How do you blog about an indescribable process? One where your basic molecular structure and all the ether in between is stirred and churned and transformed into something resembling you, but a you so vastly transformed. How to put into words with my thinking mind, an experience so felt and so profound that it awakened an entirely new discourse within myself?
It’s been a month since becoming a certified yoga instructor through the School of Sacred Arts YTT, in Bali and the lessons are still landing and the seeds, some of which I didn’t even realise had been planted, surfacing and blooming. Seeds nourished by the light of wisdom from the exquisite SOSA co-founder Simone MacKay and her beautiful teaching team. Seeds that were already planted in the soil of my soul that I had forgotten to nurture, that had been stifled by fears. Seeds that through deep enquiry and surrender I finally allowed to be nourished by my tears. Small seeds that are rooting down throughout my entire being, throughout every synapse, vein and cell and from such depths having the strength to sprout upwards and outwards, expanding the possibilities of my existence, far beyond what the mind can understand, the heart can feel or the eye can see.
Each morning at “0630” (time being an interpretative construct for some of us), 6 days a week, for a month, we gathered for meditation, pranayama and asana with teachers who clearly had been supping on some yogic elixir of youth and beauty, despite holding wisdom of eons, they still managed to arrive radiantly to morning practice. Yogis are weird people.
During our morning practice we took noble silence. There is so much to be learnt from quiet and as the days went by, I didn’t want to check my phone when I woke up, instead my eyes could take in the quietly smouldering reds and oranges of the morning sun, casting Ubud into silhouettes stretching into motion on the faint breeze. I found there was no need for music in my headphones as life provided it straight to my ears. The harmonious ballets of the geckos, frogs, barking dogs, mosquitos and the chicken’s morning chorus. The crackle and hum of distant motorbikes and soft chatter of the early rising workers accompanied my journey in to the yoga barn. Each morning I was embraced by the sticky heat that envelops your entire body, penetrating your lungs and trickling out your pores. The smell of sweating plants and spice and gutters infused with the sweet scent of frangipani and smoking incense from offerings to the deities drifting in and out of my awareness. I would reach our sacred space of the Lotus studio where I would leave everything behind me, except the mosquitos that seemed to find you no matter how much bug spray or layers of clothing you tried to deceive them with.
Our practices together were stunning, mind blowing, body shattering, muscle redefining, sage and Palo Santo blessed, posture aligning, modifying practices that become more and more sacred as time goes on. When I signed up for my teacher training I thought it would be like a month’s boot camp, yoga-bot themed learning off the cues and alignment of the asana practice but there are no straight lines in nature and apparently no straight answers from yogis just ‘maybes’ and ‘it depends’.
That said, by all accounts we got absolutely yoga’d off our tits (and testicles lads!)! We took all the vinyasas, there was inverted twerking, contortions of the body I thought I may never get out of or I would stare blankly at people who could get their bodies into (mainly Randall!). I stood on my hands, I dropped back into wheel pose.
We were strengthened, sequenced, conditioned and aligned to the highest standard for our individual bodies and along the way we started to learn to align to the truth in our hearts and then teach from that space.
In order to access my truth - to see, know and love, I had to face being seen, known and loved myself. I didn’t anticipate that I would cry most days of my immersion, especially during yin yoga (sometimes even at yin yoga merely being mentioned!) Tears of immense joy, tears holding the weight of the world, tears of sheer, blissful love, tears of the highest frustration. I didn’t realise how desperate my body was for me to just be kind to it. I didn’t realise how much shit from my past I still needed to sift and shift through in order to uncover the treasures I have to offer the world. I didn’t realise I would leave with a deep desire to teach and to serve others. I didn’t realise there was so much that I simply didn’t realise I didn't realise or that I had forgotten.
Taking Ishvara Pranidhana (to surrender to the divine) as my yogic ethical guideline to focus on for the month, surrender became a huge part of my journey. The less I struggled with my latest fallings apart and my lifetime of stories and the more I surrendered to the unknown, the more I meditated and rested in a seat of awareness, the more stillness and peace washed over me even in the face of my deepest, rawest pain. SOSA facilitated this deep self-enquiry with such tenderness. Stoking the fire, allowing the flames of the lessons to ignite in our minds and bodies. Burning off the soot from the lanterns of our souls. At times it was hot and uncomfortable but you knew the teachers like fire guards, were in it with you, holding space, holding you as the flames engulfed and burnt up the parts of you that no longer served you whilst transforming others.
While this internal inferno continued to rage and ember we literally became immersed in yoga and its many multifaceted discourses. We practiced asana; vinyasa, hatha, swara, yin, aycro, pre-natal. We explored many meditative practices, a variety of pranayama techniques, we chanted ancient tongue in ceremony around sacred fire pit under the watchful gaze of the changing moon. We had lessons in anatomy, nutrition, philosophy, we sang our hearts out in kirtan whilst holding a sacred cacao ceremony. We were surprised and serenaded with live music in savasana, we learnt about energetics, the divine feminine, and the art of Balinese offering and a plethora of wisdom traditions were drawn from. We ate raw food, live food, vegan food, ayurvedic food, I’m surprised the yoga barn wasn’t eaten out of raw cacao with our almost worrying love of chocolate. I started to be able to talk about negative ions and crystals without rolling my eyes whilst in the same breath asking if anyone wanted a Bintang. Yogis are weird people.
I made deep connections with people from all over the globe. We too learnt how to hold space for each other, to encourage the questions, the surfacing of fears, that said ‘good job’ when the tears were flowing, who accepted the weirdest, sweatiest, gruntings of each other flayling around ecstatic dance and could laugh hysterically together when everything got a little too much or a little too woo woo.
Sisterhood and friendship that will last a lifetime. I saw, I knew, I loved them and they helped me see know and love myself.
I started forming my own opinions and truths around what I believed. My breath has become central to my practice and maintaining my ujjayi breath throughout has been game changing. I realised how asana focused I had been, thinking that was the yoga, when really the postures are the invitation to bring in the yoga. They are a gateway for this deeper self-enquiry and my vinyasa practice has been transformed into meditation in motion. Vinyasa means to fix or to place with care. There is a responsibility that comes with this as you bring your yoga off the mat and into the contours of your life – to place yourself, your body, your breath, your thoughts, your words, your intentions with care and attention and this again starts with yourself.
Through compassionate action and acceptance of the self, light and dark, you are then in turn able to extend your compassion outwards to see, know and love all beings and all things. This union, this oneness is yoga. It’s the simplest and the most difficult journey you can take. To see through the construct of society and the loneliness, to see through your own bullshit and remember your wildest, inherent, deeply connected nature. That we are in fact nature and connected to all things. That we are the universe expressing itself through conscious motion. That the intelligence and wisdom of humanity is also the intelligence and wisdom that is present in all things; animals, critters, plants, mountains and tectonics, in the winds and the seas, the stars and planets.
Once you start to appreciate this and our inter-dependence, you start to appreciate how you also don’t need to search outside of yourself. You are already complete. You are already enough. You are already life in all its beauty and vibrancy. The universe is already supporting you, it is you. Listen to it, its wisdom and its intuition that runs through you and it’s astonishing the things you might start to notice and appreciate. Maybe you’d wake up as Bex encouraged us to, through the words of the Dali Lama and appreciate your miracle of existence each day as a blessing in itself, “This morning I am fortunate to have woken up. I am alive. I have a precious human life and I’m not going to waste it”.
Perhaps youd take a leaf out of Simone’s book and would start picking up on the wisdom that the Green Ones have always been whispering? Or what can be learnt from the moons gentle presence and her power over the cycles of the tides and menstruation? What can be gained from a single conscious breath? The magic, the wonder, the excitement, the possibilities. The greatest heartaches that can turn out to be the greatest of gifts. Maybe you wouldn’t take for granted the connections you make. Maybe you’d appreciate the universe bringing together two strangers whose souls flicker and ignite in an instant and ancient dance as perhaps not a chance meeting? These were my real lessons. Yes I've learnt which way my arms should rotate in downward dog and what angle to place my foot in a warrior pose but the vaster, deeper wisdom I gained from the SOSA teachers and also already inside myself are the real yoga for me and that is what I want to bring on and off the mat.
I am so grateful for the series of inter-connective dots that formed together in the universe, that have lead me on to this path. The teachers and life lessons that have nudged me on my way to Bali and to SOSA and for the teacher inside myself and all the teachers yet to come.
Words cannot begin to express my gratitude. You bunch of beautiful weirdos have changed my life. Simone spoke of how one of her teachers told her that we have to be able to hold the tragedy of the world and keep on going. She said it’s a paradox, and you can only hold a paradox with your heart and not your head. I think this is also true of great joy, wisdom, truth, beauty, these things too can only be held with your heart and so each day that I am fortunate to wake, I will hold this magical journey and these magnificent people in my heart. The school of Sacred Arts, absolutely summates what they teach and taught by the most sacred hearts.