It can be done


“In the depth of winter, I finally learnt that within me lay an invincible summer”.

Albert Camus

It’s October and the shadows have been stretching right the way over my head like a pair of opaque 60 denier tights with no holes for eyes. It’s the mask of a joy thief and this obtuse hosiery has addled my brain leaving me stranded in a place where I am fully myself. That is, I am fully inside my shadow and I’m not denying any of it. This curious period of intimate self-knowledge lasted for around four weeks and was a source of great wonder/amusement/terror for both Pete and myself.

As I emerged from the shadows and lifted the tights for a gasp of air, I found that inside the fibres lay a lurking fear. A loathsome creature with mean teeth, eating away at my hopes and dreams. Opposing my will and almost stopping me from doing almost anything even vaguely dynamic.

We wanted to host a retreat in Bali. I wanted to teach in Ubud. I want to teach. Full stop. It’s time and I miss it and I yearn to be back in community after my long reach inside. And the days and months of self-practice and self-inquiry have served their purpose. It’s time to manifest and create and bring things to life but doubt and hesitation were cultivating a foisty environment that was leaving me to fester.

Maybe we should just go home. Maybe we shouldn’t extend our trip. What are we doing with our lives? What if we fail? What if I’m not good enough? What if I’m supposed to have a semi-detached house and a car and some children and I’m forty soon and how did that happen and and and …

And then I meditated


I meditate everywhere. In the concrete garden of a Malaysian guesthouse, on the boat surrounded by Indonesian fishermen, overlooking the main road, on the plane, in the bed while Pete is sleeping, on the floor while Pete is typing, in the garden while the kids are playing, on the rocks, on the sand, in the toilet cubicle, in a quiet corner of someone’s roof garden, in the prayer rooms at the airports. I don’t give a shit. When I wait for a yoga class to start, I’m dropping right on in there. I’m tuning in, finding the still frequency beneath all the noise and nothing is going to pull me out. I don’t care if I look like a weirdo – and that, in itself, is huge progress. It’s my secret laboratory where I activate my magic powers and I get present. It’s how I listen and get clear. It’s how I move past the blah blah blah to get real on what is actually happening, why it’s happening and how to move in, through and out of it.

So, as I sat in the shade, safe from the scorch of the Perth sun, peaceful in the garden of my dear old friend. I drank it all in. The unfamiliar sounds of the Australian wildlife. The new language of the Southern birds. The blessing of the cool winds, whipped up from the nearby ocean. The concrete beneath me and the sweetest sounds of the kids squealing with joy in the house behind me. All these anchors calling me in to the sacredness of the moment and each singular element inside of it.

I’m still now and the stillness is running in and through and all around me. I’ve slipped under the sounds and I rest here a while. After maybe twenty minutes I start to ask for guidance. What is the truth? What direction should I take? What do I need to know to move forward? And after a few minutes of stillness these simple words come through, ‘It can be done’.

Now they might seem like pretty obvious words to you. Yes, it can be. Anything can be. But when you’re in a state of doubt and fear and hesitation, those words are far away. And those words didn’t come from my rational brain. It wasn’t an analytical, reasoning, interrogative process that led me to this clear and simple conclusion. It was the deepest part of me telling the voices in my head what the reality was. It can be done. It can all be done. Trust and keep moving in the direction of truth. Move past the critical voices, the doubts and the fears and reach into the highest level of consciousness that you can possibly drop down into. And there you’ll find the guidance you need.

I smiled when the answer came because I knew where it had come from. And when I came out of meditation, I went to see Pete and was all ‘let’s do this’. I was all, yeah man, we rock. I was all clear and confident and grounded in what was true.

So that’s why I meditate. Besides the ripple of bliss that runs through my body when I tune into the stillness. And besides the sanctuary it offers me, wherever I am and whatever is happening. Besides the luxury it affords me as I learn to witness my reactions and see my shadows more clearly. And besides the physical benefits of calming my nervous system and listening to my body-mind. Besides all that, and a whole lot more, it helps me to discern my reality. To move beyond the stories and the limiting beliefs to reach a place of clarity and truth. Where the deepest voice inside of me becomes more familiar and I can learn to recognize my intuition and let it lead the way.

It shows me that it can be done. Whatever it is. And, beyond it all, there is an invincible, endless summer inside that can shed light, warm me up and give me a bit of extra colour when I need it most.

What is self care?


I’m quick to the keyboard this morning as I drink in the words of Bridget. I’ve been gratefully turning to her Wild Well Project as we’ve moved through india and ourselves. Each new moon and full moon, she freshly presses some head and heart juice and shares it with the community. She invites us to task, contemplate, read and journal. She shares inspirational material, yoga practices, meditations and interviews with some of her wildly well and wise women. And this new moon, the subject is ‘Make your own Medicine’.

“’Self-care’ is a bit of a buzz word at the moment and I have been wondering what does self-care really mean? I often think of self-care more as radical self-love. Self-care is a deep medicine for our mind, body and psyche. And I believe it is different for different people.” Bridget Luff

So what does self-care mean? Sounds obvious doesn’t it. Self. Care. But how do you really nourish yourself? Where do you draw your boundaries so that you get the rest you need? And what do you need to do every day, week, month and year to feel well? These questions have been swimming around me since we decided to take ourselves on a month-long retreat to the cool and calm of the Himalayas and this is what I’ve learnt.

I’ve learnt that my Dad was right and early nights really are radical. I’ve learnt that all the studies are right and eight hours sleep is indeed optimum.  I’ve learnt that my body loves warm food and that my digestion needs grounding bean stews, hearty grains, warming spices and lentil soups – all made to be mouthwateringly tasty by two meter Peter.

And that’s another thing I’ve learnt. Part of my self-care practice is letting someone care for me. I’m an independent human, so not feeling like I have to do everything all the time to be a good person is actually, ironically, conversely, an act of self-care. I’ve also learnt, over the years, that feeling like I have to do all the things is part of my shadow. It’s been driven by a sense of low self-worth where I didn’t feel like I deserved other people’s time and care. I now know better but I’m still afraid to ask for help. All of which leads me to prefer Bridget’s rearticulation of the phrase ‘self-care’ to ‘radical self-love’. How can we come to love ourselves? How can we activate our sense of self worth? Where can we be more generous to our bodies? Who can we invite into our lives for real support? How can we yield more and do less? And what would it feel like to do less?

Through seclusion and inquiry, I’ve learnt to embrace my shy, quiet self. I’ve recognized that I need peace and solitude, as much as relationship and excitement. That’s it’s ok to do less and that I don’t need to achieve all the time.

So. Right now. Without rubbing it in too much. My day pretty much looks like this:

5.30/6am – waking up naturally followed by hot lemon water and Pete

7-7.30am – Pranayama

7.30-9am – Asana

9-9.30am – Meditation

10am – big bowl of porridge

10.30 – back to bed to rest and read

1pm – A bowl of something spicy and hearty followed by one or two of the following, depending on my mood: writing, reading, cleaning, cooking, social media, emailing, typing up my training notes, doing bits of work, planning classes, a walk through the hills to buy some biscuits

4.30 – tea and biscuits then more of the above

6pm – a different bowl of some warming, hearty nourishment then more of the above

8pm – reading in bed

9pm – Nidra and sleep

Yes, I am a smug little yogi. I’m on retreat and it’s something I choose to do to learn what’s good for me. My self-care means slowing down, getting quiet, giving myself some time and really noticing how my mind and body respond. Going into seclusion for a couple of weeks gives us the opportunity to experiment, to settle, to reduce the stimulation and calm our nervous systems. And this is a non-negotiable, annual self-care practice for me. At least two weeks of the year in total seclusion. Ideally in a mountain cabin. With Pete. And bean stew.

When I get back home, I’ll bring a couple of these new offerings in. Like eating warm foods at regular times or getting to bed early but we’ll see how it goes. Over the years, I’ve gradually integrated daily practices but it takes time and if we start beating ourselves with the self-care stick then where’s the love in that?

Do what you can. Find out what self-love, or self-care, means to you. Bring awareness to your patterns. Notice. Experiment. Set some boundaries. And take it from there.

In a couple of weeks we’ll head off to Bangkok to meet our wonderful buddy, Hazel, and I can’t wait for a cold beer. The last one was on Tuesday 18th April. (I promise I’m not counting. I’m just a mega geek and have a daily budget app, which is, btw, an amazing way to stay on track when you’re traveling).

Thanks to Bridget for all the inspiration. These links are pretty much all from her latest post on the WWP.

what is real?


Waking from a dream. What is real? I crawl under the crook of Pete’s arm. Nestle in, lay my head on his heart. This is real. I focus in on the details of the room. The morning sun hiding behind the stirring curtain. The warm wind. The whirr of the air-con. The horns on the street below. My breath. My skin. The ache in my neck. The morning. The day. The small smile that softens my face as I remember. This is real.

I hate waking from a bad dream. Or not even a bad dream. Just one with an old friend, someone you once wronged, an unwound knot, a knotty wound, a haunting. Tight around your throat, you wake up agitated and upset. What is real?

This has been my mantra for the last couple of weeks. It came through in a meditation. Perhaps I’d been caught up in some story. I can’t remember but it’s stayed with me. When walking down a hectic Indian street, the only foreigner in town, all eyes on you, it’s easy to feel awkward, different, afraid. Am I too white, too tall, are my bare arms offensive, is it ok to smile, is it appropriate, do I disgust you, am I provoking you, do you hate me. It’s all too easy to project my insecurities onto the blank faces and staring eyes.

What is real? My footsteps. My breath. The layers of noise closing in and pulsing out. The heat. My sweat. The eyes. The people. The people looking at me. This is real. But that is all.

“Watch your thoughts. Feel your feelings”. Wise words from my teacher, Leila. Pulling the two apart helps to keep us present to what is actually happening. It keeps us connected to ourselves. Helps us to steer clear of the storyline and stay on the feeling path. What is true right now? What is real? What are the facts? What is happening in your body? What voice are you listening to? The one in your head or the one that runs deeper. Your intuition or your conditioning? The one that’s coming from the root of your heart or the one that came from someone-somewhere-sometime.

In many yogic traditions, this dance with reality is understood through the concept of Maya. Often translated as appearance, illusion or ignorance, Maya is the veil that covers our real nature. The veils that lead us into storyland and away from centre. Away from our felt state. Away from what is actually happening. For me, meditation is the practice of witnessing the veil lift and fall, lift and fall, as I pulse in and out of centre, as I watch my thoughts and get to know my patterns. This new mantra is part of breaking those patterns, noticing where I get scared, being ok with being scared but staying curious as to who is scaring who. I’m pretty sure, most of the time, I am the one scaring me.

What is real?

It’s deeply grounding and soothing to respond to that question and I can do it anywhere, anytime. When I get stuck in my head or feel anxious about what happened or what might happen, I ask, what is real? I anchor into the sounds, smells, sensations and stimulus. I let them carry me into Presence. I feel my feet, connect to my breath, move into the moment, and ask again, what is real?