Category Archives: nature

Going out, to get inside

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Lancashire Yogi loves this time of year. It’s cold, and the air is crisp and sharp. The sky often open and wide, and stunningly blue.  Nature is either moving into hibernation or has already hibernated. The sap in the trees has long dropped.  And most of the time it’s freezing.   Tree branches are glazed with ice, and grass frozen in spikes.  High above and across the sky, flocks of migrating birds swoop and undulate in perfect motion on their way to a warmer, more welcome climate. Sometimes ‘Lancashire sees the birds spell out goodbyes and farewells in the undulating sweeps and swoops. The occasional vapour trail from a high altitude ‘plane spells out migrations of another sort.

It’s a perfect time to get out of the house and go walking.  Lancashire Yogi likes to take off over the fells and this year is exploring the Wasdale and Ennerdale valleys in Cumbria. The silence is astonishing: it’s almost as if every possible sound has frozen along with the grass and trees. And the silence hangs heavy in these Cumbrian valleys: heavy and deep. The occasional dog bark sounds like an exclamation mark in the silence. A crow on a tree branch, a comma of the frozen pause that has begun.

frozen grass (2)Lancashire Yogi always find that through the process of walking  in nature, he comes back to himself, and finds his centre.  Perhaps he finds his place and along with his pace. The rhythm and pace of his walking are like a metronome guide back to himself, as much as to the destination of the walk. But in many ways, the destination is always only one aspect of Lancashire’s walks in the ‘Lakes.  Somehow the forays are always about walking back to himself, and the destination and scenary are simply an excuse to get back to himself.

And what happens when ‘Lancashire walks back to himself? Intriguingly he makes an astonishing and mindblowing discovery – (as Easwaran says in the Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living) – with all this walking and out in the fresh air, with beautiful views and the senses alive to the environment, ‘Lancashire is not this body that he has.  It’s an experience thing rather than an intellectual observation or analysis. The body is merely a vehicle to pass through the land, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the journey. And if ‘Lancashire is not this body ; then others cannot be their bodies either.  The outer thing we call a body is simply a jacket or outer covering. It suddenly means we can dispense with our sense of difference about others and ourselves. Without identifying people as ‘bodies’ we can see them as people, souls, perhaps, within a vehicle that is simply just helping ‘us’ get through.

The walking thing then brings about something even more extraordinary realisation – often half way through a nice long walk : we are not our mind either. Because as you walk, you begin not merely to observe your surroundings; you begin to start observing your thoughts. And then you begin to wonder, ‘if I am observing my thoughts, who is thinking?’.  If the mind is generating thoughts, and I am observing them, what, or who , is doing the thinking? This perspective means that the you that is observing the thoughts can start responding to the thoughts that are perhaps mistaken or wrong, or unhelpful. And you can begin the process of mind engineering – for example,  tightening a bolt here, loosening a nut there, pouring some oil into the mechanism.  As an aside,  ‘oil’ for ‘Lancashire is repeating mantras. We can watch the torrent of negative or disabling thoughts rush by like a river full of flotsam and jetsam.  And we can follow the flow down stream and away out of our thoughts. And as a guide, Lancashire Yogi finds himself looking around to nature, and observing it’s “is-ness”: where it apparantly has no thoughts and no worries: and just ‘is’.

And then, finally Lancashire Yogi finds that actually, there are no boundaries between him and nature, and probably, well, everything.  There is a sense that he, and everything are all interconnected. He feels this particularly as he moves through the Cumbria landscape, through the valley, in the shadow of the fells, with the water of the lakes beside him. And if he is interconnected with everything, and indeed, all of us are interconnected – then to put up barriers and create degrees of separateness must surely be an illusion for some reason or other. And if everything is interconnected perhaps we need to cherish life and living things, and value our place in the big scheme of things.

Yes; Lancashire Yogi loves walking and loves walking at this time of year. However walking at any time of year is a good way of coming back to yourself: a sort of going out to get inside.  If you are feeling physically, mentally or soulfully cooped up – why not get up and go for a walk – just wrap up warm and enjoy.

The days are getting shorter at the moment. We are heading towards the Winter Solstice: where the sun is at the lowest point on the horizon at midday, as a result of the earth tilting on its axis. The Solstice is not a time for sadness though, even though it is the shortest day in the year.  From the Solstice (the 21st December, this year), the days will start to lengthen again. And although most will be rightly celebrating the Christmas and New Year; the Solstice is surely worthy of celebration as it is the beginning of the days slowly becoming lighter and a pointer towards Spring and Summer even in the cold, dark, often snowy days of Winter.

Namaste

If a tree falls in the forest does anybody hear?

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A tree fell in Lancashire Yogis patch the other day. He slept through the whole thing. And this got him thinking about that saying: “if a tree falls in the forest, does anybody hear?”.

The saying orginates apparantly from a book on physics by Mann and Twiss in 1910. They asked “when a tree falls in a lonely forest, and no animal is nearby to hear it, does it make a sound”. 

Lancashire Yogi thinks this is a bit like a Koan and you’d most likely respond by saying “Mu!” or something similar.  But it’s an intriguing question. And for Lancashire Yogi sums up one of the questions of existence and appearance. Can we assume that the unobserved, unheard, unfelt world functions the same as the observed, heard and felt world? 

When Lancashire Yogi lived with Alan Lee Chew and his family, near Ayers Rock in Australia  he was treated humourously when he talked about things happening back home in England. Alan used to take the Yogi aside and say “look LJ a lot of people around here they don’t believe something exists if they can’t see it: so it’s a bit pointless saying something exists if it’s not right there in front of them – they just think you’re telling crazy stories”. 

Lancashire Yogi was a bit taken aback about this but over time he has heard stories like this from all over the shop. And in many ways he thinks this makes sense.   Reality is only what you see, hear or feel.   Or is it?  It certainly is a start. We tend to believe so much we are told but so much is taken on trust or hearsay. Even the media present ‘reality’, when in fact its simply mediated reality. The test is the objective reality of what you are seeing, hearing or feeling.

But there is another dimension to this. Things are just things of themselves – they are all neutral – they just ‘are’.  But it’s so easy for our monkey mind to put a layer over the neutral reality. Lancashire Yogi’s buddhist friends say that appearances are one’s own mind play. What you see is a projection of your own mind.  Two children are arguing about a flag that is billowing in the wind. “the flag is moving” says one, but the other argues back that it is the wind that is moving.  As the zen master Hui-neng  would say: “its not the wind that moves nor the flag that moves, but your mind”.

Yes the tree did fall. And yes I didn’t hear it. And now it is chopped up as firewood and the remaining part of the tree, a nature tree for wildlife. But the tree that it ‘was’, still ‘is’, in my mind. It lives on and on.

The practices that Lancashire Yogi undertakes (asana, meditation, pranayama and reflection on scripture) all work to bring the mind to a point where the neutrality of the world ‘out there’ is seen in its objective state: with no labels, such as horrid tree, live tree, dead tree, shady tree, the horrid neighbour’s tree, or the tree that doesn’t allow anything to grow under it or the tree that is the source of pleasure and fun when we swung under it. And as for trees, this applies to the world out there and everyone in it.

Of course, like the Koan: ‘what is the sound of one hand clapping’ these questions are there to test our mind and help us explore the nature of our reality and along the way perhaps discover how much of our mind is imposing on the objective world that we perceive through our senses. 

It’s a long, challenging,  and interesting journey but worth it. The focus on neutrality leads to an understanding of ‘potential’ which opens the world up, rather than closing it down and limiting it.  So, to the question, “if a tree falls in the forest does anybody hear?” –  could be answered, “maybe, maybe not, maybe it didn’t even fall, or maybe it is still standing”.    Of course, if Lancashire Yogi’s crazed attempts to understand things are a bit off-putting –  ‘If a tree falls in the forest’ is also a great song by a brilliant singer songwriter called Bruce Cockburn which you can hear, here.

Best wishes, and Namaste

x

Perpetual Energy Machines

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When he was younger,  Lancashire Yogi was fascinated by that holy grail of science – perpetual motion, or perpetual energy.  Of course, over time he has realised that it really is the holy grail of science.  So, no perpetual motion machines, and no perpetual energy.

The other day Lancashire Yogi walked up one of the three peaks in the Yorkshire Dales – Pen-y-Ghent.  It’s a mysterious peak with a table top, the result of millions of years of erosion. It stands like a giant anvil in the Dales, and if you were to visit Lancashire or Yorkshire, the walk to it’s summit is worth doing.  On a clear day you can see Pendle Hill, Lancashire Yogi’s favourite Lancashire hill.  To spend the day walking up and down, and around Pen-y-Ghent meant that Lancashire Yogi had to forego his usual early morning yoga practices. By the time he was up on top of Pen-y-Ghent, he felt very out of breath and quite tired. Which surprised him.

On the summit, he sat down to think more about this, and he realised that he is always quite energised when he practices yoga, whether it is asana, pranayama (breathing practices), meditation or chanting.  So over the last couple of days Lancashire Yogi has been looking at his practice and comparing his energy levels between the days when he doesn’t practice yoga with the days when he does.

Surprisingly he has found that a bit of yoga each day – typically asana, pranayama, meditation or/and chanting do in fact give Lancashire Yogi lots of energy.  From the moment he finishes his practice, and grabs some breakfast to the moment he goes to bed at night – Lancashire Yogi feels much more alive, invigorated and energised.

Lancashire Yogi likes what he calls “evidence-based yoga”.  What he means by this is that there is evidence of the effectiveness of yoga through scientifically valid research, where the data is shared and the findings prove the benefits that have been hypothosised.  A few years ago now, Lancashire Yogi was heavily involved in some research of the benefits of mindfullness meditation for people with mild to moderate depression and anxiety.  The study was well-designed using a randomised control method and the outcomes were evaluated using standard and well researched outcome measures.  The findings were interesting; but the study size was too small to generalise  to the wider population or the yogic population.   On qualitative measures Lancashire Yogi saw that there were benefits to doing yoga but these were not validated through quantative methods.  You couldnt, therefore, say that the results from the study could be repeated on the wider population with any certainty.  However you could say that doing yoga generally is a good thing to do, because people appear to become more flexible, stronger and calmer.

As part of his research studies into long term conditions Lancashire Yogi when he was a researcher used a measure of stigmatisation – developed by Zigmond & Snaith in ’83 – the stigmatisation scale provided a measure of how stigmatised individuals with long term conditions like asthma, epilepsy or psoriasis felt. Lancashire Yogi was working with medics who were interested in something called ‘self care’ and how we could help people take more control of their lives.  We found that people who were stigmatised by their condition generally didn’t fare well with the condition, or the medical and other support that was available.  We thought it would be useful to compare the experience of psoriasis sufferers, with asthma or diabetes sufferers.  Later we compared the experiences of those with epilepsy and survivors of strokes.  We found that if you can measure the level of stigmatisation, you can do something about it. You can help people with high levels of stigmatisation, because once you have measured it, you can help them manage it.  And everyone benefits.

Lancashire Yogi is very interested in yoga as a “perpetual energy machine”. He wonders if anyone, anywhere has undertaken any valid research or studies of yoga as a tool to increase or maintain people’s energy levels.  He used to use a tool called the SF36 – and the SF36 v2, does indeed measure ‘vitality’ which Lancashire Yogi thinks may be a proxy measure for energy levels.  Developed by the RAND corporation the measure is here.  The development of a specific battery of questions extracted from the SF36  into a diary for all practicising yogis may well be a start. Lancashire Yogi will contact the good people at the RAND corporation to see if they can help!

Lancashire Yogi is intrigued by all this and will investigate whether we can begin to develop a tool to test out among the yoga community.  If it works; and we can show the benefits of yoga – that will have been a worthwhile adventure.

If we can ‘evidence’ the positive benefits of yoga in providing practitioners with energy: all the better!

Let me know if you want to join the journey to evidence this benefit of yoga; or if you know of any research out there that is already showing this.  All fellow journeyers welcome!

Namaste

Glass half full, or half empty?

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Lancashire Yogi enjoys listening to the radio, usually out in the garden while he is weeding. Today he was building some more raised beds for some more veg as the greenhouse is becoming a bit of a jungle and the plants need planting out. You can’t beat home grown vegetables, picked fresh, and cooked in a tasty dish. From plot to pot in minutes has to be good! 

Lancashire Yogi loves weeding his garden and veg patches. He is not sure whether weeding is a metaphor for yoga, meditation and dharma practice; or whether yoga is a metaphor for weeding. Either way both practices seem to help each other. When he is meditating he gets some funny old monkey mind stuff popping up and trying to push him off his perch.  Monkey mind stuff is the stuff that when you are meditating pops up and says “they weren’t nice to me” or “must do the shopping” or “need to get that new thingymajig”, “damn, that rejection from that girl twenty years ago”.  It’s all rubbish and usually ego-driven.  But it certainly likes to find space in the mind to grow.  And our mind loves feeding manure to help it grow too.  For Lancashire Yogi that monkey mind stuff is the weeds, and the practices to keep the mind trained and focused on meditation is the gardening bit. 

Anyway, Lancashire Yogi digresses.  Out_in_the_garden_weeding. Listening_to the _radio.  Someone famous was being interviewed on the radio, and they said “oh, he’s a glass half empty kind of guy”.  And that phrase sent Lancashire Yogi off on a thought cloud. He has always seen himself as a pint glass ‘half full’ sort of person.  But the comment on the radio, got him thinking about the buddhist notion of emptiness.  This is the idea that basically everything, and everyone you see and are involved with are basically empty or ‘neutral’ from their own side – and how you perceive things is based on  your own conditioning and experiences – and karma onto the world ‘out there’ – including objects,life and living things, including people, experiences and feelings. 

So if someone sees the pint glass as “half full” and someone else sees it as “half empty” what they are both seeing is a product of their conditioning, experiences and karma. Because how can the pint glass be half full and half empty at the same time? Well, obviously it can! But as the age old song goes “it ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it; it ain’t what you see it’s the way that you see it”.  It’s not about the pint glass – it’s about the perception of the pint glass.

Of course, the implication of all this is that if you see the pint glass as “half full” then you will typically colour the rest of your experience in a “half full” kind of way – while if you see the pint glass as “half empty” it will colour your experience in a “half empty kind of way”.  So someone who sees it half empty gets uptight about the loss of the beer, and the need to get more, and the stuff about who is getting the drink, and who is paying for it, and why did I drink it so fast, and why aren’t they drinking their drink so fast.  While the person who sees it as half full, is sitting there, enjoying the beer, enjoying the moment, and wondering how it is that this beer seems to be an endless and most enjoyable pint of beer. 

Take this up another level and you’ll see that if you see your life as a kind of “half empty” sort of life – well you are re- creating the conditions to experience life in a half empty kind of way. So it’ll always be a bit of lesser experience, one which is perhaps based on the negative, or diminishing benefits of things.  Similarly if you see life in a “half full” kind of way you are re-creating the conditions to experience life as such.  So it’ll always be a more fuller, richer experience, which is perhaps based on the positive and increasing benefit of things.

The pint glass was always just a pint glass and it can only ever be half full and half empty; but you choose to see it based on your preferred view of it. Which is based on your experiences previously and expectations in the moment.   Same thing with life. 

Lancashire Yogi was talking to Gladys, a lady who lives down his road last week. She said “crikey I am in my 60s now, I feel like me life is over halfway done and there’s not much for me to do – and nowadays everyone thinks of me as past my sell by date”.  Lancashire Yogi squinted in the sun, sort of commiserated with her and then asked her how her grandchildren were.  They were a ‘right pain’ and ‘it isnt like what it used to be in her childhood when kids were better behaved and more well mannered’.  Lancashire Yogi smiled at her, knowing that Fred Lambert who washes his car further down the road will button hole her and say: “come on lass, pull yourself together: 60 something is but a mere lass in my book”, and Fred, will try to ask her out for a drink. Because he’s a sociable chap, and likes to jolly people up and along.   He has a glint in his eye, and has just come back from a hiking holiday around the pyramids in Egypt. He chose Egypt because that’s where “the action is” (according to him). Trouble is,  he tells Lancashire Yogi that the walking holiday got in the way of his two great loves – rebuilding an old Triumph Spitfire and volunteering at a local school and a nursing home.  He’s glad to be back.  He missed his car, the kids at the school, and to use his words, “the grannies in the home”.

Gladys sees her life as virtually finished and increasingly diminishing. Fred seems to see it as motoring along, and is having trouble cramming it all in. Gladys is 62. Fred is 84.

When Lancashire Yogi gets together with Fred they always do a bit of yoga together. Admittedly some gentle stuff, but nevertheless, some asanas that Fred enjoys.  He says he would like to come to a class but he says it gets in the way of his regular weekly night out with the ‘lads’ (who are all in their 70s and 80s).  Although he is not a serious yogi, I am reminded of the 92 old yoga teacher who has attracted a lot of interest recently, when I bump into Fred.

I’ve never heard Fred talk about whether the pint glass is half full or half empty, but clearly he has seen the potential of life and is living and enjoying it to the full.  He looks after himself, and takes an interest in everything and has a desire to help everyone he meets.  Gladys told me a few days ago that Fred did ask her out for a drink but she thought he was teasing her and is now giving him a wide berth. She definately sees the glass as half empty. But who knows? Maybe soon she’ll begin to see the potential of things and choose the ‘half full’ option – I’ll keep you all posted: Lancashire Yogi is planning a meal with Gladys and Fred, and a few other neighbours.  And the meal will be made from plot to pot – with some fresh vegetables from the veggie patch!

Namaste

x

True happiness lies this way….(for and from Esme, with love)

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Lancashire Yogi has been away on one his jaunts. At this time of year he likes to travel around the country and catch up with old friends, and make new ones.  He hoped to bump into an old friend, the Druid, when he was travelling this time, but he didn’t.  He knows that the Druid will come into his life when he is most needed, so he wasn’t too disappointed.  This trip though, Lancashire Yogi bumped into a lass who seemed to be very switched on. Lancashire Yogi was practising some yoga asanas on a beach somewhere in Wales and this lass came by and joined in.  There is nothing like doing sun salutation (surya namaskar) on a sandy beach, with the sound of the waves crashing on the shore.  Her name was Esme. She was well-established in yoga and after a good practice, we sat down and traded stories. Esme has lived quite a life. She grew up in Doncaster, the daughter of a miner and tough no-nonsense mother.  She loved dance and became a ballet dancer.  When she had reached the world of shows and reviews in London and Paris and New York, she became increasingly disconnected from it. She left that world when she felt she was being used and the world was getting too fixated on money and image.  She retreated to Wales.  She practices yoga.  She says that she was feeling depressed and anxious and then one day when she told her doctor she wanted to do something to help herself, and her doctor suggested she try yoga or tai chi.  She came across a yoga class and thought she would give it a go. She says that the yoga postures seemed strange at first, but after a few weeks, she felt better in herself.  She had a thoughtful teacher who passed on some books – the bhagavad gita and patanjali’s yoga sutras.  She became transfixed by what she learned.  Soon after she took up walking, and then began to practice a mantra meditation as she walked. She liked the idea that you could meditate just by repeating some lovely words. She chose “I am a beautiful expression of the divine” but you can find something online easily and the buddhists and hindus have some great mantras – ‘om mani padme hung’ – is a beautiful and well established mantra.  The Beatles sang “all you need is love”, the Hare Krishnas say “hare krishna, hare krishna”. A good positive song can do the trick too. It just pegs down your monkey mind while you are walking if you have a repeated phrase or song.

Esme and I walked along the beach. Lancashire Yogi loves life and loves people and their journeys.  He is always meeting exceptional people.  Always learning stuff from whoever he meets.  In his yoga classes in Burnley and Ribble Valley and on the Wirral, Lancashire Yogi has met exceptional individuals who he is privileged to have connected with. What a life to have this – and its not just Lancashire Yogi; if you think about it – we are meeting amazing people all the time because we are meeting people all the time – and they are all amazing. 

Esme was no exception.  She still dances, and we danced around the beach. A couple of dogs joined in.  We walked along the beach and up the dunes. We had a cuppa in a cafe on the hills above the beach. A real greasy spoon.  But like all good traditional english and welsh greasy spoons – the tea was good. And Esme told me that she had some principles which she tried to live her life. She said they seem to work for her. I could relate to many of them. She asked me to share her principles with anyone and everyone. So, here they are: the world according to Esme, sent, as she would say, with love from her world to yours.

I hope you find them interesting and helpful. She says they are simple  and don’t cost much to do, and as Esme says, they seem to open up your life and make it feel worthwhile and fun. Lancashire Yogi is no doctor but Esme said they can help your physical and mental health. Who knows? But they are so gentle and require such little effort – why not give them a go?

Esme’s Principles

1. Be grateful for something each day. 

2. Aim to achieve something or anything, each day.

3. Try to practice a little yoga or some gentle stretches at the least each day.

4. Try to walk for at least twenty minutes each day and try not to think of anything other than what you are seeing on the walk or say a mantra as you walk.

5. Try to treat everyone and every creature you meet with kindness and compassion. Try to be, without too much surrender, on good terms with everyone.

6. Have some fun, and try to have a laugh, but not at the expense of others.

7. Be curious about anything, but never nosey.

8. Try to live in the moment, and live each moment as fully and as ethically as you can in the realisation that it could be your last.

9. Try to learn something new about something or someone, even yourself.

10. Be kind to yourself, which means looking after your body through healthy eating and drinking, getting enough sleep and exercise; and looking after your mind by not criticising yourself or being negative about yourself.

11. Do something for someone or a creature

12. Try to be hopeful and optimistic – as the song goes “everything is gonna be alright”.

I enjoyed meeting Esme and wish her well for the future. She says we’ll definately be bumping into each other again.  And while Lancashire Yogi was sad to say farewell to her, he was grateful for her ideas. 

Today Lancashire Yogi was back in class with the ever-brilliant Kit Hartley.  Kit teaches in Burnley – at the Inn on the Wharf on Monday’s at 6pm, and on a wednesday in Colne. Kit can be contacted on 07854 207701 or emailed at m.j.c.hartley@btinternet.com. Today Kit was on superb form her instruction just gets better and better and you are guaranteed a very insightful and powerful lesson in yoga asana from her.  If you are an experienced yoga practitioner – you will discover more depths to the asana too.  As Frank Sinatra said, “It’s very nice to go trav’ling …..but it’s so much nicer Yes, it’s so much nicer to come home”

Namaste

Spring has sprung

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Lancashire Yogi likes to spend as much time as possible out in the garden. He loves the fresh air, the chirping of the birds and the sunlight through the trees. Everywhere he looks he sees the vibrancy of nature: daffodils trumpeting their arrival, celendine carpeting the woodland, snow drops a reminder of colder spells, and the trees coming into bud. He is reminded of Larkin’s poem, where he says that the leaves are coming into bud “like something slowly being said”. The whole fanfare of nature feels like one enormous magic trick to Lancashire Yogi. You know the one where the magician pulls some beautiful flowers out of his hat?  This is what spring feels like to the Yogi.  Something is playing one big magic trick on us, and it’s delightful.

Today he has been spending his time planting seeds, and tending to his garden. He can’t help but be amazed by the vibrant energy of nature.  Plants and seedlings are coming up everywhere. In the distance he can hear lambs bleating and a tractor. Birds are actively nesting and marking out their territory with song.

Living in harmony with nature is one of Lancashire Yogi’s goals, along with living as sustainably as possible.  To this end, He and Mrs Lancashire Yogi try to grow most of their own food.  This endeavour fits in with the yamas and niyamas in many ways but principally Lancashire Yogi feels it represents “right living”.   His grandfathers both grew their own veg’, and could often be seen pottering in their green houses, and Lancashire Yogi feels he is following a strong family tradition.

With his grandfathers long gone, Lancashire Yogi relies on the writings of gardeners past and present.  One of Lancashire Yogi’s all time favourite writers and gardeners is a chap called ‘Dirty Nails’, and Lancashire Yogi reads his week by week guide : ‘How to grow your own food’ avidly. It is a practical, down to earth (literally), and good natured read and is esential reading for tried and tested gardening tactics and techniques.  Dirty Nails appears to adhere to ahimsa too, in that he doesnt appear to wish to do harm to any living creature, including slugs and snails: which is a high art if you are a gardener to say the least!  If you wish to have a go at growing your own – ,and you are looking for a handy, readable book on the science and the art, you can get hold of  ‘How to grow your own food’  from amazon.

Namaste

Being, not doing or having

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Lancashire Yogi has been re-reading the Bhagavad Gita. He does this most mornings as part of his practice.  But today he has been planting seeds and tending his garden, and in a moment when the sun came out, he downed tools and picked up the Gita to read verses 2.47 and 2.48 again. His teacher Sarah Beck has suggested that he should read this as a contemplation exercise and this is what he did.

Verse 2.47 is Krishna saying to Arjuna: “You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction”.  Verse 2.48 follows through with him saying “Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself – without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat.  For yoga is perfect evenness of mind”

 Lancashire Yogi thinks that ‘being’ rather than doing or having is the key attribute of these verses.  The action in itself is important, rather than the result.  If you have selfish attachments, such as “the reward” and “the glory”, Lancashire Yogi thinks that you will get caught in the web of that attachment.  

If you are attached to the fruits of your work; you will be caught up in them, and by them,  and by doing so, lose yourself in the web of feelings and angst that they represent.  So for example, you will get lost in the thoughts of success or failure or anger or frustration; and these then take you away from yourself.  If you focus on success and then you ‘fail’ – you’ll beat yourself up. And anyway what is ‘success’, and what is ‘failure’? To each person they represent different things; and even to ourselves, ‘success’ in one thing, could be ‘failure’ in another.

The moment one starts thinking about the ‘result’ is the point when one forgets oneself and the intention and inspiration behind the action.  And one stops ‘being’ and becomes focussed on having and doing.  This focus on results is futile really, because ultimately we have no control over ‘the results’ of anything. Krishna is suggesting that an evenness of mind means that one will not get caught up in the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ of things and results; because of themselves, nothing is good nor bad; everything is inherently neutral in its own right, and it is only us who put a label on it and ascribe a value to things. The son with the broken leg, is the son whose father berates him for being foolish by breaking it in one moment, but when war is declared and boys are called up to fight, the father is then overjoyed when his son can’t go to war because of his broken leg. The broken leg was the result of an act of folly in one moment but a lifesaver in another. 

By placing a label on things,  such as ’good’ or ‘bad’ we construct a reality that isn’t actually there anyway; and that reality builds into a super reality that controls how we perceive life and ourselves. By thinking ‘good’ and thinking ‘bad’ or ‘success’ or ‘failure’ we limit the potential of every living moment and become coloured, or shrouded by the labels we create and impose on things, including the fruits of our actions. Talk about seeing the world through rose tinted glasses – we put on different shades each time we label something and that shapes our experience until the next set of tinted glasses gets put on.

Lancashire Yogi’s experience is that actually, the achievement of a goal or rewards or fruits of our labour – are not really in our gift anyway. There are so many forces and effects that are happening around us that its amazing that we ever ‘achieve’ anything. It’s not unsual to say you want ‘x’ and then strive for it only to find that ‘x’ doesnt represent what it was when you starting striving for it. Everything changes and nothing is completely in our control. So why worry about the result anyway? Infact there is a compelling argument to say that the more you worry about the result, the less likely you are able to do the work and immerse yourself in it and the related moments.  

Krishna is saying that one should have equanimity or evenness of mind regardless of the outcome of your work – to be alike in success and defeat, or as Kipling would say in the poem, If, “to meet triumph and disaster just the same”. 

These verses are not a call to do nothing but to act, and to act with depth and integrity, in the moment, without worrying or focussing on the outcome, with an evenness of mind regardless of the result. Krishna is saying beyond this, there is nothing more to do but simply to ‘be’, rather than to ‘do with the desire of having’.

Lancashire Yogi loves this. It’s a call to trust in the process and give everything as much as you can from your heart, with passion and love, and in the moment. It’s a call to living a life of depth and love.

Lancashire Yogi has spent most of the day planting seeds and tending to seedlings and plants. He can’t think of a better example for these verses,  as the plants that he has tended to. They simply grow (with some tending) and dont appear to be thinking of the reward or the goal or the outcome. They simply ‘are’ and this is what Lancashire Yogi loves about the plants, and nature. He thinks that this being, not having, is the key to these verses.

Years ago, Lancashire Yogi followed the writings of Erich Fromm. One of his most influential books was called “To have, or to be”, It was a discussion about these two ways of living – one focussed on having (things, status, rewards, goals), and the other on being (self realisation, experience, shared experiences and relationships). It’s worth a read. Lancashire Yogi thinks that Fromm’s distinction between a ‘being’ way of life, and a ‘having’ way of life is compelling, and reinforces the points being made in these verses of the Bhagavad Gita.  They are as relevant now in 21st Century Britain, as they have ever been.

 Namaste