On Being Real

This wasn’t the post I had planned for today, but sometimes inspiration happens to make you bump your schedule. This weekend I was inspired by a workshop I attended called On Being Human led by Jen Pastiloff. If you haven’t heard of Jen already then look her up on Instagram or Facebook. You’ll find beautiful essays on her website The Manifest-Station. Jen is a writer and yoga instructor and the founder of a movement called #girlpoweryouareenough, but the descriptor that fits the best, is one she uses herself: beauty hunter. She’s one of those people who brings light whatever she is saying, however difficult the topic.

It felt decadent to be leaving the kids at the weekend and going of by myself to spend the afternoon with a room full of strangers. I didn’t regret it. Jen got me thinking about being real. I wear my heart on my sleeve, I always have. As a child that maybe marked me out to my parents as vulnerable. They thought I needed protecting, but there is strength in being open. If there is one thing I learnt at the workshop it was how vital it is to peel away the layers of subterfuge, know yourself and allow others to know you. That can be an ongoing battle in a world where wearing masks of beauty, good humour and agreement is encouraged.

Jen showed me what I have believed for a long time. There is beauty in vulnerability. On Saturday sixty odd women and one brave man gathered in a hot room in Hammersmith and shared their stories, did yoga together, danced and cried. It was surreal, wearing and life-affirming. The emphasis on the class was more on journalling and honesty than on yoga. This came as a relief as at best I’m a yoga beginner. Still, some of the most powerful moments in the workshop were when Jen combined yoga sequences with thoughtful questions. My arms shook after just a couple of downward dogs and cobras, but even the sweat felt honest.

The class made me think again about the power of youth, the feeling of invincibility and adventurousness as a child that often diminishes with age. It’s why I have a notebook dedicated to what my children say and do. I want to bottle their curiosity, the way they see the world, unburdened by expectation or artifice. Soon enough they’ll come to understand how complicated it is. As we grow older It becomes natural to put up barriers and learn to protect ourselves. Life can be painful. We limit ourselves as a result. We hide our light for fear of not fitting in, being too weird, too broken or ungrateful. We make adjustments not only to save hurting people, but to make them feel less uncomfortable. Still, isn’t hiding our real selves a kind of self-sabotage? We attract kin into our life by projecting our real selves.

Perhaps worse than hiding from others is hiding from ourselves. We bury our dreams under the rubble of routine and expectations. The rat race is seductive, leaping over hurdle after hurdle in pursuit of an idea of success prescribed by someone else. Is it really easier to mould ourselves to the masses? I don’t know whether it’s my gender, culture, personality or living in a city where it is easy to get sucked in, but for me it takes constant striving to move forward in the way I wish to.

Is it ever too late to be who you want to be? I don’t think so. Our lives, just like us, are fluid. Interactions shape us. Experiences build us and then recede, leaving scars or dissolving into our consciousness. We might be stuck today, but tomorrow we may not be. There is always the promise of change. We move on, that is what is important.

I’ve decided that practising yoga more often would be a good thing, a link between physical and mental well being. Jen’s class reminded me that there is real power in clarity about your intentions, and in reshaping or even remembering who you are by using affirmations and abandoning toxic thoughts. I often write notes on colourful envelopes with phrases that resonate. I might put a few of them around the house and on our blackboard to focus me. And then there’s www.consciousink.com, which you must look at: beautiful temporary tattoos that Jen brought to the workshop, which can be used to remind yourself of your goals.

If you need me I’ll be practicing my warrior pose. Until next time

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