This IS now.

I’m laying on a foam mattress in the house of new friend and work for exchange employer, Lara, co-owner of The Garden of Peace, Ayahuasca and Master Plant Center in Peru.

I haven’t written in some time, maybe a year, or so. As it is, I’m typing this out with my index finger, on the smashed screen of my relatively new Android. The last thing I thought I’d feel like doing right now, is this.

The truth is, my openness and transparency experienced a traumatic confrontation with a mentally unstable student last year, and I lost all passion and confidence for sharing a path which could benefit many.

I am slowly regaining my old demeanor and the trust is being rebuilt. I feel strongly, that complete transparency is the key to deep, personal and spiritual growth and wish to continue sharing my journey and support for all of you walking the same path.

I write here today, completely unplanned and unprepared; a purging of thoughts, rather then a factual, researched and well-versed topic of adult discussion and life philosophy. I apologise now, for the crudeness and brutality of such a self absorbed activity; yet I still feel compelled to continue…

I am coming to the end of my first month here, and we have recently wrapped up the centers first 12 day yoga and ayahuasca retreat, The Nature of Yoga, facilitated by Lara, myself, and another dedicated healer, Yogi and artist, fellow Aussie compatriot, Khala.

Despite my dedication to sharing and distributing the transformative ways and path of a Yogi to as many as possible, I fly under the wing of these two strong women as we unified this path with the ancient Peruvian practice of Plant Spirit Shamanism.

The retreat was a first for many, including myself. Yoga AND Ayahuasca. I know there are many levels of depth we may venture, I’m not sure where this one might rate on a scale; but what I do know, is that the transformation was still very real for most of the guests.

In my own limited experience of Ayahuasca, I dare say the Yogic practice allows the healed to process their own internal journey in a grounded, positive and practical manner.

Take me back 3 months earlier and I am living in my yellow, 1983 Mitsubishi L300, endearingly referred to as Billy, and teaching yoga to a community of locals and travellers alike on the luscious east coast known as Mount Maunganui (Mauao) in New Zealand.

Knowing I was leaving, yet still unsure of where, how, or what was coming next; I had started saying my goodbyes to an endless stream of beautiful people I was starting to call my family, in a country I had been calling home for the previous 18 months of this travellers life.

Teaching Yoga in a center for Master Plants and Ayahuasca in the Amazonian Jungle of Peru, was not something I had on my list of to-do’s.

The scenarios may seem dramatic, and even though this has been my life for the last 9 years, I still find myself in situations such as the one I am experiencing now, wondering how I got here and what’s next?

Life is fascinating, deep, unravelling and tiring all at the same time.

I am blessed to teach and share my passion, a spiritual path rooted in such physiological reality, it speaks to and is understood by many. It is simple, yet profound, and has the ability to transform lives, as it has done so for my own.

And yet here I am, in the Amazonian Jungle, allowing my inner Yogi to meet my inner Shaman; something tells me they’ve met before.

Unless you have undergone your own experience with Ayahuasca, it may sound a little loco for me to announce that the Plant Spirits tell me themselves, they approve greatly of the Yogic path and to continue the journey with deep devotion.

In fact, the words I received specifically were, ‘It doesn’t matter how much you think you know, or don’t know, share what you DO know, share the path of Yoga.’

Anyone who’s eyes have awakened to the (un) reality of life, know that once they’re opened, there really is NO going back. The path is constant, you are persistently checking yourself, you are always working; the more layers you peel off, the more work you realise you have before you.

It’s endless, it’s tiresome and the deeper you go, the more you learn, the more you come to understand you don’t know. It requires effort, honesty and discipline. The more work you do on yourself, the more people in need of their own healing come your way, the less time you have for healing thySelf.

I love it. The effort is so earnestly rewarded with a fullness, wholeness and acceptance of mySelf I have never experienced before. Yet to expect it would also be foolish.

It is as it is, I would never have done anything any differently and I am in such gratitude for all the good people, the travel, the great, direct experiences I have had, and still have before me. Its got nothing to do with me, yet it’s completely and totally about me, and only me, at the same time.

So. Here I am. This IS now.

Life changed dramatically some 9 years ago, and it’s been constant, spiritual work ever since. I’ve moved through a lot of my own healing alone and with minimal support, and I find myself now on the other side, offering the support I felt I lacked in my own process.

Although, the more I’m learning, the more I’m coming to realise again, that this too, was an illusion.

Today, I have stopped. I am currently unemployed, the retreat is over, and I am about to enter back into my own personal journey; but we all know it never really stopped, that with every moment of playing ‘teacher’ or ‘healer’, we are still, perpetually playing ‘student’ or ‘patient’.

I am in the midst of complete uncertainty for what the future holds. The only thing I know for sure, is that on August 7, the same day as the next full moon lunar eclipse, I will begin my first 12 day journey with Master Plant Medicine.

I do not see any point in planning beyond, my perception of life now, may very well be different to my perception of life then. Or perhaps not. Either way, I am giving myself permission to stop and BE.

It’s good to be writing and sharing again, even if it is a little self absorbed and erratically articulated.

A lot of why I do what I do, is to reach as many as possible, so we can all realise together, that despite our own individual journeys and experiences, we are still very much One.

The experiences may appear individual, unique and separate; but ultimately, we can all relate, we are not so different, we are humans BEing in a world of uncertain times and deep spiritual or personal growth. It is scary, it is exciting, but mostly, it’s just downright liberating!

The light inside of me bows, honours, respects, encourages, and will always, always, ALWAYS, love, the light inside of you.

Namaste with deep gratitude, love and peace for you all, Annie x

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PMDD ~ The Reality

‘The strength of a woman is not measured by the impact that all her hardships in life have had on her; but the strength of a woman is measured by the extent of her refusal to allow those hardships to dictate her and who she becomes.’ ~ C. Joybell C.

My name is Annie and I am a sufferer of PMDD.

I have been suffering with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder for about 8 years. I cannot be 100% certain, but I believe it was triggered by a sudden and traumatic change in life circumstances.

My husband and I parted ways back in late 2008, and I, taking the brunt of responsibility and guilt for our flailing marriage; renounced practically everything I owned to relocate half way across the world.

I moved from a subtropical continent, where I was very comfortable, living in my own home, with my own ‘things’ and supportive group of family members, animals and friends. We were financially comfortable enough to keep our 1st property as an investment when we bought our 2nd property, a nicer variation of an old house in a reasonably close suburb to the inner city. We had cars, furnishings, social weekends and all the mod-cons of a middle class young couple you could want.

We were living the modern suburban dream.

When I left, none of the material things we had accumulated seemed important, so I left them too. I flew to London with 2 bags, having stored a few small boxes of precious memories at my mother’s (note: these few things have now grown to an embarrassingly larger scale of items I shipped back and currently have no access too or need for, but still make themselves at home in the garage of my mother’s house!).

From the moment the decision was made to end our relationship, to the moment of departure for my one-way flight to London, was a total 2 month interval involving a drastic, sudden upheaval and intense emotions for both parties.

At the time, I was running on pure adrenalin and momentum. I hadn’t given much thought to how a sudden change in every single part of my life, was going to affect my hormones, to the degree it has today.

Let me be clear, I have no regrets in my life. None. These days, however, I am more tuned in intuitively and physically, to my mental, physical and subtle body than ever before.

While I am by no means an expert on the subject, and the only medical degree I can attest to is in Veterinary Nursing, I have explored, tried, tested, and experienced many holistic approaches and methods to managing PMDD.

During this article, I would like to share with you my own personal tips and recommendations on how to manage PMDD. I hope it will not only help others in my situation, but also aid in creating awareness for partners, family members and friends of sufferers, about how to be present and supportive with what is, a difficult and widely misunderstood disorder.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder causes are still up for debate, however, it may be an abnormal reaction to normal hormone changes that happen with each menstrual cycle. The hormone changes can cause a serotonin deficiency. Serotonin is a substance found naturally in the brain and intestines that narrows blood vessels and can affect mood and cause physical symptoms.

There are other risk factors associated, such as a family history of the disorder; pre-existing conditions such as depression and other mood disorders; and, interestingly, lower education and smoking.

For example, in my case; a serious and traumatic event, or series of events that led to dramatic life circumstances and changes led to a marked drop in serotonin, which in turn led to depression and PMDD. I dare say, this all stemmed from PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Without getting all scientific and statistical about it, I have not had this confirmed or diagnosed by a professional, and there is also no definitive findings that I am aware of, regarding the role of reduced serotonin levels and PTSD.

It’s easy enough to do, let something like this creep up on you without the realization of the impact it is having on your mental and physical body. As it is, it’s hard enough adjusting to a life as a single person after almost 10 years, let alone a completely different way of living – people, culture, environment, diet.

So, what exactly is PMDD?

PMDD is a much more severe form of Premenstrual Syndrome. While PMS affects nearly 85% of women worldwide, PMDD affects only a small percentage of us, a number between 3-8%.

The disorder impairs sufferers to such a degree that women have trouble functioning in normal environment’s, such as their home, work place, social activities and close, interpersonal relationships.

Is it any wonder that one of the common symptoms of this disorder is isolation.

Other symptom’s are wide and varied, they include, but are not be limited to:

1) Very depressed mood, feeling hopeless
2) Marked anxiety, tension, edginess
3) Sudden mood shifts (crying easily, extreme sensitivity)
4) Persistent, marked irritability, anger, increased conflicts
6) Loss of interest in usual activities (work, school, socializing, etc.)
6) Difficulty concentrating and staying focused
7) Fatigue, tiredness, loss of energy
8) Marked appetite change, overeating, food cravings
9) Insomnia or sleeping too much
10) Feeling out of control or overwhelmed
11) Physical symptoms such as weight gain, bloating, breast tenderness or swelling, headache, and muscle or joint aches and pains

The general consensus is that at least 5 are required to make the diagnosis, and 1 of those must be within the first 4 listed above. I suffer from every single one of the above, plus a few others, depending on how well I’ve stuck with my usually, very disciplined health and stress-management routines (which I will go into in more detail later.).

The symptom’s are cyclical; in fact, if they are present consistently, it is likely they are related to other illness’s. It is important to note that if you are suffering with any of the above or more, you should always consult a health professional for confirmation and diagnosis before drawing your own conclusions.

The symptom’s will also change. The same symptom’s will not always be present for each and every cycle, you may experience some months worse than others; and this is where I would like to offer some of my own tried, tested and safe approaches to managing a life with PMDD.

Below are my own easy to apply holistic suggestions on how to work with PMDD, managing symptom’s and side effects to reduce the effect the disorder has in your life. If I slip up and get lazy in any of the following areas, it is very likely my next cycle will present me with many of the symptom’s listed above.

Rest – It may seem simple and you may be rolling your eye’s at the suggestion, but we all know too well how easy it is to get caught up in the whirlwind of events that is the ‘modern-day-life’. Whether it be a deadline at work, family or social commitments, or an endless stream of errands we need to run; we rarely give ourselves time to rest and recuperate. The time leading to menstruation, for any woman, is a serious time of depleted energy levels. Women are so good at nurturing and providing for others, that we often miss the warning signs our bodies give us when we need to start slowing down and looking after ourselves.

Diet – Are you eating enough and is it the good kind of enough? We should be eating smaller meals, more often. We should also be cutting down on caffeine, if not giving it up entirely. Alcohol is a huge trigger, as is chocolate. And if you think it’s ok to swap milk chocolate for dark, I am afraid it will only make matters worse. I am guilty of all of the above. After all, who doesn’t crave that caffeine boost first thing in the morning when the weight of impending menstruation is bearing down on you. Or that ‘medicinal’ glass of red with dinner in the evening to help subdue any physical pain; let alone those few little morsels of rich chocolate to satisfy our sugar cravings! Unfortunately, none of it will help.

As an added extra, if you’re vegan, like me, I find my symptom’s lessen when I eat a diet that is mostly raw.

Supplementation – Supplements, I would love to say that I live without them, but at this stage in my life experimentation, I find there are a few which I rely on to keep me on the straight and narrow with my hormones. Evening Primrose Oil, Magnesium, B6 and, as a bi-product of being vegan, B12. We take evening primrose oil for premenstrual syndrome (PMS), breast pain, endometriosis, and symptom’s of menopause, such as hot flashes. Magnesium supplementation will help alleviate symptom’s such as muscle cramps, facial tics, poor sleep, and chronic pain. And although vitamin B6 deficiency is not common, it can easily be caused by vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiencies. Vitamin B6 is involved in the syntheses of some of the neurotransmitters that affect mood. Vitamin B6 acts as a cofactor in the production of dopamine and serotonin – a key leading contributor to PMDD is reduced serotonin levels.

Apple Cider Vinegar & Blackstrap Molasses – I could put both of these in the sections of diet or supplementation, however; I consider both of these so fundamentally important to the management of my own symptom’s, I decided they needed a whole special section of their own! ACV is considered a bit of an old wives tale or folklore and a remedy for numerous health and non-health related issues. I use it to help combat water retention and acne, it also serves as a tonic to reduce food-related cravings. As an added bonus, I noticed my mood swings were a lot less severe when I take ACV, as opposed to when I don’t. All you have to do is google Apple Cider Vinegar to open up an endless stream of reasons as to why we use it.

Blackstrap molasses contains more calcium than a glass of milk as well as a host of other vitamins such as Magnesium, B complex, and vitamins K and E. It also has a high iron content, which makes the health benefits of molasses perfect for people who suffer from anaemia and a girls’ best friend during times of menstruation. Blackstrap Molasses is fat-free and capable of helping the body support a proper acid-alkaline balance. It keeps your skin, smooth and flexible, by boosting elastin and collagen production and it also contains chromium which helps in the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrate. Combining it in a hot tea with your ACV will make it easier to ingest and use a straw if you have concerns about the effect of the acid on the enamel of your teeth.

I take both together as a tonic, first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach. There are varying ideas out there on just how much you should take, anywhere from 1-2-3 tablespoons of ACV once or twice a day when first starting with the tonic. Personally, I take 2 tablespoons of ACV with 1/2 teaspoon of Blackstrap Molasses once daily and find it effective for management of my symptom’s. You may find 1 is enough for you, depending on the degree of your symptom’s. Be prepared to trial and error your dosage within reasonable limits.

As a side note: I experience mores sensitivity topically, when taking Blackstrap Molasses and recommend you avoid excessive sun exposure. As a bonus, within days I noticed my eyes brighten!

Yoga – Naturally, we were always going to get to this topic. Yoga is one of the leading ways to exercise the body to improve poor circulation and mental alertness (both common issues with PMS and PMDD) in a safe and stress free manner. There are, of course, poses to avoid during the actual menstrual period, just as there are also poses we should be implementing more of during this time of the month. There are many conflicting ideas about what poses we should and shouldn’t be practicing during this time so I urge you to use your own awareness and better judgement of your body to make your own decisions. All in all, it is a physical discipline worth keeping up when we’re coming into our cycle.

Meditation – This is something I hold in such high regard, I would consider it of the highest importance if it weren’t for the fact that everything I have listed above, work best if all done complimentary to one another. Meditation is key for reducing stress, aiding in calming mental disturbances and confusion. It allows us to handle many things with greater ease, awareness and control over our emotional responses or reactions.

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Support – Last, but not least, the support from our loved ones, family and even co-workers is vital for navigating these difficult waters. As we sink on down the rabbit hole thinking only to protect them from, what we perceive, to be crazy, delusional and uncontrollable patterns of behaviour; we only dig ourselves deeper into isolation and despair, fuelling an already toxic situation beyond their ability to provide help. Sometimes, just letting a friend, colleague or family member know what it is you are experiencing, is enough to remind you that you have not lost the plot completely and they will, hopefully, provide you with enough understanding and support, to see you through the truly bad days.

They may not fully comprehend exactly what it is you experience during these traumatic times, but when those times do come on suddenly, they will at least know enough to recognize it as a passing moment, without judging you for the crazy, delusional, psychotic woman you feel you have become.

I myself, have been misunderstood to the point of lost friendships and ruined professional relationships. It is really important to remember that, as a sufferer, PMDD is not something any one of us would ever possibly wish for, and I would far rather live without it, than use it as an excuse for bad behaviour or social isolation.

Anyone who has ever considered this, really should live in these shoes for a month to truly experience just how demoralizing, devastating and destructive it can be for someone’s life. I have been called moody, reactive, self-absorbed and sensitive. I have lost friends and been judged. I have lost the respect of my peers and co-workers.

Most damaging of all, it has caused me to think awful things about myself. Before I took control, and long before I was even half as aware as I am now, I suffered a severe panic attack and had seriously considered suicide as the only way out. PMDD is a legitimate disorder and not something to take lightly.

If you, or someone you know, thinks they might have PMDD, please see a health professional. Take control of your life. Look after yourself, you of all the people in this world, are worthy of your own love and care.

If anything, I hope this article has served as a reminder that we are all dealing with something, no matter what it may look like from the viewers platform, or the stories we tell ourselves about our friends and neighbours, or even ourselves. It is such a beautiful thing to live truly, without judgement and with tolerance to see our friends through their darkest of days.

The grass is not greener, merely a different shade.

Live.Love.Give.Yoga.

Annie x

Unconditional love will set you free

I have been deep in thought, productive, useful thought about the topic of unconditional love; the connections, attachments, binds and all the other interwoven sublines this topic entails.

To help me understand better, if, when and how this can be an aspect of my life I am able to embrace, I’ve applied my own approach to the topic at hand, through my practice of yoga and meditation.

Please excuse the somewhat bullet point structure of my translations to you, this perhaps is quite telling for you, the reader, into how I pull apart, inspect and dissect information, ideas and theories, before subjecting them to the public for further inspection!

The analogy of binding – where a hand meets another hand, or a foot; basically areas within a yoga pose where the physical body connects and we lose the space in between to the density of matter, creating what we refer to, as a bind. They look a lot like those pretzel poses you see which appear painful, however, are in fact very energising.

The analogy of strengthening – this one seems pretty obvious to me, but maybe that’s because I’ve been working so darn hard on it. It involves the physical engagement of a muscle and is applied by drawing on our own inner ability to find strength and empowerment to overcome adversity.

The analogy of releasing – release enables the body to form a deeper connection physically as the bones, muscles, tissue, etc., soften and melt, moving into the space created from a release in breath or mentality. Release within an actual bind, for example, provides 2 different outcomes depending on what kind of release. We have mental detachment with breath release, enabling the yogi practitioner to move more deeply into postures or binds. Or, we may have both of the above including the actual physical detachment and ‘release’ of the body, to experience the sudden rush of fresh blood and fluid into joints and limbs. This could also be explained as a free flow of energy within the physical body.

The analogy of breath – to continue from above, upon inhale, expanding, upon exhale, contracting. Moving constantly, a state of flux; inviting or expelling. Creating space and moving into space. Lengthening to move into depth. Shifting the physical body, shifting the subtle body – shifting energy and directing it to places within which enable us to use this instrument, our human bodies and the monkey mind that goes with it, for the ultimate purpose it was designed. Merging, shifting and connecting energy.

And on connections – to make a connection, physically, we must experience attachment – maybe through a ‘bind’ where the limbs meet or an actual clasp or interlacing of fingers or hands occur. Maybe even where the inhale (the breath, the oxygen) reaches the blood cells which in turn are flushed with fresh, saturated oxygen and expand to make connections again, within the entire body. An agreement of where we meet, externally in the physical body and internally within our subtle energetic field. We also experience feelings and sensations, and these, we can experience mentally, without attachment, although most of us either do not understand this, or have forgotten somewhere along the way that WHAT we FEEL is not WHO we ARE.

Thoughts, too, because of our attachment, can manifest physically when that attachment grows stronger. This is why, meditation is one of the most important tools to learn. Although neglect of the physical, may not give you the most toned, trim or ‘supposedly’ healthy body – neglect of the mind will manifest within the body, as it produces. It may be slow, but eventually, the body will change – manifesting possible dis-ease, ailments, etc. This is not to say that the most toned, trim or healthiest looking body has also a healthy mind – on the contraire, the two must work together to produce a tangible foundation, two pillars of strength, so to speak, with which to work even further with. Here we have started connecting, again, this time through both mind and body.

It is true however, that the mind is far stronger, then the physical body. It will enable, for example, the yogi practitioner to move into seemingly impossible poses providing it is given the blessing to release any attachments to limited beliefs of what is, what could be or what might be- this is why I fell in love with yoga – the first time I realised this, it just blew my mind in the best possible way!

(This is, of course, taking into account accumulated baggage along the way. Some of this baggage, unfortunately, is a weight we must bear physically for the rest of our lives. Only through the experience of the weight it produces, are we to understand how to avoid the same situations. Apply this in any way you see fit, for I do not feel it would serve the article good, to veer off in another distracting, yet valid, discussion point.)

This is also why, it is more important, to work with a regular meditation practice. There are many alternative techniques out there and it may be, that you find this also, through a moving meditation, such as running, swimming, walking, tai-chi or, of course, yoga. Personally, I find through the Yogic asana practice AND in combination with the Vipassana meditation practice, I have accelerated my understanding and comprehension of just how awesome these approaches are, and how they can transform your entire life experience and perspective.

So, I hear you asking, how does this lead to love and the like? Well, you all already know the answer, just as I also did. We just need a little gentle reminding, a glance in the right direction, a suggestion from a friend, or perhaps just an inquisitive and curious mind to open up the doorway of truth.

If we think about binds in the yogic sense and how they aid the physical body, and what must happen in the mental body, to allow all of this to happen, it makes sense the same approach happens every day, in every single human interaction. If you are blessed with a like-minded soul, who has opened or awakened enough to subtle energy, it will move beyond the physical of what we see, hear, feel, smell, taste (sense attachment) to connect through vibrations in our energy fields. This can happen when two people are in the same room or, on opposite sides of the world, and other factors may also occlude or prevent this connection beyond the realm of distance.

The thing is – we are already bound – every single one of us. I am you, as much as you are me. This thing we label ‘energy’ is in fact me, and you, and everyone else.

To understand this and connect with it properly, I needed to relate to my own situation through previous romantic connections. In fact, I’d be lying if I said, that this wasn’t the original baseline motivation behind the desire to understand better, just what exactly is unconditional love and can I really experience it?

Personally, now that I have come to understand and comprehend it through my direct experiences and, using my own yogic interpretations, I care not what situation brought me there, in fact, I am truly grateful and appreciative of the situation and the path to which it has taken me.

I have experienced much unease and uncertainty with one person’s ability to make such a close and intimate physical connection with another yet, to dis-allow the potential or opportunity to connect beyond this. On the one hand, fully accepting another person’s right to their own space, and sincerely, offering a ‘relationship’ without any expectation or demands. Yet, still confused as to why I am allowed entry to one area so intimately and denied entry to another area so vehemently, and why this upsets me.

I would like to point out right here, before I continue, that there is no right or wrong to the situation or scenario I am describing. No bad or good. No angel or devil. It is what it is, or was, and has served a very important purpose for me personally.

We were bound before we even knew of the other, and actually, in that respect, we knew each other before we even existed. On the mundane, superficial level of feelings and emotions, I experienced hurt, sadness and rejection because this person was denying a connection we have already made.

At the very heart of it all – we have never been apart, we have always been together. All of us. Every single one of us, like a binding agreement which ‘connects’ us all.

And in the way with which I have chosen to ‘disconnect’ with this other person, the one that I love, I therefore, experience and feel the same hurt, pain and anger or other, that they too, might feel, because I am separating myself from myself, I am – in this surrealist way I like to visualise things – literally, pulling myself apart. But, yet, so is the other person and anyone else who has ever had even the slightest experience of loss or separation.

Anyone who starts to awaken to this truth, will start to experience every situation so strongly, so sensitively, whether it be a direct human experience of their own, or though that of someone else’s. Therefore, even if the experience results in the mundane emotions and feeling such as pain, sadness or anger just to name a few, we will automatically transform the emotion, given the current state of awareness within, into empathy, compassion, forgiveness and love.

This bind, this contract that connects us – is not in fact real either – because all of us, make one whole. United and complete in Oneness.

As this prayer from the Upanishads (sacred Hindu transcripts) describes:

From the unreal, lead me to the real.

From darkness, lead me to light.

From death, lead me to immortality.

For whatever reason I do not fully understand or comprehend – it is our divine purpose here on earth to connect with one another and assist our friends, our lovers, our families, our ‘enemies’ (this is only a perception, we cannot be enemies if we are in fact one. Here I could go on about the analogy of cells attacking cells within the body causing dis-ease, and so forth; however, for the sake of not losing the audience entirely, I will restrain), towards this realization where all sense of separateness dissolves. And we once again, become whole.

The word yoga means to yoke, which essentially means, to unite. On so, so, so many levels this resonates with me and is why I can comprehend and see the path through the eyes of a yogini. I know I am not perfect and have many human flaws, but this acceptance alone, creates perfection. For me, for you, for all of us. Acceptance and surrender are two HUGE key players in this entire game.

If we, as a complete cycle of everything that is present on this earth – be it man, woman, bird, fish, tree, plant, etc. –  cannot realize this collectively – we cannot unite and return home (or continue along the path – as I said earlier, this is so far, only my limited interpretation of our purpose). We will continue to experience suffering.

That is also, why it is referred to as the ‘battle’ – if ever there was a more appropriate time to use it, this would be it.

Unconditional love is what some of us may have without full realisation of the above, but because the realisation is not there, we experience and start to connect more with our other mundane, baseline emotions.

I found myself experiencing self-doubt due to the situation I related earlier, and I am fully aware, that this is not the first time I have exposed myself to such ‘feelings’ and fears. By allowing this ‘ego’ of experiences to alter or change what I essentially know in my heart of hearts, (as this is not the first time I have come to this conclusion, to which I am sure, in this lifetime or another) and what we refer to as intuition. Which is really, a little collection of memories and reminders (thank goodness for those reminders!) which bring us back to a point where we left in the last lifetime or situation, and can hopefully, progress further with.

However, unconditional love WITH the awareness of all I have written above, takes it, for me anyway, to a complete and ultimate level of understanding and comprehension. I feel, that once you put it all together, it is impossible to forget. At least in this lifetime!

And now, as I have said many times in this short life already, the hard work begins.

We, essentially, begin again. Yet, this time we have a deeper understanding which will give us the strength required to share what we know, to connect more, to offer our services to humanity, to teach and to forever remain a student so that we, as individuals may share with one another and remember through this wisdom and understanding, through tools such as yoga and meditation, to unite as one whole and complete energy where we connect to come home, back to the source.

The most mind blowing and eye opening part of this whole experience for me is, that I have known it all to be true in this lifetime too. I have never knitted it together, however; to enable this perspective or approach. In all honesty, I have actually been denying myself the truth, in order to remain asleep and ignorant. Or should I say, my ego, this thing that also tries to convince me, that I am ME and separate to YOU, has been denying me the truth.

This is why we are here too, to remind one another of what we have already forgotten in this lifetime, not just that of the lives already passed. To love all, to accept and surrender to the truth, to let go in order to remember and reconnect, we must feel pain, in order to understand what it is we may also cause, and parallel to this, to feel love, to know love, in order to give love. Unconditionally with love. To remember the truth:

Unconditional love will set you free

I. Love. You.

 

Live. Love. Give. Yoga.

Annie x

I choose Yoga

My most recent post encountered a blended mix of beliefs and conflict regarding my use of social media. Upon completion of writing it, the decision was made to cancel all my active social media accounts, and I have been enjoying the space that comes with simplifying life and reconnecting with people using the more traditional modes of communication.

I wasn’t convinced that I would come back. I have used my accounts predominantly, with myself as a visual focus, to garner attention and curiosity towards the teachings and practices associated with the Yogic way of life. This has often given me pause for thought as I revisit the bizarre world of ‘marketing’ yoga through myself on a device, people I will never actually meet, hold in their hands, and miles away from where I currently stand.

There will always be benefits and consequences to the ‘art’ of this new, online world we have all become a part of, or, which has become a part of us. I have always had concern that the material I deliver, was of substance and for a greater good. I knew that if I did make it back online, it would be for the reasons I have always maintained – connecting with a wider community, to share and encourage those who have an interest, to the spiritual pursuits we like to identify as yoga and meditation.

As Ashtanga Yoga Guru, Sri Pattabhi Jois once said:

“Yoga is possible for anybody who really wants it. Yoga is universal…. But don’t approach yoga with a business mind looking for worldly gain.”

Yoga is not a business. It’s a practice. It’s specific and direct guidance on the ways in which you can refine aspects of mind and body to connect to a higher source, whatever you choose to ‘label’ it. It’s a way of life, which, if followed with determination, compassion and devotion, will ultimately lead you to the path of self-realisation. Also known as liberation, nirvana, or as I like to call it, moksha.

Yoga is an ancient science which has proven for more than 5000 years that it works.

We are not just talking about strutting a few poses here and there, or exercising the body for competition of physical appeal. The lovely apparel we adorn these yogi bodies with, while practical and designed to hold us (especially, the girls!) in all the right places do have a place and serve a very important purpose, it’s also not about the clothes, the mat, or the latest non-slip gimmick device.

We are not playing games with external forces to control or manipulate others, let alone direct energy to a point of vibrating so high we have lost touch with the reality around you (unless of course you are just levitating your way to complete liberation – NOTE: without attachment to that blissful, floating feeling); there should also be no desire to create or manifest fantasies, illusions and delusions, which serve no purpose other than for personal gain or pleasure.

We are talking about cutting it all back to grass roots. Getting rid of the weeds, filtering out the bacteria, purifying mind (meditation) and body (yoga and pranayama) to accept and surrender to what is – truth. Direct experience and wisdom of who YOU are and your purpose in this world.

Those who practice, will experience many fluctuations in the mind and body, in yoga you will often hear these referred to as energy shifts. As you start work on purifying the mind and body, it is only natural, that you start to agitate the dirt that’s been holding all these old weeds down for so long; patterns of behaviour, ways of thinking. This starts to stir things up a bit and creating a little mud, a bit of murkiness.

Unfortunately, at this stage, some people leave the practice entirely, not really understanding that it is working its beautiful and transformative magic perfectly. That if they stick it out just a bit longer, eventually, that mud will clear and make way for fresh, new flowing water and energy, into their lives.

Your perspective changes, first subtly. You may not even recognize the changes in yourself, although ask your closest friends, family or partners and they will almost always admit to noticing a difference. For some of us, the change may happen so drastically that we cannot help but commit immediately to the lifestyle it entails.

This is, naturally, when things start to stir again, or, on the flip side, stagnate even. The real test of your commitment is up for assessment, and once again, here is where we start to lose some of our spiritual drive, once so committed to the path, and back onto a system which hasn’t been working, but we have always been told, is the way, the truth. This is of course, the biggest delusion of all. It is what I like to call, ‘The Truman Show’ of life.

I, myself, have recently undergone what felt like, an endless succession of ‘life’ tests. None of which I could ever control, but all of which I could observe without getting emotionally attached. Needless to say, I failed this task hideously.

I was distraught. How could I, after all the change, the transformation, the encouragement for so many others; how could ‘I’ let myself down like this. The repetitive dialogue in my head went something along the lines of this:

‘You’ve been preaching non-reaction now for some time. You’ve been using YOU, yourself, as living proof of the positive effect and transformation of yoga and meditation techniques. You’ve been empowering others, to learn how to empower themselves. And, now, here, look at you. A complete mess, a shell of a woman that once was, you call yourself a teacher? What kind of a teacher could possibly let emotions and the energy of others intoxicate her life like this?’

This is self-deprecation at its best and lends itself to the ugly un-truth we like to call ego. This ego, always ready and waiting to drag us back down when we’re making progress. It will lead you down many twists and turns and direct you away from the very thing you should be heading towards. Quite often it masquerades as you, your intuition, but this is its job. It’s often also referred to as the divide in consciousness, and it takes a very keen and alert observer to catch it before it does any real damage.

In my eyes, I was living proof of everything that could have been or might have been, but is now in desperate need of a serious reality check. When in ‘reality’, the real test was the ability to face all of these things, experience these feelings as exactly what they were, feelings and nothing more, and get back on with it.

Humans often make the mistake of believing we are no more than the feelings we experience, when in actuality, they are a passing sensation experienced within our mind and body with which we have no right to make claim or ownership. True to the teachings of yoga and the Vipassana technique of meditation, this extends beyond our material possessions, to thoughts and feelings we choose to possess in our minds, and eventually end up manifesting in our physical bodies.

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It is always a choice, and that choice is always ours.

I have no idea where my life would have gone, if these practices weren’t so established and integrated into this life I am now leading. There are still up’s and down’s, we are, after all, living with others who are experiencing their own feelings, their own lives and cultivating their own perspectives – whether it be truth or illusion.

As I always say, ‘If I had mastered it by now, I would no longer be here, on this earth.’

We can only control, and should, only control, what is happening within. Once we have a grasp of ourselves, we share this energy with others, creating ripples, sometimes waves, which extend, reaching, weaving, and manifesting in the space of those people. Your friends & family, loved ones, (perceived) enemies, the gas station attendant, the till operator at the checkout…

It is, in a sense, our service to humanity, to share the energy that is love, which is compassion, which is truth, acceptance and wisdom. If you are cultivating energy which carries darkness, anger, guilt, sadness, depression, even hatred; despite your misbelief that it is only you who have been affected, you have no choice but to share this with the rest of us unless you work to change your own perspective, your own attachment to these emotions or feelings.

It’s ALL of our duties, to serve humanity. If one of us becomes affected, eventually, many, or even ALL of us become affected.

I started teaching yoga because, one day during practice and observing myself, I suddenly recognized the many positive changes and transformations that had taken place since prioritising yoga in my life. Meditation hadn’t really entered into my world to the degree it has now, so this experience was merely through the practice of the yoga asanas, pranayama and a very strong determination to change my life’s path. This all culminated in the beginning of physical purification within the body. Naturally, I started noticing changes in the way I viewed this life, this world, and, in the way I reacted or didn’t react.

During this observation, the realization hit me fast and, in all honesty, I almost didn’t see any other way to proceed, than to take the path with which I have. The decision to start teaching was not part of an image, was most certainly not a financial decision, and was not taken lightly. But once the decision was made, it was with firm determination and clear goals for what it was I intended to ‘share’ with humanity. The decision to start teaching had EVERYTHING to do with humanity.

I remember the thought so vividly, ‘If yoga can transform my own world and change my own perspective to such a degree, that I, have literally, saved myself from subsequent demise; imagine what would happen if the entire world started implementing these practices into their lives. How peaceful and beautiful the world would be. Back to, what I can only imagine, a world we were always supposed to be. Living in harmony with one another, sharing as one collective whole, this beautiful universe.’

Teaching yoga is my service to humanity.

Here we find ourselves full circle as we reconnect with the opening topic of social media. Yes, I am back. I will do my best, to uphold yogic morals, ethics and beliefs while sharing with the public images, quotes, posts and tips as well as ‘promoting’ the lifestyle. I am after all, living proof of deeply personal changes and transformations and my experience has been direct and true. Consider me a ‘yogini work in progress’. The eternal student and believer of others, a sometimes teacher, and predominantly, a human just trying to be-ing. Sometimes this human gets it wrong, but believe me when I say, never with the intention of getting it wrong.

Learn the practice of Yoga. Start meditating, if only for 5 minutes. When it starts to get under your skin, experience the shifts without leaving the practices behind, know that, this too, shall pass. Then, when you want to know more, complete a Yoga Teacher Training course, if only for ‘yourself’. Then, when you find yourself thinking like me, share your knowledge of the practices to the world and let’s work with strong determination, love and devotion to unite as a whole and live in harmony with one another.

Peaceful, happy and loved. What more could one possibly ask for?

It feels so good to be back!

Peace and love and all of life’s blessing to you readers, be happy and share it with all!

Live.Love.Give.Yoga.

Annie x

*** The beautiful beach sunrise image you see above gives credit to: http://hook.media/ and my extended family at http://www.houseofyoga.co.nz/ ***

To be, or not to be?

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

 

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

And it actually feels really good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How bizarre. I was not expecting this!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live. Love. Give. Yoga.

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

Inspiration

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

~ Walt Disney

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live. Love. Give. Yoga.

Annie x

Vipassana

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life becomes significant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the experience of living life.

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

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

 Live. Love. Give. Yoga.

Annie x

www.dhamma.org

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

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