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

Dusting off the cobwebs

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OK so it has been over a year since my last entry. Whoever coined the term “time flies” .. they are NOT kidding at all. A person whom I am currently in business with, and who also has just completed her 200hr TTC at Vikasa commented recently that I should write more often and take this to a different level. It’s not that I have completely given up on writing, if in fact I have started writing in other places and this little corner unfortunately got a little neglected in the process.

A lot has happened and many changes has taken place since May 2013. Wow..May 2013. Just typing that out sends a little shudder down my spine because a year is certainly not a short time. If I had just 3 words to summarize my 16-month long absence from the blogosphere it would be “Everything is perfect”. Perfect in every sense, in every way that it is meant to be as it is today.

September 2013

In September of last year, I fought for (well ok a little, everything seems like a fight when you are in a big corporate setting it seems) and received a life changing international project. It sent me to Vietnam. To the city of Danang to be exact. I had always wanted to work as an external consultant to an NGO on a pro-bono basis. And I had also always wanted to experience what it’s really like to live and work outside of my own country for an extended period of time. Yes – the apt word for that would be as an expatriate.

It was to be the one project which not only allowed me to cross off the last final items off my list that I had wanted to achieve, experience and learn from as a management consultant, it was also the most valuable project that changed my perspective on the environment, my role within this world, my capabilities to achieve an infinite number of things that matter to me and creating real, genuine connections. I ran my first project all by myself, I worked with a number of French people who spoke in French a lot to each other which I’ve come to find addictive as I love the language, even though I can only understand maybe 5% of what was actually spoken, I volunteered to run yoga classes to a group of young Vietnamese adults. I later added 2 words to my limited Vietnamese vocabulary which was the equivalent to “Inhale” and “Exhale” in their language. I learned the power of body language surpasses all language limitations. I experienced my first major typhoon and the power of God that can so easily rip through the entire city in just one night. I was in a town that was on CNN and BBC for the entire week when Typhoon Haiyan was predicted to hit the city directly after it ravaged through Philippines. And I learned what it feels like to be in the path of Mother Nature’s wrath, and be in a place where curfews was put in place to ensure the safety of its people.

Most importantly, I learned that you can experience deep kindness and compassion from your client on your work, and my time there showed me what an immense amount of passion, curiosity, and the desire to help can truly do to ones own career and experience in life. 

Nothing after that, work-wise at least felt the same once I returned back to homebase.

February 2014

So in February of this year, after many sleepless nights, lots of conversations, and discussions of the same thing over and over again, countless hours of contemplation and endless prayers to be guided onto my next path in life, I made the decision to finally leave my corporate job. It was one of the most difficult and scariest decision I had ever had to make. The day I decided to have that conversation with the big people, my mouth went completely dry a full hour before the meeting took place. But once the conversation started, it felt like the most natural thing to do. I told them I wanted to go back to school. Traditional Chinese Medicine. The art of healing had always been close to my heart. So had the idea of taking my yoga teachings on a full time basis. I wanted to do both. I had a plan. Teach yoga full time for 7 months. Then commence school for a 5-year full time study. Some colleagues were amazed and encouraging, but I am pretty sure many more think I’ve gone bonkers instead.

That didn’t mean I danced and skipped my way into the non-corporate life. For a whole week after my last day at work, I woke up with a racing heart, thinking “okayyy, what if I can’t make as much as I did before? What if I can’t feed myself from my work as a full time Yoga Instructor?”

May 2014

Late April, a friend from high school connected me with her friend, a person who owned a yoga studio and was about to open another close to where I live. I was given first dibs into that new studio’s schedule that was opening in May, and asked to teach a few sessions to sub other teachers. I went from a maximum of 3-4 classes in a week to 21 classes a week. 

And though that was good for exposure, I did not anticipate the kind of energy that is required to back up a really intense teaching schedule such as that. I was sick for a short while (I believe the consistent yoga practice helped cut the down time and made it wayyy shorter) and powered through 2 classes pretending to be ok when I was really already running a slight fever by that time. The idea of self-care didn’t quite embedded itself deeply in me until that incident. 

Today

Mind Body Breath, the company which I founded was registered sometime in June. Today there are 2 parts to Mind Body Breath, personal, group and corporate yoga which I am responsible of, and personal fitness training program that my sister is currently running with much success as word of mouth spread. As an older sister, I am so absolutely proud of her.

Mind Body Breath has been featured in Healthworks.my with my articles on yoga. 2 of them were published in a national newspaper. In July, I was interviewed by one of the national news and it aired in earlier this month. A few days ago, I received a call from one of the female lifestyle magazine who wants to feature yoga as part of a healthy lifestyle. A lot of times throughout, I had to stop everything that I was doing for a little while, and breathe through the whole surreality of it.

A few months back, I was accepted as an apprentice with Ninie Ahmad, a yoga instructor whom I had always admired and been to her class before many times. She was mentioned in one of my earlier posts here. That whole experience was amazing. To be surrounded by like minded people, felt like I was back in Vikasa in 2012. A few of us now meet once every week, and talk about everything and anything yoga and the healthy natural lifestyle. Next month, I start teaching at her studio too.

On the business front, I became a partner to a cute and hippie yoga studio that first took me in May. I was actually invited to join 2 others to expand the first studio opened in Damansara Perdana. The studio is known as YogaonethatIwant. And just yesterday, we ran our first official event with Clarins in the newly renovated and expanded studio. I am infinitely blessed. 

One of the things that held me back in the corporate world was the family that I had found in all of the people whom I had shared many projects with. I didn’t want to leave a family behind. But I realised, you don’t ever leave a family once you have become part of it. We still keep in touch regularly. I see a select few on an almost weekly basis. In allowing myself to explore the rest of the world outside of the comforts of what I had come to know as my reality then, I have unknowingly become part of 2 new major families that are different in so many ways, yet alike when it comes to our love of yoga.

In October, I will make my first trip to India and finally dive in a month long Ashtanga practice with Saraswathi in Mysore. India had come to be on my list of places to visit since after Vikasa, to make that trip to the place of origin for all things Yoga. In November, I will be running 2 workshops at a national level Yoga Festival in Kuala Lumpur. 

And so here I am. In writing all of these, it is in no way of me to shout and scream about my achievements. If in fact, it is an exercise which I wish to undertake to allow me to reflect back on how far I have come since my last post here. It is a blessing in and of itself to be able to wake up feeling inherently blessed for everything you have got going on in your life.

 

There’s a million destinations and this is one

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This video was blogged about by a fellow yogi-blogger whom I had been following recently. And I have to say, watching it was not only a joy but it became a true highlight of my very long, and very challenging Monday. This was such a breath of fresh air at the end of a long 14 hour day at work. And what a relief it is too.

Tell me that you did not tear up as you watch the transformation in this man, and his sheer determination to walk and run again, all through yoga. I would have to say though, there were parts which I wasn’t sure I would be capable of doing myself had I been in his shoes – those headstands that ended up crashing into the cupboards behind him didn’t look too fun, neither did it looked anything too safe. But he defied all that and found himself capable of walking unassisted and running at the end of 10 months.

What an inspiration this guy must have been to so many others, but to me this video spoke volumes on a number of things the obvious one being the many benefits that one can experience from consistent practice of yoga. Then there is persistence, and absolute faith in yourself that no amount of toppling over from an inverted triangle, crashing over backwards from a supported headstand gone wrong, or even losing balance from the various warrior positions could deter you from trying again, and getting better with it over time.

The message here is crystal clear,  when you believe in yourself, magic happens. It happens not because of some cosmic blessing, but simply because there is complete and absolute belief that you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. There are a million destinations you can arrive at in life. And a million more made possible if only we see past our own doubts and fears. A quote by Ambrose Redmoon that was repeatedly used throughout Srinivasan Pillay in his book on fear and its function in molding the human brain quickly became one of my favorites too – “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear”

I have been practicing yoga irregularly for the last 5 years or so, of which time I have never gone past the fear of breaking my neck (then again who does?). Which really means any poses that require me to be in an inverted position is something that I have been able to avoid with much success. I know this won’t be possible when I begin my teacher’s training course in September. I know most definitely lots of handstands and headstands and ploughs will be in the horizon. Watching this guy crash over backwards while he is upside down taught me that..heck, if he can eventually manage an unsupported headstand, who is to say that I can’t too?

There’s a million constellations and this is one
There’s a million destinations and this is one
There’s a million ways to show your hand
There’s a million ways to prove yourself –
Kaiser Chiefs (Listen to Your Head)