Posts Tagged 'body'

I’m not where I want to be…

I’m not where I want to be.  I’m far from where I want to be, but I’m closer than I was.

Two years ago I was on my knees.  Broken by the end of a twenty seven year marriage and just months later the death of my mother.  I had no idea how I was going to survive let alone live.  I’m not there anymore.  I’m so not there anymore.  I’m putting myself back together bit by bit.  When things get broken and put back together they don’t look the same.  The japanese call it kintsugi.  The art of fixing something that is broken and making it more beautiful. I’m putting myself back together and hopefully the new me will be better…..but I’m still a little bit broken.  Fixing some things takes time.

Lots of time.

In the meantime I am perfectly capable of constantly beating myself up about not being where I want to be.  Not being good enough.  Not achieving enough.  I know we all do it but I am the master of it.  Constant tirades at the mirror.  Moments of pure diatribe when I am driving.  Telling myself I should be better. I should be stronger, fitter, more capable, more successful. I should be where I want to be….but I’m not.  It’s too soon.

So in a quiet moment this weekend I wrote down all the things that I have achieved in the last two years.

I did 500 hours of yoga teacher training and passed with distinction

I started teaching yoga daily and in doing so making a difference to so many lives

I did counsellor training and passed with distinction

I did my meditation teacher training and passed with distinction

I started an online business learning about packaging, trademarks and countless other things

I started importing for my online business

I helped write a book that is about to go to print

I wrote my own book – well the first 60,000 words of it.  It still a work in progress.

I expanded my photography business

I went on a blind date

I buried my mother and dealt with her estate

I stopped watching tv

I increased my exercise and changed my diet

On a personal level I moved house, bought a car, opened bank accounts, opened cell phone accounts and learnt to do life on my own

I’m learning to deal with my anger

I’m learning to soften

With the support of some incredible friends I survived

I survived and I grew and I got to know all the broken parts of myself.

I’m not done putting myself back together.  I’m still hurting.  I’m still a little bit broken.

I’m not where I want to be but I’m closer than I was.

Life will break you..but..

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In all my work I am incredibly privileged.  I get to meet and spend time with an amazing variety of people.   With my camera in hand I meet newborn babies and happy people.  I get to photograph people doing what they love with the people they love.  There is often laughter,  there is often joy and I get to capture it and give it back to them so that they can look at it forever.  Life however is not just filled with happy smiling moments.

There is laughter in my yoga classes too.  Lots of it.  There is laughter and joy but there are also tears.  There are tears and great moments of fear.  There is anxiety and anger and for some reason yoga brings it all out.  People come to class for all sorts of reasons.  The come in search of something, often not knowing what that thing is.  They come thinking they want to do a few asanas, touch their toes and sit in relaxation.  This happens, oh yes this happens, but shit happens too.  Last week a student touched her toes for the first time in her life and along with that moment came floods of tears.  Tears of joy.  Tears of release. Tears of achievement.  In that same class a student who could not find her balance instead found floods of tears in savasana (relaxation).  I held her head as her body shook with the weight of it all.  I watch as people release deep sighs in meditation.  I get to be part of their process of peeling back the layers of themselves.  I get to witness their ahh-aha moments.  I get to be part of their journey and it’s beautiful.

A while back I was asked if I would spend some time doing relaxation and meditation with a lady who was terminally ill.  The sweet, kind, beautiful person was understandably very anxious about the road that lay ahead of her. Once a week I would go to her apartment and for an hour we would talk and then we would sit in quiet meditation with me guiding her to find just a few moments of complete peace.  We would talk of life and death, of fear and trying to really live in the few moments she had left.  I witnessed her sorrow and pain.  I held her hand when she cried and helped her breathe through moments of unease.  I was witness to her most intimate fears.  I heard her stories and sat with her when she needed to find space in those stories and it was a beautiful thing.

Life will break you.  We come into the world devoid of fear or judgement, but life will break you.  Along our journey we bump headfirst into heartache and pain.  We suffer intolerable sickness.  We loose people we love and are brought to our knees by uncertainty.  We fix ourselves with pretend plasters and glue.  We hold it all together with imaginary layers that we think will keep out all the pain….but it won’t.  Life will break you.

I had the incredibly privilege of getting to know a person intimately in the last months of her life.  During our hours together I got to ask about living.  I got to ask her where her breaks had been and where she had built her walls.  I got to see where she had put her plasters and glue and I got to see her layers peel away.

At the end of the day all those layers of ours will come undone.  In the last days of your life each and everyone of those plasters will come unstuck and the glue will melt.  We put them there because we don’t want anyone else to see our pain.  We don’t want to be vulnerable.  We want others to only see the happy pretty parts of ourselves.  What people don’t realise is that underneath all the pretend fixing is where all the real beauty is.

When I see the layers fall and the personal first aid fail I smile.  When I watch in class as the quiet person in the corner finally lets go, I smile.  I smile because the real beauty of a person is in their vulnerability.  The real beauty of the human race is in our connection and when we are vulnerable we connect deeply.  Our beauty is in the layers of who we are.  It’s in our stories and not just the good ones.

It’s hard though.  Taking off the plasters is hard and it hurts.  Something happens though when we do.  When we show another person our pain we free them up to do the same.  When we gut vulnerable we let them get vulnerable too.

Here is the best part of it all.  Like a baby or a person in their last hours where there is a serenity and grace that is breathtaking, a person without all their plasters and glue is the most beautiful thing.

 

 

Happiness is……a secret

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I made a promise to myself a year or so ago when my life fell apart and all that I knew was no longer.  I promised myself that I would be open to possibilities.  That what landed in my lap was perhaps meant for me, despite my own curious dubiousness, and that I would explore what ever came my way.  That I would let life unfold just as it wanted. That I would release my resistance to outcomes and live in the moment. That I would enjoy those moments and treasure each and every one of them however heavy or light they felt.

I am proud to say that I have done just that.  I have braved weddings on my own, seen more movies than ever before, flown around the country visiting friends and agreed to work that I never, ever, imagined myself doing.  The rewards have been great and I am thankful for each and every opportunity to explore both the external world and my own inner self.

So when a week or so ago a dear friend messaged and asked me if I would like to go to Secret Sunrise I agreed, without even a moments hesitation and without even being fully aware of what it was.  I then moved on with my days and having marked the event in my calendar let it rest far in the back of my mind. I had just returned from a long weekend away in the far off provence of Limpopo when she messaged to remind me that out outing was imminent.  I have to admit I did emit a rather large sigh.  Despite my efforts to move out of all my self imposed comfort zones I am still a lover of routine and am deeply attached to my own personal space and alone time. I had just spent five days away with people and had a deep desire to sink back into the coziness of my world.

With a certain amount of weariness my alarm was set for four thirty in the morning and rise I did on an extremely hot and humid morning at the end of March.  We arrived at the city centre location only divulged the day before (hence the name Secret Sunrise) and were each presented with a set of headphones and guided to some stairs leading to the roof of the building.  There on that roof was a veritable wonderland of vegetables and flowers.  A rooftop garden so sweet it would take your breath away.  Recycled items turned into glorious flower containers, a giant chess board, a bus stop and fruit tress abundant with their offerings.  A fairy tale world in the most unexpected of places.

Headphones on we were guided though an hour of dance, meditation and unbridled joy.  To begin with I found myself hesitant. Unsure and self conscious. After all here I am on a rooftop at six o clock in the morning, dancing to music no one else can hear, waiting for the sun to make it’s easy way into the day.  Then I remembered my promise to myself.  To just let life unfold and enjoy all the moments that came my way.  I looked around me and saw nothing but sweet smiles.  The energy and joy was infections and it took only one or two breaths before I too found myself floating around the garden in a state of pure happiness.

I was breathless.  Something that started out with a sigh of regret at my eagerness to say yes turned out to be one of the happiest hours of my life.  The sheer pleasure of moving my body without a care in the world was exhilarating.  Catching my breath as the sun showed it’s sweet face over the roof tops I was deeply grateful to be there in that moment.

So this is how the story goes.  Be open to everything. Release your resistance to the outcome.  Let life unfold.  This was a true lesson from the universe and a very sweet reminder that pure joy comes in the most unexpected ways.

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.

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.

 

 

How the universe gave me a lesson in humility

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Last week I was taught a big lesson in humility by the universe.  Life lessons are rarely easy and often sent to us with such impeccable timing it is hard not to laugh at the synchronicity of it all.

I arrive at the national gym chain where I teach my yoga class.  I go to the studio to prepare my music  (I like to do yoga to the likes of George Ezra and Phillip Phillips).  I plugged in my iPhone, rolled out my mat and glanced at the clock.  Exactly seven minutes before class is due to start.  I love the number seven and was feeling pretty good about life.

If I have not already managed my own practice that day I like to spend a few minutes before class warming up so that I can at least touch my toes!  I also like to spend that short time thinking about what I will say at the beginning of class.  It is nice to start the lesson with a few words about some aspect of yoga philosophy.  I decided that I would talk about how there is no room for ego in yoga.  How it is about your own particularly journey back to yourself.  That it does not matter what the person on the mat next to you can do.  That you should not compare yourself to them.  I have a deep belief that ego is a very dangerous thing and responsible for so much of our worlds destruction so it is a matter close to my heart.  Now I say this but somewhere in the back of my mind is the awareness that there is a degree of ego attached to teaching.  There you stand in front of people, knowing something they do not and being able to physically do things they can not.  I am acutely aware of this and yet it still sits there in me.  I admit I get a kick out of the fact that I am probably well past my half way mark in life and able to do things with my body that most of the class cannot do despite being decades younger than me.  I hope I use it to inspire but I suspect that at times it feeds my ego.  It is a human thing.

Inhaling deeply I stretched up in Tadasana (mountain pose) and folded forward to Padahastasana reaching to place my hands flat on the mat in front of my feet. Something I do every single day at the start of my practice.  As I did this I felt a sharp and rather excruciating pain in my lower left back.  I collapsed onto my knees and muttered some exceptionally non yogi words under my breath. Actually I think I said them quite loudly! I tried to stand and could hardly straighten up.  I am sure you can imagine some of the very unpleasant things that were being uttered by me at this time.  I stayed on all fours and tried to roll my spine.  This was not good.

Only minutes to go and no time to call in another teacher.  Deep breaths Niki.  Deep breaths.  Keep calm and carry on. The doors open and bright eyed students appear with all the eagerness of the sun making its way into a new day.  Meanwhile my eyes are watering as if I have been peering into that sun for far too long.

I welcome everyone and go with what I had planned for this particular class.  I inhale deeply and talk of ego and how there is no room for it in our lives…and so we begin our practice.  I was able to do forward bends and most of the balances, however there was not even the tiniest hint of hope that my back was going to go past the vertical.

Humility.  I explain to the class that I had hurt my back and how yoga teaches us to be aware of our bodies and surrender to what they cannot do and rejoice in what they can.  I then tuck my ego firmly where it should be and ask a student to demonstrate all the poses that are quite frankly completely inaccessible to me right now.

Believe me when I say this was not easy. I admit I had to dig deep to find that humility.

Those guys upstairs must have been listening to my every thought and delivered that message to me with astonishingly beautiful timing.

What have I learnt from this.  I have learnt to show a certain tenderness to those students that find poses difficult.  I have learnt that I too must surrender to what my body cannot do and love it for what it can.  Most of all I have learnt that lessons will come to you at a time when you least expect them and you might not always like it but you really have no choice but to be as graceful as you can possibly be in that moment.

We are here to learn and grow.  To always try and be a better person tomorrow than we are today and   to try to do that with as much grace and kindness as we can muster.  When we don’t be sure that the universe will come along and give you a big flat slap as a reminder.

 

 

 

 

 



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