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

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.

 

 

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

Attachment

“Sometimes we find that we like our thoughts so much that we don’t want to let them go.” ~ Pema Chodron

 

We have often heard, that to love something, we must set it free. Supporting the philosophical view that attachment is the root cause of disappointment, sadness, anger, and illusion, among many other things.

 

I have been a long time practitioner in the art of detachment, known otherwise as the art of withdrawing desire from lesser things. Those other things are referring to the material cravings and objects which keep us rooted firmly into this earth, much like the trees in our own backyards.

 

Most of my classes start with the simple request for students to hang their baggage up outside the room, leaving that which no longer serves them in order to be fully present in their yoga. Often it’s a temporary ‘hold’ during the allocated hour, or so, of an asana practice before picking up those same, heavy bags and plodding off, out into the material world again.

 

Hey, I’m not judging. I said I practice the art of detachment, I never said I’ve mastered it! And just when I think I’ve made progress, the universe never fails to drop me a reminder that I still have a long way to go yet.

 

This time around, it’s come in the form of a person, and straight off the back of a truthful, heartfelt post about what it’s really like to be 35, female, single, childless and yet, still happy (go back a couple of posts, you can’t miss it!).

 

I finally swallowed my fear and opened up, speaking freely about the fact that you can live a happy life, making your own rules (while living a life according to positive ethical and moral standards), and it doesn’t have to revolve around another person, a love, a child, a house, a settlement, your career, etc.

 

I stand by my post. I don’t believe I said anything ‘wrong’, hurtful or judgemental about the way others live. I respect other people’s choices to live their lives in whichever way they choose and I still love my life, I know I always will.

 

However, ironically, only days later, someone stepped into my life who inadvertently distracted me, and who I immediately wanted to do absolutely anything and everything for.

 

Note to Universe: Very funny.

 

The art of detachment. Does this apply to people?

 

I can understand not having to need someone, because we should be able to stand strong on our own two feet, fight the good fight with light, love and compassion. We’ll never really know when the person we’ve relied so heavily on over the years might disappear, perhaps through death or some other means.

 

And then what? What will you do? Break down? Panic? Completely fall apart…

 

I have learnt this lesson already. Through my ups and downs in relationships and of course, also through the loss of loved ones. But, what if knowing what you know about attachment, you still choose to want someone in your life?

 

Is this still attachment?

 

I would say you’re treading the line and it’s going to hurt like hell when that line breaks and the attachment is severed, because burning is still desire. Wanting is still desire. Desire is still material attachment.

 

Revisiting the earlier theory however, detachment is the art of withdrawing desire from lesser things.

 

Does L O V E supersede this?

 

Surely, it has to. It’s L O V E.

 

Why else would we have such a beautiful thing available to us, if it weren’t there for us to enjoy, embrace and share? It reminds me of the quote:

 

“It is better to have loved and lost, then to never have loved at all”

 

For only a true believer of love knows this feeling, and even after the many heart breaks and pain we may suffer during our lifetime, I would rather experience love then give it all up to have never known how it felt. To have never experienced that time with that person. To have never smiled T H A T smile.

 

You know the smile I’m talking about, even the memory of it wants to make you dance and sing!

 

After much to and fro on the hot topic of my happy, single, childless life followed by the arrival of an individual I’m enjoying sharing my time with, here we find the even more ironic and cruel twist of fate I was discussing earlier, the imminent departure of the person that fills our heart with such joy.

 

The short lived affair, too short to make any requests to stay and too sweet and endearing to not shed a tear. Maybe a few. Ok, there have been many already.

 

Remove me from my country, take away my house, my car (to be fair, I own none of these things), all of my belongings and money… strip me bare for all the world to see. I don’t care about any of that. I arrived in this world without it, I’ll be leaving this world without it. But L O V E…

 

Writing this immediately after hearing the news was important for me. Thinking instantly about how upset I feel and how it all could have been avoided if I’d only maintained distance and removed all ‘crazy’ ideas of what love, might be, could be… would I be practicing the art of detachment?

 

I conclude no. Because while it has rocked me emotionally and upset me deeply, I would be a robot if I could not at least feel L O V E. And as I mentioned earlier, love truly does conquer all, is it not our very purpose in life to L O V E?

 

And I am no robot, I am a human be-ing, I choose to be here, present, in this moment, flesh and bone and all the rest that comes with a biological body. And in this be-ing resides a beautiful soul, a soul who’s purpose is to love, whose purpose is to give and whose purpose is to live this life, through loss and hardship, the joy and laughter, pains and tears, I am still here and I still love.

 

Yes, these are only my words, musings from a place deep within shared with the many friends, family and strangers who choose to glance upon this post.

 

Writing an article, especially on a topic that is so personal may appear foolish, but if it reminds only one person of the power within to love and appreciate another unconditionally and with full acceptance, then my simple words have meaning. They speak truth and they come from a place deep within, filled to the brim with L O V E.

 

I will miss you.

 

Om Shanti,

Annie x

 

P.S. Perhaps the title for this post should have been ‘Love’ but with all due respect, I’m not sure I could ever do the meaning behind it any justice through my words alone.