January – New Year, New Look, New Bliss Project

This year the 365 Days in Bliss has changed slightly. Each month I will be doing something new for the whole month, blogging about the journey and updating my experience. Last year, the necessity to blog everyday was a huge commitment and when work made it difficult, I started to stress a bit. This was completely counter-productive to the purpose of the blog so this year, doing a monthly project gives me a bit more freedom to write as I go and still offer up a bit of Bliss Exploration as the journey continues. For the month of January, I have decided to take a picture everyday. I have already found a couple of days where this has become difficult; I either almost forgot or just took a random picture out of necessity. There are also some days where I find more than one thing I want to take a picture of, so I have included multiple pictures where I found it necessary. The idea is to find the aesthetic beauty of each day. In the meantime, here are the first 9 days of photos. Tomorrow we leave for Vietnam so I can imagine the next ten days of photos will be FULL of amazing shots!

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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 252 to Day 258 – a week of gratitude

When my sister said a speech at her own wedding, she had read somewhere that if you make a list of at least six things that you are grateful for every day, then you will be happy. So she then went on to tell us all of the things she was grateful for. So for seven days, I made a point to say thank you at least seven times. By the end of each day, I mostly had way more than seven. Every moment was beautiful, for every single day, I could be grateful for every single minute… Thank you for…

 

Day 252 – the little things

A parking space close enough to the cafe that I can get my coffee as soon as I drive in to work.

The barista who knows exactly what I want and starts making it as soon as he sees me approach.

The hour and a half long lunchtime that allows me to lay in the sun for an hour in the middle of the day and do nothing.

The phone charger my boss keeps at work so that my phone never has to die, even though I am using it constantly.

The customers who actually answer their phones.

The customers who sound pleased, if not excited to hear that I want to bring wine to their house!

The warm night that I finally get to drive home in, after a long day, finally noticing that spring has completely negated the need for the heater in my car.

 

Day 253 – the sorrowful things

The doctor for putting up with my complaints and hypochondria, managing to calm me when I am clearly so stressed.

The nurse for being out to lunch, so unable to take my blood for an hour, giving me time to run around Malabar and then swim across the bay.

The ocean for healing me regardless of how stressed or sad I feel.

The best friend who comforts me through text messages all day, and even makes me laugh when I feel like I want to cry.

The person who manages to look me in the eye and smile regardless of how little I can smile back.

The dinner that tastes so awful that I can’t even finish it, meaning I don’t leave the restaurant so full that I feel sick.

The cup of tea and tim tam that offers a little hug from the inside when I feel so down.

 

Day 254 – the surprising things

The strength and speed I find doing sand sprints in boot camp after I was too exhausted to even make it out of bed.

When the day seems completely pointless until the last two customers surprise me with their kindness.

The way a friend looks when I walk into his work unexpectedly.

The fifty dollar note I find tucked inside your wallet when I thought I was broke.

The missed call from someone I didn’t expect to hear from.

The vegetarian burger in a pub that turns out to be amazingly delicious.

The graffiti written on the inside of the toilet door that says SHUT UP AND LOVE.

 

Day 255 – the delicious things

The customers who no-show or cancel, leaving me with free time to go home and get back into bed for an hour.

The rainbow lorikeets that screech so loud in the trees that I can’t even hear the other person through the phone.

A familiar face in an unexpected place, making a delicious coffee and serving me a glass of prosecco.

The customers who cancel at the door, leaving me with an early night to go out to dinner.

The tiger lilies and roses, bought simply because he knew I like them.

The dinner of kingfish ceviche, quinoa and chickpea chips stacked like a jenga tower and the stuffed zucchini flowers.

The rum blazer, complete with history lesson and the spectacular show of watching all the spices spark and fire into the glass.

The amazing person who I am lucky enough to share it all with.

 

Day 256 – the fun things

Krystle’s bouncing energy, dragging me out of the house when all I want to do is lie down.

The unplanned adventure into the city to go to a Creole Zouk night. (Side note, Creole Zouk is kind of like a slow, French Caribbean version of Salsa. Very sexy, seductive and beautiful.)

The pleasant surprise that my date can actually dance!

My cousin who meets us out and can make friends with any person that I introduce him to.

The bars that actually stock cucumber to go with a Hendricks gin and tonic.

The three individual friends I haven’t seen in years who give me massive hugs and a quick hello, knowing now that our entire friendship is conducted over Facebook.

The taxi driver that takes us home right at the changeover time when it is impossible to find a taxi.

 

Day 257 – the work things

It isn’t hard to be grateful for today, when I am being whisked away to the Hunter Valley with work colleagues.

The lift into the city that gets me there on time, despite being out until 3am.

The beautiful sunshine that graces the day out in the vineyards.

The delicious wine of Brokenwood.

The Hendricks Punch served hot in a teapot that helps me recover from the night before.

The credit card that allows me to purchase a $100 bottle of Quail shiraz, or the Magnum bottle of Semillon.

The laughter of the whole ride home and the new bond between people who were once just work colleagues, but can now be called friends.

 

Day 258 – the unfamiliar things

The way he holds my hand when he can see that I am nervous to be introduced to people unknown.

The wine that allows the nerves to fade and the conversation to flow.

My ability to use humour to hide from an awkward situation.

Francesca, my new American friend, who turns up in Bondi out of nowhere and has dinner with us.

The point of the night where my body refuses any more alcohol and I end up drinking water instead.

The exhaustion that forces me home and in bed by midnight.

The warm embrace at the end of a long weekend.

Day 245 to Day 251 – rest, remember, reflect and relax

Day 245 – lunchtime resting

It is a beautiful sunny day and we have an hour and a half of lunchtime to enjoy it. I find my usual grassy hill has been occupied by the telesales team. After they eat, they slowly make their way inside and I am left alone to bask in the sun. I lay down and take off my shoes, looking up through the swaying leaves at the sky. Feeling the twigs and grass beneath me, the breeze above me, the sun warm my skin and hearing a kookaburra nearby is enough meditation to keep me completely focused and mellow for the entire day. I end up easily making my target appointments for the day. I don’t know if it is possible but I am guessing the clients can sense this energy through the phone. Who wouldn’t want to meet a person who is happy to just lie on the grass in the sun? Sometimes I wish that I wasn’t me, just so that I could meet me and see myself through the eyes of someone else. And if I wasn’t me, I would lie down in the sunshine next to me. But I am me, so I can do little things like lie in the sunshine and be entirely present. This is life- not the doing, not the speaking, not the trying. It is through not doing that we have the time to feel who we really are, to sense the world and just arrive.

 

Day 246 – my window to the sky

When I wake up in the morning, I don’t even have to get up out of bed to open my blinds. I can lie in bed, warmed by the sunshine, staring out at the bright morning. It is still a bit cool in the mornings but the sun has never been more beautiful. I like the roof next door. It looks like something out of Mary Poppins. I feel like if I left this window open, Peter Pan could very well hop straight in and kidnap me back to Never-Neverland. Actually, this apartment has kind of become Never-Neverland. There are paintings of oceans and birds and unicorns, the Faery Oracle and Angel cards are always out, scented candles or smokey incense curls through the hall and sometimes Krystle and I lay around and watch cartoons, sprawled across the floor in a pile of cushions and blankets. Peter Pan, I dare you to have more fun in the jungle. This place is awesome! I could very easily imagine that my bed is floating through the world, this window showing me the rest of the world. Every place that we landed, I could crawl out of the window in my bare feet and explore sandy beaches on unknown islands, vast cities filled with skyscrapers and suits, fast moving rivers, snowy mountains, thick rainforest loud with the sound of birds. Through this window, I can see my own little piece of sky and when I open it up I can hear magpies telling the same story that they tell every morning.

 

Day 247 – tiger lilies

I have a tattoo on the back of my calf of a tiger lily. Krystle tells me it is a Stargazer Tiger Lily and when she gets home from work she has brought me three of them. They are pink and white, the same colour as the one that my tattoo was originally drawn from, even though there is no colour on my leg… yet. I originally got this tattoo for a dear friend and mother. She passed away so suddenly, breaking the hearts of her husband, her three sons, her step daughter, myself and many, many more people. I remember being in such shock that all I could do was fix up the flowers that people kept bringing over into vases and when we ran out of vases, jugs and empty bottles. Her middle son, who was never exactly the warm and fuzzy type, (more of the tough kid with enough piercings to get stuck to the fridge magnets if he got too close) came over and hugged me and said that looking after the flowers was exactly what his mum would have done. Her name was Florence and she was a living angel. In the short time I knew her, I had never laughed or cried so much. When I see these flowers, I can still hear her uncontrollable laughter when she accidentally drank the wrong wine. I remember the way she placed her hand elegantly on her long neck as she wilted in the heat of Phuket. I imagine she is sitting up in heaven, relaxing in a deck chair, the way she imagined her own parents to be when they passed. In missing her, I am grateful to have known her and for the simple things she taught me. She taught me that you can endure any pain for twelve seconds. Just count to twelve and it will be over. “If it isn’t, count to twelve again.” Or how to drink Bombay Sapphire with tonic and a slice of lemon. Or how to do the Nutbush (please YouTube this dance if you don’t know what I am talking about). I will never be able to smell one of these flowers without remembering the look of grief on her eldest son’s face, or the way her youngest son stared at photos of her, trying to burn them into his mind forever. And every time I hear the Jackson 5’s song, I Want You Back, I will see that small family hugging together in a group, trying to laugh and cry at the same time. Sometimes there is more poetry and beauty in grief than there is in joy. For we would not know how to love if we did not know what it felt like to lose.

 

Day 248 – The tea dragon

As the weather warms up, I realise I haven’t been drinking as much tea. It is also the fact that we still don’t have a kettle in the castle of chaos. I finally have the time and energy to boil some water on the stove top and I take the cup into my room where I get back into bed and stare at the dragon, keeping my tea warm. I am thinking about the symbolism of a dragon as I stare at the picture. What meditation does dragon totem offer? Obviously this is a powerful totem animal. Mythical, majestic and mysterious, they come from ancient Asian and Anglo-Saxon legends and symbolise strength, courage, balance, magic and primordial power. They also represent restorative energy, allowing us to become peaceful warriors. Considered lucky, the dragon ignites our inner fire and builds confidence… Meditating on this dragon totem can build these energies in us.

Lucky my tea cup has a lid on it because by the time I am ready to actually drink from it, the tea is still warm. The steam that explodes out when I take off the lid is like a breath of fire. The dragon kept the tea hot.

 

Day 249 – reflecting light

I am exhausted but I am not ready for bed. I need time to wind down, to relax and unwind before I pass out with my mouth open. It is well beyond midnight and I am still sitting up talking endlessly on our little floor space among the cushions. (Such hippies.) There is a single white candle stuck in the neck of an empty wine bottle. I get completely spellbound by the flickering candlelight reflected in the dark window. It is like the outside is reflecting the light within. That is the entire principle of the universe. Every person you meet is a reflection of something inside you. Every person you meet appears in your life to show you something about yourself. Even if you don’t like that person, or they make you angry, or something about them annoys you, the only way to see them is with compassion for they are there to reflect back a part of you that needs to change. Every person is a mirror. Every situation is reflecting light, illuminating the darkness, bringing us out of ignorance, showing us the path, lighting the way. Every candle shines brighter back at itself.

Day 250 – suffrage and seafood

We have to vote today. It is a local council election and though I have no idea what I am doing, I like to honour the voting process because of how hard women had to fight to get it. It was in 1913 that the passionate suffragette, Emily Wilding Davison, threw herself under the King’s racehorse, just so that women could have the chance to vote. For this reason, in my ignorance, I walk in and vote for the only female elective. It may not be the best method for voting but it is my only method today. It is probably too late for more research. All my wine tasting appointments have cancelled so I have the whole Saturday off and we decide to pick up some seafood and some fruit and vegetables from the organic market in the Entertainment Quarter. I have to ask for “the cheese with the holes… it’s kind of white and soft and may start with an S…” Asiago? Yes that’s it! I also find a more mature cheese, made of goats and cows milk, covered in Barolo grapes. We sit around for the entire afternoon eating oysters and cheese and drinking wine. When I finally get up to make some salmon, I have managed to wear my native american head piece and leave it on for the rest of the afternoon. Yeah it’s a little different for a chef’s hat… When I look back at the day I realise that I can finally relax. There is nowhere I have to be, nothing I have to do. If I want to hang around my house and eat oysters, drink wine and look like a Sioux, what better way to spend a Saturday? I voted, I ate, I drank, I finally relaxed.

 

Day 251 – locked out on the grass

I am teaching yoga this morning and nobody has left me a key for the studio. Everyone is either away or at YogaAid, which is why I am covering this class. As students arrive, I break the news that we are practicing outside. They all seem a little worried but when they start moving, I get them to pull the mats away and feel the grass beneath their toes, to connect with the earth. It is easier to be a tree when your roots are actually connected to the earth. This is a balance focused class so grounding is an important part of standing on one leg. The Rainbow Lorikeets offer beautiful background noise and the sun warms our bare arms. It is a beautiful and fun way to teach and I think I want to start teaching outside all the time! In the end, the students are excited and walk away saying how lovely it was to practice outside for once! Yoga studios are pretty much a Western interpretation of yoga anyway. I remember in teacher training being told about the yogis that would wrap themselves in wet sheets and then climb to the top of a mountain and practice asana until the sheets dried. This is nowhere near so extreme but from this ancient practice, most of the asana poses are imitations of nature and animals. In the end, I offer gratitude for the warmth of the sun, for the music of the birds and for being locked out and giving us the opportunity to practice in this beautiful outside space.

Day 215 – the magic of gratitude

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

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

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