Cycle of Life

circle-of-lifeAnother lot of students are moving on to new countries, new jobs, and new adventures. It is I who remains here. I find Malaysia a very transient country. There is a lot of movement to and fro.  I am trying to remember some of my Yoga students who have moved on from long ago. Faces and countries appear.  It is a constant letting go.

As an “immigrant” I had my share of good-byes. I thought it might get easier over the time. However the process of letting go is over and over to be learnt anew. A few years back when the good-byes became too painful I decided not to get involved with “people on the move” anymore. But then I realized that I would miss out on real amazing friendships. Life is ever transient and besides there is no guarantee of anyone staying more than a life-time anyways.

I feel very fortunate that with each student who comes to my classes, with each person that enters my realm of life, I learn something new about myself. As I share what I love doing, I get enriched in so many different ways, thus the cycle of life is completed.

 

A little time to be

ocean-with-meditating-man1Rushing from one place to another; traffic woes. Sit still instead. Opt for a massage.

I am coming to terms with the death of my dear friend Vincent. A cast away body, ready for a new adventure in another realm. It is painful only to us, who stay back; struggling to find balance, to find absolution, to be at peace. So much time we take to tend to this body, only to cast it away at the end.

Where do we go? Where is our last breath taking us?

Heavy rain washes away my thoughts. I am happy to be alive, to be with my loved ones. There is only now. Now I am grateful, now I am content, now I am at peace. Now I watch my cats play, with eager eyes and ears, sensing every change, completely focused on each other.

They just are. Can I just be?  

 

 

 

 

The mind and its tricks

pict-feet-with-blockIs the mind continuously on a downward spiral?  Once I heard in a presentation that having a positive mind is like exercising a muscle, if unused it withers away. In Yoga we call this Abhyasa (making an effort), which is part of Panchata Kriya or meditation in daily life. Well, I think if you are not lucky enough to be born into a perfect environment, where there are only positive role models, we all have to make an effort to keep our minds constructive rather than destructive.  

Another aspect of Panchata Kriya is Vairagya (not colouring with any pre-conceived ideas).  How many times do we react to another person unproportionately because something is bothering us that has nothing to do with that person?

Swadhyaya or self-study helps us to remain more objective and is an important skill to separate our own issues with other peoples’ problems.  By studying or learning about positive role-models, whether it be scriptures or books like “eat pray love” we create possibilities to expand our minds in a unlimited way.

Tapas, where we balance physical and mental behavior allows us to practice discipline. Hatha-Yoga is a form of tapas. It takes commitment and discipline to practice postures or Asanas, which help us to create balance in body, mind and spirit. And finally Ishwara-Pranidhana  or self-surrender , where we devote our actions to something greater that, we trust, exists. It takes the pressure off us, and helps us to live more responsible and joyfully.

Finding balance

There are times where I look at my life with astonishment and marvel at the people and places I had the good fortune to encounter. Although I give thanks to the many blessings in my life, it can be a challenge to stay present and acknowledge the little miracles in daily life. It could be the smile of my children I don’t see when I rush to work in the morning. Did I miss that amazing orange sky last evening because I was busy talking? Was I too busy thinking about something else when I got that heartfelt hug from a friend?

When I was travelling in India, I stayed in Dharamsala and met one of the locals. He asked me where I have been and I proudly counted down the list of places I have visited in the world. He looked at me not with admiration but just said: “Why do you have to go to all these places in the world when everything you need to discover is already inside of you?” bird-on-branch

In meditation we practice presence. The real challenge is to stay present as we encounter life. To stay present even if we don’t like something (Dwesha = dislike\repulsion) or feel attracted towards it (Raga = liking/pleasure). To be absolutely absorbed by the moment without judging it.

I was there in the park after the heavy rain, the mist hung over the trees and this multicolored bird sat right there on a branch in front of me. I breathed in this moment as if it was my last. What joy and honor to be in the presence of this bird.

Be in the moment and count your blessings

imgp0872Four days of a blissful Yoga-Seminar and teacher training with Desiree Rumbaugh. I am at the top of my energy, although I am seriously sore and aching. Next thing I am back in life, driving to the park and this jerk swerves in front of me without indicating.

There goes my calm and newfound peace and although I am curbing my expletives to as little as I can muster with my temper, I still feel sorry for the people that are in my car and who have to listen to me. The best thing to do is to get out and away from them before they get to know my shadow side a lot deeper. Thank God for Puji, my household helper, so I can run off into the park as soon as I park. I am I upset and irritable.

I am watching myself and thinking why? Running a couple of rounds and doing my EFT calms me down and I begin appreciating the sheer luxury of being able to run off like this into the greenery. Another few hundred metres and I start giving thanks to the fact that I am in a position to train with amazing teachers, have a loving family and supportive friends I can count on. Life is good!

There is no moment that is more precious than now. Moral of the story: Be in the moment, even if it pisses you off, deal with it, get on with it and continue counting your blessings.

Acceptance, midlife and body-image

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mummy and Maya

mummy and Maya

It has been an interesting nine months of learning and accepting for me. I have accepted that I am not superwoman, that my body is aging, and that although I like to do it all, it is not always possible.  With it comes the realization that I am several persons at once; the yoga teacher, the mother, the wife, the office administrator and the friend. Each role I like to play to perfection however I soon realized that there is no perfection. Life is ever-changing like the cells of the body that get renewed over and over.

There are many things I miss at times. Time to be more creative,  lunches with friends, and the leisure to shop whenever everybody else is at work. However there is a newfound satisfaction of feeling more independent, of having a steady income that doesn’t fluctuate in the tides of public holidays.  As idealistic I’d like to see it, we Yoga teachers pay bills like everyone else and the increasing competition hasn’t made it easier to guarantee a steady flow of students.

So now I teach because I love to, though I’d ideally love to teach more. Being a mother and a wife has the implications of wanting to be with my family when they are around. Ultimately that’s the time everyone else wants to practice Yoga. See what I mean? Life is short. It is also very hectic in Kuala Lumpur. Half of the day I am trying to get to one place or another, although I substantially reduced mine and my children’s activities to work, school and outdoor-play.

The older I get, and I am not saying that I feel old, the more I claim respite, as my birthright. Nobody really can make me do anything that I haven’t chosen. I am tired of pretending I like something when I am not and I am tired to massage away my cellulite or tone my sagging skin. I do Yoga because it brings me to that core that gets buried under trillions of little tasks and opinions. My midlife-realization is about acceptance that life doesn’t go on forever and I might as well make the best of it.

Keep up the dreams

Yes, I am still teaching, less though. It has been an intense four months since I started my full-time work. My respects to all those who juggle job, family and perhaps squeeze a little time in for themselves. I am grateful I don’t have to join the rush-hours. My Yoga practice has never been more important than now. I helps me to stay sane, grounded and focused on what’s really important. It is time to re-evaluate goals, re-assess my life. Dreams do come true with the right focus.  Nelson Mandelas` speech “I have a dream” still inspires, as its message is time-less:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a Child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

 Have a great New Year, Western or Chinese and keep on dreaming…

Get up, play now, do Yoga

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! tired-dog

Big feet and pointed shoes

platform-shoesThey are pretty, they are elegant and they fit perfectly to one of my skirts. I am talking about the shoes I am eagerly eying in one of the shops at the mall. But I should know better. I am no Cinderella but a Yoga practitioner and all that grounding and spreading my toes have rendered them incapable of fitting into pretty and pointed shoes. Even though my comfy Scholls make my feet sigh with pleasure they look poorly matched with feminine attire. Starting Yoga from the feet up is what I teach and practice and now I have to live with the consequences of my feet not wanting to compromise their firm stand anymore. Still, I am the boss, not my feet. Succumbing to my desire I soon regretted my purchase when after half hour not only my feet, but also knees and back started to protest in agony. After all they like to be supported by the four corners of my feet: “The mound of the big toe, mound of the little toe, back of the inner heel, and back of the outer heel” [1]. With that awareness, I raise and spread my toes, bring them back to the ground, then draw those four points up into the lower leg equally, and lift the arches (especially flat arches). To stand firmly on the ground does not only alleviate possible lower back problems, it also is the most important preparation before moving into any other Yoga posture. Good-bye pointed shoes and thank god for platforms and wedges, that is where I found my compromise. Yogini or not, I still like to look good.

 

[1] Friend, John, Anusara Yoga Teacher Training Manual, Anusara Press, The Woodlands, 2006, p. 45

Three boys and a piano

Have you ever tried to play piano with three boys playing fustal in the living room and a little girl “tuning” in with a mouth-organ? Well, if you are as tired as I am after a long day of whatever,  it ain’t matter anymore. My mind is so blank that my fingers seem to slide over the keys automatically (not necessarily beautifully). family-meditating-clipart1Deepak Chopra said that life as we perceive it is a fraction of the “energy-soup” that exists. Well, at that moment it felt like I was swimming in my mother’s delicious vegetable soup, cruising around the carrots and potatoes and being generally oblivious to the deeper meaning of life. I am not fooling myself into thinking this is some sort of “pratyahara” (non-fascination of senses). It is rather a coping mechanism: if it all gets too much, I simply tune out. So what is the difference of “tuning out” and meditation? According to Georg Feuerstein (The Shambhala Encyclopedia of YOGA) meditation, although a process of “vacating and unifying consciousness”, is paired up with awareness. In other words it creates complete clarity, whereas simply tuning out leaves us in a state of confusion. Another aspect of meditation versus tuning out is that meditation energizes, whereas tuning out leaves us depleted. The morale of the story: Meditate more! It can be as simple as removing myself from the chaos for 10 min. a day into a quiet corner and focus on my breath.