Pause

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PAUSE….

What is a pause?

A pause is when something ceases just for an instant or two….

Life’s intermission, a stillness between two moments…

When things are calm, quiet, floating, an instant in which we can restore and refresh, a suspension of life’s play

When we allow ourselves to loosen our grip on life and be free, for freedom is our destination

Freedom from all pain, tension, fatigue, worries and sadness

How often do you pause?  Really pause?

Sometimes the most important things in a day are the pauses between your breaths and the spaces between your thoughts.

I invite you to…..

Pause – to take a deep breath

Pause to arrive.

Pause to settle.

Notice the pauses sitting between the breaths

In your imagination, pause to look around you and be aware

What can you see in your imagination.  What can you remember at this moment?

What do you see, hear and sense around you?

Pause to hear the sounds around you. Is it the sound of the breeze, birds chirping, dogs barking, children laughing, distant conversations, walls gently creaking, music softly playing, the puttering of a candle, distant planes, the beating of your own heart or the sound of your own breath….

Or just pause to take a deep, quenching breath….

and to listen o…

The body whispering it’s messages

Does your body need rest?

Sometimes we just sit in the pause awaiting the arrival of the next breath

Sometimes we lengthen the pause just to cherish the moment of stillness

We need to pause to learn, to know, to grow

Pause to be still

Pause to be a ‘human’ just ‘being’

A human being……

x Annemaree x

 

 

‘Pause’ features on the meditation App ‘Insight Timer’.  Insight Timer Pause

Photo by Eunice Stahl on ‘Unsplash’

 

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Being

Being

 

When you are here,

You are there…..  

When you are there

You are here…

In fact, at most times you are everywhere but here!

And yet ‘here’, the ‘now’ is the only moment we truly know.

The only moment that is promised to us.

And the only instance in which we are truly aware……

The mind constantly traipses back into the past or skips off into the future

But what about now?

How do we reach this precious present?

We can learn from little ones, you know.  Observe a child just ‘watching’ and ‘listening’ – a child gazing at a flower in the park or listening to the birds.  The child stops in its tracks; comes to stillness; observes and examines; becomes fascinated; absorbing all that is in this handful of moments; and exists completely in the present.  And to ‘watch’ the child ‘watching’ is so, so peaceful.

The child has tapped into its senses.  Listening, knowing ‘stillness’, watching, feeling,

When you are completely in the ‘now’ this deep, deep peace emerges……you are residing in the universe’s sigh of contentment.

And yes, the mind will frolic about and saunter off on its own…..for that is what minds do.

Reach out and catch it and bring it back to the now, back to the present – draw it back gently to this incredible moment.

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

 

x Annemaree x

‘Being’ features on the meditation App ‘Insight Timer’.  Insight Timer Being

Photo by Lucille Borderioux on ‘Unsplash’

 

Courage…

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“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” William Faulkner

Whether you are feeling weak or courageous today, remember, that there is very little difference between the two states of being.  Both have fear.  It is said that the coward listens to his fears and becomes frozen by them and/or controlled by them.  The courageous person puts them aside and pushes through or meanders around the obstacles and refuses to be ruled by dread.

Courage is strength to face pain, grief and anxiety and to act with valour and unashamed assault.  It doesn’t mean fearlessness, because fearlessness can lead to reckless abandon and therefore real danger, but it means confronting the unknown in spite of fears.  Understand the difference between apprehension and the irrational triggers of fear.  Fear confines us, keeps us ‘stuck in the mud’, and limits our ability to grow and to experience a harmonious life-style.

When we feel threatened, vulnerable, and fragile or weakened, FEAR rises like a powerful, comic-book monster ready to disarm us and carry us off emotionally on a trail of negativity and hopelessness.  Doubt and false assumptions set in – weakening us more and more.  Sometimes we have to face immense fear in our lives especially if we leave the shore of our personal safety and shelter.

However, fear is not tangible nor is it visible, but it does exist in our minds.  We bring it to life and then act upon it and out of it – often to dire consequences for ourselves and those around us.

Fear is an emotion – a distressing one at that.  But it is just an emotion, caused by threat, real or imagined.  And it is felt in many, many forms. Fear of spaces, heights, social situations, commitment, spiders, the future…..and it is so potent at times that it can cause us to become confused, illogical, and anxious.  Acting out of fear can also become habitual and can cause us to spiral downwards whenever we are confronted by something that hurts us or that we don’t understand.

Ironically we can bring our fears to life.  Many times fear is simply a decision.  And courage is the warrior to annihilate it.  The question is how?

Shun your fears by believing in your strength and abilities.  Believe in yourself.  Make peace with your world and those around you, so that you do not create stories in your head and create angst based on false assumptions. Trust your senses, your intuition.  By doing this you will know naturally the path to follow.  Many fears are born of fatigue.  Be Mindful.  Rest.

And know this…..too busy a life can breed fear of failure, because it is simply impossible to achieve all that you want to do immediately.

And do remember, we all possess the trait of courage inherently.  It comes from deep within.  All we have to do is muster it and set it to the wind.

 

x Annemaree x

‘Courage’ features on the meditation App ‘Insight Timer’.  Insight Timer Courage…

Photo by Bryce Evans on ‘Unsplash’

 

 

 

 

Let Go…

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This precious moment…

In the words of the late, renowned author Dr. Wayne Dyer:

“There’s an irony to this habit of letting your mind drift to other times and other places. You can only drift off in the now, because now is all you ever get. So drifting off is a way of using up your present moments. You do indeed have a past, but not now! And, yes, you have a future, but not now! You can consume your ‘now’ with thoughts of “then” and “maybe,” but that will keep you from the inner peace you could experience”.

As you reflect upon these words, become aware of your breath, in the now, and your mind will not wander off into the past and gather all the emotions that rise up with the past.

We need to let go of the past.  We need to understand that “Whatever happened back then was meant to happen”.  Nothing else could have happened.  We traumatize ourselves by questioning over and over ‘if only I had done that’ – ‘things would have been different’.  But you didn’t do that….and you cannot change the past.  So why did we make those decisions and why did those things happen?  Simply to teach us a lesson, yes, to teach us lessons, so that we may grow and heal.  We need to listen to the wisdom of our past.

We also try to live in the future.  How futile is that?  We simply create stories.  We don’t know what is going to happen in the future.  We may convince ourselves that we do but on what premise?  We worry; we fear; we dramatize; we create ‘to do’ list after ‘to do’ list; we want and want; we use so much energy ‘thinking’ about the future that we miss the ‘now’.  We miss this precious moment.

Some of us cannot escape the past and believe that the future is forever linked to it.  And so if we don’t escape our past, we carry it with us and often don’t realize that by doing so, we carry on with the same thoughts, behaviours and habits that are no longer useful.  The future doesn’t have anything to do with the past.  We just think it does. We need to let go of the future too.

Truly living is ‘living’ in this moment. The moment is fleeting.  We need to grasp it and cherish it.

I am often asked to connect this beautiful poem with the author….a poem I read to my students and one which I read to myself….often!

 

I was the type of person,

That held onto things too tight,

Unable to release my grip,

When it no longer felt right,

And although it gave me blisters,

And my fingers would all ache,

I always thought that holding on,

Was worth the pain it takes.

I used to think in losing things,

I’d lose part of me too,

That slowly I’d become someone,

My heart no longer knew.

Then one day something happened,

I dropped what I had once held dear,

But my soul became much lighter,

Instead of filled with fear.

And it taught my heart that some things,

Aren’t meant to last for long,

They arrive to teach you lessons,

And then continue on.

You don’t have to cling to people,

Who no longer make you smile,

Or do something you’ve come to hate,

If it isn’t worth your while.

That sometimes the thing you’re fighting for,

Isn’t worth the cost,

And not everything you ever lose,

Is bound to be a loss.

-e.h.

x Annemaree x

Thank you Erin Hanson for allowing me to use your beautiful poem.  Erin Hanson Poetry

‘Let Go’ features on the meditation App ‘Insight Timer’.  Insight Timer Let Go

 

Photo by Christopher Sardegna on Unsplash

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Most Beautiful

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Never do anything standing that you can do sitting,

or anything sitting that you can do lying down.

Proverb

I am the greatest believer in the fact that if you want to feel beautiful, then you need to surround yourself with it!

I found a ‘pearler’. Or rather it found me.  Known as Shreyas (translated from Sanskrit as ‘most beautiful’), it is my special place for stillness, silence, peace and warmth.  It enfolds me and hugs me like a friend – it is a friend, a very special friend located in the heart of Karnataka, India, away from smart phones, tablets, traffic, nail salons and cafes.

I remember first visiting Shreyas and being totally humbled and in awe of its calming influence, profound teachings, its gentle souls and its snail-pace.

In between ‘do-able’ Hatha yoga classes, unquestionably delicious and healthy cuisine, meditation, private lessons, exquisite Ayurvedic treatments and massages (did I mention swimming?), I would sometimes just sit on a bench in the garden and simply watch!

Staff don’t walk here, they glide. Always with their hand to their heart in greeting and with a gracefulness I have rarely encountered anywhere else in the world.  It is actually surreal as though everyone is floating on air.

Of course, this suggests, that I had slowed down so much that I was stretching time and living fully in the present – ‘comatosed’ would be the best definition. Staying here, the past and future simply do not break through my reverie.  I always emerge from the miasma of life even if just for a brief time.

I have been there four times now.  It is my annual (thank you I am looking after myself time) and I shall return over and over.

By now I am beginning to learn everyone’s name.  You would think so! But I would get my ‘Krishna’s’ mixed up with my ‘Sureshes’ and forget where I was, always thankful to be found wandering around the grounds by an observant staff member who recognised that I was lost and/or had completely ‘lost the plot’.

The teachers are divine. Always watching over us. There is a cleansing practise called Jala Neti where one uses a little pot to pour warm salt water through the nostrils.  Ideal for people like me who suffer with hay fever etc.  Ideal for anyone…really.  One of the teachers told me she used to smile as soon as the word was mentioned because my face would contort and I would bolt out of the yoga Shala to hide amongst the trees.  She will be pleased to know that finally after four visits I practise Jala Neti at home every single day.  Does it work? Yes. So why did I avoid it all this time? Simple really…one of my brothers used to dunk me in the ocean and hold me under when I was a kid, and the sensation of salt water up my nose is a reminder of him trying to drown me. Another personal ‘issue’ subjugated.

Attention to detail is simple but so thoughtful. A tube of repellant set beside the yoga mat. The scent of Loban being waved through the yoga classes. Orange Oil burning. Hum Sa. So Hum.

Then there are the cooking classes.  I don’t cook.  I am brilliant at assembling food, but I simply don’t cook it. However, I love to eat. So I go to the classes because the chefs are so experienced and fun, and one can nibble along the way.  I have it nailed.  I take down the recipe, hand it over to any friend who accompanies me, and then suggest I come over to their place for dinner when I return to Australia.  (I’ll bring the chocolate!).

As you may know, you do not wear shoes into any yoga space.  So there are rows of shoes left on the steps.  The thing that has always fascinated me is that at the end of the class, and every time I would leave the Shala, my shoes had been turned around so I could step into them and walk away. I was determined to one day grab a mental snapshot of who does that!  Still I have never ‘caught’ anyone. The place is full of ‘shoe fairies’.
I always leave refreshed, slower, and a little taller, with snippets of philosophy I have picked up along the way reminding me of this beautiful yogic path.
“Love is flowing energy”.

“Time is the gift you have been given, use it fully”.

“Peace comes from wisdom, fear comes from ignorance”.

“Awareness travels with us through all incarnations”.

The other extremely satisfying aspect of Shreya’s is that you meet the same staff. All are encouraged to practise yoga daily (thus the gliding) and many have been with Shreya’s since its inception some 15 years ago. That in itself is a telling tale. Consistency and contentment.
The staff also have quirky, humorous retorts. Whilst being assisted into a challenging posture, one that I feel my spine had never visited before, I asked the question ‘Has anyone ever died doing yoga?”. The teacher’s quip was “yes, but they died healthy”!

Says it all really.

 

Annemaree xxx

 

P.S. I am going back in 2019. You may like to come with me and for that reason I have created a 10-day retreat.  Six spaces only.  Join me?  Or not!  I am going anyway, and would love to see you/escort you/teach you.  Then you can also take down the recipes and I shall have great delight in eating what you create.

For more details...

 

 

 

 

Insight Timer…

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“Let Go”!

Imagine if the whole world meditated?

What a different planet it would be!

However, globally, we know there are many who are meditating at this moment and at any given moment and who bring a peaceful energy to our earth.

We need to quell the turbulent times both in the world around us and the world within us.

I have joined the ranks of meditation/mindfulness teachers on Insight Timer to offer gifts to you and to those whom you deem would benefit by my words and observations.

I hope to make a small contribution to the evolution of our planet. To make a difference to someone, somewhere, somehow……

Enjoy!

Download the complimentary App ‘Insight Timer’

Insight Timer

and then…

Search for me, Annemaree Rowley, and away you go to “Let Go”.

insighttimer.com/AnnemareeRowley/guided-meditations/let-go-5

 

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The boy in the bucket

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From there to here, from here to there,

funny things are everywhere.

— Dr. Seuss

Two years ago,  I was visiting one of the major historical sites in India in the state of Karnataka. Making my way to the rest room (or should I say ‘rest hut’), I noticed a woman mopping the floors. She was playing such an important role, but one that is challenging, mundane and generally not valued by anyone.  I always offer a smile and I tip these workers, grateful not only for their service, but for the part they play in my comparatively privileged life.

As I entered the doorway there were her two little boys frolicking about on the tiles. No iPad, smart phone or toy trucks. Just a bucket and water (and detergent). Surreptitiously taking my camera out of my pocket I snapped this shot. The joy and laughter were contagious, as this little one laughed, played, splashed about, lifted his sweet face to the sun and joined his hands in gratitude.  Even if he was not fully aware of the gratitude he could feel, it was natural for him, as a Hindu, to hold his hands in prayer.

I stood there for ages watching this truly delightful scene.  Whilst visiting the site was absolutely wonderful, the boy in the bucket was the highlight.

Every time I look at this photo it makes me smile. What immense power the joy of another one’s laughter has on oneself!  What power the smile evokes!  In this case the smile was from ear to ear.  For both of us….

And again that same joy is conjured just by remembering this incident as I write this for you.

In my yoga classes, I often ask my students to close their eyes and bring a gentle smile to their face.  Then I ask the question: how does that feel?  Some of my students tell me that they can’t feel the smile when they have their eyes closed.  So I ask them to turn their smile inwards. To be aware that everything will be OK, to curve their lips upward and to create or remember an image that gives them that irrepressible joy.

Then I ask them to turn their inward smile outwards and open their eyes sharing that smile with someone known to them or not; real or imagined; or even to project that smile into an imaginary mirror peering at their own image.

Blind Freddy (whoever he was) knows that smiles are contagious. The part of the brain that is responsible for our facial expression when happy or mirroring another person’s smile resides in the area of an unconscious automatic response. So if you are smiling at someone it is likely that they will smile straight back. If they don’t then they are actually ‘trying’ not to and repressing the response.

I remember once in my teens, being so sad, that a little old lady (she was probably only my age now) came up to me in the street and simply said….’smile my dear…you look so sad…let the smile mellow your worries’.   I did smile….. and she smiled for me and with me.

Share your smiles and laughter. Smile at someone for no good reason and watch what happens. You never know, maybe, just maybe, that smile that you offered so freely, actually was an enormous gift to someone who truly needed to be lifted from the doldrums at that very moment.

And whenever you need to give yourself a smile and are not quite sure how to find it, just remember…

 the boy in the bucket!

Annemaree x

 

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Not ready yet…

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It’s Not the Years in Your Life That Count.

It’s the Life in Your Years.

(Who knows you wrote this, everyone is claiming it!)

 

A few weeks ago a friend of mine told me a story that I have been thinking about constantly during these past few days.

It was a brief tale about a 93-year-old grandmother.  And this is how I imagined the story to unfold:

Every year this grandmother purchases a daily calendar.  She hangs it on the wall and fills in each square with something she looks forward to.

Whether it be a visit from her grandchildren; a dinner with family; an outing to the local shops; the purchase of a special-occasion dress; writing a letter to a friend; sipping fresh peppermint tea; watching the moon at night; listening to the sound of the ocean; crunching Autumn leaves beneath her feet… or doing absolutely nothing.  Every day is something new, something special, something beautiful.

I realised as I was picturing this woman filling in her calendar, that this is what I do too.  Perhaps not in such a structured way, but I ensure that my diary is full to the brink with experiences and connections.  Some would say I do too much.  And some would be right.  Some would say they don’t know how I fit my life into my life.  Some would be right. Some would tell me to rest.  And I do listen.  But as I write this and look out of my window at the beautiful Chinese Elm shedding its Autumn gown, I realise that this is exactly what keeps me alive, joyful and excited about life. The beauty in every day.

Each morning I awaken with the questions:

  • Who shall I visit?
  • What postures shall I be teaching?
  • What book shall I read?
  • Where shall I be going?
  • What food shall I taste?
  • What shall I learn?
  • With whom shall I connect for the first time?
  • … and what shall I see that makes me ‘stand still’ in awe?

Another name for these imaginings?  Being present….

Yes, I have challenges along the way…some that tear at my heart.  However, to lay the emotions that come into play with these challenges aside, and to allay any fear that may be associated with them, I simply play a beautiful piece of music, look at a gorgeous photograph, ring a friend for a chat, eat chocolate, pick up a book or create another story, a story that takes me into ‘happy world’.

Yes, sometimes I get those pangs of ‘what if’? But as another friend of mine said to me many years ago, these pangs are just ‘fright bubbles’.  And so when they come, I burst them with a giant, carefree pin.

Getting back to the grandmother…..what does she say to herself every time she looks at the calendar to see what she is doing today?

Not ready yet!

 

 

 

 

Why worry?

Thomas & Luke

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

-Corrie Ten Boom

 

I have been ‘looking back’ this week, which is unusual for me.  But I have been looking back reflecting on how much I used to ‘worry’ and drawing to mind exactly what I ‘worried’ about.  Oh, how much we all worry.  I see it written all over the anxious and frown-lined faces of my students. (Nothing that a smile could not break though). What’s the point of worrying?

I, like you (in all probability), used to worry about things like being accepted, being loved, being good enough, being heard, being understood, being different, passing exams, walking in high heels, what I would do when I grow up, which colour lipstick is best, saying ‘no’, being alone, being left behind, being single, being poor, being everything other than in the good nick that I am generally in!  

But what is important?  I have my sanity (although some would question that), I have two good legs on which to walk (take out the ‘good’), I lead the quiet and peaceful life that I aspired to, I travel the world, and I live in a beautiful, safe country and I am not wandering the earth looking for a home.  Plenty of food and a roof over my head. Most importantly I am well.  Most importantly I am WELL!

The above photo shows two of my beloved nephews.  The little one Luke adores his big brother Thomas.  I look back at my challenges (real or imagined) and ask myself again and again, what did worrying resolve?  Little Thomas faces a life of nothing but challenge. He has Cystic Fibrosis.  And I am writing this knowing that once again he is in hospital for treatment, and then home hospital for a while, and through no fault of his own, simply because he was born with a recessive gene. It is a tough little life.   I am not here to speak about his illness, I am here thinking about how beautiful he is, how courageous, how compassionate and how important it is for him not to worry and for me not to worry about him.  The best I can do is be by his side, keeping him calm and laughing a lot. And that entails ‘living in the present’.  Putting all my judgements aside and loving him with every fibre in my being.

Just as we learned he had Cystic Fibrosis, I wrote these words for him.  They still apply, some nine years later, even more so now.  He has them framed by his bed and apparently reads them from time to time.

I send them back out into the universe with all good intention, hope, love and peace.  May they manifest for him into a life of less worry and much mirth …..

A calm spirit and a happy soul….that is what I wish for him! And for you!

 

 

“The first time I held you I felt my heart ignite with joy.

Your dear little face and your big brown eyes delve into the core of my soul.

Each time I gently kiss you on the forehead or the tip of your nose you hold your breath and close your eyes.  It is such a sweet vision, one that I imagine as I wake in the morning and when I think of you throughout the day.

What do I wish for your future?

That you may always view the world in awe; be truly peaceful; seek truth; be kind to yourself and compassionate towards others; take lots of deep breaths; do everything you want to do; live with wonder; treasure each moment; smile at everyone you meet; explore the world; read books; laugh a lot; create memories for others to cherish; open your heart; listen carefully; speak with warmth, learn everything you can; and believe you are beautiful.”

 

Annemaree  x                                                                                                                January 2009

 

For more information on Cystic Fibrosis….www.cysticfibrosis.org.au

The photo of Thomas & Luke was taken by dad.  A very proud dad.