Live in the breath…..

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“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”
― Amit Ray

So many of my students come to me suffering with moderate or extreme anxiety.  In fact, I was actually asked the question this week, “isn’t it normal to be anxious?”

Of course we get anxious when we are confronted by negative influences or when we have to face great challenges in our lives, but no, living in a state of anxiety should not be considered ‘normal’. 

It may become ‘normal’ for some people to exist in an anxious state and to be trapped in its tethers, but there are ways to break free of it, or at the very least to ease it when it overwhelms our being.

One way to manage chronic anxiety is to ‘live in the breath’.  It sounds simple, and I know that those who suffer with anxiety would be saying ‘as if’!

But these words are being written by one who suffered with extreme anxiety for a long, long time years ago. Me!  I understand. That is why I do what I do and wish to pass my knowledge and experiences on to you.

Truly ‘the breath’ is a panacea….once recognised as such, and once practised efficiently.

There are many, many ways to breathe effectively and many practices that can help one do this.

However, a beautiful and greatly effective yogic method is ‘Maha Yoga Pranyama’.

(Maha – meaning great; Yoga – the union between the body, breath and mind; Pranyama – extension of the life force that we take in when we breathe deeply and slowly).

This YouTube is for you.

A complimentary session.

7 minutes long.

Invaluable benefits.

Please try it!  And practise not once but often….

Maha Yoga Pranyama

The importance of breathing need hardly be stressed. It provides the oxygen for the metabolic processes; literally it supports the fires of life. But breath as “pneuma” is also the spirit or soul. We live in an ocean of air like fish in a body of water. By our breathing we are attuned to our atmosphere. If we inhibit our breathing we isolate ourselves from the medium in which we exist. In all Oriental and mystic philosophies, the breath holds the secret to the highest bliss. That is why breathing is the dominant factor in the practice of Yoga.”

Alexander Lowen, The Voice of the Body
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An Eloquent Offering…

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Let the child living within us to live freely, happily and simply.

A little while ago a friend sent these words to me believing them to be written by the current Pope, Pope Francis.  That is the claim, but as it turns out, not the truth.

I have been reading them out to my yoga classes as the words are so poignant, profound and gentle.  However, the second time I read them aloud, I listened to the whispers in my body, and intuitively discovered that these words are more yogic than a catholic discourse, or at the very least more poetic.

So I questioned Lord Google, and yes, as it turns out, no one really knows who wrote them. This is despite the fact that they have been attributed to many authors, quite convincingly I might add, and specifically to the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa who died early last century.

Of course, they are subject to the time spent in cyberspace and the numerous translators’ perspectives.

So, what can I say?  Except ‘thank you’ to the author/authors/translators and my friend.  These words are delightful and pertinent to us all.   So in light of these words being offered to me, I now offer them to you, so that you may read, re-read, adopt and enjoy!

(I doubt that Fernando Pessoa is turning in his grave worrying about copyright).

“You may have flaws, live anxiously, and sometimes get angry, but never forget that your life is the biggest enterprise in the world. And you can keep it from going bankrupt.

 There are many people who need, admire and love you.

 I wish that you always remember that being happy is not having a sky without storms, paths without accidents, work without fatigue, relationships without disappointments.

 Being happy is finding strength in forgiveness, hope in battles, security in fear, love in disagreements.

 Being happy is not only appreciating the smiles, but reflecting on the sadness.

It is not just celebrating the success, but also learning lessons in failures.

It is not only to feel happy with applause, but finding joy in anonymity.

 Being happy is recognizing that life is worth living, despite all the challenges, misunderstandings and periods of crisis.

 To be happy is to stop feeling like a victim and to become your destiny’s author. It is crossing deserts outside of yourself, but being able to find an oasis in the secret of your soul.

 It is being thankful for every morning for the miracle of life.

 Being happy is not being afraid of your own feelings. It’s to be able to talk about yourself.

It’s the courage to hear a “No”. It is confidence in the face of criticism, even when you feel it is unjustified. It is to kiss your children, pamper your parents, to live poetic moments with friends.

 Being happy is to let the child living within us to live freely, happily and simply.

 It is having the maturity to say “I made mistakes”.

It is having the courage to say “forgive me”.

It is having the sensitivity to say “I need you”.

It is to have the ability to say “I love you”.

It is having the humility of receptivity.

May your life become a garden of opportunities for happiness …That in spring may it be a lover of joy?  In winter a lover of wisdom. And when you go astray, start again. You will find that to be happy is not to have a perfect life…

But use the tears to irrigate tolerance.

Use your losses to refine patience.
Use your mistakes to sculptor serenity.
Use obstacles to open the windows of intelligence.

 Never give up hope.

Never give up the people you love.

Never give up on people who love you.

Never give up on happiness, for life is an incredible show”. 

 

x Annemaree x

 

To laugh often and much….

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As I teach more and more yoga I see more and more behaviours on the mat related to stress, striving, winning, comparing, judging, hurrying, fear, impatience, lack of confidence, grief, and I could go on and on and on.

I know that my students reflect my attitudes and behaviours too and thanks to them I have learned more about myself than any personal development book/wise man/guru could teach me!

In doing so, it has taken me some years to understand how many of these behaviours stem from the need/desire to be “successful”‘.  What on earth is that?  If you ask Western children today, what do they want to be when they grow up…..often the response is to be ‘famous’!  As a small child I don’t recall ever wanting to be famous for the sake of it!  (Infamous maybe but not famous).  It’s true that success wears many cloaks but having thousands of Facebook friends doesn’t cut it for me.

What is success to you? I recently was in the home of a lovely friend who pointed out how successful her husband was because of what he had provided for she and her family, but didn’t see, in any way, her so-called success.   Apart from the fact that I was sitting in a stunningly, beautifully designed home, speaking to her charming son, and having just walked through a garden fit to be in Vogue Living (all produced, designed and nourished by her I might add),  she saw her husband as successful but not herself.  In fact she sees herself as not ambitious, nor driven and yet she ambles through life creating a magnificent haven/ambience for her family. Success? Surely!

Yes money can certainly be a sign of success if put to good use but so too can the creation of a garden. For what is more beautiful? A dollar note or a rose?

And how blessed can you be to not feel as though you have to strive every day?  Have you considered what it is like just to be, to potter, to be present?  Ask someone who has been given one year to live, what success is?  I did this week. And the answer was simply, to live in the present with those I love’.  End of subject.

And sometimes I play a beautiful piece of music in my classes which is interrupted for a split second with these words…”When our bones turn to dust the two most important things in life will have been how much we loved and how much we gave”.

Some years ago I visited mother Theresa’s (now St. Theresa’s) homes in Pashupatinath (Nepal) and Pondicherry (India) and experienced first-hand (whilst being humbled to my very core) what she created in her life and what these lively, little nuns (yes they all seem little) do for the disabled, poor, abandoned etc. Giving and loving – in a nutshell.

Surely these are the two greatest qualities of the human race?  Surely what stems from these is happiness. And isn’t being happy – success?

Oh if we all just loved and gave…..what an idealist I am!

So when you feel you are not ‘successful’, think again or plant a tree!  That will do it.

Such a small gift to the earth can give shade, safety and joy and all it takes is a thought, a seedling and a moment in time.

Annemaree x

 

“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition, to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded”.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Pic: By Jaime Murcia, children from The East West Overseas Foundation, TEWOAF, Tamil Nadu, India.

Planting Seeds……..

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No doubt you know those who are often or always looking on the negative side. Always complaining. Always anxious. Often dramatic. Nervous. Full of doom. Ruled by the negative stories in their head. Owning pain. And using their pain as a badge of honour. Easily irritated.  Immersed in a belief system that the world is ugly, corrupt, miserable, frightening, mean, falling apart, hopeless etc.  I am not speaking about those who are ill and enduring the suffering of clinical depression.  That is a different story.  I am speaking about the average you and me.

We all experience pain. But pain like a mistake is a lesson for growth.

As Kahil Gibran wrote in his work The Prophet:

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that

Encloses your understanding

Even as the stone of the fruit must break,

That it’s heart may stand in the sun, so must

you know pain”

I was recently immersed in the centre of an absolutely pristine pool in India at one of the world’s most beautiful yogic spa and healing centres. I was observing the beautiful blue, glistening water and luxuriating in its warmth and nurturing properties.  A few of the staff were looking into the pool too perhaps observing its clarity or beauty – who knows.  A woman suddenly swam past me and said ‘I wonder what they are doing, I hope they’re not looking for snakes?????

Negative people need to be the centre of attention by drawing in sympathy from those around them or ‘belonging’ by joining the negative mob. Consciously or unconsciously.  However the very thing that is wanted, that is attention, is the very thing not received as many will move away from the negative cloud of energy that one exudes.

These people are often irritated, irritable, remorseful and angry. Falling and falling down the rabbit hole at the rate of knots into a state of gloom and emptiness and so much so that they lose their place in the world and are unable to clamber up the sides of the cavern – because it all seems all useless and pointless.  Beauty is beyond reach and isolation pervades. Is this you? Of course it is or can be or has been at some time. We are wired to think the worst and to fight or flee to protect ourselves. Ancient brain.  And……We all so often allow the stories in our head to rule us and others.

Some of the wisest words I have been offered and ones upon which I have reflected upon many times are: “if you plant negative seeds, you will harvest negativity”.  You may say that you are not being negative and denying or being resistant in some way to owning up to this truth. Or not even aware of your default pattern of existence. If you plant an apple tree you will not get oranges. Let’s face it. If you plant negativity you cannot expect to harvest positivity. You can only hope for it. And hope will not provide it.  Not this time. So there is no point just waiting, expecting to pluck an orange off an apple tree.

One needs to do the hard work by planting different seeds. Continuously. Season after season until the garden is abundant. Don’t blame the lack of fruit or the soil or lack of rain or the cold. It is from you that the seeds will fall. Beauty is from within…..let it blossom.

We all need to be mindful of how we are approaching the day. Do we wake up and immediately think things are going to be arduous?  Or do we wake up thinking how amazing it is to be still breathing and above grass?

It is often said to me that ‘I don’t have the energy to make change’. That’s a negative and you are right. Of course you will not be able to make change if you have planted that seed. Of course negativity will deplete your energy too. It becomes a vicious circle. Negativity – low energy – low energy – inability to make change.

When living in darkness the days seem long. When living in light one feels vibrant.

And so…..

What are you planting? Which seed will empower you?  Which seed will not?  What does the garden of your mind look like? Is it full of colour, beauty and vitality….

Roses or weeds?

The choice is yours…….

 

Annemaree x

 

P.S. I would like to honour whoever took this photograph. It came from Pinterest to me, I and I am unable to find out who took it. But I thank you, whoever you are. It says it all.  It is so full of joy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Being’

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 ‘Being’ –

As I look back, I realized that even as young as 7 years of age, I would crave to find a place where I could be ‘quiet’ so that I could be still and listen to the waves rolling into shore, watch the sun sparkling on the ocean and surrender into the arms of nature.

During my childhood nothing gave me more pleasure than escaping from the Rowley brood (I was the eldest of five) with my pencils, books and music (transistor in those days) and ‘just sit’ and ‘watch’ or ‘draw’ and ‘create’ amidst a soundscape of sea-gulls, summer breeze and dulcet melodies.

It was the state of ‘being’ that kept me calm and centered, just as it does now.  ‘Being’ is such a powerful and healing quality of humanity that is so often neglected.  Yes, it means ‘to stop’!

Doing next to nothing you may ask?  Really?  It was probably a ‘sin’ at school.

And I can still hear the words: ‘don’t just sit there, do something’.

Ironically one of my most loved expressions is by the Vietnamese monk and Pacifist, Thich Nhat Hanh, who wrote ‘don’t just do something, sit there’.  Upon reflection, the latter words and practice are far more useful to me!

Perhaps you will find one of these practices useful too…they are not difficult to remember:

When the eyes are unmoving, so is the mind.  Focus upon an image, real or imagined.  The mind calms, stillness comes.

Take one deep breath, then another.  There is much to be said about just stopping to take a deep breath.  Breathe in deeply.  Breathe out slowly.

Make each breath longer than the last.  To slow down, imagine each breath is fuller, more nourishing than the last one.

Make your out-breath longer than the in-breath.  Yes, it is the same amount of air!  But it is the in-breath that energises and the out-breath that soothes.  Slow the out-breath down and feel its soothing quality.

Observe beauty.  Don’t glimpse it…..absorb it!  I took this photo of a friend of mine on a Burmese shore.  She stood there for a long, long time….what does it say to you?

Be ‘aimless’.  Sit and plan to do nothing.  In this very moment, ‘achieving ‘ is not the pre-requisite – things are just as they are meant to be.

Be ‘mindful’.  Observe the apple that you are eating, the tea that you are sipping, and the sounds that you are hearing.  You are in the present. .

Visit the ‘gap’.  In between our thoughts there is a ‘gap’.  Rest there.  Peace is present.

Retreat within:  Find your outer haven:  a room, a beach, a park.  Then enter your inner sanctuary to find your quiet place.

 

Will this help?  A free Mindfulness Timer App?

http://www.thichnhathanhfoundation.org/#!mindful-bell-sounds/c14kg

Remember……

“When you are fully in the ‘now’, the beauty, mystery and magic of this world are unfurled and its gifts are laid before you”.  

Annemaree

Ahimsa: ‘Do no harm’.

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It is cool to be kind….not cruel to be kind!

This Sanskrit word opens a mélange of ideas, beliefs, and opinions about what ‘do no harm’ actually means.   ‘Ahimsa’ is so easily expressed but not so easy to adhere to at times.

And….the antithesis to ‘do no harm’ is really very, very  simple –

As expressed by the great author Henry James:    “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

Nothing is more unattractive than someone being unkind about another and nothing is more futile than one being unkind about oneself.

Recently I held a ‘Soul Soothing Sunday’ whereupon students came to a gentle Hatha yoga class and we sat around discussing ‘Ahimsa’.  Off to dinner afterwards, and the conversation was still continuing – and today is still continuing – weeks later in fact!

Many have come forward with responses to what ‘Do no harm’ means to them.  Here are some of the precepts in leading a life of ‘Ahimsa’, some of which you may never have considered before this.

  • Think before you speak
  • Keep your word
  • Know that betrayal in any form can be devastating to the one who has trusted you
  • Do not believe you have the right to change the direction of another’s life
  • Proffer compassion not retaliation.
  • Use your rational intellect in seeking truth rather than jumping to conclusions and being ruled by the ‘emotional mind’.  In other words, seek facts not here say – assumptions don’t cut it.
  • No judgment
  • No gossip
  • Charm is one thing, honesty is another.  Nothing can be more harmful than those who are passively aggressive.  (Those who are sweet-faced but are really silent assassins).
  • Avoid aggressive people whenever possible, ‘for they are vexations to the spirit’ (as quoted in The Desiderata).
  • Understand that everything one says will have a ripple effect.
  • Be kind to yourself.  Be kind to yourself.  Be kind to yourself.
  • Understand that everything one does affects this world.
  • Stand alone if necessary and be strong rather than join the crowd and be carried away by the majority.
  • Understand the human condition.
  • Offer a hand and not an opinion unless requested.
  • Offer a smile and not a scald.
  • Let go of social conditioning.
  • Live in beauty.
  • Be mindful in all that you do.
  • Let people in the queue.
  • Follow your heart.
  • Stay out of harm’s way. If you are in the presence of someone causing you harm, remove yourself from his/her  path.
  • Diffuse rather than ignite.
  • Lead the way – don’t acquiesce.
  • If you are in the company of those whom you know feel harm in your presence (e.g. jealousy) stay away for their sake and for you own!
  • Know what kindness looks and feels like.
  • Do not separate yourself by beliefs, values, nationality, religion, disposition, tradition and status – we are all doing our best.  We are all in this together.
  • Be sensitive to the fact, that it is very easy to harm.

I have learned from my teachers that ‘Ahimsa’ is the golden rule of yoga and if one can fully achieve the practice of ‘Do no harm’, one need learn no other form of yoga, for all the other practices are included in it.

And so, there are many, many paths to peace.

Hold hands with humanity and one can then be free from judgments, criticism, assumption, hatred and enmity.

Understanding is the key.

Kindness is the way…

Idealistic?     Well, why not!

Annemaree x