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The Eight Limbs of Yoga

What is AshtangaYoga?
What are the eight limbs of Yoga?

“Ashta” means eight, and “anga” is often translated as limb. These are the eight limbs of Yoga as given to us in the Yoga Sutras of Patanajali – an ancient text of approximately 2,500 years ago, which codified yoga practices even older, which were originally transmitted orally from teacher to student.

The eight limbs of Yoga are: 

Yama
Niyama
Asana
Pranayama
Pratyahara
Dharana 
Dhyana
Samadhi

Perhaps you recognise one or a few of these words?  Let me give you my explanation, and then I will share one of my favourite translations.

The Yoga Sutras were written in Sanskrit and there exists hundreds, possibly thousands of translations and commentaries.

Yama – are five guidelines for living in peace with self and others.
Niyama – are five guidelines for deepening inner peace.
Asana – finding comfort in the body, and can be practised as the postures in today’s modern yoga classes.
Pranayama – can be practiced as the breathing techniques in many yoga classes.
Pratyahara – meaning withdrawal of the senses, this is practiced in Yoga Nidra and other practices where one is “turning within”.
Dharana – a state of deep concentration and focus, such as focusing the mind on a mantra.
Dhyana – the meditative state sometimes reached during the practice of meditation.
Samadhi – the state of Enlightenment. Think about pictures of Avatars with the light around their head or body.

Here is a translation from “The Secret Power of Yoga” by Nischala Joy Devi.

Yama – Reflection of our true nature
Niyama – Evolution towards harmony
Asana – Comfort in being, posture
Pranayama – Enhancement and guidance of universal prana (energy)
Pratyahara – Encouraging the senses to draw within
Dharana – Gathering and focusing of consciousness inward
Dhyana – Continuous inward flow of consciousness
Samadhi – Union with Divine Consciousness.

So when we practice yoga, it’s a lot more than going through the physical movements. Students sometimes think a class is about the “asana” /postures, however the big picture is more than just one limb.

To me, it’s totally fine if a student is only focused on one limb, it doesn’t matter because in time the other branches of the tree (limbs) will open up. Everyone is unique with the speed at which this happens…but there is no rush!

It’s not necessary to ‘think’ about these when practising yoga, but I find it fascinating to contemplate. Within each limb there is a zillion things or more for us to learn and experience. 

I know I am constantly learning more.
As for reaching Samadhi, it’s a work in progress, hmmmmm, not there just yet!

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Image via Pinterest

 

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Booklovers – “First, we make the beast beautiful: a new story of anxiety”

“First, we make the beast beautiful”
– a new story of anxiety
by Sarah Wilson

I have to admit when I picked up this book, I read the first page (she writes about meeting the Dalai Lama on page one) and then put it back on the shelf, my ego telling me “Karen what do you need to know about anxiety, forget it!” Oh gosh the ego loves to deny weak spots.
I loved this book. If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed I’ve been sharing little gems of wisdom from it’s pages. Because it hit a personal spot and made so much sense in a real, tangible way. Yes, I, myself am an “anxious type”. Years ago I discovered that Yoga was an amazing, powerful practice for me to work with my experience of anxiety. Let’s just say I became pretty addicted to all things Yoga.  By practicing Yoga each morning I was able to help myself in the dissolving of anxiety. I say ‘disolving’ because it’s not something I try to fully eliminate, even if that were possible.If you do experience anxiety, take a read of this beautiful book; it’s like having a conversation with Sarah (who by the way was diagnosed with anxiety and insomnia at age 12, later OCD and bipolar disorder, which she describes as all anxiety, just different flavours.) She has so much wisdom to share from her personal experience and you will understand from her perspective also why anxiety is not a curse to try to get rid of. As well as plenty of ways to work with it. Yep, she recommends Yoga too!

I do believe (as Sarah also mentions) that anxiety tends to happen to those more sensitive and/or creative people, and being sensitive (eg. senses are more alive, colours brighter, air fresher, clarity, awake-ness)…. is  a gift, when you realise it is.

Sarah writes:
“…like me you might have wondered if there’s another way. I’d like to say this upfront. I write these very words because I’ve come to believe that you can be fretty and chattery in the head and awake at 4am and trying really hard at everything. AND you can get on with having a great life. Hey, the Dalai Lama told me so. Actually, I’ll go a bit further. I’ve come to believe that the fretting ITSELF can be the very thing that plonks you on the path to a great life.”

Sarah refers to “anxious types” and “life naturals”…She mentions that the book is really for “anxious types” but also helpful for “life naturals” to understand us anxious types. She also explains how anxious types often gravitate to life-naturals as partners or friends for that amazing stability and ease they have;  a rock of support.  However life-naturals often don’t understand what anxious types experience and here’s where Sarah has quite a few pages you can highlight or just casually leave around for your “life-natural” to read, to give them some handy hints and tips.

For example:
“Another simple thing you can do, dear-loved-one-of-someone-with-anxiety, is to just be there, patiently, when we wobble. Just stay. And be entirely certain and solid about doing so, even in the very convincing face of pushback and the frantic wobbliness from us. Your patience and calmness with exist in such stark contrast to our funk that we’ll start to feel silly and return to Earth. Our anxiety does pass.”

And I TOTALLY agree with Sarah’s advice to get out into nature! It’s one of my fav things to do either by myself or with my children and husband. Sarah describes herself as a ‘mad hiker’. She explains that “multiple studies show that folk who live in green spaces have lower rates of mental health issues. It’s been suggested that getting away from city freneticness allows the prefrontal cortex to take a break. Accordingly, stress hormones, heart rate and other markers back off…..Hiking connects us to ourselves. A university study found that because our senses evolved in nature, by getting back to it we connect more honestly with our sensory reactions. Which connects us with our true selves, and enhances a feeling of ‘oneness’….”

Here’s a ‘little trick’ she shares when needing to deal with an ‘anxious surge’ (from Eckhart Tolle! Love him!):
“It helped me get all that ‘be in the present’ stuff that my anxiety had previously stopped me from even being able to conceptualise, let alone FEEL…..try it, right now. Not in the future! – ‘Ask yourself what PROBLEM you have right now, not next year, tomorrow, or five minutes from now. What is wrong with this moment?’
“He asks you to try it right now with a problem. Try it with a bit of your particular brand of anxious buzz as you read this. Feel into the problem NOW; not in sixty seconds, not in two seconds. Now! Your head might jump fifteen minutes ahead. No. Now. Is the problem still there?
“Nope. It’s gone, right?
“As Tolle tells it, worries don’t exist in the now. Worries about the future or the past don’t exist either – they’re just narratives we create in the present. Practice asking yourself ‘what’s the problem’ often. See if you don’t start to feel the anxious cycle back away. See if those startled birds at sunset don’t begin to settle, softly, gently, at dusk. See if this gentleness is where you want to be.”

I also love how Sarah reminds me that thoughts are exactly that – ‘thoughts’. We do tend to get tangled up in stories that may or may not even happen. Sarah writes:

“Real disasters are a cinch compared to the shit we make up in our head. Actually they’re a relief. When the future does arrive, we’re always okay…”

You can visit Sarah’s website at http://www.sarahwilson.com
You can find the book almost anywhere right now…eg.BigW

If you are in need of support:
Life Line: http://www.lifeline.org.au or call 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: http://www.beyondblue.org.au or call 1300 22 4636
Or speak to your GP who can refer you to a specialist

Silent meditation and the bumpy road home

Once again, as I have many times before, on Friday afternoon I packed my yoga mat, meditation cushion, and suitcase and drove myself to the Buddhist retreat centre, Maitripa. I turned off my car when I parked and paused to appreciate, once again, the huge gum trees and prayer flags lightly swaying in the breeze, many birds, the hills, the sky, and I felt a wave of peacefulness in simply arriving. The anxiety that had bunched up within me from previous weeks began to dissipate. Here, all I had to think about was sitting on my bum to meditate, yoga, internal reflection, walking in the garden, and enjoying beautiful vegetarian meals.

I didn’t feel so nervous about the internal reflection as I had before, knowing that each time I was a little better prepared, in fact each time I meditate I get to know myself a little bit better. And also appreciating that each time meditating is different. You can never really know what the experience will be like.

I suppose my “acceptance of what is” was happening comfortably – well, it was about to get a really good test!

Often my first thoughts upon arrival had been along the lines of “What the hell am I doing here?!” and “What was I thinking ?!” and “WHY do I put myself through these things?!”. Not so this time. Although I could detect those feelings in some of the people arriving as they wheeled their suitcases in to find their rooms. Polite smiles and ‘hi!’ and I said hello to as many people as I possibly could. Partly to try to put other people at ease and be friendly, and partly because I knew we soon wouldn’t be speaking at all.

I was surprised it was a huge group – 30 of us, and an equal split of 15 girls and 15 guys. A couple of us recognised each other, and in the meditation hall it was nice to put my blanket and meditation cushion down on a mat beside a lady that I had also sat beside at a previous retreat.

It was a chilly evening, and it tends to be cooler up in the hills, but the heaters were working well in the meditation hall and in the rooms also, so it was cosy.

After the first meditation session I surprised myself with how comfortably I meditated, both from a physical body comfort perspective and the inner focus of my awareness. I practiced the Chakra Cleanse Meditation (as I’ve been taught in School of the Modern Mystic and I practice regularly) and White Light/Prana/Chi was flowing with ease. In fact, really easily. As the session finished and people began to drift silently out the door wrapped in their blankets, I continued to sit – gazing inwardly, and occasionally opening my eyes to look towards the candle in the centre of the hall – and to see that I wasn’t the only one continuing to sit (there was one other woman about my age). But soon I headed to my little yet cosy room, and as I slipped into bed I remembered the value of simplicity of being here – no TV, no wi-fi, no facebook, and no noise…..soooooo peaceful.

I set my alarm for 5.40am – on the lowest volume as the walls are paper thin. I had bizarre dreams all night and continually woke during the night. However I rose easily just before my alarm.  After a hot shower and a drink of water, I took my place in the meditation hall for the 6.30am session. Again I felt the one hour of meditation happened easily for me. I sat comfortable in my body. I practiced my chakra cleansing again, drew in the white light and let it pulse through. I also silently repeated the metta meditation for myself. Loving kindness for myself. We slowly filed outside at 7.30am and then re-assembled in the other hall with our Yoga mats for the Yoga session – which of course I loved!

Each meditation session went well, besides from my hips starting to ache a little, although when we practiced walking meditation in the garden it was good for my hips to stretch and soften. Each time entering the beautiful meditation hall was really special – it’s such a beautiful place, and with such a peaceful vibe about it.

In between sessions I spent lots time writing in my journal, as well as walking around the gardens and half way up the side of the hill. I had told myself to not take photos this time, as I’m always tempted to then Instagram or facebook them! However the flowers and gardens and views of the valley were too beautiful and I couldn’t resist.

Each meal was wonderful – eating in silence, but not alone, we were comfortable together in the quiet enjoying the amazing vegetarian food prepared for us. There was even chocolate cake (egg free and gluten free and dairy free to cater for everyones allergies!) and plenty of fresh fruit including watermelon. What a treat it was to A) not have to cook!…. and B) not have to plan the menu!

In the evenings a large pot of chai was on the stovetop for us to help ourselves, mmmmmm!

Well, everything seemed to be running smoothly in terms of my meditation practice that I questioned the smoothness! However I did soon discover a weak spot, a shadowy spot.

On late Saturday afternoon I opened up my journal to write about my restlessness and the feeling of resistance. I noticed the restlessness in my legs first and then I discovered it in my thoughts. I wrote in my journal how “I kinda distracted myself reading old Buddhist magazines in the loungeroom, and checking facebook on my phone.” And also how “I’m fantasing about FUTURE stuff”.

And then I wrote –
“Almost funny – here I sit in peaceful paradise, dreaming of a future peaceful paradise. How hard it is to be really PRESENT! Because one must be present with it ALL! The lot of it. The comfort AND discomfort.”

I wrote much more later in the evening as I sat with some discomfort of feelings within me. I just sat with it. I wrote about ‘deep acceptance’. And ‘being with myself’. Then before I fell asleep I wrote slowly in big  giant letters –


BEING WITH MYSELF WITH COMPASSION.

I slept a deep peaceful sleep, so deep that for the first time in I don’t know how long, my alarm went off – but I kept on sleeping…

I heard the 6am gong and I still had time for a shower before heading into the hall for 6.30am meditation. And how I appreciated the hot water on my skin, and combing the tangles from my hair, how good to dress in clean clothes, warm socks, how nice my moisturising cream smelt. I observed myself as I observed all the little things – my five senses were AWAKE, and the more I noticed the ‘awake-ness’ the sharper and brighter everything became.

In the meditation hall for 6.30am session, after a few minutes I opened my eyes just for the wonder of gazing around at everyone else, looking so still and serene.  I gazed at the soft glow of the candles and crystals in the centre. And then I turned my head to the right to gaze out the window and the sky was amazing! A beautiful bright pink! Within just a minute or so the pink faded to a soft grey, and I closed my eyes again. I felt alive as I sat there, still, with my palms pressed to my solar plexus.

Breathing and alive.

After Yoga and after breakfast, I spent more time writing, then walking through the garden. It was quite windy and so I decided to pack my bags early and I packed most things into my car. Suddenly I was ready for home. In fact I resolved I would leave early, straight after lunch, after we could speak again so I could so goodbye properly to everyone. There is always that time to share the ups and downs of the experience of being silent and the meditation, and it’s really interesting to see how comfortable we all become in each other’s presence of so much meditating together….and then being allowed to talk to one another!

 

Then the news arrived – the roads out were both blocked (one road leads to Healesville and the other to Kinglake) due to numerous fallen trees, because of the strong winds.

The power had been out since early morning and now my phone battery was low. We gathered in the lounge area and by the kitchen discussing what to do. Many were determined they would be leaving that day somehow, to return to work on Monday morning. Three people actually decided to walk into Healesville, about 6 or 7 kms, so off they went.

For the rest of us, with the road still blocked as darkness fell that evening, we were stuck there.

I sadly retrieved my suitcase from my car, and thankfully found my tiny torch. The manager informed us that water in the tank was low, and without electricity he was unable to pump water up (from somewhere – Another tank perhaps)

In the kitchen, our cook prepared us a simply yet beautiful evening meal – rice, vegetable curry, and salad. She gathered us all beforehand so she could explain to take just one scoop of each so the food would stretch out to feed each of us. We all expressed our gratitude for having a meal and a bed for the night.

Still I found myself oscillating between feeling angry and sorry for myself. Because I just wanted to go home! I couldn’t figure who to be angry at, but settled the fact there was no generator, and myself for not keeping my phone charged. Although a generator wasn’t going to get me out of there, but my anger wasn’t listening.

With the last tiny charge in my mobile phone, I called home to tell my family and send them my love. Then standing half way up the hill, madly waving my phone in the air, I sent off text messages to my Monday morning Yoga students to cancel the class. Then the battery died. No more phone.

No power, hardly any water, no heaters, no way to get out, and now no phone.

It was getting dark.

I felt alone.

Yet here I was with other people in the same situation.

 

What could I do? What else? I wrapped a blanket around me and headed back into meditation hall with everyone else. Beautiful chants played to lead us into meditation. Then the ipod stereo went dead – and with a few giggles, we returned to silent meditation. The hall was lit softly with the candles in the centre.

Returning to my room with my little torch, there was nothing to do except make my bed (again!) and hop into bed. Of course I was missing my daughter and my son and my husband, but I knew they were safe and sound. And here I was with a comfy bed for the night. I was thankful and I slept well. Yet I was also longing for the light of morning, when I hoped the road would be clear. I knew nothing of what else was going on beyond the retreat centre, and simply thought the trees would be removed. Only later I realised of the devastation was spread much further than one road.

Without an alarm, I woke to the 6am gong, just like everyone else. No hot water for a shower, and in any case rationed water so we couldn’t shower. I considered staying in bed, however joined the 6.30am meditation. I didn’t last for long, as I was overwhelmed by a combination of emotions just ten minutes into sitting so returned to my room.

Soon I heard excited voices outside my room and was informed the road was clear; we could go home! I grabbed my things with lightning speed, and joined everyone in the carpark saying farewells. I was so keen to leave, and everyone was smiling away that we could begin our journey home. But it was a scary drive.

There were branches and logs and trees and debris everywhere so I was driving at walking pace. As I drove, I said prayers of thanks to the people that had cleared the road with their chainsaws. In some spots the clearing was just wide enough to get a car through. I had to stop and soon a convoy of parked cars was behind me, all my fellow meditators, and we all congregated to check out the road and the mess. I didn’t know (and yes I scolded myself for being so dumb as to not know) if it was okay to drive over fallen power lines. Why hadn’t I asked more questions or listened properly to the situation? However the guy in the ute seemed to know what was happening and he went ahead. So each of us slowly followed. But my heart was beating and my stomach was churning, and I kept thinking and saying out aloud to myself “Holy C**p, I’m gonna have to turn back now!”

There were several other spots where we had to stop and survey the situation before driving underneath fallen trees. We continued on slowly.

I was reminded of us all sitting in the meditation hall, and how we are all individuals, having our individual experiences, meditating alone within ourselves, but we were all TOGETHER in that hall, in that circle.

And I remembered the words from a favourite movie of mine “PS I love you”……

”If we are all alone, then we are all together in that too.”

We made it to the end of the road and continued on our ways, perhaps to meet again another time, or perhaps not.

 

So………….

Take hot showers when you can.

Keep your phone battery charged.

Keep your water bottle filled.

Have a torch.

Listen to information carefully.

Know that even when you don’t have all the things you think you need, you will still be okay.

And sometimes you will drive under fallen trees and on roads that are scary. And sometimes the road is windy and bumpy.

And sometimes people will support you who don’t even know you…… and you them.

We actually cannot control mother nature – yet she is still beautiful.  

And it’s perfectly okay to be just as you are – even if worried, stressed, angry, or whatever – just observe and know that you are human – and perfectly imperfect.

And keep on meditating. There’s so much to learn on this windy and bumpy road.

 

Being called to be Nourished

Often little things, little coincidences grab my attention.  Have you ever felt moments of dejavu? Or two or more unrelated people mention the same thing to you within the space of a day or two? Seeing or hearing the same thing several times over? My teacher, Glenda, often said to me that there are no coincidences, only synchronities.

I call them wake-up calls from the universe. And I’m learning to listen.

Here’s one of my favourites from a while ago:

As I was going through a rough patch and struggling with my meditation practice, each afternoon I would ask for a sign that I was on the right track and that I was supported. When I did ask, the synchronity would be seeing a white car drive past at the end of my street. Yep, it was always a white car. White for me represents white light. White light AKA reiki AKA prana. Unconditional love.

What can be more supportive than unconditional love, right?!

Well, one day I was really struggling. It was a really difficult day for reasons that I now cannot recall, but it was a tough one. I had to go out in my car, and as I drove to the end of my street, I was starting to feel hopeless as there wasn’t even a white car in sight. I said “Where is my white one today? I really need it today!”

But the universe also has a sense of humour and likes to make you smile or laugh out loud, when just a second ago you felt hopeless.

I turned the corner, and the car driving towards me was not only a white car, but the numberplate was a personalised one that read – “WHTONE”… Hello Karen – yes you are supported!

Last week while in meditation, I heard the words clearly…

“May I be nourished”

I felt so inspired that I wrote the words down.

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The word “Nourish” then kept leaping out at me from ALL directions. I recalled how I had felt at the yoga intensive I attended recently with Donna Farhi. With so many of the restorative yoga postures she took such INCREDIBLE great care and patience to instruct us how to set ourselves up with all our props and blankets. Several assistants wandered around the room to help each and every student. I remember being in supported Viparita Karani using a chair, bolster and several blankets and a towel, and feeling amazingly comfortable, amazingly supported and really really nourished.

So here is the icing on the nourished cake….

Recently I’ve been listening in to Amy McDonald’s ‘Abundant yoga teacher’ podcasts. I was discovering lots of awesome advice from her. So I tuned into some of her live periscopes, and as a result, was lucky enough to be the recipient of a book prize.

When the parcel arrived on my doorstep a few days later, my children excitedly helped me open as if it was somebody’s birthday! It was a gorgeous book, with a pretty handwritten card….can you guess what the name of the book is?!

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NOURISH – mind body & soul

Thanks for that one Universe, I absolutely love it, and love receiving these little wake-up messages.

Karen ❤❤❤

Meeting my spiritual teacher

Lately it feels the days and weeks are flashing by. I’m committed to 8 weekly yoga classes. Add in to that being a mum to two sweet kids who are growing up quickly. I also assist at my children’s school. And my studies, and my own personal yoga and meditation practice. It’s all keeping me pretty busy, but in a joyous way. Because I love it all.

Many of my yoga students have heard me gushing about my teacher, Belinda Davidson. I have been studying with her online School of the Modern Mystic  (‘SoMM’) since September last year. I have completed level one, and have now commenced level two.

I find it difficult to put into words how much impact the teachings from Belinda have had on my life. I was really hesitant to commit to the level one course, but obviously my soul was drawn to the work. I signed up at the very last minute, literally, just before enrolment closed. I am so glad I took that leap. Not only did I learn about chakras in much more depth than ever before, but I experienced my chakras and my energy field, in ways that I never would have imagined before. I experienced how my energy actually impacts my life. As Belinda says “Get your energy working, and your life works.”

What does it mean to “get your energy working”? What is an “energy field”? And what are “chakras”?

Belinda explains:

“Your energy field, also called your aura, is a magnificent field of pure energy that exists all around you. It not only surrounds your entire body, it also radiates out from beneath your feet, either side of your body and above your head.

Your energy field consists of twelve different levels of vibration. These levels of vibration are called ‘chakras’ and these chakras are found at specific places within your physical body or in your energy field. Six of the twelve chakras are found in the body, and the other six are located above the head.

Each one of your chakras energetically fuels and sustains aspects of your life and your body. They do this by receiving energy for your energy field from the universe and then transporting this energy into a certain area of your life and body. Think of the chakras as happy, eager, diligent workers, who spend all day looking after, managing and organising every aspect of your life.”

Last weekend I was so excited to meet my teacher in person. I have hesitated over the phrase ‘spiritual teacher’ before, but that is what she is to me. Being in her presence and receiving white light healing energy throughout the weekend was simply awesome.

When I was sitting in my seat that first morning, chatting with my soul sisters from ‘SoMM’, I noticed Belinda had entered the room and was preparing to begin. She looked poised, confident and beautiful and I couldn’t take my eyes off her. At first I couldn’t figure out the weird feeling of magnetism, then I realised there was a radiant light shining out of her. I asked my soul sisters to pinch me; I had had several dreams about attending the workshop, and it seemed surreal that I was actually there. Yep – they pinched me! Yep – I was there!

Belinda was born psychic, and she has worked as a medical intuitive for 17 years, including consulting to medical doctors. She is able to read and diagnose a person’s energy and chakras, and observing her in action was nothing short of fascinating. Following her own soul path, she is now devoted to teaching her methods, inspiring others to heal themselves, and guiding people to find their own soul purpose and to be able to express it with the world.

I knew it would take a few days, and possibly weeks or months to assimilate all the information and energy that she shared over that weekend. I have been re-reading my notes; I took eleven pages of notes! I have also been practising what Belinda taught me – how to read people’s energy fields, and to channel white light. It’s pretty amazing. More than amazing actually. It blows my mind.

One ‘ah ha’ moment for me was asking Belinda for assistance as I was attempting to read my partner’s energy (we paired up for practising)… Belinda confirmed my empath tendency to energetically ‘throw myself’ at my person’s energy field, and she sorted me and my chakra 3 out, and wow, I felt so different and much stronger and clearer.

One important thing Belinda spoke about was how many people feel they need ‘protection’ for their energy field when doing energy work. She had posted a message on facebook the prior week which had stirred up some confusion.

The message said: “Don’t worry about protecting your energy from other people – this thought is fear-based and lowers your vibration. Instead, own your own energy and be luminous. This not only protects your energy but also but lifts all those you come into contact with.”

Belinda explained further – if you have fit and strong chakras, then that is your natural protection. Don’t we all want to be luminous and light-filled? Yes please.

In the process of having my mind blown, there is quite a lot of self-doubt and uncertainty coming up, but I feel it is part of the process. I’m asking a lot of questions. Some to myself. Some to my SoMM classmates who are the best ever listeners.

Sometimes there are questions that don’t have answers straight away and that’s okay too.

My meditation-inspiration has taken a huge leap. Things have changed since the weekend. Some things feel less important and some things feel stronger. I feel I’ve been guided and shifted and, again, it’s hard to put into words.

It may have been the white light that Belinda infused the whole weekend with.

It may have been seeing the radiant light shining out of my teacher. Her natural confidence and grace.

It may have been meeting and spending time with my SoMM soul sisters, several who had travelled from interstate to attend the workshop.

It may have been sitting in the sun on the banks of the Yarra with 3 soul sisters talking like we had known each other forever, when we had only just met in person.

It may have been meeting and hugging my beautiful coach Rhondda in person and how my heart felt so happy and full to be with her.

It may have been giving myself a chance to open up to possibilities.

Or all of these things.

I am devoted to my meditation practice. I practice the chakra cleanse meditation regularly – and now every single day. It’s such a powerful practice.

I’m so passionate about learning and exploring within….we each have entire universes within us! When you start to see and feel and experience how amazing your chakras and energy system is, it’s pretty amazing.

I’ve used the words AMAZING and AWESOME a lot I know. This journey has been, and continues to be profound and life changing for me.

For finding my spiritual teacher I am filled with gratitude.

Karen x
http://Belinda Davidson's School of the Modern Mystic starts September 29th!*Disclosure – I’m a proud ambassador and affiliate for this program.

School of the Modern Mystic

I have just completed level 1 of School of the Modern Mystic with Belinda Davidson. I spent six months with this online course and it pretty much blew my socks off!

I am absolutely filled with gratitude. Thank you little voice that whispered in my ear to take the leap and sign up.

Now usually when people think of online courses they think of a whole heap of theory and reading and learning. The School of the Modern Mystic Level 1 course is something different; it’s about EXPERIENCING. If I could sum it up in two words –

LIFE CHANGING.

In the level 1 course you learn about and EXPERIENCE each of your 7 chakras,
you learn about and EXPERIENCE the white light,
and you learn about and EXPERIENCE mindfulness.

I have written previously about Belinda’s Chakra Cleanse Meditation and why healthy chakras are so important.

When your chakras work, your life works!

I will write more about my socks being blown off soon….. but for now, take a look by clicking on the picture below. The link will take you to a FREE online training by Belinda. I highly recommend it!
Belinda is a Psychic and a Medical Intuitive which means she can actually SEE and read other peoples chakras and energy fields. I am so honoured to call her my teacher.

ENJOY! Karen xo

Belinda Davidson's School of the Modern Mystic starts September 29th!

*Disclosure – I’m a proud ambassador and affiliate for this program.

Give yourself a warming 6 minute home yoga practice right now

Hi everybody! I haven’t posted here for a little while, but I re-discovered this gem YouTube clip of Sadie Nardini and wanted to share it for you.

It’s just 6 minutes. So do yourself a favour, unroll your yoga mat, take those socks off, give yourself a gift of a yoga practice! OR… don’t even worry about unrolling your mat, just sit down on a comfy spot on the lounge room floor.

Sadie shares the ‘Golden Flame Breath’. Those students who attend my classes will know it! It’s an amazing practice….you know you have 6 minutes….

Let me know how you go?! I hope you ENJOY!

Karen xo

My three silent days at Maitripa

Friday evening arrival

At the end of the track that is the driveway, I park my car in the car park, beside a huge Buddhist stupa surrounded by prayer-flags flowing in the wind. I turn the ignition off and step out of the car. Time seems to be still. I have been here before and there was the same tranquillity – the wind rustling through the trees, the views over the hills, and the amazing peace and quietness as though there was nobody else around. The other few cars in the carpark gave it away that actually there are other people around…somewhere. I walk across to the tiny building which is the office and peek inside; there is nobody there, so instead I just gaze out at the view. The nervousness I had felt during the drive here is already starting to fade a tiny bit, or at least melt at the edges. Funny that I am nervous all over again, when I have been here before and attended silent retreats before. Not really sure what I am worrying about anyway.

I see a guy walking from the café/kitchen and he walks to me and introduces himself – D, the manager. He assigns me a room and I hug myself smiling, knowing it’s the room right next door to the room I had been in last year, and overlooking the beautiful garden and hills. Just as I remember, it’s a tiny room with a smooth wooden floor, a single bed and a bedside-table with a lamp – simple…. and all mine for 3 nights. Down the path at the end of the building is the meditation hall, and beside that is the building which includes the bathrooms. The bathrooms are sort of caravan-park style, with a few spiders hiding in the corners, yet very clean and perfectly fine.

I walk the path to the meditation hall, slip my shoes off, and enjoy the luxury of feeling like there is still nobody else around – I step inside. The same amazing peaceful energy fills the room. It’s beautifully decorated with Buddhist statues, pictures, and adornments at the front of the room and also a colourfully decorated roof. Our red meditation cushions are set out in a large circle around a room, and in the centre of the room a candle circled by crystals.

As I walk around the garden I meet some of my neighbours and fellow meditators that I will soon be sharing the silence with. Funny how I feel a little awkward and shy being there by myself BUT everyone else is exactly the same – there alone! And everyone is lovely and friendly and keen to chat….well we only have a couple of hours until our first meditation session and then the silence will begin. It’s lovely to see V again who attended the retreat with me last year – its funny that we don’t really know each other, besides from the fact that we both practice yoga and meditation and have been through the retreat experience before, but chatting to her is very comfortable and she feels like a friend. She tells me that she is booked to attend A’s next retreat also which is 10 days in India and I smile and I’m excited for her.

Over dinner our whole table chats as if we are old friends. One lovely lady, D suddenly realises from our conversation that the whole retreat will be in silence, and she erupts with laughter at herself; she is obviously a very chatty and social person and looks at us in mock horror wondering how she will survive. We all giggle along with her.

The first session in the mediation hall begins a little late because dinner was running a bit over time and also there were a few people still arriving and checking-in. Walking in for that first session feels a little funny, as I remember previously – because as I choose a ‘spot’ and place my own mediation cushion and blankets there, this will be my ‘spot’ in the circle. And suddenly I’m more conscious of other peoples’ energies. Soon all the places except one are filled. Then our meditation begins.

There is a person making small noises and I find it a bit distracting. A lady on the other side of me has a pop-up meditation seat, that is sort of tent-like, and I find myself disapproving of it. I begin to wonder about the choice of my spot. I begin to wonder WHAT I am doing here. I begin to wonder about the talk that is going on in my head.

The one remaining place is filled part way through our session, as we are going around the circle to introduce ourselves. A young lady tiptoes stiffly into the hall and sits on the cushion and introduces herself as ‘needing’ meditation to be able to ‘function’ in her life due to various problems that she didn’t elaborate on. She looks a mixture of vulnerable, stressed and determined, and I like her already. I feel a little sad for her that she didn’t get to chat with any of us over dinner, how she is thrown right in at the deep end straight into silence.

I am extremely tired by the time my head hits the pillow. Plus I have a mild headache. Luckily I packed my heat-pack, and placing the weight of that across my eyes, I tuck myself into bed expecting that I just need a really good sleep.

Saturday

Sleep didn’t happen very well at all. Nonetheless I’m out of bed at 5.11am to take a shower before the morning session. It’s sort of nice being out in the morning air when it’s so quiet and still and dark. I’m the first in the bathroom and so there is no waiting for showers. Thank goodness for the beautiful hot shower and I feel a tiny bit better, despite my headache still hanging around. As the 6am wake-up gong is being chimed, I make myself a cup of peppermint tea in the kitchen, and so I have plenty of time to drink my tea, walk into the garden, and gaze at the morning sky lighting up the hills.

At 6.30am we are all seated in the meditation hall and our meditation begins to the sound of a version of Gayatri mantra from A’s ipod. At least I think it’s Gayatri mantra – I notice thoughts inside my head wishing for silence instead of the music; the guy chanting has a very deep voice that seems weird to me. Annoyance rises up…. as if I’m sitting in my car stuck in traffic at roadworks and the guy holding the sign looks as at though he is never planning to turn his sign from ‘stop’ to ‘slow’. After the mantra we continue our meditation in the silence. My headache makes it a little challenging to stay seated upright and I have to remember to be compassionate to myself, so after a while I fold forward and place my head down on the floor on a blanket. Plus there is the left leg starting to go numb around about the 30 minute mark, grrrr!

The timetable is:

6.30 – 7.30am                    Meditation session

7.30 – 9.00am                    Yoga class

9.00am                                Breakfast, then free time

11.00 – 12.30pm               Seated Meditation, including 15 minutes walking meditation

1pm                                       Lunch, then free time

3.30pm – 5.00pm             Meditation session, including 15 minutes walking meditation

6pm                                       Dinner

7.30 – 9.00pm                    Meditation session, including discussion

I had sort of forgotten how the self-talk keeps going inside, despite no external talking. The internal talk seems to become louder, like it’s trying to find a way out! For this purpose I write a lot in my journal and A LOT comes out. I am annoyed about many things, past, present, future. Annoyance seems to be a big theme…..which I realise is the polar opposite of a quality I would much prefer to cultivate – Contentment.

I eat a very big breakfast of museli, stewed prunes, yoghurt, and toast with honey. Then I sign my name into the ‘hill walkers’ list. All I need to do is pop back into my room for my hat, water-bottle and mobile phone. I get incredibly frustrated at myself that I cannot find my hat; where could I have left it?! Grrrr! But i give up the hunt and decide the trees are very shady and I’ll survive without it.

I walk up the hill, amongst the most beautiful gum trees, ferns, birds and the wind gently blowing….i notice lots more self-talk and it’s distracting me from just enjoying the beauty of nature. My self-talk is loud and critical, and I’m so annoyed at myself. How can I be so silly to have lost my hat, and racking my brains trying to figure out where I left it. And I’m annoyed at being annoyed! I am aware of the negativity of my self-talk, and console myself that at least I am aware. Returning to my room, my hat (of course) reveals itself as being there all along.

Lunch – amazing! Chickpea and veggie curry with rice, rosted pumpkin and sweet potatoes and salad. Then dessert – apple crumble! ……how nurturing to be served such beautiful meals! I realise that because of my big brekky I hadn’t felt hungry for any morning tea, and because of my big lunch I know I won’t be hungry for any afternoon tea either. I just take a pear from the fruit bowl.

Mostly during free time, I rest my weary head. A combination of resting, alternate nostril breathing, ‘legs up the wall’ pose, and self-reiki. But my headache isn’t really budging much, and just like my self-talk, I realise that for the time being I will have to live with it.

I have a little conversation with myself about the evening meditation session – perhaps I shouldn’t go and just go to bed earlier. But I don’t want to miss anything. But my head is driving me crazy and I’m so tired. But it’s just seated meditation. In the end, I push myself to go. The gong chimes and I slip off my shoes, enter the hall, and take my seat on the meditation cushion.

Despite my aching head, I feel quite peaceful as we begin meditation. But as previously, I need to keep placing my head down and end up in child’s pose with a blanket under my head. I become annoyed I have to shuffle around a bit to get myself comfortable, but I’m trying to be gentle with myself….yes ‘trying’. And I start finding annoyance in the small movements and small noises from others beside me. Am I really meditating at all?… because I’m too busy being annoyed! The annoyance flood-gates seem to open and memories flood in. My body even becomes uncomfortable in child’s pose – and noticing that I scold myself internally – “How can I, a yoga teacher, be uncomfortable in child’s pose?!”

I go to bed exhausted, after a fair amount of more venting in the pages of my journal. I console myself that tonight, night two, I will get a great night sleep.

I’m missing my children and husband, and I suppose feeling a bit sorry for myself.

Well, yes, I fall asleep as my head hits the pillow……but then the theme of annoyance continues! Because not one, but at least two mosquitoes keep buzzing near my head and I cannot sleep. I know it’s more than one, because at 3am I finally squash one (sorry gentle Buddhists) and I then lie back on the bed. But soon the next mozzie is buzzing by my ear. I give up, cover my head and face and fall asleep from exhaustion around 4am.

Sunday

It’s light outside when I wake and I realise the 6am gong is being chimed. Damn it. I throw on my clothes and try to get my head straight. ARGH….headache, when will you leave? This morning calls for a cup of tea with milk; it’s the least I can do for myself to be able to make it into the meditation hall with any sort of ‘okay-ness’. The water in the urn isn’t all that hot, so the tea is just warm, but – whatever! I almost scull it down, grab my yoga mat and blanket and make it to the hall just before the 6.30am gong.

I settle myself on my ‘spot’ and the same version of Gayatri mantra plays from the ipod. My neighbours either side of me seem as steady and still as rocks, and I realise that I feel very comfortable by their constantly being there either side of me. Seeing my lovely neighbour on my right sitting there and looking so peaceful in Virasana on top of her cushions, I wonder if it’s really true that she has never meditated before (as she had mentioned at our first dinner); she just looks like such a natural.

The one hour of meditation seems way too long and is extremely challenging for me. In the silence my mind starts stirring up more stuff. I decide to do my chakra cleanse meditation…after all there is plenty of time and plenty of silence. So I work my way from my base chakra upwards, a meditation practice I have learnt from my modern mystic course with Belinda Davidson. We stay in the hall for yoga – which of course my body soaks up like a sponge, even despite my headache. But there is even more annoyance during yoga….just about little things which seem rather petty and silly, people making noises, people stomping into the hall too loudly, my neighbour swishing her arm near my face….I start wishing to be away from other bodies. I start wishing for solitude.

In my room after breakfast as I try to rest my weary head, I start daydreaming about packing everything up, packing it into my car, and driving home to my husband and children. I’m homesick. And I’m so tired of the voice in my head, the judgements, the criticism. I resolve that if I stay, then I won’t go to the evening meditation session tonight. I will just sleep as much as I can. And enjoy the peaceful surrounds. And gaze at the sky. Breakfast had been really nice – hot porridge with prunes and yoghurt. You know what else I loved about breakfast? D was there next to me when I sat down with my bowl and I looked at her and she smiled at me and I smiled back. Also across on the next table V and I shared a smile after we both noticed the toast had popped with no claimant. Oh goodness, I need those smiles. Why? I suppose it’s support. And acceptance. And being okay with myself.

When the gong goes for the 11am session I sigh and drag myself there. I feel like I’ve been run over by a tractor. At least I don’t have to make any conversation, because with the lack of sleep I’m not sure I could string a sentence together without sounding like an idiot.

A talks about compassion for self……aha, that’s me! He also talks about resting in the body, and noticing any areas of tension or pain and softening around it…..another aha! Still the self-talk drags on…..it’s like I’m trying to pile ‘shame’ on myself….”you are a yoga teacher and you meditate every day, yet you can’t sit upright?” “You are just dealing with a headache, and some people deal with chronic pain for god’s sake” “Why are you even here? What’s the point? You are getting nowhere!”.

In the silence, I practice my chakra cleanse meditation again. My mind wanders away, my self-talk continues, but I keep drawing back to the chakra I’m up to and I breathe in the colour and I relax as I breathe out. …..from somewhere I hear the words “it’s okay Karen…..”

“It’s okay, you don’t have to attend the evening session, you can go to sleep early instead.” “It’s okay, if you cannot sit up, just lie on your back like a few of the other people are.” “It’s okay if you aren’t even meditating, so what?” “It’s okay, you are doing fine.”

“IT’s ALL OKAY”

In the afternoon, I take a hot shower and let the water stream down over my shoulders. I comb conditioner through my hair and remove all the knots. I dress in clean and warm clothes, as the evening is becoming very cool. I’m reminded how small acts of self-care and self-kindness can go a long way. The power of a hot shower.

Before dinner, I sit outside on the hill, on the far edge of the garden overlooking the valley towards Healesville. My hair still damp and flying around to dry in the breeze (which is lucky as I didn’t pack a hairdryer and the nights get cold here). I cross my legs and close my eyes and slipping into meditation is easy….. I start bringing awareness to my chakras. I realise my headache is almost clear, my energy is restoring. I just sit. I feel such peace.

For some reason A chimes the gong early for our evening session. My doubts about attending the evening session are gone and I walk barefoot into the hall and join the circle. What beautiful energy our circle has. I’m reminded of a comment A told us of a person who said that he felt more connected to the circle of people he was meditating with and didn’t know at all, that he felt after having long conversations with people he did know. I sit up straight easily and effortlessly begin to meditate and I love the music that fills the room and that special auspicious time of the evening as the dusk begins to creep up. I peek out the windows and see the colour of the sky. I know it’s getting chilly out there and I’m glad to be cosy in this hall and part of the circle.

But soon, it’s brought to A’s attention that one person who is not sitting on her meditation cushion in the circle may not have returned from her afternoon bushwalk. Her room is opened to find that she isn’t there. There is no response when calling her mobile phone. Several people organise to search for her. The search is unsuccessful and I’m standing by the office waiting for news with several others, as we see two police FWDs pull up in the carpark. The evening is becoming cold and dark, and we are all concerned for her safety. Around 10pm we are all sitting on the tables outside the kitchen when we hear  call from nearby “They found her!” We are all so thankful she is okay, and then she arrives – very exhausted from her 7 plus hours of walking, very apologetic to everybody, but we are all so relieved she is here with us. Our silence will begin again when we wake in the morning.

I can’t wait to tuck myself into bed, and finally I sleep like a peaceful and content baby.

Monday

Just before 6.30am it’s such a lovely thing to walk into our meditation circle and feel the caring that we all felt towards Am last night. She was lost and all we wanted to do was find her and bring her ‘home’. It just goes to show that ‘interconnectedness’ does exists between us – it doesn’t seem to matter that mostly we don’t know each other at all.

This, our last day, feels like someone pressed the fast forward button, and I want to savour every moment. The walking meditation on the grass is so wonderful, being in that slow motion movement feels like time is also slowing right down. I love the feel of the earth beneath my feet and my body feels so at ease.

We enjoy a beautiful lunch together and now we can all talk. Everyone has so much to share – there is talk about the mosquitoes, spiders (including a massive huntsman in the ladies bathroom which was relocated into the garden), and reptiles. Sleeplessness. Meditation positions. Struggles are shared. Everyone is smiling, sharing and being heard.

Our closing circle is different from our opening circle. When it’s my turn, I feel nervous to speak for about the first 3 words, and then I just keep talking and suddenly it’s easy. I look around the circle as I pause between words, and everyone is listening, and they care about what I say.

I listen to each person in turn and I love hearing their words. I love hearing about their experiences. We are all unique. And yet we are all pretty much the same.

I’m not a fan of goodbyes. I receive hugs and give them. We slowly make our way out, little by little, saying goodbye to others as we go. I have everything packed in my car, except my meditation cushion and car keys in my hands. I’m still waving goodbye as I unlock my car and jump in. I start the ignition and I’m smiling to myself. I wonder what the kids got up to over the weekend with their dad, and I can’t wait to hug them all.

The ‘Gayatri mantra’ is playing inside my head, the version that A played each morning at 6.30am, and I love it.

My heart is glad, content, and peaceful…… I’m saying goodbye to Maitripa, but it’s just for now.

maitripa2 jan2015  maitripa3 jan2015maitripa4 jan2015    maitripa jan2015

Hints for the home practicing yogi

So you’ve attended a fair amount of yoga classes and are wondering how to make a home-practice work for you?

Here’s a few hints that I hope will help you…..

1. Keep it simple and realistic

My current commitment is just 10 minutes each day. I do suggest each and every day; it might sound a bit scary but this is a commitment to yourself. Sometimes I just practice for 10 minutes, but usually longer….if time permits! I am a mother, so sometimes time doesn’t permit. If you have other responsibilities, be flexible so you can still have your practice.

One morning my son was awake with the sparrows and so he joined me for meditation…it wasn’t what I had in mind, as I had wanted to be alone, but it worked fine, and allowed me to use my mantra of ‘acceptance’. So long as I get my 10 minutes, then ‘tick’.

2. Same time each day

For me it’s first thing in the morning, and although it wasn’t always easy, now I cannot go without it. Like I cannot leave the house without eating breakfast or brushing my teeth. It’s just non-negotiable and such a valuable part of beginning my morning.

3. Same place

If you have a cosy corner of your bedroom or lounge room, make that your space. Small is fine. It will gather a lovely vibe pretty quickly if you practice there each day!  If enough space, leave your yoga-mat or meditation cushion there….I also like to have warm blanket for the chilly mornings. But, I have to admit, I don’t worry about my yoga mat so much anymore. I used to think I couldn’t practice yoga without it, but then I realised I was creating a barrier. My place in the mornings is beside the window in my room, and I have my meditation cushion and blanket nearby; if I practice asana after my meditation, I do without my mat.

Have a ‘back up’ place also, in case that cosy corner is needed by other family members. For example I often go into my backyard in the early mornings. When I’m travelling I find a place that will be my ‘spot’ for the time. Eg, in a park, under a tree, near the beach, under a shelter…but needs to be within reasonable walking distance.  So long as you won’t be disturbed by others, or at least feel that you wouldn’t be distracted if you heard other people nearby.

4. Be prepared

If you plan an early morning practice, then think about it the night before. If you have what you need organised and nearby, there is less chance of accidently waking family members. Plus it’s hard to ‘chicken out’ when everything is all set.

In winter keep warm or you will be distracted. Rug up…scarf, beanie, extra blankets wrapped around waist/chest, explorer socks….Melbourne winter mornings can be really cold, but I no longer let that deter me! If outdoors wear shoes if it keeps your feet warm.  I’ve even practiced on chilly winter mornings with a blanket right over my head! Salute to sun as the beginning of practice brings lots of warmth. Extra padding needn’t stop you from moving your body!

In summer it’s a little easier!

5. Inspiration from classes

I find the best inspiration comes from things that I love so much that they remain in my memory. You could even take a pen & paper to class and write things down afterwards (probably not during class, unless it’s a workshop!)

If there is something from class that you love but can’t quite remember, please ask me (or those that attend other teachers, do ask your teacher, they are there to support you and your practice)! I love to be asked!

6. Other inspiration

Books, Dvds, Youtube, facebook, blogs, apps! There is so much information out there to get your inspired! The only risk is getting yourself overloaded. For that reason, books are my personal preference, because it takes me a lot longer to read and absorb the information.

A really excellent book on establishing a home practice….

Forty Days of Yoga: Breaking Down the Barriers to a Home Yoga Practice by Kara-Leah Grant.

Forty Days of Yoga: Breaking Down the Barriers to a Home Yoga Practice

And I do have lots more book recommendations, but I will save that for another time!

7. Record your practice

I highly recommend you keep a diary or notebook, so you can make notes of your practice as you go…..eg. what you practiced, how you felt? You may decide to stick with a particular practice such as seated meditation, or salute to the sun, and that helps bring a ‘rhythm’ to your practice.

Writing about it is really ideal, even if you just spend one minute afterwards. You could also write questions that you are unsure of and ask me (or your teacher) next class. Plus it keeps you accountable to yourself! AND it helps with Self-motivation!

There is also a great app that I recently added onto my phone, called ZenFriend….it’s fantastic because a)it’s free (although upgradable), b)it’s a timer with a peaceful chime, and c)it keeps track of each session and you can add a note.

There are lots more apps out there, but I look for the simple and easy ones, so that I’m not loosing valuable practice time looking at the app.

8. Reward yourself

Because you deserve it! After I reached 40 days using the guidance of Kara-Leah Grant’s book that I mentioned above, my reward to myself was booking myself in to do a reiki level one course…and I loved every second!

I hope you find some of my suggestions helpful! The final suggestion I will leave you with is the most simple and most helpful for me…because JOY allows everything to flow:

Enjoy your practice

Best wishes! Karen

Giving

This morning I loaded three big bags of groceries into my car, took my children into school, popped in to say good morning to their teachers, hugged them goodbye, and then returned to my car and then visited these lovely ladies at Anglicare……

Yes! I did my elf thing and took our donations in!

AA anglicare ladies

AA anglicare donations

Thank you to my students. It is so wonderful to be the elf and deliver our donations. I am so humbled by everyone’s generosity.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Wishing you and your family a peaceful and joyous Christmas and New Year

With Gratitude, Karen