The importance of Play by Cherryl Duncan

As you know, I’ve recently moved my home base to Zürich, but have spent exactly 5 days there since I arrived, after a wonderful holiday in South Africa, a short trip to Italy and this week here in the mountains.

Next week takes me to Munich where I will be teaching and coaching mostly privately, with one public event at the Yoga an Engel in Bogenhausen.

This is a very special workshop in that it integrates a key component of my Self Mastery coaching program. This will also be taught in the upcoming dharmaKaya® teacher training program happening in 2019. The key component is simply PLAY!

Did you know that playing is an essential ingredient to being happy?
If you don’t believe me, just think of a world where there is no play.

There would be irony, no books, no movies, no art, no jokes, no flirting, no daydreaming, no comedy, no irony! – how awful!

The sad truth however, is that as we adult more and more we lose the ‘skill’ of play. We don’t trust ourselves to spontaneously engage in play because we were told it’s inappropriate, or we have to work more, succeed more, and basically get on with it.

 

I have recently been inspired to look at play and realised that a great place to start, is to look at my own childhood and remember the most joyous moments. I ask myself the question, what kinds of play did I love the most? When was I completely absorbed in the moment, doing something that had no other purpose, other than because it was fun.

As a child I was obsessed with alternate realities (That hasn’t changed) and my most fun activities where building different worlds (In my cupboard, in the garden, behind walls, or just simply imagining a portal I could easily step through where everything was magic).

I also loved running in the rain, jumping in puddles, dancing and being very active using my body.

Did you know there are different kinds of play? (According to fancy doctors that study this stuff from a scientific perspective).

To name a few, there are

Object play

Rough and Tumble

Fantasy

Curiosity

Our fascination with being airborne

To name a few…

 

Sometimes it’s fun to play with others, (more social play that invites trust and builds relationships) and sometimes it’s fun to play on our own.

What is your special play history? And how can you infuse your personal play patterns into your life?

This is one of the topics I delve into when you sign up for my coaching program, but next week I’ll be bringing the element of play into my work, into the yoga space.

Let your curiosity guide you on this one and if you’re sensing that you’ve lost a little bit of joy in your continued journey to achieve, then this is exactly the medicine you’ll be needing. I can’t wait to share this with you; it’s going to be so much fun- at the very least for me :-)

 

 

Some Myths about following your heart by Cherryl Duncan

After coming back from Italy having spent some time with the creator of Eremito, the hermitage style design hotel that’s made it to the list of top 5 hotels to visit as a solo traveller, I started thinking about what it really means to follow one’s heart.

After establishing a famous clothing brand in the eighties, Marcello decided to follow his heart and quit the fashion business. Embarking on a 2 year round the world sailing trip, he found his inspiration to open first an eco hotel in Mexico, and then later, Eremito in Italy where he continues to redefine luxury in terms of what we really need; harmony with nature, sustainable luxury and spirituality.

He talks about following ones heart in order to be happy. Not an entirely new or original idea and yet there’s truth in it, or is there?

 

I found a kindred spirit in my new friend Marcello, but I thought it worthwhile looking a little bit deeper into, dare I say it, the practicalities of following your heart.

What does it actually mean and what can we expect if we do look to the heart as opposed to the brain for direction.

When answering this question, I found myself having to debunk some myths that seem to be married to the notion of heart following.

 

Myth Number 1

You need to have already made enough money to pay your bills to follow your heart.

Probably sound advice for those not willing to throw it all away and live hand to mouth while doing what we love all day long. Nothing can suck the life out of your passion, like not knowing how you’re going to pay the rent or your dentist bill. However, there is something between throwing it all away at once, and a careful, considered plan to do more of what you love and less of what you don’t. Yes, it’s trickier, yes it requires a lot of work and little bit of faith (ok, heaps of faith) but you do not need to be a millionaire to take the first step, and then the next one, to follow your heart.

 

Myth Number 2

Following your heart will make you happy. In my experience, following your heart will make you miserable, heart broken and challenge every ounce of your self confidence at first, and then, once your heart has mended in a way that makes it stronger, more resilient, more whole and soft and open all at the same time, then comes the happiness; the kind that lasts. There is no wholeheartedness without a little bit heartbreak. If you’re lucky, this happens all at the same time and you simply feel more alive. What’s the alternative to living more alive? I don’t know exactly but I do know it’s nothing for me.

 

Myth Number 3

It will be easy.

It won’t.

It will be fun, but it won’t be easy

 

Myth Number 4

The answers all lie within your heart.

False. The heart can be an illusive, unclear, misleading, bitchy little cretin with (if your heart is like mine) a huge sense for irony.

The head and the heart are so often in conflict that it can be very hard to know who is saying what?

And like I said, sometimes the heart can you lead you on all kinds of crazy adventures, not always good (Immediately) BUT, the heart is always serving the soul and the soul is always, ultimately what will make your life meaningful and yes, even pleasurable.

 

Myth Number 5

Your sex organs are not your heart.

Don’t confuse lust, desire, distraction and avoidance for following your heart.

Your heart is in your chest, the other things are lower than that, and definitely have less intelligence.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t follow our desire. Our desire can lead us into deeper realms of self-knowledge and exquisite vulnerability, but not if we’re using it as a means to distract or avoid ourselves. Careful with that one.

 

 

If you’re truly interested in understanding your purpose, what gives your life meaning and how to intelligently follow your heart using some time test ancient wisdom from yoga philosophy, modern psychology and a touch of mysticism, then get in touch with me to start your journey to what I call Self Mastery.

This is my work, this is what I’ve done and continue to do for others, but you’ve got to be ready, and how do you know you’re ready? Your heart will tell you.

 

Love

Cherryl

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life is better without Netflix by Cherryl Duncan

I gave up my Netflix account a few months ago in an effort to spend less time in front of my screen, especially at night.

I did this because I had this gnawing feeling I could no longer ignore, (as is with most gnawing feelings, their innate and inevitable unignorabality) that I was avoiding something.

I didn’t know what, but I’ve been doing enough work on the path to self mastery that I trusted it would come to me if I just stopped, if I got still (albeit uncomfortably so) and waited. I wish I could tell you that the moment I stopped watching TV series and movies and whatever else animated my screen, that a blinding epiphany came to me and filled me with a deeper sense of self and connection to everything and everyone, but that’s not what happened.

Here’s what did happen however.

Because I’ve always loved to read, and knew that I missed reading as much as I used to – Thank you Netflix, Instagram (and other more boring and awful social media platforms) and general life-related business,

I decided to start reading again. To fill the time I would’ve spent zoned out in front of my screen, rather instead of a book. A paper one.

This in and of itself was really difficult.

I realised, with shocking clarity that I struggled to focus as easily as I used to. Thank you again, my beautiful but dangerous IPhone, proving the science (again) that constant, short bursts of 15 -45 seconds of focus (The amount of time it takes to check your phone) is making us more stupid and decreasing our ability to focus for longer periods of time.

I struggled to find a book I could really engage with.

I tried all my go-to self mastery titles and authors,  nothing. I tried fiction, nothing. I was like an listless addict uninterested in the things that used to engage my interest and imagination.

In hindsight I think I was in a kind of detox process. I had to just get through it.

After a few weeks, the habit was broken and I found myself simply doing other things. Going out a bit more, pushing through books, even when it seemed a bit boring (at least they put me to sleep), and generally getting used to just being. As in the more being less doing kind of way.

Just being is a hard thing to do, especially when we are trying to (unconsciously or not) avoid something, which as I mentioned, I was.

I was avoiding my creativity. My writing. I was avoiding creating and writing because I was avoiding the feelings that go along with my creativity and my writing.

I had to the icky job of feeling my feelings again, being with me, being in my body, out of my head, (oh my god, all the things I teach and coach). I had temporarily forgotten myself.

It’s a tricky thing when your work is what you live. After a full day of teaching and coaching yoga and methods to self-mastery, guess what I want to do? Take a break from yoga and self-mastery tools and practices, and yet they are the very tools that keep me happy and fulfilled.

(Dilemma)

I abandoned that unproductive line of thinking, named it a non-dilemma, pulled up my big girl panties, and swiftly put my own principles back into practice and came back to myself.

I didn’t need a break from my life’s work; I needed to engage with the space I had been filling with screen time.

I got myself off to a second hand bookstore, because I love everything about second hand bookstores; The smell, the energy of millions of words still living on pages written by those long dead (well some of them). I feel like the wealthiest woman in the world standing in the section mostly dedicated to thinkers, philosophers and revolutionaries. For about €7 a book, I can access worlds and ideas and basically converse with the dead. I had found my love for books again.

I also had time away. I had time away from teaching and coaching. I had nothing but space to fill and feelings to feel and books to read.

I started with the Unbearable lightness of being by Milan Kundera, (the irony not wasted on me). I was unbearably light. Our colours and all that make us spectacularly human (if felt at the depths we have capacity for) being the lightness that makes living almost unbearable at times.

I think that’s why we hide in the things that make us feel numb, we avoid our potential, we avoid our humanity, we avoid the magnificent sadness, the joy, the everything because it’s easier.
It’s easier until it isn’t.

Last night I fell off the wagon and started a series on Netflix (not my account – I wasn’t prepared to take that step). I struggled to sleep after two episodes of whatever it was I watched.

I instantly missed myself. I’m no longer comfortable in the avoidance. I woke up and recommitted again to my books and to my writing.

This is the result.

Thank you for reading.

I teach play and creativity as being vital to enhancing our lives and as I get back to my own creative process, I encourage you to get back to yours.

Creativity is not a hobby, and optional extra, any more than sleeping is a hobby or an optional extra. Creativity is an essential outlet to keeping us happy and fulfilled.

So, go ahead, create like no one is watching, because they aren’t (they’re checking their phones). I totally stole at least half of that line from someone else.

What habits do you have in your life that you use a tool to avoid your greatness?

Commit to reducing that thing even by a fraction at a time, in an effort to spend those 5, 10, 15 , 45 minutes doing something that sets you on fire.

I remember reading somewhere that television is like spray paint to your third eye. I usually hate any statement that uses the third eye as a meaningless yoga analogy but this one is good. It can stay. You can use it too :-)

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.

Love

Cherryl

 

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.

Love

Cherryl

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Cherryl

 

 

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

 

Love

Cherryl

 

 

 

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

Love

Cherryl