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


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..


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.