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.
The slow passage of time
as I wait for you to appear to me. Deeper into the night I go
For your face o my Beloved.
Then slowly, too slowly for time
Your shadow emerges.
First, a glimpse,
Then clearer and clearer in the darkness.
Oh all this waiting was worth it,
For your flawed perfection.
For the knowledge,
That you were with me all along.
Though it took complete darkness
To know that you were there
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.
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!
Sometimes you’re just traipsing through life without a care in the world then something taps you in the head (loudly!) and you realise that this path you’re traveling on is not really where you want to go.
For me, this thing was yoga.
It had been coming in and out of my life since I was in my early twenties. Occasionally it would step away, but it kept coming back. Like a very persistent suitor, it just wouldn’t leave me alone. Even when I ran out crying or was so angry I wanted to bite through the mat, it kept coming back. When I first realised that there was a relationship forming, I fought it. I’d show up in my worse form – angry, hungover, drunk, reeking of cigarettes, ready to pick a fight. Yet it still stayed, standing silently in the corner while I went through my little drama, giving me space and then moving back in. Somewhere along the line, I stopped fighting it and we became friends. Then, the realisation came that I was in danger of falling completely and utterly in love.
Now I’ve loved many things in my life, but this was the game changer and I knew it.
And like with all game changers, it was time to rewrite the future.
Why rewrite the future?
Well, if you keep going on as you are, your future will be exactly the same as your past. You can get into a million different relationships, but until you stop and have a look at what’s going on with yourself, it really won’t be any different. You can start six thousand new hobbies or go for a gazillion treatments but until you actually look in, the outside will remain the same.
Most people operate on a pattern that they’ve had for ages. These are the lessons we have learned through life, either from our parents, friends or our own behaviours. In yoga speak, they are known as samskaras. They are the patterns that have been repeated so many times that they have become grooves in the landscape of our lives. Some are good. A healthy eating habit perhaps or a past of being caring, but as we are all works in progress, we often find some bits that we want to chip away at to make room for something new.
You’d think it would be as easy as that.
This is one of the processes that take time. It requires a lot of looking back into the past, considerable time alone, and meditation. It is not a process for the faint hearted, that’s for sure. Great memories will come back to you but along with them there will often be rage and despair, among other things. There are moments when you are so frustrated you want to hit a wall, or chew through the floorboards. There are moments you laugh at old jokes and the next thing you know, you are sobbing into your blanket. It is so easy to get stuck in the past, where it is safe and dark, but time moves forward and at some point, you’ll have to emerge out of it. There are parts of your life that you might need to cut loose, and sometimes, without you intending it to happen, you lose people who are dear to you.
My big process took about two years, and then I added 40 Days on top of it just to seal the deal. Some people start with the 40 Days, or 21 Days (because that’s how long it takes to change a habit), but there is always somewhere to make that first step. It requires a commitment to yourself more than anything else, and a burning desire to make things different, and to be different.
As with all changes, a big part of it is a solo journey. You need that time on your own to reflect, perhaps to write, and to just sit in silence, taking note of the patterns of your thoughts. However, no matter what journey you are on, there is always someone else going through something similar, and the universe in all its glory will often bring these people right into your path. So even when you are traveling alone, you never truly are.
I saw this process with a beautiful group of people who took on a 40 Day Revolution. It was a commitment to five days of studio practice, a day of home practice and a solid twice a day meditation practice. Some might have started the journey just to get their asana yoga practice set, but through the 40 Days, things shifted. They shifted. I shifted along with them. It wasn’t an easy journey, but it was a beautiful one. These people showed up day after day in their courage and in their vulnerability, allowing for change to happen. It was the courage of people who wanted something to change and making that commitment to change it.
The thing is, change is a never ending process. You constantly have the chance to rewrite your future. Sometimes, you’ve got your future written down, and then you meet someone you grow to care for. You can play it safe and keep your futures separate or you can take a chance and write a future together. Because you’ve already rewritten your future, you know it won’t be the same as your past, and you know this person is not the same as the persons you’ve tried to write futures with before.
The process of rewriting the future closes some doors; perhaps those ones that have held you in the past, but in place, it opens other doors allowing you to move forward. It is a chance taken, a change made and a life open to ever more possibilities. It is unsafe, unknown and oh so exciting. It is letting go of the life you had for the life you want.
Sometimes I walk around this city that I’ve adopted, lost in my own universe of thoughts and whatever music is playing in my ear. I came here for the first time at 20 knowing I would come back. One broken engagement and a few years later, I did. No friends, no family – Just me, with no anchor and no knowledge of what life would have in store for me. At the time, I did not know if I would leave or stay, but as the years passed, here I am still.
Although I came from another crowded city, this one is different. Here I did not have the foundation of friends I could call when that first winter hit. Here I did not have a cousin whose home I could hide in during times of heartbreak. Here in my weakest moments, I learned to find my own strength. As any singular nomad will tell you, there are times when it gets lonely, but there are also times when being alone gives you the freedom to explore.
I have fallen in love in this city, thinking that it was that love that would keep me here. I fell out of love, but still remained. There have been lives built on the foundations of this city, and they too have fallen apart, only to be rebuilt into a different kind of existence. There has been laughter and tears, and through it all, I kept finding myself over and over again.
The New Year enters this city in a big way. Friends, acquaintance, and strangers come together to invite the new, hoping perhaps that this coming year will be the one where dreams come true, where everything just falls into place and they find what they are looking for. Perhaps they will fall in love on this night. It is a night of hopes, dreams, aspirations, intentions, and for some, action. Two strangers meet and endeavour to build a life together. Two lovers part hoping to find themselves again.
For some, a connection is found. For others, standing in a crowd is when they feel most alone, like a lost child looking in through a window at a family. For some, plans are made months in advance, while for others, it is the same tradition they have held their entire adult lives, in the comfort and safety of familiar friends. There are those standing on the harbour, waiting to be rescued and those out to rescue. Then there are the travellers, the nomads, the gypsies; where no plans are made, where there is absolute trust that where they end up on that day is where they are supposed to be.
Every New Year that I have welcomed in this city has been different, and without planning, I know that this year will be different again. I do not know what it will be, but I know that it will be.
As I stand on the Opera House steps over looking the Harbour Bridge, or by Waverley Cemetery looking out at the ocean, my breath is taken away all over again. I thought love would be what kept me here and I was right. At 20 I fell in love and although I fell in love with my ex fiancé right after that, this city already had my heart. This city hides me when I want to hide and lets me be seen when I allow it. In this city I knew complete and utter loneliness, and it was here that I finally fell apart after a whole lifetime of holding things up. It is here that I found how being alone allowed me to see that I was never on my own.
Sometimes it is when you think that you have nobody and you are completely alone that you find your somebodies. They might not be your blood, but you are united in moments of gold – they are the person who speaks to you on the bus, the stranger who steps into your place of work and ends up sharing their life with you, the friend who just holds you for a while when you’re feeling vulnerable, or the random person who smiles at you on the street.
It could be a moment or a lifetime, but it is these times that remind you that you are never truly alone.