Tag Archives: travel

Books That Changed My Life

6 Sep

This week, I was set an impossible task by a dear friend: create a list of the 10 books that mean the most to me, or changed me, or touched my soul.

I immediately came up with 50 and had to cull ruthlessly. And then cheat, by tucking in 10 more at the bottom. Ahem.

So here are my ten, in no particular order.

1. The Time Traveller’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger

the-time-travelers-wifeI wish I wrote it. So original, so bittersweet & beautiful. Don’t watch the movie.

2. Daring Greatly, Brene Brown

DaringGreatly_largeWhy vulnerability is a strength, a beauty and a connecting force. This book changed the way I do everything and how I see my role in the world. Watch her Ted Talk for an abbreviated version.

3. Looking For Alibrandi, Melina Marchetta

Looking for AlibrandiI read this as I was starting high school and it was the first time I realised other Australians grew up feeling like they didn’t fit in anywhere, just like me. Informed my first inquiries into identity, family  and belonging.

 4. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon Kavalier and Clay

A great friend put me onto this one. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

5. The History of Love, Nicole Krauss

History of LOVE

This one makes my heart ache, just thinking about it. I read it at a critical time and it was so healing. Made me believe again.

6. Wild, Cheryl Strayed

Wild

This memoir reminded me how important it is to go my own way, even if it doesn’t make sense to other people. And how important mothers are, so appreciate them while you have them.

 

7. Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert

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Spurred my own overseas adventure, guided a different search for spirituality  and helped me realise I wasn’t alone in my wanderlust. It’s popular for a reason.

8. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist

The best 21st gift you can get anyone.

9. Travels, Michael Crichton

Travels

All kinds of journeys, described by an amazing writer. I aspire to his ability to communicate esoteric ideas in a tangible, pragmatic way.

 

10. In Full View, Lily Brett

In Full View

I read this at age 15 and could not believe how honest she was. Oh, to be so brave as a writer! I love the way she lets it all hang out…

And, because I feel GUILTY about not including these life changers…

Freedom, Jonathan Franzen

Incredibly Loud And Extremely Close, Jonathon Safran Foer

Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts

The Little Book, Selden Edwards

Conversations With God, Neale Donald Walsh

A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle

Bel Canto, Ann Patchett

Persuasion, Jane Austen

The Heather Blazing, Colm Toibin

Poser, Claire Dederer

What are your favourites? I’d love to see your lists…

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

Shiny Song #25

11 May

I’ve just returned from Mexico, where I taught two retreats.

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This track was one of my favourite playlist additions…

Take it back or let me go
It’s better if I tell you so
I’ve hurt you once before and I will do it again

Everyone I know is gone
And I don’t even know myself
I’m saving up
To take a trip to Mexico
I heard it’s the place to go
I want to see the colours of another sky

Carry me home on your shoulders
Lower me on to my bed
Show me the night that I dreamed about before

Lover, you may cause me tears
Drag me through the best of years
You’ll never know any of the songs I wrote
Older than a year or two,
But I love you so

Oh, carry me home on your shoulders
Lower me on to my bed
Show me the night that I dreamed about before

Carry me home on your shoulders
Lower me on to my bed
Show me the night that I dreamed about before

Lover, you may cause me tears
Drag me through the best of years,
But I love you so

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: Les Leventhal on Life, Bali & Spirit

26 Mar

Since last years festival, Les has relocated to Bali.

P1040395But the road to paradise is not always smooth. Les spoke to Megan Flamer about his transition from life in San Francisco to life in Bali and how yoga, as always, is the perfect metaphor for life off the mat.

How are you finding living in Bali? 

Bali is amazing…

It’s the absolute opposite of everything I thought living in Bali would be! It has an interesting way of challenging all the things that were super comfortable for how I lived in the States and illuminating my fears about things.

Culturally things are just so different and Americans, at least this one, are used to having things scheduled in a certain way. Bali just has this way of letting you know, time is not important and that everything happens in a way that flows in a way that is like nowhere else I’ve ever been in the world.

It’s allowed me to look at myself: my expectations of myself and others, my judgements of myself and others and my grand thoughts of how relaxed I thought I really was. I still have room to grow!

GASP! You’re human?! So what are you noticing about your reactions? 

Quite human! I’m noticing those moments where I react really fast instead of just stepping back and thinking, “how does this affect me, how does this affect the people around me?”

It’s about taking those extra breaths before you even move a muscle.

Presenter: Les Leventhal, Class: Vinyasa Flow Basics

I know you’ve moved house this week, so this Spirit Festival has come at a really busy time for you…

We’ve moved four times in the nine months we’ve been here!  I’m a person who has always had home, at least since the whole recovery process started, I’ve always had this steady, steady home, an anchor.

Trying to find some comfort in the uncomfortableness of change in such a compact period of time has given me super crazy seeds and roots of things to practice and to notice where I’m stuck in my body and those differences – some not so good, like some injuries.

I have to teach that – I cant hide that – it would make me a hypocrite and I can tell you I’ve tried that path already and it doesn’t work.

What’s your favourite thing about Bali? 

That’s easy. I can be having a terrible day – which I call cacasana – and all I have to do to change that is take a walk or get on my scooter and smile at any Balinese person. Even if they’re busy doing crazy work, they always smile back.

I can only imagine they make less money in a year than I even make in a month and all I have to do is smile at them and they smile back bigger.

It reminds me that all that stuff we long for in Western culture is just stuff. It’s an illusion and we want to attach to it – but there’s something about the Balinese culture that they don’t attach to that stuff so all that happiness just comes up, it’s it’s just there.

This is your fourth Bali Spirit Festival and you’ve taught some amazing classes this year, including your famous Rock and Roll Vinyasa. I’m assuming you have a new playlist this year? 

What do I ask of my students in class? I ask them for everything, I want them to pour their heart out. For my playlists this year, I thought if I don’t make new ones and add some amazing things that really speak to what I’m rocking out about in my life, then what’s the point? So, I have new playlists.

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Les’ Ubud Secrets

Yoga
– Of course, come to Yoga Barn and see me

Food
I love my Indian food:

– Warung Little India: I love Siddhi, she’s full of heart and she makes everything from scratch.

– Queen’s Tandoori: because it reminds me so much of Indian restaurants in San Francisco. I almost cry when I go there. I remember when I took my first bite of the chicken Tikka Masala and the channa marsala, the spices are just perfect.

– Saraswati: also Indian food. I love it.

– The Ginger Lime Honey tonic at Sari Organic. It’s a concentrate so you’re supposed to dilute it but I don’t mix it with anything.

Jammu (Balinese turmeric/lemon drink) from Angelo’s almost every day

Massage

– I’ve been coming here since 1999, I’ve had hundreds of massages and I still love Nur Salon. When I landed here, Christmas 1999, we dropped our bags, went straight there and I still go now. It’s amazing.

– I adore Nyoman at Blue Moon

– Ngurah at Yoga Barn – it’s a little more expensive but still so cheap by western standards.

***You will soon be able to see loads more travel and yoga recommendations on Shiny Happy Healthy’s Travel page. Make sure you sign up to get it all first!

Bali Spirit Festival: Bending Over Backwards

23 Mar

The precision in SuMei Shum’s instructions leaves me in little doubt that she spent many years in the corporate legal world.

Combined with the spectacular anatomical knowledge of her counterpart, Lynn Yeo, their Bending Over Backwards session was an exercise in accuracy and alignment.

Presenter: Lynn Yeo & Sumei Shum, Class: Bend Over Backbends

If you’re wanting to have a lazy session on your mat, I would not recommend coming along to one of Sumei and Lynn’s workshops. If, however, you’re looking for breakthroughs in your practice and to solve some of those pesky alignment issues, you would be hard pressed to find a better pair to guide you.

“Claw the top of your toes into the floor,” Lynn instructs me as we move into our first bhujangasana (cobra). FIrst the first time in a long time, I don’t feel pressure in my knees and ankles when strengthening my legs in the pose. Yes, I’m wrecking my pedicure but my joints are happier for it. I add an extra foot of width to my triangle and suddenly, my inner thighs ignite, my spine grows and the lateral flexion feels effortless.

By picking apart poses you’ve experienced hundreds of times, you’re suddenly finding space and length where you thought you had none, or strength where you had stagnated in a pose.

Presenter: Lynn Yeo & Sumei Shum, Class: Bend Over Backbends
I particularly liked Sumei’s instructions for gomukasana (cow face) arms. This pose is possible for me, but always uncomfortable. Sumei encouraged us to shift the biceps by extending the arms sideways and back and then retracting the armbones to create more space in the shoulder socket. Voila! I was holding more comfortably than I ever have.

Another alignment I enjoyed was their use of “robot arms.” Before moving into setu bandasana (bridge pose) press your elbows into the mat beside the body with the palms facing each other and pointing to the ceiling to create more lift in the upper back. Combined with the natural curve in the lower back, I found even more space in my spine.

It was great to have two teachers working in this way: Sumei did most of the class instruction, while Lynn hustled between students, adjusting, shifting, refining. I had a strong, seamless practice with loads of one-on-one attention. Both of them have more than a thousand hours of Anusara yoga training and it certainly shows.

I have some serious spinal issues and have developed a backbending practice around them. It was invaluable to me to have Lynn pick apart my technique and poses to take still more pressure off my lumbar spine. Moving in and out of urdhva dhanurasana (full backbend) she stayed with me and refined, encouraged and best of all, completely understood the anatomical issues I’m up against. After several refinements, I understood how to shift the angle of my hands, shoulders and legs to activate different muscles to the ones I’d been using.

Presenter: Lynn Yeo & Sumei Shum, Class: Bend Over Backbends
After the practice, I was left with a warm glow in my lower back rather than my usual twang , and when I came into a couple of backbending poses later in the day, they felt fluid and effortless using Lynn’s cues. I’m incredibly grateful.

Our final pose, ustrasana (camel) to urdhva dhanurasana (wheel) might not seem like a simple or elegant transition, but with tucked toes and a few timely cues, I somehow managed to do it.

As we gratefully sank into savasana, Sumei shared a quote from one of their teachers, Christina Sell: “Instead of making yoga your life, make your life your yoga.”

If I can make my life as effortless and elegant as Sumei and Lynn made my backbends, I think I’m already halfway there.

Bali Spirit Festival: Returning to Source with Tara Judelle

21 Mar

I’m working as a blogger for this year’s Bali Spirit Festival in Ubud…
So I thought I would share some of my thoughts with you here, too.

You can read more and find out more about the festival here

It’s my first class of the festival.

Mandala

It’s Nicola’s, too. She’s come over from Australia and as newly qualified yoga teacher, she’s relishing the opportunity to be “be a student again.”

As we walk into Tara Judelle’s 8am class, Nicola is buzzed: “I’ve watched Tara online and done her classes, but never in real life! I’m super excited to be here!”

The theme is Madhya: Journey to the Centre. Tara explains Madhya is the space between things: from sunset into night, or the dawn to the day.

“It’s the space between the in breath and the outbreath or the space between thoughts. The space at the centre of the body, the space from which you grew.”

She links the shushumna nadi, the body’s central energetic channel, to this idea of space and returning to centre: “If you were an apple, it would be your core.”

Strengthen Core

Throughout our practice, we return again and again to this idea; returning to our centre, to our core, both literally and figuratively.

“When we go back to source, origin or ground, we naturally start to embark on a journey that seeks wholeness and wellness.”

Tara Judelle is certified in the Anusara method, but has a background in dance, Tai Chi and movement improvisation. Her sense of breath, flow and focus are exquisite – whether she’s teaching you a class online at yogaglo.com or in person, her commitment to vinyasa is unquestionable. I never feel lost with her breath cues and always leave her classes feeling a part of something bigger.

After attending her class this past weekend at Desa Seni’s Yogathon fundraiser, I was excited to learn more from her in person. She’s one of those rare teachers who can drop in complex anatomical terms when describing alignment and biology without sounding completely pretentious.

Today’s class ranged from discussion about Caroline Myss’ Anatomy of the Spirit to the sense you get when you’re entering the edge of consciousness to the other name for the pineal gland (the epiphysis. Who knew?)

For those of us used to a more dynamic practice, this was a beautiful, calming class. Tara encouraged us to move into a space of softness, with soft, wide eyes and soft movements. Despite moving into dynamic poses like koundinyasana or ardha chandrasana, we moved with softness and quiet purpose, always leading from the centre.

As we moved deeply into eka pada rajakapotanasana (pigeon) with a long twist, Tara invited us to dive into the space, the Madhya, where all things merge.

“Be the canvas,” she said. “Co-create with the elements as they exist.”

We were surrounded by activity: music from a nearby Zumba class throbbed beside us, chanting filled the air and the chatter of passersby. But as we breathed through rounds of kapalabhati pranayama and settled into a grateful savasana, I couldn’t help but think it was the perfect practice to begin the festival.

A masterclass in finding your centre amid the colour and the noise and always, always being prepared for sweaty surrender.

Welcome to Paradise…

18 Mar

After a whirlwind of flying and movement and running around Bangkok, I’ve arrived on the Bay of Love ahead of the next
Shiny Happy Healthy retreat.

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It’s been a year since I was last here at the Sanctuary and it feels oh, so good to be back.

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The water is crystal clear and I’m stuffing myself full of delicious salads and drinking loads of yummy, healthy smoothies. All in the name of research for our retreat menu, of course!

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We still have a couple of spaces left on the retreat, so if you’re interested in coming along on March 30th, get in touch!

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It’s paradise here…We’d love you to join us!

All The Hemispheres

26 Feb

Tioman Sunset

Leave the familiar for a while.
Let your senses and bodies stretch out 
Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadow and shores and hills. 
Open up to the Roof.
Make a new watermark on your excitement
And love.
Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
And giving
Upon our intimate assembly.
Change rooms in your mind for a day.
All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.
Greet Yourself
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
Back home.
All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire 
Chatting
While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of
You.

-Hafiz

Lost

17 Feb
Zambo early morn
Stand still.
The trees ahead and the bushes beside you Are not lost.
Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still.
The forest knows Where you are.
You must let it find you.
An old Native American elder story rendered into modern English by David Wagoner, in The Heart Aroused – Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America by David Whyte, Currency Doubleday, New York, 1996.