Yoga Moves update
Flex*an"i*mous\, a. [L. flexanimus; flectere, flexum, (to bend) + animus (mind).]
Having power to change the mind.
From one perspective – we are a bundle of physical, emotional, energetic, mental habits. This is obviously not a judgement as we need our habits in order to function (it’s no good having to relearn each day how to walk, get dressed, how to make our own breakfast or how to use a spoon to eat it – our day would be gone). A lot of our practice at the studio (whether it is in the meditation classes or the movement classes) is about understanding our habits – knowing which habits support us and which habits diminish us (and/or those around us), exploring new options, trying them out in different situations, seeing how we get stuck in old patterns even with new ideas and gradually or instantaneously improving our ability to discern the most efficient and/or wholesome pathway to take. (Dates and class times below).
Having just returned again from teaching a retreat in Nepal and Tibet with 13 wonderful companions, I am reminded of the wonderful benefit of travelling and being a ‘stranger in a strange land’. It is neigh on impossible to not wake up from the mindless trance that can become a large part of one’s day and see with new eyes, explore new tastes, wonder at the different smells and sounds and be pleasantly or unpleasantly challenged by different ways of engaging in daily life (and teaching) from day to day. I am still happily in the process of digesting and remembering all the amazing things that we saw, ate, did while we were away while simultaneously adjusting to having the harness of work and life here back on. It is always interesting to notice what one chooses to pick up again (consciously and/or unconsciously) and what is discarded. (Engaging with my computer more or less seems to be an ongoing dilemma as I get older!).
One of my personal travelling habits when I am making a return visit to somewhere is that I tend to establish a ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ routine in that city. It usually involves a walk and maybe a meal in a favourite place. In Kathmandu, I walk a variety of routes in the mornings but my preferred one and the one that I always do on the first morning and the last morning before flying is to Swayambhunath, a massive, ancient complex of Buddhist and Hindu shrines and temples on a hilltop to the west of my hotel. (It can even be clearly seen from our yoga room on the hotel’s fourth floor). I am up about 5.45am, walking shoes on and heading left out the hotel gate and up the hill. The first round of morning milk teas are being drunk in local cafes by bleary–eyed neighbours and workers with combed, wet hair and there is the smell of deep frying sweet doughnut balls as they roll in the oil. Every so often I veer left around a stone statue of the elephant deity, Ganesh or multiple Buddhas recently water splashed and then smeared lovingly in orange and red pastes. Teenage children in bright white shirts and navy pants or skirts are already walking to school. “Hello” (them) “hello” (me) and giggle, giggle (them). It takes about 10 minutes to walk to Swayambhunath (aka the Monkey Temple) and I begin to circumambulate the stupa with everyone else. We start at the entrance where women are selling vegetables, orange marigold garlands, butter lamps and little leaf trays pre-filled with flower petals and food offerings for the morning devotees. There are Tibetan monks and lay practitioners doing their prostrations on tatty mattresses or cardboard either side of the stairs leading up to the great stupa whose huge painted eyes can be seen for miles in all directions. People pause before starting for a few moments with their hands in prayer position. I turn left and walk clockwise along the wall of prayer wheels with Tibetan housewives young and old in their traditional dress and aprons and mala (rosary) in one hand saying their morning prayers/mantras; Nepali and Tibetan men in track suits doing the same; joggers, playing children, monkey mothers and their babies suctioned to their stomachs strolling across the path or leaping from tree to wall and back again, fighting over food, eating… I pass the frequent stalls of butter lamps which can be bought to offer to various Buddhas housed in alcoves between the prayer wheels and continue past the vegetable and undergarments market at the half way mark and a few Buddhist monks cross-legged and chanting. Someone once told me they were beggars in robes busking… sometimes I give them money anyway. Sometimes I give it to a thin mother with a thin baby or to cherubs with grey snotty noses. Or to the man with two creased stubs poking out of his rolled up trousers. He is on a square platform with wheels and his hands are filthy and calloused. I don’t want to touch them but I do accidentally as I give him some crumpled rupees. Even after all these years, I notice my mind still cringes (although less) with worry – ‘what if?’ Our eyes meet and we say ‘Namaste’. But I keep moving and forget about it as I see the man in front of me detour off the path, buy the day’s green veges and then get back in the circuit, spinning a prayer wheel as he recommences the kora. We all keep going (some faster, some slower) around the tiled path which curves round the stupa, prayer wheels at hand height in the wall on my right… I notice they are deceptively heavy and that it requires good timing and a decent effort to get one to spin and send its invisible prayers into the air… We walk on past the communal water spout where woman in saris are washing themselves, their children, their hair, the family clothes... There are men brushing their teeth and when they spit out the white foam is stark on the wet stone. By the time I am on the final quarter of the stupa walk, the army cadets in blue camouflage uniforms are jogging past chatting, laughing and then becoming orderly as their troop leader mock yells them into silent formation. When they get to the eastern entrance of the stupa complex they run up the 365 centuries-old stairs, turn round and gallop down again past more locals on their way up and down the stairs and a few heaving Western tourists up early for the sunrise view from the top over the Kathmandu Valley.
Back at the hotel, I wash my hands before breakfast. It’s a habit...
And then at home again with my senses refreshed and mind still relaxed, I resist rushing, big decisions and machines so that I can see the small green feather on the path, the tiny red petals of a mauve flower in King’s Park or hear the news of my friends. This email is late, unedited! and the spring term of classes return in an hour…we hope you enjoy your classes this term. More news as the week progresses.
Be well and happy,