If I have never met you my name is Estelle. I am a mother, a yoga teacher, art teacher and a painter.And I guess sometimes I wish I could put all the hats and titles I hold in a bright pink box with a sparkly bow and have it title ARTIST or YOGI. As it is only quite recently that I’ve come to realized that as long as I am a breathing, living, human being this in itself gave me the right to be both.
This awakening was guided by reading the words of Elizabeth Gilbert. Some of you might know her for Eat Pray Love and most recently for her Big Magic. Gilbert wrote that as long as you are alive you are a creative person and I would add to this (don’t tell her I did that !!) that as long as you are alive you are a yogi. Being alive automatically give you the right to be an artist and yogi.
I often explain this to my art & yoga workshops and classes at the beginning to set the stage up. And you can imagine I am greeted with much defence and scrutiny. People smile and nod ‘no’. How can I be a yogi when I have just given birth to a baby and haven’t exercises since? How can I be an artist if I have been told all by life that I cannot draw a straight line? And the list goes on. We have believed what the outside world said and the outside world as believed us. We have believed that yogis do only handstands, warrior 2’s, meditated morning and evening and we have believed that artist are meant for the museum.
What do you mean? If I am alive, I am creative? If I am alive, I am a yogi? Like alive, you mean I don’t need to do anything? And then I am reminded of the words of the great Sean Corn ( another one friend, she doesn't know she's my friend but I know... !!) says this so well: As long as you know you are breathing you are doing yoga, beautifully and brilliantly.
And then I often catch myself blessed and privilege to remind people to breathe. Because essentially as yoga teacher that’s what i do. If you strip it down to it’s bear minimum, that’s it. I remind people that their breath, is there light, is there love is there life. I remind them that prana is vast and all pervasive. Because we forget. The Upanishad has such a lovely way to describe breath, it says that it is smaller than the small and greater than the great. It is the life inside a tumbleweed, seed and trees, it is the movement of the star, the moon phase and tides. It is the life force inside the smallest fish and the swallow-size whale. Iv’e just went to see the monstrous creature and seriously if you don’t believe in magic after seeing whale, I am not sure what you believe in. It is the source of all physiological and creative aspect of life. And whilst it is the origin of life itself, it is also the vast anonymous in which all things are dissolve in the end. Yoga intentions is merge breath and awareness so that you may experience boundless freedom, moksha, liberation. I’d argue that this is the intention of art as well. This merging. This union. This yoga. Breathe & awareness. Breathe & attention. Breath and knowing.
In fact, the word BREATHE comes from the latin ‘inspire’. Taking an ‘inspiration’ would in fact claim that we are living breathing walking inspiration, but see, we forget. We forget because we get busy and serious. We forget because time is a bully and life is fast and furious. We forget because we are depressed, anxious and in pain. We wake up one day and we don’t know why but we feel funky, out of psych, off tilted.
Bulk of us are disconnected. Disconnection happens at the root because we do not feel held by the world. We forget, as Rumi movingly writes that we are born out of love.
For me personally, art & yoga gave me a way back in my body and painting everyday has helped me see and ear better, writing in my journal and on Instagram, speak clearer. When I get in this timeless place, I feel safe. I feel held. I get my eyes and ears inside so I realized there is no separation with the inner and outer landscape of me.
John O’donohue talk of this: He says when you really look at something you bring it inside you. I look at the flowers and butterflies I paint, my waves, my buddahs and all my women. They are all me. And I can even go beyond this. I can say they were always in me to begin with and by looking at them I am only amplifying the magic that is already there.
So my friend Elizabeth Gilbert, Sean Corn and John O'Donohue and I, ask you that you to widen your lens on what it means to be a yogi for you. On what it means to be an artist for you. Do you have a ritual? Mine is daily sadhana of movement and painting. I aim for 30 minute of each, each day. As Grumukh says, within this time I don’t try to improve anything, I try to accept everything.
Accepting became really hard a few years ago. Some of you might know that I lost my two and half year old son Tommy 3 years ago, very suddenly. This was obviously a trying time for me and my family, but an awakened time as well. Early on, every moment was red and raw. Oh how grateful I was that I had been doing this contemplative work- painting and movement since I was 13. You see, instead of moving away from grief or pain, I decided to walk and write and dance and yoga and paint head first in it. I use it has a gateway and threshold somehow. Kinda like a cave, and getting into the innermost part. I did this instinctively but also I had taught my body all these years and my body kept score. Behind me: buoyancy, inner peace, wholeness, presence, stillness. Pema Chodron would say this is the probably the most important aspect of a spiritual journey, to keep trucking, to keep going inside that cave, inside the void, inside the mess.
Through grief and sorrow, having art & yoga created a means to restore my identify, reset my body, looked deeper in my broken heart. And soon you come to understand viscerally what Kalil Gibran speaks of so poignantly “and you shall find that it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. Joy and sorrow are inseparable”.
As a collective of teacher, healers, leaders, holding space is at the epicenter of our work and callings. How can we greet our students, family and friends together in pain, courage and resilience? How can we help them unfold in new way and open up to love? I have chosen art & yoga. But for you it might be a sitting practice, a walk in the wood or on the beach, tending a garden, cooking, reading a book. I tell my tired but happy mothers, that they are the most rockstar’s yogis: that holding your baby is yoga, nursing your baby is yoga! I tell my broken artist, that to listen in. Straight lines are boring. Mistakes are breakthroughs. I watch my students going through a workshop of programs, and if they’ve been willing to go head first in, that’s when the miracles happens. That’s when there body glistens of hope, their gaze fierce and their eye sparkly. I live for that spark!
My intention and passion has always been the same. I want to help myself and people transform their awareness and live better lives with art & yoga, because I live a better life with art and yoga.
In the end, we need to remember. To let it in. Remember that the beauty outside is reflected inside. Remember that life is sizzling, bold and bright. Remember to make space for the dark and denser place of who we are. To Unfold. Unwind. Stop. Look. Go. To remember that your breath is a pathway and doorway to what is given on to you. To remember that as long as your breathing your doing LIFE beautifully, your doing it brilliantly.