Departing a Life of Chaotic Comfort, Finding Connection
Interview with Gillian, Paris, Yoga Instructor
When you waltz through the bustling summer Tuileries garden near the Louvre, your eyes might instantly be drawn to an army of happy ducks, bellies pointing up towards the sky, rolling left and right. Then, you might see, amongst them, a beautiful woman, wearing a pair of black Ray-Bans, with the head and neck of a ballerina... And when you come closer, wanting to snap a few photos, you might hear her saying, with the air of a slightly amused diplomat , “You guys are the most beautiful creatures around the Louvre during the summer! ”
Gillian Grant - a woman, who some might say enjoys “tormenting” her students as a pastime, is our featured guest of our opening issue of Plant a Douce. She is a Paris-based yoga instructor who initiated me into the world of mazes for my body. Unlike traditional yoga teaching which can often feel strict and dogmatic, Gillian's teachings allow plenty of space and freedom for self-exploration. Of course, she also injects a strong shot of her American-style playfulness into the practices, making them unpredictable and fun.
“People often ask me why I came to Paris all by myself ten years ago... that was before backpacking became a real trend.” I always answered, “ Because I wanted to explore Europe, I came to Paris, fell in love with the city and stayed...but perhaps I just needed to get myself out of Chicago, urgently.”
Like all bleary-eyed students fresh off from college, Gillian enjoyed parties and ventured into various jobs... living a life of chaotic comfort. But she decided to pull herself out of familiar, surroundings and embarked on a journey of self-exploration in Europe. Her first landing pad: Paris. For a few years, she was searching for a sense of belonging —— comprehending all the hidden social protocols in the city of light and fashion à la française is nothing short of challenging. Until one day, she was introduced to a Paris-based meetup yoga community.
For Gillian, her search was about more than just finding a trusting and enjoyable community in Paris, she also wanted to find a sense of higher purpose and direction. She made the decision to place a disciplined yoga practice at the center of her life. Like the guiding light of a lighthouse to lost sailors, yoga appeared as a bright and important presence in Gillian’s life.
“I came to realization that yoga releases my rawest and most complete inner-self, so I decided to become a yoga teacher...and I have never doubted that ever since!” Gillian told me that through practicing yoga, she gained a deeper understanding of her state of mind in the past —— it was like a roller-coaster ride, trapped in the permanent and vicious cycle of ups and downs, trying to find meaning and establishing goals but she constantly ended up feeling dazed and grew even more distant from her true self.
“But if we can develop some physical discipline, it can help train our mind and brain to hit pause, and those floating thoughts become readable, more clear… it’s a process of brain detoxing.”
“The purpose of practicing yoga, is to achieve moments of stillness in the mind through focusing entirely on one or a set of postures. You might be looking like you are trying to balance or increase flexibility, but it is really about training yourself to focus entirely on how the body feels at that moment and nothing else, gradually developing a better mind-body connection. And once you have a strong physical base and mind, you feel the power in you to put any of your thoughts and ideas into execution.” Gillian spoke as we enjoyed the warm summer breeze one evening after our practice.
The journey of Gillian is similar to mine and of many friends around me in their twenties and thirties — we are all searching for direction and purpose in our lives. Not all of us have become yoga teachers, of course, but we have made the choice to become conscious of our decisions, and perhaps even to dive into the challenge of making positive changes to our society and environment. For us, perhaps it is no longer about asking whether we have the “guts” to do things out-of-the-box, but realizing that as conscious beings connected to this world, we must ask: How can we educate ourselves to share the energy of mindfulness, happiness and joy to more people and to more lives?
Yoga is Connection. Yoga is unity and harmony — not only for all humans, but all beings in this world.
When we feel the connection to our inner selves, other people, nature and the cosmos, we become conscious and grateful. This is what we would like to convey through the word “Consciousness.”
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