Monthly Archives: April 2013

It’s not all about enlightenment

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It’s not all about enlightenment

Perhaps this is quite a controversial statement for a yoga teacher to make.  For most of us who practice yoga and meditation, enlightenment is seen as the ultimate goal.  It’s the end result, the ultimate reward for all the many hours spent on the mat,  in contemplation or asana. In kundalini yoga,  various kriyas are performed which raise our awareness of the chakras or energy centres which run through the centre of the body. Practitioners talk of ‘raising the kundalini’, lifting the subtle energy laying dormant at Mooladhara through successive chakras until it reaches Sahasrara at the crown of the head. This is the upward movement and refinement of energy from its densest and most manifest form, to a more subtle and free energy which can be experienced, with practice, in asana and meditation.

Anodea Judith, in Wheels of Life: User’s Guide to the Chakra System (Llewellyn’s New Age), describes this upward movement of energy as the ‘current of liberation‘. This liberation of energy eventually leads us to enlightenment- though this is traditionally held to be the work of many lifetimes.

The opposing downward movement, which Judith calls the ‘current of manifestation‘, could be seen as our ability to act from our highest impulses, to bring our most inspirational ideas to life. It is closely associated with the way we live our lives in the here and now. Another way of looking at it might be to ask how much you embody your principles, your values, all that you feel makes you you.

We have all had times when our actions or words fail to reflect who we believe we really are. And then we wonder why our lives are not working out the way we were sure they would in our most inspired moments. We know something is bad for us, or we intuitively know that there’s someone we should see or somewhere we should go – but then we fail to act on that knowledge. We have the best of intentions, but then we don’t see them through. Life gets in the way.

Or we believe we are patient and kind but act differently for much of the time. We want to practise right speech but our words come out all wrong. There is a disconnect somewhere in our downward channel of energy so we are unable to act in line with our highest selves. We act out of the – often strong! – emotions of our lower energy centres instead of listening to the more refined energy of the higher chakras.

So by all means we can aim for enlightenment. But along the way we can place equal emphasis on the practical, down-to-earthness of our daily actions and interactions, embodying our highest values more and more.

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Moments of wonder

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Reading an article in a magazine (The Simple Things  – thesimplethings.com) the other day, the author Dr Matthew McFall was writing about wonder.   Children have such a strong sense of wonder, everything is new and exciting. As we get older, we tend to get a bit more jaded, and take truly amazing things for granted, sometimes failing to notice them at all.
When we take time to renew our sense of wonder, we can appreciate the good in our lives so much more, building a strong sense of wellbeing.

It got me thinking about the wonderful moments of this one week:

A walk with my son

The sunlight shining through a rabbit’s ears as he played at the edge of a field

Drops of dew on the long grass

Sunshine breaking through the clouds

Moments of utter peace and contentment in meditation

Laughing with friends and family

A delicious home made cake

A fritillary – quite possibly my favourite flower – opening out on my front lawn

A previously undiscovered grassy footpath with cowslips in bloom!

Hope you find time to think about the wonderful things in your life too!

Tell the Truth, and Chase Happiness

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Just had to reblog this. Breathtaking honesty and clarity…… Thank you so much Connie. It’s so important to acknowledge our pain and suffering rather than trying to hide or deny it. Only then we can possibly arrive at some kind of acceptance and healing.

Sorting it Out

chasing happinessYou tell me that your nights are cold and dark and long, and that words of beauty and love and hope ring hollow; I believe you.

Friends speak to you of the warmth they feel in the wind; you feel only the chill. They speak to you of birdsong, but though the birds sing and all around you it is spring, it registers only distantly with you, like church bells a thousand miles away meant to call only others to comfort.

Others still speak to you of the blessings that come with your loss; you feel only the loss. They speak of silver linings and positive attitudes. You’ve tried to see and wear these, but it only makes you feel more alone. Your rose-colored glasses have been shattered along with your world, and you feel no strength with which to face it.

Pain is a lonely place. This is true…

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Fasting

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This is my 8th fasting day and fourth week on the 5:2 or fast diet. Despite my years of yoga training, I have never fasted before. I have always eaten healthily, and for the most part, moderately. I wouldn’t describe my normal diet as unhealthy or excessive – I’m vegetarian, I avoid wheat as I’m a little intolerant to it, I don’t drink alcohol. But whereas, when I was younger, I found it easy to stick to healthy eating all the time, I have noticed my resolve slipping on more recent years, particularly where chocolate is concerned. And, also as I’ve got older, I don’t burn off the calories as easily as I used to.

So I started to read about the fast diet. At first I had thought it was some crash diet, not the sort of thing I would recommend to anyone. Let alone a relatively slim and active yoga teacher. But then I read “The Fast Diet” by Dr Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer. The authors explain the science behind the diet, the health benefits which for me are more of a motivation than losing a few pounds …..although the weight loss which can result from the diet for those seeking to lose more weight seems to be steady and sustained. Fasting for a few hours can lower our cholesterol levels, reducing our risk of heart disease. It can send our bodies into repair, rather than growth, mode which may help to reduce our risk of certain cancers. It can help to stabilise our blood sugar levels, cutting the risk of diabetes. There is anecdotal evidence that it may help our memory and reduce the risk of dementia. All this, together with fasting having a long history in yoga and the spiritual traditions, was enough to persuade me to give it a go.

The way it works is to eat normally 5 days a week, and to fast on 2 non-consecutive days. On fasting days I eat breakfast and dinner but no lunch, drinking plenty of water and herbal teas throughout the day. For a woman, the total calories on fasting days should be within 500 (men get to have 600) which is around a quarter of a normal daily intake. I don’t have much weight to lose, so I don’t worry about keeping it exact, but do like the challenge of keeping my two meals to around 250 calories each. For breakfasts I’ve had Bircher muesli with a spoonful of yogurt, porridge with berries, grapefruit and a plate of cottage cheese with asparagus, and today – I’m particularly proud of this one as I was really hungry and found I could keep within my calories with 2 slices of spelt toast, half a tin of tomatoes and a small poached egg. For dinners, salads are an obvious choice. With some cottage cheese or a boiled egg, or nuts or seeds, or a few beans for some protein. I’ve also had stir / steam fried vegetables with brown rice and lentils, a vegetable curry and tonight I think it will be a chilli. Whatever I eat on a fast day, I enjoy it all the more for being genuinely really hungry! And if I’m hankering after something a bit more naughty – some chocolate or some home-made cake, cheese and biscuits …..well, there’s always the next day! And although I eat well on the other 5 days of the week, I have found that I don’t compensate by over-eating. My appetite seems to have regulated so that I only want to eat when I’m truly hungry, so I’m less likely to reach for a snack than I was before.

Of course 4 weeks isn’t long, so it will be interesting for me to see how I get on in the coming weeks. I might write about my progress in another month or so. I’d also love to hear your views on fasting, and if you’ve tried it for health or for weight loss. Please leave your comments below.