Monthly Archives: February 2014

A calm clear mind

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If only my mind could always feel the way it does in meditation. Yesterday I was practising one of my preparatory kriyas in which my eyes are open on the inbreath and then gently close as I lower my head down towards Mooladhara chakra, internalising my awareness through the descending energy pathway. During this practice I noticed a small spider had sat on my lap and stayed there quite happily and unmoving for the rest of my practice (at least that part of my practice for which my eyes were open – he had wandered off by the end of my meditation).

I’m sure the small size and the stillness of this particular spider aided the calmness that pervaded my practice, and it may well have been a different story if a large,  fast-moving creature had decided to join me, but I like to think that my meditating mind would have not reacted any differently than to just continue my practice until the end. The oneness I could honestly and happily experience with such a tiny and clearly non-threatening creature exists between us all,  even if it is harder to see with the things/animals/ people we label as bad or scary,  the things we have an aversion to. In truth, when we are in meditation and our mind has calmed down, our aversions are not as great as they normally are, and our attachments to the good are not as strong.  And so our reactions become less extreme; we are able to accept our situation with greater composure. Our fears are less crippling, our emotions generally are more measured. With regular practice,  too, this calmer approach carries over into our daily lives, the effects lasting longer and longer away from our meditation as we nurture the mind and allow it to rest from our habitual responses.

And it doesn’t only have to be traditional meditation practices which can confer this kind of calmness and acceptance.  I often feel this same sense of the underlying rightness, the connection between us all, when I am giving a treatment or teaching – both times when it would be inappropriate in any case for me to allow my own issues to get in the way. This was extremely helpful when I was giving a reflexology treatment several years ago: a bat came to sit on the treatment couch, right next to my hand and, of course, my client’s feet. The sudden movement and appearance of this creature might normally have been enough to make me jump and perhaps make some sort of sound, but I was able to stay very calm and alert my client (who had his eyes closed so had no idea there was a bat next to his foot!), so that he didn’t move whilst I carefully moved the bat away – not entirely bravely, when it hissed at me!

When I was at university studying  Social Anthropology, many years ago, I wrote in an assignment that the belief system of a particularly peaceful group of Buddhists meant that the principle of non-harm or interference with other creatures even led people to move out of their houses rather than remove a poisonous snake which had taken up residence.  I am now a little ashamed of the way my own incredulity crept in to my writing on that occasion – I richly deserved the slightly sarcastic comment from my lecturer humorously scribbled in the margin of ‘now, now, what’s that lovely cobra ever done to you?’ I am sure this opened my eyes to remaining traces of  ethnocentricity in my approach and in my thinking, but I think it is only with increasing maturity and my developing meditation practice that I can understand more fully how respect for the oneness between all creatures could lead us to take the path of least resistance and, rather than make a huge fuss, simply remove ourselves quietly until the danger has passed.

This is something we can all do as we increase our consciousness of our learnt, habitual responses and realise there might be another way.  If we imagine the mind to be like a sheet of fabric stretched taut, we can allow our unchecked ways of thinking and reacting to thunder on that fabric like rain on a tent roof. Or we can try to tame the mind through our practice, creating some space between the events of our lives and our reactions to them, so that they become less disturbing – perhaps more like a feather floating down to land on that fabric, with barely an impact or a sound.

If only my mind could always feel the way it does in meditation……
It can, of course, and that way lies a calmer and a happier life.

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Coming home to yoga

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When I practise yoga,  I feel most myself. My morning meditation has become an essential part of my day, a time just for me.  When we went camping last year,  it was impossible to find that time to myself – with three of us in a small tent,  the only time in which I could attempt even a small part of my practice was before going to sleep. With the tent not really big enough to sit up in,  the best I could do was to lay as straight as possible and tune into my breathing, perhaps moving into ajapa japa meditation or meditating on the chakras in turn. As my family drifted into sleep around me, this was the closest I could get to my usual morning meditation practice.  It was better than nothing, and being together as a family all day every day more than made up for the lack of my yoga practice. 

But, just as it is nice to come home after a holiday,  it was fantastic to get back to my practice on our return home.  I appreciated the space around me all the more, the chance to enter more deeply into my practice.  Refreshed by my holiday, there was a freshness to my practice too, and the familiar rhythm of the practices only enhanced that wonderful sense of coming home.

And, in yoga and meditation, that is exactly what we do.  Each time we return to the mat or the meditation cushion,  we are coming home to ourselves. We don’t have to look very far for our true self – it has been there all along, just waiting for us to bring our focused attention to it. 

To be continued…..

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It has been too long.  Way, way too long.  This is a prime example of how blind we (well, me anyway!) can be to what we are doing day to day.

I mean, I knew there had been a bit of a break since I last wrote a new post.  A few people have asked me how come I’ve not been writing.  And yet, I still had no idea that it was this long a break.  Half a year and I didn’t really notice!

It just goes to show that, while a bad habit is so so hard to break, a good one is all too easy.  I mean, I love writing.  It helps me to sort my thoughts, to record things that I think are really important, to go a little deeper into some of the things I’ve been teaching in class recently, or  things I’ve been mulling over that have arisen in my own practice, to share ideas with other people who have a like mind – or a quite different mind, I don’t really care!!

It’s like when I gave up my daily practice, my daily time for me. It wasn’t a deliberate choice, it was just that life, and specifically family, got in the way.  There was always another call on my time, that all seemed too important, much more important than myself.  Those of you who have been reading this blog from the start, will have read about my journey back to looking after myself in earlier – much earlier!! – posts. And yet, I’ve done it again!  I loved writing and yet – purely accidentally – let it go.

It can happen so easily.  You miss the day you normally write, and then you don’t get time to write later in the week instead.  You miss the next week too,  and the next…..and then, suddenly, the habit is gone!  You still wish you were writing – or meditating, or walking, or painting, or whatever is your thing – but it gets harder and harder to remember how you used to fit it in, and easier and easier to carry on not doing it!  Until the day you discover that you have whiled away months – half a year!!!! – not doing something you love when really, really you could have been doing it all along.

And so, my new year’s resolution – rather late, I know! – is not to start something new (I already have, despite being rather fed up with resolutions altogether!),  but to start and continue something I let go by mistake, without intention, almost unconsciously.  To be more aware of my day-to-day choices and make them more consistent with what I want to do.  And to reach out to any of you who are trying to do the same thing in your own way.  To start is great – but to continue, well, that’s the real challenge.