Live in the breath…..

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“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”
― Amit Ray

So many of my students come to me suffering with moderate or extreme anxiety.  In fact, I was actually asked the question this week, “isn’t it normal to be anxious?”

Of course we get anxious when we are confronted by negative influences or when we have to face great challenges in our lives, but no, living in a state of anxiety should not be considered ‘normal’. 

It may become ‘normal’ for some people to exist in an anxious state and to be trapped in its tethers, but there are ways to break free of it, or at the very least to ease it when it overwhelms our being.

One way to manage chronic anxiety is to ‘live in the breath’.  It sounds simple, and I know that those who suffer with anxiety would be saying ‘as if’!

But these words are being written by one who suffered with extreme anxiety for a long, long time years ago. Me!  I understand. That is why I do what I do and wish to pass my knowledge and experiences on to you.

Truly ‘the breath’ is a panacea….once recognised as such, and once practised efficiently.

There are many, many ways to breathe effectively and many practices that can help one do this.

However, a beautiful and greatly effective yogic method is ‘Maha Yoga Pranyama’.

(Maha – meaning great; Yoga – the union between the body, breath and mind; Pranyama – extension of the life force that we take in when we breathe deeply and slowly).

This YouTube is for you.

A complimentary session.

7 minutes long.

Invaluable benefits.

Please try it!  And practise not once but often….

Maha Yoga Pranyama

The importance of breathing need hardly be stressed. It provides the oxygen for the metabolic processes; literally it supports the fires of life. But breath as “pneuma” is also the spirit or soul. We live in an ocean of air like fish in a body of water. By our breathing we are attuned to our atmosphere. If we inhibit our breathing we isolate ourselves from the medium in which we exist. In all Oriental and mystic philosophies, the breath holds the secret to the highest bliss. That is why breathing is the dominant factor in the practice of Yoga.”

Alexander Lowen, The Voice of the Body
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An Eloquent Offering…

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Let the child living within us to live freely, happily and simply.

A little while ago a friend sent these words to me believing them to be written by the current Pope, Pope Francis.  That is the claim, but as it turns out, not the truth.

I have been reading them out to my yoga classes as the words are so poignant, profound and gentle.  However, the second time I read them aloud, I listened to the whispers in my body, and intuitively discovered that these words are more yogic than a catholic discourse, or at the very least more poetic.

So I questioned Lord Google, and yes, as it turns out, no one really knows who wrote them. This is despite the fact that they have been attributed to many authors, quite convincingly I might add, and specifically to the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa who died early last century.

Of course, they are subject to the time spent in cyberspace and the numerous translators’ perspectives.

So, what can I say?  Except ‘thank you’ to the author/authors/translators and my friend.  These words are delightful and pertinent to us all.   So in light of these words being offered to me, I now offer them to you, so that you may read, re-read, adopt and enjoy!

(I doubt that Fernando Pessoa is turning in his grave worrying about copyright).

“You may have flaws, live anxiously, and sometimes get angry, but never forget that your life is the biggest enterprise in the world. And you can keep it from going bankrupt.

 There are many people who need, admire and love you.

 I wish that you always remember that being happy is not having a sky without storms, paths without accidents, work without fatigue, relationships without disappointments.

 Being happy is finding strength in forgiveness, hope in battles, security in fear, love in disagreements.

 Being happy is not only appreciating the smiles, but reflecting on the sadness.

It is not just celebrating the success, but also learning lessons in failures.

It is not only to feel happy with applause, but finding joy in anonymity.

 Being happy is recognizing that life is worth living, despite all the challenges, misunderstandings and periods of crisis.

 To be happy is to stop feeling like a victim and to become your destiny’s author. It is crossing deserts outside of yourself, but being able to find an oasis in the secret of your soul.

 It is being thankful for every morning for the miracle of life.

 Being happy is not being afraid of your own feelings. It’s to be able to talk about yourself.

It’s the courage to hear a “No”. It is confidence in the face of criticism, even when you feel it is unjustified. It is to kiss your children, pamper your parents, to live poetic moments with friends.

 Being happy is to let the child living within us to live freely, happily and simply.

 It is having the maturity to say “I made mistakes”.

It is having the courage to say “forgive me”.

It is having the sensitivity to say “I need you”.

It is to have the ability to say “I love you”.

It is having the humility of receptivity.

May your life become a garden of opportunities for happiness …That in spring may it be a lover of joy?  In winter a lover of wisdom. And when you go astray, start again. You will find that to be happy is not to have a perfect life…

But use the tears to irrigate tolerance.

Use your losses to refine patience.
Use your mistakes to sculptor serenity.
Use obstacles to open the windows of intelligence.

 Never give up hope.

Never give up the people you love.

Never give up on people who love you.

Never give up on happiness, for life is an incredible show”. 

 

x Annemaree x

 

Children see magic…

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‘Children see magic because they look for it’!

Christopher Moore

I knew at the age of 11, that one day I would be involved with children in India. Whether it is the universal intelligence laying a path before me or a deep desire on my part emerging from an inner, unconscious ‘well’ of wishes and intentions, I don’t know.  However, I do know how much delight children bring to my spirit. What I love about them is their unbridled joy and their seeking of magic in every aspect of their lives.

I was invited to teach yoga to 30+ little ones in the newly established ‘Uluru Early Learning Centre’.  Yes, whilst in Australia ‘Uluru’ is the name of our most prominent cultural landmark, it is also a Tamil word, meaning ‘Land Deep Within’.  And that is where you will find The East West Overseas Aid Foundation (TEWOAF), deep in the heart of the state of Tamil Nadu.

It wasn’t difficult to teach these little ‘vege mites’, as all children can pretend to be a cat, lion, frog or tortoise.  I don’t speak a word of Tamil and so our lovely friend, Naga, translated and at the same time became fascinated at how the kids could transform their limbs into pretzel-like shapes and jump two feet off the ground whilst he could barely reach his knees, let alone his toes.

And in this warm, rural community how gorgeous it is to have a child tip-toe up to you,  take your face in their little hands, kiss you on the forehead and say ‘please come back’! How could I not?

What an extraordinary feat to create this little haven in such a remote part of the country. A children’s home for the orphaned, abandoned and destitute; an early learning centre; an environmental education centre; a health care clinic; and much, much more together with a global community of donors.  To give one child an opportunity to grow and to break the shackles of grim poverty and abuse, is surely an achievement that we can all manage. In our free society, isn’t eradicating poverty our duty?  And isn’t education the most powerful tool to do this?

And what do my visits to this foundation remind me to do?

  • Be free-spirited
  • Be spontaneous
  • Be curious
  • Observe everything with a child-like mind
  • Play
  • Be gentle
  • Be kind
  • Be polite at all times
  • Respect my elders
  • Giggle (a lot)

and…

Look for the magic in everything…

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If you would like to contribute to the education and health of these children, please tap into The East West Overseas Aid Foundation’s website.  There is a lovely video on the home page which may interest you.   www.tewoaf.org.au/who-we-are

 

with love

Annemaree x

 

 

 

Dwell in Possibility…

Mother Teresa in Calcutta

‘Dwell in Possibility’ – Emily Dickinson

As I teach more and more yoga I observe more and more behaviours on the mat related to stress, striving, winning, comparing, judging, hurrying, fear, impatience, lack of confidence, grief and I could go on and on.

I know that my students reflect my attitudes and behaviours and thanks to them I have learned more about myself than any personal development book/wise man/guru could teach me!

In doing so, it has taken me many years to understand how much of these behaviours stem from the need/desire to be ‘successful”‘.  What on earth is success? If you ask a Western child today, what do they want to be when they grow up…..often the response now is ‘to be famous’!  Really? That is seen as success to so many. Yes, success wears many cloaks but having thousands of Facebook friends doesn’t cut it for me.

What is success to you?

I recently was in the home of a lovely friend who pointed out how successful her husband was because of what he had provided for her and her family.  However, she didn’t seem to see, in any way, her own so-called success.

Apart from the fact that I was sitting in a beautifully designed home; speaking to her charming son; and having just walked through a stunning garden fit to be in Vogue Living (all produced, designed and nourished by her I might add); she saw her husband as successful but not herself. In fact she sees herself as one who lacks ambition, and is without drive or purpose.  However, how I see her is not how she sees herself.  She is simply not aware of how she has dwelled in possibility and potential and has created a magnificent haven/ environment for her husband and her children.  Success?  Surely!

Yes money can certainly be a sign of success if put to good use but so can a garden. For what is more beautiful?

A dollar note or a gardenia?

And how blessed can you be to not feel as though you have to strive every day. Have you considered what it is like just to be aware, to potter, to be present?

Ask someone who has been given 5 years to life, what success is? I did ask this question this week.  And the answer was simply: ‘to live in the present with those I love’.  End of subject.

Sometimes I play a beautiful piece of music in my classes which is interrupted for a split second with these words…..’When our bones turn to dust the two most important things in life will have been how much we loved and how much we gave’.

When I reflect upon the act of ‘giving’, I recall the times I have visited Mother Teresa’s (now St. Teresa’s) homes in Pashupatinath (Nepal) and Pondicherry (India) and have seen first-hand (whilst being humbled to my very core) what she created in her life and what these lively little nuns (yes they all seem little) do for the disabled, poor and abandoned. Giving and loving – in a nutshell.

Surely these are the two greatest qualities of the human race?  Surely what stems from these is happiness. And isn’t being happy – success?

Oh if we all just ‘loved and gave’…..what an idealist I am!

So when you feel you are not ‘being successful’, think again or plant a tree!  That will do it.

Or… simply dwell in possibility and potential for others and watch how your success unfolds.

And remember, a small gift given to the earth can give shade, safety and joy and all it takes is a thought, a seedling and a moment in time.

 

Love   x Annemaree x

 

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Thank you to those who took these photos….whomever you may be….for they are beautiful!

From Here to There…..

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‘Where your deep gladness and the world’s hunger meet’

 

How do I find my way?

How do I journey from here to there?

Where am I now?

Where to now?

Why am I here?

No matter where I go, my shadow lingers behind me, a kaleidoscope of broken dreams, distant memories and fearful rides. Best to tip-toe out of it gently, I think, but not too abruptly or the future will draw me into its untenable illusion.

Be silent. Be still. Be present.

I  seek the sunshine, to step into its light and feel the warmth on my back

And I know, I must keep dancing on the sun drenched stage. Alive with desire, awakening to dawn, realizing my gifts, knowing myself, coming back home to me! To that place that was, that was here, that is there, that is now.

The more I observe, the more I am present, the more I feel.

As I stand still amidst the flora of my existence, I watch with curious eyes and I hear with awakened ears the toll of time…this moment….this precious moment.  I learn what has brought me here and where I must go.

Is my ‘meaning’ for living, my purpose? Or is my purpose the path I create and pursue to fulfil and validate the meaning?

I tell myself to know my purpose I must understand my values….

Perhaps my most treasured value at this time is freedom….to flow freely in body and mind….to love freely….to be free from illusion and old tensions…to be free from complexity, hedonism and selfishness –  to ‘know’ peace.

Could it be that my purpose is to discover who I am? Who I am becoming?  And then? How to nurture who I am?  To love and understand myself at the very deepest level.  To develop strength, resilience and courage to guide myself back to ‘me’ when I have lost my way? And as is often considered ‘to step outside of myself to connect, to serve the world and to attend to others”.

And then surely the crux of my ‘meaning’ and my purpose (once recognised), must be to give and to love….is there another? To give to others, to give to myself, to love others, to love myself.

Is having meaning then something I do rather than something I feel? And finding this activity, this job, this eudaimonia, shall I then live a life of ‘human flourishing’?

And so this passion I feel within me….this joy….can only surely stem from the knowing…the understanding of my deepest desires?  My inspired mission.

It is said: ‘He who gives, gathers’   I would add: ‘He who loves, lives’

How do I become so sure of my path?

I come to silence and allow the truths to surface….the answers to come…..and no matter how I resist this understanding, until I accept my power, my skills, my knowledge, my true self, my ‘meaning’, I can never pursue my purposeful path, nor seek the warmth and adventure of a passionate nature.

Thus my quest!

Yours?

Annemaree x

 

 Something to reflect upon:

“Leading a eudemonic life, Aristotle argued, requires cultivating the best qualities within you both morally and intellectually and living up to your potential.  It is an active life, a life in which you do your job and contribute to society, a life in which you are involved in your community, a life, above all, in which you realise your potential, rather than squander your talents”.

The question is how to do your duty, how best to contribute – or, as the theologian Frederick Buechner put it, your vocation lies ‘where your deep gladness and the world’s hunger meet”.

 

(Excerpts taken from Emily Esfahani Smith’s book ‘The Power of Meaning’.

 

“What more is there to say?”.

 

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 I saw this photo somewhere on social media recently and spent some considerable time finding it.  

I resonate so much with it, that I put my next blog ‘on hold’ and thought I would share this simple pic with you.

So poignant, beautiful and thought-provoking!

 

Annemaree x

 

 

Thank you to the person who took this photograph, whoever you may be!

 

 

 

 

To laugh often and much….

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As I teach more and more yoga I see more and more behaviours on the mat related to stress, striving, winning, comparing, judging, hurrying, fear, impatience, lack of confidence, grief, and I could go on and on and on.

I know that my students reflect my attitudes and behaviours too and thanks to them I have learned more about myself than any personal development book/wise man/guru could teach me!

In doing so, it has taken me some years to understand how many of these behaviours stem from the need/desire to be “successful”‘.  What on earth is that?  If you ask Western children today, what do they want to be when they grow up…..often the response is to be ‘famous’!  As a small child I don’t recall ever wanting to be famous for the sake of it!  (Infamous maybe but not famous).  It’s true that success wears many cloaks but having thousands of Facebook friends doesn’t cut it for me.

What is success to you? I recently was in the home of a lovely friend who pointed out how successful her husband was because of what he had provided for she and her family, but didn’t see, in any way, her so-called success.   Apart from the fact that I was sitting in a stunningly, beautifully designed home, speaking to her charming son, and having just walked through a garden fit to be in Vogue Living (all produced, designed and nourished by her I might add),  she saw her husband as successful but not herself.  In fact she sees herself as not ambitious, nor driven and yet she ambles through life creating a magnificent haven/ambience for her family. Success? Surely!

Yes money can certainly be a sign of success if put to good use but so too can the creation of a garden. For what is more beautiful? A dollar note or a rose?

And how blessed can you be to not feel as though you have to strive every day?  Have you considered what it is like just to be, to potter, to be present?  Ask someone who has been given one year to live, what success is?  I did this week. And the answer was simply, to live in the present with those I love’.  End of subject.

And sometimes I play a beautiful piece of music in my classes which is interrupted for a split second with these words…”When our bones turn to dust the two most important things in life will have been how much we loved and how much we gave”.

Some years ago I visited mother Theresa’s (now St. Theresa’s) homes in Pashupatinath (Nepal) and Pondicherry (India) and experienced first-hand (whilst being humbled to my very core) what she created in her life and what these lively, little nuns (yes they all seem little) do for the disabled, poor, abandoned etc. Giving and loving – in a nutshell.

Surely these are the two greatest qualities of the human race?  Surely what stems from these is happiness. And isn’t being happy – success?

Oh if we all just loved and gave…..what an idealist I am!

So when you feel you are not ‘successful’, think again or plant a tree!  That will do it.

Such a small gift to the earth can give shade, safety and joy and all it takes is a thought, a seedling and a moment in time.

Annemaree x

 

“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition, to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded”.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Pic: By Jaime Murcia, children from The East West Overseas Foundation, TEWOAF, Tamil Nadu, India.

What my mother taught me…

Mum at 21

During one of my recent yoga classes I was walking through the maze of students who were spread out on the floor, lying in Savasana, and I tripped over a block, narrowly avoiding landing spread eagle on top of an unsuspecting body!

Unsuspecting? Or so I thought!

Then I heard the words ‘pick your feet up’.  I chuckled to myself as I was transported back into my past and heard my mother (Pauline) saying exactly the same thing when I was a languid teenager, though she generally attached ‘for God’s sake’ to the sentence.

Along with…. ‘don’t chew gum or you’ll look like a cow’; ‘stay out of the sun or you’ll shrivel up like a prune; (I ignored that piece of advice), ‘stay out of trouble, (I did, most of the time); ‘don’t just sit there, do something’ (there is an irony to this comment as I now teach meditation and do just sit there!); ‘put your shoulders back’; ‘put some colour on your face –  you look as though you have just been dug up’ (white lipstick was in); ‘look on the bright side’; ‘swear and I shall wash your mouth out with soap and water’; ‘do the best with what you have so that others will be proud to be in your company; and, ‘if you think you are going out looking like that then you had better have another thought coming’. (This latter comment came with her physically blocking the doorway).  I could go on and on.  Couldn’t we all?

But what I remember mum for most of all, and certainly with great gratitude and love, is her advice to:

Always look deeply into the eyes of those you meet and try to understand what is behind them.  She often spoke about not understanding another until you walked a mile in their shoes which of course was adapted from an old Native Indian proverb.

Fabulous, heartfelt advice from a woman who was so beautiful on the exterior but suffered so much on the interior with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Clinical Depression.  On a superficial level often she would be fine, especially when she was laughing…but often I would look into those eyes, and see the sadness, pain, vulnerability and fear behind them.

Her words prompted me to write this little mindfulness practice:

In your eyes,

I see you in me

You see me in you.

But rarely do I realise this is how I am seeing you or you are seeing me.

It is said that the eyes are the windows to the soul.

If I see you clearly, my heart shall then recognise your heart

My mind will recognise your mind

My spirit will speak to you – for you are me and I am you.

We are not so different – we share similar emotions, joy and pain, sadness and laughter.

We hurt as each other.

We laugh as each other.

Our tears come from the same place,

Our kindness stems from the same depth.

I honour you…please honour me,

so that there is little distance but much love between us.

 

 

Namaste.

Annemaree x

 

P.S. This picture was the one my father carried with him.  She was 21 in the photograph.  When he died I asked mum if I could have it. She was taken aback that I would want it….and would be surprised to know that I look at it every day, to this day, constantly being reminded of her courage and wisdom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In presence of the moon…

 

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I have often heard it said that beauty is not in the face. Beauty is in the heart. What is truly attractive is when a person walks into a room, carrying themselves with ‘attitude’, straight and tall, exuding self-confidence, smiling and showing their inner spirit through their kind and gentle persona.  This is ‘presence’. This is loaded self-esteem. This is powerful!

In presence of the Moon nobody sees stars.” ― Amit Kalantri

I remember when I was in my early twenties and I was sent to the Maldives for my work. I was alone, lacked confidence and was shy.  I would walk into the restaurant each evening and sit myself down hoping I would not be noticed. One evening an elderly woman came up to me and actually admonished me for not holding my head high, showing courage, smiling, acknowledging those around me and having as she called it ‘presence’.  A little harsh perhaps?  Clearly the experience caused me to reflect, listen, observe and to be more aware. Obviously it affected me deeply as decades later, I am relating this to you. Whilst her words were delivered in a critical way, they helped me through life

So what else has this concept of ‘presence’, taught me?

Presence is when you believe in yourself.

People with presence do what they say and manifest their intentions. People with presence are influencers, creators, leaders and the silent walkers on this earth…

Their presence speaks before their voice does.

They are free to make their own decisions and to follow their own path. Yes, they will doubt themselves. Otherwise they would not grow. However they listen intently and learn studiously but are not into controlling others nor are they controlled in any way.

In fact many influencers on this earth walk through the world without realising their impact.

They walk cloaked with humility and understanding.

Those with presence –

They don’t just talk – they act.

They don’t just hear – they listen.

They don’t just see – they watch carefully.

They don’t just dream, they manifest.

They are compassionate and empathetic.

Their kindness is what roots them to the earth so that they are grounded and fair.

Just because of the way they are, many are attracted to them.  Heart and soul. Not brain and ego. They want to be like them. But not in image – in spirit.

And…often those who feel they have to boast about their circumstances, image, or money are the very ones who have little presence.

For isn’t it true, the most admired qualities in the human race cannot be bought?

No matter how much you own or how much you don’t own, you are the master of your destiny. Money cannot buy inner peace, integrity, love, health, trust, patience, dignity, time or happiness.

These are found ‘ within’ and subject to the choices one makes each step of the way.

But there is also another really important lesson here. Your presence is enough! Yes, enough!

Recently I offered a hand out to a friend who is very ill. Not only did he often shirk my offer, he taught me that it was up to him to heal and my presence was simply enough. I didn’t need to offer help, words, sympathise, stalk or support him. For me, this truth is hard to bear when I see another being I care for suffering. However, it is as it is…and my challenge was and always will be to accept this perspective.

“When someone is going through a storm, your silent presence is more powerful than a million, empty words.”  Thema Davis

So I have to set aside what I call the ‘healer’s ego’ ( i.e. understand that my role is to heal myself and not impose my way of living on another being).  Lighting a candle; making a cup of tea; playing soothing music, may be far more treasured than beseeching one to follow my path or for me to create a plethora of healing remedies in the hope that they will be pursued.  In the end, all my friend wanted was ‘nothing’ – what he appreciated was ‘my presence’.

I do my best to live by this lesson, especially when my students open up their hearts to me. All I can do is be present, silent and to listen.

Poignantly the words ‘silence’ and ‘listen’ have exactly the same letters!

 

“The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”  Thich Nhat Hanh.

 

With love,

Annemaree xxxx

 

 

 

 

The tender side…

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“No beauty shines brighter than that of a good heart”.

This photograph uplifts me in a way I find difficult to express, shivery in a soft and beautiful way.

It exudes tenderness, warmth, compassion and love. Aren’t these emotions the crux of our humanity?

And then… I turn on the radio and listen to the ‘News’ and want to shoot myself! The more I teach yoga, the more vulnerable and exposed I feel. But I also realise that an open heart leads to greater pleasure and joy and therefore greater pain and sorrow. One cannot have one without the other. Pleasure and pain are inextricably entwined.

Thanks to the media we are constantly exposed to heartache. Heartache over things that we cannot control, help or even identify with. Do I need to be exposed to every murder, flood, landslide, car accident, bashing, bully, terrorist, fire, bombing and shooting?

Could I not just look at the tender side of life?

Perhaps not always… but much of the time?

Recently I listened to an interview with the Australian actor Samuel Johnson.  Sam, with his foibles and gut-wrenching honesty is what I would consider to be a wonderful brother! Lost his mother to suicide; the love of his life also to suicide; and his sanity temporarily to drugs. But always by his sister’s side and she by his. He created ‘Love Your Sister’ charity to help raise funds, as he put it, to annihilate the indiscriminate venom of cancer.  Something which his sister Connie had been fighting for 23 years. And sadly Connie lost her battle with aggressive breast cancer only a few weeks ago. Sam does something to fight back. In his own interminable manner, he attacks that which hurts him most, but with great zest and tenderness.

Is that perhaps one way of recognising our purpose?  By fighting back for something we believe in so deeply?

Is that what we all need to do? Brandish the sword of justice in some personal way? Whether it be to donate our pennies, our time or our organs; to support a cause; walk for peace; offer a helping hand; smile at a passer-by or to offer our service for no apparent reason. Imagine if we could toss the coin of harshness in the air and each time it landed, it landed on an about-face – the face of ‘tenderness’. That means we have to tear open our hearts, be prepared to hurt, give exponentially, let go of having so much, give more than we thought, and be courageous! All of us can display narcissistic traits, but all of us can also be empathetic.

We need to look at the gentle side of life….seek the beautiful stories….mix with sensitive beings…….cut off from that which we cannot cure, help what and when we can. Do something no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.

Don’t you think?

Every kind action will manifest a karmic ally somewhere, somehow, even if we never recognise it’s unfolding.

Let’s face it…..the tender side is always more digestible!

 

…as I keep reminding myself.

x Annemaree x

 

P.S. This photo found its way to me.  I am not sure how or when.  I have pasted it on my wall in the room where I am writing this and I frequently just sit and look at it.  I honour the person who captured this moment. Thank you.  Thank you.