Of all the Seasons, Change is the Hardest to Stomach

20151011_104018Change, although one of the few certainties in life, appears designed to derail us. “All was going well, everything running smooth, as it was before, and then suddenly everything changed. Now I don’t know up from down, left from right, A from B”. Sound familiar? Although each life is lived differently, most of us can relate to feeling frustrated by sudden, unpredictable change. Be it the loss of work, home, or relationship status; our kids growing up, our parents getting older, our bodies changing shape; or even changes in the weather, traffic conditions or presidential election results. Change can feel affronting, sudden and, most upsettingly, out of our control. We can feel interrupted, unprepared, or even violated and disregarded. But, if change is one of the few reliable aspects of life (certainties in life: we are born, we change, we die), why then is it so difficult to face? Why do we yearn for the predictable and orderly? Why do we resist this inherent flow of change?

Without presuming the capacity to answer the “why” of these questions, I’m going to suggest instead we step back, and curiously observe them, all the while being empty of expectation for answers. What happens when we just look at our experiences of frustration with change; when we look at the questions concerning our resistance to change?

From my own personal experience, when the desire to solve the mystery of “why” is relinquished, and an open-ended curiosity is engaged, a surprising reality surfaces: the power of choice and a softening of suffering. We may never know why change happens, or why we crave order over chaos; but, we can choose how we relate to all these experiences, to all these questions. We can even choose how we perceive the events of change, and then we can choose how we respond to them. But this, like all skills, takes practice. And this is what Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy (PRYT) is all about. (Which is one of the study programs I am currently engaged in).

Supporting holistic opportunities for clients to cultivate awareness of the now, and of how they perceive and relate to their life experiences, are some of the few objectives a PRY Therapist has. PRYT facilitates the opportunity for clients to see themselves clearly and then to make informed choices based on what they see. Therapists will never tell you what to do, or give you advice, but instead will help you to realize the answers are within.

I was drawn to PRYT as my life experience told of the truth of its methods. My life had proven to me time and time again that resisting what was happening only made matters worse, and that choosing instead to be with, be curious about, and make informed decisions, were more likely to lead to a life inspired by trust, versus controlled by fear. Although I had heard of PRYT five years prior, through my Pain Care Yoga Training with Neil Pearson (a PRYT graduate as well as a Physiotherapist and Pain Scientist), it wasn’t until I found myself walking the Camino Del France, just over a year ago, that it became clear to me I wanted to integrate PRYT as a professional offering.

Leading up to my walk, I had been experiencing what is oft called a mid-life crisis. And, regardless of how common place it is to hear about, when you are in the proverbial mid-life crisis I can assure you it feels anything but common. Accordingly, it was painful and I didn’t like it, but regardless of how I felt about it, it was upon me. I had just relocated from Canada to Australia, the dynamics of my 14-year marriage were changing, my professional orientation was undergoing a significant shift, and two of my three children were themselves coming of age, which implicated my relationship with them greatly. This wave of change felt massive and fear of it lurked in all corners of my being. It felt as though life was demanding I surf when I hadn’t even properly learned how to swim. Feeling I was at the top of a cresting tsunami, fear threatened to take me down, crashing along side it. Would I make it? What was happening? And, why me?

Thankfully, I encountered this mid-life crisis with nearly a decade’s worth of yoga practice behind me, meaning that although I felt so close to the transformative fire that I was burning, I had enough experience in spacious observation to save me from feeling hopelessly overwhelmed. The spaciousness of mind my yoga practice afforded facilitated two crucial choices in my mid-life crisis: 1) to choose trust instead of fear, and 2) to breathe (especially to exhale, and slowly). And so, with that in heart and mind, I jumped right into the oven of my life and just kept breathing.

Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy is appropriately named after the legend of the Phoenix. The story of transformative power is that of leaping in, stepping up, and embracing the intensity when trialed by fire. There is no doubt that it takes courage, and thankfully we don’t have to go it alone, at least not all the way; but the story of the Phoenix is about trust in transformation, faith-filled engagement with the changes life presents, especially when faced with our fears. PRYT practitioners can only do their job well when they have unconditional positive regard for not only their clients, but also in the greater story of life, and all the change promised of it. This doesn’t mean we’re working to find the silver lining or to sugar coat painful experiences, this means we truly believe that clients have within themselves exactly what it takes to engage and meet their lives, take up the transformative crux presented to them.

The upshot of this, of course, is that as a PRYT practitioner (in training) I also believe clients have within themselves the capacity to ask for help, which is why I offer my services. We’ve all been there, when what we needed most of all was to be supportively witnessed: held, heard and resultantly soothed. But unlike your appropriately intended and wise mother, PRYT practitioners do not offer this support with a disposition of caretaking; they instead offer it as a skilled response to your capacity and wisdom to ask for help when you need it, which often takes the greatest courage of all.

There are times when going it alone is the wisest and most necessary option, and there are times when asking for help and support are equally skillful and essential. The truth of what you need and when lies within, and a PRYT practitioner helps you discernibly hear the precise wisdom amongst that clamber.

I am a Yoga Educator, embarked on my Phoenix Rising credentials, as change and life have taught me that being open to and curious about my struggles, instead of denying or resisting them, is more likely to allow for surprising and uplifting results. There is a saying that “suffering = pain + resistance”. This saying does not suggest that pain is avoidable, but that suffering is. Perhaps change is inherently painful, or perhaps its not, who knows? But regardless, we can rest assured that resisting pain will surely make it worse. Engaging the intensity and mess of my life with open-ended curiosity and trust has uncovered strength, courage, empathy, connection, adventure and brilliance I would never have imagined existed within the small frame I call me. PRYT did not teach me this, I travelled the much less efficient and much more expensive road of a mid-life crisis to unfurl the Phoenix within. And although I am grateful for my unique journey, 20/20 hindsight has certainly inspired me to invest in the professional skillset necessary to hold space for those who have the wisdom, courage and readiness to ask for help when they need and want it.

I’ve chosen to be a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist as it puts to good use my embodied trust in life, death and change. Trust is the essence of my work, to hold compassionate and wise space for those laboring their own transformation. Dancing within life’s intense flames is when the blessing of being perceived in our strength and beauty matters most. This is a dharma I am honored to fulfill, as life has afforded me trust in transformation, and PRYT training the refined skillset to do it well. I am not a Yoga Educator because I believe I can get rid of people’s pain, but because I believe I can support you to realize empowered change and vital presence; to ultimately discover the passionate, thriving and brilliant Phoenix within.

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