A MISSION BEGINS....
It's fair to say that while I had no fixed plans returning back to Australia I was still on a mission, a mission to get everything sorted as quickly as possible so I could begin to settle somewhere and find some routine. I was really impatient, racing my way up the coast making plans to move all my belongings into a place I hadn't even found yet.
This pushing went on for a few weeks and it was wearing me down, I was feeling really flat and frequently overwhelmed. Looking back now I see that it was largely driven from feeling un-grounded, having nothing solid to attach to, pure fear of all the uncertainty. This was being physically reflected back to me in my yoga practice, I was scattered and was really struggling with balancing. The intense yoga practices that I was choosing (Power Flow at 30+ deg) were not making it any better, this sort of practice for me personally, fuels my intensity.
It was after taking a slower more mindful, grounding class on the coast that I started to feel at ease again and began to see things as they truly were. I was trying to force things, I hadn't surrendered to the unknown at all, I was attempting to force everything into my neat little box that I'd created in my mind.
From this point I began to open my mind to more possibility, maybe I didn't need to immediately move all my things, maybe I didn't have to live right on the beach, maybe I didn't need to rush into moving, perhaps I wouldn't even live on the Sunshine Coast.
At this point I truly began to surrender to what will be, I let go of all the fear and the need to have everything under control. I started to spend less time planning and more time doing what I love, paddling in the ocean and immersing deeper in my yoga practice. I started to see that everything is perfect exactly as it is and began to feel really deeply connected to my yoga practice, truly seeing that it is no longer separate from me or something that I just do, it's inherently within me.
The basis of your life is freedom, the purpose of your life is joy. ~ Abraham Hicks
AND THEN THE MAGIC STARTED TO RISE....
I felt lighter, deeply content and things started to fall into place in ways that I never would have dreamed were possible. You know those times where you are in a flow? everything just seems to be going your way?? you get that perfect car park in peak hour, the song you are thinking about comes on the radio, the things you need/want seemingly arrive out of nowhere with little to no effort, you manifest the purchase of avocados with your bread in the local bakery.
It's even gone as far as things that I clearly described 6+ months ago in some Law of Attraction exercises (we described our future lives and key events as if they'd already happened) have actually played out exactly how I described them! At times I've been so gob-smacked that I can't help but laugh at the synchronicity.
In reality nothing has changed, only my attitude and thought patterns. I still have no idea what I'm doing, how I will make a living, if I will settle and stay on the Sunshine Coast. At this point though I'm so blissfully happy and content with not having the answers, I feel that I don't need them. I truly believe that they will come when the time is right. Over the last month or so I've come to see forcing and pushing things doesn't make them happen any faster, in fact for me it's been counter productive.
That's not to say that we should just sit by and watch life passively happen to us, I think a higher intention/goal is critical. I think Sadhguru put it perfectly when he said:
"Whether it is love, or flowers in your garden, or success in your life, or enlightenment, unless you create the necessary conditions, it will not happen. Whatever we do, it is not to make the flower, but only to create the conditions, so that flowers will happen".
This was the whole premise behind my move to QLD, to create conditions that I felt would facilitate my greater vision of a blissful life. It's taken a few mental shifts along the way, but without a doubt the flowers are starting to bloom.
It's said that when your energy, thoughts, and emotions are aligned with the flow of the universe, it begins to work in your favour. What if the purpose of our life truly is to be joyous, to align with the natural flow of the universe where there is no pushing or forcing, only blissful ease?
Then I guess the next question would be what brings you joy, and what conditions do you need to bring more of that into your life?
This is the most intense experience I've ever had being in that effortless flow, but as I look back it's very clear to me that it's always the same conditions that create it, my magic formula of sunshine, ocean, yoga and feeling deeply connected.
I'm so very grateful for this present experience and will continue to enjoy every minute of it while being mindful that everything comes to pass. At least now it's even clearer to me what needs to be done to find this beautiful space, I hope that you also find it and linger here for a while too. If so I'd love to hear about those gob-smacking moments where your left wondering 'did that really just happen?'.
For the last two months I've been in Mysore (India) immersed in a 500Hr Yoga Teacher Training. I arrived in Mysore feeling firmly grounded. I was clear on my reasons for coming here, I had a good idea of what I was seeking to learn and had a clear vision of what my next steps were going to be (Bali, then moving to the Sunshine Coast). I felt physically strong and comfortable where I was at physically, emotionally and mentally.
The first 10 days of the training were fantastic, the honeymoon period - absolute bliss. The yoga practices were great (developing strong foundations), everything our teachers said had me attentively listening in awe (except during anatomy classes) and I was meeting and connecting with lots of wonderful likeminded people. I started to feel really energetic, so much so that I felt I needed to find a way to calm myself down.
Everything was going great although it soon became apparent that I had a lot of learning to do in area's that I hadn't anticipated. These lessons arrived as a number of different challenges or obstacles on the path as the yogi's would say.
My first challenge was my right wrist. This has been playing up on and off since last December, I just haven't been able to get it right. We were doing a lot of backbending (Charkrasana) which was placing additional strain on it, the result was some inflammation and discomfort. After chatting to our teacher I decided to keep as much weight off it as possible for around 5 days. It was around this time that the physical practice started to pick up with some arm balances etc. My first challenge was to listen to my body, not putting myself into positions I knew I was more than capable of doing but would only be serving my ego and not my healing.
To help my wrist recover faster I started to seek out some treatment, initially I had massage in mind but I found myself doing some intuitive body work sessions. These sessions included some physical massage along with cranio-sacral and crystal therapy work. This is where the second hit to my ego came. During the first few sessions I was told that my body is holding more than physical tension, the therapist suggested that much of it was likely to be emotional, stuff that needs to be released by me letting it go.
I truly believed that I'd made peace with everything that I could possibly have been holding. This was hard to take, I left feeling like I still had a lot of work to do. If it wasn't for some very pertinent points/observations that she made I probably would have dismissed it as being an inaccurate conclusion.
Then I got sick. Rarely do I get ill when travelling, I'd say that I have a pretty strong stomach although something didn't agree with me. This really didn't phase me for the first few days, it was just like having an underlying case of Bali Belly. I continued with the physical practice just taking it a bit easier. Although by Day 3 of having everything pass straight through me I was feeling drained. Again my physical practice was struggling, I was also finding it hard to stay awake and focus in class. A rare choice was made, I decided to take some antibiotics which cleared it up pretty quickly.
After the rest period for my wrist I slowly eased back in and it started to feel better again. Then during practice around one week later we started playing with some arm balance transitions, a slight twist while weight bearing and it was aggravated again. Again back to limited practice and that feeling of complete frustration. This time I started strapping it up for some extra support.
At this point I started to see things with a little more clarity, I realised that I'd been carrying this niggle for months. My priority shifted to getting myself to the second month of training with my wrist feeling as strong as it could be.
By the end of the first month I was already feeling like I was being strongly challenged on all levels. I like to work really hard, to get the best out of myself in all circumstances and to constantly push myself to grow. If I'm to be totally honest often this manifests on the physical plane, only for so much of that first month I felt physically unable to push and get the best out of myself. This as I'm sure you imagine was resulting in just a little frustration.
We had a week off in between Level 1 and Level 2 of the training, this provided a great opportunity for some rest and recovery.
One of the girls suggested that we visit an incredibly talented doctor who diagnosis/treats based on the principles of chinese medicine. One of the first things we did on finishing Level 1 was to go see him. His diagnostic report was somewhat shocking to me, I thought I was in relatively good health, I certainly feel much healthier and better than I did a few years ago. I thought that the huge improvements to my diet and lifestyle in the last 3 years had 'fixed me' but the report said otherwise. The hardest part was I couldn't argue with anything that he said. He was 95% accurate in the diagnosis without asking me a single question! What he had described, I was actually experiencing in my body. Again came that feeling of not being as far along my journey to wellness as I thought I was. What made it even harder (which I know is stupid) was hearing how everyone else who had seen him at this time was largely in great health. This was probably the one thing that played on my mind the most, how many more ego blows could I take?? Well it seemed that I still had much to learn and it wasn't over yet.
Next up was our 8 day Panchakarma detox treatment, a friend and I did this during our week off. Around 4 days into the detox I came down with a flu like cold - the worst I've had for as long as I can remember. With this I began the second month in a similar manner to how I finished the first. Struggling, only this time with running/blocked nostrils, headaches and lethargy. On the positive side though my wrist seemed to be doing much better.
After the first full week of the Level 2 training we began undertaking some intensive bodily cleansing (kriyas). The first kriya called Vamana Dhouti has us drinking lots of salt water very quickly and then vomiting it up. After this my digestion got so messed up that I went a week with less than 3 trips to the toilet. My body felt toxic, smelly, blocked, bloated and then came the impacts on my skin - more pimples than I've had since I was a teen. My mind suffered quite a lot during this time, most of the time it was occupied with how yuk I was feeling and thinking about how much stuff was stuck inside me.
Just as that cleared up (after a week) we did another intensive kriya called Shanka Prakshalana, this time we drank the salt water, performed some exercises and then released the water through the bowels. This time I was more fortunate, only 4 days of digestive discomfort until I returned to a semi normal.
In the last two weeks of the training I started to feel much better...
I was moving deeper into many postures that I'd ever been before and the wrist became far more manageable, I stopped strapping it up and I was comfortably holding chakrasana and arm balances once again. The last week was probably the most enjoyable, we had some strong practices, lots of question time and plenty of opportunity to learn new techniques for assisting others.
If I said that I gracefully dealt with every little set back I'd be painting a very inaccurate picture. With the exception of the first 10 days, this was one massive rollercoaster ride. It didn't so much feel like a yoga teacher training, it was more of a learn to deal with yourself training for me (which I suppose is largely what yoga is about). This culmination of experiences certainly had an impact on me.
Firstly I lost my grounding - I began questioning everything.
Did I really want to return home and commit to living in one place?
Am I even in the right job, do I want to continue with the Stand Up Paddling side of things?
I started to feel that I was broken, that I needed to take more time here in Mysore or in Bali to 'fix' myself.
On several occasions I felt like my yoga practice was moving backwards, that I wasn't learning anything or refining anything that challenged me. Significant periods of frustration were experienced along with lots of struggling to find motivation.
For the first 4 weeks while all of this was happening I didn't understand where all of the doubt and negative emotion was coming from. I couldn't understand why I was having these experiences, it all just seemed a little unfair.
It became really clear to me where this downward spiral of negative thought came from after chatting to the therapist who was doing the course of intuitive body work on me. As I filled her in with the pertinent points of my previous week (how I was feeling, my growing list of uncertainties etc) she said something along the lines of 'how is your confidence coping with all that'?
Then it all clicked...
Pretty much from the second week of teacher training, my ego took hit after hit...gradually it wore me down to the point where my whole sense of self confidence was gone.
I don't consider myself to be an egotistical person, but I do acknowledge that this thing called 'ego' exists within me and it is a very powerful creature. I had no idea just how much it impacted on how I feel about myself and my confidence.
It was huge relief to find a clear explanation for the feelings/doubt that I'd been experiencing. Once I could see exactly what was happening the doubt dissolved, I stopped questioning my dreams and the path that I've selected to get there. I then started making my plans to return home and begun to get excited about it all again.
When everything seems to be stacking up against us it's very easy to loose heart and think that we are 'broken' and need 'fixing'.
One of the most important things that I learnt over my last few months here in Mysore is the strong link between my mind, ego and sense of self. I've been amazed to observe how the continual blows to my ego impacted my state of mind which in turn really strongly influenced how I feel about myself and my confidence. I have no doubt this whole experience played out exactly how it needed to in order for me to learn the lessons that needed to be learnt. Had it been just one or two little set backs my recovery most likely would have been rapid, I generally have enough positivity in my mental mind bank to bring myself back up. Then I'm really not sure what my greatest lesson would have been.
I now feel confident that I can continue to move forward knowing that my intended path has been adequately put to the test, after all the doubt and questioning I came back to my personal truth. I am not broken, I do not need fixing and I trust myself enough to know what I want.
Panchawhat?? Yep this is a word/concept that is probably foreign to most.
Ayurveda is a traditional Indian approach to medicine and healing. The word 'Ayurveda' literally translates to the 'science of life'. It is based on the premise that health and wellness is dependent upon a delicate balance between the mind, body and spirit. Ayurvedic treatments typically include dietary recommendations, herbal remedies/treatments and yogic exercises (breathing, meditation etc).
Panchakarma is a method used in Ayurveda to detox the body, strengthen the immune system and also restore balance and overall well-being. There are many different varieties of Panchakarma treatments but the one that was recommended to me after an assessment of my body's constitution was called 'Virechana'. This treatment is focused taking the toxins from the body, moving them into the intestines and the expelling them all out.
For the last few years I've been very curious about the whole science of Ayurveda, Panchkarma was something I've been wanting to try. Given that we had a week off in the middle of our yoga teacher training I thought I'd give it a go, I also had a friend embark on the treatment with me which made the whole experience a little smoother.
Here is an overview of my experience.
DAY 1 - Just a normal day
The Pachakarma treatment begins by taking herbal tablets three times a day with food. The first day of the treatment was very much a normal day, nothing interesting or special to report. It was however International Yoga Day which was a lot of fun. I was involved with a small group from our teacher training putting on a short performance at the Lion's School in Mysore. My yoga practice for the day was really light and based around the yoga day events/performance.
DAY 2 - Here comes the cold, immune system low
This morning was day two of the herbal tablets, I woke up feeling like I was getting a cold. My head felt congested and overall I wasn't feeling great. I was however excited to be getting out of bed as I was going to lead a small yoga class with a few friends. That was my practice for the day. The rest of the day was really chilled out, spent lots of time hanging out with friends eating at nice restaurants.
DAY 3 - Sleepathon
Today we were to drink 10ml of Medicated Ghee (clarified butter) before eating anything. From what I understand the idea behind ingesting liquefied ghee is to make the walls of the intestines and the digestive system slippery, this is to help all the unwanted stuff slide out with ease on the day of purgation. It didn't taste too bad, I was okay with the ghee at this point.
After taking the ghee I did a gentle yoga practice. While my body was feeling pretty good I'd decided to take it easy, this week my intention was to keep the load on my wrists light to give it a chance to rest (my right wrist has been aggravated with the first month of twice daily asana practice).
I could still feel the hint of a cold lingering, after the yoga practice I started to feel really tired. After breakfast Katie and I decided to chill out and watch a movie, it was only 11am and we both fell asleep. I lasted until around 5pm and then fell asleep for another 3 hours waking up at 8pm thinking that I should get something to eat so I don't wake up ravenous in the middle of the night. I quickly went down the street to grab a smoothie and then came home and jumped back into bed. Around 11.30pm I fell asleep again and didn't wake until 6am the next day. Given that I've been averaging around 6.5hrs of sleep a night and was feeling great this was an epic sleeping day.
DAY 4 - Spontaneous tears and a massage/steam bath experience to remember
Drinking 20ml of Ghee first thing in the morning didn't seem too bad, I think I'd convinced myself that I didn't mind the taste. I felt that I wanted to do a yoga practice today but was still feeling pretty rubbish so was pretty excited when the friend I was practicing with suggested that chilled out yoga would be a good idea, we did a Yin Practice - perfect.
If the detox hadn't already taken affect and had some sort on impact on my body, today it would become blatantly obvious.
The feeling of a general cold stuck around with the occasional feeling of an upset stomach and the possibility of vomit. A new addition today was watery leaky eyes, throughout the day, every now and then I would have a stream of tears flow down my cheeks, this seemed to be for no apparent reason, there was no thought or emotion attached to it, just tears.
While we have scheduled massage treatments for the final 3 days (Days 5 - 8) we thought we'd go today as a nice way to relax while the energy systems were feeling depleted. I had no idea what type of massage it would be, I just contacted the clinic and asked for a few massage appointments.
Katie went before me and I was giggling from the minute I was taken in. Katie was in the shower and they were fitting me with a skimpy piece of material which is essentially a g-string with a front flap, that tucks in at the back. I had visions of Katie walking out of the shower only to find me sitting there with nothing but this little piece of modesty material on. Thankfully Katie was saved and they put a towel over me before she came out. I was only slightly concerned when Katie came out and said something along the lines of 'that was like being drowned in oil and beaten to death'.
It was too late too turn back, I was committed. I was super grateful that they stayed away from tapping/banging on my head (the doctor told them to leave my head alone because of the cold), my face however received the most intense massage of my life. The strong powerful stroke massage was nothing compared to what was to come..
In phase 2 of the treatment they put your in a little wooden steam box, it's seriously f***ing hot in there. My first concern was that I'm too short, my head won't to poke out the top and I'm going to suffocate (which was irrelevant because they covered my head with a towel and pretty much steamed me to death anyway). My second concern, after all that belly massage I was feeling like I had some wind that needed to pass, but didn't want to let that go in the fear of making myself suffer further in this highly confined space. I moved past all that and managed to chill out for a while enjoying the heat and sweat.
I have no idea how long I was in there, maybe 20 minutes until I started to get that feeling of 'I have to get out of here, this is not okay' but I decided to go all yogi on the mind and simply watch my thoughts so that I could find out why I was wanting to move away from the discomfort, was it something deeper? That lasted for around minute or two until I couldn't take it anymore, I ripped the towel off my head to gasp for cool air, the massage lady opened the door and then things went a little pear shaped.
I was on the verge of fully passing out...I sat there taking slow controlled breaths while the lady stood beside me looking on. I think she wanted me to move to the shower but I couldn't do a thing other than concentrate on not collapsing. I was there for what felt like forever motionless only focusing on breathing, then that awful vomit sensation came back, I was just like 'I have to get to the toilet' and as I started to try and stand the lovely woman grabbed me and helped me walk to the bathroom. As soon as I got to the bathroom floor I sat down and slid my slippery oil/sweat drenched self to the toilet bowl, I sat there resting for a few more minutes. It was taking forever, I still wasn't coming good, I had the lady pour cold water over me as I sat on the floor struggling to stay with it. At some point I became fully naked, she'd removed my modesty cloth and she was bathing me trying to get the oil off - I couldn't do a thing, moving seemed out of the question so she did her thing washing me down as I sat there butt naked doing nothing but focusing on breath as the room seemed to narrow in on me.
After who knows how long finally I felt like I could stand and walk myself out of there. Thank goodness I was able to dress myself!! They gave me some sugar laden tea and bread and I started to come back to a semi normal.
The funny thing is that we still have two more oil drenched steamings scheduled so that should be interesting...the minute I start to feel the need to get out of that steam house in the next treatments I am out of there!!!
DAY 5 - Please no more ghee
No longer do I like the taste of ghee, it was a struggle to get the 30ml down this morning. I woke with every intention to do a yoga practice but made it through only 3 sun salutations and a few standing balances before I decided that lying down would be a better option.
The day passed quite normally, still feeling the impact of an overarching cold with lots of undertones of lethargy and a real hankering for chocolate.
In addition to all the lazing about today we visited an amazing doctor in Mysore who has a practice based on Chinese medicine and the energy systems within the body. He measured my pulse and instantly concluded 'low energy' which couldn't have been more accurate and then looked at my tongue and concluded 'long term digestive issues' he only continued to blow my mind after that. This was a nice validation for the decision to undertake this Ayurvedic detox, it would help to clear out my digestive system which was a problem area that the Chinese medicine doctor had picked up.
It was time for round two of the oil massage and steam treatment. I used the bathroom before the treatment and actually noticed how the room looked, the whole colour and layout of the room was totally different to what I'd thought from the day before. One of the first things the lady said to me was '10 minutes' while pointing to the steamer, perhaps she sensed by concern. The whole treatment went without a hitch aside from the unpleasant oil seeping into my eyeballs the making it uncomfortable to open them.
DAY 6 - Getting ready to purge
It was such a relief this morning to not have to take the medicated ghee. I woke myself several times throughout the night coughing, I can't even remember the last time I had a cold like this.
I've got the whole massage routine sorted now, walk in strip off, sit down, get shoulders massaged, jump on the bed face up, flip over, jump in steam bath, shower, get dressed, drink tea, leave.
Today I managed to find some mindless entertainment during the massage. One of the songs they play during the treatment sounds a lot like Kelly Clarksons 'Beautiful Disaster' I found myself wondering if Kelly had taken a Panchakarma treatment here and had been inspired by this tune to write her song? Beautiful disaster is kind of fitting for the whole experience, it's such a beautiful thing to be cleansed from the inside out but it's also quite a disaster ingesting the ghee, feeling the need to sleep all day, having no energy to practice yoga and being scrubbed down by your massage therapist because you can't do it yourself..
I quite enjoyed the steam treatment today. I managed to stay totally calm and relaxed, it was almost meditative, I didn't want to get out once I was comfortably sitting there in the warmth with my head poking out.
Again much of the day was spent reading, sleeping and watching some TV. A yoga practice was totally out of the question.
DAY 7 - Time to Purge
Day 7 of the treatment is purgation day. From what I understand, generally the purge comes in the form of very loose bowel motions for around 4 hours, this is the clearing out of the digestive system.
I woke at 4.30am to take the little magic pill that was expected to take affect within 1 - 2 hours. It wasn't until 7.15am that I first felt the need to go to the toilet. While I'd gone a few times (maybe 3) it was a bit of a non-event compared to what Katie was going through. I was using more tissues wiping my nose than what I'd used on my butt! The cold was in full force, my head was aching, nose was running and eyes were watering.
At 11am we went to the doctors office for breakfast, a nice lentil soup. I gave the doctor an overview of my morning, she gave me another pill to take (this time only half), she said that it would likely kick in before lunch. I went home took the pill, went back to sleep and at lunchtime around 1.30pm when we had to return I was still fine. In the meantime poor Katie was still on the toilet unable to leave to collect lunch, I took lunch to her. Our lunch and dinner for the day was plain white rice with a rasam soup, we also had some buttermilk to take with dinner which was to help stop the bowel motions.
It wasn't until around 4pm that the second tablet seemed to take affect. A few more trips to the toilet (maybe ~4) and it was all over for me. In the meantime Katie was discovering more liquid in her body than she thought could possibly exist.
For me personally the purging wasn't too different to having a stomach bug (Bali/Delhi Belly). In fact I think I cleared my digestive system just as much only a few weeks ago when I had a stomach bug, perhaps that's why this purge didn't seem to be as effective on me. The doctor also suggested that the cold I've been experiencing may have impacted upon it too. She said that I could go for a round two next weekend although I have little interest in stressing my body any further, particularly given that we will once again be immersed in the yoga teacher training.
DAY 8 - Restoring the Body
After the day of purging I had another really long night of sleep, I'm struggling to recall a time when I spent so much time in bed. I'm now really missing my active yoga practice, I simply haven't had the energy to do it.
On this final day all meals are provided, I believe this is to ensure that the digestive system doesn't become overloaded after it's been cleared out. Breakfast was scheduled for 10am, by this time we were both starving, again it was a lentil soup which went down really well.
For lunch and dinner we had Kitchari which is a really common meal in Ayurveda that generally consists of a mixture of grains, it's great in that it's really easy to digest, after eating it for some time though I imagine it would get quite boring.
In the afternoon we had a Shirodhara treatment which involves having the hair soaked in oil with a bit of a scalp massage, followed by around 30-40 minutes of warm oil being gently poured on the forehead in a constant stream. It took me a little while to relax into it with the two women in the room chatting but after around 10 minutes I was totally relaxed and started to drift off to sleep. It was a lovely treatment but the pleasantness of the experience really faded when the massage lady decided that I was washing my hair incorrectly so she needed to step in and forcefully do it for me. There was violent scrubbing and water going everywhere. As with much of the massage treatments it felt like it was a life or death situation, something that had to be done with extreme intensity/speed or we would all die. The Shirodhara itself was great through, I'd certainly do that again.
I'm glad that I had the opportunity to do this Panchakarma treatment and I'm super grateful that I had Katie doing it with me, it certainly was an interesting/unique experience for both of us. They say that after the treatment people generally feel very light and energetic. Unfortunately I'm not yet feeling it, my body is still very much in fighting mode trying to get rid of this cold and the lethargy is very much still there. Already I'm wondering how on earth I'm going to get through our morning asana practice tomorrow when Level 2 of our yoga teacher training starts.
While it's been a challenging week with the fatigue, tiredness and the head cold I also think that it's been a blessing in disguise. It's really forced me to take some proper rest which I know would've been difficult if I was feeling great. It's still early days so perhaps that lightness and energy is still on the way, only time will tell.
If you are curious about the whole process then click here for an overview of the benefits that Panchakrama treatment can provide. One thing I can suggest, if you are going to do it, make sure it's supervised by a qualified professional and that you have some support, it's a pretty intense experience.
Wow what an amazing last 6 months its been!
As I begin to re-mould my future I thought it would be nice to take some time to reflect on my last 6 months, my dreams for the future and my reasons for making the changes to come.
My original vision for waSUP Yoga & Fitness was to operate from East Gippsland for 5-6 months of the year. I would then relocate myself and the business somewhere warmer over the winter period, I just hadn't worked out where! Another key feature of the plan was a few months off each year to travel and immerse in my own yoga practice, this is really important to me - as much as I love being a teacher I love being a student even more.
Over the last 6 months I've often had people asking me 'why are you here in East Gippsland?'.
The truth is I'm not 100% sure, I came here on a temporary secondment as an engineer around 4 years ago and never found my way back to the city. When I was training for triathlon and adventure racing this place was heaven on earth, for me the training grounds simply didn't get any better and there was no shortage of inspiring people to train with. I loved being so close the forest, mountains, ocean and lakes.
My vision for waSUP was to share the beauty of this area with others, along with my passion for yoga and stand up paddling. If you have ever experienced the beauty of a sunrise/sunset on the Gippsland Lakes on a still morning then you know exactly what I'm talking about! Perhaps I was a little naive when it came to the weather, being an optimist I thought I'd roll on back here in October and mother nature would be turning up the heat and we'd get lots of nice calm days with little wind through to April. I couldn't have been more wrong!
With that said though, even if we'd just experienced the best summer ever and I'd been super busy taking paddling lessons for the last 4 months, I have no doubt I would still find myself in this very position - looking for change. I never planned on staying here through winter, I'm just not a cold weather person, my family is very much the same, they all live in the warmer parts of Oz.
Through lot's of self enquiry and reflection I've become very clear on one thing:
Sunshine + Warm Weather + Time in Water + Inspiring Yoga + Connection with likeminded people = A super awesome version of Mandy!
If I were to stay here I feel that I would be cheating myself of true and lasting happiness.
It's been extremely difficult to replicate my magic formula since returning to East Gippsland in September, it's all come together here only once, just last week while on a yoga retreat. I had the wonderful opportunity to take super inspiring yoga classes as a student, was surrounded by a group of likeminded souls and we had a magical warm day that began watching the sunrise and involved sharing yoga and SUP - all the magic ingredients. Where did that leave me, dropping my phone in the lake, backing my car into a tree - but feeling higher and more on top of the world that I have since returning from Bali (where my magic formula was frequently coming into play).
Another important thing that I've come to realise is that the man of my dreams hasn't arrived on my door because I haven't been ready to invite him in. For as long as I can remember I haven't lived in the same house for more than 15 months! I wasn't ready to settle, I found myself constantly searching for that something else. I now have a job (if you could call it that) that I truly love, something that I'm really passionate about, that aspect of my search is done. waSUP Yoga & Fitness is exactly what I need to be doing, it's just not here in this location.
I'm ready to settle now, I'm done with all the moving about and searching for something that has been within me all along. It's time for me to find a place that I can call home, somewhere that the ingredients for my magic formula are abundant. That's not to say that I'm done with travelling, that will always be part of who I am. It would however be nice to feel so connected to a place that I don't need to pack everything up into boxes and storage every time I take a trip for fear that I may not return.
I'm so grateful for all the amazing years that I've had here in East Gippsland. I've learnt and grown so much during my time here. I've been so extremely fortunate to make some really good friends who I'm sure will be part of my life for many years to come - I will forever be thankful for the important role that each of you have played in my life.
I can't thank those of you who supported me in getting waSUP Yoga & Fitness up and running here enough. I feel like it's come such a long way in a short space of time and has so much potential, I would love to pick you all up and take you with me, then life would indeed be perfect!
It's really hard for me to walk away from all we have created, our classes shared and chats afterwards are memories that I will treasure forever. Watching you all grow, improve your self awareness and develop more comfort in the postures has been such a treat, I will really miss your smiling faces and the light hearted play time in classes. It's truly been such a joy sharing yoga and Stand Up Paddling with each and every one of you.
For those of you who have been attending land classes my hope is that you continue to incorporate yoga into your life, it truly is a beautiful transformational practice. If ever get stuck I'm only and email or phone call away and I'd love to hear from you. I'm currently trying to arrange for another teacher to take at least one Yoga for Athletes and Foundations class each week so will keep you all posted on how I go with that.
So what's next for me and waSUP, well here is the plan:
- Classes finish on the 10th of April
- Camel Trek and Yoga Retreat (13th - 17th April)
We still have a few spots if you'd like to join me for one last hurrah - outback style!
- Drive north in search of new home (surf, practice yoga, visit friends/family, relax & restore)
- Yoga Teacher Training in India (June and July)
- Quality family time in Bali with lots of surfing and yoga (August and September)
- Put down some roots somewhere and start again :)
We can never know what the future holds although I can say with certainty that East Gippsland and all of you will always hold a place in my heart. Without a doubt I'll be back for holidays and won't rule out a return at some point in my life. In the short term though it's time for me to explore somewhere new, drop the fear of commitment, live in alignment with my greatest potential and begin to lay down some foundations. Scary I know but that's also what makes it so exciting!!!
Let's make this last month one to remember, I so can't wait to see all your smiling faces again next week.
Peace out yogis
I'm constantly learning from nature and so often when spending time in the outdoors I have those ah ha moments, only today it was more like, 'shit Mandy and you trying to get yourself hurt, where on earth is your head???'....then a few minutes later came the ah ha.
I came back to running around six weeks ago, after pretty much stopping for around a year.
When I came back to running (after practicing yoga consistently for that year) I was feeling it in a way I'd never felt it before. I wasn't listening to big beats matching my rhythm to the sound coming through my headphones, I was running to the beat of my own internal drum noticing the little subtleties like how my feet would make contact with the earth, the sounds this made as the little rocks were squashed and pushed back with my weight/momentum, how the wind would create ripples on the river and how it felt on my skin and how the muscles in my legs were engaging, I was very much running in the present moment.
During my last few runs I've just come to realise that I've started to stray away from running in the moment. Today I went out for a run with the primary goal of stopping the millions of thoughts racing through my mind, this was a strategy I used for many years, run really fast so I can't physically think about anything other than breathing and keeping the forward momentum going.
But then mother nature decided to send me a nice little lesson an ah ha moment, as she always does when I need it most.
As I started to build up a rhythm my mind racing off to a far away place, I very nearly stepped on a rather large snake, one that I absolutely should have seen well before my foot was anywhere near it!!! The funny thing is this has happened twice in two days!! Last night on a cruisy ride with a friend out in the bush we did the exact same thing, got caught up in conversation and then as her foot pretty much passed over the top of a snake we realised what had happened.
After the snake scared the crap out of me today my next reaction was fear, I was thinking about how I could avoid it from happening again, I would run home along the road I thought...then logic kicked in...what a stupid idea the road surface is hard, there is lots of traffic and it's nowhere near as pretty....would I never run along the river again in the chance that I come across a snake???
Then came the ahh ha moment, what if I simply focus on being in the moment, take the headphones out and re-connect with all that is around me, that surely would minimise the chance of scaring the crap out of a poor unsuspecting snake again?
So that's the strategy I took for the remainder of my run, I began to notice the many really small reptilian like creatures along the trail basking in the sun, how unusually green the grass is for this time of year, the marks that bikes (or snakes) have made in the gravel, and then the mind got quiet..
Today that beautiful snake reminded that there is so much beauty in the present moment and very little to be gained from trying to escape it....it can in fact be dangerous. Running hard doesn't stop my mind from racing, it just temporarily silences it, then when the run is over the busy mind returns. Becoming truly present, living in the moment is what brings clarity and peace.
A great lesson learned from a reptile I once feared more than any other, somehow the fear seems to have subsided, perhaps because I now see that it was me crashing through their home without warning..
The concept of balance is something that continues to blow my mind each and every time I bring it to my attention, which is very much on a daily basis. The importance of it can almost be captured in the many different words that are often used to describe this state - balance, homeostasis, equilibrium.
You can call is whatever you like, the simple fact is that we aren't alone in our endeavours to achieve this state where happiness, wellbeing, contentment and joy come with ease.
On the microscopic level you can look at our human composition. Each and every one of us is made up of trillions of cells. Every one of those cells has a primary goal of maintaining balance, their ongoing health and survival depends on it. If the individual cell cannot regulate temperate and other necessary functions they will die, same goes for us. This is true for the cells making up all living creatures.
You could then consider the macroscopic level of earth. Everything living on earth is collectively grouped and often referred to as the biosphere. It's recognised that this biosphere regulates the amount of salt in the oceans, levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the air and the temperature on the earth's surface. Even balance is being sought here to keep the conditions on earth hospitable.
When you look at things from this perspective it can be quite humbling. Our task in finding balance doesn't seem that great, after all our cells are doing a lot of the work for us. Keeping our personal balance could almost be considered straightforward when you think of all the work that our poor biosphere has on her hands!!
If I've come to learn anything recently it's that finding personal balance is a not goal that can simply be achieved, not for any length of time anyway. Like everything, where we sit on the balance continuum is constantly changing. What brings us into balance one day might not work the next, this is what makes it such a great challenge.
For the last year while travelling I felt more balanced than I have for several years, it seemed that I pretty much had it worked out, perhaps because there were very few external pressures. In the years prior to this I'd over-committed myself to triathlon, work and numerous other things at the expense of relationships etc. It's all very easy to see in hindsight but not so much when you are actually caught it in.
Getting overly caught up in things seems to be inherent in my personality. I'm super passionate and driven by nature and can easily become so focused that everything else is temporarily blocked out. This is something that I recall being with me for years and it's still very much part me, I find it easy to slip into this state.
Through the practice of yoga (including meditation and mindfulness practices) the awareness of my current state of being has become one of my greatest tools and allies in keeping me balanced. I'm now acutely aware when I'm out of whack and can recognise when I need to sit back, re-evaluate and adapt. This isn't at all to say that I've worked out the balance equation...that's still a long way off.
Returning from a year of travel (with little to no responsibility) to a life where I'm establishing and running a business, working part time in the corporate world, dealing with more un-controllables than I can poke a stick at (esp. weather) while trying to find my feet again has certainly tested my ability to keep the peace and balance that I'd become so accustomed to. The absence of this balance/peace certainly explains why I've been fantasising about travel so much!
I am however confident that I can get myself much closer to that state of balance/peace back here in Australia, it's just going to take some work, like it did when I began travelling.
Over the last few months I've been experimenting with all sorts of factors that I feel really impact on my ability to feel centred. These include sleep, diet, the shape of my yoga practice, how much energy I can give and how much time I need for myself. There have been weeks where I got it really wrong and ended up as flat as a pancake and some that have gone great and had me feeling like I could take on the world, one thing I got at each end of the spectrum was valuable lessons.
One of the next factors for me to address is how much time I've been spending working (or thinking about work) I know it's been too much. I've been doing too much on my own and have wasted countless hours on things outside of my expertise which I could've paid somebody to do and saved myself the hassle.
I would love nothing more than to totally switch off at least one day in every two weeks, having 24 hours with no social media, internet or work, just time in nature enjoying the sunshine watching the world pass by. With that said though, I recognise that the coming months will be critical in determining the viability of my business going forward. The luxury of fully switching off probably isn't available (or a wise decision) at this time. I will however look for something in between - perhaps this will be along the lines of stricter guidelines for myself on the use of social media/email, working hours etc.
So far using this trial and error approach has helped me to get a handle on what does and doesn't work for me in this current environment. I've become aware of stress points and things I really need to watch out for - there are so many things in my control that can bring me down to a sub-optimal level (i.e. too much coffee, not enough sleep etc).
Why would I spend so much time on this?
For one, I now understand just how much of an impact being out of whack has on my general wellbeing, both physically and mentally. Secondly, my new business venture cannot succeed with a worn out sub-optimal Mandy, looking after myself and keeping things as balanced as possible will be a critical success factor.
I'll also ask one question of you - have you ever met somebody who has all their pillars aligned with a great sense of balance who was unhappy or wanted to change aspects of their life?
I've come to believe that balance is so critical to everything, not just us as a human species but to all things in nature, all matter. A friend provided a great example earlier today as we chatted, she gave the analogy of a tree with all the roots growing to one side, it has no resilience to external factors such as the wind and will easily fall down. Are we not very much the same? In a similar way when we are worn out from putting in too many hours at the office, how present are we when we get home and spend time with family/friends, is this really quality time?
My effort to seek balance is still a work in progress but as each little aspect becomes refined, everything seems to become more manageable, less overwhelming and the scales begin to tip more towards a balanced state of equilibrium. I'll keep working at it but will always remain conscious that everything changes and my approach must always be dynamic to account for this. I'm confident that with the tools of yoga, meditation and mindfulness in my pocket I'm in much better shape to consciously move myself towards a more harmonious life.
The first of the Yama's 'Ahimsa' often translated as 'non violence' is perhaps one of the most pertinent. While non-violence can sound simple at the superficial level (i.e. don't kill or hurt anyone) it can be far more challenging when we turn this quest towards ourselves, particularly in those instances where we feel powerless, unhappy or out of balance.
The form of violence I speak about here is not just gross physical harm but also emotional harm. How many times a day do we direct criticism, unkind or unhelpful thoughts towards ourselves that we would never dare put on another (often out of concern for how it may impact their emotional/mental wellbeing)??
This is so easy to do and sometimes takes the simple form of looking in the mirror and making a mental observation of how undesirable we look today, criticising ourselves for taking a day off from exercise/training, calling ourselves stupid for not getting out of a less than ideal situation sooner or even just eating that slice of chocolate cake. It's so important to remember that we are all human - we make mistakes, need to rest/recharge and sometimes enjoy that slice of cake!
The art of living with Ahmisa not only applies to ourselves and other human beings, it also extends to all living creatures. This yama is very much in line with the buddhist precept of abstaining from causing harm and taking life (both human and non-human). At this point one of the first questions that comes to mind is 'Do I need to be a vegan/vegetarian to practice Ahimsa'?
During my time in India studying at KYM it was interesting to get our highly regarded philosophy teachers take on this. Her opinion based upon extensive study of the scriptures was that being vegan or vegetarian was not essential for the practice of ahimsa, it all comes down appropriateness. As an example a fisherman killing fish to make a living and feed the family is considered to be in line with ahimsa however a commercial fisherman taking fish with the intent of turning over a profit would be considered to be acting against ahimsa.
The way that I understand it is that most yogi's are generally vegetarians because plant based foods are generally considered to be more 'sattvic' or pure which helps to keep us in balance (i.e not feeling lethargic as can happen after a big serving of spag bowl or overly energised which happens when we eat too much sugar). For me personally I maintain a vegetarian diet around 95% of the time as I feel much better without meat, especially red meat which I now find really difficult to digest. If however I'm craving some fish or chicken and this feeling sticks around for more than a day I'll generally eat it - after all if my body is asking for it there must be a reason.
One of the most personally relatable passages of text that I've come across in regards to Ahimsa comes from Deborah Adele's book 'The Yamas & Niyamas'. It talks about balance in our lives being a cornerstone for non-violence, it also speaks about the consequences of losing balance, she states:
'We are bombarded and we bombard ourselves. And if we have any doubts, our calendars will reveal the truth of our craziness. The repercussions are inescapable, immeasurable violence to ourselves and those around us".
I read this around a year after doing exactly that - loading up my calendar so heavily that there was no space for a 15 minute delay because everything that followed would fall down. At the time I didn't have the awareness (or the scheduled time to stop and reflect) to see how this was impacting myself and all those around me. I was constantly stressed/tired and my friends and family were left feeling like they were just another appointment in my calendar. I was proud of how much I was squeezing into my days and how productive I'd become. I only began to question my crazy scheduling when a good friend kindly expressed concern and opened my eyes to the flip side of my behaviour.
It's so easy to get caught up in all that's happening in our lives and not realise that we are inflicting this harm upon ourselves. I believe that the first step towards correcting/improving anything is the identification of the pattern/behaviour, after all how can we seek to change something that we cannot see? It's so important to give ourselves space and quiet time to reflect and study our own behaviours/patterns. I just spent a year doing it quite intensively and still feel like I'm in the first chapter on the book of Mandy!
The kindness and compassion that we cultivate towards ourselves will be directly reflected to those around us. Conversely if we remain extremely critical of ourselves, those around us are likely to feel our high standards being pushed upon them (even if this is not our intention).
So with all that said how has the practice of ahimsa impacted/changed my life, and what does it look like for me on a day to day basis:
Like all things my practice of ahimsa is still very much a work in progress although as the commentary on the Yoga Sutra's say 'even a bit of ahimsa is enough to elevate us to a higher state'.
Surely that's enough of a reason to give it go :)
Returning home after an extended period of time away (particularly when travelling) always stirs up a number of emotions. Often when we return it's with a sense that we've evolved and changed so much, yet it can seem like everything has remained the same at home.
Finding our place again and not falling into old patterns can be one of the greatest challenges.
I came home after my recent trip really excited about what lies ahead knowing very well that I'm not the same person I was when I left. Amongst many things my outlook on life, approach to living, perspectives, and attitudes towards myself and others have significantly changed. I'm not so concerned about falling into old patterns this time around, my renewed sense of self feels like it's deeply woven into my being.
One thing that I couldn't shake this time around though was the frequent thoughts of all the 'stuff' that I have sitting in a friends garage. Just knowing it's there has been weighing me down. I'd managed to live out of a backpack for a year and was perfectly fine with the few things that I had.
I was struggling to see the point in keeping all this stuff.
This brings me to yoga philosophy and the Yamas and Niyamas. These can be considered as guidelines, ethical disciplines or perhaps restraints and observances. One of the Niyamas is 'Aparigraha', this guides us towards living with non-possessiveness, not hoarding things that we do not need.
Deborah Adele brilliantly explains 'Aparigraha' in the context of possessions in her book 'The Yamas and Niyamas'. She states:
"Anything we cling to creates a maintenance problem for us. The material items that we hoard, collect, buy because they are on sale or take because they are free, all take up space and demand our attention....clutter in our physical space blocks our ability to physically move, while clutter in our minds blocks our freedom to expand and have space for the next thing that life wants to bring us".
It's interesting to look back and reflect.....before I moved my things into storage I went through a process of significantly minimising my possessions. I got rid of 3 bikes, 2 kayaks, and 10+ pairs of shoes along with a whole bunch of other stuff that I felt I no longer needed - I was rather proud of myself for doing that, at the time it seemed like a big deal. Yet here I am again with exactly the same stuff seeing that so many more things need to go.
I'm now ready to let go of the couch, television, DVD's, lots of clothing, kitchen goods etc as I can clearly see that they don't add any value or enhance the quality of my life - they are simply cluttering my physical space and my mind.
Clearing the clutter is a really challenging process, so many items that we posses have memories attached to them. Sometimes it can be hard to disassociate the item and the memory, we fear losing the memories when the item moves on. I had this feeling as I went through my last yoga practice on the mat that I'd carried around for my entire trip and used almost daily for 11 months. While it was just a yoga mat, it had been the place of so much transformation and growth, I had so many memories attached to that mat. I decided not to bring it home with me so I honoured the tears that flowed as I said goodbye, took a photo of it, and left it in Bali for somebody else to enjoy. The memories remain and if I need reminding in the future I can take a glance at the photo I took which clearly shows the hours of work put in on that mat. Perhaps one tool here is to take a photo before getting rid of something as an insurance policy for your memories.
It's also difficult to let go of thoughts like 'what if I need to buy all of these things again in the future, what a waste of money it would be starting again, how would I even be able to afford to do it all again'. But this is where we need to be truly honest with ourselves, we have no idea what the future holds, everything changes - only that fact is guaranteed. There is no point holding onto things just in case we might need them again one day - especially if we can't see that one day appearing in the next 2 years.
The challenge that I'm putting to myself as I move into a new home is to be brutally honest about what things I need and what adds real value to my life. I'm tired of feeling weighed down by all this stuff, it's time to get the clutter monkey off my back and clear some space for all the wonderful things that are coming.
Around 11 months ago I left Australia on a solo adventure that I hadn’t planned in any real detail, this was a first for me – surrendering to the unknown.
I left in search of something else – I just had no idea what that something was….
The adventure started with a family holiday in Phuket, Thailand. It was here that I learnt the importance of compromise and making time for the things I need to keep me balanced.
I’d just spent the previous few months living a really healthy clean lifestyle; I was getting ready for yoga teacher training. My idea of a holiday and that of my dear parents can sometimes differ greatly. In the past this would've caused me lots of angst. This time though I approached it differently, simply respecting the fact that we have different ideas/lifestyles, neither of us need to change, nobody is right or wrong - it simply is what it is. I made sure that I took the time out to do the things that I needed to do (yoga, running, meditation) and could then happily sit at the beach sipping coconuts all day eating fruit/corn while everyone else drank beer and ate burgers. In the evenings I'd enjoy a few social cocktails (even though I was supposed to be detoxing pre yoga training) and at the end of the day we'd all happily retreat to bed. The new approach certainly worked and its now here to stay.
From Thailand we flew to Singapore as a family. It was in Singapore that I was reminded of the extremely fortunate childhood that my brother Brett and I had. It was like stepping back in time 20 years to when we were children visiting the zoo, the aquarium and were sitting around the dinner table together. It was in Singapore that the importance of my family was really reinforced; I cherish the time we share together and love them all dearly.
It was then off to Balian Beach in Bali to undertake 5 weeks of yoga teacher training with Alicia Cheung and Oliver Reinsch of YogaWorks. I learnt more during this 5 weeks that I thought was physically possible. Not only were we learning anatomy, sanskrit, philosophy, asana alignment and how to teach we were also taken on a deep journey into ourselves - this was perhaps the most challenging part of all. Some of the key things that I learnt during this 5 weeks (even though I could spend a day writing these alone) were:
After the training a small group of us decided to stay together and hang out in Bali for a little while longer. We spent some time in Ubud and then went on a surf trip visiting Balian, Canggu and the Bukit. It would be fair to say that the time we spent together was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. In such a short time we formed a really beautiful, supportive, loving, connected sangha (community). I learnt so much from these beautiful souls, but the power of deep connection with other humans was the big one. Somehow I'd been missing this - perhaps because my own walls were previously blocking it.
The most profound learning came from an amazing morning surfing with Scott. We caught waves, formed a band, made up songs, created seaweed jewellery and generally had a ball. Scott re-introduced me to a version of myself that I don't recall seeing for sometime, one where there is no inhibition, absolute contentment, pure joy. This was an extremely valuable experience, I know exactly what created the conditions for me to feel this way. I therefore have a recipe to create the ultimate version of myself, I simply need to source the ingredients.
From Bali I headed to a small place called Dhamma Ketana around 10km from Chengannur in the South of India. This would be where I'd get my first taste of Vipassana Meditation, a whole 10 days of it. It seemed like a logical next step and a great way to spend Christmas given that I wouldn't be with family/friends. For 10 continuous days I spent 10.5 hrs in seated meditation. To say this was a challenge would be a huge understatement, again the lessons were coming thick and fast. I wrote a whole blog on this experience so won't dive back into detail but the greatest learnings were:
The following month was spent in a place called Varkala in the state of Kerala on the south west coast of India. During my time surfing in Bali I managed to pick up an injury to one of the stabilising muscles on my right side, I thought it would pass with rest during Vipassana but this injury unlike everything else did not pass - the inflammation got worse and the discomfort only increased. I headed to Varkala for some more rest and to seek treatment. This was not part of my broad plan, I was in India to practice and study yoga but here I was unable to hold myself in a plank position. Some of the lessons from this month were:
The next stop was two weeks in Goa on the central west coast of India. Goa had always been part of my broad plan, I wanted to immerse myself in learning Ashtanga there. I was still in no state to learn Ashtanga so again adapted my plans. I headed south to Palolem Beach and continued my immersion into chilling out and holidaying with a side of yoga rather than the other way around.
After Goa it was time to put my yoga student hat back on. I headed to Chennai on the east coast of India for a 4 week immersion at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram (KYM). The program was heavily focused on yoga as a tool for healing (perfect!). We undertook daily asana, pranayama and meditation practices, vedic chanting classes and attended lectures on philosophy, application of yoga and the tools of yoga. This was a truly incredible learning opportunity. My perspectives on a whole range of topics were challenged on a day to day basis (covering everything from arranged marriage to foot placement in trikonasana), it was great to hear things from an Indian perspective and then compare this to how things are viewed in the west. The time I spent at KYM has significantly influenced the way I practice and also my approach to teaching yoga.
Living in Chennai for a month was a really intense experience, I haven't felt that immersed in the authenticity of a place since I was in Rwanda back in 2007. Chennai has this knack of taking you on an emotional rollercoaster every time you walk down the street. It goes a bit like 'oh no that looks like a squashed dog on the road, oh how sweet there is a man bouncing a puppy on his legs, are you serious did that man just slap that women in the face, oh how cute look at those kids playing together and so on'...and you've only walked 800m! It was my time in Chennai that really re-enforced just how much abundance is present in my life, I really begun to feel gratitude towards the seemingly little things (like being able to retreat to a quiet place or lie down at the beach, having a pillow to put my head on at the end of the day). I was constantly amazed by the beauty, friendliness and kindness of the people I met. On our days off I would stroll the streets of foreign neighbourhoods interacting with the locals I met along the way, I learnt here in India that a simple authentic smile can speak so many words.
From Chennai I headed to Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka had been on my list of must see destinations for as long as I could remember. I was craving the ocean so headed straight to a place called Midigama on the south west coast, here I could surf until my heart was content. After Midigama and a day trip to Galle I headed inland to Kandy, the cultural heartbeat of the island. It was a really short two weeks but from the very first train ride I was completely taken by the place, I knew that I'd need to come back some day. The people were lovely and the scenery was stunning, untouched beaches and tea plantations as far as they eyes could see.
While it was a short few weeks, it was very intense, I learnt so much. The greatest lesson of all was the preciousness of life. I had the great pleasure of meeting a lovely guy by the name of Torge, we surfed together, went on a whale watching trip and hung out. The day after the whale watching trip he suffered a massive heart attack while surfing, he didn't make it, life taken away in he's early 30's. It really hit home for me that we just don't know what's coming, every day truly is a gift and we need to treat it as such. Again this reinforced the importance of my family and friends, I promised myself that I wouldn't hold back on telling people how feel, I'm going to live this life with no regrets.
After Sri Lanka I headed back to Bali, this seemed like stepping back to the western world after my time in India and Sri Lanka, initially it was a short 2 weeks spending time with my beautiful family. We visited Canggu and Ubud and it was in Canggu that I met Chris and the team at Ngeluwungan Villa.
In this short few weeks things begun to manifest in front of my eyes. I got the call from work (my engineering job) offering me a relocation or redundancy payment as our little office was due to close. This was a seed that I planted much earlier, when I left Australia it was with the thought that a redundancy offer while travelling would be the best possible outcome, and here 5 months later it had arrived. Now I would have the financial means to set up the business that I'd dreamed up during Vipassana, there was also no need to rush home, for the first time since being a child I was completely free with no commitments or obligations. One of the key things I learnt here is that when we are are very clear about what we want, these things will manifest, it only takes time. Things then begun to unfold further with Chris asking me to manage his villa while he visited he's partner Alona in the US, here was my reason to stick around in Bali.
The next stop was a quick trip to Singapore to undertake 6 days of Stand Up Paddleboard training. Again I met so many amazing people from all over the world but it was the guys from Singapore that I became great friends with. During those few days we learnt all about water rescue, paddling technique, and lots of new skills. I went into the training with the intent of simply getting a piece of paper to certify me as a SUP Yoga Instructor although enjoyed the paddling instruction so much that it became part of my business plan. Here I learnt that an open mind can show you doors that you never knew existed. I now have so much diversity in my business offering that I give myself every chance for success.
After Singapore I headed back to Canggu in Bali to look after the villa for a few weeks. This was a huge learning curve for me. I've managed lots of stuff before but had never done so in a foreign country and an area completely out of my expertise! Quickly I learnt about the significant cultural differences between Australia and Bali, I also came to realise that there are many different sub-cultures in Bali alone. Some of the key lessons that I learnt during this time were:
Once Chris returned to Bali he asked me to stay on and I was more than happy to do so. We came up with a plan where I would teach yoga at the villa, look after guest activities and set up/manage some social media platforms. He's an incredibly creative, intelligent guy, he's taught me so much about business, marketing and managing people expectations - these are lessons that I will translate in my own business.
While in Canggu, I was searching for a yoga studio where I could practice, I was stoked to come across Samadi. It was at Samadi with the lovely teachers Damien and Andrea that I finally began to learn the Ashtanga primary series. The Ashtanga style reintroduced some fire back into my practice, I'd very much lost this since the injury and my time in India practicing more passively.
It was during this two months of daily Ashtanga that I began to see my yoga practice in a new light. It's really difficult to explain in words, perhaps you could say that the spiritual side of the practice really started to shine through, this was the most beautiful gift - I now get to enjoy this on a daily basis.
I was still surfing almost daily but was soon to be taught another valuable lesson about over-doing it, making intelligent decisions and letting go. Somehow while surfing I replicated the injury that I had on my right side, only this time on the left. The severity was nowhere near as bad with only a few weeks rest needed, but it certainly alerted me to a problem. I went back to the basics:
That's not to say I no longer get out on the surfboard, just not every day and not for 2 hours at a time. If I feel like it I'll paddle out, catch a few waves and come back in.
I'd let go of surfing but was still battling with letting go of my engineering career, I had lots of great offers coming through for engineering work back in Australia but at the same time I knew that waSUP Yoga & Fitness absolutely had to go ahead. I was overwhelmed with options, my normal spreadsheet analysis wasn't bringing forward any answers, I honestly though that I could do it all, part time engineering and run a new business. That was when I decided to do some Life Coaching with Andrea at Samadi to help make sense of it all. It was after our first session and a simple homework exercise of writing down an ideal day that I came to realise that attempting to do both jobs would take me exactly where I was before I left Australia - overworked, exhausted and unfulfilled. Quickly I learnt that I can't do it all. The detachment to engineering was then instant. It was during this exercise that I learnt, when we are clear about our values it becomes easy to guide ourselves in the right direction.
While I enjoyed my few months learning Ashtanga I got to the point where I felt that my progression had significantly slowed, I was no longer inspired and wasn't learning as much as I would've liked. I needed to get back to the style of practice that I was most passionate about and constantly inspired by, Vinyasa. I wanted to soak up as much yoga as possible as I won't have this available to me when I get home. It was with these things in mind that I decided to treat myself to a two month yoga immersion in Ubud, my spiritual homeland. This would see me spending much more time on the motorbike (it's around 1hr away) but I didn't mind the driving.
One thing that's become clear to me in my travels back and forth is that so much of our experience is dictated by our own state of mind. Here in Bali I've found myself really enjoying lengthy road detours and getting stuck behind slow cars or in traffic, this is a great opportunity to see new areas and notice things I'd otherwise miss. When I leave here I'll be making a real effort to continue cultivating an attitude of appreciation/opportunity rather than frustration in circumstances which would normally cause stress, after all why should it be any different in Australia?
My Ubud destination was a yoga studio called Radiantly Alive, this place has been a real pillar of inspiration for me, it was here after a Transformational Breath workshop with Daniel almost two years ago that I knew with absolute certainty that I needed to get out of my work as a consulting engineer, this trigged everything that has taken place since. For the past two years I've used this studio as my retreat space, its where I go when I need to feel inspired, to reconnect to myself and to my yoga practice. It was here that:
Bali is such an incredible place, it keeps drawing me back in. I had no idea that I'd stay here this long, it's been a truly wonderful experience - I'd do it all over again. So much of my personal evolution has taken place on this small island, it now feels just as much like home to me as Australia.
I've met so many amazing people during my travels creating memories that I will cherish forever. I'm so grateful that I met Chris and Alona here in Canggu, they took me in like a family member, I've enjoyed every minute with them and the awesome team at Ngeluwungan Villa.
With just over a week left here in Bali I'm preparing to close the pages on this chapter of my life, one that was filled with travel, rapid transformation, much learning and growth... I had no idea what I looking for when I left Australia but I now see that I have everything I need...
In just under one month I will launch my new business waSUP Yoga & Fitness, my personal manifestation of all the things that I'm passionate about. For the next six months I'll be pouring my heart and soul into waSUP. I'll also be gathering the ingredients for the ultimate version of myself that I discovered during our Bali surf trip.
I return to Australia re-energised, focused and feeling more balanced and internally connected than ever before, it's from this space of internal contentment that I can now put myself back out into the world in service to others. I can't wait to see what the next six months brings, it's going to be one hell of a ride - rock on!
From the very early stages of my engineering career I knew I wanted to be a leader, for so many years I noted my long term goal as 'take on a role leading the water/wastewater team'.
I diligently worked towards this goal and was supported every step of the way. My superiors identified me as a future leader of the business so as a result I was given lots of opportunity for growth through great project assignments and training in management and leadership.
In early 2013 an opportunity to undertake a temporary leadership role arose. I was thrilled to be considered for the position that would see me relocated back to the city for 3 months. I did however have some concerns around the travel and my ability to do a good job while feeling so worn down. I was exhausted, I'd worked myself into the ground delivering a construction project and was planning on stepping back for a while to recharge the batteries.....but how could I pass up such and opportunity? It was a done deal, I'd be crazy to pass it up, I'd have my first taste of my dream role several years earlier than I'd planned, this would set me up for my future.
Only when I got a taste of the role, and it was literally just a taste because I fell into an even more intense leadership type experience within the business I quickly came to realise that I actually didn't want that leadership role within a corporate business.
Where did that leave me?? Lost and confused.
I had no idea where I wanted to go career wise so I started doing some soul searching. It really commenced in April 2013 when I spent some time in Bali immersing myself in yoga trying to figure it all out. The answers didn't arrive overnight I spent around 12 months actively seeking more clarity around what I really enjoy doing, what my core values are and what type of work would result in me living a life with purpose where I'm excited to get out of bed each day. My exploration included travel, yoga, vipassana meditation, life coaching, transformational breathing, journalling, surfing (reconnecting with my love of the ocean) various workshops and even some courses to explore my passions further.
On the 5th of July 2013 a seed was planted, I wrote an email to my parents that I never sent (I've been keeping it as a draft and I'm not sure why). It starts out:
"So I'm supposed to be getting back into my engineering work but all I can think about is yoga and a fitness studio in Gippsland!!"
I even went as far as giving the new studio a name, it was to be 'Yin Yang Fitness Studio' incorporating the intensity of fitness and the mindfulness of yoga.
I continued working in my engineering job as these new seeds were being planted, slowly I began taking action to explore the possibility of a career in health and fitness.
I'd let go of my engineering team leader dream that I was once very passionate about and started to replace it with my dream to teach yoga. The yoga teacher training was then booked in and I decided to take some time out to travel.
During the Vipassana Meditation in late December 2013 the concept for waSUP Yoga & Fitness was born. Perhaps with all my senses withdrawn I was merging all of the things that I love together into one entity (yoga, fitness and the water). It only became a reality in March 2014 when our small engineering office in Bairnsdale closed and I was offered a redundancy or relocation - another seed that I'd planted before I'd left Australia.
I never really thought of my aspirations with waSUP Yoga & Fitness as having anything to do with leadership, I was ready to let go of the whole idea even though it seemed to be the direction I've been moving towards for many years.
Which brings me to the present day......
Just last week I went to a workshop at Radiantly Alive in Ubud titled 'Discover your Dharma'. Dharma is a term used to describe your purpose in life, why we are here. I was initially hesitant to go, what if they told me something I didn't want to hear? I'm too far down the path with waSUP Yoga & Fitness to turn back now.... I don't need any seeds of doubt.... I couldn't wait for the workshop I needed to understand this dharma thing straight away, so I did some internet research. I knew that our dharma was to be established from something called 'Mayan Dreamspell'. I found a website entered in my date of birth and the result was somewhat astonishing. From the 260 possibilities (which are distinctly different) I was categorised as a 'Yellow Crystal Human'. The description was a follows:
I dedicate in order to influence
I seal the process of free will
with the crystal tone of cooperation.
I am guided by the power of flowering.
Phew, a sigh of relief - not only was this an answer that I was happy with I could see lots of truth in it. Free will and co-operation are two things that I highly value and influence is inherent in leadership, a direction that I'd been travelling in for a while. I'd satisfied myself that it was safe to go to the workshop. I was now super excited to be attending, I wanted to know more.
It's now crystal clear to me (no pun intended). I didn't stray as far from my path as I though I had, all of my experiences in the corporate world were intended to bring me closer to a more meaningful leadership role within the community.
As Simon Sinek so greatly presents in he's TED talk 'How great leaders inspire action' we cannot inspire unless we believe. It was time for me to step out of the corporate world, I'd lost faith in how things were being done and how that world operates, I had reached the point where I could no longer be effective in what I was doing, I simply didn't believe in it.
While waSUP Yoga & Fitness is an entirely different domain that I never really put in the basket of leadership I now see that it's exactly what I was put here to do, it's very much in line with my dharma. I truly believe in yoga and all the beautiful gifts that it has to offer, I also believe that spending time in the outdoors has a significant positive influence on how we feel.
My yoga practice has on many occasions shown me the way back to my true myself and has brought things to my attention that I otherwise would never have seen - it's quite honestly transformed my life in a very positive way. So many of my fondest memories are linked to the water and the outdoor environment, I can't help but feel great when I'm outside (except when it's icy cold and I've just fallen in the water - then the appreciation comes later when I can see the humour in the situation). I believe that sharing this with others is one of the greatest gifts that I can offer.
I'm no longer attached to the idea of sitting up nice and high on the corporate ladder, it's just not me. I'd just as happily take on the title of beach bum / yoga teacher / paddler and traveller.
At the end of the day 'leadership' is only a word and while it's part of my dharma, I'm not getting caught up with that either, I'm just going to get out there and do my thing. Some people will get it, relate to what I'm putting out there and in turn may be inspired, others won't and that's perfectly okay. At least now I move forward with purpose doing something that I truly love...and how do I know for sure that I love it?? Well sometimes while out on the water I accidentally take photo's of myself and on more than one occasion I've caught a shot of my beaming ear to ear. I don't recall a time when I felt this type of joy sitting in front of my computer desk.
That's not to say that this will be the case forever, just like my time in the corporate engineering world if I ever get to a point where I no longer believe in what I'm doing I will simply walk away and find something else that I can be passionate about. After all....
" Life is too short to be anything but happy. So kiss slowly. Love deeply, Forgive quickly. Take chances and never have regrets. Forget the past but remember what it taught you".
~ Abhishek Shukla
Mandy Habener (Dumas)