MEDITATION FOR BEGINNERS – A MORNING WORKSHOP

Saturday 26th May 10 – 1 Ryhall Village Hall

Many people get frustrated with meditation or simply have no idea where to start. Meditation is meant to be enjoyable, relaxing and a powerful tool for our health. I have put together a morning of movement and stillness, noise and silence, laughter and peace so that I can pass on this hugely rewarding practice. No previous experience of yoga is necessary – just a mat and blanket.

So what exactly is meditation? Emptying your mind like emptying your kitchen bin??? Well it can have that effect – but in a more gentle manner – we are trying to sooth the mind and reduce the ‘background’ noise. Meditation gives our mind something to focus on, so it has an anchor to hold onto. Anchors may include saying a mantra, looking at an object, watching the breath or simple movements. An anchor also helps us be fully present and live in the moment – trying to stop thoughts of the past and future.

Holding onto these anchors helps quiet our minds and then we can get a glimpse of how the mind is working.  We can then get to see our worries, our obsessions and the busyness of the mind just like clouds floating in the sky. Potentially, we can choose to let these things go as we put some perspective onto the thoughts and see them as just that – thoughts.  In a sense we develop our own method of managing our thoughts. Instead of our thoughts controlling us we get some control over them!

Some people see meditation like sitting at the shore of the ocean of your mind and just watching the waves come and go. We’re not pushing our thoughts away, or judging them but simply watching these thoughts as we’d watch the waves while sitting on the beach. And whilst on the beach watching each wave there’s also a sense of connection to something bigger, something that helps you put some perspective onto the thoughts.

But what if I can’t sit still? Or simply don’t have 5 minutes a day to practice? Don’t worry, meditation is not supposed to be something that is added to your to-do list. Fidgetty people are actually the ones who can benefit the most from meditation, as it helps you to r-e-l-a-x. You can meditate walking or gently moving the body in different ways as well as the traditional statue-like state. That said, being still in the body does help to be still in the mind, but this will come with practice and patience.  There are many well respected studies that show how beneficial meditation is for stress reduction, productivity improvement and easing insomnia. You can read more about this here

On this MEDITATION FOR BEGINNERS workshop you will take a light hearted tour around the important aspects of meditation and explore several different methods. It is experiential (you will do things) as well as being a little theoretical, giving you some background information which will hopefully inspire and fire you up to make time for meditation in your life.

Please book your place in class or email me via the Contact Us page.

Live each moment as a moment of pure joy!

The Radiance Sutras are a wonderful set of verses which help us to stop and appreciate the present moment. They are translated from an ancient text and give us  112 ‘yuktis’, or yoga meditation practices, for opening to the divine mystery within everyday experiences… here is yukti 51…

Wherever, whenever you feel carried away,

Rejoicing in every breath,

There, there is your meditation hall.

Cherish these times of absorption-

Rocking the baby in the silence of the night,

Pouring water into a crystal glass,

Tending the logs in a crackling fire,

Sharing a meal with a circle of friends,

Embrace these pleasures and know,

“This is my true body.”

 

Nowhere is more holy than this.

Right here is the sacred pilgrimage.

Live in alertness for such a moment, my beloved,

As if it were your one meeting with the Creator.

(Taken from The Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche)

Pause a while with a mandala…

Why not print off this lovely ‘mandala’ and colour it in for someone special this Valentines’ day?

What’s a mandala? I hear you ask…

mandala (meaning circle) is a spiritual motif. Without beginning and end, just as the universe is believed to have no end, the circle symbolises the universe. It’s seen as a representation of the inner and outer world.

The Sanskrit word mandala indicates everything that is round or circular. In tantric traditions, it often refers to a sacred space, which can be round or square or any other form.

The model of the mandala is a square with four gates containing a circle with a central point. Often the mandala is also in an outer circle. This basic form can be found in many ancient mandalas, but there are many more variants. The mandala can be filled with all kinds of patterns.

In the recent trend of colouring as a form of relaxation, one of the most popular types of patterns to colour is the mandala. Many people find coloring a mandala a form of meditation. As they focus on colouring in the patterns of the form, they relax, their mind grows quiet.

The mandala can also be used as an object to focus your attention on while meditating. Because of the symmetrical shape, your attention is directed to the centre.

 

WHY COLORING MANDALAS IS FOR EVERYONE

It’s an activity everyone can enjoy:

  • Children: Because the mandala isn’t a literal representation of reality, children can fully enjoy their creativity. They don’t have to worry about choosing the right colour green for the trees or what colour blue the sky should be. The mandala can have all the colors of the rainbow. Or just their favourite colour. Colouring a mandala is an excellent way to end a busy class and help children unwind.
  • Adults: Everyone has had those days when your head overflows and your thoughts just seem to keep running in circles. Colouring a mandala for an hour may help you calm down. By focusing only on the pattern and colours, your mind may become wonderfully empty. You come to rest for a little while.
  • Elderly: For the elderly, colouring mandalas may help you keep your memory in shape. The repetitive nature of many mandalas allows you to create beautiful symmetrical patterns, but you must concentrate to ensure that your colours are symmetrical (if that is, indeed, your goal). Remaining focused on a creative endeavour of this sort may keep your mind sharp.

Finally, you may not think at first glance that colouring mandalas is something that can be done in a group, but it’s a great activity to do with friends or relatives. Make a photocopy of a mandala that everyone can work on at once and go to town. Or give everyone their own copy of the same mandala and see how people come up with different colours and patterns for the same design. There is no end to creativity when it comes to madalas.

 

 

Walk With Me…

If you would like to learn more about Thich Nhat Hanh and his methods of meditation and mindfulness, there will be a screening of a film about his village on Thursday 1st February at the Arts Centre, Stamford.  If you are interested in something it’s always worthwhile to find out about it from a variety of sources – our brains seem to like to connect a bit of reading, a bit of chatting and a bit of doing together and this makes ideas ‘stick’ firmer into our minds.
Review from Rotten Tomatoes –
With unprecedented access, WALK WITH ME goes deep inside a Zen Buddhist community who have given up all their possessions and signed up to a life of chastity for one common purpose – to transform their suffering, and practice the art of mindfulness with the world-famous teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. Filmed over three years, in their monastery in rural France and on the road in the USA, this visceral film is a meditation on a community grappling with existential questions and the everyday routine of monastic life. As the seasons come and go, the monastics’ pursuit for a deeper connection to themselves and the world around them is amplified by insights from Thich Nhat Hanh’s early journals, narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch.

 

SYNOPSIS

“Slow down and breathe. This contemplative journey follows in the steps of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh and is a rare insight into life within a monastic community. The sun rises. Everything is calm and still. Life is beautifully serene as Benedict Cumberbatch’s composed, meditative voice reads an extract from Thich Nhat Hanh’s early journals. So begins Max Pugh and Marc J Francis’ (Black Gold, LFF2006) fascinating and immersive exploration of what it means to devote one’s life to mindfulness. With unprecedented access to the famous secluded monastery of Plum Village in the South West of France, Walk With Me captures the daily routine and rituals of monks and nuns on a quest to develop a deep sense of presence. It is an insightful rumination on the pursuit of happiness, living in the present and our attachment to material things – a welcome remedy to the stresses of city life and a world in turmoil.”

Laure Bonville, London Film Festival

The Blooming of a Lotus

In the yoga classes this term we are working with the Thich Nhat Hanh book “The Blooming of a Lotus”. This book guides us through simple techniques of meditation to help focus on the ‘now’.  If you want to get your own copy, we are starting at the very beginning and working through the first and second exercises from chapter 1.

Here is a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh from the beginning of chaper 1 –

“In the Anapanasai Sutta, the Buddha teaches mindfulness of breathing as a guided meditation. There are sixteen exercises divided into four parts. The first part is using the breath to be mindful of the body. The second is using the breath to be mindful of the feelings. The third is breathing to be mindful of the mind. The fourth is breathing to be mindful of the objects of the mind. In this book all four of these areas or fields of mindfulness are covered. The exercises on mindfulness of the body are the most basic practice and can be used at any time as an introduction to exercises for looking deeply and transforming. They help us become accustomed to breathing consciously and to use the breathing to unite the body and mind.”

A Beautiful Verse From The Radiance Sutras

Bathe deeply in that ocean of sound

Vibrating with in you, now as always,

Resonating softly,

Permeating the space of your heart.

 

The ear that is tuned by rapt listening

Learns to hear the song of creation.

 

First like a hand bell,

Then subtler, like a flute,

Subtler still as a stringed instrument,

Eventually as the buzz of a bee.

 

Entering this current of sound,

The Listening One

Forgets the external world, bcomes

Absorbed into internal sound,

Then absorbed in vastness,

Like the song of the stars as they shine.

Yukti Verse 15 – The Radiance Sutras (Lorin Roche)

This is one of the verses I have used at the beginning of the yoga class this term. The Radance Sutras are a volume of verses set out in a conversation – a seeker asking a knower the way to find peace. It is a compendium filled with practices to integrate into everyday life – just thoughts really to help weave stillness and meditative qualities into the fabric of your life.

If you have enjoyed the readings why not get your own copy? Creating your own personal yoga practice is often considered only to be rolling the mat out and physically exercising… it can be laying in Shavasana and doing a breathing practice, reading a verse from a book – or, in the case of these sutras, you could take just one verse and recite it or do the suggested practice for a week or two.  Variety is the spice of life and you can make your personal practice of yoga whatever you want!

Inspirational Poetry for Meditation over the Sunny Summer months…

Why not steal five or ten minutes over the summer to simply sit and read a poem?

You could even read it on a visit to a beautiful place – some local suggestions – Rutland Water, Launde Abbey or Burghley Park…

You fill my soul with sunshine 

You fill my soul with sunshine
my heart with tender care.
You fill my world with happiness
knowing that you are always there

Every waking hour
is filled with your love
that I feel I’ve been blessed
with an angel from above

There are no words enough
to express the way I feel
knowing that this heart
will never feel no ill.

This old world may go on,
being crazier every day.
However, I have the inner warmth of knowing
you fill my soul with sunshine each and every day.

David Harris

A Gleam Of Sunshine – Poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

This is the place. Stand still, my steed,
Let me review the scene,
And summon from the shadowy Past
The forms that once have been.

The Past and Present here unite
Beneath Time’s flowing tide,
Like footprints hidden by a brook,
But seen on either side.

Here runs the highway to the town;
There the green lane descends,
Through which I walked to church with thee,
O gentlest of my friends!

The shadow of the linden-trees
Lay moving on the grass;
Between them and the moving boughs,
A shadow, thou didst pass.

Thy dress was like the lilies,
And thy heart as pure as they:
One of God’s holy messengers
Did walk with me that day.

I saw the branches of the trees
Bend down thy touch to meet,
The clover-blossoms in the grass
Rise up to kiss thy feet,

“Sleep, sleep to-day, tormenting cares,
Of earth and folly born!”
Solemnly sang the village choir
On that sweet Sabbath morn.

Through the closed blinds the golden sun
Poured in a dusty beam,
Like the celestial ladder seen
By Jacob in his dream.

And ever and anon, the wind,
Sweet-scented with the hay,
Turned o’er the hymn-book’s fluttering leaves
That on the window lay.

Long was the good man’s sermon,
Yet it seemed not so to me;
For he spake of Ruth the beautiful,
And still I thought of thee.

Long was the prayer he uttered,
Yet it seemed not so to me;
For in my heart I prayed with him,
And still I thought of thee.

But now, alas! the place seems changed;
Thou art no longer here:
Part of the sunshine of the scene
With thee did disappear.

Though thoughts, deep-rooted in my heart,
Like pine-trees dark and high,
Subdue the light of noon, and breathe
A low and ceaseless sigh;

This memory brightens o’er the past,
As when the sun, concealed
Behind some cloud that near us hangs
Shines on a distant field.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

I Will Be Your Sun

 

You carry a whole world with you.
A planet rests upon your shoulders.
You may not see it, but I do.

There is a Universe Within that you carry wherever you go.
Ecosystems of passion and romance. Warring nations of worry and fear.
A billion living ideas, stories and experiences that make up a whole history named You.

Wherever you go, I promise to be your sun.

It’s not that your life revolves around me.
Think of it like this:
Whenever you come to me,

I will do my best to be quiet and still
and shine nothing but kindness and light upon you.

 

Dave Ursillo

Mantram CD by Rajesh David

We have been listening to the wonderful music and chanting of artist Rajesh David at the beginning of our sessions this term. The CD (titled ‘Mantram’) is available from his website here and contains several mantras set to haunting melodies which are ideal for relaxation and meditation. All of the tunes are famous mantra chants. The one of particular interest to us has been the Gayatri which we have listened to a variety of versions this year.

The Gayatri chant is from the Rig Veda  one of the oldest known written works.  It has been sung from the very beginnings of time.  Why not join in and hum or sing along?  It has a calming and uplifting effect and once you know it you can do it anywhere. There are many benefits to chanting the Gayatri including helping you breathe more slowly, stimulating the subtle energy centres in the body and improving concentration. For 10 benefits of chanting the Gayatri see this site

There are many translations, here is one by Deva Premal:

Om bhur bhuvah svah

Tat savitur varenyam

Bhargo devasya dhimahi

Dhiyo yonah prachodayat

 MEANING:-

Through the coming, going, and the balance of life

The essential nature illuminating existence is the adorable one

May all perceive through subtle intellect

The brilliance of enlightenment

Be Yourself

be_yourself_by_dianae

The following inspiration comes from Eileen Caddy – in her book ‘Opening Doors Within (365 daily meditations)’

Be yourself, and do not try to be like anyone else. It takes all sorts to make a world. I do not want you all alike, like peas in a pod. I need you all different, each doing your specific job and playing your specific part, blending in perfectly with the whole. It does not mean that there need be any disharmony or discord because you are all different. There are many different musical instruments in a full orchestra, and each has its rightful place in the whole and blends in perfectly when working in harmony with the whole. It is when individual souls go off on their own tangents with no thought or consideration for the whole that discord and chaos are created. When your heart is in the right place and you are living and working together for the good of the whole, only the very best will come forth. Therefore cease struggling and let go. All you have to do is to be, and let everything unfold.

 

The brilliant image is by Dianae Diviantart 

How to receive more Joy into your Life

pushan-mudra

Pushan mudra is a symbolic gesture designed to fill you with energy to give and receive joy. With the right hand bring the tips of the index and middle fingers to touch the tip of the thumb. With the left hand bring the tips of your middle and ring fingers to touch the tip of the thumb. Stretch out the fingers that don’t touch the thumbs. Hold for 5 minutes twice a day – or as and when required.

This mudra is for accepting as well as giving – you will feel the energy in the hands, it is quite a work out for your fingers. Benefits of this mudra include aiding digestion, can help with nausea and seasickness.

The term Pushan means to prosper, to grow and to thrive. Enjoy working with this mudra!