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.

For more details...

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

Is there such a thing as Karmic Irony?

OprahO’ Oprah’s Magazine – February 2014

I was once taught that life deals its cards in mysterious ways. Sometimes you are dealt an ACE and sometimes you are dealt a JOKER.

Well since I have been following my passion teaching yoga, I have been dealt ACE after ACE. A part of my deck of dreams was to create some of the most beautiful tours I could possibly conjure in order to pass on the wonderful teachings and ‘truths’ of yoga, mindfulness and meditation.

The criteria? Well it had to be a feast of the senses. To be surrounded by beauty; to dine in the company of generous souls; to experience copious quantities of laughter; to live in comfort and style; to indulge, explore, connect, and bathe in the warmth of the sun, the lands and its people. …a nurturing experience of pure ease and tranquility.

Thus one of the places we visit on my ‘Rubies & Roses’ Tour to Northern India is Ananda Spa. Nestled in the Himalayan foothills, it is simply a breath of heaven!

Enchanting, graceful, beautiful and very, very peaceful, one’s Ananda sojourn combines the teachings of Ayurveda (5000-year-old healing system), Yoga (spiritual and ascetic discipline of wellbeing) and Vedanta (philosophy and science of the spirit). Ananda has created a private haven for those who are seeking true peace and wholeness (not to mention gorgeous cuisine and stunning treatments).

Part of the allure of Ananda is that it honours each individual, treating them on a completely equal basis and is completely respectful of anonymity and personal space.

Enter Oprah!

So here we are one morning taking a yoga class alongside Oprah. Well of course we know who Oprah is but she doesn’t know who we are. Over breakfast, munching on exotic, organic grains, our group discussed how important it was for us to respect Oprah’s privacy….she too deserves a rest, we said!

We decided not to ask her if we could pose in a photo nor put our arm around her and pretend we had become bosom buddies. The most we would do would be to say ‘hello’. Yes, if we had these photos would it impress others? Maybe! Would it be good for our businesses? Maybe! But nevertheless imposition was out. Respect was in.

What was interesting for me was how I observed people doing exactly what we decided not to do. And Oprah was so obliging and charming…….I guess that is her karma. And often we were dressed in Ananda Kurta Pyjamas, covered in oil and not exactly in our most flattering photographic element. Though I guess Oprah wouldn’t care that much. Next to Marilyn she must be the most photographed female idol in the world.

But as the universe unfolds, the pendulum swings and the dealer deals a new hand, another ACE was laid on the table. Four months after our tour, ‘O’, Oprah’s magazine hit the stands. And here we are. Our group. Yes, that’s me in the middle in black and white, flanked by the ‘Rubies & Roses’ team.

Enter Ananda’s website, and here we are again…..’What Oprah knows for sure about stillness”.  Another ACE!

Thank you Oprah. Even though you may never see this and never know who we are!
www.anandaspa.com

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…….

‘The Hug’

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It was a warm, sultry, January evening – deep in the heart of Tamil Nadu, a southern state of India.

The moon had just exited its fullness by one night.  It was still radiant and round, filtering its light through the palm fronds and reflecting its amber glow in the waters that ebb and flow alongside the ‘Uluru Children’s Home’.

I saw her standing there, part in the shadows of the gate and part in the lunar light.  She was solitary; her eyes  Illuminescent ,  just watching me walking towards her.  Not a movement.  Not a breath.  Still.  Silent.  Deep.

What was she thinking?  What decision was she considering? Why was she motionless?  A beautiful image suspended in reality.

I stopped and watched her for some time, wondering what was on her mind and I was fascinated by her intensity.

Suddenly, she rushed into me wrapping her arms tightly around me, her head at my chest.

The hug was so strong, it took me by surprise. Such a tiny creature exuding such enormous strength.  As I wrapped myself around her,  I could feel the muscles in her tiny back.  Lean, powerful, balletic – the body of a dancer.  A little girl who spends hours practicing in the Bharatanatyam tradition. The hug was enduring and heart-felt.  And, I thought my heart was going to leap out of my chest.  After a minute or so, she let go.  Not a word was spoken.  None was needed.  She walked away.

I am not so sure I believe in altruism. Is there really such a thing? Why does one get involved in charity?  How does one choose which one?  Is it not to fill a gap in one’s being? And if so, which hole in me needed to be filled?

Why orphaned, destitute and abandoned children?  Why India?  And why now?

Upon reflection, and for my part, my mother was very ill throughout much of her life and my father was dying by the time I was 16.  My parents were extraordinary and I am so grateful to have known them.  They worked so very hard at staying alive and were desperate to survive for as long as possible for their children.  But when a parent or parents are ill and eventually leave, particularly when children are only children, one cannot help but carry a sense of loss and abandonment into their future years.

And as I reflect, I realize that this is it.  This is the gap!  The hole!  The emptiness of needing to fend for oneself (real or imagined) and the sadness and loneliness that pervades when you are growing up. No child should feel it.  But millions do.  Is it not a child’s birthright to feel secure, safe and loved, no matter what the circumstances?

Yes, as an adult, I have learned that security, safety and love come from within.  And coming from such a blessed land as Australia, I feel it is my responsibility to pass on my love to those less fortunate.

A hug is mutual.  A hug is the same in any language. And…. I can afford to give many away.  It is a gift to be given and received.  That is why I am involved with ‘The East West Overseas Aid Foundation’ of India.

I have never expected nor asked for the children’s love in return.  I don’t speak TamiI and therefore can only communicate with them in a rudimentary fashion.

I am not in need of recognition, accolades or in being known to leave a legacy.  Those things are of no importance to me.

I am simply interested in ‘The Hug’ and what it does for children and for the whole of mankind.

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You may visit the children at: http://www.tewoaf.org.au/

Om Shanti……

Annemaree

Pictures speak a thousand words…

and……so do smiles!

‘Land of 1000 Smiles’ Tour – Kerala, India by Cool, Calm & Collected.

I thought I would share some of the smiles I experience whenever I visit Kerala, as seen through my eyes and those of my fellow travellers.

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I’ve never seen a smiling face that was not beautiful.  ~Author Unknown

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Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy. ~Thích Nhất Hạnh

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A laugh is a smile that bursts  ~Mary H. Waldrip

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Beauty is power; a smile is its sword.  ~Charles Reade

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Everyone smiles in the same language.  ~Author Unknown

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“What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.” – Joseph Addison

Enjoy!

http://www.coolcalmandcollected.com.au/courses/land_1000_smiles_india.html