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Hello Giorgiana, thank you for being our Pisces student of the month, although your birthday is right on the cusp with Aquarius. So which do you identify with most?

Hi. Thank you too!
I used to identify mostly with the Aquarius part and qualities and ignore the Pisces part, which actually represents the energy or resonance for my future evolution…
But this has changed in the last year and a half since my spiritual guide said to me that I am more Pisces than Aquarius, and now I’m paying more attention to all the aspects.

You do seem to have the qualities of Aquarius, being truthful, just, curious, with an affectionate personality, frank and imaginative, but then also the generosity, compassion, faithfulness and caring of Pisces. Maybe this is part of the Piscean mystery – not easily categorised?

Yes, it is very possible. Also, being on the cusp between two zodiac signs gives you the attributes of both of them, harmonising these influences, but also bringing the energy of the void between these two which has its own qualities. At least this is how I feel it, but it might also explain why people (even astrologers!) always find it difficult to guess my sign.

So how did you find the yoga school?

My best friend back in Romania had been doing yoga for more than 20 years… then I received a flyer advertising Ayurveda courses with this school, which I joined for a year, but then on arriving in England it took me 5 months to find Tara Yoga Centre. Probably I was not asking the right people!

Coming from a background of geological engineering, what appealed to you about the yoga teachings?

Well, I feel that this life is more than what they teach you in the regular schools, and the amount of knowledge in this course is impressive.

I hear you have a love of Speleology – caving. With all the famous stories of yogis meditating in caves, have you ever tried this yourself, particularly the practice of kaya kalpa, which is done in the kind of complete darkness you only find deep underground?

Yes. I love it. Funnily enough I did it just before starting the yoga course. The underground space is peaceful, full of love and connection to the Earth… But now, in England, just sometimes during the night without the beautiful support of the cave…

Certainly it seems you have a love of exploring mysteries, has your yoga practice revealed some of your inner mysteries?

It showed me that the mystery is bigger than I used to think it is…

Have there been particular breakthrough moments in your spiritual practice?

The tiny moments take you step by step to bigger realisations, and all this helps me to discover myself more, and shine.

What would you say to anyone considering exploring yoga and tantra?

To follow their hearts and to enjoy the mystery of life and love.

Any final words of wisdom?

Love is all that matters.

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Learning to give and receive massage is an art. Part of this art is to develop our conscious awareness of touch, and of all tactile sensations.

Our body is constantly caressed by various stimuli but we are rarely completely aware of the sensations. When we bring awareness to the sensations and feelings that are evoked, we suddenly discover that we are relaxed, in the present moment, and our consciousness begins to expand.

Here is a very simple exercise of awareness. Find objects to touch, and simply try to be very aware of the sensations and feelings that are generated. Be as conscious as possible. Do it very slowly, with maximum awareness.

Another way to focus on the sensation of touch is to become very aware of the feeling of the water falling onto your skin when you are in the shower, and how it makes you feel.

When you are in the wind, try to become very aware of the touch of the wind on your skin, and how it makes you feel.

And when you are being touched by someone else, be very aware of the feeling in the part being touched.

If you are very aware, you will feel a special sensation in the heart, as a feeling of openness or expansion.

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Hello Richard, and thank you for being our Aquarian student of the month. The idealist always looking to the future, fiercely independent and free-thinking, liberal and progressive yet strongly opinionated, emotionally detached, yet loving friendship. Humanitarian and altruistic, creative and imaginative as thinkers, visionaries and leaders… Does all that make you the Rebel with a Cause?!
Am not sure am a ‘Rebel with a Cause,’ as yet! But I definitely have my goals in life, be it spiritual, humanitarian, business, family, health and otherwise. And through a process of reading, people I associate with and general thinking, I tend to feel if we are going to set goals, we may as well make them big!

But seriously, it is quite a description. Would you say you are a typical Aquarian? Do you see these qualities coming through in different areas of your life?
I am still yet to study all the star signs, (just in the middle now!). However I do feel myself nodding in agreement with what I read and hear about Aquarians. Lots of examples in my life do seem to fit the mould of a typical Aquarian.

With that sense of independence and freedom, and being known for thinking ‘outside the box’, does it make it difficult to be part of a class, school, or other group?

In a certain way, yes. But am working on becoming more consistent and ‘grounded’ with this. And do see how ‘internal happiness’ can be created with being part of a group, as much as the perceived ‘happiness’ of having freedom, which I have tended to be more associated with in my life.

 

There must be advantages that outweigh these difficulties. What has being part of this yoga school given you?

For sure there are advantages. Massive ones. Having been a strong believer for many years that the greatest challenge to face in life, is the’ battle of the self’, the school provides many teachings and practices to help win this battle. In fact it has made me aware of many ‘challenges’ that I had not even contemplated. The list just keeps growing, which is great!
And in terms of groups, the Yoga School is a great one to be in! I’m enjoying being part of a ‘class, school or group,’ as it were. It has become important to my life. It has really helped deal with the challenges that life continues to present.

It’s a blessing to be around such a wonderful group of people that are within the school. Such a great ‘circle of influence’, certainly helps make the process easier in overcoming this ‘small’ challenge of ‘independence and freedom’ we spoke of.

As the wonderful shakti Oprah Winfrey says,”surround yourself only with people who are going to lift you higher. Life is already filled with those who want to bring you down.’

I know that on occasions life has got in the way and you are currently having your second or third bash at the third year of the yoga course – I’m sure it’s not just stubbornness or loyalty, so what is it that keeps drawing you back?

Second attempt! Although I have made it to fourth year Tantra so some great positive steps forward for consistency is being created! But over the last two and a half years I have spent a lot of time out of the country, embracing my independence, so I allowed this to be a distraction.
With both courses having their own individual teachings, they both add value to my spiritual and personal growth. For sure, sometimes I’m ‘challenged’ by the teachings but then I also know there are going to be some great learnings provided too, so am keen not to miss them.
It’s like one those great TV series that have been made. There maybe some episodes that are not as good as others, but it’s still engaging enough that I don’t want to miss one and thus this brings me back for a re-run of year 3!

Is there something in particular you feel you had to learn, or an attitude you had to master?
I very much enjoy learning and mastering the state of a Vira, for what it means in life and in love.

Being an air sign with a love for understanding the ‘big picture’, have yoga and tantra helped you to cultivate this, or forced you to completely re-think what you thought you knew?

Many aspects I had never really given attention to in such depth before the courses. So the ‘big picture’ has been cultivated and greatly enhanced as a result. The courses continue to help me refine and give greater clarity to my thoughts and beliefs.. And just at the beginning!
But certainly many questions have been raised that I had not consciously voiced before. And greater coherence has been given to feelings that I had, but had not consciously expressed or given focus to. The timing of when I came across the course fitted perfectly for where I was in life. In a practical sense it has certainly taught me to appreciate the journey more, as I try to understand the ‘big picture’.

Your spiritual life is obviously important to you – you have spent time in India with teachers there, as well as doing the courses here with us, but you also have a busy work life; How easy do you find it to combine these two worlds? Do they conflict or complement each other?

For me they complement each other. I enjoy the contrasting worlds of business and spirituality and the challenges that arise.
For me there are many qualities that are taught in these two worlds. To name but a few. Determination, patience and persistence was initially developed and needed to be a success in the business world. Empathy, love and understanding of myself and others, has been more developed within the spiritual world. Of course these qualities are not mutually exclusive and are present, developed and valid in both. These qualities, and more, can certainly complement the ‘two worlds’. Although the inner journey has become more of a priority to me, both helping me towards my goals of life and to contributing to the world we live in.

And finally, when a friend heard I was interviewing an Aquarian and saw that amazing list of qualities, she thought out loud “Mmmmm, I wonder what they’re like as lovers?” Can you shed any light on the matter!?

Great question! However can’t reveal everything us Aquarians hold dear in this interview. Some things are better experienced. But I hope she has the pleasure of an Aquarian lover. The joys will all be revealed then!

Thank you, I’ll pass that on! So, thank you for doing this interview. Any last words of wisdom to leave us with? One thought that has been with you today…

Keep smiling. Whether you feel you want to or not. It’s hard not to feel good when smiling!

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The beginnings of any love relationship are always magical, free, intense and full of happiness. Attraction is strong and powerful and we are able to love unconditionally. We feel intensely polarised by our lover, and very open. However, we often forget the source of our passion and love in such moments. As we ignore the source, we begin to consume the relationship, moment by moment, and as a result the flames of our passion slowly die down, and this is why many beautiful beginnings don’t go so far in the long term.

Tantrics believe that being conscious of all the processes at the beginning is a key to long term fulfilling relationships. There is a certain energy, a certain excitement and feeling we should savour and then evoke later, to make every moment, even 10 or 20 years down the line, like a new beginning; falling in love again and again and again. Tantrics talk about evoking the energy of the beginning. By doing this, we make every future moment a new beginning, and keep the flames of passion alive.

So how can we do this? In those moments when you are with your lover and also when you are not, bring into your awareness those wonderful feelings from this initial period and let that excitement, that buzz, fill your being. It’s about bringing them into your consciousness and not leaving them forgotten in the subconscious depths! By doing this repeatedly, you will feel how your relationship develops an aliveness and a new-born feel.

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The path of tantra is always said to begin by knowing and accepting where we are starting from – it is very difficult to successfully navigate a journey if we don’t know where we are originating from.

This requires inner honesty – often the person we lie to the most is ourself!

To be able to recognise our own starting point, it is tremendously helpful to learn about the archetypes of gender, soul and personality – if we don’t have the key to the map, how can we navigate its features? Fundamentally these are the landscape we need to traverse, or understand from an altogether higher perspective, in order to get to know and realise our true divine nature – this is exactly why we deal with so many archetypal energies in tantra, and why these are exemplified to us by guides who know them fully. Part of what makes tantra an accelerated path is the ability to learn by assimilating knowledge and experience from teachers, and therefore bypassing the much longer route of suffering that would normally result from the ignorance of such principles.

The Enneagram workshop will help us decode the personality types which make up our egos, to understand why we react the way we do to certain situations and why we get along with certain people and clash with others. These are somehow constructed upon the framework of our soul archetypes, which are the aspects of our fundamental gender.

 

To get the ball rolling, here is a link to a highly insightful, and entertaining (“it’s funny because it’s true!”) talk by an Australian psychologist called Allan Pease, about the fundamental differences between men and women:

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We tend to believe that by projecting our current selves into the future – achieving the best goal, pursuing the next best thing – we will, some day, find our real self.

Have a look at what Caroline McHugh has to say about self discovery, and what really brings true happiness to our lives.

 

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samSo Samantha, thank you for being our Capricorn student of the month. Known for their honesty, dedication, perseverance, loyalty, ambition and willingness to work hard, do you think you are a typical Capricorn?
I feel like I can embody these qualities (on a good day!) and perhaps my career and academic path shows this. As a GP, I certainly am grateful for my natural earthy qualities, as I feel these really lend themselves to holding space for others and being able to share emotional strength.  I notice that when I find something, a new interest or concept, that aligns with me somehow, I won’t let it go, and will not give up until I have followed it to the end or understood it fully!

Those seem like perfect qualities to really go far on the spiritual path! Has it been easy for you to see progress and transformation in this direction?
When I first discovered the hatha yoga system taught at Agama in Thailand and Tara in London, I felt that a lot changed very quickly, lots of internal changes of awareness, attitude and heart opening for sure.  I took part in a 3 day women’s group, concentrating on awakening and embodying the divine feminine and it felt like a new dimension of myself opened up, something that was always there but only when I found the school was it allowed the space to expand.  With grace, I feel that I have experienced transformation quickly on this path (there is still a long way to go!) and I’m sure my Capricorn-ness has helped me greatly. Certainly having the ambition to grow, understand and evolve and wanting to dedicate time and energy to this transformation or truly this uncovering of what has been there all along!  I am so grateful for this tenacious aspect. When I have experiences of expansion or even transcendence, I am encouraged to push even further.

How long have you been practising yoga?
Regularly, for 3 years now.  Prior to this I had a regular meditation practice for several years, influenced by my Buddhist upbringing which I am very grateful for, it has given me a solid foundation.
It is the practical and directly experiential aspect of the practices that draws me to TYC.

I hear you first met a branch of this school in Thailand. It must have been a tough choice between practising yoga on a tropical island and in the centre of London! What was it that drew you to Tara Yoga Centre?
Finding TYC feels so incredibly guided and perfectly integrated.  Yes, I was in Thailand, escaping a stressful year and I accidentally discovered Agama yoga online and without much thought, signed up for the intensive 4 week yoga course.  There I made life-changing friendships, stopped eating meat and experienced the divine feminine.  I had the awesome realisation that this new path is so full of love, integrity, awareness and vitality; actual palpable experiences of these frequencies or qualities, I was totally invested! What else could I learn and integrate?
Very sadly, I had to leave the loving bubble of life in a yogic community on a tropical island and return to London.  At this point I was truly terrified of not having these ongoing teachings in my life, of losing the feeling of community, love and support. I was really panicking and working out ways to return to Thailand to learn more… only to Google around and find the amazing TYC about a 15 minute walk from my front door! Absolutely perfect synchronicity!

You were also recently in India – are you sure you are not a Sagittarius in disguise?! But seriously, how was the most unpredictable country in the world for a pragmatic Capricorn?
Well, I am kind of on the cusp, being born on the 25th so maybe I have some Sagi energy too!
3 months in India was incredible, so crazy and so beautiful and utterly life changing. Saying that, it was certainly challenging on many levels, having to let go of a degree of security and comfort does not come naturally to an earthy Capricorn! But I was really inspired to face my natural apprehension and go to the India described in the book “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda, a masterpiece in my eyes. So perhaps the innate Capricorn perseverance and willingness to work hard and to succeed saw me through some of the more unpredictable and uncomfortable aspects of India?

Do you feel like you are connecting somehow with your Sri Lankan roots through your spiritual life?
In some ways yes, I feel more in tune with the essence of the country somehow. I spent a few weeks in Sri Lanka too on my travels in 2016. On this trip, I really felt particular aspects more keenly than on previous visits. The raw natural beauty of the land, love and connection with family, a certain purity in the enjoyment of simple pleasures; there was a deep feeling of peace for me in Sri Lanka this time.

How does yoga combine with your professional life, being a medical doctor? Are the two views of the human being in strong contrast? Can they be combined? Does one help the other?
I feel the two can co-exist and even though the views are different, they can complement each other.
While in India I studied Yoga Therapy (teachings from the Sivananda lineage) and Ayurveda and could very much see how these methods could complement Western Medicine. In fact, I have been inspired to start further studies in Nutritional Therapy after these experiences in India and to make changes to my professional life. In the new year I will be publishing my first book written with a friend which is full of simple tips on healthy living or “lifestyle medicine” inspired by what I have learned so far and largely backed by modern scientific evidence.  We all know that modern medicinal interventions have saved many lives, but the current worldwide burden of chronic disease caused largely by the “western” diet and stressful, sedentary lifestyle could really be eased by taking inspiration from the ancient sciences of Yoga and Ayurveda to stop these diseases from manifesting in the first place.

What are your new year resolutions?
1. To spend more time in nature, out of the city.
2. To travel and visit more places in the beautiful UK.
I am very drawn to embracing my earthiness and being grounded in 2017.

If you have one gem of wisdom to share with the world, what would it be?
I have so many, how can I pick just one?!
Hmmm….
Love yourself; treat yourself, mind, body and soul with the deepest compassion, respect and forgiveness.

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The power of Forgiveness

In these ego-driven times, forgiveness is often seen as a sign of weakness, an inability to defend ourselves and stand for justice, or rather revenge, which justice is usually mistaken for. Forgiveness is often labelled as a sign that we have given up our rights and surrendered our judgement.
This is exactly because these opinions are formed by the ego – the inferior mind – which only knows how to relate to the past and future in terms of fighting or taking flight, otherwise known as revenge or surrender. Of course when we do this it only serves to strengthen the hold the ego has over us by reinforcing the image it holds of us, distancing us evermore from a direct and beautiful experience of the world around us.
So, this is where our free will comes in – giving the choice of whether to fight or run, or to take the higher path of actively loving through forgiveness, a path that actually shows great strength and compassion.
Imagine someone beats you with a stick, leaves the stick behind, only for you to pick it up and continue to beat yourself with it. Well, this is exactly what we do if we continue to dwell upon the sense of injustice and revenge, amplifying the negativity of the ego.
In life we our constantly given the choice, to rise in love or to fall away from it. The higher route is naturally the only one that can make us feel any better, as it will bring a relaxation of tension, openness and genuine happiness – making us a channel of love in the world. It quite literally unchains us from the past.
Of course, this is not always as easy as it sounds! We can become extremely attached to our wounded point of view, but there are some simple methods that can help:

· Calling out the ego, by actually writing down what the revengeful part of you would like to see done to the person that hurt you. Really let the emotion guide you – but then take a few minutes to cool off. Read back what you wrote, exposing the manipulation of the ego upon you and the ridiculousness of the negative attitude you had.
· Write an imaginary letter to the person who offended or hurt you, explaining your objections. Express your inner feelings.
· Write the imaginary response from that person, explaining the reason behind their actions – filling in the back-story which led to their apparently unreasonable actions against you, which will help you to open in a compassionate way towards them.
· Practise humility – admit to yourself that you don’t understand everything about that person’s life, their struggles and their motivations.
· Ask your guardian angel to work with the other person’s guardian angel to resolve the situation as harmoniously as possible. Do this in the evening before bed, and then wait to see if, the next day, anything has shifted between you…

As Gandhi said: “Forgiveness is the armour of the true hero”.