2016 – Reflections on an Extraordinary Year

 

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2016 … you couldn’t write it!

As we start the last day of what has been extraordinary year of events, I find myself reflecting on all that has happened, as I’m sure many of us do at this time. I often feel strangely melancholic at New Year, with no particular reason other than a sense of passing time, of letting go. It’s the same at the end of the Summer, even though I love the change in seasons and the beauty of Autumn.

This year started with the sad news of David Bowie’s death. His music was a real soundtrack to my teenage years. ‘Hunky Dory’ was the first album that I ever bought and I was really saddened, as many of us were, to hear of his passing. But of course we all die eventually. It is the one certain thing in life and as we get older we are bound to lose not just those close to us but also the people that have been there as mentors and those that have inspired us. A friend once described these moments in our life, as a kind of loss of innocence. These moments of sadness and reflection, of loss and of the subsequent acknowledgement of the preciousness of life are all part of the journey.
We’ve said goodbye to so many musical and creative icons over this last 12 months, many of them a big part of my own journey from teenager into adulthood, from Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Terry Wogan and most recently Carrie Fisher, to name but a few (we all know the list is pretty big). Alongside all of this the whole political landscape of the world has been shifting, or rather it feels more like it has been unravelling, is still unravelling. I’ve always embraced change, even actively sought to create change. It’s what keeps us fresh, alive, open to new adventures and creative challenges. But, embrace it as I try, these political changes have felt different, as if the rug has been pulled from beneath me. I feel unsettled, anxious even about the future. The world feels more precious and more fragile than ever. I’ve literally wept with helplessness this year at images of the conflict in Syria, especially those of the children. I’ve watched David Attenborough’s Planet Earth series filled with awe at the beauty of this planet and at the same time felt sad at how badly we are treating it. And we are about to see the start of a new presidency in the United States with a man who doesn’t believe in climate change! I can’t help but feel that our poor world might be in for a bumpy ride …

I’m not sad to see 2016 draw to a close and yet I still feel a deep sense of sadness and I’ve been sitting with this feeling for a few days to try and understand why. I spend my life sharing a practice which is all about ‘being present’, ‘letting go’, acknowledging our feelings without getting caught up in ‘our story’ . For the most part I think I’m pretty good at doing this. I’m generally a glass half full kind of person and have such a wonderful life, family and friends, for all of which I am so grateful each day.
But something has shifted a little and I find myself looking a little deeper at myself, wondering what my purpose in this life is. I am a mother of two beautiful young women and step mum to another one. They have all spread their wings and are embracing life with all their love and passion as they follow their dreams and I am so proud of them. I am lucky enough to share my life with a truly special man and couldn’t have wished for a better partner in this journey we call life. Somehow, perhaps because of this position of privilege and freedom, I feel a growing need to do more, a call to action if you like, as if just being and living our day to day life is not enough in itself.
My daily practice has, for many years, been my resource. The place where I get to have a good look at myself and find both strength and stillness ready to meet whatever it is that find when I get off my mat and engage in life, which is the real yoga practice.
After all these years of daily practice I have found it hard to be on my mat these last few days. I have found it hard to confront myself, too uncomfortable with what has come up, too hard to simply ‘be’ with these feelings of sadness and fragility and not get caught up in them and I am sharing this because it might resonate with some of you.
Yesterday was one of those perfect beautiful blue sky cold winter days and I decided that my practice was to go out into the garden and get on with some gardening jobs. Getting my hands in the soil and connecting with earth has always been really cathartic for me and yesterday was no different. I started to feel a little clearer and a lot more settled. As the afternoon drew on, a coastal fog started to roll in and Paul and I walked down to the coastal path, the sun just burning through the mist over the sea. The landscape in this part of Dorset is stunning and I again felt those pangs of sadness for our beautiful world and how fragile it is. We watched the sun go down and the fog roll in as we walked back and felt grateful to be here.
When I did finally make it onto my mat this morning … and stay there …. something had shifted. I still feel that sense of sadness and fragility but it’s ok to feel that way. In fact I think it stops us from being complacent, of taking things for granted. That call to action feels stronger than ever and as I reflect on all those amazing souls who left this earth over the last year, something that they all had in common was that they made a difference, they touched our hearts and souls in some way.

Especially at this time of transition and change in an uncertain world, it is so important that we embrace and celebrate all that is good in our lives and in our communities. We all have an important role to play. As we move into a new year, this beautiful planet of ours needs each and every one of us to do what we can, within our communities and families, to look after it and each other, to act with awareness of societies beyond our own. Most importantly, to act with Love and trust that we each have the power to make positive changes. We don’t have to make big gestures and most of us won’t be world famous but let’s see if we really can all work together to make a real difference for 2017.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Helen
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