The Happiness Explorer
How to... live a spiritually-guided life., despite all the noise. By Lydia Kimmerling
I recently left a week-long yoga retreat early and asked for a refund for the days that I didn't use. Whilst I felt confident that I wasn't getting what was advertised, speaking up about it also made me doubt my spiritual practice.
If you have ever worried about being too much or coming across as negative and this has held you back from saying what you want, meaning that you begrudgingly settle for less, this could be for you.
After leaving my relationship of 10 years, I realised I had subconsciously come to believe that I was a bad and selfish person. My partner was someone who wanted to please people by doing or saying whatever he thought would make them happy. Instead of being clear about what he wanted with me, or what was okay for him in our relationship, he would compromise himself to make me happy. I knew what I wanted and I had clear boundaries, which is difficult for someone who is the opposite. I'm not saying this is wrong, he was doing his best, but on an energetic level (one which I was not aware of at the time) his wanting to please came with a thin thread of resentment and frustration towards me.
Slowly, like a balloon that has the tiniest puncture, each time this played out, I was gradually deflating inside the relationship and not understanding why – until a piece of me died. I felt like a bad person. Did I want too much? Was I too demanding? Or difficult? No.
Yes, I know what I want. Yes, I am a strong woman. And yes, that is all okay.
It's taken me time, patience, and effort to resurrect who I am. I know that I am not a bad person but that little voice can still be there where I need to speak up to express what I want, which I discovered on the recent retreat.
I arrived at the retreat advertised as being nestled in the mountains at the back of a nature reserve – describing it as being on a housing estate meets wasteland would have been a better fit.
The house next door and the house opposite were also both under construction with the noise of a swimming pool being hammered out, so loud that both the hose and I needed to project our voices to hear one another across the welcome desk. This was not what I had expected.
The following morning during yoga, whilst facing a grey breeze block wall being constructed outside the yoga shall, the instructor began with spiritual teachings about how we should focus on the 'music' in life instead of the 'noise'. I'm not sure if this topic was just coincidental but she took the opportunity to relate the teachings back to the hammering, which had started early that morning.
Now don't get me wrong, I am all for focusing our attention on what will return us to peace, love, joy and connection. But my overactive mind was thinking: is this a joke? Am I the only one sat here thinking, are they having a laugh?
I wondered whether, if I said something, I was going to be judged for not understanding a spiritual principle that I actually teach myself – my ego was having a mini meltdown. I didn't want to come across as not being aware but I also wasn't about to settle and do 'the inner work' to be happy here if I could find a better solution.
So I sat with it for an evening and concluded that being spiritual does not mean you can not say what is or isn't okay for you. It doesn't mean you can't ever feel disappointed or annoyed about the 'noise'. Living a spiritually-guided life for me is about how you move through everything in life to come back to experiencing more connection, love, peace and joy. This wasn't going to make me unhappy but I was going to express that it wasn't okay – even if that meant I risked judgement of not surrendering, not accepting and not letting go of expectations.
The following day, when the noise still hadn't stopped, I brought it up with our host and as I did, I noticed one lady who had been there for two weeks, exhale a huge sigh of relief. She shared that the noise had left her feeling worse than when she arrived. It seemed to me that using my voice had given her the permission to express herself too and that she had been holding it all in, unsure of what the right thing was to do.
I wonder what had been holding her back. Had the fear of not wanting to be difficult or not spiritual, made her doubt herself and think maybe it's not that bad, or that she should just try and focus on the 'music'?
I may have not got the holiday I expected – daily yoga, vegan food and plenty of meditation – but I did take something away. There are snippets of spiritual principles taught in yoga classes or on Instagram that until you explore them for yourself can cause you to doubt yourself and question whether it would make you a 'bad' person if you behave a certain way.
This is why I believe that when you are soul searching, the most important part of walking your spiritual path is the connection you have with yourself and really knowing what you think. Soak up the teachings and then take it all inwards to understand what it means for you and don't be afraid to challenge things or ask questions if it's not quite sitting right for you.
On a less serious and more ironic note, I ended up at an all-inclusive holiday resort where I ate way too much and became the person who put their towel down early in the same spot each morning, which is someone I never thought I would be. So practicing deep acceptance and having a laugh with the universe became my holiday 'music' anyway.
What do you think? I would love to hear what you have taken from my holiday story.