29 March 2012

Threshold of Change

I hung up the phone, exploded into flames and was catapulted into a wild and fiery place. The CEO of the art school rang me late last week, completely out of the blue, and offered me a ridiculously high paid position with increased management duties, trying to lure me back.

I worked at the art school for 16 years until I left last April to take up a position at a fast growing little college that trains art therapists and transpersonal counsellors.

Yesterday I resigned from the college and accepted the art school job. I'm going back.

Despite being extremely overworked and overwhelmed at the college, I'd been enjoying the work, the workplace and the lovely people here, or so I thought...
My yoga practice had dropped off to nothing, I hadn't attended any of Kosta's led classes lately, I've been losing weight and looking haggard, I haven't had any time or energy to do anything outside of work for quite a while (blogging included). No chance to get a conversation out of me outside of work - when I leave work I just turn off to save power...brain down, no reading, no writing, no thinking, no moving. Do not disturb.

Was I suffering from burnout?

I kept telling myself the busy period would pass and the job would settle down, but I also took heed of Glenda's warning that it probably wouldn't.

Burn out is weird - having never been there before I didn't recognise it. In my case it was caused by work overload, dealing with too many projects, processing massive amounts of information VERY fast, organising people and situations, fixing problems, writing policies, communicating information to students and teachers, juggling timetables and people, monitoring and assessing a million situations, answering queries, setting up systems, everything now, now, now, zap, wham, bang, all day long, for very long hours with no time out...until my brain started showing signs of nuclear fallout: white fuzz, drifting, meltdown.

I lost my spiritual practice, my perspective, my vision, my love, warmth and compassion, my smile. I've been in a shut down survival mode for over a month now while STILL telling myself I love the job!!!

When my former boss rang me with a job offer too good to refuse, I was torn in half, not knowing what to do. I was in labour for three long days, trying to give birth to a decision: to stay at a workplace I love, or go back to the workplace that I left.

On Monday at 5pm I accepted the new job offer almost in a fit of despair from not being able to decide!

So in three weeks I'll say goodbye to the lovely art therapy and counselling people I've been working with for the past year and return to the art school that I watched grow from a baby to an adult...this time in a more senior position. The school will be moving to larger premises at the end of this year which promises to be a very exciting leap forward. History in the making.

Now THE IRONY OF ALL THIS is that back in March 2003 I resigned from the art school, and exactly one year later in March 2004, I got a phone call from the manager, out of the blue, asking me to come back, increased pay and increased responsibilities.
So I resigned from my job and returned to the art school. See blog entry 15th March 2004.

The phone call this time was pure deja vu.
And the image of dancing through an explosion is very much how I feel right now...

A new chapter starts and the journey continues...

4 March 2012

Lights, Camera, Action, Practice

"Practice as though someone was watching."

That's my replacement for the now grossly overused cliche 'dance as though there was nobody watching'.

I started practice this morning, intending to do what I could of the Ashtanga primary sequence.
During Padangusthasana, sensing the twist in my pelvis, I decided to start again and video my 'normal' practice on my laptop so that I could watch back on myself objectively and critically, with a teacher's eye, to spot the imbalances and misalignments.
I'd never done this before.

I set up the laptop, and stepping onto the mat, gave myself the following instructions:
- stay no longer than 3 breaths in each pose
- follow primary series up to the end of the standing poses then go where body/mind directs
- practice without looking at the image on the screen
- ignore the camera so that a 'normal' practice could be done unaffected and then be reviewed.

That last instruction proved to be very interesting...
No-one would be viewing this except me so I didn't have to be my on best behaviour.
It wasn't a performance piece. Rather it was to be the opposite, a 'nobody's watching me so I can do what I want' practice. The purpose was to look critically at how I enter and exit and work in poses, and get a general sense of how awkwardly or gracefully I move through the sequence.
Although our practice varies enormously day to day, depending on energy and inspiration, our unique character is unconsciously yet vividly expressed in our gestures, the way we walk, our movements, facial expressions, tone of voice, AND our yoga practice etc...

How we move in and through our practice gives away our true character.

I was curious to observe and evaluate myself practising as if watching a stranger.
So it was important to be unmindful that there was a camera.

With 3 breaths in each pose it was a steady, flowing practice (not my usual style as I tend to stay at least 5 breaths, deepening, exploring and challenging my limitations). It was quite lovely to keep moving and not go quite so deep in each pose, to keep it lighter and less demanding of my body.

Although I was not consciously trying to do each pose more correctly for the camera, I did notice a suffusion of fuller attention into the practice, not a conscious intention, but a subtle response to being watched.
Those who practice both at home and at the shala will know what I mean - when there are eyes all around, especially the teacher's eyes, we work harder.

I can be fully immersed in the inner space of practice (pratyahara) and fully attentive to it on a very complete level while also filling out my skin to shine for the onlooker. I'm not talking about putting on a show or performance (an ego-based motivation); rather there is a subtle energetic 'giving' - our pure spirit is giving out its best to express it's highest potential and uplift not only those around who might be subconsciously tuning in, but also to raise the vibrations of humanity.

(I am reminded of the quantum physics discovery that "photons are influenced just be being 'watched" and that the more intense the watching, the greater the watcher's influence on how the particles behave.)

Another digression: I am also reminded of when I did a full Ashtanga practice while being professionally photographed for Kosta's website a few years ago. How could I forget...it was during this practice under lights and in front of cameras, that something gave way in my lumbar spine. I was holding Paschimottanasana and one of the photographers asked me to stay longer while she took photos from different angles and lighting. I felt my lumbar tweak and release, and knew instantly that something was very wrong. I remember completing the rest of the practice in agonising pain then going into a full blown state of pain-induced shock after I left the studio. The injury ended up changing my yoga practice forever, as well as my direction and my life history. Moral of digression: it is the ego that causes injury, not yoga.

Back to today's lovely flowing practice: the camera kept me mindful and aware, balancing inner focus with outer precision, my spirit expressing itself through the vehicle of yoga.

The sequence was short and sweet: sun salutes, all the standing poses, seated poses up to Janu Sirsasana A, then a series of backbends and the full finishing sequence of inversions.

At the end, I reached up to press stop on the laptop, eager to watch back on this practice after Savasana, only to find it hadn't filmed anything!
I had it set on camera, not video. I got one snapshot taken 3 seconds after I'd hit the start button, before the first sun salute even started, then nothing.

Today's gift was in recognising the value of practising as though someone was watching and the soul's ability to express it's full beauty through mindful movement.