Day 295 to Day 300 – the universe wants to be noticed

Day 295 – little white lies

I don’t like to lie. I don’t even like white lies. I have told too many in my lifetime and at some point I realised that it would be better to just remain silent and say nothing than to lie. Today, though, I need some yoga practice. I want to make it to the 8pm class. I know that I could get home at 8.30 and practice in my room, but it is harder when I get home. There is no space for me to practice. It’s not that there is no physical space, but people seem to think it is ok to ask questions, or give vague comments when I am on the yoga mat. When I enter a room full of people practicing yoga it is generally acknowledge that we are there for that sole purpose, so nobody is going to tap me on the shoulder and ask about my day. So, in desperate need of that time and space, I decide to lie. I tell my boss that I need to pick up my mum, that she is having her car serviced and needs a lift. My mother is in Wollongong. Her car is not being serviced. Strangely, though, I don’t feel bad about this. Especially not when I arrive to a quiet evening class and lay my mat out. This is so worth it! And I only missed an hour of work. I never really get much done in the last hour anyway. I usually fluff around in that time. This is definitely a better way to spend my time. I still wish I didn’t have to lie. I wish I could just tell them- I need yoga, I am leaving. But maybe it isn’t work that I need to be honest with. Maybe it is the people around me, or myself. If I roll out my mat and sit/lay/stretch out my body, I should be able to honour the practice enough to tell the people around me that this is my time, consider the mat to be a really big DO NOT DISTURB sign. If I just speak my truth, I wouldn’t have to bother with the little white lies.

 

Day 296 – the ‘g’ word

I know have written the word god countless times, but it comes up in conversation today… The most common thing I hear these days is: “I’m not religious. I believe in something though….” This kind of conversation causes so much turmoil that it is best to just be vague about the whole thing. Nobody really wants to get into a discussion about their beliefs. The word god can be perceived as a personification, a name, an ideal, or a corruption, depending on who is saying the word. Looking at GOD, I don’t see a name. I see a word and in that word I also see Gee Oh Dee, DOG and DOGMA and GOOD and it is little more than a word; a completely inadequate word to describe something that is probably beyond our human capacity to understand anyway. I prefer to say “the divine” but sometimes I feel like that sounds too much like I am talking about grapevines, with a stutter. Maybe that is because in my job I am always talking about grapevines. Anyway, if you read the word god here, know that it is little more than an insufficient label for the universe, the flow, the “source”, the light, the ether, the energetic divine spark of life that sits at the centre of every being, from a rock to a tiger, to a royal. God is just a word for ‘something’, but I don’t know what. If I knew what that something was, I guess I would be enlightened already.

 

Day 297 – traffic

I stayed over my friend’s house in Manly last night and now I have to sit in motionless traffic across the Spit bridge trying to get home. It is 8am and my first client is not for a few hours. I see the turn off to go to a secret beach I know about that I used to come to all the time when I lived on this side of Sydney. I decide to escape the traffic and go to the beach instead. I have swimmers in my car so I get changed in my car and lay down on the beach to read. The early morning is still quite fresh, but the sun is already strong in the sky so my skin slowly warms up as I read. I am so grateful that I am not sitting in my car right now, cursing the traffic. Instead I am alone on a quiet hidden beach, staring out at the flat clear water and gently bobbing sailboats. I will choose this over traffic any day! I get home an hour and a half later. Probably a little bit later than if I had just stayed in the traffic, but my headspace is just right for the rest of the day. Not only did I physically pull away from a road blocked up with traffic, but mentally, I got the chance to escape the stop-start, over congested, frustration of a busy mind.

 

Day 298 – left or right or wrong

In yoga, a common technique to encourage presence is to switch up the regular practice. My friend, Emma, is teaching and instead of going to the right side first in the standing poses, she teaches the left side first. Not only does this cultivate awareness, but it asks the brain to break up the deeply ingrained habits of a well-known practice. I love when teachers do this. It is like turning the whole room around and teaching from the “back” of the room. Or walking backwards with no shoes on wet grass. Tiny changes that break the mould, push us out of the boundaries, gently coax us into the unknown. Shit, I stuffed up and I am in tree pose on my right leg. It doesn’t matter how aware we think we are, the moment we let the mind process and get away with our thoughts, the auto-pilot kicks back in and we find ourselves driving back home on the usual route. It’s like when you get home and open the fridge, just staring into it, even if you aren’t hungry. WAKE UP LIZ! Get present. Be aware. Mindful conscious awareness doesn’t just happen. It takes practice. Yoga is practice in re-learning existence as life.

 

Day 299 – the river

The road to Bundeena, and to my first client of the day, is closed. This is the second time I have failed to see him. I let it go and take my lunch down to the seat by the river. There is no phone signal here. Nobody knows where I am. Solitude has found me again.

The last river I meditated beside was the Ganges in the holy city of Rishikesh, at the foot of the Himalayas. I focus my gaze into the rippling water. Rivers represent life and the flowing nature of our existence. They say you never step in the same river twice. The water is always moving, just as life is always changing. For the first time since Bali, I see a dragonfly, a symbol of change. The ducks dip down, feeding and paddling against the current. Their lesson is to stay afloat, to keep on keeping on. A cockatoo flies past, it’s angelic white plumage and bright yellow crest standing out against the surrounding green.

And the river keeps flowing.

Day 300 – a blessing from the sea

I have only an hour to talk as quickly as I can with Luca. He is Italian so we can manage to catch up on months of our lives in less than an hour fairly easily. If we had a stenographer, there would be a lot of dot points. The cafe we want to go to is really busy so we walk along Coogee beach while we wait for a table. The humpback whales are breaching out at sea. The last time I saw whales was in Mexico, but that was more just a few sprays and the occasional tail in the distance. These giants are showing off, throwing themselves out of the water and back in again. One seems to be waving a fin towards the shore. A perfect strange stops beside us and says, “Isn’t it such a blessing that they come to show us how graceful they are?” A blessing. Grace. Then Luca tells me that he ate whale in Japan. I slap him hard on the arm and yell his name. “I didn’t know what it was until the lady drew a picture of a whale for me! We spat it out straight away!” So maybe that whale wasn’t waving at us, maybe it was giving the finger to Luca for eating its family.

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Day 288 to Day 294 – the dharma wheel

Day 288 – knowing self

Rachel, a work colleague, and I go to lunch at a sushi train. It is the first time we have had a real conversation. In a workplace environment, the initial topics which strangers find acceptable are usually work related. Unless you are women, in which case we make friends by complimenting each other’s choice in shoes. Humour is also perfectly acceptable, and in a room full of sales reps, all very experienced in “breaking the ice”, there is plenty of humour to go around. Sitting down to eat with a glass of wine, Rachel tells me her impression of me. I love hearing what people think about me. It is like stepping outside the window and looking back in on yourself. I know what I see in myself, but it is always very interesting to hear what another person sees. She says she sees someone who knows herself. Someone who can’t be shaken, who has not even wondered what other people think of her because she is so comfortable in her own skin. Well, she is right. I don’t often wonder what other people think of me beyond a mild amusement. There is always something nice in hearing someone say that you know who you are. It is definitely better than being told the you seem lost or confused or even worse… fake! Above all, I am just pleased to have moved beyond talking about shoes and wine. I think that is the point where a work colleague becomes a work friend.

 

Day 289 – sleep how I miss you

I can’t remember the last time I slept a full nine hours. My yoga teacher from the ashram in India insisted that one only needs four hours of sleep per night. Two hours for each nostril. But he is a fanatic. I like 9 hours. I am even satisfied with 8 hours. I know that I can manage on 4 hours but today I haven’t had any of that. I think I slept for 3. I kept waking up. Noises, disturbances, nightmares… So coffee is the drug. I love having my morning mocha. I don’t need it to wake up, I need it to keep functioning. I can live without it, it is only one a day, but in a diet of deprivation (no wheat, no dairy, no alcohol, no sugar), it is the one thing in the day I can look forward to. My issue at the moment is the plethora of information about which milk to use. Dairy is evil, but skim has less lactose so it is ok to drink. But then skim is evil, because it is unnatural and goes through a chemical process to remove the fat, so we should probably drink soy. Unfortunately soy is apparently evil too. Not only does the Brazilian rainforest suffer in order to produce soy, it also apparently causes hormone levels to increase and fat cells to accumulate in the visceral region (the area where excess fat is most likely to cause diabetes and heart disease). Not to mention, every naturopath says to stay away from coffee altogether. But caffeine free green tea just doesn’t cut it today. Not when I have missed out on so much sleep. Not when I have to be calling people all day, trying to send lots of energy through the phone. So today, coffee is keeping my head off the desk.

 

Day 290 – Living my dharma

So many questions turn up on the yoga mat. Somewhere in between sun salutations lies an infinite number of question marks. Clearing the mind today is a process of opening the mind to answer these questions. The ‘I’ knows the answer to all of them. The ego just needs to listen. From the silent depths of my heart, or perhaps even deeper, in my gut, there is a gnawing question. It arises as only a whisper, but stronger it grows with each breath until I lay down in Savasana and ask: “Am I living my dharma?”

Dharma is duty. It is loosely translated as one’s purpose in the world. When you are living your dharma, it is said you will be full of vitality and things will seem to always be falling into place. Right now I feel drained. I feel like there are continuously tiny struggles and obstacles. The flow doesn’t seem to be happening like it used to. So what is my dharma? I know I need to go back to India. I know I want to go to Africa. Ideas start forming in my head. I can feel that familiar itch in my feet. I want to book a one way ticket and start applying for visas. Those are the processes I am used to. Filling out paperwork in an office just doesn’t have the same feeling as  filling out a customs slip in an airport. I think it’s time to set the dharma wheel in motion.

 

Day 291 – rituals of writers

I keep saying that I need a day off to just write. I need some time to hover my hands over the keys and allow the words to spill out of me, dancing around the page to find the perfect rhythm of story. Well, somehow I manifest this and all three of my evening clients end up cancelling. This is a perfect evening to write, with balmy wind blowing through the windows I light a candle and face the computer. I set up my perfect writing atmosphere- Jeff Buckley, a cup of mint tea and some organic chocolate. Just creating this space is like a ritual. Tea can definitely be accredited to most of this blog. Most of the things I have written in my life probably came from a hot cup of tea. Just having this time to finally sit alone with only my words is the best meditation I could ask for today. I know it could be said that whilst my brain is working I may not be meditating, but I still feel that same serenity, bliss and calming relaxation that I feel in perfect stillness and silence. Writing. Jeff Buckley. Tea. Chocolate. Meditation.

 

Day 292 – success is measured in carrots

I am thoroughly sick of seeing quotes about success being how many times you get up after you fall, or how high you bounce when you hit the bottom. Success, at the moment, can be measure by how many times I get home so late that I can’t manage to make myself dinner. Success is how many times I have eaten a raw carrot for dinner and gone straight to bed, only to do it all again the next day. I’m not complaining. I love raw carrots. I just feel like success is not always measured by failure. Success is hard bloody work. It is constantly moving onward and upward. It is a slow and steady climb, sometimes in soft sand. Success in measured in carrots. From the carrot that dangles before me, the goal that pushes me forward, to the carrot I eat for dinner because I am too tired to cook.

 

Day 293 – catching negative spirals

For no reason at all I catch myself in a negative spiral. I have no idea what is happening inside my brain, but it is inventing some awful stuff. None of it is even real! I am driving along imagining hypotheticals. When I land on the yoga mat, I pull up my mind, not without a bit of a firm hand… What is going on? Why are you doing this negative spiral thing? It isn’t helping anybody! It serves no purpose. Is it lack of sleep? Is it stress? Is it PMS? Or are you just feeling a bit whingey? The lower mind, of course, has no answer. It kind of kicks a few rocks and looks down at the floor. It is being chastised for doing what it does best. Worries, calculates risk, hypothesises results. And what does all that achieve? Nothing! Lack of awareness. I may as well be walking around unconscious. Well, time to stop. Time to smile for no reason! Buy a tray of mangoes on the side of the road and get sticky eating them because it is a beautiful day and you are alive to enjoy it!

When I get to my brother’s house in the evening, we eat dinner and then I get to put my niece to bed. This means struggling to stay awake while I read to her and she crawls around the bed, unwilling to sleep. I choose one of my own old fairytale books and start reading an old Native American folk legend. I come across a word that my niece doesn’t know. So she asks me, “What is war?”

Ummm… How do I explain this? How do I tell her that all over the world people fight and kill each other? It would be like telling her Santa Claus didn’t exist. I would take away a huge chunk of her innocence. I try to be a little vague, but I don’t believe in lying to children so I tell her it is a big fight between groups of people.

“Why?”

There is nothing I can say to this. Really, even I would like to know why. The only other animal in the natural world that conducts war is the ant. They are the only other creature to actively plan an attack on another group of ants. Why? There is no answer that is adequate. And knowing my niece, she will just ask, ‘why?’ to whatever I say anyway.

 

Day 294 – sleepy smiles

I am wedged in the backseat between the two kiddie seats, trying to manage the children while we drive up through the dairy farms into bowral. It is beautiful down the south coast. The lush green paddocks and black and white cows stretch far on either side of the road and as we ascend the mountains, the dark green trees look like a home for dragons and unicorns. “What about Monster High?” asks my niece. She has a new obsession with zombie dolls, though she still doesn’t know what a zombie is. The whole collection of werewolf, spider, vampire and ghost figurines has come with us for the journey and they are sprawled across my lap while she plays. We spend the day in Bowral eating and looking at antiques and when we finally get back into the car, the kids full of junk food, everyone is sleepy. My brother has worked all night and has brought his pillow in the front seat so he is the first to fall asleep. My niece lays her head across my lap and my nephews hand falls gently on my leg while his mouth drops open, perfectly mimicking my brother’s sleeping pose. I pretend to be asleep but really I am just enjoying the silence, laying here covered in these beautiful children. They are so peaceful when they are sleeping. Here, basking in their love, lies the greatest meditation, a familial and homely perfection.

Day 280 to Day 287 – life changers

Day 280 – crossroads of chaos

Another crossroads presents itself and I find myself at a job interview. When asked how much money I would expect I am not afraid to ask for more than I know I will be offered.

“Do you think you are old enough and experienced enough to ask for that?”

My response…

“I know my value. There is no point in telling you an amount that you will say yes to immediately and then I have sold myself short. The worst you can say is no and then give me a counter offer.”

Ultimately, this new job does not work out. Not only do they want me to cover my tattoos, but they also want me to work a lot more hours than I am working right now.

It does give me the opportunity to look at my work-life, to re-assess this career choice. I am a wine rep. I enjoy what I do, but as to whether this is a lifelong commitment, I know that it is only a temporary means to an end. I know myself. I know that this is not me. But I do know my value and I am proud of myself for having the courage to say so.

 

Day 281 – my mother’s flames

I spend the evening with my mum. I notice that she has three candles lit on the table. She has been lighting these three candles for years. She has never actually told me about it, but I once asked and she told me simply it was her three children. It is her own silent prayer for us, like a little light to keep us safe. I love that she does this. I love that she has a little ritual for us. She isn’t overtly religious or superstitious. She doesn’t meditate or spend much time wondering about god. She comes from Mexico, where old world Catholicism demands only that you have faith. For my mother, she has never questioned whether god was there. She has never wondered about what that means. She prays when she needs to and she believes. She never had to go on grand spiritual journeys to ‘find the divine’ or climb mountains to seek something deeper. Sometimes I envy her simple and unfaltering faith. I have always questioned. I have always wondered. I have always tested and probed and looked deeper. I could never accept what I was told. I had to figure it out on my own. When she saw me pray before a meal she almost cried with excitement that I had finally ‘found god’. I told her just that I was saying thank you for the meal, but that yes I had found myself and through that I guess you could say I found divine, which is within all. She looked kind of confused so I didn’t have the heart to explain that what I was actually saying was entirely in Sanskrit and used the name Brahma instead of Jesus. If there is one thing I have never associated with god, it is religion, and so for that I can be grateful to my mother. She never made me go to church. She never forced me to pray. She only asked that I never again use the term ‘older than god’ when she saw it in something I had written. I say Brahma, she says god. My aunty says Allah. My cousin says Jesus like Hey Soos. Potayto, potaahto. I light incense, she lights candles. Essentially it is all one.

 

Day 282 – the eye hospital

I wake up fine, but in the shower, I feel a sudden pain. I pull out two eyelashes from my left eye, but the pain remains. It feels like there is something in there. I remember this feeling. The last time I had this, I had a nasty eye infection from contact use and ended up in hospital for a week. I drive myself straight to the eye hospital and wait for over an hour to be told it is blepharitis. Apparently this is common and is nothing more than a swelling of the eye, in the oil gland from where the eyelashes extend. The doctor tells me to put hot compresses on my eyes and massage the eyelid. I go home and lie down with a hot towel on my eyes. I lay back with my eyes closed.

Meditation occurs.

The last time I was in hospital, I was completely blind in my left eye. I had no choice but to meditate. I had my eyes closed for nearly a week. When the eye drops went from 10 minute intervals to 2 hour intervals, I started to escape from the hospital and walk, half blind, in the botanical gardens. My favourite part was the herb garden. I would close my eyes as I wondered through, smelling the lemongrass and rosemary, running my fingers across mint and thyme. The universe will tell you when you need to stop. If we don’t listen, it demands. If we still don’t listen, it reaches down and forces our eyes shut.

Meditation is enforced.

I accept.

 

Day 283 – Missing Indonesia

I wake up suddenly missing Indonesia. I eat black rice pudding (bubur injin) in bed, under a feather down doona, listening to the rain and in all its beauty, I want to cry for that simple life of pure existential peace where the hardest part of my day was opening a coconut. I miss bubur kacang hijau for breakfast (the best way to cook mung beans in the world)… So I decide to writ eto the only other human being who understands. Zani. She is a mermaid goddess who also lived out in the islands of the Mentawais. When I read her last email I remember why we left. The pirates. We left because under the thin veneer of paradise lies dark and troubled waters. And that restless darkness can pull you down. I left because my time there was over. I am 10kg heavier in Sydney than I was in Indonesia.

I look in the mirror and I see a girl bigger in every aspect. The girl that lived there was hiding, shrinking. She was so closed in on herself that when she came back here last year, someone thought she couldn’t speak English. That was oppression. That was me hiding behind my long hair and disappearing slowly. Now I am open, I am not afraid to be heard or to be me. I guess I don’t really miss Indonesia. I can make bubur injin in my own kitchen.

 

Day 284 – letting the leopard out

It is time for a new hairstyle. I have the side shaved, it is like a semi Mohawk. Mel (The Leopard Lounge, Newtown) bleaches the side and hand paints the colours back in. I’m not sure that I could have done this a year ago. Or even six months ago. Girls with long hair often tell me I am courageous for having a Mohawk. One girl at the pub asks if I am a lesbian. I just laugh. Ok, I guess that is why it takes courage. You have to put up with some strange comments when you have a weird hairstyle. If I wanted to blend in and hide, I could have long hair. I could wear the tiny pink dress. Instead I wear a black leather jacket and have leopard fur on the side of my head. Ladies, we shouldn’t be afraid to hide our spots. Deep down, we can let the animal out. A hairstyle shouldn’t take courage. A hairstyle is just scissors and peroxide. It is transient change. It grows. Real courage is in what you do, not how you look.

 

Day 285 – ummm om?

It has been a while since I last laid my yoga mat down in a studio class. I can’t say it has the same profound epiphany-like effect that it once did a few years ago. I don’t get a jolt of mystical inspiration. It is a great technical alignment class and something that my physical space has missed, however, I feel like there is something missing from this pure asana practice. The “om” sounds more like “um?” and the word exercise finds its way into the room. Is that why I am here? To exercise? I think I go to boot camp three times a week for that. Well, why am I here? I knew what this class would be about, so I can’t act surprised about this. If I wanted a spiritual, meditative experience, I could have stayed at home and done a private practice. I know I am here because my body needs me to be. So, is it sometimes necessary to let go of the spiritual experience in order to allow the life experience? Does yoga always have to be deeply moving and life-changing, or is it just another baby step?

 

Day 286 – the life-changing fairy

As per usual, at a fourth birthday party, I can be found sorting through the costumes. When my niece ends up entirely soaked from the bubble machine I take the opportunity to dress her in the Christmas fairy outfit. She is a tiny, magical little being, prancing around searching for one of the five varieties of cake on offer. Another fairy princess has been playing with the black Play-Doh and brings a mysterious lump over, “Look! I made a sea rock!”

Creative.

Watching my sister and her daughter play in the grass, I can actually feel the bond between them. My sister was born to be a mum and though I don’t know if it is a bond I will ever get to feel, at least now I get it. It’s funny that a yoga class can’t make the same profound life-changing realisation occur, but a little green and red fairy rolling around on the grass, can.

Day 273 to Day 279 – solitude

Day 273 – the healing power of food

My brother, his wife, Vero, their little princess, Bella and Oscar (who is presently still a bump), come today, which basically means an endless stream of conversation between my sister-in-law and myself. Vero’s cousin was married only recently. Her husband has had Hodgkin’s for most of his life and recently fell sick again soon after their wedding. Recently, though, they began a raw food, vegan, organic diet. When they told his doctors about this detox, the doctor dismissed it, saying they may as well say goodbye and give in to the disease and instead suggesting another round of chemo and radiotherapy. The decided to try the diet anyway and what has followed could be called a miracle or perhaps common sense… Not only did his health improve, but swelling went down, test results came back with dramatic differences and he is fast on the road to recovery. Vero’s cousin can’t wait to go back to the doctors and show them that they were wrong, so wrong. What we now call “raw” and “organic” and “biodynamic” is what a hundred years ago was called simply FOOD. Unfortunately, for most people, what we consume is far removed from the original plant that nature gives us. Yes, nature provides gifts as food and humans have found the most cost-effective way to ruin it with chemicals, pesticides, hormones, toxins and anything else that will cause mass-production, increase in yields and therefore, larger profits. I could go on, but we have heard it all before. The best books I have read on the subject were by Michael Pollan. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which traces the origins of four meals, from organic, to groceries, to McDonalds is a well-researched eye-opener on the corruption and deception that is the modern food market. The documentary Food Inc. is based on this book. Pollan’s other book, In Defence of Food has some great ideas as to how to best avoid the trap of clever marketing and chemical bombardment, such as,

–       never feed yourself where you feed your car

–       avoid supermarkets

–       if you must go to supermarkets, stay around the edges, where the freshest food is likely to be- kept cold

Not everyone believes that our food could be causing cancer, or that it has the capacity to heal it and I am sure some people are blissfully ignorant, or choose to stay that way. Maybe one day people will wake up. Maybe one day organic food won’t be so expensive. Maybe one day we will stop spending money on cars and instead buy seeds. Maybe one day cancer will mutate into the zombie virus and the whole world will end, thus forcing us back into simple farming practices in order to survive. Maybe I digress…

 

Day 274 – I will miss you

I am no stranger to separation. I am not afraid of being alone. Actually, I quite like being alone. For someone with such a wide social circle, who clearly likes to be heard/read, I also very much enjoy quiet solitude. In the past month, I have spent almost every day with him. We have indulged in each other’s presence and now that he is leaving for a few weeks, I know that I will miss him. But I also know that I will be fine. I am not the kind of girl to go crying into my corn flakes because I am alone. Actually, when he rings at midnight, half asleep, I mumble something about how great it is to stretch out and take up all the room in my double bed. Sorry! Yes, I miss you already, but I know how to make the most of a situation. I know how to embrace change, embrace solitude and be on my own. Finding myself quietly sitting in my room, I remember all that time I spent alone in India, with only myself as my guide. I was my own best friend, my own teacher, my own student, my own listener. I knew I had family and friends far away but I was there for myself when I needed myself the most. Here, I am surrounded by people and sometimes all I want is to be alone! Yes, I will be excited when you get back, but I get to keep myself company right now. And you know me; I am pretty damn fun to hang out with.

 

Day 275 – the food predicament

No wheat.

No dairy.

No sugar.

No alcohol.

My brother’s cupboards… There lurks temptation. It comes it all shapes and sizes; tiny chocolate coated teddy bear shapes, flat, square biscuit shapes, long stringy cheesey things, “all natural” yogurt and on the bottom shelf… oh god is that a chocolate cupcake? I am starving by the time I get there and nobody is home. I have to find something to eat quickly before I dive head first into the jar of nutella. I find frozen vegetables and half packet of quinoa that I left in there from the last time. That will do! I whip up a stir-fry and relax. But I know the nutella is there.

I can resist anything but temptation

–       Oscar Wilde

No wheat.

No dairy.

No sugar.

No alcohol.

Well, nutella has no wheat. It has very little dairy… It is about 50% sugar… but at least it isn’t wine! Just one spoon… And I cave. Sometimes you have to cross over to the dark side.

 

Day 276 – Nan Tien Temple

I can’t believe how many times I have driven past this place and never stopped. Finally I am standing before the enormous Buddha at the front gate. He is beautiful in the hot sun. The grounds are immaculately kept, with perfectly trimmed lawns, littered with tiny child-like Buddha’s in tai-chi poses. The flowers are in full-bloom despite the humidity and at the main temple, incense pours down the stone steps. This is apparently the biggest Buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere. I slowly enter the temple where the tall Buddha stands, surrounded by tiny candles. The walls are covered in gold blocks with Chinese characters carved in red. I look up at the smiling face of the enlightened one. And I cry. I buy a small candle to make an offering and choose the WISDOM card. I stand and pray to Buddha. I pray for the strength to take me away from my vices. I pray for the insight to follow my dharma. I pray for the universe to guide me on my path. I pray for my shadow that occasionally takes me away from the light. In temples, making offerings, praying, crying. How many times this year have I found myself doing this? What happens in these holy places that causes such an emotional reaction? It isn’t sadness. It isn’t fear. It isn’t loss. It is like the feeling of the divine becomes too much for me to handle and I just crumble. Maybe it is the ego that is afraid. Maybe it is sad for its own loss? I don’t know, but when I leave the temple I sit outside and collect my broken self together. I check my mascara and move on. Crying is a huge spiritual release. If there is an emotional block, crying can move energy from spaces where it becomes trapped. I do feel better, but I also feel like I have asked myself so many more questions that 276 days into this bliss project, I know that I am only at the beginning. I know who I am now, I know myself and I have learned to love myself this year. But I am barely scratching the surface of this life long path. There is still so much to learn.

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Day 277 – tired of my own game face

I am tired. I am drained. I see a dead pigeon on the pavement today and, in a daze, I take a photo of it. I am thinking pigeon pose- Raja Kapotasana. I am so spacey, I put my keys in the fridge and then stand staring into the freezer for what seems like an eternity. There isn’t any food in there. In this world I feel like I have to have my game face on all the time. I want to switch it off. I want to hide. I want to get away. My friends are begging me to go out, but I am tired. I am PMSing. I go to bed and can hear them asking about me outside my room. Sometimes it feels like everyone wants to share your light, and you give it away until your flame is barely flickering. It is my responsibility to hold my fire, to keep it alight. It is my turn to take care of myself and stay in bed, to rest. Grateful to this wisdom that has kept me home, I fall asleep.

 

Day 278 – solo mission

The Blue Mountains are thick with fog as I drive down to Megalong Valley. Clearly, my Apple Maps have never been here before because it wants me to drive down Six Foot Track. It is a dirt running track. Hmmm… My instinct had me going further down the main road, so I decide to follow it. Eventually I find the right signs down to the valley. As I descend, the fog clears completely and I see the lush green cascading over the road. It is like entering another world. I reach the campsite and there is still plenty of light. I throw up the tent and then sit on a tree stump, listening to the birds. In the dusk, their song fills my heart.

In the dark, I heat up a can of soup to keep warm. In my tent, I have a head-lamp on as I read Hindu stories of the gods. I can hear the noise of the crickets, lulling me to sleep. Finally I have peace, solitude and nobody but myself.

Bliss.

 

Day 279 – birds

I wake up to the song of birds. The rain stopped in the night and the small log I turned over last night is still dry underneath. I eat a quarter of a watermelon over my hot tea and stare at the sunlight coming through the trees. The air is fresh and cool and I feel myself in a sacred space down here. The birds bring up the sun, flying like souls to the heavens. I have always had a passion for birds. I remember the first bird that I ever noticed and, wondering what it was, looking up a bird book. It was a great black cormorant. My favourite sounds are Magpies in the mornings, Whipbirds in the bush and Kookaburras at dusk. I have a tattoo on my back of a quetzal bird. It is native to Central America and Mexico and is the national bird of Guatemala. It is a symbol of freedom as it is near-impossible to keep in captivity as it will stop eating to commit suicide. To the Mexica people, its feathers were more valuable than gold. If I could be any animal, it would be a bird.

 

I pray to the birds.

I pray to the birds because I believe they will carry the messages of my heart upward.

I pray to them because I believe in their existence,

The way their songs begin and end each day,

The invocations and benedictions of earth.

I pray to the birds because they remind me of what I love rather than what I fear.

And at the end of my prayers, they teach me how to listen.

–       Terry Tempest Williams

 

 

Day 266 to Day 272 – your wondrous works

Poetry and literature about meditation have been written extensively, so I decided to spend a week trying to write one. In vain, I tried, for in meditation there is only stillness and silence and writing poetry is the symptomatic release of a troubled mind. So I sought inspiration in the works of others about meditation or yoga or the divine…

 

Day 266 – I will trust my inner guide

 

I love to watch how birds soar on the win.

There appears to be such little effort, yet such joy.

I want to become like a bird and let my spirit soar on the winds that are blowing through my life.

I will not be crushed against the rocks!

I will sense the rhythm,

The flow

And react accordingly.

I will trust my inner guide.

–       J. Garrett Garrison & S Sheperd

 

 

Day 267 – the luxury to meditate

 

The luxury to apprehend

The luxury ‘t would be

To look at thee a single time,

An Epicure of me,

In whatsoever Presence, makes,

Till, for a further food

I scarcely recollect to starve,

So first am I supplied.

The luxury to meditate

The luxury it was

To banquet on thy Countenance,

A sumptuousness bestows

On plainer days,

Whose table, far as

Certainty can see,

Is laden with a single crumb-

The consciousness of Thee.

–       Emily Dickinson

 

 

Day 268 – OM! Reverence to Ganesha!

 

“The sky is clouded;

And the wood resembles the sky,

Thick-arched with black Tamala boughs;

O Radha, Radha! Take this Soul,

That trembles in life’s deep midnight,

To thy golden house.”

So Nana spoke, and, led by Radha’s spirit,

The feet of Krishna found the road aright;

Wherefore, in bliss which all high hearts inherit,

Together taste thy Love’s divine delight.

–       from the Sasnskrit of the Gita Govinda of Jayadeva

 

 

 

Day 269 – Else Not Say I

 

True pleasure breathes not city air,

Nor in Art’s temples dwells,

In palaces and towers where

The voice of Grandeur dwells.

 

No! Seek it where high Nature holds

Her court ‘mid stately groves,

Where she her majesty unfolds,

And in fresh beauty moves;

 

Where thousand birds of sweetest song,

The wildly rushing storm

And hungred streams which glide along,

Her mighty concert form!

 

Go where the woods in beauty sleep

Bathed in pale Luna’s light,

Or where amog their branches sweep

The hollow sounds of night.

 

Go where the warbling nightingale

In gushes rich doth sing,

Till all the lonely, quiet vale

With melody doth ring.

 

Go, sit upon a mountain steep,

And view the prospect round;

The hills and vales, the valley’s sweep,

The far horizon bound.

 

Then view the wide sky overhead,

The still, deep vault of blue,

The sun which golden light doth shed,

The clouds of pearly hue.

 

And as you gaze on this vast scene

Your thoughts will journey far,

Though hundred years should roll between

On Time’s swift-passing car.

 

To ages when the eart was yound,

When patriarchs, grey and old,

The praises of their god oft sung,

And oft his mercies told.

 

You see them with their bears of snow,

Their robes of ample form,

Their lives whose peaceful, gentle flow,

Felt seldom passion’s storm.

 

Them a calm, solemn pleasure steals

Into your inmost mind;

A quiet aura your spirit feels,

A softened stillness kind.

–       Charlotte Bronte

 

Day 270 – Eternal Life

 

There’s no time for hatred, only questions

What is love? Where is happiness?

What is life? Where is peace?

When will I find the strength to bring me relief?

 

Tell me where is the love in what your prophet has said?

Man it sounds to me just like a prison for the walking dead.

Well I’ve got a message for you and your twisted hope.

You’d better turn around and blow your kiss goodbye to life eternal, angel.

–       Jeff Buckley

 

 

Day 271 – The Opening of the Trunk

 

Moment of inner freedom

When the mind is opened

And the infinite universe is revealed

And the soul is left to wander

Dazed and confus’d,

Searching here and there

For teachers and friends.

 

Moment of freedom

As the prisoner

Blinks in the sun

Like a mole

From his hole

 

A child’s first trip

Away from home

 

That moment of freedom.

–       Jim Morrison

 

Day 272 – Pay attention to the signs

Last week after swimming across Malabar, I noticed a sign that someone had stuck in the bushes just above the south boat ramp. It said,

What manner of man is this that even the wind and sea obey him.

After consulting the oracle, I discovered It is a verse from the bible (Matthew 8:27) and refers to Jesus’ power over the weather. The south boat ramp of Malabar seems the most unlikely place to find such a quote and yet some of the wisest words I have read were on the back of toilet doors.

Today, we are driving up the coast. I haven’t been told where or why. Apparently this is how surprises are supposed to work though I don’t have much experience with this kind of thing. As we drive further away from the city, I can feel my whole body relax. We stop at a lookout and in the stone, I find another sign:

  

Ok, universe, I am listening now! The tradition of meditating on the back of one’s eyelids is beautiful and serves its purpose of pratyahara, withdrawal of the senses, however the beauty of this world seems to be demanding that I open my eyes…

I see ocean. I see treas. I sea bright sunlight. I see love. I see energy. I see the world, as a wondrous work, as a constant point of focus; an eternal meditation. Basking in sun, connecting, existing, living within the world, as part of it. At the ashram in India we were told that the cycle of reincarnation began because the divine being wanted to experience life, to know what it felt like to breathe, to feel, to emote… but when the divine entered the living, the eternal ‘I’ forgot itself and now we are constantly struggling to find ourselves. What if we stop struggling and just do what we came here to do? (Enjoy life) The divine may just find us.