Dear Steady and Sweet,

I am in a state of overwhelm all the time. My practice, while genuinely intended to create healing, is being pressed upon by my job as a yoga teacher which is highly unstable and leaves me feeling terrified about our financial stability. I have an aging parents with increasingly demanding needs and while I have tried to create a life where I’m able to spend quality time with them as frequently as possible, I often feel detached and irritable when I’m with them because of everything else I ‘should’ be doing. I’m addicted to my phone for small hits of dopamine from social media and also to constantly check work messages. I feel like I’m never doing enough anywhere and that the decisions I’ve made are likely to pull me and my family under. I feel like I’m drowning – and then I also feel like I’m failing in my practice. Help!

Signed,
Never Off The Battlefield

Dear NOTB,

Oh honey. First of all, I get it. So much. Anyone working in this strangely competitive, underpinned by scarcity, ‘wellness’ industry would be very likely to share the same sentiments as you. Somehow we’ve created this environment where the folks that are supposed to be modelling stability, commitment to spiritual practice and self-valuing are precariously employed, underpaid and often required/exploited to perform free labour for employers in the form of marketing and branding themselves. Apart from creating a horror show for those who are following this vocation BUT actually need to work to live, full-time yoga instructors are more likely to be those who have enough privilege/education to have a fall-back plan if this career doesn’t work out…which means these communities are nowhere near as diverse as the cities and towns they are living in. Double whammy of loss of integrity.

So…what’s to be done? I’m honestly not sure. The industry issues will not be resolved by one person setting boundaries and only checking their phone at certain times but it’s a start. What comes to mind immediately are the last three niyamas – tapas, svadyaya and ishvara pranidhana. It is going to take a ton of rigor, effort, determination (tapas) to create protected space for you and your family where you are not available for communication or, even more important, stressing about your current place in the world. The self-knowledge (svadyaya) of knowing when you are harming yourself by piling on stress thoughts could be paired with a commitment to surrendering onto Caesar (or the cosmos) what is not yours (Ishvara Pranidhana).

Much of what is pulling you under is not actually happening but rather is the result of the constant spinning of the mind around the shitty situation you are in. What if you recognized that cycle and with fierce determination, just gritted your teeth and convinced yourself to surrender the thoughts back to the thought pile. It’s not worth valuing them just because they are on the heavy duty rotation list (because if that was sufficient, the radio would have convinced me to lurve No Brainer by Justin Bieber and Several Hundred Other Artists by now and…I still don’t).

Also, know that your community of teachers and students might benefit from discussing this and acknowledging the very real barriers this type of life has for those in it and those who would like to be in it but simply can’t because of their context. Let’s start talking about this stuff. But for now, take it easy on yourself and at least take some time every day where you’re not on the spin cycle. Habits can be carved in either direction – start unrutting this groove as often as you can. You are not alone and you are not a slave to your thoughts.

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