I am a huge fan of journaling, intention setting, and seasonal check-ins in general. This last year I did not get the personal time I usually like to take in the autumn season to do a full review of my year, and so I am actually doing it right now, in the first month of 2016- and it is such a juicy process!
My personal practice with this is quite long and involved and includes focused personal sadhana, a lot of journal writing,some card pulling and prayer, a deep cleaning of personal spaces, and usually some burning of things as well.
While I will not share my entire process or all my personal insights here I though this year I would post some key reflections and commitments so that those of you who are part of my community know what I am working on this year, and where the impetus for that work comes from. As well this post is an offering of a template to inspire your own personal review work if you are called to do it.
I do this work because it offers me tremendous clarity and focus, and also allows me to actually get a sense of what I have accomplished and learned in the last year. When we have our heads down just living our lives we don’t always get the value of a larger perspective, which can lead to poor choices or actions that don’t truly line up with where we want to be going, and so this practice of putting the year in review can help us to stay on track.
My Key Word for 2015: Nourishment
This was a key word to help me stay on track last year and it guided many of the decisions I made in life, in practice, and in my business. I came into 2015 needing some deep nourishment on many levels and by prioritizing that in the last year I now feel I have built up some reserves in my tank and am ready for this next cycle.
My Key Word for 2016: Clarity
My key word for this year is clarity, and my focus will be on creating clarity in my work by focusing on my key offerings and letting go of everything else, creating clarity in my business by streamlining technology and creating strict boundaries around media and personal time, and creating clarity in my finances by looking sharply at the “true cost” of everything so I can make better choices about what to invest in and what to say no to. Supporting words for this year are Integrity, which to me means not only acting in Integrity (an ongoing intention), but also creating more integration between the separate aspects of my life. And Devotion, which speaks more to the heart of all that I do and brings me back to the overall mood or rasa that I want to flavor my personal sadhana, my relationships, and my work.
My Teaching Work:
What I learned: This last year has been a further clarification of the fact that at this point in my career I prefer to teach in environments that encourage both learning and committed practice. While I have the ability to teach students of all abilities and all levels of interest, I prefer to work with those who have a keen interest. Whether that is a keen interest in learning how to practice, a keen interest in refining their practice, or a keen interest in teaching yoga at a high level. These are my ideal students and these are the people I serve best. I know this now and don’t question it anymore.
What I let go of: Teaching drop in classes. Besides occasional subbing at One Yoga For The People (which is a studio I appreciate for the high level of studentship I have experienced there), I have let go teaching in a drop in environment so as to focus on creating programs that allow me to either foster more relationship with my students (progressive series, retreats, intensives, longer online programs) or explore a specific conversation in a focused way (workshops). This feels really good and allows me to bring my best to my teaching and I don’t see myself going back to being a drop in yoga teacher in the future.
What I am working on: Being a better teacher! Honestly I am always working on this, and it looks different each year depending on where and how I am teaching. But my main focus this year is on taking care of myself so I can show up as my best self, staying deeply grounded in my personal practices, and refining the hard skills that are so key to good teaching such as language and cueing, observation, and communication. This is endless work that continues to challenge and inspire me.
Running My Business:
What I learned: I need greater boundaries between work & the rest of my life. This has been huge learning for me in the last year as I have come to terms with the fact that I am now a teacher that must commute and travel for work, which is a big shift from the many years where I taught in a smaller local community. I now spend much more time in a car and on the road, and many more nights sleeping in hotels and not being in my own space. This also means my community has grown as I teach in new places, and along with the online courses I do I now get a huge amount of email and social media correspondence to manage each day. All in all this has added up to my life looking life this in the last year Work= 85% of all time and energy, The Rest of My Life= the remaining 15% that is left over. This is not sustainable and so a big focus of this next year is on creating stricter boundaries between the two so that I can bring as much of myself to my family and my personal self-care as I do to my work.
What I am working on: Boundaries! This looks like set office hours each day for emails and other work, turning off all notifications and social media on my phone so I only respond to stuff when sitting down and doing focused office work. Not taking my phone with me when doing stuff with my family. Not doing computer work on Sundays or past 6pm at night when I am at home, and letting go my unrealistic belief that I can respond to everyone immediately.
Personal Sadhana & Practice:
What I learned: I need daily meditation & prayer as much as I need food and sleep. With my life being busier and more on the move then ever I now realize that more than ever before I need to have an anchor of daily practice that is intentional and grounding in nature. This must be done before I engage with the outer world and before I start my workday. This does not need to be long and involved, but it must re-connect me to my deepest intentions and to the Great Mystery. Without this it is too easy to lose my way and feel burnt out.
What I let go of: Daily asana practice. I have been practicing asana intensely since the late 90’s and in the last few years as my workload has increased and my body began to show signs of repetitive strain, I have been looking closely at my relationship to asana. The truth is that at this point I do not need to practice intensely on a daily basis, though I always benefit from doing a short practice and moving my body in general, I now prefer to enjoy more intense practice in classroom or workshop environments. I still love the sensual joy of my yoga practice; I just need less of it these days.
What I am focusing on this year: Daily meditation & prayer, curious and engaged home practice of asana that is not depleting, making time to get to classes & workshops with my inspired peers so that I may enjoy the benefits of good company and explore my movement practice in new ways.
Relationships & Other Interests That Have Nothing to Do With Yoga
Besides the key areas I outlined above there have been numerous insights and challenges in realms such as personal relationships, parenting, and marriage. I won’t share those here but all in all it was a good year on those fronts and while I did manage to carve out 6 whole weeks this year to focus more on being with family, my primary aim is to be more present and available on a daily basis, not just on “vacation times”. As well there was still not enough time for nourishing relationships with my women friends and this needs to change. I know I am in the busy time of my life being that I am 40 years old, I am a parent, and I run a small business, and many of my friends are in the same boat. Yet quality time with the women I love is pure medicine and I want more of it in 2016, along with spending more time wearing dresses and perfume, and less time sitting in front of a computer or wearing my yoga clothes!
Perfume: Who Would Have Known?
If you know me at all you know I love to learn and often get obsessed with new areas of interest in which I love to dive deep. My love of herbalism and aromatherapy (a long time passion) led me to the art of perfumery this year and I am fascinated! And so my newest delight is to read everything I can get my hands on regarding the history and art of the perfume trade. I also love reading some of the plethora of fabulous perfume blogs out there as these are often a combination of beautiful writing and an invitation into the world of your senses. Below are a list of a few of my favorite books that I’ve read so far (fiction & non-fiction), and current favorite perfume blogs.
Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume
The Scent Trail: How One Woman’s Quest for the Perfect Perfume Took Her Around the World
The Perfume Collector
The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York
The Perfume Lover: A Personal History Of Scent
Bois de Jasmin is my favourite blog so far, I love how Victoria shares her love of scent, food & beauty here
Grain de Musc, another fave written by the author of The Perfume Lover
The Non Blonde: Beauty, Perfume & Fashion
The Great Wars on European Life
A key area of personal interest for me is anything to do with everyday life in Europe & the UK during the time of the Great Wars and in between. I think part of this is a desire to understand history (mine and my ancestors) as well as the effect of these pivotal events on entire generations of people. I am deeply interested in the way that everyday people respond to unbearably challenging situations, as well as understanding the depth of the trauma sustained by those that have lived through such things. Learning more about this helps me to understand my own family and the world around me better. While the amount of books I’ve read on this topic are too long to list here I will list some books I read this last year that both broke my heart wide open and helped me to know more.
The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived The Holocaust
Stones from the River (Burgdorf Cycle)
All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel
Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy, Book 1)
Winter of the World (The Century Trilogy, Book 2)
I hope you have found something of inspiration or of interest to read here, and at the very least perhaps it will help you to understand me more if you intend to work with me in the year to come. Life, work, relationships, and practice are all a work in progress for me, and in documenting this process I gain much insight about myself. Hopefully in witnessing it you may also gain insight into the unfolding of your own life’s work.
With love and respect and best wishes for a rich and meaningful year!