The Simple Truth of Turning 30

Growing Young

My parents were in their early 30’s when I was born, a period that I cannot believe that I am fast approaching in my own life (and no, this is not a pregnancy announcement, but more of a realization announcement). Growing up, I was incredibly blessed to have had a stable and loving home that allowed me to enjoy all the wonders of childhood. I remember looking at my parents in awe, wondering if one day I too would know how to navigate life on my own and terrified by how complicated it all seemed. Then suddenly, I was flung into a self-centred and turbulent stage of adolescence, followed by a period of self-discovery and experimentation in my early 20’s. Amazingly I came out on the other side of my younger days relatively unscathed, having found a more stable and grounded sense of identity in my late 20’s. Today I am finally ready to take on the title of adult and confront the complexities of life with a simple truth.

I could most certainly write an entire book about those earlier stages, with all the turbulence and self-discovery that one encounters throughout those prominent years. However, I will save those stories for another time and today, on the eve of my 30th birthday, share some of the lessons I have learned from years of growing, learning, and living on the roller coaster that has been the past 3 decades:

  1. Context reveals peace and clarity – After years of egocentric living as an adolescent and young adult, peace was finally attained when I shifted my focus outward from the self towards the larger context of connectedness. Mother Teresa says, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” When we view every situation solely in relation to the self, we miss out on the interwoven stories of others that we are also a part of. Being able to recognize the larger context in which we exist helps to clarify the whys of seemingly unfair situations and releases us from the “why me?” of narrow, self-focused living.
  2. Your body is a temple that needs tending – I remember one crazy summer when I worked 2 jobs, was taking an art class, and doing hot yoga every day. It was a time when my body was unstoppable and my energy stores ran deep. Today, my need for an extra cup of coffee, a few more hours of sleep, and good ergonomics is undeniable. Through this sobering shift, my understanding of the body has grown from merely being an afterthought into one of respect and partnership. The body is a map of the past, present and future; a gift from your ancestors and a divine mystery of creation. As such, it deserves and needs to be cared for, understood, and valued as an important part of how we experience life. Yoga Girl (aka Rachel Brathen) explains that “My body is connected to my emotions. My emotions are connected to my thoughts. My thoughts are connected to my ability to stay present. And my ability to stay present is connected to my body.”
  3. Time speeds up with its own passage – I used to waste the days away without a care in the world. Time was a vast and never ending desert that I had my whole life to traverse. However, somehow in the blink of an eye that desert has transformed into a high-speed highway without an off-ramp in sight. The days fly by as I try to schedule and manipulate every second I have to keep up with all the have-to’s and should-do’s that clutter up the day-to-day. However, time is not a dimension that we are meant to control without intense stress; rather it is a reality we are free to climb on in order to better enjoy the view on the ride of life. For when Alice asks the white rabbit in Wonderland, “How long is forever?” The white rabbit responds, “Sometimes just one second.”
  4. Everything is subject to change– My first year as a Public Health Nurse was one of intense learning and growing up. I was no longer a student who could hide behind the certainty of books and scheduled classes. I needed to figure out how to navigate the working world of office politics, waiting for vacation time, and going with the flow; for as a very wise colleague would always remind me, “everything is subject to change.” This I have come to realize is true in every facet of life including our relationships, the environment, the economy, and our priorities. This fact has led me to the practice of the Beginner’s Mind, the freedom from getting stuck in the expectations of past experience. It is an attitude that accepts change with openness and curiosity. Studying the works of Jon Kabat-Zinn has helped me to better understand and embrace this way of being which “allows us to be receptive to new possibilities and prevents us from getting stuck in the rut of our own expertise, which often thinks it knows more than it does.”
  5. Love is all you need – This is by far the simplest but most important lesson I have learned, period. Monetary success, job titles, and fancy things are all ways that we as humans create stress through competition, arrogance, and egocentricity. Putting all these above relationship is what All you need is lovefuels the endless rat race many of us are trying to find rest from. We have a tendency to complicate life by over-crowding it with all the wants and shoulds that quickly become our top priorities. But what I have come to appreciate with age, especially as time speeds up and everything keeps changing, is that the one constant I can cling to and be comforted by is love. Money, jobs, and stuff are not bad things in and of themselves, but when we think they are the ultimate be-all-and-end-all behind our efforts, it becomes easy to lose context of the bigger picture: our connectedness to one another. I always find it tragic how humans can take this truth and distort it over and over again through the corruption of religion and politics by exploiting others all in the name of power. However, I believe that the solution is simple, free and available to all in every situation: love one another (John 13: 34-35). That’s it. Period. And so, just as The Beatles sang, revolutionaries in their own right, “All you need is love.”
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Jumping on the Happiness Tour

Today I had the privilege of learning from Instagram sensation Yoga Girl aka Rachel Brathen, along with 250 other Vancouver yogis. Being new to the city, I didn’t have a close friend to bring along or anyone to share in the excitement with. So with my yoga mat rolled up under my arm, I stood by myself in line, praying that the West Coast rain would hold out until I got inside, and wondering what was in store for me from Brathen’s aptly named Happiness Tour.

Whenever doing something out of your norm, there is opportunity to re-charge, re-set, and be inspired…and that is exactly what happened. I am so freakin’ inspired by this incredible woman! Not only because she does a kick ass handstand or can put together a killer playlist (both of which she does). No, I am inspired because she has gracefully manifested love, peace, and happiness from a painful and destructive past. I can understand pain and destruction; the need to create chaos as a way of coping with all I cannot control. Yoga is definitely the most positive outlet I have found in order to cope with my own demons and find freedom from chaos. It is the space where I can be safe, calm, and open. Nevertheless, when I get caught up in my day-to-day routine, yoga is usually the first thing to be pushed aside. My ego comes up with all the excuses: “You’re too busy. You’re too tired. You don’t need silence.” The noise of daily living becomes the norm. I am convinced that it is tolerable and that I can hold out just a little bit longer.

However, during savasana in Brathen’s class today, I felt the calming buzz of my body radiating complete inner silence. Peace. I was letting go of judgments, lies, and stress. How did I let it build up for so long? I re-charged, re-set, and am now re-inspired. Yoga Girl is not an external fad promising happiness; she is a beautiful guide toward accessing a pure state of happiness from within, where it’s been all along.

“Caring for our well-being has to start from within and this is also one of the most important foundations of the yoga practice.”  – Rachel Brathen

Photo courtesy of Ben Kane Photography

http://clients.benkanephoto.com/yoga/vancouver/

Breathe.

It is with a sad heart and a awakened spirit that I write.

After a stressful day on the nursing front, I drove home with an anxious mind brewing, my invisible demons employing their inner abuse. I look back on the past and obsess about things I can no longer change. I look ahead to the future with worry and fear of the unknown. And just like that, another moment passes me by.

I got home, exhausted. I climbed into bed and let sleep overcome me. Upon awaking, I immediately grabbed my phone and mindlessly started to scroll through the endless realm of social media. That is when I saw her, a beautiful picture of an old friend’s little girl. My heart sank as I read the caption below stating that after a tragic accident while on vacation, she was gone, much too soon. And just like that it hit me, the tragedy of all these moments I let slip by. How precious life is, yet I continue to worry and complain despite how truly blessed I am in this moment, the only one I have.

It is the days that I don’t get on my mat, on my knees in gratitude for the breath in my lungs, that my anxiety can truly take hold. I forget to breathe through the chatter and instead start to believe all the lies saying “you are not good enough.” Four years ago, I lost a friend to this darkness. It was a loss that also made me reflect and truly respect the breath that sustains me. After receiving the news of her death, I sat down with a sad heart and an awakened spirit and I wrote. I think it is a fitting reflection today in honour of another beautiful soul who has now passed on.

Carefully protected to ensure we get a first breath

Carried in the womb, a perfect life from conception to birth

Breathe deep, life is fragile

Breathe deep, life is short

Breathe deep, from the first to the last

A careful first step, but we fall many times

Do you see that life is precious with every smile and every tear?

Breathe deep, life is beautiful

Breathe deep, life is fast

Breathe deep, from the first to the last

Heaviness in the shadows, hope in the light

Do you know you are perfect with all the imperfections you try to hide?

Breathe deep, life is turbulent

Breathe deep, life is uncertain

Breathe deep, from the first to the last

The end is not calculated, an unknown in this equation

Keep breathing deep, you are perfect, from the first to the last

“Don’t compare your inside to someone else’s outside”

This is a quote that comes back to me time and time again. Now I’m not sure who said it first, Oprah perhaps. Well, whoever it was, they hit the nail right on the head and I’ll tell you why…

I am three days into my new job as a Public Health Nurse in British Columbia, and once again I am the new girl who doesn’t know what she is doing. It is an awful and awkward position to be in. It is a time of focusing on all of the things you do NOT know in an effort to help your supervisors focus your training and make it more efficient. The problem is that the whole self-assessment process makes you realize just how MUCH everyone else knows in comparison to you. As I mentioned above, I’ve been through this before, and it was only about a year ago. But it’s funny how quickly the memory fades once you are comfortable and competent in your skills, and you have good friends to talk and laugh with at work. However, when you are smack dab in the middle of the whole new employee-orientation process, it feels like you will never get back to that place of comfort.

It is a truly humbling experience and one that I am ever grateful for. I get to learn, grow and do what I love to do every single day (well…very soon). So in order to get through the uncomfortable part, I am using the image of a butterfly as my inspiration. It was once a caterpillar: the newbie who hadn’t yet earned her wings. But what if the caterpillar, feeling unsure and different, let the external image of the butterfly let her feel less than she was worth? The problem with using others’ outsides as our point of reference, is that there is no context to how they got there. The truth is, the butterfly was once a caterpillar.

The same is true in yoga, which is why I am so in love with the practice. The only way to truly improve is to look within and believe in what your mind, body and soul is capable of…absolutely anything! It is not about looking around the room to see what everyone else is doing on their mat (no matter how tempting it may be). Each are on their own journey, whether they have been practicing for 10 years, 10 days, or it is their first class. No amount of comparing or emulating is going to get you anywhere faster than your own journey will allow, and chances are your destination is not the same as that other person’s anyway. Rather be grateful for the guidance and inspiration that others provide. But always let your final resting place be in your own story, not on another’s passing cover.

“Do one thing everyday that scares you”

Eleanor Roosevelt said these famous words: Do one thing everyday that scares you.

Well, for the past 2 months I’ve been taking that advice to heart: Getting married, driving across the country, moving to a brand new city and in with my new husband for the first time, getting used to new city, finding a new job.

I just said the word new a lot back there, and with a lot of new, usually means that there is a lot of change as well. I didn’t really anticipate the amount of emotional energy that all this change was going to  take on me and on those I love. It’s like deciding to get on a roller coaster. You see it from a distance and it all makes sense, the hills and the loops. But actually taking off is a whole other experience that you can’t even imagine when you’re standing on the ground.  I planned and anticipated what is was going to be like, the wedding and the move. But actually doing it all was a whole other thing!

I’ve started this blog so that over time I can share my thoughts, reflections, and experiences. It has been the adventure of a lifetime and I want to tell you all about it. I know the title is deceiving since it won’t be all about yoga…well sort of. The definition of yoga is actually to yoke together. In the practice of yoga, it is the yoking together of the body with the breath. I hope to use this blog as a platform to yoke together my thoughts on life, love, adventure, change, work…and find balance in it all. Yoga is a practice, not perfection. And as a self-proclaimed perfectionist, I struggle with that sometimes. The same can be said about life. It is a practice. Not perfection. So here we go…

All my love, L