20 October 2015

The Power of No

Three days of solitude over the weekend was heaven.
There was nowhere to go, no reason to do and no commitments to anyone.
I made sure that my children and partner knew I’d be uncontactable.  They were generous in complying.

It took 2 full days before my mind settled and the quiet descended.  Watching this evolve (or devolve) was fascinating.
I did a little yoga, a few hours of sitting, drank a lot of water and fresh juice, ate kitchiri, finished planting out veggies in my garden, went for a hike in the mountains, and just allowed peace to come about of its own accord.  No formal practice was necessary.  Unwinding happened by simply not HAVING to DO anything, except what I felt like in the moment.

By sheer coincidence (if there is such a thing) I came across a book in the local library on Saturday, ‘The Power of No’ by Claudia and James.  Having followed Claudia’s yoga blog for many years, I felt as if I knew her!  The book is written with great wit and wisdom.
It described what I was attempting to do (or not do) over the weekend – saying no to over-burdensome commitments, taking a break from the frenzy, carving out time to myself, prioritising what is most important in my life (simplicity and purity) and nourishing my spirit to regain balance and equilibrium.
The book is simply a memory jog, but its written with endearingly odd humour that makes it hard to put down.

I got up at 6am this morning to do a yoga practice before starting work.  After 5 minutes my body rebelled.  Movement in the early hours (before coffee) is a shock.  This aging body, starved of yoga, is stiff and unforgiving after the overnight confinement of bed.  But I’m chipping away at the hard bits.
I've noticed my body goes from one extreme to another...some days it is light strong and flexible, other days it's as stubborn and stiff as a board.
Getting out of bed is often physically and mentally painful, but most days, this passes quickly.

Ageing gracefully will take some practice!

So I took the opportunity to practice this evening instead, and it was one full hour of joy: The 10 surya namaskars, all the standing poses, a 15 minute interruption (phone call from my daughter), then fast forward to all the finishing inversions from Shoulderstand to Uth Pluthi with long stays in each.
Chipping away…

My verandah

I seem to be growing a nursery on my front verandah.

12 October 2015

Dark night of the soul

4 weeks have now passed without any yoga.
Not acceptable.  I must start again…

I went to my first yoga class at the age of 14.
That was in 1974.  It lit a spark and I bought my first copy of Iyengar’s Light on Yoga very soon after.
Using that book, I practiced at home for 20 years before committing to regular classes in 1998.  I began teaching yoga in 2001 and ran my own yoga school for a while.
Somewhere in the mid 1990’s I began Tibetan Buddhist meditation, then moved into the Theravadan practice attending yearly Vipassana retreats.  From here, I look back and see years of self analysis, introspection, mysticism, ego dissolution, and letting go, letting go, and more letting go.

Spiritual practice has been a lifelong focus.
But not without anguish.

Over the past year, my yoga practice has hit hard times because another love has entered my life – gardening. 
Well, vegetable gardening to be precise.
Yoga and meditation have been dislodged, relegated to the back seat.

Every morning, instead of being on the mat, I’m on my verandah checking the progress of my little seeds in the hothouse, the baby seedlings on the verandah, the adolescent plants on the shelves.
My grand old verandah has become a rather messy plant nursery.
All my spare time is spent cultivating seedlings, watering and attending to my own food garden, tending my children’s gardens which I’ve just planted out for spring/summer, or reading up on other people’s food growing experiences.

Have I suddenly moved into old age?

I’ve had a few vegie patches at various stages in my life, but this current passion for organic/biodynamic food gardening got fired up when I started work with VitalVeggies almost one year ago, and I’ve allowed it grow and burn out of control.

Meanwhile my spiritual practice, my true love, is waiting for me to come to my senses, and come back home.

Those moments when I am still, I feel the desperation.  It's a deep longing for the quietness of contemplative inner work.
How is it that one can be so happy with one’s outer life, yet feel such desperation and disconnection with one’s inner life.

Work is wonderful, fulfilling, fun, challenging, and richly rewarding. I get to work outdoors, in gardens, helping people to grow their own organic food.  I am learning so much new and useful knowledge and practical skills every day.

But I’ve allowed the work to encroach on personal time.
My life, and my life focus, are so out of balance that I no longer even recognise that work is actually part of spiritual practice, that there is no separation.
I have split life into fragments and compartments.
Internal and external are not in harmony or union.

So much of my non-work time is spent growing and tending seedlings, researching and absorbing new information, planning out gardens and trying to do it all better that I have lost sight of the ‘big’ picture and lost my connection to it.
The result?  I wake up crying in the mornings.  
My head is often fuzzy and spinning with vertigo.  I am happy and contented one minute, then confused and distraught the next.

Preoccupation is dangerous.

Getting caught up in anything narrows our broad vision down to tunnel vision.  It whisks us away on the crest of a wave, and distracts us from what’s really going on in the deeper psyche.

I have lost touch with the Source.
I have forgotten that I am not this person. 
That there is no ‘I’.
That all is one.

It’s time to step back, untangle my thoughts from the whirlwind of work, enter the expanse of the void, reconnect with the Source.
Spiritual practice is the key to help this process along, to start dissolving the entanglement. 
Yoga and meditation refocus the mind away from the transient external world, towards the infinite, internal universe.
But dammit, it’s not easy to break the mind’s habitual landing platforms, to redirect thoughts onto something other than the frenzy of daily activities.
Neural pathways have formed and hardened, they don’t just break and reroute themselves.  It takes determination, commitment, focus and practice to change those mind patterns.

To break free from the clinging mind I have to deliberately set up some time for solid, solitary introspection, where there will be no external interruptions to divert my focus.

This weekend, I’ll be saying no to all my commitments, no to everyone, This weekend I’ll attempt to rewire the hard drive, change direction and start again.