life lessons from a Yogini Mama
Prior to meeting Maur, I had already made the decision to leave the corporate world and embark on a whole new direction into health and wellbeing. Yoga was already a part of my life; it was the portal to balance, during my fast-paced corporate gig.
It wasn’t until I travelled solo to Turkey, Greece and India that I really got the opportunity to delve deeper into all things Yoga. What I loved most about the rich teachings from the East, was the focus on Philosophy and how to apply it to daily life. Yoga, as we know it in the West, is often focused on the physical aspect (asana), which is only one part of a whole. Little did I know, that whilst living in India, I was planting seeds to help for future life events. One big event, that would arrive in a little girl named Chiara. Interestingly the meaning of Chiara in Italian, is ‘light’ or ‘clear’, which suits her on so many levels!
So, whilst living in India, I continued my Yoga practice daily with some incredible teachers and students. I also attended a ten day Vipassana silent retreat (yes literally SILENT) which means no talking for 10 days straight and pretty much nothing else apart from meditating! The only talking that was going on, was the endless chatter in my mind, when we meditated from 4.30am through to 9.pm at night, with short breaks in between.
For the most part, I was moving between boredom, frustration and tranquillity – on high rotation! Every now and then, I would open my eyes and look around the room. How the f*** are all these people able to sit cross-legged, for hours and hours, day after day and still look like complete Zen masters!? An hour seemed to go on forever and I thought about escaping many times!
I felt like screaming! My knee’s were aching, my back was sore, my mind was zipping through sound-tracks, snippets from movies, conversations with loved ones, childhood memories and the most randomest of thoughts you could ever imagine. The mind is incredible, it recalls, restores and reserves millions of memories. Equally though, as I sat and observed in silent meditation, I had moments where I wanted to start belly-laughing, like the kind where you completely lose your shit hysterically….
However, I will never forget the moment when something ‘out of this world’ occurred. It was around the 7th day, I took my usual seat on the floor, crossed legged and followed the guide and drifted into meditation. This time though, the usual mind-chatter, memories, novels, cravings, musical lyrics, desires all ceased.
I was perfectly still, my breath was deep and calm, I felt so very connected (to what I can only assume, is God, Divine, or Source) it was beyond profound. My physical body seemed to tingle away from my feet and kept tingling and dissipating into the ether, until it reached my crown and beyond. I no longer had any awareness of my physical self, I felt deeply connected to all things, an incredible sense of wholeness, oneness, I let go completely.
Absolutely sublime, it was as though all my past, present and future had moulded together into a pure consciousness. It was one of those unexplainable “aah-huh moments”. But then suddenly, before I knew it, I was catapulted back to the room, jolted firmly back into my physical body and to the same Indian lady sitting close by, who was burping and farting oh so freely! (Indians are completely at ease with bodily noises, unlike us Westerners who like to hold everything in!). I opened my eyes and everything looked exactly the same, the room, the fellow Vipassana meditators – all the same. But was I? I honestly felt like I was touched by God, I was filled with what I can only describe as infinite love and everything in that moment made perfect sense.
I had just experienced one of the most incredible feelings ever, and yet just like that, in a fleeting moment, it was gone! And that is one of the greatest teachings of Meditation, the law of non-attachment, impermanence. To simply observe, with less reaction.
Despite being taught, that whilst in meditation (and life) we should not cling to anything, I was so desperate to get back into meditation to try and re-live that phenomenal experience! Alas, “Anicca” (pronounced Anicha the Pali word for “Impermanence”) started to sing through the room. Goenka.G, the founder of Vipassana, reminds us that everything is Impermanent – from the toughest of emotions to the feeling of complete Bliss! “Anicca, Anicca” – “Impermanence, Impermanence”….
“Before enlightenment chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water”. Sum’s it up in that succinct zen proverb way 😉
If anything, my direct experience reminded me that there is something else we are all deeply connected to, and if we allow time and sacred space – then we may just find it. Meditation is the gateway in. I urge anyone to give it a go – Vipassana Meditation Retreats are held all around the world, we have one here in Melbourne, which I have also attended for 10 days. Now remember – that is 10 days with no books, no iphone, no internet, no emails, no family, no friends, no TV, no coffee, no sugar, no phone calls, no cooking, no talking, no reading.. nothing but you – YOU.
After enriching my Yoga practice during my overseas sojourn, I returned to Melbourne and started my Natural Medicine Degree, Yoga Diploma and returned to the Corporate world part-time, to fund my studies and to pay the rent in my humble abode bayside. Life was good.
I met my future husband, moved in with him and his beautiful parents and soon fell pregnant. Life had changed considerably and as much as I was excited to begin my journey into motherhood and wifehood, I still had some unfulfilled business to conquer. I wanted to become a qualified Yoga teacher, open up my own business and find a home to nest in, with my new little tribe.
So I was a few months pregnant when I attended the interview for Yoga Teacher Training, a two year Advanced Diploma held in CAE in the city through Australian Yoga Academy. I had a brief chat with the co-ordinator and mentioned I was pregnant, and could I still apply? She suggested I come back in a few years time, post-baby and start my training then. But I couldn’t settle for no, I had a burning desire to begin the teacher training (barefoot pregnant and all!!) and to stay connected to my own very personal quest. Not an easy task for any woman, in this day and age, who has had to defy the many role’s society has placed upon her for centuries prior.
I sat with my pregnant belly and spoke to the little person within.
My dear mini bambino, I am honoured you have chosen me to become your Mama. I already feel so deeply connected to you, and you will always have my heart, love, and protection forever. However, I want you to also follow your passions and dreams in this lifetime, and you must always remember to look after yourself first and foremost. It is why I am going to take you on this journey, for me to follow my dream and passion, and for you to experience the power of fulfilling your own. We will learn all about the Yogic Tradition, and the amazing tools it can bestow through all of life’s trials and tribulations and most of all about the discovery into self – which therein may lie your purpose’.
And with that I eagerly applied and was finally accepted!
During class, we would chant OM’s from our classroom in the heart beat of Flinders Lane, listening to the hustle and bustle of the city life outside, whilst a group of us Yogi’s and Yogini’s were learning more about the inside. I could feel my baby moving to the primordial sounds of chanting – it was the most beautiful feeling.
I continued on with my studies, even after little Grace was born. I’d attend lectures armed with breast-pump and return home with liquid Gold (which had extra Prana from Yoga!) to give to my newborn. Little Grace, words cannot describe my love for you, you are and always will be my beautiful saving Grace.
I completed my Advanced Diploma, started up my own Yoga business close to home, which began to grow and grow along with my stomach, as I had fallen pregnant once again. I recall feeling somewhat ambivalent around the timing of this little one, especially given I had just began teaching and living my passion.
But the universe had other plans for me, and along came Chiara.
Life has never been quite the same since.
Motherhood was so different this time around, things were intensified from the minute Chiara arrived. There was concerns around the size of her head, then the whole arduous clubfoot treatment began, trips in and out of The Royal Children’s Hospital, with a sleep-deprived Mama and her extremely unsettled baby.
Five months rolled by and we discovered Chiara has a severe brain-injury, ‘Natalie, you need to prepare yourself for a severely disabled child, there will be years ahead of specialised therapies and given the extent of the injury, it is unlikely your child will ever walk, talk or live a long life’….
Now anyone who knows me, knows that I have always questioned most things. It’s probably what got me to India, deeply curious about the purpose of life and everything else. My Dad even mentioned in his speech at our wedding, that it was the first time he had heard me say YES to Mauro’s proposal, without questioning it!! It’s true, I have an intensity around questioning the why’s and how’s of life. I yearn for answers. And here I was, sitting across from the genetic doctor with one of the biggest question of my life – why? why me, why chiara? why?
I sat mostly in silence as they delivered the news on that fateful rainy day, tears streaming down my face, as I felt my heart breaking into pieces. It wasn’t until I walked out of the hospital, holding Chiara, where I saw the most brilliant rainbow appear before me. It felt like a direct message in the sky for me, in that very moment. I sent my deep questions out to the universe and I vowed in that same moment, to never give up on learning how and why and mostly, never give up on helping Chiara reach her highest potential. I again, felt that instant connection to something more meaningful, just like in that same moment in Meditation years prior in India. It was so real.
Naturally, I have been questioning many things since, after being told your child may not live past twenty and suffer considerably before then – makes any Mama fierce for answers. Yet through this whole experience, I am often reminded of my time in India. There’s no place on earth that will quite teach you how to find calm in chaos, with its rich tapestry of history and huge population, it is one gigantic melting pot. The seed’s that were planted there ten years ago on my travels, have blossomed into such solid tree’s of knowledge for this very moment in life. Everything is indeed Impermanent, the sadness that comes with watching your child have to work so very hard, to do the simple things we all take for granted such as use our limbs, and our words. Or even the joy that comes with a new micro-milesrone, like waves in the oceans, they come and they go. “Anicca, Anicca”. Yet love is the constant and I feel great love from above.
And whilst I am not teaching Yoga classes, those who understand Yoga, know that I am indeed practicing it daily. I hope to get back into teaching soon, and this time around, I have a huge new focus: families of special needs children. I want to help others who are going through the same journey. It’s tears you apart on so many levels, I’m living it, I know how painful it is, and it hurts.
I will continue to follow my passions, so that my beautiful girls Grace and Chiara know innately to always follow theirs. And by doing so, perhaps I will continue to find the answers to those bigger questions, along the way.
“In the end I’ve come to believe in something I call the physics of the quest, a force in nature governed by law’s as real as the laws of gravity. The rule of quests physics goes something like this:
If you’re brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, which can be anything from your house, to bitter old resentments and set out on a truth seeking journey, either externally or internally and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on the journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared most of all to face and forgive some very realities about your self, then the truth will not be withheld for you” – Elizabeth Gilbert