To be, or not to be?

‘To be or not to be – that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And, by opposing, end them.’ ~ William Shakespeare

 

About 1 month ago I permanently deleted my Instagram account and deactivated my Facebook account. Aside from this Livelovegiveyoga domain, I currently hold no other social media accounts.

And it actually feels really good.

Being ‘stripped bare’ and removing myself from these forums of online media have many ups and downs. I have relaxed, since that first week, into the role of non-social-media-user; however, I hate to admit, I was riddled with anxiety to begin with.

There are many consequences; such as promoting this page, networking for future career opportunities, or promoting the path of yoga, which I know, I will feel the hardest. These days, unless you have an online presence, you may as well not exist!

The other things my friends and family showed concern for, do not actually concern me.

Like having ‘support’ from family and friends. In truth, I have never been busier replying to emails, texts, phone calls and physical meetings with these people. Those that want to stay in touch, know there are alternatives beyond social media.

I also do not require the ‘support’ of my online friends do the degree ‘other’ people thought.

My intentions for maintaining a social media presence were always to promote the path of yoga, meditation and spirituality; to encourage people to become their own guru; and ultimately, to motivate and inspire people to observe their own patterns of health within the Mind, Body, Soul trifecta.

I made some really cool ‘online’ friends; there was an awesome community of yogi’s, yogini’s and every other type of person that you could easily ‘click’ with or find some connection with at any given time.  If you needed emotional support, you would most likely be able to find it there in some way. Just take a look at my last post, to see the support and inspiration I’m talking about.

The most interesting aspect for me, however, was the assumption made by others that I ‘needed’ this. Also, the reaction of some of my ‘followers’ (now, there’s a statement within itself!) that I was abandoning or double crossing them by choosing to leave social media.

How bizarre. I was not expecting this!

The response to all of this seems to have re-confirmed (some) of my reasons for being on there AND for leaving. The whole time I was saying, ‘You don’t need to be anyone other then yourself, and you can do this if you just look inside’, people were waiting to be told this, through my medium, from a person they barely know. How does this empower them I wonder? And were they relying on ‘that’ post?

Or what about the time I told ‘my followers’ (‘my followers’ – once again, it just doesn’t sound right) to ‘Lift the veil of illusion to their true reality’, they were viewing this through a platform known widely for illusions, fakery and image; and known only through a small hand held device which contains thousands upon thousands of beautiful images and people; having been retouched, photo shopped and manipulated to ‘present’ them with their ‘Ultimate Life’.

For this Yogini, it was becoming too much  of a contradiction. I have long battled with maintaining social media for these very reasons (and some others).

The path of Yoga challenges the yogi or yogini to step away from illusion. It challenges the practitioner to remove false ego and look beyond fakery and image to the heart of every matter. It challenges us to live in the present, to be an active participant in life and be-ing.

Yes, this world has fashioned itself in and around be-ing online. Perhaps one could argue that this very article, post, whatever; is still a thread of connection and even an attempt to manipulate the reader to my ‘online presence’, therefore, still a contradiction in terms and rendering the whole thing useless and ignorant.

It’s a difficult enough world to navigate without social media. Then we decide, wouldn’t it be great to ‘get connected’. Let’s share our lives with complete strangers who otherwise, wouldn’t have been bothered to get to know us, and still have no real idea to the person behind the screen.

Let’s splash our face, our bodies, our most private of thoughts online to ‘express ourselves’ and experience ‘freedom’; only to get offended, distraught and even, suicidal when it is not received well.

The community has benefits, I will not deny; but the ramifications for many, is actually quite a sobering reality of many, many different things, to name only a few: unhealthy body image, wishing the grass was greener, mixed messages of ‘look at my amazing life’, to the reality of being stuck behind the screen to confirm just how amazing your life really is – ‘neediness’.

What happened to be-ing with the people directly around you? To be-ing in the moment of a day on the beach? What happened to be-ing romantic and intimate with your one and only true love, without having to tell the world how wonderful and amazing that moment really is… you’ve just lost the point, you’ve lost the moment, you’ve lost reality.

Or perhaps, your reality is the screen. That’s a choice you can make if you so desire, but personally, I would rather be able to hear, touch, see and experience with my own eyes, my own ears, my own body and overall sensory experiences; then to be told what it was like through somebody else’s perspective.

After a LOT of deliberation, I obviously decided to leave. I am still unsure, yet, whether there is a place for me to return with a more refined sense of direction and best intentions to the world of social media. I do believe there is space for those who have intentions for a better world, whether the ‘medium’ is appropriate or not is still up for debate.

I am genuinely torn. The ability to reach the world, as opposed to the smaller minority of those within my direct vicinity, and to encourage them to a path I KNOW will encourage positive transformation and change for the betterment, of not only themselves, but also for the betterment of the universe is a hard one to grapple with.
I am certainly no Guru, Messiah or Profit. I do believe that those eager to open their eyes and look, will find that with which they seek.

Perhaps this is my answer. Simple, to the point and with faith of my own strong beliefs.

Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? I would love to hear them! Leave me a comment or email me via the link – yes, I am not completely disconnected… there are still ways to reach me!

Live. Love. Give. Yoga.

May you all be happy, be peaceful and be loved. Namaste, Annie x

Inspiration

“The Flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all.”

~ Walt Disney

 

I am feeling inspired lately. It’s a beautiful feeling, however, I am aware that is just a ‘feeling’ and not my true state of being.

I say this, because prior to these feelings of inspiration, I experienced deep seated feelings of misery, dismay and suffering. If inspiration was my true state, then so too, would misery, dismay and suffering be.

It is easy to become caught up in our own feelings of pain when we experience set backs; far harder to remember that the set backs and feelings that come with them, are not ours to own, merely a feeling that is currently taking up residence in your head, and, if given a chance, could very well manifest as physical pain like tension, headaches, or worse, dis-ease.

It takes a strong character to overcome the many negative thoughts, patterns, paranoia and adversities that threaten the human race. No one person has a head start on the other. We are all here, thrown into the same world, some things happen for some people, while some things don’t happen to others; it isn’t for us to compare one another’s stories so much as it is a challenge to consider your reactions to your own story.

I, myself, am no more or less human then the next person. What is inspiration for me today, could very well turn into resentment tomorrow. It is a feeling, an experience, and it is changeable, unpredictable and indifferent to my true state of being.

It is with constant work and reminding, that I am drawn to create awareness of my thoughts, which ultimately effect my words and subsequent actions as expressed beautifully in this quote by Chinese writer and philosopher, Lao Tzu:

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

This is not to say that we don’t slip up from time to time. For me, tiredness and illness are triggering factors. My mind becomes hazy, unclear and confused and my reactions become distorted, elaborate and wild to say the least.

But through applying yourself diligently to the task, eventually, you will start to notice changes in your own habits and patterns; experiencing evenness, focus and a calm approach to life as a whole, no matter the situation. There are actions you can undertake now in order to take a step in the right direction.

Creating a healthy environment within the physical body is an excellent place to start! Right nutrition, exercise, and relaxation are key determining factors in how your thoughts start to unravel as reactions. Naturally, I’m going to suggest Yoga, Meditation and Breathing Techniques.

You can even start right now by changing the thoughts in your head. If the idea of a lifestyle change for the better seems daunting, become the observer and watch the thoughts play out in your head as to WHY having a healthy approach to your life might be considered a threat? All too often we place the obstacles in our own paths; excuses designed by the ego to trick us into believing we are not capable, worthy or the wrong candidate for the job.

Have a little look at these thoughts, take a step back, and pull them apart for a moment. Now I would like  you to rearrange them. You are capable, worthy and the right candidate. In fact, you are more than these things and you are deserved of a healthy and active lifestyle, regardless of your current situation, limitations or challenges.

Taking a positive approach to life is VITAL. I appreciate that ‘little miss sunshine’ of positivity is not always welcome when we are knee deep in mud and sinking fast, but I bet she would take a different approach given the circumstances, and that could change the outcome all for the better, even if it means sinking with a smile rather then a struggle.

I love the community I seem to have found myself amongst on Instagram. Social media, for all intents and purposes, can be used as a powerful, resourceful and positive tool. Lately there have been a few stand out Instagrammers delivering powerful messages of overcoming adversity by highlighting what could of been a life of misery, and turning it into a life of joy and purpose.

Jessica Quinn @jessicaemilyquinn had her leg removed by amputation at the age of 9 due to cancer and has been wearing prosthetic limbs ever since. She has an amazingly healthy life which includes running, boxing and yoga among many other things. Her Instagram feed oozes positivity, vitality and an ‘anything is possible’ approach to life, her enthusiasm is infectiously contagious!

Dan Nevins @dannevins is another amputee causing a riot on Instagram with his uplifting posts and inspirational yoga feed. This guy is a wounded warrior and has had both legs amputated, he is a professional speaker who, for over a decade, has shared an inspirational message of leadership, perseverance, resilience and overcoming adversity with audiences around the globe. His work with professional and business communities enables his passion of sharing and teaching yoga to the world.

Cheyanne Abolt, on Insta as @happyhealthyexistence is another cancer survivor with an Instagram feed FULL of happy, healthy and positive images and words. She is a yogi with a stand out caption on her profile, ‘Inspiring myself daily’. I couldn’t have said it better. All of these people, having faced extreme adversity, and endured tests of strength and character, are radiating love because of their own approach to a challenging situation.

The lesser known Colleen @saltysweetie is one of my favourites. We have had an Instagram connection since my early days. I appreciate her openness and the courage for telling her story of what it’s like living with Cystic Fibrosis. For the majority, Cystic Fibrosis is a little known disease.  My youngest niece was diagnosed with CF and it has altered the lives of my sister and her family dramatically. That’s not to say they aren’t doing amazing considering! Colleen’s approach to her condition affects me personally and I find it motivational and encouraging for the future of my niece, and other young sufferers. Those affected by Cystic Fibrosis have an average lifespan of just 37 years, Colleen is 30. There is no known cure for the disease and funding towards research is often minimal (country dependant).

These are just a few examples of people doing amazing things when dealt a dark card, and all of them have this one, big thing in common ~ it all comes from within.

Oh, and let’s not forget yoga, they all practice yoga!

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I am really excited to share with you a brain child I have been cultivating these last couple of months. Utilizing the lovely space and support of House of Yoga (www.houseofyoga.co.nz) we will be launching a yoga program in July aimed at reaching the younger female leaders of tomorrow. The program will be providing a safe space to start building confidence and awareness within the pre-teen female, giving her the tools I only wish I had at this age, to create an amazing life of vitality, compassion, understanding and love!

I would love to hear your stories of inspiration, perhaps I could share them with the girls’ when we hold our sister circle of trust; send me a message, add me on Instagram, let’s connect and be each others support and motivation!

Live. Love. Give. Yoga.

Annie x

Vipassana

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” Gautama Buddha

 

After completing my first 10 day silent Vipassana meditation course recently, a series of three dominating thoughts came to mind. First and foremost, ‘Why don’t more people talk about this?’ followed by, ‘This is here and available to everyone, yet so few have heard of it… I must write about this!’, finally deciding, ‘I will write about it, but I need to make sure I write in such a way, I do it justice and leave it open to the individual to make their own inner journey and interpretation as they see fit.’

You will not be hearing about my own personal journey with Vipassana beyond the absolute appreciation and gratitude I have for being open enough to receive this wonderful technique and consequently, employing the practice into my everyday life. Vipassana is not a well-kept secret designed only for an exclusive few, but every person’s experience, as already mentioned, is truly unique and individual.

True to Buddhist beliefs, the technique and the meditation practice as a whole, is available to everyone, remaining entirely universal and non-sectarian. In fact, so much so, it runs entirely on a donation basis, without expectation for return. Below you will find a brief introduction on the course, taken from New Zealand’s own Vipassana Meditation Centre, The Dhamma Medina www.medini.dhamma.org

“Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It was taught in India more than 2500 years ago as a universal remedy for universal ills, i.e., an Art of Living.

The technique of Vipassana Meditation is taught at ten-day residential courses during which participants learn the basics of the method, and practice sufficiently to experience its beneficial results. There are no charges for the courses – not even to cover the cost of food and accommodation. All expenses are met by donations from people who, having completed a course and experienced the benefits of Vipassana, wish to give others the opportunity to also benefit.”

The Vipassana technique for meditation means to gain insight into the true nature of reality. Also used as a path towards self-realization, which is the fulfilment of one’s own potential.

You will need to take your own 10 day course with a Buddhist Vipassana centre in order to understand, learn and adopt the technique for your own practice at home. It is a very serious undertaking that should not be taken lightly, nor attempted on your own. In saying this, I hope not to discourage anyone from sitting for Vipassana and experiencing this truly unique and blessed gift.

It is something anyone can do, given a little self-will and discipline, and, just like anything you take on in your lifetime, you will get out of it just as much as you put in. Do not expect miracles. Most of it is exceptionally tough work. You are, after all, dealing with the many layers of accumulative ‘stuff’ of your psyche from the many years and experiences gone by.

You may find it easier if you already have a regular meditation practice, as you should already be comfortable sitting for longer periods at a time, this could also mean that you have already started the process of ‘weeding’ out all those deep roots (negative thought patterns, ideas, self-doubt, etc.) planted so long ago. I use ‘may’ and ‘could’ cautiously as there are a number of meditation techniques out there using different processes to achieve different results. No one technique should ever be deemed ‘better’ than another and Vipassana certainly doesn’t claim to be the only path, merely, one of the options for you to try when you are ready.

Keep in mind, however, that even if you already have an existing meditation practice, this does not necessarily mean you have the upper hand on the technique or the experience and anyone, with or without an existing practice, should always enter into the technique with an open mind free of expectations.

Now you may find yourself asking, “Okay Annie, if there are so many techniques available, why should I sit in silence for a 10 day Vipassana you’ve just described as ‘exceptionally tough work’?

Vipassana does not focus on anything external to get you to the place most meditators seek, instead relying on your own unique experience through will power and self-discipline, to go deeper, to get to the core, the essence, of your very being. It will implore you to tap into your own potential, using your own strength, your own capacity to empower yourself. Vipassana focuses on within.

“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” – Gautama Buddha

Anyone who’s ever spoken with me, taken one of my classes, read one of my posts, followed me on Instagram or liked my Facebook page knows just how strongly I feel about empowering oneself to make change and transformation for the betterment of your own, individual life. After all, the only way we can expect to see any change in our external world; is to cultivate it organically from within.

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Vipassana will challenge you to go to the deepest roots of your own self-placed limitations and obstacles. It will take you to places you never even knew existed, perhaps even to places long forgotten, thought insignificant or placed in the ‘too difficult to handle’ pile. It will call you to account for your own journey and subsequent paths, and, if not already, life now becomes monumentally vital and important.

Life becomes significant.

When you think about it, 10 days really is a small fraction of a life time. 10 days to bring you a few steps closer to liberation. 10 days to ‘gift’ you this amazing technique for self-transformation, for self-realization. 10 days to experience life without all the excessive buzz of our modern day society. 10 days to work on and discipline the self, to gain more confidence, more clarity, more awareness, compassion and love; not just for self, but for others too.

Within this small time frame of your life, you will also experience wonderful gifts of generous food and service from previous Vipassana students, peace and solitude from others, teachers on hand for more direct guidance, and a beautiful, quiet and serene environment. Free from distractions and completely focused on calming, and restoring the modern monkey-mind of today’s must-have-now, must-do-now society.

By day 5 I had already decided to go back within the next 6 months to sit another 10 days, as well as returning again in 2017 to serve on one of the courses. I have stayed strong with my decision, through the hard times during and after the course. No matter what has been brought to the surface upstairs in that that monkey mind of mine, I have no doubt that the technique works and will only be as effective as the time I give in ‘service’ to myself; to make sure there is no time lost, no time wasted on thoughts, things and behaviours which no longer serve me, or those around me, well.

For others, they may never sit another one again. However, there are some like myself, who will repeatedly return for the course, and continue the practice at home. By sitting the 10 days, you are not bound by the technique, nor by the 10 day length, but I encourage you to stay, even through the hardest of times. After which, if it did not resonate with you at all, you are free to leave it in the past and move on to try something else.

I can only say from my own personal experience, that I now know how logical and practical the teaching is and feel it can be something for everybody, if only you might just give it a fair trial? 10 days of a lifetime is not too much to ask for liberation of the soul!

Just as I say about my yoga practice, it doesn’t take time, it gives time. It lives and breathes new, fresh and focused energy. It allows more time for sharpness, single pointed clarity and decisiveness, and enables the meditator to use these gifts wisely in order to cut through all the B.S. so we can concentrate on the things that really matter. Giving them our full attention and devotion, with absolute love and compassion for the experience of that one moment.

For the experience of living life.

I could write so much more, but the experience can only ever be yours for the taking…

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

 Live. Love. Give. Yoga.

Annie x

www.dhamma.org

Vipassana is an ancient Buddhist technique taught by Gautama Buddha in India at around 580 B.C for self-realization. After some time, the technique suffered under the weight of religious sects (Buddhism is non-sectarian) and other influences, diminishing in education and finding refuge in a minority of teachers and students in Burma (Myanmar) for centuries before its re-emergence to India through the late Mr. Goenka in 1969.

Over a period of almost 45 years, Mr. Goenka and the teachers appointed by him taught hundreds of thousands of people in courses in India and other countries, East and West. Today, meditation centres established under his guidance are operating in Asia, Europe, the Americas, Africa and Australasia.

 

 

Strength

“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” ~ Ryunosuke Satoro

A little over a year ago I made a solid decision to change the path of my working life to align more with the path of my spiritual life.

Best. Decision. Ever.

Some say, the hardest part, is in knowing what that is and making the decision. As soon as that decision has been made you can start to let go of overwhelming thoughts about your future, sharpen your focus and, in theory, start laying down the building blocks of foundation, to allow further, stable growth during your progression.

I am so grateful to have taken the time to build those foundations when I did, as my progression into a full immersion of ‘everything yoga’ happened swiftly, full of momentum and excitement of what was to come.

There was a small moment of apprehension when it all felt ‘too good’ however this soon passed when I realized my prayers had been answered and I was being granted an amazing opportunity to actually live a life conducive to my beliefs, my practice and my devotion to spiritual growth and understanding oneness.

It has been almost 6 months of absolute immersion. I have sacrificed a lot of my previous life in order to do this, but the rewards have been abundant and generous and what I have gained has given me so much more than I ever expected or intended. I am not talking about money, fame or acclaim. I’m not talking contracts, sponsorship or anything physical that might result in material items or worth.

I’m talking about strength, confidence, and discernment.

Compassion, expression, and tenderness.

Release, understanding and peace.

Support, friendships and community.

Love. For self and, naturally, as a result, for others.

All of these things have transformed a life I was already feeling blessed to be a part of, into something even greater, bigger and more expansive then just me alone.

There have been learning curves, still and always as I not only now fill my role as teacher, but also the eternal student, the forever student. Learning from those around me whilst also imparting my own knowledge has been a beautiful experience. It reminds me of a continuous circle, a constant flow, of infinity.

It reminds me that while it is important to find your own inner strength and cultivate a strong self-foundation; the energy, support and strength we find with one another is so, so very important and fundamental for further growth.

Using discernment to choose ‘right association’ is detrimental in developing healthy relationships, whether it be a friend, lover, colleague or other. By encouraging those who support, nurture and ground you, allows both parties to feel secure in the relationship, without fear of manipulation, deceitful behaviour or misappropriated action on behalf of the other.

Here we come full circle again. So, how do you develop discernment within? Those that know me well, know I cut to the chase pretty quickly. I am soft by nature, but when it comes to strength and personal spiritual growth, I’m a no frills, cut the crap, give it to you honest kind of girl – there is no easy option here, you need to employ self-will and dedication, you need to put in the effort and stick with it, you need to know that it’s worth it. There is no exclusivity or any one particular method (price tag attached where applicable!) that will provide you with strength, liberation and love. You need to find your own self-realization through dedication, devotion and will power before you can progress on your life path spiritually.

So, let’s cut the crap and get to the baseline of our current existence – the material world.

Inner strength isn’t just about physical health and wellbeing, but it’s certainly an excellent place to start. In order to shift our focus inwards to the mental and spiritual sides of self, we first need to remove the distractions of the physical body. Exercise, discipline, rest and nutrition are key areas to address.

You only need 1 hour a day of reasonable exercise in order to start addressing previous ailments, injuries or concerns that might normally inhibit your ability to go inward. Add in a diet which is mindful, nutritious, healthy and sensible, and the two start to work together, organically restoring good health and vitality to your physical body.3a377JecxfpxnyWxj4MSc3dyKjaEzoaBDEcydzF6b6U

(I am not even going to delve more deeply into nutrition here, if anyone has any specific questions please feel free to email me separately)

Keep in mind that some previous occurrences of old ailments, injury and disease can take a long time to reverse, if it is at all possible. This will be largely contributed to the length of time the specific area/s of concern have been around.

I like putting discipline and rest together as a little package, which may sound ironic, however; knowing when to apply the pressure, and when to use the brake pad are extremely important tools to learn. Students in my classes are probably tired of always hearing me say, ‘honour your body, honour yourself’, but the words are said with a purpose to remind them to be present in their bodies and acknowledge when to take it a little bit further, or perhaps, when to lighten up a little, and back it off. Preventing illness or injury is far more effective and efficient then treating it.

In the earlier stages of employing a new healthier approach to your physical body, it’s not unusual to feel tired, fatigued and generally unwell, before you start to enjoy all this delicious goodness about to come your way. It’s just your physical body working hard to restore balance and releasing that which no longer serves it well, such as toxin build up in hard hitting areas like the pancreas or liver.

Start your new lifestyle with common sense and try not to overwhelm the body with an all or nothing approach. Otherwise it will inevitably lead to collapse and a tendency to go the other extreme, giving up your well-intentioned pursuit all together, jumping ship and abandoning the promise of a stronger you.

Once your physical body is starting to feel a little more ordered, healthy and strong, it makes sense that the next natural step is clearing out the distractions of the mind. This has already had a jump start by implementing those steps of the physical self, aiding the mind to become sharper through rest, exercise and good food.

The next step is creating awareness of thought, and using that awareness to prevent negativity or inappropriate thought patterns to reoccur. This is hard. Really hard. We are basically trying to retrain and reprogram our mind to disallow thoughts of things which no longer serve our growth and prevent us from experiencing our true, beautiful selves.

Much like the physical body, mental injury and dis-ease is carried with us long after a situation event or person has left our present world. It can take time to heal these wounds, and for some serious issues, I would highly recommend the help of a mental health professional over attempting to resolve these on your own. Take your time to find the right person to help you, someone that you resonate with. It’s important that you see them as someone who supports your progress to better health, physically, mentally and spiritually.

If you are lucky enough to be free of any serious mental distractions, we revisit our dedication to the path and continue to train the mind with positive thought, empowered will and love. Always, always choose love. If you have reached this stage of mind training and are ready to take it to the next level, guess what comes next… meditation!

I thought I had made some serious and impressive changes in my life over the last many number of years, however, it wasn’t until I got serious with meditation that things really started to S H I F T.

‘But I don’t know how.’

I hear this all the time, and once, used to say the same thing. I said it before, and I’ll say it again, cut out the crap, there is no need to employ methods or techniques that serve only to entertain and dance with your fantastical idea of what ‘spirituality’ actually is. Sit down, focus your attention on your breath and stay there. Whenever your mind wanders, bring it back, remind it where it needs to be.

Simple really. Just takes a lot of practice and a lot of dedication. Like anything we ‘learn’, it takes time, you have to apply yourself, you have to make time and you have to keep practicing in order to progress along the path.

If you can manage it, focus your attention to IT. I’m not going to label IT, because essentially, I open myself up to judgement based on the word I use to describe IT. IT is all powerful, all knowing, non-judgemental, all loving. IT is compassionate yet strong, and can create or destroy in the blink of an eye. IT is everything and nothing in oneness, representing infinity with no beginning and no end.

If that is too much for your mind to comprehend, then simply, just come back to your breath.Meditation

Whenever your thoughts wander, stray or distract you from your purpose, much as we do with the physical body, employ a degree of dedication and devotion to the task, employ will power and return to the breath. Or if you’ve managed to surrender all sense of ego and pride around the label, then return to IT.

Your goal is not to attain an everlasting moment of happiness, because that too will pass. The purpose is to apply yourself and stick with it. The purpose is to release those physical and mental binds that block your path and prevent you from seeing your beautiful, strong, illuminated light within.

Am I saying I have reached the pinnacle, the end, illumination or self-realization? That would be a seriously foolish thing to imply. I, like many others, have a long, long way to go on this path.

But, I am dedicated, I am devoted and I am always working on myself. I am not looking for the end because I know it doesn’t exist. I am constantly building strength, love, humility, compassion and all those other things you have heard me wax lyrical about only too many times already!

Work on the physical, mental and spiritual self is a CONSTANT work in progress. Every minute of every hour of every day of each week of all the years, you will be presented with situations that will tease and test your devotion to the task at hand.

Build strong foundations. Find inner strength. Build relationships through right association and discernment – for even someone as strong-willed and independent as myself knows that these people are my pillars of support, my strength in times of personal weakness, my inspiration, my joy, they hold my heart, they keep me sane, their smiles are infectious. They feed me when I have given up hope, they have lifted me when I was down, and they stuck around when I was at my worst.

Yes, I am independent, opinionated, strong and at times a little controversial. Yes, I go inward to recharge my batteries and escape the waxing and waning energies of those around me. Yes, I am living a life I love regardless of what others may be thinking.

But the peace I’ve found in knowing I have this amazing network of people supporting and nurturing me, is uplifting, inspiring and encouraging. They make me stronger, and I, in turn strengthen them. Together, united and supportive of one another, we represent a communal strength, a family; together we all abandon attainment for self and represent collective love, collective strength, unity. Wholeness. Oneness.

collective strength

What a strong, powerful and beautiful way to walk your path, knowing that even if each step is taken in silence and physically, on your own; there’s a whole world of strength we can tap into when needed, and that thought alone, gives me strength.

Thank you to my family, the friends who have stuck with me through the harder times, and the many new ones I’ve made through my travels in recent years; thank you to the people who left imprints on my heart if only for a brief moment; thank you to all the beautiful souls I find myself meeting every single day; thank you to those who open their hearts to me and believe in me, entertaining all of my wild and wacky ideas, who support my growth spiritually, and in taking the time to know me as a human Be-ing, know that I only want the best for you all.

Thank you for sharing your strength with me. I hope one day, I can repay you all.

Live. Love. Give. Yoga.

Annie x

I am Now.

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.” ~ William Blake

Today, not unlike any other, I took my asana practice to a deck overlooking the sea. I was flowing with my breath, making shapes with my body, and transitioning effortlessly from one pose to the next when I found myself coming to an abrupt stop and balancing on the palms of my hands to focus on one tiny little grain of sand that lay beneath the point of my two eyes.

In that moment, nothing else mattered. Not the pose, not my body, and most certainly not my mind. It was surrounded by many other grains of sand, but my eyes remained still, my focus sharp, time quite literally, just stopped and my world became this one, little grain of sand.

I have no recollection of why I stopped, nor what pose I was balancing in (Bakasana, Adho Mukha Vrksasana, Pincha Mayurasana?), I couldn’t tell you what I may have been thinking prior to that moment, or even how far I was into my practice. All I knew, was that, there, in that grain of sand, my world lay waiting. Still, in absolute peace, untainted, whole and perfect.

Rewind 6 years ago and I am walking up a mountain in Kodaikanal, Southern India. Tureya ashram, my home for almost 4 months, was off in the distance and I was walking slowly, deliberately, mala beads in hand, rolling one bead after the other and repeating my mantra. I look up briefly and see the lamppost. This particular post had become familiar to me and I would use it as a gauge on time and distance for my daily walks.

Many moments later, still stepping one foot after the other, still rolling the beads, still chanting, I look up again. The lamppost is still there.

I stop dead in my tracks. I have already passed this lamppost, checked off my gauge, taken my token gaze over the ashram and moved on, up the mountain. Or had I?

These two mind blowing experiences are rare and divine and can only occur when you are absolutely, living in the moment. Completely present, empty in thought, devoid of attachment, of emotions and wherever you find yourself at the time, totally devoted to your practice, still or moving.

We talk about it often, and seldom experience it. But it need not be this way. The world with which we now live is extremely fast paced. The term ‘living life to the full’ has been blown completely out of proportion and appears to be more focused on experiences of quantity over quality.

It’s time we took back control of our lives. Constantly swinging from one thing to another, never really giving it the focus it deserves, will have you swept off your feet and back into drama before you know it. The more focus you give something, the greater it becomes.

This is how my grain of sand became a world.

If you, like many others, find yourself constantly hearing the words ‘too busy’ exiting your mouth; a) stop telling your friends this, the last thing they want to hear is that you don’t have time for them and b) you are really only inviting more busy in; more stress, more chaos, more drama, less time.

Ever heard the term, ‘Yoga doesn’t take time, it gives time’? Nothing could be more true. By taking the time in yoga, be it 10 minutes or an hour, you create more space to move into. Your world expands and everything becomes less, but more. Less busy, more mindful. Less anger, more love. Less rushed, more peace.

You can even apply it to your asana practice, ‘I inhale to expand and create space, I exhale to move into that space using effortless effort and releasing that which no longer serves me.’

I have been using this a lot recently in my classes.

‘That’ could be a tight muscle, or a problematic friend. ‘That’ might be an old injury, or a limiting pattern of thought. ‘That’ might be a blocked digestive tract, or writers block. ‘That’ could be a rigid spine, or a restrictive relationship.

I have made a conscious decision to change my life, physically and mentally so that I may live more and more in the present moment. And for those of you who think it has come without sacrifice, take another look, go deeper and you will see or maybe, one day, experience it yourself.

To be in the present moment also requires courage, but not the kind that sees you throwing yourself out of an air plane and plummeting at high speeds towards the ground. I’m sorry, no offense to those readers who have subjected themselves to the fantasy that this is the biggest leap they will ever take, but essentially, all you’ve done is thrown yourself out of a fast moving object, 14,000 miles above the earths surface with nothing but a flimsy bit of material to shield you from the firm hard surface below!

I’m talking about something that takes more then a few moments of spontaneous, action and mindlessness; I’m talking about something that requires strength of character, determined will and action with awareness.

I’m talking about courage to live your life without fear of judgement. Courage to step out of mainstream consumerism and materialism. Courage to live a life you believe in wholeheartedly. Courage to say, this is me, take it or leave it. Courage to dream and live that dream.

You will be met with opposition, and it will persist, even years later. It is not for you to fight against the opposition as much as it is for you to fight for you, every day building strength of will so that you may live your life intuitively, freely and without judgement from self. So that you may find yourself, completely without thought, without burdens or attachment to objects, ideas or people and entirely, in the moment, in your practice, living your yoga.

Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

Does this mean that I have no thought of others, am self absorbed and removed from society as a whole? On the contrary, my world has expanded and is now filled with blissful moments and beautiful people. The connection I have with others goes deeper, and the appreciation I have for the smallest of things encourages me to embrace my inner child. Choosing to avoid status quo has actually found me within a society, a community, built with compassion, truth, love and acceptance. Non attachment has given me the freedom to see anger but not become the anger.

Of course, it is a constant state of practice and awareness. It hasn’t been an easy road, there have been many obstacles and there could very well be many more.

Yoga is not just a physical practice of poses, it clearly goes deeper and penetrates those layers of illusion we have built around us, shielding us from the very thing we need in order to understand and live our truth. Through asana practice, we start to gently, subtly, peel away those layers. Those layers which are preventing you from living in the present, from truly experiencing your right to live your life here, on this earth, being present, and truly in the moment.

The moment is there for everyone. It’s not selective or exclusive, nor does it come with a list of prerequisites to gain entry. It doesn’t judge you, and it will not hold you accountable. The moment is yours, and it’s there for you to experience whenever you are ready.

Yoga practice, Life practice, same, same. Breathe in the pose, to become the pose. Breathe in that moment of restlessness, to become the rest. Breathe now, to become now.

I am here, I am that. I am Now.

Live.Love.Give.Yoga.

Annie

Competition

– The activity or condition of striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others.

– An event or contest in which people take part in order to establish superiority or supremacy in a particular area.

– The person or people over whom one is attempting to establish one’s supremacy or superiority; the opposition.

 

These are the 3 top answers given by Google regarding the definition of the word ‘competition’. One word, ‘superiority’, is repeated 3 times, ‘supremacy’ twice, and the first definition includes the stand out combinations of ‘striving to gain or win’ and ‘defeating or establishing superiority over others’.

 

‘They sound like fightin’ words…’

 

The very idea of waging a ‘competition’ sends shudders down this yogi’s spine. Ironic, as it comes from many years playing competitive sports, accepting one challenge after another, and feeling the need to ‘prove’ myself to friends, families, colleagues, and of course, the biggest competitor of them all, myself.

 

Just typing the words above, honest and open, is testament to the powerful effect yoga and meditation has had on my life. I am not the only one, there are many more of us.

 

Take a quick visit to your local yoga studio, the stories about positive transformations are endless. It’s not so much a ‘self-help, poor me, pity party’; as it is a mind blowing, positive, supportive rave of yoga asana’s and creativity, bouncing conversations and inspiring ideas from one yogi to the next, encouraging and supporting one another during each person’s little projects (every yogi has at least one project on the go!), and finding a big, genuine smile around each and every corner!

Heart in sand

I have experienced the veil of illusion my ‘false ego’ has over me, falling prey to pride over humility when faced with competition in the past, and still do during times of absent mindedness. Through daily practice of asana and meditation, the dedicated yogi becomes more adept at observation. This very act of observing patterns in my own behaviour has enabled me to acknowledge and rectify how I react to certain situations. By detaching from those intense feelings we submit to when we are gripped by fear (such as anger, sadness, envy and guilt, to mention only a few), we allow ourselves space to view our reactions before they materialize.

 

The ability to move beyond competition and genuinely support, nurture, love and encourage my fellow human beings (including myself) is a daily work in progress. It has evolved from the most basic of animal instincts, and eludes to our capacity as humans to slip back into old habits and patterns during times of intense pressure and stress, which were once generated by the need to quite literally, ‘fight for your life’.

 

Teaching yoga has transformed me in a way I never expected. All of a sudden you are accountable, for what you say, how it’s said, and each individual action you take. It’s not like I didn’t accept responsibility before, on the contraire, I’m often too sensible for my own good. Yet, having all those eager yogi faces looking at you, absorbing everything they’re hearing, waiting for the next instruction and creating a physical reaction to those words, forces you to acknowledge the power behind each and every word.

 

So, what’s this got to do with competition? Some of you may have seen those signs outside of your local yoga studio, ‘Welcome! Please hang your ego up outside before entering’, or maybe you’ve heard your teacher reference the ego during a class or difficult pose. I try to encourage students who take my classes, to remain present and enter their practice without expectation, without ego.

 

A life lived in yoga is one of harmony, balance, good health (physically & mentally) and community. Yoga meaning to yoke, to unite: comm-unity, Come-united? Now, don’t quote me on my interpretation as that is all it is, however; the play on words has many possibilities and obviously originated somewhere. The situation changes when we start talking about supremacy or superiority over others, giving power to one, but not to another. As humans, we are useless when given power! Greed almost always wins, and the very foundation of an idea, a union, or even a community, becomes hidden under the layers of power, greed, and competition.

 

It takes a strong person who is presented with this power, yet uses it wisely and for the betterment of others. Supporting, nurturing and encouraging each other can only lead to peace and harmony, and enables the individual to approach life with honesty, an open mind, and an open heart.

 

It is not for us to compete with one another in the yoga class, nor with the teacher or even with yourself. I’m sure every yoga practitioner has experienced the burning desire to conquer an elusive pose, I know I have, but what for? For the glory? To look impressive in front of others? To prove a point to yourself?

 

If you want to challenge yourself, really challenge yourself, ignore the urge and take a variation that honours your physical body and mental disposition. Not sure what that is? You’ll feel the difference, a deeper message that speaks loud and clear to you, with love, and shines radiance from within. It will allow you to experience true balance, harmony and inner peace; otherwise known as contentment.

 

I don’t want to sound completely naïve here, I understand the pressures of work, dating and family life just as much as the next person; so let’s start small, maybe your next practice. We will experience, sometimes many times in a day, competition from one source or another. Challenges presented to you by others, or perhaps, spurred on by yourself and your own anxieties, fears and insecurities. You’ll often find those insecurities hidden deep under the many layers of your false ego, and it can only be you who takes charge and starts to peel those layers away.

 

Don’t become your illusion. Falling prey to challenge tends to drive the fear inside, forcing those anxieties to increase and disrupt your balance, your foundation and the very essence of your being… you know, that little inner glow we sometimes feel in the pit of our stomachs when we experience true peace. I love that little glow.

 

I am fully aware that these words will only reach a few, and that they may only resonate with a small fraction of those few; the rest left scratching their heads wondering how this yogi girl ever made it anywhere in life, especially in the work place! And yes, you may very well be right, I know I have lost opportunities from declining challenge. However, the opportunities I lost are not the ones I seek and neither are the lifestyles they encompass. 

Peace symbol

Start small, in the studio, in your practice.

One day, like me, you may find yourself exchanging the words ‘yoga practice’ for ‘life practice’.

 

Live.Love.Give.Yoga.

 

Om Shanti, Annie

 

Images courtesy of http://nahuan.photo

 

 

Karma

 

“The sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that. It lights up the whole sky.” ~ Hafiz

Sri Yogi Hari handing out fresh coconut

Karma ~ In Hinduism and Buddhism: the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences.

 

Karma yoga ~ In Hinduism: the discipline of selfless action as a way to perfection.

 

We often talk about karma with a half-hearted sense of understanding, using it silently, on a wish of revenge for an unsuspecting enemy. Or perhaps, as a way to find within ourselves, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of achievement that we are good or saintly. That we did good, therefore we will receive good in return.

 

There is nothing wrong with doing good in the world. Ever. I would far rather someone did something good for the greater universe so they would feel better within themselves, than if they didn’t do anything at all.

 

However, how many times can you honestly say you gave selflessly, without expectation and demand?

 

The karma yogi makes all actions an offering to a higher being, the higher intellect, with no thought of personal gain. Through serving others one is selflessly serving the universe, selflessly serving the divine.

 

The path of Karma Yoga means just this and follows the cosmic laws of cause and effect *. The Rishis, Hindu saints or seers, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rishi) conducted thorough investigations into the nature of reality and universe and discovered three laws:

 

  • There is no effect without a cause
  • The effect is the cause in a different form, like steam is another form of water
  • If you remove the cause from the effect, nothing remains

 

The Bhagavad Gita (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhagavad_Gita ) itself gives summary of the karma yoga process. The Gita (the most famous episode from the Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata) refers to a time when Sri Krishna, friend and charioteer to Prince Arjuna, teaches the nature of sacrifice, the nature of action, the means to liberation and the relationship of human beings to the universe.

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Mother Theresa and Mahatma Ghandi are both examples of karma yogi practitioners. Giving selflessly, of time, material wealth and personal service, so that others may benefit from their generosity and humanity. Sacrificing for others, and for the greater universe as a whole.

 

My own personal karma yoga has taken form under the guise of this very blog. It is certainly nothing like the humanitarian work of those I’ve just mentioned, but it is within my means and is a free resource available to anyone with internet connection. My hope is that it can and will be used for reference and guidance by others in times of need.

 

Blogs are started by people all over the world for many different reasons. I do not wish to be famous or make a ridiculous amount of money (although any abundance of material wealth the universe decides to gift me is always welcome on my yogi’s wage), I am not a showman or circus performer and despite my love of debate and philosophical discussion, I don’t write this just to have my voice heard.

 

(Although I will add as a side note here; I blame my rising sun, Leo, and my Chinese sign of the Monkey, for any fool hardy, extroverted attempts at showmanship that you may have witnessed in the past, or which may appear in future writings…)

 

Here’s where I get all yogi-cliché’ and tell you something you have probably heard many times before from others, but it is one of the most truthful things to have ever fallen out of my mouth and into the form we know commonly, as words , words which hold deep meaning.

 

Yoga saved my life.

 

I have been practicing for the better part of 15 or so years, however, it wasn’t until my marriage broke, and I flew the country coop to flip my life upside down, inside out and around a many number of times, that my mental state really started to crack.

 

When I left, I was strong. So strong. I maintained this strength, despite feeling otherwise, for quite some time.

 

That’s what is expected when you’re the one who ends something that looks, by all appearances to be the pinnacle of happiness. You made the call, so you bear the brunt of the decision. Let’s not even go into why the decision was made, it’s completely irrelevant to the story. However, you should know, that the man in question is one of the most loving, beautiful, and generous persons I have ever had in my life, and I am so grateful for our time together.

 

And so, here I was. Still strong. Still, by all appearances, smiling widely and loving life, exploring, seeking, experiencing. Without giving you my whole life spiel (or at least the last 8 years, which would still fill an entire book with room for a sequel – did anyone say Eat, Pray, Love?!), everything that had happened, which I clearly hadn’t addressed emotionally, encouraged my yoga practice to deepen. A lot.

 

I remember when I first went THERE. Yogi’s – You know it, that  d e e p  place you’ve been avoiding, pushing to the side, completely ignoring. Holy crap, I burst into loud, sobbing tears in the middle of Savasana (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shavasana) during a packed class in Central London.

 

It was humiliating, but I couldn’t stop. I was finally acknowledging my worth and my existence, I had actually started to forgive myself. I was experiencing self-compassion. That is the power of yoga.

 

Flashback a year earlier, I had completely broken. I honestly, wanted to die. I had to talk myself out of some pretty hairy thoughts, and that was damn hard. I was experiencing self-hatred. That is the power of ego.

 

Yes, I’m fully aware of the irony here. Writing a post about selflessness and admitting that I have experienced absolute selfishness is hard. But, it is the truth. And anyone who has been through, or even still going through, depression and thoughts of suicide will know fully well how difficult a task it is to claw your way back out of that dark hole.

 

I was lucky. The mental warrior within knew it could handle what was to come, the mental warrior within wanted me to love myself, to love others. To show true compassion and courage, not with ego, but with love, with life.

 

The emotional release you get from your physical practice is powerful. It is most definitely  work, and still in progress, but slowly, you start to peel away the layers, until all that is left, is you. Stark, naked, bare and fully exposed, just as you are. No mask, no cloak, no ego. Your essence, your soul, complete love.

 

And wow, the level of love and compassion I have for myself and others now is so empowering and beautiful, all I want to do is share it. And the best thing is, it’s growing every single day. Some days are still harder than others, but it lessens as time moves on, and you learn to accept who you are completely.

 

The reason I am so submerged through yoga, with yoga; in fact, the whole reason I feel so compelled to write about yoga, teach yoga and still practice yoga, is because of my experience/s, I really believe it is the way towards universal harmony and acceptance, and I want others to feel what I feel now.

 

To smile widely and really mean it, to break through the mental barriers that have held us captive for far too long, united through yoga, through life, through living, and connected through love.

 

This is my Karma Yoga. This is why I write livelovegiveyoga.com.

 

I earn money through teaching, yes, I still have to live in this world, pay rent and bills like everyone else. But through my blog, through the love of yoga, it is without expectation and with absolute gratitude to this universe, for receiving the gift of knowing yoga, and being blessed with the ability to share it with others.

 

Even if it only reaches just one person, that will be enough.

 

It doesn’t have to be big. Some days, the joy I get from cleaning the house surprises me. I go about my work, singing and whistling away to the universe like we’re sharing something special, something unique. Even better when I’m in the garden, chattering away to the tiny insects and plants like they were my brothers and sisters. And, in many ways, they are.

 

Your karma yoga is not restricted to human beings, everything is considered one with this universe, extend your love in whatever way you know how. Through plants, the environment, animals, or humans. Ironically, Karma doesn’t judge!

 

 

We are all connected, remember this and your actions will become more mindful, less selfish, and gifted by love.

 

Live.Love.Give.Yoga.

Om Shanti, Annie

 

*Reference: http://www.yogihari.com/yoga-teacher-training-course-200-hours/ my teacher, my guru, for the resource on the cosmic laws of Karma and the Rishis