Posts

Truth & Unity: Lessons from Yoga & Travel

Yoga is the tool I use to clarify who I really am. Illusion, delusion and in-authenticity melt away in the fiery physical, mental and spiritual work, and I am left with an honest expression of myself. With continued practice, I cultivate sensitivity around this honesty and find contentment in who I really am. Living yoga unifies the seemingly fragmented pieces of myself, such as mind and body, which soothes cognitive turmoil about who I am and who I want to be. I welcome these realizations because as difficult, constant and often painful self-realization work may be, it leaves me cleansed, whole and vibrant.

Living yoga may have its painful aspects – it is painful to vulnerably admit that an idea or belief we hold is not true. Whether it be damaging self-talk, delusions about ourselves, or external stories we’ve woven into the fabric of our lives, living yoga uncovers these falsehoods. For me, it is not always easy or painless to admit I was wrong and need to work harder at staying in alignment with my passions and purpose.

Travel is the tool I use to uncover the truth about the world and my relationship with others. Prejudices, falsehoods and cultural stereotypes dissolve in the authentic experience of mindful travel. Adventurous travel challenges me to open-up to new experiences with equanimity and endless occasions to expand my boundaries.

Just as yoga has the potential to uncover truth and unify our inner world, travel has the potential to uncover truth about humanity and unify us with the rest of the world.

I believe that travel is more important now than ever to connect with people, cultures and stories. Just as yoga can be a tool to uncover truth and unify ourselves, travel is vital for challenging unquestioned beliefs and shattering the lines of separation between us and the world. If we can be vulnerable, step outside of our comfort zones and connect with people, we open ourselves up to expand our preconceptions and will experience a deeper connection with humanity. Suddenly, the folks that seemed so different on TV are right in front of us – there are no screens or walls to separate us from them – and our assumptions or prejudices are directly challenged. We might discover that we share the same longing for love, expression and freedom just as they do. We may uncover similarities in our fears and misunderstandings about each other. The divisive designations of “us” and “them” begin to dissolve when we connect to each other through our shared passions.

morocco-2

Similarly, with yoga, the gifts of truth and unity are abundant in travel. About 10 years ago, I had an opportunity to disperse confusion and fear around a culture and religion that was not understood by many, including myself. Misunderstanding and assumption created fear and before long, the divide was a gaping hole of separation and judgment. At a time when it seemed standard to fear Muslims, I had a choice to either continue my inexperienced assumptions or to uncover truth for myself.

So, off I went to study Islam for several weeks in Morocco.

What I discovered as a single woman traveling solo through a Muslim country was that in fact, Muslims are human beings going about their daily lives and businesses with similar concerns, passions and motivations as myself, my peers and every other human being I’ve ever met. I shared tea and smiles with an old shop keeper in Rabat over humorous silence because neither of us spoke a common language. This man was curious, kind and gentle toward me – qualities I work to embody in myself. Next, I learned about the progress of women’s rights over dinner with a sophisticated, educated woman in Marrakesh. She was divorced, shared custody of her children and held a government position. We talked about gender roles in Morocco and women’s increasing opportunities. Then I visited a mud-brick school that tantalized my false preconceptions about education in countries outside of the States, but the school yard was filled with smiling elementary students proudly exclaiming that they spoke 3 or more (sometimes upwards to 6) languages while I humbly spoke my one. Lastly, I met a nomadic Berber family in the Sahara Desert and purchased a handmade scarf from them. Their tradition of weaving scarves was an expression of cultural passion, creatively embodied by proud people, even while living in a nomadic tent.

When I returned from Morocco, I was more connected to myself and the world around me. I had uncovered truth, dispersed assumptions and shattered boundaries in my own mind. I discarded the fear, prejudice and confusion that weighed me down and clouded my perspective of reality. The work I put into uncovering truth through travel rewarded me with a freedom from separation and a new perspective to share with everyone. My adventure in Morocco was the first important travel I did – I say important because it was not about resorts, shopping or nightlife. The purpose of that mindful travel was to uncover truth within myself and unify me with the world around me. It taught me how rewarding and fulfilling it is to explore the world and experience other cultures.

It is how we apply these lessons from yoga and travel that enriches our lives. Sharing our experiences and connecting to more people is how we unify. It is through living yoga and mindful travel that we shatter our preconceptions about ourselves and the world around us and open ourselves up to a more meaningful, authentic life.

 

 

IMGP4375

 

Sarah is the October – December Yoga Trade Travel Representative! Sarah loves to explore herself and the world through the lenses of yoga and travel – constantly challenging herself to uncover truth and unity within and around her.

La Vida Yoga | Facebook | Instagram

Learning Compassion Through Yoga

As humans we all experience judgment. There are many times where we can be incredibly quick to come to a conclusion about a person, a place, or a thing – often based off of a first glance – and while we are so quick to judge others, we are even quicker to judge ourselves, making judgment seem like one of the hardest habits to break.

But lucky for us… we have this thing called yoga.

The more we step onto our mats the more we delve deeper into these judgments about ourselves and others. Through 5-14our practice of movement, breathing, and mindfulness we allow ourselves to become observers: observers of our thoughts, observers of our feelings, and observers of how we choose to react to those thoughts and feelings. Do we allow ourselves to get distracted, fall out in frustration, and feel shame for the lack of integrity? Or can we move through the experience with presence and mindfulness and compassion?

When I first started practicing yoga it was purely for the physical workout. I was recovering from a knee injury, I wanted to become more flexible, and I wanted to get strong – drop some pounds and get myself in better shape. While the dedication to a consistent, Vinyasa practice did help me to strengthen and tone and create more fluidity within my body, I started to noticed a bigger shift beginning to happen. Instead of rolling out my mat for a workout, I found myself rolling out my mat for a “work in.” My practice was allowing me to slowly break down the walls I had built up – the harsh judgments, the limiting beliefs, and the self doubt that I had been carrying around with me for so long. The doors of compassion were beginning to open.

It wasn’t until my 200-hour teacher training that I really began to understand what it meant to be compassionate towards myself. Thanks to self-inquiry and a consistent journaling practice I began to bring more awareness to my judgments and when and why they were showing up. During a practice, I would try to be mindful of when that harshFORGIVE2 voice would get loud, criticizing myself, another student, or the teacher. After the practice I would write in my journal, noting what judgments came up for me and reflecting on what I was feeling at that moment and why I was feeling that way. I began to see a pattern. I was way too hard on myself and in return, I was way too hard on others. I expected myself to be perfect and I expected others to maintain the same type of perfection. And many times I began to notice that the things I found to be annoying or frustrating about someone or something else were usually qualities that I seemed to hold as well…oof! That’s always a tough pill to swallow.

But one of the most beautiful things I’ve come to understand about compassion is that it can mold and move with us as we continue to grow. Now that I am teaching, I’ve begun to look at compassion through a completely different set of eyes. Because when you take on that role as teacher, you automatically begin to hold a space for others who are breaking through their own judgments and doubts and limiting beliefs. I wasn’t able to fully grasp what it meant to be compassionate towards others until I truly learned what it meant to be compassionate towards myself. And we’re not talking about the pity kind of compassion, but a much deeper kind of compassion, coming from a place that we are all one. As a teacher you quickly learn that everyone shows up on their mats for different reasons – some as light as physical exercise and some as heavy as to deal with death, depression, or addiction. It’s a reminder that we are all doing the best that we can with what we’ve been given and no matter how different we may appear on the surface, we all experience the same types feelings, insecurities, and judgments on the inside.

I now understand that compassion is the key to community and harmony. The more we practice bringing compassion onto our mats, the more we will see compassion showing up for us off of our mats. As we begin to loosen the shackles of perfection, we forgive ourselves for all of the too-quick conclusions that we have made. In understanding and appreciating both our positive attributes and our quirky flaws (because we all have them) we learn to understand and appreciate those qualities in others. In releasing our judgments and limiting beliefs we inspire others to do the same. So the next time you roll out your mat, I encourage you to ask yourself the question, “Where can I show myself more compassion?” Then allow the doors to open.

 

Headshot-WebRes

 

Cait Lawson is a RYT-200 and Living Yoga Ambassador currently located in Rincon, Puerto Rico where she teaches yoga, SUP yoga/fitness, and offers surf lessons and eco-tours around the island. Follow more of her adventures at www.sunburntandsalty.com.