Reflect, let go, look forward: Our Winter Solstice Workshop

By Koreen Clements

The Winter Solstice combines two of my favourite things… the cosiness of winter and planning out my life. In this post, I’ll talk about planning out my life and in a later post, I’ll talk about the cosiness of winter.

A few weeks back, I mentioned that in highschool I spent my Friday evenings at the library. Well, this next post may solidify my geekiness in your eyes. I love to plan my life. And review my plan on a regular basis. At the start of high school, we were given a booklet of all the courses the school offered for the next five years.

Having just had a daughter finish A-levels I’ve seen the typical teenage response to this item. Take it out of the bag to show mom. Mom reads through it. Sits on table for next three weeks. Finally after being prompted by mom, digs it out from under the pile of paper that’s accumulated on top of it. Has a cursory glance and jots down the classes she was interested on a piece of paper.

I, however, thought my booklet was the best thing ever. I read through it cover to cover. I folded down corners of pages. Underlined important information. Starred the courses I was interested in, one, two or three stars depending on how interested I was in them. Then I made a chart of years 9-13 and the number of courses we could take each year, which was eight, for a total of 40 courses that I could take.

I put in all the required courses. Then I reviewed the spots left. I had a good idea that I wanted to stick with Sciences, which meant that I had to keep up Math. But there were so many other subjects I wanted to do as well. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough spots to fit in all the classes I wanted to take and I had to make some tough decisions. Eventually, I came up with my five year plan. Then I put it away until the following year.

Each year I would get the book and my paper out, reviewing it with the previous year in my mind and tweak my plan. Similarly with my life plans. In grade school, I read a story about heart and lung transplants and wanted to be a heart surgeon so I could help save people’s lives.

In high school, I liked Dr Quinn the Medicine Woman and wanted to move to the Northwest Territories and set up my own clinic in a small community. I could even see what it looked like. It had two treatment rooms, a front desk and waiting area with a bunch of kids toys and a desk with a computer and lots of reference cds of medical conditions. My idea was that people could come in and use it as a reference for looking up something they were concerned about (this was before the internet). My main goal was to empower people to look after their health.

In university, I fell out of love with the idea of being a doctor, mainly because I actually started to talk to a few doctors and discovered that they always felt they were on call and could never turn off. And I disagreed with how they were being trained - the sleep deprivation during internship. I was very confused because surely they knew the studies that showed impaired cognitive performance and decision making with lack of sleep. And if so, then why would they deliberately put people into situations that where they could make mistakes on life and death decisions. It boggled my mind.

So I shifted to wanting to become a genetic counsellor. I was going to help people make difficult decisions based on science and statistics. To expectant parents, whether to continue with the pregnancy, if there was a high risk of Down’s syndrome, Tay Sachs or sickle cell anemia. To adult children of parents with Huntingtons, whether or not to be tested themselves and whether or not to have kids.

Then I went to grad school and shifted to becoming an academic. I was going to have my own lab, my own research program and an army of grad students. I’d teach courses, inspire students and change the world with my discoveries. Except research isn’t like that. Or at least it wasn’t for me.

Sure I was doing stuff. Staring at pretty glowing brain cells under a microscope, in a dark windowless room in the basement. For hours at a time. Sure I made some moderately interesting discoveries. A rat model of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder uses different strategies to solve memory tasks, which may be related to differences in neural activity in different regions of their brains. Meh, but what does that really mean?  

It wasn’t enough for me - I wasn’t making a difference in people’s lives. I’d lost sight of my childhood desire to help people. And that’s when I started doing hot yoga. Later, when my work started interfering with my ability to do yoga, that’s when I knew I needed to make a change.

Even before I did my teacher training, my goal was to open a hot yoga studio in Sheffield and help change people’s lives. However it wasn’t that easy. When I arrived in Sheffield I was miserable. For six weeks, I was unbearable. Until I finally began to annoy myself and started two things. First, I took up an Ashtanga yoga practice, because the other styles I had tried just weren’t for me. And I started to focus on what was going well in my life, rather than what I didn’t like.  

Several months later I met Anne Marie and the rest, as they say, is history. Five years later, we have a humming hot yoga studio in Sheffield. A great team of staff, teachers and helpers who love spreading the joy of yoga and keep us running smoothly. A world-class community of students who are seriously some of the best yogis in the world, who show up, are responsible and respectful, who listen and question, and make yoga their own.

Every day I am thankful that this is my job because I know that I’m having a positive impact on people’s lives and that we are making Sheffield an even better place to live. And that’s what’s important to me.

Each time I made my plan I never knew if it’d actually become reality, but it kept me moving forward towards something. And as I kept moving, new information came along that I could use to help shape the direction I was going. At certain points, I would pause and review to see if where I was going felt right for me then, and if not, then I could change. And that’s  me what I do at  the end of each year.

The Winter Solstice is the perfect pause point to know where you are right now and first reflect back upon the past year. To see what has worked and what hasn’t. To appreciate everything you’ve done. To let go of things that no longer serve you. And then to look forward to the next year. To set intentions about where you want to be in the next year. To chose a theme to focus your actions.  

If planning your life is something you already adore, or you’re just starting to dip your toes into, then the workshop on December 18th will be a perfect Sunday afternoon to get your yearly review underway.

Lots of love and planning geekiness,

Koreen