Day 213 – exhaustion taking over

All day I am stumbling around, barely able to pick up my feet. I have had over 8 hours of sleep but I can’t seem to keep my eyes open. I am broke so I don’t even have enough money for a coffee. I am excited to go to the Progressive class at Yogatime as I know the focus is handstands. When I get there, the room is full with teachers from other studios and as we set up with kapalabhati, a pranayama that should wake one up and spark an internal flame, I start to fall asleep. My head is literally lolling to the side as I drift off. This is a fairly active pranayama so struggling with sleep should not be an issue. I drag my body through the warm up. I know it only weighs 53kg but it could be a tonne right now with how heavy I feel. We get to the headstands and I can’t even lift my legs. I have my head and hands on the ground, my hips above my shoulders and my legs just want to crumble beneath me. I have not felt this level of exhaustion in a long time and I know that I need to stop if I want to make it through the next class, which I am supposed to be teaching! I stop and just let myself take it easy in a couple of stretches. Misha, my friend and fellow Yogatime teacher, is calling me out, “Liz, what’s going on?” Time to take it easy. I need to just step back and return to child’s pose. Yeah sometimes yoga is knowing when to stop doing yoga! When I take stock of the past 2 days and realise that while I have slept deeply for eight hours each night, I have also run 13km from Coogee to North Bondi and back and I have also worked and taught yoga so if there was ever a moment to forgive myself for taking it easy, now is the time. Now is bed time.

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Day 151 to 156 – run, climb and come out of the fog

Day 151 – exams are supposed to be stressful

I am standing alone in the yoga room in pre-dawn darkness wondering if any students are brave enough to leave their warm beds. It is still and silent before the birds have woken up in Sydney. I don’t even want to move in case I disturb this space, so I stand next to the heater and wait. Three people end up coming for early morning yoga and we flow through the sequence, saluting the rising sun. There is a magical quality to pre-dawn yoga that just can’t be compared, even to a morning in bed.

My exam for Indonesian is today but I know I haven’t studied enough. This would normally make me nervous but I know that any last minute cramming is useless so I decide to enjoy the brief sunshine and go for a run instead. The sages of India say that the true self is all-knowing, that ‘learning’ only serves to take us further away from the innate wisdom and realization we are all seeking. The “I” knows all the answers and it is only through turning inwards that we can find true wisdom. Well, the “I” seems to have forgotten the Indonesian word for ‘appointment’. Despite the confusion about passive and impassive verb use, I leave the exam hall feeling successful. I have managed to get through an exam without stress. I managed to enter calmly and recall more information than I thought possible considering I hadn’t studied. It was like, in that calm presence of mind, I was able to tap into a deeper level of consciousness; a state in which the memory was clear and sharp, and infinite knowledge can be accessed. Perhaps the secret to examination success is meditation? Well, I guess only time will tell, when I get the results back in a month.

Day 152 – the 7km high

Last night I registered for the City 2 Surf; Australia’s most famous run. It is 14km from the centre of the city to Bondi beach. I have never done it before and looking at the training schedule, I need to start my long runs with 7km. I think yesterday I only did about 4.5km. I decide to run to La Perouse, the birthplace of our nation and the explosive scenes of Mission Impossible 2. It is roughly 5km from my house, so including the run back, it should make it about 7km of run and 3km of walk. When I reach the bay, the sapphire pacific is charged with deep blue from the bright winter sun and the green grass is springy beneath my feet. I feel no hesitation as I jog uphill, making my way around the small hill and then back up to run home. I have checked my distance on the City 2 Surf app and found I am close to 6km. Before I know it, the wind of achievement has swept me forward and I forget to stop until 7.1km. I feel like I could keep going forever! The sense of achievement, the beauty of the destination, the fresh coastal wind pushing me on… It is like when I first stood on my head in yoga, or when I first felt my toe touch the back of my head. This overwhelming distance that sounded so daunting and impossible has been surpassed with ease and I am left wondering what else I could do. The human potential for success is limitless. I always tell students when I teach yoga that no pose is truly static; that we are always expanding exponentially, growing as the universe does. Even when we feel like we are still, the energetic body continues to open, forever moving with the space of the universe. There is no end, there is no finish line, there is no last breath. There is always one more step, one more kilometer, one more exhale.

Day 153 – rock climbing

I have signed up for a mountaineering course in August and there is the assumption that we know how to do basic rock climbing, knot tying and belaying. First of all, I am not entirely sure I know what ‘belay’ means. Google says, “A belayer is belaying behind a lead climber.” Hmmm.

And at the Sydney Indoor Rock Climbing centre at St Peters, it seems my friend Luke doesn’t know either. He is looking at the people around us to see how we hook up the harness… I have done this once before, so I approach the wall and try to remember what to do. Well, the idea is to just climb, right? We start easy and then move onto the inclinations. At one point I can feel myself relying entirely on the rope and then realize that if this was a real rock and I was really climbing, out in the open, on the side of the mountain, I couldn’t just hang onto the rope and pretened to climb. I would have to literally pull myself up. So I do. I grab for a nearby rock and use my feet to push further and further up, reaching the top of the wall. I almost thought I couldn’t make it, I almost gave into fatigue, but ultimately, the power of will took over and I pushed and pulled myself up. That’s just it- the best feelings always come after an uphill struggle. Life is just one giant rock. You can either let it roll over the top of you or you can climb it. I choose to climb!

Day 154 – Bel Ami

Although it had great reviews, I think Robert Pattinson can ruin any good movie for me. It isn’t that I don’t like him. After all, I don’t know him and I can’t judge him. I just keep wondering why there is a vampire in a movie adaptation of a 19th Century French novel. My friend, Saskia, who is a medical scientist, doesn’t get the point of a movie that seems to be all about the sex lives of the Parisian upper class. She probably doesn’t read 19th Century French literature, but then again, who does? Those of us who consider ourselves the snobby literati ? Perhaps. Perhaps it is the fact that I don’t know if Pattinson has read the original book by Maupassant. Uma Thurman steals the show, with a husky voice and sparkling character, she really does make the movie. My favourite line is when the character Clotilde tells Duroy that she finds politics boring and believes in enjoyment of life. He asks her what she enjoys and, placing a cherry in her drink, she says, “Well, I don’t know… Everything!” This is the true nature of 365 Days in Bliss. Finding pleasure, harmony, serenity, enjoyment and most of all, bliss, in everything. It is about making the whole of life the cherry on top.

Day 155 – meditating in my car

I arrive at my brother’s place and I know it is about dinner time, which means the kids will look for any excuse to avoid the green food on their plates. I haven’t had a chance to meditate yet, so I take some time in the car. I close my eyes and loop the breath; exhaling down the front of my body to my toes and inhaling up the back of my body to the crown of the head. I feel instantly calmer and my mind is quiet again. I don’t know how long I sit here for but eventually the wind shakes my car and moves me into the house. The kids run at me when I walk in the door and with pleasure, I embrace them both. After the kids go to bed, my brother tells me a story from his experiences as a Paramedic

“I got called to a job, it was for a young pedestrian who was hit by a car. On the way there we got multiple calls about how long it would take to for us arrive. When we got there, it was a chaotic scene; there were people everywhere with anxious looks on their faces. Everyone looked surprised, shocked. I remember the garbage truck blocking the street, a small body in the middle of the road and a doctor eagerly awaiting our arrival. He was a GP from up the road. We found a 10-year-old boy who had been struck by a van. It had hit him with the side mirror. The driver, a Rabbi, was being consoled at the side of the accident. It was early morning so the street was busy with people on the way to work and kids on the way to school. Mobiles were just coming in, so they were uncommon at that stage. The doctor was at the head of the child and there was someone else doing CPR. I took over and asked the doctor to move to the side. I prepared to intubate. I had to uncover his face. There was a towel or something over it. My partner was a station officer and he was attempting to canulate but he couldn’t find a vein so he had to drill into the bone to get the fluids in that way. It would be painful for a conscious person but not for this unconscious child.

“I intubated this patient with a traumatic neck injury. He was ten years of age. In the midst of it all, I remember, we were giving lots of drugs, sweating, trying to maintain control of our adrenaline and our emotions. I distinctly remember a healer interrupting the sequence of events. She introduced herself as a healer and asked if she could touch the boy. I felt like telling her to “f*** off” but knew that the situation required more tact and there was a lot of emotion involved with so many people around. My partner let her touch his feet. We continued our resuscitation attempts. She said she could feel energy coming back into him. After our stern looks, she went quiet and moved away.

“We loaded and transported the boy but we had no idea who this kid was, what his name was or where he was from. I think we had a police escort to the Children’s hospital. We continued resuscitation until the arrival at the hospital. The usual thing would be for a parent or family member or someone to be with them on the way or at least meet us at the hospital but that wasn’t the case and the hospital, to their credit, continued resuscitation for over 45 minutes while they tried to locate the mother. She was in transit to work so they couldn’t contact her until later. The job was done, complete, we cleaned up and had our own debriefing as to the way the job went and if there was anything we could have done better but there wasn’t. It was just a debrief. We went on with the rest of the shift.

“Over the weekend, I felt a bit… I don’t know how to describe it… heart strangled… that’s all I can say. I needed to go for a surf so on the Monday I was off work and started looking for a wave. It was pretty flat, so that led me along the coast until I realised I was being drawn to the location of that incident. As I was driving past I remembered hearing that this boy had a brother. Apparently he had walked past the scene of the accident when it happened but didn’t know it was his own brother that was hurt since his face was covered. I saw flowers on the side of the road. It made me look up into the street where the boy lived. I saw a little kid walking up that street. He looked very similar to what this boy would have looked like on any normal day. At the time I thought it might have been the kid’s brother. So I drove around quickly to try and enter the street. I had to make a detour as it was a one-way street. I started to get anxious, swearing at older drivers who were going too slow. I finally got close to the spot I was looking for, about 100 metres away. I just pulled over to the right and got out. I sat in the car with my heart beating fast, sweating from head to toe. Then I thought to myself, ‘Shit, I must be suffering from post-traumatic stress. What’s wrong with me? What am I doing here?’

“As I began to get my breathing under control, my heart rate began to increase again until it was well over the point it had been just a moment before. I saw two ladies walking up the street at that point. Between the two, I don’t know how I knew which one was the child’s mother but I knew which one she was. As she walked closer towards me up the hill, my heart rate increased even more and the sweating started again, though heavier. As she walked past the car, I couldn’t let her walk on so I got out. I said, ‘excuse me did you know Mark?’

“Her friend became very defensive and aggressive but I ignored her and spoke to the mother directly. I told her I was the paramedic who helped her son and that there were a few things I had to tell her.

“I didn’t have anything planned, just things I felt I had to tell her. I think it was Mark telling me to tell her. I wanted to say that even though she wasn’t there, that there were people there for her son; there was always someone holding his hand and that he had felt no pain. He hadn’t yelled out for his mum, he didn’t cry and he didn’t suffer. I told her that when I arrived, he had already passed away from the impact; that it was instant and we did the best we could. She began to cry, like really sob. She said that was the only thing that was killing her, that she couldn’t find out if he had been in pain, if he had suffered or anything detailed about what had happened. There was a big gap for her and she was very grateful. She invited me to the funeral but I declined. I didn’t need to go, I had said what I needed to say.

“I instantly felt my heart was released from that vice like grip. I think that Mark was the boy I saw walking up that hill. I think he made me go there to find his mum and tell her exactly what she most needed to hear. I went to the ocean and swam in the sea.”

Day 156 – coming out of the fog

As I drive down to my brother’s house, there are 110km winds whipping the fog around the wet road. I drive well below the speed limit as cars overtake me. When I eventually come out of the thick blanket, the road is eerily quiet. It feels like I am the only car on the planet, let alone on the road. When I get to the house, the cats curl up beside the fire with me as I write an email to a friend. I am telling him about this blog and in response to his question about what it is like to be back in my old/new life, I write the following:

Being back in Sydney was strange at first… I definitely see it with new eyes. I can’t wait to go back to India in October but at the same time I am really enjoying being here. It feels like so much luxury to live in this affluent society. I am working and training so I feel like I am busy all the time, which I like! I don’t have so many profound spiritual moments as I did when I was meditating six times a day but I feel like I am more connected to the every day tasks. Like, right now I am sitting by the fire with the cats and the simplicity of being in my pyjamas in the cold with a fire beside me is making me feel extremely content. I have never felt so satisfied with life before. I have never experienced so much love coming from deep within myself. I had depression for nearly a decade of my life and in the past year have found something to be grateful for every single day since recovering from that illness. The first thing that helped me was yoga but then I had to come off the contraceptive pill. I had no idea that was the cause of my sadness but as soon as I stopped taking it, it was like someone suddenly turned the sun on inside me and I could see life and energy. I started waking up every morning, genuinely excited to be alive. Every moment became a blessing. That is part of the reason I was able to start the writing 365 Days in Bliss. I started to realise how sacred life really is.

My experience of depression was, in itself, a sacred journey and one that I had to go through to become the person that I am. From the time I was around 15 I started to feel intense sadness, uncontrollable crying, anxiety, insomnia, unreasonable guilt, isolation, feelings of unworthiness and isolation. The illness itself was isolating. It is so easy to believe that nobody understands you and that nobody can help. I wrote about it extensively and when I look back at passages I wrote, my heart breaks. To see so much sadness is awful and I see myself as my family must have seen me. It was like walking in the cold dark fog for ten years and then, just as quickly as I had entered it, I suddenly walked out and found my inner being shining bright. If I could go back to speak to my younger self, I don’t know if there is one thing I could tell her to make it better. I would start by telling her to get off the contraceptive pill! But I had to go through many of those lessons to become who I am. No experience is without value. They say the darkest hour is just before dawn. I have lived through the darkness and I have come out of the fog. And in this early morning sunshine of my life, I can feel the warmth of that inner fire burning brighter than ever.

Day 147 – secret sages

It is my first yoga class since I have been back and I am so excited to teach. I am teaching at Yogatime, in Bondi and it is a bright and beautiful morning as I drive down past Coogee beach. I have mastered my short cuts and through a series of turns can manage to get there in twenty minutes. Pretty impressive, really, since I remember this drive used to take me 45 minutes. I guess I still know my way around Sydney after all! Although I got to teach a friend in Rishikesh very briefly, there is nothing like being in a room full of people and sharing my passion. I am a little bit nervous that I will confuse hips with shoulders or arms with legs but I know most of the students and they are forgiving anyway. Even though I have nothing prepared, none of that happens and as soon as I open my mouth the words just flow. It is like I am merely a channel for something higher that knows exactly what to say. The class goes through at a steady pace and I neither stumble on my words or go too quickly. I feel the prana moving around the room, through me and through the students. It is a beautiful feeling and I am so grateful to be a part of this.

After yoga, I catch up with a close friend, who is one of those wise sages disguised as a football player. We drink coffee from my favourite cafe in Coogee, Morning Glory (I have to hold back from taking a picture of my mocha- it is a work of art!) and we talk about life, in particular a book I gave him to read a long time ago called Living in the Light by Shakti Gawain. It is one of my favourites for spiritual guidance. The most important lesson I gained from that book is the idea that every person you meet is a reflection of a part of you and are there to show you something of yourself. So even the people we may not like or agree with are there to show us what needs to change in our lives.

We then walk to the top of the magical hill. It isn’t really magical, it’s just that when I used to work at the Palace, which is the pub next to this cafe, from the Aquarium bar on the top level we would watch happy people walking to the top of this hill in the sunshine of their blissful weekends while we worked hard through into the late night/early morning. So we started to call it the magical hill. It took a whole year of working there for me to eventually walk up to this hill. Today I am the one enjoying the sunshine of a blissful Sunday. The enormous sculpture of the three rings is a memorial for the Bali Bombings. It was only a couple of months ago that I was at the memorial in Kuta, looking at the same names, remembering the same horrific tragedy. Another older couple stand before the sculpture and offer their silent prayer and then walk away. Like the holiest of temples in India, I believe this has actually become a magical place.

By evening, it is cold and dark by 5.30pm and with good intentions, one of my good friends tells me something I don’t want to hear. It is funny when people talk about ‘going through a break-up’ like it is a long tunnel and the actual separation is only the entrance. How long does it really take to come out of the other side? How long until the darkness and solitude of this tunnel stops affecting my emotions? It was easy to let go and move on in India, but coming back to Sydney, there are so many people I need to talk to, so many people asking questions. So many times I have to try and come up with some kind of funny euphemism to hide the hurt. At first I am angry to be told something that is really none of my business anymore, but eventually I understand that it is good to hear it. Maybe the end of the break-up tunnel isn’t a light, but a steep drop. Maybe you have to fall one more time to make sure that you never go back and make the same mistakes. I wipe away the tears and look in the mirror. What is this showing me about myself? It hurts, but at least it is closure. I can close that chapter of my life now and move on. These tears will be the last.

I have a hot shower and get ready. Red lipstick and red pumps. I even put on earrings (something I never do). Actually I never even wear high heels anymore but despite feeling like I am wobbling around on my tip-toes, it feels good to look good for no other reason than myself. At a pub, I hear that some old work colleagues own a bar over in Bondi so we decide to go there so my friend, Chels, can have a hot chocolate and I can finally have some Australian wine. I was told this bar is ‘sexy’ and when we walk in to Bondi Hardware, I can definitely agree. It is dimly lit and filled with casually dressed beautiful staff and customers. Andrew used to joke that “the people are better in Bondi” though better than what, I am not sure. There is definitely a touch of understated glamour in the rustic feel of this restaurant bar. (Ugh, did I just say rustic? Well there is cacti on the tables and bare brick-work) The house sparkling is a little sweet, but delicious. We consider the squid but Chels wants to know if the tentacles are still attached. This could be a deal breaker for her. It turns out they are; this is a new trend in food fashion, to serve the squid with the tentacles still attached. I guess it gives it that freshly caught feeling. We decide to get the pumpkin and goats cheese pizza. It is so simple and yet the slivers of basil keep it full of flavour and the texture of the creamy goats cheese perfectly compliments the crunch of the wood fired freshly-made base. As we eat, talk, sip wine (everything that is so Sydney and yet so the opposite of how I was eating a month ago in the ashram), Chels surprises me with her wisdom. At only 19, she offers me the maturity and insight of an old sage who has just stepped out of deep meditation. Where are all these secret sages coming from? I travelled around the whole world searching for wisdom and all this time it was right beside me.

It turns out, it doesn’t matter where or what or with who or with which glass of wine, the mirrors will turn up for reflection whenever they are needed. Sages will walk into our lives and give us a peanut or a pearl to teach us something valuable and bless us on our journey. They will always come when they are needed most, whether climbing to a glacier at 3800 metres or walking alone in a dark tunnel. If I ever feel like I need guidance, it seems to turn up. I just have to know when to listen.