Passion Play

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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
ABLAZE!
With this mad passion.

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Hump Day Yoga, 2013

From January 2013 I taught a yoga class in Hyde Park on Wednesday evenings.  It was a free class mostly of friends and friends of friends, affectionately named “Hump Day Yoga.”  As of last week however, due to the weather change and the dark that creeps up on us earlier, Hump Day Yoga is no longer is session.

It was bittersweet for me.

Hump Day Yogis and Yoginis

Hump Day Yogis and Yoginis

Hump Day Yogis and Yoginis

Hump Day Yogis and Yoginis

As a teacher, I get attached to my students, and a part of me wishes they could be with me for as long as I can teach.  I love seeing how they progress from week to week, and the fluidity of how my class plans change as they change.  I love the banter that goes on, and how they have become comfortable enough to bring themselves into child’s pose when they need it.  I love seeing them grow in strength and flexibility and how they brave the dark spaces in meditation.  And I love how this beautiful group of people has made a mid-week yoga session a platform to reconnect, build new connections and to have proper, honest conversations.  For some of them, this was the first step into an unknown world and I thank them for sharing the experience with me.

As a student however, I understand that this journey is a personal one.  You meet teachers that speak to you and you might travel with them for a while.  Then the time comes when you might go your separate ways.  You need the space to explore your practice, perhaps try different styles, and listen to different ways of being told things.

The space on the mat does not exist in a bubble, you come in carrying the weight of your day, your diet, the sleepless nights and injuries on a physical, mental and emotional level. When we get onto the mat, we don’t leave the rest of us behind.  My Hump Day students have become comfortable with that and know that it’s perfectly fine to take breaks, and to have a laugh when they need.

The role of the teacher is but to guide, and offer a safe space for people for self enquiry and self exploration. However, a teacher too brings all that they are into class. When I started teaching, I worried about bringing my personality into class, of being vulnerable and open with my students, but Hump Day Yoga allowed me to learn to relax.

We are all a work in progress, as students, as teachers, as human beings.  In our journey we will meet people who open doors for us to get to the next level of our work and we make the choice to walk through that door or not.  So I thank my Hump Day Yogis for three months of beautiful practice and for both opening the door for me, and stepping into the invitation I sent to you.  You were as much my teachers as you were my students, and may our practices continue to grow so that we can bring more into our future meetings.

Namaste.

Some of the Hump Day Yogis speak about their practice here: 

“Yoga is a great de-stressing activity for me. I am able to clear my mind of all pressures outside of the class and just focus on me, my body and my mind. This mid-week yoga session is exactly what I needed. As I lay on the ground at the end of the class staring at the tree branches and evening sky, nothing else mattered. I was relaxed, at peace and had no worries.”

–          Shady Lim, Marketing Manager , http://www.shadytravels.com/2013/03/how-i-de-stress.html

“Hump Day Yoga (HDY) is why I love my Wednesdays.
Why do I love it so much?
I get to de-stress, BREATH, and challenge myself during this 75 minute session, but it’s also about the people sharing their day, week & their life with you. It helps me achieve a level of physical exercise and a mental fulfilment.”

–          Jenny Schnell, Client Services Manager

“A few month ago, I faced one of the biggest challenges in my life and I needed to find myself again. Thats when a long time lost friend Az invited me to her yoga sessions and it was truly uplifting experience to reconnect with friends that I hadn’t seen in a while and with myself that I had been brutally tough on. Az would always bring stories and wise words for every one to think about and Id come out of the class not only physically balanced but also mentally empowered. Although it was for a short term but I personally really enjoyed the experience and am grateful that I was a part of it.”

–          Nina Jung, Marketing Manager, http://www.junglebananas.com/

‘Azra’s yoga classes are fun! A playful yoga teacher, Az’s deep knowledge of yoga generally and her own practice shine through more and more each week. I am looking forward to being guided by her for years to come. Namaste my friend.’

–          Meriana Baxter, Yoga Teacher

Sequence, Singing Bowl, Speakers and iPod... All you need for a day at the park, really

Sequence, Singing Bowl, Speakers and iPod… All you need for a day at the park, really

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/

Use Your Brain

Part of every single one of my jobs has been communication.  I’m “communicating” on the telephone, in emails, and continuously talking to people. You would think that communication comes easy for me. Wrong. Well, obviously talking about what’s happening in the papers, or what’s going on with the next conference I’m producing is easy, but when it comes to the real stuff, when it hits close to this place we call the heart, then I can never get the words out.  It’s OK to say to you girls, “I miss you” and “love you” but it usually takes a traumatic event for me to say these things to a man, where it then just rushes out without prior warning.  Other things I find difficult to say are “don’t go” and “please come back”. I really don’t know why.

This got me to thinking about the things we are brought up with.  How many of you have heard your parents say “use your brain”?  I’d think the majority of you.  However, have you heard them say “use your heart”? Not likely.  This is our society. A society made of the brain and the ego.  Everything is about thinking and how other people perceive us, and to achieve this, we change colours like a chameleon to suit the crowds we are in.  Sometimes we do this so much that at the end of the day, we don’t know who we are, or where we want to be or who we want to be with.

Watching children is refreshing and I think we can learn a lot from them. For one thing, they know how to play, and for another, they know how to feel.  When they are upset they cry and when they are happy, they laugh.  Of course, this only happens until the parents start labeling emotions for them.  Sadness is a bad emotion, and happiness is a good emotion. What happens when the labeling starts? We start to categorise things.  Obviously we want the good stuff i.e happiness, and we avoid the bad stuff such as sadness. We turn to drugs and alcohol to avoid these “bad” feelings.  We run when we see death, and we hold on so tightly to our mortality.

Sadly enough. No matter how long you delay growing up, or settling down, or any such thing, no matter how long you chase excitement, or how many times you change your stripes to be “in”, time does not stop. You’re not prolonging your mortality and you’re not delaying your death or the deaths of the people close to you.  And here is one question, why is death bad? It is sad, yes, but why is it bad? Why is sadness bad? It is a feeling, and so is anger. Feelings are just there, and some are uncomfortable, but I think it only becomes “bad” when we repress it, and it builds up like water in a dam, then one day, it just bursts open and drowns not only ourselves but the people we care about.

You have a brain, yes. It helps you think and deliberate, but you also have a heart. Yogic belief is that although there is the brain, the heart is your connection to your spirit. When you feel, you feed this spirit, but feel with compassion and kindness to yourself, and you will be compassionate and kind to others.  When Sadness comes, tell her “I acknowledge your presence”. Then cry if you must, and let her out.  Don’t smother her. The brain sometimes, when it works together with the ego, has a way of confusing you.  It tells you that love is weakness, and compassion is pointless. It tells you that you need to seek excitement, and it tells you that you need attention.  It tells you that what strangers think of you is what matters more even if somewhere along the way you hurt someone who was there before these strangers knew of your existence.  It tells you that it is fine to let someone you care about walk away as long as your pride is in tact. It keeps you thinking so much of the past or wondering so much about the future that you don’t notice the now.  So many things it’s telling you, that at the end of the day, you don’t know what it was trying to say in the first place.

So, here I am, saying to you what your parents probably forgot to say to you – USE YOUR HEART.  If your heart still loves him, then love him.  If you miss him so much sometimes it makes you cry, then cry. I spent 10 years denying and smothering feelings towards my father. I let anger take over, and I let pride take over. My brain said my life was better without him. Was it ? No. Was I happy? No. But you know what, when I could silence my brain from talking about all the things he did, my heart still knew that it loves him.  I might not call him every time I miss him now, but I allow myself to miss him, and I do the same for other people who have hurt me and I still care about.  It is how it is.  It’s not bad, and it’s not good, and I’m not being stupid or being smart.  You’re not being stupid or silly or soft if you do the same either. It just is, and I just am, and you just are.