Go with the flow

It’s been so long since I’ve written a post, I feared I would have forgotten how to, or that it wouldn’t be as easy as I usually found it.

After staring at my screen for the past 4 hours, I know this to be true. It is good to be back, but a little strange after our mini-break for all things wedding, new-job and regular family chaos mixed in.

So bear with me, I may be rusty.

I’ve had these past few months off from work in which I’ve had to face down my own ego on quite a few occasions. There was a lot of swallowing my pride and observing my natural patterns to find areas where change could take place. I was stuck and getting unstuck isn’t always the easiest feat, but much like being determined to run a half marathon without really training (more on that later), I was determined to use the blessing of time to my betterment.

Throwing myself into my practice was the thing that saved me, I truly do believe. Saved me from my demons and gave me permission to be kind to myself about where I was in life. Learning to let go during class, to be present, mindful, to slow down in my daily life, to live in the moment and accept what it brings and work with it, no matter how the world presented itself to me. I could go on and on about the lessons I’ve learned in the hot room, dripping in sweat, breathing through the movement of the postures with ease or at my edge filled with effort, really forcing myself to internally scan where I needed the most of my self love.

The one thing all of these lessons has had in common though, is that the more you go with the flow of life, the universe if you will, the easier a time you will have.

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I do not mean that you will not struggle. I do not mean you will not hurt, ache, cry, or feel heartsick at any time. I do mean that you will find greater ease when you let go, and go with the flow.

I do not mean you should not pursue your passions or goals and things that set your heart on fire with relentless thirst. I do not mean that you will get everything you think you want, when you want it. I do mean you will have a greater chance of finding the REALLY right path if you do. You will be where you are meant to be, truly.

It’s the act of tapping into synchronicity – the more you pay attention to the little directives, signs and signals you’re being shown regularly, and do your best to quiet your ego and its hunger for centre stage as the main driver, the flow becomes more apparent, your path more clear. And I know from experience that the more you listen for the signals the stronger the frequency becomes. The more you pay attention, the more sense everything eventually makes.

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Growing up, and (let’s be honest) even into my early adult years, I learned a lot of tough lessons the very hard way, by being my own worst enemy and pushing my own plans and agenda on my life. Pushing so hard to get to where I thought I ‘should’ be, where I was convinced I belonged, what my ego told me I wanted, needed and could not live without. Life has a funny way of letting you get only so far and then shutting you down before redirecting you – in my case, always with great force that taught me a lot about putting yourself back together after you’re busted apart for regrowth and redirection.

As I look back on these lessons, I can see if I had applied even a bit of what I’ve learned about synchronicity through yoga, the harm and pain would have been notably less. I am sure the scars from those events would have healed quicker too, maybe might not be so apparent today.

I heard recently that the true act of yoga itself is not in the hot room and really starts to transform and change your life when you begin to practice what you learn on your mat in your life. In all of your relationships, in your employment, in your head with your running commentary to the world and ESPECIALLY to yourself – even in line at the grocery store. The conscious act of slowing down, breathing, actively quieting your inner monologue and literally going with the flow of your day, or the flow and direction of your life, can make or break the kind of life you have.

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As it unfolds in front of you, accept it as if you had chosen it, do what you have to in order to change what you’re able, but for the most part relax, be still and try to work with it.

~ Toni

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Should I leave the lights on?

Recently in the New York times they had a piece on the light pollution in New York City, and about a bill that seems to have caused a bit of discussion on light pollution. On one hand, having fewer lights in the New York skyline would be more beneficial to the environment, and the migratory and mating habits of birds and animals. Another upside to having dimmer lights would be a greater possibility to see what is actually up in the sky in the middle of the night in NYC.

This photo is by Thierry Cohen, and awesome artist, click the photo to be taken to his page!

This photo is by Thierry Cohen, an awesome artist.

However, New York is big and it is filled with crime – fewer lights would mean more cover for unseemly and horrible stuff to take place. It is a good idea, but in they end, they should take a deeper look into the different possibilities and scenarios surrounding the bill in question.

This photo is by Thierry Cohen, and awesome artist, click the photo to be taken to his page!

This photo is by Thierry Cohen, an awesome artist.

The reason that this story caught my eye was because it made me think of a road trip Joe, Elena, and I took up north to Sudbury and down and through Manitoulin Island. After about four to six hours of driving in the middle of the night, Elena told me to pull off to the side, we woke up Joe and stepped outside the car just to stare at the naked sky.

This photo is by Thierry Cohen, and awesome artist, click the photo to be taken to his page!

This photo is by Thierry Cohen, an awesome artist.

Now, I have lived in the country and have gotten some pretty epic views in my life of the night sky, including one birthday of mine in which the Northern Lights appeared above our house.

I have also seen beautiful pictures depicting the night sky without light pollution, and, let me tell you, the real thing…it is even better than you could have imagined.

I wish we lived in a world where we didn’t need lights on all the time and that we could look up at any moment and just see the Milky Way. I wish that everyone would get to experience the ethereal beauty of the night sky unpolluted, with the lights that we have deemed so necessary. I ultimately wish that we could have a world so full of peace and love that lights weren’t so necessary.

This photo is by Thierry Cohen, and awesome artist, click the photo to be taken to his page!

This photo is by Thierry Cohen, an awesome artist.

It is something to work towards, and something to aspire to. Hopefully it will be so…one day.

~ Andreah

Welcome, new Yogi

I watch you cautiously enter the studio – a place that at first glance can seem so intimidating, I know. You’re not sure what to expect or if you wore the right thing, or if you’ll even be able to make it through the hour you’ve set aside for you. I can see you are nervous, almost timid.

You’re greeted with warm smiles from the volunteers and instructors gathered hospitably around the front desk, waiting to help you sign up for a class, answer your questions, show you where the facilities and different tempered rooms are. These friendly faces put some of your fears to rest, at least for the moment. You can feel the shift of energy in the air as more students flow into the studio.

I  keep observing you from across the airy, open, sunny front room. I see your shoulders relax down your back slightly, ease entering your eyes and recognition of something almost home-like about this place  flashes in them. We catch each other’s gaze and share a small, but sincere smile.

You wander down the hall into the change room, where I am sure you’re talking yourself into class. Not sure what to expect, not sure if you’ll like it, not sure if it’s for you. Scared of the heat, the poses, the unknown.

I know this feeling all too well. I think every new yogi does.

What I want to tell you is that what you will find in the heated yoga studio upstairs is going to surprise you, maybe even scare you a little.

I want to tell you of the life-altering feeling you are about experience, the wash of emotion, the shift in perspective, the gains in confidence, compassion and strength you will feel.

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I want to burst at you with stories and antidotes of feeling yourself truly shut your brain off for the first time and the exhilarating calm that comes with that freedom.

I want to tell you, that if you just let it, this practice, those poses, this studio, will change your whole life and lift up your soul in ways you didn’t think were possible.

I want to tell you that it will only take a moment for you to fall so deeply in love with your practice and you’ll know exactly when it happens.

I want to tell you that it is okay to let go, especially here, and sometimes that very act might even come out as laughter or tears in class – and that’s okay.

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I want to share with you that the people that live, work and love here will become a second family to you, this studio a second home, if you let it, if you welcome it with open arms.

I want to calm your fears with tales of the incredible lives that have been changed by this bit of magic you’ve found, allowed into your life.

I want to warn you that you are about to challenge your ego, but it will be the best thing you ever do for your soul.

I want to tell you that you’re going to find out things about yourself that you didn’t know existed, had forgotten once were, and feel more you than you ever have in that 60, or 75 minutes of pure bliss.

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I want to tell you about the calm in your soul that will come when you become more aware and more present, at first in class, and then soon every area of your life.

I want to tell you that you will feel more in control and out of your mind in the most calming way, at the same time, in that room.

I want to tell you that when you adopt the true practice of yoga in areas of your life outside of the studio will be when you will truly understand what you’ve found.

I want to tell you to breathe your way through class and that you’ll soon realize that it’s necessary to breathe through life in the same way.

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I want to tell you so many things about what you’ve started by stepping onto your mat for the very first time.

But I don’t.

Instead I share one more silent smile with you as we both enter the room. I watch you find your place on your mat, sprawl out on the floor, fidgeting a bit as you start to relax. As I settle onto my mat myself, I say a little prayer for your practice and mine today, sending a little love, light and energy your way.

I can’t wait for the journey that lies ahead of you, the breakthroughs and breakdowns, the freedom from what is resting on your shoulders. I am so excited for you and your practice to unfold and the blessings it will so abundantly bring.

Welcome, new Yogi.

~ Toni

So you want to take indoor photos

Indoor photos are very simple, and pretty much similar to the outdoors in terms of rule, but when you are working an event and are taking more candid shots than posed, here are a few rules to guide you through an indoor event. I just photographed Jacqui’s bridal shower, so I am going to use a few of my favorites for examples.

Lighting
I can never stress this enough: make sure you have a decent light source. Flash is 100% acceptable if you like, but the problem there lies in washed out guests, and no one wanst to look like they haven’t seen the sun in over 100 years. Find a good source of light for posed shots, and work with what you have for the rest. I know this is going to go over some people’s head, especially since I am talking photography, and I tend to ramble using ‘photog jargon,’ but I am going to do my best here. If you use a flash, make sure you bounce it! That means either getting a diffuser for your flash, make your own, or learn to bounce your flash off the ceiling/walls so that the light caresses the faces of the people, and doesn’t end up blinding everyone in the process.

Excellent Light use, if I do say so myself!

Excellent light use, if I do say so myself!

Smiles
There are so many people who do not smile for pictures, and can I just say as a photographer it kind of sucks when the only photos you get of people are either closed-lipped smiles (which can really look like a grimace of pain), or no expression at all. It is best not to focus on them, but capture what you can of them when they’re as close to smiling as they’re going to get.

Toni always gives good smile.

Toni always gives good smile.

Posed
As always with posed shots, it can look boring, and people can also look crazy in them. Best thing to do is be comfortable taking the photos and they will be more comfortable getting the photos taken of them.

No cardboard cut outs here! The happy couple!

No cardboard cut outs here! The happy couple!

Candid
People can make amazing faces when you are watching them. Beautiful expressions and happy light-up-their-face smiles may only happen once in a while but catching them is always a blessing. Sometimes you can miss those moments and get the funny faces as well. Best thing to do for that person, who looks like they are trying to eject something from their nose using their mind, is to not have taken it at all. I call it the photographers code. Sort of a “Thou shall not post pictures of people if they look utterly ridiculous.”

At the end of the day, I caught this one of JQ. She is so beautiful!

At the end of the day, I caught this one of Jacqui. She is so beautiful!

Overall, for indoor photography just remember to focus on the light and that flashes can be tricky at times. Just smile, have fun, and watch for the moment.

~ Andreah

Can I hear it for some love, peace and understanding?

Everywhere you go there is racism. People judge harshly, quickly, and without cause. We hurt people who had nothing to do with the bigger picture, and too many innocent bystanders suffer.

One place I am going to highlight on is France, especially in light of what happened there this January. This is not to place blame but to recognize that nothing is always as it seems, and that there is more going on then we know. We just need to take a deeper look.

I just want to define something here, an Extremist (which exists in any religion or culture) is a person who favours or resorts to immoderate, uncompromising, or fanatical methods or behaviour, especially in being politically radical.

Extremists, who were under surveillance last year, but got taken off of it six months prior to the shootings, were the root of the problem. Not Muslims.

A Muslim, as the Sufi spiritual leader Ibn Arabi says, is a: person who has dedicated his worship exclusively to God…Islam means making one’s religion and faith God’s alone.

I have recently read an article in the New York Times, written about how Muslims, even if they have lived in a country for their entire life, do not feel like they are home, or that they are welcome.

Can you imagine living somewhere and not ever feeling like you could just live, just be?

Why is it in peaceful places does racism and biased reactions, based on one small group, instead of the whole, reign true? Why can’t there be peace without the violence and why can we not just see that everyone is wrong, and the only right in the world is peace, light, and love?

People judge so harshly based on religion or even just skin colour. We take the leap before we even slow down enough to find out who someone is and to know that they aren’t all bad, just like we aren’t all bad.

I want to stop time and just make sense of all the nonsensical violence, all because of pigmentation or the right to believe in who and what you believe. It will never make any sense. It will never get us anywhere judging people for something that is theirs alone and is in their hearts. You shouldn’t judge what you do not know, and I don’t know much, but I know that when you are walking down the street towards me, I am not going to judge you on the pigmentation of your skin and I am not going to judge you based on which headdress you wear. I am going to smile, keep walking with peace and love in my heart.

As my one roommate says “We all want one thing: to live.”

We will learn. I have hope.

We will learn. I have hope.

~ Andreah