31 March 2009

Lightness and Love

Wednesday 1st April 2009

From one of the pages on Alan Goode's website:

'Practice should be approached in all seriousness, with dedication and commitment
but should be done with lightness and love'.

Just what I needed to hear.

30 March 2009

Retreating Thoughts

Monday 30th March 2009

It’s official…I've got 2 extra days off work next week so my Easter break will be 6 full days.
6 days for a self-directed retreat at home.

The retreat is looming as a huge undertaking, not because of the days I’ve allocated for it…more the seriousness of what is at stake…success, failure, disappointment…
Why am I suddenly so nervous about it?
Gee, I need to lighten up a little.

Allocating the full 6 days to the retreat is unrealistic – I’ll have to spend at least half of the first day (Wednesday) shopping and preparing meals for it. And the final half day (Monday) will be split between my son and my boyfriend to bring me back into the world of people.

Which leaves 4 full days for the retreat plus a little bit on either side.

How strict should I be with the schedule?
And will I even be able to stick to a schedule with no-one else watching over me?

The alternative would be to lower the bar – to do a less intense sadhana retreat with the only requirement being solitude and silence. But four days alone to do whatever practice I feel like sounds more like a holiday…not serious practice.
I’d probably end up going for lots of walks.

So after going around in a circle, I’m back to where I started.
This has to be a serious retreat. And it needs to be well planned.

I need to remind myself over and over why I am wanting to do a solo retreat at home. Where is that urge coming from to sit in meditation for hours and days on end?
Grasp that desire, it’s an expression of my highest ideals, don’t let it go.
And don’t bother trying to explain it to anyone else.

“Practice is a form of enlightenment. It is being determined to live the life of a Buddha, of an awakened being, of a person who fundamentally vows not to harm other beings or oneself.

“The notion of considering practice as enlightenment is an uncommon perspective on sadhana. While clearly one isn’t enlightened simply because one practices, a life of practice that is impeccable in it refinement, intentionality, and reliability is an expression of enlightenment.

“Enlightenment without practice tends to express itself in the world as laziness or indulgence, whereas impeccable practice, even without enlightenment, manifests as humility, intentionality, and an openness to further development.”

27 March 2009

Sealing the Practice

Saturday 28th March 2009

At the end of practice this morning I descended from Baddha Padmasana into a very long, deep Yoga Mudra…maybe for a couple of minutes with my eyes open at first, to observe the slow, careful descent towards the earth as my body released into the forward bend...then I closed my eyes.
I love falling into the forward bends with my eyes closed, not rag-doll-falling, but releasing-and-softening-falling - the mind lets go notch by notch and the body follows, until I am gently awakened by my nose touching something, it’s final resting place, and it’s always a sweet surprise to find myself there, humbly bowed forward and kissing the earth.
I opened my eyes while still immersed in the full pose, broomadhya drishti, and I stayed, observing the energetics and subtle inner movements that continued their play in and around my body and energy field. Then consciously engaging the inner core muscles, I rose up, released my bound arms and unfolded them into the lovely, mystical Padmasana, root locked, spinal channel clear, transparent and alive, energy flowing cleanly through all nadis and reflowing around the sealed pathways directed by all three Bandhas and hands in Gyan Mudra.
Ten long, deep Ujjiya breaths.

What a perfect seal to the practice.

Then lift off…Uth Pluthi…I haven’t done this pose for ages. I remembered the visualisation of the five storey building, the pelvic floor being on the ground and then lifting it up to the first floor, then the second, then the third floor etc. You rise higher and lighter off the ground with this internal direction and I’m sure you could actually lift off completely and levitate if you carried it on a little too far…10 breaths in full Uth Pluthi.

Then I lowered. Complete, whole, shining, illuminated.

Longing to melt into Savasana…I spied Kosta’s stack of blankets in the corner of the studio. I fluidly transitioned to Dog Pose then rolled up to standing. Noticing that Kosta was finishing too I quietly asked “Do you want some blankets?”
He looked at me perplexed…it was an odd moment.
No, not pancakes, BLANKETS!!!”

Five minutes later I was still laying in Savasana laughing.

26 March 2009


Thursday 26th March 2009

A nice practice in the Gallery this morning which finished with an 8 minute Headstand (I counted 60 breaths – 7.5 breaths a minute/8 seconds per breath). But who’s counting.

And what does it matter anyway….

The art exhibitions where Renate and I practice change every 4 weeks. Being an artist, Renate is more sensitive to the artwork and the atmosphere of each exhibition than I am.
For the next 3 weeks we are surrounded by giant photographic images of women in heavy makeup; most of the works are quite compelling and in-your-face, not my taste in art but certainly very powerful.

I much prefer Louise F’s paintings (above).

Louise and her partner Stephen C. are coming to my place (with Renate and David) for dinner next weekend. As a self confessed recluse, I am adamant that this will be my first and last dinner party, ever.
My home is a private sanctuary where I feel safely hidden away from people so the only person with visiting rights is my boyfriend. Friends and acquaintances understand and respect my need for this privacy.

My home is actually a one quarter of a run-down old mansion. The mansion's divided into two upstairs apartments and two downstairs. I'm on the ground.

I have two enormous rooms, one is my bedroom and the other is the ballroom. Then there's a tiny little kitchen and an even tinier little bathroom built off the kitchen which has the oldest old-style claw-foot bath I've ever come across. The ceilings are 18' high (5.5metres) throughout which creates a wonderful sense of spaciousness in the energy of the place. Tall windows look out onto century old trees that tower higher than the mansion itself, and they let in the dappled sunlight that ripples in playful patterns all over the walls.
The lace curtains I nailed up recently only cover the lower half of the tall windows, which seems to increase the upper energy of the rooms - the trees and the light and the sky are always in the room.
I have minimal furniture, no possessions, no clutter, but I have space to breathe deeply, space to roam free and to dance when nobody's watching.
This is my big, empty, beautiful cave, my place of rest and solitude.
This is the place where I'll do my retreat.

It is a very rare event for me to invite anyone into this sacred space.
In fact, it is as rare an event as “a blind tortoise swimming in an ocean in which there is a yoke with a hole in it. This yoke is being tossed about in every direction by the waves. The tortoise only cames to the surface of the water once every hundred years.” There is as much chance of me giving a dinner party in this lifetime as there is “that the blind turtle's neck will meet up with the hole of the yoke!”
I hope Louise and Stephen appreciate that the invitation to visit my cave is as rare as their precious human life!
Ha ha.... (sorry, if you haven’t studied any Buddhist texts you won’t get the joke)

Even so, I'm looking forward to the dinner...Stephen’s a wonderfully colourful character. He featured in a recent ABC TV documentary about a ‘cult’ that started in the 1970’s. Stephen was a key person in this alternative lifestyle community, a utopian model for sustainable living until it imploded due to internal conflicts and politics. The TV special showed some great archive footage of the community’s activities back in the '70s. The camera crew then followed Stephen's movements last year when he revisited the original site of the commune in Western Australia and then again when he attended the first reunion of its members in Sydney, a reunion that stirred up many old grievances and conflicts.

Spending an evening around a table with Stephen and Louise will be interesting as they’ve both been involved in various spiritual practices under the guidance of gurus – I’m intrigued to find out more so I hope the evening will be a warm gathering of lovely people and meaningful conversation.

25 March 2009

Progress Report

Wednesday 25th March 2009

The little vows I’ve taken for the next couple of weeks are proving to be quite powerful exercises – As I battle the forces of inertia, laziness and resistance, I’m developing a more conscious approach to my practice and bringing it into sharper focus.
It’s so easy to get sidetracked and caught up in the daily dramas of work and home life when I don’t have a framework for practice imposed on me.
This is self-imposed and it’s also do-able.

On a purely surface level, I’m noticing how full to overflowing my days are, and how much I have to rearrange my schedule to fit in the extra time for writing or meditation. Not every day is like that – some days I can find an hour at night to sit, or a lunchtime to reflect and write, but it seems never enough. This is why seekers remove themselves from the marketplace for extended periods of sadhana and svadhyaya, and why my progress on the path is so slow. Sure, every situation is an opportunity to test our practice and our presence, but when we get caught up in daily dramas it over and over and over again, the pattern of ‘progress’ is one step forward and two steps back.

I’ve almost fulfilled what I set out to do this week:

I’ve been writing every day, but not necessarily posting it on the blog. Writing is a wonderful practice. It makes me sit down with pen and paper and actually reflect on each day, digging down beneath the surface of my thoughts to access the deeper motivations. I can feel this strengthening a mindstate in which awareness predominates, and as it gets stronger it starts to pervade and inform all the other mundane mindstates.
Very lovely to see it working.
My usual mindstate (the one that predominates at work) is a superficial coping mechanism, highly conditioned to respond to the demands of a full time working life.
The alternative mindstate is quieter, deeper.
It’s nice to feel this mindstate creeping into the other, as if a thick curtain is being pulled back to reveal a veiled one, less dense, transparent, one that allows a little soft light to filter into my life. And this is quite literally happening because I am making a space in my day for writing and reflection.

To outsiders it may not seem like a big deal to walk to work twice a week. Why not every day if it’s only half an hour each way? Well it requires a surprising amount of organising – on the days I walk to work I can only do minimal shopping, I can’t carry my usual loads of books and files, I can’t run errands at work on the way home etc…etc… And it’s a whole hour out of each day.

So it does take planning. I have to rearrange my day so that it can happen, but the planning is part of the discipline required to adhere to this little vow, and I love making it happen.

And where there is love, there is the seed of devotion, and discipline follows close behind.

Walking is great. The mornings are fresh and I arrive at work with bright energetic eyes. Walking home is slightly uphill so the exercise is a bonus and it’s also a nice break between my work and home life. Another bonus is less petrol fumes and energy consumption, reducing my ecological footprint even further.
I bought a bicycle late last year but have hardly used it because I love walking so much – I feel much safer walking on the footpath and through bushland than riding in the traffic.

The additional 6am practice is the only thing I’ve yet to do, but the week’s not over – Friday’s the day – the last day actually to fulfil this vow.
The purpose of the vow is not to add an extra practice to my week but to impose the condition of a solo practice which might help kick start my low level of motivation. For me it takes a lot more mental effort to overcome my resistance and initiate a yoga practise on my own than it does to go to a class or a practice with my yoga pals. So perhaps my practice at home on Tuesday fulfilled this one (I’ll only use that as a fallback position if I need it).

I vowed to sit 4 times a week and I’ve managed 3 already.
The pressures and concerns of work continually bubble up into my sitting time and all I can do is acknowledge how far I’ve allowed my mind to get out of my control. All those cares and concerns need to be placed within the bigger framework so their true size is revealed. They are such small matters in the context of a meaningful life – I marvel at how overwhelming they can feel. To sit in meditation and watch these obsessive thoughts gradually lose their power and fade, is to experience a reorientation of priorities.

The real work of this lifetime is to still the fluctuations of the mind so our true nature can preside over all proceedings.

Having 4 days off work over Easter will be precious, I don’t want to waste it on recreation or entertainment or escaping or even on catching up with domestic jobs and friends.
I’ve now decided to use the 4 days for a solo retreat.
What a test that will be of my commitment to my practice.

Setting aside four days to practice yoga, pranayama and meditation in complete solitude is not ‘whipped cream on top of garbage’. It will require dedicated hard work, and great discipline and devotion.

Here is the first draft of my retreat schedule which I’ll probably modify ten times over the next week to make it less daunting:

5.00 - 6.30am: morning yoga
6.30 – 8.00am: meditation
8.00 – 9.00am: breakfast
9.00 – 9.30am: walk dog (if I haven’t got a minder for her)
9.30 – 11.00am: meditation
11.00 – 12.00: meditation
12.00 – 1.30pm: Lunch break
1.30 – 3.30pm: meditation
3.30 – 5.00pm: meditation
5.00 – 6.00pm: Tea break
6.00 – 6.30pm: walk dog
6.30 – 8pm: evening yoga
8.00 – 9.30pm: meditation

9 hours of meditation and 3 hours of yoga each day.

I’m not sure if I should start off with such a rigorous schedule and just do my best at it, or whether I should ease up on the schedule to give me more chance of success (and therefore less guilt for not living up to impossible ideals).

These are all ideas in the melting pot at the moment.

On The Mat

Tuesday 24th March 2009

On the Mat

Renate cancelled our 6am practice this morning (she’d gone to a Level 3 class last night) so I slept in knowing I could practice later.
I had a nice solo home practice, my own space, my own yoga, my own exploration, no time frame, very personal…quite deliciously intense though…
5 Surya As
3 Surya Bs
Standing poses to Utkatasana before the intensity of my focus started to wear me down (in danger of blowing a fuse).
I had to leave off the Warriors and go to the floor – my body was asking for backbends.The passive ones seemed the best choice to cool down my mind a little:
First off was Salamba Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (supported Bridge pose with the block under the sacrum and knees bent like in the image). I stayed here for a couple of minutes, directing a conscious release of all tension in my pelvis and hips, then intuition or a flash of insight prompted a strange move which I’d never done before: I lifted my heels slightly off the ground so I was balancing on my metatarsals, the block still providing full support under my sacrum. Feeling quite a strong need to engage my core to hold this I sucked up and lifted my pelvic floor and drew in deep under my navel. This had to be held firm because the next step was to lift up onto my toes. I don’t know if this is difficult for anyone else to hold – maybe it was just working my very weak lower back support system. Finally I felt supported enough to lift my toes off the ground an inch or so and held this position with a very strong core internal support. It was fabulous for my back. I’ll have to remember to do it in every practice.

The next passive backbend was with the block under the thoracic spine, a real passive heart opener – you can just lay there exposed and vulnerable, yet supported by the earth. I sat up and turned the block on its end (vertical), sat in Virasana and leaned back onto it for a supported Paryankasana eventually releasing my arms overhead and holding onto my elbows. The block here is in the middle of the thoracic spine, another good heart opener and a great preparation for the luscious Ustrasana, which is a great preparation for the even more luscious Urdhva Dhanurasana.
After some deep spinal arching in the backbends that I pushed to the limit this morning I did Parivritta Paschimottanasana and Janu Sirsasana, then soaked up every moment of all the finishing poses. I came out of Headstand after 5 minutes wondering why. I’ll have to work on building my Headstand back up to the 15 minute record again.

If I can enjoy my own practice so much, why can’t I do it more often on my own?
Why can’t I jump out of bed when the alarm goes off with a joyful anticipation of the practice to come.?
Why do I make excuses, or construct walls of denial to avoid practicing on my own?

These mental habits grow thick strong roots that vehemently resist change.
Uprooting them is the hard work of spiritual practice.

24 March 2009

Whipped Cream

Monday 23rd March 2009

"A lot of people who do spiritual work are putting whipped cream on top of garbage"
- Bob Hoffman

"Many people have these moments of awakening, but how many people are prepared to have the diligence, the discipline to do the work on oneself...in order, in the words of Brother Lawrence, "to be able to live in the presence of God", as a daily way.
- Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Many people feel that all they have to do is meditate or hyerventilate and have some experience and that will imply some sort of transformation.
All genuine spiritual work is built on a matrix. Probably three-fourths of the people in this room have had an experience that, if written up well, could compare to those of Meister Eckhart. But are you free from your suffering? From emotional recoil?
Without a suitable vessel to hold the kind of insight that may arise based on a great insight, that experience won't touch you. You may remember it, even for the rest of your life, but you won't be different because of it. Without a matrix to hold an experience - any kind of experience - it won't stick. It is not accessible, and your life doesn't reflect that experience. For your life to change from the way it is now the experiences you have must be integrated into your life.
- Lee Lozowick

Not off to a flying start with my new assignment/experiment, but I'm not too worried...
I'm finding time to write each day but it's not easy, and it's even harder to collect and record my REAL thoughts - not the cleanly laundered thoughts that I usually compose and edit for this blog.
I did walk to work today, but only because of the vow I made to myself, so in a small way this little assignment/experiment is working. The walk is a good 30 minutes and I ask myself why don't I do it more often?....
Felt guilty for missing practice with Kosta on Saturday and only doing 10 minutes of stretching this morning so I'll have to do my additional 6am practice on Wednesday or Friday this week.
Meditation is happening - I'm making the time to sit at night, but the quality of my meditation is poor. Too many monkeys in there.

Short, ephemeral mind

Saturday 21st March 2009

Day 1 of Writing, Walking, Yoga and Meditation:

Writing: I'm doing it now.
Walking: no work today but I took the dog for a walk.
Yoga: Cancelled yoga practice with Kosta due to a sleepless night.
Meditation: Didn't sit at all.

No problem - I have 20 more days until Easter to redeem myself.

Retreat: I'm having fun dreaming up a retreat schedule for Easter...

"People underestimate the depth of change that is required to transform oneself in spiritual life. True liberation requires a great perspective - called 'long enduring mind' by one Zen master. Yes, awakening comes in a moment, but living it, stabilising it, can take months, years and lifetimes. The propensities or conditioned habits that we have are so deeply ingrained that even enormously compelling visions do not change them very much."
- Jack Kornfield

so true....

19 March 2009

Discipline and Devotion

Friday 20th March 2009

Commitment and discipline – tapas – are qualities I really need to work on, but how do we go about building up the weaker areas in our mental constitution?

Hatha yoga helps to strengthen and harmonise our physical constitution:
- Standing poses will build up our foundational strength to create a solid base for the more advanced poses- Abdominal and pelvic floor work will help strengthen the core- Twists will revitalise the spine and help rebalance our left and right sides.

But what about those areas of our personality and habits that we recognise as unhelpful or unproductive or obstacles to our growth?

Where can we find a prescription for specific exercises that will help to reverse or remove them or transform them into positive assets?

Meditation is invaluable for cultivating awareness and teaching us how to observe these undesirable patterns objectively, but I need a lot more than meditation to change or overcome them. New patterns of thinking and reacting have to be practiced over and over until they gain enough power to overtake as the new default settings.

So how can I increase my mediocre levels of discipline and devotion so they become refined qualities that empower my daily life?

Since I don't have a spiritual teacher to consult for guidance, I have to come up with my own answers. Years of reading yoga and Buddhist texts and all the intellectual understanding I've acquired seem impotent without the practical application of real exercises that will transform the mind.
It feels like I've come full circle in the spiritual journey and now I'm starting again.
How true it is that the more you know, the more you realise how much you don't know.
Surely it can't be this difficult...maybe I think too much...I should just focus on being fully present and allow the power of the universe to do the rest.
But what about discipline and devotion, and all my other shortcomings?
Maybe I could start with some simple exercises/pledges/vows and be a little more disciplined with those things I enjoy doing but don’t do often enough – like walking to work, or writing in my journal.

Exercise 1: Writing
From today until Easter, I vow to find a minimum of 15 minutes every day to write in my journal, even if I have nothing of importance to say (which is most of the time).I guess I’ll be writing about how I’m going with the rest of the exercises that I’ve set myself. The self examination will be publishing every entry on this blog - which may not be daily as I only have computer and internet access at work.

Exercise 2: Walking
From today until Easter I vow to walk to work at least twice a week.

Exercise 3: Yoga Practice
I vow to add an extra 6am morning yoga practice to my routine (probably Monday) which will bring it up to 4 mornings a week.Early morning practice is easy when others expect you to be there or actually DEPEND on you being there. Not so easy to get up and do it myself, alone in my bedroom.

Exercise 4: Meditation
From now until Easter I vow to sit and practice meditation four times a week for at least half an hour.

Exercise 5: Retreat
This is the big one and I’m not sure if it’s possible so I won’t pledge yet:EASTER: Four days off work – I’d like to undertake a three or four day full silent retreat at home, on my own, in my house. Complete withdrawal. I’m imagining a slightly modified Vipassana retreat with a strict schedule – about 8 hours of meditation and 3 hours of yoga each day.

I’m going to draft a daily retreat plan, plant it like a seed in my mind and water it daily with my growing discipline and devotion in the hope it will gather enough momentum over the next two weeks to manifest in my reality.
The image is a painting by Louise Feneley.

Supta Virasana

Saturday 14th March 2009

A male friend of mine (who has a very healthy back) ordered an inversion table which arrived yesterday. He brought it over to my house last night and we put it together. He’s lent it to me for a couple of weeks in the hope that it might help my back.

At some time close to midnight last night I was hanging upside down by my ankles.

I shall reserve all judgement about the benefits of this contraption until I’ve given it a fair trial.

On the mat – Dull mind and Supta Virasana

So I got to bed around 1am and had a few hours sleep before the dog woke me up at 4.30am to go outside. When she came back in and jumped onto my bed her little fluffy backside was covered in squished brown you-know-what. No choice but to throw her in the bath, then change the bedcovers.

I was still awake when the alarm went off at 6.45. But as I was determined to practice this morning I got up, got dressed and headed for Kosta’s studio.
Practice started off on autopilot, then progressively slowed down as I lost power until finally the stall alarm went off (pilots will know what I’m talking about here).

The mind that hasn’t had enough sleep is shrouded in a heavy fog. It’s dull and blunt and operating in a kind of safe mode, doing only what has to be done. Alertness, focus, density of thought, engagement, will and clarity are all sidelined by the dull mind - it only has the capacity to cope with what’s floating on the surface.
Trying to observe the operations of the dull mind while doing a yoga practice is like the blind leading the blind. There’s no mental clarity to observe and work with the mind , so all you can do is go through the motions and either the dull mind will be sharpened by the practice or it will be completely blunted. The sharpening came with the backbends, better late than never.

Here’s how it evolved:
5A’s and 3B’sThen standing poses up to Parsvottanasana at which point my head got the spins (vertigo), so I decided not to do any balancing poses which turned into a raincheck on the rest of the standing poses.

According to the Iyengar system, Supta Virasana is supposed to be a good follow on from a series of standing poses. Personally I’d find any of the lay-down-and rest- poses good at that point but the authentic, full version of Supta Virasana - not the one with a bolster and blankets - can be quite challenging if you’re not used to it, so best to travel into it slowly and carefully.

I started in seated Virasana and spent a few breaths allowing the leg muscles to acclimatise and soften until the buttocks dropped gently and comfortably onto the floor. As I leaned back onto my elbows, my lumbar spine arched a little in protest, but I spent a couple of breaths in this halfway position, pressing the kness down while lifting the pelvis up – tailbone curling in and pubis pulling towards navel - to stretch the entire front of my body and ease the arch out of the lower spine. This half position is great one to engage mula bandha as you can really feel the whoosh of prana flowing upwards from the root to the throat. Then I lowered my pelvis and buttocks to the floor and walked my elbows forward to ease my body three-quarters down to the floor first coming to rest on the back of the head for a couple of breaths and then inch by inch bringing the chin closer to the sternum until the thoracic spine came to rest flat on the floor. Traditionally the arms are extended above the head so the back of the hands rest on the floor.

And there I lay, with legs bent back like a chicken, for about 5 minutes.

There’s a natural curve in the lumbar in this pose but it’s often exaggerated because of tight quadriceps. Once you’re relatively comfortable here, the physical work in the pose involves drawing the lower front ribs into the body to reduce the lumbar curve and relaxing the front body and legs to receive the stretch.

I came up with the intention of doing the seated poses up to the Marichys but didn’t get too far. My back stiffened up in Paschimottanasana, it needed a good twist - Janu Sirsasana – a looooong deep twisty Janu Sirsasana, a pose that I can hang out in for days. It gave me some quiet internal time to explore where I actually was. The mental fatigue was still there making it really difficult to focus – and poor focus is dangerous when you’re working with injuries. The mind body connection to my lumbar was quite dull causing all the muscle fibres in that area to feel thickened and stiff.
So I did a couple of twists and moved on to backbends –passive ones over a block were good to start with just to release the area before activating it.

Backbends are great for injecting energy into both the mind and body and today they seemed to instantly cut right through all the mental fog: Salabhasana, Dhanurasana, Ustrasana, Setu Bandhasana and Urdhva Dhanurasana, and suddenly I knew where I was.
I emerged from the coma into a beautiful shiny world as if waking up and seeing it for the first time.
What next…Navasana and some other core work to help with rebuilding the support networks in my back: Sadie Nardini has provided some good core sequences on her site here which I’ve been occasionally incorporating into my practice. After a few of those I attempted a Chakrasana roll for the first time in about 6 months and pulled it off to my complete surprise…a deliciously slow, smooth, controlled roll over into Dog Pose…brilliant!

Then lovely, lovely inversions – the full finishing sequence to round off the morning’s practice.

And voila! Another beautiful day begins.

6 March 2009

The body doesn't lie

Saturday 8th March 2009

I do a lot of walking in nature to escape the city life. During the week I walk my dog along the Torrens Linear park and on most weekends I try to get out further from the city for an extended walk up hills and through bushland.
The image on teh left is a view of the city of Adelaide from the uphill climb on my favourite local walking trail at Horsnell Gully.

While googling for new bushwalking trails yesterday I stumbled across a blog written by another Adelaide walker. He takes beautiful photographs of local trails that I also love to walk along.
Have a look here.

The Wisdom of the Body

If someone wishes for good health, one must first ask oneself if he is ready to do away with the reasons for his illness. Only then is it possible to help him.—Hippocrates

Every physical problem, disease or injury has its cause deep in our psyche. Everything we think and every belief we hold ripples through our sea of e-motion (energy in motion) and then through our physical being, firstly through the subtle energetic layer, and if it is a strong recurring thought, belief pattern or emotion it will upset the energetic balance and manifest more prominently on the physical level. When in manifests in the physical body as an injury or a temporary affliction you know it wants to be noticed. It is showing us where we are out of balance.

Yoga and meditation practices are designed to gradually purify our senses so that we begin to notice and listen to these messages. We become more sensitive to and in tune with the interplay between mind, body and spirit.

Think about this: our entire belief system (the mental framework that governs every decision we make) is made up of a group of thoughts that we have constructed and then play over and over in our subconscious. They wear deep grooves in our psyche and all subsequent new thoughts get caught up in these grooves and are tarnished by them.

Ingrained patterns of thinking (such as “Im not a morning person” or “if I openly show my love I’ll be weakened” or “I'm too old to do that”) are actually neural pathways we've created which get strengthened and thickened each time they are reinforced by yet another thought along the same line.

So where am I heading with this?

To my lower back of course.

I am sure that some block in my thinking is causing my lower back and hip problems.

According to Lise Bourbeau, the psychological cause of lower back problems is a fear of losing our freedom if we help others. Apparently this fear prevents me from giving which in turn prevents me from receiving and I must acknkowledge that it is alright to need to feel supported and to seek that support instead of being so stubbornly independent.

Could my back problem be connected to my OBSESSION WITH SOLITUDE? Hmmmm….food for thought….

Lise lists 20 common problems and their metaphysical causes here:
And some more are listed here:
I think Louise Hay was an early pioneer of this kind of mind/body connection work. I remember turning my nose up at her book ‘Heal Your Life” for years as it was such a wonder book for the lavender scented new-age movement. To this day I still haven't read it.

Penelope Quest has written a book called "Reiki For Life". This extract explains the interplay and connection between our various mind/body/spirit layers (or koshas as we call them in yoga: see http://www.swamij.com/koshas.htm ):

“Our physical body has its own conscious energy system, or body wisdom, which is always working for our greatest and highest good, and because of this it tries to tell us when something is going wrong, either with our thinking or in our lives generally. Its messages take the form of symptoms or illness or disease, so when we have a headache, catch a cold or flu, have toothache or become more seriously ill, our body is trying to tell us something, trying to get us to understand the signal and do something about it. But that is the difficulty, because we don’t always understand this kind of “body language”, and some people are completely unaware of it, so its significance is lost.

Most people react to illness or disease by trying to get rid of the symptoms as quickly as possible, usually by seeking medical advice or intervention.
A recent advertisement on television caught my attention, because it was extolling the virtues of a popular analgesic as something “for people who don’t have time to have headaches”. I found this quite alarming, because whilst there is nothing wrong in seeking relief for symptoms, if you want your body to be healed, you also need to understand the illness at the causative level, and if you have constant headaches, “masking” them with medication and carrying on as if nothing was wrong isn’t a long term solution. You’re not listening to what your body is trying to tell you, so although the symptoms might abate briefly they will return because you are not taking your body’s advice and acting upon it.

Your first priority is to ask yourself "WHY am I ill?". Because from this metaphysical perspective, illness or disease is created by the body – albeit as a helpful message - and as the body is simply a part of our consciousness, this means that we actually create our own ill health.

Again, this may be a very challenging concept, but as I pointed out earlier, the metaphysical viewpoint is really very empowering, because if we have the power to create ill-health, then we also have the power to create good health!

However this is definitely NOT a “blame theory”. Although you may ultimately be responsible at a deep spiritual level for having created an illness, this isn’t being done at a conscious level so there is no blame attached, and you therefore should not harshly judge yourself – or anyone else – for being ill. You don’t suddenly wake up one morning and say “Oh, I think I’ll break my leg/slip a disc/sprain my ankle today, that’ll stop me rushing around doing too much and I can have a good rest and some time to think about my direction in life”. Of course not. From a human perspective that would be utter madness! But from a Soul/Higher Self/Sub-conscious Self level the pain of the broken leg or slipped disc or sprained ankle is simply an experience on your journey through this physical life, and it does what it’s supposed to do. It stops you in your tracks, ie it stops you making further progress down the wrong path. If you heed the messages, all well and good, and you can heal and move on, but if you don’t then they will lead to different life experiences, but from the soul perspective even that is still OK.

All experience – good, bad or indifferent - is good experience for the growth and development of the soul, but not necessarily pleasant as a human being living through it!

Now I understand that these metaphysical theories can be very difficult to come to terms with if you haven’t heard them before, and they may well challenge your belief system or your concept of how the world works, and of course you are free to take them on board or ignore them, the choice is yours. But if reading about them has sparked at least an interest in finding out more then there are some recommended books : "Your Body Speaks Your Mind" by Debbie Shapiro; "The Healing Power of Illness" by Thorwald Dethlefsen;.

Anyway, to summarise this metaphysical viewpoint:

Every illness or disease, accident or injury has a message for you, and the more serious the illness or injury, the more serious and urgent the message. Nothing is accidental or coincidental. Every experience is useful and valid and contains some valuable information for you, even some of the minor things – such as cutting your finger with a knife while chopping vegetables. Why were you distracted? What were you thinking about at the time? What are you feeling “sore” about?

Understanding Your Body’s “Language”

Your body sends you messages every day: to highlight that something isn't right in your life, or to nudge you into noticing that you are going in the wrong direction, or to bring to your attention that there are lessons to be learned which you are ignoring. The trouble is we’re not speaking the same language, especially if we think every “accident” is accidental, every pain is just something to be got rid of, and every illness is just an inconvenience and something to be suffered until it is over.If you are frequently unwell, could the underlying reason (or "dis-ease") be that you are unhappy or too stressed at work, but the only way you will give yourself permission to take time off is to be ill?

Is being sick perhaps a way of getting more attention or affectionate responses from your family or partner? Do you "need" an illness to slow you down because you have reached a stage in your spiritual life when you need lots of time by yourself for inner reflection?

These are just a few examples of the possible messages offered by the body for you to examine, learn from and then take action, making the necessary changes in your life to bring about harmony and good health. Of course there isn’t room in this book to give anything other than a very short outline of some suggested metaphysical causes of illness and disease, so I have recommended some books in the Resources section that deal with this issue if you want to explore it further.

However, the list below shows just a few of the possible relationships between parts of the body or specific illnesses and facets of our inner selves, as a very rough guide. Of course, this list is only a brief example of a complex issue, and is not meant to be regarded as the “truth” in every case. See if they “feel” right to you, because obviously they are generalisations and each case is individual, so you may need to explore the issue in more depth. In the meantime, however, it may sound simplistic to say that if you've got a sore throat you may be having problems expressing yourself, but just be prepared to look at that, honestly, to see if it has any relevance for you. If not, that’s fine, but please remember that most of us are very good at hiding our motivations from ourselves, so probing our deeper reasoning can be an uncomfortable and disturbing experience. Therefore even if at first you want to deny it outright, it could be worth having another look!”

Causative Issues Linked With Body Parts
LEFT SIDE OF BODY Represents our feminine side and our inner journey, as well as creativity, imagination, spiritual and psychic issues
RIGHT SIDE OF BODY Represents our masculine side and our outer journey, as well as money or job issues, or other practical, physical and material concerns
EYES Show how we "see" the world. What are you not prepared to see? Are you looking at things from an unhelpful perspective?
EARS What is it you are unwilling to hear? Are you avoiding listening to your inner guidance?
THROAT Communication issues. Have you swallowed your anger and hurt? Are you expressing your feelings? Are you telling the truth?
SHOULDERS Are you carrying too many burdens? Do you always put yourself last in your list of priorities? Is your life too stressful?
ARMS Who or what are you holding on to? Are you afraid to let go? Who or what would you like to embrace?
HANDS Associated with giving (right hand) and receiving (left hand), and the details of life. What issues or situation can't you handle?
BACK Associated with stored anger and resentment, feeling unsupported, and trying to be perfect, as well as money issues and indefinable fears
CHEST (Heart/Lungs) Relationship issues, self esteem and feelings of worthlessness, suppressed emotions, feeling smothered or controlled by others.
LEGS Associated with progress through life, fear of change, fear of the future, and family or parental issues. Who/what is holding you back?
KNEES Linked with stubbornness, inflexibility and indecision. What decision are you afraid to make? Are you being obstinate over something?
ANKLES Do you need to change direction? Is your life unbalanced?
FEET Associated with security and survival, reaching our goals or completing tasks, fear of taking the next step, being "grounded"

This particular question rung true as soon as I read it in the excerpt above:
"Do you "need" an illness to slow you down because you have reached a stage in your spiritual life when you need lots of time by yourself for inner reflection? "

Going back in time a couple of years, I was working six days a week plus teaching a few yoga classes and somehow maintaining a morning Mysore practice, on top of all the other commitments that go with having a family and a budding relationship.
Then during the two months of March/April 2007, I sprained my ankle three times and had an accident with a pressure cooker which burned my arms, the right one quite badly.

Within a few weeks of the accident I'd given up teaching yoga classes, and that marked the start of a gradual cut and burn in many areas of my life. Only in hindsight can I see that an internal phase of prolonged solitude was awaiting me; the injuries had to occur to initiate the withdrawal from society into a period of quieter reflection.

So listen to your body, dig around to find out the meaning behind its messages, and take notice of them.