continuing saga, but essentially, I want to work smarter, not harder. And in between, I want to rest.

What about you: what do you want? How have you been going about it? Is it what you truly want, or what others tell you to want?

It’s hard to go against the tide of the culture. It’s hard not to feel like we’re “falling behind”. In some ways, this pandemic has only amplified the feeling of being in some gaslight-y race towards betterment. I don’t know where we’re going, or if it’s worthwhile; whatever it is, I’d like to move towards it in a well-rested state so I can better face it.

Here’s to feeling okay about ourselves, while knowing there’s always room to grow.

Stay well,