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How sunshine and salt water changed my life

On the coastal cliffs along the bondi-coogee walk

I never realised how much the weather and nature affected me until I moved to Australia – land of sunshine and 10,000 beaches. I always tell people that I feel like my base level of happiness is so much higher in Australia and I think that at least 80% of that is because of the amazing weather and the fact that I can be outside by the ocean every single day of the year. I’ve always been happier when the weather is nicer, but I thought that most people were in the same boat and it was just something you had to deal with. I’d joke about having SAD (seasonal affective disorder), but never really paid serious attention to how my surroundings were actually affecting me.

Growing up in Toronto, my family lived in a an area that was modelled after an English village so our neighbourhood had lots of huge trees and grassy lawns. It felt a bit like living in a park and i’d spend countless afternoons roaming around with my sister and our neighbours. When I moved away from home for uni, I lived in a smallish suburban town in Canada and my world consisted of maybe a 1km concrete radius around campus. The only places I really went were home, uni, gym, bar; building to building. It was winter at least 5 out of 8 months of the school year and even when the weather was nice, I barely remember there being any trees or grass on campus. Every November like clockwork as the days got shorter, greyer and colder, I’d find myself slipping into a dark place mentally. I think back then I wrote it off as early 20s angst – being unsure of my studies, what I should do with my life etc. But when I think about my environment and lifestyle at the time it all kind of makes sense.

After City2Surf – 14k run from the city to Bondi (and by far the furthest I’ve ever run in my life)

I don’t think I consciously realised that I was missing that connection with nature but I did start going for runs. I can’t remember how or exactly when I decided to start running. I’d always liked track and field i.e. short distance sprints, but I’d never been any sort of distance runner – I was the kid in middle school who would join the cross country team for approximately 2 weeks every year and then quit. I thought my newfound will to run was motivated by a desire to keep fit but I think it was probably more my body screaming for some fresh air and what little nature I could find.

My first running route was just a simple rectangle around campus, but since then I’ve sought out a running route in every single place I’ve lived. When I was working as an au pair after my first year of uni,  I went for nightly runs with the family dog through the winding roads past vineyards in the south of France and then through the city streets in Liege. During my internship in Quebec City I ran around the uni campus at Laval where I was staying. As an ERASMUS student in Paris I’d run by the Canal St. Martin, or walk across the city to explore new parks. During law school in Windsor I’d run along the Canadian side of the Detroit river at least a few times a week. Some of these runs were even in the middle of winter (rugged up in gloves, hat and my warmest hoodie)!

During my last summer at law school I lived in Costa Rica for 3 months teaching English, learning Spanish and doing some translation work for a law firm. My life in Costa was lived at least 75% outside; I basically lived on the beach and it awakened something inside me. When I landed back in Toronto and drove through the suburbs with my dad, I knew I would never be able to look at city life the same way. My first few days back I felt so antsy and realised how much of my life in Canada I lived inside and essentially immobile.

I’d never realised how important the outdoors were to me until that point, but I still had a year of law school to finish and after that 10 months of articling to officially become a lawyer. I slowly acclimatised back to my Canadian life (with lots of struggles) but I was never quite the same. After living (more like surviving) through a winter that was consistently -20 and left me feeling desperately claustrophobic, I finally made the decision to join Alex in the land down under. Lots more to that story but that’s for another time.

Sunrise sesh before work in Bondi

Basically, once I moved to Australia, it became so obvious how much weather and nature impact me. Mainly because it’s SO BEAUTIFUL here 90% of the time that when it’s not, I immediately notice the difference in my mood. The sky in Australia is the bluest blue you’ve ever seen. The ocean literally sparkles and is so clear you feel like you could drink the water. Flowers and plants bloom with abandon everywhere. I can go outside all year round comfortably, touch my feet to the the earth, the sand, the ocean. It sounds so simple and it is, but it makes such a big difference in my quality of life to be able to be in nature every day.

I still work in the CBD and live a ‘city’ life for the most part Monday to Friday. But living in Bondi means every weekend feels like a vacation and in the summer I can get in beach time before and after work. I have so many moments by myself outside where I’m just genuinely happy to be alive and I feel like that was something that was really rare for me before.

All I know is that any time I dive into the ocean or touch my bare feet to the grass, I can’t help but smile and feel like a kid again.


Yoga 101: How to be confident in any class

Did you know that there are 16 magic cues (8 pairs of cues) that will ensure you’re doing every yoga pose correctly?

I definitely didn’t, until my first day of yoga teacher training. Our teacher got us to all stand up and took us and our bodies through each one. The 16 cues are divided up into 8 pairs, with the idea that each pair contains complementary cues that need to be done together to create stability in the body.

Take a moment, stand up and try it for yourself with the aim of holding all 16 cues together at the same time.

Tadasana cues (in pairs)
  1. Ground all four corners of your feet into the earth
  2. Pull up through the inner arches of your feet
  3. Draw the shins towards each other
  4. Broaden the back of your knees (push your knees back)
  5. Roll your inner thighs back (or up, pending the pose)
  6. Pull up through the pelvic floor (as if your perineum area was being pulled upwards)
  7. Cinch in your waist
  8. Lengthen your side bodies (from your hips to your armpits)
  9. Inner & outer shoulders back
  10. Roll the bottom of your shoulder blades down
  11. Tuck your front ribs in
  12. Broaden through the collarbone (as if they were moving back and out simultaneously)
  13. Take the edges of your neck back and up
  14. Reach through the crown of your head
  15. Energise your fingertips
  16. Smile

It’s not easy, is it? When you’re standing up straight and holding these cues you can feel the effort. These are called Tadasana cues. When you’re in a yoga class and the teacher gives you alignment advice for each pose, they’re not just making it up and pulling them out of thin air (well they shouldn’t be at least), they’re drawing from these cues.

They generally apply to every pose and if you memorise them you will always have something to draw on whether no matter how you’re feeling about the class, teacher, etc. And you will end up working hard as they make even the simplest of poses (like standing) intricate balances of effort.

Learning these cues changed my whole physical practice. Not using them is the equivalent of going to a gym and squatting weights without proper form, vs squatting with proper form. Be in the know, keep your body safe and remember that it’s all about connecting within…not how high your leg kicks or how arched your back is. Find that sweet spot between strength and ease. And never forget to meditate!


Are you living in the wrong place?

When I decided to move to Australia, my dad told me he was worried I was running away and warned me that ‘The grass isn’t always greener”. This warning haunted me my whole first year. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop and constantly questioning myself. Was I just escaping ‘reality’? Was I being unrealistic? I may have left Toronto, but I definitely did not leave my anxiety…

Emma and me, five years post-farm (Crate Cafe, Canggu, Bali)

When I worked on a farm in Australia for three months (see why here), I met my Swedish friend Emma whilst packing cucumbers. We were talking about the differences between our home countries and Australia and if we would go home or stay. I clearly remember when she said ‘Alex, just because you were born somewhere doesn’t mean you’re meant to stay there.’ Then she listed off all the reasons why Australia suited who she was: from allowing her to be outside, in the sunshine all year long to the fitness-first active culture. Something about the way she stated it so matter of factly, as if it was obvious and no big deal struck me deeply because it rang so true.

There’s the place you were born and the place you were meant to be. I firmly believe this now and for those who were born in a place that feels like home, you may not get this sentiment, but for those who have always felt a little off, this could be for you.

I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, but something never felt quite right. Growing up I didn’t know how much of that was attributed to my place of residence, but looking back the signs were all there.

Here is my very non-scientific, personal ‘Are you living in the wrong place?’ checklist.

When at ‘home’ do you:
  • Feel like an outsider for no obvious reason?
  • Fantasize and/or find yourself living your whole life for your next vacation?
  • Find it hard to be motivated by what’s ‘supposed to be’ important in your life, but your friends/coworkers/family seem to have no issue doing so?
  • Feel like your outlook, emotions, opinions, etc. are often different than the general sentiment?
  • Feel like you’re limited in the ability to do the things you want to do based on your surroundings?
  • Feel like the way people go about things is unnecessarily difficult?
  • Feel like the way you’ve been living doesn’t make sense to you?

Obviously these questions can apply to a huge spectrum of things and should be taken with a HUGE grain of salt (and context), but bear with me and let’s continue with this exercise.

Have you ever been somewhere else and:
  • Felt immediately at home (and not just because you were sipping a daiquiri/lounging in a lux hotel room/etc.)
  • Met people who you have more in common with (and not just other travellers, but locals)
  • Felt like the way people live life there makes sense
  • Felt like you could see yourself living there beyond the honeymoon period of travel
  • Felt like your values were finally being met

If this all sounds too familiar then you probably also have a home away from wherever you grew up. I carried around a lot of guilt about leaving Toronto – “Why did I have to move across the world when I lived somewhere so great?” (Actual question directed at me many times by many people). But it wasn’t great, not for me. And just because something’s not outright awful doesn’t mean you have to stay and spend all your energy trying to make it work. I was always taking on new projects, activities, etc. to try and turn things around, meet different people, etc. thinking that if I just found the right ‘thing’ somehow life would start to make sense. I thought if I found that thing I would all of a sudden ‘get’ what everyone else seemed to – the invisible force that kept them motivated and excited about their lives. And yes, contentment is found within and equanimity is the goal – but if you have to spend more than 20% of your day just dealing with your circumstances (-20 and icy sludge, horrible transit, a very serious corporate culture) then maybe it might serve you better to be in an environment where you can free up that energy to be spent on more positive and productive pursuits. Have you ever heard that quote about how you need to fill up your cup first before you can fill up anyone else’s?

In this day and age, especially if you’re born in a first world country with the means and resources to choose your fate, make sure you do choose it  – consciously and with purpose.

When my parents came to visit for the first time we took a ferry across the water. My dad was very quiet as he watched the cliffs fly past. He turned to me and said: “The grass is ACTUALLY greener…I wish I had moved to Australia when I had the chance.’’

Are you where you were meant to be? If not, where is that place for you and why?


Moving to Australia pt3: How I stayed

So I visited Australia, I fell in love with Australia, and then I moved to Australia. But the tricky part was…how would I stay?

Home and away (but actually the beach the TV show is filmed on)

Making the decision to move to another country is a giant step. Buying the ticket, telling your family and friends, packing up your belongings…they’re all big stepping stones to the life you want. Then there’s finding a job, residence, and community in your new home, and add on all the psychological stuff and it’s pretty full on. But the most important part, in my opinion, is figuring out your visa situation. Not just for the immediate future, but for long term.

The thing is – and I’ve seen it time and time again here – even if you think you’re just coming for a fun year, you really never know how you’ll feel by the end of it. And if you realise you can’t bear the thought of leaving, life will be infinitely easier if you’ve at least plotted out a slight idea of how you can stay.

There have been so many changes to the system in the past year that some of this does not apply, but I figure there’s still some value in my journey to Permanent Residency.

How I became a Permanent Resident in my favourite country on earth:

Holiday working visa, 417 (HWV):

https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/trav/visa-1/417-

This visa entitled me to one year of travel and work around Australia. I was allowed to work anywhere I wanted  so long as it didn’t exceed six months in any one place. This is available for Canadians and a host of other nationalities up until the day you turn 31. The price at the moment is $450.

HWV 1 year extension:

That time I worked on a cucumber and strawberry farm…

If one year isn’t enough time to explore the country there’s a way to add an additional year to your HWV, for many countries there’s the option of doing your regional work (aka farm work…although it doesn’t actually have to be farm related). This involves spending 88 days working in regional Australia. I worked on a small cucumber and strawberry farm in Woolgoolga. I dreaded it, but in the end it ended up being one of the most interesting and Australian experiences of my life.

Temporary work (skilled), 457 (aka Sponsorship!):

*This visa no longer exists as of this year…but my advice about planning definitely still applies*

Sponsored, happy and celebrating Xmas in July

During the second year of my WHV I spent six months working at a well known media company with the aim of getting sponsored by them. They offered me sponsorship and the next phase of my Aussie journey began.

At the time I started (2014), to get sponsored you needed to have a relevant degree to the job you were being nominated for, meet the min. amount of experience required, and a host of other things. I have friends now who have worked really hard to be offered sponsorship only to find out they don’t meet the minimum requirements and would have been better off getting a more relevant education to enable them to stay. I also have friends who weren’t fussed about their timeline so didn’t check out their options early…they ended up missing out on the 457 path to permanent residency, even though they are sponsored now and are very uncertain about their future in two years.

So much has changed in the last year regarding this visa, that I advise you to do your research and do it well!

Permanent Residency, 186:

https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/trav/visa-1/186-

With the now defunct 457 visa, once you worked at your place of sponsorship for two years you were eligible to apply for Permanent Residency. I was lucky that at the time the waitlist was only 6-7 months. The whole process was costly (I think I spent around $8k), but more than worth it. On Feb 13th, 2016 I got an email from immigration saying my PR had gone through. I didn’t even know how much it meant to me until I burst into tears at my desk like a crazy person. Haha. Luckily it was 5:30 and time to go home. I detoured to the Opera House with some friends to celebrate in style and ferry home with the beauty of Sydney stretched out before me. I am a proud Permanent Resident and so happy to call Australia home.

Citizenship:

https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/trav/citi/pathways-processes/application-options/migrant-with-permanent-residence

Once you’ve had your Permanent Residency for one year and lived in the country for at least four years, you’re allowed to apply for your Citizenship (cost: $285). Having done my Permanent Residency application myself I had everything I needed pretty much to do the Citizenship application too. It was quite straightforward and I’ll keep you updated on my status. So far it says wait times are 12 to 16 months and I’m on month six at the moment. 100% worth the wait.

So again, I can’t reiterate how important it is to do the dry work: check out what options are available to you before you even really need to look. The information is all out there and it could save you heaps of time, money and heartache in the future. If you have the chance to live in your happy place, grab it and go forth!

Moving to Australia


Moving to Australia pt2: The seed is planted

In February 2012 I visited Australia for the first time. On this fateful trip, I conducted a little survey with every Australian I met by asking them: “Would you say you’re happy?”. I know – pretty confronting, right?

Sneaky pic I took of happy beach goers

But I was in shock. I couldn’t believe this magic place existed. A place where everything was the same in some ways: people worked 9-5, rode public transport into the city, had weekends off, hung out with their friends…except it was sunny, warm and the ocean was right there. And nature. And so much green. I met people who had the exact same job as me…but lived in Bondi beach. They would go to work, then come home and…go for a surf! They would hang out with their friends on the grassy knoll on weekends and then head to someone’s house for a barbie (barbecue to the uninitiated) to finish off the day. They had 20 DAYS OF VACATION. They were allowed to take unpaid leave. They also smiled a lot and seemed very relaxed. There was a general sense that these were people who were enjoying the life they were living…as they were living it. It was not about someday, it was happening right now.

But I had always loved Australians, from my fateful days spent on a little island in Greece during two uni summers. My best friend and I became friends with a group of Aussies then and we loved their easy going, straightforward attitudes. They were just generally good and decent people and we had so much fun.

So when I asked the happy question, the immediate reaction was “…ah, what?” Haha. But then in true Aussie fashion they would ‘give it a go’ and the response was always along the lines of “Yeah, I guess I am.”.

All the blues and greens

This gave my Toronto-conditioned brain a real jolt. If I’d asked the same question back home the answers would have been along the lines of “I can’t really complain, it could be worse.” to the classic “Is anyone really happy?”. This general attitude of complacency never sat well with me. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand how you could think that and then keep finding the motivation to go forward. I’d experienced some really big highs and lows in my life already and my whole adulthood in Toronto felt like this one long string of baseline ‘meh’ ness, with a highly anticipated once-a-year, week long Mediterranean vacation and a few summer weekends at a cottage thrown into the mix. And on top of all that were more and more frequent moments of real existential despair. How could this really be as good as it gets?

Well, it turns out it wasn’t. At least not in Australia. The secret was out (to me). I had found the place that made sense to my brain. The place that made life worth living. I had peeked behind the curtain. I had seen the emerald city. And there was no going back.

I spent the last day of this fateful first trip by myself. I walked through the city and suntanned at Bondi beach. I observed everyone and everything. I soaked up as much as I could and wrote it all down: the things people said to each other, the difference in attitude, my complex feelings of wonderment. I never even dreamed at that point that I could actually live there one day. That Bondi would be my backyard. That I would swim every morning in that beautiful, freezing cold sea. That I would get so used to sunshine that a rainy day would be welcomed.

I wrote it all down and promised myself to find a way to somehow live like that back in Toronto. I was blown over, but I still didn’t see how that amazing place could ever be MY life. So I went home and tried to keep that sunshine with me.

Six months later I applied for my Australian Working Holiday visa. A year and a half later* I was living in my apartment in Bondi.

And that’s how my love affair with Australia began.

*A whole hell of a lot went on in between then (hello separation from my partner, living a wild life in Costa Rica, working on a farm in small town New South Wales), but that would literally take a novel to write…or many, many more stories.

Moving to Australia

 


Moving to Australia pt1: My first time in Sydney

Australia was this thing in my mind for a very long time. A sunshine country full of beaches, blue skies, beautiful and friendly people. I used to have these dreams in Toronto, before I’d ever laid foot in the place, where I would wake up and be on this long, golden beach – the sky was crazy blue, the surf was big and there were lifeguards and people enjoying the gorgeous day. It was so warm and felt real, felt hopeful and happy and right. I’d wake up from the dream and try and hold onto that feeling for as long as I could. I wanted to feel that sunshine…

I visited Australia for the first time back in 2012. My best friend Sid and I had always wanted to go ever since we had lived in Greece for two summers during our uni days and met so many amazing Australians. We would always talk about it, but it was one of those trips that you needed a lot of time (and money) for and we’d both been swept up in our work and relationships…also, it just seemed SO FAR AWAY.

My first pic in Bondi – little did I know this would literally become my backyard in two years.

Then one day, out of the blue, Sid said she was planning a three week trip in Feb and asked me if there was a chance I could come. At the time I was a few months into what I thought was my ‘dream job’…the thing that was going to make life better, fix everything, etc., but had turned into my own personal nightmare (as these things do when you are relying on a job to fix your life). I was depressed, anxious and had no idea what to do next. I felt so trapped and I needed an out badly.

I thought it was crazy at first…three weeks away is a lot in Toronto and I had my partner at home, but the idea wouldn’t leave my mind. After a month of more misery at work I realised this was the perfect ‘excuse’ to leave. I also found out it would only cost $500 return for me to fly with Sid since she was a flight attendant…which basically removed any other worry I had left. Looking back this was all such an obvious sign from the universe – listen to your signs!

So I gave my notice, threw caution to the wind (had no idea job plans yet for when I got back) and went. We flew to Vancouver, spent the afternoon there (such a good flying break – highly recommend), then took the midnight flight to Sydney where we were set to arrive early in the morning.

When we got out of customs I saw a row of palm trees just outside the gate. The air had a headiness to it. It felt like beach to me. The sky was blue. The colours were different – have you ever noticed that not all blue skies and sun are the same? This gave off a clear and warm light. I thought about that feeling I would get watching Australian tv shows back home. It was weird to be travelling in an English speaking country, so easy, but different. We went to buy a bottle of water and I remember being shocked at the $3 price (haha, if only I knew!). We got on the train and headed to Central Station where our hostel was.

When we arrived in the city we both were awestruck. More palm trees. Blue skies. Heat…and this was the CITY. I remember something starting to build inside me and I think some things were already unconsciously beginning to piece together: English speaking, first world country (and not the US), good weather. We were  giddy with excitement.

View from Taronga zoo. I thought it looked like Toronto.

You know those things you put off for awhile out of fear, a purported difficulty, or a myriad of other reasons? But then when you finally do it you’re like…oh. OH. And regret immediately not having done it earlier? That was Sydney for me. That was Australia. I had a huge…how did it take me this long to get here? Why would I ever have put this off? Yes, the flight is long…but really, any flight longer than 8 hours is going to take your day (and night). It was so far away from Toronto, but in all the ways that mattered, it didn’t feel very far at all. It was recognisable, easy to navigate…it was a thoroughly western city. And then on top of that…it was absolutely gorgeous. Like I finally understood what world class city meant: the harbour, the ferry commutes, the luscious park havens right in the city (Hyde Park and Botanical gardens)…THE BEACHES. White sand, clear water…20min from downtown! And the weather, did I mention the weather?! It was Toronto on its most glorious day…every day.

I loved Sydney the minute I laid eyes on it.

 

Moving to Australia


YTT: Yin and Traditional Tantra Hatha at The Practice Bali

If you’ve followed my Yoga Teacher Training Journey (see here, here and here), it’s been about a year since I did my 200hr course with Power Living in Bondi.

Since then I fell head over heels for the yoga at The Practice in Canggu, Bali. So when I found out about the 50hr Yin Teacher Training course they were holding, as well as the 50hr Traditional Tantra Hatha bridging course (for people who didn’t do their 200hr YTT with them, but want to learn the foundations of what they teach)…I knew I had to sign up. Here are my reviews of both:

50hr Yin Teacher Training with Nik Robson

Price: $850 USD

I’ve been to my fair share of yin classes with varying experiences, but when I started attending Nik’s yin classes last year I felt what I could only describe as pure magic. When I saw the training open up I knew I needed to find out what was behind it.

The training started with a half day, which included an opening ceremony and two hour practice. Our first full day was done in complete silence (definitely an experience). As the week went on (and we started speaking again hah) we learned about the pran vayus (different energies within the body), how to sequence a yin class to create specific experiences based on these energies and most importantly, how to create and hold a safe space for people to be free to create the *magic* for themselves.

We’d do yin practices that felt like an hour only to find out we’d stayed for three. Time didn’t exist and our little yin bubble was strong. We went deep and I felt like the course was lead the way Nik’s yin classes were lead: as a safe, strong, nurturing experience that gave us the space to really experience what we were learning and take it on board. There was a lot of trust put in us and the message was clear…it’s our duty to take these learnings, make them our own, and provide our own unique sacred spaces for people to experience yin.

50hr Traditional Tantra Hatha with Octavio Salvado

Price: $650 USD (a steal!)

If you’ve always wanted to take an extended spiritual pilgrimage to India, but haven’t found the time (hah), then this course is definitely for you. Not only is it insanely rich in content, but it also systematically shows you how to apply traditional tantra hatha yoga to your life…and how to reap the benefits.

This course was a whammy. So much information. So little time. We were given the same manual as the 200hr YTT course and I feel like we covered a lot of it. Each day was comprised of a two hour morning vinyasa krama, pranayama and meditation exercise followed by lectures with mini meditations and mantra chants in between. We were living and breathing the teachings being passed down to us. This is not the place to learn how to do your best downward dog (which you know if you’ve ever been to The Practice).

The majority of students were practicing yoga teachers (some even ran their own 200hr trainings) and a few yoga newbies. The yogis who had a fair share of trainings under their belt, all said they’d never found a course like this anywhere else in the world.

Here’s the course curriculum (direct from the site):

  • Tantric Philosophy, Cosmology and Methodology.
  • Moon, Sun and Fire: The 7 Stage Process to Awakening Kundalini.
  • Advanced Sequencing: The Energetics of Asana.
  • Mastering The Prana Vayus.
  • The Gunas and Their Connection to Emotions and Meditation.
  • Kundalini and The Chakras.
  • Understanding The Science and Connection Between Asana, Pranayama and Meditation.
  • The Science of Sound: Mantra, Vibration, Energy and Frequency.
  • Key Tantric Insights Into The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
  • Ayurveda and Tantra.
  • Yantra Yoga: The Mathematics of Dharma.
  • Kriya Meditation: The Ultimate Practice for Modern Yogis.

It was truly fascinating and the response I have to everyone who’s asked me about it is that I feel like I’ve learned all the secrets of the universe…and who doesn’t want to do that?!

It was amazing. Now go meditate!


What are your conditionings?

A family friend told me a story years ago that I’ve never forgotten. She had gone to both her office Christmas parties: Toronto and Vancouver.

In both places she was asked ‘What do you do?’, but there was a difference.

In both places she responded with ‘I’m in marketing…’. In Toronto that would be the norm, but in Vancouver when she tried to start talking about her job they would interrupt her with, ‘No, what do you ‘do’ do…like snowboard/ski/etc.?’.

This story stuck with me, but it wasn’t until I went to Costa Rica for the first time that I experienced it for myself.

I was 28 when my life turned upside down. I needed an escape and Tory, being the good sister that she is, said there was no way we could spend Christmas at home. We looked for cheap, last-minute flights to anywhere hot – and Costa Rica was the winner.

We went from the freezing cold, dark, wet, concrete metropolitan that is Toronto…to Jaco – the kind of so hot you forget it’s possible, sunshine on crack, tropical, lush, living, breathing beach town. If that wasn’t enough to jolt us out of our former selves, there was so much more to come (but we’ll save that for another time and post…).

One of the things I noticed right away was that when I talked to someone new no one would ask me:  ‘What do you do?’.

Instead, the questions were along the lines of:
  • Where are you from?
  • How long are you here for?
  • Where else are you going/have you been?
  • Do you surf?
My answer:
  • Toronto
  • One week
  • Home/nowhere
  • Not yet

This shook me up. I was so used to relying on my job as an easy identification of myself (even if I didn’t really believe it) that when it was taken away as an option I felt like my current situation did not and could not describe who I was. I wanted to say, ‘But really…I’m interesting! I’m exciting! I’m so much more than this!…and I LOVE TO SURF!’. But I couldn’t. I wasn’t. And I didn’t know how to surf…even though I’d desperately wanted to learn my whole life.

Why I was so triggered by this is easy to see now looking back. I was confronted with the fact that I was not living my life the way that I wanted and that most of my choices up to that point had been based on what was expected of me and the society in which I grew up.

I was 28 and on paper I found myself boring. My inner life was and had always been rich (in anxiety hah, amongst other things), but my outerlife was not a reflection of the true me. This realisation shocked me to my core and set about a series of big changes (hello Saturn Return).

I realised that the things that were important where I grew up were not universal. That if I went somewhere different, a different set of values and rules applied. And that in all of these instances, none of them had to apply to me. That in the end, what mattered was what held true for myself.

I was deep, deep, down in a well of conditioning and I had just seen my first hint of light. What’s followed since has been a series of lightbulb moments where I’ve realised that there’s a lot more of these assumptions living in my mind. A base list of ideas I’ve realised I’ve been conditioned with:

Doing well in school is the key to success / Doing well in your job is the key to success / Success = fulfillment

I was taught to try my best at everything. Growing up, I was never allowed to step back and examine if the thing I was about to work towards was what I actually wanted. This caused many periods of depression in my life, where I blindly followed paths of ‘success’ (new school programs, job offers, etc.) with the faith that once I achieved these things happiness would follow. It didn’t (surprise!) and I would accomplish things and then feel so much loss, disillusion and despair…often asking – what’s the point? I never thought about the journey, only about the final outcome and that outcome never lived up to the hype.

Being with someone is the key to happiness

I was with someone for basically my entire 20s. I dealt with a lot of bouts of depression and existential crisis from a very young age and my dad would always counter it with ‘you just need to meet someone and then you’ll be happy’. I met my ex and I WAS happy…for a time. It was a balm to my achy soul, but eventually the same ‘demons’ (for lack of a better word), came back. Love is happiness, so much happiness…a huge point of life (in my opinion), but unless you’re solid in yourself it can also be a distraction of sorts and we often use our relationships (and our responsibilities…mortgage, kids, etc.) as a way to not take those scary steps forward toward growth. Relationships (even friendships) are often one of the big excuses we use to stay stagnant.

That’s just life / There are some things you just have to do

This kind of acceptance has its place, but it’s often used to brush over things that make you unhappy that could be addressed. Once upon a time I was told that pretty much everyone has to work 9 to 5 (I grew up in Toronto) and that you have to be born rich or win the lottery to experience a different fate. Already, in the last five years especially, we’ve seen how not true that is (as I sit from a cafe in Canggu, Bali, with money in the bank writing this post). This statement is almost the basis of this whole site hah, so I can’t really cover everything in one bullet point.

You can’t have everything

Said to many who dare to dream big, but what is everything? ‘Everything’ is so relative to the individual and if it’s different for each person, then how can it not be possible (in some cases at least)? If you write a list down of everything that you want and then analyse what’s on that list, you will probably start to see some base commonalities amongst your everything’s. If it’s living on a tropical island in a beach shack, maybe the essence of that is living in a place with sunshine, good weather and a slower pace.

These conditions are pretty prevalent where I come from. I’m still trawling through them, one by one, and now get so excited now when I uncover a new one. Each time this happens the world gets a little lighter and I feel a piece of my freedom, a piece of myself, come back to me.

Do any of these resonate with you and which ones have I missed?


200hr YTT pt.3: One year later

Wow. So it’s been one year since the Power Living Bali retreat (part of the 200hr YTT). Basically after that week it felt like everything was BY (before yoga) and AY (after yoga).

My yoga journey since the Power Living 200hr YTT:
  • I bought my yoga teacher insurance and completed my CPR and first aid course
  • I participated in the Power Living assisting program, a great way to get used to the flow of a yoga class as a teacher, rather than student
  • I went on a giant exploration of different styles of yoga, different teachers, different spaces (in Australia and Bali), trying to understand what was going on when something resonated deeply within me
  • I practised my Yamas and Niyamas daily and dove deep into Svadhyaya
  • I created my own yoga series called Yin + Din, where I lead a yin class for small private groups and then host a healthy dinner afterwards
  • I continued my teacher training – I’m currently in Canggu, Bali participating in two separate 50hr teacher trainings with The Practice (yin yoga and traditional hatha tantra, which starts next week…yippee!)
What I took away from the course (apart from yoga teaching qualifications):
  • A daily yoga practice – whether that’s getting on my mat, reading yoga books, journalling, saluting the sun, meditating by the ocean…I do something everyday to connect me back to the point of this thing called life
  • Some of the best friends of my life, soul sisters – and an amazing community of friends (three of whom lived on my street!) that made me feel like I had moved to a new neighbourhood in the best way
  • The ability to go into any yoga class and not feel like I have to be ‘good’. I don’t look around at what everyone else is doing. I’m able to be with myself on my mat, in my own little world and it’s da bomb
  • I fell in love with Bali – specifically Canggu. I’m writing this from the most gorgeous balcony overlooking rice fields here…my third time back in one year,
  • I found a clear pathway to live life that has given me so much peace, power and understanding (will post my yoga essays from the course soon and link here).
  • Certainty in who I am. What I’m doing. Why I’m doing it. Acceptance. I feel like I was given the permission I seemed to be searching for to stand strong in myself. No apologies for who I am. Can it get more liberating than that?!
Will I teach yoga in studio (apart from private sessions)?

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to teach yoga when I signed up for the 200hr YTT and when I finished the course I was so high off of the experience and the excitement of our final exams (teaching in the main room at Bondi’s Power Living studio was one of the most exhilarating highs), but when I thought about actually going into a studio and teaching people I didn’t know, I just didn’t feel ready yet. That’s no reflection on the teacher training though, lots of my friend’s have gone off to teach studio classes and are doing amazing jobs of it, but for me there was still a hesitation. I wasn’t sure if it was just nerves, but I decided to just keep doing what felt right and see where it took me. One of the biggest things I learned from the retreat was the power of surrendering and giving space to receive what comes next into your life – as someone who lived a previous life as an anxiety-riddled, Type A planner, this was a huge revelation (thank you Keenan Crisp!).

One year later, and one post 50hr Yin training with The Practice under my belt I can say now that I do feel the call to teach in studio. I love the style of yoga I’ve found at The Practice here in Bali and I’m trying to figure out a way to bring the essence of it back with me to Sydney. When I finish the 50hr Traditional Tantra Hatha training I will most likely do a writeup on my yoga learning experiences here too, so stay tuned!

The 200hr YTT series:


200hr YTT pt.2: One week in Bali – the Power Living retreat

*This post is from 2017 and transferred from an old blog*

So I had the best of intentions to write about the Bali retreat that was part of our 200hr yoga teacher training with Power Living as soon as I finished, but I had no idea how big a week it would be and how long it would take to digest everything that happened.

I was going to write in detail about what to expect, how the days worked, etc., but now having done it I think it’s such a special experience that it’s better to leave an air of mystery around it (and if you really want there are a few blog posts about it if you Google).

Here’s what I can tell you:
  • The food was great and there was A LOT of it. They described it as ‘sattva’, which means pure and clean in Sanskrit, but for someone who eats quite healthily at home I actually felt like I was ‘letting go’ during the week. We had breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner and it was delicious. A few people from our group also bought meals regularly at the hotel beach bar, so you really can have whatever you want (but you pay extra for it, whereas the buffet food is all included).
  • The rooms were beautiful, although we didn’t spend much time in them. It was nice to come back after a long day to soft sheets, a rainfall shower and a little luxe.
  • Komune Resort in Keramas was wonderful. The staff were just superb, so, so helpful, nice and professional. The shala where we spent most of our time was gorgeous. The grounds were beautiful – flowers and lush plants everywhere, beautiful stone paths to the beach and bean bag chairs by the pool.
  • We had the pleasure of having Duncan Peak (the founder of Power Living) and Keenan Crisp (co-founder) leading our retreat so the tone and all the activities involved truly reflected the Power Living philosophy.
  • You will feel up and down pretty much every day, probably more than once, and so quickly between the two that you will confuse yourself. You’ll belly laugh, sob cry, dance like a maniac and feel so deeply connected to the people around you that you’ll surprise yourself.
  • You will come back with a lot to think about and a new perspective on pretty much everything. You won’t ever forget it!

My biggest piece of advice would be to come with a big open mind and heart – let yourself feel every emotion, even if it’s negative and know that it too shall pass. Embrace the process and see what comes up.

The 200hr YTT series:


Tnfld

How to live a life Tnfld. A life that is true, real and bountiful… expansive as the sky above.

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At Bondi Beach – catching some sun on the grassy knoll or frolicking in the surf.

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Send us your questions, thoughts, whatever’s on your mind… seriously, we want to hear from you! Drop us a line at hola@tnfld.com – no judgements, just love <3

 

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