Day 6- 4/10: ABC to Lower Sinuwa (38.65 kms)

 

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At Annapurna Base Camp

 

I am happiest when I am in nature. For those who haven’t been following along my journey in the Annapurna region, this is my 6th day of trekking (please click on the hyperlink if you’d like to read my travel blog: ABC to Lower Sinuwa). I have spent 6 days completely in nature and have surrounded by absolute beauty, listened to the sounds of birds, insects, rivers, waterfalls, and the wind rustling the leaves on the trees and that’s all I need to be truly happy- to appreciate and be content. So, that got me thinking, what is happiness? Is it the reliance of other people or things that make us happy or is it being content with what you have, enjoying and appreciating all that life provides you with and living in the moment?

About happiness

In the end these things matter most:

How well did you love?

How fully did you live?

How deeply did you learn to let go?

–    Jack Kornfield

Conditional Happiness

Conditional happiness is not true happiness. Attaching your happiness to another person or object means that you are projecting the cause of your happiness on the condition that you will have this person/ thing in your life. This is dangerous because they then control your happiness and it is an entity outside of yourself. To me, this indicates a lack of the most important feelings to be nurtured in every person. Don’t get me wrong happiness does not necessarily mean being free from attachment but it certainly does not depend on any one person or a condition.

True Happiness or unconditional happiness

True happiness has no reasons such as a new love, a better job or having fun with our friends. The unconditional happiness that is our true nature is always there, no matter whether good or bad things are happening – it’s the essence of what and who we are. Unconditional happiness is built on a foundation of self-worth and self-love. A place of self-love and self-worth will enable us to stand alone and rejoice in any experience that we have had, knowing that it was an opportunity to learn, grow and evolve as a human being.

This takes me back to the 3 questions posed at the beginning of this blog: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you learn to let go?

It seems to me that unless you are unconditionally happy you can never truly answer any of these questions. If you are unconditionally happy there will never be failure in your life, simply a learning experience for the soul.

The first thing that matters is how much you have loved. I think what is really being said here is that it’s important to allow love to be the basis for our thoughts, words and deeds. It is also about treating people with loving kindness. It is enjoying and appreciating all that life provides you with.

The second part has to do with “living fully.” To me this means living pro-actively, going out and having lots of different experiences and ideally, learning as much as possible from all your experiences. It is also about living in the moment. How can you live fully if you are always focusing on the past or the future?

The third part talks about letting go. This could be a multitude of things- money and material possessions are at the top of my list of things to let go of. Then there is social status and referring to yourself as your position or profession. Next, your negative beliefs and opinions will have to be let go of as well to be truly happy. It is being content with what you have and who you are.

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.”- Albert Schweitzer

Namaste,

Natalie

 

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Day 5- 3/10: Dovan to ABC (21.75 kms)

Breaking your Comfort Zone.

A lot of the books that I have been reading lately have been talking about doing something outside your comfort zone. And if I am being perfectly honest with you I would have to say that trekking to Annapurna Base Camp (See my travel blog: Dovan to ABC) is about as far out of my comfort zone as me travelling to the moon. With no training we decided that it would be a good idea to engage in a 10-day trek from Nayapul to Poon Hill and then all the way up to Annapurna Base Camp and back down again. It was difficult and tiring and draining… but we made it.

This got me thinking, what was it that we required in order to ‘take the leap of faith’ and just go ahead and try it anyway. Apart from wanting to try something new, we also had trust. Trust in ourselves, trust in our bodies, minds and spirits to get us there and back.

That led me to wonder about what this means for your yoga practice. Do you stay within your comfort zone and never break out? Do you trust and listen to your body?

In order to step outside our comfort zone, you need to have trust. You need to trust yourself and in particular, your body. You must trust your decisions and your ability to know what is right for you.

In that self-trust, you are acknowledging not only your strengths, but also your weaknesses or limitations. I myself have many limitations since my accident that fractured my ankle and partially tore my ACL (See: How did I find yoga? If you are interest in the back story to how I got here today). But despite my limitations I always find a way do to the things I want to do. Maybe some of my poses are not always perfect and I often take longer to do things like walking uphill or mastering a new pose but I get there with perseverance and trust. With trust we realise that we not only have the ability to succeed and thrive, but there is also the possibility that we may fail. But when you think about it, both are ok because when we trust ourselves, we are listening to our bodies and when we listen to our bodies, we can never push ourselves beyond our limits.

If we had been too scared to take the plunge and decide to do the complete trek, we would never have known just what we were made of and would have missed out on so many beautiful experiences.

So, we need to take the plunge, to jump, to try and succeed or fail, and if we do fail, to get back up and try again. We need to get out of our comfort zone and try something new.

So, getting back to the questions I posed earlier, do you stay within your comfort zone and never break out? Do you trust and listen to your body? Do you try new or difficult yoga poses or do you say to yourself that it is too difficult?

One pose that I know a lot of people are freaked out by are handstands so today I wanted to dedicate the rest of this piece to the humble asana- The handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana).

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Sometimes, just like in real life, we need to flip our perspectives and get outside our comfort zone (or in this case get ourselves upside down)- even if it freaks us out.

Katie from Honeystuck- Learning to fall talks a bit about handstands but the most pertinent to this post is:

“Handstand takes a lot–strength, alignment, breath. But most of all it takes trust. Trust in your own strength, yes, but also trust that your weaknesses will not kill you.”

 

So, why not step outside your comfort zone and try something new whether it be attempting a handstand, going skydiving, or trekking for 10 days in Nepal.  🙂

 

Namaste,

Natalie

 

 

Day 4- 2/10: Siprong to Dovan (27.62 kms)

Disconnection.

Disconnection. Just like a coin, there are two sides to everything.

One can be a positive: disconnecting from work and technology in order to enjoy spending time with the people we love and doing the things we enjoy doing. The negative is the opposite: feeling disconnected from the people around us, because we are in a constant state of ‘busyness’; finding ourselves becoming more insular and separate. Day 4 into our trek (if you would like to follow my travel blog, please click on this hyperlink: Siprong to Dovan) and with no access to the internet, we are feeling disconnected not only from technology but our family and friends back home. Today I am going to talk about the positives of disconnecting.

Sometimes back in Australia I find myself permanently in a state of being ‘switched on’; available night and day to answer emails, chat to online friends, and working way too many hours a week. Worst of all, this is often to the detriment of my real-life relationships.

Just like my yoga practice brings me back to my mat, back to myself, and back to re-connect with the real-life people around me; trekking in Nepal has also had the same effect. Without access to and the distraction of technology, I found myself deep in my own thoughts, enjoying the sounds of nature and absorbed in meaningful conversations.

Trekking has been an imposed ‘switch off’ both mentally and metaphorically, from the digital clutter that fills a lot of my life. I have found that apart from the mind-blowing scenery in Nepal, the thing that I have enjoyed the most about my 10-day trek through Nepal was being with myself; both being alone with my thoughts and the quietness.

If you are reading this and wondering what does this have to do with yoga or thinking “I’m not keen to go on a 10-day trek through Nepal so that, I too, can practise being with myself”, never fear I have got a solution for you!

Why not try Easy Pose? In my opinion, it is the perfect a way to reconnect with that inner self and disconnect from all of life’s stresses (if only for a little while- I can’t imagine anyone sitting in Easy Pose for 10 days).

Easy Pose (Sukhasana):

  1. Come to a seated position, back straight, and your legs gently crossed in front of the body. If you struggle to maintain a straight back, either sit against a wall, or on a raised cushion/ Yoga block.
  2. Your eyes can be open or closed, but closing them often helps us to focus.
  3. Rest your hands either palms up, facing the sky, or down (if you need to feel more grounded), touching the knees.
  4. Begin to concentrate simply on breathing, inhalations and exhalations through the nose. If it helps, breathe in for a mental count of four, hold the breath for one second at the top, then out again through the nose for four. The moment when the breath is held at the top is thought to represent bliss, peace, the ultimate release.
  5. Alternatively, if yo are more experienced at deep breathing you could try inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts.

Try to aim to do this for a few minutes each day, to simply ‘be’ with yourself, allowing thoughts to come and go. And of course, ensure you remove any digital distractions before beginning your practice. 🙂

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Easy Pose (Sukhasana)

Disclaimer: While I am a certified yoga teacher, if you have any issues or concerns, please check with your doctor before performing the above pose. As always, listen to your body and modify as necessary.

 

Namaste,

Natalie

Day 3- 1/10: Ghorepani to Poon Hill to Siprong (28.64 kms)

Love & Gratitude.BfevP27CUAEZN0N

So today I watched my husband, Damien fall off the side of a mountain in Nepal (See Ghorepani to Siprong via Poon Hill if you would like to would like to read more about this story) and it got me thinking about how often we show our love and gratitude towards the people who are closest to us.

Today is the perfect day to tell your loved ones how much you care for them; how much you love them and how much they mean to you. Do not wait until it is too late.

 

Below I have included a love and gratitude meditation to help you enhance your feelings of love and gratitude for not only your loved ones, but also for yourself.

Love & Gratitude Meditation

This is an excellent script for experiencing love and gratitude. You may want to record yourself reading the script and then using it as a guided meditation.

To begin, find a quiet, peaceful place where you won’t be disturbed. This is your time, so make the most of it. You may want to turn off your phone, hang a do-not-disturb sign on the door, and really give yourself over to the peace and serenity that is always ready and waiting for you deep within.

Find a comfortable position, either lying down or sitting in a straight back chair, whichever feels best to you today. Take a few nice deep breaths, bringing your awareness fully to the present moment. Let go of any busy thoughts preventing you from tapping into your inner essence.

Now you are ready to scan your body. As you scan your body, if you encounter tension anywhere simply use the power of your mind to melt it away, as easily as warm water melts ice.

Starting at the top of your head, relax your scalp completely. Feel the skin of your forehead and temples relax. Allow your eye muscles to release, your jaw to soften, and let your ears, nose and chin, teeth, tongue and gums relax. Now, just let this peaceful feeling flow down your neck. Feel it soothe your throat and dissolve any tension on contact as it glides down to your shoulders, upper arms, forearms, wrists and hands.

Let this peaceful sensation of relaxation begin to fill your torso. Feel it relax your chest, giving your heart more room to grow and expand; more loving, giving and forgiving. Soften your belly muscles and let this relaxation penetrate even deeper, releasing any tension from your internal organs.

Now let it wrap around you, enveloping you in love and peace as it softens all the back muscles all the way down to the base of your spine. Continue to breathe in deep, fluid breaths. Breathe in health, happiness and harmony, breathe out any tension, toxins, worries or disease, allowing anything that does not serve you to leave your body like a dark cloud.

Send this peaceful feeling into your hips and buttocks. Let it glide down your thighs, relaxing your legs completely as it flows down to your knees, calves, ankles and feet. Allow any remaining tension from anywhere in your body to flow out your toes, leaving your whole body feeling very comfortable, peaceful and relaxed.

Continue to breathe deep relaxing breaths, feeling your belly rise on the inhale and fall on the exhale. Notice how the air feels cooler as you breathe in, and warmer as you breathe out. Now, imagine a golden glowing ball of light about 30 cms above the crown of your head. On an inhalation, breathe that light in through the top of your head through the centre line of your body, right down to the tailbone. On the exhalation, breathe that light back up the way it came and out the top of your head. Repeat this 2 more times at your own pace.

Now, place your hands either in prayer position or flat on the centre of your chest bringing your awareness to this area. Visualise a beautiful emerald green or a soft pink glowing ball of light.

This is your heart chakra, the chakra of love for yourself and others. Let it glow, bringing gifts of compassion, self-acceptance, and the ability to love deeply. Breathe in pink or green and let these feelings expand, seeing yourself living in perfect harmony with everyone in your life. Feel your heart swell with compassion and forgiveness for yourself and others.

Visualise your loved ones smiling at you and smile back at them. Picture them happy, healthy and full of love and gratitude. Let this image fill you with gratitude for the opportunity to live in this wonderful world with so many amazing, loving, caring people.

Let this chakra continue to glow and spin for as long as you want. [If you are recording this, you may want to have up to 5 minutes silence on the recording here].

Now it is time to gently reawaken your body and mind.

Keeping your eyes closed, notice the sounds around you. Feel the cushion or floor beneath you. Feel your clothes against your body.

Wiggle your fingers and toes.

Shrug your shoulders.

Open your eyes, and remain lying or sitting for a few moments longer.

Straighten out your legs, and stretch your arms and legs gently.

Sit or lie for a few moments more, enjoying how relaxed you feel, and experiencing your body reawaken and your mind returning to its usual level of alertness.

Slowly return to a standing position, and continue with the rest of your day, feeling re-energized.

 

I hope you enjoy this meditation. Showing love and gratitude is so important. Not only today, but every day. Make it a habit to appreciate the small things and notice the abundance of love in your everyday life. Your future self will thank you for it.

 

Namaste,

Natalie

Day 2- 30/9: Ulleri to Ghorepani (14.21 kms)

Mantras

A mantra is a sacred utterance, a numinous sound, a syllable, word or phonemes, or a group of words in Sanskrit believed by practitioners to have psychological and spiritual powers. The repetition of a mantra is thought to affirm its meaning to ourselves and change our thought process. It has the potential of cementing a belief into our core being. Mantras tend to be short so they’re easy to remember and can be said repeatedly.

What are personal mantras?

Whether you’re aware of it or not, everyone has personal mantras. You may be good at maths and have a mantra such as, “I find maths easy” or “Maths is/was my strongest subject at school”.

But, for as many positive mantras we have, we also have at least as many negative mantras, such as: “I’m too fat”, “I’m not as pretty as…”, “I’m not good at…”, etc. Negative thoughts that shape our opinion of ourselves are cemented by repetition. We live our lives acting out of negative thoughts and behaviour until we make them a reality.

Why do we use them?

Now that you know this, you can do something to change your negative personal mantras to positive ones, switching your negative thoughts to positive ones… and trust me, this will have a profound effect on your life.

How can we use them?

When your focus lies solely on repeating a mantra, your mind will have little time to fluctuate and produce new thought patterns. Using mantras as a form of meditation makes it easier to concentrate on one thing because you have a mantra to bring your focus back to. Anytime your mind starts to drift, you can simply shift back to the mantra.

My most recent Mantras-

Today was my 2nd day of trekking in Nepal and I was finding it rather difficult (See my travel blog: Ulleri to Ghorepani). I had difficulty breathing, and my knees, feet and legs were sore and tired from all the steps. I decided to try some positive personal mantras to help me carry on. Below are the 2 mantras to helped me hike over 12 kms today in hard terrain from Ulleri to Ghorepani.

“My feet, knees and legs are a pillar of strength.” I repeated this mantra 3 times and then I finished each round with: “Thank you feet, knees and legs for everything that you do for me.” Feeling gratitude as I uttered thanks.

My lungs are big and full and I breathe easily.” I repeated this mantra 3 times and then I finished each round with: “Thank you lungs for everything that you do for me.” Feeling gratitude as I uttered thanks.

I was astonished at just how simple but effective these two positive personal mantras were. So, next time you are finding something difficult, perhaps you too can try a positive personal mantra to get you through.

Examples of other official mantras-

You may have heard some of the following Sanskrit mantras in some of your yoga or meditation classes:

  1. “Aum” or “Om”

Translation: “In Hinduism is known to be the source of all mantras. Om is believed to be the primordial or the ‘first’ sound of the universe generated by the cosmic vibration that resulted in all creation”

  1. Om Namah Shivaya

Translation: “I honor the God within”

  1. Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu (My all-time favourite mantra)

Translation: “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”

Namaste,

Natalie

Day 1- 29/9: Nayapul to Ulleri (12.21 kms)

Wabi-sabi

The Japanese have a marvellous word, wabi-sabi which celebrates the humble, hidden beauty of incomplete and imperfect things.

In nature we see Wabi-Sabi all the time: a jagged cliff’s edge, eroded rocks jutting out of a mountain face or gnarled branches in an untamed forest. As I walked from Nayapul to Ulleri, (See my blog entitled Nayapul to Ulleri for a traveller’s point of view of this leg of our journey), I realised just how many examples of imperfection we find in nature that we deem to be beautiful.

Everywhere nature’s imperfections were being ‘Ohhhed’ and ‘Ahhhed’ over and the best travel pictures always highlight the way the light hits the tangle of the trees or the asymmetry of the mountains.

Nature, as is life, is imperfect. And so are we.

“Wabi-sabi reminds us that we are all transient beings on this planet- that our bodies, as well as the material world around us, are in the process of returning to dust. Nature’s cycles of growth, decay, and erosion are embodied in frayed edges, rust, liver spots. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace both the glory and the melancholy found in these marks of passing time.” (Source: http://www.utne.com/mind-and-body/wabi-sabi).

So, my advice to you is stop and enjoy the imperfections in nature, try not to take yourself too seriously, look beyond what’s on the outside and try to see the beauty (or the wabi-sabi-ness) in everyone and everything.

With that been said, today I’d like to introduce you to a fun and a little kooky pose called Alternative Cactus Pose. Despite looking imperfect, asymmetrical and TBH a little strange, this pose is guaranteed to make you smile, and to love that imperfection that your body is creating. It is a good pose to practise after the traditional Tree pose, which is a more graceful, symmetrical standing balance. 

Disclaimer: While I am a certified yoga teacher, if you have any issues or concerns, please check with your doctor before performing the pose below. As always, listen to your body and modify as necessary.

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Alternative Cactus Pose

Alternative Cactus Pose (above):

  1. Come out of Tree Pose [optional].
  2. Stand tall, raising and bending the right leg and taking hold of it just below the knee with the right hand.
  3. Balancing on the strong, left leg, use the right hand to open the right leg out to the right side slightly.
  4. Bend the left arm and raise it slightly, opening out the left palm and fingers.
  5. Breathe into the balance.
  6. Then repeat on the opposite side.
  7. Finish with traditional Cactus Pose (below) [optional].
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Cactus Pose

 

Namaste,

Natalie

 

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Kathmandu Durbar Square

Today, walking through Kathmandu Durbar Square (See my travel blog entitled: Kathmandu Day 2- Durbar Square & Freak Street if you are interested in where I got my inspiration for this piece), I was reminded of a Japanese legend that I’d like to share with you today.

According to Japanese legend, a young man named Sen no Rikyu sought to learn the elaborate set of customs known as the Way of Tea. He went to tea-master Takeeno Joo, who tested the younger man by asking him to tend the garden. Rikyu cleaned up debris and raked the ground until it was perfect, then scrutinized the immaculate garden. Before presenting his work to the master, he shook a cherry tree, causing a few flowers to spill randomly onto the ground.

To this day, the Japanese revere Rikyu as one who understood to his very core a deep cultural thread known as wabi-sabi.

Due to the devastating 2015 Earthquake in Nepal, much of Durbar Square was destroyed but now the rebuilding and restoration is proceeding. With the many tell-tale signs of repair and restoration in progress, there was beauty everywhere; from the cracks in the brick work to the remains of fallen buildings.

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And this beauty in the imperfect is known to the Japanese people as wabi-sabi. I will keep this blog post brief as I have a feeling that I will find more wabi-sabi in Nepal that will inspire me to write about this topic again.

 

Namaste,

Natalie

Get more out of nature

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Grampians, Victoria.

Besides the clear health benefits gained by walking (strengthens your heart and lungs, releases feel-good endorphins while reducing stress and anxiety, and tones muscles to name a few), walking provides time to think, meditate and step out of the rapid pace of modern life.

 

Victorians are lucky to have an abundance of bushwalks that are spectacular, safe and easily accessed. For my husband and I bushwalking is a cheap and easy way to get fit, a great way to de-stress, a perfect opportunity to leave the suburban life behind, and most importantly, reconnect with nature.

This weekend in Victoria is a long weekend, so my husband and I have packed up our tent, sleeping bags, camping chairs and camp stove and have headed off for a weekend in nature with the plan to go on several bushwalks…

Well with the endorphins still pumping from our afternoon hike, I’d like to share with you some ways in which I enhance my bushwalks (and how you can too).

  1. Connect with your body:

Take the time to sense your body as you walk. Feel your feet supporting you as you walk, your lungs expanding and contracting, and your heart beating in your chest. Send good thoughts to them, appreciating how much they do for you every day. Observe any aches and pains and send good thought to them too.

  1. Mindful walking:

Try switching off and really focus on your surroundings. Utilise all of your senses- listen to the grasshoppers hopping from strands of grass, the cicadas chirping, the birds singing and the lizards rustling in the dry leaves and bark. Inhale the fresh eucalyptus-smelling air, feel the uneven ground under your feet, look up and observe how the light filters through the leaves creating patterns against the clear blue sky, notice the puffy white clouds float through the sky or feel the rough and smooth textures of the bark on the trees as you gently brush your fingers along their trunks as you pass.

  1. Take a moment to meditate:

Find a peaceful spot, take a seat, keeping your back straight, close your eyes, and just practice sitting.

  1. Grounding:

Find a good earthy spot, take your shoes and socks off and just walk on nature. Stand for a while and imagine you are an ancient tree with roots that feed down deep into the soil connecting you to the earth, supporting you and keeping you upright. This type of grounding visualisation works with the root chakra and will help you feel grounded, safe and secure.

  1. Socialise:

Walking with friends or family and talking to them is far more personal than talking to someone on the phone/ over Facebook, etc. If your friends or family don’t share the same interests as you, why not try joining a meet-up walking group? When my husband is not available, I sometimes meet up with walking groups around Melbourne. It is a great opportunity to walk with like minded people. Meeting new people can also allow you to share ideas or just give you an opportunity to listen to a different point of view.

 

Walking connects you to the earth, reconnects you with nature and is a great way to distress. If you are already a walker, why not try some of my suggestions above! And if you aren’t already a walker, why not get out and try it for yourself?

Namaste, Natalie