Category Archives: Concentration

Staying in the middle…

Yoga practice is like life. It only works if you turn up!

Turning up simply means being here, in the now, moment-to-moment.

Very easy to say but very hard to do.

The masters tell us that yoga postures became effortless when the plays of opposites diminish.

In life we are shaped by what we think are opposites. Our likes, dislikes, our needs, wants and what we try to avoid. This is exhausting.

When we treat everything the same there are no opposites. There is just now. When we tune into now we are centred, balanced. When we tune in we are beautifully poised between opposites.

No worries, no you, no me, no outside, no inside, no past, no future…. just stuff…arising constantly.

This doesn’t mean you reject everything or fall asleep on the job. No.

It’s the opposite. When you pay attention in this way you become fully alive to what you are doing and who you are. The reality of now, its purpose, its whole reason for being becomes crystal clear.

Then you have moments of absolute clarity. They will pass, but the experience will stay with you. Then you will want to know more…

When you feel that don’t delay…..act on it!

In your hatha yoga practice every time you turn, move stretch, balance and breath; their combined practice creates a close localised context, a physical and spatial field into which your attention should be fully engaged.

But what sort of attention?

It’s a knowing, letting go of imagined outcomes and expectation. Your attention should simply be on the experience of being and doing and not on future reward or results.

Simply stay away from comparisons or judgments. What you are doing is fine for you in that moment.

All good artists know this. Stick with what you are doing. It will all come good in the end as long as it’s done with a knowing attention.

After some practice your ability to pay attention will grow. You will feel ‘embodied’. You will learn to be…. just as you are.

When you learn to apply this new perception into what you do day-to-day you begin to ‘switch-on’.

Then waiting for the bus, siting in meetings, listening to your friends all evolve into yoga practice. Where you are, what you are doing no matter how trivial become opportunities for deep connection with others and yourself.

Which is pretty much the meaning of yoga – union.

 

You are Now…

Last night

In our Ready for the Week class we looked at what union means in yoga practice.  We know that the purpose of yoga  is ultimately ‘unitive’ experience of our inner centre of consciousness. But on the way to that goal there are many other smaller ‘unitive’ experiences that point towards the bigger picture.

A deeper connection

Through practice we begin to feel more connected to what we do, to who we are, towards others and what they are doing and how they feel. We begin to notice a deeper connection to the world, to its nourishment,  to its livelihood as we begin to notice more and more those events, actions and attitudes that get in the way of connection. When our sense of connection develops and grows we notice other ‘unitive’ moments. We begin to feel ‘present’. We begin to notice that somehow that feeling of being present is connected to how we perceive,  how we take notice, pay attention – how we connect attention to experience.  Not seeing things as we think they should or shouldn’t be. Just as they are…

We know ourselves

When that happens it will take your breath away as our sense of being present in the now opens us up to a whole multi-verse of possibilities. The body relaxes, the breath softens, the mind hums with creative clarity and potential. We see the world as it is,  as if for the first time. We know ourselves, if only for a moment. We intuitively know that somehow the very content, purpose and form of the moment is directly linked with how we perceive and inhabit it. Once we are receptive to this unitive experience we know, as Eckert Tolle tells us  we are not just in the now. We are the Now

Pantheon__Light_Studies

 

Happy Days…

This weekend at the Om Yoga Show, Manchester Mick led another Happy Spontaneous Me workshop. This Yoga in Action practice is at the heart of the YogalIfe Project, to bring yoga to life out into the world through you. This may look like wild scribbling. It is in fact deep  yoga practice where concentration is on the ‘doing and the making’ for its own sake, not on imagined future outcomes. This is a karma yoga experiment  where you can be free from always trying to judge and evaluate everything you do. To disentangle yourself from getting trapped in thinking about comparisons with others or wether what you do is good enough against an imagined ideal. This is action done without worrying about results leading to inner contentment, a timless feeling of being present in the now through the flowing action of mark making on paper. This sense of effortless, creative, moment-to- moment connection of flow is what is meant by yoga. Being and doing. Union. As the Bhagavad Gita tells us.

2.47 This is the secret to living a life of real achievement.

For those of you who worry about what you are doing –  just stop. Look inwards and let go… Your intuition, inner knowledge spontaneously applied is more than good enough. And because its coming from the true source of who you really are its perfect and right!

Here are two short videos and some pictures.

Next Wednesday we are hosting another session (a little longer) at Chorlton Central as part of the Chorlton Arts Festival. There are only a few spaces left…Book your place here.

CAF.2015withdates

Getting into the flow….

On Wednesday 20th May Mick is leading the special yoga in action YLP workshop Happy Spontaneous Me, as part of the Chorlton Arts Festival.

CAF.2015withdates

Happy Spontaneous Me, combines ancient yoga science and practice with the latest thinking on ‘flow’, creativity and happiness. The workshop takes the form of an active meditation, merging being and doing into one – a favourite theme at the YogaLife Project. Using simple techniques such as repetitive and free mark making on large sheets of paper, using chalks, pastels, pens etc, we begin by utilising a yoga mind set to connect, moment-to-moment with what we are doing. You can chose any action to be a flow creating activity. What is key is your relationship to the activity. Its not what you do its how you do it that’s important, and this is where yoga science comes in.

Being and Doing…

This is yoga practice, which can be taken off the mat and into the realm of where everybody lives and works. It teaches you to take notice, observe and find harmony with what ever you are doing. This experience is sometimes defined as autotelic awareness, or ‘flow’ when we are fully and consciously immersed into, and with whatever you are doing purely for its own sake. The term autotelic derives from the Greek, ‘auto’ meaning, self, and ‘telos’ meaning goal or task. When we are in the flow, action is effortless and smooth. The moment fully lived.

Happy Spontaneous Me, points to a deeper form of yoga practice called Karma Yoga or the yoga of action. At the YLP we call this ‘Being and doing’, where work is done without some future expectation of reward in mind but just for the sheer joy of doing it. When we pay attention to the activity for its own sake, not thinking about future results or past mistakes we become centred, we stay present. We are in our own yoga state or ‘union’ – the goal of yoga.

To get into the flow experience we have to change our mode of thought from trying to exert force over what we are doing towards an imagined result, to aligning our action with an inner harmony and intuition. This is an essential and fundamental yoga teaching that leads towards a happier more creative and fulfilling life. We are in a world now of image, appearance and desire. Most people are fooled into confining themselves this world placing themselves onto never ending treadmill of expectation, desires, and rewards. We know this causes frustration, anger and unhappiness. But its possible to step off the treadmill, still be in the world, but free, once we realise where real happiness and creative contentment can be found.

But I am not creative…

Yes you are! If you breathe, you are creating yourself everyday moment-by-moment. Imagine if you could harness that amazing, powerful creativity and direct it with purpose into the heart of your everyday.

Everyone is creative – that’s the whole point. The fact is that when you are in your yoga flow, self created expectations, desires or limiting feelings about oneself are stilled. They simply do not matter. You will feel in total control, present and fulfilled. In the workshop, emphasis is on letting go, stepping outside your comfort zone and learning to get out of the way.

During the workshop we will learn to:

  • Understand how to make any activity into a flow or yoga experience.
  • Unlock your creative flow and liberate your inner joy
  • Develop a sense of meaning, effortless control and involvement in what you are doing.
  • Discover a deeper a sense of self and your purpose.
  • Feel what it means to be totally present and not lost in an imagined future or past.
Life flows through you…

When we practice this technique correctly and with an open heart you will sense a new type of reality different to what you feel in your day. A world of effortless, creative being where your sense of self and purpose is there to be felt and acted upon. A richer, rewarding more creative life that flows from and through you and not determined by the imagined expectations but being right here, right now.

At Happy Spontaneous Me we use mark making and drawing as a way of supplying a simple creative flow producing action. We use timed exercises, combined with breathing and drawing, fast mark making, flowing and mindful action techniques combined with guided relaxation and special pranayama. The main technique is karma yoga combined with jappa (simple repetitive) action. Mick will guide you through all of these techniques to get you into the flow…You will not need any art or yoga experience.

You can book you place at Happy Spontaneous Me here.

All material is provided

The constant architect…

Next Saturday Mick and the YLP is hosting its second workshop of 2015 ;

Inner Architecture: The art and science of Being.

This is a workshop we have been wanting to explore for some time. For many years Mick has given talks on architecture and creativity that were really about yoga. He also gave many talks on yoga that were really about creativity and architecture. So the solution? A workshop that that does both…

Inner Architecture, will distil the art and science of yoga into a three parts, introducing techniques to allow you plan and design and make changes that open you up to your potential and purpose which modern science tells us is almost unlimited. Utilising meditation, physical practice, creative action and guided relaxation, you can design, you can build,  you can inhabit your own world.

A5 Workshop Leaflet - March 15

Book your place here…

You are the architect…start designing.

Architects help to shape the space and matter of the world to meet a specific purpose. If it can be done in a way that creates a little meaning, joy, harmony, without harm and with a sense of place then all well and good. That’s architecture. It gives us meaning. It gives us identity. It gives us a home.

You might think you are not creative, imaginative or artistic. I can’t draw… You think you don’t have the science or the maths. Nevertheless, you are an architect. And a pretty skillful, creative one too…you are the constant architect of your own world, your own life.

This is how it works.

Moment by moment we are all simultaneously creating and experiencing our own reality. That means that everything you experience, think, see, hear, react and respond to is your responsibility. You have a choice, you create it, you make it,  give your experience reality. This reality is shaped by how you have learned to design and build for yourself a set of attitudes, values, beliefs based on what you assume is real. Or what you have been told is real…

As an architect you can decide to design your world based on what you ‘think is real’ or what you feel intuitively is real.

However building your world based on wrong ideas, attitudes means you get distracted or confused and we create for ourselves a fragile architecture. The first thing we need to do as our own architect is to know how to observe the world around you and know the difference between looking and seeing…

The non-permanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.”

The Bhagavad Gita 2.14,

Get it right we find ourselves inhabiting a happier, fulfilling world of promise and love, seemingly designed to support  your intention and purpose. It’s an architecture that expresses who you are and what you can do. You are the architect. You can decide and shape the world, as you want it more importantly as you need it.

Deciding to be your own architect takes creativity, and compassion, trust and openness. These are tools you already have in abundance. But you only find them once you let go and turn your focus inwards.

Once you turn your attention inward, you can begin to design and create. Through yoga practice you will become aware of your levels of consciousness. You will find that the capacity to design and shape your world, and this realization will become a source of fulfillment to you. It will be your very own architecture from which to observe and operate in the world providing a sense of purpose, timelessness, stillness unaffected by events and external forces. In the world but not of it.

When we our plan our architecture around the present, the now, we you learn to enjoy life from moment to moment and do not worry about the future. If you take care of your present, you see your potential flows…ready to be shaped by you the architect of your life.

architect of you life

 

 

It’s the thing…

This weekend we completed our first YLP Beginners and Group meditation classes for 2015. Well done to everyone who, as usual, brought their energy, attention and serious intention to the class, sprinkled with a little humour and delight.

As one of the class realised..

’this is it – meditation is the key, its the thing. I could quite happily never do another downward dog as long as live if I am meditating’.

Exactly…

Meditation is the thing. Its the principal yoga practice. The postures are designed to firstly strengthen your physicality in order to sit still, but more importantly to build a deeper awareness.  If postures are about the mind, than meditation is about the body. They work hand in hand until you learn the core skill…..that everything you do is yoga – is meditation.

Another of our class summed it up like this….

‘Yoga gives you access to what we are’

We are faced with obstacles, challenges and limitations. Yoga teaches us to accept them, know them  and then  move on. That way we really do begin to gain access to what it means to be a human ‘being’. Any previous assumptions regarding what we take to be our physical state  begin to fade away revealing a deeper reality.

Its a transforming process and if we feel a, little more happier, spontaneous, optimistic, clearer in our purpose, more  loving and compassionate, even just for a moment two then we are succeeding.

Breathe in Breathe out – know and let go. How easy is that? That is all you need to do to practice your yoga.

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Mapping out your intentions…

This weekend we completed our first workshop for 2015 with the third annual hosting of our popular new year, Back On Track workshop.  Based on intense practice combined with moments of complete stillness through deep Yoga nidra and Sankalpa making this workshop was based on three key principles:

  1. Your Passion: When you just feel compelled to do.
  1. Your Purpose: When what you do feels right. When you feel your most creative, purposeful and productive.
  1. Your Potential: When what you do makes a real and lasting  difference for  others and yourself.

When we practice yoga we begin to know what makes us do what we do. When we know what is useful or can be discarded in our thinking, we make changes knowing that like a good building  everyone is designed and constructed for a certain purpose. Our roll as yogis, as a human beings to is allow that purpose to flow into the world.

This year we put a new creative spin on our Sankalpa by asking our YLP yogis to make a map, firstly describing where they are right now (location) where they want to go (destination)  and the route they would need to take  to get there (intention) .  The map would serve as a  tool to  describe self observations – and then how to intuitively move on towards what ever goals or tasks they are designed to do.

To support this, Mick gave a short talk on looking, knowing and observation in yoga. Describing,  piece by piece the difference between the observed and observer, from the external to internal experience  finally leading to an experience (however partial) of  our deeper consciousness, the observer of who and what we are. The witness which knows where we are going and how…..The Sankalpa is the result of this experience.

Back on track 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back on Track is one of the YLP’s, Yoga in Action workshops, designed to show how yoga science and practice can be used to reveal  a more creative, fruitful and meaningful life.

 

Everything Changes…

That’s right. Constantly.

In fact it’s the only thing we are only ever sure of. Everything around us is on the move – changing from one state to another, moment by moment. Our quantum scientists tell us that even the very atoms of our bodies are constantly moving from one place to another, from one universe to another. They are never still. Our bodies, minds and breath, blink in and out existence constantly. That’s how ephemeral our every day is. We are here….we are somewhere else. We are hardly here at all….Most of the time we just don’t notice.

Yoga is about change. But its also about moving beyond change. The very act of union, the purpose of yoga, is to enable us to fall out this constant cycle of change. To watch and enjoy but not be shaped or defined by change. Change is cyclical. Your job as a yogi is to stay still. The only still place in this constant wheel of change is at its very centre. Your centre. As the Zen masters told us, the most useful part of the wheel is the empty hole in the middle…

Tomorrow we are hosting our last workshop of the yearEverything Changes. This time of year when Manchester moves into its sunny autumn days, we are invited to just stop and reflect on the days that have been. In autumn we are balanced between outward action and inward reflection. Like the world around us we should find time to slow down, and like autumn leaves, let go and fall softly. We will be seeking that place, that moment, balanced between action and non-action, doing and non-being, inhalation and exhalation.

Its an important time for all of us. In yoga we feel the world turning its equator towards the sun so that it is finally balanced between light and dark, when the length of day and night become equal – the Autumn Equinox. It reminds us where we have been and what might be coming to us on our journey.

The autumn equinox is a milestone but its also a departure point.

planet

Look Up…

As you know we don’t politics at the YogaLife Project in the same way New Labour didn’t do God. However if we are to be yogis in the world we have to be active, engaged and help where we can. After all, our mission, your mission is to help make the world a more loving, creative and compassionate place…

This little video called Look Up by Gary Turk described for us why yoga is now more important than ever. With over 1.7 million views its pretty clear that others are feeling the same way. Except of course everyone at Google and Facebook and all the other corporations that prey on our sleepiness, misconceptions and forgetfulness to be productive and present. The last thing these guys want is for us is to be self-actualised, aware and free. In other words choose to be yourself and everything that means rather being reduced to a name on list, targeted by advertising.

Who would of thought that the digital revolution was not a revolution at all but a subtle, powerful coup designed to shape us into yet more compliant consumers of stuff we don’t need with thoughts that aren’t useful.

In our YogaLife Project classes we often talk about observation. Of ourselves, the world we are in and particularly at the people around you. On the tram this morning I did my usual check to see how many of my fellow travellers were asleep, lost or dead. You can always tell by the way their faces are looking into their smart phones. Meanwhile, outside the sun was shining onto the canal creating a cascade of shimmering reflected points light inside the tramcar. I think only a couple of us noticed that, creating for us both, that wonderful moment of place and event coming together inviting a sense of the present….wonderful.

Gary Turk concludes that by not paying attention you miss your life altogether. Practice yoga and you practice being alive. It’s okay to use a smart phone. Just don’t let it use YOU.

Click here to watch Look Up.

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