I’ve been home from my yoga teacher training for a little over two months now and I’d like to take the chance to talk about the struggles I’ve faced since coming home. Talking about tough times isn’t something I’m comfortable with, but I’ve come to recognise how very important it is. I’ve found that there’s a certain freedom and strength in vulnerability that I never imagined existed.
I’d always thought that being strong meant putting on a brave face and holding things together when times got tough. It’s how I was brought up and it’s how I have lived most of my life. It wasn’t until I went to my yoga teacher training that I was exposed to the idea that maybe being strong is actually about dropping the mask and being vulnerable. It takes a great deal of courage to own your story and tell your truth.
Being around such a loving, supportive and open group of people I found it surprisingly easy to drop the mask and be real. For the first time in my life I was openly talking about all the ugly parts of my life without any fear. I didn’t feel uncomfortable telling the whole truth, talking about the things that brought shame, the things that have really hurt and the problems I’ve come up against time and time again. Talking so openly and honestly allowed me to detach from a lot of the emotions that I had connected to certain experiences. I began to heal from things that I didn’t even realise had wounded me. I was able to let go of so much and experienced a freedom I’ve never known before.
I still remember one afternoon after lunch I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I actually had to stop and stare at myself properly to really take in what I was seeing. In all my life I have never before seen myself look so well and truly happy.
My amazing teacher Alicia had warned us all that the real yoga starts when you go home. It’s easy to practice yoga and let go of negative behaviours when you’re in such a special bubble, coming home and bring it into real life now that’s the challenge. In fact it’s bloody hard! You’re continually challenged by the environment, people and situations.
I was initially very nervous about coming home, my job is high stress and big hours, I burn out regularly from taking on too much and my dad who is in remission for a battle with lung cancer has taken to occasionally smoking making my home life a pretty hostile place it be. Nervous is probably an understatement. I was kind of dreading coming home!
I tried to plan how I would make things work when I got home, I made little rules for myself like no more eating lunch at my desk and working overtime all the time, slowing down and making sure I have a few nights a week just for me and keeping up calming rituals like dry brushing, mindful eating and meditation.
On my first day back at work one of my colleague said to me “how’s the real world treating you…a little too real?” She could not have been more spot on! The real world was definitely a little too real. I spent the first week crying myself to sleep and waking up wishing I was back in Bali. I’d broken every one of my rules at least once. So much of my life, if not all of my life felt like it didn’t fit anymore.
Change was the spice of my life. A significant relationship had ended, my boss had left while I was away (essentially doubling my workload) and I had been through a major personal change. For the first few weeks I kept telling myself it’s reverse culture shock, just breathe through it, you’ll be ok, change isn’t easy. I tried to keep up my meditation and asana practice and I kept coming back to the philosophy that had seen me through tough times before. There were times when my efforts worked and things would be okay but mainly things were not okay. I was overwhelmed by my life and starting to slip into a pretty depressed space.
Then the old Clare came back out to bat; the one who believes that being strong means pulling it together. And the self talk started, what is wrong with you, you have so much to be grateful for, stop being an emotional crazy! I decided in my divine wisdom that what I needed was to start teaching. Yes Clare, take on more when you’re already not coping with life.
I was putting on my everything is fine, I’m happy little yogi mask each day and each night I’d fall to pieces. The week after I taught my first classes I had lunch with a friend and when he asked me how my week had been I just burst into tears, I couldn’t even talk about it, I wasn’t even happy that I’d just organised and taught two of my own classes. I was exhausted and drowning in my own mess. I’d taken on so much in a bid to make things better and keep moving towards what I wanted that I couldn’t even breathe anymore. That lunch was one of a few turning points; I was in such a mess that I just couldn’t pretend to be okay anymore. I spoke honestly about how miserable I’d been feeling and I walked away feeling like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. There was no great advice given in that conversation, I just felt like I had a compassionate ear that really heard me. He held the mirror up for me, provided a circuit breaker and allowed me to stop and really look at myself honestly.
Things started to feel a little better from there but I was still very all over the place with everything. I knew that I didn’t want to be in my full time job anymore, but even the thought of leaving made me feel guilty. With my boss gone there was now more dependence on me than ever. Just thinking about the hole I will leave and the strain it will put on my already overworked colleagues was making me feel sick and stressed.
Then another conversation came. While chatting to a close girlfriend she asked how all my yoga stuff was going, for a moment I wanted to give her my usual it’s great lie. But instead I stopped took a few breathes and made a decision to be real, responding with not so great. From those three words I went on to talk about everything: moving on from the break up, worrying too much about leaving my job, putting myself first, burning out and the courage it takes to turn your life on its head. The honesty in that conversation unburdened me from a lot of the worries I’d been carrying around.
From there I went back to my notes from teacher training with a new resolve to turn things around. While going through notes and reflecting on the journey I had been on being home it became very apparent just how significant opening up and being vulnerable had been. I went back to a TED talk that we had watched at Teacher Training from Brene Brown on vulnerability. Everything started to click even more, the key to finding the freedom I had known at Teacher Training was in the behaviour I had changed as soon as I go home. As soon as I got home I put the walls up again and attached a sense of shame to my struggles.
Shame is a nasty pasty! It has this way of making you feel like you can’t share because of the negative judgement you will face. When we hide parts of ourselves in shame from those that would listen with compassion we create a disconnection. And I tell you now, from what I’ve read and my own personal experience it is so beyond important for people to have a sense of connection with other people. Sharing and being vulnerable creates connection between people which then leads to a sense of love and belonging.
Things have turned around a lot since that realisation, there’s been no great change in my actual situation, my life is what it is but I feel like I could climb Everest! People have been telling me that I’m glowing. Through embracing and sharing who I am and where I’m at, I’ve found a strength and freedom that still blows my mind a little. Vulnerability is something that I’m still not completely comfortable with and I know there will be times that I fall back into old habits but I accept that I am imperfect and I love myself wholeheartedly.
It is my hope that through speaking honestly in this post and in many more to come I can inspire others to also speak their truth, owns their story and to not attach shame to any part of their lives. I’d like to send a bit of extra love out to anyone struggling with anything at the moment, my heart goes out to you, keep going beautiful souls.
Love, Blessings & Kindness