a year in review

Thank you, sweet retrospection, for allowing me to weave together a narrative so easily from what felt like a swirling unknown. This account is on the one hand, a navel-gazing reflection on my last year, and on the other, a swan dive into my learnings on consciousness, healing, and some Vedic philosophy.

This is how my life and understanding of the world has unfolded from the day I moved to Melbourne: November 8th, 2017. It takes us up to a year later: today, November 8th, 2018. Okay, now it’s November 9th. But this monster of a piece was firmly, and satisfyingly, started on the 365th day after I moved here.

I thrive on cold, hard, well-rounded dates.

If you don’t like the sound of my navel already, I won’t be offended if you move on.

Months 1-5 (November-March)

Every part of time touches every other part of time. You just have to find the right structure.
John McPhee

I moved here independently, without solid friends or family. It was a city I had lived in as a backpacker for three months, but still, it’s one of things where you look back and go: hey – that was brave of me – thank you, past self.

My first order of business was partying. I have met so many of my dear friends on the dance floor, and I didn’t know how else to break in to a new place. And with my time and energy being spent in those circles, I stopped nurturing my yoga practice and seeking out the conscious activities that I knew I loved, from my previous months in Bali and Guatemala. I listened to lots of good music and had many laughs and admired many Australian trees and skies – but I felt untethered. I was drifting.

Months 6-7 (April-May)

Exhale dissolves endless forms back to their roots, like petals falling from a flower.
Richard Freeman

Then I got sick. I stayed in bed. And I got very depressed. I went from extroversion to introversion, and in this period, I had the chance to ask myself: who, and what, remains when you cannot go to parties? When your soul is so gray you do not want to look anyone in the eyes? How do you find joy when your body is in no state to move?

I fell, as I always have, to my mat.

My sacred space is a little rubber rectangle on the ground. The teachings of yoga had already changed me, and saved me, before – but my regular practice remained rooted in the physical world. For the first time, last fall, I discovered the yoga of the heart.

My practice shifted from sweaty vinyasa flows and arm balances to me laying on my mat burning incense and listening to Tibetan signing bowls. I felt physically and mentally incapable of doing anything else. It sounds a little dramatic, but I really would break open my yoga books, dripping tears on the page, to have hope again. Actually – it’s not dramatic.

It’s divine.

I began delving into aromatherapy, finding essentials oils as a new healing mechanism. Sound baths. Self massage – learning to release your own muscles and trigger points. I started journaling with intent. I listened to yoga nidra sessions and guided meditations for recovering addicts – even though I’ve never been much of an addict, I liked the talk of recovery.

I needed to recover something in my soul. It was a forced surrender, and a much needed awakening.

Months 8-9 (June-July)

I am turned; I am tumbled; I am stretched, along these long lights, these long waves, these endless paths.
Virginia Woolf

During my break from uni, I went from Melbourne winter to balmy Taipei summer to dry European summer. My sicknesss (which I had blamed on the cold or germs circulating in sharehouses) remained.

My throat wanted to swell up to the point of closing. I was spitting orangey phlegm in the sink in the morning. But I was purging something deeper-rooted than the mere symptoms of irritated tonsils and a runny nose. My body was screaming for me to listen to what it was saying – but I felt like I didn’t have the energy to find out.

Then it was the full moon in Capricorn. I was staying for a night in a strange hotel in Berlin, between Airbnbs, and I turned and turned in starchy hotel sheets. In my dreamworld, I held my fragile inner child in my arms. I woke up not knowing where I was or what I had just experienced, then I went to teach my first yoga class in six months – voice still raspy, body exhausted from the strange night. And I felt the continuation of the path I had forgotten about: the train tracks shifting back in the heart line.

When I began to listen, the body said: feel deeply how the physical and energetic fields react when we are not following the heart. The inner child said: heal me by making up for whatever happiness you lacked before. The moon said: pay attention to the pull of my phases on your consciousness.

And my heart said: you have had to learn to pick up the pieces, to heal yourself again, again, so you can be a healer, too.

It was like I had turned to see myself for the first time. It is terrifying and electrifying to come face to face with your deepest darkness.

Perhaps even more so to see your undying light.

Month 10 (August)

The universe is represented in every one of its particles. Everything is made of one hidden stuff. The world globes itself in a drop of dew.

I arrived back in a much colder Melbourne than anticipated. The sickness swelled again, and along came the sadness. I wanted the hard shit to be over, I felt like I had done ‘enough’ healing. As my very wise acupuncturist, V, tells me, it’s not about checking the boxes. She reminds me that sometimes we think our body is too slow to catch up to our state of mind – but as with so many of our silly human notions, the opposite is true.

The body is telling us what the mind does not yet know.

We are not taught to listen to our bodies. To regard it as anything else but the receptacle for our thoughts. How quick we are to dismiss it – to blame it – even to hate it. Our bodies are our filters, our vessels, our temples. Unfathomable amounts of information in the form of DNA. Cells come to life. The nose grows into a nose. Synapses synergize into sentences. It is also a meat sack, in the process of dying the second it is born – sure – but it’s my meat sack vessel of the divine.

In this period, I knew my body was telling me something was left yet that needed connecting and clicking – but what, I did not know. It was like being a wet bundle of sticks that wanted to be a fire: I could feel only a tempered joy.

Month 11 (September)

Then, the seer abides in her own true splendor.
– Patanjali, Sutra 1.3

After already canceling plans to attend a festival-type gathering in Portugal over the summer, I had been planning on going to Burning Seed at the end of September. I wanted to be extroverted and fun again. Surely the experience would have given me what I needed in its own way, but I had gotten in the habit of listening to my self enough to know it was still the time for rest.

I went to Bali instead – Bali, Bali, healing mama Bali.

On my first full day in Ubud, I went to a workshop with Mark Whitwell – whose ethos can be summed up nicely, in his own words that I scribbled in my notebook: you are the power of the cosmos rising as pure intelligence and unspeakable beauty. This yoga practice, that is the notion of non-dualism and divine wholeness, stretches back to the Vedas and the Upanishads – and I have the utmost respect for his teachings.

On that day, however, what resonated with me the most was his spiel about union between lovers (not in a sexualized neo-tantra way), but in a love way. When he said, sometimes on the healing path, you seek out solitude as safety and avoidance – I realized I had been a closed off little yogi. Hardened to the beauty of intimacy and vulnerability, I had not been open to love, and thus hadn’t met anyone, for a long time.

That afternoon, I went to an incredible workshop with Bex Tyrer on unwinding the feminine. There, my budding thoughts about the power of shakti, receptivity, and intuition bloomed, and I fell into a deeper embodiment of my female form. Then, the perfect end of a first day in Ubud: I went to ecstatic dance. Dancing is my preferred form of self-expression – I like to intake and absorb, then allow it to flow through movement – and the ecstatic dance at the Yoga Barn is my high-vibrating happy place.

And it’s there, after input processed through expression, that I found my untempered joy. There, I found the heart switch. There, I found shakti sisterhood. There, I found the juicy warmth my body was craving. There, radiant joy. The singing of the soul. There I found the space to dance. There I found repeated confirmation of my journey – of our collective journeys, on this Earth.

There I found the joy, the joy, the joy.

Month 12 (October into November)

From pure consciousness, which is of the nature of absolute bliss, all beings arise, by it are they sustained, and it they reenter at death.
– Taittiriya Upanishad, 3.6.1

A few days after getting back from Bali, I did meet someone.

I told V about my feeling of mild heartbreak when it came to a natural and amicable end. She said, honey, that feeling of missing isn’t him – it’s you. She taught me that every heartbreak, however small, romantic or otherwise, is a precious healing opportunity. All the times we come together, our heart opens up. When we pull apart – from something, from someone, from a notion of an idea we got attached to – we see the illusions for what they are.

We see what cracks need a little filling.

But, you may be thinking, if we are born whole and made of pure consciousness – why are there cracks in the first place?

As explained in the Advaita Vedanta, a non-dualistic sub-school of Vedantic philosophy, the separation stems from the existence of the material world. Or rather, the lack of the existence of the material world. We live in a world that is, at its core, as much ‘is’ as ‘is not’. As such we fall under the sway of maya, or cosmic delusion; an example of which is ahamkara, the separation of the self.

Then there is the societal, psychological stuff – alongside real suffering, sickness, slavery – that we as humans created and live embroiled in. Can we really blame this tenuous ego, arisen from a meat sack, for getting a little cracked and confused under the weight of cosmic delusion?

Right Now

Nothing remains but light untangling itself from what is not there.
– Unknown Source

So the point is – the point of all my words, I mean, not life itself, because the Vedas did seem to figure it out rather nicely for us, a thousand five hundred years ago – is that the latest piece of my journey, in this very moment, is to enjoy that our journeys are of the unsolvable, experiencing kind.

I think it would be rather boring if we could just tick the boxes and be done with it. I like coming together and pulling apart. I like seeing how the brain ravels. I like diverting my energy back to source, keeping my circles small and sacred. I like this meat sack vessel of the divine. I like finding myself amidst a cosmos swollen with sight and sound.

And I like you, if you like my navel enough to read this far.

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