Practicing together deeply enriches our personal practice.
There’s just something about working in a group. On Saturday 17th May Clear Mind Institute held a Day of Practice at Stillpointyoga, in the heart of London Bridge. We found our sanctuary next door to Borough Market and, over lunch, we invited ourselves to keep both feet in the practice while physically keeping both feet in the market.
It was rewarding and insightful.
The theme of the day was Mindfulness as Transformation. Mindfulness is successfully employed in the West as a therapy; it brings great relief to those suffering in a wide range of clinical contexts. But mindfulness ultimately is about transformation, in particular changing those things that make us feel separate from the world: when we prioritise ourselves as individuals rather than belonging to the collective world – theme, myself, and I stuff. This is not easy work for it requires being prepared to meet our demons, our shame and malice, as Rumi reminds us in The Guest House. We took Conchita, the recent Eurovision star as our inspiration: to rise up like a phoenix, and to promote peace in the city through compassion and the softening of our hearts in the face of our difficulties.
We scanned the body, we sat, we walked around and moved together. It all felt very musical: we felt the earth move under our feet as we remembered to let it be. The day was at once joyful and tender, with every moment offering those wonderful ‘choice’ points in which we could exercise our agency.
We drank in of the beauty of loving kindness practice while being with not knowing.
We each asked ourselves: how is this changing me, and how is this serving the world? This is the key question that marks our work: how does what we do affect the world and how does it make us better able to serve the world? We investigated our own battles and aversions to understand our link with struggles throughout the world, and we kept questioning, how might I change?
Through our practice we remembered:
1. The living universe
Seeing the universe as an extension of our physical bodies. We connect with the earth as here and as testimony to our experience. We remember that it is part of this container of awareness. Just as we scan our bodies, we scan the universe, sensing our way into spaciousness.
2. Yoga as connecting and relating
In slowing down the frames of awareness, and noticing how we are connecting, we remember this presence of yoga. This helps us understand yoga on and off the mat and the power of transformation in each and every moment. In every moment of noticing and seeing how things change, there is an opportunity to soften and let go.
The evaluative quality of mindfulness and the skill in meeting anger with kindness is such a good idea, but the slight annoyance at anger – not again – shows us our impatience. We explore the cultivation of compassion as a form of agency: how might we change the things we must without jumping to solutions prematurely.
4. Dock leaves grow alongside stinging nettles
Our group practices are showing us as we gently inquire into what arises, that courage sits shoulder to shoulder with fear. Community and group practice seem to hold this space for each of us as long as we feel connected and together. It seems to be in the disconnecting from ourselves and from others that anxiety overrides us and we lose ourselves among the nettles.
5. Taking care of ourselves
Learning to resist shooting the second arrow of suffering takes practice. We feel our bodies tightening and tensing in patterned ways against the avalanche of life, and constantly remember to soften. Perhaps if we keep singing the Beatles song, we’ll learn to Let it Be.