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Expansion and Contraction

“There are only two movements of energy,” my yoga teacher noted as we arranged ourselves in Shavasana – the corpse pose – ready for relaxation, “expansion and contraction.”

I adjusted my legs, relaxed my neck, and closed my eyes. I observed my lungs: expand, and then contract.

For the next five minutes or so I meditated on this idea. Expansion and Contraction.

It is true that our bodies are constantly expanding and contracting – whether we are breathing, drinking, or eating.

In time we follow the pattern too: growing from tiny babies through our tweenies to big tall adults, followed my shrinking toward other side.

In economics its the booms and busts. The tide, the seasons, the planets – all seem to conform.

The universe is expanding now but maybe in another few billion years it will contract, preparing to start the cycle again.

I thought more about expansion and contraction driving home.

Do our lives follow the same pattern? When I look at my life I see it: when one area expands, another does seems to contract.

Social life expands, study contracts. Work life expands, social life contracts.

Sometimes we spend lots of money, and sometimes we save it.

Sometimes we put on weight, then we lose it. We have good hair days, and bad ones.

Sometimes we’re all go-go-go, but lack of sleep seems to find a way to catch itself up.

Our mind expands as we fill it with ideas, but then we need time process them.

Too much of anything and we burst. Not enough, we become black holes. So I suppose we should enjoy the pattern of the universe – its not like we have much choice!

Expanding to the Eye, looking back at its origins, the place where it will one day return?

A symbolic representation of John Wheeler’s “Participatory Universe”.

“Just Relax” “Forget” “Breathe”

Do you ever tell yourself to “just relax” and then continue to do the very opposite? Or tell yourself to “forget it”. Or “frick’n focus!” And then find it impossible? Well that what happened to me today. Then it reversed itself in a way I didn’t expect.

It started with a 75-minute hot yoga class at Y Yoga, my health retreat since arriving in Vancouver. Today was different: a hundred and one thoughts frolicked through my mind — which means today I was not doing yoga. I was stretching, and sweating, but my mind wasn’t connected to my practice which, by definition, isn’t yoga.

Before class I’d been Skyping with my bestie in Sydney, talking through different share-house options for when I return. Taking the tone of a confused dream, thoughts on locations, bedroom/bathroom trade-offs, potential housemates, rental rates, hours I’d have to work for respective wages in different jobs, comparisons to cheap-living Central America; thoughts on research, jobs, boys, publishers…

Thoughts, thoughts and more thoughts.

“Think about your breath,” I told myself.

I did—for one breath.

Then the thoughts returned. I gave up. What was supposed to be a “T” shape created by balancing on one foot with both arms in front and the other leg up behind, looked like a wobbly “M”.

As I strolled home, weaving between glass skyscrapers, skipping through puddles, ducking under umbrellas, and gazing out at the boats, water and mountains, I realised something: It doesn’t matter.

None of the scenarios I entertain in my head are bad. Whether we find an apartment with 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom, or a house of 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, it’ll be fine. Whether I’m in Glebe or back in Paddington, or Bondi, or in Central America, or somewhere else for a while and then somewhere else again, everything will turn out right. The research, the jobs, boys, publishers… It’s easy to stress about things one has to or wants to do, find, buy, sell… there’s always more boxes to tick. But none of it matters right now.

I am not saying it’s not important. It is. Everything is important. But pondering the different scenarios is not. Life seems to unveil itself in its own time. Answers become clear in their own moments. I don’t need to be thinking about all these things in this moment. There are far more rich ways to be spending this moment. Like by actually doing yoga. Or by paying attention to the beautiful city I’m in.

That thought was followed by a small epiphany: What’s the rush?

I’ve spent the last five years living like I’m running a race. Every moment of every day has been put to use. There’s been a sense of urgency penetrating it. My motto has been “life is short, don’t waste it.”

Not “wasting life” for me meant seeking answers to some questions that were burning inside, and learning to communicate the answers I uncovered for myself. I started unable to put my questions into words. I followed a long line of intuitions, and in a way at the end of 2011 with a book finished and an article that came from my masters thesis published, that particular fire was under control. I have new questions, but they are less urgent. I have to finish putting out those little bits left of the old fires, but it’s much easier now. I feel a new energy. A new beginning. A new motto.

True, I don’t want to “waste my short life”, but there’s no point rushing through it either! Now I need, more than ever, to take a big breath in and slowly let it out. What’s the rush?

Alan Watts talks about how we tend to “run from the maternity ward to the crematorium”. Watts tells a bigger story that we’re a part of, that allows us to relax about our individual lives. There’s no rush.

And so, a new New Years Resolution: Do less, but do it better. Give each moment its deserved attention. Don’t stress over decisions — let the right answer reveal itself. Breathe in faith, breathe out fear.

I’m not in a hurry for ANYTHING. I keep changing my mind, so why worry about any of it. I don’t need to know what the future holds. I really don’t. All I need to know is the present. That’s when I realised something: I had relaxed 🙂

Happy new year!

Feel the fear, and do it anyway

The first time I sat on my scoot I trembled with fear. I drove it around the block, parked it, and waited half an hour for the adrenilin to calm and my heart rate to slow.

The second time I did some drills with a friend. My thumb hurt too much the next day to even look at it.

Third time lucky, well sort of. I tried to ride to Bondi, but too scared to change lanes ended up in Double Bay.

The fourth time, still feeling the fear, I rode first to the petrol station (even filling up some strange hole under the seat felt scary) and I continued on, through multiple lane changes, all the way to university.

The fifth time the fear faded. My senses hightened to face the life-threating forces from in front, both sides, behind and below.

I rode, and I enjoyed.

There is real thrill in facing a fear, so when I read “feel the fear, and do it anyway”, a Susan Jeffers quote in a Community Mediation manual I was editing at work, I just had to blog about it.

You know, every day we find ourselves surround by things we fear – physical fears, psycholgical fears, relationship fears, financial fears, fear of failure, fear of what other’s think, fear of uncertainty, fear fear fear.

Often we let fear guide our decisions. It is easy to let fear rule over our lives.

I almost didn’t get a scooter simply because of my fear of getting hurt. My fear of ripping apart my skin, breaking my neck, or dying, the latter which would be my preference of the three…

So I held off for months.

Every scooter that passed me tormented me.

I wanted to be on a bike, and that was that.

So I asked myself, “If I was to walk onto the road and get hit by a bus tomorrow, would I regret not having a scooter today?” YES.

“How about if you get your scooter and have an accident and become a paraplegic, won’t you regret that even more?” Well… maybe.

So which might I regret more?

A fear of getting hurt still remains. I will probably feel it every time I hop on the bike. But the fun that I am having on the bike, makes it worth it.

Life is short – I want to live it to the full. I would rather live a shorter life, living each and every day to it’s max, then live a long life dominated by fear.

The thing to remember is that what we fear most are usually the things we least need to worry about.

“The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.”

Baz Luhrmann Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen).

You never know what tomorrow holds – stockmarkets and currencies and even civilizations eventually fall. I could die driving in my car or walking on the street or even laying in my sleep. If we live in fear, we are not truly living.


All of us will one day be old, and will one day die.

“Do one thing everyday that scares you.”

Life’s too short to let fear play a dominant role in it: feel that fear, and do it anyway, and (unlike me in this pic) don’t look back.


Since I’m still at work filling in time waiting to go to dinner friends I grabbed this pic from my facebook. Sometimes it’s annoying that this is a photo blog. Anyway it’s from an old editorial for the German magazine Shape that I shot in Sydney a few years ago. Don’t worry, I won’t be scooting around town in heels 🙂

New Year, New Food Pyramid: eating for health, longeivity and a better future

Before I begin my rant about food, I would like to say a big HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all! I hope it has kicked off to a better start than mine (7am New Years Day I was at the hospital having barnacles taken out of my feet) and that you had a great night celebrating (my night of swimming in the harbour and watching the fireworks was worth this pain the next day).

I thought this post better wait till after Christmas and New Years celebrations. Now is the time that, if you indulged in the delicious foods (as I did), you are probably sitting there (like me) considering how you are going to put some of those “get fit and healthy” new years resolutions into place.

I’m not one for diets. They are good in theory – lose weight fast – but in practice they mess up your metabolism and cause more long term damage than the short term gain.

I am also not one for rules. Tell me to do something, and I will probably do the opposite.

I like to have reasons to motivate my daily decisions.

The anti-aging pyramid above captures my general food habits (minus the vitamins/supplements – this pyramid must have been put out by a vitamin company lol).

But seeing this pyramid wouldn’t motivate me to follow it. The fact that free-range eggs are relatively  cheap, keep in the fridge for a long time, and very quick and easy to cook up, with a few vegetables, rice, and either some tofu or fish, it works for me, my taste buds, and my lifestyle.

I think it’s important to find a pyramid that suits you, your lifestyle and taste buds. If you can evolve it to be one that it also good for your mind, body, and has a more positive impact on the global system, then all the better for everyone.

When animals wake up they walk to the waterhole and fill up with water for the day. This image motivates me to do the same. Before breakfast go for a brief walk, even if it’s just around the block, then drink half your water intake for the day. I find this a very uplifting way to start the day.

Another motivating factor for food choices comes from thinking about what exactly it is I am putting into my mouth…

What is a cheeseburger? The traces of actual “food” in this processed pound of sugar is so little that it hardly draws an insect or microbe near it. Get it away from my digestive system!

What are jelly lollies? Pigs hoof. I recently learned this. Gelatin is pigs hoof. Ewww! No more lollies or jelly for me 🙁

What is chocolate made using unethical beans? The blood of chocolate slaves.

Having recently seen Food Inc I’m now choosing Lamb over Beef, free-range chickens only, and, well, I never liked pork anyway. If you haven’t seen it yet, then check it out on YouTube. This is the first part:


The documentary points out the disconnect between government regulation of the agriculture and health industries.

A few multinational corporations control most of our food production lines. In the CEO’s defined mission to maximise profit for shareholders, they are neglecting many elements of the system including the quality of what we eat.

I enjoy a juicy tender steak. I realise it sucks that we kill an animal to enjoy it, but such is the chain of life.

However, I cannot bring myself to eat a cow who has been fed so much corn (something they aren’t meant to eat), concrete (something they are definitely not supposed to eat), and growth hormones (to make them grow five times as fast) which put them in a state that they can’t even walk for their short miserable lives.

Now ever time I look at beef I think of images from Food Inc – of cows on a massive machine like fish in a net – their faces looking up as the moo toward their impending death. It’s so sad. If a cow lives its life on a farm eating grass and walking around the field in the sun, then in its final moment faces a quick slaughter – that’s one thing. I can handle it. But imposing a living hell on the animal – that’s too horrible for me to be a part of. At the very least I have to try to avoid being a part of it as much as I can.

Does anyone else see the irony in the new “shock factor” government campaigns against obesity:


I think it’s good to address obesity, but shouldn’t this be done from both ends of the spectrum?

As obesity numbers continue to rise, our food production system is on steroids, causing harm to more than just our bodies. From agriculture to animals, to government regulations, over-fishing and obesity… we are part of a food chain in which our consumption decisions directly impact on our quality of life, and the quality of the lives of many others in our ecosystem.

Questions to ponder:

  • What is the relationship between our food pyramid and our economic/societal capitalist pyramid?
  • Do our system’s rules that define CEO’s missions to gain “profit for shareholders” deprive us and even the shareholders themselves of good quality food?
  • What is the supply and food chain behind our supermarket purchases? How do our established systems impact on our lives and the lives of future generations?

What we eat directly affects more than just our body shape, our mental and physical health, and the speed at which we age…

Eating ethically helps you eat healthier and live longer. Everything is connected.

Choosing for nutritional value means avoiding foods produced by corporations who cheapen the quality of your food in order to make profit for shareholders.

Choose locally helps local farmers, and saves your planet from the pollution of transport mechanisms, and moves the power from the multinationals back into the hands of the people.

It’s not easy – I used to go to a farmers market but since I moved to the city I haven’t. It will take effort for me to source locally produced goods, but it will be worth it. And it won’t be easy to do it all the time. Step by step, I’ll try to make better choices. That’s where it starts.

The food we eat affects lives of many other people whose income is dependent on it, the lives of many animals who are produced for it, and the entire ecosystem which we are a part of. These are pretty good sources of motivation to help me make better choices and, as a by product, rid this year’s Christmas bulge.


Some helpful tips from the Australian government

“Swap it don’t stop it”  – big for small, often to sometimes, sitting for moving, watching for playing…


I got this picture from here – this website explains the anti-aging pyramid in detail.


Humanity: are we an empathic civilisation???

Something many of us probably do not know is that connected to our drive to survive, is an empathic disposition driving the evolution of “civilisation”. Humans have a long history of empathy that unfortunately our history books tend to forget about. The book The Empathic Civilisation – The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis, by Jeremy Rifkin, tells another story.

As a commenter on Peace: How Do We Find It? said, “so now all we need to change, is the minds of the entire human population.” That sounds darn right impossible, doesn’t it. It doesn’t sound very promising, nor ethical, BUT if humans are empathic at their core then maybe we don’t have to change people minds – maybe we just have to REMEMBER a part of ourselves we often forget.

Rifkin writes about the change in people’s minds that led to the spread of Christianity around 1500 years ago.

“Cast adrift from their tribal bonds and thrown together with people of different cultures form around the empire, large numbers of individuals suddenly found themselves alone in dense urban environments and without a sense of identity… what was missing was a powerful new narrative that could put every single individual at the center of a compelling cosmic story of creation, tribulation, judgement, and redemption, and, by doing so, recast the very meaning of human existence… it would be a young sect calling itself Christians that would take Rome and the empire by storm with their story.” [1]

This video is not a replacement but it is a brilliant summary of the book:


Oh and this interview with the Rifkin is pretty cool too:


It seems to me that while conflict and competition play important (and positive) roles in life processes, if we have an empathic disposition then conflicts don’t need to have violent and destructive consequences.

Could small shift in the way we frame our story? Could books and clips such as this one contain the butterfly effect strong enough to realise our empathy and better the world for each other and future generations?

Or will it be a new cosmic narrative that addresses our own distorted sense of identity?

Rifkin describes three Industrial Revolutions, each based on a developments in energy/communications technologies:

1. coal/print

2. oil/radio-television

3. (maybe) the Internet/alternative energy

In order to avoid “planetary collapse” in the face of “a rapidly accelerating juggernaut” of climate change and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, (or, if you’re a climate change skeptic, then just exchange those two words for human population which is undeniably ridiculous and out of control) a revolution is necessary.

If this third revolution happens, Ruskin writes that it ‘will be marked by a “distributed” model of energy production (and use) that will rely on the new assumption that human nature is not inherently selfish, but rather that people ‘want to collaborate with others, often freely, for the sheer joy of contributing to the common good.‘[2]

How’s your empathic disposition as we come up to Christmas?

Do you think such a revolution is possible?

I do, but that might be summer and the fact that I just got my first scooter, bringing back my pre-India incurable optimism…


[1] The Empathic Civilization – The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis, by Jeremy Rifkin.

[2] As summed in a review in ONE COUNTRY, Bahai Internationa Community New York, Ed. Brad Pokorny.

Ikigai – a reason to wake up in the morning

Why do you get up in the morning? Does an answer come into your mind straight away? It does for the people in Okinawa, and it thought to be one of the key factors in their longevity – estimated to lengthen the lives of the people by 7 years!  Ikigai is kind of like the French raison d’etre – ‘a reason for being’. It could be a creative passion, your relationships, your job…  Everyone has a ikigai, even if you don’t know it yet.

In Okinawa they do that thing they love until they die. Why do we focus so much on retirement? If we were doing jobs that we enjoyed, if we were living our life for a purpose other than money, one would think that we would never want to finish. According to the TED Talks that inspired this entry, the most dangerous years of your life are the year you are born (because of infant mortality) and the year you retire. People die after all those years of working something they hate, because after all that they don’t know what they love! That’s how important a sense of purpose is…

Does anyone else think it’s strange that there is no simple English word for ikigai? Do you think this is intentional… assisting the transition from people into “human capital”/money-making machines?

Another couple of good tips for a long life as enjoyed by the people of Okinawa included:

hara hachi bu – eating until your stomach is 80% full

– eating lots of plant products

– your choice in friends (friends who lead healthier lifestyles will see you lead a healthier lifestyle)

– NO exercise – well at least no gyms (walking and activities for enjoyment are much better than segmenting and separating the different needs of our body)

I recommend checking out the full TED Talks with Dan Buettner “How to live to be 100+” – he also goes to Sardinia and this article too

Personal side note – I’ve come down with a head cold so if this things I write don’t flow very well that is why. Maybe expect a couple more short entries like this while I can’t think straight enough to finish up that October Peace & Conflict Studies blog series, or to start the philosophy series I promised. I’m good at starting things and not finishing them (I think I started a “Big History” series quite a while back too). Anyway, I guess mixing it up keeps things interesting.

Hearing about Okinawa got me reminiscing so I thought I’d post a few photos of foods from Japan. Seeing as some of the other photos had me falling off my chair I might have to put them up soon too. Unfortunately I wasn’t into photography back then – so they are just point & shoot or keitei (mobile phone) shots. Man this feels like a life time ago…

And now, I relax

6am “knock knock” my revolting tasting medicine (of who knows what) arrives at my door… 630 yoga; 730 walk and feed monkeys; 830 breakfast (fruit and random-looking-but-delicious Indian vegetarian goop); 10am reflexology; 1030 continue reading “Holy Cow! An Indian Adventure” (awesome book btw); 1230pm massage (naked – completely naked); 130 vegetarian lunch and more gross medicine; 230 massage (thumped with hot pounds of herbs); 3pm intermediate yoga (soooo hard); 4pm ginger tea; 5pm medicine then walk (and twist my ankle… f***); 530 ice ankle and read; 7pm vegetarian dinner; 830 my allocated turn on internet; and very soon (around 9pm) take bedtime tablets (what the HECK are they giving me?) and go to bed. This AYURVEDA retreat high up in the Indian mountains in Coonoor is HARD CORE!!!

After ten days of it I am feeling GREAT!!!

I’ve been exfoliated, oiled, pounded, massaged, steamed and scrubbed – each simultaneously carried out by two sets of from hands, from head to toe. I’ve stretched, balanced and put my body into postures I never thought possible. I’ve swallowed tablets and liquids bitter, sweet and ambiguous. I’ve managed to do without chocolate (besides a Sunday-is-our-day-off binge) and coffee and alcohol, and even gone without meat (by no choice of my own). I’ve had points on my fingers pressed while I clench my teeth in pain. My ankle (still swollen from February and no thanks to my little slip on my first day here) has never has so much attention with it’s own oil press treatments, herbal mud-masks and Reiki.

I leave feeling smoother, skinnier, healthier, and stetchier, than I have in a long time.

Here is a quick glimpse of my time here: my new friends (monkeys and more monkeys), my treatments (I’m not actually about to have my head chopped off), and the lovely mountains and people of Coonoor. Click on a photo to see bigger, and then click through slide show…



I am as ready as I’ll ever be to hit the busy city of Delhi, and (try to) enjoy a three day manic tour around the golden triangle: Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Wish me luck.

India’s default detox

Next Thursday I am going to India and I have a feeling I will be making up for the failure of my February detox.

My sister tells me coffee in India sucks, so that’s a start. I wonder if they have chocolate? … Suppose I’ll need a little mayhem after presenting my paper at a Peace and Education conference in Mumbai, but I’ll for sure make up for that at a 7-days Ayurvedayoga retreat. Following yoga, hot baths, massages and healthy foods, I’ll be doing it rough and tough with 10-days on trains and little towns in Rajasthan, and my trip ends with 2-weeks of trekking in Nepal…

Well that’s the plan – how much I stick to it I don’t know, I’ve never been so organised before boarding the plane. It feels strange. The last week felt like painful wild goose chase, but now that I have the flights booked, accommodation (at least for the first few nights) confirmed, and rough schedule planned, I’m starting to relax. I just can’t wait to be on the plane…

Whatever happens I’m sure it will be five weeks of mind-expanding, spiritually enlightening, and physically challenging stuff, however the universe throws it to me.

If I manage to get a 3G sim card my plan is to TWEET my adventures – it’s about time I get into the whole twitter thing…

And so long as internet cafes are scattered here and there I’ll share the journey on this blog too – with photos and stories.

Either way stay tuned, follow me on twitter if you use it, and if there isn’t much on here for a month then keep your fingers crossed that I am still alive.


This photo doesn’t make much sense considering it is of tai chi, and in Sydney, but seeing that my blog doesn’t work without pictures, I had to choose something… this was from a Sydney newspaper a couple of years ago when I was learning tai chi. Tai chi makes you feel very centered but is one of those things that slips away from life unnoticed. I would like to learn more but I guess my trip would best be to China if I were to do that… next time.

“There’s no such thing as balance.”

The fourteenth day = detox half-way mark…….

It’s after midnight. I’m a little tipsy. What happened to my detox?

As I’ve mentioned in my last post, I “fell off the horse” by no fault of my own – the 3rd ankle sprain in three weeks justified a decafe coffee, a small cheat which turned to complete failure when they brought me a real one. Since this day it has become easy to fall off the horse – again, and again.

Oh well.

A new goal for February… To find BALANCE. Balanced habits that last. The occasional drink without getting drunk. The occasional espresso without getting addicted. A piece of chocolate without demolishing the block. These new goals combined with my “stand on one foot with eyes closed” ankle exercises, led me to think that peace comes from balance – balance within ourselves, and within our environment. So when my friend said to me that “balance doesn’t exist”, some interesting conversations and deep contemplations were the result.

“Not anywhere in the universe. Or in nature. It’s through adversity and hardship that everything becomes stronger. You will find balance – only when you are dead…”

I suppose in some ways he is right. The evolution of plants and animals and us comes down to survival of the fittest. Being the fittest means pushing oneself to the limits, adapting to adversities – moments that are not exactly examples of balance.

Balance. Harmony. Peace.

Find it first within yourself, then you fill find it in the world.

Heaven, enlightenment, rejoining the oneness, becoming one with “God”.

… Reality or fantasy? Neither or both?

“What about the sun and the moon and the tides?” I ask. “The balance exists. In nature.”

I disagree with my friend. I think balance is more than possible. In the big scheme of things balance is inevitable.

We all know that what goes up must come down. BUT… What goes up is not balanced out until it comes down. Neither the moment of ascension nor the moment of descension are moments of balance. Balance isn’t found in the moment. It’s found when viewed as a whole.

When the universe is out of balance life finds a new balance, or it finds itself extinct. My friend is right in saying that it is the hard times and moments of disharmony that make us (or plants or animals) grow stronger, but in the end this will bring us to a new equilibrium. A new harmony.

In the end balance will prevail – to the loss or advantage of humankind. The universal expansion will eventually lead to a universal compression. Creativity is eventually met with destruction. If we destroy our planet it will eventually destroy us. Obviously this isn’t very encouraging. But it is reality. The forces of “good” versus the forces of “evil” represent the duality of everything we know. No moment is balanced until viewed within it’s whole.

And so, at 130am on a Saturday night, as I plan to work on the last chapter of my book until my eyes can no longer stay open, or until my first full draft is complete – I have decided that while balance is good, creativity is better. The maximisation of the creative potential of this moment is temporal. Once potential is achieved, new potentials are created. But even if just for the moment, it’s worth it. The balance will arrive eventually so you have to enjoy the process.

Maybe it was the few drinks I had before writing this but it seems like this rant is has gone full-circle. What does this mean for my detox? And my new goals of balanced diet and lifestyle?

Balance is like truth – you might never reach it but it’s still a worthwhile pursuit.

To balance out my December and January habits I think it’s a good idea to avoid alcohol and coffee and chocolate at least for a little bit longer. And I do hope some lasting balanced habits result. But, as I write my book’s last chapter about Rio’s Carnaval, should I desire a cachaca and pineapple – in the name of creativity I will have one. BALANCE. Hmmm…

So in sum, I’ve failed on three of the first fourteen days of February. See if I do better in the fourteen to come…