Day 229 to Day 236 – only love kills war

Day 229 – fight energy

Going to watch a fight is not something I would normally do but when the opportunity is presented, I consider it to be a new and exciting experience. Unfortunately, my instincts are right and watching people beat each other up does not prove entertaining. I used to love boxing training but I remember it made me really angry. It seems to fuel a certain kind of energy, a smoky, dark fire energy that ignites the ego into animalistic traits. The gym we are in suddenly feels extremely cold and I am shivering. I can’t wait for this fight to be over so we can leave. This time I am out of my comfort zone and there is no magic happening. I feel the fire around me, as though it is closing in and my own anger reflexes are sparking. I want to get out of this situation! Krystle sees me coughing. That chest infection seems to have returned. She wraps herself around me to warm me up and radiates light and love. She is excited and watches the fight with so much enthusiasm. She seems completely immune to the dark energy that I can feel. I close my eyes and visualise a white light radiating from within and enveloping my entire body. Suddenly time seems to pass faster and before I know it, the fights are over, we are in the car and driving back to my comfort zone. Perhaps if I had done the white light before leaving the house my experience would have been different. Perhaps I was just sick. Either way, the white light protected and healed. Energy is something we radiate, it is something we can change and use in any situation. It is our greatest power and yet we so easily forget about it. When I walk in my door, I feel myself stepping into a cloud of pure white light. This is home. This is sanctuary.


Day 230 – sunshine and the clouds

The clouds have lifted and the day is warm. I quickly change into a bikini and sprint down to the beach, but the wind is still cold and the scattered clouds gravitate towards the sun, stealing the warmth. It’s like the only cloud in the sky is working against me. It is too cold to be down at the beach with shorts on. Eventually I give up and go home. I am meditating on this when I start to look around me, feeling sunshine through the window. The light is seeking me out. I stare out the window at the blue sky and there isn’t a cloud in sight. I guess that is the irony of life. Sometimes there are clouds when you don’t want there to be. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes it storms. Sometimes you find yourself warm in a blizzard and sometimes a little wind can chill you to the bone. If there is one thing that constantly reminds me of the changing nature of life it is the sky. Life is change and even in the cold, dark and stormy times, there is beauty. Warmth, like energy, like light, can come from within. The sun is always shining on the inside, so that we can reflect it back on the outside. Deep inside my true self, there are no clouds.


Day 231 – smile and dial

My first day of telephone calls at work. We call prospects for 50 minutes and then take a 10 minute break. I dial the first number. Smile and dial, they say! Apparently a smile can be heard and nobody wants to hear from someone who doesn’t smile. A smile is about so much more than just the mouth, though and if you are speaking with your mouth, the smile changes anyway. I remember watching America’s Next Top Model (I know, it is my one weakness in reality television) and Tyra Banks was showing the girls how to smile with the eyes and not with the mouth. So a smile happens in the whole face. In Qi Gong, I was told to imagine the body filling up with smiling energy. As you move this energy around the body, you feel everything brighten up. So a smile happens somewhere deep in the dantian, below the belly button. It isn’t just necessary to flash your teeth when you make the call, it is also essential to find that smiling energy. People can sense over the phone what kind of person I will be and that will determine whether or not they will take time out of their day, let me into their homes to show them wine. Many of my calls are rejected, people are either not interested or they do not drink or they don’t remember filling out the survey and giving us their phone number. But many are also excited and pleased and I can feel them smiling right back. When I look around the room at the other reps, I see their own smiling energy, like a little aura of yellow around their faces. Smile and dial. “Hello, this is Elizabeth calling from Pieroth wines…”


Day 232 – you have what it takes to succeed

I don’t normally listen to motivational podcasts but I have found one about sales that is more of a holistic approach. Jason McClain of Personal Life Media, who records short 5-10 minute talks called Evolutionary Sales, offers a method for self hypnosis. I take out my notebook and write 3 sentences that I really need to hear, addressing myself in the second person:

1)   You have what it takes to succeed

2)   You know exactly who you are and have the courage to be your true self

3)   You are valued and respected

I then take my place in front of the mirror and stare directly into one eye (shifting between the eyes does not have the same intensity, so it is recommended to choose just one eye). I repeat each sentence five times and then notice any emotional reaction. I am supposed to do this twice a day for three days. The first round makes me feel a little bit silly but eventually I start to feel different. It is powerful to talk to oneself so directly, with such firm statements. I find my voice getting a little louder and stronger. I am more certain of the words. I feel empowered. I feel successful. I feel valued, respected, courageous. I feel me.

Day 233 – meditation creek

I wake up early for a run down to Bronte to meet a friend. When I get there, he hasn’t arrived yet so I wonder up the gully and down to a small waterfall. I sit down on the cool rocks and change from the running music to Wah!, listening to the soft chanting of Hare Krishna as I meditate on the flowing water. My eyes notice several pieces of rubbish scattered along the other side of the creek. I try to refocus on the water, knowing I can get the rubbish when I am finished, but I can’t concentrate. I step over the creek and start picking up what looked like a small amount of rubbish, but end up with a pile of plastic, foam and drink bottles that I can’t even carry. A man stops to say thank you, which I find odd for some reason. I guess if Mother Nature can’t say it herself, she sends someone who can… Rather than feeling like my meditation was interrupted, it kind of just morphed into an act of seva. I still feel the same flow of energy that I get from meditation, maybe it is just a little bit brighter.


Day 234 – the first swim of summer

It is hot today! Who would have thought we would already be in the ocean in mid-August! The air is soft and balmy and even though the ocean takes my breath away when I first jump in, I move around and soon feel comfortable in it. I realise it has been months since I was last in the ocean. Bali, maybe? In March. I allow the water to embrace me and I remember a poem I once wrote about the ocean being a lover. It is warm and inviting and then without warning can turn cold and uninviting, thrashing me around, rejecting me back to the shore. And obviously we always love the chase, because we keep coming back for more.


Day 235 – sisterhood

I have a three-hour break to go and visit my sister in law, Veronica. She is 7 months pregnant and starting to show. My four-year-old niece is playing with her cousins in the other room while we talk. It was only a month ago that they found out they were having a boy, but my niece, Bella, knew all along. She said she knows her little brother and that his name is Oscar. Veronica was once told by a psychic that they have been siblings in a past life. Even before Veronica fell pregnant, Bella would tell other children about her little brother Oscar who just “wasn’t here yet”. As soon as they found out a baby was coming, Bella was adamant that it was Oscar. Nobody could doubt her when she says it with such conviction. As we talk, he starts to stir and I get to feel the little movements this tiny life is making. Even though I can’t see him, I already feel a connection to this little boy. He is my blood, my family, waiting to be held by us, already loved by us. The miracle of life growing inside is still something I find so profound and incredible that I am not sure I will ever have the courage to do it myself. But it is still amazing to watch it happen. Can’t wait to meet you, little man…


Day 236 – standing up

Unfortunately, haters gonna hate.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”

I know that my chronic optimism and happiness can piss people off, especially when they are stuck in their own cycle of negative thought. I know that people take an expression of kindness the wrong way and sometimes think there is malice behind a compliment. I know that not everyone understands pure love from a stranger. When a girl I barely know snaps at me and starts to say personal and spiteful words, I begin by very calmly telling her not to talk about it. I guess the Christian way to deal with this would be to just accept, know that she is simply misinformed, angry and suffering. Then again, even a spiritually evolved person can only take so much. Eventually I fire up and my anger gets thrown right back at her. Without swearing, without yelling, I tell her more than firmly that she is talking about my life, which is none of her business. In the end, the circle of friends around us has to yell at us both to shut up and I feel like I have failed. In hindsight, had I said nothing, her it might have felt better to walk away but I also feel like sometimes it is more than necessary to stand up for yourself.

Sometimes people judge, however I believe that everyone is a reflection. What is it that this situation is trying to show me about myself? Have I judged myself too harshly? Do I allow myself to criticise my own happiness? There are always two things to ask; how am I responsible and what did I learn? I am responsible for my reaction in this situation, for my anger and emotions. I learnt that I am human, I can still hurt from unkind words, and that if I can forgive the person who said them, then I can also forgive myself for being hurt by them and still send love to the person who said them for she must be hurting deep inside.

Day 223 to Day 228 – City to Surf to Wine to Blood

Day 223 – too excited to sleep

I am still buzzing of the natural high I got from climbing and I can’t seem to sit still. I want to run around and yet I know City 2 Surf is on tomorrow so I need to rest. I roll out the yoga mat and get to downward dog, which is where I stop. I can’t move. It feels too good. Finally I have stillness! Most people probably wouldn’t think that downward dog is much of a rest but I love this pose and with rhythmic breathing I can stay here for ages. So I do. About twenty minutes later I finally move into a forward bend. This is the kind of practice that I need right now just to calm myself down. I can feel the whirlwind of excitement slowing down. I move slowly, with intention and do no more than about 6 poses in total. I feel completely different when I stand up. I barely slept last night so I finally realise how tired I am and decide to have a lie down. It doesn’t last. I feel the energy rise up again and I decide to get ready and go out. I just want to see people. After being isolated all week, I want to be surrounded by a crowd, to have to say hello and goodbye to everyone I know. When we leave the house the road outside is wet from the rain and in two steps I take a tumble and graze my knee. I will later graze the other knee on my way home. I hold the bloody tissue in the taxi, shaking my head at the irony. Seriously, Liz, you can go mountaineering for a week and come away with nothing more than a couple of bruises but the moment you try to put on high heels you fall over and start bleeding?! I know my vata energy should be calmed in some other way but this feels like more than just the erratic winds of vata blowing me about. I feel the fire of pitta burning away inside of me, charging me about. I feel like I have been ignited and I can’t possibly just stay inside in case my energy burns the house down. It is an amazing feeling to be so bright and light. I am in bed by midnight and finally can sleep. When I wake up I will run 14km.


Day 224 – City 2 Surf

I wake up early and can’t get back to sleep. I am way too excited for this race! I get out my running gear. It seems cold so I am grateful that I managed to wash my thermal Skins in time. At the start line, groups of people chat to each other. I stand alone, listening to music. I am uncertain about this. I know how tired I should be. I am still running on the fire energy that I have gathered from mountaineering. I can’t believe how little sleep I have been getting. I close my eyes and turn inwards, taking a moment to see that fire. This fire can carry me up a 2km slope carting a sled of human faeces. I have no idea what heartbreak hill is supposed to be like but it can’t be as bad as that slope. The crowd starts to jog and I begin dodging all the walkers and prams that were in front of me. Before long I find my own space in the wide open road of William St. Emerging from the tunnel, the sun is sparkling out over Rose Bay. I love Sydney. I take a moment to be grateful for this chance to see so many people places as we run towards Bondi beach. I know that the hill happens at the halfway point, but when it is over I am unsure. Was that it? I don’t want to sound arrogant but wow, it really was nothing! It was a long uphill run, yes, but I never really found it hard. I guess it’s all relative. After the slopes and hills I have been climbing this week, that paved road was nothing. The last km is the hardest. To be so close and yet so far, it is like my body finally allows itself to admit how tired it really is. It is at the last few hundred metres, coming around the bend toward the finish line that I feel the last surge of energy. I sprint toward the finish 93 minutes after I left the start. I had wanted to finish in under 90 minutes but considering all the factors at play here, I am pleased with my result. I did it and I did it easily. I never felt like I was pushing myself harder than I could handle and I came out the other end alive. Time to go home and lie down again. One of these days I will figure out what rest means.


Day 224 – grass blessings

I am walking back to Bondi to pick up my car. The coastal walk is eerily empty of people. A cool wind whips at my face and I look out to the horizon. The ocean is a dark grey colour, but I even love when it looks dark and stormy like this. There is something romantic about it, like she is heartbroken, crying over a lost love. I walk up some stairs towards my car, holding my hand out to run my fingers through the tall grass. The smooth blades slide across my skin and I stop to say thank you to them at the top of the stairs. I feel like rolling around in the wet sand, like smelling damp earth, like just making love to mother nature. I stop at my car, not even sure if I want to get into it. I know I have things to do today, so I need to get in and drive but I have just had the most beautiful walk, feeling entirely part of this universe. I get in and despite the cold, wind down my window and enjoy the air on my face. I guess that is the beauty of wind. It gets in everywhere and even when encased away from nature, a window can always be opened to let in the sunshine and the breath of god.


Day 225 – last yoga class

It is not without some emotion that I teach my final yoga class at Yogatime. It is a busy class and as I find the rhythm of my voice moving along with the pace of the students, I start to wonder if I am making the right decision. When the class leaves and someone tells me it is a shame that I will no longer be teaching there, I almost want to cry. What am I doing? To be honest, I am not sure but this isn’t the first time this year that I have wondered about this journey. All I can do is trust that the path I am walking is exactly where I am supposed to be. If I walk away from teaching asana, it does not necessarily mean that I will no longer be a yogi so I place my faith in the path and allow the allowing.


Day 226 – first day at Pieroth

There are worse ways to spend a first day of work than tasting premium wine. Learning how to read a German wine label takes a lot longer but once I have grown accustomed to the un-pronouncables, the rest is up to my palate. I close my eyes to breathe the soft varietal bouquet. Passionfruit, pomegranate, violets, citrus, fresh cut grass, earthy wood, spring jasmine at dusk… My brain struggles to keep up with my nose. How is there no meditation in enjoying the flavour of wine? Hand picked grapes, selected with care, the juice extracted through first press from the natural weight of the grapes. Anything made with such elegant delicacy, such love and passion, deserves to be honoured and drunk with the same meditative care.

I prefer the dry wines. The first one we try, a German white, Nussdorfer Herrenberg, steals my heart, though it feels some serious competition from the French Collier D’or. I never drink Rose, but I also never say no to a drop so when I try the Chevalier de Bayard Rose and fall head over heels in love, I can barely believe it. Drinking commercial, cheap wines, it would only take an hour before I would end up with a headache, or a minor hangover, but these premium wines with minimal additives (sulphites only), are mellow and kind. No headache or sleepiness ever appears. I feel satisfied and content as I leave my first day at work and offer gratitude to the universe for this part of the path.


Day 227 – help a friend out

Sometimes friends ask for help and without question we want to just blurt out all the advice we can offer. Sometimes that advice is taken on board and other times it is rejected. Sometimes it is appreciated and sometimes it aggravates. Ultimately, every experience is unique and what works for one person may not necessarily be truth for another person. Every person has to decide for them selves and no one situation can accurately reflect all the variables of someone else’s situation. Unfortunately tonight when I offer my friend some advice, I can see it has agitated him and that is the last thing I want. In the end, all I can offer is a hug. I hope it is enough, but be aware, dear friend, that the ego will make mountains out of molehills and drama out of drear. As your friend, I want to shoulder your pain and fix the problem. I want to share the embrace and light up the dark. But in reality, I don’t have all the answers. I won’t always say the right thing. Sometimes all you need is a hug and for me to say nothing but to only listen. If nothing else, I can tell you that I understand, I can validate your feelings, not tell you not to feel them.


Day 228 – running and bleeding

New shoes. We all love new shoes. I just wish I could buy old shoes. Wearing in new shoes can be painful and the blisters on the back of my heels are not healing. I go for a run but within the first kilometre, I have to stop and bend over because my nose is dripping with blood and I have no tissues. I stand and watch the red droplets fall to the ground. This has happened twice lately, but just mid-conversation. When the blood finally clots, I continue running and uphill my shoes rub the blisters so badly that I just turn around for home. When I get home the back of my socks are soaked in bright red blood. I can’t even run without hemorraging from my face to my feet! I don’t understand. I guess this is my body telling me to stop, to just rest and take it easy. I can feel the latent impressions coming back. The distorted body image appears in the mirror and I hear a critical and mean voice from my past make a nasty comment. I stop and look at my reflection deep in the eyes. “Liz, you just climbed a mountain last week. You ran 14km after going out all night and you still ran even after you bled from your face, only to find that you were bleeding from your feet as well! If you can’t forgive yourself and allow yourself to rest right now then you will never allow yourself the chance to recover your strength.” I take a long, hot shower and finally the negativity is washed away. I find my reflection again. “You don’t do guilt, Liz!” That is the last time I try to carry myself away on a guilt trip for not exercising as hard/strong/long as I wanted to. I wouldn’t treat a lover like that, so why do I do it to myself? Love. Pure love. Not tough love.

Day 217 to Day 222 – Mountaineering and Snow Camping

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Day 217 – the road to Jindabyne

I leave the house in my base layer thermals, knowing that the further I drive, the colder I will get. I have an equal mix of fear, excitement and curiosity. Leaving the south coast, the road winds and turns up into the mountains. Deep green trees hang over the road, embracing the road and minimal sunlight creeps down. Eventually the road flattens out and fields stretch out to the horizon. I see a wind farm far to the left. I realise I have never seen one before and the windmills have an eerie silence to the moving blades. Their presence is just a stark reminder of how sick our planet is and whilst they also symbolise progress, there is something alien about them in that beautiful landscape.

When I finally get to the Austrlian School of Mountaineering campsite, a considerable amount of layers have been stacked on and I go about stuffing small chocolate bars in all my pockets. I meet my tent buddy, Marina, who is closest to my age in the group. We go up to an Italian restaurant and I order an enormous bowl of pasta which stares at me like a challenge. Somehow my boy brain kicks in and I feel like I have to finish this whole plate of food in front of these ladies just to prove something. I get about three forkfuls away from succeeding when my stomach starts kicking me from the inside, yelling “You did not eat that with mindful conscious awareness!!! If you had, you would have realised you were full twenty minutes ago!!!” I still take a glance at the dessert menu… Well I know I will need the carbs. In the morning we pack up the camp and trek into the national park. We barely sleep in the tent as 100km/hr winds whip at our tents. It isn’t even snowing here. Apparently a weather warning has been issued and we may not get to go. I lie down and look inside, to the self that knows what the hell I am doing here. There is just a silent acknowledgement. Anywhere you are is exactly where you are supposed to be. And apparently that is a Women’s Mountaineering course, Liz? Yes, Liz. It is.


Day 218 – the long trek in

We leave the comfortable resort area with sleds connected to our harnesses and our packs full of gear and sleeping bags. The wind and snow whacks us fiercely and at least one lady in our group has said she can’t wait for this week to be over. I have a full balaclava over my face but my breath just fogs up my goggles and I can barely see anyway. We come to the snow river and a guy in front breaks straight through the ice, his snowshoe stuck. One of the guides drops straight down and with no gloves is trying to dig through the hard snow. We all move quickly in the more successful footprints to get to the other side. As soon as we are moving downhill again, I finally have the chance to look around me and just gasp in wonder. I have never been surrounded by so much white. It’s just breathtaking. It feels magical, like Narnia. Just as quickly the path turns uphill and I am sending hate mail to myself again. I have changed sleds and the one I haul now is a little bit lighter, but my snow shoes just scramble about in the soft snow up this steep slope. I finally figure out that if I just kick aggressively with the toe of my shoe, I can compact the snow and climb up. We hit camp and it is mid afternoon. We only have about an hour and a half of daylight to set up our tents in the howling wind and build a snow wall. I am shovelling snow with Marina, thinking how beautiful and fluffy it seems. When I touch it, I realise how cold and sharp it feels. About an hour later, still shovelling out a snow wall, my thought process has changed. I hate the snow, I think, as I finally sit down in my tent and try to shake the white off my boots. My toes and fingers feel warm from all the movement but they are stiff and numb within minutes. Why the hell am I here, I think? I need a hot drink. I need to pee. There are some anorexic looking tree trunks behind which some of the ladies have already done the same. I groan and pull myself back up. I grab a cup and head for the meal tent. Our guides, Gemma and Tash, have managed to throw up their own tent and the meal tent and have already started boiling water for dinner. They do have a lot more experience and efficiency in these situations. Both of them have just recently done a trip to Greenland for the sole purpose of climbing mountains and paragliding off the summits. I am in awe of these women as we sit around and laugh ourselves into warmth. At the end of the day, when I turn inwards and ask myself why I am here, the answer is simply, “you are here.” The plain and simple fact is that I am here and I can’t leave. I can either embrace this experience or struggle against it. I will see women doing both and, as ever, I choose the light. I choose to embrace.


Day 219 – Blue Lake

When I emerge from the tent in the morning and stare out at the perfect whiteness surrounding me, I am completely breathless. I have never seen such amazing beauty. I can’t even begin to describe the touch of sunshine dancing through the leaves and this is only the view from the toilet! And by toilet, I mean the section of snow that is slightly downhill and out of sight of camp.

We have one day of good weather so we head out to Blue Lake. The trek to Blue Lake is probably double the trek we did yesterday and mostly uphill but this time we have no sleds and our packs carry only climbing equipment. Gemma stops to wait for some of the others and while we take a sip of water she asks me, “So this is your first trip to the snow?”


“And you decide to come snow camping and mountaineering?”


“Cutting it sick, living extreme.”

I guess this whole Bliss project has pushed me to do some pretty amazing and life changing things this year…

Blue Lake usually has an array of ice walls on which to practice crampon and ice axe techniques but when we arrive, the ice walls are small and a cornice peaks over the main section. It was this same spot where a guide unfortunately lost his life when the cornice collapsed and avalanched on him. We buckle up the crampons, which are basically just spikes that fit to the outside of the climbing boots. They have two front teeth that can be used to climb vertical ice walls. My socks have bundled up and I can feel the top of my right mountain boot bruising my shin. It is already painful but I just ignore the pain and carry on. Adjusting the socks would be a mission at this stage. It would mean undoing the crampons, then the gaiters, undoing two sets of laces and then having to do it all up again. Still, I manage a quick shuffle of socks and it makes no difference. Once the bruise is there, the pain is just going to keep thudding away with every step. Aren’t I so glad this happened on the second day and not the first!

There are seven women in our group. Marina, the two guides and myself make up the younger generation. The rest of the women have huge climbs planned in the Himalayas and are on this mountaineering course to prepare. One lady, Sue, has been training and despite her age, confidently scales up the small ice sections in her crampons. One of the other ladies is more tentative and doesn’t seem to have faith in the equipment. Gemma tells us to be aggressive, to really kick the crampons into the ice. Aggressive? I can do that. I attack the ice like it deserves it and scale up way higher than I should, but confidently climb back down, trying not to let anyone see that I may have just freaked myself out. Balaclavas are good for the poker face. I try to strut away and Tash points out that my crampon loop has come undone. Dammit.

We get to another slope and learn self-arrest, which is basically just using the ice axe to stop yourself when you start sliding. We learn from four different slides: feet first, head first, on back, on stomach. It only takes five seconds before my inner child takes over. Sliding down a hill and then digging an axe into ice to flip over and stop is supposed to be a survival technique but it doesn’t mean it has to be morbid! We whoop and slide down the slope until it gets to the point where we need to leave. As we walk away, the wind whips around misty flows of snow down the mountains toward us. The whirling eddies dance in silence and we stop to watch these snowy spirals. I remember seeing sand moving this way in Mexico. It felt like the wind was whispering to me, guiding me and pointing me in the right direction.

A white cloud descends upon Blue Lake and envelopes us completely. We need to get back to camp and build our ice walls higher. Apparently those 100km/hr winds are coming back tonight. Whilst we are protected on the slope, we need to secure our guy ropes with ice axes and hammers and ice stakes. I have to admit, after a day of playing with axes, crampons and other sharp objects I am feeling like a bit of a warrior. I finally remember the bruise on my shin, which caused me to limp all the way back from Blue Lake. I sit down to take off my boot and see what I can do about it. The great thing is that making an ice pack to get the swelling down is easy! Unfortunately, no bandage or band-aid will help. I just need to deal with this pain. I wonder at pain and what purpose it serves. It is there to tell us when our bodies have been damaged. And once that damage has been healed, we are usually stronger when we come out on the other side. I have just spent the day trekking through snow, climbing ice and tumbling down a slope. This bruise is nothing. It is simply a part of the temporary discomfort. And I am even grateful for it, for reminding me that my body is temporary and that I can try as hard as I can to protect it, but sometimes it will still suffer and I forgive it for that too.


Day 220 – Lizard in a Blizzard

All night the wind howls around our tents and we have to get up twice to shovel the snow away from the tent. This means sitting up, putting on the inner boots, the outer boots, tying up two sets of frozen laces with ten frozen fingers, wrapping my ankles in gaiters which are frozen and covered in snow and then putting on my outer shell. Ten minutes later, we emerge from the tent and start shovelling. If we don’t do this, there is a chance the snow will suffocate us. There is a point in tying my laces where I am tempted to think that this is not a great experience but then I look at myself. Here you are, Liz, camping in the snow, getting up in a blizzard to shovel snow and using a plastic freezer bag for a toilet. If ever you have had the chance to face your own resilience, your own strength, this is it. The smile could not be wiped from my face, no matter how hard the snow tries.

We spend the day pitching and climbing up the slope near camp. The weather won’t let us climb Kozsiousko. We learn how to make the anchors with the snow stakes and belay each other up. It is hard work, digging, belaying, remembering the appropriate calls. I am about to start climbing when my partner calls out from the top of the hill. Her words are lost to the winds but Tash and I turn to each other, “Did she just say ‘hold on’?” That is not something you want to hear. We spend the whole afternoon climbing and when I finally get to the top of the hill and bury my snow stake, I take a moment to hang off my anchor and turn around. Wow. I spent the whole time looking straight ahead at the snow or up to the top or intently at my knots or down at my partner, but when I finally turn around to see what is around and below me, I finally understand what all that hard work was for. To see the expanse of snow covered peaks, the frozen river below, distant trees and the dramatic silence of this view… this is what climbing is all about. This is where I find the divine. When I can stare out into a place so completely untouched by humans, the earth in all its naked glory, and really see into its soul. That is where I see my own divine self. That is where I find my own soul.


Day 221 – the silence of the ice cave

The weather means we have a day of vaguely practicing knots and plodding around camp. The spindrift has nearly buried my door through the night, but it is much easier to shovel than the thicker snow from last night. One of the tents at the other camp has not fared well in the blizzard so the other group has had to build an ice cave. When Tash says we need water, I am frozen stiff, so I volunteer to go with her down to the creek and get some. I know the movement is the only thing that will warm me up and after Marina and I made a failed attempt this morning at our own snow cave, I am curious to see this one. We crawl in and up into the sleeping platform which is elevated from the entrance to allow the cool air to fall down and out. The roof is dome shaped so that as the ice melts, it drips down to the sides. It is bright blue inside and deathly silent. It is also incredibly warm. I finally understand the concept of an igloo. Tash and I sit and wonder at this creation that took the other group all afternoon to build. I take the precious few moments of stillness and meditation. Silent. Just so silent. We peer out the door and see the sun setting. We need to get to the creek before it gets dark. We carry on and trudge down the hill, each footprint falling knee deep into the soft snow. The creek has frozen over so Tash starts to dig. I am about to pass her a water bladder when she pushes her foot deeper into the hole and collapses a pile of snow into it. I offer to switch places and getting down into this small crevasse, start digging away. Some of the grassy creek bed gets dislodged into the water but eventually I can hear the trickle of water. We have a small plastic cup to scoop the water out and into the water bladders that Tash holds open. I chat away as I work, one cupful at a time, trying not to include too many bits of plant matter into our drinking water. I can see how this could be seen as doing it rough, but I am loving every moment of this. I feel so connected to the earth. Having lived on a farm in a drought when I was little, I know the value of water. I can’t stand to see people waste water, leaving taps on while they chat or wash their hands, or people who have 15 minute showers because they just “don’t care”. Once you have had to shower out of a bucket, you can see how little water it takes to actually get clean. I know that some countries have more water than others but when I know that there are places in this world where children have to walk kilometres, carrying buckets of water, risk getting raped or killed and end up dying of thirst anyway, the value of water is simply priceless. You can live without food for a few weeks, but water? Water is life. And here I am, half buried in a hole, getting water out from under a frozen creek and I have never been happier. This is what it feels like to live, to deserve to live. This is what it is like to push past the discomfort and just do it anyway and realise that when you turn around and see what it was all for, that you can see deep into yourself. And when I look inwards, I like what I see.


Day 222 – the long trek home

I knew it. I just knew it. I knew I would be the one carting the shit out. Kozsiousko is a national park so we have to take out everything. I mean everything! Including a dry bag full of the waste of nine women from the past five days. It is strapped to a sled along with the rubbish and attached by rope to the harness around my waist. I put my pack on. I think it weighs about 20kg. I think the sled is about 30kg. There is no movement for a few scrambling steps as I try to pull away. I have to give a few pelvic thrusts just to get the thing moving. Eventually I build some momentum as we go downhill, but a sudden uphill incline seems almost impossible as I flounder and fall over backwards, like a flailing turtle in the snow. We traverse a slope with a second person holding the back of the sled so that it doesn’t slide down into the frozen river, dragging us with it. The sled in front of me keeps toppling over and I can feel everyone’s frustration building. The walk back over the river is a little bit easier now that snow has been falling for the past few days. The final kilometre is a steep uphill climb with the packs and we have to stop every few steps. I have transferred the sled to Marina’s harness but I still pull it along beside her. I keep pushing on, knowing this is the final hard slog before rest. The sun has shone for us all day and the snow sparkles. The whispering winds swirl around us and up the hill, guiding us back up to Charlotte’s Pass. Our first glimpse of civilisation; skiers and snowboarders fly past as we shuffle along in snowshoes. The final awkward shuffle downhill is excruciatingly long but when we finally get there, I stand still for a moment with my pack on my shoulders, just feeling its weight, knowing that I did that. I dragged that sled, I carried this pack and I did all of that hard work. I did it all and I did it for me. That sense of achievement bubbles over into laughter as we pack up and gather in the snow cats, driving us back down to Perisher. I am overflowing with giddy excitement and take a longing look at the snow as we change to a bus that will take us back down to Jindabyne. I was worried I would be too tired to drive all the way back to Sydney tonight but this excitement is like a natural high I have never felt before. I feel invigorated and alive; my eyes are wide open and I can already tell I won’t be sleeping for a while. We unpack back at Jindabyne and then say our final goodbyes. In such a short time it was possible for 9 women to bond, to share, to help, to surprise, entertain and possibly infuriate each other. I will miss the snow but I can’t wait to get back into the comfort of my own car, to get home and have a long, hot shower, to wear fresh clothes that aren’t waterproof and to just lay down on my soft bed. I have met my own strength and resilience and I have lived in utter discomfort, loving every second of it. Now, when I get home and go to bed, I am seriously looking forward to deserving it.


Day 216 – packing up

I haven’t had to pack bags since India but once again I find myself rolling and stuffing clothes into the crevices of my backpack. This time there is no plane to catch, I know exactly when I am coming back and the only weight limit is how much I can carry. Tomorrow I drive down to Jindabyne to go mountaineering at Mt Kozciosko. I have thermals, fleece, outer shell, Goretex, mittens, gloves and countless other snow-ready pieces for camping in sub-zero climates. I signed up foor this mountaineering course with full excitement, but now I pack with more than a little trepidation. I really feel  the cold. I mean, my fingers never seem to warm up. I am about to spend a week sleeping outside, in the snow, trekking and climbing, getting consistently colder and wetter. Why did I pay for this again? But I remember feeling that way in India, at Bhojbasa, struggling to sleep in a corrugated tin shed underneath a pile of blankets, unable to feel my toes, irrationally afraid of hypothermia and frostbite. I remember asking myself why the hell I was there. Then, the next morning, the snow had stopped and as the sun rose above the bright white mountain peaks, we walked the final four kilometres to the glacier and met with god. The sight was breathtaking and the cold melted away with the bright sunshine. Any discomfort from the night before, any lack of sleep became completely irrelevant as I touched the ice wall where the holy river Ganga was born. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. There is no other way to experience greatness than to step out of the bubble of your life and enter the unknown, to face the fears and the cold and the exhaustion and just do it anyway. I zip up my brand new gaiters into my backpack and sett it on my back. In one week I know I will return a different person. In my experience, you don’t climb a mountain without returning the other side with a whole new perspective. This will be my last post for a week. I am going to climb Mt Kozciosko.

Day 215 – the magic of gratitude

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it is enough.” – Meister Eckhart

I am waiting for the call today from Pieroth Wines to tell me whether or not I was successful in the job interview. I know their office hours begin at 11am so I try not to check my phone a million times. Krystle is feeling sick with a pain in her upper thoracic. It seems her back is having a spasm from the intense workouts she has been doing at the gym. She is groaning in my car as I drive her home from school and I barely speak out of concern for my friend. When my new boss calls to offer me the position officially and tell me when to start, I am struggling between excitement and worry. I want to jump up and down and scream thank you to the heavens for this opportunity, but my best friend is writhing in pain beside me. She has been reading The Magic, the sequel to The Secret, and has been reminding me to always be grateful and to say out loud the things I am grateful for. When I put her to bed and rub her back with heat cream and place a heat pack on her, she is thanking me over and over again. I tell her not to worry, that I will be just outside if she needs anything.

As I sit down on our floor beside our small coffee table, our Moroccan style lounge with noo furniture, I observe our beautiful day and the incredible energy we have created through the words, “Thank You”. Whether it is through success or pain, the simple act of offering gratitude can make all the difference in the experience. We have both felt the extremes of life today and as we settle in to watch a movie, I know that I am forever grateful for this life, for my best friend, for the opportunities that have presented themselves to me since I began this journey of Bliss. Thank You.

Day 214 – the luxury lunch

It takes 2 hours to get ready for the interview, 25 minutes to shine at the interview and over 24 hours to wait for the call back that will tell me whether or not I was successful. This is perhaps only the third corporate interview I have had in my life. I decide on a pencil skirt and ankle boots. I read somewhere that ankle boots indicate that the woman is more likely to be aggressive so I went out and bought another two pairs. I am going for a sales job in a German wine company so I feel there is nothing wrong with a little aggression. I am once again aware of my tattoos as I struggle to keep my sleeves covering my wrist. I am nervous, but as I drive to the interview, focusing on my breath and calming myself down, the nerves change form and I grow in confidence. I say exactly what I want, in the present tense, as though it has already happened and repeat that to myself like a mantra.

‘I work for Pieroth wines. I am a highly successful rep for Pieroth wines. I am the best wine rep for Pieroth wines.’

When I get to the interview, I am full of confidence and excitement. I sit down with Goran, who has a thick German accent and seems impressed when I tell him that Gewürztraminer is my favourite type of wine. He even laughs and says that I seem very confident.

“I am a compulsive optimist,” I tell him, “And it has worked for me so far.”

He agrees, “I have not yet seen a pessimistic person succeed.”

I walk away with my spine long, finally taking the deep belly breaths that the pencil skirt did not allow. Whoever invented stockings must have been a man. Am I really ready for a corporate job in sales? Am I really ready to talk about wine all day instead of yoga? Wine is considered a sacred elixir. Am I really ready to give up my yoga classes to work full time in this industry? I treat myself to a pre-emptive celebratory lunch in North Sydney, watching the waves of suits walk past. I used to live near here, in Cammeray. I used to be a part of the money-driven consumerist society. I used to dine like this daily and think little of ordering a $60 bottle of wine. I also practiced yoga five times a week at a studio and meditated every day. While this job may not seem like something you could picture me doing, I would love the opportunity to find balance, to focus my attention on one single thing and do it well, to become a yoga student again, to not wake up wondering which job I am supposed to be rushing to… I would love to go to sleep before midnight and NOT have to clean the bar down. I take another sip of the strong flavoured Roussaane as I eat the perfectly boiled egg on my haloumi salad. As long as we do anything with intention, with purpose and with full conscious awareness, then I am sure that I can make this part of my daily bliss. And I firmly believe that anywhere that I am is exactly where I am supposed to be. Many small events brought me to this point and knowing the turn of the wheel keeps life every-flowing and changing, I gratefully accept any opportunity that presents itself to me.

Day 213 – exhaustion taking over

All day I am stumbling around, barely able to pick up my feet. I have had over 8 hours of sleep but I can’t seem to keep my eyes open. I am broke so I don’t even have enough money for a coffee. I am excited to go to the Progressive class at Yogatime as I know the focus is handstands. When I get there, the room is full with teachers from other studios and as we set up with kapalabhati, a pranayama that should wake one up and spark an internal flame, I start to fall asleep. My head is literally lolling to the side as I drift off. This is a fairly active pranayama so struggling with sleep should not be an issue. I drag my body through the warm up. I know it only weighs 53kg but it could be a tonne right now with how heavy I feel. We get to the headstands and I can’t even lift my legs. I have my head and hands on the ground, my hips above my shoulders and my legs just want to crumble beneath me. I have not felt this level of exhaustion in a long time and I know that I need to stop if I want to make it through the next class, which I am supposed to be teaching! I stop and just let myself take it easy in a couple of stretches. Misha, my friend and fellow Yogatime teacher, is calling me out, “Liz, what’s going on?” Time to take it easy. I need to just step back and return to child’s pose. Yeah sometimes yoga is knowing when to stop doing yoga! When I take stock of the past 2 days and realise that while I have slept deeply for eight hours each night, I have also run 13km from Coogee to North Bondi and back and I have also worked and taught yoga so if there was ever a moment to forgive myself for taking it easy, now is the time. Now is bed time.

Day 212 – anxiety and confidence

Teaching yoga, I find that some students really need to hear the cue to relax their shoulders and breathe into the diaphragm or the belly. They take a deep breath in and I watch their shoulders rise, the chest puff out and the whole point of the deep breath becomes null and void as the entire bottom part of the lungs remains unused. When the shoulders are tightly wrapping around the neck, we call these the waiting muscles. This is where anxiety most commonly presents itself in the body. The student I am speaking to is aware of this but admits that he needs to practice this, that he always forgets and falls back into his old habits. I tell him he can change his habits and I can see the doubt in his eyes. Only one minute a day, focus on your breath and slow it down and breathe into the belly. One minute is not a long time at all. His excuses start to fall away and as we talk, I see the breath move down. Once he is more relaxed, the tension falls out of his shoulders and he seems calm. Sometimes new students come to yoga and feel that they aren’t quite getting it, or that they aren’t doing it ‘right’. They can stress out at the time when they are supposed to be relaxing the most. I tell them not to worry too much about the alignment, it will come. I remember being there; looking around the room, trying to follow the other students and understand what the hell the teacher was on about as she spoke jibberishasana. And then one day, it was like something clicked and when I heard “Bakasana”, I found myself immediately in an arm balance. The important part is not how much you know, how high the legs go, how close you can touch the nose to the knee. The important part is how it makes you feel! It was the confidence that set me soaring into that arm balance. Despite this student’s compulsive tension and chest breathing, he tells me the class was perfect and just what he needed and he leaves with a smile on his face.

When I get home, one of my best friend’s, Luca, is already there, chatting away to Krystle as she prepares dinner. Luca is a tall, vivacious, highly intelligent Italian who I met at yoga teacher training and made the impressive comment in a room full of yogis, “Sometimes yoga is not doing yoga”. He has cut off his mop of Side-Show Bob curls and is walking like the Tin Man after running for the first time in weeks. His job keeps him in Papua New Guinea most of the year so it has been months since I last heard his infectious laugh. We are talking about work and attitude and he says that the secret to his success is confidence. “Liz, you must demand everything that you want because nobody will offer it to you. When they offered me my contract, I asked for everything to be improved upon. When I asked for more money and they said ‘No’, I knew I was pushing it but to everything else they had already said yes so it was worth a try! I know my value and I know I deserve what I ask for. I work hard.” I wonder if he walked in there doing chest breaths? I can pretty much guarantee that he did not.

I don’t know if many people in this world can say that they know their value. I think there are many people who estimate their value on their monetary gain but there is so much more to a single being than a salary. Luca is the kind of beautiful yogi who can scratch the back of his head with his toenail and then walk into a room and manage a team of eleven people in a subtropical developing country where he can’t walk in the streets due to the dangerous political climate. He is only 28 and already talking about buying property.

Going to bed, I look over my day and think about the anxiety that sometimes grips us all. Everybody, even the most conscious yogi, does a chest breath every now and again. Relax, take a deep BELLY breath, know your value and demand what you deserve from the world. Because nobody else can breathe for you. Nobody else knows your value and nobody but you will hand it to you.