The fictions that don’t always serve us

We operate along gradations of I like it / I don’t like it, seeking pleasure, avoiding pain. This impacts our mood and our interactions. Our mind is always quick to judge ourselves and others and this influences our behaviour and our sense of being. Our brains can’t help producing states of desire and aversion regardless of our intentions. This can happen right this moment we can either be in some kind of neutral state, or somewhere along the I like it / I don’t like it spectrum.

Wherever we are there is an element of story telling,  we create past, present and future narratives in our minds and most of the time it is fiction. We are the protagonist of our own continuous unfolding monologue, and we must forever defend our sense of self. We are often wanting something else, not wanting what we already have, expecting something more from others and being disappointed when our expectations are not met. We didn’t like what someone said so we let it stoke a fire in us, and we can invent a story as to how this plays out if it were to happen again.

How can we can let go of this often defensive attachment to self during our day to day life? This is no easy task and takes commitment and time to tune into what is going on in our mind and our bodies, observing, noticing, reflecting, letting go. We must be mindful not to judge ourselves too harshly, to actually be kind and encouraging as we cultivate a more balanced way to be. It is a continuous ebb and flow as we let go of the narrow world of our likes and dislikes and thereby slowly loosen the grip on our own self importance.

Your own Parachute

Imagine doing something that you enjoy and the more you do it the more you get better at it, and it helps you reach heights that you never thought possible? (And no, it’s not parachuting!).

Cultivating a regular yoga and meditation practice can prepare you for anything. That sounds like quite a claim but it’s true. If you can achieve a natural resting state of equanimity and emotional resilience then you are pretty much prepared for whatever comes your way.

I know because I speak from experience. A recent example is from early 2019 where I had to have an operation and undergo surgery. It is without doubt that my yoga and meditation practice helped me physically and mentally, pre and post surgery. The many years of yoga and mindfulness helped create the resilience necessary to face difficult times. Since my operation I feel that there has been a radical shift in my nervous system and consciousness, and my body has an unprecedented degree of suppleness and energy.  This is thanks to the operation itself but also to my regular practice of meditation and breathing work, all part of yoga.

Mindfulness research is showing how meditation can benefit physical health as well as mental well being and the best way to know this is to experience it for yourself.

Yoga unites the mind and the body through the breath, and that is an almost literal translation of the word. It also helps us in times of difficulty. When I did the 8 week MBCT course some years ago, the trainer said that sustained meditation practice was like weaving your own parachute, so that when the time comes when you need all the help you can muster, your parachute is ready. As Mark Williams and Danny Penman wrote in ‘Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World’, “there’s no point in doing this when we’re falling headlong towards destruction. We have to weave our parachute every day so that it’s always there to hold us in an emergency.”

Here are two videos, one is a short guided meditation, the other one is a body scan. Both can help you in your journey to weave your own parachute:

Observe Yourself

When the mind and body are in balance it is like the ever present clear blue sky, a vast spaciousness of non-reactivity. What clouds and dulls the mind is negative mental states along the spectrum of I like it, I don’t like it. There is a craving for something or a sense of clinging to the view that if only things were different then life would be better.

Our day to day life is always in relationship to, or in relationship with, whether we are alone or with others, it is always in the plane of relating. It is how we comport to situations, people, things, that determines whether we are in balance or not. When we feel ill at ease, be it mildly or more pronounced we will feel it as tightness in the body and mind, reflected in our mental, verbal and bodily actions.

The very early sign of liking or disliking as a mental state is a feeling sensation in the body. To understand this and start to transform it is no easy task. It does however begin with awareness of that early reactive tone in the body and the voice of your mind. If we know a situation or interaction triggers us to behave in a certain way we can start to catch ourselves before we spill over into the habitual reaction. We can pause for a moment and actively choose to respond differently.

It is part of being human to be reactive and have emotions like anger, fear or jealousy, BUT we can modify or reduce the volume of these reactive states, through repeated self observation, reflection and a caring understanding attitude. Beneath all of this is the vast clear non reactive body / mind experience.

We are what we repeatedly do

We all have our positive and negative habit energies, cultivated over the course of our lives, a result of conditions and circumstances over time.

If we are aware of our negative habit energies or behaviours, then we might choose to do something about them, especially if we start to become aware of the detrimental impact on ourselves and those we interact with. The start of the process is befriending the self and becoming aware of how we act in the world, getting to know who we are from the inside out, stepping back and viewing this world of I, Me and Mine.

One way to begin is by bringing attention to the breath, even for a moment, this will set the stage for facing that moment, and the next one with greater clarity. It creates a small window to tune into the body and the mind, sensing what’s going on.

It takes practice to catch our reactions as they are emerging. Through ongoing meditation and mindfulness practice we start to lessen the hold that repetitive thought patterns can have on the mind and the body. Over time, through self observation, reflection, and self understanding, we can affect change, bit by bit, until the grip of the negative habit energy starts to loosen itself. Using the breath as an anchor in difficult moments we can create space so that instead of amplifying our reaction we can pause and choose how to respond.

The negative habit energy will not disappear completely, but overtime will reduce in volume.

As Aristotle said, we are what we repeatedly do, so let’s make the time and the effort to become the better version of ourselves.

The centre is not the head

Have you ever noticed how you walk?

Some of us move from our head, our chest, our shoulders, the rest of the body just catching up. We are in a rush to get somewhere even when there is no need. We can stand in a queue and there is nothing to do but wait and yet we are tight in the mind and body, creating an invisible barrier of separateness with the environment. It is seen in the eyes and around the mouth. We may have tension in the belly, the lower back, the neck and shoulders. A restlessness.

Imagine moving with ease and grace, soft in the eyes, soft around the mouth, taking your time to be and do, a simple attentiveness to the present. This is not passive being, it is open awareness of our moment to moment experience whether we like what’s happening or not. If there is unease, we pause, we take a breath, we feel the breath down in the lower belly and we respond from a place of balance.

We can cultivate lightness of being through a gradual process of befriending the mind and the body. It requires a meta awareness and a willingness to drop into the body and use the breath as an anchor point to feel and experience being centred. The more we realise our head is not the centre, the more we can trust the intelligence of the body and the breath to lead the way.

Life is like the (dutch or british) weather, it is never the same for very long!

Life would be dull if things stayed just the way we wanted them to be. Every minute, every second there is constant change and movement taking place, in everything. In this moment,- sitting or standing, wherever you are, change is happening in your body, right down to the most subtle level.

I feel good right now, I want to stay feeling good. It’s bright and sunny, it may rain later, it may hail or even snow. I might cry. Yet I want to stay feeling good.

We want to cling to the joy, show aversion to the pain, make it go away somehow.  It is easier perhaps to stay present with what is joyful, yet often, ironically, we can be more present with suffering because it feels more raw.  To be present in whatever mood state or situation we must practice being in touch with our mind state and body state and we can do this through the breath. Conscious breathing is our anchor to finding balance and composure in the midst of change.

Circumstances change, people change, everything changes, even though we can delude ourselves into thinking otherwise.  Becoming aware of this helps to create a more balanced and contented perspective. All of us will face sickness and death, all the big topics we don’t like to think about when it comes to impermanence, especially our own. Yet confront them, – see that change is all pervasive, understand it and embrace it.  Make the most of your life and your potential for being. There is nothing passive about accepting impermanence!

 

 

To be or Not to be, that is the question

This is of course the start of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, whether to continue to live his life or to end it. I use it in the context of To Be Present or Not to be Present.

To be, or Not to be, is the question, the position, or the mind state, in a moment of wanting to say or act out we have a choice, “to be or not to be.” To be, I see as resting in awareness, in presence, Not to be, is to give into chaos and habit mind, to react. It is of course a momentary fraction of a pause that will make the difference as to whether you respond or react in any given situation. It can be quite a challenge if you have reacted the same way to certain situations or triggers for most of your life.

In any given moment where you notice you are about to be triggered, pause. Make a conscious choice To Be with your breath. That is the point that allows you to choose how the next moment will unfold, it is such a small space but it becomes magnificent if we heed it. Mindfulness is awareness and the ability to observe experience. No one said it was easy, but with continued practice it does open a space to move away from your usual habitual reaction that is not helpful to you or others.

We can cause harm to our relationships and ourselves if we choose to not be present. Be aware of the energy that pushes you into doing or saying what you don’t want to say but you go ahead anyway because that is what your are used to.

To be (present) or not to be (present), you decide.

Workshops

Yoga workshops allow for a deepening of our practice beyond the physical movement of yoga, delving further into our mind and our hearts.

Letting Go, Letting Be

Saturday 20th October 2018 10:00 to 12:30

This workshop will look at what our stress triggers are, at home and in the workplace. What can we do to better manage the trigger and the response? How can we learn to become less reactive so that we don’t hurt ourselves or the people around us?

Letting Go, Letting Be, is about understanding the connection between the mind and body before we even reach the stress trigger.  The relationship is pivotal to our understanding, we can start to see how the trigger manifests itself, catching it early before we react. We will look at how we can change our habitual mode of reacting to one that is more skillful and more responsive.

There will be some yoga practice, guided  and silent meditation breathing exercises to help calm the mind during our stress triggers, and some journal writing.

Please bring a notebook and pen.

The workshop is 40 euros, 35 euros early bird price if you book before Friday 31st August. Contact satty@sattyyoga.nl

 

Previous Workshops

Welcome to Whatever Comes!

Saturday 13th January 2018 10:00 to 12:30

In this workshop we welcome whatever comes in this new year. We learn to accept and embrace with joy and heartfulness through yoga, mindfulness and meditation.

Book early to secure your place, call 06 23598162 or email satty@sattyyoga.nl

Please bring a notebook and pen with you. There are yoga mats and blankets available but if you want to bring your own then please do so.

What will I get out of this workshop?

1. Learn to accept and open your heart through postures and breathwork, experiencing a softer, more open and accepting connection with yourself and others.

2. Experience grounding yourself through the breath, whatever life throws your way. Learning to deal with difficulties in a more balanced way.

3. Understand what acceptance means in your life and what intentions you will set for the year ahead.

 

Release the Knot of Contraction

Saturday 16th December 10:00 to 13:00

1. Understand the connection between the mind and the body. Tightness in the mind brings tightness in the body and vice versa

2. Get to drop out of your head into your body as you explore the knot of self contraction

3. Guided meditation to tune into difficulty expressed in the body

4. Releasing unnecessary tension in the mind and body brings us back into balance and the present moment

5. Learn how to develop a relationship to tension. Learn how to release the knot of contraction through sustained practice