With the beauty and power of southern France still rippling through me, I arrived in Lisbon at the end of April for a satsang intensive with Advaita master Mooji, to dance the wild inner terrain of the Self. His only interest is in liberation, freedom, awakening, and his ‘pointings’ to the direct truth of who we are, are so direct and powerful that I feel my deep yearning catalysing and all my ideas and concepts falling away. To know, first you need to ‘unknow’. My experience in the satsang intensive was so powerful that I cancelled my flight to Nepal, and as I write this, in a couple of hours I will be going to stay at Mooji’s ashram for the next week or two, followed by a silent retreat at the end of May, for a full month of immersion. I can’t say exactly what is happening, except to say that something is changing, and it is so sweet.
I am also excited to announce some upcoming offerings in Melbourne, Bali, and Thailand, including a 30hr Mantra and Nada Yoga Certificate in Bali in June, where I will get to weave in my insights, experiences and discoveries to share with you. All the details are here, if you are interested to join me somewhere.
And all of life is a continuum, an evolution, an unfolding… and although it’s a little ‘late’, I offer you some words and some images from my experiences in southern France, because it is, in fact, timeless…
In the lifetime that has been the last 2 weeks, I have climbed mountains, held all-night vigil and slept in caves, traversed gorges, wandered through the most enchanting forests, become lost and found in the weavings of a natural labyrinth, been blessed by innumerable waters in the form of sweet and salty rivers, creeks, lakes, seas, natural springs and thermal springs, waterfalls and deep pools in deeper gorges, I have spoken with a thousand trees and rocks, and listened to the songs of a thousand birds. I have been blessed by a snake, giggled with glee at flamingos, and enchanted by the patient, awkward wisdom of beetles.
I have followed that silent inner voice to mystery and synchronicity, and I have spent most of my waking and sleeping hours in the sweetest solitude, finding my place in the nature of things, and never feeling alone.
I have visited daily all these sacred places of nature and the sacred places of humans: churches, basilicas, cathedrals, chapels, abbeys, grottos, castles, towers, and initiation caves. And I have been learning the importance of weaving the greatness of each into a single thread of life-giving and life-sustaining connection.
I have been diving into the history of two thousand years, the stories and renderings of the lives and teachings of Mary Magdalene and Jesus, the Romans and the Gauls, the peaceful Cathars who were murdered as heretics by the Catholic church, the troubadours and the knights, the kings and the crusaders, the people who lived, walked, loved, built and were shaped by this land across the centuries.
In each of these places I have meditated, prayed, and sung. And I have been meditated, prayed and sung to. I have contemplated the great mystery of life, god, the sacred feminine, the profound and the mundane, the dual and the non-dual, peace and war, spirituality and religion, spirit and soul, love and forgiveness, and renewed my constant prayer for freedom, love and awakening – even though I do not even know what that is anymore. I have let go of ideas and found nothing to replace them with.
For a mostly non-coffee drinker, non-dairy eater, I have drunk countless coffees and eaten way too much cheese and croissants and loved every moment of every flavour. I have discovered the mirror-selfie and the timer-selfie, and taken one of each. I have become really good at saying, “Pardon, je ne parle pas Francais…” and people are still kind and sweet and patient.
I have been re-wilded, sweetly contented and utterly awed at every turn. I am both still and whirling with joy. But mostly I have found only that I know nothing. Which makes everything possible.
xo Mei Lai
It started as a calling. Whether it came from within or without, I’m not sure. But it blew in like a strong wind, the foreboding of a great storm that threatens to dismantle everything, to blow to pieces everything you’ve known and carefully cultivated.
I’ve felt it before. I’ve walked out into the storm before, both willingly and unwillingly. And so this time I knew the serpentine song rising from my soul, even before it wove its magic around me. I felt the pull to the wilderness of the Unknown, to adventure, to the one true home. And I said yes.
Because I’m a total sucker for adventure. Especially one where you know that parts of you will die and there is no choice but to emerge completely transformed.
Bill Plotkin (“Soulcraft”) calls it the journey to the underworld, a descent into the dark mysteries of the individual soul.
It is the journey of initiation that we need to undertake to find our unique gift, our unique place, and our unique offering to the world that both serves the world and brings us our greatest joy.
It is not a running away, a rebellion, or a purposeful destruction of the fabric of one’s life out of despair or desolation. It is not a denial of the ‘light’, of the ultimate oneness of consciousness or ‘spirit’ from which we came from and to which we will return.
It is the acknowledgement and weaving together of the multiple threads of our existence, into beauty, magnificence and wholeness. It gives us purpose, clarity and love, and leads us more and more to taking up our own unique place in existence, in service.
A few days ago I arrived in Sweden, after three super busy glorious weeks in Bali in an Embodied Flow yoga teacher training with Tara Judelle. I had been invited by my dear friend Anja Bergh (Yoga Buddhi), another Embodied Flow teacher, to teach on her advanced teacher training in Gothenburg.
As the plane touched down, I got a thrill of excitement at arriving in a new place, somewhere I have never been. I remembered that it is one of my favourite things – a new land, new culture, new environment, new taste of the air and light of the sun in a different atmosphere. I was excited to have several days to explore before the teacher training would begin.
Worn out from the travel, I eyed Anja’s bookcase and announced that I might read something and have an early night. Without sparing a moment, Anja handed me ‘Soulcraft’, and that was that. Something sparked.
I woke up the next morning sick and heavy with a cold. My body unwilling to venture out into the cold and the rain, my soul as happy as a cat purring on its blanket, having all this time to dive inwards into Soulcraft, to put new words and ways of understanding to this journey I know intrinsically so well inside myself.
So instead of being out in the wilds of nature, I am cosied up in my friend’s house in the gentle woods of Sweden, with a book that is lighting up my inner wilderness, my own untamed and limitless self. Making the call of my soul even louder and brighter and clearer. It is exactly this, right time, right place and right circumstances. Putting context and words to the soul journey that I got thrown into at the end of last year.
In other cultures, these rites of passage are still woven into the fabric of the culture. In the West, they’ve largely been lost. There are some of us for whom the calling comes unavoidably like a freight train derailed into the centre of one’s life. And yet I believe it is there for all of us. It must be, it is our nature.
The ‘work’, I believe, lies in stripping away the layers of conditioning piled on us by society, family, and culture like dank wet blankets. Pulling out the weeds and preparing the ground for what must inevitably come, in its own way and in its own time. Kneading the self, that wily ego, so it becomes soft and vulnerable. Learning to listen with the ears of a wolf to the stirrings of the wind in the silent space of the heart. So that when the time comes (and it will), we can brazenly cry “Yes!” and trust ourselves to dive in to Life, even in the face of fear, resistance or even terror. At that time, Life will tell us which way to go. We just need to heed the call and go for it, without needing to know a single thing.
This is Yoga. Not the asanas and the pranayamas and the meditation techniques that make us feel better, stronger, healthier, more calm, more ‘spiritual’… but the heart of it – the way of life, the new ways of seeing and being, the light and the dark, the willingness to fall apart or be ripped apart, to not know, to surrender whole-heartedly to the beauty and the terror of it all.
The tools and techniques of yoga are just the plow that prepares the soil of the soul, that break up the hard clods of the ego, that nurture the dark womb of the heart that – when the time is ripe – births love and joy. It is both the downward and the upward journey, so that we can become freedom right here and right now, home in our very centre.
I love this adventure more than anything. As I travel the wild terrain of my own soul, I know that I’ll survive with only the parts of myself intact that are worthy of living. I’m down with that. I’m willing to risk sacrificing the rest: my ego, my identity, my ideas, my concepts, constructs and comforts. I’ve done it before and risen from the ashes.
And right now, I’m in the darkness. But it is far from bleak. It is the fertile place of the Unknown. This place I love so much.
I have plane tickets, and a teaching schedule, and plans. Places I’m supposed to be and things I am meant to do. I love it and celebrate it all, and I am full of gratitude for the opportunities. But somehow I also know that none of that really matters. My practice is to let go of any ‘shoulds’ and follow the whispers of my heart and soul. Anything possible at any moment. All of it leading me to exactly where and whom I’m meant to be, a mystery unfolding moment by moment.
And what excites me most is that I know I’ll come back with treasures and hard-won jewels, wrestled from the jaws of giant pterodactyls. I don’t know what they’ll look like, but I know they’ll be my precious gifts, my offerings of beauty to myself, this world and to you.
This is my prayer for freedom. And I will walk the Unknown with love and joy and ferocity, so that I can become my own living prayer.
So that we can all live wild and whole and free.
…if you’d like to come and explore some of this wild path of yoga with me, here are the opportunities.
There is a voice that speaks from some place hard to know; that seems to reside both deep within and far without. It arises mysteriously, often at times inconvenient to the trajectory you have set out as your ‘life’; sometimes as quiet as a whisper, and sometimes soul-deafeningly loud. And it is a voice that often doesn’t make sense to the logical mind that questions, analyses and evaluates.
Some call it the voice of the heart, the soul, the higher self, of divine guidance, spirit guides, intuition, or greater wisdom. Whatever it is, and wherever it comes from, one thing is for certain: it needs heeding. For it is the voice of your calling, of your truth that will lead to back to your Self. And quite likely, into greater joy, greater peace, and a true sense of your purpose, of Dharma.
It is this voice that arose that led me to undertake doula training three years ago, in a move that made very little sense at the time: I wanted to explore women’s work, the divine feminine, for my own unfolding and growth as a woman. I researched a huge range of women’s courses and programs that would fulfill this purpose, but the voice was still there – do this doula training. I questioned and doubted and got confused: why would I do that? It’s really expensive. I don’t even want to be a doula… The questions went on. But the voice persisted, hinting that there was something there for me to dive into birthwork – the primal mystery of life and creation.
Three years later, and not only does supporting birthing women feel like the most beautiful, natural thing for me to be doing, but Birth for HumanKIND has been fully birthed and is going from strength to strength: a not-for-profit organisation of volunteer doulas who support disadvantaged and vulnerable women including refugees, asylum seekers and young women. Birthed as a result of me listening to that voice and taking the training, against all reason.
It is the same voice that has brought me now to Peru, in a move that again seemed against all reason and convenience. But having experienced the overflowing blessings of listening to that voice in the past, I knew better, so
I did just that: listened and followed. So here, in the jungle of Peru, I have swum naked in the freezing cold stormy blast of Gocta Falls, the third highest waterfall in the world; I have visited the Dr Seuss-like magical beauty of the pre-Incan ruins of Kuelap; I have meditated in an ancient stone circle in the incredible nature surrounding the small town of Pamashto and been gifted with one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen.
But more significantly, I have spent 14 days doing dieta (a traditional plant medicine retreat) at my friends’ gorgeous healing center, El Jardin de la Paz. Here, I have had my path reaffirmed and deep, simple wisdom reinforced: love really is the most powerful medicine. To sit in love, to practice love, to bring love into every encounter and every situation, to be love, this is the most powerful work we can be doing. And to support that, we need trust, patience and the strength to constantly banish doubt whenever it creeps in.
This is the true gift of my path and purpose that I have been given from listening to that voice: to practice love, to be love, and to serve the world from that place, with trust and with patience. And true to that purpose, I am about to head back out to El Jardin to provide support, to serve and to offer yoga and meditation on the next dieta, as the next courageous group of people do their own powerful healing, spiritual and wisdom work… Before I travel onwards to Greece where I will be assisting my teachers Tara Judelle and Scott Lyons on the very first Embodied FlowTM 200 hour yoga teacher training. Ultimately, it is all the same work, the calling that I know is true – serving this world with great love. And what that calling will look like for you is whatever makes your heart truly sing.
So until I reemerge from the jungle, here are some tips on how to follow your own calling… doing the beautiful, rewarding work is up to you.
SIX TIPS ON HOW TO FOLLOW YOUR OWN CALLING
1. Sit in the silence
Sitting in silence is the best way to let that voice emerge. Meditation is a great way to sit in that silence, but it is not the only way: it may emerge for you as you go for a stroll out in nature, watch a beautiful sunset, or even as you surrender to the peak hour traffic on your way to work. Let the thinking mind go, drop into your heart space, and listen for that little (or great) thing that truly makes your heart sing.
Even if the voice is a tiny whisper, or even if it whispers to you a seemingly tiny, insignificant thing – trust. The path of your true calling often requires you to sit in the unknown, allowing things to emerge and unfold as they will. Purpose does not always have to equate with ‘action’. Your purpose may be an attitude, a state of being, or a quality, for example, being love or living each moment with gratitude. It may be grand, or it may be small – but really, who is to know the value and meaning of your calling until you follow it.
3. Set your compass – be clear in your intention
You have to know where you want to go, what you are moving towards. In yoga, this is called ‘sankalpa’ – your intention. A powerful sankalpa is like a laser beam that lights up the way and keeps you on track. Without a clear goal, it is like wandering around in the dark or with a blindfold on: it is too easy to get confused, bumping into things, and ending up right where you began. Again, an intention may be a goal of action or a goal of ‘being’. Most importantly, take a moment at the beginning of every day to clearly set your intention – and remember it as much as you can throughout the day. It is the guide that will direct your attention back to your purpose in each moment and situation.
4. Choose your tools
Just as an adventurer setting out on a long journey needs tools to protect, nourish and facilitate her way, so do we need the right tools for the journey of following our calling. The tools we need are the ones that keep us connected with our inner voice and our hearts, that focus the mind, and build strength and suppleness in the body – so that we are ready for whatever the journey brings. This might be meditation, yoga, time in nature, qi gong, prayer – whatever practices resonate with you and bring you joy. They say the Buddha taught 80,000 different types of meditation for the 80,000 different types of people. So choose what works for you, and dedicate yourself to cultivating your tools, every day.
5. Take the first step
So you have heard the voice, you have built your trust in it, and you have cultivated the tools and strength you need. What now? Take the first step. This often feels like a leap of faith. It may be booking the plane ticket to your dream destination, going to your first salsa class, or picking up the phone on a hunch to call that old friend you haven’t seen in ten years…
Even if the whisper of the voice was almost too qui
et to hear, taking the first step will bring the clarity you seek. As Anandamayi Ma says, “If you sit with all doors and windows closed, how can you see the path? Open the door and step out, the path will become visible. Once on the way, you will meet other wayfarers, who will advise and guide you as to the path. Your job is to muster whatever strength you have to get underway – thereafter help is assured.”
6. Practice gratitude… and keep going
Never underestimate the power and importance of practicing gratitude. It is like the prayer that invites beauty and abundance into your life. For life truly is a mirror – what you offer into the world determines what you will receive in return. For every step, be grateful, knowing that you are on the path, and that you are fulfilling your purpose through these simple a
cts of listening and following the calling. You never know what is coming around the corner, and often what may seem ‘negative’ is that blessing in disguise, clearing you out for what is ready to shine forth, or an opportunity to strengthen your practice and resolve. So in every moment, practice gratitude. Keep listening, keep trusting, stay clear, stay focused… just keep going.
Life cannot help but fulfill itself when you offer yourself to her wisdom in this way. And her gifts are beauty, joy, peace and that quiet inner radiance that lights up everything within and around you.
“Following your bliss is not self-indulgent, but vital; your whole physical system knows that this is how to be alive in this world and how to give to the world the very best you have to offer. There IS a track just waiting for each of us and once on it, doors will open that were not open before and would not open for anyone else.” – Joseph Campbell
‘Doing what you love’ is something everyone dreams of, but how many of us really give ourselves the opportunity, or have the daring to take the leap, potentially giving up financial security, risking the opinions of others, or having to overcome feelings of ‘not being good enough’…
Doing what I love has always been something deeply fundamental to me. It doesn’t mean I haven’t been through the struggles of difficult decisions, others’ opinions, letting go of society’s and my own expectations, the call of responsibilities, or financial sacrifices. It’s just that doing what I love has always been a deeper force, like a silent serpent weaving through my life and again and again shedding whatever doesn’t fit the heart-weave. Sometimes I think it’s because, growing up, I heard umpteen times these words from my beautiful mother: “Whatever you want to do, I’m a hundred percent behind you. If you want to be a doctor or a check-out chick, you have my full support.”
And those words went deep – they followed me through starting a degree in physics (I wanted to be an astrophysicist, ha!), to finishing a degree in environmental studies and international development, canning plans for an honours degree to play music, performing, touring, recording as a violinist in a band, to a cellist/singer with my own band, to work out on Aboriginal communities in the Central Desert, back to Melbourne to work with asylum seekers and embarking on the journey to becoming a full-time yoga teacher, into training as a doula and setting up a non-profit free birth support organisation. And now somehow combining all of these loves and passions into a rich, varied and exceptionally rewarding ‘career’ – and one that gives me the flexibility, freedom and diversity that I love.
Throughout this whole journey, my practice of meditation and yoga, which began in my mid-to-late teens, has been the loving guide back to my heart’s calling – sometimes gentle, and sometimes decidedly fierce. But the more I have trusted and gone with these callings, the more joy, freedom and trust I have found, and the more support I have received from those around me.
Which amounts to two things: 1) GRATITUDE, and 2) continuing to follow my bliss…!
So, my dear friends and fellow yoga adventurers, I’m heading overseas on 16 May for four sweet months of study, adventure, teaching and discovery, with an itinerary that looks something like this:
Bali, 4 weeks: Embodied Flow advanced yoga training
Melbourne, 1 week: I’ll be teaching an Embodied Flow weekend workshop 20-21 June at Gertrude Street Yoga Studio
Peru, 5 weeks: spending time at a friend’s healing centre in the jungle of Peru, teaching yoga, and a few little adventures
Greece, 3 weeks: assisting on the Embodied Flow 200-hr teacher training
Bali, 3 weeks: teaching two retreats: Women’s yoga, ayurveda and bellydance retreat (Aug 29 – Sep 5) and Embodied Flow yoga retreat (Sep 7-14).
If you are in Melbourne, please join me for the Embodied Flow workshop 20-21 June. Otherwise I will be back teaching regular classes again in the last week of September, and I am already excited about the wealth of experience and discovery that I will have to share with you when I return.
In the meantime, I look forward to sharing the next month of classes with you before I leave, and I will keep you up to date on my adventures via my newsletter and blog while I am away.
From one heart to another, I wish so much for you to also experience the joy of following your own bliss, and I would love to hear of your own adventures and breakthroughs as you do this! Please stay in touch – I love receiving your news, discoveries, thoughts, and experiences – we are all in this together!
In love and adventure,
Mei Lai xo
Yogis love change. This is how we do it: we get more flexible, stronger, more calm, more grounded, more open-hearted, and more alive. We stretch and we grow, we breathe and we flow, we accept all the challenges, the successes, the failures… and we glow. It’s the sweet glow of transformation, and if you’ve ever done it, then you know exactly what I mean. Most of us don’t know why, but we do it – and it works.
And then one day it starts to spill over the edges of our own skin. There’s something about that inner glow that just can’t be contained. Call it presence, compassion, love, passion, delight… it’s the warm and fuzzy bedrock of human connection, and it’s fostered through the practices and perspectives that we call yoga. Almost without realizing it, it’s suddenly not enough just to want a good life for ourselves: we also want it for others. But where do we start?
Or maybe you’re the other type of changemaker who knows just where to start: an activist, a passionate volunteer, a social entrepreneur, an eco-hero or an outspoken advocate for justice and peace. Creating change in the world around us, but sometimes burning out, not taking the time to rest and be nourished, to look within, to be peace rather than fighting for it…
The beauty is, at some point the inner and the outer have to meet, and the spark of change that happens at this sweet spot, where balance is struck and opposites merge and unite, burns brightest of all. New-age speak or not, life is holographic, fractal magic: the macro and the micro are in essence one and the same. So what we do – inside or out – matters.
It’s this point of union that I love most. It’s here that a changemaker becomes someone who weaves real transformation born of immense heart and immense intelligence, with inner and outer integrity, with the wisdom of knowing that our own happiness is bound up in the happiness of others, who believes in and sees clearly the impact of their own actions – and is not afraid to get out there, do it, and inspire it in others.
If this rings true for you, let this be a call to action, a call to adventure. Because that’s what life is, if you embrace it.
For inspiration, check out these communities and projects: www.changemakers.org * www.offthematintotheworld.org * www.theglobalwomensproject.com.au * www.birthforhumankind.org * http://www.socialtraders.com.au/
Or better yet come do it together: