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Change the World Friday

Friday, June 12, 2009 by Marianne Elliott

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I'm in Bali. I'm staying in a beautiful traditional Balinese villa with six beautiful friends, all yoga teachers and body workers (and one fabulous surf and yoga teacher). I'm surrounded with compassionate wisdom about what we hold and carry in our body and how we can release it and let ourselves relax into a deep trust in ourselves, our bodies and the simple truth of the way that things are.

In the midst of all this wisdom and loving kindness I'm experiencing some interesting obstacles, or opportunities. I've got a cold that has travelled into my chest and settled into a pretty solid chesty cough and which is making it difficult to breath, let a long practice pranayama and asana. I also have some fairly acute back pain which is making it difficult for me to practice all but the most gentle postures. My body wants to rest.

Given that I'm surrounded by opportunities to move – surf lessons with one of the worlds best female surf instructors, yoga by the pool with some of my favorite yoga teachers, beach swims and outings to temples – it has been taking all my wisdom to know that I need to stay still. I need to rest. I need to heal.

This morning I thought I was ready for a slightly more active yoga practice so I joined two of my companions by the pool and began to follow their practice. But before long I could feel my back was aching and I knew I had to stop. I rested in child's pose and began to cry. I was feeling deep frustration that I was in this place with all these extraordinary opportunities and I could not join in. I felt scared by the sensation of not finding safety and freedom on my yoga mat, a place of such sancturary for me in times of difficulty. As I began to cry I found that there were deep waves of sadness waiting to flow.

I got up off my mat and went to sit on a cushion in a wicker cocoon on the veranda of my room. I felt safe there and for a good ten minutes I allowed myself to cry. The sadness surprised me but I allowed it to flow. Eventually I began to feel the waves of grief subsiding so I settled into my seat and put a guided loving kindness meditation on my iPod. I sat for half an hour following the familiar instructions of the loving kindness meditation. I said to myself "may I be happy, may I be safe, may I be healthy, may I be peaceful".

After half an hour I felt the stability of kindness had settled my mind and my heart and I grabbed a cup of tea and settled in to listen to one of Jack Kornfield's talks on compassion. Before he got to the main topic of his talk, however, he referred back to the teaching from the previous week. His words connected immediately with the truth that I knew and they started to help me find a different way to be present with my experience on the yoga mat.

What he said – very simply is that we can spend all our energy wishing that things are different. We keep waiting for samsara (the rounds of life) to be different. We want the pleasure but not the pain, we want the gains but not the losses, we want the praise but not the blame, we want the fame but not the disrepute. Very simply he reminded me that if I want to have peace it will not be because I stopped the worldly winds but because I saw this dance of life as it is and rested in spacious attention.

He reminded me that obstacles are really opportunities to practice and perfect my patience and generosity and wisdom and love and trust. On a very simple level, my back pain is not an obstacle to my yoga practice, it is part of the dance of my yoga practice. It is an opportunity to practice patience with my body, generosity within my practice and towards my weaknesses, wisdom in my choices of practices that heal rather than harm, love towards my whole being – the weak and the strong – and trust that I am whole and complete as I am.

On a deeper level I know that the sadness emerges from places that run beneath the physical pain of my back and when I look at those places I can also see them as obstacles standing in the way of a path to the place where I think I should be or I can see them as opportunities to practice and perfect my patience, love, wisdom, generosity and trust as part of the eternal journey to be right where I am, right now.

Finding the space and quiet that I need to make this shift in my perception seems to be to be another way to change how I act and interact in the world and therefore – another way to change the world.


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16 Responses to "Change the World Friday"

  1. It is hard to let ourselves stop looking for the way.

  2. Imohena says:

    Sounds like a beautiful setting and a great opportunity to let go. Lots of love xx

  3. amy says:

    thank you so much for sharing this. there’s a lovely kind of wisdom in your words. i hope the rest of your stay in Bali is wonderful.

  4. Swirly says:

    I had an experience last week where I was reminded that compassion to the world is only possible if I grant that compassion to myself. I was angry at myself for not “getting over” something as quickly as I thought I should (angry that I had a reaction in the first place), but then finally let myself go to someone, let my guard down and cry (never an easy thing for me to do). It was a small moment, but a powerful one, another step on a journey I know you are familiar with, as you have been there with me, showing me the way.

  5. gem says:


  6. Anne-Marie says:

    Dear Marianne, I don’t blame you for crying; I probably would have done the same in that situation. How frustrating to be in such a wonderful situation – my mouth waters! – and not be able to take full advantage of it. I sincerely hope both your cold and your back improve so you can enjoy the rest of your time in Bali. Thanks for sharing your insights. Rangimarie, Anne-Marie

  7. aj bush says:

    Again Marianne you have touched my heart with your comments, and again said just what I needed to hear. I am shutting down my computer right now and going to meditate with an old Jack Kornfield video I have. I hope you are feeling better at this time and enjoying Bail. Thank you for your insight and wisdom. You are such a beautiful soul.

  8. john mullis says:

    Bali – good on you! I know what you mean about the deeper level of pain. We need to be complete with our past if we want to move toward the future. Maybe that’s what you’re doing. Travel well.

  9. megg says:

    Oh I hope that your time in Bali gives you as much pleasure as it has insight – good with the struggle! You have answered a question I asked of myself today, so thank you! You ALWAYS give me so much when I visit you – thank you!!!

  10. tiny noises says:

    so glad to hear you are in Bali and that you are reminding yourself to be present. i am stuck in an old pattern and could learn a lot from your practice of mediation and mindfulness.
    and i hope your back lets you take a few surf lessons so that you can teach me someday. . .

  11. Natasha says:

    That is great, you are all the way in Bali taking this time for yourself. I love your writeup especially today and I want so much for my readers to see this perspective. You are extremely perceptive about your internal changes and how your body and mind responds and reacts to things around you.
    If you will travel to Singapore (my home country), let me know by email and I can arrange for you to stay with my friend who can also take you around.
    Hope you’re keeping with your once a week practice. I have kept a way from the computer for 3 weeks now (with connection in between of course) and I must say it is not always easy but I feel healthier.

  12. Andi says:

    I left a comment the other day, but for some sad reason it’s not showing…
    I hope that over this past week you’ve regained your energy and that you’re finally starting to heal. Is it possible that some of the body workers can work on you?
    My dream is to go to this surf/yoga retreat in Bali. I wonder if you’re at the same place?
    Sending you lots of healing energy!!!

  13. a says:

    I just love your blog.
    You are so honest about everything.
    I experienced the crying during child pose! Just last week…it was about something less intense, but it’s interesting how connected we become to our pain, through yoga. We can’t ignore it, and it heals.

  14. Yvonne says:

    Just found your blog via the Prana FLow website. Having just moved to New Zealand I am experiencing my own form of frustration at times. I am living in the most beautiful house with my in-laws and yet feel at times I cannot enjoy it and let go….
    I may just go into child’s pose and cry. Perhaps it will bring me back to myself.
    Thanks for a great post and sharing. I’ll be back.

  15. susanna says:

    You’ve been on quite a personal journey, Marianne, and learned so much about yourself along the way. I can imagine how frustrated you would have felt being physically limited from participating in some of the retreat’s acitivities. You are a Doer by nature. I think it’s in your blood to change this world – by hand, if necessary. πŸ™‚ I’m glad that you saw another way of approaching your time at the retreat. Be kind and patient with yourself. You’ll get there! And I hope you feel better soon.

  16. Ayurveda says:

    This is very adorable blog.
    Thank you to share this one with whole world.
    This is one of my articles about Ayurveda..

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