Life gives us a kick up the butt, when we are running away from our issues
Life coach and sustainability consultant Gayle Murphey, 40, has practised yoga and self help for 20 years. When she had an accident in an aerial yoga class and fractured a part of her spine two years ago, she got deep insights about herself and opened the doors for some more positive change in her life. Gayle talks with me about, how she overcame self-pity during her healing process, sharing some of the techniques for creating a positive mind-set that she also teaches in her workshops. From a neuroscientific perspective, she explains, how meditation works and she speaks about the power of yoga, eye-gazing and psychedelic music.
Read the INTERVIEW.
Jennifer: If a child asked you what yoga is, what would you say?
Gayle Murphy: I’d probably say that it’s a pathway where you choose to look inside yourself and where you choose to be in surrender to something larger than yourself, and, by using yogic body postures and meditation, as tools to progress within yourself.
And then the child asks you what that something ‛larger than yourself’ is...
I’d say, just sit and listen and you will find out. [Smiles].
“Yoga helped me to get on the ‛good track’, I suppose”
When and why did yoga come into your life?
My first contact with yoga and spirituality was when I was 21. I was going through some emotional challenges while I was at university, living in London. I was trying to understand what was going on, and I saw a sign advertising a talk about unconditional love run by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. I decided to attend it and really loved the chanting, the meditation, the discussions and the asana practice which we did there. This was the phenomenal support system that appeared in my life when I needed it. So, I decided to practise yoga every day. And it helped me to get on the ‛good track’, I suppose.
What kind of yoga you resonate the most with?
I tried many different styles of yoga and even practised a bit acro yoga as well. But, I feel mainly drawn to hatha and yin yoga. Awareness through yoga, that’s my vibe. Earlier this year, I tried aerial yoga though. And I had an accident.
Ouch! What happened?
I fractured the L5, which is a vertebrae in the lumbar spine, and I misaligned a few other vertebraes which are higher up, and my muscles had gone into spasm around my spine. Everything was difficult – walking, standing, washing and cleaning. I couldn’t do anything. But everything healed fast and I feel very blessed for the whole progress. Many people came over and cleaned or cooked for me. Everyone was very supportive. I’ve been incredibly independent my whole life. But now I had to surrender and let go of my resistance. Opening up and allowing myself to be supported was a big process for me.
What did that change for you on the long run?
I definitely feel the value and the importance of support, of community and of giving and receiving. I guess, my gratitude level has gone up. Today, when I am giving and helping others, I remember how blessed I felt when others were doing that for me. It’s all been a beautiful experience, really.
“Often, we feel to create drama in our life”
How far did the accident help you to find out more about yourself?
It triggered off a process of going into myself and asking myself ‛what am I creating and why? Why am I in bed? What’s happening? Why am I feeling this pain?’. Often, we feel to create drama in our life, we attract the wrong people, we do stupid things. Half the time we are not working in the highest versions of ourselves. It’s about the awareness of what we want to create in our life, like calmness and harmony, for instance. So, I began wondering ‛do I really want to be pushing and doing everything fast?’. I loved producing things, whereas now my focus is on keeping my body calm and my mind calm. For me, living used to be about doing a lot. But now, I only want to live well.
After your accident occured, you were in the ‛self-pity’ trap for a couple of days. How do you explain this and how did you maneuver yourself out of that negative state of mind?
After the accident I dropped into a space of pain and self-pity and I was not going to utilize the tools that I had to change that. I guess, I needed to just be with my emotions and to see where my pain was coming from. It is quite normal, actually, for people with huge experiences, to feel sad about what has happened and to feel sorry for themselves. And that’s ok. I’m a firm believer that we know everything that we need to know. As to regards when we stick with our emotions, and we sit with our processing, quite often, we can feel where it’s coming from and what’s happening for us. So, I allowed myself to be with all of that stuff and after some time, I realised that I had gotten lost in self-pity for a while, and that I’ve neither been doing my meditation, nor my neuroscience practices or anything to help myself. But, when I started doing them, everything changed. Certain practices can move the energy and convert it, by tapping the different states of consciousness.
“I’m not really into (...) law-of-attraction oriented affirmations, when people wake up every morning and say “I am great, I am great, I am great,”, believing that this is going to change everything.”
What are these practices, that you’ve been using?
Various practices such as pranayama, the yogic breathing techniques that have an impact on the energy flow within the body, number meditation, practices from Joe Dispenza, neuroscience pathways and there’s an app as well, which was teaching me a lot about what is possible for my personal healing.
You did not use affirmations to get out of the space of self-pity?
No. I’m not really into thinking about all positively and law-of-attraction oriented affirmations, when people wake up every morning and say “I am great, I am great, I am great,”, believing that this is going to change everything. What I teach in my workshops is, that you have to actually access your subconscious past, to get into your subconscious programmes to change them. So, that’s where meditation or other kinds of trancework is important.
For me, it feels as if my whole accident experience was to remind me about all the practices that I‘ve learned, and actually, to see the difference between when I don’t do them and when I do do them.
“Life sometimes gives us a kick up the butt, when we are running away from our issues”
You actually had all of the tools that you needed to help yourself, but you had forgotten them temporarily... What is the difference to spiritual bypassing?
I think I did not really “forget about the practices.” I’ve been doing self-help for 20 years, however, on a daily basis, when I get triggered, for example, or when I get upset about something, I don’t automatically always think: ‛let me just breathe for a second, or, let me just take myself off to do some conscious work with myself and then come back into centerdness,’. Everybody is still learning and growing. Spiritual bypassing is when there is avoidance of looking at ourselves. It’s when people say: “I’m spiritual, I practise yoga everyday”, while they are actually not wanting to face their own uncomfortableness.
“Not just gloss over the traumas nicely by going to ashtanga yoga three times a week”
I think that life sometimes gives us a kick up the butt, when we are running away from our issues, and spirituality can be used wrongly by people. For me, spirituality is something we should utilise to help and allow ourselves to be cleaned of the emotions and the traumas that we have and not just to gloss over them nicely by going to ashtanga yoga three times a week. That comes, I believe, if you have a teacher who is not good enough. There is this New Age thing about just doing asanas. But unless you have a really strong or experienced teacher, you will not get even into the understanding of what yoga is. For me, the spiritual path requires strong teachers who have done the work and who have done research, readings etc. and learned properly.
“Not everybody wants to do yoga, or go through the processes towards reaching samadhi”
You have utilised and are teaching so many other techniques. A provocative question: Do you think that yoga is not enough?
It depends on the definition we have of yoga. There are different levels of yoga, like samadhi (8th limb, or final stage of Patanjai’s Ashtanga Yoga *see a more specific definition below). I think, that people get often a bit stuck when they think about yoga. Many have a certain definition that does not cover all aspects of yoga.
If you consider all aspects of yoga and study with a good teacher and do you spiritual practice, yoga will bring up a lot of processes and a kind of clearing you need to do. Those are not the only tools I speak about in my workshops though, because there are other tools that I feel have helped me along the path, and also that I feel that other people may resonate more with than they resonate with the yoga practice or its different stages. Just because everybody is different. Maybe not everybody wants to do yoga, or go through that process towards reaching samadhi.
“Sometimes, when you go to classes, teachers are not even looking at your posture”
After your accident, have you taken up your asana practice again?
Because I have a history of pushing myself, this time, I’ve taken it easy, really. I’ve been allowing myself the time and space for my body to heal, before I get back into regular exercising. Except for a couple of yoga classes for a healthy back, I’ve not really practised asanas yet. And, for me, there‘s one thing important to consider: There are so many people practising and teaching yoga nowadays, hence sometimes when you go to classes, teachers are not even looking at your posture. When it comes to asana practice, it is about finding a teacher who really understands about physicality and who has a good lineage of the teachers. And, at the moment I don’t feel, that I have a good enough teacher in my close proximity. That’s why I’m doing pilates, the stretches I resonate with, some swimming and dance – but I’ve been taking it easy and enjoy regeneration.
You used to ‛push yourself’ and to be very active. A state of mind with beta brain waves. In one of your workshops at the Psy-Fi Festival which I attended you discussed the meaning of the different brain waves. What are they about?
We distinguish between four main brain waves: beta, alpha, theta and delta. The beta waves are part of the ‛thinking brain’. Beta is a fast activity, a state of decision making, problem solving, alertness and attentivenes. Alpha waves are a resting state of the brain with quietly flowing thoughts. They occur when we are in a space of calmness and mind-body integration and learning. Theta waves occur often in sleep and in deep meditation. With theta waves our senses are withdrawn from the external world and focused on signals from within. A gateway to intuition. Delta brain waves occur in dreamless sleep and deepest meditation. They stimulate healing and regeneration while our external awareness is suspended.
“Without that stillness, you don’t really know what you’re doing.”
You practise meditation. What happens in a meditative state of mind?
When I meditate I get a lot of information from the wider field – lots of wisdom, lots of knowledge and guidance. It’s a lot more about listening and allowing my brain to self-organise and for the body to regenerate, cause this is what happens when you drop into those states. So, for me, the meditation is paramount to everything. Without that stillness, you don’t really know what you’re doing. I could get up in the morning and make a to do-list, but that all comes from the beta brain waves. It’s more what we think we should be doing, whereas, if I sit in meditation, I get a lot more information of what comes through me. And we all have these channels that we can tap into, and that help us to be guided by ourselves.
“When we practise eye-gazing though, it cuts through that idea that we might have about another person.”
In another workshop of yours, you had us participants, go into an eye-gazing activity. What actually happens when we gaze into the eyes of someone else, no matter if they are a lover or a stranger?
For me, eye-gazig is about being present with somebody else. To be seen and to see. Often we don’t actually connect eyes with people. We don’t look at people, when we are on the train or when we stand next to people in an elevator, we don’t look at people, who we go into a relationship with. There’s a fear of vulnerability that we apparently have within us. That’s why I use this technique in my workshops and tell the participants to stand with their partner and see them and let them see you. It’s about allowing ourselves to be fully vulnerable with another being and to open to being fully seen which in itself can be incredibly powerful. And when it comes to seeing, we often have judgements, ideas and opinions that we create about people. When we practise eye-gazing though, it just cuts through that idea that we might have about another person. And if you just look into the eyes of someone and they look into yours, and you see their soul and they see yours its a profound experience of connection.
“It’s like seeing the whole galaxy in another person”
I remember feeling this intimicy with the soul and it made me feel that it is maybe not just about his or her soul, but about Soul in general.
Yes. It’s like seeing the whole galaxy in another person. You see everything in the other person and the other person sees everything within you.
Not just meditation or eye-gazing can bring us into a meditative state of mind, but also dance to psychedelic trance music – something that you and I enjoy. Many people in the scene take hallucinogenic substances. During your workshop at the Psy-Fi Festival, you encouraged people to try to dance without the influence of substances. Why?
Psytrance is a profound music genre that has a lot of wisdom and information and the ability to drop us into certain brain states that shake us through to the trance state. From my own experience I know it is possible to tap into a lot of journeying on the dancefloor without any psychedelic substances. So, I encourage people to be present and to listen to that music which is highly complex and is created through different layers with frequencies that assist you to journey. That’s why I also talk about cymatics during my workshops – the geomatry of the vibrations that happens through a sound frequency. We can use breath work, which helps us to increase the experience when we go into the trance experience sober and find out what we can feel.
I reckon, ganja yoga must be something that you are not up for ...!? [laughs]
It’s not my thing. [laughs] There are crazy yoga types out there these days. For sure it works for some people, but for me it’s a very different environment. When I come onto the mat and do yoga, I want to be present with myself and see what comes up in this realm that needs clearing. That’s my practice with yoga. So, I’m not sure, if I was able to do that, if I was smoking weed. That‘s not something that I would be interested in at all and it‘s nothing that I would promote.
Gayle Murphey (40) is an English-born life coach and sustainability consultant who would describe herself rather as a journeyer of life who thrives on learning, growing and sharing. She is based in Malta, and has travelled to many countries and lived in quite a few places to work in a variety of projects she is passionate about.
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