Posts Tagged 'breath'



All the lovely lulls in life

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I was recently reading something I had written long ago in which I had said that yoga was about getting the inside right while working on the outside.  I was glad to have gone back and read this as I have been feeling, over the past few weeks, that my own personal yoga practice had hit a plateau.  I have been watching the students in my classes make leaps and bounds and taking much delight in their individual journeys.  It is in enormous privilege to be part of this.  To watch them blossom and expand.  To see them face their fears and overcome anxieties.   To engage with them as they make space in their bodies and lives.

Within my own practice I have become frustrated with seemingly little progress over the last month.  I have felt tightness in my hips and this has resulted in not finding the depth in my flexibility that I desire.  I have found that I have not mastered a new challenging pose for a while.  Watch my ego talking here.  Ego ego ego.

So upon re-reading my own words I am reminded that plateaus are okay.  That they are an inevitable and necessary part of life.  More than that though, I was reminded that reaching a lull in my physical practice does not mean that work is not being done.  Everyday when I roll out my mat and use that 6 x 2 space to twist and bend my body into unimaginable poses I am wringing out my stresses and engaging my heart.  I am making space in my body and mind. When I go upside down I am listening to my breath and finding stillness. I am pausing.  I am reminded that, with all things in life, we need these lulls and plateaus.  We cannot be seeking, growing and expanding every day.  That there will be times when we go forward in great leaps and bounds and then time when we pause and reflect.

It is during these pauses and reflections that we do most of our internal work.  Imagine for a moment it is a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon.  You decide to tackle a moderate mountain or hill climb.  During the climb you concentrate only on putting one foot in front of the other.  You are engaged with supplying your muscles with oxygen and with the process of moving your muscles.  Then finally, after much effort you reach the top.  The plateau.  Here you pause.  You inhale, expand and your heart fills with joy and pride.  You stand for a moment or two just taking in the beauty of this exquisite planet we call home.  Deep breath after deep breath you fill yourself up.  You smile.  Perhaps you sit for a while in quiet thought and contemplation.  You made it and now you are full of pride and happiness.  As your breath becomes calm you lose yourself in all that is.  You think about how you have just challenged yourself.  How you did not think you would make it but you did.  You begin to think about the meaning of life.  Your mind wanders to some of the challenges in your own life.  Somewhere there on top of that mountain you find answers.  So you begin the slow gently climb down.  It seems easy compared to the climb.  Your heart is happy and your soul content.  Your mind is quiet and you feel a new sense of peace.

So it is in life and yoga.  There are lulls in everything as there was on top of the mountain and it is here in these lulls that we do our contemplation.  We cannot only be doing the physical work.  We need the lulls and quiet to make sense of it all.  So I am reminded that this lull in my physical practice is similar to that time on top of the mountain.

There are lulls in all areas of our lives.  In our relationships and in our work.  I cannot possibly be constantly creative in my photography.  I need the time of the lulls to retreat back into myself.  To find the quiet contemplation that is the seat of all our creativity.  The lulls and plateaus are when we do our internal work.  It is when we turn inwards and apply what we have learnt.  It is a little like dreaming.  We cannot be awake all the time.  We need to rest and sleep and during our sleep we dream.  During our dreams our minds are sorting and making sense of what we learned during our waking hours.

I think to some degree we fear these lulls.  We fear that we will not move forward again.  That it is not a lull, and that it is perhaps a wall.  This is rarely the case and if it is we simply feel our way along the wall until we find the edges and a new way round.

So remember to engage fully with all the beautiful lulls in your life. Sit in quiet contemplation until such time as it is done.  Do not rush this process for it is here that all the answers will find you.

 

 

Letting go of your stuff

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Recently I had to ‘let go’ of something that was very close to my heart.  It had been in my life for a long time and loosing it was especially hard.  It took many deep breaths and quiet meditations to realise I would be OK without it.  That in reality, letting go of one thing allows space for another to come in.  It’s the letting go part that we sometimes find really really hard.

Life sometimes has a way of stripping you down.  Taking you back to the basics from where you start again.  During this process you may loose many things, or even many people but you will also find yourself.  It is a human trait to cling to stuff and people but loosing either pushes us out of our comfort zone, and it is out of our comfort zone that we truly realise what we are made of.  It’s where our creativity lies.

I want to put this into the context of art.  Lets imagine for a moment you are a photographer that loves equipment.  Has a passion for that extra stuff, reflectors and strobes, triggers and backdrops.  This is your comfort zone.  You are happy shooting your portraits surrounded by your expensive complicated gear.  Then one day your studio is broken into and all your extras are stolen.  You did however, have your camera at home with you.  Just your camera.  No tripod and trigger.  No tethering cable.  No flash.  Now the next day you have a portrait session booked.  It’s really important and you cannot cancel.  So you go back to basics.  You scramble in your mind for a location with great light.  You adjust your camera settings and start to play a bit.  You find yourself being less static without the tripod and shooting from new angles.  Stripped down you find a new seat of creativity.  You are so out of your comfort zone but that alone forces you to be creative.  The artist who finds himself with a blank canvas, a brush and three pots of paint will dig deep and get creative. He will mix those paints into every shade possible and create shadows and light out of nothing.

It’s the same with life.  Have you ever noticed those people who are hoarders.  How they are so often the same people who are stuck in their routines.  How they never move forward and expand.  They stay in the same house for most of their lives.  Shop at the same shop and eat the same food.  Hoard their stuff and die never having gone out of their diminutive comfort zone.  Then there are the people who have no fixed location and few belongings, that live from experience to experience and adventure to adventure.  Always seeking and probably always finding.

It is very easy to get stuck in our space.  Both our physical space and the space in our heads.  It feels safe and we as humans like to feel safe.  We like to feel like we can control our environment and we do this by knowing our comfort zone and staying there.  We don’t always choose to move out of our space.  Sometimes we are forced to.  Life comes along and gives a big kick and we are blasted out of our comfort zone into a new space that is unfamiliar and, to be honest, quite frightening.  We take a moment to catch our breath.  Thats okay.  Then we pick ourselves up and take a look around.  This is the point where we start to get creative.  Forced to expand we start to move forward.  Here’s the good part.  Here is where we find our creativity like the guy who looses his job and is forced to go it alone and work for himself.  When we loose something we make space for something new.  We open ourselves up to possibility.   We move out of our comfort zone and somewhere in that space we find ourselves.

When we are stripped down in life and we lose a lot all at once, this is when we have the greatest expansion.  This is when we have our greatest growth and become open to the most possibilities.  The more space we make the more ‘new’ can come in.

It is not easy.  No it is definitely not easy, but it is when we are laid bare, totally out of our comfort zone with nothing but space before us that we truly find ourselves. This is where we find ourselves being deeply creative.  Where we find the greatest expansion of our mind and our spirit.  If you never leave your comfort zone you will not grow.  In fact the opposite will happen.  If you do not let go of something there will be no space for the new.

Take a deep breath today and let go of something.  It does not have to be something physical.  It can just be an idea, a belief, something you have clung on to.  Send it away with an exhale.  Now there is space for something new and it feels so good just to have that space for a while.  Feel yourself expand as you wait for the new to arrive. When it does enjoy the growth.  It will often come in unexpected ways but it will come and you will grow.  The bigger the exhale the bigger the inhale.  The more you let go of the more space you create and the more room for growth.

Let go of something and you will come closer to finding yourself.

 

 

Moving with the universe

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We all tend to resist stuff that comes up in our lives. Human resistors to whatever the universe wants.  We are great thinkers and planners and we set out in our minds how our days will go.  How events will pan out. We make a movie in our minds of what it will all look like right down to the finest detail.  We like control.  It makes us feel safe in our place on this earth.  We like to compartmentalise and box things, putting them in order for our own emotional security.  We plan our photographic shoots.  We imagine how the weather will be.  How gently the breeze will blow, what colour the sky will be and what our final image will look like.  I have done this so many times only to find that the sky is not how I imagined.  That the wind is blowing the wrong way and I realise I have to surrender to how it is at that moment.

We resist when things do not go according to our own mind movie script.  We resist when things do not fit into the boxes we have created….but guess what…sometimes you have to go with the flow.  You have to surrender to what is and stop trying to control everything.  This resistance is what causes our stress.  You really have no idea what might happen in your life in the next hour, or day, or year.

Life is like swimming in the ocean.  If you resist the wave it knocks you over and sends you tumbling not knowing which way is up.  You are dumped on the sand trying to catch your breath and retain your dignity.  Recently in my life I have had to learn to go with the flow in many ways.  I have been tested enormously and when I have resisted what has come my way I have found myself reeling and tumbling.  A good, but small example is that I have needed to change my car.  I have driven a Land Cruiser for the last ten years but I no longer need such a big car.  I like white.  It’s my colour choice for cars.  It’s one of my boxes.  So I make arrangements with a friend who owns a dealership to trade in my big old car and get myself a new small run around.  He arrives with a car to show me and it is red!  Now this is way out of my comfort zone.  Way way out of it.  However this car has extras that I will get without any cost to me.  Big extras….but my comfort zone!!!!

Do I wait another few months for a white one so that life can fit into my box or do I go with what the universe has offered me?  Do I surrender to what is or do I resist. The universe has offered me an a beautiful car with more than I asked for but in order to benefit I have to let go of my preconceived ideas.

So I am pushing my boundaries and leaving my comfort zone, after all, life happens beyond our comfort zone.

 

 

 

 

 

You are going to fall…do it anyway!

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Yesterday  I was working on a yoga pose called Scorpion ( Vrischikasana).  This is a very challenging inverted pose.  It involves balancing on your forearms, head raised and a strong backbend so that your feet touch your head.   This pose requires strength (particularly in the upper arms and shoulders) a supple back, a strong core and a great sense of balance. When executed properly this pose is like a work of art.  It has a beautiful flow.  It has curves and balance and is exquisitely beautiful to look at.

Before I attempt an advanced pose such as this I spend a few moments finding my breath and my centre.  It requires all my concentration to find my balance once I am inverted and before I move into the backbend.  I know that it is going to take me many many attempts to master this pose and that before I do I am going to fall, and fall again, and again.

There are so many beautiful parallels between yoga and life and the lessons I learn on my mat I transfer to my life.  I am going to fall in life too. Again and again, but thats OK so long as I keep trying.

I was alone in the studio at the gym on a quiet sunday afternoon.  I don’t suppose anyone even knew I was in there.  There was no one to catch me when I fell…but I faced my fear and did it anyway.  It took a huge dose of courage and intense concentration to even get myself inverted as I am not used to balancing on my arms in that way. It took an even bigger dollop of courage to bend and lift my head.  There is an immediate tendency to fall down as you lift your head as your centre of balance has shifted.  The only way to stay in balance is to bend in the opposite way to that which our bodies are used to.  I concentrate on my breath.  If you don’t breath you won’t have the strength to stay inverted.

Some people use props when trying a new and challenging pose like this.  Support from a wall or perhaps a block or a strap to keep the arms in the correct position.  Personally I don’t like the use of props in my yoga or in my work.  I like to just go ahead and fall, over and over, tumbling about in all my beautiful ridiculousness until I find my way.

So how does this pertain to life and our work as an artist.  Well it’s pretty simple really.  You are going to fall.  Probably a lot of times and if someone is always there to catch you then you will never really master things.  It’s OK for a bit but eventually you just have to go ahead and do it on your own.  You are going to make mistakes that’s for sure.  You are going to mess up and and look silly for a while but guess what….no one is watching.  They are all too busy messing up and falling over themselves.

You need to keep doing it until that sweet moment arrives when you find your balance and your work of art is finished. If you don’t keep trying you will simply never master it.  Go ahead and fall.  It doesn’t matter how many times.  Take a thousand photographs before you find one that has all that perfectly balanced light.  Write a thousand pages until the one before you has all the right curves and sweet spots.

You are all alone in your studio and no one is watching.  Go ahead and fall but but please just do it.  Face the fear and fall because one day you will master that art and the world will gasp at it’s beauty.

 

 

 


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