"If we just sit at home and aspiring for some self-serving nirvana state but allow the world to fall around us, is that spiritual? No, it's irresponsible."
It's all very well and good for the "Love and Light" brigade to spread love and light, after all the world needs more of it, but where's the line between spirituality and activism? Can the two co-exist or do they have to be separate entities?
By definition spirituality is often the surrender of some "greater force" than us driving our destiny and activism is a "means of achieving political or other goals."
Our world is dying; climate change, animal extinctions, plant disappearance, the death of ecosystems such as Queensland's Great Barrier Reef. The science is in, our ecosystem cannot continue this human-driven march towards its and our extinction. What greater goal could we have than the protection of our planet? But is sitting in meditation in the privacy of our privileged, Western lives going to change anything apart from ourselves?
I see great value in self-work, don't get me wrong, I've even created a line of products designed to help people see how they can be better humans but at some point we need to get off our butts and take action. Agreed, it makes us feel good about ourselves when we devote our time to yoga, meditation or other forms of spirituality - whatever that is for you - but what is the POINT of spirituality if our planet is dying?
The Zen quote: "chop wood, carry water, enlightenment, chop wood, carry water" is so pertinent here. No matter how "spiritual" you think you are, there are human needs that still need to be undertaken. We are still human beings on this planet and our bodies require a healthy ecosystem to survive.
I see the work of Abraham-Hicks often in my newsfeed with trite comments like: "Just remember that you want your influence to always be what you ask for and never be about what you are against because as long as your influence is what you're for then you have the backing of Universal forces." I deeply desire a peaceful, sustainable, loving planet and I can sit in my comfortable home for as long as I want desiring this thing but if I don't take daily actions alongside these thoughts, nothing will change.
Life isn't about the self! It's about the collective. We need to start seeing us as US and not ME.
We are part of an ecosystem and events do not exist in isolation and one of the reasons I moved away from the yoga community was this self-isolation built in ego. We do not exist in isolation on a yoga mat on the floor of a studio as we do not exist in isolation as a human being on this planet. Sean Corne's Off the Mat project is one example of taking yoga spirituality out of the yoga studio, and I'd love to hear about more if there is any you know about.
What is the point of loving compassion if it's not shared with the world? How can we both protect and nurture the Earth and the mechanisms that sustain life; air, water, food, diversity and yet keep our spirituality intact?
The answer is simple: action and service.
There comes a time when we have to take action.
If we just sit at home and aspiring for some self-serving nirvana state but allow the world to fall around us, is that spiritual? No, it's irresponsible. We have to put all of our love and compassion into the wider world. What better way than making a stand to protect our precious water from fracking. Water is life. No amount of chanting or green kale smoothies will prevent this toxic sickness from leeching into our ecosystem.
It's time for us to be the spiritual activists we were born to be.
In love and action,
©Alyssa Curtayne 2018
"The role of women is changing from the traditional maiden, mother, crone to a time where any woman can be whatever it is she wants to be. A Goddess doesn’t have to be a young woman, or a mother, and she can age as gracefully (or disgracefully) as she wishes. It’s about women having choice; it’s about women feeling beautiful, powerful, confident and sensual in their own skins."
The internet has been awash with blogs, Instagram images and articles about being a Goddess, yet, unless you have experienced it, many women do not know what a Goddess is, or indeed, how to be one. And what on Earth does it mean to be Empowered? In the interests of full disclosure, this article will be my truth about what being an Empowered Goddess means to me.
For many years, I was plagued with self-esteem issues and it wasn’t until I did an online course with Leyolah Antara at Kundalini Dance that I felt the pulsing of energy that is the feminine energy of the Goddess that I fully understood the sensation of being an Empowered Goddess. I guess for me, I had to experience it to understand its power.
I could start by writing about how women were revered in many ancient cultures (and some modern ones), however, I think that it will detract from the issue. Such powerful women as the goddesses of early Pagan (Diana, Hretha), Hindu (Kali), Sumerian (Ishtar, Ereshkigal), Egyptian (Isis), Norse (Freyr, Bil), Irish (Dana, Brigid) and Greek (Aphrodite, Artemis) societies, not to mention those from China, Africa and the Americas as well as Indigenous ones and those in the Biblical stories, such as the divine Mary Magdalene.
I could talk about the other terms like embodied woman and Shakti that are used interchangeably about the Goddess in the early 21st Century but for the ease of the article, let’s just stick with the Goddess. Historically, women were revered as they carried children and the burden of both life and death through the process of childbirth. Thankfully, maternal deaths are decreasing and less women are dying in this important stage of life, and more interestingly, many women are choosing not to have babies. The role of women is changing from the traditional maiden, mother, crone to a time where any woman can be whatever it is she wants to be. A Goddess doesn’t have to be a young woman, or a mother, and she can age as gracefully (or disgracefully) as she wishes. It’s about women having choice; it’s about women feeling beautiful, powerful, confident and sensual in their own skins.
Women have only had the right to vote for about 100 years and the Goddess has risen historically in periods when misogyny was at its worst, such as when the Inquisition tortured and killed thousands of men and women who stood up to the church. Women who rode “cowboy” were considered witches (I kid you not!) (Stay tuned for my first novel, Matilda, based on this crazy misogynist culture in 2018). The Goddess brings us back to balance when the masculine energies become too dominant and unfortunately, we need the Goddess energy now more than ever.
Women are tired of being told what we can and can’t do by men and the institutions that run the world. We are all powerful, we know it and men know it and when they see us in our full power, they know who really wields power; and it’s not men or women, it’s a balance between the two.
The word “empower” means to “to give power or authority to; authorize, especially by legal or official means.” By its definition alone, being empowered means that we give permission to ourselves to feel the power of ourselves. By extension, an empowered person also aids and empowers other people, particularly women, ethnic minorities and those who are in some way disenfranchised by society. Putting others down, does not empower the self, and it certainly does not empower others.
An Empowered Goddess is not the antithesis of men, she lifts up the men in her life as much as she lifts the women and herself. It doesn’t have to be duality; that is dominance by men OR women, it’s about balance. The more the Empowered Goddess taps into her inner self, the more that she can empower others to be the very essence of who they are, raising us all up in a collective empowerment.
To me a Goddess is a woman who has embraced and accepted all of who she is, that is, her darkness and her light. We all have the capabilities to be a great healer or leader or indeed someone who is capable of murder, given the right scenario. A Goddess sees and acknowledges those parts of herself that reflect both the primitive parts of humanity and the full goodness of it.
A Goddess is a woman who has done a lot of self-reflection and owns all of those parts of herself that at times she doesn’t like and at times she loves. When she looks into a mirror a Goddess will sometimes see a frightened little girl, or a vulnerable woman, other times she will see a wild woman ready for anything and other times a sensual, sweet seductress.
A Goddess is a woman who is assured in her sexuality; she has no guilt or anxiety around masturbation or sex and honours each and every lover with every ounce of her being. She can see her lovers’ vulnerabilities and knows just when to support him/her and lift them up. She is able to walk away if it’s not bringing her satisfaction, yet she is happy in the moment, knowing that she is exactly where she is meant to be.
She is not afraid of men, in-fact, she knows just the right ways to disarm or seduce a man should it please her. This is not something that she shows off, but if she wants someone or something, she will get it, she knows of her power to manifest her desires in a way which is loving but not manipulative. An Empowered Goddess feels into her body and she knows it, inside and out. It’s a feeling of being connected to something greater than all of us; a flow of femininity if you like that completely honours and respects the masculine and feminine balance of life.
May you find and honour your inner Goddess and those around you.
©Alyssa Curtayne, 2017
Note: In 2015, I created tools to help people become self-empowered; Chakra Cards. Unlike traditional tarot and other divination tools, these tap into our intuitive self and allow people to clear all that no longer serves for them and help them to become an empowered Goddess or God with the power of looking within. Chakra Cards Empower yourself; look within.
"The ONLY purpose is being alive, is to be alive. There is nothing more. We do not need to seek specialness, we are no better or worse than others. Spiritual teachers are only people who have found a channel of truth that works for them at that moment in time. They are not the panacea for the answers. The answers that we seek are within us. Within our ordinary moments of life. Of seeing life for what it is."
Maybe I’m just ordinary. I’m not destined for any great achievement. I’m not going to change the world just by being in it and I’m not going to be remembered long after I’m gone.
Maybe I’m just another of the seven billion souls inhabiting this planet just doing their very best to be who they are, without any expectations of being more than what I am.
Maybe I’m just a mother. Maybe I’m just a teacher. And maybe I’m just poor and destined to struggle my way through life; I’m not the only one. Maybe I’m just ordinary. Maybe I’m just like everyone else.
When I was younger I had low self-esteem, at 58kg, I thought that I was fat and so hid myself from everyone. I wore baggy clothes. I hid from the world. I strived for invisibility. Then, I discovered Louise L. Hay who taught me that there was so much more to me, to everyone, her words and affirmations lifted me up, built my confidence, made me believe that I could do anything, that I could be anyone, have success if I just changed my thinking.
But what if she was wrong? What if the whole “new age” movement is really just another way to make money, to sell products, to sell ideas, to make people feel like shit and so that they need something to pick themselves up? What if it’s all just bullshit? These expectations that we place on ourselves are nothing more than setting ourselves up to feel like we are missing something.
Expectations create a false reality. They are like a “glamour” that we use to feel good about ourselves when in reality, we feel like shit, but we feel like we have to appear like we are having an easy time. Because if we admit that we feel like crap, there must be something wrong with us, but there's not. We are who we are.
Throughout my life, I have struggled financially to feed myself, my family and I have thought that my teaching career was just a stepping stone to something more magnificent. But what if this is it? What if this is my lot in life to just exist from week to week while I raise my girls in a job that brings me happiness and satisfaction as much as it brings me frustration and annoyance?
Maybe I’m not destined for anything more than to be here, now, living this existence.
I’ve had some amazing moments in my life where I’ve believed all these amazing spiritual things, but what if they too are bullshit? Just like yoga has become to me. What if instead of bringing me joy, the spirituality movement has turned into a search for deeper meaning, for purpose and for seeking something which simply doesn’t exist? What if nirvana is just a load of spiritual B.S. designed to make us think that we are on this “journey” to enlightenment, yet in our seeking we forget that in-fact we are just ordinary beings living life; for the only purpose of living life?
I am so sick of spiritual teachers (myself included in previous posts) telling people to “find their purpose”. There is no such thing! It’s another hook that drags us in, making us feel like we are somehow inadequate and special for having not found that thing we have supposedly been birthed for?
What BULLSHIT! The ONLY purpose is being alive, is to be alive. There is nothing more. We do not need to seek specialness, we are no better or worse than others. Spiritual teachers are only people who have found a channel of truth that works for them at that moment in time. They are not the panacea for the answers. The answers that we seek are within us. Within our ordinary moments of life. Of seeing life for what it is.
Maybe I’m just ordinary. Maybe all I’m meant to be is a teacher. Maybe all I’m meant to be is a mother. Maybe I’m just ordinary and will never be anything more than a struggling single mum.
Well, that’s okay. Because all I need to know is that right here, right now, I can feel my breath in my lungs, I can hear the birds settling in for the night, I know that my children are all safe and well and I know that I live in a country that is free from war. And if that is ordinary; being grateful for the here and now, well, I’d choose ordinary over “special” in this moment and every moment to come.
©Alyssa Curtayne 2017
It’s a challenge for me to write this blog because it may step on people’s toes, it could be controversial and it could offend. But it’s my truth. Here. Today. Modern yoga is like a cult.
It’s weird, you know, not being involved in yoga anymore, not believing all that I used to believe and it’s like all that I was is being stripped away. All that I thought I was no longer exists. I am no longer someone who says “namaste”, who wears an Om necklace in a form of cultural appropriation or is devoted to a yoga practice. I do it when I feel like I need a good stretch. A friend who I was doing my yoga teacher training with said: “Everything has its own time. Only when you are ready, it works.” And implied that it wasn’t time for me to be a yoga teacher. I thought, this is not about me not being ready for a life of yoga, because I’ve been doing it for 20 years, this is about me realising the giant lie it has become and how we aren’t a match anymore.
Modern yoga to me is a bit like a cult or a religion; if you don’t fit in, if you don’t comply with the expected behaviours then you’re not a part of the cult. The word “Yoga” means union and there is NOTHING I can see that unites in separating or elevating yourself above someone because they won’t comply with the predominant culture. I was under a delusion. It is not authentic to take on someone else’s beliefs, or even a whole cultural group. It’s subtle and it’s in no way malicious, it is a culture built on egos, the right leggings and clothes, accessories, Instagram bendiness and acrobatic bodies. That’s not what my experience of yoga is about!
Historically, modern yoga has its roots in the arrival of the British in India in the early 1900s who merged the military fitness regime of the British with the gentler Hindu spiritual practices. It has become all about the asana, pranayama and escaping from modern life. It doesn’t resonate for me anymore and I am sad about that, because it has given me an enormous amount of joy over the years, however, it doesn’t align with my truth anymore. I will view it as a form of experiential exercise, but to get caught up in the culture within modern yoga was destructive for me and misses the whole point of a spiritual practice.
Our spirituality does not depend on whether we practice in ugg boots, woollen socks, braless, hair dishevelled, interrupted, naked or with your favourite music on. Our spirituality does not depend on us listening to traditional and modern Hindu chanting or whether we can stretch into our out of a certain position like the person next to us. Our spirituality does not need us to travel to India or Bali or any other exotic location to be able to access it. And we certainly don't need to be doing headstands or handstands to be spiritual.
We are spiritual. Right here. Right now. We keep seeking these experiences and tools, such as yoga, in order to find this place of peace or contentment when the reality is, when we stop the search, we can see it. We can see the truth of the world when we begin to question everything. The latest search for enlightenment, 5th dimension and higher realms is just another escapism from being here now. It is a distraction from the human experience and from the present moment.
Yes, yoga, when taught well, can be a tool to do this, it can teach us how to be in the present moment, but for now I am disillusioned by it. I don’t know if I’ll ever return to a yoga practice, and that’s sad. And what’s even more sad, it is that now very unlikely that I will complete my yoga teacher training because I just can’t agree with a culture that encourages ego and competition. It is an extension of the commodification of everything good and pure in the world.
The truth about yoga is that it doesn’t matter what colour you wear, music you listen to, or if you have shoes on or not, the timing of your breaths, intentions, how flexible or strong you are, it is time to look after your body and honour it as the temple that houses your soul. Yoga has all these expectations placed about it, when in reality it is just a form of exercise which asks us to be mindful. What you adorn your body with doesn’t make a skerrick of difference to your yoga practice and it certainly doesn’t make you a kind and compassionate person.
©Alyssa Curtayne, 2017