As The Lotus Blooms

They say the only thing that’s constant is change, and whoever they might be, they are right. Nothing ever stays the same for longer than is necessary and even in the stillness things are moving, gathering, becoming what they should be.

 

I am supposed to be this person who facilitates change and yet, I still feel myself scared shitless when big things shift.

 

You think you’ve reached this destination, but then you realise that that is not the case at all, that there really is no ‘destination.’ It is but an illusion, an oasis where you may rest for a bit before things go on again.  You’ve done all this fucking work, but life just doesn’t stand still.  There’s still more work to be done.

 

Underneath it all of course, is fear.

 

That fear.

 

You know that feeling. When your stomach does flips at the thought that things could be different. It’s not that this place here is better than what could be. It is just that through familiarity, it has become safe.

 

It’s like being in your bed when you have all the pillows arranged just so and your spot is perfectly set, comfortable, warm enough but not too warm, soft enough but not too soft. The thought of having to move the setting just seems a bit like too much work.  Just a little bit unsettling.

 

What if you adjust but it doesn’t work out and you have to readjust?

 

But you’ll have to readjust anyway.

 

Summer moves into winter, and as it gets colder, you will move things around, thicker blankets, more pillows.

Then when it grows warm again, you adjust again.

 

It is just the way of the world.

 

Situations change as they must. Roles change. And scariest of all is the fact that relationships too evolve.

 

But why, why are these big changes so scary?

 

Why do we do this thing where we go back and forth?

 

Why delay the inevitable?

 

I suppose it is fear and not knowing.

 

Perfectly valid reasons.

 

But fear when mixed with a touch of desire turns to excitement, and knowing, well, what do we know anyway? We can only know things when we get there.

 

You only have three choices.

 

Try to run in the opposite direction.

 

Stay the same.

 

Or surrender and move forward to something that is petrifying but has the potential of being one of the best choices you’ve ever made.

 

Which will it be?
Some things are meant to happen anyway.

 

You might fight, deny, bury it under the excuses stemming from your past experiences, but this is here.

 

This is now.

 

We think so much about reasons not to… but what if this time, we focused instead of the reason to do it.

 

A flower will bloom when it should as it should, and trying to keep it as it is will only break the petals.  When it is time too, the petals fall off, making room for another incarnation as it should.

 

The question now is:

Will you let the lotus bloom or will you break the petals by trying to keep it closed?

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Stepping Through the Fire – My Story

When people ask me if anything changed in my life when I decided to do my Yoga Teacher Training, I answer by saying, “my whole life fell apart.”

And it did.

I had my first taste of Teacher Training in August 2011.  Little did I know that it would be the catalyst to tremendous change in my life.  It was when I finally decided that I wanted to do the first 200 Hour Teacher Training, and although I thought I could go on with life as it was through this process, the universe had other plans.  Three weeks after that, the relationship I was in fell apart.  There was a bit of toing and froing, but in the grand scheme of things, it dissolved rather quickly.

A few months after that, I gave up smoking, which truth be told was even more difficult as my relationship with cigarettes had spanned about 14 years by then.  However, I thought that since I was grieving a relationship, why not go through withdrawals at the same time.  Needless to say, the last part of 2011 was pretty much time spent rolling around in the muck.

As the sun rose on New Year’s Day 2012, in Byron Bay however, I realised that that part of life was behind me and there was nowhere I could go but forward.

That was not the end of it.

The week before I went for the first Teacher Training retreat, I packed up everything I owned to move to a new place.  Then off we went on retreat, beginning the most intense journey of self-discovery that I had gone on my entire life.  There was a lot of laughter, but also a lot of tears as we slowly went through those months of exploration.  Never had I stopped to look inside and question myself so deeply, and never had I written down in detail the life that I wanted.

Through all of this I had also decided that if I really wanted to know myself, I needed to just be by myself and therefore had decided to adopt the yogic yama of brahmacharya (celibacy).  It was a difficult choice as when going through a breakup, sometimes you want to stick a band aid on the pain by jumping into a new relationship.  However, as I was going through big changes in my life, I was just not in the right space for it.

Time came, time went and in December my first teacher training was completed. 2012 had been a crazy year and I thought I could spend some time just finding my ground.  Again, I was wrong.  On the 29th of January 2013, my father passed away.  Two weeks later, my full time corporate stint ended, and soon after that, my life got suspended between two worlds.

Something had to give.  The world of yoga beckoned me more and more, and by the second half of 2013, I had completely transitioned into this life.

Things were happening, and layers were being unpeeled.

After seven years of being in Australia, I finally received my Permanent Resident status, and it was during these times of challenge that I found out who my true friends are.  It was during this time also that I adopted beautiful Portia, a rescue cat who has become the queen of my house. In a land where I am in essence alone, I found community, and I found family.

I’ve had glimpses of what my life could have been like had I stayed where I was.  Perhaps I would have started a family.  Perhaps I would have climbed the corporate ladder.  It seems a pretty picture and yet, I have no regrets at not being there.  I know now that that frame was never mine to fit into.

And so here I am, far far away from where my life was two years ago, or rather, seven years ago, when this journey truly began.

I am altered, and yet I sit more comfortably in my skin than I have ever sat before.

Now I know that everything had to fall apart.

I had to fall apart.

Transformation begins when you take that first step into the fire and when it is right the universe helps you.  Sometimes the help comes in a scary way where the doors you could have walked through to return to where you were close with a force that you can’t fight – a breakup, a death, the loss of a job, the loss of a dream that you once held so dear, an idea that had to change, a perspective that needed to be altered, a love that needed to be severed.  You crawl through the mud, and sometimes you just want to say, “fuck it all to hell! I want to go back to where I was,” but something won’t let you, and so, you just keep going.

It is not always without pain.  In fact, most of the time, it is with a lot of pain and the journey forward might not be smooth either, but you go on, one step at a time, towards the place you were meant to be.

The world breaks down to be rebuilt.

As we stand here, at the horizon of a new year, know, without a doubt, that this is exactly where you were meant to be.

Happy 2014.

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Just the Beginning

I’m a romantic but I’ve gone through long spells of having no romance in my own life.  I’m not big on reading relationship do’s and don’ts.  I’m not big on dating rules.  I’m definitely not big on early morning conversations.  The only valid question I can think of for early mornings is, “do you want coffee/tea?” In all my years, I’ve loved a lot, but only fallen in love twice.  Fallen in love in the way that I let my existence be altered and was brave enough to allow for changes in my life plans.  Both times brought me to a different place and there are no regrets.

The familiar to me is living life on my own, learning new things, making plans and having just enough room for family and friends. It allows me to keep my own space, a separate being responsible for just me.  It allows me to play it safe.

So when people speak to me of romance and relationships, I often don’t know what to say.

Having someone else in your space is unfamiliar and scary.  I must have known what having someone was like before, but it’s been so long that the memories feel like they’ve been wiped away from my DNA, and besides, you can’t use the same map when you’re exploring a new country.

And that’s what it is.

A new person coming into your life – unchartered territory ready to be explored, no maps, no GPS systems, just your intuition guiding you.  Suddenly, you want to say things even when there is nothing to say.  You want to share your day even if the most exciting thing is a new soap commercial.  Things that were once without meaning now remind you of them and of bits of conversation that you shared.  And you want to hear about their day even though you know what they did was no different from what they did the day before.  It is just to speak to them, to hear their voice, to have them close.

Suddenly there’s a person who reminds you of nobody else that you know, but so much else reminds you of them.  When they’re there sometimes you don’t know what to say, but when they’re not, you just want to speak of them, just for the sake of saying their name.

It’s an inexplicable alchemy but no matter how you question it, it just feels right.

You find common ground and places where you are different.  Life hasn’t really been altered, but their presence in yours just makes it that tiny bit more. You didn’t even feel like anything was missing from your life before, yet if they were to walk out now, there would be this irreplaceable gap there.  Something you would feel more than you would see.

It doesn’t matter if they are across the room and you don’t speak to them.  All that matters is that they’re there, and if you look up, your eyes would meet even if for just an instant.  You look at them when you think they’re not looking and perhaps it goes both ways.  The two of you getting to know each other from a distance, even as you grow closer, like looking at the earth from far above, but also walking along the vast planes.  To see, really see, but to also know the sense, the taste, the smell, the feel, letting them touch you in deliciously scary ways.

There are times when you second guess yourself – are you being too obvious? Or not obvious enough? Did you say too much? Or too little? Are you showing too much of yourself? Or not enough?  Did you touch them too intimately?  Or were you too cold? Did you scare them away?  And then, you let it go because it’s been said, and it’s been done, and too much or too little, when you come back together again and smile at each other, all is right in the world.

Sometimes you wonder why they had to show up when your life was just right as it was.  You were contented, minding your own business, then along they come and suddenly they are there with you even when they are not with you.  You found a million reasons why you shouldn’t be thinking of them, but the minute you see them it all becomes invalid, as there standing before you are the two million reasons why you do think of them – their unbelievable kindness and amazing gentleness, the sound of their voice, the way their eyes crinkle when they smile, a laugh that just makes you laugh with them, the way that it just feels so right when they are there.  It really leaves no space for the arguments you’ve been having in your head because something beyond that is winning out.

You’ve put so much effort into leading a simple straightforward life, but this could be the thing that alters it.  Things will change.  You know they will.  Your plans will be modified and so will theirs, but perhaps it’s time for the unfamiliar. Not so much changing the route you’ve mapped out as allowing for another way to get to this destination.

It’s thrilling and it’s exciting.

It is the end of the life you know.
And you also know that it is just the beginning of something else.

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I’d Rather Not be a Goddess

We sometimes talk about being ‘goddesses’ and ‘standing in our feminine,’ in a way that denotes the inferiority of the masculine, but the truth is, in each human whether they are born female or male, both these energies exist.  Not one is superior to the other, and the need for one or the other varies with time.  For instance, when I was going through a tough time, I wanted to surround myself with feminine energy, but at some point when there was too much around me, I found it stifling.  I love a man who is comfortable with the feminine, but I also find a man who stands just a bit too close in my space with red hot masculinity extremely sexy, especially if I know that he doesn’t do it with everything in a skirt.

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I read this piece ages ago about dating a yoga goddess.  It’s really great for the self-esteem, but on the other hand, who’s to say that a Yoga Goddess is any different from a Prada Goddess.  Sure, if you’re a yoga girl, then dating someone who loves his drink and lives on steaks might just leave a lot to be desired when it comes to finding a place you both enjoy.  And if you love being outdoors and he loves his TV, then it might not garner much conversation time.  Incompatible bed times make things difficult if you’re asleep by 9:30pm and he’s not up until 11:00am and if one of you feels somehow that the other is not as enlightened/smart/anything will just cause imbalance in the relationship.

My friend Karen-Anne digs deeper into philosophy with her answer to the article mentioned above, and I agree with her: http://flyingdragonyogis.com.au/2013/12/04/self-awareness-for-goddesses/.  Just because we use different terms (cleanse instead of diet, divine masculine instead of man), doesn’t make us totally different than the average Jane.

Something about calling myself a ‘goddess’ and sending invitations to the ‘divine masculine’ just doesn’t speak to me.  It might work for some. And some people, in relationship want to be adored.  It’s great in small doses, but I would rather be loved than put on a pedestal as some great ideal.  Why would you want to see yourself as superior to the person you’re dating?  Why would you want him to think that he’s not enough?  Sure you might be the better planner while he’s the one with more physical strength, and he might be more analytic while you’re more intuitive, but not one trait is better than the other.  Then there are some things that you love doing together; cooking, going to the beach, watching movies, whatever.  Sometimes you will annoy each other but that’s not because you’re a Goddess while he’s a dud.  It’s just because you don’t agree on everything, and that’s a good thing.

At the end of the day, I want to be with someone who I can talk to, laugh with and play with.  He could work in the creative field or the technical field, be a martial artist, Crossfitter or Yogi.  It is important however, that he finds joy in what he does like I find joy in what I do.  He could come from any background, as long as he has a good relationship with his family.  Occasionally I will challenge him, and he will challenge me, and we will motivate each other.  Our differences will be just as important as the things we have in common.  Sometimes things will get tough, but a lasting relationship is when you choose to stay instead of go. Some people use the principal non-attachment as a reason not to commit, and sure, if you don’t get attached, you won’t get hurt, but that bit of attachment can also feed into the effort put into the relationship.  More than the job, family background or whatever, is who he is as a person, and in anything of this nature, there is that something that nobody can put a finger on, that from the outside might not make sense, but somehow just feels right.

The practice of yoga is a journey in finding your path.  If it feels right for you, then go ahead and be a floating Gypsy but if what sits dear in your heart is finding a place to land and build, then it makes you no less ‘Yoga Goddess,’ or a ‘Divine Masculine’.  Some just want to be free, others want to have another someone, and others want to have children.  Not one is better than the other.

It took more than two whole years of being completely alone but now I know that I want to land.  Casual, fleeting flings might leave a lot of freedom, but it is just not for me.  The only time I want to be a Goddess is when he is right there with me being a God.  Other than that, I want to be able to take off any masks (because it is only human nature that we wear them sometimes) along with my shoes, not be judged for having pizza if I feel like it, and occasionally not have to do anything but sit on the couch together.  I would want that underlying friendship which allows me the freedom to be unabashedly me.

As much as the Goddess energy is within everyone, I would rather not feel like I have to be some semi-fictional ideal.

 

Between Men and Women

I am a firm believer that masculinity is a feminist issue.  You might think it’s not but the ideals and ideas that men are brought up with affect women so much as daughters, sisters, partners and friends to these men.  As a son, how your father treats your mother and sisters often affects how you will treat women, and as daughters, how we are treated by our fathers often affect our future relationships with men.

In some societies masculinity can be enhanced not only by the car, job and social status but also the number of women one can juggle at the same time.  It isn’t a pretty look at things, but it is an idea that has been passed down through the generations, perhaps not so much in spoken terms, but in the respect that is given to these men.  My father was such a man, and I’ve been one of those women.  Now I don’t see myself as a victim of a patriarchal society but I must admit that my views were influenced by what I saw around me.  The idea that a man would mess up and that it was a woman’s job to forgive, stay and carry on as if all was dandy was deeply rooted in my mind.  If a woman messed up however (talked back/put on weight/worked too much) it would be valid grounds for a man to walk out or find someone else, this not just as a partner, but as a daughter as well.

These views, coupled with the behaviour I saw from my father and my experiences with relationships had done my head in.  So, I threw in the towel.  Of course I got into these types of relationships because I thought that they were what relationships were meant to be like.  Nobody was to blame but myself.  The situations you find yourself in are situations that you think you should be in.  To stay, go, or re-evaluate your views on things is your choice.

To be honest, I wasn’t into re-evaluating anything.  I just wanted to throw in the towel, practice yoga, sit at home with my cat, watch chick-flicks and reruns of Will and Grace, write and have nothing else to do with the dating scene.  Read: I was a big chicken who blamed men for all the problems of the world and thought that the only way to be safe was to be alone.

Of course, what happens when you step away from things is you get to really look at them.  So much of modern dating is based on that first impression, the initial spark.  Taking a time out means ignoring any sparks that might come about, and being able to look at the person causing these sparks.  Some days, you meet a new friend, while other days, it’s just like a match that struck once and blew out.  What happens when you put your own spark out is that the people who come into your lives are allowed to just enter without any ulterior intentions.

Somehow in my desire to have nothing to do with men, I met men.  Really met them.  Yes, most of them are gay.  My dear friend Ingrid even jokes that if I’m all over a guy and I say that I love him, chances are he’s gay.  Gay, straight, slightly bent, don’t have the necessary parts, if you want to be, then you’re a man.

What happened?

Beautiful people appeared – fathers, brothers, sons, husbands, lovers and friends, all trying their best to find a way. We say men play games, but we do too.  We’ve all fallen victim of social ideals of playing it cool and we’ve been hurt before so we play it safe.  Bloody rules about women not being the first to text or call, or not texting for three days after a date and not replying because it might make you seem too keen. What on earth? It’s driving us into thought instead of emotion.  Sure, some concentrate so much on not getting hurt that they hurt other people, but there are people who are just built more resilient than others.  Men, women – so many still have the courage to put themselves out there again and again, to communicate even when they don’t know how and to love even through the toughest times.

I met good men.  Great men.  Men who try their best to take care of the families they love, who take the time to sit alone getting to know themselves, and stand comfortable in their own skin. They speak to women like equals instead of possessions and every day they make me laugh and smile.  There have been conversations that have sparked ideas, after which I have gone home and had a lot to think about and there have been some who have made me step out of my complicated thought processes and made things really simple.

Most of all, I have learned that not all men will either walk away or make it about them when you are upset or distressed or had a little cry.  There are some who stay close enough and when you’re done with your own process, just take you in their arms and hold you for as long as you need.

So, as much as an exploration, this is also a ‘thank you’ to the men I’ve met in the last couple of years.  I know I have days when I am less than charming and can be a bit unfair at the male population, but thanks for being there for me through these trying years.  Sometimes I think we have complicated things so much with our thought processes that we have to separate things into these long winded categories, break it down into tables of what is what and create pie charts to the point where we don’t know which end us up with our emotions, and we can’t just be.  The truth is, we are all constantly relearning new ways of being and we should all give ourselves some credit for trying.  As you question your masculinity, sometimes I question my femininity, but that is fine as our roles are continuously changing.

Perhaps it is this community that we are in, that allows us without judgement to continually explore has something to do with it, but in all my life, the people who I’ve met in the last couple of years have been most exceptional and I am thankful for you all.   And maybe it isn’t that complicated after all.

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Healing from the Healing

A while ago, a decision was made.  A big decision.  At the time, I knew that it was what I needed.  My life had been traveling within the same spiral for years and I didn’t know how else I could get out of it.  So I stepped out of the circle completely.  Some might say that I fell off the face of the earth into some parallel yet unknown universe.

In this void that I created, I finally allowed my attention to sit on the scars that had been there for years.  You know those ones, the ones that are so bloody and filled with puss that it’s easier to just stick a bandage on them and hope they heal on their own. Those deep ones that if you leave long enough cut through so deep to the bone that you end up having to remove the entire limb. There were a few there so instead of moving forward, I decided that I should stay and work on the things that needed work.

This state of alone-ness was only meant to last for a year.  In this time, I have had various healing treatments from an entire retreat to kick off a life overhaul, to massages, cleanses (you know, you cleanse the liver, then the kidneys need a wash out, then there’s the intestines and then it’s back to the liver and it never ends), Reiki, yoga therapies, AcuEnergetics, and all the way to psychic and tarot readings as well as internet research (some were great, some were just plain weird and due to what I do, some are necessary on a regular basis). Fortunately, witch doctors are rather scarce in big cities.

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There are days however, when I wonder if all this healing work is just an excuse.  You see, when I decided on celibacy for a spell, I put massive blinkers on. I’ve always been a bit daft when it comes to these things in the first place.  It has to be ridiculously obvious otherwise I’ll just see it as a friendly thing. With blinkers on, my ‘friend’ pants were on and they were staying on no matter how smoking hot or ridiculously obvious the guy was.

More than two years later, my blinkers are still on.  I said I took them off, but a conversation I had last week showed me that I have made many excuses to keep them on.  It was one of those days when a man’s perspective gave me a different perspective. We had both gone undergone similar energetic treatments, but where he didn’t think he would go back, I did keep going back.  I suppose if he had stepped out of the treatment room and fallen in love, it would be as simple as him meeting someone awesome and falling in love.  Whereas if I had stepped out of the treatment room and fallen in love, I would have gone into this whole story of how the treatment had released me from past hurts, unlocked such and such and opened my heart and then I fell in love. Sure that could have been part of it, but surely it wouldn’t be all of it.  Surely this other person would have something to do with it as well.

Which leads me to this.

As much as healing treatments are great for you, I wonder if sometimes they can be a crutch.  I know they have been for me.  I wanted to remove my man ban in January, then I found other stuff to work on, and then more stuff, and so on and so forth, and the work continues.  My seven main chakras are still shit some days, and Mars and Venus are no closer to being aligned than they were when I was 16.

What are we trying to achieve really?

We cleanse and starve ourselves, go for endless treatments and keep finding issues that we need to work on before we think we are worthy of love.  We read countless books before we think we have the right to be a parent.  We think that until we can become the most awesome and perfect girlfriend/boyfriend/parent in the universe, we just shouldn’t do it. However, in all this, all we keep finding are reasons why we are unworthy.  It’s like those times when we have a small injury where we just need to stretch it out but instead of doing that, we keep getting second and third opinions until we meet some crazy crook who decides that it needs surgery, which leads to even more time off the game.

I’m not saying that healing treatments are useless.  Depending on the individual, some will work, and some won’t, but perhaps, there needs to come a point where the digging stops.  Perhaps there needs to come a time when we stop getting outside opinions and let the information sink in. After all, that’s what yoga and meditation are for. Perhaps it’s OK to continue working but keep life going at the same time.  Consider the pressure (and sheer boringness) of being or being with someone perfect.  What else would there be left to explore?

Without fuck ups, how uninteresting and bland would life be?

We are all works in progress, but there comes a time when progress actually means just being OK with what is and going from there.

Rewriting the Future

Sometimes you’re just traipsing through life without a care in the world then something taps you in the head (loudly!) and you realise that this path you’re traveling on is not really where you want to go.

For me, this thing was yoga.

It had been coming in and out of my life since I was in my early twenties.  Occasionally it would step away, but it kept coming back.  Like a very persistent suitor, it just wouldn’t leave me alone.  Even when I ran out crying or was so angry I wanted to bite through the mat, it kept coming back.  When I first realised that there was a relationship forming, I fought it.  I’d show up in my worse form – angry, hungover, drunk, reeking of cigarettes, ready to pick a fight.  Yet it still stayed, standing silently in the corner while I went through my little drama, giving me space and then moving back in.  Somewhere along the line, I stopped fighting it and we became friends.  Then, the realisation came that I was in danger of falling completely and utterly in love.

Now I’ve loved many things in my life, but this was the game changer and I knew it.

And like with all game changers, it was time to rewrite the future.

Why rewrite the future?

Well, if you keep going on as you are, your future will be exactly the same as your past.  You can get into a million different relationships, but until you stop and have a look at what’s going on with yourself, it really won’t be any different.  You can start six thousand new hobbies or go for a gazillion treatments but until you actually look in, the outside will remain the same.

Most people operate on a pattern that they’ve had for ages.  These are the lessons we have learned through life, either from our parents, friends or our own behaviours. In yoga speak, they are known as samskaras.  They are the patterns that have been repeated so many times that they have become grooves in the landscape of our lives.  Some are good.  A healthy eating habit perhaps or a past of being caring, but as we are all works in progress, we often find some bits that we want to chip away at to make room for something new.

You’d think it would be as easy as that.

Not quite.

This is one of the processes that take time.  It requires a lot of looking back into the past, considerable time alone, and meditation.  It is not a process for the faint hearted, that’s for sure.  Great memories will come back to you but along with them there will often be rage and despair, among other things.  There are moments when you are so frustrated you want to hit a wall, or chew through the floorboards.  There are moments you laugh at old jokes and the next thing you know, you are sobbing into your blanket.  It is so easy to get stuck in the past, where it is safe and dark, but time moves forward and at some point, you’ll have to emerge out of it.  There are parts of your life that you might need to cut loose, and sometimes, without you intending it to happen, you lose people who are dear to you.

My big process took about two years, and then I added 40 Days on top of it just to seal the deal.  Some people start with the 40 Days, or 21 Days (because that’s how long it takes to change a habit), but there is always somewhere to make that first step.  It requires a commitment to yourself more than anything else, and a burning desire to make things different, and to be different.

As with all changes, a big part of it is a solo journey.  You need that time on your own to reflect, perhaps to write, and to just sit in silence, taking note of the patterns of your thoughts.  However, no matter what journey you are on, there is always someone else going through something similar, and the universe in all its glory will often bring these people right into your path.  So even when you are traveling alone, you never truly are.

I saw this process with a beautiful group of people who took on a 40 Day Revolution.  It was a commitment to five days of studio practice, a day of home practice and a solid twice a day meditation practice.  Some might have started the journey just to get their asana yoga practice set, but through the 40 Days, things shifted.  They shifted.  I shifted along with them.  It wasn’t an easy journey, but it was a beautiful one.  These people showed up day after day in their courage and in their vulnerability, allowing for change to happen.  It was the courage of people who wanted something to change and making that commitment to change it.

The thing is, change is a never ending process.  You constantly have the chance to rewrite your future.  Sometimes, you’ve got your future written down, and then you meet someone you grow to care for.  You can play it safe and keep your futures separate or you can take a chance and write a future together.  Because you’ve already rewritten your future, you know it won’t be the same as your past, and you know this person is not the same as the persons you’ve tried to write futures with before.

The process of rewriting the future closes some doors; perhaps those ones that have held you in the past, but in place, it opens other doors allowing you to move forward.  It is a chance taken, a change made and a life open to ever more possibilities.  It is unsafe, unknown and oh so exciting.  It is letting go of the life you had for the life you want.

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Lonely City

Sometimes I walk around this city that I’ve adopted, lost in my own universe of thoughts and whatever music is playing in my ear.  I came here for the first time at 20 knowing I would come back.  One broken engagement and a few years later, I did. No friends, no family – Just me, with no anchor and no knowledge of what life would have in store for me. At the time, I did not know if I would leave or stay, but as the years passed, here I am still.

 

Although I came from another crowded city, this one is different.  Here I did not have the foundation of friends I could call when that first winter hit.  Here I did not have a cousin whose home I could hide in during times of heartbreak.  Here in my weakest moments, I learned to find my own strength.  As any singular nomad will tell you, there are times when it gets lonely, but there are also times when being alone gives you the freedom to explore.

 

I have fallen in love in this city, thinking that it was that love that would keep me here.  I fell out of love, but still remained.  There have been lives built on the foundations of this city, and they too have fallen apart, only to be rebuilt into a different kind of existence.  There has been laughter and tears, and through it all, I kept finding myself over and over again.

 

The New Year enters this city in a big way.  Friends, acquaintance, and strangers come together to invite the new, hoping perhaps that this coming year will be the one where dreams come true, where everything just falls into place and they find what they are looking for.  Perhaps they will fall in love on this night.  It is a night of hopes, dreams, aspirations, intentions, and for some, action.  Two strangers meet and endeavour to build a life together.  Two lovers part hoping to find themselves again.

 

For some, a connection is found.  For others, standing in a crowd is when they feel most alone, like a lost child looking in through a window at a family.  For some, plans are made months in advance, while for others, it is the same tradition they have held their entire adult lives, in the comfort and safety of familiar friends.  There are those standing on the harbour, waiting to be rescued and those out to rescue.  Then there are the travellers, the nomads, the gypsies; where no plans are made, where there is absolute trust that where they end up on that day is where they are supposed to be.

 

Every New Year that I have welcomed in this city has been different, and without planning, I know that this year will be different again.  I do not know what it will be, but I know that it will be.

 

As I stand on the Opera House steps over looking the Harbour Bridge, or by Waverley Cemetery looking out at the ocean, my breath is taken away all over again.  I thought love would be what kept me here and I was right.  At 20 I fell in love and although I fell in love with my ex fiancé right after that, this city already had my heart.  This city hides me when I want to hide and lets me be seen when I allow it.  In this city I knew complete and utter loneliness, and it was here that I finally fell apart after a whole lifetime of holding things up.  It is here that I found how being alone allowed me to see that I was never on my own.

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Sometimes it is when you think that you have nobody and you are completely alone that you find your somebodies.  They might not be your blood, but you are united in moments of gold – they are the person who speaks to you on the bus, the stranger who steps into your place of work and ends up sharing their life with you, the friend who just holds you for a while when you’re feeling vulnerable, or the random person who smiles at you on the street.

It could be a moment or a lifetime, but it is these times that remind you that you are never truly alone.

When My Femininity Came Knocking

For over two years now, I have been single and celibate, not so much as kissing a man in that time.  Somehow, it is the celibate part that gets attention more than the single part.  Somehow, it has become ‘unhealthy,’ and I am denying myself ‘the expression of my femininity,’ like sex can somehow make one feel more like a woman than any other thing in the world.  Sometimes I believe these ideas that have been cast upon me by other people.   And sometimes, when I have spent four days in spandex (not the same pieces for all four days of course), and I’m covered sweat yet again, both my own, and other people’s, I do have moments when I feel a bit less than feminine.

So it was nice to put on a dress and heels, and catch a random man cast an appreciative glance, smile or even greeting my way.  To this stranger, I am not the yoga teacher, the person who fixes his posture or the person he shares his aches an pains with.  I am not the person who cashes the till or locks the studio up at the end of the day.  I am not the asexual best friend who he jokes around with.  He doesn’t know the decisions I’ve made and the thoughts in my head.  To this man, I was just a woman walking down the street who might give him my number or go home with him.

Perhaps, given the chance, the encounter could have progressed. When I was younger, believing that every avenue needed to be explored, it probably would have.  Perhaps numbers would have been exchanged.  A call here.  A text there.  Trying too hard to make something happen when it could have been left as a nice random exchange.  Perhaps I would have tried to make him like me because the more men wanted me, the more of a woman it made me feel like.  I was never a flirt, but that didn’t mean I that I didn’t sometimes wonder if the amount of attention received meant that one was a better woman than another.  Those thoughts always flew away as quickly as they came however.

There were always more interesting things I wanted to do and learn.

There were people I wanted to meet and know; their stories, their lives.

And in these explorations, and doing things, I am too learning that the expression of femininity might not be limited to the late night trysts you have with a man in darkness.  If it is, I want more than that.  Perhaps I am old fashioned, but I am learning that femininity is more than looking like a stereotype of what the average male wants you to look like.  It is not the long hair, or the diets, or the oh so flirty way you say his name as you saunter towards him.  It is less than that, and it is more than that.

It is about how you feel.

I am in my feminine when I am bathed in sweat, dancing between the postures.  When I have spent a day in spandex, or elbow deep in numbers trying to find that missing link in the counting.  I am there as I sit here in my towel, exploring these thoughts.  When I am the shoulder to cry on, the teacher, the best friend, the sister, the daughter and even when I am cracking the whip.  I am in it as I sink in the bath at the end of the day, and I am in it as I haul a box across the way.  I am in it in my anger, frustration, sadness, disappointment, happiness, joy.  It is there when in my interactions, when I speak, touch, listen, and love.  It is in, and a part of me and no person has a right to say that I am not honouring it by not feeding my base desires.

And perhaps, my deeper desires are stronger than my base desires.  That desire to be seen as a whole, a person, a friend.  Perhaps my femininity is in wanting to turn things inside out, to stand there emotionally and mentally vulnerable, to allow him to see me from within and move from there.  Perhaps, in my 33rd year, I am starting to believe that romance is not a roll between the sheets, but conversation and deep friendships instead, and that as a woman, I owe myself this right to hold any part of myself back until I feel completely ready to share it.

Perhaps, I am learning that instead of jumping into the arms of a random person who is attracted to me on sight, I would rather be with the person who knows me.  Perhaps, right now, my femininity is expressing itself in the ability to let go of instant gratification, slow it down, appreciate the journey and just allow space for things to happen.

new

Dear Past, I Thank You

Sometimes when you least expect it, a part of your past, long forgotten waves at you across the distance, and like it or not, your attention is brought back to it.  It could be an old friend, an old lover or just an old place forcing you to turn around from where you stand and look back.

 

There are times when you have moved so far away from that world which once held you that you’ve forgotten it even existed.  Then it calls you back, and you return for a visit.  However, like Alice revisiting Wonderland as an adult, the dark recesses don’t look quite as dark, and the things that once consumed you, don’t have so much of a power over you anymore.  You know there is a demon to slay, but either because it has shrank, or you have grown, the demons don’t look so big anymore. The powers they once had over you somehow diminished with time.

 

The past is a funny place to be.

 

There is always an option of staying there, safe in the comfort of old stories and replaying scenarios, where you are still that same person stuck in your version of a child’s wonderland.  You can stay, in the same grooves made by your parents, moving on to the same lives they led, the same patterns, the same habits.  It is a familiar place, one you know deep in your marrow, where the outcome is one that you have grown to expect.

 

Sometimes however, the universe has other ideas.

 

You take a potion, or you make a small decision and things are set in motion.  Somehow without even realising it, you have stepped out of that place.  The old cast is still there, but you are no longer part of that story, or they are no longer part of yours.  Looking back on the person you were, you realise that you are no longer that.  What you thought, that image you wore as armour was but a role that you played, a mask you put on for that ball.

 

Then you realise that through the years, layers and layers of yourself have been shed.  Those bonds that once held you, the bonds you once saw as a safe embrace are just that, the bonds you put on to stay safe, to stay in a place where you didn’t need to change.  Once the thread unravelled, there was no turning back.

 

You have become a complete person on your own.

 

You know now that no ties will make you more of a person and no great love would need you to be less of who you are.  You’ve found that as much as you have love to give, you are also worthy of a love that is just as great.  Revisiting the Wonderland of the past has opened your eyes to the reality of now.  You know now that your past, the stories that were told to you and the future are not the same.

 

In a deep backbend, you allow the back of your heart to push you forward, and that’s sometimes how life works.  A push from the past sometimes reminds you that you are here, in a moment that is not that, and that everything that has happened has led you here.

 

Revisiting Wonderland gave you a moment to bow and say ‘thank you,’ for the part of your journey you shared, for the lessons learned and for the role the past has played in your journey towards yourself.  One bow, one nod of recognition, like two distant strangers passing each other on the street and then you let go and move on – to your separate lives, to your separate futures.

 

You return to the embrace of the friends who share your life now with your mask removed, as you stand strong in your vulnerability. You catch the eye of the person who makes you smile in a knowing look you share with each other.  They were always there, laughing with you, patiently holding you when you needed, facing your fire when it raged.  Now finally, you take each other’s hand to start building from the present.

 

The past is done.

 

That book is closed.

 

You are free.

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Fighting Gravity

I am trying to write something that I can give to you but the words are taking their time.  I am trying to reach out and touch you with my words, the same way I saw two friends touching each other the other day.  There was so much love in that instance, it stopped me in my tracks.  There was this giving and receiving, total trust and surrender.  She moved the boundaries between them as she ran her fingers over his skin and he softened into her touch.  The most intimate of moments, yet a moment so pure the connection between them radiated through the room.

Are we like that too?

When I lower my boundaries, stepping away from the world of social media and instant messaging to have a conversation with you is that what I am doing?  Our friendship is the same as a million other friendships in this world, and yet, it is one that is unique to only us.  We stand there, skin against skin and sometimes, I can feel your heart beating underneath this skin, inside this shell that is your body.  Your voice has become familiar to me, and your touch, sometimes a challenge, but at other times a source of comfort and safety.

With you, I am learning trust.  With you, I am learning that I can allow for moments of softness.  I am learning that if I need you, you are there.  With you, I am learning that there is more intimacy in the moments we spend together conversing and breathing than I have known with lovers in the dark.  We know each other like this.  You. Me. A knowing look, a moment shared between two people.  I know how the skin of your hands feel, the rumble of your laughter, the sound of your breath.  So intimate, so real, a solid entity in a world where everything else is air.

Do you know that to me, you are fucking beautiful.  All the things you consider flaws, the parts that you hide from the world, the things that make you uncool – these are the things that make me love you.  I know you have your mask on for a reason, as do I.  It keeps us safe, but sometimes I wonder if instead of fearing the person behind the mask is unworthy of love, we are more afraid of someone loving this person.  Not being loved allows us to remain in our little world, so we love people we feel we are unworthy of and we love people who are unworthy of us.  Perhaps deep down we know that it is when love comes and is returned in kind that our carefully constructed worlds might change.

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So we build boundaries.

We raise our masks.

We write stories.

We make the things that are already happening impossible.  Yet here they are.  Possible.  Happening.  We just choose not to see them.  We find that one more thing that we have to work on before this can happen, we tweak and change, we make ourselves busy, leaving no space, so we can have just a little more time in this safety.  We think we are not ready, but the fact that this is happening means that we are.

In a way that is unique only to us, we know each other.  Before you say a word, I know that it is you standing close to me, a completely foreign but familiar entity.  We’ve known each other for a while, yet every day we are just starting get to know each other.  You continue to change as do I.  Our lives continue to evolve, moving between emptiness and fullness, and yet, in these cycles, we are still here for each other.

Why are we fighting this gravity between us?

Why do we find that one more reason to not allow ourselves to just surrender to this moment, this thing that sits between us silently?

It is bigger than you and I together combined.  It is that space that engulfs our two lives, creating a whole new space in the process.  It is allowing the universe’s wrecking ball to break everything that we have built so far so we may rebuild again.  It is allowing that final hold to drop and allowing our hearts to love, really love, to be uncomfortable, to be awkward, to find ourselves in a strange new land and to allow our separate universes to turn upside down.

It is the courage to let that raging person sitting behind the mask finally bask in the embrace of love.

Marks on the Wall – Reflections on Taking 40 Days

A few weeks ago, my mother came to visit.  In an effort to organise my kitchen in a way that makes sense to her, she used wall hooks to hang up my cooking utensils.  Unfortunately however, the wall hooks were hung with tape and since she left, they have been falling off the wall one at a time leaving no marks. It made me think of how we do a lot of things in life.  To save on initial time/money/effort, we tend to just stick things in place using methods that are cheapest/quickest/most efficient, but as we learn in management 101, the most efficient might not be the most effective.

This comes as a reflection as I have committed to a 40 Day Yoga Revolution.  This journey includes five days of studio practice, one day of home practice, a day of rest and meditations twice a day along with some journaling.  I am learning very quickly that it is one thing to just put your name on the board, but quite another thing to allow for the practice to really affect you.  Putting your name down without any real fire is akin to using sticky tape to hang a photo frame on the wall. It is the continuing practice that is a challenge, especially when you somehow end up teaching four classes a day.

In our world of quick solutions and instant changes 40 days does seem like a long time. However as the first week of the revolution ends, I am reflecting on all aspects of my life. By nature, I am highly impatient.  My right shoulder is a work in progress so side planks, arm balances, inversions and even crow pose sometimes makes it feel uncomfortable.  In my early days of practice, I would get extremely frustrated with the shoulder, and I would push through.  Then of course, I would hurt it, and not be able to do anything for a while.  Through the years, I have become more patient and careful with my shoulder and apart from every once in a while, it is progressing for the better.

Ah time… That thing that we all think we don’t have.  When I worked in the corporate world, nobody had enough time, or money, or anything.  Everything had to be done yesterday, and of course, tomorrow, everything falls apart.  In relationships, we are constantly rushing to get ‘there’, wherever there is – marriage, kids, etc.  Two of the biggest relationships of my life started within two months of knowing my previous partners.  Sure they lasted for four and three years respectively, but when times got challenging, we didn’t have the underlying friendship to allow for healthy communication.

Time is relative.

In our world, 40 days is a long time, but in the grand scheme of things, what is 40 days after all?

We can implement personal change in a day, but it is time that will tell us if this change sticks.  We can overhaul an organisation or a country just by writing a piece of policy but it is time that will let the change settle through the people involved.  We can look at someone and be attracted in an instant, but it is time that will allow us to see if the two lives can fit together.

Why am I doing this?

Like a lot of people, my life is pretty set.  I have done things the same way for long enough that it has become a safe cocoon.

As scary as it is for me, I am doing this to allow for the possibility of things coming into my life that will change it.   It could be a change in my meditation, a change in my practice, growth with work, the courage to lower my defenses when I do feel attraction to someone, a relationship that affects me more than just physically, a new idea or a new way of waking up in the morning.  I am here to let time do what it may.  Instead of using sticky tape, I am allowing for a mark to be left on the wall.

Change

Between Aggression and Assertiveness

Last week I met a woman who might have thought that she was being assertive, but to me, it was bordering on aggressive.  This is not uncommon.  I have worked with people like this, dealt with people like this, and at times, been this person.  What is sad about this situation is that we see it more often than not in women, and more noticeable with those who have either had corporate careers or are in high powered jobs.

Do we truly believe that by being aggressive we get what we want?

Do we think that this trait gets us ahead in life?

And why?

Is it because in a world of standards and expectations there is no space for human error?

Is it because we believe that gentleness is in fact a weakness that won’t get us what we want?

Is it because we truly believe that to get what we want we have to take it, sometimes by force?

Or is it that at the core of it, there is this animalistic thing inside us that feels bigger than the other person when we exert our power in such a way?

It’s true we live in a fast world where we want our questions answered right there and then.  In my professional life I have been expected to have the names of 200 delegates in my head when they ask for it.  I have met anger and impatience when I have had to stop and think before answering them.  I have been asked to write five pieces of copy by the end of the day, dropping everything else.  Often times these requests were made in a way that was more like a demand with an implied ‘or else’.

I admit that I was more aggressive when I was younger.  I too thought that I was being assertive. First it got tiring.  And then I realised that it wasn’t worth it.  I realised that when I was that way to the person who does my manicures and pedicures, or the waitress, or my hairdresser, or the guy at Myers, I was only doing it to drive home the fact that they were there to serve me, that that in fact made me the person who was higher in the food chain of life and that I didn’t have all day to wait for them to be human and shit.  I realised that what I was doing was in fact, a form of bullying.  Sure there was no physical violence but I was exerting my power over someone else in an unkind way, and who knows what that person would have been through before I came in?

It is not always easy to change patterns but I’m trying to put the mirror up to myself.  I suppose I’m a lot more laid back now.  My aggression only comes up as a defence mechanism, more so towards men (if I’m attracted, it’s to keep them out, but other times it’s a lack of trust).  However, on the rare day when I’m emotionally wrecked and facing aggression from someone, I do retreat into myself (which is something I have to work on, I know).

At the end of the day, it is about putting the mirror up and asking the questions:

Are you really just assertive, or are you being aggressive?

Is being gentle really a weakness?

Do you use aggression to exert your power as a director/manager/client?

Does this behaviour get you that promotion/discount/hot dog, and faster than being nice would?

How quick are you to ensure that people get into trouble if your needs are not met?

Are you, in fact, a bully?

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Ramadan 2013 – The More of Less

Today marks the 20th day of Ramadan for Muslims all over the world.  During this month, among other things, we refrain from food and drink from sunup to sundown.  Of course, seeing as how it’s winter in Australia, it isn’t a very long day at all.

Like others in the world, I am also practicing Ramadan.

I have been practicing this since I was eight years old, but it wasn’t until I started living alone that I really understood the meaning of it.  When you are surrounded by family, every night is a big feast and you end up eating more than you actually need because you’re not really being conscious.  In recent years, this for me has become a month of introspective consideration, of early mornings, waking up before the sun for a solitary meal and revelling in the quiet of that time of day.

This year, Ramadan changed for me yet again.

It is the first year that I have really needed to manage my energy so that I could continue practicing, work, and still serve others in my yoga teaching.  I must admit that the first two weeks were a bit of a trial as I was working six day weeks, running a conference where my shortest day was 10 hours long, and teaching on top of that.

A lot had to change just to remain standing those first two weeks.

Where I would previously go back to sleep after a cup of tea, a date and some water in the morning, this year I have had to carefully consider my meals so they may serve me through the day.  I am lucky as I am not finicky about labelling my food as ‘breakfast food,’ ‘dinner food’ and so on and so forth as it gives me freedom to eat as I feel is needed.  There have been mornings when I have had a bowl of pasta for breakfast, knowing that I would have a strong practice and a long day.

Where the bed beckoned before, this year I have opted for staying up after my meal (that’s from 4:30am for us here and let’s be honest, who can sleep after a bowl of pasta?).  The mornings have been filled with silent meditations, writing in my journal and quiet contemplation in long baths.  There have been many days when I have just indulged myself in long, slow home practices as the day slowly grew light.

My bed time has been modified too as I try to be in bed by 8:30pm or at the latest 9:30pm.  If I wasn’t much into hanging out at pubs and bars before Ramadan, this month, the chances of that have been reduced to zero.

In Ramadan, life is modified.

And on the mat, my practice had to be modified too.

It was a great thing having Les Leventhal here during the second week of Ramadan.  If you’ve practiced his classes, you’ll know that they are advanced classes on steroids.  The heat is on, and you’re doing at least eight poses on one leg before you switch to the other.  In equal parts, he will remind you to breathe and encourage you to go for it.  Now, I’m not as strong as a lot of people are on a good day, and even less so this month but practicing a class like that teaches you things.  You can go hard, end up in a heap halfway through the class or walk out because you get lightheaded, or you could modify your practice and make it through the duration.  When your body says ‘no more,’ you always have the option of sitting in meditation enjoying the positive vibes around you.

There was also a lesson in managing the ego here – that voice which says, ‘yes, go for it, you can do that one more vinyasa! You don’t need child’s pose.’  Did I indulge? Of course I did and then I went to teach and I didn’t have the energy to demonstrate even the simplest pose, let alone support my students.  The class left me so drained I couldn’t even hold a conversation after, which doesn’t help as people might have questions.

And then you learn to receive and be soft.  I have amazingly supportive friends, so my life this month has not been lacking in terms of hugs, mini-massages, and even a 10 minute Reiki boost.  People have been very understanding when I have not been able to show up for parties after a long day at work, and when I haven’t made it to brunch during the daylight.

In order to keep going, things had to be modified.

10 days to go and although I am tired, I am doing it because I want to.  After all, who is to stop me if I decide not to fast? It is a lesson that we don’t need as much as we have to survive.  The lessons of Ramadan work hand in hand with the lessons from yoga.  It teaches you of patience and surrender, waiting for a time when you can just have a drink and knowing that the sun won’t set until it is time.  It is a time to take note of when you’re tired and hungry, and how that affects you emotionally.  You learn how your body works or how you react when you don’t have the energy to do as much as you are used to doing.  You are living on less sleep and less food than usual and it is interesting to see how that affects you.  And you start thinking about the people who live like this every day, and not just from when the sun comes up to when the sun comes down.  In a world where it is all about having more, doing more and being more, it is a time for less.

Ramadan Mubarak.

Ramadan Mubarak

Dive In

It’s been a while since I last wrote something for you.  Two weeks of movement – dynamic energy, fire, flight. When the world moves quickly like that, it’s easy to lose track of where the heart is and what it needs.  But as the world usually does, it allows time to land, a time to negotiate with the discomfort of slowing things down.  The discomfort of not knowing what comes next once you have cast your intentions out to the ether.

Another full moon comes.  Another phase of life ends.  Perhaps it is just time, but no ending should go un-mourned, no part of life let go without being honoured.    There was a certain emptiness before, but it was an emptiness that invited an exploration.  It was, in essence, a space to allow the lotus to bloom into its full glory, to marvel at the majesty of a beauty that grew from the mud.

And now, the lotus has bloomed so it is time to move into a new realm.

There is a sense of unfamiliar familiarity with this realm.  You’ve been here before, but not in the same way.  I have been here too, but not with you.  Yet, I have, you have, and we have – from lifetimes before, in different manifestations.  I was the person who smiled at you as a child, only to then run away.  You were the person I knew in my youth when I was lost, and you were as lost as I was.  Yet, you were not, I was not, and we were not.  Nothing has changed between then and now, and yet, everything has changed.  We have changed.  Many lifetimes have passed within this one incarnation.

Your heart, as it beats, is new to me, yet it is not.

My body and its movements are familiar to you, but it is still a strange new animal.

We have spoken of the same things before in different ways, with different people.  Here we come, sharing that same past with each other, but with different eyes than we had before.

Maybe it is because we have grown.

Or maybe it is because we have still some growing to do, with each other this time.

Empires have crumbled so that new ones can rise.  What different are we, the people who have had lives before this?

We have had lives where we have grown and crumbled, lives where we have each danced in the ecstasy of love and mourned within the despair of loss.  In these lives we have known the highest high and the lowest low.  In these lives we have known anger and loss, loneliness and desire. We have each learned our lessons of who we are up to this point and here we come together because something bigger than we are said that we should.

And now, what do we do?

You can run. I can hide.  We can bury it all deep under the surface and never look at it.  We can distance ourselves from this discomfort and nothing will change.

Or we can take a bit of silence to honour that journey which has brought us to this place.

And then perhaps it is time…

Time to believe in a bit of magic.

Time to have a bit of faith.

Time to find a bit of courage.

Time to just take a deep breath, and as gently as possible, soften, surrender…

Dive in.

Picture from Costa Rica Arts

Picture from Costa Rica Arts

A Lesson from Your Tears

Last Friday was one of those days that hit me unexpectedly, and again, had me crying in public.  I don’t really know when this public display of emotion started.  A friend who has known me since I was 19 once said to me that in all the years we spent together (from university through to our mid-twenties) she had never seen me shed a tear, even during the most difficult of times.

You see, I was brought up in an environment where crying was seen as a very negative display of emotions.  As a child, if I cried for no (obvious) reason, I was given a reason to cry.  As a teenager, my being upset would prompt my mother to tell me how upset it made her, and of course, I didn’t want to upset her, so I learned to keep it all in.  In my previous relationships, I dealt with various degrees of reactions to my tears from emotional bullying (kick her while she’s down), to flippant, to having the men emotionally retreat.  One even started cheating on me when I was going through a tough time.  Then there is that ‘crazy’ label used for things they don’t understand.  Asking for a shoulder to cry on, in my experience only led me to feel worse.  When a friend of mine said that her partner could just be there and hand her chocolate as she completely broke down, I was totally amazed at his maturity.  It never crossed my mind that anyone could just do that.

The thing is tears can be prompted by a whole range of emotions including those that are yet unnamed and just need an outlet.  I had become used to crying alone, and so, I had built this shell around me.  I would wait until I was completely on my own to break down.  When my engagement ended, I waited to move to another country to do the bulk of my grieving, filling the time between that end and my move with a fling that left me feeling worse. When my grandmother passed on a couple of years ago, I was in a relationship and yet, I dealt with it by crying into my yoga mat and just texting my then partner.  I didn’t expect him to be there for me, and he didn’t call. Somehow I felt that emotionally, he was ill-equipped to deal with my grieving.

I very rarely shared my tears with females, and even more rarely would do it with the men in my life be they relatives, friends and especially partners.

And then I took that crazy vow of celibacy: https://azphoenix.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/act-of-celibacy/.  It was an interesting and amazing journey.  However, just as I was about to step out of it, my father passed away and I retreated again into myself.  I am so grateful for the friends who were there for me during this time.  Although I tried to shut the door, they waited right outside, ready for when I could allow myself to need them.  It was a lesson on how there were people out there who are at the same time both gentle and strong enough to support you through your grief.

That is the thing about grief and tears. Most of the time, you don’t want someone to make it better and you definitely don’t want someone to make it about them.  Sometimes, all you want is for someone to hold you and to let you cry, or to hand you a baby to hold for a little while.

When my father passed away I was sad, and I was angry – angry at him for being the kind of father he was and angry at him for not telling me how ill he really was. Most of all I was angry at him for not being around during my moments of vulnerability, these moments of vulnerability when he, as a father, should have been there.  The last thing I wanted was to let another man in or even have one near me.  I felt that people in general couldn’t be relied on in times of grief, and more so if they were men.

I was wrong.

As my yoga practice has grown and my mask has dropped, I’ve learned that people can be there for you if you let them.  They might not be in a position to do something about it, but a hug is free and tissues don’t cost that much.  There are friends who will not brush it off if you cry for your grandmother who passed away 15 years ago.  There are friends who will bring you gelato and let you hold their baby for the warmth and comfort.  There are friends who will sit with you, waiting patiently for the sobs to subside and for you to catch your breath so you can tell them why you are upset.  And there are men.  These men who are just there with their gentle strength, neither running nor reacting to your tears, offering their warm arms so you can melt, even if just for a moment.  These men just listen while you open up with your emotions and although they might have that manly desire to fix everything, they don’t try to.  They are just present.

Unspoken Words

There are people who understand that sometimes emotions flow out in bursts before laying dormant for a while.  Then something triggers them, and there they flow again, and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

And there are times you learn that strong emotions can awaken different parts of yourself that might have been asleep.

For the first time in a long time, last week I wished that I wasn’t spending the evening alone.  I wanted to curl up on someone’s lap and let him hold me.  When I awoke in the middle of the night, I wanted to hear another person breathing beside me, to feel his warmth and know that comfort.

Tears are amazing.  They remind you that you are alive.  They are the physical manifestation of your feelings, showing you that your body and your emotions are connected.  They are the gateway, allowing things that might remain stuck inside to flow.  And sometimes they come only to tell you that it is time to let your guard down and write the next chapter of the story.

The Cure to Life

The other day, someone asked me, “how come your hips are still tight even with all the yoga your practice?”  It is an interesting question that can be answered in many different ways. On a physical level, sitting down for long periods as well as activities like cycling and running can affect the hips that way.  On an energetic and emotional level, tight hips can sometimes signify a certain degree of resistance, or emotions being held, trust or any number of reasons, depending on where the individual is in life.  In my case, mine were feeling a bit tight because of a combination of physical and emotional reasons which I won’t go into.

What interested me about the question is the idea behind it that a chosen activity or spiritual path can be a cure to life.  Yoga, prayer, whatever path we choose, we sometimes think that it will protect us from life.

When I was a child, I believed so strongly in prayer. I still do.  But as a child I would pray for a specific thing, mostly for my father to come home, and when he didn’t I got angry. What I wanted, really, was to not feel the pain of it all, but of course, that never happened.  And then, I thought that God had a personal vendetta against me because of it.  As I got older, I learned of another way to deal with pain – disconnection.  Alcohol was a great tool for this method, along with a life of partying, and then sleeping it off.  It worked for a little while, and then it got old.

Then, in the great old age of 30, yoga made an appearance.  Not the gym yoga I had done before, but the kind of yoga that gave you space to be with yourself.  I looked at all the happy, healthy people and thought, that this might be it, the cure to all pain and suffering. Asana practice led to meditation and stillness, and prayer.  Slowly, I worked through my physical injuries, and then the emotional injuries, but guess what?  There are days when the hips are still tight, or the shoulder is out of whack.  Sometimes I still spend half of class crying into my mat.

Why?

Because life doesn’t end and as long as we live in the world, shit will happen.  When people claim to not feel pain or sadness anymore, I wonder if they have let the parts of themselves that can feel all that die. And yes, it is safe when you’ve learn to shut the world out, living a solitary existence, but is that really living?

The only cure to life is death.

All the yoga, prayer and meditation did not stop my father from passing away. It doesn’t stop my shoulders from being sore sometimes, and it sure as hell doesn’t stop sadness or anger from making an appearance in my life.  Instead it has taught me to stop and take some time exploring these injuries and emotions.

This is the path of surrender without giving up, knowing when to back away instead of walking away.  It is taking the labels of “good” and “bad” out of emotions and just feeling them.  Crying when you need to cry.  Being angry when you need to do that.  Taking time alone when you need that.  Or simply walking up to a friend and giving them a hug because that’s what you need.  Have you ever felt like crying but ended up laughing hysterically instead?  Well, that is the energy moving.

Sometimes the energy just needs an outlet.

A friend at work asked me how I could still breathe and hold my space even when I am angry. The answer is simple.  I have since stopped trying to push my anger down and sit on it.  If I need to, I will get up and go for a walk.  Sometimes I get into an inversion just so I can see the world in another light.  And of course, breathing techniques help.  The way I manage my anger though, might not be the same way you manage yours, and it is your journey to find your tools.

Yoga, prayer or meditation – shit will happen.

It is how you deal with it that will change.  Surrender and acceptance doesn’t stop sadness, but it allows you to feel with a certain degree of peace.  Self exploration in the silence allows you to find safe ways of letting emotions flow through you in a compassionate way.  And perhaps, you had these skills all along, but as you read more books of people telling you how it should be, you forgot your own intuition, the higher Self that guides you through the smooth and rough.  This Self which is made of equal parts shadow and light, and knows things that your brain might not.

So explore. Learn. Feel.

There is no cure to grief apart from grieving.

And there is no cure to life apart from living.

grief

Pause

There’s a moment in time when you need to pause.

You’ve said “yes,” to that which has moved you (https://azphoenix.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/yes/) and said “no,” to the things that serve you no more.

You know where you are going, but there is something saying, “no need to rush, what is inevitable will happen.”

And some things are just that.

Inevitable. 

Like the light that comes after the night, and the warmth that comes after the cold.

Inevitable.

That word has been sitting with me for a month now.

In a way it is completely liberating but in another way, it scares the heck out of me because it means giving in to something I don’t know.  I find myself resisting.  Why? Well because nobody knows what the inevitable is until it happens.  It is that thing which either is or isn’t yours no matter how hard you try.  For someone who needs to always steer the direction of this ship called life, giving in to the inevitable is about as easy as brushing your hair with your toes. There is a slight tensing of the shoulders and a more than slight tightening of the hips.  If trusting the known is not easy, trusting the unknown is the test of ultimate surrender.

In the last two weeks, I have sat in yoga class after yoga class fighting the resistance in my hips.  I have been angry at my body for not doing what it usually should.  Instead of the relaxed effort I am used to, there has been this tense, unrelenting strife.  Every posture from standing, to balancing, to even melting has been a trial.  Sleep has been a nightly battle.

And in reply, my anger awakens, like the boiler of an old steamer ship, rumbling. Instead of the steady flame that sits inside me, there is a roaring fire in the depths, ready to speed ahead and crash into anything in its path.

As things kept getting busier and busier for me, I just kept going. Plowing through one thing, then the next and the next, and then I crashed.  In a heap of sweat and tears on my trusty yoga mat, and realized that although I thought I could not afford to stop, I needed to stop.

What’s coming could be exactly what I want, or it could not.

But what I needed was this moment between then and the future.

I needed the now. 

I needed a pause.

Just like the first time someone takes your hand where you tense up before letting your palms melt into each other, softening but strengthening the bond.  Just like that breath you take before you dive into the ocean, that tensing before your whole body melts into half pigeon, that holding of the breath in for just a second before releasing into shavasana.  It is just like that slight pause, pulling away and looking at each other between the first brush of lips and the second, deeper kiss.

The pause allows you to collect yourself, to know that no matter how things come out the other side, you are whole.

It is what brings all of you into this one place – Knowing that it was the past that brought you here to the doorway of the future.

One moment in time between what was and what will be.

One moment to melt the resistance.

One moment to know that however it turns out things will be as they should be.

One moment to embrace the unknown inevitable. 

Pause.

il_fullxfull.72521694

Yes

The third eclipse in this short span of time comes to us with the next full moon, and with it, is a time to say “goodbye,’ – a time to release, and perhaps even let a whole section of yourself die.  Most of us are uncomfortable with endings and a lot more of us don’t like talking about death.  It is the final end. The place where you can’t go back to what once was.  It is that place where your footprints get washed away by the sea and all that is left is to go forward, into the unknown.

There is comfort in the old, a familiarity, a certain safety, and to hold on is so much easier than to let go and step towards the future.  We might say that we don’t believe in these things, but sometimes, something greater just moves us in this direction.  Without ever intending to, we leave the past and head towards the future.  Something closes, something else opens.  Like my teacher Mel would say of a backbend, “it is like everything in the past pushing you forward from your heart.”  There is a beautiful sadness but also an excitement of what is to come.

It can be comforting having just that one string so that we can hold on to the past, but sometimes that string needs to be cut.  In that space where there was left the faintest of connections, there needs to be just emptiness.  The faint imprint left by a former lover is wiped away by the rain, allowing the glow of a new sun to spread it’s warmth on a clean foundation. Sometimes a lover becomes a friend, other times, even the friendship can’t be salvaged and the lover becomes a stranger.  A friend or even a stranger becomes a lover.

You think your heart died the last time it broke.

Going back into that space where you allow things to enter seems crazy.

But something stirs again – Perhaps the tiny flickering flame of affection, growing into desire and in the future, who knows?

You died once when your last life ended.

And you are reborn into this new life.

The heart beats.

It lives.

It wants to soar.

It wants to go into the unknown.

You’ve found your centre and don’t want to lose it, but your heart, the centre of it all is ready to bring you off your axis.

It is time. 

The final goodbye led to the first hello.  And the darkness makes the light seem so much brighter.  Something different, someone different, is scary.  It is the possibility of your universe being flipped upside down in a way that is beyond your control. It is two movements in one – allowing something unknown into this comfortable and familiar space that you have painstakingly built while you yourself move into an unknown dimension.  It is a doorway to another part of yourself, yet undiscovered.  How do you know that you will like this undiscovered self?  How do you know that you won’t?

Right now the questions are being asked and not answering is no longer an option.

Will you let go?

Will you let the past rest where it belongs?

Are you going to release fear and step over a threshold into a new life?

Can you allow a glance to become a lingering look?

When someone reaches out their hand to you will you take it?

Are you ready to immerse yourself into the unfamiliarity of the future?

A million questions, and the only answer that will make a difference is…

Yes

IMG_0464

This man and me – A story of a father and daughter

This man is a part of my life. Even when he’s not physically here, he’s here.  We have a special relationship that transcends all logic and matter. This man is my hero, but he is also my destroyer.  This man makes me strong, but he can also be my weakness.  This man knows how to hurt me, and I him, and along the way, we have both hurt each other and ourselves along with the other. This man makes me want to fly, but he can also bring me crashing to the ground. There is no separating this man and me.  I call this man Papa.

This is not a good story, or a bad story, it is just our story.

It is the age old story of fathers and daughters, and how sometimes fathers don’t realise the effect they have on their daughters.

It is the story of my father and I.

This is part of the story that has made me who I am.

We’re too alike, but also very different.  When we fight, it’s like a big explosion, and when we’re good, it’s like we’re in a bubble, just him and me.  He can make me glow like no other, but he can also make me cry like no other.  He was always the more affectionate parent, and in my late teens, he’d still walk down the street with an arm around my shoulder, and I’d still sit in his lap. When I think of him, he is always the life of the party.  He is the kind of man who draws attention to him, and in fact thrives on that attention.  One of my earlier memories is of a party at our family home, with his friends all over the place, and that big abomination of a beer tap bar thing that he had.  We always had so much beer!

Just before I turned 7, life got really complicated.  So began the years and years when my father would be there a moment, and gone the next.  So began the years, when my mother came undone.  But, as I told a friend, you have to grow up some time, and 7 is as good an age as any.  It was a whirlwind. For long stretches I wouldn’t see him as he was busy with his life and then when it suited him, he would show up, and I would light up.  For the longest time, I felt that he was the colour of my world and when he was gone, everything was grey.  I remember bits and pieces. It was a difficult time which I remember in bits.  One of the things that stood out from that time was bumping into him at a chemist with my very pregnant stepmother.  That was how I knew I was going to be a sister.

That was when I realised that I was no longer a part of his family.

I was confused.

I had gone from being his princess to the person who looked in on the life that he had built. My stepmother wanted no part of me in it and he didn’t really try to give me a place in that life either.  For years this was the story. He would be away when he was happy and he would come back when things didn’t go right, when he was sick, when he was jobless, when his marriage fell apart.  He came like a force of nature, uprooting us from the routine we built, then he was gone, and we had to build our lives all over again.

On my 21st birthday, I found out (from my grandmother) that he had another family in Indonesia that he had not told me about and the anger that I had built for 16 years took over.  I stopped taking his calls, refused to see him, and didn’t talk to him.  It was not that I had stopped loving him. My love for him lived through the anger and pain, but I needed time to heal. I needed time to find myself in a place where I was not constantly waiting. Waiting for him to come home and then waiting for him to leave.  I got engaged, I broke it off, moved to another country and still I didn’t feel that I was strong enough to speak to him without letting him take over my life all over again.

The year I turned 30, I called him.  We spoke, we cried and without even having to try, we became father and daughter again. He sent me photos of another family that I was not part of. At least this time I was allowed some part of my brother’s life, even if only by phone. In the last couple of years, we spoke as often as we could considering the distance.  When my grandmother passed, I was in my way, part of the grieving and papa spoke to my mother when he went back for the funeral.  His main concern apparently, was how after all the years in university I had decided to become a yoga teacher and event manager. He didn’t understand it, but he was supportive anyway.

My baby brother knows a different man than the one I knew growing up.  He might not realise this now, but among all of papa’s children, he was the one who had him around for the longest time.  He didn’t know the papa who used to dance and sing along with Dan Hill.  He didn’t know the papa who would walk into any restaurant and charm the waitresses with his sense of humour or the papa who loved the fast life in a casino. He never knew papa when he was wearing suits and standing in the limelight.

The relationship between a father and a daughter is so very special. Even after 10 years of no contact, it didn’t take very much for us to fix ours.  A father makes all the difference, either by being present or absent.  For a long time, I would love unavailable men because that was what I thought love was like. Me, waiting, always waiting for him to part the clouds and shine his light on me for but a little while, and to that girl I was, that tiny bit of light would illuminate my life for days. He might have had moments where he thought I didn’t love him enough. The truth was that I loved him so much that at times I felt that it was only when he shone his light on me that I existed. I lost my center with him because when he was around, he was my center.

On the 29th of January 2013, my father passed away.

All the things we had talked about in the last few years will never happen. He won’t ever visit me or eat my cooking again. We will not hug, hold hands, or watch stupid comedies together again.  His lame dad jokes are gone forever.  He won’t give me away in marriage and if I ever have children, the only thing they will know about their grandfather is from the stories I will tell them.

My father, born in the year of the dragon, left us in the year of the dragon.

He had faults and he had virtues.  He was my father, but he was also just a man.  He made me laugh and he made me cry. He was the one with the romantic gestures, who would send flowers for birthdays and wouldn’t be embarrassed by public displays of affection.  He would text or call just to say, “I love you,” and he might never have known it, but it made all the difference to me knowing that even though he didn’t understand why I chose this path in life, he loved me anyway.  He was my hero even when he was sitting around in his sarong a singlet.  There were good times and there were tough times. There were times when I’d think he wasn’t listening and I’d ramble on, only to find later that he’d leaked the information to my mum, the time I got (yet another) piercing while on his watch and my mum was angry at him for months, our little singalongs, the little jokes we share.  Every time I hear Deep Purple’s, Soldier of Fortune I think of him.

At the end, I hope he knew that he was loved and that he will be remembered.

And the last thing I said to him?

Well, I said what I always said at the end of our conversations, “I love you papa,” and he said, “I love you too girl.”

Papa

Peddling Happiness

Every other day, someone in the wellness industry will put something up about being happy.  It’s usually one of those cute little word poster design things, like the one below.

If you want to be happyHappiness Habit

This is the world that I am a part of and I do love the people in this community but today, I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate to the ‘be happy,’ mantra.  I suppose since this is an ‘industry,’ one would need something to sell, but I do wonder if selling happiness could be dangerous to the public.  The way it is portrayed, it looks like being happy is the be all and end all of your purpose to life.  You eat well, you exercise, you smile, you pick happy friends and that’s what life is supposed to be.

What about the other emotions that we, as humans have the capacity for? It seems to me that as we push the ‘be happy,’ mantra, we alienate the rest.  Sure, the rest is not as pretty as being happy, but pushing things under the rug is just not healthy.  At some point these emotions will bubble up in an eruption, and like larva flowing out of a volcano, it will burn everything in its path.  Also, with the rich array of emotions that humans are capable of, happy seems to be a bit trite, and dare I say it, ‘fluffy.’

And what about the people who are going through a tough period? What if this whole idea that we are made to be happy just makes them feel like there’s something wrong with them? I have met so many people who go through a tough time and the first thing they do is think themselves ill, seeking psychological help, and medication.  As the world reaches for this concept of ‘happiness,’ it is like being unhappy every once in a while is just not normal.  (Note, I’m not talking about prolonged periods of depression here, but the times when one could be a bit down on energy due to any number of things including work, relationship or even physical health issues) Or worse still is the person who just doesn’t feel like going out, but with all the YOLO and ‘be happy,’ going around turns to party drugs. Why? Well, because according to the hippy trippy stuff, not being happy is somehow wrong.  Because we are meant to be happy all the time. And when we are not, we are somehow lacking or unwell.

Unhappy people

On the other side of the spectrum, there is this issue with surrounding ourselves with happy people.  Sure it’s great. Happy people make other people happy, but what about that person who stuck with you while you were down in the dumps and is perhaps going through a prolonged period of misery. What if they just got divorced or if they just lost a parent? They have every right to be miserable and even angry for a while, but does that mean that you walk away because being with them makes you miserable? Does that mean that they are mentally unwell?  Time is relative.  Some people get over things in a month, others take a year, and it might cramp your happiness vibe but time is what a lot of people need.

I know most people mean well when they tell other people to be happy, but perhaps the message needs a bit of a revamp.  Happiness is not a permanent state.  It is balanced off with periods of disappointment, sadness, grief, anger, exhaustion and a myriad of other feelings.  Life is like the ocean while we are this little sand castle on the beach.  Sometimes you just don’t know what the waves will bring in.  It can just tickle you or completely destroy you. These experiences and feelings, even though they might not be pleasant, do enrich our lives in their way.

Pushing happiness the way we do, is not honouring this fact that there are things greater than us.  Actually, sometimes I feel like it’s the opposite extreme of drumming the Seven Deadly Sins in someone’s head. Difference is, the mantra, “you must not blah blah blah,” is replaced with, “you must be happy.” This idea of, “must,” “should be,” or “shouldn’t be” anything is always a dangerous one to have.  It is too black and white, and if anything, as teachers, we want people to accept the greys in between.

Perhaps in this world where people come searching for something more, our message should be a kinder one, like acceptance, compassion and most of all, peace.  To be happy all the time is to deny or even fight other emotions but to be at peace is to calmly accept any feelings that come with a lot of compassion and allow them to stay as long as they need to.  It has an element of surrender and softness, but also a lot of strength. It is not denying or burying things in order to ‘be happy,’ but entering the space that is not happiness with a sense of acceptance.   Because being human is feeling a range of emotions and we need to accept this in a way that is healthy and compassionate.

What screws you most in the head

Smart man, Rumi was

Smart man, Rumi was

The Journey Home

The concept of home is one that has eluded me for a long time.  When my mother thinks of a piece of land or a state as home, I don’t understand it.  Although I understand the concept of a ‘home’ country in my head, I don’t understand it in my heart.  That idea of home being a place to land, a place that is safe where I could be my complete self and be loved for all of me is seemed only available where my maternal grandmother was.  Once she passed on, no physical structure or piece of land was that place for me anymore.

Growing up, I would visit the states where my parents came from and try so very hard to feel that sense of connection and belonging that I had heard about.  Both sides would say that I was too much like the other and too alien to them, and I suppose, having inherited my father’s illogical exuberance and growing up with my mother’s practicality, alien was what I was.  Still I tried, getting into relationships with people who knew that concept of home.  Sadly, these relationships made me feel even less like I belonged, and the harder I tried to fit in, the more lost I felt.

Through this entire period however, I would have occasional instances where I did feel that feeling of being able to let my heart rest, and just be me, accepted in all my facets – sitting in a mosque alone on a rainy day, visiting my grandmother’s grave, sitting in my room after yet another fight with my (then) fiancé, and just driving around aimlessly with the music blasting.  However, I wanted more! I wanted to feel that way with people, about people, about a place, about something! I dreamt about falling in love and knowing, just knowing, that I was finally home.

So like any other practical person, I left my family, the country I was born and grew up in, and the friends I had known since childhood.  All in the quest of finding a place to call home.

I won’t recount it all here but it has been a long road, filled with emotional adventures.  Amazing memories have been made, beautiful friends, phenomenal broken hearts, humbling experiences, laughter, tears… you know, the usual things you see on a journey.  I fell in love, and for a while thought that I’d found home, but home is a place that holds you as you change no matter how, and the kind of change I was going through didn’t turn out to be the right kind.

Then something unexpected happened.  Anyone who has seen me run (with or without heels), or attempt to throw a ball knows that anything physical apart from a night on the dance floor is really not my thing.  Somehow, however, flying through this life, I landed on a yoga mat. Ok, ok, I admit it wasn’t the first time… but it was the first time I stayed.

So journey continues, amazing friends (I really have been blessed to heaven and back in the friend arena), great, make that awesome hugs, amazing conversations (definitely not easy ones), more laughter (sometimes to dissipate the horror of core cultivation) and more tears (fucking hip openers, one hand on the back heart and there it goes) … and then, just silence.  In the silence things started happening, and I found myself exploring what was in it.

Almost four years later, I’m still on the yoga mat, still exploring the movement, and the silence.  Life has changed in leaps and bounds (oh man how life has changed).  It’s like layers have been peeled off, and I am discovering more of me all the time, and the thing is, I will continue to change.

But did I find home?

Well, not in the way that I thought I would.  Although I still dream of it sometimes, home didn’t turn out being the fully equipped kitchen, beautiful bath, two cats (Bruce and Selina) or yard with the vegetable patch and a German Sheppard named Butch as I’d imagined.  It isn’t a country or a piece of land.  It didn’t even turn out being a man.

I know you think I’m going to say that my yoga mat is home, but it really isn’t.

My yoga mat and practice were the tools that took me home.

Follow the road...

Follow the road…

But home really is just wherever I am, feeling safe, centered and present.  It’s the moments in the morning when the sunlight streams in, watching a sleeping cat, holding a baby, lying on the grass staring at the sky, listening to music as I wander along the city, walking in the rain, sitting in meditation.  It’s the peace in the chaos, and the chaos of my thoughts in the silence. It’s the book that I am currently reading, the movie I’m watching and of course, it is being on the mat breathing with loved ones and strangers alike.

Home is in the places where I can accept all of me without trying too hard and without judgment, and knowing, just knowing, that I am whole as I am.

Dressing Up Your Practice: What Not to Wear to a Yoga Class

Yes, true yoga doesn’t care about what you wear to class.  In fact, it is not uncommon to see photos of Gurus sitting around in loincloth type things, but sometimes I do think about clothes and fashion.  It’s difficult not to when you’re trying to balance in dancer’s pose and right there, in your line of vision is someone’s bits hanging out of their tiny yoga pants.  Sure it’s not supposed to matter and it’s all about focusing on the self, but we’re all (well I am) only human, and even though you’re comfortable with your bits hanging out, other people in the class might not be.  And let’s be honest, sometimes, it can get intimate enough without throwing nudity in there too.

K.Pattabhi Jois - yes he's wearing a loincloth, but there is decent coverage

K.Pattabhi Jois – yes he’s wearing a loincloth, but there is decent coverage

So here are some tips because believe me, I’ve seen a lot in a yoga class, and I mean a lot!

Ladies

Check your crotch…  Those leggings you wear under your dress might not work in a yoga situation as they get rather thin around the crotch when you stretch. Believe me, when you go into happy baby, or standing forward fold, people can tell the colour of your undies, the style and even if you’re not wearing any.  Tip – patterned pants are actually better at hiding unnecessary sights.

No!!!!

No!!!!

Loose is not always best…  Sure, it’s healthy to let things down there breathe once in a while, but perhaps try sitting in baddhakonasana in front of a mirror and you’ll see what others can see when you’re lying there in supta baddhakonasana.

A sports bra is a good idea… This is personal experience which is embarrassing but I’m willing to sacrifice my dignity so it doesn’t happen to anyone else. In my early days practicing, I would do so in a tank top and a bra. I mean, this is yoga right? And I’m not dangerously massive in the boobage department so what could go wrong right? Well, wrong.  I went into a downward facing dog, and peekaboo, a whole boob had decided to breathe itself out.  Needless to say, I always, always make sure things are properly tucked in now.

Size matters… Even in yoga there we do tend to compare ourselves with the tiny person in the class, but there is no point getting a top which is a size smaller if you end up not being able to breathe.  It is actually stressful enough with the heat and trying to keep up with the poses, and not being able to breathe properly actually will affect your practice. Nobody knows what size your top is apart from you and the sales person. And that hot yogadude?  Well, he’s into acceptance.  If he can calmly sit in a class where girls are regularly breaking down in tears, the size of your clothes won’t matter.

No!!!!

No!!!!

Guys

Save ‘hanging out’ for other times…  Please, stay clear of the loose floaty shorts.  You can wear them to basketball if you enjoy a bit of bounce, but not to yoga.  And for the love of God, please don’t ever wear them to class without underwear.  When people stand behind you in airplane, they see the entire lay of the land, and don’t even think of supta baddhakonasana! Sometimes the heat and general lethargy makes it really hard to concentrate as it is, and seeing things we shouldn’t really doesn’t help.

People know you want to keep things in place but… sometimes your pants are too tight.  Yes, you are God’s miracle and we know it, we just don’t need to be reminded of it in every bridge, wheel, camel and reclining hero.

Those tiny Bikram pants or budgie smugglers… Might be great in 40 degree heat, but they don’t exactly stay in place when you’re in poses like Natarajasana.  Nuff said.

Hell no!!!!!

Hell no!!!!!

If you still love your tiny pants and don’t want to give them up, then maybe a G-string or a thong?  Just something to hold the bits in place, for the sake of the person who is having a hard enough time as it is trying to centre and balance.

Taking your tops off is fine in most cases but maybe might be overkill in a yin or meditation class. Again, we know you are God’s beautiful miracle, but perhaps allow for the opportunity to connect with God (or any higher power) instead of your gorgeous chaturanga pecs in the slower classes? Most of the people who come in are just starting to work into this area and believe me, starting a meditation practice is hard enough without the distraction of your beauty.

Guys and girls

The colour of what you wear says a lot… especially if it’s a heated class where you’re sweating.  Believe me, it tells people almost everything.  As a friend of mine said, “are you trying to say white and sweat don’t mix- or in actual fact they do a little too well and transparency follows- so it might be a shade to avoid?”

I love yoga a lot more than I love fashion but the thing about yoga becoming more and more popular is that there are more and more things available for various yoga practices.  Although it’s not about brands, the availability of them does make it easier for us modern day yogis and yoginis.  Brands like Lululemon Athletica (apart from that one see thru fiasco), Onzie, Lorna Jane, Liquido Active and so many more make clothes to keep the important bits covered so that you can practice comfortably.  Even your trusty trackies will work as long as you’re comfortable and things are held in place.  The important thing is to choose what you’re wearing based on what you’re practicing be it a strong flowing practice in a heated room or a more static practice.

If you have anything to add to this list, please do so in the comments box. 

And check out some of these amazing teachers, they’re dressed :-)

Bryan Kest

Bryan Kest

Baron Baptiste - yes!

Baron Baptiste – yes!

Shiva Rea - Yes

Shiva Rea – Yes

Edits by the Shunti Sisters

Saying ‘I Love You’

My late father was an ‘I love you,’ type of person.  Sometimes he would call or text just to say that.   No matter what kind of day I was having just those three simple words made it better.  As simple as they were, the last four months without those simple calls and texts has left a hole in my universe.

It’s a whole big phenomenon this ‘I love you,’ or rather, the simple, ‘love you,’ syndrome, and the varying reactions to it.

What does saying it mean to you?

A few years ago, with the main people I spent my time with then, the L word was saved for parents and partners, very rarely for friends.  If I had said that I loved them they would have thought that I was either high on drugs or drunk, which was my natural state back then anyway.  Never would I have said it while sober! First, it would make me feel way too vulnerable, and second, things would have gotten very weird very quickly.  I was even in a long term relationship where it was never said. Well he probably really didn’t love me, but I did.  I just didn’t want to say it because I was afraid he wouldn’t say it back… again, things would have gotten weird. More than anything, it was my fear that held me back.

Nowadays however, I find that a lot of my phone calls, texts and meetings end with ‘love you!’  Sure, there is that sense of vulnerability. Even with friends, if you love them, you’d hope that they loved you back too.  In that vulnerability however, is also that sense of freedom.

Why do we get so weird about saying simple words to people we are close to? And why do we get weird when someone close says it to us? When did loving and being loved become a negative thing? You’d think in a world where things are being blown apart because of hate, having someone tell you that they love you would be a good thing.

Perhaps some people feel a sense of responsibility when they tell someone they love them, like they have to be there for them ALL the time.  Perhaps it is that idea that if you love someone, you have to be with them forever.  But do you really? Love is big. It carries through distance and space. Even when our journey with someone ends, it doesn’t mean that the love has to. I have friends who have moved all the way across the world, and just because I can’t see them all the time, it doesn’t mean that I don’t love them.

When I had my dad, knowing that I was loved made a difference to my day and my life. Knowing that I was loved and that my dad had my back gave me the courage to walk away and not take crap from people who sucked up the love I gave them but had nothing to give back.  And more than that, knowing that I could tell people that I loved them without them shutting down, gave me a sense of liberation.  Love is this strange element where the more you give, the more you get back.  It’s like that little speck you throw out into the universe rolls around, gathering particles and growing, and it comes back, big enough to envelope you.

The only dilemma I see with being a ‘love you,’ sort of person is when it comes to loving in that way, convincing and being convinced that that’s the case, but I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

So it’s Friday. If you love someone, tell them (only do this if you really love them however, doing it to get laid or to get something out of it is just unethical), and if someone says it to you, accept it.

Until next time, I love you!

smile-i-fucking-love-you

The Power of the Symbolic Act

As I reach my 33rd year, and with this new moon in Aries, I am thinking a lot about new beginnings.

Something shifted this year. An old life ended, and a new one is just beginning. Bhairava https://azphoenix.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/the-terror-of-my-own-universe/ has been my companion for a while. What I feel is akin to falling in love – my heart is ready to float out of my chest into the unknown, but I am terrified. What was before was familiar, but what is coming is unchartered territory. I can’t go back. I’ve been pushed out of a door that shut and bolted itself right behind me, and strangely all I can think of is my hair.

Why do you wear your hair the way you do? It is part of your identity, the person you want to show the world. A good hair day makes you feel good and a bad one can sometimes stop you from stepping out of the house. Women through history have perfumed their hair on special occasions. Even Muslim women who wear the head cover pays attention to her hair, brushing it until it shines. A successful courtesan tends to her hair painstakingly. When a Hasidic Jewish woman gets married she either shaves off all her hair or wears it very short under a wig. When a person completes the Islamic Haj, he or she is required to cut off a bit of hair to signify a new beginning. The power of symbolism is that one simple act can signify a million different things to different people.

Sometimes it’s not about the hair at all. It is an act that signifies something greater.

And there is something romantic, beautiful and strong about this kind of symbolic act.

Symbolism through history has had a strong impact. It is the ring on a finger, the burning of old love letters, the tombstone for a person whose body was lost at sea, the solidarity of standing silently in protest. After intentions are made, a symbolic act gives something just that much more strength. Like Abraham’s sacrifice of a ram instead of his son, a symbolic act can be an act of devotion, of surrender.

The practice of yoga, is amazing for the physical body but it also feeds our souls with posture that signify more than the obvious. There is mountain pose symbolizing the balance of Ardhanaishvara even without perfect symmetry. There is Hanuman Asana, signifying the devotion of the Monkey God as he leaped to Sri Lanka to rescue the beautiful Sita. In Natarajasana, there the peace and balance of Lord Shiva in the face of destruction. Then there is Shavasana, corpse pose, signifying that all things must end. And of course there are the mudras, each a symbol of the intention.

So based on all this, this year, I feel like something symbolic is needed, so I did something terrifying.

I chopped off all my hair.

The process :-)

The process :-)

The last time I did this I was 19 and fearless. At that age, I fell hard and fast, mourned deeply and then would do it all over again the next week. I didn’t worry if any man would find my short hair attractive and if I didn’t have dates, then I would find something else to do (getting caught smoking by the campus guard and running because we thought it was a ghost perhaps?). We did stupid things, and then we laughed about them. Life was simpler, and so was I.

Without my mane, I feel a bit exposed, vulnerable. A lot more visible are the wrinkles, the dark circles, the freckles that I’ve just recently stopped trying to cover with makeup. More than that, every emotion I feel seen through eyes that can’t be hidden with a flip of the hair. In cutting it all off, I am allowing myself to be vulnerable.

So this is my act of surrender along with an intention to let go of the past and a prayer for the future. This is my goodbye, hello, sacrifice, gratitude, asking for blessing, forgiving and asking for forgiveness, letting go of love and inviting love in, shedding old skin so that a new one can take shape. This is me allowing myself to stop waiting for my father to come home.  This is one book closing so that a new chapter can begin.

IMG_2525

A symbolic act need not be great. It doesn’t have to mean anything to anyone but you. It can be as simple as a new journal or as complicated as a move to a different country. It can be laying your forehead down on the mat in surrender, or holding your hands in a mudra. What matters most is the intention behind it. It is your journey, your choice, your story. Doing something symbolic is, in itself, a form of therapy.

What symbolic acts would you like to bring in to your life, your practice, and perhaps to seal your intentions?

Hump Day Yoga, 2013

From January 2013 I taught a yoga class in Hyde Park on Wednesday evenings.  It was a free class mostly of friends and friends of friends, affectionately named “Hump Day Yoga.”  As of last week however, due to the weather change and the dark that creeps up on us earlier, Hump Day Yoga is no longer is session.

It was bittersweet for me.

Hump Day Yogis and Yoginis

Hump Day Yogis and Yoginis

Hump Day Yogis and Yoginis

Hump Day Yogis and Yoginis

As a teacher, I get attached to my students, and a part of me wishes they could be with me for as long as I can teach.  I love seeing how they progress from week to week, and the fluidity of how my class plans change as they change.  I love the banter that goes on, and how they have become comfortable enough to bring themselves into child’s pose when they need it.  I love seeing them grow in strength and flexibility and how they brave the dark spaces in meditation.  And I love how this beautiful group of people has made a mid-week yoga session a platform to reconnect, build new connections and to have proper, honest conversations.  For some of them, this was the first step into an unknown world and I thank them for sharing the experience with me.

As a student however, I understand that this journey is a personal one.  You meet teachers that speak to you and you might travel with them for a while.  Then the time comes when you might go your separate ways.  You need the space to explore your practice, perhaps try different styles, and listen to different ways of being told things.

The space on the mat does not exist in a bubble, you come in carrying the weight of your day, your diet, the sleepless nights and injuries on a physical, mental and emotional level. When we get onto the mat, we don’t leave the rest of us behind.  My Hump Day students have become comfortable with that and know that it’s perfectly fine to take breaks, and to have a laugh when they need.

The role of the teacher is but to guide, and offer a safe space for people for self enquiry and self exploration. However, a teacher too brings all that they are into class. When I started teaching, I worried about bringing my personality into class, of being vulnerable and open with my students, but Hump Day Yoga allowed me to learn to relax.

We are all a work in progress, as students, as teachers, as human beings.  In our journey we will meet people who open doors for us to get to the next level of our work and we make the choice to walk through that door or not.  So I thank my Hump Day Yogis for three months of beautiful practice and for both opening the door for me, and stepping into the invitation I sent to you.  You were as much my teachers as you were my students, and may our practices continue to grow so that we can bring more into our future meetings.

Namaste.

Some of the Hump Day Yogis speak about their practice here: 

“Yoga is a great de-stressing activity for me. I am able to clear my mind of all pressures outside of the class and just focus on me, my body and my mind. This mid-week yoga session is exactly what I needed. As I lay on the ground at the end of the class staring at the tree branches and evening sky, nothing else mattered. I was relaxed, at peace and had no worries.”

-          Shady Lim, Marketing Manager , http://www.shadytravels.com/2013/03/how-i-de-stress.html

“Hump Day Yoga (HDY) is why I love my Wednesdays.
Why do I love it so much?
I get to de-stress, BREATH, and challenge myself during this 75 minute session, but it’s also about the people sharing their day, week & their life with you. It helps me achieve a level of physical exercise and a mental fulfilment.”

-          Jenny Schnell, Client Services Manager

“A few month ago, I faced one of the biggest challenges in my life and I needed to find myself again. Thats when a long time lost friend Az invited me to her yoga sessions and it was truly uplifting experience to reconnect with friends that I hadn’t seen in a while and with myself that I had been brutally tough on. Az would always bring stories and wise words for every one to think about and Id come out of the class not only physically balanced but also mentally empowered. Although it was for a short term but I personally really enjoyed the experience and am grateful that I was a part of it.”

-          Nina Jung, Marketing Manager, http://www.junglebananas.com/

‘Azra’s yoga classes are fun! A playful yoga teacher, Az’s deep knowledge of yoga generally and her own practice shine through more and more each week. I am looking forward to being guided by her for years to come. Namaste my friend.’

-          Meriana Baxter, Yoga Teacher

Sequence, Singing Bowl, Speakers and iPod... All you need for a day at the park, really

Sequence, Singing Bowl, Speakers and iPod… All you need for a day at the park, really

Detaching from Non-Attachment

For a while after my last relationship ended, I gave this whole non-attachment thing a go.

On the one hand, I get it.  Imagine being so attached to the outcome of getting into a full split that you literally split your hamstring at the seams, or me being so attached to the number of ‘likes’ I get to my blog that it loses all essence of me.  On a larger scale it could be getting so attached to the idea of “success” that you shut down your conscience.   Then there is the classic – changing who you are for the outcome of making a relationship last (been there, done that, still learning).

The lotus symbolizes non-attachment in some religions in Asia owing to its ability to soar over the muddy waters and produce an immaculate flower.

The lotus symbolizes non-attachment in some religions in Asia owing to its ability to soar over the muddy waters and produce an immaculate flower.

There is the other side of it though.  In order to become a monk, one must let go of all attachments.  This is not limited to iPods, apartments and cars.  These amazing individuals renounce EVERYTHING – their names, their families, and the thought of ever building a home with someone. Even outside the monastery, there are people who have adopted this philosophy of non- attachment – moving fluidly from place to place and relationship to relationship.  Hey, if it suits them, why not?

However, after trying it out, I wonder if it isn’t, in essence, a cop out.  What is falling in love if not allowing yourself to get attached to some degree? Allowing yourself to want another in your life for a certain period of time? This is not just limited to romantic love. It could be love for anything or anyone. Some people feel things like this strongly.  When they put their roots down, it grounds so deep into the earth that replanting would mean snipping off some parts of themselves.  When they love, they love fully, no holding back.  For such people, perhaps not getting attached in the first place is more a matter of self preservation.

Imagine falling in love with no holding back.  One moment you would be this solid entity and the next you would dissolve into the relationship you were in. Or finding a book you love, letting yourself just dive in, characters becoming real for you and for a few days, just disappearing into the story.  Fabulous isn’t it?

Unfortunately, being this also means that when you cry it is with abandon. Yours are not the pretty tears that can come and go in a second. In fact, you often need to make sure that you are alone when you are sad as it takes over you and you need a few days to get through it.

Compared to all that, non-attachment is the much safer option.

Then I remember what it was like to fall in love, and what it was like to even think about building a future with someone, dreaming, imagining.  The connections I made to friends and families.  And I think about the end of the relationships I had in my life – The sadness, the anger, the tears that flowed for days.  How everything broke open and left me a gaping wound.

And you know what?

I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Sure I am working on how to preserve myself a little more than I used to.  My mentor Mel keeps reminding me to hold my heart in a little bit because if I don’t I’ll end up breaking my back, both physically and energetically.  This is especially as a yoga teacher where putting my heart out there would just leave me an exhausted mess, no good for anyone in the long run.

However, it was the range of emotions that I have gone through that have given my life meaning.  It is the beautiful sunshine, radiance of light, heavy storms, winter cold and everything in between that has made me grow.  Even though severing roots hurt like hell, every time I rooted down, I was touching someone and making a connection that in turn, made my life more.  Total non-attachment to me is like living in a safe greenhouse while being connected is like being out in the elements, living life to its full range.

Although some of the people in my past were not worth it, my own growth was worth every bit of pain.  Every tear cried, every time my heart shattered into a million pieces, they made me more of me as much as the happy laughter and hugs.  So although I will continue working on holding on to my personal space, I do so with intention to allow myself the space for healthy attachment and connection because otherwise, what use would teaching and touching be?

What will you choose?

As Life Flows

You know how sometimes you listen to people talk about things and your brain just goes, “Oh my fucking nuts, I do that!” Except you don’t really want to admit it so instead you tell the friend next to you, “yeah, I’m a bit like that….”  A bit… the understatement of, like, forever.

 

That was me last weekend.

 

One of those “aha” moments that I didn’t particularly like.

 

I had gone with a friend of mine to listen to a lovely lady speak about her life experiences.  She spoke about hanging on to life too tightly and trying to steer things, therefore not allowing life to flow as it should.

 

Hey, we all do that don’t we? We see this road towards our goal and just drive down it with a one track mind, not enjoying the view, and sure as hell not taking into account that there are many roads to this destination.

 

It was a hard pill to swallow for me.  I mean, look at me! I’ve been fucking practicing yoga five times a week for at least the past year. Resistance? What resistance? I’m all over this ‘surrender’ shit, aren’t I?

 

Well, no, I am not.

 

Control freak tendencies are hard to kill. And to be honest, they’re not all bad. One doesn’t make it through tough childhoods, uninteresting university days, crappy relationships, shitty jobs and keep going through life’s general mishaps without a certain degree of control.  One definitely cannot manage a store, an event, or even a blog for that matter, without some controlling tendencies.

 

But like everything in life, these tendencies have a dark side.

 

Sometimes we get used to being in control that we can’t just settle down and chill the fuck out – in life, in work, in relationships.  It is especially apparent for people who have been alone for a long time.

 

I realized that at the beginning of this year, I was holding on so tightly that my jaw had fused together. I was trying to navigate life exactly as I wanted it to go.  Although I can bend my body to touch my toes, otherwise, I could be very inflexible and unaccommodating.

 

Then there was this big explosion. I was stunned and dropped the tight reins I had on life.

 

And guess what?

 

Well, I spent a few days in bed crying, that’s a given, but without me grabbing onto life like my life depended on it, life went on.

 

Life. Went. On.

 

I just went along for the ride. And here I find myself – another incarnation, another road.

 

Even as it flows now, sometimes I feel my resistance rising and sometimes telling myself to back down is easier said than done.  Letting the currents flow is a scary experience. Not knowing is frightening.  For one who is used to driving life, this is a foreign experience. A humbling experience because I now know that I try to steer this vehicle called life.  And love, I try to steer that too… always holding on and holding back.

 

But life is bigger than me.  I can hold on and steer all I like but with one gentle nudge I can be thrown off my seat and it flows again.  And we learn to accept the things that are difficult because life goes on.

 

No holding back.

 

No apologies.

 

And we ride as we should.

Sungai Tahan in Malaysia - holds special memories for me and my father

Sungai Tahan in Malaysia – holds special memories for me and my father

The Terror of My Own Universe

Live for a few days in the meditation,
“I am immersed in the flame-
The flame of time,
The flame of love,
The flame of life.
The universal fire flows through me.

It took me almost two and a half years of regular practice before I even attempted sitting in meditation on my own. Even with my eyes closed and no mirrors, and although I have been celibate for a while now, I know I look nothing like the picture of the monk meditating on the mountaintop.  And I sure as hell don’t feel like it most of the time.

Sitting Still with a Storm Brewing Inside

Sitting Still with a Storm Brewing Inside

Every meditation is different.  Some days I am on this cloud of euphoria, others I would be in tears, then are the days when conversations go on with the 50 people living in my head, or worse still, conversations with people in my life, played in BluRay on the canvas of my brain. Other days reining myself in is akin to trying to tame a dragon.

There are days when there is this dance going on inside me and it reaches a climatic point of ecstasy, followed by a long exhale and total bliss. An internal orgasm, where the universe inside me is fucked into a state of euphoria.

Sweating.

Hot.

Wild.

Then there are days where the thoughts just pass by like clouds and my attention is centered on the sensations over and under my skin and the steady beating of my heart.

Calm.

Quiet.

And occasionally, I fall asleep.

Because no two times are the same and absolute stillness and focus almost an impossibility, I though that I was meditating wrong.

You can have a million meditation guides but truthfully, nobody has the roadmap to what goes on inside you.

Then last weekend I spent some time with meditation guru, Dr. Lorin Roche http://www.lorinroche.com/.  With Lorin’s playfulness and sense of mischief, we explored the teachings of the Vajnana Bhairava Tantra.  Lorin’s approach to meditation makes you feel like there is no need to become a poster, that meditation, like yoga is something completely personal and that you are free to explore what works for you.  You welcome every part of you into the seat of your meditation, even the ones that you might not be overly fond of.  It is a place where you find love for yourself and perhaps even send love to others.  He made me feel like I had not been failing the meditation exam after all.  There was so much acceptance and security that for a while, I even forgot myself and danced with the words of the texts.

And there’s that word – Bhairava, meaning “terrible.”. It is that place where you want to go forward but you are petrified.  I realised that a lot of times, this is exactly how I feel when I’m in yoga class – being upside down was it for me for a long time, and then meditation.

Not everyone is but I am – Scared.

Petrified.

Terrorised.

The Image of Bhairava

The Image of Bhairava

But it’s perfectly fine to be.

Step into that fire wholeheartedly,
Starting with the big toe,
Then surrendering everywhere.
Only the not-self,
Which doesn’t exist anyway,
Burns away.

And I am not doing it wrong after all.

Meditation is not the celibate monk on the mountaintop.
Shit comes up in meditation because we have a life.  The monk on the mountaintop has renounced all their connections.  We have not and in meditation is where we can deal with the emotional drama, separate the stories from the reality.  Like a massage where the therapist needs to dig in to the tissue to release it, so meditation sometimes allows us space to dig into our emotional tissue in order to release it.

It is a limitless exploration of our universe which includes all of us – our thoughts, bodies, emotions, the parts we like, and the parts we might not. Ever pulsating. Ever changing. A vortex of instances that are occuring. Atoms and particles forever moving. Light and dark, eternally dancing. Sometimes slow and gentle, sometimes wild and free.

It can be utter stillness or an internal pulsation, or even a dance party under our skin.

Just like there is more than one path to life, there is more than one path to meditation.

It is an exploration, looking inside with wonder and finding our own journey to ecstasy.

It is the burning away of the not-self.

For me, meditation is sometimes like stepping on a cloud and sometimes stepping into a flame.  I never know what might come up.  It is a continual exploration. I now go into this state of terror with the question, “what have you got for me today?”

Attend to this continually,

And awaken into tranquillity.

Your essence is renewed in the flame,

For the flame knows itself as flame

Since the first heartbeat of creation. 

Verses from the Radiance Sutras, Verse 29.

Follow the String….

There is a string at the tip of your thoughts.

Follow it.

See it change colour.

Keep following and again it changes colour.  The texture of the string changes too, from smooth velvet to jangled, dark and murky grey.  A bit like something that has been put through a crimper, almost impossible to be straightened out again.  On you go, following this string into a place where it spreads become thick and fluffy, like cotton candy, like soft wool.  It is so comfortable that you just want to lay there in it, enjoying the softness, but something pushes you forward and on you go. The string becomes barbed wire, covered in thorns.  You want to turn back but you can’t so forward you go, fingers bleeding and tears stinging your eyes.  The climb is endless, the journey long.

There is a whole world to discover, but you haven’t moved at all.

This universe inside you is a journey unto itself.

You want to go back to the comfortable places, the safe havens, the bits that give you something beautiful to hold on to, but sometimes, sometimes, you are just attracted to the crimped pieces of string, the barbed wires, the places where you bleed and cry.  You stay there for a bit, and it too becomes comfortable.  In time, you learn to let go, and the string smooths itself out.

All it needed was your time, your attention, and your forgiveness.

This is meditation.  This is where you listen to the stories in your head – the darkness, the light and everything in between.  Here is where you open to the grey areas within your soul.

In this space of silence you find yourself.

It is no place you haven’t been before. But perhaps, there is a place that needs your acceptance and your love.

So accept.

Love.

And then let it dissolve.

Be free.

Follow the string of your thoughts.  It is but a guide to the vast space of silence that lies within you….

Meditation

Meditation

Throwing Out the Lists

He said, “you think you’re a lady, but I know you’re a woman….”

This morning, I find myself thinking of the first line of the song, ‘Love Puts on a New Face,’ by Joni Mitchell, thinking about the difference between a lady and a woman.  Is there even a difference at all? When I was growing up, there wasn’t much talk about being a woman. A girl became a woman when she got her period.

But a lady… ah becoming a lady required some effort beyond the physical.

What is a lady though?

According to Wikipedia it is a, “…civil term of respect for a woman, specifically the female equivalent to, or spouse of, a gentleman or lord, and in many contexts a term for any adult woman.”

When I was in growing up, being a ‘lady,’ was a desirable trait. It ensured that you were respected and that you ended up married to a gentleman.  Among the rules of becoming a lady included speaking well, having good manners, keeping your eyes open and your legs closed.  Sure I agree with having good manners and speaking well, but shouldn’t that be everyone?

As I grew up, I realised that these rules were just the tip of the iceberg, and that there were more lists to come.  All you need to do is open a women’s magazine, and it will give you all these lists – what to do to be such and such, what to say, how your romantic life should be, what to do on the first date, the games you have to play.  I’m not a reader of men’s magazines but I’m sure they are also full of instructive and useful tips.  To be normal nowadays, you would have read at least one self help book in your life, one that’s got yet even more tips. And of course, in the wellness world there are tips on how much you exercise, how often, and of course, what you should (or rather should not) be eating.

While we become a people who are intellectually intelligent, have we lost the ability to find things out for ourselves?

Let’s look at this. There was a time when there (oh my god!!!) there were no magazines to tell you what to eat.  You’d eat something, and then if you felt muggy, heavy or just not right in your body, you would not eat it anymore.  Same goes for a workout routine. Feeling a bit sore is great, feeling your muscles stretch and work is great, but you have to be aware of the difference of discomfort and pain. In a yoga practice, discomfort is something you work with. It’s your edge and as you keep working, the edge grows further away.  Pain… well, that’s that red flag that goes ‘ouch!’ and if that’s what you feel, adjust, or even find a replacement pose.  And instructor will get you to do poses, but you always know your body best.

And you do. You know yourself best. You know what feels right in your body, and more than that, you know what feels right said out loud.

When someone you like asks you out and you have the urge to jump up for joy, why not just do it? Jump. Cheer. Give yourself a high five if you want.  But oh wait… some magazine said that you shouldn’t be over-enthusiastic right? You have to play these stupid games so that it looks like they’re more into you than you are into them. That way, if it doesn’t work out, although your heart might hurt, your ego remains intact, right?

There’s that fucking ego again.

All these rules, all these lists, all these have tos , have not tos and don’t you dare do thats!?.

Why?

Maybe it’s because while we are following lists, things become intellectual pursuits. Once we let go of these lists and start feeling, then it becomes complicated. Lists keep things black and white, but once we go into sensation, there are a million colours in between and sometimes the colours blur into each other.  It’s fucking scary. There is no ‘scientific proof’ in the world of feelings, and sometimes things can collide.  Anger and love. Hate and compassion. Sadness and fear.  A lady and a whore. A mother and a lover.  A gentleman and a villain. Desire and distaste.

But perhaps, it’s simpler than that… Perhaps we follow these lists for the one basic thing – the fear of being unloved.

As for me, I’m going to give up trying to be a lady or a woman for that matter. I want to just be – to make mistakes and say stupid things, to just swear when appropriate (not at parents or elders though, that’s just basic human decency and respect), and to just be OK with myself when I’ve eaten more than 500 calories a day plus a bag of chips, when my dress size is not a 6, and when I fall over while demonstrating a pose in class.

Because you know what?

Sometimes a perfect life comes is made up of many imperfect moments.

So yeah, let’s all throw out the bloody lists and work on the areas between the blacks and the whites.

Lady and A whore
Edited by Cazz Eccles: http://lovewhatitloves.wordpress.com/

Finding the ‘Me’ in the ‘We’

Up until very recently, I worked within the corporate world.  Some people think the corporate world is great while others don’t really have the time of day for the greed of the bigger organisations.

Yes, let us be honest in saying that some organisations just cannot justify their existence.

For a time, I had started taking an aerial view and trying to find meaning in my daily work.  What I came up with, in a nutshell, was this; I worked for an organisation that existed to make a profit.  There are many reasons an organisation can exist – to educate, develop people or create a platform for something or other, i.e. provide a service.  However, in a lot of smaller organisations, the desire to make a buck within a world of ever increasing costs often got in the way of other things, like actually having a purpose, unrelated to making a buck.

The world is a tough place to live in.  If you work in corporate, you would spend at least 40 hours a week in the office.  Your colleagues often  end up knowing you better than your partner does.  You’re together at work, then you’re stressed and you go out for drinks with colleagues. You talk, and let’s be honest, office affairs are so common nobody even blinks when one happens.  After traffic, TV, etc, a person might spend about two hours a day with their partner. TWO hours? Compared to the eight hours they spend with their colleagues.

Sometimes I feel like what we are outside of the office doesn’t matter much, or rather, we spend so much time in the ‘office persona,’ we forget that we are individuals outside of this organisation.  People who don’t ‘fit in’ or conform with the mould might get the work done, but they don’t get the promotion.  And of course, there is the ego stroking that’s required when you work for petty people. Of course, not everyone is like this.  I once had a CEO who knew I swore like a sailor and wouldn’t think twice about kicking a rude bastard out of a store.  He gave me free reign and in turn, I ran his store like it was my own baby.  Fuck, the man could be a politically incorrect ass, asking you the most direct and personal questions but, he knew the people who worked with him and how to make them tick.

Going back to being a corporate robot, at some point, we forget that we are a separate entity with our own thoughts and desires, and we become part of the ‘we.’  Oh the dreaded ‘we’.  You think you’re immune, well next time you’re on the phone with a client or talking to your friends about work, just watch yourself.  Suddenly it becomes, ‘we this,’ and ‘we that,’ and ‘we think,’ or ‘we feel.’  When did this ‘we’ happen?  Do you even agree with some of the things that ‘we feel’ should be done? Sometimes it was someone else’s idea and you don’t really buy into it, but to show a ‘publicly united’ front, you have suddenly become part of the fucking ‘we.’  To be fair though, it’s not just the corporate world. You could be working in McDonald’s, and still be part of their ‘we.’  If like me, you’ve ever managed a retail store, there might come a point where you forget where you begin and the store ends.

Has our existence been reduced to our professional roles? When we first meet someone, one of the first five questions that we ask is what they do for a living.  I suppose up to a certain level, it tells us something about them, but does it define them?  My late father was defined by his profession.  I remember him working from 7:00am to 7:00pm on most days.  For his work, he gave up a lot of things that he loved, including soccer, tennis and whatever else he liked.  Then when he was no longer part of that big ‘we,’ he wasn’t really part of anything else. He had spent so much time at work that he forgot about the other things in his life, like being a father, a son, a brother.

I too had lost myself a few times.  Being caught up in the ‘we’ through the day, I found that at the end of the day there was no space for ‘me’.  I was too tired to know what I wanted as a person and my brain has been in ‘we’ mode so much that I couldn’t state what I desired or needed as an individual.  I could make good decisions when it came to the company, but could hardly make any when it came to anything else.

Us humans, we are pack animals, even when we don’t admit it. We belong within community, but modern life has broken down traditional communities.  More time is spent at work than talking to neighbours and the desire for gossip, which to be honest, can be just a bonding exercise among neighbours  is fulfilled by watching reality television and reading gossip magazines.  Oh don’t even get me fucking started on TV addiction and what that’s done to our ability to connect to people, have conversations and be part of a community.  We are making up for grassroots community by becoming part of the manufactured concrete community, filling our desire to be part of a ‘we,’ at the office before we go home and sit in front of the TV or some gaming console.

Office Workers

I don’t know why it is, but perhaps it makes us feel bigger when we are dealing with strangers. Or perhaps it makes us feel like we belong. Or simply, perhaps it just makes us feel like we are less alone.  Either way, just take time to observe, perhaps you are so much more part of the ‘we’ than you care to admit.  And perhaps, nowadays it’s not so much about bringing your personal life into the work space as it is about letting your work take precedence over your personal life.

Edited by Cazz Eccles: http://lovewhatitloves.wordpress.com/

Welcoming the Snake

Last weekend on the 10th of February 2013, we welcomed the year of the Snake according to the Lunar Calendar.  In Hindu philosophy, the God of Destruction, Shiva wears a garland of snakes around his neck.  In Christianity the serpent is depicted as being a creature of Satan. The serpent is depicted as Shakti, or pure consciousness in Kundalini yoga.  As your Kundalini rises, she undulates, climbing your spine to rise through the crown of your head and meet her lover, Shiva.

Legendary empress Cleopatra ended her own life by allowing a poisonous snake to bite her.  The serpent has been depicted as the symbol of evil power and chaos, but also of fertility, life and healing.

The thing is though, although beautiful and mesmerising, the serpent (or naga) is not something you could ever know everything about.  It is a mystery creature that dances with such grace, and you never know when it could strike.

I like snakes.  Like the comfortable weight of one as it slithers across my shoulders, arms or legs.  Like the way they are just so emotionally in tune that they can just pick up when someone starts to panic.  Like the cool sensuality of this majestic animal as it moves, seemingly without any rush, and how it looks at you, like it knows something.  And yes, secretly, I like the thrill of having something calm, yet dangerous close to me, something so smooth, yet so strong that it could crush me in its’ embrace.

Me With Jake (no, he's not mine)

Me With Jake (no, he’s not mine)

As the snake slithered into our lives this year, I found myself going through even more changes.  Like beautiful Satya, one of my teacher, said recently, the coming of the snake [in a way] signifies a shedding of skin.  How much more could let go of?  In the last 18 months, among the things that had been shed from my life included a relationship, some friends,  an apartment I had lived in for three years, and my role as papa’s little girl, along with some addictions including my beloved cigarettes. Surely I’ve shed enough already right? Well,  Someone out there has opposing views, as on Monday, I also shed a job in the corporate world.

Am I scared?

Of course I am.

I am petrified!!!

But there’s also a small thrill inside me.

It is the same thrill I feel when I snake is slithering over my skin.  In this thrill is also a sense of sensual aliveness.  Life has me in its unrelenting grasp as it slithers all over me.  At the slightest provocation, it could squeeze me and break me.

What comes next? Only time will tell.

So my loved ones, as we welcome the serpent into our lives, what are you ready to shed? What thrills await you? What sensuous journeys will you take? And most of all, will you be calm as the serpent does what it must?

Edited by Cazz Eccles, Word Warriors: http://lovewhatitloves.wordpress.com/

Missing Kissing

It’s Valentine’s Day 2013.

I’ve been single and celibate for about 18 months now; my mother thinks that that’s a long time for me to be single bearing testimony to how co-dependent I was through my twenties.

Right now, being single seems appropriate, but today of all days, I have to admit to myself that there is something I miss—kissing.

Well not just kissing, because I get a lot of that in life, but heart palpitating, show stopping, push me against the wall and leave stubble burns on my face kissing.

Mmmmm..... Surrender

Mmmmm….. Surrender

My first kiss was rather uneventful; actually, I remember it happening, but don’t remember the details.

I was a kid, if you can call 17 a kid, that is (so sue me—I was more interested in books than boys and considering how teenage boys don’t seem to value the importance of a shower, you can’t really blame me). And yes, he was a teenager too (a bit younger than me actually); we had no clue and it was nice and cute and he became my boyfriend for a month.

Actually, although the kissing was alright, I was not ready to deal with the other things that came with it.

Thank heavens, through the years, the kisses only got better.

And I got better at not running for the hills (refer to top, I flipped over and became co-dependent)…but I digress.

Let’s go back to kissing: what is it about a good kiss that can melt your insides and turn your knees to jelly?

Sometimes, it’s a stranger you meet and before exchanging names, you’ve somehow started this amazing conversation, not really knowing who kissed whom and really not caring because you don’t want it to stop. Then, the evening ends and you have the choice to either go on or say goodbye, no regrets either way (well actually, if you’re drunk, probably more regrets if you go on).

Then there is that thrill of the first kiss goodnight after an early date where you are just testing the waters, a whispered promise of things to come. It’s almost a bit shy—you both might want more, but you don’t want to rush it.

And then there is that kiss where somehow, without a word, you just reach this mutual agreement and before you know it, fingers are in hair, bodies are pressed against each other and you are just ready to let go and risk drowning—that moment when every sensation starts where your lips are meeting. Where time no longer exists and you can explore each others’ lips for hours.

Like wine though, some kisses get better with time and the familiarity breeds a certain confidence.

Those moments when you’re walking down an alley and he just presses you against a wall and gives you the deepest kiss, and suddenly, you’re burning up, wanting more—a tease, a promise, a debt to be collected in private.

There are the gentle kisses when you wake up in the morning, a greeting, soft as a morning breeze.

Then there are the ones where you exchange a kiss just because you want to.

A kiss can say so many things:

I’m sorry.

I love you.

I want you.

I am yours.

Oh how I miss it, especially the ones where there is surrender and nothing else; not a surrender to him, or him to you, but a surrender to the kiss.

You know without a doubt, that you are safe. And you forget about the laundry or movie that’s playing or the yoga practice that you’re missing and you are just present, making the moment last into many moments; allowing the kiss to take you wherever it wants to.

Man, did I tell you how much I miss kissing?

 

As featured on: http://www.elephantjournal.com/

Broken

You know how sometimes the universe hits you once, and while you’re still reeling from that, it hits you once more, just for good measure?  You’re already down on your knees. Another hit and your chin ends up on the floor.  Some days it’s expected, but there are times when you’re just not prepared, but then, when are we ever prepared for life’s big events?

Think of those days. Perhaps when you’re in a prolonged extended side angle, knowing that the next step is to fly. The sweat is flowing freely from your body.  You ready yourself, walking that back foot forward, prepared to fly into a standing bird of paradise, and then you find, what’s this? That foot, the one you so want up in the air, simply does not want to get off the ground.  Fuck. You fidget, move, squirm, but it just isn’t feeling right.  Your body has detached itself from your mind and just won’t do what it should.

Then there are days when the world just doesn’t look great, when although the sun is shining, your heart is hurting.  Work is just doesn’t inspire you, or the baby can’t stop crying, or the spouse is being a pain in the ass, and there’s nobody to talk to because everyone is just drowning in their own crap.  And you’re pretty sure that if you spoke to someone, anyone, you’d just get pissed off anyway.

Now think of those days, and enlarge it to a grand scale where not just your body is not up to task, but your emotions feel like they’ve been put through a shredder.

Some times in life, you just want to tell the whole world to just fuck off because you have absolutely nothing to give right now. Beep.  Beep. Call back at a later date… you’re just a bit shattered at the moment.

You take one step forward, then the universe pushes you down the flight of steps, and your goal looks about as close to you as Mount Olympus does.  You’re just so tired that there are just no more tears to cry.

Some days are just a bit shit.

Some days are a lot shit.

So what do you do?  Grab the nearest bottle of strong alcohol? Go out on the town and pick up? Spend days in the stupor of being stoned?

Or maybe just bury it all in some hippy-trippy affirmation.

Or not.

The reality of it is just that sometimes, you’re just not happy. In fact, there are times when you’re just absolutely devastated and you’re not sure if you can make the effort to even breathe.

Our modern world dictates that we should be OK all the time, to work, to hangout with friends, to get on with life.  We life in a society where the dark side is often hidden under layers of fake happiness, but at the end of the day, you want to be real, even if it means being a bit raw.  Even if it means staying in child’s pose for a bit longer so our hearts can recover.

Because you know what?

That’s the fucked up reality of life, and perhaps it makes sense to be OK with just not being OK. It’s not all roses and rainbows.  There are days that are going to be dark and dreary, and occasionally, it’s just about sitting there in the darkness without trying to force a light.

Sometimes, there’s nothing left to do but to be broken and to be fine with it – And perhaps, somewhere in the broken pieces, life will reshape itself and move into the next incarnation.

Being Loved

In my past I always felt so alone. Even when I was with family, I never truly felt like I belonged.  Through the years I had constructed layer upon layer of walls that I held up with a vengeance.  I wondered why I dated men who were emotionally unavailable.  You know the kind, the ones who can’t be your Superman when your psycho Lois Lane is falling off a building. In this case, the building of your sanity.  I associated with people who I had to always support, people who always had some form of drama.  Sharing my feelings was a foreign concept to me, and most of the time, I didn’t have the words for them.  I still don’t sometimes, but that’s OK.  Somehow, I had locked my heart up in a kryptonite box, behind a reinforced steel door, threw away the key, built a brick wall, dug a moat around it and placed piranhas in the water for good measure.  Every so often I would lower the drawbridge and let someone in, but they always stood behind the locked door.

Lost_love1

The last couple of years however, things had started to change.  Maybe it was me, or maybe I was just lucky to meet a group of the most supportive people, but I had slowly began to open up, both personally, and in my writing.  A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a bare all piece on my journey with celibacy: https://azphoenix.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/act-of-celibacy/, right before I went off and taught a class.  It was one of the most confronting things that I have done in a long time.  For one thing, publishing my innermost thoughts online, and for another, standing in front of people who I knew for a fact had read those innermost thoughts.  It was fucking scary, but in a strange way, being this vulnerable has also made me feel very connected to those around me.

Then my father passed away.  Now, he is a story that I will write when I am ready.

It was what has happened since that has surprised me.

Having lived alone for about seven years now, I am used to licking my own wounds and getting on with it.  In fact, I learned to get on with it at a very young age.  There was always someone else to take care of.  The things we get used to.  A lot of times, they can be detrimental to our own health, acting out of habit than need. And in the long run, the stuff we push down just bubbles up like larva and destroys what’s closest.  This time, I was completely ready to handle my business, spend a few days in my pajamas with a few boxes of tissue paper, and then wipe it all clean and get back to life.

Something unexpected happened.  Upon hearing the news, two of my dear friends took immediate action. Mandy brought her 35 day old baby and a pint of gelato over, and gave me a distraction by way of placing the cutest little bundle in my arms to cuddle.  Meriana came around after work, took me to the beach (in my pajama bottoms no less) and then proceeded to get me groceries.  A few days later, my teacher Ingrid just held me while I completely broke down. This is not counting the phone calls, the messages of condolence and the hugs that I have been receiving for the past week.   I swear, I have left a trail of tear stains over many a shoulder and my yoga mat will never be the same again.

In the world around not much has changed.  It keeps turning as it was.  Sydney traffic is still crazy and public transport can be unreliable, and people are still rushing everywhere.  What has changed however, is me.  Somehow, somewhere between the meditation and the asana, I am finding myself, and that is leading me to be able to share myself.  I am a lot more vulnerable than I was, but I am also so much more part of something bigger.  The people I have in my life make me feel blessed, like the heavens were somehow looking out for me, but more than that, even though I am alone in the modern sense of the word (as in single), I am so very loved.

And that’s just it, isn’t it? Being loved is not necessarily about the Instagram photos of your dates or the gifts that you’ve received from your ‘perfect’ partner.  It’s not about how your popularity means that you always have someone to go out with on the weekend. And it sure as hell not about how some dude wants to jump your bones whenever you see them.  Instead, it’s about the ability to just be vulnerable and to know that you are supported in these times.

A big thank you to the people I have in my life now.  To me, having you has made all the difference.

Edited by fellow word warrior – Carolyn Eccles, http://lovewhatitloves.wordpress.com/

Reintroduction to Grief

Grief.

Sometimes without warning it cuts through you, breaking you to pieces.  Like a hot blade going through your heart, only you don’t get to die.  You live.  Everything inside you wants to dim it down.  Suddenly you crave every addiction you think you have let go of – a drink, a cigarette, a pill, a warm unknown stranger.  Something. Just something to give you some relief from feeling this raw.

Grief

Yes raw.

You’re reduced to a big gaping wound and nothing else. You read things that spew crap like, “the wound is where the light enters,” and all you can think of is with a wound this big, it had better be the fucking sun entering.  When people ask you if you feel better or say things like they hope you feel better soon, all you want to do is punch them. It’s not a fucking cold. Better won’t come for a while. But maybe they forgot what grief feels like. Maybe they never knew.

It sits with you. Sometimes it sleeps and you’re fooled into thinking that it’s left you, but then, when you’re sitting there smiling it rears its head again. You can’t see it, but you feel it so strongly that sometimes your body doubles over and there you are, on your knees at the mercy of the universe.

All your life, you’ve been told that this is bad.  Somewhere in there, your mind is saying, “well, you’re not the first person this has happened to, so get over yourself.”  But this is beyond what your brain understands. It’s not something to fight or get rid of, it just is. It is not a disease. The tears that fall are just your emotions bubbling over into the physical world.

At some point, you ignore the thoughts that tell you this is wrong.  Ignore the people that say you should feel better.  This is grief.  It is not good, but it is not bad either.  It is a feeling that tells you that you loved.  It reminds you of the loss you suffered, and in its strange dark way, it fills you up, reminding you that you have a heart after all.

I used to fight my grief.  I used to think that because I was lying in a heap of tears on the floor, or falling apart in someone’s arms, it meant that I was not strong.  Then I was taught different. I was taught to see emotions in a different way, that strong might not mean fighting.  That strong meant feeling – sitting in the grief and letting it wash over you. Easier said than done.  But when I look at my past, at all the people who got hurt in the explosion of my endless fight against my own grief, my addictions, my anger and of all the hurt that I carried with me through the years because I couldn’t grow a pair and face them, perhaps, it’s time to surrender.

As I sit in meditation and the tears fall again, I realise that there is no right or wrong, only the knowing, the understanding, that instead of happiness, the goal might be to just be at peace.  And I am still learning – learning to be a peace with grief.  Learning to surrender to the fact that it is here, and it might be my travelling companion for a while.  Learning to accept of the fact that the tears will fall sometimes when I don’t expect them to, and learning to give myself permission to just grieve.

The Intimacy of Celibacy

Over a year ago, I made the conscious decision to be celibate.  This meant no physical anything with anyone, so no pashing and definitely nothing beyond that.  When I first tell people this, the responses I get vary greatly.  Some have looked at me incredulously with the question, “why?” Some have lectured me on how I am fighting natural human urges, and therefore not taking care of my needs, while others, mostly close friends, have been very supportive of the decision.  In a world where more is always better, I made the decision to go with less.

Flowers by Opulent Garden: http://opulentgarden.com.au/

Why am I doing it?

Well, in the last 10 years, I had had one four year relationship, followed two weeks after it ended with a one year fling, then a couple of years and flings in between, followed by a three year relationship. Having not had much time alone at all, I felt that in the midst of major life changes, it was right that I take some time alone.  What’s physical intimacy got to do with it you say?  Well, that’s the thing.  Physical intimacy, without actual intimacy, to me, is pointless. In a casual encounter, most of the time, you’d be off your face anyway and would be less likely to remember the thing. It’s just mutual masturbation.  And at least on your own, there’s none of the morning after (or just after) awkwardness.

As I delve deeper into my yoga studies, I have also come to believe that we are as much spiritual, intellectual, emotional and energetic beings as we are physical beings.  And that sex or any sort of intimate physical activity is a sharing of energy.  This act in part was to acknowledge the fact that yes, I had given away my energy to people who had left me in an emotional draught after, and also to show myself some respect. You know that feeling when you meet someone you’re attracted to in your beer goggles, and you make out in a club or wherever, but when you go home, there’s not only a hangover but an inexplicable emptiness as well?  Worse still if it ends up becoming more than a quick pash.  Well, I’d decided that the short term high was not worth it anymore.

Unfortunately, making a big decision like this, and being completely determined to keep it, does require some life changes.  For one thing, drugs are a complete no-go now.  Not even a puff of weed have I taken in at least 18 months.  For another thing, no longer do my weekends consist of two nights in a pub, drinking myself silly, followed by spending the entire weekend in bed with a hangover.  In fact, my whole social life has had a revamp.  Strangely enough, giving up physical intimacy has fostered other types of intimacy.  No longer being able to hide behind alcohol and loud music, my socializing options have evolved into long walks and beach outings, hours of brunch and coffee (well tea in my case), the occasional glass of wine and beautiful dinners, all of which require a substantial amount of conversation.  If I am attracted to a guy now, I can’t go into default ‘get drunk and pash’ mode… I actually have to talk to him.

In a world where feminism and equality means that women can do anything men can do, including having random sex, this act of mine might go against the grain.  However, what are feminism and equality if not giving me the freedom to make my own choices.  I have been lucky to have the support of my very feminist mentor, Dr. Heather Moritz through this.  Her pure shakti essence, humour and often unique outlook on the world has definitely had an impact of my life, and have helped me hold my own in this controversial decision of mine.  Ironic how what I’m doing now is seen as different when as little as thirty years ago, someone who did the opposite was pretty much ostracized.  Goes to prove that you should just do what feels right for you at any given time.

Looking around, I see a lot of sex, but not enough intimacy.  To me, it is not intimacy unless there is vulnerability on a level that is other than physical. And for me personally, I have had long stretches of time where my physical self has been disconnected from my emotional, mental, spiritual and energetic self.  This for me, has been an exercise in starting to align all the different layers of what makes me, me.  It has been a chance to regroup and re-gather. My yoga practice has grown.  And on days when I am so present, lying down in shavasana at complete peace, feeling sweat drip off my skin; the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual satisfaction has been greater than any I have had previously.  In this place, I am complete.

It’s not that I’ve stopped shaving my legs.  In fact, through this period, I have learned to take care of my body even more.  It is this living, breathing being full of sensuous possibility. It comes with expressive spirit, intellect, and most of all, a heart. Now I know that sharing myself with someone who can’t appreciate all that, or is not in touch with all that in themselves would be a cop out on my end.  And no, I’m not missing out on anything because on my own, I am complete anyway.

A year on, I am still on this journey.  Although I had an online dating account for a bit once the year was up, but I rethought the whole thing and found it too contrived and forced. It’s gone now.  Dear Michael (the number of times Michael is mentioned, you’d know I’d be lost without him.  The man really is my Master Yoda) asked me how I would let the universe know that I am open to it, and my answer was, “the universe will know anyway.  It’s only a matter of me being ready for it.”

This Kiss

One of my friends recently said to me that writing pop romance is merely putting what you think your readers (or you) desire on to a page.  I don’t know about writing romance, partly because I don’t read that much of it, but since there’s a heatwave, here I am, giving it a go.

 This is just the kiss though….

Tantra

It starts with one tentative kiss, just to test the waters, slightly shy.  Instead of an announcement, it is a question, wanting an answer – a look, a smile, a kiss in return.  The second kiss lingers a little longer. A conversation has been started, a kiss answered by another.  Slowly and tentatively tasting each other.  First just the lips, nothing else.  Then perhaps, your hands intertwine.  Bodies move ever so closely together.

A hand moves to the small of a back, another intertwined in the other’s hair.  Bodies moulding into each other. Deepening into each other. Breathing into each other. Pulse pounding.

Warm.

Cold.

Hot!

Burning!!!

And everything in between.

If you move your hand to his chest right now, you can feel his heart pounding underneath your palm.

You might move apart.

Panting.

Out of breath.

But a second is too long and you miss each other’s lips.  You move together again.  He leans you against the wall, placing a hand behind your neck, deepening your kiss.  Just for right now, the world doesn’t exist.  It’s just you and him in silent conversation.  Your arms around his waist, drawing him closer still.

The whole world only exists only where your skin meets his.  No room for thought as your senses heighten, silencing your mind.  You feel the kiss radiating through your body, to the tip of every finger tip, every toe, to the tips of your hair.

Yes, you feel.

Every inch of your skin is alive with this kiss.

This feels so right.

But so so dangerous.

An eternity in a moment, right here and right now.

Now you’re here, and in one step you could have stepped right off the ledge.

Into nothingness.

Into everything.

But you stay. Nowhere else you would rather be. Nothing else you would rather do.

It’s like you started existing, and shining when your lips met and if you part you will cease to exist again, another speck in the galaxy.

The Deal with Diets

What IS the deal with diets?

Today I read that if you eat a sandwich every now and again, then you’ve been a bit naughty.  Honestly? A sandwich? It leads me to the question – what is a healthy diet?  Is it only when you eat only vegetables, with some lentils for protein and have a green smoothie every morning.  Seriously, what is the deal with diets?  Every time I read the newspaper or any magazine, there is some sort of something advising people on what they should and should not eat.  Honestly, having started dieting at 10 (gymnastics, they make you do that), I have had enough of dieting.  Eat meat. Don’t eat meat.  Drink coffee. No, don’t drink coffee. Have a smoothie. But no, smoothies are full of sugar.  Fruits are good. No, they have too much fructose.  There just seems to be no end to it.  Does healthy mean that your ribs can be seen through your t-shirt and your hip bones stick out at the top of your shorts?

Well fuck that.  I love pizza, a yummy fresh margherita with loads of basil, fresh tomato and cheese.  Yes, cheese.  And I bloody well love a good pub steak with fried chips every now and again (yup, ahimsa is still beyond me).  I mean, it’s good to know what you’re putting in your body.  Any processed mess with ingredients that you can’t pronounce, let alone spell would probably be something that was mixed up in a lab.  Whether you want this in your body is a choice you make of course.  Personally, I’d rather not.  In fact, between an artificial sweetener that I can’t pronounce and sugar, I would choose sugar.  Even if it’s bad for me, I know what it is.

However, I think over excessive focus on food trends and fads are just another way that modern medicine teaches us to separate our bodies from our feelings and thoughts.  How many times have you something because you read that it was good for you? Yes, you read that it was good for you, but do you take note of how your body feels about it? There is nothing wrong with trying things out to see how they make you feel, but do we really feel?  Yes, feel, because your body has it’s own wisdom and it communicates to you in feeling, in sensations.  Something you read somewhere might say that you should start with raw fruit for breakfast, but if you’re doing that, and after a week your body hasn’t adjusted and your tummy is still bloating, why would you continue?  Because your brain says it’s good for you?

My dear friend Angie, of Angie Gluten Free (http://www.angieglutenfree.com/) has taught me a lot about nutrition.  To her, food is not just to nourish your body but is also an experience to nourish your other senses including sight, smell and touch (with textures).  Food also nourishes you emotionally.  In a way, she’s made me realise that my grandmother was right in the following points:

Abrizah

My late grandmother

  • If you don’t know what it is, then why would you eat it?
  • Cooking is a great skill to have – she had me helping out in the kitchen at the tender age of 9, by 12 she had me preparing full meals, waddawoman!
  • Go to the market and look around before you buy anything. If you meet a monger you like and can trust and whose fish is always fresh, be faithful to them – growing up, Sunday mornings were always market days for us and not supermarkets either. We went to the wet market to get stuff that was not out of the refrigerated section
  • Don’t eat standing up or reading a book or watching TV – savour your meal and don’t rush it
  • Appreciate your food – my grandmother grew up during WW2, when food was scarce, so to her food should be appreciated and not wasted. Leftovers were always kept for meals the next day
  • Keep it interesting – herbs, spices, different flavours, they’re all there, just try them out.  When I was much younger, my aunt had this massive mortar and pestel which was pretty much a slab of rock and a rolling pin type thing which she used to make chili paste. The thing was a bitch to clean but she used it anyway. Now we have food processors so it’s way easier for us. Also, we can be flexible when following recipes (unless it really needs to be precise). Everything can be adjusted to taste.  In fact some people thought it was blasphemy how she would amend recipes as she saw fit and as was convenient to her
  • Make cooking a social thing – as a child, whenever we were having a big family get-together, my grandmother would recruit all of us to help in the kitchen. If we couldn’t fit in the kitchen, there was always the backyard where gas powered portable stoves were put out. It was a gossip session, a bonding session and a learning experience for all present
  • There’s no need for fancy cook ware – a scan pan or whatever fancy plastic thing will not make the food taste better
  • You don’t need 8 different things on your plate at one time – keep it simple (well, we’re Asian, it’s usually rice with a fish/meat/egg dish, a vegetable and probably a small side of sambal or something)

And the best one of all:

  • You make the food, it’s not the food making you, so you can break rules and try new things, and if your body is so inclined, have a plate of rice for breakfast and a bowl of oats for dinner

Honestly, I must say that my relationship with food has changed through the years.  At a point in life, it used to be all about convenience and those who worked with me would often see me scoffing a Whopper, a bag of chips, a pack of nuggets and a large coke all while finishing a spreadsheet.  By the time I ate, I was often starving and the rumbling in my stomach could no longer be ignored.  After I ate, I would feel like I’d been hit by the food truck.  Now, although I still do love hot chips, a meal like that would make me feel quite queasy.

But that’s the thing.  We do develop a relationship with the food we eat.  It’s a continuous evolution based on your body’s needs.  Your body changes with time and reacts differently to different things.  For me personally, it’s still a journey and with the amazing people in my life, I look forward to the explorations to come.  And the food fads? Well, I’ll read them, but if they make me feel in any way off balance then they can fuck off.  Food is one of the few things in life that can be simple and pleasurable at the same time, so why ruin it by thinking too much and not feeling enough?

Online Dating – Just Not My Thing

I am a single woman in my 30s.  Having ended a relationship over a year ago, I had decided to embark on a journey on my own for a year.  Well, that year ended, and I found it was time to get back on the horse, so to speak.  Although I have a somewhat active social life, it is now more restrained that it was previously.  Gone are the nights spent in dance clubs and weekends spent in hangover-ville, to be replaced with meals with friends, yoga classes, and socialising within the same community.  Having exhausted options to meet men in my circle, especially since the yoga community is at the moment made up of 90% women, (guys, come on, get your assess into the studio will you?) I was led to the only option (apparently) left.

Love

Love

So, in an attempt to get back in the market, I joined an online dating site. I’ve heard that some people find these sites highly effective.  However, one might need to go through hundreds of profiles to find one that fits.  So, not wanting to have to scroll through hundreds of personals, I joined one of the sites where people are matched with you based on some form compatibility.  What could be compatible with a Muslim yogini ex traditional Malay dancer with one foot in the yoga community and another foot in the corporate world, and dyed red hair to top it off, I honestly don’t know.

So anyway, there were a few nice guys on there, and a few weirdos as usually happens on an online dating site, well, and real life. The fact that I didn’t end up dating one of them for a fun time is a big step forward for me. To be completely honest, I met a couple of people who if I had met in any other circumstance would have become friends.  I am told that the site I am on is more “serious,” for people who really want a relationship, which according to some, it looks like I don’t.  And herein lies the problem.  It’s not that I am 100% not open to a relationship.  The fact that I am on a dating website proves that this is not the case.  It’s that either date or part mentality, leaving no space for anything else.  Those who know me know that I don’t work well within black and white situations.

It seems to me that a lot of times, everything else we do is something to tick off the list.  Finish school, check.  Go to university or trade school or whatever, check.  Relationship, check.  Marriage, check. Baby, check. And the truth of the matter is, I don’t want a relationship to be something that I am checking off a list of things to do.  Perhaps I am a dreamer or a silly idealist, but whatever happened to the magic of infatuation? And then from that infatuation leading into love? Or a friendship that blossoms over time into something more? Or even letting go of force and allowing something to develop organically? We rush everything, and this is just something I don’t want to rush.  When you go on that first date generated from an online meet, it is make or break. The option of becoming friends is just taken out of the equation, because of course, when we’re on dating websites, we have everything else in life but a relationship, so that becomes a goal.

A relationship as a goal? I can’t deal with that.

It seems sometimes that although we want relationships, we are not really open to falling in love.  Yes of course it is important to have an idea of what you want in a man, but which attributes matter to us, and at what point do these attributes become another thing we are doing more for the benefit of everyone else? It seems with all the logic and algorithms and boxes to tick, that everything comes from thought and intellect, but what is love if not a matter of the heart, a matter of feeling? Sure, there’s sex, but if there’s anything I’ve seen in our society is that although we have sex with more people in our lifetimes, we’re actually more likely to have some barriers up (including alcohol) and therefore less likely to be intimate.

I strongly believe in surrendering to what is, and that nothing happens until it is time to happen.  We need only be open to it happening.  There is effort and push in everything, and perhaps in this matter, there need not be.  So perhaps, it’s time I shut the account and allow what will be to be.  After all, if one doesn’t fall in love, it doesn’t mean that one leads a loveless life. And being alone doesn’t mean that one is lonely. Call me old fashioned. Call me a confirmed old spinster. Call me a hopeless romantic, or just call me plain hopeless, but you know what? For some things in life, it’s really great to just be able to trust and surrender.

A New Year Wish from Me to You for 2013

New Year’s Eve 2013.

Sometimes I can’t believe how fast time flies. Sometimes I think that time doesn’t move quick enough.  You know some years you think that you’ve done nothing, not left the country, not fallen in love or got a new job or anything BIG, and you start feeling a bit down? Well, I’ll be honest.  A couple of days ago, that’s where I was.  I had fallen into that trap again. What trap say you? The trap that sets a standard on what you do or where you go in order for it to matter. Again, I was measuring myself against the general standard. And then of course, there was the full moon, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish.

And then, I went back and read a letter I wrote myself on New Year’s Eve 2012.  You see, I’m quite done with resolutions. In my experience, resolutions are a bit shallow. Instead, I was taught to set intentions, and better still, to paint them within a bigger picture. In this letter I wrote myself, I had painted a picture of what I wanted my life to be like, and in doing so, there were of course steps that had to be taken in that direction.  You think about where you want to be, and it also prompts you to think about the things that don’t really fit into your lifestyle anymore.  It can be anything from a bad eating habit to a whole person that you decide to move away from.

I’ll share a little yogi secret here:

Writing things down is a very strong way of affirming them.  It takes things from an internal environment and actually puts it out there. Better yet if you can write it, seal it and get a trusted friend to mail it to you at their discretion.  No matter when this letter comes to you, it will be the right time.  With resolutions, we tend to hang on to them they stick in our minds and sometimes can become quite rigid and stuck. Writing things down and releasing them into the ether can be a great way to let it go. If you’re not a writer, then make mind maps.

When I read this letter, it made me think of what this year has been about for me.  Sure I didn’t get a new job, buy a house, or car, or have a baby, or or or… any of those things that society holds as a milestone.  Some years are just not like that. Yes, yes, I know in our society it’s all about making things happen, but without the right foundation, how will we know it the things that we make happen will take root?

Sometimes, you just have to take a year, or two, or four, or however long you need to unlearn the things that you’ve learned and do a bit of detox from the past so that you can make space for the future.  Sometimes, you just have to let yourself break and rebuild from the ground up.  Life is such a journey. Just when you’re dancing with Lakshmi Ma, Kali Ma can come a crashing in with her necklace of ears and her skirt of arms:  https://azphoenix.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/dancing-with-goddesses/.  And you know what? Sometimes you just can’t tell that kind of force to “fuck off.” You can try, and before you know it, your ear will be right there hanging around the lady’s neck.  The only thing you can do sometimes is surrender (not give up, just surrender).

The truth is, although I felt like I was moving nowhere, I did move forward from where I was yesterday, and I did get what I wanted out of this year.  Although I am always going to be a work in progress, the work has started. I’ve heard that the biggest journey you make is between your head and your heart, and perhaps this year for me, that journey has begun.  There are no good years, or bad years, they are just different.  There is no “there” to get because as Heather would say, “It is all already inside you.”

So tonight, loved ones, before you go out into the hustle and bustle of celebration, take some time to celebrate yourselves.  A few moments of silence to find your centre, and when you write, write for yourself.  This is your journey. Nobody else’s.  Think about it. Will 2013 be a year of setting foundations? Will it be a year of healing? Or growth?  Making things happen? Moving on? Sit with yourself, and set YOUR intention.  Perhaps instead of thinking about the things you “have to” do or achieve, go into it thinking of what you need for yourself, for your health, for your growth, and what you can do about it.  Sometimes, the BIG journey is the one that happens within.

Happy New Year dear ones. May the light shine on you, and for you, and may it not shine so bright it blinds you, but bright enough to lighten your darkest days.  My love is with you, wherever you are.

With honour and with love

With honour and with love

On a personal note from me, a wish of gratitude to family and amazing friends, mentors and teachers both formal and informal, my exes, even the ones who broke my heart, the horrible bosses and managers who encourage their staff to shine, to lovers and acquaintances, past, present and future.  And you, whoever you are who I am meant to meet. There is a lesson in every meeting and in your way, you are my teachers and you all touch my life, so thank you.

The Death of Drama (Addiction)

It seems like a lifetime ago, but my first long term relationship was a bit like the song, “Love the way you lie,” by Eminem and Rihanna… something about a volcano meeting a tornado, or something like that.  As a love story, it was like Heathcliff and Catherine from Wuthering Heights.  Since the day we got together, hardly a fortnight would go without us screaming at each other followed by me crying and some sort of emotional blackmail.  At some point it almost became this match to see who could hurt each other more. And then we would make up, and it would be all, “I love you,” and “we’ll be together forever.”  The fact that we stayed together for four years means that I must have liked it in some way.

It’s not rocket science. I somehow got a rush from the rollercoaster of feelings, going from absolute passion to anger to sadness.  It was crazy.  I thought that if it wasn’t difficult, it wasn’t worth it. I was always ready to spring. There was no peace. I now know that every day of my life back then was lived in my sympathetic nervous system – fight or flight.  I learned to do both reasonably well.  My uncle’s relationship with his ex wife was the same, except in their case there were physical bruises involved.  It’s a cycle and in a way, some people just don’t know how to get out of it.

Was it love? Of course it was love.  Of course, at the time, I was of the mind that love had to be difficult and love had to be this crazy rollercoaster. The thing with love though, is that it’s just an emotion. The forms it can take can sometimes be positive, and at other times detrimental.  Who is anyone to say that people who fight all the time love each other less than people who don’t?

What is it about drama though?

10 years on looking back and I wonder why we thrive on drama so much. It’s not just in relationships, but in all aspects of life.  And sometimes we can’t put it down to youth either. Some of us can’t do anything without an aspect of drama in it. The hypochondriac is an extreme case of this but there are others that are not quite there, but very close. The family member who fakes his own fucking death, the friend who’s always got some beef with someone, the person who’s talking on the phone extremely loudly on the bus.  Everything has to be a big production.  Honestly, I’ve known people to whom even going to sleep is this big production.  It’s like putting on a play; need this, need that, need blah blah blah… and they’re not comfortable anyway. Sometimes I honestly wonder if it’s a cry for help or simply a call for attention.  How you know these people is that when you spend time with them, you leave feeling absolutely exhausted.

Drama can become an addiction. It’s like feeding on the attention, the adrenaline, the production of things, and when there is none of that, you just forget how to function.  It’s like an actor who doesn’t know who they are anymore once a movie ends, and people who are just lost and depressed when nobody is watching. It’s the person who can’t handle silence because there is nobody to perform for.  It’s everywhere if only you look hard enough.  It’s just a fucking story.

Sure there are breakups, and bad days at work, and sometimes, we just need that support form our friends and loved ones.  Sometimes however, it helps to stop and look at our own patterns.  One example is this Carrie Bradshaw syndrome. Somehow it’s romantic when you break up and get back together and then break up again and then get back together again. And while you’re doing this, your friends have to sit there year in year out listening to the same shit.  I love you Carrie. Without this stuff, Sex in the City would have died early, but heck its drama, made for TV, and should be kept for TV.  Bring it out into the world, and it becomes tedious.

We read books. We watch movies, and of course at some point everyone wants to write the story of their lives. Because it’s great isn’t it? We’ve made it so full of drama that it will be a best seller. It’s going to be the next “Eat, Pray, Love,” isn’t it?  Suddenly after the book and movie, everyone was getting divorced and going to Bali hoping they’ll meet a Brazilian man who says, “daarrrrrrling.” Well honey, that book has already been written, so you can just cut the drama and carry on with life. And perhaps we don’t have to sit around every moment like someone’s going to take a fucking picture.  Every day of life doesn’t need to be a big fucking production.

Solar Eclipse

Honestly, as I said to beloved friend and teacher Michael, I’m just tired of fucking drama. Sure there are ups and downs, and those things keep life interesting.  When I get together with friends, I do want to hear their stories. When a friend goes through a breakup or has a hard day at work, I want to be there for them, but I would like to cut the drama.  I’m not Elizabeth Gilbert.  This is my life. Even without drama, there is a story, my story, the one that goes into my journal, not for the big screen or be bound in hardcover. The one that is my life, and not some fucking production of it.  I could live without the 15 minutes of fame.

So the world is going to end today, and every ending is a new beginning. What I’m going to do is let go of the fucking past, move on, have some fish and chips, catch up with some friends and hope that this ending means a new beginning with minimal drama.

Cheers lovers!

My Soul Mate is a Fucking Unicorn

Just like a lot of people, I have spent my life searching for a soul mate.  Well probably not my entire life, but a significant amount of time. Somewhere in my mind, I thought that I would not be a complete person until I had found this magical being.  This was the person who was meant to love me unconditionally, and from that love prompt me to become a better person. To borrow from Jerry MaGuire this person was meant to, “complete me,” so from the age of 21 until the age of 31, I was either in constant pursuit of, trying to turn the person I was with into this special being or trying to transform myself to fit in with this individual.  Not to say that my time was completely wasted.  I met many special persons.  I didn’t however, find the man equivalent of a magical unicorn as the stories said I would.

There was a major flaw in this big plan of mine. Actually there were many major flaws but the biggest one was that I had been looking for something external in order to justify my life.  Nothing had been fixed and instead of being complete, I was like a jigsaw puzzle that had been scattered to the four winds. A change of tactics was needed, an exploration into the unknown and unfamiliar.  So from the end of 2011 until present time, for the first time in over 10 years I had chosen to hang up my stilettos and take myself completely out of THE equation.  That’s right, a complete Man Ban.  Of course my family thinks I’m insane because you know, the clock is ticking and all that jazz, and my friends have spent the year holding their breaths waiting for me to either combust or explode from lack of “yang.”

It was time that I created some space.  You see, I’m slightly insane in that I tend to gravitate to people who are going through a hard time or people who can shift any conversation to being about them. Of course it’s because I care, but there is also a part of it that stems from me having no idea of how to talk about my stuff and finding it easier to focus on other people’s stuff.  And yes, I did only find this out after I had created said space.  For the first time, in well, ever, I spent most of the year focused on me. I’m pretty sure the universe was working with me on this one as there were minimal family visits and dramas, and minimal crisis friend support needed.

What I didn’t realise was that once I had taken myself out of THE equation my attention would be focused solely on MY equation.

You know how sometimes, you just put things off because dealing with them would be too hard? Like when you hold on to a relationship that’s sunk deeper than the Titanic because it’s less time consuming and messy than dealing with a breakup.  Think that, except I was dealing with residual rubbish from my parents’ breakup and other shit that I had been carrying around for ages. Also I was busy chasing THE Dream as I’ve written about before: https://azphoenix.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/living-the-dream/. Yup, I have become quite the expert in making myself very busy.

The year turned out to be a personally very interesting one to say the least. Lacking any other person or structure to hold up, (I had also decided that keeping the company running was not my personal duty and that I could go home and have a life) I spent a lot of time working on my personal journey.  Of course, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. In fact, most of it was not.  It was an amazing ride, and starting over from square one was exactly how one of my teachers would describe an essentials (beginners for non-yogis) yoga class – simple, but not easy.

There was a considerable lot of time spent dealing with the shit under the bridge, except it wasn’t really under the bridge.  Some of the shit I am still working with, some wounds I have just left alone knowing they will heal when they are ready, and some others I have just let go of.  We all have shit under the bridge, which at some point we will have to look at before it actually drowns the entire fucking bridge, so good thing this year happened or I would be drowned in shit while crossing over.  Worse still, I could have had children and drowned them in shit.  Sadly, I don’t agree with my parents that one should have children because time is running out and all else will take care of itself.  It is a responsibility and one that should be taken seriously.  The world has enough fucked up people.

Then there was the reevaluating of what I wanted in life. Not surprisingly, what I wanted has changed, which is fine, but you also have to give yourself time to absorb that what you want has changed and learn to be ok with it.  It’s so easy to go into a long story of how time has been wasted and you’re getting old and whatever else, so having time to process is always a great thing, and then of course, time is needed to let go of the things that don’t serve this journey anymore.

It’s been a tough gig this business of dealing with myself. My views on myself were challenged, and somewhat altered.  One person saw right through every barrier I had and went for my heart.  A difficult thing if you’re used to shifting the focus to the person you’re with in order for them not to see you.  Strangely enough, this did not come from a lover, but someone I love.

Among other things, I’ve come to the realization that breaking down physical barriers is no longer enough when the emotional and mental barriers still stand.  For the simple minded – sex, on its own is no longer enough.  Pleasure need not be an expensive pursuit.  Simplicity is beautiful.  Hug as often as possible.  Being alive is no longer enough without living.  And this one from the beautiful Meriana, “there is a thin line between self awareness and self absorbtion,” so at some point, you need to get your head out of your ass and just be cool with things.  To need someone else to make you a better person is to just have a scape goat to blame should you fuck up. You’ll fuck up sometimes anyway, so just be ok with it. One doesn’t need a barrier of alcohol to just dance like hell is coming tomorrow.  Sometimes people see in you more than you see in yourself, and they are right.  The fact that I’m a certified yoga instructor says it all.

And soul mates? Well, these are the people who are just there for you.  They are the ones you can have a chat with and stop mid-conversation only to continue the conversation when you meet again no matter if it’s five minutes, five days, or five years in the future.  You get to know these people over and over and over again, but your real knowledge of them is eternal and buried under the hugs and the words.  These are the people you meet, family, friends, teachers and lovers, and in my case, yoga, on your way to your one eternal soul mate. Sometimes they stay in your lives forever, and sometimes they merely pay it a visit.

In my case, there never should have been a search for a soul mate.  All I needed to do was just stop and sit still – the one eternal soul mate is, and always will be the Self, because let’s deal with it; you’re a fucking unicorn, and so am I.

Unicorn

In the Silence

“The silence is your canvas, that’s your frame, that’s what you work on; don’t try and deafen it out.” – Keith Richards

When I was reading Keith Richards’ biography, Life, the sentence above really stood out for me.  For one thing, it was really ironic that someone whose living consisted on making sound would say something like that, and on the other hand, it sounded very “yogic.” Outside of yoga studios, I suppose the understanding of yoga takes on two meanings, either the physical practice which we call asana, or the meditation practice.  Logically, you would think that there is no way that the asana practice could lead to silence.

Originally, I thought the same.  I mean, how could it be any different?  You have this instructor speaking to you through the class, and then you’re moving, and then there’s that infernal dialogue between your brain and your body and your body and your brain and everything that’s trying to happen at the same time and then you put one foot forward, and then the other, and then you’re on in a push up, then a back bend, and that bloody downward dog.  How could there possibly be so much going on at the same time when you’re just balancing on your palms and the balls of your feet? And who has time for silence anyway?

Well, we all should.

I personally had forgotten the importance of silence until last weekend. How? Well, I was hit by the most insane headache, the kind where you just want to throw up to relieve some of the pressure in your head.  It was like a pressure cooker in there, and the only relief I had (being someone who doesn’t take painkillers) was to shut the lights and sit in absolute darkness.

You know what I had done to myself to get into that situation?

Easy answer – overstimulation.

I had forgotten to honour silence.  In trying to do all the stuff I felt I had to do, my senses were constantly being stimulated. Of course for others it might be a legitimate illness, but sometimes, the solution need not be complicated.  In my case, I was pushing it. At any point in time, I was reading or watching television, or both, or reading and listening to music.  Add to that the stuff that just goes on during the day. Even walking up the street, our eyes, ears, sense of smell, sense of touch, sense of taste even sometimes, all of them are going.  And the thing is, whatever we perceive through our senses, the brain automatically process.  Although I meditate about 20 minutes a day, how could that be enough to offset the other stuff.   Through my lifestyle, I was making my brain process a lot more than was necessary at a given time.

What did that do to my nerves? Well, it fried them.

Then on Sunday, the 18th of November, I attended a talk on the effects of bass music and the effects of yoga.  Do you remember those nights? You’re there just riding this beat and you’re dancing like the world meant nothing, and then there’s the silence and your whole body is vibrating in this space of silence.  Inside there is no worry, there is only bliss, in that silence.  Of course, for some (myself included), there were drugs involved, but they weren’t really necessary.  That was a quick step to ecstasy when we are wired to produce these chemicals on our own anyway.  The thing with chemically induced highs is like anything else in extremes, an extreme high will be followed by extremes in the opposite direction.

I am often very guilty of trying to deafen silence out. Most of the time, it’s either because there’s something I don’t want to hear in that silence, or because I have gotten myself into a cycle of ‘busyness’.  But what teachers are trying to teach us in yoga classes is that there is silence and stillness in movement.  When the yoga instructor is coaxing you into these places where your body is trembling and your mind in screaming, the invitation is to find silence there.  When the music is shaking us up like crazy, can we ride it to that place inside which is just silent and still?

There is always silence.  Sometimes though, it takes a bit of work to get there.  Sometimes, we just need to face the ego, the blame, the conscience, the have tos and the musts, and everything in between and just sit.  It is there, in the spaces between our thoughts.

Surrender. Always Surrender.

In about a week, I will be doing this assessment.  I’m one of these people who although I have taken so many assessments in my life always gets freaked out when I have to do another one.  This time, it’s not just the prospect of teaching a class.  It’s the prospect of being watched while I do this.  I imagine my mentors sitting there, scrutinizing everything I say and how I say it, and watching me move and sputter through a class.  Being someone who often gets panic attacks from having to speak in public, this is enough to make me question why I am doing this in the first place.

For the past three months, every class I have gone to, I have been sitting in my head scrutinizing my own alignment, trying to remember where every body part should be and trying to coax my mind into the right direction.  Worse than that, when I am in class, I am listening to how my teachers give instructions, comparing them to how I should be giving instructions. As a result most days have been taken over by the chitta vritti of my mind, just the thing that yoga is meant to silence.

Then there are the other practices I am trying to turn into habits – the netti pot (which is on and off for me), meditation, magnesium, the yamas and niyamas, and journaling everything down, and it seems like there are endless things to do.  Add to those the ongoing projects in my day job and the joys of living in the city where our senses are constantly being assaulted in every way, shape and form.  Instead of being more relaxed, the effect is that I have been working myself into more stress, and possibly adrenal fatigue in the process.

Somewhere along the way, I had forgotten my own practice.

So during a time when I should be practice teaching, I just had to step back and return to the beginning.  The only thing I wanted to do was to be in my corner of the class and just practice.  In a world of doing, amidst all the chaos of thoughts sometimes, it helps to just come back to the the point of origin, to my mat that has known not just sweat but tears as well, and to the silence that is somewhere under all the chaos.

Have you ever felt like you were just stuck in a cycle of doing? It’s often what happens when we are learning.  Every day someone is throwing a new idea at us and we just want to embody that idea as best we can.  It’s not bad. It’s just part of the process in finding what works for us. However, before long, we might find ourselves caught in clutter and living somewhere in our heads.  There is a destination, and all efforts suddenly lead to it.

It’s not just in studies or work.

Sometimes we can get like that in life.  Have you ever been in a relationship where you suddenly felt like time was running out and you had to move on, to get engaged, to get married, and these so called ‘milestones’ take over the whole story. Before long, it becomes more about reaching these milestones than about who we do it with.  Before long it becomes more about the wedding ceremony than being with the loves of our lives.  Then one day we wake up, and wonder how the hell we got here?  If we’re lucky, we have the loves of our lives. Sometimes we’re not and we’ve lost them in our race to a finish line.  Sometimes we get to the finish line and realise that it’s with someone we don’t really want to be with.  In a way, yes, I think things turn out the way they are meant to turn out, but on the other hand, there is merit to being conscious of our actions. Believe me, I was almost at the point of complicated return once.  Turned around just in time.

Yes, sometimes, in that rush to get to a destination, it helps to stop and check in.  What I discovered was that while I was in my head I had stopped embodying my yoga.  My body, tense with stress and anxiety was not very cooperative. It had lost flexibility.  So these past few days, just before I leave for camp, I needed to find my yoga again.  I needed to step back and remember why I was doing this, to stand in the corner of my classes, stop trying so hard and just let the wisdom of my teachers guide me.  And surrender. Always surrender.  Surrender to what is. Surrender to the moment.  For it is in surrender that we find our way.

We live so much in a society of achieving and doing that we forget the magic of surrender.  When we are in one place, our minds are often a few seconds, minutes, hours, days or even centuries in the future.  Yes, I know the brain is important, and so are thoughts, but so is love. And unlike thoughts, ideas and dreams, love is not a destination. It is right here.

So yes, I stopped looking for my yoga in the future or what my brain wanted my poses to look like.  I stopped looking for it in how the instructions were said, and guess what?  It was right there, and I fell in love all over again.  It didn’t matter that I can’t do a handstand on my own, and my crow has days when it won’t fly. It ceased to be about what I could do, and more about what it felt like.  Just like everyone else I have my ups and downs but yoga has been with me through it all. Yoga makes me feel good. The why’s came back to me and it wasn’t complicated.  I didn’t want to be famous, or to have people embody what I said they should.  All I wanted was to offer to others what had been offered to me.  Like my teachers before me, I wanted to provide a safe place where people could come and find themselves under all the clutter.  I would like to hold a mirror up so that my students can someday see the beauty and strength that exists within them.

As Sri K. Patthabi Jois said, “do your yoga, all is coming.”  And it is true.  All is coming.  The future is coming no matter how much you stress about it, and what will come will come in the way it is meant to come.  All we have is now.  And as I practiced, I hoped that I could someday provide this place for others – a safe place for people to slow down their minds enough to reconnect with their bodies and their hearts.  A spot of silence where the past was honoured and the future was right there in that instance.

Love.

Comfort.

Security.

And surrender… Always surrender.

Honouring the Past – The Stories of Our Lives

If you use the Hijr calendar, you would be a very small minority, but you would also know that today is New Year’s Eve according to that calendar.  I live somewhere in the intersection of a few worlds, so I take notice and honour a few calendars.  Of course, on New Year’s Eve according to the Gregorian calendar, just like most of the world (up until this year at that is), I have spent New Year’s Day in a slightly hazy state, if you know what I mean.  The Hijr New Year however, has always been a very quiet affair for me. Apart from the years in primary school when I would be in the Muslim choir group (just to add to confusion, I was also in the Christmas choir group), this time has always been for me, a time of meditation and quiet.

Today as I am contemplating future meditations and the solar eclipse this morning, I am also thinking about the past.  Yes, I know the past is just a memory and all that, but the past, no matter how dark and ominous, is what has brought us here today.  While we know that holding on to the past and the continuously blaming that past for all our screw ups keeps us from moving forward, what about paying homage to the past?

A lot of self-help books, articles and blogs will speak about letting go of the past, that’s true, but I am starting to wonder about society and the rush to run away from the past.  What’s the difference, you ask? Well, letting go denotes acknowledging and respecting, and then releasing while what I see, and indeed have done myself is just to walk away from it, thinking that by doing so, I will be able to release the pain.

I know the world is moving fast and if we don’t move along with it, time won’t wait, and I know that I am not getting younger, but don’t you sometimes think that we move too fast?  The best way to demonstrate this is probably in relationships.  As a person, I am not very patient, so in the past, my style has always been to rush things.  No sooner had one thing ended, I would put myself “out there,” for a fling, a relationship or whatever it was that would come my way.

Somewhere in my mind, I thought that the drunken nights passing out in tears on my pillow blaming God, country and such and such’s mother for producing such was homage enough.  And I suppose for some it was, but the thing with relationships is that each one, no matter how testing, brings us to another place.  It is the same with our jobs, our friendships and even our living arrangements.

The past is a funny thing. Sometimes it can drag you in and you end up staying there for hours.  Sometimes, the feelings invoked are just so hard that it is you who closes the door and walks away.  On days when your world is dark, it acts as your own little reserve of sunshine.  Sometimes you go through it again and again and again wondering what went wrong or what you did wrong, and at other times you see it just as it is, a mere memory. Sometimes we choose to hit the “delete” button on certain parts because there of a love lost, or a friendship gone sour.  It is this big reel of shadow and light.  For some, the past is dull and grey, but for others, the past is a place of vibrant colour.

If we live in the past too much, we cease to move.

Deny it and we never learn.

It is up to us to find that balance.

We move on, as we will, and time moves, as it must, but why not, as we make our resolutions for the future, take a moment to honour the past, not just the good and pleasant, but also the shadows and dark places.

What good is a story without the contrast of day and night.

Without the night, how would we appreciate the day as we do?

Without the chill how would we appreciate the heat as we do?

Every past is part shadow and part light, just like we are, and tomorrow, today too will be part of the past.

So tonight, perhaps honour both the shadow and the light in equal parts, breathe it in, and then exhale and instead of forcing ourselves to let go, perhaps it’s best to just let it be.

Living THE Dream

Some of you might have read the last post on beginnings and cultivating the beginner’s mind: https://azphoenix.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/always-at-the-beginning/.   Well after last weekend and completing my written Teacher Training assignment, I have been thinking a lot about, THE DREAM.  You know this one. You might have had it since you were 5, or since you were a teenager or since you joined the workforce.  It’s the story you’ve had in your head filled with all the musts, shoulds and should nots.  It’s the one that keeps playing even when you are awake, keeping you from being conscious.

I am with you on this one as I am one of those lucky people who was brought up believing in THE DREAM.  In this dream, I was meant to have it ‘all’. This particular all included a job in upper management, owning things including a house and a car, a household with a husband and a couple of kids by the age of 35.  For most of my life, I believed in this dream.  I knew no other way, and worked towards the target of getting ‘there’.  Of course, if you know me now, you would know that apart from the Masters and the very brief engagement, I never really got there.  Some would say I got waylaid and will get there eventually, and others will say I lack the conviction to follow the dream.  I will say that there’s been a change in plans.

Am I the only one who was brought up with some version of THE DREAM? Perhaps not.  Some of us get it from the media, believing that living like George Clooney, Kate Middleton or Charlie Sheen is the dream.  Some of us get it from our parents and society.  When a child is born, parents would naturally have hopes for it.  Sometimes the hopes have a bit of leeway, and it comes down to how happy the child becomes as an adult.  For others though, these hopes have become road maps for them. The sad thing is, like me, some of us go through a substantial amount of life believing that THE DREAM as we have been told it should be is the be all and end all of life.

In my last life, I worked in the backpacker industry.  Historically, this culture of taking time to travel before going home as ‘adults,’ dates back to the Renaissance.  Way back then, it was a time when apart from the playing around, would be exposed to culture including art, music, good food and living on their own. Back then this rite of passage was limited to upper class boys, who would go on these trips before returning as “worldly” gentlemen ready to take on the family business, go into politics and what not. These kids would definitely be part of the 1%.  However, without thinking of the purpose, the gap year can very easily become just something to do, without a real appreciation of the value of it.  It’s very easy to go off, get drunk for a time, and come back to live the rest of this prescribed dream.

There’s a lot of hype placed on having the five year plan, and the two year plan and the six month plan. If you’re Mr. or Ms. Driven, you’ll have one of these, and sometimes, you’ll just push forward with these plans, only to come up with more plans and targets once you’ve reached the first goal. In my life, I have known some very driven people, and of course, way back when, I was one of those people myself, pointy heels, hurried walk, heavy makeup and all.  If you walked behind me, you would be breathing in a trail of cigarette smoke.  I’m sure you know someone like that, or maybe you’re like that yourself – the kind of person who has a ‘should’ for everything, the way you should dress, the car you should drive, the job you should have, the kind of person you should date, the place you should live… it’s endless, these shoulds.  Apart from the shoulds you already have, there are the shoulds that come from the organisation you work for, and you prescribe to these shoulds to because if you don’t then your career heads nowhere.

For me, I should have had a Masters, a good job and a stable relationship by the time I was 30.

As it turned out, my 30th year was absolutely fucking horrendous! Saturn has been taking it’s time to return for me, and some days I wonder if my parents knocked two years off my age as I’m 32 and shits still happening. But the truth is, no matter how fucked up, the last two years have been the most eye opening of my life.  A couple of years ago, I was well on track to living THE DREAM, but when I think back to all the addictions I suffered, my awful eating habits and disgraceful sleep patterns, I realise that something must have been missing.  I pretended to be happy, but I was also very judgmental of people and when someone looked happy and relaxed a part of me resented it.  Emotionally, physically and mentally, I was fucked up, so don’t even think of my spiritual state.  (I’m still not 100% now, but hey, who is?)

The thing is, perhaps like you do, I had this story in my head of THE DREAM, but it took broken dreams for me to realise that what I should have been doing instead was working on MY DREAM.  Sometimes, you just have to allow space for a change in direction and a change in the big picture.

It’s very easy to get into a story of how it should be sometimes, but perhaps, it’s time to stop and look at the story.  Is this your story or someone else’s?  Are you living YOUR DREAM, or are you just living THE DREAM?  In my case, I have a long way to go, and a lot of nasal cleaning (inside joke) to do before I get to live MY DREAM, but I’m grateful that the last couple of fucked up years, and especially the last seven months have allowed me to start thinking about what MY DREAMS could be.

And again, it’s all about possibility.

Always at the Beginning

When my yoga instructors first introduced me to the concept of ‘the beginner’s mind,’ I thought it was a load of crap.  I mean, if you have to start from the beginning every time, how are you supposed to get anywhere? Most importantly, how was I supposed to know as much as I wanted to know if I had to start from the beginning of the book every time.  We only have so many hours in a day after all. It’s like walking from Sydney to London, and having to start from Sydney every time you make a stop.  When would you ever get there?

Then last week, I was attacked by a case of food poisoning.  That, coupled with 12 hour working days, seriously did me in.  And then of course, a couple of days after I got back to Sydney, thinking that I had made up for my sleep deprivation and dehydration, and that my internals were healed, I went into a progressive yoga class.  In my mind, I had spent reasonable hours in yoga classes and would be fine.

My body however, was saying something else.

But there I was anyway, jumping into class with a mind that thought that I could do everything.  The result, was sweaty and dire.  I found out that over a week, my muscles had weakened.  You see, my body was taking a beginner’s stance but my mind, with the aid of my ego (or in Sufi terms, nafs) was not having it.  At first I was in a state of physical struggle because my mind was saying, “you know this pose, you can go deeper. You did it last week!” while my body was going, “shut up, this is not working for me today!”  In this struggle I was not paying attention to my breath, therefore putting myself into the ever amazing ‘fight or flight’ mode.  The more annoyed I got, the faster my breath, and the more wobbly my poses got.  Once I took note of what I was doing and concentrated on my breath my poses lessened in depth. And then it was the two voices in my head arguing about what my body was going to do – Muz was probably right when he said that to some degree we are all schizophrenic.

People wonder how I have been practicing yoga for three years and I fall more in love with it every year.  In a power vinyasa flow, yes the sequence of the practice changes but in Bikram it is the same 26 poses in every class, and you see people doing the same thing four or five times a week for tens of years without getting bored.  Part of this awesome-ness, I think is attributed to the cultivation of the beginner’s mind.  We are taught to see every breath as a starting point, and every pose like it is new to us.  We are trained to not make assumptions about our bodies based on yesterday or even five minutes ago, instead focusing on right now.

If you watch a truly experienced yogi, they know what their bodies need in that instance. You might see them break it out in full jump-backs and upward facing dogs and just like that switch to modifications, and almost just as quickly switch back to crazy poses.  They can preserve energy and maintain a generally steady heart-rate throughout an entire 90 minute class.  The beginner’s mind for them, works in every instance.  They have learned to discipline their egos, and have a wonderful ongoing dialogue with their bodies.  When they fall out of poses they start from their beginning, ensuring that their foundation is strong before they move on.  When they get into strong poses, it is with compassion and communication instead of pushing, struggling and panting.

A few months ago, I read Keith Richard’s biography, Life.  In it there was an account of how Keith relates to his instrument.  He would be playing and sometimes he would stop, hold his guitar up and look at it in wonder, like he had never seen it before.  It was through this beginner’s mindset that he keeps seeing new possibilities, and that has made him one of the best guitarists, in my book at least.

We have a lot of stimulation nowadays, and somewhere in our minds we have the assumption that new is good, and we just want to move away from the beginning.  People don’t say it but some relationships fail because people get bored.  They expect their partners to keep things interesting, but can you imagine what it would be like if you looked at your partner with beginner’s eyes every day?  Can you imagine what it would be like if every time you made love it was not based on the assumption of “oh he/she liked this yesterday and therefore they would like it today?” Can you imagine if every kiss and every touch was like the first?

What if every project you were meant to do, you came at it like it was the first time you were doing a project?  What if you looked at the tree in your backyard like you’d never seen it before?  What if every time you stepped on grass or sand, you savoured how it felt on your feet like it was completely new to you?  Have you ever watch a child play with its own foot like it was the most amazing thing ever?  Isn’t it fascinating?

At the Disaster Management conference I ran late last month, they said one of our failings it that we plan all upcoming disasters on the last one. The thing is, that’s how our brains work on everything.  We have all these assumptions and past experiences that we rely on and before you know it, based on one experience, you’re saying things like, “this always happens to me,” and, “you always do this!” Well, once is not always. Once was just once.

We have become a society where think that new equals exciting, and old equals boring so we buy new toys, get new cars, and jump in and out of relationships – just another way of how we look for validation externally.  At the end of it, the new get old and we look for other new things, never knowing contentedness.  We assume we know all there is to know about things and off we go looking for something new.

And what’s this fascination with reaching the end?  We start new relationships where the old ones left off, and we start a job like we already know all there is to know about it.  We hire people who sound like they know everything, when what they know is based on their past organisation and might not work with ours. When you read fairy tales, the big white wedding is “the end,” but what would happen if we started seeing everything as the beginning?

The end of your single life is the beginning of your life together. Likewise the ending of a relationship is the beginning of your journey towards finding yourself. In a yoga pose, every instance is the beginning of getting to know where your breath is, how your body is feeling, where your thoughts are going.

Yes life moves, as it will, and every day we are getting older.  Our fear of the end makes us cling to our mortality and live in fear of death, but what if death is the beginning of something else? It’s only how we look at things, and when I look at death as another beginning, it seems to me that every instance, no matter what stage in life we are at, we are always at the beginning…. and at the beginning is where there is possibility, and magic.  So for the sake of possibility maybe, just maybe, it’s time to start celebrating the things we don’t know instead of the things we do know.