Friday, January 29, 2016

Yoga Is About The Self, Yet It Is Also About Others.

This week's topic concerns a wide range of topics which revolve around two main topics: environmental sustainability & animal welfare.

2015 was a very life-changing year. I would largely attribute it to the influence of my Feveret Human, who is much more knowledgeable than me when it comes to current issues of the world.

The very first documentary I watched was Earthlings.

Yesterday Feveret Human & I watched Cowspiracy.

Please make time to watch these two documentaries, or any other documentary that catches your fancy. I promise you, life will never be the same again. Go to YouTube & type search for Gary Yourofsky. He is an animal activist & gives pretty damn good talks on veganism & animal welfare.

Or click here: Best Speech You'll Ever Hear - Gary Yourofsky.

Now don't get me wrong. I used to eat meat too. In fact I still crave the taste of meat more often than not. Yet I choose to abstain from it after coming to terms with the truth. & I too got very annoyed & irritated when people 'forced' these truths on me. I chose to be continue being comfortable by turning a blind eye to what really goes on in & around the meat industry.

I had never watched an in-depth documentary prior to Earthlings. I am usually the kind of person who avoids gory links & videos that people share on social media. Even if the thumbnail or description is eww-wy, I completely avoid it. So I don't know what came over me, or how I found out about the documentary; I just randomly thought to watch it one night.

& man did it disturb me. I cried most of the time. & it stunned me into really accepting the fact that I was just lying to myself all this time. Throughout my life I always thought myself & my family as animal lovers. Yet all of us consumed meat. Vegetarianism was not given a thought, it was just something that other people do. & there were many people around me who loved animals, yet could not bear to watch videos/photos of animal abuse, accidents, not even wildlife documentaries where a natural predator kills its prey; let alone a documentary about the process of how animals are turned into our food. So I myself avoided these issues. Like I said earlier - I was comfortable lying to myself.

& I think I am lucky in the sense that I watched Earthlings first, then Cowspiracy. Earthlings shocked me into awareness, it showed me what really goes on in the meat industry. Whereas Cowspiracy approaches the topic in a calmer & more logical way. I really liked how the main idea of Cowspiracy is about individual responsibility: 'What am I doing to contribute to this problem?', 'What can I do to make a change?' A few weeks ago Feveret Human & I watched another documentary, The Age of Stupid. It was a brilliant documentary. The only thing I did not really like about it is that it tries to address the problem with external solutions - what biotechnology, what science can do.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to our greed. It is human nature to always want more. & nature is generous, but even her generosity has its limits. So we can research & advance all we want, but if our greed & selfishness is not addressed, everything else is for naught.

It takes so much more vegetation to 'grow' meat for human consumption. Ironically a high percentage of crops are going into feeding animals rather than feeding humans. Not to mention the consumption of water & other resources.

At the same time, have you ever wondered about the by-products of the meat industry? Where does all that waste & faecal matter go to?

& what about the animals themselves? Is it enough to allow them 'natural lives' when at the end of the day we are going to kill them anyway? What kind of freedom is that? & how can one say, 'I love dogs & cats,' so they don't eat those species of animals, but then cows, pigs & chicken are 'made to be eaten'???

I am also hugely thankful to my cat Karas for helping me realize the need for me to go vegan.

Even if it was not for matters of the world (which are indeed very pressing matters & need to be dealt with immediately for the collective good), compassion & kindness were lost when I chose to eat meat. I was allowing animals to be treated badly. I was allowing animals to be denied their freedom & right to life.

I used to be outraged at news of dog or cat meat being sold in certain countries. But it did not disturb me watching hundreds of cows & chickens being farmed & butchered in the market. Funny how the human mind works, huh?

How does one decide which life matters more than the other???

I chose to cover this topic today because yoga is about self, yes - Patanjali's Yoga Sutras are all about the self. He always addresses the inner, never the outer. But you see, once the inside is pure, everything else falls into place. The principle of Ahimsa (Non-violence) is pretty much self-explanatory.

Similarly, in Matthew 7:12 of the Bible: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.

Is my own selfishness harming others? Why am I eating meat - to satisfy my tastebuds? Why do I use products made out of animal by-products? Because it's more 'classy'?

To awaken is a painful process. But it is even worse to choose to remain asleep.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Case of Me-Me-Me-itis.

It's been a rough week for me. Apart from writing work and teaching, a lot of other things have popped up along the way.

I guess when we go off track, sometimes the Universe gives us a little tap on the shoulder like, 'Hey you! Get yo ass back on track!' :P

So yeah, although I have been doing what I need to, it hasn't really been full speed ahead. It's just the bare minimum, sometimes even less. I have to say though, out of the seven deadly sins, sloth ranks the highest in my list - I am a professional slacker at the best of times!

I really enjoy philosophy and its components. But unfortunately that doesn't pay the bills (for now). & I believe I can contribute more than just 'falsampah' to the world; but I just need to put in a bit more effort to refine my skill sets.

I want to be around genuine people who say what they mean & mean what they say. I don't really give a shit if you're wearing the latest fashion, nor if you have the latest gadget (although a neat camera would be really cool, heheh). I don't want to be around people who only want to hang around me for the materialistic things I have to offer. I don't like being obliged into giving gifts or having to conform to certain social conditionings. If you want to hang out with me, then I would like it to be because you enjoy my company, & nothing more.

One of the highlights of my week was meeting this Swedish lady (Whom my mother met through backpacking/hitch-hiking - don't ask me who the hitch-hiker/hikee was though!) who is staying over at my grandparent's place. I really enjoyed listening to her stories about her life back in Sweden. She is in her 70s, & does painting, sculpting & makes jewellery! She & her husband have a big-ass garden where they grow all kinds of flowers & make tiny flag labels for them so it's like 'a botanical garden'; they even grow strawberries & mulberries which they harvest to make jam! & they go skinny-dipping in the ocean! Is that the life or what???

& now she's travelling solo in Malaysia, after which she will head to Thailand, then to India! WTF! I'm 30 & I've never travelled solo to another continent!

So yeah, these past few days the Universe has been nudging me to put pedal to the metal. It wasn't always a pleasant experience - so many things happened to show me what I do not want in my life. Yet this meeting with this one person reminded me of what I do want in life - about the possibilities that the world & life itself has to offer.

At the same time, the people who I need have been coming into my life. When I was contemplating doing Yoga Teacher Training, among a hundred other questions, I asked myself, 'What would I want to do with this knowledge?' & the answer was, 'To help people.' Somehow over time I got sucked into the whole 'commercialized' aspect of yoga. I was too caught up with the glamourized version of yoga - looking good in poses, taking yoga selfies, being able to do this/that pose, the latest yoga fashion, etc.

Slowly but surely people have started coming to me with various physical issues. & I am glad to report that sometimes I don't even know about their issues until after they are cured & they come up to me & say things like, 'I used to have bad menstrual pain but after attending your classes, it's disappeared.' It really does make my day (or even week!) when I get such feedback from my students. It makes me understand why I need to learn more & deepen my knowledge. I am thankful for all my students. They are the ones who play a big role in my satisfaction as a teacher. To be a leader, one must be ready to serve. & what I have acquired, all I have learned, goes to my students & those who need it.

I'm sorry if today's post has not been as philosophical or positive as expected. I'm just keeping it real.

Remember: the Universe (or God, or angels, or whatever you want to call it) is always sending you messages. Make sure you are open enough to receive those messages. Sometimes it may be a small tap on the shoulder. If the message is important & you don't acknowledge that tap, it becomes a smack on the back of the head. If that smack doesn't get your brains working, then I don't know, maybe a whole box of Post-It notes will be thrown in your direction!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Yoga Teacher Training In Rishikesh, India.

Many of you have been asking about my experience doing a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training Course in Rishikesh, India.

It's been three months since I've left Rishikesh, yet not a day goes by that I don't miss that beautiful city. *sigh*

The holy city of Rishikesh is located about five & a half hours north of New Delhi. Upon arrival at the Indira Gandhi Airport, a chartered van arranged by the yoga school was already waiting to transport us to Rishikesh. The hustle & bustle of New Delhi was unnerving in the beginning! People just stop, go, turn, even park wherever the hell they want to; even in the middle of the road, with horns blaring behind them! I would say, especially with horns blaring behind them, because again, people just honk their horns whenever they feel like it - over-taking, not over-taking, stopping, turning; there was even once when we had finally escaped city traffic, & there were no cars around us, our driver honked for no apparent reason! Hahahahah! The vehicles seemed to run on the power of noise rather than petrol!

We arrived at Rishikesh in the early morning. The quiet of the natural surroundings was a welcome change from the noise of the city. The weather was much cooler & the air cleaner too, so we could wind down our windows to enjoy the breeze. The location of our Yoga Teacher Training was the Mokhsa Hotel. I was excited & anxious to see where I would be spending the next month of my life!

The Mokhsa is a quaint little property with a cosy little dining area. It seemed like a good place to have a yoga course, as it is about a fifteen minute walk from the centre of Rishikesh; so there is complete peace & quiet throughout the day.

However, there was some construction going on at the hotel at that time, so after spending two nights there, we shifted house to Raj Palace, which is closer to the city centre. I assumed our luggage would be lugged into another van or something but no! There were two old men who were hired to pull/push our luggage to the new hotel! These men looked like they were pushing fifty or sixty, yet they each had the strength of a bull! I myself could not resist a little drama...

That face you make when the teacher says 'Use your Moola Bandha'.

The real 'bell boy' is the one holding a backpack in the background! Imagine, about a hundred kilo's worth of luggage on one 'trolley', & it isn't exactly flat terrain all the way! Phwoar!

Raj Palace was a good place to stay too. I personally took this change as a blessing in disguise, because it meant that we were living closer to the Ganga River. I woke up early every morning to go sit by the river before coming back for asana practice! In my 31 years of living, I'd never been a morning person up to then, except when my job demanded it of me!

Having dreamt of going to India since I was a little girl, the thought of living so close to the Ganga River excited me even more, so I would be up at sometimes even 5.30am to go to the river! During that time of the year, the sun would already be out, so it was not all that dangerous for a girl to walk unaccompanied. Besides, the walk to the river only took about 3 minutes, & most of the time I would cut through an ashram which is guarded at the both entrances.

I loved those moments spent by the river. Even that early in the morning, there would already be people leaving the place, having completed their morning worship & rituals. Just sitting by the river, I could feel her energy. & I understood why she is called Mother Ganga.

This was taken towards the end of September, when the mornings started getting colder. 

My favourite times of the day were going to the river by myself early in the mornings, & after the end of evening lessons, quickly going to the river again but this time with my fellow coursemates. By the second week of the course, we had a little ritual of our own going on - towards the end of the evening lessons, the most restless of us (usually yours truly here, hahahahah!) would start asking the others, 'Want to go river ah?' (Manglish for 'Do you want to go to the river?); & like school children on their last day at school, once class is dismissed we quickly keep our stuff in our respective rooms & march ourselves downstairs to meet in the hotel lobby.

Our days at Yoga Teacher Training start at 7am & consist of two hours of asana practice in the morning, followed by breakfast, then about two hours of philosophy & anatomy classes. Lunch break is from 12.30pm to 3pm, followed by Teaching Methadology, afternoon asana practice, Pranayama (breathing techniques) & meditation.

We learned the correct use of props to guide each other into the poses.

Sometimes we have morning practice by the river too! On this particular day, our doggy friend joined us too, she mostly does Savasana in the sun. :P

Evening hatha yoga practice with Gurumukh.
(Photo courtesy of Siddhi Yoga Teacher Training)

I was also lucky because many of my coursemates were well-versed in either musical instruments or dance (I am quite convinced by now that all Indian babies are born shimmying to Bollywood music & with drum in hand, heheh!), and towards the middle of our course, our lead trainer's Baul friends traveled all the way from Calcutta to grace us with their presence; so most nights were spent in the yoga hall enjoying music & dance! Baul music has totally been added to the list of music genres I listen to!

The Bauls with our course instructors, Deep & Gurumukh.

Some nights, we would even have 'movie night'!

During the weekends, we still have classes on Saturday mornings (Boo!), but after that it's freedom!

Usually we go explore the city on Saturday - Rishikesh is quite a hippy-fied place too so there are is an abundance of such clothings (I myself finally succumbed to the strange allure of Ali Baba pants!), religious statues & memorabilia, book shops (Mmm-hmmm!), music stores, & not to mention trinket shops! Hippy shopping heaven! Just be careful though because the clothes tend to bleed the first few washes!

Sundays are reserved for trips out of the city. Me being a not-so-good traveler, the winding roads that hugged the mountains proved challenging, but I am glad that I pulled through, because it was so worth it!

(Photo courtesy of Siddhi Yoga Teacher Training)

The last weekend of our stay was especially memorable for me because the following Monday was my 30th birthday! Yep, yours truly here has hit the big 3-0! Phwoar! :P :P :P

On our last Sunday, we went white-water rafting in the morning! It was amazeballs! At some points, we even got to jump off the raft & drift along the river! It was an exhilarating experience! The water was chilly, so even though the sun was out (our journey started late morning well into midday), my teeth were chattering, hahahahah! I even got slight sunburn on my face, & that's never happened to me before! To view a mash-up of our rafting experience, click here.

On monday morning, we had asana practice by the river! Sunburnt but super happy & grateful for my time in Rishikesh!

On our graduation night, we had a variety show. We all had some performance or another planned & basically just enjoyed each other's company.

(Photo courtesy of Siddhi Yoga Teacher Training)

(Photo courtesy of Siddhi Yoga Teacher Training)

(Photo courtesy of Siddhi Yoga Teacher Training)

Rishikesh being the capital of yoga, is a fully vegetarian city. No meat is allowed, with the exception of eggs in one or two restaurants. I had always wanted to become a fully-fledged vegetarian, yet never found the willpower to do so. But living on a plant-based diet for a month totally convinced me that my body is capable of living without meat. In fact, it thrived on a plant-based diet. Now, this was probably the combined effect of all that walking, asana, relaxation, etc; but I strongly believe that the food that I ate played a big part in clearing up my skin.

I have been struggling with acne for the past few years now. & my therapist specifically advised me to keep my hands & face clean when I was in India. Ironically, my skin became the best it ever was in the past almost five years. My acne cleared up, my skin tone was much better (although I was browner, there was a glow to my skin), & I did not require any of those bloody expensive facial products! Simply amazing!!! I even washed my face with the soap provided by the hotel - no dryness or anything! - my skin was just really balanced, all the time! (The proof is in the pudding - about exactly a month after returning to KL, my acne flared up again. Hmphk!)

All in all, completing a yoga course in Rishikesh has definitely taken my understanding & experience of yoga to a different level. My time in Rishikesh gave me a glimpse of the practical application of yoga outside of asana practice. Before this, I had previously done a teacher training course with Deep in Malaysia, but the whole experience was much deeper & richer in Rishikesh. Well, why wouldn't it be? After all, Rishikesh is the yoga capital of the world!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Accept Yourself In Your Totality!

So, the human mind finds it very difficult to accept any moment in totality, or to accept the rising of one's Self in totality. There is always a duality, this moment I accept the feeling of love, but when the feeling of hate arises in me, I reject it. In another moment, I accept the feeling of joy, but when the feeling of sorrow arises in me, I reject it.

Have you ever noticed this in yourself?

We always hear the masters saying, 'Do not attach to anything.' But do you understand the depth of this statement?

Once, a travelling monk reached the palace of a king who was well-known for his indulgences, yet also known to be a wise man. The monk was granted permission to stay within the palace walls for a few days. One day, the king invited the monk to accompany him to the river. As they were bathing in the river, the monk saw smoke in the distance, & in a flurry rushed out of the river to put on his clothes.

The king asked him, 'What's the matter?'

'Can't you see! Your palace is on fire! & my clothes are in there!'

At which point the king started laughing, 'My dear friend, I am a king. & my whole palace is going down in fire, everything I own is in there, even my family. Yet I am still relaxed. & you? You are worried about your few pieces of clothes!?!'

Dear friends, being unattached does not mean we have to own nothing. It does not mean that we must doom ourselves to live lives of paupers. No! You can damn well own a Ferrari, if your heart so pleases. You can damn well have a large collection of watches, if it is within your means. & you can damn well have a huge bank account, if your passion rakes in the monies.

But it does mean that you do not allow anything to own you.

The question is: How gracefully are you able to let go?

Similarly with human emotions. We become so attached to the 'positive' emotions that we become repelled by the thought of experiencing 'negative' emotions! & then, ironically, attachment also forms towards the avoidance of 'negative' emotions, bahahahahah does that make sense?

So how can we fully accept ourselves in our totality, if we choose to acknowledge one aspect of ourselves & not the other? In the first place, how can good exist if there is no bad? How can light exist without darkness? How can big exist without small? Neither ceases to exist without the other! So how can you be 'good' if there is no 'bad' within you? :P

I really love Huffington Post article on transforming anger according to Osho.

'In controlling you repress, in transforming you express (...) Sensitivity grows with awareness. Through control you become dull & dead. That is part of the mechanism of control: if you are dull & dead, then nothing will affect you, as if the body has become a citadel; a defense. Nothing will affect you, neither insult nor love.'

When certain feelings arise within you, do not fight them. Have an internal conversation with yourself:

'I am feeling *insert emotion here*.'
'Why am I feeling this way?'
'What did/did I not do to cause this?'
'Why am I responding this way?'
What do I need to do to express this emotion, without harming others?'

You get the gist of it.

The main idea is to not ignore, repress or avoid any emotion. In fact, I would say enjoy them! Go deep to the source! & if you are aware enough, completely immerse yourself in them! When you are happy - jump for joy, laugh out loud; when you are angry, get good & angry - beat your pillow, bury your face into it & scream & shout, go for a jog; anything as long as you do not hurt another.

& when you are fully open to the very human-ness of your being, you can fully embrace & love yourself. & guess what happens when you fully accept yourself? You are able to accept & love others in their totality too.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Every Moment Is THE Moment.

Happy New Year, everybody!

As far back as I can remember, I've never been one to celebrate new year's. I can just vaguely recall one or two countdowns in crowded nightclubs & struggling in a sea of people to watch fireworks.

Sounds like quite a nightmare to all you introverts out there, huh?

When I was wayyy younger, the most I would do was watch the countdown on the telly (this was before the dawn of Internet & even computers, mind you!), & the national parade or whatever was airing the next day. Then it shifted to just doing my own thing & listening to the boom of the fireworks when the clock struck twelve.

& every time I wondered, 'Is there something wrong with me?'

I thought myself strange, because everyone makes such a big deal out of it, & just like Valentine's Day or any other major 'holiday', the general idea was that if you spend any of these days alone, you are a loser.

'But, I don't enjoy getting up close & personal with thousands of sweaty strangers!'

When I first moved to KL, I realized that I had accepted the fact that I was actually okey spending every New Year's eve in the comfort of my own room, not doing anything extraordinary. In fact, come to think of it, when I moved here it was the 30th of December & I recall the feeling of utter bliss being in my room hearing the loud booms of the fireworks outside.

I don't quite understand the hype around New Year's eve. No, actually I do; it just doesn't excite me very much. I feel that every day is a New Year's eve. Today, it's been one year since the last 1st January, right? & two days from now it will also be a year since last 3rd of January, right? So would that not also be a 'new year', technically speaking?

What I do appreciate about the hype is that many people will take some time to reflect & show appreciation towards everything in the past year, & make 'resolutions' (whether these are kept or not is another matter!) for the new one.

I believe that it is important for everybody to see the magic of new beginnings. & when I say new beginnings, I also mean second chances, fresh opportunities, new starts.

& now I get why I don't get hyped up about New Year's. It's because I find it strange to wait for a man-made date to approach before doing what one wants to do. Every moment is the moment to change, each day brings with it boundless opportunities, why wait 365 days???

Anyway. I will take this opportunity to recap how my year went! *excited-ness!*

2015 has been by far one of the most interesting years of my life so far. I finally had the guts to quit my day job to teach yoga full-time. By the grace of God, my long-time dream of travelling to India came true, & of all places, to the holy city of Rishikesh! & for a whole month! Wow!

This is easily the first time ever I've made so many wonderful new friends in one year. & I am also thankful for old friends who have supported me through the ups & downs of life - sometimes we may not even talk regularly, we may not even be up to date with the other's latest happenings, but those who have been there for me during rough times will always have a special place in my heart. I know I can come across as very dramatic sometimes, & I thank them all for bearing with me! Hahahahah!

Same goes for my family. I always feel blessed because I was/am always allowed the freedom to do whatever the hell I want to (within reasonable limits, of course!). I feel that acceptance & freedom is one of the best things a person can give, & I am thankful that when I emerged from my mother's womb, my parentals did not proclaim, 'My little engineer!'... :P

It's been a year full of great ups & downs. But all's well that ends well. Here's to 2016!