How do you make your life's decisions? Do you listen to your head and decide on what seems most practical and logical? Or do you listen to your heart?
In our society, you might agree that listening to the heart is generally seen as weak or flighty, as opposed to smart and grounded. In my opinion, this is complete and utter nonsense. Learning to truly listen to your heart and intuition has the ability to transform your life. Bold statement I know. Some of you skeptics might even be rolling your eyes; these type of affirmations belong in fairyland, right? Wrong! How do I feel so confident in stating it? Because for a long time, I chose not to listen, I chose to ignore the voice that suggested I follow a different career path. In the gym or during a yoga class, I chose to push through the internal signals that told me to slow down, take a break and be kind to myself.
Then when I finally started to listen, I began to see how much sweeter life can be.
In May 2014, I experienced what many would call... a burn out. I was working at a bank in NYC at the time, and one afternoon I remember feeling incredibly overwhelmed. In that moment, I recall thinking to myself: "There are just not enough hours in the day to do all my work... and all of this for what?" I then walked over to a friend and asked her if she was free to go out for a coffee. Luckily the coffee shop was empty, because as soon as we arrived, ordered our drinks and sat down, tears streamed down my face... uncontrollably. I had a complete breakdown! Although I am someone that does cry quite often, and unashamed to admit it, I have never been driven to tears at work. No matter how stressed, anxious or even angry I could be at times, I have always been able to separate my work from my personal life. That day however, my body needed a release and it was crying (literally!) out to me to stop.
You're probably thinking this is the point where I decided to leave banking... well not quite yet! The way I tried to rationalise it in my head, as I had done so many times in the past, was to go out and find another job, this time with more manageable hours. After all, what else could I do with my life? Start back form square one? No way... that path seemed way too scary and I didn't know where I would start anyway.
Now looking back, in deciding to look for a new opportunity in finance, I was completely ignoring my heart's question that day: All of this for what?
I soon received a job offer and immediately accepted. After all, they were the best in the industry and boy was the money good. My heart and body were screaming "don't take it", yet my head was saying, "are you crazy?". Ten months later, it was impossible for me to keep ignoring all of my internal signals. I resigned, trained to be a yoga teacher, and the rest you know.
Practice makes practice
Learning to truly listen to your heart and intuition, like everything else in life, takes practice. I have learnt to develop my intuitive muscles through yoga. The following excerpt from Ana Forrest's book Fierce Medicine explains it beautifully:
"As you are moving more deeply into a yoga pose, listen and feel for your first edge of resistance. When your body resists, it's saying, wait. If you wait and breathe into that tugging place, there can be an opening. If you barge on past that signal, occupied with where you think you should be in the pose, you're shunning the voice of your body's intelligence, and missing that sweetness!"
In fact, this morning while in pigeon pose, I chose to even ask myself: What is my body saying right now, what does it want? Does it want me to stay right there, back off, or go deeper? I found this worked beautifully. In case you were curious, the answer this morning was to stay right there.
"Your intuition and internal body signals will speak to you frequently, if you listen". Ana Forrest
Eyes wide shut
No, don't get excited (pun intended), not the movie with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. I liked the combination of these three words because they seem perfect to explain how I began to listen and deeply feel during my yoga practice. I simply started to close my eyes. Shutting out any external distractions has helped me bring forward the best quality of my attention and breath. I can hear and feel better with the eyes closed.
Why do we close our eyes when we pray, cry, kiss and dream? Because the most beautiful things in life are not seen, but felt in the heart.
So next time you come to a crossroads in life, close your eyes, take a couple deep breaths; ask yourself what you truly want and listen...
"Listen to your heart. It knows everything" Paulo Coelho
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