Summer has now arrived with a vengeance, and what can be more summery than the sight of deckchairs fluttering in a gentle breeze on a promenade at the sea shore? As much as the bright colours and the cheerful scene, it was the complex pattern of shadows made by the deckchairs that drew me to capture this image. Whatever is happening in our lives, we invariably experience some shadows at times, however sunny things may seem to be on the surface. Just as shadows cast by the deckchairs change over the course of the day, so they are constantly moving in our lives. Keep following the sun and let the shadows look after themselves.
“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” – Abraham Lincoln
Are you wearing rose-tinted spectacles? I believe that we develop our outlook from quite a young age, perhaps influenced by those around us. Some of us see life’s adventures in a positive light, the proverbial ‘glass half full’. Or perhaps we see the same glass, half empty. Whatever life brings, it serves a purpose and we can learn from it. You may believe that someone ‘up there’ is dishing it out, you might believe in karma, it might just be the way the cookie crumbles.
Whatever the source, we all have good days and bad days, exciting experiences and unpleasant ones. And therein lies one of the problems; labelling it as good or bad, categorising and pigeonholing. I seem to remember reading somewhere that the mind keeps a better hold on the ‘bad’ things than the ‘good’ ones, so looking back we may be more inclined to recall what went wrong rather than what went right. Maybe there were good bits sandwiched in between. Perhaps we don’t remember them. Maybe we were too caught up in the bad to even see them in the first place. Little wonders like a sunny day, a spring flower, the smell of grass after the rain.
Scientists at the National Institute for Mental Health have now shown that a positive attitude really does help us to stay motivated and in a good frame of mind. This is linked to the amino acid tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin in the brain. Positive thinking as a concept has really mushroomed in recent years, and while it is important that your positivity is realistic rather than rose-tinted, having a ‘can do’ attitude is more likely to help you achieve your goals than out-and-out pessimism.
In the Tuesday class we are currently using positive affirmations at the end of our meditative practice to help develop an optimistic outlook and attitude towards ourselves. Positive affirmations are short positive statements, such as ‘I feel relaxed’ or ‘I am strong enough to do this’. Used in the present tense, they help you to believe it’s already true. If our thoughts can become self-fulfilling, better that they are positive ones. Repeat your affirmation several times, to reinforce the message. You can use them at any time; try it as a daily practice when you have a quiet moment, or as first aid when those negative thoughts start creeping in!
Yoga mats can last a surprisingly long time, which is fantastic given the potentially negative environmental impact of your mat. Sadly, the more affordable mats generally contain PVC, which is not the most environmentally-friendly substance to manufacture or dispose of. The alternatives tend to be quite expensive and may not be so easy to keep clean. In the case of rubber mats, they also come with a rather overpowering smell. However, when the time finally comes to say good bye, your mat doesn’t have to end up at the landfill site. I really dislike throwing things away if I can find a use for them, so here are some ideas for reducing the environmental impact of your unwanted mat by recycling it into new uses around the house and garden. Some are ways to use the whole mat, others will require a pair of sharp scissors and perhaps some glue or tape.
- Keep using it, underneath your new mat, to provide extra padding in class
- Line the boot of your car to keep it clean or as padding for pets
- Line your cat or dog’s bed to provide extra insulation and padding
- Cut out pieces to line terracotta plant pots in the garden. It will help reduce water loss in the summer and increase protection from frost in the winter.
- Keep in the car as an impromptu picnic ‘rug’
- Cut a piece to stick on a step stool for extra grip
- Fold up the mat into quarters (or less) and tape or stick in place to create a kneeling mat
- In the garden lay it over bare soil on new flower beds as a weed suppressant before you plant them up
- Use small pieces to protect wooden floors from table legs
- Pass it on; sell it on Ebay to make some money, advertise it on Freecycle or donate it to charity. You might be able to help out someone who can’t afford to buy a new mat.
If you have more ideas please share them!
I love spending time at the sea shore. This image to me represents the constant change, ebbing and flowing of life and the breath that is embodied in the sea and shore life. We like to think that things are permanent, that all will stay the same. We embrace our comfort zone and want to stay there forever. But in reality, life is change. Sometimes infinitesimally slow, sometimes lightning speed, but the only certain thing in life is change. Learn to love change and you will learn to love life.
If you have done some yoga before, why not come along on a Tuesday evening to Bournville Quaker Meeting and give this class a try. We moved to this new venue in January, as it is more suited to our practice than the previous venue. This session also has the advantage of being a drop-in class, so if you can’t commit to a block of classes you won’t be paying for any you need to miss.
The class starts at 7.30pm with a few minutes relaxation, followed by an asana (postures) practice that takes us to about 8.30pm. This part includes a short sequence that we do each week, so you will soon pick it up if it is new to you. We then sit for a breathing or meditation practice lasting some 15 mins and this is followed by a guided relaxation practice to finish the session off.
Some previous experience of attending a yoga class is preferred so you have an idea of how we work, coordinating movement and breath – it doesn’t need to be much, a few classes will be fine! If the time suits your schedule and you want to give it a try, I look forward to meeting you soon! The next class will be on 11th June.
I have always been a hoarder. Whether it is shells on the beach, interesting pebbles or clothes that still have some wear in them, I find it hard to let these things go. I have been pondering the reasons why I hang on to stuff like this and came up with quite a list. I then pondered my list and realised that all my reasons actually stem from the same source; in the end it all comes down to fear.
Whenever I consider rationalising my wardrobe there is always a cautious little voice whispering in my ear, “You are bound to need it if you throw it away, put it back!” And this has at times been true; perhaps I haven’t needed it as such, but it would have come in handy. So often I decide to clear out some ornaments or kitchen equipment and the little voice nudges me again: “It would make a great prop for some photos”, or ”Maybe you haven’t used that baking tin in years but it would come in handy”. This little voice is so often the reason that things are pushed back into the cupboard.
This cautious little voice is instilling in me the fear of needing these possessions if I no longer have them. Storing these things in my cupboards puts me back in my comfort zone. It’s all there if I need it, you never know, one day…
But I think it’s time to listen to the little voice that says “Wouldn’t it be nice to have more space? You don’t need all this stuff. Maybe someone else could use it.” This little voice is frequently drowned out by the cautious voice, but I say, “Shout louder, little voice!” Having possessions brings not only the fear of letting them go but also the fear of the inadvertent letting go of losing them. It can also bring the ideal opportunity to practise letting go. To be able to relinquish ‘stuff’ without regret or recriminations, to move forward into the future with hope and anticipation. Think of the freedom that a life without a need for so many possessions would bring! Trust in the Universe to provide and get ready for some spring cleaning!
I am always thrilled by the sight of gannets nesting on the cliffs at Bempton, in Yorkshire. The sheer size of these birds and the close proximity to the path makes it an amazing experience. The breeding season is a hectic time, with huge numbers of birds visiting the area to raise their young. For me this is one of the most incredible times of the year, full of hope and energy for the new season which is fast approaching, a sign that summer is well and truly on its way.
…to my yoga website! Please use the menus above to find information about my classes and workshops, including venue information and details of my booking and pricing system for term-time classes.
Tuesday evening yoga has now moved to Bournville Quaker Meeting House. It is still a drop-in session, so there is no need to pre-book. If you have previous experience of yoga, why not come and join us?
Term-time classes will finish soon for a summer break. For details of all classes please click here. If you would like to book a space for September, please get in touch.
Data Protection is big news at the moment with the introduction of the new GDPR. My Data Protection Policy is available here.
When you are waiting for a bus in the pouring rain, how endless can each minute seem? Yet when we go to the fairground, the rides are always over too quickly. In the past I have attended aerobics classes which have seemed agonisingly endless, yet when I am doing or teaching yoga the time flies by. Our perception of time seems to bear an inverse relationship to the pleasure gained from it; the worst experiences seem to last forever and the best ones are over ‘in no time at all’.
It can be easy to succumb to the habit of spending much of our time on autopilot when doing routine activities. If you have ever got half way to work and wondered if the door is locked, you were probably on autopilot when you turned the key! We can tend to fill our time with activities that may numb rather than stimulate. How many hours spent are browsing online/watching sitcoms/eating or drinking too much as a way of passing time? These things can all be distractions from the reality of each moment. We all need time out, but sliding automatically into these activities on a regular basis is not always restorative for body or mind.
When we become totally engrossed in whatever we are doing or watching, time appears to stand still. This is the experience of time I hope to encounter when practising photography as a meditation. I become so involved with my subject that time is no longer of any importance, far away from the restrictions of minutes and hours, days and weeks, times to be places and times to leave. It is these moments out of time that become recorded in my images and these moments that give the practice meaning for me. This sense of spaciousness is remarkably calming. This feeling can be found in any hobby or interest that absorbs your full attention. Whatever it may be, try it out today!
As the blossom heralds another spring, so the wilder weather of April arrives to blow it away. Although not the first of the spring flowers, to me, the cherry blossom says that winter is behind us and the promise of spring and summer are just around the corner. The ephemeral nature of the delicate flowers reminds us that transformation is moving apace. The blossom in my garden lasts just a week most years and bears a stark message to enjoy things while they are with us. Take time out to have fun and make the most of life as the opportunities arise!