I forgot to wear my contacts to class. What does that mean? It means that I can either rock my giant Woody Allen-esque glasses and enjoy them slipping off my face every time I’m in downward facing dog or I accept that its blind yoga for today. I’ve said this before in a past blog post but being as short-sighted as I am, means I am forced to be more mindful and attentive when I don’t have any seeing aids. I have to really listen to the instructions and my body, rather than parroting movements.
Being mindful can be difficult.
Have I become better at it? It’s relative and the ebb and flow that is the idea of ‘success’ is really just a state of mind. Have I reaped mental, emotional and physical benefits from the practice? Hell yes! One simple benefit is I’m just plain happier on a day-to-day basis and this feeling is rooted in me rather than external circumstances – positive or negative.
What does it mean to be mindful? I mean I talk about it a lot right? Mindful this, mindful that, I know most of my friends are like
Bee, we get it, you’re like in love with with this mindfulness thing, now shut up we’re trying to watch ‘Game of Thrones.
So let me expand on what being mindful is to me.
I can’t speak for others, as every person’s experience is different and nuanced, but I have come to understand it as the act of listening. Listening to the chatter in my head, listening to my breath, listening to my body and listening to those around me. It’s about checking in with where I’m at and what I need at that moment in time. It is a value-free and neutral space inside of me I can tap into when life sweeps me up in its highs and lows, as well as the painfully mundane. There are many methods to carve that space out, but yoga has been the most satisfying tool for me thus far, whilst meditation still remains my Everest.
(Bee wrings her fists at the use of such a clichéd metaphor.)
Yoga has been like trying to retrain my ears to hear notes I had either refused to acknowledge or never ever heard to begin with. Some of those tones are brash and uncomfortable and some are just so gosh darn purrrrrty.
Listening is challenging. It’s also one of the most generous acts you can afford yourself and those around you. The act of listening is an act of acknowledgement and validation of the person you are listening to, including yourself. A lot of feelings of anger, resentment, sadness and frustration can stem from a sense of not being truly heard. Therefore, the act of listening is pretty empowering.
At the beginning of 2015 I made one resolution for the coming year, which was:
To be more present in the lives of those I cared about.
I had been very negligent to friends and family over the years, for reasons that are too long to go into. The question was how was I to be a more present in the lives of others when I wasn’t even present in my own life at the time.
Doing yoga and learning to meditate at Tatjana’s classes, has helped me listen to my thought processes, which in turn has helped me really listen with intent to those in my life I care about. It’s pretty incredible to see how relationships with those around you change and develop once you stop assuming you are hearing them and actually start to listen.
Don’t get me wrong I’m still at the very early stage of understanding all of this and by no means anything more than a novice, but in the nearly 6 months after setting the intention to simply take a moment to listen, the quality of my interactions has changed considerably.
(Cue violins and romantic sunset – I know, I know, I’m working on being more earnest, but I’m just about getting to grips with listening. One step at a time.)
I like listening to Tatjana and her light Croatian accent. I like her instructions; her philosophical musings and I find her funny. She brings a light-hearted atmosphere into the class that makes me giggle while performing asanas. Once, in an effort to help create more ease during boat pose, she instructed us to ‘float with ease like seaweed on the surface of the ocean’. While everyone was seriously being floating seaweed, no one seemed to notice Tatjana chuckling at all the earnest yogic algae floating away on their mats. I laughed. Come on we were mindful SEAWEED for crying out loud and doing yoga isn’t mutually exclusive to having a sense of humour.
Being mindful doesn’t mean being perfect; it’s about being aware of your physical, mental or emotional landscape and responding to them in a value-free manner. It also goes a long way to remind oneself; for all intents and purposes – the process is the goal.
(Bee floats away like seaweed on the surface of an ocean of mindfulness.)