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There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.

I used to think that this was a quotation by Leonard Cohen, and now I’m not so sure – he may have borrowed it.  And I don’t mind whether Cohen wrote it or someone else.  I think it’s a great concept, which reminds us to avoid clinging on to perfection.

And I learned about Kintsugi, which is an Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with gold, silver or platinum.  It shows the repaired pot as a part of the history of the pot, rather than something to disguise.  The beauty of the pot combines the skill of the original maker with that of the repairer, making something new; embracing and celebrating the imperfect; and showing us even a broken pot can be something beautiful, useful and something to treasure.

So what have these to do with Focusing or Yoga?

I have heard so many people say, ‘I can’t do Yoga because I’m not flexible enough‘, or ‘I can’t even touch my toes, so why should I try Yoga?’, and many other reasons for not trying Yoga, Meditation (‘I can’t sit still‘, or ‘My mind is too cluttered‘ are the the reasons here), or any other activity or pursuit that is unfamiliar to them.

I’ve used similar reasons myself. ‘I can’t paint because I’m not artistic‘, has been one of my excuses.

I would never want to persuade someone to do something that they have an aversion to, but it’s good to recognise that none of us is perfect.  We all have shortcomings, some of which are visible to others and some are not.

And it is in our differences that we shine.

Like the golden cracks in Kintsugi pots.

And Nature celebrates the individuality of each plant.

So please don’t ignore fulfilling practices such as Yoga, Pilates, walking, art, Focusing, sailing, trampolining, writing, embroidery, acting or any of those other activities that may have tempted you – even just a tiny bit – because you think you’re not good enough, or because someone will see the cracks in your facade.

These are all part of our histories – what makes us how we are today.

Honour and celebrate your differences.  Please.

And let the light get in to you, and shine out of you.

 

 

Mind-Body Connection

I call my newsletter Mind-Body Connection, because I find that both Focusing and Yoga can be transformative in sensing into the connections that are there between mind and body, and we often don’t see or dismiss.

When we first learn Yoga, it can take a while to move from our need to ‘get it right’, and find out how to make our bodies form a triangle or an eagle, say.  Apart from not injuring yourself, it doesn’t matter too much – Yoga can be adapted so that it benefits all people, no matter their age, flexibility, strength, or any other restriction you might think of.  It’s for everyone

Our teachers help us find the best way to gain the most benefit from our Yoga postures.  And as we move through that, we begin to feel the benefits of our practice.  We discover how Hatha Yoga can energise us, calm us, relax us, soften tense areas, bring awareness to forgotten parts of our bodies, and sometimes can heal us – all of which work on the mind as well.

Focusing works in a different (and complementary) way.  You may be familiar with meditation (and Mindfulness is one form of meditation), where we pay close attention to what we are doing in this moment, or our thoughts as they come in and out of our minds.  Meditation is excellent at this, and helps many people (including me). 

Focusing goes further. 

Focusing is a very respectful Mind-Body awareness that helps us access the connections between mind and body.  And by doing this it helps us release old patterns which can keep us stuck and unable to move forwards in some areas of our lives.  Even very difficult emotions can be transformed and you can see them as opportunities for growth.

And Focusing can be a joyous and sometimes spiritual experience.

Focusing has been well studied, and if you’re looking for evidence of its benefits, there is much to read here.

And you don’t need to visit a therapist to learn Focusing.  Focusing is taught by therapists, and also by many Focusing Practitioners who are not therapists. 

Once you’ve learned Focusing, you can choose whether to continue Focusing with your practitioner, and you can also Focus with a Focusing partner in a peer relationship, or by yourself.  So it’s a skill that’s with you for the rest of your life, and doesn’t take long to learn. 

Contact me here to find out more, have some one-to-one Focusing, or join a workshop.

Click here to sign up for my occasional newsletters – The Mind-Body Connection (at the bottom of the page),

yoga platform

How can I feel more calm and relaxed throughout the day?

yoga platform

  • Do you come back from your Yoga or Meditation class feeling calm and relaxed?
  • Do you wish you could feel more like that every day?

Well you can. For most of us it takes a little while to practise, but it’s so worthwhile, why wouldn’t you?

The stillness we find at the end of the class isn’t just for the Yoga class, when we’re sitting quietly, maybe with candles lighting the corners of the room, with the temperature just right.  I think we all want to take this stillness into the world when we leave the class. Soon after we’ve packed up our kit we might find ourselves negotiating weather and traffic, other people, even.

Can we take this energy of stillness with us?

Can we, in our daily lives, as we become involved with disagreements, arguments, joys and sorrows, can we come back to stillness then, without sitting on the floor with peaceful music playing in the background? Or do we need to go back to join the race of the rat?

Do we need to be right? Do we need to persuade ourselves to become better – better at our jobs, better at parenting, better at being a friend, a better person?

Toni Packer calls this the “smog of our daily lives” that we not only suffer from, but also become attached to – it’s our existence after all.

I suggest that the more often we come back to quietness, in the midst of whatever is our daily life, the more we can get a glimmer of how we are acting when we’re in the smog.

We can catch ourselves, observe ourselves, remind ourselves that there is another way. We can change how we think.

We might find that we begin to notice those times when we speak harshly to a colleague, or are angry with another road user, or find our child irritating. Maybe not soon enough to change anything just then, but the next time it happens a little voice might say to us:

Slow down, choose how to feel, choose how to respond.

As we sit quietly, we remind ourselves of what has happened, and think about our future responses.

Habits take time to acquire, and time to change.

We might think we can’t change the habits of a lifetime – whether our lifetime is twenty years or sixty years. I think we can. When you start a new job you have to get used to the way things happen in the new workplace. When you move to a new town, you get used to the layout of the town and that you might have to drive twenty miles to buy clothes, but food is now five minutes walk away. When you learn a new activity or hobby, you learn new ways of doing things.  

Kindness works best with all beings, especially with ourselves.

And the best person to start with is ourself. Being aware, that’s the answer; awareness is always available. As we watch ourselves how we act, how we respond; we can think of different ways of acting and responding.

When we go home from the class we quickly find ourselves caught up in our routines of yesterday. One way that works for me is to set myself a reminder.  You might too – something that will work for you. Think ahead to the next day and choose a time when you will have ten minutes to yourself, then set yourself a reminder in your diary, on your phone, maybe a sticky note on your desk or fridge.

For that ten minutes take yourself away from everything – you might find a park bench, or walk down the aisle of a shop, or sit in your car – somewhere you can bring yourself into the present moment. If it’s really difficult not to be interrupted, you might pretend to be reading a book, or on the phone to give yourself some privacy. Or you might choose your quiet time to be first thing in the morning before the rest of the family is awake.  

Then observe yourself and your thoughts. By the time you get to the place you’ve chosen you may have only five minutes, that’s enough. Be aware, if only for a moment. Then reset your reminder for the next day – maybe it will be the same time, or another.

And it you don’t have ten minutes, five will do.

Another little trick is to choose something that you do fairly often during the day. It could be waiting for the kettle to boil; or walking through a particular door; or waiting for traffic lights to change colour. It doesn’t matter, just choose something.  And if that doesn’t work choose something else. At first you might need tangible reminders, such as a note by the kettle. Then in those few moments while you are waiting, bring yourself to the present moment.

Ask yourself how you are feeling – here in your chest, or in your gut, or if your teeth are clenched. That’s all. Just notice and be aware.

And if you find that you haven’t done any of this for a whole day, or a week or more even, then don’t be cross with yourself, but be curious as to why you couldn’t find that space – and be kind.

Kindness is what matters.

There will be times when it doesn’t work – that’s the same for all of us.  But I have noticed that those people who practise more often, find more parts of each day where they feel calmer, and more able to cope with the turbulence of life.

And I have found that Focusing has enhanced my ability to observe how I respond to the difficulties of life.  It has brought me a new calmness and ability to cope when things get tough.

Oak tree - Carolann Samuels

Resisting change

Oak tree - Carolann Samuels

Oak tree – Carolann Samuels

Many of us are good at resisting change.  Security is, well, secure – and it’s difficult for us leave security behind.  Sometimes I tell myself that I’m good at change – I have embraced many changes in my life.  But then I look at myself honestly, and I can see more times when security has served me well.

I like the way that Sally Lever has written about this in her newsletter earlier this month – you can read the full article here; and here is an excerpt:

“Change involves letting go of the past and letting be of the present.  An acorn grows into a sapling and then a huge oak tree. If the consciousness of the tree remains with the acorn (its seed) then there will be no further manifestation. As each day of this new year dawns, we can choose to see each one as something absolutely new that we’re going to co-create in our lives. This becomes difficult if we assume from the outset that this ‘today’ is ‘simply another Monday’”.

So how do we let go of the past, and let be of the present?  Meditation is an ideal method, letting us ‘be’ simply in this moment.  One of the great benefits of meditation is that it requires nothing – no special equipment, we don’t have to go anywhere or be with another person or group of people, there are no resources.  We just have to be quiet, in the present moment, letting go of anything that comes into our minds.  It is easy to explain, and it is always challenging to practice.

Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Gung, gardening, walking mindfully – all are excellent ways of letting go of the past, and being totally in the present.  You may have another practice that does this for you, and I would be interested to read what works well for you.  Drop me a line.