new beginnings can be as daunting as they are exciting
Five ways to awaken your spirit
My mission is to help you awaken your spirit through movement and meditation; through tapping into your creativity and allowing your curiosity to blossom. The phrase ‘Awaken your spirit’ comes from John O’Donohue’s poem: For a New Beginning. For those unfamiliar with the poem, I’m quoting the first and final stanzas below:
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
I found this poem when I was coming to the end of my yoga teacher training and at a time when an abundance of possibilities lay before me. I was facing a new beginning and new beginnings can be as daunting as they are exciting. It was when I began to face these possibilities in a spirit of adventure and openness and when I continued to practice yoga consistently that slowly my anxiety subsided. I was able then, to share the joy of moving forward with an ‘awakened spirit’ I have found that these words resonate equally as strongly with my students.
What does spirit mean to you?
The word spirit evokes a sense of mystery, it seems to allude to something beyond us. Yet, in fact, our spirit is found at our very core, our very essence. It is this spirit that can get buried under the routine of our everyday lives. I believe we must strive to keep the wildfire of our spirit burning bright and strong.
What do you understand when you hear the words ‘awaken your spirit’? The dictionary (or in this case Google) defines spirit as: the non-physical part of a person which is the seat of emotions and character; the soul. Of course, it means all sorts of other things: the prevailing mood, someone’s attitude. The verb means to whisk something away secretly. It might mean all of these or something entirely different, nuanced and particular to you.
Open the door and welcome in intuition
I think we would all like to listen to our heart and still the chatter of our minds; to awaken our spirit of curiosity and adventure. The question is how do we open the door to our intuition and welcome in our ideas? How do we dampen the insistent voice of self-doubt that can make us turn away from the very things that make us feel alive?
To me, awakening your spirit, means to live with curiosity. In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert goes on to define this as choosing curiosity over fear. This is what I teach and practice in my yoga. This, and learning to get still enough to listen to my heart.
An eye in the foot
This month in my classes, I have directly been addressing how we might begin to feel comfortable with following where our our curious ideas take us and how this in turn awakens our spirit. Most specifically, this month, I’ve been leading my students to use their senses as a way to awaken their curiosity and begin to knock on doors that may have felt closed to them. Imagine for a moment, that you had an eye in the sole of your foot. How would that affect the way you walked in this world? What would your feet see? How would it be if you moved by feeling your ear lobes in space, or listened to the sounds around you. One of my students said to me, that she found the practice of checking in through the class to see what had shifted very grounding and it allowed her to soften around her own experience. That’s the thing, you see, to awaken our spirit, we need to show ourselves some kindness and drop our judgements and just listen.
Five of my regular practices
Yoga offers many routes to this awakening. I want to share with you my top five practices that keep me connected to my spirit.
Meditation - I find a simple mindfulness of breath practice really useful. I like to either count my breaths or feel the ebb and flow of my breath. Even 10 minutes of sitting quietly and following my breath helps me loosen my grip on all those crazy-making things that we all encounter. I don’t try to empty my mind, but I do try and stay with my breath and just see what comes up. The days I don’t quite manage to sit for meditation in the mornings seem to somehow unravel in the middle. This is not an easy practice, for all its simplicity, and it takes time - in fact it takes a lifetime of doing it, but slowly you will begin to feel its benefits.
Movement - You don’t need to have a formal asana (yoga postural) practice but coordinating breath and movement are an amazing balm for those times you feel you have lost touch with yourself. Walking, running, qigong, yoga asana all work as ways in which I allow the intelligence of my body to take over and open the door to my intuition. There are days, when I don’t get on my mat and for some reason other things take priority. Those are the days, when I’m really not myself. Our minds can often be the worst enemy of our spirit.
Spending time in Nature. Next time you find yourself out and about, make it a mission to note the five most beautiful things you see or the five most unusual places you see nature blossoming. Make this a practice for a week, or a month or a year. Share it, write it out, or remember it as you go to sleep. Does this bring you closer to spirit?
Writing. Every morning, I meditate and write almost before I do anything else. I find it a brilliant way to get in touch with what is going on. There is no censorship, there are no themes. Sometimes, I astonish myself with what pours out - often it turns into some massive to-do list, or some social awkwardness I’m agonising over. Other times, I feel a bit fuzzy or unfocused, but occasionally in the middle of a rant about the noisy pub down the road, suddenly, a pure germinating sprout of an idea will crop up, or a sudden moment of clarity. Try it - it’s not always easy to commit to, but if you are committed to awakening or meeting or befriending your spirit, it is worth taking the time on those things that allow us to make space for our spirit to speak to us.
Act and then Let Go - I’m being a bit sneaky here - because the letting go comes at the end of a process of self-study and discipline. I mentioned this in the point above, but we really can sabotage ourselves. The most effective way to continue to meet and serve our own spirit is to listen. In other words enquire deeply into what is right for ourselves and be committed to this. Discipline sounds dull but actually it is great - call it commitment or call it action but be dedicated to moving closer to what serves you. Then let go! We can drive ourselves crazy trying to make things happen. Do what you need to and surrender. You’ll be surprised by what happens next. I think this is beautifully expressed in the Tao Te Ching:
“He who clings to his work will create nothing that endures. If you want to accord with the Tao, just do your job, then let go.”
I’d love to hear your experiences. Let me know what helps you to awaken your spirit.