2015 was meant to be my year of achieving things. On New Year’s Eve 2015 and wrote three things that I wanted to achieve in 2016. It’s good to have goals and I wanted to make a dramatic change to my life.
- Buy my first home
- Qualify as a yoga instructor
- Witness the completion of my partners feature film (not a direct goal for me but one that affected me nonetheless)
Pre New Year’s Eve 2015 my life was fairly familiar to most. The stressful 9-5 job in a passionless environment, the micronutrient guzzling, health conscious gym goer who practiced yoga daily and always, always, always dreamt of better things to come. I knew that by setting some, rather large yet very achievable goals for the year I would be forcing a change in my life. Dissatisfaction comes when we believe we have no choice or control over our current circumstance, so I was dissatisfied because I felt a lack of control, trapped without choice. I’d unwillingly subscribed to a lifestyle that gets sold to many of us from a young age; work hard, get a well-paid job, earn lots of money, retire rich, die. Nowhere in this sales pitch did anyone mention happiness or what to do when there is a day to day lack of it.
When January rolled around I signed up to a yoga teacher training course. I thought I was ready for the challenge to come but, my goodness, teacher training is hard! It requires all of your energy, focus, adaptability and strength. Probably not the most sensible time to buy a home but during my course my partner and I found our perfect house, put in an offer and waited with baited breath.
The offer was, of course, rejected. Ouch.
The second offer was accepted too much relief but then follows that horrid period of having to deal with lawyers and agents and bankers and builders and contractors. Everyone who wants as much as possible from you in a very short space of time. It’s hard to find stillness when legal pages need signing and flooring needs choosing and removal men have broken your favourite mirror.
I kept moving through the bustle. Working the 9-5 job, travelling 200 miles each weekend to train to teach and then I read, revised, practiced and panicked in pockets of free time. I never stood still.
In May I got a phone call from my doctor that said something along the lines of ‘We’ve had your smear results back, the test is showing quite a severe abnormality and you need to go to the hospital as soon as possible, this week in fact’. The phone call that every woman dreads. The cervical cancer call.
What followed was weeks of tests and procedures and tears and panic and what felt like an eternity of waiting. But still no stillness.
Following this news, and in the midst of yoga exams, my body become this place I no longer wanted to be. I shook constantly, my muscles twitched, my neck was stiff, my head pounded, my heart palpitated, my stomach couldn’t handle food, I panicked if I was away from home for too long, my periods become irregular, I became exhausted and my fuse was short. I lay awake at night and struggled to get up in the morning. I didn’t want to roll out my yoga mat and practice asana but I forced myself to because I felt it would help me, plus I was about to become a qualified yoga teacher so how could I not practice asana (yoga poses)?
Once qualified I was prancing around at the front of a class of yoga students, preaching health and happiness. Then I’d go home and keep my misery company. I found some solitude in red wine, heck all wine but I feared being alone. Unfortunately my third yearly goal was to support my partner in achieving his dream, a goal that took him away from home every week, took my strength and support away. So I was forced to be alone, to sit with my fear and my misery and the body I no longer wanted to be in. It is really, really difficult to sit with fear. So even though all was now quiet, there was no stillness.
You see, there is a difference between quiet and stillness, silence and peace. Just like there is a difference being sitting and meditating. Everyone sits but not all are meditating. Everyone can be quiet, but not all are still.
In these quiet moments my body raced with fear until, one day, I chose to stop. Fear, anxiety and stresses don’t just go away overnight, but you have a choice about how they affect your life. So I stopped watching the television, the news scared me. I stopped scrolling through newsfeeds and tweets and updates because my body only knew how to absorb the negative. I stopped drinking caffeine, for now, because it made me feel worse. I tried ever so hard to step away from my smartphone, the gateway to infinite symptoms that made my heart race. And I chose to be still, to just sit attentively, dedicated and focused on this stillness. Letting it do its magic and wash my woes away.
Stillness can only be found deep inside of yourself, you can create the perfect surroundings, dim the lights, burn some non-toxic candles, sit on a comfy cushion and block out the external noise. But stillness is something you bring out of yourself into the world we live in, not vice versa.
It took me 9 months of madness to realise that my body craved extended moments of stillness. More than just taking a long bubble bath or a relaxing autumnal stroll, it wanted to hear that quiet little voice inside that says ‘Everything is going to be okay’.
Finding real stillness requires dedication, time and bravery. You may have to sit with emotions you’d rather avoid for a little while but what happens on the other side is the realization of the entire universe residing within you, a place you can visit in times of need, a tool you can utilize when the road gets a little rocky. And eventually you will find yourself sitting in stillness with the bravest soul in the entire world, you.