Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn | Book Review

Who are you?

What have we done to each other?

These are the questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife, Amy, suddenly disappears. The police suspect Nick. Amy's friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn't true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they weren't made by him. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone. 

So what did happen to Nick's beautiful wife?




I'd been wanting to abandon my habit of picking up lighthearted, romance novels by bestselling authors for a while now and get sucked into the world of mystery and thrill. So, when I saw the little orange circle reading 'THRILLER OF THE YEAR,' on the book cover that reminded me so much of a Twilight design, I had to get it. 

I'd never read a 'whodunit' book before and that is exactly how this book began - but don't be fooled. Don't even try to figure out what the hell is going on in those delicious, absorbing pages Just allow the words to consume you and sweep you away into its own world. 

It is impossible to write a review about Gone Girl without giving away spoilers, so let me just say this:

Gillian Flynn has written a book like no other around. To call it a thriller / crime novel doesn't do it any justice. It is so much more than that. Filled to the brim with twists and turns you could never have expected, delightfully juiced with wit and dark humor all meshed together in the breakdown of marriage and truth. 

As soon as you think you know what is going to happen, the moment you are sure you have it sussed out - you are thrown in the complete opposite direction and the unexpected jolt is so divinely enjoyable.

It is without a doubt, one of the best books that I have ever read with an ending so hauntingly open-ended you actually sit speechless for a while trying to wrap your head around it. 



Have you read this book yet?  If so what did you think? 


The movie, Gone Girl, was released earlier this year and my movie review on it will be coming soon. 



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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Flash Tattoos

I have a new obsession. 





Flash Tattoos.

Possibly the most amazing idea ever.





How gorgeous are they?!  

I literally need these in my life.

It doesn't happen often that I 'need' a certain item of clothing or an accessory... 
but this is just 'me' to a T! 
I ADORE them! 

Basically they are non-toxic, FUN and AFFORDABLE temporary tattoos that last up to a week. 
You can get them wet but to prolong them avoid creams and oils on the area it is applied to.

I'm sure you've applied a temporary tattoo once or twice in your life? 
Well, the application is just the same with Flash Tattoos. Cut the design out and place on the skin where you want it to be, dab it with a wet cloth for about 30 seconds and voila! 



These are so perfect for Summer that is quickly approaching South Africa - in fact I personally think these are pretty perfect all year round!

Prices range from about $20.00 - $30.00 for a pack of three to four sheets of these gorgeous flashy tattoos.
They ship internationally and do free shipping on all domestic orders over $43.00

If you love these Flash Tattoo's as much as I do then head on over to FlashTat.com to place your order now! 



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Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Holi One Festival of Colors, Ashrams, Meditation and Yoga in India

Namaste Bloggers (which means, Hello Bloggers in Hindi),

There’s a lot you need to consider before just jetting off to India, saying you want to be at an ‘ashram,’ and you want to ‘meditate’ ; ‘do yoga,’ and ‘attend the Holi One Festival of Colors.’

Firstly, make sure you know what The Holi One Festival of Colors really is and why it is celebrated. It is so much more than just a festival to chuck colored powder (gulal) all over each other! 




The festival is symbolic to the victory of good over evil - this is the more ancient, religious belief on Holi. 
The night before Holi, bonfires will be lit which correspond to a story about a demon king called Hiranyakashipu and his evil sister, Holika
Hiranyakashipu demanded that everyone worshiped him but his own son, Prahlada, didn't agree. He worshiped another, Vishnu
This, of course, made Hiranyakashipa furious. He subjected his son to endless cruelty but nothing deterred Prahlada away from his faith. 
Then, one day, Prahlada's evil aunt, Holika, deviously tricked Prahlada to sit on a pyre (a build up of combustible material that is often used to burn corpses,) with her. She had a shawl wrapped around her that made her immune to fire while Prahlada did not. 
Even so, once the fire was roaring around them, the cloak was suddenly ripped from Holika and encased Prahlada, protecting him from the fire. 
Inevitably, Holika died in the fire and Prahlada survived. 
Vishnu then appeared and killed Prahlada's father, Hiranyakashipu - hence the festival and bonfires being symbolic to the victory of good over evil. 


By throwing the powder over each other an opportunity to forget people's differences is formed. 
Race, sex and religion are forgotten;  discrimination broken. 
It celebrates Spring by letting go of the gloominess from Winter and embracing the new colorful season.

Holi is also a time to rid yourself of all mistakes, mend relationships, forgive and forget. 


The Holi One Festival is celebrated all throughout India and each different city or village has their own traditions for it. So firstly, I’d suggest researching the places that the festival is held to establish which way of celebration you are most drawn to.

There are so many fascinating places in India that host the festival and each have unique quirky things that make that celebration different and special. However, one place stands out to me more than all the others:

Delhi. 

Delhi hosts the Holi Cow Festival which is a more modern twist on the annual event. There is a music festival along with the colored powder throwing. 
It takes place in the backpackers hotspot, 'Paharganj.' 
Tickets for this particular festival range from 1500-2000 Rupees (R272.79 - R363.71) or alternatively for a more luxurious experience (welcome drinks, private lounges etc,) you can expect to pay up to 3000 Rupees (R545.57).

I really didn't expect to be drawn to such a major state. On the contrary I thought I'd be the sort of girl to venture off into the heart of Mathura and Vrindavan, temple towns with a more traditional way of celebration. 

Another place that celebrates the Holi Festival of Colors is Jaipur. 
Their festivities sound incredible with elaborately painted elephants and games. I am skeptical about visiting Jaipur for the festival though as some years the elephants do not make an appearance - and I'm not sure how I'd feel about seeing the elephants being used in such events. 
I guess I'd have to research it further to be able to make a more knowledgeable comment.  


To me Delhi sounds so wonderfully enticing. Of course there's some unavoidable things there such as the 'Delhi-Belly,' but this is why it is so important to do your research before packing your bag and boarding that airplane.  In India, it is advisable to stick to eating freshly cooked foods and avoiding raw veggies and fruits that could have been washed with dirty water. Even though it's blistering hot, don't put ice cubes in your beverages either. These little tips could really save your trip to Delhi - the last thing you need is to be suffering with a bad stomach for the duration of your stay there! Not fun.

A few lovely things you could do while in Delhi is visit the upscale Khan Market, which is in the center of New Delhi. This is very close to a beautiful green park called Lodhi Garden which you can picnic in after a stroll through the market. There is some wonderful history to  be seen in the park such as the tombs of the Lodhi Emperors. There's also a restaurant there where you can have tea and lunch - this is a lovely break away from the hustle and bustle. 

In Delhi there is also an abundant amount of cultural centers where you can attend art exhibitions, live-music and so much more. The list is endless on the delights that await you in Delhi. All you have to do is look past the intimidating and admittedly daunting demeanor.

I guess if you're lucky you could travel around and experience as many places as you can - but as much as that would be fabulous, I am only interested in a day or two at the festival. The rest of my trip to India (the first of many, I hope,) will be spent meditating and stretching in awkward and painful positions (hey! I'm new at this...) in an ashram. Perhaps devote myself to silence for a while - I don't know. I just have this force driving me to India to grow and learn, to discover and gain inner peace.

You'll never be able to see all of India in one trip... not even a long, extended one. So my advice to you would be to make a list of the things that are the top priorities for you while you're there. 
For instance, a huge tourist attraction is The Taj Mahal



This is in Agra, Uttar PradeshIt costs about 750 Rupees (R134.00) to see and this is one of the most expensive attractions you'll find. From Delhi it's about a 2 hour train ride. There's a morning train called the 12002 Bhopal Shatabdi that costs 370 Rupees (R66.00) which included air conditioning (score!) This train departs at 06h15 and arrives in Agra at 08h15. The only day that this train doesn't run is on a Friday.
There are other popular trains too, I've just mentioned the fastest morning train for you to consider. 
After your visit to Agra, you'll need to catch a train back if you aren't planning on staying. The 12001 NDLS Shatabdi is the quickest train from Agra to Delhi and leaves at 20h30, arriving at 22h30.
Again, there are other modes of transportation available to you - but the trains are wonderfully air-conditioned, seated and convenient. 

Once you’ve decided where you want to go you can start worrying about accommodation. 

There is a wonderful guesthouse called Thikana in South Delhi, should ashrams not be completely your style then this is a marvelous place to book into. With the incredible decor and friendly hosts, you can't go wrong. 

If you’re like me though and want to experience an ashram for yoga, meditation and spirituality, then it’s important to know what type of yoga and meditation you either do or are interested in doing.   

Different ashrams will cater for different styles of yoga / meditation practice.

This is a list with very brief summaries of the different styles of yoga you can choose from. Find the one that best suits you:

1. Anusara

Anusara means 'flowing with grace.'
This style of yoga is perfect if you are interested in working on both your physical and spiritual well-being as it is beneficial for the body and the mind.
It is based on the philosophy that all people in the world are inherently good, allowing you to let your goodness shine through as you open your heart.
Doing Anusara will teach you about the Universal Principles of Alignment.
http://www.pinterest.com/pin/25192079137834331/

These classes are usually very fun and filled with positive-energy.
As this class encourages the use of props it is easy for people at all levels to join.

2. Ashtanga 



Ashtanga means 'eight limbs,' in Sanskrit and is a style of yoga often seen as covering all aspects of yoga.

It is also well-known as being the more modern form of classical Indian yoga.

It is a more 'athletic' form of yoga and is often described as intense. You need to be made aware that Ashtanga will be physically demanding - leaving you hot and sweaty with its fast-pace.
Flexibility is a priority for Ashtanga.

This form of yoga is perfect for you if you like your independence and also if you like structure and order in your life as the poses are done in a certain sequence that you must follow. As you move through each pose you will also be encouraged to focus on breathing.

Ashtanga is very similar to Vinyasa yoga.

3. Bikram 



Have you ever seen the movie Mean Girls? There's a line Lindsay says in that movie about why she loves maths so much: "Because it's the same in every country." 


Well... this is true with Bikram yoga too. Rest assured that there will always be consistency in this form of yoga.

There are 26 postures and 2 breathing techniques no matter where you go for Bikram Yoga, which are all done in the space of 90 minutes in an artificially heated room, which encourages you to sweat. As in Ashtanga yoga, there is a sequence to be followed in the poses but they differ from those in Ashtanga.



It is a challenging style of yoga which is great for flushing out toxins from the body as well as managing your weight.

This style of yoga is incredibly popular and therefore is easy to find no matter where you go.

4. Hatha



All yoga styles are genres of Hatha Yoga so to speak.


If a class is described as Hatha Yoga then expect a very gentle class introducing you to the very basics of yoga postures.

You won't break a sweat in Hatha Yoga as in other styles but will still leave feeling calm and loosened.

Hatha Yoga is perfect for beginners.

5. Hot Yoga



Hot yoga is very similar to Bikram and is done in an artificially heated room which encourages you to sweat more than you ever have before. The only real difference is that hot yoga style deviates from the sequence structured by Bikram yoga and therefore must be called a different name.



The heat in the rooms help with your flexibility and is fantastic for detoxifying the body.

6. Iyengar



This style of yoga is very precise, showing great attention to detail and is done very carefully. Each pose will be attended to until the perfect posture is found. Props like blocks, straps and ropes are encouraged in order for each pose to be done correctly.



The poses are held longer than in other styles of yoga so that the teacher can closer look at the subtleties of each pose, carefully paying attention to the alignment of each asana (posture).

Should you suffer from an old injury, Iyengar is most likely the most suitable style for you as the teachers undergo comprehensive training and can give you knowledgeable training.

7. Restorative



If you are in serious need of some relaxation or to ease off some anxiety, then this style of yoga is definitely for you.



With the use of props for each pose, you don't need to put any effort in but still experience the benefits of the poses that can be held for as long as ten minutes. It is gentle and passive, some say even more rejuvenating than a nap!

8. Vinyasa

Vinyasa is the Sanskirt word for, 'Flow,' and often Vinyasa yoga is called Flow Yoga.
Like Hatha, Vinyasa describes many different styles of yoga.

Basically, Vinyasa lets you flow into sun salutation poses while synchronizing your breathing accordingly. Music is often played to keep up the energetic feel of the class.

No two Vinyasa classes are the same so if routine isn't really your thing and you enjoy challenging yourself physically then this is the style for you.

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This is a list with very brief summaries of the different styles of meditation you can choose from. Find the one that best suits you:

1. Guided Visualization 

Guided Visualization is often done while listening to a CD, helping you imagine a certain image or an imaginary setting. This form of meditation is fantastic for optimizing your creativity. 

It does not focus on the breath is any certain way but rather to create a stress-free, blissful place to 'visit.' 
I find that this kind of meditation helps a great deal to slow your thoughts down, allowing you to really focus something else instead of letting all the other jumbled thoughts in your head in.  Another great benefit is that it makes you focus on a positive thought or place. 





2. Heart Rhythm Meditation


This is a very different sort of meditation from all others and is not in any way transcendental. Where other forms of meditation focus on lifting your energy upwards, Heart Rhythm Meditation focuses on bringing it down towards the heart. 
Most meditations help relieve stress from you mind, body and spirit where as Heart Rhythm Meditation is intended to help you DEAL with it. 

This exercise requires you to become conscious of not only your breathing but also your heartbeat. 

3. Kundalini


Kundalini is a Sanskirt word meaning, 'Snake.'

"Kundalini" refers to a type of energy that lays dormant at the base of the spine, in the first chakra of the body.

This energy can be released during life-threatening situations. It is an explosion of power surging throughout the body and can give you the strength to do what you need to do in life-threatening situations. 
It can also be released by having an orgasm.

The goal of Kundalini Meditation is to become aware of that specific energy rising, and to ride this stream of energy to infinity. 

Kundalini Meditation and Yoga is a combination of posture, breath and chanting. It is not a heart-based meditation. 

4. Vipassana Meditation (Mindfulness)




Vipassana means 'to see things as they really are.' 

This is one of the most popular styles of meditation as well as being one of India's most ancient forms of it.


It focuses on 'being present.' You need to let whatever thoughts come into your head in freely, but then practice detaching yourself from those thoughts.
While doing this, you must focus on your breath.

You become very attentive while doing Vipassana Meditation.

This comes from a Buddhist tradition.



5. Qi Gong 

This Chinese form of meditation has a powerful healing system involving a combination of slow, graceful movement and breathing techniques. It involves focusing on circulating, cleansing, and strengthening the life energy (Qi). 

People often call this kind of meditation, 'Chinese Yoga.'
It is important to know that there are thousands of different types of Qi Gong meditation. 

You do a lot of inner work on yourself when practicing Qi Gong. 
As it teaches you to control your reactions to stress in particular, it is a wonderful way of finding a very tranquil state of mind.  Stress leads to many things such as high blood pressure, anger, anxiety etc so this is a great preventative.
Stress can also age you - so this anti-stress meditation is also proven to be anti-aging!

Avoid eating for a half hour before practicing Qi Gong as this can weigh your system down.


6. Trance-Based Practices

In the style of meditation, your state of mind is completely induced by someone else and you have little to no self-control. 

This style is often guided by music, drugs and hypnotism accompanied by a more shallow breathing technique.  

If you are searching for spiritual growth, I would strongly advise against Trance-Based Practices. 

7. Transcendental Meditation

This is a non-religious practice that requires you to sit comfortably, close your eyes and use a silent mantra twice a day.
No life-style changes are needed to practice Transcendental Meditation. 

Instead of focusing on breathing, in this form of meditation you are told to focus on the mantra. 

It is said that this form of meditation can improve not only your focus on a whole but also your job performance too. It can increase your overall calmness, creativity and so much more. 
You can treat anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder with this form of meditation. 

It is taught one-on-one by a certified teacher.

If you're South African and are looking to find the closest teacher in your area, take a look HERE to see where you can go.


8. Zazen

In Zen Buddhism, Zazen literally means, 'Seated Meditation.'

This meditation is often done over long periods of time and without much instruction. It focuses more on basic posture (straight but comfortable back, sitting cross-legged,) and does not have any particular attention to the breath.

This form of meditation is difficult to both learn and make progress with. You must let thoughts and ideas pass through you without becoming involved with them.  
It is a study of the self. 



*



In short, meditation is basically a method that we use in order to have flourishing attention. 



After doing extensive research into what style of yoga and meditation would be most suitable for me (read more about that HERE) I had established that I...

A) Wanted to go to Delhi for the Holi One Festival of Colors
B) Had chosen Vinyasa and Bikram Yoga
and
C) Planned on dedicating myself to either Guided Visualization Meditation or Transcendental Meditation (eventually... although I have been practicing Zazen Meditation for a short while as that is all I have found that is available to me right now with a certified teacher)...

I could begin really planning my travels!

There is something very important to factor into all of this planning though. 

DON'T OVERPLAN!

Don't build your travel adventure up so much that you leave no room for surprises and changes. 
I don't want to say that Delhi is DEFINITELY where I'll be. That could very easily change in a heartbeat... on a 'whim.'
You need to open yourself up to the chances and possibilities. 

India will change you, if you let it. So let go - and embrace it. 

As a few friends of mine have been lucky enough to travel to India and stay in Ashrams already, I was able to ask them for some advice:

My friend, Chett, author of Breaking Free, mentioned that some ashrams are free! Again, I haven't been able to research too much into this yet but I'm guessing you do things around the ashram (wash dishes, scrub floors,) to earn your room and board. 
Chett said that other ashrams can get quite expensive and warned me to beware of this. 

He mentioned the Ramana Maharshi Ashram in Tiruvannamalai (about a 37hrs drive from Delhi...) which most 'tourists' shudder... I hate that word... LOVE going to because of its spiritual vibe. 




However, you can only spend 3 days in this ashram. 

Then he told me about the Sai Baba's Ashram in Puttaparthi which is also far away from Delhi (See what I mean? Delhi might not be the most ideal spot after all! I'm sure there will be plenty of villages with different celebrations for the Holi One. It doesn't necessarily HAVE to be in Delhi! Keep an open mind and make sure wherever you go is convenient for you to be able to see as much as possible... or save up much more than originally anticipated for travel expenditures!). 



At Sai Baba's Ashram it is only 100 Rupees a day (R20.00)

Amritapuri Ashram situated in the small fishing village, 'Parayakadavu' in Kerala is on my MUST DO list when I head over to India too. This is also HOURS away from Delhi.

Amma is an incredible spiritual leader and guru that I learnt a lot about through Chett's book and ever since reading about her it's been high up on my bucket list to meet her. 
She says that her religion is love... which I think is beautiful.

She has dedicated her life to alleviating pain and suffering from others.
People travel from all over the world to get a hug from Amma as it is said (and proven) that her hugs can heal you from your physical and emotional pain. 
It is about R 60.00 to stay at her Ashram per night.

Just be warned that Amma isn't always at her Ashram so if seeing her is important to you then do some research first before trekking all the way there and missing her. 


View from the Amritpurri Ashram


Chett also did say that as far as he knows, most ashrams are the kinds of places that you can literally just rock up and stay at without needing to book in advance. 

There are no direct flights from Delhi to the above ashrams but there are modes of transportation to help you reach your destination such as the Spicejet, which is a low cost airline. This will get you closer to where you need to go and from there you can take Indica (a supermini car) to your destination. 
So make sure you tuck away enough for the trips and transport costs that you will definitely be doing while there if you want to experience India to the fullest. 

While we're on the topic of cash.... you should get used to bartering before heading off to India. I was lucky enough to learn how to barter while staying in Phuket, Thailand a years ago. Almost everything in India is up to negotiation. Don't feel guilty about it because it is in their culture to barter. Be firm. If the price doesn't lower to one that you're happy with then take your business elsewhere because there is NO doubt that you will find the exact same thing elsewhere for half the price, whether is be clothing, food or even taxi fares and accommodation costs. Nothing is a fixed price unless you're in a real store that has the price printed beside the product. 

Now let's move on to fashion, ladies! We all know how important style is to us - but it's important to the Indian culture too. Make sure that you cover your shoulders and legs, especially when entering a sacred place such as a temple. The temperatures are high there so buy a few loose fitting, cotton clothing because although this covers you up, they also keep you cool more than your tighter fitting items. You can really have some fun getting Indian-style clothing too, this shows that you are embracing the culture and it also makes it easier for you to blend in.  

Here's a question I've been asked lately:

'Is India really where you'd want to go on HOLIDAY?! It's DIRTY!' 

Here is the right way to answer this when people try to tell you how filthy and how 'un-holiday-like' India is:

'India isn't a holiday. 
India is where you go to transform. 
You will never be the same once you've visited India. 
It awakens you. 
It challenges you. 
It helps you grow and learn and experience.' 

Oh right, and just in case you're wondering about my little India trip and regular travel rambles - Bali is definitely still happening next year too. That trip will be with my handsome bearded fellow.. but first there will be India which will be just for me and perhaps a girlfriend or two - a time to reflect and grow and learn.

I'll end this with a quote:




"I don't know what the question is.. but I know that travel is the answer"

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Meeting Meditation and Yearning for Yoga

Last week I attended my first Zazen meditation lesson.

I’ve been wanting to do it for a while now – and have been dreaming about visiting an ashram in India next year during the Holi One Festival of Colors (6 March 2015) where I’d dedicate a week or so to meditating and doing yoga after experiencing the festivities. I feel a strong urge to fall back into spirituality after losing touch with it a lot over the last year.  
The last year I have been so focused on relationships and love, on travel and things that of course a girl craves but my soul is yearning for some spiritual enlightenment. 

I'm not saying what I have been solely focused on hasn't gotten me anywhere - hell, I've finally managed to find an absolute gem of a man who treats me like gold. So in that way I don't regret it at all - in fact, quite on the contrary, I feel so much more blessed than before. 

Now that a certain void has been filled however (love), I need to continue down my path of self-love and growth.

One of my New Year Resolutions (yip, that time is fast approaching us once again,) is to dedicate myself to weekly yoga and meditation - and this really shouldn't be as hard as it has been considering that there is conveniently a yoga / meditation studio INSIDE the building I work in. 


After my introductory session to meditation last week, I was pretty eager to pursue it. 

This was my experience: 

Day 1 - Tuesday 11th November:

I walked into the old, wooden 1926 hall to find a man eerily resembling Buddha sitting cross legged in the middle of the floor, perched up on a blanket and some pillows.
The room smelt like a mixture of cedarwood and a lotus flower - smoke from a lit incense stick drifting peacefully around the room.

The man, Kevin, gave me this warm wide-spread grin as I entered the hall cautiously on my tiptoes. He introduced himself, let me place my things down in the corner of the room and asked me to remove my shoes.

We started out with a few 'get-to-know-each-other' questions:
"Where are you from?"
"How did you hear about us?"
etc...

Slowly he invited me to sit on the second blanket and pillow which was facing him.
Instinctively I crossed my legs in the way I'd seen so many others' do while meditating and quickly developed a comfortable posture in my back. He was very happy with the way I sat - pleased that I wasn't slouching.
He then instructed me to place my hands close to my belly, left hand cupped in the right with my thumbs gently touching.
Now that we were in position I noticed the small clock that lay in the middle of us. The soft ticking and the way he continuously glanced down at it made me slightly nervous.
He told me we would be doing a sitting meditation, focusing on the breath. To eliminate any egotistical thoughts entering, he told me to count each breath until I got to ten, then restart.

So I inhaled.... One.
Exhaled... Two. 
While doing this he said we should look down, not necessarily at the clock.. not necessarily at anything.
'Don't Stare,' he told me. 'Just gently gaze at nothing.'

Kevin told me that I should try and breathe out longer than the breath in, which some find pretty difficult to do but I nailed it quickly.
Once he noticed that I had the hang of it he told me we would do this for a while. I wasn't sure how long, 'for a while,' was but I was keen for anything.

The first few counts to ten were the hardest. I kept fighting and batting thoughts from my head like I was warding off the plague -  thoughts like: 'Is this it?' ; 'What now?' ; 'Am I doing this correctly???' ; 'Am I even blinking!?' - I couldn't tell.  
All in all though, I managed to keep my count flowing smoothly.

Minutes went by... just in this gentle stare, inhaling and exhaling...... until eventually, I cracked.
I just burst out laughing.
I was MORTIFIED.
But I couldn't help it!!! I really couldn't. I wanted to be respectful but just gazing at nothing until everything went fuzzy and counting to ten, focusing on this breathing technique that was making my chest go tight and giving my back this seriously uncomfortable hot sensation was WEIRD.

It seemed like he understood.
He was SO mellow and calm though that I couldn't really be sure.

He asked me how I found it and if I had any questions - which of course, being me, I did.... pretty straight-forward one's too.
"Don't your feet get pins and needles from sitting in one position like this all the time!?" I asked hopelessly, releasing my hands and fiddling with my toes to get some blood flowing back in them again.
He gave a soft chuckle and said, "At first, yes!" Basically meaning, you get used to it as time goes on. I guess it's like yoga in that sense. Slowly you become more supple and flexible and can easily get into positions that were once impossible for you.
"So,  how does this actually benefit you?" I asked... feeling unintentionally rude as soon as the words had escaped me.
"Good question," he smiled, a smile filled with wisdom. He spiraled off into a story - not about anyone in particular... but a story about being at peace as a person, about kindness and gentleness and gratification. He spoke about a deeper understanding and calmness that develops as you meditate, that lasts after the meditation is over. He made it sound beautiful - like a natural drug I had to have.

'You shouldn't think of meditation as something you gain something from... but rather something you loose something from,' he told me. 

Mind fuck. 
'What!?' I asked, utterly confused. 
'Buddha was asked, 'what have you gained from meditation?' and he replied, 'nothing!' However, Buddha said, 'Let me tell you what I have lost: Anger, Anxiety, Depression, Insecurity, Fear of Old Age and Death.' 
That's when I understood. 

"Do this seated breathing exercise for ten minutes every day until next week Tuesday, then attend our group meditation. I want you to email me if you have any problems. I look forward to seeing how you found it," Kevin said to me before I shook his hand and left.

I left feeling good - calm, but not changed.
That's the wrong way to look at it though, isn't it?

Day 2 Wednesday 12th November:

The next evening after work, I showered and changed into cozy, oversized clothing before throwing a few pillows on the floor and sitting cross-legged.
Kevin had told me to put the stop-watch on my phone on to know when ten minutes was up which seemed very un-spiritual but there wasn't really another option.
So I pressed start and started on a deep inhale.
One...

Again, I was able to keep a good hold on my counting while focusing on my breathing. It's a good technique I will admit.
The 10 minutes went by smoothly, without a hitch and if I'm honest I found it easier to do it alone because I didn't feel a worry creeping up on me of looking silly and wondering what I was doing and why. (There's those egotistical thoughts slipping in again....)
After the ten minutes were up I felt immensely more relaxed and padded downstairs to the kitchen where I poured a glass of chilled white wine, cooked some cottage pie and babysat my gorgeous nephew for a few hours.
I wasn't worried about feeling 'changed,' or 'different.' I was just stoked to feel a layer of calmness hug around me like a soft blanket. It felt good.


Day 3 Thursday 13th November:
     
I really wanted to get up bright and early and do today's meditation in the morning. My evening was destined to be busy with an hours drive through to my man after work, followed by dinner with his dad and his dads girlfriend before we meandered on to the cinema to watch Gone Girl (movie review coming soon!)

Buuut I still had 50 pages to finish of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (book review coming even sooner!) so I woke up at 05h30, made a cup of coffee and huddled under my blankets to devour the rest of the book before the visit to the cinema in the evening.

Day 4 Friday 14th November:

Waking up with Sam placing a cup of honey sweetened tea in my hand this morning was wonderful. We snuggled in bed and spoke about what dreams we'd had the night before.
He left the house before me to get to karate so I wanted to spend some time meditating before work.... buuut.... I got caught up writing Sam a little love note for our 2 month anniversary.

So.... so far meditations been a bit of a flop.

It's not that I don't want to do it, but I'm struggling to find the time. This is why it is a New Years RESOLUTION and GOAL

At least I'm trying.... kind of.

Day 5 Saturday 15th November:

Fail... today was miserable weather. Sam and I trudged to the bottle store where we splurged on three bottles of red wine before heading home with four rented movies and a playstation game involving lego StarWars characters, built a blanketed den upstairs and had a very lazy day keeping warm indoors.

After demolishing about two bottles of wine we decided it would be a fabulous idea to go down to the beach (in the pouring rain!) and sit on the rocks to watch the waves which were about eight foot! I'd never seen waves that big up close before. It was AMAZING. 

We returned to the house drenched and refreshed, laughing and ready to open the next bottle of red. 

Day 6 Sunday 16th November:

Sam and I celebrated our two month anniversary by exploring Mossel Bay today. We had a delicious Graça soaked, sea-food lunch at a little wooden shack above the ocean called The Sea Gypsy.

We trekked the limestone caves of The Cradle of Humankind, which is a world heritage site where the oldest human remains were once found. It is said that it was here where life began. 

The views of the seven foot, meaty waves forming perfect barrels in the stormy ocean were beautiful. 
The crisp, citrus flavored chilled Graça was divine.
Our chocolate coated road-trip filled with stops along the highway to pick wild edible mushrooms that had popped out after the rain was so much fun. 



Sam's been teaching me how to live off the land. It is absolutely fascinating to learn about what is available to us if we just look. We're actually planning on writing a book together about mushroom picking and identification in South Africa. A little project we'll begin in the new year.



Needless to say... no meditation was done today. 

I got home mid-day where I uncorked another bottle of wine or two and enjoyed a few hours watching Cougar Town, devouring a tub of dark chocolate and berry Magnum ice cream with my sister-in-law and popping pop corn in an oil soaked pot. 

Heavenly Sunday, indeed.

Day 7 Monday 17th November:

After sleeping for about ten hours with my cat curled into my tummy and my dog acting as a hot water bottle at my feet - I finally had some time to meditate once I had risen from the dead this morning. 

I found that meditating this morning, still in my pj's, was so much easier. In fact, I think I enjoyed meditating more in the morning than I did in the evenings. I didn't feel as silly as I previously had but I did notice that my mind was BUSY. It's a pretty strange technique, to just gaze at nothing and count to ten as you inhale and exhale deeply, focusing on breathing. 
I can keep up with the counting as well and still be thinking of a million other random things that come into my head.

I decided to email Kevin and ask him for advice on my waging battle with my own thoughts. 
He told me that some days will be like this while others will be easier. He said that if you notice this happening then you simply re-direct your thoughts to the sensation of your breathing. 



Day 8 Tuesday 18th November:

Today I had been invited to attend the group meditation session with Kevin and his other students. 


I met with Kevin for about a half hour before the rest of the class arrived so that we could catch up and see how things had been going. After a brief chat, I helped him set up the class by placing blankets and pillows around the room. He told me that the set-up of meditation is very important and must be done in a certain way... he kept on refolding the blankets I put down because I wasn't doing it correctly. It made him and his son laugh. It made me blush. 


#Newbie

One by one, people dressed in loose-fitting, colorful cotton clothing piled in and introduced themselves. An old woman that must have been in her mid 70's who sounded like she was from somewhere in Europe, a man not far behind her age-wise dressed in hippie attire to perfection, a girl that looked like she must be in her early thirties with a tight bob of blonde hair, my old wiry-haired English teacher from college wearing a black t-shirt with a big purple 'Om' symbol on the front, Kevin's wife, Kevin's son and another curly haired woman who looked as though she'd come in her pajama's. 

A candle was lit in the middle of the room and a small discussion took place after we all took our seat on our pillows above the blankets. 
The candle had been lit as one of the other students from the group couldn't make it because her family members were in critical condition in hospital. It was a lovely touch and very thoughtful. 

Kevin then banged a wooden stick he calls a Keisaku, which began our meditation. I got a heads up that we'd be doing this seated meditation for 25 minutes. Now that there were plenty people around me, I couldn't help but be distracted. I wanted to look around and see how they were all doing it. Some were staring at nothing, as I was instructed to do. Others had their eyes closed. I tried this but it made me feel so sleepy that I decided to keep my eyes focused on the flame dancing around the wick of the candle in the center of the room. 
By 20 minutes in, I was twisting and squirming my feet around as quietly as possible, trying to bring some life back into them. I didn't know how everyone else couldn't be laughing at me. 
I also kept on glancing up at the old woman in her 70's, wondering if she was still awake. This meditation made me sleepy as hell - but she looked so blissed out in her own world.

The Keisaku was beaten against Kevin's hand and we were told the stretch our legs before standing in a line. Lacing your fingers through each other we were told to walk and meditate, going around the room about a pace behind the person in front of you. 
This I did NOT understand. I didn't get the point of it and I felt like a dufus. 
We did this for ten minutes and then I nearly collided with the woman in her pj's when we suddenly stopped at our blanket and pillow. 
We all sat back down and started another 25 minutes of seated meditation. By now, after that strange walking exercise I was starting to have my doubts. 
I could do this at home - yes I liked the surroundings and it was nice to see other people taking it seriously but I just didn't understand the walking thing. It bugged me a lot. 
The sitting meditation I could get used to. It made me relax and come to a tranquil state of mind that I enjoyed. 
The next 25 minutes of seated meditation was actually a lot easier. My feet weren't cramping up and getting pins and needles as quickly and I was already so relaxed and in the vibe. 

When the Keisaku was finally beaten again we stretched out our legs and were giving chanting books. 

We did two chants, one being the English Heart Sutra Mantra which made me want to die of laughter. This is what it was:


When Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara practised the deep Prajnaparamita, he saw that the five skandhas were empty; thus he overcame all ills and suffering. 


"O Sariputra! Form does not differ from the void, and the void does not differ from the form. Form is the void, and the void is form. The same is true for feelings, conceptions, impulses and consciousness. 



O Sariputra, the characteristics of the void is not created, not annihilated, not impure, not pure, not increasing, not decreasing. 



Therefore, in the void there are no forms and no feelings, conceptions, impulses and no consciousness: there is no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body or mind; there is no form, sound, smell, taste, touch or idea; no eye elements, until we come to no elements of consciousness; no ignorance and also no ending of ignorance, until we come to no old age and death; and no ending of old age and death. 



Also, there is no truth of suffering, of the cause of suffering, of the cessation of suffering or of the path. There is no wisdom, and there is no attainment whatsoever. Because there is nothing to be attained, a Bodhisattva relying on Prajnaparamita has no obstruction in his heart. Because there is no obstruction he has no fear, and he passes far beyond all confused imagination and reaches Ultimate Nirvana. 



All Buddhas in the past, present and future have attained Supreme Enlightenment by relying on the Prajnaparamita. Therefore we know that the Prajnaparamita is the great magic Mantra, the great Mantra of illumination, it is the supreme Mantra, the unequaled Mantra which can truly wipe out all suffering without fail." 



Therefore, he uttered the Prajnaparamita mantra, by saying: 



"Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasemgate Bodhi-svaha!"




We just repeated the words so slowly and strangely... it was a combination of the ultimate weirdness as well as beautiful. I could definitely get into it if I let myself. But as a beginner, you are skeptical and feel weird. I'd say, just go with it and embrace it. 

We did a second chant after the English Heart Sutra which was all in Sanskirt or something I think. It was much more beautiful and flowy but I had no idea what I was singing about which bugged me. 

I liked the chanting all in all once I'd gotten semi-used to it but I'd definitely want to know what I was chanting about and getting myself into before just singing random Sanskirt mantra's out loud.  

We finished with a group discussion about meditation. Soldiers are starting to use meditation in the wars and we had a discussion about what we thought about it. Meditation is also being used in prisons and has proven to be beneficial to bringing the inmates to a more calm state of mind. They think before they act - making their 'violence is survival,' rule slowly deteriorate. 

It was interesting and all - but I was really excited to get back home, have a dinner with Sam and my folks and enjoy a bottle of Shiraz. 



*

I'm not going to give up on meditation just yet. I've only done it 4 times so I want to give it a fair chance. 
I'm going to continue with my seated meditation for 10-25 minutes as often as I can and return to the hall with Kevin and the characters that join the group meditation on Tuesday evenings but I'm also going to look into meditation books. I want to research it more, go to more classes with different teachers that teach different techniques until I find the one that really suits me. 
It is something that I want to take seriously... and so, I will. 


As for yoga... well.. 



As I am not quite yet an avid yoga-goer, I can still choose which style of yoga sounds most appealing to me. You need to research the different styles of yoga there are quite extensively in order for you to find out which one is suitable for you. 
After doing just that, I'd have to say that Anusara Yoga really stands out as well as Bikram and Hot Yoga. I like the idea of doing yoga in a heated room to help me sweat and detoxify. 
I'm not sure if I'd have the balls to do Hot Yoga or Bikram while traveling through India though, that may just be suicide. 

Iyengar, although sounding slightly more boring, would probably be great for me too as I'd worry about my posture all the time. So having someone guiding me so closely at first would be preferable. 

Lastly, Vinyasa Yoga sounds divine. Free. Musical.No routine. That is most likely where I'll be working myself towards but in order to first understand the posture and poses I'd like to get comfortable with the other styles first.


I did a quiz which I found HERE to determine what type of yoga I should be doing and I got mostly B's which said:

If you chose mostly Bs, you are...
A Free Spirit
You love spontaneity and expressing yourself creatively, and hate to be told what to do or tied down to a set routine. Try Vinyasa (also known as power yoga or flow yoga) for its creatively choreographed classes that are generally accompanied by a rockin’ soundtrack. Or, work on your resistance to anything ordered with Ashtanga or Bikram classes, which always follow the same set sequence of poses.

I found this to be pretty accurate to be honest, which kicked my skepticism on silly online quizzes out the nest.

I'm doing a big post differentiating between the different forms of meditation and yoga as well as sharing some of the things I've learnt about travel in India so keep a look out for that - it will be on my blog later this week.


Until then, 


With love in Dharma
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