With all my heart…….

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It is said that the people we have in our lives are here for a ‘reason, a season or lifetime’.  This expression rings so true to me.  Many have left my life whether by death or circumstance and at times I have felt as though my heart would break in two.  Actually I think my heart is simply an accumulation of cracks, more than even I realise.  And yet, I also reflect on the words by the poet/song-writer, Leonard Cohen, ‘There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in’.

How often, do we explore why someone landed on our doorstep; entered, re-entered or left our life completely; brushed past us in the street with a smile; or picked us up and dusted us off without question or the desire for something in return? Oh, the times I have been so loved and cared for without recourse would fill a tome.  And I feel so privileged that so many have stepped into my world even if only for a ‘season’.

In my home I have dedicated a whole wall to photographs saying “Thank you.  I love you.” It is my ‘gratitude’ wall.  I constantly look at it (sometimes with a heavy heart and sometimes with a joyous one) and enquire as to why that person actually paid me a visit.  What did they awaken within me? What beauty did they bring to my spirit?  Why do I love them and what was their greatest gift to me?  Sometimes I also wonder – What was ‘their reason’ for finding me?

People to me, my friends, are as much a part of my make-up as my DNA.  So when I lose them it hurts…..it really hurts.  It is said that the depth of sadness is equal to the depth of the love. Sometimes I am a little sad and at other times I feel as though I shall shrivel up and dissolve with the pain.

On the other hand, I also realise that in the words of the great philosopher Krishnamurti, ‘Sadness is a vain attempt to possess’.  One has to ‘let go’ to free the spirit of binding attachment.

And what is pain?  Teaching yoga opens me to understand every small nuance of pain.  I conclude through my own experience that most of the physical pain we feel is a camouflage for an emotional issue.  Physical pain takes our focus away from the self-enquiry, from confronting ourselves and bringing ourselves ‘home’.  Of understanding our sadness.  What is it I am not observing?

Of course so much of our ‘pain’ is probably unconscious tension, years of it, accumulating over time…..and perhaps the only way to rid ourselves of it is to be ‘aware’ of this very fact.  Perhaps the issues will not surface for us to recognise them exactly, but will surface enough for us to accept them?  Only an idea really!

And immediate emotional pain?  Well, ‘fear’ is a word that resonates with me here.  And again that goes back to self-enquiry.  What have I experienced in the past that has come back into this moment to give me grief, to haunt me?  Is it desolation, abandonment, isolation?

I have also come to learn that in order to let of the waves of sadness and to understand that ‘this too shall pass’, is to sit with the sadness for a little while (after all one is only human), and then to revert the experience to a more positive picture preferably peppered with snippets of love and laughter.  Likened to dissolving grains of sugar into a glass of warm water.  The drink of memories will always remain sweet.

I believe the ‘unsaid’ needs to be ‘said’, even if just ‘quietly’…….

‘Thank you.  I love you’

Annemaree x

 

P.S. This photograph is of my 9-year-old nephew, Thomas.  I think he is perhaps an old soul who has come to visit me.  Who knows?

 

 

 

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Planting Seeds……..

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No doubt you know those who are often or always looking on the negative side. Always complaining. Always anxious. Often dramatic. Nervous. Full of doom. Ruled by the negative stories in their head. Owning pain. And using their pain as a badge of honour. Easily irritated.  Immersed in a belief system that the world is ugly, corrupt, miserable, frightening, mean, falling apart, hopeless etc.  I am not speaking about those who are ill and enduring the suffering of clinical depression.  That is a different story.  I am speaking about the average you and me.

We all experience pain. But pain like a mistake is a lesson for growth.

As Kahil Gibran wrote in his work The Prophet:

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that

Encloses your understanding

Even as the stone of the fruit must break,

That it’s heart may stand in the sun, so must

you know pain”

I was recently immersed in the centre of an absolutely pristine pool in India at one of the world’s most beautiful yogic spa and healing centres. I was observing the beautiful blue, glistening water and luxuriating in its warmth and nurturing properties.  A few of the staff were looking into the pool too perhaps observing its clarity or beauty – who knows.  A woman suddenly swam past me and said ‘I wonder what they are doing, I hope they’re not looking for snakes?????

Negative people need to be the centre of attention by drawing in sympathy from those around them or ‘belonging’ by joining the negative mob. Consciously or unconsciously.  However the very thing that is wanted, that is attention, is the very thing not received as many will move away from the negative cloud of energy that one exudes.

These people are often irritated, irritable, remorseful and angry. Falling and falling down the rabbit hole at the rate of knots into a state of gloom and emptiness and so much so that they lose their place in the world and are unable to clamber up the sides of the cavern – because it all seems all useless and pointless.  Beauty is beyond reach and isolation pervades. Is this you? Of course it is or can be or has been at some time. We are wired to think the worst and to fight or flee to protect ourselves. Ancient brain.  And……We all so often allow the stories in our head to rule us and others.

Some of the wisest words I have been offered and ones upon which I have reflected upon many times are: “if you plant negative seeds, you will harvest negativity”.  You may say that you are not being negative and denying or being resistant in some way to owning up to this truth. Or not even aware of your default pattern of existence. If you plant an apple tree you will not get oranges. Let’s face it. If you plant negativity you cannot expect to harvest positivity. You can only hope for it. And hope will not provide it.  Not this time. So there is no point just waiting, expecting to pluck an orange off an apple tree.

One needs to do the hard work by planting different seeds. Continuously. Season after season until the garden is abundant. Don’t blame the lack of fruit or the soil or lack of rain or the cold. It is from you that the seeds will fall. Beauty is from within…..let it blossom.

We all need to be mindful of how we are approaching the day. Do we wake up and immediately think things are going to be arduous?  Or do we wake up thinking how amazing it is to be still breathing and above grass?

It is often said to me that ‘I don’t have the energy to make change’. That’s a negative and you are right. Of course you will not be able to make change if you have planted that seed. Of course negativity will deplete your energy too. It becomes a vicious circle. Negativity – low energy – low energy – inability to make change.

When living in darkness the days seem long. When living in light one feels vibrant.

And so…..

What are you planting? Which seed will empower you?  Which seed will not?  What does the garden of your mind look like? Is it full of colour, beauty and vitality….

Roses or weeds?

The choice is yours…….

 

Annemaree x

 

P.S. I would like to honour whoever took this photograph. It came from Pinterest to me, I and I am unable to find out who took it. But I thank you, whoever you are. It says it all.  It is so full of joy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peace is Calling…….

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Peace is calling.

Peace is always calling me.

Sometimes I hear its beckoning but move on oblivious to its imploring plea.

Sometimes I simply stand still and feel its presence, time and thought suspended, heart gently pulsing, hearing the sound of my own breath and feeling its energy coursing through my veins

Sometimes I stop dead in my tracks and then find I am taking a different path, consciously aware that peace is holding my hand and drawing me closer to it.

As though there is nothing more to be done and nothing more important than taking my next breath

No inner turmoil.

No outer distraction.

Complete, whole, content, strong.

And then I move on into the next moment calmly, clearly, gently, as though I had left that ‘me’ behind and placed the ‘true’ me in its stead.

I do love these words by Jon Kabat Zin, one of the great advocates of mindfulness –

“That what you knew and what you didn’t know,

That what had been and what was yet to come,

And the way things are right now

No longer held even the slightest hint of anxiety or discord? ”

These words to me identify the feeling of being truly peaceful. And what I do now know is that despite such calming influences as waves rolling into shore; the sound of rain on a tin roof; or the sweet bird-song of Spring; peace does not come from them, it is simply enhanced by them. Outward peace is simply useless without inward peace.

Peace is something that you embody, patiently creating its place and space within you. When you are peaceful and emanate this peace to all around you, on a larger scale you are contributing peace to the world.  You are Peace.

And remember people are attracted to those who are serene and quietly poised.

As James Allen wrote in his masterful work, “As a man Thinketh”, dating back to 1902, “Calmness of the mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom and is the result of long and patient effort.

The more serene you become clearly the more, you will cease to fuss and fume and worry and grieve, and remain poised, steadfast and tranquil.

It is said that Peace is the warrior, the weapon of the strong.  It conquers darkness. The darkness of anger, sadness, anxiety, depression, the sense of separation, and the feeling of isolation. It is the sunshine to the psyche and the panacea to the spirit.

You must be it in order to radiate it. Calmness is power.

Peace is not something you wish for; it’s something you make, something you do, something you are and something you give away”……John Lennon.

 

May the voice of peace whisper to you,

May the voice of peace sing to your soul,

May the voice of peace speak to your thoughts,

May the voice of peace be with you to wherever you go.

 

Annemaree xx

 

P.S.  I took this photo in Myannmar in 2014.  Gorgeous children are everywhere in this world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is there such a thing as Karmic Irony?

OprahO’ Oprah’s Magazine – February 2014

I was once taught that life deals its cards in mysterious ways. Sometimes you are dealt an ACE and sometimes you are dealt a JOKER.

Well since I have been following my passion teaching yoga, I have been dealt ACE after ACE. A part of my deck of dreams was to create some of the most beautiful tours I could possibly conjure in order to pass on the wonderful teachings and ‘truths’ of yoga, mindfulness and meditation.

The criteria? Well it had to be a feast of the senses. To be surrounded by beauty; to dine in the company of generous souls; to experience copious quantities of laughter; to live in comfort and style; to indulge, explore, connect, and bathe in the warmth of the sun, the lands and its people. …a nurturing experience of pure ease and tranquility.

Thus one of the places we visit on my ‘Rubies & Roses’ Tour to Northern India is Ananda Spa. Nestled in the Himalayan foothills, it is simply a breath of heaven!

Enchanting, graceful, beautiful and very, very peaceful, one’s Ananda sojourn combines the teachings of Ayurveda (5000-year-old healing system), Yoga (spiritual and ascetic discipline of wellbeing) and Vedanta (philosophy and science of the spirit). Ananda has created a private haven for those who are seeking true peace and wholeness (not to mention gorgeous cuisine and stunning treatments).

Part of the allure of Ananda is that it honours each individual, treating them on a completely equal basis and is completely respectful of anonymity and personal space.

Enter Oprah!

So here we are one morning taking a yoga class alongside Oprah. Well of course we know who Oprah is but she doesn’t know who we are. Over breakfast, munching on exotic, organic grains, our group discussed how important it was for us to respect Oprah’s privacy….she too deserves a rest, we said!

We decided not to ask her if we could pose in a photo nor put our arm around her and pretend we had become bosom buddies. The most we would do would be to say ‘hello’. Yes, if we had these photos would it impress others? Maybe! Would it be good for our businesses? Maybe! But nevertheless imposition was out. Respect was in.

What was interesting for me was how I observed people doing exactly what we decided not to do. And Oprah was so obliging and charming…….I guess that is her karma. And often we were dressed in Ananda Kurta Pyjamas, covered in oil and not exactly in our most flattering photographic element. Though I guess Oprah wouldn’t care that much. Next to Marilyn she must be the most photographed female idol in the world.

But as the universe unfolds, the pendulum swings and the dealer deals a new hand, another ACE was laid on the table. Four months after our tour, ‘O’, Oprah’s magazine hit the stands. And here we are. Our group. Yes, that’s me in the middle in black and white, flanked by the ‘Rubies & Roses’ team.

Enter Ananda’s website, and here we are again…..’What Oprah knows for sure about stillness”.  Another ACE!

Thank you Oprah. Even though you may never see this and never know who we are!
www.anandaspa.com

Ahimsa: ‘Do no harm’.

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It is cool to be kind….not cruel to be kind!

This Sanskrit word opens a mélange of ideas, beliefs, and opinions about what ‘do no harm’ actually means.   ‘Ahimsa’ is so easily expressed but not so easy to adhere to at times.

And….the antithesis to ‘do no harm’ is really very, very  simple –

As expressed by the great author Henry James:    “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

Nothing is more unattractive than someone being unkind about another and nothing is more futile than one being unkind about oneself.

Recently I held a ‘Soul Soothing Sunday’ whereupon students came to a gentle Hatha yoga class and we sat around discussing ‘Ahimsa’.  Off to dinner afterwards, and the conversation was still continuing – and today is still continuing – weeks later in fact!

Many have come forward with responses to what ‘Do no harm’ means to them.  Here are some of the precepts in leading a life of ‘Ahimsa’, some of which you may never have considered before this.

  • Think before you speak
  • Keep your word
  • Know that betrayal in any form can be devastating to the one who has trusted you
  • Do not believe you have the right to change the direction of another’s life
  • Proffer compassion not retaliation.
  • Use your rational intellect in seeking truth rather than jumping to conclusions and being ruled by the ‘emotional mind’.  In other words, seek facts not here say – assumptions don’t cut it.
  • No judgment
  • No gossip
  • Charm is one thing, honesty is another.  Nothing can be more harmful than those who are passively aggressive.  (Those who are sweet-faced but are really silent assassins).
  • Avoid aggressive people whenever possible, ‘for they are vexations to the spirit’ (as quoted in The Desiderata).
  • Understand that everything one says will have a ripple effect.
  • Be kind to yourself.  Be kind to yourself.  Be kind to yourself.
  • Understand that everything one does affects this world.
  • Stand alone if necessary and be strong rather than join the crowd and be carried away by the majority.
  • Understand the human condition.
  • Offer a hand and not an opinion unless requested.
  • Offer a smile and not a scald.
  • Let go of social conditioning.
  • Live in beauty.
  • Be mindful in all that you do.
  • Let people in the queue.
  • Follow your heart.
  • Stay out of harm’s way. If you are in the presence of someone causing you harm, remove yourself from his/her  path.
  • Diffuse rather than ignite.
  • Lead the way – don’t acquiesce.
  • If you are in the company of those whom you know feel harm in your presence (e.g. jealousy) stay away for their sake and for you own!
  • Know what kindness looks and feels like.
  • Do not separate yourself by beliefs, values, nationality, religion, disposition, tradition and status – we are all doing our best.  We are all in this together.
  • Be sensitive to the fact, that it is very easy to harm.

I have learned from my teachers that ‘Ahimsa’ is the golden rule of yoga and if one can fully achieve the practice of ‘Do no harm’, one need learn no other form of yoga, for all the other practices are included in it.

And so, there are many, many paths to peace.

Hold hands with humanity and one can then be free from judgments, criticism, assumption, hatred and enmity.

Understanding is the key.

Kindness is the way…

Idealistic?     Well, why not!

Annemaree x

‘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

My Yoga Journal: Catastrophising – (Just eat the cheese!)

The first time I heard this term I was sitting in my GP’s office having my anti-anxiety medication script re-filled. Cool as a cucumber, she looked at me and said “Anita, have you been catastrophising again?”  It’s a great word – applicable to myriad scenarios.

I decided to write about “catastrophising” a week or so ago and since then it has manifested itself in many conversations.

Let me start with a definition:

“When a person experiences an unhelpful emotion (e.g. depression and anxiety), it is usually preceded by a number of unhelpful self-statements and thoughts. Often there is a pattern to such thoughts and we call these “unhelpful thinking styles”.  One of the things we have noticed is that people use unhelpful thinking styles as an automatic habit.  It is something that happens outside of our awareness.  However, when a person consistently and constantly uses some of these styles of thinking, they can often cause themselves a great deal of emotional distress.”[1]

Some of the great catastrophisers of our time include Chicken “The Sky is Falling” Little and the child in Kindergarten Cop who suggests Arnold Schwarzenegger’s headache is most likely a brain tumor.  This may seem amusing, but this poor kid probably had a mother like me – I’ll explain later.

It’s a funny old world we live in, which facilitates, encourages and endorses a catastrophic way of thinking.  Just watch the news.  My 3yo once asked me why I watch the news; my 6yo answered – “it’s because you need to find out all the bad things that have happened in the world”.  My 6yo is a Master Catastrophiser (hence his nickname:  “Worst-Case-Scenario-Mario” or “The Master of Disaster”), but I think he is bang-on in this observation.

For a watered down (but doubly toxic) version of “monsters under the bed” reporting, catch a glimpse of  “A Current Affair” or “Today Tonight”! Helping you keep one step ahead of all of those trades-people and supermarkets that make it their life’s work to rip you off. Oh, puh-lease.

My husband comes home from work exhausted and beaten; dying a death of a thousand cuts – paper-cuts that is!  The industry in which he works is living proof of The Chaos Theorem. Instead of a butterfly flapping its wings in Santiago – if a man falls off a ladder in Broadmeadows, the rest of the building industry drowns in red tape and paperwork now – and ad infinitum.

When – exactly – did we stop taking responsibility for our own actions?

If I trip over raised concrete in the street – making me look and feel like a bit of a dill – should the council / the layer of the concrete / the tree’s roots that lifted the concrete / the planter of the tree / the creator of all things pay [me] for that?

Whilst catastrophising ensures I feel that EVERYTHING is my responsibility, I live in a litigious society which promotes the fact that it’s all someone else’s fault!

I choose to laugh at myself tripping over the tree root, bung a Band-Aid on my face and learn to watch where I’m walking. Accidents happen. Move on – more carefully. You can take this on good authority as a woman with a ripping scar and nine screws permanently in her left hand after a martini-induced dance-floor mishap. With friends…at home.

I previously worked in a sales role in which I lived and died by the monthly numbers.

Here, the world ended (for some people, quite literally) on the last day of the month. It began again on Day 1 of the following. It was constantly and oppressively stressful. It was an environment in which it was very hard to achieve just the sales targets, let alone navigate the vicious office politics.

A previous boss of mine, whom I hold in very high regard as a coach and mentor and who remains a good friend, offered me advice once on how to survive the environment. He told me to always prepare for – and expect – the worst, so whatever happens will always be better than what you imagined.

This person also unconsciously chews the hair off his arms under stress, suffered a minor stroke and has on-going heart concerns – so whilst I appreciate the sentiment, hindsight suggests I take these pearls of wisdom with a couple of handfuls of salt. He, on the other hand, should probably lay off it.

We are both out of that game now. Relaxed, happy and successful – able to enjoy a laugh about “those days” together with our families – over a few “too many” vinos!

Catastrophising is not purely a corporate phenomenon.  In fact, it was not until I became a mother that I truly unearthed my innate talent to catastrophise.

Becoming a mother raises the stakes immediately.  It begins in pregnancy.

The books. Oh! The books. I stopped reading the books.

I was convinced early in the gestational period that eating a single piece of soft cheese was going to result in my having a child with severe disabilities; one who would surely require round-the-clock specialist care; most probably within an institution – with a team of Swedish neurological experts (who would “tsk-tsk” (in Swedish) in my general direction, whispering to one another “this would never have happened if she hadn’t eaten the cheese”).

From this point, having children – I have heard described beautifully – is “like having your heart walking around outside your body”.

From a place of intense love and a primal instinct to protect, also comes a tsunami of catastrophising thoughts. You think your headache is an undiagnosed brain tumor (refer Arnie, earlier). You hear a cough from your child’s bedroom in the middle of the night and curse your GP for not picking up the resurgence of Bubonic Plague.

Why am I saying all this?

I think the more we pretend that everything is okay the more we damage one another.

Chicken Little may have been deemed a crackpot after the acorn incident, but at least the chick voiced its fears aloud!

By talking about our fears and anxieties THEY – not us – will break down. Sometimes giving your voice to the crazies – the monkeys – in your head can make them seem small and silly. Meditation gives me a small moment to look at them, sit with them, smile at them and put them aside.

Leaving them left un-checked inside can wreak havoc on you mentally, spiritually and physically. Believe me, I know.

Until we meet again,

Om & Out.

AQAxxx

This article has been contributed by Cool, Calm & Collected’s student, writer & eternal work-in-progress, Anita Quigley Atherton.

[1] http://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au

[2] Walt Disney image – ‘Chicken Little’


My Yoga Journal: Flipping My Thinking

Writer, student and eternal work-in-progress – AQA

This article has been contributed by student, writer & eternal work-in-progress, Anita Quigley Atherton.

I had to let the cleaner go last week.

For over a year now I have been scrimping and scratching in the household budget to keep her coming for just a couple of hours each week. Alas, we have some exciting things to save up for this year so something had to give – and switching the electricity off just wasn’t flying with My Darling Husband.

I have embraced the frugality required to stay home and keep house and raise a family. I shop at Aldi and Cotton On rather than Leo’s and Country Road. I take small delight in life’s daily rituals (formerly regarded as monotonous drudgery) – I fold a bit of love into the beds each day; sprinkle tenderness into the lunchboxes each morning; inhale the unspoken appreciation from my family’s clean washing – oops sorry, that’s Snow White and I haven’t any dwarves. Sometimes, I even hand-wash dishes which don’t fit into the dishwasher! So why have I decided that scrubbing the shower recess is beneath me? Maybe Meatloaf was onto something when he sang the words “I will do anything for love – but – I – won’t – do – that”?

Cinderella only swept a bit before frocking up and finding her prince and even then I bet she engaged at least one of her ugly step-sisters to keep the new palatial digs sparkling – how else could she have lived Happily Ever After?  Maybe there’s something vaguely erotic about my husband picturing me tying an apron around my waist and licking batter off a spatula Nigella-style whilst slavingat work.  In my (inside only) track-pants, reeking of bleach and up to my elbow in porcelain registers a little lower on the raunch-scale.

Then I remembered attachment and how “having a cleaner” is all tied up in the vision of how my life is supposed to “look” (FYI – in my head, it looks a lot like a Donna Hay magazine). The first step is letting that go, completely.

The other problem is I hate cleaning.  Formerly, as a perfectionist, I made a sweeping mountain range out of a molehill of a task. Rather than just clean the shower recess, I would end up with the entire contents of the bathroom cupboards over the floor for sorting and cleaning; which led to a clean-out of the make-up bag including cleaning all the make-up brushes; which meant a trip to IKEA after much research on the net to find the perfect storage solution to get the bathroom paraphernalia back into the cupboards by colour, size and product type. At the end of it (24-48 hours later) I would be so exhausted that I couldn’t bear the thought of cleaning the shower recess for another six months!

My GP calls this “catastrophising” – both in thought and in action; a common habit of people suffering from anxiety or depression apparently. For me, catastrophising meant building the biggest, most devastating, worst case scenario in my head prior to engaging in an activity – then completely over-doing the activity – then worrying about where I fell short in said activity afterwards and beating myself up about it. Around and around and over and over again. For Ever After.

This is where yoga and meditation has really helped me the most. With a quiet mind it is virtually impossible to catastrophise; to make mountains out of molehills; to build up the worst case scenario so vividly that you are paralysed into complete inaction and fear. With a yogic approach and a still mind I can just breathe, and then do, and move on.

I have stuck to my kitchen wall “7 Small Things to Make Life Effortless” from the zenhabits blog – one of which is to Clean as You Go.  I need to remember that cleaning the shower recess is just cleaning the shower recess. I am not selling the house. I am not preparing for a photo shoot. I am not entering the National Bathroom Cleaning Titles. Be quiet, just breathe… and then clean the shower recess.

I also recognized that I had fallen into an old thought pattern regarding the cleaner. I was thinking “poor me”, “we don’t have enough money for this”, “we need to make more money”, “I am missing out” and once I caught myself, I flipped the way I was thinking. How lucky am I to have a home to clean and the time to clean it when so many don’t have either?

Om & out.

AQA xxx

 

A Beginner’s Journal: Two Steps Forward and One Step Back.

This article has been contributed by student, writer & eternal work-in-progress, Anita Quigley Atherton.

So, since beginning yoga, deep relaxation and meditation with Annemaree at Cool, Calm & Collected in October last year, the effect on me has been profound.  I lost a small amount of weight, was drinking less, smoking less, eating better, sleeping better, worrying less, shouting less, spending less, having more sex – that’s right! MORE SEX. My Divine Husband agreed that yoga was the best thing I had ever taken on.  From the moment I began I never took an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety pill (hello calm, adios sex drive) and never felt the need to. A year back my GP had told me that I wasn’t going to stay on them forever and I would need to put something in place to replace it. Eureka! I had found it.

From the beginning, Annemaree’s feedback to me was that she had rarely if ever seen someone progress quite so fast, which we put down to me having been overwhelmingly “ready” to change things up in my life. I still agree this to be the case, but I have also learnt a few more things about myself in the recent weeks.  Whilst always encouraging and supportive of my staggering switcheroo, Annemaree also – very gently – warned that I would most likely take a couple of steps backwards.

Enter Christmas School Holidays and I was moon-walking backwards so fast you would have sworn Michael Jackson had risen from the grave.  Despite my excitement about the Christmas holiday with the children and my husband’s extended family, my mother and my brother at a beautiful seaside resort; despite enjoying the process of preparing salads and sides for Christmas Day lunch ahead of time (while My Divine Husband was out on the tiles with workmates); despite enjoying the process of selecting, lay-buying, picking up and wrapping all of the gifts we were giving to loved ones (while My Divine Husband lay on the couch watching AFL re-runs 6 months out of season)… well, despite all this, as soon as My Divine Husband finished work, the kids finished school, we packed the car and headed away and my peaceful little ritualistic routine had been smashed to smithereens. I fell apart.

I don’t mean daintily fell apart. I mean on Christmas Night I was a snot-spraying, quivering, wailing banshee woman who TOTALLY LOST IT with My Divine Husband after he put the kids to bed and DARED to say “did you forget to pack [something] for the kids?”. Up until that point – that teensy weensy tiny tip-tap of a moment, that itsy bitsy little comment – I had been putting so much pressure on myself to “stay calm” that I kind of imploded. Exploded. I think, at one point, I had him in a head-lock actually.

Put down to an obligatory Christmas melt-down, things calmed down, we talked, we moved on and eventually I let go (not just of his head….) and we enjoyed a really beautiful relaxing holiday.  When I got back I had a private session with Annemaree for an hour and a half. Still shaking and breathing shallowly I explained what happened while we were away and there was that calm, knowing smile and nod that said “hmm, I thought you would take a step backwards eventually”.  The private session was like taking a refreshing cool shower, the yoga practise was like coming home. The private session was perfect as it helped me to refine the positions I had been learning in the group classes and prepare myself for continuing to practise at home while Annemaree was away in India for five weeks.

I am not sure what, if anything, I would have done differently in the lead-up to The Christmas Night Episode. I guess I know (and boy, so does my husband) that I am not super-human, that being calm doesn’t mean you can do it all, that I am beautifully human, flawed with warts and all – but working on it. So I will continue to practise. My husband is back at work now, the kids are still on holidays and hell-bent on driving me stark-raving crackers – but I am still breathing, I am still writing, I am still studying and constantly learning.

Om & out.

AQA xxx