Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Effortless Effort....(Tao Te Ching - part 1)

~ by Adele.

When life asks you to throw a spanner in the works…you must answer the call! Throwing the good kind of spanner in the works, we follow Steve’s calling to bring in the Tao te Ching as our text for the next 9 weeks of our Living Wisdom course. A Chinese Taoist scripture attributed to Lao-Tzu (Laozi), is a peaceful and timeless text, thought to be written at around the fourth century BC. “Tao” meaning “the Way”, and “te Ching” translating to “book of virtue”, the title can be translated in one way as “The Book of the Way”.

It is a profound teaching of understanding the laws of opposition, and in doing so, finding the middle path. Of recognising the unavoidable co-existence of sorrow and joy, anger and peace, hot and cold, night and day….and all of the opposing forces that make up this world. And tonight we just dip our yogi toes lightly into what we have to look forward to in the coming 9 weeks!

Steve describes the core theme of the book as the endeavour for “Effortless Effort”. Which sounds very simple and blissful….but Steve assures us, that to become effortless actually takes an enormous amount of effort. For example, learning to play the piano beautifully doesn’t happen overnight. The pianist spends hours, years…perfecting the keys, until it is inside his bones, a part of him. Until the music flows out of his soul.. .easily, effortlessly.

The ‘effortless effort’ is what followers of the Tao, or the way, describe as ‘doing non-doing”. So the ‘non-doing’ of life, actually first requires us…to do life! It all sounds a little bit like opposition, which is exactly the message of the Tao.

So how do we get in touch with this?

We explore the truth that the world we live in is full of polarity, duality, and opposing forces. Where there is night, there will be day, where there is ‘good’ there will also be ‘bad’, and as long as one side of the coin exists we cannot pick it up without touching both sides. We cannot experience joy without also knowing sorrow. And to accept and work with this unavoidable truth means that we stretch ourselves, and in turn, e x p a n d.

We don’t find our centre, or our ‘middle way’, by avoiding these things…but rather we create a greater space of ‘non-duality’, by moving into the dualities. We learn how to maintain our composure, and be okay in a full spectrum of experiences. And we know how to do this…we already do it on the mat! We stretch ourselves in our asanas one way, then the other, we work with the intensities and tension… and then we return to a centre. To an equilibrium. By stretching ourselves out in the poses, we create more space to be in our centres.

By letting ourselves dive fully into these opposites, we begin to build up a stamina. We learn to know our way home, to our centre, even within the turbulence. And we also learn to know when we’ve left that centre. Over time, as the space of our centre increases through a participation with the inevitable dualities… it takes more and more to disturb us  And perhaps eventually, through learning and applying our effortless effort, we may become quite undisturbable!

But, Steve says, to get there, we must first know what it is to not be there. We have got to go astray, in order to know what it is to be on the right path. We have to go wrong in order to know what is right. You have to know what it’s like to be the inauthentic you in order to know the real, authentic version of yourself. We have to wobble in tree pose, in order to know what it is to balance. (It’s nice to know that yoga teachers aren’t just torturing us with long hold balances!)

Steve ends tonight with the simple analogy of using a saw. If we try really hard and saw as hard as we can, it can become exhausting and we might not get very far. But if we let go a little and let the saw kind of do its own work a little bit, it does a much better job. If we try to make life ‘our way’ too much we can burn ourselves out, but if we go along with life a little more willingly, things loosen up. Maybe, life is just doing a naturally perfect job totally on its own.

But of course….it takes willingness to let go. Effort to become effortless. And we find this place, our unshakeable centre, by first letting ourselves be shook.

So”, Steve ends, “If the wind blows, we let it blow…


Adéle x

Monday, 5 December 2016

If you want to worship something, worship the life within you… (Katha Upanishad week 12)

~ by Adele.

For the past 12 weeks we have been on a soul-nurturing journey…exploring the great secrets of moving into the eternal and unconquerable Self within us all. Into that unshakable, unbreakable Self…which can truly never be touched by the hands of Death. After gradually being handed firm teachings by Yama, the Lord of Death, the teachings of the Katha Upanishad draw to a gentle close.

“Upanishad”, meaning “to come and sit close to”, was originally used to refer to the typical delivering of wisdom when a student would come and sit near to his teacher. But we get a feeling now with the wisdom…for the Upanishad within us. For our own internal teacher. For the teaching lies in fact within our own hearts, and even though sometimes prompted by an external – the wisdom comes from an internal knowing deep within ourselves. This means that whenever you’ve nodded your head at a Universal truth, heard something, felt something, read something that aligned with your own heart – it has always only been a reflection of the truth and purity in you. We must only quiet ourselves a little, and choose to sit close to this one inside.

“Know thyself to be pure and immortal”, ring out the last words of Yama. “Know thyself to be pure and immortal”. This means there’s no need to ‘discover’ this or to ‘become’ this, but only to know. Right now and right here, the fearless fullness of our true self – pure and eternal. No matter how many layers it may be underneath or how blurred it may seem, it is there and it is real. In fact, it is the most real thing possible, and the deepest truth.

How do we come close to this one, how do we come to live in this purity? This answers the whole question of the Katha Upanishads.

As we learn from Yama, we move into this by choosing to make our highest ideal our most important pursuit. We turn our devotion into ourselves, and worship our own life within us, making our energy the most precious gift.

This requirement, is the requirement to love ourselves enough. To love ourselves enough to serve the most authentic version of ourselves and to notice when we are choosing not to live in our truth. To love ourselves enough to say “no” to wrong thing and “yes” to the right, and to feel into what will nourish our soul and our energy in that moment. Nobody else’s. We can devote ourselves to ourselves, and in turn devote ourselves to the universe, as our own energy is always, divine universal energy.

We can ask ourselves, what is needed nowWhat will honour my Prana today? And looking after this one in turn looks after the whole. Honouring your own Prana is honouring the universal Prana, and the most spiritual endeavour we can be on. Of course, we won’t get it right all of the time, and this is totally fine and good! It is all there to serve us, and to call us into our highest good. No matter what mistakes we make, there will always be an internal guru calling us home, calling us into the truth that we are.

Please lovingly notice that you are so very allowed to listen to this one. Please look underneath the “shoulds” and “musts” and choose to peer into this voice within your heart. Everything you choose which causes this one within you pain, everything you choose which causes this one within you to feel compromised, please effort at letting go. Please endeavour at choosing differently if it does not align with your highest self. It is your gentle truth speaking to you, and the place from which all else grows. Tend lovingly and honestly to this one and know how important it is for you to listen to and love. It is here, resting in your pure, true self that you can begin to weave your truth into all the places in your life.

By staying close to this one within you, you will effort less, you will make more truthful choices, you will spend less time compromising what unfolding is intended for you and your life. By choosing to honour and love yourself first, the rest will follow suit. And all that does not, will fall away. By choosing to rest back into your own energy, the energy will take care of you. We can only ever take care and do right by this energy, and do right by ourselves. We cannot go out and save the world on a little puddle of energy, and therefore we must make ourselves the most important factor in our lives. This is not a selfish pursuit, but a great act of love for the divine.
So the Katha Upanishads ends with a loving message of choice. Choosing daily, choosing moment by moment….to keep opening, to keep listening, to keep choosing to work at being our highest self. And finally, to keep choosing to move closer into that true self within us that is never disturbed and can never die.

You can trust now, that you have deep and unwavering wisdom within you that knows exactly what is best for you and that is behind you totally. You can know now, that from your awareness comes a choice, and a loving and deep responsibility to keep choosingthe path that leads you to your highest good.
You can trust now, to love yourself so much that all you are living aligns with and reflects that love. This you deserve.
Go now, start expressing, exploring and choosing the love and truth that sits quietly within you.
Go now,
and rest into your authentic Self,
Your pure Self,
Your effortless Self.
And be true.

Om, love and Namaste
Adéle x 

Thank you to Steve for the beautiful, gentle, heartwarming delivery of the teachings. And as always for his light, wisdom and wonderful sense of humour.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

You have to leave the world behind in order to be of some service to it… (Katha Upanishads Week 11)

~ by Adele

 - Mahatma Gandhi

What’s it been like being you the past week? Would you want to be anyone else? Is here okay?

“You’ve really got the best thing going on by being you”, Steve says. There is no one else more suited to you for your own enlightenment. You have absolutely anything you could ever want right now for your own ultimate growth.

Of course…for this growth to take place, and for our wish to work with what we’ve got to come forth, we must be our own number one cheerleader. We could read all of the scriptures, attend countless Satsang, breathe and backbend ourselves into oblivion…but unless we bring the teachings into ourselves and make them our own, they won’t truly sink into our hearts.

We must connect with the teachings in such a way that we can let the universal message come through in our own unique voice. Otherwise, we are just being ‘told’ what to do. (And nobody likes that!). These teachings are naturally flowing in from the universe it’s very self…from a higher place that will connect to the higher self within you. So the higher self in you must start to become the speaker, the supporter and the butt-kicker to the ‘little’ you. The other voice that you choose to follow. This is the wise one that knows that what I’m doing in any given moment isn’t always good for my ultimate evolution. But my goodness, doesn’t the ‘little’ one put up such a fight! The saying is true…old habits really do die hard. Our job then, is to muster all of our power, all of our courage, to be behind this voice of our higher self, to agree with it, to listen to it – even if it takes everything we have. Of course, it gets easier the more we choose to go with this one, but it is undeniably tough work. Which is GOOD.

Not only is this the number one thing that you can do for your own evolution, but it is also the number one thing that you can do for the evolution of the world. We do not need to go out there and ‘sort the world out’. In fact, we can’t. We can only, and only ever take care of our own energy, and simply be an example.

We discussed tonight about our human tendency to hold strong opinions on things, even ‘good’ strong opinions being a hindrance to us. We can protest and fight and call on people to be better as much as we like, but it is not our business to wake other people up. It leaves us feeling powerless and frustrated with the world. We actually have to leave the world behind a little bit in order to be of some service to it. It’s doing its own thing – we of course wish it well, but it’s not our concern. The only concern we need to have is with ourselves. And raising our own energy is a huge service to the world. It is the ONLY way to serve the world. If every single person focused on raising their own energy, everything else would naturally transform.

Personally, I feel I’ve learnt this massively on one level. I’ve realised through years of trying, (and I have really, really tried!) that it is not my job to ‘fix’ anyone. And I don’t want to either anymore. Sometimes, if we’ve been on a bit of a journey ourselves and we’ve done some work, we can feel like we could help others by giving them some tools that have helped us. Of course we can, and this is beautiful, but it isn’t ever our responsibility whether someone chooses to do the work themselves or not. Although it seems genuinely loving, it is actually the total opposite to make someone your ‘project’. You can’t ‘fix’ anyone, you can only love and support them and wish them the best. But we have to let them go through their own process and ultimately, they have to do the work themselves. And thank goodness for that too, because making YOU your own project takes enough of your energy, right?! :)

Tonight, we reach the last couple of paragraphs of the invaluable teachings of the Katha Upanishad. Yama closes his teachings with words of loving wisdom. The first of the three reads:

"When all desires that surge in the heart
Are renounced, the mortal becomes immortal.
When all the knots that strangle the heart
Are loosened, the mortal becomes immortal.
This sums up the teaching of the scriptures."

Yama is sharing the journey that is before us all. We, one day at a time, transcend our desires, and our grip on life to continuously break open the heart. Doing this is very simple but not easy work. We go through the stages we’ve learnt so far, of first accepting whatever is, and then going THROUGH everything that it brings up in us. There is no easy way out of this one, for the ‘going through’ is an essential part of the transcendence. The ‘going through’ part brings up all the nitty gritty pieces within us and those are our assignments – to open to those parts. Those angry, jealous, judging, clinging, panicking, guilty, lonely, whatever else pieces are all the seeds that we get given to work with and they’re there for reasons. They are in fact always opportunities for our own growth if we can keep enough space from them to see that. The closer we are connected to that voice of our higher self by raising our energy, the further we will be from these. The more we drop our desires and our demands on life, the more we can open our hearts to what life has to offer. And your Bhakti is taking you there.

The second paragraph:

"From the heart there radiate a hundred
And one vital tracks. One of them rises
To the crown of the head. This way leads
To immortality, the others to death."

This one explains that whenever we surrender our grasp, and we transcend a situation, our energy rises UP towards this one track to the experience of immortality. The world will always be challenging us, and trying to pull us into its unfair mesh. It won’t stop. We could get mad at it and go nowhere, or we could turn the experiences inside and move UP.(Of course, we help nudge it along with a little yoga and breathing!)

And the last paragraph….like all good stories, ends with love (of course!)

Yama lets us in on the secret. He says:

"The Lord of Love, not larger than the thumb,
Is ever enshrined in the hearts of all.
Draw him clear out of the physical sheath,
As one draws the stalk from the munja grass.
Know thyself to be pure and immortal!
Know thyself to be pure and immortal."

We can pretend we know what ‘munja’ grass is (imagine peeling back a blade of grass to reveal the fresh bright green piece within!), and envision this Lord of Love residing in our own very heart. Always there, ever present. A smiley little Lord, his chubby cheeks flushed red with the colour of love! I’m sure it could also be a Goddess of Love too, whatever you feel it as. Sat right there, on the rightful throne tucked safely deep in your heart, waiting for you to break them free.

This one is present in the heart of everybody… and we can seek him out by continually choosing to keep opening, until the heart bursts open with his love. YOUR love.

 - Hanuman, Rishikesh

So can see him? Can you feel this one?
Go out into your outer world and see if you can find this one within. Even if you have abandoned him in the past, he has never abandoned you. He is right there, waiting for you. His little face will light up when he sees you searching for him, and he will say:

There you are. I’ve been waiting for you your whole life.
Welcome home.”

Om Shanti

Adéle x

Saturday, 19 November 2016

You did not come here just to 'get through it'.... (Katha Upanishads Week 10)
~ by Adele.

Throughout the journey of the Katha Upanishads, we’ve been absorbing the teachings of Yama (the Lord of Death) in order to live a fuller life.

We’ve been open to shifting our focus from what’s happening TO us from life into what is happening FROM us into life, we’ve explored the willingness to die to what we think we know, and we’ve set off on an endeavour to open to the whole of life into oceanic consciousness.

We know that our energy (or our Prana), is our life momentum, and we protect and raise this life force by making more Shreya (beneficial) energy choices.  We know that our ticket to heaven is on this Earth and is earnt by our journey through life rather than an alternative to life. And for this, there is no shortcut! Through this work of managing our energy, we start to become more aware of that which takes our energy from us, and get to see opportunities to choose differently. Although of course, this takes some doing…as we naturally become quite invested in our poor energy choices over time. We may have become convinced that this is what I ‘should’ do, or that this is ‘the only way to live’. But as we become more and more attentive and our Bhakti for more LIFE comes forth, we start to get curious for new possibilities. What if I didn’t react in this old habitual way? What if I didn’t shout at this person? What if I didn’t hold back from speaking my truth today?
These little moments of breakthrough are POWERFUL, and the more we triumph over the force of our conditioning, the doors open for a new possibility in life and the bigger we grow. Allow yourself a second of internal applause at these ‘little’ moments…for they are in truth, BIG.

So we’ve taken on this journey through Yama, and at this point, we’re assumedly on-board with what he’s given to us. Of course, there may be some initial resistance….there is undoubtedly work to be done, every day, every moment. But we feel the pull of the other one within us…the hungry one, the one who wants more…the one who says YES to life.

This week, Yama doesn’t mess about or fluff it up. He gives it to us a little boisterously…and we’re totally ready for it:
He says:
"Get up! Wake up!
Seek the guidance of an Illumined teacher and realise the Self.
Sharp like a razor's edge is the path, The sages say, difficult to traverse."

Truly testing our desire to discover the immortal, he calls us now, in this life time, to wake up. He pushes us to make the decision to stop our luke-warm, half-hearted, conditional relationship with life and tells us to demand more. Of course, this can only be done through us and by us alone. And that Bhakti is there inside of us right now, either screaming a loud ‘yes’ or just whispering a little one. But it’s there deep within, and will be knocking to embody its power sooner or later.
And Yama’s not the only abrupt one. The great Swami Sivananda gives it to us even a little bit tougher still!

He says:
"Eating, drinking, sleeping,
A little laughter! Much weeping!
Is that all?
Do not die here like a worm.
Wake up! Attain immortal bliss!"

A worm. A….worm. Okay, Sivananda, you’ve got me. No thank you, I don’t want to die like a worm. I would quite like some immortal bliss.

Swami Sivananda

Sivananda’s words are powerful. He asks us, is that all? Can we really be satisfied with a mediocre life? Did we really come into this life just to ‘get through it’, to make it through another ‘okay’ day? This is in no reference to our life situation, our jobs, our relationships or our circumstances. He asks instead, can you look back at the end of each day and see what you did that day for your own evolution? Can you ask yourself what you can do better tomorrow? Continually expanding yourself, opening yourself up, in order to become the ultimate instrument for the divine. (But of course…not overnight).

As I am sure is the same for a lot of people, for me the desire and internal feeling that there must be more to this life is what led me to Yoga. And it seems that once we’re on the path, it’s a one way track – there’s not really any going back. Sometimes I feel like I take two step forwards and one step back, and a little dance happens. But when I do fall back, the contrast is now too big for me to ignore. To go back to an old way of being just isn’t possible, truths cannot be forgotten once remembered, and although sometimes it may feel as if we’re being dragged….the only way is forward. I know you share this knowing with me too.
Look back to a year ago and see the person that you were and notice how life has expanded you. Even if it ‘broke’ you, or it felt like it left you in a pile of pieces on the floor…it didn’t. It has cracked you open. And your being here, protecting the flame of your Bhakti between your palms, still willing to participate, means that you have already taken part in your own opening. Keep. Going.

So we notice our ‘no’, embolden our ‘yes',
And this week, we take a shot of Sivananda into our desire to awaken to immortal bliss.

Shakti Om

Adéle x

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

"Know The One and Know All" -  (Katha Upanishads Week 9)
~ by Adele.

Last week we spoke of the beautiful ocean and wave analogy; comparing the physical versions of ourselves as waves, always connected to the vast ocean of life. And even when we start to buy into the belief that we are ‘separate’ from the ocean or the other waves, it doesn’t matter. We are always connected – there is no separating the wave from the ocean. Our process is just one of continuous remembering, and allowing ourselves to relax back into the bigger energies. Ahhh...

We do this by getting daring enough to welcome in the whole of life, even the nitty gritty parts of it. As they are all specifically ours to experience. In fact we cannot get to experience that which is beyond life without going THROUGH life first. There’s no other way! 

So we continue to deepen in our courage to let go, and start to fall more and more in love with the experience of being unified with life. Of course, “you” do not go, and you’ll even still probably keep those strange personality quirks of yours! But you choose more and more to merge into the ocean, to fall back into life. Something has started to give way inside your wave and you know that you’re always connected, even when you may sometimes feel disconnected. Instead, you’re able to watch from a deeper place what’s happening, even if you’ve ‘lost it!” There starts to be an inner calmness, even if we’re not behaving particularly calm at the time.

Of course, this connection changes our experience totally, and especially with other waves. Instead of comparing our wave with the wave next to us, or getting jealous of what that wave over there can do,  maybe we can relax a little. We can say, “Wow, check out what that wave can do!”, and wish that wave the very best life it could EVER possibly have. (Rather than perhaps deep down hoping that wave might slip and fall on their arse!)
How beautiful would it be if we could start to see the other waves as “brother” or “sister”, instead of “danger” or “competition”? Knowing fully that wishing one wave the best genuinely from our hearts, does in no way diminish our own potential. We can start to appreciate all the forms of the waves – how the ocean takes form in a guitar-playing wave over there, a hair-dressing wave over here, and a great-mum wave right next to us. It also changes our perception on the idea of death; when a wave runs its course, where does it go? It merges back into the ocean doesn’t it? It’s not gone. Maybe there is a different way to look at the idea of death, maybe we are just breaking out of our bodies into a new life, and merging back into eternal life. 
“May you relax well back into the ocean my dear”, we could wish our fellow waves. Isn’t thinking of it this way so beautiful, so full of total love? I think so.

When we know, or rather remember, this deep connection as the truth it is, we can also notice when we start to contract from it. Then moment to moment, we can summon up the courage to keep on opening to each experience, each time taking us deeper into our ocean. This is of course, ino ‘easy’ road. But what would the ocean of life say to us if it were to come up and speak to us?

Steve jokes in his deep ‘ocean’ voice,
“It would probably say:


“Huh….okay, so you mean I don’t have to worry about anything…at all, ever?” Steve asks life.

*A long pause*


*another long pause*

“I am taking care of everything”.

Well thank God for that! It’s almost so funny when it’s put this way, because then what about all this time I’ve spent worrying and fixing and planning and doing?! And sometimes we even dream of not having to do all those things, but there’s a part of us that still thinks we know best and that we have to! It doesn’t mean that we get complacent, but rather the opposite. Choosing to be part of the flow of life is a constant commitment. But when we see that life really does have a bigger plan for us, we start to trust more and more. Of course, life will not remove the challenges and lessons that we need to go through, but it will ultimately give us way more than we could ever go out and take from it. 

And this life, this ocean knows all. It know everything it needs to know at any given time. And when we connect to this one, it will also flow through us, giving us everything that we need to know too. Therefore, meditation is not a ‘time out’ or a luxury, or a relaxing technique. It is instead, to tune in to this ocean of knowledge and wisdom which is available to us always. So we can know all we need to know at any moment, and we can stop worrying about controlling it all so much. Phew. Cool.

And so we come to the simple but profound message of Yama’s this week:
“Nachiketa, can there be anything not known to the Ocean, when Everything is part of the Ocean? - Know ‘The One’ Nachiketa, and you will know All!


Adele x