Working with an Inward Focus

Mercury went into Retrograde for the third time this year at the beginning of the month.  I felt the effects early enough in the forms of difficulties in communication with friends and family that sometimes led to hurt feelings or a breakdown of plans.  In case you’re not familiar with Mercury in Retrograde, it’s characterized by difficulties communicating, breakdowns of electronics used in communicating – phones, computers, fax machines, and a general ‘not working out’ of plans made.  It’s a poor time to make any big decisions such as changing jobs, buying a house or a car, or for signing contracts.

This does not bode well for the job search which I started in earnest in October and continues through this month with growing intensity as I see the ‘green energy’ in my bank account dwindle.  I’ve found that it’s difficult to be sufficiently financially supported through teaching yoga, and that has led me to looking for another stream of income, work that resonates with my spirit and will allow me to be of service to others.

Prior to embarking on the inner journey to become a yoga teacher, I worked extensively with non-profits as an organizer and fundraiser.  I found this work to be so fulfilling because I knew that each day, I was actively doing something that would make a significant change in many people’s lives.  At that time in my life, working for change on a macro-level made sense.  I liked the idea of working for systemic change and I enjoyed the experience of communicating a cause to people and helping them understand how that which affects us all really affects the individual, in the home and in the community.

I don’t feel that my cause changed when I switched careers to focus on teaching yoga and managing a studio.  I feel that the dedicated practice of yoga and meditation affects a profound change.  I believe that this change radiates outward, and is more powerful than change affected systemically, designed to radiate inward.  One of the aspects of yoga that I’ve found so transforming in my own life is the ability to look and listen within and to develop internal compassion.  As my compassion for myself grows – as I’m able to walk away from the critical voice within and dis-identify with my constantly chattering monkey mind, I’m better able to find compassion for the basic human experience which we all share.  This compassion, and more importantly understanding, radiate outward encompassing not only my local community, but also the greater connection of the world community.

It is with this passion for understanding, compassion, and connection that I embark on a hunt for a job with an in-country non-profit.  My dream is to find a job working with international volunteers to bridge the cultural disconnect and create an understanding that we are all one human family.  I feel that work such as this is a natural integration of my past work with non-profits, my inner spiritual work, and my desire to serve.  I believe that these international volunteers, coming to another country to serve the locals, will actually be more transformed themselves by this experience.  It excites me to think about this opportunity and place myself within it.

The trick, though, is manifesting support for my own material needs while learning how to turn my life in service to others.  This becomes difficult in a time of Mercurial Retrograde, when no decisions can be made and progress is marked with more steps backwards than forwards.  However, Mercury in Retrograde is not all bad!  It is a time when we are encouraged to pick up the loose ends of unfinished projects.  It is a time to encourage self-reflection and inner commitment.

This energy is supported even more by the onset of Vata season.  Living in Nicaragua, I did not expect that we would get a Vata fall here.  Autumn has always been my favorite time of year, and I was blessed this year to celebrate Autumn with family in the northeast US, where the trees were in full color and the smell of smoke and dead leaves was in the air.  Imagine my surprise when I returned to Nicaragua and found that it is Vata season here as well.  The winds blow strong in the evenings, mornings and nights are fresco – cool, and the rains are slowing down bringing more dryness to the plants and the people.

Vata Season, like Mercury Retrograde, encourages an inward focused energy.  It is easy to become uprooted during Vata season, and to feel your spirit blow away in the wind with swirling thoughts and emotions and to have difficulty focusing on goals and earthly needs.  A way to combat this is to ground down in routine, to eat earthy foods, and to practice.

I’ve been pulling on the energy of both the Mercury Retrograde and the windy Vata season to root down and commit to my practice.  I’ve found it easier and more natural to come to my yoga mat again and again each day, practicing my physical asanas and my meditation.  I’ve also found my sleep cycle leveling out, encouraging a deeper commitment to my practice and my work.  This development of a routine has also encouraged creativity, and I’m designing multiple yoga workshops to offer to the residents and visitors of Nicaragua.

This approach to Mercury Retrograde is new for me.  In the past, I’ve struggled against inward energy and fought rising frustration after communications or electronics repeatedly break down.  Now, I’m able to quietly accept that it’s a difficult time to communicate, and instead of focusing on the difficulty, I’m able to redirect my attention to what this energy facilitates.  It’s kind of like a gratitude practice.  It’s kind of like working with the Tao.  Again and again, I’m reminded in life not to force, but to be gentle.  I’m thankful for the lesson and the reminder, and grateful that I’m finally getting it!

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