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

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