This morning as I lay in bed something sparked me to take a rather meditative journey, quite deliberately and consciously through my life from childhood to the present moment. Somehow vivid images and memories entered my head so that the emotions associated with those times were felt. It was like a journey down a time line. How very odd! Childhood friendships, family holidays, first loves, leaving home to start University, travelling in Asia, success in auditions, the nerves and thrills of performing, teaching, being a new mum, moving house, moving country, getting a dog, rejections from job applications, setting up a business, people I’ve met who have touched me, others who have caused me pain.
As I reflected I saw that along the way the commonality was that I was the central character. On reflection this is how I see my life. However, I also realise now that as that story has unfolded, at the time and all along the journey that has been my life to date, now in the present moment and indeed as I project into the future, I am often inclined to put myself in a minor role: to be a subplot or a bystander. I have been someone’s child, someone’s mother, someone’s girlfriend, someone’s employee, someone's friend. I have found it difficult to feel that decisions are in the end mine to take. Perhaps I have relied too much on others and let things happen to me rather than feeling that I am in the driving seat. I can be guilty of being fatalistic. Perhaps this gives me excuses or takes the pressure off me? In the end I do myself no favours.
I recently visited my parents and found that my Dad, who is approaching 80 is full of reminiscence. He tells of how when he was 16 years old, the age my own son is now, he set off alone on his “push-bike” and rode 150 miles to his grandparent’s house in County Durham. No phones. No map. They probably didn’t even know he was coming. He is proud of his stories and he is clearly the central character in these stories. He wants his stories, stories about him, moments he feels proudest of to be known and to be remembered: to leave a legacy. Is it only with age that we place value on ourselves and come to realise that we are telling our own story; navigating our own path?
I’ve just had a month away on a beach, doing yoga, swimming in the sea, paddle boarding, biking, windsurfing, reading under the shade of a parasol. Glorious and totally selfish times. I logged off from my current everyday realities, and largely from anything electronic. I was more in touch with nature and my surroundings. I felt more alive. Sometimes bored with a lack of the usual pressures and timetables that life demands I was forced to slow down and as a result to take stock of where I am in life. I spent time with free spirited people who love the outdoors and the thrill of adventure, both in the water and in the mountains: impressive people who love what they do. Perhaps they are selfish in their passionate pursuit of their dreams, of their next thrill or of the pursuit of excellence in their sport. They also had in common the placing of value on long standing friendships built on shared dreams and shared adventures. I was inspired to capture something of this quality that I saw in others.
I had some time away from my partner within this break too. For me this can be healthy in that it means that I take control of decision-making and am forced to be my own person and also to take responsibility when things don't go to plan rather than having someone else to blame! In this beach-life environment my teenagers had their own agendas and were free to come and go, eat, do sports etc of their own volition, without intervention or the need for the mum taxi. This gave me the wake up call that soon they will be gone, or at least in a few short years they will be much more independent of me. Without the role of partner, of mother and without the day to day demands …Who am I? What is left?
It is as if this time away has allowed me to push the reset button, to take a step away. I am in truth finding it hard this week to step back in. That’s what holidays and retreats do for you isn’t it? So now, I am looking at who I want to be in my own story? Not sure this will last very long as the washing up needs to be done and the kids need taking into town! I'm hoping this frame of mind will help me to more carefully plan my next terms commitments yoga-wise and lead me to consciously set some goals and to stay focused on how I want to play my part in this big book of life.
I realise that the practice of yoga is a selfish act in many ways. Sometimes I just have to prioritise a practice over the supermarket shopping or I spend the rest of the day feeling lousy that I didn't. So maybe it is all about me, me, me afterall? Yogi Bhajan has a famous quote (and I quote him as he is dead and I reckon would want his story told)
“Getting up for sadhana in the morning is a totally selfish act – for personal strength, for intuition, for personal sharpness, for personal discipline, and overall for absolute personal prosperity.” – Yogi Bhajan
I teach yoga so surely that’s about others? But, teaching and sharing this practice or sharing any of the skills and knowledge I have acquired along the way brings its own self-centred rewards. I am happiest I realise when I facilitate positive change in others, teach them something new or inspire them to go beyond boundaries they had placed for themselves. Is this perhaps about me not them? During my career as a dancer my most special moments were when seeing growth in those that I taught. There are a few real talents who went on to make successful careers in major companies and I glow inside like a proud mother hen when I see them perform. Equally and further back in the earlier chapters of my story, the moments standing at the back of a theatre watching the show opener I had developed during a week of workshops with secondary school kids often meant more to me than my own performance.
So, if it is all about me then I should concentrate on being ‘the best version of myself I can be’ to coin an over used phrase. As Yogi Bhajan says:
“Your job is to control yourself. Your job is to discipline yourself. Your job is to deal with everything in life with affection, love and kindness.” – Yogi Bhajan
I can definitely do more to control and discipline myself in my day-to-day tasks and I know that I have to work on the love and kindness bit, particularly when it comes to my reactions to people around me who seem to act in ways that take advantage of others for their own gains. I guess everyone is, pen in hand, writing their own story.