Moving into Stillness

Life for all of us, has its ups and downs; it’s the transient nature of life within and around us. Most circumstances cannot be controlled, however with practice we can learn to be more at peace with life as it unfolds.

More recently, my meditation practice has moved from a more structured sitting, to a practice that moves with me – Mindfulness in action. 

Rumi...Divine wihtin my heart

At first I was concerned at my resistance to sit each morning, then became curious; Is there something else that is calling my attention? I feel blessed that sitting quietly and observing what comes and goes, comes pretty easily to me, however I feel now that my practice is to find this same level of ease as I navigate each and every moment. Erich Shiffmann in his excellent book ‘Yoga. The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness’ talks about levels of stillness. The first level of stillness involves learning to relax, become centred and meditate. This technique involves being still, deliberately pausing and being still and centred in the moment you are presently in. “When you are able to relax and quietly suspend all your firmly held false ideas and limiting beliefs about who and what you are, only what is true will remain”, Erich says. “This is like polishing a mirror – removing the grime – and seeing yourself clearing for the very first time”.

The second level of stillness involves living your life with this new understanding of who you really are: in other words, meditation in action.  This involves continually letting go of the judgements, evaluations and opinions about yourself, others and the world around you throughout the day.  It’s about meeting each moment with a beginners mind, being open and curious. “This means, essentially, letting go of pretence and self-critical judgement and allowing self acceptance – letting yourself be who you truly are”. ……”By staying centred in your peace in the midst of daily life, you will validate your new perspective of yourself and gradually become fully convinced”.

Curious to explore Meditation with me further? iRest Yoga Nidra Meditation

In practice, I find patience and peace.

 

 

Those delicious moments in between……

I have found since returning from my Camino pilgrimage last September/October, that what I crave most, are those delicious moments in between. (Stop now, close your eyes and take 3 slow, steady and smooth breaths). It’s so easy to get caught up in the doing; racing from one thing to the next that we forget to stop and breathe and simply Be.

When we stop, even for just a few moments, we have a sense of completion and there’s a feeling of coming back to our centre. This space helps determine what happens next, and this decision tends to come from a wiser, more grounded place. We learn to respond harmoniously and appropriately rather than react to life. 

So take some time in between your activities to pause and find a moment for yourself; enjoy a cup of tea or simply look out into the garden or up into the glorious sky.

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All we need, to get out of our busy head and into our body is always available if we choose to turn our attention towards it.

Namaste.

 

 

Tasting Mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn

“Have you ever had the experience of stopping so completely,
of being in your body so completely,
of being in your life so completely,
that what you knew and what you didn’t know,
that what had been and what was yet to come,
and the way things are right now
no longer held even the slightest hint of anxiety or discord?
It would be a moment of complete presence, beyond striving, beyond mere acceptance,
beyond the desire to escape or fix anything or plunge ahead,
a moment of pure being, no longer in time,
a moment of pure seeing, pure feeling,
a moment in which life simply is,
and that “is-ness” grabs you by all your senses,
all your memories, by your very genes,
by your loves, and
welcomes you home.”

 

“It is worth doing nothing and having a rest”.

I remember the first time I heard this wonderful piece from The Curly Pyjama Letters by Michael Leunig. I was enjoying relaxation at the beginning of a yoga class with my dear teacher Lyn Colenso and she read the letter (see below) to us like a bedtime story; the sentiment stayed with me for a long time after. The Curly Pyjama Letters is a collection of correspondence between lone voyager Vasco Pyjama and his friend and mentor Mr Curly of Curly Flat.

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Dear Vasco,

What is worth doing and what is worth having?

I would like to say simply this. It is worth doing nothing and having a rest; in spite of all the difficulty it may cause you must rest Vasco –otherwise you will become restless!

I believe the world is sick with exhaustion and dying of restlessness. While it is true that periods of weariness help the spirit to grow, the prolonged ongoing state of fatigue to which our world seems to be rapidly adopting is ultimately soul destroying as well as earth destroying. The ecology of evil flourishes and love cannot take root in this sad situation. Tiredness is one of our strongest, most noble and instructive feelings. It is an important aspect of our conscience and must be heeded or else we will not survive. When you are tired you must act upon it sensibly – you must rest like the trees and animals do.

Yet tiredness has become a matter of shame! This is a dangerous development.

Tiredness has become the most suppressed feeling in the world. Everywhere we see people overcoming their exhaustion and pushing on with intensity—cultivating the great mass mania which all around is making life so hard and ugly—so cruel and meaningless—so utterly graceless—and being congratulated for overcoming it and pushing it deep down inside themselves as if it were a virtue to do this.

And of course Vasco, you know what happens when such strong and natural feelings are denied—they turn into the most powerful and bitter poisons with dreadful consequences. We live in a world of these consequences and then wonder why we are so unhappy.

So I gently urge you Vasco, do as we do in Curly Flat—learn to curl up and rest—feel your noble tiredness—learn about it and make a generous place for it in your life and enjoyment will surely follow.

I repeat it’s worth doing nothing and having a rest.

Yours Sleepily,
Mr. Curly XXX

As we learn to witness and welcome whatever arises within and around us, we gain insight and understanding into what is required to live harmoniously with ourselves, others and life around us.

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Looking for Happiness

I often come across images, poetry and stories that inspire me in the work I am doing (and I have one below to share with you). They can be gentle reminders of what we already know, or ignite a new spark of knowing or curiosity. In a world that pulls us in different directions with so much stimulation and on offer, it can be really helpful to come back to what is simple and grounds us in present moment reality. For me, spending time with family, friends and animals, being in nature and connecting to beauty, all bring me deep peace and happiness.

Here are eight ways to connect with happiness –

1. Express Gratitude

Never let the things you WANT make you forget about the things you HAVE.

2. Savour life’s joys

The real beauty of life is in each precious moment. Stop and smell the roses.

3. Commit to your goals

Most people who fail at reaching their dream, fail not from lack of ability but from lack of commitment.

4. Cultivate optimism

Stay Positive. When it rains look for Rainbows. When it’s dark look for stars.

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5. Stop over thinking.

Thinking too much only complicates your life and creates a problem that wasn’t even there in the first place.

6. Avoid social comparison

Most of our insecurities come from comparing our behind the scenes life with other people’s highlight reel.

7. Increase flow experiences

Flow is a state where you are so focused if feels like time stands still. Doing what you love and challenging yourself is how you get there.

8. Nurture your relationships

The happiest people have deep, meaningful relationships. Nurture them and watch them grow.

 

hugs

 

 

There is nothing I want but your Presence. In friendship, time dissolves” ~ Rumi

 

If this resonates with you, perhaps choose one area to focus on each week then use this focus to form an intention. Set your intention at the beginning of the day; for example….today I am grateful for……..OR ……today I will have lunch with ……….

with love, Gabrielle

 

 

 

 

 

Yoga: Opening from the inside out

I recently attending a session on Yoga and Body Image presented by Janet Lowndes and Sarah Harry, community partners for the Yoga and Body Image Coalition. I have always taught yoga from the perspective of connecting inwardly (thanks to my wonderful teachers), and this presentation affirmed the importance of this approach. When we consider body image in terms of a yoga practice, this may include body weight, shape, gender, age, flexibility and strength. For many, the way we view ourselves will stop us from ever entering a yoga class.

I love this quote from Rachel Brathen, a New York times best seller, motivational speaker and international yoga teacher.

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Yoga should be a practice that invites us to look inwardly, connecting with how we feel rather than how we look. “What’s happening inside my body”? There are many benefits to developing this interoceptive awareness: self compassion, a positive mental outlook, emotional coping, attention to self care and wellbeing.

In yoga, the process of turning our attention inwardly is called pratyahara. We naturally explore pratyahara in relaxation and meditation, but do we turn our attention inwards as part of our physical practice too. Do we listen to the constant messages from our body (whether to deepen or relax into a pose), are we guided by the quality of our breath and a steadiness of mind?

Here are some ways to bring more inner reflection and peace into our practice.

  1. Radical Acceptance – seeing things clearly as they are, in a way that is self-compassionate and non-judging. “I am already enough”.
  2. Meditate.
    • Learn to be at peace with ourselves and the world around us.
    • Discover we are more than our thoughts, emotions and life experiences.
    • Learn to respond, rather than react to life.
  3. Learning to listen to our bodies rather than fighting against them. Be kind and gentle with yourself.
  4. LOVE YOUR BODY. Love it, nurture it, respect it, be kind to it, be grateful for it, celebrate it’s strengths, and befriend it.

For more details on the wonderful work Janet is doing in terms of  Yoga and Body Image, visit her website www.mindbodywell.com.au 

Busyness robs us of the gift right in front of us

It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life. Rushing from one thing to the next, racing through life and feeling there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. I find myself at times saying “I’m super busy!”, as if being busy is a good thing; I’m being productive and contributing to life. What I am being is stressed, tired and disconnected.

“Busyness robs us of the gift right in front of us.”

One of the great things about being a yoga teacher is I practice and teach presence and mindfulness almost every day. When you practice doing just one thing at a time (such as breath awareness), you sharpen your ability to focus, pay attention and concentrate. When we practice one-pointedness, we are developing our ability to remain with a task for as long as it is necessary to accomplish a particular  goal. If we are to succeed in any endeavour, be it bringing an end to insomnia, anxiety, busyness, accomplishing a job at home or work, or awakening to our True Nature, the mind needs to possess the ability to remain one-pointed for as long as is necessary to accomplish our goal. The more you practice these skills, the easier they become and before you know it, you are more mindful in other aspects of your life. So when you become busy or rushed, you notice you are busy and when you notice you are busy you have an opportunity to make a choice. You can stay busy (and at times this is necessary and appropriate) or change your behaviour. We can choose also to be calm busy or chaos busy.

When we change our behaviour, the outcomes and consequences of our actions change too. I know this sounds simple and it is. The hardest part is noticing; being present enough to ask ourselves, “Is this behaviour or choice bringing me closer to contentment, happiness and peace or further from it?”

 

Tips for practising presence / mindfulness at home.

1. Do one thing at a time.one-pointedness

2. Eat slowly and mindfully (away from TV’s, computers and smart phones)

3. Focus on what can be done today. Think about tomorrow, tomorrow.

4. Plan your day before it begins. Ideally the night before or early morning.

 

A lesson in humility

” Mindfulness is more than a practice, it’s a way of life”

Just over 12 months ago I wrote this post but didn’t publish. It is interesting to look back over the past year and reflect on how I was feeling then. Now I would like to share with you this story…….

I consider myself a good driver. I believe myself considerate. I am decisive and assertive (not aggressive) behind the wheel (I learned that from my Mum who is licensed to drive small trucks). I do not intentionally break the law or speed, however it seems my intentions have been overshadowed by mindlessness. My husband has told me that I tailgate, not leaving enough distance between the front of my car and the rear end of others.

My heart sank as I was driving along a familiar road, having picked up my son from school, when I saw a policeman step out into the middle of the road and put his hand up signalling me to stop. Naturally I pulled over to the side of the road and he asked to see my license and then informed me that I had been speeding: I had been detected driving at 56 kilometres through a 40kph school zone. He wanted to know if I had a reason for speeding, I said “No, I was just talking to my son”.  I am not one for lying or making up excuses or bursting into tears. It’s just not me. I live by truth. So there I was faced with the truth and faced with the consequences of my actions.

Now I did not feel that I was speeding, I was not in a hurry, it was not a conscious decision, yet obviously I had been speeding, I was doing 16kph over the speed limit. Now I know this is probably going to upset some people, being a school zone: it was 4:15pm, well after school had finished, yet in this area the 40kmh rule applies at all times, not just in school hours. I would have known this had I PAID ATTENTION. There is no excuse.

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I recently got a new car, it is a zippy little car, a manual and it is so easy to speed, without trying. I found that I almost need to have my foot pulled back towards me, not to speed. I had only received a speeding ticket a few weeks earlier on the way home from work. It was late, the road was quiet and I was listening to music. I was pulled over doing 76kph in a 60 zone. Again: no excuses.

When I arrived home and looked over previous correspondence from Vic roads I realised that my license would be suspended. I had accumulated 12 demerit points in the last three years (six of them in the last four weeks). My heart sank. I went into panic mode. What could I possibly do to change this outcome?

This outcome is not acceptable. I will not accept it!  

I had no reason for speeding, I simply was not paying attention. I was not paying attention, and that’s no excuse. My mind raced and I laid blame everywhere but with myself. I blamed the policeman for having the audacity to pull me over. I was not driving technically dangerously but of course I was: I was breaking the law. I blamed my son and his loud music because my car has this great stereo – he plays angry, heavy metal or hip hop music. Is that driving me to speed? I blamed my new car and I blamed the system. I blamed everyone and everything but myself.

So I am faced with two options, the first is to continue to drive but if I suffer any more demerit points over the next 12 months, I would lose my licence for six months or I can accept my penalty and not drive for three months.

As I considered both options, the three months is appealing because it is over quicker. If I chose to continue to drive, how could I possibly not speed for 12 months, I ask myself?

But this thought is ridiculous – I am NOT MEANT TO BE SPEEDING AT ALL. So I thought, Ok, there is still some time before I officially need to make this decision, but I know it is coming. So I choose option one: continue to drive, drive my boys to school, drive to my classes, run my business. All these things I need to do and I need to find a way to do all that without breaking the law.

“I am practising mindfulness all throughout my day and yet there is still more for me to learn”.

I am annoyed at myself, for not being more mindful when I’m driving. I’m a yoga teacher. I teach mindfulness nearly every day. I have just come back from a wonderful seven-day retreat, teaching mindfulness and how to integrate what we learn in our yoga into our life. I am practising mindfulness all throughout my day and yet there is always more to learn.

As the first day progressed I realise that I am feeling quite calm and relaxed. I did not realise how rushed I must have been behind the wheel, just as I did not realise I was speeding.

It is great to have a mindful practice; but to stay present all the time is really hard work. I am interested to see if it remains hard work or becomes easier. I know already after just two days that I can feel this sense of acceptance coming over me. I find myself considering: Do I feel calmer because I have moderated my speed or do I feel calmer because I accept it?

I do feel calmer and there is a gentle sense of acceptance. I know there is no one to blame for this but me. No one, nothing – all me. I think there are probably quite a few lessons bundled up here for me. So I thank the universe for this lesson, this opportunity to grow. To deepen my practice of mindfulness, to deepen my observance of svadhyaya (self study) and hopefully to be a good example to my boys. I am deeply grateful for my yoga practice, it gives me this wonderful framework, through mindfulness and svadhyaya to grow, to access this deep well of peace with me.

The affirmations that I have been working with for many months now – “I am grateful for all the gifts that come my way” and “I am at peace with myself and the world around me”. These were really hard to say only a few days ago. I said them through gritted teeth. I did not really feel them or believe them but I said them anyway. And now I do feel them, I feel them more deeply. It is very humbling to lose my equanimity and then find it again at a deeper level. I love this journey.

“When we struggle against something difficult or negative or painful, this only gives it more energy, and the negative aspect gains strength. When we acknowledge the difficult element, letting it simply be, it comes and goes: but it does not get stuck. It does not gain power” Bien, T. (2006) Mindful Therapy.

About 2 weeks later, I paused to reflect on this life lesson. I am studying yoga therapy and understand that for change to take place, there must first be acceptance. I also understand that what you resist, persists. I was able to shift my focus from the ‘problem’ to the ‘solution’. I considered my initial resistance to accepting the following: my license suspension, that this was my fault, the amount of effort required to make a change for a lifetime not just 12 months and that my mindfulness practice had not been integrated into my life as well as I thought it had.

I considered the calmness I experienced a few days after being pulled over. Was it because I was driving more calmly or was it the acceptance of the situation? There is a deep calm that flows from acceptance. What a blessing this has been. I am becoming now more mindful of times when I am NOT being mindful. I am noticing when I am disconnected, my mind in the past or future and not in the here and now. So more and more I’m finding mindfulness in my day, in all my activites. I do a mindfulness practice, yes, I have moments of mindfulness, yes, but my intention is to be as conscious as I can be as often as I can. There have been a lot of lessons in this, it has been really wonderful.

When we are aware, we are back in charge, we see ourselves in truth. We see our thoughts, behaviours, the sensations in our body, our feelings and emotions as they are, rather than as we think they should be or how it could be. We are experiencing the truth of the moment. And yes that can be painful and sad, yet it can also be wonderfully liberating and help you affect change.

Acceptance is a pathway to peace of mind.

The 12 months have now passed and without further incident, my driving habits have changed. I have changed.