Dangerous compassion by Cherryl Duncan

'The Able Ones, the Buddhas, who have considered this for many aeons, have all seen bodhichitta to be the most beneficial. Because through it countless masses of living beings can easily attain the supreme bliss of enlightenment.' ~ A guide to the Boddhisatva’s way of life (Bodhisatvacharyavatara)

Bodhichitta, for those not familiar with this text, is essentially the wish for enlightenment for all other beings and can roughly be translated in Cherryl’s words as compassion on a mega grand scale.

If you’ve been practicing yoga for longer than a few months, you most likely would’ve come across principles like non-violence, mindfulness and compassion, to name just a few, and even if you haven’t yet come into contact with a text like the one above, you would’ve hopefully started some kind of inquiry into the different paths and states of consciousness available to you.

And if you’re like me and have been practicing and studying this stuff for more than a decade you would’ve most likely delved a little deeper into these principles and started living them, dissecting them, debating them, trying them on and even throwing some of them out.

It’s a complicated one to really get. But if the text on developing compassion i.e Bodhichitta is to be believed, then total enlightenment is within our grasp. The above quote is just an excerpt from an entire poem that basically says total enlightenment is not possible without the wish for enlightenment for everyone else (In case you didn’t get it). You can read the whole poem in

A guide to the Boddhisatva’s way of life  - How to Enjoy a Life of Great Meaning and Altruism By Shantideva, translated under the guidance of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. It’s available on Amazon

So let’s look at compassion.

It isn’t sympathy, because sympathy is said to exacerbate our already hard-wired belief that we are separate from everyone and everything around us, and being sympathetic puts you firmly in a ‘I am here and you over there suffering’ relationship.

Empathy, while closer, is still not compassion exactly. While empathy allows us to truly feel what another is feeling, it doesn’t necessarily compel us to action. We simply feel with the other.

Compassion is when we feel with the other, and then are compelled to perform some act to alleviate the other person’s suffering. And this is where it get’s tricky. It get’s tricky because I don’t think compassion is possible without empathy. I think empathy comes first, and then we take the extra step to help, or do something about the other person’s suffering.

Developing true empathy alone means taking the step to stop thinking of oneself for a time, and to step into someone else’s world and situation irrespective of our own relationship to the topic. It means dropping our own beliefs and opinions about their situation and just being in another’s space as they see it. We look, but only for a moment, into our own memory bank of feeling and bring up similar experiences we’ve had (sometimes we need to use our imagination), but only so we gain access to the feeling so we can feel with another.

Some of us will do this more easily than others and some of us will do this too often for our own good. So how do we know when it’s good?

Gregory David Roberts, in his book Shantaram wrote ‘Every virtuous act is inspired by a dark secret’ and while this seems to be a rather grim way of seeing great acts of kindness, I believe there is some real truth in what he’s saying.

We must look deep within ourselves and ask ourselves the motivation for doing the ‘kind’ things we do or accept from others.

Here are some examples of dark-secret-motivated acts of kindness and why they cannot be classified as acts of compassion:

Compassion is not doing something for someone else with expectation of some kind of pay back or return..

Compassion is not putting someone else before you because you believe you don’t deserve the respect, the validation, or the love.

Compassion is not giving someone your time, your energy and your resources out of a sense of obligation or threat.

Compassion is not performing outlandish acts of kindness in the hope of filling up your karma bank and then feeling self righteous about it.

Compassion is not indulging someone else’s selfish pathology and allowing them to cross your own personal and healthy boundaries even if you can understand why they do the heinous things they do.

I encourage looking closely at this word, and getting more honest about it. My view is that empathy is the key. When we can truly feel with another, and then act from that place, then we have a chance to practice compassion. We also have a chance to act authentically compassionately which often comes with the wisdom on how to act, which doesn’t mean giving the person what they are asking for necessarily.

And while we’re on the topic, let me also add that you do not lack compassion if you are driven, have vision, are motivated, inspired and are giving yourself the love you ask for from the world. Because I have come to realise that the more love you can give yourself, the more compassion you can show yourself, the more you can give to others. Not out of pathology but out of genuine empathy, which leads to wise and most likely helpful action.

The world needs compassionate people. The world needs empathetic people. It’s critical. We need to be both these things for our sakes and for the sake of humanity, so let’s get real about it, let’s take the time to truly understand it.

- Cherryl Duncan

Cherryl Duncan is the creator of dharmaKaya yoga and is committed to the path of demystifying the ancient truths of yoga and Eastern philosophy and harnessing its power in a practical and useful way for personal transformation and empowerment. She offers 0ne on one coaching, group coaching, and teacher training in Munich, Germany. Email cherryl@cherrylduncan.com to book a session 

Find your constant by Cherryl Duncan

Starting a business is an ultra marathon. You have to be able to live with uncertainty and push through a crucible of obstacles for years on end. Entrepreneurs who can avoid saying uncle have a better chance of finding their market and outlasting their inevitable mistakes. This trait is known by many names--perseverance, persistence, determination, commitment, resilience--but it's really just old-fashioned stick-to-it-iveness
 
This is from an article I read recently on the 7 traits of successful entrepreneurs and I couldn’t agree more.
I like to read and get in touch with others who’ve essentially gone their own way, especially when inspiration is low, exhaustion sets in and you’re left wondering why on earth you didn’t just get a job in your twenties , put your head down, have someone tell you what to do and reap the big pay check each month.
Honestly, I know the answer, which isn’t more complicated than me simply not being able to easily be told what to do. This has been true since the age of 4 years old, and nothing has really changed.
Not entirely a good character trait necessarily, but one that did result in me needing to do my own thing. I also have and always have had an obsessive desire to do something that matters to me.
 
But, belief in oneself waivers when life comes in and knocks you upside the head.
 
My recent separation from my last husband, and the acknowledgement that I was, once again, living through yet another failed marriage, was one such event that knocked me completely off balance. The weird thing about life’s knocks, and here’s something no one ever told me, and it’s something I certainly never read about, was that, when one area of your life fails dismally, it can unravel the other parts of your life that work together to make up who you think you are. When you doubt your judgement with something so fundamental as a partner, the doubt spreads into every other aspect of your life like a fierce and uncontrollable wild fire.  When you’ve built your life’s work, your business, and your livelihood on pretty much faith and belief in yourself alone, that can prove disastrous when the fire catches and burns everything to the ground.
 
That was me 18 months ago. I questioned the Yoga path, the Buddhist path, myself, my own beliefs, my sanity, my relationships, my country, my path, my own ability to take a step. Everything I had been so sure about before, was a shifting process with absolutely no sign of solidifying into anything I could trust ever again.
 
 It was through sheer will and determination to simply get up and take a step that got me to where I am now 18 months later.
I had to keep showing up for others, I had to keep teaching, and what I had to teach, had to be real. And so for a while I went quiet and didn’t say much at all, and then slowly I pieced together the fabric of what I do know to be true, and got very very real about what does actually work after I’ve burned it all to the ground. To look at the phoenix head on and say ok, let’s do this shit again, and let’s get even more real.
I often get asked why I stayed in Germany after my separation from my husband. Why, when I had no home, no stable job I could count on in any meaningful way, no family and no legal right to stay, would I not just pack up and run to the safety (and sunshine) of my home in South Africa.
 
Looking back now, I didn’t really feel like it was a choice. There was something very deep inside that said I was not ready to give up. That I needed to fight, that if I did give up, then what I gave up in South Africa to be here would’ve been for nothing, and I just couldn’t face that.
I couldn’t face being that wrong. By some miracle, I didn’t give up on that part of me that leads me deeper into the mystery of life. And THAT has been my constant.
I will always choose the hard path, I will always choose what is difficult, I will always choose the fire and I will always choose to face my fears. Other people have religion, family, houses, and job security, I have an unrelenting passion for the edges. And while that may seem extreme, it is my constant.
 
Once I accepted this, I started gravitating towards more and more constants. Piecing back together my beliefs, my business and my life. And here I am, on the other side of that storm, changed, and yet unchanged in some ways, with a home, with a community , doing what I love, trusting in love again, enjoying diverse friendships and as some of you would’ve seen, legal status J
 
I am still on the road in search of more constants, and the irony of being in Germany, the land of taxes, and systems and structures and stability, is not lost on me. I can’t think of a better place to bring those lost parts of me into the light.
 
With my search for more constants comes an acknowledgement of what I know to be true, more than ever before, and that is how the dharmaKaya yoga method was formed and how it continues to grow roots. My book Magnificently Real, while needing a bit of a memoir update, is also a constant I hold in my heart as a sincere and effective path into living bravely and authentically.
 
It’s not easy, but I would encourage anyone to throw out their beliefs at some point, just to see what sticks. It is my belief that if we don’t question ourselves at some point, life will come along and force it out of us. The wave is coming…. And it seems the more you think you’ll know how to ride it when it comes, the more likely it will envelope you, push you underwater, tumble you around until you have no idea where the surface is, and spit you out, (if you’re lucky) onto the shore. Check that what you’ve found as your constant is something that can survive, and if you’re very skilled, ride the wave when it comes.
 
For me it wasn’t my marriage, it wasn’t my country,, it wasn’t my job, it wasn’t even my yoga practice, and certainly wasn’t religion.
It was something that in the end feels like it can’t be taken away from me, and that is my unrelenting choice to go deeper, no matter how scary.
 
Knowing this is a blessing, but I feel even more blessed by those that choose to go on this path with me. I am grateful every single day to the brave souls willing to explore this way of studying the yogic path, getting rigorous with their own psyches in an effort to demystify and harness the power of yoga.  Together we keep it relevant and real. 
 
If you are interested in exploring your own edges, through the practices of yoga, through getting Magnificently Real or just having a conversation, then you can email me to set up a private coaching session, join the dharmkaya teacher training or mentorship program, or come on one of the retreats listed below.
 
See you on the edge, in the middle and out the other side.
 

What exactly is dharmaKaya yoga? by Cherryl Duncan

This Friday coming (the 9th June), I will be giving a talk as part of an online speaker series called Heal and Fuel.

Summit is for all the highly committed entrepreneurs and high potentials out there who love to give 100% for their dreams. If you love what you do and you want to be efficient and effective, you need strategies to keep your energy flowing!

It’s totally free so if you’re interested then register at https://shipwood.lpages.co/heal-and-fuel/

I’ve been preparing my talk this week, and delivering it on Friday is going to be a new and exciting experience for me, but what I am enjoying most about the process is that it forces me to very clearly define what it is that I do.

If I am to speak convincingly about yoga, and particularly my method of yoga, then I need to be very clear.

It sounds obvious, but when dharmaKaya was born, it was less ‘spark of divine inspiration’, and more practical necessity.

My style of teaching asana, and the philosophical content I was delivering was nothing that could be squeezed into any particular style, method, or philosophy I’d formally trained in.

It was rather an accumulation, integration, an all -encompassing mish mash of what I knew to be absolutely true, for me.

And it’s from that place that I am passionately committed to teaching from. In fact, authenticity is one of the anchors the method is based on, another topic I became especially committed to when I wrote Magnificently Real (Insert amazon link here)

So I gave my method a name and continued on my way.

Then things got a bit complicated and I found out that I needed to register and protect the name, and then an incredible thing happened in that other people wanted to learn the method too. So I started running teacher training programs and now we are a growing community of people evolving dharmaKaya together.

It’s very cool.

I have never claimed that dharmaKaya is a path to enlightenment. I do not know the path to enlightenment exactly, but I have learnt some pretty groovy practices along that way that have helped me develop incredible internal resilience and strength. I have overcome deep-rooted fears that allow me the courage to live a life with intensity and aliveness I never knew before finding yoga. My ability to be present, intuitive, empathetic, and available for connection is, I believe, directly related to the practices of mindfulness and meditation. And most importantly, I have changed the way I see the world, my perception is a constantly shifting process, one that goes deeper and deeper into the mystery; a mystery that is ultimately unknowable. Exactly the kind of challenge I’m up for,  one that you can never truly master. Because if we did know everything, if we had it all figured out, and understood everything, then there would be no more mystery, and to live without mystery, well, I just think that’s kind of dull. And yet, here I am, relentlessly pursuing truth with a belief that I’ll find it one day. The great paradox principle, my constant companion. Paradox, by the way, is another anchor, central to the dharmaKaya method and one of my favorites to teach. It stands in the face of pure dogma of absolute rights and wrongs and acknowledges the complexity of us as humans and the world around us. To play and accept that we are all things at once, contradicting often and true at the same time.

Having gone a little bit down the rabbit hole now, I realise how weird it is  now tell you that dharmaKaya is essentially about demystifying and harnessing the power of yoga. But it's true.  It’s about taking big ideas and making them simple and accessible. I use a lot of examples frommy own life, and from the lives of the people I work with as a way to inspire change in others. My life is often my message, my failures, my successes and my insights. I do not claim to know more than anyone else, I just share what I do know to be true- even it’s a very very small truth and that’s something.

I use the technology of Master Patanajali as part of the method because it makes sense, it has a logic I can appreciate and a practical set of tools that can have a powerful impact to raise states of consciousness. But, while I think it’s an incredibly useful text, I do not think it is the only source, the greatest source or the ultimate truth. But the technology works and I use it often in my teachings as part of the method.

Mindfulness is another of the important anchors of the method, a simple but powerful tool to be in the present moment.

I believe strongly in taking responsibility for our own lives and believe that we’re ultimately responsible, at least for the most part, for the lives we create and the last big point of the dharmaKaya method is a belief in self. I encourage students to develop their own personal and real relationship with consciousness. I do not believe this is anything anyone else can do for us and I certainly don’t believe that a guru is essential to gain access to these different states of being.

These principles are at the heart of the method and show up in every class in one form or another.

I use them in my coaching sessions, my yoga classes, my mindfulness trainings and of course we go very deeply into them in my teacher training programs.

For more information on booking a private session or signing up for a training visit www.cherrylduncan.com

The yoga practice itself can be described as a slow, challenging sequence of poses that flow into each other, with some long holds towards the end.

It is suitable for all levels – slow enough for beginners, challenging enough for advanced practitioners.

My talk on Friday will summarize the 5 anchors of dharmaKaya yoga but will speak more to using it on a practical day to day basis.

Looking forward to connecting you in whichever way we will.

Cherryl

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Now Yoga is really for everyone by Cherryl Duncan

I’ve recently been teaching a lot at the beautiful Schloss Elmau. For those of you who don’t know what or where that is, it’s a big, fairy castle style hotel right in the Bavarian Alps. The hotel itself looks onto a gorgeous mountain range and has everything one can possibly imagine in terms of beauty, luxury, relaxation, yoga, hiking, skiing and incredible food. It’s hard not to feel like a princess staying there.

I’m lucky enough to teach yoga there with some frequency, and while the place itself is gorgeous and my time there is nothing short of fabulous, what I am enjoying more and more is the opportunity to teach absolute beginners. With over 300 rooms, it’s a huge hotel which means all kinds of people will show up for a beginner yoga class. Some trying it out for the first time.

During my 15 years of teaching yoga, I have seen the amount and type of people coming to yoga go from a relatively small amount ex dancers, flexible skinnies, gymnasts and sporty girls, to more ex dancers, flexible skinnies, gymnasts and sporty girls, and then to a relatively small amount of inflexible, old, unhealthy, normal folk, including the lesser spotted man, to more and more inflexible, old, unhealthy normal folk and yes more and more of the lesser spotted man,  all showing up for a yoga class.

This is good for two reasons.

One, because it means yoga is firmly out of the woo woo zone and is recognised by health professionals for the use in preventative, curative, and rehabilitative care. It means more and more people are enjoying the many benefits of yoga, even if they just get there because of a knee injury for example. The many benefits of course being overall happier, more vital, more clear and more focussed to name just a few.

The other reason it’s good, and this is more from the yoga teacher’s perspective, is that yoga teachers have to actually teach. As opposed to calling out the names of poses and walking around the room in the latest pair of lululemons. It means having to make real connections with the students, be of real benefit to those in serious need, it means more presence, more skill, and therefore much more reward.

It separates the asana callers out from the experienced and skilled yoga teachers, which quite frankly, is a huge relief because at some point I was seriously worried that my job could and would soon be replaced by, much like the bank tellers job, a machine.

With the influx of all sorts of people coming into my yoga class, I have woken up from my slumber of teaching the already fit and strong, and now welcome the multi level, broken, tired, wounded, injured, afraid, old, young, stressed, burnt out and inflexible with a renewed sense of enthusiasm because I know today I get to help someone.

 

- Cherryl Duncan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something that was published on Recovery Yogi by Cherryl Duncan

By Cherryl Duncan

Leo Burnett, a famous American advertising executive, said, “When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.” Quoting this advertising guru as a prelude to my piece on enlightenment makes me smile at the irony, which for me is another way of saying “the humor of the great mystery,” because I was one of those people who gave up my job in advertising ten years ago to pursue life as a full-time yoga teacher, and yet here I am, quoting the great advertising guru Leo Burnett.

In any event, I think his view on reaching an incredibly high goal like enlightenment paradoxically brings me closer to enlightenment, or at least closer to something that isn’t a handful of mud.

Anyone will you tell you that if you practice something consistently and passionately, forsaking all other distractions, you will most likely succeed, or at least become very very good at this thing.

I say, true! Except for the enlightenment principle (that may or may not happen in this lifetime). The enlightenment principle I refer to here is the one made famous by the historical Buddha: the state of being where one is free from all suffering, has a complete understanding of the nature of reality, has seen the interconnectedness of all things, and therefore acts with unwavering selflessness.

I can honestly say I am nowhere nearer to enlightenment than I was 12 years ago when I started practicing yoga. I gave up pretty much everything to follow this path: my job; earning any kind of real money; time spent meditating, searching, debating, retreating, and studying different forms of the same thing including Buddhism, Sutra, and my own psyche.

I took it as far as my logical and even sometimes my illogical mind (and body) could stretch, and what I came up with was more awareness, more insight into the nature of my mind (but not reality, because who can really claim to have a handle on that?), a more compassionate heart, an ability to really empathise and connect with others, an incredibly stretchy body, health and vitality, and, I would say, an above-average ability to concentrate.

But enlightened? No.

And when I look around at my fellow yogis, they don’t seem any more or less enlightened than me—and that includes ALL of the teachers I’ve had, many of whom have been practicing a lot longer than I have. And yes, I know the convenient argument all too well, the one that goes “You have to be enlightened to see an enlightened being.” Like I said, convenient.

That’s not to say I haven’t met charismatic, clever, disciplined, wonderful people, but free of their suffering? Free from their egos? Having a complete understanding of the nature of reality? No.

I can, albeit somewhat reluctantly say, some of the kindest, most evolved people I know don’t even practice yoga.

Maybe the Buddha was enlightened. Maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he was just a guy who said some really wise things on how to be happy and feel free. Maybe people wrote what he said down wrong; maybe they got some bits right. Maybe he did sit down under a tree for a profoundly long time until he was enlightened, and if he did, and that’s what it’s going to take, then can we just acknowledge that, and relax the goal a little bit for people doing other things in their lives like creating, earning money, and having relationships, even if said people are pretty serious yoga practitioners?

I don’t know about you, but the pressure is starting to feel, well, what’s the opposite of enlightened?

How about we find out what enlightenment means for us individually? How about we stop beating ourselves up if we aren’t perfect or vaguely enlightened within ten years, twenty years, or even on our deathbeds? Maybe there’s a way to relax the enlightenment principle a little bit so we can get onto the business of actually living. And while we’re at it, can we stop talking about it casually in our yoga classes as an actual, achievable goal?

So what am I aiming for then? I still say aim for the stars, but with a bit of sense, a lot of curiosity and a profound appreciation for something just a little better than mud.

Learning to Ride by Cherryl Duncan

Dear Friends,

I remember when I was learning to surf.
Most of the time was spent just trying to get out past the break to the place where I could wait, wait for the wave that was going to be one I would stand up on. The one I would ride all the way until there was no power left to hold me up.
I had gotten up enough times to want that feeling again and again.
 
It’s the thought of that feeling that kept me paddling out, sometimes for half an hour, sometimes an hour, sometimes to the point where I just wanted to give up.
 
The thought of riding the wave would start to feel like a dream, like it never really happened. The pain of paddling, the pain of missing the wave, the pain of the struggle would overshadow the memory of riding the wave. And then it would become just about paddling. Paddling when I couldn’t see where the break ended, paddling when sometimes I even doubted the direction, paddling when I was afraid of drowning. Paddling one stroke and then one after that, despite the waves pushing me back the few meters of progress I’d made.
 
The dream of the ride would fade, and I knew somewhere in the back of my mind why I was doing this, but it didn’t even matter. The paddling became the end game. There came a surrender in the struggle, and if you’ve ever made friends with the ocean, you will know, there is one way the relationship with the Ocean works; and that is to surrender completely. To fight is futile.
 
But, with surrender also comes great freedom.
It’s a different, more solid and enduring freedom. The kind of freedom that carves initials on your soul,  the kind of freedom that no one can take away from you. No matter what.
Everyone feels good riding the wave, and riding the wave is relatively easy, but what you learn on your way there is the treasure.
 
Friends, I hope you all are riders of the waves, I hope you never have to endure life as struggle, but if you do, if you find yourself faced with the feeling where all you can manage is just one more stroke, regardless of direction, regardless of knowledge of success, regardless of the fear of annihilation, then know this, great treasures await you, that is my promise to you.
 
This year has been my surfing year and while I am still paddling one stroke at a time, I am here, in the Ocean with you and sharing the treasures I find along with the way. Thank you for sharing yours in the way you show up for this journey with me. I look forward to the immanent wave we're going to ride together. And when we fall, we will have learnt to paddle! 
 
All my love and gratitude
Cherryl

Fear or Faith by Cherryl Duncan

The most costly energy consequences come from acting out of fear. Even when choices made from fear lead us to what we desire, they generally also produce unwanted side effects. These surprises teach us that choosing from fear transgresses our trust in Divine guidance. We all do live, at least periodically, within the illusion that we are in charge of our lives.

 

These are words from Caroline Myss – A medical intuitive and contributor to the evolution of human consciousness.

 

I have had the good fortune, let’s be optimistic, of dealing with a number of lawyers in the last few weeks. The reasons are certainly not important but the symbolic power of what they represent for me is. Lawyers, and let me briefly sate, I am lucky enough to have been dealing with the nice, kind versions thereof, are nonetheless representative of making decisions based on fear. Worse case scenario thinking.

 

Needless to say, they, the lawyers, are necessary but I need to keep checking in with myself so as not to get carried away on the rush of fear-based thinking. It’s tempting, because, as Caroline Myss says, we can easily fall into the trap of thinking we are ultimately in control. The kind of thinking that goes ‘if I just have the smartest, most lethal lawyer then everything will be fine and I will be safe’. I can hear Divinity chuckling to herself at the stupidity of this thinking. It’s very simple. If we were truly completely in control of everything then we could never get sick, we would never have a bad day and we certainly wouldn’t need things like lawyers. If you’ve ever tried surfing, you will know what I mean. You can try as much as like, be the strongest swimmer in the world, but if you are not able to surrender to the will of the ocean and to ride WITH the waves, tides and currents, you will fail, and quite possibly drown, to be blunt.

 

So, what is the alternative? Making choices based on faith. What does that mean exactly?

 

In almost every spiritual tradition there comes a point at which the spiritual aspirant must surrender to some kind of higher power. I’m going to go ahead and call my interpretation of this higher power Spirit. Just because I like the name and it makes sense to me because it’s something I feel, more than see.  Surrender is probably, me included, one of the most difficult things to do (more difficult than supta kurmasana) and yet, when we do, even just for a moment, Spirit is allowed to enter and magic things start happening. I’ve heard the expression but mostly ignored it because I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant, but it goes something like ‘When you take one step towards God, God takes two steps towards you’. I would like to change that and say when you take one step towards Spirit; Spirit takes 10 quirky, humorous, surprising, delightful steps towards you. But, it’s a terrifying first step on our part, to genuinely surrender our will, our control and our fear- based strategies into the hands of something we can’t see (for most of us this is true).

 

So the question is, will you make decisions, the big and the small, out of fear, or out of faith?

 

In the yoga method I’ve created called DharmaKaya, I address the topic of Belief in Self as one of the anchors of the method and in my upcoming teacher training (see details here) we explore our relationship to Spirit. What it means for you, personally and how to get into meaningful dialogue for a happier, and freer life.

 

PS No lawyers were harmed in the writing of this blog

PPS. Sometimes acting from faith requires that you hire a lawyer (but that’s a whole other blog)

Many blessings on your path.

With so much love and faith

Cherryl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plan B by Cherryl Duncan

There is a certain route I sometimes take home where the bus stops right outside a little shop, which can at best be described as a hole in the wall. A hole with a white tiled floor, a shabby counter top that functions as a bar and a few plastic chairs set off to the side of a somewhat large fridge. The plastic chairs, bearing the weight of six large men drinking beer out of bottles. The name outside the shop is Plan B.

As the bus stops and I have a chance to really examine this burly group, I wonder about their lives. What brought them here? Not only to Munich (they’re obviously foreign) but to this place, at this particular time of the day (usually around 6pm)? And did they, the six men, come up with the name? And if this is their plan B, what was their plan A? It got me thinking about my own plan A. Coming to the end of the year, the impulse to reflect on ones life is especially strong, at least for me anyway, and as I look back on the past year it becomes abundantly clear that my life looks nothing like plan A. I am most definitely, undeniably living Plan B.

When did Plan A, become Plan B? I think there are very few people who can honestly say they are living their Plan A to perfection. Life happens and things don’t go according to plan; at least at some point. I too had a Plan A. Finish school, go to University, find a well paying secure job, get married, have a house, have children, be happy. Except for me, plan A would happen once I was finished doing all the things that actually made me happy.  I didn’t go to University (ok, for a year when I was 33; that was fun), I got married not once, but twice, I never had a well paying secure job because feeling owned by anyone or anything made me feel borderline suicidal and, I still don’t have children because, well honestly, there’s kind of a time limit on that sort of thing and children definitely belonged to Plan A, which I was still getting to. Even thought I was actually living Plan B, I was still holding out for Plan A, it was just taking me longer than other people to get there.

 It didn’t occur to me that perhaps Plan A was a stupid idea (for me anyway). I was still committed however and I thought 37 would be a good age to initiate Plan A. Except for one problem; I hadn’t really cultivated any of the elements required for Plan A. For someone who always believed in herself, believed that we take what we want and pretty much did whatever she wanted, it was kind of shocking to realise I couldn’t simply swing into Plan A. Plan A was something people carefully cultivated with much sacrifice, planning and commitment. Not my strong suits. But I was 37, and it was time to hack my Plan A. Not surprisingly, I failed. There is no house by the sea, no well-paying secure job, and no children. While I may not be taking myself off to go drink beer with the men at Plan B, it was however, finally time to let go of Plan A and have a look at Plan B with fresh eyes.

Plan B involves living in Germany, in an apartment, with my husband and my cat. It means doing what I love for a living, it means zero responsibilities, unbelievable freedom and time! Oh time, I have so much time, something I have always valued so highly, what with so much to do and read, create and explore, time is my most precious commodity.

It took me this year, and a challenging and gruelling process of letting go to come to this place. To accept plan B. Not only to accept it, but to realise Plan B was my Plan A all along, I just wasn’t allowed to really say or admit it, because the social programming for where I was supposed to land at this point was so strong. I had many opportunities to get on the train that led to Plan A land, but I got off every time. It mustn’t been because, if I’m honest with myself, I never really wanted it. What I wanted I got, and that was an unpredictable, ever-changing Plan B…

That’s not to say that the life I lead now has not come at great personal cost. I have paid my university fees into a painfully and critically examined life.  I have faced fears, taken risks, studied philosophies, practiced philosophies, travelled and challenged my body, my spirit and my ego, all to follow my heart and my passions and that which thrills and tests me.  Whether my life turns back into Plan A (given the changing nature of my personal plan B) or whether it doesn’t I’m living the life I actually have and taking responsibility for bringing myself here to this point, because some really strong and powerful part of me really wanted it.

As we come to the end of the year, I encourage you to examine your own Plan A, and if it doesn’t look exactly as you’d hoped it would, perhaps it would be helpful to look at some of the elements that made up Plan A, and ask yourself if it’s time to let some of them go. To look at Plan B (your actual life) with new fresh and appreciative eyes, acknowledging that you brought yourself exactly here, and to spend your precious time and energy enjoying the life you’re actually living. Give Plan B a big hug and say YES! .. all the while accepting the little loss of a lost plan A, which will inevitably show up from time to time.

Here’s to an exciting new year and a good bye to 2015.

Merry Christmas brave souls

Love

Cherryl