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

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A Beginners Journal: YOGA & MEDITATION

(By contributing writer, student and ‘eternal work in progress’ – Anita Quigley Atherton).

I have been threatening to do Yoga for around 15 years and now, finally, am about to start. No more excuses. Believe me, there have been plenty. At 35 years of age, my well of excuses has dried up so it’s time to “feel the fear and do it anyway” to walk the talk and see what all the hoopla is about.

I need something. I’m not sure what. My divine GP diagnosed me a year or so ago (after years of career and lifestyle-induced anxiety and mild depression) as a “highly intelligent, over-achieving, perfectionist, control freak” – which are my STRONG points.

From my early 20s I pursued a high powered career in Marketing of which all of my key roles left me with heart palpitations, cold sweats, sleepless nights and a hangover that lasted for 10 years. Ah, the Good Old Days. During those heady days I preferred to worship at the altar of booze and fags and spent most of the late nineties and early ‘noughties’ either drunk or hungover– all in the name of ‘stress-relief’. It was medicinal and therefore okay.

In 2005 I had my first child. With the arrival of “God’s Handbrake” as I referred to my darling Sam at the time, recklessness had to take a back seat. I still thought I could do and have it all though. Sam went into childcare at 10 months old and I resumed full time work and encountered a whole new set of anxieties, which all fell under the caps lock, bold, italic, underlined heading of GUILT.

Combine Mother’s Group, childless co-workers, long hours, early drop-offs, late pick-ups, development milestones, deadlines, mix well and let sit for about three years. The boozing and fagging of my 20s at the hottest joints in town went underground. Instead, we entertained at home – a LOT.

Still racked with anxiety (Perfect mother? Fail. Perfect wife? Fail. Perfect employee? Fail. Perfect body, spirit and mind? EPIC FAIL) I went back to my GP and explained the new anxiety paradigm and was prescribed marvelous little pink pills called ALPRAZOLAM. For me, a miracle pill. Loved the stuff. No really. I LOVED it. The peace I sought in my mind and body had arrived, along with a mildish addiction to a highly addictive drug.

By the end of 2009 I had a second beautiful son – Gus (also in childcare from 10 months old – one must be fair), experienced my first professional redundancy and ensuing court case, lived in a dream home we could no longer afford on one income, a discreet bottle of wine a night – or two – habit; something had to change.

From that point my husband and I have made some monumental changes. We moved house, Sam started primary school, I had a delightful dip into Pilates (cut short by not only the change of address but also a series of short sharp expulsions of air from the nether regions while carrying out the Rolling Ball manoeuvre) which stripped off kilos and had me feeling fitter than ever. We decided that I would stay at home with the kids and work freelance with a select group of close clients.

So here I am at the end of 2011 about to embark on my first Yoga class – this Sunday in fact. I am on a constant spiritual quest. I read voraciously – Buddhism for Mothers is always at my bedside. I seek peace. I want to bring a peaceful me to every situation I face. I am fearful that I won’t be good enough; that I am not fit; that I am not bendy; that my beer-swilling, AFL loving husband will reject me; that the change might overwhelm me; and most importantly on the social quotient – that I will expel air sharply from the nether regions.

What am I expecting from Yoga? Not much.

What am I hoping for? Weight loss (emotional and physical). Bendiness. Quieting the monkeys in my mind. Inner peace. That Buddha smile. Energy. Enthusiasm. Finding my purpose. Emitting light. Yes. A full-on miracle.

Wish me luck. AQA xxx