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.
This morning I walked through my City of Sydney, drinking in the sights with these eyes for the last time before heading off for a month long adventure. In nine years, this will be the longest I have left this city and I am sitting here somewhere between being nervous and excited. It is a bit like going on a first date with someone who you’ve had your eye on for a while and you know it’s going to be a game changer. I am leaving my home, my cat, my students and my community but this is the next chapter of a story that started a long time ago. Finally, after three years of dreaming of it, I am hopping on a plane to undertake a 200 Hour Prana Flow Teacher Training with Shiva Rea in Greece.
It feels like I am standing here on the edge of change – ready to let go of what was, honouring what is and completely open to what will happen.
My first 200 Hour Teacher Training was done locally, with BodyMindLife in 2012. It was no doubt a life altering experience. So much changed for me during this time including a shedding of a long-term relationship and a huge change in career. I’m glad I had opted to do it part time to allow me the chance for slow integration into all aspects of my life. This time however, I am taking the plunge. I am immersing myself completely in the experience, limiting my contact to the outer world to a minimum.
Every time I go deeper into this path something of what I was, is stripped away so that I can become more of what I was meant to be both as a person and as a teacher. These events are magical even though they might not always be easy. They have a way of releasing an old way of being, a way of thinking that no longer serves us and sometimes even old relationships. Leading into this, I have been very careful not to make big commitments as I know that these are very personal journeys and it would not be fair to make a promise that I am not sure I will be able to keep.
There is so much to experience and so much to learn within yoga and we are lucky to be in Australia at this time as the tribe is continuously growing. We have had an influx of great international teachers including Ana Forrest, Maty Ezraty and Bryan Kest, each bringing with them a wealth of knowledge that has fed my own practice and my teaching.
Prana Flow however, has always been close to my heart.
This was a style that was introduced to me more than two years ago by Chanel Luck and Simon Park. Being an ex traditional dancer, something about the ritual and ceremony in combination with discipline, intelligent sequencing and the freedom of flow spoke to me. It was like the practice was telling a story and my body opened to participating in this tale that was being spun.
I am in love with how elements including the weather, the cycle of the moon and the energy of the students in the class are all welcomed into the space to create a complete experience. I am fascinated by how the more Tantric philosophies that honour the feminine are involved. The way the flow is taught has given my body and soul a freedom that can only be found when my mind can get out of the way. There is an intuitive intelligence to it that can only be felt. There is a fullness and wholeness to it that feeds the soul.
And so we unfold.
When I decided to become a yoga teacher, it also meant that I had committed to a lifetime of learning. It meant a dedication to self-enquiry. Yoga is a lifelong process, a loop that keeps looping. We learn and we practice so that we can keep teaching. Sometimes we have to go back to our own lessons in life and in practice to be able to give. If the day ever comes when I don’t want to practice and feel that I have nothing more to learn, then it is probably a sign that I should stop teaching.
For now, the path is taking me deeper into knowledge of myself as a person. This is the knowledge that informs me as a teacher to be able to offer more to my students on their own paths and I am so grateful to the teachers and life lessons, hard as they may have been, that have brought me here.
So here I head into the next leg of this journey. It’s hard to be away from loved ones and the support that I’ve come to cherish from my community but we are in continuous flow and sometimes, the river has to take us in a solitary direction before we can come back to the sea. I look forward to returning to my city and my community with a new way of seeing things, more to share and so much more compassion.
According to statistics, one in four children in the US have been sexually molested. I don’t know what the statistics are in other parts of the country, but that is a big number. It means that every fourth person you meet has been in some way or other, sexually taken advantage of. I don’t know what the statistics are in Malaysia or in the UK where it happened to me but it could be similar. And yes, it did happen to me.
This was 29 years ago, when parents thought that the world was a safe place and that you could allow children to play securely and innocently. He was an acquaintance of my mother’s, someone she was taking a course with in Manchester, UK. It was already a rough time, as my father had sent me to my mother along with a letter that he was leaving her for a younger woman. She was devastated and I was confused.
How does a six year old even begin to describe the situation? It was a public place, and there was no pain involved but something about the situation didn’t feel right. I couldn’t even find the words to say what had happened and my mother was already upset, so I kept it quiet. Keeping it quiet however, did not mean that nothing manifested of it.
I’ve lived my life panicking every time a man stands too close behind me, and when a man assists me in child’s pose, my initial reaction is to stop breathing and freeze up until the message gets to my brain that I know the person and that it is OK to relax. It took me years to get used to the assist in downward facing dog where someone grabs you from the hips and pulls you back. Even now, there are only a few men I can relax into the assist with and I am extremely sensitive to the intention behind the touch.
It was never spoken of, but it has always been somewhere in the shadows.
And it wasn’t until two years ago that I had a vivid memory of the experience. My abuser had come from behind and he wasn’t rough, but he did touch me in an inappropriate way. A child might not know it in their mind, but children are sensitive receptors of touch. It was a lucky thing that there were other people around on the other side of the room or it could have been worse. I wanted to look out the window and he carried me until I could see. It was subtle but I did feel violated.
The event has been playing in the back of my mind for all this time.
‘When the student is ready, the teacher appears,’ old Buddhist proverb.
And so I must have been ready as the right teacher appeared. She had been through a worse experience than I had, relived the memory and come out the other side. I remember being in her class over a year ago, and the feelings surrounding the situation for me came up. Even from the first class, she noticed that I had trouble connecting to my sacrum and was coaxing me to bring breath into the area. It has been a slow process and part of the thing that made is so was my fear to face the assault.
It takes a lot to face these things but last Wednesday, something clicked. Ana Forrest, my beautiful teacher coaxed us to go on a quest towards identifying the blockages that keep us from being whole. In case of a traumatic event, a part of you remains in that time until you go back and free them. Ana said the magic words, telling us that the worst was over. We had survived and we were alive.
That, I think was what did it for me. I decided at the beginning of class that I would chase this fucker down so he could have less power over me. That intention must have been potent because even from the beginning as I was bringing breath down to my sacrum and pelvic area, the tremors began. They continued through core work and most of the class. Finally, when we got into Shavasana, they took over, wrecking my entire body and causing me to panic to the point of not being able to breathe. Luckily Claire, Ana’s assistant, lovingly stayed with me, gently touching my head and cueing me to keep breathing. As soon as we were out of Shavasana, I was a sobbing wreck.
It did not finish there.
Through the day, when I got home, I would sit down, start breathing into my sacrum and the shaking would start followed by sobs. Emotionally, I had to revisit that time of being confused, scared and betrayed. That feeling of being left alone overtook me, and most of all were the very strong feelings that as this was happening to me, my father, the one who was meant to flex his muscles (he was an ex footie player) and protect me was busy starting a new romance. He had let me down, and that’s where my belief that men leave you when you’re weak started.
There were some positives to it though. I was finally able to speak to my mother about it and gave the six year old a voice. She has been a rock through these times. She continues to be amazing, caring, calling me and supportive in my determination to get through this. She’s stuck through me in my crazy quest and called every day since.
We women are so much stronger in our compassion than we give ourselves credit for.
On Thursday I went back. The tremors started early, and towards the end, we were in a compromising Frog pose with a big roll under our bellies. That’s when they fully took over my body. A big part of me wanted to leave the pose and run out of the room. Another part of me was absolutely adamant to chase this fucker out of my body. Ana stayed with me through almost all five minutes of the tormenting ordeal where there were moments when I truly believed that I might die.
But I didn’t and here I am.
I’ve been a gaping wound all week. The memories, and the feelings surrounding them rise and fall like waves. They take over me and I am a shaking mess all over again. Sleep has been sometimes easy but most of the time not. I’ve had nightmares and gone to some really dark places in my mind, but as much as it scares me, I don’t want to put a temporary salve on this.
This will be a tough ride but I want to live my life fully so I am choosing to go through this. The other option is to live my life behind a safe wall where ‘fine’ and ‘comfortable’ are good enough. They are really not so I am living the days occasionally getting thrown into my past knowing that only by facing the nightmares will I be able to shine light on them.
The first 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training I did, I was recovering from a breakup. This time, I will be so much more vulnerable as I head into another time of big change. Sometimes though, it is in times of darkness like these that you learn to find your own light. I could bury it and stick a positive affirmation on it, but that’s not where the work is done. There is greatness and magic in the world however, as what you need always gets provided to you. In my case, I have a strong and loving bond with my family even though they are far away, a generous and solid community that holds me in their arms, wonderful friends and a nuturing yoga practice.
I am also taking steps to protect myself now. Where I would spread my love without fear of backlash before, right now, I am a bit more cautious. Where I see threat of unnecessary hurt, I step back. Some friends will taper away. This is when you know the ones who are leeching on your life force, the ones who only want you when you are light and easy. If you have a partner, this is when you know a weak person from a strong one.
Twice in one week I have thought that it was going to end for me.
The first, when the plane I was on did this big dip and for an instant we were free flying. That instant felt like forever as the sounds of screams went along with the sound of my crazy heartbeat. I had a moment of panic, adrenaline rushing, and then in the next second, I realised that there really was nothing I could do about it. Surrender.
The second time, I was crossing the street and an old man who probably wasn’t even looking at the lights kept going when he was meant to stop. Of course, this time, being on my own two feet and on the ground, I could just run out of the way. If he had been faster or me, slower the result of course would have been very different.
You go away, think about and decide on things. These moments of deep contemplation that are just so valuable. The thoughts that you keep to yourself and only share with those you hold dear your heart. From these thoughts and contemplations are born deep intentions. And then as if to seal those intentions in place, the universe sends you these little warnings, reminding you that you are not here forever and that your life can’t operate on cruise control.
It is time.
Sometimes you wish you were that person who would enter a room by breaking the door, or get close to a person by hacking off their armour. But you are not. You will knock before you enter, and allow someone to remove the layer between them and yourself when they feel ready. Sometimes, in a leap of faith, you open your door and remove your veil so they may see you first, with the knowledge that you don’t share this much of yourself lightly. You are that who finds your passions and fires sacred, only to be shared with those of your choosing.
In a world where everything and everyone is hard, and fast, and loud, your gentle flame is different, unfamiliar and you wonder if you are even noticed. Perhaps not, not by everyone anyway, but the people who can really see, the ones who take the time to look instead of just believing a good marketing strategy, these people will find you somehow. No matter how much you cloak yourself in blackness, these people will see the deep colours hidden inside.
These are the people you will build your life with.
Sometimes you wonder if you will ever build this life, if you will ever land, if this dream you have of knowing the meaning ‘home’ in your heart instead of just in your head will ever come to pass. You’ve been here before, risking it all only to have it come crushing down. Do you even dare try again?
The time you’ve spent alone has afforded you knowledge of yourself. You know that when you act, it is not to fill a need or to pass the time. You know that if you do this, you are giving it the best that you can even though you know there is every chance it could break you.
And what if the point of taking a risk if the loss of that which you desire means nothing to you?
But you can’t make that which you desire yours unless it is meant to be yours.
So what do you do?
You take a chance. Then step away. Send it your love. Give it space.
Whichever path this fork in the road was meant to take will take you closer to where you are meant to be.
You could have closed your eyes, but to be forever living in fear, doors and windows closed is now no longer an option. The reaches of time and mortality have awakened you from your slumber. Thoughts of the end, the feeling you felt when you thought the plane was about to fall have moved you to take this leap, hoping that the earth will catch you.
Sometimes you have to leap to find your ground again.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.