Staying on the mat?

Do you stay on your mat the whole way through your asana practice? I notice that I don’t do that! Whether at home or at class, I tend to move around. Is it lack of concentration? Not necessarily. It isn’t as though I go and do things other than asana, rather, I change position, look out the window and stretch in places other than on the mat. When the neighbour over the road reverses out of his driveway I scurry through to a space at the back of the house. The fumes that come out of his old car are thick and foul smelling.


This photo was taken at the Nornalup Community Hall when I used to live in Walpole and teach Yoga at the Community Hall. Moving around during practice could be a hangover from when I used to teach Yoga and would pace around the room so as to see what the students were doing. My current teacher, Kim White (Body Connections), also does this. Possibly, it gives a feeling of confidence to the people in the room – that there is someone to turn to if in doubt. This is particularly valuable in a large class.


This photo was taken at the Gedong Gandhi Ashram in Candidasa in Bali a couple of years ago. My good friend and colleague, Rakini (Michele Murphy), runs wonderful Retreats and cultural tours in Bali. I am looking forward to going again in March 2016. We will be there during Nyepi – Balinese New Year. We will be studying Pratyahara: The Forgotten Limb of Yoga. Bali Yoga Retreat

Staying on the mat?

It was a different world in those days

Thinking back to junior school (and possibly high school), when we were up to mischief we would pick a person to “keep cave” – that is, be the look-out. If danger, in the form of a teacher or matron was seen approaching, the look-out would call, “Chips!” and with a bit of luck we would make our get away before the authority arrived.

What dreadful mischief we were up to would probably be something like climbing trees, breaking bounds, attempting to use the secretary’s telephone to call home – along those lines. In today’s world these pranks seem insignificant but the repercussions in my day (1950s) could be awful.

This photo taken when I was about 7 years old was, I think, leaving home for my first day at boarding school. I think I cried for weeks before that day and for weeks after I arrived at school.


The winter uniform consisted of a blouse (not a shirt), a bodice that buttoned on to a thick woollen skirt, bloomers, blazer, hat, shoes and socks. Trying to button the bodice on to the skirt was a difficult task for small fingers. Summer uniform was a cotton dress with a sash. Sunday uniform was different again. All of these clothes were packed in a large trunk at home – following the ‘clothes-list’ very carefully. Only three ‘casual’ dresses were allowed. We unpacked our clothes at school and the trunks disappeared into the attic or box-room to reappear at the end of term to be repacked and taken home.

In the photo I can see a likeness to my youngest grand daughter! Same unruly hair and fairly defiant look behind the sadness.She is a much kinder and more gentle child than I was. I can remember my mum trying to do my hair. I would hide under the bed and she would have to poke me out with a broom – and then catch me as I ran away.

Running away was a feature of my childhood. I used to do so fairly regularly. I’m not sure why. I would go to my granny’s house; it was quite a long way through the farm. I’d tell her that my mum had sent me. Other times I’d hide in the huge granite boulders that surrounded the house and wait to see if anyone came to look for me. It was a different world in those days.

It was a different world in those days

The Memory Trope

To continue with the trope of memory, memories and remembering, I find this in David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet – a novel I’ve just finished reading and am rereading right away. The slave, Weh, is considering what he ‘owns’ – what he is allowed to own. He knows he is not allowed to own goods or money; indeed, “… a slave cannot even say, ‘These are my fingers,’ or ‘This is my skin.’ We do not own our bodies. We do not own our families”. He ponders the question of whether he owns his own name – not his slave-names – but his true name, the one he tells nobody, “so nobody can steal my name.” Weh muses: Do I own my memories? And comes to the conclusion that, like his true name, his memories are things he owns.


I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciated this book. It isn’t an easy read, far from it, but so worthwhile. If you do read it, The Bone Clocks is in the same series and also a brilliant book.

So, remembering boarding school, the awful, all-consuming homesickness. Many children at boarding school suffer terribly from homesickness and I was one of them.

It’s the terror you see, the terror of feeling home is going to forget me. Or me forget home.

It is the ‘not-belonging’, the ‘not understanding’. I recollect discovering that the younger boarders (like me) were only to use the washbasins on the left side of the bathroom. An unwritten rule that nobody bothers to tell you until you make the mistake of using one on the ‘big-girls’ side! So insignificant now, but so horrible then.

Then I discovered that if my table manners were bad enough I was made to take my meal to the Boarders Library and eat it there. Oh joy! I’m still not sorry I flicked jelly at the Head Mistress. That, or any of the other naughtiness I thought up to get out of the dining room and into the library!

The Memory Trope

Random Memories and Identity

Memories are not something with which you can argue. Family memories are so deeply personal and individual that siblings sometimes need to agree to disagree. Memories can bond family members together. When my sisters and I are chatting about old times it seems that we engage in a game, telling stories and remembering. Is this a way of bonding our relationship as sisters and friends?

I question where our character and our remembering come together to shape our lives, our identity. Is this part of our worldview? Is it a slow process that brings us to where we are in the present moment? Sometimes it may be that a crisis takes place and the repercussions are only felt many years later.

In my own experience, I remember a moment of crisis that made me question and reflect on my identity, my image of myself, as a white woman and a member of a minority ethnic group, in Rhodesia. This was in 1976 on a tourist bus in Greece—somewhere between Athens and Delphi. An Austrian man sitting next to me on the bus was highly skeptical that any white people who were not of British origin or close descent had settled in Rhodesia. I remember how hostile and defensive I felt that this stranger could, so arbitrarily, dismiss my background. This bewildering sense of being unseen, feeling unseen, is an experience Adrienne Rich expresses as psychic disequilibrium: “When someone … describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing”.

I have to say, this experience triggered my interest in identity and, many years later, informed my research for both Honours and PhD.

Random Memories and Identity