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.