In 2015 I got a new job in Nailsworth and living in Bristol meant that if a tasty new commute was on the cards, it was time to get myself a new set of wheels. Enter the beauty that was to become my baby...a car I'd dreamt of for years (literally...I'd had the brochures and done the showroom visits more than once!). I honestly smiled every time I drove it - it wasn't just a spur of the moment purchase, it was something I'd worked towards for years and it represented a new start, a great change and exciting opportunities.
Last June I was driving home out of Nailsworth and a combination of rain, a rear wheel drive car and a hairpin bend caused me to lose control coming out of a corner, spinning the car a full 180 degrees straight across the road, crashing sideways into a tree on the other side. The car was a write off but after a trip to hospital, I was released my fair share of bumps, bruises and whiplash, but no lasting physical damage.
Since then, I've often come back to the need to practice non-attachment to get over the whole experience, to ensure I don't let myself get hung up on both the physical aspect of the car itself, or what it represented.
Relinquishing attachment doesn't mean indifference or uncaring, it simply means being aware. Aware of what those attachments mean for our emotions and feelings. Aware of what we're actually looking for as we cling onto external items or experiences. Too often, we link these 'things' with a sensation; we believe that buying those shoes, eating that cake, securing that contract or looking a particular way will finally be the answer to making us feel good.
It's not just material objects - how many of you have turned up at your yoga class and been disappointed that a cover teacher had had to step in because your regular teacher is sick, or been a bit miffed when someone else is in 'your spot' in the studio? We create attachments to all sorts of things, experiences and people. You begin class in a negative mindset and it can be hard to shake.
"You only lose what you cling to" - Buddha
You may find that you're hanging on to your identity within your career or family - are your days defined by your status within your workplace or home; what would happen if tomorrow your company went bankrupt and you found yourself no longer in that role? How many mothers feel lost when their kids get older and leave home?
Sometimes we find ourself attached to a situation and if it doesn't go in our favour or the way we expect we can have a significant emotional (and sometimes even physical) response. Before it's even happened we worry, stress and find ourselves anxious over something we can't even control - we get attached to a particular outcome. Other times it can come in the form of activities or habits - working crazy long days, spending hours glued to our phones or even allowing ourselves to constantly wallow in a negative mindset. We cling to what we're scared to lose; what we feel defines us.
Cars will come and go. People will come and go. Our circumstances will change on a daily basis with no sense of order. We live transient lives and can't control all situations...sometimes things won't go our way. All we can do is live in the present, ensuring we don't let our ego rule our decisions and practice gratitude for everything around us. Life will happen whether we want it to or not and we will achieve nothing by expending our energy on worrying or trying to 'fix' things.
Let your actions and decisions be dictated by genuine good and compassion for yourself and others, not a desire for a particular outcome. Don't come to your yoga mat fixated on the need to touch your toes or hold a headstand, because I can guarantee you'll be disappointed. Life has a funny way of changing the goalposts and once you CAN achieve these things, they suddenly won't seem like enough. Can you embrace a success without immediately looking for the next victory? By always seeking more, bigger, better, faster, stronger, we fill our minds with negative feelings of not being 'good enough' without acknowledging all those other subtle benefits that have snuck in from the sidelines. No I can't hold a handstand, but by working towards one in a regular practice I'm learning patience, focus, body awareness and gratitude for a strong and healthy body that lets me do so.
This week the weather has been beautiful and as I drive those gorgeous country roads I do find myself longing for my old car - to be able to drive in those evenings as the sun is setting, with the roof down catching the last of those rays. But as Chris reminds me every time I bring it up....that was the day we got lucky. Lucky that the only thing to really be hurt was my car. Nothing was coming the other way, no-one was sat in the passenger side which was crushed completely and there's no lasting damage that won't heal with time. I still get nervous driving that corner, but I'm still here.
Nobody's perfect (least of all me!) and no doubt every time I drive a lush road on a a summers day, or see a car like mine, I'll have that little pang of longing. But instead of letting myself get into a spiral of sadness about what was, I'll embrace the lessons learned, appreciate the experiences I had and hold gratitude for how lucky that day really was.
Courtenay is the owner & director of Warrior & Wild & can mostly be found hanging around the studio, training in the gym or geeking out in books somewhere. Influenced by the logical & mechanical elements of her engineering background & her love of learning, she aims to treat each class as an education & hopes to leave all of her students with a greater awareness of how they move, both on & off the mat.
For private or group class enquiries (or just to say hello!) connect with Courtenay via Facebook, drop her an email at email@example.com.
Do you ever have those days where you feel like you’re dodging grenade after grenade? Perhaps you’re not even managing to dodge them – you’re getting fired at from all angles until you just want to stop the world and get off.
I had one of those days yesterday. Don’t get me wrong, there were the great bits (hello midday restorative class!) but in between it felt like nothing was going my way.
When this is happening, you might feel like there’s not a whole lot you can do about it, as it seemds to be purely down to external circumstances and other people. While this is true, the one thing you CAN control is how you react. It’s no coincidence that these dire scenarios all come along in one go; when we’re in a shitty mood, no one can do right by us.
During these times, you can work your way into a spiral of negativity and frustration seeing the bad in every situation that crosses your path, or alternatively, you can choose to take a different path. When we realise that how we perceive what is going on around us can hugely influence our thoughts and decision-making processes, we can begin to look for ways to change our perspective.
No it’s not a miracle answer; I don’t have any scientific studies to show you to back this up, all l I can say is that it works. In the simplest of terms, just roll out your mat.
It doesn’t have to be an hour, you don’t need to do countless sun salutations or even worry about breaking a sweat, simply move in a way that feels good for you. It’s not about the movements that you’re doing, but how you’re doing them. When something stressful is going on this can be all that circles through our mind so use the opportunity to give your head some breathing space. Take your focus to your breath instead. You might choose to count the length of inhales and exhales, or simply ensure there's a natural and free flow of air.
Your mind will wander in and out of your practice, circling around the problem (or something else entirely…yesterday it was ‘mushrooms’ that kept popping into my head of all things!) but when this happens, just notice it, accept it and move back to the breath.
No time or space (or mat?!), no problem. It can be a metaphorical one. Just take a few minutes to give your mind a break. Find a quiet space if you can where you can sit comfortably. Place your hand on your tummy and concentrate on breathing in and out fully and slowly. Five minutes of conscious breathing can work wonders to transform your mindset.
When you're ready and don’t feel like you’re fighting the world anymore, come back to your day and I guarantee you won’t be in the same headspace. As I said, I can’t show you the proof of ‘how’ this works, just know that it does.
I get that this probably sounds nuts to some of you and if it’s too hippy trippy for you at the moment, that’s absolutely fine. But maybe next time you’re freaking out and about to snap like an elastic band, just give it a go and see for yourself.