With Intent – Episode 2
Alys Pardoe

Alys Pardoe is a seeker, yogi, teacher, philosopher and so much more. I was intrigued to interview Alys after entering into a deep conversation about the human body, mind and spirit connection, after one of Alys’ classes here in Margaret River. Since the age of 11, Alys has been asking life’s big questions, and as a result, has researched and acquired an abundance of knowledge, fine-tuned her own intuition and knowing and used yoga as a tool to understand the human condition and connection to consciousness.

I’m very grateful for Alys’ time and openness to being interviewed and have transcribed our podcast into the following blog.

So, Alys, yoga is your passion and profession, can you tell us a little bit about your yoga journey?

Well I suppose the first time I ever did yoga was when I was very young, my grandma taught me some yoga postures, that’s the first time I ever heard the word yoga or knew that it was something you did. I kind of dabbled with yoga a little bit in my late teens, very early 20s but it wasn’t really until I went to an Ashtanga class that I became hooked. I actually signed up for an entire week’s Ashtanga workshop and I didn’t even know what Ashtanga was and that’s when I really connected to yoga. It was something I thought I wanted to do, it sounded like something that was kind of what I was seeking, a practice that was spiritual and something I could do but it wasn’t until I did Ashtanga that I was like, “This is it, this is right.”

It was so different to any other yoga I’d done and it was just a beautiful balance of breathing, moving and I could see around the room, I didn’t know what I was doing, but there were practitioners around the room that were really advanced and their focus and concentration, they were … it was a self practice, so everyone was these practices and some of them were very advanced. They were going inward, even though they were doing a physical practice, you could see they were concentrating and in this moment, in this zone kind of place and I just thought, “Yes, this is what I’m looking for.” And I’ve been hooked ever since.

Why yoga as a tool and do you think it’s for everyone?

Well for me, like I say, from a really young age I just felt I was seeking the meaning of life, I think. If you’d asked me when I was 12, 13 years old, “What are you interested in?” It was all the things to answer some burning questions, I didn’t even know what the questions were, let alone the answers and so I think I was looking for something that would fulfil a feeling. It was more a feeling even than knowing what I was seeking. I don’t think yoga has to be for everyone. It wouldn’t necessarily have been yoga, it was just that yoga was the first thing I found that really did achieve that sense of connecting and I think that any practice, when I look at other people who have dedicated themselves to something that they do, whether it’s an art, a craft, writing, singing, sports, whatever it is, something they’ve dedicated themselves to, you can either do it on an entry level or you can take it to another level where it becomes something that connects you to a deeper level of yourself, spiritually.

It doesn’t even have to be that it is obviously spiritual, it’s just getting that connection to who you really are, I think, that is the practice. It seems to be that it has to be something you do really regularly, to just daily come back to this sense of who you really are, beyond all the chaos of your life, so I think yoga worked for me in that way but yeah, it doesn’t have to be yoga. It could be any modality that fulfils that connection.

Photo credit: Paris Hawken Photography

So when you say connection and getting back to who you really are, who is that person? Who is that?

That is the one, big main question we should all ask in our lives every day, who are we really? Beyond our jobs, our roles, whether we’re parents, whether we’re old, young, whatever we do, how ever much money we have, I think the main thing is reminding ourselves that we’re not actually any of those external things at all, those things own us and almost constrict us, rather than us actually being who we really are inside. I think that doesn’t change. Ask anybody, they’ll say, “I feel the same as I was when I was 10 years old, I’m the same person. Nothing about me is the same, but I am inside, I’m the same person.” So who is that? If that person hasn’t changed, who is that?

That’s so interesting and when you spend time, whether it’s doing physical practice, or even a spiritual practice, or meditating, I think you have that time to reflect and you just feel that feeling inside. It’s not even something you can intellectualise, it’s just something that we can feel inside us that when we spend time connecting to that, we know that sensation of who we really are, even if we can’t put it into words, even if it doesn’t give us answers of the meaning of life, it doesn’t matter actually, it’s just going back there, going back there, reminding ourself and spending time with that inner person.

Can you just try and describe that, for you, what that feels like?

For me, it’s that constant, it’s that feeling that when I was a small child playing for hours in my garden, making mud pies and building dens, where you’re just lost in that world of wonder and imagination and all of those things that we look back with fond memories of being a kid, where we’re just lost in a world and then times when you have that same feeling, maybe on holiday, maybe you’re in conversation with people that you’re really connected to, maybe you’re feeling something you’re really fulfilled by, those moments when you’re in the moment, and your mind has stepped out of the way a little and just allowed you to be rather than racing to the future and worrying about the past, feeling guilty about things. All of those things that land on top of who you really are and constrict us and blind us to everything, it’s those moments when … Yeah.

Why is the modern world so … I guess why is it so hard and why are we so addicted to the doing and the external? And I’ll speak from my own personal experience until I started yoga actually, I was very shut off from my feelings. Why is that happening and why does it happen that we shut off from our true self?

I think because we have such incredible brains that we are just completely absorbed by them and our brains, our minds, are completely take over because we can invent things and build a world in which we are achieving incredible external things, and even if it’s just an ordinary life, we can still be looking for the next thing we need to buy, the next thing that’s going to make us happy, or the next country we have to travel to, it’s all become very external and because we can think about it, we can intellectualise everything. Even spiritual practices can become completely intellectualised and lose true feeling.

I think that because we’ve got so caught up in our minds, we forget to even think about who we really are behind that, who’s a witness to the mind? Who’s the observer to all your thoughts and the fact that there is an observer to your thoughts shows that we’re not just those thoughts, we’re something else. So if we can get away from being caught up in our thinking and spend a little bit more time feeling and connecting inside, then we approach everything completely differently because we’re not just following. The mind is never going to stop, it’s never going to stop telling us that there’s new things that we have to achieve, or analysing the things we’ve done and then worrying about them and feeling guilty about them, the mind is never going to give up but all we can do is find a way, a practice, something that can give us a little bit of respite where we connect back into that more quiet part of us.

So then what role does the ego play? So if the mind is busy …

Well the mind is the ego, it can be called the ego mind. There’s a lot of words to describe this play between the spirit, the soul, our higher self, our higher conscious, who we really are and the mind, the ego, the controller, the chitter chatter voice inside the head, so there’s lots of ways, and it’s good that there’s lots of ways to describe it because as humans, we love to pigeonhole things and the less that we can completely pigeonhole something, the more space it leaves for us to have to ponder about it, and the more we ponder about things, the more we figure it out for ourself, rather than being told.

We love to think, “I know my opinions on this, that and the other, so I don’t have to think about them anymore, I don’t have to be open-minded because I already know what my position is on certain subjects.” But actually, the less we do that and the more that we take everything in and see it and wonder about it, then the more open-minded, the more flexible our minds can become, the more possibility there is to then just becoming aware of the mind, that it’s a really useful tool, it’s a fantastic computer that keeps us functioning, but it’s not who we really are and the more we can observe that and separate them it means that we can feel that peace and feel that being in the moment and find more contentment in our daily lives.

It’s almost like we have to work harder to find that space and to allow that inner peace?

Yeah, well it just shows us that there will never … If we follow how the mind wants us to live our lives, there will never be a point when we get there. We keep being sold this idea that if you keep doing this and work harder and faster and get more and do more, and achieve your dreams, or whatever those are, then you will get there, which means happiness. But actually, without all of those things, without any of the chasing, without any of the stuff, that’s where there is. It’s right at the beginning. You had it when you were a child, you had it through your life at certain moments.

It’s the stuff that you’re chasing that you think is going to make you happy is actually what’s standing in your way, it’s the clutter. That’s why it’s achievable for anybody at any time because we just have to slow down and override the mind that’s telling us we need to do all these things and that we’re going to be judged if we don’t do them and we have to say, “Actually I don’t need to, I don’t need to follow that madness, I can sit in my garden with a cup of tea and listen to the birds and do nothing and I will be far happier than if I worked for hours so that I can buy the thing that I think is going to make me happy.”

When I talk to lots of people that are on an inward spiritual journey, they’ve had a major trauma, or something has forced them to go inwards. Is that what you experienced?

Yeah, isn’t it interesting? I think very often, when something happens in our lives that stops us in our tracks, it’s given us time, it’s given us time to reassess everything and the people I know that have had those kind of experiences, that’s the first time in their lives when they started asking those big questions, “Who am I? Why am I here and why am I doing these things that I think are going to make me happy? Are they making me happy?” Sometimes we forget, we get so caught up in the daily grind that we forget that it’s actually all supposed to be because it’s making us content inside and we forget that actually it’s not, very often and so I think a big trauma can be a blessing sometimes because it gives you that time to completely reassess and to be still. Sometimes a physical trauma means that you have enforced rest where there is nothing to do but just ponder.

Alys in Mysore, India where she studies and practices annually

So when forced to be still and it gets uncomfortable, what are your tips for getting through these uncomfortable and almost overwhelming emotions and experiences that can come up?

Being uncomfortable and not liking being in that position has developed over the lifetime of not ever practicing. So you have to give yourself the time to say, “This is something I need to practice, being, sitting here with my feelings.” Yoga and meditation and a lot of practices teach non-judgemental awareness. So just sitting there and having that awareness, “This is how I feel, this is what my thoughts are, this is uncomfortable, this is bringing up anger.” Whatever it is, sit there and observe them and know … I mean, I think initially you have to know that there is a you behind everything, behind all the things coming up in your mind.

That’s quite fundamental to being able to observe all of these things that come up because otherwise it brings up a lot of fear because you think, “Oh, I’m having all of these feelings, I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed,” and then you can start to detach and think, “Where is the pain, what is the thought and where is the feeling? Can I still be me and observe that?” That’s where we start to detach a little and so then we can allow more and more … It’s a practice, you can allow these things to come up, observe them, sometimes they have fantastic insights for you, there’s gifts in there of real moments of, “Ah-ha, I’ve just understood something, something’s made sense to me.”

To sit there and allow that, it is scary at first because we’re always wanting to do something or fix something and to sit quietly and allow it to come up and happen to you, especially when it can have a physical sensation in the body, can be scary, but it’s just a practice, like any other practice. The more you do it, the more it can come and feel less overwhelming.

So observe it, allow it, don’t try and shut it down?

No and don’t feel like you have to let it all out in one go, sometimes a few minutes of that is enough and then okay, that’s enough. Like any practice, you wouldn’t go straight into lifting weights for two hours, you’d do a little bit and then walk away, distract yourself, do something else and know that the mind. It’s a communication we’re almost having with our own minds and our feelings. If we’ve not done it before, it’s a whole new language to be able to listen to ourselves and listen to what comes up and not shut it down and judge it. Yeah, it just takes time and like anything, practice.

So when do we start feeling reconnected?

I think that happens naturally over time, when the traumatic things, or if there are no traumatic things, when those things have gone, we’re just comfortably sitting with ourselves, then that awareness starts to come and we find that still place. I think that’s why a physical practice is really useful in this way because physical practice is occupying the body and the mind has to be engaged in order for the body to do what it’s supposed to do.

So there you are occupying the two major parts of who you are and while they are occupied, the inner being, the one who’s always still, and always actually content, we just forget to ever connect to it. That has the space to then bring itself out a little so that you can see that within all of the drama, within everything that’s going on and within your own practice, there is this still place.

So where does our link to consciousnesses come into play?

Well I think that is consciousness. That is who we really are, this unchanging and, depending on what you believe in, will be continuous through many lifetimes even. This idea that who we are will never change inside but then, who we are is just a small aspect of higher consciousness. So when you look at it from a scientific point of view, there is an energy in the world, there is something, there is a vibration in atoms, there is something greater that binds everything together. We are all part of that too and that part of us that is unchanging is that greater thing. I believe that it’s all one, it’s just that we come into being so that we can experience, that’s what we’re here for, I believe. It’s just to have experiences. From the highest level, there is no purpose, it’s just pure bliss. Consciousness just wants to experience itself and so has come into creation so that it can experience itself.

That experience isn’t necessarily supposed to be all good. Any experience is valid, all experiences, in fact it wouldn’t be valid if we only had the good ones. So the good and the bad, the madness, the sadness, everything we experience is completely important to the whole play of the universe, that’s what we’re here for, that’s why we have bodies and senses and we can interact with each other and we can learn from each other and express emotions. It’s so that it’s one giant play and I think on that level, it doesn’t matter what we actually do, it’s to have an awareness that we’re here to experience it and not get too caught up in why, or whether we all have to do good things, or if we all have do noble things, it’s just too big and be joyous in that process.

But I think on a small, individual level, I think that, well at the same time it doesn’t really matter what we do, it is how we do it. It’s our intention in the doing. We could have the most mundane job that has no social standing, that isn’t paid well, that might not even be the job we want to do, but we can change and choose our intention in doing that job. We can do that job to the very best of our ability, we could do that job with total commitment, we could do that job with all the kindness that we could possibly put into something. We could make that job the most special thing that we could possibly do because it’s about our approach, and it’s about our intentions to things and our connections and that’s where it comes from inside, rather than the external.

Photo credit: Jill Rogers, kinfolkphotography.com.au

So, this is so fascinating, because there’s so much of our life spent achieving and goal setting. What’s your approach then? Otherwise, I guess I struggle with the fact that you could sort of bliss through life and bumble along and do nothing.

Well you could and I think if you’re not harming anybody and nobody is having to support you in that bumbling along, then nobody should judge you for that.

If that’s where your truth is, if that’s where you feel most content and happy … because otherwise it’s saying, “Well only the high achievers in our society are of any value.” Which is completely untrue, because there are people who can’t offer huge amounts to society for whatever reason, and it doesn’t mean that they’re any less, pure, valid, and beautiful beings than somebody who has 10 degrees and who is a brain surgeon. It really doesn’t matter but at the same time, I see your point in saying, “Well, what’s the point then? Why should we even try?” But then again, that comes back to intention and maybe our intentions because we want to do something that we’re passionate about and our passion might be being a brain surgeon. Our passion might be being someone who communicates with other people but it might happen to be that the way they do that isn’t a job that has huge standing, it doesn’t matter.

It’s finding the thing that you feel is what you have to offer. Yeah, it’s so simple. As soon as we take a minute to connect to somebody. Have you ever been in a shop, or been in an environment where you have just seen a stranger and for some reason you go, “I love that shirt you’re wearing.” Or, “Those are beautiful earrings.” For no reason, not because you need to pay a compliment, not because you’ll ever see the person again, you’re not giving them anything, expecting something in return and that person has been given a small gift of a compliment from a complete stranger, for no reason and you both go away feeling so much happier, for something so small.

These kind of connections can happen all the time. We can make a difference to people all the time and that is what gives us a sense of connectedness and that inside all of us, despite what we look like and what we do, we’re all good, kind people just trying to get along, just trying to survive in this crazy world and the more we can remember that, the happier we’ll all be because we’ll share that feeling.

So as a mother, what’s your advice to foster more conscious children?

Well I think, like I said earlier, we always were … especially as children, we were in that state of so easily connecting to that inside of us that’s still and content and playful and so quite often as parents, we think that we have to do things to be good parents, we have to take our children to 10 different music lessons and make sure that they’re learning four different sports and that their exam results are fantastic and mold them into something that society is going to expect because we’re afraid that other people won’t respect us and this completely convoluted, crazy society thing we’ve got going on and actually, the more the parents can allow their children to be children, I think is such a fantastic gift, just to nurture that. Let the child lead the way and decide where their passions are and learn to listen to their … and trust their own inner intuition.

I think we beat it out of children, not physically, but emotionally, we beat it out of children that they can’t be themselves or express themselves and the more that we allow them, in a kind, nurturing way and obviously with security of boundaries, I think the more that our children can then start to teach us how to connect into our inner being, because they’re far more connected than we are. They know their feelings, they have a great sense of truth. Yeah, we just don’t allow our children to be the teachers, plus we’re so worried that we’re going to be judged if we don’t teach them.

So true, and it’s often how we were parented as well.

Yes, which comes back to being conscious and being a non-judgemental observer of what we’re doing because a lot of when we’re parenting, we’re just on a default program that we experience as children and we don’t always want to repeat that. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to have fantastic childhoods but we weren’t always and sometimes there’s a big mixture of both and we need to be able to observe what we’re doing and how we’re parenting and choose, actually choose which way, and maybe be open to a way that we’ve never even considered.

Quite often our children, especially these days, need parenting in ways that really has never been done before, I believe, because this word is so different right now to even the world that we grew up in. I think parenting has to accommodate that and be really sensitive to that, I think we’re not sensitive enough as parents.

So what would that look like? Or what should it look like in your view?

Oh, it would be a beautiful two-way partnership where we allow children to teach us things and remind us of things and open our minds and our feelings because sometimes we’ve learnt to shut down our feelings and not connect to our emotions and so we try to impose it on our children whereas actually, wouldn’t it be great if we could learn to connect into how we feel by watching our children have tantrums or whatever it is that they’re doing. “They’re expressing something,” and just observe and wonder.

Then, how wonderful to be a child who had a parent that could spark interest, or when you have found an interest or a passion that your parent is prepared to expand on that and then use their adult skills to enable whatever that passion is and to support that, and to allow it to change, not just try and pigeon hole you and, “Oh, you’re a creative one, you’ve got to do this.” Or, “Oh you’re intellectual, you must study this.” To just listen and respond to children and allow them to grow and change. An allow them to take the lead, which is so challenging, because we’re the parent.

We still have to prepare them for a society that’s pretty crazy and we want them to be well equipped with all the tools so that they can deal with that. It’s finding that balance again.

Shifting from raising conscious children to the topic of death. What is your belief about what happens to us when we die?

Well I believe that we do have a spirit, a soul, a higher conscious, whatever we want to call it, whatever the name is, I don’t know if it even has a name. While I believe that we do come back, we can choose, we do come back into a body if we have more things we need to learn and if there’s more that we want to experience but I think at a certain point, and certainly in yoga philosophy, there is this idea that when you reach a point where you really do experience the big picture, not just think about the big picture and wonder, “What is this all about?” If you can ever have, or come to a place where you have that experience, it really happens to you, then I believe that you can choose.

I believe you can choose, you don’t have to … or you have this idea of karmic life, so we keep coming back so that we have to learn the lessons from, potentially past lives, or just to learn things, experiences we want to experience. But I think that there comes a point where we can possibly choose and we might still choose to come back, or we might not and then there’s the next mystery, what is beyond that? I don’t know.

Alys with her dog Zephyr

So do we need to be in a state of enlightenment in this human form to then have that choice? Is that your belief?

No, I don’t think so but I think that is probably what happens, and this is probably just me wondering, thinking about this and feeling. You have a thought, you ponder it over, you feel like you digest it, you see how it fits in the body. Sometimes the feeling is like … it stays there and I think and maybe for me, that’s kind of what I think is true.

So for me, what I think is true is that we can … I don’t know, we can either have that experience in the body in this lifetime, or in a lifetime, or we can have it after we die. I think there’s a period of time where if everything has conspired in our life to give us that … and I think it’s not just up to us. Again, it’s not something we’re trying to achieve because there is something else at play and that has to be involved too. I think you can’t just go, “I’ve got these certificates and I’ve done practice for this long and therefore I have earned Enlightenment.” I don’t think it’s like that but I think there’s … and you can call it grace, a lot of people think of … grace has to come into play for you to have that experience but I think it can happen in life or just after you die.

But I think after you die, maybe if there is more to learn, you get drawn back. Something draws you back into to learn again, to have another opportunity to maybe experience the same situations, or similar situations, to give you those opportunities to learn and grow. Which in the yoga philosophy is why it’s so important to grasp those opportunities now. If you have something in your life and you think, “Gosh, I have this pattern, I keep doing this over and over again. I find myself in this situation, I’m always coming up against bosses who are trying to control me and not respect me.” Or, “I keep coming into a situation where I’m not honest in a situation and it has all these repercussions.”

Whatever it is, whatever the drama is, if those things happen over and over, it’s because we haven’t maybe used that opportunity and we’ve learned the lesson and seeing the gift that was in that experience and learned from it. So yeah, I think it’s complicated and maybe there is no answer, maybe it’s … and I like that there’s not necessarily an answer because the point is to keep wondering.

Yeah, we’ll all find out, won’t we?

Yeah, maybe we don’t all find out, maybe sometimes we go straight from one thing straight into another and it’s just a cycle, like a washing machine, round and round lifetime after lifetime’s experiencing and experiencing until one day in a lifetime maybe you meet someone, maybe you hear a piece of music, or maybe something just triggers this idea of what is this all about? What are we here for? I mean I would love if this happened after you die, you had this amazing opportunity to reflect and go, “Wow. Why was I like that? Why did I not do this?” And really learn from it.

But something tells me that that’s actually why we’re having this experience.

Exactly. Something tells me that then what is the purpose of doing this in the body Because we’re manifest. We’ve manifested in the body. We’ve got all these fantastic tools that we forget that we could actually choose to use how we want to use, rather than just running along playing the rules of this crazy game and we could be learning so much right now, we’ve got this fantastic chance.

Life is short. Right now, in any moment, you could take every opportunity, especially the bad ones, and they could wake you up.

So in order to wake up and evolve through our human experiences, what are your tips for transforming in this lifetime?

Become an observer, become aware of everything. Become an observer of your habits and your patterns and your conditioning and wonder about everything. Why do I have this opinion? Where does this thing that I always do that I wish I didn’t do, where did that come from? If it came from a parent, or a teacher, or person in your past, well understand them. Where did they get it from? Don’t just write everything off as, “Oh well that person’s bad, and that created that and therefore I’m the victim and therefore I’m stuck with this.” Follow it back. Follow it back to the place where you can have complete forgiveness and there’s no energy left in it, it’s just gone, it’s just left and you can go, “Oh that is … that karmic cycle has gone now because I forgive that person,” or, “I forgive that situation,” or, “No one was at fault.” Whatever it is, follow the thread all the way back. You might go back generations, or you might just go back to an experience that was an accident and forgive and clear up that experience.

Do that with everything. So many things we do, the way we communicate, our beliefs, our values, they’ve come from somewhere so follow each of them back and wonder about every aspect of why we are the way we are. It makes every moment, from that moment onwards, makes every moment better because you communicate-

You’re kinder to yourself, you’re kinder to other people.

Yeah, your whole vibration shifts. There is a self-care, self-love buzz right now and I believe it’s justified but are we over complicating it? From what I’m hearing, yes?

Well, are they selling something? Or are they saying that, “You’re not self-caring enough right now, you have to change?” Or, you’re not loving yourself enough right now, you have to change?” In which case, don’t pay it too much attention but if it’s genuine, give yourself a moment, forgive yourself, know that you are okay as you are, you don’t have to change. If it’s those messages, then yeah, I think that’s great because then when we start with ourselves, it’s naturally going to overflow into other things.

One of the problems I really see in the world is that this idea of becoming aware of the self, is actually the wrong self that we’re becoming aware of. We’re becoming aware of the image and we’re becoming aware of the ego and we are spending a lot of energy and time and money on building a persona and sharing that persona on social media-

… and then all we’re doing is actually separating from our true selves even more. I think what we need to do is be quite careful who this self is that we’re caring for and loving, and know that it’s the one that is damaged and broken, and maybe not always happy, and maybe not achieving what we want, and still love that self. Not just the one that’s dressed nicely, wearing makeup and you’ve got a new handbag. That’s where we have to be careful. It’s very easy to go down that wrong path and just moving further away from where we’re supposed to be going.

But if it’s the true self inside that we’re learning to become friends with … In fact, self-love, that’s an extreme word. Love is a big word and contentment and kindness are much more subtle words that we can’t really take to an extreme. So be content in yourself and be kind to yourself and those, I think are much easier to achieve and we don’t need to change in order to achieve that. So I think that’s the most important thing.

Then, when we’re content with who we are, and we’re kind and we’re forgiving, that will naturally flow over to other people because we’ll forgive other people and know that they’re just trying to be kind to themselves and to each other and to be content and we’re not trying to beat the other people to the perfect lifestyle, that we’re all okay as we are right now.

What role does money play in all of this?

It’s just a tool. It’s just a tool, I think and it can be used for some incredibly fantastic things. It can also be used for some incredibly terrible, disastrous things and I think, unfortunately, because money holds such value in our society, it also comes usually with a lot of power, and power is something that takes people out of balance because one person can have more than another and then we’re not seeing each other as equals and we’re not sharing that sense of connection and unity.

So I think money can be very damaging but I think it doesn’t have to be and I think it shouldn’t hold the place of value that it does. It’s just a way of exchanging energy and that energy exchange isn’t always fair. So I think that’s what we have to look at, I think, is a sense of fairness and that the sense that the person in front of you is no better or worse than you are, and so everything should be equal, but that’s never going to wash.

I see a very balanced, joyful, youthful, responsible Alys Pardoe. How do you live a balanced life?

It’s kind of like a headstand. So, when you’re in a headstand, even when you’ve been doing it for 20 years and you can balance pretty well, there’s always little movements, tiny movements backwards and forwards, adjusting, wobbling, correcting, re-correcting, it’s just that the corrections are small and we don’t overbalance and I think that that is how I try and see my life. I’m not trying to stay on this perfect path, I’m just trying to make the fluctuations smaller so that I’m not doing anything from too much of an extreme.

Any extreme is unhealthy. Being healthy to an extreme is unhealthy. Being kind to others can be unhealthy if you’re forgetting about yourself. Any extreme is bad and so I think everything … That old saying, everything in moderation, is a really important thing to remember. When you’re naturally in a place when you’re content, you naturally don’t want to do things that are going to take you out of that state. So you naturally don’t want to go out and go wild at a party and drink until 6:00 in the morning because you naturally know that you’re not going to feel very well.

It’s not something that we have to impose on ourselves anymore. Equally, if you do go to a party, you can enjoy yourself and not feel guilty because you’re not trying to impose something strict on yourself. It’s a slow journey. It’s like any practice, you just slowly evolve and they come from thousands and millions of little tiny decisions. Each decision which is, “Does this feel good? Is this taking me in a direction of being content and being happy and healthy and all of those things? Or is it something that is taking me further away? Or is it something that I’m doing because I don’t feel good about something else, so I’m going to compensate and react by going to an extreme?” So we all have lots of little choices and I think over time, you just find that as soon as you start thinking about these things, it naturally happens.

Photo credit: Jill Rogers at kinfolkphotography.com.au

I have one more question. As I look out at your magical garden and am aware you spend a lot of time nurturing and enjoying the beautiful smells it delivers, what role does scent play in your life?

Like anything, there are certain things that have the magic of being able to place you very quickly back into that space of being connected and scent can do that. The memory we have for smells is incredible, as you know, and a certain scent can just transport us out of our mind and straight into a place of feeling and that’s why we call things gut feeling, because that’s our truth, that’s our real, that’s an important, powerful part of us, is that sense of feeling and scent can take us straight to feeling and bypass the brain completely. It can connect us to memories, it can connect us to a sense of place, or belonging and it can transport us straight into that magical world where we are in the moment but we’re also free at the same time-

… and I think that being in a garden where you’re surrounded by those natural scents, where it’s like it’s a direct communication with nature, and what is nature? You could call it Mother Earth, Gaia, Goddess, the universe, whatever it is but it doesn’t matter what the name is, it’s that connection to something greater than us that doesn’t have to be labeled and being in that garden … and scent is like its way of talking to you and that’s why I love being in that space, where I walk down the garden past the wisteria and the smell is amazing and then there’s the honeysuckle smell and I get into my veggie garden and there’s all those smells of all the herbs and the things growing and you’re feeling amazing while you’re smelling them. And you feel timeless, because you’re connected to that first time you stood in your grandparents’ rose garden and the smell just captured you. Or the first time you stood by the ocean and you smelled that salty spray air. I think that getting ourselves out of our body and our mind, into true feeling, is-

It’s key, isn’t it?

… it’s a really useful tool to get us into that space.

Well Alys, thank you so much. You’ve provided some very interesting views and reminded us how to live more consciously. I really enjoyed our conversation and look forward to our next yoga class. Namaste and thank you so much.

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