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…….

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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