Q&A with James Mattingley


Come do yoga with this face. Meet James our resident RA teacher and Trainings Coordinator. Find out what challenges him, makes him move and inspires his personal practice. 

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James, how did you get into yoga? How did it all begin?
Randomly when I was 17. For some reason it was part of the curriculum of completely unrelated course I was taking. I’d heard of Yoga, but had no idea that what I was doing was Ashtanga or even that there were different styles… it was about 7 years before I knew there what the differences in lineages were! Looking back, I’m so ridiculously grateful, even though my own yoga journey didnt deepen until much later on, this first experience taught me to breath, to move with breath and this simple concept changed my life, in retrospect, in so many ways!

What is the most fulfilling aspect of your role as the YTT Manager?
Ive always found there is something so satisfying about painting the wall of a house. You start, and you see your progress bit by bit, then you can stand back at the end and really grasp your hand in creating the changes that happened, maybe they would have happened some other way, some other time, but for that moment there is fulfillment and satisfaction in the action of you creating change.

It’s a little like that with managing the Trainings… just that wall is shaped like a rubix cube …. and the shifts and changes ripple out from each trainee into their community and into the world. The most satisfying thing for me in putting together and teaching on the RA trainings is knowing that I had a hand in helping transform and uplift peoples lives.

How do you keep your own yoga practice interesting and challenging?
Self-practice? By working with myofascial lines, rather than specific movements or asana. I love to play around and see where different movements will take my practice in the mornings.

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What yoga pose challenges you the most? Why?
Backbends. In a physical level I have a slight kyphosis of my thoracic spine decreasing the range of motion I can get to in a back bending, it can be frustrating as hell. Energetically deep backbends are about the only pose I find that creates a level of fear and pull back response… which is why they’re also some of my favorite to work on ;)

What do you listen to when you practice yoga?
Totally depends on my mood! Evening self practice I’ve been jiving recently to random re-mixes of the XX, Yin or a gentle flow Ludovico Einaudi … and my morning self practice is almost always in silence.

Casey Bryan Interview

Currently in the middle of the Radiantly Alive Level l Teacher Training, Casey takes a few minutes to share her story, recommend a great book and some cool tunes and fills us in on how the training is going.


Casey, where are you from and how did you end up in Bali?
I am from Houston, Texas and through a series of quite serendipitous moments have landed here in Bali. After 2.5 years teaching and managing a studio in Melbourne, Australia a cycle of unsettling began to settle in. I decided to take a 1 week yoga retreat holiday to Bali to really look inside. While I was here, naturally, there was a whisper saying this is the place for you. I initially shrugged it off. Towards the end of my stay certain circumstances led me to have the ability to extend my stay as I did not need to get back to Melbourne. I decided I would stay one week more and make my way to Ubud where I had visited before (I was staying in Canggu at this moment). It was the first time in a long time that the waters were calm enough for me to hear my intuition. It said, go to Daniel Aaron’s class at Radiantly Alive…you need an inspiring practice.

The first class I attended, I sat next to a lovely gentlemen. We began to talk the usual … “What brings you to Bali?” “How long are you here for?” I clearly explained, I was on holiday and looking towards taking a bit of a break. He proceeded to tell me that Radiantly Alive was looking for someone to fill the role of the Assistant Manager/Marketing and that several teachers were going away so they were looking for covers. The moment these words came out of his mouth I just knew. I knew that what I thought my “plan” was had just charted its course right then and there.

One natural thing led to the next and now I call Radiantly Alive in magical Ubud my home, my inspiration and a once in a lifetime experience.


Tell us a little bit about your yoga journey?
My yoga journey began way back in 2004 or 2005 while I was partying away in college at LSU in Baton Rouge, LA. In between boozing and studying one of my very best friends said…come to this hot yoga class with me. I thought, okay, let’s give this a go. I sweat like I had never sweat before and then something amazing happened that I had never experienced in my whole life.  I got to lie down in an “exercise” class. I was hooked! After that yoga generally came and went in cycles for a few years.  

About 7 or 8 years ago I found myself on an incredibly unsatisfactory wheel of life that I created. I was working 60 – 70 hours a week, drinking quadruple shot lattes to wake up and a few glasses of wine to go to sleep. I was on a roller coaster of emotions without even knowing it. Suppressing everything down and then releasing through deep plummets of depression and anxiety. At this time my yoga practice came and went. I started to notice that it was the only thing that helped me relieve my suffering and consistently sent me into a deep slumber of rest. I started to realize, I was on to something. Over the next 2 years, yoga Increasingly became my priority and nothing would get in the way of my practice. I went on to obtain my yoga teacher training certification at the studio that I attended in Houston, TX. From there, my life as I knew it was changed forever. After years of inquiry and searching at last, I had found my passion.

I have since completed a 200 HR certification, a 300 HR Jivamukti certification and am currently on another completely transformative 300 HR training here at Radiantly Alive. You might say I’m a trainings junkie. I love learning about myself and my body as I now view it as a vessel to live and transmit all things yoga. I believe it’s my purpose to help facilitate the relief of the pain and suffering that others experience as well as uplift them into a new level of awareness. I try to shine flashes of light in areas of our darkness whether it is in our bodies or in our minds…but always searching for that which we cannot see already. And there is a boundless supply of it as the more I find out, the more I find out I don’t know anything at all.


Who has been your most influential yoga teacher and why?
Ohhhh. I have had so many. Most recently I have been forever moved by a wonderful teacher Mark Pheely from Melbourne, Australia. True happiness just oozed from his eyes, his pores and his smile. His happiness was effortless and to me that was the greatest teaching of all. It was the first time I had felt a teacher student love connection that actually fed me. By loving my teacher with purity it did not matter whether he loved me back… my love and being my love nourished my soul in a way that I have never experienced before. It wasn’t romantic, it wasn’t parental or familial… it was a teacher student bond that I almost cannot explain. I am grateful for life turning up in this way for me. It was magical.

You’re just about to complete Radiantly Alive’s Level l Yoga Teacher Training, how has the experience been for you so far?
Well, I am currently on the training now and as a veteran teacher trainee as this is now my third, I can honestly say that none hold a candle to the Radiantly Alive teacher training. It has already given me the methods and tools and processes to not only change my life but to create an incredibly abundant life of fulfilment and purpose. Not only have I sharpened my skills as a teacher but I’m experiencing a new way of thinking a new way of being that I might say in one way is saving my life. This training is not only sharing the secrets of success through a cognitive learning environment but facilitating a tremendously powerful experiential environment as well so that I actually am “getting it” on a whole different level. It’s the cream of the crop in my book.

What’s your favorite book?
Hmm… again soooo many amazing books and novels. I think one of my favorites is How Yoga Works. It is an innocent story of courage and bravery that outlines the yoga sutras and truly embodies an authentic journey of yoga.  

Who is  your favorite music artist?
Oh man, it is so hard to pick favorites, but right now… Trevor Hall. His music is captivating and his lyrics are uplifting for a perfect combination for any time of day or night. 

Q&A with Erica Pontalti

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Erica, how did you and your family end up in Ubud, Bali?

My husband and I spent one year, in 2000, here in Bali working on children’s books and we loved it so much that we came back often for holidays. 

One day, back in Italy, a close friend asked us (separately) what our crazy, secret, impossible dream was.

Surprisingly we both answered “moving to Bali”. After having realized that we had this crazy, secret, impossible dream in common (beside many other things) we started planning it. One extra reason being that we weren’t happy with our Italian life style.

We know you recently went through a huge transformational experience with the Breathwork Facilitator Training. Can you describe your experience to us?

Explaining transformation and shifting is always a bit difficult.

What I can say is that this incredible training gave me an extra kick (the process was already ongoing) on awarness, solidity, and clarity, offering new tools, and a new perspective: I feel like a completely different person, but maybe I got rid of layers that were hiding – and making heavy – my true self.

What has been one of the most pivotal moments in your life?

There are three that i have to mention: 

1. When I first looked my husband in his eyes (he was just a collegue at that time) receiving a completely new and overwhelming sensation.

2. When I said for the very first time “I want to teach yoga” and this came out of my mouth directly from my heart, bypassing my brain.

3. Something that is still to come: I have no idea what’s coming next and I look forward to being surprised!

What is your favorite song that makes you want to sing from the bottom of your heart?

Oh... there are so many! I sing all the time and many times I start crying (I’m very emotional). If I really have to choose: What a wonderful world.

Last question…what is your favorite café in Ubud?

Igelanca Warung, right next to Radiantly Alive studio. It's simple, cheap, authentic and really delicious!

The staff is super sweet and they even remember that I want my curry (in my opinion, the best in town) without bell pepper. Their chocolate mousse cake is heaven!


An introduction to the interview is below. Please click here for the full interview and video.

Daniel Aaron, Founder of Radiantly Alive Teacher Trainings

by Kara-Leah Grant

Meet Daniel Aaron, one of the founders of Radiantly Alive, author, chocolatier, herbalist, Human Potential coach, and Yoga teacher.

He’s going to be leading a Radiantly Alive Level 2 week-long Teacher Training at Mana Retreat this December.

Daniel was a self-proclaimed “lazy, fat, stiff” child who thought that yoga was for “pansies”. When he finally did make it to class back in 1995, he was surprised to discover yoga was challenging not just physically but also intellectually.

Despite being the stiffest person in class for at least the first two years, Daniel stuck with the yoga. Somehow he knew that not only was the practice freeing his body, it was also freeing his mind.

Fast forward twenty years and Daniel now runs a powerful yoga teacher training based out of Bali called Radiantly Alive.

A natural born teacher and educator, Daniel makes it his mission to make the trainings as transformative and powerful as possible.

This comes with a disclaimer though, to weed out those who aren’t up for this kind of training:

          “While anyone could rise above their doubts, not everyone does. Our training is open to
           anyone willing to commit. No matter what your previous yoga or life experience – you must
           be ready to devote yourself 100% to the process and be ready to go beyond what’s comfortable
           or easy. If you are mostly interested in a certification, enjoy complaining, or are picturing
           a leisurely yoga holiday, this isn’t the training for you.”

Join Daniel and I below as we discuss Daniel’s yoga journey, the upcoming Radiantly Alive Level 2 teacher training in New Zealand, and the true origins of chocolate.

Interview with Sanna


Meet Sanna. This beautiful flower has traveled all the way from Finland through Singapore,
France and Germany. Her blossom continues transmitting knowledge from 20 years of practice
and 10 years of teaching. Sanna has been infinitely inspired by Sri K Pattabhi Jois and authorized
by Lama Marut to teach Tibetan Heart Yoga. Here’s more about her beautiful story! 

1. How long have you been in Bali and what brought you here?

My family and I have been here just over 2 years now. With our love towards Asia and yoga,
Bali was the logical choice. Our family wanted to be situated close to Singapore, which was
our previous beloved home town. My partner and I also wanted to have good yoga practicing
options and allow for me to continue working as a yoga teacher. So Ubud was the perfect fit. 

2. Can you tell us a little bit about your yoga journey?

This is challenging to put into a short explanation.  

Already at quite a young age, I was questioning things and was a curious being.
Especially I felt this special pull towards the Eastern Philosophies and Religions. 

At the tender age of 15, I stumbled across a Hare Krishna Temple in Helsinki, Finland.
They were advertising ‘a free vegetarian Sunday meal and service’.  I went in and found
myself repeating this Sunday tradition for a few years. 

I was working as an aerobics instructor in the early 90’s. Around that time I was also doing
modeling and partying a great deal. I had my heavy exercise regime to counter balance
the addiction to drinking and a wild lifestyle.

One time, when I was jogging together with a good friend, who was a fitness professional and
a great source of inspiration at the time, she shared with me how she had tried something really
awesome and I should go and try it too. She told me it was better than any other exercise regime
she had tried before. She explained how she had got this sense of a both physical and mental
satisfaction like never before. I was really excited. I wanted to hear more. It was ashtanga yoga
she was talking about.

One weekend, I joined an introduction course and there was no turning back. We were the first
‘ashtanga pioneers’ in Finland at the time since there wasn’t even an ashtanga studio founded yet.
My teachers Petri Raisanen and Juha Javanainen rented a room from a dance studio and we got together every morning to practice ashtanga yoga. 

So.......after founding ashtanga yoga, I started to practice more yoga and teach less aerobics and
the partying was still there however it decreased heavily. Later, after starting with
Tibetan Buddhism & Tibetan Heart yoga I found the final peace which I had been looking for. 

It was a slow yet steady step-by-step process. My addiction to partying shifted to yoga, both inner
and outer practices.

Our big name teacher at the time was Lino Miele, who paid frequent visits to Finland and I joined every single workshop he gave. It ended up being many! I was a very dedicated student of Lino for many
years before I started to switch to other big ashtanga names. Suddenly, I was travelling everywhere
to follow all these inspirational teachers. In the midst of it all, after circa 13 years of practicing,
I joined my first teacher training just to ‘deepen my practice’. My intention was never to start teaching.
I was too happy to be a student and just every day to do my best on my own mat. 

It was only from the firm advice from my teacher trainer, Elizabeth Connolly, that I started to teach.
She wouldn’t take any of my excuses. She kind of forced me and I’m ever grateful to her for that.
She was a very powerful woman and I learned a lot from her. 


The definite highlight of my ashtanga path was to practice with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. One of
the sessions with him, which I will never forget and I certainly learned a lot from, was to practice
the intermediate as a led class with him. As Guruji ordered me to go to the front row, he was standing
most of the time right in front of me. It was a very powerful and truly humbling experience.
I felt how in ashtanga there can be power yet lightness at the same time and the practice becomes
like a dance where the practitioner goes into a form of trance and reaches a meditative state of mind. Guruji had this very special presence. It was just magical to practice in the same room with him.   

Later on I was fortunate to meet other great teachers of the other yoga styles too. One workshop particularly, which I always remember with certain level of warmness was with David Life (co-founder of Jivamukti) in Berlin, Germany. We had a very interesting Q&A after the practice. I had so many thoughts and things I was wondering about. David kept on patiently answering and I apologized for having so many questions to which he warmly said: “Your questions are everyone’s questions. Keep on asking”.
I remember something shifting there and then. 


3. What is your favorite book and why?

“How Yoga Works” by Geshe Michael Roach. After reading this book my life took a whole new direction.
I found Tibetan Buddhism and started to study with Geshe Michael Roach. I was really lucky to be one of the very first members of the Asian Classics Institute – sangha in Singapore. We took our studies really seriously. I felt I suddenly was on a fast track into something I had been searching for so many years.
I learned and understood the importance of forgiveness. I let go of holding onto old painful grudges.
After some time I found my heart Teacher and Mentor Lama Marut. 

I started to follow him to his various talks and retreats. He totally empowered me and my partner too. Thanks to Lama Marut we finally ‘jumped out of the wheel’. We got totally sickened with consumer capitalism. Started to give away heaps of stuff. We chose voluntary simplicity. Hence the final drop being the move to Bali.

So for me “How Yoga Works” was way more than just another book I’ve read. Shall I say,
“it saved my life”. 

4. Coffee or tea?

Green tea, a good espresso and when in Singapore definitely “thee c koso”. In that order!

5. How did teaching Tibetan Heart Yoga transpire for you?

First see the reply to no 3. After being a devoted student of my Lama he authorized me to teach this very special ‘heart opening’ form of inner practices. 

6. What is your favorite dinner spot in Ubud?

Since my son Axel is a mixed diet eater and enjoys meat as a treat every now and then, I gotta say
Café Des Artists since it works for the whole family. If it was only for me and my partner my answer
might be different 


7. Sanna, you have been known to have an awesomely radiant personality. Where do you get your energy and what keeps you inspired and lively? 

Erm, thank you. I get inspired by my partner, who’s constantly designing new sustainable houses and
I get a kick out of his kick. He sees beauty everywhere and is a highly positive and grounding person.

I get inspired by our studio founder Daniel Aaron. He is my true inspiration when it comes to Radiantly Alive Vinyasa and I love how he implemented the complaint free challenge, not only to the studio staff, but also for the students and the whole community! His Radiantly Alive Teacher Trainings are the highest quality
I have ever seen anywhere in this world. I feel he has so much to give and I’m privileged to be working
for him and RA.

Lastly and most importantly, I owe everything to my Lama Venerable Sumati Marut and my Tibetan Buddhist Teacher Cindy Lee. The very pure and highest form of inspiration comes from them. I had Cindy Lee’s Mother participating my Tibetan Heart Yoga class recently. It was a huge honor! I feel I’m living a truly blessed life and my mission is to help the others to feel happy too.

Q&A With Mesi Toth

Meet Mesi, Radiantly Alive's resident Tibetan Singing Bowl Therapist & Yoga Teacher. She joins us from Hungary with extensive continued studies with Donna Farhi and Tara Judelle. Mesi has taken a few moments to answer some questions about what’s inspiring her this season.

What brought you to Bali?
My partner and I came to Bali in search of an alternative lifestyle to the one we were leading back in Budapest for the previous year. We liked the city living, our small community and teaching yoga was also a blast but we got to the point where nothing was keeping us there, we felt comfortable, but we knew we needed different impulses in order to keep growing. If you’re a yogi you’ve heard about Ubud and we were just thinking it’s going to be now or never scenario, even though neither of us had been here before. Somehow it just felt like we needed to put this fantasy into life and fully explore the beauty and freedom of living on an island that is very special in many ways. When we arrived to Ubud we knew it was going to be the place where we would settle for the next phase in our life. Everything about this place was mesmerizing, it felt like we were drawn into this magical dimension where time totally loses its grip on people, and values that had kept us bound for most of our lives effortlessly fell to the side. We ended up staying and renting a place for a year. Shortly after I got this gig with Radiantly Alive, meanwhile my partner gets to carry on his work long distance and it feels like we have truly entered the flow of life. Being here has inspired us to celebrate our union in this very place, which is coming up in a few days, so we’re way excited ☺

What books are you reading now and what books have had a lasting impact on your life?
Right now I’m reading Donna Fahri’s Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit which is great, it encourages us to bring our practice into life and make it organic and authentic instead of following recipes and imposing them onto ourselves. I’m realizing more and more how important it is feeling into the body and exploring the limitless inner world. This way we’re more attuned to what we need in that present moment and are more enabled to act skillfully. If I had to name a book that was a game changer for me, it has to be “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle. I read it once and I didn’t really get it, and then read it again a couple of years later and it propelled me to change the course of my life, go to India for a long time to study yoga and Buddhism. I’m sure if I read it again I’d get the feeling I’d peel another layer off.

What is your favorite song that just makes you want to move?
Oh! Follow the Sun by Xavier Rudd! Hands down.

How did you find Tibetan singing bowl as a healing therapy and why do you want to share that experience with others?
When I was travelling in India I kept encountering singing bowls and became super fascinated with them. Eventually, I attended a workshop in Rishikesh, bought a couple of bowls and ended up experimenting with them on myself and willing friends. Then I came back home to Hungary and on that day, my friend suggested we go to a singing bowl meditation session. It really touched something deep in me and I decided there and then, that I have to start studying how to work with them. I needed to find a teacher, so I followed some leads to someone who lived right around the corner from me! I had travelled the whole world and ended up finding my master in my own backyard - it was such a powerful teaching. I wanted to share the experience with others because this calling was so strong. When I started actually undergoing treatments frequently I felt I was integrating a lot of unprocessed material on all levels of my being. I offer the sessions from this genuine place.

What is your favorite Ubud breakfast spot?
During the week I love going to Atman Kafe for a yummy chai, coconut pancakes and their brekkie burrito!!! On the weekends sometimes we treat ourselves to a brunch at Elephant, I’m a huge fan of the place, that’s where will be holding our wedding reception ;)


When to bend and when to walk away

Radiantly Alive founder and YTT Leader, Daniel, recently received a thought-provoking question. The dilemma is one that many of us, as teachers, or employees, have most likely faced or will at some point face in our lives. Here’s his take. The name has been changed.  


I was wondering if you could offer me some advice. I was approached to teach yoga from a studio nearby, the only real and convenient studio in town.

I'm ready to resume teaching as I move towards the end of my Bachelor's course and teaching at that studio, which is just around the corner from Uni, would be a perfect fit.

However - here's my dilemma - I've heard not so great things about the studio's ethics. While I have not been personally involved, there have been several instances at the studio as well as various social media comments from management that has been very offensive.

I'm so immensely grateful for all I've learned at Radiantly Alive from you and all the wonderful teachers you invited, and I'm especially thankful for how you conveyed the sacredness that is yoga teaching and the responsibility that comes with people trusting you to take care of their body.

So, here's my question: Do I say “No” because I strongly disagree with many decisions the studio owner and manager have made, or do I say “Yes” because I love to teach and if there's even just one student that I can ignite a spark in… then it's worth it, right?

I really would love some wisdom and guidance in this, if you're up for it.

Thank you so much.

Anonymous Alumni

Dear Teacher,

I love you and love your earnest desire to be real, honest, caring and continue growing. You are rocking. 

While it’s so normal to think of it as either or, yes or no, what about the more challenging and real in between? Like Ahimsa AND Satya. 

There are many ways it could play out, though one might be speaking to whomever invited you, or the owner directly, and saying you appreciate the invitation, would love to teach, and it’s a dilemma for you as you feel badly about some of what you’ve seen and experienced.

Maybe there are explanations for those things you’re not aware of.

Maybe it’s just exactly your feedback they need to hear. 

Whether they want to hire you or not, then you will have spoken up in a powerful, brave way. You are more respectable for that. And, very likely, they will respect you more. You may change their climate. They may say ‘piss off,’ in which case you’ll know for sure that it’s not the place for you. Either way, you’ll have been real and generous (you could just say nothing and either take the job or not). 

If you go forward with something like that, an important challenge will then be the artfulness (even if it feels clumsy) of speaking with them in a way that’s both ahimsic and satyic too. You can do that. You are that!

I hope that helps.


In short, when perplexed by an ethical choice to make, perhaps the answer lies in asking more questions. What is underneath the surface? Dig a little deeper to find the grey area and see what gels and what doesn’t.


A Complaint Free Studio

The Complaint Free Challenge feels like a divine gift that popped into our laps at just the right time. My partner, Lianne, had taken this challenge on years ago, and when she first told me about it, I thought ‘no problem… easy.’  

I’ve been aware of the negative aspect of complaining for years, and have even taught about it. Once I dove into the challenge, though, I was amazed at how deep was my complaint habit. You can read more about my personal journey with it on my Facebook page if you like, and I’ve posted some on our blog.

It’s a life changer, which is why we’ve now created Radiantly Alive to be a Complaint Free Organization.   Of course anyone on our team is welcome to complain in their free time, though now our studio is completely complaint free.

Even better, most of our staff, including the Indonesian team, have taken on the 21 day challenge. I won’t go into detail on how it works here - and highly recommend reading Will Bowen’s book, A Complaint Free world - though this blog post gives the very short version.   We invite you to join us! I hope you find some inspiration below, as a few of our teachers and therapists have shared a tiny bit of their experience so far. If you get into it, let us know how it goes.    

Day 45 and Day 1. It used to frustrate me each time I had to switch the bracelet. I wanted to get to the end of the 21 one days (and ideally be the first in my group to do so!), so I saw time I had to ‘reset’ as a hindrance. As the program progress, my thoughts evolved. I started to realise the huge benefit it was bringing to my my life and my relationships. The frustration each time I switched hands became less and less  - this is no longer a practice to get to the 21 day mark - this is a practice I want in my life, for the rest of my life.    

I started the 10th of March and I’m on day 2. Maximum reached so far: day 5, twice! The number of my complaints dropped seriously and I’m very happy about this. I realized I was wasting a lot of time with a useless and boring-for-everybody activity. Last time I went back to day 1 I realized how crazy it is sometimes: I received good news, and I complained! I complained because the person who told me the good news didn’t think to tell me a bit earlier!  

Ok. Well, the complaint free challenge has been present to me from the first moment Daniel introduced it to us. Is it true that with the absence of an object, like the bracelet, it heads towards inertia and gets left aside. There have been moments when I was suffering because things were not going the way I liked when I realised I was complaining again. It happened in Spain when I went to visit my family. I was disappointed basically because my expectations where different than the truth. I realised I was complaining again and creating suffering to my self and towards those close to me. Did not start the challenge at that moment, but the fact I saw my self not accepting the situation it helped to break through. At the moment I accepted things as they were, and decided what I wanted was to enjoy my time with my family rather than create conflict, make them have also a nice time with me and enjoy my company, everything went beautifully smooth. What are they going to remember? Distance is bitter enough.   Decided to start challenge as I came back to Bali after a crazy trip with flights cancellations. A friend asked me about the trip and all that came out of my mouth were complaints! I also realised my friend was complaining a lot, so both decided to start the complaint free challenge few days ago…. Still on day one though.    

Peter Caughey
8 weeks I’m on day one - I haven’t gotten to day two yet.   It has been a very useful and rewarding experience and has brought to my attention old behavioural and critical patterns, this challenge is great and I encourage all others to participate in it.   If all the people of the world did this it would be a very different place.   The tough one for me is the stories I have and complaints about how I think the people in Bali should drive their cars and scooters. Ha!    

It's my 2nd week with the Complaint Free Challenge. I'm not even counting days yet, just trying to understand and face the fact that even though I love my life, adore my family and mad about my job, I regularly express so much internal dissatisfaction. Right now, the Challenge reminds me if a line from a Taylor Swift song: 'it's a nightmare dressed like a daydream'. I know it's an amazing thing. My whole being knows that down the road, this will be one if the best things I'll ever do for my self and for the people around me. But right now, it sucks. It's heartbreaking. It's frustrating. And I don't want to let it go or give up. I want to get better at this. So, step one- acceptance. Do it without the judgment, the expectations, to decrease the hardships along the way. Like yoga asana- just do it, just stick to it, the rest will come on it's own.  

Every time I complain, gossip or use sarcasm in my way of communication, I just feed more the negative aspects of my experience  and instead of things getting better they get worst.   I believe that words are energy and hold a powerful vibration that can either create transform and even destroy. I believe that complaints, gossip, sarcasm etc, hold a very low frequency vibration, that damage the quality of my experience in every level and I truly believe that this is an amazing practice that Im officially starting right now. Day one!  

I began the challenge at the beginning of March and I’m on Day 1 and it’s been on and off since then. For the first few weeks I went through periods of being super movitated and on the ball followed by “down days” where all I did was come up with reasons why this challenge was going to be totally impossible (My partner isn’t doing the challenge, I have so much stress, etc etc). By the beginning of June, I started to realize how much I dislike the complaints that come out of my mouth. The realization that none of them are productive or contribute ANYTHING to the situations I find myself in was huge.   I’ve discovered that I haven’t been communicating the way I want to, I am starting to learn the difference between humourous sarcasm and sarcasm that serves no purpose. I’ve slowed down and am finally starting to actually think about what I say before I say it.   Has it been tough? Yes. Have there been countless moments where I gave in to complaining? Absolutely! Am I going to give up? No way. Those things pale in comparison to the benefits that I’ve received, and I haven’t even made it past day 3! Wether it takes me 6 months or 6 years to reach 21 days, it doesn’t matter – at this point, I’ve stopped counting the days, I’m focusing more on the quality of my life and my life is 100 times better when it is complaint-free!

Image Credit: http://weheartit.com/entry/115071958


Real communications - beyond swallowing it down or belching it out

Many of us are currently engaged in the complaint free challenge, and at the stage where - in his book Will Bowen talks about being at the conscious competence stage being the one where we can resist the impulse or habit to complain, though it takes conscious effort.

We’re already seeing a lot of value of simply moving through unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence: a process of first becoming aware of how much we have tended to complain without even realizing that’s what we are doing, and then secondly realizing how challenging it can be to stop complaining.

Now, though, a question is naturally arising, which relates to the very basics of psychology as we’ve seen it evolve in the last 100 years. Put very simplistically, we’ve tended to do one of two things when we encounter something that is difficult, uncomfortable or painful. Either we swallow it down (aka push it down, deny it, suppress it), or we belch it out (aka cathart, vent or throw it out at others). We’ve all experienced something of the challenges and pseudo-relief of these methods, and as that’s a larger discussion beyond the scope of this post, we’ll leave it at that.

Putting it lightly, we already know some of the ineffectiveness of these approaches. A question that arises for many naturally at this stage in the complaint-free challenge is ‘how do I talk about things that are challenging for me without complaining?’ Indeed there’s an understandable fear that if I don’t talk about what’s happening out of fear of it coming out as a complaint, it’ll simply be a ‘pushing down,’ which we know does not work well.

It’s a good problem (problem can be defined as ‘throwing forth a question to which we know there is a solution’). This particular aspect of the challenge lends itself to teaching us how to 1) be self-responsible in our speech and life, and 2) proactive in creating solutions with others. That means that we: Speak about what we feel. As often as most of us have heard that communications go better when we use ‘I’ statements, most of us can benefit from the reminder and further dedication to it. “I feel weak.” “I feel strong.” “I feel hurt, when you…” “I feel excited, when you…” Etc.

Speak directly to the person or people with whom we have some challenge. It is only they who can provide a solution. If I want my partner to help with taking care of the house more, talking with other people about that is simply gossip (a form of complaint), whereas speaking responsibly with her lends toward the possibility of either getting what I want or us creating a shared solution.

What about when we’re triggered or confused and not ready to talk directly to the person? Bowen calls this processing. That’s when we talk with a friend or a therapist about what we are having a difficulty with. Perhaps the issue is raw. Perhaps we’re so activated or emotional we are not yet clear about it. This is when it’s great to ‘process’ by sharing with someone else, whether we get any input from them or not. What’s key in this, however, is that we are doing it from the perspective of seeing what is going on for us, in our own emotions. We are processing in order to be more responsible and see what we need to change in ourselves, as opposed to complaining about someone else and saying how we think they should change.

As always we distinguish a complaint from a report not so much by the words themselves and much more by the energy behind the words. Complaints are expressions some kind of internal dissatisfaction. Processing is pointing back toward ourselves as the causal agents who have the power to affect the relationship or situation by shifting what’s happening inside us. If we are bitching or blaming another, it’s not processing. If we are expressing some outrage at what another has done, or saying what another should do, it’s not processing. If we are getting more clarity about ourselves, the part we’ve been playing in a scenario and realizing that we are empowered to shift it because we are part of the eco system, then it’s not only processing, it’s productive and contributing to uplifting our world.

I’m 16 days into the challenge, and gratefully again on day 1. While my peak of continuity so far has been getting once to day 2, I am committed, know I will reach the full 21 days and delighted with what I’ve experienced already.

You can do it!

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The complaint free challenge

One of my favorite parts of the complaint-free challenge so far is that people are coming up to those of us who are in the midst of it and excitedly asking what it is, what we’re doing and how can they get into it too. That happiness is contagious is actually research documented now.   I’ll hereby explain it briefly. It’s also well worth it, highly recommended and perhaps close to necessary to read Will Bowen’s book A Complaint Free World.  

We have committed to going 21 consecutive days without complaining. Anytime we complain, we start again with day 1.   Complaints are defined as any statement (out loud, no just thoughts) that express dissatisfaction or somehow say that things are not good, right or acceptable. They include criticism, sarcasm and gossip. More important than the actual words, it’s the energy behind the words that differentiate a complaint from a report.  

When we find ourselves complaining, we move a bracelet from one wrist to the other. Or a rubber band. Or move a coin from one pocket to the other.   I love this part. It takes it from being a thought process, which might be interesting and potentially even valuable, and brings it into a tangible, physical exercise and thereby facilitates a completely different level of awareness. I’ve known for years about the downside of complaining. To the point that I’ve taught others about it. I’ve done complaint fasts, even felt the benefit of them. And yet, somehow I allowed myself to continue to regularly complain.

The minor difference of the bracelet switching makes a massive shift in my level of awareness. I cannot allow myself to continue this self-destructive behavior anymore.   While the 21 consecutive days may be a challenge, and take considerably longer than 21 days for most of us, the process yields striking results well before the ‘goal’ is reached.   I’ll keep it short and simple here - do read the book - though here are a couple more tips:  
  • Deal only with things you say out loud. Of course our thoughts are important, though if we start by changing what we say, it’ll lead to changing our thoughts.
  • Take care of yourself, your own complaints, and let others take care of theirs. A simple guideline on this is that if we point out some else’s complaint, best we change our own bracelet at the same time.
  • Be committed to the 21 day goal, though know it’s okay to have a lot of day ones. Anything worth doing is worth doing badly at first. And repeatedly. Stick with it and be honest and humble about the stumbles on the way to learning to walk a new path. We’re all learning.

  I hope that is enough info to both inspire and get you going. If you’d like to join us and you’re in Bali, stop by Radiantly Alive Yoga Studio for a gift of a bracelet from us.  

Let’s all invest ourselves in creating the world of love and harmony we know is possible.

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