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

Pictures speak a thousand words…

and……so do smiles!

‘Land of 1000 Smiles’ Tour – Kerala, India by Cool, Calm & Collected.

I thought I would share some of the smiles I experience whenever I visit Kerala, as seen through my eyes and those of my fellow travellers.

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I’ve never seen a smiling face that was not beautiful.  ~Author Unknown

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Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy. ~Thích Nhất Hạnh

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A laugh is a smile that bursts  ~Mary H. Waldrip

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Beauty is power; a smile is its sword.  ~Charles Reade

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Everyone smiles in the same language.  ~Author Unknown

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“What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.” – Joseph Addison

Enjoy!

http://www.coolcalmandcollected.com.au/courses/land_1000_smiles_india.html

A Picture of Peace….

“You have peace,” the old woman said, “when you make it with yourself.”                  Mich Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven

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I went out to dinner with a husband and wife team last week and following a slight altercation between the two of them over something that I can’t even recollect now, I just happened to ask them what they did  ‘in their spare time’.  ‘We fight’ they said.  An answer which caused much gaiety, but in their case I might add, is probably not far from the truth.  They are Italian after all, and erratic passion is in their DNA or so they tell me. 

The next comment from them was ‘we don’t have spare time!  ‘No, come to think of it, we don’t actually rest ’.  Peace?

And so, if I asked you to pick up a camera, a paintbrush or a pen to explain what peace looks like….what would you create?  It seems that ninety-nine percent of the people who attend my yoga classes are seeking what they consider to be an ‘elusive state’, that is the ‘state of peace’. Surely this is the precursor to ‘happiness’.  The very essence of ‘happiness’ is experiencing peace in your heart, body and mind?  Is it not?  And yet it is difficult to find – or is it?

We all have ‘peace within us’.  It is just that we don’t know how to tap into it and are too busy looking for it elsewhere.  Searching outside of ourselves appears to be our most active and futile past-time.

Would the photograph you envisage be that of a beautiful sunset, waves rolling into shore or a lone fisherman on a lake?  Would you tell me that a holiday on a deserted island, or the sound of the sax, or a beautiful ode gives you peace?  Perhaps the clouds in the sky, a glass of red or a ‘Xanax’ or two would do the trick?  Yes, all of these can give you peace – for an instant!  Ah… all so temporary, obscure and irritatingly intangible.  Let’s face it, these solutions are just delusional diversions to keep you firmly bound up in your ego, blocking your ability and/or your will to find that which truly brings you composure.

So if it is within us, where is it located?  Where do I look?  What picture do I create?

Let me give you some clues….and remember these are only my discoveries.  You will need to find your own!

However, in saying that, I am happy to help …..it has taken me many years and many paths to reach this point…..so I would like to share some short-cuts to set you on your way.

I do feel peaceful now more often than not, and it is a place I intend to dwell in.  It is so deep, energizing and tender that I couldn’t imagine living in any form of restlessness ever again. 

That ‘something’ unchanging inside me simply had to be found.  I was on a quest.

You may be asking by now – how?

There are many, many avenues….let’s take two for the moment shall we?

‘Go out of your mind’.

The mind is the seat of emotions, feelings, impulses, likes and dislikes, judgments and what-not.  It is mental agitation that gets in the way of peace because we simply listen to our minds and become embroiled in its nonsense.  60,000 – 70,000 thoughts a day.  Most of which are useless.  And around seventy percent of which we had yesterday!  Go figure!

Give the mind some space by creating a blank canvas. Close your eyes for a few moments and draw your attention to the breath.  Do this often and with full awareness. Over time, you will notice the calming effects as you ‘still your mind’.

Don’t just read this!  Do it!  Over and over and over again.

Pride and Prejudice

Peace comes when we don’t have any conflict with ourselves.  When we believe we are part of a whole, a cog in the ‘Samsara’ of life.  We feel neither inferior nor superior to any other being.  We walk the path of equanimity and identify our own skills as contributions to the world at large.  We understand that there is a special place in this world for each of us and that it is our responsibility to gift our skills. 

It is just as narcissistic to feel inferior as it is to feel superior.  The latter causes one to ‘look down’ upon others and to believe we hold all the answers; the former is to be totally ‘self-absorbed’ by dwelling in our own illusory ego.

We need to drop our pride and prejudice, come to realize our true value, and live in the peace of that knowledge. 

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More peaceful posts to come……..

xAnnemareex

My Yoga Journal: Zen And The Art Of Christmas Holiday Navigation

And….BREATHE. Phew! That’s over for another year. It’s taken me a few years to work this out, having coped each subsequent year a little better than the previous, but I have learnt some things about myself over this last holiday period.

I need order.

I’m at the eleventh hour of the school holidays and its beginning to feel I imagine how a hostage situation might. My two captors have little or no regard for my health or well being nor the squalid conditions they prefer to keep me in with little or no contact with the outside world. Self preservation feels like Stockholm syndrome where I have taken quite a shine to my captors and insist on feeding, cleaning up after and entertaining them every day. Really, I just want someone to give them whatever it is they are asking for and get me THE HELL OUT OF HERE.

By order, I mean MY order.

Here’s how I like to roll on a “normal” day:

5:30 Get up and get into the shower
5:45 Put deodorant on, put hair up, brush teeth, moisturise face, get dressed – in that order
6:00 Turn the coffee machine on, fill the kettle, drink a glass of water, then meditate (for 5-10 minutes if I am driving to my friend’s house to walk; for 15 minutes if she is coming to me)
6:15 Put shoes on and go for a walk
7:15 have breakfast (always blueberries + sunflower, pumpkin & chia seeds + nuts + whole milk natural yoghurt + cinnamon + English Breakfast tea – white, no sugar), check my diary and write the day’s To Do list.

After this the kids get up and everything becomes a variable…but sort of goes:

7:45 Get the kids under the shower and dressed
8:00 Give the kids breakfast and make their lunches
8:15 Aim to calmly oversee the kids pack their school bags, make their beds and tidy their rooms – but inevitably end up shrieking half sentences like “GET OUT OF -”, “COULD YOU JUST -”, “WHERE IS YOUR -”, “HOW LONG DOES IT -”,”HOW MANY TIMES DO I -”.
8:30 Drop the kids to school on time, but always 5-8 minutes later than planned.
8:45 Exhale…

This ritualistic start to the day – especially up to the breakfast and To Do list part is the foundation upon which my mind, body and spirit flourishes or shrivels throughout the remainder of the day. Come holiday season with an additional parent in the house, operating on an entirely different agenda, or staying with other people – all of whom operate on a different platform – my mind, body and spirit quickly goes to hell in a hand basket.

Apart from immediate family chaos there is also extended family overload. Like a lab rat that just refuses to learn to avoid the cheese hooked up to the electric charge, every year I walk into family holidays expecting to be loved and appreciated for the fabulous person I am. That, after almost 15 years I can relax amongst friends, drink wine, blather on laugh, cajole, be me. WRONG! Spending the holidays with your in-laws is like being on holiday with Greg Evans and Dexter. I am not being unconditionally LOVED here, I am being constantly ASSESSED as to my compatibility scoring with My Husband – The Eldest Son and Cherished Big Brother. Sometimes I feel like (and have on occasion actually done) hiding in the bathroom and crying…then calling my Mum.

I used to go out with an engineer in my early 20s whose need for order and routine used to drive me loco. He had an innate need for order, routine and ritual. I completely understand this NOW but the problem on holidays, is that living according to someone else’s order feels like being in a perpetual state of trampoline “double bounce”. Trying to do the right thing at the right time, but never quite sure where to stand. Like dancing with a more experienced partner, I constantly step on toes.

I once discussed this need for order, my daily “clean slate” from which I could create my day, with Annemaree. I assumed it was aligned with my perfectionist control freak streak, so was chuffed when Annemaree told me that keeping an orderly space is “totally Yogic”. Like meditation stills the ripples in the mind, living in an ordered space provides a platform for creativity.

My challenge is striking that balance between my need for order, letting go of my attachment to it amidst the seemingly eternal holiday state of flux, and accommodating others’ need for either their own order or a preference for utter chaos.

I recognise that i absolutely require my own world order – now, if only I could stop feeling the need to apologise for it…

Until next time we meet,

Om & Out

AQAxxx

My Yoga Journal – Welcome to 2013

Welcome to 2013…

I am lying on the floor in the lounge room waiting for peace. Tom has taken Sam and Gus out for the afternoon, which is a good start, but the silence coupled with the choices I have have rendered me inert.

My brain is doing that thing that it does. It’s kind of flipping through thoughts and ideas like a Rolodex, landing momentarily on one and then “flaaaaart” flicking through to the next. Sometimes – mostly in times like this – I seriously wonder if I am quite mad.
On the whole, I’m quite happy – which is a great place to start from – but occasionally, the beginning of a new year can feel like standing at the foot of an insurmountable cliff face…which is better than looking from the other end, I guess.

2012 was quite a year. I didn’t write in my personal journal for the whole year – I picked it up and read it this morning. The journal dates back to January 2010. Whilst I cringed when I read it from the beginning, I discovered I only pick it up when I feel overwhelmingly crap or pleased with myself. Which suggests that 2012 was a year of either flattening out the highs and the lows, or merely that I managed them better.

In 2012, for the first time ever, I stuck at something week in, week out for the entire year. Apart from one week in each month where I had a commitment clash, I attended a yoga class, followed by a deep relaxation and meditation session every single Tuesday evening without fail. Looking back now, I truly believe that this is the cornerstone for how everything else panned out during the year.

I gave up smoking in March, and I admit falling into a “party fag” hole in the latter part of the year, I have definitely kicked the habit. I am now a shameless bot at a party so you can guess what’s on the “2013 To Do List”. It wasn’t hard, I was more than ready, and I just stopped. My husband stopped too, which helped.

In 2012 I gave up sugar – completely – for eight weeks, which was surprisingly easy to do and I have adopted the principle as a general rule of thumb on an ongoing basis. Once you learn something new, it’s hard to unlearn it, but I have definitely weakened in the dessert department over the party season. Which has added a page to the mental Rolodex / To Do List entitled “Shed Christmas Kilos”.

This is doubly annoying as I also lost 8kg in 2012 on the HCG Diet over a total period of 6 weeks. I’ve plonked about 2.5 back on through sheer mindless eating and drinking over the past three months’ as opposed to any shortcoming in the diet. I will be undertaking the exercise again – this time, perhaps more sagely, on the way OUT OF rather than IN TO the party season!

Another impressive feat has been the introduction of a morning walk each day with a good friend. Partnering up filled me with a strong sense of obligation, meaning I actually turned up every morning. Over the past months we have managed to double our distance, halve our walk-time and shed pesky kilos as well. My husband stood in for my friend one morning when she couldn’t make it – the conversation wasn’t nearly as good, but his intent was equally as pure. My friend has taken the bull by the horns and swapped a couple of our morning walks for a Spin class – or something equally as horrendous – a pleasure I will continue to merely wonder about, and admire from afar. Sometimes you can just take things too far.

While Annemaree traverses India, I am on a yoga hiatus, which tends to allow a small crack through which pointless thought streams, negative self-talk and catastrophic scenarios can creep. I have downloaded a “Mindfulness” app on my iPhone which allows me to do a simple morning meditation for a length of my choosing – it’s like Selleys No More Gaps for my mind.

So, in no particular order, my 2013 To Do List looks like this:


Meditate each day
Exercise more days than I don’t
Drink less days than I do
Have a weekly sit-down Saturday or Sunday family lunch
Increase Yoga to twice a week
Deep relaxation twice a week
No party smoking!
Live in the moment; don’t be a slave to old habits

I wish you a truly wondrous 2013, I am really looking forward to learning, trying, falling, succeeding and sharing in this space for another year if you’ll have me.

Until next time we meet,

Om & out,

AQAxxx

Losing My Way

I have been struggling recently to stay the course.  Overall, I have managed to keep myself Cool, Calm & Collected. Apart from a school holiday disruption I have maintained my yoga and meditation practise and managed to emotionally negotiate a sudden job change for my husband. I have picked up a couple of new clients myself and everything is swimming along nicely.  My children are fed, healthy and on time for all of their various appointments. Our family schedule is brimming, but we make time for quality time with our expanding extended family. We would like more time to spend with our friends – but everyone’s in the same boat.

The struggle I am having right now is with handling judgement and OPOs.  OPOs?  Other People’s Opinions. I have been on the receiving end of OPOs recently and I have not handled them well. The Yogi in me knows that opinions are like belly buttons – everyone has them. The Zen part of me understands that opinions are a reflection of the holder of the opinion rather than the recipient of it. My Buddha nature knows to smile, be tolerant and accepting of all opinions and recognise the Buddha nature in everyone else. But when I am facing OPOs “in the moment”, my Yogi, Zen and Buddha nature leave the building.

I take full responsibility for my role in losing my banana. Both of the recent, most painful occasions were over the dinner table after sharing much wine – but when Person A told me that staying home with the kids full time and not contributing financially to the household was copping out, well I nearly leapt over the table and pulled his throat out. In this moment I discovered that I, in fact, had not fully come to terms with my domestic situation and he had clearly hit a very raw nerve. Buddha was nowhere to be seen, but Ego was right on my shoulder screaming “ATTACK!” I was deeply humiliated and offended by the comment and deeply embarrassed and ashamed of the way in which I responded.

I talked it through with Annemaree Rowley when I returned from holidays. She reminded me that when we are angry with others it is always a reflection of what we do not like about ourselves. This is a phenomenon known as “projection”. After more talking I came to realize that it wasn’t the CONTENT of what he said, it was the JUDGEMENT. If I look back to all of the major conflicts and arguments I have been involved in – those ones that still make me wince when I recall them – it is when I have felt judged. Judged, or offered mostly unhelpful, unproductive OPOs about parenting, my children, my intelligence, my family, my financial status and on and on. When OPOs don’t match my version of reality, conflict arises. This is where it starts to get interesting.

This is the playground of the ego. This is where being right becomes more important than being happy (kudos to Dr. Phil for that one). In “biting back” to an uninvited, unhelpful OPO is in itself an expression of judgement thereby perpetuating the violence of judgement. This is the sort of stuff that the Dalai Lama has internalized completely so if he had been at the dinner table he would have giggled – which would have made me want to rip his throat out too. But I think you know what I’m getting at here.

It is mind-bending stuff really. My intolerance of intolerance is itself intolerant, so I am what I loathe. I told you.  Mind-bending. Whilst I may not always have the ability to take on this concept in a cool and calm manner, being aware of it means I can recognize it arising. This is mindfulness. So my second encounter with another unhelpful, uninvited OPO last week – whilst not handled perfectly, was recognized as it arose and handled…. better. Mindfully.

I came across a quote by Alain de Botton quote recently  which helped me identify the conflict:

“A snob is anybody who takes a small part of you and uses that to come to a complete vision of who you are.”

This defines the turmoil I have found myself in because not only is this what hurts me the most, it is the way in which I have both knowingly and unknowingly inflicted the most harm. I have raised snobbery to a high art form at times! I can be extremely judgmental – it’s an acquired skill as a marketer! You have to make broad assumptions about sweeping chunks of the population based on piecemeal evidence in order to generate profits. This concept, whether in the personal or professional realm, panders to our egos by creating a feeling of inclusion or exclusion. If you’re in you’re in, if you’re out you’re out – like those horrible days in the playground.

As if by magic, I was lying on the floor of Annemaree’s deep relaxation class and she read the following from a meditation she had written herself:

Judgment of yourself holds hands with unrelenting fear you know.

Judgment of others stops you from attending to yourself!

 Of course, when we succumb to this form of behaviour, we then project onto others.  We seek fault in others and criticize so that we don’t have to look at ourselves.  We fill in the gap in our hearts with judgment, often being so totally self-absorbed that we don’t understand just how detrimental unkindness can be to another.

 Often it comes in the form of ‘ribbing’ or ‘teasing’ with an insidious camouflage of mate ship or friendship.  Often it is recited in little quips across a dinner table which although delivered under the guise of humour often humiliates and undermines the receiver. 

 Or judgment may be delivered in the form of a compliment with a ‘but’ beginning the next sentence!

 We become critical of everyone and everything, never realising for one moment that everyone around us need kindness and compassion too.

Having felt that I have lost my Yogic way recently, that I disappoint other people, that I do not live up to their expectations, that I disappointed myself, I gave myself an hour this morning to sit down and eat some worms about it all. Then I gave myself permission to just drop it and move on.

So I return to my breath, I live in this moment and – without taking it all too seriously – I will TRY to be the best version of myself within each moment and speak only with kindness – and not rip the throats out of ignorant sods.

Until next time we meet,

Om & out

AQAxxx

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

My Yoga Journal: The “C” Word

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A friend of ours at Cool, Calm & Collected teaches meditation to children. Part of her teaching asks children to name all the words they can think of, starting with “C”, that make them feel better when they are sad, or lonely, or feeling unloved or bad about themselves. So they reel off “C”hips, “C”hocolate, “C”olouring in…. which got me thinking – because we love the letter “C” at Cool, Calm and Collected – what are our adult equivalents?

Personally, my favourite “C”rutches to keep me hanging in there had always been “C”igarettes, “C”hardonnay and “C”redit “C”ards. Back then, whilst filling the gaping hole in my soul with these “C”orks, I felt like a “C”elebrity! But when the hangovers and bills arrived, it just felt “C”rap.

If you’ve been following this blog you will know that through yoga and meditation I have eliminated many of my “C”rutches, having sated my inner “C”rater with “C”alming thoughts and actions. Last time we met I had just given up sugar – which doesn’t start with “C” but makes up a lot of the filling things that do! – and, this time, I am in the middle of another fandangled “self as guinea pig” project. I am doing the HCG diet.

I know, I know!  I said I could never subscribe to a strict diet whilst catering for my family. Turns out, that was a “C”op out and I “C”an! Having lain down my “C”rutches and with growing self-“C”onfidence, I can now put myself at the top of my “To Do” list; and with a bit of planning, preparation and organization, I have been able to stick to my strict diet and still feed my family.

This exercise has thrown down a whole new set of challenges though, having forced me to face up to some of my biggest fears (one of which is starving to death).  I thought giving up sugar was going to be tough.  This diet eliminates EVERYTHING.  I was truly nervous about starting.  I mean, THERE IS NO BOOZE FOR THREE WEEKS PEOPLE!

In her book, “I Quit Sugar”, on page 18, Sarah Wilson warns that by around Week 4 “…other people will try to sabotage you.  Even get angry with you.  It’s funny.  Everyone I know who’s quit sugar has commented on the rough time they get from others. Their efforts are criticized as being misguided.” Look, I don’t know who Sarah hangs out with, but no-one really took issue with my decision to cut out cake and cookies – but walking into a room and telling my people I’m not drinking?  Welcome to Siberia, baby.

That’s what I feared, anyway.  I was actually really, really scared of not being able to have a drink.  How would I relax?  What would I be like?  What would I do?  How will my husband react?  How will my friends react?  Who will I be?  Yes, okay – some mild “C”atastrophising went on.  For someone who has come so far, this undertaking made me realize just how far I still have to go.  DOUBLY scary is that not only couldn’t I drink and living on 500 calories a day, I couldn’t replace it with anything either!  This is how jumping out of a plane without a parachute must feel.

So, last Monday, I jumped.

The first week took a bit of adjustment and I had a couple of “emotionally challenging” moments to test my resolve (my mother can still rattle my chakras); but I was able to ease my tension with a quick double-shot….of ESPRESSO and deep breathing.

I am not all alone in this thank goodness; I still have some “C”rutches, just positive ones.  Fortunately my diet program comes with a “C”oach.  Her name is “C”indy and she is “C”onstantly “C”heering me on from the sidelines which has prevented me from “C”hucking it in!

“C”indy and I had a tense moment early on. I had excitedly discovered that as well as being a tension breaker, a quick shot of espresso killed hunger pangs. “C”indy warned me, in her eternally upbeat manner “Be careful mate. Doc says no more than 2-3 coffees a day” to which I replied, “LISTEN TOOTS! I GOT NO “C”IGARETTES, I GOT NO “C”HARDONNAY, I GOT NO “C”HOCOLATE, “C”HIPS, “C”USTARD OR “C”ARBS – I BARELY GOT ANY “C”ALORIES AT ALL!  DON’T BE TAKIN’ MY “C”AFFEINE!”  At least I think that’s what I said.  It sounds a lot like a Blues number by Muddy Waters.

So here I am, 13 days into my 21 day program, completely alcohol free, six kilos lighter and 11cm smaller around the waist, feeling spectacular, and as ever, seeking the lesson in my learning. Here’s what I’ve found:

  • I can put myself first with no impact on my family; in fact, nurturing myself makes me more willing and able to nurture my family.
  • Life is calmer, gentler, more organised, more whole and happier – yes, it’s Cool, Calm & Collected.
  • My yoga practise has improved and feels infinitely better minus the muffin-top.
  • My skin is as smooth as a baby’s bum.
  • How much mindless eating I used to do!
  • I can live without drinking – I’m so distracted “C”ounting “C”alories I can’t even think about “C”hardonnay!
  • I am unshakably resilient without the undermining effects of alcohol.
  • I am present, aware, involved and engaged in each interaction and situation.
  • I like who I am with no “C”rutches, I can face up to, and cope with, anything without them.
  • Turns out, my “C”rutches were false all along – they actually made things worse in the end.

Until next time we meet,

Om & out.

AQA xxx

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

My Yoga Journal: Out With the Old and In With the New

Six weeks ago I quit sugar.  I didn’t think it would be too difficult as I didn’t think I had much in my diet anyway.  How wrong I was.

Whilst not a sweet-tooth I have been staggered to learn just how much “incidental” sugar was in EVERYTHING I ATE.  I’ve learned how to read those pesky nutrition labels and what an eye-opener that has been. Forgetting the obvious – chocolate, sweets and sugary drinks – the sweet little white granule has infiltrated almost everything in my pantry.

The premise of giving up sugar is eliminating “fructose”; I won’t go into the science-y details of it all, there is plenty of excellent information out there. I have been following Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar programme’.  Apparently fructose is a nasty little sugar that our bodies cannot metabolise and it is stored directly as fat.  Not healthy “feed your vital organs” fat, but unhealthy “is that a Christmas ham or me in a bikini?” fat.

Now, fructose is in fruit, so initially I had to cut out all fruit too.  I know I know fruit is natural blah blah blah, but it contains high levels of fructose and while you wean yourself off the white poison, the fruit – temporarily – has to go too.

The general rule of thumb when reading your food label is that you cannot consume anything containing more than about 4g of “Sugars” (a subset of Carbohydrates on the nutrition panel) per 100gm/mL.  My pantry has been completely overhauled over the past six weeks, but here’s the idea from a random assortment I pulled from my current store:

  • BBQ Shapes                                       0.9g/100g
  • Weet-Bix                                             3.3g/100g
  • Peanut butter                                      7.8g/100g
  • Corn Flakes                                           9g/100g
  • Diced pears in fruit juice                   11.2g/100g
  • Vanilla yoghurt                                   12.8g/100g
  • Tomato sauce                                   20.8g/100g
  • Tiny Teddies                                      27.7g/100g
  • Yoghurt topped Muesli bar                31.5g/100g
  • Honey                                                82.1g/100g

The “Lite” or “Lo Fat” version of any of these have even more sugar added to replace the taste lost in removing the fat content.

The first two weeks were quite difficult for myriad reasons.  I was extremely unwell with flu so I didn’t really eat anything at all for one week, just inhaled cups of tea and penicillin. The following week I was recuperating, school holidays began and I was pre-menstrual – it was a perfect (s*#!) storm and I struggled. I had a close girlfriend staying with me for a week of this so – sure!  I stayed off the sugar; I simply replaced it with wine and cheese.  The fructose in wine is eliminated in the fermentation process to create alcohol…. Do not follow my logic on this one. Sarah Wilson will be slapping her forehead right about now.

You can see from the list that a logical temptation is to replace Tiny Teddies with BBQ Shapes – which I did for a week or so – which is fine – but only for a week or so.  More than six weeks on I find all white foods (bread, pasta etc) have become quite unpalatable.  White bread tastes to me like cake. Strange but true.

My reason for this undertaking was to lose weight and I may have lost a kilo or two.  Annemaree did it with me and hasn’t lost a cracker, although has lost almost two centimetres from her waist, bum, tum, arms and thighs.  Compared to me, Annemaree has the virtues of a saint, but chocolate has been her biggest bug bear.  This exercise has cost her a small fortune as she has replaced her afternoon tea and choccie fix with a walk….to the shops.

I’m not unhappy about not losing a lot of weight because I have learnt so much through this process. I will not be taking up sugar again anytime soon. I have realized that since jumping on the yoga, meditation, health and wellness bandwagon (Annemaree and I have banned the word “journey” because it makes us want to ralph)  that this too is an exercise in mindfulness.  It has made us both far more aware of what we are actually putting in our bodies and it is knowledge that can’t be unlearnt. But be warned – Annemaree will trample your granny if she comes within coo-ee of a Haigh’s Chocolate Peppermint Frog;  her mantra at our weekly check-ins with one another is “There is no way I am giving chocolate up in this lifetime”.  Meh, maybe in the next.

Despite not losing any weight, I feel absolutely fantastic. I cannot isolate it completely to giving up sugar because so much has changed, gradually and gently and with no real noticeable effort on my part. Since October of last year, like peeling the layers of an onion, I have removed:

  • Anti-anxiety pills and anti-depressants
  • Smoking
  • Drinking (at least four days out of seven, I’m no Mother Theresa here)
  • Sugar – from my diet and drastically reduced it in my children’s
  • Negative self-talk, fear and catastrophising (this only returns after drinking which is telling me something quite loudly and clearly, but I am not ready to listen…yet)
  • Saying sorry all the time and people-pleasing

Since giving up sugar I have noticed:

  • I am less bloated in the body and less puffy in the face
  • I have clearer skin and brighter eyes
  • I get up early easily in the morning and have more energy
  • I sleep better – one glass of wine and I experience nightmares and a broken, fitful sleep
  • My tolerance for alcohol has evaporated
  • I am more even-tempered, calm. Reducing it in my children’s diets has resulted in a much calmer household all around. Far fewer tears and temper tantrums – not just mine
  • How much sugar is crammed into children’s lunchbox foods! Seriously, take a look next time you’re in a supermarket
  • I feel in control of each day rather than at the mercy of it
  • I sailed through a full menstrual cycle (sorry boys) without a single brain-snap – not one ruffled feather
  • My (sorry everyone) pee has become clear and odourless – apparently a sign that my inner workings are less acidic

After all that I have taken out, I have also added in:

  • Yoga once a week (ideally I’d like to add another class and some home practise)
  • Meditation and deep relaxation once a week (hoping to build to daily practise)
  • A 45 minute walk each morning with a good friend – the sense of obligation means I don’t hit the snooze button and roll over
  • Whole foods have replaced processed foods
  • Cheese has replaced chocolate… I told you I was a work-in-progress.

Until next time we meet,

Om & out.

AQA xxx

Cartoon Source:  toothpastefordinner.com

My Yoga Journal: Downsizing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right, here goes.  I’m just going to say it.

I want to lose weight.

There.  I’ve said it.  It’s out there.  There is no going back.

Here’s the deal.  This is not so much an exercise in vanity (there’s a bit of that, I’m only human), but more to do with the fact that some of my “lovely lady lumps” are quite literally getting in the way of me improving my yoga practise.

This, however, is for vanity’s sake; I do not want the coroner’s report on my demise to read “Cause of death: UNPRECEDENTED – appears to have suffocated in own bosom while in Plough Pose” (refer to picture above).

I do not like “diets” and I don’t “do” deprivation or starvation.  I also have practical limitations in this endeavour in that I am head grocery buyer and chef in a house with three men. Three men who are immediately suspicious of any meal (apart from breakfast and even then only on weekdays ), that does not contain meat.

I like to cook, but not two separate meals at every mealtime.  I am not Oprah; I do not have a personal chef to indulge a fad-diet.  I don’t want tricky recipes or ingredients you can only order on-line from overseas.  This needs to be a “Woolworths supermarket-friendly” diet.  I don’t want my groceries arriving in bubble-wrap from Guatemala via airmail.

This cannot be an intensive Yogic “no meat, no wheat, no dairy, no eggs” thing.  I like to eat out occasionally.  I don’t want to be THAT person in the restaurant who trims down their à la carte dish to porcelain and cracked pepper (on the side).

I cannot join the “Raw Food Movement”.  Firstly because – BLEUCH; and secondly because I laugh out loud thinking what my husband would say if I suggested it.  I like the idea of “whole foods”.  I think I could manage “unprocessed”.

So, I’ve done a little bit of research and am going to give Sarah Wilson’s “I Quit Sugar” program a crack.  I am not a sweet tooth anyhow so I think it might work.  It ticks all of the boxes in terms of no deprivation – want chocolate after dinner?  Eat cheese!  It embraces whole foods – fat fills you up!  I can shop at Woolworths, eat out, and cook for my family without them even noticing.  My darling men, whose collective idea of heaven would be main-lining cordial through an IV drip, can inhale chocolate to their heart’s content uninterrupted.  My biggest challenge is going to be sticking to one glass of wine (pfffft) – but it doesn’t cut it out completely!  I’m in.

And YOU, my dear reader are here to keep me honest.

I have been reading over my past articles and marvelled at just how far I have come since my first post.  I have mentioned my body previously, and through yoga it has come to be my friend.  I am not obese by any stretch, nor even “overweight” – I may be pushing the upper limit of weight for height ratios – but whatever.

As I have stated before, this fabulous piece of machinery has delivered two beautiful boys and continues to surprise me in yoga classes at what it’s capable of.  Since beginning yoga I have off-loaded some serious mental baggage; I think I just may be in the right headspace to spruce up the exterior a smidge.  So, wish me luck and watch this space.

Until next time we meet,

Om & out.

AQA xxx

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

Photo Source:  YogaDork.com