Clearing Out

The origin of yoga has been lost in the midst of time. The closest we can get, is that it began in India over 5000 years ago. In today’s modern world, many people think of yoga as a physical practice, but this is not the case. The essence of yoga is about stilling the mind, emptying the mind. If you’ve ever tried to sit in meditation, you will realise this is extremely difficult to achieve and certainly for any length of time. The physical poses and the breathing we practice on the mat are tools to use to help still the mind off the mat.

This week I am in the Lake District. On some of my walks, I have been alone, spending time on the hills and mountains practicing yoga. No, I haven’t gone into a downward dog on the summit nor knelt down on the fell to do a cat – I’ve been practicing emptying my mind and having a psychological clear out of all the rubbish I carry around in it in an attempt to find an inner stillness and tranquility.

In recent years, as I have developed my yoga practice, I have been focussing on taking what I practice on the mat, off the mat, and into my day to day activities. I have learnt I can practice yoga anytime and anywhere just by becoming aware and bringing myself back to the present moment.

I have a tendency towards an over active mind and if I am not careful, I can find myself ruminating about things (people, events, issues, situations, imaginings, ideas etc.) to the detriment of my wellbeing.

One of my daily affirmations is to have a clear, steady, quiet and alert mind. This is far easier to achieve when I’m walking in the Lake District than when I am at home. This week I have focussed on having a clear out of my mind and enjoyed peace and quiet when out on the fells. The challenge will be to maintain this sense of being when I leave this beautiful national park behind and return to my usual day to day routines.

It is therefore my intention whenever … :

  • I catch myself ruminating about my past (which I can do nothing about)
  • Worrying about my future (which I have no control over)
  • Getting stuck with an issue I can’t resolve
  • Churning over something in my mind I feel guilty about OR
  • Overthinking a decision I need to make, when all I need to do is listen to my heart and my gut,

… that I pause, watch my thoughts, allow them to float away and then reset. I will remember I don’t need to roll out my mat, practice asanas and breathing or sit cross legged in meditation … I can achieve this wherever I am and whatever I am doing. I don’t need to be solo walking in the Lake District.

All it takes is practice!

LIHazleton.
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Being with the source – Sahasrara Chakra

This is the last in my series on the chakras where I share a little of what I know about each of them and what they mean for me.

The Sahasrara (Crown) chakra is the chakra of supreme awareness. It is for me the most challenging to write about. The experience of it is vast and constantly unfolding and as I practice yoga and expand my awareness, more of me is unfolding too, more of who I really am. The goal or the pinnacle of yoga is Sahasrara, knowing our true selves; Self Realisation.

The whole essence of my yoga journey is about this ultimate supreme awareness; my awakening to my higher self, the divine, pure awareness, pure consciousness … there are many words / phrases to use, but basically I am referring to my spiritual growth; knowing I am more that my physical body and more than my mind.

In 2009 when I first made a commitment to a regular yoga practice, it was mostly about the asanas (poses), pranayama (breathing practices), relaxation and meditation. Now it is a way of being, a spiritual path where I can practice being me and at the same time begin to experience unconditional love (for all life forms) on a consistent basis … so I can be more compassionate, kind and forgiving and show more humility.

This chosen path is not easy or straightforward and it does take a certain discipline (or tapas in sanskrit) and commitment. Life for me is about searching for meaning and trying to support others in the ways I can and acknowledging I am part of something far greater than me. When I meditate on the crown chakra, it is like a reaching out for something that I know will take me home.

But the words I have written there are quite meaningless. There are no words that can describe what it is we are all searching for but whatever it is, my belief is that it unites everyone and everything, the entire universe and beyond.

LIHazleton.
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Being With Your Intuition – Anja Chakra

We experience the world we live in through our senses.

We’ve all learned to trust our senses in what we we can taste, smell, touch, see and hear, but these sense perceptions can limit us and stunt our spiritual growth. Everyone has heard of the sixth sense; our intuition, our ability to tap into a deeper sense perception, but how can we learn to trust this too? This is what the Anja Chakra or the Third Eye Chakra is all about.

The symbolism of the Third Eye Chakra is acquiring wisdom beyond our perceptions, so we can see beyond what is illusion. It is witnessing a freedom beyond the realms of what can hold us back; stereotypes, for example, traditions, conventions, rules and regulations and powerful conditions of worth placed upon us by our parents. We can break out and realise ultimately nothing can hold us back – it is only the mind that has power over us and if we can control the mind, we can then transcend any limitations.

When I think of this, I am reminded of Victor Frankl and his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’. A holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl believed that in the most unbearable conditions, one can survive through one’s spiritual self. He noted that animals have instincts to guide them but that we have replaced instincts with social traditions, finding guidance in conformity and conventionality, but overlooking the freedom and the responsibility to make our own choices in life and to find our own meaning.

Connection with the Third Eye Chakra helps us to see beyond what is deemed the ‘norm’ and beyond the mind and all its desires, longings, worries, fears and judgments. We then enter into the realms of knowledge, wisdom, and intuition.  The Ajna Chakra is the seat of emotional intelligence and the sixth sense that regulates the five lower chakras. When Ajna Chakra is open and balanced we feel inspired and creative and are able to see intuitively.

When I was a young person, I looked to other people for guidance and advice. I sought opinions when I needed to make decisions and asked whether my thinking was sound or if I ought to choose a different way. Sometimes, I asked what I should do. I often followed other people in what they did, in all different facets of life; in career choices, in what I wore, what food I ate, in how I conducted myself in social situations and what lifestyle choices I made. As I grew older, this changed as I learnt to pay attention to my inner guide, but I still fell into the trap of social conditioning and in many situations, I didn’t follow my instincts. This only caused further trauma and difficulties in my life; damaging relationships with men, unrewarding job choices, an unhealthy lifestyle. I was suffering, but only because I wasn’t awakened to the life force within me; the ability to ‘see’ with my third eye.

Thankfully, I have left all this behind, but it wasn’t until I fully embraced yoga as a mind, body, soul practice that I realised developing the third eye is the doorway to moving beyond the physical world to a unified whole with an unyielding connection to spirit.

In my yoga practice, working with the third eye chakra can realize the following benefits:

  • mental clarity
  • improved concentration
  • clear self-expression
  • strengthened intuition
  • a sense of bliss
  • decisiveness
  • insight

I have one more chakra to write about, the seventh chakra, or crown chaka, known as Sahasrara or Thousand Petals. This is where there is no intellectual knowing but only serenity, joy, and deep peace.

LIHazleton.
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Being Expressive, Being Creative – Vishuddhi Chakra

‘Can we speak in flowers? It will be easier for me to understand.’ – so says the poet and reclusive writer Nayyirah Waheed who describes herself as the ‘quiet poet.’

The Vishuddhi Chakra is located in the spine at the base of the neck. Known as the throat chakra it is associated with change and purification and establishing your voice.

Interestingly, I have noticed in myself over the last ten years or so (since my mother died and since I immersed myself in my yoga practice), a growing disinterest is some of the normal aspects of life; for example I no longer watch or listen to the news, I have no interest in going shopping, I have withdrawn from incessantly scrolling social media and pull away from political discussions or negativity and grumbling in general. If I ever did enjoy celebrity news or gossiping, I certainly don’t partake in it now, or at least I try not to by keeping vigilant and stopping myself if I do!

In studying the Vishuddhi Chakra, I realise this slow but steady shift is an unwitting, positive and inspired change in me, an indication I am refining the texture and calibre of my mind. As Deepak Chopra often talks about, I am expanding my awareness.

With the Vishuddhi chakra awakened and functioning properly, any experience, thought, emotion, or word, can be transformed into nectar for my own personal awakening and enlightenment. All I need is awareness and directed intention. This is why I focus my time and energy in pursuits that bring me great joy: writing, painting, walking in nature, reading, cycling, yoga and meditation.

I’ve written previously about the Swadhistnan Chakra, the energy centre of emotions and creativity: https://lihazleton.com/2020/11/05/being-creative-being-in-tune-with-emotions-swadhistana-chakra/

When Swadhistana is awakened, Vishuddhi is spontaneously energised and helps transform emotions and creativity so you can express yourself in many different ways.

I have noticed this happening to me. Here are a few examples:

  • I find it easier to show love – for myself and others
  • I can confess mistakes I have made with ease and say I’m sorry
  • I find it easier to let go of past hurts and forgive
  • I speak out and I am no longer afraid to say what’s in my heart and what is true for me

The Vishuddhi Chakra is our voice and is where we affirm life in the way we speak and express ourselves and through the way we are and what we do. I am aware that to communicate love and vocalise an appreciation for global matters beyond the fixation of ‘normal stuff’ that has little importance to me, is where I want to focus my energies. Why immerse myself in negatively and grumble when the very fact we are here and have breath is a miracle?

But none of this is easy or possible if we are not aware. We all have mental and emotional struggles – this is human life but we do have choice and we do have willpower and the tapas to exert that willpower for greater good. It’s just a matter of opening up to possibilities and listening to what’s inside. This is where meditation can help.

I have grown my meditation practice over the last year and it helps me connect to my true authentic self. Deep listening enables me to formulate who I am, what I want, how I can serve and what I am grateful for. I can then take this out into the wider world, drop the conformity of social conditioning, be who I want to be and speak out for what I truly believe.

LIHazleton.
Follow me on Twitter where I connect with other writers and all things writing. Follow me on Instagram if you love nature .
 

Rhythms of Bliss

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In recent weeks whilst in the midst of the shut down for Coronavirus, I have been spending my time absorbed in daily rhythms of bliss – practicing mediation and yoga, reading, writing, painting, communing with nature and communing with my inner self. It has been a time for reflection and an opportunity for growth and for making positive changes for how I live my life.

A wind of anxiety, a hurricane of panic is threatening to envelop the UK and the world. Now, more than ever it is important to be still, to be calm and to find inner peace. We are being encouraged to exercise daily to keep ourselves healthy in order to support our NHS. Exercise is fundamental to good health, but there is more we can do. To help ensure the immune system of our body is working as it needs to in order to keep us free of infection, we can build into our daily lives practices that still our minds and boost our immune system. Practicing yoga and mediation with integrated breathing practices strengthens the respiratory system making it more efficient and the whole approach helps to keep us calm, centered and stress free.

My hope and my wish is that everyone considers their own daily rhythms of bliss and keeps safe. Namaste.

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During these weeks, I have also been observing my patterns of behaviour and watching myself closely for any slippage … any backward step into the fear and anxiety I had been suffering since when the result of a routine scan in October last year threatened to turn my life upside down.

In the personal challenge I faced, I wrote about how I used my daily yoga practice to centre myself and transition to a state of mind where I could begin to manage the debilitating emotion of fear. I slowly realised that fear is an absence of love and with this realisation, I focussed on moving mediations to instil a practice of deep listening where I could connect with my inner self, the real me, the ‘I am’. As I looked at my greatest fears and lived through the worry, anxiety and trauma of what I was facing, I discovered unbounded blessings, compassion and gratitude for my experiences. I encountered loss and profound change, but by embracing the ensuing grief, I discovered a new way of being.

Emerging from this hugely testing period in my life, I realised it presented the opportunity for a new beginning and a new way of being in the world. I no longer needed to live with fear. As I began to focus my attention on healing, both physically and emotionally, I discovered I no longer felt any need to control my circumstances, I could let things be and trust the journey.

I have unearthed truths about myself, about my boundaries, my foibles, my behaviours, and my relationships. I have learnt valuable lessons and I am committed to ensuring I honour where I am, live in the present moment and keep focussed on what really matters, by practising self love, compassion and being open to all experience.

I live in hope. I live in trust. I live in love. I live in bliss.

 

“Bliss is not a feeling but a state of being. In the state of bliss, everything is loved. Nothing is more important than reconnecting with your bliss. Nothing is as rich. Nothing is more real”

Deepak Chopra

 

In my writing life I am taking this opportunity of being in lockdown to write flash fiction and short stories and to enter them into competitions. I am doing this with two friends from my writing group. We choose a competition we all want to enter, write our stories and peer review our work. We enter our pieces and then we keep our fingers crossed! Writing is fun, writing in stimulating and thought provoking. Most importantly, writing keeps me connected.

 

LIHazleton.
Follow me on Twitter where I connect with other writers and all things writing. Follow me on Instagram if you love nature, dogs and other animals.