21 October 2013

Resting in Peace

My husband died last Friday morning at 5.30am.
Myself and our two beautiful children were with him.

It was the culmination of two and a half weeks on a traumatic emotional roller coaster - we'd kept a round the clock vigil next to his bed in intensive care during that time.

It all started when he phoned me in the early hours of Monday 20 September - he was in unbearable pain with paralysed legs. The ambulance team were there in a flash.

In the following 5 days he had four major operations - in the second operation his left leg was amputated above the knee, in the fourth one his right leg was amputated just below the thigh.
Before each operation we assured him he'd be fine.
Before each operation the surgeons told us it was unlikely he'd survive.

But he's mighty tough.

I spent over 6 hours sitting with him in the hospital each day after that. Our two children did the same. We all shared the ups and downs while watching him hooked up to the life support machines, the ticking, beeping, monitoring, the dialysis machine, the diabolically fluctuating blood pressure numbers, oxygen levels...adjustments were made to medication flows hourly, we went home exhausted each day and researched the drugs they'd administered, and there were oh so many little victories and disappointments on his way to recovery. He seemed to be getting better each day, more alert, able to smile cheekily and talk a little bit last week.

And the three of us gave him so much love during that time.
We never gave up on him.

Then came the call at 1am last Friday. We all met urgently at the hospital. He was in great pain, couldn't breathe. They couldn't operate. And life support was no longer an option. The pain killers and sedatives worked fast and he faded from consciousness just after we arrived, the intestinal hole leaking out stuff that was fast poisoning him.

It was a full moon morning.

We sat with him for those last 5 hours, holding his hands, watching the life drain out of him, all of us crying as the pauses between his raspy breaths got longer and longer.
I stroked his hair, kissed his forehead, and told him it was all OK, he was safe and we all loved him so much.  But the drugs had already taken him far away.
Then in a moment of great anguish my son leaned over his chest, put his arms around him and sobbing said 'I love you dad'. It was then that he breathed out his last breath.

He fought a mighty battle right to the end.

And now he rests in peace...

20 September 2013


I rise from Savasana altered.
Looking outwards through a calm, clear lens,
looking inwards through the same.
Inner and outer merge.

Yoga practice moves self through layers,
effortlessly piercing and opening, so that self can
glide towards centre.
Centre opens into infinite space.
Centre is beyond.

I rest beyond.
Then continue further in,
to the dark, beautiful, eternal galaxy.

7 August 2013

Double escape

I resigned and gave 2 weeks notice.
Then headed off into the bush for my one week of annual leave.
That was last week.
This week I'm back at work for my final 3 days - tying up loose ends, handing over, and allocating responsibilities to other staff.

Camping alone in a remote area of the northern Flinders Ranges last week provided the physical and mental space to calm down and view this lifetime both intimately and objectively.
I meditated, did yoga, meditated, climbed mountains, meditated...and slept.

It was a temporary escape from an oppressive, stressful working environment.
My resignation was the ultimate escape.

Some random notes from my camping journal:

View from mountain over river bed and road to Blinman
Tuesday 30 July 2013

Arrived at Parachilna Gorge at 5.30pm after a 6 hour drive from Adelaide.

I wanted to camp by the river bed at the end of the unused path, but driving in there was my second big challenge (the first was the 6 hour drive).
Large boulders block the path to prevent access - I had to drive my little city car down around them, then back up the short steep rocky embankment onto the path, through a pond of mud, then down another steep rocky drop to get to the stony river bed and the hidden camping spot.

Those 2 minutes of driving terrified me.

Spinning wheels up and over rocks the thoughts rushed in: my car might tip upside down, or roll over, or get stuck halfway, or my tyres would be ripped to shreds and I'd either be left to die alone, or I'd die of extreme fear.

Hours later, after putting up my tent in a state of anxiety, the flood of adrenaline and panic hormones had not subsided. I could feel the aftermath of hormonal overdose still in my bloodstream and organs. Then apprehension and fear set in about having to do it all AGAIN to get OUT of the campsite in a few days. The terror, the fear, the blind worry, the debilitating negative thoughts and disaster scenarios that I concocted about driving up and down that rocky embankment were what I sat with in my meditation and investigated for 3 days.

 Today's achievements:

1) I left Adelaide on time, against all the odds. If I hadn't, I would have easily given in to my easy-way-out voice and cancelled the trip. Only by recognising and overcoming negative thoughts, and pulling out all stops to make it happen, did I get away on time.
2) I easily managed the 6 hour dive
3) I found my way to the campsite.
4) I confronted the very real fear about driving over the rough rocky terrain to the campsite
5) I worked out how to put up my brand new tent (had to move it 3 times on the rocky ground before I found a spot where all the pegs would go in)

My fresh greens: lettuce and sunflower sprouts
Wednesday 31 July

Up at 6.30am - caught the sunrise.
Night was very cold (2 degrees) but I stayed warm in the tent.

1 hour and 15 minutes of sitting before breakfast - of that, perhaps 7 minutes of being present. Slipped in and out of conscious awareness, buried alive in a non-stop avalanche of thoughts about work.

Thursday 1 August

Sitting in silence, watching thoughts, the neural patterns are magnified: I am always in the future, worrying.
This habitual worry habit and anxiety began after Mark died. The shock of his death fried my brain. Rewiring the synapses and changing the mind's well worn footpaths will take some serious work.

Buddhist meditation practice helps: Sit and let go, relax and release the mind's grip.
Let go of attachments to outcomes, attachments to everything, desires, thoughts of the past, thoughts of the future. Let go of fear: fear of not knowing what to do, fear of being incompetent, paralyzed.

Practice being FULLY PRESENT, clear and free.

Friday 2 August

The sun is shining. It is cool.
Strong wind blowing in from the west
Tent flapping wildly, but secure.

I pick up one of the books I brought with me: 'Perfect Clarity: a Tibetan Buddhist Anthology of Mahamudra and Dzogchen'. Teachings from Padmasambhava, Yeshe Tsogyal, Longchempa, Milarepa, and other celebrities of this tradition. Reading it takes me back to my training in emptiness, clarity, purity of mind.
It's been so long since I worked at this level.

The exotic terminology in the book is offputting, but the teachings are vast and extraordinary.  Practical instructions for deep, delicate and sophisticated mind surgery.

I sit...

28 April 2013

Day 3 of retreat

Dawn. I walk over the sleepy grey dunes and down onto the beach...a solitary silhouette imprinting soft, cool, sensuous sand.

The sun peeks over the dunes behind me. The full moon is fading, and quiety setting over the ocean, still watching over her watery kingdom.

In the bay, a few early fishing boats; along the shore, hungry, chatty birds that flutter away in waves as I approach.

The beach is breezy, seaweedy, wild and pristine.

Me and the rising sun are waking and walking together.

This is Day 3 of my monthly camping trip.

At the end of the horseshoe bay I can survey and drink it all in, this scene, this lifetime. To sit with a softened mind and loving heart, noble, serene, grateful, is to come home to, and rest in eternity.

From here I look back feeling great sorrow and compassion for that person (me) who gets stuck in the sticky mental web of work, caught like a frantic buzzing fly in emails, messages, deadlines, problems, busyness, the frenzy of going nowhere and trapped in my own mental merry go round.

Out here on the peninsula I calmly disengage once again, bit by bit peeling away the sticky web, breathing in the salty air and the expanse of the early morning sky.

Sensing my approach a lone seagull takes a few quick steps, runs and lifts off, gliding effortlessly over the water and with a turn of her wing she circles around downwind, sailing low and swift across the water on the breeze.

I know that feeling!

It's deep in my body's memory: the initial take off, the gliding turn, the freedom of the ride.

How can I know that? 

Searching back somatically through my memory banks, I recall flying small aircraft in my late teens, but that's not it.
Aaahhh...surfing, that's it! The fast paddle, the take off, riding and turning with the energy of the wave. I miss surfing. 

I'm walking back over the dunes towards the campsite in the sunlit morning now. The shadows seem warmer, the dunes brighter, the morning colours less intimate. The sun's up there shining for everyone now. Our quiet walk together in the half dark dawn rests calm in my heart. 

Returning to the tent, I sit for an hour, relishing the time to just be nowhere in silence.

Morning Yoga

I move deeply and intuitively in and through each asana, sensing the unique subtle sensations, shifts and internal cleansing that comes from each pose.

Standing poses are strong, connected to earth and connected to breath, they've become conduits for drawing a powerful energy in and up through the channels and fortifying the body.

My body/mind needs lotus poses today.

Supta Padmasana challenges my deep internal musclature and psychological holdings. The psoas gradually releases it's gripping as I lower my padmasana legs to the ground. The descent is precarious, skirting the edge of danger. I don't want to do the other side, and this sparks a battle between good and evil, willpower versus bratty ego - good wins out and I do the other side. It's so much easier than the first side.
In Matsyasana, I recall the large fish I picked up on the beach this morning - she was beautiful and I felt deeply sad for her death. Baddha Padmasana seals the sequence.

Yesterday's backbends exposed some deeply held fears and insecurities about who I am and what I'm capable of doing. Today I'm more relaxed and open, my heart less gripped by the subtle anxiety that pervades my everyday life, less caught in the small self and it's dramas. The release is not only physical, but also psychological.

I need to do backbends every day.

Today's backbends are no less challenging than yesterdays, such is yoga practice when mind and body are strongly connected. You go further, deeper, quieter.... You test and challenge and stay longer to explore the restrictions of body and mind. You sense more with that focussed mircoscopic vision and clear awareness that moves around the internal landscape.

Today the energetic shifts in the backbends are small but powerful...Salabhasana, Dhanurasana, Ustrasana, Setu Bandha, all done twice with commitment to staying. Urdhva Dhanurasana three times.

Then the full finishing sequence, long holds in everything.

No Headstand - the tent isn't quite high enough.

I finsh up with Janu Sirsasana, Parivritta Janu Sirsasana and a long Paschimottanasana.

...and a sweet, sweet, seaside Savasana.

13 April 2013

Walk the dog, and be the dog

Sarah wrote a gentle yet inspiring post about caring for ones wellbeing through a daily yoga practice.

Here is a taste:

How much we are willing to do for the wellbeing of another varies from person to person, but many of us will take on tasks of cooking meals, walking dogs, running errands, taking on jobs and all manner of responsibilities to benefit those we care about. 
Can we program each day with the time to take care of our self?

A personal practice, whether yoga or meditation, requires the same approach as walking the dog. 

Imagine that in your practice you are both the dog and the dog-walker.
It doesn't matter what the weather is, or how late you were up last night, that wet nose is there in your face to say, "Aren't we going now?" One simply cannot say to the dog, "not today." Imagine that your health and well being relies upon that half hour, and see your self staring at you with that query of "Are we going now?"

The full post is here

Thank you again Sarah.  Your posts so often guide me back on track.

26 March 2013

10 tips for a happier life

The yoga and meditation books next to my bed have been replaced with leadership and management books for now.
Leadership training requires advanced internal psychological work. It's all about integrity and authenticity.

I am ruthlessly observing my mental habits of negative self talk, how I make excuses or cop out instead of rising to a challenge, how I withdraw from confrontation, how I seek acceptance and validation from others. Yuk and more yuk.

Yet there are some very simple things I can do, or more correctly STOP DOING, which will help to uplift and empower others, instead of obsessing about my personal story and fictional Self. Redirecting that mental focus is a powerful practice to raise awareness and operate at a higher level.

Below is an example of a simple idea to put into practice out there in the marketplace (written by Jeff Haden and copied from www.inc.com)
It's not rocket science, it's nuts and bolts mind training...

Happiness--in your business life and your personal life--is often a matter of subtraction, not addition. Consider, for example, what happens when you STOP doing the following 10 things:

1. Blaming.
People make mistakes. Employees don't meet your expectations. Vendors don't deliver on time.
So you blame them for your problems.
But you're also to blame. Maybe you didn't provide enough training. Maybe you didn't build in enough of a buffer. Maybe you asked too much, too soon.
Taking responsibility when things go wrong instead of blaming others isn't masochistic, it's empowering--because then you focus on doing things better or smarter next time.
And when you get better or smarter, you also get happier.

2. Impressing.
No one likes you for your clothes, your car, your possessions, your title, or your accomplishments. Those are all "things." People may like your things--but that doesn't mean they like you.
Sure, superficially they might seem to, but superficial is also insubstantial, and a relationship that is not based on substance is not a real relationship.
Genuine relationships make you happier, and you'll only form genuine relationships when you stop trying to impress and start trying to just be yourself.

3. Clinging.
When you're afraid or insecure, you hold on tightly to what you know, even if what you know isn't particularly good for you.
An absence of fear or insecurity isn't happiness: It's just an absence of fear or insecurity.
Holding on to what you think you need won't make you happier; letting go so you can reach for and try to earn what you want will.
Even if you don't succeed in earning what you want, the act of trying alone will make you feel better about yourself.

4. Interrupting.
Interrupting isn't just rude. When you interrupt someone, what you're really saying is, "I'm not listening to you so I can understand what you're saying; I'm listening to you so I can decide what I want to say."
Want people to like you? Listen to what they say. Focus on what they say. Ask questions to make sure you understand what they say.
They'll love you for it--and you'll love how that makes you feel.

5. Whining.
Your words have power, especially over you. Whining about your problems makes you feel worse, not better.
If something is wrong, don't waste time complaining. Put that effort into making the situation better. Unless you want to whine about it forever, eventually you'll have to do that. So why waste time? Fix it now.
Don't talk about what's wrong. Talk about how you'll make things better, even if that conversation is only with yourself.
And do the same with your friends or colleagues. Don't just be the shoulder they cry on.
Friends don't let friends whine--friends help friends make their lives better.

6. Controlling.
Yeah, you're the boss. Yeah, you're the titan of industry. Yeah, you're the small tail that wags a huge dog.
Still, the only thing you really control is you. If you find yourself trying hard to control other people, you've decided that you, your goals, your dreams, or even just your opinions are more important than theirs.
Plus, control is short term at best, because it often requires force, or fear, or authority, or some form of pressure--none of those let you feel good about yourself.
Find people who want to go where you're going. They'll work harder, have more fun, and create better business and personal relationships.
And all of you will be happier.

7. Criticizing.
Yeah, you're more educated. Yeah, you're more experienced. Yeah, you've been around more blocks and climbed more mountains and slayed more dragons.
That doesn't make you smarter, or better, or more insightful.
That just makes you you: unique, matchless, one of a kind, but in the end, just you.
Just like everyone else--including your employees.
Everyone is different: not better, not worse, just different. Appreciate the differences instead of the shortcomings and you'll see people--and yourself--in a better light.

8. Preaching.
Criticizing has a brother. His name is Preaching. They share the same father: Judging.
The higher you rise and the more you accomplish, the more likely you are to think you know everything--and to tell people everything you think you know.
When you speak with more finality than foundation, people may hear you but they don't listen. Few things are sadder and leave you feeling less happy.

9. Dwelling.
The past is valuable. Learn from your mistakes. Learn from the mistakes of others.
Then let it go.
Easier said than done? It depends on your focus. When something bad happens to you, see that as a chance to learn something you didn't know. When another person makes a mistake, see that as an opportunity to be kind, forgiving, and understanding.
The past is just training; it doesn't define you. Think about what went wrong, but only in terms of how you will make sure that, next time, you and the people around you will know how to make sure it goes right.

10. Fearing.
We're all afraid: of what might or might not happen, of what we can't change, or what we won't be able to do, or how other people might perceive us.
So it's easier to hesitate, to wait for the right moment, to decide we need to think a little longer or do some more research or explore a few more alternatives.
Meanwhile days, weeks, months, and even years pass us by.
And so do our dreams.
Don't let your fears hold you back. Whatever you've been planning, whatever you've imagined, whatever you've dreamed of, get started on it today.
If you want to start a business, take the first step. If you want to change careers, take the first step. If you want to expand or enter a new market or offer new products or services, take the first step.
Put your fears aside and get started. Do something. Do anything.
Otherwise, today is gone. Once tomorrow comes, today is lost forever.
Today is the most precious asset you own--and is the one thing you should truly fear wasting.

24 March 2013

Practising with peace

"I may not ever get back to practising second series again.
I may not ever get further or deeper in my current poses than where I get to now.
I may never do Vrchikasana, or Dwi Pada or Kapotasana in their fullest expression.

Perhaps the glory days of physical practice have actually been and gone and I must be prepared to accept that, whether it is or isn’t the case.

That exhilarating uphill climb to the ever receding peak of physical perfection just might be over and the only option now might be to stay still, where I am, and enjoy the view before the inevitable time comes when I have to say thanks, turn around and sadly go downhill.

The long held vision of inhabiting a body that is light, open, agile and free from mortal afflictions is rapidly disappearing into the graveyard of Reality, to be buried along with all the other unfulfilled dreams and hopes that an authentic life has methodically killed off.

But once they’re all dead and buried, waiting for us is Peace.

And I think reaching that state of inner Peace while still alive allows us to rest in and ultimately know the ocean in which we are bathed."

I wrote this in my blogging journal on Thursday 1st June 2006 but didn't publish it.  The title of the entry was  "Practicing with injury and Peace".
That was almost 7 years ago.

And I was right...
I never got back to practising second series, or to doing those advanced poses to their fullest expression.
The glory days were over.  My body had peaked and then started to decline after reaching middle age.
But in the past 7 years, as I was forced to increasingly modify my yoga practice, it has quite beautifully and peacefully...intensified.