take your seat

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In out-of-the-way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

John O’Donohue

Do not take lightly your tentative toe steps or the whispery calls of a long hushed voice. Do not take lightly a sudden awareness of being or the experience of your whole breath. Do not take lightly the awkward sensation of not knowing and the fear of getting it wrong. And do not, for one minute, think that you are not supposed to feel this way, as you begin to gradually unfold.

Those first steps onto the yoga mat might seem inconsequential. They might seem small. They might just seem like a bit of physical juju as you foofoo around from one ‘pose’ to another. But when you step onto a yoga mat, you take your seat. The word ‘asana’ means ‘seat’ and though you might not feel like you’re doing a whole lot of sitting that is exactly what you are doing. Taking a seat inside yourself. Seat by seat, pose by pose, you come into view. You make contact with the ground of your being, landing softly and remembering that it was always already there but you somehow forgot. That this fluorescent, vital, life-force managed to somehow become dim. That the very essence of you became wispy, imperceptible … hard to reach.

Every organism on this planet is here to grow and each time we take our seat, we reaffirm our commitment to that process. Yoga is one way to take that vow and, more often than not, it takes us by surprise. It begins with the sweet remembrance of embodiment. Of what it feels like to become alive from the neck down, and not because our head is telling us that our body should exercise but because we have actually started to feel again. Droplets of awareness sink into our cells, and, before long, we can hear our bodies speak. Breathe into their message. Receive their wisdom.

I deeply wish to grow. I deeply wish to grow. I deeply wish to grow.

Our breath seems fuller, sensation more acute, our capacity to feel becomes more present and our understanding of embodiment transforms, as we wake up to ourselves. Those first steps onto the yoga mat can lead to the deepest seat you might ever take inside your own being. They can take you to unexpected realms of perception as your intuition sharpens, your awareness expands and your reality takes on a whole new level of detail. As your relationship to the world around you shifts, your relationship to yourself can truly evolve. And that is the stuff of miracles.

There is a voice that doesn’t use words.

Listen.

Rumi

 

look within

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“In our day-to-day lives, we continually fail to recognize the invisible light that renders the whole visible world luminous.”

John O’Donohue

There is a perennial branch that takes root in the centre of your chest. You can’t see it, you can’t touch it, but you can know it. As the world gets louder and the violence rumbles nearer, a revolution is waiting to happen inside of you. Its revolt is patient, its power potent and its voice hushed beneath the anarchy and unrest that already exists inside your own head. Like any uprising, its beginnings are subterranean. Hidden. Only seen and heard if you choose to listen and look. You won’t find it ‘out there’. It is not a quest for stuff and things or for status and admiration. Its nature is less gross, less obvious, less clear. Its subtlety takes you into invisible realms, beyond articulation, explanation and name, but once you dig deep enough, there is no going back. Once you locate the source of this uprising, its deeper wisdom will surge through you and you will know. Unequivocally.

When times are troubling and people are being shot on your doorstep, it can be easy to despair. But as the wise and wonderful Christopher Wallis recently noted, the world is more full than it has ever been. There is more hate, more division, more unrest, more war, more suffering but there is also more love, more unification, more rest, more peace and more healing than there has ever been. There is more of everything, everywhere, all of the time.

Last night, I was deeply moved by the dignity and courage of Kim Leadbetter as she remembered her sister, Jo Cox. Kim spoke of how she had always had a healthy dose of Yorkshire cynicism and instead of speaking about her feelings, she would shout at the telly and get upset behind closed doors. Her sister believed in speaking out. She believed in seeing the good in people. Even when she was receiving abuse from the public, she would remind Kim that we must continue to focus on what unites us, not divides us. We must choose what we amplify. We can focus on the greater good of humanity or the dark inclinations that exist within each and every one of us. We each have both and we can’t have one without the other. In the words of Maya Angelou, there are rainbows in the clouds and sometimes our hearts have to be broken for us to realize how deeply we can feel. And feel, we must. We can talk about darkness, prejudice and suffering. We can point the finger and see these things as external but unless we feel all of it inside of ourselves, we can never truly grow.

If we learn to walk with our own shadows, take responsibility for the part we play in every encounter and relationship, we can begin to rise. We can become more aware of the impact we have on those closest to us. On those we come across in our daily lives. And in the difference we can each make if we each do our own work. If we listen more carefully to what we say, why we say it and where it’s coming from. If we listen to our intuition and that part of us that knows more than we ever give it credit for. Don’t listen to what’s going on out there. Of what he says and she says and Rupert Murdoch wants you to say. Get quiet, listen within and be honest with yourself. The pain is inside. It’s all inside. And when we realize that, we can begin to bring peace to the raging riot we wage upon ourselves. We can move into ourselves, into our fear and return to what was once love. The quest for the answer, for knowledge, for peace, is hidden deep inside of you. The visible world is only half of what we can know. It is in the invisible realms where transformation can take place.

 “In our confusion, fear and uncertainty we call upon the invisible structures to come to our assistance and open pathways of possibility by refreshing and activating in us our invisible potential.”

John O’Donohue

A blessing for your unfolding

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May you happen upon yourself

And be stunned at your own brilliance.

May you stand still in silent recognition of your light.

May you realize your true worth and trust in your unfolding,

May you rise up from the depths of your vast, unchartered heart.

May your heart be torn in two to break through the final holding,

While tears of joy pool in rivers along the banks of your soft neck.

May vulnerability guide you deeper into knowledge of your courage

And may courage be your chalice and your chosen cup of truth.

May your truth pour freely from you as you share your healing stories,

May your stories be received with all the love that they bestow.

May you see yourself more clearly and may you see that you are seen now

May the in-between spaces be the places you call home.

The practice of re-membering

 

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Did you forget? Did you lose sight of yourself and become blinded in all directions, deafened by the noise and dampened by the clutter? Did you forget what it feels like to come home? To gently usher in the ocean of bliss that rises from communion with your soul? Did you forget about your healing? Your traumas? Your sore places and feeling parts? Did you forget how you love to laugh and swim inside the roaring waves of experience?

One of my dear students forgot about yoga recently. He didn’t show up to class for a few weeks and when he walked back through the studio doors, it took about five minutes before he said, ‘I forgot’. I forgot how good it feels to be here, to be on the mat, to be part of a community, to move, to remember where I get stuck, where I need to work, how far I’ve come, where I need to go next. We forget the joy of being, breathing and moving. The purification of feeling. The dynamic stillness when we sit in meditation and step into silent conversation. We all forget and that’s the way it’s set up. We forget so we can remember. So we can dance inside the pulsating structures of perfect paradox. We contract we so can expand, we sleep so we can awaken, we burn so we can rise. We live and die inside each breath and in every moment lies the invitation to remember the evergreen field within each of us. That place that is endlessly patient and infinitely present. That place of pure awareness-consciousness, also known as Chit-Ananda. The Shiva space. The ground of being.

I love that sweet homecoming but I also work to remember the parts of me that aren’t so delicious. Those parts that someone once told me were far from beautiful. Parts of me I have exiled and openly spat out in front of myself. Parts of me I have kept quiet and dimmed down for fear of upsetting someone or shining too brightly. Parts of me I haven’t understood or trusted or been able to nurture, parent and breathe back to life. The becoming of this yogini is a wild song of connection and disconnection. I’ve been carefully dismembering myself over the last couple of years, burning through veils of clothing and layers of connective tissue to get to the marrow and vasculature of my bones. Hands dripping with blood and my knees torn from falls of surrender that carry the promise of transformation. Deliberately and consciously flinging myself onto the fire, with as much dignity and integrity as I can gather, before approaching the dark corners to collect the body parts and begin the re-membering.

Re-membering myself has become an innocent and unwitting experience of reclamation and recognition as I come into view.  With compassionate acceptance, I’m beginning to see where I’ve cheated myself, cut myself off, dimmed myself down. I see that I’ve cared so much about everyone else and what they think that I’ve not cared enough about myself and what I think. Freedom has come to be that place of recognition where I see consciousness reflecting back at me. But freedom has also decided to be a very real experience of becoming less bound by my own judgement and expectation, so I can be everything and nothing. Of feeling more free in who I am and how I choose to express myself. Freedom in the choices that I take and being comfortable with each of them. Not trying to live up to someone else’s ideas or ideals of who I am or who I should be. Of holding myself whole and listening to the talking circle inside myself, embracing my inner child, owning my patterns, giving less of a shit about what defines good Col or bad Col, old Col or new Col, teacher Col or student Col, creative Col or consultant Col. Just being free to be all of me, without exclusion, shame, fear or diminishment.

I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a fully integrated human but I know i’m emerging as a much less fragmented one and, as I lovingly stitch my canvas back together, other parts of me take form and I remember.

“Erase what you know, what you are so sure of. And then start thinking again. Not with your mind this time, but with your heart.” Elif Shafak

Resource Yourself

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It must be around five years ago when I tried to have a bath. I had the set-up nailed down. Fragrant candles lit, soothing products laid out, book to one side, little hand towel to wipe my hands so as not to wet the pages of my carefully selected reading material. I’d been in the bath for a few minutes when my dear friend and roomie, Roxy, came to witness this landmark achievement. She was greeted by me, sat bolt upright in the bath, surrounded by bathing paraphernalia and doing my very best to relax. Doing my very best to get it right. Just like everything else in my life. Desperately wanting to get it right. We laughed at this sorry state of affairs, as she held up her Roxstar-shaped mirror and taught me something new about myself.

Back in those days my resources were coffee, cigarettes, pretty good vegetarian food, great friends, eternal parties, sweet Mary Jane and a lot of wine. And beer. Lots of beer. Oh and tequila. We had a good time too. And Prince. Maybe there was some other stuff, but you get the picture. I used to work 7 days in 5, getting up at dawn to fit in a half day before 9am, driving to London and Edinburgh to generate as much business as possible, desperately trying to pay the taxman and hit outlandish targets I’d invented for myself. Trying to be all things to all men, women and children in a bid to prove my worth. To prove that I could earn lots of money, run a house, be ‘responsible’, be a grown up. All of which is utterly ridiculous for a girl who believes in unicorns and fairies.

To fuel my high-flying lifestyle, I used these tools to switch off, fire up, go the distance, numb out, cope, survive. And, don’t get me wrong, these were solid resources for me. They served me in pursuing my design. They got me jacked up on hyperlife and I could get all kinds of shit done. But then my vision started to change and I recognized that those everyday acts of disembodiment were putting my systems through all kinds of hell. All so I could earn more, do more, feel less, go harder, faster, longer. Man, I used to think I was invincible. I never got hangovers. I was strong and lean and still able to run half marathons with patella tendonitis and a packet of Marlboro lights in my back pocket. I probably still could but i’ve since found some alternative forms of magic and medicine that mean I can not only resource myself in ways that are actually in service of my wellbeing, but I can heal at the same time. And the best part is that they go against the grain of Western consumerism, are utterly radical in their rejection of our societal norms, don’t cost me loads of money, allow me to work less, make me feel freaking awesome and lead me to my own conclusion that I’m a bad ass ninja with secret super yogi powers.

Before I go into a list of said super powers, it’s good to know that’s it’s taken a number of years to make them part of my daily life. It started with yoga asana and nutrition. That led me to breath and meditation. Which led to mantra. Which led to space. And in that space, I started to understand the value of boundaries. I learnt to say no. I discovered that taking a bath and having a nap was really an ok thing to do – that I couldn’t be doing something ‘better’ with that time. I was empowering myself, caring for myself and acknowledging my own worth. I was listening to my body and supercharging my cells so I could do more and be more, but in a conscious and connected way. In a way that was on my own terms. In a way that didn’t lead to burnout and came from a place of deep intention and self-realisation.

I also didn’t switch from one set of tools to another on my own. I’m a big believer in building a team of experts around you, so I have my yoga teachers and scholars. I have meditation teachers, healers, massage therapists, psychotherapists, nutritionists. Sure, I have friends and family but these aren’t my ‘resources’ and I think it’s important to make that distinction. Sometimes we can place too much expectation on what our loved ones should do for us and it’s not always their job to help us solve our problems. Allowing someone to hold space for you, like a healer or a therapist, can lead to all kinds of remarkable transformations in your relationship to self and others.

One of the many things I do get from my friends and family is cuddles. This is a top resource for me. I need to hold and be held. Some of my other resources are lying in bed all day on a Saturday, organic dark chocolate, cooking really amazing food. In fact, here’s a list of my top resources, what they cost and why I use them. Yours will be different, maybe you want to bring more of these guys into play, maybe you’re really feeling like you need some extra support right now. Try these out and see what works for you. Any questions you can get in touch any time. Either through facebook or instagram or here.

 

Meditation

It’s free. Like, totally doesn’t cost you anything and you can do 5 minutes or 5 hours. It can be shrouded in ancient mystery but it’s really very simple. Sit with yourself in silence each day and see what rises up. Don’t try and control your thoughts. Just watch your breath and be present to the sounds, sensations, thoughts, memories, feelings. The more you sit, the clearer you will become. And maybe journal your experience afterwards, if you have time. Guided meditation is a great way to start and we have a couple here for you to try.

Mantra

This can be a challenge. Chanting might make you feel like you’ve gone full-hippy but drop the judgements, expectations and societal norms and go with the experience. Trust me, you will not look back. The healing sound of your own voice vibrating through your body can have all kinds of magical effects. Depending on the mantra, or vibration, you might feel calm, dreamy, regal, high. It’s all for the taking and definitely up there on the secret super powers list. Try it. What have you got to lose?

Movement

Dancing, yoga, mindful movement. A form of physical expression that allows you to connect with your body and get out of your head. Your body wants to move and asana helps us to get deeper and deeper into the experience of being embodied. If you want to develop a home practice then I offer up some ideas here or you can practice with me online

Sleep

Afternoon napping is something I actually do now. If I’m tired. I rest. And my schedule is pretty busy and often means I’ve worked over the weekend or I’ve been up at 5am so I make the time to catch up. I don’t just drink more coffee and push through, which was how I would usually operate. I stop. That’s free too.

Conscious cooking and eating

I love an abundance of vegetables and grains and seeds and all the fruits of this fair planet but I can be completely absent when I eat. It’s such a shame to forget about where the food has come from, what each mouthful feels and tastes like. To notice the colours, smells, tastes and sensations and how my body responds. I suffer from bad digestion, and have done for years, so need to really chew and start the breaking down process in my mouth. When I’m in the UK, I spend around £140 on store cupboard items at the start of the year (grains, flour, legumes, oils, lotions, potions and powders) and I around £20 per week on my fruit and veg and top the store cupboard up by about £30 per month. Pete is much better at the shopping and cooking than me though and we find that dal and rice is the cheapest, tastiest and most soothing nourishment you can find and Pete is always posting new recipes here. He’s really good at eating well for not much money.

Touch

It’s free. And it’s essential. Cuddles from friends and family, cuddles at conscious events, cuddles from people you trust and feel safe with. Real cuddles to get the cuddle hormones all alive and activated. Massage. Conscious sex. It’s all good.

Healing therapies

This is a non-negotiable for me. I see someone every week for some kind of healing therapy and this is where I’m willing to spend money. It’s anything from £30 for a sports massage to £50 for psychotherapy to £80 for a good two hour Thai massage. If you’re not buying lots of booze, smoking fags or ordering takeaways then you’ll find you have plenty of money for this kind of work.

Chocolate

I can sometimes have too much of this but I stick to dark, organic and, if I can get it, raw. The better it is, the less of it I want but that sugar still calls to me so this is a resource I have to be mindful of.

Healthy boundaries

Boundaries. What are they then? I didn’t know till a few years ago. Seriously. I was always open to all things from all people and would often find myself in situations where I was overstretched or asking too much of myself. Learning how to create healthy boundaries and communicate them from a position of clarity, strength and truth has been an invaluable resource. And it can be cheaper than going to all the parties and doing all the things all of the time. If you want to learn more about boundaries then I really recommend Boundaries and Protection by Pixie Lighthorse. It’s an incredible book and a short guide that you can keep close to you and read again and again to support you in making better choices that serve you.