by Zoe Foster
So much of my twenties I spent curled up in a ball, both physically and emotionally. While the cognitive part of my brain was being well exercised through my studies, the rest of me was largely overlooked as an insignificance: my body and inner self tightly wound and closed to the world, save for sporadic outbursts.
I thought my resulting depression was an integral and irreversible part of me. I felt helpless, trapped and slightly tragic, like a badly-written heroine in a 1930s film-noir. This was my lot in life, I thought; this was just what I somehow had to muddle-through, time and time again, hoping that one day, I may be rescued or otherwise find my salvation.
It wasn't until I began practicing yoga that things started to change for me. Although I'd used my body, of course, I'd never really explored its possibilities—and yoga allowed me to do this, in a safe, supportive and compassionate environment. Moreover, trying different styles and teachers, and focussing on different aspects of the yoga model, really helped me to begin to see the Bigger Picture.
And I started to open up. Literally—physically, mentally, emotionally. I gradually let go of rigidities. My outlook broadened. I slowly became more accepting of both myself and others.
Yet still I relied upon and trusted in my brain, first and foremost. I didn't yet understand that as beings we have multiple intelligences, all equally vital to our health, vibrancy and sense of purpose. Arrogantly, I assumed my cognitive intelligence to be superior to all else, and so I unconsciously smothered the flowering of my other centres, keeping them well and truly muted.
Naturally, then, I suffered. And of course, I failed to understand why! As my journey took me into deeper and darker forests—testing my resilience, patience and sanity on all levels—I kept wondering where I'd gone wrong! Was I not a good person? Did I not help others enough? Was I not setting myself as an inspiring example? Surely I deserved better than this...?
And so I went through the very worst: the most severe and prolonged ill-health filled with unrelenting pain, discomfort and anguish. My body rendered useless and my brain utterly zapped from chronic insomnia, I had no choice but to look to my other resources. As my external world slowly closed in on me from all angles (financial hardship, eviction, miscarriage, redundancy), threatening to stamp me out completely, there was little left for me but to shed my shell and open up.
I opened at the close. Just at the exact moment I was about to be extinguished forever—in body, mind and spirit—I surrendered.
I opened up to vulnerability—even though this was surely the end! I opened up to possibility—even though there appeared to be none! I opened up to opportunity—even though it seemed fruitless! I opened up to the idea of something beyond my current reality—even though all my senses told me that was crazy!
How tragic that it took me this long.
And yet many never reach this realisation. We stay inside our tightly and intricately woven shells, with layer upon layer of comfortable insulation, and we pray that nothing, and nobody, will harm us. We turn our backs to the world at every turn: hunching our shoulders, crossing our arms and legs and slumping in the middle, all to protect our 'soft centre'. We refuse to see beyond our current, chosen reality, regardless of the information thrown at us.
It really needn't be so difficult, or scary. Baring our vulnerabilities in this world is precisely what protects us the most, because then our hopes and fears are all laid out, self-evident and accounted for. It is the unknown, and the unquantifiable, that scares us the most: the monster under the bed; the ghost in the attic; the creepy-crawlies in the box.
Here are five ways you can open up your life, and potential, right now:
- Let your body do the talking: Drop down out of your head and tune right into your body—its needs, wants, desires. Practice listening to how it wants to move, what it hungers for most (beneath the superficial cravings), give it space to feel uninhibited, and like it matters again.
- Pay attention to your breath: At every opportunity, become a fascinated observer of your breath. Without thinking you have to change it, just let yourself be mesmerised by the natural, autonomous passage of the inhale and exhale. Notice how each breath makes you feel in both body and mind.
- Watch your thoughts: Knowing that you are not the sum of your thoughts, and that your thoughts are not your equal, just watch them. Imagine them playing out on a movie screen in your mind, and feel amused by them. The movie may seem very real, but it's not. Your reality is what you choose to make it, so let those thoughts come and go, without pushing or pulling. Just watch!
- Trust your gut: Practise listening to that deep, wise part of you that really knows what is best for you in every moment—from food choices to major decisions. It's there for everyone, but it takes practice to hear it loudly and clearly. Distinguish between a love answer (light, expansive, exciting) and a fear answer (heavy, constricted, a sense of doom) and make bold choices according to these sensations. Trust your gut implicitly.
- Have faith: I was brought up an atheist and have always struggled with this, even in my non-religious yoga practice. But I've realised that having faith is really about trusting in yourself, and your own aligned journey. Practice daily gratitude for everything wonderful in your life, look regularly to the Bigger Picture—for both yourself and others—and know that by acting from a place of love and abundance, you can and will move mountains. Stop second-guessing and allowing ego to override good choices—just have faith!
Imagine allowing such vulnerability and openness now—not waiting until the end or life becomes so unbearable you are literally squeezed open! Imagine what possibilities you could allow in; what opportunities; what previously-unconsidered realities...
All we need to do is soften, breathe, and open.
Zoë Foster is a Life Energy Alchemist at LifeEnergyAlchemy.com, where she helps soul-driven women balance their natural energetic highs and lows and find their own rhythm - one that maximises both creative output AND self-care on a whole-person level.
Zoë is also a Writer and Yoga Teacher and lives on the edge of magical Dartmoor in Devon, UK with her young family.
You can connect with Zoë on Facebook, Instagram, Periscope, Pinterest and Twitter by finding her @ZoeKMFoster.