Blowing in the wind..........
Dear students and friends
Change is in the air! I find this difficult to believe but I’m actually leaving town. I’m off to follow the dream I have had for 18 years - ever since I first arrived on these fair New Zealand shores . The dream of going to live on Waiheke island.
My dream of owning my own yoga studio became reality in June of 2000 - exactly 12 years ago - and I have known and taught many of you since those very early days (and some even longer than that!) And over these amazing 12 years - years which, looking back, have simply flown by - I have met and taught so very many more wonderful students – each and every one of you has a place in my heart – please know that – so leaving is a very hard thing for me to do.
Too hard in fact. So I will still be around a little. Here’s the new picture.
I have passed the Albany Yoga Room into the capable and inspiring hands of Fiona Blankley (known to many of you as Arvinderfee) and as from this Friday (15th June) she will officially own the studio. But I am not cutting all my ties. I shall continue to teach my Tuesday morning class and as from the beginning of July I will be teaching the 5.45pm class on Mondays as well.
I shall also remain associated with the Albany Yoga Room by continuing to run workshops and retreats of various types in co-operation with Arvinderfee, but under the name of my new company which is called Growing Younger. And just as the dream that became Albany Yoga Room grew and flourished over the years, I hope that Growing Younger will also inspire many of you and provide you with opportunities for personal growth.
In conclusion let me say that I honestly believe Arvinderfee is the right person to take over the reins because she and I look at yoga in the same way and I hope that you will support her as she leads the Albany Yoga Room into the future. I also really hope to stay connected with every one of you myself.
I thank you all, from the bottom of my heart……
Thank you for allowing me to believe in myself and for inspiring me to teach.
With much love
2012 - should we be concerned?
I heard recently that 2012 is the most researched subject on the entire internet. Seems everyone and his dog is either posting stuff or feverishly searching for a bit of clarity on what to expect. I really don’t advise you to go there. You might not sleep well afterwards.
The doomsday lunatics are having a field day! And how will the world meet its sticky end? Ah – the menu is rich with possibilities. Most predictions offer massive natural disasters as the main course. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis and wild fires all over the planet to name but a few. All around the (northern hemisphere) winter solstice.
The cause? One popular theory is polar reversal - our magnetic poles swopping places, causing what’s known as crustal displacement. Basically meaning that the crust of the earth is going to move radically around the core. Now that may sound a bit ‘out there’ but I am a little worried about the fact that Albert Einstein was of the opinion that such a shift had in fact happened about 12,000 years ago.
We also have a few spicy little outer space morsels. Most popular is the theory that there is a large meteor heading our way, due to collide with us – yup – you got it – around 21 December next year. But I would tend to worry more about a massive solar storm (sun spots) knocking out all our satellites and electrical grids. If you want to worry about that too, check out astro-physicist Michio Kaku talking about this on youtube.
Of course if all that sounds quite undigestible to you I could offer extreme global warming, a new ice age, nuclear or biological warfare, a flu pandemic, nanotechnology gone mad, genetic modification gone mad or simply having the entire planet being gobbled up by a massive black hole accidently created by the Large Hadron Collider.
So what do I think?
I think that anything is possible. But everything at this point is just guesswork. And a lot of mindless fear-mongering.
Like I said, don’t go there. BUT………….
Something big IS happening. Everyone is feeling it. You’re welcome to take everything I say with a large grain of salt, but here’s what I believe.
I believe that the world is undergoing massive change. We are now being exposed to energy frequencies that were never around before (and these are being scientifically measured). I believe this energy is raising the vibrational rate of our physical bodies and enabling us to develop skills in expanded consciousness. I see this as part of our evolution as a species. We need to be aware of this and start to work with it. We need to understand that we are infinitely more powerful beings than we could ever imagine and that our mission on earth at this time is to help shift all of humanity to the next stage. If you are reading this, you are being called upon to help. So what to do?
It’s simple. We begin living from the heart instead of the ego. As Wayne Dyer says – instead of asking ‘What’s in it for me?’ rather asking ’How may I serve?’ All we need to do is learn to love. Develop heart consciousness.
And how do we do this? Firstly develop a simple meditation programme for yourself that you can follow. Begin with even 5 minutes a day. Every day. With the clear intention of connecting to your heart energy. And then trying to live from that heart space throughout the day. Watching how you THINK is the most important part of this.
And even though I do foresee a continuation of the current chaos being dealt to us by Mother Nature, I believe that 2012 will not be the end but rather a new beginning. We have much work to do.
The recent Christchurch earthquake has to rate as New Zealand’s most significant event of the past few years. We felt quite a thrill at seeing ourselves on BBC and CNN for a day or two didn’t we? I can’t really imagine what it must be like to have been directly affected. But having a daughter rendered homeless as she was living in a student flat in the CBD I did feel quite close to the heart of the happenings.
But this earthquake got me thinking. We are constantly reminded how we need to be prepared for civil emergencies. Happily my fridge and pantry on any given day are probably equipped to feed the whole suburb for a month (especially now that all my girls have finally left home and the left-overs are piling up at an alarming rate!) I’m not that good on batteries because every time I buy them they seem to vanish. And just as I was patting myself on the back for having 4 litres of bottled water stored in readiness for some emergency I learn on the radio we need water for 3 WEEKS! Oh well maybe the swimming pool will fill that requirement.
Then I started thinking about my house. Is it earthquake-proofed? About five years ago I spent almost every waking hour planning and designing and building my lovely new house - an experience by the way that I absolutely delighted in, despite just about everyone I’ve ever spoken to in my entire life warning me to NOT, NEVER EVER think about building a house!!! As luck would have it I adore weatherboard so I was not exposed to the potential horror situation of the leaky home - but this near-miss does create some cause for concern. What if the brilliant people in our councils or where-ever who ‘overlooked’ those leaky-causing problems didn’t get it quite right on earthquakes either? Hope I never have to stand the test.
But let me get to the point. With all the advice and encouragement we are given from so many quarters about earthquake-proofing our homes and generally equipping ourselves to withstand any natural disasters, has anyone EVER suggested ways of earthquake-proofing ourselves? How do we prepare ourselves for those earth-shattering experiences that most of us experience more than once in our lifetimes? Death of a loved one, relationship break-ups, moving far from home, losing our jobs…………. life is full of pitfalls waiting to swallow us up. Or even those little after-shocks or little earth tremors we are all susceptible to at some time in our lives - feeling like we don’t really belong somewhere or really fit in, or perhaps feeling restless and longing for a change, but to what, and why? Maybe it’s just that very deep, well hidden longing for a connection to something we can’t define…………… a homesickness for a place we don’t remember………
Of course in today’s world we are masters at keeping ourselves SO busy that we seldom if ever have to face those little tremors – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. It just means we can usually pretend rather successfully that they aren’t. Until the big one happens.
Yoga, with it’s many and varied practices from stretching and toning the physical body, to learning the importance of right thinking and right living, and through to breathing, relaxing and meditation practices offers us the whole package. An amazing age-old science devised to slowly and gently lead us from chaos into certainty, from confusion into clarity. Yoga offers us a set of skills that can help us deal with any problem, withstand the buffeting of emotional tornadoes and prevent us from drowning in life’s floods. A house built on a yoga foundation will not crumble in any earthquake.
Would you like enlightenment with that?
Instant coffee came first. Then instant noodles and instant messaging. And it seems that somewhere along the line we found instant spirituality. Or at least we hoped we had. Because it seems from that horrid moment when the alarm clock goes off and it’s get breakfast for the kids/clean up/get dressed/rush to work/go crazy at work/rush home/sort the house and kids/make dinner/fall asleep watching the news……….we don’t have time for anything requiring effort and practice and boring stuff like that.
Makes me think of the Mainland cheese ads - remember them? Two salt-of-the-earth blokes ruminating about how ‘Good things take time’. Well guys, I don’t know who your ad agency is, but I hope they didn’t lose the contract!
So what is instant spirituality?
I guess it comes in many different packages. But every package offers pretty much the same thing – the ability for me to be able to manifest anything and everything my (greedy?) little mind can desire. (Uh hello………wasn’t the central teaching of the Buddha something about desire being the root of all suffering?)
So what wrong with this? Well I don’t like to be the harbinger of bad news, but it seems to me that this fashionable trend does little more than satisfy insecurity and neediness. It would have us believe that if we could only focus hard enough on what we want - wham bang - it would appear. Like the genie out of the bottle. Wonderful. But then what? If we did get the magic formula wouldn’t we be like kids in a candy shop – I want this one, and this one, and this one, and these ones……………….
The mind is never satisfied. As the Buddha says - desire is the root of all suffering.
True spirituality is a ripening process. Like fruit on a tree. We don’t try to rush the fruit, or walk away from it forever because it is still green……
If we want our own spirituality to ripen slowly and naturally what can we do to help the process? We must walk, every day, in that direction. We must first become clear about what we want. Focus on the possible. Do not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the task before us - that will muddy the waters – as we all know, overwhelm creates anxiety.
There may well be those very rare individuals who, by a stroke of pure grace, stumble into the light in one mind-exploding moment. Perhaps Eckhard Tolle is one? (The Power of Now - a ‘must-read’ for anyone looking to understand what life’s all about). But for the vast majority of us it is a life-long quest. I view the raising of my consciousness as the primary reason for my being on this earth - and this journey is one that I need to steadfastly and doggedly attempt to be aware of every moment of every day.
So it’s every time I think a ‘bad’ thought I need to catch myself and re-direct my attention in the opposite direction. Every time I feel myself being pulled into the rip tide of uncontrolled emotion I need to pay attention. Nothing wrong with feeling our emotions - lots wrong actually with NOT feeling them - but that doesn’t mean I have to react blindly. Before I speak I need to think about what I’m going to say and why. Likewise with my actions.
So a life of ripening spirituality is a life lived consciously. And more than that. Much more. It’s a life lived as one on-going yoga practice. But that is a subject for another day.
Life in a fish bowl
When my kids were small one of the most exciting things we could do was go to Kelly Tarltons. As an aquarium-lover myself I found this a very pleasant way to celebrate a child’s birthday or entertain an overseas visitor. We would spend a relaxing morning strolling through what in those days seemed like an endless tunnel, surrounded by an apparently infinite number of exciting fish of many varieties.
Can’t say I’m much of a fan any more - don’t know if it’s me that’s changed or the fish. But the excitement has gone out of our relationship - it just doesn’t do it for me any longer.
But that’s not what this is about. I’m not here to discuss the merits of Kelly Tarltons. But it got me thinking. Those fish swim around and around and around…………….thinking about whatever fish think about I guess……….. I have no idea what that may be………but one thing I am pretty sure of. Those fish see their tank as their universe. It’s all they know. For them that tank is IT. Assuming they were raised in captivity, they have no concept of anything like the ocean. How could they?
And yet - I just cannot help believing that somewhere deep in their ‘fishness’ they DO know the ocean. Somehow they know that the tank is not where they really belong - and they yearn for the ocean. They long to be free. They pine for their true home.
And what about us?
Every day we swim around and around and around, being the people we have designed ourselves to be. We go about our daily lives always busy, always involved, always working away to feather our little nests (oops now we’re birds!) and create a more comfortable corner for ourselves in our little world. We think this is IT.
And yet - I cannot help believing that somewhere deep in our ‘humanness’ we DO know our ocean. Somehow we know that this world is not where we really belong - and we yearn for that place. We long to be free. We pine for our true home.
The stuff that weighs us down….
Last weekend I went to see my beloved George Clooney give a superb performance in his new movie Up in the Air. Cool movie - go see it! Without giving away anything important I can tell you that George’s job entails constantly flying around the world firing people from their jobs. Apparently there are companies that do this - if the boss is too scared or timid or whatever himself he hires some one else to do his dirty work.
Anyway, as a side gig, George is a public speaker. You know the type - a motivational speaker who works the various conferences that are so popular these days. And George’s little twist comes in the form of a backpack. His talk is called “What’s in your backpack?” Basically he suggests the audience imagines themselves wearing a backpack and slowly filling it with all their ‘stuff’ - from clothes and ornaments and books to furniture, cars, houses. He asks them to add all the people in their lives. He implores them to feel the weight that they are lugging around, day after day. And suggests that they throw everything out. Empty the backpack.
And then last night - in that strange serendipidous fashion in which a specific message is repeated from a completely unrelated source - I happened to catch a talk given on TV by a truly lovely spiritual teacher by the name of Prem Rawat (also known as Maharaji). He began by saying that we are all on a voyage - that our body is our vehicle for this voyage - and he asked what was the point of this voyage. What is the point of this life we are all so busy living? The point, he says, is to experience ‘the ulitimate’. What is the ulitmate? That, he says, cannot be described - but suffice to say that the same force that moves the universe exists inside of ourselves - right here in our vehicle - and the point of the voyage is to discover and experience that force.
And he spoke of how we all carry so many things with us on our voyage. So much heavy stuff that weighs us down. We carry our anger and our sadness. We carry resentment and envy. All heavy stuff. And confusion. He said confusion is SO heavy it pretty much prevents us from going anywhere. Why carry all this on our voyage?
Now that we know that the purpose of the voyage is to discover and experience the universal force, we can put our confusion down and pick up clarity. Feel clarity – how little it weighs he says. And pick up joy. Feel the weight of joy. It is so light that it makes YOU feel light.
So let us all continue on our voyage of discovery accompanied by clarity and joy, and let’s see how light we feel.
And not forgetting George - poor George who, having emptied his backpack, was left with nothing - perhaps some one can tell him what he should be putting into his backpack once everything else has been emptied out?
(You can visit Maharaji’s website by clicking here)
Be Happy - don’t worry! :)
You know what I really like about yoga philosophy? Well in fact I like it all. What’s not to like with a philosophy that tells you you’re actually perfect. Nothing to change, nothing to add, nothing to attract (thank heavens - all these laws of attraction are quite exhausting!) All I need to do is peel away everything extraneous and voila`- blissful magnificence.
But here’s the best part. The really amazing bit. Yoga philosophy tells us that in the end, no matter who we are or what we achieve it doesn’t amount to anything. It doesn’t matter. It’s all just an illusion, from which we will awaken when we die. Like we don’t realize we are dreaming while we are dreaming, but upon awakening we realize in an instant that it was all just a dream. In the same way we will ‘awaken’ and see how our life has been a dream.
How cool is that??
So whew! - we can stop taking ourselves so seriously. We can stop blowing up every little ‘situation’ into a major production, every tiny set-back into failure of monumental importance, every thoughtless snappy remark into relationship-threatening drama. Like the actor on the stage we can play our role to the best of our ability but realize at the same time that we are not in truth the character we play. It is simply our ego that plays the part.
When we start to realize that it is just our ego that gets hurt by a snide comment, our ego that is afraid of ridicule or rejection, our ego that puffs up with pride when we are praised or rewarded - when we begin to understand that it is our ego that stands in the way of our ever discovering who we REALLY are – I think that maybe that’s when we start to wake up, just a little bit. That’s when our consciousness begins to lift, little by little, day by day, until we often begin to catch ourselves indulging our fantasy life as though it were reality. We start to gradually, occasionally, penetrate that fog of forgetfulness, and glimpse for a brief instant a self apart from the ego. A witness.
Now don’t get me wrong please. This is not to say that you can do whatever you like and that’s all fine and dandy. Far from it. Just because this life is not the ultimate reality doesn’t mean we live in a laissez-faire universe with no one counting how many biscuits you ate late last night when no one was around. Oh no. You were free to enjoy your guilty delight, quite so, but the price is going to be high. Those new jeans you bought…….? This ‘fantasy reality’ that we live is governed by immutable laws - we reap what we sow. Perhaps not in this lifetime, but we have an infinite amount of time……….
Yoga teachings are there to help us negotiate these jungles of time and space we find ourselves living in. They point the way. They require us to climb to the highest paths. They are in fact the shortest route to that higher consciousness that enables us to recognize the ever-so-clever workings of our ego. And at that moment of first ‘awakening’ - that first awareness of the silent self beyond the ego - at that moment we can laugh for the first time about ourselves and gain our first moment of a new perspective. What busy little ants we are in our cosy little anthills!
A fresh perspective?
With Christmas behind us we’re now steaming full speed ahead towards a new year. As students left class for the last time this year so many of them seemed highly relieved that 2009 is finally coming to a close - and they all expressed a single hope. That 2010 will be better.
You may remember a few years ago a market analyst got a trained chimpanzee to throw darts at a dart board that contained random names of stocks in the American stock exchange. Apparently the chimp’s portfolio out-performed the S & P (Standard and Poor) Index as well as most of the Mutual Funds.
So for 2010, rather than look to economic experts, soothsayers, fortune tellers or politicians for a glimpse into my year-to-come I am turning to my 3 cats. And here is what I am learning from my furry friends.
My oldest cat, a beautiful Siamese with the now somewhat inappropriate name of Baby (she’s going on 16) has always viewed the world with a very neurotic attitude. In ‘the world according to Baby’ everyone and everything (myself excluded) is out to GET YOU! She cringes and quivers when my husband reaches out to stroke her (after 16 years you’d think she’d get over herself). A dropped fork or loud laugh from the other end of the house send her diving under the bed. A leaf blowing across the deck has her racing inside. Not a relaxing lifestyle.
Then there’s Tigger. At around 10 she’s the youngest. Bit of a mistake actually. She had a very traumatic infancy it appears, having been found abandoned and starving. So in ‘the world according to Tigger’ it’s every cat for himself. It’s grab what you can and to hell with the rest. It’s gobble it down as quickly as possible so no one else gets to eat it first. Unfortunately this approach leads not only to a little tension among the troops but also to obesity.
And then there’s Sugar. She’s the middle one (no issues there however) and she’s pure white. This fact may be the one that dominates her life and crafts her ‘world according to Sugar’. For 2 reasons. Firstly I suspect that she believes herself to be the ‘great white hope’ of the cat world so she is CONSTANTLY cleaning herself - demonstrating thereby that she understands the need to lead by example. And secondly her poor little pink ears were so assaulted by the sun that she had a little dance with death and had to have her ears chopped off. So she now understands better than most her own fragile mortality.
So Sugar seems to have manifested her true Buddha nature. She sits in the garden contemplating. She is sweet and loving and a very calm presence. She may well be the reincarnation of a very old (cat) soul - pity my other two just don’t seem to get it!
But what does this tell us about 2010? What will the year hold for us?
It tells us that 2010 will be another year. Like all the rest. And what we make of it is up to us. We can have the neurotic approach where we hunker down and hope nothing bad finds us. Or we can bulldoze our way through, grabbing what we can on the way.
Or we can stop. Sit. Be quiet and let the noise in our heads settle down. And then, even if we don’t know which direction to take or which decisions may be the right ones, we can tune into our own Buddha nature where we can stop resisting what is, start accepting where we are and move forward in the spirit of leading by example.
Have a fantastic New Year!