Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Warming up

Today I had my new favorite breakfast as mentioned in the last post.  It was delicious.  If I had a better camera, I would have taken a photo, although I don't know that it looked as good as it tasted.  Porridge isn't the prettiest of foods.

Also, yesterday a package arrived on the doorstep for me, 24 balls of organic merino wool.  In eight beautiful, natural colours.  My hands are about to get busy.  So much crocheting is going to happen.  Typing this post is actually a great crochet warm up.  Agile fingers are a must.  Hats and neck warmers and monsters coming soon.

This morning I stopped for a coffee on the way to practice, and the organic bakery near my house makes a mean long black. (Americano for my North American friends)  It is nice to walk in to a bustling local establishment on a crisp autumn morning, and be recognized by the staff, greeted with a smile, even when they are being pummeled by the morning rush, and treated as a regular.  They know my name, they know what I want.  Part of what is nice about staying in one place for a while is this sort of familiarity.  Cafe culture is alive and well in the Bondi area; everywhere you go there are little hole-in-the wall places where you can get a hot drink, and a snack, and the locals support these businesses fiercely.  Today is a public holiday, Anzac day, to honour and remember Australian and Kiwi involvement in military operations, but was originally to mark their efforts at Gallipoli in WW1.  Many people seemed to be up and about quite early, perhaps to get to various ceremonies or commemorative events, but an awful lot of people tied a stop at a cafe into their plans for the morning.  Usually the streets are quiet in this part of town until at least 8AM, except for the garbage trucks, which are exceptionally noisy.

Things are warming up in the yoga room as well, the attendance is picking up both in the morning and in the afternoon/evening schedule; the amount of energy and heat in the room is intensified with each extra person.  My evening classes have been a good mix of regular, established practitioners with brand new beginners, and the students in the beginners courses are absolutely frothing.  It is great to see them so excited about learning and breathing and exploring new avenues of movement in their bodies.  Teaching later in the day means that I have been starting my practice a bit later in the morning,  and it feels a bit indulgent after waking up at stupid-o-clock in Mysore to cruise into the shala at 7 or 7:30.  On a cold morning though, walking in to a room that is warm and steamy is gorgeous. 

Winter is coming, and cold weather is no fun, but with warm breakfasts, beautiful coffee shops, crocheting, and a job in a cozy room among lovely people who inspire me daily, I can't really complain. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New Favorite Breakfast!

With the weather in Sydney getting colder as autumn creeps in, my body has been asking for really comforting, nourishing foods.  Last week I went to make oats for breakfast, and decided to get a bit creative.  If you want to best porridge ever, while the oats are cooking add in:
~one plum (or two if they are small), cut into manageable bite size bits
~cinnamon to taste
~a pinch of salt
~a handful brazil nuts (chop them up a bit if you want)
~one or two dried figs (also chopped up)
~a spoonful of chia seeds (you might need to add a bit of extra water because chia soaks up heaps of it)

Put all the extra goodies in when your oats go in so they have time to cook a bit too, and yum-o.  I had never considered having plum added into porridge before (I usually use apple or banana or berries), until I had some in a muffin a couple weeks ago.  It adds a really nice flavour, and with the figs in there, you don't really need any extra sugar or honey or anything.  Looking out the window at the rain bucketing down makes me think that this will most definitely be breakfast again today.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Without faith? Without love?

In the last few days I have read several blogs that delve into the topics of love and faith in practice, questioning the idea that one can actually love yoga, or that faith is detrimental in a quest for truth.  I don't normally think too much about these flare ups of interest in the yoga blogging community, as I am never sure that my opinions are really relevant to anyone other than myself, but this is a topic that I feel particularly strongly about.  My humble thoughts for you to read.  Or not?  Either way is ok by me.

When the idea of loving yoga is looked at as an impossibility, because of the gritty, challenging, visceral effect of the ashtanga practice, I look at something like my relationship with my family.  It is not an easy go, and 9 times out of 10, I wind up angry or depressed or a combination of the two when I go to visit them for any extended period of time.  (Sorry mum, I know you don't like hearing that.)Do I love them any less for bringing out a side of me that I would rather didn't still exist?  No.  It is hard, it is work, but it is still love.  If you look at the practice through a romantic comedy falling in love montage sort of perspective, then there is definitely no comparison.  It is to me the kind of relationship that asks everything of you, but in return, provides a strong, steady mind and body, and a way to burn through negative patterns and come out the other side, weary and worn, but with the courage and the fortitude to move forward.  I will say it loud and proud. 

I love yoga.

Faith is an idea that I have struggled with through childhood and adolescence.  As a child going to church didn't have anything to do with spirituality or God, but it meant singing and playing games in Sunday school.  When I got older, I was pretty cynical about the idea  of some benevolent being up in the sky watching down on the world as people die or starve or suffer.  None of it made sense.  No faith was there.  With the practice, I have somehow managed to set aside all that disbelief and find faith, because in ashtanga yoga, so much of the process is the responsibility of the practitioner.  You do these poses, in this order.  You make shapes, and you breathe.  Don't think, just do. Too much thinking, nothing happening.  Stop thinking.  Breathe.  It's possible.  Try this for yourself.  See what happens.  The idea of faith goes hand in hand with devotion (to me), and Sharath talks often in conference about the necessity of the two.  If you have no faith, if you can't dispel the disbelief, you will never allow the practice to work.  Without devotion, and dare I say a bit of love as well, you won't be able to get yourself on your mat, 6 days a week for an extended period of time, long enough to reap all the benefits of yoga.  I don't have a copy of the sutras on hand, and I don't have them memorized, but I know there is most definitely a sutra that states pretty well that.  Practicing for a long time, uninterrupted, with devotion is necessary.  Key ingredients.  The quest for truth is a common pursuit among yoga students, and the idea that having faith can be an impediment along to road to discovering what is true is something Nobel discusses based on a comment left on his blog.  He argues in defense of shraddha, as not an idea of blind, unquestioning faith, but as an anchor from which to explore.  He writes well, follow the link and read it for yourself. 

Practicing without faith, without, love, without devotion, would be a depressingly futile process to me.  If you are looking at just the asana, and only trying to get a bit of exercise, than maybe it would be ok.  Letting go of the ego, the sense of the self, and surrendering to something greater requires a degree of faith.  Can it be any other way?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sunday musings, and a list

Some meandering thoughts today.

Last weekend I ventured out into the city right around the time I am usually getting ready for bed and watched the lights go out for Earth Hour.  It was really captivating to walk around near the opera house and the bridge and hear all sorts of people talking about which lights they thought would stay on or go off, or what other cities might be doing for the occasion.  It is probably one of the easiest global environmental movements to join, and seeing so many people involved and informed was really exciting.  A photo of the opera house just before the lights went down, taken with a very old camera, so please excuse the out of focus-ness...

And heck, I'll throw in a picture of the Harbour Bridge, and one of Luna Park too, just for fun...

Like I said, out of focus, but, with this particular camera, it is the best I can do with night-time photography. 

Memo to self: invest in a new camera.

Changing topics here entirely, getting settled in such a big city has been a bit of an effort.  I don't know anyone, and it has been a big adjustment after being in Dunsborough last year, where after about a week you couldn't go anywhere in town without bumping into someone you know.  A whole new chapter in getting comfortable in my own company, reminiscent of when I lived in Indonesia.  There are some things that I am getting to really like about Sydney though, so I will do something I don't often do, and write a list.

5 Things I like about Sydney

1. People on the bus will offer their seat  to anyone who looks like they may need it more.  Not only to really old people or disabled people.  I have seen this many times, on multiple bus routes, and it is nice to see that thoughtfulness is still alive and well.
2.  The variety of food available to purchase both in cafes and shops is fantastic.  After narrowly avoiding scurvy in India, my taste buds are demanding all sorts of different things, and it is easy to get sushi, or Vietnamese food, or all the ingredients for an amazing salad, or a fresh baked vegan muffin.  After 3 months of mostly Indian food, sushi tastes especially delicious, and I can't imagine the novelty will wear off soon. 
3.  The beach is ten minutes from my house, so if I wake up early, I can spend a few minutes before yoga watching the sunrise and the surfers, and breathing in the beautiful sea air. 
4.  There are a mind blowing number of things to do.  Next month there is a writer's festival happening, the contemporary art museum is free (haven't been yet, but plan to go soon), there is a wealth of history in the multiple museums in the city, and every time I look in the newspaper there are lists of different dance/theatre/opera/music performances happening at various venues.
5.  Multiculturalism.  Sydney-siders come in all shapes and colours and sizes and from seemingly all corners of the globe.  Being exposed to all sorts of cultures is deeply appealing to me, and it also means that as a foreigner, I am able to blend in to the crowd of non-Australians a little bit. 
6.  So I said it was a list of five things.  I thought of another.  It will be a list with a bonus entry: community.  There are so many things happening to draw neighbourhoods together.  Farmer's markets, 'grow it local' events, impromptu sing-a-longs at cafes.  (I have witnessed two in the Bondi area, maybe it was just chance?)   Pretty cool.

Changing topics again.

Practicing in a room with other people is a good thing.  Having a bit of space between your yoga mat and the next person's mat is also a good thing.  I miss the energy of being in the shala in Mysore, but am enjoying being able to take up a bit more space.  A job offer came to me from the Jois shala here, so that is where I will be practicing and working for the next few months.  More on that in another post.

Enough for one blog post I think.  It jumps around a bit, but I suppose after being a bad lady and not blogging for a couple of weeks, everything wants to come out at once.  

Next post will be more focused.  I hope.

Happy Easter!