Category: yoga


pic by Dayawanti D'Sa

Happy New Year everyone! This is the first New Year in a while that I’ve really connected with a sense of fresh possibility and excitement – a feeling that I can break through old barriers. I don’t know whether that’s due to finally being more settled in my environment – last January I was still in-between homes – and therefore able to look outwards and onwards again, or because of the Solar Eclipse and recent Jupiter-Uranus conjunction bringing positive expansion, or because we are so close to 2012 and all that that means for our development as humans – but it feels so good!

Last year I had big dreams for myself: solid goals, like living in community, being in a loving relationship, and having completed my novel by the end of 2010. It’s wonderful to dream big but it can also put a lot of pressure on us. It would be easy to be depressed about the way those goals haven’t quite materialised, but when I look at it honestly I wasn’t consistently applying effort in those directions – I kept getting sidetracked from what I was trying to manifest, and letting life pull me every which way. It’s been an emotionally turbulent year, but I’ve come out a lot wiser. So this year I’ve decided to approach New Year’s intentions in a different way: making intentions that are totally down to me. And, just as importantly, are measurable in small steps.

My lifelong friend and fellow writer Rin Simpson blogged about approaching New Year’s Resolutions month by month – sitting down at the beginning of each month and writing down your goals for that month, rather than losing momentum halfway through the new year. I like that a lot. It’s really quite simple: I want to take small enjoyable actions, one at a time, that are related to my big dreams for myself, and that gradually narrow the gap between where I’m standing now and where I want to be. Most importantly, I want to enjoy where I am right now as much as possible: spiritually, emotionally and physically!

Something I found very helpful to do was mindmap around my ideal working day and my ideal home – I confess, I have a digital ‘vision board’ of my ideal partner too, and have a list of qualities I’m looking for in a partner that are constantly refined 😉 These mindmaps – which I plan to collage around too, because visual representations are so good at activating manifestation – were so effective at getting me fired up about my life, that it was easy to come up with concrete steps. So, here are some examples of my New Years steps:

To energise my dream of being a successful poet, novelist and short story writer, I’ve decided to, each  month, schedule in nine hours a week to write, and aim for one poetry/short story/article submission per month, as well as a poetry performance where possible.

To move me closer towards my dream of reaching lots of people with the empowering tools of Kundalini Yoga and the power of writing and journalling, I’d like to facilitate one Kundalini Yoga or writing workshop per month – my upcoming New Years Yoga workshop on 8th Jan will focus on New Year intentions and bringing in positive energy to 2011, and I’m very excited about teaching it!  I’ve also decided to keep my determination and focus and see one thing through at a time – e.g. commit to teaching a class for three months, putting my all into it, before trying something else.

    I have plans to take a ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach this year and start finally using the  skills and knowledge I have to reach out to people – for example, I am planning some workshops to help give new mothers basic tools such as breathing and meditation that can be practiced in amongst the chaos. For so long it’s as if I’ve been waiting for someone to give me permission to teach what I know, and I suddenly realised that it can start now!

    pic by Dayawanti D'Sa

    To work on my goal of becoming more organised and efficient, I’m going to do one ‘sort out’ project each month – e.g. file bank statements, throw out old papers I don’t need etc. I’ve been doing this regularly lately and it’s great how much energy it releases, leaving me free to create new things in my life.

    And motherhood of course is not exempt from self-improvement – far from it. I have re-committed to being very clear on my intentions each day, to connect with Jude and put our connection and loving relationship at the forefront of my consciousness when I’m with him. I find when I am clear in my mind about my intentions, I can re-steer my wayward thoughts and actions back towards them more quickly and easily.

    To keep me connected to the spirit that sustains me through all of these things, keeping my focus on the internal rather than the ever-changing external – Yogi Bhajan taught that ‘all things come to those who are stable’ – I want to read, watch or listen to one inspiring thing every single day. It’s amazing what a difference it makes when I take the time to connect with the wisdom of teachers and writers such as Yogi Bhajan, Wayne Dyer, Abraham-Hicks and others who remind me of the greater purpose of my life beyond the roles that I carry out and the actions that I take. It eases stress and uplifts me out of the often narrow focus that can result from chasing after things.

      On that note, here are some quotes I’ve found on my web trawls recently that I found inspiring and uplifting, that deal with creating and manifesting in one’s life:

      Walking with faith tends to turn out better than just having a “concrete” plan. A flexible planwith faith creates miracles! ~Mastin Kipp TDL

      Recognize that you have the courage within you to fulfill the purpose of your birth. Summon forth the power of your inner courage and live the life of your dreams. ~Gurumayi Chidvilasananda

      Life is a handful of short stories, pretending to be a novel.-~~Anonymous
      If we fill our short stories with love a beautiful novel has the opportunity to transpire!~~~Margery@Angelhealingwaters

      Finally, I leave you with an affirmation I like: “I am open to beneficial change’ (vs ‘I wanna stay the way I am!’) (from ‘Simplify, Simplify, Simplify’ on Facebook). Really, all we can do is be open to the flow of change in our lives, and co-operate with it rather than running away. Bring on 2011!

      It looks like autumn is here, teetering on the edge of summer like a surfer poised to take a wave. It brings with it a gust of feelings, memories and images – but many of them, strangely, are to do with summers past. And even though I am now the veteran of six winters in England, I feel the same terror of the sudden stripping away of warmth as the sun deserts us.

      Its visit is so fleeting compared to the seemingly endless summers of my South African childhood and early twenties : I have memories of churning up mud with ecstatic feet beside sprinklers on the lawn, of eating peaches in the pool, dripping juice onto the sizzling tiles, and melting Smarties while paging through Archie comics – all under a mind-blanking curve of lucid blue sky.

      Back then, it seemed easier to relax into the natural gaps in life. I think my addiction to ‘busy-ness’ began at university – the sheer workload of a Psychology degree combined with trying to have a social life. Yesterday morning I sat on the seafront while Jude was at creche, and what seemed like a million to-do lists were cascading through my head. Aware that this was probably one of the last days of good weather, I wished I could just listen to the waves and let myself float with them.

      But I’ve been facing a big decision, which was churning around in my mind: whether to continue working an 81-hour week looking after Jude (i.e. unpaid childcare) and studies, or to take the plunge and convert sixteen of those hours into ‘official’ work – i.e. what the government recognises as taxable income.

      Even though I would be doing things I love for money – teaching yoga and writing freelance – because I don’t want Jude to be in significant amounts of non-parental childcare, it would mean giving up some of my already very limited fiction-writing time and ‘dreaming time’ and cramming work into every single gap in my life. Like so many decisions, it’s hard because both options involve gains and sacrifices – so it’s a real process of sifting through my values and defining which ones are non-compromisable.

      If I choose the working route, I’ll have more money, of course, and the freedom that brings. And the satisfaction of sharing my gifts with the world. But I’ll also lose the freedom to rest when I need to during my child-free time – and to be available for spontaneous things like contemplating waves, or going for an Artist’s Date.

      These may seem like indulgences, but it is the very space to breathe that allows the rest of our life to exist, whole: the same way that music could not exist without spaces between notes.

      In my last post I wrote about the stress that creeps in – as it would if you were working an 80 hour week at anything – simply because of the lack of space and, crucially, silence. In ‘Finding Sanctuary’, Abbot Christopher Jamison says some compelling things about the downside of being too busy – how it denies the soul’s yearning for silence and is a sickness our society perpetuates to keep us consuming more and more.

      Even I, who consider myself a very un-materialistic person, fall into this trap because of the powerful messages that equate working (as defined by the government) with self esteem and money with security, happiness and freedom. Let’s be honest: ‘single mother on benefits’ isn’t a label that inspires pride.

      But I’ve been encouraged of late to see that some of the gaps I’ve written about here are starting to be filled in a very satisfying way – and not through me ‘trying’ to do anything. Community, for instance. I’ve been bumping into my neighbours in the park and having good conversations, and in fact there’s an event called ‘Hanover Zocalo’ happening in my neighbourhood this weekend where people put their chairs outside and hang out with the neighbours.

      Then there’s nature – another of my core values: I’ve been spending more time in locations like Stanmer Park, picking blackberries with Jude – which he loves – and even in ‘ordinary’ Queenspark up the road, Jude has been enjoying playing ‘Pooh sticks’ in the (admittedly smelly) stream and ‘fishing’ with a stick. It’s been so heartening to see him enjoying nature, trying to climb trees, wanting to explore, when I was starting to fear he’d always prefer urban concrete playground environments.

      So…I guess real life is in the gaps, sometimes. The unscheduled connections and synchronistic meetings, the times you let go of what’s been planned to follow an instinct – to walk into a gallery to have a closer look at a bewitching painting. It’s often only when I allow gaps to exist without compulsively filling them, that a solution to a problem will appear. Those gaps, I think, cannot have a price put on them.

      Dispensing raisins with one hand and scribbling with the other is probably not what Julia Cameron intended when she advised writing ‘Morning Pages’: three longhand pages first thing in the morning to help artists recover their connection to their gifts.

      The idea is to become familiar with your ‘first thoughts’, before the world intrudes, and thereby get in touch with what you really desire in life – clearing the pathway to right creative action. You’re supposed to get up before the others in your household and set aside at least half an hour to allow for these important musings.

      Well, the world intrudes on me at approximately 6 am these days – since the recent end of our breastfeeding relationship and the sad loss of the ‘feeding back to sleep so you can get some more shut eye’ manoeuvre. And it’s usually with a bit of a thump: a two and three-quarter-year-old thump with an emphatic “Woke up Mummy! Woke up!”

      Prompted by the block I’ve been experiencing with my novel, (which I’ve been working on, on and off, for years), I turned to the ever inspiring Julia Cameron, author of the acclaimed “The Artist’s Way” which helped me recover from writer’s block – and general creative blocks – several years ago.

      But a couple of nights ago I felt more than a little annoyed with Julia. Reading her ‘Walking in this World’ with Jude tucked up asleep beside me,  everything she suggested struck me as impossible for me, a single mother juggling study and part time work, to actually implement.

      Having time to go on an artist’s date? Sure, no problem when I was 24 and running on my own schedule, and I did find them very beneficial back then. But now…? The gap between where I was at, and where I wanted to be in order to nurture my creativity, seemed to loom very large indeed.

      Just as I was about to toss the book aside in despair, she said something that turned it all around: she related the story of how, as a single mother, she had started to lose joy in her very joyful, lovely daughter. Serving her daughter’s needs and not serving her own creative needs was taking all the sap out of her. She was irritable, resentful, and snapping at her child.

      I could hear a mirror of myself here. I go through regular periods where the enjoyment of motherhood sounds like a far away ideal rather than a lived reality. My life feels hectic, overwhelming, and a struggle to meet everyone’s basic needs, let alone my creative ones – hardly a tranquil pool of bliss.

      Of course, as a yoga teacher and long-time yoga practitioner, none of this should be a problem for me, right? I should be able to meditate and asana myself into a state of imperturbability, just with my regular practice. Well, I’m afraid it’s not that simple. I practice yoga most days (usually with my son playing nearby, regularly talking to me and clambering over me – so not exactly relaxing). I meditate most days, though not nearly as long as I would like to.

      And still, although things are much worse if I don’t practice, it’s challenging to keep my perspective, to not succumb to stress, to not… you get the picture. But Julia Cameron’s words made me stop and think.

      She said that she had been told by a mentor that instead of listening to the prevailing ‘cultural wisdom’, which says ‘your child must come first’, she needed to listen to her innate wisdom, which was saying: your connection to yourself and your creativity comes first, and then your mothering will flow out of that abundance.

      It was such a relief to read that. I have long compared myself to what my friend and I call ‘Uber Mothers’ who just live, breathe and sleep mothering, who just seem to love being with their children more than any other activity. Well, I love my child, but I also love reading, writing, being in nature alone, meditating and experiencing my soul. I would love to be one of those mothers – if in fact, they really do exist – but I can only be what I am.

      So. I have had a look at what I can prune from my over-committed schedule, and what help I can marshal to create a bit more space and time. I have newly committed myself to morning pages, and to waking up even just 15 minutes before Jude – early as it is – to do those in peace, without having to answer questions about helicopters at the same time. I’m also going to somehow fit in an artist’s date – taking myself off to do something or be somewhere just for me, just to feed my inner artist – once a week.

      Even if you are not a parent, I think we all probably have areas where we need to let go of over responsibility in order to give ourselves the space we need to grow and flourish.

      I’ve realised that it’s not enough to try and get an early night and recover from my 13-14 hour days looking after Jude. I need to drink from the pool of my own creativity, and this replenishes me in a way that no amount of sleep can. I’m also reading novels that directly relate to my own novel, speaking in the language of magic and mystery and forests in which my own work is steeped, and giving space for that to breathe. Hopefully, out of that will come a more energised, happier mother.

      And I notice my creativity flowing into my motherhood more: making up stories which Jude loves listening to; turning the bathsponge into a friendly monster-creature; just grabbing those moments with  him and making the most out of it instead of just living through them in the hope that I’ll come out the other end intact.

      I’d like to share some lovely quotes that have recently inspired me in this area: “A wise parent does little, yet so much gets done! After all, the Eternal does nothing, yet the entire universe goes on. When you get too busy, stop and return to centre. When you are centred, you easily keep things in order.  When things are in order, there is not much to do”; “To allow the Mother principle to work to centre your family, take time for yourself. Otherwise, the self will be constantly grasping for its share. This grasping obscures the Mother principle from within you and from your family, and leaves everyone alone and lost.” – Vimala McClure, ‘The Tao of Motherhood’ (I highly recommend it as a ‘daily reader’ for mothers).

      And finally: “In the quietness of a woman’s life she is at peace. Seeking nothing more than to be still and listen with the source of all life moving through her. Showing her the one consciousness of love” – Casey Leasure, ‘The Color of a Woman’s Heart’ page, Facebook.

      Hello everyone and welcome to my blog. As a mother, writer and yoga teacher, I’ve been thinking lately about the gap between our ideals and the real messiness of life. As a mother, so often I’m measuring myself up against some idea of the perfect mother, and I know from talking to my friends that this is a not uncommon experience. Whether we’re ‘attachment parenting’ or following Gina Ford’s schedules, we’re all trying our best to do the right thing, and this can be a lonely journey.

      But it’s other gaps too. In many areas of life. The gap between doing and being: between going after your goals and just allowing things you need to flow towards you. The gap between focusing and multi-tasking. The gap between  my mom friends and my friends who haven’t crossed this bridge yet, or may never do so. The gap between being a writer and a creative person and, as a parent, having to put another being’s needs first. Negotiating these differences can feel like stepping across a chasm at times. Other times it happens in a more fluid space.

      I’ve just returned from a wonderful week at Midsummer Camp in which many of these contradictions could exist side by side. I was able to be a mother and also a woman, friend, dancer, hedonist. I could play, dancing around a fire, and also be serious and soulful with long conversations under the stars. I could take my son for a fun wheelbarrow ride and pretend we were going to Africa, and have a release of tears in a singing workshop a couple of hours later.

      Most importantly the co-parenting that evolved from the communal living situation at this camp showed me that the different parts of me could be held in a space, allowed to be, and flourish, as I was not carrying the full burden of my son’s wellbeing – and let’s face it, in our society where parenting is done largely alone, it is set up to be something of a burden. He benefited from it too, and I could see him blossom as he interacted with others and experienced the freedom of movement that is so difficult to find in the city.

      I want more of this, and I want to explore how to do this in our everyday lives. Join me to share ideas on how you do it – whether you are an artist, writer, office worker, businessperson, parent or non-parent.

      I will share my tips and ideas on how I live with these gaps or attempt to do so, including: simple yoga and breathing exercises, visualisations, books that have helped me, etc. So join me on this journey as we attempt to not only straddle the gap but be comfortable in it!