What a dream! I am cruising through the air, a sparkling magic lake beneath me, and then I get pulled down and dragged out of this delicious dream by the alarm bell. It is 5am and I am not pleased. My alter-ego and I start arguing:
Alter-ego:I am tired, I didn’t get enough sleep
Ego: If I don’t get up now, I’ll regret it for the rest of the day.
Alter-ego: Why do I have to get up so early?
Ego: Get your butt out of the bed!
Alter-ego: Just five more minutes…
Ego: Get up now!
Sounds familiar, right? The trick is to give the ego more momentum and let it win. This way I remember the next day how good it felt, when I did get up and I can add to the dialogue: it feels great, doing Yoga before my working day starts. I admit, my dreams are not always great, however my alter-ego will always find an excuse not to get up. Have fun!
It has been three days and still no sign of my glasses. My reading-material is reduced to size 12 font with daylight and my arms are all but getting too short to hold the magazines. Talking about being mindless per se as I have absolutely no inkling where I have put them. It started with little misplacements, such as leaving them amidst the dishes or finding them in the (er) toilet. Somehow I still managed to retract my steps and get to them with a sigh of relieve. This time my mind just draws a blank spot whenever I try to recall where I last used them. Thank God for computers and their ability to increase the fonts to adjust to tired and over 40is-eyes, so at least I can ramble on about my glasses AND am able to read it. Being mindless is no state of being. Perhaps the Buddhist monks did not have to remember to bring and pick up two children on time, do the laundry, cooking and groceries, be the counselor for any family member who feels treated unfairly, fight to negotiate TV times etc.. Perhaps being mindful in a monastery with beautiful gardens and tranquil surroundings proved to be a far more possible thing then living in the midst of Kuala Lumpur. Maybe this is all just an excuse to continue living a mindless day. Having said that, I shall make an effort to watch my breath whenever I catch myself rushing, ranting or running. I shall remember to live mindfully especially when it is the most challenging and hopefully I will find my glasses again.
It has been an awesome five days with Amy Ippoliti, certified Anusara Yoga teacher, in Kuala Lumpur. I even managed to participate in one of the Eye of the Tigress practices and got to bend and twist to a maximum level. Being a true Yogi I of course didn’t look around to see other people sweating their stuff. Cirque soleil would have a field day recruiting here… Oops, I did look… Amy presented this seminar with true professionalism and I couldn’t help but be pulled in by her high standards. Although I didn’t win an award I am now thanking all the people that made it possible for me to be there, which is my hubby, brother in law, and my dear friends. I feel truly nourished with knowledge, undigested though and shall continue integrating this learning experience into all aspects of my life and teachings.
Anyone not living in Malaysia will declare me a spoilt brat. Why? Our maid ran off and left us with all the housework and the babysitting… To defend my position however, I must say that I organized my life around having help in the house. I won’t bore you with details but I am pretty busy without having to mop the floor and that doesn’t include facials or having my nails done… This is one of the advantages of living in Malaysia. You can actually afford help. Now that is beside the point. The point is that everything and everyone changes all the time. It is a constant adaptation to the moment. Just as I want to be present in my breath during Yoga practice I now need to be more present for my children and household chores. It is so much more challenging to practice Yoga when you have a million other things to do. That brings me to an observation I made the other day, when I attended a morning session with Edward Clark. I love being a student and always feel inspired by other teachers, their knowledge and creativity. We focused on breathing and the Bandhas and how to implement them while doing the postures. However when I came back home I felt grumpy and not quite willing to deal with my 3-year old daughter who has her 3-year old-moments very frequently. So again how serious am I in staying centered? When it suits me? When it is pleasant, exciting or calming? Can I stay focused and content and practice my Ujyay breath when I am doing mundane day-to-day chores rather then Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana (one legged wheel-pose)? Practicing Yoga can be escapism if that is the only time I am able to focus, breathe and be at the moment. So here I go, the challenge is to stay in the same moment of joy, peace and satisfaction whether I finally managed to stand free in a handstand or I just folded and ironed my whole laundry.
I am counting: .1..2..3..4..5..6..7..8..9..there – at last, an exhalation after Kumbhaka* (breath retention) in form of a long, drawn out scream, only to be repeated a few times. I am talking about a Yogi in the making, my almost three year old daughter Maya, which means illusion in Sanskrit (oh, she ain’t an illusion). Right now she is protesting the fact that she is not allowed to see Barney yet again. I myself am breathing deeply to maintain my patience as I ask her to come up to have her bath. All the breathing makes me dizzy, so I am moving into practicing Pratyahara* (non-fascination of the senses) by ignoring her behavior. How I wished I was in the Himalayas now, listening only to my own inhalation and sending good vibrations to all those families with toddlers and teenagers. My swerving away from the focus of my attention (Dharana) brings about another battle of willpower but this time I remember the tantric philosophy that all beings are inherently good. So I swoop her into my arms and carry the wiggling, screaming bundle up the stairs, not only to shower her in water but also in my love for her. However Maya is not being very receptive at this moment. So I resolve to practicing Karma-Yoga (do thy work without asking for any rewards) and not to thinking about how much I would like to be hugged. Finally, probably after running out of energy, Maya turns her attention towards her favorite book and teaches ME about mindfulness AND presence in the here and now by jumping up and down on our bed, laughing and giggling
*Three phases of Pranayama = Puraka (inhalation), Kumbhaka (breath retention), Recaka (exhalation) – www.holisticonline.com/yoga/hol_yoga_breathing-exhalation.htm
*Eight Limbs of Raja-Yoga = Yamas, Nyamas, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi – www.sivananda.org/teachings/philosophy/eightlimbs.html
Life is like a stage play. Every morning I am a mother, later I am a Yoga teacher. I am also a wife and partner of my husband. Sometimes I am a counselor, and a friend. Other times I am a stranger in a taxi. The art is to maintain equilibrium in life in many roles I play as a human being. Yoga creates harmony in the endocrine system. It helps the glands to work efficiently. It is challenging to find balance over and over again. Just going out into Kuala Lumpurs traffic can jar your nerves. Being up with a young child all night throws out many good intentions. When I practice the handstand my world turns upside-down. Standing on one leg in tree pose is just a symbolism of how many times I stand on one leg in my life. And yet it is possible to stay calm and unwavering. It is not about getting that great body (although it is a nice side-effect), or bending like an acrobat (which can be fun). Can I take a Yoga pose and transform it into a play with my child? Can I stay calm and unwavering when things don’t turn out the way I expected? Sometimes, and if not I just pick myself up and try again…just like after falling down from the handstand.
This week has been a shitty week, pardon my language. My son and I were attacked by some knife-wielding thieves on a motorbike early morning. They were out of luck because I only had my son’s schoolbag in my hand. Then my car broke down and finally my sunglasses were stolen. Although the guys on the motorbike were obviously more vile and professional in their pursuit, my thought was what person thinks something left in a shelf automatically becomes public property? Is there a difference between threatening someone with a knife and simply taking something that you know doesn’t belong to you? Although the Yamas in Raja Yoga clearly state rules of conduct: Ahimsa for non-violence and Asteya for non-stealing I believe these universal laws of human conduct are not exclusively taught in Yoga but are part of every religion. Obviously the guys on the motorbike do not practice Yoga. Well, I can’t change the way those thieves think or act, but I can change the way I react to that incidence. First I am grateful that both I and my son remained unharmed, second that they did not get my handbag and third that I can finally get some new sunglasses. It will take me a little more practicing of “loving kindness” to actually see that those thieves are caught in their own downward-cycle of life. And finally next time I better remember how I judged these thieves when someone offers me that pirated CD.
Teaching Yoga in Malaysia brings a variety of students with different racial and ethnic backgrounds into my classes. One thing I noticed is that most of my Asian students seem to have more flexibility in their hips and upper backs compared to my Caucasian students. Without turning this into a racially biased observation, it is quite clear why. If you go around Kuala Lumpur on a bus you quite often see Malaysians squatting on the floor to wait for the next bus. Furthermore most public toilets in Malaysia are of the squatting type. Now if you gotta go you better learn to squat… How many Caucasians, me included, grew up with squatting toilets? I still remember the agony I endured to sit cross-legged for just 10 minutes, when I was 23 years old! The good news is it can be learned and I am good example of that as I sit quite comfortably for about half hour. And that’s it. While I am starting to squirm my fellow Malaysian keeps still as social or spiritual gatherings sometimes require. Now the upper-back thingy is another matter. Flexible upper backs require a “soft” and “open heart”, at least that’s what I have learned in the Anusara-Yoga seminars. Excuse me but when I am driving in Kuala Lumpurs’ crazy traffic I simply don’t experience many open-hearted individuals of any race. For all I know some of the red-light and queue-beating individuals might be late for their next gym-Yoga-class, where they then bend like willows into Urdhva Dhanurasana (upward facing bow). So this is my own personal theory: I am not super-flexible in my back, because I don’t like bending backwards, period. But I do it anyway and keep breathing and voila, my heart has “softened” quite a bit already. I can now keep my cool, when that crazy driver just pulled in front of my car WITHOUT indicating. You Malaysians, you know what I am talking about, right?
A great book to start taking responsibility for your thoughts is: “the Secret” by Rhonda Byrne.
I wished I could travel to see my family in Switzerland every year and that I could travel to any otherdestination of my choice as well. However so far we only make it back every two years, which is mostly a financial decision. I was talking to someone else who wished she could travel with the airline of her choice, instead of taking the cheapest ticket, for which she then gets reimbursed by her company. The next person wished he could travel period, but cannot afford it at all and has never been anywhere else then his birthplace. Some people do not wish to travel and are happy where they are. And the last person IS travelling anywhere and anytime she wishes. It is human nature to want and strive. That is how we evolved. Otherwise humans would still be happy catching fish with their bare hands instead of doing so with nets. But when does the striving and wanting get as destructive as the big trawler nets that fish out the seas regardless of kind and size of its catch? It is all a matter of perspective whether I see life as a set of circumstances that I have no control over or I see life as a presenter of choices, so I can evolve and grow. If there is an obstacle that prevents me of reaching a goal I could choose to like the challenge to overcome it or dislike the obstacle of being there. So likewise I could choose to be happy to travel back to Switzerland every two years, instead of never be able to get there anymore, right? However that doesn’t mean I am not striving for making it possible to go back every year. To get back to the trawler: If I go back to Switzerland every year within the same financial circumstances, ignoring all obligations, which would be like overfishing the oceans…it would be foolish and selfish, because it cannot be sustained. On the other hand, if I can take up opportunities to create more financial freedom, I not only keep on learning new things (even if it is about your own limits…) but also can become that person that IS travelling anywhere and anytime she wishes.
There I am having a fit of anger and get the standard line: “but you are doing Yoga, how come you get so angry!” Believe me, I do get angry despite doing Yoga. Being a mother, my buttons get pushed all the time. My children are my greatest teachers and bring forth all those deep-seated, raw and not-dealt-with emotions. Yoga just helps me to manage them better. There is one more difference. Now I SEE myself being angry rather than just being fully involved in it. I see myself reacting, but another part of me watches that and thinks “what is she going on about?” In Buddhist teaching it is called “passive witnessing”. Sure one part of me doesn’t feel so passive at that particular moment, but another part kind of just sits back and observes. There is a great website out there that teaches how to deal with any type of anger and gives rules how to fair-fight http://www.angriesout.com/. Anger can be a great driving or an incredible destructive force. It is one of the most primary emotions we learn to mostly suppress as children. Rather than suppressing it I taught my son how to express it without hurting anyone. Scream into a cushion, bang the baseball-bat into it, jump around, and write about it. We all have our times that are out of control. However all of us are getting better at expressing it with more damage-control. After all it is a powerful energy, it is good to use it wisely.