Follow your heart

Angel Seat Chalice Well Gdns Glast - CopyAngel seat in the Chalice Well Gardens, Glastonbury

Dipping in to a lovely book by Shiva Rea at the moment, called ‘Tending the Heart Fire‘. Wonderful photos, easy to read and full of wisdom. Inspiring me to focus on some heart opening postures and sequences over the next couple of weeks, both for myself and in my classes. Dru yoga has these in abundance, helping to make the heart lighter and lift the spirits. Simple techniques that can really make a difference if you’re feeling a bit down or miserable. Movement of any sort – walking, dancing, swimming, can get you off the sofa and start the process of feeling better about yourself. But heart opening yoga like the Charity pose (Parsvottanasana), Chair of the Heart (Utkatasana) and Dru’s Sequence of Compassion is even better!

Here’s a short excerpt from the book…….

“If we drop into our feeling sensations of our body, we discern a subtle reverberation of this light in our chests as a deep, penetrating heat that ebbs and flows, expands and recedes, dims and intensifies. While we many not often pause to think about it, this intimate connection and truth in our hearts is reflected in our speech by how we counsel one another: ‘Listen to your heart’. ‘Trust your heart’. ‘Follow your heart’. Our heart feels ‘heavy’, or we are ‘light-hearted’. When we affirm the truth, we ‘swear upon’ our heart, instinctively making the universal mudra of connecting hand to heart. When we open to our heart’s deepest knowing, we have a ‘change of heart’.”

“In our hearts, there burns a fire
That burns all veils to their root and foundation
When the veils have been burned away
Then the heart will understand completely.
Ancient love will unfold ever-fresh forms
In the heart of the Spirit, in the core of the heart.” Rumi

Further adventures from a recovering agoraphobic

A challenging visit to the Mind Body Spirit Wellbeing Festival at the NEC on Friday.  For someone who still has agoraphobic tendencies, it was challenging because I went on my own, it involved train travel, the NEC  is huge and the environment of a busy, noisy hall is difficult. But, I had the opportunity of a workshop with the Barefoot Doctor and that was my motivator.

My hope in sharing is to deepen understanding of how this feels and not to jump to conclusions about someone who seems to be behaving slightly oddly. And for anyone with agoraphobia – it might not disappear, but you can work with it and accept it as being a part of you, making you who you are.

IMG_3846No problems with the train journey, and arrived at the NEC feeling fairly relaxed. Found out where the Hall was, and set out. This I knew would be tricky with the huge enclosed spaces, bright lights and reflections, all of which make me feel disorientated.

I’ve been recently learning about ‘sensory defensiveness’ in relation to ‘sensory processing disorder’, which is being linked to agoraphobia, and also resonates with what my friend Stella has written about being ‘highly sensitive‘. The feeling of everything being completely overwhelming  in these situations that can become very scary and trigger panic attacks.

 

Having wIMG_3832alked through this environment, including two long escalators, came to something called the ‘Skywalk‘ (link to extremely boring Youtube video) and FROZE.  A long, enclosed corridor disappearing into what seemed like infinity. So, decided I’d walk back the way I’d come, and try and get around the outside of the buildings. All the time saying to myself that I really want to do this, so don’t give up! Back to the beginning, and down four flights of enclosed stairs to the perimeter road. Trudged along there for a while, getting increasingly anxious, and then decided to turn back again. Up the four flights of stairs, heart beating quite fast due to the exertion. OK – ‘Skywalk’ or go home? Back to the ‘Skywalk’ – it’s not going to beat me! A five minute walk or less if you use the two travelators. I try the travelator, then get a bit panicky that I can’t get off it. Unless I run of course, which even in this state, I realise would be a bit ridiculous. So I get off at the half way point and re-group. Now I’m stuck in the middle – do I go on, or go back? I go on, but I walk the last bit. More corridors and escalator, finally making it to the Hall. Hurray!

Hall 7

Photo courtesy of Mind Body Spirit Festival

I’d booked another workshop, starting soon, but decide I need some time to settle and some distraction. Sitting in a room listening to someone is going to give me too much time to think about how I’m feeling and how far away from home I am. So abandon that and sit outside in the sunshine for a while, and begin to feel better, deciding to brave the Hall, full of stalls, noise, people. But, also the calming energy of crystals and scents of incense.

 

tim and cherubSit down in the ‘free stage‘ area and join in with some chanting, which is just what I need. Tim Wheater playing guitar and flute, accompanied by the wonderful, smiling Cherub with flowing pink hair. Deep breaths and aahhhhh… out. Feel tension beginning to shift, but still tight in my neck and shoulders.

 

tim van der vlietFind that I’m quite happy sitting there, so stay and listen to Tim van der Vliet, an ex trader from the Amsterdam Stock Market, calling his philosophy ‘Zen from Amsterdam’. One thing he says is that “you don’t have to be a yoga teacher to feel zen“, and I think, well actually, this yoga teacher isn’t feeling very zen at the moment 🙂 but gradually getting there……..

I have a slow meander round the stalls, not really taking in too much of what’s there, but at least my body is present. When I’m anxious, I find that I’m so concerned with monitoring myself and the environment that interactions with people are much more difficult and the social niceties tend to go out the window.  One lady ambushed me from the side, and asked me ‘do you love pussy cats‘? I’m afraid I just said ‘No, I don’t‘ and walked on (apologies to all my cat-loving friends!).

I was interested in a new yoga block, so approached that stand and took up an invitation to sit on it (the block, not the stand). Then the stand-holder said she’d show me how I could use it lying down, and was already rolling a mat out before I had a chance to run away. So, I’m lying down, and she’s trying to insert this block under my buttocks, meaning my head is lower than my hips (not good for my stability). I look up, and there are a few people watching this spectacle, one lady smiles and says ‘you don’t mind if we watch, do you?‘ The social nicety did kick in there fortunately 🙂 Meanwhile the stand-holder is asking if I’m comfortable, and I’m afraid at that point I did have to say ‘No, not really‘ in a very quiet voice.  Beat a hasty retreat, but it was fairly controlled.

aura photo1More time recovering outside, mulling over whether to have an aura photograph taken – something I’ve had a yen to do for a while. The unknowns of how long it will take, will I have to go into an enclosed booth, will I have to stay and talk to someone about it? Decide to go for it, and end up with a beautiful photograph (showing I’m well-balanced, amongst other things – what??!)

barefoot doctor

Photo courtesy of The Barefoot Doctor

Find my way to the room for the workshop with Stephen Russell, the Barefoot Doctor, via more stairs and through a huge open space. This is what I’ve come for – it had better be worth it!! – and it was. So grateful and appreciative just to be here.

(Even he couldn’t turn the NEC into something that looks like this, but it was full of magic).

And Skywalk on the way back – a piece of cake.

 

IMG_3858

Going again in December, and here’s my motivation for that time 😉

 

Harvest

Vegetable display

Harvest from the earth

Coming back to one of my favourite themes of grounding and strengthening this week. Letting go of the restless thoughts or anxiety to feel grounded on the earth. The nurturing earth energy giving us strength and courage. Practicing some lovely mudras for letting go and for courage.

We’ve just passed the Celtic festival of Lammas or Lughnasa, which reminds us to think about the harvest from the earth, and also to think about what we’re harvesting in our own lives so far this year.  Seeing the swathes of warm gold cornfields, reflect on what’s been golden in your own life. Do you need to let go, or to face up to something? Stand barefoot on the earth and feel that you belong. Know that you can reap your own harvest from being in your own unique place on the earth. Feel gratitude for who you are.

“Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers,

but to be fearless facing them.

Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain,

but for the heart to conquer it”

Rabindranath Tagore

Warriors, Toads and Poetry

Mallorcan midwife toadMallorcan Midwife Toad (photo credit Wikipedia)

I’m not generally a huge fan of poetry, but love to hear it brought alive by being spoken. One or two reminders about the Wenlock Poetry festival had come to me over the last few days, and as my husband is a lover of poetry, we made a late decision to go along. I was drawn to someone I’d not heard of, David Whyte, with a session advertised as:

Solace: The Art of Asking the Beautiful Question, which went on to say

Each one of us grows into a steadily unfolding story where the horizon gets broader and more mysterious, ………

Intriguing I thought.

We didn’t have tickets, and when we got to the box office were told that the poet my husband wanted to hear (Glyn Maxwell) was sold out, and that they only had one ticket left for David Whyte. Oh no! We could have given up and gone home, but not to be thwarted, we went back to the car to re-group and eat our sandwiches (as you do!). We knew there was another box-office in the town, so walked there to ask. We were told we could get in on the door for Glyn Maxwell, and that the other box office would have the tickets for David Whyte.

So, we were able to enjoy the story behind the ‘Mallorcan Midwife Toad‘ as told by Glyn Maxwell (an award winning British poet and writer) in a tiny Methodist Church, squashed on wooden pews with a scent of lilies in the air.

But what about David Whyte? I didn’t want to give up on the Art of Asking the Beautiful Question, so we walked the half mile back to the first box office, to ask again. (I think my husband was angling for a pint, or at least a cup of tea with a scone). We were hoping to mug someone for their tickets, but didn’t need to as a batch of tickets from the second box office had apparently just been released, and were now available in this box office. As someone who used to work in IT, the idea of juggling paper tickets between two box-offices, (in conjunction with the existence of an online booking system that didn’t appear to come into the equation), seemed quite quaint. Were carrier pigeons used to transport the tickets between box offices, we wondered?

So, was it worth it? Most definitely! An inspiring poet and philosopher with a beautiful voice, leaving you with so many ideas and questions to ponder.

And what has this to do with warriors? As we came home, my husband said that if he’d not been with me, he’d maybe have given up. I’ve been working with warrior postures this week, and am convinced they give me tenacity, determination and perseverance. I also think that through practicing yoga, I’m much more open to and aware of the messages from my intuition leading me to opportunities that enrich and enliven my life.

SWEET DARKNESS

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.

© David Whyte: Excerpted from SWEET DARKNESS
In THE HOUSE OF BELONGING: Many Rivers Press

 

The Mountains

Mountains

Classes this week are being inspired by a 5-day Dru meditation retreat that I’ve just experienced at Snowdonia Mountain Lodge in the heart of Snowdonia. I always benefit from the stillness of the Mountain pose (tadasana), but discovered a much deeper stillness when surrounded by the presence of the mountains. If you find it difficult to stand in the stillness of Mountain pose, try and visualise your favourite mountain, or find a photograph of one that you like. Imagine yourself standing in front of that mountain, feet firmly planted on the earth and breathe that stillness and stability of the mountain into yourself.

The Mountains

Heads in the clouds, the mountains stand guard.

High and tall.

Clouds constantly shifting, revealing, then hiding.
Croaks and cries of ravens and buzzards,
Slow wingbeats, barely perceptible against the mountains.

The mountains watch, immoveable.

A road winds through the mountains.
Tiny cars crawling, carrying tinier people.
The road a narrow scar on the mountains.

The mountains stand, impeturbable.

Solid and still.

Water off a mountain’s back.
Water refreshes the mountain.
Waterfalls tumble, cleansing and washing away the debris.

A sliver of silver moon rises behind the mountains.
Slowly revealing it’s fullness.
Ghostly shapes of sheep at the foot of the mountains,
White in the moonlight.

Protected by the mountains.

A hooting of the wise owls.
Blessed by the mountains.

The fading moon drops behind the mountains across the valley
As morning awakes.
The mountains awake to a sprinkling of snow
Scattered from the heavens.

The hearts of the mountains are peaceful.

Working with fear

Javelin trainHigh Speed Javelin – Photocredit: wikipedia

Following an acute experience of agoraphobia many years ago, one of my personal challenges (still) is working with fear and anxiety. I’ve explored various different therapies and techniques in my recovery and am so grateful that I came across the transformative power of Dru yoga, which has helped me so much. I’m now able to teach yoga classes, drive longer distances and travel on public transport – all of which would have seemed impossible when I was virtually housebound and having panic attacks. Although able to do most of the things I’d like to do, there are still times when the fear kicks in or I think the fear will kick in.

If I’m not careful, I start judging myself, thinking that I should be able to ‘deal with’ the fear and not be afraid of it still. But those habitual patterns seem hard to break.

So I thought I’d try a mindfulness course, and am half-way through an eight-week programme. A quote that our lovely tutor, Shelly at The Mindful Road, sent us this week reminds me to stop judging myself:

“Note that this journey is uniquely yours, no one else’s. So the path has to be your own. You cannot imitate somebody else’s journey and still be true to yourself. Are you prepared to honor your uniqueness in this way?” ― Jon Kabat-Zinn

Acceptance has been key for me, but more recently, I’ve been working with embracing the fear, rather than trying to banish it or push it away.  One of the concepts of mindfulness is to notice and be curious. So with the fear, to be curious about how it feels, how it changes my breathing and what thoughts appear. And at the same time to welcome it (which is really hard!).

In a video clip that we were asked to watch this week, Jon Kabat-Zinn demonstrated this in relation to pain – not pushing it away, but moving in closer. If you’re interested, take a look at the video, and go to around 31 minutes into the clip if you don’t have time to watch it all.

One of those things that I’d still like to do is to go on the Eurostar, and this weekend moved another step closer to that by going on the hi-speed rail link from St. Pancras to Ashford. 12 miles of tunnels out of London, so great practice for the Chunnel. Paris, here I come!

The Power of Fire

Candle and lotus

As the weeks pass, we move on to the element of fire for the theme of our classes for the next couple of weeks.

Fire – energising, warming and transformational as you burn the old to make room for the new. The sun is a huge ball of fire, unconditionally shining it’s light down on to the earth. So we’ll be practicing some postures and sequences to ignite our inner flame, bringing us strength and confidence.

The warrior postures (Virabhadrasana) help to activate the solar centre behind the navel, giving us courage and motivation. Chair of the heart (Utkatasana); another strong posture that strengthens the core muscles and opens the heart centre where we can visualise a golden flame, glowing brighter with each breath.

With the evenings becoming longer, it encourages us to light candles, bringing the light and warmth of the flame into our homes. Focusing your gaze on the flame helps to calm the mind and stimulates the pineal gland.

Some of the founders of Dru yoga were instrumental in bringing the World Peace Flame into being, drawing together numerous flames from around the world into one. As you gaze at your candle flame imagine it filling you with peace as you breathe in, and as you exhale, spread that peace out into your home, your street, your town and beyond.

“‘Fire is divine water’ they said, ‘flowing back to its source on high’. I remember looking at the huge flames and thinking that they were indeed like a huge waterfall flowing upwards. This, again, is an indication to us that fire is always reaching up to connect with the very highest forces of life.”

From ‘The Secret Power of Light’ by Mansukh Patel