The guru who ran up a mountain

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled—
to cast aside the weight of facts
and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking
into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing—
that the light is everything—that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and falling. And I do.

Mary Oliver

The dappled light through the trees is the burnt orange of the setting sun. The taxi driver speaks no English, nor does he seem interested in talking, so we travel in companionable silence.

This road from Dehradun to Rishikesh seems familiar now, even though in reality it is only my third time traveling it.

Sighing, I stare wistfully out the window at the balmy twilight. I have such great hopes for the balm of Rishikesh on my soul. Familar vistas stoke memories of my first experience of this place, which seemed to open my heart and soul to the magical mystery of life.

We drive past the houses set so close to the road that you catch glimpses of people’s intimate moments eating dinner, sleeping, in prayer.

Past the downtown markets and shops, the makeshift shanty town under the bridge, winding up past the green leafy driveways to resorts and ashrams. Until finally my first glimpse…

There she is! Ganga Ma!

As a child I would coo in awe on summer drives as I caught my first glimpse of the ocean, “the sea, the sea, oooh look, it’s the sea!” I’d squeal.

Now, I whisper to my heart “Ganga Ma, Ganga Ma, look, it’s Ganga Ma!”

The river who is a goddess. A divine mother. Bestower of shakti. Transmitter of Shiva’s wisdom. Remover of karma.

This river who called me here two years ago and calls me back now. The one who answers my prayers for a teacher, a path, a way back to life.

Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place. Rumi 

What is this power that calls us to a place?

Do we flock to a place because of its innate power or does place take on the power that is attributed to it over millennia of pilgrimage, worship and devotion?

I tend to think both. It’s a symbiotic relationship where we intuitively recognise a power place and then imbue more power onto it through our devotion and the intense focused intention of pilgrimage and prayer.

As much as we wish to be near the gods, they wish to be near us too.

India is a land of pilgrimage places where trails to holy tirthas have been trudged for thousands of years, and are alive and well today. Aarti – the sacred fire ritual – has been offered to the river Ganga every single day for five thousand years. That’s a power of place that is palpable.

Again I come to her, this sacred river, heavy heart in hand, hoping for salvation.


Tonight I feel happy. Not just, something made me crack a bit of a smile happy, but really, deeply happy, right down to my bones

As I lead some new yogi friends through a Chakradance Journey in the rooftop Sattva studio in Rishikesh, a crimson red sun is setting over the Ganges, sinking behind the foothills of the Himalayas, leaving a golden glow in its wake.

There’s a part in the dance, during the third eye chakra, where you visualise your life just as you want it, setting an intention for your life. But all I could do was bask in this glorious moment, happiness burbling from every pore, and just think “This. Just this. To have precious moments of blissful aliveness, just like this.”

The expression of individualised self is cosmic. It has infinite potential. At the base of the wave is ocean. As the wave develops greater access to the depth of the ocean it gains greater and greater power, greater ability, greater presence. Anand Mehrotra 

This moment is the culmination of four weeks at Sattva Yoga Academy in Rishikesh, practising Sattva yoga, eating simple, fresh food, drinking copious amounts of water and chai. Walking miles through the Himalayan foothills every day.

Laughing, so much deep, belly laughing.  Oh, it’s so good for the soul. Singing, chanting. Journeying deep into untouched aspects of self with Master Anandji’s powerful classes and wisdom teachings. Total immersion in the musicality and deep spirituality of the Indian culture has made my soul sing with joy.

It hasn’t been a happy year for me, truth be told it’s been one of the saddest years of my life. Back in March my beautiful first love died of a drug overdose, three weeks later my beloved dad died and then my precious friend and mentor succumbed to cancer.

It was more sadness than I could bear. I mean I did bear it, obviously. I kept going to work, doing the life stuff, but my heart was struck numb with loss.

If the self is like a tarnished or smudged up mirror, yoga is the set of practices that clean and polish the mirror so that you can see things reflected more clearly. Chad Woodford

Coming to India has been like regaining circulation in a limb that had gone numb. Except this wasn’t my foot going to sleep, it was my heart.  And the sensation returning to my being was just as painful and intense as pins and needles.

Landing in this place of sensory overload, the smells, the sounds, the visual kaleidoscope of India, heading to a 200 hour yoga teaching training with 15 hour days and intense practices, jarred my rusty nerves to begin with. But over the weeks, something shifted in me.

India is a place that permeates everything, your eyes, your ears, your nose, your hair, your clothes, and your soul. Those hot and steamy smells, a mix of various types of smoke, incense, spicy cooking, cow dung, rotting garbage, and diesel fumes.

Those strange, exotic and sometimes obnoxious sounds. From pre-dawn the cattle herders moving their herds through the streets, cow-bells toning across the bridge and through my window. Calls to prayers, chanting, music blaring. Music is everywhere, from the singing of women as they work, to the chanting and bells emanating 24/7 from the multitude of temples, to the constant barrage of loud Hindi music.

The place is a vibrational smorgasbord. And that’s apart from the constant car horns, yelling, animal sounds and firecrackers going off. India is perpetual motion.

You can be angry here, blazing, wild, ecstatic and in rapture, but one thing you cannot be is numb, is asleep.

So India has once again demanded full immersion from me. Instead of holding back from life, watching, waiting for some perfect moment or opportunity.

The beauty of India is she triggers you. Anand Mehrotra

The first thing to arise on any spiritual deep-dive into self, in my humble experience, is resistance.

This resistance may seem to be coming from places beyond your control, but be very clear even these seemingly random and external events are usually projections and manifestations of your own shadow fears and feelings of inferiority and lack of self-worth, writ large, Indian style, to trigger you.

How will you react? Will you run? Will you howl like a baby? Will you beg and plead with invisible forces “Oh why, oh why?” (Probably option “D” all of the above.)

For me this arose on my very first night in Rishikesh. Fear and self-doubt had been brewing for a while, but I had hoped that Rishikesh would have the same magically transformative effect it had on me the last time I was there. It didn’t.

I even stayed at the same place overlooking the Ganges river, ma Ganga. Yet there was no magic. I didn’t like my room. The bathroom flooded with water and I spent the night tip-toeing through toilet water to pee. Where was my pink cloud of fluffy Ganga awe?

This first night I put this black cloud down to jet lag and exhaustion.

It became quickly apparent to me the next day that no magic pink cloud was descending. I was seriously doubting myself and my ability to do the 200 hour yoga training. The fact that the therapist who has treated my back for 10 years said to me days before I left “Do you think your body is up to this? I mean how old are you again?”

That night, deep in a state of gloom, I received an ambiguous message from my son “Mum, I just can’t take it anymore!” He wrote.

I’m thinking, what are we talking about here, school, work, life?

A horrible sense of dread descended over me. When you lose people like I have this year, one after the after, it primes you for more loss. Your heart is almost waiting for the next sucker punch.

Fearful thoughts spiraled from the sublime to the ridiculous.

What was I doing alone in this hotel room in India when my son needed me? What kind of deficient human being was I? And what was I doing yoga teacher training for anyway? How old was I? 45? Nearly pushing up daisies really…

When we speak of the infinite potential that rests at the base chakra, we are speaking of the kundalini, that’s what the kundalini represents, infinite potential. As the kundalini lies dormant at the base chakra we are not yet awakened, we are in the grips of our reptilian brain which is dominated by fear. But here is great possibility  this seat of existential fear is also the seat of our infinite potential, waiting to awaken. Anand Mehrotra

My teacher, Anand Mehrotra, or Anandji as we call him, says that you can tell the degree to which you are primed by primordial fear by the way you react when life gets challenging. At the root, literally the root chakra, of our being we act from fear or trust.

It was apparent I still have a long way to go to evolve to a state of complete trust. Despite the barrage of fearful thoughts, I did remain calm enough to help my son navigate the issues that were upsetting him. Crisis averted, test passed, all good. I thought.

That night I headed to the evening Aarti by Parnath Niketan. But I was fractious still. I felt keenly the attention of being a lone Western woman. To take a moment I walked down to the beach beside the river. I wanted to bless my dad, and my friends who had passed. Outside a Kali temple two young boys approached me selling Aarti offerings, baskets of flowers, incense and a candle wick. 

They accompanied me as I went to the river and performed my own Aarti. I shed some tears, made some offerings and said my goodbyes. It was spontaneous, heartfelt and perfect.

When we have the intention to evolve and grow we often find the pattern of the mind is not supporting this intention which is to evolve. For the mind, when you look at it, is a creature of habit. So every day we wake up, and we remind ourselves to play the predictable roles that we have, it keeps us in a loop. That is why in yogic teachings we are so fundamentally interrupting these patterns. But in this process of interrupting these patterns we find a resistance arises and it is very important that we become aware of this resistance as a natural aspect of growth. Anand Mehrotra

The next morning I headed off to the Sattva Yoga Academy. We were to meet a the Sattva Hotel in Rishikesh town and ride together in jeeps up the mountains to the Academy.

As I landed in the lobby I met the group that would be my little posse. The five of us were such a diverse mix it put lie to my fears of being too old or not enough of a yogi. I took a deep breath and thought “It’s going to be fine.”

We rode over bumpy dirts roads, my head hitting the roof on every bump, until we reached Sattva. Nestled in the Himalayan foothills, by the Uley river, a tributary of the Ganges, known affectionately as “Baby Ganga.”

The views were majestic, deep drops away from the road into verdant green valleys and the river, mountains as far as the eye could see.

As we pulled into the prayer-flag lined driveway of Sattva Retreat, the energy was palpable. It felt both uplifting and soothing. It felt like home.

In a state of deep contentment, I queued up with all the others waiting to sign in. I got my passport out of my bag and looked for my credit card to pay the fees. I had planned to transfer the thousands of dollars for my course and accommodation but I hadn’t received the banking information so instead I transferred the money onto my second credit card, which was to be safely kept only for that purpose, so it didn’t get lost or stolen.

There’s a kind of running joke in my family about putting things in such a safe place that they are never to be found again…

Disbelief flooded my body first, then panic. The credit card was nowhere to be found. Did I lose it? Did someone have it? Was the money still in there? Shit, shit, shit…

To spare you the longwinded details, despite being hampered by, as the Sattva staff kept apologising “the internet not working today” (it nevers works!) I eventually after 30 tense minutes on the phone with my bank, and several aborted attempts to download apps and security codes, got the situation sorted and transferred the money.

What was interesting to me was what arose in the pressure of that moment. As I said there was fear and panic, but it was as if my mind split into two and there was another part of me encouraging me to be calm and just do what needed to be done to solve the problem.

I stayed (relatively) calm. I didn’t descend into blame or misdirected anger, my absolute go-tos to deflect fear.

Funnily after this things were pretty smooth for the rest of the trip. Except for a few times when fear and worry seeped back in. I really saw that these two eruptions were manifestations of my resistance to the potential transformation ahead of me.

It was almost as if some subconscious part of myself was testing my resolve with the two fears most likely to trip me up, fear of something terrible happening to my son, and fear of losing my money, my security, and for now I had risen to the challenge, faced my fears, and stayed steadfast to my course.


The body is a multilingual being. It speaks through its colour and its temperature, the flush of recognition, the glow of love, the ash of pain, the heat of arousal, the coldness of nonconviction. . . . It speaks through the leaping of the heart, the falling of the spirits, the pit at the centre, and rising hope.Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Wherever you are at Sattva, you can hear the river. The energy here is phenomenal. I close my eyes and all I see and feel is water flowing through mountain. The elements are powerful when there’s no noise to distract us from them. Even my mind has quieted to point of subtle perception of trees breathing up to a smiling sky, mountains shifting ever so subtly as the river flows humming through…

Anand says our senses are designed to focus outwards, rightly so, so that we don’t walk in front of a bus or get eaten by a bear. The first thing we must do is learn to draw our senses within, draw our attention within. We close our eyes to shut off the visual stimulus, and draw our mind within where it can rest in our own essential nature, the pure field of silence.

This is pratyhara, this withdrawal of the senses, is the fifth of the eight limbs of yoga outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. A text we will come to know very well through Anand’s daily wisdom talks and satsangs.

Muddy water, let stand, becomes clear. Lao Tzu

I met Anandji for the first time only a few months ago. Yet he has been a strong presence in my life for nearly two years. The first time I was in Rishikesh and did a Sattva Yoga class, my teacher Amy talked about Anandji and showed me his photo, which just seemed luminous.

After rekindling the idea of returning to India to study with Anand over a year ago, I tried dipping my toe in the water by studying an online course in Self-Mastery with Anand, watching and practising with him daily via video. Increasingly I saw the power of the Sattva practice and wanted a deeper immersion.

As I expected, actually being physically in his presence daily at Sattva Yoga Academy was a whole other level. Anand is extremly generous with his students. We started each day with a two hour sattva Yoga Journey, and had another two to three hours a day with him for wisdom talks and satsangs (question and answer sessions.)

I have a habit of placing people I admire on a pedestal and being devastated when they show their fallibility, their humaness.

Anand is very human, he loves coffee, he likes some people more than others, he has moods and opinions and tastes. Yet, he is also extraordinary, his wisdom seems bottomless, his ability to tap into the zeitgeist of the group and deliver journeys and wisdom talks that seem to answer the unasked needs of seventy people is mindblowing.

His story of growing up in Rishikesh, surrounded by yogic masters, including his own guru. His insatiable thirst for knowledge, for wisdom, for practice which led him from a forest monk to a yogi meditating in a cave for months. To emerge at the ripe age of 21 with the organic body of teachings, which back then had no name, but drew people to him by the power and authentic expression of his intelligence.

He is a master yogi, and yet he is physically so present. He embodies two worlds, often handling his mala beads, imperceptibly reciting his japa practice while delivering a wisdom talk of great presence and relevance.

He is both in silence and in the worldly clamours of physical life.

He ride motorcycles. He runs up mountains, while most of us huffed and panted our way slowly up to the waterfall near Sattva, Anand and a few superfit yogis, ran up the mountain and scaled over the rather large rocks in the river on the way down.

I have never seen someone both so physically incarnate and completely tapped into the cosmos simultaneously. He is the embodiment of tantra, spiritual intelligence embodied in the physical, shakti flowing into form.

“Whose life are you living? Your life is meant to fulfil you. Life is calling to you in the very intimacy of your heart. You will keep fighting, hoping that somewhere in the future you will find yourself. Wait no more. You are the very being for which the non-being turned into being. Wherever you are is the starting point. You have come so far, go all the way.” Anand Mehrotra

When I initially researched Anand, oh yes I did, I was concerned that he didn’t have a clearly defined lineage. Then during my time at Sattva I realised he has THE lineage, the direct transmission of Himalayan wisdom transmitted to the yogis of that region though Babaji. The same lineage that created Paramhansa Yogananda.

Like Yogananda, Anand understands that our whole physiology must support our spiritual practice, in order for us to evolve. This is the purpose of yoga practice, and in particular, the kriyas.

The first step required is to develop greater awareness of the energy and thoughts that are vibrating you. Most of us are deeply programmed with limiting thoughts, fearful thoughts. These thought create our behaviour which creates our life, which then influences our future behaviour, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of our most subconscious beliefs. 

The key to busting these beliefs are the kriyas. Kriya yoga practices are the technology which creates this shift.

Kriyas as taught by Anand are focused, repetitive movements with breath and/or mantra that have three main functions: to cultivate the energy required to shift deeply held patterns, to clear stuck issues from our tissues (literally clearing the physiology of stored emotions and traumas) and to rewire the brain and create new, healthy patterns and maintain this vibration.

In Autobiography Of A Yogi, Yogananda says that kriya is the most effective practice in yoga for personal evolution, transcending limitations, the expansion of consciousness, and self-realization. But how does it do this? In short, kriya works by increasing access to subtle energy and then channeling that energy in different ways. Chad Woodford

Anand uses kriyas as part of powerful yoga journeys, aptly titled as two hours becomes forever and yet no time, as he guides you into sacred space, into your deepest self, into the pure field of silence, into totality.

Some days the two hour journeys were filled with warrior poses and holding Shiva Kriya for 30 minutes (just 30 seconds more, Anand would insist) other days he guided us in partner work where we gazed into another’s eyes, hand over heart, before amassing in a group hug and leading each other down to the river. 

Some days we chanted and pumped our lower belly, degenerating into moans and howls as we cleared our sacral chakra of shame, past memory, and programming of limitations and discontent. Every journey was new and different, every journey powerful and transformative.

A restless mind cannot locate bliss. Anand Mehrotra

Here I became fully present. Every moment demands awakeness and awareness from me and I can’t operate on automatic pilot.  Anand demands our presence, “Stop half-assing it!” He cries when he sees we have checked out of our practice.

Anandji has that levity of many spiritual masters, he laughs a lot, but don’t be fooled, he has razor-sharp intelligence and despite the lightness of being, a great reverence for life. He trusts completely in nature’s creative intelligence, in the flow of life. 

Often when we hear “go with the flow” it sounds wishy-washy, like saying “whatever” to life. But really the flow is nature’s intelligence, her flow of information and energy, her cycles, her seasons. So tapping into this flow is the most intelligent and resourceful way to live, because we are no longer wasting energy fighting against natural forces, instead we align effortlessly with them. How do we achieve this flow state? Meditation, yoga (they are really the same thing by the way.) Tapping into that field of silence, of infinite intelligence, Hiraṇyagarbha “the great cosmic womb,” every day gradually aligns our nervous system with a more expansive consciousness.

At this moment infinity is available and why you are not accessing infinity is because of the idea of who you think you are. And where did this idea come from? From a history that has been woven into your psyche, a narrative as to who you are. Anand Mehrotra

The colloquial term “whatever” displeases Anand, with it’s combined suggestion of apathy and anything goes. There is a sharp distinction between being in a flow state, in harnessing the immense intelligence of nature, and just doing “whatever.” A flow state arises from great discipline and dedication, whether to meditation, science, art, mountain-climbing or surfing.

At the end of my training, I receive my guru mantra from Anandji. This mantra is personal to me, and is divined by Anandji after looking at my birth day and time in accordance with Jyotish astrology. A guru mantra is whispered from guru to disciple, never written done or shared aloud with anyone. This is to preserve the sanctity of the sounds from any cognitive associations.

After he has transmitted my mantra, I go down to the river and meditate with it. The mantra takes me deep into a place that is neither within me or outside of me. Everything is in this space, the river, the trees, the mountains and beyond. I sit silently vibrating with the totality of existence.

At our graduation ceremony, we receive hugs from our teachers along with a bindi (sacred spot over the third eye) and our official certificate. Anand gives us a mala – sacred beads used to aid japa practice, the repetitive reciting of mantra for devotional and meditative purposes.

When I approach Anandji to receive my mala and a hug, I see those compassionate brown eyes, I see that despite the personal sacrifices to his own desires, all he wants is to guide people towards their own evolution. And as I embrace him the tears come. Tears of joy, gratitude and relief. Tears of release of pain, grief and karma. Tears of homecoming. Tears of all of totality and total silence. I mean I am bawling like a baby, and he just holds me, meets me there in my moment of surrender. He says “This is just the beginning for you.”

And I understand this to mean something that I have come to witness over my time at Sattva. That this yoga is not a self-improvement course. The purpose of this evolution is to be a game-changer, to take it out into the world and really make a difference, in whatever small or large way we can.

With great bliss, comes great responsibility.

Far from looking to you like an opportunity for escape, a call feels more like a compelling need to walk into the mouth of a whale, or out into the night and into a storm. Bill Plotkin

When I returned to Rishikesh after the training it was once again my magical place. I realised the change was in me, any place can be a fear-filled hellhole or a font of magical synchronicity. It’s about the person experiencing it. The experiencer is the experience. The observer is the observed.

It may seem that having a spiritual awakening is some kind of blissful, cosmically-orgasmic experience, and I think in fairness, there’s a lot of images and stories in our society, especially around new age circles, that that’s the case. 

For many “running off to India” sounds like an escape, rather than what it has always been for me, which is a full-blown letting go of everything familiar and coming face to face with the deepest parts of myself, parts that often never see the light of day in my “real life.” Or if they do arise, they are often suppressed by busyness, by the habitual familiarity of life, and by the identities I maintain in my daily life, mother, employee, teacher….

Sometimes beautiful, blissed-filled experiences certainly have been part of my journey, I mean just look at my photos. Sattva looks like heaven, a tropical paradise nestled between green hills, by the river. After class we would swim in the pool or river, scantily-clad and beautiful bodies would run through a practice yoga session on the grass, with the sun setting behind them. Oh yes, it could be glorious at times.

Learn to take your own narrative less personally, your opinions less personally, the thoughts less personally, learn to get more and more impersonal with the false self. The more impersonal you get with the false self, the more intimate you get with the true self. And in there you will find great connection. Anand Mehrotra 

But I think it’s really important to recognize that essentially a spiritual awakening is a breakdown of the ego to create an opening, to create space, to create a surrender, which allows the grace and awakening to come in. And breakdowns by definition, are generally not all sunset vistas and good feels.

I ponder if there’s any way around this suffering for our awakening. Perhaps the more we surrender, the softer it feels. The unavoidable fact is while the ego is in total control, we can’t awaken beyond the ego. So the ego has to be broken, or else we can’t see past it, we are still in that limitation of ego-consciousness. And like any breakdown, it is often associated with a degree of fear and sometimes pain.

I think that the degree of fear and pain is relative to the degree to which we struggle against this breaking-down sensation, and the more willing we are to just let go and trust it, probably the less painful and fearful it is. Definitely easier said than done in my experience. Rather like the dentist with a giant drill in her hand telling you to “relax, it won’t hurt as much then…”

I think it’s important to recognize that pain can be a sign of positive growth. Sometimes when we look at other people’s journeys, it looks exotic or romantic, but that’s just the wrappings.

The reality is that for a lot of us, definitely for me, by the time we find ourselves on that doorstep of awakening, we have found ourselves in a position where we’ve seen enough that we can’t go back to living the way we were living.

We can no longer believe that our ego-mind has all the answers, or is the be all and end all of our existence. Yet there’s an understanding that by moving forwards towards the awakening, into the awakening, that we’re moving away from a lot of things that are familiar and known. We are often moving into a place where the majority of people in our lives will not understand what we are talking about, or why we are doing the things that we are doing. (Or not doing the things we used to do.)

It can be quite lonely. All this breaking down, breaking away, breaking through. Which is the beauty of the Sangha, the spiritual community.

I see the importance now of having teachers, of having mentors, of having people who are ahead of you on the path, and of having people who are with you, buddies, compatriots who are with you as you learn and grow. Because there’s a lot of experiences that come as this ego breaks down that are quite challenging, but the call is strong and I really feel that once we start on this journey there’s no going back, not in any kind of meaningful way.

Be strong then, and enter into your own body; there you have a solid place for your feet. Think about it carefully! Don’t go off somewhere else! Just throw away all thoughts of imaginary things, and stand firm in that which you are. Kabir

When it comes to having a full life, once that doorway to the infinite has been opened, there is no other choice but to go through it. And really that door has been open all our life. So really our lives have been moving towards awakening into a more expanded experience of life.

I think that a fundamental part of this journey is that we are not expanding purely for our own benefit. 

This quintessential energy of nature that is opening through us wants to express itself, wants to be expressed in many forms, is seeking creativity through us.

Creativity, not just as painting a picture, or writing a song, but creative living. Living in a way that has busted out of old patterns of conditioning, of habitual ways of doing life and responding to the world. Creative living is spontaneous, it is being open to each moment, responding not reacting to life.

How do we live like this? Through selfless service, in love. Once we have opened ourselves up to this, we’ve become a channel for nature’s intelligence to flow through. When we are no longer in the delusion of being an isolated individual in a life with a bunch of other isolated beings, when we realise we are part of the whole, part of the unifed field, we become a channel, an open channel for this evolutionary energy of nature.

Anand talks a lot about love, but it’s not a wishy-washy love, it’s fierce, it’s like Mother Nature herself. It’s totally pro-life, pro-evolution, it’s a creative force. Anand says yogis should be industrial strength, with a strong spine, a soft heart. If they are weak they are not doing their practice right. Love isn’t weakness, it is strength. Have you ever seen a mother bear when her cub is threatened, that kind of love? Fierce love. The love that is generous and giving, but can also stand its ground when needed.

It can be exquisitely beautiful, it can also be absolutely terrifying because you know the ego is so attached to “I. me. mine” My life, my space, my stuff, my time, my energy…

As you let go of the idea of who you thought you were, you might feel a sense of pain, of loss. This is an essential part of the journey. There is attachment to that identity because it has been so deeply ingrained in our psyche. And this identity, this conditioned self, using its self-destructive desires, keeps you in a loop and keeps using the desire in a destructive manner. All our shame and guilt and issues around intimacy, issues around addiction, is all unresolved energy. So it becomes important to be become aware of these self-imposed limitations which arise from our conditioning that we have received in our linear history. Anand Mehrotra 

The ego resists the thought that there is no I. Me. Mine. That I am a beautiful, but ultimately temporary expression, an individualised expression, of this great, cosmic energy.

This call isn’t gentle for most of us, it isn’t smooth and it involves a lot of letting go, a lot of surrendering. For me, because I’m so stubborn and I fight it at every turn, a lot of that surrendering has been, you know, curled up in fetal position crying snot-tears because I’m hanging on to something that is not serving me, but I’m too scared to let it go.

I have been scared to walk into the eye of the storm. But at the end of the day the call is strong enough that my fears do not crumble, so much, as they are just not enough to stop me.

As you look back, you see it was just FEAR, false evidence appearing real, and you will walk through the fear and realise that it was a Wizard of Oz type illusion. Not a great power at all, just a scared little ego with a big, booming sound machine.


As I iron my freshly washed India pants, I ponder all the differences being ‘home.’ In India, I wore these pants straight off the street, caked in a layer of street dust. They still smell a little of that, under that fresh clean smell.

The lighting is different here, the florescent lighting and airless buildings make me dizzy, there’s less dirt and sun in everything. Things are quieter, cleaner, more contained. It’s not bad, just different.

I’m practicing what Anandji would teach, to just observe without judging or assessing the situation as good or bad. It’s a beautiful practice that gently disciplines the mind away from discontent and towards curiosity.

“Just stay with the practice,” Anandji would say.

Wherever I go there I am. I am the path, and the path is me.

He stood breathing, and the more he breathed the land in, the more he was filled up with all the details of the land. He was not empty. There was more than enough here to fill him. There would always be more than enough. Ray Bradbury

Hari Om Tat Sat. Namaste. Blessings.


For more on Kriya Yoga

For more about Sattva Yoga

For you

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn’t make sense. Rumi

This is not a regular blog post.

This is for my friend, my love who passed away this week.

Why am I posting it here? I suppose because this blog has always been the way I process things in my life.

I was writing another post, but it felt wrong somehow to just slide this in there, amongst all my navel gazing. So this is just for him.

We met when I was 18, we were both 18, and lived together for four years. Even amongst all the craziness of those years, he was the sweetest man I have even been with.

I hadn’t seen him for a very long time, but I guess I always just thought I would again, sometime. Like so many people from that time of my life, they hold such a special place in my heart that even after years of not seeing them, the connection is still so strong.

That said, nothing could have prepared me for how devastated I feel. Both sadness and probably a sense of guilt that I could have done more somehow.

But that’s life, it rolls on and we move with it, just always thinking there’s more time. But I like to think somewhere in a parallel universe that he got clean and moved to the country and had his own studio and maybe a family and was as happy as such a sweet soul deserved to be.


How I wish I could crawl back into bed with you, in 1992. Just for a little while. Knowing what I know now.

No one has ever loved me like you did. Made me feel so safe and held. You fixed everything for me. Remember that time my knee got caught in the doona and dislocated and you just popped it back in, like it was nothing. It still aches sometimes, reminds me of you.

You always held my hand, but never held me back. You had my back.

We were young and silly then. We took too many drugs and drank too much. We got in trouble. We thought life was long.

And yet. With many years experience and hindsight, I realise you and I were like an old couple. We loved sitting up in bed, talking, laughing, it used to drive our housemates bonkers. How well we got along. We were friends above all. Companions. How I long for that comfortability with someone now.

We enjoyed the comfortable silences, you drawing, me writing. Okay, so maybe I wasn’t very silent, you’d draw and listen to me prattle on. I have often thought you were a natural yogi, so calm, so gentle, so present with people.

Remember the night we met? At the Duke of Windsor. The pub shut early because it was Anzac Day, so we all went back to my place. As you leant over to kiss me, a stereo speaker fell off the bookshelf and hit your head. We often joked that it was not that you’d fallen for me as much as had the sense knocked out of you. 

I hadn’t seen you for the longest time. I guess like many people from that time of my life I just assumed the revolving door would swing around and one day you’d be there again. And although I knew you had a special place in my heart, I didn’t know how very large it was until I got that call, and our friend told me I’d better sit down.

It was like a trapdoor opened up inside me and all those years came pouring out. The most beautiful memories. That smile. The way you looked at me like I was the best thing you’d ever seen in your life. The way I had to stand on tippy-toes to kiss you. The way your long arms almost wrapped around me twice.

The most banal memories.

Like how I would spend two hours spiking your hair and mohawk, and your friend’s mohawks… And then after five minutes of me getting ready you’d all be hassling me to hurry up, like “C’mon, Nini (my pet name) we’ll miss the gig…”

I hope there is a photo somewhere of your hair in all its glory. At one stage you had a mohawk and spiky cones along each side. You were about seven foot tall with your hair up.  Spikes in your hair and spikes on your jacket but always so cuddly with me, I was forever being spiked.

Do you remember how we made you write a ‘poo chart’ on the toilet wall? So that, if any of us were actually interested (we weren’t), we could read about your bowel movements, instead of the daily recount that turned our hungover stomachs inside out.

Geez. You loved a good bowel movement.

You weren’t a musician, although your friends tried to force you to drum in their band, you always looked like you would rather be standing in the crowd, with your arms around me.

You were an artist though. So prolific. You drew all the time, it was your meditation, your passion. That’s how I remember you, cross-legged on the floor hunched over a drawing pad, bleached hair flopping over your eyes. I wish I had something of yours.

I don’t even have the photos. I left them behind with everything else as I ran for my life from that sweet-talker I left you for…

And here it really hurts. Because there’s been so many times over the years where I wanted to tell you how I know what an fucking idiot I was. And how selfish, and how could I have hurt you like that?

I don’t think I was running away from you so much as the whole scene at Baker St and the grief.

People who came and stayed often thought Baker St was a squat. It wasn’t, but it was an easy mistake to make. There were five of us who paid rent on the sprawling Richmond house. You and I shared a room, and then there were three other guys who lived there. It was a house with lots of nooks and crannies and a giant living room.

On any given night, or day for that matter as time is pretty relative in the punk-rock lifestyle, there were bodies curled up everywhere. I would have to tip-toe my way through overlapping limbs to get to the kitchen. After a while I didn’t bother. The kitchen and bathroom were both feral. If you have ever seen the Australian movie Dogs in Space, you get a pretty close idea.

It was fun at first, always something happening, plenty going around to imbibe. But it was unsustainable for me. I needed space and quiet. And there was none to be had.

I have only recently fully understood that you can’t fix your messy insides with a new relationship or by moving somewhere else. Back then I sought any escape from pain.

Mother I feel you under my feet.

Father I hear your heartbeat within me.

My spirit flies free.

Carry me home. Akaal.

I wrote you a letter once, after I got clean. I don’t know if you ever read it, I never heard from you again. I think I thought staying away was a safe way to not cause you any more pain. And in the early days I was protecting my fragile new life. I regret that decision now.

I am sad. And I am ashamed of the silly girl I was, and how carelessly I threw away your love.

I just always thought I would see you again. You would be a greying artist, living in a simple shack in the country, you never needed much. Just a studio and your animals, or maybe you had a family. Either way you were content.

We would sit on your verandah with a cup of tea. You, being you, would see in my eyes that I was still torturing myself for all the things I had, and had not, done. All the things you had long forgiven and forgotten. You would look at me with those kind grey-green eyes and say “It’s okay Nini, let it go. It’s ancient history.”

And just like that we’d be friends again. As if we ever weren’t.

But you’re gone. So that’s never going to happen now. So I have to tell you all the things I am sorry for and you’ll just have to roll your eyes at me from heaven. Because that’s where you’re going, no matter what you think, because there has never been a sweeter soul than you.

I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate you more. I was young and full of delusional romantic fantasies about Heathcliff and Darcy. It’s that sad old story, you were too kind and good to me, at a time in my life when I didn’t value that. I wanted high drama and angst, and boy did I get it. I appreciate you now, you were everything I would wish for in a partner.

I am sorry that after we saw our friend die I didn’t know how to be there for you. I was so used to you being there for me, being stoic and solid, I didn’t know what to do when you fell apart. I know now we were traumatised, and all needed serious help, the type that is not found at the end of a bottle or needle or bong. But you do what you know.

I’m sorry that in the last few weeks, when you were so on my mind, I didn’t try to find you. I’m not saying I could have changed anything, I am not that arrogant, but I am sorry I didn’t listen to that intuitive knock on the door of my consciousness.

One of my dear friends told me that he is sure that I still held a special place in your heart. I hope so, and I hope that you remembered me fondly and laughed at my silliness, because hell knows there was plenty of it, and that you smiled as you reflected on the good times we had. And I don’t mean the slam-dance parties and gigs, and the stupid pranks, I mean the Sunday mornings spread out on the floor, or in the garden at Stradbroke Avenue, talking, drawing, reading, writing, laughing, and of course, kissing.

I have to trust how things are. Maybe you just couldn’t dig yourself out of that hole, and you’re at peace now. So many people are seeing you in light. I know that’s where you’re going, and I know she’s come to take you there, so you won’t feel alone.

Goodbye Lachy my love, Godspeed x

Karma karma karma chameleon


Life has its own essential nature outside of your own preferences. Anand Mehrotra

I often look at people I know on social media, people I have met at various spiritual courses, who live these seemingly charmed lives flitting from one exotic locale to another, islands off Thailand and Indonesia, ashrams in India, mountain villages in Peru… And I wonder how I ended up with my life.

When I first started seriously meditating, committing to a daily practice, it was because I had read Buddhism for Mothers, by Sarah Napthali, and I wanted to be a more serene, mindful mum, with three young boys, *snort* yeah right.

My morning ‘silent’ meditation would begin with me seated peacefully on my beautiful meditation cushion, all quiet in the house and slowly, one by one, I would have a toddler climbing all over me, then a seven and eight year old giving each other shoulder punches and fighting over the TV remote.

The author of the book suggested making all this part of my mindfulness practice, letting the sounds (read noise and fighting) be part of my practice. Just keep breathing, keep still, which is possible up to a point, usually the point where the 14 month-old is trying to ride his trike head-first off the coffee table.

Flash forward fifteen years and I am still working, parenting, juggling commitments and responsibilities, and still trying to make a place in my life for my yoga and meditation practice. In the last few years, I have been blessed with two lots of three week stints in Bali and India, where I have been able to live that exotic life I see on social media, if only temporarily.

In the tantric system they feel, they believe, the mind is not something against which you should start a war. It is in this context that tantra developed a system by which you didn’t have to worry much about the fluctuating tendencies of the mind. You just went on with your tantric or yogic practices and found that, through certain techniques, the mind became quieter and exhausted all its potentialities. This set of methods is known as kriya yoga, the basis of which is tantra. Swami Satyananda Saraswati


Part of me has always thought that my ‘real’ yogic life would start once I was free of these responsibilities, free to run off to an ashram in India and immerse myself 24/7. So I have been really interested to discover that the yogic Tantra path, was originally called ‘The Householder’s Path.’ The whole point of it being that you didn’t need to renounce the world and meditate 12 hours a day to be a yogi. You could have a life and a spiritual practice. In fact, for most people, given the relative importance of the continuation of the species, mixing work, family and yoga was a valid option.

And it occurred to me that while my life is not as glamorous as the jet setting yogis I see, it may be more helpful as a power of example. I mean most people are not in a position to live a gypsy existence, they have jobs and families and by the time they wake up to the feeling that some crucial part of themselves has been neglected, and they start looking for way to enliven their spirit again, well it is just not feasible to run off to India for a year, much as they might wish to.

So as I come to the end of another year, a time of reflection and planning for the year to come, as I embark on more yogic studies, I find myself asking, to what end? I know I have a burning desire for the kind of self-mastery and freedom from the bondage of the monkey-mind that these practices bring me, but do I have anything to offer others?

It is not our natural state to be constantly focused on our own thought-stream, and obsessed with our own story, and our achievements. Rather our natural state is to be open, expanded and aware of the full beauty of life unfolding moment by moment. Where your own personal biography is just a thread in an incredible tapestry of awareness. To open up to the whole of our experience and to sense the sacredness that is present all the time, everywhere just waiting to be sensed. Christopher Hareesh Wallis


And I realise that yes, what I have is my experience. Which is how to incorporate these hugely effective spiritual practices into our lives, while still living in the real world. Jobs, families, financial responsibilities, these are things that most of us must live with. But that doesn’t exclude us from a spiritual life.

A spiritual life is an ‘inside job,’ it doesn’t require a certain locale. Just a commitment. There are ways to develop self-mastery while changing nappies, paying a mortgage, and meeting deadlines at work. So I got to thinking, this is what I can do, offer these amazing techniques to people so they can fit them into their lives, not have disrupt their lives or wait until they get a decent stretch of ‘me-time.’

When the yoga Tantra tradition was emerging, it came from a backlash to traditional Brahmanism, where only a certain caste of holy men, Brahmins, could engage in spiritual practices. Other people could worship but to access the tools of meditation and deeper practices, one had to be a renunciate. Tantra brought practices to the people, so that anyone with a desire for self-mastery and enough intelligence and self-discipline to apply themselves to the teachings could participate.

Another difference between Tantra and classical yoga is Tantra’s body-positive view. Since the body exists in the material world, the classical viewpoint was that it is inferior to the transcendental Self or spirit. Tantra views the body as a manifestation of spirit. By purifying and strengthening the body through asana and by balancing and uniting the universe of opposites within our body, it becomes our vehicle for ending suffering and attaining liberation.

This means we can practise anywhere that our body is present. Like the author of Buddhism for Mothers was trying to tell me all those years ago, our spiritual practice begins where we are. The only equpiment we need is our own body, our breath, our awareness.

The most important practice us the one you do in your aloneness. As you go into your own sadhana, the world starts to fade, and what starts to happen in you is the celestial glow of self starts to get established. And it is of paramount importance that we really cultivate this self-practice. Anand Mehrotra


Why did Tantra come about in the first place?

Yoga scholars believe it was a response to a period of spiritual decline, also known as Kali Yuga, or the Dark Age, a period governed by greed, dishonesty, physical and emotional illness, attachment to worldly things, and complacency.

Tantra’s comprehensive array of practices, which include asana (poses) and pranayama (controlled breathing) as well as mantra (chanting), pujas (deity worship), kriyas (cleansing practices), mudras (seals), and mandalas and yantras (circular or geometric patterns used to develop concentration), provides the powerful measures needed to counteract the many obstacles to spiritual liberation in the modern age.

Yoga is powerful. Realise yoga is not a path for the weak. It is for you to overcome your self-imposed limitations. Anand Mehrotra

I want spiritual liberation. Who wouldn’t? I have had profound mystical experiences but they have not been lasting. What I have wanted is not an experience but a total transformation, an inner rearrangement that weaves through my life. So there is no boundary between the me that is meditating and doing yoga and the me that is driving, working, parenting.

For me I want to be free of the tyranny of my thinking. Obsessive thoughts about my love. Where is he? Who is he with? Does he think of me? Obsessive fears for my son. Worrying about his future, worrying I havent parented him well. Obsessive negativity about myself, my body, my life, aging, what am I meant to be doing? It just goes on and on, round and around like a broken record. It wears me out and gets me nowhere.

This is karma. Being trapped in a loop of self-obsessive, fearful thinking. Thinking based on the past. Thinking that can only produce more of the same. All that can ever arise from this state is more of the same conditions. As Einstein said, we can’t solve the problem with the thinking that created it. We can’t think ourself into right thinking, action has to proceed thought, that’s what yoga, true yoga not just the bendy poses, is for.

Enlightenment is not a static, utopic state. It is a consistent journey with greater and greater degrees of awareness. With really no end. For why are we interested in an end? Only when we are in suffering in life, when we are in conflict with ourself, with life, are we looking for an end where ‘this’ doesn’t exist. You are still using life as a waiting room. So the very thing you are looking for is keeping you from that which you are looking for. Anand Mehrotra


In my recent yogic studies with Anand Mehrotra, I was reintroduced to the concept of karma, I say re-introduced because it was apparent that I had previously misunderstood the term.

The concept of karma has long been misunderstood in the West as a kind of universal law of returns, the golden rule in reverse. What you do, comes back to you. I really like how my teacher Anand Mehrotra frames karma and dharma.

Karma is both a state of will from which we act, the actions we take from this state of ego, and the results of those actions. So when we are stuck in our ego mind, our so-called rational mind, we must draw upon memory, upon past experiences to make choices on how to act or react to life.

Karma is an identity based on conditioned memory, the cause of our state of consciousness is based on the actions of the past and the effect is how we perceive ourself now. Karma is a state of consciousness from which any action is karmic in nature, that is producing actions that are more of the same. Giving birth to further karma. In this limited awareness we experience life as a conflict, trapped in a mental narrative of separation and suffering.

It is said that humans have around 80,000 thoughts a day, and most of those thoughts are the same ones we had yesterday and will have again tomorrow. So it’s a very limited field of intelligence we are working with here. Yes, we can read books and learn, but we are always seeing life through this filter of the small ‘me’ with our various experiences and prejudices.

Reality validates the nervous system from which it is observing this reality. Reality will manifest only as consciousness, as our nervous system, as our sensory awareness will allow. Because reality is infinite it can show up in the perception of the experiencer. Anand Mehrotra


The role of yoga, and in particular kriyas – powerful cleansing practices – is to break out of this limitations of the small self and to begin to access the infinite intelligence of the creative life force that flows through all life. When we think, feel and act from this intelligence we can live in dharma, the path of our highest self, the path that the ever-intelligent nature of life intends for us.

This is our natural state of being, not to be trapped in a limited sense of self separated from the nature of reality, but to be aware of our self as an integral part of nature, of the totality of existence.

To move from karma to dharma, our higher purpose, we must use a technique to break through karma. This is the purpose of yoga. Yoga practice allows us to move towards a more unified consciousness, an expanded sense of self. Where our experience of life profoundly shifts, as we become more aligned to the state of nature.

Anand Mehrotra describes kriya as “an action that is helping you evolve and transcend. Focusing your attention on certain centres along your spine and moving your energy to help you get to a meditative state.”

Dharma is really not about what to do, what is the ‘right’ action, what will make me feel good, or what is my ‘purpose.’

When we seek that out from a desire for security and self-esteem, we are still in karma, no matter how good our intentions may be.

Through yoga and meditation practice, our nervous system and our mind settle into a less excited state. We settle into the field of eternal silence, which is wordless and concept-less. Here we transcend our false identity, into a state of consciousness not dominated by ego or victim consciousness, to a state where life is happening for us and though us, this is dharma. Actions arising out of dharma will be effortlessly aligned with the greater evolutionary flow of life.

When you are in karma, your identity is isolated, locked in, separate from the whole. Dominated by ego, still experiencing life as happening to you, experiencing a sense of victimhood, limited by every experience you have. Or even the desire for experiences you want to have, they all function in limiting your sense of self and creating a sense of isolation. That is why when you look at humans beings, whatever it is they get, somehow they find a way to suffer with it. Anand Mehrotra


For much of my life I have been a chameleon of sorts. Searching desperately for the ‘real’ me, I tried on continuous parade of personas.

In my teenage years I was a hippie 60s fanatic, then a goth, a punk, and a weird hybrid of them all. As a young mother, I softened my look to blend with the other mothers. I never felt truly comfortable in any of these guises.

In my mid-late twenties my search went within, experimenting with wicca, and New Age Spirituality. I became a fairly regular meditator. After my divorce I discovered yoga, druidry, shamanism and Chakradance.

While all of these practices have revealed aspects of me to me, there always came a point where I felt like an imposter or a failure. I wasn’t serene enough, or bendy enough, or New Agey enough.

Each time I found a new practice I thought I had found the key to unlocking this neverending sense of longing and searching. At some point I would be confronted with the reality that I was still me. Still flawed, essentially unchanged.

Attachment and detachment, nervous welfare, nervous imbalance, nervous breakdown, everything is subject to the state of human consciousness. The moment you change your consciousness, everything is gone. All of these things are experiences, they are not permanent realities. Swami Satyananda Saraswati


All these years, each time I thought I had found my dharma, my true path, I had just found a new guise for my karma chameleon. Not because of any flaw in those practices, on the contrary they have all brought me to this point, but rather because of my expectations of them. Of what they would do for me. Because I was still trying to find myself, find some self-image, something about myself I could love.

In some way, I was still that young girl trying to abandon and escape from myself. Yoga and meditation, dance and energy work have always brought me home to myself through my body. Yet, there was the split between the ‘spiritual me’ practicing yoga or Chakradance, and the ‘real me’ out in the world, getting pent up and frustrated, trying to control everything.

I have been a karma chameleon, I have tried on many skins in an attempt to transform myself. But lasting change has to be more than skin deep.

Much of my karmic patterns seem to revolve around looking externally for validation, especially from other people. What I keep being brought back to, through Chakradance and through yoga, is how essential it is to be self-sufficient. To be able to get everything we need from our own vital energy and connection to the greater flow of energy, the divine source. Anand says those who cannot generate their vital energy are weak. My weakness has always been this tendency to look without instead of within for my source of strength, power and love.

Yoga has always been a great training for my mind, but the yoga Anand teaches transcends all thought and goes straight to the innate inner intelligence that is bound to all intelligence, to all life. The practices are instantly revolutionary, they bring immediate effect on the energy body and over time, transform consciousness in a way that would not be achievable in a lifetime by many other means.

The spine and the brain are the altars of God. That’s where the electricity of God flows down into the nervous system into the world. The searchlights of your senses are turned outward. But when you will reverse the searchlights through kriya yoga and be concentrated in the spine you will… charge the body with the life current from universe. Paramahansa Yogananda


Anand’s practice, called Sattva yoga seems to be helping me see the difference between my unhealthy desires, my attempts to control and manipulate people, places and things to suit my needs. While I have seen this before, I never had a solution that seemed to work at this level of my inner programming.

I find these practices really exciting because they utilise the chakras. This means Sattva yoga is an complimentary extension of my Chakradance practice, and my other subtle energy work. I am also seeing very profound before and after effects of doing the kriyas. From feeling anxious depressed and lethargic to a total flush-out of energy – being filled up with fresh prana, or life-force, feeling switched on, optimistic, calm and energised.

Pranayama, life-force control via our breathing, essentially brings us back to the emptiness from which all beingness arises. When we hold our breath, we play with that nexus between being alive in a body, and alive in spirit. Holding our breath pushes our ego self to it’s limits, what could be more challenging to the ego than the hint of non-survival that cessation of breath suggests?

The Kriya technique emphasizes the relationship between breath and mind. Breath influences the mind and vice versa. This reciprocal relationship reveals the secret of controlling the mind. Breath control is self  control. Breath mastery is self-mastery. Sally Kempton


The renunciates, and the spiritual gypsies, who take these practices across the world have an important dharma. But so do those of us trudging the householder path. It doesn’t matter what our dharma is, only that we find a way to live it.

Acting from karma produces a Groundhog Day existence, where every day is more of the same. Where our actions, based on our limited awareness and obsession with our own desires, bring unhappiness to ourselves and those in relationship to us.

Disciplined action is required to break through karma, through a commitment to awaken our vital life force, to be free of attachment to selfish desires, we can move into a life where we live in alignment with the source of life, where we live from our true heart’s desires, in union with life and manifesting our dharma into the world.

I have been trying so hard to get somewhere, to be someone, to have someone, to find my purpose. To look a certain way, to feel a certain way. This year my intention is to let that shit go. It’s exhausting!

Instead to just be disciplined in my practice, but to then let life unfold. To just live. To enjoy the ride. See what happens. How free would that be?

Action sets us on the right trajectory but then we have to be open to what life is bringing us, open to pure receiving. Yoga literally means to “yoke” ourselves to what is, the is-ness of is-ness as the gurus say. This requires an enormous surrender and allowing everything to be just as it is. Letting go of our agendas, our attachments and softening our edges. No longer wasting our precious life force trying to bend life to our petty plans and designs.


All action that arises from a divine state of consciousness is dharma… You have no purpose. Just be quiet for a while. Anand Mehrotra

Blessings of the New Year to you all!

Hari Om Tat Sat. Namaste. Blessings.


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Sattva Yoga

The grit that makes the pearl

Maybe enlightenment was just the booby prize. The thing you went after when what you really wanted didn’t work out. Anne Cushman

Why is life hard? Why don’t we get want we want? And when we do get what we want why does it so quickly become unsatisfactory and we start wanting something else?

I guess that’s the quandary for anyone who has ever investigated the spiritual side of life or ever asked themselves the ‘big questions’ or contemplated life to any degree.

Because, in my experience, we often ask those questions when the going gets tough. Curled up in foetal position. Wailing, “Whhhhyyyyyy?” Or even if you haven’t gone to that extreme. (Me neither, I was only asking for a friend…)

If we are these spiritual beings, made manifest in physical form, why is life so fucking hard sometimes? Why not make it easy? Why not just be these floaty, peaceful people, you know, being at one with everything? Wearing fabulous boho-chic clothes. Meditating and doing yoga, radiating peace and swapping organic vegetables. Raising our children with perfect patience and grace. If that’s our true nature, why do we struggle so?

I’m not going to answer that question, one, because it’s silly, two, because I’m not an enlightened one – and there are many beautiful texts written on the matter which would do far greater justice to it than I ever could. (I mean in regards to the meaning of life, not the boho-chic, floaty people.) And mostly because I don’t know.

I guess the thing is, even those great spiritual texts don’t have all the answers. Not one everyone can agree to anyway…

But what they all tend to point to, is that there is something in the nature of this physical reality, this physical incarnation, that is in itself part of the spiritual evolution of a human being.

The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials. Seneca

I was reading about pearls, because the idea just kept popping up, and the analogy of how a pearl is formed seemed particularly apt for me.

A pearl is formed as a reaction to the irritation caused by grit, like a piece of sand getting into the oyster’s shell, and in order to stop the rubbing, the irritation of this grit, the oyster starts to deposit this pearl substance, as a buffer around the source of irritation, and this creates a pearl.

A pearl is one of the most beautiful and highly prized jewels of nature, but it comes from agitation. From the agitation of the grit, that gets into the oyster, and irritates it enough to deposit pearl stuff around it in a ball.

In a similar way,  many cultures use the analogy of the lotus, the lotus that grows out of the mud. It grows its way up through the mud, through the water, through the murky depths, to become this exquisite flower, that is magnificent once it blooms.

In this analogy, as human beings we are in the mud. Right? We are incarnated into these dense, heavy three dimensional forms, and yet, there is something inherent in us that wants to get in touch with another aspect of our being. You can call that what you like spirit, the soul, the essence, self-realisation, whatever it might be. But it’s not a physical thing, it’s not a tangible thing.

A lot of what is most beautiful about the world arises from struggle. Malcolm Gladwell

Often what pushes people into wanting this relationship with the intangible thing, and what deepens this relationship once they are in it, is this sense of irritation or agitation, so the grit that makes the pearl.

There seems to be a belief in many New Age Spirituality circles, that we are all born with spiritual gifts that our modern life has blocked us off from, and if we just do some yoga or breathing or bang a drum or take some weekend courses, we can tap into this inner bliss and live in ecstasy, like, always and forever.

Now, while this idea is extremely appealing, and I like many, have fallen under its spell at times. It seems to me that whatever spiritual path we choose, the only lasting results – that will actually bring about the kind of inner transformation that won’t collapse under the pressures in day to day life, once we return from the bliss of our retreat in Bali – come from commitment, discipline and years of practice. The degree of self-mastery required is a lot of work.

I know, it’s not the best marketing pitch. You can see why “Seven Days to Complete Transformation” sells better.

We can embody the essential teachings of yoga and have a life that is full of divinity. The yogic path is to help us explore and embody that divine nature. But we can only experience this dependent on our own capacity. Have we corrected our intellect? Have we refined our understanding of life? And are we in tune with the value of truth? Only the one who has mastered themself can live a life truly worth living. Otherwise it is a struggle. Anand Mehotra

Recently I disovered an Italian writer called Julius Evola, who wrote very well and extensively about Eastern esoteric paths and all kinds of spiritual practices. He is very much out of favour because of his political beliefs, but he was an amazing scholar.

There’s a wonderful story about why he wrote about Buddhism in the first place. He believed that a Buddhist text that he came across after World War I, when he was suicidal, had saved his life. And to repay this debt, in gratitude, he used this text to write his book about Buddhism, The Doctrine of Awakening.

The text Julius read was a translation of the Theravadan (Tibetan Buddhist) text Majjhima Nikaya. Reading this inspired a deepening interest in Eastern spirituality, especially in techniques that strengthen the will, foster the power of concentration, and promote mastery over thoughts.

Evola believed that the translation of ‘dukkha’ as suffering, one of the most pivotal concepts in Buddhism, is a bit of a mistranslation. To his mind, a closer translation would be ‘agitation.’ It’s not suffering per se, in the sense of a great pain we must bear, although it can be for some. For many of us though, is the relentless monotony of desire and disappointment, the myriad of small and sometimes petty ways that life does not go the way we want it to. It is the agitation of rubbing up against the unsatisfactory nature of life that propels us into action.

We suffer because we cannot accept the true nature of life, of being. And this is the source of our irritation and agitation. We suffer because we are attached to the outcomes of our desires, which inevitably fail to satisfy, even when we get what we think we want.

The grit that makes the pearl.

Life isn’t easy-going. There’s sand in the sea, and it’s going to get into the oyster shell and be an irritation. Physical life, the body with all its groans and complaints, the mind and all its dissatisfactions, these are the grit of life. There’s no bypassing it, So where are our pearl-making abilities?

We look at it as something complex, as something far-fetched, to live a life of enlightenment, a life of brilliance. It’s not for us, it’s for somebody else. But at the core of our being we are looking for this, we are looking to have the most expansive experience of life. Anand Mehotra

I think I am still looking for the great insight, the one that changes everything. A magic bullet. Consciously I know that is silly and it doesn’t work like that, but subconsciously? Yeah. I still want quick and easy. I see how this belief sets me up for disappointment.

For the last six months, I have had a daily yoga (asana) practice. Before that I was practising probably five or six times a week, but there is a shift that happens when we commit to doing something every day, no matter what. It’s the discipline of practising regardless of how we feel about it.

Some days we battle against it, some days it is effortless. But if we do the practice regardless, we see that over time how we felt about it on any given day is actually irrelevant. It is the fact that we did the practice that counts. For me, this daily discipline saw me through a particularly lengthy and dark depression that lingered for months. I was proud of myself that I stuck with it.

And it was a reprieve. Anyone who has practised yoga over a long period of time will understand the psychological respite that we can feel even by rolling out and lying down on our mat. It’s that knowing that for the next hour or so there is no need for thought beyond this little space: the mat, the body, the breath.

During this dark phase, I found myself feeling very disengaged from my practices. There were many tearful moments where I literally begged for the will to go on. It all sounds rather melodramatic, but let’s face it, depression is an absolute fucker. It saps all your energy, any enthusiasm, any desire for connection or engagement. And when it just goes on and on like that… I was seriously struggling.

Into this gloom came an email from my dear friend Tanya Allison, who I met in India last year. Tanya was on her way to honour the Hindu goddess Durga at an ashram in India during Navaratri. Navaratri is the nine day festival that honours the various forms of Durga, the fierce mother goddess of the Hindu pantheon. Tanya was offering a daily online sadhana (practice) for the festival. The first three days honouring Kali, the next three Lakshmi and the final three Saraswati.

Enlightenment is not something you achieve. It is the absence of something. All your life you have been going forward after something, pursuing some goal. Enlightenment is dropping all that. Joko Beck

So I devoted my altar to Durga, Kali, Lakshmi, and Sarawati and began a daily practice of mantra, offerings and prayers to the goddess. A few days in, when we had moved onto Lakshmi, I took a long walk by the river.

During bouts of depression I often find myself unable to sit and read or do any of the things I normally enjoy, walking is a way I can get out of the house and it seems to settle me. Being in nature, particularly water, is always soothing to me.

I found myself missing India at this time, longing to be there. I have written before about the deep sense of connection I felt in Rishikesh, being beside the river Ganga. Especially the experience I had of being in her waters.

The power of this experience was not so much what Ganga Ma (the Ganges river as shakti or goddess) gave me or even took away, though both were palpable. It was the sense of being held in her unconditional, maternal love. I was seen completely, nothing was hidden, and yet everything was perfect.

I know what you are thinking. This is a river we are talking about, yes? For now, let’s just say you had to be there… (I wrote about the experience in this post…)

How could it be? Whatever power flowed through her, flowed through everything. I felt deeply, completely, unconditionally held and nourished in her grace. Loved and supported to a degree I had never known possible before.

I had glimpses of this all-encompassing divine love before, but this experience was overwhelming, it washed over and through me as her waters held me. In that moment, I came home to myself. I felt at home, fully embodied in my body, in the world. Like for the first time I actually belonged in the scheme of life. I wasn’t a phoney or an imposter or a failure. I wasn’t even trying to be anything, I just was a part of everything. I know it sounds wild, but that’s exactly how it was.

Everywhere one goes in India, one finds a living landscape in which mountains, rivers, forests and villages are elaborately linked to the stories of the gods and heroes. The land bears the traces of the gods and the footprints of the heroes. Diane L Eck

Now as I gazed at the Yarra River, feeling so very far from that state of grace, I played a video of the view from my room in Rishikesh, the 13-storey Tryambakeshwar Temple overlooking the Ganges, the chanting from the temple audible. In this way I could tap into that experience.

I sat by the river chanting the Gayatri mantra. I had a sense that I was simultaneously meditating by the Yarra river, but tuned in to the Ganga, into that divine maternal energy.

Maybe it was a trick of the light, my mind misfiring, I don’t know, so I will just describe the experience as it came to me.

As I played videos of the Ganges at Rishikesh, with the chanting from Tryambakeshwar temple in the background. I felt into that first experience of great Mother shakti love, of Ganga Ma. My heart expressed a longing to feel that grace and love again.

The sun was shining a great orb on the river’s surface. And there she was, all light and golden grace. Shri Lakshmi.

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. John Steinbeck

So before we all get too carried away that Goddess Lakshmi herself appeared to me, hovering over the Yarra River. I would like to add that what I saw was an orb of light, what I felt was a presence of power.

In the Tantric tradition shakti (or feminine power) is the force that creates and animates all life. There’s shakti in you, in me, in the sky, in the river.

I felt it inside of me and I experienced it outside of me. So what I experienced, to my mind was a connection with shakti. Because it was such a lovely, beautiful, uplifting golden energy, because I had been honouring Lakshmi in daily practice, I am happy to call this shakti shri.

Lakshmi, or shri in her ancient name, is the truly delicious aspect of shakti. She has 108 names which all mean beauty, wealth, abundance and worth. Lakshmi is said to be one of the most accessible deities, as connected as she is to worldly desires.

According to legend, Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and Vishnu’s wife, or shakti energy, visits her devotees and bestows gifts and blessings upon each of them.

Lakshmi is depicted as a beautiful woman with four hands, sitting or standing on a full-bloomed lotus and holding a lotus bud, which stands for beauty, purity and fertility. Her four hands represent the four ends of human life: “dharma” or righteousness, “kama” or desires, “artha” or wealth, and “moksha” or liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

She is often represented as sitting on a lotus flower. The lotus’ unfolding petals suggest the expansion of the soul. The growth of its pure beauty from the mud of its origin holds a benign spiritual promise. Particularly Brahma and Lakshmi, the divinities of potency and wealth, have the lotus symbol associated with them.

Of course as the intensity of this experience faded, I fell back into my dark mood, but there was a spark of something. I had connected with shakti, that power, and so I committed to 21 days of Lakshmi Pūjā, a daily practice of chanting, burning incense and candles and offering flowers and food to the goddess. 21 days has just become every day now.

It is from the intention of self-mastery that yoga arised. It was the desire to find a meaning for life. The base of the yogic teachings is the exploration of the meaning of life. Through exploration the early yogis realised that this is only possible through a level of self-mastery. Otherwise we are like a weak twig in the storm of life trying to hold on for dear life. We fight the very process of life. Anand Mehotra

Over this time of daily yoga, pūjā, chanting and prayers to the Hindu goddesses, my depression has shifted, my voracious appetite for reading has returned and I am devouring books on Tantra and Yoga.

There is copious evidence of the use of mantras and chanting to relieve depression, anxiety and to focus the mind. So much evidence I will need to devote an entire blog post to it.

What has become apparent is that whether you engage in these practices in a devotional way, as I tend to do, or in a very practical way, they are a system of self-mastery.

The word pūjā comes from Sanskrit, and means reverence, honour, homage, adoration, and worship.

This can be simple, a candle, a flower, some chanting of divine mantras. For me, creating a dedicated altar is important. It is both an act of devotion and a visual doorway to connection with the divine.

I feel the inner shift when I kneel before my altar, light the candle and ring the bell. My altar is also a reminder.  Have I prayed today?

Chameli Ardagh, who runs online Sadhanas (practice) to honour various goddesses puts it beautifully.

First create your altar. On the days you feel inspired, you will infuse the altar with your willingness and attention. On the days you feel resistant, busy, or disconnected from your practice, the altar can be your anchor to a deeper truth. It will remind you why you embarked on this journey. It will root you in your commitment to embodied awakening. Chameli Ardagh

Tanya’s emails provided a sadhana to connect me with intention of Navaratri, a daily practice of connecting with goddess or shakti. Tanya who I met in India. Who shared a blessed moment with me in the waters of Ganga Ma.

And I feel all this is connected. That intention I cast, like a red thread that brought me to India, to Diwali, the festival of Lakshmi worship, to these women. That thread continues to guide me.

I am guided, yet so blind and stubborn that I suffer too much to see. And still in the darkness, grace found me.

We don’t know what we do, the light we carry to others. We just seek connection to our divinity, and when we find it share it with others so they can find it too. We don’t know if they do or how profound a simple email or message can be.

So I had my breakthrough, I had another experience that at some deep level I am of value. I have worth. I am surrounded by grace. But what’s the real rub?

Sometimes, in fact much of the time, I won’t feel it. I won’t be walking around in a constant bliss state, overflowing with shakti. The world and all its agitations will continue to deplete me, to rub away at my skin. But I can make my pearl.

How do we make the pearl? Do the practice. Be disciplined. The temple, the shakti is in you. It is you. And in everything. But you just get to deal with this little package of everything called you.

So this is what I tell myself. Get up and meditate – practise the yogic techniques that strengthen and energise my body and mind, foster my power of concentration, and provide mastery over my thoughts.

I don’t need to live in an ashram. I have been in an ashram, I know what they do. I just need to bring those practices in my daily life. Make my real life an ashram. Bring my practice into my world instead of escaping from the world.

Moving my body into different shapes [through yoga], I became a different person. Creating more space in my joints, I made more space in my mind as well. Twisting and bending and arching my body, I broke up the ice floes of self-judgment that had frozen in my muscles. I squeezed out the anxiety knotted between my shoulder blades. I melted the anger in the pit of my stomach into tears. Anne Cushman


I realise this all sounds very far-fetched and magical, so let’s break it down.

Finding myself bogged down in the mud of depression, I committed to a daily discipline of practice. The yoga asanas are only a small part of the yogic path. Meditation, prayer, chanting, pranayama (breathing practices) and lifestyle are also vital. I am only just starting to understand the full scope and power of these yogic practices, when used correctly.

The yogic path that I follow is essentially about clearing the vessel (the body, mind, emotional state) in order to allow the shakti, the life force to flow. To be able to embody this force, this power in every aspect of living.

In the tantric tradition, this shakti is represented as goddesses. Each goddess bring an aspect of wisdom and divinity which is transmitted through dedicated practice.

I believe no prayer goes unanswered. A prayer is a devoted intention. A year ago I made a pilgrimage to Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga. I wanted to find a teacher.

When I arrived In Rishikesh – the most magical place on Earth. I stood on my balcony overlooking the Ganga (a life-long dream to be near her) and looked at the Tryambakeshwar Temple. I had the intention to find a place to practise yoga and as my eyes scanned the buildings opposite I saw the sign Sattva Yoga. I walked over the bridge and met Amy Love – a recent graduate from the Sattva Yoga Academy – and began practising daily with her.

She showed me a photo of Anand Mehotra, her teacher, who seemed absolutely luminous, and told me all about her wonderful experience learning yoga with him.

After coming through this latest depression, having attributed this to the yogic practices I had been so diligent in during that time, I felt a renewed passion to continue my yogic studies. But which teacher?

Nobody out there can do it for you. No teacher, no leader. It is only through self that the self can become realised. We have the radical responsibility for our own life. It is nobody’s fault. We have to realise for ourselves the great magnificence of this life. We have to embody the essential teachings of yoga so it is not just on the conceptual or emotional level. Anand Mehotra

I watched a fantastic series on the Yogic Paths on Gaia, which featured Anand Mehotra as one of the teachers. I found his words and his presence captivating, so I signed up to his newsletter and then two days later I was thrilled when the opportunity arose to study online with him.

Coincidence? Maybe. Synchronicity? Definitely.

Anand teaches that the yogic path is about exploring reality to see that we are an expression of nature, we are as much an expression of the divine and creative forces, the shiva and shakti, as the trees, as the rivers.

As this is the ever-creative, ever-expanding, ever-changing force of life we can either embody it, harness it, or face the struggle of trying to fight against it.

When we can master our mental chatter and allow this life force to animate us, we cease to suffer. Life will challenge us, yes, but we can meet those challenges as beings embodied with a creative and evolutionary force.

We can meet those challenges, not with disappointment and petulance, but as the grit that makes the pearl. Then we can grow, then we can master our limiting thoughts and behavioural patterns, to continually evolve as a human being. And surely that’s what life is all about.

I guess for me the real challenge is to let go of how it all looks. To put my faith in the practice, to develop the discipline to carry me through the dark times, the lonely times, the truly gritty times when I want to scream “Fuck this! It’s not working!”

It’s unlikely I will ever master the ‘floaty, serene yogini’ thing, so I will have to just accept the ‘gritty, imperfect and agitated but keeps practising anyway, and has a moment or two of spine-tingling grace every now and then’ thing.

Having loved enough and lost enough, I’m no longer searching just opening, no longer trying to make sense of pain but trying to be a soft and sturdy home in which real things can land. These are the irritations that rub into a pearl. So we can talk for a while but then we must listen, the way rocks listen to the sea. and we can churn at all that goes wrong but then we must lay all distractions down and water every living seed. And yes, on nights like tonight I too feel alone. but seldom do I face it squarely enough to see that it’s a door into the endless breath that has no breather, into the surf that human shells call god. Mark Nepo

Hari om tat sat. Namaste. Blessings.

Artwork by Elena Ray

Tanya Allison

Amy Love Yoga

Anand Mehotra/Sattva Yoga

Letting go… and go… and go…

Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it. David Foster Wallace

Some days my life is measured in numbers. At work I negotiate in library card numbers, the Dewey decimal system, due dates, how much is it for 23 photocopies? The currency of the material world is numbers.

My mind is a whirring calculator “dit, dit, dit…” Not an efficient one, it has to be said, maths was never my strongpoint, I am more a word girl. Word Woman? Sounds like my kind of superhero.

At lunchtime I shop for groceries and keep a mental tally, budgeting as I go, trying to remember PIN numbers and log ins. The self checkout machines echo the inner workings of my brain, “Dit, dit, dit…”

At home I constantly conjure like a magician, trying to bend the numbers this way and that, to etch out an existence for my son and I, juggling bills and payments and expenses.

Not surprisingly at the end of most days my mind is a frazzled, whirring machine, and my body is a long forgotten appendage, dragging around after it.

It wears me down, this mental maelstrom. The attempt to control and manage all the minutiae of life. Life measured in dates, times, dollars, scores.

I have written many times about trying to make peace with myself, my sensitivity, my over-amped mind, my anxiety and depression. It’s not an easy thing to do when it is so obvious that life would run so much smoother without those aspects.

The last few months have had me on a pendulum swinging wildly between heart-clenching anxiety and depressive lethargy. It really feels like each day is a marathon, yet when I get to the end of the day, I haven’t really achieved much except lurching from one thing to the next.

So I try to find the points in these extremes where they are assets and not liabilities. Anxiety at its mildest gets me up and moving, propels me into action. The lethargy is a much needed reprieve from all the mental chatter. It forces me to rest.

I try to smile from the inside, a Balinese practice. To imagine all my organs smiling. Something about this very simple practice seems to centre me. And to be perfectly honest, simple is about all I can manage right now.

Yet it’s only a temporary reprieve, and rather like my experience when diving without enough weight, I feel groundless and tossed about by the elements around me. I can’t keep my equilibrium.

Let go or be dragged. Zen proverb

At the moment I don’t feel in integrity. I feel ungrounded, unhinged, as if I am being blown around in life’s storms.

I have, surprisingly for me, not written much about my fears surrounding my son’s imminent school trip to America. He leaves tomorrow, and although I am attempting to stay calm, circumstances seem to be conspiring against me.

There are of course, the usual fears a parent has letting their child go off in the world without them. I have had some preparation for this, as my son has travelled overseas with his dad several times since our divorce.

But letting your child go off with a loving parent who cares as much about their wellbeing as you do, and sending them off with a bunch of, albeit responsible, hopefully caring, near strangers is quite another.

Then hurricane season hit. As anyone who hasn’t been hiding under a rock would know, the US and surrounds have been hit by some horrific hurricanes. Are being hit, I mean it’s happening as I write.

And the two worst hit areas, Houston and Florida, just happen to be my son’s destinations. So yep.

Did I mention I was already anxious? Did I mention I can whip up a worry fest over nothing? And now this, mass destruction, natural disaster, thousand-year monster storms. Hells bells.

So I just need to send my kid, my life, the person I love more than life, into that? Is this some kind of test? King Solomon you can quit hiding now…

As if my own fear wasn’t enough, my ex, my son’s father, has become a tabloid news junkie, sending me – and I’m not exaggerating here – hour-by-hour updates on the worst horrors of these cataclysmic events.

So that’s easy right, you just pull the pin on the trip?

But no. After ringing the school, the travel company and then the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – who only have an emergency line with a very sweet young man who took pity on my stuttering “I’m sorry, I don’t think I’m supposed to call this number but can you help me find out some information because I’m totally freaking out here…”

That was before Irma hit… And Maria…

So at this stage, the trip is going ahead. The travel team are very experienced, constantly monitoring the situation and ready to amend the travel plans as necessary. I know you don’t need to know this, it’s myself I’m reassuring.

Oh, and did I mention how excited my son is? He helped pay for the trip with his part time job and has saved a thousand dollars spending money.

And the whole reason I talked his dad into agreeing to this trip – and that took a lot of talking, it is very expensive – was that 18 months ago my son was depressed and struggling. Really badly struggling. I mean, that was scary.

And when this trip came up, to NASA and the Kennedy Space Center and Disneyland. I thought “Hello Carrot!” I mean if Disneyland can’t coax a teenager out of their doldrums, I don’t know what can.

You are given life and it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight. Elizabeth Gilbert

And it has been. A carrot, I mean. This trip gave him a goal and a purpose, he got his first job and I have watched him butterfly right out of that adolescent gloom into a bright and confident young man.

I think I have alluded before to the feeling that I have been parenting solo for many years. My son’s father has his own issues, which have no place here, but I feel I have had to hold the lion’s share of providing emotional support and guidance for my son.

I find it exhausting to hold a safe and loving space for my son, whilst holding space for my own fears and struggles, and detaching from all the missives from his father. It’s managing this on my own that makes me feel most lonely and despite wonderful friends, mostly unsupported.

Last week the school contacted me to say we had been nominated for a scholarship. It’s a hardship scholarship aimed at keeping kids in school to complete their VCE.

While on the one hand I felt grateful that the school has obviously seen how hard it is to do this solo parenting, there was a fair amount of shame at being singled out as needing help. I’m proud like that. I struggle, but I don’t want it to show.

I often wonder how my son will look back on this time. Will he see me as failing to provide a family and financial affluence for him? Or will he remember the love and that I was always here for him. That I tried to provide the best life experiences I could for him. I hope the latter.

Having a child has been an exercise in letting go from the start. From the moment the doctor told me I was pregnant, once the room stopped spinning, that is – I thought I had the stomach flu!

I worried about protecting my child. I gave up smoking, I fussed over food, I poured over baby development books, hoping and praying that all the myriad of organs and parts were forming correctly. I worried about labour, with good reason, labour was hard, hence the name I guess.

When he was finally born I worried he would stop breathing at any moment – the baby of a family friend had died in her sleep and it had affected me greatly.

Then comes the time when you actually LEAVE YOUR CHILD WITH SOMEONE ELSE. I imagine this is what is feels like to have a limb amputated. I read once that having a child was like giving birth to your own heart and then forever having it walk around without you. I used to peer through the fence at daycare (and then school – it’s a wonder I was never ever arrested.)

Then comes the hard bits, when a doctor tells you there is something wrong with your child and you think “I knew it, I knew I would stuff this up. How could I have dreamed I could be a proper parent? Me? World’s greatest screw-up?”

There’s the sleepless nights where you worry, will they be okay? Will they go to a normal school, get a job, have friends, find love, have their own family? Tossing and turning even though he is only three and just wants to play Thomas the Tank Engine.

During the years you monitor their moods, is it normal, is it depression? WHAT AM I MEANT TO DO?

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you. Kahlil Gibran

I often wished life came with a user’s manual. And the closest I have ever come is reading other people’s spiritual biographies. My favourites are The Wishing Year (by Noelle Oxenhandler, which inspired this blog.) And, don’t judge, don’t judge, DON’T JUDGE… Eat, Pray, Love. I know you are judging me!

I must have read Eat, Pray, Love at least ten times. I often think what I love about it is not the same as what a lot of people love about it. Yes, it’s romantic and she gets the guy in the end, with a Balinese backdrop and all, and yes, I am a hopeless romantic. But that was never it for me.

The first time I read that book I was trapped in a miserable and destructive marriage. I understood the three am anxiety wake up calls, the crying to God for help, the begging for the courage to leave, and for leaving to not be a total nuclear disaster.

After I left my marriage I read it again, and related to that all consuming depression, where it felt that all the passion for life had been sucked right out of me. The feeling that I had self-imploded my life and hurt people and things would never be okay again.

I read it again after meeting my soul mate, and every few years after our relationship soared and then imploded like a painfully recurring reenactment of the Challenger space launch.

The gods envy us. They envy us because we are mortal, because any moment may be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we are doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again. Homer (The Iliad)

There’s a line from the book where she’s at the ashram in India, crying to Richard from Texas about how she can’t get over her ex. “But I miss him.” She says. “So miss him.” Replies Richard. “But I love him.” She says. “So love him.” He says.

There’s something so profound in this. That sometimes that’s all we can do is feel it. It can’t be changed or fixed. We cant go back in time for a do-over. But something may shift in us by just feeling what we feel.

As a side note when I spent a few days at an ashram in India I met a guy who I dubbed ‘Richard from Texas.’

I never found out his true name because we were in silence the whole time, but through a combination of charades-style signalling and gestures he helped me through the unspoken, but very strict, etiquette of meal times. Sit there, not there, take this, wash that. He was very kind to me and I giggled to myself that he was my Richard from Texas. Even though we didn’t get a chance for more profound communications, he stays in my mind as a friend.

Anyway, I digress. What the book always gave me was an understanding that my suffering was a rite of passage, a portal to some part of me I had been to afraid to embody. A part of me that could only emerge after all the other stuck-on parts I thought were me had been stripped away.

And that meant pain. Lots and lots of pain, and fear and anxiety, and guilt and shame. And then repeat…

Most of us do not take these situations as teachings. We automatically hate them. We run like crazy. We use all kinds of ways to escape — all addictions stem from this moment when we meet our edge and we just can’t stand it. We feel we have to soften it, pad it with something, and we become addicted to whatever it is that seems to ease the pain. It’s a transformative experience to simply pause instead of immediately trying to fill up the space. By waiting, we begin to connect with fundamental restlessness as well as fundamental spaciousness. Pema Chodron

This sense that pain was a portal to my deeper self, and not just a pointless suffering, was the same reason I was so attracted to my shamanic teacher, Sandra Ingerman. She talks openly about her battle with depression and how finding shamanic journeying helped her through that.

In the same way, my spiritual practices have given me a spaciousness around my depression. It’s not that I don’t feel it, I think it’s an integral part of my personality, but I don’t suffer so much with it. Well, mostly. Except when I can’t motivate myself to even do my spiritual practices.

Today I awoke with that heavy feeling. Of course my first thought was “Oh fuck, not this.” Nobody welcomes depression. I mean, if you’re feeling welcoming at all, it’s probably not depression.

But then I just went okay. I’m feeling depressed. What now? I need exercise, sunshine, good food and to throw away my to-do list for the day. But first some social media, because seeing other people’s fabulous lives is so helpful when you feel like a loser…

In my email account up popped a blog post with a link to this video. It’s about a woman and her journey with depression and how it led her to believe that depression is a portal to spiritual awakening.

Lisa Miller is a psychologist so she studied the brains of people who had overcome depression. She found that precisely the same areas that atrophied and withered in people with chronic depression were the same regions that thickened, the cortex strengthened like the trunk of a tree, in people who had sought a spiritual solution to their depression.

Lisa found when she looked at the brain scans of women who, through suffering, had come to a spiritual path, they had this thickened brain cortex, and they also had another quality. The back of their head gave off a certain wavelength of energy, that we call alpha, and it’s also found on the back of the head of a meditating monk. Alpha, has another name, it’s Schumann’s constant, it’s the wavelength of the Earths crust.

Her research caused her to conclude that depression can be core to our development. It is a rite of passage at pivotal stages in our lives.

Depression often occurs at times of transition, both natural like puberty, after childbirth, menopause and old age. As well as other transitions divorce, retrenchment, loss. She believes depression is a reaction to a call to become something. The problem is our culture has dismantled all the rituals of passage that might help us navigate these transitions with more support and less suffering.

I knew this journey was more than a disease. This depression was opening a path, a path of becoming. A spiritual path. Lisa Miller

Whenever I have been truly lost, truly without faith or hope, in retrospect I see it is right there that I have been standing at an unseen threshold into some deeper understanding.

This happened before I found God in AA, before I found Chakradance, before I found shamanism and druidry. Before I went to India.

All I can hope and pray is that this same process of emptying out everything I think I know is happening now, to make way for something greater or deeper or more substantial.

I don’t know, that’s the thing, I don’t know what’s coming – breakdown or breakthough? It feels awful, like a psycho-spiritual curette. I am being scraped clean of everything that I hold onto. David Foster Wallace wrote that everything he eventually let go of had claw marks in it. I mean I am a Taurus, for crying out loud, our motto is “I hang on.”

That’s me always hanging on, because I’m scared yes, but also because I don’t actually know what letting go looks like.

Is it the grand gesture? Quit my job, leave my kid, move to an ashram in India? If so which lineage because after four years of investigating I’m still no clearer on that.  Every time I find a guru whose teachings I like I discover they are under a cloud of sex charges.

Is it what I am doing? Staying here in this discomfort, with this crisis of faith and trusting that I will be guided to the next step when the time is right?

And I know this is the time when I should be embracing all my practices meditation, yoga, Chakradance, journeying but everything feels so empty and I feel so unmotivated. The best I can do is get my arse to yoga every day and run my classes. And I do get that temporary relief, that sense of calm. But then it just pours out of me like a sieve full of water.

I guess this is exactly where integrity comes in. Like the integrity of a building, can I hold myself without constantly being at the mercy of life’s storms? Can I provide a strong centre that is my anchor during shifting tides?

In savassana today – where all my truly sane thoughts arise, I realise I am in another rite of passage, as is my son. He’s becoming a man. He doesn’t need to be mummied so much any more.

And I wonder if, moreso than the hurricanes and my concerns over his recent problematic behaviours continuing while he’s away, if this is the deep root of my anxiety. I’ve defined myself in a large way as a mother for many years, and without that, who am I now?

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable. Kahlil Gibran

I need to let go and he needs me to let him go out into the world without me fussing over him.

Parenting is a fine balance of holding and letting go. And I think mothers err to the former. So if you happen to hear of a hysterical woman who had to be carried out of Melbourne Airport tomorrow, just know that was me doing my best to let go.

I jest. I was the epitome of grace and dignity – well on the outside at least and right up until I waved him goodbye through the security gates, starting to cry as I ran into the arms of my friend who happened to be standing there, en route to Bali.

In the words of my beloved Beatles, I just have to let it be.

To let go does not mean to get rid of. To let go means to let be. When we let be with compassion, things come and go on their own. Jack Kornfield

I like that, what Jack says, letting be rather than letting go. Sounds less like losing something. While I can to some degree manage the numbers of life, people are another thing entirely. And who am I to deprive anyone of their journey, their portals, and rites of passage?

Not to mention the adventures on what my dear friend used to call this ‘exquisite journey’ of life.

If I can let go of trying to control all that, all these people, places and things – and just let it all be – maybe I’ll  see what is trying to emerge in me.

I think that what I have been truly searching for as a person… A sense of liberty, the liberty that comes not only from self-awareness but also from letting go of many things. Many things that weigh us down. Jhumpa Lahiri

Hari om tat sat. Namaste. Blessings.


Reboot your body + recharge your life

The soft animal of our body knows what it loves. It feels our pleasure and our pain.

The body contains truths unique to our being. We are similar, but not the same and neither are our bodies. As you embrace this, you can settle into a beautiful relationship with the unique body, the exquisite system of flesh and senses, that is you.

base chakra

Your biography becomes your biology. Caroline Myss

In the Vedanta – the ancient Indian wisdom writings – it says that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Our body is what allows us to have this experience.

The yogis have always known this, that the stresses of the body must be smoothed out and soothed with yoga poses before the mind can be still and spirit can be heard. The yoga tradition is all about purifying the vehicle to achieve union of body and spirit.

The first chakra, located at the base of our spine, is called Muladhara in Sanskrit, meaning root support. Like the root system of a tree, our root or base chakra energetically grounds us in the physical world. This chakra balances our physicality, sense of security and stability in our body and in the world.

Linking the chakras are a series of energy channels that, in their purest and unimpeded form, constantly flow and spiral up and down the spinal column, keeping our energetic system in connectivity to both the earth and ethereal energy above, with the chakras like little hubs in between.

Anodea Judith calls the chakras the ‘architecture of the soul.’ She says a chakra is a centre of organisation for the reception, the assimilation and the expression of life force energy. The chakras are the portals, the mediators, between the inner world and the outer world.

Chakras can be described as processing centres of energy and information, as well as gateways for this energy and information to flow into, out of, and through. Note that when I refer to ‘energy’ I use the term to describe the concept used in many esoteric traditions of the vital life force energy, or spiritual energy, also known as prana or qi.

Many of us have sustained emotional and physical traumas in life which may have affected the formation and flow of our chakras. This biography of experience is energetically recorded in our chakra system (as well as the cells in our bodies.) This can cause our chakras to compensate by either restricting energy flow, becoming deficient or under active, or by becoming over active and excessive. Or even a combination of both.

‘So what?’ You ask, ‘it’s only energy,’ read on, and I’ll tell you why this kind of imbalance can have deep and far reaching effects on your life.


The land is my backbone. Galarrwuy Yunipingu

Linked to physical realities of life – security, shelter, sustenance, family, tribe – Deedre Diemer writes that the first chakra is associated with primordial trust. It is the chakra associated with our basic instincts for food, shelter, sex and survival.

If we have ever experienced a lack in these needs being met, we may have an overreactive first chakra, that is out of balance and causes us to compensate in a variety of ways.

Natalie Southgate writes that when your base chakra is balanced, you feel connectedness with the world and those around you, in a state of safety and stability. The balanced base chakra gives you a focused sense of your place in the world. As it is your root chakra, it is vital to allow your other chakras to be in balance.

Like the foundations of a house, or the roots of the tree, the base is essential to the stability of the whole structure.

If we are imbalanced in this chakra it can manifest as a lack of physicality, being underweight, spacey and anxious. Or it may manifest as an excessive physicality in being overweight and overly attached to the physical by hoarding, over eating and indulgence in pleasure, or over-accumulation of stuff.


To lose our connection with the body is to become spiritually homeless. Without an anchor we float aimlessly, battered by the winds and waves of life. Anodea Judith

I often wondered how I could be both spaced out and have a tendency to over-indulge. Anodea Judith points out that as these extremes are both compensatory behaviours to address an issue in this chakra we may experience symptoms of both.

If you imagine the root chakra like a plant in a pot, it needs a degree of support to keep the soil and moisture in, but too tight a restraint will not allow it to grow.

In the same way a deficient base chakra contracts too tightly into its core, not allowing enough room for energy to come in, to have, to hold, to manifest. In this scenario we are literally strangling our energy flow, the earth energy that needs to flow up and through our base chakra is restricted and bottlenecked, creating blockages that may literally prevent us from manifesting or maintaining physical things, including our own healthy robust body, as there is no room to receive. This kind of person can be literally disembodied, spacey, anxious, ungrounded.

The person who compensates for an unbalanced base chakra though physical over-indulgence, allows excessive earth energy into their system. They may feel heavy, lethargic, they may be overweight, overeat, hoard and covet possessions, money and power. It is as if they use physical things, including their own body weight to compensate for deficiencies in this chakra, perhaps to literally compensate for a lack of maternal holding in their formative years.

Again this results in a blockage. Too much energy, when it is held and hoarded in this way impedes the flow just as much as constricted energy. It’s akin to the Buddhist concept of attachment, it is the attachment to our desires that causes suffering. It causes us to get stuck in a unmanageable mess of our own making.


Looking back you realize that a very special person passed briefly through your life and that person was you. It is not too late to become that person again. Robert Brault

The base chakra is very much about grounding, stability, and security, and I have learned the only lasting stability and security available is that which I provide to myself, through being present in the body, in the now. My intention now is for balance and health. I no longer want to shield myself in weight, nor do I want to starve, or define myself by some ideal so manipulated that not even today’s models actually achieve it. My intention is to love myself, to protect myself without needing layers of flesh to do so. To be whatever size and shape my true being is, healthy, comfortable, happy. My intention is to rediscover joy in my body, my life.

The lesson of Muladhara chakra is grounding, a full inhabiting of our physical bodies as the embodiment of our connection to the element of earth. To cease existing primarily in our heads and inhabit our bodies. To cease grasping onto people, places and things as the source of our security.

Here we can experience pleasure and pain, connect with our feelings, and release these accumulated emotional energies through our connection with the physical.

Movement through our bodies allows energy to flow, it can trigger blockages to shift and cause accumulated energies to be released or redistributed and balanced.

Movement brings us into our physicality, brings our energy down from our heads into our roots, allowing a real connection with not only our physical selves, but the physicality of the world around us.


Here in this body are the sacred rivers, here are the sun and the moon, as well as all the pilgrimage places. I have not encountered another temple as blissful as my own body. Saraha Doha

To encourage our vital energy to flow freely we must let go of our attachments and defences. The chakras can be blocked by our learned defences, either something we want to keep out or something we don’t want to let out. What kinds of things would cause these defences? Toxic energy, fear and violence are all things we may shut down to avoid. Similarly we may repress our own ‘negative’ emotions – anger, sorrow, exuberance – having learned it was unsafe to express these.

Sometimes the residue from trauma gets stored in our body and our energy system. While traditional psychotherapy may assist at a mental and behavioural level, we also need to release these wounds energetically, in order to release the attachments and defences they cause us to act out – often unconsciously – in our lives.

As in all things balance is the key. An over-amped base chakra may cause us to be frozen in fear or rushing about in a heightened state of anxiety. What we ideally want is movement that is grounded and purposeful. We need to reconnect with the nurturing aspects of Mother Earth.


I thought the earth remembered me, she took me back so tenderly, arranging her dark skirts, her pockets full of lichens and seeds. Mary Oliver

To ground we invite this energy back down through our body and reconnect ourselves energetically with the earth.

Traditionally humans spent most of their lives in direct contact with the earth, walking, living and sleeping on the ground. In the modern world we are so disconnected from the earth in layers of buildings, shoes, vehicles.

Anodea Judith says that the best way to restore balance to the base chakra, is to open the leg channels. The legs connect us to the earth and the energy flows up through our feet and legs and into the base chakra. Our legs are like two prongs of an electric plug – we need to plug in to the earth energy to ground.

In Chakradance we reconnect our base chakra to the earth by dancing to earthy tribal beats, moving powerfully through our legs and feet. We may visualise ourself as a seed planted in the earth, provided with all the sustenance, support, and security it needs to grow. We see ourselves setting down strong roots as we grow into the world, like a giant majestic tree firmly rooted in the soil, so our branches can safely reach up and out into the sunshine.

Plenty of earthing, feet in the earth, sitting crouched on the earth, visualising mother earth’s energy cleansing, grounding, and balancing me. All very tribal, this earth-based, primal dance of the base chakra, and so liberating for a cerebral girl like me.

Join me on my next retreat (see below) if you feel inspired to reboot your base chakra.

Hari om tat sat. Namaste. Blessings.

Upcoming events at Raw Mojo Chakradance

Base Chakra Journeying

Reboot Your Base Chakra Retreat

Chakradance – Rhythm for your soul

All Artwork by Melina Del Mar – all rights reserved

From words to world


The words you speak become the house you live in. Hafiz

Words have power. They can encourage and heal. Words can be a bridge between us and another that lessen feelings of isolation and loneliness in our life experiences. Words can also hurt, they can become darts that target each other’s weakest spots, they can wound and paralyse us.

The words we hear as a child form our sense of ourselves, they are our reference points to our perception of reality. As we get older, this house of words tends to influence what we hear in what other’s say and how we perceive the world.

This week my friend, a psychologist training in a technique called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) took me through the technique on an incident from my childhood. I was about 10 or 11 years old. I had a very naughty friend without whom I probably would never dreamed of acting so wild. In fact she was such trouble that when she turned up unannounced at my house, I didn’t want to go with her but my dad shooed me along, to get me out of the house.

After being busted for our childish lark of throwing lemons on the road to watch cars run over them, I was severely reprimanded by my parents, and left alone in my darkened bedroom for the night, to stew in my father’s final words “I have never been so ashamed of you in my whole life.” Given that my dad rarely got upset, or even paid much attention to me, these words held power.

I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being. Hafiz

I have always known I carried a deep sense of shame around this, even after I was old enough to understand what I had done was not so very bad after all, and even once I learned, as a parent myself, that sometimes you overreact and say things that are way overblown, out of frustration or fear.

It was one of those pivotal family vignettes that seemed to capture some deeper truth and always came out in therapy.

What my friend helped me tap into is that this incident, probably amongst many others, had left me with a deep-seated shame and belief that ‘I am unlovable.’

Probably not coincidentally, the very next night my current lover vehemently expressed his mixed feelings about our relationship, given that in his words, his mind was saying of me, “she’s not the one.”

The words themselves were not a shock, we have been pretty clear about what we are and are not to each other, but the vehemence hurt. Not any less by the fact it mirrored my own feelings of loneliness as I prepared to go see him, a generally lovely, loving man, but not the one for me either.

Still reeling from letting go, yet again, of the man I have always hoped was ‘the one’ I find myself again wondering if it is just not my dharma this lifetime to experience that kind of love. Or am I just telling myself that and making it a self-fulfilling prophecy by choosing men who are not going to provide that kind of relationship?

I am never quite sure of myself with this love and intimacy stuff. I spent way too many formative years locked away in my bedroom with books and music that quite frankly warped my mind into some pretty fantastical ideas about life and love.

What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music? Nick Hornby


When Darcy and Heathcliff are your romantic idols, doesn’t it make sense that the only men you would lust after are the unreachable and unavailable ones? Waiting for that magic moment – after years of neglect and rejection – when they realise that yes! they truly do love you.

I must say rereading Wuthering Heights as an adult woman with some actual relationship experience under my belt, I was horrified that my teenage self thought Heathcliff’s and Kathy’s torturous love romantic.

Explains a lot, really.

Like many, I have had a tumultuous relationship with romantic love. I have far too active an imagination to ever really see another person as they are.

As such I fall for the most beautiful and unavailable man I can find, and try to heal his wounds with my love. (As a side note to those who haven’t tried this yet, it doesn’t work.)

The one you love and the one who loves you are never, ever the same person. Chuck Palahniuk

In the past I have been severely burned by this weakness in myself. My last love broke my heart, not even by any misdemeanour of his – his faults were well advertised and I chose to overlook them all – but simply because he could not live up to the Mr Darcy fantasy I held in my mind.

I kept waiting for the revelation to hit him that he had it all wrong, and could I ever forgive him enough to allow him to marry me and worship me forever. (I blame Jane Austen and the Brontes entirely for this blind spot of deluded thinking…)

In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you. Jane Austen

Aw! Jelly legs… Right, where was I?


Is it possible in a society completely consumed with sex and romance, we have forgotten how to love?

Last week I attended an assembly of Druids, over five days we communed with nature, talked about creativity and natural cycles, sang, danced and played music. It was a gathering of like-minded people. I am sure once I have a chance to process and integrate the experience, I will have more to say, but for now what really touched me were the relationships, in particular, the marriages I saw.

They were gentle and loving and strong, each partner was their own person and yet supported and held by the other. These were true partnerships, and again it stirred a deep desire in me. I want that! Why can’t I have that? What’s wrong with me?

I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who’s dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing. Neil Gaiman

Supposedly we learn from our mistakes. So as to not repeat them. As such I entertain the extremely optimistic position that I haven’t been making the same mistake repeatedly with my love the last seven years. Surely, at least, it’s a new mistake every time.

Oh I jest, they are not mistakes.

Relationships are like all things in life, impermanent. And while it is hard to let go of great love and passion, it is possible. Well, at least I hope it is. I write these words sometimes and then think, really? Who wrote that?

And because in each incarnation of our relationship I have learned some very valuable, albeit painful, lessons.

From the outside it would seem that we just get together and break up. Over and over and over again. It seems the same. Over and over and over again.

However I’m convinced that each incarnation of our relationship has brought different, and perhaps deeper, lessons.

A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master. Elizabeth Gilbert

I believe we are soul mates. In the sense that we both felt a sense of recognition and homecoming when we met, a feeling of knowing, an instant connection, deep intimacy, and attraction, followed by an ever increasing mirroring of our shadow sides as the relationship goes deeper.

(Although he would insist this kind of thinking is due to my frequent viewings of Highlander turning my brain to highland porridge.)

Our relationship seems to follow no regular trajectory, nor serve any purpose aside from triggering major upheaval and growth in each of us.

No one has ever hurt me deeper. No one has even taught me more.

And while I will admit to feeling foolish after publicly declaring our relationship (again) a few blog posts ago, only to find that my hopes for us have not manifested (again), I so want to understand.

A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave. Elizabeth Gilbert

While I know there are many, many people in my life who see this as a ridiculous dynamic, as one friend said when I told her that I thought we were really over this time, “Oh I have heard all this before!” I don’t agree.

You see I know that this man has triggered changes in me, profound, deep and necessary changes that may have not happened otherwise.

It was he that challenged me to write. During one break up he told me that I would never write because I was governed by a chronic fear of taking risks. Harsh? Maybe, but with a basic attitude of “I’ll show you.” I took a writing course, read my work aloud for the first time and then published this blog.

He got me started in yoga, introduced me to my Druid grove. Gave me a sounding board, an intelligent, honest and extremely well educated sounding board, to hash out my spiritual beliefs and my ideas for Raw Mojo.

It sounds like a list of the things he enabled me to do but it was so much more than that.

As Miley (yes Cyrus, c’mon that girl’s got pipes) sings, surrending to great love is like a wrecking ball crashing through your life, and this was the first time I really bared myself, body and soul to a man, was vulnerable, took risks emotionally.

I came in like a wrecking ball, I never hit so hard in love. Yeah, I just closed my eyes and swung, left me crashing in a blazing fall, all I wanted was to break your walls. Miley Cyrus

A few times I nearly went down with it, but it showed me what I am capable of, when I am willing to take risks. That I was capable of great passion, great surrender, true authenticity and deep connection. Nothing less than that will be satisfactory now.

The last time we broke up I was so devastated that I planned my trip to India to get me through. Having taken great emotional risks in love, it seemed I was opened up to taking other risks in my life, to following my passions in spite of fear.

I hope I have given in comparable ways to him. I always tried to honour and support his many gifts and talents. Sometimes I also resorted to a variety of tactics to get him to see his own value. Many times I missed the mark. I think for him, our relationship possibly tested him in similar ways to me. But maybe that’s my vanity.

Elizabeth Gilbert – who he despises with a passion – says that soul mates are not necessarily suited as life partners, soul mates are our toughest teachers, they mirror our most repressed shadow aspects in order to face ourselves in a way that a more gentle love could not.

People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. Elizabeth Gilbert

This last incarnation has had me questioning love. I know I love him and yet my reaction when he turns away from me is angry and vengeful. So where’s the love in that? I am trying to stay present with the maelstrom of thoughts and impulses and emotions that are arising.

For many months now, well since we ended, I have had a daily yoga practice. Yoga is twofold for me, it releases held emotions from my bodily tissues and it also forces me to be in the moment with myself, with whatever arises. Recently savassana for me is a state of constant emotional weeping.

But this release is healthy. At least once a day I must touch upon my sadness. Then I tend to be able to get on with the demands of my day.

Everybody has an unmet need, something that they want just out of reach, It’s what makes the best movies, the kind of leading roles played by Meryl Streep. Jen Cloher

So I made the resolution that this time I will get the message. Instead of the wailing and indefinite grieving of the past, I will feel the pain, but also hold myself in the understanding that there is a great lesson here. A lesson that once learned might actually break this cycle.

So what is that? I’m not entirely sure, but I think something along the lines of self-love and self sufficiency. I think that although I am coming to see that I am actually lovable, that I keep experiencing the world as if I am unloved. It makes me seek instant ways to fill myself up on love. It makes me a little desperate, needy and codependent.

Love wants to reach out and manhandle us, break all our teacup talk of God. If you had the courage and could give the Beloved His choice, some nights, he would just drag you around the room by your hair, ripping from your grip all those toys in the world that bring you no joy. Hafiz

What has become apparent is that until I feel loveable and good enough in myself, I will always create this dynamic which painfully acts out my sense of deficiency. This is not about the relationship or this man. These deficiencies go much deeper.

Abraham Maslow believed that a self actualised person is self sufficient. Not in the sense that they isolate themselves from others, not with false pride. Rather this kind of evolved person doesn’t come to relationships with needs to fulfil that they should be fulfilling themselves.

What is love? Can the child within my heart rise above? Can I sail through the changin’ ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life? Stevie Nicks

So while having needs for intimacy, for giving and receiving love and compassion are completely appropriate, needing someone else to fill up our self worth, self esteem are not.

First, it doesn’t work. Second, it puts relationships at a transactional level of need fulfilment rather than an unconditional level of true loving.

It doesn’t work because ultimately these needs must be satiated within. Otherwise we become a vortex that drains the other person, all their love is squandered and ultimately the relationship is doomed.

Everything is impermanent. This moment passes. That person walks away. Happiness is still possible. Thich Nhat Hanh

So finding myself in this dynamic, I now must face the alternatives of either a lifetime of these soul destroying relationship dynamics or the courage to really do the inner work on myself.

My yoga teacher often reprimands the class. He says. “I ask you to be with yourself, in your own energy for two minutes and you can’t do it. Yet you expect someone to want to be with you, pay attention to you for a lifetime. When you can’t even be with yourself for two minutes.”

After years of meditation I can be with myself for two minutes, but his point is well taken. How can I ask another for love when I can’t give it to myself?

Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings. Anaïs Nin

So begins my next challenge. How do I love myself and others unconditionally?

I saw a picture of my love and I felt compassionate love. Not anger, not scorn or bitterness. I do love you. I thought. I do want you to be okay. Even without me.

I thought this was progress. But then it grew into longing. And I felt that tight black mass in my chest. Who are you? I asked the tight black mass? I really wanted to understand. As it’s black slimy clawed arms reached out it said “I am your need.”

Oh. It wasn’t nice. I wouldn’t want to be clutched in those arms.

Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly and wants to rip to shreds all your erroneous notions of truth that make you fight within yourself, dear one, and with others, causing the world to weep on too many fine days. Hafiz

So awareness is a great thing. And yet I’m not entirely sure what to do next. I’ve seen this rampant need. I think I’ve identified it’s origins in my life, and I see what it wants.

I am trying to be patient with myself. I’ve seen this cycle. I’m in the holding bay, waiting for him to make contact. Not really wanting him to on the one hand, because I’m pretty sure we are done and it will just be a sad conversation. Can we be friends? History, of which we have plenty, suggests not. But I find myself still wanting a sign that I meant something, that I still mean something. It’s a lose-lose scenario.

I swing between absolute certainly that we will never, ever, ever get back together (and yes listening to Taylor Swift and getting pulled up by teenage boys at the traffics lights wanting to know what I’m singing alone so emphatically to) And then finding myself off on ridiculous romantic fantasies. Well, not so ridiculous. I mean last time couple of times we got back together it was in Bali, once on a balcony with a paradasical view, after he drew me a flower to make me smile…

There is nothing at all that can be talked about adequately, and the whole art of poetry is to say what can’t be said. Alan W. Watts

But never. Ever. Again. Like ever.

But my mind fixates. It wants a solution. But there’s nothing that I haven’t tried over the last seven years, it’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel where I’ve selected every possible variable and the outcome has still been the same.

All that’s left is to accept and to not delude myself into the false hope of trying again, the battle cry of the addict “this time will be different.”

Because at the beginning it is intoxicating. There’s so much promise and hope. It’s so intimate and connected I always wonder how we could have stuffed things up. Then when things go off the rails, and I see the utter inevitability of our characters playing out the scenario they do, I wonder how I was ever insane enough to expect anything different.

This moment, this love, comes to rest in me many beings in one being. In one wheat grain a thousand sheep stacks. Inside the needle’s eye a turning night of stars. There is a light seed grain inside, you fill it with yourself or it dies. I am caught in this curling energy, your hair, who ever is calm and sensible is insane! Rumi

So I make the vow not to seek love but to be love. To embody love. What the heck does that actually mean? I don’t know. It sounded good when I wrote it.

I think maybe acting loving despite all the hurt. Keeping my heart open. Not losing hope in love, and its many forms.

I do get weary of always having to be strong on my own. For some time now my son’s father has not been well, emotionally or physically.  And for as long as I can remember the bulk of the parenting responsibilities have been on my shoulders. Not just financially or physically, but I feel it emotionally, in all those times where you have important decisions to make, where your child need guidance and support.

I think how I would love a partner that I could share this with, to say, “hey, what do you think we should do?” To share the load as well as the joys.

The Beloved sometimes wants to do us a great favour: hold us upside down and shake all the nonsense out. Hafiz

At times I feel like I am completely running on empty, I give and provide support and love, but how do I fill up my own cup?

At the Winter Solstice, I began my year of holding space as the Mabon, the sacred child. My druid friend said she related this energy to the vestal virgins who held the spark of divine consciousness through their purity.

Can I trust right now? Can I be as a child? Open, curious?

It feels strange because at the same time I have so many regrets. I feel jaded, and that I have squandered the “best years” or my life, or “wasted my pretty” as the modern parlance goes.

But the child teaches of the infinite possibilities of rebirth. Of a rebirth in consciousness. Can I be grateful for the love and lessons, and let go of the attachments to pain and regrets?

My emotional pendulum is swinging wildly. Where’s the equilibrium. Where’s the peace?

Please come home. Please come home into your own body, Your own vessel, your own earth. Please come home into each and every cell, And fully into the space that surrounds you. Jane Hooper

The early Christian and gnostic mystics known as the desert fathers and mothers, wrote about these intense feelings rising out of personal issues as ‘passions,’ they were trained to spot these ‘land mines’ and be free of them before they did serious psychic damage.

The heart at the service of the personal, psychological self is not a heart at all, according to the Wisdom tradition. Finding the way to where our true heart lies is the great journey of spiritual life, and it crosses the vast, uncharted waters of our being. But making this passage has everything to do with the discovery of Wisdom. Cynthia Bourgeault

Meditation, prayer and sacred chanting were the tools they used – these are the time-tested practices for nurturing the heart and quietening the mind.

When this practice goes well emotion maintains it’s depth and power while losing that sticky sentimental and confused quality so characteristic of the ego self.

Rather than emotional storms wreaking destruction on our inner peace, Christian mystic Cynthia Bourgeault believes it is the emotional centre that carries the reconciling force. It is the bridge between mind and body. Earth, sea and sky.

As we wander in perpetual spiritual adolescence, attempting to fill the hunger in our hearts with our needs rather than the divine need, creation itself (all of life on this planet) pays the price. Cynthia Bourgeault

I realise I come across as self-indulgent. However I speak with absolute sincerity when I say I believe that part of the path to wisdom is self-examination. I see the messes I make in my life, I acknowledge the harm done to others in my quest to meet my own needs. If the only outcome of my life is develop into a human being who can walk this earth peacefully without blindly harming those in her path, I will be happy.

And I really believe that through understanding the mechanisms at work in myself, by transcending them to the best of my ability, I join with those who endeavour to leave a light and gentle footprint on this earth.

Now is the time for you to know that everything you do is sacred. Rumi

While we are blind to our own destructive natures, what hope do we have of turning around the destruction to each other or on Mother Nature?

My motive is to clear out all the sticky, entangled emotional behavioural patterns that are engrained in my neural pathways. In the modern vernacular “don’t go there.” Don’t go with the reactive response, stay present. Stay here. Observe the storm but don’t become the storm.

By staying present with my own shadow, my own darkness, by holding myself with compassion, holding that part of me that is still a 10 year old girl who thinks she has been abandoned by her father, that she is unloved and unlovable. By not allowing those ideas, those words to create her reality, there is the crack through which the light gets in and shows me another possibility.

You may be asking, what this has to do with seven intentions? Well, everything really. As I become more and more convinced of the interconnectness of absolutely everything, I realise I can’t turn away from this stuff, as much as I wish to. It affects my sense of the world.

How can I manifest my glorious intentions in a world where we can’t even stop people from hurting one another?

Peace and compassion are things I desire far more than a home or more money. I always said I never wanted to be bitter, no matter how battle worn or weary my heart might be, that it would remain loving.

Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold. Zelda Fitzgerald

And above all, I want to be free of this. I have so much I want to write about, the spirits of nature, my druidry and shamanism, so many new budding things in my life. But I know from experience I have to deal with what is in front of me before I can move on. As excruciating as I find it, right now, this is it.

On balance, there is always more love than evil happening in the world. I think. I know this is not what the mass media tells us, but it’s true. Even in a war zone there are people helping their neighbours, loving their children, creating beautiful art and music, and making love. I wonder what would happen if we could all hold this thought together. That the world and its people are more loving than hating, more loving than fearful, more loving than hurtful.

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won.

There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it – always. Mahatma Gandhi

I try not to lose faith in love because without it the world seems impossibly bleak.

I try to be grateful for all the love I do have in my life, my son, my friends, my spiritual communities. These fill me up, and provide me with support and sustenance.

I also try to remember than I have a degree of freedom that is enviable to many. I can save up all my pennies and go to India or Bali.

I remember when I was unhappily married, with three (beloved) young sons, and a friend – who was then about the age I am now – was lamenting her lonely single life. I envied her. I vividly remember saying to her “Just enjoy it, one day you’ll be in a committed relationship and you’ll miss the freedom, the simplicity of single life.”

Ha. Karma is a bitch, eh?

So you may say I’m naive and impossibly romantic, but I am making an intention to stay open to love and to believe that I am lovable, that we all are, each and every moment, no matter what.

And as I believe we are all connected, at some level you will all feel this too, even if it’s just the lightest flap of butterfly wings along your cheek, that for one small moment makes you ever-so-imperceptibly smile.

Here is the deepest secret nobody knows (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide) and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart). e. e. cummings

Hari Om Tat Sat. Namaste. Blessings.

Art by Viktor Nizovtsev

Dancing in the shadow

The self of my dreams came the day I found out that there was gold hidden in my darkness, that there was light shining in my bad behaviour, and that there was power hidden in the traumas of my past. Debbie Ford

One of the less obvious influences on Chakradance, often overshadowed by the more apparent influences of the Hindu-Tantric chakra system and shamanic trance-dances practices, is Jungian psychology.

While the Chakradance facilitator is all too aware that his or her role is to ‘hold space’ for the experiences of the dancers, a very Jungian concept, as is the use of mandala art to ‘contain’ the numinous experiences and energy of the dance. These Jungian aspects are often not obvious to the dancer.

I often refer to Jungian archteypes that people may encounter in their dance journeys, these will often manifest as visions of scenes that play out as interactions between archetypes like mother and victim, warrior and servant.

I have written about archetypes in these other posts. 

The experience of Chakradance is described like a ‘waking dream’ where the dancer lets go of their conscious, thinking mind and allows the unconscious mind to communicate through images, feelings, colours and insights.

This week another Chakradance facilitator posted about Chakradance as a way to interact with our shadow, a Jungian concept for the aspects of self that we are either unaware of or actively suppress because we are ashamed of that aspect of ourselves.

At a time when my shadow, in the words of Led Zeppelin, looms taller than my soul, and having just read a truly awe-inspiring post by a Jungian writer – see here – I felt one of those lightning bolt moments.  (Like a lightbulb moment but way more dramatic.)

Something’s coming up. Let’s see if it can articulate itself here…

Chakradance is a journey within. Using the chakra system as a map to consciousness, we dance beyond the everyday, five sensory awareness into a deeper experience of ourselves. With our eyes closed and our imagination as a guide, during Chakradance we experience our inner world as a waking dream. Many people see visions in their mind’s eye, encounter beings, ancestors, animals, different landscapes which all tell a story about the disposition of our inner self.

In the new Chakradance cycle, called Freedom, we have a different guide for each chakra who takes us on this journey. But I have found many people intuitively find their own guides in the dance as well, be they humans, ethereal beings or animals.

After participating in a Chakradance cycle, many people are surprised at the visions and experiences, not to mention the insights and transformations in their real lives, that they encounter.

It is so astonishing to uncover this unconscious aspect of ourselves, and to realise our conscious, day to day self is like the tip of the iceberg in terms of the multitudes we all contain.

So when we immerse ourselves into the sound and movement of chakradance, what will often arise is aspects of ourselves that we have not been aware of. This can be visions, emotions or insights that are experienced in a loving and beautiful way. Sometimes we are ready to shift and release less attractive aspects of ourselves. These might be long buried memories, strong emotions, or even aspects portrayed as menancing creatures who come out of our subconscious dark zones. 

Like a deep-water diver, encountering sharks or other prehistoric and primal creatures that we may be afraid of, our first reaction to these is often fear or repulsion. But just as sharks have a vital role in the ecological wellbeing of the ocean, so our own shadow has a purpose. 

This is what I believe: That I am I. That my soul is a dark forest. That my known self will never be more than a little clearing in the forest. That gods, strange gods, come forth from the forest into the clearing of my known self, and then go back. That I must have the courage to let them come and go. That I will never let mankind put anything over me, but that I will try always to recognize and submit to the gods in me and the gods in other men and women. There is my creed. D.H. Lawrence

For me, when I began my Chakradance facilitator training, and I was dancing and studying the modality intensely on a daily basis, I had a number of powerful experiences. The most profound for me was an experience in the Solar Plexus Chakra, which not only happened in the dance but also in my dream life. This showed me something was shifting at a deep level in my psyche.

I was awoken from a dream, quite literally, with a bang. In my dream, a large metal pot or cauldron blew its lid with a loud explosion. As a result of reading Jung and experiencing Chakradance, I was becoming more curious about the messages my subconscious communicates to me in my dreams.

After waking from this dream, I felt quite agitated and unable to go back to sleep. There was the strongest feeling that this dream was an important message from my subconscious and I intuitively felt it was somehow related to my solar plexus chakra. So after discussing this with my Chakradance teacher, I moved on to this chakra. During the dance, I had a very powerful experience.

The dance of Manipura (the solar plexus chakra) begins with a flame, and as the music intensifies, the fire increases, and I danced like wildfire. I became one with the fire, I was fire, flickering and wild. It felt incredibly liberating and powerful, and then all of a sudden my perception shifted dramatically.

The experience transformed from being elemental fire, to being ON fire – being burned, encased in flames – and all the powerful emotions that came with it. Horror, fear, panic. Even knowing it was just in the dance, the emotional reaction was profound. 

I had flashbacks to memories of being hurt as a child, and a great rage rose within me. Ending up like an animal in all fours, I growled and raged, releasing suppressed emotions held within me since I was a powerfless five year old unable to fight back against her abuser. 

It is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses- and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism. The individual seldom knows anything of this; to him, as an individual, it is incredible that he should ever in any circumstances go beyond himself. But let these harmless creatures form a mass, and there emerges a raging monster. Carl Jung

Recovering in child’s pose, I found myself saying to myself, “that was then this is now, it is safe to be powerful now.”

As I incanted this affirmation, came a vision of a fiery cauldron burning away the hurts of the past, all those experiences where I was persecuted, shamed, or abused for expressing my power.

I would love to report that since then I have never been less than powerful in my life, but it doesn’t work like that. In my life aspects of my shadow, like that scared and angry child, the one who was unable to be powerful and speak up, are still there.

The difference is that I know she is there, and I can see when that energy emerges, when I get petulant or sulky, when I over react to perceived criticism or rejection. These days, I am more mindful, more aware.

And I have made a sacred place for her, where she can be safe to express whatever she needs to. It’s my way of integrating her, without annihilating her. Because she’s part of me. If she hadn’t taken on all that rage and shame for all those years I may not be here today. Today instead of wishing her away I try to honour her. She’s a feisty five year old who screws up her face when she’s not happy and I love her!

I have also tapped into an inner wellspring of power that I never knew I possessed. Now when I dance the Solar Plexus I embody the energy of a fiery God – Shiva Nataraj – or a powerful warrior and feel these numinous qualities flow on into my life.

We need more people who are not ashamed of, or embarrassed by their pain, but who can instead respond to their own and others’ suffering – as an unavoidable facet of the human condition – with love, patience, sympathy, nurturing and respect. True happiness, after all, does not exclude sadness, but rather embraces it within the living paradox which personal wholeness demands. Maureen B Roberts

So what is this shadow? And why do we have it. And yes, you do.

Renowned psychologist Carl Jung believed that on the journey to discover your inner secrets and mysteries, you will encounter the dark, hidden crevices within your psyche. He called this place the “shadow self.” It is also called the lower self, animal nature, the alter ego, or the inner demon – the place where the unowned side of your personality lives.

The shadow is the parts of ourselves that we may try to hide or deny. According to Carl Jung, it can be said to consist of energy patterns, known as selves or sub-personalities that were disowned — pushed down into our unconscious in childhood, as part of our coping strategies.

Jung created the Archetypes model, a concept to describe how our unconscious minds are fragmented or structured into different “selves” in an attempt to organize how we experience different things in life.

Your shadow self is the part of you that stays unknown, unexamined, and out of the light of your conscious awareness. It is the part that is denied or suppressed because it makes you uncomfortable or afraid. Whatever doesn’t fit your image of your ideal self becomes your shadow.

Jung asked, “Would you rather be good or whole?” Many people choose goodness, or more accurately ‘correctness’ as a means to belong in society, and as a result, are internally fractured. There is your persona, the part you want the world to see, and your shadow, the part that you don’t.

What we call civilized consciousness has steadily separated itself from the basic instincts. But these instincts have not disappeared. They have merely lost their contact with our consciousness and are thus forced to assert themselves in an indirect fashion. This may be by means of physical symptoms in the case of a neurosis, or by means of incidents of various kinds, or by unaccountable moods, unexpected forgetfulness, or mistakes in speech… modern man protects himself against seeing his own split state by a system of compartments. Certain areas of outer life and of his own behavior are kept, as it were, in separate drawers and are never confronted with one another. Carl Jung

Jung believed that what you resist in life tends to persist and even become stronger. If you resist your dark side, it becomes more solid. Hence by trying to be good and suppress our shadow side we actually make it more powerful.

As Jung often said what we refuse to face in ourselves, we project into others and onto life creating an external world that seems to reflect our own worst nightmares. We create self-fulfilled prophecies of the stuff we least want.

I think I first became aware of my shadow 18 years ago. Having hit, in 12-Step parlance, my rock-bottom through alcohol and drug abuse, I found myself sober in a 12 Step program. Suddenly I had no Dutch courage, no medicine, no anaesthetic, and no buffer between myself and reality. I had started using alcohol to numb my feelings at age 15 so at age 25 I had acquired zero emotional maturity or coping mechanisms that didn’t involve a drink, a fix or a pill.

I found myself sitting in cold and dank church halls and community centres – where many AA meetings seemed to be held – with hideously bright fluorescent lighting – “ve have vays of making you talk.” Even though I had spend much of my ‘drinking years’ in dank bars, the veneer of alcohol always made everything sparkle, it gave me a warm inner glow, and the dim lighting covered a multitude of sins.

People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. Joseph Campbell

Now I felt exposed, transitioning from a creature of the night to an attempt at daytime normalcy, I found myself squinting and blinking at the brightness of the world, like a mole forced out of her hole. Supermarkets were particularly painful. The combination of the bad Muzak, over-lit endless aisles of stuff and people was pergatory for me.

Especially the people. Early detox from alcohol is defined by it’s combination of the physical shakes and extreme paranoia. I was sure every person in the place was watching me trying to wrestle control of my hand to pick up a packet of cereal or extricate money from my wallet. If someone actually spoke to me, it all became too much, the walls would start closing in and I had to abandon all my shopping and leave.

It was a shock to see what a ‘shadow’ person I had become, more comfortable in the dark, shadowy side of life, invisible, afraid of the most ordinary things.

In the AA program I was forced to confront my ‘defects of character,’ another ways of describing the shadow aspects of my behaviour. For someone who had meticulously avoided any emotions, or difficult aspects of myself, this was a hideously confronting process. On a daily basis I was faced with the choice of facing my shadow or facing complete annihilation. It was not a happy time.

We approach the id with analogies: we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations. It is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts, but it has no organization, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle. Sigmund Freud

But, through this process I learned to be increasingly more comfortable with myself, all of myself, and embarked on a path of self-awareness and self-acceptance as I had never known before.

It was to be my first of many experiences, where I discovered that facing my shadow, no matter how painful or undesirable, brought untold gifts.

Eventually though I found myself again at a rock bottom. Having crashed and burned emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually not long after my fortieth birthday, again I was searching for answers.

As appealing as it was when I was happy, from this depressed state I found much of the New Age stuff very shallow. Wishful thinking, affirmations, faking it until we make it, are sometimes helpful to get out of the rut, but they cannot be long term life plans. True authenticity comes from facing the shadow. That stuff that lurks just beneath the surface that we push down with a myriad of avoidance strategies from sedation to excess busyness.

I am highly suspicious of any practice which focuses only on the light or positive aspects of our being. We are all made up of dark and light. A really simple way to uncover your shadow self is to see what really irritates you in others, what drives you bonkers. Is it disrespect? Arrogance? Greed? Inconsideration? Guaranteed the stuff you most resent in others is stuff you deny or repress in yourself. This is called projection, we literally use others as a screen to project our shadow traits onto.

Our journey of Self-Exploration is a bit like Dante’s Inferno. Before making our way out of “hell” we must walk through the depths of our inner darkness. Many religions symbolize these experiences well. Two famous examples include the case of Jesus who had to face Satan in the desert, and Buddha’s encounter with Mara (the Buddhist Satan) before his “awakening”.  Mateo Sol

We all do this, so there’s a couple of options, suppress it and keep frantically chanting OMs hoping that no one realises our murderous rage within, or acknowledge it. Take a look at it. Next time you judge someone else, either for the positive or negative – even jealousy often is us projecting our unowned good qualities on another person – witness that.

Be curious. Dive into it. Ask yourself, can I be disrespectful, arrogant, inconsiderate? Maybe sometimes these qualities are actually useful. Especially when used consciously.

When I stumbled upon Chakradance, something lit up inside of me. Here was the best of the New Age. A practice that combined ancient wisdom with modern psychology. It drew upon the Chakra system, shamanic dance and Jungian psychology. All practices which resonated with me. And best of all, it was music and dance! I had always found great freedom and liberation from my difficulties by pumping up the stereo and dancing myself silly. Chakradance gave me a framework to use this for my healing.

Any practice which takes us out of the conscious mind and engages with the unconscious, be it dance, creating art or music, meditation, immersing ourselves in nature, will help this more primal side of ourselves to emerge.

In Chakradance we dance into our unconscious, and then we create a mandala drawing so we can express all this beautiful untapped energy, and all the powerful images we encounter which help us to recognise these hidden parts of ourselves.

Showing the best and dividing it from the worst age vexes age. Walt Whitman

Because the shadow is often made up of primal instincts and urges we have repressed, as well as tribal and ancestral traits we have rebelled against, I feel that the base chakra is particularly relevant to this work.

When I was in India last year I took the opportunity to see an Ayurvedic doctor. In Ayurveda all aspects of self, mind, body and spirit are addresssed. So as part of the consultation, he discussed the state of my chakras. He felt that my physical and emotional symptoms indicated my base Chakra was weak – almost non-existant! – and needed activating. I have been practising the mantras he gave me and the chanting practice. When the Chakradance Reboot Your Base Chakra eCourse came up I immediately signed up.

I am a great believer in divine timing. As my shadow self seems to be bursting out causing me to act, think and feel in ways I find very overwhelming and challenging, I have this beautiful practice of Chakradance to ease me back into my body, to help me integrate all these aspects of self. Chakradance is gentle like that, it doesn’t force things to come up in the psyche, Jung believed that could be counter-productive. But when stuff is ready, it rises, and it feels so good to be able to dance through and integrate my shadow work.

In the base Chakradance we connect with our power animal. Dancing our power animal is one of the most powerful shamanic practices to revitalise and strengthen our spirit. Each animal brings its own strength, wisdom or medicine, and a connection to our primal, instinctual nature.

Mine is an animal who hibernates seasonally, and as such as we head into Winter here, I am reminded of the restorative power of cave-time, time to withdraw from the world, rest, nourish and replenish the body.

The work of the soul is not always sparkly and full of surrender-gasms. As Caroline Myss said the truly powerful and great spiritual moments are usually accompanied by great humility or suffering, as the metaphor of the birth of the messiah in a stable illustrates.

In my eyes, indisposed. In disguises no one knows. Hides the face, lies the snake. And the sun in my disgrace. Chris Cornell

During this time of increased shadow rising, I became increasingly depressed. Perhaps instead of something rising up, it was a place I descended into.

Weirdly my darkest nights of the soul coincided with the tragic suicide of my musical hero Chris Cornell. I felt that right there was my shadow, I so empathised with the darkness that took him on that lonely night in Detroit.

I drew on my love for my son to get me through, like a candle illuminating the dark I knew I had to survive the darkness for his sake. It sounds melodramatic I know, but when you are hanging on by a thread, you use whatever power you can.

Depression can be seen as a descent into shadow. It certainly feels dark, and as though every negative and undesirable aspect of self takes front and centre stage. However there is also a palpable shift in awareness as if a doorway into a previously hidden part of life is opened.

Depression is a wilderness where nothing makes sense or has meaning. As long as it doesn’t take me out completely, this mental blackout can be helpful. It often forces me to challenge what truly has meaning in my life, what has substance, what brings vitality and joy. And similarly to recognise that which does not.

Leading up to this bout of depression I had done some work with a spiritual healer that included soul retrieval. In fact I could pretty much pin the beginning of my descent to that time. I became curious about this link between soul loss, soul retrieval, shadow and depression so I began to read more about it.

Soul loss is the idea that parts of our soul or spirit break away during traumatic life experiences, leaving us less vital. In psychology this idea is known as dissociation, where a person may have no memory of the trauma or seem disassociated or overly detached from their current life.

In psychology they are not concerned with where these lost parts go, but in many shamanic traditions, there is an understanding that these parts have gone to places in non-ordinary reality or the ‘spirit world.’ Shamans are experts in tracking down and coaxing back these lost soul parts to be reunited the body of the person they were splintered from. This is soul retrieval.

Many years ago when I was studying shamanism in Bali, I had a conversation with a friend about this. As a psychotherapist he pointed out that the mind is always trying to find balance or equilibrium, and as such rejects anything that threatens this. Bringing back soul parts after many years, especially soul parts that were splintered off on account of trauma, must throw this balance of the psyche into turmoil.

I wish that soul retrieval were safe, simple, and filled with the white light of love and light that people think it is. But something cannot be powerful and safe at the same time. Mary Shutan

Interesting alongside this deep suicidal depression, I also had other old dysfunctional behaviours crop up. And I craved cigarettes so badly I actually asked a drunk guy for one, fortunately he said no. I haven’t been a smoker for over sixteen years.

What I began to intuit is that some of the soul parts that had come back were pretty dysfunctional when they left.

Whether you see these parts as repressed aspects of self or lost soul parts, the effect of bringing them back into consciousness is the same, they are strangers to the psyche who has been getting along just fine – or so it thinks – without them. Sometimes it is not a happy reunion.

And seemingly they had brought some of their old dynamics back into my psyche, throwing me into turmoil. In a way my shadow selves were ignited and fueled by this process, and I was left in a frightening shadow world where all I could see was darkness and hopelessness. Much like the teenage addicted and suicidal me.

You will have to stand someplace you’ve never been willing to stand before. Go to places you have deemed off limits. This is the time to take off the shell of your past and step into the rich possibilities of your future. Debbie Ford

Fortunately, weeks ago I had signed up for a Spontaneous Transformation workshop on stress and overwhelm. Spontaneous Transformation is a beautiful technique that addresses this very issue by dialoguing with these soul parts and helping them address the trauma in order to find a resolution, recognition and integration.

Through this daily practice and through Chakradance, I have found peace with myself again. And beyond that, these angry and hurt parts of myself actually taught me a lesson or two about how I could be kinder and support myself better in my life.

In India, the Hindus practise Aarti, which literally means an illuminating light in the darkness. I believe by bringing the light of awareness onto our shadow we can find gold there. Don’t throw away the treasure in your cave because  you’re scared of the dark – light a candle and see the gold in there.

Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.) Walt Whitman

Hari om tat sat. Namaste. Blessings.

Try Chakradance – Rhythm for your soul

Melting into divine desire

But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want sin. Aldous Huxley

Somewhere along the line, I learned the idea that desire was a bad thing. As a child I was told I was being selfish and greedy to express my desire for things. “You’ll get what you’re given. Like it or lump it” was the general philosophy.

Like Oliver Twist asking for some extra gruel, some authorative voice boomed at my requests “More? Who dares to ask for more?”

I do. I dare. Having played the cards of meekness, detachment and acceptance for many years – and although all these qualities have their place – I realise that this desire is what fuels me. Desire, passion, yearning have been instrumental in my evolution. They stretch me beyond my safe zone.

The fear that was instilled in me is that desire and passion makes us reckless, makes us take risks. Yes, it does. And that’s exactly its power.

I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become. Carl Jung

When I began my experiential journey into the chakra system through Chakradance, there were three chakras that were obviously underactive. My base or root chakra, which reflected a belief the world was an unsafe place. My solar plexus chakra, which reflected a suppression of my own power, and my throat chakra, which reflected an inability to speak out, and to express myself.

This last year I have held the position of the knight on the druid ceremonial wheel. In the tarot the knight is the somewhat “young, dumb and full of cum” archetypal youthful male energy. He has much passion but sometimes lacks the forethought and planning that comes of experience.

So why would this archetypal energy be something I needed to embody this year? I think because I have generally played it too safe. After a somewhat disastrous rebellous streak that left me burnt out and washed up at 25, since then I have been too afraid of self-destruction to really live passionately. 

Often the wisdom of the body clarifies the despair of the spirit. Marion Woodman

It was time for that to change. Now in my forties I have plenty of insight and experience but I often lacked the conviction in my passion and the ability for wild abandon. There are some aspects of life that just aren’t meant to be played safe.

You’d think I wasn’t someone who played it safe. I spent years walking the razor’s edge of drug and alcohol addiction, last year despite being warned off continuously, even by total strangers, I made a solo trip to India. I do try to live by my heart’s passions, but that doesn’t mean I find it easy. 

Taking even a small risk often involves a great leap over a mountain of anxiety. Like most addicts, and contrary to popular belief, I am not a naturally hedonistic thrill-seeker, but rather someone who found ways to compensate for my fears and insecurity. Now stone cold sober I have to find other means to fuel my courage.

An addiction to anything we do to avoid hearing the message the body and soul are trying to send us. Marion Woodman

In love I see this polarity most obviously. I want to dive into love with an open heart and mind. But as soon as all my emotional baggage, from past hurts and rejection, starts to be triggered, I find myself in a somewhat schizoid state. One day easy-going and open-hearted, the next anxious, needy and suspicious. It’s no fun for my love interest, I’m sure. Even less for me as it’s completely beyond my control.

The trick seems to be allowing this emotional pendulum to swing with a degree of compassionate detachment, and without acting out on the extremes. And I am so not there yet…

I have written much about my first week in India, when I travelled solo to Rishikesh. The time was marked by a sense of being welcomed and supported by the divine, particularly in the form of my beloved Ganesha and the river goddess Ganga Ma.

I can tell you that it takes great strength to surrender. You have to know that you are not going to collapse. Instead, you are going to open to a power that you don’t even know, and it is going to come to meet you. In the process of healing, this is one of the huge things that I have discovered. People recognized the energy coming to meet them. When they opened to another energy, a love, a divine love, came through to meet them. That is what is known as grace. Marion Woodman

Surprisingly writing about the second half of my trip – travelling to Varanasi to connect with a large group of women led by Alana Fairchild in the Grace of the Golden Goddess retreat – has taken longer to percolate into a post.

I had been so excited about this week of moving meditations and rituals devoted to various Hindu deities, so I was surprised when on the first day I felt subsumed by a sense of unworthiness and shame. 

Alana had requested we bring something for the altar and I had brought my wedding ring. I wanted to hand over to the divine my lack of success in love. I also wanted to make some kind of atonement. I had made a solemn vow to God and another person in front of all my family and friends, twice, and twice had been unable to keep that promise. 

Living by principles is not living your own life. It is easier to try to be better than you are than to be who you are. Marion Woodman

It had seemed like such a grand idea to seek this ritual of completion in Varanasi, the sacred Hindu cremation ground. As such I had worn the ring in India as a kind of deterrent to men – which admittedly didn’t work! But it did stir something in me, a desire to experience a committed loving relationship again. 

As I sat in this room preparing to place the symbol of my failure in love on the altar, I felt wretched. I could have happily got on the next train back to Rishikesh. 

Instead I took a big breath and during a short break I faced Alana and told her how I was feeling. I didn’t know her then, I didn’t know what a deeply caring and compassionate woman she is. I just saw a glamazon in a fabulous silk kaftan. It felt like a risk to admit my vulnerabilities to such a powerhouse.

But she was calm and smiled and told me that of course, as I was preparing to open myself to divine grace and blessings of abundance, that all my doubts and insecurities would bubble up. She said “That’s good. The work has begun.” It was all part of the process.

At the very point of vulnerability is where the surrender takes place – that is where the god enters. The God comes through the wound. Marion Woodman

As she said this I knew she was right, although the the feelings were still overwhelming, I was able to stay and participate in the ritual. Later something dropped for me, one of those head-to-heart moments, something I had known but not really understood the profound implications of. That whatever I open myself up to in life, love, success, joy, the very blocks inside of me to all those things will instantly rise up. That booming voice “who are you to ask for more!”

Dance is a powerful way to move and shift our energy, allowing blocks to surface and be healed. Moving meditations combines the power of the shamanic dance journey with guided meditation to create a space for our subtle energy to move, for blocks to release, for spontaneous soul healing to occur. Like with Chakradance, in a sacred space with intention and resonant sound, the soul will find its healing, it’s equilibrium.

The drop excavates the stone, not by force but by falling often. Ovid

In the moving meditation that followed, I made my offering to the altar and was ritually blessed by Shiva’s trident. The ritual involved offering and opening ourselves upon Shiva’s sacred ground, in readiness to be purified to receive the grace of the golden goddess, Lakshmi.

There were many tears, so much grief, as I released my flawed attempts at love. In the dance I saw all my failures in love, my first boyfriend, my marriages, my last – still deeply held – love, at first with sadness, shame, grief, but then as I moved, it shifted to compassion for them and for myself. 

I began to see that in the face of many obstacles, youth, immaturity, inexperience, addictions, dysfunctional and abusive childhoods, the valiant attempts we had all made to love each other as best we could in spite of our respective wounds. I saw the lessons we had learned, the healing that had happened in amongst the pain. 

The right way to wholeness is made up of fateful detours and wrong turnings. Carl Jung

When I reached the review of my last love, the tears were pouring down my face. I saw the immensity of our love, the sheer capacity of my heart for love and passion. It was exquisitely beautiful.

The feeling of shame and failure left me, replaced by a sense that everything had happened as it needed to, for me and for them. It was time to let go and create space for the beautiful energies Alana was calling in for us.

This emptying out was necessary to receive the divine gifts that Lakshmi, and the other deities would offer across our week of dancing rituals. Lakshmi brought the golden light of choice, receptivity and grace. Letting go of what has completed knowing there is new energy waiting to come in.

For many of us being dragged towards wholeness happens precisely through the mysterious process of wishing: through the gaps it exposes, the new edges it drives us towards, the deeper layers of longing it reveals. Marion Woodman 

After many years of profound religious experiences in Chakradance, in nature, and in sacred ritual, I know better than to try to capture the experience in words. During the week working with Alana, I felt direct and powerful connections with the deities we invoked. I had profound realisations, releases, and shifts. And yet like many other experiences I have had, I know there is a long period of integration. A time where these shifts that happen at the spiritual and energetic level slowly manifest into my physical reality. This work of the soul is not magic. Although it certainly feels like magic at the time. 

The journey I had with Lakshmi and Vishnu where I offered myself for a marriage, a true partnership with the divine, was as elaborate, joyful and decadent as a Bollywood grand finale. But the grand vision is not the point. The point is that in this sacred space I made a vow to live in divine partnership, to make my life out of a constant prayer to the divine of “show me.”

What I have come to understand, or think I understand, is that these shifts, these experiences are real and profound but subtle. That is, they occur at the level of our subtle energy. In order for real change, over the weeks and months that followed, I was repeatedly tested. Would I fall back into old ways, or deepen these new subtle energies into lasting change.

What this often means is that when faced with a choice, I have one foot in either crossroad, and I have to ask myself which is my true, courageous choice, my true heart’s desire. Not always easy when old neural pathways of fear and unworthiness run so deep. But oh how I long to embody this fearlessness of heart.

There’s a point at which one must start caring where one fixes one’s vision on high. Don a mantle of vision and daring. Tis where the water meets the sky. David Whalen

Longing, ah, that’s what drives me. A desire, a yearning for some deeper and more satisfying experience of life. 

I used to think this tendency for yearning was, at best, a quirk of my Irish DNA, and at worst, a serious design flaw, that never allowed for true contentment or satisfaction.

“You’re never happy.” My mother would say to me as a child, and now I realise she recognised that because it mirrored her own stifled yearnings, she felt it too.

In one of Alana’s sessions, we went around the room and gave a word to describe how we were feeling, I said “longing, yearning.” It was true, the work thus far had shifted much grief and sadness, but left me with a great hunger for something to fill the gap. It was a deep desire from my heart. We were about to embark on a ritual to call in the divine masculine, and as much as I quake at times in the presence of the masculine, I longed for it.

Alana validated this yearning of mine for the first time. She said the divine is drawn to our longing for it. Like a person who greets you with open arms and great excitement, the divine is drawn to those who truly desire it. 

In the dance I tapped into this great yearning, this desire to be truly seen in all my passion with the multitude of love I have inside me, that I have held back because it always seemed like too much for people. I was never happy because I was never truly seen, valued, held. How could I be loved when I was invisible? Or just a blank screen for others to project their shadow or desires onto?

When I show my desire to the divine, it matches it with love, grace and power. 

In your body is the garden of flowers. Take your seat on the thousand petals of the lotus, and there gaze on the infinite beauty. Kabir

During this somewhat magical week in Varanasi, where we alternated between deeply profound rituals and raucous bus trips to explore the city, I really connected with shakti, the power or energy that is the attribute of the goddess. Shakti is the strong life force that animates all action, or as Diane Eck describes it the “can-do capacity for any activity.” 

Primarily through Lakshmi, but also the myriad of other expressions of divine shakti – Radha, Kali, Saraswati, Parvati, Durga, Ganga – I finally tapped into the full expression of my power. 

Shakti is what we harness in Chakradance, and even prior to going to India, I had increasingly had visions of Hindu goddesses, especially around the energy of my throat chakra, Vissudha, or purification. 

Now I am not talking here of boundless passion so unchecked that it bypasses all reason and respect for real limitations. Instead this is the desire that produces creativity. This is the spark and the subsequent electricity that propels thought into movement and action. 

Even the gods are powerless without the kinetic energy of shakti. Diane Eck

Shakti begins as the kundalini energy coiled up at the base chakra, once she is activated she moves up the energetic column along the spine, connecting with the shiva energy at the crown chakra. Shiva represents consciousness and shakti the activating force that brings consciousness into action. Once activated these energies continue to flow up and down the spine, activating and enlivening our chakras and our subtle energy body.

Fear is the great block of the base chakra, feeling unsafe, insecure in the world. For me, this fear had very much stifled my shakti. By continuing to work with my base chakra, through yoga, chanting, grounding practices and moving meditations like Chakradance, gradually this energy has begun to move and become vital once more.

A life truly lived constantly burns away veils of illusion, burns away what is no longer relevant, gradually reveals our essence, until, at last, we are strong enough to stand in our naked truth. Marion Woodman

When I danced in the energies of my past loves in Varanasi last year, I felt a deep sorrow when I reconnected with the depth and intensity of the love I felt for the man I have loved for the last seven years. Having gone our separate ways for a year I truly believed our time together had gone, and I mourned it deeply. 

But spirit had other ideas. As the power of the rituals and my time in India percolated within me, as my intense longing grew, so within him a great healing began. And in the New Year, tentatively, we reunited.

I would like to say it has a fairytale ending, but we all know fairy tales never ended that way until Disney got a hold on them. And like a traditional folk tale, our union is one that challenges us both. For me, this has been a true test of my ability to let desire guide me, to melt into it. Becoming vulnerable to this love has raised all my demons, my insecurity, my fear of betrayal and abandonment. And yet we stumble on, blinded by the light of this great electric pull of our desire.

Given our story, and the ways in which we have reconnected after our many times apart. I cannot help but believe this is a divine desire. 

So I let myself melt.

This is the point where love becomes possible. We see the other with the eye of the heart, an eye not clouded by fear manifesting as need, jealousy, possessiveness, or manipulation. With the unclouded eye of the heart, we can see the other as other. We can rejoice in the other, challenge the other, and embrace the other without losing our own center or taking anything away from the other. We are always other to each other — soul meeting soul, the body awakened with joy. To love unconditionally requires no contracts, bargains, or agreements. Love exists in the moment-to-moment flux of life. Marion Woodman

Hari om tat sat. Namaste. Blessings.

Try Chakradance – Rhythm for your soul

If your interest is piqued in attending one of Alana Fairchild’s transformative sessions, you can find her here

(You must have been) kissing a fool

You’ll never find peace of mind til you listen to your heart. George Michael 

Happy New Year.

For most of us it is a happy time. Or at least a time of hope for happier times. Yesterday the dog – in her crazed food dance ritual – knocked a candle off my balcony. It was hope. I mean it was a candle with the word ‘hope’ printed on it. It smashed. ‘Hmmmm.’ I wondered. What is the significance of that?

Someone I once knew told me that hope was not the great sentiment so many of us think it is. Hope really is saying that our happiness is in the future, that the now is lacking in some way.

I see his point and I think there is danger is always being in hope, always waiting for the magical future in lieu of the not-so-satisfactory present. Yet when a dark night of the soul hits us, hope is the light that prevents us from giving up entirely.

Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears. Rudyard Kipling

And so I ponder that this time last year I was devastated. I spent New Years Day weeping, bawling, blubbering, wailing… And many more variations on that theme. Honestly I don’t know I could have cried so hard for so long, without my eyeballs popping out. I lay on the grass by my neighbours’ pool (it’s okay, they were away at the time) and just let these waves of grief, sadness, disappointment, rage and heartbreak roll through me.

Even in the depths of my despair there was hope, and a resolution to not repeat the experiment that always led me to this sad and broken place. Heartache and loss are great teachers, but at some point you have to learn the lesson and move the fuck on.

I really don’t want to keep harping on about that moment, but it was rather pivotal for me. After years, a lifetime really, of co-dependent behaviour and love addiction, something snapped in me. And yes, perhaps I swung a little too far the other way in 2016, when my favourite word was ‘no.’ I really pulled away from people, I rarely socialised outside of work and facilitating my classes, and hanging with my son. 

Reality denied comes back to haunt. Philip K. Dick

Not a particularly materially successful or happy year, with the notable exception of my trip to India which just made me want to explode several times daily with the sheer pleasure of being a living, sensory being. It was a year of letting go.

It was mine though. I didn’t squander my time or energy for anyone else, and that was new. I was steadfast.

2016 felt like a hard slog, like I was shedding skin to make way for something new. I’m so glad this new year and its new energies are here.

This blog started as a New Year thing. Three years ago. Wow. Time just rolls on by, doesn’t it?

I had just reread Noelle Oxenhandler’s book The Wishing Year and I was ready to try to approach my life as something I had at least a little say in. 

I liked the idea of setting intentions. I mean they are just ideals to aim towards, not demands or expectations, but it was better than wallowing in depression and disappointment over the past and letting that energy dictate my future.

My seven intentions were deliciously vague, because I think I knew if I got really specific I would kind of miss the beauty of the whole project. Which in retrospect was to enter into a kind of divine partnership. I stated my aims, and let myself be guided as to if, how, what and when they manifested.

I know if I had been specific I would have asked for a man, a house and a spiritual identity (be that a religion, a guru or a sangha). 

Then I may have thought I had failed, because I’m still single, I don’t have my own home, and I’m still searching for my spiritual identity… But I couldn’t say the project has been a bust. 

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring. Carl Sagan

Firstly it is a beautiful record of my consistent ability to move though fear, pain and disappointment, to follow my crazy passions, to attempt to live fully, to be vulnerable and powerful all at the same time.

I mean, I can admit it, sometimes I read my old posts and I feel inspired by myself. ‘Who is this brave, honest and slightly kooky woman?’ I think. Only to realise she is me. 

Reading back, I remember how scared I was starting my own business, recovering from depression, traveling alone, studying shamanism, letting myself fall in love again. I know how those things turned out, but I didn’t when I wrote about it. I didn’t know when I wrote about my fears of traveling to India alone just how monumentally empowering and love-filled that experience would be. I had an inkling though, an inkling gained through years of setting intentions, listing my copious fears and then just going for it anyway.

I lie to myself all the time. But I never believe me. S.E. Hinton

Just before Christmas my friend gifted me a Business Soul Coaching session. I had reconnected with her when I was in Bali and she had obviously been brought back into my life at a time when I sorely needed some direction.

After coming down from my India high, I realised that my current lifestyle was not sustainable. Fear of financial insecurity was exacerbated by receiving payment due statements for my son’s school fees and books. Followed by me going into shock after seeing my pre-Christmas payslip which was significantly lower than usual because I missed my Saturday shift to facilitate Chakradance at a Reiki weekend retreat. I did what any grown woman in my position would do, I cried. 

In that moment I had a thought that I have had periodically since starting down this path of living by my intentions, “I am being irresponsible, I need to close down Raw Mojo, give up on all this spiritual stuff, and go full time at work.”

That thought made me feel really sad and unsupported. There was a lot of crying to spirit “I thought this is what you wanted me to do?” 

And for a few weeks I suffered depression, anxiety and self-doubt. Then I made the appointment with Monique, because I knew there must be a better way through this.

This descent into self-doubt was probably a well needed slap in the face. I needed to get real. As the word my friend Monique channelled during the Soul Coaching session suggested, I was “deluded.” 



“That’s the word I’m receiving. Does that mean anything to you?” Yeah. Not anything good though.

I was thinking she would channel beams of universal love and support. But instead there seemed to be a whole lot of divine head-scratching. “They seem confused about what Raw Mojo means and what it offers.”


It was a lot to take in. Not surprisingly the lack of definition around my “brand” – the fact I still need to put that in air quotes says a lot – and my lack of clarity around what the hell I do and why I do it was restricting the potential of my business.

The human brain is a complex organ with the wonderful power of enabling man to find reasons for continuing to believe whatever it is that he wants to believe. Voltaire

I needed clarity, focus and to clearly define what my intentions were. No more delightfully vague vision statements…

Raw Mojo was confused and suffering an identity crisis. Like its founder, it seems. I’m no psychic but even I get that for vital life force energy to flow there must be two things, a clear channel and clear intentions.

Monique tested the various offerings of Raw Mojo to see if they were an energetic match. Chakradance – yes (phew!) Shamanism – no! (still digesting that one) Reiki – no (hmmm…) Spontaneous Transformation Technique – yes, and druidry – yes (again, phew!)

After I recovered from the shock and promised to follow up with some writing – and serious soul searching – around my business and what I offer, we ended the call.

Following a pretty serious sulking session, I asked myself ‘why did I call my business Raw Mojo?’ Well for a start, the domain name for my first choice, Mojo Rising was already taken…

It all started with my attachment to the word Mojo, courtesy of Jim Morrison. You know, Mr Mojo Risin’ 

Mojo to me always represented the vital life force, before I even knew what that was. The Doors took the teenage me on deep musical journeys through sound, dance, visions and words. Their music got my spirit moving and made me feel so fully alive. 

After 40, I totally lost my mojo – my vitality and lust for life – and discovering Chakradance helped me get my groove, my mojo back. I have increasingly felt that this is my soul purpose, to guide others to rediscover their lost vitality and passion for life, to reconnect with their divine direction and essential energy. 

A long, long time ago, I can still remember how that music used to make me smile. And I knew if I had my chance, that I could make those people dance and maybe they’d be happy for a while. Don McLean

I know there is an energetic shift that happens for women around 40 and beyond. There’s a need for a new sense of self, as they are entering the Empress energy – that’s a tarot image which represents the archteypal empowered feminine. But how do we manage this transition? There are no rituals for these rites of passage in our culture. Except for binge drinking and online dating, neither of which are particularly helpful.

I believe when we suppress this shift – from caregivers and lovers into fully empowered selves – we get sick. The shift from caregivers into abundant beings in our own right is a challenging but essential rite of passage. The world needs its wise, strong women. And wise, strong men, but for some reason it’s women who are drawn to me.

So that’s the mojo part…

And the Raw part was that sense of natural, unprocessed mojo, like the real essence of my vital power. Sounds good yeah? Raw Mojo. Except no one really gets it and it sounds like an energy drink…

But this word “deluded” has really rocked me. It kind of hurts, I mean really spirit? Really? I try to listen to your guidance, I know I’m not super-psychic, but I try to follow the signs as I see them. Yes, I have had the sneaking suspicion that for a while now I wasn’t really getting a clear connection. Well, in fairness I wasn’t disciplined in my practice so I wasn’t really connecting at all. But telling me through a third party that “I’m deluded?” Wow. That’s cold man.

So I did what any librarian would do. I Googled the dictionary definition of ‘deluded.’

Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself. Ludwig Wittgenstein 

Delude as a verb comes from late Middle English via Latin where it literally means ‘to play false.’ Other definitions include: to mislead the mind or deceive. To mock or frustrate the hopes or aims of. To elude; to evade.


Then I saw. It was that moment where a word can cut through all the bullshit and just leave you bare, nerve-ending raw.

You see, I need to come down off my spiritual high horse and admit a few things. I’m in financial trouble. I mean I can get myself out of it, if I am disciplined and smart, but the last few years I have invested a lot into my business and my esoteric studies and travels and quite frankly not seen a huge return. I get very little help from my kid’s dad so I have mounting bills for his schooling and I need to save for his school trip to the US next year.

I may have a little credit card debt, okay a lot. And my business is floundering. So yeah, deluded. I am probably that. 

A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep. Saul Bellow

Not because there’s anything wrong with what I offer, but in the wishy-washy way I have been offering it. Like a kid in a candy store, I kept studying different esoteric teachings and trying to be something I’m not. I keep taking courses and travelling when I can’t actually afford it.

Instead of focused intent and mastery over my practice, I have been spreading my energies too thin. Jack of all trades is a master of none.

When I think back it was after my shamanic training in Bali that my energy became diffuse, from being channelled in too many directions, without real clarity or focus.

My Chakradance classes went from being consistently filled to being cancelled as I shifted my attention to running a shamanic circle.

Now there is nothing wrong with shamanism or reiki, or any other practice I have studied. Nothing is wasted. Shamanism and reiki have only enhanced my other practices.

This is about not spreading myself too thin. Picking those modalities which work well for me, which I love, and which together are an energetic match for me.

It’s always been about what works with my energy signature, that’s what I am meant to channel and deliver here.

The visionary lies to himself, the liar only to others. Friedrich Nietszche 

I went to a guided shamanic sound journey on New Years Eve with Tim Zyphin. It was interesting in many ways but mostly it just confirmed this message that I am not a shaman. 

That’s just not how spirit works through me. And that’s okay. Truth be told I never really wanted to be one. I love journeying, especially the shamanic dance journeys but I can do that in Chakradance. 

In truth I realise my guides have been standing back on the whole shamanic thing. They never really say no to me, I mean I guess from their perspective it’s all wisdom and experience, and like reiki it has fine-tuned my ability to manage and use my subtle energy force, but anyone can do that, that does not a shaman make.

Reflecting back I see the difference between what I am meant to be doing and what I’m not. Either the vital life force is there in what I do, or it isn’t. The results speak for themselves.

We fool ourselves so much we could do it for a living. Stephen King 

With Chakradance I did the training and immediately started facilitating. Yes, I was scared. Yes, I had doubts, but the passion was there. The shamamic techniques I found really beneficial to evolve my Chakradance and journeying practices, but aside from running the journeying circle, there was no passion to practise it.

I have been searching for a spiritual identity, for my own little niche. I love hinduism, the deities and the stories, the mysticism and the faith, but in India I realised as much as I love it (and Ganesha seems to love me) it’s not my religion. I don’t think any religion is.

At the Summer Solstice ceremony of my druid grove I set intentions for the year. And what came through really strongly was that this was it. I have my spiritual community, I have a practice that is nature-based and gives me the freedom to worship whatever I want. It is a perfect ethical and spiritual match for me. It gives me freedom and autonomy along with community, ritual and practice. So I committed to it. In sacred space I commited to serve the grove and resume my druidic studies.

And today on New Years Day I began my druid studies again and redid my initiation.

So my intentions are the same, but as time goes on I see how what I want more than anything is to be real and authentic. I don’t want to play mind games. I don’t want to delude myself or others. I don’t need to impress anyone with my powers. I just do what I love because that’s how I know I’m on the right track.

That’s what came through in the shamanic journey. Loud and clear.

My shamanic spirit guide came in as soon as the shaman invited in our shamanic brothers and sisters. As if he was just waiting for the invitation. I started to cry “I thought I’d failed you.” But he never asked me to be a shaman. He asked me to demonstrate the power of our vital energy force. To carry his wisdom into the world so it wouldn’t be lost. Again he placed quartz crystals on my navel, heart and third eye. As he did the first time we met.

The message from spirit was so clear and in truth, is getting a little repetitive. I think the whole ‘deluded’ thing has made them think I’m a little dense so they have been repeating themselves everywhere I look for the last few days.

Do what you love.
Be what you love.
Be who you love.
Surround yourself with people, places, things that you love and who love you and everything you do.
If there’s no love in something, there’s no vital life force. If you don’t love it, change it. If you can’t change it, let it go, it’s not for you.

Love is the real power. It’s the energy that cherishes. The more you work with that energy, the more you will see how people respond naturally to it, and the more you will want to use it. It brings out your creativity, and helps everyone around you flower. Your children, the people you work with–everyone blooms. Marion Woodman

Love is power. Love is how the power of the universe communicates to us and through us. Love is how we open up our hearts, releasing fear and creating space for this power to flow through.

It’s not meant to be hard. We are not meant to struggle. I do and I will as long as I am incarnate. It is the nature of this density, the density of this human container we are in.

This is the divine partnership, this is divine choice. The only two vibrations are love and fear. The divine communicates to you through love.

Find your truth through love, do what brings you joy, vitality, love, happiness. That’s where the power comes in.

From an oracle reading came this:

Take risks like you’ve never been hurt. Believe wholeheartedly in something. Your divine vibrancy will bring your vision to life. Your courage and passion will see it to fruition.

And just like that. I got clear and the enquiries for Raw Mojo started to come in. The channel cleared and I felt my guides so strongly. The guidance was clear and as specific as “pay for Zak’s books and the Chakradance retreat and the phone bill first, then do Alana Fairchild’s Coaching and pay the deposit for the NASA trip.” Well. Okay then.

All the lights turned green on my way to work. I let a car merge in front of me and the plates were 777 – that’s my numerological equivalent of two thumbs up from spirit.

I know it won’t always be this clear. But thank you spirit. Thank you for making it so obvious. I needed to feel clear and not deluded. Even just for a moment.

Hari Om Tat Sat


If you’re interested in Soul Coaching with Monique from Intuitive Freedom click here. It will really rock your world – in a good way.

Art by Kareva Margarita