Friday, April 30, 2010

A little link love

I heart our yoga blog community.  Really.  Maybe because I am somewhat starved for company of people who are as obsessed with yoga as I am.  Obsessed? Me? Ummm, yes.  I mean, I keep a blog about yoga.

But then again, so do many of you! :)  Hearts all around.

Anyway here are some posts and blogs that I have recently discovered or recently been enjoying:
  • Bab's Babble: There was a lovely post today called "I heart Yoga Because" - so inspirational, it inspired me to heart you all in this post. ;)
  • Moving Meditation: Tiffany started blogging this year and I've been enjoying her insights on being a new yoga teacher, and her life in Denver!  For starters, check out this lovely post: "Things I would like to say to my beginner students".  If only all teachers would say these things!!
  • Mama Inspired: Juliana is a 'real' writer - and it shows! She writes beautifully about things she is passionate, including her childhood in Brazil and coming to America, her lovely daughter Luna, as well as recently ranting about the future of higher education!
  • Foolish Enthusiasm: Alex recently commented on my blog so I checked his out!  He's currently training as a yoga teacher and it's great to hear a voice from the other side of the gender line. ;)  Being not-very-new-media-savvy I have yet to figure out how to comment on his blog... So if anyone has any hints, let me know!
  • Svasti: A Journey From Assault To Wholeness: Svasti's blog is huge, complex, honest, fascinating, moving and impossible to take in all at once.  At the moment I'm enjoying her posts sharing her experience about Shadow Yoga - pretty intense, cool stuff.
  • Namaste_Heather - Heather is back!  :) :)  That makes me joyful in itself, and then she wrote this lovely post about Effort and Ease, such an important synergy in Yoga (and life!), and one I have been trying to work into my classes since reading it.

Happy Friday everyone!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Yoga for Soldiers

My life here is a little bit out of the ordinary.  You got that, right?  Anyway, twice a week I teach yoga to small groups of (mostly) men from the defense forces who are here as peacekeepers.  Yep, yoga for soldiers.

Teaching the troops has been a really educational experience for me as a teacher.  After all, they are pretty much the polar opposite of my own body type: small, female, thin without much muscle.  And what's more, they are not exactly your average beginner Yoga students.  First of all, they have been training their bodies for years, so generally they are very physically aware.  And secondly, they follow instructions!  LOL.  By which I mean that they respond well to verbal cues about the body, which is a skill that it took me years to develop.

I feel that I'm pretty lucky: in addition to teaching the gents of the Oz and NZ army, my twice weekly group classes have also gone from being nearly all female to having an almost equal male to female ratio, mostly thanks to a bunch of keen helicopter pilots and body builders.

So, what are these guys looking for in a Yoga class?

In my experience, these men, who are relatively fit already, come to yoga because they are looking for flexibility and injury prevention.  The majority of my women students are after weight loss, muscle tone, strength and fitness - most of which these guys already have!  What these men suffer from are tight hamstrings, stiff shoulders and lower back issues, to name the most common.  Many of them have also been injured from intensive physical training, sports, or combat, so injury prevention and/or recovery is a big theme as well.

Most of them are runners and/or weight trainers, and some do short interval training.  So building lung capacity and breath awareness, increasing oxygen intake, and developing a longer physical routine can also be motivating factors for them.  As they progress through the practice, those that get into it will come to see yoga as a way of honing their strength in a more uniform way and developing balanced bodies with flexibility as well as muscle, as well as enhancing their focus and concentration during athletic activities.  For more ideas of what might motivate these athletic guys, have a look at this website, which is the site of a personal yoga trainer for elite athletes!  She provides a neat list of physical and mental benefits that athletic types can expect from yoga.

Teaching the Troops

I have found that my best approach is to focus first on the physical benefits and then to let the mental benefits slowly sneak up.  People who are generally very physically focused will probably be put off (at least at first) by a spiritual approach to yoga.  So I usually start a practice with breathing exercises instead of meditation, and finish with a guided mind-body-awareness practice instead of chanting.  We work on challenging the breath and building awareness of 3-part breathing, the role of the diaphragm and shoulders, and how to expand lung capacity.

Other things I have found in working with this demographic is that I have to hit the level of challenge just right.  On the one hand, they are much stronger and fitter than most beginning students.  So I will introduce strength poses fairly early on, such as Chaturanga Dandasana, Plank and its variations (one-armed, or plank with leg lifts or knee bends), Navasana and Bakasana, to keep them challenged.  Arm balances and standing balances are great because they require strength as well as balance and give that special sense of achievement or reward for your efforts - Bakasana is a good one because it doesn't require much flexibility in the hips, as many others do.  For standing balances I like Tree with arm variations like Eagle to challenge the shoulders, and also poses like Warrior III which require a lot of core strength and focus.  I have found that the guys are more than willing to try 'scary' things like Bakasana - and I have seen a few of them get it on the first or second go (and it took me only, oh, 4 years or so?!)!

On the other hand, my muscle-bound students need encouragement that yoga can be accessible for them despite their low flexibility.  So I generally don't try to push them with too many seated forward bends or postures that require flexible hamstrings or bendy backs, which can be really frustrating and discourage them because they won't see much progress even over a 6-week period, and may not stick with the practice.  Although I do insist on paschimottanasana and janu sirsasana, with the emphasis on lengthening the spine - knees bent if necessary - I also offer lying down hamstring stretches and hip openers so they can go deep into the hamstrings without compromising the lower back.

Because most of these guys have limited hip and shoulder flexibility, we work on those areas through the standing postures, with a heavy emphasis on alignment too.  Poses like extended angle pose, warrior I and II, lunges with both hands inside the forward foot, and the occasional supine pigeon are good hip-openers, and poses like utanasana, Prasarita Padotonasana and parsvottanasana can be done with hands clasped behind the back to open the shoulders.  For all forward bends I try to encourage them to keep their knees bent and emphasize lengthening the spine in order to protect the tight hamstrings and slowly open up the lower back. 

Being, if you will, a bunch of boys, these guys are prone to challenge each other and themselves, so I try to discourage their competitive edge by emphasising breath and drishti, and by reminding them over and over to respect their limits and not push too far.   I also find that warming up properly is extremely important to make sure that they are stretching with the minimum possible risk of injury, so we start the practice with lots of repetitions of sun salutations.

Mind Body Balance

Over time (sometimes not very much time!) the mental benefits of yoga will start to shine through.  These can include improved relaxation and sleep habits, heightened focus and concentration, better overall energy levels and mental alertness, and emotional stability are all in the list.  And yes, some of my longer-term muscle men now chant with gusto, hands in namaste and all.  :)

These mental benefits of yoga have led to it also being used to treat soldiers who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, something Svasti blogged about yesterday, and something I found a short article about on this blog as well.

Your turn!

All in all it's been a great teaching experience for me and I've learned so much and am still learning.  Now, it's your turn....   Fellow teachers, what have been some body types you have learned a lot from working with?  Fellow students, what have you learned from people with different body types from your own?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Random weekend hobbies

I had a busy weekend living in the real world instead of the internet world... Ok, actually that's not entirely true because I did spend a bunch of it watching Season 3 of Angel, and playing a delightfully mindless game on my partner's iPod, entitled "Angry Birds" (that's the game, not the iPod), in which a variety of oddly-shaped birds enact their revenge on a hierarchy of round, green, egg-thieving pigs.  Oh, mindless, repetitive joy!! 

It might seem incongruous with my so-called-yogic life, but I love these kinds of games.  Perhaps it was because I wasn't allowed to have them as a child.  Until one year when a doctor/teacher/someone wise told my parents that I had terrible hand-brain-eye coordination, and that s/he thought video games would help.

So my parents went out and bought us the very first Nintendo.  My parents, who disliked television (except educational shows, which included, of course, Star Trek) and restricted us to one hour per day of staring at a screen, my parents who believed in social interaction and educational games.  My sister and I thought it was birthdays and Christmas all at once!!  Of course they didn't TELL us that it was prescribed, that would have spoiled the fun.  In, fact, my Mom let this juicy fact slip only recently when I visited her on holidays.

Anyway, my sister and I spent countless hours rejoicing in Mario Bros, Tetris, and of course, that old classic, Duck Hunt.  It makes my sides ache to giggle when I think of me and my sis, aged about 9 and 6, wielding that funny plastic pistol and gleefully blasting helpless digital ducks out of the sky.  Not very in line with Ahimsa, but I guess I turned out OK.  And quite opposed to real sport hunting, as life would have it!  Of course, this experience was tinged with a bit of irony from the start, when my mother became completely obsessed with Tetris, sometimes playing it well past bedtime and into the night! ;)

Ah well.  Not sure why I shared that story, but there you have it.  What strange habits or hobbies do you indulge in?  :)

Thursday, April 22, 2010


This morning I was feeling like a change, and somewhat short on time, so I put on a yoga podcast that I used to enjoy but haven't practiced to in nearly a year.  It was a 40-minute sequence of mainly standing poses with some twists and hip openers, and then a few seated hip openers as well.

I did the practice... and I was totally dissatisfied.  It wasn't that I wasn't challenged - there were some long holds and deep postures.  Some of the sequencing was nice too, like a Warrior II - Crescent Warrior - Half Moon standing sequence, and a Tree Pose to Warrior III balancing sequence which is a favourite of mine.  But there was just something that didn't do it for me - I think the real thing was that I just didn't feel I was generating heat.  I missed my sun salutations!  I didn't feel like my body ever really warmed up at all.  Also I felt really incomplete at the end - there were no backbends, no shoulderstand to round off the practice.  I did a few rounds of bridge and then a long headstand and then I felt better.

It was interesting to me as an experience of how much my personal practice has changed, how something that used to really do it for me just wasn't working for me today.

Have you ever had a similar experience?  How has your practice evolved? 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

(It's alright ma) It's only yoga

It seems that a lot of yoga practitioners feel a sense of pressure to live some kind of extraordinary life.   And when we're not busy feeling pressured to do more, we feel guilty about the things we are doing.  And as if that weren't complicated enough, we then feel longing for the things we aren't doing because we feel pressured or guilty enough not to do them!  I mean, whew, how do any of us even have time for yoga amidst all that?

I mean, isn't yoga supposed to liberate us from all that jazz?  All those chitta vritti (cheeky monkey?) thoughts that keep pestering at our brains like buzzing mosquitoes, homing in to attack us, all those doubts and ideals and, well, all of that?  After all, we are in this to find calming thoughts, centeredness, groundedness, self-awareness, self-confidence, cures for our illnesses and hopefully a bit of muscle tone to boot.  In short, we are in search of perfection.  Through Yoga.  Right?

Ah.  Is that what it comes down to?  Are we so convinced that somewhere out there, there is One Thing that will make us happy, that we are willing to give Yoga it's 5 minutes of fame to see if it does the trick? Nope?  Oh well, back to money, fame, fortune, weight loss or whatever else is on the list.

Sarcasm aside, my teacher taught me about renunciation.  When we look at yoga philosophy, we encounter notions like Ahimsa, non-harming, and Aparigraha, non-grasping / moderation.  Our first reaction is to immediately pounce on the material implications of these yamas, or restraints.  So, we practice Ahimsa by giving up eating meat because it harms animals.  We practice Aparigraha by giving up potato chips, or that pair of jeans you've been wanting.  Or we tell ourselves we didn't really want it anyway, because that wouldn't be yogic, right?

So our immediate reactions to the yamas are reactions of renunciation.  Giving things up is long acclaimed in our culture.  I mean, nobody loves a good martyr like we do (ok, well maybe some people do, but anyway, the point being, we love a good martyr like anybody!)

But, my teacher reminds us, the second Yama is Satya, or truthfulness.  And these types of renunciation which are accompanied by a sense of sacrifice, which are done because of an expectation of the result of the action or done because of how the outside world will perceive them, are not in line with Satya.

The difference is choice, and how you embrace it.  When we give something up, we go into it with the mentality that we are sacrificing something in order to attain something else.  Meat or jeans for yogic goodness.  Etc.  But according to my teacher, if you spend every day wishing you could eat meat, or have chips, or wear those jeans, then you are not living your satya, not living truthfully to yourself.

He believes that somewhere along the line, as you gradually reconnect with your true self, non-harming and moderation become things that become natural to you.  Instead of renouncing material goods in hopes of winning brownie points, you will reach a point where you truly no longer want to buy more things.  Instead of giving up eating junk food because you think you're supposed to, you just stop buying it out of a real desire to feed your body non-processed food.  Instead of wishing you could have those jeans, you become deeply disgusted with consumerism and the inequality of sweat shop labour.  In short, you live your yamas because they feel right, not because you have a desire to Be Right.  And when you do this, negative emotions like guilt, jealousy, and martyrdom will fall by the wayside, because you will be living in balance with yourself.

I feel the same way about the physical practice of Yoga.  Today while I was on my mat, I was practicing away, wondering how long I should practice, and what, and thinking how I wish I practiced more, and all kinds of other things, and then it slowly crept into my head... you know what?  It doesn't matter.  It's only Yoga!

I know - Gasp.  Right?  But there it is.  It's not life or death, it's not family, it's not love, it's not any of the things that really and truly I can't survive without.  It's not how I want to measure myself or define myself.  I am not the successes or the limitations of my body.  I am not my practice.  I am not my asana, pranayama, pratyahara or the rest of it.  Yes, I love my practice, and  yes, it makes me feel good.  But it's not the be all and end all of my day.  It's not how I feed myself or what keeps me warm at night.  It's only a body on a smelly mat.  It's only Yoga.   And that is liberating.

You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks they really found you
A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit
To satisfy, insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to
Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to
(From Bob Dylan's "It's alright Ma (I'm only bleeding) )

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Save the Planet Sundays - Green Air Travel?

Wow, is it Sunday again?  How time flies.  And speaking of flying...  With the huge shutdown of air travel in Europe, I thought I'd muse a bit on the environmental impact of air travel.  Living overseas and far from my family, I fly long-haul at least once a year, and more often 2-4 times, as well as taking shorter flights in the region for work or simply to get off the island.

According to several web sources, air travel is responsible for between 3 and 10% of global carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions per year, both of which have been linked to global climate change.  Aircraft rely on fossil fuels, of which they burn huge amounts, and release these gases into the lower and upper atmosphere (troposphere).  While there seems to be little data available on exactly how much is emitted and what the impact is, like any other fossil fuel-reliant industry, the folks who make planes are under pressure to make air travel greener by reducing emissions and increasing fuel efficiency.  However, with the number of air passengers set to double by 2020, even the ambitious 50% emissions reduction for that year targeted by the EU (see here) would basically bring us back to square 1!

Air travel is linked to the food industry, allowing us to eat foods that come from far-flung corners of the globe, and increasing as we then demand more.  On the other hand, it also allows us to receive mail, transport medicines and emergency supplies to those in need, and conduct search and rescue operations, to name a few worthy causes.  How much slower would the relief efforts in Haiti or Aceh have been without air travel?  How many lives would have been lost in remote communities without planes to fly the sick to hospitals?  And while the hordes of sunburned tourists on far flung beaches might look like they'd be better off back home, millions of families around the world depend on revenues from global tourism, trade and other ventures made possible by the speed of air travel.

If you've a mind to avoid air travel, you can look for opportunities to travel by train or bus instead of flying.  While it might take longer, you can sure see a lot more on the way!  Would-be air travelers are also encouraged to take local holidays - see the sights that you never see right in your backyard.  And when you do fly, some airlines offer passengers the option to add a few dollars to their ticket and support carbon-offsetting ventures.  Air New Zealand, for example, runs an Environmental Trust that buys and plants trees on conservation reserves and supports sustainable farming initiatives, has a carbon offsetting program, and is conducting research into more environmentally friendly fuels.

While these airline-conducted ventures are far from perfect, the eco-conscious traveler can certainly do some research before hand to pick a more environmentally aware carrier for their long-haul flight.  And, if you really have a mind to, some charities these days (at least in Canada!) allow you to calculate the environmental impact of your specific flight, and to make an 'equivalent' donation to preserve forests or plant trees to (in theory anyway) offset your individual emissions footprint.  (Full disclosure - I have yet to make use of these but if I do I will be sure to report back!)  There is a list with links to a few of them here!

And, of course, for the intrepid traveler looking for a fully sustainable form of travel, for those truly interested in the journey rather than the destination - there is sailing. :)

The lovely S/V Dany II

Well readers... what are your thoughts on the skies?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

All propped up

To prop or not to prop? It's a question that may often cross a yoga teacher or student's mind. On the one hand, props offer many benefits in terms of alignment, comfort and safety in a pose. On the other hand, they are bulky to carry with you to class, and some of them (like the rather abused yoga strap) might actually prompt behaviour that works against you instead of with you (like tugging hard on the strap to pull yourself further into a forward bend).

Traditionally in Ashtanga yoga, no props are used. Instead, poses are modified to suit the needs of the individual, and the student can gradually progress towards the full pose. A ready example is extended angle pose: instead of bringing the hand to the ground beside the forward foot, the student can place their elbow on their knee. This allows them to keep the chest revolved open and still stretch the other arm out over their ear. This modification is so useful for getting people to stay in alignment that I actually teach it in all my classes, with the full pose as an option only!

However, in other forms of yoga like Iyengar, props are used a lot, to help students find the correct alignment in a pose and also to protect them from injury. Examples are placing a block under your hand in triangle pose, or blankets under the shoulders in shoulderstand (although to be fair, most Ashtanga-trained teachers learn this one as well).

As a teacher, I generally don't use props in group classes. Partly this is an availability issue - not enough to go around!, but in big part it's because I teach vinyasa yoga, and props interrupt the flow and pace of the classes, plus take up space in a packed classroom. I choose instead to teach modified poses, and offer variations for students of different levels. I do however have a few students who bring their own props to class, which is great!

In private classes on the other hand, I'm a big fan of using props, depending on individual needs. I find the props give more confidence to some students to explore poses more deeply than they otherwise would. Mostly I use blocks: under the hands in low lunge (helps open up the chest), triangle, parsvottanasana, ardha chandrasana and the like. I also use blankets under the sitting bones for forward bends, and under the shoulders for shoulderstand. As you may have gathered from the first paragraph I'm not a fan of using straps in forward bends, but I do use them occasionally to help someone bind in a tricky twist, or as supports in restorative baddha konasana and supta baddha konasana. I have also occasionally used a strap to help me play with deep backbends like pigeon pose, which I have found rewarding but intense.

And then of course there is therapeutic, prenatal and restorative yoga, for which props are a must!

One of my absolute favourite therapeutic uses for a yoga block is also as a back-massage tool! Lying in various positions with a block placed under different areas of your back is like getting a deep-tissue massage. Try it! With your knees bent as if you were going into bridge pose, lift up your hips and place the block under your lower back, middle back, along your spine, or (my favourite!) the buttocks. Slowly release your weight onto the block and enjoy!

What about you, bloggers and blogettes? Have you used props? When or how have they been helpful to you?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Save the Planet Sundays

Living a green life is not always easy. In my case, it's made more complicated by living in a third world country! On the one hand, my 'footprint' is probably lower than it would be if I were living in a western city - I don't ever have to drive very far, there are no malls or shopping plazas with air-conditioning that I can go to, no pre-packaged sandwiches I can throw away the wrapper to, no junk mail (actually there is no mail delivery system at all...), no Chinese takeout!

But on the other hand, there are no recycling facilities in this country (sigh), so all my trash goes straight to a landfill, even glass and paper. There are no public transportation options, and cycling around town as a white woman can be dangerous and certainly not something I risk my laptop for! With limited choices (only 3 supermarkets) I don't always have the option to buy organic or fresh - I certainly can't just pop down to the local health food store and press my own peanut-butter like I used to do when I was studying in Montreal! And of course, environmental consciousness is just NOT a part of people's mentality here - we're still talking throwing plastic bottles out of car windows, and trash bags into rivers, people. *Sigh*

Will this be a regular feature? Maybe, maybe not. But for today, here are 7 every-day things that I do to help save our Earth.
  1. I use my reusable shopping bags every time I shop, and carry one around in my purse so I never have to take home a plastic bag!
  2. I take water in my own bottle to work every day, and refill it at lunch, so I never have to buy a plastic water bottle!
  3. I consciously try to avoid buying products with too much packaging, especially plastic or styrofoam.
  4. I turn off the shower when I don't need the water e.g. when shaving.
  5. I turn off all the lights and appliances in my house whenever I am not using them or am not in the room.
  6. I car-pool whenever possible, and my car is pretty fuel efficient.
  7. I compost all my organic waste and use it to fertilise my garden.
My footprint is still a lot larger than I'd like it to be - but for today I'm celebrating these small steps and all the improvements I've made in recent months.

What about you? What every-day Earth-friendly things do you do?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The gift that keeps on giving

For this yogini, a fundamental part of practising ahimsa is non-harming to the environment. Thus, one of my major life resolutions this year has been to cut down on my trash - especially plastic bags and plastic bottles. I'm proud to say that since January I have only brought home about 3 plastic shopping bags (although some of my trash still goes out in plastic garbage bags), and have consistently rejected things with too much packaging involving plastic or styrofoam. This is no easy feat in Asia, where environmental consciousness is still in its infancy (actually, more like fetal stage!) and the general rule of thumb seems to be the more plastic the better.

A few months ago when traveling in New Zealand, I came across this little gem of a product - Envirosax!! Envirosax are reusable shopping bags that roll down into a tight little packet and are easy to slip into your pocket or purse, so you never forget to have a carry bag with you!

I bought one and am so in love with it, I carry it around everywhere! And every time I roll it out in the supermarket I get "ooohs" and "aaaahs" from those nearby. No more of those bulky, ugly and hard to carry shopping bags for me! These bags come in an astounding array of beautiful patterns and colours - they are so stylish and striking that on occasion I just use them as a purse and have even used mine as an airline carry-on bag.

The other thing that makes these bags stand out for me is that they have wide shoulder straps, so you can carry a heavy load over your shoulder and the straps never dig in. Finally, they roll down into a teensy little packet that can easily be slipped into your purse so you never forget your shopping bag. You can even get a little pouch of 5, all rolled up and packed tightly together. What a cool gift for yourself or a loved one!

Most of the bags are made out of lightweight polyester (yes, this is a plastic, but the company argues that this makes them affordable, durable and even recyclable) but they also have an organic series with lovely bags made out of cotton, linen, bamboo and even hemp.

I'm not generally one for product placement, but this one I just had to share! Check out their website here... and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A little slice of eco-paradise?

Somewhere in the south Indo-Pacific, there is an island. In legend, this island was born of an old crocodile, who came to his final resting place here, laying down his head and turning into beaches and mountains. In more recent history, this island went through the turbulence of colonialism, war, independence, civil war, occupation, struggle and liberation, eventually resulting, 10 years ago, in the creation of the half-island state of East Timor. My home for the past 6 years. (Photo: children on Atauro playing in the water on a Sunday afternoon - in the background, about 20 miles away, is East Timor.)

Geographically, the island of Timor lies on a diagonal to a chain of islands running east from Java, Indonesia. In this little chain, East Timor has one outpost: the tiny island of Atauro (spelled on Google maps as "Atouro" - go on, you know you want to...). Atauro is a steep, mountainous island surrounded by a ring of beaches and coral reefs. It is a dry place, with only one source of fresh water on the island, which must be painstakingly brought to the inhabitants of its several villages by a system of overland piping. It is a place of intense beauty and great scarcity, of extreme tranquility and also of poverty. In the 1980's it was a prison camp: thousands starved there, wasting away as part of the occupation to which Western powers turned a blind eye (and which was made possible in great part by their weapons and political support).

On Atauro there is a place that is one of my own personal sanctuaries: the eco-village of Tua Koin. Set up with the help of an Australian woman, Tua Koin is now a sustainable, community run tourism venture. Unlike many places of that name, Tua Koin is truly an ecological marvel: its simple facilities are constructed of completely local materials (bamboo and palm fronds), it has composting toilets and at night energy-efficient lights use solar energy gathered during the day to provide light. To conserve water, its outdoor showers use the 'dipper' method: dipping a small scoop into a tank of fresh water and pouring it over your body. (Photo: sunrise from my bungalow).

Over the years I have been there many times, with friends, family, and loved ones. It is like a breath of fresh air in our hot, dusty world to watch the sunrise from the porch of a bamboo hut. I have many memories there, and as all things transitory, they are bittersweet in the savouring. The thing that always strikes me the most is how simple life is there, and how that simplicity makes my heart soar and my soul feel more free. Rising with the dawn, birds call. Slipping into sleep at night, I am lulled by the sound of the waves on the beach, like the world is breathing. It is not a romantic simplicity: life there is hard and marked by isolation, scarcity and poverty. The nearest hospital is across the water on Timor, and if the weather is bad you can't get there. Women die in childbirth, babies die of diarrhea, children go malnourished and many will die before the age of 5. (Photo: sun salutations at sunrise!)

So, the notion of this 'simple life' is not to be thrown around lightly, nor does it necessarily equate ahimsa (non-harming), as we might like to think. Yes, it is eco-friendly, but not necessarily people-friendly. What it is, though, a glimpse of a world in which there is no pollution, no traffic, in which everything is used and re-used and re-used again, in which children are overjoyed to go to school and the little ones spend days splashing in the shallows, in which the passage of life is marked out in tides and moons and rains. A dying life perhaps, one more akin to the lives of our ancestors than to our childrens'. And yet my heart longs for a balance. Isn't there a way for us to have it all? To have simplicity without poverty, to be close to nature without it causing so much suffering?

Perhaps not... But a yogini can always dream, I guess.

(Tua Koin village)

(The 'dipper' shower)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Choosing Peace

It's been a hectic week and my blog has been neglected. It's amazing how quickly my time is consumed and my brain is drained when I am working full-time! If I ever need re-affirmation that a part time life is for me, this would do it.

Part of the week has been stressful contract negotiations. Ick, right? It's ironic because it's taken me nearly 3 weeks to negotiate the terms of a 3 week job! Finally on Tuesday (2 days after the job started) I just gave in and signed the thing. And moved on.

It reminded me that life in the real world doesn't just do what you please. It does what it pleases and you just have to deal. But no matter how much things seem out of your control, we always have one thing: choices.

No matter what, we make choices every second. If I see a situation as a burden, that's a choice. If I react to someone with anger instead of patience, that's a choice. If I choose not to deal with an issue, that's also a choice.

In this case, I chose to let go. Which more often than not, is the best choice for me. Not happy with the contract but accepted it anyway? Let it go. Not looking forward to the job? Let it go. Not sure how to handle a personal situation? Let it go. Just breathe. Just believe that it will be ok in the end, that when the time is right, the right thing will happen.

In a nutshell - choose peace. As the Dalai Lama said: "Learning to live is learning to let go."

Namaste and have a great long weekend everyone! I will be in my hammock in a bamboo hut in an eco-village on a very remote island and will have no access to the internet whatsoever. Namaste to that!