There are times in my life, day, moment, when I feel strong and courageous - as though no burst of bad news or pain could radiate through the strong and capable shield with which I wield my world. And then there are days like yesterday, when the quote on my desk which reads "This is part of the creator's plan for me today - I CHOOSE THIS EXPERIENCE", make me want to vomit.
Yesterday, after finding out some news that I had not expected about my as yet unhealed foot (you can read about that journey here), all I wanted to do was pull the covers over my head. I wanted to put one of those adorable signs up on my forehead that you see mothers put up on their doors after giving birth which read something along the lines of "newborn baby and tired mother sleeping, please go quietly", but instead which read "fucking fragile, please don't speak to me, just hold my hand while I cry".
I felt lost, and scared, and incredibly vulnerable. A million thoughts ran through my mind, certainly not my finest practice of mindfulness.
This was not quite the post I expected to be introducing to you first up in the year. I had something else written, and planned, but life doesn't always go to plan. According to John Lennon, 'life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans'. Maybe you didn't plan to be reading this right now either, but here we both are.
I wanted to run and hide and become invisible. There was even a moment when I thought, briefly ... why? I have tried to rid myself of asking this question when things happen as it has proved relatively purposeless over the years and has, in the midst of a crisis, always felt a little like self sabotage-inducing destruction. Why?
Why does anything happen, 'good' or 'bad'? Because it has to. That's all.
I couldn't hide, and I certainly couldn't run. And my powers for becoming invisible are still being refined. So, like sitting in meditation, I was forced to see myself, and be with myself and how I felt in an incredibly vulnerable moment. It felt like that moment in yoga when you are doing an intense pose and you suddenly wonder why you came and practiced. You feel compromised, and suddenly overwhelmed psychologically and physically. You feel as though there is no other tool available for you in that moment, and then, you notice your breath.
So, in the midst of a public sobbing fit, I noticed my breath. And I began to lengthen it, bit by bit.
I took refuge in my breath.
Things have changed since I was in my late teens and early twenties, where I found refuge in binge eating, binge drinking, binge drugging, binge exercising and anything else I could self destruct with.
Luckily during this period I found yoga. A practice which helped me to stand inside myself and heal from the inside out. It steered me away from self destruction and towards self love.
From self love, I found love with another person, who I am lucky enough to be able to take refuge in when times are tough.
I took refuge in my children and their innocence. I came home and played with them without an agenda, just pure, innocent and joyful play. I recognised and surrendered to the reality that life is ever changing, as is so prevalent in their faces and the way they grow - and that all I needed to do in that moment was be there and soak it up.
I took refuge in happy memories of how soft my father felt to cuddle and how his big arms swallowed me up, the smell of his robe, the shuffling of his slippers on the tile floor of the house we grew up in. I took refuge in the decagonal shaped brush he used to use, and how the sound of that against his scalp was part of a daily routine that made me feel safe and secure.
I tried to take refuge in a piece of dark chocolate, but that really didn't work.
I took refuge in getting on my mat and stretching out, breathing and praying to the goddess Kali.
I took refuge in knowing that all in all, my life is pretty damn good, and low of stress, and that I am living out a purpose to help other people shine as brightly as they can.
I took refuge in the beauty of the world around me, and that the Earth keeps on turning without any effort at all on my part.
I took refuge in knowing that all things pass, that every single thing in this world is impermanent.
I took refuge in the realisation that I am not truly a refugee - I had not been forced to leave my home in order to escape war, persecution or natural disaster. However, all pain is relative, and when you area spiritual practitioner - your home is the body, mind and heart within which you live. And suddenly, mine had become unsafe.
We all need somewhere to take refuge.
Buddhists take refuge in the three jewels - the Buddha, the Dharma (teachings) and the Sangha (the spiritual community). When translating this into a meaningful model for pain and my own experience of taking refuge, I see how faith - and the paradigm of believing in something bigger than my little self, allows a surrender to the forces that are.
And this, is worth taking refuge in.
Take a moment to close your eyes and contemplate the following questions -
- What do you believe in?
- When things are tough, how/where do you take refuge?
- And if you reflect throughout your life, how has this changed?
It has taken me years of practice and discovery to create a body, mind and heart that I feel safe in. A place that I can take refuge in and feel steady in when the ground shakes beneath me. Some suggestions that helped me are exercise and food for my body, meditation and awareness of my feelings and how they affect the rest of me. For my heart, practices of self love, care and nurture. From this a community of friends have sprung up around me, who I can reach out to when I need refuge: these people are an extension of all the different parts of myself.
I will continue to practice and discover, because I know that by no means the news that I was delivered will be the only challenging news I will ever encounter in my life. To live is to take a risk. There will be many more times that I will seek refuge - and be a source of refuge for those around me.
Thank you to my beautiful family and friends for listening to me sob, and thank you for reading this.
My hope is that these words will too help you practice, and discover, whatever it is that you hope for and believe in.
KATE PIPPOS is a mother, lover, yoga instructor, spiritual growth story teller, poet, creator and birth Coach. She lives in Sydney with her ever evolving young family, discovering inspiration in the whisperings of waves that flow through her mind daily. Her mission in life is to cultivate and radiate inner peace, wisdom and compassion so that she can be an inspiration to her children and help build an even more beautiful world. She looks forward to sharing her stories with you, here, there or somewhere, but mostly in the space between our hearts. Follow her here: lovespirityoga.blogspot.com