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

One in Four – A Walk through Shadow and Flame

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.

It is a process of riding the waves day by day, and a transformation through fire. At the other side awaits a stronger person with more compassion and so much more love for self and others.0c136b5c56fd13046766ee65c4826572-d6ha2cv

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!

Dive In

It’s been a while since I last wrote something for you.  Two weeks of movement – dynamic energy, fire, flight. When the world moves quickly like that, it’s easy to lose track of where the heart is and what it needs.  But as the world usually does, it allows time to land, a time to negotiate with the discomfort of slowing things down.  The discomfort of not knowing what comes next once you have cast your intentions out to the ether.

Another full moon comes.  Another phase of life ends.  Perhaps it is just time, but no ending should go un-mourned, no part of life let go without being honoured.    There was a certain emptiness before, but it was an emptiness that invited an exploration.  It was, in essence, a space to allow the lotus to bloom into its full glory, to marvel at the majesty of a beauty that grew from the mud.

And now, the lotus has bloomed so it is time to move into a new realm.

There is a sense of unfamiliar familiarity with this realm.  You’ve been here before, but not in the same way.  I have been here too, but not with you.  Yet, I have, you have, and we have – from lifetimes before, in different manifestations.  I was the person who smiled at you as a child, only to then run away.  You were the person I knew in my youth when I was lost, and you were as lost as I was.  Yet, you were not, I was not, and we were not.  Nothing has changed between then and now, and yet, everything has changed.  We have changed.  Many lifetimes have passed within this one incarnation.

Your heart, as it beats, is new to me, yet it is not.

My body and its movements are familiar to you, but it is still a strange new animal.

We have spoken of the same things before in different ways, with different people.  Here we come, sharing that same past with each other, but with different eyes than we had before.

Maybe it is because we have grown.

Or maybe it is because we have still some growing to do, with each other this time.

Empires have crumbled so that new ones can rise.  What different are we, the people who have had lives before this?

We have had lives where we have grown and crumbled, lives where we have each danced in the ecstasy of love and mourned within the despair of loss.  In these lives we have known the highest high and the lowest low.  In these lives we have known anger and loss, loneliness and desire. We have each learned our lessons of who we are up to this point and here we come together because something bigger than we are said that we should.

And now, what do we do?

You can run. I can hide.  We can bury it all deep under the surface and never look at it.  We can distance ourselves from this discomfort and nothing will change.

Or we can take a bit of silence to honour that journey which has brought us to this place.

And then perhaps it is time…

Time to believe in a bit of magic.

Time to have a bit of faith.

Time to find a bit of courage.

Time to just take a deep breath, and as gently as possible, soften, surrender…

Dive in.

Picture from Costa Rica Arts

Picture from Costa Rica Arts

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

IMG_0464

Follow the String….

There is a string at the tip of your thoughts.

Follow it.

See it change colour.

Keep following and again it changes colour.  The texture of the string changes too, from smooth velvet to jangled, dark and murky grey.  A bit like something that has been put through a crimper, almost impossible to be straightened out again.  On you go, following this string into a place where it spreads become thick and fluffy, like cotton candy, like soft wool.  It is so comfortable that you just want to lay there in it, enjoying the softness, but something pushes you forward and on you go. The string becomes barbed wire, covered in thorns.  You want to turn back but you can’t so forward you go, fingers bleeding and tears stinging your eyes.  The climb is endless, the journey long.

There is a whole world to discover, but you haven’t moved at all.

This universe inside you is a journey unto itself.

You want to go back to the comfortable places, the safe havens, the bits that give you something beautiful to hold on to, but sometimes, sometimes, you are just attracted to the crimped pieces of string, the barbed wires, the places where you bleed and cry.  You stay there for a bit, and it too becomes comfortable.  In time, you learn to let go, and the string smooths itself out.

All it needed was your time, your attention, and your forgiveness.

This is meditation.  This is where you listen to the stories in your head – the darkness, the light and everything in between.  Here is where you open to the grey areas within your soul.

In this space of silence you find yourself.

It is no place you haven’t been before. But perhaps, there is a place that needs your acceptance and your love.

So accept.

Love.

And then let it dissolve.

Be free.

Follow the string of your thoughts.  It is but a guide to the vast space of silence that lies within you….

Meditation

Meditation

No Way but Through

30th December 2011 – the day before New Year’s Eve.  This year, I chose to take myself away from the city I live in, but instead of returning to the city where I was born, I chose to go to a place I have never been.  2011 had been a good year, mostly apart from some drama through the last few months.  I wonder what it is about the last few months of the year that just puts people in this state of frenzy and confusion.  Could it be the arrival of the religious festivities, or could it be the changing of the seasons?

Yesterday, I was advised to go for a swim as it would help me deal with the things I am going through.  My first thought was that I had already gone through them, and it was done, but after meditating last night, I realised that I was, indeed, still going through them.  I had been putting off things until I had time to deal with them.  I wonder, in the modern world, how many women do the same?

People can be insensitive, and sometimes even cruel.  However, I had seen some cruel acts before, like my father marrying the woman he had left my mother for on the 1st of June – the date that would have been his and my mother’s 7th wedding anniversary.  These are things that happen, and we have no choice but to go through them.  Unfortunately, nowadays, we can’t always go through the full range of emotions that come with these things when we need to. So like me, and possibly some of the other women here, we bottle them up until there is a safe place where we can let them out.  Unlike me though, some women have the added pressure of having to take care of the wellbeing of others, including their children or their elderly parents, or sometimes, even both.

Break-ups are hard in any capacity, and it makes it harder when you have to deal with an act of cruelty that comes with it. My ex and I are no longer talking.  It is difficult, as after three years, he had indeed become my best male friend, and although we each have separate groups of friends of the same gender, it was always us who were there for each other when the going was tough.  Although I speak to my mother a lot, it was always him I first told of anything new.  We had gone through the end of our twenties together, from being absolutely wild and drunk together, to this point where everyone around us had settled, and us along with them in some way.  There are memories that I share with him and nobody else.

Through the years, we had been both kind and cruel to each other, and through the years, we had cared for and hated each other in equal measure. When I think of a range of emotions that people can go through, I realise now, that with him, I had gone through a wider spectrum of emotions than I had gone through with anyone.  Every time I could make him laugh, it would make me laugh, and every time I got angry and hurt him, it would only hurt me.    In a way, we had grown up together.  We had lived a life together.

That is it though, that is the essence of a relationship.  While here in Byron Bay, I had met another woman who had just gone through a break-up, her relationship had lasted for 13 years.  It was her that pointed out that after a while, when a relationship ends, this person you lose, apart from being your partner, is also your best friend.  You can replace sex, and passion and infatuation, but you can’t replace the years you have built together, the way that you can just look at each other and know what the other is thinking and the way you can get up at three in the morning knowing that even though you are not in the same bed, the other is awake as well.

Right now, we are here, meditating and sitting in silence.  Just going through this, whatever it is, realising that for once, we are going through it without our best friends, knowing that when we look into our heart, it is still hurting.  There is no choice but to go through it in order to move on properly.  Every person leaves their essence and a bit of energy in your life, it is a bit like a dent in a pillow that won’t go away for a while and in the direct aftermath of it, you will feel the emptiness.  And just like a thumb-print or a dent in a pillow, it is unique to every person, and bringing someone else into the picture now, although it would be a comfort, would also be like putting a band-aid on an open wound – take the band-aid off, and the wound is still there, or leave the band-aid on too long and the wound will fester.

In time the light at the end of the tunnel will get brighter, and the sun will rise again, and then, you realise that what you once perceived as emptiness was in fact a vast expanse of space.  So after you go through whatever you have to go through, take that space but leave your doors open.  The sun rises, the sun sets – grow in it, revel in it, and in time, other things will come through the door to fill that space.