Are we there yet? The end of seeking

It is my experience that the world itself has a role to play in our liberation. Its very pressures, pains, and risks can wake us up – release us from the bonds of ego and guide us home to our vast, true nature. For some of us, our love of the world is so passionate that we cannot ask it to wait until we are enlightened. Joanne Macy

Listening to a podcast recently, the presenter talked about how it is only when we stop being a spiritual seeker, and we become a spiritual student, that the real work begins. For many the distinction may seem moot, but it resonated with me. I have spent years seeking, I think truly, my whole life.

From my childhood star-gazing and pondering the big questions, to my love of psychedelic music as a teenager, to a deep plunge into mind-altering substances as a young adult, The common thread was seeking. Seeking what? Meaning, purpose, the answer to the big “why are we here?” The question that has, in equal parts, fascinated and plagued me since the age of five.

Seeking, and the curiousity that drives it, has probably saved my life too many times to count. That quest for something deeper and more profound, that had driven me into the depths of drug addiction and periods of dark depression, has also pulled me out. It was impossible for me to imagine that the answers to my profound life questions could amount to the sum total of a fifty buck fix. Always I was searching for more.


Waiting is but a thought. It will not lead you anywhere. Anand Mehrotra

The solution I was offered for my addictions was to live “life on life’s terms” with the aid of a “higher power” who would restore me to sanity around my addictive choices and then be my constant guide. It was testament to my desperation that I was even willing to contemplate such a radical turnaround in thinking and living, but I did.

This path led me on a very focused, sometimes fanatical search for this “higher power.” How could I know what was my will and what was this higher power’s will? Would he/she/it speak directly to me? And if so could my drug-adled mind be trusted?

Most spiritual seekers will know that this early phase of seeking is often one of trying different spiritual paths and seeing what fits. For me, initially each path would bring amazing revelations and awakenings to my self and my purpose in life, but in time these peak experiences would settle and I would find my old thinking returning, a sense of “well, is this it, then?” Often followed by a period of depression, until I discovered some new practice and the cycle would begin all over again.

This very blog is testament to my ups and downs with spiritual seeking. Each practice being “the one” answer to all my problems. Followed by a period of intense research and development, by workshops and courses, by rituals and the highs of amazing experiences, and then the inevitable crash.

Let me be at pains to emphasise that the fault did not lie in any of the practices or paths I had pursued, most of which are still in my life today, but in my expectations of what a “spiritual life” looked like.

You see, I was still searching for something outside of myself to fix me, to take care of me. When in fact, I see now that spirituality is really about self-mastery. The spiritual master finds their strength and stability within them.


There is in all things…a hidden wholeness. Thomas Merton

At some point in the last couple of years I kind of experienced “spiritual seeker fatigue.” No longer was there the elation at the prospect of the “next big thing.” When other seekers around me kept saying “the shift” was coming, I kept thinking, when? I had worn myself out getting healings and readings that assured me my breakthrough was coming in the next six to twelve months. Only to return a year later, sad and lost, to be told the same thing.

Now again, this is no criticism of the healers and readers here, it’s just that a healing or a reading can’t do the work for you. I probably could have had a “shift” in six to twelve months if I had actually stuck with anything consistently instead of flitting around and scattering my energy on too many things (as one of the readings actually told me.)

But don’t you know, when the student it ready the teachers appears.  A cliche, yes, but cliches only get to be cliches because they contain some truth.

I’ve written before about the serendipitous events that led me to India, to discover Sattva Yoga and my teacher Anand Mehrotra. And to begin with it was the same old all over again. All the “this is it, I’ve found my guru, all is going to be well now for ever and ever, amen.” I was elated. The Beatles had a guru from Rishikesh. I had always wanted a guru.

Within you, there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at anytime and be yourself. Hermann Hesse

When I started practicing Sattva Yoga with Anand, even online at home via video, I experienced really profound shifts in my body, mind and spirit. And I still believe it is absolutely the path for me, a path that incorporates all the practices that came before that had proved so beneficial to me. It is a full spectrum yoga, with meditation, breathwork, postures, ancient Vedic and Tantric wisdom teachings, shamanic and nature-based ritual, ecstatic dance, chanting, devotion, the chakra system… I mean I could go on, it’s such a rich practice that I have only begun to scratch the surface of, but still… It hasn’t magically fixed me. Nor could it, seeing as I’m not broken. I’m just a human being having a plethora of human experiences. There’s no cure for that.

Which, as embarrassing as it is for a grown woman to admit, is what I have always wanted. Respite from the realities of life. A magic bullet, a total transformation into a mind and body that I feel comfortable in ALL the time. I mean it’s fantasy-land stuff, but it was a deep need in me. That’s why people take drugs, by the way, to feel comfortable, ALL the time. As a buffer from all the slings and arrows of living. And no, it doesn’t work long-term, but just getting clean and sober hadn’t changed that as my modus operandi, now I was using spiritual seeking as a way to feel good. And not just to feel good, but more to the point, to avoid feeling bad. To avoid facing the uncomfortability of life.

Now in fairness, my heart and mind has always been in the right place. I have always been very, very respectful of any path or practice I have followed, I have always conducted myself with as much grace and integrity in my pursuit of spirituality as I could. But my subconscious was still like a frightened child wanting everything safe and fixed for good “Are we there yet? Can I relax now? Am I doing it right? Are we good?”


Self-restraint, self-mastery, common sense, the power of accepting individual responsibility and yet of acting in conjunction with others, courage and resolution—these are the qualities which mark a masterful people. Theodore Roosevelt

Anand’s teachings were anything but light and fluffy or comfortable. His focus is on self-mastery. Self-mastery attained through self-discipline and commitment to practice. Pushing through our comfort zone, transcending our fears. I practiced daily, becoming stronger physically and spiritually, and yet that inevitable streak of self-sabotage seeped back in. Or maybe it’s just garden variety laziness. I didn’t want to get up two hours early to practice. I would rather watch Netflix and eat snacks in bed than do my evening practice.

So inevitably, at some point the gloss wore off my daily practice, life got busy, grief hit me hard like a locomotive train – actually three trains, one after another after another – and again I found my practice waning. I was phoning it in, “half-assing” as Anandji would say.

My dad used to say I had no “stickability.” Great starter but no follow through, no commitment. Blunt, yes? But totally on the money.

Cultivate body awareness. A yogi is energy-rich and enhances any environment with aliveness. Anand Mehrotra

When I went back to India to study Sattva Yoga with Anand I asked him what I could do to overcome this inability to stick with the practice. I was waiting with bated breath for his response – finally the answer to all my problems. And look, in fairness, it was. He told me I needed to develop staying power, which could only happen through consistent practice, especially working with my navel centre, my solar plexus chakra, the seat of personal will and power.

And really it is his answer for everything, because it IS the answer for everything, to just stay with the practice. No matter what life dishes up. To paraphrase an old AA saying, “even if your head falls off, pick it up and go do your practice.”

Develop some backbone, stop giving in to comfort and honour your commitment to yourself.

And for the most part I have. I have maintained a twice daily meditation practice and daily Kriya yoga practice, and although at times I will admit to half-assing it, I haven’t given up. And the changes I see are (mostly) less electrifying than at first, but more consistent. Less highs and lows, more generalised focus and calm. An ability to recognise when I am disturbed, when I am out of my integrity and power, and to use the techniques to bring myself back to centre.

Open yourself to discomfort. Meet it with mercy, not fear. Recognize that when our pain most calls for our embrace, we are often the least present. Soften, enter, and explore, and continue softening to make room for your life. Stephen Levine

Anand tells us that consistency takes time, it is normal to fluctuate when our practice is new, we can’t be instant Zen masters. But, the more we can consistently maintain a higher energy vibration through the practice, the more we will begin to embody that in every aspect of our being and every area of our lives.

Anand emphasises the importance of developing a strong navel centre or solar plexus chakra. Sattva Yoga focuses on activating this energy centre, as it is the key to our staying power, our will and our vitality.

He talks about cultivating an “energy-rich environment,” in this high pranic (life force energy) state we are less likely to succumb to old patterns and self-destructive habits.

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

Caroline Myss, in Anatomy of the Spirit, describes the solar plexus centre as the centre of our honour code, especially with self. Do we respect ourselves? Do we keep the promises we make to ourselves? Do we honour our commitment to self?

What is a commitment to daily practice if not this kind of personal honour code? As Anandji says no one really cares whether we practice or not, ultimately we do it for our own growth and evolution. And yes, developing self-mastery and discipline, raising our energy, will undoubtedly have flow on effects for our family, our community, our world. But we do it out of a sense of self respect. Out of a sense of acknowledging this great gift that is a human life and desiring to make the very best of this opportunity, this lifetime.

Carolyn Myss goes on to say that it is her belief that the epidemic of depression and anxiety in the modern world is due to a generalised inability to honour ourselves. We make promises to ourselves that we don’t keep. We promise to change our diet, our lifestyle, our job, our relationship but we don’t follow through. As a result we don’t trust ourselves, we lose confidence in our self, just as we would in any person who consistently lets us down.

Anand describes the energy of the yogi in a similar way. There must be a basis of trust and consistency in our self. We must be able to honour ourselves by turning up to our practice without getting flaky or “half-assing” it.

Half measures availed us nothing. Bill Wilson

In the yoga tradition Svādhyāya or self-study is a two fold concept. It invokes a sense of self -inquiry or studying ourselves, our habitual patterns, our mental traps, as well as the self discipline of studying by oneself, the teachings and texts and applying them directly into our lives.

A key part of being a student is that you have a teacher and teachings. There’s a significant distinction in the level of humility required here. My experience of teachers and mentors is that sometimes I don’t like what they have to say. As a spiritual seeker I can go from practice to practice cherrypicking the bits I like and ignoring the rest, flitting off when things gets uncomfortable, but as I student I cannot. And I cannot always be the ultimate authority on what will serve my growth. Sometimes we need people ahead on the path to encourage us not to give up on the practice when it gets hard. To show by their own example that, in fact, the real gold is to be found by plumbing the depths of our discomfort.

The woman who was my greatest mentor and friend, my AA sponsor for nearly 20 years, always said that her role was not to play God but to show me how to have a relationship with a power of my own understanding. To my mind this is what all great teachers do, they offer you a map and a kit of spiritual tools. Whether or not you take them is up to you. As Anand says, nobody really cares if you meditate or not. Carolyn Myss talks about our honour code, it’s between you and God – or you and yourself – what anyone else thinks, what you look like to others, is irrelevant.

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

There are times when I feel great resistance towards my teachers, I felt it with my sponsor Jane, I feel it sometimes with Anand. There’s a saying in AA that “if you don’t have a resentment on your sponsor, they’re probably not doing the job properly.” Why? I think because to be a good teacher, you will be a challenge to your student. Growth is uncomfortable, even painful when we are really resistant to it. Nobody likes someone who asks them to be uncomfortable and in pain. But the teacher knows that pain is the touchstone to spiritual growth and a great motivator. It’s unavoidable. Nor should we attempt to avoid or escape it. Because the discomfort is showing us EXACTLY the stuff we need to look at, and transcend, in order to evolve.

For me, right now, it’s my commitment to self and self-discipline. I’m disciplined for three weeks, then I’m flaky for a week or two. And it’s making me really uncomfortable because I can undo three weeks discipline in a few days. Well, not really but it feels like that. I feel as if I could be ‘miles in front’ – there’s that striving again – if I could only be consistent, well, more consistently. My mind tells me to just give up, that it’s hopeless, that I’m just chasing my tail. But Anand’s words ring in my ears. It’s normal to fluctuate at first, be patient with yourself. Keep coming back to the practice…

There are certain powers that go with an internal honour code. One is integrity. The capacity to give your word and keep it. The other is the power to endure. In order for our spirit to thrive, we have to develop integrity and endurance. Carolyn Myss

These mental fluctuations are part of the path. Either we can avoid them, or we can pick them up, examine them and see what’s really going on. Carolyn Myss believes that our inability to stay with spiritual discipline is a deep-seated fear of our own power and potential. We play small because it feels safe. But in the process we sacrifice our integrity, our honour code, our inherent and deep-seated commitment to our evolution.

At some point we have to just be with life as it is, and just live it enthusiastically, no holding back, fully present and committed. I think I have spent my whole life waiting to be somewhere else, someone else. But life is always lived here, it’s always lived through me, and it’s always lived now.

This was the greatest of lessons my mentor and friend gave me, and all who knew her, to “just be.” Stop striving and grasping and waiting for a moment and just take a breath. This breath is the miracle. Being alive is pretty special, and totally beyond our control, and yet most of us fritter that gift away with self-doubt, worry and fear. Always seeking more, or trying to hang on to an ever changing reality.

Your purpose here is to evolve, to transform, to experience your radical aliveness, to awaken to your true nature. You are the path. The path is you. The time is now. Anand Mehrotra

Instead of self-flagellation, I try to practice self-acceptance. So maybe a week per month I get a bit flaky. That’s better than four weeks a month. Sometimes I just turn up on the mat with zero motivation. As long as I turn up. Progress is the goal, not perfection.

And this is where I see the growth. I’m not looking around for something else, something new. I’m not distracting myself with new people and shiny new things. It’s very uncomfortable at times but I am staying with the discomfort, trying to develop some curiosity about it. Because I know consistency of practice is the answer and any resistance is fear. Even though it seems crazy and counter-intuitive, often when we are in bucketloads of pain, we resist the very thing that is the solution to our pain. I know I do.

Hence the shift from spiritual seeker to spiritual student. At some point the time comes where we must stop distracting ourselves by looking outside for answers and learn to sit quietly and make peace with what’s within. To make a commitment to self that we keep, even when no one else is looking. Even when there’s no trip to Bali or India attached. Even when it’s just sitting wrapped in blankets, meditating at a cold dawn in our own apartment.


Since it’s so counter-intuitive to touch unpleasantness, it’s a gradual process of getting used to, of becoming familiar with, opening to whatever arises. And it’s the unpleasant part, the painful part, the insecurity part, the uncertainty, the really distasteful part that we are not accustomed to being open to. But these three qualities, openness, open-awareness and warmth, living in a way to uncover these, they provide the support, or the container, or the atmosphere, that allows us to become more and more fearless and embracing all of our experience. But it really takes time. And I think all these teachings, you could take them and brand them, and make a lot of money with workshops where you did, A, B, C and you got results… fast. But it isn’t like that. Trungpa Rinpoche used to say that it was like walking from San Francisco to New York rather than flying in an aeroplane. It took a long time but you really knew the territory well. Pema Chodron

Pema Chodron talks about “discomfort resilience” I think meditation does this. We keep bringing our attention back from thoughts, from distractions. We develop the capacity for our nervous system to get used to discomfort. Over time, we are developing new habits, new neural pathways, new cellular memory, that allows us to stay in some degree of calm and presence even when facing challenging emotions and experiences. We get to know ourselves, our little cognitive blips and cheats, the ‘terrain’ really well.

Meditation teaches us to be present with what is. To just breathe. Not react. Not grasp or panic. That’s a valuable skill in life. In the end that’s what life teaches us, if we are willing to learn, to be open and available to every moment. To be curious. To be a ready student.

Being a student and developing self-mastery may sound like contradictory concepts. But I don’t think so. I think it is arrogant to assume we have all the answers or even the sophistication of consciousness to intuit all the answers on our own. We need teachings, practices, guidance, support and community to evolve.

A commitment to study is a commitment to do the work, to go deep into our selves and to not run away or seek distraction from what we find there when it is displeasing or uncomfortable.

As we so often hear, to the point I think we often ignore it, life is a journey, not a destination. There is no place to rush to, to strive for. That doesn’t mean we don’t have things we would like to do or places we would like to go. But none of that will fulfil us if we haven’t learned to “just be” with what is.

Without the ability, the discipline, the practice to be here now, we just keep missing it, missing life and the experiences we have often yearned so long for, caught in a perpetual trap of “when I get/have/do this, then I’ll be able to stop and enjoy life.”

The most important practice is 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

In yoga tonight the teacher talked about a mindset called ‘Be. Do. Have” Loving the synchronicity with what I had been writing moments before, I listened as she described it.

Most of us think we need to “have” a certain thing or set of things (more money, love, time, experience, etc.), so that we can finally “do” something important (pursue our passion, start a business, go on vacation, create a relationship, buy a home, etc.), which will then allow us to “be” what we truly want in life (peaceful, fulfilled, inspired, generous, in love, etc.). In actuality, it works the other way around.

First we “be” what we want (peaceful, loving, inspired, abundant, successful, or whatever), then we start “doing” things from this state of being – and soon we discover that what we’re doing winds up bringing us the things we’ve always wanted to “have.”

It’s a mindset used by self-help guru Tony Robbins, among others, but it’s been around for a lot longer than that. In fact, like so much self-help practice, I’m sure it has its roots in Indian Vedic teachings.

It acknowledges that we still want to ‘do’ and ‘have’ but instead of putting that first, we focus on the ‘be’ and act from there.

I love the simplicity – and the synchronicity. Be. Do. Have. For me it starts with my values. What kind of person do I want to be, rather than what do I want. It makes us question why we think we want what we want. What is it we think it will do for us? For me, fundamentally, I want to be present and loving and kind. I want to be the best expression of myself I can be. I want to thrive and enjoy my life whilst inspiring joy and value in others.

If on the day I die I can say, ‘To the best of my ability—cutting myself some slack for my human flaws and fallibilities—I was faithful to my gifts, to the world’s needs as I saw them,’ then I can take my final breath with a feeling of satisfaction that I showed up on earth with what I had and offered it up to the world. Parker Palmer

These are exactly the qualities that attracted me to Jane and Anand. They live that way.

When I search and push and strive in life I am not really here, not present. I’m trying to get ‘there,’ which is never here. The greatest masters, in my honest opinion, teach the same thing. Be here now. That’s it. So what if your practice is less perfect than yesterday, if you were up all night with a sick child and slept through morning practice time. It’s okay. Just stay with it.

In fact see THIS – whatever’s happening right now, as your practice. The sick kid, the rushed days that skimp on formal practice, as your practice. Can I be okay with imperfection, upheaval, discomfort? In short, can I be okay with this human gig?

Isn’t that why we seek? To find purpose and meaning for this life. Isn’t that the purpose of our practice, to learn to be in full expression of this life? In all it’s nuance, its shadows and light.

The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it. Bill Wilson

Many years ago I learned this. We have to live our practice. In every area of our lives.

Carolyn Myss regards our integrity of practice as including, not only our actions, but even our thoughts. She sees every challenge, every seemingly external situation or relationship, that comes our way as an opportunity to test our integrity and endurance. To test the commitment we made to ourselves. The commitment for spiritual evolution. Will we honour ourselves even when no one is watching? It’s a tough call.

I understand that a seeker and a student can be complimentary archetypes. A seeker has an openness and sense of wonder that is also beneficial to the student. Maintaining a beginners mind, as the Buddhists say, is the essential starting point for learning.

For me, the subtle distinction, the shift, is that as a student I have made a commitment to a teacher and a tradition of teachings – not even to the exclusion or what came before or what is to come, but most certainly as my first priority for my time and attention. For me, this has stabilised my energy from the more scattergun and less focused, ‘tasting from the smorgasbord’ approach that came before.

There’s also the sangha – the community of Anandji’s students who keep each other on track, who inspire, guide and support one another. These commitments, to a teacher and a community, help me stick with the practice when I find myself waning.

On a good day, I am inspired by my new ‘stickability’ and the shifts I see in my physical, mental and spiritual being. On a bad day, I just stay with the practice and let it carry me through. Knowing that really there are no ‘good’ and ‘bad’ days, these are just stories, positionalities created by the mind.

Life moves in cycles and I’m sure there may come a time when I become a seeker again. But for now, I find great solace in sitting still, at the feet of my teacher (literally or figuratively) and immersing myself in these teachings, knowing that their depth and weight would be enough to sustain me for a thousand lifetimes, if I let it.


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. Mark Nepo

Hari Om Tat Sat. Namaste. Blessings.


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

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