The Happy Wanderer

2 February, 2012

As a little girl, I always loved the idea of travel. The concept that I could get on a plane and discover a new world was one I learned early in life, as the child of an international student doing her graduate studies in the US. Add to that the child-like wonder and fascination I fell every time I watch planes take off and land (like how do they get over 600,000lbs of metal, electronics and human beings off the ground? How? It’s an everyday miracle, in my mind). Step out of a plane and you have the opportunity to change your whole perspective on life.

I’m joyful every time I know travel is upcoming, I’m like the Happy Wanderer, who sings:

 I love to go a-wandering,
Along the mountain track,
And as I go, I love to sing,
My knapsack on my back.

That’s all I need really, my passport, a few essentials, and I’m off into the blue yonder, to find the treasure in the journey as well as in the destination.

Having made my first journey (pilgrimage?) to Mysore, India, I return to my island paradise home with a deep sense of gratitude, for all the things I have, the privileges I take for granted, and the resources I have at my disposal without really even thinking about it.   Who knew I’d miss my soft bed and bathtub so much? For all the things I miss about about Gokulam, there are an equal number of things I treasure about being in Jamaica. The thing  is I’m truly aware, and equally aware of the instances where I and my contemporaries are guilty of forgetting our blessings.

I’m humbled when I can see the 8 x 10 foot shacks that the average family of 6 in Bombay must share, and that there is a cadre of 400,000 people directly associated with washing and drying ALL the laundry for a city of 22 million ( this is just the accounted-for population; I’m told there’s an additional 40%). I now just smile when I think of the Hindu cows who would stroll contentedly down streets, while pedestrians and motorists alike struggled to stay out of their way. I understand the value of one rupee. I’ve seen equal parts of pain and triumph, a sense of accepting one’s karma and striving for the best one can do at the same time. It makes me realize that each country has its travails and challenges, and that no place is perfect.

Sweet Jamaica is no more, no less than any other nation, but I think that some of its people have forgotten what they have (I shared this sentiment with a student this morning, who also happens to be a Member of Parliament and he felt the very same – “the hand-out mentality makes me so sad” he said), a sense of ennui and entitlement has replaced the enterprising spirit and enduring determination that I grew up appreciating was an earmark of being Jamaican.

Would that we too can learn the lessons of this life. Would that we could recapture that gratitude for everything and that diligent way of pushing through to the finish. Like doing your practice and making it, breath by breath to the end. Like seeing how other people live and being grateful for what you have, rather than comparing it to the lifestyle of others. Like really recognizing that happiness is a spiritual practice you can tap into each and every day.

Ever grateful
SWWW

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This post is early, for two reasons. First, I’m off to lunch to say goodbye to my teachers Kino Macgregor and Tim Feldmann (they’re off to Goa to teach a workshop, isn’t the yoga life great? Certainly when you’re gifted, devoted and proficient practitioners who are blessed by Sharath to teach) and then going out to a Lyme tonight, so I didn’t want to post too late (like I’m on some sort of schedule, eh?)

The second reason is the more important, and it’s that I learned a practical lesson of commitment between yesterday and today than I wanted to note down and share. The lesson is “if you give your word, it must mean something”. Simple, right? You’re thinking “THAT’s the rest lesson?” but what I mean is, as small as a task is, or as insignificant a promise, keep it. Try. This is commitment in action. I learned this by not keeping my word yesterday. The situation is simple enough, I was supposed to meet a new friend at the coconut stand (I had asked her to follow ME somewhere), but yesterday I was exhausted and flaky, and overslept and didn’t show. Sometimes we never know how our actions impact others, but when we ask, the truth can be sobering. I saw my friend at practice this morning, and she was forgiving, but her energy was somehow different (I’m sensitive enough, even as blockheaded and tired as I was after Sharath smilingly battered us in Led Primary, which was good – I didn’t tell you Ashtanga practitioners really go hard? 😉 ). I asked her, and she said she was indeed annoyed at my no-show, given that I had asked HER and not the other way around, and that she gave up the opportunity to do other things, waiting on me. The ultimate facepalm. I felt (and still feel) so bad about it. It’s as if you can’t apologize enough. She was so gracious about it, saying “don’t feel bad, we talked it out, cleared the air, and now we both know”. I know this, but how I feel now is teaching me “this is another reason that you’re here, why you do this practice, to learn to be immaculate with your word, and if you cannot be, make the effort to honour the other party in some other way”

Tough lesson, I’m still a bit watery about it. She was far more compassionate about it than I’m being now, but then I’m really hard on myself, and sometimes it’s good to be. As simple and inconsequential as this may be in the scheme of things, say in comparison to flaking on a big assignment or betraying a loved one’s trust, the principle still holds. Be immaculate (the ICHS girls are gonna love this one), when you say you’ll do something, do it. Honour the people you know, old friends and new. Treat all equally with the respect and love you’d want for yourself. This is a tenet of yoga, far more important than if I ever get my ankles in backbending or perform the perfect arm balance. As Sharath says, asana is the scaffolding of the living, breathing practice, but the scaffolding alone is not the building.

Gone to forgive myself

Ever grateful
SWWW

Day 21 – Finding my feet

18 January, 2012

Today practice was good, right up til Backbending, which for me is a great challenge. Moving into Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Facing Bow, or Wheel pose) itself isn’t so much the tricky bit, I’ve learned how to be patient and allow my shoulders and back to let me know when they’re ready for me to test them a little more each day, I’ve overcome the fear of falling and of the potential embarrassment (clearly resident only in my own mind, for every teacher I’ve encountered in learning this pose has shown me far more compassion and understanding than I’ve shown myself), what remains is the ability to stand up from this pose consistently.

A word before I go further, Ashtanga isn’t about any ONE asana, it’s not about doing the ones you like and avoiding the hard stuff, it’s about finding your deepest, truest self on and off the mat, patiently, quietly, breath by breath, posture by posture, dristi by dristi.

With that said, I’m now clearly aware of what Wheel Pose and standing up are trying to show me about myself, on and off the mat. For me, it’s about finding my foundation and seeing things through. Today when I did my first drop back and came up, Sharath was there, he said “very good”, I explained that I wasn’t getting the posture consistently, and he said “too much thinking, just focus on the asana”, then he watched me do the same thing and said “If you don’t have your legs, you can’t come up”. How true, other teachers have told me this “press into your legs, use the strength of your thighs and pelvis, feel as if you’re grounding through the earth. Perfect advice for airy-fairy me. It’s more than a physical thing. I find commitment a hard concept to process, even the idea of purchasing furniture is frightening for me, I try never to hold onto things or people, for that matter. But I need grounding and balance, or I will surely drift away on the first breeze to Never-Never land. I’m a good starter of things, always make a good impression, but I become easily bored, and don’t finish as strongly. This has hurt me, personally and professionally, and comes not from a fear of failing, but being completely completely frightened of my potential. Yes, strange, I’m working on it, letting myself truly shine. I’ll get there.

This is why I think Backbending comes where it does in the practice, it’s the last really strong outpouring of effort you make before you can ease up and relax a bit into the soothing flow of Finishing postures. It says “store your energy, finish strong, know where your feet are, commit and seal your practice”. I love that, I love that it took me 3 weeks to get it, to really get that message. I now find myself thinking “I want to be diligent in my practice, aware of my body, relax when my tendency is to panic, and above all, push into my foundations (physical, mental and spiritual) and as Sharath said “make your legs straight as you can and strong and PUSH with your hands”. I want to stand up on my own two feet and find the peace in the lesson this posture, and this mighty practice and lineage are here to teach me. And I believe if I just keep doing it, keep trying, keep committing, keep with faith and the 4Ds (dedication, devotion, discipline and determination, especially the last one) that I will.

Wow, that felt good to say out loud 🙂

Ever thankful
SWWW

So…today is Saturday. That means rest day and an opportunity to do errands. It’s nice to go about my business, walking to the supermarket, shopping, getting my toes done…not unlike what I’d be doing at home in Kingston. There is a good feeling in just being a student, walking around, treasuring the little differences I see everyday, the drawings in chalk on the sidewalks that represent offerings to the householders’ deity of tradition, the completely-relaxed cow sauntering down the street, knowing no fear (because people would rather crash into into each other than hit a cow), the pushpamalas, floral garlands for puja (worship)…little things I might not have appreciated, had I just been a harried tourist, just looking for the “important things to see”.

And yesterday? Ooh, practice (led) was good once I decided to honour my shoulder and not lift up to jump back or try to float all my jump-throughs. Yoga is deeper than just exercise or poses you do, it begins to answer your unasked questions, if you simply listen. After another huge breakfast (dark chocolate pancakes, anyone?), there was chanting class, and then I met a friend from my YTT in Negril, went for lunch, book-shopping and then dinner – then had to hightail it in a rickshaw back to Gokulam to meet some friends to go for a lyme…it was great, ppl from Jamaica, South Korea, Costa Rica, Argentina, Poland, Australia, Mexico, Sweden…all in Mysore because of their love for yoga, good times…when we were leaving, my fellow countrymen got into a little tiff (you can always rely on a Jamaican man’s ego and a Jamaican woman’s mouth to start a riot – LOL), awkward…cold LONG rickshaw ride home, ad then the facety driver refuses to take us home, insisting “meter finished”…it was only when he realised that we were walking far farther than he’d dropped us (at midnight, no less) and he could have made some more from the fare, that he tried to catch up with us…at which point I was like “no, you trying to hustle us”…one of the dudes with us walked us girls home and that was that.

I’m off practice for the next two days to honour my womanly nature (subtle, aren’t I?) – it actually helps the body heal, and is a part of the greater practice to abstain from asana to observe and respect the body’s natural patterns. And before anyone works up a full-feminist-rant head of steam, try to understand that I’m thinking of me, my own rhythms, my own patterns, how to help heal my shoulder, and how to detach my sense of worth from the number of times per week that I practice dropping back into backbends or jumping back from crow pose. Again, yoga is more than the asanas you do, it’s about listening, surrendering, and trusting in your intrinsic, divine self. And this isn’t easy, my ego wants to, it whispers seductive “your shoulder doesn’t feel so bad, go practice anyway, no one will know”. But I will know, and the lesson for me today is discipline (in restraint as well as in action) and surrender to the potential power of this amazing practice, that I have only just scraped the surface of.

Ever grateful
SWWW

11 January, 2012

Day 14 – keeping this format for the people following my status updates on Facebook, hot and sweaty in the shala today,tremendous hip-opening help by one of thassistants in Baddha Konasana, my very LEAST favourite pose in Primary and then the same guy helped in Backbending and offered into why I’m hyperventilating in standing up from drop backs, he said “don’t hold your breath, inhale as you come back up, also there is a little tightness in your hips that challenges the grounding through the legs, you really want to feel your legs supporting you as you come up, I know how you feel, sometimes you just wantit over with” 🙂 I said “that and I’m favouring my right shoulder, which twinges a bit as I deepen the backbend and walk in towards my feet” he was like “ah” and he watched me do two on my own, they were better, and told me not to rush, and to feel my feet (tiny as they are, right? DWL) and it was good! Then chanting and then we went to Lahksmipuram for lunch, so yummy, but what bugged me a bit was a guy who tagged along with us, and then refused to eat, saying he had no money (at that point I was like “dude, we all came in a rickshaw, did you think that was free?) and then refusing even after we offered to cover his meal.  Maybe he wanted the company?  I dunno.  I wish he’d spoken up, though, that was the principle that niggled at me.  Was it male pride? Till I grow a pair of my own, I’ll probably never know. Every day of Primary Series feels good, except when I push my shoulder too hard, I’m practising restraint too – and I’ll remember to BREATHE in drop backs, after all, the whole point is the breath, to listen to it and find the peace it shows you. Each asana is a teacher and Baddha Konasana and drop backs are teaching my key lessons about myself, I’m so grateful I’m aware enough to listen

Things I have learnt

2 April, 2011

Yesterday was my last day at work.  Actually, that’s true and not so true.  I still have to live, put food in my mouth and pay my bills, however the notion of ‘work’ now changes for me; I gratefully bid the corporate life of Jamaica goodbye (I can admit I do not have the gravitas for it) and now shift into a new perspective of what “work” means: Kahlil Gibran says it best, and I have learnt “when you can’t say it better than someone else, let them say it.”   In “The Prophet” , he makes it pretty clear what’s important:

Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.

He’s right.  This is your life.  Make it (and everything in it) about what you love, if you can for as long as you can.  This isn’t a judgement on anyone.  It took me a long time and lots of pain and frustration to get here, and I’ve only literally just begun, who knows where I’ll be in 5 years.  Most days, I can’t think past July.  But I have no choice now, I must do this thing I love and love the things I do.  For me, there simply is no other way.

It might be easier for me to say than for others.  I’m single with no children nor do I have any significant financial obligations.  I know I’m a little different from many of my contemporaries, and I learnt that that was OK.  I make my path and though it might seem like I’m practically Peter Pan, “why won’t she stop living in a dream world and  grow UP already?”, it’s not.  I used to think that way, that I had to bargain between doing the “right thing” and the “thing I love”.  Now I know better.  I have to work hard at my passion, the dream doesn’t unfold because you want it to.  Add that to my list of things to learn.

We are all different, and I could not have done this alone.  I have around me some of the most brilliant, interesting and compassionate people I can call real family and friends.  People who will tell you want you DON’T wish to, but need to hear and they don’t always say it nicely.  People who will hold you when you need to cry.  People who genuinely celebrate  your tiniest victory.  Yeah, them.  I learnt that being a good friend isn’t just about being there for someone else, it’s about reaching out to those who really love you and sharing your life and your dreams with them.

I’m a good teacher.  I love Ashtanga, and I love the practice of yoga in all its forms, and I’m excited to be able to delve as deeply in it as I can.  There’s a lot I have planned for the year to come, for me, for Jamaica, the Caribbean, it’s all yumminess.  Asana, philosophy, teaching, travelling, writing, style, all kinds of  fun little things.   I have learnt to have faith and confidence in this road, and to see it through.

Finally, I know not to take myself TOO seriously, and not to ascribe my identity to my performance.  Whether I soar to the heavens and beyond like Jonathan Livingston Seagull or crash to the sea below like the maybe-a-mite-too-ambitious Icarus, I am more than the sum total of my acts and no matter what anyone else says, I refuse to limit or judge myself as such.  Do yourselves a favour, everyone, know that you are more than what you do, how much money you have, what you look like, or who you are to other people. I’m serious here, don’t just think it, KNOW it.    Though we often define ourselves as parts of a whole, or as functions of others, we are first and foremost individuals.   Whatever we call ‘identity’ must at least begin there.  I had to learn that too, and if you really think about it, it takes me right back to the beginning (of this post, of my life, this journey).

Yeah.  So that’s it.  For now, look up and look forward, that’s where you’ll see me 😉

Stay Blessed!

swww




So…

26 November, 2010

yay…something VERY cool, you can now SCAN this blog’s very own nifty-handy-dandy BARCODE into your Crack…er, BLACKBERRY phone and visit me all the time….

Wonderful!!!…

But then that means I have to write things that would attract you, right? Pen arguments that grab your attention, yes? Ok, I promise, I know I’ve been shaky over the past weeks, but I’m here for you now, it’s the very least I can do.

As I said at the beginning of this blog, one of the main reasons for its existence is to document how people go about creating sustainable life in Jamaica, everything from entrepreneurship to waste treatment…yup, the WHOLE gamut. So…

So…I’m getting right to it, beginning with a review of products and services offered here in Jamaica to support our local industries…no, there’s not really wrong with importing, but when it vastly outstrips what sweet, sweet Jamaica can produce for local and international consumption, then “Kingston…we have a problem”

So look out for it, as we swing into the merry season, I may even come up with sustainable and affordable Christmas gift ideas…cool, no?

ok, much love, I’m off to the land of Nod

SWWW

Ok…it is time

28 August, 2010

I created this blogspace almost two years ago, telling myself “You’re interesting, you MUST have something of worth to say, something significant that the universe wants to hear”. And then…….NOTHING, rien, nada, niente….and so I left it, and almost forgot it was here.

But now it feels different, it feels RIGHT, “I” feel ready and I don’t even think I have to come up with anything earth-shattering, life is in the little things, after all.

So I’m going to write, sometimes epic rambling conversations with myself that I hope won’t suggest to my friends and family that I’m slightly nutty (they probably know this already) and sometimes pithy pieces of whatever happened to me in the now.

This blog is intended to support my site (still without name, except the word ‘sadhana’ will be in there somewhere…go google it ^-^ ) which is all about my passion for sustainable living in all its forms, so there are days when it’ll be serious, you may even think I’m pontificating…yoga and healing, awareness, activism, volunteerism, vegetarianism, sustainable agriculture, diet and tourism, philosophy and faith…(geez, that’s a LOT)

And then again, I’ll get silly (i PROMISE you the week of March 4-9, 2011 will be COMPLETELY devoted to me playing Mas in Trinidad – lookit my profile picture to see the cute costume I’m going to wear! woohoo!)…and that’s OK too

I write for me, because NOW I know there is no time like NOW…and I LOVE that…

so, OK, enough from me for NOW :)….que l’aventure commence -let the journey BEGIN!