Day 309 to Day 315 – movement meditations and manifest stations

Day 309 – Malabar mornings

It is one of my favourite places in the world. Somewhere between the jail and the sewerage plant, a little untouched paradise that most people believe is tainted with shit. Thank god, because it means very few people come here. It is beautiful and quiet, full of stillness and reflecting light on the surface of the water, ever flowing in the long bay, towards the shore. The water still takes my breath away when I walk in. I have to stop halfway and prepare myself mentally. As soon as I am moving, it is the best feeling to move through this liquid perfection. Across the narrow bay, to the opposite rock. I stop and sit, staring out to the point where the sky meets the sea. Sparkles of sunshine dance, throwing shimmers and rays into the morning. If anybody asks, tell them this place is full of criminals and shit.

 

Day 310 – run, swim, run

I can’t stop running until I get there. It is hot and it isn’t even 8am. I swim across and back. 4km to the boat ramp and 4km back home. Every step, every stroke, every heartbeat a moving meditation. In water, in sun, in air. I don’t want to ever stop. I could keep going, do it all again a second time. Just keep running and swimming so that you never have to go to work. Or keep breathing so that work is just something that happens outside, while on the inside, I am still radiating sunshine.

 

Day 311 – following instincts

If I get out of the car, I won’t be safe. I don’t even stop the car. I look around. The worst building in the worst neighbourhood in the dodgiest part of town. I am wearing a short skirt. I couldn’t get away fast enough in these heels. I would be encumbered with two cases of wine. It isn’t worth the danger. I drive away. As fast as I can. At the end of the day, we are all animals, and when danger approaches, when a predator is among us, hairs stand on end, ears prick up and you run away, as fast/far as you can. No point waiting around to be attacked. Instinct never lies.

 

Day 312 – manifest stations

There is something angelic and magical about 11.11. When I look at the time and it says 11.11, I always take a moment to imagine my sankalpa, or intention- something I want more than anything else in this world. I don’t ask for it, or even use words. I just imagine it, exactly as it would be if it were happening. I slow down my breathing and feel my way through this mind experience. The power of manifestation is immense. The skeptic says, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” The mystic says, “I’ll see it when I believe it.” There is no point not believing in your own success. After yoga, I can feel that deep yearning, a pulsation from within that moves with each breath. I want to teach again. I can feel the yoga mat screaming at me to teach again. To follow my path, my dharma. When I post this on facebook, Krystle notices I posted at 11.11pm. I had not even looked at the time. It just happens that way sometimes the time manifests the dream manifests the reality.

 

Day 313 – boot camp, swim, yoga

I have an addiction to movement. There, I said it! Boot camp, I just love crawling on the sand. I love the feeling of being immersed in cold ocean water, but I need to have a destination. I need a point to swim to. I need to aim for something. I love to stretch my limbs apart in yoga, ever expanding through breath and movement. Growing with energy and light. I can’t get enough of sun salutations. I don’t ever get sick of pigeon pose. I just want to move forever. Even when I sleep, it is like I am swimming around in my bed. I wake up with my head against the wall and my feet resting on my pillow. I curl up in the other direction and end up with my head hanging off the end of the bed. Ever dancing, ever swimming, ever flowing with the ceaseless waters of life.

 

Day 314 – time for me to write

I don’t like when I don’t have enough time to write. I take a day to myself. I leave my phone in a separate room. It is like detaching a limb. I resist the urge to watch all 12 episodes of True Blood and I lock myself up with endless tea and my laptop. Write write write write write. I can barely catch up. Every day deserves to be honoured with more words but there is only so much that can be said about bliss. The truth is, every day it becomes easier. The bliss is more obvious and the calm is always there. The brightness is always there, beneath any of the surface emotions. The trick is to always return to the breath and find that place of stillness. Like sinking to the bottom of the ocean, where everything is dark and still. Waves crash on the surface, ripples of water, movement, chaos of storms, wind chop, all happen on the surface. On the ocean floor, there is silence and peace. Returning to here, this where I can write from. The surface is too windy and the words get swirled around in tornadoes. So I retreat to the base of my spine, where the breath begins. And the words can flow.

 

Day 315 – no alarm

Two days in a row now, I have turned off my alarm, in the hope that I will sleep in. Apparently I don’t know how to sleep in. I wake up at 6am with the urge to move. Yesterday it was yoga. Today I run. 9km. I don’t have to drag myself out of bed. I sit up and stretch. I want to get up. I want to enjoy the morning. I want to experience the early light. The irony is that if I had woken up to the alarm, my default reaction would be to groan and reluctantly remove the covers, actually giving myself the verbal command; “Get up, Liz.” But without the alarm, I float out of bed. I enter the day with ease and softness.

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Day 266 to Day 272 – your wondrous works

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

 

Day 266 – I will trust my inner guide

 

I love to watch how birds soar on the win.

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

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

I will not be crushed against the rocks!

I will sense the rhythm,

The flow

And react accordingly.

I will trust my inner guide.

–       J. Garrett Garrison & S Sheperd

 

 

Day 267 – the luxury to meditate

 

The luxury to apprehend

The luxury ‘t would be

To look at thee a single time,

An Epicure of me,

In whatsoever Presence, makes,

Till, for a further food

I scarcely recollect to starve,

So first am I supplied.

The luxury to meditate

The luxury it was

To banquet on thy Countenance,

A sumptuousness bestows

On plainer days,

Whose table, far as

Certainty can see,

Is laden with a single crumb-

The consciousness of Thee.

–       Emily Dickinson

 

 

Day 268 – OM! Reverence to Ganesha!

 

“The sky is clouded;

And the wood resembles the sky,

Thick-arched with black Tamala boughs;

O Radha, Radha! Take this Soul,

That trembles in life’s deep midnight,

To thy golden house.”

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

The feet of Krishna found the road aright;

Wherefore, in bliss which all high hearts inherit,

Together taste thy Love’s divine delight.

–       from the Sasnskrit of the Gita Govinda of Jayadeva

 

 

 

Day 269 – Else Not Say I

 

True pleasure breathes not city air,

Nor in Art’s temples dwells,

In palaces and towers where

The voice of Grandeur dwells.

 

No! Seek it where high Nature holds

Her court ‘mid stately groves,

Where she her majesty unfolds,

And in fresh beauty moves;

 

Where thousand birds of sweetest song,

The wildly rushing storm

And hungred streams which glide along,

Her mighty concert form!

 

Go where the woods in beauty sleep

Bathed in pale Luna’s light,

Or where amog their branches sweep

The hollow sounds of night.

 

Go where the warbling nightingale

In gushes rich doth sing,

Till all the lonely, quiet vale

With melody doth ring.

 

Go, sit upon a mountain steep,

And view the prospect round;

The hills and vales, the valley’s sweep,

The far horizon bound.

 

Then view the wide sky overhead,

The still, deep vault of blue,

The sun which golden light doth shed,

The clouds of pearly hue.

 

And as you gaze on this vast scene

Your thoughts will journey far,

Though hundred years should roll between

On Time’s swift-passing car.

 

To ages when the eart was yound,

When patriarchs, grey and old,

The praises of their god oft sung,

And oft his mercies told.

 

You see them with their bears of snow,

Their robes of ample form,

Their lives whose peaceful, gentle flow,

Felt seldom passion’s storm.

 

Them a calm, solemn pleasure steals

Into your inmost mind;

A quiet aura your spirit feels,

A softened stillness kind.

–       Charlotte Bronte

 

Day 270 – Eternal Life

 

There’s no time for hatred, only questions

What is love? Where is happiness?

What is life? Where is peace?

When will I find the strength to bring me relief?

 

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

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

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

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

–       Jeff Buckley

 

 

Day 271 – The Opening of the Trunk

 

Moment of inner freedom

When the mind is opened

And the infinite universe is revealed

And the soul is left to wander

Dazed and confus’d,

Searching here and there

For teachers and friends.

 

Moment of freedom

As the prisoner

Blinks in the sun

Like a mole

From his hole

 

A child’s first trip

Away from home

 

That moment of freedom.

–       Jim Morrison

 

Day 272 – Pay attention to the signs

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

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

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

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

  

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

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

Day 217 to Day 222 – Mountaineering and Snow Camping

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Day 217 – the road to Jindabyne

I leave the house in my base layer thermals, knowing that the further I drive, the colder I will get. I have an equal mix of fear, excitement and curiosity. Leaving the south coast, the road winds and turns up into the mountains. Deep green trees hang over the road, embracing the road and minimal sunlight creeps down. Eventually the road flattens out and fields stretch out to the horizon. I see a wind farm far to the left. I realise I have never seen one before and the windmills have an eerie silence to the moving blades. Their presence is just a stark reminder of how sick our planet is and whilst they also symbolise progress, there is something alien about them in that beautiful landscape.

When I finally get to the Austrlian School of Mountaineering campsite, a considerable amount of layers have been stacked on and I go about stuffing small chocolate bars in all my pockets. I meet my tent buddy, Marina, who is closest to my age in the group. We go up to an Italian restaurant and I order an enormous bowl of pasta which stares at me like a challenge. Somehow my boy brain kicks in and I feel like I have to finish this whole plate of food in front of these ladies just to prove something. I get about three forkfuls away from succeeding when my stomach starts kicking me from the inside, yelling “You did not eat that with mindful conscious awareness!!! If you had, you would have realised you were full twenty minutes ago!!!” I still take a glance at the dessert menu… Well I know I will need the carbs. In the morning we pack up the camp and trek into the national park. We barely sleep in the tent as 100km/hr winds whip at our tents. It isn’t even snowing here. Apparently a weather warning has been issued and we may not get to go. I lie down and look inside, to the self that knows what the hell I am doing here. There is just a silent acknowledgement. Anywhere you are is exactly where you are supposed to be. And apparently that is a Women’s Mountaineering course, Liz? Yes, Liz. It is.

 

Day 218 – the long trek in

We leave the comfortable resort area with sleds connected to our harnesses and our packs full of gear and sleeping bags. The wind and snow whacks us fiercely and at least one lady in our group has said she can’t wait for this week to be over. I have a full balaclava over my face but my breath just fogs up my goggles and I can barely see anyway. We come to the snow river and a guy in front breaks straight through the ice, his snowshoe stuck. One of the guides drops straight down and with no gloves is trying to dig through the hard snow. We all move quickly in the more successful footprints to get to the other side. As soon as we are moving downhill again, I finally have the chance to look around me and just gasp in wonder. I have never been surrounded by so much white. It’s just breathtaking. It feels magical, like Narnia. Just as quickly the path turns uphill and I am sending hate mail to myself again. I have changed sleds and the one I haul now is a little bit lighter, but my snow shoes just scramble about in the soft snow up this steep slope. I finally figure out that if I just kick aggressively with the toe of my shoe, I can compact the snow and climb up. We hit camp and it is mid afternoon. We only have about an hour and a half of daylight to set up our tents in the howling wind and build a snow wall. I am shovelling snow with Marina, thinking how beautiful and fluffy it seems. When I touch it, I realise how cold and sharp it feels. About an hour later, still shovelling out a snow wall, my thought process has changed. I hate the snow, I think, as I finally sit down in my tent and try to shake the white off my boots. My toes and fingers feel warm from all the movement but they are stiff and numb within minutes. Why the hell am I here, I think? I need a hot drink. I need to pee. There are some anorexic looking tree trunks behind which some of the ladies have already done the same. I groan and pull myself back up. I grab a cup and head for the meal tent. Our guides, Gemma and Tash, have managed to throw up their own tent and the meal tent and have already started boiling water for dinner. They do have a lot more experience and efficiency in these situations. Both of them have just recently done a trip to Greenland for the sole purpose of climbing mountains and paragliding off the summits. I am in awe of these women as we sit around and laugh ourselves into warmth. At the end of the day, when I turn inwards and ask myself why I am here, the answer is simply, “you are here.” The plain and simple fact is that I am here and I can’t leave. I can either embrace this experience or struggle against it. I will see women doing both and, as ever, I choose the light. I choose to embrace.

 

Day 219 – Blue Lake

When I emerge from the tent in the morning and stare out at the perfect whiteness surrounding me, I am completely breathless. I have never seen such amazing beauty. I can’t even begin to describe the touch of sunshine dancing through the leaves and this is only the view from the toilet! And by toilet, I mean the section of snow that is slightly downhill and out of sight of camp.

We have one day of good weather so we head out to Blue Lake. The trek to Blue Lake is probably double the trek we did yesterday and mostly uphill but this time we have no sleds and our packs carry only climbing equipment. Gemma stops to wait for some of the others and while we take a sip of water she asks me, “So this is your first trip to the snow?”

“Yes.”

“And you decide to come snow camping and mountaineering?”

“Yes.”

“Cutting it sick, living extreme.”

I guess this whole Bliss project has pushed me to do some pretty amazing and life changing things this year…

Blue Lake usually has an array of ice walls on which to practice crampon and ice axe techniques but when we arrive, the ice walls are small and a cornice peaks over the main section. It was this same spot where a guide unfortunately lost his life when the cornice collapsed and avalanched on him. We buckle up the crampons, which are basically just spikes that fit to the outside of the climbing boots. They have two front teeth that can be used to climb vertical ice walls. My socks have bundled up and I can feel the top of my right mountain boot bruising my shin. It is already painful but I just ignore the pain and carry on. Adjusting the socks would be a mission at this stage. It would mean undoing the crampons, then the gaiters, undoing two sets of laces and then having to do it all up again. Still, I manage a quick shuffle of socks and it makes no difference. Once the bruise is there, the pain is just going to keep thudding away with every step. Aren’t I so glad this happened on the second day and not the first!

There are seven women in our group. Marina, the two guides and myself make up the younger generation. The rest of the women have huge climbs planned in the Himalayas and are on this mountaineering course to prepare. One lady, Sue, has been training and despite her age, confidently scales up the small ice sections in her crampons. One of the other ladies is more tentative and doesn’t seem to have faith in the equipment. Gemma tells us to be aggressive, to really kick the crampons into the ice. Aggressive? I can do that. I attack the ice like it deserves it and scale up way higher than I should, but confidently climb back down, trying not to let anyone see that I may have just freaked myself out. Balaclavas are good for the poker face. I try to strut away and Tash points out that my crampon loop has come undone. Dammit.

We get to another slope and learn self-arrest, which is basically just using the ice axe to stop yourself when you start sliding. We learn from four different slides: feet first, head first, on back, on stomach. It only takes five seconds before my inner child takes over. Sliding down a hill and then digging an axe into ice to flip over and stop is supposed to be a survival technique but it doesn’t mean it has to be morbid! We whoop and slide down the slope until it gets to the point where we need to leave. As we walk away, the wind whips around misty flows of snow down the mountains toward us. The whirling eddies dance in silence and we stop to watch these snowy spirals. I remember seeing sand moving this way in Mexico. It felt like the wind was whispering to me, guiding me and pointing me in the right direction.

A white cloud descends upon Blue Lake and envelopes us completely. We need to get back to camp and build our ice walls higher. Apparently those 100km/hr winds are coming back tonight. Whilst we are protected on the slope, we need to secure our guy ropes with ice axes and hammers and ice stakes. I have to admit, after a day of playing with axes, crampons and other sharp objects I am feeling like a bit of a warrior. I finally remember the bruise on my shin, which caused me to limp all the way back from Blue Lake. I sit down to take off my boot and see what I can do about it. The great thing is that making an ice pack to get the swelling down is easy! Unfortunately, no bandage or band-aid will help. I just need to deal with this pain. I wonder at pain and what purpose it serves. It is there to tell us when our bodies have been damaged. And once that damage has been healed, we are usually stronger when we come out on the other side. I have just spent the day trekking through snow, climbing ice and tumbling down a slope. This bruise is nothing. It is simply a part of the temporary discomfort. And I am even grateful for it, for reminding me that my body is temporary and that I can try as hard as I can to protect it, but sometimes it will still suffer and I forgive it for that too.

 

Day 220 – Lizard in a Blizzard

All night the wind howls around our tents and we have to get up twice to shovel the snow away from the tent. This means sitting up, putting on the inner boots, the outer boots, tying up two sets of frozen laces with ten frozen fingers, wrapping my ankles in gaiters which are frozen and covered in snow and then putting on my outer shell. Ten minutes later, we emerge from the tent and start shovelling. If we don’t do this, there is a chance the snow will suffocate us. There is a point in tying my laces where I am tempted to think that this is not a great experience but then I look at myself. Here you are, Liz, camping in the snow, getting up in a blizzard to shovel snow and using a plastic freezer bag for a toilet. If ever you have had the chance to face your own resilience, your own strength, this is it. The smile could not be wiped from my face, no matter how hard the snow tries.

We spend the day pitching and climbing up the slope near camp. The weather won’t let us climb Kozsiousko. We learn how to make the anchors with the snow stakes and belay each other up. It is hard work, digging, belaying, remembering the appropriate calls. I am about to start climbing when my partner calls out from the top of the hill. Her words are lost to the winds but Tash and I turn to each other, “Did she just say ‘hold on’?” That is not something you want to hear. We spend the whole afternoon climbing and when I finally get to the top of the hill and bury my snow stake, I take a moment to hang off my anchor and turn around. Wow. I spent the whole time looking straight ahead at the snow or up to the top or intently at my knots or down at my partner, but when I finally turn around to see what is around and below me, I finally understand what all that hard work was for. To see the expanse of snow covered peaks, the frozen river below, distant trees and the dramatic silence of this view… this is what climbing is all about. This is where I find the divine. When I can stare out into a place so completely untouched by humans, the earth in all its naked glory, and really see into its soul. That is where I see my own divine self. That is where I find my own soul.

 

Day 221 – the silence of the ice cave

The weather means we have a day of vaguely practicing knots and plodding around camp. The spindrift has nearly buried my door through the night, but it is much easier to shovel than the thicker snow from last night. One of the tents at the other camp has not fared well in the blizzard so the other group has had to build an ice cave. When Tash says we need water, I am frozen stiff, so I volunteer to go with her down to the creek and get some. I know the movement is the only thing that will warm me up and after Marina and I made a failed attempt this morning at our own snow cave, I am curious to see this one. We crawl in and up into the sleeping platform which is elevated from the entrance to allow the cool air to fall down and out. The roof is dome shaped so that as the ice melts, it drips down to the sides. It is bright blue inside and deathly silent. It is also incredibly warm. I finally understand the concept of an igloo. Tash and I sit and wonder at this creation that took the other group all afternoon to build. I take the precious few moments of stillness and meditation. Silent. Just so silent. We peer out the door and see the sun setting. We need to get to the creek before it gets dark. We carry on and trudge down the hill, each footprint falling knee deep into the soft snow. The creek has frozen over so Tash starts to dig. I am about to pass her a water bladder when she pushes her foot deeper into the hole and collapses a pile of snow into it. I offer to switch places and getting down into this small crevasse, start digging away. Some of the grassy creek bed gets dislodged into the water but eventually I can hear the trickle of water. We have a small plastic cup to scoop the water out and into the water bladders that Tash holds open. I chat away as I work, one cupful at a time, trying not to include too many bits of plant matter into our drinking water. I can see how this could be seen as doing it rough, but I am loving every moment of this. I feel so connected to the earth. Having lived on a farm in a drought when I was little, I know the value of water. I can’t stand to see people waste water, leaving taps on while they chat or wash their hands, or people who have 15 minute showers because they just “don’t care”. Once you have had to shower out of a bucket, you can see how little water it takes to actually get clean. I know that some countries have more water than others but when I know that there are places in this world where children have to walk kilometres, carrying buckets of water, risk getting raped or killed and end up dying of thirst anyway, the value of water is simply priceless. You can live without food for a few weeks, but water? Water is life. And here I am, half buried in a hole, getting water out from under a frozen creek and I have never been happier. This is what it feels like to live, to deserve to live. This is what it is like to push past the discomfort and just do it anyway and realise that when you turn around and see what it was all for, that you can see deep into yourself. And when I look inwards, I like what I see.

 

Day 222 – the long trek home

I knew it. I just knew it. I knew I would be the one carting the shit out. Kozsiousko is a national park so we have to take out everything. I mean everything! Including a dry bag full of the waste of nine women from the past five days. It is strapped to a sled along with the rubbish and attached by rope to the harness around my waist. I put my pack on. I think it weighs about 20kg. I think the sled is about 30kg. There is no movement for a few scrambling steps as I try to pull away. I have to give a few pelvic thrusts just to get the thing moving. Eventually I build some momentum as we go downhill, but a sudden uphill incline seems almost impossible as I flounder and fall over backwards, like a flailing turtle in the snow. We traverse a slope with a second person holding the back of the sled so that it doesn’t slide down into the frozen river, dragging us with it. The sled in front of me keeps toppling over and I can feel everyone’s frustration building. The walk back over the river is a little bit easier now that snow has been falling for the past few days. The final kilometre is a steep uphill climb with the packs and we have to stop every few steps. I have transferred the sled to Marina’s harness but I still pull it along beside her. I keep pushing on, knowing this is the final hard slog before rest. The sun has shone for us all day and the snow sparkles. The whispering winds swirl around us and up the hill, guiding us back up to Charlotte’s Pass. Our first glimpse of civilisation; skiers and snowboarders fly past as we shuffle along in snowshoes. The final awkward shuffle downhill is excruciatingly long but when we finally get there, I stand still for a moment with my pack on my shoulders, just feeling its weight, knowing that I did that. I dragged that sled, I carried this pack and I did all of that hard work. I did it all and I did it for me. That sense of achievement bubbles over into laughter as we pack up and gather in the snow cats, driving us back down to Perisher. I am overflowing with giddy excitement and take a longing look at the snow as we change to a bus that will take us back down to Jindabyne. I was worried I would be too tired to drive all the way back to Sydney tonight but this excitement is like a natural high I have never felt before. I feel invigorated and alive; my eyes are wide open and I can already tell I won’t be sleeping for a while. We unpack back at Jindabyne and then say our final goodbyes. In such a short time it was possible for 9 women to bond, to share, to help, to surprise, entertain and possibly infuriate each other. I will miss the snow but I can’t wait to get back into the comfort of my own car, to get home and have a long, hot shower, to wear fresh clothes that aren’t waterproof and to just lay down on my soft bed. I have met my own strength and resilience and I have lived in utter discomfort, loving every second of it. Now, when I get home and go to bed, I am seriously looking forward to deserving it.

 

Day 148 – Coogee to Bondi coastal walk

I have never seen a blue quite like the Pacific. It is cold despite the bright sunshine. I am walking slowly and talking quickly with a friend from school who I haven’t seen in years. It is like no time has passed. There is no point catching up on so many years- Facebook has kept us more or less in the loop about how our respective lives have changed. So we just chat and laugh the whole way. The entire coastal walk should only take 45 minutes to an hour each way but we take about 3 or 4 hours as we stop to take photos and have a coffee at Icebergs, Bondi. The walk is beautiful. Sandstone cliffs hanging over the white foaming waves, crystal blue water and ships in the distance. The cold weather means that the beaches are empty so the sand looks clean and bare. The south end of Bondi is really windy as we stop to take a picture. It is only Autumn so the air is only going to get colder and colder as the day goes on. I feel happy, despite the cold. Winter can’t seem to shake me this year. Despite the break-up, despite coming home from four amazing months away, it feels good to just enjoy simple things that make Sydney so special. The beautiful coast, amazing coffee and great friends- all the ingredients of coming home. Even in the cold, we warm up from the exercise. People jog past us on either side and I miss my jogging as I haven’t done it since Friday. It is seriously addictive, this running business! It is the endorphins, the breathing, the fresh air, the sense of achievement when I extend my endurance another few minutes. And then there is the gentle twitch of muscles when I finally stop to rest. After we ascend the small hill and come around to the bottom of the cemetery at Clovelly, I can feel that same twitch in my thigh. That physical reminder from the body that it appreciates so much movement.

When we get back to the car in the afternoon, my eyes go straight to the sign advertising gelato and I have to remind myself that it would defeat the purpose of the walk to go and eat so much sugar right away. I think I have succumbed to my sugar addiction too much lately. I seem to be eating chocolate nearly everyday. After dinner, as I eat the burka cupcake my mum brought home from the Muslim function she attended with my aunty, I make the decision that I can no longer use chocolate as a comforter. For the next week, if I feel like indulging in sugar, I am going to drink water, then have a cup of herbal tea and then a piece of fruit. I have heard the reward system works best for things like this so my reward for each day without sugar is that I get to buy a new song from iTunes. When I finish the week, I can buy a new album. Sounds like a good deal… until I remember that Wednesday is my nephew’s fourth birthday. Oh god, there will probably be cupcakes! Well there is always this beautiful coastal walk to make up for the cupcakes!

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Day 144 – running and breathing

When all else seems chaotic and even the pranayama, the meditation, the yoga, takes a backseat to the emotions or the thoughts, there seems to be no greater fix than to go outside and connect with the Earth Mother. Nothing is more grounding than feeling grass between your toes, more refreshing than crisp ocean air, or more calming than moving water. For once, I am lost for words. As I run down along the river and into the dense gathering of pines, this is a running meditation best described through pictures…

Day 84- shaving my head… yes I will miss my long hair!

Hair, I will miss you. I will miss the way you tickle my back. I will miss the way you provide a pillow when I have none. I will miss your smell when I have washed you with coconut shampoo. Hair, I will miss the way you can make my face look pretty even when I have had no sleep and feel like crap. I will miss the mindless entertainment you provide when my mind is absent and I can curl my fingers around you. I will miss those times when I have come across a bad stench in the air I rely upon my hair to work like a filter and use it to cover my nose. I will miss the way you can shine in the sun and the way you feel after a macadamia oil treatment. But mostly I know that I won’t miss you for long. I know you will grow back faster than I expect and I know before long I will be struggling with baby hairs and frizz and split ends and cursing you for troubling me. I know that, like everything in life, our separation is only a temporary thing. Nothing is certain except the impermanent nature of the universe. You are a perfect example of that, hair.

I wake up and touch the long strands of hair that frame my head. I pour it over my face and breathe in through it. Then I flick it out of my face and sit up. It is a hot day in Candidasa and my hair is a huge mass of frizz already. The perfect day to chop it all off, really. At breakfast, I am talking to Janice, another ashram guest, who loves India and has shaved her head on the banks of the ganges. She suggests I go to the temple across the road for a short prayer before I head to the hairdresser. I cross the road and the Ibu at the gate wraps me in a sarong. The air cools as I ascend the steps. The temple is halfway up the mountain in the cold, dewy rainforest. As I ascend, the sounds from the road start to fade away. In the temple, I can hear only the sounds of the birds. The air is fresh and alone in this sacred moss-covered stone shrine, I open my palms and turn my face to the canopy. From within All I can hear, all I can think is “love”, pure love, unconditional love. Perfect clarity descends upon me: I am not my hair, I am not my clothes, I am not my tattoos. I am only that which is within.

I open my eyes and look around the temple. Churches may not make much sense to me, but here, amongst the moss covered stones and bird songs, I know that if there is god then god would live here.

As the electric shaver is taken to my head, I grow silent and solemn. It is not sadness that has overcome me, but a reverence in the knowledge that I do this to free myself from the bondage of vanity, to let go of the conditioning of society, to let go of the attachment to “pretty”and just to allow myself to be my authentic self. No masks, no strings, nothing to hide behind. This is me and I love me. Pure love. Unconditional love. With inner peace comes world peace. With love for self comes love for others. With detachment comes freedom.

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.