A MISSION BEGINS....
It's fair to say that while I had no fixed plans returning back to Australia I was still on a mission, a mission to get everything sorted as quickly as possible so I could begin to settle somewhere and find some routine. I was really impatient, racing my way up the coast making plans to move all my belongings into a place I hadn't even found yet.
This pushing went on for a few weeks and it was wearing me down, I was feeling really flat and frequently overwhelmed. Looking back now I see that it was largely driven from feeling un-grounded, having nothing solid to attach to, pure fear of all the uncertainty. This was being physically reflected back to me in my yoga practice, I was scattered and was really struggling with balancing. The intense yoga practices that I was choosing (Power Flow at 30+ deg) were not making it any better, this sort of practice for me personally, fuels my intensity.
It was after taking a slower more mindful, grounding class on the coast that I started to feel at ease again and began to see things as they truly were. I was trying to force things, I hadn't surrendered to the unknown at all, I was attempting to force everything into my neat little box that I'd created in my mind.
From this point I began to open my mind to more possibility, maybe I didn't need to immediately move all my things, maybe I didn't have to live right on the beach, maybe I didn't need to rush into moving, perhaps I wouldn't even live on the Sunshine Coast.
At this point I truly began to surrender to what will be, I let go of all the fear and the need to have everything under control. I started to spend less time planning and more time doing what I love, paddling in the ocean and immersing deeper in my yoga practice. I started to see that everything is perfect exactly as it is and began to feel really deeply connected to my yoga practice, truly seeing that it is no longer separate from me or something that I just do, it's inherently within me.
The basis of your life is freedom, the purpose of your life is joy. ~ Abraham Hicks
AND THEN THE MAGIC STARTED TO RISE....
I felt lighter, deeply content and things started to fall into place in ways that I never would have dreamed were possible. You know those times where you are in a flow? everything just seems to be going your way?? you get that perfect car park in peak hour, the song you are thinking about comes on the radio, the things you need/want seemingly arrive out of nowhere with little to no effort, you manifest the purchase of avocados with your bread in the local bakery.
It's even gone as far as things that I clearly described 6+ months ago in some Law of Attraction exercises (we described our future lives and key events as if they'd already happened) have actually played out exactly how I described them! At times I've been so gob-smacked that I can't help but laugh at the synchronicity.
In reality nothing has changed, only my attitude and thought patterns. I still have no idea what I'm doing, how I will make a living, if I will settle and stay on the Sunshine Coast. At this point though I'm so blissfully happy and content with not having the answers, I feel that I don't need them. I truly believe that they will come when the time is right. Over the last month or so I've come to see forcing and pushing things doesn't make them happen any faster, in fact for me it's been counter productive.
That's not to say that we should just sit by and watch life passively happen to us, I think a higher intention/goal is critical. I think Sadhguru put it perfectly when he said:
"Whether it is love, or flowers in your garden, or success in your life, or enlightenment, unless you create the necessary conditions, it will not happen. Whatever we do, it is not to make the flower, but only to create the conditions, so that flowers will happen".
This was the whole premise behind my move to QLD, to create conditions that I felt would facilitate my greater vision of a blissful life. It's taken a few mental shifts along the way, but without a doubt the flowers are starting to bloom.
It's said that when your energy, thoughts, and emotions are aligned with the flow of the universe, it begins to work in your favour. What if the purpose of our life truly is to be joyous, to align with the natural flow of the universe where there is no pushing or forcing, only blissful ease?
Then I guess the next question would be what brings you joy, and what conditions do you need to bring more of that into your life?
This is the most intense experience I've ever had being in that effortless flow, but as I look back it's very clear to me that it's always the same conditions that create it, my magic formula of sunshine, ocean, yoga and feeling deeply connected.
I'm so very grateful for this present experience and will continue to enjoy every minute of it while being mindful that everything comes to pass. At least now it's even clearer to me what needs to be done to find this beautiful space, I hope that you also find it and linger here for a while too. If so I'd love to hear about those gob-smacking moments where your left wondering 'did that really just happen?'.
After completing the 500hrs of Yoga Teacher Training I was left feeling pretty drained, I’m sure this is totally normal and most people experience it. A large part of me felt like I wanted to escape the yoga scene for a few weeks. My soul was craving time by the ocean drinking up the sunshine and frolicking in the waves, only I’m a long way from the beach here in Mysore and I’d made the decision to stay on in India.
So instead of hanging by the beach after all my new yoga buddies left Mysore I went into full-blown, demotivated lazy mode. I kept up my daily asana practice but was really struggling to find the motivation to do anything else. I found myself spending a lot of time watching TV on my laptop, catching up on sleep and wasting countless hours on the Internet.
After a week of this and several failed attempts at getting myself going again I came up with the idea of a self imposed spiritual boot camp. Setting my alarm for 4.30am and telling myself I’d wake up just wasn’t working. I needed some structure and a real commitment to myself.
You might be wondering why I'm not cutting myself some slack, taking an extended break, embracing the laziness, making some new friends and enjoying exploring Mysore.
If I’m to be honest I feel like I spent much of my time during the YTT doing just that. I didn’t find the workload to be overly challenging and while I committed myself to the training, I equally enjoyed the social aspects. I think I was far more social during the training than I normally am at home!
While I experienced some transformation during the two months of YTT I feel that I could be doing so much more in terms of going deeper within. This last month here in India seems like the perfect opportunity to do that.
So this idea of a personalised spiritual boot camp came to my mind, something that I would commit to fully as if I were paying for the service.
Here is my Week 1 daily schedule:
4.15am: Wake Up
4.15am – 4.30am: Surya Namaskar Wake Up
4.30am – 5.00am: Pranayama / Kriyas
5.00am - 6.00am: Meditation
6.45am – 8.45am: Ashtanga Asana Practice
9.00am – 1.30am: Breakfast and Chill Time
1.30pm – 2.00pm: Meditation
2.00pm – 4.00pm: Lunch and Chill Time
4.00pm – 5.00pm: Harmonium/Chanting (Lessons and Practice)
6.30pm – 7.30pm: Yin Yoga Practice
7.30pm – 8.00pm: Eye Exercises / Candle Gazing
8.00pm – 9.00pm: Meditation
My personal boot camp begins tomorrow morning and will culminate in a 10 day Vipassana Meditation that finishes on the 30th of August. That means I have today to finish watching the remaining few episodes of 'Chasing Life'.
My soul will then be quenched with the all the beach time and salt water it desires with my final few weeks of my trip spent in Bali.
When I go to bed tonight I’ll be placing my alarm clock on my yoga mat, far away from the bed. To make the whole waking up early experience more enjoyable/inspiring I’ll be setting my alarm tune to this:
I'll be sure to post an update on my progress in the next week or two. That is unless I fall into a deep meditation and reach samadhi (liberation)...
For the last two months I've been in Mysore (India) immersed in a 500Hr Yoga Teacher Training.
I arrived in Mysore feeling firmly grounded. I was clear on my reasons for coming here, I had a good idea of what I was seeking to learn and had a clear vision of what my next steps were going to be (Bali, then moving to the Sunshine Coast). I felt physically strong and comfortable where I was at physically, emotionally and mentally.
The first 10 days of the training were fantastic, the honeymoon period - absolute bliss. The yoga practices were great (developing strong foundations), everything our teachers said had me attentively listening in awe (except during anatomy classes) and I was meeting and connecting with lots of wonderful likeminded people. I started to feel really energetic, so much so that I felt I needed to find a way to calm myself down.
Everything was going great although it soon became apparent that I had a lot of learning to do in area's that I hadn't anticipated. These lessons arrived as a number of different challenges or obstacles on the path as the yogi's would say.
My first challenge was my right wrist. This has been playing up on and off since last December, I just haven't been able to get it right. We were doing a lot of backbending (Charkrasana) which was placing additional strain on it, the result was some inflammation and discomfort. After chatting to our teacher I decided to keep as much weight off it as possible for around 5 days. It was around this time that the physical practice started to pick up with some arm balances etc. My first challenge was to listen to my body, not putting myself into positions I knew I was more than capable of doing but would only be serving my ego and not my healing.
To help my wrist recover faster I started to seek out some treatment, initially I had massage in mind but I found myself doing some intuitive body work sessions. These sessions included some physical massage along with cranio-sacral and crystal therapy work. This is where the second hit to my ego came. During the first few sessions I was told that my body is holding more than physical tension, the therapist suggested that much of it was likely to be emotional, stuff that needs to be released by me letting it go.
I truly believed that I'd made peace with everything that I could possibly have been holding. This was hard to take, I was left feeling like I still had some work to do. If it wasn't for some very pertinent points/observations that she made I probably would have dismissed it as being an inaccurate conclusion.
Then I got sick. Rarely do I get ill when travelling, I'd say that I have a pretty strong stomach although something didn't agree with me. This really didn't phase me for the first few days, it was just like having an underlying case of Bali Belly. I continued with the physical practice just taking it a bit easier. Although by Day 3 of having everything pass straight through me I was feeling drained. Again my physical practice was struggling, I was also finding it hard to stay awake and focus in class. A rare choice was made, I decided to take some antibiotics which cleared it up pretty quickly.
After the rest period for my wrist I slowly eased back in and it started to feel better again. Then during practice around one week later we started playing with some arm balance transitions, a slight twist while weight bearing and it was aggravated again. Again back to limited practice and that feeling of complete frustration. This time I started strapping it up for some extra support.
At this point I started to see things with a little more clarity, I realised that I'd been carrying this niggle for months. My priority shifted to getting myself to the second month of training with my wrist feeling as strong as it could be.
By the end of the first month I was already feeling like I was being strongly challenged on all levels. I like to work really hard, to get the best out of myself in all circumstances and to constantly push myself to grow. If I'm to be totally honest often this manifests on the physical plane, only for so much of that first month I felt physically unable to push and get the best out of myself. This as I'm sure you imagine was resulting in just a little frustration.
We had a week off in between Level 1 and Level 2 of the training, this provided a great opportunity for some rest and recovery.
One of the girls suggested that we visit an incredibly talented doctor who diagnosis/treats based on the principles of chinese medicine. One of the first things we did on finishing Level 1 was to go see him. His diagnostic report was somewhat shocking to me, I thought I was in relatively good health, I certainly feel much healthier and better than I did a few years ago. I thought that the huge improvements to my diet and lifestyle in the last 3 years had 'fixed me' but the report said otherwise. The hardest part was I couldn't argue with anything that he said. He was 95% accurate in the diagnosis without asking me a single question! What he had described, I was actually experiencing in my body. Again came that feeling of not being as far along my journey to wellness as I thought I was. What made it even harder (which I know is stupid) was hearing how everyone else who had seen him at this time was largely in great health. This was probably the one thing that played on my mind the most, how many more ego blows could I take?? Well it seemed that I still had much to learn and it wasn't over yet.
Next up was our 8 day Panchakarma detox treatment, a friend and I did this during our week off. Around 4 days into the detox I came down with a flu like cold - the worst I've had for as long as I can remember. With this I began the second month in a similar manner to how I finished the first. Struggling, only this time with running/blocked nostrils, headaches and lethargy. On the positive side though my wrist seemed to be doing much better.
After the first full week of the Level 2 training we began undertaking some intensive bodily cleansing (kriyas). The first kriya called Vamana Dhouti has us drinking lots of salt water very quickly and then vomiting it up. After this my digestion got so messed up that I went a week with less than 3 trips to the toilet. My body felt toxic, smelly, blocked, bloated and then came the impacts on my skin - more pimples than I've had since I was a teen. My mind suffered quite a lot during this time, most of the time it was occupied with how yuk I was feeling and thinking about how much stuff was stuck inside me.
Just as that cleared up (after a week) we did another intensive kriya called Shanka Prakshalana, this time we drank the salt water, performed some exercises and then released the water through the bowels. This time I was more fortunate, only 4 days of digestive discomfort until I returned to a semi normal.
In the last two weeks of the training I started to feel much better...
I was moving deeper into many postures that I'd ever been before and the wrist became far more manageable, I stopped strapping it up and I was comfortably holding chakrasana and arm balances once again. The last week was probably the most enjoyable, we had some strong practices, lots of question time and plenty of opportunity to learn new techniques for assisting others.
If I said that I gracefully dealt with every little set back I'd be painting a very inaccurate picture. With the exception of the first 10 days, this was one massive rollercoaster ride. It didn't so much feel like a yoga teacher training, it was more of a learn to deal with yourself training for me (which I suppose is largely what yoga is about). This culmination of experiences certainly had an impact on me.
Firstly I lost my grounding - I began questioning everything.
Did I really want to return home and commit to living in one place?
Am I even in the right job, do I want to continue with the Stand Up Paddling side of things?
I started to feel that I was broken, that I needed to take more time here in Mysore or in Bali to 'fix' myself.
On several occasions I felt like my yoga practice was moving backwards, that I wasn't learning anything or refining anything that challenged me. Significant periods of frustration were experienced along with lots of struggling to find motivation.
For the first 4 weeks while all of this was happening I didn't understand where all of the doubt and negative emotion was coming from. I couldn't understand why I was having these experiences, it all just seemed a little unfair.
It became really clear to me where this downward spiral of negative thought came from after chatting to the therapist who was doing the course of intuitive body work on me. As I filled her in with the pertinent points of my previous week (how I was feeling, my growing list of uncertainties etc) she said something along the lines of 'how is your confidence coping with all that'?
Then it all clicked...
Pretty much from the second week of teacher training, my ego took hit after hit...gradually it wore me down to the point where my whole sense of self confidence was gone.
I don't consider myself to be an egotistical person, but I do acknowledge that this thing called 'ego' exists within me and it is a very powerful creature. I had no idea just how much it impacted on how I feel about myself and my confidence.
It was huge relief to find a clear explanation for the feelings/doubt that I'd been experiencing. Once I could see exactly what was happening the doubt dissolved, I stopped questioning my dreams and the path that I've selected to get there. I then started making my plans to return home and begun to get excited about it all again.
I came across the below words of inspiration and found myself returning to it regularly:
When everything seems to be stacking up against us it's very easy to loose heart and think that we are 'broken' and need 'fixing'. I love what Steve Maraboli says about each of us being perfectly imperfect.
One of the most important things that I learnt over my last few months here in Mysore is the strong link between my mind, ego and sense of self. I've been amazed to observe how the continual blows to my ego impacted my state of mind which in turn really strongly influenced how I feel about myself and my confidence. I have no doubt this whole experience played out exactly how it needed to in order for me to learn the lessons that needed to be learnt. Had it been just one or two little set backs my recovery most likely would have been rapid, I generally have enough positivity in my mental mind bank to bring myself back up. Then I'm really not sure what my greatest lesson would have been.
I now feel confident that I can continue to move forward knowing that my intended path has been adequately put to the test, after all the doubt and questioning I came back to my personal truth. I am not broken, I do not need fixing and I trust myself enough to know what I want.
Wow what an amazing last 6 months its been!
As I begin to re-mould my future I thought it would be nice to take some time to reflect on my last 6 months, my dreams for the future and my reasons for making the changes to come.
My original vision for waSUP Yoga & Fitness was to operate from East Gippsland for 5-6 months of the year. I would then relocate myself and the business somewhere warmer over the winter period, I just hadn't worked out where! Another key feature of the plan was a few months off each year to travel and immerse in my own yoga practice, this is really important to me - as much as I love being a teacher I love being a student even more.
Over the last 6 months I've often had people asking me 'why are you here in East Gippsland?'.
The truth is I'm not 100% sure, I came here on a temporary secondment as an engineer around 4 years ago and never found my way back to the city. When I was training for triathlon and adventure racing this place was heaven on earth, for me the training grounds simply didn't get any better and there was no shortage of inspiring people to train with. I loved being so close the forest, mountains, ocean and lakes.
My vision for waSUP was to share the beauty of this area with others, along with my passion for yoga and stand up paddling. If you have ever experienced the beauty of a sunrise/sunset on the Gippsland Lakes on a still morning then you know exactly what I'm talking about! Perhaps I was a little naive when it came to the weather, being an optimist I thought I'd roll on back here in October and mother nature would be turning up the heat and we'd get lots of nice calm days with little wind through to April. I couldn't have been more wrong!
With that said though, even if we'd just experienced the best summer ever and I'd been super busy taking paddling lessons for the last 4 months, I have no doubt I would still find myself in this very position - looking for change. I never planned on staying here through winter, I'm just not a cold weather person, my family is very much the same, they all live in the warmer parts of Oz.
Through lot's of self enquiry and reflection I've become very clear on one thing:
Sunshine + Warm Weather + Time in Water + Inspiring Yoga + Connection with likeminded people = A super awesome version of Mandy!
If I were to stay here I feel that I would be cheating myself of true and lasting happiness.
It's been extremely difficult to replicate my magic formula since returning to East Gippsland in September, it's all come together here only once, just last week while on a yoga retreat. I had the wonderful opportunity to take super inspiring yoga classes as a student, was surrounded by a group of likeminded souls and we had a magical warm day that began watching the sunrise and involved sharing yoga and SUP - all the magic ingredients. Where did that leave me, dropping my phone in the lake, backing my car into a tree - but feeling higher and more on top of the world that I have since returning from Bali (where my magic formula was frequently coming into play).
Another important thing that I've come to realise is that the man of my dreams hasn't arrived on my door because I haven't been ready to invite him in. For as long as I can remember I haven't lived in the same house for more than 15 months! I wasn't ready to settle, I found myself constantly searching for that something else. I now have a job (if you could call it that) that I truly love, something that I'm really passionate about, that aspect of my search is done. waSUP Yoga & Fitness is exactly what I need to be doing, it's just not here in this location.
I'm ready to settle now, I'm done with all the moving about and searching for something that has been within me all along. It's time for me to find a place that I can call home, somewhere that the ingredients for my magic formula are abundant. That's not to say that I'm done with travelling, that will always be part of who I am. It would however be nice to feel so connected to a place that I don't need to pack everything up into boxes and storage every time I take a trip for fear that I may not return.
I'm so grateful for all the amazing years that I've had here in East Gippsland. I've learnt and grown so much during my time here. I've been so extremely fortunate to make some really good friends who I'm sure will be part of my life for many years to come - I will forever be thankful for the important role that each of you have played in my life.
I can't thank those of you who supported me in getting waSUP Yoga & Fitness up and running here enough. I feel like it's come such a long way in a short space of time and has so much potential, I would love to pick you all up and take you with me, then life would indeed be perfect!
It's really hard for me to walk away from all we have created, our classes shared and chats afterwards are memories that I will treasure forever. Watching you all grow, improve your self awareness and develop more comfort in the postures has been such a treat, I will really miss your smiling faces and the light hearted play time in classes. It's truly been such a joy sharing yoga and Stand Up Paddling with each and every one of you.
For those of you who have been attending land classes my hope is that you continue to incorporate yoga into your life, it truly is a beautiful transformational practice. If ever get stuck I'm only and email or phone call away and I'd love to hear from you. I'm currently trying to arrange for another teacher to take at least one Yoga for Athletes and Foundations class each week so will keep you all posted on how I go with that.
So what's next for me and waSUP, well here is the plan:
- Classes finish on the 10th of April
- Camel Trek and Yoga Retreat (13th - 17th April)
We still have a few spots if you'd like to join me for one last hurrah - outback style!
- Drive north in search of new home (surf, practice yoga, visit friends/family, relax & restore)
- Yoga Teacher Training in India (June and July)
- Quality family time in Bali with lots of surfing and yoga (August and September)
- Put down some roots somewhere and start again :)
We can never know what the future holds although I can say with certainty that East Gippsland and all of you will always hold a place in my heart. Without a doubt I'll be back for holidays and won't rule out a return at some point in my life. In the short term though it's time for me to explore somewhere new, drop the fear of commitment , live in alignment with my greatest potential and begin to lay down some foundations. Scary I know but that's also what makes it so exciting!!!
Let's make this last month one to remember, I so can't wait to see all your smiling faces again next week.
Peace out yogis
Around 11 months ago I left Australia on a solo adventure that I hadn’t planned in any real detail, this was a first for me – surrendering to the unknown.
I left in search of something else – I just had no idea what that something was….
The adventure started with a family holiday in Phuket, Thailand. It was here that I learnt the importance of compromise and making time for the things I need to keep me balanced.
I’d just spent the previous few months living a really healthy clean lifestyle; I was getting ready for yoga teacher training. My idea of a holiday and that of my dear parents can sometimes differ greatly. In the past this would've caused me lots of angst. This time though I approached it differently, simply respecting the fact that we have different ideas/lifestyles, neither of us need to change, nobody is right or wrong - it simply is what it is. I made sure that I took the time out to do the things that I needed to do (yoga, running, meditation) and could then happily sit at the beach sipping coconuts all day eating fruit/corn while everyone else drank beer and ate burgers. In the evenings I'd enjoy a few social cocktails (even though I was supposed to be detoxing pre yoga training) and at the end of the day we'd all happily retreat to bed. The new approach certainly worked and its now here to stay.
From Thailand we flew to Singapore as a family. It was in Singapore that I was reminded of the extremely fortunate childhood that my brother Brett and I had. It was like stepping back in time 20 years to when we were children visiting the zoo, the aquarium and were sitting around the dinner table together. It was in Singapore that the importance of my family was really reinforced; I cherish the time we share together and love them all dearly.
It was then off to Balian Beach in Bali to undertake 5 weeks of yoga teacher training with Alicia Cheung and Oliver Reinsch of YogaWorks. I learnt more during this 5 weeks that I thought was physically possible. Not only were we learning anatomy, sanskrit, philosophy, asana alignment and how to teach we were also taken on a deep journey into ourselves - this was perhaps the most challenging part of all. Some of the key things that I learnt during this 5 weeks (even though I could spend a day writing these alone) were:
After the training a small group of us decided to stay together and hang out in Bali for a little while longer. We spent some time in Ubud and then went on a surf trip visiting Balian, Canggu and the Bukit. It would be fair to say that the time we spent together was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. In such a short time we formed a really beautiful, supportive, loving, connected sangha (community). I learnt so much from these beautiful souls, but the power of deep connection with other humans was the big one. Somehow I'd been missing this - perhaps because my own walls were previously blocking it.
The most profound learning came from an amazing morning surfing with Scott. We caught waves, formed a band, made up songs, created seaweed jewellery and generally had a ball. Scott re-introduced me to a version of myself that I don't recall seeing for sometime, one where there is no inhibition, absolute contentment, pure joy. This was an extremely valuable experience, I know exactly what created the conditions for me to feel this way. I therefore have a recipe to create the ultimate version of myself, I simply need to source the ingredients.
From Bali I headed to a small place called Dhamma Ketana around 10km from Chengannur in the South of India. This would be where I'd get my first taste of Vipassana Meditation, a whole 10 days of it. It seemed like a logical next step and a great way to spend Christmas given that I wouldn't be with family/friends. For 10 continuous days I spent 10.5 hrs in seated meditation. To say this was a challenge would be a huge understatement, again the lessons were coming thick and fast. I wrote a whole blog on this experience so won't dive back into detail but the greatest learnings were:
The following month was spent in a place called Varkala in the state of Kerala on the south west coast of India. During my time surfing in Bali I managed to pick up an injury to one of the stabalising muscles on my right side, I thought it would pass with rest during Vipassana but this injury unlike everything else did not pass - the inflammation got worse and the discomfort only increased. I headed to Varkala for some more rest and to seek treatment. This was not part of my broad plan, I was in India to practice and study yoga but here I was unable to hold myself in a plank position. Some of the lessons from this month were:
The next stop was two weeks in Goa on the central west coast of India. Goa had always been part of my broad plan, I wanted to immerse myself in learning Ashtanga there. I was still in no state to learn Ashtanga so again adapted my plans. I headed south to Palolem Beach and continued my immersion into chilling out and holidaying with a side of yoga rather than the other way around.
After Goa it was time to put my yoga student hat back on. I headed to Chennai on the east coast of India for a 4 week immersion at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram (KYM). The program was heavily focused on yoga as a tool for healing (perfect!). We undertook daily asana, pranayama and meditation practices, vedic chanting classes and attended lectures on philosophy, application of yoga and the tools of yoga. This was a truly incredible learning opportunity. My perspectives on a whole range of topics were challenged on a day to day basis (covering everything from arranged marriage to foot placement in trikonasana), it was great to hear things from an Indian perspective and then compare this to how things are viewed in the west. The time I spent at KYM has significantly influenced the way I practice and also my approach to teaching yoga.
Living in Chennai for a month was a really intense experience, I haven't felt that immersed in the authenticity of a place since I was in Rwanda back in 2007. Chennai has this knack of taking you on an emotional rollercoaster everytime you walk down the street. It goes a bit like 'oh no that looks like a squashed dog on the road, oh how sweet there is a man bouncing a puppy on his legs, are you serious did that man just slap that women in the face, oh how cute look at those kids playing together and so on'...and you've obly walked 800m! It was my time in Chennai that really re-inforced just how much abundance is present in my life, I really begun to feel gratitude towards the seemingly little things (like being able to retreat to a quiet place or lie down at the beach, having a pillow to put my head on at the end of the day). I was constantly amazed by the beauty, friendliness and kindness of the people I met. On our days off I would stroll the streets of foreign neighbourhoods interacting with the locals I met along the way, I learnt here in India that a simple authentic smile can speak so many words.
From Chennai I headed to Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka had been on my list of must see destinations for as long as I could remember. I was craving the ocean so headed straight to a place called Midigama on the south west coast, here I could surf until my heart was content. After Midigama and a day trip to Galle I headed inland to Kandy, the cultural heartbeat of the island. It was a really short two weeks but from the very first train ride I was completely taken by the place, I knew that I'd need to come back some day. The people were lovely and the scenery was stunning, untouched beaches and tea plantations as far as they eyes could see.
While it was a short few weeks, it was very intense, I learnt so much. The greatest lesson of all was the preciousness of life. I had the great pleasure of meeting a lovely guy by the name of Torge, we surfed together, went on a whale watching trip and hung out. The day after the whale watching trip he suffered a massive heart attack while surfing, he didn't make it, life taken away in he's early 30's. It really hit home for me that we just don't know what's coming, every day truly is a gift and we need to treat it as such. Again this reinforced the importance of my family and friends, I promised myself that I wouldn't hold back on telling people how feel, I'm going to live this life with no regrets.
After Sri Lanka I headed back to Bali, this seemed like stepping back to the western world after my time in India and Sri Lanka, initially it was a short 2 weeks spending time with my beautiful family. We visited Canggu and Ubud and it was in Canggu that I met Chris and the team at Ngeluwungan Villa.
In this short few weeks things begun to manifest in front of my eyes. I got the call from work (my engineering job) offering me a relocation or redundancy payment as our little office was due to close. This was a seed that I planted much earlier, when I left Australia it was with the thought that a redundancy offer while travelling would be the best possible outcome, and here 5 months later it had arrived. Now I would have the financial means to set up the business that I'd dreamed up during Vipassana, there was also no need to rush home, for the first time since being a child I was completely free with no committments or obligations. One of the key things I learnt here is that when we are are very clear about what we want, these things will manifest, it only takes time. Things then begun to unfold further with Chris asking me to manage he's villa while he visited he's partner Alona in the US, here was my reason to stick around in Bali.
The next stop was a quick trip to Singapore to undertake 6 days of Stand Up Paddleboard training. Again I met so many amazing people from all over the world but it was the guys from Singapore that I became great friends with. During those few days we learnt all about water rescue, paddling technique, and lots of new skills. I went into the training with the intent of simply getting a piece of paper to certify me as a SUP Yoga Instructor although enjoyed the paddling instruction so much that it became part of my business plan. Here I learnt that an open mind can show you doors that you never knew existed. I now have so much diversity in my business offering that I give myself every chance for success.
After Singapore I headed back to Canggu in Bali to look after the villa for a few weeks. This was a huge learning curve for me. I've managed lots of stuff before but had never done so in a foreign country and an area completely out of my expertise! Quickly I learnt about the significant cultural differences between Australia and Bali, I also came to realise that there are many different sub-cultures in Bali alone. Some of the key lessons that I learnt during this time were:
Once Chris returned to Bali he asked me to stay on and I was more than happy to do so. We came up with a plan where I would teach yoga at the villa, look after guest activities and set up/manage some social media platforms. He's an incredibly creative, intelligent guy, he's taught me so much about business, marketing and managing people expectations - these are lessons that I will translate in my own business.
While in Canggu, I was searching for a yoga studio where I could practice, I was stoked to come across Samadi. It was at Samadi with the lovely teachers Damien and Andrea that I finally began to learn the Ashtanga primary series. The Ashtanga style reintroduced some fire back into my practice, I'd very much lost this since the injury and my time in India practicing more passively.
It was during this two months of daily Ashtanga that I began to see my yoga practice in a new light. It's really difficult to explain in words, perhaps you could say that the spirituality side of the practice really started to shine through, this was the most beautiful beautiful gift - I now get to enjoy this on a daily basis.
I was still surfing almost daily but was soon to be taught another valuable lesson about over-doing it, making intelligent decisions and letting go. Somehow while surfing I replicated the injury that I had on my right side, only this time on the left. The severity was nowhere near as bad with only a few weeks rest needed, but it certainly alerted me to a problem. I went back to the basics:
That's not to say I no longer get out on the surfboard, just not every day and not for 2 hours at a time. If I feel like it I'll paddle out, catch a few waves and come back in.
I'd let go of surfing but was still battling with letting go of my engineering career, I had lots of great offers coming through for engineering work back in Australia but at the same time I knew that waSUP Yoga & Fitness absolutely had to go ahead. I was overwhelmed with options, my normal spreadsheet analysis wasn't bringing forward any answers, I honestly though that I could do it all, part time engineering and run a new business. That was when I decided to do some Life Coaching with Andrea at Samadi to help make sense of it all. It was after our first session and a simple homework exercise of writing down an ideal day that I came to realise that attempting to do both jobs would take me exactly where I was before I left Australia - overworked, exhausted and unfulfilled. Quickly I learnt that I can't do it all. The detatchment to engineering was then instant. It was during this exercise that I learnt, when we are clear about our values it becomes easy to guide ourselves in the right direction.
While I enjoyed my few months learning Ashtanga I got to the point where I felt that my progression had significantly slowed, I was no longer inspired and wasn't learning as much as I would've liked. I needed to get back to the style of practice that I was most passionate about and constantly inspired by, Vinyassa. I wanted to soak up as much yoga as possible as I won't have this available to me when I get home. It was with these things in mind that I decided to treat myself to a two month yoga immersion in Ubud, my spiritual homeland. This would see me spending much more time on the motorbike (it's around 1hr away) but I didn't mind the driving.
One thing that's become clear to me in my travels back and forth is that so much of our experience is dictated by our own state of mind. Here in Bali I've found myself really enjoying lengthy road detours and getting stuck behind slow cars or in traffic, this is a great opportunity to see new areas and notice things I'd otherwise miss. When I leave here I'll be making a real effort to continue cultivating an attitude of appreciation/opportunity rather than frustration in circumstances which would normally cause stress, after all why should it be any different in Australia?
My Ubud destination was a yoga studio called Radiantly Alive, this place has been a real pillar of inspiration for me, it was here after a Transformational Breath workshop with Daniel almost two years ago that I knew with absolute certainty that I needed to get out of my work as a consulting engineer, this trigged everything that has taken place since. For the past two years I've used this studio as my retreat space, its where I go when I need to feel inspired, to reconnect to myself and to my yoga practice. It was here that:
Bali is such an incredible place, it keeps drawing me back in. I had no idea that I'd stay here this long, it's been a truly wonderful experience - I'd do it all over again. So much of my personal evolution has taken place on this small island, it now feels just as much like home to me as Australia.
I've met so many amazing people during my travels creating memories that I will cherish forever. I'm so grateful that I met Chris and Alona here in Canggu, they took me in like a family member, I've enjoyed every minute with them and the awesome team at Ngeluwungan Villa.
With just over a week left here in Bali I'm preparing to close the pages on this chapter of my life, one that was filled with travel, rapid transformation, much learning and growth... I had no idea what I looking for when I left Australia but I now see that I have everything I need...
In just under one month I will launch my new business waSUP Yoga & Fitness, my personal manifestation of all the things that I'm passionate about. For the next six months I'll be pouring my heart and soul into waSUP. I'll also be gathering the ingredients for the ultimate version of myself that I discovered during our Bali surf trip.
I return to Australia re-energised, focused and feeling more balanced and internally connected than ever before, it's from this space of internal contentment that I can now put myself back out into the world in service to others. I can't wait to see what the next six months brings, it's going to be one hell of a ride - rock on!
From the very early stages of my engineering career I knew I wanted to be a leader, for so many years I noted my long term goal as 'take on a role leading the water/wastewater team'.
I diligently worked towards this goal and was supported every step of the way. My superiors identified me as a future leader of the business so as a result I was given lots of opportunity for growth through great project assignments and training in management and leadership.
In early 2013 an opportunity to undertake a temporary leadership role arose. I was thrilled to be considered for the position that would see me relocated back to the city for 3 months. I did however have some concerns around the travel and my ability to do a good job while feeling so worn down. I was exhausted, I'd worked myself into the ground delivering a construction project and was planning on stepping back for a while to recharge the batteries.....but how could I pass up such and opportunity? It was a done deal, I'd be crazy to pass it up, I'd have my first taste of my dream role several years earlier than I'd planned, this would set me up for my future.
Only when I got a taste of the role, and it was literally just a taste because I fell into an even more intense leadership type experience within the business I quickly came to realise that I actually didn't want that leadership role within a corporate business.
Where did that leave me?? Lost and confused.
I had no idea where I wanted to go career wise so I started doing some soul searching. It really commenced in April 2013 when I spent some time in Bali immersing myself in yoga trying to figure it all out. The answers didn't arrive overnight I spent around 12 months actively seeking more clarity around what I really enjoy doing, what my core values are and what type of work would result in me living a life with purpose where I'm excited to get out of bed each day. My exploration included travel, yoga, vipassana meditation, life coaching, transformational breathing, journalling, surfing (reconnecting with my love of the ocean) various workshops and even some courses to explore my passions further.
On the 5th of July 2013 a seed was planted, I wrote an email to my parents that I never sent (I've been keeping it as a draft and I'm not sure why). It starts out:
"So I'm supposed to be getting back into my engineering work but all I can think about is yoga and a fitness studio in Gippsland!!"
I even went as far as giving the new studio a name, it was to be 'Yin Yang Fitness Studio' incorporating the intensity of fitness and the mindfulness of yoga.
I continued working in my engineering job as these new seeds were being planted, slowly I began taking action to explore the possibility of a career in health and fitness.
I'd let go of my engineering team leader dream that I was once very passionate about and started to replace it with my dream to teach yoga. The yoga teacher training was then booked in and I decided to take some time out to travel.
During the Vipassana Meditation in late December 2013 the concept for waSUP Yoga & Fitness was born. Perhaps with all my senses withdrawn I was merging all of the things that I love together into one entity (yoga, fitness and the water). It only became a reality in March 2014 when our small engineering office in Bairnsdale closed and I was offered a redundancy or relocation - another seed that I'd planted before I'd left Australia.
I never really thought of my aspirations with waSUP Yoga & Fitness as having anything to do with leadership, I was ready to let go of the whole idea even though it seemed to be the direction I've been moving towards for many years.
Which brings me to the present day......
Just last week I went to a workshop at Radiantly Alive in Ubud titled 'Discover your Dharma'. Dharma is a term used to describe your purpose in life, why we are here. I was initially hesitant to go, what if they told me someting I didn't want to hear? I'm too far down the path with waSUP Yoga & Fitness to turn back now.... I don't need any seeds of doubt.... I couldn't wait for the workshop I needed to understand this dharma thing straight away, so I did some internet research. I knew that our dharma was to be established from something called 'Mayan Dreamspell'. I found a website entered in my date of birth and the result was somewhat astonishing. From the 260 possibilities (which are distinctly different) I was categorised as a 'Yellow Crystal Human'. The description was a follows:
I dedicate in order to influence
I seal the process of free will
with the crystal tone of cooperation.
I am guided by the power of flowering.
Phew, a sigh of relief - not only was this an answer that I was happy with I could see lots of truth in it. Free will and co-operation are two things that I highly value and influence is inherent in leadership, a direction that I'd been travelling in for a while. I'd satisfied myself that it was safe to go to the workshop. I was now super excited to be attending, I wanted to know more.
It's now crystal clear to me (no pun intended). I didn't stray as far from my path as I though I had, all of my experiences in the corporate world were intended to bring me closer to a more meaningful leadership role within the community.
As Simon Sinek so greatly presents in he's TED talk 'How great leaders inspire action' we cannot inspire unless we believe. It was time for me to step out of the corporate world, I'd lost faith in how things were being done and how that world operates, I had reached the point where I could no longer be effective in what I was doing, I simply didn't beleive in it.
While waSUP Yoga & Fitness is an entirely different domain that I never really put in the basket of leadership I now see that it's exactly what I was put here to do, it's very much in line with my dharma. I truly beleive in yoga and all the beautiful gifts that it has to offer, I also beleive that spending time in the outdoors has a significant positive influence on how we feel.
My yoga practice has on many occasions shown me the way back to my true myself and has brought things to my attention that I otherwise would never have seen - it's quite honestly transformed my life in a very positive way. So many of my fondest memories are linked to the water and the outdoor environment, I can't help but feel great when I'm outside (except when it's icey cold and I've just fallen in the water - then the appreciation comes later when I can see the humour in the situation). I beleive that sharing this with others is one of the greatest gifts that I can offer.
I'm no longer attached to the idea of sitting up nice and high on the corporate ladder, it's just not me. I'd just as happily take on the title of beach bum / yoga teacher / paddler and traveller.
At the end of the day 'leadeship' is only a word and while it's part of my dharma, I'm not getting caught up with that either, I'm just going to get out there and do my thing. Some people will get it, relate to what I'm putting out there and in turn may be inspired, others won't and that's perfectly okay. At least now I move forward with purpose doing something that I truly love...and how do I know for sure that I love it?? Well sometimes while out on the water I accidently take photo's of myself and on more than one occasion I've caught a shot like this. I don't recall a time when I felt this type of joy sitting in front of my computer desk.
That's not to say that this will be the case forever, just like my time in the corporate engineering world if I ever get to a point where I no longer beleive in what I'm doing I will simply walk away and find something else that I can be passionate about. After all....
I still vividly recall where my yoga journey began, it was at a gym called Bodystyle around 7 years ago in the town where I grew up (Melton). It was a Les Mills Body Balance class that infused yoga, pilates and tai chi. The soundtrack for this experience was "Make things right" by Lemon Jelly, when I hear that song I'm instantly taken back to those very first classes.
The power of yoga was apparent to me even in those very early beginnings. The union of movement and breath along with the deep relaxation at the end of class began to teach me how to switch off my over active mind and connect to my inner self. I'm sure in those early days this is what kept me going to classes, I needed that outlet and release.
Over the last 7 years my relationship with yoga has regulary morphed and changed, there were times when I used it as a tool to get out of my head and into my emotional body and there were times when it served purely as a great stretching session, strength workout or even a sweat fest to assist with other athletic pursuits. One thing that I only came to realise in the last year is that yoga is where I regulary turn when life starts to get overwhelming.
To many the practice of yoga is viewed only as the physical practice of the postures (asana), this certainly was my view up until a year or so ago. Pantanjali (the godfather of yoga) outlines 8 different components that comprise yoga, these include:
I began to really discover the other aspects of the 8 fold yoga path on a trip to Bali in April (2013). I'd had a taste of it during my earlier trip to Bali in October (2012) and I was seeking more. From that first trip I'd began to practice more regulary and it started to become a stand alone pratice rather than just a tool to assist with something else. Although like most things, when life got crazy busy maintaining this regular practice was challenged, slowly the consistency dropped away. When I again found myself exhaused from working far too hard it was no suprise that another trip to Bali and a month of yoga is where I turned to help make sense of it all.
I found a great little studio called Radiantly Alive in Ubud where the teachers infused their classes with the other aspects of yoga, particulary philosophy and pranayama (breath control), the teachers were all very unique in their style and often extremely inspirational, this drew me in ever further. I would spend anywhere between 1.5 and 4.5hrs taking classes at the studio each day. I also took some classes on meditation and began to incorporate these practices into my yoga repertoire.
During that trip I also picked up a book called "The Heart of Yoga" by TKV Desikachar, this was my first formal introduction to the 8 step yoga path, I fell in love with the book and found myself again seeking more, the next step was the Yoga Sutras. Here I found this great philosophical approach to conducting life in a manner that is mindful and of service both to ourselves and our surrounding environment. I'd reached a time in my life where I was seeking change and here a new approach began to unfold in front of my eyes.
The clarity around what this change would entail came the morning after a workshop on Transformational Breathing (a practice of rapid belly breath through the mouth which goes deep into the nervous system). I've done this workshop twice now and each time the days that follow have been filled with clarity and what seems like direct access to my deeply seated intuition which often seems to be hiding from my consciousness. Within 24 hours of that first workshop I'd written myself a step by step logical process to instigate the change I wanted to see in my life.
Now eight months later I've fully executed all I'd planned to do. This included completion of a Group Fitness Certification in Australia and Yoga Teacher Training in Bali, these would give me the tools to start working with my passions again.
The yoga teacher training has only further enhanced my passion for yoga, I now find myself on a plane to India - the place where it all began. For the next few months I will dive even deeper into my own personal practice and will seek to learn as much as I can so that I can develop my own unique style/offering and share my learnings with future students.
The path of yoga is not a destination, its a journey and it's one that I'm so excited to be taking.
Just a few days ago I was doing a home yoga practice with my online companion 'YogaGlo'. The class, taken by Kathryn Budig was pretty challenging (as I've come to expect). Through my struggle to breathe, hold strong and maintain alignment in an intense pose one comment brought me to a complete standstill, Kathryn casually states:
“let the voice of your body be louder than the voice of your ego"
Instantly I hit pause, grabbed a pen and noted it down - soon after this was translated to my blackboard of inspiration. This would be my new mantra..
While this may seem like a perfectly logical statement to many, I'll be the first to admit that my ego has been schooling me for years. I'd perfected the art of ignoring the 'voice of the body' and getting on with the job.....
In the past I'd say that competitive sport fuelled my determination and my ego to no end.
If I look back 10+ years ago to my days playing netball with chronic shin splints, I would much rather have somebody wrap up my legs from knee to ankle with strapping tape and spend truck loads of money on really painful massage than simply take some time out...the worst thing is that this was social netball - fun....while standing one foot where possible because it took the pressure of the calf on the other side (yes in hindsight I must've been having a blast)!
Again several years later when I started triathlon I pretty easily managed to advance those shin splints into a stress fracture. When given the diagnosis I stupidly quizzed the doctor as to whether the rest period was really necessary, after all I'd coped fine with a 20km run only one day prior and my complaint was general muscle tightness that I couldn't fix, not shin pain!
You'd think by this time I would've learnt but again two years further down the track I'd developed a healthy case of plantar fascia though ignorance and at this time I was training on my own, just me and the ego urging me along...you must be stronger, faster, better, keep running, increase the km..
It seems that over a several years I'd pretty effectively found a way to block the signals between my legs and my brain...
For some time this approach didn't seem all that bad, I actually viewed my ability to persist as a key strength. It was when this approach started to creep into my work (in a big way) that things started to come to a head.
It was a build up of a really challenging 9 months on a difficult project, followed by 3 months of living out of a hotel (in what I thought was my dream job), finishing up with 3 weeks of working 75+ hrs feeling like I had the weight on the world on my shoulders that started to un-ravel me..
The 100km MTB ride that I tacked onto the back of this (just to balance out all that work) was where everything quite literally came undone....I was mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted, in tears within the first 35-40km probably for the first time ever saying I just can't do this and truly believing it. Every part of me was saying please no more its time to stop but somehow I continued to push through and finish the ride.
Normally a tough day out like that leaves me feeling energised, motivated and inspired, almost instantly I'm planning the next attempt, although this time there was none of that....I walked away from that ride thinking to myself I never want to feel like this ever again..and that feeling hasn't faded with time (as can sometimes happen after a really tough race).
Sometimes we really need to come crashing down to take the time to reflect on the how and the why.
I'd managed to turn my strength into a weakness by becoming so completely absorbed and focused that the voice of my body was barely a blip on the radar..
I still believe that the ability to push on is an essential characteristic for somebody who undertakes endurance type racing, it will hurt - that's a fact, but being able to continue to push through this...that's what sets you apart, it is however a very fine line to walk. On reflection I think it all comes down to knowing your body and understanding when to listen and when to continue.
I'm still very much learning to listen and then take notice of what my body is saying. I've come up with a number of triggers that force me to step back and think about what I'm doing, they are little things like 'eating meals while standing' and 'feeling like I don't have enough time to exercise'.
Already with only a few months of this enhanced awareness my overall wellness has increased 10 fold. Maybe with a few months or even years more I will be able to run regularly without any shin/plantar fascia issues.
As I continue on my path to somewhere with my broadened perspective I will continue to ask myself:
Is it my ego urging me along or am I pushing my edge with full awareness of my body?
If it's the ego then I'd like to think I've developed enough personal case studies to second guess that little monkey on the back. It will take time - I'm super competitive and driven by nature, but at least now I know that I should be stopping to ask the question...
During my years at primary school I recall having a fascination with the solar system, I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up..
As I went on to high school my interest shifted to marine biology and my incredibly supportive family helped me to get some practical experience in this area before I'd finished Year 10. With this experience though I'd decided that I didn't like the idea of being in a lab/office all the time, I wanted to be outdoors more, maybe marine biology wasn't for me.
When it came to my final year at high school and it was time to decide what I was going to do at university I don't think I had a clue....I knew that I liked being outdoors and that I loved the beach and the environment. The degree called 'Environmental and Coastal Management' therefore made sense so that's what I put down as my number one preference, next thing you know I'm at Deakin doing the course.
The course was coming to an end and I was doing pretty well in the engineering subjects so I decided to upgrade and go the double, I figured it would enhance my chances of getting a job as engineers were considered to be more employable (and coincidentally were paid better!).
The outdoors and environment were still things that I highly valued so I took on the 'environmental' stream of engineering.
I start doing work experience in the engineering field and then applied for a job as an engineering consultant, at this time I didn't even know what a consultant did and had to sheepishly admit this during my interview when asked - but somehow I still got the job!
Eight years passed as an environmental engineer and I then attended my chartered status interview applying to be certified as an 'environmental' engineer. At the end of the interview they broke the news, they don't think that I'm an 'environmental' engineer, I'm actually a 'civil' engineer so that's the status that I'm granted.
I think we all have a those points in our life where we stop and ask ourselves what on earth we are doing, this was one of those for me....how did I come to be so far from where I thought I was going?
Without realising for several years I progressively moved further and further away from those things I'm passionate about and somehow became a largely desk bound civil engineer. Don't get me wrong I don't completely dislike the job I'm currently doing but if I had the ability to hit reset and go back again, would I put myself here...at this stage I'd suggest most likely not..
Which brings me to this fantastic quote from the movie Braveheart:
"Your heart is free, have the courage to follow it"
If I had to ask myself if I've been following my heart the simple answer would be no. I've been climbing the corporate ladder without even stopping to take a breath, I suppose you could say I've followed the stream of life down the path of least (or logical) resistance.
So what next....I muster up all that courage in my reserve and do the unthinkable...hit the big red button:
Leave application approved - big wide world here I come!
Time to get energised again by those things I'm passionate about.