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Traits of conscious living

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I recently saw an article in which were words written by the actor Keanu Reeves. Keanu had written about how he did not like living in a world where people did not seem to value either themselves or each other. I agree.  The fact that millions are obsessed with the inane daily existence of a family that seem to pride themselves on the size of their butts rather than the depth in their hearts breaks my own into a million pieces.   Where is our deep commitment to the human race, our planet and everything that resides in our environment?  Why the desire to hurt and why the ludicrous obsession with things that have no meaning or depth.

His article reminded me of notes I had written in the back of an old journal and so I rummaged around until I located those tired scribbles. There in my tatty moleskin I found the list I had made some time ago on what I believe are the traits of people who live a conscious life.

They are dedicated to personal growth. 

By this I mean that they put effort into being a better person that they were yesterday.  The seek to expand their minds and are open to constant learning.  They understand that there is always room for improvement and are willing to work on the space between who they are and who they want to be.

They understand that they are more than a physical body.

Our physical body is home for our soul.  Perhaps we will never understand just what our soul is but we do get that it is vital to who we are.  Both our body and our soul are energy.  Our body vibrating atoms of energy and soul the deep conscious energy that makes us who we are.  They understand this about themselves and equally of others.  They are prepared to meet others on both levels and are respectful of another’s journey here on our planet.

They take care of themselves

Living a conscious life means taking care of the home their soul resides in. Attending to all the physical needs of the body.  Making time for exercise, drinking lots of water, eating quality food and avoiding the perils of sugar, alcohol and drugs. It means taking care of your own emotional needs and stepping out into the world knowing that if you take good care of yourself you have more to offer others.

Embracing their beauty

This really boils down to being comfortable in their own skin.   Taking the time to love themselves, who they are and what they offer to the world.  This is no mean feat. Even liking ourselves seems impossibly difficult in a world that tells us we are not enough.  Conscious people tune out from the media perception of beauty, physical or otherwise and embrace all that they are.

Care for others

Conscious people understand that we are all connected.  That we are all part of this universe and that we are all made up of the same energy at a deep cellular level. This understanding guides them to treat others as they would treat themselves.

Care for the earth

It is pretty obvious isn’t it that if you have conscience at all you are driven to treat this plant with the utmost care.  Reducing your consumption and lowering your carbon footprint are just the tip of the iceberg.  Care for the earth means caring for our environment and everything in it.

Emotionally mature

This doesn’t come easy to some but it starts out by engaging in personal growth.  All the work done there provides the basis for emotional stability and maturity.  This has nothing to do with physical age.  I know young people who’s emotional maturity knocks the socks of people twice their age.

Lives with integrity and doesn’t settle

A conscious person approaches all that they do with grace.  They are true to their word and uphold their own code ethics and morals.  They know their boundaries and expect others to treat them with the same honour as they themselves treat others.

Opens even when it hurts

It is not easy to stay soft and open in a society that wants to beat you with it’s own brand of harshness but this one is essential.  Staying open means not closing down ones heart.  It means understand that the energy of love really is what gives meaning to our lives. It means being tender even in the moments when it is hardest to do so.

Receives elegantly

I struggle with this.  I find myself very uncomfortable with the process of receiving gifts but to not receive with grace denies the other person all the joy of giving.  Of course it is not always a gift from another person.  Receiving also means accepting and loving your talents and anything else that makes you special.  It is understanding that you are deserving of this and being brave enough to go out into the world with that knowledge.

Is brave and courageous.

In the words of Gandhi ‘Be truthful, gentle and fearless’.  Being brave and courages does not denote being hard.  It means be courageous enough to be gentle and be brave enough to stay open.  Stand sweetly in your own power and respect that others do the same.  Move fearlessly out of your comfort zone when required and help others in their quest for growth.  There is a beautiful sanskrit word ‘Shraddha’.  It means learning to rest in complete uncertainty without moving into fear.  For me that just sums up beautiful the ability to be brave and courageous.

I truly believe that we all have the ability to be highly conscious people.  That every single person on this planet has the depth and character to do the work required, and just imagine if they all did.  What a wonderful world it would be.

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On love….

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I find that themes seem to run through the weeks of our lives.  I overhear one person talk on a topic, then another will mention that same thing in class, then yet another will approach me for advice….and so it goes.  Commonality between us.  Shared energy that bounces from one to another invoking all sorts of stories within us.  A collective energy that brings issues to the surface alerting us to the fact that we are not alone in dealing with them.

It seems that the shops are filled with red.  Red hearts and cute white bunnies with red heart shaped ears.  Red negligees that are made from whispers of material and heart shaped chocolates that wink at you as you walk past.  Desperate reminders of love.  All these commercial trinkets, pretty as they are, remind us only to love others.  They sell us the story that we will be complete once we have a person to love.  That we will be whole when we can fill our shopping basket with all things red and sweet waiting to be passed on to another.  The flaw in all this is that we have forgotten to love ourselves.  Somewhere along the path of our lives we stop loving who we are.  I am not sure where and when it happens but I do know that we do not come into this world full of self criticism.  We are not born thinking our legs are too fat or our hair the wrong colour.  We do not stand as children in front of the mirror and inhale deep breaths of self loathing.

So here we find our common theme.  I can no longer count the number of times a client has told me that they do not like themselves but over the past few weeks this issue has risen to the surface like bubbles in a pot of porridge.  One after the other I hear their words and feel their anger.  A vast number of them living in a state of perpetual self disappointment.   Awash with self loathing they pour their love into others and hide their inner neglect behind layers of denial.  I hear the words echo around the studio.  I can’t…. I will never be able…. I am no good at…. I am no good… I am too short… I am too tall…. I am to weak….I don’t like myself.  Oh so many ‘I don’t like myselfs’.  I see the ‘help me’ in their eyes and I feel the ache of sadness in their hearts.  At the end of class I ask them to think of things they are grateful for and then I ask question ‘did you put yourself on the list’?

I see it when they stand before my lens.  I look terrible in photos they say…. I am so ugly… I hate my hair…. I am so fat… I hear an endless diatribe of I am not good enough, I’m not pretty enough, I am just plain not enough utterances.  Kilos of criticism and hearts heavy with the weight of it all.

Stop being so hard on yourself.  Just stop.  You are all beautiful.  Every single last one of you is beautiful.  How do you expect anyone else to love you if you do not love yourself.  Stop hating your arms that you believe are imperfect.  If they can hold and hug then they are good enough.  Stop hating your legs that you believe are not long enough or thin enough. They carry you where you want to go…thank them and be grateful for them.  So when people ask me how to stop hating themselves I say this.  Stop standing in front of that mirror and criticising everything you see.  Start by liking one thing.  Be thankful for that, whatever it may be and how ever insignificant you think it is.  Then tomorrow find another thing. If you can’t find something to like then just find something to be grateful for.  You may not love your eyes but you can be grateful that they enable you to see.  You may not love your feet but you can be grateful that they carry you where you want to go.  Keep doing this and one day the dislikes will turn into likes and the you will slowly start to see all the beauty that others find so endearing.

I am not suggesting for one moment that we don’t all have room for growth and improvement.  Without doubt we all have areas we need to work on be it in the physical, mental, emotional or spiritual planes of our lives.  There is always work to be done but you can start by being kinder to yourselves.  Get over that initial hurdle and then start working on the things you can change and gradually accepting the things you can’t.  Go back to being that kid in front of the mirror.  The one who believes in his reflection. The one who believes he is invincible and strong and just perfect the way he is.

Loving someone else will never make up for not loving ourselves.

 

 

 

On the art of letting go.

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‘How do I let go of stuff’.  This is a question I have been asked time and time again over the last few weeks.  I have been asked by students after class, by friends and even by people I hardly know.  All of these people weighty with emotional baggage that we as humans tend to carry around.  Heavy loads of history.  Perhaps it is the new year that makes us want to shed these carry on cases.  Maybe we want to step into this new year without all the stuff we carried with us last year and all the years before.  We talk a lot in yoga class of letting go.  Of opening up our bodies, minds and hearts.  We work hard at making space in our bodies.  We work hard at opening up our joints and in doing so we work hard at releasing all the tension and stuff stored there.

Most of the time we are hardly aware that we have stored this garbage away in our emotional piggy bank.  We don’t open the doors there much.  We don’t really like to look into that dark and dusty cupboard overflowing with souvenirs from past relationships.  We save trashy emotional memento’s from events not worthy of remembering and allow them to settle somewhere within us.  We invite them in and let them stay.  We make room for them.  They take up space within us.  Space that could be open and inviting for new and beautiful things.  Yet here we are, storing old things and carrying them around trying desperately not to look at them or even to remember that they are there.

We store them all over our bodies.  Our hips and solar plexus are the usual willing victims.  Our hips get tight and our lower backs suffer under the weight of all the gritty garbage.  There are other places though.  We are ever so adept at making space for all this stuff.  Our whole bodies can be used for storage.  No part of us can escape this dusty trail.

So how do we let it all go?  How do we brave the opening of those dusty doors?  How do we pull out those unwanted emotional trophies one by one and toss them away forever?  After all its going to hurt isn’t it?  There is only one way to let it out and that is through the heart.  Thats the way it came in and that’s the way to let it out.

Here is how you do it.  You open one door at a time.  You find that memento.  Take a look at it.  You are carrying it around with you, all day, every day.  Its heavy and dirty. You don’t want it and you know that if you toss it aside you will have space. Beautiful fresh open space.  For some reason this is the point where we get fearful.  We are nervous of that space.  We are used to the weight of it and there is a comfort in that.  It’s what we know.  It’s who we are.  It hurts to look at it.  Our chest tightens and our heart starts to close.  Don’t let it.  Right at this point take a deep breath and open the heart and let it go.  Get behind the pain and throw that thing away.  Release it with one big beautiful breath.

Yes it will hurt for a moment but then that moment is over and it is gone.  Surely that is far better than carrying it around for another few years.  That is all you have to do. Open your heart and let it go.  It will hurt for just a few moments and then it will be gone.  Surely that is far better than the pain of carrying it around forever.  So why don’t we do this.  Why do we insist on holding on to this detritus.  Why to we litter our bodies with the leftovers of our own personal history.  For one reason only and that it is because it is what we know and what we know feels safe.  It keeps us in our comfort zone and we are spectacularly bad at moving out of that.

So go ahead and drag that stuff out of those dark and dismal corners.  Let it go and move on.  You will be richly rewarded in ways you can only begin to imagine.  Just breathe and let it go.

 

 

Courage is not the absence of fear

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A new year lies before us. A vast empty space of days yet to be occupied.  Emotions yet to be felt.  Adventures yet to be approached. Decisions yet to be made. Somewhere in all of this we will all no doubt, be called upon to confront something that requires us to dig deep and look for courage.

There is a tendency to think that people who posses great courage posses no fear. This is never the case.  Courage does not represent the absence of fear but rather the ability to feel that fear and move through it.  It is the ability to recognise that feeling of fear within us.  To accept it and sit with it a while before deciding that you are more than the fear.  That you will not allow that fear to decide your future and fate.

Fear is, after all, just a self created feeling based on a belief that you don’t have the capacity to overcome a perceived experience.  Fear bases itself on you believing that an experience will occur in the way that your mind imagines.  Yet we have no proof of this.  We have no grounds for assuming an experience will happen in a certain way. Then we further assume that we don’t have the ability to cope with the experience happening in the way we assume.  Two assumptions and neither of them true.  One stacked on top of the other making a mountain out of nothing.  Fear is an inability to see things as they really are.

We fear broken hearts and broken bones but both will mend.  Imagine if we lived in a world where we all feared broken hearts so much we never loved.  Some people do. They close down after the first heartbreak and never live again.  The shut themselves off from the experience and yet to not love is to not live.  Fear does not attach itself only to life momentous events.  Fear creeps in to the mundane.  The invitation to a dinner where you only know the host.  A class at gym you have never before attended.  Driving to places yet undiscovered by you and your wheels.  Filling in your tax return.  Taking a flight.  We say ‘I can’t do that’ to ourselves constantly because of fear…..but what if we try…..and what if we can.

Courage is the ability to recognise that fear is an illusion and having the grace to move past that illusion.  It is realising that the beauty of being human is that we can choose how we react to life.  Courage is not denying that we feel the fear.  It is transforming the way we allow it to wound us.  It is a fight with the enemy within ourselves.  If we let fear win we might as well say no to life.  We miss experiencing all the exquisite joy that is to be found on the other side of our perception.

It takes great courage to accept life fully.  To say yes to everything that it might offer. To let it unfold in the way that it wants and to surrender to that experience. Courage is an openness that allows all of life’s wonder in.  An openness that makes space for all of what makes being human so breathtaking beautiful.

I have made a steely promise to myself that all of this year will be faced with courage and grace.  That I will not allow my mind to make assumptions on how things will be. That I will surrender to what comes my way.  That I will not say no to an experience. That I will approach it all with an open heart and mind.  That I will not let an illusion decide my fate.

I do not imagine this will be easy.  I all to easily feel the rumblings of fear and allow my effervescent mind to take me to places I do not want to travel.  It will take courage to sit with those thoughts until they dim their piercing light but I am going to try.

I am going to try because courage brings joy and fear takes it away.

 

On dishonesty….

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I had a friend who was really dishonest with me.  Decidedly and alarmingly dishonest. Monumentally dishonest.  Perhaps then I should accept that they were never a friend in the first place. There is no place for dishonesty in friendship.  Not in my world.

I will admit that when I found out I was stunned as I had always thought I was a really good judge of character.  I have always relied upon my intuition and this is the first time it had failed me.  My goodness I did not see it coming.  Not in the slightest. Despite the rather massive surprise I got by way of a phone call, I attempted to deal with it in a graceful and delicate way.  I hope a managed, but I have my doubts. Since then I have spent a rather inordinate amount of time beating myself up for not seeing the spaces in his stories.  I totally trusted him as I trusted myself.

I trusted him with my own stories and told those stories with all the soft open honesty I believe is beautiful and essential.  Honesty for me is crucial.  It’s fundamental to who I am as a person.  I don’t think we can connect as humans without good old fashioned open honesty.  I believe it is a huge part of being an evolved and conscious human.  Ultimately I think if you are not honest with others then you are not honest with yourself.  If you are not honest with yourself you are in serious trouble and best you start spending some time alone to sort out that mess.

If you google the word honesty you are more than likely to find this: ‘Honesty refers to a facet of moral character and connotes positive and virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness, and straightforwardness, including straightforwardness of conduct, along with the absence of lying, cheating, theft, etc. Furthermore, honesty means being trustworthy, loyal, fair, and sincere’.

That is pretty much how I saw him.  I liked what seemed to be a straightforward way of talking.  I liked the pauses in his stories.  Those stories of his that appeared to be so full of integrity.  I listened to each and every one with an open mind and soft heart.  I liked what appeared to be a sincere interest in my own silly stores.  How could I have misjudged this one so badly!

Perhaps in a another year I might have seen things differently but this came in a year when I been monumentally disappointed in a lot of people. People I trusted.  People I loved.  Perhaps they too are disappointed in me but at least I can say that I was never, ever dishonest.

In a year of big lessons this was just another one.

He does of course have options.  He could step up and email or message me and explain.  I will not email or message back.  I am not interested in having the last word, but it would be nice to know why.  He could call but that would take courage and I now doubt that he has that.  If he had any moral fibre at all he would sit down with me and share this particular story over a cup of tea.  He would tell me why and he would say he was sorry.  I promise to be compassionate and listen with a gentle heart.

Sadly I doubt that he will ever read this.  I doubt that he has the integrity to apologise and explain.  I doubt he has the courage to face me over that cup of tea.

Why do I want him to do this?  So that I can trust that I was not so totally wrong about him.  That I did not misjudge it all so badly.  That he really is the person I thought.  So that I am not so terribly disappointed.   So that I can start to believe again.

I don’t want to be disappointed in people.  I really really want to believe that we are all good and that we all understand that we are connected.  I just want people to be nice to one another.  To be truthful with one another.  To not disappoint when not having to is an option.  We are all struggling to get from one end to the other.  Please can we just do it with kindness and honesty.

As in the words of Gandhi: Be truthful, gentle, fearless.

My friend Jungle Jim

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I find it amazing how the universe finds a way to bring people together even if they are either sides of the world.  How your vibration matches up with that of another even when you are on different continents.  The universe just decides you need to be in each others lives and it makes a plan.

I have such a friend.  We studied photography together from opposite sides of the world.  He was incredibly supportive of my work and we would compare notes and essays and eventually finished the course together delighting in our equally good results.  I loved his engaging open manner and we developed a sweet friendship that moved from just fellow students to encompass our whole lives.  It seems we had far more in common that just photography.

One day he emailed me the first few chapters of his book and one day I bravely emailed him the first few chapters of mine.  He would write each day will travelling his wet and rainy commute into London and I would write from coffee shops on warm sunny african days. Worlds apart and yet the same.  He of course is ten steps ahead of me and was near to completing his book.

Then on one of those exquisite sunny days a parcel arrived.  His book in all its glory.  I held it in my hands and ran my fingers over the cover.  In the pages between those covers I could feel every tiny atom of energy he had poured into those words.  I could feel his pride and excitement.  This was a big moment.

That weekend I was going away with a friend and as if the universe knew how to play this game the skies darkened and the rains came.  I lay in my bed listening to the drops fall heavily onto the roof above and the sounds of the lion call far away.  I took that precious book in my hands and as I turned the pages I was transported into the world of Jungle Jim.  To his adventures deep in the jungle with the rain coming in equal measure there in those pages.  I devoured it.  I was there.  I was her.  I was young and full of adventure.  How sweet that the universe made sure my world matched those on the pages.

I don’ want to give away the story.  That is for you to enjoy and I promise you will not be disappointed.  Jungle Jim is an adventure that captured my heart and imagination. Every one of those pages is filled with James King’s adventurous spirit and massively soft heart.

I am so proud of you my friend.  I loved this book.  I loved it’s energy and excitement.  I loved that it captured me so and I loved that it is so much a part of you.

James you have inspired and encouraged me.  You have listened when I needed a friend and you have entertained me with your adventures.  This book is only the beginning and I am eternally grateful to the universe for bringing you into my life.

James King’s Jungle Jim is available from http://www.troubador.co.uk/book_info.asp?bookid=3512, Amazon and Kindle.

 

 

On life and loss…..

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This year has been hard.  Unbelievably hard.  Excruciatingly hard.  I have lost so much of what I once held dear and found myself feeling more vulnerable than I ever thought possible.

My year began with divorce. Divorce from a marriage of twenty seven years.  A painful separation with all that I had known for my whole adult life. Nothing can prepare you for the loss.  With divorce there is always loss.  Huge, huge amounts of seemingly unbearable loss.  Loss of what you thought would be.  Loss of a future you once imagined.  Loss of friends and on occasion, loss of hope. For me the greatest of those losses, apart from the obvious, was my beloved ramshackle house in the bush. This was the place I called home.  Where my heart and soul felt the most peace. Where I took all my deep breaths and made all my big decisions.  The place I went when life became overwhelming.  So in the most overwhelming time in my life I could not go to that place that I knew.  I could no longer sit in that place where I normally sat.  In essence, even my decision making process had to change.

Life was, in fact, to became more overwhelming than I could possibly imagine. Nothing it seemed, bar my name, could stay the same.  I moved house, changed my car, changed my bank accounts, changed phone accounts and wifi providers, became a yoga instructor and took on photography work I had previously shied away from. It was hard. Seriously hard and I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted.  I had to claw and fight my way back to creating a life that was sustainable, even if it was temporary.

Then just when I thought I could catch my breath the universe dealt another massive blow.  It took from me my mother in a bizarre set of circumstances.  Nothing could possibly prepare me for the month that was to follow.

Last week I sat in her little home in the cold autumn of England and tried once again to catch my breath.  I could not seem to find it.  It was not amongst the all letters she had saved.  Letters that I had written to her when I was still a teenager and living in America.  It was not amongst the clothes that she wore, nor was it in the cupboards of china that she loved so much.  I could not find it in the garden she had tended so carefully or in the boxes of photographs I rummaged through.  It was not in the cards that arrived nor the quiet ticking of the clock in the night hours where I lay awake in a bed that had once been hers.  Surely I would find it somewhere.

I have yet to find that breath but in amongst all this terrible loss here is what I have found.  I have found open hearts and incredible compassion.  In my vulnerable moments I have seen people step forward to comfort me.  People I did not know well. People who were merely on the fringes of my friend zone.  They have opened their hands and hearts to me.  They offered kind words that I have re-read again and again in those dark hours listening to that ticking clock. They gave me heartwarming hugs.  Hugs that gave me strength when I felt depleted.  They have taken me into their circles and protected me.  They have listened when I needed an ear.  I have made new friends.  New friends that have bought me meals and found ways to make me laugh and smile on the darkest and wettest days….you know who you all are.

I have found strength.  I have found that I am made of more than I thought.  I have found that I have strength to cope with a whole lot more than I ever imagined.

I have found calmness.  Yes, in amongst the whirlwind of trauma I have gone deep into myself to find a place of calm.  Now that I know where it is I know that I can go there whenever I need to.  Perhaps it was not there in the bush, perhaps it was just inside of me all the time.  I just didn’t know how to find it.

We are all just journeying from one end of life to the other.  Life is just about experience.  Big experiences and small.  Sometimes those big experiences are spaced out with long gaps in-between.  Sometimes they come all at once.

I have had a year of big experiences and big loss.  Big discoveries and monumental growth.  I hope the universe thinks that I have done enough growing for a while.  I hope it gives me time to catch my breath.

The space between what was and what will be

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There are those days, those weeks and moments in life when the universe comes along and lays its hand on you with such force you feel that you are shattered into a thousand pieces.  Your heart lies somewhere in you broken.  Pieces of it in your chest and others resting in the pit of your stomach.  Your head rests in your shaking hands and tears pour from your eyes relentlessly.  The words, when they spill forth from your mouth, are jumbled and tumble about in an incomprehensible dance.

There is a space on the floor between my bed and the wall where I sit when things get too bad.  From here, in this little space, where I sit all curled up, I have made  all the terrible calls I have had to make in this past week.  It is here in this little space that I have cried my biggest tears and placed my head in my hands to hold it when it all feels like it is too much.  I am not alone.  There are people all over the world dealing with unimaginable things and journeying through inconceivable grief.  There are broken hearts and tears all over this planet.  I am surely not alone.

Last Tuesday I put my mother on a plane to return home to her English autumn.  To the apples waiting on her tree and the last of the pretty flowers in her garden.  Her suitcase full of little things she had found that would remind her of me and the crisp golden leaves waiting to fall at her feet.  We were exceptionally close.  We always had been and she had been my friend for all of my fifty years.    The fact that she lived in England and I in Africa did not loosen our bond.  We Skyped and emailed and knew daily details of each others lives.  She would get on a plane and come at a moments notice whenever I needed her.  Sometimes she would just sense that I needed her and be here before I even had to ask.

While she was here we talked of her childhood in post war England and the things she still wanted to do.  Of her parents and grandparents.  Of  life with my father and life without him.  She told me of a train trip through the bluebell woods that she so loved and how she would book it when she got back.  We walked daily on the wide golden beach near my house that you see above and dipped our toes in the warm Indian Ocean.

She never got home to her beautiful garden and pretty blue house.  She never saw the flowers waiting with their bowed heads or tasted those golden apples. Somewhere, just about half way between the hot dusty air of Africa and the sweet damp air of England she had a heart attack.  A jumbo jet full of weary passengers was diverted to Abuja in Nigeria to offload my sick mother and continue its journey to where she was supposed to be.   A kind man with a foreign accent on the end of a feint line tells me things I do not want to hear.  I sit down in that space between the bed and the wall weeping huge gulping buckets of tears.

Through my constant flow of salty wet tears and breaking heart I look at how to get to this far away place in the middle of a war torn part of Africa.  I am told it is not safe to go and yet I am asked by the doctor to please rush as she is all alone there. That she has opened her eyes and held his hand for just a moment before drifting back into her unconsciousness.  Was she looking for me?  I research again how to get to this far away place but my children beg me not to go.  It’s not safe they say.  I am stuck as half way between going and not as she is between her two homes.  I sit between what was and what will be.  It’s a terrible place to be.  I wait knowing it is only a matter of time until that inevitable call to tell me that very place of waiting is no longer there.  I hide again in the space between the bed and the wall.  It feels like home now.  I think she knew.  I think she came to say goodbye.

The universe delivered me an unbelievable blow in the most absurd way possible in what has already been a exceptionally difficult year.  I envy generations past that were allowed a certain time to grieve.  They sat in their parlours and drank tea and received occasionally visitors for months on end, slowly coming to terms with the new space they found themselves in.  Life today is different.  I now face the complicated journey of getting her body out of Nigeria and home to her beloved England. I face endless red tape and a long lonely flight to meet her there where the leaves are crisp and her apples wait.

Death is the natural order of things and yet it is never welcomed by those left on earth.  My mother died in Abuja.  A city I never knew existed and yet now means so much to me.  I hope one day I can go. This is all part of my journey here on earth. These are my lessons and I must trust that the universe knows that I am not yet broken and that I have got this.

Practicing non attachment

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A confidence crisis is not confined to an artist.  However, anyone who practices any kind of art will at some point or another face some sort of wobble in their confidence at some point during their creative life.  Probably several actually, and if they are anything like me then they will have them on a regular basis.  They will doubt their technical knowledge.  They will wonder if their creative pool has dried up and they might even want to sell all their kit convinced their last ever piece of create work has long since been produced.

Recently whilst standing before a class of eager and expectant faces I wondered what it is that gives us confidence.  What gives me the confidence to go before people and teach despite the fact that I still have so much to learn? What gives me the confidence to write these words that may will be shunned with hefty giggles and dismissive vocabulary? How do we take confidence into our hearts and lives.

For me confidence simply comes from non attachment to the outcome.  When I first stood on my mat before my very first yoga class I had to overcome a moment of anxiety.  Could I teach? Would they like me? Would they come back?  I reminded myself that every person there that day would have a different opinion of me.  Some would like me and some would not.  Some would eagerly return for the next class and some would go on a search for another teacher who resonated more with them. I let go of the outcome.  I reminded myself that it did not matter what each of their individual opinions were and that it was more important to teach in a way that resonated fully with me.

I believe our education system has to take a great deal of the blame for the collective confidence of the human race.  Imagine, if you will, the young child who stands before her parents and siblings in full confidence singing out a tuneless nursery rhyme.  She has no attachment to the outcome and is glorious in her unadulterated joy.  Fast forward a few years and put her in front of her class where she now has to recite a poem or speak on some inane subject she has no interest in.  Now she is told very clearly there will be a rating attached to her performance.  She simply has to be attached to the outcome.  She is taught to be attached to the outcome.  Each and every day, in everything she does she is learning attachment to the outcome.  In the words of Buddha ‘the root of suffering is attachment’.  She spends twelve years in education being taught to be attached to the outcome of everything she does. She is doomed until she has spent an enormous amount of time working on herself and unlearning this very thing.

There are seven billion of us on this madly spinning planet.  Each and every one of us has a different perception and reality.  If you are creating something every single person that views that work will have a different reality of it and if you attach yourself to the outcome of each of those realities you will end up at the very root of suffering.  Create what resonates with you.  Detach yourself from the outcome.  Write the words that sit pretty on the page before you.  Take the photograph that is breathtaking in your eyes alone.  Paint on that canvas in the way that feels exquisitely beautiful to you.  Run the way that you want to run.  Move the way you want to move.  Sing the way you want to sing.  Detaching your self from the outcome allows you to do and say things that you otherwise might be reluctant to do or say. It frees you from your comfort zone and somewhere out of your comfort zone is where all the good stuff lies.

Try it for a day.  Detach yourself from the outcome of every single thing in your day and see how it feels.  Learning to detach yourself from the outcome is an incredibly liberating thing.  It frees you up to be your true self in all your magnificent glory.  It gives you incredible confidence.  It brings you back to yourself and in that place is all the joy and happiness you could ever want.

 

 

All the lovely lulls in life

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I was recently reading something I had written long ago in which I had said that yoga was about getting the inside right while working on the outside.  I was glad to have gone back and read this as I have been feeling, over the past few weeks, that my own personal yoga practice had hit a plateau.  I have been watching the students in my classes make leaps and bounds and taking much delight in their individual journeys.  It is in enormous privilege to be part of this.  To watch them blossom and expand.  To see them face their fears and overcome anxieties.   To engage with them as they make space in their bodies and lives.

Within my own practice I have become frustrated with seemingly little progress over the last month.  I have felt tightness in my hips and this has resulted in not finding the depth in my flexibility that I desire.  I have found that I have not mastered a new challenging pose for a while.  Watch my ego talking here.  Ego ego ego.

So upon re-reading my own words I am reminded that plateaus are okay.  That they are an inevitable and necessary part of life.  More than that though, I was reminded that reaching a lull in my physical practice does not mean that work is not being done.  Everyday when I roll out my mat and use that 6 x 2 space to twist and bend my body into unimaginable poses I am wringing out my stresses and engaging my heart.  I am making space in my body and mind. When I go upside down I am listening to my breath and finding stillness. I am pausing.  I am reminded that, with all things in life, we need these lulls and plateaus.  We cannot be seeking, growing and expanding every day.  That there will be times when we go forward in great leaps and bounds and then time when we pause and reflect.

It is during these pauses and reflections that we do most of our internal work.  Imagine for a moment it is a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon.  You decide to tackle a moderate mountain or hill climb.  During the climb you concentrate only on putting one foot in front of the other.  You are engaged with supplying your muscles with oxygen and with the process of moving your muscles.  Then finally, after much effort you reach the top.  The plateau.  Here you pause.  You inhale, expand and your heart fills with joy and pride.  You stand for a moment or two just taking in the beauty of this exquisite planet we call home.  Deep breath after deep breath you fill yourself up.  You smile.  Perhaps you sit for a while in quiet thought and contemplation.  You made it and now you are full of pride and happiness.  As your breath becomes calm you lose yourself in all that is.  You think about how you have just challenged yourself.  How you did not think you would make it but you did.  You begin to think about the meaning of life.  Your mind wanders to some of the challenges in your own life.  Somewhere there on top of that mountain you find answers.  So you begin the slow gently climb down.  It seems easy compared to the climb.  Your heart is happy and your soul content.  Your mind is quiet and you feel a new sense of peace.

So it is in life and yoga.  There are lulls in everything as there was on top of the mountain and it is here in these lulls that we do our contemplation.  We cannot only be doing the physical work.  We need the lulls and quiet to make sense of it all.  So I am reminded that this lull in my physical practice is similar to that time on top of the mountain.

There are lulls in all areas of our lives.  In our relationships and in our work.  I cannot possibly be constantly creative in my photography.  I need the time of the lulls to retreat back into myself.  To find the quiet contemplation that is the seat of all our creativity.  The lulls and plateaus are when we do our internal work.  It is when we turn inwards and apply what we have learnt.  It is a little like dreaming.  We cannot be awake all the time.  We need to rest and sleep and during our sleep we dream.  During our dreams our minds are sorting and making sense of what we learned during our waking hours.

I think to some degree we fear these lulls.  We fear that we will not move forward again.  That it is not a lull, and that it is perhaps a wall.  This is rarely the case and if it is we simply feel our way along the wall until we find the edges and a new way round.

So remember to engage fully with all the beautiful lulls in your life. Sit in quiet contemplation until such time as it is done.  Do not rush this process for it is here that all the answers will find you.

 

 



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