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Rebecca Carpenter Photography Vicky-56.j

Finding freedom (and fun!)

So, I'm about a week or so into my new life, having left my structured job to embrace a life of freedom and personal choice. The past week I have been unravelling, settling into my decision, processing all the new-found space in my daily routine and figuring out what exactly I want to do next. In amongst all of this, I've ended up completely taken out by a nasty head-cold. This is somewhat predictable for me and the relationship that I have had with my body throughout most of my adult life. I could almost see it coming.

I wonder how many other hard-working, self-sacrificing people do this too?

This is the pattern:

  • I push myself past breaking point.

  • I know I'm getting run down and that my soul is tired, but I choose to ignore the warning signs and push on.

  • When I finally decide that I'm feeling a bit worn out and maybe I should have some time for myself, my body seizes the opportunity to hit self-destruct. It's almost as if my body doesn't trust me to really rest as much as I should (it has a point... I find it so hard to have an empty week and not just fill all the empty gaps with plans) - Side note, sometimes plans (even fun ones) are actually not what we need. Sometimes we need freedom and spontaneity. In fact, I would argue, this is what we need most of the time... but anyway, I digress...

  • Because I have waited to long to have a break, the illness will really take hold of me. I then have to cancel all the joyful, fun things I had planned for myself to do with my time off because I am too ill to do any of it.

  • I go back to being busy the following week, after recovering from being unwell, feeling as if I haven't had any time off at all.

I would be so interested to know how many of you also do this, and also how many of us (I'm sure it's not just me) have spent most of their lives believing that this is a natural cycle, part of being a living, working and busy person and nothing can be done about it. Of course, we know deep down that this isn't true.

If you read the Bhagavad Gita and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika - two of the spiritual texts, pillars and guides for walking the path of yoga beyond just having a physical practice - you will see time and again the truth posited that an individual who lives a balanced, sustained life of yoga, breathing and meditation will live a life free from illness. I remember when I first read this, I thought it was total rubbish. I thought 'how on earth can sitting and breathing deeply every day rid my body of disease? Disease and illness are a part of life that cannot be avoided'... and perhaps there is a level of truth to that thought. I believe it is certainly part of life to be presented with obstacles and challenges - and some of these will be brought about by disease and illness - but I also believe that the high-pace, stress-driven lifestyle of capitalism that we exist within in the Western world is a huge contributor to illness and disease within our lives. Perhaps if we lived life more in line with the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita and HYP, we might find ourselves considerably healthier and happier.

When I think back to all of the times in my life where I have suffered from extreme illness (and I am fortunate that this is very few occasions), the catalyst has always been stress. Essentially, these periods of illness came from living a life that went against everything that we are taught to live by in the yogic philosophy; by ignoring what my body tells me it needs, pushing myself, refusing to give myself a break, refusing to give in to joy, refusing to accept that I am allowed to want the freedom to choose within my own life. That doing so isn't selfish, or bad, or unnatural.

I am currently on the path of unravelling myself back to who I was before I was taught who to be, and so I feel I am finally getting to a place where I can acknowledge flaws and incorrect assumptions that have been programmed into my way of going about life without seeing it as an innate failure within my own character. The truth is that I knew I had pushed myself beyond the point where I should have stopped before I got ill. But it is so hard to listen to your deep Knowing (I use 'knowing' with a capital K, inspired by Glennon Doyle in Untamed. Which, inadvertently, is an absolute MUST READ book for all women choosing to walk the path of finding themselves, FYI) when the world around you is rushing at a million miles an hour and seemingly acting and thriving in a completely opposite way.

I should have stopped sooner, I didn't, and now my body is teaching me a lesson. This time I am determined to listen to that lesson and do better next time. To commit to self-improvement and learn to trust my gut first and foremost and not ask someone else's opinion before doing something. I did that this morning, actually. I made the decision not to teach tomorrow, because I need to rest and recover. I have never made a decision like that before without running it past someone else first to see what they think. To 'check' that I'm making the right decision. The freedom that I've felt just from giving myself permission to make this tiny decision is earth-shattering. I am allowed to make my own decisions and there will be no negative ramifications for choosing myself before others. It's completely radical!

So, here I am. I'm on the path and I'm doing the work and I'm recovering from the last slip, from taking it too far. How do I get from here to fun and freedom?

Well, another thing that I have learned this week, whilst unravelling from and letting go of the ordered life that I have left behind me, is that I already knew how to feel free and have fun! I was just getting in my own way. This week I have had more than one moment of realisation that in that present moment I was experiencing a pure joy related to feeling free of responsibility. Free to choose the shape of my own life. I told a dear friend the other day that I have noticed I am not working less hard now that I am no longer working for somebody else. If anything, I'm working harder and the work I am doing is constantly on my mind. The difference is that if I know that I am filled up with joy from being out in the sunshine and I need to get something done, I am allowed to shift the timeline for when that thing is done around giving myself some time out in the sunshine first. I can stay up until midnight doing my admin if I want to.

The point is, the level of work and responsibility doesn't need to change for the pressure, stress and 'busyness' of life to lift away. We can live in joyfulness, contentment and fun every single day, no matter what challenges are being presented to us. All we need to do is embrace the spontaneity and freedom of possibility in each day and say yes to life, instead of no. And listen to our inner voice telling us what we know is right.

The picture above of me swimming in the local river is a photographic depiction of one of my moments of realisation this week that I described above, which was captured by a dear friend after making a spontaneous decision to go and swim. I'm sharing it with you all to inspire you to find a moment like this for yourself this week, whatever that might look like for you.

If you'd like to know more about chasing joy and spontaneity in your life or walking the path of unravelling yourself, then I highly recommend listening to Glennon Doyle's Hard Things podcast on Spotify or Apple podcasts. This week's episode is all about Fun and why it is so hard for us to embrace it in our adult lives.

Big love and have a wild and wonderful week beautiful people!