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.

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How to be still – anywhere, anytime!

 Its well known that body attitudes (as well as breath) convey a state of feeling. The way a person’s body is held, composed or inhabited shows clearly what is going inside that particular person.

We often say in our meditation practice you have to lean-in into the practice. In other words, be open, take notice and grasp the practice with body and mind.

In yoga science there is an acceptance that the mind and the body are one and the same. Together they comprise ‘field’ of experience or energy. The mind is said to be a subtle version of body and the body a gross version of the mind.

We all have direct experience of this everyday through feeling the impact of our thoughts and emotions in the body. For example: Where do you feel love, fear, anxiety, happiness, worry, excitement, sadness etc? They start in one’s mind but are felt directly in the body via the nervous, endocrine, respiratory, circulation and muscular systems.Slide1

It all works like one big feed-back loop too. So its stands to reason, if we work on the body and breath with physical yoga we are working on the mind too.

Next time you are in a meeting, waiting for the tram, standing in-line at the bank take a moment to observe the postures of others. Don’t pass judgment; just notice the variety of positions people seem to unknowingly adopt.

More importantly, take a moment to observe your own. You will notice that your body is not as obedient as you might think. In fact you are barely in control, as it is often restless, impatient or troubled by feelings of discomfort and agitation. We fidget, we change position we lean and slump. Most of the time we are unaware of the body or what its doing.

As most of us live elsewhere, via our heads its no wonder we don’t notice what is really going on. Being body aware (in a good way not in an Instagram-Kardashian way) changes everything and helps take back more control of who and where you are in the moment.

Its very rare that you see people just standing, or sitting still in conscious control. As we learned from Jacki Chan in the Karate Kid, being still and doing nothing are two very different things.  We practice this awareness in our yoga classes a great deal. Its harder than you think. However the body (and breath) is the only thing we have that is always in the present. So knowing it and then using it as a starting point towards being present to ourselves in the real world is vital.

So try this little ‘standing’ yogic practice next time you are queuing for a bank clerk:

  • Stand with your feet parallel about a hip width apart. Feet flat on the floor.
  • Gently draw you knees upwards and feel the legs straighten a little and the feet push into the floor.
  • From your feet guide you attention upwards through the body feeling the upper body, chest, shoulders and head lift and extend softly upwards. You will need to do this often.
  • Relax and rest the arms and hands down by your sides.
  • Keep the eyes open gazing softly forwards. Breathe through the nose.
  • Think- this is not me waiting in a queue. This is just standing.
  • Think- stillness, not moving-ness.
  • Don’t think- I wish this queue would hurry up!

Keep your attention on the practice and notice how you feel. Notice a softening sense of calm and relaxation as it gradually flows through the body. Notice the feeling of being present, purposeful and aware. Notice how aware you become of yourself in the moment, of your surroundings, of others. For a moment or two everything feels brighter, lighter, painless and effort dissolves.

The body is our point of orientation. It can, if we let it act like a compass needle that always settles northward. The body becomes a know point from which to move outwards and inwards unifying our internal and external worlds. In architecture we would call this a benchmark, coordinate or a level, a defined fixed point in space from which one can design and create with purpose and confidence.

But we can only know this ‘fixed point’ for sure if we learn to be still and notice it.

Once you have caught this little moment of being-ness, you can, with the guidance of a good teacher, learn to use it often in what ever you are doing, wherever you are. Then you will find that not only do you have more control you will experience a freedom to explore and roam right in the heart of being still.

 

How to paint yoga…

So here it is.

My favourite painting.

Rooms By the Sea by Edward Hopper. 1951.

I have wanted to write about this painting for many years. I have used it to teach design students or explaining to others what we mean by sense of place.

Ultimately, for me, this is a painting of yoga.

Room by the sea.

 

Reality

This reality, found everywhere, is just waiting to be known. As Patanjali said, the world exists for the sake of the Self. And from the world, we go inwards on a journey to know that reality.

The world depicted in the painting is our portal for that journey .

Hopper’s original title for this painting was, ‘The Jumping off point’. He knew.

But its only possible to know this if you understand how to change your perspective and really look.

The painting asks, what is reality and what is the best way to know it?

The answer can be found through the silence, the simplicity the composition of space and event, held in a continuous never ending nowness, or as Huxley used to say thusness.

 The painting invites us to step into its world. To know, to inhabit the infinite possibilities inside the finite experience of the composed spaces. There are clues everywhere.

The sunlight,

The sea,

The open doors,

The closed off perspective to the left and

The open uninterrupted perspective to the right.

The fragment of hanging picture…

We are invited to extend our observation.

To look beyond; between and through to space where discoveries can be made.

See the painting.

Resist intellectualising like a critic.

Don’t search for descriptions, concepts or labels. Just let-go and watch. Observe without attachment. That is what Hopper wants us to do. That is why everything is refined down to a basic presence.

The invitation is to see beyond to know a deeper reality inside where we are, what see, what feel…

And then realise the infinite possibilities of the moment experience. We are in the room. But we are not of it. There is no me, I or mine there is just is. Not the world, my world or myself. There is just reality and we see it for the first time.

A conscious knowing…

A field of connection, where everything is made of everything.

Hopper said:

“Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world. ”

 Its clear that Hopper knew what he was after. What he was trying to observe and witness as a painter so that we can all learn to fine-tunes our senses, change and direct our perspective in a special way we can see things as they really are…

 

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

 

Overcoming negative thoughts

This week we are on session six of our meditation course, Be Here Now! We are looking at how to minimise the impact negative thinking can have on how we feel.

But before we can act on our thinking we have to know we are thinking in the first place.

This sounds odd. Surely we know we are thinking. But many of us are so tangled up in our thoughts that we don’t actually notice the process of thinking.

We mostly live inside the story being played out in our heads rather than the real story of you in the real world. And because you feel the effects of those thoughts in your body, and in your actions and speech you assume those particular thoughts are real.

The result is tension and stress, nervousness in the stomach, worry, fear and anger. All of which happens in the mind and experienced in the body. They don’t exist outside- just in you. Meditation practice is all about a shift of perspective. Regular practice enables us to move to a mental space where we can watch thoughts. Its then that you notice how your thoughts work, what they do and where they go.

And more importantly how they make you feel. It’s often a surprise too, that most of your thoughts are not that helpful. Meditation practice builds the skill of being able to watch your thoughts. Its called non-attachment and it is regular practice that builds a deeper awareness of who you really are and what you are really doing. It can be liberating to then know you are not your thoughts or indeed your sensations and feelings after all, as most of the time they are obstacles to you feeling yourself. Yoga science tells us that there are five types of thought patterns that get in the way.

They are:

  • Desire
  • Anger
  • Restlessness
  • Doubt
  • Dullness

When, through habit we identify with, or get entangled with these patterns they form a self-created enclosing ‘bubble’, cloud or veil interfering or obscuring how interact with the world, others and ourselves.

By learning to watch each of those patterns work and flow from a distinct space of being, their power and impact diminishes. So imagine being free from the effects of those thought patterns. Sure you can still be angry, you can still doubt, but from a place of stability, calm, clarity and deep awareness.

So breathe in – breathe out, and watch what’s going on in your head. For a moment you may just notice that inner feeling of fear and tension just melt away…

IMG_6618

Knowledge & Wisdom

What makes a great teacher?

Well for me you need a purposeful mix of both knowledge and wisdom.

Knowledge is a function of the intellect with learns through senses and the mind. That is through ones capacity to think and understand the world and how one sucessfully interact with it.

Wisdom is different.

Wisdom is a direct internal  grasp of an inner knowing, intuition and insight.

Knowledge, ‘knows’ at an intellectual level; wisdom ‘realises’ it fully and is able to apply in day-to-day working and living.  Once you manage to combine both of these there according to ancient yoga science nothing more you need to know in the world.

Its harder than it sounds though.  Most of us live in our heads. Its exhausting

We have been taught to have very little use for wisdom. Preferring to trust our intellect as the only worthwhile version of the world and ourselves in it. And yet wisdom is the very stuff of life. Wisdom flows without effort and comes from that part of you that real. That is why a good teacher combines both worlds if he or she is to make a difference.

And every teacher wants to make a difference.

This tricky duality of being human came up recently during a meditation training session with young student teachers with TeachFirst at Manchester University. Knowing that they were there on intellectual merit, learning to meditate, to go inwards, was a way to help them access that other, deeper part of themselves.

I began by teaching some basic techniques on being present, focused attention, fostering breath consciousness while opening a deeper individual awareness, intuition and resilience. Emphasis was on watching and settling thoughts, learning to know, experience and inhabit that inner space of stillness- the source of all our creativity and insight.

When knowledge and wisdom combine balance, creativity, joy and resilience are the output.  To achieve this our beanddo meditation training is designed to merge inner wisdom and outer intellect –the cornerstone of every great teacher .

Teach first
Mick with the young heroes of TeachFirst

An online record of a yogi architect artist trying to stay in the flow…