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 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 203 to Day 211 – moving out and on

Day 203 – knowing when to let go

It is never easy to break up, but it seems that when girls break up with friends, it is never without a few tears. It is almost like courtesy, like an offering. I can’t be your friend anymore but here is some clear liquid from my eyes. It isn’t anybody’s fault- nobody wants to seem bitter or angry. Usually girls fall out in a bitchy fight over something that was said or about a boy. This girl is different. She says we are too stressful for her and she doesn’t need the drama in her life. Krystle and I aren’t really sure what she means. We are both quite highly strung so what stresses out our friend Kelly doesn’t seem like a big deal to us. What makes Kelly cry only gets a shrug and a laugh from us. We understand the cyclical and ever-flowing, ever-changing nature of the universe. Kelly is ex-military so her way of thinking is completely different from ours and we have come to a point where we have to part ways with love. I don’t argue or try to change her mind. The true nature of selfless love is knowing when to let go.

Day 204 – pranayama class

At Yogatime, the teachers are now bringing a focus into certain classes and posting that on the facebook page. Today it is my turn so I have offered a pranayama class. We begin with simple breath regulation:

Extending the exhale for twice as long as the inhale, I invite the students to breathe in for 3 seconds and breathe out for 5-6 seconds. When they are comfortable with that, they extend the inhale to 4 seconds and the exhale to 6-8 seconds. Eventually they will be breathing an inhale for 5 seconds and an exhale for 10 seconds. This means that instead of breathing for the usual 12-18 breaths per minute, they can slow their breath rate to only 4 breaths per minute. The sages say that before each soul begins a lifetime, we are given a certain quota of breaths. This defines how long each person shall live. If you save 14 breaths per minute, the idea is that you can live longer. For example, small birds that breathe extremely rapidly live only a few years, whereas a turtle that breathes slowly, less than once per minute, lives over a century. It is hugely underestimated how much the breath can improve life. Simply noticing the breath, becoming aware, keeps us in the present moment. When we are overthinking or stressed, it is the breath that immediately suffers. It gets short, shallow and moves up into the chest. Although the lungs do actually sit in the chest it is better to use diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing. Most people only use the top third of their lungs and breathing in that space stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, the fight or flight mode, releasing massive doses of the stress hormone cortisol. This causes anxiety, insomnia, stress, skin conditions, over-active appetite and poor concentration. Unfortunately, fast-paced city life has us living in this fight or flight mode constantly. It takes awareness to bring us back to a calm and centred breath rhythm. The best way to do this is to pay attention to where the breath is happening and then use the belly to breathe. Once the belly is expanding on the inhale and contracting on the exhale, the muscle that lies below the lungs, (the one that is actually intended for breath), the diaphragm, is working.

Through the class, we incorporate Lion’s Breath, Wood Chopping Breath and full horizontal stretch to feel the lower ribs expanding into the floor, practicing diaphragmatic breathing. To finish, we do my favourite: Nadi Shodhana, the alternate nostril breathing. This balances Ida and Pingala, the Yin and Yang of the body. Ida and Pingala are flowing rivers of energy that spiral around the central channel, Sushumna, which travels up the spine. The lunar Ida, the left side is feminine, it is the yin, the calm side. When the left nostril is dominant (more open), we may be about to sleep or just woken up, or in a very relaxed state. The Pingala nadi, the right side, is solar, masculine, energy. When we are active, agitated or excited, the right nostril will be more open. The nostril changes dominance every 90 minutes. My yoga teacher in India claims one only needs four hours of sleep; two hours for each nostril.

By the end of the class I realise how much information there is to share about breathing; I have only just touched the surface. There are so many more breaths to be taken…

Day 205 – Just another Tuesday

It would be a lie if I said this day was truly like any other. This week I have taken the time off from work to just focus on teaching yoga. One of the other girls is away so we are covering extra classes and this afternoon I am teaching two classes, back to back. I go for a run in the rain, checking the weather. I believe when it says clearing that I will end my run in the sun. Unfortunately the rain seems to be feeling rebellious and it starts pouring down the hardest as I come back towards home. My spray jacket proves how non-waterproof it really is, but when I get home the success is that I have run 10km in much the same speed as I did in the Sydney Harbour 10k Race! I haven’t been able to get to that speed in ages, but it seems the rain gave me motivation to want to get back home! I keep stressing out, thinking I am still in a hurry and that I still need to rush to get somewhere or do something. I don’t think it has sunk in just yet that I can focus on yoga. Tomorrow I will even get to practice a class! I remember being at classes every chance I got and now I rarely step into a yoga room unless I am teaching. I think the justification is always that since I am a yoga teacher, I can teach myself but I never quite push myself out of the comfort zone on my own… And life begins at the edge of the comfort zone. That’s why I run faster in the rain.

Day 206 – cracking open my heart 

I lower myself back down from the fifth back bend, Wheel. I am hot and tired. I wish I had not done the sprints before class, but here I am in Misha’s Progressive class at Yogatime. Everyone is in the mood for backbends but I need to teach the next class and I know that backbends always lead to massive energy shifts and can seriously affect us emotionally so I am a bit nervous and try to just take a step back. I take a rest from another backbend. I can feel my heart cracking open as I rise up for another one. This time it is like an explosion, like a wall being broken. A wall is broken. That wall that I built around my heart, one brick at a time. Each time I felt disappointment in a relationship, I got out a trowel and put another brick down. Now that has just been bulldozed and as we go to the wall for handstand to realign the spine, I can feel the energy pouring down into my head and out into the ground. The dust of that wall falls away. In Savasana I can’t stop crying. In silence, I wipe away the tears. Finally, I can admit to myself that I am vulnerable. I am not made of stone and steel. I can pretend to be, but inside, there is a softness and a sensitivity and there are still wounds that need to heal. I know that if I saw my ex fiancé, my heart would still skip a beat. I know that when I see my dad, I feel guilt that I don’t spend more time with him. I know that despite my never-ending optimism, my ability to laugh it off and see the light in any situation, that I can also allow myself to feel pain and sadness. Those darker times just make us ready for even brighter times.

As I begin to speak to the next class, I am surprised to hear my voice is shaky. All of that energy that has shifted and exploded from my heart is still bubbling away and I have to take a moment in silence before I speak again. After class I eat with a friend and then take a moment in my car to just be with myself, to hug myself and just allow the dust to fall away. Another pivotal step in the journey.

Day 207 – the universe will provide

By some twist of fate, the money for the bond of our new apartment has not transferred and is still stuck in banking limbo. I am running around like a mad lady, picking up pay, counting out my tips and separating coins. It is just enough to cover the holding deposit. I spent my whole childhood feeling my mother stress about money and always told myself that I wouldn’t be like that. I just feel like if I put faith in the universe, know that abundance will come and just allow the energy to flow, then I will always have enough. I have never felt poor. Even with nothing, I have had an amazing life and feel like I have never had to miss out on an experience because of money. As we sign the lease, I am aware that I have no full time job. I am teaching yoga, working sporadically and yet here I am, signing over every dollar I have to move into a beautiful little art deco apartment in Coogee. I have faith that I will get the perfect job for me. I trust the universe to provide.

Day 208 – get yoga stoned

We have moved! It takes us all day but we move beds, the fridge, the boxes, clothes… The new apartment is beautiful. The morning sun shines in the windows and the floorboards stay warm all day. I can’t even remember the last time I had a room of my own. I have my own space. I have my own bed. I feel settled and ready for this new life. Our unit number is unit one. This means new beginnings, which is quite appropriate for this period of drastic change in my life. New job, new home, new friends… I love change. When everything is changing like this I feel like I am in the flow and things will just all fall into place. I have to leave Krystle setting up her bed while I go to teach yoga. Friday night’s Flow n’ Let Go class is one of my favourites to teach. I get to slow the pace down, play relaxing music and watch the students get nice and loosey goosey. By the end of the class, a short meditation, I love seeing everyone open their eyes lazily and look around from that place of peace and calm. “Yoga stoned?” I ask and they all nod. Ah, the natural high of yoga. I used to do a Yin Yoga class every Sunday afternoon and then go straight to work at a cocktail bar in the middle of Kings Cross. Everyone thought I was getting stoned because I was so relaxed and my eyelids would be a little droopy. That is true yoga, the union, the balance, the stillness, the natural high. If you walk away with only one thing from my yoga class, then I hope it is your sleepy smile.

Day 209 – to each his own

Some people eat meat and some don’t. Some people like AFL and some like League. Some people want to get married and have children. Some do not. The older I get, the more sure I am that I never want to eat meat again, that I will never understand AFL and that I don’t want to get married and have children. And the funny thing is, this seems common among women. It is usually men that still want the traditional lifestyle. I remember watching a documentary about relationships and it said that marriage was initially created as a contract of ownership. As humans evolved, they initially began living together in small groups of ten so women only had one or two options to procreate as they would instinctively go for someone who was not a direct relation. This ensured the survival of the species. As the groups got larger and humans began living together in groups of one or two hundred, then it became possible for a female to procreate with multiple partners within her monthly cycle. On a primal level, males needed to ensure that their own DNA was the one being passed down and so, in order to keep the women under the control of a single male, the contract of marriage was created. I always said I never wanted to get married so it is amazing to me that I was ever actually engaged. As a single woman enjoying her freedom, I find that I often get into this conversation with people, particularly with men. They want to know why it is that I choose to be single? Why is it that I don’t want to get married? Why don’t I want children? Is this all really so unusual? I see the world, an overpopulated, consumer driven society where people die of obesity on one side of the world and people die of starvation on the other side. I see a world of beauty that is slowly becoming extinct, one species at a time, because of the human race. I see my niece and nephew in their parents’ SUV and know that by the time they are my age there will be no more polar bears in the world. How could I want to bring another human being into this planet? It is through selfless love that we care for our children. It is through selfless love that I choose not to have a child. As to marriage, why would I sign my life away? I would never criticise another person’s decision, nor question it. Allow me to be who I am. Let me eat tofu. Let me watch League. Let me be alone.

Day 210 – first supper

I love to cook. I race back to mum’s house and get a few pots and minimalist items for the kitchen. I take all the curry spices. Mum never makes curry anyway. I look up a recipe but I don’t agree with it so I throw everything in my own way. Krystle’s last housemate cooked a lot of Greek food so she jokes that I have a lot to live up to. I am confident as I serve her the quinoa and vegetable curry. We eat on the floor like Morroccans. Someone has offered us a lounge but since the house is so small, we feel like it would be cluttered with furniture so we just sit around on the rug with cushions everywhere. This is common for me. I am a floor dweller. When I come over and get offered a seat, I usually sit on the floor anyway and lean against the carpet. People probably think this is strange but it is probably just the yoga mat. I have grown accustomed to being low to the ground and I feel strange sitting on chairs and sofas, especially if there is nice carpet. We eat our first meal in our new house. I have suitably impressed Krystle with my food making. I had looked up a recipe but dismissed it and decided to just follow my instinct. So here is my curry in a hurry:

CHICKPEA and SWEET POTATO CURRY

Ingredients:

1 chopped onion

1 tsp chopped ginger

1 diced capsicum

1 sweet potato, cut into chunks

half bunch silverbeet

1 can chickpeas, drained

1 can coconut milk

1 tomato, chopped

fresh coriander

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground turmeric

half tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp curry powder

salt

pepper

dash of hot chilli powder

Heat oil in pot, add onion and ginger and cook for 3 minutes. Add capsicum, cook for a further 2 minutes. Add spices and mix well. Add vegetables and enough water to almost cover all the contents. Mix well and cover. When sweet potato is softening, add chickpeas, coconut milk and spinach and fresh coriander. Cover and allow the spinach to cook in the steam for two minutes with the stove off. The heat of the pot will steam the spinach, keeping it raw enough to still enjoy as much of the nutrients as possible.

Can be served over rice but I prefer to use red quinoa. Boil one cup of quinoa in two cups of water with a pinch of salt.

Delicious.

Day 211 – inspiring the kids

Krystle is an artist. When I wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom I find her in there, her hand is blue and she just looks at me and says sorry. I look up at the mural on our bathroom tiles. I hug her. This is what I love about this woman. Freedom. Love. Truth. Beauty.

A young 15 year old girl is doing work experience with us at Embrace this week. She is timid and quiet. I keep forgetting she is in the shop. I take her for a walk and we have a chat. I know exactly where she is in her life because I have been there: too shy to be herself because she is still figuring out who she is. I talk endlessly and she tells me that my life sounds awesome. I end up giving her this whole spiel about how positive energy attracts more positive energy. Put out the awesomeness and you receive awesomeness. (I guess this is the 15 year old version). “Every person you meet is a reflection of you, honey, so send out good vibes and you will be surrounded by great things. The best thing I ever learnt is that I can do exactly what I want to do. As long as I always do things with good intentions and come from a place of love then there is no reason to feel guilty for following your heart. It has taken me a long time to do that but I feel that I am walking my own path and that it is right for me.”

She asks me if I ever feel bad when I think about other people, like my ex-fiance when I broke up with him. I tell her of course it is hard to hurt someone but if you don’t want to be in a relationship, then you will hurt the person more by staying. “You need to live for yourself, you need to love yourself first before you can love others otherwise you expect them to make you happy and then you make their life miserable when they can’t.”

She grows quiet. I guess it is a lot to take in. I draw some cards from the Angel deck, thinking about my career and how this junction of change I am in will affect me. When I start pulling cards, I am more and more amazed at the result.

Trust – trust your feelings and dreams to guide your career path.

Meditation – Siddhartha Gautama Buddha.

Yoga – your life is enhanced by yoga, stretching, and exercising.

You’re on the Right Path – keep doing what you’re doing, because it’s working.

Travel – Your life purpose involves travelling.

I realise the Yoga card has another card stuck to the back of it so I pull it out…

Writing – You heal, inspire, teach and entertain with the words you write.

Ok, universe. Message received. Loud and clear! Thank you for the reminder. Thank you for the opportunity to share what I have learnt and thank you for the beautiful people who remind me where I have come from and where I can potentially go.

Day 177 – La Roue de Fortune

So it is around midnight (last night) when I eventually make it out of the bathtub. Hey, give a girl some bubbles and glitter and a good book and you’ve lost her for hours. The book is The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory, who is my favourite historical fictionist. In it, the young girl Jacquetta is playing with some tarot cards as she sits around on the grass with her buddy Joan of Arc (as you do).

‘Now that’s a good card,’ Joan remarks. ‘La Roue de Fortune..’

I hold it out to show it to her. ‘It is the Wheel of Fortune that can throw you up very high, or bring you down very low. Its message is to be indifferent to victory and defeat, as they both come on the turn of the wheel.’

‘In my country the farmers make a sign for fortune’s wheel,’ Joan remarks. ‘The draw a circle in the air with their forefinger when something very good or something very bad happens. Someone inherits money, or someone loses a prize cow, they do this.’ She points her finger in the air and draws a circle. ‘And they say something… They say merde”.’

I love this idea of just drawing a circle in the air. It explains everything! It explains the wheel of ignorance, the attachments and expectations taking us away from our centre and spinning us around. It explains the endless cycle of reincarnation, constantly turning around the true source at the centre, but not able to get there. When you stand at the centre of the wheel of fortune, then you are indifferent to victory and defeat. Throughout my day, talking to various friends, I use this circle and surprisingly one person just smiles and nods and says, “Yeah, I know the vicious cycle.” Well, if we all know we are in this spinning wheel then how hard can it be to pull yourself back to the centre? It is constantly readjusting and repositioning. Kind of like jeans that always slip down. Everyone has a unique way of pulling their jeans up. Some hold the belt loops, others hold the pockets, others do a twist of the hips. I hold the back of my thighs and bend forward. Yes I know it looks as funny as it sounds but it works. Well, you fall off the wagon, you drop to the bottom of the wheel, or you climb the steep mountain and get to the top. One thing is sure, you never step in the same river twice. My beautiful girlfriend told me today that she doesn’t cope well with change. Well, change is always happening whether we cope with it or not. The idea is to accept everything as just a beautiful turn of the wheel. Put some spokey dokes on the wheel and enjoy the colours. Might as well, cos that wheel will never stop turning. The trick is to stay in the centre, keep pulling up the jeans, draw a circle in the air with your finger and say ‘shit’ in a romance language.

Day 140 – everything changed in India

I am ready to leave the guesthouse at 4.30am, but when I get downstairs the gate is locked and the owner is not answering his phone. When the taxi arrives, I have no other choice but to climb the fence. Is it some kind of sign that I shouldn’t be leaving? I am more than excited to get home and see my family, but I also have a feeling that they will need to physically force me, kicking and screaming, through the airport and onto the plane. I wake up early to do pranayama but there is enough time in transit with nothing much else to do but to meditate. I practice a grounding meditation I did once at the start of this journey, over four months ago when I left Sydney. I imagine a thread of light extending form the crown of my head, down through my body, out my feet and deep into the earth, all the way to the core of the planet.

Before I board the third and final plane that will take me back to Sydney from Bangkok I start chatting to a couple of Swiss guys. One of them asks if my trip to India has changed me. As I nod with a smile, I go back to that moment in January when I sat at the airport in Sydney, waiting for a plane to take me to Bali. How different everything was back then. How different I was then.

“Yes, I have changed.”

“In what way have you changed?”

Unprepared for this conversation with a stranger, I blurt out the most honest answer that is available, “Everything. Everything has changed. I have changed entirely.”

When I left Sydney, I was erratic, half full of anxiety, entirely too full of negative thoughts, my hair was long and I was engaged. Now I feel relaxed, centred, excessively optimistic, my hair is short and I am single. Going to Mexico, I realised just how different my spiritual path was to the path that I was on with my fiancé. We had a great time, but I didn’t get to do all the things in Mexico that I wanted to do. I went back to Sumatra feeling once again way too dependent on my partner to keep me happy. I put unfair expectations on him and then when we were separated, I became despondent and by the time I got to Bali, I gave up my power to my shadow by drinking. I was still practicing every morning but with less energy and less prana. After one more week in Bali, trying to find balance I retreated to an ashram and after practising a day of silence for Nyepi, the Balinese Hindu new year, I went to the local salon in Candidasa and shaved off all my hair. By the time I left for India, I had to say a final goodbye to my fiancé, knowing that my spiritual journey had now led me away from our path together and onward on my own. A part of me had no idea what I was doing and I still remember that crippling fear I felt on that first morning in Delhi when I didn’t even want to leave the hotel. Then, meeting our teacher at Sadhana Mandir Trust, the man who shook my world up, yelling out his TLA’s (three letter acronyms) and demanding that I speak about myself in the third person. Three weeks later and I knew that everything in my life had led me to that point. Trekking up to Gaumukh was the single most life changing moment. As I ascended the final metres, I felt that descending force pulling me up and into the frost tipped mountains. Seeing that frozen glacier, I felt like I had entered the kingdom of heaven. They say that Ayers Rock, in the centre of Australia, is the solar plexus chakra of the world. Well then, the Gaumukh glacier must be the world’s crown chakra. It is a physical place where you can reach out and touch god. As I continued through India, praying at temples and visiting ancient forts, I felt the energy of the ancient land, its rich history culminating to create this world of myth. Meeting the children of I-India I was inspired by the people of this world who, despite having no water, no food, no family or no clean clothes; have undying faith in god, and radiate brightness and joy and dance through life anyway. Watching the Bollywood movie with my friends, I realised how different Australian culture was and how lucky I was to be born in a country where freedom of expression is upheld and even if we have no vegetarian burger available at McDonald’s, we at least consider an ‘honour’ killing a punishable crime.

I left Australia with false expectations, attachments and anxieties. I touched the ground of my ancestors. I enjoyed the luxuries and sensory pleasures of Bali. I entered India with fear, was blessed by the Ganges, my ego was burned to the ground, I was chased by a monkey, I walked straight above the clouds and into heaven, I rode an elephant and danced with the beautiful street children of Jaipur. I have become closer to myself than ever before and now feel that my purpose in this lifetime is to search for enlightenment.

What has changed? Besides my body, my mind, my soul, my path? What hasn’t changed as I fly around the world at high speed and high altitude? Well there is no sign of it slowing down. Whether I join a friend and drive/camp to Western Australia, go back to India, Africa, the Morocco or London. I can’t go back now. I have drawn a line in the sand and the only place to go is to keep moving forward. When everything is changing, you have to change everything.

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Day 76- when a dragonfly lands on you…

I am lying down on the cool tiles with my eyes closed when I hear the beat of wings. Admittedly when the dragonfly lands on me, I sit up with a start, but realising it is a dragonfly, I extend my arm and it comes back for a moment to touch my fingertips. Magic.

Apparently when a dragonfly lands on you, it means that you will receive “excellent news from someone living far away from home” and are “messengers to remind us to tell the truth. They are also strongly associated with light. Illuminating those things that need to be brought into the light to chase out the shadows and the untruths.” They also symbolise moving past the limiting self-created illusions that hold us back from change and growth.

It is said that if you have dragonfly totem you tend to be emotional and passionate in early years then go on to achieve balance, mental clarity and control later in life. (I guess I am still at the emotional and passionate part of my life.) A dragonfly spends the first three years of its life in water as a nymph, eating mosquito larvae and has to go through an extremely painful metamorphoses as it skin rips apart and it breaks open out of its original form. In Japan, the dragonfly symbolises joy and new light.

Lately I heard from a friend who called me “radiant star” and another friend who told me to “keep burning bright”, so I am beginning to understand the light I feel from within is expanding as my awareness expands. We are, after all, made out of the same base atoms that stars are made of. All the elements that comprise the human body were created when a dying star exploded. Magic.

Day 73- seeing dragonflies, a symbol of change and self-realisation

I see dragonflies all day. I haven’t seen one in a long time, but they have always appeared at significant moments in my life. I sit and meditate outside, staring at the pool where the dragonfly skips and moves across the water. Their erratic movements are fascinating and graceful and amazingly efficient.  They only flap their wings 30 times a minute. Compared to houseflies which flap 1000 times per minute. I love the veiny art of their wings and their iridescent shine. Apparently that iridescence means the end of self-created illusions and the clarity to see the reality of life.

Dragonfly-site.com says that the dragonfly is a symbol of change and self-realisation:

“…and the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life. The traditional association of Dragonflies with water also gives rise to this meaning to this amazing insect. The Dragonfly’s scurrying flight across water represents an act of going beyond what’s on the surface and looking into the deeper implications and aspects of life.”

Surprised that my morning meditation isn’t hindered by my excitement, I finish off my coffee and get ready to leave. I am practically jumping out of my skin as I go to meet the girls, Ange and Rosie. When I run into their hotel room diving into some long-awaited Embraces, I am hit with the blast of air-conditioning and soon I am shivering. I realise that once again I am acclimatised to the tropics and prefer the stifling heat to being cold. Within minutes I am already doubled over with the kind of laughter that only comes from your best girlfriends. I realise how long it has been since I have been surrounded by this much oestrogen! Being around Andrew and his mates in Mexico, in patriarchal Padang and the humming bloke-predominant society of Bali, I have seriously missed hanging out the girls. Although I do find Andrew and his mates easy to be around, eventually I always need to speak to somebody with a uterus! Rosie doesn’t want me to shave my head, so we make a deal. If Embrace can raise more money than I can, then I will keep my hair. (This is a pretty big bet, since the website donations are still going a bit slow and I really want to shave my head, so again I implore you, reader, to please make a donation for this worthy cause!) As we catch up on a million missed moments, shopping in Seminyak, the words “that’s hot” fly around way too many times and we finally end up back in Legian, exhausted from the heat. Rosie is even more exhausted from trying to work out the exchange rate and Ange looks like she is going to hit me with the hardest part of her body (her head) if I point out another shop for Rosie again. As Rose finds a mirror-ball shaped phallus, a young local girl reaches out and touches Ange’s breast, saying “Hey, you have nice boob!” and aside from the hilarity of the comment, it is always nice when a sister opts for kindness over jealousy and offers a compliment instead of a criticism.

As I walk past a shoe shop, I see another dragonfly hovering above some sandals. I silently tell the dragonfly that I promise I will heed its message and give it a silent prayer of thank you for visiting me again.

The three of us get a Balinese massage back at their hotel (thank you, ladies!) and then sit in the hydro spa, getting massaged by streams of jets while the rain pours down all over Bali. Between the dragonflies and the water, I can only guess that today, the last day of the Mexihka calendar, there is massive change happening throughout the world and especially in my life. I walk through the rain, allowing the heavy downpour to soak me through. After all, as long as I stay out of my friends’ hotel room, it is still warm and balmy in the island of the gods.