Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Past Month

The past month I have been undertaking an intensive Yoga Teachers Education Program at Atma Vikasa Yoga Kutira in Mysore India. Amongst (and induced by) all the breathing, sweating, chanting, backbending, twisting and nasal flossing there have been some significant lessons learnt. Here a few that I would like to share with you, which are relevant both on and off the yoga mat.

Knowledge from Experience
We gain knowledge through experience. Only when you experience something fully can you come to learn it and know it. You might know of something or know about something through words you have heard or read, but don't be deluded; knowing about or of something is not the same as actually knowing it.

Take for example someone who lives in the desert and has never seen the coast. They might have read or heard about the beach and know that there are waves, sand, seagulls etc but without ever having the experience of being at the beach, they can't actually know what the beach is.

Knowing a word and knowing the thing that the word means or represents are not the same thing. Without the experience, knowledge is a verbal delusion.

"I Can"
The power of the mind is astounding. In line with "Knowledge from Experience" I need more experience of my own mind before I can comprehend the extent of its capacity. However, to just touch the tip of the iceberg, I want to share what I know about thinking "I can" as opposed to "I cant".

I learnt this particular lesson in backbending class. Backbending is much more than a physical challenge. There is something about extending your body into confronting and challenging postures that highlights any limitations you have in your mind whether they be fears, aversions or attachments.

The most common thought that comes up is "I can't" which also arises in many other contexts for so many of us. Here's the thing though, "Icant" is nothing more than a self imposed limitation. It is a thought in your mind that you invest your belief in until it becomes so strong that it dominates your actions. If you think "I cant" and believe "I cant" then you are absolutely right, you wont be able to. If you are doing something or about to do something and you have the thought "I cant" in your mind, at that very moment before you even act your are done. Gone. Finished. It is game over right there with that "I cant" thought and belief. That is, unless you catch the mind mid "I cant thought" and decide to change that thought to "I can".

"I can" is the only thought that will win over "I cant". Whether "I can" or "I cant" wins is determined on your belief, ability to focus and where you are investing your energy.

So if you are wanting to do something but are failing, you first of all need to identify the self imposed "I cant" belief. Then, make a clear and conscious decision to choose "I can". Believe that you can and accept that you can. You need to say "I can", think I can", believe "I can" and feel "I can" until there is no doubt that you will. Sometimes you can do this instantaneously, but other times there's a lot more involved then what originally meets the eye so it takes more time along with courage, strength and willpower. But don't limit yourself with time or expectations, work on your thoughts and keep persisting until you do it.

Once you have done it, or given it your best attempt, then think and reflect. Resolve any mental conflicts that you have and keep believing that you can. Work sincerely and have faith that the result will come.

The importance of purpose is commonly overlooked. Purpose is a primary motivator that provides direction and focus. When it comes to making a decision, a choice or performing some action, the fundamental basis is a question of purpose. What is the purpose? If you can answer that question then you will be able to easily make your choice or action.

The purpose will also provide you with a point of reference. Sometimes its difficult for us to see whether something is good or bad. However with your purpose in mind, if something is taking you towards your purpose you can confirm that it good, on the other hand something taking you away from your purpose you can determine is bad.

Have clarity of mind towards a purpose. You can implement rules or limitations or systems in the name of achieving a purpose. But recognise when you have outgrown it, when it is no longer serving you and your purpose. At that point it is done so drop it and move on.

Only you can determine the purpose of something for yourself. So know your purpose just as you know yourself and stay true to both.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012


I recently met two people traveling through South East Asia filming for a documentary "Return To Happiness". The quiz question they were asking everyone in their path was "What makes you happy?". It's a fair question to ask, however what really got me thinking was the implication of this question; the implication that you need something in order to be happy, that there is an external element required.

So often I hear people referring to Happiness as something that they are working towards, something that they are trying to achieve or striving to be. I hear people associating happiness as something that resides outside of themselves "I will be happy when I have x, y and z" or "when such and such happens I will be happy" . I too have been guilty of associating happiness as an external quality to achieve. The problem here is that when you achieve "x, y and z" you are temporarily happy, that is until the next external situation or object of desire arises.

Through my experiential existence I have learnt that true Happiness is a state of being. Happiness is within you, it comes from within you and lives within you. It is something that you are not something that you have. It comes from a place within you where you connect with the Universe, Eternal Light, Divine Energy, your True Self, God or whatever terminology you wish to use that describes or defines your spiritual connection. It is a state of being where you transcend beyond the ego and the physical realm and connect with your True Self, your Spirit or the Divine and be at one with the universe and the laws of nature.

With this I believe that each of us is already happy, we just need to realise that which we already are. It's like a dog looking for its tail. It can keep looking around for its tail, or chasing the one it already has but until it realises and accepts that it already has a tail it wont ever be happy. Coupled with the realisation that we are already happy, is the acceptance of happiness. Acceptance of happiness or receiving happiness is something that can be a lot harder to do then it sounds. Many people don't actually allow themselves to be happy. This could be due to a warped belief system, external conditioning or other life experience but it hinders their ability to receive happiness and accept it as something that they are and deserve to be.

With that understanding of happiness, what do I believe makes you happy?
- That which connects you spiritually, which allows the expression of your True Self or Spirit
- Living breathing your values
- Acting with love and compassion towards yourself, others and  nature
- Allowing yourself to accept happiness
- Living in the present moment

Happiness for no reason is real happiness. Finding the happiness within you is the path to finding the happiness outside of you.Therefore you can run about in the external world chasing external objects or ideals but until you return to the source of true happiness of who you truly are then real happiness wont happen.If you are happy then you are open and more receptive so that divine love and energy can flow through you and with this more and more love and happiness will be available to you.

I know that this can be challenging to actually do, to allow yourself to be happy. A few tools which might be useful are:
- Joy List - write a list of things that you can do physically in the external world that brings you happiness and connects you to yourself internally. When you are having difficulty connecting to your inner happiness, you can do something from your joy list and reconnect with that inner state of being.
- Gratitude List - write a list of all the things that you have right now that you are thankful for. Write and rewrite this list often as being thankful or grateful is an inner attitude that will help you expand your inner world and receive and accept more things to be grateful for.
- Do something for someone else or give something to someone without expecting anything in return.This one is magic.

The challenge is to live each moment in the present. Connect with the happiness in this very moment. Let yourself be happy for no reason.

Love and Be Happy. Dare to Be.


Sunday, 11 March 2012

Project Futures Challenge Global SE Asia 2012

With 2012 being the year of venture I decided to bite the bullet and take action to raise much needed money and awareness for the Somaly Mam Foundation. The Somaly Mam Foundation is  one I have been passionate about since reading Somaly Mam's book The Road of Lost Innocence back in 2009. The reality of sex trafficking in south east asia and the rest of the world is horrific. It is pure exploitation of an innocent human being, sexual, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual abuse for some seedy person's sick pleasure and another's monetary profit. It's disgusting.

I had started my fundraising campaign receiving sponsorship from family, friends and clients for me to shave off my golden locks when I stumbled across the Project Futures Challenge of cycling 500km throughout Cambodia. The cycle's objective was to raise money for the Somaly Mam Foundation, the cycle through Cambodia and visiting the AfESIP shelters where the rescued survivors live. In these centres they are given all the necessities, an education and a family support network of fellow survivors. With only 12 days before the cycle was commencing I signed up and joined the group. I wanted to be a part of this for an array of reasons, the primary one being that I believe it is one thing to give the survivors money which they are in desperate need of, but to give them your time, energy and love, to show them that you really care, to listen to their stories and give them a hug is priceless for them.

The 500km cycle through Cambodia was an experience that penetrated deeply beyond words. So much so that now 3 days later and many miles away I am still processing all that was experienced, shared and learned. My life has been changed by Somaly Mam, the survivors, the fellow riders and by Cambodia itself.

Visiting the AFESIP shelters and meeting Somaly Mam was so real and powerful. There were no walls or barriers with Somaly Mam, she is genuine, full of energy, living her truth and her calling. Everything she has endured, created, established and is continuing to achieve is inspirational. Her message to us Riders when we visited the shelters was simple - love unconditionally. Treat the survivors as your sister, your family, love them for who they are, they may not be "perfect" but in that they are perfect just as they are. To the women in the group she asked us to show the girls love and friendship with acceptance and without judgement. One of the problems for these girls is that they are abandoned by their families as they are seen to bring shame on the family for their past, they are seen as dirty. However, the past wasn't of their own choosing they were innocent victims. One of the older survivors tearily told me that she doesn't like going home to see her parents and family because they don't love her. My heart reached out to this girl.

 In the group of predominately female riders there were 5 guys, the fact that they survived the 10days of cycling surrounded by chatty, headstrong and powerful women was remarkable! I was extremely grateful for their presence for their masculine energy yes but also for what they brought to the girls in the shelters. The girls in the shelters all have  a past of sexual abuse and exploitation by men. But as Somaly Mam highlighted it is important to teach these girls that not all men are horrible pigs who are out to take advantage of them. The guys showed the girls love, friendship and compassion and you could see the girls really enjoyed interacting with the men and having their pictures taken with them which was awesome. 

When we visited one of the shelters some of the girls wanted to share their stories with us. Somaly explained that this was a good therapy for them, having a group of people who care and wanted to listen to what they have to say. When sitting opposite these young girls as they told their story, seeing the tears, the pain written on their faces and the sorrow in their eyes my heart and love reached out to them. Simultaneously there was fire in my belly and my throat, pure anger towards these men who rape these young victims. Some victims are so young (3 years old) that their pelvis isn't formed and so they are cut in order to be penetrated. What I cant comprehend is how these men can do such things to another human being? And why is there nothing being done to these men? No punishment, prison, nothing. The girls that are lucky are rescued into safety of the shelters and are given a real chance at life, whilst the men continue to walk free. And you cant tell me that these men wont be repeat offenders.

The men who cause such harm to these precious girls should be arrested. The ironic thing is that I was almost arrested or at least fined whilst I was in Cambodia. We were at Angkor Wat temples and I had accidently left my entry pass in the car and so a friends suggested i just use hers to get in. I stupidly agreed it was a good idea and needless to say it wasn't a good idea and we got busted. It turned into a bit of an event, securty came, police got involved, I explained what had happened and they showed me the "non transferrable" ticket policy. I understood it was my mistake but it was such a big deal over such a petty issue. I couldnt get my head around what a big deal they were making of it when just when there is absolutely nothing being done to stop innocnet girls be raped by foul men. I think the Police, their laws and policies and their time could be put to much more serious and beneficial causes that's for sure.

Sex trafficking is happening globally. In Cambodia and many countries in south east asia it is obvious and in your face, you can see it happening. Westerners are flocking there to take advantage of the rape they can purchase cheaply in bars like "Pussy Cat" which was directly opposite our hotel. At Bangkok airport on my way out of Cambodia an American man who was 50 odd years old started talking to me about meat (literally, bad conversation to start with me) and then the conversation turned to where I had just come from and what I had been doing in Cambodia. His response was that he would never go to Cambodia because he wouldn't want that stamp on his passport, associating it with the prostitution scene. happening there He quickly added that Asian women don't do it for him anyways. I had to stop myself from punching the living daylights out of him, his comment was so beside the point and as you can imagine after I gave him a verbal lowdown there wasn't much more for either of us to talk about.

The ignorance of the issue is as much a issue as the problem itself. We have to stop human trafficking and sex slavery. How? The root of the issue needs to be addressed (no pun intended). How can we make this happen?

To end this blog on a positive note, I have walked away from this cycle with more love in my heart and understanding for human beings.Cambodia has strengthened my understanding that we are all friends, we are all brothers and sisters and at our essence we are all on and the same. Love unconditionally, and that includes yourself and everyone that you meet. Life is precious. Its is a very special gift that we have received and it is your to live. You are the greatest gift you have to share with the world. 

Be inspired to let your light shine.