Looking Backwards, Sideways, Forwards

Yeah yeah. I felt obliged to do it: write a year  in review post.

Except, I’m doing a non-sucky, non-New Year’s Resolution post. A commentary on my own failings and achievements for the past year. And something about 2010 for good measure.

This post written on the mighty EeePC powered by Eeebuntu.

2009: The Year I Went Blah

My daughter started university. I finished the thesis. I also went a long way to destroying Life As I Know It. I stopped going to the gym, doing exercise for several months, doing yoga. At one point, I even stopped reading. The thesis took over my life. Work got really busy. I burnt out. I was a bitch and treated my partner badly. I got depressed. I lost it and ended up in hospital. I discovered Turbulence Training. I rediscovered yoga, reading and love. My partner deserves a special mention. He is my hero.

I set out to read 52 books this year. I read 50.

My favourite books: The Book Thief, Marcus Zukac (fiction); Shadows on the Path, Abdi Assadi (non-fiction).

Honourable Mentions: Yoga School Dropout, Lucy Edge (non-fiction); The Van Gogh Blues, Eric Maisel (non-fiction); Yuendumu Everyday, Yasmine Musharbash (non-fiction); Cave in the Snow, Vicki Mackenzie (non-fiction).

Books That Sucked: Get Motivated, Tamara Lowe (so bad I couldn’t finish it); The Naked Entrepreneur, Hazard & Elita (two wannabes giving money grubbing pseudo-spiritual advice); Disordered Minds, Minette Walters (apparently, she’s a good writer!).

Things I Learned in 2009:

  • I do not have an Inner Fat Woman Waiting To Burst Out
  • Breaking BIG things down into the smallest possible parts works
  • Doing something everyday (or consistently) means even the biggest mountains will be climbed
  • Convincing myself to “…just do it for 20 minutes …” defeats procrastination
  • I can own an Ipod, provided it’s an Itouch
  • Macs are probably better PCs, especially if that means NEVER having to have McAfee again
  • Turbulence Training is nearly as good as Body Pump
  • Bill Harris of Holosync fame is a complete and utter pratt
  • The yoga teacher training I did in late 2008 psychologically damaged me

Missions Possible:

Thanks to Benny the Irish Polyglot for this inspirational rejection of lame, washed out New Year’s resolutions (NYRs). Why missions? Read Benny’s post. I’m not going to repeat it here.

Last year, I finished the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken in my life. Now I’m free, free, free to do what ever I want. Here are some missions for this year:

  • take better care of myself mentally and physically
  • read 10 books per month
  • read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Indonesian
  • start learning Hindi (mid year) for our motorcycle tour of India in 2011
  • go to 2 yoga workshops interstate
  • hang out with Svasti, Nadine & Linda in person
  • be able to run 10km again (I usually can do this hands down, but I’m the unfittest I’ve been in 20 years)
  • get my courage up and go back to the gym 3 times per week
  • prove to myself that Turbulence Training can give me the results that Pump does
  • do yoga at least 5 times per week
  • climb Mt Giles
  • in fact, go bushwalking and camping as much as I possibly can
  • go overseas at least once and twice if we can manage it (We’re going to Bali & Lombok on 29th Jan) (leave is the problem, not $$)
  • start a proper garden

Well. I hope you’re all puffed out, puffed up and ready to go. Review dates: 1 March, 1 June, 1 Sept, 31st Dec.

Let’s go…

Yoga Bitchin’

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I can’t help but comment on what’s been happening over at Linda Sama’s blog.  If you haven’t seen it, check out this post.

That’s Mr Anthroyogini bitchin about custard!

Linda has announced her intention to put her blog to sleep soon. I’m sad about this, as it’s one of a handful of yoga blogs whose posts I subscribe to. However, I could sense the integrity and sincerity in her post announcing her decision to close the blog down, and appreciate that it is time to move on.  Life’s like that.

Linda is the real deal. A true yogini. She volunteers her time in support of others (teaching yoga for free in a women’s refuge). She has invested many years studying with people like Desikachar, Paul Grilley and lately, Mark Whitwell – all highly respected yogis.  She has reflected upon bad experiences that happen to her with insight, looking for the lessons in them.

Which makes me wonder why moronic trolls nasty lurkers feel the need to place ‘good riddance’ type messages on her blog.

If I was more spiritually developed, I would say “ohh… namaste, bless you, fairy floss, thank you for your lesson etc.” But I’m still edgy and raw. Anger still arises, resentment still arises and try to I watch it and not get involved. I’m not always very good at non-attachment, which is why it’s my maha-sankalpa.

To me, the yoga world is identical to the fitness industry: hung up on its own holiness, on perfection, on contortion, on arrogance and on plain old bitchin’.

Reflect on my observations of 20 years employment in the fitness industry and make a comparison with the yoga world:

  • There are the snobby, so-called ‘elite’ master-trainer instructors (ohh-too-holy to talk to you, scumbucket).
  • There are many instructors whose only employment is fitness classes and whose mouth, empty heads and EGOs are at least as large as the space in which they teach.

This was all brought home to me clearly only yesterday, when the CEO of the fitness centre I quit from early this year said: “In ten years of managing (name of chain of fitness centres) I’ve seen it over and over again. The only place we have bitching in the centre … fighting and backstabbing is in group fitness… with the massive egos that go with getting up in front of people and teaching.”

These people are tossers. It’s why I stopped teaching after 20 years and walked away from something I loved.

The yoga biatches who left the comments on Linda’s blog are mega-tossers. I too am starting to turn my back on the image-obsessed world of bitchin’ asana barbie dolls.

As Abdi Assadi says: Project yourself to the moment of your death. Do you think you’ll still be bitchin’ then?

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With all this bitchin’, it must be time for me to bitch.

I’m going to Canberra for a month on Monday. This is to prepare my PhD thesis for submission. And you know what???

I AM GETTING A GOD-FORSAKEN COLD!!  Not fair. So not fair!

Real Yoga Vs … Well … Real Yoga

Downdog on Zeil

Through the years I have witnessed numerous spiritual seekers, all of them well-intentioned, who have lost their way by not paying attention to their own addictive patterns … yoga is particularly prone to this syndrome. Abdi Assadi, Shadows on the Path (2007:11).

I often get frustrated with myself for visiting the yoga supermarket. Mostly online, because there’s only two ‘brand name’ yoga styles here in Alice Springs. Online, I jump from yoga style to yoga style, favouring one for a few weeks, thinking hmm…. That looks like the one, the real yoga for me, only to find another style that I’d like to train in a week or so later.

The problem is that deep inside of me there is an ontological ‘real yoga’ – a foundational structure against which I measure everything else. It’s powerful. It’s the yardstick. The thing.

And yet, this is a false ontology because real yoga, as in traditional yoga, is something else very different from my own foundational, inner ‘real yoga’. In this post, I undertake svadhyaya of my understandings about real yoga, in an attempt to get to the bottom of the construct within my own corrupt belief systems.

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Grab Some Inspiration

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This post is inspired by the one over at Zen Habits last week – mainly because I disagree with the  #2 item: the Bible is  inspirational. A (debatable) history lesson, yes. Inspirational, no. There might be inspiration in the Bible, but it’s not for me.

So without further ado, here’s my list of places I go for inspiration:

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Wednesday Whiteboard #2

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Dotpoint 1: Twitter.

I’ve been ‘on’ Twitter for nearly 12 months. Recently, Twittering has hit the big time. The non-nerdy crowd has discovered Twitter. One of my favourite blogs, Neuroanthropology, had a fantastic article about Twitter. There’s a great little video clip linked to this blog post that sums up my thoughts on Twitter. Like one of the guys in the clip, I haven’t discovered the usefulness of Twitter. Why would anyone want to ‘follow’ me and hear about the profound mundanity (I know, Dr Jay, it’s not a word) of my existence:


I’m at work

I’m having a coffee

I’m picking a booger

I can’t log onto the database. I’ll check the news online instead

Where’s Wally* is walking down Bath Street


Riveting stuff, isn’t it? Furthermore, I can’t ‘Tweet’ the exciting bits like: ‘Bill and Frank have caught a goanna and we’re cooking it for lunch‘, or: ‘I’ve just found some human remains wrapped in bark‘, or:  ‘oh bugger, another flat tyre’ , because where I live, mobile phones stop working 30 km out of town.

Whilst I don’t think Twitter or Facebook are going to be the downfall of face-to-face human communication, grammar (apostrophes were being abused by morons everywhere long before Twitter arrived), or proper sentence construction (just think how many millions of kids out there read Harry Potter), I do agree that they encourage vapidity of the Paris Hilton kind, result in a loss of one-pointedness of the Buddhist kind and invoke a form of compulsive/obsessive communicative behaviour which will, no doubt, soon have its own classification in the DSM that psychologists use.

*Where’s Wally is the local bagman, a mentally challenged person who dresses in brightly coloured, mismatched clothing, which always includes a pair of striped, knee-hi socks. He is not homeless, and lives in a hostel just down the road from my office. I often say hi to him and try and engage him in conversation. More often than not, he’s just into small talk. Maybe I’ll take a photo of him one day.


Dotpoint 2: I really want a spiritual teacher, a guru, to keep me on track.

Lots of people will have a problem with my desire to find a proper guru, but others won’t. To me on my meandering path, guidance from  someone who’s been there, done that, who can make sense of the Dark Night of the Soul, who can suggest that you read X and practice Y is of great benefit. So I’m praying and asking for the opportunity to appear. I’m a-looking and I’ve put it out there, on the blog and to the universe (none of this should be interpreted as detracting from me doing the work to find a teacher). Maybe Pema Chodron will hear me and materialise in my town…


Dotpoint 3: Tourists in Alice Springs wearing Crocodile Dundee hats.

I wonder if it has occurred to tourists visiting Alice Springs that locals DON’T WEAR CROCODILE DUNDEE HATS!! This is not to single out foreign tourists, oh no. Australian tourists, especially Grey Nomads, buy these things and look like DORKS. If you’re thinking about coming to Alice Springs, don’t buy a stupid Crocodile Dundee hat. You will look like a complete knob whilst you’re here and when you go home, I assure you, you’ll never wear it again!


Dotpoint 4: What do you think about music in yoga classes?

Given that I’ve ‘grown up’ with Iyengar and Ashtanga yoga, I am not a huge fan of music in yoga classes. I’ve always found it distracts me from the mindfulness of the practice. So yes, I could be accused of being a purist and a yoga snob. My partner in the new yoga studio uses music in all of her classes as a soft background, which I’ve always resisted.

Recently, I decided to experiment with music in my own practice. I found that during restorative/yin practice, music can enhance the experience. Have others found this, or is this just my mind tuning out of the practice and into the music? Perhaps I should try the same practice with Sepulchure or Nick Cave in a suicidal mood and see if I get the same effect?

Stuff #1

22102008 *Yes, this is a REAL headline. Not from the Centralian Advocate but from the NT News last year. No wonder no one takes the Northern Territory seriously!

This: Why do my parents leave ‘urgent’ messages on my answering machine about things that other families would treat as news? Is it because they’re retired, don’t really have any hobbies and need to create DRAMA and INTEREST in their lives? It freaks me out to get home from work or yoga and there’s three messages on my phone. When I call them up, they’re super calm, just wanting to tell me some very old, very ill distant rellie that I haven’t seen in 20 years has passed on. What am I supposed to do about it? Bring back the dead?

And This: I don’t get scrapbooking. I just don’t get it. On one hand, it looks as though it was invented by some really cheesy American Moms, who 15 years ago, were into patchwork, then were into folk art, and then into stamping and now they’re into scrapbooking. The clutter and mess created by scrapbooking leaves me gasping for air – and that’s just looking at the blogs of these people. There’s  a whole consumer industry of little paper and card doo-dads, just waiting to spend the hard earned $$ of these ladies and clutter up their already cluttered homes.

Whatever happened to just cutting out pictures and sticking them in a REAL scrapbook?

And This: The shoulderstand (salamba sarvangasana) is my nemesis. I am not friends with this pose. Here is a scene from my Iyengar class last night:

Amanda: (thinking to herself) oh… I might try salamba sarvangasana with 3 blankets tonight.

Sets up pose. Goes back into Halasana. Then … can’t raise my legs. I feel like a dork. Worse,  I feel like a DUCK!

Iyengar Teacher: You need to press the weight into your elbows.

Amanda: I can’t. I think the three blankets have tilted me too far forward.

Iyengar teacher gets wedge and puts it under elbows. Tells me to press down. I go up into salamba sarvangasana.

Iyengar Teacher: Lift up through here a little more (the mid spine), press your shoulders down and broaden your collarbones. She moves on to help someone else.

Amanda: Promptly gets muscle cramp beneath right shoulder blade. Mind freaks out: this hurts. I hate the strap around my elbows. I don’t have control and I’m going to hurt my neck and end up in a wheelchair.

I wimp out because the cramp can’t be ignored and have to release the strap, go down into Vipariti karani and then into the shoulderstand prep with my feet against the wall.

At the end of the class, I resolve to totally deconstruct this pose. What’s wrong with me, that, after 10 years of yoga, I still can’t effortlessly do a shoulderstand?

Parivritta bakasana – no worries! But shoulderstand… next please!

And also this: I discovered just yesterday that as I’m now P3 level in the NT public service, I no longer get time in lieu when I do bushwork on the weekends. Wahhh!!!!

Fun With Social Theory

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My daughter is in the first year of a degree in mass media and communications. Several of the subjects she’s studying draw heavily upon various social theorists such as Ferdinand de Saussure, Roland Bathes, Marx, Stuart Hall etc.  I am kind of reliving my undergrad days, recalling names I studied in social theory in third year sociology and my honours year.

Unfortunately, she’s doing subjects which are largely ‘cultural studies’ by another name; the same discipline responsible (in Australia) for having Year 12 student study posters as ‘texts’.  I say unfortunately, because … well … how do I say this politely? I’m not convinced cultural studies should be a discipline in itself – but I should save that for another post. Which brings me to the reason for this post.

Social theorists seem to come in two camps: the exceedingly dull (in writing style or personality) or the flamboyant. For example, his prose might not rock your world -and he is no longer THE theorist whom all aspiring social scientists MUST quote in their essays, but you could hardly call Michel Foucault dull. Thus, in writing this post, I am picking up on the humourous, the bizarre, the odd little snippets to make you smile about the social theorists whose names drove you spare in Sociology 101.

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