In Control or Out of Control?

adult art conceptual dark
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Do you get anxious or angry when things don’t go just as you want them to? Do you feel you have to take charge of ‘everything’ or nothing would get done?

Feelings such as these really do cloud our enjoyment of life. They are often termed as ‘control issues’. Sometimes the simplest things make you irritated – say going for a coffee with a friend and the service being a bit slow or on a walk with a loved one and the moment being spoilt by a one-sided diatribe of complaining. These experiences feel like they are so far from the ‘perfect’ idea that you had in mind. But this is life.

Sometimes things don’t go as we planned – but it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it. I’ve been learning ballroom dancing over the past couple of years – and it is the most fun when we learn something new and make a few mistakes in the process.

When we complain and are dis-satisfied about ‘inferiority’ or ‘mediocrity’ then we are only letting ourselves down and allowing our perception to cloak a situation in a pessimistic way.

Isn’t every aspect of our lives a matter of perspective?
“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” ANNE FRANK, Diary of a Young Girl

We can alter our perspective on situations if we want to –

Don’t think MESSY – think LIVED IN/RELAXED

Don’t think SLOW SERVICE – think CAREFUL LOVING PREPARATION

Don’t think STONY SILENCE – think THOUGHTFUL/CONSIDERATE

I read Pollyanna (Eleanor H. Porter) recently – if you haven’t read it, well worth a look – and that has the thread of finding something positive about every situation you face. In fact Pollyanna makes it into a game – which is sometimes fun and often a challenge. Why not give it a go next time you feel like moaning?
LETTING GO OF CONTROL – A MEDITATION PRACTICE

1 Write about 3 recent occasions where you felt anxiety and wanted to take control of a situation or someone else’s behaviour.

2 Now come to a meditation space – seated on a cushion or in a chair. Take a moment to be still and watch the breath for about 5 minutes.

3 Chose one of the situations that you listed. Recall it in detail – especially the feelings. Perhaps a family member moved some cushions and didn’t replace them exactly as you wanted (small things can really get our goat) – what were your feelings?

4 Ask yourself why having things the way you want them is so important… Are you afraid of something? Do you feel that if you lose control you may become powerless? Alone? Abandoned?
There is no right answer – explore the feelings, even if you feel a bit silly now looking at them like this.

5 Let those thoughts go and commit to yourself to ‘letting go’ just a little bit at a time. See that by relaxing your grip (usually) nothing terrible happens. Look for a positive outcome when things are different from your expectations. Be kind and patient with yourself. Most people will have these thoughts at one time or another – you are not alone.

One final thought…

“All that we are is a result of what we have thought.” Buddha

Every Smile Makes You A Day Younger

smile

There’s nothing like a nice smile to set you on your way in the morning or off into a peaceful sleep at night. Why not try this short meditation which focuses on the feeling of a smile…

Settle into a comfortable seated position.

Relax any tension in your jaw, let the lips part and separate the upper and lower teeth.
Without changing your facial expression, imagine the feeling of a smile.
After a few moments, bring that feeling of a smile to your heart and linger there.
Now feel the smile in both lungs and the space in your back between the shoulder blades.
From there, bring that feeling of a smile to your abdominal organs, digestive system and pelvis.
Allow the smile to flow down both legs, through the knees, calves down to your toes.
Allow the smile to spread across the shoulders down the arms, through the elbows, wrists and finger tips.
Feel your whole body as one large, open, radiant, beautiful smile. Resonate with that glow. Feel yourself as the embodiment of a smile, your whole being renewed, reverberating with the presence of a smile. Every single cell is smiling.

Now you can go about your day bringing that lightness and positivity to every situation.

Holiday Reading

I know it’s usual to read a trashy novel while you are on your holibobs…

But maybe this year try something new? Why not settle down to a bit of yoga reading? You never know you might find it motivates you to do a bit of summer yoga.

 

apmb

My trusty yoga bible – if you only get one yoga book in your life, make it this one. It really does include everything you need to know. Some (about 10 percent) is a little bit bonkers, and really only for those having been brought up in the East with yoga since they were a kid – but the majority is sensible stuff giving plenty of background reading to the topics we cover in class. Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha by Sw Satyanada Saraswati

Pain free

Not a yoga book but this is a must for anyone living with a pain in the (insert your area here). Pete Egoscue has a fantastic, down to earth approach to pain – really that you have caused it by your own health and habits and that you can cure it by altering your ways… It’s not exactly yoga but uses many of the principles and asanas with a matter of fact ‘get off your butt’ manner. Please let me know if you get a copy and follow the advice, I’m always curious to find out how people have got on. Pain Free by Pete Egoscue

Mudras book

This book is a fabulous course in yoga for the hands and shows all the various mudras and asana practices for overcoming lifes ups and downs. It’s an enjoyable read to pick up and put down besides being a great guide for mudra and meditation. Yoga in you Hands by Gertrud Hirschi.

Powerful Thoughts

Louise Hays - the past is over card

I love these ‘POWER THOUGHT CARDS’ by Louise Hay.

If you ever need inspiring there is a whole deck of cards to turn to (you can buy them on Amazon). Always giving thought provoking and positive ideas. I especially like the one above…

How empowering is it to breath in and think ‘This IS a new day’!

Try a short contemplation-style meditation –

Is there anything holding me back? Am I stuck in a habit that no longer serves me? Are some of my beliefs and views outdated? Is it time to let go of some things to create space for new ones?

 

Change your mind

brain-and-thoughts

One of the great things that yoga teaches us is that we are not our thoughts. Thoughts are just thoughts – they are invisible and intangible and yet have great power over our lives. When you gain control over your thoughts you can change them at will – it is easier said than done – but recognising negative thoughts when they arise can go a long way to prevent ourselves from spiralling off in a negative direction.

 “When obstructive thoughts arise, practice the opposite thought.”

(from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2:33)

Meditation on the Opposite (read through a couple of time and then try a practice)

Sit in a comfortable meditation position. Watch the breath for a while – feel the softening of the body with each gentle exhalation.

Allow a thought (something that is bothering you) to come into your mind and feel the accompanying sensations in your body – eg ‘ I should have done that differently’, ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘I’m powerless’. Notice where and what you feel in your body – tightness in your tummy, heart, throat? Heaviness? Sadness?

Now consider a thought that would be opposite – eg ‘I did my best’, ‘I’m OK as I am’, ‘I am capable’. Bring into your mind a time or incident when this was how you felt. Review your physical sensations now – how does that feel? – relaxed? open? excited?

 
Take your time and don’t dwell for too long. It’s enough to begin with to appreciate the affect of a negative thought on our body/being. Spending time cultivating the opposites in this way affirms a positive approach to thinking and dealing with our thoughts as if they are separate from us. SMILE to end the meditation and be grateful that you have taken a little time to spend on this work for yourself.

 

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.”