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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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

Healing from the Healing

A while ago, a decision was made.  A big decision.  At the time, I knew that it was what I needed.  My life had been traveling within the same spiral for years and I didn’t know how else I could get out of it.  So I stepped out of the circle completely.  Some might say that I fell off the face of the earth into some parallel yet unknown universe.

In this void that I created, I finally allowed my attention to sit on the scars that had been there for years.  You know those ones, the ones that are so bloody and filled with puss that it’s easier to just stick a bandage on them and hope they heal on their own. Those deep ones that if you leave long enough cut through so deep to the bone that you end up having to remove the entire limb. There were a few there so instead of moving forward, I decided that I should stay and work on the things that needed work.

This state of alone-ness was only meant to last for a year.  In this time, I have had various healing treatments from an entire retreat to kick off a life overhaul, to massages, cleanses (you know, you cleanse the liver, then the kidneys need a wash out, then there’s the intestines and then it’s back to the liver and it never ends), Reiki, yoga therapies, AcuEnergetics, and all the way to psychic and tarot readings as well as internet research (some were great, some were just plain weird and due to what I do, some are necessary on a regular basis). Fortunately, witch doctors are rather scarce in big cities.

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There are days however, when I wonder if all this healing work is just an excuse.  You see, when I decided on celibacy for a spell, I put massive blinkers on. I’ve always been a bit daft when it comes to these things in the first place.  It has to be ridiculously obvious otherwise I’ll just see it as a friendly thing. With blinkers on, my ‘friend’ pants were on and they were staying on no matter how smoking hot or ridiculously obvious the guy was.

More than two years later, my blinkers are still on.  I said I took them off, but a conversation I had last week showed me that I have made many excuses to keep them on.  It was one of those days when a man’s perspective gave me a different perspective. We had both gone undergone similar energetic treatments, but where he didn’t think he would go back, I did keep going back.  I suppose if he had stepped out of the treatment room and fallen in love, it would be as simple as him meeting someone awesome and falling in love.  Whereas if I had stepped out of the treatment room and fallen in love, I would have gone into this whole story of how the treatment had released me from past hurts, unlocked such and such and opened my heart and then I fell in love. Sure that could have been part of it, but surely it wouldn’t be all of it.  Surely this other person would have something to do with it as well.

Which leads me to this.

As much as healing treatments are great for you, I wonder if sometimes they can be a crutch.  I know they have been for me.  I wanted to remove my man ban in January, then I found other stuff to work on, and then more stuff, and so on and so forth, and the work continues.  My seven main chakras are still shit some days, and Mars and Venus are no closer to being aligned than they were when I was 16.

What are we trying to achieve really?

We cleanse and starve ourselves, go for endless treatments and keep finding issues that we need to work on before we think we are worthy of love.  We read countless books before we think we have the right to be a parent.  We think that until we can become the most awesome and perfect girlfriend/boyfriend/parent in the universe, we just shouldn’t do it. However, in all this, all we keep finding are reasons why we are unworthy.  It’s like those times when we have a small injury where we just need to stretch it out but instead of doing that, we keep getting second and third opinions until we meet some crazy crook who decides that it needs surgery, which leads to even more time off the game.

I’m not saying that healing treatments are useless.  Depending on the individual, some will work, and some won’t, but perhaps, there needs to come a point where the digging stops.  Perhaps there needs to come a time when we stop getting outside opinions and let the information sink in. After all, that’s what yoga and meditation are for. Perhaps it’s OK to continue working but keep life going at the same time.  Consider the pressure (and sheer boringness) of being or being with someone perfect.  What else would there be left to explore?

Without fuck ups, how uninteresting and bland would life be?

We are all works in progress, but there comes a time when progress actually means just being OK with what is and going from there.

Marks on the Wall – Reflections on Taking 40 Days

A few weeks ago, my mother came to visit.  In an effort to organise my kitchen in a way that makes sense to her, she used wall hooks to hang up my cooking utensils.  Unfortunately however, the wall hooks were hung with tape and since she left, they have been falling off the wall one at a time leaving no marks. It made me think of how we do a lot of things in life.  To save on initial time/money/effort, we tend to just stick things in place using methods that are cheapest/quickest/most efficient, but as we learn in management 101, the most efficient might not be the most effective.

This comes as a reflection as I have committed to a 40 Day Yoga Revolution.  This journey includes five days of studio practice, one day of home practice, a day of rest and meditations twice a day along with some journaling.  I am learning very quickly that it is one thing to just put your name on the board, but quite another thing to allow for the practice to really affect you.  Putting your name down without any real fire is akin to using sticky tape to hang a photo frame on the wall. It is the continuing practice that is a challenge, especially when you somehow end up teaching four classes a day.

In our world of quick solutions and instant changes 40 days does seem like a long time. However as the first week of the revolution ends, I am reflecting on all aspects of my life. By nature, I am highly impatient.  My right shoulder is a work in progress so side planks, arm balances, inversions and even crow pose sometimes makes it feel uncomfortable.  In my early days of practice, I would get extremely frustrated with the shoulder, and I would push through.  Then of course, I would hurt it, and not be able to do anything for a while.  Through the years, I have become more patient and careful with my shoulder and apart from every once in a while, it is progressing for the better.

Ah time… That thing that we all think we don’t have.  When I worked in the corporate world, nobody had enough time, or money, or anything.  Everything had to be done yesterday, and of course, tomorrow, everything falls apart.  In relationships, we are constantly rushing to get ‘there’, wherever there is – marriage, kids, etc.  Two of the biggest relationships of my life started within two months of knowing my previous partners.  Sure they lasted for four and three years respectively, but when times got challenging, we didn’t have the underlying friendship to allow for healthy communication.

Time is relative.

In our world, 40 days is a long time, but in the grand scheme of things, what is 40 days after all?

We can implement personal change in a day, but it is time that will tell us if this change sticks.  We can overhaul an organisation or a country just by writing a piece of policy but it is time that will let the change settle through the people involved.  We can look at someone and be attracted in an instant, but it is time that will allow us to see if the two lives can fit together.

Why am I doing this?

Like a lot of people, my life is pretty set.  I have done things the same way for long enough that it has become a safe cocoon.

As scary as it is for me, I am doing this to allow for the possibility of things coming into my life that will change it.   It could be a change in my meditation, a change in my practice, growth with work, the courage to lower my defenses when I do feel attraction to someone, a relationship that affects me more than just physically, a new idea or a new way of waking up in the morning.  I am here to let time do what it may.  Instead of using sticky tape, I am allowing for a mark to be left on the wall.

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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/

Marriage? Maybe later

I just read an article about a woman’s thoughts on marriage: http://www.essentialbaby.com.au/life-style/family-entertainment/if-you-dont-covet-the-white-frock-why-get-married-20120723-22iza.html#utm_source=FD&utm_medium=lifeandstylepuff&utm_campaign=chrissiewedding, and it’s made me think about it a bit, and what happened when I went to a wedding last year.  Someone I know had said that she didn’t want to get married, and another person, couldn’t believe her. It was almost like there was something wrong with this person because marriage just wasn’t a priority to her.  It was viewed in an even stranger light as she had been with her partner for a few years now, and apart from the marriage papers, they were as good as.

A lot of people I know are like this.  A woman who doesn’t want to get married or have kids is looked at like she’s a mutant most of the time. The first of that sort of look might come from her mother, the second from some other older relative, and then from friends. And as a woman gets older, the pressure increases.  Looking back to my childhood, of course there were the fairy tales and that, but there wasn’t really much focus on finding prince charming.  At 16, when I was in high school, apart from my love for the guitarist Slash that still lives (I still wonder why I’ve never dated a musician), and random crushes, it wasn’t really much of a focus. By 18, I’d had a two week thing with a guy, and was still having random short lived crushes on random men.  At 21, I met a boy who was to become my fiancé, but when it looked like I was going to get married, I realized that I had other priorities.

At 32 now, most of my university friends are married with kids. Those of us who haven’t “bitten the dust,” have missed the first, second and third wave of weddings, and of course, there are the whispered, “what is wrong with her,” ”maybe she’s a lesbian,” and all that jazz. See the thing is marriage is just not a priority.  Like the writer of the article, I think weddings are great. I love weddings. I get super excited every time someone gets engaged, married or pregnant it’s just not a priority for me, personally. Why? Perhaps it was the priorities that were drummed into my head. Unlike finishing high school and getting into university, marriage was not something that was drummed into my head from a young age.  In fact, there was a lot of anti-marriage, anti-man sentiment going around. The sentiments didn’t rub off, as I love weddings and I love men.  So perhaps it’s just as simple as things being how they are.

At this point in time, I don’t particularly feel like I have to settle down, get married, or build a family. Not saying that I’m completely against it, but I don’t feel like I HAVE to. (Maybe after a master a jump-back from bakasana without going splat, do 108 sun salutes at Yoga Aid and read just five more books that are coming out this year).  And in this day and age, I know that I’m probably not the only one who feels this way.  Being single is no longer lonely, sad or means that you’re lacking in some way.  It just is. To be honest, I wonder sometimes if a lot of people are married, dating or having children because they feel that it’s “part of life,” or “expected,” or even, “the normal thing to do.”