Appreciate now. Tomorrow will never come.

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Speaking from personal experience, I’ve often found it can be too late before showing someone how much they truly mean to you. Or at least just being aware of this. It’s not until you need to say goodbye before realising how much that person actually meant.

Well before leaving for India, I was very conscious of this. Every moment spent with my Owen and pooch in particular was precious. I also had some of the most memorable and special moments with my family that I’ve had in a long time. Back home I was constantly in a state of stress, worry.. and this took from my life. Presence just didn’t exist. I realise now I don’t want to allow myself to ever allow those feelings take from me again. Coming to India I was committed to ‘noticing’ and appreciating every moment. To be present and feel gratitude for the people I’ve met along the way, for the cows which greet me outside my apartment door each day and the noise which is relentless and ear piercing. Over the past week I’ve been getting photos of people who have been important in my life here. For some, I’ve shared deep conversations whilst for others it may have been just a simple smile. Regardless of how well I got to know the person, equally these people have meant more to me than they will ever realise. And it appears I too mean something special to them as I’ve received many hugs and sad looks (that this is goodbye), but of course well wishes. My heart has been truly touched.

My commitment to self is to always take time to appreciate everything and everyone in my life. Whether it be a family member or the man at the local corner store who says “good morning”. This is what brings happiness. Contentment. And no amount of money can buy this. It’s something I’ve truly realised and accepted (key point here) for myself and how lucky I am for this. We can read all the books in the world about gratitude and appreciation, but until we truly ‘feel’ it, then the words of those books will remain a theory.

As I mentioned before, my day has been spent packing - tying up loose ends and saying my goodbyes. I met with the wonderful Ganesh one final time to pick up my train ticket, change money and collect pepper spray! Yes - you read correctly. As a solo female traveller its recommended women carry this as a precaution when travelling in the north in particular. So, I have it.

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I shared a wonderful conversation with the owner of Depth N Green whilst enjoying my favourite vegan thali (I will miss this) followed by an enormous coconut. Carrying that up the hill was a workout in itself!

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The team at Depth N Green. Such wonderful people.

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This evening I shall pack my final things and then sit in reception to chat with Pradeep and Chetin (two of my three favourite reception boys - Suresh is the other) who are really sad to be saying goodbye.

My room no longer feels like my room. Everything is packed up (pretty much). It feels sterile and I’m looking forward to leaving it now. I’ve also got some things I will donate to a lovely couple who live in a besser block 3m by 2m building outside the apartment, sleeping on a concrete floor with absolutely nothing. My lovely red mat (among other things) shall go to them. They can keep it on their floor now and try to make it a little nicer for them.

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Tomorrow morning I will be picked up at 9.30am to go to Mysore train station. From there I will travel to Bangalore and then board a second overnight train to Kovalam, Kerala. I doubt I will have internet so it’s unlikely I can post anything in my blog - but I will be sure to keep track of the journey and give an update as soon as I find internet again.

So with that, I shall wish everyone my last goodnight from Good Touch Apartments in Gokulam, Mysore. Thank you again for reading. See you again on the road!

Namaste xx


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Time to say goodbye to my Valentines Day roses (and birthday flowers too…)

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It’s not quite the same practicing in my room

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The most amazing vegan thali

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Good night Gokulam. Until next time.

Smile and enjoy. It will change your life.

As I write this I am listening to the sound of glorious rain. The second time it has rained since being in Mysore. This first was about a month ago for a couple of hours only. Whilst singing my favourite slow, almost sad, evening chant with Bharath’s wife, the thunder began giving hints of what was to come, followed by lighting and then a sudden, almost explosive opening up of the skies. The rain bucketed down for the next half hour. We then sat in the dark, starring at the flame of a candle (for our usual evening Trakata kriya/meditation) all the while listening to the rain pour and the thunder roll. It created such an eerie yet almost magical atmosphere. The streets were dark as power was off all through Mysore. Only those homes and buildings with generators remained lit. One was certainly very careful walking home in the pitch black with crazy Mysorian drivers around. Definitely an evening to remember.

There were so many things which happened today that I wanted to recount. But I shall select only a couple or I could be here all night and I have an exam to study for (it’s tomorrow).

Time for subtitles.

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Om:

At 4.40am I was standing outside the Shala and ready to prepare myself for our morning meditation then asana practice. With new cotton mat in hand, I was ready to give it a test run. This morning was a little different to normal. Usually the Shala is well lit as we enter, however today it was in complete darkness with only a faint red spotlight shining on the huge Om which is painted on the back wall. The feeling of the room was instantly calm and sacred. I totally forgot we were doing Om meditation this morning so I moved myself to the back of the room with all the others when I noticed everyone back there.

Bharath entered the Shala at 5.00am on the dot and quietly sat behind us all – directly behind me in fact. In complete darkness, we all sat motionless starring at Om and then chanting Om together – over and over and over for half an hour. Ommmmmm, Ommmmmm, Ommmmmm, Ommmmmm…. It’s amazingly calming but I swear I thought I was hallucinating at one stage. The vortex Om is painted in just drew me in. And then there was quite a substantial amount of time where I sat hating the meditation, worried I was going to be chanting Om for the rest of my life, in this agonizing pain my back and hips were in. Knowing Bharath was behind me also meant I didn’t dare move my legs. I was terribly distracted. I went from focused to not focused over and over and over again. Who would have thought sitting perfectly still and chanting Om for half an hour would be such a struggle! We will do this for the rest of our mornings here, and on Saturday, we will do it for 1 hour before our Surya Namaskara Marathon straight after. God help me.

A moment:

After out mid morning class which takes us through to lunch, a gorgeous (personality and beauty) Iranian woman who is training with us, stopped me outside as she wanted to tell me something. We’ve never spent much time together so I had no idea what she was going to say. She told me she has always admired how much I enjoy everything about my training. She said she watches me all the time – in asana practice, in philosophy, student lectures, chanting etc – and she can see how much I love being there. And even though I find something challenging or struggle to learn something, for example an asana and how to correctly adjust, she has noticed that I still manage to be completely present, smile and still enjoy the process. She said I inspire her to be the same way. That even if she is finding something challenging, to always try and stay positive and enjoy. This completely blew me away. What a lovely thing to say to someone. She may never know how much that meant to me, but it is something I shall carry with me always. I think about my previous life in the corporate world. I never had this same passion. It took from me. But it’s also made me appreciate this new path, these new choices, so much more. Those experiences shaped who I am today and I now feel truly lucky for the path I have been led down.

Contrary to this conversation, unfortunately I ended up eating lunch with some other students who were having a completely oppostie conversation. Long story short, all they were doing was complaining. They don’t like listening to Bharath, they don’t like philosphy classes etc etc. I couldn’t believe how negative they were being. I just kept quiet and ate my lunch rather than getting involved in this crap conversation. It was as though they had listened to nothing about what yoga fundamentally is - the control of the mind, having an open mind, acceptance…  I honestly felt/feel sad for them because those attitudes are stopping them from enjoying their time here. It’s all about perception. If you want to enjoy, you will. If you want to experience no pain, you can. If you want to sit chanting Om for 1 hour motionless - it can be done! Our minds are the hardest things to control, but it is within our control still. So choose differently. Choose better. Be open to experiences rather than closed. Then wisdom will come.

Quality:

My final point - I used my new cotton mat this morning. Turns out I was the most stable I have ever been in Sirsasana - splitting my legs, twisting my body from side to side with heels touching, lowering my legs parallel to the ground - and this is all because my arms weren’t sliding out from under me. Great investment!

As the mat smelt of chemicals, I decided to wash it after class. Then tonight, mid way through class as I was beginning to slip, I rolled it out and it turns out I now have only 70% of the mat I had this morning. Looks like a good 30% shrank in the wash! I officially have the most anorexic cotton yoga mat in the class, and possibly anywhere - but hey, it’s India! Rather than get annoyed, I just laughed. Just another unique thing about this place. Nothing is perfect which is such a great way to be. As long as its wider than my feet, it shall still do the job. Haha.

Ok, time to study. Thanks for reading and remember to keep smiling. It will change your world for sure.

Namaste xx


Special moments from my day

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He was so proud to have his picture taken with his orange

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Power cables are never too close to the ground!

I’m going to miss these

It may be little, but it’s very powerful if you find it

I did it. I gave in and got myself a cotton mat to use in the mornings. I’m getting frustrated with how often I slip off my Manduka mat. Nothing to do with my mat itself. It’s just the pools of sweat below which cause me to lose my grip. I haven’t trained with a cotton mat before so this should be a new experience! (I’m not sure how I’m going to carry all the luggage I have back home - but I shall worry about that when the time comes). Also, our asana classes have been upped to 2 hours for the rest of our course, beginning with tonights class. So from tomorrow morning we are starting 30 minutes earlier. Hello 3.30am alarm! We will also do another Surya Namaskara marathon before the completion of the course, so I want to try and stay on my mat for this. My goodness that is going to be an intense morning!

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Today I was chatting with the owner of Depth N Green again. He is such a lovely man and always gives me tea - green with ginger, brewed for about 10 minutes and served in the cutest metal cups. Looking sharp and trendy as always in his salmon polo shirt, jeans and raybans, he sat by the entrance of the restaurant where he would virtually yell across the room to speak with me, trying to compete with the outside noise. We talked about many things to do with feeling calm and present in your life, being able to find inner peace rather than looking outside for it. All that sort of stuff. But he also shared with me a story which had a big impact on me and I hope may inspire others also. It goes something like this..

“When I was in my 20’s I wanted to visit Varanasi, so I took a bus from Delhi to go there. That is a looong way. Unfortunately the bus didn’t go the whole way. It stopped in *town name* where I then needed to catch another bus which would take a big detour to get there. I was annoyed. Really frustrated about this.

On the bus I met a monk. An American woman. A big woman. I found her to be a really inspiring person, who helped me to be a little calmer,  and we’re still in touch today (this is about 20 years ago now). While we were stopped for some food, at about 11.00pm at night, the monk and the rest of the group went inside but I decided to wait outside. I was just really annoyed at how long this was taking. I started looking up at the sky. It was a clear night and the sky was black. But I found a single star amongst the dark. I sat there for about 25, maybe 30 minutes, and starred at that star. That experience changed my life. What I realised is - no matter how dark things may get, if you can see just the tiniest bit of light amongst it, it will change you forever. If you can see something positive in everything you do, you will live such a happy life. No matter how bad something may seem, always look for the little bit of positive, because it will be there if you allow yourself to see.”

Wow. I just loved this honest, personal story he shared. Of course I’m consciously trying to be a positive person, but the way he explained this idea, although very simple, was also very powerful.

I guess the question to oneself could be: “Am I looking for the little light in the darkness ? If not, start looking”

Namaste xx


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A simple one, but a great one

I didn’t do a lot today, but of what I did do, I had an amazing time.

Something one comes to realise when living in the bubble of Gokulam, is how fast the outside world is moving. Why do we fill our days with so many activities? Why do we feel the need to buy more and more material things? Do we need those extra shoes or bracelets for example? And why is it the quiet person, who is happy with the simpler things in life, or better still - one’s own company - is frowned upon?

These are the honest thoughts which have just come to me whilst trying to work out how to structure tonight’s blog post. I say this because my amazing day may seem nothing short of boring to so many in the world. And it may very well be. But for me, I make no excuses for being the quiet one, happy with the simpler things in life, as this is where the bliss in life lies for me.

With that said, my day involved nothing more than a wonderful conversation with two beautiful young women I met at Anu’s (over a chocolate smoothie of course), and an evening class with Bharath (lesson not asana) followed by a simple dinner on the floor of Barath’s home. No extreme sports, shopping, wining and dining. This was it. Oh, and my weekly washing. I love getting this done!

Today really was a highlight day for me - of the entire trip. For one, these two lovely women, Marie from Norway and Amy from Scotland, were just genuine people. As I find it so challenging to meet genuine people nowadays, meeting them were like a breath of fresh air. We chatted for hours, and had I not needed to go home to get my undies off the line in the communal downstairs car park, I would have stayed longer.

We talked of many things, but as one would expect when you have a group of yoga practitioners together, the conversation naturally turned to that of yoga. Marie and Amy practice Ashtanga yoga, something I am not too familiar with. But type of yoga aside, fundamentally the purpose of yoga is the same. That is, we are seeking a way to still our mind. Asana is of course the first way to do this, hence the practice is so common and widely spread in the world. Something I really appreciated was Amy’s comment that yoga is bigger than all of us. She is absolutely correct. This statement can be interpreted on so many levels, but for me, as yoga helps me to connect with the deeper parts of myself, I can then connect with deeper external/universal energies (well, try to!). For example, if my energy and awareness in life is poor, then my connection to the greater world, including energy I omit and receive in return, will also be poor.The opposite is also true. If my energy is high and I can connect with myself on a deeper level, then my ability to connect with the world is also heightened. It’s important to remember yoga is not just about asana. That is one component of yoga. Moreso, it is the ability to bring yoga into your daily life. Whether on a boat, in an office or a crazy market place, an ability to maintain presence demonstrates a true, deeper level has been attained.

With yoga, we need to remember we are practicing what our teachers have taught us, their teachers taught them, those teachers were taught by other teachers and so on and so forth. This practice is thousands of years old and as practitioners we have a responsibility to honor this practice and its history. To treat it with utmost respect and remain committed to implementing the learnings into our daily lives. Often people can forget how old this practice is, how important it has been to many millions of people over the years. Yoga is not the latest trend, or fad diet. It is an art form which should be treated with respect. As a teacher and practitioner, I have a responsibility to this practice. To continually strive to deepen my own practice. Only then, am I in a position to teach it to others.

We also chatted about whether it is good or bad if people miss classes. As Amy pointed out, our teachers do not care if we miss a class as that is not their problem. It is our problem. If we miss a class, we are the ones who have lost, have missed out. The enormous benefits by which this practice can give to every human being have been lost. I too agree. To the practitioner who has a regular routine, they will notice the effects within themselves when a practice has been missed. Energy is not quite right for that day. However, in saying that, one also needs to allow themselves the freedom to miss a class should their body need this rest because, as I mentioned before, yoga is not just about the asana. It’s about how to bring yoga into our daily lives which is where the real power lies.

A lovely conversation I was disappointed to leave.

View of the sunset from the Shala

Ready for Part II - bring on 500+Hrs TTC!

This evening we commenced the second half of my 500+hr TTC. There are nine of us in total. Two new students, who completed training with Bharath in previous years, have joined our small group. Duncan and Josephine. They seem like lovely people.

In class, Bharath took us through the course structure for the coming month, and I have to say I am very excited about what’s to come. We will learn about (and practice of course) advanced kriyas, bandhas, mudras, asanas, adjustments - among many other things. This month is all about achieving Sadhana, about deepening our practice. Its not about learning asanas and their limitations etc. We know all this. Now we go deeper. We will also be writing a thesis (and delivering a one hour presentation in two weeks time) on working with a student who suffers a particular ailment. Again, we are going deeper now which is exciting.

As Bharath has gotten to know us all, he has also become much more ‘chatty’. He maintains the respect as a teacher, but there is a wall he has removed allowing us to get a little closer to him (if that makes any sense). The class format seems far more relaxed and I guess this is more easily achieved when working with a much smaller group. Bharath also seemed more comfortable at dinner sitting on the floor with us, laughing and eating, telling stories and sharing lessons. For such a young man, only 35, he has so much wisdom. I could listen to him talk for hours. I am completely inspired by this man. Unlike yesterday with obsessed followers of Amma who tend to lack any rationality around why they are so obsessed, with Bharath everything he says has reason to it. There is logic to his words and he only speaks of what he knows and has studied intently. This is why I hold him with such high regard.

So, as one can see, today was a simple day, but a truly great day. Because, for me, it’s the simple but meaningful conversations with genuine people, with no agenda or ulterior motive but to purely share and learn from one another, which brings joy to my world. This is where the substance is. To me, this is living.

With my alarm set for 4.00am (yes back to that routine) it is now time to prepare for bed. I have a vinyasa flow class first thing!

Enjoy your practice, and remember to ask yourself - “are you bringing yoga into your life?”

Namaste xx