How is 2016 going for you so far? This month, I continue to be in conversation with my dharma, my life purpose, and with what is stirring in me and coming alive right now. It feels like a very important conversation to be having with myself. I have been taking some time each morning for BIG LISTENING. The time before dawn is a great time to tap into the BIG SPACE, the space that is bigger than my sometimes small, sometimes contracted self. I love to take this time in the early morning to open myself up to the VASTNESS and to really listen for what is stirring in me.
As a yogi, I recognize that I’m on an evolutionary journey. It’s a journey of body, mind and spirit. I’m in a process of growth, and my yoga is a superb tool for this journey. My mediation teacher, Dr. Paul Muller Ortega, uses a term to describe the dynamic place where you find yourself on your evolutionary trajectory: your identity assemblage point. That is, the place around which you assemble your identity. In my last blog post, I wrote about how dharma is dynamic, and how, as you grow and change, your life work the person you are becoming and the person you wish to become shifts. So, it follows that your identity is dynamic too. We are not static. We are plastic beings. (Thank God!)
Last year, I spent a good amount of time studying habit change. I learned effective ways to consciously shift my habits and create new ones. Now I am incorporating this knowledge in my 10 week habit evolution course based on Ayurveda (the other thing I spent a lot of time studying in 2015!) It is empowering to really understand how habit change works! The core of understanding habit change is the realization that your identity assembles itself around your patterns and habits. As you change your patterns and habits, you also change your identity. And, if something is stirring in you, in order to bring it forth, you have to adopt habits to support that newly emerging identity. (Interested in more on this subject? Check out the work by James Clear on identity based habits.)
Recently, I did a dharma exercise with a few groups of people in which each person wrote a 6 word bio to describe themselves to others. Six words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, whatever) that describe who you are at this time. You should try it right now. What six words describe you? Spend a moment and feel for who you are and what is stirring in you, and then write down six words.
Below are the six words (nouns) that I am choosing right now to describe myself, and how each of these words shapes my identity assemblage point and reflects my current habits and actions:
MOTHER: I’m the mother of River and Sage, both boys, ages 11 and 14. Somehow, I always knew I would be a mother of boys, and this role takes up a big part of my life right now. I find it immensely gratifying as well as challenging.
YOGINI: I’ve called myself a yogini and have actively and passionately been practicing and studying yoga, meditation and Ayurveda for the past 25 years. Yogini as an identity also speaks to the mystic in me, my interest in the transcendent, the Great Mystery beyond.
COOK: Cooking delicious and healthy food has been a passion and hobby of mine since I was a teenager. It is an activity that I find creative and grounding, and I spend a lot of time each week meal planning and preparing food for myself and my family.
NATURE LOVER: I have always found solace in nature. I grew up in a family that took time each week to spend away from the city, in the mountains and forests, and my commitment to spending time in nature several times a week is a habit that I strive to keep.
TEACHER/EDUCATOR: I have been a teacher all of my adult life. have a Master's degree in Education and have worked in public schools in three states. I’ve taught people ages 5 to 85 and I've offered classes in a variety of subjects in schools, colleges, studios including yoga, meditation, wellness, language, and cultural studies. I continue to find teaching very creative, stimulating and rewarding.
WRITER: Aha! Here is a new identity I am working with. While it’s true that I have been writing emails and blogs for several years now. I have been reluctant to actually call myself a writer. It seems kind of like a lofty title. But, here I am in 2016 naming writing as something that is stirring in me, and I am strengthening my habits and commitments around writing. I’m curious to see where this identity goes.
The way I see it, there is a process of checking out and committing to an identity, and yoga helps me do this. The first thing to do is to enact the first alignment principle in yoga: OPEN UP. You do BIG LISTENING. You PAUSE, SOFTEN and BREATHE. Why? So you can feel, perceive and become aware of what is stirring in your bodies, our minds and our hearts.
Then, you have to decide. Will you heed that stirring? Will you commit to bringing forth that idea or interest? If you say “yes,”, then you proceed to the ENGAGEMENT phase. You have to draw in to the midline of your being, to your axis, to the place where that stirring is located. You have to name what you are feeling, and begin to engage around that. Then, you have to create HABITS around that idea or interest. It’s like what we do in yoga asana. If you want to practice Downward Facing Dog, you have to hug your muscles to your bones, drawn toward the midline and draw your hands and arms energetically up into the base of your heart. You have to use your muscles. You have to exert some effort.
That is the phase I’m in now. I’m strengthening my habits around writing. It is taking effort. I’m working on establishing a weekly writing schedule for myself and committing myself to more writing projects. It’s what I’m doing right now! I’m committing my ideas to paper.
As I engage more and more with this identity as a writer and the habits surrounding, I think it's going to feel easier to put my writing out in a wider way. This corresponds to the third alignment principle of yoga that lends itself to creating identity based habits: EXTEND, EXPAND, STRETCH, OFFER OUT. These are some of the words we use in yoga to describe the organic extension that is the 3rd main principle of alignment. This is what you do in Downward Dog after ENGAGEMENT. You EXTEND and STRETCH your spine. It feels great. In writing or other areas, you put your work out there, offer it up. You create and serve.
Eventually, your identity and your habit names and defines your roles in the community. And, this is dynamic too. People who know me right now know that I am the mother of River and Sage, a serious practitioner and teacher of yoga, meditation and wellness. They know I'm a good cook and someone who loves to hike in the mountains of Peru and elsewhere. And, someone who writes!
So, if you are still reading this, what does this mean for you? I’m suggesting that this is a great time to get curious about what stirs in you! Allow yourself to do some BIG LISTENING. Take yourself and your ideas seriously. Begin to name them and talk about them. Journal about them. And, then ENGAGE in dialogue with them. Ask yourself and your ideas how they want to live in your life. Make space for them and create HABITS around them. Draw upon and assemble your energies around your axis to support your growth in this area. And, most of all enjoy this! Your evolution is dynamic and exciting! You don’t want to miss out!
Keep in touch! I look forward to meeting you in your new identity assemblage point!
Annie Barrett. Educator, certified health coach yoga instructor.