Welcome to a newly refreshed SFS blog.
With this change I wanted to write a little off-topic post for you because I feel inspired to do so. It is written in memory of one of my greatest teachers and the kindest and most humble man I have ever had the privilege of meeting. Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois, affectionately known as Guruji. He taught me Ashtanga yoga in Mysore, India. Yoga is not really about the postures. They are a vehicle for the yoga rather, they allow you to tap into the yoga. Yoga goes a lot deeper than that, it’s the “calm steadiness of the senses”. This means that you have the opportunity to question your life and your effect on the world too.
My work both in SEO and in Computer Science is also inspired by this and I hope that it shows on some level at least. I’m going to share with you the things that changed my life, all inspired and taught by my much loved teacher Guruji. These are little tips for a good and happy life.
I’m a yogini and a surfer. The yoga and surfing seem to coexist very well. They center me and ground me. I love the fact that both demand strength, balance, a steady mind, breathing deeply and love. Yes, love. Both yoga and surfing are hard and demand years of practise and dedication. Working at something that long and progressing slowly slowly demands great dedication and compassion for yourself. You take this out of the ocean and off the mat into everyday life and the world is suddenly a much much better place
Compassion? For yourself??
Yes indeed! It’s important to do the best you can and to not scold yourself all the time for the setbacks and the things that inevitably go wrong in life sometimes be it professionally and outside of that. Richard Holden said “If you’re not failing enough, you’re not trying hard enough”. This doesn’t mean that you should strive to fail, but rather that you push yourself all the time, always going forwards. You will get to a point where you reach your limits. Eventually, you’ll see that there is no such thing. You’ve just come to a place where you need to learn more. Voltaire said that you should cultivate your own garden. It’s true. Work on yourself, take some time every day to do something that inspires you and also to sit.
“It isn’t the things that are happening to us that cause us to suffer, it’s what we say to ourselves about the things that are happening.” (Pema Chodron)
Yes. Quietly. On your own. In silence. With your eyes shut. Try it for a few minutes to start with, many people find this exercise really hard. Can you sit like this for 5mins? Does your mind get busy? The trick is to observe your thoughts but not get involved. Eventually, with practise you can turn them off. Yes, really. You can just shut them off. See how you feel after a week of sitting for a few minutes a day like this.
It’s not about escaping, it’s about befriending yourself.
Never miss out on the opportunity to be kind. We’re all thoughtless sometimes but the more we work at this the more we become conscious of it, the more we have the impulse to be kind before me show frustration or something negative. This goes from saying thank you to smiling at someone (even a stranger) who looks like they need it to helping someone out with their work and much more. It makes you feel good, and it sends good vibes into the world.
Tell yourself that the people who are most difficult, nasty, rude, unkind…are the ones that need the most love and kindness. I forget too sometimes but the more you practise the more you remember.
“Undisturbed calmness of mind is attained by cultivating friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and indifference toward the wicked”. (The yoga sutras of Patanjali)
Change the world.
“I can’t change the world” I hear people say. It’s true that changing the world at large is going to be a pretty tough job, but you can change the world around you. Think about all the things you would change in the world if you could and then do them in your own little world. Change the world every day!
Give something back to the world. Blog, volunteer, run for charity, help someone out, teach…give in your own special way. We always associate giving with money but let’s try and get beyond that. I qualified in Bangkok to give Thai massage and it’s a wonderful thing to give someone. I have never accepted any money for it. When I massaged in Norwich the most touching thing happened. People would bring something to give me. I recieved tea, homemade cookies, a climbing lesson, some pineapple sweets, a meal…simple things given with heart. Give and you’ll get back so much more.
Never miss out on the opportunity to be inspired. Whether it’s going to an art gallery, to the theatre, to see a sporting event, basically anything that makes you go “wow”. Be inspired as much as possible. Sometimes it’s just reading something nice or a cool conversation with someone or even the fact that it’s sunny today. The more inspired you are in life the more inspired you are in your work.
Do the stuff you want to do.
Have you always wanted to skateboard? Buy one. Do it. Don’t wait and make excuses about things. There’s always a reason not to do something but if there is just 1 reason to do it, do it. Parachute jumping, ballet, painting, even SEO – I often hear “Oh but it’s expensive…” I say sell your TV then. You don’t need it.
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” (Goethe)
Do things that scare you.
There’s a saying that goes something like “Do something that scares you every day”. It’s the things that scare you that make you grow. I get scared in the waves sometimes when they’re big and powerful. I’m scared of doing handstands. Public speaking I enjoy once I’m doing it but before I feel scared like 99.9% of other people. I ride a skateboard to get around where I live and at first I was scared of doing that too. “What if I fall off in front of everyone in the street” – well actually the worst that can happen is that you give the people something to giggle at and you carry on upon your merry way. I love cruising around on my Vault longboard, I’m so glad I went out and did it anyway. I’m working on this too but there is no such thing as fear. We create it. It’s not there to start with. By being scared we end up being convinced of that.
“Our deepest fears are like dragons guarding our deepest treasure”. (Rainier Maria Rilke)
Most of us don’t sleep enough. Get your z’s in regularly, get to bed early. Let your body and mind rejuvenate and recover form the day.
Really breathe. Are you conscious of your breath? Most people breathe shallow with the belly. Breathe into your ribs letting them expand fully keeping the belly lightly drawn in, and then draw the belly back towards the spine and breath out. Can you keep this up? You should.
“When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore, one should learn to control the breath”. (Hatha Yoga Pradipika)
Look after yourself.
Drop the coffee. Drink something else instead, there are a lot of nice teas around! Take long showers or baths. Have a massage. Eat fruit and veg every day. Drink lots of water. Get some exercise every day. Make all of these things a habit. Do what you know you should be doing. You don’t need anyone to tell you.
“The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.” (B.K.S Iyengar)
Learn from people.
I’ve had yoga teachers and thai massage teachers, computer science teachers, linguistics teachers, German teachers, french teachers…so many teachers. I learnt something from each of them and from others many many things. However expert you are in your profession, in your field, however famous or valued, always listen to people and learn from them. Everyone has something to teach you, even the junior you just hired, your babysitter, the grocer or the Nobel prize winner you just met. I once heard that someone with no humility was like a painting without shadows.
Don’t forget people. When you think of someone you haven’t been in touch with for a while, drop them a line or call them immediately, don’t wait.
He was in his early 90′s, strong and serene whe he taught me. I have never known anyone to have such a wonderful smile. At the Shala (yoga school) at 6am, he would march up to me and tut prodding me and pushing me into the correct position. He made sure I worked hard by shouting “You! UP!!” and pointing at me in a room of maybe 50+ students. We had a long conversation one day about Supta Kurmasana (my nemesis). All he said was “You breathe. Always the breathing, always the breathing. It heats the body and it heats the joints”. So. Never forget to breathe. He had a tough life with little money and a stern teacher in his early years, and when he came into wealth, he continued to teach, didn’t really change as far as I can tell. I thanked him, but I could never express enough gratitude to him. He made sure I knew how rich life was and he asked me to come back. I’ll go back.
“Yoga is possible for anybody who really wants it. Yoga is universal…. But don’t approach yoga with a business mind looking for worldly gain.” (Guruji)
“Do your practice and all is coming” (Guruji)
This is true of everything including SEO, science, running, biking…whatever you do. I’m so grateful for the people I met, those around me, what I have learnt and the joy I have to work in the field that I do. You know, there’s always room for improvement. I’ll carry on trying to be the best person I can, because afterall that’s the most important thing of all. Not being the best computer scientist or SEO, that’s a lot more straight forward.
Mind you my favourite quote is “When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky” (Buddha)
Well…that’ll do for the touchy feely post. Back to papers and rants now