Smiling for a little light

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Laughter and Smiles

My year is ending and a new one is beginning. The moon will be at her fullest on the 2nd of this year and I am using its brightness to teach my 3-year-old to lose his fear of the night.  We arrived at our caravan by the sea with hope that our break away would distance us from technology and provide some much-needed time to sit with friends under the stars. Cue gastro. On our first night, the baby woke in with a raging sickness, after 3 days my big boy had it, and then of course the man. So, I am in quarantine. I will not be held responsible for ‘the great campground gastro of 2017!’ The stuff of terrible history books.

This leaves me time to contemplate as I sit by their bedsides, feeling the heat rise out of them and making trips back and forth to the camp laundry… not quite how I envisioned the first week of my holiday but who am I to complain. The weather is beautiful, I have a good book and plenty of time to read it – for the first time since the first born was a baby!

I have been compelled again and again in my yoga to consider laughter, play and joy. It could be said that we have a lot of happiness in my family but I find myself missing laughter, light heartedness and play. We have become serious about the happiness quota and I can’t say its worked in helping us secure it. I spend my days doing all the right things, making sure the children have a warm, secure and loving home. That they have positive educations and good food, but there is something missing.

I complain about this ‘missing’ a fair bit, look at others to bring me laughter, joke with me, play, but I have come to realise that this is my own responsibility. Mine alone and in searching for it outside of myself I am denying my children light and laughter and creating little pockets of sadness in my family. My little earth babies are growing to be compassionate and wise but they struggle to howl with abandon at the full moon and (dare I say it without upsetting dune guardians) run through the sand dunes.

Gastro seemed the perfect laughter challenge so I made a choice. Instead of tackling the giant noun ‘happiness’ as a state of being I would take the beast down by the ankles by looking at the actions involved with it – its verbs; laughing and smiling, and so began my experiment. I thought it would take more than 7 days to have something to share but the results of this trial have been almost immediate. I spoke to the (long suffering) man and he agreed (as he always does) to join me in laughter. Why wouldn’t he though. He was used to me waking up tired after being waken through the night by a boy afraid of the dark, stomping through the house without making eye contact because I was exhausted / grumpy, feeding the kids and faking a smile to them before getting them off to their days. The alternative was that we wake up and smile, follow it with a laugh – preferably great big belly laughs at nothing in particular. I can see why he agreed so quickly to choose laughter.

We are 7 days in and there is a wonderful change… even through sickness we have smiled, we have seen the sun, the moon, the bluest of seas. We have gazed in wonder at sharks (from the safety of the beach through polaroid glasses)… in short, we have seen the world even from containment. In fact, the baby is sleeping through the night thanks to the light of the moon although may the gods give me strength when it wanes again.

I’ve set some rules –  because I’m the goddess of this story so, why shouldn’t I? The man has a special rule just for him because he’s such a stickler for his own rules.

Rule 1: Smile when we wake in the morning and then follow it with a laugh

Rule 2: The husband must break one of his own rules a day (my rules don’t count)

Rule 3: Ignore all the annoying things the children do and focus on the (even slightly) good things

Rule 4: Laugh whenever we remember too – or smile as often as possible. Even better is to make eye contact and throw back our mad heads in laughter

That is all. 4 rules. By day 2 I found myself singing welcome to the house of fun as my children looked up at me from the bucket… crazy what a few smiles can achieve. Crazy how crazy I am.

As a disclaimer to any of you doubting the possibility of this let me also add that I was at the angriest stage of my cycle. Can you believe it? We’ll see though. I still haven’t been struck down with the bug. Let’s see if I can laugh my way through that one.

Want to take the experiment further? Check out:

Read:
Laughter, Tears, Silence; Pragito Dove
The laughter Yoga book; Jeffery Briar

Follow:
Osho
Hotei (the happy buddha)

Sing:
Kirtan to sing yourself to joy

Watch:
Dops of Joy; Producer Juliana Borges

I need more! So please leave any readings, funny stuff, resources or ideas about laughter and joy. I would love to hear your own experiments and experiences within this concept so please feel free to comment.

This is us

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they are usOn the 15th of March I sat in the early morning sunshine and heard a statement that startled me and which I immediately rejected. This was as I listened to Maja Angelou and delighted in her grace, courage and forgiveness. She asked that we as humans consider the famous quote by Terence “I am a Human being, nothing human can be alien to me.”  She begged me to consider that any act, good or evil, if a human being did it then I as a human have in me all the components that are in that human. When we become aware and acknowledge what humans are capable of then we are able to actively use our energies with intention constructively rather than destructively. Little did I know that I would be forced into thinking about this statement even more a short time later that day.

In the wake of the latest attack on religious faith a wave of grief has fallen over our beautiful country and the kind souls within it. The world has expressed shock that this could ever have happened in this country. I have sat with people shaken and despairing and have heard more times than I can count the ways that people are attempting to remove themselves from the killers, and the killers from them.

It’s taken a range of guises; ‘He’s not a kiwi’, ‘He’s Australian’, ‘He’s a skinhead’, ‘As a mass murderer he is seeking fame don’t feed it’. I’ve called the killers out as being less evolved and unconscious beings.

There are the frames of support on social media as people are swept up time and again in the hurt that humanity is feeling. It’s palpable, I can see it on the faces, in the anxious words and in the agonised energy. The frame that strikes me most is the one that reads ‘This is not who we are!’ because I can’t help wondering who the ‘who’ is. Is it New Zealand? Because it is with sadness that I note it is who we are, it happened and it is irreversible. Or is it humans? Because again I note with certainty that this is who we are, whether Kiwi, Australian, American, male or female we have shown ourselves as a species very capable of atrocities.

So actually this is who we are, because we are human and the one who acted was a human. If we can open our mind to that then perhaps we can connect and see more clearly and prevent these acts. I totally understand trying to disengage from the horror but we are all human and when one part of that humanity becomes disconnected then they act in a way that doesn’t support the organism but instead as a cancer that begins to destroy it.

I have watched a friend battle with cancer of the skin. He had to become incredibly aware of what his body was doing so that he knew when the cancer cell appeared and he was able to treat it. If he had tried to remove himself from the organism that is his body he would have been unable to see clearly what was occurring and the mutation would have gone on to be incurable. Instead he is healing his skin and noticing when something else arises that needs to be treated. Instead of turning his face away from the mirror he is looking closely and openly.

This is true of the wonder and joy as well that is inherent in our nature. Lets not forget that. Kindness is all around us and we are powerfully holding space for those who are folding in grief. There is compassion and intelligence in this organism of humanity. That is surely why each member is feeling the pain of the lives lost so acutely, because we are human. All of us. Regardless of our labels and the communities closest to us. To attack one another for our differences is as nonsensical as a leg kicking out at an arm because it has fingers and not toes.

 

 

 

Some goals for 2019

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See things as they truly are. That way you can implement change or practice acceptance and get on with it.

Love yourself, even the dark parts, shine light on them and let them breathe.

Stop using plastic, don’t aim to use less, don’t hope to do better, it’s too late for that so just make a change now.

Buy 2nd hand. We’ve produced enough crap to keep circling the globe a number of times so let’s use it again.

Be Kind, to the person next to you in line, the person trying to merge into the stream of traffic, the neighbour who shouts, your children, just be kind.

Love our children, and they are all of ours, when they smile, smile back. Let them be free, don’t force them to conform to old fashioned expectations that don’t do any of us any good. We need them to be creative energetic thinkers, not quiet frightened boxes that we can stack neatly.

Respect this planet and the creatures that live here, in the oceans, the land or even in your houses. Re-home that spider if you can’t live with it, don’t kill it just because you don’t understand it.

Move more, ride your bike when you need to get somewhere close by, stretch when you wake in the morning, get to know your aches and pains, accept them or relieve them. You can’t escape your body so enjoy living in it.

Don’t judge or gossip. We are all on this planet doing the best we can do with what we have been given, understand that sometimes you just don’t understand.

Look around and notice the beauty, look up, look down, look inside and see. The light, the dark and the smudges of colour in between.

Know that you’re ok, just as you are, just as you’ve always been, whatever it is that you find know you are loved.

Eat less beef and consume less dairy. Excessive dairy farming is not great for our planet, science has proven it plenty.

Take responsibility and act, when you see someone crying ask if they’re ok, pick up the plastic you see on the side of the road. There’s not point being annoyed at the person at fault. If you don’t act that person is you.

Find purpose and community, if that seems a daunting task then start with this list and pretty soon you’ll find you have both.

Wild Women

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Maybe we are a little bit mad

We rage

We have dirt on our feet

Our homes don’t sparkle

We don’t obey the rules of ‘pretty’

But look at the joy!

On the faces of our unkempt kids

Or in our child-free eyes

See the laughter that is around us all

As we connect

As we dance

As we be whatever we are

Unashamedly

Peeling the layers

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I have been busy peeling back layers in my house lately. It feels like a cleanse, like I’m purging the past of my home and bringing it to sit comfortably in the present.

In the present, it looks like I am living in a cardboard box. There is something quite humbling about its simplicity, its plainness and the transformation that I am watching.  Sometimes I peel back the paper and underneath it there is writing from the original build. That wonderful sloping, looped writing that my own Pop used to use. He was a builder and I find myself thinking about him sometimes. That dear quiet old chap. He was old when I met him and didn’t seem to change much until he faded out and died. Pop was so solid and unpretentious, yet his writing was beautiful like the script on my wall. William, Bill back then of course. Simple and yet probably more complicated than my child brain could understand. So much knowledge in his great, big, gentle old paws. He used to bang nails into wood out in his old shed and thread string around them to make patterns, back and forth, colours crossing each others paths. Pop kept cockatiels out in his shed that he hand reared. Those gnarly old hands feeding the little creatures and scratching behind their heads so that they became trusting pets. They rode around on his shoulders watching the world. Yet he was tough. He’d seen the war and when I asked him about it he would tell me short recounts of the elephant dung beetles who rolled poo to cover the entranceways of their homes. Then he would go back to whistling and utter a ‘wacky doo’ if I kept up any chatter… although I was pretty quiet back then as well.

I used to struggle with nostalgia – or remembering. It never sat well with me as I would feel a sense of dissatisfaction when I recalled past events. Now I just remember, without attaching  much to the experience outside of gratitude. Gratitude to where I have been, who I have crossed paths with, and what I am now.

In yoga we consider much of the practice to be a way of peeling back the sheaths of experience, letting go of past hurts and heartaches, sitting within any discomfort and accepting the present. This practice has been such a lesson for me.

I peeled back the layers of my house and found builders writing that spoke in whispers of a time long past. I also found this giraffe which my children have asked me to keep until the very end of the task. She will be the last piece of paper to come off the wall.

It occurs to me often when I speak to people of progression that it is not holding the most strenuous and challenging physical pose. It is exposing the very core of us. Stilling the chatter of the mind until we come to sit quietly within our centre… our ‘self’. Unearthing the very essence of us and loving all that it is with compassion and kindness.

Namaste

Sonya Simpson

@Sonyasimpsonyoga23584064_10154830856065689_1835202377_o

Ahimsa… Bless you.

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As a yoga teacher one of the questions I am frequently asked is what my own home practice looks like. I know that my students are expecting an answer that details the strength of my poses, the sophistication of my arm balances, the sheer complication of my sequencing. Instead I am telling them that currently my practice is based around the Yama of Ahimsa. I am sure that this must be a theme amongst many yogis. There comes a time when the practice becomes incredibly internal. Perhaps this happens early or maybe this is a long time coming. For myself I think it happened at a subconscious level a long while before completing my training and thereby deepening my practice, but it was during my training that I developed a heightened awareness of self.

So currently it is the Yama of Ahimsa that I am considering; Respect for all living things and avoidance of violence towards others, compassion, kindness, love, benevolence. There is so much that this Yama encompasses. In line with this Yama I am drawn to Marshall Rosenberg and his dialogues on Non-violent communication. As a mother of 2 sometimes charming and occasionally challenging young boys I am getting plenty of opportunities to practice. As I sit here trying my best to write, my 2-year-old is sitting in the hallway dressed as a pirate ‘reading’ a book. He has already come out to my computer and tugged on my PJ’s to show me that he can whistle – he can’t. All this would be cute if it weren’t for the fact that he should have been asleep over an hour ago… truth be told it is still kind of cute but it is testing my level of calm, kind responses. In the past 5 minutes, I have watched him out of the corner of my eye scale the couch, balance carefully and walk along the back of it and he is now about to play my Tibetan bowl – no wait – he wants some banana and apparently, he’s still awake because him and I are both grow-nuts.

If Rosenberg is an unfamiliar name then he’s worth a Google search, if more people could follow his teachings on effective communication it could provide a more peaceful planet. He outlines 4 areas; Observations, Feelings, Needs and Requests. Developing these areas enables us to express how we are and what we need, and to understand with empathy how another is and what they need.

I watched Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary ‘The Flood’ recently and this filled me with dread but also some hope. Surely our society can take the concept of non-violence to a level where we can live peacefully alongside our planet. I have made some major changes to a lifestyle that was already based around reducing my carbon footprint. I am working hard so that I can find a way to live in a home with solar power and a rather large water tank or natural spring nearby. I have taken steps to become the Kaitiaki (guardian) of my surrounding rivers by stopping in to clear them of rubbish so that I can implement change in my own small way.

At a more simplistic level I am listening to my body and the cues that it gives me. I’m conscious of the tension in my shoulders and I’m enquiring as I move to see how I can alleviate this. This exploration and curiosity is something I encourage my students to delve into as well. Be fluid, be gentle, be kind and be self-aware. I am listening to my students and friends, acknowledging their concerns or issues and attempting to redirect them to their inner wisdom. That place of wonderful, deep knowing that resonates from the centre.

There are times when I fall from the wagon of Ahimsa but I am starting to climb back on with more ease, less aches and much more confidence. It would be rather too un-yogic for me to say that this is my favorite exploration yet… so I won’t.

Musings about muses

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I recently watched a wonderful Ted talk by Elizabeth Gilbert on the influence of muses and the idea that our inspiration could be due to divine connection. The talk rang so true for me that I watched it with tears in my eyes. I stopped writing a couple of years ago after being told that I was wasting my time (amongst other things). The comment came from someone close to me whom I love and respect, and from that moment the writing just didn’t happen.

Writing had always done just that, ‘happened’. It wasn’t something that I did or chose, instead it was a thing that came upon me all of a sudden, frequently, words appearing in my head and having to be recorded quickly before they were gone again. If I was able to record them they stayed imprinted on my brain, repeating at seemingly unrelated moments with strong force.  This was true for poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Occasionally an image or a tune would be thrust into my mind and I would attempt to record it at haste, which was always more difficult due to my lack of skill in the areas of visual art and music.

I’ve always felt that the creativity came from somewhere other than my concious self and that I was just supposed to record the moments. For what reason I was never sure but my life has always been littered with scraps of paper scattered with verse, books full of part written stories, snippets of prose and strong, powerful paragraphs. Some of this writing came from my own experience but much of it came from a place unknown. Smart phones with their added recording devices made my life easier as I was able to quickly record words, hummed tunes, lyrics and ideas as they flowed to mind. My existence was full of creativity. The act of writing made me feel refreshed and happy, I’d wake in the morning and know life was simply wonderful. Sometimes it took a while to remember that this feeling of wellbeing had come from something as simple as creative output.

As I put this to text I realize that since I stopped writing the messages that were once imprinted with a seeming permanence have become shadowy. I find it hard to recall them and realize that they haven’t repeated themselves for a long time. It dawns on me that since I closed my mind to this creativity that it simply hasn’t visited me again. Like a guest who has worn out their welcome and slipped away feeling hurt but without saying a word.

Are we indeed vessels for Daimons, muses, divine inspiration, genius? I certainly always felt like a vessel for the creativity that occurred. So have I closed my mind to it, or without practice have I simply lost the ability to easily access that area of my brain?

A friend who is an paid writer is unsure of all this. She earns a living with her writing, it is  deliberate, a job and is pulled apart and then put back together differently depending on who wants to use her work. I see her point but still… there is something great about the opportunity to give creatives an out, or to see things as something greater than oneself.

I for one am feeling inspired again. Even if my genius is a bit of a novice still but I am left to ponder, is it an outside force that inspires us to write, sending creativity down to us? Or is it more our knowing self, burning away in the background unseen and then pouring something forth to us at a more conscious level, leaving our thinking selves surprised and elated. Either way; In my mind creativity is a touch from the divine, either the true self speaking outwardly or the muse producing inspiration within.

Greek muses for you to muse:

  1. Clio: History and guitar
  2. Euterpe: Musical instruments
  3. Thalia: Comedy, geometry, architectural science and agriculture
  4. Melpomene: Tragedy
  5. Terpsichore: Dance
  6. Erato: Love and Poetry
  7. Polyhymnia: Divine hymns, mimic art, geometry and grammar
  8. Ourania: Celestial objects and stars
  9. Calliope: The superior muse who protected heroic poems and rhetoric art

Examples of genius to muse:

Said Walter Isaacson on a biography about Steve jobs: Was Jobs smarter than everyone else? “No, not exceptionally,” Isaacson writes. “Instead, he was a genius. His imaginative steps were instinctive, unexpected, and at times magical.”

British Literary critic William Hazlitt: The definition of genius is that it acts unconsciously; and those who have produced immortal works, have done so without knowing how or why. The greatest power operates unseen.

Socrates: beautiful poems are not human, not even from human beings, but are divine and are from gods; that poets are nothing but representatives of the gods, possessed by whoever possesses them.