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How to Yoga Festival: Reflections on the Bali Spirit Festival, 2014

20 Apr

I was so lucky to be involved in this year’s Bali Spirit Festival.

Mandala

In the past few days, I’ve been reflecting on what made this festival so enjoyable – aside from the incredible people and program, of course. Like most things, I can see how much my attitude is the key.

1. Let It Go

Bali is one of those places that will give you what you need – and for all you sticklers for time and control freaks, this festival is an exercise in surrendering. Yup, it might rain. You might get muddy. Motorbikes won’t observe the road rules you know from home. Meals might not come out at the same time. Roosters will wake you. Gamelan will play. But the Balinese will smile hugely at you, the hot weather will help your body open and you’ll learn more about who you are in life than you ever thought possible.
And don’t worry, we’re all sweaty. Gimme a hug.

2. Patience

Those crazy paths wending through the festival are the bane of my life when I’m rushing. People stop at any given moment to chat, hug, think about whether they’re in the right place…When I’m in a hurry, I feel my jaw clench, my elbows set and my feet stomp. All it takes to get around that is a little sideways step. Yes, sometimes into mud, but that’s also going to slow you down and make you walk mindfully.

bruce-lee-water
3. Be Adaptable

You can’t be in two places at once. (Unless you’re one of those astral travelling yogis, in which case you should definitely run sessions at next year’s festival. Simultaneously.) Sometimes the class you desperately wanted to join is full. Being able to let that go and try something you would never have tried otherwise could open you up to a new style of yoga or a teacher who could change your life. FOMO doesn’t serve anyone.

4. The More You Give, The More You Get

If you’re working with a partner in a class, give them your everything. Pay careful attention to your teachers. If you see trash on the ground, pick it up! If you see someone frowning, give them a smile. There was a woman in Jamie Catto’s workshop who shared something that touched me deeply. I stopped her and let her know. It made her day. Minutes later, I was being fed delicious Sacred Scoops icecream by a generous friend. I don’t usually think Karma works that quickly, but it certainly seems to here!

Ferris Bueller Life Quote

5. Stop. Appreciate.

Take (at least!) a few minutes each day to stop and drink in the delicious madness that is the Bali Spirit Festival. Look where you are! Drink in the green! Curl your toes into the grass and stretch your hands to the sky. You’re in Bali! You’re surrounded by conscious, amazing humans who are as interested in yoga, dance, music and connection as you are. Drink it all in.

bali-spirit-festival8

 

Bali Spirit Festival: Transforming Shadows with Jamie Catto

27 Mar

When I first met Jamie Catto, several years ago, he told me to “stop fucking apologising all the time!”

Jamie Catto 2

I was shocked. This guy had come to teach one of those touchy feely workshops, or so I thought.
It turns out the very things that shocked me about Jamie have become the things I most admire: his refusal to stand on ceremony, his directness and his honesty have all helped me have major breakthroughs.

Jamie was one of the founding members of UK band Faithless and has collaborated with dozens of musicians: Michael Stipe, k.d. lang, Gita Mehta and Michael Franti to name but a few. He’s currently working on a project with Ram Das. He also formed the double-Grammy nominated, global music and film project 1 Giant Leap and its sequel What About Me? with Duncan Bridgeman. It was during Q & A sessions for the films that Jamie would be asked countless questions about his personal philosophies and what he had learned travelling to 50 countries and interviewing some of the world’s greatest thinkers and leaders.

The results are these workshops: explorations of creativity and exercises to spark personal breakthroughs.

This workshop encouraged us to examine our discomfort. Jamie certainly doesn’t mince words and I could see eyes widen when he challenged people. This is not handholding and playing nice: “Stop being so f*cking appropriate!”

Jamie has a bone to pick with spiritual practice that encourages people to only look towards light or happiness. His argument is that everyone has devils AND angels inside them and that to deny one or the other is to deny our very humanity.

“If you try and amputate the dark parts because they were the only bits that got love and approval and inclusion, those other parts of ourselves, if they don’t get oxygen, they’re going to find their food somehow, somewhere – and it’s usually in a self destructive, sabotaging kind of way if we’re in constant suppression and denial.”

“But if we’re on a journey of accepting other people’s darkness and light, they’re forced to accept their own darkness and light and everything can be felt, everything can be included in safe ways.”

The workshop shows us some of those safe ways. Over the course of three hours, we connect deeply with other members of the group, examine our discomfort at doing so and take a good, hard look at our inner critic.

JamieCatto 1

I’ve taken Jamie’s workshops many times now and I’m shocked every time at what emerges during his sessions. My favourite part of the work is the examination of the mirror. The old adage that what you hate in other people is something that lives in you is something many of us resist. It’s almost comforting  to have the permission to accept these parts of ourselves. After all: they are already there.

“All the darker ways and darker appetites, they’ve got to be experienced in ways that don’t harm us and other people. So playing, creativity is a great way, writing a punk rock song, characters in literature, stories, fun sexual, consensual practices. Find ways to play games with the children, being a clown… There are many ways you can allow the darkness in that aren’t harmful, but it has to have some kind of base in our lives, even if it’s really weird thrillers and watching horror movies. Whatever is your thing. But it has to have some sort of expression, otherwise it’s going to find it’s expression in a way that you don’t choose.”

And, as Jamie says, it’s healthier to examine our shadows.

“Every part of ourselves we bury and hide away and try and disown and try to amputate turns into illness. It has to find expression somewhere. All parts of ourselves are alive and if you try and cut off life it just grows moss and mushrooms and it just becomes ill life. Cancer is a form of thriving life, it’s just negative, buried, disowned in the darkness, mushroomey kind of life instead of free flowing life.”

马年大吉

5 Feb

“Best wishes for the Year of the Horse” 

Year of the Horse

The water snake is out, the wooden horse is in.

The Chinese Lunar New Year has just passed and whether you follow astrology or not, it’s always nice to have a little reset, especially if you have lost some of the new years’ momentum.

What? I’m starting my new year now!

neil-gaiman-cartoon

Susan Levitt says the Wood Horse year is “a time of fast victories, unexpected adventure, and surprising romance. It is an excellent year for travel, and the more far away and off the beaten path the better.”

NBC News consulted with Feng Shui master, Chen Shuaifu, the 61-year old chairman of the Chinese Feng Shui Association.

He says Sheep, Tigers and Dogs will have a good year. As a Rooster, I’m supposed to enjoy “excellent luck” this year. Works for me!

For all zodiac signs, Chen says 2014 should be the year to travel: “Horses are legendary for their ability to run long distances on great journeys,” he says.

Chen urges those born in the Year of the Horse to be especially mindful of your eyes and hearts this year.

So if your start to the year has been sluggish, get on board! Start again! Plan some travel!

It’s never too late…

YouCanAlwaysBeginAgain

Image

Happy Australia Day

26 Jan

1st Dog Australia Day

Happy New Year!

8 Jan

I’ve been debating how I want to celebrate the opening of this year…

Today I read a journal entry from the remarkable Neil Gaiman that summed up perfectly what I’ve been trying to get at.

NEIL GAIMAN 2014

“I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you’ll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.

And for this year, my wish for each of us is small and very simple. And it’s this: 

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

Here’s to mistakes, growth, creation and a delicious 2014 for all of us.

xxx

How to Add Gratitude to Your Day

18 Nov

I was so moved to hear this talk by Louie Schwartzberg.

Beauty In Nature

It is such a great reminder that there is a world around us, waiting for us to notice it.

That a moment of presence, of gratitude, can profoundly affect our mood and our ability to connect.

“Beauty and seduction are nature’s tool for survival, because we will protect what we fall in love with.”

Take a moment today to look at the sky.

New Melbourne Class!

29 Jul

The amazing folks at Grass Roots Yoga have invited me to take a master class this Thursday night (1st August)

We’ll get to christen their new studio space with some super Shiny Happy Healthy flow!

You can sign up on their page  or email lovely Shannon: shannon@grassrootsyoga.com

Come get warm, flowing & bendy!

Yoga Love Heart

This 1.5 hour class will feature a strong vinyasa flow practice, working towards some of those tricky arm balances & inversions. Learn how to break them down to interim steps that you can take into your practice and work up to.

Challenge what you think you’re capable of and realise that all poses are possible.

Come to sweat, expand your practice and move with a smile.
Date: Thursday 1st August, 2013
Time: 6.30pm – 8pm
Location: Level 1, 84 Inkerman Street
St Kilda in the new flow studio / studio b
Cost: $28 non members / $25 members

The Art of Giving

21 Jun

If you’ve ever been to Ubud, you might be familiar with the cafe conversations.

There’s a LOT of talk: some existential, some gossipy, but mostly, there are a lot of people here trying to work things out.

This particular topic – “giving” – is definitely something that comes up amongst yoga teachers and practitioners: how can we reconcile the giving nature of our professional work with the demands of our lives and the people around us?

Giving to Others

So, I was delighted to read this piece by one of my favourite yoga teachers, Shakti Mhi.

As usual, she doesn’t pull any punches, but her teaching is straighforward and illuminating.

You can find more of her wisdoms at Prana Yoga College.

GIVING
by Shakti Mhi

 I was sitting in a beautiful cafe in Bali, hearing over my shoulder a young woman complaining to her friend, “I keep giving and giving and giving so that now I feel completely depleted. Now it is MY time to give to myself.”

Many of us had or maybe have the feelings we give too much to people in our lives. As a result we may feel: depleted, empty, consumed, exhausted, drained etc.

The question is, do we really give when we “think” we give?

Giving is an action.

Pet Peeve

In general there are two types of giving.
The first one is an action that comes with the definition of “giving”. In this case, “giving” is trapped in time and space; it has a beginning and an end. It has a reason. In this type of “giving”, the giver is fully aware that she gives.

Because this type of giving comes with a reason, often we as givers hold expectations for certain outcomes and recognitions. On top of it we do not let go of “the giving”. We hold on to it, we write it down in our invisible little inventories of giving and every now and then, like bookkeepers, we make all kind of calculations around our giving

We calculate:

How many times we gave against what we received?

What did we get as an exchange to what we gave?

How much acknowledgment we received for our giving if at all?

Was the recognition we received for our “giving” in the right proportion for what we gave?

And it goes on and on…

Giving

 In the above category of “giving” it could be us as parents that keep reminding our children how much we gave them by sacrificing ourselves and our lives for them and how little we receive as an exchange.

It can be us as lovers complaining to our partners and spouses how much we gave them and we got very little in return.

It can be us as friends becoming bitter for “being always there for you but when I needed you, you never showed up.”

 In other words, when we give as the above we do not let go of the action of giving; we keep holding on to the action as if we own it.

The other way of giving is a selfless giving.

It has nothing to do with us. Giving goes through us, we manifest it without ownership. It is a giving through service. You do what needs to be done and no trace of it remains in you.

As a metaphor for the two actions of giving :

You are walking on the street and there is a small rock sitting in the middle of the way that you are aware can be a hazard for people that may stumble on it. So you move it to the side and you keep going with no trace of thought about it.

OR

 After you moved the small rock to the side you write your name on the rock, in big letters, so every one knows you are the one that did it.

Then you stand beside it and anyone that comes by it you let them know you moved the rock to the side for their benefit. When some people do not thank you or not appreciate your action you get disappointed and even bitter and you tell yourself that you will never do such thing again as people do not deserve your “giving”.

 To the people who didn’t return your gesture of giving the way you expected they will, you keep reminding them about the rock and compare it with the little they give you as a return.

True giving

As spiritual seekers we should have a commitment that every day we give more than we take, as giving through service is the greatest way for taming the mind and ego. When you give as a servant you become secondary, it is not about you anymore, it is about the universe. And the universe may present itself as a cat or as a dog, or a person you do not know, your children, or your lover, or the person that stands beside you in this moment.

One of my brilliant students asked me: “So how do you know you give more than you take if you are not supposed to hold an inventory of your “Givings”?”

Well, if you constantly feel depleted or in doubt or you are full of heaviness while you give to the world then you know your giving is lacking in giving. In this case giving is more of an enhancement for your state of being a victim.

When you give as a service without owning it, you flow on high frequency energy. Your heart may be heavy from time to time due to circumstances, but never your spirit.

***

Leave Your Job Today

17 Jun

The brilliant Jamie Catto strikes again…

Jamie Catto

I’ve been slowing down recently. Something about living with Raisa Breslava who’s rhythm is uber-presence and slow sensitivity, or perhaps it’s all this focus on ‘full-body-listening’ and exploring all the creative genius that ’emptying and listening’ can deliver that has made me realise:

a life fully lived at the correct pace simply leaves no time for a job.

I’ve been slowing down and I notice that the amount of time it takes to chop and peel the fruit in the morning, to eat or drink it consciously, appreciating every mouthful and every taste as if it’s the first time I’ve ever tasted it – to be present with my whole body, not just the sensations in my mouth but my whole body, as my genius system of tubes and chambers delivers and harvests the nutrition – then washing myself slowly and gently, unhurried, limb by limb, stroke by stroke –…

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Why Definitions Are Limiting You

7 Jun

I’m back in Bali.

Back amongst the green, the aroma of incense, the bright skies and cuddling humidity.

Not a bad view for a yoga space...

Not a bad view for a yoga space…

Being away from Australia, giving myself this time, always gives me the space to reflect.

I’m remembering a conversation I had recently with a lovely older friend of my parents.
“So what are you doing with yourself these days?” he asked.

“Oh, I don’t know,” I laughed. “Run around the planet helping people discover how to be more joyful?”

“Yes, but what is it that you DO?”

“Well, I run yoga retreats and teach workshops and classes,” I said. “I write articles. Sometimes I sing. And sometimes I work as a broadcaster.”

“So are you a journalist or a yoga teacher?”

“Both!”

“But what’s your discipline? What are you focussing your attention on? What are your goals?” He actually raised his voice at this point, as though I wasn’t hearing him properly.

I had to say to him that it was all those things, because for me, they’re all expressions of who I am. They use my skills in a way that feels meaningful.

You are Not your job

I’ve done some big “achievements”: I bought property at 25, was engaged, won some awards, had some really cool jobs, interviewed important people.

I was still pretty dissatisfied with my life. With myself, in general.

I also know I can go back to that if I want. I can set myself strong goals and work solidly towards them. I can be focussed and ambitious and can work 70 hours a week. Give myself a title, a definition. I know I can. I’ve done it. It’s sometimes still a struggle for me to stop working before something is perfect or complete.

I’ve just arrived back in Bali to assist on a beautiful retreat run by Melbourne yogi, coach and counsellor, Belinda Bailey. This woman walks her talk.

She’s gathered a remarkable group of people who are ready to dive deeply into themselves, to learn to set intentions and how to “juicily relate.”

When I’m here, teaching this stuff, or supporting someone who is, it takes me out of the world of “what do I do” and puts me into “what is needed in this moment?”

Chuck Palahniuk put it beautifully:

“I want out of the labels. I don’t want my whole life crammed into a single word. A story. I want to find something else, unknowable, some place that’s not on the man. A real adventure.

A sphinx. A mystery. A blank. Unknown. Undefined.”

Can you honestly say you’re just a teacher? Or a lawyer? Or an electrician? Aren’t you a son or daughter? Maybe a parent? A lover?
Patient? Kind? Happy? Sad?

We are able to choose ourselves in every moment. Putting a name to who it is that you are, based on what you do, can put you in a little box. Or maybe it can make you  feel like you’re standing on that little box. Do you judge yourself for your title? Are you judging other people because of theirs?

Forget What We are

So to answer the question truly?

My goals are to be happy, calm and centred.  To feel as though I’m making a difference in the world. My focus is to be connected, to love and be loved. To show people the ways I’ve been making that happen in my life – and show them how it can make a difference in theirs.