60 Days of Yoga: day 2


So, day 2 of my 60-day challenge was exactly that – challenging. Yesterday was pretty easy in comparison. I’d gone to my usual Sunday morning class at The Life Centre in Kensington. The class itself was quite intense – lots of utkatasana (chair pose), so I was definitely feeling some burning in the thighs! But actually getting myself to do the yoga was easier, as I had a set time and it was also a morning session. I’m definitely someone who works best with clear deadlines.

I work freelance, so my weekly schedule varies a lot, and I had today off work. I find that even if I get up early, I can easily waste a lot of time and get very little achieved. Today was one of those days. Before I knew it, it was time to head into town to meet my friend for lunch and I hadn’t done any yoga, but I figured I’d have plenty of time afterwards. However, when I got home I had a headache and just generally didn’t feel that well. I took some aspirin, had a lie-down, and when that didn’t work I went to my default feel-better technique of eating. Except I wasn’t actually hungry and of course the food didn’t actually make my headache any better at all.

This all resulted in me really not feeling like doing any yoga, and if it wasn’t for that silly little post that I put up last night, proclaiming that this 60-day challenging was starting then and there, there was no way I would have done any. But I felt it would have been so pathetic to fail on my second day that I forced myself, at 8.00pm, to do a class at home on yogaglo.com. I chose Christina Sell’s ‘Goodnight Sweetheart,’ class, which is a great hour-long evening class that I had done once before. It’s not a class that builds a lot of heat, but there’s a lot of great hip openers and you repeat each pose so you can go a bit deeper the second time. Christina also has some really great techniques to get you into a pose, and it was through her instruction that I managed to do agnistambhasana (fire log pose) properly for the first time.

Anyway, about 10 minutes into the class, I already felt so much better than I had for most of the afternoon and evening. My headache went and I was left feeling both calm and rested, but also more energised than I had for most of the day. I was able to stay up and do the really important things in life, like watch Made In Chelsea, instead of going to bed at 9.00pm hoping that sleep would cure my headache. So it’s only the second day in and I’ve already realised that showing some commitment to this little project can make me feel a whole lot better.

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60 Days of Yoga


 So, basically the shortest post ever, but I just wanted to write this so there’s concrete evidence that I’m committing to doing yoga every day for the next 60 days. According to Google, 60 days takes me to 19th July. The only thing I’m mildly apprehensive about (other than, of course, my ability to actually do this) is that I’m going to Budapest for 3 days in June. But I’m sure I can manage to bust out some sun salutations in the park. I’m also going to allow myself to take a leaf from Bikram yoga 30- or 60-day challenges, where if you miss a day, then you can double-up on sessions the next day.

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Walking on sunshine

Summer finally seems to have arrived in London. Yesterday when I left work, it was so hot and such a beautiful afternoon, I decided to walk home through Hyde Park after catching the train to Victoria Station. As I was walking through the park, I was really starting to overheat, lugging my heavy laptop bag in the sun. I decided to take off my shoes and walk barefoot through the park. I realised when I did that, it was the first time in a long time that I could really remember walking around barefoot in the grass. The last time I can remember doing it for any length of time was when I did a yoga class in Regents Park, as the lock on the studio was broken and we couldn’t get inside. But even then, that was more staying in the confines of one small area.

It’s amazing to me how sometimes little things like this can be so revealing about our nature. While there was a nice sense of freedom I felt wandering around in the grass, I noticed myself looking at the ground constantly to make sure I wouldn’t step on any bees, as there were a few of them about, instead of trusting that they were instinctive creatures and would not want to get stepped on. As I was walking and looking at the ground I noticed more ‘hazards’, like the odd prickle for instance. I noticed that I was hyperaware of these possible risks and was focusing intently on looking out for them, rather than actually just accepting the ‘risk’ (I could get a prickle in my foot or stung by a bee) and moving on and trusting that if it eventuated, it would not be the end of the world. When I finally realised this and looked up, I saw the most amazing view of the sunlight streaming across the pond, with the view stretching to Kensington Palace and beautiful church spires reaching up into the blue sky.

It was a small moment in my dad and they were insignificant risks, but it made me wonder how much else I might be missing out on and might not be seeing in my life because I’m too focused on the risks and what could go wrong. I went to a yoga workshop recently about developing a home practice, and the teacher said it was useful to have an idea or intention to meditate on or to form the basis of your practice, which can change from month to month. I think my intention for the coming month is to practice letting go. While I can acknowledge the risks in life, I don’t need to focus on them. I’m hoping this month I can let go of some of my fears and experience more freedom in all I do, and really open my eyes to the beauty and positivity around me.

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Phone a friend

The work I do as a conference administrator for local government is on a freelance basis, so I find out week to week how much work I’ll be doing. Generally the work is fairly steady, but there are some weeks where there are a ton of conferences booked and I’m working like a mad woman, and there are weeks where there are hardly any conferences, so by the time the ones available are shared around the team, there might be little or no work for me for the week. All of this means that my pay can vary a lot from month to month.

I was recently talking to a colleague, working in a different role, who said that she could never work freelance because it required too much budgeting and organisation compared to being a permanent member of staff. You had to be prepared for those times when there was no work, or when you were taking annual leave or sick leave and would not get paid. Yes, so true, I nodded in agreement, but in my head alarm bells were starting to ring. I was a freelance worker, and my ‘budgeting’ consisted of spending what I earned and throwing my bank statements in a shoe box to deal with later. Of course, these alarm bells were not enough to actually spur me into action to start budgeting.

I’ve never really done a budget. They were one of those things that seemed like a good idea in theory, but that is exactly what they remained to me – a theory, not something I put into practice. I remember when I got my first job out of university, and the transition to getting fortnightly pay checks compared to the weekly payments I got from my student loan was a bit of a shock to the system. I would always manage, but that last weekend before the next pay always seemed like a fairly lean time. I remember being relieved that I was not getting paid monthly like a lot of my friends. The idea of only being paid 12 times a year was too depressing.

Now being freelance, I always knew that some budgeting and balancing would be required, but for some reason I never got around to actually doing anything specific. I would make attempts at it, such as downloading a budget spreadsheet and fillings bits of it in, but I never really knew how much to allow myself for all those extracurricular activities. It was also difficult to know how much I was earning as well, as it varied from month to month. It all seemed like too much work and I just never liked the idea of going back over my monthly bank statements to see where I spent my money. I’ve now realised that really it was just another way I was living unconsciously. I didn’t want to know too much. It was much nicer living in my little bubble where I just spent what I earn.

I don’t want to paint a picture of myself as being completely financially irresponsible. I have always paid my rent and my bills, I have always paid my credit card off in full every month, I joined the superannuation scheme at my old work and managed to save quite a bit to put towards my student loan. Despite this, I still feel like there was a lack of awareness about my spending sometimes. Just like with my eating, there were times when I would go on a bit of a spending binge. I would try to hide the evidence of a binge on food, throwing out the leftovers, stuffing the packaging deep in the trash, and I would do the same with my spending. I would ignore the bank statements and would try to think of something else whenever the thought flashed in my mind that I really should be saving. I would sometimes conceal the telltale shopping bags and would always mark down the price of items when someone asked me how much I had spent.

Yesterday I found out that there might not be much work available at the end of August. While I know I’ll work things out and will be able to pay my rent and bills and will have enough to eat, it gave me the push I needed to take responsibility for my spending. I need to be conscious of how much I spend and what I spend it on. And I need to make better choices.

I phoned a friend today who I think of as a bit of a budgeting guru. When we were flatting together she had a detailed spreadsheet of her spending, and when I moved to London and asked her to give me a rough idea of how much her living costs were, she sent me an itemised breakdown of all her costs per month. This was a woman who was conscious of what she spent. My friend gave me some good advice, but most of it boiled down to being more aware of how much you spend, what you spend it on and to a certain extent forecasting what you will spend in the future. She also said that I should develop an ‘emergency fund’, which for me could come in handy when work thins out, but could also be used if I needed to go to the dentist urgently or some such. My friend also told me that despite having this elaborate budget, it did not mean that she always stuck to it, but at least she knew what she was spending.

All of this is pretty sensible and pretty obvious in a way, but it’s been easy for me to ignore it or not priortise it, until I really had to. While I’ve done a lot of work this year about living more consciously in relation to being aware of my feelings, being aware of my body and being aware of what I’m eating, I have neglected being aware of my spending. My plan for the next week is to start looking over those bank statements in the shoe box and then try and work out a realistic budget for the future, prioritising developing an emergency fund. Second priority will be developing my discretionary savings account aka the Ibiza fund, as  I hope to go somewhere more exciting than the dentist this year.

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Loss of unconsciousness

I just re-read my last blog post ‘The Year of Living Consciously’ that I wrote on January 11th. Despite my best intentions, another blog post has not eventuated this year. I had a few stabs at writing one or two. I started something on Janelle Monae, feeling rather inspired by her music and her style, but I never got around to finishing it. That perfectionist streak in me, which I’m only just starting to become aware of, was never quite satisfied with the pictures of her I amassed for the post.

I then started dabbling with a post that I had been writing about a year and a half ago that still seemed relevant. I guess that’s the one of the good things of having recurring problems, your old blog posts remain salient in years to come. I’m sure in five years time I’m still going to be looking for the perfect diary to help me organise my life and stop wasting so much of it watching teenage-oriented television. But I just never got around to finishing the post.

I then decided that Summer Solstice would be the perfect time to write an update on my blog, but instead spent that long evening gossiping with a very dear friend, and the symbolic timing of the blog post was lost, along with the impetus to write.

The lack of posting has not been for lack of material. There were often times when I felt like I had a lot to say, but I think I have been somewhat reluctant to putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, about what’s happened for me since January 11th.  Sometimes that has been because it felt very personal, other times because I didn’t really know where to start unpacking the things I’ve learnt, and I didn’t want it all to disappear through the interrogation of blogging about it.

But this afternoon, as I sat in a cafe doing some work, I felt like I just wanted to try to write again and just see where it takes me. I wanted to start writing again just a way to document for myself some things that are going on for me, so that I have somewhere to store those breakthroughs or aha moments or even the lack thereof.

I remember feeling that I didn’t even really know what I meant by the year of living consciously at the time, but that idea of ‘living consciously’ just came to me and felt like it was something I really wanted to move towards. I basically forgot all about the post until I was talking to my mum recently and she mentioned it to me, thinking that it was a new post, as conscious living has been the central theme of my year – being more conscious of what I eat, my impact on the environment, my impact on others and becoming more conscious of what I feel and where those feelings are coming from. Re-reading that post made me feel like I really had some sort of divine inspiration or inner knowledge about what direction I was wanting to move my life in, but it was at the unconscious level then.

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The year of living consciously

I’ve been living by myself a bit over the past few weeks. My flatmate, high-flying financial whiz that he is, has been off in various places around the world, working and romancing, so I’ve found myself living alone for the longest period I ever have, and while it hasn’t been that long, it’s had quite an impact. My mother has always been reluctant to live alone, and hasn’t really done so  for more than a week, I would guess. I never quite understood this fear, as I’m someone who’s always enjoyed my own company and liked to spend time on my own. I’m an introvert, so spending time alone is how I recharge.

However, even the short period of time I’ve been living alone (probably three weeks would be the longest single stretch over the past two months), has opened my eyes to the good and bad of it. There’s nowhere to hide when it’s just you. It creates a lot of space for introspection and analysis, which is good for creativity and self-awareness, and it’s allowed me room to really start thinking about what it is I want from my life, something maybe I would not have done if I was surrounded by other people.

Of course, it also opens up too much space at times. That analysis can start to overwhelm you, and you can become very isolated if you’re not a natural socialiser. There were days when I’d realise that I hadn’t used my voice at all. I’d cook a great meal and find myself saying, ‘Great meal, Ingrid’ just because there was no one else to say it, or I would start complaining to the TV when there some particularly ridiculous news item. It was like I had prematurely turned into a crazy cat lady, minus the cats.

The time alone also made me keenly aware of the mundane nature of life. So much of our life seems to be taken up by personal admin or work. When you don’t have anyone else to break that routine or do those tasks with, it can all become rather mind-numbing. You go to the supermarket, cook meals, take out the recyling, you wash clothes, you fold the washing, make the bed, vacuum, go to work, come home from work, go to the supermarket, cook dinner. On and on the routine seemed to stretch. It just felt like what was the point in all this? I would go to work so I could earn more money to buy more stuff that I didn’t need and on and on.

I wasn’t sure if this was all the result of me not being in a relationship, or maybe it was some weird biological impulse to make me desperate to procreate so that my family could give my life meaning. What is possibly more likely is that it’s caused by the age and stage I’m at in life. In my my mid-to-late 20s (although I’m definitely more late than mid these days) it seems there’s the biggest variety of lifestyles among my peers. Some people are already married with children, some are single, others are engaged, some are living at home with parents, others live in their own home, some are doing well professionally, others are back at university, others are unemployed. There’s such a range of options at the moment, it can be hard to work out where you fit in and where you want to fit in.

Another part of it is that having come to London, I’ve felt a little lost as to what exactly I’m doing with my life. What is it I want out of life and where to from here? I had always envisaged myself moving overseas, most likely to London. Now I’m here. So then what? I hadn’t really thought beyond that.

A large part of that ‘now what?’ is my career. Which I actually feel needs to be referred to as ‘my career’, with the quote marks, because it still feels like a distant, fanciful concept. I don’t really have a career like a lot of my friends do. A lot of them are professionals and have a specific vocation. That’s not to say they’re necessarily any happier, but sometimes limited choices can make life easier, or it appears that way from the outside. When I go to a job website, I don’t know what section to look under. I don’t even know what my keyword is. I haven’t got many hits from ‘really awesome well-paying job that is fun, not too strenuous, fulfilling, in workplace with lots of cute boys’.

I think I’ve come to the realisation that I don’t even know if I want the traditional career. Instead, a patchwork of interests to satisfy everything I want seems a better way to go about it. The job I’m doing at the moment is quite flexible, so I have time to do other things if I want to and I can work from home a lot. It’s created space for me to do other things, like writing this blog, or possibly doing some volunteer work, that I may not have in a typical career-oriented position, but it’s so far affording me a decent lifestyle.

In fact, my current job has opened my eyes to a side of life that while I intellectually knew existed, I never really had to confront. It’s made me realise  how lucky I have been to have the upbringing and lifestyle I have. It’s an incredible privilege that I can sit here and ruminate over the meaning of life and complain about the mundane nature of supermarket shopping.

So my year of living consciously is really about being more aware of how lucky I am to have good friends and family and a place to call home, in London and in NZ; it’s about being more conscious of my feelings, and accepting them, good and bad, and trying to take pleasure in simple things; most of all, it’s about trying to find a way to inject more meaning in my life by finding some way to effect change, to help people. And while this all sounds very hippy-dippy and like I’m about to start singing kumbaya around the campfire, I’m hoping that this year I find a way to make a contribution.


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The more things change…

So it’s been almost a year since I last updated this blog. I only realised it the other day when I started to think about maybe getting back into writing, and noticed that my last post was about Melbourne, which I visited in January 2010. It was somewhat horrifying  to realise that somehow a year had passed in which I didn’t manage to find the time to write anything (or at least to post anything. I had a few failed attempts littered here and there.)

It got me thinking about how easily time passes and slips away, and that it’s not even necessarily about what you prioritise, or at least what you want to prioritise. I know I managed to keep updated with whether RPattz and KStew are actually dating, and I carved out time to watch X Factor. When it comes down to it, is that what is more important to me than writing? I also only managed to read a handful of books last year, but I read my fair share of trashy magazines. I suppose sometimes it’s just easier to be lazy. It certainly takes less effort to watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians than to write a blog post.

The one good thing, or at least enlightening thing, about how I have not posted in almost a year, means that the ‘new year’ posts are close to the top. I was reading over one in which I lamented that my ‘just do it’ philosophy was obviously not being heeded to, that I needed to keep a diary, that I needed to be more organized, that I had started the 100 push-ups programme.

I was hit by how crushingly similar my aspirations are this year. I spent the 2nd of January scouring book and stationary shops in an attempt to find the perfect diary that would somehow manage to transform my life into one of efficiency and achievement; I had downloaded the 100 push-ups app onto my iPhone; I had tried to stop putting things off and just do them when I thought of it.

A lot of things have changed for me in the past year.  I’ve planned trips that I didn’t go on, and gone on ones that I didn’t plan, I’ve dabbled with cancer, I’ve been to a psychotherapist, I’ve said goodbye to my first proper job and wondered if I would ever find anything that suited me so well, I’ve managed to get a new job which has opened my eyes to a side of life that I never experienced and I’ve moved to the other side of the world.

And yet when the new year rolled around, I was still battling with the same issues I always was – that I’m not achieving my potential, that my body is not as thin as it should be, my hair not as long, my skin not as clear, that I still don’t have an idea of what it is I want my ‘career’ to be and that I’m still apparently unable to use a diary for more than a week at a time.

My hopes and dreams for a new year all seemed a bit futile in the face of such overwhelming evidence that my weaknesses remain the same, that my ability to overcome them is limited. Part of me wonders if maybe I should just throw away the diary and accept that, like a friend said to me recently, if something is important, you’ll do it. But at the same time, I don’t know if that’s necessarily true, and maybe it’s just in my nature to take the easy way out, to be a bit lazy, and maybe it’s also in my nature to want to struggle against that. I know in some ways I’m setting myself up to fail. That I will stop using that diary, that I will somehow end up watching a re-run of Everwood rather than going to the gym.

I went to a shambhala meditation group some time ago, (a component of my ideal self is that I would meditate daily, without my thoughts drifting off to consider whether I need a new pair of shoes). The teacher discussed the problematic nature of the idea of self-improvement and progress. I found this quite a difficult idea to wrestle with, as if we don’t want to improve or progress, then it seemed like giving up. But the teacher explained that what they were meaning was to interrogate the impulses behind that improvement. Is it negative or positive? Who are you trying to improve for and what are the true benefits?

While I don’t think I could just let go of feeling like I need to improve, I do think I probably need to switch my focus to what it is I have done right, what it is I have achieved, rather than focusing on what I haven’t, and how I need to do more. Maybe it’s about enhancing what is already there, rather than thinking about what I’m lacking or not doing right.

I may never change in the way I have strived to. In fact, I wonder if I would be recognizable to myself if I did. If I suddenly woke up tomorrow at 6am and meditated and went to the gym t and then practiced yoga and chatted easily to acquaintances and held the gaze of strangers and dressed my lithe body in fabulously minimalist chic attire, read some literary classic on the tube on the way to my as-yet-undetermined perfect job that is enjoyable, but also makes a difference to people’s lives, had cocktails with friends after work, a delicious meal with an intelligent man, who I was not intimidated by, and we have deep and meaningful conversation, I order the salmon, because healthy food is just so delicious and I don’t have dessert, because I’m not much of a sweet tooth, and I was on time for all my appointments and was not indecisive once.

Anyway, back to reality. Who knows whether life would be more satisfying if we were living out our perfect selves? That fantasy is just that, and in the end my weaknesses are as much a part of who I am as my strengths. And when I think of the good people I have in my life, and accept me for who I am (and maybe because of who I am) it serves as a reminder that maybe I’m OK if I never change.

Chances are, I’m 28, and this is what I’m like, but I think maybe I need to start enjoying the attempt at change, and to take pleasure in simple victories, like how I actually sat down and wrote this, rather than thinking about doing it, but reading my Twitter feed instead.

Rather than the goal of unattainable perfection, I think my goal for this year is just to live consciously, the exact meaning of which I’m still trying to work out, but it’s a phrase that keeps coming back to me when I think about this year and what I want it to be and how I want me to be, but that’s another blog post (hopefully!).


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