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Archive for 2009
Instead of the savage pleasure taken by most in New Year’s Eve, try something new: A meditation for change and transformation. The sensation of being in the state of meditation as the year changes is a spectacular thing. The ethers open and a wonderful timelessness arrives. You literally float in the Heavens.
Use this time to shed limiting thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and memories. None of it serves. We need to be as free as we can to stand up to the next year. With no regret, no fear and without distraction. Use the pain on your shoulders as you work with this energy to burn off all your limiting structures.
I have chosen a wonderful meditation to do over this time:
Aim for 11 minutes, starting 6 minutes before midnight and carrying on for 5 minutes after.
Sit cross-legged with a straight spine. Use a pillow under the buttocks if that helps you to stay vertical. Chin in, chest out. Raise the right arm straight up so it is vertical and hugging your right ear, the palm of your hand faces forward, the fingers straight but split open, two each side of the split. Thumb at a right angle. Stretch your left are straight out to the left side, parallel to the ground, palm facing down, fingers split as on the other hand. Close your eyes and meditate.
This is an amazing and intense meditation. It will be challenging on the shoulders but use your breath, long and slow and mentally or out loud chant Wah Hey Guru to help you to keep going. When you need release from the shoulder discomfort lean forward rather than putting your arms down.
To finish, inhale deeply, hold your breath for 10 seconds as you stretch your arms and your entire body. Exhale and repeat the breath two more times.
This is good to go for 40 days. If you do take it up as a practice alternate your arms each day. So one day left out, the next right out.
This is the most powerful self purification you can do. It can give you complete control of your being. It improves intuition and makes you powerful and healthy.
We accumulate our life experiences as a blanket, a wall, a series of blocks or scars and in many other ways, carrying this with us into every interaction, expectation, experience and desire. We are moulded, good, bad, indifferent or exquisite, by all that we experience in our lives and how we
subsequently process those events then shapes and colours our continuous stream of present moments.
For some, life is like water moving through and around us, for others it becomes a scar that is frequently tripped over, for more, a drawing pin that holds us fast, stopping the sense of all freedom of choice.
Some of us who can see all of this within ourselves and are at different stages on the path of releasing, unravelling, letting go and climbing on top. Some of us are drowning under the weight of our perceived problems, some, many, of us are totally numb to it all. Life is just one big party and pass me the next drink/joint/line/purchase/ sugar hit etc. The wall is still ahead and will eventually be hit.
I have great affection for the wall when it is hit. So much pain so fast, but the raft of opportunity that is fallen upon is so very mind-blowing. Hitting the bottom, landing in the mud, fingers just grasping at the edge of the raft, is an awful experience, I know, and please do not think I am making light of it as an experience, but for all it’s trials, pains and agonies it is a Mantle of Grace that softly falls around our shoulders and gives us the ability to fly upwards into the light. To change, to transform, to finally see what is happening, to truly feel how divine our short time here can be.
There are names for this experience: The Dark Night of the Soul is the classic, but these are rarely referred to now as the chosen method of dealing with excess emotional pain is medication. “Numb me, please, I beg you. I cannot bear another moment of recognising how I really feel.“
The swathes of mind-numbing legal medications available are wild. The figures telling how many people are using the option means one must look around and think: Gosh, that is an army of people I know who are dead to their opportunities, options and experiences. Please do not think I make a judgement. I do not. I know how painful it can get and the amount of exercise, meditation, yoga, mantra, acceptance and letting go it takes to alleviate the agony is becoming a real adventure.
The past two years have seen an intense escalation in stress levels, fear, intensity and violence for all of us. What we have become inured to, in our daily life, is so sad: images that 3 years ago would have been unthinkable are now commonplace for 2 year olds to stare at from their prams. Nothing appears Sacred to the masses, life is cheap, the future is over and we stare at a Hollywood projection of what is to come believing that “they” must know because a celebrity is in it.
Fell peeled. It is what is happening. Feel raw. We are. We have been flayed by all that has passed these last few years; all boundaries are broken, nothing is as it was and it cannot return there. The innocence has gone.
The date changes in a week. 2010. All adjusts, all moves into another place. Personally I cannot imagine it will be easier but does it really have to be? Can it not just be what it is? An opportunity to hone ourselves, personally, to grow, to change, to move beyond the small confines of all that we decided we could do, of all that our experiences led us to think that we are capable of? We are each of us so much more than we think, believe or know.
Let’s dance with this next year. Spiral and spin into new realms of consciousness, let go of limiting beliefs about ourselves, swirl into the next year with a smile ready to catch all that is thrown at us and hold it with as much grace and acceptance as we can muster. Stand up and be original in thought and expression.
Let’s dance with this next year. Spiral and spin into new realms of consciousness, let go of limiting beliefs about ourselves, swirl into the next year with a smile ready to catch all that is thrown at us and hold it with as much grace and acceptance as we can muster. Stand up and be original in thought and expression.
I do like this time of year: layered dressing, the drama of hats, shawls, boots and heavy jewellery. I long for the northern Lights and heavy snow. I suppose it is the extremes of the cold and the glowing embers in the fire, being warm inside and the freezing breath in the crispy mornings, the endless darkness and then the exquisite busts of low sunlight when the clouds part that brings such pleasure to a time that most seem to wish past.
The energy all around is low. The sap in plants and trees has descended, All the leaves have fallen, the longest night is on the 21st and from that moment it all starts ascending again. The spell of darkness is broken and a sense of renewal comes in. The lights of Christmas are linked to this whole cycle. The celebration of the whole seasonal movement starting again.
It is a good time to re-evaluate, to look over the past year and take stock. How was it? What happened? What can I change or do differently? What have I had enough of? What do I want to start to do?
For so many of us it has been an extreme year. A lot of stress, many people experiencing severe illness. There have been big changes in how we think and assume things ought to be and the joys of moving forward, in a world that seems to be drowning in mediocrity, are hard to list. Core values have been profoundly challenged and we have to find a new version of ourselves. This may not be true for all of us, I recognize that, but daily conversations all point to the majority of us feeling very similar; that there is a need to approach life in a different way.
So taking stock, an overview, is a good way forward; it is empowering and life-affirming. It feels pro-active and it is something that each of us can do for ourselves. The Global Warming Crisis so totally overwhelming, all the fighting and arguing is driving all confidence to an all-time low, it is easy to turn away in confusion but on an individual and personal level there is so much we can each do to affect our own environment and those immediately affected by us. Ever just calming ourselves with meditation, breathing techniques, taking up running or something that brings self-esteem, can have a great impact on other family members and friends.
My way forward is to make a list of the major events of the year, positive and negative. Really see what happened, how was it, how did I behave, react and respond. Honestly recognize where I could have done better and then move forward with a clear set of goals in the New Year. What do I want to achieve, change, make, do and see? The consciousness of where have I been and where am I going gives clarity and purpose. It may be time for major changes: stopping a habit, loosing weight, leaving a job or a relationship. If there is emotional honestly and a clear vision then the consequences are less of a shock and the path is easier to follow. I found one of my lists from 1991 whilst clearing this week. It made for interesting reading and I could remember so clearly how I felt and how much I moved on.
If you take no pleasure in the transition to the New Year try doing a meditation starting 6 minutes before the midnight hour approaches and for about 5 minutes after it passes. The experience is rather trippy and a nice change from the usual savage pleasure taken by most on this night. Time opens and there are interesting places in the ethers that become available. I will put up a meditation on the next newsletter if this is something that appeals.
Looking around, especially at the media right now, it is easy to see that there is a strong desire for everything to go back to how it was “before”. The general push is that the financial markets need to be as they were, the housing market has to become buoyant again, the credit crunch must pass and if all these things happen everything will be “fine”.
This stubborn view is hampering change. Things have to change. It is the only constant in life apart from Now. Everything is rising, falling, emerging and decaying. There is nothing that does not follow this cycle. There can be a refusal to admit this as the reality and it is easy to see how this manifests in many ways around us: plastic surgery, the government policies, bank’s attitudes to money, our fears for the future, to list a few. We are conditioned to be scared of change, to fear the future, to expect our imminent demise and it distracts us so far from the here and now that it has become a major part of all policy to make sure that we do not ground ourselves and look around us to see who we are and what is happening. We are fed huge amounts of stress and misinformation by the media and there are vast swathes of the population who buy into it on a daily basis.
I could appear to be a conspiracy theorist but I am not at all. I am nothing more than a woman running a business in a recession, a mother and living clean and sober on a daily basis and so watching all that comes my way and recognising how it alters my daily experience.
Time has shown me that although there are many around with whom I can chat, let off steam and confide, the real way forward through it all is when I really take responsibility for myself and do what I need to do to take care of myself physically, mentally and emotionally. It is from this place, calm and clear, that I can be there for others, function appropriately and let things be as they are without endlessly resisting my reality.
So this is the point of it all: Can I be the space for this right now? This question is powerful and takes time to implant in the consciousness. It is to be asked when the brambles of the mind get too tight and the stress is rising. Stop and ask “Can I be the space for this right now? “ An interesting thing starts to happen; there is a space that opens and the resistance melts. The painful thinking changes, the stress dies down, (although the question may have to be repeated several times), and it becomes just what it is. No projection, no invention, no fear. Just a neutral allowing it to be and to then take, if needed, steps to address the issue as a functioning adult. If no steps are needed then move into the present moment.
It is a step away from the drama, the victim and the intensity that can become daily habit and requires an awareness that one is in fact stepping into a different way. Once this is engaged then the different way is calm and peaceful. There is a clear tool, the above question, to use when the body manifests the thoughts in the mind and we feel and become fearful, stressed, overwhelmed and unable to cope, but practice of this tool simplifies things and acceptance is a relief.
A different path can then start to emerge. Taking on change as a personal, rather than a global project becomes possible. The options as to how to make a difference widen, there is so much that can be achieved within each of our personal spheres of daily life. Turning off lights, radiators, walking to the shops, switching to locally produced food, being aware of and responding to our neighbours needs, recycling unwanted clothes and books etc.
I find it hard to write at the moment. It is an accumulation of reasons, some interesting, others not to be said out loud, laziness and too busy. The accumulation of experiences leads to large gaps between things being said.
I think the most interesting thing about writing weblog is the personal censorship. I censor myself. I have so much I want to say but I know I cannot. Why not? Because it is too personal, possibly unkind, not necessary to voice, mean, rude, non-pc… the list is long. So each time I hit a point where I am struggling with an aspect of life I hit all these things and realize that I cannot be appropriate or positive without violating my own codes and ethics and I silence myself.
I have thought long and hard about all the things I/we cannot say and think often about writing a book or just opening wide up and saying “this is how it is”. But not yet. So I go the other way and work at becoming more emotionally neutral; I try to have less attachment to the dramas, the highs and lows of my daily experiences as a mother, a wife, an addict in recovery, a business woman in a recession, a teacher, a friend, a runner…. Such a long list of different beings to neutralise.
So my state of extremis has been a major journey towards a calmer daily experience. Over time I have tried all manner of tips, tricks, techniques, methods, postures, mudras, meditations and mantras. As I flirt with 50 I can see that it is an ever-evolving journey. But truthfully certain things work. If I see myself in an open-topped car moving through my life in high speed I can see that certain things get chucked out as detritus along the route and other things accumulate into the bits and pieces vibrating gently along side me as I drive to where ever it is that the Universe in all it’s wisdom and vicious irony has decided I am headed.
My current new experience is very coloured by listening to Eckhart Tolle CDs which I download from iTunes. I used not to be able to listen to him. It used to depress me endlessly, waiting for the next word to dribble from his lips, he spoke so slowly, but now I find his words amusing, liberating and relevant. Which of us has changed? I guess it is me, and thank god, frankly. Endlessly boring inner journey through barbed wire, brambles and personal mud which is so endlessly boring and futile.
So the result of my neutrality is less weblog. Less to say out loud, less reaction, less time spent oozing thoughts into the ethers. I do not think anyone suffers.
It has been a long year and as it draws to the final month it can all seem rather fast, overwhelming and stressful. Clearly not everyone feels the financial pressures of now and many of us have no family issues, but it is challenging to get through the Christmas season without feeling pressure.
As the New Year comes closer there is a natural tendency to examine behaviours, choices and areas of excess. For me, my greatest area of excess over the past few years has been my mind. It is an awful beast and truly I would prefer never to be left alone with it, but life as an adult is not really like that and I have spent many years trying all manner of practices to gain some mastery over my thoughts that have whirling tendencies – especially when the going gets tough. I am useless at sitting still and find the idea of sitting down to meditate can easily be replaced my hundreds of other tasks that are far more urgent. I have refined my practice so that it really does work for me, in my life, every day, giving me exactly what I need to gain mastery over my mind.
This the gist of how to do it. Sit where ever you happen to be. You can close your eyes, or not. Bring the focus of your attention to the base of the spine, the bowl of the pelvis. This is the root chakra and also the base of the spinal chord. See and feel the internal space; the darkness, the warmth, the energy that sits there so potent and strong. Start to follow it up the spine. This is the path of the Kundalini, rising up from it’s coil in the pelvis, up the spine, vertebra by vertebra towards the crown chakra, up to the heavens, towards the 1000 petaled lotus that represents our highest self. Keep your attention inside, on the energy and vibrancy of the vertical journey. It may take 3-5 minutes to reach the crown, but in that time, with that focus, you will have had time away from the mind. When you focus on your physical sensations you cannot think and this is the most peaceful reality: no thoughts. Once you go back to the mind you are refreshed and better able to deal with the endless mental chattering.
Use this technique whenever you feel the mind has too much power. Gradually you will be able to watch the mind playing games and no longer find yourself drowning in the games and negativity. To make the mind your servant is the ultimate goal rather than to have it as your master.
For more on how to expand your personal practice, look at these DVDs which all contain great meditations.
25 ways to master depression; the beast in the darkness
1. Take up intense exercise. This could be running, swimming, cycling, climbing etc. The endorphin rush stimulates the hormones that counter depression and the resulting physical rewards build sefl-esteem.
2. Reduce the stimulants that you take including coffee, tea, alcohol and recreational drugs.
3. When the wave comes, get up and do something.
4. Do 3 minutes of breath of fire with your mouth closed. Look on youtube for more details on how to do this breath. It strengthens the nervous system, builds creativity and puts heat in the body.
5. Soothe your mind with reassurances that you are in charge and it will be OK. Quite often it is our “child” that is freaking out and our “adult” can provide comfort in the form of taking care, taking over and sorting things out.
6. Take up the mantra “I can and I am” it is great for countering low self esteem and issues around what you feel you are capable of doing.
7. Do 20 full body press-ups a day with the elbows tucked in. This stimulates the thymus, a gland above the heart, and strengthens the will, the immune system and raises endorphin levels. You can build up to the full body 20 over time and if needed, start with 5 half press ups from the knees but make sure you keep your body straight and long.
8. Do 60 sit-ups a day. Knees bent, back firmly pressed to the floor, arms crossed over your chest, raise head and shoulders off the floor, exhaling up, inhaling back down. Again, build up with this, but it strengthens the nervous systems, builds self-esteem and raises endorphin levels.
9. Go for a brisk walk.
10. Avoid violent films, books, the news and computer games.
11. Drink a glass of cold water.
12. Do Sitali Pranayam: Make the tongue into a straw and inhale really slowly through the straw with eyes closed. Exhale slowly through your nose. 20 breaths each way. This will cool the liver and bring a feeling of calm.
13. 20 squats. Feet apart, facing forward, back straight, hands behind head and exhale down bending the knees, inhale up straightening the legs. This is an intense practice that brings a lot of blood the leg muscles which then raises the immune system, increasing white blood cell count and putting a lot of oxygen into the blood.
14. Dance. Put on your favourite music and dance till you are sweating. Try smiling at the same time.
15. Up your fresh fruit and vegetables. These contain minerals, vitamins, anti-oxydents.
16. Allow yourself 15 minutes a day, totally alone, to go as far as you dare into your fear and pain. Cry, sob, moan and yell until it has been released. After 15 minutes head back out into the real world again. Many of us really fear our pain and depression. This exercise eases the fear and can ultimately reduce the intensity and duration of the episode quite considerably. It is the avoidance of the feelings that can create more pain than actually swimming in them. But no more than 15 minutes.
17. Eat with friends. The experience of sitting together, talking and eventually laughing, releases a hormone called oxytocin that makes you feel good.
18. Do the Inner Smile. Mantak Chia is a writer who deals with this practice. The art is to make all of your inner organs smile one after the other. Start with the heart and work your way down inside your body through your stomach, kidneys, liver etc. The feeling is relaxing and calming.
19. Do a daily gratitude list. It can be in your mind or on paper. Write down all that you are grateful for. You may start by feeling hopeless but as you make the list you will become more positive. It is a good thing to do as you lie, waiting to sleep at night or if you wake in the night it is a good way to stop the mental car crash that can come in at 3am.
20. Help another. See if your neighbour wants help with shopping or gardening, perhaps an elderly neighbour would like a hand with the rubbish or changing a fuse or light bulb. Reaching out to others is a good way of stopping navel gazing.
21. Kundalini Shaking is a way of stimulating hormonal flow and raising energy in the body. Stand with your feet apart and start to vibrate your pelvis so that your arse wobbles and your belly shakes. Keep your knees slightly bent and soft and go as fast as you can. It sends heat up the spine, releases energy and makes you smile.
22. Have an orgasm. Alone is fine. No point torturing another with your misery. The raise in endorphins will release a lot of tension in the mind and body.
23. Pray. Funny, but it works. Handing your dramas over to a power greater than yourself helps you to let go and do something else instead of worrying.
24. Accept that you are feeling awful, stop making any judgements about how you “should” be feeling and you release all the resistance.
25. 10 long deep breaths with the eyes closed, hands in your lap, right on top of the left. Thumbs can touch or not. This position accesses the neutral mind, the space where we allow and make no judgement. Utter bliss. Once you get used to the sensation it is a great tool for stressful situations.
Depression is an interesting topic. Barely ever talked about, but so intensely experienced by so many that when ever I talk about getting, feeling or being depressed the response around me is an overwhelming relief that there is a moment to admit to and express the pain and anguish that accompany the experience. A vast sea of anguish that heaves and dips in a raging storm of emotion but is totally silent until given permission to be heard.
The experience, when it comes over, can be mild and short. It can also be devastatingly all consuming. The thought processes can be mildly negative and out of the usual positive and optimistic lines but they can easily head into realms of longing and anguish that no one should ever have to experience alone.
There has been a prolonged period of extreme stress for a lot of people. The economics of now and the medias’ new knowledge of how to tap into everyone’s pain bodies has created a culture of fear and mistrust. There is so much stress in our daily living that it is hardly surprising the individual batteries wear down and depression is the response.
What are the causes of depression? I am no doctor, but having lived with the feelings, come from a family where it is present, married into another family where it lurks, moved through addiction and into recovery, taught for 13 years as a yoga teacher it is easy to look around and see that the causes are many and varied: Stress, lifestyle, history, genetics, thought processes, lack of exercise and for some, depression is a way of controlling their environment and those around them. It can be hormonal and also very driven by uncontrolled thinking patterns.
The options, from a mainstream perspective, are medicinal. Anti-depressants are the main route ranging from Lithium through to low-level mood management drugs. Many prefer the old routes of self-medication and use alcohol, marijuana, pornography and intensity. All of these have their own side-effects which eventually wend their merry way back into a deeper darkness.
I think that when one finally gets to a point when it is enough. It becomes boring and repetitive and the experience is just replaying itself over and over again giving enough perspective to see that it really serves no purpose. From this point change can come. But how to do things differently? Choosing to change the habits of many years or even a lifetime can seem like a gargantuan task and just that realisation is enough to trip the switch back into all-consuming darkness again.
I have put together a list of ways to deal with the beast. All of these will produce results of varying intensity and for varying lengths of time. Each one is good just on it’s own and the best way to use the list is to print it out and go to it when you feel the need. If you have questions please do ask, and if you know others around you who could benefit from the list then please do pass it on.
Many days have passed since I last wrote and I have had so many experiences. Pretty much all of them have been great. Lots of learning curves, even in the darkest times, and still the impetus to keep moving forward continues.
I like September. I think it must be ingrained since childhood to feel this month is a time to change, a time to re-adjust and to do things anew. After several weeks away I have had time to reflect on where I am and what I want. I can now implement changes and move forward on an altered course.
For several years I have found it hard to have a long term plan. I suppose it is partly because of having young children and starting a business. It takes all one’s energy to nurse the two different growths. But the children are getting more independent and the business is sitting comfortably so it is time to check the horizon.
As I look around me, friends, people moving past my life and sometimes through it, the media and the challenges we are all facing now it seems to me that life has changed and will not return to what we thought it would be. It, too, has veered sideways and now requires a new map.
Life is fast, intense and somewhat unforgiving. The endless commercialism we are all labouring under and the pressures put upon us all by terrorism, the media, the governments and our own longings mean that we need to be endlessly resourceful and strong to take on the next few years. We need a large quiver of tools at our disposal to muster ourselves to stand firm and clear, open and straight, to be able to achieve our ambitions.
It is either that or loose ourselves completely in the morass of excess which, for a while, can numb all pain, fear and longing. The endless games of addiction to the massive range of behaviours and substances hold thrall over many of us now and it serves the big wheel of business, commerce and governance.
So it would seem there are two routes: Present or not.
I know which one I have been walking along for a while and although it does not get clearer, it is a path filled with hope and learning. I like this path as it suits my endlessly expanding and enquiring nature. It does take courage and commitment, it does mean taking personal responsibility for myself at all times which I do tend to rail against but I can put my hand on my heart and say that it is totally worth the effort and although it feels like a permanently uphill climb I notice that I get fitter and more mentally stable as I progress through the experience.
What are the new tools? Personal practice, a sense of humour, compassion, patience, positive thinking and remembering to breathe.
Starting to run
If you want to change your current reality there are many ways.
The first requirement is to be willing to let go of how you move through life on a daily basis: Are you a victim? Experiencing depression? Attached to drama? Loathe your figure? Love intensity? Resort to anger very fast, control others, gosh, the list of all that could be stopping you moving forward can be long.
The trick or key is to have arrived at a point where your way of being in this reality is not serving you and you can see it.
When you arrive at this point there are several options. Therapy, yoga, meditation, abstinence, running and so on. You could look at the list and wonder why any one of the options is there and it can also seem a rather odd list of options but each one has profound consequences upon us as individuals, forces us to alter our perceptions of our reality and all can bring a sense of peace, acceptance, self-esteem and hope. There is no order to the list of options but none are easy. Each one requires that we reach a place where we are forced to change.
Personally I use all of them and find they have made a vast difference to my sense of self, my projection and my daily experiences.
I have written a lot about yoga and meditation over the years and will continue to do so. I have been in and out of therapy since 1991 and use it when I cannot see the small door in the very large wall that I have hit at times. It is a profoundly personal experience and very much shaped by the strength and wisdom of the chosen therapist. Abstinence; An interesting topic. It seems to be less and less in vogue as we tumble into the abyss of self, but saying no to the various way in which each of us personally numbs our feelings and fears is a great way to discover who we really are, what we do dread, where our dysfunction lives within us.
Running, especially without brain-drowning music thundering in the ears, is a way to move beyond all the restrictions we put upon ourselves as human beings.
It is a topic that polarises everyone. There are thousands of myths about how bad it is and how it should be done. Many loathe it, but if it works for you it is a divine and wonderful tool bringing relief from so much of the human condition including depression, fear, anger but also inducing better physical function, and armfuls of positive effects upon the metabolism, immune system and physical form. There are some excellent books and a magazine called Runners World that is the only thing I subscribe to. All the books and magazine help to overcome the mind’s desire to make sure we individually feel discouraged and incapable. Good shoes, and if female a good sports bra are the only two essentials followed by nine weeks to build up your stamina to the point where you can run for 18 minutes non stop.
I have a fabulous running program building up over nine weeks from a one minute run. If you would like me to email it to you then just add your request in the comments section along with your email address. It will not format to fit on the page.
Days can of course be changed to suit but you should try to do three times a week with a rest in between.
If you don’t feel ready to move up to the next week’s schedule, repeat the previous week’s and if by week 7 you don’t feel able to run 20 minutes without stopping, don’t worry. Give yourself a little longer to reach this goal.
The art with all of these possibilities is to take it gently, encourage yourself and be patient.