You have rekindled this fire inside me
And now I am burning, BURNING!So much so
That if I stepped into a stream,
The waters would carry this fire.
And all the oceans in the world
Would be set
With this mad passion.
You have rekindled this fire inside me
And now I am burning, BURNING!So much so
That if I stepped into a stream,
The waters would carry this fire.
And all the oceans in the world
Would be set
With this mad passion.
In 2012, a few months before I went into my first 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training, I made a radical decision. I decided that for a year, I would observe Brahmacharya. Named for the state of searching for the ‘Great One, Supreme Reality, or Self,’ Brahmacharya is one of the five Yamas according to Yogic texts. In Vedic traditions in refers to the state of celibacy one chooses during the life stage of being an unmarried student and fidelity when married. In modern times, it is better known as a state of being sexually responsible. In Hindu and Buddhist traditions, Monks practice Brahmacharya their whole lives as it is considered necessary for their spiritual practice.
It wasn’t a decision that required a lot of consideration on my end. I loved the sound of the word, ‘Bharmacharya,’ and something about doing it felt completely right. I chose the more strict sense of the word, not only refraining from the sexual act, but also anything that could lead to it including kissing, extreme alcohol consumption and situations where I am alone with a man I am attracted to in a private setting.
As soon as I had decided on it, it was like I had donned a veil that made me sexually invisible. There was a sense of liberation in being able to let it go and practice my Yoga, learn my texts and most of all, learn more about myself. Once I had taken the whole dynamic out of the picture, I found a lot of freedom. I learned to walk in my own skin without trying to gather the attention or to please a dominant male figure.
A lot came up in that time but once the year was up, and as I was ready to lift the veil, my beloved father passed away. Now that opened up a whole other can of worms and Brahmacharya was extended. The relationship between a daughter and a father is always something pretty amazing. My father, no matter what he did was my hero. Whenever he was in a room, his was the only presence that mattered to me. We had our ups and downs of course. When we disagreed there were so many strong emotions running around that the charge was palpable. It was the love that was also the double-edged sword. When he hurt me, I would lash out as strongly but the love was so deep that when I hurt him, it was akin to taking a knife to my own heart.
My father was a bit of a narcissist in that he never saw how his actions hurt the people who loved him. Growing up I was used to him getting distracted either with a new relationship, a new love interest or a new work venture and he would disappear during those times. Those were the days when he didn’t return my calls, or was simply not available. Then when the thing that had his interest for the moment went to shits or he got bored of it, he would be back and I would welcome him. It hurt like hell but I was young not to see the cruelty and selfishness in it so it became the norm.
When he passed, the patterns that I had carried on from my relationship with him to my relationship with other men came to light. Of course, I never loved anyone quite as strongly. How could you love an employer, friend or lover as much as you love your own father? Not even close. But I did notice that in my relationships with men, I had been willing to accept a degree of cruelty. I’m not saying that the men in my life have been cruel, not all of them anyway, but there have been acts of cruelty that I had previously quickly forgiven and even sometimes apologised for. In doing so, I had been cruel to myself and reaffirming the belief that I was not worthy and therefore it was my responsibility to hold things together. That was a pretty big one to see and a bigger one to disprove. Thanks goodness for the friends who see your light even when you can’t.
There is something to be said for not being in a romantic relationship and seeing these patterns. I haven’t been a monk where emotions are concerned. Of course, I’ve had crushes and emotional interests but the commitment to my practice has held me from getting into going forward with a relationship. I had nothing to lose. I’d spent my entire twenties almost continuously in long-term relationships. The thing is, when you are in one, you’re so caught up in the highs and lows of it that you can’t step back and say, ‘wait a minute, here’s that behaviour that I am repeating.’ I’m not saying the change is immediate but like with everything else, you have to notice the pattern to change how you act to it. That has been my greatest lesson.
I have many lessons to learn, I’m sure, but it has been three years and eight months since I committed to a state of learning these lessons on my own. This has in a way become a crutch to save myself from complications and the possibility of pain, but what is life without some complication. It might be time to opening myself to lessons that involve another dynamic now.
In about two weeks, I enter into my second 200 Yoga Teacher Training. The main teacher, the amazing Shiva Rea is a true Tantrist. This time instead of slow assimilation to practice, it will be a month away in an insulated situation, but once the month is done, I think it is time I consciously lift the veil of Brahmacharya that I’ve been wearing all this time.
To victory in facing fears, taking risks and standing in the discomfort of the fire until change is ready to happen. Jai!
Thirteen years ago I stumbled into my very first yoga practice. It was at my local gym in Malaysia where the room was air-conditioned to be almost freezing and the teacher was jumping from one pose to another. In my second class with her, she got us to do drop-backs with a wall. The next day, my lower back felt really tweaky and uncomfortable. Needless to say, I never went back to her and resigned myself to the gym.
I am of the hyper mobile, super flexible variety of human being, whose primary physical activity in my youth started with dancing and cheerleading. I have sprained my left ankle about four times, my right one three times and have a dodgy right knee. Anyone who performs or does competitive sports would know that the nature is, if it’s in season and you get injured, you keep going. As a result my left leg is still prone to injury and my right knee has days of protest. It didn’t get easier as I got older. By my late twenties, I had a pretty back lower back and my right shoulder was pretty mangled.
Then someone suggested I try yoga. Due to my fear of chiropractors, physiotherapists and doctors in general, I gave it a go. It was a bit of a shop around to find something I could stick with. I tried Bikram, and although I loved the heat, hyper-extending legs did not work with my ankles and knee. Not only that, my fiery personality seemed to get even more so, which really doesn’t bode well when work requires you to interact with people a lot.
It was only by chance that I looked on Google and found a different studio near where I worked. It started with an Introductory Pass, which at the time was $25 for two weeks. It blew my mind! There was still the element of heat but being told not to hyper-extend anything made everything about a hundred times harder. I would go into this place with carpet that smelled horrible and big classes, and by the end of the classes I wouldn’t know which way was up and which was down. Shavasana came as a relief. By the end of two weeks, I was hooked.
This was Vinyasa.
It was in no way easy and every time I got one move down there was something else to learn. Then there were these teachers who would give me the shits by asking me to get out of ‘my spot,’ and on occasion move me to the front. Sometimes I would even cry in class. For the first time in ages though, my body felt good. I loved that no two classes and no two teachers were the same. There was personality in the practice. There was heart.
At first I practiced like a mad woman. The harder and hotter the class, the more chaturangas, the more I would push myself through it. What happens however, is when you get tired you lose form. I was tired in every way possible and one of the teachers sat me down and told me to take a break.
So I did, and went to do a week of Iyengar.
It was hellish! Sitting still was not my forte and I got really impatient with all the props involved. I would get into a pose and fidget like someone coming off hard drugs, but the precision of Iyengar is amazing! After a week my back felt fabulous and I went back to Vinyasa with all the new alignment points I’d learned.
Then three years ago something called me to do my first 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training. All I wanted to do was know more about this practice but the seven months of training were priceless and surprisingly, I came out wanting to teach. In December 2012 I finished Teacher Training, in January 2013 my father passed away and by February I had boxed my high heels and left the corporate world.
On the 12th of April 2013 (my 33rd birthday), I taught my first Community Class in BodyMindLife. Two years later, I am still there.
It was in no way the ending of a journey, but a beginning. In a world of blond, 6’ handstanding vegan yoginis who like kale smoothies I am most definitely different. Being more mobile than strong means that arm balances come very slow and one moment of not being aware means an injury. Flexibility is a great thing, but needs to be balanced with strength. My continuous work is in not going all the way into bendy poses just because I can and not to practice injured as it brings about other injuries. It is a lesson I seem to have to keep learning again and again. As I type this, I am recovering from two displaced ribs, and a hamstring and a wrist injury. Note, trying to lift a scooter is probably a bad idea on any day. After all my resistance, I am working a physio and have magically found the most amazing CrossFit coaches at CrossFit Black to help my strength conditioning.
Yet yoga continues to be my first love and as I teach and learn, I’ve discovered that yoga is not just asana. My practice has changed through the years. I still love those hot sweaty classes with 50 students breathing together, but I also love waking up in the morning and losing myself in an hour of ground based, deep Yin. Just about a year ago, I started meditating and even within that it keeps changing.
This practice has taught me compassion and love, and being peaceful in joy and sorrow. It has taught me acceptance and that it is OK to not be strong all the time. It has taught me that drama is just a distraction and a good life can be lead without the fluff. It has taught me that the tendencies I have on the mat are often the same ones I have in my daily life. It has taught me that things end but that doesn’t mean you discount what happened, and that new beginnings happen. We are ever changing beings and more than learning poses or how to sit still, we are constantly learning about ourselves. Within this practice I have found family, community and connection, and the realisation that between the blacks and whites of wrong and right, there are they greys of the in between.
I’ve realised now that it doesn’t need to be any one way. Some days you need that practice that challenges you physically and other days you just need to do the simple stuff and reconnect with your breath. Some days practice is easy and without resistance, and other days you go in with all this stuff and practice is a nightmare. Some days you go into practice and you’re laughing all the way and other days, you are a ball of sweat and tears at the end of the practice. But you don’t have to be any one way to practice, not a certain body type, or weight or age. You come as yourself on that day, in that moment and whatever you do is perfect.
More than the teacher, my practice is based on how I am on that given day.
And this in itself has been a journey. It is discovering that yoga is not one thing. I’ve had the privilege of learning and practicing with some of the best teachers in Australia and Internationally, and at the end of it, yoga is a journey of self-discovery. You learn from the different teachers but the magic is in finding your yoga. As a teacher I have learned that what I do and what I offer might vary. It is not my place to tell students about their practices, bodies or beliefs but to share what I know so they can explore. All we can do is try as much as we can to meet students where they are and move with them to wherever we can go together.
I still believe that there is magic in the practice and it is still my first love, but the journey continues and is ever evolving. As I teach, I am also learning and as students are learning in my classes, they are also teaching me. I am ever grateful to my teachers and to the students who light up my classes, and most of all my community for being there. I’m hoping that my learning never ends.
Next stop, Prana Flow in Greece, June 2015.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept of ‘home’. Now my understanding of this concept is about the same as my understanding of motherhood. It is a mental understanding, but emotionally, there is so much mystery and ambiguity. My mother is so certain of her home. She is certain of where she comes from, where she belongs and where she will end up. Growing up, she used to tell me that I should feel such and such a way towards a place, a country etc., and yet, at 34 although I know my history, culture, where I came from, I am still unsure of what home is.
I’m certain I that I am not the only one who feels this way.
Perhaps this is the plight of children whose homes were broken early on in life or whose parents moved around through the early years. You are barely able to land before being uprooted again, a new adventure, a new journey and new people coming in and out of your life. Comfort zones get shifted so much that when you grow up, you don’t quite know where it is. Connections are built and then shortly thereafter they are lost in the ether. It gets a bit easier but you wonder if it is because you have grown quite desensitised or if it because you just don’t have the courage to let your connections get as deep as they used to.
Perhaps, there is a fear that if you let yourself land, the earth will again be ripped out from under you and you are free falling through nothingness.
But does that mean that you never want to stay?
Does that mean that you have not the desire to ground down and know that you are safe, that you never have to go anywhere else again?
Perhaps to stay is what you want, but you have become so used to not having that comfort zone that it somehow has become your comfort zone. To stay, to trust, to come up against barriers but to wait it out and keep moving in one direction instead of changing course has somehow for you become the uncomfortable.
At some point if you’re lucky, reality hits. Something prompts you to sit down with yourself and look, really look at where you are and what you want in your life. The decision needs to be made to stay or go.
Starting over is always an option but to what end?
But to stay?
To let people into your life again?
To open your home to friends and allow them to become family?
To open your heart to another person and in extension their family, friends, culture, history? Trying to navigate two lives, two personalities.
Oh how terrifying!
In the end though, it comes down to a decision.
You, the rootless wanderer, do you dare put your roots down and let them grow?
Can you commit to your practice knowing that in time your views, your body, your limitations will change and truths will be uncovered that might not be so easy to digest. Could you jump into the ether of meditation knowing that it gets deeper and deeper. Are you brave enough to say ‘yes’ to something two months, six months or a year in advance as a way of saying to someone, ‘I want you to still be in my life in that time.’ Can you stay with a job as the responsibilities increase and you become more of who you were meant to be. Could you possibly be with a person, going forward, hitting a barrier, waiting it out and then going forward a bit more, to hit another barrier again, your patience tested to the limit but your heart given the chance to slowly expand.
Perhaps this is your version of transformation to fire. A situation so scary you just want to close your eyes, your soul, your life again, but you know who you are. The reason it was so hard to commit was because you knew that once you did, you would give it everything that you had.
Through fear, so you committed.
So here you are.
Giving it everything you have, everything you are, risking your heart, your soul and the only life you have ever known.
Open and vulnerable, you just put your feet down finally and let yourself land in the unknown.
And perhaps, that is the only way to know ‘home’.
Last week, a friend and I were chatting and we got into the topic of ‘just knowing’ that the person you were with was the one you were going to significantly be with. Both of us wondered how people ‘just knew.’ Also, how do you know the other person got the memo? There are, after all, two people in a relationship.
And once you both know, can your past or the stuff that happened with your parents influence you into not knowing?
Almost fifteen years ago (was it that long ago?), I thought I knew. I, we, were both so confident in the fact that we would be together that we spoke of marriage, children, where we would live etc. I was so sure that I failed to see how his dreams and mine just didn’t align. In fact, I was so sure that I didn’t even make my own dreams.
We were so young that we didn’t even know ourselves, so how could we possibly know we wanted to be with each other? When I started to explore my dreams, I realised that trying to be the person who fit into his dreams would be the end of me.
Then about seven years ago, it happened again.
This time though, it was more that I really wanted to know. Perhaps we both did in a way. We worked the social scene well, but he never really met any of my friends. Because I was the nomad and wasn’t fully rooted here, I was just sort of absorbed into his social life. There was a lot about the friends and family that I loved, but in a way, I wonder if I distracted myself into this elusive ‘knowing’. At some point, you have to wonder about not being able to have a meal together without the television on or just being able to do simple things together, like go for a walk in the sun, or go to the beach, things that require you to actually be together.
Maybe it is a personality thing.
I’m such a sucker for love stories it’s quite worrying. In my travels I have friends who met their current partners when they were 19 or even younger than that. Somehow, they knew then and they know now. Something about their knowing allowed them the space to explore their dreams with the comfort of having a place to land in the end. Then I’ve met people who know within the first few meetings. Then I’ve also met people who don’t worry about knowing for sure and just go with it. And yet I also know people who might know but will analyse and second-guess themselves into not knowing.
Is it the curse of the thinker to never find this kind of knowing? – The kind that comes from deep wisdom and intuition instead of the head.
Or is it such that when the time comes, your heart will just know and your head will shut the fuck up?
Perhaps you can’t know until you truly know yourself and embrace the parts that you keep hidden from the world. Until then perhaps you will date the job title, the big car, the physically attractive person who will look good together walking hand in hand and at social events. It is perhaps not until you know the loneliness of that of relationship that you understand that perfection might not be perfect.
It is all an exploration isn’t it?
This knowing is such a mystery.
I don’t know how to know but I know that I can’t start to know until we can see each other without the glitz and the glamour (in my world, it includes being sweaty, smelly and occasionally teary and snotty as well). We can’t know until we can laugh with (and at) each other, fall over, make really bad jokes, go through conflict and recover, be in silence together, know how to tease each other, have conversations and walk, just walk without having to do.
We can’t know until we can just be together – you and me. No candles or flowers, no sweeping off feet (definitely no sweeping off the feet), no social spotlight, just us being apart of each others’ unglamourous and sometimes even mundane and uninteresting lives.
Will I ever ‘just know’?
Perhaps I did.
But perhaps really knowing is over rated.
Perhaps it is just knowing enough, letting go of perfection and expectation, and then taking a leap of faith with the rest. Perhaps it is a degree of surrender and a lot of trust. What is life after all without taking some leaps and what value is love if there is no risk involved? And what can we know until we know?
My best friend from high school just got engaged.
It is an amazing thing as they’ve been together for about 15 years now. Suddenly, I am one of the last ones in our group of friends who is single. I suppose, since I am making no active effort to change that situation, I can’t say that I am unhappy. It’s not that I can’t ‘do’ relationships. Like everyone else, I have things that I am particular about and some things that I am really relaxed about, and relationships after all, are learning to adjust with things like that.
The thing I can’t ‘do’ is dating.
It is a treacherous and ridiculous thing. My environment is made out of 80% females. Cut out the gay males and you’ll have about 5% – 7% straight males. Discount the ones who are either taken or in this job for the girls, and you’re left with about 1.7% of the population. Add to that the fact that I’m at work most of the time, I’m not your stereotypical yoga girl and that dating students is a self-imposed no-no (there’s this thing called ethics and I’d rather avoid going down the messy road of studating), it leaves me about a one in a million chance when hell freezes over.
Going out of the circle is even more insane.
The dating world in Sydney, like the corporate world and the rental market is in a word – fucked.
You are either there to fuck or you’re fucked over.
The corporate world ripped me to shreds and the dating world is just as treacherous. There is a certain aggression to things, a certain rush, wanting to ‘seal the deal’ and yet even on the first date, most people already have one foot out the door in case something better comes along. It is bright lights and lots of promise but strip it bare and there is nothing.
According to the newspapers, rent in Sydney is really high because there are more renters than there is good property. The newspapers also say that it is the same about men. There are a limited number of men and a lot of women. Again, exclude gay men, the unemployed men and the men who are under 35, and what’s left? Online you say? I think I’ve addressed that one here: https://azphoenix.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/online-dating-just-not-my-thing/
It could just be my thing. A lot of people like dating but even when I was younger, I never enjoyed it. And I’ve never once in my life been capable of having a few men on the go at the same time until I could decide on the ‘best’ one.
I quite like leading a drama free life. It gives me space to be available for everyone else when they have dramas.
As a teenager, what I really wanted was to fall in love once in my life. It would be someone I knew as a friend and he would know me as a friend, innocently and like the quote by Ann Landers, my love would be friendship caught fire. Oh young innocence.
There were some wee issues here. First, I am straight girl who went to a Catholic all girls’ school and secondly, my best friend was a female. Now she’s engaged so that’s definitely not happening.
So I’ve often ended up dating men I am stupidly attracted to. My nature is that I never get into anything unless I’m going to give it my best shot, so once I’m in, I’m in… When I say stupid, I mean totally brainless. I am often on cloud 9 until three years later when I crash. Often times I don’t even realise that I’m the only one holding the relationship up until I’m exhausted. It’s like a long jump out of a plane, without a parachute into a forest fire.
The problem with going out with someone you’re electrically attracted to is that you are trying to impress, and when you get into a relationship, the initial veneer kind of chips off. On my end, men are often attracted to me because I seem easy going and carefree. Underneath it all, I am a control freak and I quite like quiet nights. They expect me to be this ‘entertaining’ and ‘happy’ little minx all the time and when I’m not, they are highly disappointed. I on the other hand, am attracted to big buff footie player types and end up disillusioned because he’d rather smoke pot and drink than go for a walk.
Things get hard, and with both my long-term relationships, I found that we didn’t have the underlying friendship to help us through when they did. Now I look back and realise that had I not dated them, we would not have even really been friends.
Oh who knows with this stuff really. And who knows what might come. Anything is possible in this world. Maybe by some miracle, without actually having to brave the murky torrents of any dating scene, it’ll just ‘happen’. I don’t know how. Somehow. You’ll just have to believe that magic is possible sometimes. Or perhaps my life will take on a different path. Perhaps I’ll adopt a child or have one on my own.
All I know is that if I don’t want to date, the world won’t end.
There’s a whole full life ahead.
“Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.”
Almost 8 years ago I did something crazy.
I quit my job, broke up my engagement and moved to Sydney, Australia. To this day, I maintain that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. You see the first time I came over was in 2000. I absolutely did not like most of the people I had come with. But there were days and moments when I was either wandering alone or could pretend they didn’t exist that something about this place took root. It was the city, it was the beach, it was being surrounded by water.
It could have been anything.
It was falling in love and not being able to pinpoint exactly what made it happen.
I would have stayed but I had a story to go through in Malaysia. There was University, which I was half way through, and I the conversations that had started with my ex fiancé still had to be completed. So I saw that through.
Three months after my engagement ended, heart in shreds I left.
Moving to a new city is never easy but people do it all the time. Some people do it with family, some with friends and others following their partners. I could have gone to the UK or where I have family or went to Melbourne or Perth, where there is a larger community of Malaysians, but for some reason, none of those options occurred to me at the time.
It made it tougher, but it was the right choice.
Being on your own after always having family and being surrounded by friends who had known you for years is never easy. It is a whole new way of being, a whole new way of living and a way of learning who you are independent of all these things. My father was one of those people who didn’t really exist without an audience. He always needed someone to be on show for and I was cautious of becoming that so of course, I did this. Don’t even get me started on how the actions of one’s parents can affect the course of one’s life. It’s great as long as you can stop and take note of it.
2006 through to 2008 were fully experimental. At a young age, I was in a committed relationship so most of my partying was done within the context of that. We didn’t drink much due to my health issues but there was the pot (which my ex loved) and the E (which was more my thing). Can’t drink but drugs are ok? Only in your early twenties can you operate with such logic. Side note, this is all in the past. I teach yoga and do not condone the use of drugs.
As a Masters’ student, you only have classes three days a week, spend some time in the library, write a lot and socialise even more. I was so lucky in my group of friends. I think I always have been. They were truly good people. Together we learned this city, not just the touristy bits, although we did wear out the floors at Bungalow 8, Cargo and the Argyle quite a bit. We also learned the little nooks, the quiet corners and the beautiful graffiti on the backstreets.
Then we finished school, my friends left, I got a job and relearned this city again.
My friends in University were made up of people who could afford to study here and pay rent. The people I met at work mostly came as backpackers. With them another part of the city opened up to me, the part of people who came without attachment and were ready to fully embrace the decadent and crazy. Somewhere in that craziness I fell in love for the second time in my life and he showed me the city through his eyes. It was the places where he had gone since he was young, the family and the new and foreign culture. For three years I was totally involved.
Then that ended. Funnily enough, in a way, that relationship closed a circle of rebounds that started after I ended my engagement. It was awful and it was amazing and then I had to relearn life again.
So most of my friends had left and then I got so absorbed into his family and friends, and once it ended, it was like I had started life here all over again. It was the only time I thought I might leave for good. My visa at the time was in the air. In my stubbornness, I didn’t even consider being sponsored by an employer as I’d never met one I wanted to stay with that long and I didn’t want a partner visa. At that point, I had to know that if I was staying it was because I was meant to be here. If I was the job would come and if I was meant to fall in love, it too would happen after that.
Turns out I was meant to stay. After seven years, my residency was granted.
This place in a strange way has my heart. I love the different pockets of society and how people are so different from one place to another. Good coffee is so easy to find and even in the rush, there is always someone taking it slow at a coffee shop, watching the world go by. There are parts that are dark and angry, and then you take the train across the bridge and the sight of it takes your breath away. You look out from Waverley Cemetery and see this beautiful vast ocean.
Two nights ago, I walked through the city from Circular Quey to Darling Harbour. It’s crazy how you can be completely invisible and yet still feel like you are a part of something. Occasionally someone will walk with you for a bit and strike up a conversation, but mostly it is solitary. I love it. Sometimes I stop and just look, how the Opera House is really not pretty from close up but if you go across to The Rocks it is amazing, how the old buildings and the new ones somehow just cohabitate next to each other, and how different people just move around in the crowds. There is a breathing energy to this place.
This walk is one of my ‘things’, something I’ve never really done with anyone else, but maybe someday I will with a friend, or a lover if I can ever bring myself to brave Sydney’s treacherous dating scene (that’s a whole story on it’s own).
Sydney is a play of shadow and light. Occasionally they merge in a kaleidoscope of rainbow colours. It is mine but not really mine. In both the night and day, there is something beautiful about it.