Claiming Authentic Power – How Yoga Helps Us To Harness the Power Within

Claiming Authentic Power – How Yoga Helps Us To Harness the Power Within

“To the degree that we do not fully claim our own power to transform, we are more likely to be possessed by this energy in it’s shadow form” – Carol S. Pearson

I have not resonated with a quote on such an intense level for quite a while.
I’m also a firm believer that each one of us has the power to direct and redirect our energy in order for it to manifest itself wherever we desire in our lives – whether we realise it or not.
If we think about our energy in terms of both a negative and a positive force, the positive stream functioning as a catalyst for growth and progression, and the negative as a hindering and damaging force, we can begin to see how the expansion and contraction of the channels down which this power flows results in certain manifestations of said energies. While this is constantly occurring on both a conscious and subconscious level, there are certain things which can help us harness the power necessary to direct the energy where we want it to go, instead of letting it flail around excitedly from brainwave to brainfart.
Yoga encourages the expansion of these channels (or nadis, in the yogic tradition) in the right direction, opening up and creating space for the positive to flourish, while attempting to block the negative.
And so in simple terms, yoga gives us the awareness to pursue, direct and encourage the good power to succeed over the bad. With me so far?

Negative Cycles

When I first started doing yoga consistently, I was, for want of a better phrase, ‘in a bad place in my life’. To keep the anecdotal personal sob-story short, I was living at home, had no job, no clear direction where I wanted my life to go, weighed a hollowing and bone-shatteringly cold 6 stone and lacked the energy and concentration necessary to complete even the most basic of tasks, let alone care about them. I would wake with spasms of fright and anxiety at 3am. I would get brief bouts of inspiration mixed with terrifying insight that my worsening situation needed to change…and then the difficulty of doing so would ultimately prove too extensive and straight away I’d be lost again to the numbing blanket of fuzzy and fatigued negative thoughts, so ingrained as they were in my mind that any feeble form of resistance against them was immediately silenced with disturbing ease and logic;
“You’re full of shit. It’s not worth it. Don’t bother.”
In short, things were dark.

Wasting Energy

The energy required to process all of these thoughts and worries at such a startling speed and damaging ferocity was ultimately leaving me both mentally and physically drained, not to mention the preoccupation with ensuring I adhered to strict ‘rules’ which I wasn’t permitted to break – just in case a sandwich or fleeting social interaction would spark off another ricocheting thought-firework and disable me from leaving the house for the rest of the day. I was, as the above quote describes, possessed by my own energy ‘in it’s shadow form’. It was being directed towards the wrong things, and to be honest it’s exhausting just writing about it.

No Alternative

When we’re deep in the grips of a negative cycle, be it a habit, a thought pattern, or simply a way of being or conducting ourselves that we’ve gradually grown accustomed to, it can seem like the most alien thing in the world to even consider existing any other way.
The power which is being permitted to flow full-force towards supporting the negative spirals is just too overwhelming to be redirected elsewhere. It takes extraordinary force of will and repetitive, conscious, and ongoing effort to haul our minds (and bodies) out of the downward-flow of this toxic power, a fact made lighter only by the knowledge that this force is contained within us at all times, its incessant nature meaning it simply can’t sit still and watch the world go by
– it has to go somewhere.

Getting to Know It

As an alternative to other forms of physical or mental exercise which may encourage thoughts and awareness away from this authentic energy which resides within each of us – literally doing what we Irish people have done for years and just not talking about it – yoga requires us to sit with this energy and examine it in all its beauty and terrifying power. We learn how to move with it, allowing it to channel through the positive streams and manifest itself in actions, talents, skills, character, originality, and most importantly; authenticity. Our yoga practice requires us to listen to our bodies and the energies which reside within. After a while we realise that most, if not all of our negative tendencies and habits result from a subconscious lapse or disregard for the direction of the positive energy, allowing the negative to swoop in and take over.
They say that everyone’s struggle is different. This means that every individual’s ‘flourishing’ will appear slightly different too. This is why it is so important to know ourselves.

Harnessing Power

Each and every one of us possess the power within us to manifest our ideas – to create, to bring to the world something new; a new view or perspective; a new manifestation of human energy which has been harnessed to reflect the intellect alongside which it resides. Learning how to harness it is much easier said than done however, and while some people naturally excel with the self-awareness and realization necessary to project it into the world, the vast majority of us just don’t.
It’s through practices such as yoga and meditation that I have been able to finally access some of that authentic potential, allowing for the transformation of my energy down a more fruitful and fulfilling path than the one which worries how many crackers I’ve eaten or about a passing remark made by a colleague two weeks ago. Brief and miniscule slices of this potential have managed to slip through over the years, manifesting as specific achievements or the success of artistic endeavours, but it was only when I began to consistently engage with yoga and meditation that I finally felt the sensation of actually having some sort of understanding of and power over my capacity to engage with it.

Imbalances

Misunderstanding or neglecting the force of our authentic power can so easily result in dangerous imbalances of energies, along with distorted visions and versions of ourselves; our intellect, our talent, our potential. It can so easily get lost. I feel one of the great tragedies of our time is simply wasted potential.

This has led me to conclude that by helping us to carefully observe our energy’s expenditure, origins, and direction, yoga can help us gain a dimension of insight into our own potential, allowing us to live and cultivate a more empowered life rather than shying away from it.
We all have this power, and are entitled to exercise and manifest it into the world.
We just need to learn how to use it.

On The Benefits of Yoga….What I Have Learned

I can’t begin to describe the effects a regular yoga practice has had on me in the past few months. It’s been remarkable, and I’ve felt the strength in every aspect and element of both my mind and body. I may eventually lengthen this out into a detailed post of exactly the ins and out of how and why I feel it has aided me so much, but for now take just a few verses, and try not to get thrown off by the cheesyness…

‘On The Benefits of Yoga…What I Have Learned”

It makes no sense
That being where we are at this moment;
Right here and now,
Should take practice.
But it does.

Yoga teaches me not to rush ahead.
The meeting will come. Lunch will happen.
There will always be the threat of rain,
Even as we salute the sun rising hopefully
Over the arched back of beyond.

Anticipating is an anxious act
– Putting on the dog’s lead as you see a larger one approach.
Yet up, down, sideways, or around,
We cannot escape this moment.
Nor would I want to.

I have learned to occupy my space,
Exhaling into the changes underfoot.
A warrior standing her ground,
Even when the earth itself shakes and cracks,
The trees swaying and casting away leaves
That never served them much at all.

In a binding contract,
My feet have cemented my place here,
A far call from the apprehensive steps
I used to take to my own kitchen.

The scales in my head finding
Balance atop arms stronger than ever before;
A crow flying high over the gorge of
Mental anguish, supporting itself through
the turbulent, turbulent clouds to land lightly on the other side.

In the knowledge that each bend, twist,
and long stretch in the road is actually progressing me forward,
Refusing to look behind
Refusing to waver.

This is where I am now,
This is what I need.
This day, this second, this letter, this space,
I hear now louder than ever.

Namasté.

Just in Case – A Thought on Progress…

The unpredictable and erratic Irish sunshine is shining in on me this evening through a window graffitied with stubborn raindrops from earlier on. The world both inside and outside of my room seems calm, as although the weather doesn’t suggest it, it almost feels as if things might be coming to some kind of even keel as the escaped hubcap of my life spirals slower and slower to a managable pace where it finally nears stillness – still dangerously exposed and raw in the centre of the road, yet standing there strongly, and balancing alone.
The sun and rain go on around it, contrasting elements living in direct relation to one another, which have recently been spending an increasing amount of time together. It leaves me wondering are they growing apart, or growing closer together? It seems we can’t have one anymore without being half-prepared for the other, many shops in town boasting attractive stalls of both umbrellas and sunglasses side by side in displays of diversity that would leave Aldi and Lidl speechless.
But co-exist they do, and ginger hair and pale skin aside, one without the other wouldn’t be a comfortable climate to live in either. In considering my emotions and progression over the last number of weeks, I’ve come to a similar conclusion and final acceptance (after years of awareness) that the bad does not necessarily always have to be bad, and must exist in order for the good to be as rewarding as it is. Basic and elementary as this realisation may seem to some, it has only been through putting the extremes and contrasts into practice, subjecting myself to their power and destructive abilities and consciously suffering the consequences of them that I have once and for all come to accept them for what they are, and finally, finally, slowly and reluctantly come to learn from it.
I’m ready to let go now of what I know does not serve me. The length of time between acknowledging this and being ready to do so was far, far longer than even I could even have anticipated, the struggle in between proving more confusing and unpredictable than a badly-kicked rugby ball. Yet my body and my mind have suffered enough, and letting go seems easier now that I can see myself and true potential for what it is.

I don’t know what the next month holds in store for me, or where my next pay cheque is coming from. I don’t know where it is I would be now if this low had not happened or been allowed manifest it’s gripping, grumbling emptiness within me. I can’t possibly know any of this, nor change how I was before. All I can do now is keep moving forward, building on the mistakes that were made and shunning the negative tendencies that will forever remain etched as a reminder of the strength of my own human will to do whatever it is I set myself out to do. Just because I’m not certain of what I’m setting out to do yet does not mean I won’t do it well, because now, instead of worrying and jumping to conclusions I cannot possibly predict or know the outcome of, I’m progressing forwards, in the comforting knowledge that I have been able to deal with and adapt to changes I didn’t expect or plan before, and I’ve made it this far to tell the tale. The tools I’ve gained from getting here will remain with me as long as I just remain aware, and maintain a certain balance in myself which only I can maintain.
I do not, and cannot know whether a rain jacket or a bottle of Factor 50 will be necessary when I leave the house tomorrow. But I know that both are packed away safely and neatly accessible in my bag – just in case.

In Case of Emergency…

Flight Safety

We’re all familiar with the drill.

‘In case of emergency, your oxygen mask will drop from the compartment above your head…”

There’s a reason airlines tell you to ensure your own oxygen mask is safely secured before you assist anyone else with theirs. Even if you’re travelling with a small child or otherwise incapacitated passenger who would require assistance, still the safety procedure instructions are the same:

Save yourself first.

In times of difficulty, be it low mood and sense of self-worth, injury or a more physical situation, there is nothing more important than taking the initiative to enlist in habits of self-care and self-love to ensure your bad day does not turn into a worse week, month or lifetime of unnecessary suffering.

‘Take Care”

While support and reassurance is vital and often hugely effective in relieving mental distress, sometimes the best thing we can do for others is simply to start taking care of ourselves. This of course includes reaching out and taking the steps needed to begin solving the problem, yet also covers the less obvious areas such as eating right, exercising, and implementing change for ourselves where we think is fit. The difference here being that the initiative to do so has come from you this time around, and not someone telling you what to do.

In times of need, stress, and dealing with difficult emotions, there is often nothing we (and Irish people in general) do better than to ignore our own basic needs.
Being kind to ourselves is just not something we have been brought up to do or think is alright. It’s seen as full of it, pigheaded, or even worse, and sometimes even in true Irish tight-lipped and harsh terseness: up yourself.

Not only is this self-deprecating and damaging to our own self-esteem in every imaginable way, but it also in it’s essence as a negative behaviour serves absolutely nobody as a belief or assertion.

“Core Strength”

In dealing with mental and emotional issues, though support from others is required and encouraged to aid with recovery, and is often some of the most successful therapy available, there is a certain strength and independence that can only be obtained by taking the reigns and personally placing your own safety mask securely over your own nose and mouth; whether that mask be in the form of a friend to talk to, a notebook, a song, doctor, or some other outlet.

In my own experience, doing for myself what I had for so long relied on others to do for me gave me a sense of inner strength and a liberation stronger than any I’ve felt before.

While all support, love, and kindness is essential and hugely appreciated when it is given, the nature of many personal difficulties and struggles lies in a lack of control and ability to break out of negative thought cycles and habits – something which is unique to each individual, and so even more difficult for others to understand and help with in times of need.

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Because turbulence is a pretty much inevitable aspect of navigating the skies today, and you can be pretty much guaranteed to hit areas of both low and high pressure as you make your way through life to any new place. What may sound like a basic routine of self-care for some is for others an unexpected and difficult mountain of old and damaging habits which must be scaled in order to obtain the same results. In finally realising one’s own ability to deal with and cope with one’s own emotions, thoughts and difficulties, there is a particular freedom and sense of individuality which allows us to finally progress forwards, and begin to pave a way for ourselves instead of crawling sheepishly in the trail of those we’ve allowed go ahead of us.

While we may all be in the same plane, and as such ultimately powerless to a system failure or crash should it occur, the least we can do is protect ourselves as soon as possible from further harm, and put our own oxygen masks on first.

Flight Safety
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My Dad Grew Grapes in Ireland….

….And we made wine. What other way would there be to celebrate this extraordinary feat of cultivation??

Summer 2014 was in many ways and for many people an extremely fruitful season, and we’re still almost unknowingly reaping the benefits.
My father’s early retirement sparked a number of temporary and occasionally irrational notions to which he would dedicate entire days of unwavering attention. Things like the learning of a language, an instrument, or DIY project in the house he would undertake passionately for hours at a time, only to give up and abandon the project before nearing any sort of satisfactory mastery of the craft. Patience and rationality were never strong points of his – nor are they mine, for that matter.

One venture which served as cathartic as it was time-consuming was his expansion into the realm of gardening and home-grown produce. Up until last year, his success was measured on the size of the courgettes which appeared almost overnight (to my untrained and disinterested eyes) within the small space of overcrowded and sweaty condensation, among the dependable crowds of cherry tomatoes and carrot leaves all jostling for space and a sliver of the ever-evasive Irish sunshine. The nature of gardening left room for the sporadic lapses of attention in his greenhouse, meaning that the few days my Dad’s attention got caught up in installing another new boiler, re-painting a perfectly finished room, or searching the web for old census-clippings actually added to the cultivation of the young shoots, giving them the breathing space necessary to acclimatize to their unusally contrasting environment.

The grapes began as one such notion, a day spent wandering the garden centre fertilizing and giving strength to the idea that the growth of anything is possible if the conditions are correctly met and enough space given to acclimatize. And so the guts of one weekend was spent planting grapes in a greenhouse in the back garden of a run-of-the-mill suburban housing estate in Leixlip, and ensuring everybody within earshot knew he was doing so. What could go wrong?

To be honest we all forgot about the mini-vineyard growing in the back garden, not expecting anything to come of the notion and instead adapting to his erratic ideas and shifting our attention to encourage his next venture. It was only as the Summer wore on and he began to notice the small green spheres appearing on the twigs that it began to actually become a source of interest again. I began to receive weekly updates on their progress, which turned to daily phonecalls as my job in Galway kept me from witnessing the miracle for myself.
On returning home I was greeted with a smile and a proud bucket full of genuine grapes as green as they were homegrown and one of the proudest achievements of my father to date.

The very fact that they existed was proof that anything can be cultivated within the confines of an unlikely environment, if the right factors are present, and so his next announcement that he intended to experiment with wine-making was hardly surprising. Again, we left him to it, happily ensuring he had a store of empty wine bottles in which to ferment his concoction at hand and ready to fill should he succeed.

Which he did.
The wine which was ready by Easter was bitter, strong, and thinking back on it was definitely the product of an amateur attempting to fulfill some sort of self-validation by convincing himself it was possible to make his own, yet it did the job, and succeeded in getting myself and a friend slightly drunk at a party having been given the bottle leaving my house, unaware that it had come from the ‘home-brewed’ corner of the wine rack. How many people can say they have one of those? Especially in Ireland!

The greenhouse has since become a source of pride for him, and in a way has aided greatly in allowing himself and the rest of the family to come to terms with the fact that with retirement comes a certain slowing-down of many things, patience now being an easier value to tap into when the need presents itself. He still gets irrational notions and spends days on end obsessing over minor details of the floor tiles in the kitchen being off-center, but it’s almost as if the retreat of the greenhouse and the potential of the ever-encroaching Summer season gives him a new lease on life. It’s a kind of dependance which became particularly noticeable in his despondancy and detachment during the Winter months of frosty weather, the physical limitations of the cold preventing him from even visiting his glass house seemingly stunting any kind of positivity towards progression.

Now that the Summer is well on it’s way again, both the garden and my Dad have been filled with a new energy and positivity towards life, the successes of last Summer proving a positive foundation on which this year can be built.
While I hope we have a good Summer weather-wise for all the usual reasons – roadtrips, days on the beach and beer-garden Saturdays spent with friends and new freckles, there’s also the hope that my Dad will continue building upon his previous successes and maybe even begin to enjoy his retirement. And who knows, if that means more wine, all the better for everyone else!!

On Early Rising…

There’s something both peaceful and strengthening about being an early riser. I love being the first up in a house or shared living situation, and while I understand how the isolation and silence would scare certain people and make them uneasy, personally I relish in the brief opportunity before the day begins to spend some time with myself, and set my thoughts straight before assessing the potential of another day.

If there is work of any sort to be completed, you can be guaranteed that my best attention will be given to it before the hours of 9am. Not only am I feeling fresh at the prospect of an entire new 24 hours in which to create and do, but I have the time to do it – the day stretches ahead of me like an open sea, and even if there are clouds or other ships on the horizon to meet later on in the day, my position at the beginning of things gives me just enough space and time in which to plan my actions, and ensure anything that has to be done gets done before coming into contact with them.

Even if the weather isn’t working alongside my body clock, and the rising sun is blocked from view by gloomy clouds and drizzly rain as it is this morning, there is an element of newness and potential to this time of day that excites me. I could make it anything I like, do anything, embark on new challenges and begin new projects that weren’t accessible to me at 11.30pm last night. This writing would not have been possible had I not risen early today. Even though I have no commitments to attend to until much, much later on, here I am still, Ireland AM on mute (just for company) on the TV, laptop open, and cup of coffee balanced precariously atop my latest read. Were I not typing this and contemplating my current situation, I would be reading, and making the most of my heightened pre-9am attention span and energy.

I realise that everyone is different, and that even reading these words will make some people cringe in disagreement as they nurse lunchtime hangovers and wipe away the bleary-eyed weekend sleep-in. And that is totally cool. I’m not trying to push beliefs or judge anything or anyone for doing and knowing what makes them ok. I am merely attempting to assess and come to terms with my own emotions and current situation, personally taking into account my feelings and location, and ultimately just being mindful of how I am right now after rising early and preparing my mind and body for the day to come. It’s now 9.05am. The day is getting on….. Happy Saturday!

Socks in the City

Tourists look up. They stare around in wonder awe and try to take in all the nooks and crannies of the cities they do not live in. They see things that inhabitants of the city itself overlook in their day-to-day lives, things they consider irrelevant, unnoteable, non-important. Imagine working in an office down the road from the Colosseum. A very large and ancient example, but an example nonetheless.

One huge thing I have noticed from working a 9-5 job in the city is that every morning, in the bleary-eyed dawn rush over the same bridge and cobbled streets that lead up to my office, is that I never, ever, make the walk whilst looking up. My head is always down, bent in defence-mode as I battle through the crowds of suits and asics runners with tights in the daily struggle that is the 9am rush. One morning recently, whilst still feeling the effects of a few too many midweek cocktails, I noticed a man opening a window on one of the upper floors of the row of shops and cafés in Templebar. A simple, quick movement, meaningless to anyone catching the change out of the corner of their eye, yet it was enough to pull my gaze skyward, and I began noticing things about the buildings I pass every day that I hadn’t noticed before. Maybe I’m getting a bit Patrick Kavanagh-esque in these musings, noticing beauty in the mundane and all that, but it was interesting to cast fresh eyes on old surroundings, and it opened my mind and brightened up an otherwise uncomfortable and hungover commute.
I then turned my attention to the tourists around Dublin, with their maps and backpacks, stopping to take pictures of postboxes and shop windows and doors that I walk past daily without batting an eyelid at. Even in the depths of Winter, they find the beautiful and noteable things, making sure to snap an image so as to remember it clearly, whereas we barely notice them at all.
This is what there is to gain from travel. The constant exposure to new and exciting things – new and beautiful things, that we haven’t grown accustomed to and probably never will. It seems to me that in continuing to expose ourselves to new experiences, places, people and cultures, that life could be just…fresh. All the time. It would be filled with the feeling of new socks on your toes. But in your mind. Imagine!!
In all the times I have filled the role of a tourist in a place I haven’t been before, it’s the excitement and the newness of not knowing what’s literally around the next corner that keeps my attention and energizes me. It’s that fleeting moment of panic you feel when you think you’ve taken a wrong turn, and have managed to get completely lost in a city far away from home, only to retrace your steps and discover a new and more scenic route back to your hostel that makes my heart beat, and gives me a feeling of purpose and being alive. Here’s to more moments like this in 2015!

Níl Saoi Gan Locht

“I won’t tell them that people are starving in China or anything like that because it wouldn’t change the fact that they were upset. And even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn’t really change the fact that you have what you have”.
—Stephen Chbosky

Everybody has something. Níl saoi gan locht.
Acceptance happens when you can finally look in the mirror and say “Yes, this is me. And I’m ok with that”.

There are certain things you can only understand and appreciate after being within inches of rock bottom. There are certain moments when you realise you are actually happy again, and that very fact makes you happy. Saying the words; “I’m okay”, and actually knowing you mean it. It is nearly worth all the hard times put together and shoved in front of you like an ignorant pedestrian walking out in front of your car when there’s clearly no green man in sight.
All of a sudden you become aware that the fog has lifted somewhat, that there actually was a fog, a kind of blank apathy that literally nothing could penetrate – but that things are clear again. Like opening the curtains and seeing a pure blue sky for the first time in months, and you know it means that Summer is coming, and whether or not you usually enjoy Summer doesn’t come into context because you know that it can be whatever you make it.

It’s not a matter of choosing to be happy, because that’s just not possible. You can choose to implement things into your life that you know will affect you positively. You can choose to remove things from your life that you know affect you negatively. It all sounds very black and white when it’s put like that. But it’s more technicoloured than that. It’s a palette of colours and moods and emotions and contributing factors that combine to establish your dominant mood over a period of time. And everyone’s are different. There’s not a single person on this earth that can have possibly experienced the same as you. It’s about recognizing and knowing yourself. Mindfulness. Knowing your own mind and emotions and how they work. Knowing your own body. Being able to control what influences it. It’s a work in progress. Nothing is finished yet.

But here’s to being happy again.