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10 Tips to Movivate Your Yoga and Meditation this Winter

Natalie Snooke - Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Don't become a fair-weather yogi! A regular yoga practice through winter has a plethora of benefits for our physical, mental and emotional health, that goes well beyond the winter months.

Here's 10 great tips on how you can (and why you should) reap the rewards from your yoga this winter. 

1. We create our summer body and mind in winter. Even though it's important not to limit our yoga and our motivation for practice to the physical body - knowing that a healthy body is just the tip of the yoga iceberg - the body is where positive self-awareness and self-esteen start. 

It's a fact that when our prana, our lifeforce energy flows freely through the body, the body is able maintain homeostasis. That means it can naturally fight off infection, balance hormones and maintain a healthy body weight. Practicing a variety of yoga asana (postures) as often as you can is key. Standing yoga postures tone and stengthen the leg muscles. Foward bends stengthen the digestive system and tone the abdomen. Arm balances develop focus, confidence and upper-body strength. Back bending strengthens the nervous system and realigns the spine. Sun salutations warm and energise the whole body. Plus, when summer comes you'll help yourself avoid freaking-out at the thought of bearing your body at the beach. 

2. Change your mindset. Know that what you choose to think and do, you become. The law of karma, as well as the scientific equation of cause and effect, says that every thought and action now has a corresponding future outcome or consequence. We are powerful creatures! 

Each time you choose to set a positive intention to practice yoga, and you follow-through, you make it easier to set intentions and follow-through tomorrow. Like putting coins everyday into a piggy-bank, your savings soon mount up. Each time you choose and follow-through, your capacity to accomplish whatever you set out to do, in all areas of your life, is strengthened.  

3.  Catch procrastination. Don't be fooled by it, procrastination doesn't bring freedom. It's the mind's fearful way of keeping you stuck in unhelpful patterns of inertia and inaction. Like a hungry-ghost, procrastination tends to have an insatiable appetite that devours lots of energy - the same energy that could've been put into completing the very action you're putting off.  

As a practice, catch the FIRST time you procrastinate about getting up early to do your home practice or put-off getting to your yoga class. Overcome it's message and take action instead. You'll feel much better for it. Each time you step beyond your procrastination, you create greater inner freedom. 

4.  Have full faith that your yoga and meditation works. The paths of yoga and meditation have been successfully trod for over 5000 years - and they work. Remember how you are today, compared to how you were before you started? Have full faith in your practice continuing to serve you well, to enhance your self-awareness and bring you health, vitality and inner calm - providing you continue to put the effort and energy into regular practice.

5. Be organised.  Doing little things to organise and prepare yourself can really help. Arrange your work schedule so that you leave on time to get to your classes. On Sunday nights or at the start of each week, block out your practice or class times in your diary and set reminder alarms. Pack your yoga gear and mat in the car to save you time or a trip home. Roll out your yoga mat the night before. Make your practice space warm and inviting with candles. Simple habits can often make a big difference. 

6. Reflect on and recommit to your long-term goals in life. How does your yoga or meditation practice link to your life goals and direction? Why do you practice? 

Take a pen and paper and make a list of all the ways your practice helps you to live life with greater happiness and ease. Focus on the benefits. Maybe it's about being less anxious so that you can take the next step in your career with confidence. Or perhaps you want to be more patient and less reactive. Maybe it's about easing your back pain in the longer term. Or to go through your days feeling calm so that you remember to smell the roses and do what's most important.  

7. Don't forget the breath. Pranayama or breath control exercises are a valuable yogic practice, especially during winter. The right nostril connects us to the warming, uplifting energy channel called the pingala in our pranic body. Doing practices where the inhalation or exhalation (or both) is slow and controlled through the right nostril energises and warms the body, as well as energises and uplifts the mind. Remember that you should always get instructions for pranayama from a competent yoga teacher first. And a period of still meditation or savasana should also be practiced after pranayama.

8. Register in our 21 Day Winter Challenge! Starting on 10 August this popular program is on again to help get you committed and accountable to practicing yoga or meditation at home or in a class at Momentum for 21 days. For those who are self-motivated, it's also the time to set clear intentions and to making a fresh start on accomplishing any goals that you've struggled with in the past. We'd love to have your participation.

9. Start again. Every day is a new day. If you've fallen off the regular practice wagon, don't beat yourself up.  Learn and let go of the past and set a new intention to get back on track, starting now. Every student and teacher of yoga and meditation, me included, goes through phases where our motivation for practice waxes and wanes. Being able to brush-yourself-off, persevere and start again is always possible. Find what you can love about this beautiful season and flow-with the unique energy, light and depth of the winter.

10. You are not alone, share the joy. If the cold, wet or darkness of winter gets you down, share your practice time with a friend, it will help you to stay committed. Go to classes more regularly and enjoy the company of your fellow yogis, your sangha. The paths of yoga and meditation aren't easy alone and we are all here to inspire one another. Sharing your practice challenges, goals and intentions with a friend or your teacher helps to shift your mind and open you to fresh ideas.

Whatever the weather, whatever your mood, whatever your state of mind, your yoga and meditation practice remain your trusted companions to serve you through thick and thin. 

Enjoy the winter wonderland.

Natalie

How to Believe in Yourself Despite Your Self-Doubts

Natalie Snooke - Wednesday, April 29, 2015

All of us experience self-doubt, but it doesn't have to hold us back. 

Working mindfully and courageously with self-doubt is the doorway to greater self-belief.

I well remember the first two weeks after I'd opened Momentum as a centre, I was plagued with self-doubts. 

I remember sitting at my desk, in the lovely new space, trying to think positively because I'd created my dream and there was so much opportunity ahead. Yet all I could focus on was this awful, gut-wrenching ball in the pit of my stomach. Along with that feeling was a heap of voices telling me: What do you think you've done! You can't do this? What if you fail? How will you pay the bills? You won't manage! 

Theses voices taunted me day and night. And try as I may to avoid them or quash them with positivity, they stayed put. It was a biggie. Life was keen for me to really get-to-know self-doubt like never before. 

Self doubt breeds fear.

Like a greedy beast, self-doubt zaps our confidence and steals our joy. It breeds insecurity and fear. 

Why?  On the physical level, our pre-historic limbic brain that's responsible for the stress response of 'fright and flight' senses that we're going into new territory and wants to do its best to 'keep us safe'. However its unlikely that we're about to get swallowed-up by a saber-toothed tiger - but on a systemic level, unfortunately we run like a machine and we don't know the difference. 

We all have our own self-doubt triggers - when we feel overwhelmed or under-resourced. When we step outside our comfort-zone, or sometimes even when we just think about it, we can expect that some fear and self-doubt will arise, it's only natural. Self-doubt is part of being human.

However, as adults if left-unchecked self-doubt has the capacity to over shadow self-belief. It can completely sabotage our chances at creating happier circumstances, at leaving unhappy relationships or at the very least, about feeling confident and good about ourselves. 

So, if resisting or fighting self-doubt doesn't work, then what does?

It starts with understanding.

Like joy, like anger, like sadness, self-doubt is a part of us. Treating it like a friend, rather than an enemy, it needs our acceptance and understanding. If we pay close, gentle attention to our fear and self-doubt and be willing to explore it, rather than running away, then we'll have the best chance at being happy and moving forwards, despite it.  

Self-doubt doesn't have to hold you back. The following tips will help you to manage yours.

Notice your red-flags.

Learning to recognise your self-doubts starts when you become mindful of your negative self-talk, that I like to call 'red flags'. Start by looking out for your particular red-flag sayings, easily recognised as all-or-nothing statements, things like: 'should' 'can't' 'never' or 'always'. Which ones can you relate to?

When you do this, your might notice many more than you bargained for - that's normal! Don't be put-off by what you observe in yourself. Being aware is a very powerful first step that you can build upon.

Transform the energy.

Self-doubt voices often have the pitch and tone of a child. A bit like a tantrum. As you notice a fed-flag, child-like self-doubt voice, transform it's negative energy into a positive response. For example, if you hear "I will fail' respond to it (in your mature adult voice) with 'If I fail, then I'll try again.' 

You might even try making a list of your top 10 red-flag sayings. Be sure to also write your adult response beside it.

Doing this transforms the self-doubt into an opportunity for growth. And it gives you a chance, even if it might seem like a small thing in the moment. Over time, your capacity to transform self-doubt into self-belief will strengthen.

Listen to your supporters.

Surround yourself with like-minded, positive and purposeful people who can inspire you and help to bring out your best. They will remind you of your dreams and help to uplift you when you forget your self-belief. Remember to call them or get in touch when you need to - and be committed to returning the favour.

Be mindful of your family members. We love them, yes. But sometimes, although well-meaning, our siblings or parents unconsciously want to keep us safe, and this retards our growth. Accept their opinions, respect their views, but don't take on someone else's fear as your own. Be discerning and recognise the difference.

Remember your skills and successes.

Whenever you get lost, do your best to remember the valuable skills that you've learned along your journey already. For example, if once you had a problem with angry people and have learned to be more confident around them, remember that you do have the ability to learn and succeed, when you choose to.

Remember your successes, what you've accomplished, even the small ones. Milestones that you have had in your family, personal life, career and business so far. A bit like stepping stones, each one has, in some way, led you to where you are today. Have confidence that you are not at the end of your journey and will continue to learn, develop - and succeed.

Let go of perfection.

There is no state of perfection, except where you are right here, right now. This life is perfect for you and all that you need to be happy, self-doubts included.

Let go of thinking that perfect happiness will only be there if you can overcome your self-doubts. Self-doubt will always be here, in some shape or form. We just get better and better at seeing and dealing with it.

So, be kind to yourself. Treat yourself well. Learn to slow down and relax your expectations. You are more capable and worthy than you give yourself credit for.

Get in touch with your essence.

Beyond the limited-self-doubting you, there is a wise, peaceful presence. The witness, the observer, spirit, God, your essence or your higher Self, whatever you choose to call it. This is the part of you that is not touched by fear or self-doubt. Trust THAT about you. This part of you is eternally here, is always peaceful and available, even in your toughest hour.

Self-awareness practices like yoga and meditation help you to get in touch with this aspect of yourself. And the fellow students and teachers in your community will understand and be happy to remind you and support you.

Self-believe emerges through self-doubt. It's a journey.

Over time, as you apply the above approaches, and adopt others, you will develop a healthy perspective on self-doubt, and self-belief will grow. Your self-doubts are only your thoughts, they do not determine your worth - and they are not WHO YOU ARE.

Be prepared for the journey, exploring and learning along the way, with self-doubt just part of the terrain and not as the driver.

Healthy self-belief says:
I can try new things, despite my doubts.
I can be happy, despite my doubts.
I am worthy, despite my doubts.
I believe in myself, despite my doubts.
I can succeed, despite my doubts.
And I have the potential for a wondrous life, right now, despite my doubts.

If you're ready to step beyond self-doubt and be supported to shine, then read more about what I offer through Life Coaching.

Go mindfully, with courage!
Natalie

Mindfulness Liberates Loneliness

Natalie Snooke - Monday, March 30, 2015

Mindfulness Loneliness"I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone, it wasn't. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel alone."
~ Robin Williams

One of the greatest instincts we humans have is the instinct to connect. To be in the company of another. To feel validated. To share something in common, whether that's an interest, a project, a house, the same values or even a life. Yet to be able to connect sincerely with others, firstly means to be able to connect with ourselves. And that often means overcoming loneliness.

Around ten years ago when I started to practice yoga and was becoming less interested in socialising just-for-the sake-of-it, I remember going through an intense period of loneliness, where I just longed to 'connect with' someone. It usually happened on a Friday night. Not having planned anything and thinking I would be fine, I would find myself with pangs of loneliness like I'd never had before. I'd make these desperate last-minute phone-calls to a series of friends, in the hope that someone would be free for some company! Unconsciously, I was trying to escape myself. As life would have it, I often ended up alone and was forced to come to terms with my loneliness.

As Robin Williams describes, the other form of loneliness comes from feeling lonely, in spite of being around others. Whatever form of loneliness we experience, it's a state that can be very debilitating and ultimately lead to depression and suicide.

However, if we come from the perspective that 'life happens for us' and not 'to us' then, then no matter how it shows up and no matter how uncomfortable it feels, loneliness can be a gift. Something that teaches and leads to healing and transformation. 

If we become skilled at being with loneliness, then we don't need to suffer it's bleakness. We can learn to experience the inner freedom that is possible, even in our darkest lonely moments.

Mindfulness is a powerful tool in overcoming loneliness. Taking this approach works well:

1.  Acceptance. Loneliness starts with gentle acceptance, like you would a friend. Recognising and accepting that right now 'here is loneliness.' Not need to fix it or change it. This is the honest truth in the moment.

2. Body and mind awareness. What does the energy of loneliness sound and feel like? Be curious. What are its thoughts? What does it feel like in the body? Does it feel stuck, perhaps heavy, like a big lump of mud in the belly or fluttery like butterflies in the chest? Give it your bare attention.

3. Letting it Be. Allow the energetic feelings and mental story to just be there. Even though it may feel yukky. Watch mindfully, without getting caught in the story. Watch how any sensations and thoughts shift and change.

4. Breathe. Be mindful of the breath and try to breathe more evenly and more fully. Even though it will probably be hard to do, do your best to take some gentle, deeper inhales and exhales. Notice any effect the breath has on the thoughts and sensations, even if they disappear. 

5. Find your inner peace. Notice that even though thoughts and sensations may be there, there is also a part of you that is untouched by the loneliness. That conscious 'awareness' or that part of you that just 'watches'. Be in touch with this peaceful observer. Connect with the sense that this peacefulness is beyond the loneliness. Free of any suffering.

When a mindfulness approach to loneliness is practiced and mastered over a period of time, then loneliness states subside and can be completely overcome. However, if symptoms persist despite your individual efforts, it is recommended to seek professional counselling, therapy or coaching support.

At Momentum, our mission is to inspire and empower others to be self-aware and to make a conscious difference! We provide ways for people to meaningfully connect with themselves and others through our classes, events and coaching

May you be well and happy.
Natalie 

Why Yoga is Number One at Beating Stress!

Natalie Snooke - Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Managing Stress with YogaWhen was the last time you heard yourself or someone say 'I'm stressed'? Or perhaps you just witnessed someone in the throes of stress and they didn't realise it. It was probably fairly recently. As people try and cram more and more into already over-flowing lives, sadly, it seems to have become the modern-day catch-cry.

Stress will mean different things to different people, depending on our personality tendencies and our upbringing. And you how identify and manage your stress can make a huge difference in how you feel day-to-day and the quality of life you lead.

Stress is a mental, emotional and/or physical response to stimulus that is not wanted. It can be situational (based on a scenario that maybe outside of our control) or behavioural (being in contact with someone who's behaviour we find offensive or fearful).

At it's most basic form, even if it sounds harsh, stress is simply us reacting to and not accepting things just the way they are. Often it is the resistance to 'what is' (or 'who is') that creates the stress. Rather than trusting in our capacity to manage things step-by-step, our resistance reaction often becomes more of an issue that the stressor itself! 

Chronic stress, where the body goes into regular or constant states of 'fight or fright' (which is the body's automatic stress response) has a very taxing , and potentially deathly impact. Eventually, because they do not get adequate time to replenish when rested, chronic stress places all of our bodily systems including cardiovascular, respiratory, mental-emotional and digestive systems under unnecessary pressure. And if left unchecked, eventually we will burn out.

Heeding to our body and mind's signals that things are 'not quite right' is always the first step in effectively managing stress. But what it you are so out of touch that you miss this? Well, that's why yoga is so effective.

Firstly, yoga develops our overall self-awareness, we learn to hear the messages our body is needing to tell us. This places us is a good position to do something about it.

Secondly, yoga also helps us to more quickly recognise when we are 'resisting' something. We learn to feel the difference between resistance and freedom in the body/mind - and we become able to relax ourselves, and to positively influence our body's automatic stress response, at will.

And finally, yoga eases the actual physical, mental and emotional symptoms of stress. Put very briefly, yoga postures and movements release tension from tight muscles, breath techniques have a direct influence on emotional reactions and these techniques combined over time, enable the student to also see through mental chatter to a natural stillness and clarity.

Yoga has a three-pronged approach to stress by teaching us to identify stress quickly, to manage ourselves when under stress and to deal with the symptoms of stress. There's nothing else quite like it!

If you haven't experienced yoga before, we encourage you to try it for yourself and see. Our Beginners Yoga Courses are a safe and fun place to start.

Wishing you a stress-less journey.

Being Kinder to Yourself

Natalie Snooke - Friday, January 30, 2015

"We tend to think that being hard on ourselves will make us strong. But it is cherishing ourselves that gives us strength." ~ Julia Cameron 

I believe one of the most tragic human frailties is our tendency to be too hard on ourselves. 

In this complex, seemingly have-it-all world, a harsh or negative self-attitude can easily creep in. It can disempower the way we think, talk about ourselves and show-up. 

And unless the people close to us have the awareness and honesty to give us a gentle nudge, chances are that being way tougher on ourselves than anyone else, gets to be our lifelong habit.  

I don't mean that we shouldn't challenge ourselves to become a better person., or to question our actions - being complacent is detrimental to our personal, professional and spiritual growth. I'm talking about just being able to show ourselves the kindness we deserve.

How do we know if we're being too hard on ourselves?

In my experience, there a few classic signs to look out for:

  • critical or damning self-talk - characterised by lots of 'shoulds'; 
  • continually saying 'yes' to others when you really want to say 'no'; 
  • setting unrealistic goals or high standards that take the fun out of life and just make you a slave to your own expectations;
  • not giving yourself enough play, rest or time-alone; or
  • comparing yourself to others as a way of having self-worth. 
Remember that the one-and-only lifetime relationship we're ever guaranteed of having, is the one we have with ourself.

Before we're able to give (or receive) kindness from others, we have to know how to be kind towards ourselves first. And self-compassion is a well-researched pre-requisite for all happy and successful relationships.

Using the Power of Intention

Making the shift from harshness to kindness might sound simple, but for most of us, its not so easy.  We have to be prepared to make kindness our priority. It's something that we need to work with gently and diligently for a period of time, until it becomes a new habit.

Setting a clear intention to be kinder, repeated sincerely and daily like a personal mantra, is a powerful place to start.

It could be something simple like: 'kindness is my choice' or 'I choose to be kind to myself.'

Working over time, being patient as we go, an intention will slowly open-up subtle shifts in our thinking and behaving. When we are kind to ourselves, we're able to:

  • accept our short-comings - without blaming or needing to fix - knowing we're just human! 
  • show gratitude for the blessings, gifts and talents we have;
  • give ourselves regular play, rest and self-time; and
  • set goals that stretch our growth and inspire us to enjoy ourselves too.

If you need to rekindle your self-compassion and kindness, it might begin with giving yourself some reflective time-out at an upcoming Relax and Renew Day Retreat. The day includes yoga and meditation practice as well as coaching and reflection activities, to focus on what matters most to you.

Choosing kindness over the course of our life dissolves our sense of disconnection and separateness. As we experience a deeper appreciation for and connection with ourselves, we find a natural compassion and heartfelt connection arises with all others.  

By cherishing ourselves, we find our inner strength.

May you be kind and happy,  
Natalie

Natalie Snooke is the founder of Momentum Coaching & Yoga, established in 2007. She is a committed coach, teacher, yogi and meditator with a mission to inspire others to live more consciously, and make the world a better place. 

 

Getting Focused for the Year Ahead

Natalie Snooke - Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Getting Focused for the Year AheadHappy New Year! 

You might have noticed that along with the delicious days (or weeks if you're lucky!) for chilling-out in January comes an instinctive urge to start planning. 

There's a flurry of visions, goals and uncanny urges to 'make' things happen in 2015. How many times have you said THIS is going to be MY YEAR - starting NOW!  Remember that past new year's resolution that you were completely gung-ho about and were convinced it was the answer but that sadly died-in-the-arse (sorry for any language offence) by March?!  

Don't get me wrong, New Year's is a great time for setting goals and intentions. There's definitely that vibe in the air. And awesome. You've claimed your right to want something better for yourself. But to get there, to accomplish your desires as well as to feel a deeper sense of happiness, the F word cannot be forgotten...FOCUS.

What do we mean by focus?

Focus means the state of maximum clarity or concentration after refraction or reflection. First and foremost, focus needs reflection. Time for carefully considering perspectives, for bringing pieces together - before true clarity is reached. Many goals or intentions don't ever come to fruition because we rush in with hopeful ideas without having given ourselves enough time for them to digest.

During reflection time, different things can happen. Some people have hundreds of ideas that create confusion about which ones are best to go for. Others find that there's an initial 'stalemate' and slowly the bigger things bubble to the surface. Whilst others are more methodical, making lists and evaluating alternatives. Or maybe you're a combination of all three. Whatever your tendency, allow yourself enough time (the whole of January if you need it, but not so long that you never shift beyond it) and space to be in reflection mode.  

Consider pondering and/or making notes to these questions:

  • What have I learned about myself in 2014?
  • What are my reasons for wanting to change?
  • What matters most to me?
  • What is my life purpose?
  • What am I willing to do and not to do?
Another name for concentration is meditation. If you're already into yoga or meditation, or another form of somatic movement, one of the best ways to help yourself reflect and peel away layers of doubt is through regular practice. At Momentum all our daily classes offer inspiration to support you - maybe its time for you to get back to your regular class or to explore a new one?  And if you're feeling stuck, our Intend and Create Workshops with Amber Spear next weekend are a great way to kick-start the process.

If reading this blog gives you a mild anxiety attack and you've tried everything yourself, but feel like it hasn't really worked, then more personalised support could serve you well. After all, I want you to focus, enjoy as well as accomplish in 2015! Check out my spiritual or life coaching.  It's a great journey where I'll keep you (gently) true to yourself and get to cheer you on. Yay!

Know that whatever energy and space you allow for reflection will create better focus - the focus that's just right for you, for now.  

Five Ways to Stay Calm and Confident this Christmas

Natalie Snooke - Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Christmas Stress Momentum Coaching and YogaEnd of school concerts, work Christmas parties, pressures to buy stuff for people who don't need it, even a swag of yoga events happening. With so much going on, it can be enough to over-shadow all of the effort and quality time you've put into nurturing yourself on the yoga mat this year. 

But fear not. It doesn't have to be like that.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, it's now time to engage all of the self-care and awareness tools you've been dosed with. You can survive this Christmas.  More than that. You can prepare well, relish the break and celebrate all of its goodness.

Here's our five hottest tips for not becoming another victim of the Christmas crisis.

1. Shift your attitude.  
Catch yourself when you're starting to say things like "I'm so stressed out" or "There's too much to do". Yes, you do have things to do but the approach (stress or calm) is up to you. What you tell yourself you become, so choose your self-talk. Instead say "I'm taking things step-by-step" or "I just do what I need to do". 

2.  Remember to say 'No'.
Yes means nothing if you can't say no. If you say yes to everything and everyone, you'll probably burn out. Choose carefully and be prepared to say a firm, but gentle 'no'.  

3. Take Each Day as it Comes
Be present to each day and keep it simple. Ask yourself in the morning, 'what are the three most important things I need to accomplish today?' Put your energy and focus into getting those done and be happy with that.

4.  Remember to Breathe
When we're anxious or stressed, the breath gets lost which inhibits us from accessing our creativity and joy. Make a point of keeping up your regular breath practice (if you already have one) or build some breathing moments into your day, like when you're driving and waiting at the traffic lights, in-between work meetings or sanding in queue at Woolies. Take long, slow in-breaths, breathing into your belly, chest then upper shoulders and long slow out-breaths, feeling the breath wave back down your body. Do 5-10 rounds. You'll feel all the better for it.

5. In the End, Its Being that Counts
You can spend your life in busy-ness and having an endless to-do list, trying to be every-thing to every-one, or you can practice just being - each and every day. When you become skilled at being - and remembering yourself as a human being - it naturally overcomes the needy trap of 'doing'. When being is our fore-most way of showing-up in the world, then staying calm is much easier. Things take on a natural order and we get done what we need to, as we need to, without the layers of stress and strain.  Even in the lead-up to Christmas.

Choose how you'll approach this Christmas and enjoy the journey!

Take some time-out with us at Momentum this Christmas. We're open with daily classes right up to and beyond Christmas. And a swag of great events to keep you smiling. 




Bali Retreat Reflections

Natalie Snooke - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bali Retreat Momentum Coaching and YogaBlogging (to be interesting, helpful or provocative - or all three) is challenging at the best of times, but after our Bali Retreat it hits another level of challenge. After so much fun, friendship, relaxation and deeply enriching experiences, finding the words to describe what happened is a bit like standing in front of your favourite ice-cream parlour's window on a hot day, not knowing where to start or what flavour to choose!

Our group was a delightful mix of women, most from Perth and others travelling from as far as the Philippines and the Netherlands. Friendship and laughs came with ease. As each day unfolded, the individual stories did too, giving each person time to air their challenges and insights - and to finish-off conversations completely - without the need to rush back to family or work commitments. 

Mealtimes were a favourite time to share, as we explored the awesome western and Balinese vegetarian food created by Ketut and served with love. From tofu and bean stir-fry, to pumpkin soup and gado gado, to pisang goreng (fried bananas) and klepon (sweet coconut rice balls) our tastebuds were treated at every meal. As yogis, there was always plenty on offer to tempt us and thankfully the mindfulness we generated during our yogic practices helped us to not over-indulge!

Bali Retreat 2014 MeditationOur retreat theme, the Joy of Being seemed to unfold naturally, right from the moment we entered the village of Seseh along the quiet, coconut palm and rice field-fringed road. The serenity oozed from the lush green surrounds, beckoning us to surrender to its peacefulness. This road would become a pathway our retreat goers would often tread, in quiet contemplation at sunset - except for the cheery rice field farmers, quick to raise a smile and wave hello. 

Speaking of sunsets, the beach was the other magnificent venue for nature's nightly display of colour and contrast. Our venue at Kura Kura was just a stone's throw from the ocean and our group enjoyed many splendid vistas, across the waves and over the horizon. Falling asleep to the soothing sounds of the waves was magical.

Bali Retreat 2014 SwimmingAside from the peaceful surrounds, fabulous food and friendly care by the Kura Kura staff, the 'juice' on our retreat came from diving into yoga, meditation and breath work at the start of every day. The opportunity to loosen physical and mental boundaries, and dedicate time to going more deeply 'inward' was embraced by everyone. Each day we explored different themes in our yoga asana (postures) and movements, such as Grounding Down, Letting it Flow and Finding Your Edge. Sometimes quiet and passive and at other times strong and dynamic, our bodies responded in ways that surprised and delighted us. Being given careful instructions on the finer points of breath work (pranayama) and meditative practices was the icing-on-the-cake, showing us the way beyond self-doubts and giving us a deeper taste of our loving hearts. Our yogic practices culminated in spending a day in silence - whilst still in the company of others - it was an unforgettable experience that was appreciated and relished by all, including Lucky the resident dog who joined-in by being bark-free for the day!Bali Retreat 2014 Relaxation

We spent part of most afternoons in self-discovery workshops, where we could explore how to integrate the benefits of our yoga practices into daily life. We learned about the role of samskaras (our learned patterns of thinking and behaving), the eight limbs of yoga philosophy and the anatomy of the koshas (or energy layers) and doshas (energy types). Great fun was had in our mandala-making workshop, where we loved playing with colour and creativity to express ourselves.  

A visit to a sacred Balinese water temple, accompanied by a healer, was the perfect way to experience the spiritual essence of Bali. Being immersed in temple spring water that rises from the centre of the earth, cleanses the mind, helps to heal the heart and soothes the soul - and the shiny looks on our faces afterwards said it all. 

Bali Retreat 2014 Water TempleThe true sanctuary of a retreat comes from the attitude and generosity of all those who partake. And this one was a beauty. Thanks to our retreat participants and to everyone at Kura Kura for an unforgettable Bali Retreat 2014.  

Being Savvy

Natalie Snooke - Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I recently came across the phrase 'Global Savvy' in an international coaching article by Geoffrey Abbott and it struck a chord with me. I hadn't heard the phrase before but it described being 'globally savvy' as the capacity to create positive value from the interplay of feeling, acting and thinking, where the context is diverse and messy.

I really liked that last bit. Messy. And what does being savvy have to do with messy? I wanted to know more. 

The author talked about being savvy - in this case globally savvy in a cross-cultural coaching context - as "injecting subtle energy" into the way we feel, act and think.  That someone is savvy if they habitually:

              • Feel positive about difference and are curious to explore;
              • Act to create connections and remove barriers;
              • Think in ways that can handle uncertainties, ambiguities and paradoxes.

We can ask ourselves: how do feelings, actions and thoughts interplay for me? What shifts in my energy and attention could I make in order to be more savvy?

Depending on your personality, and whether you're a head, heart or more gut-centred person, my guess is that you'll find some elements of the three more challenging to consider than others.  For example, if you're a gut-centred person, you'll have strong instincts and tend to move into action quickly to make things happen.  Instead, a more savvy approach might be to spend more time on the interplay between your feelings and thoughts - to think about how your behaviours might have the best possible impact for others and to be more curious about exploring your own feelings. 

If you're more of a heart-centred or feeling person, then it's the interplay between thinking and acting that you could focus on.  Thinking about how you'll handle difficulties and what actions you'll take to create genuine connections with others.

If you're more of a head-centred or thinking person, then the interplay between feeling and acting could yield you positive outcomes. How do you feel about different scenarios and how would you behave in order to remove any barriers between yourself and others?

In the hum-drum of everyday life, the context is often messy, yet this messiness is needed if we're wanting to grow and be savvy.

Regardless of being 'globally savvy' or 'self savvy' (as I'll call it), it takes time and ongoing effort to develop new habits. And as we inquire more truthfully, yet playfully into the motives behind our feelings, actions and thoughts, especially in challenging situations, we're able to see more clearly where we might be stuck. 

As the author says, "the challenge is to explore and leverage the connections across the three elements and to look for growth and development that is integrative.  It is a framework for you to open up fresh conversations and engage in the paradoxical state of 'serious play.'

Whilst it isn't always easy, if we're really interested in doing our part to become a happier individual and to make the world a better place, then our work starts with us. Despite not necessarily understanding, or agreeing with, another. And despite things being messy.


The Love that Emerges Through Fear

Natalie Snooke - Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Life's painful events can have an uncanny way of revealing so much about ourselves, our relationships with others and what matters most in life.

Over the past fortnight, I have witnessed my beloved Dad go through an unplanned yet significant medical procedure.  It was heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time.  Even writing these words today brings tears to my eyes.  

At first there was shock and disbelief at having to quickly come to terms with a life-threatening condition.  Then understanding the options, the reality of the surgery, the risks, the potential complications and the dreaded stories of those who don't 'make it'.   If there could ever be the perfect recipe for fear, then this had all of the essential ingredients!

Despite his fears, the greatest being for his own life, Dad showed tremendous faith and courage to go ahead.  With full family-support from my Mum, brother, sister and I, the day of the surgery was one I'll never forget.  In the hospital ward, in between all of the medical checking and double-checking just waiting, it was hard to speak words.  Dad was feeling it all, like going to hell and back I guess.  But still there was nothing left unsaid.  The strong loving presence that emanated between us said more than words could in any case.

Then in a matter of hours it was over, and Dad was 'there' again.  Such joy and relief!  Although his face was pale and his body raw, we knew that he would be okay.  Day by day, recovering his charm, regaining strength, taking steps and breathing deeper, Dad's had a rebirth.  And we have too.  

Dad's willingness to be scared, to be completely overwhelmed with emotion and to be held by those who love him, has been an incredible teaching.  When you can walk through fear, on the other side is profound love - they are two sides of the same coin - and this applies to us all.  

When we open to love, fear gets healed and soon loses its place.

"Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within." ~ James Arthur Baldwin

  


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