At the start of Januarys gone by, I have spent a few hours contemplating my hopes for the coming year.
In 2016, I made the resolution that I wanted to be vegan and I mostly stuck to this, only eating vegetarian food when it was absolutely unavoidable. I also decided I wanted to feel grounded, glowing and gutsy over the year, which I did through the daily practice of meditation that grounded me, eating lots of veggies and exercising regularly which made me glow and the challenges I took on in my work-life which increased my feeling of being gutsy and a general badass!
However, this January I haven’t felt called to contemplate the year ahead and I’ve been asking myself why this is. Why don’t I feel fully ready to charge into 2017 with new ambitions, aspirations and intentions?
I think part of this is because I have taken so many courageous steps this past year (I felt a bit weird writing this – worried you’d think me big headed for saying I’m courageous – but I do feel courageous, so I’m keeping it in!). I’ve grown so much.
Perhaps I need more time to let the progress of 2016 digest before I ask myself ‘what’s next’.
Or maybe my heart is telling me that my intentions for this year need to be less about ‘what’s next’ – pushing forward – and more about solidifying what I’ve learnt in 2016…
There is something else ruminating inside me though that I wanted to share with you…a sense that the events of 2016 will be leaving their mark long into 2017. It doesn’t feel right to ‘start afresh’ when so many things are hanging in the balance – the impact of the UK leaving Europe, the fallout when Trump is sworn in as president of the USA, continued attacks of terror across the globe.
I have found myself recently thinking about people who lived through the first and second world wars as well as those living through the current conflict in Syria. On the turn of the New Year, I asked myself how these people could find hope for the year ahead when the outlook is so bleak. I suppose what I was really asking myself was how I could find hope when I feel such trepidation and concern about the future of this world. But while writing this post to you, it hit me – the two things I need are related to yoga practices I’ve heard about – effort and surrender:
“Effort and surrender are like two wings of a bird. Both are necessary for a smooth and joyful flight” John Friend (founder of Anusara Yoga).
When I’m worrying about the future – fretting about Europe, the USA, war-torn countries – I’m taking responsibility for something I have very little control over. There’s a beauty, and such freedom, in letting go of my need for control. Once I surrender to this very moment, I see that:
- Worrying won’t bring more peace to the world
- The concern I have for the world isn’t my sole responsibility to shoulder
- I have to trust that the good of humanity – love, generosity, empathy – will prevail
The best way I can explain this feeling of surrender is an unwinding of tensed muscles. It’s a physical response – I’ve become aware of just how often I’m in a state of tension, ready to fight or for flight – but also a softening in my head and my heart as I let go of the need to control everything and accept that the future will be whatever it will be.
I always assumed that to surrender was to be apathetic but writing this post has made me realise this is not the case. I mean, think of the surfer who follows the wave, knowing it’s impossible to surf against the tide or babies who, when falling, relax instead of tensing up and have a greater chance of survival through releasing themselves of any tension.
This is what surrender is for me, accepting where I am – accepting where the world is.
And in the same way, surrender doesn’t mean being apathetic or fatalistic about the future of the world, I believe that surrender gives us greater capacity to make an impact. I want to talk you through a few stories, lovely one, of how I have experienced surrender and effort.
I know I can feel apathetic about my body sometimes – when I feel sadness or shame about the wobble in my tum or the dimples on my bottom, it can sometimes be easier to do nothing than to commit to actions (exercise, working on my self-love, nutritious food) that will see me more at ease in my skin.
But if I surrender and say “this is my body, as it is right now, and I accept it as it is – I surrender to it” and stop fighting who I am, I feel less burdened and find greater peace and acceptance of my body at this very moment.
I can then freely make a choice that is unburdened from guilt and shame – I can either take steps to change my physical appearance or accept how I look (or do both!).
Both options take effort – working on loving myself or working on improving my health – but it takes me away from a space of criticism and stuckness.
I can also be fatalistic in my thinking about the world – let’s take Donald Trump as an example. When he won the presidential race, I felt so worried about the future of the USA and the impact it could have:
- Legislation protecting the LGBTQ community that could be repealed;
- Access to healthcare which could be discontinued;
- Victims of sexual assault feeling unsafe with a president who has so little respect for women;
- Individuals from corporations will be able to input into policies that will shape the future of the world
When I think about this, my throat and chest feel super tight and I’m almost paralysed by the future. It makes me feel helpless about what I can do in this situation which is out of my control.
But if I surrender to the reality that Donald Trump is going to be president and there’s nothing I can do to change this, I feel less tightness in my chest and I’m able to think of what I can do, right now, in this moment. I can donate to Planned Parenthood, which is under threat, I can engage more with the Green Party here in Brighton to protect what I can in the wider world and I can sign-up to the Blabbermouth Podcast to hear from some really well informed liberal Americans about the impact of Trump so I can take action when and where possible.
I hope this blog offering of mine today helps you in some small way to find the peace, through surrender and action, that I have started to find.