A lesson in humility

” Mindfulness is more than a practice, it’s a way of life”

Just over 12 months ago I wrote this post but didn’t publish. It is interesting to look back over the past year and reflect on how I was feeling then. Now I would like to share with you this story…….

I consider myself a good driver. I believe myself considerate. I am decisive and assertive (not aggressive) behind the wheel (I learned that from my Mum who is licensed to drive small trucks). I do not intentionally break the law or speed, however it seems my intentions have been overshadowed by mindlessness. My husband has told me that I tailgate, not leaving enough distance between the front of my car and the rear end of others.

My heart sank as I was driving along a familiar road, having picked up my son from school, when I saw a policeman step out into the middle of the road and put his hand up signalling me to stop. Naturally I pulled over to the side of the road and he asked to see my license and then informed me that I had been speeding: I had been detected driving at 56 kilometres through a 40kph school zone. He wanted to know if I had a reason for speeding, I said “No, I was just talking to my son”.  I am not one for lying or making up excuses or bursting into tears. It’s just not me. I live by truth. So there I was faced with the truth and faced with the consequences of my actions.

Now I did not feel that I was speeding, I was not in a hurry, it was not a conscious decision, yet obviously I had been speeding, I was doing 16kph over the speed limit. Now I know this is probably going to upset some people, being a school zone: it was 4:15pm, well after school had finished, yet in this area the 40kmh rule applies at all times, not just in school hours. I would have known this had I PAID ATTENTION. There is no excuse.


I recently got a new car, it is a zippy little car, a manual and it is so easy to speed, without trying. I found that I almost need to have my foot pulled back towards me, not to speed. I had only received a speeding ticket a few weeks earlier on the way home from work. It was late, the road was quiet and I was listening to music. I was pulled over doing 76kph in a 60 zone. Again: no excuses.

When I arrived home and looked over previous correspondence from Vic roads I realised that my license would be suspended. I had accumulated 12 demerit points in the last three years (six of them in the last four weeks). My heart sank. I went into panic mode. What could I possibly do to change this outcome?

This outcome is not acceptable. I will not accept it!  

I had no reason for speeding, I simply was not paying attention. I was not paying attention, and that’s no excuse. My mind raced and I laid blame everywhere but with myself. I blamed the policeman for having the audacity to pull me over. I was not driving technically dangerously but of course I was: I was breaking the law. I blamed my son and his loud music because my car has this great stereo – he plays angry, heavy metal or hip hop music. Is that driving me to speed? I blamed my new car and I blamed the system. I blamed everyone and everything but myself.

So I am faced with two options, the first is to continue to drive but if I suffer any more demerit points over the next 12 months, I would lose my licence for six months or I can accept my penalty and not drive for three months.

As I considered both options, the three months is appealing because it is over quicker. If I chose to continue to drive, how could I possibly not speed for 12 months, I ask myself?

But this thought is ridiculous – I am NOT MEANT TO BE SPEEDING AT ALL. So I thought, Ok, there is still some time before I officially need to make this decision, but I know it is coming. So I choose option one: continue to drive, drive my boys to school, drive to my classes, run my business. All these things I need to do and I need to find a way to do all that without breaking the law.

“I am practising mindfulness all throughout my day and yet there is still more for me to learn”.

I am annoyed at myself, for not being more mindful when I’m driving. I’m a yoga teacher. I teach mindfulness nearly every day. I have just come back from a wonderful seven-day retreat, teaching mindfulness and how to integrate what we learn in our yoga into our life. I am practising mindfulness all throughout my day and yet there is always more to learn.

As the first day progressed I realise that I am feeling quite calm and relaxed. I did not realise how rushed I must have been behind the wheel, just as I did not realise I was speeding.

It is great to have a mindful practice; but to stay present all the time is really hard work. I am interested to see if it remains hard work or becomes easier. I know already after just two days that I can feel this sense of acceptance coming over me. I find myself considering: Do I feel calmer because I have moderated my speed or do I feel calmer because I accept it?

I do feel calmer and there is a gentle sense of acceptance. I know there is no one to blame for this but me. No one, nothing – all me. I think there are probably quite a few lessons bundled up here for me. So I thank the universe for this lesson, this opportunity to grow. To deepen my practice of mindfulness, to deepen my observance of svadhyaya (self study) and hopefully to be a good example to my boys. I am deeply grateful for my yoga practice, it gives me this wonderful framework, through mindfulness and svadhyaya to grow, to access this deep well of peace with me.

The affirmations that I have been working with for many months now – “I am grateful for all the gifts that come my way” and “I am at peace with myself and the world around me”. These were really hard to say only a few days ago. I said them through gritted teeth. I did not really feel them or believe them but I said them anyway. And now I do feel them, I feel them more deeply. It is very humbling to lose my equanimity and then find it again at a deeper level. I love this journey.

“When we struggle against something difficult or negative or painful, this only gives it more energy, and the negative aspect gains strength. When we acknowledge the difficult element, letting it simply be, it comes and goes: but it does not get stuck. It does not gain power” Bien, T. (2006) Mindful Therapy.

About 2 weeks later, I paused to reflect on this life lesson. I am studying yoga therapy and understand that for change to take place, there must first be acceptance. I also understand that what you resist, persists. I was able to shift my focus from the ‘problem’ to the ‘solution’. I considered my initial resistance to accepting the following: my license suspension, that this was my fault, the amount of effort required to make a change for a lifetime not just 12 months and that my mindfulness practice had not been integrated into my life as well as I thought it had.

I considered the calmness I experienced a few days after being pulled over. Was it because I was driving more calmly or was it the acceptance of the situation? There is a deep calm that flows from acceptance. What a blessing this has been. I am becoming now more mindful of times when I am NOT being mindful. I am noticing when I am disconnected, my mind in the past or future and not in the here and now. So more and more I’m finding mindfulness in my day, in all my activites. I do a mindfulness practice, yes, I have moments of mindfulness, yes, but my intention is to be as conscious as I can be as often as I can. There have been a lot of lessons in this, it has been really wonderful.

When we are aware, we are back in charge, we see ourselves in truth. We see our thoughts, behaviours, the sensations in our body, our feelings and emotions as they are, rather than as we think they should be or how it could be. We are experiencing the truth of the moment. And yes that can be painful and sad, yet it can also be wonderfully liberating and help you affect change.

Acceptance is a pathway to peace of mind.

The 12 months have now passed and without further incident, my driving habits have changed. I have changed.

Balance, thinking and core strength : a 4th year psychophysiology project

A yoga student of mine is completing an honours project and looking for anyone who might be interested in taking part.

Would you like to take part in a 4th Year Psychophysiology honours project?
I am looking for females 45-60 and if you have not suffered any clinically significant balance, vestibular, psychiatric, neurological conditions within the past 12 months you may be eligible to participate.
The study is looking at how balance and thinking affect each other and whether this has any relationship to core strength.
If you are interested please email Alison Flehr:

Sensory awareness

Through our five senses: touch, taste, hearing, sight and smell, we interact and interpret the world around us. All this information is received through our somatic nervous system and relayed to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) for an appropriate response. This response is controlled by the hypothalamus (about the size of a pearl) which is involved in many functions of the body including:

  • Autonomic Function Control (sympathetic and Parasympathetic nervous system)
  • Endocrine Function Control
  • Homeostasis (body constantly trying to find/maintain normal levels in water, sodium, blood sugar, O2, CO2, temperature, ph and blood pressure)
  • Motor Function Control
  • Food and Water Intake Regulation
  • Sleep-Wake Cycle Regulation
  • Limbic brain (emotions)

Relaxation Response

If we perceive though our senses, a stimulus to be stressful, the nervous system responds by inducing the sympathetic response called the fight, flight or freeze response. Under these conditions the body switches to high alert. When the nervous system perceives a calming response in the environment, it induces a parasympathetic response, or the relaxation response. In yoga we want to induce the parasympathetic response which allows for recovery, healing and digestion to take place.


Putting this into practice

In this recording, we internalise the experience of the 5 senses, withdrawing to our inner experience with heightened awareness. This focussed practice cultivates awareness and mindfulness, the key ingredients to finding inner quiet, peace and clarity.


But when one lives amidst the world of senses, free from attachment and aversion alike, such a person attains serenity. And from serenity results cessation of all his sufferings. For in a person with a serene mind, wisdom soon becomes firmly set.   

The Bhagavad Gita (11.64-5)

Join us for Yoga Aid World Challenge – Warrandyte

I am really excited to be part of the Yoga Aid World Challenge this year. We are joining more than 20 countries around the world to help raise funds and awareness for local charities.

How can you get involved?

1. Join us at Bhava Yoga and Dance Centre for a special 2 hour yoga class lead by Gaye Boswell, Michelle Gregg-Rowan and Julianne Crawley. To attend, please register at  Warrandyte Event, select ‘Warrandyte’ under event and then select ‘I want to create or join a team” and enter ‘Team Name’ as Bhava Yoga. 

You can then donate towards the event and spread the word to inspire others to donate/get involved, if you wish.

2. Unable to attend the class but would like to show your support by donating to my chosen local charity, The Black Dog Institute, which provides programs and support in managing mental health issues. Donate to Black Dog Institute. 

3. To help spread the word and raise community awareness, ‘Like’ my Yoga Aid Community Facebook Page.


Date: 9th September 2012

Where: Bhava Yoga and Dance Centre, 5a West End Rd, Warrandyte

Time: 10:00am – 12 noon


Lets join together in the spirit of giving  – giving time by participating in the event as a challenger; giving money by fundraising; giving thoughts to raise our consciousness.

With love, gratitude and many OMs

Awakening the spine

Here is a 10 minute sequence to awaken the spine.

FInd a comfortable seated position (elevate the hips with a folded blanket if your back is a little rounded) and ensure your base remains stable throughout the practice. Always move slowly and mindfully and work in a way that supports your body, breath and mind. It is worthwhile to consider what brings you to your practice today so that this may guide you to “work” appropriately.


Candle Visualisation

There is something so soft and beautiful in the light of a candle; it’s gentle glow warms and softens us from the  inside out. For me, when I sit with a candle, I connect with my own inner light and radiance, I feel calm, centred and peaceful.

In this relaxation, we use our imagination to picture a candle and observe it’s flame: the light it casts, the softening of the wax and how the flame responds to our breath. Find a comfortable position, preferably resting on the floor in savasana, though this would also work well sitting if you prefer.


Becoming the Witness

In this recorded relaxation, we move through the physical body – observing the breath, the emotional body – observing our feelings and the mental body – observing our thoughts.
As you witness these various aspects of your personality, try to remain detached and watch as a spectator; interested and curious, without becoming involved or reacting. Maintain a sense of co-operation between these aspects of self, fostering a loving and gentle attitude.
With love

Yoga for your hands – Hasta Mudras

In class this week, we explored hasta mudras or hand gestures. Mudras are yoga positions for your hands and fingers that can be practised sitting, lying down, standing or walking. Mudras can be practised anywhere and at any time, however for best results, one should be free from distraction and able to withdraw into stillness and silence. Gertrud Hirschi in her wonderful book MUDRAS- YOGA in your HANDS says: “These silent moments can be the most precious to us; and like the salt in the dough that gives the bread its good taste, silence adds the right spice to our lives”.

Yogis believe energy/prana is lost through the fingertips, so when we bring the fingers together we create essentially, a short circuit that redirects energy back into our body.

Vajrapradama mudra – a gesture of unshakable confidence

The positioning of our hands/fingers influences different aspects of the brain and so we are changing the relationship between our body and mind.

Mudras influence our mood; they change our attitude towards ourselves and the world around us.

I have really grown to love Vajrapradama Mudra – the gesture of unshakable confidence. This gesture is wonderful to explore when experiencing self doubt, mistrust in others and hopelessness in the face of obstacles.

“We can effectively engage and influence our body and our mind by bending, crossing, extending or touching the fingers with other fingers. Isn’t this wonderful?”  (Gertrude Hirschi. MUDRAS :Yoga in your Hands)

Below is a link to a vinyasa from my class this week. Enjoy!

Vajrapradama mudra – Gesture of Unshakable confidence

It’s hard to say goodbye

After more than 9 years of getting up early on a Saturday morning to teach yoga, I have recently said goodbye to my wonderful weekend classes. The decision did not come easily: I LOVE these guys. My Saturday morning ladies are dedicated, open minded yogis; willing to explore the yoga in all its forms; asana, pranayama, meditation, creative visualisation and chanting.

Over the years I have become quite protective of this group and when on holidays, will think of them and hope they enjoy and learn from the teacher I have organised in my absence. We have grown together: the student learning from the teacher, the teacher learning from the student.

As a teacher there is nothing more rewarding then knowing the message you most wanted to convey has not only been heard but also understood and integrated.  I encourage the idea of “Less is More’ and finding the balance between ease and effort. “The yoga is not about how you look, it’s about how you feel. How does your body feel, the quality of your breath and your state of mind”.

This year I have decided to undertake a Graduate Certificate in Yoga Therapy. I have been interested in this course for many years and now the time feels right.  I know I will grow as a teacher and look forward to integrating my new knowledge into many aspects of my life. My thirst for knowledge is at its peak and it seems the more I know about this amazing body and mind we humans have, the more I want to know.

Onward and upward……

My wonderfully dedicated students at Mitcham

Releasing muscle tension

For many people the stresses of daily life manifest in our physical bodies as muscular tension. We may hold fear, uncertainty, stress and anxiety in our bodies as tension. Over time this creates aches, pains and stiffness in the body leaving us feeling exhausted or even worse, leads to disorders and disease.  There is a wonderful technique called Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) where you create tension in a muscle, hold for 8-10 seconds and then release. This action causes the muscles to relax, which triggers the relaxation response; the heart rate slows, blood pressure decreases, normal blood flow returns to the belly and digestion improves. As the physical body relaxes, the mind soon follows.

Now that’s better…..

For those students that find it difficult to relax the body in savasana (especially at the beginning of a yoga class), this may be a welcome alternative to restlessness and frustration some find in stillness.

Here is an audio that draws on the PMR techniques to help relax the body prior to an asana session or as a stand alone practice.