It’s been two decades since I have travelled to one place for more than two weeks. Although I’ve been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit over these years I was not able to get away for an extended period of time.
A few years ago I decided it was time that I get away more often. Not just for brief vacation getaways, but for a long enough period of time that I could experience a new way of life. So, last winter my husband and I made a plan that would allow us to spend a month in Mexico. We had been visiting Playa Del Carmen for a few years and my in laws had been enjoying their winters there for many years. I knew the Internet worked well and that I could keep up with any deadlines while I took a break from winter. We knew our way around Playa and felt comfortable that we could relax and enjoy life a bit.
As I write this I’m coming to the end of my third week in Playa and it has been a wonderful experience with lots of time to visit with family and to enjoy the sunshine. We have had lots of visitors, which have kept us busy, but we have also had a lot of down time to relax, read and soak up the sun.
Before leaving Canada I made a schedule for myself so that I would not only be relaxing, but also that I could keep up with work commitments, start the running season earlier and enjoy the yoga practice that I had come to love at YogaShala 38. I wanted to make good use of my time away so that I could fully experience the new way of life that I had been imagining.
I am happy to report that I’ve been doing great at sticking to my schedule. Work is getting done. My running has adjusted to the heat. And my body and mind is so thankful to be able to practice yoga three mornings a week.
Being the planner that I am it became clear to me this week that I needed to find a way to integrate some of what I’ve experienced here in Mexico back into my life in Canada. While I’ve got a good life in Canada I find that I regularly get caught up in the mundane day-to-day rut of life. This often leaves me frustrated and my yoga and writing regime suffer because of it. I decided I wanted to overcome this and needed to draw out some key lessons from this adventure.
At yoga class on Monday the lessons began to flow clearly through my mind. Thinking about the external world in yoga class by the way is not a recommended strategy. It just happens to be one of the times that moments of clarity hit me. To summarize, I’d like to share the lessons that I will take with me:
1) Explore and release the fear
Being constrained by our fear can limit our ability to explore life to it’s full potential. I can relate to this as I too have many fears that have held me back and continue to do so in various aspects of my life. Fortunately I’m the type of person that if I want something bad enough I will find a way to to move past the fear. Where there is a will, there is a way.
My desire to explore and learn has always pushed me forward. I have people in my life who challenge me to overcome my fears so that I don’t waste precious time. This isn’t easy and it does take risking stepping out of my comfort zone.
A good example of this was my fear of Mexico. Many years ago before visiting Mexico I echoed the media’s fear that it isn’t a safe place to travel to. It wasn’t until someone bought tickets for my husband and I to join them on a trip that I decided to take the plunge and jump on a plane. It was an amazing week in Puerto Vallarta and I fell in love with the culture, the food and the sun. On that trip I went places I never should have gone. Riding in the back of a pickup truck into the mountains while consuming too much alcohol. No, I wasn’t sixteen, I was in my thirties :) I threw caution to the wind and I was rewarded with the best fish tacos and ceviche that I have ever had, still to this day. If I had never been convinced to take that trip I would likely not be writing this blog today. I learned that Mexico, just like anywhere else, could be dangerous. But sometimes the rewards far out way the risks. And life is too short.
Fear is just a state of mind that we can overcome. Understanding our fears and working through them allows us to explore things that we dream about.
2) The path will provide
I’ve been slightly addicted to reading books about thru-hiking recently. If you read my last blog you may be aware of this. Most recently I’ve been reading Keith Foskett’s trilogy, which includes his adventures on The Camino de Santiago trail, The Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada and The Appalachin Trail through 14 states. In all of the books I’ve read, thru hikers experience something called trail magic. Trail magic may seem like just luck but I truly believe that it is more than that. One of my favourite stories is when Fozzie (Keith’s trail name) ended up with a broken utensil on The PCT. At the time he was annoyed and frustrated until one of the other hikers reminded him that the trail would provide and sure enough not long down the trail he came across a spoon in the ground. It was just waiting there for him in the middle of nowhere. He still uses this spoon to this day.
I could write a whole book about the trail magic I have been blessed with over the course of my life. Trail magic for me is that moment that we meet a person at just the right time or when we are provided for in ways we never would expect. The Rolling Stone song “You can’t always get what you want” is so true. Life will provide for us, when we need it.
Knowing that I will find what I need has allowed me to make decisions with greater confidence. I work for myself and I have for many years. Over this period of time there have been hard decisions to make. Decisions where I did not know what the path forward looked like and many times I’ve had to take a leap of faith. Never once have I been disappointed. The path has always provided and in turn it made my next decision that much easier. It removes the worry and stress that come from the unknown. I’m not a religious person but knowing that what lies ahead will more than suffice certainly clears the path for me to explore my dreams with confidence.
3) Small adjustments can make the world of difference
Yoga has brought so much to my life and without it I would not be the person I am today. The lessons that I have learned have been life altering and have built my confidence like nothing I have ever experienced. So when I have the opportunity to practice yoga in Spanish three days a week here in Mexico I listen carefully as I crave the learning that will present itself.
Although I have been practicing yoga for over ten years now I am by no means an expert and I still can’t do the splits. My back still aches at times and I still shake when doing boat pose. There is always room for improvement in many of the poses.
For the average person watching me as I flow through a vinyasa into a warrior II and then into extended side angle pose you would think I look lovely. For me I can still feel the places I’m stuck in the pose and I know there is more, yet sometimes I just cannot get there. But for an experienced yoga teacher they can clearly see where I am stuck. So when I was in my side angle pose this week the teacher moved my hips just slightly down and forward. This movement shifted me about one inch. And all of a sudden, my spine aligned and I felt comfortable in the pose. My shoulders opened and my heart moved towards the sky. All of this because of an inch shift in my hips.
These small adjustments have happened a dozen times over the past few weeks in class and every time I have found more flexibility and strength. My spine has become more aligned with every slight shift of my hand or change of my breath cycle.
It brought me to thinking why do we try so hard in our every day lives to make drastic changes? These drastic changes can be difficult and overwhelming. Instead, why don’t we just make small changes, take baby steps. Small changes are easier to cope with and give us time to adjust before taking the next step. Sometimes drastic change may be required if there is a severe situation but most of the time if we just tweak things slightly we can have a large impact without too much disruption.
A practical example of this is when someone is trying to pay off his or her debt. It can seem so overwhelming to think about paying the full debt off. But if an extra dollar or two a day could be put away by changing a small habit such as not buying a latte, the money would start to add up without too much interruption. Breaking things down and adjusting slowly provides us with transition time and before we know it we find ourselves where we want to be.
4) Patience and Perseverance
I have always struggled with instant gratification. Growing up my father would start to talk about a new car or a trip or something that we would get very excited about. Then we would wait and wait and wait. Sometimes years would pass before we would see all of the talk come to fruition. This drove me crazy and still does. But what I now understand is this is how my parents have kept themselves out of debt and were able to reach their goals. We live in a society of instant gratification and we have lost the ability to be patient. I still give into many instant gratification desires but I have come to appreciate the need to be patient. And I’ve learned to find the balance.
Helping companies manage their money for a living has brought me in contact with many people who struggle with this exact problem. At the same time I have also come across many people who demonstrate patience and have chosen to persevere through it. I have had the fortune to work with many startups in the last ten years, most of which struggle for cash and are never sure what the future holds. I’ve been inspired by many of these companies that keep going and don’t give in when times are bad. Many days I’ve gone home thinking, wow, I could not do that. But they do and they usually find a way. It still amazes me to this day and it provides me with inspiration that I can then share with others.
So when I decided a few years ago that I wanted to spend more time away, exploring and living life I was met with mixed emotions. Many people were very supportive and excited for me. But there were also others that would shake their head and ask me how I ever expected to do this. Why would I want to and shouldn’t I just get a real job and work like everyone else. I refused to give in. Why would I give in now when I’ve worked so long and hard to get to this point?
Of course life presented itself as it always does. My path had decided that I would take a new direction. My husband went back to school and wanted to pursue his own career. No time off for him anytime soon. My sister’s husband became ill and she needed our support. I didn’t want to be away having a good time when she was at home dealing with the challenges that she faced. Through all of this time I wondered, when, when will I get back to doing what I want to do?
So I chose patience. Three years later, my brother in law is healing and my sister is able to get away. My husband ended up with a job that takes him away from home a few times a month but it also allows him to take extended periods of time off. And soon enough we were planning this month away.
As the time approached for me to leave I started to get the regular comments. Four weeks, how do you think you can manage that? Oh, wow, what do you think you are doing? Lucky you, how is that possible?
What I know that not everyone saw is that I’ve wanted this for a long time. I’ve set my life up to make it happen. I’ve been patient and I have persevered.
We may not be able to do what we want to do today but taking small steps, being patient and persevering in the face of what crosses our paths are all things that have rewarded me with the life that I have. Anything is possible.
5) Observe and Allow
Over the years I’ve gone through periods of too much work and I’ve also gone through periods where I was operating at optimal efficiency. When I’m working too many hours I’ve learned that I don’t have time to allow for the things that I really want to be doing.
Observing my life as an outsider has become a regular practice for me. This is another one of those lessons that yoga has taught me. I watch how I act in situations and I notice what I may or may not say and then I reflect. At times I have to allow myself to be unhappy about my observations but I also get to feel good about what I’ve done.
So what happens when I finally get what I’ve been waiting for? When all of that patience pays off? For me, creating space to allow for creativity and reflection is an essential part of what I want. So when I finally arrive in a place that I want to be, I spend a lot of time noticing how I feel. Am I enjoying myself? What do I want to do today? What should I plan for tomorrow? Am I already thinking about the next adventure? This is always a balancing act for me. I am motivated by my ability to get to where I want to go but I have learned to appreciate where I am. Learning to be present in the moment.
So as I relax this final week and enjoy the fruits of my labour, I again look forward to my return to Canada. I start to wonder how I can take this level of peace back into my regular routine. I have learned that practicing yoga in the morning has a positive impact on my energy levels. Exercising in general in the morning has changed my eating habits, keeping my intake to liquids only until lunch. Reading daily has brought me newfound excitement and anticipation for future adventures. Driving is a waste of time. Walking everywhere feels really good.
We spend too much time as a society hitting the fast forward button. It’s nice to hit pause so that we can see where we are and how we are feeling. Taking time for ourselves and allowing ourselves to observe is a great gift not only for our well-being but to our family, our friends and the world we live in.
So as I navigate the next few weeks I will aim to stay true to who I am. I will keep up my three day a week yoga practice. I will read and write regularly. And I will be patient for the next adventure. Knowing that I am exactly where I need to be.