Monthly Archives: April 2014

Putting meditation to the test

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about a small spider joining me during my meditation (A calm clear mind). I speculated that there may have been some difference in my composure if it had been a larger creature.  Well, this morning the test came! I had just settled down in my conservatory at 5.40am, having completed Surya Namaskara and had just started working through Pawanmuktasana 1 when I noticed three long, thick legs sticking out of the gap beneath the cladded wall. I continued my practice but kept looking out of the corner of my eye to see if the legs had moved. They didn’t, for the longest time.  They were just there, every time I looked. So, whilst continuing calmly, I decided this needn’t interrupt my practice.  Live and let live, he wasn’t bothering me, so why should I try to remove him?  Plus, taking a spider outside at that time of day would mean going all the way back through the house – risking waking my family – to get something to catch him with, unlocking the front door, getting some shoes and then trailing out into the garden to find somewhere nice to put him.  Plus potential running and even more commotion if he started scurrying out of the container with those long legs on my way through the house!

So, there I was, and there he was. He came out of his little home and had a walk.  Not far, just enough to make me move over a bit! As the long legs would have suggested, he was BIG!  Really big.  But not fast.  He walked a few inches  – not even in my direction, to be fair – and then stopped.  I continued my practice, on to my arms and shoulders by this point, risked closing my eyes, and then peeked again.  He was walking back.  Back to his original spot, until I could just see his legs again!

At which point, I finished pawanmuktasana and settled in for meditation. I turned my back on the spider so I couldn’t be tempted to check on him, and had a lovely practice, letting go of all the anxieties – it really wasn’t strong enough to call fear, let’s say disquiet.  And yes, he was still resting in the exact same spot when I finished at 7am. I hope he had as peaceful a time as me!

Then I rushed on to my day, breakfast, school run, classes, shopping, and now writing before the ironing, school run, swimming lessons – oops, have I missed out lunch again??  I haven’t had time to see if my long-legged friend is still there.  I guess he might be joining me again tomorrow!

And the thing about meditation is – there is room for all these distractions and unscheduled things.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Yes, my mind could have taken over – but it didn’t.  I was fully aware of how I was feeling – a little wary, assessing how fast /far he was likely to move. I reminded myself that, however big he looked, he was still tiny in comparison to me, and that he certainly wasn’t going to hurt me, even if he did come and sit on me like the other spider did. I experienced how it made me feel to share my space with him, but didn’t let myself spin off and ruin my own practice. Not something that would have been possible in my pre-meditation days. Mindfulness, being present with whatever comes up – that is the heart of meditation. Today might not have been utter bliss from start to finish, but it was fine.

 

The best part of your life is over

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The best part of your life is over

I just had to share this inspirational story. It’s so easy to focus on the things we can’t do instead of finding a way forward. Whenever you’re tempted to find a reason for not practicing, come back to this story and look for the possibilities in that moment.

Yoga & Joyful Living

This humbling article made me rethink my approach to yoga. You see, I’m really good at finding excuses (of course I don’t call them excuses, I call them reasons – after all, I’m just being reasonable here, right?). I can’t practise because of hay fever. My wrist is painful. My right knee is acting up.

But are these really reasons? Or strategies our ingenious mind comes up with to tell us we really can’t roll out the mat now and we should instead take the easter chocolate rabbit out of the cupboard and rip the nice, shiny wrapper off its ears? The overwhelming sensation of melting chocolate now becomes almost palatable, no? But hang on – how about a box of tissues next to the mat, or doing side plank on your forearm, or focusing on upper body work to give the knee a break?

These are…

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The spirit of the place

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On a recent trip away, which involved some long distance driving, my son was entertaining himself by asking us all kinds of questions – favourite foods, drinks, breeds of dogs….. The list goes on, and yes, it was a very long trip!

But the question which, for me, was the hardest to answer, was my favourite famous building I had ever visited. I thought and thought as we drove down the motorway in the rain, and eventually volunteered maybe Sissinghurst Castle as my favourite.

I was met with protests. ‘That’s not even a building, it’s a garden!’, my son exclaimed. I pointed out that it is indeed a building and that we had climbed up to the top of its tower on our most recent visit – but I have to confess he had a point, as it is really for its garden that I love it so much.

I was asked to think up another answer, one which satisfied him and which I liked most for the actual building. He even suggested that my favourite should be the Sydney Opera House. Which is amazing, but not my favourite. After a few more rainy miles, I suggested Kelmscott Manor, the home of William Morris in Oxfordshire, but no-one could understand how that could compete with the opera house! 

A few days later, back at home, I thought that perhaps Canterbury Cathedral could be another favourite, and maybe would even meet with approval from my son as it is definitely a very famous building and it is that I love and not its grounds!  But it set me wondering why I had found a simple question so tricky to answer.

I think it’s because, for me, my favourite places would not be buildings at all. The places that stick in my memory the most tend to be places in nature instead – the Doone Valley, the Lakes, the Seven Sisters – and the buildings I did manage to come up with were more about their surroundings than their architecture. And when it comes to the buildings themselves, it’s more the feeling,  the spirit of the place, that is most important to me. I like churches that are cool and peaceful, homes which are filled with beautiful things. It doesn’t necessarily have to be grand or famous – I just have to feel a little bit at home.

The spirit of the place

Standard

On a recent trip away, which involved some long distance driving, my son was entertaining himself by asking us all kinds of questions – favourite foods, drinks, breeds of dogs….. The list goes on, and yes, it was a very long trip!

But the question which, for me, was the hardest to answer, was my favourite famous building I had ever visited. I thought and thought as we drove down the motorway in the rain, and eventually volunteered maybe Sissinghurst Castle as my favourite.

I was met with protests. ‘That’s not even a building, it’s a garden!’, my son exclaimed. I pointed out that it is indeed a building and that we had climbed up to the top of its tower on our most recent visit – but I have to confess he had a point, as it is really for its garden that I love it so much.

I was asked to think up another answer, one which satisfied him and which I liked most for the actual building. He even suggested that my favourite should be the Sydney Opera House. Which is amazing, but not my favourite. After a few more rainy miles, I suggested Kelmscott Manor, the home of William Morris in Oxfordshire, but no-one could understand how that could compete with the opera house! 

A few days later, back at home, I thought that perhaps Canterbury Cathedral could be another favourite, and maybe would even meet with approval from my son as it is definitely a very famous building and it is that I love and not its grounds!  But it set me wondering why I had found a simple question so tricky to answer.

I think it’s because, for me, my favourite places would not be buildings at all. The places that stick in my memory the most tend to be places in nature instead – the Doone Valley, the Lakes, the Seven Sisters – and the buildings I did manage to come up with were more about their surroundings than their architecture. And when it comes to the buildings themselves, it’s more the feeling,  the spirit of the place, that is most important to me. I like churches that are cool and peaceful, homes which are filled with beautiful things. It doesn’t necessarily have to be grand or famous – I just have to feel a little bit at home.