1. Two years ago on my first traipse to India, I met a lovely lad called Mahi who took me to the Taj Mahal. The timing coincided with The Brother James’ birthday (Aug 31) and when I informed Mahi of this fact he said to video him expressing James some well wishes.

James loved it.

So being the same significant date, I went around the place yesterday collecting snippets of Indian men and boys wishing him so again. I got the kitchen boys, the fellas from the convenience store, the hotel men, the two logistic lads and my fav friend at his little art shop to say a wee HB.

What started out as a little joke turned so joyous; these guys were all so enthused to be asked and involved, and I started feeling a little bit bad that I was doing it more as a quip than genuine bid.

But they were so funny. And The Brother James loved it once again.

2. All of a sudden, I’m stilling. The majority of the times when that feeling of overwhelmingness or angst arises, I breathe and dispel. I’ve found my guide to do so: my Nanna. It sounds so silly and I feel like a bit of a dick reading this back, but I have a little yarn with Helen and I feel peace blanketing me like a wave. She is my rescue and my assistance, even if it is only a figment. I really feel her here.

I’m taking each day as it comes. Not worrying about the final teaching exam come the end of September like I usually would be, but being here today and maybe a little bit of tomorrow. I’m not cramming my diary so full, and I find it so exciting when I look at my afternoon and see I have two hours where I haven’t scheduled anything and can do anything I feel like at the time.

The Pedaller and I have given each other little roles to keep the other in line with how we want to be when we get back to NZ; I’m to make him actually go and do the cool stuff we talk about, and he’s to remind me not to overload myself, as is my main tendency. I want to be disciplined – but not rigid – and have a number of times a week to be spontaneous and do as I please in the exact moment.

I’m learning to listen to myself too. When 2’o’clock came today, my usual time for a trot or amble, I was feeling rather lethargic. Little sleep last night, five hours of physically demanding yoga each day for the last five and mental engagement with learning theory had me just wanting a lie down.

So I did just that.

I had a quick masala chai with my pals then went to my room and read for a bit before a little snooze.

Sometimes care is far more important than a canter.

3. Every morning we spend an hour fifteen doing kriya and pranayama, which are sort of like cleansing techniques and breathing exercises. There’s about 15 in a sequence, which range from heavy breathing like you’re blowing your nose to sucking in and poking your ribs out as you expel all breath from your body.

One of them has four steps; uddiyana bandha (an abdominal lock accomplished by emptying your lungs and pulling the abdomen in and up under the rib cage) agni sara (sort of pulling your abs in and out as your ribs are as in the first step), the madhyana nauli (the isolated central contraction of the central abs) and nauli, where you rotate your abdominal like a wish washy machine.

When you nail a step, you must spend five days on it before progressing to the next. Somehow (don’t ask me the technique, I have no idea) I ripped out a sensational first two and was allowed to progress to the central contraction; today was my fifth go, so come Saturday (tomorrow is an off day, woohoo!) I get to hustle some of the belly dance.

Whoever knew I would get so excited by the fact I have been granted the right to rotate my stomach in a circular motion?

And today I also nailed kapotasana on the first attempt, so was rather chuffed upon reclining in shavasana.

4. The like/dislike with Martinet is like a game of tennis. I think I’m starting to really quite like her, then she’ll barrage someone or say something extremely ignorant and offensive and I’m back to being unsure.

But I’ve changed the way I view her. I’m here for me, not her, and I remind myself of that. I’m paying her, not the other way around.

Now I’m asking questions to clarify when something doesn’t quite make sense, not caring if I sound dimwitted and not only enquiring to impress her with insight. It’s quite ironic really – since I’ve started putting my hand up and pressing her for myself, she seems to have taken a further liking to me.

I was thinking about it this morning; in any other context, as she has been up until three days ago, I would most likely completely disregard her on account of how she treats people. She really can be quite horrid. But suddenly on Tuesday just been, there was a switch and she has been smiley and laughey and complimentary (she got really excited and clapped when I did an elbow stand today. The inner teacher’s pet in me absolutely preened – as much as I say my yearning for her approval has dissipated, it’s still there ready to leap at a given chance).

I respect Martinet’s knowledge and esteem, most certainly. She’s taught me immense amounts in nine days and I can say I have absolutely improved manifold. But witnessing her conduct has made me clearly see I’d rather be a nice person who shows interest in others, than know my shit but be mean.

One thing I do really rate: how when she doesn’t know something she straight up says it. A girl asked her an anatomical question this afternoon, and her response was, “I don’t know on that one.” I appreciate her not fluffing with a reply just to be the know all (as I would).

But my word, she is Nanna in appearance. Just minus the fag, and plus tats – three birds emblazoned on her chest, a snake circling her ankle and a Chinese character on her upper bicep and foot.

Martinet doesn’t scare me anymore. I’ll talk to her if she’s around, but I don’t go out of my way to approach and affect her.

Makes for a much more peaceful being; I’m learning you don’t always have to be forefront.

5. Tell you what, this vinyasa yoga stuff has us all up in each other. Philippa and I are paired for the privates, and I mean that in every sense of the word. Yesterday she was adjusting me and was just all over my breastal area, and as we were laughing about the proximity my foot went awol and up her fa-noo.

5. Our two daily mealtimes remind me so much of the whole “You can’t sit with us” school cafeteria mentality. Not that anyone is mean and bitchy, I shall clarify, but because there’s unofficially assigned tables for each of the three separate “groups” with everyone having their certain spot.

The other day a bunch of the Asian girl gang sat in “our” seats and we were all affronted at being relegated to a new “spot”; it just reminded me of being back at Baradene again.

6. How fitting that this point landed as number six!

I’m feeling a lot calmer about my birthday. At first the thought of turning 26 unleashed a sense of despair, but I’m more than ready to leave 25 behind. So much good did happen in being 25 (The Pedaller, Neph Hendrik III, getting to know myself) but it was trying and turbulent as well with moments I most definitely didn’t enjoy. “26” sounds springy and sunny and happy, which is where I want to be.

I was reading some wise words of my girl Elizabeth Gilbert just before (only just gotten to Bali; really taken my time with this reread) when I came across a par that really resonated with me. It said:

“I keep remembering one of my Guru’s teachings about happiness. She says that people universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you’re fortunate enough. But that’s not how happiness works. Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it … it’s easy enough to pray when you’re in distress but continuing to pray even when your crisis has passed is like a sealing process, helping your soul keep tight to its good attainments.”

Happiness is the consequence of personal efforts – I love that.

Here’s to being happy at 26.

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