Week two in Zanzibar and what I have been working with this week is – asking.
That may seem like a pretty normal, easy thing for most of you but for me, at times, it can be a challenge.
I am independent, I can be stubborn, I don’t really like to feel overly reliant on people and I’m pretty introverted. I have thoughts about not wanting to impose, ask for too much, draw attention to myself or feel like I am putting people out. (Introverted much??)
This is not to paint some holier than thou image of myself as a humble, self-effacing person – it isn’t that. I don’t think or feel this way all of the time but I know that it is one story that I can and have told myself over the years. I can see it creep up again and again and frankly it is just another mask to hide behind. I have been looking into it these past few weeks to see where it really comes from.
Here in Zanzibar my usual independent travel ways are altered ever so slightly. Yes I have my own room, bathroom, ample space and time. I have full use of everything I want here- the pool, the wooden tower hut with views of the ocean to practice yoga. I have a whole upstairs, open-air loft space to work from (which I generally have all to myself) and of course the endless beach to walk across, the ocean and all the fresh delicious meals that I want or need.
In Ireland (or wherever I am living) I eat a vegan diet, I have my routines with yoga practice and how I like to structure my days. I have the comforts I am used to – dietary wants, getting to rise early and make that first coffee how I like it before practice. I have my space to do yoga without interruptions, cooking my own food when I’m hungry and even just washing my clothes for example. If I need anything else, generally I can just go and get it and sort it out.
All of these things are just normal everyday actions that we all do, no big deal.
What I have been working with since arriving in Zanzibar is
(a) having to ask for most of the things that I normally don’t have to, and not just once but several times a day and
(b) starting to learn to let go of some of that control and routine that I am so used to and finding the balance between these two.
Access to shops, supermarkets, health care and whatever else we usually have at or doorstep (or at least within driving or bus distance) is not quite the case here, especially if you don’t have your own mode of transport or if you are still getting your bearings as to where you are. Also most of the things we are so accustomed to having whenever we want, you can probably assume you won’t find it even if you did get to a supermarket somewhere!
I get served a pot of hot coffee every morning just before 7am (as this is when the restaurant opens) and I now ask for some lemon water on the side. I get delicious, homemade vegan meals in either of the two hotels where I work – all the food I need. If I have any issues I can speak to the staff and it will be sorted as best as they can. My room is cleaned daily, my clothes are washed and well I want for very little – maybe some oat milk, peanut butter, vegan chocolate and a few other things that I’m learning to live without! Reminding myself to be grateful about those when I return to having them in my life 🙂
Why is this a challenge for me you may wonder?!
I love to cook firstly and knowing what is involved in preparing my meals. Explaining my diet and the adjusting period is never fun (especially if it is three times a day).
I hate doing that, I really do and that was one of the reasons that I ended up not continuing to eat a vegan diet in the past when travelling. I feel like I am being a nuisance to be honest, especially when it is not common here like in many other places nowadays. Definitely learning to let go of that one though.
Then there is just ordering food, being served my meals and then all of my plates being cleaned away. It seems unnatural and strange to have this on a daily basis for three months. I find myself carrying my empty trays and plates up to the counter to somehow feel I am balancing it out.
Even when I am sitting by the pool, lying in the hammock or just having all this space in my days there is a part of me that took so long to relax into that. A part of me that actually had to somehow convince myself that I deserve this and that I should get to be here – and just enjoy it.
I could hear my thoughts going wild, that I shouldn’t be getting to do all of this and all I need to do is teach yoga – which is something that I love to do at any chance I get.
Why do I get to have all of this *luxury*?
What did the rest of the staff and people here think about me getting to have all of this? Did they look at me and think I was asking for too much? Was I eating too much food? Did they think I was greedy? Should I be doing more, working more? Let the thoughts go on and on…..
The answer is no!
No, I am pretty sure they do not think I am asking for too much, eating too much, being greedy, ungrateful, high-maintenance… because well they probably think very little about me, as is generally the case in life. Most people are thinking about themselves or their own lives and well if anyone was to think any of these things –
(a) Who cares? and
(b) it is none of my business what they want to think!
I just work on my own thoughts and go from there. Perhaps they enjoy getting to offer something to me, or anyone else, just as I enjoy getting to offer yoga to others in my work.
So why is it so hard for me to ask sometimes?
Is it coming from a place of not feeling deserving or from a place of not wanting to be vulnerable. Is it coming from a place of fear of rejection or a fear that I will receive some sort of backlash or negativity if I just ask for what I need?
So many layers and so many delights to work with here. Hah!
It is a great thing for me to work with though because nowadays we can go through life quite easily never having to ask for things from others, ask for help when we need it or to just reach out. Then when we come to a place where we need to ask- for whatever reason- it can be difficult. It is these micro examples like I have happening here that help me transfer it over into other areas of my life. Asking for what I want and need without guilt, worry or hiding.
I have looked into it and asked myself why should I not have this or that?
It is a very crazy thing to be basically in paradise, living and getting to be in two stunning hotels, wake up with the sunrise each day by the ocean, live on fresh, local vegan food and to get to teach and work in what I love but somehow feel a part of myself thinking that I don’t deserve it. To feel guilt or resistance or notice myself worry that it could suddenly all end or be taken away!
What a mind – always able to create more suffering for yourself! However it can also be through this suffering that you are encouraged you to look at these thoughts and see how they are manifesting within your life.
Suddenly when you are forced into a situation where you must ask, forced to be vulnerable and surrender your control, you just have to do it and I’m learning to find comfort with that. I see that having all of this ‘control’ is just another way to avoid doing the things I don’t like, asking or feeling vulnerable – for example.
Life and growing happens wherever you are and well I could’t really ask for a better setting to face a new layer than where I am.
All of the times I have seen this aspect of my mind over the years, whether as a result of practice or as a result of life it suddenly starts to come together and I can see through it. That Aha! moment where you start to think yes! This is something I have seen before and thanks to that I can now remind myself as I slowly move beyond it.
Why should I believe that life or anyone thinks so much of, or so less of me, that I shouldn’t have this? That I just settle and not accept or embrace when I have been given and have worked towards. How is that not somehow arrogant or self-entitled to think otherwise?
To me it is just another way in which the ego or the mind traps you. It starts to tell you all of these words or stories to keep you believing old thoughts or patterns that are not true. You can work so hard to get somewhere, through the challenges and then as soon as you come out the other side to where you have dreamed of arriving, you will hear the mind creep up with something else to keep you trapped or frozen. With that not really getting to be in the moment, experience what is happening or keep moving forward in growth.
With that I can actually feel myself stepping into a space of deserving- both of where I am now and of whatever the next chapter that life will bring me.
It can be a hard one to recognise sometimes, it can take a while to start to mature and grow in this way and shed the old and keep allowing and trusting myself to step into the new. That is the gift of all these hard lessons, emotions and challenging situations, it gets harder and harder to ignore them or walk away from the truth of where they arise.
Stepping further away from fear or suppression and into more freedom and expression.
When I am not pondering all of these things I am still here in Zanzibar, walking the beach everyday soaking up the sunshine, getting to practice and share yoga and I am very, very grateful and continue to take it all in – the good and the bad and thank it all.
These are my thoughts from week two. Perhaps my next post may actually be some useful information about Zanzibar and not just my musings about life 🙂