Saturday, March 03, 2007

What I learned while lying on my yoga mat this morning

One afternoon in Herat, originally uploaded by frida world.

This morning I had a lovely moment – a moment in which I saw how some things which had seemed separate from each other were converging in a wonderful way. I saw that what I am exploring and learning now (through yoga, through meditation and through my new art journal) is not separate from my work here. Instead all these things help face the challenges of this kind of humanitarian work, the challenges of working as a ‘helper’ in the context of conflict and widespread suffering.

Recently I emerged from a period in which I had been running from my own pain, districting myself from my own sadness. One day I realised that this sadness was not going away, instead it was growing. As long as I tried to avoid it I was not allowing myself to accept the feelings. One day I saw that I had to acknowledge it, and from there, with the help of my friends and family and many people who read this blog, I was able to move to a place of sitting with the feelings (as painful as they were). I came to accept my own fear, my sadness, my pain and my confusion. I took the time to learn what those feeling had to teach me.

Out of that process came a renewed commitment to being present in each moment and experience of my life, and a renewed desire to cultivate a practice of letting go of my sense of responsibility for the outcomes of my efforts. I made a promise to myself to put this commitment into practice through 21 days of a morning ritual of 15 minutes of meditation.

But there was something else, something that I hadn’t dared articulate until I was sitting on the couch talking to the Commander yesterday. What I finally admitted to myself was that I had emerged from that painful process with a much greater sense of detachment from my work. What I said to J was that I was no longer sure that my heart was in this job. I know that detachment is a quality to be cultivated, and that part of my letting go would be an increased sense of release from responsibility. But this felt uncomfortable to me – as though the pendulum had swung too far the other way and I was crossing that line between letting go and giving up.

Giving up my responsibility to act rightly, to act in a way that embodies compassion for others and that makes the greatest contribution possible to alleviate suffering and increase equanimity and happiness, is not an option for me. These commitments go to the very core of who I am and what I believe. So what should I make of this new sense of detachment?

Some answers have begun to emerge from an unexpected place, i.e. from my morning rituals of letting go. It is unexpected because I think I still confuse letting go and giving up. But I am learning.

I’m coming to the close of a week of practicing my new morning rituals. This has grown from my first intention, which was to sit quietly for 15 minutes every morning to practice letting go. Those first 15-20 minutes of quietness every morning are opening me up in ways that leave me with more to do with my morning before I am ready to jump in the shower and dress myself for the outside world.

Each morning has been a little bit different. One morning, after breaking my previous ‘time barrier’ and sitting for 20 minutes of stillness and release I was filled with a sense of joy and celebration. I filled pages of my journal with words that celebrated the things that I am joyful about in myself. I put Peaches and Herb on my iPod and for five and a half minutes I ‘shook my groove thing’, dancing gleefully around my bedroom.

The next morning I came out of my meditation feeling quiet and gentle, I wanted to draw with my new pencils and I wrote a letter to myself in the future. I told myself about my hopes and dreams for myself, explaining what I was doing now to nurture those dreams and (because this is what I felt) I told myself that I had complete faith in myself to live the life that I dream of i.e. a life that embodies compassion for others and that brings maximum good to others and to the world; a life filled with love, joy and laughter, with friends and family; a life that is healthy and balanced and filled with fun, adventure and creativity. My dance that morning was slow and gentle, stretching out the muscles I had worked so hard with my yoga teacher the night before.

This morning I decided that I was ready to start thinking about what my meditation can be beyond simply (and importantly) letting go of all the things I hold in my body. I dug out some CDs given to me by a yoga teacher in New Zealand. Wow, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect message for me this morning. The CDs are about bodhicitta – I won’t pretend that I can translate in one sentence the sense of bodhicitta that I got from the teachings I listened to this morning. The message to me was about cultivating a mind of great compassion, of wishing for all sentient beings to be free from suffering, and about cultivating my own enlightenment in order to be of maximum benefit to others.

Specifically for me, this morning, the message was about how we can allow more bodhicitta into our lives. The teacher talked about the need to stop running away from the places and feelings that scare us, the need to resist building walls to protect us from knowledge that is painful. She reminded me that I need to be present in those difficult and scary experiences and to be willing to allow them to renew my “soft spot”, to replenish my compassion.

I still don’t know whether the detachment I am feeling is a healthy equanimity or whether I have built up some less healthy walls to protect myself from the suffering that is all around me here. But at least now I know that this is the question that I want to ask myself.


paris parfait said...

Such a beautifully-written piece, Frida - quite poetic exploration of your thoughts and changes you're embracing. I think a healthy sense of detachment is essential to a degree in the work you're doing. Otherwise, you would worry constantly and never get any rest. It's why people working with victims (of domestic violence, war, particularly refugees) are told never to give their home phone number to their "clients." Otherwise, one takes on their burden in addition to your own. And to help others, one must maintain a strong sense of self and a place to get away from others' needs and problems. As you have learned, it's essential that one has "time out" from these challenges, lest we risk "burn-out." You are finding your way through these issues and questions and doing so in admirable fashion. Whether you know it or not, you're an inspiration to many people, not just those with whom you work! xo

Yoga Scott said...

You think very deeply, and it's good since it seems to motivate you to do humanitarian work and keeps you sane amongst all the problems and despair you encounter. Anyway, you might want to check out the Yoga Forums. Thanks!

Regina Clare Jane said...

Dearest Frida- this was my affirmation for today and I think it might be yours, too...
"I act responsibly and lovingly toward MYSELF and others."
sometimes I think we know exactly what we need to do and where we need to go- it's all a matter of being present to it. And things always look better in the light of day, Frida- as long as we keep things hidden in the dark, they still seem scary to us...
I am so happy that yoga is bringing you to a place of deep fulfillment and further exploration into what your heart needs and desires...

margaret said...

I see you fixed your banner, Frida. Good deal! Thanks for writng about tyour experience with burn out and how yoga is helping you. I have gotten away from doing yoga and you are inspiring me to go back to it. I also like the Howard Truman quote. I have posted it on my blog in the past as well.
Take care,

Anonymous said...

I'm fascinated by the process and by the change in your sound so much more at peace and sure of yourself! IA with Paris, of course...I think you are just learning how to navigate giving your best efforts without giving ALL of yourself away...which I am sure will make you a more effective advocate as time goes on.

Sophie said...

I sense you are trying to find
a piece of yourself to keep-

all to yourself. A sense of
play - a place for release -
which is the most healthy thing
in the world - will help you give
more in the end!!!

beautifully explored and shared -


Alexandra S said...

I'm just catching up on your recent posts and I want to thank you so much for that sweet compliment you gave me a few posts back. That meant a lot to me. I am so glad as well our paths have crossed. I find you a deeply inspiring and exceptional soul yourself. And thats such an important point you made, among many, that letting go is not giving up. They certainly are two different things, aren't they? I'm sending you a hug and so glad to be catching up on your life tonight.

daffa said...

miss frida, i'm so pleased that you are starting to draw. i love art as a form of release (though i'm certainly no artist) and would highly reccomend any form of creative to anyone!!

i would like also to throw something into the air for you. you speak of writing letters to your future self, and also, i believe you communicate with the universe every day. i write letters to the universe, and burn them to release my words.

from a "magickal" perspective, the transformational properties of fire, have an awesome power and effect on my dreams/desires/prayers - whatever you want to call them.

from a psychological perspective, writing a nice clear and detailed letter to the universe will allow you to put your goals and dreams into perspective. to psychologically prepare yourself to actually take the steps required to fulfill these dreams. the "ritual" (if you will) of releasing the words to the universe (for me at least) make the practice into a "gift" rather than a "challenge".

anyway, just an idea for you (though you may already have practices such as these. i also like to write messages on stones and throw them into the waves of the ocean - but we don't always have the ocean at hand, do we??)

i wish you all the best on your journey, and want you to know that i love reading your story!

susanna said...

You are certainly going through a self-reflective time in your life, Frida. I can only imagine what your life is like in Afghanistan but I can certainly understand the need to find a peaceful place within yourself when everything around you is uncertain. I'm glad that the meditation is helping you.

Sam said...

Thank you for sharing your adventures, vocation, dreams, hopes and fears. There was a time in my life that I wanted to be doing something very much like you are. But I let fear and uncertainty stand in my way. That time has long since passed. I am so very rooted to my spot on this planet. And am very much ok with that. Your blog though, takes me to those other places, and other people.

Life is a cycle and a circle. And we have to allow ourselves to move with it. There are so many ways to share your passion, keep meditating, especially since your mind and spirit seem open at this momment, and some answers will come.


Darrell said...

I love this post! It is my observation that many practitioners of Buddhism understand non-violence toward others but not toward self. I am happy to see you have come to recognize the value of honesty and non-violence when it comes to your own feelings. Usually when it comes to feelings of discomfort i.e. sadness, guilt, etc. we go into fight or flight but either option is dishonest and tiring. Using your energy to hold down your energy is tiring, i.e. supressing an emotion. I would like to offer that you see all emotion as energy, take the energy of laughter; if you hear a great joke you laugh and the laughter subsides, you don't keep on laughing all day. But with grief many have been taught to hold on to the energy of it by either supressing or wallowing in it rather than honestly experiencing it and respecting it and letting it take its natural course. You seem to have touched upon that. I congradulate you! Please consider your inner conflict is also a form of violence and you may want to meditate on why you are at odds with your self. If you like what I have written and you would like to share views on equanimity please write me.
Honolulu, Hawaii
Psychic/Psychic medium with Sedona Hawaii

turquoise cro said...

It is so sweet to dance! I must dance more often and I want to start meditating too, really being still. Thank YOU for your inspiration! and I want to pre-order Laini's book too! I am a Cro!(my name's initials!)LOL Wishing you more sweet dances! xo,Cinda

Laini Taylor said...

Sounds like you're really trying to nurture yourself, body and spirit, Frida. Good for you. It can't be easy, in the midst of such a violent and poverty stricken country. You can only do as much as your body and soul can take, and then you have to know when to let yourself stop, let a new wave come in with their untried souls and start from scratch. I think it must be an unusual character type that can take that kind of living for years and years. But I hope that you can continue to find fulfilment doing your important work, and take care of yourself at the same time, for as long as may be.

Immy said...

Hi M,

There is a book given to me a few years ago by a good friend which you might be interested, since you seem to be exploring buddhist ideas at the moment (among other things!). Its called "Going to Pieces without Falling Apart", A Buddhist Perspective on Wholeness, Lessons from Meditation and Psychotherapy. The author is Mark Epstein. I liked it because its a fusion of Western and Buddhist ideas.
You can get it on Amazon or maybe your next trip?


Caty said...

So beautiful Frida! I love your blog, I read it even if I don't comment always and I admire your work as well!
Thank you for droping by at my plac! :) Hugs