Walking my Favorite Labyrinth on 7th July, 2017
Such a gorgeous day to be here. Blue sky. Sun shining. So wonderfully warm despite how cold it is.
Walking the Labyrinth was interesting as always. Questions arise. The answers come if not now, at another time. Gratitude fills me to the brim.
This Labyrinth, although always constant at its essence, changes its feel as the seasons occur.
Today it is lovely to see and feel the winter grasses and mosses under foot softening the path and spilling over the edges. The path feels soft and welcoming especially in the centre.
As I walked it felt right to reinstate some of the loose stones marking the edges of the path.
What did I feel when arriving at the centre? Peace, joy, stillness. I can truly feel nothing can touch me when in that space. Strength, courage, open heart, open mind.
Being completely present and knowing that those feelings are genuine certainly feels good.
It may sound strange but I really feel at times that the Labyrinth calls me. In other words I intuitively know when it is time to visit the Labyrinth. The energy within it and around it is always a positive nurturing, loving energy. My heart is open.
I give thanks and resolve to walk again. Looking forward to sharing the experience with participants in our Meditation Retreat coming up in August at this beautiful venue.
Love to all, Joanne.
I recently came across this quote by Lau Tsu
“To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders”
So I’d like to share one of my prayers with you and I encourage you to meditate, be patient and feel the stillness.
A prayer to feel the stillness of God within
My body is still
My heart is quiet.
There is stillness around me.
Now I wait for your divine stillness and peace to settle within me.
I know you are there with every breath I take.
I breathe very calmly and feel the stillness present in every pause.
May I be inside the stillness…that is all that is in this moment.
In stillness I am there with you, You are here with me.
Amen. So be it.
If you are wondering whether to try a yoga class and not quite sure about what to expect, my introduction may be of help. I welcome beginners at any time.
People come to yoga for a variety of reasons…It may be to assist the physical body in some way, it can be to improve mental focus and concentration or to learn ways of managing stress which when not managed, can reflect in a negative way on the body, mind and emotions.
The most common practice is Hatha Yoga. A combination of postures stretching breathing and relaxation.
The postures address the body in very specific ways to develop strength, flexibility and balance but also to stimulate internal organs and systems in the body for overall health and wellbeing.
Particular awareness is focused on the breath while practicing the postures, as this helps with concentration and ensures that you remain present and mindful so that you are extending your body but never straining.
Training the mind to follow an evenness of breath helps to cultivate a calm, uncluttered mind. The breath is the fundamental tool of yoga and the fundamental tool of mindfulness training.
Breath awareness is most helpful in managing stress levels as they arise in the body. It is also practiced as a means of moving into deep relaxation and meditation.
These are very useful tools that can be applied in everyday life and living.
One of my very early teachers once said to me…its not like taking a pill…you need to make an effort.
That is so true, but the effort you make is by no means a hardship, it is interesting and exciting and joyful and the best part is that is pays dividends. It gives you an opportunity to nurture yourself on all levels which then results in a much happier and healthier you.
So I welcome you on your Yoga Journey and I wish you a healthy body and a peaceful mind.
Blessings to all.
I thought I would take this opportunity to honor three very influential teachers I was fortunate to have when I first began to practice yoga in 1975. Margrit Segesman, Eve Degen and Susan Gabor. Margrit was the founder and Principal of the Gita School of Yoga in the 1950’s. Her book ‘Wings of Power’, first published in 1973 tells the story of her life and how she brought Yoga to Melbourne after spending several years in India with her Guru. A fantastic read. Quite ahead of its time.
There were reasons I took up yoga as is the case for most people. These reasons range through many layers of physical, emotional and mental, or of course all three.
Being a beginner is delightful. I was hooked from day one when I heard Eva’s voice telling me to relax at the end of a session. I am to this day conscious of the fact that I really am still a beginner. That is what is so interesting and exciting about the journey. You never know it all. I’m so grateful to have had these fabulous women in my life as not only teachers but friends.
Becoming a student at the Gita School of Yoga opened many doors into the discovery of what life was about and most importantly how to live life. I became aware of life’s big questions slowly unraveling. Also a deeper spirit of inquiry began to arise. Margrit always loved questions.
At the core of our being we are searching for something that is going to give us strength, courage, something that is going to give us happiness and peace. Its not going to come from anything outside ourselves so we need to discover something within ourselves that is going to do that.
The Gita School offered many and varied classes and activities. We not only attended classes in Hatha Yoga (Postures) but also Yoga Philosophy classes were available and classes in Progressive Yoga Relaxation for which Margrit was famous for. There were free lectures to attend and stretch classes on Saturday afternoons. It was a wonderful centre of activity and a place to meet with like minded people. My husband and I met right there in 1979.
Margrit would not permit us to study the philosophy until we were sufficiently grounded in Hatha Yoga and the techniques of Relaxation. This usually took about twelve months of regular attendance. This made perfect sense as not only did it cultivate our discipline and commitment but it gave us the grounding that was needed for meditation and study.
So when it was finally time for me to join a Philosophy class, I literally couldn’t wait. These weekly sessions were thrilling. The texts we studied were about the power of the mind, the law of attraction, Creative and Negative Tension, Self and Self Image, Visualization, Astrology, Brain Plasticity… yes even way back then!
These classes always began with Meditation. Margrit believed and taught meditation as an integral part of the Yoga Teachings. It is the seventh step (dhyana) of the eightfold path of Yoga described by Patanjali. Meditation when practiced very regularly brings us in touch with our higher self. The intuitive mind.
As Margrit said,
“There exists within man the power to contact the universal forces by which he is capable of doing anything that he may aspire to do or be.”
I have never forgotten those inspirational words and I think that is an auspicious place to end for now. I would like to continue this story next time. In the meantime, ponder on those words and see if you can find your, “Wings of Power’.
Warm wishes and love to you
For some time now I have had an interest in the Labyrinth. Walking the Labyrinth and all that comes from walking the Labyrinth.
It is said that no one is certain of the entire history of the Labyrinth. There are clues as to its origins such as the discovery of a labyrinth doodle on a Greek clay tablet dated 1200BCE. Also it is known that over time labyrinths of various shapes and sizes have appeared on every inhabited continent.
People walk the labyrinth for various reasons such as: to gain clarity, to break old patterns, to connect with God, to receive help, to become more open, to relax, to find wisdom, to celebrate, to turn a new corner, to pray, to heal, to meditate, to ask for answers to questions.
I have experienced all of the above and I would like to share with you my most recent experience.
6th May, 2016 I am here at the Labyrinth. Beautiful day. Not a cloud in the sky. Its so peaceful here. I have just completed my first walk.
Taking a question with me as I walked today. A question that seemed significant and much arose while walking and pausing and stopping in the centre. I was particularly noticing that my shadow was present. As I navigated the twists and turns along the path my shadow was before me as though leading me. Then it was behind me as though protecting me. Then it was beside me as though just walking with me. Just thoughts.
I was reminded to walk softly and with awareness. To slow down. It was nice to allow this to happen.
Whilst pausing in the centre words came to me as I practiced a Mudra. “I open my heart and let go of resistance. I draw up from the well of my creativity and intuition. I offer this to the Universe. I return to my heart with love and peace.” (There are arm movements to coincide with these words).
Now I have returned to the threshold and I feel peaceful , sitting for meditation incredibly calm and quiet.
I have many questions. The answers to which I must be patient.
I have taken off my shoes and will walk again now……
After walking – a brief meditation and breathing. Focusing on who I am right now.
It was quite challenging with no shoes!! The ground is fairly rough. But it reminded me to keep going despite the obstacles in life. To keep my balance. To look forward, not down. Always look forward not down, realising also that I am in the moment.
There is a lovely breeze as I sit now beside the Labyrinth. I give thanks for the warmth of the sun and the beautiful clear blue sky. May all being be blessed and find refuge in Gods eternal gifts .I resolve to return and walk again. Peace Amen.
So now if you read through my last blog you will see I mentioned the word Patience.
This was to do with the process of Stilling the Mind. Yes ….patience is required.
So what is the ‘How To’ when it comes to Patience?????
The dictionary defines Patience as …. The Capacity for waiting. The ability to endure waiting, delay, or provocation, without becoming annoyed or upset. Or to persevere calmly when faced with difficulties.
Whether you see it this way or not, being Mindful is a spiritual practice and has an effect on the human spirit as opposed to material or physical things. Eg., When walking be aware of your steps, take in the beauty around you. Leave the ear phones behind and tune in to what is around you. You are likely to see things you haven’t noticed before. You are likely to feel happier and more appreciative of what you have experienced.
We all begin our journey towards personal growth from where we are right now. By accepting ourselves as we are. Just as it is good to be patient with others, it is equally necessary to be patient with ourselves. We must accept ourselves with all our strengths and weaknesses.
Without this kind of patience with ourselves the obstacles we encounter along the way could mean either making progress or giving up. The obstacles are meant to strengthen us and they cannot be overcome unless we have infinite patience with ourselves. When we feel the desire to lead our life with more awareness and compassion, we can be haunted by our past mistakes, by the amount of time and energy we have wasted in selfish pursuits. Don’t give up. Keep on keeping on.
Quoting Sri Yukteswar, “Forget the past. The vanished lives of all men are dark with many shames. Everything in future will improve if you are making a spiritual effort now.”
Set your own pace on the path. Keep going back to these three simple steps:
I remind you again that once you begin to recognize the spaces of stillness in between thoughts, you enter a place within yourself, removed from the outer world of distraction and restless thoughts, content to rest in that stillness. That is Meditation.
Those three steps are still part of my every day practice. It never fails to be helpful.
Till next time. Enjoy those still moments you are beginning to experience. I would love to hear from you if you have any questions or comments.
With Love from Joanne.
11th Aril, 2016
So did you manage to STOP…….. then remember to BREATHE? (Refer to Blog dated 1st April)
Don’t be put off if you didn’t get round to it as often as you wanted to. It is all part of the Practice to just keep on trying. ‘Keep on keeping on’.
Remember that until you are familiar with the action of STOPPING and you acknowledge that you are actually allowing yourself to stop, then breathe, this next stage can wait even a little longer.
When you do STOP and BREATHE you are being completely Mindful, so you see there is success and progress every step of the way.
So now comes the interesting part. STILL THE MIND
I’m sorry to say that rarely, if at all, is the mind completely still. That is not to say that during the process of moving towards stillness there will not be moments or glimpses of stillness. This is where the quality of Patience now comes into it. Once you begin to recognize the spaces of stillness in between thoughts, you enter a place within yourself, removed from the outer world of distraction and restless thoughts. Be content to rest in that stillness.
Once you are living with the awareness of stopping and breathing and feeling stillness, then the practice of mindfulness can be applied to many situations in everyday life. It is very difficult to be mindful of anything if the mind is racing.
Given the chance, our body and mind is very good at catching on to what serves us well.
So ‘keep on keeping on’.
There are so many techniques and practices given to help arrive at this point of STILLNESS. My suggestion is not to get overwhelmed by anything that is remotely complicated. Keep it simple.
You will arrive at that point of stillness if you practice those first two steps. Practice sincerely and regularly. Once you start it gets easier.
If you are not listening already, try the Relaxation track on my Peaceful Living album (see below) You can listen free of charge!
Tune in again next week and in the meantime…..enjoy the stillness.
With love Joanne
It seems that Mindfulness is the answer to just about everything these days.
Well pure and simply….One could say that it is. From personal experience I can say, that with Mindfulness, its not the outer world that we can change, but we do have the potential to change how we are on the inside.
In my yoga classes I focus on mindfulness of every breath, every movement and every thought. For the mind, just like the body, needs training. Holding these three aspects with gentle awareness, no judgement or criticism opens the way towards self nurturing and returning to balance on all levels. This is the practice, because in real terms that is what you have to do…..Practice.
One of my very early teachers once said to me…”It’s not like taking a pill, you have to work on it, you have to make an effort.”
Finding room for ‘practice’ in your life can seem daunting as the first thing that comes to mind is ‘when am I going to find the time?’
After many years of endeavouring to implement positive changes in my life I can say that transitioning takes willpower and patience. So stay tuned for I have tips for building those qualities too.
Just for now, accept the status of ‘Beginner’, even if you’re not actually a beginner. Allowing yourself to be a beginner is really quite liberating.
I’d like to share three simple steps from the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh.
Now remember that you are a ‘Beginner’. For now don’t go beyond Step 1 for a few days.
You STOP. This is where the willpower and patience comes into it. Its our usual habit to want to move to the next thing. But first you need to feel what it is really like to STOP. It doesn’t matter if you only stop for a few seconds at first, you are planting the seed each time you do it (try 3 or 4 times a day) and your awareness/mindfulness around that action deepens.
As you become aware of your physical stillness the most natural thing then arises…
You BREATHE…… Be MINDFUL of taking 3 to 5 natural breaths just as the body demands.
See how you go and I love to hear from you. Stay tuned for the next instalment. With love from Joanne
Try my Relaxation audio recording……… and remember to RELAX