You know you are on purpose if what you are doing makes you thrive.
These words of wisdom I received as I was leaving Mysore, India on my last trip back in September 2012.
And it made me think….. What makes me thrive?
Different cultures, being outside, spiritual connection, adventure, new experiences, sports, colours…..
I am on my way back to India.
This time to the North.
My intentions this trip are to have an adventure of a lifetime, deepen my spiritual practices (yoga and meditation), and be outside.
I am meeting a friend of a friend in Delhi airport on 4 June. We are promptly catching a bus to Dharamshala for a week of yoga, and then busing to Manali where we are meeting up with another friend of a friend who conveniently is Indian, and has been an absolute organizing gem. We are going to self support bike ride (I know that is kayaking terminology but I can’t help it being a never-ever bike tourer) from Manali to Leh, which will take us about 2 weeks up 5 massive mountain passes at altitude. Once we arrive in Leh, we are going to bike ride to Lungser Kangri park our bikes at the trail head and strap on some hiking boots, crampons, and ice axes for a mountain climb!
Hopefully kayaking will also be a part of the equation, to really accomplish all sporting elements.
After this adventuring I am planning on parking myself in an Ashram for a month…but am open to whatever comes next.
I can tell already that this will be a trip of a life time and am so stoked….stay tuned…and
“I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself.” ― Aldous Huxley
I have been here in Mysore, India almost 3 months and with my final week looming ahead I have been reflecting on my experience here and feel like it is beneficial to share it.
I came here hoping to find myself, feeling lost, and experiencing a creative block and possibly a “mid life crisis”, I was hoping Mysore would give me the jolt my life was needing.
I had a lot of fear about coming and even wanted to back out at one stage, even though coming here was something I had wanted to do for years. I was in a comfort zone at home and leaving that for the unknown and the unknown in India seemed scary and daunting.
Thank God (Ganesha, Krishna, and everyone else) that I made it here.
The first month was hard.
I was having exercising withdrawals, and realized that at home I had been living on endorphins and adrenalin. I was also having space issues. Here in India there are people everywhere at all times even at the crack of dawn and it was especially a challenge in the Shala. Practicing yoga packed in with 60 other people with sometimes only a centimeter or two between yoga mats, for a person who likes my space and wide open nature this was a true test.
I was coming face to face with my very judgemental mind and was judging everyone and everything.
I was chasing my tail about my creative block and life purpose hoping for inspiration and not getting it, and feeling restless, irritable and discontent.
I began doing psychic development classes and heart meditations with Angelika and David from Spirit of the Dove www.spiritofthedove.org and beginning to tap into my inner beliefs and was what holding me back. These classes were truly transformational and helped me to see that the biggest thing holding me back was myself. I also did several healing sessions with Angelika that helped create a major shift almost instantly afterwards, and which truly have changed me.
Things began happening in yoga as well.
I realized one day that I was holding myself back in yoga practice.
Even though to all outside appearances I probably looked like the committed yoga practitioner (coming to India, getting up at 3 am everyday to practice yoga by 4:15 am, not missing a day) I knew inside I wasn’t all in. I still didn’t “love” yoga. I had this realization that it was something I had done with everything my whole life. Not give 100%. I always was one foot in and one foot out. I had a good cry and got some amazing words of advice from a good friend who understood exactly what I was feeling and his words were “Polly you can change” “starting tomorrow give it your best”. “Everyday that is all you can do. Show up and give it your all, and at the end of the practice you will know and you will have that satisfaction of knowing you did all you could today, and… it doesn’t have to be a drama.”
That advice has transformed me and it sticks in my mind everyday.
It doesn’t matter what the person next to me is doing or not doing I can stay in me and focus on what I can do and that is amazing.
When I got here I was ruled by my mind, I felt withdrawn and not very happy.
Three months later I feel like a changed person. I am feeling fully in myself, patient, and just happy to be. I am not worried anymore about my “life purpose” having realized here that things take time and that as long as I do the next thing that inspires me I am on track.
I have gotten words of wisdom from the most unlikely people and it has taught me to take the time to truly listen.
I have confronted my idea of “success” and when I asked my heart what my success looked like it was a big flower that truly touched a lot of people. It was calm, peaceful, fulfilled and happy. The feeling I got was that I could die content knowing I did what I came here to do.
My minds idea of success, on the other hand, was so insane I am embarrassed to even write it down.
I was told to come here with no expectations, which was great advice because the ones I did have have been exceeded ten fold. I feel like coming here to Mysore was the single most important thing I could have done in my life. I feel like anything is possible now and that nothing is in the way. I can be me and that is the biggest gift I could have ever gotten.
I can tell you now that I am already planning my return to India. I know I have to go North to the Ganges and the mountains and see what the North of India has in store and I am sure I will come back to Mysore.
India has been imprinted in my soul and has given me my life back.
I am feeling truly blessed and grateful for everyone who has helped me along in my journey here. You have all been gifts from Ganesha (the remover of obstacles)
From the bottom of my open heart THANK YOU!
2 July, 2012 Mysore India
I made it to Mysore!
And it already has exceeded my expectations.
I have wanted to come here ever since I did my first Ashtanga yoga workshop with Peter Sanson in 2007, and it feels like a dream come true to finally be here.
Yesterday was my first yoga practice at the Shala. I was up at 1am due to jet lag/time change and actually worked out to be up early because class started at 4:30am.
I arrived to the Shala and shoes were everywhere outside on the stairs and I had that “ut oh” feeling that I was late. Inside the shala everyone was already in thier places and it didn’t look like there was any room left. It felt like one of those bad dreams when you turn up late to your final exam in school.
I asked a girl who was sitting down on her mat what I should do. She said “ask that guy there to move over” and so I did and squeezed in to a space. The class started about 10 seconds later, but I got in to the flow and the nerves subsided and it was amazing.
I thought it would be intimidating practicing with 100 other people all jammed in together but it wasn’t and the energy in the room was amazing. I few times I though about how crazy it was to be packed in with 100 people with about 2 inches between peoples mats and why on earth would I be here doing this and that thought was followed by one of pure joy that I was finally in India and realizing a dream and doing it!
Today was day two, and another led class with Sharath. I arrived EARLY this time and left my little apartment at 3:30 am to make sure I was on time today. There were already people outside the gate waiting when I got there. Slowly more and more students started to trickle in and then they unlocked the gates and it was like a heard of cattle pushing and squeezing to get into the Shala and get a good spot.
Pretty funny. I didn’t know yogis could be so aggressive. I am finding a sense of humor in a lot of it actually.
Practice was amazing and afterwards the coconut man was waiting for us outside for fresh coconut water drunk out of the coconut. Amazing!
I went for a wander after the coconut to find a coffee and sat down with some fellow yogis on some stairs on the main road and the coffee stand next door sent the coffee boy delivering us coffees.
I love it here! I have met some nice people and it is interesting being completely out of my comfort zone. I know that the lessons are coming in more ways than the yoga and am working on being aware and going with the flow and seeing where it takes me.
Tomorrow is Guruji’s birthday and a moon day so there is no practice but we are all meeting at 9:30 to do some prayers for Guruji at the Shala.
I am going to meet some people for breakfast and that is about all I know of my plan for today. Getting yoga out of the way by 6am leaves the whole day ahead to explore and see what happens.
I am so grateful for being here, that I felt the fear and came anyway, and that it is all working out.
3 July 2012 Mysore
Today is Guruji’s birthday and we all met at the Shala to celebrate him. Sharath and Peter Sanson gave inspiring talks about who Guruji was. That he was a man who was a gift, who was always open and gave pure Ashtanga yoga to all of us. I could feel Guruji’s presence there in the Shala and it was pure love. It was amazing and am so happy I am here to experience this and to have an example of the kind of person I am aspiring to be in the world.
Two years ago I decided to completely change my life.
I was living at the beach (learning how to surf) in Gisborne, New Zealand, had started my own filmmaking company, and in general thought I was happy.
Until a few “coincidences” happened.
- My boyfriend broke up with me.
- An old kayaking friend came to visit.
- I went on a ten day vipassana meditation course.
My life as I knew it came crashing down. (Although at the time I wouldn’t have used the word crashing.)
I decided I would start kayaking again. Pretty much out of the blue, and start training for the 2011 World Freestyle Championships.
It was a crazy decision at the time.
I hadn’t been in a kayak for 3 years.
I didn’t realize how hard it would be to to get back into kayaking shape.
I had to leave my life as I knew it, and move back to the river.
I just finished reading the Celestine Prophecy, which got me thinking about the importance of coincidences and paying attention to those coincidences. It also has me thinking about my life’s purpose and what that is.
The past two years have not been easy.
I went on this journey of self discovery without realizing exactly what a massive undertaking it would actually be.
So what happened?
I did compete at the 2011 World Freestyle Championships. I trained to the best of my ability at the time, but my mental confidence and competition head space just wasn’t there.
Oh yeah, and I filmed the whole thing.
I am now sitting with a pile of footage and just can’t seem to get to the point of what I am wanting to say.
I thought maybe by writing about it here I would get more clear on what the point of all of this has been.
I feel like until I finish this project I am in filmmaking limbo, and the longer I sit on it the harder it gets.
But I havn’t been ready.
Besides competing at the World Championships I broke through some denials in my behavior. I quit drinking and am now on a program of recovery and learning how to live life as person with Integrity, becoming the person I truly want to be.
I am also going to India in 6 weeks.
This feels like another part of my journey that I can’t explain. I just know I have to go.
I am going to Mysore, India. To practice yoga at the Shri K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute for 2 months.
I am going out of my comfort zone and it is scary, but I feel like things are falling into place so easily that I know it is meant to be.
I have always been a last minute planner, but somehow I already have my tickets booked, a place to stay, and a guy picking me up at the airport who will be holding a sign with my name on it!
I always wanted to be one of those people that had a guy waiting for them with a sign and can’t believe it’s actually happening.
So the journey continues.
I am feeling stuck in a place of wanting to know what my life’s purpose is, and I am hoping to find the answers in India.
I made a start at editing a short film about the World Championships.
The amazing thing is making it got me motivated.
I want to learn these new tricks. Not for any other reason now than it’s fun. It’s a challenge and I know I can.
Here is the film:
I truly am grateful for this life and know that I am exactly where I need to be today… and I know more will be revealed.
Why are you doing this? is the best question I have been asked in a while.
Since I have been back in NZ my “A Fire Within” journey has been “officially” over.
I have been doing things because I want to, not because I am “training”.
I have been going with my feeling and if I feel like paddling I paddle, or if I feel like surfing I go surf.
I have felt like paddling most days so that’s what I have been doing. I have mostly been running the river, taking my time, playing on all the waves, catching eddies, making up little challenges for myself, and enjoying being out there.
I have been competing in the competitions when they come up, but have had a completely different mind set. I don’t feel any pressure any more and am doing it for fun. I have been relaxed and have enjoyed myself competing.
It has been amazing to feel the difference, and it feels more real, more whole and more from the soul.
I have been going through all my footage from Worlds and came across this interview that I got with Ruth Gordon Ebens about how she felt after winning the 2007 Worlds. I asked her what her motivation was after she won. Did she have it in her head that she wanted to win the next Worlds? A lot of people have quit after they win, because they have achieved their goal. So I asked Ruth about it at the 2011 Worlds and was extremely inspired by her answer….
Sunday was the NZ Freestyle Nationals and I decided to compete, because I thought it would be fun and I was also curious to see if I could do it differently. I wasn’t feeling any pressure and my goal was to have good rides and have fun. My prelim rides were pretty average, but landed me in first going into finals. My second ride in finals was good enough and I knew I had won. My last ride in finals before I went I said to myself “Polly do this for you”.
As I paddle out of the eddy I know things can go either way. It is an intense moment in time. I ferry onto the wave and start my ride and somehow enter the “zone”. I just paddle. I wasn’t thinking, I was just doing what I know how to do, and I smashed it. When my ride was over I felt satisfied. I knew I just did what I know I can do ..when it counted. That is one of the best feelings in the world. After finals I got out of my boat and got high fives from people and congratulations, but none of that compared to what I felt inside. I wasn’t doing it for the approval. I did it for myself. That is the difference. And it has taken me this long to get it and to get there.
That ride was good enough to place 3rd in the Men’s and that was the most satisfaction I have felt almost ever in a competition.
I am realizing that this journey is not over. I am loving kayaking more now than I ever have and finally feel like I am doing it for the right reasons. I am approving of myself now for the first time in my life and that feels good.
It has been a long hard road, and am still on it. Seeing the changes is amazing, and I thank kayaking and the river for being my teacher.
I have been home back in New Zealand for 6 weeks now, and have been doing a lot of reflecting. I am also working on editing my film about the Freestyle Word Championships, which now that is all over, is giving me the opportunity to see the whole picture.
As they say hindsight is always twenty- twenty.
I went for my dream of becoming the freestyle kayak world champion and even though I didn’t achieve my goal of winning a gold medal I feel like I have gained something even more important.
I learned how to have discipline, and how to get up early everyday and motivate myself.
I learned how to face my fear of failure, and most importantly know that my self worth isn’t equal to my performance.
I learned I could be a good sport and get over my disappointment and get back out there on the sidelines and cheer for my friends still in the competition.
I learned how to value myself regardless of the outcome.
I have been able to see how much of my kayaking career has been based around my ego, striving for recognition.
Now I know that none of that is real. What is real is how I feel inside.
And today I feel good.
I have been paddling almost everyday since I have been home, and feel a new found love and appreciation for kayaking and the river.
I have been paddling a lot by myself lately, something I used to really not like doing, but now I am really enjoying it.
I am doing it for ME.
Not for the recognition of being good and the ego boost. Now I am paddling because I love to, because it feels good.
I am so grateful to have had this realization and I can honestly say I feel different.
Kayaking feels different and the river feels different.
I am smiling a lot more now and realize this whole journey has brought me back to myself, which I think is what I was looking for all along.
This feeling is priceless.
I am crying as I write this, because it is making me see that it was all for this reason, right now.
The whole time I was training last year, deep down I knew I had to do it, go for my dream of being the world champion, but I didn’t know why. And at times I really questioned myself and thought it was a crazy idea, but ..
Now I know.
And now I can see.
This is why.
I am so grateful that it has brought me back to the river in a new way, and that kayaking can be exactly what I want it to be and that is ok. Getting off the river everyday now with a big smile on my face is the best reward I could ever ask for.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me along the way! It really meant a lot getting words of encouragement,
and a huge thank you to all of the crew at Kokatat for the years of believing in me and for being a second family!
I have been paddling the river a lot by myself lately. Something I really didn’t used to like to do.
Every time I get on the river I ask the ancestors for permission and protection and I also ask my friend Hendri if he wants to come.
He always says yes and I feel him with me, and I don’t feel alone.
I am feeling so lucky just to be able to be on the river and am now preferring it when no one else is there. I am feeling the magic and the water like I never used to. I am working on my timing and new challenges and everyday feel better having been down there.
It is magic, and I am blessed.
I went to Hendri’s blog today and facebook page and realized it’s been nearly a year since he died. I had a good cry and feel so grateful he was my friend. I get inspiration from him everyday. I feel like he has helped me see life differently and have more confidence in myself and my path.
Thank you Hendri. Thank you for still being here in spirit and for helping me see.
I am finally HOME! After 5 months of being away it is so good to be back in my own space again. It was a challenging time away…. Things kept rolling on the personal growth front after I left Germany.
Beginning with guiding a group of Cancer survivors down the Main Salmon River in Idaho. A trip I think I may have gotten even more out of than they did. It was a real wake up call being with these people who have looked death in the face and were still around to talk about it (and laugh). They were the most alive and fearless bunch I have ever guided. They were honest, real, and cut through all of the bullsh*t. Refreshing to say the least and also really got me thinking about life and death and what is truly important and how I want to live the years I have left. So I want to thank you First Descents for getting me closer to what’s real and who I want to be in the world.
Hawaii was my next stop and pushed me to my limits. I cried everyday I was there (just about). I thought maybe I was dying..really. I have never felt like that before and at times questioned my mental stability. But after talking to a fellow yogi after yoga class who told me she had been crying everyday too I realized it was the yoga. Doing yoga everyday was opening my heart and the emotions were flowing. I also was staying with an old friend, and that was pushing all of my relationship buttons at the same time. Luckily they have 5 Rhythms Dance there which saved my sanity and I was able to dance out all of the pain and sadness I was going through and come out the other side with my soul shining. Feeling like my REAL self. Thank you Five Rhythms!
Family was my next growing hurdle. Three weeks is a VERY long time for me to be with my family. Of course there was a huge explosion with my mother and I hit the emotional level of hysteria, literally thought I had lost my mind, the day of my brother’s wedding. Nice timing. I cried and cried and cried. Pain was coming out that I think had been stored in my cells since I was a little girl and there was no holding back. It went on for hours. Thank god for my “friend” who reassured me on the phone and let me know I wasn’t crazy. It kept me from the brink and I am eternally grateful for that.
And now finally I am home! And I feel good!
I think all of that crying was a good thing because now I feel different.
I feel clear, and have found out that it passes. Even the hysteria passed the next day. I can feel it in my yoga too. My body is opening along with my soul.
Now that I am home….I am sitting back at my desk and starting the long process of transcribing all of my interviews for “A Fire Within”. Typing every word that I have filmed over the past year and a half is not a quick endeavor. I am realizing this is just like training for Worlds. I can’t look at the big picture right now. I can only do this “one clip at a time” other wise I would never want to start. So far today I have transcribed four minutes, and I can tell you I want to do anything other than this. DISCIPLINE and FOCUS are required as well as facing my procrastination demon.
It feels good tho too, to finally start the editing process, and another step closer to my other goal of making a feature length documentary.
I am facing myself all over again and hopefully seeing how far I have come.
After Germany I felt like I needed a blogging hiatus.
This past year I have put myself out there and the past 2 months have felt like I have been in a hiding reprieve.
I now feel ready to share where this past year has lead me.
I have committed to my yoga practice and am here for the next month or so practicing yoga with Nancy Gilgoff (one of Guruji’s original students). I have been here 3 weeks now and am practicing yoga 6 days a week. It feels like a dream come true to be going to a focused class every day and committing like this to my practice.
Even though my official training regime is now over I still have retained the discipline of getting up early, writing in my journal and doing my yoga. I have also been surfing and LOVING the warm water here and it really is paradise. I am about to do a multi-day ocean kayak trip around the North Shore with an amazing old friend of mine, have been taking an interpretive dance class, and paddling outrigger canoe (which i could see really getting into here)
TRANSITION feels like my word right now.
I have stepped into another world and am embracing it with open arms. This is the next chapter of my story and I have a feeling I will be spending alot of time here in the future.
This feels like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and truly a happy ending/beginning.
Every day feels like I am winning!