Connecting. Creating. Directing.

I’ve not been able to write here for a while. Simply because there has been so much happening in my life that work, teaching and other writing commitments have gotten in the way.
Also because I’ve not really had the clarity to write anything I feel is in alignment with the theme of this blog…until now.

I recently posted a badly-recorded cover of ‘Zombie’ by The Cranberries, translated into Gaeilge (the Irish language), and uploaded as a way to pay tribute to an inspirational female Irish artist who died this week, Dolores O’Riordan.
Also this week, I gave my first private yoga and meditation classes, alongside my regular public classes and retreat coordination in the stunning bamboo yoga shala in Sanur, Bali, that I now call my ‘office’.  Any spare time I have is spent also practicing yoga, meditating, writing – anything from poetry to short stories to songs to whatever random thought pops into my head at the time – listening to Blindboy’s amazingly insightful podcast, learning Bahasa, planning classes, and reading….and overall really just tapping in to this overwhelming sense of connection and flow I’ve managed to access since being here.

Connecting vs Creating

CREATING. I’ve realised it’s all really just about connecting things. Having the awareness to connect certain aspects of life to another. Whether it’s the resemblance an old tree stump holds with the face of a vaguely familiar famous sportsperson, or something a bit deeper – it doesn’t matter. Formulating these connections into words, thoughts, artistic expression, photographs, drawings….however you do it. Whatever way occurs to you and presents itself in that moment. It’s all creating. Drawing something new from what your reality already presents you with. No matter how small it might seem.
What I feel that people find in following famous and inspirational artists such as O’Riordan is the feeling of connection they get on hearing the artist’s interpretation of things. After all, we live in the same world, have experienced and heard about the same events such as the Troubles in Northern Ireland to which ‘Zombie” refers. But it’s in hearing someone else’s well-crafted interpretation and connection of various elements of these occurrences that a way for us to feel connected to something a little bit bigger is presented to us, and ironically also allows us to see that deep down underneath it all, be it artist or soldier or victim or onlooker – we are all the same.

The important part is to GRASP this connection when it happens. When a thought occurs, a situation presents itself, an idea forms or inspiration suddenly hits – the necessity of acknowledging it for what it is is key to being able to solidify it into something tangible. Yoga and meditation have helped me to cultivate and expand on this awareness, just meaning that it happens a little more often now than it did before.

‘Trust the Process”

A huge aspect of this acknowledgment is self-belief. If we believe ourselves capable, trust in our own creative instincts and push forward with the vague idea that what we’re connecting is something of worth – even if you’ve no set plan for it whatsoever – then you will see beautiful things happen. Yoga has also helped me see that the end goal or product is not the point. The point is the process.

The creative process. The buzz I get from making these connections – in the form of jigsawing words together to express thoughts or feelings or ideas, or jigsawing notes into chords to fit those words and a tune to vocalise them musically – THAT’S the point of it. Not the response something gets. Not how many views, or likes, or clicks, nods of the head or generated web traffic.
Yes, it’s nice to teach a full studio of yogis there to take your class, or sing to a full room of people who want to hear you, or write for an audience I know will be larger than just my own mother (hi, Mum!). But sometimes that’s just not the case, and the creativity comes, regardless.
What happens then?

Directing Energy

I used to let this excess of ideas and creative energy flow into negative places. I used to let it fuel the opposite beliefs of the ones where I send it now. What I’ve realised from becoming proficient enough with yoga and meditation to call myself a ‘yogi’ (for want of a better word) and cultivating this awareness is that if I’m honest, it TERRIFIES me how powerful our thoughts are.  How capable we are of creating whatever reality we send energy towards. It scares me because there are as many negative outlets for my energy as there are positive ones, and it’s a constant battle to remain on top of it and ensure it doesn’t stray down old pathways and habits again.

If there’s one thing I’d advise anyone who is struggling to master negative cycles of thoughts or habits, it would simply be first to find a creative outlet.

Write things down. Scribble a shitty picture of what the inside of your head looks like. Sing a poorly formulated song about your commute or take some half-arsed pictures of your kitchen floor. There are connections to be drawn from even the most banal-seeming aspects of your life, and the truth of the matter is that human beings thrive on connection, in whatever form that takes – be it creatively, socially, or otherwise.
Thriving means to be connected to these areas, to be aware of them, and to use both positive and negative sensations or emotions or experiences to propel you forwards. To go the only way that it’s possible for us to go.
The only ‘you’ that exists is the ‘you’ that is reading this right now. There is no ‘used to be’, or ‘aiming to be’. Use what you have right now, to create something and gradually to draw some contentment into the present moment as you live it.

After all, it’s all we’re ever going to have!

Aforementioned cover is here

Sthira and Sukha – 2 Vital Principles of Yoga Explained

(pic via Zuna Yoga)

Sthira and Sukha – 2 Vital Principles of Yoga Explained

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are considered the most concise and thorough explanation of yoga and it’s significance to us as practitioners today. The Sutras, thought to have been compiled around 400CE and literally translated as ‘threads’ from the Sanskrit word, serve as individual definitions of concepts and knowledge that together form the entire ideology of Yoga.
The style of the ‘sutra’ is designed to present us with essential knowledge in as few words as possible, free from ambiguity or irrelevant information. Each principle or thread of knowledge is laid out in easily understood and straightforward sentences which has led to their successful and accurate passing from generation to generation, right down to our understanding of them today.
Two vital aphorisms which the Sutras define are those of Sthira and Sukha, key aspects of both the physical and spiritual practice of yoga as it is understood today. Although there is no successful ‘completion’ or personal attainment associated with any genuine yoga practice, the translation of Sthira as ‘steadiness’, and Sukha as ‘ease’ are two aims which we should associate and seek to embody throughout our yoga practice.

Strength and Steadiness

To hold an asana (pose) with steadiness and strength (Sthira), we are working our inner core and drawing upon a lengthy period of sustained and regular practice. Strength and confidence in holding difficult asanas is not achieved overnight, and as such the attributes of Sthira are generally realised only after a period of consistent and dedicated practice.

Ease and Comfort

Sukha, on the other hand, is a softer and more emotional element of the asana practice which usually follows Sthira in its revelation. To truly relax within a posture or given situation, we must feel both strong and at ease within our bodies. Sukha embodies the feeling of ease and peace of mind that comes with a comfortable flow from one posture to the next and the ability to maintain each asana comfortably. It is this comfort and contentment within a given posture or flow which successfully defines Sukha.

The softness of Sukha combined with the alertness and strength of Sthira is the real goal of any yoga practitioner; no matter how far or deep the twist or stretch may be, once it is held steadily and comfortably with a sense of both Sthira and Sukha, both the body and mind will be at ease within it – and there’s nothing better than the feeling of finally being able to comfortably hold a posture you once struggled with, whether it was mentally telling yourself you weren’t able, or being too physically weak to do so!
In this sense Sthira and Sukha further promote and maintain the unification of mind and body we seek to achieve through yoga practice.

Serenity Eco Guesthouse, Canggu, Bali

 

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Serenity Eco -Guesthouse, Jalan Nelayan, Canggu

I’m not going to lie. I could base myself absolutely anywhere in Bali and still probably end up wanting to stay forever. Even if anywhere meant the little shack on the beach just 150 metres down the road from Serenity Eco Guesthouse in Canggu.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

 I took a taxi from the airport in Denpasar to Canggu, which took all of about 40 minutes once the driver had calmly arrived 30 minutes late and then proceeded to search the entire car and car park for a further 20 for any sign of his misplaced keys. This was my first encounter with the legendary workings of what they call ‘Bali time’, and let me tell you – it’s a real thing, people! 12388317_10153233258303483_515787682_n

40 minutes late here? An hour behind schedule there? “Sorry mate, I got carried away in the surf! Have you seen it today?”,Oh, yes, we are running late today. How would you like your eggs?”

Nearing Canggu, according to the signs I observed, I tried to commit directions and landmarks outside the window to memory in an attempt to get my bearings for when I rented my motorbike (60k IDR per day from Serenity, but available at a lot of nearby rental-sheds too).

Finally turning onto Jalan Nelayan in Canggu, we pulled up outside the bamboo thatched roof and awning of Alkaline Café, the line of motorbikes parked up outside overshadowed by a large timetable outlining a yoga-schedule for the day, and signs. My kinda place, I thought happily.

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Serenity Eco Guesthouse was everything I’d hoped it would be – and more. Initially only booking in for 3 nights, I ended up staying well over a week and making friends that I am still in contact with even now having returned home.

Maybe it was the fact that up until then I’d been staying in communal hostel rooms of up to 18 people, but the single room at Serenity was perfect. They also have double, privates, and a larger shared backpackers dorm. I splashed out on the single room. Spotlessly clean, secure, and cool even though there was no air con – December in Bali meant it wasn’t entirely necessary.

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Free breakfast and then other meals (not included) at the vegan/vegetarian Alkaline Café were honestly so delicious I was spoiled for choice every day, with the signs around affirming how to ‘Let Food Be Your Medicine’ really reassuring me that what I was getting was good, fresh, organic, and healthy concoctions of both western and Balinese dishes. My first time to try vegan ice cream was genuinely a very pleasant surprise, and I made sure to try almost every flavour of Alkaline’s homemade nice-cream.

Your choice of daily yoga class is only a small bit extra if you stay in Serenity, and the Ashtanga and Vinyasa flows proved both a challenging and refreshing change from the rather monotonous self-practice flow I had become accustomed to on my travels. A special ‘Yoga for Surfers’ is available too for those more inclined to be found on Batu Balong Beach than the yoga studio in the early hours, 150 metres down the road and only a short distance away from the popular Old Man’s, which really is the place to be during any visit to Canggu, no matter if you stay on past happy hour or not.12386743_10153233255198483_419303146_n

The staff were extremely helpful and friendly during my stay and I honestly couldn’t recommend them more – they even took care of me during an extremely rough dose of the 24-hour Bali-Belly bug, which floored me for over a day and meant I couldn’t even leave the guesthouse – DON’T eat at the dingey warungs down by Old Man’s!!

Serenity really caters for the needs of all travellers – proximity to the beach and local nightlife suiting those more inclined to surf for the day, or party at night, whilst the yoga classes schedule meant there was never long to wait before the next class. There were also a few families staying there which I thought was brilliant, the quiet surroundings catering for both young and old, whatever the daytime priority may be. As for me, I partook in all of these activities and more, exploring the local area everyday on my motorbike and returning in the evening for a relaxed chillout by the pool.

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Surf n’ Turf at Batu Balong Beach, Canggu

I really hope I can return to Serenity soon and partake in more of the yoga and meditation sessions- I made friends in the area too who showed me around many of the cool spots aswell as Old Man’s, such as Deus’, Pretty Poison, Betelnut, Café, and Crate, to name but a few (more on the Cafés of Bali HERE).

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My taxi on to Ubud at the end of my stay I shared with one of the many friends I’d made at Serenity, yet we parted ways on arrival as our itineraries differed slightly.

 Serenity recently uploaded this video online and it’s made me nostalgic for the time I spent there, and also made me more determind and eager to return as soon as possible!!

Until then,

Hati-Hati, and Namasté!!

 

 

 

Useful links:

Serenity Eco-GuesthouseFacebook/Twitter
Old Man’s Canggu – Facebook
Betelnut Café – Facebook
Pretty Poison – Facebook

Excess is Easy – Yogahub Dublin, and the Benefits of Regular Practice

A poem I wrote here early last month inspired by the changes I’ve experienced through regular yoga practice has led me to further explain my new obsession with yoga!

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Excess is Easy 

Excess is easy. That much I know for sure. Too much, too little, too often. It is one of the easiest things to let ourselves indulge in the safety of the extremities. It takes courage, balance and practice to remain upright in the midst of it all, and stay grounded in the middle of chaos. Being aware that there will always be limitations, and things we cannot do – yet along with these limitations will be good things; positive and progressive possibilities with every new movement.

Yoga and the Yogahub in particular have helped me achieve some of the balance required to walk along the narrow space between these extremes I used to bounce between.
Already on my way through a slow but steady recovery, a regular, daily yoga practice added into my daily routine proved the missing link between the confused streams of thoughts that raced through my head on a daily basis. The breath being added back into my conscious flow of thought aided to bring me back to the now, to the moment of what is happening as I speak, as I write, as I sit here.

It reminded me that it is ok to occupy the space I have been given on this earth, within the often disagreeable walls of my body. It is ok, and perfectly acceptable to be myself, to be in my own skin, and to allow myself to enjoy being within it, even if I’m not always it’s biggest fan.
The Yogahub provides a healthy and friendly atmosphere for me to learn all of this, and to relearn it as required – because balance is not something you can achieve once and expect to be able to attain again at the click of a finger. Even though it is always fairly accessible, there is a constant upkeep and awareness required to maintain it – much like the physical balance required to ride a bike.

In the monthly unlimited membership I took out at the beginning of September with the Yogahub, I not only found this kind of strong balance in daily practice and attending classes, but it was a stable balance. Stable enough to maintain for a prolonged period of time.The variety of classes available, styles and flexible timetable really allowed me to personalise my practice and accomodate for all levels and intensities, to suit how I was feeling on a given day. Each friendly face glows with a welcoming smile as you step foot inside the doors, whether for a random drop-in class or a scheduled flow, the delicious HappyFood vegan and vegetarian café providing the perfect pre or post – class fuel to help your body move through the hour.

I’ve realised during my month with the Yogahub that yoga teaches me not to rush ahead – to remain calm and to accept what is happening when it does. There is no use in constantly casting your gaze forwards, anticipating anxiously things that are beyond your control. The one thing within my control is my own body – not even my mind is always controllable. With yoga, my focus is shifted back to the physical power which resides within my body, and the very fact that I was bringing this body on a daily trip in to the city centre to the Yogahub was enough to begin the positive reactions within, and aid me to maintain a comfortable and healthy distance from all extremities I used to reside in.

The people at the Yogahub eminate this contentedness and oneness with the world, hippie-style ‘tree-hugger’ labels really not being necessary or applicable in this sense – it’s just a truly calming place. The huge variety of yoga styles means that everyone is catered for, no matter what level, and each class welcomes newcomers with open arms (or elbows, knees, hips, legs, whatever you’re stretching into at the moment!!).

 In moving my body, and staying with it as it goes, I have grown more accepting of both it’s limitations and it’s strengths. I appreciate what it does for me, and I work daily toward improving it so it can bring me where I want to go, and move me all the different ways I want to move, difficult poses and balance included.

It will always be an ongoing thing – constant maintanance and awareness is what is needed, and the Yogahub has given me the strength to accept that I will need to maintain this. It requires effort and practice, yet each time now that I return to the mat and begin my practice, I feel the benefits mentally before even beginning to move.

The extremities are always going to be there, and I may not always be able to avoiding brushing off them from time to time. Instead of shying away from them and fearing the downs and bad days however, I try now to embrace them for what they are, and allow them to serve as a foundation on which to start rebuilding a new day, a new practice, and new movement. We’re only human, and I feel that limiting yourself too much in anything inevitably leads to an equalising swoop in the opposite direction, as your mind and body try to balance things out. In maintaining as level a field as possible for as long as possible, the breadth of that level is strengthened, and makes it easier to stand on.

It’s probably a good thing that the monthly membership limited me to one class per day though, as there were days where I wanted to stay and do more! On these days I had to pull myself up on the urge and remind myself that excess also comes in the form of good things. Finding and maintaining this balance is how I have come to be where I am now, and I am looking forward (but not too far!) to re-commencing my practice with the Yogahub as soon as I return home from travelling.

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Statue of The Buddha at the Royal Palace of Cambodia

#onlypositivevibes

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