Saturday, 2 April 2016

Travelling in time; and mind.

If you do want a good amount of time; to think your own thoughts; and to dig and delve into the creakily (un)hinged dusty cupboards of your own mind; then become a vegetable grower.

There are plenty of mindful tasks to engage the brain, but not entirely clog up, the mind with the hows and the whys and the wherefores...And after a while the answer to those questions becomes self evident ; and the mind can stay present. But at the same time, it can range over any number of subjects; surrounded as it is; by 'everything under the sun'.... Or  a rain shower.

Naturally; it is also lovely to have good company; and help; of the helpful sort..
 More than happy to welcome anyone, in any weather, fair or foul, for a little extra engagement in 'daily duties'.

If; however; the interior of your skull echoes with emptiness.
 If it constantly needs someone; or something; alongside; to fill it with 'thoughts for the day' then probably best find yourself more of a 'water cooler job'.
(No I don't really know what that means either; but I think it's something to do with offices and gossip (nothing wrong with that per se, so long as its not tedious or malicious))

Or get a job where an idle 30 seconds of 'down time' can be filled with 'kittenish' or otherwise fun on the internet.....Nigella optional.

Right now, there is a bit of a 'thing' going round about 'mindfulness'.
And who wouldn't want some of that?

 If we are assuming it means something along the lines of:  'Being in the present moment; observing ones actual thoughts and actions and breath and all the other things that are actually going on; at this actual real time right now'

 And what better place to attain that state than in a garden; doing something productive, meaningful, and requiring some bodily engagement.

Or perhaps walking through scenery; preferably attractive.
Only attractive scenery can be so very attractive; to the point of being completely diverting.. Especially when one is absorbed in 'just what aperture should I be using? to capture this 'look where I've been on my hols' shot.

 Walking over rougher ground; definitely helps to keep the mind on the job of here and now because we do have to 'mind our step'...

But mishaps abound, and what is most imperative to recall; should you feel yourself 'going over' is the necessity of alerting any companions to ones imminent downfall. Lest they should miss out on the peerless comedic joy; of witnessing a mate take a pratfall for the team...

 If you're particularly lucky someone may even record that delicious moment to share with the world wider webwise.

Go on; don't be a 'fun sponge'...

Or; some form of mindfulness might be achieved in the yoga room; whether practising or teaching...

There is a whole; at first glance; forbiddingly esoteric; and rather complicated philosophy that underpins the ancient art, and science of yoga.

Depending on your interpretation of the Sanskrit it means 'To join. Find union. Or to yoke / bind together'... That is uniting body, the mind, and the breath...

And I wouldn't claim to have the last word on this by any measure; but as far as I can make out the broader philosophical and practical points of it all; are; as relevant to us western sorts at least...

Attempt to do no harm....

To oneself

To others.

(Always a tricky one, unintended consequences being that thing; that they are)

Then sort your physical body, and posture out through repetitively performing these seemingly random; but actually very well thought out (only a few thousand years have gone into developing) sequence of stretches; and shape makings, with the best possible alignment, and extension, and precision, and mindfulness that you can muster.

To get things back; closer to where they should be in a well organised organism....

A half decent teacher could perhaps help you with this, through 'show and tell' and pointing out that; although you may feel you are extending equally both sides; in fact you carry your left hip a fraction higher than your right and so on.
 Hence the 'laying on of hands to adjust.

 Or just as often the application of your dearly beloved teachers kneecap used with knobbly precision against buttock; or some other poor tender part in need of adjustment.

And you have to be 'right there' in the room 'present' to do this stuff, in mind as well as body.

 Especially if you're struggling to balance on one leg, or equalise the stretch in one side of the rib cage with the extension on the other, You have to 'turn up' and do it. Whether to class; or on your own practice mat.

It's extremely democratic, at least.
 You can't send off for 100 hours of yoga practice and get it delivered next day in the post... So long as you've got a space 6' by 4' you can do yoga.

Some kit; and props are handy too. But, as with most forms of human endeavour "all the gear and no idea" applies as much to body work as anything else....

 Knowledge; and the artful application thereof; is generally the thing..

Once all this is done, and to be honest its always ongoing, constant work in progress, never quite done as such. But now we've got that half mastered lets alongside; find somewhere new to go; a new posture to explore...

Yes your leg, will, once warmed up (over several lifetimes perhaps), even go behind your head but it might take a while to get it there safely....There's absolutely no need to be bothering our already overstretched ambulance crews...

 But no matter it is the process, the  mindful attention to detail that is the thing.

It may be; because of this; that folks say; they feel so much more relaxed after a class.
Mindful even; because whilst doing all this stuff, concentrating hard on getting it right, they can't be worrying about x, y or z,
What he said to her, or what thingy wotsit meant when they said such and such.
Do I need to redecorate the spare room?... (sorry I have no useful answers to any of that)

Once all this is underway; and the spine and pelvis is starting to be nicely supported by the tremendous amount of legwork that you've done; then your chest starts to open properly... Hands up who would like less lung capacity? (No I thought not).... Then if so inclined, but no obligation, we can start thinking about some controlled breathing... Pranayama... All different sorts and flavours. Looks and sounds even more esoteric than some of the deeply funny shapes we make. but in essence those exercises too require that we show up, we be present we be mindful. But this stuff is quite hard.. Because paying attention to ones breath can in truth be a....bit dull?

 Well maybe, sometimes, but that is part of the challenge.....And the practice,

So all of this in turn brings a deeper awareness of ones self i.e. the fact of ones being and existence and how that relates to the actual world that we live in.
And one day; all this may; bring oneself to a more meditative state of mind...

So it's not about removing yourself from the world via an incense filled room; or a mountain top; or absenting yourself from the actuality of life.
   It's far more about being here now, showing up, in real time, immersing ones self more thoroughly in the here and now...And what needs to be done.

I am fully aware that both my occupations might come across as a bit 'wholesome' to a casual enquirer...

[There are times when I absolutely ache to reply with "Systems Analyst" to an interrogation as to my occupation. Does anyone? even the perusers of those systems themselves; know; what they actually do for a living?]

   However; if I tell them the truth. Many people will opine  "Oh how lovely"
And mostly; on the whole; it is.

But actual wholesomeness is really the whole thing, the whole lot,including the less than edifying bits, unearthing and owning up to them too.

And it's quite possible that many people are drawn to professions such as mine in an attempt to become more wholesome, not because they feel they are already complete.

There is a concept known as "The wounded healer". perhaps it doesn't need any explanation; but to me it implies that it may take someone who understands how it is to be 'not all totally well' in order to grasp the challenges; obstacles and blocks to becoming more wholesome.

Our teachers manual ; written as it is in beautifully expressive Indian English exhorts us teachers to present at class an 'wholesome appearance'

Makes me wonder if I shouldn't be turning up in a Gingham frock and pigtails...

And all that 'wholesomeness' sounds fine; if you can find a way to get your self  there.....Where ever there is.

 And if of course; here and now and 'with ones'self as one is' is a comfortable place to be..

But how many of us are really comfortable in that looming presence of who we really are... Not just the nice acceptable bits that we show to the world, but our actual true selves... Including the parts that we'd rather not admit too.

OK; so you over there; you are?
 Well done....
Would you like to come a little closer? So we can admire your shining personage?
 No come on closer; come on don't be scared.

OK; here's a precision aimed. gentle but firm. prod in the ribs from the rest of us, for being so sorted and pleased with yourself.

Now a few weeks back; maybe more like months ago; I happily renewed a correspondence with a friend. We had been living; and travelling companions back in our earlier youth.
She took the picture below.

Look no hair! the only time I've had it this short... Very practical for travelling; even if it did cause some consternation among the 'Hamman proprietresses of North Africa at the time.... My companion was considerably shorter; and blonder; so when we presented ourselves for ablution duties. it would often be assumed that I was the gentleman of the couple...
 Given that the ladies of this region couldn't, unlike most of the men; speak French... (education for girls?) The concerns as to my gender had to be expressed through hand gestures indicating the possible equippage residing in the groin area...
It wasn't until I was fully disrobed that they were entirely reassured.  'Proper ' women over there have long hair... Once we were ensconced within the steamy walls of the baths we would often then be instructed; nay bodily shown; as to how to wash properly..Never been so quite so squeaky clean since.
Oh; and look! Red dungarees... Must have been the late Eighties... Still got them in shortened form somewhere.... Maybe they'll have to get out on the road again...

Anti Atlas in the background, a fine range, probably still quite quiet.

Quality bit of vernacular architecture; built of ;and upon the local stone...
'Making your own fun in the country' Southern style. A Belgian artist had taken to painting some of the desert rocks

She and me; were discussing the frustrations of trying to 'get somewhere'...Metaphorically speaking....

 In this case either travelling towards a 'better place'. Perhaps gaining a more useful 'habit'; or getting long put off projects completed, maybe thinking more productively, doing more of the things that we know make us feel better.
 Making progress towards the 'good' stuff in other words..

Or conversely trying to get away from the gravitational pull of 'bad habits'.
 For example, dwelling on negative experiences; or immediately reaching for the biscuit barrel, or the internet kitties as distraction. Or whatever unhelpful habit we know we'd feel better if we managed to avoid.

She gave me this; what I found was a neat way of thinking about this struggle.
How not to give up, particularly when you feel your efforts are getting you nowhere..

 I've been 'road testing' it as a helpful 'habit of mind' for a while....

When as yoga teachers; we go to a class with a more senior teacher they will often pass on some new nugget of teaching practice.
 Or a method; that they may have brought home from one of their month long sojurns at our parent institute in Pune.

And sometimes they will advise us not to take this new information straight back to our students. They will advise that we work on it first for ourselves.
Assimilate it into our own practice, if you like, so we can really 'get it' understand it in our own bones and sinew.... Then; and only then, once it is found to work and make sense, then can you pass it on once you've felt it and lived it.

And so it was with this...

The idea, the analogy or what have you appealed immediately, but then so do kitties, and then after a while; there are only scratch marks, and fur balls.......

But I have tested it, and of course it won't appeal necessarily to every mindset; because thankfully; we do all have different ways of processing ideas and theories.

And it cant be 'a one way of thinking' fits every situation, because nothing ever does for everything.

 But; at the same time; if we've found something that helps us; in some way; and thereby might help others; then isn't it something like a duty (horribly worthy word but you know what I mean) to attempt to pass it on? However ineptly that might be done, and always with the proviso that there can be unintended consequences ; even from well-meant endeavours...

I've attempted a drawing with my coloured pencils..

That's another popular 'mindfulness' exercise at the moment, 'Colouring in for grown ups'.

I'm sorry I can't call them 'Adult colouring books' It's probably just me.... 'Raised by Carry On films'... Rather than wolves....

Though I think most of us revert to a childlike mindset; with our tongues sticking out just a tiny bit; when trying not to go over the lines when we do colouring in.
I believe that's the point.... Fixed point attention.

The Anatomy Colouring Book' was; and still is a very useful forerunner to this craze... Beloved of doctors and nurses; and any other kinds of 'body' workers who need to know how the hip bone connects to the leg bone..

An observant; or quick student of the Hindu Pantheon might invoke 'Ganesh' The Elephant god, 'remover of obstacles' to undertake the uprooting of the herbage himself. But allegorical allusion can only take us so far... 'Algernon' The Unicorn; my no less real; imaginary friend'  might call cheat...

Oh; and if anyone; particularly one person in particular who has the materials, but perhaps not so much the motivation to hand, and maybe needs a hefting from an elephant to get started; would like to do a better job of representing this concept pictorially; then do please be my guest.....Then we can get back to the vegetables....

So, the 'thing' at the centre can represent Either the element ( you see what I did there?) or habit, negative thought, influence, that you're trying to escape, or be released from.

It could be something as big as grief at the loss of a loved one, or something as trivial as the habit of leaving the loo seat up*. Via any number of the issues that may beset the human psyche...

 (*Although not altogether trivial if; as here; you operate a composting loo.... In the Summer those flies do not differentiate between putting their grubby little feet in there; or on your dinner plate)

Or conversely it may be used to represent a habit or porpoise in life towards which we aspire to draw closer...
The spiralling (purple natch') path is our meanderings towards or away, once we have determined our goal.... That  aspiration being. another thing. to work out in itself. but another time...

And the various bits of sqiggly herbage represent the obstacles , the stumbling blocks, the 'oh no here I go again, I've been here before, why do I keep coming up against this?
 I am going round and round in circles. Will I ever learn?.... 'Doh!' As someone famously says.

The self admonishing is endless. But, and butt, progress is made. Yes its the same old blocks and 'derr' moments, we keep coming up against. Falling over, tripping up. Oh bother; look; its that unscaleable hedge yet again....

Unscaleable? really? You managed it last time; yes you ended up a bit scratched and bruised.
 Yes your hair did kinda look; as usual as if you'd visited the 'Salon of hedgebackwards' but you got over it.

You even learnt a few handy tricks; invented a few new tools to hack through the unhelpful undergrowth with; borrowed ( and returned) a ladder; or got a bunk up from a helpful mate.
 (More than half the battle for most of us; is admitting that we're struggling; only then do you realise just how helpful the rest of humanity can be)
  Perhaps it does helps to be a bit selective: as to whom you ask for assistance; but trusting your gut isn't such a bad practice in my experience; and anyhow even if you seemingly asked the 'wrong' for whatever reason person for help; if you paid attention; you learn't something from that too.

And the next time you come across the blockage; lets call it a hedge being one for horticultural analogies; it may be a bit less thicketsome (that is a word now)
Because you've got the tools to hand already, and the confidence to use them, or you know where the ladder is. Or some kind person may even have built a stile; or cut the thing down to a manageable height...
And progress will be made with persistance, and presence, and being right there and seeing the obstacles for what they are.

And anyhow; we can but try.

The alternative?

At the first hurdle (I thought it was a hedge)
"Nope too high, impossible to scale, no ones going to help, insurmountable.... "

I'll just sit here; stay right here, wait for rescue, that might never come, sit and stew and complain to anyone else passing by, about the hedge that someone planted here, and remark to anyone else unfortunate enough who may be attempting the same journey....

" Oh I wouldn't bother; it won't work; there's really no way over that; no one will help; lets just sit here and look at the kitties on the screen until we forget quite what it was we were trying to do.... "

Nothing against those lovely felines or the internet you understand, I find them both quite diverting myself... We are still in the land of analogy here.
 I like cats....

So progress will be made but it takes work, and awareness and dedication and belief that things can change.

And as all good physicists, and philosophers know.... 'Change is the only constant....'

And we will fail; and keep failing; and keep coming up against the same stuff. Oh well; but it isn't about perfection, or even trying to attain perfection; that killer of joy and stultifier of effort that goes something along the lines of "well it'll never be good enough so why bother trying?"

Because nothing ever came of nothing..

I can't remember who this is attributable to but......

The only difference between people who do things; and people who don't do things is that the people who do them; do them..

Yes there is a bit of advantage if you have some natural talent; and some will have other circumstances in their favour.

But most of it is just showing up, having a go. being prepared to fail, risking others pointing and laughing (quite allowable if you fell over but didn't hurt yourself)....

In a way it's analogous to the advice "Dance like no one is watching"

 Quite right too, the other folks dancing with you are doing just that; getting on with their own thing or maybe joining in with yours; and the folks on the sidelines not dancing are either too shy (go on; ask 'em), or too tired from all the dancing they have been doing.
  Or if they feel they are a bit above all this; and think you look like an idiot; well that tells us a lot more about them, than it does about your joyful dancing.

And back to the garden... {another 40 yards of broad beans planted  half the red onions in by the way...}

Another theme doing the rounds; for the umpteenth; stating the teethgrindingly obvious {not the desired effect one supposes} time ; is how 'being in nature' will help your mental 'elf...

Well true perhaps; up to a point...

If it's just a case of feeling a bit grumpy; or having to put up with annoying colleagues whilst doing a 'what is the point of what I do?' job. Or suffering an idiot boss...
But hang on; if you think your supervisor is bad; spare a thought for mine... She is the 'oh so proud' owner of a home made; full sized Clanger suit to be worn at appropriate; or some would argue deeply inappropriate moments.....

Hmmnnn; well an actual photo another time perhaps... But this is just in case you are too young to be aware of these 70's Kids T.V. icons here's.....

Second born son has just had a narrow escape... He is all too aware of these beasties... Mama Clanger was going to put in an appearance at his celebrations marking his officially becoming an adult... Don't feel you have to grow up though farm bwoy.. You could just become an older young person; it has a lot to recommend it.

But circumstances do arise; so the owner of said suit will be elsewhere... What finer present (lack of presence?) could an eighteen year old ask for...?

If just 'being in nature' was enough; by itself' there would be no depressed farmers, gardeners, forestry workers, trawler operatives or persons of any other outdoorsy type occupations, suffering malaise of the mind.

 Mental health is just like bodily health, it can be enhanced by doing all those things that we know instinctively are good for us... Eating well, exercising enough, getting some rest, all the usual stuff.

But an illness cured? By going for a walk in the woods? I don't think so.

 Try telling someone with flu; just get out into the park you'll feel better... Got a broken leg? Never mind; here look at these flowers... It's ridiculous, we would call for a paramedic, we get help. We use medication or some form of useful treatment.
Anxiety can be temporarily alleviated by watching kittens in front of or behind the screen, but you can't spend your whole life with 'em...

Question arisies; do kitten breeders ever get down in the dumps?

And now; I realise just how much of your precious time I have wasted; if you've stuck with this til the end. I apologise fulsomely; forthwith....

Perhaps now; you might like to switch off for a moment, and go and do a real thing; in this moment; right now?

In the absence of any better ideas; there's a fair amount of weeding to do here....

Unless of course; you've just scrolled to the end hoping for a good punchline... In which case; ever the obliging blogstress ;

She definitely is; trying......

"I just can't abide Russian Dolls"

 Whatever did they do to you......?

Oh I don't know;

 They're just so 'Full of themselves'
But that begs the question....

 If being 'full of oneself' is such a bad thing; just what; perchance; should we full of ?

Vegetables ; I suppose.....



  1. Replies
    1. Oh Lorks; Im not sure I'm cut out for Gurudom..

      Could I be your Gnu instead? Less responsibilty; and much more fun.... ;)


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