The Wonder Within
As winter approaches in Barcelona, I have found myself thinking about the forthcoming Christmas holidays. During winter, we can find ourselves wanting to hide away from the world and the pressure of the looming festivities. For some, what is supposed to the most celebratory time of the year can be the hardest, especially for those of us who have lost loved ones, those who have fractured relationships or who just dislike the pressure of having to celebrate.
Being a Mum I always want to keep the magic of Christmas alive, but the honest truth is that for my sons, Christmas this year is going to be a big reminder that their father is not alive. This does not mean that we will sit around mourning his death, however we will be holding his presence strongly in our hearts.
I feel that is often the external pressure to feel happy at Christmas that kills the magic. What if instead of feeling pressure and expectation, we were able to discover some kind of wonder inside of us that might remind us that it is possible to feel peace and warmth in our hearts during the winter months and festivities with or without the external sparkle of the season?
I often remind myself of the wonder inside, when I look at the books that sit on the tables in my house. One of my favourites is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, even the cover, which is so colourful and bright shifts my mood immediately.
“We must risk delight, we must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world”
(from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert)
Big Magic is about discovering and following the creative power within you. Gilbert writes with such fervour and passion it is difficult for her words not to affect you. She reminds me of the wonder that I feel when I am creating a new workshop or sequence for yoga.
I feel the magic when I allow myself to create something I believe in and it isn’t all about big things. For me, wonder begins in the appreciation of the little, creative, nurturing actions that make me feel good. Wonder can be as simple as making my sons their favourite banana cake, or sitting with a hot cup of tea in bed on a lazy Sunday morning.
The wonder in my life comes from doing things for both myself and others. For example, whilst teaching yoga to teens over the last couple of months, I began to realize how emotionally difficult some days can be for them, especially at school and within their endless world of the iPhone which can see them easily forget about the small wonders that exist outside. With this in mind, I decided to make them a ‘Discover Your Wonder Yoga’ class and music playlist to inspire, relax and remind them of that place of sweet wonder that exists within them. One teen said, “Isn’t it great how Yoga makes you feel good so soon?” That was wonder right there.
This idea then spilled over into my adult classes because we also need to remind ourselves of our own wonder and learn how to cultivate it on the mat. I know that it is not at all easy to 'feel your wonder' when things are difficult, when you are exhausted, or ill, or it´s freezing cold and grim outside, however you can always choose to work on cultivating it.
To find the wonder within on those days when getting to the mat is hard, I go straight for one of my yoga playlists that I love to create on Spotify. For the teens’ ‘Wonder’ playlist, I used Here Comes The Sun from the Beatles, music by Bob Marley and other feel good classics such as Stand by Me (Find the playlist here). I also have specific playlists that are Kirtan- songs based on traditional devotional yoga mantras (Find the playlist here). This music quietens the mind, opens the heart and uplifts the spirit.
The right music takes the pain away and is scientifically proven to heal the body. Aborigines have been using music for over 40,000 years to heal the body and popular music can really help to shift your mood and get you out of your mind and into your body when used in the appropriate way in a Yoga class. Music in combination with the moving, breathing body makes you feel amazing and allows deep release to occur.
As well as music, another great way to make it to the mat on a hard day, is to try a class with a friend- I love to take classes with friends or teachers who are my friends as it makes me commit to going to class and supports them at the same time.
By having faith and persistence when things feel hard, you might eventually find wonder. The other day, I found myself in class with a teacher friend and I noticed that I felt two opposing emotions at the beginning of the class. On one hand, I felt disconnected from what the teacher was saying as my back was sore and my body felt really stiff and on the other, I had complete faith that if I just kept going and bringing myself back to the breath, I would feel different soon. This faith is not magic, it is cultivated from a stubbornness to stay committed to my yoga practice because I know from life experience that it is my saving grace. Simply moving your body and focusing on your breath makes you feel better and reminds you of a different way to be.
On the mat, I encourage practitioners to feel and embody their poses, from their feet to fingertips. When you simply open your hand, you shine energy out through the fingertips and wake up the potential of the body, which in turn wakes up the spirit. We want to raise the spirits in Yoga class, to experience wonder in breathing deep in a pose.
If there is a pose you love, do it for longer and raise your delight from within you. If there is a pose you don't like, try it for 3-5 breaths and ask to be shown why you don't like it, or why it is challenging for you. The most challenging poses can be our doors to freedom and connection to wonder.
We need to build resilience, to be able to breathe through the disconnection and hardship and to allow a softening of ourselves to be able to let go and just be with whatever is going on, because it passes, maybe not as quickly as you would like it to pass but just having the faith that it will pass will bring you through the pain in a gentler way.
This winter I am choosing to focus on the wonder inside before I even begin to acknowledge the upcoming festivities on the outside. Seasons come and go, just like our emotions and what we focus on becomes bigger, so how about we choose to focus on WONDER and see the kind of sweet peace and warm feelings that can follow from making a choice that truly will heal you.
Lucy Beckwith is a qualified Yoga teacher and Co-Founder of the Yomu Project.