Every time I wrestle my belongings into my bag and set off to catch another plane I get butterflies in my belly .
how many times I hit the road, I get the same feeling with the same intensity.
It’s a nervousness and anticipation; the knowledge that anything could happen
And so often it does. But I’m learning to sit with that knowledge and the feelings it brings. To let them flutter and eventually subside. Because this is life and there are inevitable and innumerable factors that are out of our control.
As a student of astrology, I know that Uranus (the planet of revolution) is transiting all my houses at the moment. Houses represent areas of life such as career, family and love life. So this basically means that anything could happen at any given moment. The energy of Uranus screams freedom, change and transformation. And if you don’t work with that energy then it will come at you some other way, so I’ve been told.
And so it goes. While on the road, with Uranus breathing down my neck, things have been going awry. Or, at least, ‘awry’ is only a matter of perception. In fact, things keep happening to completely change my course and I’d hazard a guess that they are changing it for the better.
Before I left the UK at the start of July, I had roughly mapped out a 12-month plan. I say ‘roughly’ because I was aware that Uranus and his revolution were at play.
Ahead of me I imagined several weeks in the mountains working on my new book, followed by several more weeks completing my 500-hour yoga teacher training and then I would set up base in Goa for a few months. Simple.
Turns out I’m nowhere near the mountains or the sea as I write this, but on a detour via Amritsar and Varanasi. Both places are rich in spiritual history where I hope to learn as much as I can about the different ways that people find joy, light and solace in this crazy change-stricken world.
Yes, change is constant. You’ve read that before.
But, somehow, even though we know this, we grasp and clutch at a sense of stability. Yet stability is really just an illusion. It only exists in our minds when most of us are looking outside of ourselves, to people and places and jobs.
I’m particularly au fait with this concept considering my recent journey. My partner has had to change jobs twice, so we upped and moved twice too. Then I kept meeting people who would tell me that the teacher who ran my chosen school (for the 500-hour badge) was a charlatan, leading me to the conclusion that my 200-hour badge was more than good enough. Besides, with all this chopping and changing, I was getting plenty of hours in practicing yoga of the mind.
Flights got cancelled, sudden changes in health took us to the hospital, the internet kept crashing and the weather was something else. And so Uranus kept screaming from the heavens until I finally got the message.
Go with the flow. Let change happen.
When things don’t go the way we want them too, we can wage a war inside our heads. We fight and argue and don’t allow the change to happen – we don’t accept that, to a certain extent, it’s beyond our control.
If only I’d done that, we say, or you should have done that, and so it goes on a loop. But does that actually impact what’s already happened? No.
You can waste so much of your precious life fighting reality when really we’d do well to just take it as it is, because so much is out of our hands. We get a hot head and a hot sweat when we resist what’s happening, when we refuse to accept that things aren’t going our way.
However your reality changes completely when you realise that it’s only your thoughts that aren’t going your way. Plans reform, flights get cancelled, sometimes we misplace things or people misplace us. It happens.
Work with it, not against it.
Having spent a month working on my book in Ladakh, which has a predominantly Buddhist population, I’ve also gleaned some home truths from their wisdom. And I thought it fit to read up on Buddha and his teachings while I was there, specifically written by the Tibetan Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron – it’s not all incense and prayer, but exceptionally practical tools for life.
In her book, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change , she writes about how Mara, a demon and Buddha’s nemesis, kept trying to distract him from his meditation. Yet each time Buddha would say ‘I see you Mara, I know what you’re trying to do’ and invite him to sit down for tea.
We can do the same with our own demons. For example, when something happens that’s unexpected, we tend to fall into the same mental panic patterns – or habits, such as reaching for the gin – that allow us to avoid facing up to what’s happening; to escape reality.
I’ve taken to catching my exit strategies by saying ‘I see you Mara, shaking your ass’. And it makes me laugh and brings me straight back to the present moment, which is where the change is happening. And, more importantly, allows me to change the way I respond to it in real time.
Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People , talks about the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence. The former refers to those things you have no control over, so worrying about them is futile (it’s raining again). The latter is what you can control: your reaction to what’s happening (put your wellies on and jump in puddles).
As for yoga, it teaches us to be discerning. To know what’s worth the mental effort and what’s not. For example, learning to differentiate between our circles of influence and concern. And in doing so we instantly become happier, which is the point of all those forward folds – your mind becomes as supple as your body. And with flexible mind and flexible body, you’re better equipped to embrace whatever the universe throws at you.
So watch out for those times when your ideas become too fixed and you lose all sense of perspective.
For example, when you really want something to happen but it’s just not materialising. You may be banging on the wrong door with such persistence that you become rigid and closed minded. You feel like things really aren’t going your way, but sometimes the universe just takes it out of our hands.
I whole-heartedly believe in the Law of Attraction and creating your own reality. But I also believe that you should exercise some flexibility. When we get so attached to an idea we build a wall around it so we can’t see what’s on either side – but whatever is on the other side might actually be a better idea. Take Uranus, who’s been a busy bee in my chart recently, he’s got better ideas for me and I’m rolling with them.
You don’t have to be on the road for any of this to resonate. You simply need to be alive and doing what you do every day. Even the smallest thing can niggle until it takes on monstrous proportions in your head. For example, the coffee machine is broken >> I’m so tired and I have an important meeting >> there’s no way I can make it through my presentation >> that’s it, I’ve lost out on the promotion.
I see you Mara, you old catastrophist, you.
Life and coffee machines are unstable, but that’s what makes things fun. We think we want things to stay the same – we crave routine – but we’re also bored out of our minds half the time, firmly wedged in our comfort zone. That’s why the powers that be – call it the universe, the planets, a coincidence or the wrong place at the right time – shake things up for us. They’re genuinely doing us a favour. They laugh at the hand we want to play and lovingly reshuffle it for us.
Laugh with them, if you can. You just have to look on the bright side. It’s that simple.
Control what goes on inside your head and the rest will take care of itself. Whatever problem happens outside only becomes a problem if you allow it to on the inside.
Take the contents of my backpack, for example. I’d packed togs for the mountains and lots of yoga. Nothing I can do about it now. So I’ll be the one walking around the Ghats in the hot sticky monsoon weather wearing Ugg boots, flowery leggings and a yak wool shawl.
I’ll see you Mara, if you don’t see me first.