Brahmacharya

sacred-sexuality-with-dr-ray

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!

Between Men and Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happened?

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

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

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

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

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

why-complicate-life

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

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

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

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

It is the story of my father and I.

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

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

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

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

I was confused.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the last thing I said to him?

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

Papa

Reintroduction to Grief

Grief.

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

Grief

Yes raw.

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

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

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

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

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

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