What is Yoga? And really, what is it for?

It’s not often that I post ‘yoga’ photos, as yoga for me is about so much more than the body, and I’m not into promoting yoga as ‘image’, fitness or even ‘spirituality’, when it’s seen as a commodity or a ‘lifestyle’. Of course it can be those things, but moreso, it is the deepest quest that emerges naturally in the heart of human beings, for truth, for love, for peace and for the mystery of life.

But I am unbelievably grateful, because the practices and philosophies of yoga have been a huge part of my unique, winding life journey that has brought me home to my Self, allowed me to know and rest in a peace deeper than the ocean, and shown me that one thing can be as vast in shape and meaning as all this universe contains. And by this, I’m talking about both Yoga and the Self. ‘One’ thing that is vast and diverse in appearance and expression. And so I share my ‘yoga’ through quiet and simple images of my everyday. Of nature, of inspiration, of people, of ideas that remind me of connection, of beauty, of love, of the Self.

It is of course also one of the most powerful tools for healing, for remembering, and for celebrating life. And today I am celebrating slowly recovering from a shoulder injury that had me unable to move, lift my arm over my head or weight-bear much for many months. It just feels good to move!

And this is something I’m also committed to sharing with the world. This is how Yoga for Humankind began, a international social enterprise yoga school offering trainings in traditional and contemporary hatha yoga, trauma-informed and community yoga – as a platform for cultivating and sharing a ‘yoga’ that is accessible, suitable, empowering, compassionate and brings true well-being for all, at any stage of life, with our unique personal histories and stories. It is for connecting and cultivating community, and for recognising the Self that is at the heart of all our individuality, uniqueness and diversity, and that is our common humanity.

If this speaks to you, I wholeheartedly invite you to get in touch join our community at Yoga for Humankind – either through a training (200+hr foundational training in Bali Nov 2018, and advanced trainings in 2019), our upcoming community retreat in Bali July 2018, or in conversation.

Much love,

Mei Lai xo

Devotion is a dirty word

Devotion is the last thing I ever thought I would be into. I don’t know if it was my saints-in-devotionnon-religious upbringing, the scientific mind-based culture I was born into, or my innate disbelief (from childhood) in an all-powerful male God, but for the longest time ‘devotion’ just felt like a dirty word. Mostly, I realise now, I just had no idea what it was. And I had learnt to be cynical.

As a teenager, I was deeply interested in the ‘spiritual’ – crystals, candles, seances, psychic readings, early attempts at meditation that consisted of sitting cross-legged on my bedroom floor with my eyes closed until my head fell back and I imagined that something had happened. I would spontaneously go into strange ‘moods’ (which I now recognize as altered states of consciousness), and would find socializing difficult; and when I tried to talk to people about it, they definitely thought I was weird. I participated in the first levels of reiki training when I was fourteen, and was naturally excited to test it out on those around me. One response I received from someone close was, “Don’t touch me, you freak!”

These early experiences had a huge effect on me. I stopped talking about my experiences and interests in the spiritual realms, and I became cynical of the light and sweetness inside of me. It was challenging and paradoxical: I believed in these things on the deepest level (I had experienced too many things to believe they weren’t real), and yet I was somehow also in denial. Self-protection is a powerful thing.

golden-kirtanEven when I became deeply engaged in meditation and Buddhist practices in my late teens and early twenties, learning about love, compassion, virtues, and service, a part of me was entrenched in a deep cynicism. Even as light and love were growing within me, I was too afraid to let them show – for fear of judgement. And so I judged myself, I judged those who expressed freely (“f*&%ing hippy bhajans” was my standard internal response to people singing devotional songs), and I kept my heart in lockdown.

But the beauty of dedicated spiritual practice, is that ultimately it works.

Fast forward to my early thirties… I started to open to kirtan (devotional singing) through a boyfriend who loved and shared it, and began to experience both the full force of my resistance and the radical joys of my heart. And then on a retreat in India, where the divine Geoffrey Gordon was sharing daily nada yoga and kirtan, my heart cracked. One morning, during a silent ‘listening’ meditation where Geoffrey was singing a song to the divine duo Rama and Sita, I spontaneously started singing with him, tears streaming down my face, and the words echoing in my head, “I just love God so much!” It was done. My heart was open and the light started to pour out.


I’d had no idea that my heart was a heart of devotion. That I loved the divine, I loved the light, and I loved love. And that revelation and transformation would come through allowing it to pour out, fearless and unapologetic.

But as things often go with spiritual practice, we have these moments of deep insight, that often mark the beginning of an intense upheaval, and then take time to mature… So devotional singing cracked my heart open, and I found myself plunged into a period of despair. Then from touching the depths of darkness and desperately seeking a way out, I started to slowly open to love and devotion. I started praying every day. It became my mission to master love, to see with eyes of love, to live as love, to be love. I realised this was my deepest purpose, and would lead me to my greatest happiness – because then it wouldn’t matter where I was, who I was with, what I was doing – I would be in love. And so began my path of devotion.

So what actually is devotion?

Many spiritual paths ultimately offer devotion as the highest practice. In the yoga tradition, devotion is bhakti – a yearning for the divine, a deep love of God. And what is God? My personal experience of God, which connects to the non-dual teachings of yoga and tantra, is that God is consciousness itself. God is love itself. Everything in the seen and unseen world is made of this same fabric of consciousness, manifest in a divine play to experience its own nature and its own awakening. This is the yearning that stirs within us for awakening, for liberation and for love. It is the journey of the self to the Self.

So if we experience the divine as love itself, then devotion is a deep love of love, a commitment to love as the highest path. It is the path of the heart. But more than that, it is a practice of deep offering, surrender, and trust.

intention-of-loveThis is the practice of ishvara pranidhana – surrender (pranidhana) to a higher source (ishvara) – that is offered to us in two of the great texts of yoga, the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita. It is a way of getting out of our own way and dissolving the personal ego that we battle with so much. It reminds us to open to life, in all its mystery, and allow grace to pour through us.

In the words of my great teachers, “Everything is conspiring for your awakening.” So when we trust in this greater force, whether we call it God, love, or the divine, we recognize ourselves as a small part in the great play of life, that is ultimately bringing us towards our own greatness. We bow down humbly, offering ourselves to the will of God, to the highest good, to love. And we listen. The practice becomes both the offering and the listening, for the voice that guides our next moves. And as we do this, we begin to experience grace and synchronicity, a deep sense of trust, and an often radical shift in perspective – even the hardships have their place, and as we willingly surrender to them in great trust, there is an ease that pours through us.

So devotion might seem like a dirty word, because it is in so many ways the unknown. And it demands that we drop down into the mysterious space of the heart and surrender the constant grasping of the analytical mind. Challenging in a world that triumphs logic and science. When we walk the path of devotion, we open to the great mystery of life. We walk the razor’s edge, because we know that we don’t know. We have to be willing to sacrifice our ego, to have our heart cracked open, to trust life and go where it asks. It’s the most daring and courageous path I know. But the gift is an ever-greater love that begins to awaken within us.


For the Love of Kali

As we move into autumn and the shortening and darkening of the days, the shadow themes have still very much been circling in and asking for attention. Where previously this might have brought  unease, I’ve been consciously shifting my perspective to see what might happen if I embrace the shadow aspects before they become catastrophic. You know the point at which that happens? Usually when you are so stubbornly forging ahead, either not willing to let go of something or being reluctant to embrace the change you know you really need, that the only way to bring you back to your true course is to smash you to pieces to get you to pay attention. Ouch. I have been pretty familiar with this in the past.

Kali FB imageSo this time, as I have felt Kali get close to me, I have instead reached out to her lovingly and invited her in. Every day, I have been chanting and praying to her, the Goddess of Transformation, of Death, Destruction – and Liberation. I have willingly, daily, invited her to weave her magic of surrender and release, to reveal the truth and the essence of what really matters. At a time when everything is flowing beautifully, rather than waiting until everything has gone to pieces. As we embrace Kali, we invite ourselves to strip away whatever no longer serves us. It’s a daring move, as it often means surrendering things we love or are attached to. And it’s one of the most powerful practices I have ever done.

What I’ve come to realise through this practice is that I’ve been holding back for a long time from offering my deeper experiences of yoga, meditation, ‘spiritual practice’ – from fear that people might think it’s whacky, hippie or inauthentic. I was judged quite hard as a teenager for this, and well, it sticks. So in the end what I have been offering is in some ways what feels to me a fairly ‘kosher’ practice of yoga. But what I realised recently is that I have been holding back from sharing what have been some of my own most profound and transformative experiences. And many of these sit in the realm of the ‘mystical’.

So my daring is to offer what is closest to my heart, to Fearlessness-Quotenot hold back. After all, yoga isn’t really about alignment and inversions. Yoga is about the deepest inquiry into life, the greatest bravery of the soul, the passionate unbridled revealing of the heart. This is what I want to share, because this is what I think is really important. It doesn’t mean that the functional and structural bits will be thrown out, but they’ll just be put into perspective.

In honour of Kali:

Aum aim hrim klim chamundaye viche swaha

May the bonds of ignorance and ego be severed, may we rejoice in transformation, wisdom and truth.

If this calls to you, I would love to explore together this passion for life, mystery, truth and bravery. It’s the theme of my Bali winter retreat “Radical Freedom” (1-6 August – early bird ends 30 April), and it’s what we will explore in my upcoming workshops in May and June.

Death, darkness and ‘spirituality’

candleOn Friday, along with around 500 others, I attended the funeral celebrations of an old friend. Although we hadn’t been really close, over fifteen years we had woven in and out of each others’ lives between Melbourne and Alice Springs, shared dance floors and good food, campfires and stories, theatre performances and communities of friends and loved ones. Trish was one of the most vivacious, loving and brave women I knew. She lit up hearts, dance floors, and a deep love of life in each person she touched. What I didn’t know was that she had been suffering a deep depression, and in the end it overwhelmed her. Despite being surrounded by love. Despite reaching out to close friends and family.

Over the last week, I’ve had many conversations about suicide, loss, and the challenges of mental illness. Working especially with asylum seekers and victims of family violence, it’s hard to comprehend such deep suffering in someone whose outer life seemed so wonderful, rich, free and full of love. But it’s more common than we think. Dark periods can come like a mystery – and they may or may not be triggered by external circumstances. Some of us seem just to be sensitive souls who feel things too keenly, who search deeply for the meaning of this unfathomable life, and who sometimes become overrun by the tyranny of a wild mind. It may be biology, chemistry, spirit or soul, I don’t really know… but death, darkness and suffering are some of the mysteries that are as inherent a part of life as creation, beauty and delight.

I consider myself fortunate to have known a few of these dark periods.

They taught me Beautiful Transformationdeep humility and compassion, and they guided me towards a deeper search for meaning, strength and wholeness. I feel even more fortunate to have made it through.

In my early twenties, following a period of intense meditation and Tibetan practices, I had an immense ‘breakdown’ – a complete crisis of meaning that took me years to recover from. Though deep down, I knew also it was a spiritual breakthrough. Had I sought ‘professional’ help, though so necessary for some, I’m quite sure I would have ended up with a ‘diagnosis’ that I might have attached myself to for a lifetime. What I had instead was a wise friend with a kind ear, an overwhelming lack of judgement, and a soothing pot of vanilla green tea whenever I arrived at his door. It was his unerring support that initially got me through.

At the time, I punished myself so severely for not being able to live up to the spiritual ideals in my head, all the Buddhist teachings of righteousness and equanimity, that I completely shattered. Until finally I had to realise that whilst my mind might be lightning quick and so clever, and my moral high horse so high, my emotions and my heart needed time to catch up. They needed to be heard, they needed to be accepted, and they needed to be loved. I needed to become human – in all of its mess, its beauty, its confusing paradoxes, and its pain. I discovered that ‘spirituality’ isn’t a set of ideals and practices to be followed. It’s the process of becoming fully human. And it’s a journey that is unique to each of us.

It was in this first years-long recovery period that I discovered yoga. It was the practice I 055needed to get me out of my head and into my body. It was the practice I needed to strengthen my sensitive nervous system and to find ground. I was also fortunate for extended periods of vipassana meditation, that gave me the mental strength and insight to let go. To trust that I could let go of a thought rather than clinging onto it and riding it like a wild horse in a frenzy for days. And when I did that, I discovered nothing bad would happen. And even better, it would eventually pass. Letting go was actually the sweetest blessing. A challenging practice at first, but with the practice of coming back to the moment, to the breath, to simply observing and accepting what was happening within my body, I eventually found a freedom and a strength that I would not have believed possible.

When later breakthroughs (read: ‘breakdowns’) happened, I could knowingly sit in the immensity of pain, grief and inner torment, and surrender to the destructive force of life that clears the way for new growth and beauty. With patience and practice, it can come. Yet even in the trust and surrender, it was terrifying and exquisite at the same time.

It’s a terrible thing to be so sensitive, to be so inquisitive about life and so questioning of the ‘reality’ and the measures of ‘success’ that are presented to us. But it can also be a gift. Through our lack of satisfaction, through our darkness, and through the tender experience of our own deep suffering, we can learn great compassion and we can shine great light. We can plumb the depths of what it is to be human, and hopefully rise again to the surface with jewels that shine a brilliant light for others to follow.

follow your bliss womanFor those who have done this, we must reach out to those who are still struggling in the depths, with love, compassion and the tools that might begin to weave a web of wholeness again. And hope that this is enough.

But ultimately, life is a mystery. Without judging, accept. Even in the midst of the deepest pain, seek grace. Go sweetly in the not-knowing, with love and with compassion. And as my beautiful friend Trish would say, be kind to others, for you don’t know what pain they may be suffering.


The A to Z of Yoga: F is for Fire

fire phoenix







Fire burn and light up this wild, precious life
passion in my heart
desire in my soul
I know to stoke your unforgiving flames
so you will shine as a constant light
when things would

Burn away the debris
of what I no longer need –
and never needed.

I know it is you

that stirs forth creation
from beginning to end and beginning
so that I rise up renewed
as pure essence
refined like the purest gold
in your searing furnace

nothing less and nothing more

I offer to you my strength and my weakness
my purity, my defilements
the beauty and the ugliness
of my light and my shadow

your brilliance of not discriminating
is the gift of your flame. Take it all.

Sun of my heart
may you turn my offerings to ash
and ash into gold
as phoenix wings rise iridescent
and eternal.

Burn in my heart as fierce, soft love
My love.


Yoga takes us into the essence of life, the essence of self, the essence of creation. Like the sun, fire is at the source – it is the force that transforms, energises, cleanses, ignites, inspires and keeps us going. It is the source of our desire, our will, our determination and dedication, our undying, eternal, essential love. This is tapas.

Genuine tapas makes us shine like the sun. Then we can be a source of warmth, comfort and strength for others. – Georg Feuerstein


sun in the sky 2


Hungry for more?

Here are a few more F-words to add to your yoga lexicon. Let these words take you down the rabbit hole of your own research, exploration, contemplation and experimentation!

Freedom, focus, foundation, faith (shraddha)

The A to Z of Yoga: D is for Dying

This is a straight from the hips offering for those who love yoga, who want to know more, and who sense that it is a path of endless discovery. Because it is.

This A to Z of Yoga is hardly definitive. It is an invitation. I hope you will be delighted and inspired to dive deeper into your own journey of yoga as a fearless adventurer, a pioneer into the frontier of the incredibly unique and unfolding experience that is you.

D is for Dying

If yoga teaches us the art of living, it also teaches us the art of dying.

In its deepest essence, it initiates us into this great mystery of life and transforms our relationship with it.

Over the past few weeks I have watched the Facebook posts of Edo Kahn, as his wife and love Jo made the transition from this earth from a painful stomach cancer, diagnosed only two months ago.

Edo and JoEdo and Jo offered music, yoga and seva (selfless service) with so many, as they travelled the world as a devoted, loving duo, sharing their gifts and their love at retreats, gigs, and festivals. They also founded “A Sound Life” – a charity dedicated to sharing free music and yoga with those in need. It was a perfect offering and a perfect love story.

And their grace continued through the completely unexpected, earth-shattering turn of events. Even in extreme pain, Jo continued to sing, to share her love and wisdom, and passed with an awe-inspiring grace to “return to the lotus feet of her guru”, Sakthi Amma. Even following the death of his beloved, Edo has continued sharing openly with insight, love and wisdom.

In one of her final diary entries, Jo wrote: “I asked Amma “how can the whole universe be within me? Please show me.” Amma took me on an astral travel moving from “me” to the city, to the country, world, universes, galaxies, where so many planets exist. We kept flying through space. “But Amma, how does this all exist within me?” I ask Her. Just then, the travel continues through the galaxies and then ends in my heart. “See Jo, there’s no separation, Jo is there ” pointing to the origin where I am the size of a mustard seed. “and Jo is here too” – with the entire universe within me. She took me for a good ride that night…”


Yoga – through meditation, devotion and the mysteries of grace – can give us deep insights into the nature of reality and experiences of fundamental oneness, that help to reframe our understanding of life and death, bringing us greater peace and acceptance even in the pain of departure.

This heartbreaking but grace-filled meeting of death reminds us that life is indeed a great mystery, with seemingly little rhyme or reason. That great pain and death can come ‘early’ in the most unlikely of ways, and to the most unlikely of people. In the tradition of yoga, many may call this ‘karma’ – the unfolding of cause and effect from previous lives. Whatever it may be, it is a great teaching of the power of spiritual devotion, perspective and love, and a powerful reminder to make the most of this incredible gift of life whilst we have it.

There are so many good things to do in this life, so many ways in which to continuously unfold into greater consciousness, into higher self, and into love. How could you want to live ignorantly and selfishly, and miss out on the beauty of a life lived in service, in wisdom, and in love…

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver


Hungry for more?

Here are a few more D-words to add to your yoga lexicon. Let these words take you down the rabbit hole of your own research, exploration, and contemplation.

D is for: devotion, dharma, downward dog, drishti, durga




The A to Z of Yoga: A is for Awakening

A to Z yoga posesNearing the end of four months of travel that has taken me on a round-the-world extravaganza from Australia to Bali, Peru, Greece and back to Bali, and included seven weeks of intensive yoga trainings, four weeks working with plant medicine, two weeks of teaching retreats, countless hours of meditation, and fabulous adventures into the inner and outer cosmos, I somehow impossibly found myself at a loss for what write. Overloaded with exquisite experience and insights, everything has been wanting to spill onto the page all at once. And in the bottleneck, nothing could come out. Searching for an answer to writer’s block, and desperately wanting something to share with you all, I realized I needed to go back to basics, back to the building blocks…

So here it is: The A to Z of Yoga.

Over the next 26 weeks, I will be offering some of my personal insights into yoga, Sesame Street style. As with any great journey, expect some of the unexpected – and of course some old favorites. If anything, I hope you will be delighted, informed, and inspired to continue your own journey of yoga as a fearless adventurer, a pioneer into the frontier of the incredibly unique experience that is you.



A is for Awakening

It is no mistake that this is where we start on the journey of yoga. This is the point. It is the start of it all, and hopefully, where we ‘arrive’.

Since the beginnings of yoga sometime around the 5th century BC, somewhere around the Indus valley, yoga has been a quest for awakening. Call it self-discovery, enlightenment, liberation, the unfolding of consciousness, the journey to the heart – yoga is the path of awakening the self to the Self. This Self is the undeniable experience of oneness, of love, of bliss, that is the fabric of existence underlying our ‘everyday’ reality.

Now, if we were following the modern interpretation of yoga, we probably should have started with A is for Asana. But the fact is, asana is only one teeny little tool in the colossal toolkit that is yoga. And, believe it or not, it is not even essential…

What we know as yoga today is really a collection of practices, techniques, ideas and philosophies developed over many centuries by those who sought this ‘true’ experience of Self. Through searching, experiencing and discovering, these seers and sages were able to create a kind of map of practices and their results, to help guide the rest of us hungry wayfarers towards happiness, liberation and awakening. But let’s be clear: there are so many different paths, practices, conflicting ideas, and possible experiences on the journey, that to label any one thing ‘Yoga’ is to miss the point entirely.

So remember this: there are many ways to climb a mountain. Most important is that you know where you are headed, and that you take the first step.

But to think that awakening is something that you get only at the end of the journey, after much hard work and discipline, is also misleading: surprisingly and paradoxically, awakening can be gradual or it can be spontaneous. And it is a wholly unique experience for each person. What we are doing when we ‘practice yoga’ is not forging our way to awakening: it is only clearing away the debris for the river to flow – but when the rains come is not up to us.


Hungry for more?

Grab yourself a copy of “Wake Up Now” by Stephen Bodian, and/or “The Enlightenment Process” by Judith Blackstone… and…

Here are a few more A-words to add to your yoga lexicon. Let these words take you down the rabbit hole of your own research, exploration, and contemplation:

A is for: Authenticity, Ananda, Awareness, Arjuna, Ahimsa



Six Tips on How to Follow Your Calling

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.Pamashto stone circle

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.


Gocta swim Mei Lai and Lara

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.

ElJardin dieta family

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.

Headstand with Mayu Gocta FallsThis 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.


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.

2. Trust

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.

Pamashto sunset


Follow your bliss…!

“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

follow your bliss woman

‘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.

gratitudeThroughout 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

TAPAS: Time to get the winter fires burning

TAPAS – Heat, Discipline, Inner Radiance

Golden Radiance Mandala

Tapas in Sanskrit means ‘heat’. It refers to the fire of discipline or austerities – focused effort leading towards purification and spiritual awakening.

Tapas is one of the Niyamas (ethical or self-restraints) in Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga. The Niyamas provide a way of working with the inner self to build integrity and enhance our relationship to ourselves, others and life.

Together, the 5 Yamas (moral restraints) and the 5 Niyamas (ethical restraints) comprise the fundamental principles of being, action and attitude that form the basis of Yoga – a practice that brings us into union, integration and harmony with ourselves and the universe.

Tapas teaches us about the power and benefits of self-discipline, commitment and perseverance. Tapas is the fire that fuels us into action and burns away impurities. Through the practice of Tapas, we discover our natural inner radiance and enthusiasm. The body, the mind, and the spirit becomes clear and radiant. It is so essential that B.K.S. Iyengar says that, “A life without tapas is like a heart without love.”

Traditionally, yogis practiced ‘tapasya’ – a practice chosen with a particular purpose, practiced daily with great focus and commitment for a certain length of time, for a certain period of days, weeks, or years.

So as winter comes and we feel the tendency to slow or hide away under our doonas, let this be an opportunity to stoke your inner fire through the practice of tapas. With your inner wisdom, choose any practice (eg. 10 sun salutations per day, 5 yoga classes per week, 20 minutes of meditation) that you feel will benefit you the most and that is realistically achievable, a period of time that you will practice it for, and GO FOR IT. Commit with your inner fire, and don’t forget to cultivate your joy for the practice – especially when you find yourself dragging yourself out of bed at 5am on a cold wintery morning!

The beauty about tapas, is that if even if we work with tapas in one area of our lives or our yoga practice, we find the benefits start to extend to all other areas. And not only that, but the benefits also begin to extend to those around us.

As the Yoga scholar Georg Feuerstein says, “Genuine tapas makes us shine like the sun. Then we can be a source of warmth, comfort and strength for others.”

Have fun discovering your tapas – and see here for some upcoming workshops and courses to help build your inspiration, commitment, dedication!