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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘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

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 Beginner’s Journal Part 3 – Deep Relaxation & Meditation

My first meditation class was a surprisingly emotional experience.  The mechanics of the class seemed simple enough – some gentle stretching, some deep breathing and a lot of lying on my back in a darkened room.  With the dulcet tones of Annemaree guiding and lulling the class into an ever-deepening state of relaxation, I then succumbed to silence – and lots of it.  Pretty straight-forward really.

So why then, when I “came to” did I feel like someone had cut my boat adrift from the jetty?  Let go of my rope?  Why was I experiencing such an overwhelming feeling of loss and grief?  Why did I feel like a huge balloon was about to burst in my chest into the ugliest, wettest, snottiest tears ever?   Hadn’t I been feeling quite chipper on the way in?  To the naked eye, all I was doing was sitting in a dark room with my eyes closed, breathing and being silent while Annemaree spoke gentle words about letting go. There was no bolt of lightning – the earth didn’t move.

In the following days I reflected upon this a lot.

On a superficial level, I think I found the SILENCE overwhelming.  Being a mother of two small children and after years of corporate tight-roping, I have been conditioned to be on constant high-alert.  With my disaster–radar finely tuned, I am ready for anything and expecting the worst – always having to think around corners, watch my back, think for and protect everyone around me, keep doing, keep going, keep moving at all cost.

Corporate bumper stickers had been plastered all over my brain. “You Snooze You Lose!”, “First is Always Best!”  “It’s The Quick and the Dead!”  But there in the darkness, in the silence – it was just me.  “Nothing to worry about, nothing to do, nothing to think about, just…be.”  For an hour and a half.   One quiet hour and a half to offload 15 years of baggage.  That’s enough to make anybody weep.

On a slightly deeper level,  just BE?  Just ME?  What the hell did that mean?  That used to be easy – it was written right underneath my name on my business card, next to the company logo. That’s who I was. Leaving work to stay at home to raise the children left me struggling with my identity, but under my imaginary business cards I’m sure it says “Devoted Wife & Mother”.  (The one I would show people anyway).

Up to this point I am the result of all of the labels and bumper stickers I have stuck on myself or had stuck on me by well-meaning others.  Good Girl, Good Student, Good Daughter.  I did what I was told to do (okay, not ALL the time).  I followed a career path I was told I should – following my head and not my heart.  I did all the “right” things.  I met and married My Beautiful Husband, we bought a house in a nice suburb, we renovated and we reproduced – twice!  Until one day, I found myself in my early thirties on the corporate “Out Tray”, on anti-depressants, squashing ugly feelings and emotions with wine each night and having a major “Talking Heads” moment – well, how did I GET here?

Common sense or that nagging voice in my head kept yelling “But look at everything you’ve got! What have you got to be miserable about? Just SNAP OUT OF IT!”  And so, embarrassed and ashamed to talk to anyone other than my divine GP about it, I took the battle inside.

So there I lay, in a dark room, in stillness and in silence – letting all of this go. In the darkness and the stillness it felt like laying a loved one to rest. This was who I WAS. Letting go of that to which I had held on to so tightly, for so long, was like waking in fright from one of those falling dreams. Without all that – who or what the hell am I?

The next morning, in the daylight, it felt different.  I enjoyed one off the deepest sleeps I had had in a long time and woke not feeling loss, but lighter. Rather than feeling like someone had cut me adrift, it felt like someone had kindly pulled up my anchor.

The changes I’ve noticed so far have been small but significant. I didn’t realize how ANGRY I was all the time. Now, as I move from room to room each day making beds and picking up yesterday’s discarded underpants I’m not conducting an internal, raging monologue. I’m not keeping a mental tally of “everything I do which goes unnoticed and unappreciated”, ready to unleash it on My Beautiful Husband if he dares to question me on, well, ANYTHING.

Now, I can find a small smile on my lips, rather than a clenched jaw. I can slide from one task to the next calmly and methodically and there is less mental chatter. Maybe some of those monkeys in my mind have packed up their bananas and nicked off. I can find small joy in the mundane and I am truly grateful for my husband, my children, my home and my life. Yes, A life which now feels a little bit larger, slightly less claustrophobic and ripening with possibility.

I wake each day quite happy.  Calm.  Looking forward to what it may hold. I can answer the phone rather than letting it go to voicemail to be dealt with later. My skin seems clearer. My lower back pain has gone. I can focus on one thing at a time and I’m not white-knuckling it through the day to 5pm when I can claw open a bottle of wine. We also have nightly visits from rats while we’re sleeping but I put that down to wet weather and cookie crumbs, not some mystical “Pied Piper” vibration I am emitting to all creatures great and small as a result of meditation.

What I had thought was going to be a process – through yoga and meditation – of losing weight and learning to put my leg behind my head is actually, for me anyway, an exercise in letting go. I certainly feel lighter – but the bathroom scales don’t show it (I don’t feel the need to even get on them anymore) and I am definitely more “flexible” – but I can’t get my leg behind my head.  In my last Cool, Calm & Collected class, Annemaree informed us that there are thousands and thousands of  yoga postures.  This is a challenge in itself for someone who is used to putting her head down and bum up (I think this is called Downward Dog in yoga) for a few weeks of intense study and getting an A+.  There is no end – this is life.

I have an idea for some new bumper stickers too: “Meditate Don’t Medicate!” and “Yoga! Embrace The Underpants”.

AQA xxx

(Contributing writer, student and ‘eternal work in progress’ – Anita Quigley Atherton).