Let’s try something. Just for a moment, picture your solace – the place you feel the most at peace. What does it look like?
When I think of mine, it often features a faraway place, a trail, and perhaps some gentle clouds flitting across distant snow-covered mountains. Most often, it also features solitude.
It was surprising then, that this past weekend I found a similar feeling but was surrounded by thousands of others at Mont Tremblant’s Wanderlust Festival: a three-day celebration of yoga and mindful living. Despite the serene backdrop of the rolling Laurentian Mountains, the days were busy and often required hustling from class to class across the Village.
Rooms were filled with tens to hundreds of people, all of whom were in search of similar outcomes: to advance their yoga practice; to try something new; perhaps, to find, either in the words of the instructors or deep within themselves, the answers they had been searching for. These yogis brought a vibrant energy to the mountain that seemed to enforce the many reasons we were there.
I was no different in what I was seeking, and every class managed to present a different manifestation of what I needed. From slow and static yin to dynamic and unfamiliar kundalini, each classroom became a safe space for physical and mental experimentation.
Luckily, the instructors provided skilled and thoughtful guidance along the way. Although they left me with months worth of insight to explore, these were the three messages that resonated most deeply:
Accept Your Difficult Self
In a meditation practice of a similar name, we sought out the parts of ourselves that we find difficult along with those that we accept.
In a world with constant pressures, expectations and, most critically, judgments, it can be so easy to internalize negativity, often without realizing we’re doing so. Like an outward facing mirror, the difficulty we find within ourselves is then commonly what we project onto others.
With this unrelenting pressure, then, how quickly do we place pressure on our loved ones? In a space with eternal expectations, how often to we unfairly place expectations on our friends or colleagues? When we are faced with unremitting judgment, how frequently do we come to judge those we do not know at all?
Each one of us harbours within us a part that is less easy than the rest. If we learn to see it, accept it, and perhaps embrace it, there is a better chance we can work on it, yes, but also that we can embrace the less easy parts of others.
Find Beauty in Impermanence
At the opening of a powerful vinyasa class, our instructor told us the story of a difficult, unforgiving hike. While she and her dog were struggling on the trail, they came across a sunflower thriving in the harsh desert sun.
The message behind the teaching was that in this world nothing is permanent. The struggles we are experiencing now may pass next year, next month, or even later this day. In contrast, the same is true for our contentment.
In short, our experiences and emotions are fleeting. As our instructor stated, ‘now, it’s like this.’ After pausing to wait for a few seconds to pass, she stated again, ‘now, it’s like this.’
If we repeat the same exercise, whether or not things became become easier or more difficult throughout those few seconds is irrelevant. What matters is that in one way or another, it’s different.
There are two beautiful concepts I took from this. The first, that we can detach from discomfort, knowing that it won’t be like this for long. The second, that we can throw ourselves into every experience for the same very reason.
Both challenge and ease have their own unique benefits: ease bringing reprieve and release; challenge kindling long lasting growth.
Each one of us will have our own Utah sun: that optimal condition under which we thrive. It is, however, how we choose to move within the fluid space surrounding the sun that will ultimately determine our success.
Acknowledge We are Stronger Together than Apart
Perched on a hill looking down at a full yoga class, I watched as our instructor asked us to stand side by side and place our hands on the backs of those beside us. We were then guided into a balancing pose, leaning back into the arms of strangers while trusting our neighbours to support us.
It was a powerful moment to experience but also to observe: in a group of hundreds of yogis, no one fell.
One step further, as we made our way into the iconic warrior sequence, that same instructor defined a ‘warrior’ as one who harbours enough strength to not only save him or herself, but another as well. I took that definition away with me, realizing it is important not only to prioritize our own best interests but also those of our loved ones.
Each one of the classes, meditations and conversations throughout the course of the weekend had its own distinct and resonant message. All of them, however, seemed to lead back to one common thought: we are stronger as a community than we are as one.
In learning to be kind to ourselves, we can learn to be kind to one another. In learning to accept ourselves, we can accept those that surround us. We can let go of judgment; we can let go of expectation.
And maybe, just maybe, we can build strength in numbers.
Just for a moment, revisit your solace. What does it look like?