Art, Language, and Yoga as Forms of Personal Expression

 

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They say that art calms the mind, and soothes the senses.

As someone who is regularly plagued by bouts of extreme and intense anxiety, coupled with irrational responses to everyday occurrences, I have truly found solace in writing; in expressing my thoughts and worries elsewhere before they get the opportunity to take over my life.

Writing especially I have found to benefit me extremely in this sense, yet also other art forms too – singing, practicing yoga, translating, doodling, creating anything…aside from the obvious enjoyment and productivity associated with these acts themselves, it’s comforting to realise that regular practice and engagement with them have massive health benefits too.

The calmness and ease I feel after writing or praciticing yoga for a short time, or expressing myself in some other way is what I imagine most people (and by most, I mean people who aren’t prone to anxiety or extremes of thought patterns) feel on a ‘good day’. A ‘good day’ being a day where they awake feeling relatively content with their lives; their job; the balance on their latest bank statement; an upcoming night out or short holiday planned to keep them ploughing on through the next workday. A good day is all I want. A mediocre day without stressing over what to eat for breakfast, how I should break up the day ahead, whether or not I’ve had a response from the latest job application I’ve submitted…

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When I was travelling I had many, many of these ‘good days’. So many in fact, that I’ve come to associate the very act of travelling with these feelings of contentment, understanding, and acceptance of the world around me. When I’m travelling, it’s not only MY world I’m accepting – the things and people I see on a day-to-day basis – it’s the ENTIRE world. It’s a level of acceptance and bliss it’s difficult to recall now as I sit alone in my parents’ house, the grey clouds of an Irish ‘Springtime’ taunting the pale skin that has only just begun to lose the thick spatter of freckles Asia provided as a thoughtful departing gift to remember her by.

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Language and Writing

People are quick to comment on SouthEast Asians’ calmness and politeness of character, something I have experienced first-hand and now seek to put into practice myself. Even the various languages and alphabets as they are written- the delegation of equal importance and respect to each line, component, and meaning of each letter in each and every word they speak and write is absolutely fascinating, and humbling in comparison to the almost careless way we seem to throw our words and thoughts around a lot of the time.

In taking the time to sit and write them out, we are treating our own minds with respect, our own thoughts, however frivolous they may be, are being given the time of day they deserve and not hushed away in the back of a wardrobe or the ‘junk drawer’. This can be achieved no matter what language we are writing in.

Yoga For Self-Awareness

 Sitting with a new language and attempting to fully understand new structures, words, functions, and patterns is similar to sitting with our own bodies and listening to our needs. We slowly become more and more in tune with them; understanding the unique functions, strengths, cycles, abilities and limitations, the positive and negative reactions to outside stimuli, the huge spectrum of potential and possibility for this ever-evolving life-form that we’ve been given to power through a ‘lifetime’ here.

I don’t pretend to claim a clear understanding of all things body and mind and language-related and the vague sort of tenacious connection that I am now more certain than ever is in existence between us all – I’m merely enjoying the process of exploring it. I’m not expecting to ever understand it all, because that would defeat the purpose of the journey and of the creative exploration of what we’ve been given to work with. I can only hope to maintain an enjoyment of this journey, to sit with it, associating words and symbols and ideologies with different concepts and ways of life and language; with physical movement and accepting my body through yoga being a medium through which this change can work – a way for me to continue exploring it.

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‘Vietnamasté’ – On Why We All Need to Slow Down …

Why We All Need to Slow Down

Life today is so fast-paced and hurried that it’s easy to lose sight of yourself and what you really need in favour of what ‘seems right’ or what ‘everyone is doing’. If it means the next step from A to B will be easier, the majority of people will generally take the easy option and ensure the quickest escape and fix for what’s currently bothering them.

I’m not just talking from a backpackers’/travellers’ perspective, yet seeing as that’s the lifestyle I’m currently engaged with it makes sense to speak from this point of view at this present moment in time. This is another thing humans are guilty of – thinking that it’s not okay to change your lifestyle and habits to suit where you currently find yourself. Seeing as change is the one constant we seem to ever have in life, it makes no sense to cling to ‘the way you used to be’ or anything that ‘used to’ be a part of your life in general. Because of the familiarity, it’s often the easiest and most obvious thing to do to resort to it, yet we rarely stop to think actually, maybe this is not the most beneficial thing for me right now.

By practicing mindfulness, yoga, meditation, or even just taking a few minutes at the beginning of each day to reconsider, re-adjust, and observe your situation, it becomes easier to fully immerse yourself in the moment and your current state of being, instead of merely trying maintain something that worked in the past for the sake of convenience.

I regularly have to mentally remind myself to slow down, to not rush ahead to achieve things or arrive to places before it’s necessary. I’m a chronically early person, and this I feel reflects my tendency to anticipate and become apprehensive about things that don’t really matter all that much.

I feel a lot of what has been going on in the world recently reflects this exact inclination of humankind to rush ahead and try to solve issues without really taking any time to properly understand them or consider what options would most benefit them. Surely we are aware by now that violence only leads to further violence, the harshness and extremity of one groups’ actions generating a need and expectance almost for an equal reaction?? Why is it still happening that people are using violence to combat hate, hate as an excuse for lack of understanding, and premature movement and immediate responsiveness in a rush to solve issues that have taken time and many wrong turns to form into the catastrophic difficulties they have only now manifested as? Surely they will also take a similar amount of time to rectify?

While I don’t pretend to understand everything about the goings on of various political, paramilitary or otherwise groups who have been the subject of a lot of attention of late, I do understand that beneath all the violence, hate and unneccessary suffering there is an underlying confusion and general lack of understanding as to how this can all be allowed to happen. It’s easy to brush it off as something that doesn’t concern us when it’s not immediately phsyically affecting us, but the images, new stories, and panic of safety ‘check-in’ buttons being used online are enough to send even to most balanced and steady mind reeling and rushing ahead to assume the worst.

By slowing down and assessing the situation at hand and our own position to rectify or change anything about it, we remove the ‘panic’ element of things. It’s the same process I’ve employed since coming out travelling. If things have gone slightly wrong or awry in any way, which given the nomadic and changeable nature of just about everything in my life at the moment, I’d be stupid to not be prepared for, I now have comfort in the knowledge that I can deal with it, take a step back, and figure out another way around the issues that present themselves.

It’s a work in progress, and something that’s only ever going to be attainable by making a conscious decision to set a new and realistic pace for ourselves and our thoughts – one that doesn’t rush ahead, or assume too much, because in the end the only things we can ever actually know for sure are already here right now.

31 Obvious Things We All Know Are Important To Remain Balanced But Generally Tend To Ignore

Let’s face it: we all know the things that are good for us.

In some deep-rooted corner of our stomach or diaphragm, or wherever you feel your instinctive urges, we know that staying up that extra hour binge-watching Netflix is going to result in googly eyes until lunchtime tomorrow.
But still we do it, because it’s easy to give in to the urges and not think about the future in those terms—wanting to prolong the feeling of contentment as long as possible, and at whatever cost.
But balance is something that only you can find for yourself. Health service and medical advice aside, you are ultimately the only one who can know your own body and mind, feel your own emotions, hear your own thoughts, and heed what works and doesn’t for yourself.
Listening to your body’s needs and being able to heed them accordingly are two very separate things, however, and too often we let things slip purely out of laziness or for simplicity’s sake.

Sometimes it takes a subhuman strength of will to haul my mind out of the gutter of magical, idealistic thinking, and into the simple reality of what is. Because reality is simple. Here and now, right here, right now, with no thoughts preoccupied with the future or with the past, I have a sense of peace and serenity that stems only from my situation in this present moment, and only this present moment.
There are certain things and environmental factors which I’ve noticed help me to achieve this sense of self and make it more accessible in times of distress.

So, in order to further promote this balance and help myself return here when it becomes necessary again (because even the most balanced person stumbles every now and then), I’ve compiled a list of things that help me personally to maintain balance in the midst of mental, emotional, or environmental chaos.

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1. Rise early. You may not catch any worms, but you’ll certainly get a headstart to the day and a chance to spend some time with yourself and thoughts in order to properly be able to figure them out before the day begins.

2. Eat well. (An oldie, but a goodie.)

3. Drink water—this speaks for itself.

4. Get enough sleep.

5. Listen to your body.

6. Wear sunscreen.

7. Spend time with yourself.

8. Spend time in nature.

9. Breathe.

10. Read books while travelling.

11. Read books in bed.

12. Just read books.

13. Travel often. Movement is key to living—“If we were meant to stay in one place, we’d have roots instead of feet.”

14. Lock your door and dance around (bonus points if it’s in the dark).

15. Sit in a bar or restaurant alone, and enjoy your own company.

16. Drink coffee.

17. Write things down.

18. Write yourself well.

19. Stretch daily.

20. Yoga poses soothe. You know this.

21. Exercise to feel your heart beat in your chest—to feel and stay alive.

22. Indulge in chocolate.

23. Make playlists of songs that make you feel.

24. Do things that make your eyes light up when you talk about them.

25. Spend time with people with whom you can laugh and feel alive, yet who will also remain steadfast and supportive in times of need.

26. Feel your emotions. They’re there for a reason.

27. Take care of your body. You are the only one with the power to do so.

28. Wear what you’re comfortable in. Nobody (yourself included) needs or wants to see you pull up your tights again.

29. Cleanse and moisturize daily—physical freshness can help to have & fall back on in the case of an unexpected mental shift during the day.

30. Give your full attention to someone if they’re taking the time to speak to you—even if you’ve no idea or opinion on what they’re saying.

31. Wherever you are, be all there. Mindfulness and being present in the moment is one of the most straightforward ways to be at ease with yourself and situation, yet ironically is generally the last thought to occur to us in times of stress.

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!