Finding Joy in the Mundane.

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No book, no conversation, just the wind on the waves. No beers, no tears no big waves to drench and delight us but the slapping of the sails.

To be stimulus free teaches you to be idle. Teaches kids to be idle. Over scheduled kids who never get to play in the streets alongside the ghosts of their grandparents when they were small.

What if you have nothing to do but stare at the coast, look at the bays, look at the sails, steer the boat slightly, maybe go in that direction, or maybe not.

If you can sit and observe the world quietly, without stimulus, without the need for fun, without the usual expectations of friends, food and fine wine… there gradually develops a growing sense of contentment with the world being as it is.

To just trundle along, not actually going anywhere, just busy in the act of going.

When we go sailing with the kids, and there are no friends onboard, or if there isn’t a huge wind and the boat isn’t going sideways… if the sea is serene,

well then the kids are bored.

I realized one day when I was explaining to the kids that sailing is more about “what is” … than “where to,” that I should be practicing what I preach because I too secretly thought it was all a bit boring… and secondly, it occurred to me that if you can sit and observe the world, or rather… sit and be with the world then it is easier to sit and observe yourself.

Relaxing in front of the TV is not really relaxing… it doesn’t refresh you. It’s a neural distraction.

I found that I had to practice abstinence before I could learn how to apply moderation. If you are always “high” on the moment, its pretty hard to be “in” the moment, and many beautiful mundane moments are then lost…

… and there is joy in those moments.

Winds of Autumn

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Every molecule in our body is a microcosm of every molecule in the universe.

 

When it is hot we become soft and lethargic and in turn when it is cold and windy we see our bodies bend and chafe as our inner winds blow with sneezes and coughs.

It is Autumn and I see the season manifest within our bodies.
Like the winds that blow our noses run with sneezes.
Like the leaves that fall our skin dries and cracks
… and raw fruits and cold foods aggravate not nourish.

Ayurveda classifies these qualities into Vata aggravating characteristics.

Vata is a constitution which relate to Air and Ether. They exist within us alongside the qualities of Pitta (fire/water) and Kapha (earth/water).  Each of these become more pronounced at different times of the year and are influenced by what we do, eat and think.

It is the combination of these three qualities (called Doshas) that make up our individual constitution.

When we feel that one Dosha becomes out of balance, we need to practice techniques to calm that Dosha.

For calming Vata aggravated in autumn, a slower more grounding yoga practice or exercise is needed where poses are held for longer, settling deeper into juicy poses allowing your body to open and soften again.

Follow with a calming meditation that settles down monkey mind thoughts by visualizing earthy, watery and fiery images like a mountain, a lake or the ocean, flowers like rose or lotus, light like the fire or the sun at dawn.

Pranayama breathing techniques sooth congestion and sinuses, and if used in conjunction with a mantra, chanting the bija sound LAM is the sound associated with the root chakra – the muladhara, which helps you reconnect to your root and help ground excess vata.

Ensure you slow your breath down to a slow equal ratio or use a grounding longer exhalation as well as eating warm foods, stewed fruits and less salads. Lastly, nourish your skin and hair with oils.

 

… Bring more yin into your yang, and hopefully you won’t blow away this Autumn! …

 

 

 

 

 

Pregnant Yogi

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For so long I have been thinking and saying that yoga (amongst many things) creates space in the body.

Never has it meant so much to me before. I am pregnant again, just coming up to 16 weeks and I desperately need to make more space in my body, particularly in the coming months.

I was certain that this time I would be Earthmother.  Being my third time around I knew what works in pregnancy and childbirth and what doesn’t.  But how easily we forget.  I was unprepared for the sickness, hormonal surges, cravings for bread and sugar and general lethargy.

I struggled with the mental image of the Elle Macpherson yummy mummy I visualised I would become as I munched on fennel and sipped smoothies, and the actual proof of me as I trudged through my first trimester with a plastered smile on my face as the beer-swilling world carried on without me.

In the end it comes down to letting go of expectations and accepting yourself and any potential outcomes for what they are. It is far worse to judge yourself.

 However …  There was never a worse time for my practice to lax.

Days of headaches, (that I still suffer) days of nausea (now passed thank goodness) and general intrusions into my routine saw sometimes a week pass with no practice.

I couldn’t even practice at home because my house was a building site.

There was never a more pressing need to work on other areas of my life which I could have balanced with my yoga, but chose not too.

But there was never a worse time to have allowed my practice to lax.

I forgot my own lessons!

I forgot that yoga soothes the crowding thoughts in our mind by providing the tools of meditation and pranayama.
I forgot that yoga opens the meridian channels by massaging and stretching them, and unblocks the super highways of pranic energy in the nadis that criss cross our body not unlike connective tissue.
I forgot that yoga calms the hormonal fluctuations in the body and rollercoaster states of mind that we all inherited.

Indeed there was never a worse time to have allowed my practice to lax.
But now I am back I feel so much better.

Yogasana pulls my increasingly anterior weight distribution back into balance and gives relief to my spine.
Yogasana releases the tension in the shoulders and neck and giving relief to headaches.
Yogasana is strengthening my body and preparing it for childbirth.
Yogasana and meditation is defragmenting my body and mind and consolidation them as one again.
Pranayama is cooling my system and calming my overly irritated sinuses.
Meditation will prepare me for the pain of childbirth.

And so I shall go on and create more space in my body. To open it and soften it … so that I may not break.

 

 

The Psychic Sleep

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Feeling stressed and overwrought is a common complaint.

How often are you completing or trying to complete many tasks every day. Often our productivity is compromised by constant distraction, or by attempting to carry out tasks simultaneously. At the end of the day the adrenal glands are pumping, perhaps maybe worsened by a high energy work-out undertaken either earlier in the day or at the end of the day. For others, collapsing on the couch with an alcoholic drink in hand and with the TV on, will constitute relaxation.

The fact is that people have forgotten how to relax. Even sleep can leave us weary in the morning after a fitful night and numerous dreams. In fact Yoga Nidra does not consider sleep to be a practice of relaxation. Only by conscious relaxation obtained in the meditation practice of Yoga Nidra, you can learn to consciously relax.

Let us return to the example of the exhausted worker returning home and ‘relaxing’ with a glass of wine and the TV on.  This practice is widely considered to be ‘relaxing.’  In fact, what has been provided to the sensory body is distraction, not relaxation. The alcohol numbs the foremost recent dramas of that day but only to release other thoughts and dramas from yesterday or yesteryear. The TV also introduces new narratives for the mind to feed on… 

I don’t know who said it first …. but it is said that the mind is like a swinging monkey, its inherent nature is to constantly swing from branch to branch… from thought to thought.  

Did you know that you gain the equivalent of 4 hours sleep after one session of Yoga Nidra?  But wait! There’s more… relaxation is merely a physical benefit. The main goal of  Yoga Nidra is to open the subconscious mind, for it is from this mind state that change can occur.

Limiting beliefs are re-programmed.

If you train your subconscious mind then your conscious mind will carry out the orders from the subconscious.  As Swami Saraswati says… “then the ordinary mind and intellect will follow suite.” If you try to create change by embarking on a religious or moral path, this can sometimes create dissonance from within. From this internal conflict comes more self-judgment and consequent heartache every time you fail yourself.

Nearly all spiritual traditions acknowledge the existence of a body of energy that permeates the physical body and is responsible for our health and well being. The aim of acupuncture and all martial arts, for example, is to balance and enhance the flow of life force in your body.

Yoga nidra also aims to enhance and balance this energy.

The key however to creating real change in your subconscious is to set a sankalpa, or a resolve. This is a meaningful intention to create a powerful change in your life. This sankalpa is revisited again later when were are deep within our subconscious mind towards the end of the practice. This helps create an influential bridge between the conscious and subconscious mind.

In order to practice Yoga Nidra, the basic outline of the practice is as follows.

We begin in Shavasana. By lying on the floor, closed eyes and palms up we minimize touch and sight stimuli sensations.  The mind then focuses on external sounds. Allow it to move from one till another until the mind tires of them and becomes quiet. At this point we choose our Sankalpa.  This resolve should be clear and sincere and according to only your needs.

Step two in the practice is to practice rotation of consciousness.  You will hear rapid instructions and it is important to mentally follow the instructions without moving the body. Visualize and feel the different parts of the body.  The movement is systematic and usually begins with the thumb of the right hand and ending in the little toe of the right foot.

When we have completed a full rotation of the body, physical relaxation is continued by drawing attention to the breath without trying to change it.

Conscious breathing helps direct prana into every cell of the body.

By now the body feels completely relaxed and calm. Usually by this stage I have slipped deep within myself where in retrospect I could be sleeping, however I can still hear the voice and follow the instructions. All superficial thought has ceased.

Next we move onto relaxing our feelings and sensations. This is achieved by introducing emotions whilst deep in our subconscious mind by means of catharsis, as memories of profound feelings are revived.

This is achieved by pairing opposite feelings such as heaviness, lightness, heat and cold, joy and sorrow and love and hate. Swami Sataswati says that the pairing of feelings in yoga nidra harmonises the opposite hemisphere’s of the brain and helps in balancing our basic drives and controlling functions that are normally unconscious. 

The next stage in this practice is a visualization inducing mental relaxation. The images used by the instructor are universal symbols with powerful associations, including landscapes, oceans, eggs, the cross or symbols of chakras.  Visualisation leads the mind towards concentration, it develops self-awareness… again through a process of catharsis which purges it of disturbing material. Swami Saraswati says that visualization in its advanced stages develops into a state of pure meditation, or Dhyana as we call it in yoga.

When this occurs, there is no conscious experience of the visualized object in the unconscious as the distinction between conscious and unconscious dissolves and distracting imaged cease to arise. 

The unconscious mind is now very receptive to positive thoughts and suggestions… and it is here we return to our resolve that must be retrieved from the conscious mind and delivered to the unconscious mind. In this way it is possible to significantly change ones attitudes behavior and destiny, as per the Law of Attraction. The resolve must be stated clearly and positively. The power of the statement will leave its impression in the mind.

The practice of Yoga Nidra is now concluded by gradually guiding the body back up through the layers of the mind back to a waking state.

 

There are many applications of Yoga Nidra. It is a wonderful sleep aid for the amnesiac, would be useful during pregnancy to rest the body and prepare for the birth of the child, also erasing fears of labour and associated anxieties. Yoga Nidra minimizes tension, trains the mind, relaxes the mind, clears up the unconscious, awakens creativity and counteracts stress apart from many other claims of memory enhancement and managing physiological disorders.

Yoga Nidra is a powerful self-healing meditation that can be used safely at home from the wide variety of recordings available, or taught from a teacher using a pre-prepared script. However this practice would be most powerful if used in a therapeutic environment if custom prepared by a counselor in order help disperse limiting beliefs and associated emotions. Often scripts take you on a visualization journey where you travel to the future to a point in time and insert your resolve or intention there. By creating the person you want to be in your unconscious mind you are laying the groundwork and infrastructure for the future. The conscious mind takes its instructions from the unconscious mind.

 

 

 

 

To have Courage

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Courage. This is a word I keep hearing at the moment.  I have linked it together with my recent break with yoga.

You know, kind of like a little time out from a friend you may see too much.

But what IS that all about anyway.  Why do I often feel that I need time out from people?

It is because I lack courage.

Letting people get too close allows them to get close enough to hurt you.

And due to the impermanence of the world what seems to be too good will probably be broken tomorrow.

Did I take my break because I needed to ruminate, to stop feeding on other peoples ideas?

or did I take it because I lacked courage to continue to explore my boundaries

break my limits

and my limiting beliefs

to take a closer look at my attitude

towards myself

Just need a little Courage.

To change.

Yoga Room Lessons

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I can sense the tug of the ego,
(who’s looking?)

Shhhh!

What is the point here?
So I have been practicing. But now that I am here, what did I learn on the way?

Total surrender. Total surrender. And you only achieve the results when you let go.

Softening the body and not pushing. Its so relevant. It happens in the yoga room because it happens in the world.

Your life on the mat is a microcosm of your life in the world.

What are you thinking? Observe the ego.
Why is everyone pushing, why did I always push.

Because I didn’t get it.

Soften the body and let go.

If you love it, Let it go…

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Early on in the throes of passion everything seems very intense. You live, breath and consume the object of your focus and cannot consume anything else.

It happens in every relationship, and the thought that it will never change goes against the very grain of yoga, that this very belief of the permanence of things impermanent brings discontent.

For three years I didn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t pick up a novel, read a magazine in the bath or spend hours occupying myself unrelated to my immersion.

Yoga.

Its wonderful, but limiting, as I realise now that there is no frame of reference if there is no room for anything else. How can one grow if one consumes only one food.

So if you love it, let it go.   Let the dust settle and see what remains.  For what remains will stay. What remains is authentic.

So I let it go. A combination of frustrations with other teachers, doing their yoga and not necessarily what my body wanted to do. Reading about others ideas, thoughts and musings centuries old. It was enough.

Spending instead more time immersed in my own thoughts, percolating away, distilling it all down to

what remains is authentic.

At some point in your life its time to stop all the research and start writing the essay.

Step outside and take a breath.

Away from all that tweeting, retweeting and blogging amongst too many yoga enthusiasts and the business of yoga, which in truth business has no place in yoga.

A friend said recently that maybe this is what will save yoga in the end.

So I sat in my body, read a stack of Lee Childs Jack Reacher books and sometimes when I wanted to practice I broke all the rules.

I used music,

I did backbends early in the practice

I didn’t meditate

I danced on my mat

I did what I darned well wanted to

And that is the business of Yoga.

Change is for the Better

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My family’s timetable so far this year had been well synchronised. The kids had swimming lessons on the same day and same time despite different swimming abilities, gymnastics didn’t clash with art class and the piano and guitar and trombone lessons all sat comfortably in their slots.

And then came Kung Fu.  And my daughter went up a swimming group. Suddenly life was not so smooth. We had hit a bump in the road.

I struggled with the timetabling. In fact I wrestled with the speedbumps in it until exhausted one day, I had no choice but to shrug my shoulders and succumb to having to drop activities and to more time spent in the car.

Then I realised the universe was giving me an opportunity to do something new, for all of us to learn something new away from the comfort of routine and the familiar.

But I was still clinging to the old. I was attached to the habitual.

Patanjali wrote of the 5 Klesha’s which are the causes of suffering.
They are the afflictions of the mind and cause the internal dissonance that we often feel. 

Avidja – Ignorance (from which the other four stem from)
Asmita – Ego (separation from the world)
Raga – Attachment (to things which give us pleasure)
Dvesha – Aversion (from things that do not)
Abhinivesha – Fear of risks, of action and ultimately of death.

My problem was attachment (Raga).  

The problem with being attached to pleasurable things, or in my case a way of life that provided stability and pleasure in its synchronicity, is that they are actually impermanent.

As soon as I realised this all my mental turmoil went away, and I realised that the universe indeed was giving me a new opportunity to grow, if I had the courage to take it.

From the Kung Fu studio I found a new family, a missing piece of the puzzle of what my son is passionate about and a beautiful new studio space of my own to run my own yoga classes from.

More time for us to crystallize our own strengths and talents.

Thank you Universe.

Seeing Red.

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Today was a terrible day.

The worst part of course was that having achieved some small degree of awareness… I knew that each shitty event that manifested and perpetrated my day was because I manifested it myself.

My bad attitude and seething anger attracted only more dukha. Bad space. Constriction and darkness.

The Law of Attraction. We all live it.  Like attracts Like. Focus creates expansion. I was bringin’ on the bad.  But how do we get off that particular unpleasant ferris wheel?

Well obviously one must go meditate, perhaps some Chandra Bedha Pranayama (left nostril breathing) but when you are soooo wound up and really upset, all of our own best wisdom may be found lying on the lawn just outside the bedroom window. Or nearest window closest to above-mentioned melt-down.

Tissue box be warned.  You may feel as depleted as I did today.

Anger is the most exhausting and debilitating emotion that one may be so unfortunate to host. Like a pathogen it sucks the life, or the prana out of you.

I am sure I shortened my DNA telomeres considerably today.   Dang.

Its days like this when I wonder if the yoga is working. Days like this when I question my very purpose.

But it is.

The yoga is working. How can my comparatively short experience with yoga measure up against 5 thousand years of enlightenment.

The journey is long.

As Patatbhi Jois famously said. “Do your practice and all will come.”

A Winter’s Solstice

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On Friday it will be Winter Solstice. A day two years ago that the concept of death was introduced to my children, where we intellectually explored the subject for the first time,  and physically felt the sharp dagger of loss in each of our own hearts.

“When your number’s up… your numbers up.” My husband says. But in the great lotto game in the sky, it’s the one time you don’t want your number to come up – just keep on rollin’.

So what comes after?

In a recent discussion it was impressed upon me that NOT believing in God was a religion. Atheism is a religion.

“Religion is anything you believe in. Like golf.. or yoga.”

Excuse the pun but I ain’t diggin’ that.

There are many men of faith who believe that yoga is a religion and therefore incompatible with those who have a faith and thus only practiced by heathens.
I realise that yoga’s roots to Hinduism does not help…
But yoga is not a religion. It is a practice of the mind – through the body, that teaches us how to escape the human condition of suffering created by the mind.

So what comes after?

Last summer a cornucopia of pink Bougainvilliea flowers blew into my house, collected in corners, blocked my vacuum cleaner and mingled with the dust bunnies under the bed.

Skipper had come home.

He had lain for a year under the Bougainvilliea since that fateful Winter Solstice eve, leaking his vitals into this magnificent tree – which that summer had became more magnificent than ever.

For me allowing the flowers to blow through the house became deeply meaningful.
Old dog meet new dog.

At home we like to explore the different ideas of what comes after. Often we talk about reincarnation. The kids do Buddhism at school and we talk about the Buddhist teachings of reincarnation as a constant state of return to suffering – to put it bluntly. Until you evolve and learn your life’s lesson you will constantly be sent back.

Sounds sinister. Maybe going to heaven might be nicer.

I do know that energy constantly transmutes itself into different forms of energy – like how kinetic energy becomes potential energy. Radiation is energy from electromagnetic waves, light energy from heat… and so on.

So how can life just end?

I still don’t know what comes after.

But I know that life is fragile, yet robust.

I know that often we miss life in this moment… reliving the past, or in the future

forgetting that life is in the flicker of your eye as you look into your child’s eye,
or your lovers

tasting the sweet sensation of cold ocean water breaking on your skin

or feeling for an instant your breath enter your body, and leave again

and that marvellous pause in between when your body seems
to know how to take another breath.

So what does comes after?