12 months ago as I commenced my 50th orbit around our star I was celebrating with friends in Amsterdam and could hardly have anticipated the tumultuous year that lay ahead. Approaching 50 we would all hope to be on a safe and predictable trajectory towards that dreaded nomenclature, ‘middle age’, and enjoying a period of stability and security in our lives. However the Universe had other plans for me and I was violently knocked off course by a life threatening illness and a bitter legal dispute with Council that nearly destroyed my business. Not quite the smooth transition to the fabulous fifties that I had envisaged, in fact probably the single most challenging year of my life! But on the eve of this milestone birthday, the ground beneath my feet is feeling reasonably steady once more, and I am naturally inclined to reflect on a few things I have learned.
On Wealth . . .
No surprises here but it has nothing to do with the number in your bank account or the value of your assets. Financially I am significantly poorer today than I was 10 years ago. Leaving a corporate career and a six figure salary to start my own yoga business would hardly be considered a shrewd financial move by even the most enlightened advisor. Throw in a pinch of poor judgment and a spoonful of rotten bureaucracy and the equation is even less convincing. Add to that the usual financial pressures of the forties (which it seems are commonly consumed by funding mortgages, feeding families, servicing debts and insuring our lives, livelihoods, health, homes, possessions & pets) and I can safely say that if success were measured in dollars & cents my life to date would rate as an epic fail.
Fortunately the things I value most these days have very small price tags. Granted a roof over my head and food in my belly come at a cost, but needn’t cost the Earth. The burden of consumerism in my thirties has been superseded by the beauty of contemplative practices such as yoga, meditation and walking in nature, and the accumulation of dollars and duck egg blue boxes has far less appeal than finding opportunities to create, grow, learn or travel. A vocation I love and a community of like-minded clients and colleagues is priceless. And of course it goes without saying that to love and be loved, to enjoy deep and meaningful connections with my husband, family and friends, is precious. My bank balance might tell a different story but I am rich beyond my wildest dreams.
On Time . . .
At once an abstract and infinite concept, and a scarce commodity. As the decades tumble the passing of time seemingly speeds up, and in our busy Western lives there are never enough hours in the day. I once read a quote from Muhammed Ali which has stuck with me ever since, that the most valuable thing you can ever give anyone is your time. Treat every minute of your day as though it’s a precious and limited resource. If there were a value attached to it, how would you spend it? If you’re a fan of The Barefoot Investor, you can apply the same principles to your time. We all need to budget for the essentials (work) and the dull stuff in life (household chores), but we can probably all identify areas we can make a few savings (social media, watching crap TV, staying late at the office) and start accruing a few extra hours in the day to invest in the important things in life: spending quality time with loved ones; attending to your health and wellbeing; learning a new skill; or starting that passion project you’ve been putting off for months or years. Ultimately we never know how much of it we’re going to enjoy, so spend it wisely.
On Yoga . . .
Students often ask me if I practice yoga every day. The short answer is no - I don’t roll out my mat for a daily asana practice. The long answer is yes - I try to practice yoga every moment of every day. Like many of our students my yoga practice started on the mat in a gym, and for many years it was limited to 45 minutes of asana and a few minutes of relaxation once a week. But my real yoga practice started when I took a sabbatical from my career in my early thirties, travelled the world, discovered teachers from different traditions and began to learn about and explore the other seven limbs of yoga.
Today my asana practice is still an essential aspect of my life, but I am less concerned about nailing vrschikasana (scorpion pose), and more concerned with the subtleties of the practice and how it works at a deeper physical, energetic and emotional level. I am drawn towards more nourishing styles of practice and focusing on the innate connection between body, mind, breath and a higher consciousness. But increasingly it’s the work I do off the mat that is most fulfilling as well as the most challenging at times. Trying to be present and mindful in every moment, responding with kindness and compassion in every situation, and trying to live an authentic yoga path is not always easy, but I’m looking forward to the next 50 years of continuous learning and deepening my practice. And of course sharing that journey with our amazing community.