The first Sunday

July 5th, this Sunday, is the first of the month. The Sivananda Institute has requested that we join a global meditation to nurture the Earth. The time is 1p.m British time, and we are asked to repeat the mantra ‘OM NAMO NARAYANAYA’ out loud for 15 minutes, and then internally for 15 minutes. All the time hold the intention to heal the planet in your heart.

Repetition is an enormous part of yoga practice. As teachers we discover that it is the gentle repetition of instructions that enables people to move into a safe space. Holding the space for your group is a hidden but essential part of offering a yoga practice. This I really miss. I’ve sent out email lesson plans throughout lockdown, and because it is seemingly endless, I’m now embarking on Zoom classes for my students. We must all adapt. I’m still as passionate as ever about getting yoga to where it’s needed, but it’s not the same. You cannot tune into someone’s energies through the computer. We all know that we can send distant healing and love, but nothing will ever replace the exchange of energy that you receive from a loving smile or a loving hug. Music touches and opens us, as do kind words. Nature nourishes us, but a life without that exchange of energy lacks a magical ingredient.

But we keep on keeping on. Let’s do the chant to help to heal the Earth. Let’s stay positive and cheerful. Let’s keep on pulling together to surmount this tricky time. Let’s remember that this too will pass…

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

The garden

What a joy my garden has been for me during this pandemic lockdown. I have really enjoyed getting to know each plant personally. They have become friends. I care for them, nurture them, appreciate them. I have 19 roses and this year they have been utterly stunning. Most of them have been given to me as presents. I have a ‘Pride and Prejudice’ rose which my daughter gave to me. This celebrates my great love of Jane Austen, and is a delicate apricot colour. It’s been set off beautifully in its terracotta pot by a profusion of pansies. We have a Silver Wedding rose, which is sturdy, white and tall, a deep red rose which our kids gave us for our Ruby Wedding Anniversary, a Peace rose which embodies my devotion to yoga. It’s voluptuous, pink and lemon – just spellbinding. We have a Chinatown rose, which reminds me of when I worked in Soho! A particular favourite of mine is Delphine’s rose. It’s abundant, gives and gives, and is the most glorious fuschia pink. Delphine trained to be a yoga teacher with me and then emigrated to Australia. She gave me this rose before she left, and she always wore fuschia pink.

I have a red rose from another student, Stuart, a yellow one from Jeannette, a white one from Jill, and another white one from Rona, which is 20 years old. As I deadhead my roses, I remember these wonderful people who have gladdened my life. People who have touched my heart, people who have connected with my inner essence. We were, for a time, united. And I continue to celebrate that union as I tend these living souvenirs. Lockdown has given me the time to nurture and honour my garden. It has given me time to re-evaluate what is important to me and what no longer works.

I learnt a long time ago that focusing on something very small is really helpful for meditation. There are so many problems in our world and, while some folk are doing a remarkable job of addressing them all, many others are pulling in the opposite direction. I don’t always like people. I don’t like the people who leave litter on the beach. I don’t like the people who terrorise their own children. I don’t like racists. I don’t like bullies. I don’t like selfishness. I love mankind, but I don’t always like people. But I do always like my roses! I can focus on one small bloom and see all the beauty that Mother Earth wants to share with us. As Yogananda says, ‘be beautiful like a rose. Even when crushed, it smells fragrant.’

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti,

Steel magnolias

Along with compassion and endurance, we’re being called to discover our inner strength right now. Yogis are sensitive souls, their first observance is love and non-violence. However, we have need right now of a steel inner core. We’re in the position of having to help others be strong. We need to be an army for good, an army for positivity, an army for change. While some of mankind seem determined to ignore the lessons on offer, and to return to abusing the Earth and the creatures who live on her, we must stand firm. We must create a new and better place. We must take compassion, but also strength of purpose and strong self-belief forward. This is not the time for doubt, this is the time to knuckle down and deliver. Mother Earth needs us. She needs her steel magnolias. Delve deep – find your inner strength and stand up for change, for goodness, for right.

Revolution

There is no revolution without casualties. We’re living in a time of revolution. For most of us, we are observers to the momentous happenings in the world. It is as though we have bought tickets for the theatre without checking what we’re going to see. Some of the happenings in the world are horrendous, sickening, vile. Death is visiting our planet and we watch, like a theatre audience, barely believing what we’re seeing unfold.

‘No man is an island’. What happens to folk in the world is happening to each one of us. Like an audience that is moved and stirred by a play, we are involved in the news; we are involved in the deaths; we are involved in the protests. It is impossible to live through this time of history in the making without being affected.

I have always believed that yoga teachers and committed yogis are the healers and the cleansers of the planet. I did a straw poll on how yoga teachers are sleeping right now. This was amongst a Facebook group of some 150 yoga teachers. We’re all experiencing the same disturbed sleep patterns. We’re being called to help, we’re being used to heal. I play the Gregorian Chant everyday on my landing in an effort to calm down the energies in my home. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility that I carry. Life is so far from the world that I would choose right now – a world where kindness, compassion, love, peace and contentment are experienced by all. We need ease. Ease is the opposite to disease, and right now we don’t just have the disease of Covid 19, we have the disease of murder, racism, domestic abuse, neglect, poverty and injustice.

How people are managing right now without yoga is beyond me. Yoga will help to bring the ease so desperately needed. We need a massive army of yogis to combat the negativity, to bring deep healing, to re-establish balance, to restore mental health.

Will there be a greater body of spiritual people when this is all over? Will people take the lessons learned into the future? Will we be able to surmount the ever-growing chaos? Can we move from being audience members to being centre stage? Can we move all people, stir all people, finally make people realise that whatever happens to one of mankind, happens to us all. ‘No man is an island’.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Clean up your act

In every yoga ashram karma yoga or seva is performed. At a prescribed time, each yogi cleans the communal spaces. This is done not for reward or recognition, but it is an act of selfless service. Finding that spirit of serving for the good of all takes you to a place of love. Sadly, there is a large contingent of mankind who fail to understand the idea of keeping communal spaces clean – places like beaches, parks, beauty spots, countryside. Pictures of the beaches in England this weekend utterly sickened me. It makes me ashamed to be a human being. Many people have spent time in lock-down decorating, gardening, de-cluttering.  They’ve had a desire to cleanse and purify their home environment. Why is it impossible to take that desire out into the communal places on our beautiful planet? As a famous t-shirt slogan proclaims, ‘because there is no planet B’.

And who do they expect to clean up after them? Are they still like surly teenagers who expect their mum to clean their rooms? Isn’t it time that they grew up? Where does this sense of entitlement come from? They have no trouble taking the food for their day-trips – please have no trouble taking the litter home again…

Spiritually this crisis has given us an opportunity to re-evaluate what is important. My biggest concern has been that some will return to there version of normal without learning anything at all. We’ve been given the colossal gift of a second chance. A chance to humbly recognise that we share our beautiful home with all people and all creatures. Until we mature, grow and understand that each life is precious, no matter what colour, shape or form it takes, and that we are all here to learn lessons, no progress will be made. Please, please, please, don’t repeat the same endless mistakes, mankind. Please, please, please don’t return to a normal which is selfish, grabbing, irresponsible and downright nasty. We’ve been given the luxury of a second chance – let’s use that to create a beautiful new normal. Let’s respect our home, this planet, let’s take our place as guests not masters, let’s work with selfless service to keep communal spaces clean, let’s act with love and kindness. And if you really need a selfish reason to do the right thing, bear in mind that if we don’t learn we’ll have to go through it all again. It reminds me of school. The whole class would be given a detention because some two or three nincompoops wanted to cause trouble. When will we learn?

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Touching

I’ve learned a great deal about myself during lock-down. As a body-worker of 44 years, I am very aware of my physical well-being. As a yoga teacher of 44 years, I am very aware of my mental state and spiritual well-being. As a mother of 48 years, a grandmother of 23 years and a pet owner all my life, I am very aware of my emotional state. It is the latter that has most suffered during this period. Physical contact and physically expressed affection is a big part of who I am. I’m reminded of a horrible experiment perpetrated on monkeys some time ago. A baby monkey was removed from his mother by a glass screen. He could see her, he could hear her, but he couldn’t touch her. The baby monkey died. I have developed coping strategies, as we all have, but I’m aware of that emptiness within me and the ache that doesn’t go away. Humans need touch.

We talk about a story being ‘touching’. We say, ‘I was very touched by that gesture’. We reach out to touch someone when they’re upset. We instinctively touch clothing or goods that we’re looking to buy. During lock-down, I’ve noticed that I touch the plants in the garden. I touch the trees as I pass them. The more we are discouraged to touch surfaces in the world, the more we are discouraged to touch our faces while out and about, the more I need to touch the flowers and shrubs in my own garden.

Touch has two sides to it. The wholesome, loving touch with which I am familiar, and the touch that can spread infection. For me it has been a sobering lesson. Touch is essential for my well-being, but touch must be avoided to keep mankind well. My personal needs clash with my desire to help others. Mudras have been enormously helpful as I wrestle with this dilemma. The gentle pressure of the index finger against the thumb in chin mudra enables you to use touch to connect with higher good for all.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

P.S If there are any of my current yoga students who would like a weekly class, please do email me.

Damned if you do…

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Putting personal political preferences to one side, perhaps you feel like I do. This government is doing its very best. It was dealt a very tough hand of cards. No-one has met a global pandemic like this before and Covid 19 is one determined virus! They’re not always right, but they are always trying to do what is right for all of us. We don’t have to agree with everything, but we also don’t have to be constantly, constantly criticising and undermining them. They’re brave to take on these jobs, and the panel who do the daily bulletins in Britain are particularly brave. There they stand, they do their opening comments, cover their subject clearly and comprehensively, and then the press start with their ‘questions’. The ones from the public tend to be sensible and heart-felt. The ones from the press are less questions and more direct attacks – I call it carping, some call it sniping, it’s negativity upon negativity. With enormous patience, the panel respond. They repeat over and over what they’ve already said – it becomes a mantra.

I was the Chairman of a well-known yoga society for five years. I didn’t want to be surrounded by ‘yes men’, but I did need the occasional acknowledgement that I was doing a good job. I needed to feel that someone was on my side, and that they fully recognised that I was doing my best for everyone. Taking difficult decisions which deeply affect others’ lives is daunting. Support is essential…

I often see young parents out with toddlers who have just hit the tantrum stage. I always make a point of saying, ‘You’re doing a great job’. You see their shoulders drop, their faces relax, and their breathing change. Just to have someone understand, acknowledge, be on your side is HUGE. Parents, chairpersons, politicians are not always going to be right. Of course they’re not. But they are going to do a much better job if they don’t feel they have to defend themselves from the whole world. GIVE THEM A BREAK!

Yoga means union. It means yoking. We’re all in this together and we all want what is best for the Earth, for mankind, for all the creatures on the planet. Please let’s pull together. Please believe and trust in goodness, in positivity, in love. As with the clapping for the N.H.S. on a Thursday evening, let’s unite in sending support, appreciation and goodwill to all those in the Government who are literally damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Let’s beat this thing and LEARN. We do much better when we work together, when we co-operate than we constantly pull in the other direction…

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Kindness

It came as a surprise to me to discover that kindness must be taught. I had rather believed that children were born kind, and sometimes the world taught them otherwise. As a parent, grandparent and children’s yoga teacher, I observed that some children are more disposed to absorb the lesson of being kind than others. Others take longer. It’s the same with adults. We all know people who persistently put others first – they have a desire to serve their family and their community. Others don’t look at the world through the same eyes – I’m fond of saying that some plant flowers, and some plant litter!!

This coronavirus is teaching the human race the lesson of kindness. Many are fully embracing this – looking out for their neighbours, volunteering, abiding by the regulations. Many positives will come out of this crisis, and I believe that one of the positives is reclaiming kindness. Let’s make kindness our norm. Kindness not only to our families and to our close friends, but to everyone, every creature, Mother Earth, and to ourselves too.

Be kind!

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

P.S. Any of my weekly class members who would like a class plan, please email me and I will send you one. C xxx

Is bliss possible in times of crisis?

It seems to me that mankind has made such a mess of looking after the planet that, finally, Mother Earth rolled up her sleeves and said, ‘Right. This is how it’s done.’ We’re reaping some deep global karma. Pollution is clearing right now as cars are kept off the roads. Folk are looking out for one another. Compassion is stirred as people appreciate the N.H.S and it’s staff. Volunteers are showing up in droves. Well done, Mother Earth! I am convinced that some positives will emerge out of this huge crisis. We will be compelled to behave differently post corona virus.

No excuses now! The majority of us have more time to meditate. Find your way to bliss, samadhi. Whilst we heal the planet, we must also heal ourselves. Remember when you get to bed at night, to place your left hand on your heart and your right hand on your lower abdomen – this is the position for self-nourishment.

Stay well. Sit in your heart centre. Love and co-operation will carry us through…

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

P.S. If anyone is confused by the new format, please see my previous post titled ‘All Change’.

P.P.S. If any of my students in my current classes wish me to send them a weekly class plan, please email me. I will be delighted to oblige. I will no longer be posting it publicly.

C xxx

All change!

This pandemic is bringing huge changes. The historians say that we will mark this time in the future with BC – before coronavirus – and AC – after coronavirus.

Many of my yoga colleagues are now responding to this crisis by posting practices online. You can all access a huge variety of home classes. Therefore, I have decided to limit my posts from now on to cheerful comments and positive statements. It is my hope that these will serve to keep us all upbeat in these trying times. I’ve been writing posts for five years now and I have learnt that my blog develops an energy of it’s own! Let’s see where it takes us!

Meanwhile, any students in my current classes who would like to receive a class plan during the duration of the isolation and social distancing, please email me. I’ll be delighted to reply to those people who I am currently teaching. My practices will no longer be made public.

Many apologies to anyone who is disappointed or inconvenienced by this change. The sands are shifting…

I hold all my current followers in my heart space. Keep well.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti