Month: October 2015

the pace of joy

It struck me while on my recent cycling trip that there were two distinct and different styles of conquering up to 110kms of track each day. One style was slow and steady. No rushing, no significant breaks, no getting off the saddle just to rest your bum or knees and certainly no breaking any speed barriers. The other approach was sprint and recover. Racing forward no matter the terrain, pushing both body and mind, breaking more than a sweat and then indulging in a much deserved break before the next speedy leg. The latter group tended to ‘finish’ a bit more quickly, but both seemed to have a similar level of joy attached to their experience.

I started to wonder – is this an analogy for how we choose to live? I was certainly a sprint and rest cycler throughout the trip and in reflection, its the same approach I’ve taken to my career. I tend to jump in enthusiastically, racing at top speed, taking on massive scopes of responsibilities and keeping as many balls in the air as possible. And then . . . I frankly need a break. This could be a holiday, a career shift or even a move to a different country. My rest period can be a weekend or several months. And once recovered, I find myself itching to sprint forward towards the next opportunity.

I know many people who take a more slow and steady approach to their life. They tend to have a 5 or 10 year plan (!), they build up enough tenure to be rewarded with long service leave and they probably don’t spontaneously sell their house, move countries or travel overseas at the drop of hat.

I admit that I like the pace that stimulates adrenaline and seek the thrill of ‘new’  but I reckon there are places I could benefit from a more considered and consistent approach. Perhaps a blend of both paces will serve me moving forward.

So, do you know your own pace of JOY? Are you a steady traveller or speed demon? Either way, I’m a firm believer that reflection adds to richness.

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advanced joy

One of my amazing yoga teachers recently discussed the notion of being an ‘advanced yogi’ at the request of a student. He went on to share that its really not about being able to master the most challenging asanas, contorting your body into unnaturally appearing shapes, or even to be the yogi who can meditate for hours each day. Instead, he described ‘advanced’ as being able to complete a yoga practice without disrupting the central nervous system.

This makes sense to me. If you’ve ever been to a yoga class you’ll have seen a vast spectrum of students. Some, sweating away with laboured breath and seeming to forcefully manipulate their unyielding bodies into various poses. This typically is accompanied by a loud and unsettling series of noises. While other students move with ease and grace, flowing from one movement to the next almost without visible effort or obvious exertion.

Expanding this notion off the yoga mat, I’ve certainly experienced going about things with force and lacking all presence of grace. In hindsight, and often during the period itself, you know when you’re being incongruent to your very self and values. And the result? My adrenal fatigue certainly felt like the accumulation of too much effort and not enough flowing balance. So perhaps there is a bigger life lesson present in the words of this sage teacher. Maybe we can live a richer, more JOYful (advanced) life when we choose grace and don’t constantly push ourselves into situations that upset our central nervous system. I’m willing to give it a go!

abundant joy

Literally gasping for breath while pushing the pedals at 4,200 meters I was struck with the thought that just maybe there wasn’t enough oxygen in this thin atmosphere to fuel me to the top of the pass. Since breath = life I was beginning to wonder if I had misjudged this challenge. Later, at a lower altitude, as the light headedness and shallow breathing gave way, I remembered the fleeting thought and feeling of not having enough oxygen.

But of course, there was enough. In fact, there’s always enough. We can find ourselves embracing a mindset of scarcity where we’re not sure if we’ll ever breath, eat or perhaps even work again. This scarcity trigger can lead to grasping for more, holding on too tightly, consuming more than we need, and even manifests as blatant greed. The remedy? Perhaps its as simple as trust. Trusting that there is indeed enough – enough of everything we truly need in this little JOYful life of ours.

Now coffee on the other hand . . . there’s no need to EVER risk a caffeine dry spell. Always best to pack a traveller!

sinking JOY

I was recently able to visit a monastery in Tibet, birthplace of the 11th Dali Lama. Having incredibly fortunate timing, the monks were all chanting in unison as I entered their temple. Resplendent with Buddhas, shrines and thankas  I felt the familiar goosebumps of bearing witness to a sacred place. As I moved through the space I felt my body soften as the energy from the chanting monks filled my chest with endless vibrations.

An altar of butter lights caught my attention and suddenly thoughts of my Dad filled my head. Not long before his death he asked me a lot about Buddhism and the underlying principles. Being no expert, I did my best to share what I’ve learned and experienced over the years. Late one night over a camp fire he asked if I thought you could simply choose to be Buddhist. I liked this line of questioning and told him that yes, I think that’s exact how things can work in this life.

As these rich and nearly melancholy memories came flooding forward I decided to light a butter lamp for Dad and place it in the waiting pool of water, already full of floating beacons of light. I had no sooner lit the wick and was placing the lamp adrift when it suddenly sunk straight to the bottom of the pool, quickly dousing the flame. Ha Ha! All I could hear was my Dad’s contagious laughter  – erupting at the very notion of me lighting a candle in his honour in a random temple in Tibet.

The world does indeed work in mysterious ways and I have no doubt that my father’s humorous hand played a part in this JOYful chapter.

oscillating Joy

During extended stretches of cycling in Tibet I was often wracked with shooting pain across my knees. They’ve seen a lot of abuse over many daring decades and this final chapter really pushed their mechanical limits. Since the cycling needed to continue for weeks – I started watching the pain and noticed my varied reactions. The biggest shift always occurred when I became somewhat distracted. These distractions took many forms – an unexpected yak in my path – a farmer hauling her impressive harvest towards home on her back – villages full of smiling faces after offering them nothing more than a jovial greeting – bursting into spontaneous songs about trucks passing me by – and pausing in awe to peer over the clifftops we’ve just ascended.

It struck me that pain is manageable when it oscillates between chapters of pure joy. There is a lovely balance that can be achieved and once reached, we realise that perhaps we need the challenges of life to fully enjoy the true sweetness of JOY. So, do you know your triggers for joy? Can you sink into them fully? Are you waiting for them to take you by surprise or can you create them on your own? After all, impermanence is our reality – its all fleeting, both the highs and the lows.

When we experience pain its good to remind ourselves that this is an opportunity to see that we can be OK in the discomfort. Especially since we know that a new chapter of levity is just down the road.