Monthly Archives: January 2012

viewing the nature of reality

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In verse IV.15, of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali says: “vastusamye cittabhedat tayoh vibhaktah panthah”.  In IV.16 he says: “na ca ekacitta tantram ced vastu tat apramanakam tada kim syat”.

yoga is a headland from which to see reality

Iyengar translates these verses as “Due to the variance in the quality of mind-content, each person may view the same object differently, according to his own way of thinking” (IV,15), and “an object exists independant of its cognisance by any one conciousness. What happens to it when that conciousness is not there to perceive it”

The concept of ’emptiness’  – which Lancashire Yogi takes to be ‘ultimate reality’ – pure truth – is beautifully expressed in these sutras.

You can look at a book on a table and due to the fluctuations of thoughts in your mind – you could see it as a “good” book, or a “bad” book; you might think it represents your erudite mind, it might represent “untidiness” or “hope” – or if its an exam text book – “boredom” or “fear”.  All those expressions of your mindstuff would represent the variance in the quality of the mind content, and as Iyengar translates – each person may view the same object differently according to their own way of thinking. While you’re viewing it as “an exciting and brilliant book” your partner, or friend may well be thinking that it’s the “most dull and boring book” he or she has ever read.  You could be thinking “she thinks I am clever and interesting having books like this”, she might be thinking “goodness he’s so untidy and careless with his possessions”. As Iyengar – and Patanjali say – different perceivers see an object in different ways even though the object of itself remains the same.  The object is itself “from its own side” as Geshe Michael Roach might possibly say. He refers to a pen in his talks – and he says –  “the pen is not the pen” – to you it’s a writing tool, to a dog its a chewy toy, to a philosopher it’s a weapon of revolution.  Kevin the body builder might see the book as a useful prop for his weights – and Lucy the yoga beginner might like to use the book as a block for forward bends to avoid stretching her hamstrings. 

Iyengar reflects that while an object remains the same regardless, to the perceiver, it is seen through the interplay of the gunas. These are energies in life.  They aren’t as Mrs Lancashire Yogi often reflects – like the British comic team – The Goons – but their collateral damage can result in similar comic, dramatic and interesting effects.  Lancashire Yogi thinks that they could be part of the cosmic joke that is played on us.  Tamas is the dull energy, rajas, frenetic energy, and sattva – a pure energy.  Tamas is “can’t be bothered”, rajas is “excessive and obsessive interest”, and sattva is “kind, curious, open and compassionate interest”.   It is said that we are exposed to all of these energies and of course we project them too.  A useful game to play is “guna bingo”.  Try it to see how much we flit between them.  Fill out a card and cross them off as you experience them throughout the day. Heck, it can be one hell of a rollercoaster..Well, it certainly is in Lancashire Yogi’s funfilled life…

The trick as Lancashire Yogi understands it – is to use the yoga practices to achieve as much sattva as possible and of course to counterbalance the times when one’s energy (or the energy of the moment and the environment) are either tamasic or rajasic. Through a balancing of the energy it is possible that the citta isnt vritting and that the mind is empty (un-turning, neutral, objective), and thus can perceive an object as it is, without the labels and thoughts that one may project onto it. The book for example  – is just a book and nothing else.   And this is the point of Patanjalis verse iv.16 – an object exists of itself from its own side – independent of anyone’s conciousness. Patanjali asks – “what happens to it when conciousness is not there to perceive it”. When we go into the kitchen and leave the book in the lounge on a table. It just “is”. So – it’s there as this pile of paper glued together,inanimate yet representing a multitude of things to whoever perceives it when they glance at it.

Now this is  fine with objects such as pens, or books or things that we use. But what about our relationships? Iyengar says the same man or woman is a pleasure to a beloved or a lover, and a pain to a rival. She or he may be an object of indifference to an ascetic, and of no interest to a renunciate or celibate! But in reality that man or woman is just that man or woman. Lancashire Yogi is straying into deep water with this and will probably need to come back to this in detail another time,  but how you perceive people and objects is not only an effect of the gunas but also of karma. Now the guna bit is fairly straight forward – someone full of rajasic energy enters a room, and they can raise the energy levels of the occupants of that room, unless their energy is very tamasic. The opposite is also true.  As is the same of calm sattvic people creating calm wherever they go. 

Where Lancashire Yogi struggles is with the notion of karma.  Karma is the sprouting of seeds of conciousness or thoughts that one created and planted in the past. Geshe Michael Roach talks about the experience that you have of an angry person who is shouting at you. He says (I think) that how you perceive this shouting, angry person is a projection of the seeds you planted when you shouted and were angry at someone in the past.  In a sense – what you experience is a mirror reflection of your past behaviour. Infact,  the mirror analogy isnt probably the best analogy for Lancashire Yogi, and he has spent some time reflecting on this. A long time ago, Lancashire Yogi spent some days with the Aborigine folk around Ayers Rock and in Northern Queensland.  His Aborigine friends had an interesting take on reality – which at some point Lancashire Yogi will share.  The folk Lancashire Yogi practiced with were adepts at boomerang throwing. You would draw back your arm with a beautiful jarrah boomerang in your hand and then you spin it out to the world in front of you, watching as it left your hand and spun out into the bush.  Boomerangs are interesting – and dangerous….You have to keep a sharp eye on them as they spin through the air –  because at some point they will start to arc back on a return journey.  The one you just threw will arc right back – and with a bit of hand/eye/brain co-ordination you can catch it. The boomerang comes back to you.  And that to Lancashire Yogi is the best analogy for karma he can think of today.  You chuck out anger – it’ll come boomeranging back – and if you dont catch it  – it’ll thwack you on the head. You chuck out love it’ll come back loving you. 

I guess this is what the Biblical references to “reaping what you sow” refer to.  In those days they used agricultural references – and plant seeds are pretty much like those thought seeds that you have – which grow and grow – sprouting their own seeds.  Which also grow….And to refer back to his own boomerang analogy – if you chuck loads of angry boomerangs out there – they’ll come back whacking you from all sorts of different angles. The trick is to throw the right thought out there rather than the wrong thought – because it’ll come boomeranging back at you at some point in the future. 

Yoga can help with all this. Infact yoga practices are good preparation for boomerang throwing.  This is why Lancashire Yogi likes practicing all the yoga practices: they tend to ensure that the boomerangs are right thought boomerangs, rather than wrong thought boomerangs. Of course, he still chucks out wrong thought boomerangs but thankfully the yoga practices are helping him to catch them before he gets a clunk on the head or other body part.   

Namaste

it’s nothing but a burning light

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Lancashire Yogi has spent the last few days immersed in the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita. They are superb, life-enhancing texts. Whenever Lancashire Yogi looked up from his reading – he felt as if he had been dazzled by the illuminating content of both texts. He can’t decide which one is more dazzling, and from which he feels more illumined. He is reminded of a wonderful song by a canadian singer called Bruce Cockburn called “Soul of a man”.  One of the verses of this amazing song, which is a version of a T Bone Burnett song goes

” I read the Bible often
I try to read it right
As far as I can understand
It’s nothing but a burning light”

and that is how Lanashire Yogi feels about the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita.

Most days I spend some time reading these two beautiful books. In  these days of ‘self-help’ and ‘DIY’ philosophy, it is astonishing that these ancient books still have so much power, provide so much insight and offer such a plethora of guidance and information about the yogic path. I always recommend them to folk who are starting out on their own inner journey. Both texts- and Patanjali in particular – have so much to offer.  In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna reveals himself to Arjuna  in all his cosmic glory “brighter than a thousand suns” . While Lancashire Yogi cannot own up to having such a profound cosmic experience, reading the Bhagavad Gita or the Yoga Sutra certainly create the burning light that Bruce Cockburn sings about. Sometimes it can be dazzling, but when the brightness fades, Lancashire Yogi is left with a calm and focussed sense of direction. It is very much like walking down a path in the pitch black of night and then turning on a bright torch and shining a way.  The immediate moments are blinding, and dazzling to say the least…but after that, Lancashire Yogi picks himself up and carries on with renewed purpose, calm and focus.  If he had to leave a burning building – having made sure everyone (including the creatures here) was safe – he would stuff the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras in his satchel – they are so indispensable!  If you get a chance – and especially if the building isn’t on fire – you could do no worse than get hold of a copy of each.

Geshe Michael Roach’s version of the Yoga Sutras are here online – http://yogaclassics.org/docs/ESSENTIAL_YOGA_SUTRAS.pdf – and freely available as a pdf. Much of his work is very accessible and while this is freely available, I would commend other publications of his such as “Tibetan Yoga” .

The website Holy Books – which is a superb sharing of the worlds Holy books has three modern versions available for free download here: http://www.holybooks.com/bhagavad-gita-three-modern-translations/.  Again the Holy Books site is a wonderful endeavour – and if you can support it or promote it – please do.

Happy Reading and Namaste

 

good morning world!

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Lancashire Yogi has a very regular morning yoga routine. Some might describe it as slightly obsessive compulsive, others might think of it as disciplined. And when Lancashire Yogi writes his journal he does note these as his morning disciplines.  When he doesn’t follow the practices he has set out for the morning he tends to notice the effect, as much as when he does follow his practices. If I miss the routine I tend to get grouchy and self-orientated. I certainly find myself drifting into negativity and grumpiness.  I’ll see the pint glass as half empty rather than half full, and my usual compulsions start crowding in on my patch like unwanted weeds. So my routine is like a daily weeding session.  Mrs Lancashire Yogi says that she can tell when I don’t do any weeding as I tend to resort to addictive behaviour. Lancashire Yogi feels a bit unsure of the description – he’s not really an addict of anything much, but he does find himself consuming chocolate, food, alcohol etc – you get the picture.  And the cittas certainly do their vritting!  All that movement and turning of the mind.  Mrs Lancashire Yogi will in her down to earth, grounded sort of way try and push me out the door to do some proper gardening or go for a walk or a swim – but because my psychic patch is full of weeds – Lancashire Yogi simply shrugs and kicks fluff around the house. He’ll get pernickety and annoying.  Eventually he spots his journal and ponders over it and then remembers that he has spent a few mornings lazing in bed, or dawdling. So those mornings have been without the practices and he realises that this is why he is so irritable and out of sorts.  Lancashire Yogi has a good friend – Stroll, the Druid who occasionally stops by on his walks around the country.  Last week Lancashire Yogi received a message that Stroll was heading to Lancashire from a sojourn on Anglesey – one of the last bastions of the Druids in Roman times, and a place full of crazy cosmic energy. Stroll says he looks forward to staying with Lancashire Yogi because he gets to do a morning practice that he thinks opens his inner winds and his heart, soul and mind. That’s certainly how Lancashire Yogi feels after a morning session. Stroll asked me to send him an outline of Lancashire Yogi’s practice so that he could do it in one of the stone circles or by an ancient site that he may be staying by on his travels around the country.  I’ll probably refer to Stroll in a future blog because as a Druid his approach to life isn’t far off a yogi’s – and he has many interesting insights to share and having lived off the land for over twenty years he knows how to live in harmony with nature and others without causing too much mayhem.  I thought I would write out the morning disciplines I do in the spirit of sharing them with others. It’s not a beautifully written list with the right Sanskrit names  more of a prompt or checklist for me to follow if I am feeling tired or forgetful. Usually I awake at about six in the morning and decamp to another room, and get on the mat to do these.  If you are interested in any of these references and want more information – I’ll happily share it.  If you just want a quick checklist – this is a good start.  Stroll calls it my gardening crib sheet – he likes the thought that by doing these asanas and practices – Lancashire Yogi is carefully weeding and tending the psychic patch that is the basis of me.  Some other time I’ll write about ‘the field’ – but I tend to think that its a way of clearing the field and preparing it for the right seeds to fertilise and grow.   

Lancashire Yogi’s Gardening Crib Sheet

ASANA

Corpse Pose (screen for aches and pains) – savasana

Wind relieving pose

Stretch toes, bend and flex toes, ankle back and forth, circle foot both ways

Stretch fingers, flex fingers, clench fist, open palms, wrists back and forth, circles hands

Straight legs from knees; single leg raises, both legs together

Jathara parivartanasana (revolved abdomen pose)

Vrksansa (lying down tree pose)

Lying down baddha konasan (cobblers pose)

Turn over onto tummy

Crocodile pose

Sphinx pose

Cobra pose

Locust pose

Bow pose

Camel posture

Cat (neutral, then active)

Downward facing Dog stretch

Upward facing dog

Dandasana – stick

Janu Sirsana

Matsyendrasana

Cobblers pose

Navasana – boat pose

Bharadvjasana (sage twist)

Marichyasana – bound  sage pose

Shoulder stand*

Plough*

Headstand*

Handstand*

Mountain posture

Sun salutations – as many cycles as possible

Tree (standing)

Trikonasana (triangle) – both feet facing

Trikonasana (triangle) – front foot facing the way you bend; back foot forward facing

Parsvakonasana – standing side stretch

Warrior 1

Warrior 2

Ardha Chandrasana – half moon pose

Chair Pose

Uttanasana – deep forward fold

Gurudasana

Natarajasana – dancers pose

Seated relaxation/

Savasana

5 Tibetans  

Tibetan Heart Yoga exercises from Geshe Michael Roach’s book

MANTRA

Mantra (Om, Om Mani Padme Hum, Om Ah Hum Benza guru padme siddhi hum, Hare Krishna, etc)

SCRIPTURE

Scripture – I read a sutra a day from:

Patanjalis Yoga sutras (Iyengar version)

Bhagavad Gita (Eknath Easwaran version)

Tao te Ching (Wayne Dwyer’s interpretions)

 Pranayama

10 Breathes breathing

Alternate nostril breathing

Ujayi breath

Udiyana bandha     

Kriyas

I do Jala Neti if i feel i need to (usually before asana)

I do bandhas if I feel need to do.

 Namaste,

yogah cittavrtti nirodhah

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Pantajali’s 2nd sutra in his Yoga Sutras is “yogah cittavrtti nirodhah”. Lancashire Yogi has to say that it’s one of his favourite sutras. It is simple and true. But going through my book shelves tonight I realised that there are some subtle differences in the translations I have.  Every so often I think I will compare each of the versions of the Yoga Sutras that I have – and tonight – well with some time on my hand – that’s what I have done.  By chance it gives me a good opportunity to advertise the different versions of the Yoga Sutras I have and enjoy too.

“yogah cittavrtti nirodhah”

BKS Iyengar  : “yoga is the cessation of movements in the conciousness”

Sri Swami Satchidananda: “the restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is yoga”

Swami Satyananda Saraswati: “to block the patterns of conciousness is yoga”

TKV Desikachar: “Yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively toward an object and sustain that direction without any distractions”

Geshe Michael Roach “We become whole by stopping how the mind turns”

Lancashire Yogi loves all of these interepretations – but as you can see – they are all slightly nuanced. However he is particularly drawn to Iyengar’s intrepretation and this is typically the interpretation he uses when he is talking about the sutras. I like Geshe Michael Roach’s interpretation because he connects the cessation of the turning  mind with our becoming whole – or complete. 

For what its worth, Lancashire Yogi believes that when he practices yoga – whether its asana, pranayama, pratyahara, meditation, niyama, chanting, reading scripture or yamas – he is working hard to still the busy, busy movements in his busy, busy mind. And when the turning mind is stilled or stopped: its incredible how much space there is from which to simply ‘be’, and from which to connect without all those ridiculous labels which our mind enjoys throwing around – you know – “clever”, “interesting”, “boring”, “rich”, “stupid”, “beautiful”, “ugly” …..ad infinitum!

I don’t know how much energy is expended by the monkey mind that moves restlessly from one thing to another and back again, but I am reminded of the marvellous poem by the great American Poet John Berryman: Dream Song 69: Love her he doesn’t but the thought he puts’.  It goes : “Love her he doesn’t but the thought he puts, into that young woman, would launch a national product, complete with TV spots & skywriting outlets in Bonn & Tokyo. I mean it”. 

The interesting point is that if so much energy is expended in thinking, with thoughts, opinions, points of view, and feelings whizzing around – no wonder we feel tired at the end of the day – even if we are sitting at a desk for most of the day! By stilling the movement of the mind – we can preserve our energy as well as enjoy our time without unncessary worry or unwarranted thoughts.  Many might add – that by stilling our minds we don’t react suddenly and often regretably in anger, or frustration at the show that plays out around us – and that in itself is an advantage when we survey the collateral damage that such reactions create.

This morning the woods I walk through – were shrouded in a mysterious mist.  There was a lovely early morning stillness and I sensed a recoiling of energy as if the day was about to launch into his fully fledged glory. As I stepped through the undergrowth I came across a beautiful spider web. Intricate, delicate and highlighted by the morning dew.  I was struck by the similarities between the spider web and the mandalas of tibetan buddhism.  Lancashire Yogi understands that mandalas are geometric – usually circular and symbolic representations of the universe.  The spider was nowhere to be seen, but it had left a beautiful artefact on which to meditate and realise the beauty of nature and our place in this greater scheme. And I suppose that mandalas have a similar such role.  Little did the spider know the effect it was creating when it spun its web.

Matsyendrasana..a very fishy tale..

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Lancashire Yogi has been obsessing about one of the most interesting and challenging asanas he knows – called matsyendrasana, it’s a classic spinal twist.  It’s not for people with real back problems – and certainly if you have had back problems, you should check with your physio or medic about the possibilities and practicalities of doing this twist.  In a synchronous and connected week Lancashire Yogis weekly gurus, Kit and Rosemary took their respective classes through a version of this last week.  This made Lancashire Yogi feel a bit strange.  I delude myself that I think I know how the cosmos works. In moments of evidence-based cosmic exploration – I’ve read the work of Rupert Sheldrake to remind myself of the power of amorpic resonance…But still – the Tao/Cosmos/Karma whatever it is – is playing funny games these days!  Matsyendrasana is a great twist and it really feels as if my insides are being wrung out. In a good way of course. 

You can find many examples of the asana on the net – on some good sites – and in most standard text books. Infact,   Matsyendrasana is one of the classic asanas that is described in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which is regarded by many as the classic yoga text.  More recently,  Geshe Michael Roach in his book “The Tibetan Art of Yoga” describes beautifully how to get into, and maintain this pose. Of course, his text also talks about the benefits of the pose. I’ll try to paraphrase his version because it is so elegant:

“Breathe out, and begin the King of Fishes pose by bending your left knee, and placing your left foot outside of your right knee.  Then bend your right knee, keeping the outside of this leg on the floor and the right foot beside your left buttock. Breathe in and bring your right elbow to the outside of your left knee then reach down and hold your left foot with your right hand. On the out breath turn and gaze over your left should, reaching your left hand around your back and resting it as close as you can to your right thigh”

Geshe-la (as he is known) says hold the pose for five cycles of exhale/inhale, and concentrate on turning behind your heart rather than with your neck or lower back.  On the out breath release the turn, face the front and take an in-breath. And then repeat the sequence on the opposite side.

It’s a wonderful teaching and I thoroughly recommend the book as there are deeper teachings in the book that give this asana added power.

The pose is named after yogi-master called Matsyendra, who appears to have lived over a thousand years ago. It’s called “King of Fishes Pose” and there are some intriguing stories about Matsyendra. Why ‘King of Fishes’? Well it appears he was a kind of Jonah type chap.  His parents threw him into the sea as a baby because they were afraid of the consequences when they heard from an astrologer that he was born under ‘inauspicious circumstances’.   

Having been thrown into the sea, a fish swims by and swallows him.  And the baby Matsyendra  lives in the belly of the fish.   Shiva having been nagged at by the Goddess Parviti for ‘inside knowledge’ about yoga, finally consents to and reveals the secrets of yoga to her – at a location where no one else can hear this.  They choose a location deep at the bottom of the sea as there no one could possibly hear such secret knowledge! So you have a picture of Shiva and Parviti having their lessons in yoga and in complete privacy apart from the fish swimming by.  Of course, one of the fish swimming by – is the fish that swallowed Matsyendra! And the boy inadvertently hears the teaching and as a result becomes a yogi.  Shiva appears to be ok about this because he blesses the boy, and names him “Matsyendranatha” – “lord of the fishes.”  Its a pretty interesting cross-reference with Jonah (you wait for a thousand years for a fish to come along and swallow your hero, and then two come along pretty much at the same time !! ). Any other heroes being swallowed by fish?!   Matsyendra then spends the next twelve years living in the belly of the fish, and practicing yoga.  Now that’s another interesting cross reference – why twelve years?  When he finally emerges on dry land he is an enlightened master and goes on to teach a noble and illumined lineage who to this day have shown us the path. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika is one tangible result of this, and it is used to this day.  It is supposed to have been written by the pupil of Goraknath, who was the pupil of Matsyendra.

Doing this asana over a period of time, it got me thinking a lot about him and his story.  Just as all roads lead to the same destination, or come from the same source, you can track back a lot of hatha yoga practices to Matsyendra and his pupil Goraknath.  The pupil/teacher lineage is a common heritage for yoga, and closer in time to us it can be seen when you trace modern yoga back to Krishnamacharya through the teachings of BKS Iyengar,  Pattabhi Jois, and TKV Desikachar.

There is something quite intriguing about a baby who is swallowed by a fish, and who learns yoga from the belly of a fish, spending twelve years in the belly of that fish swimming the oceans and finally emerging as a guru.  On reflection, to me it seems that this is a superb metaphor for a key aspect of yogic life.  Living in the belly of a fish swimming in the sea is symbolic to me of the practice of pratyahara.  Pratyahara is one of the eight limbs (ashtangas) of yoga.  To practice pratyahara means to practice withdrawal of the senses to aid meditation.  You can get no better sensory deprivation, and as a result, no greater withdrawal of the senses than from within the belly of a fish. Ok, Lancashire Yogi hasn’t tried this, nor would I wish to – but I have been in a sensory deprivation tank a number of times – and I imagine that it’s a similar experience for the senses – apart from the movement of the fish swimming.  The sea for me is symbolic of the sea of samsara – in Buddhism I understand it means ‘the flow’ of or perpetual flow of existence.  I also thought that the sea was symbolic of the sea of knowledge.   The figure of twelve years also intrigues me too – not least because the figure twelve pops up all over the place.  Lancashire Yogi can already hear the skeptics reaching for their whiskeys – he really isn’t trying to be a conspiracy theorist – just that he does see some interesting connections! Of course the one that made me smile is that ‘Pisces’ is the twelfth zodiac sign, and pisces is, well the symbol of a fish.  .   

Of course one can speculate and hypothesize about the meaning of these stories, and they do serve to provide a point on which to reflect; but the most powerful thing of all for Lancashire Yogi is that he can sit down most mornings and adopt one of the most sublime asanas he knows.  His body always feels good and strangely clean after matsyendrasana and his mind is transported to a clarity and ease that makes meditation easier, and I am sure his ‘inner winds’, heart and mind are all the better for this posture.  Geshe Michael Roach describes how doing this asana can increase one’s patience and aide the giving of patience to others. Matsyendra, twelve years in the belly of a fish, practicing yoga was a superb example of patience.  However, when I read the hatha yoga pradipika, I am grateful that the fish spat Matsyendra out, and that he went on to teach Goraknath and that his pupil found time to write down the teachings. So when you read the ‘pradipika, you really are – or so it seems, reading a text which was informed by the teachings of King of the Fishes. 

Namaste

lancashire yogi has been away

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I looked down over Windermere from the top of Wansfell Pike

Lancashire Yogi has been away for while.

In a moment of synchronicity, I could hear the Beach Boys singing “Lets go away for a while” a great tune from their album ‘Pet Sounds’, playing on the radio as I ventured across the border from Lancashire to Cumbria.  Whenever it gets tiresome I find myself heading for the hills. And Cumbria has its fair share of them. And lakes. And it was a long shot – particularly given that it was mid January – but hopefully I would have some sunlight and fresh air.  Mrs Lancashire Yogi tells me that when the citta-barometer shows that things are hotting up – she knows that it’s time to head for the hills, fill my lungs with fresh air, and my spirit with walks on the fells.

I must say that it had been a very tiresome week, with lots of challenges -and yet more!  And my citta was certainly vritting..! The citta-barometer was registering ballistic. And that means get away and recharge.   It’s amazing how the world of money, men and machines can send you into a tailspin just when you think you have mastered it – and when you are beginning to master yourself!  I guess that’s probably the point – that’s what this is all about.  Its the play of our projections, the rebound of karma and the testing of our journey. Just when you thought it was safe to live life as a yogi – the white shark of life surfaces!  So, you gotta keep on your toes, stretch that body and breath in good prana to manage and cope with it all  – and of course try to hold to those bodhisatta vows!  Ah, but it’s so sweet…just when you think you are seeing emptiness through the right world view and living a life of compassion and love – then you are almost 100% guaranteed to have the karmic dumper truck reverse and tip its backload all over you. It’s actually so predictable that I am surprised that I don’t see it coming and amazed that when I am in recovery – I can’t see the funny side of it all.   Heck, that karmic dumper truck has got one of those beepers to warn people that its reversing and it’s hazard warning lights are flashing madly. I believe that the driver is even leaning out the window and shouting some kind of profanity in a vain attempt to get you to move out of the way. But in one of life’s little jokes, somehow we just ignore it. And then find ourselves scraping off debris, and struggling to get out of the pile. I know I certainly did.    And having dusted myself down, I pulled together my walking togs and yoga mat and headed to the Lakes.

In a curious bookend kind of synchronicity, the radio was playing “Good vibrations” as I drove into Ambleside.  Years and years ago, when lancashire yogi was still quite young, I remember a coach journey from my then home to the lakes culminating in the coach turning off the M6 and into the Lakes with “Fanfare for the Common Man” playing loudly on the coach speakers. What a welcome! The week us school kids camped and explored the Lakes was certainly the beginning of a life long love of the place, and walking on the fells. It was also the year I put ahimsa into action by refusing to eat any living thing and trying to be kind and helpful.  It was also the year that I started ‘doing yoga’. Then, I thought that ‘yoga’ was ‘postures’. Now I know better – but still it was the beginning of a life long love of yoga in all its forms.

So I spent a fair few days walking in the lakes. I always love Cat Bells for its delicate and gentle walking.  And Skiddaws sweeping slopes tease me, and in times gone by have played havoc with my knees – well, they would have if I didn’t practice yoga.  Sca Fell still holds me in thrall with its majestic views and called for energy – glowering above the Langdales and beckoning all comers. But this trip, I fell in love with Wansfell Pike. It’s a fell from which Wainwright, the much loved journalist of the Lakes, fell in love with the Lakeland fells, and started his journeying and documenting of them. And I can see why.  I looked down over Windermere with the January sun shining brightly in a surprisingly delicious blue mid January watercolour sky. The fresh air and the exhilerating walk up to the top blew out that tiresome week I had had and the view reminded me of the value of emptiness and absolute objective reality. The lake and the sky and the sun, and the fells surrounding me, all simply just are. I choose to label them ‘beautiful’ or ‘threatening’ or ‘hard work’ or ‘expensive’ or whatever label or filter I choose to lay over what I see, hear or do. And the value of these moments is that they remind me of this.  The walk is worth the reminder of this understanding, as much for the exercise and the views.   As I set off to walk down towards ambleside, a peregine falcon hovered and swooped, diving and dodging for an indistinguishable prey in the undergrowth. And somehow it reminded me that, yes the karmic dumper truck will occasionally reverse, but we can dodge it and its load – and there are some useful tricks -which have stood the test of time –  asana, pranayana, chanting, reading good scripture, and living a good life (ahimsa, yama, niyama, vows etc) which can help.  And there is also the occasional flit to nature to help us recharge, realise reality and then rejoin the world of men and machines and money with heart , mind and spirit uplifted and ready to carry on the journey.

Kit Hartley’s Burnley Yoga Class

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We’re back at Kit’s Burnley Yoga Class. And as usual its an eclectic, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and compassionate Kit leading the session with some superb asanas and other stuff thrown in to get the inner winds moving and still the mind and heart. We’re back at the Inn on the Wharf – yes its a pub; and above the bar we are in the function room with all the smells of post-function and partying that you get after a weekend of partying.  Sometimes when I am in downward dog, I can see glitter or confetti on the carpet: it adds a sparkle to the session, and the odd balloon, a final hostage from the weekend’s parties hints at the celebratory nature of the place. And to be sure, whenever I am in a class run by Kit I feel like celebrating because her classes are such a good experience. Kit knows a lot about yoga, she’s British Wheel of Yoga trained and accredited and she teaches in a way that brings everyone from beginner to experienced yogi with her. And she puts us through our paces in such a way that we end up in asanas having extended ourselves in ways that we didn’t think we could have reached or extended.  And somehow she manages to do this with humour, insight and care.  The class starts at 6pm this year – so it’s a bit of a rush from work for some, I think; and Lancashireyogi had a busy old day today. With lots of wicked karma being thrown around to keep me busy and test my resolve to be compassionate and kind.  I got to the class in time and without a rush but I will have to readjust from the previous start time of 7 pm.  Tonight we did a few twists. Lancashireyogi enjoyed these. I think they were intended to squeeze out the toxins and excess remaining from christmas and the new year. My internal organs felt good after these. Heck – ‘I’ felt  good after these! We did a few standing postures which I always love – warrior and some forward bends; as well as fish pose and downward dog, cat and cobra. We ended with a yoga nidra. Kit does these very well. Lancashireyogi drifted into his zone and felt very refreshed at the end. I am glad to be back in Kit’s class – and I could tell that others were equally pleased to ‘be back’. The great thing about Kit’s classes are that they are ‘drop ins’ which means you can simply just turn up. For more information just call her 01282 864723 or 07854 207701 or email her at m.j.c.hartley@btinternet.com.

I started today with my usual practices, meditation and reading. Today it was chapter seven, verse 1 of the Bhagavad Gita: “with your mind intent on me, Arjuna, discipline yourself with the practice of yoga”.  Easwaran says (quite rightly) that yoga is not just yoga (where have I heard that one before?), but a package – a body of dynamic disciplines which can be practiced by anyone.  He talks about meditation: the phases of these – dharana, dhyana and samadhi. He says: in dharana we find out that we are not the body; in dhyana – which is where the japanese get their word for zen from – we find that we are not the mind. And finally as a result  of  samadhi – we experience a stupendous realisation that that we and everything is interconnected: there are no barriers between us or anything. This interconnectedness is a solid reason why we should aim to help others, be kind and compassionate and try not to judge others or ourselves. If you pull too hard on one thread in a tapestry because you like it and want it,  or you don’t like it and dont want it – it’ll run and damage the rest of the tapestry. The asanas in yoga, along with pranayama, meditation and chanting are some of those dynamic disciplines that Easwaran says can help us realise the interconnectedness of everything and help stop us from the urge to tug at the thread. Infact, these disciplines can help us appreciate the threads’ place in the tapestry, and enjoy the tapestry as a whole.

Namaste