Posts Tagged 'universe'

On travelling solo.

No one can say that my life has not been interesting.  From the very beginning it appears I was destined to live a life full of challenges interspersed with an occasional adventure.

It all began in Singapore where my mother, just twenty-one, fell pregnant with her second child.  She had married my father, a slim and charming Irish airforce man at nineteen and their first posting had been to Singapore.  A couple of years later we returned to England and within a year or so we were off to Germany where I began my schooling. I distinctly remember being dragged to school through the snow… not eager to leave the warmth of our top floor flat and the sweet stories of ‘Listen to mother’ on the radio.  Three years later I had to leave my first best friend Gillian and return to England.  I cried for a week and experienced my first broken heart.

Back in England it felt like we moved incessantly.  House after house and school after school.  I became a bookworm.  The corner of the school library and a soft cushion became my friend. The books I read being familiar faces no matter where I found myself.  It was during these years that I discovered the value of knowing how to be alone and I remember my mother telling me how important it is to know how to do this.  To being easy in your own company.  To savour the very sweetness that is solitude.

Finally in my teenage years when my father left the airforce and started his own company we started to settle and yet life began to fall apart.  My father, a typical irishman was a drinker and the more money he made the more he drank.  During his airforce years he had never really been home and I was probably to young to be aware of his addiction.  Now it was glaringly obvious and his indifference to me became a thorn in my side but, at the same time, I developed a deep friendship with my mother that lasted until the day she died.

A week after my seventeenth birthday, having been dumped unkindly by my first boyfriend, I hopped on a plane and went stateside to escape yet another broken broken heart and my father.  I stood at Atlanta airport feeling tiny, afraid and incredibly vulnerable.  All I could think was ‘how am I going to survive this’….but I did.  I ended up in South Carolina and spent a year exploring life, making friendships that are still alive today, learning to stand on my own two feet and the art of ‘conversation with a stranger’.

A year or so later I returned to England and instantly regretted the decision.  Driving through the grey, damp streets on a foggy November morning I longed for the sunny skies of the carolinas, the friends I had made there and once again to be far away from my father and the shit storm that surrounded him.  Just eighteen I sat in my parents little house in England and felt lost, alone and once again incredibly vulnerable.  No plan and no idea where to start. My parents marriage a mere pile of rubble and his love affair with the bottle all the stronger.

Now so many years later I am so grateful for those early adventures.  I am eternally grateful for those early life lessons of savouring solitude and travelling solo.  Of learning to talk to strangers and of reading anything and everything.  Of knowing that broken hearts do mend and that there is power in vulnerability.  Of knowing that you don’t have to tolerate other people’s stuff no mater who they are.

Today I savour my solitude and that little armchair at the back of the bookstore is still my friend.  I have more books than clothes and still love ‘conversations with strangers’.  To hear snippets of their stories and exchange friendly smiles.   I am alone, a little lost and once again feeling incredible vulnerable…..but it feels like home.

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It doesn’t have to be this way…

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In my little world right now I have people close to me who are suffering the unimaginable – stuff we can’t even dream up.  Worlds being turned so upside down that the simple act of breathing becomes impossible.  Heartbreaking, excruciating stuff.  The life is not fair kind of stuff.  The cry for three days and still not catch your breath kind of stuff.

They are not doing this to themselves.  It is forced upon them by the universe for whatever lesson it is they have come to learn in this lifetime.  It is out of their control but it is also out of everyone’s control.  It is just the way it is.  The universe’s plan.  It’s unbearable, but it is the universe’s plan so we catch our breath and move forward as best we can.  It is not in anyones’ control so we breathe and move.  Step by step. Day by day.  Knowing we are doing our best.  All of us doing our best in every moment.

Also in my little world I have other people close to me who are suffering due to the choices of those around them. I have been in that place.  I know how it feels.  I know every single desperate inch of how it feels.  It’s equally heartbreaking….but it’s different.  It’s different because it doesn’t have to be.  It’s the ‘choice’ of the other person.  It can be fixed.  It may take courage but it can be fixed.

Do something once and it is an accident.  Do it again and it’s a choice.  Didn’t have to happen.  Didn’t have to go down that road.  Didn’t have to hurt the people around you.  Didn’t have to do that.

Do it again and it becomes selfish.  It becomes weak.  It lacks integrity and soul.  It becomes pathetic. It becomes deliberate.  The deliberate cause of suffering to others.

Addictions are a disease they say.  Perhaps.

Choice is not a disease.

Addictions are selfish and destructive.  They are harmful and hurtful.  They cause pain wherever they go….and they go everywhere.  They are everywhere.  They are all around me causing immense suffering to people that I love dearly and so many people I don’t even know.  People I have yet to meet.  Addictions are selfish and they are a choice!  I am astonished at the prevalence of them.  I am astonished at the quiet whispering voices as they tell me their stories.  Their stories of breaking hearts and loss of hope.  Stories of broken families and suffering children.  Stories.  So many stories.  I am over whelmed by them.

I do not understand despite a lifetime of being in this place.  I do not understand someone making that choice.  I do not understand the destructive selfishness of it all.

I watched my father destroy his family unit. Destroy his job, his friendships and eventually destroy himself.  Done and dusted and pushing up the daisies by the time he was my age.  He knew what he was doing.  As a child I knew he had chosen his addiction over me.  His selfish destruction of everything around him was more important than I was.

And then I watched it again….

It was a choice.  It was not a disease it was a choice.

It simply didn’t have to be that way.

It never does.

 

 

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 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.

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Moving with the universe

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We all tend to resist stuff that comes up in our lives. Human resistors to whatever the universe wants.  We are great thinkers and planners and we set out in our minds how our days will go.  How events will pan out. We make a movie in our minds of what it will all look like right down to the finest detail.  We like control.  It makes us feel safe in our place on this earth.  We like to compartmentalise and box things, putting them in order for our own emotional security.  We plan our photographic shoots.  We imagine how the weather will be.  How gently the breeze will blow, what colour the sky will be and what our final image will look like.  I have done this so many times only to find that the sky is not how I imagined.  That the wind is blowing the wrong way and I realise I have to surrender to how it is at that moment.

We resist when things do not go according to our own mind movie script.  We resist when things do not fit into the boxes we have created….but guess what…sometimes you have to go with the flow.  You have to surrender to what is and stop trying to control everything.  This resistance is what causes our stress.  You really have no idea what might happen in your life in the next hour, or day, or year.

Life is like swimming in the ocean.  If you resist the wave it knocks you over and sends you tumbling not knowing which way is up.  You are dumped on the sand trying to catch your breath and retain your dignity.  Recently in my life I have had to learn to go with the flow in many ways.  I have been tested enormously and when I have resisted what has come my way I have found myself reeling and tumbling.  A good, but small example is that I have needed to change my car.  I have driven a Land Cruiser for the last ten years but I no longer need such a big car.  I like white.  It’s my colour choice for cars.  It’s one of my boxes.  So I make arrangements with a friend who owns a dealership to trade in my big old car and get myself a new small run around.  He arrives with a car to show me and it is red!  Now this is way out of my comfort zone.  Way way out of it.  However this car has extras that I will get without any cost to me.  Big extras….but my comfort zone!!!!

Do I wait another few months for a white one so that life can fit into my box or do I go with what the universe has offered me?  Do I surrender to what is or do I resist. The universe has offered me an a beautiful car with more than I asked for but in order to benefit I have to let go of my preconceived ideas.

So I am pushing my boundaries and leaving my comfort zone, after all, life happens beyond our comfort zone.

 

 

 

 

 



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