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Life Happens For Us

Natalie Snooke - Tuesday, June 25, 2013

During times of challenge or struggle, when things don't seem to be working out, I've found this saying to be a particularly empowering reminder "life happens for us and not to us".  

Notice how it feels different when you say 'for' instead of 'to'.  'For' tends to feel open, like there's some possibility or chance, whereas 'to' tends to feel closed and trapped, like we are a victim.

As human beings, we are growing and evolving creatures amidst the ebbs and flows of life.  Just like any game, things are never static or the same and if we can learn to play along, then we can be free to enjoy more of the ride.   Inherent in accepting that life is 'for' us, is also trusting that it will present us with every-thing and every-one that we need to learn, to grow and to reach our fullest, happiest potential.

So how does this happen?  

If we take any life situation involving another person who we feel is wronging us, there is the golden opportunity for self-learning and moving forwards with greater freedom and joy.  We do this by letting go of the 'he said, she said, he did, she did' story, tempting though it may be to get stuck there.  We accept the person and circumstances are just as they need to be, although this might be hard, we can do it!  And we take a deeper, honest look at our own reactions and what is being revealed about ourselves, to uncover the true learning potential.  The learning might be the opportunity to practice patience, or to be compassionate, to reconnect with our own tender feelings of past hurt or perhaps to establish greater self-love and self-confidence.  

When we can take this approach to life, we open to something deeper, to an energy or essence within us, that feels more at ease, free, content and peaceful that if we were to remain at the level of blame and victim.

Just like the wise poet Rumi says: "Be grateful for whatever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond."

Mindful Living and Mindful Loving Starts with A

Natalie Snooke - Monday, May 20, 2013

When we become more interested in spirituality and our inner-world, knowing that there is this rich, loving dimension to us, yet keeping true to that in our daily life, can be tricky.  I've found that keeping things simple really helps.

As I go about my life, I often come back to remembering these five A's: attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection and allowing life.  Each of these qualities brings simple reminders that help to open our heart and ease our struggles.  If we take the time to cultivate and express a little of each through our day, a new level of relating can really open up.

Attention reminds us to really listen, observe and notice all the feelings that come up for us, moment to moment.  We notice with a caring, neautral quality, without judging.  In relation to others, we're reminded to give our whole-hearted attention to whoever is before us, remembering that this moment to relate, in this way, with this person, at this time is completely unique and will never be repeated.

Acceptance involves complete acceptance of ourselves and others, just as we, and they, are.  Acceptance includes acknowledging that there will be times when we will act in ways that don't feel right or best for us, and that this too is okay.   

Appreciation includes being grateful for all of our gifts and the opportunities, challenges and dilemmas that are inherent in being human.  Appreciating that we are on a life-long learning journey, and that all beings are searching for the same peace and happiness that we are.  May we have a deep appreciation for the precious gift of life!

Affection means showing our sincere love, care and compassion towards others.  This may be in the form of physical affection such as a gentle touch on the arm, using an affectionate voice tone or showing affection to someone we might not normally, through a kind gesture.  We can make every hug really matter!

Allowing life means allowing life to be JUST AS IT IS.  Perhaps adopting the attitude that life is 'for us' - for our learning and loving - and not 'to us' as we can tend to complain or blame.  For me personally, 'allowing' is the real clincher that holds all the five A's together.

With these five A's in mind, living and loving more mindfully and more whole-heartedly, becomes just that little bit easier.  I encourage you to give them a try...



A Wise Take on Love

Natalie Snooke - Tuesday, April 30, 2013

When love glows, it is bliss
When it flows, it is compassion
When it blows, it is anger
When it ferments, it is jealousy
When it is all 'no's', it is hatred
When it acts, it is perfection
When love knows, it is me.
~ his Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, from the book Celebrating Love

These words of wisdom serve as a beautiful reminder of the many emotional facets of ourselves and the many faces of love.  If love is who we are, then our emotional experiences are just an expression of love.

What if you could relate to yourself from this perspective?  The next time you are despairing or judging yourself because of feeling some way or another, go gently, and remember Ravi's wisdom...after all, it's all about love.   

Have You Slowed Down Yet?

Natalie Snooke - Wednesday, March 27, 2013

As I was driving on the way to and from Albany on the weekend, I noticed some very wise and poignant signs alongside the road:
"Have you slowed down yet?"  

On the obvious level, there was the the reminder to ease the foot off the accelerator and reduce speed before coming into a town.  Hopefully drivers did this!  On another level, it was a beautiful reminder to 'slow down' in life.  It is the life-lesson that I've had the privilege of learning and sharing with many others over the years.  And being reminded like this still serves me well!

Sometimes students say to me that they're scared of slowing down, of being calmer for fear of missing-out on life or missing the energy of excitement that comes to the body/mind when being busy.  To this, I offer the following.  

Slowing down doesn't mean losing yourself.  And it doesn't mean you'll miss out on life.  In fact, quite the opposite.  Slowing down allows us to connect with ourselves, to enjoy who we are on the inside and to hear our own creative wisdom.  Having checked-in with ourselves first, we are better able to enjoy all that life offers us.  We are better able to fully participate in all the liaisons and opportunities before us, with a sense of centredness and genuine appreciation.  And maybe in the process of slowing down, we might even realise that our needs change.  That we don't actually have the need (or desire) to 'keep-up-the-pace' just because everyone else is.  In this way, slowing down supports us to make empowered and wise decisions in every aspect of our life.

In my life, when I'm in a flurry of activity, often doing different tasks and roles at Momentum, I remember what comes from slowing down.  And I know that life wouldn't be the same inspirational and amazing journey if I didn't.

"If you're having difficulty coming up with new ideas, then slow down.  For me, slowing down has been a tremendous source of creativity. It has allowed me to open up -- to know that there's life under the earth and that I have to let it come through me in a new way. Creativity exists in the present moment. You can't find it anywhere else." ~ Natalie Goldberg, author and speaker


 

Post-India & the Challenges of Living in Awareness

Natalie Snooke - Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ahhhh.  As I settle back into working, teaching and the vicissitudes of western life after spending six weeks in India, many things strike me as different.   Like the way the mind gets drawn into compulsive planning, like the way computers, Ipads and Iphones encourage multi-tasking and like the way we engage with another when making small transactions like buying some milk.  The patterns of my daily life, that once seemed 'normal' now seem 'foreign'.  And I find myself not wanting to revert to a life of constant distractions!  

Rather than rejecting these feelings, I figure there must be some worthy blog-material in all of this, so let me try to put some words around my experiences and see what learning can emerge...

India offers many things - and amongst them - an energy and (mostly) an environment that supports slowing-down, acceptance and connection.  Simple everyday tasks often takes many hours.  Like posting a parcel.  This involves a well-ordered, step-by-step packing, posting and paying process to embark unfolds, so does the opportunity for connection with the post-office clerk, the packing-man and the chai wallah standing nearby.   





Three Steps to Getting Yourself to the Yoga Mat in December

Natalie Snooke - Monday, December 03, 2012

As we head into the last calender month of 2012 and the Christmas (silly) season, for many people this time of year can be frazzling as the weather and social-calendar hots-up - and the healthy habits and positive lifestyle choices we've worked hard to establish during the year get traded-in for momentary pleasures, often one after another.  Indeed, when it comes to yoga practice, it can feel like we're dragging ourselves to the yoga mat!  And some don't drag, they don't even make it.

As a yoga teacher living in the world, not only do I watch with interest my own mind and the distractions that plague it at this time of the year - the temptations to have a late night, to over-socialise, sleep in or to eat more that I need to - I watch how students are impacted too.  Often this shows up as students skipping their regular yoga class, even if its something they truly love and have kept up all year!  If yoga offers us a valuable pathway to overcoming many of the distractions and maladies of a busy, modern-day life and over-stimulated mind, what can we do and how can we help ourselves to keep up our yoga practice, especially at this time of the year?

"No matter how hard it may be to drag yourself to yoga class at the end of a busy day, inevitably you feel better when its over, walking fluidly out the door with your sticky mat rolled neatly under your arm.  At that moment in may seem inconceivable that you would ever resist practicing again.  But somehow, even the very morning after a great class, resistance to practice can arise." ~ Judith Lasater, yoga teacher and Yoga Journal columnist

Here are three tried-and-tested ways to help get yourself to yoga class this month: 

RECOGNISE  The first step is to recognise 'resistance' when it shows up.  Resistance is just one of the plays of the mind.  Curiously, resistance happens for us when we resist doing something that we know we enjoy and is good for us, in lieu of something else that seems more attractive at the time.  Resistance can show up as procrastination, lethargy or excuses.  It gets its power when we surrender to it.  See it.  Catch it.  Accept it.  Call it.  'This is resistance.'

BE CLEAR  Secondly, get clear and take a moment to remind yourself of your greater intention.  Why do you practice yoga?  How does yoga help you in your life?  Tune-into the reasons and intentions behind your yoga and what it is all about for you.  Do I use my yoga practice to ease my lower back pain or is it about helping me to transform my life? Or both?  In any case, it's important to become as clear as possible.  Try writing down your intentions each morning or night for added focus.

TRUST   Thirdly, trust that just by getting yourself to your yoga mat or yoga class and doing your yoga practice, you'll reap all the benefits that you need.  The more effort you put into overcoming resistance, the stronger your willpower becomes to keep yourself on-track with whatever you choose in life.  Each time you overcome your own resistance it's like making a deposit into a bank account of inner-strength that you can access later, when the going gets tougher and really calls for you to dig-deep. 

No path through life is free of difficulties and challenges.  And yoga is no exception.  The beauty about yoga is, it's a well-trodden path that has stood the test of time and offers tremendous benefits, it you let it.  

So, this silly season, enjoy and have fun - but don't neglect your yoga!   

  

Reflections on Bali

Natalie Snooke - Wednesday, November 07, 2012

For the last twenty or so years, I have had the joy of travelling regularly to Bali and for the last two years,  have had the privilege of leading a retreat in Bali.  Our group of ten has just recently returned from retreat - and it was an incredibly enriching time for everyone, me included.  The teacher can very easily become the student in Bali!  Each time I visit this sacred island, my heart fills with happiness and somehow, I receive something deeper than just 'instant relief' from the intensity of my everyday life.  I thought it would be interesting to try and capture in words, more of what this is all about and perhaps shed some light on what is it that brings me back each time to beloved Bali.

Bali is a Hindu place.  This means that the Balinese people believe in the reincarnation of their souls.  They celebrate the birth-death cycles of mother-nature, they honour the sacrament of daily prayer and a simple, ritualistic life and they embrace their role in life to 'do good' to others and to be happy for what they have.  If one visits Bali, whether one realises it or not, it is these underlying spiritual elements that create a special energy that permeates the whole island. For anyone that is open to it, this energy is healing, illuminating and can be life-changing. 

And so there's many-a-westerner who loves this place!  For reasons that may not always be understood, beyond the cheap cost of living and smiley-faces.  In Ubud, the artistic and cultural heart of Bali, its the serenity that draws us.  Removed from the 'drunken bikini scene' (I borrowed these words from Wikitravel) Ubud is a town actually composed of fourteen villages, each with their own banjar or 'village committee'.  Auspiciously founded at the natural confluence of two rivers in Campuhan, Ubud is Balinese for 'medicine' and so its no wonder that healing happens here.

To ground myself when I first arrive, it's become my ritual to do the 'long walk' from Campuhan through the rice paddies and surrounding villages and back.  Walking brings me into direct contact with the locals and what's going on in their lives.  This time, I couldn't help but notice the overhead banners marking the streets and temple entrances as I passed through a village.  Around the community temple, much building, organising and decorating was going on, and it became clear that a celebration wasn't far away.  As luck would have it, a friendly guy on a motorbike, Nyoman, stopped to say hi.  He guessed I was a yoga teacher and very naturally, extended an invitation to return for the festivities taking place later in the week.  And so it is like this in Ubud.  This temple visit became a part of our retreat program.  On the auspicious day, dressed in traditional Balinese gear, our group went along.  We were present for the myriads of offerings, adorned with flowers and fruit, and one with the customary head of a pig.  We sat on the temple floor, amidst the locals, who graciously shared their flowers and their space with us.  As the gamalan musicians were nonchalantly gonging their pipes and drums, we sat peacefully in the hum-drum of the temple activities, our hearts being warmed by the unity that was palpable in the people.  There was laughter, companionship and a deep sense of community.  Every man, woman and child was intently 'present'.  We participated in the offerings, holding our hands in prayer above our heads five times.  We didn't need to know intellectually what was going on, it was enough just to be there.  There was no hurry for things to happen.  We could sit and absorb life in the way that the Balinese do.  It felt so easy and so natural.

Experiences like this just happen on our retreat.  And this is what brings me back each time.  By the end of eight days together, sharing special times like this, both on and off the yoga mat, our group had developed a special bond.  Sharing many meals together, conversations and connections flowed.  And through learning about the struggles and joys of one-another, we saw the same in ourselves - developing the strength, courage, compassion and love to be more authentic.   

Being on retreat on Bali is more than just a holiday, it is a total experience.  For those with a willingness to go beyond busy-ness, who are yearning to experience life in simplistically, yet beautiful ways, I can recommend no other place to be.  Thank you to our retreat group for 2012, you were amazing!  Your spirits have enlivened my own journey and Bali's magic rests in my heart until I return to her again.





Deep, Abiding Happiness ~ A Moment in the Garden

Natalie Snooke - Sunday, September 23, 2012

This morning, I had one of those deeply nourishing moments that helps to remind me what life is all about.

As I was watering the plants, listening to the birds and their sweet morning-song, watching the droplets of water from the hose caress the earth, 'beingness' overcame me.  I don't mean to sound too esoteric, but it was one of those moments when time stood still and everything was incredibly lucid and perfect.  And moments before, my mind had been busily reflecting over a particularly busy week-that-was, seemingly overloaded with 'to do lists' and playing multiple (and sometimes simultaneous) roles of yoga teacher, understanding boss, friend, sister, mentor, life coach, IT coansultant, dental patient, daughter etc etc  (You get the gist!)  In that moment, I realised that nothing needed to change.  That despite feelings of overwhelm at times, I could see through it all to a deep, abiding happiness.  A well of joy had been released and in that moment, I was free!

It's moment like these that have a lasting impact.  Just a little taste of inner joy like this helps to put life into perspective in many ways.  It showed me the beauty of life when I leave everything as it is, and just notice what is there within me.  Peace, joy and delight!  Lettting life express itself through me rather than 'me' thinking I need to make life as it 'should' be.  

This experience reminded me of a quote I read a few years ago.  I dug it out of my files to share:

“The mind and intellect cannot capture peace.  They have a different function.  Peace, joy and true happiness are not subjects for thought.  There is a feeling behind being alive.  There are no explanations for it.”   ~ Maharaji

Life has the ongoing capacity to teach us everything we need to know, if we let it.     

Perhaps you too might relate to a moment like this?  I hope so.  Keep a look out for them.  They're precious gifts from beyond.

Feeling More, Thinking Less

Natalie Snooke - Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I know of a spiritual teacher who has a program called the 'Headless Way'.  I love this.  It's very apt! 

Much of our life is lived 'from the neck upwards' as we fall into the habit of being driven by thinking.  The mind is a powerful tool with wonderful intellectual capabities, when focused.  However, if we take a closer look, much of our thinking is not like this.  It is whimsical, scattered and often not about anything we are doing in the present moment.  When we first come to see and realise this, it can often be quite startling!  We realise that we are not living in the NOW, but re-living what's happened in the past or trying to pre-empt or plan what might happen in the future.  Living life in this way leads to anxiety and feeling like time is racing by.

One of the gifts that practicing yoga and meditation offers, is the chance to really see things as they are.  And to learn different ways of relating to ourselves, especially our minds.

The body and breath, unlike the mind, is always in the NOW.  It is always here, going about its business without us needing to think or interfere.  Which is just as well!  The heart beats, the breath moves, the eyes blink and the muscles move.  Learning to tune-into the body, feeling what is going on with its energy and movements, is a very simple way to bring us into the present moment.  It's one of those vital life skills that I wish I'd learned in primary school.

If you haven't already, try it for yourself.  See if you can shift from 'thinking' to 'feeling' and notice what a difference it has.  You might be surprised how such a simple shift can have such a profound impact.

Suffer or Surrender?

Natalie Snooke - Tuesday, August 07, 2012

When we first embark on any personal growth, whether that be through yoga, coaching or some other form of experiential learning, we soon 'come up against' ourselves.  What I mean by this, is that even though on one level we enjoy it and know it's doing us good, on another level we might feel uncomfortable, unsure or find ourselves making up excuses and quitting.  

What got me to thinking about this was noticing how often beginner yoga students give up too soon! And I know I'm not alone as a yoga teacher in making this observation. We see students really enjoying their yoga, who express this openly, yet who, mysteriously, don't seem to continue, despite the good that it's doing!  Why is this so?

A wise teacher once said to me "there's no growth without friction". 

When we grow, part of the growing process is about directly experiencing our own well-ingrained habit patterns.  Reluctance, self-doubt, making excuses and losing focus are all good examples.  The ego-mind has many, very 'slippery' ways to lure us into a false sense of security.  If we follow the tempataion to give-up, we just strengthen the habit pattern.  And in the long-run, this just causes us to suffer by keeping us locked into our habits.  Not to mention locked-into a stiff body!  And healthy growth is about the opposite of this.  It's about freedom.

The alternative is to 'surrender'.  To surrender our doubt, reluctance or resistance.  We do this by noticing it is there, taking a deep breath and letting it burn itself out.  We gently strengthen our resolve to go on and deepen our commitment to doing whatever is in our own best interests.  Through surrender we can experience genuine freedom.  And who doesn't want that?  Happy surrender-ing!

 

 

 

 



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