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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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’.

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

My Yoga Journal – Letting go of my FOMO

Etsy cusion

fomo_definitionAt the beginning of the year I deactivated my personal Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest accounts just to see what would happen. The universe tends to whisper things to me like “could you be feeling exposed, paranoid and anxious because of Facebook?” Or, “have you noticed how depressed you feel after spending hours on the computer – mostly on Facebook?”

It reminds me of the film “The Matrix”, when Morpheus gives Neo the choice of the red or blue pill: “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill — the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill — you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”

I chose the blue pill because, quite frankly, the rabbit-hole blows my tiny mind.

It’s not that I was on Facebook for hours, but as I run my business from home – which of course has a Facebook page (I’m happy to WORK in Wonderland, I just don’t want to LIVE there!) –  I would dip into my personal “feed” as a means of a mental break (having given up the fags last year – Facebook has to be healthier than that, right?). But the Facebook mini-break meant an hour at the computer became three.

If the kids were home while I was trying to “work” I would get snappy with them for “interrupting” me when I was trying to get a work project finished – when really it was me who was wasting my own precious time!  I think Annemaree calls that “projecting” (that which annoys me about me I find fault with in you).

So, I listened to the whispers of the universe and I dropped out. Like an addict having to throw the whiskey bottles in the bin I had to fully deactivate accounts, unsubscribe from lists and delete apps from all of my various devices – I had to go completely cold turkey.

Once I did this, the mutterings of the universe got louder and louder. I kept seeing articles about more and more people feeling the same way. I read once (probably on Pinterest – and I re-pinned it of course!) that “comparison is the thief of joy”. Facebook had become for me a yard stick against which to measure my life in comparison to others’. And it did steal my joy. It gave me feelings of anxiety, of inferiority, of missing out.

From a yogic perspective, one cannot possibly live “in the moment” when you are constantly thinking up your next status update or checking what else is happening; what else you could be doing; where else you could be. This friends, is FOMO. The Fear of Missing Out. There is no place for FOMO, or living fearfully, in a yogic life.

Oddly, in this desperation for connecting with one another, we are becoming so utterly disconnected from ourselves and one another. I absolutely cannot bear it when someone is checking their phone whilst I am having dinner with them. It is like meeting someone at a party who is looking over your shoulder to see if there is someone more interesting in the room. And please, keep it in your handbag and not on the table!

In the early days of “dropping out”, if I had a compulsion to share something (an outrageously witty, insightful, fleeting thought) I would send a text message to my husband, or my best girlfriend. Neither of whom are – nor have ever been – on Facebook! The irony is too delicious. So, two of the most important people in my life who know me better than anyone else and actually care what I think, have been excluded from an inner life I chose to share publicly with acquaintances.

Now, when I take a gorgeous photo of my children being funny, weird, angelic or outrageous – I email it to my husband. Their father. Probably the only person actually interested in seeing a photo of my kids. Previously, he missed out on this. By not being on Facebook, I am in more regular contact with my husband – just sharing nice things throughout the day. I am closer to him. I am not excluding him.

When my friends hear from me, via phone call, SMS or email, they can be assured that I have put real thought into who actually receives contact from me. This makes THEM feel special. More importantly the people who HAVE NOT heard from me don’t know! They can’t see who I am in contact with and can’t be hurt by assuming a non-existent, passive-aggressive snub.

I have to confess that Pinterest and Instagram have slipped back through the net. Although, in the absence of the true ego-fest that is Facebook I am questioning what the point is of Pinterest? Am I creating a persona for the world to see by pinning pictures of clothes I don’t own, interiors I don’t have, words I don’t live by and food I don’t cook onto boards so people I don’t know will think I’m terribly stylish and interesting?

I reinstated Instagram mainly to keep in touch with our extended families who are photo-mad Insta-fanatics. They all travel far and wide doing terribly interesting things so it is always lovely to see a photo of where they are and what they’re up to – and share our interesting exploits too. But, I think I need to cull the list of Instagrammers I am following – if I see one more damn photo of someone’s smoked salmon and poached eggs on sourdough I will bring up my own breakfast.

By “missing out” I have more time, better relationships, less anxiety and I receive a lot more phone calls from people who ACTUALLY want to talk to me!  So, let go of FOMO and embrace JOMO! The JOY of missing out.

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

Image: http://www.etsy.com (Yes, you can buy FOMO cushions)

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

‘The Hug’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Om Shanti……

Annemaree

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

dove110

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.