Just Dance – Life is Well Enough as it is

When I went to yoga teacher school, part of the process was self-study. In fact the niyamas, part of the eight limbs of yoga includes the practice of svadhyaya which is a study of your inner realm. Yoga, after all is more than a physical practice. It is the life long practice of looking at yourself, finding your issues and working on them in the quest to becoming an enlightened being. With practice and time, the layers are peeled back to find our atma or higher self.

 

Now, as a teacher, I find myself in constant self-study and to add to it, I am surrounded by healers. It is great in a way, but in another, not so much. You see healers can sometimes see problems everywhere. There is always something that deserves a deeper look at, always something that needs to be fixed. Sometimes, it can go too far, like a person who enrols you in dance classes in a style you hate because you can’t get your steps in time with everyone else. It creates pressure and you end up resenting the dance even more. The thing too is that healers can be broken, and sometimes, in not wanting to be broken alone, there is projection, making their stories the stories of others, but it is not the case. It is never the same.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, and one of the things I decided in my 30s was that I would only surround myself with people I actually like, but some days, I grow wary of the digging. Being female, I am good enough at breaking myself down so having an army of people turning every action or non-action into an issue doesn’t really help matters. Sometimes all the digging is a bit like reading those useless ‘how to’ articles in female magazines, you know the ones, ‘how to meet prince charming,’ ‘how to live an awesome life,’ and ‘how to make a man love you,’ etc. If you actually just put the articles down, you might realise that your life is pretty awesome and that you are, in fact a shining star.  All these things that are there to ‘help’ sometimes just creates is this sense of not being enough or not doing enough.

 

The thing is, not everything needs to become an issue and every issue should definitely not be made into an excuse. We all carry scars from our childhoods and our youths. In their own way, they not only shape who we are but have also brought us to this space here and now. My heart carries the scratches and bruises of being my father’s daughter and the unhealthy relationships I have had in my life, with self, with people, with addictions. My heart might always wear these scars and perhaps, although she may never fully heal, it is fine, she can move forward and with time, she will get where she’s going.

 

All this poking and prodding and digging, how much does it really help? The emotional body is not quite like the physical body. My right hip flexor is sore and that can directly be traced back to my torn hamstring and how I compensated for that by doing things differently. The emotional things however, the deeper things, well, perhaps they are fine as they are. Perhaps, although there is a deeper story it is not for us to know yet. I am tired of how my being single becomes a dissection of how I am either not manifesting, setting intentions, putting it our there or the opposite, putting it out there too much. I am tired of how caring for someone means that I am not taking care of myself while they get what they want.

 

Life and yoga to me, is this great amazing dance. You dance on your own, figuring out your own steps, you dance in a group, finding ways of how that works and you dance with a single other at different times, in different ways, friend, sister, lover. You can help someone if they’re dancing with an injured foot, but who are we to say that people are not dancing the right way or to question their steps.

 

You might see two people dancing at opposite ends of the room with this amazing chemistry between them – she with just the right amount of softness to compliment his strength. Occasionally they dance close to each other but they move away again. Sometimes you just want to make them dance together, and when they don’t you start handing them pamphlets of dance schools that can help. I’ve learned that some dances, like the dance I dance when I’m alone, are not made to be shared. They are my steps to my tune. It is the same with a dance between two people. They each come to it with their own breaths, steps, backgrounds, rhythms and sometimes, it takes time to figure out how to dance together. They lose count, step on each other’s toes (sometimes on purpose) and they might even drop each other, but nothing is broken, nothing needs to be fixed. It is their own dance, to dance for themselves, not for you. And if you are the dancer on the floor, this is your dance, not for the world.

 

Life is a process.

 

Yes, we want to get there, wherever there is. We want that perfect handstand, we want to be loved, and we have so much love to give, but some things, the good things, no matter how you dissect or tear apart, you just can’t rush. Perhaps, there is nothing wrong with being fine with how things are not exactly how you want them to be. Perhaps, not liking having my feet of the ground is not some big character flaw that I have to fix and perhaps giving love not knowing if it is returned is not something that means I’ll spend my life pining while the ones loved just take.

 

There are always a million things that can be wrong, that can be fixed, but there comes a time when everything is just fine the way it is. Les Leventhal reminded me that a flower opens when it is time. If you pull the petals open, they break. It is the same with most things – your body in practice, your life in its journey and your heart. When it is time, nothing you can do can stop what is going to happen from happening.

 

So relax.

 

Live, love, cry, break.

 

Listen to the music and dance. This track might be shit but the next track might be fucking awesome.  What you do at that exact time is always the right thing, and if you decide that you want to change your dance, slow it down, take a partner, change the pace – there is always space for that too. Remember that in a dance, there is that strength, but also that ultimate surrender to the music. Most of the time, you don’t really know what music is going to start playing.

 

 

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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.

New-Moon

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

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

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 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.

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.