A series of events put me in a situation I’ve never been in before, an experience more powerful than anything I could have ever paid for, any course I could have ever taken, or any advice I’ve ever heard.
As a person who thrives on excitement, determination and achievement, this experience came to me in the most unlikely of places: I gave everything up and got really still.
It all started because I decided to take a job overseas. Had it not been for prior commitments at home, I would have leaped across the pond to the UK immediately. Instead, I have had to spend several months in transition. I decided it that would be perfect to slow down and enjoy my remaining time in the beautiful Okanagan. So I left my jobs, moved in with my boyfriend and got super quiet.
My life used to be insane. I was one of those people that busied myself beyond belief and could give you a thousand reasons why. I was teaching around 15 classes a week, working twice a week as a caregiver for a quadriplegic and going to University. I practiced yoga once a day and my spare time consisted of juggling friends, a relationship, homework and marketing my yoga business.
So when I took time off, I thought it would all slow down, but I quickly busied myself in other ways doing things I never had time for before like cooking, studying yoga, running and seeing friends and family.
It didn’t take long for me to realize I was filling my time to ease the intense anxiety I had towards doing nothing. In the rare quiet moments, I felt all the things I was trying to hide. I found myself anxious to get things done when I had nothing to do. I would create weird little deadlines for things that held no importance. I felt guilty for relaxing, as if I didn’t earn it.
I struggled with my self-worth as I quickly realized I valued myself by who I was as a teacher not a person: my pay-cheques could no longer determine my value because I wasn’t getting any. Worst of all, I questioned my relationship with my boyfriend many times. Now we were living together and spending much more time with each other than before. My insecurities bubbled up fast as the tables turned and now time spent with my boyfriend revolved around his schedule and not mine.
He was the one that needed some space now, not me. I had to let go of the control I held for so long in order to find a compromise with him. It hit me hard realizing how much I love control—even harder seeing all the excuses I used and believed as a way to justify distracting myself.
I realized then, that it was time I had a serious sit down with myself. I made a deal with myself to get more curious about this illusive stillness I was trying to avoid. Here was my opportunity to look straight at the deepest parts of myself and see what I knew would be the ugly truths behind my anxiety, guilt, insecurities, lack of worth and value, and need to control.
So I got even quieter. I enforced limitations on my phone use: turning it off between 9 p.m and 9 a.m. and only using it on wireless. Realizing the studio was my little escape, I began practicing yoga at home, and no more than necessary. I stopped filling my schedule to the brim with coffee dates and dedicated much more time to just being still, allowing myself to go wandering outside without my phone, to lay in the sun without checking the time, to sit and meditate without setting a timer, to lay on the couch watching repeats of The Mindy Project without feeling guilty. Most importantly, I created space to observe the emotions that would start to rise from the nothingness and then patiently watch them leave. And the lesson I learned was priceless.
My conclusion is this: I understand that the things I do are not nearly as important as I thought. Who I am is what’s important. My friends and family don’t care if I teach zero classes or 15 a week; they care that I’m happy and healthy. The pay-cheques from overworking were temporary moments of satisfaction that hold little real value now. And all those extra classes I jammed into my schedule because I thought I should, didn’t help me feel any less guilty when I sat down to relax. All that happened when I glorified my busyness was I let the most special feelings you could have about yourself come from what I did not from who I was.
Feeling valuable without a decent income is difficult for me. So is feeling loved without a jillion coffee dates, and feeling worthy without teaching full classes, or feeling wanted when my boyfriend needs more space. Through working to cultivate these things on my own, though, I’ve learned that I cannot allow the external world to define me; as the universe continues to teach me, all those feelings of love, worth, value, and security can still be present when you have nothing at all. Because stillness is not nothing.
Author: Steph Wall
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Author’s Own
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