A Shift in Perspective for 2022

Dear friends,

Seasons greetings and the happiest of new years to you and your family.

There seems to be a definite shift in the way we are feeling and thinking in this new year. There is fresh new energy, but still a sense of trepidation as we grapple with how exactly we should go back to normal, if and when, COVID-19 starts to fade away as a major concern. I personally feel unsure of how to integrate myself into the world, partly due to the long period of lockdown and uncertainty, but also because of the way I have changed over the past two years. Many of us have woken up to our deeper desires that may have been impossible or impractical to implement before, and we have come to terms with new ways of working, living and socializing.  

I’d like to share a few thoughts on how you might be able to shift your perspective in order to feel excited about transitioning back to normal in a more intentional, balanced, sustainable and joyful way of living. 

We have been forced to become more introspective which has allowed us to see ourselves more clearly, as painful as this may have been at times. We’ve become aware of our deeper desires, but also have become perhaps somewhat obsessed with ourselves, with our fears, our problems and the overwhelming sensation of uncertainty about the future. However, I believe that it is possible to feel a much greater sense of connection with the world outside of ourselves, bringing an infinitely expansive sense of freedom and joy. By connecting with the world around us through curiosity and empathy, by putting our fear aside for a moment, we are able to share our thoughts and passions with those around us and in turn feel the experiences of others. This can be profoundly humbling and healing, as we realise that many of what we thought was only affecting us, is also affecting others, and we can connect through those shared experiences. We can begin to feel a more total experience of life with a wider network of people, as well as the natural world around us. In making this conscious shift, we may feel much less alienated, alone and fragmented, and instead, part of a community, connected and whole.

There are many ways to achieve this: Picking up your phone and calling someone, inviting a friend or family member to go for a walk or to share a meal or even smiling at or talking to a stranger in an open and kind way. We can also spend time alone to reflect on what we are grateful for in our immediate surroundings. If you simply sit down, take a deep breath and rest in stillness, without expectation, you might start to realise how much beauty is around and within you, and start to feel connected and peaceful. I read a fantastic book recently, Atomic Habits by James Clear, where throughout most of the book the author advises how to automate and streamline your life to become more productive. But at a certain point in the book, there is a profound line which ultimately transcends all of his advice regarding productivity, which is: “peace occurs when you don’t turn your observations into problems”. What this means to me is, you can focus on improving your life and the life of those around you, through consistency and productivity, but with a deeper foundation of acceptance and gratitude, you will know what is truly important to you and you will pursue it intentionally, instead of simply always wanting more.

With a deep interest in the human body and mind, and the ways that we can actively and easily bring health and peace into our own lives, I advocate for a regular practice of yoga, breathing and meditation – which ultimately can all be practiced simultaneously. Dedicating just 2 minutes of accepting and being one with your breath and the life within and around you, can have a profound effect on your mental and physical health. Once you have created a simple practice like this in your life, you can effectively integrate into the world through work, socialising, and carrying out the activities which allow you to realize your dreams. With such a foundation, life becomes more of a puzzle than a maze, more of a challenge than a hostile experience. I am aware of the privileges I have which allow me the space to think and live like this and I hope that the more we are able to live in a grounded, peaceful and empathetic way, the more we can improve the lives of those around us. 

For now I am offering online yoga classes on a Monday, Wednesday and Saturday morning, and I hope to have more news on in-person yoga classes and events soon. I am looking for a venue in the Rosebank area in Johannesburg with a large wooden or concrete floor which can host 10-20 people – let me know if you have any leads for me! 🙂

All the best for the year, and I wish you a sense of peace and clarity for realising your dreams.

P.S. A few tips from Atomic Habits by James Clear (which I highly recommend) on how to be the person you want to be through making tiny changes in your behaviour:

  1. Fall in love with the process of becoming who you want to be, instead of being hyper-focused on a set of goals.
  2. You become your habits – which are “micro-evolutions of the self”.
  3. Whenever you aim to instil a new behaviour, make the behaviour “obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying”.
  4. Change your environment to encourage the habit e.g. Clear out a space in your home, freshen it up and place your books or your yoga mat in the space to improve the chances of the new behaviour you would like to build into your life.
  5. Remember – action is better than intensive planning and consistency is better than perfection.
  6. Try doing a new habit for just 2 minutes consistently, in the same place and time, thereafter it will grow.
  7. When time fades away while you are doing something and you feel a sense of flow, do more of that.

Set your intention

Intentionality

The quality of mental states (e.g. thoughts, beliefs, desires, hopes) which consists in their being directed towards some object or state of affairs.

We have all heard of the buzzword ‘mindfulness’ but not many of us talk about intention and intentionality. Both mindfulness and intention refer to focusing our energy on something. We all know that when we are distracted we tend to procrastinate. Our minds feel fuzzy, our emotions are unstable and ultimately we arrive at a point of frustration and anxiety from not being able to get done what we truly need to. Living mindfully and intentionally are antidotes to such states and outcomes.

When we direct our energy to what we are doing precisely in this moment, we become aware of what we need to do or not do. For example, if we are truly mindful when watching videos on social media, we may realise that we are thirsty, we are frowning, we are breathing shallowly, etc. At this moment we should probably take a break from the activity and re-focus. Moreover, if we are able to focus on precisely what we are doing in each moment, whether it be driving, writing an email, reading something interesting or listening to what a family member or colleague has to say, not only do we we optimise the efficiency with which we are able to perform that task, but this will lead to a calmer state of mind and body.

In addition to performing tasks and living in a more mindful state, if we are able to go a bit deeper and live intentionally, we can further reduce the anxiety generating affect of distraction and not applying ourselves. One method I have been using for the past year or two is by zooming out of my every day existence, so to speak, looking into the future and asking what I see as the vision of my life. I ask myself questions like ‘what kind of contribution do I want to make in the world?’ and ‘what would I like to attract into my life?’. I believe that if we then break down this vision into manageable goals to achieve on an annual, monthly, weekly and even daily basis, we can then structure lives in such as a way that we slowly but effectively achieve our long term vision, day by day.

From my perspective and experience, the reason this seems to work is that if you are able to understand on a granular level why you do what you do, each moment is enriched with a sense of excitement and passion because you now have the motivation needed to perform each task during the day. And this leads to the realisation that you have the opportunity to live each moment with intention. Everything you do, say and even think can be slowly customised to the vision you have set out to create. Of course this will change over time due to changes in your personality and changes in the world at large, but at least you have a clear picture for now of why you do what you do, to slowly build and create the vision for your life that makes you feel most yourself.

No two visions will be the same, and we may be able to let go of some of our unauthentic desires which may have been suggested or prescribed to us by our school, family, work or social culture. Many of these ideas will be relevant and important in the short to medium term, but once you have assimilated the value that you can, it is acceptable to move on and express yourself more fully, from the deep .

So, as I suggested in last months newsletter, find some time to feel a sense of calm, get a pen and paper and start to paint your vision so that you have the clarity to live each day intentionally. The joy of living in such a way manifests in feeling focused and energised, without the obstacles of uncertainty, doubt and frustration slowing you down. I wish you all the best on your journey of deepening self discovery.