Confidence

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Confidence is a funny thing. For me it’s one of those emotions that comes and goes like the tides. It’s never been a consistent part of my life. I have moments of self-assured-ness and then deep periods of insecurity and self-doubt. I’m know I’m not alone in this, but it’s not something people talk openly about. I found that the changes in my life during pregnancy and after becoming a Mum compounded and deepened my sense of fragility and vulnerability.

Growing up I always had to keep up with the boys. I would be the first to jump off high cliffs into deep ocean, steal my parents car and go for joyrides, laugh at girly-girls and never say no to a challenge. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy excitement and the wind in my hair, I love the ocean and I’m naturally a physically active person, but I have to be honest in that a lot of this sense of adventure was driven by a need to never be thought of as ‘girly’ or ‘afraid’. It continued into adulthood with drinking and partying, I always kept up with my husband and his friends’ extreme drinking and was often the last girl to go to bed.

We all have an innate urge to be accepted, to be loved, to be thought of as awesome, attractive, cool, intelligent, interesting, wealthy, different. In this way, we’re all the same.

This urge has affected so many decisions in my life. From the stupid amount of money I (used to) spend on clothes, to the jobs I’ve had, who I married and the demise of my marriage. It’s made me lose myself in relationships, lose sight of what makes me happy and most of all lose confidence in myself.

Validation from the outside. We all seek it. I still do. Quite simply, it makes me feel good and when I feel good, I’m more confident, self-assured and open. A viscous cycle, a Catch 22.

During this trip, circumstances have meant I have had to deal with my insecurities head on. My relationship has mirrored back to me how any sense of security or confidence based around the actions of others isn’t true security or confidence at all. Because that can all be taken away in an instant.

In theory I understand that the only person that can make me happy is me. No relationship can do that. None, never. I understand that nothing external can ever give me security or stability or true joy.

In theory I understand this, but understanding is different to ‘knowing’.

To know this, to feel it from the inside out, to be rock solid in my knowledge will take some time and work. It will take mantra and meditation and persistence.

It will take trust.

A while ago someone gave me a tiny piece of paper with the words ‘Trust Yourself’ scribbled on them. I kept it in my wallet for a long time, looking at it when I needed to. In the past could of weeks this phrase has popped into my head so often, as my gut and instincts send me messages that I doubt or ignore, hoping them to be wrong. They weren’t. They never, ever are.

I believe learning to absolutely trust yourself is the first step towards creating your truth. And when you are true to yourself, confidence starts to grow, from the inside out, rather than the outside in.

True confidence isn’t arrogance. True confidence doesn’t come and go, waxing and waning with the moon. A truly confident person doesn’t struggle against others or feel the need to be ‘right’. When you’re self-assured you make decisions that consistently empower you.

But it’s hard. And you have to say no to things that you used to say yes to. Things you said yes to because you wanted to be loved and thought of as awesome.

It’s hard and it will take time. Just like anything worthwhile and lasting, but it’s possible and for me that’s all I need.

Letter to Jack

I just found this in my email drafts…something I wrote the night before I went into labor with my little Nugget.Vroom VroomMy due date is fast approaching and I promised myself I would write this down before our little man popped into our lives and changed everything. I’ll do my best to try and instill as much of the following as possible. How? Who knows? Parenting must be just as instinct and gut based as pregnancy. As I was writing it I realized that the flip side to every one of these points is that I’ll be learning so much from him as he is from me. Every. Single. Day.

Letter to Jack,

I am writing this a few days before you are born. Before you come crashing into our lives and change us forever. You’ll change us in ways we are completely oblivious too right now, all we know is that we love you already. we love you more than we will be able to express to you, in a way that will make you pull faces and get embarrassed when you’re a teenager.

I thought I’d write down a few things that I hope we can pass on to you as you grow up. No one is a perfect parent and your Dad and I will grow and learn just as much as you do from our relationship.

All I can hope is that it is a relationship that is open and honest and accepting. I’m here to guide you with what I’ve learned so far and while I can’t promise I will always do the right thing, I promise I will always do my best. I also promise to remember that you are your own person, with your own karma and destiny that has already begun inside my tummy.

I’m probably a third into my journey here on the planet and I can honestly say I feel blessed to be alive, most days, most of the time. The fact that you are almost here makes me feel even more blessed. The fact that I met your Dad and we created you has been the most incredible experience of my life. You’re about to blast out into the world and begin to have your very own experience here on this wonderful planet.

The things I would like you to know:

1. You are your own best friend.

Jack, life is all about relationships, none of which is more important than your relationship with yourself. The world around us is in a constant state of flux, especially if you’re challenging yourself and living a full and satisfying existence.  I want you to learn to trust yourself and be content in your own company. People, pets, friends and family come and go, sometimes they disappoint us or let us down, sometimes we disappoint people around us. The only constant is that we always have ourselves. Listen to your heart and come to know yourself. You’ll never be lonely if you love the person inside.

2. That women are awesome.

I want to instill in you a profound respect for women. It pains me that this should even be something that I have to reinforce/teach/show in this day and age, but lets face it, there are still a lot of sexist, misogynistic idiots out there, a large proportion of those are other men. Those men are insecure and/or ignorant/and or dealing with their own programming. I hope I lead by example and show you that women can do absolutely anything they set their minds too, that we are strong and courageous, adventurous and hilarious. You’ll have all my amazing friends around you as role models too. In fact, you’ll probably come to realize that women are far more awesome than men in many, many ways…but I’m biased of course…

3. Cooking, cleaning and laundry skills are indispensable in this world.

I will teach you to cook, bake, clean the toilet and do a perfect load of laundry without shrinking a thing and do the ironing. In fact, you’ll be quite a catch for someone one day but that’s not the fundamental reason I’ll teach you these things. I want you to be a capable, independent man who sees that these tasks are an integral part of life.

4.Your emotions are normal and they’re ok.

Sometimes you’ll get angry, sometimes you’ll be sad. Sometimes there’s an obvious reason, sometimes we have to look a bit deeper inside to find out what’s going on. I hope you feel that you never have to hide these emotions from me or that whatever you feel is ‘wrong’ because it won’t be. We all have shitty days and it’s how we deal with these shitty days that’s important. I never want you to squash or hide these feelings because quite often feeling them is how we figure it out.

5. Respect money but don’t let it rule your life.

I hope we show you the value of hard work but I also hope we show you that there is more to life than earning a tonne of money. I hope you find something that you are passionate about that drives your ambition. Human-beings need a purpose greater than ourselves, we are here on earth to learn, grow, be happy and help each other.

6. The world is there to be explored.

Traveling is the best education I ever had. Living in foreign countries taught me independence, acceptance and that it’s a big old beautiful place out there. It opened my heart and my mind and most of all I’ve met people and made friends from all over the globe who have all added depth and character to my life.

7. I have made mistakes and done stupid things.

There is nothing wrong with making mistakes and doing stupid things. I will be happy to talk to you and open about all of them. In fact, my mistakes have been the best teachers I have ever had.  Problems have only arisen when I’ve made the same mistake again…but even then,  some things we just need to be taught a couple extra times than others.

8. Integrity, openness and honesty.

If your outside matches your inside life is a lot calmer, less exhausting and relaxed. be true to your word and try avoid even little fibs – except when I ask you if I look my age. Then fibbing is definitely ok.

9. Procrastination is a pain in the butt.

I’m a very accomplished procrastinator and while I hope I can teach you the value of getting stuff done in a timely manner you Dad will be far better at this. He’s a flipping task master.

9. Dreams are one of the most important things you will ever own.

You dreams are yours alone, embrace them and then work your butt off to make them a reality. The key is trying to figure out the steps that need to be taken to fulfill these dreams. Your Dad and I will help you as best we can, even when we can’t quite understand your dream ourselves, we’ll do our best to understand and help guide you towards accomplishing them.

10. Everything will always be ok. Even when it’s not.

Life is unpredictable, full of challenge and change but learning to trust ourselves and trust that whatever happens is the exact thing that was meant to happen. Even the bits that seem the worst, almost always turn out to be the best bits. Trust the process of life just as much as you trust yourself and I promise everything will always be ok.

11. We (your parents) aren’t always right.

In fact, if we can be proven incorrect we are more than happy to say sorry and acknowledge this. Communicate with me, talk to me. I may not always agree but that never means I don’t love you. At some point we will both be adults at the same time, I hope that I have helped create a man with his own convictions and ideas. I don’t always need to be right, as a parent I’ll be doing my best but I know there will be times that I’m wrong. If my son can discuss things with me with openness, integrity and honesty.

12. Love is everything.

Let love guide your decisions. Love for yourself, those around you and everyone you meet. Every single human being you meet is made of the same stuff as you. We are all amazing beings, holy, Godlike and divine, made completely of love. For some people it’s buried under layers of fear, those people may seem angry or sad or mean at times. They need more love than most.

12. When I’m gone I will still be with you.

I carried you in my tummy, I pushed you out into the world. You are my little boy and you always will be. I hope you grow up knowing how much of a blessing you are to me. You have already taught me so much and made me understand what true love is. That is why I’ll always be with you, beacause I will always carry you with me.

Withdrawal

The Path to Jose's

The past two weeks in Costa Rica have felt like the longest two weeks of my life. Traveling with a baby has turned me on my head. I’ve realized that this trip is going to be very different to the journey I’d romanticized about and a galaxy away from all the traveling I’ve done in the past.

I spent a large part of my twenties living in foreign countries, gallivanting all over the place. I always felt empowered and independent on the road. It was where I felt at home; spontaneity, my middle name.

Spontaneity. I feel like that word has disappeared out of my vocabulary in the past nine months. Relatively speaking, of course. I realize that I am halfway around the world right now in the jungle with my baby, so to some, that might seem pretty out there, but compared to the cool shit I used to do, this trip hasn’t had quite the same edge.

I’ve been emotional, grumpy and to be perfectly frank, miserable to be around at times. I’ve been anxious and stressed, obsessing over Jack’s naps and completely oblivious to a lot of the beauty around me.

Then a couple of days ago, in our damp and chilly cabin in the depths of the Monteverde Cloud Forest I had an epiphany. It was at the moment just before you wake up. That moment when thoughts are crystal clear and you get an answer to a question you didn’t know you’ve been asking.

I have been going through a kind of withdrawal. Withdrawal from all of the things and people I am familiar with and the activities I do to distract myself on a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute basis. The list is long:

I’m addicted to warm showers and clean clothes. To cozy duvets and the perfect pillow; I am addicted to my friends, my Mum, their voices and the endless laughs. I need regular exercise and pricey lattes with pretty designs in the foam. I am hooked on electricity and entertaining conversation. I’m addicted to a semblance of a routine and a to-do-list that makes me feel like I am accomplishing something. I shop for things I really don’t need, I manipulate my surroundings and my schedule to make myself feel like I’m in control. I’m addicted to feeling busy and planning my week so that it feels like I just don’t have enough time in the day.

Take all this away and it becomes blatantly obvious that I have addictions. I’ve had substance withdrawal before (from morphine after a knee operation) and it feels remarkably similar. Agitation, extreme discomfort, lashing out and blaming others when things don’t feel right or aren’t exactly as I want them to be.

All my addictions are simply distractions. Distraction and sedation from being still and being with uncomfortable sensations. We humans will do almost anything to avoid being still and feeling uncomfortable. We are never present but perpetually in the past or jumping ahead into the future.

I’ve never been good at being still and for the old me, traveling was just another gigantic distraction. It was about moving, doing, planning, new sights, new cultures, exotic locations and shiny new people. It’s about saying yes to everything, getting tipsy with strangers in rooftop bars, catching overnight ferries to God-knows-where and sleeping on the beach when you felt like it.

But this trip is different.

Even though I’m traveling with two others, the boys enjoy each other’s company and enjoy doing similar things with their time. So on this trip so far I have spent more time alone than I have since I lived in Japan and China by myself. Traveling with a baby means someone has to stay behind with Jack and I want to be there – a familiar face in another new room.

So it’s meant lots of reflective time listening to Jack’s white noise app mixing with the sounds of single, baby-less people enjoying themselves; solitary time up in misty, damp lodges with no connection to the comforts and voices of home. It’s me and my perpetual sidekick taking meditative walks with along a river or the beach early in the morning, through vibrant markets and thick Costa Rican jungle.

I have always been most content outside, walking, watching, absorbing. These have been the most special moments of the trip. Me and my son, out in the world together. I’ve seen the delight on his face as he spots another friendly dog, I get to listen to his new baby sounds as he talks to me as we walk and sings along with me when I sing to him. We’ve seen colorful birds in tall trees and sat in cool rivers picking up stones. I will treasure this forever.

Sometimes it’s the solitary moments that mean the most. The sunsets from a surfboard, a jog along a beach, that first coffee before anyone wakes up. I’m reminded that alone-ness isn’t something to be avoided but to embrace, I used to embrace it. It was when I felt whole and connected.

Traveling is different now. Just like life is different now. And while the ‘before’ may seem more exotic and more exciting at times, this new adventure has a depth and quality to it that will be my greatest teacher.

Off the Grid – an adventure in Costa Rica

We did it! Here’s our first episode from the road. Costa Rica was an adventure to say the least and this episode captures exactly what we’re trying to do with our series Million Ways to Live.

Our MWTL family; Jack Jozef, Luke Sniewski, Bensen Fan and I went off the beaten track and into the depths of the Costa Rican jungle to see how Jose Arias is working towards making his dream of self-reliance and sustainable farming, a reality. I got to experience my dream of living off-the-grid for a bit and Jack fell in love with Canela.

Hacienda Rio Carara will be a place where people from all over the world can come to experience a self-reliant, sustainable life in an incredibly beautiful part of the world. It will be  a place for people to learn and also to share ideas.

Have Baby, Will Travel

Jack's Little Tent

Preparing for our year of gypsydom with an eight month old to think about made all the travel I’ve done by myself seem like a cake-walk. Gone are the days of making sure I have exactly the right bikini and matching pedicure. Now it’s all about how many onezies are too many onezies or agonizing over whether to take a stroller or not (bringing a stroller was a mistake by the way, so it stayed behind in the US).

In the weeks leading up to our departure from New Zealand there were many moments when I felt myself moving out of the present and into the scary and uncertain future. For me, the biggest worry was predominantly about how Jack was going to nap as we traveled and how these transient naps would affect him.

I wasn’t worried about the logistics of feeding him on the road or the dozens of flights we have to take; which medication to bring with us seemed fairly obvious and I am not the kind of Mum who worries about germs, getting sick, rabid dogs or malaria.

Jack’s naps have been a source of anxiety for me since the day he was born. It’s intriguing which elements of being a Mum cause the most grief for each of us.

I’ve drifted between wanting to encourage a strict schedule for napping and feeding or simply letting Jack lead the way. These two schools of baby rearing don’t co-exist that well and it created a huge internal struggle for me. A struggle that resulted in more than a few arguments with Luke, who’s much more relaxed about when and where Jack sleeps.

I hear so much about the importance of structure in a baby’s life but to be honest, I’m not a structured person at all. And let’s face it, a routine would be hard to implement with a baby when we’re on the move, in different time zones and living at random people’s home. So I worried.

So far we’ve been to Fiji for a week where we taught a retreat, then spent a week in LA catching up with friends then it was off to Vermont to teach again and then back to LA for another few days for Thanksgiving.

We had two weeks in Costa Rica staying in hostels, lodges and friend’s houses and this tested me to my limits. I had a couple of meltdowns, lots of time alone to meditate and reflect and am doing my best to trust this process.

Control. It’s a farce, it’s delusional and it’s the source of my anxiety. It is so hard not to snap and nag and get upset when things aren’t the way I want them to be.

The more relaxed I am, the better Jack naps and sleeps at night.

Jack’s first year of his life won’t be structured and there is little semblance of a routine but he has both his parents with him 24 hours a day, for the next year. He is lavished in love and knows every cry will be answered. In Jack’s world his parents are always there for him and that he can trust us to listen to him. He smiles at everyone, giggles and laughs perpetually and is curious and open. New people and places don’t phase him in the slightest, and he is absolutely fascinated by all the animals we’ve come across in our travels.

I’m learning to be still when I feel the urge to control creeping in.

“If you don’t go within, you go without.” – Conversations with God.

The traveling, the instability, navigating the way with two others; Luke and Bensen, combined with being a new Mum means that this has the potential to be a year of incredible personal growth for me, but only if I choose it to be.

The many benefits of getting your booty out of bed and to a morning yoga practice.

If the notion of getting up with the sun makes your heart skip a beat then getting up early to get to a 7am yoga class will probably make you feel slightly nauseous. However, the benefits starting the day at sunrise with a bit of movement and meditation far outweigh the negatives. Honestly.

It will produce a positive butterfly effect that will resound throughout your day.

Autumn Sunrise Takapuna Beach

It takes discipline and you have to give yourself a week or two but just you wait, even it’s if the rosy glow of early-riser smugness that’s your main motivation, you’ll grow to love it.

Here are ten reasons practicing yoga early in the morning is good for your mind, body and soul.

1. There’s less traffic and parking is a breeze.

Why not start with the reason most of you would appreciate. Driving through empty streets with the sun coming up can make you feel you own the world. A trip that takes forty minutes after work, will be cut down to ten at this hour. Remove the added stress of finding parking and you have a pretty fantastic reason #1.

2. It sets the tone for your day.

If your morning gets off to a bad start, your day will usually follow suit. Yoga is a form of moving meditation. It’s about breathing and processing all that’s going on in your life/head/body. Start your day with some yoga and you’ll be able to go out and face the day. You’ll be calmer, centered and open which in turn will probably make you more productive and a nicer person to be around.

3. You’ll have more hours in the day.

We all have twenty four hours in the day but some people get a whole lot more done than others. Most successful people in this world have realized that getting up earlier gives you a head start on the day. An overwhelming number of entrepreneurs, CEOS, on-to-it Mums and Dads, sportspeople, anyone on top of their game really, have realized that you can accomplish a lot in those wee hours of the morning when everyone else is asleep.

4. You’ll sleep better.

Exercising in the morning means you will be really tired that night. You will want to get to bed a bit earlier and when you do, you’ll sleep like a rock.

5. It forces you to cut back on booze.

If you really commit to this then you’ll realize pretty quickly that if there’s anything that makes getting up really early almost impossible, it’s one too many vinos the night before. And let’s face it, getting to a 7am yoga class hung over ain’t going to happen. The feeling of waking up with a clear head, remembering your admirable steadfastness when you said “no thank you, yoga in the morning” to those last few cocktails is going to feel awesome.

6. Your body will thank you.

Not just because you’ve cut back on the booze either. Working out in the morning can feel a lot tougher on the body, especially if your diet sucks, you’re overweight and you sit at a  desk all day. If this is the case you probably wake up feeling like you’ve been run over by a truck, booze or no booze. Overnight our muscles contract and they also rebuild and repair – with material from our diets.Our joints also stiffen from lying still all night and the best remedy for all this is to get the circulation flowing and lube up those joints. Waking up with enough time to have a warm shower before class can work wonders on that stiffness. Class may feel harder but as is usually the case with all things in life – the more challenging something is, the better it is for you.

7. It’s better than a cup of coffee.

I highly recommend NOT having a cup of coffee before you get on the mat. Give your head time to wake up on it’s own. It may seem counter intuitive at first but yoga shifts energy and the vitality and focus you leave class with will mean you probably won’t need that cup of Joe. If you do it will be like a lightening bolt to the brain.

8. The sense of community energy.

At first you probably won’t feel like having a lengthy, cheery chat with your fellow yogis before class and you don’t have to engage with anyone if you don’t want to. But no matter what, you will feel the shared energy in the room. Humans are social creatures, feeling part of a community boosts our endorphins and other feel good hormones. Even just a smile from someone else might change the course of your day.

9. You will have the evening free to do whatever you like.

No further explanation needed.

10. The sense of self-accomplishment.

There is the potential that you’ll feel a bit high and mighty when your work colleagues hear you have already done a yoga class before work. It’s impressive, it really is. You’ve joined the ranks of those other successful movers and shakers, you’re motivated, you’re disciplined. You got yourself out of your comfy bed, in the car and off to class while the rest of the world wasted their precious time on this planet. You may even feel a touch smug for a while, enjoy it, bask in it. Just make sure you keep doing it.

beautiful-sunrise

Fetus University.

Braniac baby

Several weeks ago when Luke would get home and start talking about his day, Nug would begin to move or if he started talking close to my tummy I’d feel the baby wake up.  We both liked to think it was because he could already recognize his Dad’s voice and from the reading I’ve been doing about fetal development in the womb, this just might be the case.

At around week 24ish the little being inside has fully developed the ability to hear. In fact, noises that he hears regularly probably won’t phase him once he’s out in the big, bad world – so Nug’s going to be into house music and hard-core ganster rap (Luke and I have very different tastes in music). I’ve also noticed movement from him each morning after the ‘Ohm’ in my morning practice – a yogi baby!

At our HypnoBirthing class last weekend the instructor encouraged us to play the HypnoBirthing meditation track out loud rather than through headphones all the time. This was so that the baby would hear it too and therefore the sound will become familiar and comforting.

This brings me to ponder if there’s there anything I can so that’s beneficial to Nug’s development while he’s in the womb? I’ve been reading a lot about it to figure out how important it might be and whether or not there’s any point to it.

Right from conception the baby’s neural pathways are firing and forming – the little guy is busy right from the get-go. Research shows that later in pregnancy the baby’s heartbeat will respond to different types of music, slowing down for calming, classical tunes and speeding up when the tempo does. After 28 weeks babies even start to dreaming – although it’s hard to imagine what the heck they’re dreaming about…

baby dream

Some ‘experts’ feel that it’s never too early to start stimulating your baby’s brain, or to start an ‘education’. They say playing music, talking, reading to the baby and gently pushing your tummy are all good ways to do this.

So as per usual there are different schools of thought on this subject. Some feel that the baby has enough work to do growing and developing in the womb without having to deal with to have to deal with being woken up, poked, prodded, and pushed.

J and N

The obvious thing to me seems to be that there can’t be any harm in talking to him. The ‘love’ hormone Oxytocin is produced when you feel connected to your baby so talking and singing to him can only be a good thing.  I’ve had to really let go of any inhibitions and basically ramble on about anything, from boring day-to-day stuff, to the book I’m reading or the bizarre stream of consciousness in my head. Sometimes I’ll ask him questions and then hope that I might get a little kick or a wiggle as an answer. Mum bought him his first book the other day, Jack & Nancy by Quentin Blake. Luke and I took turns reading it before bed, it was lovely.

I also feel that we live active, noisy, energetic lives so getting him used to loud music, talking, laughing and moving around is imperative for him – I’d love him to be able to sleep in a not-so-quiet environment. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to take him when I teach yoga too, as he’s been with me all this time as I teach. I’m sure that the dulcet tones of my voice will send him off to sleep in the back of my classes. Wishful thinking? We’ll see…