Most Beautiful

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Never do anything standing that you can do sitting,

or anything sitting that you can do lying down.

Proverb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Awareness travels with us through all incarnations”.

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

Says it all really.

 

Annemaree xxx

 

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

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Out of the darkness – into the light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My nana went blind.  Cataracts. I remember the day when my mother told me that the doctors could not help her.  I cried and cried out of fear for her, sadness and overwhelming compassion.  How could you live in this world and not be able to see?  Well, I guess many of us do that even when our eyesight is perfectly fine!

Sometimes Nana would come to stay.  I remember I lost her once.  I searched the streets and scoured the neighbourhood wondering how she had ‘escaped’ from my apartment?  And as I was ringing the police I heard a little snort-like snore.  She had found my bed and big white fluffy doona (duvet) and had completely disappeared into it!  No bumps or lumps…..a tiny little figure buried alive by duck- down and feathers.

She smoked too and it would be exasperating to find her attempting to light her cigarettes.  I was always utterly amazed how she never set her hair alight nor the curtains for that matter.  Of course, when people met her they would shout at her.  Why is it we assume that people are deaf when they are blind. When screamed at, Nana would politely respond “I may not be able to see you dear, but I can certainly hear you”!

But the sadness for me was to pick her up on the weekends and find her sitting in her little room all alone facing a wall and patiently waiting for me to take her out.  As she became older, feebler and a little more vague, I found it better to leave her in the car and park it somewhere in the sunshine.  I would buy a cup of tea and piece of cake and together we would sit chatting, enjoying the warmth of the sun and each other’s company. She once said to me “oh, thank you dear, what a lovely restaurant”.

How much do we take our eyesight for granted?  And do we use it well?  Today I look out on the beautiful Chinese elm that hugs my balcony – turning yellow, orange and gold in the Autumn sunshine.  My heart leaps out of my chest when I pause to be so aware of the beauty with which I am surrounded.  I can see, (albeit with multi-focals) and I can go anywhere I want to; to observe, partake and appreciate what this extraordinarily- attractive world can offer me.

One late night, not so long ago, I caught the tail-end of a BBC production on the story of ‘Tetiny’ and Dr. Ruit’s, work high up in the Himalaya.  Nepal is close to my heart as is the plight of those who live there, and Fred Hollows is one of the great men whose legacy I honour.  Make yourself a cup of tea. Watch this gorgeous story about Fred Hollow’s protégée and friend Dr. Ruit and their efforts to eradicate blindness amongst the world’s poorest through innovative cataract surgery technique.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_Ytco4mi5o   (No duvets in Nepal but plenty of cliffs!).

Better still…..for your week’s café latte fix you can give someone back their sight!

http://www.hollows.org.au/our-work/Nepal

Of course, there is unnecessary blindness in all developing countries….throughout Africa, South East Asia, Australia, The Pacific, China ….everywhere……

Yes, it can be said by those who can see, so many in blindness have given us much.  For example, Andrea Boccelli ignites the fire in those who love music and Helen Keller in those who love words…..

However, in saying that, these words from Helen Keller will always stay with me……

“Death is no more than passing from one room to another.  But there’s a difference for me, you know.   Because in that other room, I shall be able to see”.

Four out of five people who are blind don’t need to be…

Let’s SEE what we can do…

(Photos sources: Fred Hollows and Dr. Ruit’s sites).