Simon Hollington glows. That’s not a flowery description, it’s true. A life based on yoga and higher consciousness has given him a quiet, open, loving demeanor that projects like light.
Simon was into his 50s before he got serious about yoga. Now 70 he is fit, lean, happy – and radiant. His current style of yoga practice is Ashtanga but he has moved through several different phases since he began his practice.
“Ryoho was the first – Japanese yoga,” he said. “It was very tough at first, but the addiction came quickly. I saw what it could do at the physical level and the emotional level. Meditation, concentration, flow and raising consciousness.” He worked with Bikram yoga for a while, “And then I went to a hidden yogi in the bush where I did seven years of tantric alchemy. It just got deeper and deeper and deeper – and it continues. I’m at my happiest when I’m on a yoga mat.”
Not programmed for healthy ageing
Yoga can foster an attitudinal shift in our approach to ageing he says.
“There’s a voice in your head that’s the voice of social programming saying ‘oh I’m feeling my age today’ and all that stuff. It’s just programming and we need to transcend it because look what’s happening in our society. There are people of 60 who have deteriorated so much they feel worthless and are lost to society.”
Simon describes the cultural view of ageing as “a program about deterioration.” He says, “It was never meant to be like that. As you get older, my teacher used to say, you’re supposed to get stronger. In the Celtic tradition, the elders always led the hunt, they were out the front, they didn’t have this program of deterioration. Today I could sit in a squat all day – at 45 I couldn’t do that.”
Building strength instead of losing it, he said, takes a shift in attitude, consistent practice and acceptance that there will be aches and pains to work through. “It’s a question of starting now. That’s the only criteria,” he says. “Start now, forget all the reasons your ego gives you to not do it. I’ve heard people say ‘oh I tried yoga, but I got a pain in my knees and I got a twinge in my . . .’ but that’s going to happen, because the yoga will work through the body to bring out the stuff that’s held in there.”
One of the barriers to practice, Simon says, is lack of persistence. “It’s very hard to make yourself go in the initial phase of yoga,” he says. “People have all sorts of reservations and excuses. ‘I’m not flexible enough, I’m too old’ – these are nonsense. It doesn’t matter what age, all that matters is you do it, all that matters is you show up and that you’re consistent, you keep coming. Keep coming and ignore the voice in your head that tries to divert you.”
There are, he says, deeper benefits to consistency than just learning to squat. “You tip over into a very different space altogether – and that space is a space of inner strength. Because yoga, although it’s physical and based on physical movements, will give you so much more in terms of a very powerful but humble way to live your life.”
It has given Simon that glow: “The real essence of yoga is that you ignite something in you, it’s a visible light within you. It has many names in many different yogic traditions but when you look at someone who’s been practicing they have an inner light and other people see this and it’s beautiful. It’s the heart, it’s love, it’s self-love. Of course previous generations have been told “oh you love yourself don’t you!” all that crap we were taught at school. They’ve disregarded themselves, they put themselves last and put money and accumulation and externalized things first. They’ve lived from the neck upwards. Yoga shows us another way.”
Crisis in mid-life
Simon spent the first half of his life in England with careers in fine arts valuing and journalism, but by his late 40s he was in crisis. “My father had fallen into a pit of silence and alcohol, and I was going in the same direction,” he said. He went to Egypt to write a story about Christian women being kidnapped, raped and coerced into marrying Muslim men. “I went into a Coptic church and there was a 98 year old priest there. He looked at me and said “will you write the truth if I tell you the truth?” And I thought, well probably not, I’ll just bend the story into any shape so I can sell it.”
The experience in Egypt was like hitting the wall of his own lack of purpose.
“The priest looked at me with a twinkle in his eye,” Simon said. “He said he and his people had been under attack for generations. ‘When I walk down the street, people throw chicken guts at me and spit. For the whole of my life that I’ve lived in this neighbourhood, that’s how it’s been. And I smile at them and say, “I love you, God is great,” and that’s my practice.’ When I went home, I kept thinking of the priest, he had this light in him, he knew who he was, he knew what he was doing and it shook me to the point where I couldn’t write again. I tried to do stories and couldn’t. I even had trouble going to the pub! I fell into a really dark hole.”
His wife went to her mother in Japan, taking their daughter, and Simon wallowed until a call came from a cousin in Australia. “He just said get yourself on a plane and come to Sydney. I went to the bank, borrowed the money because I didn’t have any, got on a plane and went to Australia. As soon as I got here something changed.”
Finding direction on the street
Once in Australia, Simon found yoga after a chance introduction to higher consciousness. Walking in the street one day during his first year in Sydney, he was approached by a Seikh who asked him where he was going. “And I said, ‘I really don’t know.’ He said ‘well come with me.’ We walked into this room which was full of people, all of them expecting him. He said ‘sit next to me’ and I found myself sitting on this stage and thinking, ‘why am I here? What am I doing here?’ Everyone in the room went into meditation. I hadn’t really even meditated before but I closed my eyes and suddenly this energy, a huge force, came up through my body. I turned to him and said ‘what the F*$!K?’ and he said, ‘now you know where you are going’.”
Twenty years later, Simon is an energy healer and a yoga and meditation teacher. His life is structured around what matters to him most. “I want to release as much baggage as possible,” he says, “to be as free as possible, to be vibrating the energetics of love into the world and therefore having an effect on my environment. That’s my personal journey.
“There are many people who just treat yoga as a physical exercise to keep healthy. There’s nothing wrong with that, that’s completely OK – but not for me. And not for my journey which is to the higher realms of consciousness. That’s a hierarchical expression because language doesn’t really express what it is we want to express in this regard. Incrementally your body changes. Incrementally you become focused and present. But it is incremental – so it never ends, it’s a journey that continues and changes shape. All that matters is that you show up and be consistent. Don’t give up, and things will change around you because of it.”
Find Simon on Facebook at ‘Diary of a Mad Yogi.’