Category Archives: Yoga

Random Things of Beauty no: 47

The starboard wing of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner over India…

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How long can you pay attention?

So its official.

Thanks to smart phone addiction we are now unable to pay attention to anything for longer than few seconds. In fact we really do now have a shorter attention span than goldfish.

Many of us seem to be willing participates in this situation as we are being, purposefully and artfully removed from the experiencing the real world everyday.

Our ability to direct and hold the attention of our mind, senses and body onto a singular event is vital to our continued wellbeing, our sense of self. But our smart phone addiction works against us cultivating that innate knowing and self-awareness.

The world in the smart phone says…move on, move on. Don’t stop, don’t think, just consume content. Stay distracted, don’t look up. Everything you need is right here…just one click away!

Smart phone addiction is easy because it compresses the world into smaller and smaller, easily consumed moments. It plays on the fact that we are looking for something to relate to. To hold on to. To define and shape once and for all how we are feeling.

But it never delivers…and thats how it keeps you attention.

Watch next time you are on the bus or tram. Notice how people will get out their phones directly on entering, drop their heads and stare intently into their phones. This is a form of protection coupled with a whole body, mind, senses disengagement so that can stay in their smart phone comfort zone, avoid eye contact and remain unnoticed.

Of course commuters used to do this with newspapers, but somehow its not the same.

We are being switched off!

This is a worry.

And it doesn’t look like its getting any better. People say that at least Pokémon Go is getting people outside and walking about. But they might as well not bother. They are still seeing the world through augmented reality; which ironically isn’t augmented or real! It also means that the Nintendo Corporation knows exactly where you are and what you are doing at any moment. – As does Facebook and twitter.

The truth is that how you and where you place attention is directly linked with your innate wellbeing. How you see the world is vital not only for ourselves but for the world too.

Directing one attention on purpose changes everything. It wakes you up!

Knowing how to pay attention, to concentrate, to guide awareness towards the outer world experience world leads directly to an increased capacity to know and experience ones inner world. Our wellbeing, creativity, sense of purpose and self comes from the  being able to combine both worlds together into one fruitfull whole.

The world and our senses seemed to be designed for that creative and nourishing connection. Writers, artists, poets, teachers and architects have known that for generations. So if we miss one part of that polarity what hope is there in finding out what the world is really like and who you really are.

So I think we are in danger of switching ourselves off. If you are worried about that get in touch.

Smart phones are great but – Don’t let them switch you off!

Find out how with beanddo:

beanddo Feb news letter

Being & Doing. Making happy work.

When being and doing are brought together work, in fact all action becomes play infused with creativity and joy. In fact creativity is joy.

 Everything done in this spirit becomes yoga, which transforms you. It creates as well as being creative.

It doesn’t matter if you design cathedrals or work in merchant bank. They are both important. Working in this way brining being and doing together transcend what you do.

Working this way this way requires a change of perspective. Instead of concentrating more on the future result or outcome of what your doing, or what will happen afterwards focus more on what you are doing right now. In other words be present to the moment rather that on your perceived relationship to it.

This voluntary suspension of desire, judgment and expectation as one undertakes action requires practice and in business the right culture.

It take inspirational leadership, which these days, is in short supply. Many people confuse management techniques, meetings and spreadsheets with true leadership. Its hard to imagine any HR department or management process employing this technique rather than focus instead on KPI’s, outputs and productivity.

This technique once caught and applied you will notice there is joy hidden inside every action, moment-by-moment. You don’t need to change what you do. Just change how you do it. One doesn’t need to hid away in a mountain cave or undertake extreme adventures to know this truth. The joy of being action is literally at your fingertips. Now!

When I work on my drawing board or in my sketch book I pick up my pen.. I know with right mind set and attention there is sheer concentrated joy in this if I allow myself to know it. It is natural and innate but if I stop resisting. Softness, a flowing effortlessness rises up instantly infusing the whole body.

The ideal Arjuna, is to be intensively active and at the same time have no selfish motives, no thoughts or personal gain or loss. Work and action uncontaminated by desire leads to inner peacefulness and increased effectiveness. This is the secret art of living a life of real achievement. Bhagavad Gita 2.48

Attending to what you are doing in this way you will notice, in even the smallest everyday experience, a flowing sense of potential and effortless purpose. And it will grow towards a deeper feeling of peace and resilience in your every day active life through the union of being and doing – work and joy- yoga of action.

How do we do this?

Simple, we sit back and watch the show. Its called yoga.

Dealing with thoughts and emotions.

We are coming to the end of our seven-week meditation course, Be Here Now. There is often a point when someone will ask how we do deal with emotions. How can I cope?

Suffering from your troublesome thoughts and emotions might be the very reason you started to explore meditation practice- but don’t limit it to just that.

Meditation is therapy but not in the way many mindfulness courses assume. I don’t just get how one can meditate specifically for better leadership skills, decision making, creativity  or compassion…..

All of those things happen ‘naturally’ depending on where you are and wether you will let them flow. Wanting those skills as your starting point is a bit like learning to paint like Raphael, because you want to be famous and rich –

Its never going to happen. It doesn’t work like that.

Raphaels-La-Fornarina-The-001

The key is to smooth out expectation by learning non-attachment. In mindfulness this is called non-judgment.

The point is that you are not your thoughts or your emotions.

What?

Yes, that’s right. You might ‘think’ that your thoughts are YOU, that how you feel are the concrete building blocks of your essential make up.

But they aren’t.

They can’t be because they are never around long enough.

Thoughts come and go at about 700 miles an hour.

Yoga science says that thoughts are like objects. They are like your car, your phone, and your shoes.  They are made of ‘stuff’, which appears and disappears. They don’t last. And because they don’t last that makes them an unreliable source on which to base any idea of whom you are or what you are doing and what is really going on.

Dealing with emotions, in fact all of those troublesome thoughts will happen naturally. You will notice through practice that they lose their power to impact on your mind, body and actions.

Imagine if you went though life believing everything your mind told you- good or bad… that everything that popped into your head, which in turn impacted on your body, stimulated your emotions, your actions, was how things really are.

Start swimming

Many say that are being –‘sucked downwards’ by their thoughts, their emotions. They are overwhelmed, caught in cycle of emotions, thoughts and worries… It’s exhausting, confusing and depressing.

Its no accident that the yoga term for thinking is ‘vritti ‘ meaning ‘whirlpool’. What happens when we get caught up in a whirlpool? We get sucked inwards, down under the water. If we don’t manage to break free, to start swimming; there is a good chance you won’t survive.

Our problems start when we are taught from an early age to live solely in our heads– not in the whole you, some not even on planet Earth – and I don’t mean that in a good way. Those people are really lost in space!

Unfortunately, that is how many of us do live.

They are not happy!

It takes practice and good meditation teaching. Those mindfulness courses that remain at the level of surface contemplation ( look at the sky…isn’t it nice. How do you feel about it?) are not enough. You need to get in the water…

Have you ever heard of General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)? About 5% of the UK population suffer from it. Its caused by overactivity in areas of the brain involved in emotions and behaviour. Yoga would say yes agreed! Its our whirlpool thinking connected to a  moment-to-moment confusion on how we think.

When we confuse our thought ‘objects’ with reality it’s like identifying yourself as a real, authentic, fully enlightened person, by your car, your job, your status, and your salary.

None of that lasts…in the end we discover its all lacks vital substance.In the same way we don’t have to identify with our negative emotions. Its not us. Its not real even though it feels real.

Cultivating insight

Look at how many times the word ‘insight’ is used in meditation. It means, awareness, intuition, perception, comprehension etc.… but it requires a starting position from which to direct our sight (attention) – inwards – from being outwards to inwards…

When we do that, we notice things – differently. We don’t have to go into therapy, we don’t need to analyse our thoughts, push them away, block them off and compress them. You don’t need to talk about them if you don’t want to…

You simply ‘watch’ them.

When we learn to do that we found ourselves in a new space (not so new, as its been there all the time). Like a farmer tending to crops, we prepare the ground for growth and change.

We notice, thoughts come and go, but underneath them, flowing through that new space is a deeper, more profound world of peace, creativity and stillness. It all grows naturally. You then realise that it has nothing what so ever to do with how you think you need to ‘deal’ with or work though your thoughts and emotions. You remember that  you already own the inner resources to change you perspective and thus transform the world.
You allow all of theses to happen to you. You don’t make them….you notice them. Probably, for the first time. We come to realise that we can do more, by not living in our heads all the time.

We often say that meditation is like learning to swim. You can read about swimming forever but you will never know what its like and how you can do it unless you get in the water.

So just start swimming, get stronger, be free and learn to keep out of those those whirlpools…

Naruto_Whirlpools_taken_4-21-2008

 

Happy Spontaneous Me!

This week we hosted our Yoga In Action workshop, Happy Spontaneous Me! in collaboration with Chorlrton Arts Festival.

This is real YOGA. Otherwise know as the Yoga of Action.

It’s like an active meditation. Where we merge being and doing into one. We use simple techniques such as repetitive and flowing mark making as a way of connection moment to moment with what we are doing. We use this as ‘flow’ producing activity that everyone can do.

Its fun. But it’s also a serious practice. In many ways this is advanced yoga!

Don’t worry though… This is yoga practice off the mat and into the realm of everybody lives. It teaches you to take notice, observe and be in harmony with what ever you are doing. Sometimes called the science of autotelic experience, or ‘flow’ is when we fully direct and our consciousness into and with whatever we are doing purely for its own sake.

The experience is spontaneous happiness and joy. In yoga science Happy Spontaneous Me points to a deeper form of yoga practice called Karma Yoga or the yoga of action. This is essential and fundamental practice is where we change of mode of thought from trying to exert force over what we do towards a desired result to aligning out action to our inner harmony and intuition.

Most people confine themselves to never ending treadmill of expectation, desires, and rewards. It causes frustration, anger, jealousy and unhappiness. But its possible to step off the treadmill, still be in the world but free once we learn know where real happiness and creative contentment is.

But I am not creative…I cant draw. Oh yes you can.

Everyone can, that’s the whole point. The fact is that when you are in your yoga flow self-created expectations, desires or limiting feelings about oneself are stilled. They simply do not matter. You will feel in total control, present and fulfilled. In the workshop emphasis is letting go, observing and learning to finish meaning and joy in the ongoing experience of the workshop tasks.

During the workshop we learn to:

  • Understand how to make any activity into a flow or yoga experience.
  • Unlock your creative flow and liberate your inner joy
  • Develop a sense of meaning, effortless control and involvement in what you are doing.
  • Discover a deeper a sense of self and purpose.
  • Feel what it means to be totally present and not lost in an imagined future or past.  

The term autotelic derives from the Greek with, ‘auto’ meaning, self, and ‘telos’ meaning goal or task. In yoga we would call this ‘Being and doing’ or more accurately karma yoga, yoga of action where work is done not with some future reward or expectation in mind but just for the sheer joy of doing it.

When we pay attention to the activity for its own sake, not thinking about consequences or we fall in to the present.

We are in our own yoga state or ‘union’ – the goal of yoga. We are the conduit for the Flow producing activity.

 

Yoga Nidra and feeling good!

Last night we talked a little about how important Yoga Nidra is, particularly at the beginning of the class.

 When we lead our Yoga Nidra (which means yoga sleep which in reality really means becoming awake) the objective of is to help our students find their internal point of stillness by carefully combining body, breath and mind into a single place and moment. This brings on a very deep and profound relaxed state, which will impact on every level of the mind/body field. As the body is the only part of us that ‘appears’ present, in the here and now, it is the focus for many deep relaxation techniques.

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Last night’s Level 1 YogaLife Project Class

When we practice our postures we become conscious of just how stiff and tense we are. Many of us unknowingly hold parts of our bodies in tension all of the time. Even when we are asleep the body maintains the tension. Holding tension is something that we don’t notice until something goes wrong and we begin feel tired, tense and anxious. Learning to relax means becoming aware of where these areas are and how we can change them.

The intention of our YLP Nidra at the beginning of the class is to help our students build a portal or threshold into the now. Moment-by-moment we lead their attention from the outside world and the day’s events to the here and now of the yoga studio, on the mat. It’s a combination of deep relaxation and stillness allied with underlying experience of potential and intention.

Scientific research[1] on Yoga Nidra reports an increased endogenous dopamine[2] release in the ventral striatum [3] a finding accompanied by a reported “decrease desire for action.” Its also known that expressions of loving-kindness, a sense of connectedness, and feelings of trust and cooperation have all shown to produce increased activity in the ventral striatum.

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This is where the striatum is located.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is why yoga nidra is a vital practice. If we skip it or don’t give it the importance it deserves then we are really not practicing yoga. We are simply just lying down.

Which is okay but its not yoga!

 

The notes:

[1] Kjaer, T. W., Bertelsen, C., Piccini, P., Brooks, D., Alving, J., and Lou, H. C. (2002). Increased dopamine tone during meditation-induced change of consciousness. Brain Res. Cogn. Brain Res. 13, 255–259.

[2] In the brain, dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter—a chemical released by neurons (nerve cells) to send signals to other nerve cells. The brain includes several distinct dopamine pathways, one of which plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior. Most types of reward increase the level of dopamine in the brain, and most addictive drugs increase dopamine neuronal activity. Other brain dopamine pathways are involved in motor control and in controlling the release of various hormones. These pathways and cell groups form a dopamine system which is neuromodulatory. Wikipedia

[3] The ventral striatum is closely associated with decision-making, risk, and reward, in addition to suppressing certain actions in the limbic system. It primarily mediates reward cognition, reinforcement, and motivational salience.[10] Dopamine is its most vital neurotransmitter; thoughts of gain (monetary, emotional, or otherwise) will increase dopamine in the ventral striatum, whereas thoughts of loss decrease dopamine. Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

‘You are nothing without an idea’!

So says one of my heroes David Lynch, film director, artist and yogi. It might sound a little hard, particularly, if you have convinced yourself, or been told by others that you are not an ideas person!

But he his making a deeper point about all of us. Making ideas, or creativity is somehow connected to who and what you are.

If you can’t remember when you last had a good idea, don’t worry. Contrary to what you or your employer might think there is never a shortage of ideas. There are trillions of ideas around. There are ideas for accountancy, hotel management, mechanical engineering, music, advertising and so on…It’s just that there is a shortage of un-blocked human outlets through which ideas can flow. All of us are conduits through which ideas of all shapes and sizes arrive. However, when we experience, fear, anxiety, stress, a poor environment; some management techniques and the decisions of a few finance directors, the flow can reduce or stop altogether.

Ideas, or more accurately, creativity, is all a question of how you are thinking, feeling and where and how you direct your attention. Ideas don’t need anything special. In fact just being still while being in the flow is all you need. You often find that ideas come when you least expect them. Learn to be non-attached. Meditation is the key.

When ideas happen, we all know that little frisson of pleasure, excitement and joy that seems to bubble up from nowhere. It’s a whole body/mind experience of happy momentum and purpose that for a while drives you and others along.

What if you could manage that experience and feel like that about your work all the time?

Get in contact. I can show you how.

Watch David Lynch’s film Meditation, Creativity, Peace here…