Facebook Free Weekends

Awareness Living Yoga Svadhyaya Yoga

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I like Facebook. I think it is a fabulous tool. I was a late-joiner because it initially seemed to be a platform to stalk people you went to high school with and share random details about your day-to-day life. But fast forward five years and I now feel like my time spent on Facebook has mostly been life-enhancing. It is my news source and my virtual library of online awesomeness. I’ve done cool things and gained knowledge through Facebook. I’ve been exposed to art and inspiring people I wouldn’t otherwise may not have seen, like T.J. Dawe’s solo play Medicine, and Brene Brown’s transformational TED Talks.

Lately, however, I have been wondering if Facebook might be affecting me in less positive ways. I live with a partner who often shares his theories on the potentially negative and unconscious ways Facebook affects us. His theories planted a seed of doubt in me, and I began to reflect on how a relatively constant connection to a library of online awesomeness might be affecting me in ways I may not have noticed.

I decided to take some time away from Facebook to find out. I am disconnecting from Facebook every weekend this summer. I had an “a-ha” moment in between weekends two and three. I was checking Facebook (both my personal account and my yoga page), and as I went, I was right-clicking and opening things I was interested in reading. In a relatively short amount of time, my online library of awesomeness had given me seven new articles to read. I sat for a moment and realized that I had suddenly created a significant amount of work for myself.

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If you don’t know me well, you might say, “Just close the links if you don’t have time to read them.” But, if you know how passionate and curious I am about learning new things and exposing myself to different ways of seeing the world, you might understand how painful it would be for me to close those tabs. I feel the loss of potential knowledge and opportunity keenly. What if I close the link that was going to direct me towards another powerful play? What if I close the article that offers freeing insight around the things I have been struggling with the most? An older gentleman once told me of a famous author who used to cry when he thought of all the books he wouldn’t be able to read. I have yet to weep over unread books or articles, but the sentiment resonates with me strongly.

My interactions with Facebook can create a draining emotional cycle. When I’m on Facebook, I’m surrounded by awesomeness and I begin to pile up everything that I want to read, watch, and research. I’m on a high. In reflection, I found that I tend to move forward at some point between these two extremes:

1) The Track and Follow-Through – I keep track of all the links I am interested in (and essentially add them to my To-Do list). I often feel inclined to pick this path, but ultimately, it stresses me out.

2) The Disciplined Closing Down – I remind myself that I don’t want to feel the burden of having so many links to follow up with, so I commit to closing the tabs on anything that I am not able to make time for in the moment. The decision to let the links go causes me some emotional turmoil.

This cycle of acquiring and having to chose between the stress of holding onto things and the pain of letting them go plays out in different areas in my life, but it is magnified by Facebook for me. I certainly don’t want to stop acquiring new ideas and different perspectives. Every cell in my body is curious: I am excited to learn, explore, and understand, and my curiosity has opened up many doors. But I am starting to believe quite strongly that I will experience more ease and joy in my life if I pursue knowledge in a more moderate and bounded way.

So, I think the Facebook free weekends are going to stick!


“You should do yoga”

Living Yoga Svadhyaya

sarah jamieson yoga

Yoga is awesome. I love it. It would be hard to capture all of the positive ways that yoga has impacted my life. Come to think of it, it would be hard to find an aspect of my life that isn’t better as a result of practicing yoga. And, the benefits of my practice continue to unfold. Yoga just seems to get more awesome with time.

And there is science to back that up: I recently read a paper written by my friend and fellow yoga teacher, Lindsay Reoch, in which she mentions a study that “compared experienced yoga practitioners (5 years or more experience) with beginner practitioners (1-5 years experience). [The researchers] found that the experienced practitioners scored significantly higher on mindfulness levels and significantly lower on stress levels than the beginner practitioners, suggesting that the longer one practices yoga, the more benefits will be received.”

A life-changing practice that gets better with time. What to do I do with that?

Hmmm. How about tell everyone I know, “You should do yoga!”

Yoga and your family

It can be frustrating for devoted yoga practitioners when our loved ones are not interested in practicing yoga. We want to share the wealth of the practice; we want our loved ones to feel the ways the practice has helped us to feel. But it often doesn’t go well when we try to convince other people to do yoga. In a course I took with Judith Lasater, she counselled everyone in the room: “Avoid at all costs looking at your loved ones and seeing a lack of yoga.”

But that is not always easy to do when the lack of yoga is so obvious: the back pain, the inflexibility, the anxiety, the stress levels, the chronic pain, the self-criticism, the muscular imbalance, the patterns of compensation, the shallow chest breathing, the catastrophic thinking, the insomnia, and the low levels of body awareness.

How can I see the people I love struggling in these ways without trying to share with them the tools that have helped me?

Be the change

The wisdom of Gandhi does not need rephrasing: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

There is no evangelical component to the practice of yoga. Nowhere in the teachings (that I am aware of, at least) does it say, “Encourage other people to do yoga.” Yoga is about your relationship with yourself, and about how you conduct yourself in the world around you. Classically, yoga was only taught to people who sought to learn it.

I experienced this style of teaching when I was in India studying with Yogi Vishvketu. There were times where he would only speak if people asked him questions. He would not prepare what to teach us in advance or proceed to lecture for a predefined amount of time. He simply spoke about things when people asked about them. If no one asked any questions – if no one asked to learn – he would not teach.

If your loved ones don’t want to do yoga, it is an opportunity for you to do yoga. Ask yourself: what is going on for you when you want other people to do yoga? For me, it is often a combination of love, fear, and frustration.

Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” I think it would also be fair to say that most of us spend a fair bit of time thinking about how other people should change and less time exploring the possibility of changing ourselves. Instead of pushing someone else to do yoga, my yoga practice is about honouring and attending to the emotions that are inspiring me to push.

I should do yoga

I get excited about yoga. I believe the practice has the ability to bring profound levels of peace and well-being to the world. But I also recognize that there is an absence of yoga in needing other people to do yoga.

So, instead of trying to sell people on the benefits of yoga, I turn to the words of Gandhi. I turn inward, and I do my own work. I try not to ramble with excitement when people ask me about yoga. I try to listen, to ask them questions, and to understand what they are seeking. I remind myself that everyone needs to find their own way, and that by practicing yoga myself, I learn to give them the space to do so.

In addition to this work, I do one more important thing for myself: I make sure I have some good friends who love yoga, because every so often I need to gush about how wonderful it is.

Namaste,
Sarah Jamieson



Photo Credit: Chris Yakimov

 

Listen to the Story of Your Heart

Awareness Living Yoga Svadhyaya

Sarah Jamieson Yoga

How do we stay committed to moving our lives in the direction we want to go?

From a yogic perspective, we begin with a practice of svadhyaya (self-study) – specifically, by attempting to clarify what we really want. This clarifying can be a challenging practice because as you probably already know: what you think you want isn’t always what you actually want.

In our lives, most of us are regularly bombarded with messages suggesting that we should want and value things like youth, thin bodies, fancy clothes, expensive cars, and electronic gadgets. If we aren’t consistently clarifying what we value, the primary messages we receive about values may be the suggested values around us. And, as a result, we might set goals based on these values – rather than ensuring they arise from our own values.

Facebook is ripe with opportunities to feel desire based on things you don’t actually value. I see people posting pictures and telling stories of glamorous lives, and sometimes I am overcome by a sense of inadequacy. I feel discouraged about my own life, and I think that I must have made mistakes in life because I don’t have what some of my Facebook friends have. A sense of scarcity and lack fuels my thoughts and my reactive desires.

In moments like these ones, I have to consistently remind myself of my own values.

I recently read the book Words Can Change Your Brain, and in this book, the authors encourage their readers to actively and regularly reflect on this question:

What is my deepest, innermost value?

Reflecting on your answers to this question is an example of how you might practice svadhyaya. When you take time to define your own values, the influence of suggested values begins to decrease, and the story of what your own heart desires begins to take shape. Clarifying your own values needs to be the foundation for setting your directional goals, so that your goals reflect what you actually want. When this is the case, suggested values are less distracting, and the perception that your Facebook friends have fancier lives becomes less distressing.

Staying committed to moving your life in the direction you want to go becomes less of an issue when your goals align with the way your heart desires to move. The times when you do struggle to move with your values are an opportunity to deepen your practice of svadhyaya. Some things you might consider include:

Are other values arising?

Goals are decisions you make, based on your values, to guide your life in certain direction. But life is not black and white, and different values might guide you in different directions. I might have a goal to lose weight to support my value for health and well-being. But I might also choose to indulge in a potluck with friends because I have a value for connecting over shared experiences. We practice yoga so that we can arrive presently in each moment and act according to what we believe and to what we value.

What am I feeling?

When we are too young to physically leave a situation that causes us pain, we often cope by shutting down our feelings or by turning to something that soothes us. For many of us, those patterns become deeply ingrained habits that we carry into adulthood. If you consistently find yourself engaging in behaviour that doesn’t align with your values or support your goals, consider that it is an attempt to soothe yourself. Time spent addressing and honouring your emotional landscape will help you move away from mindlessly and habitually engaging in coping behaviours.

What is my deepest, innermost value?

Values change and evolve in response to life experience. For example, life threatening experiences can profoundly shift the direction people want to move in their lives. If you are struggling to stay committed to a goal, consider the possibility that you have had a change of heart. Maybe what mattered to you when you originally set the goal isn’t as important to you any more; maybe the story of your heart has changed since you last sat down and listened.

As you explore these possible obstacles, bring compassion to the process and honour that svadhyaya (self-study) is a life long practice. Your obstacles are simply an opportunity to more deeply understand yourself.

Namaste,

Sarah Jamieson


Photo Credit: Chris Yakimov