A model of the Pan Am Space Clipper ‘Orion’ from Stanley Kubrik’s film 2001 A Space Odyssey. I was 11 when I first saw this film and it still haunts me. The famous docking sequence with Space Station 1 200 miles above the Earth, to Johann Strauss II’s best-known waltz, The Blue Danube and made without CGI is still for me one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced.
The starboard wing of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner over India…
We read a great article in the Guardian this week about the growth, design and effectiveness of mindfulness apps from Amy Fleming.
Amy writes about ‘Spire’ a wellness tracker that you wear next to abdomen or chest to track breathing. It links to your smart phone or watch and lets you know when you are not breathing correctly and thus feeling stressed.
It costs about £300. It doesn’t teach you to breath correctly it lets you know when you haven’t been breathing well.
We know that learning to breathe consciously changes everything. But to have a lasting impact it takes practice, first to know how to breathe and then to breathe consciously. It’s an internal effort. It happens naturally and your progress will be ‘felt’, not measured on a small screen.
Having to look at a smart phone or watch to check your progress is part of the problem. Not a solution.
Turning your attention outwards towards yet more external things that you have acquired in the hope that they will change you builds yet more neural pathways that keep your attention on the surface.
The result? More anxiety. More worry as your attention is held away from the innate, authentic experience of yourself in favour of following an algorithm.
So do you need to spend £300 on Spire?
No. Not really. The cost of Spire would give you 56.4 hours of non-stop yoga teaching from the YogaLife Project.
Amy talked to Neema Moraveji chief scientist and co-founder at Spire, and director of the Stanford University Calm Lab. He apparently researched the physiological changes that manifest the body according to mood, he says they “found respiration to be a unique and interesting signal because you have direct control over it”.
OMG! as we say don’t sometimes say in our yoga classes.
Here is the point.
We already know this.
We have known this for about 6000 years…
So why rely on the gadget to tell you how be aware of your breath and then consciously control it
A good yoga class will reveal to you that you already have all the resources you need to breathe. The teacher will work with you through your body, breath and senses you have a mind. Yoga teaching is based on the fact that you have an intellect that decides to want to be well.
And as far as I can tell all of those aspects of you are all free.
You don’t need Wi-Fi or blue tooth; you don’t an expensive smart phone or a gadget like Spire to clip into you belt or bra to measure your breath and tell you when you are calm and present.
That’s what the breath is for. Its an invitation as well as constant companion to be in the here and now.
That’s where you need to be.
Not peering into a screen but peering into you!
You don’t need much equipment when you meditate.
All you need is your favourite sitting posture either in a chair or on a cushion, a body that breathes and mind that senses.
Sometimes though, there is another vital piece of equipment to have a close at hand….
A notebook and pen.
The pen is key. Always have a pen handy…
Don’t spend time looking for a pen. It can be very frustrating because time is of the essence where ideas are concerned.
It’s often the case, when we emerge out of meditation we carry back some little insight or inspiration – a useful idea that seems to have just flowed into awareness.
It might be the beginning of a solution to something that has been in the back of your mind for some time. Or it might be something new, something you have never noticed before. What ever it is once you have given it space it appears, as if out of thin air.
In fact it’s happening all the time.
It’s just that most of the time our self-created idea of who we think we are and we what we think we should be doing, gets in the way.
We are our own creative block!
When we meditate we learn to see beyond what we think we see.
As your conscious activity expands and flows in meditation there comes a moment of “self-forgetfulness” as your body-mind falls away. This isn’t a giving up- its more a letting go.
What you let go of is your own limited and restricted viewpoint.
Your perception deepens and your cognition expands. You can’t make this happen. It just happens…
Your intuition opens and you receive an insight or an inspiration.
Most of the time we ignore it, we are not interested, or we just don’t notice.
We forget easily as we get up out of our sitting practice and carry on with the day.
But our inspirations, our ideas, are to be cherished and acted on. Attune to them and work with them. Let them be the start of something no matter how small they seem.
If the world is in constant motion, made of potential and possibilities as the quantum scientists tell us, then meditation is a way to realise it in the present.
So write down or quickly sketch out in your book what has emerged…. It might be a simple diagram, a word, a sentence. It doesn’t need to be clear or fully formed at the time.
Just get it down anyway you can. Don’t think about it.
There is no shortage of testimony in art, science, business where these intuitions simply flow and appear through the minds and hands of their authors…many report that these spontaneous insights and ideas are a surprise- they just arrive.
This is why many creative people feel wonder rather than ownership over what create.
So along with your special place, your cushion, chair and time of day, have to hand a way of recording quickly with out too much fuss what arises.
The great American yogi architect Louis Kahn told us that how we do something is private…but what we do belongs to everyone.
So make sure you remember to get your inspiration on paper.
You never how useful and important its going to be to somebody else…
The soft curve to the north end of Oxford Street as joins St. Peter’s Square is rediscoverd by Glen Howells’ Number One St Peter’s Square…
We have just retuned from our annual yoga retreat in the beautiful Eden Valley.
It was wonderful…
Going on retreat is an important part of a yogi’s study. In fact its important for everyone as it provides a context, a moment, a space in which stop, look inwards and simply be.
This simple change of perspective is supported and fostered by being with others who are doing the same and with a teacher who understands how to guide you there.
The power and impact of this time spent on yourself cannot be underestimated. It allows you to let your outer world fall away so that you can re-engage with your inner world. That is the part of you that knows who you are, where you are and what you should be doing.
That is why people leave our retreats feeling inspired, motivated, refreshed and energised.
They have caught sight of their real lives.
They have remembered who they are.
They then return to their everyday and make a real difference.
Our next retreat is 23rd June 2017.
Read what this year’s yogis had to say about the retreat:
I thought the food was absolutely fantastic, 10/10 – and so much of it!! Much, much better than I had expected, and it was the type of vegetarian food that still appeals to meat eaters as it was substantial and full of flavour. I was very pleasantly surprised and I loved the style of yoga we did; it seems to be much more suited with the meditation and mindfulness aspects of the retreat.
I felt it was a very comfortable atmosphere, which engendered a relaxed and confident ambience. There was never any pressure, just support and encouragement. This was my first retreat, I didn’t know what to expect, but dreaded being “out of my depth” and at the mercy of ridicule. This was quickly and resoundingly dispelled.
…certainly value for money. Given the quality of the tuition and the accommodation and food, the retreat is excellent value.
Mick is a sympathetic, attentive and effective teacher who presented a good balance between meditation, talks and postures, which made for an enjoyable and informative weekend.
The location of the venue was excellent, being quiet and beautiful – the walk I did on Saturday afternoon over the open countryside at the back of the venue was memorable. The staff were very friendly and helpful, and the food was plentiful and good.
The food was delicious and plentiful (I put 3 lbs on!) and so much choice to cater for all tastes. The staff were so friendly and very attentive and made me feel un-rushed so could eat leisurely.
There are places that invite you inwards.
They take you somewhere special and new but also familiar. You know them.
These places are everywhere but you need to know how to see them.
Once you get it, there is no going back. These special places resonate. They provide if only fleetingly a moment of unity, balance and potential.
These are places that invite you to say what if…..they inspire action.
For some it can be a town, a building or a landscape.
A framed view from a certain window.
A room that catches the sun, a certain sound- the wind.
Their essential nature and spatial structure of these places align with something inside it confirms something in you, peace, beauty, harmony, certainty…
And for a moment your inner and outer worlds join.
The outside has impacted on the inside. The inside reveals the magic of the outside.
This is what we call in architecture sense of place.
Strangely though it’s nothing to do with place but everything to do your senses and in particular how you look.
Take a walk around a place you know.
But instead of walking with expectation – just walk. Take the idea of me out of it.
Be a receiver not a transmitter.
Let the mood for looking take you and as you walk with a kind of outward listening that unfolds a deeper looking.
When you catch that sense of something, don’t ever congratulate your self on finding it.
Don’t say it’s me that is seeing; it’s me that is knowing how wonderful this place is – because that sense of “I-ness” will close off the experience. Just be open.
Then look. But instead of looking with expectation just look.
There is no you looking there is just looking which after a moment turns into seeing…..
Then you notice the town, the sunlight, the wind, the sounds. You notice everything revolve around you as move. You watch it unfold revealing itself with every step….and you flow with it all you are deep inside.
You are both the observer and the experiencer. You are simultaneously creating and watching the moment rise and fall.
This is conscious looking or meditation in action.
It’s a deeper awareness of where and who you are. And it’s a method of being and doing that can be used spontaneously everyday anywhere.
Your whole body mind is deeply entranced and involved as we move through and experience your place.
And then we get to that place where we ‘forget ourselves’ and yet are fully alive more fully ourselves than ever.
We are inspired. Your ideas about yourself your idea-personality fall away. And we see.
This is what we love those places. They help us go inward we are refreshed, relaxed more able to know where we are and we can do.
There is a joy in seeing places like this. Once understood you notice the most profound experience occurs, you see the infinite in the most finite experience.
Enjoy your holiday.
Pictures are from my week away at Robin Hood’s Bay.