You

I hear you like a faint voice in an old house, dusty and ancient, caught in the cracks of creaky floorboards, almost out of earshot, tantalising and silky, ringing in my ears, like a bell – I hear you.
I let my breath go in a rush as cells stick to the inside of my skin in their desperate hurry to get out and join you. My lips press your cheek as spring follows winter – there is no question or answer. Beginning and ending all at once as I see you and you see me.

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Yoga Flow Stage Show

I don’t usually call myself a Yoga teacher, I say that I teach yoga. After nearly 20 years of practice I find the blurred edges between my yoga and the rest of my life have all but disappeared so there are no edges left. I’m not implying that I handstand down the street or pop into lotus while waiting for the bus, I’m talking about the root meaning of the word yoga which is ‘union’.

While we mostly play the starring role in our own daily dramas and sometimes with internal conflict between how we assume things ought to be and what is actually happening – yoga assists in putting us off stage in the Director’s or even audience’s seat, able to cast our eye impartially over the whole stage and show and accept it as it is happening- a brilliant show with sad bits, funny bits, poignant moments and everything in between.

From this vantage point of being off stage, space exists between us and the goings-on, between our thoughts, judgements, fears and longings and the essence of who we are inside. The difference if you like between the role and the actor him/herself. When there is space, there is choice: to move towards or away from, to be involved or not involved, to be attached or not attached, to act in a different way if we so choose. We feel less dragged about and more able to surrender to the flow of how things are with less struggle, maybe reminded that this is just a small part in the overall play and that soon the scene will change.

This relaxed, easy, fluid feeling, this union of mind, body and spirit that encapsulates the meaning of yoga is a powerful resource. Whether you find this (and you can find it anywhere because it’s an internal state) surfing a wave, writing a poem, cutting hair, working a till or chopping wood it’s all the same. The Chinese called this Wu Wei or ‘effortless doing’ a kind of going with the flow that is characterised by great ease and awareness, being able to respond perfectly to anything that may come our way without even trying. More recently an Italian psychologist, Csikszentmihaly, renamed this state as being ‘in flow’.

Pressures abound. How do we translate this state we can find in a yoga class to business, to relationships? In business there is often a tendency to slip into mild panic, distress or frenzied doing when we perceive the current situation to be lacking or insufficient in some way. At exactly this point when all instincts are to tense up, prepare for fight or flight, work harder, demand answers from the already over stimulated central processing unit of our brains – THIS is the time to stop, breathe, release, relax. Rebalance. Sometimes in this moment there are great epiphanies to be had. There may be the realisation that you are swimming against the tide and that if you only sidestep an inch you can step right back into the flow that will carry you onwards and upwards with ease and grace in a way that you could never have powered all by yourself had you continued to struggle and fight.

The same can be true in relationships with family, lovers, close friends, children. When things get rough take a look at how absolutely involved you are, how zoomed in are you? How much space is there between you and the situation? Where are you off balance? Taking physical space or time can often bring about a sense of perspective that was lacking, from this place you can access your own centre, stop analysing, judging and worrying and focus on you, on intuiting if you are in flow or not. When you feel whole and good and are truly flexible, going with the flow rather than against it – it is possible to absorb many and varied challenges that come your way with much less reaction and much more empathy. Less energy is required and life feels easier again.

So watching this very absorbing, compelling play or film, yes you are invested in the characters (and you are also one of them) yes it may make you cry, laugh, smile or feel cross and when you remember you are sitting watching it all, you can remember that everything passes. The balance will always redress. The scenes you see, become involved in, absorbed in, they will evolve and change but while you are in them, you have a choice about how you act. You can choose how you play it. I’d like to think I play with some style and grace and a bit of flair at times, though it’s not always the case, I know – even the best actors have their off days. What I do know is that being your unique self will guarantee a great performance I reckon you’ll enjoy and be proud of and that’s really all that counts when the curtain falls.

 

 

For the brave…love vs. fear

brave explorers sunshine yoga blogIf I have my own way, I will uncover every secret, expose each wound and deliver truth like a one inch punch.  I am a brave and (sometimes) fearless explorer who lives only for the journey, only in pursuit of love…

For all the attraction and distraction that our emotional response to life creates – the, at once, compelling yet distressing whirl that surrounds us so we become held, suspended in its vortex-like grip, Dorothy’s farmhouse caught in the tornado – besides this, there exists the quietly overwhelming source underneath.  A still and omnipotent force that will elegantly make mockery of our mental disturbance just by solidly existing. This totality, phenomenon, essence at the foundation of everything (most clearly seen and felt in the presence of death) points unequivocally to the bigger picture, the universal, the innate vastness of existence. Only when we are courageous enough to stay and stare into its black hole eyes do we find the relief we crave. There is a stillness here that is present in states of flow – it leaves us in no doubt that the whole is bigger than any of us could fathom and that the trick to feeling full, alive and connected is to tap into this.

The state of “in love” we experience with another becomes a powerful clue to our fulfillment if we can only turn it in on itself, realizing that to be “in love” we must already know love and be love on some level. Being in love is like the universe seeking itself over and over, energy back and forth. When we realize it is not the other we seek but it is that place of “in love” within – this inaugurates our potential as a link in the chain of humanity. We become tapped into source and are then conductors passing current, energetically responsive to and from all others, laid bare, fully open to our experience, trusting, ready to receive.

Whatever method you utilize to access this place again and again, yoga, meditation, nature, Qi Gong, art, stick with it, practice, keep returning, for this is the only way you will avoid being sucked into the drama of the everyday, distracted by others, externalizing your own actuality, pushed and pulled on a whim without direction or clarity. Get centred, get plugged in and you might just begin to feel supported and unstoppable –  a true explorer. It’s hard to feel love without trust. Coming back to your centre, your true nature, allows the only feeling of safety that you can truly rely on, from which freedom can emerge.

To know this experience of life is bigger than you, to be willing to be played – like somersaulting with an invisible harness – you are safe as long as you commit, give your all to being in that place right here and now, following the enigmatic pull of the flow – this becomes the game changer. Seemingly impossible scenarios unfold, deep awe at the incredibleness of it all starts to shape your thoughts and soon heaviness drops away and a refreshing lightness of being takes over. The alternative is paralysis by fear; static, tied up, unable to move – the beauty of flight, the chaos of upside-down-ness forever unavailable to you, a single perspective reverberating through time. Wasted potential.

What would happen if you could put aside your fear for one day? One hour? Be drawn by the connections that come, feed that place of intrinsic love and let it be your guide…Surrender to the unknowable order of things. Set the ego aside (ideally well-fed and sleepy – it’s the only way you’ll get past it) and play with the notion of yourself as a well-trained gymnast in the Cirque de Soleil, capable of extraordinary moves, unconsciously competent at responding beautifully and in perfect timing, playing your integral part in the show, feeling thrilled, accomplished, proud and satisfied and very much in love with everything – knowing that you are doing exactly what you were put here to do and are doing it fucking brilliantly too. How would life pan out if this was your metaphor?

So explore possibility, be inspired, stay open, stay connected, do the things that let your spirit fly and experience the beauty of being – here and now. Explorers, this is just the beginning…

“Don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride” ~ Bill Hicks

 

 

 

5 Ways to Live Life Like You Mean It…

5 Ways to Live Life Like You Mean It5 Ways to Live Life Like You Mean It

1.      Drop the Act:  Stop pretending it feels good when it doesn’t.  Inspect your dark crevices, turn the bright lamp on even when it hurts your eyes.  Sit with your discomforts and pain and allow them to reveal your true spirit underneath.  What do you crave?  Some honesty here with yourself and with your closest is required because without it you are stuck right where you are.  What do you do that ultimately makes you sad?  Drop it.  If it doesn’t serve you, leave it behind you on the trail as you kick up the dust with your bare feet.  Onwards. Feeling lighter and more certain.

2.       Find Your Strength:  Stand with your feet on the cold, damp earth.  Ground the four corners of each foot, squeeze the calves and inner thighs towards each other and lift the kneecaps up into firm quadriceps.  Feel your lower back curve inwards then draw your tailbone towards the floor until your lower belly becomes taught.  Press the ground away and feel the connection as energy rises up, pelvic floor lifts and spine grows tall, crown of the head floats skywards.  Let the shoulder blades slide back and down and breathe up and in letting your heart grow big and bright.  Let everything and everyone you love shine out of your face as you open your throat ready to speak your truth.  Feel your power.  This is alive.  Own it.

3.       Take Action:  Action beats planning every time.  Not to say you shouldn’t plan but keep it a sketch with light strokes, malleable and easy to change.  Some of the best things evolve from an original that was mutated by possibility and providence.  When you intuit a rightness, a gut feeling, a knowing – run with it.  Stop making lists, stop endlessly preparing, stop waiting for the perfect moment when you will be completely ready.  Get up.  Take a big breath, exhale and relax.  Begin it.

4.       Stay Calm:  So you got rid of some baggage, found your strength, started acting (up) and all of a sudden it’s like you’re hanging onto the back end of a truck traversing through the rocky outback at 100 mph, fearing you may die any minute now.  People start testing your new found strengths, situations pop up from nowhere that take all you’ve got just to be in them.  You’re exercising your voice and because you’ve been quiet for so long sometimes it comes out squeaky, harshly or a little too loud and offense is taken.  Your courage becomes you and makes you beautiful but it also scares the shit out of you at times.  Breathe into that frenetic fire in your belly, let the colour warm your cheeks, soften your shoulders, concentrate on the spaces in between and B R E A T H E  O U T.  Steady your nerve with each exhalation and sit back into your power.  The more you relax, the more freely the energy flows around you and through you.  You become formless, at one with the huge ebb and flow of life – no need to hold on, you’re being carried on an awesome wave.  Feel it.

5.       Enjoy:  Don Juan talks of keeping death just over your shoulder (Carlos Castaneda – Journey to Ixtilan) in order to avoid the lulling and somewhat numbing feeling that you have all the time in the world.  The soporific medicine that remedies any call to action, all longings and drives.  Let’s not mince words, whatever your beliefs, your physical body will one day give out and return to the ground on which you walk.  When you imagine your departure (and this is a tonic not a morose indulgence) and the obligatory flashing of images, sensations, faces and feelings, think what a spectacular reel this glorious technicolour show is!  It stuns and overwhelms all senses, filling your final moments, a carnival of colour, sound and experience – a final immersion in the wonder of life on this green globe.  Make your moments.  Go find them.  Collate them lovingly into your treasured collection – “The Final Picture Show”, “The Grand Finale”.  Don’t cheat yourself out of experience with limiting beliefs.  You are good enough, you are ready, you are brave, wild and strong and you have limited time.  Say it until you feel it: I have limited time.  Swim naked, roll in the snow, talk to strangers, express your feelings as they hit you – don’t wait.  Do less work, enjoy your body, relax more, play more and feel the exquisite and brief spark of life that flutters in your beating heart.  Remember what stirs you, what moves you and thrills you – write it, sing it, think it.  Seek it, hunt it and let the journey envelop you.  Taste every emotion, let your palette be well-rounded, sophisticated.  A morsel of fear, the overwhelming flavour of sadness that sticks in the back of the throat, the tingle of frustration, spice of exhilaration and the sweet, sweet, sticky warmth of love melting on the tongue.

It’s all for you.  Love life and let it love you right back.

It’s just a ride…

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How many times will I feel the overwhelming lurch of realisation that jolts me forward?…the rush of excitement that comes with knowing the answer and desperately aching to tell it?
I hope it is a trait of human nature (rather than my poor memory) to constantly forget how little we know until the next time we discover something new.
It’s rather like an existential dementia, the globe as a huge care home…the symptoms of our disease bringing longer periods of confusion, vagueness and not knowing, married with a stubborn certainty that we are perfectly sane and it’s everyone else who is mad. Moments exist when we are pleasingly confounded as another piece of the puzzle we forgot we were doing, slots neatly in it’s place to reveal part of a stunning picture.
I remember one such moment when I realised that to take responsibility for everything in my life actually unlocked a power in me that I didn’t know I had. Suddenly, I was able to see things from a completely and breathtakingly fresh viewpoint. My world began to tilt, then righted itself. Snowflakes settled in my snow globe and clarity was restored.
It’s so beautiful when this happens, we feel instantly and genuinely moved, compelled to express our delight. Others must know how this happened! They must do the same to experience this same wonder – so they can see!
When I have felt catapulted into new levels of awareness it has always been through different learnings, situations, people and experiences. There is no singular calculation I have found to ensure moments of enlightenment, to promise faster or more frequent puzzle-solving.
We all have different puzzles to piece together and most of us don’t even have the picture on the box to guide us. Observing the puzzles of others rather than offering them our empty spaces or surplus pieces of our own, however generously or well-meant, seems a sensible way forward…if hard to remember.
I love the thought of everyone I meet as an ancient, silver-haired resident of the planet earth residential home. Wandering around, wondering, taking in the surroundings, getting confused, recognising others – the joy that spark of connection brings and then wide open spaces of just feeling alone and lonely.
Every so often some happening or interaction triggers a flash of thought and we rush, in slow motion, back to a puzzle we started an age ago…we locate a precious piece exactly in the right spot and every chaos that has gone before falls sweetly into linear order, our sense of self is made, order is restored. A sweet satisfaction.
When we allow ourselves to luxuriate in the delicious connection with others, to hold the edges of our hearts open with all the risk that brings, when we offer out in equal measure or more than we can receive, then the solving of all puzzles becomes a joint venture. The memory that we are all in this together gets imprinted in our beings.
From this place – to call other people or their ideas mad, bad or stupid defies logic – will not help to achieve the sense of peace and wholeness that comes with seeing the big picture.
In between starting and finishing this piece of writing I enjoyed an incredible yoga session with Meghan Currie and about 50 other students, at the end- all touching limbs, connected in savasana. A beautiful snapshot of our capacity to effect and be affected by strangers. A pure definition of being human without the need for words.
If you don’t like the metaphor of being a crazy old person in a home then I will leave you with another one from a master of metaphor – the late, great Bill Hicks, still here in spirit.
Remember – it’s just a ride.
Watch the clip, it’ll make your day

Dive in the ocean…

dive in the ocean

The wind is up. The dark clouds are skidding across the sky.  The sun is nowhere to be seen and the crashing of tonnes of water hitting the shore fills your head as you stand chest high in the swirling, icy waves.  There is a split second of noticing the enormity of an oncoming wave as it slowly and resolutely rolls toward you.  No time to consider the outcome, only a deep, internal knowledge that you will be firmly and completely wiped out by it.

Contraction of the whole body in preparation for flight (there is no fight big enough for this) means you can activate your muscles and retreat for the shoreline.

But in retreat there is sadness.  The empty place of dashed potential, like turning your head to see something precious fly from your car window and flutter into the wind while you speed onwards – not even a chance to cry out.  Just gone.

As the waves of the sea unstoppably kiss the soft mouth of the shore – violently, roughly with a never-ending passion, today, I choose to stay.

I am wrenched open from the inside.  Pulling, tensing, staying, struggling, pushing, contorted and tearful until ultimately I am cracked open.  Light begins to appear.  Layers are peeled.  I become the wave.  I am taken.

How could I hope that my small body could contain this fearsome noise?  I don’t try to hold on.  I surrender to the rolling turmoil, chaotic beauty takes me from terrified paralysis to breathtaking flow.  I am open.  I feel like I’m flying.  I feel free.

To everyone weighted, suffocated by despair, depression, some arresting sadness that takes you by the throat and squeezes – know this.  That it is too big for your body to hold.  And in holding you become consumed, your edges straining, seams ripping until eventually your body is so battered, so exhausted in loyal service that it will fail you.  It will have no choice.

A remedy?  Seek out every contracted, closed, tightened space within you.  Go on a manhunt.  Do not stop until you know in your heart that you have nothing left to hide.  Take in breath and push it into the cracks.  Open your joints, release your muscles, stretch and gasp, let the pain seep out.  Feel it.  Wring your body out thoroughly and vigorously with complete, detailed attention until you feel afloat, liquid, metamorphosised.  Let your body become an open, smooth vessel so nothing can get stuck.  Everything you experience washes in with full force, then washes right back out again.

Who you are becomes defined not by the stale residue of your memories, lifeless as a faded, crumblling photograph, but by your ability to open and receive life into all of your being.  Stop holding yourself so tightly, afraid to spill over the edges.  Shake the container.  Get covered, rinse your insides with your dark, oily sorrow, wallow and peer in the corners, be immersed.  Pick the scabs and watch the fresh blood flow.  Knowing that nothing lasts forever.

All the exquisite, delicious, shivering pleasure, all the aching, echoing sadness.  Washing in.  Washing out.

We have such a short time.  Be immersed. Feel every single thing.  Suck it up, let it in then let it all back out.  Flow.  Life is flow and you are alive.

“Don’t wait any longer

Dive in the ocean

Leave and let the sea be you” ~ Rumi

 

Time passing

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Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there… I do not sleep.
I am the thousand winds that blow…
I am the diamond glints on snow…
I am the sunlight on ripened grain…
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you waken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of gentle birds in circling flight…
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry—
I am not there… I did not die…

(~Mary Frye)