Forget about enlightenment.
Sit down wherever you are
And listen to the wind singing in your veins.
Feel the love, the longing, and the fear in your bones.
Open your heart to who you are, right now,
Not who you would like to be.
Not the saint you’re striving to become.
But the being right here before you, inside you, around you.
All of you is holy.
You’re already more and less
Than whatever you can know.
Breathe out, touch in, let go.”
The first leaves are morphing to colours of autumn in the southern hemisphere. In a few weeks the street we live on will burst into flaming shades of red and auburn and magenta, adding yet another filter to the landscape of the Blue Mountains. Mother Nature holds our attention with her nonchalant ways of always being in flux. She captivates us with her sense of humour in impermanence. Tide in, tide out. Water carving rocks. Every single moment is one of creation, sustenance, dissolution. If we stay quiet enough to notice...
Wabi sabi. The Japanese Zen Buddhists coined this term to describe the acceptance of transcience and imperfection. The aesthetic is the beauty of which is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete - the order of nature.
In Sanskrit, the word Purna: meaning fullness, wholeness, perfection, as it is at any given moment.
The universe's celestial architecture functions on the premise of this law. Perfect straight lines do not exist in Mother Nature. Her canvas is filled with squiggly lines of skies and mountains and trees and rivers and streams and rocks and leaves. These manifestations serve as a constant reminder of the passage of time. Nothing in nature possess perfect symmetry and everything has to be taken as it is, with all its cracks and warts and uneven shades. Still nature has an order. The order in which no 2 sunrises or sunsets are the same. The order that moves through the wind that whispers in the peaks and valleys, through the pelting of raindrops, through the pounding waves and flowing streams...
The only place we find straight lines is in human dwellings. Take a walk through any metropolis and take in the geometrical wonders of the skyscrapers, Stand amidst the towering buildings and marvel at the engineering ingenuity of the human minds. Tune into the static humming of the electricity running through cable lines, the heaving of generators and airconditioners compressors, the honking of traffic, mobile phones ringing…
"The order of Nature never moves in straight lines but basic human logic does. Nature creates perfect order from chaos. Human logic creates chaos from order. Nature was an indirect thinker…” ~ Sam Ovens
The application of yoga in therapeutic settings is still a relatively new field in the realm of modern healthcare. Its magic lies in the approach in bringing the body-mind into homeostasis - a state of moment-to-moment balance, by recognising the body-mind as an eco-system. Contrast this to the problem-solving, symptomatic methodological tactics of the western medical system - which has its place in playing an important role in saving human lives and preserving mortality.
In Yoga Therapy we observe the energetic qualities that arise in the experience without judgement. We recognise the three-dimensional, living, breathing, complex, messy creatures that we are instead of seeing our body as mechanical parts. There is no form to conform to. It is not about what we do but how we do it. Yoga Therapy is a non-linear science and a sensible art form with its roots firmly grounded in the order of nature. The focus is on the process, not the end result. It honours the body, instead of trying to conquer it.
This approach brings about the embodiment of everything that makes us whole. It is the awareness that spans beyond the frontal lobe of logical reasoning. Awareness is a cellular knowing, a witnessing that takes into consideration our personal context but being able to move past the storylines.
This work is labelled self-inquiry - the inward process of uncovering this blueprint, to uncover a timeless consciousness that is woven into the tapestry of our body-mind. It stems from a deep desire to explore, to surrender to the truth that what makes us whole does not exist outside of ourselves.
My hope is to bring the understanding of this work to as many people as possible. Especially in a time where as a species, we are starting to forget that we are not walking-breathing-thinking-doing machines. We are not a container of parts that make up the whole. We cannot "fix" our ailments and suffering by popping pills and acquiring things.
We need to slow down. Be still. See the interconnectedness of our environments, from within to without.
As a yoga practitioner for almost 2 decades, my foundational practice in Anusara Yoga has provided me with a solid map in understanding the musculoskeletal system in functional movement. And with that map, I’m now exploring the terrain - on how to embody the creative interplay of all the other systems - our fascia, organs, glands, fluids, brain! The complex universe of our body-mind is full of squiggly lines and bio-rhythms that echo the eco-systems of Ma Nature!
This year I’ve “re-labeled” the yoga therapeutics trainings I’ve been facilitating as Embodiment Modules to provide more clarity in communicating both my personal evolution as a practitioner, as well as my professional development as a therapist and educator. The Embodiment Modules will explore applications from my study and practice in areas such as the work of Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen’s Body Mind Centering® in somatics, embodied anatomy and developmental patterns; Thomas Meyers’ Anatomy Trains in functional movement and fascia intelligence; as well as the applications of classical yogic philosophy in Yoga Therapy in the lineage of Krishnamacharya . They all speak of the same thing - that every one of us possess the innate capacity to heal if we learn how to listen deeply to what our relationships are telling us, from within to without.
Going forward,Yoga with Daphne’s embodiment, therapeutics and bodywork offerings hopes to cater to:
I’ll be offering my first 100-hour immersion and training this year in 2 separate 6-day 50-hours modules - back-to-back at the gorgeous earthy space of Maladhara Eco Retreat in Chiang Mai. It will be a 2 week deep inquiry into the intricacies of our unique blue-print, coupled with plenty of soothing restorative and hands-on practices to calm our oft-frenzied mind and body. All these while imbibing in the soulful nourishment of healthy food, good company and the squiggly wholeness of northern Chiang Mai.
I’ll also be back on the road from May onwards after a 4-month post-surgery hiatus.
City workshops & TTCs for the next few months here
And finally, a little plug for my multi-talented better half. He never ceases to amaze me with his creative wonders, from photography to music making to album productions and now to publishing his series of books on positive living! Check out his “All it takes is an hour” series here
"There is a natural order and harmony to this world, which we can discover. But we have to feel it in our bones, in our hearts, in our minds"
~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
~ Phenomenal Women, Maya Angelou
Many people asked me why I generally don't give direct answers when I teach, why are there no formulated fixes to Yoga Therapy, why do we have to keep doing "inquiries" which have no goals other than to observe...
Maybe some of the answers are here ~
This is an excerpt of an article called Conscious and Unconscious Dialogue from "Sensing, Feeling, and Action" by the ever-inspiring Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen.
“One of the principle characteristics of my teaching is that I tend to teach both to the unconscious and to the conscious in the student. For example, when I present an exploration in class, as soon as I feel the “mind of the room” resonate the consciousness or mind state central to that exploration, I’ll move on the another exploration.
The moving-on might be premature for people in the class who did not recognize consciously that they were in that mind state or exactly what that mind state was. They knew something happened, but they had no ides what it was.
My intention in teaching this way is so that what people have learned unconsciously will come out later in the circumstances of their own lives. I sow the seed so that they can continue to learn at home. It might not come to them for a year or two, when all of a sudden they have some realization of their own. That way there is an excitement about discovering something themselves, rather than is being just another piece of information that has been given to them. I try to slip in under the consciousness, while still giving people enough of the conscious experience so they can recreate it in some way or be able to keep that doorway open until the information comes through by itself, through a personal experience.”
Christmas eve 2017, a cool summer night in the Blue Mountains. I’m back home to wrap up the year… and while I await the arrival of my other half to come home just before the clock strikes midnight, I sit here with my thoughts in the quiet of night.
Year-end is when searching questions are asked. It’s that time of the year where we give ourselves permission to momentarily believe in reindeers and unicorns, elves and Santa, perhaps pause for a reflection or two. These moments create a space where we can indulge in the excitement of uncertainty, celebrate the fears we have had to keep at bay most of the functional year, and revel in the brimming promises of the new year. We can ask big questions, 'fess up on what we could have done better, untangle our hearts and minds from the vines of shackling thoughts and beliefs, and find courage to hit a reset button in our life.
This year I battled with a number of debilitating illnesses, from a sacral-iliac joint injury to a viral infection that hit me like a landslide crushing me into the deepest trenches, a discovery of a genetic blood disorder, and finally a decision to go under the knife for the first time in my 42 years in this body.
This year I moved to a foreign land and experienced the true meaning of solitude. I confronted bouts of anxiety and shadows of depression. I was broken and put back together many times over.
This year I learn that gifting myself the option of being vulnerable brings me clarity and resilience.
This year I had to let go of belief systems and conditionings that were the cornerstone of my yoga practice and teaching.
This year I’m humbled by the sheer joy of having good mental and physical health. I learned, through so much of my own resistance and ego shattering moments - that awareness is gained through deep and sometimes difficult self inquiry coupled with relentless practice in what we preach. I learned, heartbreakingly, to first acknowledge that it is easy for us to run away from the moment we are dealt with any discomfort, but we often end up treading on a hamster wheel of made-belief volitions.
As the wise ones say, life is a journey that is often times shrouded in darkness, interspersed with light. When we honour the duality of shadow and light we see that they are two sides of the same divine coin. Too often we get caught up in chasing the light that we spend the rest of our life running away from our own shadow.
In our current internet finger-swiping era, we tend to live our lives like we know it all, and if we don’t, google is there to help. No-thing should be left in wonder because we’d create a fix for every known problem. We expect life-changing, transformative understanding at every point, reflected in the current smorgasbord of intellectual, spiritual even emotional pursuits on offer.
In the last year many people have asked me what made me decide to take a seemingly “pointless” approach in the style of yoga I’m teaching now. Why don’t I facilitate the much more physically challenging and ego gratifying, sweat inducing, endorphins loaded practices anymore? Why do I choose to go out on a limb with a slow, somatic, process-oriented, experiential, inquiry-based, why-am-still-trying-to-feel-the-connection-between-the-arch-of-my-foot-and-my-pelvic-floor methodology that can be infuriating for the quick modern minds and bodies waiting to be pumped? Why don’t I just teach the set poses to do for this condition or that injury, or better still, on how to get into that handstand? How can "planting a seed in the subconscious” be therapeutic??
Mary Taylor, a well respected teacher of the Ashtanga tradition, wrote in a recent blog about teaching yoga -
"People will always try to put you on a pedestal, to simplify their path into one that avoids the necessity of not knowing. All of us as students go through phases where we want the shortcut - someone to do the work for us, a path that doesn't require courage, patience and insight. So as teachers we need to carefully hold space for our students - providing enough support for them to stay grounded without imposing our own ego-driven agenda onto them. This means that as teachers we need to stay awake so that we don't identify with other's projections "
I also read somewhere lately that we need to allow oneself to swim in the sea of uncertainty, and in those moments, we’ll be touching reality; that we don’t have to understand all things, and that the end of every thought process does not have to be a conclusion.
As I delve into my own evolution as a human being and inquire into the many roles I play in this lifetime, particularly in my work as a yoga teacher, these are now the searching questions that I ask: how do we first create equanimity and honesty in our own relationship with ourselves? How do we recognise, allow/accept, investigate and not-identify (quoting the RAIN practice by Buddhist teacher Tara Brach) with discomfort? Can we develop equanimity with this body, these emotions, these thoughts, the very experiences of pleasure and pain? Can we then recognise the same self in others?
Come January I’ll be facilitating the third instalment of Yoga with Daphne’s therapeutics and bodywork residential immersion. This will be the last training before I take a little hiatus to go into surgery and recovery. I'm very excited about facilitating this intensive from the inner work and studies I've done the last year. If you’re looking for a way to understand more about mind-body connection, neuroplasticity, yoga therapy, trauma & mental health etc., as well a foundational framework to apply this knowledge therapeutically for self care and in holding space for another through movement and bodywork, please join me in this week-long inquiry, set in the charming UNESCO heritage old town of Luang Prabang. I fell in love with this special place with its gorgeous natural landscape and rich cultural offerings when I first visited in July.
May peace be with all this holiday season.
There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado.
Dam a stream, and it will create a new channel.
Resist, and the tide will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry you to higher ground.
The only safety lies in letting it all in -
the wild with the weak; fear, fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of the heart, or sadness veils
your vision with despair, practice becomes simply
bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your known way of being,
the whole world is revealed to your new eyes.
~ Danna Faulds, “Allow"
It’s 5 o’clock in the evening and the thermometer gauge on our front door tells me it’s 10 degrees celsius. The last light is hanging on to leaves in the trees in our yard, and the wind picks up a blended whiff of lavender, rosemary and budding spring flowers in the southern hemisphere... another cloudless sunny day in the Blue Mountains coming to a close.
It’s been almost a year since we packed up our little bungalow in Chiang Mai, left our idyllic much-ado-about-nothing Thai life behind to pursue other life opportunities in Australia. Packing, moving, unpacking, adjusting, house hunting, furnishing a new home, celebrating, mourning, holding on, letting go, accepting, resisting, surrendering… There were times when it felt like I would bump my head into every corner I turned, and every shimmer in the distance felt like an ad nauseum joke to trick me into thinking there was light at the end. The past 12 months has challenged me in ways I had never imagined. It forced me to show up each day when I just wanted to pull the blanket over my head and stay there for eternity. It pushed me to look really hard at how I could possibly grow as a human being, if I can truly be authentic and resilient.
I looked everywhere for answers but none came close to satisfying my cerebral mind. The heat from the summer dissipated, the leaves changed colours and fell to the ground, flooding our front porch with shades of brown. The ceaseless rumination followed me through the cold misty winter. I found myself clinging on to mere shreds of hope… till my mind gave up, and so did my body. In June, I battled a debilitating winter fever, a severe virus infection, and a toxic migraine. I crouched in front of the heater trying to warm my bones in futile, breathing hurt my ribs, any mental activity shot spasms into my skull. I prayed for an easier way out...
I came through the other side 10 days later, I felt a little lighter, my vision a little clearer, and a little voice telling me to just put one foot in front of the other, that life is still happening, and living needs to be done.
Onwards, I set out on my next round of teaching engagements back in the warmer climates of Asia, along with Frank my skeletal companion. Though I was still weak from the recovery, I knew I would be nourished by doing what I love, meeting new people and reconnecting with old students. However, I was as excited as I was nervous, because things were different this time round. My body has changed, my life experiences have thrown me curve balls, my understanding on the practice of yoga as a healing tool has morphed into an approach that is no longer about fitness and the best selling yoga high.
No longer armoured with a bag of tricks labeled “the Universal Principles of Alignment”, I decided to relinquish the handstands, the backbends, the rip-roaring hip openers… for seemingly goal-less somatic practices: spending hours uncovering breath patterns in the body, observing how our feet are turned, sensing our viceral organs, moving from our kidneys… we only work on processes, no peak poses, no quick fixes, no sweat-induced endorphins from copious amount of contortions and gravity defying postures… and no straight answers.
The late Sri TKV Desikachar said to “Look at our relationships” when taking stock of our progress in the practice of the living tradition called Yoga.
I told my students we are doing this so we can understand our underlying conditioning and holding patterns, investigating through our own relationships with our body & mind, so we can form relationships within the environment we inhabit in - both macro & micro. I explained that when we can inquire into the Why, the How's and What's and When's and Where's will fall into place.
7 weeks of presenting relational inquiries from Laos to Singapore to Vietnam, via translations in some settings, in as much as I could give justice to the language of embodiment in English. I jumped through hoops and stumbled on hurdles. I needed to convince others as much as myself on this quest for truth, so I kept refining my approach as I soldiered on, sitting in hotel beds poring over teaching notes, reflecting on feedback, making changes to sequences, language, timing, and then laying out the mat to practice till its time to head into class again…
Upon my return back to Australia, I went straight into the next module of Yoga Therapy training in Sydney. As much as I was exhausted from teaching, I wasn’t sure whether I was quite ready to spend 2 weeks being a full-time student. My body yearned for rest, my head felt like there was no room left for anymore input…
If “synchronicity” was the best thing that a fatigued person needed for a boost, then it happened on that first day of the training - stark in bold on the projector screen that morning - “We as yoga therapists require - radical humility, an open, inquisitive mind, and a high threshold for divine insecurity.”
Our work begins when we inquire into our intuitive hearts, within which there are no assumptions, no projections, no pre-conceptions, no thoughts. We are a clear channel as therapists / teachers - we hold a space where change is permitted to permeate, in its moment to moment preciousness. We offer a haven through our wholehearted listening, we embody humility by showing up fully - because authentic expression comes from witnessing the cosmic play of light and shadow.
As I settle back into life in the Blue Mountains this spring, I hold within me a divine knowing that I’m on the right track - that our measuring device lies not in the answers we seek but in our courage to give up certainty. When we surrender to the sanctity of all our sacred relationships with life, we can tap into the immense power of our own healing - peel the blanket off of our face, and let the light in...
Furthering my study and work in somatic education & Yoga Therapy, I hope you can join me on my next sojourn - Moving from Within, in the last quarter of 2017 & beginning of 2018.
Immersions / Retreats
November 7 to 12: Yoga & Bodywork as Therapeutics Foundations (24-hours CEU), Yogarden, Koh Samui, Thailand
January 22 to 28: Yoga & Bodywork as Therapeutics Teacher Training (50 hours CEU), Luang Prabang, Laos
November 17 to 19: Yoga Therapeutics Applications: Working with Chronic Pain & Injuries (12 hours CEU), Yangon Yoga House, Myanmar
November 25 to 26: Moving from Within: Inquiry, Embodied Anatomy, Bodywork (10 hours CEU), Wild Rose Yoga, Chiang Mai, Thailand
December 3 to December 15: Private Bodywork & Yoga Therapy Sessions, Singapore
December 9 to 11: Yoga Therapeutics Applications (25 hours CEU), Outta Hatha Yoga, Singapore
Stay tuned for more details!
“As we increase our knowledge of ourselves, we increase in understanding and compassion for others.”
~ Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, founder of Body Mind Centering®
Today is Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere - the shortest day, the longest night. Yin trumps Yang. Pause. Reflect.
I woke up to a sunny, cloudless, windy morning. Being mowed down by a strange virus attack the past week, I got out of bed feeling almost human again.
I could feel my feet on the ground. I can breathe with almost no pain in my ribs, I can take another step forward without feeling the world closing in on me. The ceaseless pounding in my head seem to have dialled its screech down to just a dull static too.
Sickness can make days feel like decades, and pain can make minutes feel like eternity. My teacher tells me that Suffering = Pain + Resistance; and resistance is the story lines we create from the pain, which can easily build themselves up into epic dramas.
Solstice comes from the Latin words - sol, which means Sun, and sistere, which means stillness and incidentally, is “sthi” in Sanskrit - the root word for steadiness or stability.
Today is also International Yoga Day. And to honour these 2 auspicious occasions falling on the same day, I invite you to sit in the quietude that is right here within us in the eye of storm. Marvel at the power of our emotions. See how we can release, transform, or accept them.
Yoga teaches us how to suffer with an open heart, and a quiet mind.
During the Yoga Therapy training last week, an overarching theme revolving round how we handle deep-seated patterns (Samskaras) to bring about change and healing to our body-mind.
Pema Chodron spoke of a profound Buddhist concept Shenpa in her talk Positive Groundlessness: The Freedom to Choose Something Different. Through an understanding in the impermanence of all things in essence, and the ability to relax into this knowing. She offered a 3-step tools whom she deemed as "difficult", but with practice, will help in not setting us back into our habits / patterns that keep us trapped, to not get stuck in the status quo or our perceived comfort zone, and to revel in the "unknowing" of it all.
Awareness (Jnana) ~ to notice when we get "hooked"- the baits, the triggers (expectations, fear, assumptions etc) that led us to believe that the rug is being pulled from under our feet, and our conditioned reflex to "fight/flight" by reacting with judgement, blame, anger, hate, even towards ourselves.
Desire (Iccha) ~ A desire to change - simply noticing or becoming aware isn't enough if our default ego-driven response still goes "Yes, but..." A solid willingness to transform (Tapas) has to goes beyond superficial cognition, but also somatically. When the mind closes, the body contracts, and vice versa. Being able to allow our mind-body to stay open in challenging situations and self inquiring into the status quo can fundamentally change our behaviour.
Action (Kriya) ~ A life-long practice to keep coming back to this groundlessness in our words and actions. To keep falling flat on our faces and getting up, to not let our sense of righteousness drive us into believing that being right is more important than being love, to let our bleeding hearts crack open as we fall, and to allow this sense of groundlessness be the womb in which kindness and compassion flourish.
“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man's-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. ”
~ Pema Chodron
There is so much speak revolving around alignment in the modern yoga world... so many jargon on where to place our hands and feet and rotate shoulders and turn pelvis and engage our core... to somehow conform to a set of universal rules to make our yoga body instagram worthy, and / or to fulfil some teacher's or lineage's perception of what is "correct".
As I delve deeper into understanding my own body, trying to make sense of the decades of habits and patterns intrinsic to my genetic make-up, lifestyle and conditioning, I've discovered a whole new terrain in uncovering movement patterns that are simply unique blueprints of our essential being, honouring who we are individuals, and melding into the universal sentience that is already within our innate consciousness.
As a movement teacher and therapist, this also means facilitating, encouraging, allowing, welcoming, and most importantly, not obstructing the flow of deep, self-manifested movement patterns to rise up from within, creating the space for inquiry, for practitioners to re-discover their own strength, balance and healing... Our moment-to-moment perfect existence, aka alignment.
"To unleash our life force, maybe even change our course, we can choose to consciously turn towards the brilliance of intelligent life. Unguided, self-movement (which is not directed by anyone) bubbling up from deep within is elemental for becoming integral. Valuing how intrinsic this self-movement is for supporting our quality of life, we can look no further than the river. Like the river, we too are part of a larger earth and cosmic life force. We are not inanimate (body objects) lacking perception and volition. We cannot achieve good posture by simply correcting, stabilizing, or objectifying. Rather being human, we must become flowing expressions, animated by the movement of the inner sea, the underground springs, and the outer planets…fluid, dynamic, ever changing, a life force… if you will"
~ Liz Koch on Core Awareness
It's been almost a year since I officially launched Yoga with Daphne as a RYS for teacher trainings & continuing education in the ever blossoming community of like-minded yogis and practitioners. I hold within my heart an immense amount of gratitude to everyone who has offered me immeasurable support in the evolution of my practice and teaching, especially in light of the big move from Chiang Mai to Australia.
As my teaching schedule now revolves around periods of my own retreat into studying and preparation in our little quiet cottage in the Blue Mountains, and then hopping on planes to facilitate intensive workshops and trainings in various places, there are days and nights of quiet solitude when I'm just sitting in a room poring over books and research papers, writing manuals, and being on my mat, waiting for the next breath to happen...
I have been seeking deeper answers into what I'm actually bringing to the table to offer practitioners, students, and the community as a whole. What do I want to embody that is also in line with my own evolution as a yogini, a teacher, a human being trying to be the best I could be, in every moment, one breath at a time...
Movement. Inquiry. Embodiment.
Cultivating the inquiry into how we inhabit within our body.
How do we truly listen - deeply, without judgement?
How do we relate / react / respond to the people, elements, environment?Facilitating the art of movement, through our embodied soul, through ceaseless inquiries into who we are, why we are, what we are, how we are, when we are...A deep dive into the essence of our being which is beyond just our doings. A quest into seeing how we are simply and deeply connected in this intricate flow of life, where reality begins and ends.
How then, can we live, love, cry, laugh, dance, sing, embody, die...
Our body is a treasure chest of information that we can tap into to move with more ease, less injuries. With a mind-body holistic approach, this work promotes wellness and self-care through inquiry and deep listening, and not a one-size-fits-all go-to quick fix. It is work for the curious, the inquisitive and the courageous. What is it like to let go of old beliefs that do not serve, to completely embody our true essence as a living spirit, to be a human-BEING instead of a human-DOING?
"Between stimulus and response there is a SPACE.
In that SPACE is our POWER to CHOOSE our response.
In our response lies our growth and our FREEDOM"
~ V Frankl
Logo "embodiment" designed by Jesi Kah
I've shared this poem by Thich Nhat Hanh in a couple of my classes... and just a few days ago at a yoga therapy training in which I had the good fortune to be a student, someone in class asked how do we bear the incredulous suffering of people afflicted by war, poverty, diseases and unimaginable circumstances which are just too overwhelming for our heart to bear and mind to comprehend... how do not turn away from the pain...
How do we keep coming back to seeing all beings as the same - the same divine energy in a million trillion zillion forms. How do we keep our hearts from closing, our minds from contracting? How do we keep coming back to recognise that beneath the shattered dreams, the broken hearts, the the seething angst, the steel cold fear, ... is our capacity to keep coming back home - to empathy, to compassion, to deep listening, to unconditional love - hidden in the most unspeakable, horrid shells, waiting to be cracked open?
Don't say that I will depart tomorrow--
even today I am still arriving.
Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive.
I am a mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river.
And I am the bird
that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.
I am a frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin a bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.
I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.
I am a member of the politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay
his "debt of blood" to, my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.
My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up
and the door of my heart
could be left open,
the door of compassion.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Yoga does not remove us from the reality or responsibilities of everyday life, but rather places our feet firmly and resolutely in the practical ground of experience. We do not transcend our lives; we return to the life we left behind to transform it into something better ~ Donna Farhi
2 years ago I re-directed my globetrotting, wanderlusting mode from outward adventuring to a more inward-looking home life. It was the year I began life in the 40's, when the term "mortality" is no longer a far-fetched word reserved for "old people". Something shifted from within me to pause and ask what "living life to the fullest" really means. And if there are other ways for me to satiate my appetite of living life experientially. So I laid down my travel-weary heart and planted my feet more firmly into studying the connection between our mind-body, why we need to, and how we can inquire into the nature of reality as we experience it. It has since facilitated the inner geek in me to delve deeper into understanding the way our human body functions and how we relate to the world, which include intrepid personal introspections, in conferring with my shadows without running away to new places to meet new friends and sample exotic foods… I know I have to face my own neurosis and trappings in order to be an advocate in what I want to facilitate, i.e being able to help people deal with their fears and sufferings, into how our storylines become trapped within our very own visceral bodies.
As human beings, we are ultimately seeking more peace, more bliss, more freedom, in our moment-to-moment existence. In this digital age where everything is literally available at our fingertips, we are ever so much more inclined and accessible to instant gratifications, including medications, substances, and other escape strategies for our discomfort.
It is easy to put a bandaid on pain and confusion and suffering, even when we know we are trapped in the same patterns – be it in our body or mind (and as we will explore in this course, are actually one and the same), for years, for decades, for lifetimes. We rather bury our heads in the sand, we run away the pain, and we look outwards for somebody, something to fix us, and it keeps tripping us over. We are too conditioned, too lazy or too stubborn to change…
Self-inquiry has existed since human civilisation. and we are at a revolutionary juncture. Yoga and bodywork are becoming game changers in questioning and uncovering the ways we inhabit our body-mind which is essentially our relationship with the environment. It is challenging how we experience reality. What blows my mind, is that it makes perfect existentialistic sense to begin altering our root behaviour through recognising and understanding the organisational pattern of our body, the functional patterns of our mind, and the intricate interconnectedness of our consciousness. All this can be done through a holistic approach beyond Prozac, traditional talk therapy or cognitive therapy.
My teacher Richard Freeman said, “Yoga is a one way ticket”. There is no going back once we open the door to uncover how our microcosm is intricately woven into our macrocosm. However, there is work to be done. As yoga teachers and therapists we are working with other human beings who are dealing with their own discomfort, pain and trauma, storylines… We need to learn the tools to that will bring about change. So many dis-eases are lifestyle and behavioural driven. Yoga professionals are in for the long haul when we possess an insatiable hunger not just for knowledge, but also in embodiment, so that we can walk our talk and bring to the table true healing and transformation.
Healing is not about erasing memory or desensitising, but really it's a transformative process. It is a portal to spiritual awakening and also to spiritual disciplines. People come to really learn to meet their shadow, to process it, to let go, and to move into a more empowered, more open life ~ Peter Levine
Yours, in wanderlust,
"Medicine is great at changing chemistry, but it is lousy at changing behavior...We have to get better at it. But this is basically our realm: How to change behavior or to change movement, which is behavior... If yoga teachers are only talking about energy and how everything is connected, then they won't really get a seat at the table..." ~ Tom Myers, author of Anatomy Trains.
Check out this article ~
For many years my self practice has always been a morning ritual. It is a launchpad to my day. It sets the tone and gives me more focus, awareness and ease to move through the day.
In the last month, I have shifted my practice time from the start to the end of the day - not for any spiritual or timely auspicious reasons, but simply to work around Rod's work schedule so we can spend more of the day doing things together (e.g, he doesn't have to wait 2 hours for me to have breakfast!)
What I thought was going to be a jarring change to my practice rhythm brought about some unexpected insights.
So this is a little tribute to honour these solitary evenings on my mat, the moving backdrop of dusk into moonlight, saluting the changing of light, into the embrace of a deep dark silence - within and without.
The magic hour happens around 8pm in the summer season of the southern hemisphere. The distant sun drops into the western valleys of the Blue Mountains. On clear days when the clouds are white and fluffy, the tungsten light turns the leaves on our mulberry tree gold and copper. On cloudy days, a seeming million shades of amber and magenta and pink colour the sky, cutting through the evening mist. I drop into the sweet aching of the body as it stretches and rolls and flows with the ever expanding breath. Then it all melds into the dwindling light, birthing night. The sun surrenders in grace, making way for the moon to reflect its magnificence. Day submits into night as seamlessly as the inhale succumbs to the exhale, neither one regards itself more vital than the other. The sun and the moon and the dance of the inner breath..... And at the moment the last light yields, there is no regret. The night welcomes the next breath, the body remains as the moving conduit between earth and sky. Beneath the darkness lies the vastness of peace, where fears are only shadows lurking in the moonlight, where demons play hide and seek just so we can see through the humour of the game called life, where hopes for tomorrow seem to await in eternity but there is little hurry to leave the present moment. In the endless night sky where clouds shroud the moon, where stars speckle across infinite galaxies, I am only dust.
New year's reflections …
On the last day of 2016, I was home bound, for the Blue Mountains, Australia. In many ways, it wrapped up this chapter of my life as I watched Doi Suthep and the city diminishing from my window view. I had been been so lucky to call this place home for over a year. And in hindsight, perhaps my subconscious had the uncanny romanticising instinct to pick the last day of the year to cross continents, so I can bid a reflective farewell to another full year of living and learning... while the new year and chapter of life down under beckons with more promises of adventure and insights.
So there I was, crossing time zone in the air, my heart brimming with emotions that it is trying to contain, my skin still tingling from the goodbye hugs from friends whom I know I will see again, in time.
As I let my restless heart quiet amidst the drone of the the aircraft, I put down some reflections in words to consolidate some thoughts.
1. I am thankful to have had the privilege of living a charmed life in Chiang Mai, to enjoy the pleasures of a simple life amidst friendly locals, a colourful international community, and the most amazing food available at any time of the day / night.
2. I feel blessed to have had the spaciousness in my heart and mind to manifest a year of important breakthroughs for my passion to flourish. I've learned, shared and facilitated soul connections with like-minded people, culminating in the completion of the first ever Yoga with Daphne teacher training this December.
3. I am beholden to many kindred spirits from around the world for all the well wishes, kindness, and heartfult support I have received, especially through challenging times. Thank you for bearing light in my dark hours and for being unabashedly true in your friendships.
4. I found clarity through the understanding that spritual bravery is about choosing truth over ease, to take full responsibility for our own growth and transformation so that we can in turn offer the same freedom and love to people around us.
5. I have never been more touched, by the power of surrender, on the importance of being able to take refuge in our interconnectedness, of trusting our hearts more than our minds, of seeing our own trials and tribulations as sacred lessons in divinity, in the rawness of this very life we live. When we expand rather than contract, we see that love will always trump fear.
6. I couldn't have asked for a better partner and accomplice who has been steadfastly standing by me, a soul mate who will alway challenge me to be the best that I can be.
May 2017 bring forth more magic, more love, more connection, more truth <3
Note: I wrote this post last week but have been holding on to publishing it …. partly because it is a very raw articulation of my state of being … anyway, I decided to share it cos who reads blogs anyway? ;)
November 17, 2016
“Dear Uncle Leonard, Did anything inspire you to create ‘Hallelujah’”?
Later that same winter day the reply arrived: “I wanted to stand with those who clearly see G-d’s holy broken world for what it is, and still find the courage or the heart to praise it. You don’t always get what you want. You’re not always up for the challenge. But in this case — it was given to me. For which I am deeply grateful.”
From My Friend Leonard Cohen: Darkness and Praise, NY Times
I have been in the Blue Mountains now for more than a month... Moving from the familiarity and warmth of Asia to a new terrain, climate, culture, history, rhythm of life, not to mention the changes in lifestyle, social relationships, even the mode of transportations, have been both exhilarating and painfully jarring for my mind to adjust. As a self-professed seasoned traveler, I thought I was well setup for this big move - mentally, emotionally. The physical acclimatisation is just a matter of time. Well, much to my own surprise (and demise), the transition has been harder than I thought.
Starting with the never-ending feat to NOT be cold, I also miss the openness of an international community of like-minded friends, the ease of hopping onto a motorbike for a yummy hot bowl of Khao Soi, the affordability of a laid-back lifestyle, the friendliness of the Thai people, and the list goes on... Even though I've always embraced solitude, I have somehow lost myself in a deep sense of loneliness, cut off from the familiarity of things, places, and experiences that I could usually turn to when I needed a refuge. I found myself confronted by an unsettling discomfort, as my deep seated attachments and conditioning started to reveal themselves in words, behaviour, mood swings… I projected my ideas on the way things should be, how people should think or act. My mind came to a juncture where I could no longer run away from the fundamental question - of whether I am ready for this change, digging deeper into decades of upbringing and neurosis. Can I truly let go of the way I had been seeing the world, everything that I have identified with the person that I am, the roles that I play in my life, the things that were supposed to make me happy / content? Can I release my clinging to "everything will be just fine if I just have this or do that…"? When I realised that my routine of nature walks and yoga practice have now become means of distractions from having to deal with the constant nagging restlessness . I had no choice but to own up to myself.
There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in… ~ Leonard Cohen
From "Anthem", Leonard Cohen
What happens when there is too much light? Can I just close my eyes, shut out the light, and stay in the pretend darkness?
Recently a student asked me, why, after she has decidedly, consciously, chosen a more peaceful lifestyle to live without strife, to practice yoga and surround herself with "Sattvic" (balanced) activities, is there still so much suffering to deal with?
As a yoga practitioner, a "conscious being", aren't we awakened to a higher consciousness to be in bliss and equanimity all the time? Why are we still hurting from things not being the way they SHOULD BE? Why are there still so many consequences to bear?
I know now that every ounce of pain is a projection of the perspective my mind / ego has chosen to take. The key word is "chosen".
The cracks = the SHOULD BE's that our mind attach to, they give form to how we subsequently perceive people, things, phenomenas. We have these pre-formulated pictures of what reality should be, what the future should bring, how people should behave, even how we should react... And when the "Reality" of these can't quite come up to scratch, we contract - into sadness, anger, frustration, blame and fear. Disconnected, disillusioned, disappointed, we get wrapped up into the drama of our storylines, which for some lucky "awakened" ones they now also include the dilemma and conviction that we "shouldn't" be "attached, angry, confused, sad , because we should be able to practice what we preach (on awareness, non-attachment, chit ananda or blissful consciousness).
It becomes a vicious cycle - the more we ask ourselves to be "aware", the more we we lose grasp on the context of truth. We become ever more entangled into our web of emotions we can't run away from. We put people into boxes and we label them as being fair or unfair, good or bad, nice or annoying... We forget that no one owes us a living, and get this - no one is responsible for our happiness / peace of mind / contentment. How we react / respond to the actions of others is our karma, and what other people say or do are their own. There is nothing and no one to fix, not even ourselves. There is only awareness, to be present with it all, light and darkness, broken and perfect.
When we treat yoga, meditation, engaging in "mindfulness" activities as ways to postpone the tenderness of our broken heart, instead of seeking the truth, they are no different to turning to people, food, drinks, other pastimes or substances... As long as we treat any types of "therapy" as a form of escape then what matters isn't the activity (Sattvic or otherwise), but the intention.
Are we putting a blindfold on to block out the light?
To transcend suffering into grace is to step deeper into inquiry, into the infinite web of all that is manifesting in this moment of reality, even if it's not what we thought it should be. To see this broken being in its beauty and perfection beneath the stark light, pure and unfiltered...
May we have the serenity (and patience) to stop resisting change.
May we have the courage "suck it up" and keep walking our talk.
May we have the wisdom to not fix the cracks, so we don't lose the light.
I don't consider myself a pessimist. I think of a pessimist as someone who is waiting for it to rain. And I feel soaked to the skin ~ Leonard Cohen
A cool 13 degrees (celsius) greetings to all on this sunny mid-week October afternoon in Katoomba, Blue Mountains. Reporting from my 5th day here in my new home base, decked out in woolly scarf, jumper and beanie :)
The sights here are one to behold for a Singaporean girl who grew up in an urban jungle. There are spectacular sandstone cliffs and rock formations, jaw-dropping valleys and dramatic mountain ranges to muse over. We have been greeted by cherry blossoms on our daily walks. - a spring season specialty here! The only perplexing question that's been on my mind the past days has been how to keep my tropical toes from freezing! Any advice welcome!
Just after I turned 41 in August, my partner and I come to a decision to move to Australia to continue our quest in pursuing our passion and goals in love and in life. The last 2 months have seen us through many challenges and we have gained new insights on what matters most. This decision brought about a consolidation of our hopes and fears, putting into practice what it means to let go (or let be) of things we cannot change, calling forth a load of faith in trusting what will unfold, and mustering a hell lot of determination to keep our sights on the big picture - the WHY's of we are doing what we do, so we can handle the what's and the how's that's come our way.
We have also received so much grace in this process, from people who keep supporting, encouraging and giving us strength when we need. A big heartfelt Thank You to the people in Chiang Mai, Singapore and Australia who have been lending us a hand, feeding us, offering us a roof and a bed, giving us hugs and kind words, and just being there when we need it most!
I hope to keep paying it forward. To keep bearing the light for people around us to see that we are so intimately connected not only in collective numbers but simply from one to an"other". We can only thrive on this planet if we can keep extending kindness and abundance... not just from a place of the privileged to the less privileged, but to see another's suffering and happiness as our own, because we are just beings moving together between darkness and light. We nurture our inter-connectedness by letting the light in through the cracks, and knowing that no hearts are more or less broken than our very own.
One of the ways in which I would like to pay it forward is through Yogamour Global - a non-profit organisation dedicated to seva (selfless service) in providing healthcare and support to communities in need in India, Myanmar and Northern Thailand. I'm currently supporting their Backpack Project and am calling out to all to help support in providing personal hygiene items for children and teenagers in need. This include dental kits, school uniforms, lunar pads for teenage girls, clean underwear and socks etc. Any amount of contribution would go a long long way! Please click on this link to see how you can help.
I will also continue to integrate the Yogamour Seva outreach into my upcoming projects for the rest of the year and going forward...
My focus on teaching and sharing in the last year has morphed towards a more integrated practice of body-mind connection through therapeutic tools, including yoga, somatic movement, trauma healing as well as intuitive bodywork. After 2 weeks of giving some pretty deep one-on-one bodywork therapy sessions to a handful of high-paced city-dwellers in Singapore, I'm even more certain that I'm on the right track in my exploration to help provide these tools for anyone who's looking for more ease, less pain in their daily life.
If you're looking for the perfect winter getaway, there are a few more spots left in the upcoming Yoga Therapeutics & Bodywork Immersion I'll be offering in Chiang Mai this December. This is a residential retreat that will nourish the body, mind and spirit.
If you're a teacher looking for more inspiration in weaving practical living wisdom, yoga philosophy, and more subtle awareness practice into your teaching, this will be an immersion that you'd like to check out. I'll also be offering a mini weekend intensive at Wild Rose Yoga, Chiang Mai on December 10th / 11th.
The Yoga with Daphne Online Mentorship Program is also another avenue to help new and existing yoga teachers find inspiration, directions and practical advice for teaching, and to equip practitioners with more tools in providing healing for themselves and their students.
I'm giving myself some leeway to settle into my new home down under, and will provide more updates on upcoming workshops, retreats and immersion for 2017 in the coming months.
Finally, I would like to share this quote I've recently heard on a talk that Ram Dass delivered ~
I slept and I dreamt that life was joy.
I woke and saw that life was service
I acted and behold that service is joy.
In service of the joyful heart,
Sending sweet post Autumn solstice (spring for those down under) love to all!
Reporting from my last days here in Chiang Mai, taking in the monsoon season in the bursting lush green that the rains have brought about. I'm wrapping up my life in the little sanctuary on the outskirts east of the old city, trying to make time amidst the teaching and packing to savour another steaming bowl of Kao Soy (northern Thai curry noodles), and saying goodbye to the good people here before I leave.
It's been 8 years since I left my home country Singapore. I nested in Cambodia, Philippines, Vietnam… travelled through Europe, before anchoring in Thailand, and in a few weeks' time, I will be calling Australia home, together with my partner.
While I'm super excited about our new adventures in a beautiful new locale, it's also bittersweet to bid another farewell to a place I've called home for the past 15 months. My partner and I met on a beautiful hike here 2 years ago, and when we decided to build a life together, Chiang Mai has offered me nothing more than grounding and serenity after being on the road.
It was here that I followed an inner beckoning to slow down and turn inwards, to take a pause from the insatiable wanderlusting. I uncovered an endless stream of treasures through self-study and reflections, and realise that to be a better human being and teacher, it begins from within.
This is also where I've built deep bonds with a heart tribe of people who are shamelessly passionate in learning, teaching and sharing, so that we can help ourselves and others… I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
2016 has been a landmark year of professional growth for me as I decided to step up my game to offer continuing yoga studies under the Yoga Alliance registered program, Yoga with Daphne. This in turn manifested a structured platform for me to create on-going workshops, retreats, trainings and mentorship programs with more continuity for practitioners. I'm also delighted to have connected with Yogamour Seva, a non-profit organization that I'm supporting, who inspires yogis to take our yoga off our mat and into the world in the form of selfless service to foster health and wellness initiatives in India, Myanmar and Thailand. Please do click on this link and check out how you can help in terms of retreat, donations, or even teaching :)
So now it's upwards and onwards… I'll be entering the spring season in the Blue Mountains down under, to continue to create magic and wonders. May the universe keep throwing wonderful curveballs to propel our growth!
The world will keep spinning, so we can't take anything nor anyone for granted. What matters is to be kind, be humble, be tolerant, and to always walk the talk.
Before embarking on my next chapter, I will be passing through Singapore for some reunion time with family and friends, as well as offering therapy sessions and a series of Mind-Body workshops this coming weekend in the little red dot so please join me if you're there!
October 1 - 2
Click here if you would like to learn more on how to practice yoga and movement safely and with awareness ~ Yoga Therapeutics and Bodywork workshop series.
Part of the proceeds will go towards Yogamour Seva's backpack project in providing personal hygiene items for underprivileged school children in Myanmar, India, and Thailand.
October 3 - 14
Click here if you're looking for a private session of Yoga Therapy, Yoga Massage, Cranial Sacral Therapy to soothe your body, mind, spirit!
Intensives & Retreats: Save the Dates!
If you are a yoga teacher / practitioner looking for a more in-depth study on the healing modalities of yoga, movement and bodywork, I will be returning to Thailand in December to facilitate a series of workshops and a 35 hours Yoga Therapeutics & Bodywork Immersion that would also go towards your Continuing Education Units (CEU).
Dec 10 to 11
Melding Alignment & Yoga Philosophy into Practice & Teaching: Weekend Intensives at Wild Rose Yoga
(more details soon on website and Facebook)
Dec 19 to 24
Yoga Therapeutics & Bodywork Immersion at the gorgeous, one-of-a-kind Maladhara Eco Retreat
Christmas Movement Festival with my good friend and somatic savant, Tara Eden, & other wonderful body-mind practitioners at Yoga on the Hill!
(more details soon on website & Facebook)
Hope to have the good fortune to catch up with some of you before this extraordinary year closes!
"Savasana (the corpse pose) is being without was, being without will be. It is being without anyone who is" ~ BKS Iyengar
In Buddhist teachings it is often said that we are born into this world to learn how to die (by learning how to live).
Fearlessness is not about being unafraid. It is the courage to show up even when we are terrified, so that even death is just another moment to come into.
Let the journey on our mat be an exploration of our shadows and how we can let go of our fears (or let "be" ~ tat tvam asi). Can we see through the play of light and shadow, let our minds slow down, and come into harmony with our hearts?
Most of us come into yoga practice seeking "bliss", a sense of well-being, connection and wholeness in mind, body and soul.
So we work our bodies, we breath more deeply, we "let go" of the drama that's going on in our lives...
What happens then when we step off the mat and into "real life"? What are we still carrying? Do we continue to feel disconnected? Have we left the bliss behind?
Ananda is not about chasing the "high" of the practice, it is learning how to come "down"... it isn't about holding on to a "feeling of completeness", once we cling onto something we suffer... And it certainly isn't about becoming "an enlightened being", because any identification with being "somebody" immediately separates one from others...
A spiritual practice of any form helps us cultivate the witness that sees all as phenomena - the unfolding of story lines, the identification of an "I". We learn to appreciate our own uniqueness without being better or worse than someone else. The witness sees the judge - the seat of our ego, and offers it compassion but not power.
The practice is on creating spacious awareness by being in the presence of clarity, the perfection of it all within this very moment, the essence of Ananda...
No one says it's easy ;)
*Rock & meme design by Dejalulu
I've been dealing with a certain level of stress for the past months. With the support of my partner and the encouragement from friends, I stepped up my game as a yoga teacher. I completed my registration with Yoga Alliance, as a school to provide teacher trainings, and rolled out the first retreat under the program in August.
There were a myriad of challenges and emotions that came up whilst doing this. Many of which were my own judgements, attachments, and projections. I finally decided that the best thing to do would be to hold off doing the retreat. I needed to take a step back to get more clarity on what was actually happening, before embarking on the project again.
Ram Dass often writes, that the way to conquer what the ego mind is feeding us, is to make it the servant and not the master. In order to train the mind to recognise its place, we must first understand what traps us, how it traps us and why it traps us. He says suffering is grace...
It is a lot of work. I'm constantly tripping over and finding myself starting over, because it is easier to just allow emotions to take the reigns. It is easier to let our minds drag us into a thick soup of anger, fear, guilt, shame, despair. We get buried by an avalanche of emotions and we can't come up for air. We can't be quiet enough to separate the present situation from our past regrets, or the nervous future.
So we let attachments and fears dictate our reactions. We reject the notion of letting things be in the flow, because to follow the path of least resistance is often to wallow in judgement and blame, in self and in others. And the harder we try to push these "negativities" away (because it's the "right thing to do") and find justifications for our less than desirable reactions, the more we contract and separate from being one with the universe, being connected to the beings we care for, being Love.
And my partner (aka in-house guru) often lovingly break these things down into processes so I can see the bigger picture of what truth really is, instead of just projecting my own feelings outwards into the hands of others, and making them responsible for my state of being.
So this is my work now. To keep practising opening my heart, and allowing it to break over and over again. To understand that it's not about pushing away pain but to be with the suffering, and act from the place of equanimity - not indifference nor vindications. To polish the mirror of the heart, and see truth from the place of Love.
(Thank you Rod, for always being my lightbearer)
Many people in the community I cross paths with, speak of the Law of Attraction, generally summing up the idea that by focusing on positive (or negative thoughts) we can bring about similar correlated experiences into our life. Even though I do not dispute that there is always a greater energy that can manifest or block "what we think we want", there is a loophole in this belief system that I can't quite wrap my head around, and that is ... where is the intention / goal / desire / want, coming from? The mind or the heart? And do we really know what we want?
I think this misconstrued belief of supposed "positive affirmations " could potentially create narrow-mindedness, self-centredness, blind faith, and discourage self-inquiry of a deeper truth ~ what is it that we REALLY, TRULY, want or seek, from the HEART, without attachment or aversion to the outcome?
During my last trip to Singapore, I checked out a Spiritual and Healing Festival, and was invited to sit in on a talk on "How to fast track enlightenment and manifest material success at the same time”, (which to me sounded more like an MLM sales pitch). There is also the well-known (infamous?) book / film The Secret, in which the author (and spiritual business guru) helps one "uncover" the "law of attraction", and make the claim that positive thinking can create life-changing results such as increased happiness, health and wealth. This book includes the suggestion to 'not observe overweight people if you are trying to control your own weight'. So, does the Law of Attraction then create more separation than connection? More fear than compassion? Are we acting from how we want things to be, rather than how they are? Are we focusing more on the outcome and lose sight on the process, the journey itself? Does it then make it harder for us to accept things when the result doesn't pan out the way we want them to be? How do we account for this then? Do we blame others, or do we place judgement and shame on ourselves?
I always believe that the Universe does give us what we want, but it's usually not served on a silver platter.
My partner (and my personal in-house guru) calls this the Law of Creation instead, where the shifting of our perspectives eventually creates the reality that we have initially set our heart (and sight) upon.
Let's elaborate a little more ...
Our conscious mind, often times being our ego centre, "sets the intention" - mostly it conjures the image of attaining a goal, to change a habit / pattern, to become someone (usually better). In a yoga class, it is also not uncommon for the teacher to ask students to "set an intention", sometimes called a "Sankalpa" (a one-pointed resolve to do and achieve) for the practice. In a dynamic Asana practice we can often see students pushing themselves to get into a handstand, an arm balance, a deep backbend etc...
"Forming an asana is talking to God", quoting Ram Dass.
When we are on the yoga mat, we are having a conversation (or multiple conversations) uncovering our true self. We are finding out who we we truly are - the body, mind, spirit meld into Oneness ... However, the ego frequently interjects with a bigger authority (than God even), because we are not able to quiet the thinking mind. When we perform a pose, we are in a state of flux - trying to find the subtle balance between two polarities. One extreme being the comfort zone, and we may not coming close enough to experiencing real transformation if we always choose to rest in its habitual familiarity. The other is pushing the edge too far when we become fixated on "getting there" and in turn lose sight on the journey itself. Usually, the surefire way of losing the battle is when we try too hard to “achieve", which can often lead to injuries because we are not mindful of how we are getting in or out of the pose. Even if we succeed in performing the pose, we quickly move on to the next thing, the next big pose, and we forget the lessons we've learnt on the way.
"Yoga is Skill in Action", Krishna said to Arjuna in the beginning of the Bhagavad Gita, when Arjuna became confused and disheartened by the notion of having to step on the battlefield to confront his enemies (some of which were also his family and teachers). This is also when Krishna began to impart Karma Yoga (the Yoga of Action or Work) to his protegé, and in turn, uncover Jnana Yoga (the Yoga of Wisdom or Awareness), and to offer his actions / work to a higher purpose (Bhakti Yoga).
When we roll out our yoga mat and stand on the battlefield, we begin a journey of self discovery. The chariot is our body, manifested in material form to perform the actions (poses) or Karma, and undertake the challenges to fight the demons (our ego, habits, patterns, conditioning). Our ability to decide how we want to move into the next pose (if and when we choose to take the form of which) is the Jnana, or wisdom / awareness in discerning between what is real and what is truth. We then make the necessary decisions on how and where to place the chariot. However, it is only when our actions and our knowledge stem from a deep rooting in the ability to surrender to a higher purpose, i.e learning from the lessons (and the failures), enjoying the process, seeing the dissolution of separation through compassion, finding transformation through our own trappings, and being quiet enough to listen to the flow, the law of nature... to see oneself in it, can we then see our own perfection, our very own Skill in Action.
So when we roll our mats up and wander into the "real" world, we see the "Play" of creation, the "Lila" of consciousness. By shifting our perspective (i.e "Law of Creation) to the present moment, we can embody our Skill in Action. We can start to rise up to our challenges in a way that is effective because we act from a place of equanimity and love. We can see with more clarity when we are less attached to our ego desires, unclouded by our judgements... and fully welcome the fruits of our actions, whether they come serve on a silver platter or on a sheath of banana leaf ...
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself”.
On my last week of another teacher training, this time somewhere in Hubei Province, China. We're surrounded by lush green bamboo and pine trees, rolling hills and valleys of running rivers and farm crops. The past 2 weeks we've had, have been chock full of rain and sunshine. The humidity, breath, body heat and perspiration of 33 bodies moving in synchronicity becomes the rhythm of life here at the retreat centre.
Holding space in an extended and intensive learning journey for others is a privileged and honorable mission, and one that I undertake as a learning journey for myself too. I try to find time daily to reflect and take stock, so I don't get too wrapped up in this bamboo haven, and get too absorbed into being a "teacher".
The contemplation usually begins with - how has each person, including myself, chosen to react or respond to this journey today. What has shifted? Not just in terms of information that is being taught within the curriculum, but the whole experience in its entirety. What was transpired, transmitted, and transformed? What is still stuck and rooted deeply? Most of us are so entrenched in our conditioning. In a culturally homogeneous environment such as here, one is always told to conform and see the teacher/teaching as the absolute. How do I, as a teacher, stay humble, and continue to be a light-bearer? How does one effect change so that yoga becomes an exploration that goes beyond how many certificates one has collected, or how many followers on social media, or how perfect a handstand is.
I pull apart what I observe, through the students, through the people within my current universe of this bamboo utopia.
I looked within my own learning as a teacher, I looked at my own resistance, my own conditioning, my ego.
What came up consistently over the last 2 weeks is ... The battle with Fear.
Fear is a big bubble of fragility that we live within. We fear the unknown, the unchartered territories... so we stick to formulas. We fear shame, we fear baring our vulnerability of others discovering our weaknesses, that we might know less than they thought we do. We fear disapproval if we don't conform. We fear being human, we fear we will never succeed, that we will never have enough. We fear our desires, afraid of what they might bring forth. Fear feeds upon itself, until we’re afraid of the fear, without even knowing why we fear.
Fear gives us our identity of who we are. Fear forms the barbed wire that keeps us locked within our ego. Fear is always coaxing us to cling on to instant gratifications. Fear gives us license to not own our truth. We place fear on a pedestal, and make ourself its servant. Through fear, we deny our sufferings, we deny the gifts of forgiveness, of letting go, of grace. We turn a blind eye to see the whole, we forego our capacity to gain awareness and expansion, we reject LOVE.
If we can just take a step back, see beyond our root of fear - our ego. We become quiet enough to see the nature of all things. There is a softening, followed by a cracking open of the shell that keeps us within. We shed the veils, the armour that we put on to protect us from fear itself. For a moment, we give up the idea of who we think we should be and what we think we should / shouldn't do. We stop denying and allow the process of suffering to become grace. We let our heart burst wide open and let go of what's holding us back.
Let's see what this new awareness would bring about. Let its beauty unfold.
Living in the modern age of connectivity, we are constantly stuffing our minds with "things" to fill in the "void" within us. We are so afraid of the emptiness that silence and stillness might bring up once we have a moment of "nothing to do". We open our eyes, and our hands reach for the smart phone to check in with what we've missed out the night before, we turn on the TV and let the images flicker and the static drown out any awkwardness we might feel about ourself. We go to work and have meetings and chatter and gossip about nothing at all. We collect information to feed our minds constantly, especially when all the voices in our heads are screaming for attention. And when the work day is over, we continue to fill our heads with trivia at any possible given moment, scrolling through endless news feeds and food photography...
"We act as if the human intellect were a runaway monster which must be fed continuously at all costs." ~ Ram Dass
I am guilty of this too. It's so easy to keep finding "something to do", even in-between little pockets of time so we can be "productive" and "efficient". Sometimes the biggest challenge is to give myself a reason to slow down and do absolutely nothing... un-tether myself from my phone and devices... free up the social calendar, sit quietly, and just listen. Listen beyond the clutter of stuff that I've been trying to push away, listen to where they are coming from, go into the dark corners, clear out the cobwebs, and let the light in...
Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.
New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.
When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:
How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening in conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.
A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.
May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.
May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.
~ John O’Donohue ~
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Yogini, Movement Facilitator, Yoga & Bodywork Therapist, Wanderluster, Homemaker, Student...