Day 164 to Day 171 – what am I running away from?

Day 164 – the Third Eye Sandwich

When we imagine the breath, we usually just visualise the in and the out around the nose. In India, we were taught to loop the breath, exhaling down the front of the body to the tips of the toes and then inhaling up the back of the body to the crown of the head. This morning I use this breath to centre myself, to calm down and focus my mind. When I feel ready to bring my attention to the third eye centre, just at the centre of my forehead, the loop continues and creates what my friend, Chantal, calls a ‘yummy third eye sandwich’. But when I remember this after only 10 minutes, I find myself thinking of a real sandwich. It is mid morning and I still haven’t had anything to eat yet. I need to go running and before long my mind is racing with a whole list of things to do before I start work this afternoon. I can’t focus. I give up and decide to get ready. I can tell it is going to be a long week.

Day 165 – time to sleep

I have had less than four hours of sleep and despite the early morning rise, I feel alive and energetic. Waking up early and missing out on sleep can happen for many different reasons; anxiety, insomnia or work… but it is yoga that makes this truly worth it. After I teach, I practice for another hour by myself in the studio. Time moves too fast and I need to race through breakfast in order to get to work. Once again I am chewing as I get dressed. I really miss eating with reverence and peace. I always seem to be chewing while driving or showering. It isn’t until halfway through the afternoon when I hit the wall and need a coffee so desperately, I barely taste it. It is in this brief moment of pause between cleaning beer taps that I realise how quickly my life is moving now. I barely have time to sleep, let alone practice, let alone eat! In between training for races, teaching yoga, working and trying to make sure I get time to practice and then write about it, I feel like I never actually stop to catch my breath. Life is just a never-ending sprint. This is the whirlpool if city life. I recognise it. I have been here before. I can’t wait to sleep in. Then another voice chimes in from deep within my latent habits… “you can sleep when you die.”

Day 166 – feedback

Nobody likes bad feedback, but without a little criticism we can never improve right? Well, the ego still takes a little beating. I try not to look sad about this but I can feel this inner disappointment with myself and I want to just yank it out like a grey hair. I talk to my mother about it as I put on my makeup. I am getting ready and even though I am training for a race in a few weeks and nervous about injuries, I still make the decision to wear my new ridiculously high heeled boots, because let’s face it; high heels can make a girl feel like she rules the world. As my mum listens, she tries to find something wise to tell me from the book she is reading. It is called The Magic and is the sequel to the bestseller, The Secret. I have heard that this book is all about gratefulness. Well, I look at her and tell her thank you for listening and reassure her that everything will be fine. I have so much to be grateful for, but especially grateful for the feedback that will help me move forward as a yoga teacher. Feedback is just like that vegetable you don’t like eating. You learn to love it because it is good for you!

Day 167 – making friends and illuminating people

I am reading an article in Marie Claire about making friends. The writer goes on a month long experiment to find new friends. As an adult who works mostly from home, she finds it difficult to make new friendships and goes about joining running clubs, writing groups, networking and other painful situations in the effort to meet a new best friend. I wonder at this predicament, but looking through my own life I realise how hard it has become to make time for all the friends in my life as it is. I am lucky to have picked up friends from yoga circles, university and pubs I have worked at but it takes serious co-ordination to make time to spend with all these friends. I am sitting in the Globe cafe in Coogee by myself eating the most amazing Haloumi stack and realise that I could easily have a friend beside me right now, but, like the girl at the next table I am extremely happy to be sitting here alone. I have spent the entire night with friends and apparently stayed up until just before the sunrise. I feel young and happy and free. And I am sitting here with my best friend. She is me.

Day 168 – Kundalini shaking

I met this teacher, Galina, only a couple of weeks ago and have not had the time to join her class until now. I want to run but I also feel tired and I am seriously curious about the type of meditation she teaches. After a short talk about energy shifts and the change in planetary vibration brought about by the planetary alignments of this year, she tells us to get up. We stand and move about our joints, circling from ankles to the neck. Then she tells us that we are doing a Kundalini meditation. It is a style of meditation I have heard about through the Osho tradition and I know it is practised at the Ratu Bagus ashram in Bali. It is a shaking meditation. We close our eyes and shake the body, moving with energy. Even as my physical body gets tired, I can feel my subtle body expanding and I start to make bigger movements, feeling like I could keep moving forever. When we finish, I feel light, as though I have raised my energy levels and now I am floating. The heaviness and tired ache in my bones from a late shift at work has disappeared. I leave to go and meet a friend for lunch and the sun seems to be shining brighter. I can even take my jacket off in the sunshine and feel hot. I indulge in oysters and arancini balls at Ravesi’s as we look towards the sparkling blue water. It is said the kundalini shaking meditation acts like ‘an energetic shower. It shakes you free of your day and leaves you feeling relaxed and mellow.’ I definitely feel showered, relaxed and clean. My day has only just begun. My life has only just begun.

Day 169 – what are you running away from?

In racing around this city, I found some time to write to my teacher in India and ask some questions that were arising. In writing the email, I referred to myself three different ways; as Elizabeth, Eliza and as Lizi. He laughs at my Vata tendencies and when I tell him about the constant running and sprinting and failing to find time to honour my practice like I did in India, he asks the simple question: “What is Elizabeth running away from?”

I stare at the computer screen in more stillness than I have felt in a long time. What am I running away from? My past? My ex? My disappointment? My fears? My doubts? Myself? My ego? All of the above? This simple question has made me stand still for the first time in days. I don’t know if I know the answer, but I certainly feel the anxiety of getting stuck with whatever it is that I am running away from.

Day 170 – I used to be a rock

I am taking my friends down the coast. We decide to check out the blowhole at Kiama, but the tide is low and the hole is not blowing. We laugh and climb over rocks to get as far out to sea as we can. The sun is sparkling against the deep blue ocean and the wind is gentle against our warm skin. I keep pointing at the rolling countryside we drive through, saying, “isn’t it beautiful!” Krystle is Irish and James is Canadian, but I feel like the real tourist. I feel like I am seeing this beautiful place for the first time in my life. We stop at a small winery on the way to Berry and taste some chocolate wines as the sky clouds over and the sun disappears. The wind picks up and we are glad we went to the beach early. In a shop we are looking at some crystals when James starts to tell us that he used to be a rock hound. His ADD kicks in mid-sentence and he ends up saying, “I used to be a rock… hey! Tiger’s Eye!” We crack up laughing about his previous life spent as a rock. It is funny, but leaves me wondering about previous lives spent as rocks, or Tiger’s Eye, or tigers, or earthworms, or grapes? Could one have been reincarnated as a vine? They say that we are definitely inhaling the same air that was once inhaled by the Buddha. There is no doubt that the earth recycles and reuses everything and continues to move things through the endless cycle of life, but does this extend to inanimate objects? And if you get reincarnated into plastic, when do you truly die, since you are not biodegradable? My head is spinning and then I remember this fast-talking Canadian’s accent telling us that he used to be rock and suddenly I can’t breathe from laughter again.

Day 171 – just stand still

I am getting ready for work. Time seems to be moving quickly this morning. I don’t know how much time I will get alone, since I have to drive up to Sydney in peak hour. I am already tired. I get out of the shower and tell myself to just stand still. Even if it is only for a moment. I stop and breathe, I feel the loop and despite the mind wanting to just move and keep getting ready, I force myself to just stand still. It is like the eye at the centre of the storm. I know I need to just unplug from the world and wind down. I need a few days off. I need to retreat into silence. I look up into my reflection and I can see myself already moving towards my clothes. Time to get dressed. If time is an illusion, why can’t I just stay here in this stillness? The storm catches up to me and once again I am in the whirlpool, rushing around, trying to do a million things at once. But it is easier after I stand still. That is the secret. Stand still. Every day. Even if it is just for a moment.

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Day 115 – why is my mind shouting so loud?

I sit down to set up for meditation. I have completed ablutions, pranayam, internal dialogue, locked the “p” line, which shuts the lower celestial doors (so as not to lose energy out through the lower doors) and my head neck and trunk are straight, my mastoid pivots elongating further up to the sky with each exhale. I bring awareness to the bridge between the two nostrils, I breathe in the loop, exhaling down the front of my body for twice as long as I inhale up the back of my body.

Suddenly manas, my lower mind, pipes up, “Good! Now that I finally have your attention, there are just a few thousand thoughts we need to go over. Are you listening to me? I SAID…!!” It’s like my mind is actually yelling at me, like a naughty child suffering from serious ADD, “AFTER BREAKFAST DON’T FORGET TO BRUSH YOUR TEETH! YOU SHOULD BUY SOME HONEY ROASTED PEANUTS TODAY! COFFEE WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA! IS THAT A HAIR TICKLING YOUR EAR? LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME… LOOK.AT.ME!!!”

When did meditation become so hard? What happened to that yummy feeling? The floaty velocity and beautiful light radiating from within? When did this become a battlefield? I get out to go for a run. This is now the only place where the meditation comes a little easier. I set up my peripheral vision, regulate the breath and start my slow jog along the river. It is a little later in the morning so less people are about. It is not unusual to notice a roughly dressed man slowly enter my peripheral lense. As I approach, he reaches down to his pants to offer me a free show. Grateful that I am short-sighted and NOT wearing my glasses today, I break into a sprint until I am far away. Seriously, somebody had to ‘cock up’ my running meditation AS WELL?! The good thing is that I don’t let go of the breathing rhythm, despite the suddern burst of speed. Suddenly I am homesick for the sound of magpies in the early morning, my mum’s vegetable soup and the halfway decent mental health system that keeps crazy men (and all their bits and pieces) safely homed and off the streets.

Our teacher is leaving today, so as I catch him to say goodbye, I hesitate to ask but it seems like Shal and Pri want to hear the answer too so finally I spit it out.

“Elizabeth is experiencing a challenge… She is following the steps and going through the set-up but as soon as she turns inward, the mind just gets really loud, like absurdly loud. Isn’t meditation supposed to be fun?”

Knowing my vattic tendency so well, he says that it is a problem of being in a “hurry curry worry” and that Elizabeth needs to really use Sankalpa Shakti, determination and Power of Will. I realise that although I say my sankalpa, I have lost faith in the words. It has become a line. There will always be challenges and as long as manas feels like it is winning, it will start to take control. There is no battle except that I am not letting go and allowing. The good thing is that I have acknowledged, now I need to accept and release. Teacher says this is like taming a wild horse, first you must apply the soft rope, then allow it to run, so it doesn’t realise it is securing itself in the bridle. Offer a sugar cube, rein it in. Offer some more sugar, until finally you have the mind, the horse, your friend, within reach and then, with tender love and compassion, you can begin to direct it.

My internal DJ is playing Wild Horses… by the Rolling Stones.

Day 92 to Day 99 – First week of the Self Transformation Program at Sadhana Mandir

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Day 92 – it’s a long way to the top if you wanna know your soul

The program has begun and it is pretty intense. Today is only Sunday so it is a Holy Day and it means we have extra free time during the day instead of our usual theory and practice. We are expected to be up at 5am for personal practice of asana, meditation or pranayama. At 6am hot chai or lemon and honey is served. Thinking that the hot water and lemon will help detox me, I opt for this. At 6.30am we meet in the meditation hall, which has a small altar to Swami Rama, the original Guru who established the Sadhana Mandir Trust. In the picture he is young, his eyes closed in meditation. All around the picture are mala beads, floral leys and candles. A pot of ghee in a glass cabinet burns constantly and a lamp shines on his face. This room and the dining room are always open, just in case you need to meditate in the middle of the night. In the mornings, our guide, who I will name Rafiki because of the way he reminds us of the Shaman baboon from the Lion King (not aesthetically but rather because he tends to wack us over the head when we talk about the past), asks what time we woke up, whether we used an alarm, how much water we have drunk and “poo or no poo?” For those that have, he asks what type, whether it floated or sunk. Apparently there are good and there are bad shits. He has acronyms for everything. He calls the Self Transformation Program, STP, the Sewerage Treatment Plant and says that our minds are full of CRAP- Constantly Retarding Awareness Perpetually.

Until 8am, we are shown the first sequence of Hatha Yoga from the Himalayan Swami Rama tradition and to be honest, I don’t get it. It seems so… anal! He keeps coming over and twisting my shoulders in. For someone who has been practicing asana with my shoulders always rolling out to open the heart and expand the chest, this is like re-learning how to walk. We stand with most of the weight in the front of our feet and by 7.30am I am stoked when he tells us to lie down for systematic relaxation, the preparation for Yoga Nidra. In Swami Rama’s book, The Path of Fire and Light, vol. II (which is the prescribed reading and one of only four books permitted), it says that sleep will not benefit us, however a practice of Yoga Nidra will. It will help us to find a deep state of relaxation, further reducing our need to sleep. Apparently the sleep cycle means that in an eight hour sleep, we only get 3 hours of truly deep rest so we don’t need as much sleep as we think. Now, I am a little wary of this. I like 9-10 hours of sleep so anyone telling me I only need 4-6 can just sh…. Anyway, now I see why the meditation room is open for 24 hours a day!

We have the daytime off… After breakfast I read Meditation and Its Practices, which is a great book on meditation, and Living with the Himalayan Masters, both by Swami Rama. I try to meditate at 12.30pm and I start to feel really good when I realise that I am falling asleep. I get a little annoyed with myself and go down to lunch at 1pm. By 2.30pm we watch a video of Swami Rama and I just can’t focus. I am relieved to see that other people are falling asleep as well.

By evening Satsang at 7.45pm I am getting annoyed. Actually, I am downright cranky. I feel tired and irritable. I am not PMSing either. I can hear my internal dialogue- it is my ego, fighting for its life. Ganesa, the god, is the remover of obstacles and I can feel him stomping around in my head. Rafiki is trying to kill my ego. Not my big-headed arrogance, but the side of the mind that keeps me from connecting to my true self. I can hear it arguing with myself. Lucky Rafiki himself calls the practices “very advanced bullshit”, because my ego is saying pretty much the same thing. I can also here the self saying that it has to be a struggle if it is going to really change me. It has to be painful if it is going to kill away the old habits (samskaras) and break open the path to Samadhi. If it was easy, then everyone would be enlightened beings! But we aren’t. We are mostly zombies. I may be on a spiritual path, but the past 91 days have been relatively easy compared to this. Now I have to put in the hard yards and it may be a struggle, but if I don’t give it my all, then I am only cheating mySELF.

Day 93 – dealing with the blockages

It was only from the movement of my wrist that Rafiki is able to spot that my ayurvedic constitution is Vata Dosha. He tells me the hot water and lemon is only making my vata imbalance worse and it is my current Dosha, Pitta, that is causing me to crave the sour taste. I had no idea I could be Pitta Dosha, which is ruled by fire. I am so airy and flighty and windy (in every way), I just always saw myself as Vata. Now that he has said this, however I can really see the fire. Spicy food, love of hot climates, the way I can get passionate or angry in the blink of an eye… Yeah there is a bit of fire in this body. There is also a bit of a lack of fire and fibre going on. I’m not sure when the Delhi Belly is supposed to be kicking in, but I am currently experiencing more than just an emotional/mental blockage.

Once again in our morning lecture, “Elizabeth” just keeps thinking, “Why the hell is this Indian man still yelling at us?” During practice, during relaxation, again during meditation… It is all just grinding at my bones and I want to share, but instead I hold back. After breakfast, we are back to the full program so we meet again at 10am for theory and meditation before lunch. After lunch, we are shown a digestive practice which doesn’t work for me and in a bit of a huff, I go to leave the meditation hall. As I open the door I stop and look at Swami Rama.

“Gurudev, help me. I’m struggling. I don’t get it. I mean, I’m not feeling anything. I feel this blockage I have never felt before and I know you probably want me to try harder but I just need some… help. I need a sign to tell me if I’m really supposed to be here or not. I usually believe that where I am is exactly where I am supposed to be but it’s like this just doesn’t make any sense yet. Just… please… help?” I stare at the picture, but his eyes stay closed. No magical voice from the beyond, no sudden vision… nothing. Just me.

After this we have some free time before chai is served at 4pm and then we go for a second walk before we meet again at 5pm for evening practice and meditation. Dinner is at 7pm, and finally the evening Satsang where we gather to ask questions, share and read from the book, Path of Fire and Light, Vol II. In Satsang, John, one of the other participants shares that he is experiencing resistance and I am so grateful that I can finally say so as well. It feels like a load is lifted from my shoulders and as I am preparing for an evening meditation before bed, my friend Amy comes upstairs to my room to ask if I am ok. She reminds me so much of mum. She offers a hug and this expression of ahimsa, selfless love, just radiates through me. I sit down to meditate and look at the small picture of Swami Rama in my room. Thank you.

Day 94 – releasing, letting go, surrendering, and liberation- moksha

It is dawn and the sun is yet to rise over the misty mountains across the river. The sky is filled with bird song and flocks move across the sky in the pink light. I have a small bundle tucked under my sarong that is wrapped over my head and around my shoulders. It is still a little cool in the mornings here in Rishikesh. I walk through the beautiful flowers of the garden and as I come to the gate of the ashram, I hear the beat of wings, like a bird taking off. When I look around, there is no bird. I look up and lean back but I see nothing in the sky above me. I step down to the river’s edge and sit beside a woman in a red sari who is meditating. Two men behind me are doing vigorous chatturangas on the steps. I sit down remove my bundle, holding onto the wad of hair that once fell across my face. It is still soft and smells a little sweet, like coconut. I give it a couple of strokes. I say a short prayer, “with this I let go of my ego, of my old samskaras, of the conditioning that is holding me back from realising my true self. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.” I throw the hair into the river and watch it scatter on the surface of the water. I close my eyes for a moment and breathe slowly, bringing my awareness to the bridge between my two nostrils. I feel the cool air moving in and the warm air moving out. The current is surprisingly strong and within a few minutes my hair has passed a few metres down the river. I continue to sit and stare at the beautiful morning: the birds flying all around me, the sound of chanting in the distance and the perpetual flow of this holy river of life.

When I enter the meditation hall, I can hear no argument, no negativity from within my mind. Instead, my heart is filled with ahimsa, selfless love. For some reason, Rafiki is not yelling today and as I begin the Hatha Yoga practice, I feel all the subtle energies moving through my body. I get one of those “aha!” moments when I realise that this is real yoga- getting to the subtle body. A million sun salutes may never get me to the subtle awareness of Atman, but this practice is creating Mindful Conscious Awareness and with THAT, I can feel something shifting deep inside of me. I don’t know if the ego has completely gone, but I have definitely released something of the blockage that has been holding me back.

As to the other blockage… well Rafiki has given me some Ayurvedic herbs, which I hope will work and instructed me to do strong Bhastrika as I walk back from my morning run. At least my mind is starting to empty out the CRAP.

Day 95 – there is only practice

Elizabeth, in a moment of being unconsciously unconscious, can not find her glasses. It is 5am. She has already practiced kapalabhati and the ‘Joints and Glands’ Hatha Yoga sequence and is now going out to do meditation (preparation) and then run along the Ganga. She stops in the meditation hall to look for her glasses but seeing the tranquil darkness, she steps in to do her practice there. In the early morning stillness, two devotees are already seated. They have obviously been there for hours. Elizabeth gets a blanket and sandbag and sits in easy pose. The hall is still and although it is dark, it is luminous, full of the vibrational radiance of the Saucha of the other meditators. Sitting down, Elizabeth focuses her attention on the breath; the dance of consciousness at the bridge between the two nostrils and the loop of breath that exhales down to the tail bone and up to the crown of the head. She can hear the gentle whisper of ujjayi breath resonating from the cave of her heart as her abdomen expands and contracts. After 20 minutes, a tightness in the body’s thoracic spine becomes pain and Elizabeth stands up to leave. She believes herself to have failed; however she hears a voice from within, “there is no success and there is no failure. There is only practice.”

Day 96 – Swami Rama’s systematic approach to meditation

This system is very intense. You can tell doctors who were using the left side of the brain developed it. ‘Elizabeth’ is a more right brain kind of girl, so it is taking some time to understand this methodological approach. Being more of a ‘go-with-the-flow’ kind of person means that I want there to be mystical, esoteric meanings behind everything but the fact of the matter is that this practice has been developed as a systematic approach to meditation. It has steps and every action in Hatha has to do with pranayama (the movement and expansion of prana around the body; not breathing exercises as I have previously believed) and the meditation techniques. Up until now I have been meditating for three months on any meditation technique I can get my hand on. While it has all been a beautiful learning process, in this ashram, I am learning the preparations required to place me into meditative stillness wherein which, apparently Samadhi can be reached. Rafiki even thinks we can reach Samadhi by the end of the three weeks. The first rule in Swami Rama’s teachings is to meditate at the same time every single day. This creates new grooves in the mind and gets rid of old habits. Along with breath regulation, kapalabhati, lion’s breath, drinking 1.5L water, asana practice and a run before the sun gets too hot, this body has to be up and about at 4am in order to get this all done before morning chai is served at 6am. And apparently we haven’t even started meditating yet! Rafiki has only been giving us systematic relaxation and “preparation” for meditation. Well, it feels like meditation to me. And even if the technique is based on the same principles, the experience of each day is new and different.

Although I sleep only six hours (I usually prefer 9), the 4 daily meditations, 2 daily walking meditations and 2 daily yoga nidras have all contributed to more energy, better cardio fitness as I can run faster and further, I find it easier to wake up earlier, sleep deeper and can fall asleep in only 5 breaths, feel less drowsy during the day, feel more conscious and I am aware of my breath more consistently.

Day 97 – day of Hanuman, the monkey god

Today is the day of Hanuman. It is also Passover and Good Friday, which automatically leads me to recall that there are no bottle shop sales in New South Wales. I swipe that association from my mind- that can definitely go into the Ganges!

Some of the girls in our small group, which we call a family, decide to tell us the story of Hanuman. Apparently it all starts with Prince Rama. He is banished to the forest by his king who is indebted to his second wife, Kikai. Kikai wants nothing more than her son to be the King. Being ‘apta’, meaning a genuine person who walks their talk, the King must grant this to his wife as he has promised. The younger step-brother is actually a pretty cool guy so he places Rama’s sandals on the throne and says he will save the crown for when Rama gets back.  So Rama, his wife Sita and his brother-in-law Laksmula go to the forest in exile for seven years. There, the demon shape-shifter, Shupanaka, comes to seduce Rama but he recognises that she is a demon and cuts off her nose! Her brother, the demon king, Ravana, decides to take revege and so sends another shape-shifter, Mareecha, in as a ruse. Mareecha appears as a beautiful golden deer and Sita wants it so she orders Rama out to capture it for her. He suspects something so he is reluctant but ultimately leaves their little forest hut to get it. Laksmula stays to protect Sita but  Mareecha is able to throw his voice and mimics Rama crying out for help. Laksmula must now run out to save Rama, but before he leaves, he draws a line around the hut and tells Sita that as long as she is behind this line, she will be protected. Now that Sita is alone and vulnerable, Ravana sees his opportunity so he appears as a Sadhu, or holy man, begging for alms. Initially he tries to cross the line but finds that it creates a protective force field so he must lure Sita out. Since it is a sin to deny a Sadhu, Sita is in a bit of confusion about what to do, but eventually decides to step out of the circle. Ravana then kidnaps her and they fly away in his magical chariot to Sri-Lanka. She cries for help and drops a bag of jewellery as they fly away.

Rama calls his army, the head of which is the monkey god, Hanuman. Hanuman is extremely devoted to Rama and with the power of his master in his heart he is able to do anything, so he leaps across to Sri Lanka in a single bound. Once there, he realises that he will not be able to find Sita since he does not know what she looks like as you were not supposed to look royalty in the eye. He searches in vain until finally he hears somebody chanting “Hare Ram, Hare Ram…” Realising it could be nobody else, he has one of Rama’s rings which he drops on Sita’s lap. She looks up and realises that Hanuman must be the head of the army.

Returning to India, Hanuman must devise a plan to rescue Sita so they map out the tower where she is held hostage and prepare for war. To cross the sea to Sri Lanka, they decide to build a bridge. This bridge is made with the help of two brothers who were cursed by a Sadhu in their youth. Their curse was that if they throw a stone in the water, the stone could not sink but would float instead. So they made the floating bridge to Sri Lanka and the war began…

Apparently one of those stones is still here in Rishikesh.

Day 98 – if you ask a question, the answer will be given

I am sitting outside in the shade, looking out at the flowing Ganges, wondering how can I possibly balance my city life with my search for enlightenment. How can I go back to that life and still be able to meditate four times a day? I am seriously considering whether I should just give up everything and head for a cave in the Himalayas when I flip open Living with the Himalayan Masters, by Swami Rama, and read,

‘I once asked my master, “Is it possible for a man in the world to get freedom from all conditionings of the mind, or does he have to live in the Himalayas his whole life to develop powers such as yours?”

He said, “If a human being remains constantly aware of the purpose of his life and directs all his actions toward the fulfilment of that purpose, there remains nothing impossible for him.”

Day 99- in search of a floating stone

Waking up early, I decide to take it slow and since today is Sunday, I do not put my runners on. Instead of running, I plan to just meditate for about fifteen minutes extra and still have enough time to sip morning honey water instead of gulping it down as I usually do. My meditation is thwarted in half an hour by a mosquito and so I take it outside for a cool walk in the pre-dawn. I realise that it is my vattic tendency to rush around because I feel like I am going to miss out on something. Looping the breath, I become conscious of so much more than just breathing. Strangely enough, I have done everything slower than usual and I seem to have more time.

It is the middle of the day and it is hot. Usually we would be in class studying the theory of Mindful Conscious Awareness and trying to focus on the bridge between the nostrils and the loop of exhale to the toes and inhale back up to the head all at the same time, but today is Sunday and it is a holi-day. Pria, my friend and sister in our small family circle, has invited me for a walk. We escape the ashram to go in search of a floating stone. What we discover is the endless looping of false directions from locals and eventually find a Shiva Mandir (temple) where we hoped we would find ruins. We climb the steps to look out from what we thought would be some historical ruins only to find a rooftop of cow patties.

Sometimes India is just a series of endless loops.

Day 66- fasting, meditation app and detox tea

I wake up to the sound of cats. I am surprised it is morning, since I fell asleep at 4pm yesterday. I think I can hear a cat screeching, but it sounds strange, almost like a child. Then I hear Pat barking and I hope he doesn’t get it. I slept all the way through dinner last night but I am surprised to find that I am not hungry. There is always a part of any detox that encourages a fast, for digestive and spiritual reasons. Many religions practice regular fasting as it is believed to bring greater mental clarity and help one feel closer to the divine presence. I am happy that most of it happened while I was sleeping anyway since I have never actually gone a whole day without food because I find it so difficult. Watching Top Gear, Mark Hammond said something about “a heart of stone and a soul made of custard…” and all I could think was how much I wanted my soul to be made of custard. When I get up, I find Sooly awake. He says that dinner was loaded with MSG so I am glad I missed out on that. He asks if I heard the commotion- apparently the cat I heard was actually a Palm Civet, known for its expensive pre-digested Luwak coffee. Sooly managed to get Pat away from it while it escaped, but unfortunately it didn’t leave any droppings behind. If there is one thing I miss about Sydney it is a good soy mocha!

I start the day with Oil Pulling and then brush my teeth. Once again I am tricking my iPhone into thinking that I care about it by using it for meditation. I have downloaded a free meditation app called Silva Meditations. The morning meditation is only thirteen minutes, but I am not worried about the time anymore, especially since watching this video by Swami Rama. As long as I sit down and close my eyes for some time, I know it makes a difference. The guided meditation is quite motivational and sounds like it would be really good for someone going to work with a lot on their plate, as it encourages visualisation of the accomplishment of goals. After the meditation, I move straight into asana. I am still sore, so I go easy on myself and build energy slowly. I can’t seem to get my mind to be still. I am thinking about India, wondering about transport methods, ashrams, money, do I have enough long sleeved tops and pants? Finally I just shut off the music and lay down in Savasana. Could it be that the meditation on ‘getting things done’ has made me believe that I actually have a lot to do? I don’t know, but I feel like I am itching to get started on some study, which is always a good thing.

I add a little coconut oil to my smoothie, since it provides good fat and has so many health benefits including improved digestion, which is great during a detox. Although it is a saturated fat, the type of triglyceride makes it healthy for the heart and has been shown to help with weight loss. After breakfast I sit down for some peanuts and a nice detox tea. I have two types of detox tea. One that I have in the morning is from Mighty Leaf, the Detox Tea Infusion, which has peppermint, burdock root, dandelion root, spearmint, liquorice root, red clover flowers and basil. It tastes quite minty which makes it a refreshing morning tea. The other tea is Clipper Organic Detox Infusion, which is bright fuchsia when you steep it and is it made of hibiscus, nettle, liquorice root and aloe vera extract. It tastes delicious and makes for a good 3pm tea. Both teas are very delicious and gentle (don’t worry, the liquorice root doesn’t have you running to the bathroom!) Although I might miss coffee, tea has a soothing and comforting nature. Many have philosophised and meditated over the culture of tea and it is easy to see why. In Australia, there is a lot of importance placed on a good ‘cuppa’ and there are some days when it is the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning. There is a special kind of serenity that comes from wrapping both hands around a hot cuppa, closing your eyes and gently breathing in its delicate aroma. The ritual of tea can provide a stillness, a pause in the day, and even though my mind was swimming after the morning meditation, these gentle herbs bring me right back to my centre.

Day 64- detoxing for the next 6 days and meditating on emptiness

As soon as I tell myself I am going to detox, I start with enthusiasm. I get really excited for the amazing food and smoothies I get to eat! By lunchtime I have gone through every craving from chocolate to pizza to chocolate ON a pizza. That is where I am at right now. Pizza. I think I can smell it but this is obviously just my imagination. It isn’t that I am hungry- no when I detox, I eat as much as I want. It is that as soon as you tell yourself that you can’t have something, you want it. The idea of a detox is not to just starve yourself for a few days and then go back to eating crap, it is so that you re-set your metabolism and stomach into craving healthier foods. After being healthy for a long period of time it is really hard to put junk back in your body. It feels like all the effort was for nothing. Right now, though, I wouldn’t be ruining anything since I just spent six weeks in LA and Mexico indulging in ALL sorts of deliciousness. (Allow me a moment to wipe up the drool as I remember the deep fried goats cheese in Kuala Lumpur.)

The detox rules I am following are from a book I downloaded from iBooks a year ago that I constantly refer back to, called 21 Day Detox. It is simple and easy to follow as it comes with recipes and shopping lists. I haven’t ever made a single one of those recipes or bought anything from the shopping list since I am in Padang and you simply couldn’t find most of the items on the list. Also, it divides the detox into levels of intensity over the three weeks, which I don’t do. I guess we could say this book inspires me. What I will be describing over the next six days is my own modified detox program, which you are welcome to follow. I am not making any health claims about it- you may or may not lose weight, you may or may not enjoy it or even agree with it, but it works for me and I like it so here it is. If you are with me on this, leave a comment and let me know how it goes for you!

First up, there are rules. There are things to avoid during the detox and they are:

1- Animal products- dairy, eggs, fish, meat… I pretty much rule out anything but honey!

2- Processed foods- How much has it changed since it was picked off the farm? More than once and I don’t eat it.

3- Alcohol, caffeine and other stimulants- coffee, tea, soft drinks, sweets, cigarettes (for the smokers out there), drugs (prescription and non)

4- Wheat- the original book did not say anything about wheat, but I do find myself to be better of without it. Plus, anything I usually put on bread like butter, cheese or nutella is off the menu anyway so wheat becomes obsolete.

Now, you are probably wondering what I am left to eat? Surely I will starve without the food staples I so desperately need in order to survive! Well, the answer is probably obvious: FRUITS, VEGETABLES, LEGUMES, PULSES. If you are thinking ew, yuck. Well, it is only six days and if you are still turning your nose up at broccoli, then I can’t help you. So here is how it goes.

On waking: hot water and lemon OR hot water and apple cider vinegar (If you can’t handle the taste, then add a teaspoon of honey)

Breakfast: fruit smoothie made with natural fruit juice, plus a banana, papaya, mango, strawberries or anything else your little tummy desires. The banana is nice and filling so I always make it an essential. I also like to add Chia seeds, which are full of protein and Omegas to keep me full. I also sometimes use a little Ener-G-Food, which is a green drink supplement containing ALL things green.

Lunch: Salad! I would normally add beans or chickpeas but it seems these are no longer available in Padang. I do have some dry lentils to cook up though.

Dinner: Baked or stir-fried veggies with quinoa, which is my new favourite food. It can replace rice in any meal but is full of protein and has no starch so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot! Tempeh is also great to add for some extra protein. I have to admit it is better in Indonesia- it also contains more vitamin B12, which is found in the bacteria that causes the tempeh to ferment. This does not occur as highly in the factory manufactured tempeh of the Western world. Also, lebanese food such as hummus, falafel and dolmade leaves are great. Soup is another delicious option.

Snacks: fruit, avocadoes, homemade popcorn with a SMALL amount of oil, sugar and salt (all organic, of course), or if you desperately need chocolate as much as I do, you can also indulge in organic dark chocolate. My favourite is Green & Black’s Organic dark chocolate 70%.

So that’s the basic idea. Here is how it goes…

I wake up and do some yoga and meditation. I think it is important to start the detoxing day with altruistic intentions. I usually roll out of bed already hungry, so I also need something to do to kick-start my metabolism before I put my sleepy digestive system to work. This morning I spend a little longer than usual in asana. I haven’t done it for a while and I just can’t stop myself. It feels really good, especially the twists which wring out the digestive organs and are so perfect for detoxing. Two hours later, I am finally in savasana and the bottom of the exhale, that moment right before I inhale again, is feeling really good. I start to take longer and slower breaths, but it is that moment of emptiness that is really holding me. I try to prolong it without straining. I have never felt this before. Usually, that bottom retention of the breath is the scariest. It is the point where we have nothing, we have not yet breathed in life and there is just… emptiness. Right now, though, it feels beautiful. It is, without any hint of morbidity, as peaceful as death. It reminds me of when I was little and playing in the pool, I would dive down and try to sit on the bottom and look up at the surface of the water. I once read a book called Awareness, by Osho, which said that when you live from your centre it is like being at the bottom of the ocean. The thoughts, emotions and distractions of the physical world are like waves on the surface. Your true self lies at the bottom, in the dark stillness where the waves are not felt. This is where I am in this emptiness.

Emptiness allows a fresh start. We must empty our cup before we can put more inside it. This is a detox- not weight loss, not starvation, not diet. It is emptying the cup.

Day 61- jet lag meditation and yoga sequence

We seem to cruise through the early morning flight to Padang fairly easily. I buy the visa on arrival while Andrew lines up for customs and we speed through the whole process easily, coming out of the airport to see the dark green mountains of Sumatra layered over in mist. I feel like it is the middle of the afternoon and I am looking forward to dinner when I realise it isn’t even 9am. Damn my body clock!

Arriving at the home we share with our friends, Mel and Sooly, we are greeted by Pat the Dog. He is a British Bulldog and living proof that ignorance is bliss. He is trying to squash his thick head underneath the gate and as soon as we get inside drags over his favourite toy: a floor mat. By the time we unpack and shower, we are ready for a Mie Rebus- spicy noodle soup with a poached egg. It is probably full of salt and MSG but it is delicious and I could eat it every day. I am already wondering about dinner again but it is only 11.56am. Not even midday! I go to make a tea but that gargantuan task takes me half an hour. We try to stay awake, talking on the phone, wasting time on Facebook, but by 4pm we are falling asleep in front of the TV. Andrew gives up and goes to bed, but I stay awake. Menstrual cramps are adding insult to injury so I am pretty much just moping around and trying not to feel sorry for myself. It is with more than a little relief that I am not feeling the same as Mel who is pregnant with twins and laying on the opposite lounge feeling sick with a headache.

I am almost asleep, but I get to my computer and look up ‘jet lag meditation’. I find another yoga and meditation blog, Spirit Voyage, which offers a yoga sequence and meditation. I practice the yoga sequence and add a few more poses in, but my tender mind can’t make sense of the meditation instructions so I find a free guided meditation on QuantumPlus, which offers a short 6 minute visualisation that leaves me feeling relaxed and definitely ready for bed. It is around 7pm but I am still holding out for dinner. By the time I have eaten and fallen asleep it is 9pm.

3am. Awake again.

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JET LAG YOGA SEQUENCE

  1. Savasana – lay down and be aware of each are of the body, from legs up to head
  2. Wind relieving pose – laying on back, hug each knee into the armpit (this gently massages the ascending and descending colon, respectively).
  3. Gentle supine twist – both legs bent together, take to one side as you turn the head in the opposite direction.
  4. Janu Sirsasana – sit up and forward on the sit bones, straighten the left leg and bend the right knee so that the sole of the right foot is against the inner left thigh. Inhale to lengthen the spine and exhale to take the forehead down to the knee.
  5. Seated twist – (from previous pose) take the right foot to the outside of the left knee, sole of the foot flat on the floor and the knee bending to the ceiling. Lengthen the spine up with the inhale and with the exhale, twist to the right, looking over the right shoulder. The right hand can be placed on the floor behind you and the left elbow hooked onto the knee.
  6. Baddha konasana – soles of the feet together, knees wide, bend forward on the exhale
  7. Supta virasana – Come to kneel. Toes together, knees apart, lean back onto hands or elbows or all the way down
  8. Child’s pose – Legs stay the same, lean forward to bring the forehead onto the mat
  9. Downward facing dog – press hands into the mat, tuck the toes under and take the hips to the ceiling.
  10. Pascimottonasana – step through to sit forward on the sit bones, legs together and straight. Inhale to lengthen and exhale to come forward.
  11. Vipirita Kirani – legs up the wall, back on the floor