In Defense of a Simple Life

I can’t sleep. Up too late with thoughts running circles round my mind. It seems that life is moving faster all the time, each year, no, each month, swifter than the last. I can’t catch up. Here, in this culture where woman wear busyness like a badge of honor, I just want it all to slow down.

I an eternal optimist, I can’t help it, I try to be surly at times but to no avail. I always optimistically believe, despite evidence to the contrary, that I will have more “free” time, sometime in the near future…but sometime is never here. It looms, ever in the future, just out of reach, I could almost touch it if I just reach a little bit farther.

The ideal of the woman who can do everything is a crock of shit. I know this,I feel it in my bones. I know how marketing works, how swindled we all are. If it isn’t a fashion mag we are comparing ourselves with, its that perfect remodel on HGTV. There is no end to the cascade of false ideals dumped on our doorsteps each day. How can we know what is real amidst this storm of consumerist coercion? It insidiously creeps into our minds, thoughts we thought were our own, when opened for examination have no origin in us. This is madness. This drives us to madness.

I myself, am in a daily struggle. The desire to “produce” more, be it income, social capital, or even beauty. Weighed against the truth that I am tired, and I don’t want to play the game anymore.  I cannot hold it all up, and hold it to the standard that I desire to. Things begin to crumble. I cannot be it all, I cannot do it all. I feel this, and I am in a two income family with one grown child. What must this feel like for my friends with little ones at home and bills piling up on bills? Is this the equality we have been fighting for? Somehow it feels like we have missed the mark. “killin it” seems to be killing us.
And yes, of course this is a grand generalization, and I can only speak from my point of view. Still, I see so many women suffering under the delusion that we can multi-task our way to a picture perfect life, that it is time to pull back the curtain on that lie, expose it’s ugly underbelly and begin to engage in some real revolutionary work.

Could it be that in my relentless pursuit of becoming, I have lost myself? Lost the thread I am meant to hold throughout my life, the thread that William Stafford calls to us to cling tightly to? If this is what matters, and I think it does, what has to be sacrificed? What must I lay down in order to have a hand to hold the thread in?

There is this thing, called “too much” that surrounds us. We are so inundated by the cultural messages of acquisition that we fail to see how deep this patterning is. Peers of mine who eschew the commercialized ideals of the “American Dream” (who knows what that even means anymore) still ascribe to the doctrine of acquisition and hope, through a Hodge podge of progressive spiritual ideals that are in fact selling us the same thing. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. I am not above this, how many weekend courses have I taken trying to become a better version of me? How many crystals and smudges do I have right now in this very room where I write? Spiritual capitalism at its finest.

It seems that the only way to get off this mad train is to turn and face it looming behind me. To stand firmly in my two shoes and say “no more!” I am unwilling to trade growth for depth any longer. I am unwilling to sacrifice the sanctity of my life to meet some ideal that is not even my own. I will no longer be 3 miles wide and 2 inches deep, I want to be a  well, a spring,  dig deep and find sweet water, here.

I am learning to identify barriers to connection in my life, competition is one, perfectionism is right up there as well. What can I reclaim, or claim for the first time to bring sanity back into my life? I’ve been thinking on this and simple as it sounds, and not surprisingly, I think it has something to do with vulnerability and acceptance. If I can learn to see all the ways I am striving towards unreal expectations or doctrines, than maybe I can turn myself around. Connection is the antidote to bullshit, in fact,  I am pretty sure it is the antidote to all the woes of western civilization.

When I allow myself to be vulnerable, to show my multi layered imperfection, I am open to connection. I can have friends at my house that is messy, I can eat with joy and abandon without concern for what others think of my size or shape, I can speak my mind and heart, not tip toe around others. Which in this PC world feels like it is more an more necessary. Truly, it is not. Disagreeing with someone does not mean you don’t love them. In fact, differing opinions are a healthy thing, if we are all the same it is pretty boring out there.

So I am learning to be uncomfortable, to listen when the feelings of ” I need to be….” arise. It takes so many forms, there are so many things and ways I have been taught I need to be to, to  be worthy, to be accepted. It is a lie. I am, and will be, a whole healthy human woman, even if I don’t meet the standards, even if I look a little frazzled at the edges. I am taking a stand. Because you know what? No one else is going to do it for me. I am going deep, holy well deep. I plant my feet on this soil I call home and I will stay here. I will joyfully  grow my food, raise my hens, sleep beside my husband. I will listen to the quite yearning of my own sweet heart, and stay, home. I will, day by day divorce myself from the system that says I must be more. I am enough. I am woman,  I am home, and I am grateful.

Marianna Louise Jones

*image is of St Fumac’s holy well, Canmore Scotland







Body of Wisdom

I wake before dawn most mornings. Drink a glass of  water and take care of the animals. Then it is on to the mat for me. My daily practice of connection with body, breath and spirit. This is one of my life’s greatest gifts, and greatest challenges. Funny how those tend to go hand in hand…

I practice yoga because it provides a reprieve from the absolute insanity and unmanageability of my human mind. It creates some space around my personal self and the thoughts that cause the majority of my suffering in this life. It brings me a sense of freedom in my life….but first it brings up all my shit.  And I do mean all of it. My self worth issues, blame, shame, anger, disappointment, self condemnation. The list goes on and on.

Truth be told,  many days I have to drag myself out of bed, whining and complaining the whole way to my damn mat. I do not leap out of bed with glory and land softly and gracefully on my mat, I have to work just to get my ass there. I have to show up and slog through all of this suffering to reach the core of gold that yoga brings to me. I push through, following my breath. Transitions happening smoothly or not so smoothly, sweat beginning to wet my temples and the small of my back. Present in the moment, the only moment that ever existed, this now.

My body moves on my mat. I do not always love being in my body, my thighs feel too large, my belly heavy. My mind is usually quite sure that there is something terribly wrong and inherently unlovable about me. what am I even doing here? Shouldn’t I lose some weight before I practice yoga? Am I even allowed to practice in a bigger body? Am I a fraud? I come hard up against  my own inner critic. My mean girl is wide awake and talking trash.

I don’t give up, I don’t give in, I don’t even believe that harsh voice. I know  I can only live in love or fear, never both at the same time. And as I keep moving, the magic happens. It all starts to fall away. I lose pieces of my shame and blame. I breath through the self doubt and loathing. I welcome myself here, just as I am . In this human body. This woman’s body. This curvy sweet body. I am woman, I am whole, I am so glad to be here sweating on this mat! Then the joy comes rolling in It may not be there as I rise each day but it is usually there 20 minutes into my practice. I am ALIVE!

I have learned that for me, yoga is not about the shapes I can make. It is not even about shapes. It is about intuition, self mastery ,self love, and prayer. Yes, prayer. I pray with my body on my mat. I  AM a prayer of thanks and praise for all that was so freely given to me. My life, my body, this earth, all the love that holds me up. I pray to what I know not. I don’t think I have to know. I don’t think anything has to be figured out for it to make sense. It makes sense because my body says it does. It makes sense because I feel it.

Yoga is coming home. Home to my own sweet self. The wisdom of my body never fails to speak. It is only I who sometimes fail to listen. When I show up for myself on the mat, I seem to show up better everywhere, for myself and everyone else. Yoga gives me the capacity to be bigger than I thought I was, and own it.

This is why I love teaching so much. We come in through the body but we end up working on the whole package. Body, mind and spirit. The practice brings us into deeper knowledge of self and no piece or part of us is left unchanged. In teaching I get to see others start to realize this. I see students come alive in a new way to themselves. They are coming home too, to their own sweet bodies. What a gift to witness and to share. And the gift just keeps on giving. Day after day, practice after practice. The doors open wider, the heart opens wider. Freedom pours her liquid gold inside….magic.