By Lisa Åkesson Stryker
In the Swedish language we have a great word for being in the role of a victim, offerkofta. It basically means the victim sweater and unfortunately I put it on quite frequently. I forget how fortunate I am and get caught up in what I consider to be wrong or not good enough. At first “offerkoftan” feels warm and cozy, it makes me feel self-righteous and busy. I have something to do, a position to defend. I’m right about something, which means that someone else is wrong, and poor me who has to be the one to point it out and feel so taken advantage of.
But after awhile, the sweater feels itchy. I don’t really accomplish anything, I’m just sweaty and uncomfortable. The feeling spreads in my body and shows up in my posture. My head starts tilting forward, my shoulders slouch and my back hurts. Poor me.
It takes a while for me to remember that I have a solution to my problem that doesn’t keep me trapped: gratitude. Nothing can snap me out of self-doubt, anxiety, regret or self-pity like a good dose of gratitude. Nothing is ever perfect, but there’s always good in everything. And what if things don’t happen to me, but for me? What if I manifest my reality and create the experiences that I need to grow?
Every evening before I go to bed I write down three things that I’m grateful for and three things I need help with the next day or in life in general. It’s a tender and surprising reminder of how easy it is to be grateful, but how little practice I have in this area. It takes me a few seconds to reset my intention, and then the gratitude comes pouring out through the pen onto the paper. Some days I can only think of mundane things, like toilet paper, my bed, or that I am at the close of a long day. Other days I realize that I’m grateful to be exactly where I am, doing the work I am doing and having the people around me that I’m blessed with. It’s a mysterious experience, it never gets old.
The first thing I do in the morning before anything else is to read what I wrote the night before. It reminds me to start the day with gratitude and to be humble about what I need help with. Some days I need to pick up my gratitude notes several times throughout the day. The writing and reading really helps; it brings me back to myself.
Yoga means union, and I consider anything that takes me toward a state of connection to be a Yoga practice. An asana or other physical exercise can also do the trick, they help me come back into my body and keep my thoughts at bay. But Yoga is so much more than physical postures. Spending time in nature, reading something inspirational, time with loved ones, listening to music, singing in the shower, playing with a child or a puppy, cooking, sharing my truth and feeling grateful are all Yoga for me. These practices close the gap between my mind, body and spirit. Just like emotions feed thoughts (and the other way around), if my physical body isn’t in balance, my mind and spirit won’t be in balance. When what I think and feel align with my spirit’s intention, I’m at peace.
This is an encouraging reminder that I found at my parents place long ago. The English translation is from a magazine article published in 1999. It reminds me of how powerful gratitude is, and that there are always two sides to the same coin.
I Am Thankful for…
...the mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.
...the taxes I pay because it means that I am employed.
...the clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat.
...my shadow who watches me work because it means I am out in the sunshine.
...a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means that I have a home.
...the spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking.
...all the complaining I hear about our government because it means we have freedom of speech.
...my huge heating bill because it means that I am warm.
...the lady behind me who sings off key because it means I can hear.
...the piles of laundry and ironing because it means my loved ones are nearby.
...the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours because it means that I'm alive.
...weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day because it means I have been productive.
- Det är aldrig kört, Kristina Reftel
Today I am especially grateful for my passport that allows me to travel freely and see so many interesting places, meet fascinating people and create new experiences. What are you grateful for today?
Lisa Åkesson Stryker grew up in Sweden and started a career as a fashion model in her late teens. In 2015 she completed her 200-hour raja yoga training at Hale Pule and her Ayurvedic Health Consultant training in Sweden. In the summer of 2016 she became certified as an Ayurvedic chef with Hale Pule, and immediately completed a residency thereafter. Since then she’s been teaching Yoga and Ayurveda in the USA, Europe, and Africa. She’s currently based in Hamburg, Germany where she regularly offers cooking classes, Yoga classes, workshops, Ayurvedic treatments and consultations.
You can follow and contact Lisa at @areyouvedic on Instagram, Facebook or through her homepage www.areyouvedic.co.uk.