Welcome to Carolyn Cowan Online; Designer, photographer, teacher, mother, counsellor and bodypainter.
Archive for October, 2007
I have issues with NOW. I know I shouldnÄôt, but I do.
It is what I teach and what I long for, but I am suffering the consequences.
I go to India months and months ahead and design and make clothes. There is a great satisfaction in sitting back knowing that the next collection is done. But at the same time, the ability that the Indians have with being present means that there is nothing beyond the erotic charge of taking the money. They have no sense of responsibility, no sense of the future. There is no future. It is just Äúyes, everything is possible, give us your money and it is all possibleÄù. Money goes to the bank, hands are washed, Laxshmi is thanked and the smile fixes on the next idiot who believes that everything is possible.
I do not know how to proceed. I have received the last order, all the winter clothes, three and a half months late. It has had a knock on effect on everything I do and think, want, need and worry about.
I have recently returned from two weeks sitting in a boiling hot, airless factory making all the new collection and there is no way that I can know that I will get it. How to proceed? Lessons in retail management that I would prefer to be far, far beyond.
So the power of NOW has more consequences than I can really register and I am really fascinated to see how it is going to impact the future of the Indian growth spurt. It is certainly impacting my choices.
And at the same time I found that the meditation I have been working with for a while is going too fast for me. I have switched to being in the neutral mind. Still, accepting, peaceful and blissed out.
It does last, for a while, then is slips quietly away into the mists of my longings.
My appalling spelling has been commented upon.
My apologies. I will try harder, I promise.
Otherwise, comments have been made, by many people around me, in the last few days about the speed of life at the moment. How it feels as though it is getting tighter, faster and more out of control on a daily basis.
I was doing my meditation this morning, which involves some fairly intense breath manipulation, and I just stopped. I did not want to be moving so fast through my day. I just sat and moved into connecting to the neutral mind.
It was divine and calm and changed how the course of my day has gone so far.
In the car on the way to the school this morning I was talking with one of the mothers who needed a lift. She said that she consciously chooses not to get involved in the speed of life and she stays away form all the aspects that will pull her.
I feel it is better to be in life, but as conscious as possible at all times. To really try to ground myself into each moment and experience; and if that does not happen and I am just flying through the experience, then breathe into fully reviewing what just happened where I was not present.
The Mayans predicted that life would speed up and that massive changes in Consciousness would occur more and more rapidly. At this point I think it is meant to be around every few weeks, which is certainly how it feels at the moment.
My computer was stepped upon in Manchester. No responsibility was taken, but it has severely affected my weblog and, in fact, all manner of aspects of my life.
It was such a shock to see it all bent and broken, and the man who examined it told me that it was beyond economical repair. Not words that thrill me.
I was sad and felt terrible that I had not taken better care of it. Usually I am so careful with ÄúthingsÄù but this was a mystery.
I looked into replacing it, knowing that I would have to buy a new one, given how much use it gets. I went to the Mac Store on Regent Street, the temple to spending lots of money with the stairs that want you to fall down them (they have a huge glass staircase that is totally hideous to walk down, I feel so fragile on it. I cannot get the psychology of the choice, but there must be something in it.) I found the computer I wanted and ordered it. Went to pay and my credit card was blocked. Hmmm, I thought. There must be another way, but I will ignore the thump on the head and try my husbandÄôs card. That, too, was blocked. I backed away from the till realising that there really was another way and as usual I need to be told twice.
We swept down the stairs in a flurry of children and coat tails and took a big deep breath outside on the busy, dark, street. Partly because of having survived the stairs, but also because I now had to find the Äúother wayÄù.
I remembered that I had sat next to a computer repair man on a return flight from Delhi recently. Raj was funny and charming and loved telling stories of his monumental success. I found his card and called. I was invited to bring my dead MAC to Kingston where he pronounced it repairable and did it in one day! I spent a third of the price of a new one.
More phew now, too, as I recover from the very fabulous Mind Body Soul Show in Olympia this weekend. Gosh it was good and I had such fun. I am now a wilted husk in need of a rest, but thrilled by the response to the classes and workshops.
I feel like a worker ant, madly rushing through everything with no time to be a person. The worst part about it is the controller. The awful realisation dawned on me this morning as I sat on my yoga mat girding my self to do camel pose: I am the controller and the idiot running around like a headless chicken!
Awful and shocking reality.
How to change this reality is the next huge question.
Answers, I am waiting for. I assured my husband that I would not come up with any more ideas before Christmas. He felt that was a somewhat draconian step.
I came back from the summer holiday feeling relaxed and calm. Yesterday I was so profoundly stressed it was horrid.
I did remember to breathe, I did take distance, I did drink water, and all the other things that will help me, but ultimately I went home needing a splash of cold water.
IT. What is IT? This thing that we all want to ÄúgetÄù? What is this thing that we aim for? Enlightenment. Surely it is being able to be totally present to whatever happens, right now, here, no anger, no reaction either way, just a rock with the experiences washing over me.
If I arrive at that place will there be a big flash and every thing disappears and I have won? Is that IT? All the maya of life slips away and I am suddenly just having a lesson, a laugh? A soul moving through itsÄô lessons having just learned another one?
This is all a moment of nothing? All my experiences with life, death, children, anger managementÄ¶. If it is, why does the hideousness of ageing have to be in it, too? Is it not challenging enough without watching the march of time across onesÄô body?
We have returned from a big Mind Body Spirit Show in Manchester.
It was the first show in a while. It was great to see all the familiar faces and meet new people. We had great fun, and I love the architecture up there. So huge and monumental, it always makes me want to give it all up and move to a huge warehouse up there.
We have another show in London this weekend and the dramas of stock, ordering more books, how to display to the merchandise and make it look so much better than any one elseÄôs!
Otherwise, life feels a little softer. I seem to have times of great crisis and learning and then it levels out and I feel wiser and I see better in terms of the bigger picture.
The teaching in Manchester was great and as I have not really done much for a while, to such huge numbers, it was a really powerful vision onto how to move forward into this new time that is slowly and ponderously making itÄôs way towards all our reality.
The recession is starting to make a shadow on everyoneÄôs thinking, and it is interesting to see how well the yoga and meditation can help now. Time to be seen.
1. What does meditation involve?
It depends on why discipline you are working within.
The whole point is that you are seeking to put the mind, and itÄôs endless turmoil, down. To get a break from the chatter, memory, fear, longing and negativity.
So the usual practices from all manner of disciplines include some or all of the following; Mantra, pranayama and mudra.
Mantra is basically Words of Power or phrases, sentences, prayers that have an energy given by their use by millions over millennia. For instance, Hail Mary, Full of Grace. Or Wah Hey Guru, Om namah Shivia, Om Mane Padme Om etc.
Pranayama is breath manipulation. The principle is that the air is filled with Prana, or Life Force, and that by increasing the levels of prana in the body, (and at the same time, hugely elevating the oxygen levels in the blood) you become elevated. What is elevated? This means that with the combination of the Prana and the extra oxygen there is an increased hormonal flow in the body and the stimulation increases the energy flowing vertically in the spine. From this, the expansion of the three main glands in the head allows for better intuition, awareness of the consequences of your actions increasing and a sense of calm.
Mudras are hand and finger positions. Touching the index finger tip to the top of the thumb is called gyan mudra. It is a position that grounds you and controls the ego. Other finger combinations produce different effects.
The combination of these three things, combined with the awareness that you need to leave the mind, and itsÄô thoughts, alone, are the basics of meditation.
2. How is it effective in relieving stress?
Meditation is extremely effective because you are choosing to go beyond your daily experiences and to make a choice for change. The act of sitting to still the mind is a powerful intention. Whether or not you succeed to your satisfaction is another thing entirely and all down to how much power you give the mind during the practice.
The mind does not want to be put down. It wants to be in control and manipulating all incoming information. The instant that you sit it will bombard you with memories, things to forget, and anything it can find to try and stop you discovering that you have a choice, that you can choose, there is another way. Meditation is lifeÄôs big secret. Very effective, but challenging. It takes time, willingness and practice to master.
It must be the change of season, or the postal strike or the proximity of half term. I am not yet sure which, but my life is deep at the moment. It could of course be the very strong meditation that I am currently doing, but I am doing the meditation because life is deep, so the chicken and the egg are chasing each otherÄôs tail.
I feel as though life is being dissected on an almost daily basis. I look at everything, minutely. I break everything down into its parts and then further down into my part with-in ÄúitÄù. A huge hall of mirrors going on and on forever.
I could not envisage myself here 10 years ago and conversely, I cannot envisage myself in 10 years time. What is the long-term purpose of all these endlessly huge life experiences, if not to suddenly get ÄúitÄù.
What is getting it? It is a moveable feast, I know, but as time roars past, the dust is settling into a pattern made much clearer by the very defined, daily routine in the shop, and the choices as to how to be, react, change, open and move forward.
There is a tiny moment, constantly happening, that moves in front of me/us, so fast that I/we can barely sense it, that is the defining moment between insanity (repeating an action expecting a different result) and change. It is in that moment, if we are willing to sense it and grab out for it, that we can change so totally and so profoundly. We can move into the soul, to the better part of ourselves. It is is the moment that says: I will not react, I choose to be calm, I will remember to breathe, I will stop being a victim, I will smile, etc, etc, etc. It comes by so fast and the ego crashes in to mask itsÄô presence.
Being aware that that moment exists, and then catching it, grasping and holding onto it as it whips past your choices screen, is such a huge leap in consciousness that I truly feel it is where all spiritual teaching should be heading.
Yes, it could be construed as egotistical.
Who am I to suggest a way forward?
But there has to be a change. Anger and revolt are not working, so perhaps the next step is the awareness that we are all enough and are all here to learn how to BE. This would be a huge step in Empowerment. As a teacher I feel that my role is to help others to truly let go of their dependency on another and step into their own being.
Big statements so early in the morning, but I read so much rubbish now, there is so much bigotry and hatred, so much rage and such an overwhelming sense of impotence that help is urgently needed. Swelling the coffers of others is not the way forward.
I was driving a car full of children to school today, as usual, and in the lorry and bus filled street there was a small ochre car broken down. It was causing mayhem and fury. Inside the car, which was all streamed up, a woman was just sitting staring ahead. I had such an overwhelming sense of loss and pointlessness from her it was really painful. No one, including me, stopped to help, we all just whizzed by as she melted into, what I felt was, utter hopelessness.
She could of course have been having a great conversation on her phone and not cared that all was snarled up around her, but I think not.
I feel as though I am roaring through my life at high speed. It is quite alarming.
I sat in the playground this morning and just grounded myself into here, today, right now. Watching the parrots playing, feeling the cold air, following the path of a white cat in the tree opposite and listening to the kids winding each other up. I refused to think about anything except what was in front of me and it was good. I have come back to the practice several times today.
I am working on approaching life with a smile, hope, humour and openness. It has gone quite well for the past few days. I know it will change/pass/get lost. Choose any of the above, but it does make a very real difference to what happens, how I perceive and how others perceive.
Something must be getting better around here, or maybe it is Balham rather than deepest Peckham, but the police signs here say;
ÄùSerious Incident. Purse SnatchÄù, Or Äúserious Incident. Mobile Phone StolenÄù.
What is that? It seems so lightweight. I am sure it is a horrid experience having your phone or bag taken, but really, they must have run out of storage space for signs at the local police station. Round our way it would be the most appalling litany of murder, mayhem, shooting, stabbing, all graphically displayed for all to crane to read as they fly by in that particularly South London Driving way.
Otherwise we are getting ready for Manchester. I do love it up there. I love the architecture, the size of the roads, the sense of grandeur that is all over the centre. Plus the people up North are a delight. Open and funny. I am looking forward to being there.
I have made a decision as the result of arriving at the point where I am totally bored of my history and even more bored of my reaction to it.
Details are not needed here, and I feel I need to add that I have, over the years shifted lots, but this is the dark shadows left. All the piles of crap are gone, it is the subtle residue that still colours how I react and see.
So I have taken the drastic step of choosing to change. Not that it is the first the first time I have made the choice, I have been doing so for many years, but I am working on the physical remnants of all the rubbish.
There are certain yoga poses that I have always hated. I have avoided them because I suppose they hold the emotional response that I am talking about. The poses are camel, bow and stretch pose, that combined with Sodarshan Chakra Kriya is my current sadhana.
I can feel it all starting to shift inside me and I must confess to not enjoying myself.
But I am watching my feelings rather than having them, and sitting in the candle light at 5am this morning it was a full-screen, cinematic trauma. I sat there, holding my breath and doing the meditation just thinking over and over Äúit is not real, it is my mind, my mind is not my friend right nowÄù. It did help, actually and although I feel rather emotionally hung over, I know that the postures are potent and it will be good in the long run.
I pointed out to my husband, very sweetly, that I am working on changing. Had he noticed? I asked sweetly. No.
I could get upset, but I am working on changing so I went to sleep. So grown up! I wads thrilled and saw it as a huge change.
I am about to release two vegetarian cooking DVDs. They have taken so long it is too painful to go into and I am more than sure I am a contributor to the timings, but hey, as they say, everything is perfect.
The reason I mention this is that I cooked supper last night. I should in fact say that I tried to cook supper last night.
I put 4 baking potatoes in the oven at 225 degrees. C or F I have no idea, but the oven does not get much hotter. 2 hours later. 2 full hours later, we were eating crunchy, raw potatoes. I could take it personally, but I am not sure it is me.
I buy from a greengrocer who delivers. I have to trust that he has organic products because his adverts say he does. But what kind of potato can stand that kind of treatment? Surely there is something a little strange? It comes back to this thing of taking responsibility for ones self, and frankly I get blinkered because it is easier than rigorously checking which of the items I buy actually are organic, if any. The problem is that if I face it squarely, I know that it is probably really little and then I am stuck with going to a Supermarket which I really hate doing.
So I am burying my head under sand and refusing to ever bake potatoes again. Easier that way round, the knee jerk reaction.
On another not quite up to it note, I watched the cuddly and perturbed yet relieved and self-conscious Stephen Fry wander through the AIDS/HIV issue last night. I am aware that I did not watch the first program so my emotional response is limited to the second episode, and I am aware that this is dangerous territory and I could be reviled for commenting, but things need to be said.
The purpose of the program was largely unclear. If it was to put people off getting the virus, I am not sure it succeeded, mainly because it talked so well of all the advances in medical science.
If the purpose was to remove the stigma, I am not convinced that that happened, either. The stories are awful, there is no doubt, but we are now so inured to shocking stories and terrible images that it is hard for us to be asked to see things differently. The images of the suffering in the 80Äôs of those with the illness and the African AIDS Crisis are not dissimilar to watching the Twin Towers crashing down. (I know it gets really dangerous here, rather like talking about Mother Theresa.) If the main thrust was to bring an awareness of the experiences of those with HIV and AIDS, then I think it did that, but to what end? I felt a lot during the program, but came away unsatisfied and empty. Unclear of my feelings, and yet remembering so well the whole buzz in the advertising industry when those apocalyptic adverts were made, and it is so clear how much they made the reactions of now. The fear and terror. Was it a good idea? Plus would I not be terrorised by any illness? Hep C, or Cancer to name two. Would I not wait with baited breath and shake at the result if it was positive? I am certain I would.