Yoga teacher and Chant Sister, Priya Shah, shares her thoughts on how to embrace the now and find time to appreciate the little things.
Walking Away from Materialism
I remember a time when materiality was a big part of my life, image was everything and I strived to earn more so that I could buy more stuff and look amazing to the outside world. I was so sure that this was the only way to find joy and happiness. I was on a huge mission to prove that I was worthy to the world. What really happened was that I ended up miserable, I had put huge expectations on myself and others and with it. It all ended up being very overwhelming and I was clearly struggling to stay grounded and connect to my heart.
Even after starting my yoga journey the link to materiality was still difficult to let go of. The endless need to buy yoga leggings, because if I was going to post on Instagram I had an image to maintain. One full of different coloured leggings and performing as many different asanas as possible. I was becoming obsessive, looking for the next bargain, wanting the next wheel, the best yoga mat and every tool out there. I was fixated on the number of likes and comments I received and less about the actual reason I started yoga in the first place.
Just under year ago I walked away from a career in finance, I had originally planned on contracting and easing my way out but one thing led to another and before I knew it I had decided to leave it all behind. I am very lucky, I have an absolutely amazing husband who is supporting me and allowing me to step up into my new life and really live my purpose.
So how has this changed my life and my happiness? It has allowed me to really dig deep and really start unravelling the layers and walls I had built up around myself. We spend so long searching for all these things outside of ourselves when the reality is that they are already within us we just need to take the layers off to remember. At the same time it was extremely hard to go from having security to feeling as if I was free falling and there were many moments I questioned my choice. It’s at this point I started to look at my inner peace and how I could find joy from simple things.
I started to slow down when I did things, instead of rushing to finish or rushing to be somewhere I gave myself extra time. The extra time allowed me to breathe, to actually notice my breath and to notice my surroundings. Living in London it is sometimes easy to get swept up in the city atmosphere and not notice nature around us. Do you notice the sound of birds, the sound of leaves rustling, do you see squirrels gathering nuts? These were all the things I was not aware of whilst I was rushing around to do get somewhere and do something.
I make time for walks outside on most days, and I always take a moment to look up and take notice of the sounds, to allow myself to be completely in the moment. To allow myself the pleasure of seeing something new, invoking my inner child and feeling that sense of joy and wonder we felt so easily when we were young. Why is this so hard to feel now as an adult? Expectations and all the teachings we have learnt over the years, the sense that we have to be a certain way in order to be happy or even fulfilled. I have been going back to basics and unlearning what I was taught, taking responsibility for my life and my happiness.
Finding Joy in the Small Things
I know we all look forward to going on holiday to get away from our day to day life but what if you could just start finding joy in your everyday? Holidays are about discovering and experiencing something new, they should just feel like a beautiful expansion on an already joyful life.
So how do you start finding joy in small things? Here are a few ideas that you can incorporate into your life quite simply:
- Start letting go of expectations. I used to end up feeling so disappointed because I had so many expectations. Start celebrating moments, no matter how small they feel. Celebrations shouldn’t just be about milestones, allow yourself to celebrate yourself.
- Write one thing you are grateful for everyday in a gratitude journal, you will soon see this evolve and develop into deep gratitude especially on the days that are tough.
- Notice the beauty in your surroundings, can you hear the birds if you step outside?
- Take time to acknowledge yourself, practice some self-love and self-care, it could be as simple as soaking your feet in some hot water with salt & an essential oil, taking a relaxing bath, or talking a nice slow walk on your own in nature.
- Do something creative and fun which you enjoy. Some of the things I like to do are; baking & cooking, origami, writing, a yoga flow on my mat, mindfulness colouring. Creativity can be anything you want, it is easy to say that you are not creative but there are so many options.
- Spend some time in nature, there is something so joyful about being outside and inhaling fresh air. I love to lie in the grass looking at the clouds, it takes me back to my childhood when I rolled down hills and spotted cloud animals.
- Watch your favourite comedy show or movie, make some popcorn. Sometimes we all need an afternoon or even a day to just relax and do nothing.
- Close your eyes when you are eating your food, take in the flavours & textures, find gratitude for how it made its way to your plate.
- Allow yourself to slow down a little bit, you will be amazed by all the things you start noticing that you may have missed before.
- Do not forget to smile and laugh every chance you get, hopefully doing all of the above.
It does not have to be complicated to let joy in, start small and soon you will find yourself finding joy in most of what you do.