Posts Tagged 'journey'



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.

 

 

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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.

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.

 

 

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.

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.

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.

 

 

So many brave warriors

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This last weekend I braved an early and somewhat cold start, attached my fastest and biggest lens to my camera and headed off to take some action shots of the Ironman triathlon being held in Durban.  As I left my house the sky was alive with promise of a beautiful day and I felt the sweet breath of anticipation somewhere deep within me.

I arrived at the starting point just as the sun was edging its way into the new day, creating black palm tree silhouettes against a flaming red sky.  Three and a half thousand men and women stood shivering in their wetsuits waiting to start this half ironman competition that started with a two kilometre swim out past the back line and in again further up the beach.  From here the competitors cast aside their wet suits and head out on a one hundred kilometre bike ride. When done with that they would then have to face a twenty one kilometre run before they make it to the finish line.  My goodness this is only a half Ironman!! Families, friends and strangers mill around waiting for the start before walking the distance to where they come out of the water to start stage two.  I am struck by the tense sense of excitement.  An almost breathless anticipation of the day ahead.

The competitors came in all shapes and sizes along with all ages.  Each one of them prepared to push themselves physically and mentally beyond the norm.  Each one of them setting themselves an seemingly impossible target.  The waves that day were enormous.  Probably over three metres and to be honest, not being a water baby, there is not even a possibility I would have ventured out there in a worthy vessel let alone under my own steam.  As the swimmers came back towards the shore you could see the massive waves filled with tiny black dots being swept high and pounded down to be tossed about like buttons in a shaker jar.  Not for the feint hearted.  However, age was not a deterrent to these people.  There were plenty of competitors considerably older than me.  Size was not a deterrent.  They came in every possible guise.  As they stumbled out of the water I was already in awe.

They set off on their bicycles and we made a dash to drive to a half way point.  Firstly because it had coffee (having been up since five thirty this was becoming a priority in my life at this time) and secondly so that I could get some photographs like the one above.  This guy is smiling.  Seriously!

Then we drove back to the finish line to watch them run.  The run was done by way of a ten or so kilometre loop so the runners came past several times.  Supporters lined this route, leaning up against the barrier and passing endless words of encouragement to the runners who by now are starting to look like finishing is not even a possibility.

I was overwhelmed by the support these complete strangers gave to the competitors. Every man and woman that passed was handed a huge dose of kindness.  Their names would be called and words of encouragement would follow.  The people next to me made sure not to miss out anyone.  They clapped and cheered and gave courage to those that had seemingly lost their own.  This was beautiful.  By now the sun was warm and I found myself surrounded by strangers helping strangers.  The unknown supporting the unknown. I soaked it up and revealed in the joy of being human.  How incredibly sweet this all was.

We are capable of so much more than we think.  As humans we have the mental capacity to overcome almost anything.  Seeing these people push themselves to the limits of their endurance and physical capability moved me in a way I cannot describe.  They were truly courageous.  Each facing whatever it is they have to face and doing so for their own reasons.  Each with their own story.

The kindness that humans show to each other is so beautiful it is beyond words.  Why I ask myself do we have wars and why are people so intolerant of one another.  It is not our nature.  We are not born this way.  We are born with soft open hearts and this is how it should stay.  When people come together like this, hold each other up and open their hearts to one another there is an energy that sinks deep into your soul.

It should be like this everyday.  Be kind to one another.  Open your hearts and hold each other up.  We are all courageous and we are all just writing the pages of our own stories.

As in the words of Ram Dass – “We are all just walking each other home”.

 

Letting go of your stuff

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Recently I had to ‘let go’ of something that was very close to my heart.  It had been in my life for a long time and loosing it was especially hard.  It took many deep breaths and quiet meditations to realise I would be OK without it.  That in reality, letting go of one thing allows space for another to come in.  It’s the letting go part that we sometimes find really really hard.

Life sometimes has a way of stripping you down.  Taking you back to the basics from where you start again.  During this process you may loose many things, or even many people but you will also find yourself.  It is a human trait to cling to stuff and people but loosing either pushes us out of our comfort zone, and it is out of our comfort zone that we truly realise what we are made of.  It’s where our creativity lies.

I want to put this into the context of art.  Lets imagine for a moment you are a photographer that loves equipment.  Has a passion for that extra stuff, reflectors and strobes, triggers and backdrops.  This is your comfort zone.  You are happy shooting your portraits surrounded by your expensive complicated gear.  Then one day your studio is broken into and all your extras are stolen.  You did however, have your camera at home with you.  Just your camera.  No tripod and trigger.  No tethering cable.  No flash.  Now the next day you have a portrait session booked.  It’s really important and you cannot cancel.  So you go back to basics.  You scramble in your mind for a location with great light.  You adjust your camera settings and start to play a bit.  You find yourself being less static without the tripod and shooting from new angles.  Stripped down you find a new seat of creativity.  You are so out of your comfort zone but that alone forces you to be creative.  The artist who finds himself with a blank canvas, a brush and three pots of paint will dig deep and get creative. He will mix those paints into every shade possible and create shadows and light out of nothing.

It’s the same with life.  Have you ever noticed those people who are hoarders.  How they are so often the same people who are stuck in their routines.  How they never move forward and expand.  They stay in the same house for most of their lives.  Shop at the same shop and eat the same food.  Hoard their stuff and die never having gone out of their diminutive comfort zone.  Then there are the people who have no fixed location and few belongings, that live from experience to experience and adventure to adventure.  Always seeking and probably always finding.

It is very easy to get stuck in our space.  Both our physical space and the space in our heads.  It feels safe and we as humans like to feel safe.  We like to feel like we can control our environment and we do this by knowing our comfort zone and staying there.  We don’t always choose to move out of our space.  Sometimes we are forced to.  Life comes along and gives a big kick and we are blasted out of our comfort zone into a new space that is unfamiliar and, to be honest, quite frightening.  We take a moment to catch our breath.  Thats okay.  Then we pick ourselves up and take a look around.  This is the point where we start to get creative.  Forced to expand we start to move forward.  Here’s the good part.  Here is where we find our creativity like the guy who looses his job and is forced to go it alone and work for himself.  When we loose something we make space for something new.  We open ourselves up to possibility.   We move out of our comfort zone and somewhere in that space we find ourselves.

When we are stripped down in life and we lose a lot all at once, this is when we have the greatest expansion.  This is when we have our greatest growth and become open to the most possibilities.  The more space we make the more ‘new’ can come in.

It is not easy.  No it is definitely not easy, but it is when we are laid bare, totally out of our comfort zone with nothing but space before us that we truly find ourselves. This is where we find ourselves being deeply creative.  Where we find the greatest expansion of our mind and our spirit.  If you never leave your comfort zone you will not grow.  In fact the opposite will happen.  If you do not let go of something there will be no space for the new.

Take a deep breath today and let go of something.  It does not have to be something physical.  It can just be an idea, a belief, something you have clung on to.  Send it away with an exhale.  Now there is space for something new and it feels so good just to have that space for a while.  Feel yourself expand as you wait for the new to arrive. When it does enjoy the growth.  It will often come in unexpected ways but it will come and you will grow.  The bigger the exhale the bigger the inhale.  The more you let go of the more space you create and the more room for growth.

Let go of something and you will come closer to finding yourself.

 

 

The value of us

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My youngest daughter was recently doing a university assignment about the value of photographers in society. So often photography is viewed as a sort of ‘pretend’ profession. As if what we doing is just play play and we are not serious people doing serious work. Perhaps because for so many it is a hobby and they cannot comprehend that what they do in their spare time is what we do each day. That we don’t share their relentless rat race grind and actually get to spend our days doing stuff that is fun and creative and rewarding.

Lets think for a moment though. To take inspiration from Michael A Singer, we are just tiny specks on a planet that is spinning wildly through space in a vast galaxy that is just a tiny speck in an ever expanding universe so vast we cannot begin to comprehend its size. Why are we taking anything seriously?

Really, just think about that. Think about what is really happening here. People cling to the idea that they are important, that what they do is important and yet if they were to pull back and look at the bigger picture….the really big picture, the huge ever expanding universe picture, they would realize that they are not. We are made up of atoms that were around in the big bang. Some made you and some made me. We will die and those atoms will recycle and the space we left will be filled with another. You are not that important and neither am I.

In my humble opinion we should live our lives with some sort of humility. No one is that important. Loose the ego and enjoy the ride. What ever it is you do it puts food on the table and a roof over your head, but if you look at the big picture, the ever expanding universe picture, you will realize how totally insignificant it really is. I get to share in peoples moments and give them back to them in the form of memories that they can hold in their hands.   I get to have fun on my journey. I get to be creative and see the beauty in everything and that is so awesome but it is not less or more than whatever it is that the man on the other side of the café with the large ego and self important attitude does to fill his days.

Take a moment today to step back and think about this whole big picture. Make a point to let go of your ego and have fun on your journey for that is all it is. You are atoms clinging to a planet that is spinning wildly though space and so am I. It’s like a giant fairground ride so go ahead, relax and enjoy it.



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