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.

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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!

As The Lotus Blooms

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.

 

That 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?

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The Cure to Life

The other day, someone asked me, “how come your hips are still tight even with all the yoga your practice?”  It is an interesting question that can be answered in many different ways. On a physical level, sitting down for long periods as well as activities like cycling and running can affect the hips that way.  On an energetic and emotional level, tight hips can sometimes signify a certain degree of resistance, or emotions being held, trust or any number of reasons, depending on where the individual is in life.  In my case, mine were feeling a bit tight because of a combination of physical and emotional reasons which I won’t go into.

What interested me about the question is the idea behind it that a chosen activity or spiritual path can be a cure to life.  Yoga, prayer, whatever path we choose, we sometimes think that it will protect us from life.

When I was a child, I believed so strongly in prayer. I still do.  But as a child I would pray for a specific thing, mostly for my father to come home, and when he didn’t I got angry. What I wanted, really, was to not feel the pain of it all, but of course, that never happened.  And then, I thought that God had a personal vendetta against me because of it.  As I got older, I learned of another way to deal with pain – disconnection.  Alcohol was a great tool for this method, along with a life of partying, and then sleeping it off.  It worked for a little while, and then it got old.

Then, in the great old age of 30, yoga made an appearance.  Not the gym yoga I had done before, but the kind of yoga that gave you space to be with yourself.  I looked at all the happy, healthy people and thought, that this might be it, the cure to all pain and suffering. Asana practice led to meditation and stillness, and prayer.  Slowly, I worked through my physical injuries, and then the emotional injuries, but guess what?  There are days when the hips are still tight, or the shoulder is out of whack.  Sometimes I still spend half of class crying into my mat.

Why?

Because life doesn’t end and as long as we live in the world, shit will happen.  When people claim to not feel pain or sadness anymore, I wonder if they have let the parts of themselves that can feel all that die. And yes, it is safe when you’ve learn to shut the world out, living a solitary existence, but is that really living?

The only cure to life is death.

All the yoga, prayer and meditation did not stop my father from passing away. It doesn’t stop my shoulders from being sore sometimes, and it sure as hell doesn’t stop sadness or anger from making an appearance in my life.  Instead it has taught me to stop and take some time exploring these injuries and emotions.

This is the path of surrender without giving up, knowing when to back away instead of walking away.  It is taking the labels of “good” and “bad” out of emotions and just feeling them.  Crying when you need to cry.  Being angry when you need to do that.  Taking time alone when you need that.  Or simply walking up to a friend and giving them a hug because that’s what you need.  Have you ever felt like crying but ended up laughing hysterically instead?  Well, that is the energy moving.

Sometimes the energy just needs an outlet.

A friend at work asked me how I could still breathe and hold my space even when I am angry. The answer is simple.  I have since stopped trying to push my anger down and sit on it.  If I need to, I will get up and go for a walk.  Sometimes I get into an inversion just so I can see the world in another light.  And of course, breathing techniques help.  The way I manage my anger though, might not be the same way you manage yours, and it is your journey to find your tools.

Yoga, prayer or meditation – shit will happen.

It is how you deal with it that will change.  Surrender and acceptance doesn’t stop sadness, but it allows you to feel with a certain degree of peace.  Self exploration in the silence allows you to find safe ways of letting emotions flow through you in a compassionate way.  And perhaps, you had these skills all along, but as you read more books of people telling you how it should be, you forgot your own intuition, the higher Self that guides you through the smooth and rough.  This Self which is made of equal parts shadow and light, and knows things that your brain might not.

So explore. Learn. Feel.

There is no cure to grief apart from grieving.

And there is no cure to life apart from living.

grief

Yes

The third eclipse in this short span of time comes to us with the next full moon, and with it, is a time to say “goodbye,’ – a time to release, and perhaps even let a whole section of yourself die.  Most of us are uncomfortable with endings and a lot more of us don’t like talking about death.  It is the final end. The place where you can’t go back to what once was.  It is that place where your footprints get washed away by the sea and all that is left is to go forward, into the unknown.

There is comfort in the old, a familiarity, a certain safety, and to hold on is so much easier than to let go and step towards the future.  We might say that we don’t believe in these things, but sometimes, something greater just moves us in this direction.  Without ever intending to, we leave the past and head towards the future.  Something closes, something else opens.  Like my teacher Mel would say of a backbend, “it is like everything in the past pushing you forward from your heart.”  There is a beautiful sadness but also an excitement of what is to come.

It can be comforting having just that one string so that we can hold on to the past, but sometimes that string needs to be cut.  In that space where there was left the faintest of connections, there needs to be just emptiness.  The faint imprint left by a former lover is wiped away by the rain, allowing the glow of a new sun to spread it’s warmth on a clean foundation. Sometimes a lover becomes a friend, other times, even the friendship can’t be salvaged and the lover becomes a stranger.  A friend or even a stranger becomes a lover.

You think your heart died the last time it broke.

Going back into that space where you allow things to enter seems crazy.

But something stirs again – Perhaps the tiny flickering flame of affection, growing into desire and in the future, who knows?

You died once when your last life ended.

And you are reborn into this new life.

The heart beats.

It lives.

It wants to soar.

It wants to go into the unknown.

You’ve found your centre and don’t want to lose it, but your heart, the centre of it all is ready to bring you off your axis.

It is time. 

The final goodbye led to the first hello.  And the darkness makes the light seem so much brighter.  Something different, someone different, is scary.  It is the possibility of your universe being flipped upside down in a way that is beyond your control. It is two movements in one – allowing something unknown into this comfortable and familiar space that you have painstakingly built while you yourself move into an unknown dimension.  It is a doorway to another part of yourself, yet undiscovered.  How do you know that you will like this undiscovered self?  How do you know that you won’t?

Right now the questions are being asked and not answering is no longer an option.

Will you let go?

Will you let the past rest where it belongs?

Are you going to release fear and step over a threshold into a new life?

Can you allow a glance to become a lingering look?

When someone reaches out their hand to you will you take it?

Are you ready to immerse yourself into the unfamiliarity of the future?

A million questions, and the only answer that will make a difference is…

Yes

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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

Peddling Happiness

Every other day, someone in the wellness industry will put something up about being happy.  It’s usually one of those cute little word poster design things, like the one below.

If you want to be happyHappiness Habit

This is the world that I am a part of and I do love the people in this community but today, I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate to the ‘be happy,’ mantra.  I suppose since this is an ‘industry,’ one would need something to sell, but I do wonder if selling happiness could be dangerous to the public.  The way it is portrayed, it looks like being happy is the be all and end all of your purpose to life.  You eat well, you exercise, you smile, you pick happy friends and that’s what life is supposed to be.

What about the other emotions that we, as humans have the capacity for? It seems to me that as we push the ‘be happy,’ mantra, we alienate the rest.  Sure, the rest is not as pretty as being happy, but pushing things under the rug is just not healthy.  At some point these emotions will bubble up in an eruption, and like larva flowing out of a volcano, it will burn everything in its path.  Also, with the rich array of emotions that humans are capable of, happy seems to be a bit trite, and dare I say it, ‘fluffy.’

And what about the people who are going through a tough period? What if this whole idea that we are made to be happy just makes them feel like there’s something wrong with them? I have met so many people who go through a tough time and the first thing they do is think themselves ill, seeking psychological help, and medication.  As the world reaches for this concept of ‘happiness,’ it is like being unhappy every once in a while is just not normal.  (Note, I’m not talking about prolonged periods of depression here, but the times when one could be a bit down on energy due to any number of things including work, relationship or even physical health issues) Or worse still is the person who just doesn’t feel like going out, but with all the YOLO and ‘be happy,’ going around turns to party drugs. Why? Well, because according to the hippy trippy stuff, not being happy is somehow wrong.  Because we are meant to be happy all the time. And when we are not, we are somehow lacking or unwell.

Unhappy people

On the other side of the spectrum, there is this issue with surrounding ourselves with happy people.  Sure it’s great. Happy people make other people happy, but what about that person who stuck with you while you were down in the dumps and is perhaps going through a prolonged period of misery. What if they just got divorced or if they just lost a parent? They have every right to be miserable and even angry for a while, but does that mean that you walk away because being with them makes you miserable? Does that mean that they are mentally unwell?  Time is relative.  Some people get over things in a month, others take a year, and it might cramp your happiness vibe but time is what a lot of people need.

I know most people mean well when they tell other people to be happy, but perhaps the message needs a bit of a revamp.  Happiness is not a permanent state.  It is balanced off with periods of disappointment, sadness, grief, anger, exhaustion and a myriad of other feelings.  Life is like the ocean while we are this little sand castle on the beach.  Sometimes you just don’t know what the waves will bring in.  It can just tickle you or completely destroy you. These experiences and feelings, even though they might not be pleasant, do enrich our lives in their way.

Pushing happiness the way we do, is not honouring this fact that there are things greater than us.  Actually, sometimes I feel like it’s the opposite extreme of drumming the Seven Deadly Sins in someone’s head. Difference is, the mantra, “you must not blah blah blah,” is replaced with, “you must be happy.” This idea of, “must,” “should be,” or “shouldn’t be” anything is always a dangerous one to have.  It is too black and white, and if anything, as teachers, we want people to accept the greys in between.

Perhaps in this world where people come searching for something more, our message should be a kinder one, like acceptance, compassion and most of all, peace.  To be happy all the time is to deny or even fight other emotions but to be at peace is to calmly accept any feelings that come with a lot of compassion and allow them to stay as long as they need to.  It has an element of surrender and softness, but also a lot of strength. It is not denying or burying things in order to ‘be happy,’ but entering the space that is not happiness with a sense of acceptance.   Because being human is feeling a range of emotions and we need to accept this in a way that is healthy and compassionate.

What screws you most in the head

Smart man, Rumi was

Smart man, Rumi was