Wednesday, June 27, 2007

It snowed!

Last night, it snowed in Johannesburg for the first time in 26 years. There is a whole generation of people who weren't born then.
The time before that was 1964, I am told.
So much for unseasonably warm winter!

These pics are of my parents' garden
(Mom I hope you don't mind, since I didn't ask permission to post them...)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Borrower

Before I post this (borrowed) piece, I need to tell you all that Anton (the hit and run victim) is on the road to recovery, no serious injuries, and will be back at work next week. Thank you all for your thoughts!

This lovely piece comes from the Moksha newsletter, written by one of their recently graduated teacher trainees:

The Oxford Dictionary defines 'faith' as a 'strong belief or trust'.

I believe that when we practise Yoga we begin to have that strong belief, we begin to have that trust: we begin to have faith in ourselves.

It's a bit like embarking on a train journey: the moment you step from the platform onto the train you take your first step of faith. You may stop along the way, but by just beginning, by just embarking on the journey, by allowing yourself the opportunity, you move your soul towards faith.

Asana is the movement, breath is the progression and in your back pack you have the codes of conduct, yamas, nyamas, and you have sense control, pratyhara. Your interpretation of these as well the diligence with which you practise them, will determine just how much that back pack weighs. Subsequently though, the more you pack in the more you have to draw upon during the ride.

You may break up the journey or take the express. You may change trains along the way or choose to take the non-stop train allowing nothing to detract from your journey. Either way you choose to progress, faith will climb aboard with you.

Of course if you stay on the train, instead of jumping on and off or changing trains all the time, the journey is smoother, the progress more steady and faith holds a lot stronger.

You may find the ride uncomfortable at times but if you sit by the window you will feel the sun warming your face. At times the scenery may be dull but if you stay on board you will see the bright field of sunflowers around the next hilltop. And when the noisy engine overwhelms you, you will sing louder than you ever have and no one on board will mind. So it is that you begin to know the ebb and flow of life and so it is with each experience that faith holds your hand a little tighter.

When we have faith in ourselves we are able to move through life with equanimity. We accept life's fluctuations and are able to make conscious choices within everything we choose to do and say and think and feel. We trust that everything is as it should be.

Yoga takes us to that faith in ourselves. Although the journey requires faith, it gives us the faith we need. As with yoga, discipline is required but yoga gives us that discipline, we need strength for yoga, but yoga gives us that strength.

And so, it is the practise of yoga that gives you the faith to moves towards and keep moving towards your true self and if we then embrace the challenge and surrender to the infinite possibilities that it offers, yoga is like a train ride that never has to stop and it takes you closer to your true self with each passing mile.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Strike, you're out

Warning: this is a rant!

South Africa has been in the throes of a public service strike. I understand that civil servants, who make a country run, need to earn a living wage. I don't understand why teachers at private schools, who earn a decent salary, need to strike. Nor do I understand how striking workers could deny an injured man access to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital after he was the victim of a hit-and-run accident.

This really happened. Yesterday, my housecleaner's son was run over by a car, which didn't stop (great karma to that driver...) A concerned bystander dragged the inert man into a minibus taxi and took him to hospital, where he was told they couldn't go inside for treatment. This is a poor man, not one who has private health insurance, and certainly not one who has enough money to pay the deposit at a private hospital. He may die. The striking healthcare workers made sure of that. To me, it is not OK to deny the sick and injured access to treatment while you are on strike, because the death and suffering that results accrues to your karma.

Today, please send a prayer or thought to this man, as his mother tries to arrange treatment for him.

PS: If you are wondering why I am still a bit erratic on the blogging front, it's because I am disinclined to be online right now, as it seems to make me anxious, but I am thinking of you all in between teaching teaching teaching!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Some more suffering!

Thank you all so much for your outpouring of support in response to my last post. I agree, it is generally not OK to be unkind, if it is at all possible to avoid it. But I also realise I didn't make my point very clearly!

Here is my second, and hopefully clearer, attempt. What I was trying to say is that when we realise that most things are impermanent and will pass out of our lives, we find it easier to go with the flow.

Consider all these things that will be different in ten years:
  • Your age (duh!)
  • Your appearance. There is no avoiding it, you will look at least a little different.
  • Your home. If you haven't moved, which statistically most people do every 7 years, you will have repainted, or your furniture will have got older. Something will be different.
  • Your job. How many of us stay in the same career all our lives? Even if you are doing the same job, it will be different because you will have changed. Maybe you will have learnt more and will be more confident. Maybe you will just be bored.
  • Your relationship. Again, how many of us stay with one partner for life? Not so many, these days. And even if you are with the same person, you will both be different people, interacting in a different and hopefully better way.
  • Your stuff. Chances are you will have a different car, or no car, and different clothes; or the ones you have will be very worn and therefore different than they are now.
  • Your beliefs. If you are a thinking person, as we all are, chances are your ideas are mutable and will change in the light of new information, experience and knowledge.
If all of this has changed, pretty much everything about yourself, then will you still be the same person, the same You? Yes! Because the little part of us that Sees is permanent, immutable, divine. And that is what we are trying to know through the practice of yoga. As Carl says in his comment, we are trying to wipe off our clear sight goggles!

Also, check out a very similar post by Isha. See, we all have this struggle!

As my mother always says,

This too shall pass

Be it good or bad, this too shall pass, for that is the nature of the world.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Suffering and the Self

Yesterday, someone made a disparaging comment about my appearance. It really hurt my feelings. In fact, I am still thinking about it today - one little offhand comment has caused over a day of suffering for me.

Why? Well, in yoga terms, probably because I am afflicted with asmita, I-ness or ego, one of the obstacles to clear sight that the Yoga Sutra refers to as klesas. I am very concerned about how people see me, whether people approve of me, my physical appearance. It is the source of a great deal of my mental suffering. Things have, of course, improved with the advent of a yoga practice, but that is not to say my problems have disappeared. It's just that these days, when I have a 'fat day', I know that I really feel tired, or down, or drained. I still can't find anything to wear on those days, though. So I am a bit more aware; baby step number one?

The real problem is that I am not at all certain who 'I' am: my self-identity is wrapped up in feedback from others, in my job, in my mind, in all those outside things, and the sense of true clear Self comes through only occasionally and not always that comfortably. It is far more comfortable to stay in the established habits and patterns, even if, like worrying about my appearance, they mostly cause pain.

It's gonna be a long journey. I'll send postcards!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Waiting to inhale

I am struggling with internet access, it is sooooo slow, so I will try to get up to date with reading all my fave blogs and comments, but right now, it ain't really happening.

When Husband and I were on holiday last week, we were in a place with clean air, quiet roads and calm surroundings: all the things Johannesburg lacks. As we drove back into the city, a stinky cloud of smog descended on us, and I started to feel like I couldn't breathe in. It got worse when I walked through my front door to be assaulted by a mountain of urgent Things to Do.

So I had a look at my actual breath: if I keep saying I feel like I can't breathe in, what is actually happening?

This, as it turns out:

Inhale, Exhale. Hold, hold, hold, hold, hold GASP for the next inhale.

What a good reminder that if you feel overwhelmed, go first to your breath, because breath and emotions are so closely linked. Since I have been deliberately inhaling, I feel, basically, like I can breathe in again!

Hope you all have a lovely week.
Breathe easy.