Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Beautiful Samaya Ashram

After an incredible six months at Samaya Ashram, I created this short film to give you a look at the Beauty I saw there, everyday.  So much Love to the Samaya Ashram family.  Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ashram Bliss

It's been two months now since I came to Samaya Ashram, and it has been the most rewarding and enjoyable time of my life.  It hasn't been all pleasure and easy going though.  I've let go of bad habits and cultural conditioning, released emotions that I had been holding inside, and overcome barriers of the mind which hold us back from seeing our full potential and doing what is difficult.  Through the technique of Vipassana meditation, I have gone deeply inward, becoming aware of my true essence and profound stillness.  I have seen how we are distracted by the constant chatter of the mind, and through all of this, experienced pure joy and eternal bliss from truly knowing myself.

I want to share with all of you some of the techniques of meditation that have really helped me, in the hope that you will do them yourselves and experience the same joys and freedom that I am experiencing.  They are not difficult at all and many do not require much time commitment.  The key in all of them is "Awareness", being aware or "watching" what is going on inside you or inside your mind.  For example, as you are reading this or thinking about meditating, your mind may be saying, "I can't do that" or "That sounds silly or stupid".  Be a witness.  Don't judge it or become frustrated.  Just watch, and let it be.  Also, with these mediations, do not "try" to do anything, just let it happen, it is already inside you, and you will see just how easy it is.

a winter's sunrise over the hills of Rosebank, NSW

Dancing Meditation (5 Minutes - One Hour)

Put on your favorite song to dance to.  If you want to dance for longer set up a playlist that you will not have to attend to.  This can be done by ones self or in a group, both can be equally powerful.  The key here is: not to do the dancing, but to let the dancing happen.  Move to the music.  Do what comes naturally, and be aware of everything that is happening to you and inside you.  For example, if you are doing some dance "moves" you may become aware that this is the mind telling you how to dance.  Be totally free.  Dance to your fullest.  Do not mind what the dance looks like or who is watching.  You will see that the way in which you dance will change, it will become more free, you will become more open.  Try this meditation in the evenings to let go of your day, or in the mornings as a beautiful celebration to the day.  This is my favorite active mediation.  I use the sound and my attention to the music to remain present, and I find that when I am dancing "totally", I am fully there, and nothing else matters.

Awareness Meditation (1 Minute - 10 Minutes)

This can be done sitting or standing; doing or not doing.  All it is, is to become aware.  First, be aware of what you are doing; then what it feels like; then what is happening inside you; and then become aware that you are aware.  For example, you are sitting in a chair.  Become aware that you are sitting, or rather that sitting is happening.  What does it feel like? How do you know that you are sitting? Is there a sensation on the back of you legs and butt?  What about a sensation in you back?  What else do you feel?  What else is going on inside you?  Is there emotion?  Is there no emotion?  Now, grab hold of that awareness.  Know that you are aware.  "I know that I am aware that I am sitting".  Practice this throughout your day, continually become aware of sensations, feelings, and emotions that arise in the body.  And also become aware or thoughts that arise in your mind.  When watching your thoughts, do not become attached, do not be the thoughts, remain The Watcher.  And do not judge, good or bad, it is just the mind.

full moon's brilliance

Seated Meditation (10 Minutes - One Hour)

This is similar to Vipassana meditation, but I am explaining it, so I cannot say that it is exactly Vipassana meditation as was discovered and practiced by Gautama Buddha some 2500 years ago.  In a quiet place, find a comfortable and reasonable position to sit for the meditation.  I prefer to sit cross-legged on a cushion with my back against a wall.  Sitting cross-legged can be painful for westerners as we are accustomed to sitting in chairs and not on the ground.  Although, the more frequently you sit this way, the less painful it becomes, and additionally, the pain of sitting can be a great tool as something to watch.  It is also possible to meditate sitting in a chair, only to make sure that the back is straight and that you are not so relaxed that you begin to fall asleep, which is very common when learning to meditate.  It can also be helpful to wear some type of blindfold, or just gently close the eyes.

In this meditation, you will be bringing the awareness to the breath.  This can be done in two ways or in two places.  One is not better than the other, and it is possible to do both at the same time.  The first place to watch the breath is at the nostrils.  Feel the sensation of the breath as it enters the nose.  The second place to watch the breath is at the belly.  Watch the rise and fall of the belly as the breath comes in and out.  Third, watch what is going on inside the body and inside the mind.  Nothing is a distraction in this meditation, so if something arises, just watch, do not become attached, remain separate, remain The Watcher, and let it be.

Meditation is most accurately described as a state of "No-Mind".  So, while there are no goals in meditation, look for this.  At first, you will encounter a noisy and chattering mind, and because of this, it may seem difficult to keep the awareness on the breath.  At this point I tend to go in one of two directions.  The first is to get into a rhythm of "thought and breath" or "thought and no-thought".  With your awareness on the breath, a thought will arise, watch it for a moment, and then return to the breath.  Another thought will soon arise, and again, briefly watch it and return to the breath.  This will become the rhythm. With practice, see if you can speed up the rhythm, see if you can slow it down.  Slowing it down brings us in the other direction, moving closer to this state of "No-Mind".

Buddha stated that "thought and breath are directly related", so to slow down the thought or the mind, we must slow down the breath.  Notice the words used when we say that we are "watching the breath".  This does not suggest that we are doing the breathing, it suggests that breathing is happening.  So we don't want to try and breath slow, we don't want to "try to do" anything, we just want to let it happen.  I find the best way to do this is; while meditating, gently let out the breath and pause.  Do not breath in the next breath, nor hold the breath, just watch.  If you are not restricting anything, you will notice the breath comes back in with slow, very shallow breaths.  Since you are just sitting and not moving; moving will often break the awareness, you do not need a full breath.  This is the body's automatic breathing, and it may be the first time that you actually ever watched it, since it usually occurs when we are not aware or paying attention.  So continue to watch this happy little breath.  Continue for ages, it will take you to a place inside yourself of deep stillness.  Wherever it takes you, just keep the awareness; remain The Watcher.

Discovering this stillness, our true essence, was the greatest joy that I have experienced in my life.  When I returned from my meditation I found that I could not express enough, the joy that I was feeling inside, from truly knowing myself.

Try it, see where it takes you.

"If not you, who? If not now, when?"

koala in the gum tree

coming up the driveway

morning sun at Samaya Ashram

 wallabys in the field with yurt in background

our resident peacock

Emerson road Rosebank, NSW

I share this with you from Love.  There is no better time than now to awaken to what truly is.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Beautiful Byron

It has been two months since I came to Byron.  These two months have held many of the most incredible experiences that I have had since I began traveling just over two and a half years ago in Hawaii.  In this time, I have experienced pure joy, grown, and learned about myself and the world to an un-measureable extent.  I began my time here living at a beautiful yoga studio and homestay.  Here I found a Love for yoga and meditation, something that has and is continuing to change me and my life so much for the better.  I am so grateful to have found this place, the people I met there, the experiences I had, and the skills and practices I learned will be with me forever.  My health has reached an all time high as well.  Many things have contributed to this, not only surfing at least once everyday and practicing yoga four or five times a week, but changing to an almost entirely vegetarian diet and being very conscious about what I take in, eliminating all preservatives and disguised artificial additives that are in virtually every product that you buy from the grocery store.  Because of these small life changes, I feel amazing, I am at an all time high of happiness, and have had time to really work on myself to be the best that I can be, for myself.  
Here are some pictures of the yoga and meditation studio, my friend and yoga teacher Tara and I, and a street view of sunrise beach. 

Byron Bay is the Eastern-most point in Australia.  It is marked with a beautiful lighthouse that stands as an icon of the town and metaphorically as a beacon shedding light and awareness on those who surround her, the beautiful feminine energy of Byron Shire.  

This is Matt, Marie, and Myself who woke up extra early to catch the sunrise at the Lighthouse.

After one month, I left the yoga studio and at first lived out of my van at the amazing Belongil ("bel-on-jill") Beach, later to rent a small apartment where some great friends, Tara and Russell, also lived.  Just based on the fact that I actually was renting a place to stay and not living out of my van was a shocking but lovely change from the way I had been living and traveling before.  The comfort, ease, and "cruise-ability" of the place was unbelievable and by far the best part of the whole situation.  I would wake up in the morning and walk 100m down the street to the beach and go for a swim, a surf, or just sit and drink some tea.  Continuously going back and forth, seeing friends, maybe riding bikes into town for a smoothie, or to hear music at night, made for an incredibly easy-going, fun, and relaxing life while living there.  The apartment itself was really nice looking, in a gated courtyard with outdoor seating areas, and lots of plants and palms, the inside was cozy and really all I needed to take a break from being on the road and in the bush.  The Belongil lifestyle was so great, friends and I would constantly exclaim a phrase from a neighbor's sign, we would say, "We're Just Belongil Dreaming".

Aside from all the good times at Belongil, I would regularly go and longboard at The Pass with my great friend Matt.  A right hand point break, The Pass is know internationally in the surfing community and is Byron's most well known place to surf or learn to surf.  The Pass is an amazing place, beautiful scenery, friendly people, and good vibes.  It is one of the longest waves in the world.  After you catch a long ride, maybe as long as 250m, you have a long scenic walk back to the point, its glorious.

This is Jess and I.  Jess met Tim and I in New Zealand, and without knowing that each other would be in Australia, I ran into him by chance at the Byron farmers market and together we enjoyed many surf and yoga sessions, meals, and nights out in town.

This is White's Beach in the Broken Head Nature Reserve.  I took a trip here one day with Tara and Matt.

This is Lennox Head.  Epic Surf spot

Broken Head Beach, once called "magic carpet rides"

After two amazing months in Byron, I felt it was time to move on.  After learning about Vipassana (silent) Meditation, and then hearing about a Vipassana retreat from a fellow traveler staying at the yoga studio, I decided that this was just what I have been looking for and I gave it a try.  At the retreat, I met many amazing and beautiful people and for three days we sat in silent meditation together.  It was a very rewarding experience and at the end of the retreat, they invited me to come and stay with them at the Ashram, to live, work, and practice all forms of mediation.  Of course I said yes, and after another amazing week living it up and surfing it up in Byron and at Belongil I went to live at Samaya Ashram in the bush.  It is an incredibly beautiful place where simple living is key and I am surrounded by other people who are focused on meditation and finding themselves as well.  I have only been here a few days now, but I am so glad that this is where I am, I am feeling such a deep happiness everyday from just Being, and I know that I am doing exactly what I want to be doing right now.  
So to all my Friends and Family: Thank you for being there for me, I send you infinite Love and Gratitude and know that our paths will cross again when the time is right.  PEACE!!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Barrier to Byron

February 2012
Some time has passed since my last post.  These past few months have been some of the best of my time, here in New Zealand, and my Life, since I graduated from college a few years ago.  I find myself once again on Great Barrier Island, which is truly a peace of paradise for me.  All that is Pure and True is paramount here on The Barrier, where the views around every corner are of the utmost magnificence.  Pursuits of Land and Sea allow us to focus on the Natural World, bringing you closer to Mother Nature.  Only what is necessary in Life will you find here, the frills, intricacies, luxuries to which we have become accustomed, and even some of their complexities have been stripped away.  And what is left is a Life of simplicity, of living amongst Nature, of feeding from Land and Sea, of a rich sense of Community, of belonging to The World, and Being, and Living in it's crown Gem.  

Here are some views of Okiwi Valley which was Home for me the past few months

These night shots and panoramas were taken on a new 'Sony-alpha-nex' camera that was given to me as a gift from my Family when they came to visit in November.

This is "The Shack", a place of respite from the sun we built entirely from locally sourced materials (Manuka wood posts, Flax tie-downs, and Ni Kau frond Screen) 

The Mighty Orion in all his Glory. The balance of symmetry is astounding.

Ni Kau Palm Standing Strong
Full Moon in Okiwi

Sunset in Harataonga.  This was taken when The Parker Family came to visit us, we all had an amazing time and we got to do some fishing as well.

This is Soul and Maia, we got to teach them Free-diving and the Art of Spearfishing, as well as Surf lessons and had some fun trips to near-by Waterfalls.

Also here are Local kids, Billy and Amy.  Billy LOVES Michael Jackson.

     My most esteemed endeavor in my Life thus far has been in my Surfing.  Surfing is something that unlike many other water activities hasn't come easy for me, or maybe it has.  Because of the difficulties and history of injury with my left shoulder, I was not able to begin to learn to ride a Surfboard right away.  Instead, I learned to surf by riding a Bodyboard.  In some circles, especially in New Zealand, Bodyboarding is seen as Surfing's "little brother", inferior, and even in some extreme cases not deemed the same respect as that of its vertically standing wave riding brethren.  This was mentally difficult for me as I knew that I would be able to ride a surfboard, if I could only regain the full use of my shoulder.  And thus after much training and practice riding a bodyboard, and through the power of visualization, manifestation, and Spiritual Healing I was able to overcome my difficulties, stand up on a board, and Ride the Wave.  And while most beginning Surfers can take a while to gain confidence and ability, I progressed at a quickened pace, due to my Bodyboarding experience. All this happening in the place where I found myself totally captured by the beauty and wonderment of the World.  It was a truly incredible experience.

At the end of my time on Great Barrier and in New Zealand, I got to spend time with my Lifelong friends The Nardella Family.  We had an amazing time camping out, going fishing, jumping off waterfalls, and just being together.  These photos are from our last night together and my last night in New Zealand after Fifteen Amazing Months.

March 2012
I now find myself in Byron Bay, a small Surf town on the Eastern coast of Australia, known for its good Surf, warm waters, relaxed vibe, and free-thinking, ecologically, and Spiritually minded community.  I have only been here a couple weeks, and already I am totally Loving the place.  I have moved into a Yoga retreat, bought a bike, and a sweet 7'4'' Surfboard made by a local Byron Bay shaper, biking to the beach in the mornings to Surf, then come back and practice Yoga and Meditation.  It's really a lot of fun, and I am fully enjoying myself.   I will have more words and photos to come as I spend more time getting to know the people and the place.  Much Love.