Looking on the outside inwards of the various spiritual communities I’ve encountered, sexuality is presented as either sacred or not at all.
I’m relatively new to this spiritual stuff. I’ve always had a very open view fuelled by a curious and agile mind and my mother’s deep interest in Eastern philosophy. But it wasn’t until the last few years that spiritual practice re-entered my life in a big way – as a mode of healing.
One of the biggest things I had to heal from was sexual trauma. And plenty of it. Not being able to properly navigate sexual dynamics has always been a sticking point of mine, as a teenager I was attacked on the way home from school, and though nothing really happened (because I ran away) the event left me shocked, and admittedly I probably, later in life, invited this scenario again and again in varying degrees of bad in an open trauma cycle.
Yoga practice was healing for me. Not only offering a space to reprogram my brain and bodily responses, but as a way to reclaim my body as my territory. My home. This was important, this assertion of ego is a healthy response in development and one that had been destroyed repeatedly by people breaking down my boundaries.
My attitude has since changed, and this is where spiritual practice had really transformed my body. Whereas before I felt detached from my body, as in I couldn’t feel deeply the processes going on inside because it was actually a place I refused to reside, with this practice now I realised that this body wasn’t mine anyway – not mine in the sense of a possession to do with whatever I wanted, but a loan, like a library book to cherish and discover over the course of my lifetime.
And as I practiced I realised something else – sexual desire was not something that was a huge part of my life. I’d noticed this before as a teenager, watching schoolfriends bounce around between boyfriends with small curiosity but little interest to do the same. The more time I spent around people with ridiculously lascivious minds the more I could pick up on it, I guess, but alone, in the time I have spent alone it rarely is there for me.
Is this a result of spiritual practice from a young age? Of holding to ritual, sacredity of energetics and universal connection?
Despite losing that as I socialised more and more, and sampling every shade of sexuality that was thrown my way, good and bad, consensual and otherwise I’ve spent three years in almost total celibacy.
Some of it seems forced – an ex boyfriend chatted with his friend once who fantasized about sending all his exes to an island where they could never have sex with anyone else, and as an experienced hacker with little moral grounding I’m sure that would explain the difficulty I’ve had with online dating.
My only recourse has been exes, chance encounters, and literally as an empath taking on the sexual lividity of others in my own body, which I totally enjoy but don’t always connect to or with. And I’ve learned that my gift here is that this doesn’t come from myself.
Maybe this is the ultimate expression of femininity, that as women we don’t light the fire but we do tend it. As men it is the job to light, re-ignite.
Women are biologically natural-born healers and caretakers, whether we like to admit it or not. That’s not to say that men can’t take on these roles exceptionally well, because they can and do, but the biological imperative falls with women.
As a reiki healer I realised the sorts of men and women I was attracting to me, and I realised – I am attracting and thus feeling attracted to my charges. These people are being sent to me for a reason. The sexual undercurrent is a draw to reel me in. It’s what I do next that really counts. I’ve learned, since October last year, not to jump headfirst into bed with someone. But taking this perspective has cast an entirely different light on every single one of my past partners, of the people that I have drawn to me, and of the people that I have been drawn to.
There’s a horrible sort of underside to spiritual dating, which I experienced last year, and for all the kind and conscientious languaging there seems to be even more license to avoid conflict or confrontation, giving jumped up hippies an out to do the dirty with no repercussions. Because if you were really spiritual you wouldn’t cause a fuss. You’d be peaceful. You’d accept the situation. Right? No, no, and no. Read the Bhagavad-Gita. The world is not always peaceful. And it’s not inappropriate to address anything head on, or in fact cause a scene if that is currently where you are at or what is called for.
I’m hoping people understand that incorrigible flirting means I’m raising energy and sending it higher. Do it with me or enjoy the friction. Because my sexuality has become intertwined with my spiritual practice, and I’ve no interest in drama, just dharma.
I’m not a Buddhist, but didn’t that sound good?
Talk to me, how does spirituality enter your sexuality – by that I mean care of the body and its wants and needs from lowest to high. They’re all part of the package
Traveling on a budget can be a tough one especially keeping your spiritual cool. If you’re like me and your lifestyle and habits could be described as outside the norm, sometimes it can be difficult to keep to a routine, diet and ethical preferences. Here are my top tips for traveling abroad, and keeping up with whatever suits.
Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, non-dairy or anything else. If you’re well-used to a diet not supported where you’re traveling for health purposes, it’s probably ingrained in you to pack for that specific purpose. If your choices are spiritual or ethical, sometimes it can be a little tricky.
It pays to be flexible.
I am a vegetarian now. When I began travelling I was a pescatarian. However, in Thailand I ran into trouble on the yoga tour I was teacher for when a host wanted me to eat fish with him and I was no longer eating fish. I don’t believe in eating animals as it’s unnecessary for my body. But I don’t believe it’s wrong. If you end up going to a place without a properly balanced vegetarian or vegan diet, the option most compliant with ahimsa or non-violence is the one that properly nourishes you. Essential minerals and proteins can be hard to find in places less used to vegetarianism within a diet, and travelling with a bag full of supplements is not always an option (although you could try it.)
In Sri Lanka I often found fish was slipped into ‘vegetarian’ sambals (chilli salsa) and usually accepted that my diet was probably low in the rich brain-nourishing oils that come from fish such as mackeral.
However, when I noticed fish stock in my curry in Indonesia, (specifically Gili Meno), a place well used to westerners with a vegetarian diet, I put my foot down.
As for dairy I do as a rule try to avoid too much, but in places where there is fresh local produce, for example in Sri Lanka and India in the form of curd or yoghurt, I don’t personally see this as something harmful. I eat yoghurt though sometimes anyway, as live yoghurt helps to balance the culture in the belly.
The trick to staying on the right side of your bank balance and your ethical preference is eat local produce where you can and perhaps splash out on the inclusion of powdered supplements in health food shops. Rishikesh was excellent for this.
Clothes, clothes everywhere. I failed at this. After a couple of years with little to no new clothing, I may have gone a little bit mad.
I have no clue when I’m returning to the UK, but I can say, going forward, travelling is the time to practice non-attachment. For a capsule wardrobe (for the travelling yogi) I suggest the following:
A conservative white dress (or long sleeved shirt)
a sports bra
a tank top
a lightweight warm jacket
a long skirt
light, long trousers
a couple of pairs of underwear and socks
trail shoes (preferably lightweight and good for running)
Obviously, if you’re male omit the bras and dresses (unless that’s your thing – in which case go right on ahead!)
I brought an entire wardrobe. And then bought more clothes wherever I went. My problem is I like variety – the beauty of clothes in life is not to cover but to create. Infinite lines and silhouettes in infinite colours and textures. Unless, of course, you have to carry everything on your back. Then infinity becomes endless aches and back pain.
You can, of course, send everything home. I did send a few beautiful clothes I couldn’t part with, back. But better is to sell or simply give your clothes away, swapping things in and out along the way. Some great ideas for places to donate your clothes:
Within hostels there are always people in need or want of the odd item of clothing
Anywhere you may volunteer, such as charities, schools or shelters
Local businesses or shops that sell second hand clothes
New friends – if you make friends with local people some can be pretty poverty-stricken and may appreciate some of your pre-loved clothes.
The next challenge is buying ethical clothing. In some places, there are a wealth of sustainable clothes from well-paid workshops where everyone is smiling and easily accessible on social media. Obviously, this is not always the case. My rule of thumb is buy what you need. And don’t get too het up over haggling over a couple of pounds.
It’s not easy to source what I call “souvenir” clothes items, so I generally try to keep it to a minimum now when shopping, preferring to carefully choose where I shop or buy through friends.
I haven’t yet worked out how to create variety in a travellers wardrobe – perhaps the trick is jewellery, temporary tattoos or creative hair colour. None of these are all that practical.
Perhaps making sure you’re in attendance for Holi, the festival in India where everyone throws colourful paint at one-another, is the best way forward. Make everyday a Holi-day!
3. Be travel-preneurial
Once upon a time, when my mum was in her twenties (so some time ago), she went travelling also. A lot. She loves to retell me the story of how she escaped back to the Greek mainland from an island in conflict by selling her blood.
This is extreme. Prostitution and selling bodily fluids or parts is no longer necessary. You can find a better way. Make your trip easier on your wallet by seeing if you can skillswap your professional skills for cheap or free places to stay. This is great if you:
have a strong social media presence
can exchange yoga, bodywork or healing arts
write a food or travel blog
take amazing photographs
cook beautiful food
make wonderful sounds
Even if these are not what you’d immediately think of as your ‘career’, you never know when they might come in handy. Perhaps photography is a hobby, or you just had a knack for posting great blog posts in your home country. Use what you have. The key is to ask. The worst you’ll hear is no.
In many places, working without a permit even for free is illegal but a casual arrangement between friends is not unheard of. Get networking!
Maybe you have some more great tips to share? Comment below, I’d love to hear from you. And maybe write a blog from your travels!
Did you miss me? I’ve been on an accidental and unannounced blogging hiatus, to concentrate on a second 200hr teacher training. Sometimes a little retreat is necessary for integrating learning, and I promise to come back a little more organised.
In the meantime, are we connected on social media? Find me on Facebook, Instagram or head over to You seek yoga to find out more about what I’m doing.
Oh! And if you have a travel or yoga-related blog I want to hear from you. Comment below, and let’s swap links like it’s 2001.
Lest it be forgotten, let’s remind ourselves: I ama Leo. I walked out of a volunteering position. Again! To be honest, I’d been raising orphaned kittens, and teaching schoolchildren was one stress too many.
They began to make personal comments, after no sleep and one kitty mauled by dog I’d had enough. I held the chalk up, the class went silent, and I dropped it on the floor with the attitude of someone who had just dropped the mic on stage. And then left and responsibly talked to the teachers. I have never done anything so satisfying, shameful or childish like this, not in my adult life.
Initially life in Boussa was lovely, a beautiful old colonial house with a pool, 5 minutes from the beach and with an exciting and impressive spread for breakfast and dinner every day. I just had too many things to do – perhaps not too many for someone working from a baseline of happy, well-financed and emotionally healthy, but from my baseline of emotional and financial deficit this was problematic.
Volunteering, I realised, is not just for the virtuous. It’s being in a position to be able to volunteer. Knowing that you can take care of your own needs and only giving what you are able to give. I’ve been volunteering on various projects since September and none of them have been without challenges, but all have taught me some hard lessons about my own limits.
I’ve reached my limits a lot recently. Not just with the bullshit I encounter in my outer space, but also that I encounter in my inner space. Recently, I made the decision that I would not have children until I could do a handstand. I can’t remember why I thought a handstand was important, at all. But I’d created a rule that made no sense, forgetting entirely that asana is only a gimmick to ease the path of meditative living. Or it’s a way to check how you are. How brave, how gentle, how tired, how energetic. Not how perfect.
These boundaries and assertions are essential parts of the individual self. Maintaining our own identities while retaining perspective takes a balancing act between ego and consciousness.
Sri Lanka was a course in learning and maintaining boundaries.
What happens when our own boundaries are low? Mine have gotten a lot better, but the focused healing work I do is achieved by an empathetic connection to a client. Within the course of one or two conversations, I will take on any blockage and clear it within my own body, where I can work with it freely.This kind of work is fuelled by love and empathy, and the only way not to undertake it is to simply walk away and not speak to people. As a result, talking to people can be a minefield.
In the past, before I understood this gift my body would be overtaken with pain and pleasure that was not mine. At the time I was overrun and I did not understand why.
I used to work in a firm full of people who were often there for the generous sick and maternity leave. You can imagine, placing someone with my ability in a company full of sick people. I felt drained and tired. With no love going in to fuel me, and no clue what I was doing and no instruction I could not stay there. There was no energetic exchange – this kind of work takes its toll on my body and I need a lot of time to replenish. They didn’t pay me nearly enough, only paying me for the role of ‘content specialist’ and not transformational healer. (This kind of work I will do on a one to one basis, but the price is on asking as the cost to me is a lot of time and energy, no matter how long it takes to heal you!)
Now, energy is limitless. You are made of energy, the world is made of energy. You can draw energy to you, you can replenish your lifeforce, but you need time and space. Creating and maintaining effective boundaries is the work and gift of the chakra Manipura and starts by building yourself up in a healthy way.
3 Spirit Hacks for healthy boundaries
Learn that it’s okay to say ‘no’. Saying yes to everything is great but you will overextend yourself. Asserting yourself as unavailable to anyone but you is okay, in fact people will respect you more for it.
Walk away. If you find a situation draining, or tiring – simply leave. This is the most physical and basic assertion of your boundaries.
Take time alone in meditative practice. Part of a healthy you, in your own power is to build yourself. Meditation is proven to repair telomeres, giving you vitality and longevity. In spiritual practice telomeres can relate to feminine energy, which is nourishing and regenerative. Taking time alone keeps this energy all for you.
Once you start to bring yourself into balance this way, you can watch to see how things shift. I know I have done with me – and even though I forget sometimes, taking time to rest, reset and replenish as a caregiver, healer, human, strengthens and builds me. I hope it does for you.
I just need to be around feminine energy or no one right now!
Being a single, or simply solo female traveler is definitely the most draining way to travel. Not only do you have to endure some horrendous predatory behaviour from local people or fellow travelers, male and female alike but you also have to pay almost double for anything, solely on the virtue you are alone and need to look after yourself and your stuff. I’ve seen it eased by shamelessly flirting and parasitically latching onto men or others as they move around but this defeats the purpose and title of independence.
This is a barrier that is to be broken through – even now the world is not accepting of women coming from lower income brackets pushing through to independence. I’ll happily admit in times of financial need I’ll call my parents – having thrown in the towel with suffering silently and considering the pros and cons of prostitution and various other methods of sex work for a quick buck, decidedly the opposite of what I want to achieve in my life.
I very much struggle to accept help from people outside that though. In my experience, help from men (or from anyone) comes with a price tag that I’m not really able or prepared to pay, whether it’s draining intensely ‘stimulating’* company, sexual favours, free healing, yoga or therapy, it can be far too much. I’ve had too many local men flat out ask to be supported (note: I don’t date locals in the countries I travel to for this reason, among others), men or women ask for sex, I’ve been followed, robbed, the list is absolutely endless.
Where did all the genuine people go?
I wonder if people know the affect that theft and sexually aggressive or violative behaviour had on their victims?
Theft removes all safety. I’ve been told on one occasion that it’s fine – that the universe does and will look after me, and overall I do truly believe that I will be okay, but the knock on effect when things have been stolen from me is I close off.
This can be dangerous for someone traveling as you tend to get the energy back that you give out. Isolation is my only treatment for theft induced depression, as it triggers paranoia that I can trust no one. Of course, as a yogini I should not be attached to such trivial items as a scooter license, or a t-shirt, or money(!) but the reality is this – even if I were immortal and could never die, if you shot me it would still hurt like a bitch.
Let’s move onto the dire sexual behaviour. This isn’t exclusive to traveling. I make no secret of the various sexual abuses I’ve had to endure in my time on this earth – but the couple I’ll particularly drop into today are (probably the least bad on my scale of creep to rape-alert) probably the ones women endure most frequently on the trail.
Sexual repression is criminal to the human mind. Sex is a natural act we are programmed to enjoy and crave to entice us to reproduce, and as often as we can. In a lot of eastern countries, and even in western countries people are taught that these thoughts and associated acts are shameful, taboo, or forbidden outside of marriage. As a result, solo female travelers have to put up with so many men flashing them, masturbating in front of them (what are you hoping for? It just makes me want to cut it off!), ejaculating on them (more common on crowded public transport in the west) or creepily following them around and masturbating over them. It’s absolutely disgusting.
When I was 22 a man used to sit outside my ground-floor flat in Leeds and masturbate outside my window. I did actually report him to the police and he was prosecuted for this.
How do we reconcile this as women? And this feeling of safety, it disappears. Money comes into this too – as a wealthy solo traveler you can afford the luxury of private transport, gated accommodation, privacy. Backpacking, you are subject to some of the most invasive and demoralising sexual behaviour.
Traveling in Sri Lanka has been no exception. Working as a yoga teacher here, I have been careful to dress a little more conservatively – but this doesn’t stop people. My housemate (also a yoga teacher) had an encounter in Ella walking to her homestay. A tuk tuk driver asked her if she wanted a lift, and then stopped a few meters in front, just around the corner. He exited his vehicle and when she got closer he was masturbating.
You feel like in that moment it’s just so damned difficult to step up. I know in that moment I should have just taken a step forward and said, “Hey what are you doing?! That’s not okay!!”
But instead I step back, because I know it comes down to that physical level of he’s stronger than me, and I’m vulnerable, and what can I do if he wants something more from me and it comes to that?
This is such a normal occurrence I am shocked that any women marry the men here. And there it is – the behaviour of a few gross people have influenced my attitude. I put guard is up and I’ve tarred the whole populace of Sri Lankan men with the same brush to protect myself.
It’s the act of claiming space, and making space uninhabitable for women. It’s the deepest level of misogyny. Perhaps if tuk tuk drivers treated women with a little more dignity and respect, we’d be willing to take tuk tuks.
I think a western girlfriend for a lot of eastern men is the equivalent of Captain Ahab spearing the white whale from their obsessive and persistently indiscriminate behaviour. Of course, there’s long been a tradition of wealthy men and women alike coming to the east to engage in sexual tourism, by either outright paying for sex or adopting a (usually younger, but not always) man or women and keeping them.
The creeper might count money in front of you to show how financially independent they are. They might offer you a scooter ride for free, or try to impose (sometimes useful) local knowledge on you. What they want is easy sex and someone to pay for everything.
I’m a naturally smiley person. My sexuality is intrinsic to who I am and I try to fully embody all aspects of my femininity. Don’t mistake this for flirtation any more than seeing someone nude on a nudist beach and assuming they’re up for it.
I don’t want to stop smiling at people. I don’t want to not trust in people. I like to be warm and friendly and open, but I don’t want give them a reason to- I don’t want to think like that.
But harassing behaviour dims your shine. When I was 16 years old, a man followed me home from school. He put his arm around me and I was too scared to do anything. He tried to feel me up and pin me against the railings by the woods. The same feeling expressed by my friend went through me – what if this gets worse – but I found my fight or flight reaction, which was both, kicked him in the balls and sprinted up the hill (all the while in stilettos, mind you). Since then I’ve had a difficult relationship with men and sexual attention – I imagine the same for all women who cannot separate their sexuality from their personality (because that’s impossible) and attract a lot of unwanted interest because of this fact.
What’s the bottom line here? We can take the lofty approach, spiritually bypass the pain and confusion and say that all of this is an expression of love for the glorious goddesses we inhabit here on this earth. Again, this is easier achieved with wealth. Money gives you means to create barriers without creating energetic blocks.
So what if you’re not wealthy? How do you avoid all these traps? And when they happen, how do you regain your balance quickly so that they don’t keep happening?
You can’t change the behaviour of everyone you meet, but you can change the energy you put out.
As a conscious traveler, you will always encounter precisely what you expect. There are some awful human beings out there and they will do awful things, but you can protect your energy and your reality with daily practice.The most important thing to remember is that resistance creates an energetic block, which consumes more energy and attention. To deny something is hurting you requires a lot of focus – creating lies demands so much more brain power than acknowledging the truth.
Step 1 – be honest
If you’re scared to talk to people, acknowledge this. If you’re being stolen from, acknowledge this. If you’re being stalked, harassed or frightened acknowledge this. Maybe you have a sympathetic ear you can voice your concerns to. Be heard – within yourself and outside of yourself.
Step 2 – damage control
Do what you need to do to feel safe again. If you need to report something to the police for insurance, do that. If you need to change accommodation, do that. If you need to lock yourself away for three days and binge Netflix (or maybe you’re feeling a little healthier and it’s Yogaglo), do that!
If you want to learn some self-defence there are some great places in Asia. I stayed one night in a Muay Thai camp in Krabi, Thailand where you can learn kickboxing.
Step 3 – create your own reality
Operating from a baseline of “I am safe” you now have free reign to create the world you are about to step out into again. Grab your journal (if you don’t have one, get one) and write down the most frequently occurring thoughts that destabilise you based on your negative experiences.
I’m scared I’ll be attacked
I don’t have a safe place for my belongings
I can’t trust anyone
Now you need to actively re-write your reactions to these statements.
I’m scared I’ll be attacked –> I’m confident I can walk down the road and deal with any situation and emerge unscathed.
I don’t have a safe place for my belongings –> So long as I have my passport, phone and money I can keep myself safe and go anywhere I want. I don’t have to stay in a place with thieves.
I can’t trust anyone –> I can trust myself.
Step 4 – on the go
Take these practices out into your day and make sure to check in with yourself. It takes constant attention, but you can navigate the most frightening and difficult experiences.
Solo females travelers really do have a raw deal. We’re pioneering female freedom, for ourselves and for the women in the countries we travel to and we will continue to do so for the next few generations. So be kind to your fellow female travelers. They work hard to maintain their energy. They work hard to enjoy their travels. They work hard to exist in an alien space.
Part of this journey is to fully inhabit my body. To connect with my feminine essence, to connect with my gender and everything that comes along with it.
And to create.
Create music, create movement, art, joy, love.
I came to Thailand on the wings of something like exhaustion and despair. Having been stolen from, I didn’t trust the people around me. But that’s part of the first chakra problems I had. This is working with connection to creation, that strong and subtle water element and fertile abundance and sexuality.
Touch is something I don’t do. I don’t touch people. I don’t know why, except perhaps to consciously create distance. Touch engenders trust, chemicals blossoming into a sense of connection that I no longer want without evidence.
I don’t just mean sexual touch with a lover, I mean even touching people in a familiar and friendly way. It’s just not a part of my quotidien. To say I’d been hurt is to put it extremely mildly. I want to watch, I want to wait, and when I feel already comfortable, then I will touch.
Thailand threw out boundaries.
Bearing in mind I went to volunteer at a dry festival, I was pretty much sober the entire time I stayed on Koh Phangan. Sometimes, even some yoga teachers indulge in a party – to add in case this later comes as a shock.
I kissed friends on the lips (just pecks, usually reserved for drunk euphoria.) I cuddled up to people. I danced with wild abandon. I made love*. I entirely allowed the ecstasy of this festival take over, and even though there was a niggling in the back of my mind that I was being tested or assessed or something that made me uneasy, I took a lot from the experience.
I was exposed to people just chilling and making music. Something that reminded me of my childhood when I’d sing and play with my brother while my Dad sang and played guitar with his friends at family and friend barbecues. I planted food into the ground from seed in the act of creating sustenance for people years from now that I will probably never meet.
I met healers of all varieties, working beautifully with what they had to make a better world. For all the difficulties of staying on that island, I met some inspiring, creative, wonderful people.
Creation doesn’t really happen in isolation. You might percolate input from the world around and pour it back out, but we all blur around the edges and creativity demands that boundaries be lowered, ever so slightly. Sharing our gifts demands we shout out loud sometimes, and as someone who often walks through life blinkered for the sake of ease, I know this more than many.
But after a long dry spell and time spent in seclusion for no other reason than I couldn’t connect with anyone anymore, I was having trouble being creative, being fluid.
Swadhistana, when it’s in balance gifts you with spontaneous and embodied creative energy. Located in the pelvic area, it is concerned with the reproductive organs.
There are a great many ways to connect to the energy of this chakra. I know in the UK people can get a little hot under the collar speaking about sexuality, but the root of our creative energy is borne of our ability to reproduce. This it not a taboo and it’s certainly nothing to fear.
5 spirit hacks to help you rebalance swadhistana (sacral) chakra
Dance. If you’re like me, put on some music and allow your body to move as it pleases. If you are not hot on the spontaneity I recommend taking dance classes, especially in something that encourages movement within the hips like salsa or bellydance.
Touch. If you’re really not a dancer, connecting to sensual or therapeutic touch (not necessarily sexual) can be a great way to connect to this chakra. You can self-massage and create your own blend or head on to your nearest salon for a way to connect.
Aromatherapy. I like to mix things with Jasmine or Ylang Ylang, essential oils well known for their properties in connection with Swadisthana.
Sex. Nourishing, consensual, uplifting sex or masturbation can have a seriously positive effect. It’s about what feels good for you, and anyone else involved. Set a mood, take your time and enjoy yourself!
Get creative. Sometimes, despite everything you do you just feel blocked. And sometimes the only way around this is to fake it until you make it. There’s no shame in a colouring book, paint by numbers, pottery classes, gardening. Where you focus that energy and intention is where you will blossom.
So there it is. Some basic ways to get down with your creative self. I hope you enjoy, I hope you create, I hope you move fluidly and gracefully through challenges.
*If you know me at all, you’ll know that phrase alone is an alien one to me, entirely not a part of my vocabulary. But I said it. No, I’m not going into details.
We’re interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for this:
I’m in Rishikesh and today I looked at my mat and told my yoga practice to go do one. I am confident enough in my identity, now as I see it, to let that shit go. I cranked up the Panic! at the Disco and I saluted the old me.
Checking my inbox this morning, I saw one from YogaGlo. Honestly on the road it’s the best thing when you’re feeling less than inspired. Tara Judelle created it and she’s done an International Womens’ Day campaign #iam. I’m so sure I’ve done this before, but I wanted to play.
Interesting concept, I’m sure I’ve seen it before but I’ve seen everything.
#iam ….basically this is not a positive label but I’m bloody taking it back.
How many times have I been called crazy? So many. My ex boyfriend used to call me crazy all the time. To my face, behind my back.
My assailants called me crazy after I was attacked, and you know, because I was so drugged and my head was so messed up I even questioned my own memories.
I even bought into this crazy, and adopted the label “schizophrenic”, campaigned on national television and radio for better healthcare.
Give me a label and I’ll make it a brand bitches. And I’ll make a change to my environment for the better while I’m at it.
Yeah, I’m crazy.
Crazy enough to leave my super safe job, crazy enough to leave the UK with almost zero money, crazy enough to never settle and never accept substitutes. Crazy enough to do the deep kind of self work that leaves you raw and crazy enough to just walk away.
If crazy equals genius… #callmecrazy #selfie #whatever #internationalwomensday
I can’t play this charade of zen and perfect. I wasn’t born this wise. I made so many mistakes. I want you to understand the journey. I want you to back out of this edited glossy history of model-perfect pictures and inspirational quotes and to understand that you, that all of you is worthy of love.
Not just the yoga perfect, serene, capable, clean living – but the misfit, drunken, hot mess, bed and bar-hopping, you are also worthy of love.
This is five whole years in my life. Five years of crazy transformational, destructive, messy, desperate attempts to be anything but that which I already am.
And so are you.
When you’re conscious of your own destructive patterns you can begin to slowly make a change. And that’s yoga.
Okay, we understand. You’re so super spiritual your shit doesn’t even stink!
I’ve encountered a lot of pretty detached advice from experienced and ‘green’ yogis alike. The most common, and while true the most damn frustrating is that you have somehow permitted or encouraged this to happen.
Here’s why you need to avoid this or seriously be careful who you say this to and how.
Dealing with trauma
A sufferer of PTSD, survivor of rape, theft, stalking and then some, I can tell you that trauma is the uber stressor that contracts experiences in such a way that it triggers a concentrated egoific response to protect the individual. To put it simply, trauma really does prevent you seeing the wood for the trees.
Individuated experience is how we enjoy and commiserate life as human, and as such while the wide vision of collective consciousness or universal thought can protect us from spiralling out, the ego protects us as individuals from harm.
I once gave a speech at the House of Commons, where I said that psychiatric medication is like hammering a nail with mallet. Sweeping, egoless statements in spiritual circles are exactly the same for people experiencing a trauma response – and they simply add to the destruction. There’s no refinement, you’ve reduced your own spiritual elevation (if it even exists) to a blunt instrument.
Never assume, you make an ass out of you and me
As a yoga teacher, even if you primarily deal with movement people will always come to you for advice. You’ve chosen the role as caretaker and it is your duty to somewhat care for people responsibly. Unless you really know a person, or you really know yourself and are capable of making balanced and helpful suggestions, it is better to hold space and just listen. Trauma responses destabilise peoples’ ability to see with 360 degree vision, and by simply telling them their problems are irrelevant you are completely invalidating their experiences.
Most recently, I was told that I was being stalked only because I allowed it. On a universal level, while this may be true, on a gross physical level (and the level in which I could be in real danger) taking the high road becomes irrelevant and actually a little dangerous.
As survivors of crimes against boundaries, we constantly have to check our thinking by balancing a sense of culpability (I could have prevented…) and reassurance that we can in fact go on (I am safe now…).
At an individual level I don’t need a reminder of my guilt – I already feel guilty. Unless you can raise my vibration enough that I transcend the feeling of pain, you are only serving to alienate yourself.
Trying too hard?
I don’t see these actions as willfully destructive, in fact they often come from people struggling to reconcile things within their own experience, who see raising themselves outside of the most base level of struggle as the only solution.
My solution to this is self-knowledge. Be where you’re at!
The example I gave most recently of this (while not an actual event) goes one further: show don’t say.
In the film ‘The Matrix’, Neo encounters a monk-child while at the Oracle’s apartment. He is there to find out if he is the one. The child is sitting there, bending spoons with the power of only his mind. He says to Neo, “Do not try to bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead try to realise the truth – there is no spoon.”
Neo’s confusion is palpable – he’s never thought about life this way before and this looks like a magic trick before him. The veil of reality has not been yet lifted. But, the child has shown instead of just said, and that is what makes his wisdom sound.
You don’t have to have been raped, or molested, or stalked, or anything to support a client who has. But, you do have to remember that more than talking the talk, you have to credibly embody through every cell of your being the teachings and ideologies you are trying to transmit. Anything else is insulting.
Instead of advice, offer practical solutions
When I see people overwraught with any kind of stress, rather than giving them too much advice I tend to ask them to breathe with me. Breath is the essential connection between body and life-force, and a gentle reminder to people to come back into the breath can often be enough to regain perspective.
Drowning people (metaphorically) also can’t always help themselves because of panic, and you occasionally will have to go rescue them. Here’s one way how:
Facing them, both feet grounded whether sat in a chair or standing, you can ask them to place one had on belly and the other on heart. Mirror them exactly.
Keeping fairly good eye contact, say to them something like, “Let’s just take a couple of breaths together?”
Ask them to close their eyes now and focus on the breath coming in through their nostrils. Tell them to breathe naturally, without changing the breath.
Ask them to focus on the sensation of the air and how it affects the temperature, or perhaps it tickles the nostril hair.
Now ask them to mentally trace the path of the breath through the body, from nostrils through to lungs.
Tell them to deepen the breath and breathe into the hand on the belly.
Tell them to keep expanding the breath and breathe into the hand on the heart.
Ask them to notice the quality of buoyancy, of fullness of the breath. You can instruct with a count if you wish.
After a few rounds, allow them to return to natural breath and help them re-enter the world gently.
Perhaps you teach better with mantra or something else, but a practice that actively treats the issue is far more useful than a statement.
When in doubt, express sympathy
Lofty advice is all well and good, but an acknowledgment of someones’ struggles, a simple recognition can give far more perspective to your client than any bullshit inspirational quote.
And as for ‘me too’? Without further discourse, I’d leave that one at the door.
Keep elevating, keep raising vibrations but keep your feet on the ground also. Namaste!
In Thailand, I was particularly struck by the warmth and compassion of one of the ladies I was teaching on retreat.
As I’ve mentioned, the overall experience (apart from the women I taught) was draining and abysmal. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong, from my own paranoia (I knew something was up, just unsure what) to sleep deprivation, food poisoning and unsuitable accommodation and locations. She asked me how I was.
People probably don’t ask you how you’re doing do they? They just think that because you’re the yoga teacher, you’re fine.
Yoga teachers seem a pretty sorted bunch, don’t we? We can certainly dole out sage advice at the drop of an uttanasana. Our awareness and dedication to practice makes our role therapeutic. And eventually we do get our shit together – I look to my teachers and see them process and work through some of the toughest stuff with relative ease. I’m sure, though, it never feels easy.
And we put ourselves under pressure. I know I feel under pressure to be sorted, to be equaniminous at all times. Reaching for a perfectly balanced mindscape the same way we reach for poses beyond our current capability, as if reaching for progress or placing importance on the extension of our abilities somehow made us better or worse.
We all have to remember this: “I am enough.” Coming from a space of chasing validation, as a child I frequently wasn’t good enough and often the scapegoat for a lot that went wrong. My mindset as an adult is thus: I have to bring more to the table than just myself; I will never be good enough; I am not worthy. These are all the consequences of someone who spent their time in competition with me, rather than nourishing me. But the time has come to take responsibility – I have the power and the tools to change my programming.
I had a eureka moment on the train to Kandy while re-reading the Bhagavad-Gita, struck by one passage in particular:
But even dearer to me are those who have faith and love, and who have me as their End Supreme: those who hear my words of Truth, and who come to the waters of Everlasting Life.
Before this, Krisna lists all of the things he looks for in a yogi. Dedication to practice, renunciation of pleasure-seeking, evenness of mind, equal standing for friends and enemies alike…
But no, the ones he holds dearest are those that just love him. That just try their hardest to give everything they are to him, in spite of their imperfections. And this he accepts fully, in unconditional love and grace. You can imagine this and perhaps have seen it in a benevolent partner or parent without condescension, “It’s okay, I know you’re trying. I’m still here no matter what.”
Now, I’m no Hindu. I have no religion or ‘label’ but I study and read different doctrines of faith and practice because I think they all contain morsels of wisdom we can learn from.
But damn. I could use some of that.
You have to do this for yourself.
The deeper I delve into my practice, and the closer I get to the cores of my own issues the more panic I feel at being drawn into them. But I needn’t fear it.
I want to go off grid and disappear somewhere. There – I said it. I don’t know what I’m doing anymore. Please help me. I need help. I can’t fix this solely within myself, it’s too big.
Even this I submit back to Source. This is how I’m feeling. This is what being Jazmin is right now.
Have you ever experienced fears like these? That your own messes are too much of a challenge to even tackle? It’s exceptionally easy to get weighed down. Fortunately, you can and will always come out the other side. The practice I’ve been working with the past couple of weeks is one of acceptance – of not putting up a mask when I look in the mirror and being deeply honest with myself and where I’m at.
Fears can grow monstrous if you let them fester in the dark, so instead you must shine a light.
Shine a light on fear and frustration
This is a very simple journalling practice, so grab a pen and notebook and a quiet 10-30 minutes. You may need more if, like me, you are sometimes a crier.
This powerful practice is comprised of three simple parts.
Write down all your frustrations. Vent, let it all out, write continuously until you can’t write anymore.
Think of one interaction in the last week that has been unpleasant and has come from friction. Write this out. Now think about why. What about this interaction has triggered a strong negative reaction? It could have grated on a particular fear or sensitivity.
Write out “I submit [write out your fear] with love, as I am, to my highest self. I am met with love and acceptance.”
You have to know that as you write this, whatever deity or universal rules and wills you believe in (or not) that just as you are, in humility and in love you are accepted. This is beyond forgiveness. This is for you, pure acceptance as you are.
Afterwards sit for a few moments in silence, or however long you need. You can bring your hands one on top of the other in the heart space, keeping the eyes closed. Breathe softly and naturally.
You are always loved. You are always held. You are always accepted.
P.S. Were you looking for the next chapter on the next chakra, Swadhisthana? I guess you’ll have to subscribe and see when it comes! 🙂
The first chakra, “root” or mooladhara is balanced by the assertion that you are safe and provided for. This means having enough food, a decent place to live and enough money to meet these needs. When your root chakra becomes unbalanced you can feel insecure, afraid and small, paranoid, threatened…the list of unpleasantness goes on forever.
My first chakra has never been totally secure since about age 10. Financial hardship is hard. But none harder than while traveling abroad, without the security of a steady income. You have to learn to balance the physical lack with the knowledge that you are capable of providing for yourself.
Doing things the absolute least sensible way possible, I didn’t save up any money before I came abroad. I packed up my things, having committed to 6 months as a yoga volunteer in Kampot, Cambodia and reassured that I had accommodation there for free. I had enough money for the meals on my days off, and that was about it.
Unfortunately, my first lesson was that environment is important. Being a warm and messy person who cleaned up her act, I had become a little neater in the last couple of years as I applied sauncha* to my life.
Kampot had it’s charms, but like most places in South East Asia it has a problem with rubbish. Everything is wrapped in multiple layers of plastic, and there’s no real system for disposing of rubbish so (along with food waste and sewage) it tends to end up on the side of the road, or in the rivers.
My living quarters, a bungalow on the edge of the property I was working on were, while in their hey-day probably very pleasant, in reality were dirty, dusty and all the bedding smelt of cat pee. The owner had taken in a litter of kittens earlier that year, and the mother probably gave birth in my bed and was kept their with her children.
Balancing out cleaning this up with my duties as a super-chill and zen yoga teacher and teaching the staff social media and cleaning standards was too much. I couldn’t do it. Maybe I should have been more assertive – taken a week to really get my living conditions to acceptable, but I really tried to get stuck in. The hostel next door was also a backpackers hostel that had daily (advertised weekly) parties that went on late into the night.
I couldn’t afford to put myself up in a bungalow nearby – and also I shouldn’t have had to. Some documents went missing from my suitcase. I was too tired, emotionally and physically, to even try to sort that out. As a volunteer I was receiving no money for the yoga classes (or anything else) and to top it off a colleague was brokering my services as a private yoga teacher at shockingly low prices to her friends. I felt poverty-stricken, which, when you see the standards of living in Cambodia seems laughable, but even as a Westerner I was struggling to comprehend how I was going to pay foreign rates.
I needed a decent nights’ sleep. I needed money. I needed a nice place to live. The owner offered me a couple of nights in her boutique eco hotel. It was the break I needed, and there I met a beautiful girl who happily funneled me onto my next destination.
Leaving was necessary but the reality is, I’ve been traveling through countries where most basic needs are not met. As yoga teachers, we spread good vibes, energy and love into the most needy places, especially traveling through South East Asia. It’s been difficult to re-write my programming on this one – I’ll admit I still have debts to pay off (slowly and steadily, student loan aside) and I’ve been struggling personally with finances since I was 18 years old, something I’ve inherited from my parents. But here in Asia I am seen as wealthy. I am definitely privileged. And I should start to try and act like it.
Rebalancing and re-righting your first chakra can be a really difficult task. As the lowest of the seven bodily chakras, destabilising this one can have a big impact on every single one above it. But there are some simple fixes that I’ve learned can help when you’re in crisis.
Five spirit hacks to rebalance mooladhara (root) chakra
Breathe. Deep belly breathing is invaluable. Breathing from the lower belly mimics those deep calming breaths we took as a baby, bringing us right back to that state of ease and comfort. For a simple tutorial, head over to my Facebook page, You Seek Yoga.
See red! The colour red is associated with the root chakra. If you’re feeling destabilised check around your surroundings for the colour red for immediate reassurance and consciously introduce red into your wardrobe.
Root vegetables. Introduce these calming veggies into your diet, organic (of course) so you can absorb all the goodness of the earth. The humble potato is also a key player in serotonin production, which occurs in the gut.
Sound. The sound of drums and didgeridoos are particularly good when relating to mooladhara.
Affirmations. Close the eyes and repeat: I am here and I am safe. I have everything I need.
Stepping into your role as self-provider, and being secure in your ability to keep all those needs met is one of the biggest lessons of travel. One I’m still learning.
This has come up time and time again, but I felt like my time spent in Cambodia was a real illumination of the traumas and difficulties I had with my first chakra. The beginning of bodily connection to spirit, and the beginning of my journey…
I hope you found these Spirit Hacks helpful. If you want to learn more, follow my blog or subscribe via email.
Otherwise, happy travels and happy thoughts.
*Sauncha is one of the Niyamas as set out by Patanjali. It means at its most basic level, cleanliness.