Updated: Jan 4
I hope you were able to take a moment to truly reflect on 2020. Whilst I'm confident we're all keen to move on from 2020 as quickly as possible, we can benefit greatly from a period of deep reflection before we hastily embrace 2021. For if we don't do anything different things may not change very much at all.
We've seen this as we have continued the battle with the pandemic. The only way to stop the spread was to change what we were doing. The beginning of this second lockdown was much more of a challenge for us as it's been during a time where we cherish traditions - Christmas and New Year. Yet change was what was required for the greater good, we had to change how we celebrated this year. How many of us were willing to change how we celebrated Christmas, how many were willing to be steadfast and strong in times of adversity in order to make 2021 pandemic free.
“What is right is often forgotten by what is convenient.” -Bodie Thoene
Convenience makes us weak, it doesn't challenge or ask anything of us. Convenience blinds us to the realities of life and dulls our ability to grow and truly be ourselves. The ego craves recognition, respect and appreciation and it goes to great lengths to get it, justifying the quickest easiest route.
"Feed the soul, starve the ego." - Adam Goldstein
Strength is the focus of our practice this month, but not just in the physical sense. Starving the ego requires leaning into discomfort, baring ourselves with courage and honesty, this takes discipline and commitment - non of which are easy or convenient.
As I reflect on 2020 there is much I'm not ready to let go of as well as plenty I am. 2020 was as much light as it was dark. It shone a light on my strengths and my weaknesses. To know both makes me stronger.
I was reminded of the proverb "The tree that bends does not break". In order to be truly strong we must be flexible. 2020 showed me I was far more adaptable than I ever imagined. That has given me great courage for 2021.
Spending time in nature and allowing myself to learn from my surroundings became strongly embedded in me during 2020. As I look around me now I am struck by the beauty and strength of Winter. The trees and plants stripped bare of their foliage and colour, back to their essential nature, to conserve energy and strength for Spring's growth. We can benefit from stripping back the layers and distractions of our lives, of the stories we tell ourselves to reveal what really matters to us, what we're really made of.
'Those who stand for nothing fall for anything' - Alexander Hamilton
The process of self-study as we strip back to our essential nature often reveals scars along the way, but this is who we are, the light and the dark. It's a brave, brutal acceptance of it all. This journey changes the way we see others too, our ego feeds on judgement and comparison so it takes mindfulness and strength to develop equanimity, to apply that same brave, brutal acceptance of others too. When we judge others, we judge ourselves, when we're kind to ourselves we find we are kinder to others. Whatever we choose to focus on becomes our way of life. If we focus just on our strengths it leaves us vulnerable and when we focus just on our weakness we halt progress/growth, but accepting both develops wisdom.
Self-control is strength. Calmness is mastery. You have to get to a point where your mood doesn’t shift based on the insignificant actions of someone else. Don’t allow others to control the direction of your life. Don’t allow your emotions to overpower your intelligence.
– Morgan Freeman
A strong practice (of anything) can be an anchor during a storm or like the deep roots of the tree. Either metaphor allows for movement - maneuvering on the choppy waves or swaying in the strong winds. The anchor or the roots keep a steady, deeply secured hold on the bed of the ocean, in the earth or deep within our soul. Practice allows for failure as well as success (the movement) but the strength of the practice requires anchoring/rooting. This comes in the form of a destination/goal and the commitment to practice regardless of the outcome. In Patanjali's Yoga Sutras this is know as Abhyasa (1.13) and Vairagya. (1.15)
"Abhyasa and Vairagya (perseverance and detachment) represent the two essential aspects of spiritual life, working together like the wings of a bird." - Patanjali
To find our goal or destination we must take the journey of stripping back to our centre, to find what truly matters to us. This can be done in many ways but I find moments of stillness with an open heart and open mind can guide us well, whether that be seated in meditation or going for a walk. Either way I find journaling afterwards is essential if we are to truly know ourselves. What I discover I then spend time digesting, doodling and mind mapping. Over the period between the Winter Solstice and New Year the letter 'S' appeared to be significant for me. From a numerology point of view, 'S' is the 19th letter of the alphabet, it is symbolic for traveling in the right alignment of your Soul mission/ purpose and is seen as an infinity sign with missing parts; a very spiritual letter.
This process has given me the direction now my work is to cultivate a strong practice in order to stay steadfast and not get side-tracked by what feeds my ego.
"Much more of the brain is devoted to movement than to language. Language is only a little thing sitting on top of this huge ocean of movement." - Oliver Sacks
I believe we were born to move and I know movement is essential for me to feel healthy and well - mind, body and soul. Movement is also a spiritual practice for me, a meditation in motion.
So after all this talk, it's time for action. Lets bring these powerful thoughts into our physical body and move with intention, bringing Abhyasa and Vairagya to every movement on and off the mat!
For those of you who wish to move, breathe and meditate with me this month I am excited to share this four week online practice with you. Here is a little more about how we'll be doing that.
Muscles work in pairs, whilst one contracts the other extends, we'll be exploring where in the body we have strengths and weaknesses, looking to harmonise these working partnerships.
Each week we'll take some twists and gentle inversions, encouraging us to see things from a different perspective. Strengthening our ability to see through the narrative of the ego and to see clearly what truly matters.
Each week will include a standing balance with movement. This strengthens our stability and adaptability.
There will be heart opening asanas which will facilitate better breathing and posture whilst energetically strengthening our ability to embrace the unknown.
There will be repetition throughout and a destination pose. This way we familiarise ourselves with the practices of Abhyasa (persistent effort) and Vairagya (detachment from the outcome).
As always we will finish with practices of stillness, moving through our deepest layers connecting back to our Self.
Each week you will receive two pre-recorded full yoga classes - one a delicious 90 min version and the other, a just-as-lovely-but-easier-to-fit-in 60 min version. The first week is emailed on the 11th but the block can be started any time during January.
The recordings are supported by this blog and I encourage you to strengthen your practice by journaling, doodling, meditating and finding moments of stillness immerged in our natural world.
Each week's sessions will be available for you you to practice for four week's after it's release, which provides ample opportunity to make it a deeply effective month, starting 2021 in a way that truly matters to you.
So will you be steadfast or side-tracked this month? Commit to January Online and book here:
Yours in Service