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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

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?

 

 

 

Planting Seeds……..

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No doubt you know those who are often or always looking on the negative side. Always complaining. Always anxious. Often dramatic. Nervous. Full of doom. Ruled by the negative stories in their head. Owning pain. And using their pain as a badge of honour. Easily irritated.  Immersed in a belief system that the world is ugly, corrupt, miserable, frightening, mean, falling apart, hopeless etc.  I am not speaking about those who are ill and enduring the suffering of clinical depression.  That is a different story.  I am speaking about the average you and me.

We all experience pain. But pain like a mistake is a lesson for growth.

As Kahil Gibran wrote in his work The Prophet:

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that

Encloses your understanding

Even as the stone of the fruit must break,

That it’s heart may stand in the sun, so must

you know pain”

I was recently immersed in the centre of an absolutely pristine pool in India at one of the world’s most beautiful yogic spa and healing centres. I was observing the beautiful blue, glistening water and luxuriating in its warmth and nurturing properties.  A few of the staff were looking into the pool too perhaps observing its clarity or beauty – who knows.  A woman suddenly swam past me and said ‘I wonder what they are doing, I hope they’re not looking for snakes?????

Negative people need to be the centre of attention by drawing in sympathy from those around them or ‘belonging’ by joining the negative mob. Consciously or unconsciously.  However the very thing that is wanted, that is attention, is the very thing not received as many will move away from the negative cloud of energy that one exudes.

These people are often irritated, irritable, remorseful and angry. Falling and falling down the rabbit hole at the rate of knots into a state of gloom and emptiness and so much so that they lose their place in the world and are unable to clamber up the sides of the cavern – because it all seems all useless and pointless.  Beauty is beyond reach and isolation pervades. Is this you? Of course it is or can be or has been at some time. We are wired to think the worst and to fight or flee to protect ourselves. Ancient brain.  And……We all so often allow the stories in our head to rule us and others.

Some of the wisest words I have been offered and ones upon which I have reflected upon many times are: “if you plant negative seeds, you will harvest negativity”.  You may say that you are not being negative and denying or being resistant in some way to owning up to this truth. Or not even aware of your default pattern of existence. If you plant an apple tree you will not get oranges. Let’s face it. If you plant negativity you cannot expect to harvest positivity. You can only hope for it. And hope will not provide it.  Not this time. So there is no point just waiting, expecting to pluck an orange off an apple tree.

One needs to do the hard work by planting different seeds. Continuously. Season after season until the garden is abundant. Don’t blame the lack of fruit or the soil or lack of rain or the cold. It is from you that the seeds will fall. Beauty is from within…..let it blossom.

We all need to be mindful of how we are approaching the day. Do we wake up and immediately think things are going to be arduous?  Or do we wake up thinking how amazing it is to be still breathing and above grass?

It is often said to me that ‘I don’t have the energy to make change’. That’s a negative and you are right. Of course you will not be able to make change if you have planted that seed. Of course negativity will deplete your energy too. It becomes a vicious circle. Negativity – low energy – low energy – inability to make change.

When living in darkness the days seem long. When living in light one feels vibrant.

And so…..

What are you planting? Which seed will empower you?  Which seed will not?  What does the garden of your mind look like? Is it full of colour, beauty and vitality….

Roses or weeds?

The choice is yours…….

 

Annemaree x

 

P.S. I would like to honour whoever took this photograph. It came from Pinterest to me, I and I am unable to find out who took it. But I thank you, whoever you are. It says it all.  It is so full of joy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Differing but the Same

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One day I was walking with a friend, and as we passed a man living on the street, she exclaimed ‘what a loser’.  She shocked me and it saddened me deeply….that anyone, anyone on this earth, would consider this term for someone whose path had taken an unfortunate, or in fact, a different direction than ours.  I believe that the majority (if not all) of these people do not choose to sleep on a park bench, in the freezing cold or in the stifling heat, without shelter, food or a friend to talk to.

We are all different on the outside and come in different exteriors, different packages so to speak.  But when one looks inside the box we are the same. We have the same essence and for that essence to thrive we need to be able to connect with the essence in others.  Rather than thinking outside the box, perhaps we can consider there is no box. It is through that flow, that essence, that we learn about one another and in turn we learn about ourselves.  The action is called tolerance.

Just like a plant that is not watered, if you do not nurture it, and it becomes disconnected from the elements, it becomes starved of life.  It dies inside and out. To me that is what happens to those referred to as the ‘down and out’, those you see sitting against walls in street sidewalks, begging to be noticed. They were once someone’s child and now have no home, emotional, or otherwise.  They are the world’s ‘home-less’. They have lost their home.  They have lost their place.

Human kindness from others allows their essence, their nectar to flow, even if just for seconds. As my father taught me, ‘buy those on the street a meal or a coffee’. Something to nurture their body and soul.  Yes, a coin is fine too, of course.  So what if that coin is spent on a cigarette?  I don’t know what it is like not to have a roof over my head, let alone sleep out in the cold! So I am not in a position to judge.  I have learned to look into their eyes as I pass them by.  Let them know they are part of my world too!

Often I reflect upon the question – Am I connecting in my own world?

We need to remember that when we are gone, no one will remember what we wore at their party; how many honours we obtained at school; how many languages we mastered; what car we drove; how many houses we owned; or what our title was at work; they will only remember how we made them feel.  They will remember the kindness we bestowed upon them. However some will also remember being hurt or bullied, controlled or cut down by us too.  There is a choice!

There is a wonderful Arabic proverb which says: ‘The Axe forgets, but the tree remembers’.

Isn’t the greatest wealth in any being  found in their ability to connect, to offer kindness and compassion?

All of us have the ability to nurture the essence in others and in by doing so we nurture ourselves. When we feel fear, anger, hatred, envy or in some way believe we are superior to those whom we meet, there can be little, if any connection.  And not only does our own energy deplete by transmuting these emotions, we deplete the energy in others and soon they will move away.

For so long, we have valued knowledge as being the most important element in our lives, but in fact isn’t it understanding?  Is it not understanding and acting upon that understanding? Knowledge is just a commodity.  Understanding is the key in turning knowledge into something valuable.

Doesn’t this apply to how we treat others in every aspect of our lives?  Knowledge or understanding?

If we think that by behaving as though we know better, are smarter, wealthier, faster, happier, more valuable, then we are being foolish and show up our own stagnant thinking and lack of understanding and compassion.

Acquire knowledge. Understand it. Act upon it.  When our thoughts, understanding, speech and action are in line going forth……then we are in harmony.

It also takes courage to find the ‘heart’ in things. And where does the word ‘Courage’ come from?  The French word ‘Coeur’ – heart.

Do we have the courage never to cut down or look down upon another? Do we have the compassion to bestow upon those who are hurting?

If so, then we will truly thrive, simply by connecting…..

Heart…to…heart!

 

P.S.  I would like to honour whoever took this photograph.  It came to me, I don’t remember how, nor can I recognise who took it. But I thank you, whoever you are.  It says it all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ahimsa: ‘Do no harm’.

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It is cool to be kind….not cruel to be kind!

This Sanskrit word opens a mélange of ideas, beliefs, and opinions about what ‘do no harm’ actually means.   ‘Ahimsa’ is so easily expressed but not so easy to adhere to at times.

And….the antithesis to ‘do no harm’ is really very, very  simple –

As expressed by the great author Henry James:    “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

Nothing is more unattractive than someone being unkind about another and nothing is more futile than one being unkind about oneself.

Recently I held a ‘Soul Soothing Sunday’ whereupon students came to a gentle Hatha yoga class and we sat around discussing ‘Ahimsa’.  Off to dinner afterwards, and the conversation was still continuing – and today is still continuing – weeks later in fact!

Many have come forward with responses to what ‘Do no harm’ means to them.  Here are some of the precepts in leading a life of ‘Ahimsa’, some of which you may never have considered before this.

  • Think before you speak
  • Keep your word
  • Know that betrayal in any form can be devastating to the one who has trusted you
  • Do not believe you have the right to change the direction of another’s life
  • Proffer compassion not retaliation.
  • Use your rational intellect in seeking truth rather than jumping to conclusions and being ruled by the ‘emotional mind’.  In other words, seek facts not here say – assumptions don’t cut it.
  • No judgment
  • No gossip
  • Charm is one thing, honesty is another.  Nothing can be more harmful than those who are passively aggressive.  (Those who are sweet-faced but are really silent assassins).
  • Avoid aggressive people whenever possible, ‘for they are vexations to the spirit’ (as quoted in The Desiderata).
  • Understand that everything one says will have a ripple effect.
  • Be kind to yourself.  Be kind to yourself.  Be kind to yourself.
  • Understand that everything one does affects this world.
  • Stand alone if necessary and be strong rather than join the crowd and be carried away by the majority.
  • Understand the human condition.
  • Offer a hand and not an opinion unless requested.
  • Offer a smile and not a scald.
  • Let go of social conditioning.
  • Live in beauty.
  • Be mindful in all that you do.
  • Let people in the queue.
  • Follow your heart.
  • Stay out of harm’s way. If you are in the presence of someone causing you harm, remove yourself from his/her  path.
  • Diffuse rather than ignite.
  • Lead the way – don’t acquiesce.
  • If you are in the company of those whom you know feel harm in your presence (e.g. jealousy) stay away for their sake and for you own!
  • Know what kindness looks and feels like.
  • Do not separate yourself by beliefs, values, nationality, religion, disposition, tradition and status – we are all doing our best.  We are all in this together.
  • Be sensitive to the fact, that it is very easy to harm.

I have learned from my teachers that ‘Ahimsa’ is the golden rule of yoga and if one can fully achieve the practice of ‘Do no harm’, one need learn no other form of yoga, for all the other practices are included in it.

And so, there are many, many paths to peace.

Hold hands with humanity and one can then be free from judgments, criticism, assumption, hatred and enmity.

Understanding is the key.

Kindness is the way…

Idealistic?     Well, why not!

Annemaree x