The boy in the bucket

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From there to here, from here to there,

funny things are everywhere.

— Dr. Seuss

Two years ago,  I was visiting one of the major historical sites in India in the state of Karnataka. Making my way to the rest room (or should I say ‘rest hut’), I noticed a woman mopping the floors. She was playing such an important role, but one that is challenging, mundane and generally not valued by anyone.  I always offer a smile and I tip these workers, grateful not only for their service, but for the part they play in my comparatively privileged life.

As I entered the doorway there were her two little boys frolicking about on the tiles. No iPad, smart phone or toy trucks. Just a bucket and water (and detergent). Surreptitiously taking my camera out of my pocket I snapped this shot. The joy and laughter were contagious, as this little one laughed, played, splashed about, lifted his sweet face to the sun and joined his hands in gratitude.  Even if he was not fully aware of the gratitude he could feel, it was natural for him, as a Hindu, to hold his hands in prayer.

I stood there for ages watching this truly delightful scene.  Whilst visiting the site was absolutely wonderful, the boy in the bucket was the highlight.

Every time I look at this photo it makes me smile. What immense power the joy of another one’s laughter has on oneself!  What power the smile evokes!  In this case the smile was from ear to ear.  For both of us….

And again that same joy is conjured just by remembering this incident as I write this for you.

In my yoga classes, I often ask my students to close their eyes and bring a gentle smile to their face.  Then I ask the question: how does that feel?  Some of my students tell me that they can’t feel the smile when they have their eyes closed.  So I ask them to turn their smile inwards. To be aware that everything will be OK, to curve their lips upward and to create or remember an image that gives them that irrepressible joy.

Then I ask them to turn their inward smile outwards and open their eyes sharing that smile with someone known to them or not; real or imagined; or even to project that smile into an imaginary mirror peering at their own image.

Blind Freddy (whoever he was) knows that smiles are contagious. The part of the brain that is responsible for our facial expression when happy or mirroring another person’s smile resides in the area of an unconscious automatic response. So if you are smiling at someone it is likely that they will smile straight back. If they don’t then they are actually ‘trying’ not to and repressing the response.

I remember once in my teens, being so sad, that a little old lady (she was probably only my age now) came up to me in the street and simply said….’smile my dear…you look so sad…let the smile mellow your worries’.   I did smile….. and she smiled for me and with me.

Share your smiles and laughter. Smile at someone for no good reason and watch what happens. You never know, maybe, just maybe, that smile that you offered so freely, actually was an enormous gift to someone who truly needed to be lifted from the doldrums at that very moment.

And whenever you need to give yourself a smile and are not quite sure how to find it, just remember…

 the boy in the bucket!

Annemaree x

 

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With all my heart…….

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It is said that the people we have in our lives are here for a ‘reason, a season or lifetime’.  This expression rings so true to me.  Many have left my life whether by death or circumstance and at times I have felt as though my heart would break in two.  Actually I think my heart is simply an accumulation of cracks, more than even I realise.  And yet, I also reflect on the words by the poet/song-writer, Leonard Cohen, ‘There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in’.

How often, do we explore why someone landed on our doorstep; entered, re-entered or left our life completely; brushed past us in the street with a smile; or picked us up and dusted us off without question or the desire for something in return? Oh, the times I have been so loved and cared for without recourse would fill a tome.  And I feel so privileged that so many have stepped into my world even if only for a ‘season’.

In my home I have dedicated a whole wall to photographs saying “Thank you.  I love you.” It is my ‘gratitude’ wall.  I constantly look at it (sometimes with a heavy heart and sometimes with a joyous one) and enquire as to why that person actually paid me a visit.  What did they awaken within me? What beauty did they bring to my spirit?  Why do I love them and what was their greatest gift to me?  Sometimes I also wonder – What was ‘their reason’ for finding me?

People to me, my friends, are as much a part of my make-up as my DNA.  So when I lose them it hurts…..it really hurts.  It is said that the depth of sadness is equal to the depth of the love. Sometimes I am a little sad and at other times I feel as though I shall shrivel up and dissolve with the pain.

On the other hand, I also realise that in the words of the great philosopher Krishnamurti, ‘Sadness is a vain attempt to possess’.  One has to ‘let go’ to free the spirit of binding attachment.

And what is pain?  Teaching yoga opens me to understand every small nuance of pain.  I conclude through my own experience that most of the physical pain we feel is a camouflage for an emotional issue.  Physical pain takes our focus away from the self-enquiry, from confronting ourselves and bringing ourselves ‘home’.  Of understanding our sadness.  What is it I am not observing?

Of course so much of our ‘pain’ is probably unconscious tension, years of it, accumulating over time…..and perhaps the only way to rid ourselves of it is to be ‘aware’ of this very fact.  Perhaps the issues will not surface for us to recognise them exactly, but will surface enough for us to accept them?  Only an idea really!

And immediate emotional pain?  Well, ‘fear’ is a word that resonates with me here.  And again that goes back to self-enquiry.  What have I experienced in the past that has come back into this moment to give me grief, to haunt me?  Is it desolation, abandonment, isolation?

I have also come to learn that in order to let of the waves of sadness and to understand that ‘this too shall pass’, is to sit with the sadness for a little while (after all one is only human), and then to revert the experience to a more positive picture preferably peppered with snippets of love and laughter.  Likened to dissolving grains of sugar into a glass of warm water.  The drink of memories will always remain sweet.

I believe the ‘unsaid’ needs to be ‘said’, even if just ‘quietly’…….

‘Thank you.  I love you’

Annemaree x

 

P.S. This photograph is of my 9-year-old nephew, Thomas.  I think he is perhaps an old soul who has come to visit me.  Who knows?