The 365th Day

It has been an amazing journey, to say the least. If I think back to the person I was when I thought up this whole idea there are many ways in which I can say that I have changed. I remember standing in the café I was working at, around this time last year and thinking there has to be more to this life than this work and misery cycle. I thought I was saving my money to go back to Indonesia, but I never made it back to the boat where I had spent the previous two years. What happened instead was that I took the first step towards my true self and from there on was led to some of the most life-changing places, moments and people I have ever known. I remember being the kind of girl who was hiding behind her long hair, a little uncertain of her place in the world, insecure, anxious, with no conception of who she was. I had lost my sense of self in a co-dependent relationship and had stopped listening to my inner voice. I remember when I began meditating, how difficult it was to get through five minutes! I was detached from reality, unconscious of the pulsating rhythm of life. I remember being the kind of person that was surprised by spontaneous happiness. What kind of human condition has set us on course to accept infinite sadness as the norm?

I was supposed to be getting married, settling down and becoming the quiet and sedate house[boat]wife. Instead, a tiny voice inside told me to go to India and as I waited for the plane to Mexico, I booked a one-way ticket to Delhi. It was the greatest feeling, knowing I had finally made the decision to go somewhere alone, knowing that I was finally directing my own life. Even as I travelled through Mexico, I remember feeling like I was being dragged along on someone else’s trip. I wasn’t the leader on my own path until I separated from that situation, that person and from the expectation that people around me had.

That pinnacle turning point of the break-up, where I had stood in front of my fiancé and watched him cry and scream and all I could hear was that tiny voice inside telling me I was doing the right thing. To watch another human being suffer is always hard; to know that you have caused their suffering is even harder. Had I stayed, I would have withered and died. I was lost and unhappy in that situation and although there will always be good memories from that time of my life, I never once doubted my decision.

Celebrating the Hindu new-year in the Gedong Ghandi Ashram in Bali, a day of silence showed me how useless all these words had become. I had been to that ashram once before at the beginning of that relationship and then I returned there at the end, the whole experience framed in time by a sense of peace and a reminder that I could only walk this part of the journey alone, because I was all that I needed. Shaving my hair off was like the final shedding of the old self, the abandonment of ego, vanity and superficiality. It also made travelling really easy when I didn’t have to carry around shampoo and conditioner.

Going straight into the Sadhana Mandir ashram in Rishikesh, India, was a confronting and liberating experience. Our teacher, who I aptly named Rafiki after the wise witch doctor baboon from The Lion King, was full of energy, three letter acronyms and bewildering enlightenment. He tore apart our social conditioning and handed us back, bare and naked to see truth in ourselves. I remember crying in the temple, begging Swami Rama to make sense of it all. What was I doing here? What had I done? I just shaved my head and broke off my engagement to come here and be yelled at for closing my eyes when I meditated. All those questions were never answered; they simply became obsolete. I will never forget the coolness of the holy mother Ganga as I stood in the blistering hot sun, a light veil over my head, feeling the coolness creep up from my feet. Or the colours of pink and purple in the dawn as I let my hair go with the current of that holy river. When the course in the ashram was over, climbing to the source, to the Gaumukh glacier I faced the divine and saw only love and forgiveness. After trekking for 19km up to 4000m in altitude, I felt like I had to offer this place something of myself, so I threw in my engagement ring and let go of my old self, of that old life.

Everyone I met in India became shining beacons of hope. I had gone through an incredibly emotional time by myself, with little contact to the outside world, so each of those friendships were connections to the divine. I started to see the light in every person I spoke to. Suddenly the world was shimmering as though it was on fire; I could see life force in everything.

Coming back to Sydney was hard. I felt displaced. I no longer had a room, had lost friends because of the last relationship and was in a kind of limbo about whether to stay or just go back to India or skip on over to Africa… until I met Krystle. My best friend, the strong independent and slightly crazy woman who loves herself so fiercely she barely needs anyone else. But she has me.

Working in bars again was completely against my yogic lifestyle, but I was now entering the Persephone phase. I had to spend some time in the darkness re-planting the seeds of my life so that I could once again grow into the light. I had to explore my shadow side to understand every side of me. What I found was an incredible resilience and strength. I camped in the snow and hauled a sled full of human waste up a 2km slope, carrying a 10kg pack. I ran the City 2 Surf, a 14km race that I had never even thought about before. I looked at a new job as a wine rep and just went for it, with enough confidence to just take it. Anything I wanted, I could manifest. I made mistakes and I forgave myself. More importantly I learnt how to love myself unconditionally. Even when the rest of the world turned against me and started to criticise my life choices, I couldn’t help but be grateful for every moment.

And then it happened. Just when I was telling someone that I wanted to stay alone and single for ten years… I met him. I resisted and struggled against the most powerful force until finally I realised that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. In that funny little place called love. The universe had not steered me wrong and as long as I listened to my inner voice (which had by now become a lot louder), I wouldn’t get lost again. I sat by the south boat ramp in Malabar, a place I had called home for years, and told Matt that I loved him. And he loves me. He is the kind of person that wakes up with laughter every day, who is so full of light that he can make the world smile just by entering a room. In this person I see reflected all the things I love in the world; goodness, purity, energy. And he is the yin to my yang. He is organised and tidy while I lean towards chaos and erratic disorder. He keeps me grounded when I am in danger of floating away and maybe I add a touch of flight where he is in danger of being too structured… We fit together in every way and I am no longer so terrified of this love. I have managed to let go of fear, of future expectations and past projections. Just being in the now, I can see that there is nothing to be afraid of.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on meditation, or yoga. In fact, I gave up teaching yoga the more I learnt about it, until I felt that I could teach in an authentic manner. I don’t pretend that my spiritual journey is over or complete. All I know is that I had to lose everything in order to gain everything. I had to delve deep inside my lightest and darkest and most honest moments in order to truly learn how to love myself. I had to learn to be happy alone. From the person that was constantly surprised when happiness would creep up, I now wake up and am overcome with joy and gratitude for everything that I have in my life. I am awake, conscious and aware of each breath.

I learnt a lot about myself and about the world this year. I learnt that to find peace, I have to stay in the NOW. The past and future do not matter and there is only ever this moment. I learnt that gratitude and manifestation are valuable tools in the pursuit if happiness. I learnt how to become aware of my breath and use it as a tool to keep me anchored into the present. I learnt that emotional energy is the same below the neck; that the mind has a strong influence over our experience over the world and when we learnt to harness it, we can choose the course of our lives. I learnt that to walk the path toward spiritual learning is not always straight and narrow, but wide and curving, up hill and through dark forest. It may not always be clear but when you allow the inner voice to be the guide, it is easy to find the way. I learnt that the only two certainties in life are death and change and to embrace change is to accept the natural flow of the universe. I learnt how to exist in this flow so that I no longer feel resistance to the universe.

And I learnt that nothing is more powerful than love.

At the end of each year I write down my achievements for the year and some goals for the next year. It is always interesting to see how much I have achieved from the goals of the previous year. I found this list and I can tick the 365 Days in Bliss, I also wrote GO TO INDIA! Big tick there… I also found a page at the back of a diary I wrote in last year:

When I woke up today I lay in bed and witnessed my breath. Drinking in te prana, I found stillness and the highest form of meditation, I felt momentary Samadhi; bliss.

If someone came up to me and said, “Who are you?” my answer would be silence.

To just BE is who I am.

So Hum.

I also make a point to write down my gratefuls. I don’t think I could list them all. I am grateful for everything. From this loving man beside me to the sun shining on my leg, to the air in my lungs. This year may have started off as a search, a struggle for bliss. Now it is easy to recognise bliss all around me, to see the divine in everyone and everything, to make every moment sacred. What began as a meditation separate from life has turned into making life a meditation.

Finally I would like to thank all of the people who helped me this year. From my friends and family who were encouraging and kept avidly reading throughout, to the teachers who came into my life and made an impression. I would also like to thank all of those who donated to the I-India project when I cut my hair and to the beautiful people at I-India for showing me around the projects. Also thank you to Sascha and all the girls form Yogatime for accepting me as a teacher when I got back from my travels, to Rosie and all the girls at Embrace for their friendship and help with meditation tools and finally to my mum for… everything. From the bottom of my heart and soul I express deep gratitude and honour for this journey and to myself for having the courage to turn up every day and make something out of nothing, and to be brave enough to write about it with open honesty.

Peace.

Bliss.

Namaste.

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Day 364 – the next 365 days

I was looking at the calendar, realising that I must have missed a day in transit since it was a leap year and I have somehow only come out with 365 days instead of the 366. I know that I lost a lot of hours travelling, but it is a little surreal to realise I have lost a whole day! Well, I started out by calling this blog 365 Days in Bliss, not 366 Days in Bliss. So maybe in a way, I already knew. Thinking of next year, I didn’t really want this to just end tomorrow with a final post, a final full stop. I decided to make 2013 count by learning something new every month. I had already been toying with this idea, having booked in for my motorcycle license and considering signing up for French classes. What has finally appeared as a bit of a sign, is this video on TED by Matt Cutts, Try Something New for 30 Days. The point is that you can do anything for 30 days. If I could meditate, write and blog for 365 days, then a month is nothing! So now I just have to come up with 12 ways to change my life for the better… I certainly wouldn’t be the first person to try this but it will be interesting to see how many skills I can learn in a year…

Day 363 – the gods and goddesses

When I say god, I don’t know if I am talking about the same figure that is presented in church or in the bible. I feel like there is a more intimate divinity to which I speak when I pray. In India, when people say ‘Namaste’, it is a greeting that recognises the inner divinity in each of us. The light within me recognises the light within you. I spend a day in front of the television as it is so painfully hot in Brisbane. For some reason I seem to come across show after show about god. The old Moses movie is on and then Hercules. This leads me to think about Persephone, the goddess of the underworld, and Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of Love, War and Sexuality. Going back to so many religions there is a god for everything, even a servant god, Hanuman, in India who represents Bhakti yoga- the yoga of love and devotion. They say there are as many paths as there are people to walk them. Each person has their own relationship and opinion on who they pray to, if they pray at all. None can be wrong, as long as the faith there connects us to something which can bring happiness, fulfilment and awareness. Regardless of name or purpose, each god is just an aspect of the inexplicable divine. And if there is a valuable lesson to learn from this year, is not to complicate it with words. Silence is the path within. The divine doesn’t need the story. It already knows the ending.

Day 362 – happy hippies

Is is the Tibetan Prayer Flags that give it away? Or the attempted mud hut in the backyard overlooking the jungle? It could be the Alex Grey pictures that IMG_6184make so much sense to spiritually minded people. The Ganesha, Buddha and stone Aztec calendar all contribute to the vibe around the caravan but it is the word, LISTEN, painted on the tree that gets my attention the most. In the same way my excessive jewellery, tattoos and flowing clothing seem to mark me out, it is always a bit fun when someone who has never chanted with Hare Krishnas can turn around and blatantly label you as a hippy. To me, this is just how I am. This is how my friends are. Walking around barefoot makes more sense than high heels. Meditation groups make more sense than group sports. The hippy whose dwelling this was comes with me through the supermarket as we search for lentil burgers, discussing giving up fish as the final step toward becoming a true vegetarian. We both agree that cheese would be the hardest thing to give up. Because vegans are just intense, man. I guess if all this is what makes me a hippy, then I am a hippy. Light up the incense, pull up a djembe and sit on the bare dirt cos we are about to fry up some haloumi.

Day 361 – simply truth

I am guilty of overcomplicating certain matters. I know how easily I can turn a tiny thought into an enormous problem in my mind within seconds. Ever see me with that vague, far away look in my eye and it is pretty much already happening. I can let a seed of doubt grow a trunk and spread into branches and vines of mess in my mind until it feels like an overcrowded jungle with no space to let the light in. When we go to dinner and Mr “why/howcome/whatfor?” Six has more than enough questions to keep us answering for ages. What amazes me is how openly he can ask questions that adults would shy away from. But what is more amazing is how much the answers make more sense when they are simplified for him to understand. There is no fluff, no euphemism, no bullshit. Simple words, simple answers. Suddenly the jungle is cleared up and the light breaks in. Life and death are not so complicated. Some things just are the way that they are and peace is all about acceptance. In India, when I met Rupali, and told her that I didn’t smoke and refused a drink, she told me that she liked my simplicity. I guess I am a little more simple when I am travelling anyway, when everything I own fits into a duffel bag and when I can’t even say that I have a job. Well, I am on holidays now. I only have that duffel bag with me. I haven’t even bothered carrying around my handbag- which suddenly makes me realise how superfluous everything in it truly is. What a city thing, this handbag is, full of useless trinkets and objects that seem so essential to me in Sydney. And I don’t have a job anymore. I have decided not to go back. So here I am, back in my simplicity and there is a lot of light on the jungle floor.

Day 360 – boxing day

When I was a kid I always thought that boxing day was the day you had to pack all your new toys back into the box and not touch them, just to make sure you were really grateful for what you got for Christmas. It sounds like something an older sibling would put me up to, but I remember my mum just playing along with it, while I sat staring wistfully at my box of new toys. Eventually I would cave and beg mum to let me play with just ONE.

As I got a little bit older I was told that boxing day had something to do with boxing kangaroos. Today is the day they would meet up in the bush and have a boxing match.

Today I spend a few blissful minutes with Alfred Lord Tennyson, reading one of my favourite love poems, The Miller’s Daughter. I think if I create a new tradition for boxing day, it would be to read a poem in silence. That would tick a box for me.

 

A love-song I had somewhere read,

An echo from a measured strain,

Beat time to nothing in my head

From some odd corner of the brain.

It haunted me, the morning long,

With weary sameness in the rhymes,

The phantom of a silent song,

That went and came a thousand times.

A trifle, sweet! which true love spells

True love interprets right alone.

His light upon the letter dwells,

For all the spirit is his own.

So, if I waste words now, in truth

You must blame Love. His early rage

Had force to make me rhyme in youth

And makes me talk too much in age.

– Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Miller’s Daughter

Day 359 – Christmas Day

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We hug and say Merry Christmas. We hug and say thank you for the gift. We hug and say hello. We hug and say I love you. But Christmas is all about the food, right? Prawns so big they are almost small lobsters. Champagne in coupes, reminiscent of prohibition times and oysters so creamy and delicious, I get sad when I swallow the last one too quickly. Two types of fruit mince pies- puff or short crust pastry. I better try both to see which one I prefer. Presents… I know that people can see exactly who I am when I unwrap a dreamcatcher, a book called 1001 Ways to Tranquility and a lotus notepad. Then we play put-put golf. Turns out I am better at beer pong. I feel like I am part of a new family this year.

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My favourite quote from my new tranquility book:

Sometimes you’re the windshield; sometimes you’re the bug

-Mark Knopfler

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