Day 337 to Day 342 – anxiety and stress relief

Day 337 – anxious love

At what point did I allow this FEAR (False Expectation Appearing Real) creep in? Where did it come from? I can’t really explain this but it seems like my barriers have come up again. All of a sudden I am anxious and scared. I have crossed the point of no return. The only way out would be painful because I don’t want out. I am happy and I am in love. I know. Terrifying. The human condition dictates that we question anything that seems “too good to be true”. We map out the worry lines and plan out our failures, certain that it will all fall apart. Despite growing up with the fairytales and the happily ever afters, harsh reality quickly teaches us to mistrust. To trust seems naive so we suspect others, become uncertain of our own emotions and question everything, descending into a spiral of confusion and negative projections. Of course, worrying is praying for what you don’t want to happen. Through the power of manifestation you create reality and in believing that something will go wrong, we feel validated when it does, convincing ourselves that we just knew it and we were right to be so suspicious. Well, what if I just let the barriers down? Eventually my pride has to come away and I have to talk about it. The funny thing about communication is how silly our fears seem when we speak them out loud; I am chronically phobic of seeing clay being cut with wire. The thought of it causes my mouth to dry up and I almost start shaking. I couldn’t get through a sculpting class with a gun to my head. And yes, when I speak about this I realise how absurd it is. Well, when I finally tell Matt what is bothering me, I suddenly get red in the face and laugh at my own silliness. Out loud, fears are just false expectations- proof that I am not living in the NOW. Proof that I am allowing my past to influence my future and both of those conditions to ruin my present. Well the past has happened and can’t be changed so why worry? And the future hasn’t happened but can be determined only by the now so why not just EEE- Exist, Enjoy, Experience…

 

Day 338 – city gal

I have been sent to Newcastle for work… Which sounds awful until I arrive at Nelson Bay. This place is beautiful! And then I get the cancellations… Luckily enough I have a bikini in my car so I can take advantage of the gap in my bookings. So here I am, sunbaking on white sand in front of turquoise blue water. I can’t remember the last time I was somewhere like this. Mexico? I remember a year ago it was my everyday life to be around crystal clear water and white sand with no people around. Suddenly I realise how much I have acclimatised to the city. I realise how city-fied I have become when I turn up at a customer’s house and see an animal with antlers. I can’t even name the animal but I realise this is the first time I have seen antlers so close. I grew up on a farm! How can this be so amazing to me? I guess I have been absorbed into the concrete jungle already… Well, at least when I escape to a white sand beach with bright blue water, I can appreciate it because it is so different from grey roads and traffic lights.

 

Day 339 – Oscar is here!

We are three, the reps sent up here for work this week. The other two girls and I go for a walk in the early morning. I am telling them about Oscar, my nephew who is due any day now. When we get back to the hotel, I have a message on my phone that he has arrived. We have been waiting, but not as long as his older sister, Bella. She has known about his arrival for a while now. My sister-in-law was once told by a psychic that Bella knew her little brother from a previous life. When they were away, Bella was telling other children about her brother, Oscar, who was coming soon. As soon as she found out she was having a little sibling, she was excited that Oscar was coming. Now he is here. They are finally together again. I wish I wasn’t away. I am starting to question this job that keeps me away from my family. I am always working. Well, from far away, welcome to the world Oscar. I can’t wait to meet my new little man!

 

Day 340 – yoga with an audience

Of course, I have brought my yoga mat. If it doesn’t fit into my bag, then it isn’t a bag worth taking away. I roll the mat out before dawn and begin some sun salutations. I thought that everyone was asleep until I hear the girls say, “wow.” I guess I have an audience. I am not entirely comfortable with yoga performance, but sometimes people pay attention. The important part is to keep myself centred so that I am not performing. Turn within so that this isn’t about the without. It’s like the philosophical question- if a tree falls in the wood and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? If a yogi stands on her head and nobody is there is to see it, is she truly upside down?

 

Day 341 – sole detachment

Get pretty. Wear the face. Walk tall in the shoes. Smile. Be pleasant. Behave. All the orchestrations of a polite lady can be faked but when I am shopping for shoes and immediately go towards skulls or tassels or studs, then decide that this is too hard, I ask if I can just go barefoot. I end up choosing shoes named Black Krystle because that is my best friend’s name and I will need her courage every step of the way. Strapping on mountain climbing shoes in the snow? Easy. Crampons? Yep I got that. Flippers whilst floating? Sure. Barefoot is something I am more than comfortable with. Whilst I can rock high heels when necessary, they represent jail for my toes and the unwelcome feeling that my sole is detaching from my foot. I don’t like feeling sole (soul?) detachment. Sometimes this whole monkey dance of society- look pretty, have the right hair, the right clothes, the makeup… it all just seems so fake. It’s all part of the song and dance that we play to present an image to our peers. If I want people to know who I really am I wouldn’t wear shoes at all.

 

Day 342 – stress

Another speeding fine. The universe and certainly, the roads and traffic authority are telling me that I am going too damn fast. SLOW DOWN. Do not pass GO. Pay $200. Mum reminds me about uni. Time to stop mucking around and re-enroll. Time to choose- is sales really where I want to focus so much time and energy? Certainly not. To write and write well may not be able to be taught, particularly by distance education, but it might help with getting paid for this. And I have about $500 worth of fines to pay so working for money would be ideal. The whole whirlpool of thought is starting to pull me down into a bit of a cave of stress and behind my sunglasses I struggle to hold tears back. Thus is the first time Matt has seen me cry. I pretend not to. If there is one thing meditation can fix it is stress. Another antidote is love. Today we are meeting Oscar and when I hold his tiny body and smell his little head suddenly all those issues are gone. Pure life. Breath. His dreams can’t be more complex than leaving the womb. He can’t even see right now. I keep trying to wake him up but he is milk-drunk. My beautiful niece hovers beside us, looking dotingly down her little brother who she has been waiting for. Fines, uni, work, money, all melt away when pure life reminds you how to live. Just breathe.

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Day 212 – anxiety and confidence

Teaching yoga, I find that some students really need to hear the cue to relax their shoulders and breathe into the diaphragm or the belly. They take a deep breath in and I watch their shoulders rise, the chest puff out and the whole point of the deep breath becomes null and void as the entire bottom part of the lungs remains unused. When the shoulders are tightly wrapping around the neck, we call these the waiting muscles. This is where anxiety most commonly presents itself in the body. The student I am speaking to is aware of this but admits that he needs to practice this, that he always forgets and falls back into his old habits. I tell him he can change his habits and I can see the doubt in his eyes. Only one minute a day, focus on your breath and slow it down and breathe into the belly. One minute is not a long time at all. His excuses start to fall away and as we talk, I see the breath move down. Once he is more relaxed, the tension falls out of his shoulders and he seems calm. Sometimes new students come to yoga and feel that they aren’t quite getting it, or that they aren’t doing it ‘right’. They can stress out at the time when they are supposed to be relaxing the most. I tell them not to worry too much about the alignment, it will come. I remember being there; looking around the room, trying to follow the other students and understand what the hell the teacher was on about as she spoke jibberishasana. And then one day, it was like something clicked and when I heard “Bakasana”, I found myself immediately in an arm balance. The important part is not how much you know, how high the legs go, how close you can touch the nose to the knee. The important part is how it makes you feel! It was the confidence that set me soaring into that arm balance. Despite this student’s compulsive tension and chest breathing, he tells me the class was perfect and just what he needed and he leaves with a smile on his face.

When I get home, one of my best friend’s, Luca, is already there, chatting away to Krystle as she prepares dinner. Luca is a tall, vivacious, highly intelligent Italian who I met at yoga teacher training and made the impressive comment in a room full of yogis, “Sometimes yoga is not doing yoga”. He has cut off his mop of Side-Show Bob curls and is walking like the Tin Man after running for the first time in weeks. His job keeps him in Papua New Guinea most of the year so it has been months since I last heard his infectious laugh. We are talking about work and attitude and he says that the secret to his success is confidence. “Liz, you must demand everything that you want because nobody will offer it to you. When they offered me my contract, I asked for everything to be improved upon. When I asked for more money and they said ‘No’, I knew I was pushing it but to everything else they had already said yes so it was worth a try! I know my value and I know I deserve what I ask for. I work hard.” I wonder if he walked in there doing chest breaths? I can pretty much guarantee that he did not.

I don’t know if many people in this world can say that they know their value. I think there are many people who estimate their value on their monetary gain but there is so much more to a single being than a salary. Luca is the kind of beautiful yogi who can scratch the back of his head with his toenail and then walk into a room and manage a team of eleven people in a subtropical developing country where he can’t walk in the streets due to the dangerous political climate. He is only 28 and already talking about buying property.

Going to bed, I look over my day and think about the anxiety that sometimes grips us all. Everybody, even the most conscious yogi, does a chest breath every now and again. Relax, take a deep BELLY breath, know your value and demand what you deserve from the world. Because nobody else can breathe for you. Nobody else knows your value and nobody but you will hand it to you.

Day 159 to Day 162 – a very long weekend

Day 159 – treading the mills

I wake up early to run before work. Even though it is sunny outside, it is freezing so I decide to run on the treadmill. I feel like I have been running for ages but the treadmill says I have only run 2.5km. How is this possible? Am I just impatient? If I turn the speed up, I get more tired and then want to stop and what I am training for is endurance since the City 2 Surf is 14km. Maybe I am just bored. The early morning Sydney news is annoying me. I guess they have to be so bright and shiny to put people in a good mood for their day. I can’t handle it anymore. I am warm now, so I keep looking out the window wishing I was running outside. Then I see the wind blow violently at the tree across the road and I shiver a little. I can’t handle this treadmill, though. It is so boring! I want to turn the tv off and turn my running meditation on but I think I would be in danger of falling asleep. I am going insane. It seems harder on the treadmill, maybe it is because there are no up and down hill slopes, no change in terrain. The plastic whirs around at the pace I set with the touch of the button. I keep flicking between distance, calories burned and the speed meter. Maybe I should try this with a book. When I finally stop running, I think I am running late to work. I rush to get ready and finally make it through the traffic and arrive only 5 minutes late but it seems nobody has noticed. I have rushed for nothing. No customers even come into the pub for hours, until well after lunchtime. Once again I feel bored, which I really don’t like to feel because I worry that I am wasting life in boredom. I sing along to the background music as I scrub at the inside of the glass washer with a toothbrush. I am dying for one of the manager’s to come into the bar and speak to me, just so I don’t chew my own arm off. Being a Friday, around 3pm the bar gets suddenly busy and my plans to get to a yoga class at 6pm are thwarted by the knock-off beer hour. I decide instead to go home and get ready to meet my friend for dinner. I haven’t seen her in ages and as we catch up on years of life, giving only the most basic of dot points of life, I try to listen as much as I am talking. Basking in the warmth of the connection one can only share with a close friend, time slips away and it is like we have never spent any time apart. Time is irrelevant when it comes to friendship.

Day 160 – observing anger

Although I didn’t sleep until close to midnight, I wake up at 3.30am with anxiety.  I decide it is a good thing that I can’t fall asleep again, as it gives me a chance to do my Sadhana practice before I teach yoga. I hear my phone beeping so after my pranayama, I check to make sure the alarm won’t disturb my meditation. There are messages from my past and, feeling compassionate to another being in trouble, I take some time to offer comfort to a person I still care about. It doesn’t take long for the conversation to turn into a bit of a carousel. Sometimes we encounter emotional vampires and in giving them our time, we allow them to take a lot of our energy. When the conversation goes around and I have to explain myself again and again and again, I soon feel drained and angry. I finally have to step away from the conversation. Nobody is going anywhere positive with this and I am seriously firing up. I have to release the build up of frustration and anger, so I stomp my slippered feet and do a silent scream; you know the ones where you open your mouth as wide as you can but no sound comes out? The whole house is sleeping and I don’t want to wake them up. I stop and stand very still, feeling the energy in my belly. I witness this energy we call anger. What is it really? The mind is rushing around, making meaning and attaching to all the things just said that have caused such frustration, so I ask it to be quiet and just observe this emotion. This energy, this anger, without meaning, without the mind, is just a fire in the belly and it feels very similar to excitement or fear or surprise. If the energy is the same then there is no reason I can’t change what it is. I re-set the mind and sit down for meditation, allowing the excitement and joy to grow from deep inside. By the time I get into my car to drive to yoga, I am bopping around to the music from the radio. Isn’t it funny how the radio seems to play the song that you most need to hear?

It is playing Wish You Well be Bernard Fanning:

Up so early feel so bright
Didn’t get much sleep last night
Freight train rattled through my head
Whistle blowing love is dead
Is dead

Heart attacked by fear and doubt
won’t be long till the truth comes out
first impressions never last
Lover’s bonds they hold so fast

Restless future burning bright
The past is holding on so tight
Never heard the warning bell
And I just want to wish you well
I just want to wish you well

Later, as I am running, my precious iPhone, my fifth limb and second brain, falls out of my pocket and as I am still jogging, seemingly in slow motion I try to grab at the cord for the earphones as it falls down, smashes on the concrete and then bounces into the gutter and down the drain. I stand, open-mouthed for a moment and then, throwing a mini tantrum, throw the iPhone case, which is all I have left, into the nearest wall. Then I decide to keep running. I have to laugh at the irony. Once again, the universe is handing me a situation and daring me to be angry. Yes, I can get angry about this. It is certainly annoying to lose an expensive piece of technology with so much information on it. But then again, I can also just keep running. I can use this angry energy for a positive experience and just run it out. I decide to push through and I end up running longer and harder than I have ever run before.

It doesn’t matter what situation life deals, we always have complete control over our minds and emotions. The human potential is limitless! We are always the ones in the driver’s seat. We can always drive in the sunshine.

Day 161 – working hard to make a livin’

I didn’t realise how entirely dependent on my iPhone I was. I didn’t set an alarm and after a long shift at work, I wake up only 20 minutes before I am supposed to teach yoga. It seems my higher self is well aware of my schedule. I don’t even have time to blink twice, I race to the yoga studio and get there just in time. One of the other teachers has signed everyone in and the collective calm of the class welcomes me and settles me right in so that when I open my mouth to start the class, that guiding energy comes straight through and sets up the sequence, the poses, the monologue of adjustments and encouragements.

After class, there is only enough time for a coffee, a coconut and half a vegetarian bagel (delicious from M Cafe in Bondi), before I have to start work at the pub. It is the Queen’s birthday long weekend. I know it will be busy, but I have no idea how busy until later in the evening… The crowd at the bar has not stopped once. We have run out of Toohey’s New and fresh lime and we eventually run out of vodka and fresh lemons. The crowd heaves at the bar, shouting to be heard. And all through this chaos, I am moving to the music of the live band playing just upstairs. I smile at the customers and when they yell at me that they were next, I just laugh and say, “I hope you won’t die of thirst over here!” They don’t always find it as funny as I do. I remember working in bars and nights like this would stress me out. Running out of glasses, running out of beer, running out of vodka, when everyone wants to drink a vodka, lime and soda… those were the things that used to send me into deep and anxious chest breathing but today I feel good. I am in a rhythm as I work. I haven’t had a moment to sit quietly and close my eyes. I have barely had a moment to drink a sip of water unless I was pouring beer at the same time. And yet I still feel connected, I still feel centred. I still feel calm. With the music making me move and a shining energy from deep within my soul, it doesn’t matter if I am teaching yoga or pouring a bourbon and coke; if I carry the light within, then I am always in a state of meditation. I can always go within, even when there is chaos without.

After we close and get through the never-ending clean-up, we sit around and eat some pizza. One of the security guards has a pen and is drawing caricatures on the pizza box. He passes it around and the next security guard draws a shape that doesn’t look like anything in particular. When they pass it to me, I draw the first thing that comes into my head, which is a figure of a woman with a sun shining from out of her solar plexus. They are asking what is up with the chick, so I tell them that this is how I would explain the manipura chakra. Surprisingly, one of the guards has heard of the chakras. I start talking about them, drawing my entire sketch and explaining the emotional associations. The guard who drew the caricatures, who has tattoos covering most if his limbs and even up to his neck, jokes that he makes all his decisions from the lower three chakras. He has no idea how insightful this observation is. I tell him he is absolutely right. Most people wouldn’t even be able to recognise that they do that. Amazed, I realise that the whole group of bartenders and security guards are watching me as I speak. I wouldn’t have though that this would interest this group at all but they are all listening intently. I hand the pizza box back and the security guard beside me, who is only 19, decides to draw a phallus. Well, I guess he had to even out this sacred feminine pizza box with some sacred masculine energy!

Day 162 – spaced out

I have to get a new sim card and be back into the tele-communicative world so I make a visit to the local shopping centre. It is raining heavily today so it is busy but I get through all my errands as planned. I can’t focus. I didn’t get to sleep until 2am after work last night and it was a long shift. I feel vague, like my head is in a cloud and I am floating around the shops, trying not to let myself make impulse purchases. I make an investment in a running jacket with zip-up pockets. When I finally get my iPhone replaced, I need to make sure it doesn’t fall out again! I buy my running jacket from Lorna Jane, my favourite exercise label. The jacket is made of Merina Wool so it is extra warm and has little holes for the thumbs. I end up in the store talking to the girl for almost half an hour about Sumatra and India. When I finally wonder away, I feel like I should be in a rush to go somewhere but it is my day off and for once I have nothing to do and nowhere to be. I can actually relax and take my time! I am still feeling vague and dotty when I leave, but I have decided to embrace it. I can still function in the world. I can still hold up a decent conversation and despite feeling like my head is full of air and space, I can still drive around the city and halfway down the coast. My higher self clearly knows what to do, what to say and where to go, so it is ok to surrender to that and just relax. Today I allow myself the freedom to be vague. Today I allow my brain to check out early. Today I am clocked off from the thinking treadmill.