TRAVELING WITHIN: IY Teacher Spotlight Series
by Erin Fleming
What an extraordinary experience we have been navigating together! My heart aches from missing my in-person, face-to-face, heart-to-heart yoga community. It has been quite a ride, this Coronacoaster! I remind myself daily, this too will pass, though I wonder now, nearly a year into this life-altering event, when will life return to being safe, familiar, free, and, ok, I’ll say it, normal? But in the rush to return to normal, what parts of normal are worth rushing back to? How has this concept of adapting changed us? Who will we be at the end of this portal?
According to one definition, a portal is "a doorway, gate, or other entrance, especially a large and imposing one." My youngest sister first called this pandemic a “portal” last May. What a comforting one-word description, I thought. Naming it felt hopeful and finite. Then she sent me the inspiring words below from Arundhati Roy’s essay "The Pandemic is a Portal”:
"The coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to ‘normality,’ trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality.
Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks, and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it."
My intention is to travel into this new reality with a stylish rolling carry-on and leave the old steamer trunks of "no-longer-serving" behind. What is worthy to carry for the journey ahead, as the portal exit draws near, and what will I unload? I will be packing my spiritual toolbox and plan to use all the tools and jewels I’ve spent a lifetime collecting: mindfulness, grace, joy, gratitude, kindness, inclusivity. What will you be packing?
Throughout much of my spiritual upbringing, I have attempted to embrace what is here now. Clearly, some of the most helpful practices for a lifelong Seeker are self-inquiry, meditation, prayer, and the reliance on personal rituals. Enlightening answers are often just beyond evocative questions! Some of my favorites include:
Am I using this time wisely?
What lessons am I learning from this experience?
What else could all this mean?
Am I guided by fear or hope, isolation or connection, stagnation or creativity?
Am I contributing to a safer, happier, more mindful world?
Am I adapting or resisting what is here now? (Resistance is trapped energy, whether it's in your hamstrings or your head!)
How have I surprised myself during these last 11 months?
Am I focused on what is missing from my life or what I was able to add?
Where am I headed? (Ok, yeah, well right now...usually headed from my bedroom to my living room, but I'm making plans!)
So what can we tell ourselves? We can connect with our spiritual house, filled with comforting and grounding practices. As practitioners, we know it is essential to HAVE a practice before you NEED a practice, right?
A lifelong favorite....saying this 3 times (out loud when possible):
This too I can include! This too I can include! This too I can include!
Mantras and affirmations are timeless practices. Said to be a form of self-soothing (or maybe just mind-trickery), I am a huge fan of any assistance to remain grounded and grateful. Time-sensitive, positive statements remind us of who we really are so we can skillfully surf those unpredictable rolling waves of emotions...loss, grief, fear, and frustration to name a few.
I like the idea that I can talk myself off the ledge with select and mind-altering thoughts, and with awareness, these thoughts can evolve into feelings. Have you ever noticed that everything is a practice of patient management? And, yes, we have all had an unreasonable amount of opportunities to dig deep, to go to the well, to love the unloveable, to forgive, to rise above, and to be bigger than any situation, and then with the power of grace to circle back and return to gratitude.
So now is the time to see the light at the end of the portal! Are you counting the days until the world re-opens, and we can travel again safely? If yes, then join me! I have two amazing yoga retreats that have been planned in extraordinary detail and are now open for registration with International Yoga: A Yoga Journey to Crete in September 2021 & Magnificent Morocco in April 2022. So pack your bag and let the adventures begin!
Continued grace and gratitude,