Thursday, 31 December 2015

New Year's Evolution

Here's the thing about your brain.
The ancient part of it, the limbic system, reacts to threat instinctively with self-righteousness, attack, anger and withdrawal from connection with the (real or perceived) source of threat.

We all know we have this capacity within us: responding to a threat (to our way of life, our dignity, safety, sense of self), with a desire to hit out, to withdraw from connection with the source of the threat, or to draw the battlelines between us and them.

But know also that there was a later evolution of the human brain (the neocortex), which enables us to manage our self-protective reactions.  This is the part of us which seeks to reach out to other people in the face of threat; it is the part of us that knows that together we are better; and which gives us the courage and confidence to remain open-hearted in the face of vulnerability.

As you step out into the new year, please remember that the ability for humans to connect and help each other, to offer each other respect and love, is as much of a human instinct as that which tells us to become defensive or aggressive; remember that your capacity to reach out to others in times of uncertainty is the higher function of your brain.

It might take practice - the functions of the limbic system have dominated human development for many generations - but your yoga practice will give you the time and space to engage with this practice; times of peace, times of prayer can be guided towards seeking and finding this higher place in yourself, the place which seeks to understand and care for others.

It all starts with you.

When the world feels full of fear; when it feels as though the voices of aggression get the most airtime and shout the loudest; you can walk through your life with peace and generosity, you can remain dedicated to the practice of compassion and to the development of your own empathy; you can be the one that takes the time to encourage, care for and nurture other human beings, be they strangers, friends or family.

This is the best new year's resolution that I can imagine: to turn always towards empathy and compassion and to reach towards that part of our brain which knows that we are nothing without connection and understanding.

People just like you are doing this everywhere, every day.

We make a difference.

Start where you are and you have no idea how far the positive ripples of your actions will travel.

"Don't miss an opportunity to exert the power you have to remind others of who they are: invaluable priceless and irreplaceable.  Remind yourself too."
Dr Donna Hicks

Namaste x

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

When you don't know how to begin, just begin

When you don't know how to begin.

When you have no idea how to begin.

When you become aware that there is something new out there for you, some new place to be, or a new way of living; when a new project beckons you, tantalisingly from the edges of your consciousness.

When you see that you might be healthier, wiser, kinder if you chose differently.

When you remember that life can be exciting and there are new things to learn, new places to discover, new experiences to have.

When you ask after that new thing that is calling you: What are you?  What is it that is wanted of me?  How could this life of mine be different; how might it be better?' When curiosity rises in you.

When that project that you have always wanted to begin, but have never known how, keeps whispering to you, 'Create me, create me, you know you were born to do this'  When you have heard that voice for years now and you still haven't done it.

Just begin.

When your old friend Fear stands in your way, with her hands on her hips, blocking the path and tells you that you are safe where you are now; what you have is enough; when she wonders who you are, anyway to think that you could ever do this new thing, this new project of yours.

Even then.

Just begin.

She's only trying to keep you safe; she's trying to help; but she's getting in your way.

Then comes Procrastination.  Think of all of the things you need to do before you can begin: you need to clear things away; you need to build things up; you need more knowledge; you need to be ever so slightly different (slimmer, fitter, smarter, braver, less tired, more financially secure).

Look closer: Procrastination is your old friend, Fear, in disguise.

Everything begins inside of us: it is an inkling, an instinct, a desire.  But it must move from our heads to our hearts to our hands if anything is to be made of it.

You plant a bulb in the winter and you can't imagine that from that hopeless looking, dried out thing, will come the most encouraging growth, the most beautiful colour, just when you need to see it at the cold beginning of next Spring.

One word
One stitch
One step
One phone call
One click of the mouse
One conversation where you admit your secret plans to a beloved friend

We already know we're not in it for the glory; we're in it for the love; we're in it because we are in the habit of tuning in to what is wanted of us and we're committed to using the unique gifts that we have been given, because, well, that's what they were given to us for.

I'm not talking about other people's gifts (some people have such intimidating gifts and that can be discouraging); I'm talking about your gifts and mine; our small gifts to use and share and relish in our own small communities.  I never did want to stand up in front of the whole world, did you?  I wanted to do my own beloved little thing here, in the place where I live among the people who make me happy.

Don't get waylaid any more.

Now you know that you want to begin; just begin.

Namaste x