How Keeping a Journal Made Me Grow


Many times in my life I’ve been really, really stuck. Stuck in the black hole of depression, or stuck replaying an unpleasant exchange with someone inside my head. I’ve spent days –and sometimes months- going over and over painful past events and conversations with thoughts like: I should have said this, I wish I’d said that, or mentally lecturing the person who upset me.

About two years ago, I discovered something that (mostly) puts a stop to this the painful mental reprocessing: writing these conversations out in a journal. I’ve also found that journaling really helps me think about new ideas and plan major life changes. Journaling is now my main form of swadhyaya –self study. In other words, journaling has really helped me sort through my shit. I don’t know if it will work for you, but here’s what works for me.

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Wednesday Whiteboard #5


Dotpoint #1 Amanda, Where is the Old Blog?

There are some Big New Ideas happening for me. An exciting bend in the road for my life and it’s going to unfold right before your eyes. Which means that the blog will eventually have its own domain. So I thought I’d try a fresh new blog layout. I spent this afternoon (home from work as my son was sick) experimenting with WordPress themes.

The WordPress theme I really want to use is called Thesis. You can check it out here. I would dearly love to be able to use this theme here but doesn’t have that functionality – which is why I moved Desert Mandala (my family blog) to its own domain two years ago . As I’m not quite ready to launch the Big New Idea AnthroYogini is staying put for the time being.

Dotpoint #2 I met my brother’s birth mother.

Both my brother and I are adopted. I have been in touch with my birth mother for 11 years. Tonight, I met my brother’s birth mother. It was an amazing, beautiful experience.

As a mother, I can only imagine how hard it would be to give up a child –forever- with no hope of ever knowing that child’s fate. Nor can I imagine the shame and fear associated with being ‘a bad girl’ back in the 1960s.

I can tell you of the courage these women have, of the hope they held in their hearts for years, and of my own deep compassion and love for those who have relinquished babies and thereafter, could never bring themselves to have another child.

Tonight, I felt as though I had gained yet more very special family. I am truly blessed.

Dotpoint #3 What’s this Big Idea You Keep Referring to?

By the end of 2012, I am aiming to be largely self-employed in a consultancy/ coaching business focussed on:

  • Creativity for non-arty-farty people
  • Using creativity to overcome depression/other life challenges
  • Creative ethnography for life coaching and counselling
  • Creative ethnography to understand clientele, organisational culture, to monitor & evaluate

You can help me!

I’m inviting anyone reading this to:

  • comment on the ideas
  • post links or suggest books that might be helpful
  • complete an anonymous survey early next week

I would be forever grateful if you, dear reader, did any of these things. I’ll post the link for the survey early next week.

Kill Your Home Yoga Practice!


Sometimes I am a very lazy, very bad yogini. I don’t practice asana everyday. Sometimes, I only practice at home once or twice a week. Then I beat myself up for it because out there in the External World of the Internets, there appear to be those perfect, devoted, daily practising yogi/nis. S/He is there on many websites, in magazines. S/he flickers in our minds. S/he burns our eyes with her/his perfect practice.

… and thus I deal with the disappointment of not meeting my own expectations of what a yogini is.

For example, here are some of my Haunting Inner Voices:


  • It’s good for you
  • It’s your spiritual practice
  • It will make you feel better and deal with great dollops of arising shit throughout the day in a calm and focussed manner
  • If you don’t do this, then you are a failure, a fraud and a bad person
  • If you don’t do this, the latent fat woman inside will burst out and you’ll be FAT.


  • But I want to go running
  • I want to sleep in, just this once
  • I just don’t feel like it
  • I need to write my PhD
  • I’m bored
  • I have to get ready to go out bush
  • I want to surf the net
  • I just need to read one more chapter and the book’s finished.


  • I will practice for an hour and a half everyday I will become super-yogini
  • I will be nicer, and more focussed
  • I will be a better human being
  • Every one else out there in the online sadhana practices everyday for an hour and a half
  • I will not be short, fat and frumpy if I do this.


Anything in this sludgy and depressing mire that you can relate to?

Thought so. You’re just like me…

So let’s unpack the baggage.

I’m going to have a talk with the Haunting Inner Voices, examine my ideal yoga practice, then breaking this down further to get to my core understandings and motivations about yoga practice.

The Ideal:

I practice for an hour and a half everyday.

Why is this hour and a half practice ‘the ideal?’

  • The market tells me so
  • Most yoga centres promote classes that are an hour and a half
  • My first experience with yoga was with hour and a half, and later, two hour, Iyengar classes.
  • The mega-advanced-and-perfect yogi/nis on Yoga Peeps tell me that practice should be least an hour and a half
  • The mega-advanced yogi/nis in Journal X all seem to practice for at least an hour and a half every day. (Ana Forrest, who I’ll admit, scares the be-Jesus out of me, practices for three hours).
  • If I don’t practice for an hour and a half every day, Ana will teleport into my yoga room and crush me with her titanium-cast inner thighs!

What Do You ‘Practice’?

Asana. Especially headstands and other flashy poses on the front of Yoga Journal where some super-bendy chick sticks her big toe on the back of her head standing at Byron Bay in the rising sun.

This raises two questions for me:

How do I define yoga practice?

Why do I practice yoga? By this I mean: What’s the real, nitty-gritty reason I practice yoga?

My Definition of Yoga Practice:

  • Asana, with pranayama, dharana and dhyana
  • Yoga is a spiritual process, working from the outside in
  • It’s the meditation that gives the real effects, not the asana
  • Yoga is practiced all day, everyday

So, for me yoga is 4 elements comprising a spiritual process. There is no question that object of yoga is union (in a non-dual sense) with All That Is, and that eventually, it will be done continuously. This contradicts my ‘what‘ above, which is really about asana.

Asana, however, does remain ‘the big thing’ for me, influenced by the superficial understandings of yoga thrown in our faces each day: Yoga as an exercise practice, yoga as ‘designer spirituality and exercise’ wrapped up.

The contradiction creates a trigger, a darling I will murder later on.

Why Do I Practice?

  • It makes me feel good (mentally and physically)
  • It makes me belong to a special community (both physical and online)
  • I am working with non-attachment
  • I like what it does to my body

The sense of well-being that I derive from yoga is the main thing for me, followed by a sense of community. The ‘physical exercise’ component rates the lowest here.

Murdering My Darlings

So what can I do? I can’t live up to my own expectations, I have internal contradictions about what yoga is and I haven’t even started to tell you that I’m a mother, an anthropologist employed full-time, I have an exercise regime that I LOVE and I need me time everyday or I morph into a CRANKY BITCH. But not being able to live up to my own all-or-nothing-goals is making me miserable. I just want to practice yoga regularly and feel good.

Well, I’ve found some sage advice here from Jonathon Mead:

I’ve learned that taking it easy and following your natural rhythms is much more important than productivity. What matters most is how much joy you’re currently experiencing in the present moment. If you’re putting off your happiness until you accomplish something, you’re failing at life.

By killing your goals and exposing their underlying expectations -which often aren’t even your own- you free yourself. You make space, literally, for the ‘real’ stuff to happen. And you stop wasting time and energy on guilt and procrastination.

I Don’t Really Believe This Stuff: Goals Work!

Well, I agree. Setting goals works. If you’re trying to clean out your email inbox or renovate the house. When it comes to habits and behaviours, goals aren’t always useful in my experience.

Aligning with your own values and disowning what’s not yours is what works. To do that, you need to do the anthropology. Get right down into the underlying meanings and values you own and beat the fraudsters out with a stick.

That’s right. Get those frauds you’ve picked up from Yoga Journal and Madonna and god knows who else out of your inner cupboard. Shine the light on them and beat them out.

Not easy, I know. But I’m going to have a go. That’s right. I’m going to test this on myself.

What I am Going to do:

As I’m not giving any advice that doesn’t work, for next thirty days, I will conduct an experiment.

I will practice yoga every day –yoga that aligns with my core values and not those of the fraudsters. This will be any yoga practice as I’ve defined above, for no set length of time. It will be highly responsive to the present moment, the nowness of my life. This is, of course, very much about going against the grain of Iyengar and Ashtanga yoga, into the realms of Desikachar, Mark Whitwell, Satyananda etc.

At the end of this time,  I’ll report back and let you know:

  • Did it work?
  • How I feel
  • What I did, and

Whether murdering my darlings and killing the ideal of the home yoga practice has delivered any benefits.  I suspect it will. And I also suspect I am about to redefine yoga to myself and transform my home practice forever more.

Any comments?

    Wednesday Whiteboard #4


    Dotpoint # 1: I have arrived on Twitter! Now I’m getting spam tweets. Tweets from random dudes and dudettes who probably aren’t real. You click on their website (under their Twitter profile) and discover they’re really an advertisement for a lame MLM scheme. Thanks to Svasti for showing me how to deal with these time wasters: @spam. Take that!

    And this: a really useful site for doing research on Twitter:

    There’s Monitter which allows you to type in three terms and watch real life Tweet streams before your very eyes!!

    And there’s also Tweet Volume, a very neat application that gives a comparative bar chart of user-defined terms. Appeals to the social scientist that I am!

    This is just a teasing hint of the stuff that’s out there for Twitter. Go to the first link about and enjoy playing with the rest.

    Dotpoint # 2: Nature and nurture. Adoption studies are often to explore the effects of nature and nurture on human personality. Whilst I think there is a good deal of nature in personality, nurture –especially the socio-cultural milieu in which you’re raised- is almost as important. As an adopted person, I can offer a case study of my own.

    My birth mother (whom I did not meet until I was 31) is the daughter of a Commonwealth Games-qualifying cyclist and champion swimmer. My mother was also a champion swimmer – and the day she got the letter from me (asking if she was my biological mother) she was on the way to a Body Pump class! She’s also done a number of treks in the Himalayas (just like me). I’ve written about my fitness exploits on this website, so I won’t recount them here. My daughter became a champion swimmer in primary school, and at age 16, a Body Attack instructor. My son, on the other hand, who has an even better pedigree as his father is an amazing athlete, is totally unsporty! He would rather shoot aliens on his Playstation than do any kind of organised sport.

    Why am I sharing this? Because of another turn of events last week…

    Rhiannon –as you would expect at 19 years old- had no idea what to do with herself after high school. She went through all kinds of permutations during the years leading up to university: fitness industry work, the Army, the police force, teaching, marketing, sexual health counselling/therapy, and finally, journalism. She started uni this year, enrolled in a mass communications & journalism degree. Well… low and behold this week she has transferred into social science, majoring in –you guessed it- anthropology and sociology.

    Before you say, oh, that’s your influence, I will add that there is a very individual that reason she’s changed into a social science degree: she has found a 4th year course focussed on sexual health education and counselling … and this is exactly what she wants to do. She knows it in her heart – and I can hear it in her voice. To gain entry to this course, you need a social science degree. In the meantime, she’ll be doing anthropology and sociology – just as I did.

    Is it nature or nurture? Well, I think it’s probably 60/40 – in nature’s favour with the caveat that nature is the framework only. Nurture is fine print.

    And then there’s my son, Ben … oh dear… and he blows any theory about nature right out of the water. He’s another story altogether.

    Dotpoint #3: Commenters on Popular Blog Sites. A quick glance through the comments fields of the four or five positive psychology/self help-type blogs I read shows a number of the same people commenting. Commenting. On. Every. Site. Every. Day.

    Self-promotion is the reason for these comments. These people also have similar self-help blog sites they wish to promote. I wonder if it works? If, after commenting on Seth Godin’s or Tim Ferriss’s site, they suddenly have a MASSIVE increase in traffic and sales of their goods/services? I wonder if it’s worth it. Every. Site. Every. Day. I’ll give them a 100% Try-Hard Badge for their efforts (Try-Hard Badge has lady with frizzy hair walking Chihuahua from Svasti’s nightmare day on it!).

    Dealing with Thesis/Dissertation Procrastination


    The most useful tips I’ve ever learned about thesis/dissertation writing have been incredibly practical. I’ve tried all kinds of motivational tools, PhD writing guides and software to encourage me to get the THING done. Some work, many just sit on my shelf or cost me needless money.  I’m not selling anything here, either – just sharing what’s worked for me.

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