6 November 2012

Camping trip


 I chickened out of camping at Gym Beach. After driving for over 4 hours from Adelaide down to the gorgeous secluded Gym Beach campsite overlooking the ocean, an unfounded fear and wave of anxiety made me turn around and head back to the more familiar Casuarina camping spot in Innes National Park on Yorke Peninsula.









To make up for being such a coward, on day 3 of my camping retreat, I drove from the Casuarina campsite to Brown's Beach, parked the car and walked the 6km hiking trail from Brown's Beach to Gym Beach.  After exploring every inch of it, I walked the 6km back again, on full snake alert.
The tracks, campsites, shoreline and terrain around Gym Beach are now familiar territory.


It is destined to become my secret hideout for future getaways.



The beach itself is an intimate little bay with crystal clear water that actually looks safe for swimming, no massive waves or dangerous rips that I can see. A plateau of fairly flat rocks provide a sweet walk out over the water, a lovely place to sit, feel like Jesus and contemplate the madness of city life, the beauty of wild places, the ocean, the ever receding horizon.






There are four campsites at Gym Beach, each one quite secluded from the others, and some awesome rocky cave formations that children would love to explore in the sand dunes just beyond the beach.
Oh, and a drop toilet too - almost civilized.








Who knows what made me suddenly turn around on Friday morning and drive back to the past-the-use-by-date Casauarina campsite again...the spot I've been coming to nearly every month since Mark died. Sadly the campsite has been 'upgraded' since my last visit - the parks and wildlife department (in their bureaucratic wisdom) have delineated the seven campsites with ugly fenceposts and wiring, perhaps to keep campers away from areas of revegetation, a very generous assumption on my part.
The campsites look more like prison cells now.

Such change is inevitable, just another reason for moving on...

Here are some images I took on the walking trail linking Brown's Beach to Gym Beach...



 





















The weather was hot, the tent was hot.

I brought along my lettuce plant to feed me and keep me company and feasted on a diet of fresh fruit and Greek Salad for 3 days.

I fell in love with Madame Flavour's sultry chai (my daughter bought this for me, I'd never been a chai drinker) - I swear I could smell the spicy peppery aroma as I was hiking through the scrub to Gym Beach.

I walked along the beach at Pondilowie Bay and talked to the locals about the weather and what fish-of-the-day was on the menu (the four local pelicans, that is).

I sat still and watched the mess inside my head for many hours on end (some call this meditation), while outside my tent the breezes sang mystical songs as they danced with the Casuarina trees and the rolling waves growled on the other side of the sand dunes.

I read two books: 'The Wheel of Life: A memoir of living and dying' by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, and
'Stop F*cking Around: 30 principles for a better life' by Craig Harper (more on that later, probably another post).

I even did a yoga practice in my tent - at one stage lifting legs up from Prasaritta Padottanasana A into a 3 point Headstand (then I got just a bit excited and tried to get from Bakasana into a 3 point Headstand without success...it shall come again one day)

Really, I just hung out, and did my favourite things, in my tent, on my own.

Solo hermit and recluse, me, myself and I...

26 October 2012

30 September 2012

Brain fried



The melt down had been coming, I watched it approaching like a wild storm that I couldn't stop. I knew it could be serious but was hoping it might just pass over without too much damage.

One stressor on top of another, on top of another, on top of another, and after three weeks of this non stop barrage, I reached a state of melt down this weekend.  It's been a full on assault of over stimulation.

After working 40 hours in 4 days under intense pressure last week, with each day speeding up even faster than the last, it peaked on Thursday with a 12 hour work day and a long Board meeting until 8pm that flung me over into the abyss of moronic insanity.  I managed to valiantly retain my cool, calm demeanor right til the end of the meeting but by that time I was brain fried, there was no information going in, my brain was mush and all systems had shut down.


Friday, Saturday, Sunday...


Friday was my monthly day off (when I usually go away camping), but as I'd promised to look after my granddaughter (an 8 year old ball of intensity herself), my despearately needed recovery time had to be postponed another day.

Saturday and Sunday I lay in bed staring blankly at the wall for hours, sometimes drifting back to sleep, sometimes laying with eyes closed, watching the inside of my eyes and the sky show of neurons firing out of control in my brain. It has been fried to a crisp.

Many years of Vipassana mediation have made me quite sensitive to the state of my mind and brain. Sitting for long hours watching the mind one gets to know it quite intimately.

Yesterday, laying in bed and observing my mind I was stunned to see the effect of work stress so vividly: electrical spasms, like mini lightning flashes were zapping all over the frontal part of my brain. I was watching a neurological electrical storm.


Chronic Stress

I did some internet research on the effect of stress on neural pathways and YES, as I'd suspected, this kind of chronic and prolonged stress can permanently damage neurons and brain cells.

 
Neural Pathways

Stress excites brain cells to death

"Stress causes the release of a hormone called cortisol.

Cortisol has been shown to damage and kill cells in the hippocampus (the brain area responsible for your episodic memory) and there is robust evidence that chronic stress causes premature brain aging.

The cortisol released in stress travels into the brain and binds to the receptors inside many neurons (in the cytoplasm). Through a cascade of reactions, this causes neurons to admit more calcium through channels in their membrane.



In the short-term cortisol presumably helps the brain to cope with the life-threatening situation. However, if neurons become over-loaded with calcium they fire too frequently and die – they are literally excited to death." 
http://www.internet-of-the-mind.com/stress.html



I've spent the last two days in a sort of post traumatic stress state.

Yesterday, completely burnt out and comatose, I couldn't eat at all (no energy to digest food) and stayed in bed most of the day, observing the extreme consequences of overload.

Today (Sunday) was a little better, I drank a green smoothie for lunch, ate some sushi in the afternoon and then decided a big glass of carrot and beetroot juice for dinner was all I needed or wanted.

On and off today I tried to sit in meditation, watch my breath and calm my mind - it was still on the overloaded merry go round, completely out of control. It doesn't take long for our minds to get into patterns and when those patterns are repeated (like adapting to continually process information overload and cope with a hectic work environment), neural pathways are strengthened to keep doing this and then it's very hard to reroute and redirect them. My mind has been overstimulated and running on speed for at least three weeks and this mind state is now the new 'normal'.


"The dendrite connections in our neural networks are not set in stone as once thought... Every time we learn something new, dendrite connections are changed and new ones are made that didn’t exist before.

So, the Internet of our mind is constantly changing - updating and adapting to the environment in which we place it. The purpose of this adaptation is to achieve and maintain a biological balance known as homeostasis or "Steady-State".

It appears that the brain likes predictability and consistency. Once we have acquired a certain steady-state our brain will act to maintain that state... even a state of chronic stress or depression!"

The good news? - With discipline and repetition we can change our steady-state to a "new steady-state" - or neo-homeostasis.

Whenever we try to make a significant change in our neural networks the effort is initially met with resistance. But if we persist with discipline and repetition we can make the changes we want.

While these networks have become deeply ingrained - part of a chronic steady-state... with awareness, dedication, and action, they can adapt to a "new steady-state" called Recovery.

Neurogenesis means brain growth - it’s the creation of new dendrite connections in the Internet of the Mind. In a recent article, William Horton, Ph.D. writes:
“Positive, enriching environments stimulate the brain to create more neural connections... While positive programming stimulates neurogenesis, negative programming halts neurogenesis... Regardless of the source, the effect of continued stress from negative programming is neurologically toxic... What this means is that when the brain is constantly exposed to worry and negativity, homeostasis (balance) becomes the priority and all other neural functioning suffers. In this situation, existing neurons are preoccupied with survival and the brain does not exert effort on creating new neurons…”

In other words, if you live with a steady-state of chronic stress then all kinds of imbalances occur due to the neuro-toxicity - causing neurological, physical, emotional, and spiritual degeneration (breakdown)...which leads to pain and more stress.

Healthy-balanced living, on the other hand, leads to neurological, physical, emotional, and spiritual regeneration (growth)... and ultimately health and happiness.

http://www.internet-of-the-mind.com/stress.html



Changing my Mind

I sat and made a list of things that I need to change to prevent this from happening again, the most important being to CHANGE MY MIND.
As the chronic stress state began to settle down, I began the more active process of recovery and rebalancing.

And so to Yoga practice

Tonight I just got on the mat, did a very long Dog Pose, and started:

Slow, deliberate surya namaskars

All the standing poses in the Ashtanga sequence, done with a quiet intensity, long steady holds, deep even ujiya breath throughout.

Then Ardha Chandrasana and Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana (standing splits) followed by Malasana which my body instinctively chose as the most perfect counter pose to Eda Pada.

To the wall for Handstand and Pincha Mayurasana

Seated poses: Paschimottanasa, Purvottanasana, Ardha Baddha Padma Pashimottanasana, Triang, Janu Sirsasana A, again long holds in each pose to deliberately and methodically open up my body, breaking up the stress induced calcium deposits, and focussing on alignment to rebalance my lopsided mind.  Gentle, breathy vinyasas between poses (not between sides) added a sense of fluidity and connection so the practice didn't slow down to a stop.
Iyengar's Matsyendrasana

Then Matsyendrasana, a deep twist, the balancing version where you sit upon your heel, not on the ground.

Backbends, oh my god, I so needed backbends. My heart and chest were tight with anxiety, my lung tissues had constricted and hardened, deep breathing into my lungs was difficult, there wasn't enough plasticity in the tissues to stretch and accommodate the incoming breath.

Salabhasana, I did the pose with my arms extended forward (instead of by my sides or clasped behind my back), somehow the full body stretch from fingertips to toes was necessary tonight. 
Dhanurasana, then Ustrasana with hands in namaste on my chest to assist me with the upward lift - easy to lean back in this pose without arching up from behind the heart.
Setu Bandha, followed by one very long, intense, ever deepening Urdhva Dhanurasana.

Then the entire Ashtanga finishing sequence, with long holds in just about every pose. I even did Chakrasana - the little hesitation to roll over prompted me to get my mind out the way: 'just do it' and then I just did it.

I'm in a peculiar place right now, far far away from the highly evolved and 'spiritual' yoga teacher I once was a few years ago. What happened?
I know the trauma and shock of Mark's death imploded my brain.  It altered the configuration forever and has affected a lot more than just my memory.  When I'm under extreme stress the events of his death surface like a tsunami - my brain fogs over to protect me from the pain and then shuts down.
There is no healing, only managing.

So I need to enforce some very serious lifestyle changes: get some help with my workload that has spun out of control and put boundaries on my work life in general; learn to say 'no' and not feel guilty, acknowledge that my extreme sensitivity to overstimulation is normal for an introvert, and normal for someone who has experienced a life trauma.

The best strategy is to strive for a healthy balance between my internal and external needs.
And the key is to work with this remarkable mind I have been given.

On a positive note to finish: 

"Revival from burnout is always about the recovery of lost authenticity. It's waking up to who we really are and realizing that heaven is not a destination, but a state of mind. If being fried can bring us to the point where we reconnect to our own true nature, then it's worth every moment of separation to rediscover that heaven that has been inside of us all along."

Dr. Joan Borysenko



17 September 2012

...and why I don't go to yoga classes


Anna Platten, La Parade, oil on canvas 1992/93
Are you still doing YOGA?"

Quite frequently I'll be asked this question, usually by someone I haven't seen for a while, someone whose first thought association when my name is mentioned, is yoga. 
(Today I was asked if I still SURFED by a person who I haven't seen for about 5 years.  As he is a surfer this was our only conversation and what he now associates me with)

When I say, yes I am still doing yoga, the next question is ALWAYS "Where do you go?"
(which translates as: "Which studio do you do classes at?") 

Anna Platten, Curtain and Reflected Eye, oil on linen, 1992/93

So I answer: "I don't go to classes, I do my own practice."

I know the person asking the question has no understanding of the spiritual self enquiry that is actually true yoga practice, yet if I confess that yoga classes no longer provide me with anything useful - not information, or a physial challenge, or relaxation, or inspiration, or assistance, or group support (the list goes on)...I feel egotistical, like a know-it-all!

So why do I no longer feel the need to go to yoga classes or workshops, or seek out a teacher?
What has changed?
Have I learned all I can learn from the teachers in this city?
Am I incapable of being a student any more?
Has my yoga journey progressed beyond the boundaries of external input and into the vast realms of solitary self enquiry?
Am I too lazy to go to classes and too stingy to pay for them, or do they just not provide what I need?

Surely I can learn SOMETHING from another yoga teacher?

Looking for an analogy to help me analyze and understand this, I start comparing yoga students to art students (this is easy because I work in an art school).

People enroll in art classes for all kinds of reasons: recreation, therapy, self expression, or to courageously pursue a career path in this field... They start by attending classes regularly and learning the basic skills: observational drawing, mixing colours, paint application, three dimensional thinking, spatial awareness, conceptual development, art theory, critical analysis etc...basic tools they can apply firstly in a simple context and then with increasing sophistication as the depth of their exploration continues.

After 3 or 4 years they graduate from art school fully equipped to go out into the world and set up a studio, and PRACTICE!

Some of them work alongside other artists in group studios, some work at home in complete isolation. They continue to develop their artistic and aesthetic direction through many hours, days, weeks and years of dedicated investigation, exploration, through mistakes, disasters, creative blocks, knock backs, triumphs, epiphanies.

We yogis are also artists, investigating, exploring, refining and developing our craft.
We too make mistakes, and experience disasters, creative blocks, knock backs, triumphs, epiphanies. 

Anna Platten, Sunlight, charcoal on paper, 2007
Now consider an artist who has completed their visual arts degree, who has set up their studio, and who is now working away in their own intense little universe. They have found a means of self expression where they can create the conditions for the creative force to run through them and where they come ALIVE.
They don't go to drawing or painting classes anymore, occasionally they might do a workshop or masterclass with a visiting 'master' artist who is revered for their expertise. Here they might pick up a few new tips - some they hadn't considered because they don't practice in that style (sound familiar?), or perhaps the master's passion for his craft inspires their flagging motivation, or perhaps they feel comforted and supported being around other artists who also work in solitude and with whom they can share their experiences, their quest for meaning, self expression and get some kind of validation.

Anna Platten, Ourselves as Zoe. A dream, a web, a puzzle, 2011.
Artists who practice at this level no longer go to regular classes to learn the basic techniques.

Their practice is to utilise the skills they were taught and to continue on their journey into unknown realms.

Many artists return to schools to teach and pass on the skills they were taught to the new generation of art students starting out on their artistic journey.

Whether we are artists, musicians, scientists or yogis, the true journey only begins when we cease going to classes and commence the voyage into creative, uncharted spaces.
The classes may stop but the learning continues.


You will know when you're ready for this stage because for a while you will keep going to classes long after they have ceased providing you with anything useful. And you will know: something has died away forever.
You may do a yoga workshop here and there desperately seeking to revive that 'something', looking for the missing piece of information, or inspiration to fill the vacant hole.
But nothing can stop change or progress when the time has come.

We are continually searching outside of ourselves for inspiration.
We look to others to provide instructions and direction, not realising it is within us.

Yes, the time will come when we must throw away the map and fearlessly follow our inner guide.

Anna Platten, The Journey - the gate, oil on linen, 2012





















I don't go to yoga classes any more. 
I don't teach yoga classes any more.

I freefall through the deep abyss of my own inner realms, in my solitary space, using the tools I have acquired to navigate my way in the dark. Deeper and deeper I go...and there are no yoga classes or yoga teachers that can possibly see what I am seeing, or feel what I am feeling, or accompany me on this journey and provide any directions.

Instead there is an invisible creative force that guides and supports me, drawing me inward towards itself, inwards towards the realisation and expression of Truth. 

We are all artists and yogis.

Anna Platten, Study for Tree of Possibilities, charcoal on paper, 2007





















Anna Platten is a renowned South Australian artist and a lovely friend of mine.
(Sometimes she even does yoga classes)
Anna currently has a major retrospective exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia and is represented by Eva Breuer.
Studies for the Tree of Possibilities (image above) were done in my main living room, you may see the similarity in the image below. 









11 September 2012

A good argument for practicing yoga in solitude

What's so magical about solitude?
In many fields, Ericsson told me, its only when you're alone that you can engage in Deliberate Practice, which he has identified as the key to exceptional achievement. 
When you practice deliberately, you identify the tasks or knowledge that are just our of your reach, strive to upgrade your performance, monitor your progress, and revise accordingly. 
Practice sessions that fall short of this standard are not only less useful - they're counterproductive.
They reinforce existing cognitive mechanisms instead of improving them.

Deliberate Practice is best conducted alone for several reasons. 
It takes intense concentration, and other people can be distracting. 
It requires deep motivation, often self-generated.
But most important, it involves working on the task that's most challenging to YOU personally. 

Only when you're alone, Ericsson told me, can you "go directly to the part that's challenging to you. If you want to improve what you're doing, you have to be the one who generates the move."

Taken from a book I've just finished reading:
'Quiet.  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking' by Susan Cain


The text in purple is the line that smacked me in the face.
How much of my yoga practice, and how much of my normal daily activities are simply reinforcing existing cognitive mechanisms instead of improving them?

7 September 2012

Early morning yoga - intention into action

Firstly, a brief report on my humble beginnings to get up early (before 6.30am) every day and re-establish an early morning yoga practice this week:

Monday - 6.45am just sun salutes (10 minutes) 

Tuesday - 6.00am full practice (90 minutes) 

Wednesday - had a very late night on Tuesday, got up at 6.30am and did a minimum practice (sun salutes, standing poses, a forward bend, a backbend.

Thursday - had another late night on Wednesday then had to leave home at 7.45am on Thursday to work an 11 hour day (excuses, excuses). I slept in until 6.45am but miraculously got to the mat for a few sun salutes before getting ready for work.

Friday - 6.00am, slightly more than half a practice (60 minutes): sun salutes, all the standing poses, paschimottanasana and janu sirsasana, shoulderstand, ustrasana, padmasana twist, no savasana. I had to leave home at 7.45am again today to meet up with a friend for coffee before work.

Friday evening I did a substantial Iyengar practice.

Overall this first week has been a moderate start. I'm definitely fired up and inspired about chipping away the hard block that has stood in the way of an early morning yoga practice for so many years. The aim is now to challenge my entrenched subconscious beliefs, do battle, and win.

Every single night for at least the past 2 years, I'd set the alarm for 6am with the intention of getting up for a yoga practice. Every morning I'd hit the snooze button, admit defeat yet again, wallow in a wave of guilt, then go back to sleep to deaden the bad feelings that were festering inside.

How can anyone illuminate the world when they enter each day covered with such a shroud of guilt?

I don't know what's suddenly changed in my psyche, but somehow I've shifted from denial to clear vision.

Spurred on by the Way Before Breakfast project (thank you to Rose) my simple intention to get up early every morning and do a yoga practice has grown clear and strong and I've made measurable progress by actually getting up every morning instead of turning over and snoozing.

Establishing a much more consistent practice will raise it to the next level..

As simple as this one intention seems, most of us know how difficult it is to investigate and overcome our resistance so we can transform our highest intentions into action.

It takes hard inner excavation work to expose foggy unconscious patterns, negative self talk and all our constant excuses for staying weak.

Authentic and rigorous mind training is absolutely essential on the spiritual path. By overcoming our mental obstacles, we are clearing the way for a seamless translation from intention to action.

The reward is the ability to express our inner purity through action in the world - an irresistible and powerful force.


My point is this: for me, establishing a daily morning yoga practice has nothing to do with physical wellbeing. It is simply providing me with the means for revealing all the rubbish that is polluting my mind and for systematically cleaning it up.

On a clear day you can see forever...

Master of Headstand

Mukta Hasta Sirsasana

I am officially a 'master of headstand' according to Light on Yoga.

Tonight with the luxury of a free evening, I felt like treating myself to something different than Ashtanga, so I opened up Light on Yoga and decided on the week 45-50 sequence. There were a few poses in this sequence that I didn't know by name and had to look up (a couple of the Headstand variations and Anantasana) and a few poses that were very crusty (a couple of the Headstand variations, Kukkutasana and Garbha Pindasana), but apart from that it was a lovely practice, sort of like going to an unfamiliar yoga class with a new teacher and enjoying the novelty of playing with new toys.


The sequence starts with Headstand and lots of variations. Tripod Headstand was no problem, but then came a similar three point variation where the hands are inverted and much closer together, fingertips pointing away from the head (Salamba Sirsasana III) - I felt a bit wobbly going up and down with this one. The third variation, Baddha Hasta Sirsasana, with hands holding elbows felt a lot more stable than the inverted hand one.

Mukta Hasta Sirsasana was next, a variation I'd never tried before - the arms are fully extended, elbows off the floor and the palms upturned. The introduction to this pose said:
'This is the most diffcult variation of Sirsasana to master. When it comes comfortably, one is a perfect master of the head stand. It is comparatively easy to balance in this asana, but it it extremely difficult to go up and come down keeping the legs straight without bending them at the knees.' 

Feeling up to the challenge I followed instructions, engaged my core then carefully raised my legs off the ground and up into the full pose. After 5 breaths I lowered my legs gracefully together, quite surprised that I could do this supposedly 'most difficult variation'!  Next time I'll set the challenge to hold it longer.

Since I was now a 'master of headstand', I skipped the remaining seven headstand variations.
: )

Shoulderstand sequence - I did the full sequence including the Padmasana ones which I hadn't even warmed up for. Evening yoga practice = supple body, so different to my morning body.

Supine poses: Supta Padangusthasana and Anantasana
Anantasana was a pose that I had to look up.  It wasn't difficult and I think it would be a great preparation pose for anyone trying to master Vashisthasana II.

Seated poses:
Paschimottanasana and Parivritta Paschimottanasana
Janu Sirsasana and Parivritta Janu Sirsasana
Krounchasana
Akarna Dhanurasana 

Goraksasana

Padmasana poses:
Baddha Padmasana and Yoga Mudrasana
Kukkutasana and not Garbha Pindasana - got my arms through my lotus legs but the pressure into my calves was intolerable, it felt like instant bruising.  I stayed with the pain to practice rolling forward and up into the Kukku balance a few times, but didn't quite make it. By that time I had to urgently get my arms out so I didn't attempt Garbha Pindasana.
These two poses used to come easily for me, so I know it just takes some regular practice to acclimatise the body (and mind) to the new sensations.

Goraksasana - attempting to balance in this pose was challenging but great fun.  It requires precision awareness and coordination to get each hand off the floor while adjusting the pelvic tilt to rise into the fully upright position. The mind and body must be working together perfectly.  My new goal is to become a 'master of Goraksasana'.

Backbends: Matsyasana, Supta Virasana, Bhekasana

Seated pose: Baddha Konasana

Twists: Ardha Matsyendrasana (my new favourite twist), Marichyasana C
Malasana and Uttana Padasana

Then for the grande finale: 6 x Urdhva Dhanurasana backbends - a supreme mental challenge because I'd never done that many in a row, 3 is my usual maximum. What a great exercise it was to observe my first reaction:
6??? you must be joking!!!!
I'll never last for that many
After 6 I'd never get to sleep with all that adrenalin pumping through my system
and to then calmly take control, override the baseless arguments. complaints and obstacles, and just do them!
I switched to a steady, balanced mental approach and did each and every one, staying up for 5 breaths each time.

According to Mr Iyengar's week 45-50 sequence, after completing the 6 Urdhva Dhanurasanas, you're supposed to do Savasana. Not sure what was he thinking when he wrote that.
For me, after 6 backbends, both the body and mind need a counterpose to help settle the wildly circulating hormones down.  Sure, Savasana will do this, and in hindsight it would have been interesting to go straight into Savasana and watch the process happening, but tonight I did a long Paschimottanasana before finishing with Savasana.


A playful practice tonight.

4 September 2012

Establishing an early morning yoga practice













Two steps forward and one step back is still progress I remind myself.
I made two giant steps forward today - suddenly I have collateral.

Giant Step Number One was getting out of bed at 5.55am
Giant Step Number Two was getting on the mat and doing an honest practice for an hour and a half.

These weren't baby steps, these were giant steps that have suddenly blitzed all those years of resistance to early morning yoga practice.

Getting Up
I woke up 10 minutes before the alarm went off (set for 5.45am) and had time to check into my mind state. Despite falling asleep some time after 11pm I felt wide awake and energised. This moment is always the coalface, the moment where I experience the deep groove of habit, where I look the challenge straight in the eye before turning away and going back to sleep every morning.

But not today.

I wanted to get up! This was a full on rebellion against the norm.

This was exciting.

To be honest, if I'd waited until that alarm went off, I would have surely turned it off and gone back to sleep. The habit is that strongly ingrained.

But instead I got up before that alarm went off and jumped straight into a hot shower.

Gratitude
From shower to mat, it's now 6am.
Sun salutes amid bird chatter and a panoramic rainbow sunrise.
Good morning to you all, I'm so happy to be here.

And so to Practice
Morning stiffness is natural, the body's been immobile for over 6 hours.
I start with a few stretches to gently open up mortified muscles and joints, then hold a series of lunges to connect down into the earth and enliven my legs.
Slow, steady beginnings.

Yoga isn't about obtaining a flexible body, it's a practice to reveal where our mind is stuck; it's an opportunity to systematically investigate and release what is holding us back.

Which is why I am so intent on establishing an early morning practice - I'm simply tired of being a slave to a limited view of myself.

The sun salutes are slow, intense, precise and invigorating, the movements mysteriously invoking the sun to rise up and bestow light upon the land.

Standing poses are the same: slow, intense, precise and invigorating, the energy of my intention is rising, unwavering.

I reach for my big toe in Trikonasana, not quite getting there today, and it just doesn't matter. The pose is strong from the base, the feet, the legs, the bandhas, the expansive twist that opens my heart, the extension upwards into infinity...

Having broken the barrier to getting up early today, the next barrier to overcome will be Buffy. She wants to go walkies and sits at the door yapping. I continue the standing poses and try to ignore her. Indignantly she trots back into the room and begins throwing herself at me with eskimo rolls. She's desperate seeking love and attention, a tummy rub at the very least.

I bind in Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana and bend forward gracefully, my free hand now stroking a Buffy belly for 5 ujiya breaths. For four variations of Prasaritta Padottanasana my face is planted in a mass of fur.
Eventually she wanders off to sulk.

After the standing poses I digress - 10 breaths in Handstand against the wall, 2 forward bends (Janu Sirsasana and Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana), backbends (Salabhasana, Dhanurasana, Ustrasana, Urdhva Dhanurasana), Paschimottanasana, then most of the finishing poses with 10 breaths in Shoulderstand and Headstand and 5 breaths in all the others.

Before Baddha Padmasana I often do Padmasana with a twist to each side, one hand grabbing the opposite foot, the other hand levering against the knee. I lift up, spiral from the base to the top of my spine and stretch open lung tissues, heart energy, shoulder tension, squeezing, expanding, flowing, enlivening...

Padmasana is a powerfully configured physical base upon which the body can be transformed. I've often observed an alchemical process happening in Urdhva Padmasana, today I observe it in the seated Padmasana twist. I don't fully understand the energetics that are activated while in Padmasana, or how this particular leg/hip/pelvis position creates such a magical force flow upwards, but I do know it has a deeply powerful rippling effect throughout every level of my being.

My practice ends at 7.30am.

Out Into the Day
Buffy gets her walk. It's a perfect spring morning, warm and breezy.
New life is budding everywhere.
Hope fills the air.
I'm excited to be alive today.

I walk along my street, grateful that I have another day to feel the breeze on my skin and the love in my heart.

The working day is about to begin.


Can I get up again tomorrow morning and accelerate today's progress?
Imagine taking two steps forward every day..and never going backwards...

3 September 2012

Notes from another camping retreat


My favourite Casuarina Campsite,
now ruined by ugly posts
Friday
After 4 hours of early morning driving I finally arrive at Casuarina campsite on the far tip of Yorke Peninsula to find it closed for renovations.

I'm momentarily shocked.

This is the place amongst the coastal trees and sand dunes I've retreated and returned to almost every month since Mark died.

Ugly waist high posts now enclose each camp site. Beurocratic madness has invaded the bushland and turned it into a prison camp.

Heartbroken I drive on.

Entrance to campsite at Shell Beach
There are two more campsites further on: Shell Beach and Browns Beach. 
Shell Beach is a pretty place, there are 8 campsites set in a spoke design around a central circle and its a short walk to the enclosed little bay. It's not as wild or open as Casuarina but there are no prison posts and no other campers here yet. The sky is overcast. I set up tent, take a reconnaisance walk up and over the sand dunes, and snap a few pictures of the beach.

The path to Shell Beach
After lunch I curl up in my camp bed.
It's 2pm.
Shell Beach on Day 1 - overcast
I wake up briefly around 5pm for a drink, then fall back to sleep until 7am the next morning.

Day 1 of this retreat is spent asleep, unconscious, system shut down.


Saturday
Morning coffee revs me up. 
I go Walkabout. 
On my travels, I take note of the sandy undulations of the landscape, the higher dunes that provide a lookout, the patchy scrub bushes, the birdlife, the wildflowers, the waterholes; I listen for the ocean sensing and measuring the distance.

My legs feel strong, walking long distances is a pleasure. 

I have a water bottle and camera in one hand, my pad and pen in the other; hiking to Browns Beach connects me to the land through all of my senses, through ancient memories.

Kangaroos near Browns Beach
The campsite at Browns Beach is not as pretty as Shell Beach - its smaller, more exposed, not manicured, I like it better. The beach here isn't as intimate or enclosed as Shell Beach - it stretches on and on, I like that better too.

I'll camp at Browns Beach next time.

On the way back to Shell Beach I see a foot track off the main road that goes to Gym Beach, the walk is about 2 hours one way and I foolishly detour. After half an hour on the track I realise that I didn't eat breakfest this morning, OR any dinner last night. My last meal was a salad yesterday around lunchtime. My water is low and the track is unfamiliar. Sudden anxiety (or common sense) turns me back.

Watch out for cars
The road feels like a safer walking track now, though not for the sleepy lizards that wander out looking for a warm spot.

Emu poo
I notice emu poos here and there; a particular one on the road is a beautiful shape. It actually looks delicious, a wholegrain pyramid studded with colourful seeds. A vegetarian restaurant couldn't present it better and if I was hungry I'd be tempted to eat it.
Moon setting over Dolphin Beach

During meditation in the afternoon my focus is on 'sky-mind'. 
Instead of focussing on the breath and developing a laser like attention, meditating on sky-mind expands my awareness outward. The furrow in my brow dissolves into clear open space as my mental frequency refines; sky-mind transcends boundaries, dissolves blemishes, clears obstructions.

I come out here to be alone, to get away from all external stimulation and to reduce the internal stimulation that runs amok in my head. 
I'm blissfully happy out here, wandering alone along foot tracks that lead to places I haven't been before. In my own company I am free from anxiety.

I find interaction debilitating; or perhaps it's my personality interacting with others that drains me. Out here I am uncontaminated by any personalities. I revel in this purity, simple being, simple awareness, solitude and privacy.


Sunday
The morning sun shines on my back as I wander up along the sandy track, past Dolphin Beach, towards the clifftops at Royston Head. My ears soften, opening to take in the morning sounds unique to this landscape. I listen to the multitude of bird noises: twitters, whistles, hoots, squawks, cries, I hear insects buzzing, a faint breeze in the bushes, the thundering ocean roar...

I stop walking and stand still to admire the panorama from on top of the cliff, my shoulders melt and my heart opens, I release into the vast space of all that is, and all that I am.






30 August 2012

A Caffeinated Practice

A late start at work meant I could get in a practice this morning.  Strong coffee helped a lot - I did notice the racey, runaway thoughts but it was a small price to pay for the raw energy that got me through an entire Ashtanga Primary practice today.

I didn’t skip any poses, but flowed strongly though the entire sequence with a gorgeous ocean sounding breath. For the poses that are dangerous to my unstable lumbar joints (Bhuja, Kurmasana and Supt K) I either entered ‘phase 1’ of the pose and stayed there working at my edge, or I did a modified version of the pose.

The sadness of the last couple of days was still inside of me but by the afternoon the grey veil had lifted a little.  I am stunned at how grief rises up so forcefully and unexpectedly and sabotages my best intentions.  It's been a year and a half now...

Tomorrow morning I head off into the bush for another 3 day solo camping retreat. 
Spring officially starts on 1st September and another chilly winter is behind us.

Full moon tomorrow night - it will be magical out on the sand dunes.

28 August 2012

Remembering

The night is lukewarm and I am walking the half-lit streets, bathing in the moon's beauty. 
Sadness begins to descend. 
I am in that tender space, close to the pain, feeling the loss, the aloneness, knowing that love won't come again in this lifetime.

Mark walks with me, he is in me, and I shimmer with the recognition of a dimension beyond what I can see or understand.

My mind is clouded and he can't quite reach me. I try to stay with him but the sadness weighs upon me. I feel it pulling down the corners of my eyes, the corners of my mouth, my shoulders.

The sparkle of youth has drained away leaving me in the shadows, with only his memory.



Buffy and I walk. She is getting older and slower, I guess I am too. She's a loving sweet little companion, 10 years old now. I dread the day when I lose her too.

We stop at a tree. Gazing up through the pattern of silhouetted branches and petal blossoms I am entranced by the silver moon again. I remember nights walking with Mark out in the hills near his cottage when the bushland was lit by only the full moon. My body fills with a shivery emotion, my eyes blur with tears.

Deep, calm breath...and just keep walking...

Your human heart contains the secret.

25 August 2012

Saturday morning practice

Pindasana in Sarvangasana
During a normal week, Saturday morning is the only chance I get to do a yoga practice without a time constraint, so I make the most of it. 
Here are notes from today's 2 hour session...

Part 1: 
I start my practice this morning not too early, but still Way-Before-Breakfast, with Lino's Primary DVD. My body is neither stiff nor flexible, yet it is strangely restricted in a way that I can't identify.

Lino's sun salutes are slow, meditative and strong. I follow along, mind somewhere else, and use the 5 breaths in Dog Pose to funnel the scattered mind energy into mula bandha and breath.

By the end of the standing poses, I feel stronger, clearer, but a little annoyed, not quite sure why. Underlying stress. I stop the DVD. Suddenly the droning count is gone, the room is silent. 
That was it, I needed silence today.
I continue on with practice...

Part 2: 
Seated poses, I stay longer than 5 breaths in some of them as the blanket of quietness descends and the practice begins to change. I let go of the need to follow the 'Ashtanga' rules and follow instead the subtle whisper of my own experience, the inner teacher: Paschimottanasana, Ardha Baddha Padma, Triang, the 3 Janus, the 3 Marichys - I do them all quietly, steadily, with a half vinyasa between each side, not just visiting each one, but entering each one...entering the inner chamber and looking around.

Coming up from each pose, I press down into my hands and lift up, intently practicing the straight leg Dandasana lift (Step 1 of a jump back), then bending knees and crossing ankles, I engage my core and do my best to draw my legs under, keeping my feet off the ground for at least a second or two while leaning forward. It's hard, its awkward, but every little bit of headway here helps to rebuild the core muscles and the mind. Entry and exit into and out of each seated pose becomes slower and slower, each one more considered and deliberate than the last.

This practice may have started as a 'move with the breath' Ashtanga practice, but it is now a research practice. Instead of being repetitive, it has become deeply responsive.

The intensity of engagement increases with each seated pose until I feel burn out set in at Marichy C. Mentally drained now - I just want to close my eyes and lay down.

So I do.

It could have been Savasana and the end of practice, but no...after half a minute, guilt got me up and going again.

And besides, I needed backbends.

Part 3: 
Salabhasana, Dhanurasana, Bhujangasana, Ustrasana and Urdhva Dhanurasana. 
The backbends wake me up and I move into the full finishing sequence, the kind that is rich and full in flavour. 20 breaths in Shoulderstand, then I marinate in Halasana and Karna Pindasana. In Pindasana in Sarvangasana  I manage to finally wrap my arms around my bound Lotus legs and clasp hands - this had been lost to me for over 3 years; getting it back today was the treat of the year.  I hold and deepen into the embryonic curl, feeling the unyielding scar tissue around my lumbar spine resisting the stretch. I breathe space into it and watch it open up.  I'm fascinated by the process.  The difficulty comes when reversing out of the closed curved position and into the open counter pose Matsyasana.  It takes some patience to get there.
30 breaths in Headstand and all the final Padmasana poses including Uth Pluthi.

Laying blissfully in Savasana I observe the energy 'pops'  just behind the bridge of my nose that signal nadi pathways unblocking. They're cute little sounds - the energetic openings are a sweet reward for this morning's perseverance: 2 hours of yoga practice on a Saturday morning. 

24 August 2012

Yigi Yigi

Didgeridoo is the spirit music of Australia, and the only music I listen to these days.  How did the red desert, the goannas, the river red gums, the black cockatoos get into my blood?

Day 2 - Saturday with Lino


Picking up where I left off, here is the post for Day 2 that followed on from Day 1:

Reverent is the word I'd use to describe my practice this morning.

Moving through primary series with Lino Miele's DVD this morning, I was transported back in time to 6am at the Ashtanga shala - the sun is about to rise, the room is hot and filled with yogis intent on their practice, faint wafts of incense float above the sweat, tribal music pumps through us, occasional soft voices chant the starting or finishing mantras, fierce Ujjiya breathing fills the air, people come and go. The room is infused with spirit, prana and devotion, and a focussed intensity.

Here I am in my large room, moving elegantly and rhythmically through sun salutes and vinyasas, alone...but not alone.

Between poses, the full vinyasas are a sacred dance, returning me to samasthiti, the sacred still point upon which the practice is built. The vinyasas encapsulate each pose with a beginning and end. Even the finishing inverted poses have a full vinyasa between them - hold shoulderstand for 5 breaths, come down, vinyasa up to samasthiti, then vinyasa through up dog, down dog, jump through, lay back to halasana, 5 breaths then roll out, jump back to chaturanga, updog, down dog, jump forward and up vinyasa up to samasthiti again etc... etc. This was the first time I'd done the full practice along with Lino and the full vinyasas between the finishing poses and back bends startled me (I had only watched a few earlier sections before deciding to take the plunge with this DVD practice).

I followed along through the practice with Lino, drishti on Him for now, adjusting some of my moves to mimic the simplicity of his style, glad to be following a Master. In time, as I become more familiar with the nuances of these moves, I won't need to watch, just listen, follow the count, and focus internally. But for now, I'm relearning the practice, Lino style.

It took one hour and forty five minutes, plus a well earned savasana after that.

Saturday afternoon was a mixture of meditation, gardening (planting more kale and spinach for the green smoothies) and walking Buffy.

Evening practice was just a few supported restorative backbends.

27 July 2012

Searching and Finding

Day 1 Friday 

A strong intention has now been set and sealed:
My bedroom has been rearranged: instead of having my bed under the window in the centre of the wall and my yoga mat in the long space next to the bed, I've moved the bed to the corner of the room and my yoga practice space is now in the middle of the room. 
It is a yoga room now, not a bedroom.

The morning was spent getting my physical environment in order: cleaning up my house, doing some shopping, washing clothes, all really part of a mental spring cleaning. 

Sipping on my green smoothie for lunch (red grapes, banana, pear, orange, pineapple, spinach, kale, spirulina) , I contemplated what kind of yoga practice to do this afternoon. 
I felt like a change, something fresh and completely different to challenge me. The hot yoga classes were a new challenge for a while until the novelty wore off. Likewise, the wrist weights injected a quick fix, so did videoing my practice.
Seems like I've been looking for inspiration to revitalize my interest in yoga practice.

I want to fall in love again.

Seek and Ye Shall Find

These phases of seeking stimulation come and go, they are a natural part of the journey, like the seasons or the ebb and flow of the tides - there are times when I need a steady, consistent and internal practice (autumn, winter?) and there are times when I feel the need to explore new possibilities, extend beyond the known horizons, play with the fresh energy of spring: that's usually when I return to a yoga classes, or look for new sequences and poses that I wouldn't normally include in my practice.

I'm aware that this undercurrent of energy leads me out into new territory; I am equally aware that the universe is often waiting for me at the other end, waiting with just the most perfect thing that I need right now to propel me forward on my journey.

Therefore I seek, sometimes in the dark, knowing that something is out there waiting for me to find it.


Youtube Yoga Videos

I checked out Youtube for some new sequences to practice with. 
Three of Sadie Nardini's core sequences looked useful - working on my deep core strength helps build support for my unstable lower back. I did the first two sequences back to back (Weight Loss and Yoga Flow) as they were only about 30 minutes each, the third one was a rather disappointing cool down sequence. The challenge of so many Warrior lunge variations satisfied my physical needs and the novelty of being led through an unfamiliar Vinyasa sequence was fun.

Not until I found what the universe had in store for me did I realise how easily I'd been seduced and satisfied with superficiality...


Lino Miele

You see during my internet travels seeking new sequences, I unwittingly stumbled upon Lino Miele's DVD1 Primary practice.

It wasn't until later in the evening that I watched bits of this and right from the first minute of watching, I knew this was it. I was spellbound.

This video of Lino practicing is the most beautiful practice that I've ever witnessed. 
Pared back to it's essential purity, with full vinyasas, all movements riding on the the waves of the breath, no frills, no embellishments, no ego.
The only verbal instructions are the quiet methodical vinyasa counts. 
The background music is hypnotic Indian chanting; the studio setting is perfect - it is bathed in a a warm orange glow (devotional colour) and light filters through etherial white curtains; the filming is non-intrusive yet every movement is clearly visible. 

This demonstration of the ashtanga primary series is so much more than inspiration for me, it is what I've been searching for. 

Tonight, having watched a a few small sections of the video, I can barely wait to practice tomorrow under Lino's hypnotic spell.

Mind cleaning

Instead of heading bush for my monthly 3 day retreat, I decided to stay at home this weekend and clean up my house, my body and my mind.

Of those three, my mind is in the biggest mess.

The plan:

Day 1 Friday - morning: housework and run errands; afternoon/evening yoga and reading

Day 2 Saturday - a morning and evening Yoga practice; afternoon bushwalk and at least 3 hours meditation in between

Day 3 Sunday - a morning and evening Yoga practice; plus 5 hours meditation.

25 July 2012

The yoga of Jesus

Abwoon is the Gayatri Mantra in disguise:

This majestic and moving rendition of Abwoon was recorded by the amazing Lisa Gerrard with Patrick Cassidy.
Abwoon is the Lord's Prayer sung in Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke.



Translation:

O, Birther of the Cosmos, focus your light within us — make it useful
Create your reign of unity now
Your one desire then acts with ours,
As in all light,
So in all forms,
Grant us what we need each day in bread and insight:
Loose the cords of mistakes binding us,
As we release the strands we hold of other’s guilt.
Don’t let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back.
From you is born all ruling will,
The power and the life to do,
The song that beautifies all,
From age to age it renews.
I affirm this with my whole being.


And another translation:

Abwûn
O cosmic Birther, from whom the breath of life comes,

d'bwaschmâja
who fills all realms of sound, light and vibration.

Nethkâdasch schmach
May Your light be experienced in my utmost holiest.

Têtê malkuthach.
Your Heavenly Domain approaches.

Nehwê tzevjânach aikâna d'bwaschmâja af b'arha.
Let Your will come true in the universe (all that vibrates) just as on earth (that is material and dense).

Hawvlân lachma d'sûnkanân jaomâna.
Give us wisdom (understanding, assistance) for our daily need,

Waschboklân chaubên wachtahên aikâna daf chnân schwoken l'chaijabên.
detach the fetters of faults that bind us, (karma) like we let go the guilt of others.

Wela tachlân l'nesjuna
Let us not be lost in superficial things (materialism, common temptations),

ela patzân min bischa.
but let us be freed from that what keeps us off from our true purpose.

Metol dilachie malkutha wahaila wateschbuchta l'ahlâm almîn.
From You comes the all-working will, the lively strength to act, the song that beautifies all and renews itself from age to age.

Amên.
Sealed in trust, faith and truth. (I confirm with my entire being) Amen.


The Aramaic word for prayer is slotha. This literally means" to trap" or "to set a trap." Thus prayer implies"setting your mind like a trap so you may catch the thoughts of God" - in other words, "to trap the inner guidance and impulses that come from your inner spiritual source." Prayer can also mean a state of mind in which we still our personal thoughts and project nothing outward, almost as if, one was receiving from within. It is an alert state of total sensitivity, attentiveness and awareness.

23 July 2012

Better than TV


Recording my yoga practice is a new fascination.  I get to watch a stranger doing yoga. 
And how weirdly eerie it is to critically observe my persona from an outsider's perspective (the hair is gross, so is the green top, the posture could improve, the face resembles a cadaver...etc...), and yet have access to that stranger's inner world and an intimate knowledge of their entire life and psyche.
I observe the transitions between poses (graceful and meditative), I see what areas of the stranger's body are open or blocked, I notice when short cuts are taken, challenges avoided, where the practice ebbs and flows, deepens or becomes shallow. 

I watch it all objectively as a yoga teacher would watch a student and make suggestions on alignment, how to untwist the torso so they don't fall out of Vashisthasana B again, how to adjust the arms and legs slightly in Uttana Padasana so they are parallel, where the body needs to release more in a twist, or the chin to draw in...overall how to soften and enjoy the practice yet maintain the steady glow of tapas.

What is important about this is that viewing my practice has provided renewed inspiration and passion for it.

For the practice on Saturday afternoon I chose Week 45-50 from Iyengar's Light on Yoga course as a very rough guide, not attempting, or even considering attempting the entire sequence from start to finish.

I set the laptop up to film, then turned inwards towards the practice.

Afterwards I made a delectable raw salad for dinner and ate it while glued to the replay, critically evaluating my yoga practice, enjoying my Saturday night yoga entertainment.
Eccentric behaviour????


From Wikipedia:
According to studies, there are eighteen distinctive characteristics that differentiate a healthy eccentric person from a regular person or someone who has a mental illness (although some may not always apply). The first five are in most people regarded as eccentric:[6]
  • Nonconforming attitude
  • Idealistic
  • Intense curiosity
  • Happy obsession with a hobby or hobbies
  • Knew very early in his or her childhood they were different from others
  • Highly intelligent
  • Opinionated and outspoken
  • Unusual living or eating habits
  • Not interested in the opinions or company of others
  • Mischievous sense of humor


I can unashamedly admit to having all those traits, except for 'opinionated and outspoken'.


The poses:

Headstand and a few variations
Shoulderstand and a few variations
Supta Padangusthasana
Anantasana
Vashisthasana A and B (I fell out of B on the second side)
Paschimottanasana and Parivritta Paschimottanasana
Janu Sirsasana and Parivritta Janu Sirsasana
Krounchasana
Akarna Dhanurasana
Padmasana with a twist to each side
Baddha Padmasana
Yoga Mudrasana
Matsyasana
Uttana Padasana
Supta Virasana
Baddha Konasana
Ardha Matsyendrasana
Marichyasana C
Urdhva Dhanurasana x 2
Paschimottanasana
Savasana


Vashisthasana A and B (falling out of B on the second side due to an obvious torso twist)


Matsyasana and Uttana Padasana

14 July 2012

Videos of my stiff practice


Below are a couple of videos from this morning's practice - the first one is from Prasaritta Padottanasana through to the Warrior poses and then on to three attempts at a handstand. 
I did balance for the final handstand before awkwardly tipping over.

This entire practice was difficult and painful - not sure if that shows from the outside. I can certainly see it in the video - my lumbar looks stiff, my bum sticks up in chaturanga, I'm only getting halfway down into the bend in Utkatasana and the warrior lunges....ugh.

The morning was cold, the room was cold, my body was cold. Being at the tail end of a bout of the flu, my lungs are glued up with clag which has gotten into all my joints. This morning's stiffness didn't ease up as the practice went on. Wanting to keep moving to warm up, I only stayed a few breaths in each pose which made it even more superficial and disembodied. I didn't want to be challenged or stretched today, so my mind wasn't present in my body, it was sulking somewhere else in silent rebellion. Every pose and every vinyasa was laboured. 



It's been a while since I did any yoga, a week and a half I'm ashamed to say.  After getting back from the solo retreat, I came down with flu, though not as bad as everyone else at work.  But it has kept me protective and inactive, and rest has been paramount.

After the handstands, I did Paschimottanasana, Purvottanasana and Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana, then a short backbend sequence culminating in ONE very stiff Urdhva Dhanurasana.   It felt awful, but good, if you know what I mean.

So no surprise that this morning's practice was a short one.

Later in the day I got back to the mat for a 7 minute headstand and a shoulderstand, then continued on with a few supine abdominal poses, three passive backbend variations with a block, and some cross legged forward bends.

Some days it's a struggle just to overcome my desire to NOT do yoga.
















3 July 2012

Solo Retreat - Day 3

"All true wisdom is only to be found far from the dwellings of man, in great solitudes."
- Knud Rasmussen

Retreat - Day 3, Sunday 1st July 2012

I wake at 6.30am and watch the sunrise, a gentle tangerine glow over a black treetop canopy.

A crow lands on a nearby bough, caw, caw, caaaaaaaawww....I slither quietly to the toilet before the surfers next door emerge into hangover heaven.

Back in the warm tent I slide into meditation.

It comes easily as I let go into the exhilarating descent like a surfer, or skier, riding wild, my mind softening to go with it, no need to harden, or grasp for the known, or try to control, just flow.
Delight arises within my solid but light filled body.

This feeling only comes after meditation hours have accumulated - surely there must be some kind of scientific ratio of sitting hours x time; like this feeling just doesn't arise with 7 hours of meditation over 7 weeks, but it will arise after 7 hours in two days.

My face is warmed by sunshine entering the tent between thick patchy clouds. Body and mind settle, condense and quietly glow, my spine delicately realigns itself and I feel the release of subtle tensions, and cells rejoicing as they sparkle in freedom. Breath is silky smooth, mind alert. From inside this space I'm able to pierce through thick layers into a vast expansive and raw reality - it's wild and primitive in here. I long to BE this Truth.

Wind swirls through the treetops and a fine shower of rain scatters upon the tent, then passes. A single bird twitters, whistles, tweets, chatters, in a delicate and complex language,  individual words and syllables precisely articulated in joyful birdsong. Other birds interject, but this one bird is both the maestro and the court jester, he's the bard singing the story of the wind and the rain.


Digestion meditation

Breakfast is coffee, half a banana and a few spoonfuls of yoghurt. 
I sense the yoghurt molecules being absorbed by my upper palate, somehow cooling my brain long after the rest has been digested. 
In a meditative state it's easy to sense how agitated the body becomes during digestion - my breath is faster and deeper, sucking in more oxygen to fuel the digestive processes, hormonal release sparks frenzied physiological activity as they run riot through my bloodstream - I watch with subtle senses the cogs and wheels spinning, the amazingly intricate functioning of this human body. 




Moon meditation 

At 12 o'clock I rise from morning meditation, walk outside to stretch my legs, and gaze up in search of the moon. I can't see it. Thinking it should be a little lower in the sky than yesterday, I scan the entire sky spectrum, squinting, frowning, annoyed at the patchy cloud cover obscuring her. After 5 minutes, I give up. She's elusive today.



I need to study the moon positions more closely.

I want to know her more intimately.

Lately I've found a clandestine comfort in my growing awareness of the moon; her stealthy movements are predictable, she'll always be somewhere in the sky, even when she's on the opposite side of the earth.

Looking up into the sky seeking the moon, and by chance glancing upon her shadow light, my human presence turns into myth; I'm teleported outward into deep space on invisible wings. It's like stepping beyond the flames of an open fire and entering a timeless dimension.
Primordial elemental fire energy - or primordial elemental moon energy.

The moon connects time from our ancient past through to the present, and future.
She was born to be with the earth, she is earth's secret admirer, always there, revolving around her soul mate, always following, ever present, circling.


After lunch I return to sitting.
I have somehow become moony, mystical, female, liquid energy.
I breathe long, full moon breaths. They revolve, in and out.

Obsessed with the moon, I am caught up in her magick spell and cannot meditate.

Sometimes the mind goes where it's never gone before, and stays.