project mind: journey to the core

“The physical body is not only a temple for our soul, but the means by which we embark on the inward journey toward the core.”

BKS Iyengar, 14 December 1918 – 20 August 2014

This is week three of project mind. Each week, I select an image or an idea to focus my daily meditation practice, inspired by this article in the Huffington Post, titled Everything Changed When I Started Meditating Every Day.

BKS Iyengar: Best of

“We were just coming out of the ’60s change-your-consciousness thing, and many of us were in our heads, and wanting to meditate, and reach Samadhi,” or enlightenment, Patricia Walden, a longtime student of Mr. Iyengar’s, said in an interview in 2000. “Iyengar was, like, ‘Stand on your feet. Feel your feet.’ He was so practical. His famous quote was, ‘How can you know God if you don’t know your big toe?’ ”

Upon reading Patricia’s comments in this New York Times article, a burst of lightness giggled its way out of my body. What fabulous simplicity, and yet enormous profundity. I quickly realised these are also the exact ingredients that draw me to working with children. Iyengar’s journey with yoga started when he was a very young, very ill little boy. Little did he know at the time that he would grow into one of the great fathers of yoga of the modern world by taking this ancient practice to the west. Iyengar’s system of yoga opened up the practice to anyone and everyone. Although he was insistent with his students about perfecting poses through principles of alignment, earning him a reputation as a particularly stern teacher, he was also a pioneer of therapeutic yoga. He designed special exercises and equipment, like blocks and straps, for pupils struggling with postures or who suffered physical problems or disabilities.

As a student, Iyengar studied anatomy, physiology and psychology which invariably showed up in his work as a teacher. I have selected some of my favourite quotes that have given me insight about yoga and about life. Even with his passing, Iyengar’s legacy will continue to reverberate for many years to come. And for that I am ever grateful.

As you found happiness in life, now see your majesty in death. Namaste.

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Iyengar on yoga…

“Yoga is like music: the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.”

“In order to find out how to reveal our innermost Being, the sages explored the various sheaths of existence, starting from body and progressing through mind and intelligence, and ultimately to the soul. The yogic journey guides us from our periphery, the body, to the center of our being, the soul. The aim is to integrate the various layers so that the inner divinity shines out as through clear glass.” – Light on Life

“Yoga does not just change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees.” ― Light on Life

“Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open.”

“As breath stills our mind, our energies are free to unhook from the senses and bend inward.” ― Light on Life

“Yoga allows you to rediscover a sense of wholeness in your life, where you do not feel like you are constantly trying to fit broken pieces together.” ― Light on Life

“It is through your body that you realize you are a spark of divinity.”

Iyengar on life…

“Change is not something that we should fear. Rather, it is something that we should welcome. For without change, nothing in this world would ever grow or blossom, and no one in this world would ever move forward to become the person they’re meant to be.”

“Before peace between the nations we have to find peace inside that small nation which is our own being”.

“As animals, we walk the earth. As bearers of divine essence, we are among the stars. As human beings, we are caught in the middle, seeking to reconcile the paradox of how to make our way upon earth while striving for something more permanent and more profound.” ― Light on Life

“One’s spiritual realization lies in none other than how one walks among and interacts with one’s fellow beings.” ― Light on Life

“You must purge yourself before finding faults in others.
When you see a mistake in somebody else, try to find if you are making the same mistake.
This is the way to take judgment and to turn it into improvement.
Do not look at others’ bodies with envy or with superiority.
All people are born with different constitutions.
Never compare with others.
Each one’s capacities are a function of his or her internal strength.
Know your capacities and continually improve upon them.” ― Light on Life

the house in which I live

Once you open the door to theories of the mind, there is any number of vastly lit corridors, rooms, cubby holes, nooks and crannies that seem to serve no other purpose other than to lead on to yet more intricate and unending turns and roundabouts.

Many have tried to pin down this playground of ideas with definitions and penultimate truths, and for this I am grateful, but only insofar as having a concept to wrestle with. I’m not necessarily looking for answers – dare I say, ‘the meaning’ – to Life, I am much more excited by exploring the possibilities. Surely if I had the answers or crafted a definitive statement for myself about How Things Are, I would become bored and uninspired by the world. And then what? Without wanting to sound melodramatic, what I want to say now is ‘what would be the point?’

So true to form, as I opened the door to Freud’s id-ego-superego gauntlet searching for an all-too-cleverly constructed title for this post, the breakfast philosophy hour with my housemate poked its head through the window, looking something like this…

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 Image Source

…that was originally spawned out of a quest down the corridor to the right where this statement:

There are thousands of people across the world that care for others so much, and yet don’t give themselves the same attention.

…sat waiting after some raw food guru who I recently turned an eye to, watched this:

Remarkably, what began as a sweet reflection about a highly predictable, possibly cliched ideas around self-love, using overly-exaggerated – but no doubt hilarious – insights into my own stories about nicotine addiction, quickly turned into something unexpected. A walk through the shifting movements of the mind. A process rather than an outcome. And rather than putting up the curtains and placing the decorative furnishings about the place, I’m simply going to let leave you here at the door.

Because the truth is, this is the house in which I live.

project mind: the mountain in the clouds

We are a mountain.

Our thoughts pass around us like clouds in the sky.

While the clouds dance around, the mountain remains motionless.

mountain_in_the_clouds_by_jessica_rossier-d7432boImage Source

This is week two of project mind. Each week, I select an image or an idea to focus my daily meditation practice, inspired by this article in the Huffington Post, titled Everything Changed When I Started Meditating Every Day.

project mind: we are planets with atmospheres

A friend recently asked me what has changed since finishing my yoga teacher training. He was graciously catching a heavy load that I, in turn, was wrecklessly vomiting all over him. Good friends really are good like that, aren’t they? I was wading through a rough patch on all levels: physically, mentally, emotionally, and not sure how to pull myself out of that thick, muddy swamp. I wasn’t even sure what the mud was made up of or how I managed to come to be stuck in it in the first place. So even if I did manage to drag my dishevelled self out of it, the likely next step was going only going to land me in some wide, expansive unknown place, covered in shit and without a compass, a watch or another living soul in sight.

In keeping on with my list of ‘Things That I Know To Be True’ (which you may have read in a previous post here), I am often reminded of this one particular Thing:
I do lots of things well. What I don’t do is one thing with my whole being.

I’ve never had just one job for the simple fact that I hold back on really committing to something. And it’s clear that the only reason for this is fear. Fear of failure, fear of what others will think, fear of doing the wrong thing, fear of fear itself…

I could go on. But there’s no need. The point is I know when I feel alive and energised. It’s a physical reaction that is felt with my whole being, on every level. And when I don’t, I am swamped by fear and indecision.

I’ve had enough. It’s time to actively participate in my own life. As was so eloquently put to me recently, ‘I don’t want to get to the end of my life and have been a visitor in this world’.

So I am adding this to my list of ‘Things That I Know To Be True’:
I felt alive and energised during teacher training.
What has changed since then is my writing practice and my meditation practice. Consequently, but also additionally, I am not listening to my body or my true nature.

I am setting myself a series of projects. Starting with this one: project mind. Each week, I will be selecting an image or an idea to focus my daily meditation practice, inspired by an article that I read in the Huffington Post today, titled Everything Changed When I Started Meditating Every Day. Hopefully, when I find myself stuck in the mud again – as it is an inevitable part of the process – I can trust that in time the ‘stuff’ and the ‘way out’ will reveal itself and I will walk forward into something or somewhere new.

So here goes week one…

We are planets with atmospheres.
Thoughts and feelings pass through, sometimes at great speed.
Other times they travel slowly, or with greater or lesser density.planet_atmosphereImage Source

rough and tumble

I’m out of my routine – and out of the country – this week and it seems to be messing with me on a number of levels. It’s kind of amazing how a change of scenery can be so profoundly affecting. I’m spending nine days in Dusseldorf for a presenting gig which, while there’s plenty of goodness around it, for some reason it very quickly became clear just how unintelligent and distracting the mind can be when change is in the air.
An actors job is to take on an ‘otherness’, which, after so much in depth focus on ‘self’ during my yoga teacher training, suddenly felt entirely alien to me.
‘You’re name is Diana and you are a brand manager at a consumer products company: GO!’
I’m who?
‘Tell me about your SKU’s and the HDR quality of that press: NOW!’
The S-K-what?’
‘Erin, why are you still holding the script?! You’re giving me a heart attack!’
Wait…’Erin’…what? Where are we?
‘Germany! Don’t you understand English?’
Hang on, was that Hebrew or…?
‘You’re on!!’
But I don’t know my lines?! Why are you looking at me like that?
‘Here drink this, you’ll be right.’
No! No more wine, I’ll lose my mind.

Truth is, my mind was very much present. It was me who was lost.

It had managed to convince me to retreat so far inside myself that I disappeared. Stress is probably it’s favourite game. And what’s more, it has all the strategies it needs so that no amount of breathing (or booze) will get me any closer to winning. Not only does it play on the immediate stressors – like learning lines or meeting new people – but it manages to dig it’s way into the more deeply rooted places of my being. Suddenly I start questioning who I am and why aren’t I talking? What’s with all the suits or are we all in costume now? Why can’t I write anything? Why would he be interested in me? Do I really have any friends? Why am I even here? Maybe all that self discovery was just a dream, a fantasy, after all.

I left the building entirely. And I was pretty sure I wasn’t coming back.

Welcome back to the real world, Erin.
Go back to sleep, back to black.

But then – without my asking, and without their knowing – those people turn up, just when you need them. You know the ones…They break down the fortress you – or rather, your mind – has cleverly built up, wrap a warm blanket around your heart, hold up a mirror and say, ‘I remember you. Now, enough of this – it’s time to come home.’

And goodness knows where they came from. Or how they found you. But somewhere in the distance a light glimmers. And breath rushes into your lungs….and you can write, and practice yoga, and laugh and walk through the world with honesty and acceptance.

It seems there’s actually no way of avoiding these things. As I am constantly reminded lately: wherever you go, there you are. And if you do lose yourself amongst the tumbling illusions of the mind, you can be sure someone or something will show up just when you need or want it, hurl a lifeline out into the abyss and pull you back to shore…

And so, in this new light, I took myself through a yoga practice this morning – and wondered why on earth I hadn’t thought of it earlier!? – and found myself writing over breakfast, and giggling all the way to work. So of course I would stumble across this whilst kicking my heels up between shows today. Just another reminder popping up to take me home…

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Source: The House of Yoga