News

Peace Whispering - 15th September 2018

There is no better time than now to commit ourselves to create more peace in our lives. Peace Whispering will show you how you can get more peace in your life and why it’s so important in our modern world.
Read more →

The Gateway to Living

Learning to live with a chronic illness involves finding joy in chaos.

I have been experiencing a tricky time recently, with a reactivation of symptoms, including my mental health, and the feeling of impending doom that is carried in the pocket of denial. Then last night I remembered that I wrote a book, in meditation, that was quite useful for people in this kind of crisis.

The chapter I read is called "The Gateway to Living", and describes a path and tools to living not existing that seemed to ease the angst I was feeling. It reminded me that even in times of suffering, we can choose to live rather than survive.

I offer the chapter, in the hope that it also will have some meaning for you.

 

 

 

The Gateway to LIving

Module 5 was the gateway to living rather than existing. It was now July and it was becoming clear my recovery was not going anywhere; in fact to the contrary, my condition was continuing to improve. Now I felt some obligation to do something with it and I had no idea what or how or even why.

However, my psychology was still in the mode of ‘existing’, even though I had given back my power chair and cancelled my disability allowance; in my mind I was still disabled.

In the medical crises of my life I had had an ambiguous relationship with death and through my mentoring with Andrew had discovered I was more afraid of living than dying, a little like the mortality version of being more afraid of success than failure (which I have also experienced). So now I needed to learn how to live, like a crawling baby learns how to walk – I think sometimes I still fall.

The reason module 5 was so integral in this process of learning to walk was twofold: firstly I felt like the practices worked on stimulating and unblocking the centre of dynamism and enthusiasm; and secondly it was the interim assessment: our opportunity to sit an assessment that would allow us to teach classes as student-teachers, if we passed.

The practices included action postures like the eagle, sitting spinal twist, warrior sequence and the cleansing breath, and as I practiced them over the next few months (and still today), they filled me with a strength and a courage to act as I had never experienced before.

The eagle locks at the base of the spine with legs crossed over and the thoracic spine with our arms crossed over, then builds up energy between using breath with the spinal wave and folding over from the hips. A few breaths in this folded, locked position, enables intense focus and stillness. Then in one graceful and powerful motion, unfold and unblock.

It releases energy into the whole body-mind complex, for me focusing on my dynamism centre and my heart.

Andrew demonstrated this posture in the module and I was in the front row. When he did the dynamic version, the unfolding was so potent that the person next to me screamed and jumped backwards a step and we all gasped. I am sure I wasn’t the only person in the room who wanted some of what he had.

The eagle has been with me ever since and whenever I perform this posture I feel such an infusion of power and strength, not to mention clarity and focus.

The sitting spinal twist is a posture I used to do with the television after Romper Room when I was three. I loved twisting my body into knots and still do. I first encountered it as an adult in Bellingen with a lovely yoga teacher who encouraged us to move our internal organs around, getting the twist in the lower back.

Learning the Dru version took the posture to a deeper level as I became aware of the twist as it moved up my spine, releasing tension gradually as each vertebra twisted around and the muscles around my spine released. Finally, to rest with my heart open was and remains beautiful. On return there always seems to be a sucking in at the heart.

This posture never ceases to make me feel energised and generous, while bringing a satisfied smile to my face. I have learnt, practice and teach a version of the Sitting Spinal Twist for anywhere you aren’t doing yoga (see Workplace Sitting Spinal Twist).

The Warrior sequence speaks for itself. Warrior 1, 2 and 3, together or in isolation, never cease to give me courage and strength when I think I have none. Somehow, even if my legs are shaky, I can relax into the warrior and feel strong; and if I am visualising, my posture becomes straighter and my head is held higher.

The cleansing breath just made my brain feel like it was in a brain version of a carwash – I so loved this practice I used to do it all the time when I first learned it (unfortunately perhaps too much as I strained my breathing muscles in the process). However, it did seem to clean my thoughts of some pretty limiting ideas of how I could live.

And, well, the interim assessment was a validation of my practice and my capacity to share this, perhaps more so than approval of my teaching skills.

I arrived at the module realising perhaps I had not done enough technical preparation. I knew the postures intimately and had visualised them, practiced them, read about them and written about them but I hadn’t studied them. And vitally, I hadn’t practiced teaching them.

After a little cramming with my yoga buddy, I decided to just do what I do in my head, but aloud, and hope for the best. For the second time in the yoga course (and possibly my life), I turned myself inside out and spoke what I had only internalised until then.

It was quite bizarre and feels vaguely pretentious, but strangely it felt comfortable; for those moments of teaching my ‘class’, I felt like a yoga teacher even though I was just sharing what I did in my head. I got the first glimpse that maybe I could do this.

Over the next few months, I started a small class and began to teach. I had shared bits with my maths students but now I started to actually teach full hour and a half classes.

 

Workplace Sitting Spinal Twist

  • Sitting with your buttocks on the edge of your chair and your spine straight and relaxed.
  • Breathe out and engage core stability.
  • Breathe in and lengthen through your spine, lifting your breastbone and raising your right arm to shoulder height (or your own comfort level).
  • As you breathe out, cross your left hand over to the outside of your right thigh and begin twisting you lower spine then middle spine to the right until your right arm reaches the back of the chair.
  • Rest as you breathe in.
  • Breathe out and use your arm to lever your upper body around into the twist a little further.
  • If it is comfortable, stay in the twist for a few breaths before returning to the centre on an in-breath.
  • Repeat to the other side.

This stretches the muscles of the back, and neck, opening the muscles of the chest, while massaging your abdominal organs and improving digestion. Fab on many fronts!

A Journey to Peace through Yoga, Lynnette Dickinson

Read more →

We Must Vote YES

We must vote YES!

The same sex marriage debate is not about freedom of religion or political correctness, it is about the recognition and validation of relationships between people of the same gender. And to live in the normality and humanity of these relationships.

I attended a beautiful wedding in Sydney on the weekend. The ceremony and celebration wasn’t a recognition of gender, it wasn’t a celebration of heterosexuality or the capacity to make and bear children, it was a celebration of relationship, commitment and love.

One of the witnesses to this marriage was my beautiful sister, who has been in a relationship with her partner and love of her life for over thirty years. This relationship has outlasted any of the heterosexual marriages in our family of five, yet is not recognised in our society because the two partners are female.

As a couple, my sister and her partner have both contributed energy, time and money to both their community and the community of my family. All my nephews and nieces have benefited from their generosity, love and support. Indeed, at least my children would not be the thriving children they now if it weren’t for consistency and love of Bel and Heven.

Among the No Vote arguments there seems to be a fear that legalising same sex marriage will endanger our children and influence them toward same sex relationships. Yet the anecdotal evidence from my own family suggests quite the opposite.  my children have been exposed to same sex partnerships and even attended Mardi Gras, and no harm has come to them.

In addition, none of the evidence from the Royal Commission into institutional response to childhood sexual abuse suggests people in same sex relationships are responsible for harming children. In fact, the opposite. It appears some of the institutions with strong No Vote stances have been implicated in harming children rather than protecting them.

Another No Vote argument is that de-facto relationships have the same rights as legalised marriages, so why can’t people in same sex relationships be satisfied with common law status. Sadly, this is not the case and even if it was, the logic is still flawed - if we are content to extend the right of common law then why not extend the full protection of legal status.

People in de-facto relationships do not have automatic partner transfer when one of the partners is transferred for business; and there is a much greater burden of proof in legal matters of social security, insurance, superannuation and legal guardianship in palliative and chronic care decisions, as well as death certificates and the honouring of wills.

When my sister came out to me she felt nervous about my reaction, and even more nervous when she came out to my parents. What I will never understand is why anyone should have to go through this potentially humiliating process to simply be themselves and love who they love.

My sister and her partner are not outliers. Through her friends and my own, I have met and shared many long-term friendships with same sex couples in stable relationships that were worthy of full validation and recognition. Beyond relationship every individual, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation, should be afforded dignity, recognition and respect.

Our brothers and sisters, daughters and sons, fathers and mothers need to be shown their love is equal, natural and valid. Legalising same sex is the next step along this path. That’s what the same sex marriage debate is about and that’s why we should vote YES!

 

Read more →

Golden Moment

Crisp air, sunshine, green grass, vegemite and apple sandwich on fresh white bread, freshly squeezed orange juice, … and my mother. I was the youngest, smallest, sickliest, runt of five children in a family in chaos and this was precious time alone with my mother with mental illness, who I had mostly experienced as not present. And the reason for this precious time was yet another bout of bronchitis.

I was a young child but this was already a recurring illness that had begun at the age of two with pneumonia. I cherished this space from the outside world, which already seemed scary, and this feeling of being nurtured and loved. Until recently there have been very few moments in my life to rival this exquisite golden moment of love.

What followed was a pattern; an internal battle between wanting to be strong to keep up with my siblings, to ’show them’, and being sick. Bronchitis became asthma, a near fatal tick poisoning at 11, back pain, depression and anxiety, endometriosis, poly-cystic ovary syndrome, dangerous births and finally Multiple Sclerosis. I developed an identity as a ‘sick person’, that was my place in the order of life.

All this illness was woven with rowing, sailing, tennis, dancing, walking, natural birth, and, and, and … to prove I wasn’t the runt of the litter, any litter not just my family. I felt a defiant independence that waxed with a crippling emotional dependence. A desperate need to be different and an equally desperate need to be loved. It was a rollercoaster, perhaps a physical expression of my mother’s bipolar disorder.

And underneath this physical battle lurked the increasing feeling of madness. A guilty secret that I couldn’t tell anyone, not even myself. My cover was arrogant calm, a demeanour that kept people at a distance, and a personal identity of a sick person who was doing her best. This madness manifested with my family, when I was premenstrual, post-natal anxiety that lasted long after the birth of my children and finally, clinical depression.

Yes, I had MS, yes, I was in a wheelchair, yes, my marriage was dissolving and I was facing an uncertain future but really, I had just run out of cover. I had exhausted my energy to not be mad, and I was in the open and exposed. This is where healing began.

As I reflect on my life, I can see the reality in the story. My illnesses were all diagnosed in the evidence-based medical world; I have brain scans, blood tests, ultrasounds, surgeries, hospital records and reports, there have been real traumas. Yet I can also see the story in the reality, they are inextricably entwined.

The story gave me an identity when I felt lost but it also interfered with my healing. I didn’t know how to be well. It also caused me inexplicable guilt; that I may have caused my illness or that it really may not have been real, that I have caused my own suffering and the suffering of my children.

While the reality has caused me pain, disability and disadvantage. And as I have travelled my healing journey I have swung between addressing the reality of physical illness and addressing the story of my mental and emotional identity.

I am now understanding that the key to my own healing, and possibly healing more generally, is to embrace the wholeness of my experience of life, in the cultural context I have grown. It is not reality or story, physical or mental, physical or emotional, physical or spiritual, it is ‘and’ – reality and story, physical and mental and emotional and spiritual healing.

I am learning the importance of progressing my whole self and embracing the technologies, both ancient and modern, that are available in a modern western culture. We are embodied, social beings who experience life emotionally and mentally. We have histories that bring us both suffering and joy, and impact on our relationship with ourselves and the world around us.

Disruption to any aspect of our whole results in disruption to the whole hence healing requires a holistic approach. Healing the whole is what I bring to my students and clients. I have learned that the reality and the story are not independent, and there is no ‘wrong’ in this interlinking, it just is.

If we can remove fear and guilt from reality and story, we can allow both to be seen in their totality, with kindness and compassion.  The issues that are exposed by this gentle awareness can then be addressed, limiting wrongness and guilt, and ultimately reducing suffering.

For example, a client who has been suffering a chronic condition for three years will have grown an identity around being chronically ill. Without awareness, this identity may interfere with healing and create confusion and further suffering. With gentle, non-judgmental awareness she can notice the expression of this identity and manage her choices accordingly. Consequently, her whole being moves along the healing journey, with congruence across all layers of experience.

My golden moment of feeling nurtured in the context of suffering was formative. For a long time I thought the lesson was to seek nurturing through suffering but now I understand the lesson is to look for joy and peace in the context of suffering. This is what I share with my students and clients.

My journey has taught me to understand the importance of care in the world of healing. The intersection of reality and story and the need to yoke all the layers of our experience into one intertwined peace – yoga.

Lynnette Dickinson is the author of A Journey to Peace through Yoga, and teaches yoga, relaxation and meditation in Canberra and via Skype or phone. Classes, personalised programs and yoga therapy. Visit www.splendouryoga.com. Listen to Lynnette telling her story click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2, and be inspired.

Read more →

The possibility of not being perfect


Sometimes life isn’t perfect. Sometimes life just is and that’s enough.”
A Journey to Peace through Yoga
Lynnette Dickinson.

Surrender to what is and what follows is joy.”
A Journey to Peace through Yoga
Lynnette Dickinson.

I wrote these two quotes just over seven years ago, in the closing stages of writing my book, and they remain the deepest lessons of my journey with chronic illness and life, generally. Yet even after the revelations I shared in my book, the pursuit of perfection and my shortfall has remained a constant theme in my life, until recently.

A couple of weeks ago I created the possibility of “not being perfect”, and it began a domino effect that has returned my attention to these two statements. The difference this time was paying attention to the question “what was I making wrong?”, and the subsequent question, “what if it wasn’t wrong?”

As I sat in the aeroplane feeling the symptoms of an oncoming MS exacerbation on my way to a skiing holiday, and I found the tension in my body and my mind. I relaxed my breathing and watched, allowing what was there to be revealed, with the question of what was I making wrong.

I saw the pride I had felt in the past when I had flown without getting an MS exacerbation. I also the saw the quiet hidden battle I had been internally waging to be well, to seem well. Underneath the emotions of pride and tension I noticed a cell of MS fear. I noticed the objections to this fear, ‘but I thought I had dealt with that’, I shouldn’t be feeling that’. I noticed the pressure this created within my being.

I noticed the feeling of being a burden, to my partner, my children and my family. I also noticed the accompanying push I felt to compensate for being a burden. I noticed the pressure this created for myself and the environment of stress it created for the people close to me, the reactions that were unexplainable to those who didn’t know the battle I was waging.

I noticed that I was subtly making my whole experience of MS, wrong. I was doing an admirable job of ‘trying’ and ‘managing’, using my tools of meditation and acceptance to maintain a level of peacefulness, while experiencing the inner tension of ‘wrong’.

So, what if it was all ‘not wrong’? well, for a start I could see the emotions and reactions and the fear. Like hiding children, who think they have done something wrong, my reactions started to come out of hiding when they realised they weren’t wrong.

Once they were out of hiding I could hold the fear and tension in loving compassion, and the tension melted away.

And then with the clouds of reaction cleared away there was a fact of scars on my brain consistent with a demyelinating process and the symptoms associated with these scars. This physical fact was just sitting there with no meaning or emotion. What if MS wasn’t wrong?

Another wave of relief and relaxation washed over my mind. Yes, it creates considerations and management but if it wasn’t wrong it just sat in the realm of project management, not suffering. My survival is not heroic but project management. X happens, we have these choices, we choose this one and y happens.

What if I am not a burden? What if it is just something my partner and I manage, together? What if my children and my siblings have the experience they have, and I offer love not compensation? Well, so far what happens is ease and laughter, perhaps even joy.

In practical terms on the aeroplane en-route to a NZ skiing holiday, this involved speaking to the staff, arranging a wheelchair for Queenstown and adjusting skiing expectations – I may or may not ski this week, I may not even walk. I accept all assistance offered, we negotiate customs, luggage and car hire, and drive to our accommodation, all with ease and laughter. No embarrassment or face saving, just what is. Not perfect, not wrong - Facts not suffering. And such a relief.

So, back to the beginning and the quotes I wrote seven years ago, with quiet awareness of the things we make wrong, compassion for the things we have made wrong and the knowledge of the possibilities of not wrong.

Imagine what would be possible if we approached the problems of our lives and our societies with the possibilities of ‘not perfect, compassion, not wrong’.

Practically, we might be able to approach criminal justice from the perspective of compassion and rehabilitation. We might be able to approach education, health, mental health and trauma with ‘is’, rather than not perfect or wrong. Our solutions can be pragmatic, rather than reactionary and loaded with suffering.

Emotionally, we might be able to bathe ourselves and each other with compassion. The result might just be bubbles of peace and joy, the lived expressions of love.

Lynnette Dickinson is the author of A Journey to Peace through Yoga, and teaches yoga, relaxation and meditation in Canberra and via Skype or phone. Classes, personalised programs and yoga therapy. Visit www.splendouryoga.com. Listen to Lynnette telling her story click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2, and be inspired.

Read more →

Better than my meds

“I feel so relaxed. This is better than my meds and my medication is anti-psych meds. Honestly. Wouldn’t it be great to do this every night after a shower then go straight to bed?”

This was a quote from a beautiful indigenous woman after coming out of a trauma-sensitive yoga class, and smiling from ear to ear. The woman has deep trauma stored in her body and was suffering significant toothache, at the time of the class. It was her first yoga class, ever.

This woman’s surprise was an echo of many reactions I have witnessed during my nearly ten years teaching therapeutic yoga to people in crisis – the shock of feeling relaxed. It is the same shock I felt the first time I experienced peace.

Growing up feeling anxiety and fear, and an adult life of chronic illness and crisis, meant that I was constantly in a state of tension. When I finally experienced moments of peace it felt extraordinary and then when I relaxed during a guided relaxation, I remember thinking, “ahhh that’s what everyone’s been talking about.”

It was these experiences that inspired me to become a yoga teacher. I was still in my electric wheelchair and didn’t expect to walk again but I felt compelled to share the power of meditation with other people in crisis. We can transcend our circumstances, even if just for a moment.

Yet it wasn’t until this moment teaching trauma sensitive yoga in Sydney, that my experience and my students’/clients’ experiences all clicked into a deeper understanding of trauma. These women, other students and clients, and myself, we didn’t even know what if felt like to relax, let alone how to achieve relaxation.

We didn’t know it was possible to alleviate our suffering, in a wholesome way. I recognised the look in my students’ eyes that day in Sydney because I had felt the same incredulity – “I didn’t know it was possible to feel like this”.

I feel humbled by the power of this work and the courage of these women and men, who are trying so hard to transform their lives. Just turning up is an act of courage and we need to respond with compassion that includes practical empowerment.

Trauma, regardless of its cause, interferes with the development and function of our brains. Sustained trauma, particularly if experienced as a child, can leave permanent damage to cognitive skills and function.

As an adult, we may forget how to carry out basic functions of living, like budgeting, paying bills, self-organisation and nutrition. And as a child, we may never have learnt these pathways. And regardless of the age of onset, people who are surviving trauma may not know it is even possible to alleviate their own suffering without substances, violence or other addictions.

 

If somebody has been traumatised they need to learn how to experience happiness, safety and self-worth. These are not skills that come naturally to a victim of trauma and without them, there is the ongoing risk of self-harm.

Fear is the baseline for a person experiencing PTSD, and this creates a permanent state of crisis in their body, emotions and mind. Crisis reduces an individual’s capacity for strategic thought, concentration and perspective, as well contributing to anxiety and depression, feeding into a myriad of physical health problems.

Anecdotal evidence from the work I have been doing with survivors of trauma, suggests that derailing this state of crisis enables individuals to make better decisions about their own lives and their relationships with the people around them.

People who are transitioning into the community, whether it be from prison or trauma or both, need to be supported across a range of skills to prevent recidivism and/or sliding back into drug addiction and/or mental illness. What this means is guiding people through skills for life, which reduces their ongoing dependency on community services.

When we teach people organisational and budgeting skills we teach them how to manage the material aspects of life. When we teach nutritional and cooking skills we teach them how to feed themselves. And when we teach them how to relax through tools like yoga and mindfulness, we are teaching tools to manage their mental health.

Interventions such as budgeting, personal organisation, cooking and yoga empower people to live more functional lives.

And while I’m not naïve enough to suggest that one yoga class will heal the world, it is possible that an ongoing integrated holistic approach to rehabilitating people who have experienced trauma, might change their neurobiology from crisis to love.

Imagine a world where people who are survivors of trauma are taught how to live again, or in some cases for the first time   Imagine a world where they are taught how to feel safe, relaxed and loved. A world where they and we all have a place.

This is a world I want to be part of creating.

Lynnette Dickinson is the author of A Journey to Peace through Yoga, and teaches yoga, relaxation and meditation in Canberra and Sydney, and via Skype or phone. Classes, personalised programs and yoga therapy. Visit www.splendouryoga.com. Listen to Lynnette telling her story click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2, and be inspired.

 

 

Read more →

A Prayer for Peace

“May all beings be at peace.
May we all live in the true peace of our own hearts.”

I say these two lines at the end of every class yoga and meditation class I teach and every therapy session. It is an invitation to my students to find peace in their hearts and a wider invitation to humanity to live in the peace present in all our hearts.

It is a simple prayer but always engenders a sense of peace and connection within my own ecosystem. These two lines give me hope and remind me of my own power when I feel hopeless and powerless.

It also reminds me that we are all united in our search for meaning and our search for peace and happiness. I believe even those now on the path of terror began on a search for peace, a sense of belonging.

In the wake of the last few weeks of terror related violence in the UK and the ongoing violence around the world, I have felt despondent and powerless. And then I repeat these simple words and am reminded that my greatest power is in my own state of mind and how I relate to my community.

This personal responsibility remains unchanged by acts of violence in the world. I have felt the temptation to become fearful, felt the lure of hate, and then I remember. We all have a choice to live in fear or love, to choose the kind of community we want to live in and be that community, ourselves.

this prayer for peace reminds me of my choice to navigate my choices by the love and peace in my heart. It reminds me that love and peace are an internal state, not given or dependent on the external world. It reminds me of my own journey from fear to love, that continues to enable the life I now live.

I offer you this prayer as an invitation to find the peace resting in your heart and continue your own journey from fear to love.

The practice

  • Make yourself comfortable.
  • Take a few minutes to allow your breath to settle, noticing your breath in your nostrils and the rise and fall of your chest.
  • If you feel comfortable, allow your eyes to softly close, otherwise direct your eyes downward and soften your gaze, and your hands rest in your lap.
  • Repeat, “May all beings be at peace.
    May we all live in the true peace of our own hearts.”
  • Take a few moments to rest in the stillness that follows.
  • Gently return to your life and notice the difference.

Repeat this practice when you feel anxious or fearful, as many times a day as you need.

As one of the many great peacemakers of modern times, Gandhi, said,
“be the change you want to see in the world”.

 

Lynnette Dickinson is the author of A Journey to Peace through Yoga, and teaches yoga, relaxation and meditation in Canberra and via Skype or phone. Classes, personalised programs and yoga therapy. Visit www.splendouryoga.com. Listen to Lynnette telling her story click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2, and be inspired.

Read more →

A Prayer for Peace

“May all beings be at peace.
May we all live in the true peace of our own hearts.”

I say these two lines at the end of every class yoga and meditation class I teach and every therapy session. It is an invitation to my students to find peace in their hearts and a wider invitation to humanity to live in the peace present in all our hearts.

It is a simple prayer but always engenders a sense of peace and connection within my own ecosystem. These two lines give me hope and remind me of my own power when I feel hopeless and powerless.

It also reminds me that we are all united in our search for meaning and our search for peace and happiness. I believe even those now on the path of terror began on a search for peace, a sense of belonging.

In the wake of the last few weeks of terror related violence in the UK and the ongoing violence around the world, I have felt despondent and powerless. And then I repeat these simple words and am reminded that my greatest power is in my own state of mind and how I relate to my community.

This personal responsibility remains unchanged by acts of violence in the world. I have felt the temptation to become fearful, felt the lure of hate, and then I remember. We all have a choice to live in fear or love, to choose the kind of community we want to live in and be that community, ourselves.

this prayer for peace reminds me of my choice to navigate my choices by the love and peace in my heart. It reminds me that love and peace are an internal state, not given or dependent on the external world. It reminds me of my own journey from fear to love, that continues to enable the life I now live.

I offer you this prayer as an invitation to find the peace resting in your heart and continue your own journey from fear to love.

The practice

  • Make yourself comfortable.
  • Take a few minutes to allow your breath to settle, noticing your breath in your nostrils and the rise and fall of your chest.
  • If you feel comfortable, allow your eyes to softly close, otherwise direct your eyes downward and soften your gaze, and your hands rest in your lap.
  • Repeat, “May all beings be at peace.
    May we all live in the true peace of our own hearts.”
  • Take a few moments to rest in the stillness that follows.
  • Gently return to your life and notice the difference.

Repeat this practice when you feel anxious or fearful, as many times a day as you need.

As one of the many great peacemakers of modern times, Gandhi, said,
“be the change you want to see in the world”.

 

Lynnette Dickinson is the author of A Journey to Peace through Yoga, and teaches yoga, relaxation and meditation in Canberra and via Skype or phone. Classes, personalised programs and yoga therapy. Visit www.splendouryoga.com. Listen to Lynnette telling her story click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2, and be inspired.

Read more →

On becoming a ‘finder’

I am about to write the most radical and dangerous blog I have ever written. It is so dangerous that I have paused, walked around the room, considered a sudden urge to go to the toilet, sat back down and paused again (twice), mid-sentence.

I am currently experiencing a period of unprecedented happiness and completeness. Not only am I happy but I feel worthy and wanted, and I am deeply satisfied with what I am doing in life. I have discovered I am genuinely good at something, maybe even more than one thing. And I am very proud of what I am doing with the thing I am good at. I am authentic and have integrity.

Even more radical, I have fallen in love with my face…my 51 year-old face, with wrinkles and chin hair and sparkly grey streaks in my hair. I have also become very fond of my body. I love the roundness of my belly and hips, and the slight sag in upper arms and breasts. I look at my body and I see a woman and I really like being a woman.

And spiritually, I no longer feel like a seeker. It is not that I consider myself enlightened or a guru, it is simply that I have a deep sense that that which I have been seeking is actually within myself. Furthermore, the tools required to realise this, I already have – my breath and my intention.

I feel whole and happy. I would never have said this before, despite having experienced moments of contentment or peace. Now there are some indicators that this is the real deal rather than a moment.

For example, when the habitual thought patterns of self-criticism  occur, as they did in a trauma-sensitive yoga class yesterday, I can hold them compassionately from a distance rather than disappearing down the rabbit hole and becoming them. The criticisms disappeared and didn’t return.

Another example is that when I look in the mirror, I smile at myself, not because I am typically beautiful but because I am me and I like me. I see my smiling eyes not my flaws and there isn’t the slight anxiety about my appearance. This is so lovely.

Ten years ago, almost to the day, I declared to myself that I wanted to learn how to learn how to live in the peace I experienced in meditation and teach this to other people in crisis. Then I was in a wheelchair, being bathed and on antidepressants. Now I ski, bathe myself and occasionally take Panadol for migraine. Put quite simply my yoga practice saved my life and my family.

When I work with my 80-odd students and clients each week, I do so from a place of authenticity and integrity. I am speaking and living my truth, in the knowledge that I am serving the people I set out to serve, ten years ago, while I was still in a wheelchair.

Today I listened to recordings of relaxations and meditations I delivered to these classes, and for the first time I could listen to my voice and my work without cringing. Not only could I listen but the quality of these practices landed. I am good at this.

This is radical and dangerous because in our society we are not brought up to like ourselves. We are not brought up to believe in ourselves. We are not brought up to know our own minds or hearts or worth. We are strangely not brought up to feel content, satisfying or happy, within ourselves.

We are brought up to seek our sense of ourselves from outside of ourselves, counter intuitive. We are desperate to be completed by our loved ones, approved of by…well everyone. and most insidious of all, if we find ourselves good at something, let alone complete and happy, we must not tell anyone lest people think we are wankers or frauds. In fact, I feel guilty and nervous for declaring my happiness.

Our whole society, from cosmetics to real estate to education, health, religion, personal development industries and everything in between teaches us to be seekers of happiness not finders. And the paradox of seeking is that we are always looking out and to the future.

To quote Petrea King, “the, ‘I’ll be happy when…’ syndrome”. We are trained to be discontent and dissatisfied.

Here’s the thing. If enlightenment is a thing, if freedom and happiness are attainable, and I believe they are, then why not in this lifetime, why not now and why not you, within yourself? And If it is possible to be free and live in peace then throw out the rulebook and give yourself wholly to the task.

The world is not going fall off its axis if we like ourselves. We will always need the arts, food, shelter and clothing. We will probably also need help or coaching but if we start from the perspective of already being whole and happy then we become finders and not seekers.

So, I implore you to become a finder…NOW.

Stop.

Breathe in.

Pause.

Breathe out.

Pause.

Rinse and repeat.

Smile.

This is it. This is all you need – your breath, your Self and this moment.

Lynnette Dickinson is the author of A Journey to Peace through Yoga, and teaches yoga, relaxation and meditation in Canberra and via Skype or phone. Classes, personalised programs and yoga therapy. Visit www.splendouryoga.com. Listen to Lynnette telling her story click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2, and be inspired.

 

 

 

Read more →

From anxiety and insomnia to self-love, thank you menopause

In the early hours of the morning a couple of days ago I woke up in the grip of anxiety. It was a feeling I am very familiar having suffered insomnia as a child then for most of my adult life, until my yoga practice changed my sleeping patterns I thought forever…until menopause.

Menopause has brought so many ‘gifts’, including the return of my old friend 2am spirals of anxiety, sometimes descending into sheer panic. It may have begun with a surge of heat that even in the middle of winter in Canberra necessitates all bed coverings thrown off or perhaps a nightmare that I have jerked myself awake to leave. The predicted path of the next couple of hours would have been tossing and turning, more heat surges and little sleep, getting up close and personal with my deepest fears and descending into panic.

Over the last six months my friend’s visits have become increasingly frequent and all of the tools I had used previously were increasingly ineffective, breathing in particular seeming to make the anxiety worse, not better. I have been growing dark circles under my eyes, MS has been returning and people have started to remark on my tiredness.

Then at around 2am one morning in the grip of anxiety I started to use a Yoga Nidra format of rotating my consciousness around my body but this time using the detailed anatomy I had been learning for yoga therapy, starting with the deltoid muscle on my right arm and remembering as much detail as I could.

I made my way around my whole body, externally and internally, so I didn't gain much sleep but I was certainly more relaxed and didn't feel so tired the next day (and I felt slightly righteous for studying). Each night I woke after that I repeated the same format and sleep increased.

Again, this was not to last. about a week ago anxiety returned with a vengeance, bringing its two best friends, insomnia and menopause. I felt wretched.

Then a couple of nights ago I woke with both heat surge and nightmare, and each time I began to rotate my consciousness around my body, the anxiety and/or heat returned to distract my concentration. I prepared myself for another descent … until I thought about the opposite of anxiety.

Anxiety is the expression of fear, the opposite of fear is love ergo the opposite of anxiety is love. What is love? Unconditional acceptance. What if I held my anxiety in my arms like I would a baby, with acceptance instead of more fear?

This time it was anxiety that was derailed rather than my attempts to alleviate the condition but I still wasn't asleep.

So I began to rotate my consciousness again but this time with the warmth of love and each time a fear arose I held it in acceptance and went on, and before I knew it I was asleep. The same a short time later and then again the same night. I woke in the morning feeling soft and rested.

The next night the same thing happened but I only woke once. Then again and again. And I am looking forward to sleep tonight.

You see, just before my anxiety returned I had realised I had been expecting the outside world to fill my need for love and it is my thought that menopause has brought me to the next layer of my recovery in this area; my fear of not being loved and my neediness in the face of that fear.

The thing is, self-love is not a prescription that can be filled by anyone else but until a few days ago I didn’t know how. Holding the 2am spiral in love, holding my deepest fears in love, holding my anatomy in love is dissolving the fear and filling me with love. Who would’ve thunk it?

And during the day I have noticed that my background reactivity has also dropped. This has given me the space to reflect on the content of my inner dialogue and a deeper understanding of acceptance – another circle. Allowing the reaction and pausing in the reaction gives me choice and a moment to understand the judgement or self-criticism. My life has become peaceful again and my sleep and health have again improved.

As a culture we have successfully stigmatised and/or medicalised menopause, anxiety and insomnia. Menopause is a thing, anxiety is a thing and insomnia is thing, and together become a very big, toxic thing, particularly if we ignore them or feel shame to the point of silence. Let’s open the conversation to include all the possibilities of experience and therapy, without shame or exclusion.

So, I have been reminded that menopause can be a current, albeit a bloody uncomfortably strong one. It can carry us to a place we can transform fear into love. And most importantly for me, I have been reminded of the tools I have that can help me navigate the current, and the power and my obligation to share those tools.

 

Lynnette Dickinson is the author of A Journey to Peace through Yoga, and teaches yoga, relaxation and meditation in Canberra and via Skype or phone. Classes, personalised programs and yoga therapy. Visit www.splendouryoga.com. Listen to Lynnette telling her story click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2, and be inspired.

Read more →