Last Year’s Words, Next Year’s Voice
For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
~ T.S. Eliot
Each year I take a conscious pause in my teaching schedule during the winter holidays. I do this so that I can catch my breath after the busy autumn season and so that I can take stock before the even longer late winter/spring season begins. During this time I enjoy all the creature comforts of extended time with family, winter holiday cooking, curling up with a book and some tea in the afternoon, and the simple joy of staying put at home for a while. I also use the time to create a sense of closure on the year that is coming to an end, so that I can move forward into the New Year with as much clarity as possible. This has very practical aspects such as year end bookkeeping, emptying my inbox to zero (a twice yearly ritual), and cleaning out my desk and folders for a new business year, but it also includes more personal rituals of self reflection & remembrance. Last year I also did a type of year end blog post sharing my reflections on the year that had passed, and my intentions for the year to come (in relationship to my teaching work and my personal practices of yoga and study), and this year I felt called to do the same again.
My Key Word for 2017: Creativity
My key word for 2016 was Clarity, and that is definitely what 2016 brought me. I am finishing this year with a much greater certainty around what I want to give my attention and energy to going forward, and what it is that is not worth attending to. I am clear about what I need in order to feel nourished and grounded, as well as what I need to feel inspired. I know where my priorities are in regards to work, health, family, personal relationships, and practice, and I am not plagued by the kind of questioning that was so prevalent during the years from 2012-2015. Obviously that questioning was valuable because it led me to greater clarity, but it was also tiring and it feels good to be on the other side. And one thing that became abundantly clear in 2016 was that Creativity must be a part of my everyday experience. This means more time spent writing, making art with my hands and crafting herbal medicine as well as approaching the way I teach and design my life in a creative way. I thrive when I feel connected to a flow of creativity in my life, and I feel that my offerings to the world are the most valuable when they stem from that place too. So 2017 will be the year where I honour Creativity in all its forms.
Key Themes & Teachings from 2016
- Travel, Movement & Adventure: I traveled alot in 2016, and actually rang in the New Year far from home last year. I travelled with my husband to England at the beginning of the year and enjoyed an autumn visit to Wyoming/Montana, both were amazing experiences. I also travelled home, to the province I was born in and which I hadn’t visited in five years. This was a short but intense visit, full of love and memory. And in 2016 my work took me to both Scotland and India, as well as many local communities around BC, spending well over 100 nights away from home. What did I learn from all this travel? I learned that I am greatly enriched by seeing new places and meeting new people, and my experience of the world expands. I love to travel and have been purposely crafting a life that allows me to travel. And yet since I have been travelling more each year since 2012 I have also learned that travel is tiring, and creates a sense of coming and going that can be quite un-settling. So for that reason I am committed to choosing my contracts with care over the next year so that I have enough time to re-fill my cup and send my roots deep into home soil before heading out again.
- Paring Down To Essentials: in 2016 I said no to more jobs than I said yes to, and I let go of contracts that were costing me more than I could make back (energetically as well as financially), which means that I am ending the year feeling a sense of simplified focus. On the level of personal practice 2016 has also seen a winnowing down to a few key practices which I am deeply committed to, namely simple but strong asana practice, daily meditation, mantra, & prayer (along with a writing practice that I consider part of my sadhana). This paring down means I am going into 2017 sure of what I need to prioritize in regards to my personal practice in order to feel my best physically, mentally & spiritually, and crystal clear about which creative projects I will pour my heart into.
What I Studied In 2016
In 2016 I enjoyed some very rich and powerful learning experiences. In July I spent a full weekend studying storytelling and the art of creative writing with Canadian author Richard Wagamese, and I loved every single minute of it. I am a huge fan of Richard and appreciate his deeply spiritual approach to writing, which he shared with us in a way that allowed each participant to discover (or re-discover) the pure joy of storytelling. I will definitely be doing more work with him in the future. I also took a trip to Portland Oregon, where I got to spend a weekend studying live with Sharon Salzberg, a Buddhist teacher who has had a profound impact on my meditation practice. I adore her down to earth teaching style, dry humour, grounded wisdom. She is an example to me of true compassion, not clouded by sentimentality. I hope to go on a longer retreat with her in the years to come. And finally in late summer I did my Yoga Outreach Training as I had a desire to expand my knowledge of Trauma Sensitive Yoga. This was a transformative experience and gave me great insight into what I already knew about the healing power of yoga from my own personal experience, but now have words for and can explain to others. This training also helped me gain greater clarity around aspects of public yoga class teaching that I already knew I valued, but again now understand why on a whole other level.
What I’ll Be Studying In 2017
This year my focus will be on making time for deeper study and practice of meditation through a longer retreat and more personal work with teachers I respect. I will also be taking a number of courses related to writing as I want to focus on craft so that I can communicate with more skillfulness and clarity. I will also continue my ongoing Yoga Philosophy studies, putting more emphasis on one-on-one work and mentorship with my teachers alongside online and live learning where I can fit it in. I love to learn and will regularly get excited about various topics, taking headlong dives into them and devouring every book I can get my hands on. However this year I am aiming to stick to these three primary categories of study, while restraining myself from nerding out on too many topics at once.
My Teaching Vision For 2017
In regards to my teaching work my vision for 2017 is to continue to offer the programs I love most, namely my Advanced Teaching Intensive and Philosophy Intensive, while making space for a few local and international retreats where I can connect with others in a more intimate way as we step away from our daily routine for a brief period of time. I will continue to travel to local communities that have an interest in the topics I love to teach, but will be careful not to overbook myself so that I can be at home for longer periods of time as well since I have a number of online offerings I wish to bring forth in this next year (as well as some writing projects), and these will require some dedicated focus.
My husband and I moved to Pemberton BC, at the north end of the Sea to Sky corridor, so we could enjoy quiet small town living once again (we loved Whistler but it was still too busy for us), and in my new home I finally have something I have always dreamed of- a room of my own. A space that I can dedicate entirely to my creative work and my personal practice. And though I will still have to squeeze my yoga mat in between a bookshelf and a desk in order to make it work, it is my own space. I have been practicing yoga since 1999, and I have never had my own room to practice in. I have been running my own service based business since 2007, and I have never had my own office, or even a proper desk. Having both these things now allows me to feel a sense of grounding that I know will nourish my creativity and my practice in new ways during this next year, and I am deeply grateful for that.
So as I look forward to what this next cycle might bring, knowing it will contain both challenge and beauty as every year does, it is my hope that the Clarity I gained in 2016 will fuel my Creativity in 2017, and the commitments I have made (both to myself and to the work I do) will be of benefit to you- those who read these musings or take my classes- in some small but meaningful way. Thank you for your support in 2016, and please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have requests for programs or offerings in 2017, or would simply like to touch base with me on a more personal level.