Saturday, October 5, 2013

Please f&%*k off whilst I follow my heart

The trouble with following you heart is that most people around you think it’s a great byline but a really bad idea.  I recently decided to change from a secure, interesting, challenging, high profile job in one of the most beautiful and cleanest cities on the planet to a short term one year assignment that I can do standing on my head in pollution infested Asia. 

Dear friends and colleagues, I love you all, admire many of you and even respect a select few.  I am however going to tell you and all the career advice you’ve given me to kindly and respectfully f&%*k off.

I truly don’t have the words to tell you all why this utterly mad choice seems like exactly the right decision for me.  If you ask me for my ‘business case’ for my decision, well, I fess up, I don’t have one.  In fact instead of writing that business case I’m going to tell you 10 reasons why you can all f&%*k off and once I’ve done that I’m going to go out there and follow my heart and live courageously and in total bliss with all the consequences of this mad decision.
  1. I’ve made madder decisions than this before and it’s always worked out.
  2. I’m the kinda girl who’s been known to leave town or change countries when I need to dump a guy. A new job  and a new city are a breeze.
  3. My parents drove around Australia with 3 kids under 6 in a bench seat Ford. I went to 6 different schools in 12 years.  This is normal in my family.
  4. Home gets old sometimes.  You have to leave it to come back to it to make it feel like home.
  5. My life is not your life, we want different things, you don’t understand it, get over it
  6. I don’t want to be comforable.  Comfortable makes me break out in a cold sweat and feel like someone’s choking me.  I want uncomfortable.  It makes me feel alive.
  7. I have a life plan, roughly, like in big brush strokes. Just trust me.
  8. Unfamiliarity, new people, new culture, new language, new food, new everything ? It’s the best excuse ever to embrace humanity. Call it a forced heart opener.
  9. My life is not something of the future.  It’s right here, right now and I will not wait any longer for my ‘best life’ to appear (thank you Oprah).
  10. Because doing this makes me feel like the best and truest version of myself and that feeling is unbeatable.

So whilst I tell you all to f&%*k off, I also offer up tremendous gratitude to you all.  Every doubt or question you have had about this path I will take has offered me clarity about this choice for which I am truly grateful.

And for those of you wondering if following your heart is really as good as the multitude of Facebook quotes and hippy websites say it is, well, the answer is yes.  Be brave, tell the rest of the world to f&%*k off and go out there and find out for yourself.

Friday, May 24, 2013

FROM GAZA WITH LOVE: A yoga film for humanitarians

WARNING:  This is a yoga film that is not about self-promotion. You’ll note the yogi looks like a normal person, has a weird accent and isn’t very flexible. We hope that inspires all of you to try out this film.

One of my dearest friends Nicola, who just happens to be a talented film-maker, and I just made our first yoga film especially for humanitarians. I realize this sounds impossibly cheesy given the plethora of yoga films out there on the market. It might sound even cheesier when I say this one really came from the heart – but  really it did and we had some incredible fun doing it. This film is a quick yoga fix made especially for our humanitarian friends and colleagues working in crazy war torn, earthquake-ridden places just ‘cause we want them to feel amazing.

The idea started about five years ago when I was working in Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories, (note my politically correct humanitarian terminology there). Three things happened during that time; 1) Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons asked for yoga DVDs and we couldn’t find any in Arabic, 2) Israel implemented Operation Cast Lead in Gaza after Hamas fired one rocket too many into Israel, and 3) I meditated my way into sanity and out of the pit of despair that was that horrific war.

From this place I knew that I wanted to find a way in which I could share the incredible way yoga makes me feel with other people, especially people who have to live and work in the most difficult circumstances and places on this planet, whilst giving up a good part of their lives to serve others.

It’s been both a short and a long road from that moment five years ago to the launch of our first film this week. I had to decide to put on hold the idea of teaching yoga to victims of conflict, acknowledging that for now this is not my niche.  I feel like it took years of talking about making this film and in the end it only took us a few days work in our spare time. Along the way I did my 200 YTT so that I would actually know how to teach yoga and somehow today I find myself teaching yoga at the hippest studio in Geneva and working my day job in the humanitarian sector. It’s a cool combination. There were moments when I thought I could never make this film happen but most days I can’t believe how quickly I made this dream a reality. My PR pal Carolyn who kicked me up the ass about a month ago and my friend Katrin who was the one who led me down the yoga path during our time in Palestine, both deserve a huge thanks for sticking with me on this one.

And of course big up to Nicola who made this film with me after spending most of her days watching raw footage of children with pieces of their bodies blown off by mines, trying to find a way to tell their story with dignity and get our unique humanitarian message out there. I think for her filming yoga was a walk in the park and she has been an incredible creative light in this project. She first let me practice teaching yoga on her over the summer as I trained to become a teacher. She then introduced me to the joys of Yoga Glo and practicing covert yoga in the edit suite at work at lunch times. And then she got my ass into her back garden, onto a yoga mat and in front of her camera so she could film it. One of the best moments was watching her do the yoga sequence with me as she was filming.

We both agree that whilst we love being humanitarians in our day jobs, it has been a seriously fun and inspiring experience to make this film together, to focus on our colleagues and friends out there in the crappiest places on the planet and know that we can give something to them that might just make their lives a little easier. We know we want to do more. For now we’ll focus on supporting our humanitarian buddies and one day I hope that we can bring yoga to all the people who’s day to day lives are one big war.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

What I really want

Two of my dearest friends and I had the good fortune and pleasure to spend a weekend in the mountains together recently.  I have known them both for years but it was the first time they had met.  It was one of those too rare 48 hours where you find yourselves feeling utterly connected to nature, to the earth, to each other and where the conversation and wine flow and souls are bared.  One friend is just a few months back from a year's tour du monde with his family, a gap year for the three of them, his wife and daughter included.  Finally we had the time together to talk deeply of how they as a family found there way to this year together and of the treasured moments they found within it.

Most striking to me was how they decided and planned this gap year.  Decided on the back of a conversation about what they and their friends all really thought about various life issues, and planned by asking each other what do you really want?

What do you really want?  Boy did this question stick with me.  When was the last time I had asked myself that question and answered honestly?  I'm pretty good at asking but as soon as I go to reply the answer actually becomes 'this is what I think is possible' or 'this is what I think I should do for my career' or 'this is what my friends and family want'.  It's hard not to let our conditioning and society's pressures answer the question for us. What in my heart of hearts do I really want?  What does my soul long for?  What will satisfy the deep yearning inside of me?

I think the only way to answer this question is to do it spontaneously.  So here's what I really want in no particular order.

I want to sleep in for a month with no reason to get up, no place to be and nothing to do
I want to wake up every morning and gasp at the incredible and beautiful views that surround me
I want to ease my way into the day with long cups of Earl Grey, good books and quietness
I want to experiment with my yoga practice for hours at a time, falling, giggling, conquering
I want to feel space inside every part of my body and all around me
I want to fall deeply in love in a way that feels warm and secure and crazy and passionate all at once
I want to teach all kinds of yoga to all kinds of people and bask in the pleasure of practicing together
I want to watch the entire collection of StarWars movies back to back on a cold rainy day, snuggled on the most comfortable sofa in the world - and then the next day I want to do the same with all the Godfather films
I want to blog my heart out, putting it all out there in the hope that someone feels just the same
I want to cook beautiful fresh food and feed my body with so much prana it starts to glow
I want to listen every day to deep silence where all I can hear is the beat of own my heart and my long slow breathing
I want to ski so madly I can barely breath
I want to feel deeply deeply connected to everything and everyone around me
I want to feel breathless every day because I am so overwhelmed by what nature has to offer
I want to hike to such high remote places that I become terrified and exhilarated by the power of the mountains and mother nature
I want to love myself completely every single day

For so long I have not defined what I really want.  When I look at this list above it hardly seems impossible, in fact it almost seems as if the list is full of simple things.

They say good things come in threes.  We were three that weekend in the mountains, one with his tour du monde to stimulate the thinking, me to think it - what do I really want, and the third I'm still to mention.  As luck or the universe would have it, the third friend in that weekend medley is one who believes in possibility.  A belief that in fact means we do not know from second to second what is possible.  There are possibilities out there every day that we have not even thought of.  And so I write my list of what I really want with the conviction that anything and everything is possible and the belief that just because I do not know all the possibilities does not mean they could not happen.

And so as we all slide or slink into 2013, I make this my year of pleasure, prana and most importantly possibility.  And I choose to believe that all the things I really want will come true.  And I dare you, to write your own list of what you really want and to believe that it is all possible.  I mean seriously, how hard can it be to spend a day watching StarWars????