Traversing the outer and inner Self

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.

 

With love,

xo Mei Lai

 

Truth, Surrender and Bhakti

When you follow the burning desire for truth, life calls you to where you need to be.

For the last five days I’ve been drenching myself in the richness of birth place of yoga, Mother India. For many months I have been dreaming of returning to India, and specifically to spend some time in Rishikesh, one of India’s great yoga meccas. I have also been feeling the call of Mooji – an advaita zen master from Jamaica/UK, but whom I knew fairly little about. A seed of interest stirring.

But it was still far on the horizon… I had been planning to spend some time in India at the end of this year, and had been thinking about a short visit to Mooji’s ashram in Portugal in September.

mooji-rishikesh

But via a series of rapid-fire and surprising events, I booked a flight from the Philippines to India, and unexpectedly found myself exactly there: sitting

in satsang with Mooji in the heart of Rishikesh, with hundreds and hundreds of truth-seekers from all over the world gathered in silence and reverence.

Don’t ask me exactly how it happened, except to say that I found myself right where I needed to be. In the heart of truth.

It is a rare event to meet an awakened being. Even more so to meet one who so directly, simply and uncompromisingly points to the truth of who we are, in a way that pierces straight to the heart. No room for drama, stories, or for hiding. He simply lifts the veil, with clarity and love. I laughed, cried, wept tears of joy, dropped into the depths of meditation, sang, and found myself in profound silence and astonishment. I feel changed forever, and I can barely begin to articulate why.

You can watch the first satsang I attended with Mooji here (all of his satsangs are video recorded and streamed live).

It has reconfirmed for me that the spiritual path is really the path of the heart. Let the mind be, and become established in the heart. Cultivate awareness of the Self beyond the self, your pure state of being, and rest there. And as Mooji says, even the path is an illusion. You are already that.

Through this magical experience, I was reminded singing bhajans (devotional songs) with the hundreds gathered, that song, sound and voice is the most direct way I have experienced and witnessed to burst open the heart, and to allow spontaneous love and joy to pour forth. This is bhakti, the heart of devotion. I’m not sure why I continue to be surprised that the simplest things are often the most profound. But they are, and so it is.

ganga-prayerAnd so the journey continues from Rishikesh to Goa, where I have the privilege of sharing my deep love of bhakti, voice and mantra on a women’s self-care retreat with my dear sister Emily Kuser.

The universe moves in the most unexpected ways, but always in just the ways we need. Trust, listen, and surrender. These are my offerings to life. In return, I have everything I need.

“To know yourself is not a knowledge.
It is only a discovery.
It is not an achievement.
It is not a possession.
Nobody possesses Self-knowledge.
If anything, you can perhaps say it is an exchange
of the non-self for the Self,
but who will receive the Self? No one.
That is why I say it is not an exchange.
This may sound like a riddle to you,
a mystery or a paradox,
but only if you listen with just your mind.
You will understand all of this easily in the
presence, guidance and grace of a liberated being.
Seek such company.”

~ Mooji

mooji-satsang

Awakening the Voice of the Body-Soul

Durga sanskrit mandalaWhen you listen, you discover that life has a way of weaving itself into being through you. Because life is ever-creative, it is constantly revealing new gifts and insights, and inviting us to explore new paths into greater discovery and fullness.

As I return home from two months of travels and teachings in Thailand, Bali and the Philippines, I see clearly that the thread that has been distinctly woven for me this year has been awakening the voice.

I don’t simply mean the singing voice – the one that we’re told is good or bad, that sounds beautiful or like a cat howling, or in tune or out of tune. I mean the Voice of the Body-Soul. The voice that expresses the stories, the yearnings, the trials, the emotions, the ecstasy and the pain of all we experience in this human life, in this human form.

And as we get even more refined, we understand as the voice of consciousness itself. It is the power of the word, of thought, of the very vibration of life that takes us closer and closer to our essence. So we can start at the voice to travel the exquisite journey inwards, towards silence, towards our essential nature. It is one of the most powerful tools we have.

Kirtan band Mei LaiFrom a deep love of devotional singing, community and a wonderful acoustic space, I began late last year to offer free community kirtans. To my surprise, a kirtan band emerged, and growing numbers of people started coming together to sing. It felt amazing, and so I continued. I quickly discovered that people were deeply curious to use their voices more, and to work with mantra and chants. These are powerful tools to soften the mind, connect to the heart, and lead us into silence and meditation. And so I began offering workshops, exploring this yoga of sound, to which people flocked. These practices unlocked not only people’s voices, but also tears, emotions and experiences that had been repressed for far too long in a culture that says that only a small handful of people are ‘qualified’ to use their voices.

I was then invited to teach the Art of Voice and Mantra on my dear friend Emily Kuser’s High Vibe Yoga teacher training in Bali in July. I love these spaces outrageously, where there is time and freedom to explore and experiment.

Thirty students opened their voices and hearts fully to daily devotional song, so willingly High Vibe Yoga freedomand beautifully that we cried. They courageously used their voices to freely release and express the stories and pains lying hidden with the body. And then used their voices to soothe and soften. Without words, without stories, without guidelines or limitations. We discovered together the connections between the voice and the force of life, the breath; and the direct connection between the voice and consciousness, the essence of life. We sang, we laughed, we cried, we screamed, we crooned, we sighed and we discovered ourselves anew.

Through our Voice we are born and we die, we create and release, renew and discover. It is profound, simple, and astonishing. And something we all innately and uniquely have.

So I am completely and utterly in love. And dedicated to diving even further into this journey of the Voice. In early September I am flying to the US for a retreat with Sally Kempton and Silvia Nakach, for five days of mantra, voice and meditation with these shakti masters. And I am dedicated to sharing more of my own discoveries, gifts and awakenings with anyone who wishes to courageously and lovingly explore their own Voice. Because it’s one of the most incredible things I know.

When we follow the inner promptings, our own true Voice, we know exactly where to go. And what we discover along the way is bound to be astonishing.

*    *    *    *    *

Upcoming workshops:

Kali: Doing the Shadow Work, Saturday August 27th 12-3pm, Gertrude Street Yoga Studio

Sound and Silence: mantra and meditation, dates to be advised soon

A to Z of Yoga: E is for Experiment

life_is_an_experiment_by_dzeri-d4ztdgySince I was a teenager, I have found myself coaching friends to follow their dreams, their heart, their joy, their inspiration. To trust and believe in themselves and to just go for it. And of course what I have seen, is that what holds people back is fear. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of breaking out of the mold, fear of instability or a lack of security, fear of ‘not getting it right’. I have also been one of these people.

But the reality is, we come into this life not knowing what it is, or what it is for. Although ‘society’ might tell us that it’s about money or success or security or power or family or joy or whatever million other things humans find to create meaning out of, thousands and thousands of years of ‘seeking’ and looking for the meaning of life has still not really brought a definitive answer.

So my answer to the fear that paralyses us is this: Life is one giant experiment. Whatever you want to do, dive into it head first knowing that it is just an experiment. If you ‘fail’, well that’s what experiments are for. Brush yourself off, and move onto the next great experiment. Or try again.

And here’s a tip: set yourself a timeframe. Want to dive into the music career or business venture you’ve been dreaming of for so long, but have been too terrified to start? Give yourself six months, give it everything you’ve got, and then decide on your next step from there.

It is a simple attitude, but unbelievably powerful. And why? Because it gives you permission. Permission to follow your dreams, permission to get creative, permission to get dirty, permission to not know, permission to fall over – and to gracefully pick yourself up again. Because it was just an experiment.

But the beautiful thing about it is, that more often than not it leads to success. Why? Because it liberates us to follow what we love most, even if it is what we are most afraid of. And when we follow what we love, it lights us up, and that light becomes like a beacon that draws to us whatever we need to take the next step…

As Brene Brown asks, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

You won’t know until you try.

InspirationalQuotes.Club-life-advice-inspirational-wisdom-play-game-Plato

Hungry for more?

Check out Brene Brown’s book “Daring Greatly”…

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

E is for: embodiment, enlightenment, eka pada koundinyasana, evolution, experience, empathy, expression

The A to Z of Yoga: B is for Body, but…

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.

B is for Body, but…

five bodies

But what? It’s kind of obvious in our body-conscious society that yoga is about the body, right. It’s now one of the most popular forms of exercise in the West. It’s a great way to build strength, flexibility and vitality, which also improves our mental and emotional wellbeing; and even better, it has the extra perks of ‘spiritual fitness’.

But… it runs so much deeper than that. The body really is the vehicle for awakening. This is the radical teaching of Tantra, that emerged in India only around the 5th century (remember that ‘classical’ yoga was birthed from around 500-200BC).

Departing from the dual split between matter and spirit that was the hallmark of the ancient Vedic traditions, Tantra offered a radical acknowledgement of the body, this human form, as an aspect or an expression of the divine. In Tantra, there is no separation between matter and spirit, mundane or divine. So this human body – that is both clumsy and agile, that feels aches and ecstasy, that we worship when it is slim and toned and curse when it is overweight or misshapen – is the divine form we have for experiencing and discovering life, and for awakening into all that we can possibly be.

In the words of Eckhart Tolle, “You are the universe, expressing itself as a human for a little while.”

To fully awaken into this realization starts right here, in your human form, in your body. The body is the vehicle for awakening.

This is what my pioneering teachers Tara Judelle and Scott Lyons see as the underlying principle of a genuine modern yoga practice focused on awakening (check out Embodied Flow Yoga).

It is an invitation to become ‘somanauts’ – explorers into the inner world of our very own body-mind, deep into our own experience. To not only move the outer form of the body, but to really feel and sense inside the body with the fullness of our awareness, to discover its sensations and bring alive the consciousness of our tissues, our organs, our bones, our very cells.

Why? To discover life, to discover self, to understand and experience more of this awe-inspiring reality, to become awake, literally, in all the cells and fibres of our being.

Fortunately for us, we not only have the ancient and evolving tools of yoga, but also the incredible discoveries of science (see the video link below, for example), and new forms of movement and somatic exploration such as Body Mind Centering to add to our toolbox of practices of awakening – our practice of Yoga.

Hungry for more and ready to be awed?

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

B is for: breath, bhakti, Body Mind Centering (BMC), bandha, Bhagavad Gita, buddhi.

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.

 

Kundalini_2

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

 

 

Inspirations and love from Bali…

Dear friends,

Greetings from beautiful Bali!

Purnati Embodied Flow training

…where I am in the second week of a month-long intensive Embodied Flow™ yoga training with my incredible teachers Tara Judelle and Scott Lyons. While intensives often conjure up the image of physical and mental exhaustion, and whilst our days are certainly long and full, the work is so rich, so deep, so authentic and so playful, that each day is a pure joy. Each morning starts with contemplation, journalling, meditation, and an asana practice exploring different systems/tissues of the body-mind – we dive into the felt sense of the organs, the glands, the bones, the cells, and allow movement and the poses to be guided by that felt sense. It is a practice that is at once exciting, challenging, confounding, and revelatory. The mid-morning and afternoon sessions of this ‘Mind’ module are spent exploring somatic psychology – individually, in pairs, small groups, and the larger group. We have been delving into embryology, developmental and childhood patterns, the role and nature of ‘stories’ or narrative, understanding and working with emotions from a somatic perspective, and so much more… needless to say, I am as happy as a pig in mud!

Embodied Flow™ is an approach to yoga developed collaboratively by Tara and Scott, through their personal journeys and extensive experiences with yoga, tantric philosophy and practices of awakening, Body-Mind Centering, somatic psychology, and a wide array of other spiritual and therapeutic practices. First and foremost, it is an approach to the art of genuine, authentic self-inquiry – which is really the essence of Yoga. It invites us into the rich landscape of ‘unknowing’, unites scientific and spiritual inquiry, and offers a direct path into some of the most esoteric practices and philosophies of true tantra, which offers a non-dual understanding of life and consciousness.

Lotuses PurnatiWe start here, at the highest teaching of the Shiva Sutras: “Caitanyam atma” – the independent state of supreme consciousness is the nature of everything… and then we dive in deep.

Asana is there, to be sure, but it takes its rightful place as one amongst the myriad of practices that are available to us in the path of awakening – yet it also flowers through the expansion of rich somatic explorations, or what might be called “embodied anatomy”. The ultimate aim is the knowing of self, of awakening, and of true freedom.

And I am so excited to be exploring and sharing these teachings with you: I will be dipping back into Melbourne briefly in June, and offering a 5-hour Embodied Flow™ workshop at Gertrude Street Yoga on Sunday June 21st (yes, a winter solstice special!). If your curiosity has been ignited, I’d be thrilled to have you come and play, explore, and discover together…

Please visit here for full workshop details.

In the meantime, wishing you warmth, joy, and blissful discoveries in your yoga journey.

With love,
Mei Lai xo