If you ever feel dumb…..

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Sloth

I saw this on an office wall today and it really made me laugh and reflect on some of the hilarious ‘dumb’ things I have done over the years.  I laugh at myself all the time.  Many people wouldn’t admit to doing such outrageously ‘dumb’ things as I have done, either because they believe that no-one in their right mind would believe them or they wouldn’t want to look stupid.  Quite frankly I don’t care what others think as doing ‘dumb’ things simply makes me laugh at myself and helps me to become a little more mindful (well… sometimes).

It seems over the years, as I have increased my yoga and meditation practise, I have become more focused and aware.  I don’t seem to walk into a room these days arriving and not knowing why; or finding the iron in the fridge; or misplacing every sock in the house; or forgetting where I have left my car!

Although….I do recall going to a friend’s house one night and staying so late that we thought it would be a good idea for me to stay over.   I rang the police the next morning because my car had been stolen from outside her house.   The police arrived in little under an hour and said they had found my car.  It was parked at my house around the corner.  I had forgotten I had walked.

Then I guess there was the time when I arrived at the airport without my wallet and had to catch a plane to Hong Kong.  Of course, my wallet contained all my credit cards and money.  I asked someone at the check-in counter if they could lend me enough money to use a public phone. (Yes, it was before smart phones).  I rang the office, asked my work mates to take up a collection from their weekly pay and send it in a cab to Tullamarine (Melbourne’s international airport).  I boarded the plane.  Sometime later I found my wallet in the freezer wrapped up with the frozen spinach!

Another time, when I wasn’t paying attention, was when I was travelling with my youngest brother through Central America.  We travelled with a group and had our own bus.  We all disembarked to buy water and to stretch our legs.  When the word came to re-board I did.  But I got on the wrong bus.  Here I was sitting amongst a whole lot of Mexicans (which I didn’t notice).  I should have twigged when there was a chicken or three running around my feet.  But didn’t.  My brother who had been watching my movements boarded the bus took me by the hand and guided me onto our transport, just calmly shaking his head, not uttering a word and therefore insinuating I had completely ‘lost the plot’.  In retrospect, what was even funnier, is that I didn’t know where I was; no-one spoke English in the province; and it could have been days, indeed weeks, before I was found.

The irony is that I am not slothful and know my arms are my arms.  But when I am over-using my brain, ‘being busy’ and scrambling my mind with thousands of useless thoughts, I lose focus.  I then just ‘lose it’  and have no idea where I am or what I am doing.  And….we are all the same!  Believe me we are.  You just won’t admit it!

So the answer….slow down; meditate; be mindful; don’t take yourself too seriously and laugh a lot!

And….don’t climb trees!

Photo source: Google – author – unknown

Moving in Stillness…..

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Yes, it may sound like a total contradiction, but let me explain….

Last year, a friend and I were travelling through the colourful, vibrant towns and villages of Rajasthan.  On this particular day, our driver stopped for chai.  Right in the middle, it seemed, of an intersection!

In India, it doesn’t really matter where one stops – it always seems to be in the middle of mayhem or in the middle of nowhere.  In this experience, it was in the middle of life!  No rhyme, reason or rules.  We just stopped!

Whilst the chai was being commissioned we decided to stretch our legs.  Normally one would scurry across the road to avoid being annihilated by any moving objected including auto rickshaws bearing anything from mattresses to an extended family, or trucks laden with elephants venturing off to a nearby festival.

But this time, we just ambled through the melee and I have survived to tell the story.

When you slow right down, calming observing and savouring all that that the senses have to offer, the wondrous beauty of our existence is revealed.

As we strolled, it was as though we were suspended in time.  We merged with flowing hues of vermillion, saffron and turquoise illuminated with sparkling braids and sequins; a sun so bright that the sky was indeed ‘sky-blue’; bright white lungis offset by rich coffee-coloured skin; camels adorned with bells and flowers just plodding here and there; painted children; horses mounted by men in crimson turbans; saris of hot pinks and emerald greens; bobbles, bangles and bling galore; chai wallahs working the crowd; sleek black locks; camels sharing their bad breath; humans sharing breath imbued with cardamom; and subtle aromas of sandalwood mingling with it all.

It was simply surreal.

We were in the centre of a Hollywood, Bollywood, Mollywood set.  We were the players; the stage was set, action was called and everything entered into this roundabout on queue.  We were standing still and yet moving at the same time.  We were part of a movie reel.

We felt as though we were moving in stillness and realized we were absolutely in the now.

To live this fully – one simply has to slow down, know stillness, witness the pauses between the breaths, observe with full attention, smile and enjoy!  All answers are in stillness.

Whether you are moving in a state of stillness, or are still whilst life moves through you and around you, know that:

Beauty will unfold….Compassion will grow….Laughter will evolve……Connection will come….

Watch and discover…..

Too deep?  Just have some chocolate…..that will sort things out…….

‘The Hug’

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It was a warm, sultry, January evening – deep in the heart of Tamil Nadu, a southern state of India.

The moon had just exited its fullness by one night.  It was still radiant and round, filtering its light through the palm fronds and reflecting its amber glow in the waters that ebb and flow alongside the ‘Uluru Children’s Home’.

I saw her standing there, part in the shadows of the gate and part in the lunar light.  She was solitary; her eyes  Illuminescent ,  just watching me walking towards her.  Not a movement.  Not a breath.  Still.  Silent.  Deep.

What was she thinking?  What decision was she considering? Why was she motionless?  A beautiful image suspended in reality.

I stopped and watched her for some time, wondering what was on her mind and I was fascinated by her intensity.

Suddenly, she rushed into me wrapping her arms tightly around me, her head at my chest.

The hug was so strong, it took me by surprise. Such a tiny creature exuding such enormous strength.  As I wrapped myself around her,  I could feel the muscles in her tiny back.  Lean, powerful, balletic – the body of a dancer.  A little girl who spends hours practicing in the Bharatanatyam tradition. The hug was enduring and heart-felt.  And, I thought my heart was going to leap out of my chest.  After a minute or so, she let go.  Not a word was spoken.  None was needed.  She walked away.

I am not so sure I believe in altruism. Is there really such a thing? Why does one get involved in charity?  How does one choose which one?  Is it not to fill a gap in one’s being? And if so, which hole in me needed to be filled?

Why orphaned, destitute and abandoned children?  Why India?  And why now?

Upon reflection, and for my part, my mother was very ill throughout much of her life and my father was dying by the time I was 16.  My parents were extraordinary and I am so grateful to have known them.  They worked so very hard at staying alive and were desperate to survive for as long as possible for their children.  But when a parent or parents are ill and eventually leave, particularly when children are only children, one cannot help but carry a sense of loss and abandonment into their future years.

And as I reflect, I realize that this is it.  This is the gap!  The hole!  The emptiness of needing to fend for oneself (real or imagined) and the sadness and loneliness that pervades when you are growing up. No child should feel it.  But millions do.  Is it not a child’s birthright to feel secure, safe and loved, no matter what the circumstances?

Yes, as an adult, I have learned that security, safety and love come from within.  And coming from such a blessed land as Australia, I feel it is my responsibility to pass on my love to those less fortunate.

A hug is mutual.  A hug is the same in any language. And…. I can afford to give many away.  It is a gift to be given and received.  That is why I am involved with ‘The East West Overseas Aid Foundation’ of India.

I have never expected nor asked for the children’s love in return.  I don’t speak TamiI and therefore can only communicate with them in a rudimentary fashion.

I am not in need of recognition, accolades or in being known to leave a legacy.  Those things are of no importance to me.

I am simply interested in ‘The Hug’ and what it does for children and for the whole of mankind.

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You may visit the children at: http://www.tewoaf.org.au/

Om Shanti……

Annemaree

Just Breathe

Three years ago I received a telephone call from my youngest brother, Paul.  I shall never forget the anguish in his voice as he explained that his first newborn, 6-week-old baby Thomas Rowley, had just been diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis.

I felt the pain well up inside me as he spoke and I tried with all my might to stay calm for his sake, but alas the tears started to flood as I realized how significant and challenging this little boy’s life could become.  Not to mention, the pain and strain on his lovely parents, Paul and Tania.

My yoga training flew straight out the window….or so it seemed.

I cried and cried and cried.  I simply couldn’t stop.  I hibernated and tried to be calm, making copious cups of tea and laying my hands on anything that might be soothing  chocolate and licorice mainly).

Yes, it sounds as though it was all about me, and it was at the time!

I was of no value to anyone who came within a tear drop’s distance of my whimpering self.  In all, I cried for 24 hours non-stop.  I awoke throughout the night sobbing.  I sobbed doing the dishes, in the shower and walking along the street.

A headstand was out of the question because I simply would have drowned.

With red-rimmed eyes, a throbbing head and a heavy heart I attended a class being held by my yoga teacher, Shanti Gowans.   Ironically she arrived into Melbourne that weekend. I attended her class and tried to remain inconspicuous amongst my yoga teacher friends.  Yes, there were inquisitive looks.  Puffed cheeks and swollen eyes were not characteristic of my persona and when one asked me if I was OK, I immediately broke down like a wailing banshee and grabbed at anyone who would hug me.  Yes, ‘I’m fine’ I said.  Well, that was authentic – not!

Shanti didn’t breathe a word and not a word passed between us on that day.  I laid down on the floor to take part in her 2-hour yoga class.  The tears came and came until my yoga mat was flooding.  I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t smile.  Wavelets of water slid across my chest and every time I tried to do an inversion the tears would back-track and slide straight up my nose.  But…deep down I knew that something would eventually turn the ‘tap of tears’ off and prepare me to be of support to wee Thomas in a calm and peaceful manner.  But what?

Have you ever attended a crowded yoga class and believed the teacher was specifically and exclusively talking to you?

All I could hear her say was “if you think your life is falling apart, just breathe”.  Over and over. “Just breathe”.  “Just breathe”.  “Just breathe”.  In and out, softly, gently, deeply.  “If you think your life is falling apart, just breathe”.  The breath will heal you, hold you, and comfort you.  “Just breathe”.

I tried.  I really tried.

That afternoon I was committed to take my own yoga class. I didn’t want to disappoint my students by cancelling.  The room was dark so I assumed they wouldn’t notice my face’s disfigurement.  And….. most of the class was done with the ‘eyes’ closed.  I bottled up the tears and when the students had all departed from the room, I sat alone in what seemed like the very trough of misery, and howled.  And then…. ‘just breathed’.  Again.  And again.

The more I focused on the breath the more the pain in my heart started to subside.  The tears began to diminish and within a few more hours, I calmed right down.  I had grieved. It was no longer about me. Anyway, I greatly dislike being absorbed ‘in me’. It was now to be about Thomas. I had stepped out of my own way and was ready to be of service.

…to be continued

(with love from ‘Auntie’).

(and thank you Fiona Handbury for taking this beautiful photograph of our Thomas).

Om connect

Some years ago when I was in the throes of creating my yoga tour to India, I came upon a little street in the lovely sea-side fishing village of Kovolam.

It was incredibly hot and I would duck into the shops one after the other for respite from the piercing heat.  These little stores would always beckon me as they were intriguing,  colourful and cool.

On this particular day, I met Raja who welcomed me with a smile as broad as the universe, and an act of kindness that I shall remember to my dying day. He noticed I was wearing the symbol of ‘Om’.  I had worn my silver charm for as long as I could remember.  I have no idea from where I purchased it and usually I don’t remove it.

I felt that for a brief instant Raja was looking within me rather than at me as he suggested he polish the pendant.  I took it off and placed it in his hand and as I did so it simply cracked in half. I was flabbergasted and he just smiled.  “I thought that was going to happen” he said.  “You would have lost it at any moment!”

He didn’t try to sell me a new one (and he had scores of them).  He simply said ‘come back one day and I shall have it ready for you’.

And so one day, I returned to share a cup of Kashmiri tea.  As I savoured the brew,  Raja placed the OM in the palm of my hand. The pieces had been soldered together and the OM was sparkling.  No charge….just a smile….and more tea. Lots more tea!

I believe many friendships are borne out of kindness.  This is one of them.

AUM is a sacred symbol; a mantra said to be the primordial sound from which all other sounds have emerged.

I have heard it expressed as ‘The heart of God’ which in yogic terms would probably be better defined as ‘The heart of the universe’, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and infinite,” meaning all-knowing, all-powerful, everywhere, and eternal.

There are so many aspects to this beautiful sound.  Sitting quietly, one breathes it out (aa, au, mm) tapering to an infinite finish (like that of a chime or bell).  You may be able to sense a subtle, peaceful vibration flowing through your being.

There are many aspects to the symbol and some that I find most interesting are:

The letter A symbolises the waking state; the letter U the dream state and the letter M the dreamless sleep state of the mind and spirit. The entire symbol, together with the crescent and the dot, stands for the fourth state, which combines all these states and transcends them (Samadhi).

The letters correspond to the three tenses – past, present and future – while the entire symbol stands for the Universal Power which transcends the limitations of time and remains unchanged.

The three letters also represent the dimensions of length, breadth and depth in the human being, while the entire symbol stands for the one whose wisdom is firmly established in the divine.

The letters A, U and M also stand for the mantra ‘Tat Twam Asi’ (‘That Thou Art’), the realisation of man’s divinity within himself. The entire symbol stands for the liberation of the human spirit from the confines of his body, mind, intellect and ego.

Practise meditating on this gentle sound and feel the peace fill your heart!

Source:

‘The Concise Light on Yoga’ by B.K.S. Iyengar and ‘Calm the Mind’ by Shanti Gowans