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

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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

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

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.

Yoga

“I am neither male nor female, nor am I sexless. I am the Peaceful One, whose form is self-effulgent, powerful radiance.” ― Guru Nanak

The ultimate goal of the practice of yoga is moksha; liberation; realisation; enlightenment. There are many words to define that which we are yet to experience in this lifetime.

But what does it mean to ‘practice’ yoga?

Does it mean to stretch or exercise? Or is it simply a persona we adopt, as a ‘yogi’ or ‘yogini’, hugging trees, talking to flowers and chanting Aum; glowing peacefully, not an ounce of anger, judgement or frustration within?

Do we wear loose, natural fibres, floating and prancing about in our latest ‘express yourself’ yogi-dance-laughter workshop, drinking herbal teas and eating only plant based diets? Or do we opt for the active, tight fitting spandex leggings often seen on the lean but muscular catalogue models of Lululemon, barely breaking a sweat after an intense, hour long power yoga session before hitting the local juice bar for a smoothie packed full of protein and a catch up with old friends?

I am all of the above, and neither all at once. And apologies for categorising my many yogi friends on these personas alone, for I am merely trying to make a point, and no, not the kind of point that involves my finger!

For the record, I own and practice on my lululemon mat and clothing, I teach at a very cool and trendy studio, I revel in and embrace my looser clothing, practising my asanas with more freedom and dance when at home to music, and quite often you will even find a flower or two, in my hair. I am a vegetarian and I love smoothies. I love even more, a good old catch up with my closest girlfriends.

I am the yogini personified.

But what would you expect from a Taurean girl? We have expensive taste, are creatures of comfort, we are ruled by the element of Mother earth and I love nothing more then feeling the soil beneath my bare feet (read my last post regarding connecting to nature)!

However, without getting too caught up in myself, lets move forth to the real topic at hand.

The topic of yoga, which, when practiced lovingly, with devotion and discipline, ultimately results in removing our identification with the material world, transcending to a higher state of bliss and releasing any attachment to the aforementioned, ego personification.

Clearly, I still have a way to go!

There are 8 paths, commonly referred to as limbs, in yoga which serve as a guideline for living a meaningful and more purposeful life.

The first 5 limbs involve and engage the body to the material world. They work by way of a filter, and reduce the things that inhabit our spiritual progress. The last 3 limbs are involved in the expansion of the mind and cultivating awareness.

When we apply all 8 limbs of yoga to our ‘life practice’ we thereby involve the entire body and mind.

Without giving a full lecture on the subject (impossible in a single blog post!), the 8 limbs of yoga are:

1) Yama ~ Your ethical standards and sense of integrity
2) Niyama ~ Your self discipline and spiritual observances
3) Asana ~ The practice of the postures of yoga, cultivating a healthy body
4) Pranayama ~ Control of the breath, Prana meaning life force, energy
5) Pratyahara ~ Withdrawal of the senses & sensory objects
6) Dharana ~ Concentration, focusing our attention on 1 single point for an extended length of time
7) Dhyana ~ Moving beyond concentration into the natural state of meditation

And lastly…

8) Samadhi ~ Bliss absolute! Enlightenement!

So, you see my dear readers, yoga is not something we can wear and it’s certainly not something we can brand, label or even own.

Yoga is a state of being. Something we ‘practice’, in the physical action of asanas, or perhaps the more mindful practice of ahimsa or satya (non-violence or truthfulness). The 8 limbs encourage the yogi to involve all aspects of the mind and body so that nothing is left unattended.

I was recently challenged as to my position in teaching the practice of the yoga asanas to others. It was believed that through teaching something which gives me joy, I am romanticizing the practice, the philosophy; and withdrawing myself from the very thing that I wish to attain.

This has not sat well with me and I have given a great deal of thought to the notion that I am merely ‘marketing’ the idea of yoga to the western world, losing all that is true and real about the actual practice of yoga.

At this stage in my spiritual consciousness, I have come to the conclusion that the path of yoga simply cannot be owned, branded or marketed.

The path of yoga simply is, and you will find your way there one way or another. The route you take may differ by comparison to others, but the end result is always the same.

So however you intend to get there, I encourage you to use the 8 limbs above as a guideline, as a tool, as a practice…. because, isn’t that all we are doing anyway? Practicing life?

And I will continue to teach and learn, much as I have throughout my entire life until proven otherwise, through the practice of yoga.

Om Shanti,
Annie

live.love.give.yoga

Balance

“Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence.” ― Alan W. Watts

It has been an entire month since my last post, I apologise, things have been busy.

My life has moved, literally, from one end of the world to another, from one time zone to another and also, from one industry to another.

I had planned on churning out another post during all the commotion. However, it occurred to me just how many ‘to do’ boxes I already had to tick and how, as humans, we have this tendency to exploit the precious time we have, exhausting us, mentally and physically.

So I decided to wait.

Wait until I had the time, energy and attention to find my focus, and write what came to my heart. Something which might actually hold meaning. Something which comes from a place of love and tenderness.

Finding your peace and feeling centred, in this fast, hectic and chaotic world with which we live is a major survival tool and a must have for everyone.

Never has this resonated more with me then during my most recent bout of change. It would be easy to feel stressed, anxious and overwhelmed. And once upon a time, I most definitely would have.

I can honestly say, things went as smoothly and comfortably as I could have wished, and yes, I am in love with my decisions and am still feeling at home and at peace, even though everything has been turned upside down and inside out.

Have you ever had that overwhelming sensation that things are getting ahead of you? That all of this wild and chaotic energy of change has swept you off your feet, removing you from the very ground you once stood, so steady and secure?

Need to check back in to reality? To feel grounded and in control?

I, like many others, still struggle to find the time to devote to my own practice.

However, I do understand it’s importance and relevance. The practice of yoga is something we do to bring the body to good health by removing physical distractions, so that when we do sit for meditation, we have only our mind to attend to.

Thankfully, it really is simple enough to give yourself a healthy dose of peace and calm just by being aware and connecting with your natural surroundings.

Give yourself time.

Time to be still. Time to catch up with yourself. It is so undeniably important for your mental and physical health. Even if it’s only 10 minutes a day, to sit down, be aware, focus on your breath, close your eyes.

Maybe, 10 minutes will become 15, 15 might become 30 and so forth. Maybe not. Either way, start somewhere. No excuses, this is your life, your livelihood, your peace and only you can manage your internal functions. Your in charge, so take the bull by the horns and regain control.

Sit in nature. Find the natural earth energy by removing your shoes, planting those soles directly on the earth below, and feeling the dirt and grass beneath your feet. Get comfortable and just breathe.

Be still. Be present. Be in that moment.

Connecting with nature and tuning in to the earth’s vibrational energy is, by far, the most efficient and effective way to feel grounded.

Mother earth has this ability to soothe us when times are crazy, hence the term ‘Mother’, for she is nurturing, she is real, and she is tender. Her earth energy is healing, forgiving and loving. Tap into her and you will tap back into yourself.

When you’re flying high up amongst the clouds, with one wild idea after another, unable to stay long enough to see any of them through, who do you think catches you when that energy dissipates and the momentum can no longer carry you? At some stage, we all need to land, plant our feet, get connected, and feel grounded.

How on earth (no pun intended!) are we to grow and connect without a strong foundation, without planting a few roots to keep us grounded during those stressful events that will inevitably occur at many stages during our busy lives?

And if you think it’s selfish to take the time for yourself, put yourself in your mates shoes.

When energy is so tangible and easily transferred, imagine how your chaotic, busy and stressful energy is affecting those around you. Your partner, your child, the grumpy cashier packing your groceries or the feisty barista brewing your umpteenth coffee hit of the day (and yes, I am guilty!).

And we wonder why, when we’re stressed and overwhelmed, does everything else seem to have an energy you can cut with a knife?

Be aware of your effect on others, your presence and of your energy. At the end of the day, we are all united and bonded as one. Whether you choose to believe this or not, you can’t possibly deny the effect one person’s energy has on another, be it good or bad, gentle or pushy, hard or soft.

Try it. Smile at a stranger, see what happens. (be wise, choose your stranger appropriately!)

Live.Love.Give.Yoga.

Om Shanti, Annie

Judgement

“The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Interestingly, Google’s definition of the word judgement is, “the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions.”

Now, there will be many who may disagree with this definition. For, judgement does not necessarily mean sensible, does it? If you were to break it down, the word ‘judge’ could be determined as someone who decides on another’s fate based on facts presented to them by opposing sides. Yes, they are expected to make unbiased decisions, and for those decisions to be fair and wise.

But who is the judge of those decisions?

The collective. That’s who.

For one person cannot often stand opposed to many and expect compliance and support with views that may be viewed as outrageous, extreme or completely ridiculous. Regardless of your religious and spiritual beliefs; even the story of Jesus Christ was plagued with judgement, and he experienced duly the torment, betrayal, and mockery of others, in the quest for what he believed.

However, for the sake of a holy argument, and at the risk of being judged, I will move the direction of my post swiftly on!

Social media has changed the way we live. With every post, status update and like, we place ourselves in the precarious position of being judged by other members of the public, every single day.

For some, they might finally find their strength, their courage, their voice. For others, perhaps quite the opposite as they draw on comparisons to their more vocal and extroverted Kings and Queens of social media.

People have been judging me ever since I can remember.

And guess what. They judge you too.

Am I comfortable with it? Most of the time, now, I’m ‘okay’ with it. Occasionally, it still stings.

Will it stop me from writing my second blog post, or posting an Insta of me in my favourite yoga pose for the day? Will it stop me from relentlessly seeking that which I dream? Will I allow judgement to affect and change the way I live?

Only if I let it.

I really didn’t want this post to have any negative connotations, but like all of life, there needs to be balance. Our lives are not always peachy, and more often then not, neither are the people in it.

I used to think I was the one that needed to mold to fit them. I used to think I was not normal. I used to think, ‘if only I wore that, said that, listened to that, and reacted like that’ would I be considered worthy of their company, their friendship, their praise.

How ludicrous!

Now I don’t think. I just am.

In the nicest possible way, I choose not to think about what their judging eyes, thoughts and words are saying about me. Because, quite frankly, it’s none of my business. If they want to judge me, they will, and if they want it to affect them, it will. But by choosing not to let that bother me, it gives me more freedom to be me, then ever before.

Now, I post my damn Instagram photos. I write blog posts that no one may ever read. I ‘advertise’ parts of my life on social media, fully aware how often it is overlooked. I take a job in another country, doing something I enjoy, with absolute gratitude and love and peace. Why? Because these things make me happy. Because I want to express myself. Because isn’t that my right?

Are we not here on this earth to live a life we love? A life we can enjoy, a life doing something that really, truly brings you peace and gratitude.

Whether it’s via a social media site, in the face of public ridicule or quite simply, in the comfort of your own home, behind closed doors singing your heart out to Arethra Franklin’s ‘Respect’, providing we are not doing any harm to ourselves or others, do we not all deserve a life in which we can feel comfortable being ‘me’.

Live.Love.Give.Yoga.

Om Shanti, Annie

Follow me on Instagram & peace out! @annie_yogini