When my flat-mate and good friend, Ian, asked me to come along to a self-defence class, I was all, “Nah, I’m good eh“, but then I thought, what the hell! Knowing I said no, because… More
Happy Holi to you, and you, and you…
The Festival of Colours is an event I’ve wanted to sink my teeth into from the moment I moved up to the big smoke. But like anything that sits on the outskirts of my comfort zone, I’m a master at talking myself out of doing it. 5 years later and I can now say it’s been ticked off the list – in the most colourful way possible.
My sister, Brittany joined me on this week’s adventure and I couldn’t think of anyone more fitting to jump into this experience with me. See, my sister has always celebrated people’s difference, shown most recently as she proudly marched in the Pride Parade, as a straight, and extremely supportive member of the Westpac staff. This is one of the many things I admire about her, as she understands wholeheartedly that humans are colourful, vibrant and beautiful – and that should most definitely be celebrated.
It didn’t take much convincing for her to join me on our trip out West Auckland, but even with my little sister in tow, I still had a few nerves heading to a festival I knew nothing about. The event was held at the Hare Krishna Temple, which for me rings bells, sparking memories back in my home town of Wanganui. I can remember crowds of people, wearing robes and carrying instruments, all singing as they marched down the local streets. They always caught the attention of everyone they passed and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get their song out of my head, “Hare, Hare Krishna, hare hare…”. So, I knew who they were, but did I know what they were about?
Nope. Not at all.
So, in my bid to broaden my horizons, I pulled up the big girl pants, grabbed my sister’s hand and we set off to get educated and fabulously messy.
It was the most beautiful day, the Auckland sun was blazing and it seemed we weren’t the only people heading to the festival, as traffic backed right up the road for miles. As we walked to the peaceful Hare Krishna gates, we were greeted by some of West Auckland’s finest, “Heeeeey babyyyyy“, yelled loudly at us out the window of a Subaru Legacy, his silver mags blinding my eye balls as he sped past towards the Temple. Ha! I do love a good contradiction in life and that was certainly one of them.
The music was pumping, blasting from a big stage front and centre of the event. It was amazing to see people were already covered head to toe in powdered paint – it was complete and utter colourful chaos. We learnt early on that you yell “Happy Holi“, as you throw your paint at people – first shown to us by a young Indian boy who threw his paint in both of our hair. Hey, when in
The Hindu Holi Festival of Colour is an annual event, which celebrates good triumphing over evil and the harvest season. Everyone being powdered with the same colours acts as a unifying force and man, what an amazing experience to part of. Me and Britts took off our shoes, grabbed our bags of colour and headed straight into the mosh pit. It was one of those, all or nothing, experiences and so we left all dignity and politeness at the end of the crowd and armed ourselves with paint.
There really is something so magical about everyone covered in coloured paint – removing all visual representations of culture, race, even gender…we were all just a group of human beings, celebrating a diverse festival and having a bloody good time. Having myself, just supported Pride Parade the night before, and then being amongst a completely new culture and religious community, I felt such an immense amount of gratitude for how uniquely different people are. There is so much beauty to be found in all of our colourful differences!
Paint up nose, paint in hair, paint in eyes, paint down boobs, paint between your toes and paint where paint should just not ever venture – we experienced it all. Plus I must say, when you’re dancing your butt off, in a 1000 strong crowd, in 25 degree heat, that colour that looks really cute to begin with, ends up in clay-like clumps on your face, making you look like the Hulk. Damn girl! I was also born with a big nose (Thanks Dad) and the paint had acted like a highlighter emphasising it even further – it was hilarious and I don’t think Britts and I had laughed so much at ourselves in a long time.
We embraced the day, ate a delicious vegetarian meal, threw paint at strangers, danced, danced and danced some more and had the most fabulous time! HIGHLY recommend going if you ever get the chance.
Before and After vid – check out the chaos!
Insta | bexsloany
Alarm goes off.
Eyes peak open.
Yay, the sun is shining.
Leans over to phone.
Ok, five more minutes.
Alarm goes off.
Hold up, it’s Saturday, why am I getting up early? Me and early aren’t even bloody friends.
Alarm goes off – again.
Nah common’, get up now, Bex!
As I do a quick scan over how I’m feeling in this exact moment I sense a slight headache, it’s enough for me to convince myself I may need more sleep and to reach over to my phone to press Snooze one more time. I know what you’re up to, Sloan! I notice my belly is already starting to fill with anxious butterflies, I acknowledge them and am reminded why they exist today. I have my first activity this morning… Group Buddhist Meditation – well I will if I ever get my ass out of bed. It would be so easy for me to just stay here, to instead press Stop on my alarm clock and just fall back into blissful sleep. But the thing is, if I do that, nothing will ever change. Anxiety will continue to create this wall in my life, blocking me from the things I want to try, new experiences worth exploring or finding the magic that exists when you leave your comfort zone. What kind of life will I lead if I let Anxiety win? A shit one – so get up!
Ok, ok, I’m up.
I’m sitting in my car and I can see the Auckland Buddhist Centre across the road – it doesn’t look all that scary. I notice I’m 15 minutes early, that’s a first, so I decide I’ll sit in my car for five, then head over. I get anxious over the silliest things when it comes to being in a new environment. Do we all just stand outside until the session starts? Where does the ‘Koha’ go? Is there a bathroom in there in case I need to pee? I pee a lot when I’m nervous. Around 10 more, rather ridiculous, questions shoot through my brain in the next three minutes and then I have to physically force myself to get out of my car and go and wait with the people I can see by the entrance. As I walk into the gates, I notice the Buddha statues in amongst the small garden and in front of me are these gorgeous gold plated tiles, marked with such detailed patterns and they’re glistening brightly in the morning sun. Ok, this isn’t too bad.
I question whether the people outside are waiting for the same class as me, or maybe I should head inside to check where I am meant to be going. I walk up to the front door and as I turn the handle I notice straight away that it is locked. Ohh no, shit!!!! Awkward moment #1. Something as simple as a looked door can cause me a world of embarrassment. You see, the old Bex would’ve been completely comfortable asking the people sitting next to door whether or not we wait outside, but this Bex had to stop herself from physically running out of the centre forecourt and back to her safe place – her car. Luckily, before I could make my anxious and completely irrational exit, a lovely lady said to me, “They won’t be long. It’ll be open soon”, paired with the most beautiful and soft smile. You’re fine Bex, relax!
The leader of the Meditation greeted everyone in the waiting area. She was a small lady with an energy that instantly made me feel calm. She had a warm presence that exuded tranquillity and seeing her kindly interact with the other attendees made me feel a lot more comfortable. I thought if I could just steal her to be in my life full time there would be no room for stress or anxiousness. Hi, I’m Bex. Can I take you home?
I notice an older couple going up to her and introducing themselves, explaining it was their first time here. I thought it might be a good idea for me to do the same, but chicken out when the opportunity presents itself. Instead, I take off my shoes, I noticed everyone was doing that, so I followed suit, and go into the meditation room to put my bag down. I am very conscious of that fact that while I’m not completely new to ‘Meditation’, I am to this form and I really don’t want to offend anyone or do anything that would be deemed disrespectful, so I pull up my big girl pants and head over to the leader to introduce myself.
“Hi, I’m Bex. This is my first time here and I’m just wondering if there’s anywhere I need to sit, or… should I just grab a spot?” Firstly, let me just say that I went in for a handshake and I think she was kinda’ going in for a hug – Do Buddhists not shake hands? Ah! Awkward moment #2. Then as I was saying ‘I’m just wondering if there’s anywhere I need to sit or…’, I did this extremely weird movement thing with my chest and arms, like my body had been nervously possessed for a mere second and I couldn’t control my own hands – what the hell was that? A dance move or something? I noticed it straight away and tried to put my hands down back by my sides as fast as I could, but it was too late, she had noticed and almost mirrored it back to me when she explained I could grab a chair and a foot cushion. Awkward moment #3. Bloody hell – just go sit down Sloan.
After shuffling in my chair I become comfortable, physically at least, and completely memorised by the big beautiful Buddha statue that’s sitting front and centre of this rather intimately small room. It’s surrounded by candles and everyone’s energy is directed towards it. Some people are sitting on red floor cushions, some sitting on small stools and some standing, so I stay seated on my chair until I am prompted to do anything. As the leader approaches the group, she encourages everyone to stand and everyone places their hands in the Namaste (hands to heart) position and begin to pray to Buddha. Awkward moment #4 – however awkward, strangely in this exact moment I am really glad I had come today. This is so completely out of my comfort zone and for someone who doesn’t have a religious bone in her body, the notion of praying does not come naturally to me. Nevertheless, I embraced the moment and felt myself giving gratitude to the statue sitting in front of us, as I felt incredibly grateful to be there, and to be facing this anxious moment head on.
Meditation has always helped me find a sense of calm and became my go-to when knees deep in the legalities of my sexual abuse case. In the throes of panic attacks or anxious build ups, I have turned to meditation to settle my mind or help prepare me for a good night’s sleep. That however has been in the safety of my own bedroom, not in a Buddhist Centre surrounded by people who very much look like experts, so it’s safe to say it took me a while to settle my thoughts and focus my energy towards my breath. After some deep belly-breathing, I began to feel my body release tension and slowly slip into a state of relaxation. My legs became heavy, feet sinking into the floor cushion, my shoulders relaxing and my hands softening. I am finding my groove…. That was until the chanting started. Awkward moment #5 – The group broke the silence and began to speak aloud in unison– giving me one hell of a fright and sending waves of nerves from head to toe. I paused and thought, I have 2 options here, to either judge the situation and feel like an idiot for not knowing the words, OR just hum along and embrace the fact that I’m not going to be an expert at everything first off the bat, and actually, sometimes I’ll never be one and that’s OK too, so hum I did.
“Focus on the breath. The mind is designed to create thoughts, acknowledge them and then let them go. The body will create sensations, that’s ok, let them go.”
Big breath in….and out.
I fully feel like I’m in Eat, Pray, Love right now. I’m practically Julia Roberts. If I ever go back to Bali again, I’m going to find a Mediation and Yoga resort. I’d be so hardcore zen. Man Bali was so fun. Man, I need to save money.
In and out.
Shit, I have an itchy foot, should I scratch it? It’s a sensation, maybe I should just let it go? … Don’t scratch it Sloan. Stop focussing on it. It’ll pass.
In and out.
The lady next to me just reached for her drink bottle, so I can scratch my foot if I need too right? They can’t tell me off for scratching my foot… Can they?
Fuck it, I’m just going to go for it.
In, hold for five…and out.
There’s a guy over there falling asleep, he’s swaying so much I’m afraid he’s going to fall off his stool. If he falls I might actually laugh out loud. You can’t laugh in the presence of Buddha.
Bex, why are your eyes open?
Fuck, what the hell was that?
“Find the breath. If you drift, come back to the breath. Breathe in, hold, breathe out.”
After 10 minutes or so, I start to feel myself almost falling asleep, I wasn’t sure if it’s because normally I’m still asleep at this time on a Saturday, or maybe the meditation was actually working. Either way, there was such an incredible energy in the room and I felt very lucky to be a part of it.
The last dong signalled the end of the Meditation and as everyone began to slowly move again, I realised I was just starting to really enjoy it. I look around the room and feel a real sense of pride that I had survived my first activity. Standing up, I notice the fact that my body had been, surpirisngly, really relaxed, so I moved my legs to shake off the last hour, before grabbing my gear to leave.
Walking out of the Auckland Buddhist Centre, I notice the self-talk game is strong, ‘Good job mate! one down, 19 to go.’ After talking to myself in public, I do that a lot, I sit back in the car and can’t help but laugh at the notion that I can jump off the Auckland Sky Tower and put a bad guy in jail, but sitting silent in a room full of strangers with their eyes closed, was completely terrifying. However crazy it seemed, I made a conscious effort to really embrace the feeling of accomplishment, no matter how small it may be in the scheme of things.
I had hauled myself out of bed, sat on a chair next to strangers, closed my eyes, hummed, receited and prayed…and I had survived, plus I was even kinda’ keen to do it all over again. I stepped outside of my comfort zone and lived to tell the tale – now that’s magic!
Check out my wee before and after check-in video below:
Insta | bexsloany
Hi, I’m Bex Sloan.
Welcome – thank you for being here.
I’d like to firstly share something with you, something that I’ve come to realise over the past 2 years – we take on many roles and wear numerous hats in our busy lives; I am a woman, a daughter, a big sister, a niece, a cousin, a granddaughter, a friend, a flatmate, a Marketing Executive, an enthused writer, a spiritual seeker, a rosé drinker, a lover of dancing, the ocean and all things nature – and as of 2 years ago, I uncovered and revealed to the world that I am also a sexual abuse survivor, and due to that very realisation, someone who now suffers from Anxiety.
Whilst not very obvious from the outset, I now find myself anxious about the new, fearing the lack of control in foreign situations. I have an ability to over-think almost anything, sending anxious butterflies soaring through me with such force. The idea of being open and real, showing vulnerability, terrifies me, and trying to calm my overactive brain is a never-ending battle. The list of things that freak the shit out of me is now long and diverse and, as my fellow anxiety sufferers will know all too well, I am the master of talking myself out of any situation that may have me stepping a little too far outside of my comfort zone.
One of my proudest life achievements thus far, is that I fought for my sexual abuser to be prosecuted and sent to prison, stopping him from abusing other young girls. However, in order to get through that incredibly emotional and challenging fight, I created myself a safe zone, and in turn lost a big chunk of who I once was – adventurous and daring, lover of change, with an excited zest for living life to the fullest. Anxiety entered my life, errecting walls that hold me back from really enjoying new experiences and eliminating the notion of living in the NOW.
This Blog is my way of tackling that anxiety head on and getting in touch with the old me. I aim to do this by putting myself into situations that scare me, challenge me and help me grow as a person. I must first admit something to you – my comfort zone, once large and untouchable, has shrivelled to the size of a pea, so we’re talking baby steps here, but hey, at least my feet are moving forwards.
I have decided to Blog my experiences, creating, Where the magic happens, for a few reasons: a) My anxiety has got in the way of truly living and I’m fed up with letting fear win! b) My Therapist encouraged me to seek outside of my comfort zone, whilst finding ways to expel anxious energy bouncing around in my body, and c) If I Blog about it, this bad boy will keep me accountable – no talking myself out of it this time!
I endeavour to be as honest, raw and open with you as I can, as this Blog isn’t just about the creative display of words or the retelling of my nervous adventures, this is my bid to find myself amongst anxious waves and to tackle my fears head on. I long to move past the endless fidgeting and ultimately find my own sense of calm, whilst discovering beauty in the new again.
Someone very wise once said to me, “Get outside of your comfort zone Sloan, that’s where the magic happens!” – And you know what, I think they’re on to something.
Instagram | bexsloany