Stop Falling Down the Hole

imageDo you sometimes find yourself making the same decisions out of habit? Often times we make life choices because it is familiar, we feel it’s what we should do or we’re scared of hurting those closest to us.  We get stuck in a loop which we find hard to break out of.

When we begin to take time to really reflect on our choices we can make decisions that enrich our lives rather than take away from them. We can do this via meditation, through our asana practice, by writing reflective journals or simply by taking some much needed quiet time with ourselves to think about what we want out of our lives.

Change starts with yourself. Is it time for you to stop falling down the hole?

“I walk down the street
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in
I am lost … I am hopeless
It isn’t my fault
It takes forever to find a way out

I walk down the same street
There is a hole in the sidewalk
I pretend I don’t see it
I fall in again
I can’t believe I am in the same place
But it isn’t my fault
It still takes a long time to get out

I walk down the same street
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I see it there
I still fall in … it’s a habit
My eyes are open
I know where I am
It is my fault
I get out immediately

I walk down the same street
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I walk around it

I walk down another street”

– Excerpt from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
by Sogyal Rinpoche

Croatia Yoga Retreats

IMG_0920.JPG Just finished teaching my first solo retreat in Croatia with the most wonderful group of ladies. Two classes per day, sailing, beaches, yummy food, laughter, meditation and relaxation – absolutely perfect ❤ It’s times like these when I really appreciate just how fortunate I am to be able to share this yoga with my students and travel to some incredible places whilst doing so. Looking forward to welcoming the next group in a couple of hours 🙂 Check the ‘love’ page for the retreat feedback Namaste from sunny Croatia xxx

Are You Paying Attention?

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Just wanted to share a piece I’ve just written for my advanced TT pre-homework.  Enjoy 🙂

‘Listening to the silence’ by J.Krishnamurti is a useful and accessible story which could be used to explain the true meaning of ‘concentration’ (dharana) in yogic practices. When a student begins practicing yoga (and indeed with experienced students), they often intimate that it is not the physical asana practice they find the most challenging, but the sitting in meditation and the times where they are asked to hold a particular asana for an extended period of time. As they struggle to concentrate and as the mind inevitably wanders, so begins a spiral of frustration and disappointment as they try to force their minds to focus solely on what they are doing… the wrong sort of effort.

 

There is a false understanding in the western world that to ‘meditate’ is to make the mind blank … to mentally switch it off. While the ultimate perfection of samhadi is free from the binds of thoughts such as likes, dislikes … the stories we believe to be true, it is never ‘switched off’, it is the opposite, it is pure awareness of all.

 

Therefore, in order to become ‘aware’, we must first learn to understand our thoughts and human processes. To do this is not to blank the mind but to do the opposite… to become acutely aware of our thoughts, our human patterns and cultivate the ‘witness within’ then practice ‘non-reaction’.

 

Krishnamurti begins by urging us to listen to the silence in between the ringing of temple bells. We could guide our students to actively practice this by using chimes or bowls at the beginning of the class and explain that in paying whole attention we are listening to the silences as much as we are listening to the chimes.

 

The writer then goes on to discuss what it is to ‘pay attention’. He argues that paying attention it is not to withdraw your attention from everything else, as this is in fact exclusion. By making it your intention to drown out all other thoughts, your mind can never be wholly with the object of your meditation, because part of your energy is being used to shut everything else out. There is too much effort in incessantly trying to blank the mind from the desire to look around you, to scratch your nose etc.

 

This story can be used to help students cultivate ‘effortless effort’ and understand what this means – not mental effort to bullishly attempt to force the mind to concentrate, but the will to observe the experience without reacting – practicing ‘vairagya’, simply “not getting stirred up”.

We can encourage students to accept that there will be inevitable distractions, allow themselves to recognise them, experience them without judgement and then let them go – softly, with love and gently guide themselves back to object of focus, cultivating ahimsa.

 

By allowing ourselves to listen to and acknowledge thoughts and sensations, we are practicing whole attention. Just like listening to both the silence and the chimes of Krishnamurti’s bell, in meditation we listen not just to the breath, but the thoughts and sensations that come up as we are breathing – this is whole attention, whole concentration.

 

The author finishes by discussing the cultivation of space in the mind. We can encourage this in class by continually encouraging students to let go of patterns and behaviours that no longer serve them. By clearing space in the mind, we then have space for whole attention – space to listen to the breath, to the music playing in class, to the teachers voice, to the traffic outside the window and be totally, wholly present.

The Invitation

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A simply beautiful poem about being your authentic self … I’m using this in savasana all week ❤

The Invitation by Oriah

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.

If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.

If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.

And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

The significance of ‘Namaste’

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So I’ve just had a little tattoo on my forearm and quite a few of my students have asked me about the significance of the word ‘namaste’ …

The gesture of namaste is the joining of the hands together at heart chakra and is traditionally given as a greeting. It represents the belief that there is a divine spark in each and every one of us. It is an acknowledgement of one soul by another soul.

The literal translation of Nama-as-te is “I bow to you” and when done in a yoga class, is meant as a mutual respect and connection between student and teacher. It allows people to come together without the binds of the ego. Bowing our heads and closing our eyes allows us to surrender to each other. 

Namaste is a symbol of gratitude at the end of a class where the teacher gives thanks to both her students and her own teachers, and invites the class to connect to the immense lineage of yoga.

 

“I honour the place in you where Spirit lives,

I honour the place in you which is of Love, of Truth, of Light, of Peace.

When you are in that place in you,

and I am in that place in me,

then we are one”

 

Namaste ❤