Going with the flow and letting things be is one of the most challenging life lessons for me and for many other people I know! You may think that I’d have this down to a fine art after last year’s decision to quit the legal career, to travel and turn myself into veggie eating, meditating, yoga teacher but you’d be expecting too much of me.
A few months ago I indicated that I was planning to go back to India. This was at a time when I was early on in my yoga teaching and if I’m being honest I was feeling unsettled that the life that stretched before me had no clear direction – living with my parents, with little money, with friends who are all settled down, and in the quieter, slower pace of life in Southport (as opposed to London). For the first time in a long time I had the unusual luxury of time and space – proper head space. I was no longer up, getting suited and booted, working like a crazy fool as a lawyer, heading out to the gym or for a run, or to a bar or a restaurant for supper before back to bed to start it all again. I was grateful for the slow return to life after the drama of the last couple of years, and could see it as an opportunity to make some changes but I didn’t quite give up old habits. I started to forward plan and mentally map out how I expected the rest of this year to look – to head back to India and learn more about Yoga, get another certificate, improve my qualifications, and improve myself. I set the expectation, had a game plan and I was still in control.
A couple of weeks ago I took some time out to go back to London to visit my old friends. When my best mate heard this she said (and I quote verbatim from her text): “why are you off to London? That’s like a smack head dipping their toe back into heroin”. In some respects, it was a rather bold move as I found it really hard to come back to Southport after my last visit in February and again London did not disappoint! I saw my fabulous friends, indulged in various vegetarian delights accompanied by an abundance of aperol spritzers. I binged on not one but four art exhibitions, sampled the delights of Veggie Pret (come North!) and basked in the baking hot sunshine and watched life go by as I sat by the River Thames. (For basked read sweated like a mo fo).
I love love love the River Thames – with the pop up bars, the old buildings, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament looming with grandeur and reflected in the murky water, the odd looking modern apartment buildings, MI6, the moored boats, the bridges, the mix of people – there’s just so much to see and absorb. And whilst I was there I did feel a momentary pang for the life I ‘could’ have lived and wished for a sliding doors moment as I leapt on to the sweaty Victoria line and got crushed under someone’s armpit… Sorry but even rose tinted glasses can’t romanticise the grim reality of the Underground in rush hour!
This time as I left London I felt love tinged with sadness for my friends and the life I had there but I realised that I was returning to a full and valuable life oop north, one that I would never have expected! Over the last few months, life has offered up unforeseen Southport based opportunities and on Friday just gone, I taught my first class in the new yoga studio at Southport Yoga Centre. You may well have sensed my delight from the numerous Facebook posts and photos (#sorrynotsorry). Those of you that have been to my classes or workshops will know how much kit I’ve been carting about between three venues since January and how I’ve been like a yoga-hobo working out of my tiny Ford KA. As a result of the physical demands of my job I have been hoping, praying and Om-ing for one quiet venue to teach from and I now have it! It also means I can now launch more classes and continue to grow my business in improving your wellbeing! ; )
We all have ‘expectations’ which impact upon us pretty much all of the time – in the goods and services we use and consume, in our experiences, in what we expect of ourselves and of each other. In our relationships we seek to find ‘the one’, our perfect partner, our other half – the implication being you are not whole without them. You, dear Reader, may even have expected a blog from me over the last couple of weeks (apologies – life got a little crazy)! From descriptive restaurant menus we drool and imagine how the (tofu) steak will be served but sometimes feel disappointed when it’s overcooked, or undercooked or just too darn small a serving. We see photos of the deluxe hotel room for the summer holiday only to get there and find that it’s overlooking a building site, or (as happened to me) you book a window seat on a flight and then there’s no window…We have expectations that if we ‘diet’ for a week, or two, then we will lose weight, we will feel happier and can then eat cake again guilt free. We expect our children to be well-behaved and quiet. We expect other people like our Partners to make us feel good, loved and valued, and we expect that by earning a little more, or by having a more senior job title then we will feel a greater sense of achievement, of contentment.
By focusing on our expectations we fail to notice and appreciate what we already have and quite often there’s a reason for the bumps in the road, in not obtaining what we ‘want’ and that’s because there’s something to learn or something else is on its way. Times change, people change and when you feel a little lost sometimes life will give you another way forward if you just take a minute to stop, breathe, look and listen.
We all see the slogans about living for the ‘now’, encouraging us to be present and mindful and it was during my yoga teacher training that I began to see that I used my expectations and forward planning as some sort of way of feeling secure and in control of my life. I hadn’t ever appreciated that by doing so it narrows your focus, and limits opportunity, choice and spontaneity. It’s not that we don’t all need some level of organisation in our lives – the flights for the holiday need to be booked and the mortgage/rent needs to be paid on time but setting your expectations and mapping your life out too far into the future simply reduces the space for life to flow and prevents you from seeing all the opportunities right in front of you.
I have realised that I do not have to go back to India this year to improve myself, to improve my teaching as it is already happening here and now from my own practice, from my students, from my own lifestyle choices, and from the people I have around me. There is a choice to be made but neither option will be a mistake and at some point I will make a decision but I don’t need to right now– I’ve just put that expectation on myself. And in the meantime, I am continuing to learn what it means to truly ‘go with the flow’ and that it’s just like the Rolling Stones say – “you can’t always get what you want but sometimes you might just find you get what you need”.