Courtney Zohs (Zoe) Bio
When I was young, I got good at keeping others happy. It felt much safer than drawing attention to me. As a teenager, when I made those tentative steps to connect independently outside of my family, I put on the front; the ‘good, quiet girl’. The real me was hidden away from the rest of the world. I wanted to be liked and accepted. All the pain of the loud, rebellious, angry teenager was bottled up, reserved for home. My family were in utter despair with me.
As a young adult, moving around the country and the world regularly, I honed these skills to pacify and have others at ease in any situation. I was like a chameleon; ultimately adaptable. It seemed like a better option for my own wellbeing and safety than trusting what I knew through my own body sensations.
I was too scared to share; too scared to say what I really wanted; too scared to know myself or be me.
In this way of operating I came to believe I didn’t matter. Others were more important; they mattered. Others were “more” of everything than I was or could ever be. I felt misunderstood, unheard and unseen. Loneliness was my closest ally. I was good at getting people to like me; it got me through life, but a burning was stirring inside me.
I wanted to be seen and heard. I wanted to matter in life.
I didn’t know how this could ever happen… Then, during my last year at high school, I attended a yoga class, really only because friends asked me to come along.
That first yoga class, was a turning point.
I fell deeply in love. I felt at peace and aware of part of myself that I had never experienced before. I radiated.
It seemed to me this was something you read of in ancient books, or hear of mythical, long lost ancient traditions, practices and teachings. And yet, here it was! Right on my doorstep, available to me.
Over the next few years, I dove in, stumbled in, to meditation, to healing and visualisation techniques. I soaked up as much yoga as I could find in books, dvd’s and classes. I came to study and practice reiki, numerology, tarot, isis seichim, chakra system, anything that I could get my hands on that kept me feeling connected to this part of me. I was so much happier.
This began my daily practice of yoga and meditation.
I was still unsure what all of this stuff was or HOW it was making me feel better; have more confidence and authenticity. Words like ‘true self’, ‘soul’, ‘god’, ‘the source’, were thrown around. I didn’t care what it was called, I was happy.
Yoga and Meditation Practice changed everything!
I learned to develop an intimacy with life through present moment awareness and mindfulness in body/heart/mind through the movements of yoga, the stillness of meditation, the freedom and thrills of dance, the softness of touch, the expanding heart from devotional chanting.
Yoga teachings opened my mind; the Buddha Dharma whispered life wisdom to my heart.
Moments of intimacy inspired me
Sexual intimacy played its role too, but the game changers were the everyday moments; connecting with others, talking, sounds, touch, smells, tastes, all of life. Even momentary freedom from my fear, loneliness and “not mattering” stories, meant I was available to be intimate with every moment. Present to the process of knowing.
Awareness changes everything
I shifted into periods of intense practice. I was inspired to continue this dissolution process. Anything that was stopping me from being intimate with myself and life as it presents itself was on the table.
Intense practice periods allowed me to break down my walls of defensiveness; to be ok with the vulnerability that allows intimacy. This was something I feared and craved simultaneously. I had previously never been able to make sense of this polarity. Now I was diving into the paradox through practice.
I soon moved through the eye of loneliness, to a beautiful aloneness. In this awareness, I felt in tune, connected and present to what was happening within me; trusting this connection was also with all beings, I was comfortable to be me, with all of life.
I was now satisfied with being heard, and seen, and mattering to myself
My own inner courage and trust in what I knew to be true led me through many tricky situations in life. However I now felt grounded in my practice and the teachings. I had strength within from the tools I was using. A warehouse of wonder, I was guided to respond compassionately and honestly to what was in front of me.
I could see radiance reflected back to me from all that I came in contact with
There were times I reached out for therapists and felt incredibly supported. They reflected back to me, the depth of knowing in my own being.
It is all in here, all of what we need
Embodying and trusting this evolving, unfolding, un-doing process, while sharing this with others, now allows me to feel an intimate connection to life. I am inspired each time I remember to notice it.
Remembering and noticing matters
Bridging this perceived distance or separation between heart/mind/body is what these practices of yoga and meditation deliver to us. Together we heal, nurture, enable, embody, evolve and thrive.
My initial influence and interaction with yoga, was from the Iyengar tradition blended with vinyasa dynamic movement and a twist of Shadow Yoga. The aspects of restorative yoga were also taught to me very early on in my yoga exploration.
There is a big world of Yoga. I dabbled in many other styles and techniques as I traveled and explored until I came to Tantra Yoga, through the teachings of Everett Newell at Zuna Yoga, https://www.zunayoga.com/ derived from the Sri Vidya School of Tantra. This system and delivery of yoga captured me. It inspired the initial longing I felt years ago, to know and understand the depths of yoga teachings. I have assisted Everett with a number of teacher training courses.
This desire for yoga knowledge took me to India to study at the Bihar School of Yoga. http://www.biharyoga.net/ I also spent some time at the Himalayan tradition ashrams of Swami Rama, and on-line with the offerings of Swamij. http://www.swamij.com/swami-rama.htm . I found my way to the Kriya Yoga ashram as shared by Babaji http://www.babajiskriyayoga.net/english/about-babaji.htm and over the years, many other teachers who were inspired and influenced by Babaji.
I studied with Ana Davis of Bliss Baby Yoga http://www.anadavis.com/ so I could safely help so many of my friends and beautiful mums to be, who were without a yoga teacher in many regional areas of Australia during their months of pregnancy.
I now have a blend of these teachings influencing my daily practice and what I offer in yoga classes. The philosophy and tradition is woven into the practice, like a medicine. This touches on some of what we want, and some of what we need.
I am an ERYT 500 (Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher with 500 hours training and certified to teach 500 hour trainings to others) with Yoga Alliance.
My initial introduction to meditation came through chakra visualisations and healing journeys. I felt so collected and rejuvenated from them, they soon became grounded in my home practice. I had little or no contact with other meditators.
Mantra meditation (Japa – repetition of the divine name) was my main practice for some time. This came through my initial yoga training as well as further trainings. I felt in touch with the teachings no matter where I was or what I was doing.
The Sri Vidya tantric visualisation meditations really help me tune with the internal energies of the body and the unfolding process of Kundalini energy.
During this time and exploration, I met and became a disciple of ShantiMayi, of the Sacha lineage – http://www.shantimayi.com/. She continues to guide me to break this heart open.
I came to realise the yogic traditions only practiced concentration meditation. I was practicing heavily; under the effects of this unbalanced way of practice; I experienced a blissful, enjoyable and yet somewhat ignorant existence.
Through a dear friend, I was introduced to the Theravada teachings and practices of the Buddha. Through the influence of mindfulness, vipassana (insight) and loving kindness practice, the missing pieces seemed to fall in to place. The ignorance was starting to be seen through and the pushing and striving aspect of concentration practices were softening and allowing more space for all of experience to be. For all of me to be. My heart continues to open from these practices.
The Goenka tradition https://www.dhamma.org/en/about/goenka was my first look at Vipassana retreat and I went on to sit many silent retreats, mainly influenced from the teachings of Mahasi Sayadaw and monasteries of Sayadaw U Pandita, and Ajahn Tong http://www.buddhanet.net/masters/mahasi.htm I also have sat with Christopher Titmuss who has a wonderful approach to the Dharma. http://www.christophertitmuss.net/ I have also been greatly influenced through books and online teachings of Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield, Stephen Batchelor and many others.
I spent some time with the Tibetan teachings at Deer Park Institute and many visiting Geshe’s and Lama’s, and spent much time on self guided retreats.
I am currently influenced by the Insight traditions and have sat a 6 week silent retreat at the Insight Meditation Society in the US. Insight teachers deliver a beautiful combination of Theravada, Thai Forest, Zen and Tibetan traditions. My heart continues to open, to understand the natural radiance of wisdom, compassion and mindfulness. I see these different traditions as a support, so I can thrive in practice. I believe there is no one right view or way to practice.
This connected and supported approach to dharma and meditation practice is what I find in my dear friend and colleague, Neli Martin, who continues to inspire the enriching, and unfolding process of the dharma in my life.
Zoe – Brief CV
2007 Yoga Alliance ERYT500
2012 Pre and Post natal Yoga certification
2017 Senior Teacher Yoga Australia
2007 – 2010; offering regular yoga classes, privates and workshops in Mount Gambier, South Australia
2010 – 2012; teaching regular yoga classes in Cumbria, United Kingdom
2012 – 2014; teaching regular yoga and meditation classes, privates and workshops in Karratha, Western Australia
2014 – 2016; assisting and teaching regular Yoga Teacher Training programs in Ubud and Gili Meno, Indonesia, and offering online sadhana (spiritual practice), mentor program for other yoga teachers and practitioners
2017 – current; offering regular yoga and meditation classes, workshops, meditation retreats, mentoring for yoga teachers and yoga teacher training courses on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.