BREATHE – An Interview with Rob Baynton

Tell us a little about yourself?

I’m Rob. I am a pretty nice guy if you ask my mom or my friends. I have a great sense of humour and a quick wit and have great hair! I love my family, friends and my dog Gordie more than anything. On the flip side, I am human and therefore I am a person who is spectacularly flawed and moody and also painfully self-aware. But I am also learning as I get older to be as accepting of myself as I am of others.

imageAdditionally, I’m a 36 year-old guy who is just starting to learn who he really is and who he wants to be in this world. I am like many of you reading this and for most of my adult life I felt like I was on the right path – you know, the one where you start a career and buy a home and start saving for retirement where you will finally get to enjoy your life or what is left of it. Except in my case I never stopped to ask myself if I was happy until it was obvious that I was not so I changed everything about my life. So I guess I am also a person who is capable of great change and who is not ruled by fear.

What inspires you and drives your passions?

image (9)Many things. I am a very outdoorsy kind of guy so I find that I am very much inspired by and fuelled by nature. Or maybe it is just the simple pleasures in life that inspire and drive me. My whole life now is about working as little as possible and living as much as possible. My needs are quite basic – food, shelter and water. When those are fulfilled, everything else seems like a gift and I feel like the luckiest guy ever to have more than what I need in life.

I am inspired by two women in my life…my mom and my best friend. My mom is the most caring and giving person; almost to a fault. I worry that she gives too much of herself away and doesn’t give back to herself enough but that is just her nature. My mom was a single mom who despite having kids and many responsibilities, went back to school and worked weekends and built a very successful career as a nurse which compliments her giving nature. Seeing her work so hard to change her life inspired me when I struggled to change my own. If she could do it, I knew I could because I am her son and am just like her.

I am very much inspired by and fuelled by nature. Or maybe it is just the simple pleasures in life that inspire and drive me.

image (8)My best friend is the most positive person I have ever met. We were bff’s from the day we met. I knew when I met her that I would become a better person just by association. She was always so well rounded and open to new ideas and experiences. As we got older, she discovered her passion and became an unbelievable yoga therapist. And born from her passion, she built a very successful business that helps people grow physically, mentally and emotionally every day. Her passion for life is infectious and I feel like she is someone who gave me the push I needed to change my life so I too could discover my passion and lead a life where success is measured in happiness, not money or material things.

I needed to change my life so I too could discover my passion and lead a life where success is measured in happiness, not money or material things

So when you ask what drives my passions, I don’t know how to answer because I am still figuring that all out. But I can tell you that what drives me is living a life that makes me happy, a life that inspires other people around me to do the same and one that makes other’s life better in the process. I am also driven to make my mom proud!

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Yoga is a big part of your life. How did you first discover Yoga and what drives you to maintain the practice?

image (5)I first discovered yoga in the early 2000’s because my best friend and roommate at the time was into it and was studying to become a teacher. When she completed her studies I just wanted to be a supportive friend and turned up to some of her classes while she was just starting out as a teacher. I enjoyed it but was very inconsistent in my practice and didn’t appreciate the true benefits beyond the physical.

As time went on my focus switched to building my career. I had my mind made up that climbing the corporate ladder was what I wanted and focused my energy on that. As time went on I was well on my way up the ladder and had relocated to Vancouver where there were many more career advancement opportunities. I still did yoga inconsistently but with each promotion came more responsibility and I found less and less time to pencil in some “me” time. So for many years, I neglected myself and my practice and grew increasingly unhappy in life. I didn’t see the importance of taking care of myself physically and emotionally and became an increasingly angry person whose personal relationships with family and friends grew more and more distant.

At that point I knew the universe was telling me something

image (6)I reached a breaking point where my stress and anger boiled over and it scared the shit out of me (pardon the expletive but it is needed for emphasis). I decided to take a leave of absence to refocus my priorities. At the start of my leave, my best friend (same best friend who is now a yoga therapist) told me that her newlywed husband (also a dear friend and one of the most inspiring people in my life) was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma. Shortly after that I learned my beloved aunt was diagnosed with terminal cancer. If that wasn’t enough, shortly after that devastating news, I learned my mom was also diagnosed with cancer. At that point I knew the universe was telling me something and I immediately came home to Victoria to help care for my friends and family. It was an incredibly stressful time but while not working, I needed some structure in my life to satisfy my type A personality and an outlet for my stress so yoga became that for me.

image (7)It was like rediscovering yoga but for the first time if that makes sense. I started attending as many classes as I could and came to crave that hour and a half where I would take my mind into my body and shut everything else out. I started finding myself at three classes a week, then four, then five; sometimes I would feel so amazing after that I would do two classes in a row. And because I have an amazing teacher (and the same teacher every class who knows me and my body and what I need to work on which is essential for anyone planning to take yoga classes), I started to see myself improve. Not only was I progressing physically, but my anger subsided as did my stress levels even though I was dealing with some seriously stressful stuff outside the studio. I finally began to realize the true benefits of yoga beyond the physical.

After a few months of doing yoga consistently and committing to my practice, it was time to return to Vancouver and go back to work. I felt confident that I would not fall back into old habits and that I would treat work as work and make more time for myself. And I was successful at that…for about two weeks. But what I had gone through with my family in the months before in combination with re-discovering the importance of maintaining a consistent yoga practice (scheduling that “me” time in) changed me. As I saw myself slipping into old habits, I knew I needed to make bigger changes in my life. So I left my corporate job and I immediately listed my home in Vancouver and moved home to Victoria and my life officially became refocused on what was important; me, my family and my friends and of course, my yoga practice.

image (1)Don’t get me wrong, yoga alone is not responsible for all the changes I made in my life. It took a lot of work on and off the mat to get to a place where I am truly focused on what is important and I continue to work at it every day. Yoga was and is the largest influencer for me but I also saw a therapist and took two years off from working to decompress and do some travelling. Sometimes I see myself regressing and feeling like I did in my past life; but when that happens I know it is simply my mind distracting me and because I study Raja yoga (Raja yoga is all about the art of bringing your mind into your practice) I know that these are simply distractions and that I have the ability to focus on what is important and let the distractions disappear.

Simple things can bring great pleasure. What simple things bring you great pleasure?

image (3)As strange as it sounds, the sun brings me more pleasure than anything. I love nothing more than to be outside so whether that means taking my dog for a walk on the beach, going for a bike ride to Thetis lake and taking a dip or simply sitting in the back yard with my eyes closed while i feel the warmth of the sun on my face. There is nothing better. My dog Gordie also brings a lot of pleasure; Gordie is a rescue dog who was badly abused  but despite his past, today he is the happiest guy ever. Dogs truly live in the moment and that is something I am learning to do as well. That life lesson is sure to bring a lot pleasure my way; I really think dogs have the secret of life figured out and are much smarter than humans

If somebody was looking to simplify their Life what would you recommend?

First I would recommend that they take my advice with a grain of salt because honestly, who am I to give advice?! All I can share are my opinions and experiences but making any kind of change has to come from within. I also think that those truly looking to simplify their life will simply figure out how when the time is right for them. For me, I thought about it for years but when the time came I didn’t have to think about it too much. I just knew that things couldn’t continue as they were and there really was no other choice but to make change and it just happened.

Just do it and stop making excuses for not doing it. Fear will hold you back and fear will create many reasons to continue on on the way you are.

image (11)But if I did have to make a recommendation I guess it would be to just do it and stop making excuses for not doing it. Fear will hold you back and fear will create many reasons to continue on on the way you are. For example, I was fearful to quit my job because I had a mortgage payment and many responsibilities so for years I continued to be unhappy because I was ruled by fear. And the thing is, as soon as I took the leap, I wasn’t afraid anymore. I was empowered and proud of myself and the universe looked after me; it helped me rediscover yoga, it helped me find places to live and it helped me discover new opportunities to support myself while still maintaining balance in my life. So trust the universe will look out for you and JUST. FUC*KING. DO. IT!

What does compassion mean to you?

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I think we all know the definition of compassion and to me the dictionary definition is accurate. I think compassion and empathy are very similar; part of living in a community requires people to be able to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and to care about others. In general I think almost all creatures on this planet have compassion in some form but what I think we often forget is to have compassion for ourselves. If we don’t have compassion for ourselves, how do we have compassion for others? If we don’t take care of ourselves, how do we care for others? The great RuPaul always says, “if you don’t love yourself, then how in the hell you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an Amen?!”


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