The price of 'The examined life' by Cherryl Duncan

The price of an examined life is a certain amount of sorrow, that’s just a fact.

I think a lot of people are trying to skip past that or skate over the surface or just zone out on a screen, and I think the spiritual revolution and to a large extent, the yoga world, is also guilty for a lot of what has come to be known as spiritual bypassing – Grandiose and falsely positive statements in an effort to avoid the difficulty and the darkness.

This is short- sighted and quite frankly ineffective.

But part of the reason I love the work that I do, the work I do as a coach, teacher, writer and speaker is just to bare witness to everything that life is.  A lot of it is unspeakably beautiful, but there are going to be dark times and we’re all going to have to face them before we get through them.

And that’s where I feel I do my best work – as a kind of authentic and honest witness to it all.




My 'Why?' by Cherryl Duncan

I listen to a podcast called How I built this – a show that features innovators, entrepreneurs, idealists and the stories behind the movements they built.

Just this morning I was listening to the story of John Zimmer and how he built Lyft. A company that helped make ride-hailing a fixture of American urban living.

In response to a question on why he is so competitive, he says, ‘We’re out to win, but we’re out to win for the values we represent’.

And I was like YES!

I’m all about values. Defining your own, really though, thinking about them, throwing out ones that don’t work, taking on new ones, throwing them out again, until you have a set you can honestly, hand on heart (even when no one’s looking) live by.

That’s what I did when I created dharmaKaya®

At a time in my life when I needed every philosophy, practice, ritual, faith and whatever else I had trained in and learnt, I realised with shocking clarity that most of it didn’t actually work.

Another freethinking kindred spirit friend of mine said just today, Yoga alone won’t save your fucking life.

Right??!! I yelled (too loudly) this is how I’ve felt for a long time now.

I also told him I’d steal the line and use it as my own. So there it is.

Not only Yoga alone, but the many different philosophies, religions, practices etc  I found either out-dated , too convoluted to grasp or in reality completely unattainable.

So, just 3 years ago, I threw everything out (along with my own belief in my self) and started from the very beginning.

That is how dharmaKaya® was born; a system to Self Mastery that took me from being on the verge of being kicked out of Germany, living on friend’s sofas, knocking on yoga studio’s doors (and by the way, being rejected) to being financially independent, doing what I love, a schedule so full I have to turn people away, but much much more importantly, a system I believe in. A system that I use and live by.

I have taken some ancient ideas and made them relevant.

There is incredible wisdom that we can use from the ancient teachings of yoga, Buddhism, psychology and mysticism, but not all are relevant or even helpful to our culture and our age.

It is my mission to share what has worked and continues to work for me, and that it was I teach. It is not a path to enlightenment, but it is a path to

Greater Awareness

Greater Confidence

Personal Power

Better and more fulfilling relationships

Better health and vitality

Better sleep

And Creating the life you want

dharmaKaya® is also not about yogic acrobatics, the yoga scene and a green juice, gluten free, peace and Namaste health fad.

It is an authentic and modern expression of some old and deep philosophies delivered in a way that is useful, relevant and always, always remembers to not take itself too seriously.

In a world where we have found a way to use ancient paths to liberation as another means to oppression and a measure against impossible standards, I feel it is critical that we find a more compassionate and realistic approach to personal freedom.

I cannot tell you how many conversations I have with yoga teachers, yoga practitioners, health coaches and even business coaches, living under the tyranny of over inflated ideas of perfectionism, too afraid to admit to drinking cows milk in a cappuccino (even worse if it didn’t come in a bamboo, recycled cup) too afraid to have a negative thought, less someone catch them out on their unenlightened state, beating themselves up when they don’t get to their yoga mat, or have an hour meditation practice daily, or don’t have a mantra, or haven’t met their guru,,, the list goes on.

This is the opposite of liberation.

This is not enlightenment.

So this is my big fat WHY I do what I do.

I hope you will join me on this incredible journey to self knowledge ... and it is my sincere belief, that the deeper the relationship to and knowledge of self, the deeper the relationship to and knowledge of the world around you.









It's killer but smells nice - Redefining female by Cherryl Duncan

Yes, I'm primarily a yoga teacher, but I'm also an author of a book about authenticity, a mentor, a coach and I somewhat of a thinker. When you go as far into the philosophy of yoga and mysticism as I have, one can't help but be affected in all areas of ones life, and that's why I sometimes ponder things seemingly unyoga-related (at least to the untrained eye).

I turn 40 in July and can't help but be drawn into pondering this next phase of my life and what it means for me.

So, what does it mean to be a 40 year old woman?

I’m at the precipice of something new, standing at the edge of a large forest, somewhat afraid to go in. My 30’s lie at the outskirts and 40 is somewhere in the middle of it.

Mysterious and a little dark, a thick and silent energy moves through the trees like a powerful snake. All I need to do is walk in.

It’s true what they say, that youth is wasted on, well, the youth.

If only I knew this power when I was younger. But the world doesn’t work like that, and it’s not the laws Nature operates within. Maybe we’d be too powerful and destroy each other and ourselves, for with power must come wisdom.

I do not profess to be wise, but I am wiser than I was, and I know that if I walk into 40 having fully let go of 30, I will be that much wiser.

We live in a culture where woman are encouraged to hold onto their youth, their beauty, and their easily digestible roles in society. We’re either the Innocent Maiden (beauty) Wife/Mother (Devoted and selfless), Temptress (a mere distraction for men on a noble mission) or the ultimate crone (shunned).

So, as a 40-year-old childless woman, where do I fit? According to society I’m stuck somewhere between tempting men away form their noble causes (rolls her eyes) and the fast track to cronedom. The former eliciting a yawn and the latter unappealing for obvious reasons, although somewhat less so.

I feel neither the urge to tempt anyone, except perhaps into higher states of consciousness, authenticity and awareness, but that’s another story. Nor am I ready to enter into the sinister, malicious and disagreeable role of the crone – yet!

On the contrary, I feel a force so strong; it even scares me at times. An energy, if I truly surrender to, renders me almost drunk with its power. I start to understand the maniacal laughing of the comical villain in a 70’s superhero movie and then remember that I am still a lady (society still manages to hold me in it’s anxious grip) and I control the laughter and stand at the edge of the forest, wondering how best to direct the thick, silent and powerful force I now recognise as mine.

Women have been trying to redefine female power for a long time now, and here I stand, recognising that it’s time to contribute. Contribute in a way that makes sense to me.

For me it’s the energy of it. The power of it. It lies in nature. It lies in strength.

It’s not man.

It’s definitely not shoulder pads.

It’s killer but smells nice.

Until then, I’ll stand and watch and when the time is right, I will walk in and never look back.

What does being female mean to you? What does it mean for you as a man to be in a world of the female resurgence?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.




Seeing the dharma in films by Cherryl Duncan

I recently watched ‘I’m not an easy man’; a French film about switching of gender roles. Sounds heavy, but it’s not. First of all, I love French movies, they’re often simple and profound in a way that doesn’t beat you over the head while it makes it’s point, and usually set against the backdrop of Paris or some other beautiful European city. Yes, Summer is approaching which means I will go on and on and on about why I love Europe, but I digress.

‘I’m not an easy man’ is basically about a guy who bangs his head on a pole and wakes up from his unconscious state in a world where the gender roles are reversed. Women treat men as objects of desire alone, disrespect them regularly, have pressure to make money and be seen as successful, hell, the women don’t even wear bras and go topless in the streets during a jog (clearly the French don’t understand the benefit of a lululemon sports bra). Sounds kind of cheesy as I write it, but I found the film amusing and worthwhile and enjoyed the fact that my brain had to continually realign itself to the new women-run world. It’s incredible to me how defined our gender roles are and how much brainwork it took to keep adjusting to the reversal. Very trippy. Very Cool.

Of course the guy falls in love with a woman who, (Spoiler alert) at the end of the film bangs her head and we see her wake up in a world where men have the opposite roles again and we are left wondering how this will play out. We’re also left with a profound sense that the two lovers will both truly, finally understand each other.

What touched me most about the film was its ability to touch subject of perspective so beautifully. It avoids the debate of what’s right and wrong as well as the usual pitfalls of feminism gone angry, and explores the possibility of a world where both sides were able to genuinely empathise and understand another’s perspective.

Wouldn’t that be an incredible world?

This is something I often talk about in my classes and in my blogs and stories because I believe it is at the heart of our connection to others.

It’s not about who’s right, it’s not about the facts all the time, but rather, it’s about taking the other’s perspective, even for a little while. It’s saying, ‘I see you, I understand you, I can imagine what it’s like to be you’. And mean it.

It’s all we need as humans, to be genuinely seen and heard.

Practice this today when someone talks to you or even sends you a text. Hear them, get out of your own story for 5 minutes and imagine what it’s like to be them. Then respond in a way that has nothing to do with you and your story, but just a simple genuine reflection. Then watch and let the magic happen.

The Dalai Lama, and the Buddha (guess that’s where he got all this stuff from) talks a lot, almost all the time about compassion, but compassion is such an incredibly complicated emotion and something that actually needs to be cultivated and almost taught through practices and meditations; that I say, let’s rather start with empathy, a genuine and sincere seeing of others, because I think that’s more urgently needed. Then we can go on to compassion from there.

 Wishing you beautiful connections







Actually, spend less time alone by Cherryl Duncan

It’s not everyday that one wakes up feeling inspired and ready to take on the world. In fact, for someone who’s job it is to be with people, and not just one on one people time, but fairly large groups of people on a fairly consistent basis, it’s kind of a surprise to realise just how much time I need alone. My alone time is gold to me, it’s where I get to write, think, read which usually means exploring new and old ideas and interests. Yes, of and some Netflix binge watching, there I said it.

I’m someone who feels like there isn’t enough time in this life to learn about all the things that fascinate my mind. The trouble is, I can get too much into my alone time which often means I’m too much in my head, and while it’s endlessly fascinating (no doubt for me alone), the head is not necessarily the place where happiness resides.

We know this from what the ancient mystic traditions tell us. Happiness resides in the heart; it is after all where we feel fuzzy things like love, joy and compassion.  And yet, when we’re feeling disconnected or slightly off, it’s often the head we’ll go to for comfort; we try and think, plan, strategize, or distract our way out of the unease.

Of course there are many ways to get out of the head and into the heart and Yoga is a sure fire way to do this. A well sequenced breath and intention filled yoga practice will leave you with a greater sense of connectedness, ease, groundedness and well-being, guaranteed.

But there is another way to get out of the head, a way to break out of the often whirlpool effect of spending more and more time alone, and that’s to force yourself into a meeting with someone else.

I’m not talking about your trusted friend who’s always up for a coffee or a glass of wine to chat, or your buddy you can easily convince to have dinner with, or more comfortably numbing, an ex girlfriend/boyfriend because it’s oh-so-fun to rehash that yet another time. I'm not saying don't hang out with your friends, I'm talking about shifting energy out of funk town and into inspiration city.

I’m talking about collaboration! For those of you not following me on Instagram (why not ? :-) my word for the year is ‘collaboration’.

Because as capable as I am on my own, and as much as I hate team sports or team anything, unless of course I can be the leader of said team (not proud, just true),  I have come to realise that we are simply stronger together.

BUT!.. and here’s the big but; you’ve got to choose your collaborators carefully.

Essentially, they have to be bringing their A game (which means you have to be bring yours too).

So, when I’m feeling drawn to excessive alone time,  I will now often make an effort, as hard as it feels sometimes to not get sucked into days of head time,  to reach out to those that sparkle with their own enthusiasm for whatever it is they’re doing. A shared interest helps, although you’d be surprised at how contagious authentic enthusiasm is no matter the topic.  And by reach out I mean meet with them, call them, come up with a crazy ass idea that may go nowhere and pitch it to them. I’ve even reached out to people I’ve never met before and sometimes nothing comes from it, but the mere act produces an energy that often sparks another idea, thought or just general warm, fuzzy feeling in the chest.

I’ve managed to collect a handful of these people who, even if we don’t speak on a regular basis, I know that if we connect, if for no other reason, I’ll be sparked into action. I’ve worked with each of them in some capacity and now make it an important value to be open and on the look out for more, and it’s interesting, because the more I open this channel, the more comes my way. Mysterious but true.

In an age of fast and instant digital connection, we can easily lose sight of good old-fashioned telephone, or person to person meeting. I even find myself staring blankly at my phone when it rings wondering what kind of sane person calls instead of texting or emailing.

So for you introvert/extroverts out there – like me, as wonderful as you find yourself, and yes, of course, alone time is crucial for sanity and rejuvenation, make an effort, when you feel THE LEAST INCLINED TO DO SO, and do something daring and meet with someone to do something weird, wonderful, scary, mad, creative or …. ___________(Fill in blank here)

Keeping the fire burning



Your yoga pants are more see through then you think by Cherryl Duncan

Call me old fashioned but I am starting to miss the ‘old days’ of yoga where the space was seen as a sacred space. A clean space. A space that was different from the rest of the chaos of our lives. A quiet space. A space to retreat.

So you can understand my growing concern about the objects I am, with increasing frequency finding in yoga classes.

Just the other day I was deep in my practice, in a public class, when a cell phone screen lit up next to me with an incoming text. The phone belonged to a fellow yoga student who, from her downward facing dog literally read the incoming text message.

I was torn between the yogic equilibrium I was trying to maintain and dramatically rolling my eyes, sighing heavily and making my disdain and annoyance clearly visible (I’ve learnt how to do this with much success from the Germans). Never mind the radiation or radio waves or whatever fucking signals are transmitting next to me while I am trying to channel and transmit only pure and healthy energy, Yoga is the one place I want to not see a screen, the one place I’ve chosen to be where I’m not reminded of my own to do lists and people needing stuff lists, the one place I’ve chosen to detach from my own somewhat unhealthy (but essential) relationship with my phone. Come on, do I even need to say it?  Phone in the yoga room is just a no. On or off. Well, if it’s off, then what’s the point? Talk about unhealthy attachment. It’s like its mere presence is enough wtf?

The yoga space is also traditionally a no shoes area. Hell, my own apartment is a no shoes area. This makes total sense to me, both from an energetic perspective (ergo yucky, black street goop energy) and from a cleanliness perspective. It’s also quiet when people walk barefoot.  All round no shoes is a bloody good idea. So you can again, imagine my surprise, this time while I was teaching, when I happened across a pair of beach sandals lying, albeit neatly, next to a person’s yoga mat.

Another student had a fruit juice – yes, a fruit juice next to her mat, along with a hair brush! A hair brush.  What’s next? A facial mask and curling iron?

At the risk of sounding like a complaining killjoy, oh what the hell, I’m going to be 40 this year, let’s just say I’ve slipped into being old fashioned, and I’m fine with that. But I ask, can we please bring back the quiet, clean, and stuff -free feeling of the yoga space?

Oh, and another thing, ladies,,, your pants are more see-through than you realise. Seriously. Before you buy a pair –regardless of the expensive brand name, bend over in the mirror and ask a good friend to tell you what they see.

Unless you don’t care, in which case, more power to you. But if you don’t want your yoga teacher being able to tell the approximate date of your last bikini wax, I suggest checking in the mirror before checking out of the store. – I can give you a list of brands If you like.

Peace out, that’s my yoga moan for the day.

I’m going to do a self practice now because it’s a clean, clear, quiet space – at least there’s still that.

What's your ONE THING? by Cherryl Duncan

A lot of my blog posts in the past start with ‘I’m reading this book…’ and I’m happy with that, because I believe in reading something other than news snippets, Instagram feeds, quotes (although I do love a good quote) or things that require more than a 30 second attention span. This blog is no different in that way as it begins with ‘I’m reading this book’.

It may however differ somewhat in content given that most of my books are about human nature, how to be happy, yoga, philosophy and the like, and this one is about being more productive. Ok, let’s just go ahead and call it a business book. Yeah, I know, business and yoga; an unlikely, unsuitable and potentially explosive and destructive union, or so I used to believe.

Long story short, I got my head out of my ass and realised that I couldn’t live on fairy dust and Matcha lattes and I had to get a little bit more serious about my relationship to money if I was going to keep doing what I loved, which is teaching yoga, sharing ideas and if I may be so bold, being somewhat significant in the lives of those who choose to take my courses and share their journeys with me.

But I digress, back to the business book. It’s called The One Thing and is written by Gary Keller.  It’s essentially a book about productivity. His idea is that you’ve got to figure out what the most important thing is and then do it. Ok, I’m simplifying. But for me, focusing and choosing one thing, forsaking all other sparkly ideas, directions, activities, tasks and projects was like mourning the death of my unborn children – and their were many. This is metaphor, albeit a poor one; but for someone who doesn’t have children, you can forgive me; besides, my ideas are my babies and I want to birth them all. Simultaneously.  NOW.

Gary Keller says NO. So because I chose to listen to him for a while, I gave this a try.

Apparently it was ok to write my ideas down in a little book and save them for another time (thank god), but for now, I had to choose THE THING, and focus on it.

And I have to say, it’s working. Really. Smart guy. I still sometimes doubt my one thing and I get distracted by the new shiny idea, but for the most part, I’m doing this one thing.

The other thing he says is that you should do this ONE THING at the time of day when you are most likely to do it. We have a finite amount of willpower and it’s best not to waste that energy and willpower on Instagram chats, phone calls, checking email, painting your toenails or whatever else you have to do in a day. Now that got me thinking because it reminds me of a Buddhist teaching that kinda sorta says the same thing. It goes like this : When you take on a new value, do everything you can to create the best conditions that will best allow you to keep your value.

Values can be new healthier habits, for example, or getting away from bad ones, or taking on a new value like being on time, or being er more productive, a nicer person or whatever else you’re wanting to take on. The Buddhist teaching creates a framework of rules (They call them vows) that involve not drinking alcohol for example, because they say that you’re less likely to keep your vows and be the person you’re aiming for if you’re drunk. Simple but true. (for the record, I do drink and love wine so please don’t go thinking I’ve taken this vow) but there is something to it because my new value of productivity is impaired if I drink too much wine, but anyway, you get my point, well mine and Gary’s point.

In case you didn’t

Do the things (or if you can do The Thing) that will make the most significant change to you life when you have the most energy to do it.

Stay away from activities, influences, people, input etc that takes you away from that Thing or that doesn’t support this Thing.

For me it’s first thing in the morning.

The night before I decide what’s most important to me, and then I do that thing first thing in the morning before I start to lose steam and focus.

There you have it, merging my Buddhist ideals with my Productivity Ones- I love it when this happens.

PS. You don’t have to choose. You can keep your yogi ideals and be successful and human all at the same time, in fact, I highly recommend it.






What's love got to do with ...Yoga? by Cherryl Duncan

It may surprise you to know, if you don’t already, that there are many paths to yoga, and when I say yoga, I mean the state of yoga. Sometimes described, and I personally find this to be the most satisfying depiction, as being in a state of complete absorption.
You’ll know you’ve been in a state of yoga (union) when you, for a moment or two or hopefully for even longer than that, lose your sense of self. This can often sound terrible in principle, but when we totally  forget ourselves for a moment, we drop the identification with all our neurosis, anxieties, fluctuating moods, pain and anything else that makes us ordinary human beings. The most practical examples are being so completely absorbed in a piece of music, or art, or an idea, or nature, or some extreme activity, or yes (you knew it was coming) love.
As yogis, we try and make this experience, this state of union, come about independent of music, or art, or an idea, or nature, or some extreme activity, and yes, definitely independent of needing to have to fall in love (That would be problematic). That’s basically why we jump around our yoga mats, meditate, breathe and try get in touch with that part of ourselves which is capable of spontaneous and total absorption with, well, consciousness.
As I said, there are many paths and jumping around a yoga mat, breathing and meditating is just one, and happens to be a popular one because of all those seductive side benefits of having a fit and healthy body and being able to show off at parties doing headstands, but there are other ways and one way, made most popular by people like Ghandi, is the way of the karma yogi. The idea that you dedicate your life to serving others, and here’s the real catch, without attachment to the outcome. So basically, there’s meant to be some deep liberation and total absorption buzzy feeling in the mere act of kindness itself. That means whether someone says thank you or not, whether someone even wanted your help or not, and even if someone turns around and stabs you in the back for your efforts.
Because I’m into making this and other yoga ideas really practical and useful, I take this idea and offer the following; because while Ghandi was a bit extreme for me to use him as a role model for my life here in Western Europe, I do think there is something in doing things simply because they feel good to do. And I mean really good. The kind of good that is deeply satisfying on the level of the soul (as opposed to how blueberry pancakes are good).
Do things for others because it simply feels nice – with no expectation. That’s right, It’s a practice. And here’s a little extra tip; don’t do it  if you expect something. Simple.
Wait until your heart is genuinely in the right place.
Here’s also a whacky idea, do something that is completely meaningless and purposeless and creative and fun just because the mere act itself feels good.
PLAY! Draw, create, write, dance, laugh, throw stuff – without thinking if anyone else will like it, see it, care about it, or if you can make money off it.
We definitely don’t do this enough.
Do these two things and you too can be a karma yogi and, even if you don’t reach the state of Yoga, you’ll definitely be on your way to a happier existence- for sure. There really is something to this yoga stuff isn’t there?