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 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.
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Being with the Heart – Anahata Chakra

Responding to all things associated with the heart stirs feelings of love, affection, compassion and a willingness to open up to feelings that connect us with each other, with all living things and with the universe.

I know I need more heart stirrings in my life. Moreover, I believe we all do.

Continuing with my exploration of the chakras, the energy centres we have in our astral body, the heart chakra, known as the Anahata chakra, is sometimes referred to as the bridge connecting our state of being in the physical world (the chakras centres below the heart) with our more spiritual self (the chakras found above the heart in our throat, our third eye and our crown).

If our heart chakra is blocked, we can remain ‘imprisoned’ in our desires for physical comforts, sexual stimulations and every experience in life driven by the ego. We neglect (or we are unaware of) human qualities and experiences such as profound love, creativity, self expression and a desire to know the truth, and to come to know our Higher Selves.

Another way of viewing this is that the bridge at our heart chakra connects our thoughts and our emotions, with our spirituality. In my own exploration of the chakras and my own spiritual journey, I believe the Anahata or heart chakra has become the most chakra of all for where I currently am on my journey.

When I practice asanas and pranayama and when I meditate, focusing on the heart chakra, I am working on developing:

  • My capacity for empathy for other people
  • My capacity and empathy for all animals, nature and the planet
  • My intensity for which I can care for another person and all life forms
  • My emotional openness
  • My self-knowledge and capacity for self-reflection
  • The compassion and love I feel for myself
  • How peaceful and calm I can feel and for how long I can sustain this feeling

I know I need to work on my heart chakra. Why? Because I am aware I sometimes feel feelings of irritability with others, I can be judgemental, I can feel hurt in response to the actions of others, I can feel restless and agitated and sometimes I struggle to find empathy or compassion. All traits of being human some might say and why not just accept this and carry on?

For me, being aware of these traits in myself is something I choose not to ignore. I strive to be centred and to be the best I can be, to feel at peace with myself and others around me and to connect at a higher level and develop my spiritual practice.

In my psychotherapy training, I discovered the ‘real’ relationship; being with another and experiencing unconditional love, a love that is compassionate, a love without reason or attraction and born of the understanding we are all one and all in this together. We are all travelling on the same journey, a long and arduous one from unconsciousness to consciousness.

Awakening my heart chakra and discovering who I truly am is bringing me peace and contentment.

Chakra work and the practice of developing self awareness and a greater understanding of what is and what isn’t real isn’t always easy. It’s a path I stumbled upon back in 2009 when I discovered yoga. It is one that is fulfilling and enriching and never-ending.

LIHazleton.
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Being Creative, Being in Tune with Emotions – Swadhistana Chakra

Swadhistana Chakra – LIHazleton – Oil Pastels on Paper

Creativity is inherent in us all whether we realise it or not. For most people, our creativity as babies and children falls by the wayside when we learn to be in the world as responsible young adults. We have to pass exams, find careers, build sustainable lives and conform to social norms. This is what happened to me.

This year I have spent much of my time in creative pursuits and being aware of my emotions and dealing with them as appropriately as I can in the moment as they arise.

In 2008 when my role in the corporate workplace was made redundant, I allowed my creativity to surface again after many years of absence and have been drawing, painting and writing ever since. I also re-trained as a psychotherapist and took up yoga. Both of these enabled me to explore my inner world and understand how to balance and work with my emotions.

The Swadhistana chakra is known as the chakra of creativity and emotions. When in balance it leads to feelings of wellness, abundance, pleasure, and joy. When out of balance, a person may feel emotionally unstable and be susceptible to depression, addictions or anxiety.

In my yoga practice I have been working with this chakra in combination with consistently painting and writing. I have been utilising online courses to keep learning new techniques in landscape and portrait painting. Likewise, in creative writing I have been workshopping with others in tutor-led writing groups and doing a memoir course run by the National Centre for Writing https://nationalcentreforwriting.org.uk and tutored by the novelist Monique Roffey.

There are yoga poses designed to stimulate the Swadhistana chakra to help keep emotions and creativity in balance. I am an emotional person – vulnerable and emotionally charged at times and often easily reduced to tears. By continually being aware of and gaining a greater understanding of my emotions, I am discovering I can cultivate balance in my emotional body and perceive better and higher ways of living and expressing myself.

In my writing life, my goal is to write freely, in a way where I can fully express emotions and expand my awareness. In fiction, I endeavour to do this by writing stories with interesting characters who are emotionally challenged so I can explore their inner world as the plot/story develops in the characters outer world. In my non-fiction, I am writing memoir, exploring ‘the self’, writing in the first person and putting ‘me’ centre stage. To do this in an engaging way, I have to fully express myself and bare my soul, not necessarily on the page, but certainly to myself, keeping nothing hidden. I use yoga to help here in a specific way, on the mat in asanas but also whist in meditation.

Writing doesn’t come easy to me. It’s a constant challenge, but my yoga practice and studying the chakra’s help. Creativity and self expression is entangled and connected. Exploring it, examining what it means for me, brings unbounded joy.

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.