‘Being’

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 ‘Being’ –

As I look back, I realized that even as young as 7 years of age, I would crave to find a place where I could be ‘quiet’ so that I could be still and listen to the waves rolling into shore, watch the sun sparkling on the ocean and surrender into the arms of nature.

During my childhood nothing gave me more pleasure than escaping from the Rowley brood (I was the eldest of five) with my pencils, books and music (transistor in those days) and ‘just sit’ and ‘watch’ or ‘draw’ and ‘create’ amidst a soundscape of sea-gulls, summer breeze and dulcet melodies.

It was the state of ‘being’ that kept me calm and centered, just as it does now.  ‘Being’ is such a powerful and healing quality of humanity that is so often neglected.  Yes, it means ‘to stop’!

Doing next to nothing you may ask?  Really?  It was probably a ‘sin’ at school.

And I can still hear the words: ‘don’t just sit there, do something’.

Ironically one of my most loved expressions is by the Vietnamese monk and Pacifist, Thich Nhat Hanh, who wrote ‘don’t just do something, sit there’.  Upon reflection, the latter words and practice are far more useful to me!

Perhaps you will find one of these practices useful too…they are not difficult to remember:

When the eyes are unmoving, so is the mind.  Focus upon an image, real or imagined.  The mind calms, stillness comes.

Take one deep breath, then another.  There is much to be said about just stopping to take a deep breath.  Breathe in deeply.  Breathe out slowly.

Make each breath longer than the last.  To slow down, imagine each breath is fuller, more nourishing than the last one.

Make your out-breath longer than the in-breath.  Yes, it is the same amount of air!  But it is the in-breath that energises and the out-breath that soothes.  Slow the out-breath down and feel its soothing quality.

Observe beauty.  Don’t glimpse it…..absorb it!  I took this photo of a friend of mine on a Burmese shore.  She stood there for a long, long time….what does it say to you?

Be ‘aimless’.  Sit and plan to do nothing.  In this very moment, ‘achieving ‘ is not the pre-requisite – things are just as they are meant to be.

Be ‘mindful’.  Observe the apple that you are eating, the tea that you are sipping, and the sounds that you are hearing.  You are in the present. .

Visit the ‘gap’.  In between our thoughts there is a ‘gap’.  Rest there.  Peace is present.

Retreat within:  Find your outer haven:  a room, a beach, a park.  Then enter your inner sanctuary to find your quiet place.

 

Will this help?  A free Mindfulness Timer App?

http://www.thichnhathanhfoundation.org/#!mindful-bell-sounds/c14kg

Remember……

“When you are fully in the ‘now’, the beauty, mystery and magic of this world are unfurled and its gifts are laid before you”.  

Annemaree

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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

‘A Noble Heart’ Tour – Bali

What is a “A Noble Heart”? 

I have adored Bali from the very first time I stepped onto its shores some 30 years or so ago…….

Bali has always been a part of my dream.  That is to create the most beautiful, nuturing, calming tours possible.   So I thought you may be interested in exploring a little of what I have designed.  Just by viewing the pictures, you will want to ‘take a deep breath’ and probably lie down!

Even if I say so myself.  The tour is absolutely gorgeous.

And….you don’t have to be a ‘yogi’.

Everyone is welcome!  All ages, body types, walks of life, and dispositions.  As we say in our world – you can do yoga from the cradle to the grave and take it up at any time.

‘A Noble Heart’ tour fully embraces the beauty and hospitality of its beautiful people.  Awash with magical environments; stylish hotels; yogalicious cuisine, alluring massage and reflexology; gallery upon gallery; mystical moments; and the most wonderful ‘healing’ centres and treatments.  Culturally exquisite and ideal for yoga.  Absolutely ideal.

And the name?

This expression was used several times during a conversation I was having with a lovely young woman with whom I work in Bali. I realised as soon as I heard Komang say these words that they would become the very essence of this tour.

The definition from her perspective and in her own words:

“A Noble Heart for me means : someone who has a good heart; who is always thinking of the good side of everything; who never has a negative thought about others; who always sees the world in a positive way. Even if somebody has treated him badly or with no respect, he will never do the same to them, he will face it wisely with his gentle smile and wise words and explain nicely. He will come to us whenever he knows that we have a problem , he will listen to our problem and give us a good advice, helping us to find a solution. He always thinking of helping people who is not lucky”.

Very yogic I thought!

Take a peek:

xAnnemareex

If you ever feel dumb…..

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Sloth

I saw this on an office wall today and it really made me laugh and reflect on some of the hilarious ‘dumb’ things I have done over the years.  I laugh at myself all the time.  Many people wouldn’t admit to doing such outrageously ‘dumb’ things as I have done, either because they believe that no-one in their right mind would believe them or they wouldn’t want to look stupid.  Quite frankly I don’t care what others think as doing ‘dumb’ things simply makes me laugh at myself and helps me to become a little more mindful (well… sometimes).

It seems over the years, as I have increased my yoga and meditation practise, I have become more focused and aware.  I don’t seem to walk into a room these days arriving and not knowing why; or finding the iron in the fridge; or misplacing every sock in the house; or forgetting where I have left my car!

Although….I do recall going to a friend’s house one night and staying so late that we thought it would be a good idea for me to stay over.   I rang the police the next morning because my car had been stolen from outside her house.   The police arrived in little under an hour and said they had found my car.  It was parked at my house around the corner.  I had forgotten I had walked.

Then I guess there was the time when I arrived at the airport without my wallet and had to catch a plane to Hong Kong.  Of course, my wallet contained all my credit cards and money.  I asked someone at the check-in counter if they could lend me enough money to use a public phone. (Yes, it was before smart phones).  I rang the office, asked my work mates to take up a collection from their weekly pay and send it in a cab to Tullamarine (Melbourne’s international airport).  I boarded the plane.  Sometime later I found my wallet in the freezer wrapped up with the frozen spinach!

Another time, when I wasn’t paying attention, was when I was travelling with my youngest brother through Central America.  We travelled with a group and had our own bus.  We all disembarked to buy water and to stretch our legs.  When the word came to re-board I did.  But I got on the wrong bus.  Here I was sitting amongst a whole lot of Mexicans (which I didn’t notice).  I should have twigged when there was a chicken or three running around my feet.  But didn’t.  My brother who had been watching my movements boarded the bus took me by the hand and guided me onto our transport, just calmly shaking his head, not uttering a word and therefore insinuating I had completely ‘lost the plot’.  In retrospect, what was even funnier, is that I didn’t know where I was; no-one spoke English in the province; and it could have been days, indeed weeks, before I was found.

The irony is that I am not slothful and know my arms are my arms.  But when I am over-using my brain, ‘being busy’ and scrambling my mind with thousands of useless thoughts, I lose focus.  I then just ‘lose it’  and have no idea where I am or what I am doing.  And….we are all the same!  Believe me we are.  You just won’t admit it!

So the answer….slow down; meditate; be mindful; don’t take yourself too seriously and laugh a lot!

And….don’t climb trees!

Photo source: Google – author – unknown

A Picture of Peace….

“You have peace,” the old woman said, “when you make it with yourself.”                  Mich Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven

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I went out to dinner with a husband and wife team last week and following a slight altercation between the two of them over something that I can’t even recollect now, I just happened to ask them what they did  ‘in their spare time’.  ‘We fight’ they said.  An answer which caused much gaiety, but in their case I might add, is probably not far from the truth.  They are Italian after all, and erratic passion is in their DNA or so they tell me. 

The next comment from them was ‘we don’t have spare time!  ‘No, come to think of it, we don’t actually rest ’.  Peace?

And so, if I asked you to pick up a camera, a paintbrush or a pen to explain what peace looks like….what would you create?  It seems that ninety-nine percent of the people who attend my yoga classes are seeking what they consider to be an ‘elusive state’, that is the ‘state of peace’. Surely this is the precursor to ‘happiness’.  The very essence of ‘happiness’ is experiencing peace in your heart, body and mind?  Is it not?  And yet it is difficult to find – or is it?

We all have ‘peace within us’.  It is just that we don’t know how to tap into it and are too busy looking for it elsewhere.  Searching outside of ourselves appears to be our most active and futile past-time.

Would the photograph you envisage be that of a beautiful sunset, waves rolling into shore or a lone fisherman on a lake?  Would you tell me that a holiday on a deserted island, or the sound of the sax, or a beautiful ode gives you peace?  Perhaps the clouds in the sky, a glass of red or a ‘Xanax’ or two would do the trick?  Yes, all of these can give you peace – for an instant!  Ah… all so temporary, obscure and irritatingly intangible.  Let’s face it, these solutions are just delusional diversions to keep you firmly bound up in your ego, blocking your ability and/or your will to find that which truly brings you composure.

So if it is within us, where is it located?  Where do I look?  What picture do I create?

Let me give you some clues….and remember these are only my discoveries.  You will need to find your own!

However, in saying that, I am happy to help …..it has taken me many years and many paths to reach this point…..so I would like to share some short-cuts to set you on your way.

I do feel peaceful now more often than not, and it is a place I intend to dwell in.  It is so deep, energizing and tender that I couldn’t imagine living in any form of restlessness ever again. 

That ‘something’ unchanging inside me simply had to be found.  I was on a quest.

You may be asking by now – how?

There are many, many avenues….let’s take two for the moment shall we?

‘Go out of your mind’.

The mind is the seat of emotions, feelings, impulses, likes and dislikes, judgments and what-not.  It is mental agitation that gets in the way of peace because we simply listen to our minds and become embroiled in its nonsense.  60,000 – 70,000 thoughts a day.  Most of which are useless.  And around seventy percent of which we had yesterday!  Go figure!

Give the mind some space by creating a blank canvas. Close your eyes for a few moments and draw your attention to the breath.  Do this often and with full awareness. Over time, you will notice the calming effects as you ‘still your mind’.

Don’t just read this!  Do it!  Over and over and over again.

Pride and Prejudice

Peace comes when we don’t have any conflict with ourselves.  When we believe we are part of a whole, a cog in the ‘Samsara’ of life.  We feel neither inferior nor superior to any other being.  We walk the path of equanimity and identify our own skills as contributions to the world at large.  We understand that there is a special place in this world for each of us and that it is our responsibility to gift our skills. 

It is just as narcissistic to feel inferior as it is to feel superior.  The latter causes one to ‘look down’ upon others and to believe we hold all the answers; the former is to be totally ‘self-absorbed’ by dwelling in our own illusory ego.

We need to drop our pride and prejudice, come to realize our true value, and live in the peace of that knowledge. 

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More peaceful posts to come……..

xAnnemareex

My Yoga Journal: Zen And The Art Of Christmas Holiday Navigation

And….BREATHE. Phew! That’s over for another year. It’s taken me a few years to work this out, having coped each subsequent year a little better than the previous, but I have learnt some things about myself over this last holiday period.

I need order.

I’m at the eleventh hour of the school holidays and its beginning to feel I imagine how a hostage situation might. My two captors have little or no regard for my health or well being nor the squalid conditions they prefer to keep me in with little or no contact with the outside world. Self preservation feels like Stockholm syndrome where I have taken quite a shine to my captors and insist on feeding, cleaning up after and entertaining them every day. Really, I just want someone to give them whatever it is they are asking for and get me THE HELL OUT OF HERE.

By order, I mean MY order.

Here’s how I like to roll on a “normal” day:

5:30 Get up and get into the shower
5:45 Put deodorant on, put hair up, brush teeth, moisturise face, get dressed – in that order
6:00 Turn the coffee machine on, fill the kettle, drink a glass of water, then meditate (for 5-10 minutes if I am driving to my friend’s house to walk; for 15 minutes if she is coming to me)
6:15 Put shoes on and go for a walk
7:15 have breakfast (always blueberries + sunflower, pumpkin & chia seeds + nuts + whole milk natural yoghurt + cinnamon + English Breakfast tea – white, no sugar), check my diary and write the day’s To Do list.

After this the kids get up and everything becomes a variable…but sort of goes:

7:45 Get the kids under the shower and dressed
8:00 Give the kids breakfast and make their lunches
8:15 Aim to calmly oversee the kids pack their school bags, make their beds and tidy their rooms – but inevitably end up shrieking half sentences like “GET OUT OF -”, “COULD YOU JUST -”, “WHERE IS YOUR -”, “HOW LONG DOES IT -”,”HOW MANY TIMES DO I -”.
8:30 Drop the kids to school on time, but always 5-8 minutes later than planned.
8:45 Exhale…

This ritualistic start to the day – especially up to the breakfast and To Do list part is the foundation upon which my mind, body and spirit flourishes or shrivels throughout the remainder of the day. Come holiday season with an additional parent in the house, operating on an entirely different agenda, or staying with other people – all of whom operate on a different platform – my mind, body and spirit quickly goes to hell in a hand basket.

Apart from immediate family chaos there is also extended family overload. Like a lab rat that just refuses to learn to avoid the cheese hooked up to the electric charge, every year I walk into family holidays expecting to be loved and appreciated for the fabulous person I am. That, after almost 15 years I can relax amongst friends, drink wine, blather on laugh, cajole, be me. WRONG! Spending the holidays with your in-laws is like being on holiday with Greg Evans and Dexter. I am not being unconditionally LOVED here, I am being constantly ASSESSED as to my compatibility scoring with My Husband – The Eldest Son and Cherished Big Brother. Sometimes I feel like (and have on occasion actually done) hiding in the bathroom and crying…then calling my Mum.

I used to go out with an engineer in my early 20s whose need for order and routine used to drive me loco. He had an innate need for order, routine and ritual. I completely understand this NOW but the problem on holidays, is that living according to someone else’s order feels like being in a perpetual state of trampoline “double bounce”. Trying to do the right thing at the right time, but never quite sure where to stand. Like dancing with a more experienced partner, I constantly step on toes.

I once discussed this need for order, my daily “clean slate” from which I could create my day, with Annemaree. I assumed it was aligned with my perfectionist control freak streak, so was chuffed when Annemaree told me that keeping an orderly space is “totally Yogic”. Like meditation stills the ripples in the mind, living in an ordered space provides a platform for creativity.

My challenge is striking that balance between my need for order, letting go of my attachment to it amidst the seemingly eternal holiday state of flux, and accommodating others’ need for either their own order or a preference for utter chaos.

I recognise that i absolutely require my own world order – now, if only I could stop feeling the need to apologise for it…

Until next time we meet,

Om & Out

AQAxxx

My Yoga Journal – Welcome to 2013

Welcome to 2013…

I am lying on the floor in the lounge room waiting for peace. Tom has taken Sam and Gus out for the afternoon, which is a good start, but the silence coupled with the choices I have have rendered me inert.

My brain is doing that thing that it does. It’s kind of flipping through thoughts and ideas like a Rolodex, landing momentarily on one and then “flaaaaart” flicking through to the next. Sometimes – mostly in times like this – I seriously wonder if I am quite mad.
On the whole, I’m quite happy – which is a great place to start from – but occasionally, the beginning of a new year can feel like standing at the foot of an insurmountable cliff face…which is better than looking from the other end, I guess.

2012 was quite a year. I didn’t write in my personal journal for the whole year – I picked it up and read it this morning. The journal dates back to January 2010. Whilst I cringed when I read it from the beginning, I discovered I only pick it up when I feel overwhelmingly crap or pleased with myself. Which suggests that 2012 was a year of either flattening out the highs and the lows, or merely that I managed them better.

In 2012, for the first time ever, I stuck at something week in, week out for the entire year. Apart from one week in each month where I had a commitment clash, I attended a yoga class, followed by a deep relaxation and meditation session every single Tuesday evening without fail. Looking back now, I truly believe that this is the cornerstone for how everything else panned out during the year.

I gave up smoking in March, and I admit falling into a “party fag” hole in the latter part of the year, I have definitely kicked the habit. I am now a shameless bot at a party so you can guess what’s on the “2013 To Do List”. It wasn’t hard, I was more than ready, and I just stopped. My husband stopped too, which helped.

In 2012 I gave up sugar – completely – for eight weeks, which was surprisingly easy to do and I have adopted the principle as a general rule of thumb on an ongoing basis. Once you learn something new, it’s hard to unlearn it, but I have definitely weakened in the dessert department over the party season. Which has added a page to the mental Rolodex / To Do List entitled “Shed Christmas Kilos”.

This is doubly annoying as I also lost 8kg in 2012 on the HCG Diet over a total period of 6 weeks. I’ve plonked about 2.5 back on through sheer mindless eating and drinking over the past three months’ as opposed to any shortcoming in the diet. I will be undertaking the exercise again – this time, perhaps more sagely, on the way OUT OF rather than IN TO the party season!

Another impressive feat has been the introduction of a morning walk each day with a good friend. Partnering up filled me with a strong sense of obligation, meaning I actually turned up every morning. Over the past months we have managed to double our distance, halve our walk-time and shed pesky kilos as well. My husband stood in for my friend one morning when she couldn’t make it – the conversation wasn’t nearly as good, but his intent was equally as pure. My friend has taken the bull by the horns and swapped a couple of our morning walks for a Spin class – or something equally as horrendous – a pleasure I will continue to merely wonder about, and admire from afar. Sometimes you can just take things too far.

While Annemaree traverses India, I am on a yoga hiatus, which tends to allow a small crack through which pointless thought streams, negative self-talk and catastrophic scenarios can creep. I have downloaded a “Mindfulness” app on my iPhone which allows me to do a simple morning meditation for a length of my choosing – it’s like Selleys No More Gaps for my mind.

So, in no particular order, my 2013 To Do List looks like this:


Meditate each day
Exercise more days than I don’t
Drink less days than I do
Have a weekly sit-down Saturday or Sunday family lunch
Increase Yoga to twice a week
Deep relaxation twice a week
No party smoking!
Live in the moment; don’t be a slave to old habits

I wish you a truly wondrous 2013, I am really looking forward to learning, trying, falling, succeeding and sharing in this space for another year if you’ll have me.

Until next time we meet,

Om & out,

AQAxxx

Losing My Way

I have been struggling recently to stay the course.  Overall, I have managed to keep myself Cool, Calm & Collected. Apart from a school holiday disruption I have maintained my yoga and meditation practise and managed to emotionally negotiate a sudden job change for my husband. I have picked up a couple of new clients myself and everything is swimming along nicely.  My children are fed, healthy and on time for all of their various appointments. Our family schedule is brimming, but we make time for quality time with our expanding extended family. We would like more time to spend with our friends – but everyone’s in the same boat.

The struggle I am having right now is with handling judgement and OPOs.  OPOs?  Other People’s Opinions. I have been on the receiving end of OPOs recently and I have not handled them well. The Yogi in me knows that opinions are like belly buttons – everyone has them. The Zen part of me understands that opinions are a reflection of the holder of the opinion rather than the recipient of it. My Buddha nature knows to smile, be tolerant and accepting of all opinions and recognise the Buddha nature in everyone else. But when I am facing OPOs “in the moment”, my Yogi, Zen and Buddha nature leave the building.

I take full responsibility for my role in losing my banana. Both of the recent, most painful occasions were over the dinner table after sharing much wine – but when Person A told me that staying home with the kids full time and not contributing financially to the household was copping out, well I nearly leapt over the table and pulled his throat out. In this moment I discovered that I, in fact, had not fully come to terms with my domestic situation and he had clearly hit a very raw nerve. Buddha was nowhere to be seen, but Ego was right on my shoulder screaming “ATTACK!” I was deeply humiliated and offended by the comment and deeply embarrassed and ashamed of the way in which I responded.

I talked it through with Annemaree Rowley when I returned from holidays. She reminded me that when we are angry with others it is always a reflection of what we do not like about ourselves. This is a phenomenon known as “projection”. After more talking I came to realize that it wasn’t the CONTENT of what he said, it was the JUDGEMENT. If I look back to all of the major conflicts and arguments I have been involved in – those ones that still make me wince when I recall them – it is when I have felt judged. Judged, or offered mostly unhelpful, unproductive OPOs about parenting, my children, my intelligence, my family, my financial status and on and on. When OPOs don’t match my version of reality, conflict arises. This is where it starts to get interesting.

This is the playground of the ego. This is where being right becomes more important than being happy (kudos to Dr. Phil for that one). In “biting back” to an uninvited, unhelpful OPO is in itself an expression of judgement thereby perpetuating the violence of judgement. This is the sort of stuff that the Dalai Lama has internalized completely so if he had been at the dinner table he would have giggled – which would have made me want to rip his throat out too. But I think you know what I’m getting at here.

It is mind-bending stuff really. My intolerance of intolerance is itself intolerant, so I am what I loathe. I told you.  Mind-bending. Whilst I may not always have the ability to take on this concept in a cool and calm manner, being aware of it means I can recognize it arising. This is mindfulness. So my second encounter with another unhelpful, uninvited OPO last week – whilst not handled perfectly, was recognized as it arose and handled…. better. Mindfully.

I came across a quote by Alain de Botton quote recently  which helped me identify the conflict:

“A snob is anybody who takes a small part of you and uses that to come to a complete vision of who you are.”

This defines the turmoil I have found myself in because not only is this what hurts me the most, it is the way in which I have both knowingly and unknowingly inflicted the most harm. I have raised snobbery to a high art form at times! I can be extremely judgmental – it’s an acquired skill as a marketer! You have to make broad assumptions about sweeping chunks of the population based on piecemeal evidence in order to generate profits. This concept, whether in the personal or professional realm, panders to our egos by creating a feeling of inclusion or exclusion. If you’re in you’re in, if you’re out you’re out – like those horrible days in the playground.

As if by magic, I was lying on the floor of Annemaree’s deep relaxation class and she read the following from a meditation she had written herself:

Judgment of yourself holds hands with unrelenting fear you know.

Judgment of others stops you from attending to yourself!

 Of course, when we succumb to this form of behaviour, we then project onto others.  We seek fault in others and criticize so that we don’t have to look at ourselves.  We fill in the gap in our hearts with judgment, often being so totally self-absorbed that we don’t understand just how detrimental unkindness can be to another.

 Often it comes in the form of ‘ribbing’ or ‘teasing’ with an insidious camouflage of mate ship or friendship.  Often it is recited in little quips across a dinner table which although delivered under the guise of humour often humiliates and undermines the receiver. 

 Or judgment may be delivered in the form of a compliment with a ‘but’ beginning the next sentence!

 We become critical of everyone and everything, never realising for one moment that everyone around us need kindness and compassion too.

Having felt that I have lost my Yogic way recently, that I disappoint other people, that I do not live up to their expectations, that I disappointed myself, I gave myself an hour this morning to sit down and eat some worms about it all. Then I gave myself permission to just drop it and move on.

So I return to my breath, I live in this moment and – without taking it all too seriously – I will TRY to be the best version of myself within each moment and speak only with kindness – and not rip the throats out of ignorant sods.

Until next time we meet,

Om & out

AQAxxx

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

My Yoga Journal: Enlightenment might be nice – staying sane will suffice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My name is Anita Atherton [Hello Anita]. I have been doing yoga and meditation for about six months now [Oprah applause].  I just wanted to say that I wake up every day feeling happy and positive [Insert Oprah “Everyone in the Studio Audience is Getting a CAR!” applause].

But seriously, I am in a much better space than I was six months ago. I had no idea how bad it was until seeing how good it can be; but this is something I have to do on my own. I can tell people how great it is and what a change it makes – but most people don’t want to know.

At first I was terribly hurt and offended, but each day my wisdom, empathy and compassion grow and I appreciate that for me too, it wasn’t until I was ready to seriously make some changes, that I was ready to receive any help.

I remember a university teacher of mine telling me years ago to “take the Mickey out of yourself before anyone else can”. This was with respect to conducting a sales presentation, but it resonated with me for a long time. It became my “shtick” to overcome extreme shyness.

Growing up, I was shy and self-conscious – I am very tall, my ears stick out and I used to turn the colour of beetroot if anyone looked at me sideways; I felt silly.  In high school – I felt like that  pretty much all of the time. However, I was studious and conscientious and it paid off in terms of results.

I went straight into University after leaving school which is right about where the wheels fell off. The main thing I remember in the first year was hearing that Marketing graduates could earn up to $32k in their first year of employment.  I was 18, I had my driver’s license and my first car, and this was my ticket to financial emancipation!  So the subject matter was excruciatingly tedious and mind-numbingly boring (for me), THIRTY TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS?  Where do I sign?!

Truth is, the subjects WERE incredibly dry – economics, statistics, accounting – I hated them all in their own special way.  My work ethic went straight out the window, I failed subject after subject time and time again – but I made some firm friendships at the pub on campus!

Outside of school, I didn’t know that life could be enjoyed and not endured.  No-one said to me that maybe I was failing at these subjects and partying too hard because I was doing the wrong course. Rather I came to believe that I was failing this fine course because I was partying too hard and not working hard enough.  So, believing that I was not very intelligent or hard-working after all, I heeded the “Take the Mickey” sales advice and adopted a new persona to see me through the course and my subsequent career.

And everyone bought what I was selling.  My self-deprecating humour was framed as “ability to laugh at oneself” – really a shield to protect enormous self-doubt and insecurity.  Outwardly I was calm, confident, successful, funny, popular and easy-going.  But that wasn’t really me.

The “real me” was the voice in my head telling me what a fraud I was.  Every single day she reminded me that I don’t work hard enough, that I’m not intelligent enough, that I don’t really know what I’m doing.  She told me I drank too much, smoked too much, that I am pathetic, that I am fat, ugly and lazy. She told me that my friends didn’t really like me because they didn’t know the real me.  She told me my husband would leave me if he knew what I flake I really was. She told me I was a bad mother and my kids would probably end up alcoholics as well. She told me I was too weak to do anything about it, she told me it was too late to change.

She was a real bitch, actually. If she were an external friend I would have un-friended her on Facebook a long time ago!  Instead, I put her in charge and believed every word she said.

Living with this inner turmoil was a living hell. I suffered with chronic anxiety.  Medication and alcohol provided such sweet, sweet relief from that yakkety-yak that I turned to it more frequently and in larger quantities.

If my husband asked me to do even the smallest thing I could snap. That cow upstairs had such a long to-do list lined up for me, whilst telling me I was fat, ugly and lazy – and reminding me of every unkind thing anyone had ever said or done to me and devising knock-out blows for a revenge strike upon those unsuspecting persons… well!  If HE thought I had time to fit in what HE wanted…it got ugly.

Weirdly though, for a long time the pain was of great comfort.  A case of better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, I guess.

The pot of gold at the end of this bleak “rainbow” is that I took a small step in a different direction towards yoga and dabbled in meditation.  Look, I can’t explain how or why it has happened for me, but that bitch upstairs has now left the building.

It is my aim here to be a yoga enthusiast, not a bore. Whilst here I feel comfortable sharing my experience, I have learnt to keep it to myself as well.  I have found along the way that many people – often those closest to me – actually do not want to hear that I am happy and have actually lashed out in the unkindest of ways. While I’m looking up not down and smiling not frowning and all that – many people seem quite keen to throw me and my skipping rope under a lorry.

The cow who used to live upstairs would have told me that they were right. Who the hell did I think I was anyway?  Did I think I was better than them?  Why did I deserve to be happy?  Why me anymore than the next person?

But I don’t care what she thinks.

I am not addicted to smoking, medicating, spending, drinking or people-pleasing anymore.  I don’t desperately need people to like me. I like myself very much and I can say no. I don’t get on the scales anymore – this fabulous body delivered my two gorgeous children AND it can now do a pretty decent shoulder-stand.  *I don’t suck my tummy in anymore because according to yogic principles a soft belly equates to a warm heart– and besides, tight abs hinder digestion. Hello! Is there a downside to this ancient practise?!

I know how to live fully within each moment – or drag myself back there if my thoughts carry me away. If the old tart that used to live upstairs pops in, I give her my best Buddha smile and offer her a cup of tea – but she never stays.

Until next time we meet,

Om & out.

AQA xxx

* Stephen Levine, an American meditation teacher who has written extensively on healing counsels that the state of your belly reflects the state of your heart.  By consciously softening your belly again and again, you can let go and open to the tender feelings in your heart.