Tag Archives: surrender

When Are You Coming Back?

4 Jun

“Here is the crux of the matter, the distilled essence, the only thing you need to remember: When considering whether to say yes or no, you must choose the response that feels like freedom. Period.”
– Martha Beck

I bumped into a friend in Bali recently who mentioned she’d hung out with a mutual friend of ours in Australia. I came up in conversation and she laughed as she relayed what he had said about me: “Poor girl. She’s kind of a little lost soul, isn’t she?” 

My friend had attended one of my retreats earlier in the year and remarked she’d never seen me so in my element, so shiny and alive. “I replied that it seemed more like you’d found yourself,” she said. 

journey understand

Right now in my life, everyone is making a point of reminding me I need to “settle down”. What does that even mean? Find a mate, buy a nest, lay eggs? Do I need to stay in one place for that to happen? Most people in my life say Yes. My single status suggests that as well. “You can’t do this forever!” they say. “You’ll never meet someone travelling like you do!”

Just as many people the following week will write and say “I wish I had your life.”

But this is not me following a plan. When I left Australia, all I wanted was to be somewhere else. To be someone else. I was tired of being unable to create a life I was inspired by, of trying to convince people I was the right person for the jobs I wanted. Nearly five years later, still living out of a bag, I’m as surprised as anyone that I haven’t unpacked somewhere. 

Alone Genius idea Lyvia Alexandra

It’s a lonely, lonely life. I’m not going to lie. I spend a lot of time alone, writing emails to people far away. I have insistent, indignant friends write me: “When are you coming back? I miss you! What are you doing?!” They offer tidbits of their lives but have never visited. Melbourne, Perth, Barcelona, London, San Francisco, Bali, Thailand…When are you coming back?

The truth is, I don’t know. I have been looking for a reason to stay still: a partner, an inspiring job, a way to express myself in a particular place, a way to make a difference.

If I take away my desire for a partner, my life is exactly as I want it to be, albeit far away from many people I love. But that too has been a blessing. I have found so many ways to say “I love you” from afar. Said things in print that I could perhaps not have said face to face. Expedient internet time has meant directness, honesty, openness – and choosing my besties carefully. 

Bizarre Travel Plans

Choosing the path that feels like freedom often looks to the people around me like choosing to run away. And I’ve done my fair share of running away. I have been in relationships that felt like I was drowning, been in jobs where I felt like my head was being pushed underwater. I had a sense of being stifled, held down, of being small. 

Somehow, out here on the road, I can breathe bigger. I can be bigger: than a place, than a city, than a job or a relationship. 

I spent a good chunk of last year in my home town, Perth, staying with my parents. I feel like it was the summer that helped me move from a whiny teenage version of myself to an adult. I’ve never loved my parents as much and now, far away from them again, I miss them terribly, in a way I haven’t since I was a child. 

For the first time in my life, being away from Perth feels like a conscious choice. When I hated that city, hated who I was in it, needed to control the distance between myself and my family, there was no way I could live there. Now I crave it’s dry air, sun, beautiful beach visits with my dad, my mum’s hugs and cooking, being close to my family. 

Now it’s yet another place I’m sad to leave, whose tendrils curl around my heart and ankles, asking me to stay. 

Be Yourself

Yet the momentum of the work I do picks up speed. More inquiries about retreats, more people writing to me, months after sessions, telling me about breakthroughs they had. “It started with you,” they say. “You changed my life. I feel truly happy for the first time.” 

I feel like the work I’m doing is truly making a difference in people’s lives, yet I often feel so alone. It’s as if the more I find my power: as a teacher, as a yogi, as a business woman, the more isolated it makes me. 

I recognise how lucky I am to have so much choice. I have portable job skills. Friends and contacts in many cities. An incredibly supporting and loving family. 

Do I look lost to you? When I’m with a group on retreat or coaching someone through an all consuming issue or teaching a class, I’ve never felt so found. 

Finding that quote from Martha Beck today brought me to tears. It was from a piece called “Do I Know How To Say No?”

I can see that for the past year, I have been trying to do what I think is the right thing, even though it doesn’t feel like freedom to me. I’ve been scared to go inextricably down the rabbit hole that I think might make me terribly, terribly alone. I’ve applied for jobs, hoping they would bring me the direction and anchor to tether me. To weigh me down. 

But the truth is, I’m already doing what feels like freedom. 

I think it’s time to acknowledge that I don’t want a conventional life, or a conventional partner or a conventional job. Even though I haven’t been doing any of those things, I have been resisting my life the way it is.

I’ve been spending time and energy worrying that I’m going about this all wrong, when, if I’m honest, if I stop and breathe and feel into it, I think I might just have it right. Shiny Inner Self

Bali Spirit Festival: Learning to Fly

28 Mar

Acro Yoga.

It sounds so fun, doesn’t it? Wheeee! Let’s lift each other up! Let’s fly! Drape all over each other!

Presenter: Alexander Ruis & Pau Castellsague, Class: Acro Yoga

When I heard my friends gushing about Mexican AcroYogi Alexandra Ruis, I made her session with Pau Castellsague one of my must-attends for the festival.

Full confession: I’m only doing this session because I’m terrified. Even as a child, I was easily injured in falls and while I have scarred knees and wonky joints, I’m most afraid of further damaging my fragile spine. I’m also 5’10” and not exactly small. I’ve been in Acro classes before and feel reasonably comfortable being a base, but today I’m going to stop weaseling out of flying and get off the ground more than once.

The beauty of Acro yoga is the safety and control that’s possible. Pau and Alexandra assure us at the outset that proper alignment and using the architecture of the bones removes the need for any great strength. They show us how to stack our feet over our hips; wrists over shoulders and how to give and receive pressure to help our partners fly.

Alexandra and Pau are adorable presenters, switching from English with us to rapid fire Spanish between each other. They definitely make it look fun and easy but I guess physical comedy comes easily to folks who are used to flying and falling and throwing each other around.

Presenter: Alexander Ruis & Pau Castellsague, Class: Acro Yoga

After some basic warm ups and getting to know our fellow participants a little better (hand holding and booty shaking, what else?!) we break into groups of three: a base, a flyer and a spotter.

We switch between the three roles, working up into the Acro basic, Front Bird. With your base’s feet on your hip bones, you push up, look up and extend your legs behind you. The base also has straight legs and arms, and with the right alignment, it can be super comfortable for both yogis. I fly for a few seconds, but feel pretty good when we run out of time and I have to come down.

“Our highest aim is to bring individuals into a state of union with themselves, with each other, and with the divine. From this place of mutual support the true self can be realized, celebrated and shared for the benefit of all.”

Next we work into a chair position, which feels easy to me as a base, but frighteningly out of control as the flyer. But then something interesting happens once I’m up: I start to feel ok. Then my spotter encourages me to close my eyes. I momentarily panic: I’m going to fall! But they have me. I’m steady. It’s such a small thing, but for me, it’s a massive release of control and a huge rush of trust.

Presenter: Alexander Ruiz & Pau Castellsague

For our final pose, we move into a therapeutic flying pose, the folded leaf. This requires the flyer to really let go and relax their body over the base, even to the point of letting the arms flop to the floor. Watching Alexandra demonstrate, I can feel my heart rate rising. How am I going to relax enough to do that?

 As I move from Front Bird forward into my Leaf, I have my spotter, Matt, and another experienced Acro Yogi, Bex, both there. While I’m shaking and scared, I start to relax and when it comes time to push back to Front Bird, I feel the strength of my base beneath me and WOOP!
I’m up! I’m flying! I feel teary with relief and pride.

We manage another transition and this time, I really let go. I notice how much easier the transition is when I let go of control and just allow it to happen.

Absolutely a metaphor for my life off the mat.

The Summer Day

12 Feb

Zambo sunset

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean– the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down–
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

– Mary Oliver,
The House Light Beacon Press Boston, 1990.

How To Be An Explorer

24 Jan

It has been 79 days since I’ve been on a plane.

Backpacking

This is not unusual in itself: I’ve been longer without travelling, of course. But this summer has been an experiment in staying put: in commitment, in consolidation.

It has been an interesting process. And by “interesting”, I mean, “a massive challenge.”

I’m used to a life that is not planned for more than a couple of weeks ahead. I’ve loved that I could, at any moment, jump on a plane or a train and be somewhere new. I’ve been addicted to that feeling.

I admit it’s much easier to feel that sense of awe when you are travelling. Being overseas, at any given moment, I can see something I’ve never seen before. That I might never see again! Of course it’s interesting: it’s NEW! It’s a surprise! 

The experiment has been in finding that feeling in the “every day” – how can you have a job and go to work and find time to exercise and see family and do laundry and eat well…AND maintain a sense of wonder?

It turns out, you can.

Don't remember days but moments

I started thinking of some of my best moments while travelling.

For me, they’ve often involved being outside: hiking, swimming, diving, exploring a town…
Overwhelmingly, the moments I remember best are ones where I stop, take a moment and breathe in exactly where I am.

(And, according to my photos, throw my arms wide and exclaim “I can’t believe I’m here right now!”)

The challenge of a few months in one place, my hometown no less, was to find that same sense of taking time and applying wonder.

I think when we’re back in our familiar surroundings, especially when we’re working, it’s easy to get into a grind that can make us forget all the beauty around us. The first step for me was making time to stop and notice. Scheduling a walk. Being outside at sunrise or sunset. Taking the dogs out and noticing how they interact with their environment.

Instagram has been an amazing tool for this.
(Check out my summer: @shinyhappyhealthy)

I tried to find one thing – a scene, a bird, a tree, a certain slant of light – that captured my eye. Just that act of stopping, snapping and sharing, helped me reconnect with my surroundings. And it helped me feel connected with my travelling community, when I saw how beautiful they found my hometown.

Then, last week, I came across this list from author/illustrator/creativity guru, Keri Smith. 

Explorer Keri SmithI love this list.

Here’s the thing: people come and visit where I live as tourists and exclaim how beautiful and amazing it is. Exactly as I do for places I visit overseas or interstate. The only difference is perspective.

I love the idea that I could be anywhere, at any given moment and completely surrender to and appreciate the beauty of where I am.

To be an explorer in my own life, throw my arms wide and exclaim: “I can’t believe I’m here right now!”

The Invitation

21 Jan

Butterfly Hand

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.

I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon.
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain!I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithlessand therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty, every day,and if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

– Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Leafy-With-Love…

14 Jan

Canal Bank Dublin

Leafy-with-love banks and the green waters of the canal
Pouring redemption for me, that I do
The will of God, wallow in the habitual, the banal,
Grow with nature again as before I grew.

The bright stick trapped, the breeze adding a third
Party to the couple kissing on an old seat,
And a bird gathering materials for the nest for the Word
Eloquently new and abandoned to its delirious beat.

O unworn world enrapture me, encapture me in a web
Of fabulous grass and eternal voices by a beech,
Feed the gaping need of my senses, give me ad lib
To pray unselfconsciously with overflowing speech

For this soul needs to be honoured with a new dress woven
From green and blue things and arguments that cannot be proven.

– Patrick Kavanagh

How to Find Inspiration in the Darkness

23 Jul

Whenever I feel constricted or confused, I find so much comfort in beautiful writing.

Mary Oliver is one of my favourite poets and this piece gives me such HOPE.

That once again, I will be an “acrobat in the freezing wind…full of gorgeous life”

That these softer, fallow periods of life, these forced rest stops, are opportunities to learn:

“Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us, even in the leafless winter, even in the ashy city.”

The final stanza, to me, is the lightness I crave…

“improbable, beautiful and afraid of nothing”

Starlings

Starlings in Winter

by Mary Oliver

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can’t imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.
Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,

even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard, I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable, beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

Let it Go

Shiny Song #14

11 Jul

Sometimes, your faith is tested.

Everything you thought you were working towards falls over.

You start to look at the external circumstances & think they somehow reflect something that’s lacking in you.

Keep Following

Now is the time to stop. Take a breath.

Sink into yourself & reconnect with what’s truly important.

And then, when you’re ready…

Just keep following the heartlines on your hand…

What To Do When You’re Thwarted

25 Jun

A couple of nights ago, newly returned from an inspiring visit to Bali, the supermoon rose and bathed the sky with light.

Supermoon!

Full moons always feel like a special time to me, more than the new moon. They seem powerful, life and energy giving. An opportunity to pick yourself up and try again.

To reinvent. To renew. To recreate. Renovate! Innovate!

Yet here I sit, only a couple of days later, feeling utterly thwarted.

All great changes...

I’ll admit, I naturally grate against those conversations where people encourage to “go with the flow.”
These past few years of my life have been a practice in learning to be more flexible, to let things lie, to be calm about what I cannot change.

When things aren’t moulding into the shape I want, I used to go out with my sledgehammer and MAKE them into what I wanted. With brute force or sheer force of will, I would doggedly attain a goal. It made me stressed and rather unhappy.

Nor does my current lifestyle seem to serve me. The nebulous plans, constantly shifting and changing, being without a base – it’s hard to grow anything without roots.

 I’m straddling the divide of two lifestyles: one where I wake up in the morning and don’t need to be anywhere doing anything in particular and one where there are expectations and deadlines and juicy projects.

This year was going to be about putting down more roots. Putting my head down and working in a more intentional way. Focussing energies.

Yet this last month has seen several of the doors I thought I was going though, close. Events and projects I have been organising have been thwarted or cancelled or had cars run over their feet.

My usual course of action, if I’m honest, would be panic.
Then I would roll up my sleeves and DO, DO, DO: whatever is needed to make it happen.

But I’m noticing for the first time, I’m not panicking. Instead, I’m watching the situation with more than a little curiousity. Why is this happening? How did we get to this space?

I’m lightly exploring alternatives, but mainly, just sitting with the situation as it unfolds.

One Way Or Another

Coach and therapist Martha Beck calls these kinds of moments in our lives “rumble strips”.

“What virtually always happens is that when destiny swerves, we proceed straight ahead. We step on the gas, ignoring the fact that we feel trapped in the dead relationship, stifled by the secure job. We go blind to the landscape and the road signs, steering by our assumptions about what life should be, as unaware of those assumptions as a sleeping driver is of her unconsciousness. 

Et voilà: rumble strip. 

Suddenly, everything’s shaking, jolting, falling apart. We have no idea what’s happening or why, only that all hell has broken loose. It gets worse and worse—until we wake up, see through our false assumptions to the deeper truth of our situation, and revise our life maps. This isn’t punishment. It’s enlightenment dressed as chaos.” 

You can read her full article here. It’s certainly helping me make sense of what’s happening right now…

And when we’re in it? Driving down a rumble strip? Beck advises we stop. Take a breath. Take stock. Look around you. What are you missing?

Be Still and Know

Could this be that balance? The space between dynamism and passivity? Between stress and apathy?

I don’t know yet. But I feel calm about big changes for the first time in my life, and that has to count for something.

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.

***