Self-Care for Serenity

This time last year I was at my favorite place in Bali, way up in the tranquil, far-flung north where black volcanic sand lends a deeply curative energetic vibe I appreciate. With nowhere to go now, nature walks at home ground are longer and more contemplative, the pause a meditation. I am relishing the forest baths and awe walks. Awe walks – meditative-like rambles where one looks for wonder – put things in perspective. The immensity of nature reminds me of unseen depths beyond the perception of the outer eye. I have found illumination in taking in the veins of a leaf, the unfurling of a flower petal, seeing old things with new eyes. The Creator is a consummate artist. There is beauty and poetry everywhere. Divinity is omnipresent.

Sometimes the known and certain are no longer best choices. I am taking time to venture off the usual paths. There is something purposeful about intentionally taking a different route to learn to relax into the unknown. Leaning into the possibilities that there will always be a way, though not the plan I dream about, is at once scary and exciting.

If I could name one thing this tumultuous year is teaching me, it would be to be fully present to what is. Right here right now is a wonderful place to be. We live in wild unprecedented times with no reprieve in sight. There has never been so much polarization, rage, chaos and all the uncomfortable emotions you can put a name to. I have never asked these many questions about the wisdom of pain, loss and suffering. Can things possibly get any worse? When my mind wanders to an anxious uncertain future, I find my breath to anchor into the present.

The peace of inner stillness allows us to understand everything is at where it is supposed to be. Serenity at the home in our hearts translates to peace outside. This practice of staying in the present is a conscious decision. It is choosing to return to the breath at every moment of awareness so it becomes a habit.

Our breath becomes us. We are our habits.

We come to realize that the universe mirrors back to us perfectly our beliefs, our intentions, our sincerity. What is the product of the map of reality you carry inside you. If you want to change your experience, you need to change the map. – Alberto Villoldo

When we take time for self-care and build good habits, recovery time to the center is quicker. When we carve out space to nourish our inner cosmos, we build capacity to tune into our inner teacher for guidance. This is the teacher who is in touch with the truth of the soul. Owning this truth – the truth that no external voice can tell you – is potent seed for authentic, courageous living.

Truth alignment births fearlessness. Authenticity vibrates at a higher frequency.

This is why we practice yoga. We practice not to experience zilch challenges and pain. We practice so we can stay in that shakiness and be the phoenix that rises from the ashes, stronger than before.

Self-care is an inside job goes beyond that organic veggie bowl or indulgent spa time. It is the art of taking time to:

  • Edit your relationships, choosing more supportive and uplifting companionship
  • Understand what it is right for you, not what will please others
  • Set healthy boundaries to honor your energy, space and truth
  • Tend to your feelings because they are valid
  • Reduce busyness to have a life
  • Relinquish what no longer serves to create space and move you deeper into you
  • Streamline your material possessions to live light in every sense of the word

Change is successful and lasting when triggered by a significant crisis. A new way of being begins with taking full responsibility for our feelings, actions and reactions, eyes open wide. Life is an effective teacher. The year 2020 sets us on a path of discovery along stupendous peaks and valleys. The year of locking down unlocks a vast world of inner journeys to ask the imperative question: Is the life you have been living the life you want to live?

Alignment

Recently in class, I was speaking of transiting into the last quarter of the year with the shedding energy of fall: We will be winding down and decluttering the body and spirit most of the season. On the mat we move for a life of greater ease off the mat.

Nature speaks of slowing down and the change of seasons with poignancy. The rustle of fallen withered foliage under my feet. The delicious scent of the forest after a rain. Have you noticed the dewdrops? I have been rather enchanted by these iridescent pearls that shimmer in the light. They murmur softly, almost inaudibly, then disappear like the shooting star that went too fast.

pitter patter

little by little

dew kissing

earth

Speaking of fall and shedding, I am a fan of letting go. My relationship with stuff – what I want to hold on to and what I allow to own me – has changed profoundly. Life is so much more full and fulfilling when:

  • Who I truly am is not defined by the external, certainly not by cultural, familial, societal conditioning and expectations, and the judgment of others.
  • I am present to what is, not teetering between the baggage of yesteryear and what-ifs of tomorrow.
  • There is space – and choice – to be present to what is showing up for me.
  • There is space and choice to joyfully surf life force.

This is why I practice what I practice. I practice because (1) Letting go is a constant work in progress. (2) I am imperfect.

The practice of yoga is far from achieving perfection, or getting to the destination of the full posture. Burn the goals and to-do lists please. Yoga is part undoing and part reconditioning by extending consciousness and grace to every maneuver. It is one of the most intimate ways you can develop a relationship with you, the most important person in the world.

Asking how I can ease into the asana is also asking what else I can let go of to experience the life that wants to live through me. There is such an art to feeling and understanding your own unique alignment in the forward fold while simultaneously honoring well-meaning postural cues and turning off the picture-perfect image magazines and Instagram have sold us.

Looking back, I have had so-called “perfect” alignment forced on me in my early yoga days. My teachers probably wanted me to fit into the “look” of the asana, never mind every bone, tendon and holding pattern of repressed energy is as unique as a snowflake. It is like carefully crafting a social media post to present to the world your perfect little life. Or rather the success you want others to believe you have achieved. You can believe it if you fake it enough.

In Twisted Roots, a juicy two-sided Yin pose we practiced this recent Saturday, most of us found little symmetry on both sides of the physical body. One side is almost always more open than the other. Our bodies inform us of our incredible asymmetrical truths. All we have to do is to listen to the language of the sensory body. Coming into the alignment that is unique to you is a nuanced, compassionate practice. Life is indeed so subtle and transient, blink and it passes you by. Self-realization is a gift from self-observation, a practice that is possible from slowing down and going Yinside. Pardon the Yin pun. 😉

One of the greatest gifts of freeing myself from a yoga system that was centered around the interpretation and personality of one man is fully anchoring into my own body and coming into my knowing and intuition (read full story here). This unfolding is beyond my dreams. I did not see it coming yet I was fully ready, trusting the stars are aligned and this is perfect and right for me. My new practice is filled with infinite possibilities. The new me trusts the mastery of my heart.

I know I have nailed that perfect pose – and life – when my inside feels spacious and free. I know life keeps coming in miraculous unexpected ways and all I have to remember is the daily practice adds up to real lasting change. And alignment.

Practice makes possible.

How are you practicing to fall into alignment with your heart, body and spirit?

P.S. I want to share with you this blessing of a birdsong that brings so much joy every morning, post sadhana. Alignment begins at first light. 🙂

P.PS. Yoga for Nervous System happens every Saturday morning, 10am (GMT +8), livestream. Together, we rest, digest and heal so we can live our highest evolution. Yoga for Nervous System is a secular practice for every body and creed. Come as you are. Come practice with me.

The world needs your light

When the city I am living in began to ease lockdown measures a few weeks ago, I made a list of the mountains I can possibly spend time in. Bhutan. Ladakh. Nepal. My partner and I spoke of taking our journaling workshop into a full-on retreat. We cannot wait to be back in nature, nourishing ourselves with long walks, soulful conversations and deep contemplation. The seemingly insurmountable mountain that now stands between us is fear. The world appears to be going crazy with closing borders and curtailing movement, alongside shutting down livelihoods and fundamental human rights to freedom. The impact on poverty and inequality is incredible.

You see, fear is a perfect control and terribly disempowering. While gripped with anxiety, we have forgotten interconnectivity is our nature. Separation is maya, an illusion. An Alaskan oil spill still wreaked havoc in the food chain and impacted lives oceans away a decade later. The volcanoes, valleys, mountains and seas that divide us actually sustain us. “We are one” is not a spiritual refrain. It is our nature.

All things share the same breath – the beast, the tree, the man. The air shares its spirit with all the life it supports. – Chief Seattle

Locking down is akin to shutting out the emotional body, numbing out in order not to feel. Nothing ever goes away. Energy merely changes form. Unprocessed emotions and dis-ease held in the tissues manifest as physical ailments. If your neck pain could speak, what would it say? What if cancer is but an alert system signaling you to listen?

As a practitioner of spirituality, everything has become a practice. The time I spend slowing down on the yoga mat extends to a life of greater ease off the mat. The intense moments when I intentionally surge energy on the mat relates to how little I need external stimuli to uplift myself outside of the mat. I thrive on the electricity I have generated within me.

This is potent invincible living.

This is how I show up for myself so I can show up for the world. Fearlessly. Purposefully. Come practice with me, live stream, Saturday morning. I have created a sweet little clip on Yoga for Nervous System for you. It is a secular practice for all levels of practitioner. Call it Yin Yang, or Energy Medicine, if you wish. We will learn to rewire our nervous system, the matrix of electrical energy that runs and fuels our existence.

“I wanted to drop you a line to say how much I enjoyed your class. It’s been about 20 years since I had done Hatha yoga so I was concerned if the class may be too advanced and whether or not I can keep up.  It was all good – different – and I’m already looking forward to the next class.”

“It was a really good class. I really felt cleansed.”

“Love how you explained the benefits of each movement.”

The world needs more light, more of us to be in our centered adult self. See you on the mat.

Deconstruct to construct

Love has no gender. Compassion has no religion. Character has no race. – Abhijit Naskar

The year 2020 probably goes down as one we will always remember. The Year of 4 (2+0+2+0), four being foundation, the structures we lean on to hold our lives together. Clearly, fear-based programs, lies, hypocrisy, pretensions, imbalances and narratives that no longer serve are illuminated, pleading for reexamination and recalibration. Conscious ones are fully comprehending humanity is asked to deconstruct in order to construct. Would you heed the call to honor what has been starved for attention? Would you begin to chip away and shed what and how you were taught, and thought, was The Way?    

Global and personal events that unfolded in the last month had me thinking about equality and empowerment, issues I hold close to my heart. How can we collectively play a part in creating a more equal world. How can we empower humans, especially the marginalized, to hear their own voice so they can step into their soul[ar plexus] power and be heard.

I recall my littlest returning home from school many moons ago enthusiastically sharing a day of fun with his “Malay” and “Indian” classmates. Strange, I thought, where did he pick up this newfound racial vocabulary. I did not care to educate my children in this manner. They did not know humans can be segregated racially until our outdated education system informed them so.

We are one big human race with no color, creed and gender divide. Certainly the multi-religion altar at home reflects Love is the religion. Love is the answer.

As one of the 7.8 billion humans coexisting on planet earth that is more connected than before, how can we embody qualities that contribute to peace and unity. We are complicit if we do nothing. Silence and shame are insidious weapons.

Energetically, silence relates to the throat center and shame resides in the sex organs. They are sibling centers: We take in the sensory world through our sex organs upon birth, before words found us. Our bodies can attach to racialized and sexual shame in the environment, from birth, and adopt and grow into these constrictions as if they were our true identity. The throat relates to how we emotionally speak for ourselves, how we can embody and be in resonance with truth. What is safe to say, and what we have been taught or are allowed to say.

Short of taking to the streets, what choices and decisions can we make on a daily basis that are based on universal love, genuine understanding and compassion.

There is a lot of work to be done to clean up deeply rooted shadows in the psyche individually and collectively. As spiritual beings living a human experience, we share a global responsibility to be the change we wish to see in the world. The Work begins at individual level, at where we are.

One of the best things I did was a Teacher Training in Children’s Yoga that had me working on my inner child wounds before my teachers Sat Sarbat and Satmukh saw guardians of children fit to go out and shape little minds. Inner child work is confrontational, unsavory shadow work. It is necessary to visit deep dark places to break free from habitual patterns and a belief system that perpetuates an unending loop of self-abuse, self-sabotage and self-inflicted pain. If we can change our own patterns, we can change our children’s, and the world’s.

How different will the world be if we turn our attention inward and grant ourselves permission to shed layers of cultural, familial, gender, religious and societal conditioning and indoctrination that have no place in our true identity.

As a spiritual teacher, my question is, how can I empower you to rise into your power. This is nervous system work. We are the strength of our nervous system. We are a complex power-generating circuitry of electrical energy. We have incredible self-authority to cultivate, manage and direct this inherent electricity to alchemize and transform our state of being.

This is it. Yoga for Nervous System. All my years of dedicated practice on and off the mat have come to a landing in my own body and soul that is aligned with my truth and a life that wants to live through me. It is as if the last few years prepared me for this becoming.

I will no longer teach the system, Kundalini Yoga as certified by Kundalini Research Institute. It was the life I knew and chose for many years. They were some of my most heart- and mind-opening years. I honor those pivotal years and welcome leaning deeper into my own knowing and power. I welcome the simultaneous sense of liberation and discomfort and insecurity of change, for it is in this state that life rearranges itself. It is in a state of disruption that new neural pathways can emerge and new energetic patterns form. True for the nervous system. True for a life authentically and consciously lived.

Yoga for Nervous System is all about tapping into our inherent electrical energy to feel our most magnificent pulse and live radiantly alive. I am riding the tumultuous wave of the Year of 4, dismantling all that I knew and rebuilding from Ground Zero. I begin again and again, supported by the strength of the nervous system I have cultivated. My practice is my commitment to a life aligned with what I value: authenticity and integrity.

Will you begin with me?

Yoga for Nervous System happens online, every Saturday, 10am (Singapore; GMT +8). Enquire at connect@globeskimmer.com; register here.

Going Yinside

Practice for the sheer joy
of being free. Practice
to be empty of “me, me me”.
Silent, open, and infinitely vast,
practice to remember what is real.

Practice to give yourself up
and receive the wordless truth.
What you get will be useless –
not the coin of any realm –
but oh, the glory of
those moments – being whole.

– Danna Faulds

Did you notice the pink and violet skies, and how overgrown wild flowers are abuzz with bees and butterflies? At where I live, lockdown measures begin to ease today. There is a sense of anticipation with a hefty dose of trepidation. Soon, we will convene in our new-normal selves. When it is business as usual, when you can breathe freely, mask free, what stories of change, loss and triumph will you tell? Will you continue into growth or retreat into familiar safety?

I begin the second half of 2020 offering Yin yoga sessions as a more sensory approach to the process of introspection and self-inquiry. It appears my yoga journey has come full circle, a destined homecoming of sorts. Yet I am stepping into a new world, one that is rebalancing and changing.

Outside, Piscean Age belief systems are crumbling, albeit not without a fight. Humanity is facing a new dawn. Mother Earth matters. Every voice matters. The soul is colorless, genderless and oh so free. It is time to let go of archaic beliefs that keep us in a state of separation. As a human race bound by collective suffering and opportunity for growth, we are asked to step forward to make new choices to experience wholeness.

Inside, I have been feeling my way into practicing and teaching Kundalini yoga differently since allegations of misconduct against Yogi Bhajan surfaced a few months ago. This necessary soul searching has been sobering and heartbreaking. It remains to be seen how I will eventually teach the practice so it is aligned with values I hold dear. I still bookend my day with a meditation in this tradition. There is a space in between my profound love for this powerful practice and equally deep disappointment with the fall from grace of a figure widely regarded as a guru. This is the space I am resting, between my breaths, awaiting the unfolding and eventual answer.

If there is one thing my spiritual practice has taught me, it is this: It is okay to feel the enormity of my feelings. It is okay to feel grief, rage and despair. It is okay not to be okay and positive all the time. This is why we practice. So nothing stays stuck and morph into a cancerous mass. We practice not just for peace of mind. We practice to have a life. A life we want to live. A life filled with freedom, clarity and strength to honor our authenticity and truth.

The more I pour myself into the physical practice of yoga, the more its subtleties permeate into other areas of my life. The deeper my energy medicine practice, the more I appreciate a multidimensional approach to dissolve the programing and conditioning in our system. Yin yoga to me is more than an antidote to our masculine, task-oriented lifestyle, or prescription for release of issues in our tissues. The slow practice is the perfect meditation tool to tune into the intricacies [Y]inside.

I see Yin yoga as an art in deep listening. How do we navigate sensations on the mat so we can listen to the stories inside that are longing to be heard. How do we sit through that hamstring tension so we can tend to strong emotions outside of the calm of the studio. How can we cultivate this sensitivity on the mat so the refined awareness connects us to our inner observer and our greatest teacher, the guru residing in our hearts.

Yoga is not nailing that deep back bend, or attaining the perfect symmetry. With this beautifully complex gift of a human body, can you touch your core to find your way h[om]e, to your unique you?