HEARTFELT MUSINGS ON LIFE, LOVE, GOD, & MOTHERHOOD

Ready, set, go Today is the 3rd day past my baby’s due date. And even though I know that these due dates are just approximates, they are given so much energy from the moment you find out you’re pregnant, that it’s hard to be chilled once you find yourself ‘over’.

It’s a bit like being at the exit door of a plane at 13,000 feet, all ready to jump. You’re all kitted up with chute & mask. You’ve been practicing your maneuvers for months. You’ve faced your fears and released them to the wind. But then an unexpected current picks up and you’re told by the pilot (God in this case!) that the plane needs to coast for a while. Just hovering… mid-air… doing circles… waiting.

That’s probably a bit dramatic but you know what I mean. Everything is done. Finally, everything is done. I’m ready. Really ready. But it’s just not in my hands anymore.

I was sitting on the loo a moment ago and I thought, “mmm, maybe I’ll have a coffee”. But pretty quickly I saw that for what it was, a reaction, a rebellion almost. One of the things I do when I reach for something outside myself. We all know what our personal crutches are… sugar, a ciggie, a drink, a phonecall, exercise, or a purchase. Anything that we habitually use to avoid the discomfort of our current situation.

What dawned on me then, is that this limbo I find myself in, while strange and uncomfortable at times, is also choc full of potential to put the philosophy to good use (when it really counts), and truly-ruly practice what it truly-ruly means to let go. To trust. When it goes against just about every single impulse I have, to be still. And by still I don’t mean of body, because actually I really feel to move today. I have a ton of energy all of a sudden and might just go for a swim once I write this. But still of mind. Still at the centre. Being with. Embracing.

I got to this point in writing and thought, OK, so where do I go from here? Where’s the wisdom? The resolution? The neat & tidy words that wrap it all and make us all feel better.

But there were none. So I sat.

I went out to the verandah, set up my little perch, got out my mala and started to drop in. And what came is this: that this is not about resolution at all, but rather the lack of it. More than seeking resolution and being stressed until I do, can I just rest in its absence, in that phase before, that is tender, vulnerable, uncertain, fragile? That really doesn’t know how & when it will all work out. Expecting & visualising the very best result whilst open to all possibilities.

Om Namo Narayani.

Who is She anyway, this Narayani? A Hindu Goddess in silken sari, adorned with flowers and bathed in gold light? Maybe. But not to me. To me She is everything that ever was, is, and ever will be. She is every possibility, every situation, and every experience. She is both the fear that I feel from time to time, and the wisdom and courage that help me move through it into love and trust. She is the entire spectrum of creation. To adore Her is to be with Her. To be with this. To feel deeply this reality and embrace it… open to it & learn from it with all I’ve got.

To surrender is to trust in Her way. And that is always none other than this way. This way right now, this exact way that things are unfolding, like it or not.

So I sit. I breathe. I rest.

I trust.

Amen.

“Hope and fear is a feeling with two sides. As long as there’s one, there’s always the other. This is the root of our pain. In the world of hope and fear, we always have to change the channel, change the temperature, change the music, because something is getting uneasy, something is getting restless, something is beginning to hurt, and we keep looking for alternatives.

Abandoning hope is an affirmation, the beginning of the beginning”.
~ Pema Chodron from her wonderful book ‘When Things Fall Apart’.

Nothing LackingI am officially on ‘maternity leave’, this being the first week for many (nearly a year) where my faithful private Yoga student hasn’t come by at 4:30pm 3 days/week. In his absence, I feel to share what he shared with me about a week ago.

He told me that day that after our last session together he was at home in the kitchen (“where all great epiphanies happen”, he quipped), when he had had ‘A Moment’. He’d felt a very deep sense of OK-ness, that everything was just right with the world, exactly as and how it should be. He’s a pretty chilled guy so this kind of understanding is not new to him, but he hadn’t felt it like that for a while.

And while the experience passed, as all experiences do, it had left behind a fragrance that lingered for a few days afterwards.

It had brought him perspective, a vantage point from which to see more clearly the subtle yet pervasive anxiety that he’d been operating under of late. Despite all that he knew, he’d been feeling a lot of stress.

This sharing really touched me for 2 reasons:

1) It brought home the true purpose and power of the practice of Yoga.

And that is… mindfulness. Presence. More moments like the one I’ve described. Less grasping, less controlling, more trust, and more peace. Ultimately, a happier life.

As many times a day, in as many situations, this going away, and coming back. Coming back to the sensation of your feet on the ground, the breath in your belly. Noticing what and how you feel, and letting it be. Draining the soup of thoughts in your mind and noticing something that is actually happening. A bird’s call. Cold air on your cheek. The sway of a tree outside your window.

As his ‘teacher’ I sometimes felt concerned by the lack of physical progress that we were making, but this sharing reminded me again that that is not always the point.

2) I’m now more than 37 weeks pregnant.

Side bendWhat I can manage physically is getting less and less. My belly is huge, my hands are puffy and my wrists are really sore. It takes much less time on my mat before I run out of both juice and options. Less is most definitely more!

But there is something that is mine no matter what. Something that can never be taken away. And it’s this Returning. My ability to come back. To come home to whatever and however I’m feeling. To embrace the current reality with my whole heart and soul. To let it be OK. To accept. To just be.

And while all this might seem very rudimentary it’s also really not. It’s profound.

And standing as I am on the threshold of parenthood this feels key.

Yoga, and life, keep on teaching me this One Big Thing. That there is freedom to be found in the seemingly worst of circumstances if I use that challenge to let go. To forgive myself. Accept myself. To embrace life exactly as it’s showing up.

Happiness and Suffering are simply choices we make.

I heard a story once about spiritual teacher Byron Katie visiting a cancer patient in hospital. The woman was angry and miserable. Byron Katie asked her what was the problem. She pulled back her bedsheets to reveal one swollen leg, almost twice the size of the other. “This,” she spat, “this is my problem!”. Katie smiled and said, “So your problem is that you believe that both your legs should be the same size?”

The woman instantly got it and apparently roared with laughter, and the sudden, new-found realisation that really her problem was not her leg, but her inability to accept it.

So I’m looking down at my chubby little fingers, all tingly and sore and numb, and I’m thinking that maybe everything’s OK with the world, that it’s all just as and how it needs to be. That actually my hands are podgy because there’s about 50% more fluid in my body these days to support the totally radical business of growing a child in my womb!

Acceptance and complacency are not the same thing. But we know that already right? We’ve always got to do what we can, as I already have, to try and improve or alleviate our situation. But sometimes there’s no outright cure, and we just need to live with something (for a while at least).

It sucks to be in pain. We’d all take health and harmony any day of the week. But sometimes they’re elusive, and Reality is just screaming for us to let Her be as She is. To lean in a bit closer so she can whisper Her wisdom into our unsuspecting ear.

“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed.
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birdwings.”  ~ Rumi

Om Namo Narayani

I woke up this morning thinking about attitude, how basically it’s everything. How this life is so much less about what actually happens to us and everything to do with the way we respond.

I see it for myself each day when I wake up, sometimes a bit restless, worrying about something. Other days a bit ho-hummish not quite sure where to start. But mostly, like today, already full of gratitude.

And yes, that gratitude is in large part for ‘things’ – the clean, cozy bedding that I’m wrapped in, the warm man beside me who almost always wakes up in a good mood ready for a song and a cuddle.

But most of all I’m grateful for the ability to feel grateful. Beauty is everywhere all the time if we have the eyes to see it.

It’s been a pretty heavy last week in the world. Really. I could hardly look.

But every week is like that to some degree if you dare to watch or read the world news, which I don’t.

The magnitude and insanity of the attacks in Paris (and everywhere else) caused a momentary wobble in me, as I said to David, “What kind of a world are we bringing our child into? Are we mad? Are we cruel?”.

“We’re bringing another Peacemaker” was his response.

That made me smile from the inside out.

For the last few weeks he’s been learning a new song on the guitar, Kermit’s rendition of Rainbow Connection, ready to sing to the wee one when he/she pops out. You know it right? Beautiful lyrics and the sweetest melody ever…

Someday we’ll find it
The Rainbow Connection
The lovers, the dreamers and me

Kermit sings about the Rainbow Connection, not quite sure what it is, but leaving us with a hunch that it’s something to do with connected-ness. Something that unites us all. Or maybe it’s the Unknown. The Magic. The Mystery. That which is beyond the senses, beyond the mind, beyond our understanding, beyond anything we’ve ever been taught.

What’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing?
And what do we think we might see?

Kermit in his precious innocence doesn’t give us all the Answers. He’s the first to admit that he doesn’t know. But he has a hunch that this Life is magic, and that not knowing might free us up to choose our own adventure. To follow the whisper, the call from within…

Have you been half asleep
and have you heard voices?
I’ve heard them calling my name.

Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same.

I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it.
It’s something that I’m supposed to be.

What are we supposed to be?

According to Kermie, and according to the Muppets creator Jim Henson, whatever the hell we want! The only limit is our imagination as we follow that voice inside to our bliss. We can be a puppeteer, a bee keeper, a chef or musician, a poet, a mother, or any other possible combination. Just do what you love and share it unashamedly.

So this is my response to a week of ‘terror’.

Don’t let the beast bring you down. Don’t let the atrocities of ignorance and greed dull your dreams. Believe in love and that is what you’ll have. Believe in hate and that is what you’ll have. I feel this so deep in my bones.

And it’s my dream, my hope, that I might raise my child from that understanding.

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection,
the lovers, the dreamers and me.
La, da da, La, da da do, La Laa, la la, La, La la doooooo

Om Namo Narayani

“When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope still is to leave the world a little bit better for my having been here. It’s a wonderful life and I love it”. ~ Jim Henson, Creator of the Muppets.

Jo portrait medium It’s a little over 5 weeks since our beautiful sister Jo Mall Kahn left her failing body for more expansive planes. I have written umpteen pieces in my head since then, but this is the first to find form. And it’s not about Jo exactly, but all that she stood for.

Edo (Jo’s husband for those of you that might not have known them), wrote something very precious the morning after Jo’s passing, to this effect:
“Don’t just worship Amma (divine)
Be Amma (divine)
That is what Jo became”.

That, in essence, was the message of Jo’s life for me, made all the more urgent by her passing. Don’t get stuck on the form! Through your devotion, cultivate the wisdom to know and express the divinity that is already inside of you! See that same divinity in everybody else! Remember who you are, give up your fear, and serve!

Jo sang and spoke constantly of surrender, but she was far from passive. On the contrary, she was one of the most passionate and engaged people I’ve known, embodying surrender through total participation.

To surrender means to be willing to change, to die many little deaths again and again as we let go of one small, false identity after another. But what remains is worth every ounce of effort – and that is Love, pure and eternal.

From the outside it might look like Jo’s life was a spiritual fairytale, and, no doubt due to her karma, in many ways it was. But she also worked incredibly hard – I saw it for myself. And Amma (our teacher in South India), in Her love, worked her too, challenging her as much as blessing her, to surrender her doubt, her fear and her unworthiness. To become all that she had the potential to become.

I remember a time, many years ago now, when Edo, Jo and I were invited to have lunch with Amma, where She talked to us about doing retreats together (before we first birthed the Bali Retreat). Amma was saying, “Lucy will teach Yoga, Edo can do some chanting, and maybe Edo or Lucy can give a talk in the afternoon”. She was completely ignoring Jo in a way that was so obvious and so painful that my protective Akka (big sister in Tamil) instinct was to say, “Yes Amma, and Jo can share her beautiful music”. She ignored that too.

It was so obviously a set up. And this is the way that Amma works. In a few simple words, or a look away, or by ignoring you completely after beaming Her radiant love at you just the day before, She has a knack for doing exactly the right thing to bring up your most childish, painful, and often unconscious wounds – the guilt, the shame, the not-good-enoughness that you’d much rather leave buried if you could.

Amma is not really ignoring us of course but merely mirroring the beliefs that we still hold about ourselves. And while it hurts sometimes, it’s an inevitable and invaluable process of clearing out the old stuff, to make more room for Love.

I know that after that lunch Jo returned to her room and sobbed her heart out, offering up her tears and her false, conditioned beliefs. I know because she told me and I know because I’ve done the same thing many times.

It’s hard though, really. In that moment it feels so raw and real and the ego so very much wants to defend. To be pissed at Amma and reject the path, or whoever else ‘appears’ to be causing the pain. I’ve done lots of that too believe me.

Jo was and still is my inspiration for riding out the rough bits while never losing faith.

Because in so many ways, when it hurts is when it really counts. Those are the moments that are SO full of potential for healing. They’re also the times we tend to forget the path entirely.

And this is how Jo “became like Amma”: She did the work. Again and again. Until her last breath (and most likely beyond) she was doing the work. Healing her past, forgiving herself and others… letting go. Refusing to buy into fear and contraction so that Love could have its way with her.

Within each and every one of us is a Divine seed, a spark, a knowing, and no matter how deeply our divine qualities might be buried we can develop them. The potential for kindness and compassion is in all of us.

To “become like Amma” means not just to worship Amma (the Divine), while carrying on in ways that are selfish, fearful, or prejudiced. We can pray all we like, but without the willingness to act upon the good teachings that we receive, nothing much really changes.

We surrender to the Divine and acknowledge our personal limitations, but when guidance comes… an inspiration or an idea to do something positive, or to let something go, we must take the action. Divine cannot do that for us! We need to participate!

We can chant and offer flowers and put our legs behind our head, but if we don’t understand the real reason for doing these things, which is to actively transform our minds and hearts, then they’re no more than hobbies or habits, even crutches.

And while Amma says that addiction to the Divine is the healthiest addiction there is, She also says that through devotion comes the wisdom to see the Divine in everyone and everything. We’ll have no choice then but to honour and serve.

Jo was so very committed to this.

And so rather than mourning her now, I feel to really celebrate all that she taught me – to honour and serve. To embody as best I can the very same qualities that I loved about her – lightness & humour, sweetness, generosity, kindness, devotion, gratitude, selflessness… the list goes on.

In that way I too, we too, become divine.

Because these are the qualities of Amma! These are the qualities of the Divine! They are in all of us!

10561759_10152961704287263_2781290514526443652_nSo let’s be the change that we want to see. Be the love that we long to receive. Find the courage to change what’s not working. And give all that we can in the short time we’re here.

“People change for the good by constantly reminding themselves of two things: I am living to perform good deeds and, I am living to improve myself for the benefit of all.”  ~ Sri Sakthi Amma

Om Namo Narayani

ps. you can substitute Amma with any other name for the Divine that works for you… many names for the One Same Love!

Equanimity

04.09.15

let-go-2-1So lately I’ve been feeling pretty shitty. And while I’ve been hanging in there knowing that this too shall pass, and that all I can do is just ride it out, doing what I can in small ways to help myself feel better, I’ve also been putting a lot of pressure on myself.

The word ‘equanimity’ has been dancing back of mind for some days, as I’ve sought to understand what it really means, when it really counts, when it’s really bloody hard to find it.

The one thing I haven’t been doing a whole lot of though, is accepting. A quick glance at Facebook this morning blessed me with several posts that reminded me in the gentlest of ways that these fluctuations – the ups & downs of clarity & confusion, sickness & health, energy & exhaustion, inspiration & not-having-a-bloody-clue-what’s-next, are all a part of the play, the inevitable extremes between which my Life happens.

But in my very earnest desire to cultivate equanimity, I’ve actually been judging myself really harshly, expecting way too much.

Q: How can there be equanimity in a culture of such tension?
A: There can’t.

Aaaaaaaah. The relief. Body softens.

This happens a lot for me. A suffering-inspired closer inspection into these beautiful, precious, oh-so-subtle & noble yogic concepts shows me how often and how very cleverly ego tries to hijack them, and use them for itself.

We see it all the time right, the seemingly equanimous and detached yogi who is clearly terrified of feeling, of getting hurt again, or having to navigate and possibly drown in the messy soup of emotion that life just is sometimes.

And while stable and reliable, even inspirational, to me he lacks a certain depth and empathy. I can’t feel him or the ‘truth’ he attempts to share.

Because the thing is that inside and at the heart of all these intense emotions is wisdom, the reward perhaps for having the courage and patience to be broken down and emptied out of all of the lies we still believe about ourselves, over and over again.

I had defined equanimity as evenness; equalness of mind. The ability to remain undisturbed, steady at the centre while the boat of life rocks this way and that.

And while this may still be true, I feel I need to expand upon my definition out of compassion for myself. What remains undisturbed is the Self, not the ego. In order to know the Self, the ego needs a whole lot of disruption and rattling. It’s messy sometimes, but it’s also very beautiful. To keep the ego undisturbed takes a mother-load of control that is rigid and full of fear. No thanks.

A few days ago I was out and something upset me to the point of tears, but I really didn’t want to cry in that situation so I bit my quivering lip and held on tight. I would save my tears for the safety of home. Talking about it with my partner once I got there, all floppy on the couch, I felt the emotion rise up again but this time I let it come. I felt my face contort and get all scrunchy, the hot wetness of tears as they rolled down my cheek.

At that point I didn’t even know exactly why I was crying, only that I had to. There was no accompanying storyline, just pure emotion. I could literally feel the pressure releasing, like a garden hose that’s sprung a little leak. The pressure that I’d been piling up inside myself and upon myself for days, weeks, always?

And then my partner did the loveliest thing. He got me a tissue, first of all, and then he picked up his guitar, sat beside me on the edge of the couch, and sang “Om Namo Narayani” from beginning to end (thanks Jojo – your beautiful version).

He sang, I cried, and breathed. I just let it all go… let it wash away. I let the fear rise up and the tension of that just melt away into trust. Trust that whatever unfolds I will be OK. I will be held eternally in the embrace of the Mother. I don’t need to worry so much about the details. I can let go.

And there it was, my old friend Equanimity.

I remembered this, again: Equanimity doesn’t live aside from the pain or pleasure, but deep inside them.  At the heart of everything, there it is. Peace.

“You cannot let go of anything if you cannot notice that you are holding it. Admit your ‘weaknesses’ and watch them morph into your greatest strengths.”   ~ Neale Donald Walsch

Om Namo Narayani

Blessed_Cardboard_SignThe conversation came up this week during post-Yoga coffee (or dandy, or chai, or whatever…), about Yoga and health, as though one should guarantee the other. “I thought all those years of practice would make you immune to disease?”. Umm, sorry, but no, that’s a myth. Let’s shatter it right now shall we?

While Yoga well practised most definitely promotes health, well-being and harmony, it’s just not as straight-forward as that. In one of my favourite quotes of Sri Ramana Maharishi, he says, “What will not happen will never happen, whatever effort one may put forth. And what will happen will not fail to happen, however much one may seek to prevent it. This is certain”. Some things are destined, no matter how much practice you’ve done.

But if ultimately Yoga is about waking up from the dream of a separate ‘me’, and if that is what we sincerely desire (a question worth asking), and we trust in the God-force to do what is necessary to rouse us, then times of ill-health, disappointment or dis-ease, are full of potential and in many ways blessings in disguise.

There is nothing like the shock of loss or possible loss to show us what we really value. All of a sudden what matters matters, and what doesn’t matter really doesn’t matter one bit.

And while we’d probably all script perfect health for ourselves if given the chance, a smooth graceful life of pleasure and ease, I think most of us can look back upon times of crisis or challenge, eventually, with enormous gratitude, and the understanding that we just wouldn’t be who we are today if everything had gone our way.

I can personally attest that the times that I’ve grown, let go, or forgiven most, and felt the most genuine compassion and empathy, were those when I felt extremely unsure of outcomes, afraid, or let down.

This last week has been a lot like that.

A precious girlfriend was diagnosed with stomach cancer, another bitten badly on the face by a vicious dog, rushed to hospital for emergency plastic surgery. Both are dedicated, beautiful yoginis. And right away I can think of several other dear friends who’ve recently danced, and continue to dance with some pretty heavy situations: divorce, diabetes, infertility, miscarriage, amputation and heart disease.

What makes these friends yogis to me, besides the fact that they do some kind of practice, is their willingness to look Reality in the eye – to accept it, adapt to it, but above all to use it to open them deeper into wisdom and love. They’ve been quite abruptly shaken from their very roots, but have dug in deeper until each, in their own ways, has found water.

My personal heroes are not, and have never been, the apparently squeaky clean goji-eating Yoga pin-up set with 800,000 Instagram followers and radiant health. And while I’m sure that many of those are truly inspirational people, I personally want something grittier. I want Real. I want Raw. I want Honest.

My personal heroes are the addicts who got clean and now work with those in recovery. The abused who now work to protect or support the abused. The one’s who couldn’t have children but now care for many. The ones who’ve used a crisis of health to change their life. Anyone, in fact, with the courage to look old hurts in the eye, and transform them into something more sublime.

And that’d be all of us, because we’ve all been hurt or disappointed at some time or other. As Rumi says, “the wounds are where the light enters us”.

So beautiful friends, let’s put our heartache to excellent use. Let it become fodder for our Yoga classes, lyrics to our songs, words to our poems, the gentleness with which we care for our children & animals, and the love in the food that we cook and share.

Will a committed Yoga practice guarantee you perfect health? No, unfortunately not.
But will it give you the tools to work skilfully and graciously with whatever Life has in store for you? Absolutely. Yes.

“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise”. ~ Oscar Wilde

Om Namo Narayani

23282195My friend and accomplished author and yogini, Leza Lowitz, recently published her memoir. A wise, raw and touching account of her long road to motherhood, and all that it took to ready her heart.

What really hit me while reading it, is that I know I was around during some of the really tough times that she describes in the book. A Tokyo blow-in I was never around for long, but we’d always catch up (and still do). We’d drunk hot chocolates and talked a little about the adoption process in Japan. She’d shared how tiring it all felt sometimes, and that if one more friend got accidentally pregnant and came to her for succour that she couldn’t be sure just what she might say.

But otherwise I didn’t really know, or didn’t take the time to know, the depth of all that was going on for her. She was honest, always, but stoic, because God forbid when you’ve been trying to have a kid for nearly a decade you’re not going to drop your bundle about it to every person who asks “how are you?”.

You just live with it.

And so what strikes me is this: that women hold much. Regardless of how together we might seem, and the dignity with which we go on with our work, we hold much. In our bones and our wombs, our hearts, our every cell. We hold so much.

And it’s why I feel so grateful for books such as Leza’s, because every story told seems to lighten that load. The tears I cried and the joy I felt for her, with her, were as much a balm for my own heartbreaks. And that’s how it works. The weight of a human life, with all its shame and disappointment, failure and loss, too heavy for any of us to carry alone.

Because it really can be very sad. And this is what I’m feeling – the sadness, the hope tinged with fear, and the fear tinged with hope that so many women carry on the journey of motherhood (whether they ever become mothers or not). A healthy child cannot entirely redeem the losses or setbacks that came before. They will always be there, inextricable from who that woman has become.

But they also make her beautiful. Deep and wise and stripped away in all the places that make her better at loving.

Because that’s what being a mother is all about. And that’s what the longing is all about: a relentless urge to know what it is to love another so fully, so completely, that you’d give your own life that they could live.

I love this about Leza’s story. That as rational and intelligent and insightful as I know her to be she simply couldn’t explain away her longing. Because longing is not like that. It won’t be dissuaded and it will not, cannot, compromise. To do so would be to dam the stream of our life force, to live with a crack at our core. “The truth that lives there will eventually win out. It’s a god we must obey, a force that brings us all inevitably to our knees.” ~ Cheryl Strayed.

And so she never gave up.

This Tokyo-based, American Samurai-of-a-woman, prolific writer, poet, editor, inspirational Yoga teacher and mentor to many, studio owner, manager, wife, and now mother.

God bless you Leza.

As Shogo taught you, you teach me: “Nana korobi ya oki ~ fall down seven times, get up eight.”

You can order this wonderful book through Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Here-Comes-Sun-Journey-Adoption/dp/1611720214

Let me know what you think.

Om Namo Narayani

letgo-500x546Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. It makes sense, right? But when caught in the grip of tearing thoughts and intense emotions, the pull to react in habitual ways is incredibly strong. What if… just what if… we dared to try something different? What if we tried doing nothing at all?

And I don’t mean nothing in the usual sense.

This is absolutely the time to shake ourselves up a bit, create a new habit or ditch a less loving one. But whatever we do it needs to start with us, and the inner work.

It’s really tempting to start re-arranging the furniture of our outer lives, expressing our dissatisfaction with everyone and everything, when what we really need to do is find the courage to be still.

Really still. Truly still. Not lying-on-the-couch-with-a-glass-of-red-while-your-mind’s-going-a-million-miles-an-hour-kind of still.

But the mind, as we know, is hard to control. Trying to make it stop is a losing battle. So we don’t, we just let it be. But we learn to step aside from the chatter. Find a vantage point, a perspective, from which we can watch our thoughts & feelings bubble up and dissolve, bubble up and dissolve.

When thoughts are fast and furious with the extra intensity of an emotional charge, this is easier said than done. It feels a lot like stepping into a fire and just sitting there.

The desire to do something – call someone, send that email, shout, throw, slap, wallow, book a flight, buy that dress, or get validation for our arguments is just so strong and so persistent. We let it go but it comes right back again. And again. And again.

We might revisit this feeling for days, more likely weeks or months, even years. All we can do is just hold the space, be the space. Let it all come and go, come and go, until it doesn’t. Or when it does it has nowhere to stick, nowhere to take root, sapped of the strength that our attention once gave it.

Our identity, our personality is nothing but a bundle of these likes & dislikes, or vasanas – habits or tendencies based on the beliefs and definitions (including pre-cognitive) that we’ve formed about the world as a little child, or earlier.

When they are violated, we hurt. Like getting salt on a wound we learn to avoid and protect.

And so letting them go can feel a lot like dying, because in a way that’s exactly what we’re doing. The limited self that feeds off these beliefs will do EVERYTHING in its power to hang on, literally for dear life. Ego does not want us to be free!

But somewhere deep inside we can all sense more is possible. Love feels natural. Fear hurts. Our habits keep us safe but they also keep us small.

And so we learn to let go. One thought. One breath. One day at a time.

And this is true tapas – not an appetizer in a Spanish restaurant, but the zeal of our enthusiasm for freedom.

Sometimes of course we get completely swamped. We forget. It’s all so close to home that we feel the need to fight. We resist. And this too is part of the play. The intensity of the suffering we feel seems directly proportionate to the amount of energy that we’re willing to expend to finally find our way out of that suffering. To find the Path of Love, and then walk it as bravely and humbly as we can.

So when next you feel that niggle and you’re certain that you’re right, quite sure that things should be different than they are, and that someone or something else is to blame, then please pause for a moment, and consider your options.

It pretty much comes down to these 3:

1.  Obsess until the cow’s come home.
2.  Resolve the tension with an outward fix.
3.  Lovingly witness, without buying into the story.

#1 & #2 keep us firmly on the hamster wheel. #3 shows us how to step off.

How do you want to live?

Let me tell you I’ve been working really hard with all this. And peeling onions always makes me cry. But then I put them in a pan with slow, steady heat (tapas!), and lashings of lovely golden butter (the lubrication of my faith and patience!), and before too long they get soft and sweet (like me!).

If I dare to give advice this is it:

Don’t bother with the dialogue. Don’t bother trying to solve anything or justify your position.

Try something new. Surrender.

Align yourself instead with the energy and vibration of Love, the energy and vibration of forgiveness. Chant, pray, dance, sing, do puja, yoga, walk or meditate. Whatever works. Just do it!

Make the space in your heart for wisdom to grow, compassion to flower, and Love to bear fruit. Slowly, lovingly prepare the soil, and leave the rest up to God.

Very little grows on jagged rock,The-gardening-blog
Be ground, be crumbled
So wildflowers will come up where you are.
You’ve been stoney for too many years
Try something different
Surrender.         ~ Rumi

Om Namo Narayani

Wow. I just watched this incredible video where 100 women were interviewed and asked to describe their bodies in one word. The answers are alarming. “Disgusting” was a common response. Wow. Why do so many of us still loathe ourselves? How did we come to be at such odds with our own bodies?

It’s as if collectively we’ve forgotten how amazing we all are, mistaking a priceless gift for it’s packaging. We’ve forgotten our connection to the One Big Love, our sameness, misinformed instead by a society and education system that loves to measure and differentiate.

So I’m asking myself, do I still do this? Do I still, even in subtle ways, still denigrate my body or wish it were otherwise?

Because as Yoga teachers it’s not so much about what we say but what we do. Like parents, we can talk all we like, but what really speaks are our actions.

Years ago I probably wished I were thinner, God forbid. But now, a decade or more on, I’d be really happy to get a few of those kilos back. I’ve never eaten more butter and cheese in my entire life but still I remain quite lean. Maybe it’s all the Yoga I’ve done, the travel… I don’t know. I’m certainly working on juicing up a bit but nothing much is happening.

Of more interest here than a kilo or two, is the insidious and persistent belief that so many of us still carry that if we could just be a little bit more like this, or a little bit more like that, then we’d be happier.

There’s a pretty good chance that if I do put on weight that it won’t go where I want it to go anyway!

My beloved friend Rose, now 67, showed me some photos of she and her boyfriend at about age 25 in Goa, all long hair, flowing cottons, and Rajasthani skirts. “Look how gorgeous we were, oh my God” she said, “if only I’d realised it then”.

Can you see how ridiculous this is? Can you see how we set ourselves up to never, ever be happy!?

[Editors note: in case you misunderstood, I’m not saying that Rose is ridiculous, far from it, Rose is smart and funny and wise enough to see the madness of her skewed perceptions.]

Please watch the video I posted because what it highlights SOOOO beautifully is the issue of non-acceptance, especially as women and especially about our bodies – our inability to just love and embrace ourselves AS WE ARE.

The pursuit of perfection is endless. Nobody ever gets there.

So can we all please just stop it?! Can we please support each other to relax and to heal? Because sometimes, of course, we meet our edges. We discover things that are really, really hard to accept and love.

But this is the journey. More than the times when everything’s going swimmingly and we’re feeling tippy-top. This is the real Yoga. To patiently, persistently, lovingly, and courageously seek and release all these old beliefs that suggest we need to be somebody else.

For me, today, this means loving my leanness. Loving the angles. It also means listening very closely, closer than usual, for the wisdom of my body to guide me towards what nourishes it.

And you know what, I think it’s asking me to go back to bed. Hang on… yep, yes, I’m pretty sure. There’s something quite exhausted in here, that’s really longing to rest. And no, not meditate, sleep. Aaah yes. Yes. I hear you. I feel you. It’s Saturday morning here, and in a radical act of self-loving, I’m going back to bed.

Om Namo Narayani

I love you xx

40c8bbc9aba70e3519038460a842fc22I can’t stop staring at the gladiolas on our coffee table. As the world news screams of firing squads, floods, and earthquakes, this wordless darshan makes me calm. Flowers the deep red of healthy blood, against the green of the stem, the orange of the vase, and the soft light of the forest just beyond the glass walls of our living room.

It’s perfect. And yet it’s all dying. I’m witnessing the cycle of life unfold before my eyes. Birth, to full development, to decay.

In the midst of so much chaos the gladiolas speak to me of an order beyond my comprehension. A mystery for which I feel a deep and abiding trust even as my mind protests the details sometimes (often!).

It’s been an eventful last couple of weeks, both out there and in here. A lot has gone wrong, and a lot has gone right.

The seemingly immovable Himalayas buckled and much of Nepal came crashing down. After a visit with me, my Dad & his partner Pam got stuck in torrential rain and flash-flooding on their way home, roads closed or blocked for miles around. It took them 8, instead of about 3.5hrs to get home. Before that my partner David got hit in the face by a longboard while out surfing, ending up in Emergency getting two gashes on his nose ‘superglued’ back together. And before that, I crashed my car.

As a seeker of truth and a lover of learning, with a little bit of Catholic guilt thrown in for good measure, I’m always trying to understand why things happen. Because to a certain degree I guess I still see these ‘bad’ things as a kind of punishment. They must be, right? If all is a consequence of previous action, then one bad turn must deserve another? What have I done to create this?

But sometimes the reasons for things are obvious, and sometimes they are not.

Buddha (apparently) once said something like this: never try to understand the intricacies of karma. That quote stayed with me, because I think it’s very wise. We might think that this is because of that, or that because of this, or that bad things are bad, and good things are good, when in actual fact life is more complex, and more interesting than that.

We can see these little tests as a kind of blessing, and an excellent gauge of how well our spiritual practices are actually working. They show us how good we’ve got at letting go… or not.

Within every challenge, every obstacle, lies the potential for both insight and basic human kindness. Vulnerability is a beautiful thing. When my David was feeling all a bit grumpy about his soon-to-be-scarred shnoz and diminishing handsomeness, it was a lovely chance to affirm that I love him scars and all. It was a reminder to us both that, as vain as we are, it’s not about the packaging.

I’d also been feeling a certain disconnection from events in Nepal (and elsewhere in the world), and yes, again, almost a little guilt about all that I do have. But when it was my Dad out there in that storm, and there was very little I could do to help except follow the weather news and keep him up-to-date, I could empathise (although it’s no comparison) with all my brothers and sisters out there, all over the world, at the absolute whim of nature when She roars.

Adversity so often brings out our best – we band together, we put things in perspective, we let go of the less important, and we dig a bit deeper to see what more we’ve got.

So I’d prefer, as the Taoists do, to view all these opposites – pleasure & pain, gain & loss, good & bad, birth and death, as co-existent rather than opposite. Like the yin-yang sign, each one contains a little bit of the other, at all times.

In the deepest of grief is a little of the sweetness that presence brings, and gratitude for what we’ve had, or what we’ve still got. Love is always tinged with a little of the fear of loss. Birth contains within it the promise of death, and death the hope of new life.

I remember a conversation I had with my friend Edo, where we realised that to have absolute and total faith in the guru, in the process, in Love, in Life, would be to never again worry, about anything. Whether or not things made sense to us in the moment wouldn’t matter one bit, we would just trust that things were unfolding as they should.

While easier said than done, it’s a thought that brings peace. It’s an aspiration. This kind of trust recognises that life by its very nature is a dance of opposing or interrelated forces, where things break apart and come together, over and over again.

The wheels keep spinning, and the waves keep rolling in and out. Sound punctuates the silences, and the silences give birth to sound. With quiet determination a sprout breaks through the shackles of its seed coat, gladioli spiral their way to the light. As much as the will to live unites us all, so too does the inevitability of death.

Our challenge, I suspect, is to ride the waves as graciously as we can, with an open heart and a sense of humour, and devotion to the extraordinary Love that makes it all possible.

I bow to the One who has made it so,
Who has crafted this Master game.
To play it is pure delight,
To honour is true devotion.     ~ from the poem ‘Unconditional’ by Jennifer Welwood

Om Namo Narayani!