move. smile. release. Uma Spender (previously Jessie Neave) - name in transition - new website coming soon!

Uma Spender (previously Jessie Neave) - name in transition - new website coming soon!

Love. A true Story.

Happy New Year Yogis!
I’m currently on day 6 of a juice cleanse, nothing unusual there, just giving my digestive system a rest. As you may know, when you do a cleanse it’s not just physical stuff you clear out - there’s the psychological, energetic & emotional elements that clear out with it. This one is bringing up stuff I’ve been holding on to for ages…it’s painful, but ultimately it's about love.

It began when I was listening to ‘the Minimalists’ podcast a couple of weeks ago, and I became inspired to clear out the boxes of stuff I’ve been holding onto since my mum died almost 4 years ago. Every box I open holds memories; wounds and bitter-sweet joys, I tread lightly, I’ve got no idea what is next. As I move slowly through, I have been observing the rise of this overwhelming feeling that I am beginning to allow space to detach from the story. The story of her, the story of us, mostly to stop protecting her and actually tell the story of her pain & trauma - because the story is actually about the path of love that I am on today. 

So whilst still in the process of this epic cleanse of my house, I naturally followed my instinct to cleanse my body, and all those intimate, ‘too hard to explain things’ are coming to light. I know that we release our grip on the story when we tell it (or, the story releases its grip on us), and although I have told it to trusted friends, something big has changed now, and I am sharing below, to anyone who is interested, how it is that I came to trust in the power of love so deeply. I may regret sending this when I come back to earth from my detox, but here’s to being vulnerable, in the moment & openly sharing our truths....

When my eldest brother was 14 he was diagnosed with a severe mental illness that turned everything in my ‘perfect happy family’ upside down. Whilst he would have short periods of being “normal” he spent most of his life being either in the throws of an episode of mania, or unrecognisably sedated in a psych ward. I spent my childhood visiting these dark places, and, witnessing the horror my parents faced daily in their fight to stay above water. I witnessed my own friends being unable to play at my house anymore - through the rose coloured lenses of a child I witnessed many forms of fear in play all around me. My brother’s life became a cycle of heavy medication and hopeful management, and after 7 years of darkness, ended with him taking his own life. There are volumes I could write about him, and the other people in my family, but those are stories for other times. This is a story about my mother, and about me.
 
I was 14 when he left us, a truly important age - it’s a time when children shift to being something else, and, across the globe there is often some kind of test, a passing on of wisdom, perhaps a ceremony to mark the rite of passage. What happened to me at this time was certainly a rite of passage, one that showed me the next stage of darkness, as I watched my mother slip into a void that is beyond fear and grief. Rather than being held by my family and community at that stage I was set loose, to find my own way. Mental illness and suicide is not something many people feel comfortable talking about, so people didn’t talk about it at all. At school there was a strange sense of going on like nothing had happened, and at home there was nothing but what had happened - I would wake to the howling of my mother as she screamed her despair into the night…I became the caretaker, in a sense, and made my way through those awkward teenage years by doing extreme sports and injuring myself a lot (which all makes a lot of sense to me now), discovering meditation and eventually taking a devoted healing path.
My mother’s pain was so deep and raw that she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, face it. As a mother now I have a little more perspective on that, and, I don’t think that anyone should be judged on how they grieve the loss of a child.  However, at the time, I guess I did judge, I wanted to help her, I wanted to see that she was trying. I would talk to people & try to find the best & most appropriate healers, councillors, psychologists - but every suggestion I made was met with the same dagger of an answer: “If I’m that much trouble to you, I’ll just kill myself.” This sentence was her wall - it meant that she did not want to address her trauma. It meant that it was her trauma alone, and she intended to hold onto it forever. It was her way of keeping me disconnected to her pain.  In many ways a lot of her died with my brother. The wall she built around herself became a fortress of stress and tension and the light in her eyes was mostly gone, but somehow I believed it could come back, so I kept on trying to ‘fix’ her.  As I carved out my own path of healing, discovering meditation, reiki, TCM, Qi Gong & Yoga, I would try to share them with her, but was always met with the same horrific, empty response. I found her so difficult and infuriating, I went through all ranges of emotions, but I didn't stop trying…until something happened.
After more than a decade of working on my self and doing my best to ‘help’ my mother, it was time for me to start my own family. My first child was born when I was 27 - he was the perfect form of innocence and purity, with no knowledge of our stories, our walls, or our shared trauma. I watched my mother with him and I saw flickers of light return to her eyes. She had been so distant from me emotionally for so long that I didn’t really trust her. It took me a long time to leave my baby in her care for any extended amount of time, but when I eventually did, she would be radically changed. Over a few years I observed how she would light up from spending time with him, and with that light a new space for us to connect would open, for a moment at least. I realised quickly that this was all possible because he offered her what no one else had, for a really long time: unconditional love. He wasn’t trying to fix or help her, he was just doing what people do before they are corrupted by life - they radiate love. And as I observed him, I let him be my guide; I ceased my efforts to get her to address her trauma and just let it be. Whenever I was in her presence, or when she was on my mind, I started to focus my intention on simply giving her unconditional love. Little by little our relationship shifted, as I let go of my agenda to make things better, things got a little better. I did my best to surrender the past and be in the moment with her, and within those moments there was closeness again - the walls came down. 
This is not to say that she was ‘fixed’ by any stretch of the imagination, but there was healing. When she died almost 4 years ago it was from a massive aneurysm, most likely caused by an accumulative life of heavy stress and holding on to trauma. What was ‘fixed’ though, was the passage of love between us. Through the teachings of my little guru I learned that focussing on fixing the problem is never the answer. The answer is focussing on the love that lies behind all of the problems - the love that we came from and the love that we return to, the love that binds us all. 
Bringing focus to this love has been my daily practice ever since - on and off the mat. You can call it Yoga if you want, or divine light, or God, but it’s actually just love. And, it really is all we need.

hope to see you on the mat soon
with light & love
Jess

ps. if you are interested in the benefits of fasting feel free to contact me, or listen to this great podcast.
pps. New space has become available for the upcoming Goddess Retreat! There has been 2 cancellations so this (previously sold out) Ubud Retreat is inviting 2 more women to join. Be quick! March 2-9th. Click HERE for more info.

the art of receiving

Om Bhoginyei Namaha: Salutations to She who has the experience of perpetual bliss...

A big part of my Spiritual practice is about bringing balance to to the masculine & feminine - and in a world that has intrinsically taught me the power of the masculine, this means strengthening alignment with the sacred feminine. I’m not talking about physically being a woman or a man, but rather; being a part of a global energetic shift from the consciousness that has dominated for some centuries, to the socially inclusive, environmentally integrative consciousness that calls to the depths of our hearts (I said ‘our’ because you hear it too right?!). In proper balance the masculine energy guides planning, analysis, supervision - all wonderful things - but when it runs hot we find greed, control and dominance (I promise I'm not going to mention US Politics!). The balanced feminine brings about creativity, abundance & reception, and when it's running cold we see complacency, stagnancy, resentment & victim identification.

For the purpose of this writing, we could simplify these two energies as heart & head, or, goal driven ‘taking’, and gratitude centred ‘receiving’. 

Neither is 'superior', and in ideal balance the two opposing energies complement & support each other. Universally, however, we have a way to come before we find ideal balance, so, like me, more & more seekers, men and women, are welcoming the Goddess back and immersing in the sacred feminine. This means re-orienting to the heart & moving with the great feminine flow that is giving & receiving. As a practice I generally focus on the giving, and let the Universe take care of the rest. I find that the more generous I am, the more abundance is provided - not necessarily what your head may have 'wanted', but what your heart has magnetically drawn in. It’s basic law of attraction stuff, and in my experience it works….it works, so long as  your head or some other kind of internal resistance isn't blocking it. The real practice, for me, is making sure to really notice and understand the resistances as they arise, accepting and working with what is, right now. The real practice is giving space.

So, to honour my bigger intentions, I stopped Teaching for several months and took some time to practice gratitude & receiving. This was no small thing! Taking that time and making that space was scary; I had to sacrifice a lot, and, I had to surrender to leaning on my partner and family - asking for help in ways I never have before. 

But, what kind of a Teacher would I be if I didn't honour my own journey when all the signs were there? I needed to turn things upside down, and, in the end I didn’t put up much of a fight.

I’ve been yearning for deep immersion in study, with a real Teacher, for some time. A desire to feel both more connected to the ancient tradition that has become so much of my life, and, have more tools for integrating it all to these modern times. I’ve been a little jaded by the False Gurus of the East, and, the Western Yoga scene in general has left me, well, searching. This modern yoga has hurt me physically too,

a few years ago I started asking; “where are the elders?” and; “who can I trust that has walked this path with integrity for many years and still shines the light?”.

It took time to seek out the right Teachers, but they were out there, waiting for me, of course. The timing was right, and in November I did an immersion with Tara Judelle in Embodied Flow - a beautiful combination of Tantric Philosophy (via Master teacher Sally Kempton), Body Mind Centring and deeply meditative flow Yoga. And, before that I took myself over to Western Australia for Dr Arne Rubinstein’s Leadership Training, which helped give what I do as a some more widely accessible, inclusive language, and, some room to personally expand & grow (as well as make me OK with calling myself a Leader - big one!). I’ve also been quietly on the Cervix Journey - without going into it here I recommend this to EVERY woman, sincerely.

I am now ending this year and starting a whole new phase, bursting with even more Yoga love. I just totally adored being in the seat of the student, unfolding every moment with the bliss of receiving, receiving, receiving...and it just kept coming! 

The beautiful thing about shifting gear from head to heart is that the gifts that come can be totally unexpected - opening to what is provided means moving with the magnetism of the heart space instead of projecting with the dominant thinking mind. Surrendering the 'goals & the striving' definitely puts you in a vulnerable space, but it’s a space of growth and miracles…a space of true inspiration & intuition. Practicing radical gratitude for everything (I mean EVERYTHING) we have today opens up doorways we didn’t even know were there - some aspects of myself have shown up as more ready to share & expand than I ever would have guessed, yet it couldn’t feel more right. 

I was so ready for that potent dose, that feeling of genuine connection again to lineage & tradition - of having elders to look up to. I’m just so grateful for every moment of it…and now, back in the seat of the Teacher, ready to share the yoga love again, this is what I’m up to:

  • I’ve been making a Podcast - it’s all about exploring the history & mythology of Yoga via mantra. The first 6 episodes just bubbled out of me, hopefully that will continue! I'll be putting them out into the world early next year - how exciting!
  • I am thrilled to announce a new Retreat 24-30th June next year that I will be co-hosting with the gorgeous Mei Lai Swan, in Candidasa Beach East Bali. Heart of Yoga will be a deep exploration of Mantra, Mythology and Meditation, as well as soulful movement daily, of course. It’s open to men & women, and we are kicking off with a promotion for couples, or friends happy to share a big bed - book by the end of January and you will both save an extra $50 on top of the early bird discount. And, All you need to pay now is the $300 deposit to save your place. Awesome, right? This is all part of a bigger seva (selfless service) project we are working on called Yoga for HumanKIND; Yoga Teacher Trainings that are committed to sharing the love of Yoga with communities less fortunate by training Teachers in the developing world. It’s all in it’s creation phase now but there will be more to announce very soon. 

 

  • My August Retreat Prana Body is starting to fill up. This will be a luscious week long immersion in the ancient science of the Chakra system using a wide variety of Yoga, and will be held at the luxury Nirarta Resort in Sideman. This Retreat is open to anyone who is seeking to dive deep into the energetic or subtle body, all levels of experience are welcome. *Please note I have changed the date of this Retreat to one week later than originally advertised. It is now 12-19th August. 

 

  • I’ve been expanding my mentoring of late - it was amazing to me that when I stopped actively teaching classes I started getting lots of emails from people who were seeking some kind of sounding board, or guidance, to move through something big. In the past, my mentoring has mainly been for Yoga Teachers, but it seems I’m being called to broaden the parameters a little. What I’m hearing is that there are things that people don’t want to talk about with counsellors, psychologists or friends - things that might require heart over head, things that might be energetic, sensitive or spiritual in nature -  and it just feels so natural for me to give more time to this. If you feel like you might benefit from a session with me I’m offering a limited amount of ‘free trial’ 15 minute Skype calls, just email me to book yours. I got this beautiful note from a client recently: “..thank you with all of my heart for guiding me so wisely, so lovingly & so intuitively through my pain & confusion. I have felt so aghast about modern portrayals of Spirituality & intimidated by ancient portrayals that I felt so alone until I contacted you. I’m so happy I reached out- you have such a magnificent way of translating masterful spirituality into simple and accessible language - it is a true gift.”

 

  • I have made a limited run of some really super yoga mats. I have spent the last 6 months trialling them to make sure they are really the best, and now that I know they are, I can offer them to you! These mats are the highest quality eco friendly I have found that actually last…so often the eco friendly ones wear really badly, and I wonder how eco friendly it really is if you need to keep replacing it? Anyway, mine are made from super durable hemp and have natural resin on top so you can wash them, and, have light weight natural rubber cushion for comfort…you can order on my website. They are $65 (I saw the same ones at the Yoga Barn in Ubud for $70 US). I've also got some great recycled cork blocks too.

 

  • Gertrude st news: I'm going to be involved in teaching their first ever Teacher Training in 2017 - Hannah Campos has put together a wonderful, thorough training that is designed to go throughout the year so that you can fit it in with work etc. Also, I'll be doing lots of new workshops -look out in the next newsletter for details. The next Hormone Balancing Restorative Yoga for Women session is on February 3rd at Gertrude st Fitzroy. “Deeply relaxing & informative - wish I new all this 10 years ago” - Deb (Thanks Deb!). 

 

  •  Workshops @ GRY Mornington in February    

Saturday 4th, 11am-2pm, exploring the Heart Chakra  
Sunday 5th, 11am-2pm, exploring the Throat Chakra                                                                                        
Friday 24th 7.15-9.15pm, Moving Meditation
  

Wishing you a spacious & abundant holiday season -
looking forward to seeing you on the mat in 2017

Om Shrim Shiyei Namaha: Om & salutatations to the creative abundance that is the very form of the Universe

Jess

ps - here's a meditation to expand the sacred feminine - enjoy! Shakti Meditation

the throat, that spirituality thing

It’s a funny thing to admit, I know, but I have been a bit obsessed with the throat chakra for some time.  At a base level, Vishuddha, the throat chakra, is where we manifest our thoughts as words or sounds. In the Yoga tradition, it’s the place where we start to align our energies beyond the physical plane to something…spiritual.

Spirituality is such a tricky, sticky thing to talk and to write about, and for good reason! I love exploring and sharing ideas, but in doing so I am acutely aware of the invisible line between curiosity & dogma. I believe we all have our unique felt experience or glimpses of that sense of oneness, of being in our own highest alignment, and, that those profound moments of connection usually happen when we are actually just being in the practice.  For me this experience is most potent, most undeniable, when I am immersed in the practice of mantra and nada (sacred sound) yoga - especially when this being can happen with other people.  I used to think my throat centre was open & healthy…and then out of the blue this year brought a whole new layer of expansion. The result - a deeper love of sound & mantra, and, an even deeper awareness of “oneness”. Oh dear - it seems I’m getting more spiritual!

Exploring Vishuddha is exploring Yoga (& spirituality)'s biggest & most challenging themes; the foundational acceptance of advhaita (non-duality), and ananda (bliss consciousness). Even though I have understood this for a really long time on a theoretical level, I, like most of us still on the human side of enlightenment, spend a lot of time trapped in this idea that I am separate from Universal consciousness (or the Divine, Source, Spirit, God, Love - whatever word works for you), that living is somehow removed from spirituality. It is through a whole lot of disciplined practice that I have felt experiences of this advhaita, and that those experiences are more frequent and sustained. In meditation you may have felt it too...that epic moment where you get to the source of perceived duality - the belief pattern that tells you we are separate - and the fluctuations of the mind come to a silent halt...and then it starts all over again!

With practice we unify our consciousness to, well, everything.  This is big, BIG stuff - the essence perhaps, of that tricky, invisible line. When we take the practice beyond asana into meditation, sound & mantra, the possibility of true union, advhaita, starts to uncoil. 

Our human experience of consciousness is a battle that is most often won by the thinking mind, the ego…that which seeks to claim us as separate. But with practice, as you may have experienced, we can overcome the thinking mind to dwell in the awareness beyond - the awareness that is aware of the thoughts as they arise. This illusion of separation or duality is spread through other structures and areas of our existence - for example monotheism, or religion that places one God above humanity and creates a separation between us and our spirituality. Even worshipping in a church or other created structure separates us from the sense that everything in our environment is sacred, and somehow connected.

In the awakened state of advhaita we are no longer seeking the spiritual, or the divine, or consciousness, or God or whatever, advhaita is an epic ‘coming home’ as we realise we cannot possibly seek or strive for what we already are. Even the idea of “getting connected” feels like an insult to our true nature - in advhaita, in fact, we are connection.

Exploring spirituality, for me, is like stripping back layers of illusion. Each new layer has it’s message, it’s strength, it’s medicine and it’s challenge. We get to each layer as we are ready, in perfect time. Each layer is beautiful, and absolutely unique. The journey towards your own truth, your own centre, can not be compared to anyone else's….it is, however, a privilege to be able to share it.

I have recorded a new Yoga Nidra for you all about the awakening journey of love & will power through the chakras. Hopefully it will help you to understand my Vishuddha obsession just a little bit! Enjoy!

If you are interested in exploring the subtle body & Chakra System with me I have just booked dates in August for a 7 day immersion in Sideman, Bali Prana Body Retreat. - it's going to be so special!  

Om Namah Shivaya
“May the elements and consciousness of this creation abide in me in perfect manifestation”

 

tuning in

A couple of weeks ago I decided to meditate under the full moon’s light. Being mid-winter on the Peninsula it was icy, so I rugged up in every layer I could find, stuck a candle in a jar and wobbled outside. It was a crisp, clear night and the moonlight was tangibly present, penetrating through the freezing night to touch that particular patch of the earth, and be received by little old me. The nightwas still, my little candle held strong, it’s rays of light dwarfed by the overwhelming power of the giant moon above. I was suspended in deep awe at how effortlessly the rays of moonlight were enveloping me - I didn’t know then exactly how far away the earth is from the moon but I did know it was a really big distance to be travelling. Mostly, I, like most of us, take the light of the sun and the moon for granted - how it travels all that way to us - undeniable, bright, full and pulsing with radiant energy and life, but in that moment it seemed incomprehensible. I now know that the moon is 384,400 km away from the earth, and the sun is an unimaginable distance of 149.6 million km away…so far, but so present, so essential to our life’s experience.


In sanskrit the word for light rays is ‘rashvi' - referring specifically to the moment that the light from the sun or the moon touches and interacts with matter and effects how that matter is then experienced; visually and in a felt sense. As is often the case with sanskrit there is another interpretation or meaning for this word; hands, feet, fingers and toes are also referred to as the Rashvi of the body.


It’s easy to become detached from the idea of our energetic, or light body. But it’s not a lofty, hocus-pocus idea - western science is absolutely aligned with Yoga in the certainty that we are made up of energy - there’s just a difference in language and description of these ideas. 
Einstein stated that
 

         "matter is energy (light), whose vibration has been so lowered as to be
                               perceptible to the senses. There is no matter."


As we go through “normal” life in our 3 dimensional reality, busying ourselves with so much "matter" we are usually pretty anchored in the cranial brain, or what I like to call ‘the dominant thinking mind’, this makes it quite difficult to tune into the subtle or pranic field of energy that is so present in everything that we do, feel and experience. When we are in deep sadhana (practice) we can detach from the thinking mind that is so quick to analyse and observe the experiences from above, and surrender instead to the full force of light interacting with, and in fact being our physical form. Without sadhana it can feel as though we are moving through our daily activities with the energetic body an unimaginable distance away.

 

And of course it never is - it actually couldn’t be closer.  Keeping hold of that subtle presence requires persistent dropping down from the thinking mind into the feeling experience. Sensing yourself as light in any continual way is a process of discipline, patience and most importantly curiosity. When we tune into the Sushumna nadi (central energetic passage) we can begin to sense three even more subtle channels: Vajra, Chitrini and Brahma nadi - all through which Kundalini moves upwards running up the body from just below Muladhara chakra to Sahasrara chakra, basically, from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. This is happening at our deepest centre, but the light from shushumna is also expanding to all of our physical edges through a vast network of 72,000 passages (nadis), and well beyond those boundaries also. 

 

Our hands and feet are our furthest most physical edges, the way we interface with the world - how we touch the earth, how we interact with and impact everything around us. How we open to receive, what we offer freely, and, what we take - the places we leave healed, harmed or altered forever. This all happens with the play of the hands and feet, the rashvis of the shushumna nadi...the light rays of our essential being.

 

We’re in the opposite part of the moon’s cycle now, the perfect time to turn inward and tune into your own centre of light. I rugged up and sat under the dark moon a couple of days ago and tuned in, expanded and connected...and spent a long time exhaling!

 I’ve recorded a short, simple meditation for you to encourage awareness of the shushumna nadi, and how we can expand it’s light through our very own rashvis, how we might be more conscious in the way that we touch the earth with a felt sense of our energetic body. Share it - enjoy!

 

in light

Jess

ps - I'm very excited to be officially sharing my very own creative form of women's Yoga for the first time. Shakti Flow begins next Friday night at Gertrude st, it's a 5 week course butI've decided to open it up for casual attendance as 5 friday evenings in a row is not possible for so many, understandably! I hope you can join me for one or many of these super special sessions.

pps - I'm trying out a new time for Yoga for Deep Healing TONIGHT and there are still a few places left...please help me spread the word to anyone who might benefit from a 2 & a half hour session of connection and truly nourishing rest. 7-9.30pm at Gertrude st Fitzroy.

spiritual awakenings

Something happened on my June Retreat in Bali - I broke another Granthi. 

A what??

The Sanskrit word granthi (sounds like “grunty”!) means “knot” or “doubt”. In sadhana, or spiritual practice, granthis are psychological or psychic barriers to consciousness & freedom. According to ancient Yogic tradition there are 3 Granthis that bind the soul and lock us to our illusions, preventing prana (life force energy) from moving freely up the central energetic passage (sushumna nadi).  Basically, granthis keep us locked in our base emotions and hold us firmly in our fears of death and truly living. 

So, when we break our Granthis through karma (which just means ‘action’) we transcend fear and normal restrictions on thinking and acting, giving wings to our spiritual desires – also known as the rise of Kundalini, or, Spiritual Awakening.

It's really important to note that these advances in consciousness do happen naturally as we evolve as humans whether we practice Yoga or not. Even within the framework of Yoga you can choose paths that involve selfless service over rigorous & challenging practice. However, the practices of Yoga are said to ‘fast-track’ the rise of kundalini - clearing lifetimes of karma in just one (disciplined!) life. So, Yoga, as the story goes, serves to radically advance your spiritual awakening, not create it out of thin air. 

When fast-tracking our karma we are intensifying huge challenges and changes in our egos. Our less conscious selves can put forward some very good arguments to stay firmly rooted in fear…the path of Yoga isn’t all joy & bliss, as you probably already know! The lessons can come thick & fast - some are obvious, some loving and some fierce. Some are subtle and reveal themselves in a mysterious language that translates more easefully over time as you develop your inner listening. Some awakenings leave you feeling distinctly alone - serving to show you just whom in your life can withstand the expanding consciousness you radiate...who might be willing to stand by you and stare into the flames of transformation, even when it’s not pretty, or joyful.

During the last Goddess Retreat I experienced a huge awakening where the energetic space between my solar plexus & heart burst wide open, and I felt the awesome & brutal force that is love melt away a lifetime of held grief. I wasn't the only one who felt it either, it happened for us together. An enormous weight was taken from my shoulders - it was, in fact the weight of pressure. The pressure that I always imagined, both consciously and unconsciously, was imposed from those around me - from the external world. The pressure to be and do so much, the pressure I believed was OK and 'normal' because it seemed so common; constantly reflected back at me from every direction.

So, when this granthi broke I was released from another layer of illusion and I became even more enveloped in the truth - the consciousness that is pure, blissful, ever expanding love. It certainly wasn't an easy time, during those weeks I often felt frozen, naked and alone, but, I surrendered with my whole self and managed to come through the other side. And because I wasn't actually alone in my experience, I didn't feel like a crazy person, even though I might have sounded a little that way explaining it all to an outsider! 

 When we immerse ourselves in sadhana, or serious Yoga Pracitice, we are inviting the probability of difficult & even painful transformation…it’s easy to see why that isn’t attractive to every one, especially alone.

As the Retreat unfolded we unveiled our awakenings together. I truly realised just how important it is to have the support and love of others on the same journey; how beautiful it is to be able to share our experiences...to not be alone on the spiritual path. 

And, I want you to know that I’m here to support you on that journey - it’s all that I can do!

Hari Om Tat Sat

Jess

waiting for miracles

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ― Albert Einstein
Hi, sorry it’s been a while. I’ve been so deeply immersed in the creative process of making new courses, workshops & retreats (and WOW am I excited about what’s coming up!) I forgot to check in here! Thank you to those of you who wrote to remind me! Thank you also, to those of you who have written to ask how my hip/pelvis injury is going, I thought I should take a moment to tell you the full story of my miraculous recovery…
First, a bit of back ground for those who are new to my newsletter. Last year in September my hyper-flexible, over-extended ‘yoga body’ decided it had had enough. 
My earlier years of Yoga were physically intense & extreme, I had Teachers that pushed me toward the “advanced” asanas, because they didn’t know better, and, because I loved the challenge. I soon realised this was not healthy, and my practice changed, then with each pregnancy and birth my practice evolved to meet my expanding needs…and I fell ever deeper in love with Yoga. Then one day last year, when I was doing nothing much in particular, the muscles holding my hip & pelvis together decided it was time for shavasana.  Although it had been many years since I had been pushing myself and chasing the more“advanced” asanas I had set a pattern for my muscles that they had been following without my awareness. The specialist physio explained it to me like this “You’re a freak” (um, Thanks?), he continued; “When you push past a certain “healthy” range of stretching, your core muscles switch off to let you get past a certain point. The core muscles should be unconsciously “on” almost all the (waking) time, what happened here is that your core muscles are only “on” when you consciously turn them on. You’re a freak because your core is so strong you would never imagine that to be possible.” I had to tell him that the extreme physical approach to Yoga that has been adapted in the Western mainstream means that I’m very likely one of many ‘freaks’. Unfortunately, you may not know about it for 5 or 10 years, until something awful happens… like you dislocate a body part.
So, there I was in agony, and it wasn’t brief. I’d have excruciating (and expensive) adjustments, only to have to do it all again a day or 2 after. Learning to live with a “switched on” core was a full time job, for months, and I was almost always in severe pain - the head of my femur (thigh bone) was pinching my piriformis muscle and my sciatic nerve, causing all kinds of other pain. I couldn’t drive or practice any kind of physical yoga. I just kept thinking “there has to be another way to fix this.” I decided to stop doing the agonising adjustments and focus on learning to use my muscles properly. It wasn't as bad as it had been, I thought I could live with it like this for a little while. I knew that being constantly pushed together was not the way for me to heal, I had no idea what was, so I began to ask for a miracle. Seriously. Whenever people asked me what I was doing to get better I would answer “I’m waiting. I’m not sure yet”. This answer was not very satisfactory for the people who cared about me, understandably. They wanted to see me better and they wanted to see that I was trying. I get that!
I knew that seeing more specialists and healers was just going to create noise and clutter, and I knew that I needed space & silence. Sometime you have to allow things to be uncomfortable and inconvenient and hand over your will to the greater power, or divine grace, or God, or whatever you chose to name it, and just trust... and be patient.
On New Years Eve I decided I wanted to do a fire ceremony and ask for guidance. I wanted to be strong again, more than anything. I was completely focussed on it, obsessed even! I decided tobuy a portable garden fire pit, and on the way home my mantra was “please, show me another way”. I must have said that 1000 times in the previous weeks. As I turned the corner into my driveway I realised that there was a total fire ban (of course, it was like 40 degrees!), and my plans were ruined. I felt like an idiot, I was devastated. With tears in my eyes I opened the boot to get my fire pit out and at that moment I slipped on the gravel in my driveway and came crashing down. I sat there, completely still, for a long time time, holding the fire pit, letting searing pain shake through my body. I was thinking “this is it, I’ll never be able to walk again…I wonder how long I’ll have to sit here until someone finds me?”. As the minutes passed, the pain waves subsided and I realised I was actually ok. I tentatively wriggled my toes. I put the fire pit down. I was totally bruised from the fall but none of the familiar pain was there anymore. I super slowly made my way to standing, and….I was back! I could feel it, all back in place, perfectly. In that moment I didn’t expect that it would stay like that forever, but I was over the moon with my little miracle - to feel everything back in place was a true gift.

Fast forward 5 months to now, and nothing has changed - I am completely back to my old self - it turned out to be much more than a little miracle. Isn’t life amazing?
As a side note, during the period of pain & confusion I had thought that perhaps the purpose of this injury was that I needed to shed light on the effects of pushing your body too hard in Yoga, to write, to start a conversation -  a podcast perhaps. The more I looked into it the more I realised it was already being talked about - I think that the way we practise Yoga in the West will shift for the better in the coming years, and already has in many respects. I decided that it was better for me to put my creative energy into offering positive, healthy and conscious Yoga,  rather than add my voice to crumbling the darker side.
Since then I have met, and begun to work with some truly inspiring women, and so many plans for the future have erupted I can hardly keep up with myself!
After our incredible weekend retreat in Margaret River I’m expanding my work with the divine songstress and Teacher Lucy ‘Peach’ Farley, on Yoga that is in tune with Women’s Cycles and how all people (yep, guys & kids too!) benefit from learning the strengths of each part of the month, and, how we can adjust our behaviours to be empowered rather than afraid of “that time”. This is super practical and sustainably life changing stuffand it so exciting to be offering it. I’ll have some dates for our next workshops very soon.
AND…
I was also blessed to work with power-house Sexologist Vanessa Muradian on her enlightening ‘Pleasure Weekend’ a couple of months ago. She asked me to do some meditations for the workshop - it sounded fun, so I did it, without any expectations. Essentially, she’s all about empowering women by helping them to know themselves completely as sexual, sensual beings. This has always been a “missing link” in my work with helping people to know themselves (I tend to focus on emotional, energetic & spiritual realms) so together we just had so many ideas we couldn’t get them down fast enough! I am thrilled to announce that we are now offering the first ever ‘Pure Pleasure’ Women’s Retreat - a whole week of exploring Yoga through a new filter - one that is absolutely about empowering women on all levels. Check it out HERE

I'm off to Bali next week for my Yoga & Mythology immersion - the Goddess Retreat, can't wait!
in light
Jess
ps - There are a few places left for my Women's Hormone Balancing Restorative Yoga session this Friday evening CLICK HERE, and, 2 spaces on my 1 day Mini Retreat this Sunday in Main Ridge CLICK HERE
pps - I have been LOVING getting experimental & creative with the chakra course in Fitzroy, I will definitely have some more dates for the next one soon.

completing stuff

Hi Yogis, I just love Autumn — I recorded a short & sweet meditation for you HERE to celebrate the recent equinox. Enjoy!
The subject of my writing today is so simple I really hesitated with finishing it, in fact, I even wrote an entirely different piece about Autumn. However, on the road to integrating real life & real spirituality it’s often the simplest realisations that hold the most power, so, I decided to share both. The other piece is now the beginning of my newawakening woman blog — click here for that one. Also, the irony of not finishing a piece that is all about completing stuff was not lost on me, so here it is:
Autumn represents the ‘letting go’ part of our seasonal cycle, and after the fullness, brightness and constant outward flow of energy that is Summercompletes itself, the transition inwards can come as a huge relief — almost like exhaling after holding your breath for some time.
When I did my little equinox ritual I thought a lot about the notion of completion. In my attempts to shape my life within the many cycles inherent to nature I am constantly battling the ‘accepted norm’, and I realised just how much I had missed the boat on this extremely important part of any cycle or pattern, the part where it’s done, complete, and you celebrate — or at least acknowledge what you’ve achieved. The big, and the very little things too. Possibly I had put so much emphasis on the ‘letting go of what is no longer needed’, that I sort of skipped this incredibly important step, for a really, really long time!
And i wonder if you have been skipping it too?
We are so good at rushing through our endless to-do lists, ticking boxes and moving on to the next thing each day can almost feel like a race to the very distant finish…modern life can sometimes feel like trying to fill a cup with a hole in the bottom of it.
I’m a fan of ‘simplicity parenting’; encouraging unstructured play with out super fancy toys or devices of any kind, letting kids imaginations lead their explorations, and, encouraging them to complete the tasks and projects they begin before starting the next one. This can be as simple as eating the entire apple that they began, or putting the finishing touches on the pillow & blanket fort, but extends very much into encouraging them to tell someone all about it after it’s done. I’m sure you have bared witness to the climactic finishing of a block tower or work of art at some point, and stood back for a moment “oohing” and “aahing” while the child basks in the appreciation, soaking up all the lovely completion satisfaction and filling you in on every small detail. Even if their explanations are long and a little exhausting I do my best to be present for this very important moment — and it’s great — it works. I see immediately how pausing what I am doing and really listening to the story of what has happened, or been created, effects my kids. It’s a moment of very deep satisfaction for them, they are not only validated and deeply encouraged, they can also move whole-heartedly on to the next thing.
The world I have been brought up in encourages future goal setting, but does not encourage me to tell someone all about everything that I’ve completed, or achieved at the end of the day, the week, the month or the year. In fact I have noticed that I have resistance to it. It’s as though there is always something bigger to work towards and stopping to look back might be a waste of precious time. The cultural inheritance of ‘tall poppy syndrome’ possibly is at play here too — especially for the larger achievements, but what I’m talking about is acknowledgment of the smaller things that take our time & energy as well as the more obvious things that might deserve glory and praise.
The truth is there will always be more to do, so, I’ve decided to start my very first “completion group”. A few friends who can check in together by email, phone or in person, and tell each other any time at all, without expectation of response, just to say what they have done, no matter how amazing, spectacular, beautiful or silly it might seem. I’ve also decided to try out encouraging the adults around me to tell me their ‘completion’ stories, and to consciously listen with the same admiration and reverence I previously reserved for children — and for the record, I believe that washing, drying, folding and putting away 3 loads of washing (anyone else go camping over Easter?!) deserves just as much space for completion-satisfaction as tasks that may seem more outwardly important.
Hey look — I completed my newsletter!
Om Shanti
Jess

a sacred pause

David Bowie was, and is a hero of mine. You might recall being in a flow class with me and hearing his voice suddenly enter the otherwise non-pop playlist…I love watching the surprised little smiles appear around the room in those moments! The teenage me had an entire wall plastered with the bright and vastly contrasting portraits of his different explorations and expressions of life…I was fascinated by his ability to effortlessly walk tall in his own skin and simply live his truth with (seemingly) no compromise, to change direction at the blink of an eye with no need to please anyone or fit in. He gracefully carved his own path and inspired me at a really fundamental level; to understand what might really be possible if we dare to be ourselves.
When he passed recently I had huge sadness, and, I also had a good shake up. I was moved to take what I like to call “a sacred pause” - some time, maybe a week, to be in nature, take things slow, stop all of the habitual doing and ask some big questions. Thesacred pause goes a little beyond the daily practice of meditation - it's kind of like the difference between a little tidying up at home and a deep clean....you know the one where you turn out every drawer and cupboard. I knew the sacred pause needed to happen - there was absolutely no denying it. I was struck by the realisation that little by little I had slipped out of alignment with my highest intentions, it certainly didn't happen in an obvious way, it rarely does. We all compromise a little here, make little concessions there...or say "yes" to avoid disappointing others, or to perhaps simply make things a bit easier. I realised that I had stumbled a little off the path. So, I put a big, patient hold on all the stuff I was doing, and when the constant noise of all the doing fell away I was able to rest into that beautiful (and often uncomfortable) place of deep listening. I decided what seems pretty obvious now - I didn’t want to settle for anything less than steps towards my dreams and passions, even if those steps are small, or messy or don’t yet completely make sense. I decided it was time to make some ch-ch-ch-changes…
When it comes to Yoga I like to teach way, way outside of the box. I know I’m never going to please everyone and I’m pretty comfortable with it, so, with Bowie at my side I’m diving more deeply into a few of my (contrasting) passions. In no particular order, these are:
  • Singing, I just love singing. And playing Ukulele too. I'm not great at it but it makes my heart smile.
  • Presenting all kinds of Retreats so everyone can enjoy a “sacred pause”. Retreats that are family friendly (Sri Lanka), Retreats that are inclusive of men (Thailand), Retreats that offer other activities as well as Yoga (all of them!), and, Women only Retreats that explore the power of the divine feminine (Bali & Australia. Check it out below - I've been busy!
  • Playing more with my kids. I mean really playing. They're awesome.
  • Ethical living and putting the environment first in every way I can. I’m aiming for a zero waste home as inspired by Joost Bakker. I may never get there but I might as well try! I might even blog about that journey just to keep myself accountable.
  • Surfing. I can’t believe I waited til my 30s to get into that! 
  • Collaborating with amazing, creative and inspiring people. Yoga doesn’t have to be a solo job.
  • Offering Yoga for Deep Healing - sessions that make Yoga accessible for people who are unwell, injured or recovering who need Yoga in their lives more than ever...also nice if you're just needing a good dose of rest & connection!
  • Offering some sessions, like hormone balancing, that are honouring the specific needs of women, ‘cos Lord knows we are different!
  • Teaching some regular sessions that are strong and dynamic as well as nourishing and healing, (Tuesdays at 10am in Fitzroy - yay!) and not having to choose between the two. Seriously, that’s an issue.
  • Teaching classes that are long enough to rest deeply at the end and never being ok to “cut back the savasana and the Oms”. Yes, someone asked me to do that. 
  • Giving more. I'm in the middle of recording some big sessions to give away, and, I want to create a broader platform for Karma Yoga, or, in other words continuing and expanding the offering of Free Yoga. I passionately believe that when yoga is simplified it is a precious resource of preventative medicine that all people should have access to. We’ve just lost our way in the West a little to profit margins and aerobics. 
  • Integrating it all....life, kids, yoga, gardening, cooking, friends - shouting "YES" to all the good stuff. 
With all this in mind I’ve had a little shuffle around for my year and made some changes, added some new stuff and let go of much that no longer served my best & truest self - and it feels SO GOOD. That Bowie-inspired 'sacred pause' was the best possible way to start the year. All of my revised Retreat offerings for 2016 are below, and revised classes and workshops for the next couple of months too. I have to say I’m pretty excited about how this year of the Monkey is shaping up! My first Retreat of the year kicks off today in Margaret River, I’m feeling pretty lucky to be working with the very talented and gorgeous Lucy Peach & Mama Kin to share some women’s wisdom, music, adventure, fun, and hopefully, providing space for the participants to have their own sacred pause and realign with their best selves too. 

Totally loving my job!
Jess

ps. I'm quietly over the moon that my passion for Mythology has scored me an invitation to present at an amazing Festival in India called “Welcome the Goddess”. They asked me to make a little video to introduce myself… HERE IT IS! I’d love to know what you think.
HUGE thanks to my gorgeous friends Emily & Hannah from Almond Tree Productions for snapping this together so quickly whilst on holiday from the UK, and to Wilk & Tommy for finishing it all off.  I have truly excellent friends!

pps. My husband has just come back from Arnhem Land where he's been working on the sound for a truly incredible documentary. It's a passion project of Ben Strunin (and for all of us involved!) who has been working on it for 7 years. West Wind tells the story of Djalu Gurruwiwi, the current custodian of the Yidaki (didjeridoo). If you are interested to know more about it or help to get it to the next Australia Council funding check out the storyHERE - every bit of support is going to a story that needs to be told.

Searching for 'the Guru'

When I started doing some work with the incredible ‘Big Hearted Business’ a couple of years ago my dear friend Clare dubbed me ‘The Wellness Guru’. Whilst I know she meant it in a light and playful way there was something about that title that really rubbed me up the wrong way. I didn’t really know why, but I knew at that time I didn’t want to be associated with the word ‘Guru’ (wellness I’m OK with!). And when something doesn't feel right, I know I'm going to find a lesson in it somewhere!
Like many other people I know, this word conjures up all sorts of uncomfortable connotations and imagery. There are many examples throughout history of Gurus' fall-from-Grace, some spectacular and public, some (I suspect many more than you would imagine) silently shameful - leaving only those students directly associated in the wake of spiritual devastation. I believe that when we are seeking the spiritual we certainly can benefit from guides and teachers along the way, but when we put too much need into that relationship, a transaction of power is in play, at least unconsciously, and the ‘Guru’, it seems, often receives more of that power than they can handle. I don’t think that this happens in the beginning, or even intentionally for most, as was the case with one of my ‘old favourite’ Swamis...let's call him Bob.

The disciplined work Bob had done to become so revered and cherished by his students was absolutely authentic, and I will be forever grateful for the knowledge he passed to me. However, at some point, many years after my long stay in the Ashram in Tiruvamanalai, it was exposed that there had been an abuse of the power that Bob held over some female students….it’s not an unusual story, I don’t need to give any more details I’m sure. Human nature is strong and the pressure of the dictated Spiritual path is difficult, to say the least. This was all years ago, I didn’t really know how to process my feelings around it at the time but I knew that it was a significant moment in my own Spiritual journey. The moment where I energetically cut ties to the school & that teacher, and continued my Spiritual quest off the dictated path, with the Guru within.
The common Indian language Hindi takes it’s roots in Sanskrit, the ancient language of Yoga where every syllable is drenched in powerful meaning. So many of these Sanskrit words have been reabsorbed back into our own language as Yoga becomes more and more popular, but their meanings are often quite shifted or simplified - some great examples are ‘karma’ and ‘chakra’. If you ask almost anyone what they think ‘Guru’ means they will most likely tell you ‘teacher’, or something similar, however the original Sanskrit translation is not so simple. The word is broken into two parts - Gu & Ru. Gu literally means ‘darkness’ and Ru means ‘light’. The way this was taught to me is that your teacher, or Guru, is somebody who is bringing you Jedi style from darkness to light. This sounds like a lot to ask someone else to do...it was certainly too much pressure for Bob! Human Beings are all made of dark & light, if you put a Teacher on an unrealistic pedestal they are bound to fall. After many years of searching and contemplating I am convinced that those epic moments of spiritual growth that I have received, and have witnessed others receiving, have come from those times where we have looked deep into our own shadows, or darkness, and had the courage to bring them to the light. The Teacher might point you in the right direction, but you have to do the walking. In this way we carve our own individual spiritual paths with the materials of our own unique experiences, allowing those tender moments of intense vulnerability to breathe expansion into the core of what we are really capable of learning in this (unique & individual) life. It is wonderful to learn from and with others, but if the path they are showing feels dictated or rigid it can only be one thing: outside of your own.
As the path unfolds there is a Guru in every situation, every relationship, every event, and, it is sure that the most challenging or “dark” moments hold the most opportunities for growth into the light. The true practice of Yoga has nothing to do with gymnastics or acrobatics, even when it is very physically dynamic, and it has nothing to do with power or ego during the transfer of knowledge. For me, getting onto my mat is the daily practice of actively bringing my shadows (those uncomfortable, unpleasant and even traumatic parts of myself held in the sub-conscious and energetic bodies) to the surface, and allowing them to lead me, to be my Guru.

As I begin to accept the title of GuRu, I know that I will only ever be my own, and, as I walk the path of a Teacher, it is only to guide others to their own inner GuRus.
Wishing you a peaceful and abundant 2016, hope to see you on the mat soon!
Jess

embracing the Goddess - Diwali blessing

It’s almost December - I can’t quite believe I’m offering my last workshops for the year...this weekend! The transition to Summer & the tidal wave that is Christmas/Xmas is almost on us, so, I thought I would take the time to reflect a little on celebrations, festivals & the ‘G’ word, yep - the Goddess. As someone who has rejected religion (almost religiously!) from a young age, discovering a deep love for mythology, especially the Goddess, has been a wonderful & satisfying surprise...and it just keeps unfolding.

         If you’re new to my newsletter just a heads up you can skip the rant and find information about my Retreats, Immersions & Workshops at the bottom of the page.

A couple of weeks ago marked Diwali, the 5 day “festival of lights” - one of the most widely celebrated festivals in India. The tradition holds that on the darkest night of the astrological year all homes should be filled with light to dramatically signify the triumph of light over dark, good over evil, hope over despair, knowledge over ignorance etc etc. In the lead up people everywhere clean & decorate their homes, buy new things, wear their finest clothes and celebrate beauty, abundance & good fortune (the qualities of the Goddess Lakshmi) in the form of sweets, colours & light. It is believed that Lakshmi, wife of Vishnu & the Goddess of fame & fortune, will expand her Shakti (creative force) in the homes of all who honour her.

Diwali has always been a very magnetic festival for me (I mean, who wouldn’t want to celebrate the triumph of light over dark?!), it has all the lovely aspects of Christmas; the ‘coming together’ with family, the presents, the feasting & the endless sweets, but without the harsh monotheistic undertones. Although Diwali (or Deepavali) is claimed as a Hindu Festival, the origins stem from well before Hinduism to the Indus Valley Civilisation that birthed Yoga, back in the time where the Goddess was celebrated and adored as more than just a consort to the male Gods…when she was actually honoured as the supreme deity. 

The disappearance of the Goddess across the globe from mainstream celebration happened, not coincidently, at the same time as the development and dominance of Islam & Judaeo-Christianity - Monotheistic Religions that saw any recognition of anything beyond “one true God” as an insult. What interests me most about the mainstream Goddess Worship predating 6000BC is that the people who worshipped the Sacred Feminine were Agricultural people, meaning they were in tune with and aligned to the cycles of nature. The many different forms & faces of the Goddess represent and symbolise the changing faces of the natural world and as such worship was not of an ‘unseeable & almighty presence’ but instead of the very real & tangible ‘earth & sky’ and all the gifts & challenges they bring.

So, honouring & celebrating the Goddess means connecting the divine to our world & our selves.

It is important to note that in the ancient tradition of Yoga the Goddess is utterly beyond gender - the sacred feminine is as much present in masculine as feminine bodiesand makes up the entire experienceable world (and much that is not experienceable also).

The Goddess didn’t just disappear from the world over night, there was a long period between 6000BC and 3000BC when the Warrior tribes began to conquer and dominate, bringing with them their more dominant male God figures, and as they settled in they allowed their Gods to “marry” the Goddesses of the Agricultural people, allowing the Goddess to be wife, mother, consort etc. Gradually, over millennia, the sacred feminine stopped being honoured altogether and the dark ages truly began. Throughout this whole dark time - literally thousands of years - miraculously, the Festival of Lights has continued, evolving to suit the modern times but essentially remaining in tact. Diwali is a hugely popular mainstream festival that actually honours & celebrates the Goddess. This very survival is a tribute to the soft, feminine grace of Lakshmi herself, who has seemingly remained radiant and fortunate despite everything…truly the triumph of light over dark. 

So how did Lakshmi survive so well? It’s always puzzled me a little. As the Goddess of fame & fortune she has been the least easy of the Yoga Devis for me to connect to - it just didn’t seem in line with my core values to be celebrating a lady who was all about being rich and famous - I don’t look at glossy magazines that idolise Hollywood celebrities for the same reasons! Plus, Hollywood glamour seems about as far from the natural cycles & rhythms of the earth as it could be…but, this Diwali I started to get it. Something beautiful happened as I sat in the glow of all my candles celebrating the triumph of light & hope. I understood Lakshmi's connection to fame & fortune for the first time. Definitions and roles have shifted & changed so much - including the sentiment that Lakshmi represented to the agricultural people of many thousands of years ago. To be ‘famous’ would have meant that you were respected as a good, generous, honest & reliable member of the community, and to have ‘fortune’ would be that you had enough food to last the winter, you were strong & healthy and had many children & grand children.

For the first time I was able to fully bow in reverence to the Goddess Lakshmi, humbly ask for her blessings and actually understand her place & importance in the world…and I felt, and still feel, so absolutely fortunate & grateful for the experience.

Of course! It's all connected...how could it possibly not be?

Om Shrim Maha Lakshmai Namaha
May we all have fame & fortune!
Jess

 

fear vs intuition

In the months leading up to my recent retreat at The Sanctuary I almost pulled out, a few times actually. Even now it's difficult for me to admit just how much I had been struggling with my hip/pelvis injury, wondering (worrying) how I could possibly teach for a week with such restricted movement, doubting my abilities and wanting to throw it all in. As I’d never taken a group to Thailand before I was also facing countless “firsts”, and every time something challenged me I had to stop myself from falling into a negative thought spiral (or “mind kitty-litter” as one of my teachers calls it) and really ask what the best plan forward was. Put simply, was I experiencing intuition, or fear?

I believe absolutely in intuition, or “inner wisdom”. After many years of regular & consistent meditating I no longer see intuition as a lofty & unexplainable 'feeling', I see it as logical as science - a clear, definite & strong 6th sense that I trust as much as any of my other senses. For example, this year I pulled out of my July Bali retreat a couple of months before it was planned - I had no idea why, but I knew it was best to not to do it. As it turned out the exact time the retreat was planned Denpasar airport closed down for a week because of ash from a volcano eruption - no one in or out of Bali - my Retreat would have been a disaster! You might brush that off as coincidence, but when you make a daily practice of listening in and trusting, and you start seeing the coincidences pile up they start gaining some weight.

Intuition might tell you positively “Yes! Take the leap”, and, sometimes intuition says “No! Don’t jump!”  So, when the answer is “negative” how can you tell what's going on? Am I being guided by my higher wisdom, or is it just fear? 

hmmm this is huge. I don’t want to tell you that all fear is bad, a healthy dose of fear keeps your eyes & ears open for real danger. What I’m referring to is the fear that shows up asthe ego’s resistance to change. The part of you that would prefer to stay held back & safe rather than risk looking like a fool (that’s the ego bit).  Was this big feeling/sense actually just fear, or, was it intuition warning me against something? Was intuition telling me to pull out of the Thailand Retreat for a good reason, like it did a few months earlier for Bali? Would it be be better in the long run to “look like a fool” & disappoint the people who had booked and shaped their lives to make it happen? How on earth do you tell the difference? Well, for me the process is about emotional & physical literacy. When you truly listen in to the emotion & thoughts behind it all, the answer is there - like science - in your body. Intuition is expansive & inclusive and fear is a dark dead-end. Intuition is born from love…which is of course the opposite of fear. 

We have two basic emotional platforms for all others to spring from - fear & love. When we experience a fear based emotion such as anger, frustration, annoyance, guilt, shame we also experience a shortening or contracting - physically we tighten our muscles, our breath often becomes more shallow & restricted and emotionally we get trapped into that feeling as though it’s closing in on us. When we experience an emotion that is based in love - such as gratitude, forgiveness, compassion & joy - we feel a sense of inner growth & expansion. Our breath is full and spacious and our body relaxes on all levels: tuning into the body's reaction to the emotion is the key.

Below is a 5 minute meditation, this is the process I use whenever I’m unsure about the best road to take. With patience & practice deciphering conclusions becomes much easier. I used this technique, several times, in the lead up to the recent Retreat, and found every time that I was being held by resistance & fear. When I wasn’t sure, I revisited it again the next day, and the next, and eventually watched the fear melt away. My mind could continuously come up with very good reasons to not take the leap, to stay home safe…but now that I'm home, safe on the other side, I’m so unbelievably happy that I went through the process of understanding the resistance & fear for what it was. Taking the leap and running this Retreat I was able to expand and grow (both as a Teacher & a Student) in the face of so many new challenges. Here's some good stuff I found: 

- a truly incredible new place to run Retreats, immersed in nature and isolated from tourism

 - that I can teach authentic & joyful yoga intensively for a week without moving much at all

- that Shoshannah Orenstein is a beautiful Yoga Teacher and human (well I knew that already!) and a perfect co-host. Basically, that it's fun to share

-and best of all, the profound expansion of 14 peoples unique Yoga & Dharma journeys over a whole week…blessed!

So, here it is, the simple Intuition vs Fear meditation

Find a quiet, comfortable spot, spend a minute or so tuning into your breath, quietening the mind. You might prefer to sit using a chair or cushion, or even lay down, just make sure your spine feels long and straight.

Take a moment to set your intention by affirming to yourself what you are doing, use your own language but something like: “During the next 5 minutes I am seeking the guidance of my intuition”. I like to invite my highest or truest self to the meditation to give guidance. You can ask for your guidance from anyone you choose of course - guides, angels, god, divine mother etc -but really you are asking for intuition here. I often say: “I now call forth my most loving & appropriate guides to be with me”.

Ask your question. Ask it clearly. I'll use a silly example... DON'T say something confusing and long like “ummm I’m feeling a bit on edge about going to the party tonight because this friend is fighting with this friend and I don’t really want to be involved, but it could be really good music and I feel like dancing, I'd really love to wear my new shoes but I can't be bothered driving…what do you think?”! 
Be clear, use as few words as possible. Something like this “Should I go to the party tonight?” 

Keep your focus on the breath, notice if you start feeling anything in your physical body - try to really name what you are feeling and where. Tune into any heaviness or throbbing, anything at all indicating your physical response. Notice how your breath fills your lungs, the feeling in your throat and belly. Listening & observing like this can take some time and will get easier. If you had to choose, is what you are feeling expansive & light or closing and tight? 

 Putting your attention into your body by placing your hand over your belly or heart notice if you can you feel the answer as love (expansive) or fear (contracting)?

Even if the answer is negative (eg your intuition tells you don't go to the party) simply acknowledging your intuition & feelings will be an expansive & spacious sensation. If you find that you are operating from fear take some time to breathe and continue to ask more refined questions until you feel the answer with clarity.

Let me know if that's helpful - or if you would like me to record a version of this for you!

-Vipramukta Maya -May we all be released from the illusion of fear
Jess

ps - If you are interested in spending an incredible few days fine tuning your intuition and connection to inner wisdom there are 2 places left for the Gymea Retreat in Northern NSW. This will be very special and I am so excited (intuition says "YES!"). 

pps - Thank you so much to everyone who responded to my "no shit, no lotus" email about being injured. I have been overwhelmed with your many experiences of being "over worked" in Yoga...I haven't quite responded to everyone yet but I will! Please keep writing - I absolutely plan to do make a lotus bloom from all of this shit!

yoga injuries...learning from the lotus

Yoga has never been so popular. I mean, EVER. There are studios popping up in every suburb and Teachers being churned out at ever increasingly short Trainings to fit the demand. Although Traditional Yoga reaches way beyond 'exercise' to all aspects of life, it is the physical part, asana, that has made Yoga boom around the globe, and with very good reason. Asana can be viewed as a kind of full body prayer, or moving meditation - it sharply focuses the mind as it challenges the body. If practiced correctly, Asana has significant positive effects on health - energetically, emotionally & physically, which makes it different from going to the gym or some other kind of 'exercise'.
If Asana is not practiced correctly, however, we have ourselves a problem…and that problem is also booming around the globe. By 'correctly', I mean mindfully, with focus on joint stability and ones own physical structure as opposed to what something looks like in a book or in someone else's form, and with the guidance of a Teacher who knows the difference between healthy challenge and pushing you to unnecessary extremes that have absolutely no health benefits to speak of. 
Last week I found myself on the table at a Specialist Physiotherapist having my hip, pelvis and sacrum put back into place. I was a blubbering mess for days and I am still in significant pain now. This happened to me because many years ago when I began my Yoga journey I was pushed, by 'Masters', to physical extremes - chasing those unbelievably spectacular looking poses. Don't get me wrong, at the time I LOVED practicing in that way - but if I'm honest there was a lot of my ego in play. I was strong, flexible, and in my early 20's. I became hyper-mobile - it was fun to be able to do all 4 rajas kapotanasanas & a 'proper' headstand (that's the one without any hands or forearms). But then after my first baby at 27 my body changed, A LOT, and I kept being pushed in the same way by these teachers. I soon changed direction with my practice and started to ask my own body for guidance, it was a very different looking Yoga but it was much more wholesome, much more truthful, and my ego was, thankfully, put in it's place. Unfortunately once you've over stretched that's it. You become, as my gorgeous masseur friend says "frog hips". My practice now, after baby number 2, is all about strengthening the muscles around the joints and holding everything in. Of course I've been able to use what I have learned first hand in my teaching and I like to think that my students are 'safe', but since my pop-out injury last week I've become really concerned about the general state of Yoga in the West, and the future of it too.

I believe in Yoga, I believe that it is becoming so popular because we are a culture hungry for spirituality, philosophy, awakening and deep connection, and Yoga can - and does - fill us up in such a neat little package.  I'm thinking of this injury as a fantastic learning injury, something I am using to step up and make a stand about the direction of Yoga today, now that it is in the mainstream, and BEFORE the mainstream throws the baby out with the bathwater.
When we make these asanas, these shapes, with our bodies we are coming back home to our essential natures. It's not about physical prowess or an outward striving - we make the shape of a tree or an animal to feel the connection to that part of nature, to learn from their wisdom and feel into another layer of our own complexity. We don't learn about the Gods & Goddesses of Yoga Mythology in order to worship them (as Hinduism came to do). We learn the stories so that we can see their divinity reflected right into our own being. When we learn about the colourful and flawed characters of Yoga mythology along with our asana, rigid & conservative ideas about our own divine nature are shattered. In this way asana can truly meet us in the light and dark of our being, always drawing inward to our own essential nature, our own life's path…it's difficult to see how pushing yourself to physical extremes has much to do with any of this.
Any way, that's my rant about being hyper mobile, a cross I bare with an open mind - that all challenges are the potential breeding ground for change, and profound beauty….

As the lovely Indian man enthusiastically shared with me many years ago by the lotus pond
"No shit, no lotus!".  

I'd love to hear from you if you feel passionately about any of this!
Blessings for an abundant and inspiring Spring
Jess
ps - I'll be in Thailand for a couple of weeks in October...my classes will still run without me! 
 
 

kindness & the liberation from within

During one of my trainings in India I had the life changing opportunity to experience deep mounam. Mounam is a sadhana - the practice of silence, or conscious intention to not speak out loud. It’s a pretty standard part of ashram living - most ashrams I’ve visited observe mounam during the early part of the day, at least some of the time. If you are familiar with Vipassana you will know silence is an essential element to the meditaition program. During this particular Teacher Training the mounam increased throughout the weeks. Every morning we would wake at 4 and go through our morning sadhanas in silence, we would listen to a lecture with the Swami and eat our 11am meal without talking. Then it went back to ‘normal’ for the rest of the day…but 'normal' changed, over time we became more comfortable with the silence. Silence became safe and expansive. Over time mounam increased gradually until by around the 8th week we were in mounam pretty much all the time. During the first weeks there is occasional frustration as you get used to it, but generally a sense of deep peace - almost as though you are ‘detoxing’ from all the superfluous words that are constantly cluttering your mind and your interactions with others. You begin to realise how much of what you say is completely unnecessary. You write stuff down to flag for later and then mostly let that stuff go too…it’s kind of dreamy, at least it is at the beginning…. Towards the end of the training I was overwhelmed with the hidden words that started to make their way to the surface. Because I had consciously cultivated space by removing all of the unimportant words, I had made way for the huge things that needed to be said - you know, those massive conversations that you avoid unconsciously and cover up with thoughts and mind chatter…words. All of a sudden those words were bubbling up - and there were a lot of them, and, it was no longer dreamy but quite heavy! Heavy, but so important.
 That was 10 years ago. I wasn’t prepared for that - but I was grateful.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that experience as I come to the close of ’30 days of kindness’ (if you’re new to my ramblings I’ve been taking part in this challenge with a studio I work at). During the first couple of weeks I was experiencing a beautiful, dreamy, kindness-infused haze. Enveloping all situations in kindness was kind of like sweeping all the unnecessary behaviours, responses and reactions out of the way. It felt natural & effortless. I was able to always choose kindness, and I learned that it didn’t mean necessarily always being selfless. I could put my own needs first, it was how I communicated myself and executed the act in question that determined it’s degree of kindness. I learned that kindness isn’t only an act but a behaviour, and that your behaviour is absolutely yours to control in EVERY situation. A couple of weeks in to this steady, conscious, choosing of kindness I began to feel a deep sense of something else happening, something I couldn’t ignore. During meditation I was aware of some buried emotions and questions rising up - almost as though I had begun ‘detoxing’ from unkindness and had started to awaken and stir up the much deeper layer of what had been unaddressed, perhaps ways that I had been unkind to myself, unconsciously or otherwise, or perhaps unkind to others. 
Again, I wasn’t prepared for this, and again, I am grateful.
 I’m learning, with time, to humbly kneel and receive all teachings as they arrive - and I’m constantly amazed at the many forms of the true guru. I went through some frustration when I became a mother, as we all mostly do. Frustration that I wasn’t able to easily attend trainings and immerse myself in deep ‘spiritual’ teachings from great ‘spiritual’ teachers. I guess I was still searching for 'the guru’… Over the years as I continue my search, more and more I feel the depth of possibility for learning in every situation -  the every day encounters and the sometimes mundane routines. I find incredible daily teachings from my children, from my garden, from my interactions with people…true gurus (teachers) lead you back to yourself - it’s all about being open to what comes up, and not shying away when it isn’t always shining and dreamy.
I’ve been ending all my classes recently with the mantra - Hari Om Tat Sat - simply translated as “the liberation from within” or “the liberation from the ego”. It’s a mantra that is used to clear away the false guru, and, the longing for an external fix, drawing us ever closer to our own depths. 
Have a great weekend
Hari Om Tat Sat
Jess

the kindness project

Kindness has been a bit of a buzz word of late - the Wake Up Project’s Kindness Cardsare showing up all over the place and Spiritual Leaders everywhere are agreeing kindness is the glue that brings philosophy into practice.

One of the studios I work at has just begun a 30 days of Yoga & Kindness Challenge. The idea is simple enough, you are challenged to come to class every day for 30 days and practice kindness in 3 ways - the first 10 days are kindness to self, the next 10 days are kindness to others and the final 10 days are random acts of kindness. I got on board, as you do, to show solidarity in the work place, and, to encourage my rehabilitating husband to get back into his Yoga practice (you may remember he broke his collar bone 2 months ago). 

Here’s the thing; I practice Yoga every day any way, and, I’d like to think that on any normal day I’m generally a kind, considerate & generous person, with the occasional wobbly moment thrown in for good measure. I signed up for this in a nonchalant way - as if it wasn’t really going to change much in my life…I’m here to say now “I WAS WRONG!” It’s day 5 as I write this, early days for sure, but I can honestly say the experience so far has been profoundly moving, even life changing.

When it comes to kindness I guess I used to believe that I do what I can, I give what I can, when I can. What I have noticed these last few days is that what we believe we are capable of is so far removed from the truth. What I can actually do, moment to moment, is infinitely more than what I believe. And the more I open up to kindness the more opportunities to give it, and receive it, arrive…almost like magic.

Perhaps the beauty of kindness is that it is such a simple theme that it can be applied to every tiny aspect of life - The Dalai Lama nailed it right on the head when he said “Be kind whenever possible, and it is always possible.” I mean, you can make someone a cup of tea in a way that is more kind than the way you made it yesterday! In any challenging situation you have the choice to respond with kindness or react in another way. Ultimately it is you who will feel the effect of that choice.

Here’s what I’ve done of note, so far, in no particular order:

  • I’ve listened with more attention, to everyone who is speaking to me.
  • I’ve smiled at EVERY person I see, even more than normal.
  • I’ve gifted away a car to someone who needed it more than me.
  • I turned my face instantly from grumpy to smiling when I walked in on my 2 year old drawing all over the wall, and then gave him some more colours.
  • I’ve gifted 3 places on my Women’s Retreat instead of 1, because it felt right.
  • I’ve given way more attention and affection to my dog (the one who caused the collar bone break).
  • I have learned 2 new songs on the ukulele (playing is a way I give myself kindness).
  • I’ve immediately squashed all negative thoughts from my head about my husband sleeping in every morning (some people are just not morning people are they?!) and enthusiastically gifted sleep ins like an act of kindness. Only parents with young kids will understand this one!
  • I’ve created big boundaries around when I run my business - e.g. no emailing after sun set for starters.
  • I’ve given 100% of the proceeds of 2 Yoga classes to the campaign of two 11 year old girls who are shaving their heads for the Leukaemia foundation, because I think they are ace and need to be supported (you can support them here too).
  • I’ve had a bath when I should have been making dinner…because sometimes you have to put your own needs first to be kind.

It feels as though I’ve shifted the gear box of my consciousness ever so slightly to the frequency of kindness - whilst kindness can be an action or a behaviour it is also a quality - the quality of being friendly, generous & considerate, and it is as a quality that it infuses itself in every thought, every habit and spreads like wildfire throughout your life.

I have done all of these things with absolutely no thought of anything in return - the essence of kindness is probably just that: giving without any thought of being repaid. However, the miracle of kindness, like love, is that the more you give the more you get back. It doesn’t necessarily come back direct from the source of where it’s given, but somehow the Universe acknowledges your frequency and reflects it right back to you. In the last few days I have received infinitely more than I have given: aside from general warm, fuzzy, peace, harmony & laughter in all aspects of my life I’ve had opportunities crashing down my door to expand what I do in new and exciting directions. Coincidence perhaps? I tend to think not...

I can’t believe it’s only day 5 - I am intrigued to see what happens over the next weeks!

I have a place to give away at this Sunday’s Yoga for Deep Healing in Fitzroy - to snap it up just write to me a few lines about your experiences with giving & receiving kindness - simple! I’ll let you know on Friday late afternoon if you have won.

 the smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention

Om
Jess

ps - I've extended the early bird offer for the Thailand Retreat for another 10 days - I totally can't wait to be meditating on the beach in the sunshine!

 

dharma, radiance & expansion

Here on the Peninsula it’s been cold this week. So cold! I’ve been leaning into the natural rhythm of Winter; going to bed earlier, waking up earlier for sadhana - feeling the call for quiet & solitude and doing the best a mum can do to answer it…although some days it's hard to get 2 minutes alone in the bathroom! We do what we can, right?
Winter is the time to tune into the natural drawing in, the deep inward part of the constant cycle of contraction & expansion that is our own nature, and, on a cellular level, the nature of absolutely everything. We can’t have expansion without contraction. The two are completely bonded and reliant on each other - without one the other loses it’s meaning: Yin & Yang, Sun & Moon, Shiva & Shakti, Prana & Apana, Winter & Summer…these opposing forces work together to create the miracle that is life, on all levels. 
We can naturally contract (like what happens in Winter), and, we can be forced into it more abruptly (accidents, sickness, loss, failures etc). The path of the Yogi is one of recognising these setbacks and challenges as times of deep spiritual growth. When we close in to the centre and face ourselves, face our wounds and our fears, when we can sit with them in the darkness - truly be with them & know them - then the journey outward begins again from a place of deep inner alignment. A place of strength, luminosity, radiance and purpose. A place where we can ask the big Yogi questions-“What is my Dharma & how can I best be of service in this life?”
Dharma is your own unique life's purpose, the reason you are here. Dharma is the magnetic point of radiance that the yogi listens to, dials into & ultimately surrenders to. You know your dharma when you see it because it nourishes and sustains you, and, makes you naturally expansive. The Yogi begins to see any contractions as sign posts that we need to re-assess our own alignment with dharma. 
When you are in the flow of your dharma you are luminous and strong - absolutely radiant from the core. 
I’ve been playing with the theme of Dharma & Radiance (expansion) in my own practice this Winter, and I’ve decided to make it the theme for the October 7 day Yoga Retreat is Thailand. Coming out of Winter, into the expansive state of Spring, radiating from the very centre of our own unique life’s purpose.  We’re going to explore ancient & traditional sadhana (practices) to unleash powerful creativity, cultivating the 'vajra (diamond) body' - the power of luminosity, strength & clarity…in short; your own unique radiance. 
Places are limited on the Retreat and are filling up. The Early Bird special is over at the end of July so if you’re tempted don’t hesitate to email me with questions.

Following my own dharma always brings me back to service, to giving, and it is in the spirit of generosity that I want to extend an offer to anyone who is interested in coming on the Women's Weekend in Red Hill at the end of August - I would like to give away one place to a very deserving woman. This is how it's going to work: You have to write to me and tell me why your friend/mother/sister/daughter deserves to come - how she has helped you in the past and why she needs this special time for herself now. This offer will be a "two for one" kind of thing - so if you win then you both come, and share a room, and only pay for 1 person. Hope that's clear! The entries don't have to be long, just sincere and from the heart. Please get them to me by Friday 31st July.

On that note, I have been overwhelmed by the courage & generosity of 2 huge hearted eleven year old girls in my community, Grace & Chelsea, who have decided to shave their heads to raise money for the Leukaemia Foundation. I will be collecting donations at my next Deep Healing workshops and supporting them with 100% of the profits from the next 2 Monday morning classes (in an effort to pack the class out I've decided to make it half price until the end of August - $10!). If you would like to support them directly please go to Crazy Coconuts Fundraising. How inspiring are they? What total legends! If you think that's a bit great please show them your support with a few bucks.

here's to a life where we can keep opening & expanding our minds, bodies & hearts
 
Jess
 

practice, practice, practice

Have you ever wondered why we Yogis are so in love with the word 'practice'?
The sanskrit word sadhana translates "a means of accomplishing something", and is the term given to any practice that intends to transcend the limitations and illusions of the ego. Sadhana is what I’m doing when I stumble out of bed in the dark and move through my sun salutations - shaking off the stagnancy of sleep and the residue of yesterday. Sadhana can be anything that draws you into a dedicated space of alignment with your truth, your essential nature. For many, especially those on the Yoga Path, it’s daily asana or meditation, but these days it could be a great many things, perhaps devoting time to your garden, or observing & honouring the cycles of the moon. I know someone whose sadhana is getting their bare feet to the earth every day and someone else whose sadhana involves not gossiping or shaming anyone. It could be what you choose to eat (or not eat), or it could be the time you give to volunteer your service. Whatever it is, your sadhana is your sadhana because it makes you feel deeply connected, whole & part of something greater, and, because you do it with discipline  & commitment, even when you might not feel like it.
I think of sadhana like a lightning rod that draws me right back to my centre, the powerful tool that gives a solid & real foundation to my spiritual existence. Without dedicated practice I imagine I would be floating loftily on an ethereal breeze, being blown around by ideas & philosophies with no grasp on where I fitted into it all. 
The beauty of the dedicated practice we call Yoga (sanskrit for union, by the way) is that it makes you simultaneously feel individually empowered and deeply connected to everyone & everything at once, as though we were all just tiny drops of water in a larger ocean of being. Have you ever been in a packed Yoga class and felt that deep sense of perfect solitude? In times when I have let my sadhana slip (yes, it’s happened!), I feel almost immediately disconnected, separate & isolated. Imagine the sheer terror of being a single drop of water that feels separate from the vast ocean around…

The thing is, we don't do Yoga. We are Yoga. We practice sadhana to remember that from our very core - from the deep root of the heart.
One of my sadhanas for Winter has been to meditate for a few minutes every day with the intention to open to the full courage of my heart. I've been using the Abhaya Hrdaya - the mudra of the Fearless Heart. Mudra is simply translated as ‘seal’ and is most commonly done by making shapes with the hands but can also be expressed throughout the body. Mudra is linked with the pranic or energetic body and is much more than a gesture or a symbol - it’s a call to action. Since I have been doing this in a dedicated way I have felt unshakable trust in myself, and courage to bring new projects to life: 
 I'm totally over the moon to announce a big dream has come true  - my dear friend and truly gifted Teacher, Shoshannah Orenstein, has agreed to co-host a Retreat in Thailand with me! It's at the most incredibly lush tropical island beach paradise you could only believe with your own eyes, and it's happening in October - so be quick if you're keen! This one is open to men as well as women - please see all details below & don’t hesitate to contact me with any queries.

Another pure joy for me this year has been the gentle unfolding of holding space for women only, what began as a wonderful accident has become an absolute passion.  I am thrilled to be presenting some new workshops & retreats focussing on Hormone Balancing, observing & working with moon cycles & honouring the Goddess Archetypes. I've also put together a very special 1 day 'mini' Retreat in Red Hill (an hour from Melbourne) as I know so many women, like me, struggle to find the time we might like for dedicated practice. Please see more details/links below.
 
Here’s a little guided meditation that includes the fearless Heart Mudra as well as Viloma (1) pranayama. I hope you find it as useful as I do. Please note the Viloma pranayama is not suitable during pregnancy as it uses breath retention, so...

I've also recorded a guided birth visualisation for those of you practicing for two!
 
And finally, I made a short & sweet chanting sadhana for the gorgeous women who came to my Goddess Retreat in Bali last year - and I'm feeling so inspired I just had to share it aswell!
Looking forward to practicing with you soon

Jess

returning to grace

Dear Yogis,

Last week I was rushing around, blissfully putting all of my energy & every waking moment into preparing for my Long Weekend Women’s Retreat when this popped into my head:

The only thing stopping you from being in the flow of grace is your resistance to it

I scribbled that down on a scrap of paper after a long yoga session, I was playing with the idea of Samastitihi - the posture of grace. What is most interesting about the name of this asana is not that it makes you feel like you have a speech impediment but that it's meaning is not simply grace, but a return to grace. If Grace is something that we RETURN to, rather than strive for, then of course it goes to follow that the practice of being deeply immersed and centred in grace is one of allowing things to unfold, with a deep sense ofsurrender and trust that things are unfolding as they should, moment to moment, and, in a broader sense too. So, with this lesson bubbling around in me I decided to theme my Retreat around the process of allowing - noticing resistance in all it’s forms and quite simply taking the inward posture of Samastitihi.

Don’t get me wrong, I was not the embodiment of Grace in the lead up to the retreat - I was still dealing with the usual stresses of the million details of a new venue, seemingly endless office works shenanigans, waking children and the agony of pet sitting (another!) high needs animal (why do I say yes to this, again & again?).  Then it happened, 3 days before the retreat, and on the one & only child-free-full-day I had to complete my preparation...my husband had a push- bike accident and broke his collar bone. OH NO! We spent many hours in Emergency and as the sun went down on that exhausting day we were all feeling so blessed (that it was only the collar bone), and so grateful for the amazing care we had received. I didn’t have much room for feeling any stress about what I could or should have been doing. The accident certainly shifted what already was feeling like top gear into a new level of pressure…reorganising the baby sitting (and grown-man sitting!) so that I could fully immerse myself in my work became a full time job in the lead up to the weekend, and, rather than feeling distress that I should be spending more time preparing for my sessions, I had the solid inward posture of Samastitihi. I trusted that even though it made no sense for now, it was right. That my resistance to what was happening would be the only thing that would keep the weekend from being everything it could or should be.
I surrendered, and, I allowed. I allowed people to come out of everywhere and help my family, but most of all, I allowed myself to trust that I already had all the knowledge I would need to hold space for 15 women, for 3 days. In short, I allowed myself to be carried off in the flow of Grace…and it was divine!

The weekend was pure delight, the incredible, huge-hearted, beautiful women quickly connected with themselves & each other and I felt the work flow through me effortlessly. I loved every minute of it & am busy planning more dates for this year - details very soon. 

If you would like to read some reflections of the participants click here. And… an especially lovely blog post about the weekend here.

May you all be in the flow of grace.

Hope to see you on the mat soon!

Om

Jess

 

facing feelings

Dear Yogis,

I’ve been getting deep into my writing project lately…I’m writing about integrating yoga and family. This is, of course, a journey in holding up the microscope to the way that I live and challenging my ideas and values on a daily basis. It's hard work!
One thing that I’m really enjoying about this process is how so many of the observations and theories I make for and about my children ring true for adults as well, it's just that as we age we tend to mask our needs and emotions and they often appear in more subtle form. Adults often prefer to rationalise rather than feel. I try to think of kids as fully formed personalities, rather than smaller or inferior people, and I believe they have just as much to teach us as we have to teach them.
A beautiful example of how we as adults mirror the more obvious needs of children can be seen when we help our children through an emotional storm. Children have intense and immediate outbursts and tend to move through to the bottom of their feelings more quickly than us -  to me this seems much more healthy than stuffing our feelings down and being polite, and (especially for those on the spiritual path of nonviolence, surrender & detachment) often choosing the peace keeping option at all costs. 
This idea of guiding my kids through their feelings to acceptance is adapted from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ 5 stages of loss in her 1969 classic book ‘On Death and Dying’.
The stages have been abbreviated as DABDA and stand for:
D - Denial
A - Anger
B - Bargaining
D - Depression (I like to say Disappointment here)
A - Acceptance
The five stages of the Kübler-Ross model are the best-known description of the emotional and psychological responses that many people experience when faced with a life-threatening illness or life-changing situation or event, such as a divorce or loss of a job.
I believe the same basic structure applies to all emotional processes, not just the huge things we can't ignore. - It works perfectly for the small but intense grief or loss a child feels when they don’t get what they want or something hasn’t worked out the way they had planned...when someone has disappointed them. Our job as adults is to help kids move through ALL of their feelings to disappointment, and, eventually to acceptance. The theory is that only once we have truly felt the full spectrum of our emotions we can truly move on. When we start to engage kids in the rational - explaining to them the reasons they aren’t able to have what they want, or arguing on any level, we are helping to keep them in the DAB part. If we can help them through the Denial, Anger & Bargaining (not always in that order) by fully acknowledging their feelings, and all the way through to Disappointment, then they will come to their own Acceptance much quicker than if we engage in the rational or argumentative, calmly or otherwise. 
Recently I was really challenged by the behaviour of someone, an adult,  who I thought I knew quite well. My initial reaction to have compassion for them and move on in that lovely, detached “spiritual” way became problematic when I realised that there were, in fact, lots of other emotions swimming around in my emotional body and needing to be expressed. I was trying hard to block out thoughts about this person, and I had to stop & ask - how would I help my children if they were feeling like this? Having compassion was not difficult, but if I really wanted to let go and detach, what would I have to face in myself first?
I’ve learned through having a family that Spiritual aspirations have to evolve in order to integrate with life’s challenges. Sometime we have to put aside the ‘peace-seeking’, kind & compassionate parts of our personality in favour of reclaiming our anger, sadness or jealousy. Sometimes, we need to stand up for what is right or true and it can require a fierceness or even a rage. Sometimes it’s as simple as acknowledging your own anger or frustration and simply letting it be there. Sometimes it's really confusing as we can feel the more fierce emotions right along side authentic compassion. It can be as simple as acknowledging your own anger or frustration and simply letting it be there, the important thing is to not rationalise your feelings away.

Emotions are real energy, with real power - they don't magically go away when you ignore them. We have the choice to transform those patterns of blocking and stuffing our feelings so that they don't act as an energetic forcefield against all that we truly want. Embrace your emotions and take the time to listen to, understand & love yourself - even when it's not 'convenient' .

Yoga isn't about detachment - in fact it's the opposite. It's about being completely present for every part of yourself - the light and the dark. Yoga is a tool for polishing the mirror of your heart so that when you look in you get a crystal clear reflection.
Hope to see you on the mat soon
Jess
ps. I had a lovely conversation with Ricci-Jane from Lightworker Institute about having a 'conscious family'. If you're interested have a look/listen here.

 

Real Life Yoga

Living & breathing Yoga full time (or at least attempting to!) can be really challenging. Disappointment, illness, grief & a host of other daily realities effect you no matter how much of your life you dedicate to Meditation & Sadhana (commitment to personal practice). Of course they do!  I’ve talked to quite a few Teachers about what kind of pressure they put themselves under to be a shining light of health & compassion at all times, and the reality of measuring up to their own standards. I believe these standards & pressure are present in every person, at least to some extent, and, that they are helpful to certain extent too....until they're really not. What I’ve become almost obsessed by is the integration of real, gritty, modern life and old school Yoga. I’ve discovered that what feels good on the mat today might not feel good next week, the resolutions and affirmations of today might not fit into the space of tomorrow, and sometimes making rigorous schedules and plans for your own transformation and evolution can be the very thing that stops you from seeing the path to your own truth & light. In short, each moment presents us with new challenges & opportunities that we can either be open to, or busy doing something else.
Many of you have asked me how the Deep Healing sessions came about. Allow me to get personal for a minute...
When my second son, Remy, was 8 weeks old I had just started teaching again after a few months off. I had a dynamic & baby-proofed plan to increase my teaching along with my own practice and reclaim my emotional, physical & energetic strength postpartum. As you can probably tell I was truly setting myself up for a fall. My entire life was turned upside down in an instant when my mother passed away, suddenly in her sleep at the very fit & healthy age of 64. Without going into details of the inner and outer turmoil, I’ll just say that life was chaos, and that the chaos lasted much longer than anyone could have predicted. My plans were out the window without a thought. I found myself not sleeping more than a couple of hours each night and force feeding myself in order to feed my baby, yet somehow functioning; teaching pretty OK yoga classes, looking after the people & things that needed to be looked after…except myself!

Without sleep the amount of cortisol (stress hormone) and adrenaline (fight or flight hormone) I was creating became too much for my body and within 6 months I was suffering from complete adrenal burn out & severe exhaustion. I was a mess! With the support of my beautiful family I turned my attention inwards to my parasympathetic nervous system and started to explore a path to healing myself. Using all of my Yoga knowledge and my intuition I started to develop a new practice, one that acknowledged the suffering & strain I was under and compassionately gave the space for homeostasis. The idea being that I knew that although my body was not functioning at an optimum or steady state, it could and would return to health & wholeness  if I gave it the focus, space and time. The key was to approach each day, each moment, without expectation, judgement or pressure. I ended my relationship with perfection and allowed myself to surrender to the kind of care I would offer to someone I loved…
For many months I held my own hand back to a place of wholeness - it was beautiful to be my own friend and show up for myself, even when I really didn’t want to. To accept that I wasn’t some kind of Super-Hero-Yoga-Warrior was one of the biggest times of growth I have ever had - and, it was the birth place of the Deep Healing practice I have been passionately presenting for a year now. When I’m preparing for one of these workshops, I have a profound sense that this simple space is something that we all need - space to heal, space to listen in to our own energetic bodies intuitive path to wholeness. This Yoga has expanded beyond me, and, to those who have come along to the workshop I hope it is expanding for you also…as I aim to create a practice & a space which is just for you I genuinely appreciate your feedback - so please keep it coming! 
If you are interested in reading someone else’s experience of a session, Ricci-Jane Adams, a gifted healer from Light Worker Institute, has beautifully & eloquently expressed her experience here
If you, or someone you know might benefit from a bit of simply intentioned space, please let them know about these workshops. I’ve been really encouraged by the feedback and decided that I’d like to offer them more than once a month, and in more than one place. I’d love your suggestions!
Looking forward to seeing you on the mat soon,
Jess
ps - Here’s a short meditation I recorded for accessing your inner “authentic power”, inspired by Gary Zukav, author of Seat of the Soul .