Cleaning Up and Cleaning Out

Hard to believe that a year has passed since I left for India and the ashram. My Guru-ji was right – it would take a good six months to a year to “unpack” all the things we experienced and learned. I’m happy to say I’ve put so many things into practice and am noticing obvious shifts in my thinking, my level of happiness and peace (increased), and my desire to live the best version of myself. I can honestly say that THESE PRACTICES WORK!! Part of this desire has led me to make more conscious choices regarding my health of body and mind so this fall, I have embarked on a “CLEAN UP/CLEAN OUT” mission.

First I began with a CLEAN OUT for my digestive system in the form of a mini dietary detox and now that I’m feeling so much better, I will continue this by following a guided Clean Eating plan for the month of November (http://www.balancedhealthyyou.com/FALL-DETOX-WITH-TERI-AND-CAROL if you’re interested in joining me – options for “busy people” so no excuses!).

Second, I acknowledged that my surroundings (mainly my office) again desperately needed as much attention as my digestive system so the big CLEAN UP began (how many times have I started this and then things piled up again?) Was there a way I could literally and metaphorically SHED unneeded pounds of paper and old bills and magazines and junk on my desk in the same way as I could do this in my body – for good? My office cleanse so far has been as liberating and satisfying as my dietary cleanse, and for the same reasons that accumulated toxins in the body create dis-ease and discomfort, so do the accumulation of years and years of paper in my filing cabinet. To break the cycle means using the same awareness we cultivate in meditation – acknowledgement of what IS (and one step further, contemplation of how things came to BE this way) and conscious effort to auto-shift out of the samskaric grooves of habit into more nourishing behaviours so that new more supportive patterns become engrained. Calling upon the energy of transformation, commitment, and discipline (called “tapas”  in Sanskrit), I am using this task as a way of living my yoga in a most practical and relevant way.

Third, a synchronicity – just at the time of my embarking on this CLEAN UP/CLEAN OUT mission, the opportunity came up to take a course with the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine called “Mindful Healing – Connecting the Cell and the Self” with Dr. Paul Epstein (http://www.drpaulepstein.com/). How perfect – so I enrolled. So far this course is teaching us how our “biography becomes biology” with the understanding that what has happened in our lives becomes embedded in our bodies, minds, hearts and influences everything from the way we think, speak, act, to how we live out our daily lives (even like accumulating junk in your office…). It has a huge bearing on our health right down to the cellular level…so the real healing must come when you deal with your stuff – when you CLEAN UP and CLEAN OUT, not just once but as an ongoing practice. This idea is nothing new and of course, the whole practice of Hatha Yoga is to cleanse, detoxify, and get rid of what keeps us stuck in our smallness, our pettiness, our self-importance, our material wants and ego desires, and to prepare the body and mind to re-awaken to what is our true nature – clarity, peace, happiness, vitality, resilience, love, connection.

So I’m pumped and motivated and excited and also a bit scared. This means delving once again into dark corners and places where things have been buried. Just like my dusty filing cabinet that still holds tax returns from 20 years ago (seriously???), I will be poking through some old memories I chose to forget. And I might be hungry or craving a latte or a glass of Cabernet…But that’s okay. Armed with all the tools I have worked so hard to develop through my yoga and meditation practice like compassion, self-love, inquisitiveness (AND a good dusting cloth and Dyson vacuum cleaner…), I willingly choose to “go there”.

Cleaning with Buddha

 

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360-Degree Living

My teacher, Vishva-ji, often asks his students how they are feeling. We usually answer, “Pretty good”, and then he asks, “How good? 90 degrees? 180 degrees? Or 360 degrees?” This has always really stuck with me and inspired me to create a theme for my yoga retreat called “360-Degree Living”. I put it to the test this past weekend when I hosted a group of 18 women on a yoga and meditation getaway. My aim was to discuss how we could live more fully, embracing the full spectrum of our existence and all layers of our being rather than getting stuck in only a small part of our lives. Using many different tools, we discovered ways of deepening our awareness. From silent morning meditations outside at dawn as we welcomed the sun, to yoga sequences that explored the sheaths or “koshas” of our being, to chanting Sanskrit mantras, to crazy Bollywood dancing, to sweaty sun salutations, to frosty dips in the pool, to sharing meals together in silence and in chatter – we experienced living as fully as we could by slowing down and paying attention. We did this without the fast pace of our regular daily lives, and without the pressure of needing to be anywhere else.

We laughed, we cried, we sang, we danced. We walked in nature during the day under the warmth of the sun, and made our way in the darkness of the woods at night with the stars and candles to guide us. We opened up our hearts and felt love, joy, peace. We bravely delved into our thoughts and dared to look at how we sabotage our own happiness and sense of worth through negative self-talk, judgement, criticism, and denial. We agreed to follow the “Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz – to be impeccable with our Word; to not take anything personally; to not make assumptions; and to do our best at all times, knowing that “best” can change depending on how we are in any moment. We forgave ourselves, we challenged ourselves, we hugged ourselves (and each other!). We lived this weekend in 360 degrees of awareness…

As a facilitator, it is my job to hold this sacred space for others to experience transformation. But inevitably, I always come away transformed myself. I felt myself grow along with these wonderful women who put their faith and trust in me. I witnessed beauty and grace unfold before me as smiles broadened, shoulders relaxed, voices belted out OMs, and walls came down…To be part of this growth was an honour and it continues to strengthen my belief in our universal connection to one another.

Fast forward to today – back at the office, back in the traffic, back in routine, back in noise. The idyllic environment we left might be a fading memory very soon BUT we are armed with new tools, strategies, and reminders to embrace every single day with a 360-degree lens so as not to miss a single thing – the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly, the sun, the moon, the small, the large, the infinite.

Deepak Chopra suggests doing a re-cap at the end of every day, reviewing what you did, felt, saw, and experienced…then you let it go. I like this strategy and have been putting it into practice – part of living fully is also being able to let things go, so we can have space to face the next day of infinite possibilities and potentialities. Vishva-ji has similar advice –  through meditation, empty the “folders” of your mind like cleaning up your computer and do regular “virus scans” to get rid of toxic thoughts. The result (which I am feeling more and more) is clarity of mind, sense of purpose, depth of feeling, and connection to your true blissful nature. So the next time he asks just HOW good am I feeling, I will open my arms wide and say with certainty and pride,  “360 degrees”

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