31 December 2011

New Years Morning

Bird chatter pulls me out of slumber.
I rise instantly, eager to bathe in the early morning sounds.

The sun is already heating the suburbs. It will be 41 degrees C today.

The new year.

The new day.

I arrived home last night after 5 days camping in the outback.

We spent two days in the arid desert, under a coolibah tree on Cooper Creek (pictured above from my tent) and three days in the beautiful Parachilna Gorge.
My soul is still out there, in those vast, natural, open spaces, in the endless arid landscapes, the bush campsites, under the giant redgum trees, in the creeks and the waterpools.

It's 6.15am. Opening my eyes on new years day, I look up to the ceiling, but my soul passes right through it reaching out into the blue morning sky.
I am still out there, silent and free, unhindered by walls or ceilings.

My next door neighbours had an all night new years eve party to christen their new swimming pool - loud music and even louder shrieking party voices kept me awake until 3.30am.
I've had less than 3 hours sleep.
Logical mind tells me to sleep in, but my soul is on fire and alive to the call of nature.
She leads me out into the early morning.

The streets are empty.
Already it's hot, day 3 of an Adelaide heatwave, yet it is early enough to feel the fading remnants of a dawn cool breeze over my skin.

Walking slowly with my dog I am immersed in a warm air bath.
Busy birds are preparing early for the searing day, so are the insects, the flowers, the bushes, the trees.

We turn the corner at the end of my street and wander along the deserted main road.

Trees lining the road have sun tipped canopies, yet their trunks are still in shadow.
Golden light illuminates tops of buildings and shops, their cool grey wall faces relishing a few more minutes in shadow.

As the sun climbs, all the morning shadows will retreat, sliding down and backwards over the natural and man made structures until sunlight reigns supreme.

I took these photos at Parachilna Gorge yesterday morning while watching the light slowly sliding down the rock face.

The rising sun was touching awake the tips of mountains, then cliff tops and treetops, her light sliding gracefully down the structures and across the landscape as she rose over the morning.

To sit silently and watch morning shadow recede and sunlight slowly creeping over the landscape is to observe an intimate yin-yang lovemaking ritual, the sun caressing and kissing the sleepy land and its inhabitants awake.

Every morning,
may I remember,
and honour,
the power of the sun,
to nourish my soul
and remove the darkness.

Aum Bhur Bhuvah Swah,

Tat Savitur Varenyam

Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi,

Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat

We contemplate the glory of Light illuminating the three worlds: gross, subtle, and causal.

I am that vivifying power, love, radiant illumination, and divine grace of universal intelligence.

We pray for the divine light to illumine our minds.

I welcome the new day, and the new year.


19 December 2011

Monday evening practice

Elegant and intense: that was tonight's yoga practice.

Funny how we try to find words to describe the nuances and flavours of yoga practice: heavy, light, energetic, malleable, intense, laboured, flowing, distracted, painful, weak, superficial, intelligent, emotional, deep, connected etc...etc...

Each practice is so different - even the start, the middle and the end of practice can change like a sunny-rainy spring afternoon.

I make no excuses for summing up a practice in two or three concise words. The simple act of reflecting on the practice as a whole, brings it forward into my conscious awareness. By acknowledging and naming those differences I'm better able to understand the changing influences that impact on my body and mind, bringing greater awareness to the present moment and the internal subtle landscapes that I inhabit.

There have been times in the past when I'd finish a yoga practice, rise from Savasana and wander straight into the kitchen to make dinner without giving it a thought. Or go from the yoga class to the change room, have a conversation with another student or teacher while dressing, and forget about the last hour and a half.

Not tonight.

Even during the practice I took the time to check in after each pose, observing the effect on my mind and my body, the flow of energy through my system, areas of lightness, or heat, or stimulation, areas that felt neglected after a pose that screamed out for a counter pose or an acupressure knuckle.

Every pose was strong, balanced, intense and smooth. Smooth entry, smooth exit, elegance and simplicity. A slow dance uniting the breath and the body.

Tonight's sequence came from Mr Iyengar's Light On Yoga course.

Week 36 - 40:

Headstand cycle - total 10 minutes (I left out the Padmasana poses as my hips weren't quite warmed up or flexi enough for these)

Full Shoulderstand cycle - total 16 minutes

Jatara and Supta Padangusthasana

Standing poses:

Trikonasana and PV Trikonasana

Parsvakonasana and PV Parsvakonasana

Virabhadrasana 1 and 3 (after 3 years my internal muscles can at last hold support Virabhadrasana 3 again)

Ardha Chandrasana which was strong, balanced and expansive


Padangusthasana, Pada Hastasana and Uttanasana - I do all these now with my thick mat double-folded underneath my left foot as this leg is shorter than the right. An extra half inch under this foot allows the pelvis to align correctly and reduces further damage to the worn facet joints in my lumbar spine.

UHP and Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana

Vatayanasana - which I did incorrectly because I'd forgotten what it looked like (correct pose pictured above)

Janu Sirasana and PV Janu Sirsasana

Ardha Baddha, Krounchasana, Marichy A

Paschimottanasana and Urdhva Paschimottanasana

Baddha Padmasana and Yoga Mudrasana


That was it for tonight, which was only half the sequence. I'd been practising for 2 hours and it was getting late.

Rising from Savasana my body was itching for a backbend, or just something to compress my upper back and shoulderblades. The pose with the block end pressing into the inner shoulderblades did it - the acupressure points here needed urgent attention. I can't describe the relief this pose gave me - like finally scratching an itch.

Again I thank all my past yoga and meditation teachers, and their teachers as well.

I am eternally grateful for the sacred knowledge that has been handed down to me, that now allows me to intuitively navigate my own path into a deeper connection with the Mystery.

18 December 2011

Tat tvam asi

Tat tvam asi
तत् त्वम् असि

Tat tvam asi is usually translated as 'THOU ART THAT'.
Another way of saying this is "We are that which we seek."

To elaborate even further: our essential nature, our soul, our essence is the SAME as what we'd consider to be God, or the Divine, or the Source, or the Ground of Being, or the reality behind the entire cosmos.

This Truth can't be realised by simply reading about it or hearing about it.
We can perhaps understand it intellectually, the same way that we can understand the waves on the ocean ARE the ocean, but we can't fully realise it, assimilate it and be irrevocably changed by it.

The realisation can only come from EXPERIENCING it.

And that experience, which comes about by divine intervention, changes one's entire view of life forever because somehow the experience itself effects a permanent shift in the neural configuration of our brain.
In one massive metaphysical operation, the mechanical hard drive of our mind is completely replaced and reprogrammed with supersonic mind blowing software.

"I sought him but found him not."

The stubborn blindness (avidya) of my limited small ego-centred self is still causing me to look outwards.
But now and then, I catch a glimpse of the Truth, when I dissolve into a sunset, or into the mist covered landscape.

And for a moment I wake up and remember...

Sunday...warm evening sunlight beams through my front windows.

My head is heavy from the weekend.

Too many people, too many conversations...

I long for a cool quiet empty mind, where the self is absent.

Out in the bush for a hike with my friend this morning, I captured this lovely image.

We were walking in clouds. Morning mist covered the landscape, teasing our eyes with the unknown, enveloping the trees in mystery. Looking ahead was pointless as we could only see what was immediately around us. No future ahead, no need to worry, just focus on this step, listen to the sound of the step.

High over the valley I heard the haunting shriek of a yellow tailed black cockatoo, the sound lingering on for miles.

I looked for him but found him not.

I found him not

Upon my bed at night
I sought him who my soul loves;
I sought him but found him not,
I called him, but he gave no answer
"I will rise now and go about the city,
in the streets and in the squares;
I will seek him who my soul loves."
I sought him but found him not.

Song of Solomon 5-1-2
Old Testament

Another weekday... 8.10am.

I wait on the street.

The cyclist with the red bandana approaches.

His features, his movements, an easygoing creative wildness, so much like Mark.

He passes again, oblivious.

Driving to work, my eyes are alight.

He, whom my soul loves...

15 December 2011

Sunset on a street corner


I stand on the street corner

My eyes and my soul in the magnetic grip of the brillint sky


by the immensity and the beauty

of firelight orange and dappled pink scallops, illuminated in relief over bright azure blue


Against the downstream current of evening traffic

I stand watching the setting sun transforming the skyscape into a shimmering palette of colours

In these moments when the soul is illuminated with the mystery, we shimmer and sparkle in transcendence.

I must have stood there on that busy corner, looking out to the western sky for over 20 minutes, alive inside a glistening new dimension, overcome with reverence and silence.

I knew what was happening.

I've felt this before.

It's a highly charged mystical force that drenches and fills my cells.

Energy is instantly refined.

We are permanently reshaped and altered in these moments.

I stand on the street corner, my eyes filled with the glowing sunset

Until the skylights softly and slowly begin to fade.


Re-entering my body, feeling my feet, and moving towards home,

my heart bleeds for all those lost souls in the windows, addicted to television.

13 December 2011

13th December - Death Anniversary

The anniversary day dawned.

What a luxury to not go to work today, but it could be no other way, the 13th December is now sacred. I have declared it a holiday for the rest of my life.

Early morning is spent getting small things out the way, breakfast, walking Buffy, some shopping and paying bills. Then I drive up to Mylor.

The day is barely warm, and slightly overcast.

I pass through Stirling and Aldgate, two leafy picturesque towns, stopping at the Stirling library on my way. I've only been here once before, with Mark, just over a year ago. Funny how I almost expect to see him as I wander into the library foyer. He is standing at the library computer again, trying to remember his access password.

He is with me.

I borrow some interesting books, then drive on, winding my way along the bush forest road that leads to the tiny town of Mylor.

I feel easy about today, no fear, no pressure, I'm expecting nothing in particular to come about, nor wanting any outcome or resolution. I'm looking forward to seeing Mark's cottage, and Silverlake Road, and the creek again. It's been a while.

I park opposite the cottage, not too close. The new owner, a stocky man, is in the front garden. Gathering my bag with the shawl, the heart, my camera, and a blanket to sit on, I walk past him, eyes down. The thought is there but I don't make contact with him.

Across the road, I enter the bushland and wander through tall grass down to the creek. This is where Mark took the photo of me last year. There are no white flowers today.

How could I have forgotten the magical beauty of this special little place?

The creek meanders through the wooded bushland, running over pebbles in some parts, quietly stagnant in others. The sound of bubbling running water soothes my soul.

There are elves in this little spot, I'm sure. A thick canopy of green leaves and arching boughs covers the creek protectively. The earthy banks are spongy beneath my feet. It is playful. I walk along the edges, taking in every detail, the dappled light, the star studded leafy ground, the colour of the water, the smells, the playful, serene energy.

I sit.

And Mark is beside me.

We connect through our hearts and we remember together, sharing in the sorrow of what we lost, taking comfort in knowing that our hearts are forever together.

I can feel his hands caressing mine and quiver at the fine touch of his fingers, it is an artists touch. I remember this now as his fingers draw circles over my hand. For a moment I wonder if I'm imagining it. If I am it is divinely felt imagining.

I caress the terracotta heart between my palms and allow it to embody the symbology of Mark's heart. The object takes on meaning, the heart becomes precious. It feels alive, fleshy, and has warmed from my hands. I am holding his heart, right here, next to the creek that he loved so dearly.

To honour the ritual devised in the art therapy session, I take out the pale green shawl and wrap it around me. I never finished sewing on the words but that doesn't matter at all.

I say the words out loud, 'the love inside, you take it with you'.

I say them silently over and over again...the meaning swells and ripples outwards to other dimensions.

'you take it with you', after you die, but where do you go?

Wherever you are Mark, you are still loving me.

And here I am still loving you.

I sit for another hour by the creek, under the thick green canopy, feeling his presence come and go. I love this creek, these slender trees and wildflowers, this spongy soft earth, the alive sound of water, birds, and the soft, rippling wind in the grass.

I sit, and feel, and shed a few tears...

Then sadly I feel its time to say goodbye, though this is softened by knowing that I can return anytime.

I won't wait another year.

Later in the afternoon, I drive up to the foothills and take a hike through Gandy's Gully, my special place for walking meditation and for immersing my soul in nature. On the side of a ridgetop there's a cairn (mound of rocks) with a 'memorial' book in a plastic box, where walkers write their names and occasional messages.

I mark my presence here on this special day in the book:

'In memory of my soul mate Mark Abbott (Wandering Aengus) who died on 13th December 2010.

I'm still walking with you Mark

and still loving you...'

And now I have done what I set out to do today. I have put out the fire in my head.

I head off down the hill, wandering through hollow lands and hilly lands and tracks covered in wildflowers and butterflies and return home.

For the rest of this lifetime my soul will tenderly cherish and honour 13th December, and I will carry the memory and the joy and the love with me on this journey, and into the next lifetime...

"There are a hundred places where I fear

to go, - so with his memory they brim!

And entering with relief some quiet place

where never fell his foot or shone his face

I say, 'There is no memory of him here!'

And stand so stricken, so remembering him."

Edna St Vincent Millary

My heart extends to all those people who feel the loss of Mark as much as I do: to Meredith, Kelvin, Anthea, Ishan, Francis, Mark's mother and brother, Roger, James and so many others...

Art Therapy session 5 - the shawl

Sunday 9th December 2011

Rebekah is only meant to do 5 art therapy sessions with each of her three 'case studies'.

Today was my fifth session but Rebekah suggested doing one more next week, after the 13th December, as a closure.

When she arrived today, I couldn't wait to show her the amazing shawl I'd

found in the op shop. By Friday afternoon, time was running out to find something but I was led straight to it by an invisible hand late in the afternoon as I walked from work to the post office.

As soon as I saw it, I fell in love.

The shawl is light cotton, with a tie dye effect, the palest of green in the centre flooding to a mid green at the ends. Tiny white spots dot the fabric in beautiful patterns, some tear shaped, some spiral. I'm fascinated by the technique used to get this effect. It looks like each little white spot was tied up when the shawl was dipped in dye, so all the little white spots are left undyed. They have been left raised by their tying so there is a lovely textural effect too.

The overall effect looks like tiny white wildflowers in a field of green.

It didn't dawn on me until the next day that in the photo that Mark took of me by the creek last year, the field is dotted with white wildflowers.

Rebekah and I had a short talk about the ritual, the sewing of the words onto the shawl, and the wrapping around to symbolise Mark's embrace.

She asked me how I would incorporate the terracotta heart that I'd moulded in our session the week before. I'd forgotten about the heart.

She had asked me to take a small lump of quick drying terracotta clay, and to think of my love for Mark while working the clay between my hands. The clay was earthy, muscular, fleshy, so warm and real between my hands. I fashioned a plump heart. It was Mark's heart.

It felt too much like a heart.

I gently rolled it around between my palms, caressing it as if I were caressing Mark. His heart was in my hands. I cried. Incredible emotional power is embodied in these symbolic motifs that we attach meaning to.

I may take the heart with me to the creek.

The rest of the session was spent exploring something I'd mentioned last week. It was about the rawness of grief, how I loved being in that state earlier this year. There was great authenticity, no excuses, no compromises. Life was intense and absolute.

How can I retain that as the grief recedes?

To help with this, Rebekah asked me to draw with some natural charcoal. How gritty and real that felt as I pulled it across the textured paper. Charcoal has been burnt, it is the remains of a process that speaks of intensity, and as it glides across the paper, it gradually wears away.

Thinking of the rawness of grief, at first I drew lots of spikey undulating shapes, but soon indulged completely in covering the paper with darkness. Side to side, stroke by stroke, blacker and blacker. When the charcoal broke, Rebekah suggested rubbing the black with my fingers.

I closed my eyes and took fingers to the blackened paper and from somewhere deep within they automatically began to motion the figure 8 on its side - the symbol for eternity. My fingers moved over this shape hypnotically, soothingly, therapeutically, rolling around the corners, back and over, side to side.

When I stopped we looked at the drawing and she asked me what did I see, then whether I'd like to add anything. I saw two eyes, in the centre of each oval. I reinforced them and added an orange flame, then flames up the edges.

It turned out to be an accurate drawing of the burning eyes I look out from when I am consumed with the raw intensity of grief and life.

The ritual emerges

Friday 7th December 2011

For some time in the month of November the darkness lifted and gentle promptings moved me to re-engage with the external world. There was the slightest tinge of optimism in my state of being.

Mornings were easier to face, getting up for Kosta's led yoga class wasn't difficult.

I made contact with Renate and joined her for yoga practice on a couple of Saturday mornings.

I began feeling stronger, lighter, more willing to connect.

As 13th December approached - one year since Mark died - I began to sink slowly back down beneath the surface again. Waves of sadness are now washing softly over me.

Its quieter down here.

The idea for a ritual to commemorate 13th December every year is coming together in my art therapy sessions with Rebekah (although yesterday I changed my mind and had scrapped the entire idea).

It will take the form of a soft light piece of fabric, a pashmina perhaps or a shawl.

It will be embroidered with the words from the final scene of Ghost:

"the love inside, you take it with you".

The sewing of the words will be a sacred undertaking, an intimate pact with eternity.

I'll embroider 13 December 2010 somewhere on the fabric.

Then I'll embroider on this year's date (2011).

Then each year I'll embroider the new year onto the shawl with great care and love, and take it with me to the creek by Silverlake Road.

With each passing year, the distance between then and now, will be one year wider. My existence is ephemeral. Inherent in the sewing of each year onto the shawl is a marking of time, a countdown - it is a stark reminder that I have no control over the passage of earthly time, the aging of my body, and the count down to my inevitable death.

Wrapped in the shawl, I'll sit next to the hidden creek where Mark had his yabby net, where he took me on that first day I visited his cottage, the day that he snapped the photo of me in the long, green dappled grass, just two months before he died. We were both so filled with our love that day.

The love inside, you take it with you...

Enveloped in the shawl and in Mark's love, I'll sit, and allow the words to permeate, to flavour the surrounding space, to ripple outwards and echo through dimensions, to reach all those souls who have departed, and who still hold great love in their hearts.

Life, death and love will be interwoven into this fabric, and indelibly stamped on 13th December.

Art Therapy session 4 - the ritual

Rebekah started the session last Monday by saying that during the week she'd had strong messages that I wasn't connecting with the art processes.

Too right.

Some people do, some don't. Different processes work for different people.

The metaphorical forest dweller was not an issue I needed to explore - the ritual was.

We fleshed out some ideas. She picked up on a comment of mine about being wrapped in love. This came from the experience of Mark visiting me after his death, and merging into my body in a warm embrace.

A shawl - a literal wrapping of the body.

I could write out the Wandering Aengus poem on it with a fabric pen, and wrap myself in it when I visited the creek by Mark's house on 13th December.

After the idea had simmered gently for a couple of days, I decided that the whole poem was too much, it wasn't necessary, a couple of lines would suffice. Then, after some more simmering, a line from my favourite movie surfaced as perfect to embroider onto the shawl. Lovely how the creative process works through the psyche.

In the final scene of 'Ghost', as Patrick Swayze (recently departed) lets go of his attachment to earth and his loved ones, he is bathed in an angelic, shimmering shaft of light that will take him to the afterlife, and before leaving he says to his girlfirend (Demi Moore):

"It's amazing Molly, the love inside, you take it with you."

I start to worry about the piece of fabric, where will I find something suitable, should it be heavy or light, Pashmina sounds nice...what colour fabric will jump out at me, lemon yellow? pale orange? what if the colour I choose seems gross next year? Will I be able to embroider - I'll have to get a book from the library on the different stitches....not much time...I've got 4 days...

Why am I doing this?

8 December 2011

Pleasure in the Woods and in special friends

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,

There is a rapture on the lonely shore, 

There is society, where none intrudes, 

By the deep sea, and music in its roar: 

I love not man the less, but Nature more,

From these our interviews, in which I steal

From all I may be, or have been before, 

To mingle with the Universe, and feel

What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.

George Gordon Byron

Thank you to my special friend for this poem. We share a love for nature and for wandering in the wilderness and the poem speaks to us both. I am truly blessed to have a special spiritual friend in this lifetime, someone who has unending patience and compassion, who has stood strongly and silently next to me for many years, and who has cried so many tears, with me and for me, during the turbulent and emotional events of the past 12 months.

Bless you dear friend.

Images: special place and special friend - deep in Parachilna Gorge, Flinders Ranges

6 December 2011

Yoga practice in the tent

50 breaths in Dog Pose - 7 minutes.

An unusual way to start my yoga practice, but to get me started I told myself 'just one dog pose', and of course once you've done a Dog Pose, you have to do Uttanasana, and then its hard to stop.

It's Day 2 of my 3 day monthly retreat.

The tent's already filled with mid morning summer heat;, outside strong, gusty, south easterly winds whip the heat around, fighting the sun to prove who is stronger.

An extended stay in Dog Pose is an interesting exercise - as the outer body and gross muscles supporting the pose begin to tire, I am forced to draw on other support: internal muscles, mula bandha, my mental dialogue, and my will - the only ally I have against the primal urge to escape discomfort.

My will arises like a backup rear battalion - very strong and powerful, coming in to save the weary troops at the front line. It forges into battle against the negative diatribe that threatens to weaken my resolve.

After Dog Pose, Childs Pose: not a resting pose for me because of the painful resistance in my lower back and hips. I keep it passive for 10 breaths, allowing my lumbar and hip joints to gently ease open, before moving into an internally active Childs Pose for the next 10 breaths, pressing my knees down into the earth and inwards to open the sacral area, engaging mula bandha, drawing in teh pubic abdomen and actively curling in the tip of my tailbone.

Instead of Upward Dog to counter the forward bend, I do Salabhasana for 10 breaths. the back arch is less severe, but the muscles supporting the lumbar spine are more active. Resting afterwards with my head turned to one side my neck is so grateful that I want to take it further. I do Salabhasana again, this time with my head turned, firstly with my ear pressed to the floor, then I lift and twist my head looking up as far as I can, holding for 5 breaths on each side. Pressing the shoulders away from the ears is essential here to keep the neck long during the twist. Its a new variation that I just invented.

I don't like Vashisthasana much - which is an excellent reason to do it. Kosta seems to do A and B at the start of his led class every week, so I'd like to make friends with it. Vashisthasana A is easy today, my top fingertips press the tent canopy upwards stabilising the balance. I look down along the line of my body and notice my hips are twisted a little upwards so correct this by rolling my top hip forward a little. I've been too cowardly to try Vashisthasana B in Kosta's class opting to repeat A instead. Today, alone in my tent, I give it a go. Moving into the pose requires extraordinary moment-by-moment presence and full attention to maintain the precarious balance while reaching for the big toe and raising the leg up. Once I get into the full pose, it's more stable and surprisingly not as difficult as I thought.

Some standing poses next - practising in a tent I have to choose these carefully:

Trikonasana - 10 breaths. The longer stay allows me to watch how my body absorbs the pose, how it reacts and changes, what tires first, what subtle ways I find to pick up the slack and internally reenergise. As in the first long dog Pose, when the gross outer muscles start to tire, the internal core muscles must become more active.

Parivritta Trkonasana - 10 breaths each side

Virahbadrasana B - 10 breaths each side

Prasaritta Padottanasana - 20 breaths. After the first 10 breaths (holding ankles) my head is on the floor so I step my feet a little closer - that way my head is slightly off the floor aallowing me to extend the cervical spine and create more space between the joints. I intensify the pose for the additional 10 breaths.

Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana (standing splits) would have been my next pose but the tent canopy prevented my top leg from fully extending - had to abandon that one.

Today's backbend turned out to be the preparation for Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana, fingertips to floor back arched, chest lifted up, face looking skyward. This prep is often used as a passive front thigh stretch, often with the forehead to the floor. I tend to do it as a fully active and intense backarch, keeping my lower abdominals drawn in, mula bandha engaged, and the knee of my back extended leg lifted and rolling inward.

Upavista Konasana - centred and upright for 10 breaths. Going forward more than a few inches wasn't a safe option so I quickly let go of that objective and settled contentedly into the semi upright stretch. Twisting to the left and going forward over the leg was an entirely different experience. Descending into the depths of the twisted forward bend changed my state of mind. There's a deep place we can access inside of these poses. When I find myself suddenly there, it feels like I've accidentally slipped through a portal into a mysterious other world. It's a place deep beneath the surface of all fluctuations...it transcends body, breath, mind, emotion and spirit. They are all united down here. This is where we truly experience 'yoga' - the union of these individual platforms from which we operate. The whole self is breathing in unison with a primordial energy down here. All parts melt into one integrated holistic operating system - individual parts are working as one team.

Deep in this state of asana there is real transformation happening. It's not easy to stay there for long. The fire of tapas is burning the impurities. Coming out of the pose you realise something subtle has changed deep in the psyche.

After that an inversion is the only sensible choice to cool down the smouldering.

I move into Shoulderstand with the intention of staying 50 breaths.

After 20 breaths I get tired and want to come down, but decide to lower my right leg into Eka Pada Sarvangasana. I do 10 breaths on both sides then lift back up to Shoulderstand for another 10 breaths - 50 in all.

In the last 10 breaths, my focus instantly sharpened; I had woken up and was hyper sensitive, super aware, eyes bright...

"to wake up alive in the world" ...Jackson Browne

Halasana for 10 breaths

Karna Pindasana for 10 breaths

Back up to Sarvangasana then Ardha Sarvangasana (hands under pelvis and legs at a slight angle) - a nice pressure release after the 90 degree bent neck bandha.

I roll out from Halasana slowly, the weight of my thighs dropping through to my spine; each vertebrae in turn gratefully accepting the acupressure massage. Just before touch down I pause, my tailbone still curved upwards, I work my abdominals relishing the internal stimulation.

Matsyasana would be the next pose, but I haven't done any Padmasana work during the practice so my hips and knees aren't quite ready for Lotus. Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana (half lotus forward bend) helps. So does focussing more on the internal dynamics than getting deeper into the forward bend. I pull up energetically throught the inner seam of my extended leg and press the bent knee down drawing it inwards at the same time. I extend fully up through my spine and out through my crown making a long line.

After the second side I just pull the other leg into full lotus and lay back for Matsyasana. It's the opposite leg position to what is done in Ashtanga (on one side only) - I have right over left which is the harder side for me. Good to do this pose regularly on the 'wrong' side to create more balance in the body anyway so when I come out of the Matsyasana back arch I rest in Supta Padmasana for a while (on one side only).


I close my eyes and instantly notice the sun heat beaming through the tent down onto my yoga body.

The wind is still relentless, beating and whipping the tent.

Savasana darkens as the clouds momentarily cover the sun and the light filtering through my eyelids dims.

My body is literally humming with energy.

Padmasana to finish.

I am eternally grateful to have learned yoga, to focus my mind in Now, to cleanse and energsie me, to bring me in touch with my physical body, my energetic body, my divine body, into balance and union.

Later I do a few passive poses: a backbend over a rolled up blanket pulls open internal muscles that stubbornly want to stay clenched to protect my spine. I am gently persuasive. I stay for a few minutes with the blanket in one spot then roll a centimeter down and stay a few minutes there, roll another centimeter down etc...etc... So much unconscious tension stored in my lower back, and I'm sure this affects my psychological state. Or perhaps its vice versa: psychological blockages are manifesting in my lumbar...

Solitude but no Silence

Monday 5 December 2011

Wind has whipped and beaten my tent for 3 days non-stop. The constant wild flapping and noise has whipped up my mind state, or mirrored it perhaps. It has made this a different retreat, not calm and quiet, not conducive of meditation.

The elements have won.

The beach at Pondilowie Bay is windy but quieter.

The track over the sand dunes towards the beach is fresh with little animal prints this morning. I love trying to decipher the foot symbols in the sand: there are lots of different bird tracks, small lizard tracks, one that is probably a big stumpy lizard - a long slithery track with little footprints either side.

Halfway to the beach I notice giant emu footprints along the sandy track, they weren't there yesterday.Looking intently down,
I follow them a short way, curious to see where the emu may have roamed during the night. I jump in fright when the startled giant bird flaps and bounds haphazardly across the path right in front of me. I stop and collect myself. He settles a short distance away and begins munching on a bush.

Emus are like dinosaur birds. They're uniquely Australian, gigantic in size (for a bird), georgeously ungamely, awkwardly graceful, and very shy.
It must be frustrating to be a bird with wings, unable to fly.

They're shy creatures, but aggressive when they want food.

I was chased by an emu a couple of years ago. I was in a campsite in the Flinders Ranges, walking to the toilets, the emu thought I had food and it poked at me. Emus have intense wild eyes and big beaks, it scared me so I ran, then it chased me, bounding after me down the path, all the way to the toilets. How funny that must have looked.

On the other side of the sand dunes, the beach is deserted and pristine clean today, the water clear pure aqua near the shore, mysteriously changing to a deep dark blue not far in.

I wander along the tide line. There are bird prints and a set of human footprints...female. How do I know that...perhaps it's the elegant shape. A woman has walked here in the early hours, probably from the big campsite further south.

Its on this walk that I find a little treasure - an unusual shell, shaped like a ball with a small hole at top and bottom, coloured with gray and purple stripes. It looks like a giant berry. It comes home with me.

"I tied a berry to a thread..." (Wandering Aengus)

Back inside my tent late morning, the wind is still beating the tent to death but the tent base is steadfast.

The battle betwen the wind and the tent has worn me out. Massive sudden flaps woke me out of deep sleep too often last night. The continual noise is just plain annoying now.

My mind is agitated.

I've had 2 days of solitude, but not silence.

I pack up and head for home a few hours early, looking forwad to the quiet 4 hour drive and respite from the thrashing, pulling, pushing, shoving, flapping of the wind on the tent.

Every retreat is different.

Some excerpts I read today from 'The Grace in Dying' (for a second time)
by Kathleen Dowling Singh :

We are, all of us, ordinary people. Liberation begins when we know that.

There is a deep wisdom in the practie of ordinariness. We are not speaking here of false or unhealthy humility; we are not speaking of low self-esteem. We are speaking of humility of a most profound and healthy order; the humility inherent in the recognition of our ordinariness.

The stance of humility, the full and deliberate living of the life of an ordinary human being, engenders a spirit of true renunciation.

The renunciation is of the inessential. The joy is in the essential.

Powerful transformation can be engendered by the stance of humility. With the dismantling of the need for self-importance, with the acceptance of our ordinariness, we can see, in the words of Robert Ornstein taken from another context:

"the emergence of the stars brought about by the setting of the sun".

28 November 2011


I am nobody.
And my story is insignificant.
It weighs less than a grain of sand upon a sandy beach,
yet it weighs me down.

What I do and say, today or tomorrow, does it really matter?
Even these words are meaningless, the vacuous expression of an illusory self.
Even my actions evaporate straight after the deed.

I exist within an empty space.
When I let go of the story I am light and free.
Hermit, recluse, ascetic, mystic...nobody.

So it doesn't matter if I do Ashtanga vinyasa, Iyengar yoga, or any yoga at all.
It doesn't matter if I meditate or pray or chant
or rise at 5am
or eat organic
or make art or money
or travel or teach or work or aspire to lofty spiritual goals
or leave a trail of good deeds behind me for posterity.

Humble is the little grain of sand upon a sandy beach without a story.


Back to a regular Ashtanga Vinyasa primary practice again.

Or so I thought.

My lumbar injury has been steadily improving over the last year and I've been gradually introducing my body back into the practice for the past few months. It seemed to have repaired enough for me to start doing the full practice with Renate again.

I have abundant energy and I love this practice.

I really missed doing it from start to finish, and felt great joy practicing again.

But now I'm convinced - it hurts me.

It is definitely aggravating my worn facet joints.

I did a careful practice alongside Renate on Saturday - no jumping, just gently stepping through the vinyasas, modifying some of the poses like Parivritta Parsvakonasana and all the Marichys, skipping Bhuja and Supta Kurmasana, no rolling in Garbha Pindasana etc...etc...

but still I ended up in pain and feeling crippled for two days. The inflamed tissues around my lumbar spine, sacrum and hips stiffened up, immobilising my joints.

Upon reflection, I realise that there are no particular poses that are aggravating the condition.

Its the repeated movement from forward bend to back bend that is characteristic of, and integral to the Ashtanga practice that's causing the tissue inflammation and the shooting nerve pains.

I noticed during the forward bend sequence how resistant my body was to Upward Dog in the vinyasas. I had to take an extra breath every time I moved into this pose to stretch open the front of my body after the forward bend. There is no elasticity in the tissues around my lumbar and hips. If I stretch them strongly one way, they don't bounce back in time to stretch the other way.

And the post-practice condition is excruciating.

Sadly I think I might have to stop practicing with Renate and her friends on Saturday mornings. It wouldn't feel right to be doing a completely different practice in the same room as 4 people who are all following each other through the choreographed Ashtanga steps.

Tonight I came home from work and spent over an hour on my mat:

7 minutes in Headstand

15 minutes in Shoulderstand and most of the variations

Jatara Parvatasana

Supta Padangusthasana



Virasana, Pryankasana, Supta Virasana

Janu Sirsasana for 10 breaths

Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana for 10 breaths

A passive backbend over a bolster

A passive inversion with a block in my shoulderblades (pictured)

Padmasana twists

Baddha Padmasana

Yoga Mudra

Baddha Konasana


It was quite simply rich, sweet and indulgent.

So I'm finally letting go of the Ashtanga dream...and doing what feels best for my body.

26 November 2011

Tears and Gratitude

I walked up in the hills today, and cried.

Some days it all comes flooding back,

and tears are what come out when your heart is cracked open.


in that tender, raw, open state

I am fully in love with life.

This human heart that can feel pain, love, grief, joy, sorrow, sadness, ecstasy, compassion...

can also feel the intimate presence of God.

So I walk, and I think about Mark,

and Wandering Aengus

and I cry,

and I bless this moment

and every moment I get to live,

and breathe,

and feel.

Words cannot describe the love I now have for this life I am in...


Image: The view from the ridgetop looking out over Gandy's Gully.


My next art therapy session (number 3) is tomorrow. Rebekka mentioned last week that we would be working with the 5 symbol cards we created in our last session.

In our final two sessions (5 and 6), we'll be working on composing a ritual to commemorate Mark's death, nearly one year ago, on 13th December.

I could never perform a flimsy, superficial ritual to indulge in sentimentality or blind devotion.

It must be a ritual that has great personal meaning.

Whatever form it takes, this ritual on 13th December will come from the raw depths of my heart and be both evocative and emotional. It will be the first real ritual I have ever performed, and from this day forward I will honour the 13th December with the ritual...for the rest of my life.

The 13th December is the day my Wandering Aengus soulmate died.

Some ideas and images for the ritual have already started emerging:

It will be near Mark's cottage.

The first time I ever visited Mark's little cottage on the outskirts of Mylor he took me down Silverlake Road, through the overgrown bushland then down to the creek where he had a yabby net tied up. Buffy and I followed a little way behind him through the tall grass, and at one point he turned around and snapped a photo of me.

After he died I found the photo on his computer and he'd named it "Sally, My Love".

On 13th December I'll visit the little creek near Mark's cottage.

I'll sit next to the creek and that is where my ritual will be held.

Mark was very organically connected to his surrounding bush environment and for me, the area around his cottage will always contains his energy and invoke powerful memories of him.

Already my heart palpitates at the thought of being there again.

Image: Encaustic painting featuring yabbies, by Mark Abbott, November 2010.

22 November 2011

Art Therapy session 2

After some initial discussions around thoughts and feelings that had arisen after our first art therapy session, Rebekah decided we wouldn't pursue the direction of involving Mark in the sessions, nor would we work with grief as I was clearly over it and starting to move forward with life.

Rebekah is highly intelligent and sensitive - I am amazed at how intuitively she can pick up on a word or a phrase and identify it as important, then take it somewhere using the most appropriate therapeutic tool. She sensed that her initial suggestion of revisiting the past events wouldn't be helpful for me and would pull me backwards into sorrow against my will.

So she suggested creating a set of symbol cards, to lighten the therapeutic process, create some art, and have some fun with it. Symbol cards are made by drawing or painting a simple shape or symbol onto rectangles of coloured paper (approx 12 x 8cm), then sticking them onto cardboard.

She gave me the subjects of: body, mind, heart and soul/spirit.

I could choose whether to create one symbol to represent my idea of soul and spirit, or I could create two separate symbols. For this exercise, I was happy with soul/spirit being embodied in one symbol.

I sat for about 5 minutes with the blank sheets of coloured paper in front of me.

I waited for symbols to magically appear in my consciousness for each of the subjects.

Nothing happened.

I asked Rebekah if I could have more time - we would be using these cards in future sessions so I felt it was important to get them right, to have symbols that were personally meaningful and spoke directly to me. Very graciously she said I could use the entire 90 minute session to contemplate and manifest a symbol if I needed that time.

My mind relaxed into the extension of time and although my mental processes seem to be more lingual than visual, it didn't take long for symbols to arise.

And when they arose, their insistance to be recognised as 'the chosen one' was astounding!

I realised then the potency of symbols to influence our subconscious.

The mind symbol emerged first - an EYE. As I drew the eye, I spontaneously placed a star in the centre of the pupil transforming it from an opaque black sphere into an entrance (en-TRANCE) or perhaps more accurately a portal. A star within an eye - a symbol within a symbol, it doubled the meaning. I'm not entirely sure where it emerged from, or how. The starry eye I had drawn stared back at me. It was looking into me. What was it thinking?

The soul/spirit symbol emerged next - I drew a pointy ended yellow STAR on white card. The metaphor was obviously of a bright, sparkling light, illumination, also a symbol for me of ascension, looking down from a higher perspective, a direction finder in the dark of night, I felt the incredible atomic and nuclear density contained within a star's composition...

These first two symbols had connected metaphorically...I had stars in my eyes....

Next the heart. It was too cliche for me to draw a heart shaped symbol to represent the heart, but it wasn't easy to get past this universally recognised symbol. What came to me in a micro moment of inspiration was a TEAR shape. Deep heart felt feelings are often expressed in tears, not just tears of sadness, but also tears of great joy. Overflowing emotion is let out through tears. I drew a yellow tear on blue paper.

And tears come from eyes...yet another symbol connecting to a symbol.

Finding a symbol for the body that I could intuitively connect with took a painfully long time. At first I drew a WAVE - for me a wave represents continuous flowing movement; it also portrays our separate sense of self because we perceive our self as contained within a separate body. But the more I looked at the wave the more uneasy I felt about it. It wasn't providing a direct link or connection for me with the concept of a human body.

I got a bit stuck...I tried some word associations: earth element, substance, ground, physicality, action, vehicle for mind/spirit....

Then I noticed the bunch of sunflowers in the corner of the room that my dear friend had bought for me on the weekend. Their huge happy faces were smiling at me, they were saying 'Notice Me, Notice Me'. There it was - the SUNFLOWER would be my symbol for body. I drew a lovely sunflower with two little leaf arms...perfect. And suddenly my physical body 'embodied' the essence of a smiling sunflower. Considering I eat a huge bowl of sunflower sprouts in my salad every night, its about time I started to manifest their metaphysical sunny properties. My whole body smiled as I drew the happy sunflower, I blossomed.

Rebekah suggested we keep the card with the wave symbol as it contained potent imagery for me - the individual wave rising up out of the ocean believing itself to be separate from the ocean. We don't recognise our oceanness, or that we ARE the ocean.

We don't recognise our sunflowerness either.

So there was my set of 5 symbol cards - creating them was such an interesting and fascinating (and fun) process.

Rebekah explained how we will use them in the coming sessions, but I'm hesitant to repeat this as I didn't quite grasp the implications of the implementation. Apparently the symbol cards provide a powerful tool to identify what areas we are ignoring or not accessing when making decisions or dealing with issues. Listening on all levels (body, mind, heart and spirit) leads to integration and a wholesome, full engagement with self and life. I'm curious to explore how they might work and will hopefully find out in our third session next Sunday.

"Jung believed that symbols are created spontaneously by the psyche. Our dreams are constituted entirely of symbols, which Jung differentiated from signs. Signs include names, emblems or images that point to something known. For instance, the name ‘wife’ is a sign that points to a known person, to this man’s marriage partner. But symbols operate on a different plane, and point to something as yet unknown. The ‘wife’ in a dream points to an interior, psychic reality that does not correspond with outer reality. For Jung, the same word can function as a sign or a symbol, depending on whether or not it is being used by the unconscious to point to internal realities.

A sign is obvious, manifest and can be understood by reason. A symbol, however, is mysterious and can only be discerned by intuition or poetic understanding. It is symbolic knowledge that Jung is concerned with, and he is attracted to what is deep, profound and obscure. The study of signs leads to semiotics, linguistics and discourse analysis. The study of symbols leads to mythology, religion and philosophy. For Jung, the unconscious is not speaking about the external social world, but about the internal psychic plane, which cannot be known directly. It is real in its own right, though not in the sense that we usually designate as real, and symbols are the nearest we can get to approaching this unknown realm."

From http://impossiblekisses.blogspot.com/2007/07/signs-and-symbols-of-jung.html