Purpose…

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“Your life is your practice. Your spiritual practice does not occur someplace other than in your life right now, and your life is nowhere other than where you are.

You are looking for answers, insight, and wisdom that you already possess. Live the life in front of you, be the life you are, and see what you find out for yourself.”

Karen Maezen Miller, Momma Zen

As a yoga teacher, I was privileged to study at the feet of the master, Shanti Gowans.One of the very first assignments I received from her was simply entitled ‘The Path to Self’.  It had to be so many words (I can’t remember how many now) but it was long – well ‘long’ in thought at least! Little was explained other than to understand one’s ‘purpose’.

OK then, that’ll be easy I told myself. I sat at my computer, typed the title ‘The Path to Self’’, wrote one line that read something innocuous such as ‘My Purpose is’…and six months later I still hadn’t written another word. The journey was arduous, difficult, trying, hard, tough, tiring, severe, painful and exhausting and every other emotion I can think of to define the word. It did my head in!

I was totally miserable that I couldn’t write such a simple paper. Simple???

And then of course, it dawned on me. Why was I here? I really hadn’t a clue.

As one of my students once commented when I asked her to define her purpose, she simply said, “Oh I can’t think about that! Otherwise I might get such a fright that I have been living all these years without doing one single thing about it!”

Of course, there were hints along the way. I had worked hard and long, pushing my way through life, achieving, creating, giving…..but was I truly on ‘purpose’? I expect I was too busy surviving to sort that out.

It took a year or two for me to work out what on earth I was doing here and then nervously I handed the assignment in.

Many months later my teacher arrived in Melbourne, my home town. I hadn’t heard from her and I was surprised that nothing was mentioned.  I finally plucked up the courage and asked her what she thought of the paper.

“Oh”, she replied, I didn’t read it”!

???

That was the lesson of course, only I could find my purpose; no-one was going to find it for me; nor assist me in understanding who I truly am.

And……as I am writing this now and reflecting on ‘Why Am I Here?’, the wonderful poetess Mary Oliver comes to mind with her gorgeous poem ‘The Journey’.

One day you finally knew
what you had to do,

and began…….

So to truly understand my purpose, I had to first look at who I am. Um…scary!

I had to make change and allow the true being inside of me to rise, flourish, flounder and discover; flounder again; flounder again; flounder again and again; and then be prepared to face the fact that I had, and still was, climbing the wrong mountains. I had to let go, fall and fall, and then climb back up the rock face to do not only what makes me happy but to convert that happiness into a contribution to the earth. For otherwise, my happiness would be short-lived, superficial and forged.

My understanding and personal journey of discovering my purpose is clear…

I had to discover my talents; look under many rocks; polish them and know how to bundle them so that they may benefit others and society, and I believe it is my moral obligation or duty to do so.  Otherwise my skills are wasted.  But I needed an enormous amount of courage to face this so-called ‘purpose’, and copious quantities of patience to allow it to manifest.

Then the question is, how to do your duty, how to best contribute – or, as the theologian Frederick Buechner put it, your vocation lies “where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet”.

My purpose is to serve.  Perhaps I am not on my own here, perhaps it is OUR purpose.

 x Annemaree x

  

I took this photo of a painting hanging in the spa at Shreyas Yoga Retreat in Karnataka.  It is beautiful I think, and typical of some of the lovely Indian art one finds whilst travelling throughout the country.

 

 

 

 

 

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Why Am I Here? Pt.1

Mary Oliver

As a yoga teacher, I was privileged to study at the feet of the master, Shanti Gowans. One of the very first assignments I received from her was simply entitled ‘The Path to Self’. It had to be so many words (I can’t remember how many now) but it was long – well ‘long’ in thought at least! Little was explained other than to understand one’s ‘purpose’.

OK then, that’ll be easy I told myself. I sat at my computer, typed the title ‘The Path to Self’’, wrote one line that read something innocuous such as ‘My Purpose is’……and six months later I still hadn’t written another word. The journey was arduous: difficult, trying, hard, tough, tiring, severe, painful and exhausting and every other emotion I can think of to define the word.

It did my head in!!!

I was totally miserable that I couldn’t write such a simple paper. Simple???

And then of course, it dawned on me. Why was I here? I really hadn’t a clue.

As one of my students once commented when I asked her to define her purpose, she simply said, “Oh I can’t think about that! Otherwise I might get such a fright that I have been living all these years without doing one single thing about it!”

Of course, there were hints along the way. I had worked hard and long, pushing my way through life, achieving, creating, giving…..but was I truly on ‘purpose’? I expect I was too busy surviving to sort that out.

And……as I am writing at this moment and reflecting on ‘Why Am I Here”? the wonderul poetess Mary Oliver comes to mind with her gorgeous poem ‘The Journey’.

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began…….
“Mend my life”!

So to truly understand my purpose, I had to first look at who I am. Ummmm………..scary!

How many blogs and pieces of information do you come across that tells you what you already know?

How about the answers? How do you work it out?

Well, I can only speak for myself, but over the next few weeks I shall give you some of the paths I took to try to understand myself and therefore discover my purpose.

I hope I can throw some light your way.

…to be continued

P.S. I am writing this for those of you who have recently commented about being ‘lost’ and not ‘on course’.

Just Breathe

Three years ago I received a telephone call from my youngest brother, Paul.  I shall never forget the anguish in his voice as he explained that his first newborn, 6-week-old baby Thomas Rowley, had just been diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis.

I felt the pain well up inside me as he spoke and I tried with all my might to stay calm for his sake, but alas the tears started to flood as I realized how significant and challenging this little boy’s life could become.  Not to mention, the pain and strain on his lovely parents, Paul and Tania.

My yoga training flew straight out the window….or so it seemed.

I cried and cried and cried.  I simply couldn’t stop.  I hibernated and tried to be calm, making copious cups of tea and laying my hands on anything that might be soothing  chocolate and licorice mainly).

Yes, it sounds as though it was all about me, and it was at the time!

I was of no value to anyone who came within a tear drop’s distance of my whimpering self.  In all, I cried for 24 hours non-stop.  I awoke throughout the night sobbing.  I sobbed doing the dishes, in the shower and walking along the street.

A headstand was out of the question because I simply would have drowned.

With red-rimmed eyes, a throbbing head and a heavy heart I attended a class being held by my yoga teacher, Shanti Gowans.   Ironically she arrived into Melbourne that weekend. I attended her class and tried to remain inconspicuous amongst my yoga teacher friends.  Yes, there were inquisitive looks.  Puffed cheeks and swollen eyes were not characteristic of my persona and when one asked me if I was OK, I immediately broke down like a wailing banshee and grabbed at anyone who would hug me.  Yes, ‘I’m fine’ I said.  Well, that was authentic – not!

Shanti didn’t breathe a word and not a word passed between us on that day.  I laid down on the floor to take part in her 2-hour yoga class.  The tears came and came until my yoga mat was flooding.  I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t smile.  Wavelets of water slid across my chest and every time I tried to do an inversion the tears would back-track and slide straight up my nose.  But…deep down I knew that something would eventually turn the ‘tap of tears’ off and prepare me to be of support to wee Thomas in a calm and peaceful manner.  But what?

Have you ever attended a crowded yoga class and believed the teacher was specifically and exclusively talking to you?

All I could hear her say was “if you think your life is falling apart, just breathe”.  Over and over. “Just breathe”.  “Just breathe”.  “Just breathe”.  In and out, softly, gently, deeply.  “If you think your life is falling apart, just breathe”.  The breath will heal you, hold you, and comfort you.  “Just breathe”.

I tried.  I really tried.

That afternoon I was committed to take my own yoga class. I didn’t want to disappoint my students by cancelling.  The room was dark so I assumed they wouldn’t notice my face’s disfigurement.  And….. most of the class was done with the ‘eyes’ closed.  I bottled up the tears and when the students had all departed from the room, I sat alone in what seemed like the very trough of misery, and howled.  And then…. ‘just breathed’.  Again.  And again.

The more I focused on the breath the more the pain in my heart started to subside.  The tears began to diminish and within a few more hours, I calmed right down.  I had grieved. It was no longer about me. Anyway, I greatly dislike being absorbed ‘in me’. It was now to be about Thomas. I had stepped out of my own way and was ready to be of service.

…to be continued

(with love from ‘Auntie’).

(and thank you Fiona Handbury for taking this beautiful photograph of our Thomas).