Most Beautiful

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Never do anything standing that you can do sitting,

or anything sitting that you can do lying down.

Proverb

I am the greatest believer in the fact that if you want to feel beautiful, then you need to surround yourself with it!

I found a ‘pearler’. Or rather it found me.  Known as Shreyas (translated from Sanskrit as ‘most beautiful’), it is my special place for stillness, silence, peace and warmth.  It enfolds me and hugs me like a friend – it is a friend, a very special friend located in the heart of Karnataka, India, away from smart phones, tablets, traffic, nail salons and cafes.

I remember first visiting Shreyas and being totally humbled and in awe of its calming influence, profound teachings, its gentle souls and its snail-pace.

In between ‘do-able’ Hatha yoga classes, unquestionably delicious and healthy cuisine, meditation, private lessons, exquisite Ayurvedic treatments and massages (did I mention swimming?), I would sometimes just sit on a bench in the garden and simply watch!

Staff don’t walk here, they glide. Always with their hand to their heart in greeting and with a gracefulness I have rarely encountered anywhere else in the world.  It is actually surreal as though everyone is floating on air.

Of course, this suggests, that I had slowed down so much that I was stretching time and living fully in the present – ‘comatosed’ would be the best definition. Staying here, the past and future simply do not break through my reverie.  I always emerge from the miasma of life even if just for a brief time.

I have been there four times now.  It is my annual (thank you I am looking after myself time) and I shall return over and over.

By now I am beginning to learn everyone’s name.  You would think so! But I would get my ‘Krishna’s’ mixed up with my ‘Sureshes’ and forget where I was, always thankful to be found wandering around the grounds by an observant staff member who recognised that I was lost and/or had completely ‘lost the plot’.

The teachers are divine. Always watching over us. There is a cleansing practise called Jala Neti where one uses a little pot to pour warm salt water through the nostrils.  Ideal for people like me who suffer with hay fever etc.  Ideal for anyone…really.  One of the teachers told me she used to smile as soon as the word was mentioned because my face would contort and I would bolt out of the yoga Shala to hide amongst the trees.  She will be pleased to know that finally after four visits I practise Jala Neti at home every single day.  Does it work? Yes. So why did I avoid it all this time? Simple really…one of my brothers used to dunk me in the ocean and hold me under when I was a kid, and the sensation of salt water up my nose is a reminder of him trying to drown me. Another personal ‘issue’ subjugated.

Attention to detail is simple but so thoughtful. A tube of repellant set beside the yoga mat. The scent of Loban being waved through the yoga classes. Orange Oil burning. Hum Sa. So Hum.

Then there are the cooking classes.  I don’t cook.  I am brilliant at assembling food, but I simply don’t cook it. However, I love to eat. So I go to the classes because the chefs are so experienced and fun, and one can nibble along the way.  I have it nailed.  I take down the recipe, hand it over to any friend who accompanies me, and then suggest I come over to their place for dinner when I return to Australia.  (I’ll bring the chocolate!).

As you may know, you do not wear shoes into any yoga space.  So there are rows of shoes left on the steps.  The thing that has always fascinated me is that at the end of the class, and every time I would leave the Shala, my shoes had been turned around so I could step into them and walk away. I was determined to one day grab a mental snapshot of who does that!  Still I have never ‘caught’ anyone. The place is full of ‘shoe fairies’.
I always leave refreshed, slower, and a little taller, with snippets of philosophy I have picked up along the way reminding me of this beautiful yogic path.
“Love is flowing energy”.

“Time is the gift you have been given, use it fully”.

“Peace comes from wisdom, fear comes from ignorance”.

“Awareness travels with us through all incarnations”.

The other extremely satisfying aspect of Shreya’s is that you meet the same staff. All are encouraged to practise yoga daily (thus the gliding) and many have been with Shreya’s since its inception some 15 years ago. That in itself is a telling tale. Consistency and contentment.
The staff also have quirky, humorous retorts. Whilst being assisted into a challenging posture, one that I feel my spine had never visited before, I asked the question ‘Has anyone ever died doing yoga?”. The teacher’s quip was “yes, but they died healthy”!

Says it all really.

 

Annemaree xxx

 

P.S. I am going back in 2019. You may like to come with me and for that reason I have created a 10-day retreat.  Six spaces only.  Join me?  Or not!  I am going anyway, and would love to see you/escort you/teach you.  Then you can also take down the recipes and I shall have great delight in eating what you create.

For more details...

 

 

 

 

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The boy in the bucket

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From there to here, from here to there,

funny things are everywhere.

— Dr. Seuss

Two years ago,  I was visiting one of the major historical sites in India in the state of Karnataka. Making my way to the rest room (or should I say ‘rest hut’), I noticed a woman mopping the floors. She was playing such an important role, but one that is challenging, mundane and generally not valued by anyone.  I always offer a smile and I tip these workers, grateful not only for their service, but for the part they play in my comparatively privileged life.

As I entered the doorway there were her two little boys frolicking about on the tiles. No iPad, smart phone or toy trucks. Just a bucket and water (and detergent). Surreptitiously taking my camera out of my pocket I snapped this shot. The joy and laughter were contagious, as this little one laughed, played, splashed about, lifted his sweet face to the sun and joined his hands in gratitude.  Even if he was not fully aware of the gratitude he could feel, it was natural for him, as a Hindu, to hold his hands in prayer.

I stood there for ages watching this truly delightful scene.  Whilst visiting the site was absolutely wonderful, the boy in the bucket was the highlight.

Every time I look at this photo it makes me smile. What immense power the joy of another one’s laughter has on oneself!  What power the smile evokes!  In this case the smile was from ear to ear.  For both of us….

And again that same joy is conjured just by remembering this incident as I write this for you.

In my yoga classes, I often ask my students to close their eyes and bring a gentle smile to their face.  Then I ask the question: how does that feel?  Some of my students tell me that they can’t feel the smile when they have their eyes closed.  So I ask them to turn their smile inwards. To be aware that everything will be OK, to curve their lips upward and to create or remember an image that gives them that irrepressible joy.

Then I ask them to turn their inward smile outwards and open their eyes sharing that smile with someone known to them or not; real or imagined; or even to project that smile into an imaginary mirror peering at their own image.

Blind Freddy (whoever he was) knows that smiles are contagious. The part of the brain that is responsible for our facial expression when happy or mirroring another person’s smile resides in the area of an unconscious automatic response. So if you are smiling at someone it is likely that they will smile straight back. If they don’t then they are actually ‘trying’ not to and repressing the response.

I remember once in my teens, being so sad, that a little old lady (she was probably only my age now) came up to me in the street and simply said….’smile my dear…you look so sad…let the smile mellow your worries’.   I did smile….. and she smiled for me and with me.

Share your smiles and laughter. Smile at someone for no good reason and watch what happens. You never know, maybe, just maybe, that smile that you offered so freely, actually was an enormous gift to someone who truly needed to be lifted from the doldrums at that very moment.

And whenever you need to give yourself a smile and are not quite sure how to find it, just remember…

 the boy in the bucket!

Annemaree x

 

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How do I look?

“Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important”. Janet Lane.

Over the past three weeks I had the intention of writing whilst I unhurriedly made my way through the charming streets of Paris. However, there was simply too much to see and too much to savour and in this instance crème brulee and chocolate mousse simply won out. Not to mention the Pantheon, Saint Chapelle, Monet’s gardens and all the sumptuous iconic sites, book stalls, and tea houses of this extraordinary city.

I love to observe and had time to do so sitting in cute little cafés whilst tapping into my school French! I was constantly in awe (and sometimes in shock) of how people carry themselves both physically and emotionally. What can you see when you observe? What attracts you to another?

As always, travelling is about the people you meet. It is about those special moments when a smile lifts your heart and knowledge is exchanged. Whether one is donned in Chanel or Dior, nothing is more attractive than a smile! And it was a 6-year-old’s smile that connected me to Paris.

I was sitting in a café nestled alongside a little boy and his mother. I noticed the child when I entered the café. The waitresses were pouring affection upon him and he was chatty, bright and exuberant with large inquisitive eyes and a personality of sunshine. As I was chatting away to my friend opposite me, the boy’s mother politely interrupted our conversation to say that her child, Noa, would like to say how lovely my ear-rings were. I turned around to him and melted into his big smile and replied how thankful I was for the compliment. With that he asked permission to kiss me! (They mature early in France!). And alas a friendship was borne!

Thus followed an animated conversation with Moira and Noa and a consequent day spent together learning about life in France. Nothing was too much trouble….fun, laughter, hospitality and kindness! It’s moments like these that make your stay so wonderful. The photo above is of Moira’s children. You can see the delight and joy in these little beings.

Only yesterday I had a new student express to me that one of the things she wanted to gain from yoga was ‘to smile’ more often. Of course by being internally peaceful and happy one will then exude warmth and in turn connect positively with those around them.

I know I am always talking about smiling and the expression one carries, but I realize more and more how important it is for us to become mobile portraits of ‘joie de vivre’, the exultation of spirit.

“Look up not down; smile don’t frown; live with grace, gratitude and kindness” Annemaree

Be Beautiful

Feel beautiful; surround yourself with beauty; live in beauty; seek the beauty in yourself; seek the beauty in others; add beauty to those around you; and think beautifully.

I rang a friend on Friday to wish her happy birthday and she told me that her brother had died of a massive heart attack in the early hours of the morning.  No warning.

That same week a truly lovely woman whom I had been teaching yoga, left this world.  And, in the same week I heard news that an aunt of mine had died.

Again I reflect.  We are so busy balancing on the precarious tight-rope of life that we fail to stop and notice the beauty.  We rush, run, sprint through the hours, worry, self-recriminate and dilute the day with our angst and mundane utterances. Sometimes we stop to take a deep breath, but mostly we don’t.

We must not lose the opportunity to see something that is beautiful or to feel a moment of splendour…..for do we know the day when we will leave here too?

And beauty abounds all around us.

I awoke this morning, very early when it was still dark.  The birds were just starting to welcome the dawn.  I draped my gorgeous white blanket across my shoulders, lit a candle and sat listening to the beauty around me.  A cacophony of sweet sounds wrapped in stillness.

My breakfast looked beautiful and tasted as such.

I made sure that I rang a friend just to say ‘hello’.

I asked my negative thoughts if they would consider going elsewhere today?

I noticed the beauty in my students as I taught them yoga this morning and realized how blessed I am to do what I love.

I actually stopped to admire some of the gorgeous photography I have on my walls.

I plucked a small flower and it is now sitting in front of me.

I absorbed the sunshine and bought myself a gift.

I smiled.

I felt the vibrations of beauty flow through me and realized that my awareness of beauty surpasses my mind and aims directly at my heart.

Don’t be too busy to finish this piece…..take a deep breath and read the tale that found me today too.

It’s amazing how your heart-felt intentions come back to you dressed in words.

One summer night, out on a flat headland, all but surrounded by the waters of the bay, the horizons were remote and distant rims on the edge of space.  Millions of stars blazed in darkness, and on the far shore a few lights burned in cottages.  Otherwise there was no reminder of human life.  My companion and I were alone with the stars:  the misty river of the Milky Way flowing across the sky, the patterns of the constellations standing out bright and clear, a blazing planet low on the horizon.  It occurred to me that if this were a sight that could be seen only once in a century, this little headland would be thronged with spectators.  But it can be seen many scores of nights in any year, and so the lights burned in the cottages and the inhabitants probably gave not a thought to the beauty overhead; and because they could see it almost any night, perhaps they never will.  ~Rachel Carson

 

Smile!

I often reflect upon an experience I had in India a couple of years ago.

I was walking along the street in a small beach resort in Kerala, the south of India, and I noticed a man standing on one leg (he only had one leg).  He was holding a large cluster of balloons for sale.

He shouted out to me “hey, I remember you, you were here last February!”  That was true, but a year had passed and I was so shocked that he remembered, that I was stopped in my tracks.

I went up to him and asked “How do you remember me?”  His reply humbled me to the very core.  He said…”I remember you because every time you walked by you would smile at me”.

Here I was traipsing around the world (on two legs) and here he was limited to a tiny spot and probably had never left this village.

The lesson is in the ‘smile’ and how much they can mean to those with whom you share them.

How do you feel when someone smiles at you?  Just smiles, without any discernible motive, just simply smiles – offering you the gifts of affection and recognition?  You feel warm and for that brief moment, you feel  ‘noticed’.

How do you feel when you smile at someone?  A smile shows for a split second that you care, you share and you acknowledge.  It makes you feel happy too….doesn’t it?

‘A smile costs nothing’ and is of particular value when you know that the person you are directing your smile to – needs it so very badly.  The more desolate a being seems, the more potent and valuable the gift.

Leave a trail of smiles behind throughout your life.  Smile inwardly and smile outwardly. Smile every day for no particular reason. Who knows, your smiles may become contagious. One by one these smiles may be passed on and soon we shall all be smiling.

A SMILE

A smile costs nothing, but it creates much.

 It enriches those who receive

without impoverishing those who give.

 It happens in a flash,

and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.

 None are so rich that they can get along without it,

and none are so poor but are richer for a smile.

 It creates happiness in the home,

fosters goodwill in a business,

and is the countersign of friends.

 It is rest to the weary,

daylight to the discouraged,

sunshine to the sad,

and nature’s best antidote for trouble.

It cannot be bought, begged, borrowed or stolen,

for it is something that is no earthly good to anybody

‘til it is given away.

 And if it ever happens

that some people should be too tired to give you a smile,

why not leave one of yours?

 For nobody needs a smile so much

as those who have none left to give.

by Author Unknown