I’m writing this post sitting in my recently refitted kitchen. It’s a delightful room to be in now, and I take great pleasure in keeping it clean, clutter free, and nice. I enjoy spending time in here, and spend more time than I used to, having moved eating and writing to this space.
I have not always enjoyed my kitchen, or keeping it ordered and pleasant to be in. Since the refit, however, I have developed a new relationship with it. It has been interesting to see how this change has occurred, and to connect it directly with my recovery and yoga journey!
No choice but to change, but options as to what the change would look like
The decision to refit the kitchen was not my own, and I am very grateful that I am a housing association tenant and do not need to be responsible for this. I was told I was getting a new kitchen, but I was able to make choices – the colour of the worktops, tiles, flooring, walls and cupboards were all down to me within the scope of the choices I was given.
Similarly, decisions I made in 2013, when gave up my job and enrolled on Yoga teacher training, was not entirely my own. I had reached a point of collapse emotionally after years of (barely acknowledged) addiction, numbing and over dependence of alcohol and marijuana to ‘help’ ease my pain. I knew I needed to make some significant changes in my life, quitting my job and pursuing yoga as a career option was the only answer that made sense to me at the time.
Discarding the unnecessary and unhelpful
In order for this kitchen transformation to happen, I needed to empty out the kitchen of all my possessions prior to the workmen coming to do the refit. This led to me discarding a lot of the things in my kitchen – out of date food, a surplus of utensils, saucepans and crockery, random junk items cluttering up my drawers. The workmen came and pulled out the cupboards, ripped up the flooring and removed old wiring and plumbing ready for the new.
At the start of the yoga teacher training I studied at the Om Studio in Cardiff, I was told to forget everything I thought I knew about yoga, to discard all my preconceptions about what I thought Yoga was, and to be open to totally new ideas. Through the journey of self discovery that this yoga teacher training was, I was able to discard old habits, old ways of thinking, unhealthy routines and unhelpful activities, as well as gain a fresh perspective on Yoga.
Laying solid foundations
Before the cupboards and lovely new flooring could be assembled in the kitchen, a significant about of groundwork needed to be done to make the kitchen ready for the new build. The walls needed to be smoothed out and repaired, the floor needed to be reset, and old plumbing pipes needed to be replaced with new ones.
Before we could progress to the advanced postures and practices of Yoga, and journey along the path to growth, we were taken back to basics. We needed to become aware of the breath, to be taught to breathe, to become aware of the body, and to look closely at who we were. We looked at how we were living our lives in accordance with the Yamas and Niyamas, the moral and ethical foundations of a true life of Yoga. Without taking these aspects of yoga into account, Yoga becomes simply an exercise and meditation technique, with them it can truly become a path to huge personal transformation.
Embrace the mess and see what it shows you!
My house was in chaos for a week. As a fairly untidy and ineffective housekeeper, I was already used to some degree of mess and disorganisation, but this tested even my ability to manage in clutter. The washing machine was in the living room, my kettle and tea making supplies were in my yoga room, and I made much of our food in there too, there was some time when I couldn’t go into the kitchen at all. It was only a week, but it was challenging to say the least, and I was relieved when it was over, but it made me appreciate order far more!
Spiritual growth, and recovery from addiction, is incredibly messy, and can be enormously painful. In both, we are required to face things we have been hiding from. It can bring up huge amounts of contradiction, as the urge to grow and improve clashes with the desire to stick with the known and the comfort zones, regardless of how uncomfortable those comfort zones actually are. Just as my domestic chaos helped me see even more clearly how much I crave and need order, despite it not being my natural tendency, the path of growth and recovery will show us what we really want in our life at a soul level, even if our natural tendency is to run from that desire.
Reach out for support
When I couldn’t wash my clothes, or prepare food in my kitchen, I was hugely grateful to know that I had friends who would invite me to dinner, that my parents’ kitchen was always available for me, and that I would be able to use someone’s washing machine. The workmen were good company and were very helpful, making it as easy as they possibly could for me to manage, and trying their best to accommodate my need for kitchen space where their work would allow.
Throughout my training and recovery journey, I was never alone, even though I had to do all the real work myself. I had my training colleagues, my teacher, my friends and family, and the increasing respect and understanding of my children to help me along. Had I realised I was on a path to recovery from addiction, I am sure I would have also sought out support from the online recovery community, and joined Facebook groups such as Sober Mommies.
It is necessary to do the personal growth work yourself, as no one else can do it for you, but support it vital for it to be a success.
Putting it back together, with awareness of what is needed
I was able to gradually put things back into the kitchen as the work was continuing – once the cupboards were build I was able to use them despite the fact that there was still work to do. I did this very consciously, making decisions about where things were going to ‘live’, allocating a place to put things that makes logical sense, so that I can hopefully avoid the random clutter problem I had before. I was able to discard more as I was doing this, and there are still items in the back room that I have not used for quite a few weeks now and which will soon, I am sure, end up in the charity shop as I realise I don’t need them.
In his book, Understanding the Yoga Darshan, Dr Ananda tells us of a time when Swami Gitananda advised a friend, who had experienced a great personal ‘defragmentation’ after spending time with a guru, that he should ‘pick up the pieces you wish to keep and put yourself together again’. This is what Yoga allowed me to do. It guides me to dismantle myself, piece by piece, and to make conscious decisions about the parts I want to keep. During my training I was able to identify the least helpful and healthy aspects of myself, and through my practice, develop ways to live that meant I was able to discard these pieces, most notably, my dependence on alcohol and marijuana for stress management.
Changing standards and behaviour
Now that I have seen how lovely my kitchen can look, and how much I enjoy walking into a clutter free, clean, bright room, I have a far lower tolerance for the level of clutter and mess I used to. At this precise moment in time, it bears the debris of my breakfast, and there are a few things that need to be put away. Previously, this would not have bothered me, but I know that once I finish this blog post, I will deal with this so that the next piece of work I do will be done in a much tidier space. I am establishing new routines and am training Marcus to accept his new role as dish dryer and putter away so that he too is involved in the process!
Making Yoga an integral part of my life has changed me dramatically. One of my oldest friend has remarked several times how I am kinder, more compassionate with an increased ability to empathise with others. I am far gentler, and while I still get angry, excitable, and am prone to swearing and ranting, it is much reduced. I am far more tolerant of myself and others than I used to be, and have changed how I live my life, my daily routines, my outlook, my interests and my hobbies considerably. These changes have been vital to allow me to become a person I like enough to no longer feel the need to hide from behind the mask of alcohol.
It is never done
If I want my kitchen to stay clean, clutter free and pleasurable to be in, I have to maintain it daily. I cannot become complacent and allow dishes to mount up, to leave worktops uncleaned, to allow out of date food to accumulate in the cupboards. I must maintain the level of cleanliness I want to live with through daily effort. It means creating the new routines I mentioned above, and training Marcus to know that we are living differently.
As with housework, a life of Yoga and recovery requires a commitment to daily effort and conscious living. I cannot allow myself to slip far from the yoga path, and expect to still have the same benefits I had when I practised every day. I cannot forget about the Yamas and Niyamas, and expect to grow and become ever better as a person. Yoga is a system of living, recovery is an ongoing process, and through daily work I can keep growing, keep evolving and become ever better, ever healthier, ever happier.
Shining a light on everything
Now that I have a tidy kitchen, it is showing me how much I want to have a tidy house. When one room is clean, tidy and well ordered, it really focuses the attention on the areas of the house that aren’t. The urge to declutter, to create more space and to rid myself of more unnecessary stuff is getting stronger, and I find myself able to discard far easier than I used to, so it will happen. I have come to realise how much I enjoy space, as opposed to clutter, and while this has been a slow burning discovery over the last few years, the kitchen refit has really brought it into focus!
Recovering from an addiction is a long and sometimes painful process. Once you get to a place where you are able to manage life without one addiction, you may discover that there are lots more, and that there are lots of other areas in life you can improve and grow. Yoga and recovery, by helping us to see ourselves more clearly, bring up all sorts of other aspects of our being, for us to examine and evaluate. It is a powerful journey of self discovery that can continue till the moment of death/
Lessons in everything
I love that my kitchen refit has given me such a lot of cause for reflection. It is amazing what lessons life can present us with if we only choose to look. I’d love to know what surprising lessons you have taken from unexpected moments in life, please share in the comments some of the best learning moments life has presented you with!