Tag Archives: Courage

“Fate will carry the willing man…”

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“Surrender” she said.

There’s a bolster lying vertically down my mat, and I’m standing at the top, feet apart. I had just come up from what seemed like a failed attempt of an unsupported drop back…because the floor seems so far away, and the breath just wants to leave me hanging midway.

“But it’s not the same as letting go. If you let go, there will be too much weight suddenly on your hands when you reach the floor. Just..surrender”, adding in the technicalities with a little smile.

I am beginning to marvel at this one simple word “surrender” that embodies within it an immense articulation of what it really means to allow life to play out on its own course. On the mat and equally off the mat. A word that is supercharged with a lot of energy and emotions that not many are willing to venture past beyond the point of contemplation. Because surrender is possibly the hardest thing one could attempt to do in the face of the unknown.

Fata viam invenient, Seneca once wrote. Fates will have its way. Ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt, fate will carry the willing man and drag the unwilling. Reminding us all that there is a higher hand that is at play, or a discourse of life that has perhaps been written somewhere beyond our own ability to see and understand.

It is not even the end of the first month in this year, yet the word which I have made a point to work on more, delve into deeper, understand it further has been featured so many times since the start of the year – both in my own personal life and in the conversations I seem to hold with those around me.

Like that conversation I had with H a couple of weeks ago over lunch when she related her desire for a child and the emotions that arises as she goes through rounds of fertility treatment. I asked what it felt like every single time the process did not work, that time of the month that arrives to let you know yet again your effort, money and hope has yet to produce the kind of fruit you’ve been wanting. “Agony” she says. “Partly because of the effort you put into preparing your body to be at its healthiest, you plan your life and your schedule around this process and mostly because the doctors and those around you are confident that it will work this time around…and then it doesn’t”.

“This time, I’ll need to get things in order up here before I go in for the second round” referring to her second upcoming IVF treatment while pointing to her head. We spoke of expectations and keeping that in check, but mostly of surrendering to the process. And preparing the mind to accept the possibility that she will never be able to experience the sensations and emotions of an expecting mother.

But the word is steeped in so many different connotations. Letting go. Acceptance. And in a less positive light, complacence, or even worse having the ‘je ne sais quoi’ attitude to life. But these are just semantics I believe. There are inevitable situations and circumstances that we have to eventually acknowledge as being out of our control. As Gregory Maehle puts it “totally accept that you are a machine operated upon by God”. That our own bodies can betray the best of us for reasons unknown.

There is however, a distinct beauty that lies beyond that point of surrender. A beauty that presents itself in moments of silence unravelling a bigger picture that is so often overlooked because the desire to have things the way we want it to be, at the time we want it to happen, to have the final say to the outcome is far more persistent than the desire to see what may lie ahead and beyond the actual ‘wants’. Which reminds me of a beautiful verse from Al-Baqarah that reads “…and it may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you, and it may be that you love a thing while it is evil for you, and Allah knows, while you do not know” (216:2). And perhaps that is the essence of surrender, giving in entirely to the unknown despite our best efforts and allowing fate to carry us through willingly.

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“Fear in itself, will reel you in and spit you out, over and over again”

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I’m getting some worthwhile music education lately from all the time spent in my car stuck in traffic. This one is Blue October that seems to be gaining frequent airtime lately. Don’t mind the guy that is screaming into the sea. I think he’s just letting go some of his own fear while shooting for this video.

I have been dwelling on the idea of fear since I heard this song. Perpetuated by some conversations that transpired during and after my yoga classes this week. There is a woman that comes in the morning at a small studio in the quiet neighbourhood of Shah Alam. Amongst the many obvious emotions I see surfacing up is fear. And though this is quite common to observe as someone who leads the class, it is also one of the most valuable lessons there is to learn about the human mind and its instinctual abilities to react to the unknown.

Across the spectrum of human emotions, fear is one that I remember growing up with a lot – fear of doing something wrong, fear of not bringing back the good grades, fear of watching the eldest brother ‘pay’ for having the courage to thread around the edges of ‘something wrong’ and a fear, I clearly remembered as a child sitting at the top of a slide, and frozen in place because I was so afraid to slide down.

Lately I have realised, with the recent shoulder discomfort in my Ashtanga practice that fear is like the shadow which exist at the heels of pain. Where there is pain and discomfort, there is a level of fear attached to it. Similarly, beyond the physical pain, where there is emotional suffering, fear would present itself in one form or another. That same question that popped in my head during practice at Dynamics about 2 weeks ago, how far should I go into this posture? How far beyond the pain should I be looking at in order to finish my practice today? and that motherload question of “AM I EVEN MODIFYING THIS CORRECTLY?!” became a daily conversation I have with myself while on the mat since this whole little adventure into discomfort started.

Because everything is an adventure isn’t it? Even the most uncomfortable ones always bring you down a road of discovery; revealing more about the world and its infinite perspectives. Sometimes your role as the observer, the outsider who is not even feeling these range of emotions is enough to teach you a thing or two. I remembered a conversation with I, who had assisted me into a backbend one morning when he said “I could feel your fear coming into that backbend. It was really cool!” I can tell you it was NOT cool to be the one dropping back, never quite sure whether I will break my back on the way down or slam my head on the floor or both, but it made me realised how precious these moments of vulnerability are in forming our understanding of ourselves and those around us.

Usually having been in the same shoes before makes it all that easier to empathise. So each time I see some students hovering their toes on the floor on top of their head, surrounded by hesitation, and that inevitable fear of breaking their neck, I let them explore this dimension while I stand behind them for assurance. And even as this one fear is eventually conquered, there are plenty more that each of us will come across over and over again, whether it be within the series or off the mat. Even as we think we merge as ‘victorious’ having finally crossed over that valley of fear, there must be a constant abiding knowledge that there are many more similar valleys to be crossed. Because as long as there remain possibilities of pain, injury, or emotional suffering, there will always be more of these dimension for us to plunge into with the sole purpose of revealing more of our inner world to ourselves.

..and this is the wonder that is keeping the stars apart

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Time is rather fascinating, from hours, to months and years – one can’t help but wonder what life would be like without any concept of time? Without any regard of time there will be no such thing as New Years no? But the concept of time, amongst its many other function serves as a tool of reflection, consolidation and integration of experiences into something meaningful. Because man is always out to find and attach meaning to everything that happens to them, Viktor E. Frankl certainly got famous from it, and I am not far behind in agreement.

This year has been nothing short of magical. Cliche I know, but it is one word that I can use with all honesty and still feel that it falls short of encapsulating the essence of 2014. Since it is also the end of my twenties, that “defining decade”, it feels really good to be exactly where I am today, to look back on all the big life decisions I have made to bring me here, and to feel a sense of excitement entering into my thirties.

If there was a word I could use to sum up my entire year it would be blessings. I am infinitely blessed and for this I am endlessly grateful to the Universe and the Higher power that governs it. From the opportunities that came in a steady stream and watching Mind Body Breath grow from strength to strength (with the 2 coolest thing to happen to it was the appearance on TV3 Berita Utama and coverage in Her World magazine), the kindness of strangers, the meeting of beautiful souls and mind blowing connections that transcends all my understanding of what it means to really and truly connect with another person, and ultimately the expansion of a group of people I hold close and dear in my heart.

Delivering a report and having a Vietnamese translator by my side (and discovering that having your presentation translated actually gives you plenty of time to calm that public speaking nerves – woohoo!), appearing on their national news, embarking on this teaching thing full time, sharing my written thoughts with others and seeing on it print, sharing what I love and what I know to others and watching them experience similar benefits and positivity, that maiden trip to India, falling in love with Saraswathi and her energy, discovering the value of parampara, falling head over heels with the entire practice and discovering an entirely new world around it, kick starting a business partnership with a person who is so similar to me in values yet so utterly different in certain worldviews and looking forward to the kind of boundless beauty that will result from this communion.

There were a couple of lessons that became really clear to me which affirms some of my understanding of the world or whatever it was that I may have read from before. I understood the concept of making space by first releasing the things that doesn’t serve you anymore. Magic happens in those spaces. They really do 🙂 I understood every quality that which we love, admire, hate or detest in other people are merely the reflection of the exact same qualities within ourselves, shedding an entirely different light and meaning on my understanding of ‘one-ness’ and the self. And I have also come to understand that the Universe awards you with many, many gifts in different forms and that you would only have to be present and aware when it happens to fully appreciate it. Of the biggest lesson in this though, I have learned that sometimes this gifts are not meant to be kept, sometimes to be let go as immediately as they came, sometimes to not be owned but appreciated as they are, and on other times, to be experienced and then to allow distance from it and to admire it from afar. The challenge that remains for me at least is to learn not to grow attached to any of these wonderful gifts.

Equally as the affirmation occurs, so too did the disintegration of certain beliefs that was accompanied with a lot of questions that was really uncomfortable leading to days of unease and sleeps underlined with meaningless nightmares. I am still questioning a lot of things but I have managed to find comfort in this very uncomfortable process, to make peace with certain things that remains unknown and to embrace fully my ability to question the very foundation of my faith and trusting this entire process in and of itself. Certainly these questions arise from within for the mere purpose of drawing one closer to the self.

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
E.E Cummings