By Maryanne Edwards
So compelled was I to register a business and start building a brand around a personal mantra that has been relevant in my life this year – I began exploring what it is to be organically wealthy? Primarily it’s just a frame of mind and one that I can thank my yoga practice for but I have a feeling it has depths to it I haven’t even explored yet, thus I begin to here by attempting to articulate it.
A student said to me this morning as she was leaving my class that she has been practicing for a long time but in the last year she has felt a very subtle yet powerful shift, at first I thought she meant in her asana practice, she went on to explain this undefinable skill of being able to remove the mind even for a micro second out of a moment and observe the thought processes as they happen. It was such a poignant observation and one which I can totally relate to. It’s this ability to take pause or find stillness and experience a moment to its fullest no matter how simple or complicated the situation. It’s the craft of finding inherent meaning in the otherwise meaningless. It’s yoga!
I am constantly in awe of the power our thoughts hold over our quality of life, even just a simple reminder like ‘be happy’ or ‘be kind’ brings a smile to my face as the energy these thoughts emit is so strong. ‘Be grateful’ is a goodie too – I feel so blessed to be living the life I am that sometimes I feel my heart swell in my chest as I take in my surrounds (my modest but light filled apartment, the beauty of the eastern beaches I live near, the local organic produce from the markets, yoga studios in every direction), it’s a simple life I lead but so full in just the right way.
I observe friends or acquaintances that live fairly fast-paced, high-intensity work lives, with substantial monetary reward but next to no time to enjoy the benefits of financial stability. I see that they work at this pace with the view to buying some sort of freedom further down the track and I suppose I dream of that freedom too. Don’t get me wrong I do not think of money as bad energy by any means in fact when one is abundant in anything it gives them the ability to share it with others which is a beautiful gift, I just wonder whether there is any point making a lot of money if one does not have the time to enjoy it?
As I move further down the yogic path I have been pleasantly surprised to discover how little we actually need. The need to acquire ‘things’ or ‘stuff’ just kind of fades away, I take joy in buying beautiful produce or consumable products that sustain me and those that create them but the desire to have things simply because they are nice has fallen away. It’s a gradual refining of my immediate environment, how cleansing is it to have a big clean out of your home or wardrobe? Or your pantry? The yogi term for this purifying is ‘shaucha’ and it translates to ‘that and nothing else’ meaning a cleanliness in body, mind and environment. It’s about making choices about what we want and don’t want in our life allowing us to experience this world more vividly.
I also believe our thoughts are like magnets, so when we sit within our own abundance we attract further abundance toward ourselves and towards those around us (those in our magnetic fields if you will).
As I begin down the path of teaching, sharing the joy of yoga with others, I hope to be of service by emitting this energy of having all that I will ever possibly require – of being organically wealthy. I hope that others will be drawn into my magnetic field, seeing the beauty of their own immediate experience and the fullness of this simple life. Realising your inner riches is a powerful anecdote to almost any negative emotion.
By Peggy Cuthbert
It’s easy to underestimate the power of human touch. A casual kiss goodbye, the palm on palm press of a handshake, an accidental brush against another person’s back on a train. We often don’t even notice these small daily exchanges that happen as a matter of course. Sometimes though, the healing power of physical contact with others can be overwhelming – so overwhelming that it can change the very quality of our life. We forget that once our basic needs of air, water, food and shelter are met, what we require most for our very survival is connection with others, or put another way, love.
Love can be transferred in many ways and often the verbal communication is simply a confirmation of the many other messages we send – the slightly longer held gaze of eye contact, when we meet another in pure openness without judgment, the little shivers of energy that run up and down our spine when someone close to us comes to mind. But sometimes the best and easiest way of all to communicate our love for another is with the gift of touch.
From a purely scientific perspective, our skin is a labyrinth of receptors, designed to first receive messages and then send signals to our brain to interpret pressure and sensation. On a deeper level, our skin holds the ability to give and receive love when pressed against the skin of another. We can take our cues from the world around us – the kiss of bills between two swans who mate for life, the polar bear nursing her cub for the first three years of infancy, the newborn puppy who can only sleep when lying against his mother’s flank. Even amongst non-sentient nature we see the signs of love and touch intertwined:
In trees and plants one may trace the vestiges of amity and love…The vine embraces the elm, and other plants cling to the vine. So that things which have no powers of sense to perceive anything else, seem strongly to feel the advantages of union.
But plants, though they have not powers of perception, yet, as they have life, certainly approach very nearly to those things which are endowed with sentient faculties. What then is so completely insensible as stony substance? Yet even in this, there appears to be the desire of union. Thus the lodestone attracts iron to it, and holds it fast in its embrace, the attraction of cohesion, as a law of love, takes place throughout all inanimate nature.
- Desiderius Erasmus
So next time you come across someone who looks like they could use some hug-love, or maybe you are unsure on how to speak the words you feel about another, you might give a hug instead. Here is a little how to on embracing someone using the language of love: Set your intention to give a beautiful hug. If there is any doubt about how your hug might be received, ask first ‘can I give you a hug?’ and be perfectly happy if the answer is no. Take a long breathe in to soften your body and then exhale to release any lingering tension. Gently enfold the person in your arms. Breathe deeply a few times, softening again, smile, and then release and step back. Now enjoy the warm glow as it spreads throughout.
By Lauren Flaherty
“The French mathematician Blaise Pascal wrote, ‘All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.’ We have become experts at filling our lives with noise and activities. We wake up to the sound of the radio blaring and dress while the television is on. We drive to work listening to the latest traffic report and spend the next 8 hours in a bustling office. When we come home, at the day’s end, we delve into the evening’s activities against the background sound of television, ringing phones and humming computers”
This excerpt from Life Lessons from the Monk who sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma articulates why for the month of October I have chosen to participate in Quiet Quest, an initiative by The Yoga Foundation to raise money for people suffering with mental illness and cerebral palsy.
The challenge is to spend 30 minutes silently and mindfully each day for 30 days without all the usual distractions of the modern day. No electronic devices, smart phones, music, TV, radio or talking etc.
Having suffered for a number of years with anxiety, I know first hand how debilitating it can be and there was a time when even just the thought of having to be alone with my mind and thoughts was enough for me to start having a panic attack.
Over the last couple of years, and particularly the last 5 months while completing the Teacher Training at Sukha Mukha, I have learnt that yoga is so much more than stretching your hamstrings in downward facing dog or being able to touch your toes in a forward bend. I have been inspired to take my yoga off the mat and have realized that my daily dose of yoga doesn’t have to be an asana practice and that I don’t have to be a yogi living in a cave to practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and engaged in each moment. It is an opportunity to see the true nature of who you are and how you live your life. The benefits of mindfulness are widely known and include an increased ability to focus, experience greater clarity and decrease stress, anxiety and depression. Overall it promotes greater happiness and well-being.
In his compilation of The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali writes that yoga is the cessation of the fluctuation of the mind. While Quiet Quest has given me the perfect excuse to have 30 minutes all to myself, it has also reminded me that my mind is in a constant state of fluctuation.
Quiet Quest has also taught me a lot about my own asana practice, particularly my reliance on music to distract me from the mental and physical discomfort I experience in certain poses. As an example, where I would usually tune out of myself and into the music in hip opening poses, for the purposes of Quiet Quest, I have had to sit with and accept the feelings of anger that come up for me in these poses, where on a subtle level, I clearly hold a lot of negative emotion.
My teachers have often told me that the attitude that we bring on to the mat can often be a mirror of our attitude towards life off the mat. During a silent practice focusing on forward bends I was forced to admit that I still experience a case of the “I’ll be happy when” mentality. Specifically I’ll be happy when my chest is lying on top of my thighs and my back is flat. My off the mat “I’ll be happy when” equivalent is usually something equally as superficial like I’ll be happy when I buy that dress and matching pair of shoes. And while I’m embarrassed to admit this – I was forced to hear it was the case in that silent practice.
Overall, through my experience with Quiet Quest I have been able to recognize how much noise is in my life and how beneficial it is to unplug and listen to the sounds within. I have learnt the importance of making room for quiet each and every single day and I intend to continue on this quest long after the fundraiser ends.
By Olivia Rae
As I was swimming this morning at the beach, diving under the crashing waves, I came up with this, and thought it may help you to understand my post the other day about realising we are not our emotions and feelings…
Our feelings and emotions are like waves
They come and they go
Our smaller self (ego/mind) is the swimmer
The swimmer goes into the ocean and picks ‘faults’ with it
Its too cold, too rough, there’s too much seaweed
And is jumping over and avoiding the waves
They only like it when it’s smooth and flat
Nothing that makes them uncomfortable
Nothing that takes them out of their comfort zone
This prevents them from enjoying the ocean
Then when we start Yoga
We get used to being uncomfortable
Being out of our comfort zone
Yoga brings us to the same level as the waves
Now we can feel the effects of each wave
Sometimes it dumps us, shakes us, or even scares us
This is when we either run away
Or choose to stay and go deeper
Once we acknowledge and accept that waves will continue to come
We learn not to attach to the waves
And instead we dive under the waves
We swim deeper
To come to understand our true nature
Diving deeper into our being
And as we sit deep inside
We watch the waves come and go
They no longer affect us
We now know we are not the waves
Or the swimmer
We are this stillness
Deep within the ocean
By Olivia Rae
We often hear that yoga is a transformative practice. We’re told/expect that we will ‘feel good’ when we leave. You know, we drift off into that blissed state somewhere after all the moving in the standing sequences. Our mind quietens, we’re riding the wave of the breath, and we feel good, at peace…until we don’t. Yes, that is right; it will not always leave us in a ‘feel good’ mood. Our feelings and the emotions constantly change. You are not doing anything wrong, if you are not in a ‘feel good’ mood. It just means that you are experiencing what it feels like to be alive, to be human! This means feeling the full spectrum of emotions. To experience the higher highs, we need to experience the lower lows. Each time we roll out our mats, we are allowing the walls, veils and shades we have put up, from experiencing these states, to slowly drop and shed away. We are able to experience the raw us, the truth, we are able to become honest with ourselves.
Sadly, it’s when these raw, honest, often uncomfortable emotions start to arise, that we want to run away…and sometimes we do (it can feel easier to stay home, on the couch, and eat ice cream…yes, I used to do it!). But what this does, is, just supress the emotions even deeper. Bringing the walls, veils and shades back up. Numbing and cutting us off from life.
To experience both the feel good and the uncomfortable emotions, we just need to sit with them, allow them to be, and allow yourself to be (e.g. if you feel sad, be sad, experience sadness, what does it feel like body, mind, spirit). Remember you are not the emotion, you are simply feeling the emotion. You feel frustrated; this does not make you frustrated. By becoming the observer, you get to experience what feeling frustration feels like. So without creating a story in your head, about whom or what made you frustrated and blaming them, can you stay with the raw honest feeling. Close your eyes, and experience frustration. Start to understand it, what does it do to you, how does it become expressed in your body? Perhaps you start to hold your breath, perhaps parts of your body tighten, perhaps it makes you want to give up. As you keep walking deeper into the feeling, becoming conscious to each layer around the external emotion, you may get to the core of a pattern you have created around that emotion. For example, I would feel frustrated, walking deeper into it brought me to a feeling of heaviness in the body, feeling that I just wanted to give up…then getting to the core, I was experiencing powerlessness. I would act out this pattern in different situations off and on the mat, feeling frustrated…but actually experiencing powerlessness without knowing. Once identified, then you have something to work with. And this is where the transformation takes place.
We have become so programmed in society to supress and shut off our emotions, to supress our feelings. We turn to food, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, exercise, TV, unhealthy relationships, anything to cut us off, to numb the feelings, to shove them in deeper, so we don’t have to deal with them.
Allowing ourselves to fully experience all of these emotions without judgements, allows us to experience life even more fully. Embracing all emotions in the same way, inviting whatever you feel to come up, and maybe walking deeper, will have transformative effects to your life both on and off the mat.
You don’t need to ‘just get over it’ and you don’t need to ‘just be positive’…neither of these attitudes will take the feeling away, or take you deeper into the core of your being, or to experience life even more fully. They are simply supressing or building up another layer of numbness/avoidance over the emotion.
Our emotions constantly change, so allow them to flow freely just like waves. So next time you’re on your mat (or off) and you don’t ‘feel good’, before you open the freeze and pull out the ice cream, just sit with however you’re feeling, and just be. Close your eyes, focus on the breath, allowing the awareness to ride the breath as if it were a wave throughout the body.
By Kendall Goddard
Taking yoga out of the textbook and into my life: how an assignment on the Bhagavad Gita gave me some very practical yogic direction for dealing with the perceived difficulty of an unused wedding dress.
As a life-long raga and vata driven ‘doer’, an avid digester of words, and a shameless seeker of the big ‘E’ (um…that’s ‘E’ for Enlightenment, not Engagement), I was excited to embark on a six week study of the Bhagavad Gita with the sparklingly wise and ever humble Kamala Angel.
The Bhagavad Gita is employed as a philosophical text by yogis, and as a religious text by those of the Hindu faith. It comprises a small section of a greater epic, the Mahabharata, and traces a conversation between the fearless warrior, and nonetheless very human, Arjuna, and his cousin charioteer Krishna. Arjuna is having a pre-battle freak-out and Krishna, an avatar of Lord Vishnu and incarnation of the Divine, reveals the highest teachings or truths to guide Arjuna on his path. It could have all been over by the second chapter if Arjuna had actually understood what Krishna was talking about, however, like many of us (present company not excluded), these teachings had to appear in varied forms, be repeated over and over, and be expounded in ways that this mere mortal could get his head around: some mind-blowing; some terrifying; some astonishingly beautiful; some inconceivably simple; and some completely flying over his head.
Or was that the bouquet?!
Having previously battled sections of this ancient dialogue on my own, and even having quoted shlokas like ready-made vows in some of my classes, I still felt incredibly fuzzy on the precise themes and teachings, and how their significance translated to my life today. It was as though I’d been reading it with a big wad of tulle in front of my face. I felt as though it was one of those texts reserved for more advanced yogis, those who wore orange and sat in caves or ashrams in India. I was enthusiastic but rather lost. A little like Arjuna, you could say.
Thankfully, in our first session, Kamala explained to us that the Bhagavad Gita is inherently and intensely practical in its teachings. That was good news for a yogi more familiar with the tangible, practical elements of yoga such as asana and pranayama. I was actually going to be able to ‘use’ this in my life, ‘do’ something with it. The ‘doer’ in me got very excited and whole-heartedly committed to the ‘doing’. The perfect marriage. Or so I thought.
By the time week 2 came around, Kamala metaphorically hit me right in the third eye when she gave us an assignment to interpret the following verse:
He who sees inaction in action and action in inaction, he is wise among men. He is a Yogi and a performer of all actions.
Inaction? Inaction in action?? Action in Inaction??? Oh dear. The well constructed tiers of my intensely identified self (aka me as the ‘doer’) started to crumble like a wedding cake dropped accidentally on concrete.
Cue Arjuna standing paralysed in the centre of two armies, facing everyone he has ever known, loved or identified with, knowing it is his duty to fight, but gripped by what seems to be an unshakeable belief that he can’t. We both needed help. So as Arjuna settled into the seat of his chariot and I nuzzled into the cushions of my couch, we both listened to Krishna explain how a wise person performs actions without any attachment to the results of the action, being immune to all the reactionary elements of the task. This wise Yogi, practising Karma Yoga, performs actions as selfless service , in Absolute consciousness, devoid of any expectation, attachment, egoic identification, or dualistic notion, and is therefore acting while being actionless because the notion of the ‘doer’ has completely dissolved into the Supreme Self, the Absolute, Atman etc. In short it is merely the body and the senses that carry out the action but the self, the ‘doer’, the ego, is inactive because the person is not identified with it. This, therefore is inaction in action.
The work of a man who is unattached to the modes of material nature and who is fully situated in transcendental knowledge merges entirely into transcendence.
Merging into transcendence? This invitation had a better ring to it than the bondage of the ‘doer to the ‘done’. I seemed to have gently grasped the theory of inaction in action (without necessarily ‘grasping’ if you get my drift). As far as seeing action in inaction goes, I’ll leave this to you to ponder. Especially if you are considering taking this study with Kamala at some point in the future, which I would passionately recommend. Personally, what comes to mind for me is the age-old saying that if you truly love someone then you set them free.
Experiencing the teachings of yoga theoretically is a powerful happening, and a well-travelled path for Jnana yogis, however it was only when I was able to observe this Divine truth on a very practical level in my life, that I was able to ‘know’ it, at a deep level of my consciousness.
Which brings me to the very day last week, when I set out to collect my haute couture wedding dress, finally back from production in France, and deliver it to a boutique down south for immediate re-sale. When my mother and I had ordered that dress, we were filled with joy and anticipation of the day that it would signify the union between my then partner and myself. It was not something I had ever really longed for or dreamed about, but it appeared as a divine and rather spontaneous gift from my mother and there was much joy had by all involved in celebrating our deep love for one another. Fast forward 15 months and circumstances had changed. I was now picking up this dress, for a wedding that would no longer take place, owing to a relationship that had ended 5 months prior, and an inability to stop production on the dress at that time. This was not something I was looking forward to at all; this action felt heavily laden with expectation of uncomfortable feelings, attachment, egoic identification and dualistic notions in the form of mental chatter and intense emotional reactions. Clearly, there was not a lot of inaction in my action here!
Coincidentally, I had been asked a few days earlier to write this piece about one of the assignments I had completed during the study of the Bhagavad Gita. In this way, I was drawn back to the teachings and subconsciously applied them to this task. I spoke with one of my spiritual guides prior to the event and she helped me come back to the inner ‘knowing’, the wisdom of this shloka. She is Krishna in the form of an Irish/Australian housewife. Rather than approaching this event with fear about the results, I could re-connect to inner wisdom, and perform the task as selfless service to the Divine as a Karma Yogi would. This was so very easy in theory! But I was willing. After all, I am a seeker. And it is always most helpful to me to have an ideal to reach towards. I wish to continue to reach for the highest, and let go of as much of my ‘self’ as I can along the way. And so off I went.
On the first stop of my adventure, as you can imagine, there were a few reactionary elements to deal with. As I entered the high-end boutique, I spoke about the weather with the generous and mindful sales attendants. All was going rather ideally, according to my mind, until they insisted on carrying the gown to my car, at which point tears started to flow and I was overtaken by an overwhelming urge to grab the garment and rush off down the street towards the vehicle, spluttering and snuffling that I was ‘ok’ and thanking them profusely for their help. After I took a few deep breaths in the vehicle, I said a silent prayer of thanks that Part 1 was complete, and tried to see the situation without my ‘self’ involved. I had merely collected an item from somewhere, and interacted with some divine souls during that process. The rest wasn’t worth entering into!
On the road, I chatted with a close friend briefly, injected some humour into the emotional, dualistic notions of my mind’s perceptions, and started to feel excited at the prospect of arriving at the beach in Cronulla on what had turned out to be a very unseasonal warm, summery day. I enjoyed a meal on the beach front, served by a waitress who seemed to reflect the deep, divine blue of the Krishna-coloured ocean in her eyes, and then dived into that very ocean myself for the first, cleansing swim of the season. Something borrowed, something blue…it dawned on me that the events of this day in my life were rather simple: I was merely acting as a courier: a courier of a beautiful dress from one shop to another shop, from one person to another person; a courier replacing an old life situation for a new one; a courier of the Divine in all its manifestations. My body and senses could continue to do what was required of me that day, without ‘me’ being involved. The ‘doer’ started to dissolve a little as I floated in the waves.
Part 2 was rather enjoyable and effortless. I chatted with the saleswoman and we opened the beautiful black satin zip bag containing the gown, marvelling at its craftsmanship. I felt very clear, and free. The dramatic ‘doer’ had disappeared. As I drove back to Sydney, there was within me a deep acknowledgement of the Absolute consciousness and presence of God in all that had occurred that day and in all the great fabric of situations, individuals and interactions leading up to it. I saw the simplicity of the action, as fuelled by these glimpses of inactivity of my ego. I saw and bowed down to God in my ex-partner; God in our relationship and all its colours; God in my mother, the seamstress, the tears, the meal, the hope, the shop assistants, the road-rager, the devastation, the traffic lights, the ocean; God in myself.
So, although I hadn’t been immune to all the reactionary elements of the task, and hadn’t merged entirely into transcendence (I’ll let you know when this happens!), this particular teaching had come alive in a very tangible and practical way for me. I’m so very grateful to the Bhagavad Gita, Kamala and all my teachers who continue to shed light on this yoga practice that is my life, on and off the mat.
By Olivia Rae
Over a month ago now I started Shivambu.
What is Shivambu, I hear you ask. Shivambu means literally “Water of Shiva”. So where am I getting this water of Shiva…well without graphics…I collect it each morning.
Shivambu in English terms refers to Self-Urine Therapy. Okay, I heard you gasp, just hang on a second. Let’s get this clear, urine is not actually a dirty, toxic waste product. Our urine is a by-product of our blood filtration. Nutrient-filled blood passes through the liver where toxins are removed to be excreted as solid waste. Eventually, this purified ‘clean’ blood undergoes a filtering process in the kidneys, where excess water, salts, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antibodies, urea, uric acid and other elements not usable at that time by the body are collected in the form of a purified, sterile, watery solution that is urine. The important elements in the blood are not filtered out because they are toxic and harmful to the body, but simply because the body does not need a particular concentration of an element at that specific point in time.
So why re-ingest it, if our bodies did not need it. Well, for numerous reasons…
- when re-utilized, these elements and nutrients in the urine act as natural vaccines, antibacterial, antiviral and anticarcinogenic agents, as well as hormone balancers and allergy relievers
- it wakes up the healer within, which works on a mechanical level as well as an energetic level, healing all levels of body, mind and spirit
- urine is considered a supernatural, living food because it is a by-product of the blood and contains ‘life force’ or prana
- can take you deeper on the spiritual path, awakening and rising kundalini
So why am I doing it? Well last year when I was doing my teacher training, Natalia (one of our beautiful teachers of Ayurveda, Chakras, Yogic Psychology, and all round amazing, wise and beautiful person) mentioned Shivambu, and it caught my attention. However back then, I was quite hesitant…I guess I was not ready for it. Everything happens for a reason though…and this year when I was gifted a spot in the Yogic Psychology & Shat Karmas course with Natalia…she brought it up again. I knew this was the right time. There was no mucking around I was to start it the next morning.
Why I had felt as though it was the right time was because I had been trying different healing modalities all year and had done lots of work on myself (I had healed a lot of physical and emotional issues already, but I was still determined to get my menstruation back naturally – which disappeared during an abusive relationship I was in), and yes a lot did shift and change, but something still wasn’t right (my menstruation was still missing). I had a yearning for something deeper. I knew that the deepest of my core had been damaged…my spirit had been hurt…it felt as though everything had shut down…had been cut off. The different healing modalities were helping, but their approach was from the outside in…I needed to start deep healing from the inside out.
Day 1 – 30/7/13 – 04:30am
Woke up easily, slightly excited. This was it. As I got onto the toilet with my cup in hand – waited for mid stream and then filled it up. It really dawned on me then, exactly what I was doing. I was about to drink my own pee. I finished up my business, washed my hands, and then came back to sit on the toilet (with the lid down), somehow it just seemed right. The anticipation built, as if I had just taken a pregnancy test. My body started to pulse with energy (quite strongly). I really did feel safe, and that this was the right time. I said a little prayer to the universe. ‘I am grateful for your support, I am grateful for your love, I am ready to completely cleanse, body, mind and spirit, so I can be the best human I can be this lifetime’. As I looked at the glass, it just reminded me of apple juice, so I just rolled with that, however as I brought it closer to my mouth, it didn’t smell the same as apple juice. The smell wasn’t that bad (as I have a pretty clean diet already). What was it that was stopping me drink this right now? My mind – thoughts of – this is gross, yuck, what the hell are you doing, this is crazy, you’re not going to drink your pee…but I choose not to identify with them…my hunger for higher consciousness, for depth, for deep cleansing and healing was too strong. I brought it up to my lips, and just started with a sip. Wow, I couldn’t believe it. I’m not going to lie, it is an extremely strange experience, but it wasn’t that bad. Natalia was right, it is a pungent flavour – like I have had other food that has been much worse than this. I was able to bring myself to have another sip – this one the flavour was much stronger. Then that was all I could handle. I poured the rest down the toilet. Only to remember that I should have kept it for my skin (for a face mask). Oh, well, there’s always tomorrow!
Day after day, it got easier. Now I don’t even think about it. It’s normal…well, for me. My make up is for energy to start in chakra 1, Muladhara chakra, and for it to work up (some people do actually start with their energy up the top, and they need to work down). So healing, shifting and cleansing of chakra 1 commenced.
I am currently working through chakra 2 now…I will write up about my chakra 1 experience shortly so stay tuned!
If you want some more information on Shivambu press here.
By Kate Dawkins
When I was a child, my mother used to take me to yoga classes and I have continued to practice throughout my adult life however it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my son that I became truly receptive to what yoga had to offer, beyond asana.
Here are a few of my discoveries.
Motherhood was not what I expected, in so many ways. My first year with my son Bodhi has been a process of undoing expectation, of learning to be truly present and accepting the twists of each day. As it turns out these are also yogic practices!
It all started with a prenatal yoga class when I was about six months pregnant: I sat on my yoga mat feeling heavy, flat and grumpy. The previous day I had felt amazing and during the sharing circle I told everyone of my energized, positive, wonderfulness. So when it came to my turn to share again, it seemed bit awkward telling everyone how utterly awful I now felt, but then I figured every day is different and if I was going to cope with today, I had to release my expectation of what it should be. My teacher commented this was a great thing to recognize and it would help me through early motherhood.
“Everyday is different…” I said it over in my mind a few times and now it has become a mantra of sorts for me. I like it because it sounds so totally obvious, but it reminds me to unexpect, and it’s often the most simple things that can really surprise us; we think we understand because we are intellectually familiar with the concept, but there is a deeper level of knowing to reach if only we could get out of our own way.
So, I accepted my heaviness and instead of wrestling with myself over why I didn’t feel good, I just focused on my breath and practiced yoga. By the end of class I felt amazing. Something changed and I wasn’t even ‘trying’. Everything I needed was right here, right now and yoga helped me access that.
Moving with (and through) intense feelings
Parenthood has been a haze of highest highs and lowest lows and I’ve come to see that half the battle in dealing with frequent unpleasant circumstances (long sleepless nights, constant crying, spew everywhere) is in releasing the feelings I hold towards them (which is not easy because first you have to identify the feeling and often there’s a zoo of them to trawl through!) If a situation defied my expectations, crushing my wish for what ‘should’ be, I felt defeated; I was too easily swallowed up by emotion. But, as I began to separate the inner battle with my feelings from the situation itself I found I had more energy to direct towards acceptance or finding solutions. Once I accepted the circumstances, solutions would often emerge without me trying, and so things began to get more manageable.
Some days I spent hours walking with Bodhi in the carrier because it was the only way to get him to stop crying (he cried a LOT) and fall asleep. My mind fought at the injustice; ‘why wouldn’t he just sleep in his cot so I can nap too’ or ‘why wont he go in his pram so I can go out for coffee with adults’. I found so many reasons to not like the situation, there were so many things I’d rather be doing, but the only way out was to go head first in to it, to be cool with it and get on with the walk, because getting out in to the sun and fresh air is actually pretty nice. The walks were exercise, the sun gave me vitamin D and I could listen to music or podcasts. So by allowing things to be as they are, by not fixating on a wish for something else I begin to see things more clearly.
The Yoga of Housework
I’ve been a ‘stay at home’ mum for the past year, while also completing my yoga teacher training at Sukha Mukha and starting a yoga business. So you can guess what I prefer to do in my spare time… yes, YOGA! But the cleaning and cooking always calls. The ordered person in me doesn’t mind a good cleaning session and cooking nourishing food is very important to me, so I find myself doing pretty well in my role at home, however the work is very repetitive and dull, and no matter how on top of it I am, the clean and tidy never lasts more than a moment before it’s chaos again.
I have often found myself powering through the housework, with tense shoulders and shallow breath, my sympathetic nervous system wired for escape, as I rush to get it done so I can have time for myself. It is not pleasant and it certainly doesn’t make the cleaning go any faster. Now that I’ve noticed myself doing this, I try to turn the chores into a mindfulness practice: deep slow equal breath, sensing and appreciating the warm washing water on my hands, moving with breath in a kind of dance around the house, efficiently and mindfully. It totally transforms the chores!
Ahmisa and the midday bath
Ahimsa is the first of the Yamas, which are a blue print for right and ethical living outlined on the 8 limbed yogic path. Ahimsa translates to non-violence, but it’s more than the absence of harm, it’s also about practicing kindness, towards others, the planet and ourselves.
If I’m going to be the mother I want to be: present, kind, loving, patient, I need to create moments of nurturing myself each day. Yoga is usually my answer—reading from yogic texts, practicing asana or meditation whenever I can grab the time, but the midday bath was an interesting one. I thought about it long before I did it. Is it just me, or does a midday bath sound really indulgent? Out of guilt I told myself I would have just 15min in the tub, but it seemed so hard to find the time! Time continued to elude me because it wasn’t the problem; it was a lack of the headspace and commitment to do it. It was very revealing and quite surprising to me how resistant I was to my bath plan because I LOVE BATHS and I thought I did a pretty good job of looking after myself. Finally, I named last Wednesday “Bath Day”. I committed to doing it, no matter what, and yet, as soon as Bodhi went to sleep I chose to slog through washing up first, if he had woken early I would have missed the opportunity again, but luckily he slept for a good hour and the bath finally happened. And it was REALLY NICE! I slathered my dry wintery skin in coconut oil, lit candles, played relaxing music and sunk into the warm water. BLISS!
I realized this was the first bath I have had (alone) since my labour day, and I have a thirteen month old!! Experiences in self nurturing must continue!
The littlest Guru
Bodhi is the ultimate teacher, he requires my patience as I sing (chant) him to sleep, sometimes endlessly; my presence as we play and explore together; my acceptance as he throws quinoa all over the floor; my love as he experiments with his new passion for ‘gardening’.
As Bodhi grows into a bright and confident little being I am continually becoming a more joyful, confident mother. I still feel frustrated and exhausted sometimes but the feelings don’t linger like the used to. All I need to do is watch Bodhi for a moment and see how quickly he releases his feelings from what was happening only a few moments ago. He is the ultimate teacher, my littlest guru and he’s not even trying.
Kate Dawkins is a Sukha Mukha 200HR Teacher Training Graduate and runs a boutique yoga studio on Sydney’s lower north shore called Shambhala House of Yoga. She is currently running a crowdfunding campaign to kick off Yoga for Change a 5 Day Yoga Challenge for changemakers to help them be the change they wish to see in the world. Connect with Kate on Twitter: @k8alexandra.
As Sri Swami Satchidananda explains in his interpretation to the Bhagavad Gita, (The Living Gita – the complete Bhagavad Gita /A commentary for modern readers by Sri Swami Satchitananda), the “Kurukshetra”, the battle field, is not something that happens as a once off event, but rather a constant battle within us; good against bad, faith against doubt, judgment against compassion and so on. This battle exists probably within all of us on a daily basis and probably even more in those of us who drifted away from religion and do not have this inner faith in a supreme power the same way that religious people might have. Saying that just because one is religious or a yogi does not necessarily mean he is enlightened and free from all sufferings or doubts.
Unfortunately our mind, our physical body and our heart and spirit have become separate. They no longer have the ability to converse, to listen and to respect the needs of one another. We tend to ignore the signs that are sent to us and end up sick and unhappy in one of them or most likely in all of them as they are interconnected.
Very early in the Bhagavad Gita Krishna tells Arjuna that his main reason for suffering is because his mind, heart and body are not saying the same things. He thinks one thing, acts differently and feels a completely different thing to the other two.
The “Kauravas” in the Bhagavad Gita represent what we would probably describe as “negative emotions and states of mind” where as the Pandavas represent the positive.
I was asked by my teacher to describe my own battle field which was an extremely interesting experience. I often read from the Bhagavad Gita and theme my classes around it and share it with my students but suddenly when needed to take such a concept which is so easy to understand as long as it is not imposed on my life, became extremely challenging and even paralyzing. Putting it down in writing would mean admitting what the mind tries so hard to ignore, to hide, to repress. At the same time there is even a deeper fear that the ego will take over and will not allow me to admit it all to the fullest and then there will be a feeling of “failure” and a feeling that all that I have done so far and believe in will turn out to be in vain.
I feel that my biggest “Kaurava” is Fear.
This fear has been a part of me as long as I can remember myself. I feel that is perhaps a “genetic” part of me. Since I was a child I heard the stories of my grandparents’ experiences in the holocaust which were horrifying. I felt that being “Jewish” was a curse as so many people around the world hate me for simply being this; a Jewish Israeli. Through the years this fear has expended to other fields of my life; mainly the fear of failing, of not excelling. This has often led me to completely avoiding experiencing new things / emotions / thoughts and closing me down even though I used to think of myself as an ‘open minded person’. My posture reflected this and I was shutting my heart to the outside world.
All my life I was an atheist. My ancestors have lost their faith in “God” after everything they went through, which I can completely understand. I was brought up with no reference to “God” or “Spirit”. When I stepped into the Laughing Lotus in NYC, about 13 years ago, it was the first time I felt this connection to my spirit awaken and since then it has been an interesting and challenging journey. Through Yoga, I learn to face these fears every time I step on my mat, to open my heart, and through challenging myself to reinforce and find faith in myself and in what I am capable of doing (which is really EVERYTHING). I am reminded of the connection to the spirit and to a higher power, whatever names we wish to name it.
I hope that this practice supports you somehow in some similar way as we all continue this beautiful journey called “life” and progress towards freedom and happiness.
By Olivia Rae
“Each of us is a moving center, a space of divine mystery. And though we spend most of our time on the surface in the daily details of ordinary existence, most of us hunger to connect to this space within, to break through to bliss, to be swept away into something bigger than us.”
I don’t really watch television, but last week I turned it on, and Australia’s Got Talent came up. I wasn’t really watching, until they started telling the story of Tommy Franklin, and it caught my attention. As they were showing Tommy’s story through an interview with him – they had onlookers in the screen. These onlookers whilst looking at Tommy, were doing the ‘what are they doing…they’re odd’ facial expressions…come’on you know that face, we’ve all done it before. We pull these faces out of fear. The fear of being different, the fear of standing out, the fear of the unknown. When we see someone who doesn’t ‘fit’ the status quo, we react out of fear – pulling faces, laughing, making judgements, anything along those lines because that person is ‘strange’. Watching it you could feel the energy – they were resisting him (probably because it is a part of ourselves which most of us suppress and resist).
Tommy walked out on stage – and the reaction from the judges and audience, were the same as the first onlookers during the interview. The music started…Shooting Stars by Bag Raiders…Tommy started to dance. My heart melted. His dance wasn’t choreographed with steps, there was no rules, it pure expression, an expression that was uncaged. It was an expression of him – from the soul. The camera scanned the audience again. Everyone’s initial judgements and resistance towards him had disappeared. They were all infected by his energy – he radiated and danced with freedom, joy, happiness and love. He brought a smile to each person’s face – it is so infecting that you just have to move along with the beat and smile!
I believe why, the moment when Tommy started dancing everyone’s judgements and resistance disappeared was because it sparks the free spirit within us, that too, wants to be expressed. We live our lives so restricted and limiting, we supress our spirits, our soul, or highest self, our creative self – whatever you call it, we suppress it as we fear the judgements people will make about us, the fear of not being accepted if we were to not fit the ‘society norm’, we end up living life hoping to walk past unnoticed.
“I’m free to be me and so is everyone else.” – Tommy Franklin
“Many of us are looking for a beat, something solid and rooted where we can take refuge and begin to explore the fluidity of being alive, to investigate why we often feel stuck, numb, spaced-out, tense, inert and unable to stand up or sit down or to unscramble the screens that reflect our collective insanity. The question I ask myself and everyone else is – Do you have the discipline to be a free spirit? Can we be free of all that binds and bends us into a shape of consciousness that has nothing to do with who we are moment to moment, from breath to breath?”
Some dance, some do Yoga, some scuba dive – the practice you choose is irrelevant – it is the dedication and honesty to it that matters. Each time we roll out our Yoga mat we are given this opportunity to really explore ourselves and investigate. Falling into this space within, that is without a judge, allows us to become conscious to our patterns, our habits, our thoughts…to everything. This opportunity on our mats allows us to consciously observe how we live our lives off the mat, as the way we practice each asana is a reflection to how we act off the mat in different areas of our lives – and then to consciously change and transform these patterns, habits and thoughts that no longer serve our free spirit.
“We dance to hook up to the true genius lurking behind all the bullshit – to seek refuge in our originality and our power, to reinvent ourselves, to shed the past, forget the future and fall into the moment feet first.”
If your dance is on the mat, may it build you the courage to take your dance off the mat, bringing this freedom into all aspects of your life.
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.
All quotes in italic are from the article written by Gabrielle Roth named ‘The Spiritual Power of Dance’.