I have been so blessed and grateful for the opportunity to be the lead instructor for a 200 hours yoga teacher training and to create Choose2be yoga school. It has been amazing to spend 7 weekends with these 8 beautiful women, like Cate, and also incredible to have 11 different instructors to come lead part of the training. I am hoping that this will be the first of many yoga teacher training sessions and I am already starting to plan and dream of the next one ! It has been a really rich and amazing journey in so many different ways.
Part of the participants homework was to write an essay on the topic of their choice and they were aware that I would be posting it on my website. We also did an exercise in the first weekend to create a life affirmation and core desire feeling , I also invited them to share it with us. I am so humbled and touched that I got to support these amazing beings on part of their journey and I am looking forward to witness how life unfolds for them.
I am a humble flower that seeks to share a spiritual journey towards Peace, Fulfillment and Freedom with others🙏 Namaste
My core desires:
Vibrant, Present and Compassionate
Grief to Empowerment: A Personal Yogic Journey
In loving memory of my husband Bruce Wallace
How does one face the inevitable death of one’s life partner? Like anything else one just does… but there is a choice.
One can either identify with the grief or learn to let go and
accept the impermanence of life.
Neither is without its challenges, but identifying with grief creates greater and prolonged suffering. Little did I know, that embarking on a daily at home yoga asana practice to stay in shape as a housebound 24/7 caregiver, I would find myself on a spiritual journey leading to empowerment.
My history with Hatha Yoga goes back forty years, with more off years than on. The basic once a week classes at university and later the local rec centre, plus a variety of books, including pre-natal yoga during my mothering years were the extent of my practice. Aerobics videos, followed by a gym membership in more recent years, kept me reasonably happy with my body. Though once I retired, with a body exhausted by stress, a mind tormented by worry and a spirit overwhelmed with a sense of impending loss, I started rather unsuccessfully back on my mat. Thankfully, a friend mentioned the host of yoga videos on You Tube and it didn’t take long before I found my teacher. An delightful young woman in Austin Texas, Adriene Mishler. After learning to navigate her channel “Yoga with Adriene”, I discovered her first 30 day challenge. Thirty days turned into ten weeks and by four months I had cultivated a solid daily yoga habit. On Day 21, of the thirty day challenge, after Shavasana I sat on my mat and meditated for 20 minutes because it just felt right. I have practiced meditation sporadically over the years, having trained in Transcendental Meditation in the early 70’s. I had also heard of
Vipassana Meditation from a variety of people, and decided to read Wm Hart’s book “The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation as taught by S.N. Goenka”. This work along with books by Pema Chodron and Thich Nhat Hanh resonated with my personal beliefs, introducing me to Buddhist philosophy and so began my spiritual journey.
I had no prior knowledge of the ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga’, but one by one, the principles of a balanced practice found me. Each one having a specific role to play, enabling me to let go of grief and sadness and find contentment in equanimity.
Five months into this journey I went on a restorative and inspiring weekend yoga retreat at the Salt Spring Yoga Centre. Here was my introduction to Pranayama (breathing). I wasn’t convinced, in fact interestingly I felt some resistance to it. I went there again after I’d been practicing asanas and meditation for a full year. During that subsequent retreat, I found I was more open to the pranayama practice, probably because I had learned in the interim to work with my breath in the poses. However, other than these two retreats, I continued to practice in isolation and was struggling emotionally to look after my husband who was in decline. Fortunately, I had the loving support of my two sisters, family and dear friends, as well as my daily yoga and meditation practice to nourish me. As I watched the vitality drain from my loved one, I saw the miracle that is life with
greater clarity. Never a day went by without taking a deep breath of gratitude and saying “I’M ALIVE!”
Then I stumbled upon the Yoga Sutras in Stephen Cope’s book “The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seekers Guide to Extraordinary Living”. When I read “Struggle changes an ordinary human into a spiritually awake person” (p.11), I realized that was happening to me. I had experienced what he meant when he defined Asana as “ The immoveable spot from which to explore and to witness the still point in the centre of sensations.” (p.196) The book was challenging for a beginner, but it left me wanting more.
At this point my husband needed constant care and I was receiving a few hours of
respite most days. Along with my daily yoga and meditation I was now spending more time every day in Nature, out walking with our two dogs. Eventually he required full nursing care and moved to a care home. The transition back to being his wife, rather than his nurse was good for both of us. Although, it actually took a few months of intense self care to regain my energy. Once I had greater freedom and more time for myself, I was able to try out a few yoga classes and read more philosophy, but I was still in coping mode. My time was spent visiting him every other day and losing myself in distractions, always keeping busy. What I needed was a Meditation Retreat. I found one close to home, a two day outdoor retreat with a focus on Nature and Impermanence.
During the retreat which I shared with one of my sisters, I felt myself letting go and
opening. I learned a lot about myself in those two days. Sarah Sinray, the facilitator/counsellor from Enliven Counselling, is an amazing young woman who practices Insight Meditation (Vipassana). After that weekend, we both signed up for her 6 week class in the Fall.
As my meditation practice deepened, I found myself more and more absorbed in the now, in a place of stillness away from distraction, aversion or clinging.
In continuing to discipline my body, I was also disciplining my mind and finding equanimity.
I was less at the whims of my emotions. I have always had an innate desire to do yoga with my eyes closed, not really realizing that mental focus would be a natural consequence. As I learned how to soften and ease into strenuous postures I learned how to do the same with my mind. Without knowing it, I was practicing Pratyahara (mental relaxation), Dharana (concentration) and the Niyama of Swadhyaya (contemplation), observing thoughts and feelings without attachment or judgment within Dhyana (meditation). I was ready to learn more and deepen my understanding of what I was experiencing. I was considering doing my Yoga Teacher Training at the Salt Spring Yoga Centre and so returned there for another retreat in September with my daughter. Thus I was in a place of equanimity when later that week, my husband died. I was already so very grateful for
all the life lessons that he had shared with me during our long goodbye.
I had learned what it means to die while still being alive. I had lost my old reality, undergone a difficult transformation and discovered that all that was left is ‘The Now’. I had learned it was necessary to relax and accept whatever came next, and not be a slave to anxiety. Perfect timing for the six week Insight Mindfulness Meditation for Inner Calm Workshop with my sister that started a few weeks later. I was ready and able to surrender myself to meditating, and the last of the Eight Limbs, Samadhi (the Divine within) found me.
Over these past five months I’ve been reading more Buddhist philosophy. Learning to “seek without seeking” and being open to remembering with my unconscious mind. I have fallen in love with Life and have an abundance of gratitude for everything that has brought me to this point. Self-pity is long gone and sadness arises fleetingly. From this loss I am creating my world with a light heart. This new perspective reminds me that grasping is futile and that Impermanence is not just about loss, but also about newness and the creative process open in each moment. What a journey it has been! Such a profound period of growth in self-understanding and understanding our common humanity. So many layers have been stripped away. I am grounded, grateful for being me and accept that I am enough. I feel in flow with life and have greater patience to just let things unfold.
After this past winter of contemplation, self-compassion and self-care I felt capable of taking on the 200 hours of YTT. My profound desire was to deepen my daily yoga
practice and connect with others who share a passion for yoga. This course surpassed my expectations. The very capable and compassionate lead instructor Veronique Rioux, the cohort of six inspiring younger women and the dedicated guest yoga instructors with their passions for anatomy, philosophy, meditation and more, have forever enriched my life.
Why will I continue to practice? The physical body is the vehicle for experiencing this world and waking up to what is Life. Hatha Yoga builds openness and acceptance to any situation, person or emotion. It’s about finding both physical and mental balance; relaxing when you’re being too rigid or persisting with grace.
On this yogic journey I found the equanimity to accept death as part of life, mine or anyone else’s. I also found empowerment, having greater discipline over my physical body, energy and mind state. As for the future, I will continue to study Buddhist philosophy and practice each of the ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga’, as I dedicate my practice to benefit others.