In the Flow

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.

greece-santorini-tours

Between Aggression and Assertiveness

Last week I met a woman who might have thought that she was being assertive, but to me, it was bordering on aggressive.  This is not uncommon.  I have worked with people like this, dealt with people like this, and at times, been this person.  What is sad about this situation is that we see it more often than not in women, and more noticeable with those who have either had corporate careers or are in high powered jobs.

Do we truly believe that by being aggressive we get what we want?

Do we think that this trait gets us ahead in life?

And why?

Is it because in a world of standards and expectations there is no space for human error?

Is it because we believe that gentleness is in fact a weakness that won’t get us what we want?

Is it because we truly believe that to get what we want we have to take it, sometimes by force?

Or is it that at the core of it, there is this animalistic thing inside us that feels bigger than the other person when we exert our power in such a way?

It’s true we live in a fast world where we want our questions answered right there and then.  In my professional life I have been expected to have the names of 200 delegates in my head when they ask for it.  I have met anger and impatience when I have had to stop and think before answering them.  I have been asked to write five pieces of copy by the end of the day, dropping everything else.  Often times these requests were made in a way that was more like a demand with an implied ‘or else’.

I admit that I was more aggressive when I was younger.  I too thought that I was being assertive. First it got tiring.  And then I realised that it wasn’t worth it.  I realised that when I was that way to the person who does my manicures and pedicures, or the waitress, or my hairdresser, or the guy at Myers, I was only doing it to drive home the fact that they were there to serve me, that that in fact made me the person who was higher in the food chain of life and that I didn’t have all day to wait for them to be human and shit.  I realised that what I was doing was in fact, a form of bullying.  Sure there was no physical violence but I was exerting my power over someone else in an unkind way, and who knows what that person would have been through before I came in?

It is not always easy to change patterns but I’m trying to put the mirror up to myself.  I suppose I’m a lot more laid back now.  My aggression only comes up as a defence mechanism, more so towards men (if I’m attracted, it’s to keep them out, but other times it’s a lack of trust).  However, on the rare day when I’m emotionally wrecked and facing aggression from someone, I do retreat into myself (which is something I have to work on, I know).

At the end of the day, it is about putting the mirror up and asking the questions:

Are you really just assertive, or are you being aggressive?

Is being gentle really a weakness?

Do you use aggression to exert your power as a director/manager/client?

Does this behaviour get you that promotion/discount/hot dog, and faster than being nice would?

How quick are you to ensure that people get into trouble if your needs are not met?

Are you, in fact, a bully?

assertiveness

Finding the ‘Me’ in the ‘We’

Up until very recently, I worked within the corporate world.  Some people think the corporate world is great while others don’t really have the time of day for the greed of the bigger organisations.

Yes, let us be honest in saying that some organisations just cannot justify their existence.

For a time, I had started taking an aerial view and trying to find meaning in my daily work.  What I came up with, in a nutshell, was this; I worked for an organisation that existed to make a profit.  There are many reasons an organisation can exist – to educate, develop people or create a platform for something or other, i.e. provide a service.  However, in a lot of smaller organisations, the desire to make a buck within a world of ever increasing costs often got in the way of other things, like actually having a purpose, unrelated to making a buck.

The world is a tough place to live in.  If you work in corporate, you would spend at least 40 hours a week in the office.  Your colleagues often  end up knowing you better than your partner does.  You’re together at work, then you’re stressed and you go out for drinks with colleagues. You talk, and let’s be honest, office affairs are so common nobody even blinks when one happens.  After traffic, TV, etc, a person might spend about two hours a day with their partner. TWO hours? Compared to the eight hours they spend with their colleagues.

Sometimes I feel like what we are outside of the office doesn’t matter much, or rather, we spend so much time in the ‘office persona,’ we forget that we are individuals outside of this organisation.  People who don’t ‘fit in’ or conform with the mould might get the work done, but they don’t get the promotion.  And of course, there is the ego stroking that’s required when you work for petty people. Of course, not everyone is like this.  I once had a CEO who knew I swore like a sailor and wouldn’t think twice about kicking a rude bastard out of a store.  He gave me free reign and in turn, I ran his store like it was my own baby.  Fuck, the man could be a politically incorrect ass, asking you the most direct and personal questions but, he knew the people who worked with him and how to make them tick.

Going back to being a corporate robot, at some point, we forget that we are a separate entity with our own thoughts and desires, and we become part of the ‘we.’  Oh the dreaded ‘we’.  You think you’re immune, well next time you’re on the phone with a client or talking to your friends about work, just watch yourself.  Suddenly it becomes, ‘we this,’ and ‘we that,’ and ‘we think,’ or ‘we feel.’  When did this ‘we’ happen?  Do you even agree with some of the things that ‘we feel’ should be done? Sometimes it was someone else’s idea and you don’t really buy into it, but to show a ‘publicly united’ front, you have suddenly become part of the fucking ‘we.’  To be fair though, it’s not just the corporate world. You could be working in McDonald’s, and still be part of their ‘we.’  If like me, you’ve ever managed a retail store, there might come a point where you forget where you begin and the store ends.

Has our existence been reduced to our professional roles? When we first meet someone, one of the first five questions that we ask is what they do for a living.  I suppose up to a certain level, it tells us something about them, but does it define them?  My late father was defined by his profession.  I remember him working from 7:00am to 7:00pm on most days.  For his work, he gave up a lot of things that he loved, including soccer, tennis and whatever else he liked.  Then when he was no longer part of that big ‘we,’ he wasn’t really part of anything else. He had spent so much time at work that he forgot about the other things in his life, like being a father, a son, a brother.

I too had lost myself a few times.  Being caught up in the ‘we’ through the day, I found that at the end of the day there was no space for ‘me’.  I was too tired to know what I wanted as a person and my brain has been in ‘we’ mode so much that I couldn’t state what I desired or needed as an individual.  I could make good decisions when it came to the company, but could hardly make any when it came to anything else.

Us humans, we are pack animals, even when we don’t admit it. We belong within community, but modern life has broken down traditional communities.  More time is spent at work than talking to neighbours and the desire for gossip, which to be honest, can be just a bonding exercise among neighbours  is fulfilled by watching reality television and reading gossip magazines.  Oh don’t even get me fucking started on TV addiction and what that’s done to our ability to connect to people, have conversations and be part of a community.  We are making up for grassroots community by becoming part of the manufactured concrete community, filling our desire to be part of a ‘we,’ at the office before we go home and sit in front of the TV or some gaming console.

Office Workers

I don’t know why it is, but perhaps it makes us feel bigger when we are dealing with strangers. Or perhaps it makes us feel like we belong. Or simply, perhaps it just makes us feel like we are less alone.  Either way, just take time to observe, perhaps you are so much more part of the ‘we’ than you care to admit.  And perhaps, nowadays it’s not so much about bringing your personal life into the work space as it is about letting your work take precedence over your personal life.

Edited by Cazz Eccles: http://lovewhatitloves.wordpress.com/

Welcoming the Snake

Last weekend on the 10th of February 2013, we welcomed the year of the Snake according to the Lunar Calendar.  In Hindu philosophy, the God of Destruction, Shiva wears a garland of snakes around his neck.  In Christianity the serpent is depicted as being a creature of Satan. The serpent is depicted as Shakti, or pure consciousness in Kundalini yoga.  As your Kundalini rises, she undulates, climbing your spine to rise through the crown of your head and meet her lover, Shiva.

Legendary empress Cleopatra ended her own life by allowing a poisonous snake to bite her.  The serpent has been depicted as the symbol of evil power and chaos, but also of fertility, life and healing.

The thing is though, although beautiful and mesmerising, the serpent (or naga) is not something you could ever know everything about.  It is a mystery creature that dances with such grace, and you never know when it could strike.

I like snakes.  Like the comfortable weight of one as it slithers across my shoulders, arms or legs.  Like the way they are just so emotionally in tune that they can just pick up when someone starts to panic.  Like the cool sensuality of this majestic animal as it moves, seemingly without any rush, and how it looks at you, like it knows something.  And yes, secretly, I like the thrill of having something calm, yet dangerous close to me, something so smooth, yet so strong that it could crush me in its’ embrace.

Me With Jake (no, he's not mine)

Me With Jake (no, he’s not mine)

As the snake slithered into our lives this year, I found myself going through even more changes.  Like beautiful Satya, one of my teacher, said recently, the coming of the snake [in a way] signifies a shedding of skin.  How much more could let go of?  In the last 18 months, among the things that had been shed from my life included a relationship, some friends,  an apartment I had lived in for three years, and my role as papa’s little girl, along with some addictions including my beloved cigarettes. Surely I’ve shed enough already right? Well,  Someone out there has opposing views, as on Monday, I also shed a job in the corporate world.

Am I scared?

Of course I am.

I am petrified!!!

But there’s also a small thrill inside me.

It is the same thrill I feel when I snake is slithering over my skin.  In this thrill is also a sense of sensual aliveness.  Life has me in its unrelenting grasp as it slithers all over me.  At the slightest provocation, it could squeeze me and break me.

What comes next? Only time will tell.

So my loved ones, as we welcome the serpent into our lives, what are you ready to shed? What thrills await you? What sensuous journeys will you take? And most of all, will you be calm as the serpent does what it must?

Edited by Cazz Eccles, Word Warriors: http://lovewhatitloves.wordpress.com/

Living THE Dream

Some of you might have read the last post on beginnings and cultivating the beginner’s mind: https://azphoenix.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/always-at-the-beginning/.   Well after last weekend and completing my written Teacher Training assignment, I have been thinking a lot about, THE DREAM.  You know this one. You might have had it since you were 5, or since you were a teenager or since you joined the workforce.  It’s the story you’ve had in your head filled with all the musts, shoulds and should nots.  It’s the one that keeps playing even when you are awake, keeping you from being conscious.

I am with you on this one as I am one of those lucky people who was brought up believing in THE DREAM.  In this dream, I was meant to have it ‘all’. This particular all included a job in upper management, owning things including a house and a car, a household with a husband and a couple of kids by the age of 35.  For most of my life, I believed in this dream.  I knew no other way, and worked towards the target of getting ‘there’.  Of course, if you know me now, you would know that apart from the Masters and the very brief engagement, I never really got there.  Some would say I got waylaid and will get there eventually, and others will say I lack the conviction to follow the dream.  I will say that there’s been a change in plans.

Am I the only one who was brought up with some version of THE DREAM? Perhaps not.  Some of us get it from the media, believing that living like George Clooney, Kate Middleton or Charlie Sheen is the dream.  Some of us get it from our parents and society.  When a child is born, parents would naturally have hopes for it.  Sometimes the hopes have a bit of leeway, and it comes down to how happy the child becomes as an adult.  For others though, these hopes have become road maps for them. The sad thing is, like me, some of us go through a substantial amount of life believing that THE DREAM as we have been told it should be is the be all and end all of life.

In my last life, I worked in the backpacker industry.  Historically, this culture of taking time to travel before going home as ‘adults,’ dates back to the Renaissance.  Way back then, it was a time when apart from the playing around, would be exposed to culture including art, music, good food and living on their own. Back then this rite of passage was limited to upper class boys, who would go on these trips before returning as “worldly” gentlemen ready to take on the family business, go into politics and what not. These kids would definitely be part of the 1%.  However, without thinking of the purpose, the gap year can very easily become just something to do, without a real appreciation of the value of it.  It’s very easy to go off, get drunk for a time, and come back to live the rest of this prescribed dream.

There’s a lot of hype placed on having the five year plan, and the two year plan and the six month plan. If you’re Mr. or Ms. Driven, you’ll have one of these, and sometimes, you’ll just push forward with these plans, only to come up with more plans and targets once you’ve reached the first goal. In my life, I have known some very driven people, and of course, way back when, I was one of those people myself, pointy heels, hurried walk, heavy makeup and all.  If you walked behind me, you would be breathing in a trail of cigarette smoke.  I’m sure you know someone like that, or maybe you’re like that yourself – the kind of person who has a ‘should’ for everything, the way you should dress, the car you should drive, the job you should have, the kind of person you should date, the place you should live… it’s endless, these shoulds.  Apart from the shoulds you already have, there are the shoulds that come from the organisation you work for, and you prescribe to these shoulds to because if you don’t then your career heads nowhere.

For me, I should have had a Masters, a good job and a stable relationship by the time I was 30.

As it turned out, my 30th year was absolutely fucking horrendous! Saturn has been taking it’s time to return for me, and some days I wonder if my parents knocked two years off my age as I’m 32 and shits still happening. But the truth is, no matter how fucked up, the last two years have been the most eye opening of my life.  A couple of years ago, I was well on track to living THE DREAM, but when I think back to all the addictions I suffered, my awful eating habits and disgraceful sleep patterns, I realise that something must have been missing.  I pretended to be happy, but I was also very judgmental of people and when someone looked happy and relaxed a part of me resented it.  Emotionally, physically and mentally, I was fucked up, so don’t even think of my spiritual state.  (I’m still not 100% now, but hey, who is?)

The thing is, perhaps like you do, I had this story in my head of THE DREAM, but it took broken dreams for me to realise that what I should have been doing instead was working on MY DREAM.  Sometimes, you just have to allow space for a change in direction and a change in the big picture.

It’s very easy to get into a story of how it should be sometimes, but perhaps, it’s time to stop and look at the story.  Is this your story or someone else’s?  Are you living YOUR DREAM, or are you just living THE DREAM?  In my case, I have a long way to go, and a lot of nasal cleaning (inside joke) to do before I get to live MY DREAM, but I’m grateful that the last couple of fucked up years, and especially the last seven months have allowed me to start thinking about what MY DREAMS could be.

And again, it’s all about possibility.

Where the Hell do I go from Here? – A Moment and A Breath

So, ten months into 2012 and I don’t exactly know how I got here. I mean, I know the steps it took to get here, the heartache, the letting go, the broken hearts, the tears that sometimes seemed endless as old wounds reopened and I broke down again and again and again,  and the laughter that would come up unexpectedly, like a flash of rain.  There were the verbal punches in the gut, followed by the very real and very physical hugs, the people who I used to walk with, the ones who walk with me now and the ones who I will walk with in time to come.  There is love, an abundance of love that entered when I let go of the belief that I was only loved when one man chose to love me and that my love was to be hoarded for my family, my lover, his family and the family we would one day have together.

To say that it has been easy so far would be a lie.  It has not.  Change never is.  It is this fucking messy, gritty process that allows you not a moment of peace.  There is all this doing, adjusting and moving, always moving. So much moving that sometimes you just want to give the world the finger and tell them all to leave you the fuck alone.  The place that you currently sit in suddenly becomes uncomfortable. Relationships become uncomfortable.  Sometimes you save it by each doing your own thing.  Sometimes doing your own thing signals the end of a relationship and you have to make a choice between the relationship and yourself. And you will.  And the choice you make will be the right choice anyway.

Take it from an expert at self-medicating (self-destruction?), sometimes there is a desire to do just that – get trashed, numb things down, inhale a carton of smoke, find a beautiful, drunk, young (like 10 years younger kind of young, and I’m 32 so 10 years is legal) boy to play with knowing that after that I’ll be dealing with some emotional complication to further distract me.  Anything to take me away from sitting here in this restlessness, feeling something inside me expand but not really having the space for it to go anywhere.  And then you wonder, what the fuck the point of this whole thing is, and why can’t anything just be easy? But then you realise that easy was never your style.

I recognize this feeling.  It’s the feeling that pushes you to make decisions because you feel that something is going to happen, but it’s taking so long to happen and you just want to move it along. It’s this feeling that makes you believe that your life is at a standstill while people are moving on and moving forward; relationships, families, jobs, houses, commitments and more commitments, and you want to move forward, but not in the same way.  Still all you want to do is move, move and move.

And then what happens?

Nothing.

You are still standing here at the edge, but it’s not yet time to step into the other side.  And sure as all hell, you are frightened because you don’t know what the fuck else the world could throw at you next.  All you know is that you can’t go back to where you were.  That space is no longer yours. That love has dimmed, taken over by a bigger and brighter love, a love so vast it is not for a person.  It is not easy, smooth or safe.  It breaks into your heart and wants to know all of you; your body, your heart, your soul, every thought that hides in your mind, every secret you kept from past lovers.  It wants to get behind the doors that you have managed to hold shut all this while (it’s MASSIVE, ya dig?), but right now, it is holding you still, in place.  You’ve jumped off one ledge but you haven’t landed on the next and you don’t know if you can reach it.  It’s fucking scary and the fall looks fatal.  Still, you have no choice but to wait here.  The footprints left have been washed away by the rain and you wouldn’t know how to walk back anyway.  The light that was left on has long since burned out. There is only the waiting for the next step now.

What else could you possibly do to speed up this process? Perhaps it’s time to do nothing.  Perhaps it’s time to let all the things you’ve overlooked while you were busy doing, catch up with you finally.  It feels like giving up, and it feels like you’re letting go of your power.  I know that after a lifetime of chasing and doing and achieving, this is unnatural to me, this sitting and waiting. Honestly it makes me want to scream at the world, but what else is there to do? The universe is bigger, and what comes, when it comes and how it comes, is sometimes more than a human can comprehend.

Things happen when they happen. No amount of analyzing, enquiring, screaming, drinking, fucking, or fighting can change that.  So perhaps, you, me, and the other doers in the world need to just take a moment, and take a breath.  Maybe we don’t need to know where we’re going. As scary as it is, nothing’s going to happen until it happens and you don’t know things until they’re ready to be known.  So go for a walk with a friend, exchange hugs, and somehow and someway, learn to let go of doing, and just be…