Appreciate now. Tomorrow will never come.

image

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.

image

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!

image

The team at Depth N Green. Such wonderful people.

image

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.

image

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


image

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

image

It’s not quite the same practicing in my room

image

The most amazing vegan thali

image

Good night Gokulam. Until next time.

Welcome to the real world - outside the bubble

With every excursion I take here in Mysore, I am exposed to more and more of what India is really like. Here in Gokulam, we are in a lovely bubble where we are safe, have nice restaurants designed to meet the needs of westerners, and the equivalent of luxury accommodation. At first, I was shocked by the state of living.. how naive I was. Out there, in the outskirts of Mysore is a whole other story. The poverty is so terribly sad. Whilst headed for, and returning from, the Sandalwood Oil Factory and Silk Factory, I kept thinking the standard of living couldn’t get any worse. But it did. I was taken through back streets which exposed the harsh reality of what it’s like to be poor and live in this country. Children playing in dirt, people sleeping in gutters, makeshift tents which are rotten and barely standing act as someones permanent home. The homes which are actually made of cement are crumbling, rotting and like something out of a war movie (after the war has destroyed everything). People are always dirty. There is never an opportunity to be clean. Even to dry clothes, they are scattered on the sides of roads, in the dirt amongst the rubbish. I’m not joking. This is the only ‘space’ they have to dry them. That ,or on the sides of a fence or wall if they have one. As chairs are not a necessity to live here, people tend to sit in gutters as they wait in hope for someone to purchase a tomato or flower from their stand. This is their life, day in day out. Signs of malnutrition are also everywhere. Grown men with thighs the size of my wrists or deformed men and women whose legs or arms are missing or mangled surround you. It’s horrific to see in one person - but to witness an entire city which seems to be sharing the same misfortunes, is such an eye opener. Nothing short of a tragedy. And the animals - they too seem to be rotting just as the people are. Roaming the streets aimlessly - not even bothering to look for food as there is none, they too are starved and live hopeless, helpless lives - and there is nothing to be done either. If people cannot afford to feed or care for themselves, then how can they care for these stray animals? They can’t.

For me, traveling in a rickshaw through these parts of Mysore, I am unable to take my shawl away from my face as the fumes are intoxicating. But for the locals, it’s normal to breathe such polluted air. It’s literally like being within a bad dream, hoping that when I wake up the world couldn’t possibly look this way - anywhere. And for me it is something I will be able to fortunately walk away from, but the nightmare continues for millions. This is their life.

image
image
image
image

It is these experiences which open ones eyes to reality. Yes, we can all keep ourselves in lovely little bubbles where we go on luxury holidays and remain oblivious to some of the tragedies happening in the world, but I feel it is through witnessing reality - by throwing my rosy coloured glasses on the floor and crushing them - that I shall grow as a human being. To become a more empathetic and compassionate person, a more aware person.

What is more amazing, and equally heartbreaking, is how beautiful these people are to talk to. So polite. And then I think about some of the petty issues back home people complain about, or how rude we can be to one another - we should be ashamed. They have literally nothing, and yet they keep their smiles. We can learn a lot from these wonderful people.

I also felt terribly sad about the money being paid to my rickshaw driver. A young, handsome man, dressed in his best for his work, drove me all around Mysore - to the places I wanted to go and also to a fantastic shop he recommended (selling gifts and yoga clothes). He spent about 3-4 hours with me in total, much of it waiting whilst I looked in shops/factories. All this effort, for a measly $6.50AUD. I really liked this driver. He was a safe driver, a patient man and wanted to take time to get to know me. He was also happy to accept whatever money I thought was fair for the trip (believe it or not, I would have overpaid him today) which you would never normally see here as people are desperate to scrounge every cent they can. He is booked to pick my up on Saturday morning (7.30am) to take me to Chamundi Hill. This will be a bigger fee however I intend on paying him a large tip for being just a nice, honest person who is helping me to enjoy my time here. I am truly grateful to him. Somu is his name.

As a thought - I wonder if any of our politicians have seen these parts of the world???? Hmmm…

I guess this ‘reality check’ leads in nicely to my next thought. Whilst practicing yoga today, back in my little bubble in the world, I found myself having a slight existential crisis. Asking, “what’s is the point in all this work? The effort we go to?” I chatted with Owen about this tonight, and we agreed that if one can know themselves better, understand the only body they have a little better, be more aware in life, find a sense of calm or centredness, then what an amazing gift. As Owen reminded me of a quote by Socrates, “the unexamined life is not worth living,” it certainly brought everything back into perspective. Again, always grateful for these deeper conversations with him. They can really help me to make sense of my mind which often makes no sense at all…

And finally, on a lighter note, as i mentioned earlier I was lucky enough to visit the Sandalwood Factory today (Silk Factory was on a lunch break when I arrived). It was nothing like what I expected. I felt as though I was walking into a haunted concentration camp to be honest. A dilapidated old building which is committed to making the finest, 100% pure sandalwood oil and soaps in the world. Incredible. With ancient machines to complete this mammoth task, I was quite impressed. Unfortunately pictures were strictly prohibited inside so this is something one must see when here. I have a new respect for sandalwood after being here. It is the basis for all Ayurvedic treatments as the healing properties are incredible. The guide (for myself and an Italian man who happened to have the same idea) explained passionately about the power of this oil when used. Aromatherapy is one of the best ways to experience such benefits. As they will not be selling oil for another month (and at $40AUD for 5ml I wasn’t too worried to be honest), I purchased some of their soaps and incense, which they are most famous for. These will be a nice reminder of this eye opening day.

Thank you for reading. For me, my lessons are; to be grateful for the amazing and fortunate life I am living, more compassionate and empathetic, more understanding and a more aware person. Good things can only come from this.

Namaste xx


Sandalwood Factory

image
image
image
image

Sandalwood Factory Outlet

image

Silk Factory Outlet

image
image

Closed for lunch Silk Factory

image

Lazy Sunday

I have to be honest, there isn’t a lot to report on today. After the most magnificent sleep in, until 8.00am, I took my time crawling out of bed and getting ready for the day. My day consisted of washing my clothes, drinking tea, stocking up on water (I think 80% of all my money is spent on water) and studying my butt off.

I was a little grumpy earlier on. I couldn’t quite pinpoint why but I think it may have something to do with; 1) upcoming exam, 2) knowing we will be selected to teach this week without any prior preparation of the given asanas - we need to be prepared for all of them, 3) worrying about coming back to Australia and the next steps from there. I know the final worry is a little silly at this point. I guess I am concerned about falling into old habits once removed from the Gokulam bubble I am currently in. My intentions are to open my own yoga studio however this will not be in the immediate future. I will begin teaching privately but I will also need to teach for other studios to build my confidence and skills as a teacher in general. But without going too much more into this, and indulging unhelpful thoughts, I know i just need to start pulling together a little plan for “where to from here” for when I return. I intend to spend some time next week doing this, whilst on my break before the second half of my course begins.

Earlier today I was chatting with one of the young boys who monitors the small reception area. There are three of them who rotate rosters and they are all so sweet. I can’t help but feel a little sad for them often. They often seem terribly bored sitting in the reception area all day and night. They also sleep on the floor and couch during the night, in their uniform, as its 24 hour service here. I always have to creep past them in the morning and often trip over their thongs as obviously there are no lights on. Compared with some of the other jobs out there, working in reception for a lovely air conditioned apartment house if probably fantastic, but me being me, I can’t help but feel a little sad. Regardless of how bored they may be, or how often other residents walk past without bothering to say hello, they always have the biggest smiles on their face when they see you. Always get up to greet you out of respect. They really are just lovely and I hope they are happy in their lives. They may well be and I am being silly for no reason. Again, typical me!

I’ve just enjoyed my can of Heinz baked beans (I was thrilled to find these!) and now it’s back to more study before bed.

Have a wonderful week ahead everyone. May it be filled with love, laughter and lots of deep breaths.

Namaste xx

Today, it just worked!

Have you ever had one of those days where everything just seemed to work? No dramas, just smooth sailing. Today was one of those days for me. I don’t have them often, so when they occur they are truly meaningful.

Firstly, I was finally selected to teach the class today. The asanas to teach were probably the most difficult so far (in terms of the amount of information to retain and technical details) and because of that I was secretly hoping not to be selected. I wasn’t sure if my technique for a couple of the asanas was correct - so long story short, I clearly lacked confidence. But on the flip side, I absolutely wanted to be selected to challenge that part of myself - and in the end, I was thrilled that i was. I had so much fun in front of the class demonstrating the asanas (Salabasana, Dhanurasana, Bhekasana and Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana). The  final asana was the one I was most nervous about but my demonstration was excellent.

It turns out my students loved being in my class - so much so they said they completely forgot they were at teacher training and thought they were in a proper class!! They also said they were hanging off my every word, intrigued by what I would say next and wanting to learn from my demonstrations. They said I was a natural and assumed I was already a teacher. It shocked them to find out this was my second class ever - the first being last week. What better feedback could anyone get! Now, in no way am I trying to blow my own trumpet here, but I have to say I am pretty proud of myself. It seems all my hard work is starting to show. And considering I have given up my career to come here, I’m glad the feedback supports my decisions to teach. Yay!

At lunch I decided to take a rickshaw to Easy Day supermarket, the biggest in Mysore. Picture a smaller version of Big W but with food also. I was headed there for two reasons. Priority 1: floss. Priority 2: kettle. Turns out, people in India don’t floss. I have been to that many places trying to find floss but the don’t seem to stock it, or even know what it is. Owen suggested I buy some cotton thread as an alternative - I actually will! I did, however, find is a little ‘Heat Cup” which is my new kettle. I am thrilled to have the ease of making tea whenever I feel like it without having to go to the fourth floor of the building. Such a simple pleasure which I have taken for granted back home.

image
image
image

Having a little kettle in my room, some bowls and a new little plate - my room is really turning into my home. I’m beginning to get comfortable here which is nice.

image

On a side note - it’s amazing how the locals here know when you are new to the area or have been here for sometime. Rather than being quoted a stupid price by the rickshaw driver to take me to Easy Day, I walked up to him, named my price and off I went! The first time I tried to negotiate, the drivers wouldn’t budge of their ridiculous fees. They can see now that I know what to pay. It’s just interesting how quickly you adapt to a place.

This evening there was a second round of teacher training from the students. Our group teacher was a young Frenchman. He often comes across as quite offhand and has very little to do with people, but every now and then he will chat with us all and appear excited. He practices in front of me usually and I can’t help but notice how dirty his clothes are. Stains are all over his shirt and pants - no one else in the class dresses this way. His body odour is also another problem. Thankfully I can’t smell him when he is in front of me - but sitting next to him can be a challenge. But regardless of appearances, underneath the exterior is (I think) a genuinely lovely man, clearly an introverted man hence the reason he is a bit of a loner most of the time. Back to his class - his savasana had me, and the group next to us, in hysterics (keep in mind we are to be silent in class - no talking other than the teacher is permitted). For those who don’t know, savasana (dead mans pose) is a relaxation pose at the end of your class, where you rest quietly on the floor. But this didn’t happen in my Frenchman’s class - oh no! He had us stretching, stretching, stretching every part of our body - then lifting, lifting, lifting other parts of our body - then scrunching, scrunching, scrunching the face - then sticking the tongue out, out out…. I absolutely lost it. One had to be there to fully understand, but just know I (and the rest of the group) could not control the laughter after silently going along with his direction for a couple of minutes or so. I had the tears streaming, even my nose was running I laughed so hard. And chanting - forget it. Every time I opened my mouth I was gone again. We all were. This will certainly be a memorable savasana for me, and anyone else in the world who takes a class of his one day. Ahhhh - good times.

Tonights practice with our proper teacher, Bharath, was fantastically strong. Kakasana and I are still friends - in fact we are getting to know each other quite well! I am also becoming good friends with Kakasana’s cousin, Parsva Kakasana. This is a twist to the side rather than straight in front. I can’t believe how strong and engaged I am becoming. It’s fantastic. And now, I’m sitting at my little desk with my cup-a-noodles and tea (all made with my new kettle) writing these thoughts. It really is lovely to feel a little more settled, and even more lovely to have one of those days that ‘just worked’.

So - on that note, it is time to study and then off to bed.

Thank you for reading.

Namaste xx


Just something lovely

No money, lost, start yoga training, make friends - all in one day!

With little cash left, and everything is paid for in cash here, I decided to make my way to Ganesh this morning to change $500AUD. As I only had 180 rupees in cash, I knew this wouldn’t get me far so this was a priority before heading out for food. Unfortunately, as the stock market was not open today being Sunday, Ganesh advised he cannot do the transaction today so come back tomorrow. Bummer.

I decided to wander the streets of Gokulam looking for one of these fantastic restaurants listed on the yoga shala’s website. Considering I ate one meal yesterday, and the portion would have been enough to feed a pigeon, I was pretty hungry this morning. Surviving on Digestive biscuits is certainly not a long term solution. The problem I find however, is the map for where these restaurants are located is completely wrong when compared with the actual address of the cafe or restaurant. It really is a guessing game when it comes to finding places / things in India. So I wandered around for an hour or so, walking through the labyrinth that is India, and eventually stumbled upon a little health food mini mart. I had circled that shop many times, finding myself back where I began but was only able to get there via a the only alley I hadn’t yet walked down. I’m thrilled to have found this place. In desperate times - this is where I will turn.

As I am craving some form (any form) of health, I took a chance and ate a green apple. Washed with bottled water - so far so good… I also made myself a vegimite sandwich with my new earthy flavoured (some would say dirt flavoured) rustic bread. Excellent - I was now guaranteed to at least not pass out from lack of food in the first class. 

At 11.00am today our class gathered at the Shala. Everyone was very awkward and clearly nervous. Sitting silently in the shala (it’s the rules) a group of about 30 of us in total sat in a circle which spanned the entire length and width of the small room. As our teacher, Barath, entered the room there was certainly a powerful presence he brought with him. It is not something I can describe as such but all I can feel is it commands immediate respect whilst at the same time offers a gentleness, an understanding that we are all vulnerable in this very moment. For this entire course. I am only one of 3 who will be continuing past the 4 weeks and completing the full 9 weeks - so I will get to know this man quite well over the coming months.

We each received a little ‘showbag’ if you will, full of our teachers manuals and training guides. Bharath took time to explain the purpose of everything within the bag and how we are to treat these materials.

We sat in this circle on our folded mats all facing the front of the room where Bharath sat. The entire wall behind Bharath is painted purple with an orange and yellow vortex leading your eyes to the unavoidable Om in its centre. It’s quite amazing what this painting could evoke - being drawn into something which is incredibly deep - but what the 'deep’ actually represents for me, I am not yet sure. All I know is it will come to have more meaning for me as I deepen my practice over the coming weeks.

After 2 hours of sitting on the floor cross legged and with back perfectly straight, it was a relief when we were told it was time to break for lunch. Just sitting is a major workout in itself!

A group of us wandered down to Anu’s cafe where everyone at the vegan buffet provided. Amazing mixtures of salads to choose from, from beetroot to lentils to what looked like a coleslaw - I was jealous of everyone having their lunch. As the meal cost 250 rupees and I only had 180 rupees, there was no lunch for me. But i did have a banana and strawberry smoothie in a bowl which was amazingly tasty. This was enough for me until I made it home and inhaled my lovely dirt flavoured bread for a second time. Mmmm!

It was great meeting other people from the course. It’s particularly nice knowing I am not the only newbie to the area. Many people only arrived when I did, and are just as lost and confused about everything as I am. There are all sorts of personalities in the group - the loud ones, the terribly shy ones, the ones who are English but act as though they are Indian, the hippee ones. It’s great! It’s amazing how such different people in the world can, through sharing an experience like teacher training, come together and just enjoy and appreciate each others company. Traveling is amazing for this. So far, I have new friends from Toronto and Quebec Canada, Holland, Perth, Melbourne, southern India and France. Pretty cool!

After lunch and chilling out at home for a while - chatting with Owen who has safely made it to Melbourne (our new home) - it was time to return to class. A little more confident this time, I wandered into the room and found a place against the wall near the front of the class where I folded my mat and sat quietly whilst the others arrived. Tonight’s class was all about the significance of asanas and pranayama breathing. There is so much beauty behind the practice of yoga and just listening to Bharath speak so passionately about it reminds me of why I came here to train. The authenticity of the practice is so important to me, and to learn from a guru like Bharath is what will make this journey so much more precious. In all my years of training, I feel I have only ever been taught by 2 teachers who seem to share this same passion - who haven’t forgotten the true meaning of yoga through commercialising their businesses (as modern gyms have done). Don’t get me wrong, I intend to start a successful yoga business however the vision of this business will be committed to the passing on of this beautiful practice in its most authentic form. Not bastardizing it by introducing ideas like 'hip hop dance yoga’ or 'barre yoga’ or gym junkie yoga taught by a PT who has no true understanding of what yoga is or means.

Back to class - we learned tonight that each day we will be teaching for at least 30 minutes to the class. We will be given 4 asanas to learn including: the meaning of the asana, its benefits, the limitations, the variations, common mistakes, the technical components of the asana and how to enter into and move out of an asana… and the others I forget already. Excellent start!

So, with a 4.00am start tomorrow, I am now ready for bed (it’s 8.40pm here).

Namaste xx