Two months ago, without planning, I decided to go on a very special type of cleanse: I withdrew from all types of social media for one month.
Change is the only constant. I’ve been dealt this teaching over and over. Now I seek it, sometimes to a fault. I enjoy change, I enjoy the learning, the challenge, the reaffirmed knowledge that I’m OK, that I can take it, that I am resourceful, that I have what it takes. That while everything seems to fall into pieces, everything is falling into place.
This change is no different. I had been contemplating the possibility of renewing my website for some time, but the tech-burden seemed impossible to overcome. Every excuse was valid to postpone until it was made clear to me that change was inevitable.
It’s not easy to move one’s internet dwelling. Like with any move, some things were lost or broken. All the like and share counts on my posts are gone, so are all the comments. The pictures have been violently separated from their posts, and I honestly doubt that I will have enough time, patience, and (frankly) priority to reunite them all.
Luckily, most of my texts are still in Scrivener, and some did make it intact in the backup files. I do wonder however if I’d rather forget them all and start anew. If you ask me, I’d rather spend my time writing new entries than piecing the old ones together. I’d rather look forward.
So, without further ado: Welcome to my new digs! I hope you like them as much as I do and that you’ll visit often. I have lots of sweet and calming surprises for you.
My goal is to inspire you to believe that you can move from overwhelm and indecision to calm and clarity, so you can know what you really want and you can make it happen powerfully, in harmony with your wellbeing.
Change is never easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard. All you have to do is make space for the pieces to fall in their place.
I have a trained eye in whatever is missing. I’m obsessed with it. Or rather was.
Somehow somewhere along the way, I must have been told that it was smart to notice things-that-weren’t-there and, likewise, what people didn’t have. To be fair, I did it to myself too. This somewhat redeeming understanding meant that nothing was ever enough, I never had enough, I was never enough. I became really good at it, because I practiced it day in and day out. I was slowly poisoning myself and others around me.
In my yoga practice, this manifested as multiple injuries from pushing too hard; in my daily life, it manifested as insomnia, digestive issues, insecure relationships, bouts of anxiety, and severe impostor syndrome. A major breakthrough came when a yoga teacher told me that my practice had to be one of backing off. Basically, she was telling me that I needed to learn to take care of myself and to appreciate what I had. Since then, my practice has become a quest for balance, equanimity, and appreciation.
Little by little, I have found things to appreciate both on and off the mat. Little by little, my mood has improved, my outlook on life has brightened, my relationships have become treasured gifts.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali refers to this practice as santosha, commonly translated as contentment, appreciation or acceptance. Santosha is one of the five niyamas, which could be translated as ethical behaviors towards oneself. The yamas, in contrast, are ethical behavior towards others.
santosad anuttamah sukha-labhah
Contentment brings unsurpassed joy. (translation by Chip Hartranft)
In other words, joy stems from appreciation, acceptance and contentment from within, not from without. When we can see and appreciate what we have, when we can embrace ourselves and others as they are rather than cling to our idea of who we should be or what they should be, we can experience the fullness of our life, and many of our so-called needs and disappointments vanish. Rather than follow the urge to act, to fix, to change, to improve, we can learn to enjoy what’s already there. Santosha is about accepting life as it is, and myself as I am.
Contentment is often rejected as fatalistic and passive in the Western world. How could you ever function in the world if you are just content with what you have? Truth is, santosha requires active engagement and presence in the world. Santosha is not about giving up, it’s about seeing reality as it is, and making the best of it. It’s about accepting that headstands are not for you if they trigger headaches. It’s about showing your sister how much you care even if you don’t agree with her decisions. It’s about enjoying your day, even if you forgot your phone.
Santosha is a practice, and like many worthwhile lifestyle changes, it requires repetition, repetition, repetition. To become good at it, you need to start somewhere. I’ve seen it countless times, and I experience it on a daily basis. Santosha alleviates mood swings, disappointments, depression, anxiety, cravings, resistance, resentment, homesickness, helplessness, insomnia.
Santosha makes the world a better place, from the inside out.
Here's a note to let you know I’m doing fine without you. Thank you for checking in a few times this week with our old friend Digestive Discomfort. I assure you that you did not have to trouble yourself. Would you please find something else to do? Go do yoga or something.
As I mentioned in my last post about stress, it’s important to reconsider the benefits and aches of your relationship to stress if you wish to part with him (yes, in my creative unconscious, stress is a Him. Don’t ask me to explain.)
What we refer to as stress is in fact a normal response from the sympathetic nervous system to perceived threats, whether it be a wild beast, a bad driver, an unforeseen event, or bills.
That response in itself wouldn’t be so bad for us personally if it weren’t for the resources it borrows from other systems in the body, especially from the parasympathetic nervous system. When you feel threatened, your sympathetic nervous system calls for all resources to be directed its way so it can prepare the body to fight or run by speeding up the heart beat, dilating the pupils, drying the mouth, constricting blood vessels. You get the picture.
The nervous system comprises sub-systems, two of which are important to understand to have a better relationship with stress. The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is the counterpart of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). You can think of them as two scales of a balance. When the SNS is activated the PNS loses some of its resources, and vice versa.
Ideally, you would want both sides of the balance to be roughly equal in their share of resources. The SNS controls the fight-or-flight responses. We are so well accustomed to this reaction that we barely notice it anymore. Unfortunately, we spend too much time on this side of the scale, and we forgo the necessary restorative and renewal phase of the process once the potential threat is done with.
This deprives the PNS of its resources on a regular basis. And this is where it hurts the most, because the PNS is associated to our digestive, reproductive, cardiovascular, and immune systems. Ergo, when you are always stressed-out, or “normal” as it is, you are seriously compromising your digestion (heartburn, constipation, bloating, anyone?), your capacity to have children, your heart rate (headaches, high blood pressure, anyone?), your body’s ability to protect itself from colds, flus, viruses.
Restorative Yoga aims to trigger the PNS response so it can take back its share of resources within the body. The result is a feeling of lightness, rejuvenation, and calm. After practicing Restorative Yoga, it is typical for practitioners to say that they feel clear-headed, rested, balanced, more comfortable, more open, more present.
Come and experience the wonders of Restorative Yoga with me. Check Myriam's schedule.
You and I have had a long history, and I hate to leave you behind, but I’m quite frankly ready to be over with you, and I’m not alone. I’ll be happy to see you occasionally, but limit your visits to necessary occasions please, and I might even find gratitude for your existence.
Warm wishes, Myriam
It’s a long and windy road, the one that we have to take to reconsider our relationship to stress and clear it out of the way where it is not necessary. While teaching seminars on stress in corporate settings, I was struck by one constant: most of us talk about stress like it’s an enemy, a terrorist of sorts planting bombs in every street corner. Yet, most of us cannot imagine our daily lives without it.
As much as we all daydream about stress-free lives, are we really ready to shed this unfortunate friend and clear the space? Being stressed-out is the “new” normal, as Gary Kraftsow aptly observed. And it takes effort to not be “normal.”
What is your perception of people who are not stressed-out? People who have time to sleep, and eat, and read, and enjoy themselves? Chances are you’re thinking they’re lazy, flaky, they’ve won the lifestyle lottery, or maybe you think that they have it figured out why-is-it-that-I-can’t-figure-it-out-too.
The first question you need to ask yourself is: would you allow yourself to live mostly stress-free if you could? Given the option, would you feel comfortable going to work without rushing out the door, work effectively without missing a break, accomplish your home chores without sweating it, answer your four-year-old’s sixty-sixth question of the day without losing it? Are you somehow afraid of what others will think if they see you “on top of things”? Will they think I’m not working hard enough, will they think I’m not taking it seriously enough, will they think I’m flaky, irresponsible, useless?
I'll be writing to you, dear Stress. Feel free to take an extended break, you deserved it.