7 November 2008

Lost Buddha and Paschimottanasana

Saturday 8th November 2008

The Lost Buddhas
A colleague of mine was lucky enough to be in Sydney recently and visited The Lost Buddhas exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. She lent me the exhibition catalogue last week which I’ve been reading over the last few days.

Although the images in the catalogue are beautifully photographed and presented, they of course don’t compare to seeing the real thing. And yet, gazing deeply at some of the stone images, I’ve been overcome by an extraordinary sense of deep peace. In the deepest moments of gazing at a figure I seem to merge with it, taking on it’s qualities of poise, serenity, fortitude…all personality drops out of my face and it softens into Buddha-like radiance.

Divinely sweet moments imbued with grace.

"Stone is the visible history of time feeding us through a calm and radiant presence" Isamo Noguchi




From Charlotte Joko Beck (occasionally paraphrased):
"All good (spiritual) practice aims to make our false dreams conscious. Let us notice that our efforts (spiritual practice) are to perfect ourselves: we want to be enlightened, we want to be clear, we want to be calm, we want to be wise.
But as our practice leads us more and more to just being fully present, up comes resistance…"Forget reality, I’m here to be enlightened!”
In good practice we are always transforming from being personally centred to being more and more a channel for universal energy.

A major obstacle is our unawareness that all practice has a strong element of resistance. It is bound to have this unwillingness until our personal self is completely dead, and until we die, we always have some personal resistance that has to be acknowledged.
A second major obstacle is a lack of honesty about who we are at each moment. It’s very hard to admit, “I’m being vengeful”, or “I’m being self-righteous”. That kind of honesty is hard.

A third obstacle is being impressed and sidetracked by our little openings as they occur. They’re just the fruit; they have no importance unless we use them in our lives.

A fourth obstacle is having little understanding of the magnitude of the task that we have embarked upon. The task is not impossible, it’s not too difficult; but it is unending.

A fifth obstacle is substituting talk and discussion and reading for persistent practice itself. The less we say about our spiritual practice, the better. Why talk about it? Your job is to notice how you violate it."



On The Mat - foundations
Tuesday, Friday and Saturday: three early morning yoga sessions this week – over 2 hours each - all of them deeply challenging, INternal and Eternal.

I’ve been making quite an effort in all the seated poses to consciously ground the thighbone of the extended leg and draw the inner legs up towards the inner groin. These two actions increase the internal dynamic of the pose immediately. Grounding the foundation of any pose is where it all begins - you can’t build anything substantial without a strong foundation. The base is the key.

In all the standing poses, it starts with pressing the feet down into the floor; it continues with the drawing up of all the leg muscles to activate the gross energy, the legs are the engine room of the standing poses. By drawing up the inner legs, a more subtle energy is activated in the perineum and then mula bandha and uddiyana bandha will take over and direct the energy upwards to stimulate the opening of the upper chakras and facilitate a natural lengthening of the spine (to create an open pathway for the upward flow of prana).

The same principal applies to the seated poses. For example Paschimottanasana:
the feet must be flexed and the leg muscles fully engaged so the heels are actually off the floor (if they don’t you know your base energy is weak).

Both legs must be rolling inwards so the inner ankles are slightly apart. Once that is established, apply the two key actions: pressing the back of the thighbones to the ground and subtly drawing up the inner legs.

It’s not easy to maintain all these actions to keep the base of the pose steady and strong so the earth energy is drawn up, especially when the mind is scatty, but by applying the intention and noticing when the leg actions fall away, you can catch the mind’s tendency to wander and then reactivate the focus. That is how we train and strengthen and transform the mind from within a pose.

In meditation the anchor is often the breath – that is what we come back to when the mind wanders. In a yoga pose, it’s the sensations of body, breath and energy. As the mind wanders away from its engagement in a pose, the pose becomes weak; we lose focus and miss all the subtle nuances and adjustments happening in the body. That’s when asana becomes a boring repetition of making shapes.
The purpose of both yoga and meditation is to develop mindfulness and to become fully present.

Do not bother chasing enlightenment, just be completely and utterly present with whatever is happening in your life right now and all is coming.

24 October 2008

Coming Home

Saturday 25th October 2008

Practice just isn’t quite the right word for what I do on the yoga mat in those early hours.
The word practice to me implies either:

1) something we do in preparation for something else (like practising a speech for the big event), or

2) something we do in order to get better at it (like piano or tennis practice).

For so many years I’d approached morning yoga practice as a time that was separate from the rest of my life, a time to return to centre, a time to reconnect with my inner world and fertilize my little plot of spiritual soil in the hope that something beautiful would grow out of it.
After practice I’d go off into the outer world – work, family, commitments, friends relationships – and try to retain at least a little of that calm, clear and vast mindstate throughout the day.

But lately the boundaries between my inner and outer life have been shrivelling up as they amalgamate into one totally amazing Life.

The sacred is a permanent presence – not confined to my morning yoga practice but permeating every waking moment. Mundane activities, 9-5 work, cooking and caring for family and dog, all these are now lovingly performed and seen through the eyes of a softly awakened and reverent heart.

So once we have awakened to the mystical dimensions of life, what happens to our practices of prayer, contemplation, devotion and the daily rituals of yoga, chanting or meditation, the vehicles we chose to help us get there?

From Jack Kornfield:
“In one way, nothing happens. We continue the same practices, often with even more care and dedication; they remain important ingredients in a sacred life. However we do them in a radically different way.
With spiritual maturity the basis for these practices shifts away from ambition, idealism and desire for self-transformation. It is as if the wind has changed, and a weather vane – still cantered in the same spot – now points in a different direction: back to this moment. We are no longer striving after a spiritual destination, grasping for another world different from the one we have. We are home. And being home we sweep the floor, make nourishing meals, and care for our guests. When we have realised the everlasting truths of life, what else is there to do but continue our practice?

Of course we also need our continuing practice. We can still become lost, entangled, caught up in the difficulties of modern life. Our continuing practices cleanse us, steady us, remind us of what is true. Our daily practices help us stay balanced, attend to our body, keep our heart open, strengthen our ability to offer clear love. Our practice becomes like cleaning house. We do not just clean the house once and forget it. It is a regular task and a pleasure to live in a clean house, to honour all who enter. But the house is not who we are, and no amount of ambitious cleaning will change the nature of our life.
We practice to express our awakening, not to attain it.”



On The Mat – notes from Tuesday 21st October 6am practice:

A 2 hour practice. My body felt quite naturally strong and richly organic – a very nice feeling. Getting out of the city and spending time in nature does this to me - I’ve been climbing up and down mountains and soaking up the pure prana from the trees and wildlife, filling up my reservoir of vital energy.

Daily Ashtanga yoga practice is a very accurate barometer with which to measure our vital energy, not only on a macro level (generally feeling strong, weak, tired, energised etc) but also on a micro level, in the individual poses, where we can notice those places in the body where the flow of energy is blocked or stuck.

Ashtanga is not only a barometer of vital energy but a tool to increase it.

I’m always surprised at the little energetic openings I get during yoga practice, how each tiny adjustment in a pose can release or redirect the flow of energy. My inner ear picks up on all the little crackles and pops that mark an energy spurt through a blocked nadi. It’s the sweetest feeling – nothing like it - can't explain it. For some reason I get a lot of little energy pops around the bridge of my nose, which is just under the spot where the Ida and Pingala nadis meet in the Ajna Chakra. Very interesting…

An excerpt about nadis taken from here:

Nadis are not nerves but rather channels for the flow of consciousness. The literal meaning of nadi is’flow’. Just as the negative and positive forces of electricity flow through complex circuits, in the same way, pram shako (vital force) and manas shako (mental force) flow through every part of our body via these nadis. According to the tantras there are 72,000 or more such channels or networks through which the stimuli flow like an electric current from one point to another.

These 72,000 nadis cover the whole body and through them the inherent rhythms of activity in the different organs of the body are maintained. Within this network of nadis, there are ten main channels, and of these ten, three are most important for they control the flow of prana and consciousness within all the other nadis of the body.
These three nadis are called ida, pingala and sushumna.
Ida nadi controls all the mental processes while pingala nadi controls all the vital processes. Ida is known as the moon, and pingala as the sun. A third nadi, sushumna, is the channel for the awakening of spiritual consciousness. Now the picture is coming clear; prana shakti- sushumna.
You may consider them as pranic force, mental force and spiritual force.
As sushumna flows inside the central canal of the spinal cord, ida and pingala simultaneously flow on the outer surface of the spinal cord, still within the bony vertebral column. Ida, pingala and sushumna nadis begin in mooladhara in the pelvic floor. From there, sushumna flows directly upwards within the central canal, while ida passes to the left and pingala to the right. At swadhisthana
chakra, or the sacral plexus, the three nadis come together again and ida and pingala cross over one another. Ida passes up to the right, pingala to the left, and sushumna continues to flow directly upwards in the central canal. The three nadis come together again at manipura chakra, the solar plexus, and so on. Finally, ida, pingala and sushumna meet in the ajna chakra.



On the Mat – notes from Thursday 23rd October 2008 6am practice:

This morning’s challenge was to overcome the incessant mental chatter as I steadily made my way through Primary sequence. Years of analysing every yoga session have taught me that practising with a distracted mind (one that keeps obsessively returning to the same sticky thoughts over and over - usually something to do with work) will quickly drain all energy away til I’m left with none.

The Surya Namaskars today were an exercise in bringing my mind back to my breath, my body and the present, over and over.
It's slightly annoying when I lose count of how many I’ve done – was it only 4 or have I done 5, maybe it was only 3 – STOP GUESSING you have NO IDEA how many you’ve done! Indisputable evidence of a faraway mind.

But thanks to the wise sages of ancient times, yoga and meditation have been devised and passed down through generations to help us bring our minds fully into the present.

And so I skilfully used the tool of yoga to tame my wild monkey mind this morning.
A hundred times I had to bring it back to the present before it finally decided to stay.
Thankfully, by the time I got to the Marichyasanas I was rewarded with a clear and curious mind and was able to watch the effect of every small movement and adjustment as if it were on a huge wide-screen TV.

Enduring a sacroiliac injury for over a year while still practising yoga has shown me just how potent the Marichyasanas are for opening up this area of the body. All the preceding seated poses stretch the hamstrings and spine but they also gently prepare the sacrum for a total reconfiguration that is systematically developed in the Marichyasanas. With an injured sacroiliac joint, the Marichys are impossible, so are Bhuja, Kurmasana and Supta-K-No-Way! – these poses are all about increasing movement in the sacroiliac joint and each pose in this group (from marichy A to Supta K) builds on the one before, with Supta K requiring the ultimate curvature through the sacroiliac and lumbar spine.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been slowly rebuilding these poses only as much as my lower back is allowing me to...pixel by pixel.
In reality I’ve been rebuilding my entire practice from the very beginning. The Primary sequence I'd been working on for years has been totally destroyed and now I have a second chance to learn EVERY pose again in a very different way, with an awakened heart and different eyes that can see in a new and beautiful way.

I'm so grateful. Practice is imbued with a fresh curiosity, a beginner’s mind, a child like wonder.
To get on the mat now and enter the practice is an extraordinary journey into deep inner space, and so, so different this time around.
And through the process of osmosis, my entire life seems to have taken on this very same quality. Practice and Life have become One.

“The end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time”
- T. S. Eliot

14 October 2008

Camping

Monday 13th October 2008


“All of life is nothing other than the story of a love affair: a romance between the universe and the human soul that liberates us to love one another.”


Camping at Deep Creek
Camping out bush, wide open spaces, campfires at night, birdsong at dawn. The two days I spent out there with my three beautiful companions will haunt me forever.
I cannot begin to describe the glowing aura that surrounds and encapsulates the memory of those days. The entire experience had a timeless quality, a depth and richness of experience and communion that is only possible when that mystical synergy is present between people; soul speaks to soul, gentle openings occur and a natural energy circulates between and through multidimensions of our personal space.

There we were, two yogis and two artists. For two days the four of us walked together in a lucid dream, through bushland and deep lush gullies, exploring the terrain around us and between us. Only occasionally did conversation softly give way to silent walking. The changing pattern of our walking dynamics fascinated me – we moved so seamlessly from walking and talking four-astride, to pairing off in a new combination where more personal one-on-one relationships developed. What beautiful and meaningful conversations evolved with each of my fellow travellers, intimate, warm, soul stirring.

On Friday afternoon we packed up camp and drove to the ridge above Blowhole Beach, hiking down and collecting a couple of large, dead branches on the way to erect a makeshift sun shelter at our destination. The cold, energising surf washed our skins clean of whoever we once had been, as only the ocean can.
I wandered over the rocks that encircled the tiny beach flanked by cliffs that Kosta scaled with wine-induced bravado (here is the view from the rocks). The half hour steep climb back up to the car culminated in a sunset viewed from the ridge through languid silhouetted kangaroos.

We talked about taking a couple of Canadian canoes along the Glenelg River for a week next year. Or maybe the right circumstances will never occur to rekindle our special communion.

These mysterious links we form with other souls are rich with meaning and should not be dismissed, no matter how brief the encounters. Alex especially shifted something in me and me in him. Our conversations brought to life our spirits, our creativity, our beauty, our struggles and our humanness. Never have I been touched open by simply being in someone’s presence. We parted with an unspoken acknowledgement that some special chemistry had affected subtle and personal changes in our lives.
It feels as if my love has grown larger.


“Some people come into our lives and quietly go. Others stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts and we are never the same”


Is it possible for someone to come into our life for two days and change us forever?

Nothing is random. Everything has great meaning if we adjust our inner vision to focus on the hidden workings of this gracious universe.

If Kosta manages to download his photos, I’ll choose a couple to post here.

On The Mat
So I fell into bed, slightly sunburned and exhausted at 12.30am Friday night and got up at 6.15 to practice with Kosta at 7am. My muscles were tighter than usual – lactic acid overload from all the climbing yesterday, but the sun’s warmth was still in my body and gave it some malleability.
Sun Salutes and Primary up to Marichy C, spending extra time in the seated poses to disperse the lactic tension. It was a quieter, reflective practice with a vinyasa only between each pose. From Navasana I skipped to the Baddha Konasanas and Upavista/Supta Konasanas – just not physically or emotionally up to challenging my lower back today. Supta Padangusthasana, then my usual trio of preparatory backbends: Salabhasana, Dhanurasana (which is finally beginning to develop serenity and reveal its more subtle dimensions), and Ustrasana, another pose that just keeps surprising me, then two Urdhva Dhanuarasanas before the finishing inversions.

“When is the ego sufficiently healthy that we can stop using the practice to build it up... and instead use the practice to break it down? Maybe finding that tipping point--moving from building up to breaking down--is when people become their own teachers, if they're ever capable of that.”
(Who said this? Which one of the ten books by my bed did I copy this from?)

After practice and coffee I went to work in the gallery and arrived to find a message from Fleur. She’s leaving Adelaide next week so I can move back into the mansion permanently next weekend – 6 weeks earlier than expected.
My heart sinks a little as I prepare yet again to separate from my son, but he knows my love for him is eternal.

Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth,
"You owe Me."
Look what happens
with a love like that,
It lights the Whole Sky.
- Hafiz

10 October 2008

My sister Trudy

11th October 2008

I've just returned from two profound days out hiking/camping in the bush (which I'll have to write about soon in order to process the experience).
Waiting in my in-box was an email from my younger sister, Trudy who struggles daily to overcome annihalation by the deadly grim reaper of depression and loneliness.
Her email was in response to that last blog entry about my son which I sent to her last week.

Trudy's words will cut deep but I post them here to illustrate how words from a person speaking their deepest Truth can pierce into your heart like an arrow:

Wow! What an email Sal. I think I get where you're coming from. I mean, you're so far advanced in the 'enlightenment' area (which I do truly believe (intellectually, that is) is the only real path to true happiness, despite being about as far away from it as its possible to be!).
But when your daily life is an actual living nightmare, when every ounce of your energy goes towards just getting through the day without slitting your wrists (literally!!), all that enlightenment stuff seems so irrelevent (and out of reach). My energy levels are so non-existent that I can no longer even have a basic everyday conversation with anyone coz it takes too much effort to make small talk. It's all 'acting'. And I've also noticed that I'm incapable of being in the presence of ANYONE who is not 'real' or 'honest', because if they're not relating to me from an honest place deep down in their soul, I can tell by how much energy it takes for me to converse with (relate to) them. It means I have to pretend and act along with them, that I give a damn shit about the crap they're talking about, and I just don't have the energy left to pretend at all anymore.
Can't pretend I'm feeling fine when I'm not, can't pretend all is well when it's not, can't pretend I give a shit about the weather, the economy, mum's knee. No energy for anything that is not immediately related to my very survival as a human being - all else has now been stripped away.
This is why I find it hard to be in Jenny's (our older sister's) presence - as much as I love her to death for her lifelong quest to look after me, 'rescue' me; her generous heart and soul, and a thousand other wonderful things about her... she is unable to be who she really is deep down inside and she seems to me to be working her butt off to create this bullshit facade. She's done an awful lot of training in how to handle people, communicate in a 'non-judgemental way', etc., etc., which may serve her just fine in her job, but it's a facade she can't drop and it drains the very fucking life out of me to talk to her. I have the same problem with mum. But I know this is my struggle and I know everyone in the family does "love and care about me" and no-one deserves the hostility and poison that seems to be filling me right now.

Like Nik, I can no longer 'act' and so have no choice but to avoid everyone. But that leaves an unbearable isolation and lonliness and a lifelong search for just where I fit in this world. I know in my heart/soul/guts that you are the real thing, Sal - I don't feel at all drained in your company - that's all I know right now. Everything else I thought I knew no longer applies. I know I'm facing a life and death struggle now. I wonder if Nik feels this same struggle? I feel like I kinda know his soul, but I wish I knew him as a fellow human traveller. One of the worst feelings is the isolation and lonliness - bravo Nik for being able to take you to where he is. Fuck 'social skill's'!! The skill for him to communicate his inner turmoil in a way that you could truly understand and relate to shits on a lifetime of practised fucking shit social skills.

I hope he makes it. And I hope he realises the gift he has in having you as his mother. I wish I could relate to Sam on that level but there's so much fucking crap in the way! Where did it all come from? Plus I'm wrestling with that protective need as his mother to not burden him with what is my struggle - I see he has his own struggles ("don't confront me with my failures, I have not forgotten them" - Jackson Browne - 'These Days'. That's how I feel when I think of Sam and my failings as his parent.) And there's nothing he can do to help me anyway. It doesn't feel like there's anything anyone can do, except for me, and I've lost the will now - whatever that 'lifeforce' used to be in me before has now gone so I'm not really a willing participant in my own life anymore.

I sense Nik is still in there fighting? Where in a world full of facades, illusions, fake images, greed, and general crap does someone so real go to not feel that crushing loneliness and isolation? Is this what he's essentially struggling with?

I used to think I was attracted to drugs and alcohol from a young age coz I wanted to 'escape reality', but lately I'm wondering if I've really just been on a lifelong search for what's actually real and instead wanted to escape from all the bullshit. Hence my sensitivity right now to growing up with a mother whose whole life seemed to me to revolve around maintaining a facade of 'we're all just a big happy close family and I'm the beloved wonderful matriarch'. Fuck!! The woman hasn't been sober for 30 years!! In a way, Mico (my ex-husband and father of my children) was similar - when there was an audience it seemed to me as if he tried to put on an act about 'his pride and joy family', but the reality when no-one was around to see was that he fucking terrorised you and his children. If Nik has really forgiven him for that then he deserves a medal. I'm still haunted by what I saw Mico do to Nik emotionally when he was just an innocent, defenceless, sensitive little boy. My personal belief is that Nik just having an intellectual and adult understanding and perspective now about Mico's faults/failings/illnesses, doesn't automatically void the emotional damage done to that precious little boy who's still buried deep inside there. I can't ever forgive Mico, no matter how much empathy and understanding I have as an adult for his own life struggles. But that's just my perspective and I could be miles away from the real truth of the matter. Don't know. Too much to try and work out.

Anyway, this is probably all just a big ramble now, but I was so touched by your email. Thank you so much for sharing it with me. Sorry you got a lot of drivel in return!! I wish I had the fortitude and strength to just BE and experience whatever this is I'm going through (as in the quote in your email). But I'm just too fucking tired now - 45 years old and I can't even feed myself or keep myself clean.

Lots of love to you and Nik and Ebs..

Trudy

PS: Am picking up another CD from the library tomorrow which I hope will have that mystery Jackson Browne song on it. Will burn a copy and send it to you if so.





And another email, 2 days later:


Hi Again, Sal,

Tried to ring you yesterday but couldn't find you. Work said you were having a couple of days off. Where are you hiding? Hope you're in a special place wherever it may be.

Anyway, I just wanted to contact you to apologise for the first email response I sent in reply to yours. I was in my usual very bad head space and shouldn't have thrown all that yucky poison your way. Sorry. Especially now that I've re-read your email at least 10 times over and am gradually allowing the true message behind it to sink in (I think! Each time I read it there's another deeper layer to understand).

What an amazing human being you are to be able to truly travel into and experience Nik's life and pain. Perhaps that's all that many of us lost souls really need... not advice, not doctors or 'experts' or activity to keep us distracted and busy - just simply a real and true connection with another human being. It really is the only way to lessen those feelings of isolation, lonliness and disconnection. And what a brave and compassionate soul you are to be so willing to spend your time and energy exploring the experience of feeling someone else's pain. But therein lies the great power our children have to force us to plumb the depths of our hearts for them.

And there I shall leave off, before I go off on another 'stream of senseless and confused consciousness' tangent!!



My heart bleeds for her.
I've scrapped tomorrow's plans...I'll be spending some time with my sister.

19 September 2008

Presence

20 September 2008

A few warm days have heralded the beginning of spring.
I must have fallen asleep through winter – how easily it happens - I forgot that the seasons come and go, as all things do, and that winter doesn’t last forever.

This sudden burst of warmth in the air promises new life. Inhaling the spring air is euphoric. It seems to contain a whiff of magic essence, a natural anti-depressant that all my little peptides are responding to – hope, promise, fresh beginnings, sweetness and joy…

I sit on the brink of this new season of life, excited by its possibilities.

And I’ve decided to get a bicycle.


Practicing Presence

“To continue practice through severe difficulties we must have patience, persistence, and courage. Why? Because our usual mode of living – one of seeking happiness, battling to fulfill desires, struggling to avoid mental and physical pain – is always undermined by determined practice. We learn in our guts, not just in our brain, that a life of joy is not in seeking happiness, but in experiencing and simply BEING the circumstances of our life as they are.”
Charlotte Joko Beck from Everyday Zen

Practice is not so much what I do on the yoga mat, it is the continual noticing of how I respond to every situation, every person and every thing that I encounter (including what I encounter on the mat). But it is not enough for me to simply be a witness and self-correct when I notice myself copping-out or falling into a habitual response, it is not enough to just bring full awareness to the present. Practice is now about BEING PRESENCE ITSELF.
To actually BE PRESENCE is impossible to explain to anyone who hasn’t experienced it. This kind of presence is so alive it instantly recognises and burns up what is false. It is pure, unforgiving and powerful.
To enter fully INTO PRESENCE, brings with it an incredible surge of power. When I'm in that zone my entire being hums with a high electrical voltage that is the actual burning mechanism of transformation, and the energy of my surrounding space is equally charged.

My son Nik, who has no spiritual practice, is teaching me about this. His social skills are zero because he has a gift of seeing straight through people’s facades and is not willing to compromise on the truth. To talk with him is to risk being cut open and exposed.
From me he demands complete presence and vulnerability because that’s the only space in which two people can honestly communicate. But my conditioning often blocks his attempts to relate honestly with me.
Nik has to quite systematically and persistently cut through my layers of conditioning and resistance exposing how thick they are before he can get to the real person underneath. Only then does he reach the tender spot and I suddenly WAKE UP to him, fully in the present.
It’s raw and brutal and honest and the most beautiful place on earth.

A few nights ago, he spent 4 hours talking about the nightmare in which he lives, eventually breaking open my heart until tears flooded my eyes. He got me there - I was alive and feeling not only his pain, but all of humanity’s pain, the pain that every single person spends their entire life avoiding.

“Attention is the cutting, burning sword, and our practice is to use that sword as much as we can. None of us is very willing to use it; but when we do – even for a few minutes – some cutting and burning takes place.” Charlotte Joko Beck

So more and more I want to be in and live from this place of honest presence, not just when I’m with my son, but with other people in my life. Unfortunately it means I am less willing to accept unconscious behaviour, so like Nik, the last of my social skills are rapidly disappearing.

5 September 2008

Recognising Injury

On the mat

Out of the blue came the realisation yesterday that my ongoing lumbar/hip pain is the result of an injury to my sacroiliac joint. I must have torn the ligaments a while ago and suspect it happened in Marichyasana C (I remember writing about a practice where I was breathing into Mari C at my limit and something just gave way which allowed my body to immediately rotate another 30 degrees)

How did I not put two and two together for so long? As soon as I realised yesterday what had happened and what had caused it (it was like a light bulb flash), all the confusion over why my lower back has been so stiff, why there’s been so much pain in my right hip,and why I’ve been battling such an aversion to yoga practice over the past 6 months…it all became absolutely clear. All the jigsaw pieces fell into place.

I'm not sure whether my high tolerance to pain is a good thing or not...in my physical yoga practice I’ve always sought out those poses and situations that physically and emotionally challenge me so that I can venture to my very edges and push them out a little further. Stretching out of my comfort zone always seemed to be the key to expansion and growth.

But for the past 6 months or so I’ve not even considered that the stiffness in my lower back that I’ve been trying to dislodge may have been an injury and not a blockage.
This is a classic example of blind ignorance – I just didn’t see it.

So I’ve continued doing yoga, enduring severe nerve pain through my sacroilium and right hip, adding to the trauma and inflammation of the surrounding tissues, not connecting at all to what was going on in this part of my anatomy.
I thought there was some kind of emotional blockage in my lumbar that I had to dislodge, a lump of concreted baggage that was blocking free movement in this area. And as a yoga practitioner, my instinct was to go further into this area of resistance and try to stretch it open to release the tension...create an opening.

What a twit.

Added to all the physical pain of practice was the emotional pain and guilt of not wanting to practice. I didn't even recognise that the underlying resistance to yoga practice was an organic aversion to the pain! And so began a deterioration of my regular yoga practice from daily to weekly.
Which led to the harsh judgement that I’d lost the discipline, lost the devotion, and I was on a fast track to mediocrity and old age.

So now that the cause of all that pain is clear, and now that I understand, I shall be a lot more compassionate and gentle with myself instead of judging so harshly.


“The person, whose moral conscience has now become more refined and exacting, whose thirst for perfection has become more intense, judges with greater severity and condemns his personality with a new vehemence; he is apt to harbour the mistaken belief of having fallen lower than he was before”
Christina Grof quoted in ‘Halfway Up the Mountain’

My 2 hour practice with Kosta this morning was all about seeing into the injury and working differently with my body. It was quite amazing to be in poses and direct my mind’s eye directly into the sacroiliac joint – there I could see it and feel it from the inside quite precisely as if under a microscope. I actually felt all the traumatised ligaments and tissues for the first time. Before today all I could feel in this area were blockages, stiffness and excruciating nerve pain which confused, scrambled and blocked my inner vision.

To blatantly ignore the signs of injury for so long has showed up how blind I actually am to some things. Naturally the next important question is 'what else am I not seeing?'


For Greenfrog:
“Psychological purification is the cleansing and shedding of psychological appendages that have been accumulated through a lifetime of unconscious living and of psychic debris that has amassed through lifetimes of karma. Through this process of purifying and casting off excess and incorrect understandings and perceptions, that which is essential and always pure becomes conscious and manifest. Thus, as one consciously engages the purification process, the false ideas and presumptions, layers of obscurity, and neurotic perceptions that motivate the false or premature presumption of one’s enlightenment naturally fall away. What is left is a clarity of perception that more accurately perceives the distinction between mystical experiences and abiding enlightenment, between pure and impure motivation, between presumption and reality.”
Mariana Caplan from “Halfway Up the Mountain”

29 August 2008

When the student is ready...


Saturday 30th August 2008
Living back with my son (he’s 26) is both confronting and enlightening. This young man seeks out and exposes everything about me that is superficial. His insight and honesty is truly frightening, but he can be devastatingly cruel – just the other night he told me I have no personality because I have no opinions, which made me question the last 10 years of psychological and spiritual hard work I’ve done trying to tame my ego and reverse its habit of judging and forming ego-building opinions.

Nik engages me in this confrontational dialogue because he wants me to look at myself more honestly and relate with complete transparency. He needs to connect with someone on a deeply human level – and right now I’m the only person in his life. He needs me to be fully present, honest and real, because that’s how he is. So I get challenged for my Gemini indifference, my equanimity, my serene disposition, my non-commitment to anything. He wants me to CARE.

Last week, in one of my obsessive clean–out-my-life episodes, I threw out about 20 folders full of yoga notes and all my personal journals – five exercise books stuffed full of past thoughts and insights, one journal dating back to 1996. Nik found them in the outside bin and retrieved them, absolutely aghast at my callous desire to trash all memories and hold on to nothing. He got stuck into me about how precious the past is and how we shouldn’t throw it away. I disagreed – my argument being that the past is gone and it has contributed to what we are in the present. The present is all that matters. But somehow Nik won the debate (as he always does because I have no real attachment to any opinions) and I spent the next hour reading my old journals and remembering how I got to where I am today, which tragically is not very far from where I was in 1996.
Our rather intense discussion culminated when he read a few random lines from one of my journals and remarked how it sounded like I was writing for an audience and not for myself.
There and then I confessed to having a yoga blog, and that was like waving a red rag to a bull (side note to the audience: Nik’s a Taurus)
I was accused of selling out, of writing advertising copy about my life and publishing it on the internet to strangers. Why would I do this, he demanded?
After some desperately deep self-questioning I couldn’t answer him with any integrity. He was right. I felt shallow.
Forced to investigate my true motivation for writing a yoga journal I discovered it wasn't always authentic...more often than not, I have been writing with an audience in mind. Yes writing a blog is all about sharing experiences and forming invisible links with like minded people, and sometimes it's even just for the joy of writing, but to be brutally honest it's just another opportunity for our clever egos to assert their position on centre stage.

So from now on I’m not writing a yoga blog for yoga people - this writing will be for my own personal therapy, sometimes to record the journey, sometimes to express the ineffable and sometimes just to get the heavy load off my heart.
(Which reminds me of that sweet advice "dance as if nobody's watching...etc")
Could it be that my son is actually the teacher I've been waiting for?

12 August 2008

Moving

Tuesday 12th August 2008

I just wanted to post a couple of pictures of the beautiful old run-down mansion I've been living in for the past year.
I have to move out this weekend as Fleur is back in town for 3-4 months and she'll be moving back in. After that (end of November) I can move back in and take over the lease. So from this weekend I'll be living with my 26 year old son again in my original house (but that's another story).
The mansion is divided into four apartments, two on the top floor and two on the ground floor. Mine is the left hand one on the ground floor. The first image is the left hand corner view from the driveway and the little front room with the light on is my kitchen. The other image shows the front view of the house from the street, almost hidden by trees.
I'll miss this beautiful solitary old place...

1 August 2008

On the mat

Saturday 2nd August

Not sure whether the yoga poses are stretching my still-out of-of-yoga-shape body past its current limitations (read: it hurts to go to the edge so I go way past it) or whether the depth of my spiritual practice is intensifying my experience in the poses.

I suspect the second is closer to the truth.

The sheaths described in yoga texts are for real, and the ‘real’ me can see them, feel them and move through them. Well…most of them, the final ones are patiently waiting for me.
Penetrating through yet another inner sheath brings with it a deepening understanding and actual experience of the subtle energies within the whirling vortex that is our being. As I penetrate my way into another layer, the vibration feels higher, finer, but more concentrated and powerful. New dimensions of the internal and external world are exposed and experienced. Every little thing is increasingly magnified…nothing escapes the inner eye…my heart is on fire.

I practised with Kosta at his studio this morning. It’s become a regular Saturday morning rendezvous at 8am which I treasure, even though I have to race off to work at the Art Gallery straight after. Today it went overtime: a two hour practice plus a ten minute Savasana, followed by a quick race across town to get to work by 11am.
Two hours of deep, dark yoga…digging deeper into the layers of my mind through this yoga of the body.
Emerging after practice I feel like a creature from a mythical realm, a creature not of this world. Carefully I transition, stepping back through the portal, still shimmering with the essence of tapas. It hangs about me like I'm covered in sunbeams. On the way to work I stop to pick up an espresso. The vibrational frequency of my aura is intense so I try not to make eye contact for fear of burning someone.

This is a very different yoga practice, I'm grateful to have made it this far along the spiralling yoga journey, but perhaps it is just the beginning. Each time I do a long practice like this morning’s, it's a supersonic trip into the epicentre of my soul, a journey so devoid of time and space that one day I fear I may not find my way back.

Describing the practice with a mere list of poses reduces it from extraordinary to the ordinary: All of the Surya Namaskars and Primary poses up to Marichy C, then I went over to adjust Kosta into Supta Kurmasana and came back to my mat for Baddha Konasana, Upavista Konasana, Salabhasana, Dhanurasana, Ustrasana, 3 long sustained Urdhva Dhanurasanas and a genuine attempt at a Headstand dropback which disappointingly my back refused to go through with. I let that one go (along with the accompanying shattered illusion of a forever flexible and youthful body) and moved on to immerse myself in the ageless grace of the finishing sequence, absorbing every luminous hue of its shimmering energetic rainbow.
Then…intense glowing peace.

Kosta’s invited me to a 4pm session at his studio tomorrow along with a few of the senior teachers from the one devoutly authentic Iyengar studio in this city. Kosta teaches three classes there but they frown upon Ashtanga as all devoted Iyengarites do. He’s planning to lead the session and will probably do a backbending practice, leading up to Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana and a series of Headstand dropbacks (with a joyful Hanumanasana thrown somewhere in between). Hence my testing out of the Headstand dropbacks today which I haven’t done for a year or more. So tomorrow I’ll just do what I can and modify what I can't.
Any opportunity for being humbled is a gift - I love it - the less I am, the less I have to prove. If you’re at the bottom of the pile, there’s nowhere to fall.
So it doesn’t matter if I can’t do some of the poses I used to do with this group of yogis because that will make them all shine brighter, and I kind of like that.
Practising yoga motivated by the intention of getting better at it is practising under the hot spotlight of the ego, and that's just way too bright for me right now.

A Culture of Triviality

Friday 1st August 2008

I read a brilliant article in a recent edition of New Internationalist by John F Schumaker entitled “The Triumph of Triviality”.
It’s a rather negative, unflattering view of our consumer culture, but it sure rings true to me.

He started off by saying
“The results of the cultural indoctrination stakes are not yet in but here is a definite trend – triviality leads, followed closely by superficiality and mindless distraction. Vanity looks great while profundity is bringing up the rear. Pettiness is powering ahead, along with passivity and indifference. Curiosity lost interest, wisdom was scratched and critical thought had to be put down. Ego is running wild. Attention span continues to shorten and no-one is betting on survival.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Half a century ago, humanistic thinkers were heralding a great awakening that would usher in a golden age of enlightened living.”

(Essay writers in the book I recently read called “The Mystery of 2012: Predictions, Prophecies and Possibilities” also seem to be naively optimistic about the future of our race, many of them believing we are on the brink of a massive global shift to a higher consciousness – BOLLOCKS!)


I quote further from Schumaker’s article…
“But something happened along the way. The pyramid (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs) collapsed. Human potential took a back seat to economic potential while self-actualization gave way to self-absorption on a spectacular scale. A pulp culture flourished as the masses were successfully duped into making a home amidst an ever-changing smorgasbord of false material needs.
Operating on the principle that triviality is more profitable than substance and dedicating itself to unceasing material overkill, consumer culture has become a fine-tuned instrument for keeping people incomplete, shallow and dehumanized. Materialism continues to gain ground, even in the face of an impending eco-apocalypse.
Pulp culture is a feast of tinsel and veneer. The ideal citizen is an empty tract through which gadgets can pass quickly, largely undigested, so there is always space for more. Reality races by as a blur of consumer choices that never feel quite real. We know it as the fast lane and whip ourselves to keep apace.
Today, the demand for triviality has never been higher and our tolerance for seriousness has never been lower.”

No wonder I just don’t fit in anymore.

27 June 2008

Halfway Up The Mountain

Saturday 20th July 2008

Over recent months I've been silenced...
As my ego shrivels up so does my tongue.

It's difficult to talk about one's spiritual/yoga practice when the actual practice becomes an authentic penetration into the ego's stronghold.
Talking about oneself is ludicrous when trying to get rid of the very self that is doing the talking!

All true practice must go there eventually but it can be very unpleasant territory to be working in.

But oh so elegantly humbling.

Yoga Practice
My physical yoga practice continues, but with very little direction attached to it. I'm happy for it to go nowhere. There are no poses I want to improve or master, no goals to reach any more. All those years of hard-core yoga practice worked to open up my body and energy channels and I was really getting somewhere, transforming from a non-conscious blimp into an awakened one. But you know what...during all that time of spiritual practice I was under the unconscious spell of the ego, that part of me that wanted to become a better person, some vague idea of being an enlightened human being.

We think the desire to improve is a healthy one, but if you really investigate this desire and the REAL feelings behind it you realise that it actually PREVENTS us from entering into deep spiritual communion. That will only come when we fully accept, embrace and receive/surrender to what is occurring on the full spectrum of subtle levels (from gross to sublime) Here and Now.

So I get to the mat about 4 times a week now, and spend that time rediscovering yoga all over again. My attention to detail is finer, more subtle, more acute, more in the moment, more aware and alive. It's bliss to fall down that rabbit hole. My energy level and mood determine my practice. Sometimes it's an Ashtanga Primary practice, sometimes a long, intense session taken from one of the courses at the back of Iyengar's Light on Yoga book. It's all yoga. It's all good. The inversions transport me deep into mystical realms so I'm enjoying longer and longer stays in them (Shoulderstand and Headstand), first refining the alignment of the outer pose then purifing the flow of inner subtle energies. I've been exploring all the variations of these poses (courtesy of Light on Yoga) to push out the time I can spend in them before I get tired or my head starts to spin or my eyes start to glaze.

More important to my practice than an hour or two of daily yoga is the moment to moment context in which I am living and breathing now. A new paradigm. It's like having eyes that look out at the same landscape as everyone else but the ability to see the pulsing web-like energy that connects it all, a penetration through the hard surface to the other fleshy organic internal workings of life.

Do I really need to spend two hours a day on a blue mat when every person I come in contact with is unwittingly showing me the precise areas where I need to purify my thoughts?

I catch myself many times a day, sometimes in time, sometimes too late, it might be something I say, something I think, something I feel that I cringe at, it's that immediate response to another person's words or actions that gives me vital data on where I need to work on myself.
I'm constantly watching.
Seriously, I'm embarrassed at what I'm learning about myself....it's humbling to realise how blind I've been to my own impurities. And yet it's beautiful.
At last there are cracks appearing in my ego. The light is beginning to shine through.


Given the choice most of us would like to have our cake and eat it too, along with the icing and all the goodies on top...we're happy to do all of these spiritual practices as long as we can keep all the goodies they provide. Yoga, meditation, purification...they improve our health, cleanse our energy systems, raise the quality of our awareness to higher realms, and make us feel good about ourselves as we watch the progress and enjoy the fruits of our labour, but who REALLY wants to lose their identity. Because if we do, then 'I' won't be able to enjoy the rewards of my spiritual practice? 'I' won't be there anymore! What a paradox...that is the goal. Trouble is, 'I' doesn't want to destroy itself so it's not difficult to see why we end up in this merry-go-round of spiritual practices that the ego is enjoying. In reality all that yoga/meditation/contemplation/prayer we call 'spiritual practice' is not destroying the ego or helping us to recognise the ego, it's actually FEEDING the ego.

Realising this Truth is harsh, but it's the start of the real work involved in waking up.

Where to from here?
Oh boy...a teacher is needed here...someone who has been all the way there and back again, someone who has done the long hard work of persistently humiliating the ego to its death and who is now residing permanently in the illuminated space that is left - egoless.
But am I really truly prepared to renounce my identity, surrender to the highest ideal and fully commit to the path that leads there?
What a bizarre question...do 'I' want to destroy my Self?

If this weird conundrum resonates with you, get your hands on a book called 'Halfway Up the Mountain' by Mariana Caplan.

Only when the student is ready to give up everything that matters, will the awakened teacher step forward to assist.

18 April 2008

Kalutskikh Brothers

Saturday 19th April 2008

Have a look at this 'dance routine' with Daniel and Kirill Kalutskikh.
Can you spot the yoga poses? Can you name them?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kh4XXuAzuy4&NR=1

14 April 2008

On the mat

Tuesday 15th April 2008

A left wrist problem arose at the start of practice this morning and quickly worsened during the Surya Namaskars. By the 3rd B I couldn’t put enough weight on it to push into Upward Dog Pose because a sharp pain was warning that something was wrong. The standing poses were unaffected except the vinyasa between Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana and Utkatasana. Preparation for Handstand showed that kicking up would be out of the question too.

Strangely I had no problem with the weight bearing on my wrist in Purvottanasana or Urdhva Dhanurasana which must have a different weight bearing angle. Maybe it has something to do with my elbow/shoulder action in the push up to Upward Dog. I'd played with moving the weight to the inside wrist to alleviate the pressure on the outer wrist but it didn’t help much so to avoid making it worse, I cut out all vinyasas from the seated poses and inserted
Purvottanasana in between poses to get the counter backbending effect.

So practice was a modified Primary today, but still a thoroughly enjoyable 2 hours. Without the vinyasas to link the poses into a continous flow I had to keep my ujjiya breath strong and even to give the practice the required intensity and keep it rolling along. Easy to fall off the tracks halfway through if the energy and strong intention wither away.

When comparing my two wrists after practice I noticed a rather prominent mound on the outside of the left wrist, protruding from underneath the ulnar styloid (the knobbly bit at the bottom end of the ulna – identified as ‘b’ in the image). The lump is about 1cm diameter and slightly tender so it could be a small cyst. I suppose I should get it x-rayed but a trip to the doctor for me is like being forced to swallow poison.

11 April 2008

On the mat and more 2012

Saturday 12th April 2008

On the mat

I had a fantastic practice at Kosta’s studio this morning. Not that I whizzed through the 2 hours easily, more like I practiced with an absolute honesty and willingness to be present that is both confrontingly painful and deeply fulfilling.
It was the first time in weeks that I’d done a full primary practice from beginning to end, so it was heartening to realize I’m still capable of it; everything was in its proper place, bandhas, ujjiya breath, drishti, awareness and precision.

The studio was really warm, and because it was an 8 o’clock start I decided to have a teeny weeny coffee when I got up. Probably the reason why my breath occasionally got very ragged during practice - as if I was doing that pranayama exercise when the inhalation gets broken up into sections (inhale a quarter breath, short retention, inhale again to half capacity, short retention, inhale to three-quarters capacity, short retention, then inhale the last bit of breath, short retention, then long, slow exhalation).
Occasionally during an intense practice, or during a particularly difficult pose, my inhalation will turn into a succession of short sips. Seems to be a gripping response to great stress (like when I probe too close into the dark hole in my lower back). When it happened in Marichy D today there wasn’t anything I could do to calm it down so I just stayed deep in the pose, held on to what I had and watched the pose stab my breath to pieces. When the breath got ragged in a couple of other poses, it was a very different scenario...I was able to consciously calm the breath until it became round and smooth again, but not Marichy D today.

Maintaining a consistent Ujjiya breath in this practice makes you very aware of how the breath reflects our state of mind instantaneously. If a pose takes me to my absolute edge (and I often go there), my breath sometimes quickens into a frenzy of short bursts. But who hasn’t experienced that powerfully deep sonorous breath that saturates every layer of your being in the intense forward bend following Urdhva Dhanurasana/dropbacks. Untying the body from the intense backbending is a process of edging it gently in the opposite direction, bit by bit, breath by breath, leading it into the quietness of outer space where the breath resonates and echoes like wind through the long tunnel of the body.
I must admit that when I’m in an Iyengar class trying to keep my Ujjiya breath barely audible, I’m actually grateful that I can turn the volume to zero when I feel it getting ragged…neither the person next to me nor the teacher gets to know that I’m stressing in a pose. It's my secret, the silent breath doesn't give it away.

Speaking of Iyengar classes, I missed Darren’s led Friday class yesterday. I got up early enough but felt like I didn’t want to be around any other people. More and more I’m isolating myself these days, much preferring my own space and company. So I did my own practice at home yesterday, a shorter session that’s been an almost daily ritual of late because of a pulled calf muscle and a tortured lower back.

My short version goes something like this:
5 Surya Namaskar A
3 Surya Namaskar B
All Ashtanga standing poses in their correct sequence (but occasionally without the Virabhadrasanas if I’m short of time)
Forward bends – usually Paschimottanasana, Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana and Janu Sirsasana
Backbends: Dhanurasana and Ustrasana before 2 or 3 Urdhva Dhanurasanas
Paschimottanasana again
The finishing inversion sequence from Shoulderstand through to Padmasana.

But today was full primary so I’m not yet on the downhill slide to senior citizen’s yoga.


The Mystery of 2012: Predictions, Prophecies and Possibilities
Here are some more excerpts from the book 2012 that I’ve pulled out because when I read them I thought “YES!”
Might post some more excerpts if they feel important enough to type up and keep.

"Never before have we been able to access so much spiritual wisdom. A century ago, the only spiritual tradition available to most people was the one that was indigenous to their own culture. Moreover, with rare exceptions, they did not have the benefit of learning from a truly enlightened being. Today we can access teachings from many different traditions and cultures, discover their common underlying truths, and translate that perennial philosophy into the language and terms of our own time. Something completely new is emerging: a single spiritual teaching that is a distillation of the world’s wisdom traditions. This is coalescing and being disseminated globally through a variety of information technologies: books, tapes, Web pages, online forums, and Internet broadcasts.

At the same time, a growing number of people are becoming fully awake and proving themselves to be excellent teachers. Many are using the Internet to share their wisdom and help awaken others. Instruction in practices that facilitate awakening are already online and could become much more sophisticated. It may even turn out that darshan, the Indian word for a direct transfer of higher consciousness, can be transmitted via the net.

Awakening is often a sudden event. Once a person is ready – the necessary groundwork done, the circumstances propitious – the shift can happen more or less instantaneously. It’s possible that research into the neurological correlates of spiritual awakening will lead us to methods of promoting the process directly. There will likely be other unforeseen discoveries or developments that will help us free our minds. Whatever they may be, the more we learn how to facilitate a shift in consciousness, the faster it will happen.

As this becomes a mainstream phenomenon, humanity will relate to the world in wiser, more compassionate ways. Problems would still exist. Global warming would not suddenly cease; pollution would not evaporate; extinct species would not suddenly return. On the other hand, we might then have at our disposal new technologies that could help us solve the problems we have created. We can only guess at the ways in which this marriage of high technology and higher consciousness would play out. We have not been there before.

When we look at what is happening in the world today, it is understandable that we might scoff at the very idea of a collective spiritual breakthrough. The daily news may well lead us to believe that we are heading ever more rapidly toward breakdown rather than breakthrough.
That is, indeed, one likely possibility. I do not want to downplay the dire urgency of the world situation. If we don’t make some radical changes, we are surely headed for disaster of one kind or another.

I also believe that positive change is possible. If we can develop the wisdom needed to navigate our way through these turbulent times safely, the potentials are staggering and unimaginable in scope. Let’s put our hearts and minds to proving that we can pass Buckminster Fuller’s final evolutionary exam and become a truly magnificent species. We are, after all, our only hope.”

-Peter Russell
A Singularity in Time




“Personally, I don’t believe that anything dramatic will unfold in December 2012 (although those who fear Armageddon might create their own private doomsday). Yet, when we look back, we will see a sweeping change in human consciousness over the past decade, as if we had collectively awakened form a dream.

As we move toward the great shift, countless people are letting go of old habits, patterns, relationships, and situations, often being apparently forced to release whatever holds them in the past, or keeps them stuck. We can no longer pretend that we are happy if we are not. We have to face up to whatever is not working or falls short of our dreams and desires. This means we must become accustomed to rapid change, personally and globally. If we can learn to ride this tidal wave of change, then our global awakening will be relatively easy and even exhilarating. The more we resist change or close down, the tougher it gets. We have to be willing to let go, to make unexpected changes in our lives. We have to be willing to open our hearts, to follow our bliss, to trust and go with the flow. We also have to be willing to put down roots and make commitments when that is where our hearts lead us. As Paulo Coehlo suggests, freedom is not the absence of commitment, but the ability to commit to whatever is right for you. That kind of commitment – unlike one that comes from duty or obligation or promises – always feels joyful and liberating and expansive. If it feels heavy or restrictive, it invariably means we are “trying to be good” and so are splitting, or dividing our energy.

-Gill Edwards Wild Love Sets Us Free




"Did you know that at this very moment a new world is emerging right through the cracks and crevices of the old world? It’s alive, growing, and vibrant, in stark contrast to the old world which is running on fear, anger and greed. By 2012, this new world, born out of the creative minds and compassionate hearts of self-empowered visionaries everywhere, will be even more visible and influential, affecting every aspect of life.

These practical visionaries, whom I call “the builders of the dawn,” are found in all fields of life an din all nations. They’re bringing new ideas and solutions to our problems – from war and terrorism to poverty and environmental destruction. These visionaries often seem like they are glowing form within, as if they are filled with light and passion."

-Corinne McLaughlin 2012 Socially Responsible Business and Nonadversarial Politics




"We have entered a time of global crises. We live surrounded, almost suffocated, by the debris of our dying civilization. The last centuries’ belief in dualism and separation with its focus on rational thought brought great scientific and material progress, but it also created a life-denying split between spirit and matter. It banished God to heaven, and stripped the Earth of its sacredness. Now, all reverence for our own bodies and the body of the Earth lost, we are systematically plundering and polluting our world, destroying the very ecosystem we depend upon for survival. Steeped in materialism, we have forgotten why we are here. We have created a physical and spiritual wasteland, and our own souls and the soul of the world are starving.
Life is one, has always been one.

The world is a single, living, organic wholeness and everything in creation is a part of it, as vitally and inseparably related to the whole of life as an individual cell or organ is related to the larger organism of which it is a part. Life is alive with its own intelligence and purpose. That purpose, which is our own purpose because we are not separate from life, is one of revelation. In its multitude of forms, creation reveals the hidden face of God.

But we have forgotten this. Our present world bears witness not to the divine but to our own hubris, our greed, and our delusions of power. In our obsessive desire for material comforts, for more and more things, we have plundered the Earth as if it was a mere commodity to be exploited, and we have desecrated our world. We live as if life were something apart from ourselves – something we can master and control – rather than part of our very being. We have lost all sight of life’s real nature and purpose and our relationship to this purpose. And life has allowed this to happen. Until now, life has, for the most part, remained receptive, waiting, watching us follow our desires, and saying very little, even as it has felt the sorrow of a people who deny its divine nature.

Now, something deep within life is changing; an era is ending and at the core of creation, something is coming alive in a new way. A light at the center of the world that has been dormant for millennia has been rekindled. This is the light of life itself, waking up, remembering its own real nature and divine purpose. With this awakening, the living being that is our world is undergoing a transformation in its very essence.

There is a growing awareness of a shift in consciousness toward global oneness. With regard to ecology, we have been forced to recognize that we are one planet, one interconnected living ecosystem. Internet and cell phone technology has given us the tools of global communication and commerce and finance also have a global dimension. Few, however, have recognized the depths of this change, the signs that the world is awakening. Most are too busy, caught up in their own affairs to notice something so new. Those who are fixed on the image of an Earth that has no soul will not recognize its new light, will not allow it into their lives. It would be too threatening. Yet this awakening light is beginning to affect human consciousness. It is sending message of hope into a collective despair, a collective soullessness. And it is attracting those who want to work with it.

Our true light comes from the divine spark within us. It carries the deepest purpose of our life, which belongs to the divine purpose of creation. We are born with this spark; it is quite visible in children, in their eyes, their laughter and joy. But as we grow older, it “fades into the common light of day”. Then, we must reclaim and reignite it through the sometimes painful process of remembrance and reawakening that spiritual practices and inner work provide.

Now we are being asked to wake up to our light and assume our real co creative role in the evolution of the world. The light of the world is waking up and our consciousness is needed to help bring its hidden meaning into the consciousness of the world and of humanity. We can help the world come alive again. And we can help to shape the next stage in its evolution.
There are no books, schools, or traditions that will tell us exactly how to do this work. Only in the meeting of our consciousness with the awakening consciousness within life – our own awakened consciousness as we bring it to life in each moment – will we find the information we need. For at its core, life knows everything it needs to sustain itself; it knows how to evolve and how to recreate itself anew, and because it is a continual response to the divine moment, it knows precisely what is needed in each moment.

When we open ourselves fully to life as it really is, we will experience again that life is alive and that it can communicate with us directly and interact with us in may different dimensions – not just the physical dimension we now take to the world, but also in the symbolic realms and the realm of pure consciousness and light – dimensions of magic, wonder and awe that have not been manifest in our world for a long time.

There are primal changes taking place within life, and they are farther-reaching than we dare to imagine. One thing is certain: the world as we know it is ending. Our drama of greed and materialism, our hubristic belief that we re the lords of the world, which we can exploit at will, has created a nightmare that is draining the very lifeblood of the planet. But in the midst of this dying dream, another dream is being born, one based upon the consciousness of oneness, the knowing that we are one living ecosystem, one global community. And within this dream of oneness are signs that the world is awakening.

Perhaps the prophecies of the year 2012 point to this possibility, a moment in cosmic time when, with an outpouring of energy, the world will awaken to its divine nature and throw off the debris of materialism. Those identified with the dying dream would experience this as a cataclysm, a global disaster. But others might recognize it as what we have unknowingly been waiting for, a new Golden Age in which we can return to the simplicity and joy that belong to life in its essence, life as it really is – a time when we will no longer need to distract ourselves with our toys and addictions, because the simple wonder and joy of being alive will nourish us and our world, when the song of the soul of the world will sing to us and to all of creation, and we will discover that the magic inherent in life is healing and beneficial, and that in it wisdom and oneness the world knows how to support itself and its inhabitants.

Our light is a part of the light of the world awakening to its divine nature. Working with it, we can become co creators of the next era. This is the choice we are being given: not to wait for the future but to help bring it into being.

-Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee An Awakening World

The REAL New Age

11 April 2008

I’m reading a book at the moment titled The Mystery of 2012: Predictions, Prophecies and Possibilities.
I picked it up reluctantly from the library because I have a friend who is convinced that the Mayan prophecy of planetary upheaval - said to be coming in the year 2012 - is going to be the end of life as we know it.

I’d never been interested in these kinds of predictions and prophecies, especially after the landmark years of 1984 and the new millennium year of 2000 (Y2K) came and went without an incident. I live intently in the beauty of Now. But flicking through the book, I noticed essays from quite a few people I’d come across in my literary spiritual travels: Gregg Braden, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee (Sufi), Peter Russell and many others.
They're all writing from different perspectives about the rapid changes occurring right now on our planet, a quickening into a new age unparalleled in human history.
Some of the writers have spent years researching the Mayan civilization and their prophesy of the great change culminating on 21st December 2012. Other writers offer their interpretation of what is currently happening on earth, how it could unfold between now and 2012 and what may be in store for all of us lucky people who’ve chosen to be here and be part of this extraordinary time.

Christine Page writes at the start of her essay:
“Congratulations – you are among a select group of souls who won the lottery to be here, on this planet, at this time! The prize not only ensures you a front-row seat but also the unique opportunity to cocreate the future of the human race. Your contribution, along with that of other awakened souls, will create a blue print, which will influence your ancestors and the next 26,000 years of human existence. This is what you have been working toward during your many incarnations; this is the moment you’ve been awaiting. This is a time to remember.”

But the essay that most caught my interest was one by Arjuna Ardagh.
He writes about awakening (enlightenment):
“In every culture and in every age, a few isolated individuals have broken free of this hallucination and have realized that the sense of a “separate me” is actually a fantasy. This is not a question of self-improvement, or working on yourself to make yourself into a more loving, conscious, better person. It is a sudden and radical shift from a preoccupation with “me” and “my story” to a realization of the space, the vastness, the eternity in which that story is occurring.
In the last two decades, there has been an explosion, all over the world, of people having direct realizations very similar to that which Buddha recognized under the Bodhi Tree – that what I truly am is not only Bill, or Cynthia, or Robert, but what I really am is budh: awareness, consciousness, presence. This realization may come as a snapshot out of time and then be overshadowed by the pressure to pay the rent. It may come as a more sustained opening. It may even become the very fabric of day-to-day life. But ultimately, it does not really matter. Once the truth has been seen, the game is up on the hallucination of separation. The undying allegiance to the seductive stories in the mind has been broken and something more sane, more present, and more stable has a chance to shine through the habits of personality.
I call people who have been transformed in this way “translucent”, which Webster’s dictionary defines as “letting light pass through, but not transparent”.
Translucent people also appear to glow from the inside. They have access to their deepest nature as peaceful, limitless, free, unchanging, and at the same time, they remain fully involved in the events of their personal lives. Thoughts, fears, and desires still come and go; life is still characterized by temporary trials, misfortunes and stress. But the personal story is not longer opaque: it is now capable of reflecting something deeper, more luminous and abiding that can shine through it.”

I’ll post some more of the excerpts that speak intimately to me as I read on further tonight….

31 March 2008

The Beach

Saturday 15th March 2008

“Adelaide set an unenviable national record today when it recorded the longest-lasting heatwave - 11 days - of any Australian capital city.
The record for the longest number of days reaching 35 degrees Celsius was broken when the city's temperature reached 35.1C at 10:30am.”

And the heatwave will continue this week with temperatures forecast at 38/39 for the next few days and the mid 30’s until next Friday, making it 3 weeks total with temps above 35.

Putting aside all global warming and environmental issues, I LOVE THIS WEATHER.

But I can’t love it without guilt and sadness. The trees are dying, the crops have failed, fruit and vetgetable prices will skyrocket, rivers are drying up, animals and wildlife are suffering.
It’s being labelled the heatwave tsunami.

Warm nights lure me to the beach. I finish work, eat dinner and head for water, arriving just after the sun has disappeared beyond the ocean. We descend into the warm water, the sky still blushing apricot and pinks, the grey blue of twilight surrounding and finally engulfing the last of it. I float deathlike upon silvery water, looking up into space. For half a minute I AM the water, expanding beyond the boundaries of my skin, floating on nothing, existing in nothing, then my body temperature starts sliding down the microscale, goosebumps arise and bring me back into my flesh. Time to swim in and dry off.

Figures along the beach are now dark, lithe silhouettes against the backdrop of the silvery still water. Waves lap quietly, licking the shoreline with soft tongue kisses. The moon must be somewhere – I can feel it.

I lay on the beach, gazing upwards, waiting for more stars to appear.
The salty air is warm, the night sensual, thick, alluring.
I drift easily into a reverie that is painstakingly present. I’m so fully aware that I’m alive, that I’m a human being infused with life force, that my personal journey back to The Source is ultimately the same as everyone elses. Some know it, most don’t.
There is one Being in this Universe. And Only One. It is magnificent, eternal, Absolute. It is everything and nothing exists outside of it.
And It is drawing each one of us back into Itself.
That is our journey – a journey of discovering that where we are going is where we came from and it is also where we are if we care to look deeply. A cosmic dance inwards to finally reunite with our creator, a creator that has made our DNA of its living, breathing intelligence.

I’m on the beach, but I’m also immersed joyfully in the great mystery.

22 February 2008

Prana Practice

Saturday 23rd February 2008

This morning I drove to the other side of the city to do a practice with Kosta in his workshop-come-yoga studio.
We decided to do our own separate practices since it's Day 2 of that female time of the month again (has it really been 4 weeks since Glenn’s workshop?) and Kosta was complaining of a pinch in his lower back (he came up the wrong way from a supported backbend).

I opted for doing the tried and true primary series up to Urdhva Dhanurasana with the intention of finishing off with something other than inversions. Somehow Kosta slipped into it too and we ended up practising in unison, not intentionally, but probably the result of two strongly directed yoga energies running parallel in a slipstream, which was a lovely experience.
Having not been to the shala for a long time or to a led Primary for over a year, I’d forgotten about that special energy created when two or more people practice the sequence in unison.

At a cheat point, jumping from Marichi C to Navasana, he pulled me up...
“What about Marichy D?” he queried, looking innocently perplexed.
I had no excuse today so I shamefully went back and did it, binding easily on both sides and twisting with actual integrity.
Why on earth did I choose to skip this pose? Habit???
It was a little gift to have this highlighted, but after that insight I couldn’t possibly skip Bhuja through to Supta K as I'm also prone to doing on occasions.
Well, so pleased was I with my effort in Supta K that I sat up afterwards and put each foot (ankle actually) behind my head just to prove to my lower back that Supta K with both ankles crossed behind my head might be possible one day. Perhaps I might develop my yoga siddhis to such heights that I'll channell the spirit of Vanda Scaravelli into my body in my old age.

Prana
Breath is interesting in practice lately, or to be more specific, the flow of energy that rides on the breath. Ujjiya Pranayama is an integral part of my asana practice, even when I’m doing a quieter Iyengar sequence. I love watching the prana being generated, channelled, moving, ebbing and flowing, building up or draining away in relative proportion with my focus and stamina. Sometimes it’s dissipated weakly throughout the body, sometimes it whooshes through the central channel, sometimes I can discern it rising up through the front of my body and collecting in my throat (most noticabe in Utkatasana), other times it can flood my head blurring my sight and destabilising my inner ear balance (in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, Matsyasana and Sirsasana).

The importance of grounding and energising the entire lower body can't be overstated when working with raising energy up through the chakras and channells. This activates the muscular earthy energy in the lower body so it can then be drawn upwards and refined. If the leg muscles are not engaged and the base of the pose is weak, there’s no foundation to work from. Yuk, even thinking somatically now about a weak base (imagining the feeling in my body) makes me feel insipid and impotent.
In seated poses too the legs have to be fully engaged or the strong earth energy will remain untapped. And in inversions/balances whatever part of the body is contacting the floor (eg. two hands in Handstand or Bakasana, the forearms in Sirsasana, neck and upper back in Sarvangasana, hands and feet in Urdhva Dhanurasana etc) must actively press down into the floor to activate and energise the rest of the pose.

Tapping into the presence and flow of prana around my body seems to be my main focus in my practice these days. It requires a refined and subtle awareness, something that has been developing over my many years of practising and teaching yoga.

I remember a friend quoting Shandor who often said that the first ten years of yoga is just ‘donkey work’. Well, 13 years after my first yoga class, I’m witnessing a quantum leap in the evolution of the yoga donkey.

Led Iyengar class notes

Friday 22nd February 2008

At the risk of overdoing the menstrual theme in this blog, I was doggedly determined to go to Darrin’s 6am led class this morning (having missed it three weeks in a row for quite valid reasons) but the female condition descended upon me last night.

‘To go or not to go’, that was the question.
‘See how I feel when I wake up’, that was the answer.
I felt fine. I went.

While the others did all their usual handstands and forearm balances at the start of class, I was sent to the wall for Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana. Rebellious me repeated it without permission at the end of my mat Ashtanga style, but thankfully didn’t get reprimanded.

Seeing the others struggling with the backwards hands Handstand variation (fingers are pointing towards the feet like Mayurasana before you kick up) I was quite relieved to be on the sidelines – this variation is a new one to me - but judging by the failed kick up attempts going on around the room, it must be pretty difficult. Definitely one to try out in a couple of days in the privacy of my own laboratory.

We did all the standing poses with the back foot against the wall (does this really make a difference?), then squatted down for Malasana, first with heels on a blanket and arms forward, then sliding in to the final pose holding our heels after variations supported by the wall.
Lots of seated twists next – the focus of the day I suspect…I got to do all the ‘open’ twists: Baradvajasana, Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana with a reverse twist, half and full Padmasana twists etc, but Darrin gave me alternatives like Janu Sirsasana and Upavista Konasana instead of the ‘closed’ twists: Marichyasana C, Ardha Matsyendrasana etc.

Then some supported but very dig-deep backbends over blocks and chairs including the one we did in Glenn’s workshop which I'll attempt to describe:
First you place a prop chair with the back of the chair facing the wall, then lay through it so your feet point to the center of the room. The tailbone has to be hanging down past the front edge of the chair, rather than towards the middle. Once threaded through the back of the chair and looking towards the wall, you reach the arms back, bend the elbows, and then with blind faith attempt to grab hold of the chair rung that's between the back legs. The hands are placed so that the little fingers are closest to each other and you pull on them to get the extra shoulder opening while trying to keep your elbows squeezing towards centre.

We all did Uttanasana and Dog Pose to close down after the backbends instead of my all-time favourite close down: Halasana over a chair (which I wouldn’t have been allowed to do anyway).
Funny that after a 2 hour Iyengar class it feels like I haven’t done any yoga at all.
Am I really an A-type Ashtangi in disguise?
All said and done, it's nice to have quieter, ‘restorative’ yoga session now and then, especially if the alternative at this time of the month is no session.

18 February 2008

Menstrual yoga practice

Tuesday 19th February 2008

In response to a comment/question from Alfia about the menstrual poses I did in the workshop, they were all fairly standard (Geeta) Iyengar female restorative poses.
I’ll often do a few of these instead of taking three days off practice because they encourage the apana/outward flow of energy and help alleviate that bloated PMT feeling.

In the workshop I did the standing poses and some backbends along with the others, but Glenn gave me the following alternatives when he had everyone else doing inversions:
- Supta Baddha Konasana lying back over a bolster (spreads pelvic floor)
- Setu Bandha over a bolster with two feet on a block touching the wall and a strap around the thighs to allow the pelvic area to relax (no need for the muscles to hold the thighs together) the closest you should get to an inversion at this time of the month
- Upavista Konasana with a forward bend (spreads the pelvic floor)
- Half Dog Pose with hands to the wall and spine parallel to the floor
- Uttanasana with feet apart and buttocks resting on the wall
- Janu Sirsasana with head resting on a bolster laid crosswise over the extended leg
- Seated cross legged forward bend
- Paschimottanasana with a blanket rolled up halfway and placed across the front thigh creases (don’t’ roll the blanket up completely or it will be too thick and press into the uterus)
- When the others did Headstand Glenn had me put a bolster vertical to the edge of the stage and lay on it (spine along the bolster) with my feet to the floor. The stretchy opening through the front of the pelvis was nice.

Having trained in both Ashtanga and Iyengar yoga, neither to the absolute exclusion of the other, I’ve been exposed to the different rules for those few female days of the month which can be confusing knowledge for some. In Ashtanga we’re told not to practice at all for the first 3 days; in the Iyengar tradition we do a special ‘menstrual practice’ which can include standing poses but always emphasises long, quiet, supported seated poses and forward bends that open the pelvis and groin area.
For me neither is right or wrong and I go along with whatever my body asks for on the day. Sometimes it’s a full Ashtanga practice, but replacing the inversions with a long Paschimottanasana at the end.

So the only rule I personally adhere to at this time of the month is NO INVERSIONS for the first 2-3 days. Menstruation is a time of elimination – the apana flow of energy is clearly discernable and the natural physical inclination is to assist he elimination process. There’s an innate sense that inversions oppose the downward flow of energy and can reverse the outward flow of the body’s waste matter (which makes me ponder the effect of inversions on those other two unmentionable waste disposal processes – urinating and defecating! - but I think I won't go any further with that today).

If you want to read further, Richard Rosen has recorded a nice menstrual sequence here and there’s an illustrated one here.
Thanks for asking Alfie…

Green smoothie

Monday 18th February 2008

Yoga practice on a Sunday evening is not something I normally do so last night was a little out of the ordinary.
Kosta and I met up at his workshop/studio at 7pm for a quiet yoga session – we’d planned to do some forward bends but after opening the session with Dog Pose and Uttanasana we went straight into a long Headstand and topped it off with some Headstand variations - 13 minutes in total (Kosta had a timer). Thirteen minutes standing on my head contemplating my navel and it felt more natural than right side up. Does this indicate that my life has been turned upside down?
While there, as occasionally happens, my mind wandered away to far away places, reliving scenes and conversations I’d had and might have had, inventing daydreams of future lives and loves, analysing and musing, happily rolling along with the entertaining repartee provided free of charge by my creative mind. But each time I snapped back into the present, I was surprised to find myself still upside down, still balancing on my head – and thinking what a weird position to be in while daydreaming.
After about 10 minutes in Headstand my nasal passages thickened as if I’d suddenly come down with a head cold. My breath wasn’t travelling easily through my nose by now, almost forcing me to breathe through my mouth, but I didn’t, I kept my mouth shut, and just stayed alert to the breath and all the new sensations taking place inside my head.

Shoulderstand was next, with Kosta leading me through variations including arching the back and lowering one foot to the floor into Eka Pada Setu Bandha and then repeating it with both legs lowering together from Sarvangasana into Setu Bandha and then the twisted version where the legs lower into Parsva Setu Bandha. There were quite a few other variations I haven't done for years since I mostly stick to an Ashtanga sequence when I do my own practice. The usual Halasana and Karna Pindasana followed and from there a most natural Chakrasana rolled me effortlessly into Downward Dog Pose.
As you roll back over in Chakrasana the head is pressed unnaturally forward – this probably shouldn’t be done if your neck is not strong and flexible. I think we do it three times (?) towards the end of the Ashtanga sequence, once after Supta Padangusthasana and also after Uttana Padasana and Setu Bandhasana, poses that arch the neck backwards. It’s quite a shock to then roll back over the neck in the opposite direction. So doing Chakrasana straight after Karna Pindasana was a dream.
A few forward bends came next holding most of them for a few minutes on each side. Then Kosta asked me to try and balance in Mayurasana on his back (only because he wanted to try it out on me after). Balancing on someone’s skin was a new experience – the skin slipping and sliding under my hands and me trying to lift off and maintain a precarious balance with my hands turned completely backwards. When it was Kosta’s turn he was a bit timid, afraid that his weight would crush me, but it was a glorious squish once he found the right part of my shoulders to balance on.

A green smoothie was the promised reward. I’ve been eager to taste one of these disgusting sounding concoctions ever since Kosta started raving about them during Glenn’s workshop – he’s been blending up a big batch in the morning and drinking it 3 times a day. This is what he put into the blender:
1 mango, 1 apple, 1 pear, a small knob of ginger and 2 cups of water. All this got blended up first then he added a handful of spinach leaves (no stalks, they’re too stringy) and 2 teaspoons of powdered spirulina. Blend again. It’s a thick drink that glows neon green with chlorophyll, but it actually tastes fantastic. You can vary the fruit and leafy greens - Kosta likes pear and spinach; he says kale and parsley are good additions too. Basically use about 70% fruit and 30% of any leafy greens.
After that mega-dose of orgasmic green enzymes, my stomach peptides were restored to normal with a block of chocolate – essential for maintaining a balanced diet.