quote of the week beginning 29th April
'Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart, love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language, the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps someday, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.' From letters to a young poet by Rilke.
Resources for when sensory input overwhelms
1. Motor it out - fast walking, running, dancing, dynamic asana practice, change relationship to gravity - headstand
3. Talking with someone understanding - friends, therapy
4. Drawing - freestyle
5. Saying No
6. Breath Awareness
7. Soft palate lifting
8. Touch - non-invasive
9. Micro movements of the head
10. Listen to soothing music
Letter from Mr. Curly to Vasco Pyjama in “The Curly Pyjama Letters” by Michael Leunig
What is worth doing and what is worth having?
I would like to say simply this. It is worth doing nothing and having a rest; in spite of all the difficulty it may cause you must rest Vasco –otherwise you will become restless!
I believe the world is sick with exhaustion and dying of restlessness. While it is true that periods of weariness help the spirit to grow, the prolonged ongoing state of fatigue to which our world seems to be rapidly adopting is ultimately soul destroying as well as earth destroying. The ecology of evil flourishes and love cannot take root in this sad situation. Tiredness is one of our strongest, most noble and instructive feelings. It is an important aspect of our conscience and must be heeded or else we will not survive. When you are tired you must act upon it sensibly – you must rest like the trees and animals do.
Yet tiredness has become a matter of shame! This is a dangerous development. Tiredness has become the most suppressed feeling in the world. Everywhere we see people overcoming their exhaustion and pushing on with intensity—cultivating the great mass mania which all around is making life so hard and ugly—so cruel and meaningless—so utterly graceless—and being congratulated for overcoming it and pushing it deep down inside themselves as if it were a virtue to do this. And of course Vasco, you know what happens when such strong and natural feelings are denied—they turn into the most powerful and bitter poisons with dreadful consequences. We live in a world of these consequences and then wonder why we are so unhappy.
So I gently urge you Vasco, do as we do in Curly Flat—learn to curl up and rest—feel your noble tiredness—learn about it and make a generous place for it in your life and enjoyment will surely follow. I repeat it’s worth doing nothing and having a rest.
Yours Sleepily, Mr. Curly XXX
The Tethered Camel Story
A couple of weeks ago I was talking to one of my students about wishing to be free to travel and to attend particular yoga workshops, but how the constraints of my teaching schedule prevented these things from happening. She said "Ah 'the Tethered Camel'! My student is a teacher trainee and in amongst her studies had come across the story of the Camel that thinks it is tethered when in fact it is free to go.
It went something like this: It is night time and a Camel Herder ties down his herd but there are only enough tethers for eleven and he has twelve camels. He ties down eleven and encourages the the twelfth to lie down with the others, hoping the camel will stay.
In the morning sure enough the twelfth camel is still lying down with the others. The Camel Herder unties the eleven camels and they stand up, but the twelfth camel won't get up. After much coaxing the Camel Herder eventually decides to pretend to undo imaginary tethers. The Camel then gets up!
The moral regards how we can imagine we are tied down when in fact we are free!
A little story about Peace - from the Harrogate Yoga Autumn Newsletter
A little story on Peace: A dove and a sparrow were sitting on a window ledge in winter, the sparrow said to the dove: 'How much does a snow-flake weigh?' 'Nothing at all' replied the dove. 'Then how come,' said the sparrow 'that I was just sitting on a branch and the snow was getting thicker and thicker, eventually the weight of the snow caused the branch to break?' The dove said nothing, the sparrow waited. Then the dove said 'Maybe if one more person decided to want peace…...'
\"Injuries are not just a nuisance but an opportunity to explore our vulnerability and compassion\" Robyn Bowie
Thoughts like this this have been circling around in my mind the past couple of weeks since injuring my foot jumping sideways in one of my classes. (Dancing is something we do in my classes … when the time is right!)
For some reason a lot of my students have sustained freak injuries recently – not I hasten to add – in my classes. Scenarios have included nearly slipping into a pond, falling over on the way to the water fountain at work, catching a ball badly. It seems to me that sometimes what goes on in our heads when we have an injury can be worse than the pain and inconvenience. Contact Dancer Robyn Bowie wrote in ‘Dancing After The Fall’ “I think there is a bit of a stigma around injury, that if we were cleverer we would have avoided it, that you’re less of a dancer for being injured.”
In the past when I had injuries I went the whole gamut of “If only I hadn’t done…..I could have done….how stupid of me….what if it never gets better…how am I going to teach yoga now? ” And so on and so on, generally making myself feel much more miserable than necessary.
My teacher Donna Farhi was exemplary in how she dealt with a badly injured wrist whilst leading a three-day workshop a few years ago. She remained completely calm and accepting of her injury and managed to demonstrate poses in a way that accommodated her wrist.
I asked Neil Tiffany how he dealt with his recent injury. He said, “ I think the thing that stands out for me is how flexible yoga is (please excuse the pun). With every other physical activity I do or have done, an injury meant stop and rest. With yoga it just meant stop and think. I was pleased to learn that I did not even need to stop doing everything that puts pressure on the wrist but in some cases there were ways to work around the thing I couldn't do, it just required a little thought.”
Julie Cooper said “I fractured my left wrist in June of 2009. It was a bad break that had to be re-set with wires. I was practising my beloved yoga again by the September and taking my full weight in the November, after thinking that yoga was to be a distant memory! Then about a month ago, I slipped on wet grass (almost landed in my pond) and caught my fall with my left hand. My wrist has been quite sore - sun salutations had to be modified etc. To be perfectly honest this naffed me off, I didn't like having to modify what had felt so good, to meet the limitations of my injury. I focused on what I couldn't do and not what I could do. However, eventually my injury made me take better care of myself and become aware of how I had taken my fitness and health for granted. I always seemed to be rushing here and there, now I am finding myself much more relaxed ... and loving it. It was most definitely a lesson learned.”
Me? My foot is getting better – I no longer have to go downstairs backwards, I’ve developed a rather curious style of Sun Salutation to accommodate my injury but hope to be rolling the toes again next week!
I read this prayer to classes to celebrate the Summer Solstice
"May today there peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.”
I'm not sure who to attribute this to, but it was sent to me by one of my students.
The Meaning of Happiness - from the Christmas Newsletter 2010
At this time of traditional cheer - I’m offering some thoughts on the meaning of happiness and how the practice of Yoga can help us to be happier
‘Wanting to be happy is what makes you unhappy’ Tim Lott said in the Body and Soul section of The Times recently. Responding to David Cameron’s ‘Happiness initiative’, Lott argued that the pursuit of happiness would only lead to unhappiness. Similarly meditation practitioners who strive to attain samadhi - a state of bliss – will not succeed. Samadhi doesn’t arise when you’re wanting it to.
I guess it depends what we mean by happiness. If we keep striving for a life that’s ‘perfect’ then we’re going to be disappointed - we cannot expect to have a life without some difficulties, failures, losses, bereavement, or health issues. It’s hard to feel happy when burdened with money or work worries, health or relationship problems, but these dark shadows can give meaning to happiness.
I had a bit of a revelation when I was nineteen and living in Italy. I’d been suffering for some time from the pain of irritable bowel. I thought I couldn’t possibly be happy until the pain had gone completely. This belief added to my misery. According to my worried and exasperated parents I went round at the time saying ‘if only this pain will go away I’ll never complain about anything ever again’. Eventually it dawned on me that I could still enjoy some things even though I was in pain. Everything didn’t have to be perfect for me to feel moments of happiness. Once out of pain I certainly appreciated my health more, but I can’t say that I haven’t complained about anything since.
I’ve asked some of my students what happiness means to them. Lisa Mills of Level 2 Class, York Place said:
‘Over the last few weeks due to various reasons, my daily practice of yoga and meditation has gradually lessened. I began to feel the effects of this in my day to day life. I was finding that I was becoming stressed with things that I would normally handle with calmness. I got cross in various situations where it really didn't matter. In my head I was beginning to listen to the negative chatter- which I know through meditation I have learned to quieten. This has been a massive lesson for me . It's taught me that I need that time each day just to tune in with myself and have the quietness that both yoga and meditation has brought to my life, and by doing that I feel a more content, happier person.‘
Julie Cooper also of Level 2 Class, York Place, said ‘opening her heart and getting in touch with her true self’ means happiness to her. She said that getting a sense of her true self on a recent retreat had made her more self-accepting, and in turn more accepting of her family.
The concept of the ‘true self/nature’ or ‘essence’, is an ancient one. The Sanskrit name for it is purusha.
The Shvetashvatara Upanishad in verse V states:
‘The Self, small as the thumb, dwelling in the heart,
Is like the sun shining in the sky.
Although I said that bliss doesn’t arise if we want it to, as yogis we’re aiming through yoga practice, to lead our lives with more equanimity and to cope better with life’s ups and downs, so we become more contented. And meditation practitioners will sometimes experience the bliss or joy of the ‘ultimate reality’ known as Samadhi.
We discussed Pierre Pradervand’s book the ‘Gentle Art of Blessing’ in class recently. Pradervand says ‘Practising constant blessing deprives the ego of the time or energy to mull over its self-created problems, air its fears or desires, pander to self-centredness’. In this way blessing can turn around dark thoughts and feelings and cultivate acceptance.
In cultivating acceptance we have to start with
ourselves. Yoga teacher, Donna Farhi, refers to self-acceptance as practising ahimsa (non-violence). Acceptance towards others, the environment etc. then follows naturally. Not that anyone is suggesting this is an easy thing to do.
David Sye, on his Yogabeats workshop in Knaresborough recently, described the pursuit of joy as his rationale for practising yoga with almost continual movement to music. He said that he couldn’t think of a better reason for practising yoga than joy. His approach is playful, creative, fun and child-like – the ego doesn’t get much of a look in.
I believe that having a sense of community also helps people feel happier. As a yoga teacher I try to
encourage this by running classes that are courses rather than impersonal drop-in sessions.
I think the mushrooming of online social networks such as Facebook, are a modern expression of people’s desire for connection and community. People aren’t chatting over garden fences with their neighbours like they used to; instead they’re tapping away at the keyboard. In this way, friendships with people who are far away in other parts of the world, or even in the neighbourhood, can be maintained much more easily than by post or the phone. The downside of online networks is that communications can be superficial – people are at pains to show themselves as having fun and being happy all of the time.
I think relationships that have depth and lasting significance, are an important ingredient of happiness.
Ultimately, to maintain these relationships we do still need to see our friends in person in real time and in a real place.
I’ll finish with a quote from one of my favourite books – ‘Healing through the dark emotions’ by Miriam Greenspan:
‘Don’t skip the good parts of your life, no matter how much sorrow, fear, or despair you’re in. Take a walk and smell the flowers. …Get silly! …..Risk embarrassment. Think of two or three ways to take yourself less seriously and practise them weekly (if not daily)….Humour preserves us in times of trouble…… Laugh and cry at the same time. This is emotional surrender….Enjoy!’
How Simple Rituals Can Enhance Your Life - from the Summer Newlsetter 2010
HOW SIMPLE RITUALS CAN ENHANCE YOUR LIFE
Thomas Moore in Care of the Soul says:
‘Ritual is an action that speaks to the mind and heart but doesn’t necessarily make sense in a literal context’.
He goes on to say…’If the link between life experience and deep imagination is inadequate, then we are left with a division between life and soul’
I too believe that soul and imagination need care and attention. This belief influences my approach to teaching, as well as my own yoga practice and daily life.
When you come to class on a regular basis it is a ritual. Then there is a particular way in which we begin and end yoga class – incense lit and attending to the breath at the beginning, relaxation at the end.
When we have flowers or objects of special meaning in the yoga space or home, or take a little more trouble over preparing a meal and how it’s presented, again there is a resonance of ritual that speaks to the soul.
During summer solstice week we practiced a special ritual in some of the classes. Picking a rose petal was to signify something to bring into your life and throwing away a pebble to signify something unwanted in your life.
Many people are unhappy in their addiction to ways of behaving that can include compulsive, neurotic rituals. Thomas Moore believes these arise when the needs of the soul and imagination have not been attended to – a bit like the soul saying ‘if you don’t listen to my needs then I’ll make the dark shadow of my presence felt anyway.’
Moore also says ‘there is no model for this kind of thinking in modern life where almost no time is given to reflection’.
In fact we yogis do make time to pause and reflect when we practise yoga. So I suggest you let go of the need for literal rationalisations, practise yoga regularly, and attach significance and value to the simple rituals in your daily life that make your heart sing.
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