Monthly Archives: July 2012

Viva la balance!

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Lancashire Yogi finds that yoga balances are a good way of testing out whether he is mentally ‘in balance’ or not. Lancashire Yogi tests out his sense of balance by practicising :

tadadasana

eka pada pranamasana

natarajasana

chandrasana

Lancashire Yogi gets into these asana  balances.

He ‘thinks up’..

He breathes..

He focuses his attention on a spot in front of him..

He breathes..

At this point,  either his mind is focused,and clear (in balance) and he is balancing;

Or his mind is full of chatter or noise (or as Patanjali might have said: “the cittas or vritting!”) and he is, as a result,  wobbling or falling.

If the ‘cittas are vritting’ he knows it’s time to get into some serious yoga vinyasas to bring the mind under control; and to do some serious chanting too. In short, he needs to get on the mat.

If of course, the cittas are not vritting – and he is balancing and balanced – he simply just continues.

Doing balances can help you to see if you,  yourself,  are balanced.

If you don’t know of any yoga balances – search engine the one’s Lancashire Yogi has mentioned or like the old English Bobbies (police) used to do with suspected drunk drivers – try and walk along a line and back. If you are really daring why not balance on a raised surface, or simply just raise one knee and try to maintain that one legged balance (remember to breathe, think upwards and focus on a spot ahead of you!).

If you got the wobbles – it’s time to get on the mat!

Namaste

Maybe it’s a game – but kindness counts

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Lancashire Yogi has been playing all sorts of games recently.  Board games, that is, as opposed to any other kind of games.

He has had a bunch of visitors who have all requested games of chess, or backgammon, or cards, or (horror of horrors!) monopoly. 

He has played jenga, twister (a great game for budding yogis!) and snakes and ladders. He was cajoled by a couple of friends to play hide and seek.  And when all else failed he found himself playing battleships. 

It’s been a week of game playing. And it has been fun. And tiring. But it’s also been quite insightful. 

Everyone gathered round and learned the rules. Each game started pleasantly enough.  But as the pace quickened and the urge to ‘win’ grew, there was a tendancy for dirty tricks, aspersions and barbed asides.  Trust quickly went out the window and particularly in monopoly whenever a player nipped to the loo everyone protected their stash of winnings and properties.  The competitive spirit was loud and clear in Lancashire Yogi’s house last week.  A couple of Lancashire Yogis friends got a bit too heated and Lancashire Yogi took them outside to do some yogic breathing and a couple of downward facing dogs. Yogic breathing changed the state to say the least.  But the thing that broke the spell of the competitive spirit and nascent aggresssion though, was when Kaiser disappeared into the kitchen and returned with huge steaming mugs of tea and a freshly baked carrot cake. He cut pieces for everyone and handed them out with the tea.

At some point in one of the games, Kaiser had disappeared into the kitchen and prepared a delicious carrot cake, shoved it in the oven and returned to the game while waiting for it to bake. When he knew it was ready, he hooked it out the oven and brought it to us, freshly baked, with delicious mugs of tea.   Marion wanted to know why he did it, “Oh I just figured that sooner or later we would want some tea and cake and figured I could make it while the game was going on. Turned out ok, don’t you think?” he explained.   This was an act of kindness and it transformed the game. Infact, with cake and mugs in hand,  the game became something fun, and light hearted, inclusive and interesting.

Lancashire Yogi has been thinking about this a lot.  He likes to think of life as a game. A glorious game where one can have fun,  find oneself, make connections with others, and through the play of the game come to new insights that propel us forwards.  What has worried Lancashire Yogi about this is the competitive element and the desire to win that is so pervasive in games.  In life we see so much of the competitive winning element that it is hard not associate life with this, if we try to see life as a game. However Kaiser’s behaviour made Lancashire Yogi realise that you can treat life as a game, just so long as you  make an effort at and don’t loose sight of our common humanity and kindness.  The Dalai Lama has said  “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness”.  Lancashire Yogi likes this a lot. You cannot go too far wrong with efforts of kindness to others and other sentient beings, and indeed, you can still enjoy the game of life let alone the board games we can play in life.

Mindful or mindless?

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Lancashire Yogi enjoys mindfulness practice. He is heavily influenced by the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn whose book ‘Full catastrope living’ explains the practices very well. Years ago, the Yogi worked with some mental health researchers to look at the value of mindfulness meditation for people who were experiencing anxiety and depression. The results were impressive. Simply just paying attention to what you are doing, seems to bring an enriched experience and a fuller and more total sense of whatever it is you are doing. In short, there isn’t much time to dwell on ‘stuff’ or be depressed or anxious.  Lancashire Yogi doesn’t shave much but his experience of shaving is a safer, more accurate one when he is totally absorbed in the shave. If not, and he is thinking of half a dozen other things he’s likely to cut himself, and create a very unbalanced cut. Attention, and total immersion are the watch words of mindfulness.

But more often, Lancashire Yogi finds himself drawn to mindlessness. He’s not talking about going out and getting blind drunk or losing himself to drugs or some other mind altering substance. No, he’s refering to an idea which is probably quite similar to mindfulness. And that is the process of having no mind. Cutting all thoughts out; all emotion; all intellect, and just as Douglas Edison Harding (Zen and the art of the obvious) said: “Reason and imagination and all mental chatter died down…..There existed only the Now, that present moment and what was clearly given in it. To look was enough. And what I found was ….absolutely nothing whatever! “

The idea of having no mind, of being mindless, is intriguing. No more thoughts, no more angst. The monkey mind turned off.  And another thought occurs to Lancashire Yogi – does the practice of mindfulness lead to mindlessness? In other words, your whole experience of life becomes fuller, richer, deeper… total.

It’s an intriguing thought, and one that is worth exploring. Lancashire Yogi finds that on his way to mindfulness, he is helped through yoga practice, as this itself encourages and creates a state of mindlessness. 

Time to get on the mat.

Namaste

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The yoga of hearing

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Yoga as we know is a package of practices, of which the one that the most people think of and do is ‘asana’ – yoga postures.  There are seven other elements of the yoga package. Meditation is one of these. Lancashire Yogi meditates regularly, and recently he was reflecting on the power of silence. How important it is to experience silence in all its depths.  It’s important to experience silence every so often because we are simply surrounded by noise all the time. There is the internal noise of our own mind to contend with, as much as the noise of the world ‘out there’.  We like to contribute to the noise, with our own thoughts and opinions too. Lancashire Yogi read somewhere that the level of background noise that surrounds us in our daily life is increasing both in range and volume.  It’s rare to hear complete silence. 

When Lancashire Yogi moved to his cottage in the middle of nowhere, it took him ages to get used to the dark nights because they were really, really dark. There was no light pollution. The night hung heavy with darkness.  But the nights, and the days are also heavy with silence.  Lancashire Yogi can hear himself think. Amazing. 

This got Lancashire Yogi thinking. If there was a yoga of hearing or listening – what would it be?  He thinks it is about being mindful of all the noise and sounds that one hears; not contending with it but abiding with it, and connecting with it without judging it.  Just listening.  In this practice, in the end silence, can be very noisey!

Lancashire Yogi was at a meeting with his business colleagues last week. They sat around a table and everyone wanted to say their ‘tuppence worth. Everyone had a lot to say, and everyone wanted to be heard. Lancashire Yogi was amused because everyone was getting quite heated. They all wanted to be heard, and all thought that what they had to say was the most important thing.  Lancashire Yogi was amused, because when he sat and listened, he realised that they were all saying the same thing essentially; with a different nuance or take on things. By listening you can connect and ultimately help others to connect. That’s what Lancashire Yogi did at the meeting.  That’s what he tries to do in life. It’s not easy. And like all other forms of yoga requires practice. But the trick is to not speak unless moved to speak, and then to be sure that one has something to say.  For the most part, the aim is to listen and hear; and integrate.  The synergy that results can lead to new insights, innovation and a fresh perspective.

Namaste

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