To all of you; students, clients, website and Facebook viewers, I thank you and wish you a healthy and happy 2018!
To all of you; students, clients, website and Facebook viewers, I thank you and wish you a healthy and happy 2018!
December/January Promo. Check it out!
Limited to one per person. Offer ends January 31, 2018.
A first time client often inquires why specific reflexes are tender. My response: in and of itself, this tender reflex today doesn’t mean anything. One hour ago it might not have been tender, and one hour from now, it might not be tender. Our bodies are changing, moment by moment. It’s over a number of treatments we often see tender reflexes consistently show up. Then we can become curious and wonder if there might be more going on.
If I apply my words to the recent experience with my broken wrist, I understand firsthand, no pun intended, how we are constantly changing and evolving in our understanding of ourselves and the world.
I am a doer. People who know me might laugh and amend it to say I am driven, but the truth is I have always been busy on a project of some sort. June 1 changed that. I came to an utter and complete full stop.
It was necessary for me to learn to do everything using one hand. This opened my understanding and compassion for people with disabilities in a new way – my previous experience being my recovery from my motorcycle accident. Unable to do the simplest task, I learned to fold my laundry using my teeth and one hand, hang clothes on the clothesline, put in my hearing aids – basically learning to do everything anew. Things took forever to get done. The saving grace was my surgeon allowed me to have a moulded removable wrist brace rather than a cast. I firmly believe I wouldn’t have my current mobility if I had a standard cast.
The first weeks I was frustrated. Tired, cranky, and in pain. I was unable to live my usual life. This served to be the foundation for profound self-analysis. I learned to adapt. I used my elbow to hold things down so I could chop or peel vegetables. I used my knees to hold jars so I could open them. And I discovered healing is exhausting. I learned to ask for help.
By July I found myself in a well-worn routine of lounging on the porch doing my wrist exercises, massaging my hand, fingers and thumb, giving myself mini-treatments – for hours on end. Roo, Shar-Pei, at my side and Harold, tuxedo cat, in my lap. My world narrowed. I reveled in the delicious summer heat, bird song, smells from the flowers in the garden. All doing their thing without me. I distinctly remember saying out loud, “I give up. I surrender.” I stopped fighting the need, that inner drive that fires us up and makes us push ourselves to do things and achieve things. The societal voice that says we must always be busy to be worthwhile members of society. I shifted from a view of lack to one of opportunity.
On August 24, the surgeon gave me the go ahead to resume light duties. That day I gave a treatment to a friend. Over the next several weeks my strength returned, and my loving and joy of giving reflexology treatments re-affirmed that I am doing what I am meant to be doing.
I knew however, I needed to find a balance of quiet restful, healing time, and the times when I need to be busy and working. I made the decision to focus on giving quality treatments to my clients and to give up teaching. At least for the time being. I didn’t make that decision lightly.
You might wonder why I have shared this with you, and the truth is, I’ve watched the traffic on my website over the years and which pages are viewed the most. I strive to be open and honest. The Health Series has been a fun and enlightening year-long project which I believe you have enjoyed.
Supporting our health and well-being should always be our number one priority.
My question to you is: How do you balance your life and support you health?
I appreciate, you – my clients and students, and your emails.
With loving and warmth,
With great pleasure, I welcome back Carol Robbins, RES-CPT for Part II on the Health Series. If you missed it, Part I is HERE.
Carol teaches movement in person in Toronto’s Beaches area and by Skype worldwide. She holds monthly workshops on various topics and twice yearly a 2-day Move Your DNA workshop under the umbrella of Nutritious Movement™. She is a teacher trainer for Nutritious Movement™ at certification weeks and mentors the certifying students by Skype. She writes a blog on her website and articles for various publications.
Alignment for Every Body or Alignment & Lifestyle Choices for Your Health
A lot of people use the term “alignment” interchangeably with “posture” so let’s start by defining alignment. I use alignment as a tool to measure one body part in relation to another body part. If you want an accurate assessment, you need to start the measurement from somewhere, determining how much movement (or how little) is available from that point. I use a grid, defined by bony landmarks on the body that are similar on every body, but unique in terms of your proportions. For example, everyone has a pelvis and everyone’s pelvis has two bones that sticks out the front called the ASIS. But everyone’s ASIS are going to be slightly different in width as determined by their dimensions. If you stand with your feet under your ASIS, you will be standing your hip width, which might not be the same as mine.
When you measure body parts (or joint range), you need to set a default zero – a joint or body position that is neither flexed or extended or rotated as examples. We start at the ground and work our way up, and eventually we uncover the areas that are unable to stack in gravity without using force (muscle use).
It’s an informative technique and a self-empowering one.
But it is not to say that you are to be “in alignment” all the time. That is like saying “what is the best one joint position (posture) to be in?” The best joint position is all of them. The best way to walk is all the ways. And the best and easiest way to get that kind of variance is to live in an environment that requires it.
We use the grid tool to identify under-moved areas, and then we use corrective exercises to assess those movements, eventually introducing lifestyle concepts that require more movement across all joints.
One of those lifestyle concepts is shoe choice. You and your family are going to wear shoes every day; what you put on your feet has a profound and lasting effect (especially in the case of young children), potentially causing foot pathologies, and toe deformities as well as adaptations in the foot/ankle/lower leg complex such as a chronically shortened calf group due to a heel lift. It doesn’t have to be a 2” heel to cause these issues – even a child’s first shoe often has a ¼” heel, which is significant in their small and growing frame.
Our culture does not make it easy to make these choices, zero drop wide toe box shoes are hard to find (but not impossible!) and we are surrounded by flat and level surfaces which if absent would otherwise require more movement; stairs, sidewalks, paved paths. We are encouraged to sit in chairs from a very early age for many hours a day. We have become isolated without the community that would support and assist a new mother, an older member. From our beds to our counter heights, everything is contrived to be convenient but not movement variant.
The corrective exercises can, in a small way, replace some of the lost movement, but eventually, especially as you start to reap the benefits of abundant movement, you will want to adopt some of the lifestyle choices as they fit into your life.
Restorative Exercise is primarily a gait focused movement paradigm, walking being one of the biological requirements for optimal human function, so many of the exercises are gait specific.
I teach private sessions in person and by Skype, offer small group classes, 2-hour and 2-day workshops and community movement opportunities in Toronto’s beaches neighbourhood.
Carol Robbins, RES-CPT
You can learn more at:
I’m delighted to introduce Carol Robbins, RES-CPT for this month’s Health Series. Carol teaches movement in person in Toronto’s Beaches area and by Skype worldwide. She holds monthly workshops on various topics and twice yearly a 2-day Move Your DNA workshop under the umbrella of Nutritious Movement™. She is a teacher trainer for Nutritious Movement™ at certification weeks and mentors the certifying students by Skype. She writes a blog on her website and articles for various publications.
Corrective Exercise for the Masses, or, How Restorative Exercise Can Help You.
I teach movement. Although there are many kinds of movement teachers (dance, yoga, Pilates, martial arts, boxing, skating, gymnastics, weightlifting, track, running, circus, etc., etc.,) humans move in very similar ways. Some of them move more often and some of them move in more ranges of motion. There are people who do incredible feats that make them famous, unique and admirable, but all humans are capable of those kinds of movement, more or less; just as horses all move the same, but some are better jumpers or runners. A huge draft horse is capable of pulling enormous weight, but a tiny Shetland pony moves in the same ways across its joints.
So, what is special about what I teach? What crosses all those boundaries and applies equally from the greatest athletes to the most sedentary among us?
It is called Restorative Exercise (RE) and is the brainchild of bio-mechanist Katy Bowman. Bowman has written extensively about human movement and movement ecology (how we have outsourced movement in our culture and how that affects us). She has certified a number of teachers to bring this message to others. Unlike some movement techniques, where the real money is in certification courses, Bowman wants to keep her band small and educated, and I’m lucky enough to not only be one of them, but to be a teacher for her organization that teachers others.
Instead of focusing on teaching for specific goals or performance, RE looks at the body in terms of biological needs. What kind of movement and how much and at what frequency, duration, direction. do you need to move in order to meet biological functions like digestion, circulation, lymphatic waste removal, cellular turn-over. All the body’s parts are considered. Are the eyes getting the loads required to stay optimally healthy? How do you load eyes? Is the pelvic floor working appropriately to let things in and out and support your organs? Can you go to the bathroom without straining? There is a heavy accent on the health of the feet, part of the body that the rest of our systems depend on (“no foot; no horse” goes the old saying).
It isn’t new to look at loads and forces in terms of how disease develops, or to improve performance (golf, baseball and other high-income sports use biomechanics coaches all the time). But in terms of basic function, our culture has a high incidence of diseases of behaviour (sedentary and active sedentary; defined as those who sit for work all day and workout for a brief, but intense duration), and RE is trying to bring more movement to more of you.
It’s a fascinating journey of discovery where using a grid that allows a practitioner to measure the relationship of parts to see where chronic muscle adaptation has occurred as a result of habit and behaviour, we start to move those parts in small increments designed to eventually increase mass and not introduce creep to the tendons. It looks deceptively easy, but although simple in principle, it is often challenging, and a tool of self-empowerment, whereby you can address the root cause of so many issues that afflict us today.
The ultimate goal is a healthy functioning body who moves frequently and abundantly and lives in an environment that supports that lifestyle (shoes, clothing and furniture are all considered as influences to move or not).
I teach private sessions in person and by Skype, offer small group classes, 2-hour and 2-day workshops and community movement opportunities in Toronto’s beaches neighbourhood.
Carol Robbins, RES-CPT
You can learn more at:
Welcome back Verna Gregson, part-time and temporary resident of planet earth!
In our west coast world we are surrounded by boundless opportunities to participate in restorative exercise practices, no matter our age or state of physical fitness. Everywhere we look we find classes in Yoga, Pilates, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, aerobics and Feldenkrais, to mention only a few. All of these, in their own way, can assist us to maintain balance, flexibility and strength as we age. It takes discipline and commitment to participate, but the results can be amazing.
I have my own personal restorative practice and my own teachers, and it still takes diligence on my part to keep up the daily practice. Why do I practice? The answer is that I practice to forget. I practice to forget the barriers of life in a body; I practice to forget the limitations imposed by a mind; I practice to forget the expectations of existence in the world; and I practice to forget the encroachments of time. When I forget, I am free.
Our communities have a plethora of restorative movement instructors of consummate skill, integrity and ability. The special ones have developed a finite understanding of the science of movement, and are eternally open to the possible in all their students. My teachers have led and accompanied me to a state of strength, flexibility and balance in my body that have, in turn, assisted me to rest comfortably in my emotional and spiritual being. Their belief and encouragement, accompanied by their love of life, have directed me to a personal restorative practice level that I never before thought possible. Age does not matter. It is never too late to start. My study and practice of movement began many years ago, when I was only 60 years of age. How old am I now? . . . . I forget . . . . I am free!
It’s been a while and I thought I would post an update.
After some to and fro’ing to the hospital for x-rays and consults with the surgeon over the first couple weeks, it was determined my wrist bones required surgery. A plate and screws were attached to the bone holding it in place. Without going into boring detail, it’s been about six weeks and the surgeon is pleased with my progress. I am able to remove the molded wrist brace more often and can increase my finger and wrist exercises.
Just like healthy foot exercises, I am permitted to pursue active range of motion, especially supination, dorsiflexion and palmar flexion exercises. I can gradually increase my grip strength training and my intrinsic hand exercises.
I am hopeful in four weeks I can resume giving treatments – albeit starting slow and gradually increasing the number of clients. Fingers crossed! At this point, I’m not sure when I’ll teach another Foot Reflexology class. It won’t be possible until I can carry all my gear. Check back for updates.
I’m hopeful you’re having a healthy and happy summer!
The Health Series – #10 Creative Journal Expressive Arts
August 17, 2017
It gives me great pleasure to introduce Jan McGinn, Early Childhood Educator, Haven Intern, and Creative Journal Expressive Arts Practitioner and Instructor.
Where does Creative Journal Expressive Arts originate from?
Creative Journal Expressive Arts (CJEA) sessions are based on techniques developed by Lucia Capacchione, PH.D, A.T.R., R.E.A.T. – a world- renowned art therapist, best-selling author of 15
books and trainer in Expressive Arts Therapy and Visioning.
Dr. Capacchione’s methods spark creativity in all areas of life. She originated:
o The Creative Journal Method of self-therapy, blending writing and drawing
o Healing through writing and drawing with the non-dominant hand
o The Visioning process of life design through collage and journaling
o Inner Child/Inner Family healing through the expressive arts
After successful careers in both art and education, she discovered the healing power of art and journaling with her non-dominant hand while struggling with a mysterious life-threatening illness. Her full recovery without medication led to a new career as an art therapist. Her methods are used worldwide. For more information about Lucia or CJEA workshops and training you can visit her website at: luciac.com
A little background on my journey with Creative Journal Expressive Arts:
I found out about CJEA through a workshop at The Haven a centre for transformative learning on Gabriola Island. The workshop is called “Befriending your Inner Critic” given by a fellow CJEA
Instructor Marlin Farrell. Little did I know that this would take me on a yearlong study with Dr. Capacchione to Texas. I have found out a lot more about myself through this training and I continue to discover more insights that I don’t know how I would have found out otherwise.
The most important discovery was acceptance of myself. This I learned through the power of my non-dominant hand, and journaling with my Inner Child.
In a Creative Journal Expressive Arts Experience all you need is a quiet space with a blank journal or piece of paper, and some crayons, felts or paints. No previous art experience is necessary!Be prepared – scribbling, particularly with your non-dominant hand, is a requirement for this experience!
You can go ahead and try this if you like; asking a question that you are puzzling over right now. Answer this question with your non-dominant hand. I prefer doing this with my eyes closed which really helps me to get out of my left-brain and into my heart. Try not to edit your response just draw what you are feeling and if there are any words write those down to with your non-dominant hand. This takes practice and like anything becomes more comfortable over time.
Notice if there is a part of you that says, “Oh, you can’t do that”. That could be your inner critic or judge trying to shut you down before you even get started. You can send them out to get coffee at Starbucks in the next country while you do this exercise!
This experience could include: an expression of feelings to the sound of music or a guided meditation to help you get “into” your body, and out of your “head” this is often followed with a creative arts experience using a variety of art materials and then journaling.
CJEA methods can help you with: life transitions, making decisions, dealing with grief, depression and loss, Illness and recovery. The list goes on. Reconnecting with your passion in life and your direction is what this method has helped me with on a daily basis.
For any questions on Creative Journal Expressive Arts, please feel free to contact me.
Discover The Child Within Individual or Group Sessions Available
Contact: Jan McGinn Certified Creative Journal Expressive Arts Facilitator
The Health Series: #9
THE YOGA OF MIND (PART 1):
HOW THE 5 ELEMENTS EFFECT OUR MIND & EMOTIONS
It gives me great pleasure to introduce Amanda Ings, International Tantra Yoga & Meditation teacher based on the west coast of Canada.
Amanda’s been leading classes, workshops, retreats & online courses for over 10 years, and “teaches with a true passion and a great authenticity. As a student, she is bound to inspire you!” Amanda’s offerings are rich in the philosophy and experiential practice of non-duality, delivered with a teaching style that is grounded, deeply somatic, spontaneous, & organic. She has a soft, gentle, maternal & welcoming nature, yet her presence summons an immediate embodiment of your own presence, power, and wisdom. “Her compassionate and peaceful presence are a deep embodiment of the tantric teachings she shares so beautifully,” says a past student. When she’s not studying with her teacher, Yogini adept Maa Parvathi Nanda Nath, or teaching, you’ll find her communing with one of her other 3 main loves in life: being with children, frolicking in the forest, and spending time with her two gentle giant dogs!
THE YOGA OF MIND (PART 1): HOW THE 5 ELEMENTS EFFECT OUR MIND & EMOTIONS
I could sit here and speak to you for days about the physical benefits of Yoga – but, that’s certainly been (over)done already, right? Yes. In the western world, in all our preoccupation with looking good & feeling great, we have surreptitiously exploited a 7000+ year old spiritual path to moksha (liberation) and conveniently packaged it into a handy-dandy prescription of yoga postures for the physical body. Now… while I am all for looking good and feeling great… this is just the very tip of the iceberg in the conversation about the deeper benefits of Yoga – mentally, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.
Today, I am going to focus on one aspect of Yoga, the ‘yoga of mind’ (mind – you know, that thing you think you are?) Mind, with all its thoughts, mental formations and emotions. For the purpose of this article, let us define the word “emotion”.
What are emotions?
What are thoughts, and where do they come from?
If you’ve ever attended a mainstream meditation class, or even your local yoga class, you’ve likely heard this before: “Let your thoughts pass by like clouds passing through the sky.” (And you’ve probably thought, “Yeah, right. Like that’s so easy.”) The thing is – it actually is that easy! In the sense that if I can actually catch the moment of a thought as it arises, and trace it back to where it came from, I find that it came from nowhere – or, from ‘the sky of your mind’. Moreso, if I watch that same thought disappear, rather than ‘jumping on that thought train and running with it’ (into a whole stream of thoughts connected to it), I will find that it goes back where it came from, which is, seemingly, nowhere. All of this is a very quick synopsis to point us in the direction of a very fundamental and important truth: our thoughts arise from space, and dissolve back into space (if we let them.) This is revealing of an underlying intrinsic quality to the mind – it is comprised completely of space. It is the sky. From this space, thoughts arise, and thoughts dissolve. If you were to sit long enough, or simply remain in a meditative state while engaged in whatever activity you are doing at the time, eventually, there would be some experience that points you to this implicit spacious nature of your mind and its consequent thoughts or ‘weather patterns’.
Now, while I’m an advocate in the modern health industry and current spiritual environment that we are not broken (thus, there is nothing here to ‘fix’) – if we were to point to some of the basic occupational hazards that come with having a mind, the main one is the mind’s capacity to trick us into thinking that we are it. It does so by building up thought structures and belief systems so sturdy that we eventually come to ‘live in’ them. These thoughts and beliefs become our house – they are the walls we look at each day, and the windows we peer out of as we view the world around us. Because we spend so much time in this little inner house we’ve built, we naturally start to identify with our thoughts. This perpetuates them, of course. What began as one thought (stimulated from our 5 senses interacting with the peripheral world) then gets propagated as true, and is used as a reference point for our experience of our ‘self’, and it goes on and on from there; each thought propagating the next in a never ending stream of thinking, thinking, thinking. Each thought telling us in some way or another that we exist in the ways we think we do, and that we are the mental constructs we make up. Without concentrated effort and mindful enquiry, we miss the little moments of space inside ourselves. We miss the little gaps, the spacious bridges between the thoughts; the moments that point us back to our intrinsic nature. This ‘house’ is really just sheltering a pure and empty space of consciousness itself, or a basic underlying formlessness, which is a very alive field of consciousness that gets covered up with thoughts, ideas, and concepts.
What is emptiness?
This is where all the zen, tao, Tibetan buddhism, Tantra and other non-dual traditions come in with their impressive body of teachings on ‘emptiness’. Let us for now define ‘emptiness’ not as nothing, but as no-thing – unidentified, void of subject and object; vast, and full of potential; formless, yet ever-ready to manifest into some form or another, into some expression of its potentiality. So, from here, we could say that our cardinal nature is one of emptiness (and if this isn’t your everyday experience of yourself: firstly, you aren’t alone! And secondly, bear with me… we’re getting to that.) So now, our groundwork has been laid.
However, if you’re anything like me (and you’re a human, so I’m assuming you are), this basic ground of my being, this ‘emptiness’, is not always how I experience myself. More accurate would be to include the sensational array of experiences through which I gather and integrate my sense of self: through experiences of great loss and great joy, times of deep loneliness and profound connection, moments of spectacular rage to sharp crystal clarity, passageways of great arrogance and pride to deep humility and generosity, to moments of debilitating ignorance, wakefulness, and absolute love. All of these brilliant displays of our emotional range give shape, form, definition and volition to the rudimentary emptiness at lies the core of our character.
Yoga falls under a wider branch of ancient study and practice called Tantra. And from a ‘tantric psychology’ point of view, the vast array of emotional experiences we have the capacity to feel arises from the play of the 5 elements (earth, water, air, fire, & space), at the level of the mind. Each of these elements co-arises from one most primary element: space. So, just as the thoughts arise from the ‘sky’ or fundamental spaciousness of the mind, so too do the 5 elements spontaneously and simultaneously co-arise from the space element. Each of these elements serves to bring forth the empty field of potentiality of our minds into the manifest realm through our life experiences. Through each splendid display of emotion, we are somehow wonderfully and mysteriously pointed back to the space of free energy and vastness from which the display arose from. Remember, emotions are just energy in motion, so re-cognizing what our emotions are made of and where they are coming from also means the pathway back to accessing our endless well of free energy. However, this isn’t the only possibility. If we do not consciously work hand-in-hand with our mental and emotional bodies, that source of free energy gets blocked – like a kink in an otherwise very powerfully flowing garden hose. Pressure builds up while perspective breaks down. It is so easy to get lost in our emotions; over-identifying with them, perpetuating them, building stories around them, and then crafting tall towers to protect those stories that protect the identities we have that are based upon our emotional experiences… rather than seeing them for what they truly are – movements of pure energy!
How do the 5 elements show up mentally and emotionally in the body-mind?
So, let’s now dive into the psycho-emotional qualities and expressions that each element gives rise to in the mind…
The earth element gives the mind its stability. In its wisdom aspects, when the energy of the earth element is unobstructed and unimpeded within us, it expresses as equanimity and generosity. We know we have enough, and there is an inner orientation of feeling supported. We are grounded, nourished and sustained, and from this place, we are able to give freely to others. When the earth energy is obstructed (think like an earthquake, having ‘the ground pulled out from beneath you’), this energy comes out as arrogance and pride, being competitive and judgmental, or as greed, materialism, neediness, and fears of not having enough and not being enough; feeling unworthy.
The air element gives the mind its definition and movement. It tells us what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, when its energy is moving freely. When this internal energy becomes obstructed, it moves much like the physical aspect of the air element in its most obstructive force; like a hurricane, blowing and spiralling around the same terrain over and over and over. We know this experience emotionally as feelings of jealously, paranoia, extreme busy-ness, perfectionism, and having to do everything ourselves all the time so that ‘it gets done right’ and so we can be ‘in control’. By contrast, if the air element energy is healthily functioning in the mind, we are able to trust the free and spontaneous flow of life and our actions within it. Feelings of joy, spontaneity, creativity, accomplishment and self-confidence become accessible to us because the mind isn’t busy trying to validate itself with its cyclical thought processes, making us doubt our own and others’ actions and intents.
The water element gives the mind its permeability and penetrative qualities. It’s what gives us our ability to see or not see our realities clearly; it gives us clear-seeing, mirror-like awareness, or blinding rage and fear. One raindrop upon a calm surface of water completely distorts the reflection of the sky above – in this way, so too do I have a tendency to see reality as a reflection of how I am rather than how it is. And much like the actual physical qualities of the water element, when the waters of the mind are calm, we can peer down into them and see with depth, vision and clarity. We receive insights and intuitions. Similarly, we are able to be soft and fluid in ourselves, and vulnerable with others – we can reveal to ourselves and others’ the depths of our being and inner experiences. There is an intrinsic stillness that we can touch inside ourselves. If the energy of the water element obstructs, however, our emotional energy either ‘goes under’ (i.e. diving to the bottom, gets pushed down, avoidance techniques), ‘rages’ (i.e. like a tsunami), or freezes (i.e. giving silent treatment, ignoring, not seeing/not looking in order to ‘get to the bottom of things’). This results in emotional expressions of pervasive sadness, depression, unhealthy (unboundary-ed) anger or rage, hate towards self or other, defensiveness & hardened boundaries, avoidance techniques, and fears of always being attacked or having to be on the attack; fears around not being safe.
The fire element inside gives us our liveliness, radiance, and magnetizing qualities. When this element burns brightly and is healthily sustained in the body-mind, we hold the wisdom principles of compassion, passion and connection – belongingness. We are able to burn in such a way that our inner fires remain ‘tended to’ and provide a warm, steady source of light, warmth and comfort for ourselves and others. Our fires create a warm embrace for others to take refuge in. We are inclusive of others, have healthy attachments and appropriate boundaries in relationship (to anything). On the other hand, if this energy force goes unregulated in us, it begins to burn, burn, burn, and consume everything in its sight. This manifests in our emotional realm as addiction, seduction, lust, endless need for stimulation, distraction, fantasy or drama, or, feelings of loneliness, rejection, isolation and disconnect. If the inner fires aren’t maintained with healthy boundaries, we simply get burned out. Fears of abandonment, being alone, or being rejected may arise from here.
The space element, being the element that all the other elemental expressions co-arise from (and dissolve back into), holds the wisdom of unity, absolute consciousness & of vast, impersonal love; feelings of being an intrinsic, irremovable part of a whole. When this element functions freely and its energy is unobstructed, we are awake, aware, connected and integrated in ourselves. We can hold the dynamism of life without becoming overwhelmed by its many respective individually functioning parts, and we can assimilate the greater mystery of life with wonder, relevancy and absorption. There is a prevailing quality of omniscience to our being-ness; not that we ‘know’ everything, but an inner state of knowing that we will know what we need to know, when we need to know it. There’s a deeply subtle yet central connection to the greater web of life, and feeling our place within it. When this element ‘goes out’, and its energy becomes impeded, interrupted, stuck or blocked, our fundamental ‘knowing-ness’ or remembrance also gets blocked; and there is a fundamental denial or ignorance, a lack of willingness to ‘see the greater picture’. Or, perhaps more commonly experienced expressions of this basic desire to remain ignorant, ‘not to see’, can be: overwhelm, complete emotional shut down, feeling fragmented, disassociated, disembodied, extreme paranoia, numbness, or the inability to feel and hold all the parts – i.e. ‘it’s all just too much’, or, feeling spaced out, unlocalized and disoriented, or experiencing extreme confusion.
The path of the Yoga of mind…
The path of the yoga of mind is to follow our emotional patterns back to their source, to trust them as a path all on their own, rather than see them as something we must avoid, nullify, dampen, change, or be rid of all together. The 5 elements together create the impeccably perfect range of this human experience. Each element holds a primary wisdom that reflects us back to our innate state of unity within. Earth gives rise to equanimity; water gives rise to stillness. Air gives rise to joy, while fire illuminates our capacity for deep compassion. Space gives rise to wisdom itself – of which the equanimity, stillness, joy, and compassion are all a reflection of.
Following our emotional patterns along this Tantric Yogic system with the 5 elements helps us to map out ‘the weather patterns’ of our mind at any given moment. Is there an inner tsunami about to happen, with fear and anger crashing in in waves, or are the waters still and calm, giving rise to clear-seeing? Is the inner ground trembling and shaking, giving way to feelings of insecurity, grasping and poverty-mentalities, or is the inner ground steady and solid, giving stamina, support, and ease? Is the inner fire burning in a balanced way, giving radiancy, warmth and an interestedness in all of life, or is it burning so low that there is no warmth, no comfort, and no connection to be found here? Or, is it burning so out of control that it consumes everything in its periphery with its bottomless needs and desires?
We can follow our emotions to trace the dance of the mind, and how our inner landscape – that which is ultimately formless – is brought into form through this play of the elements. This teaching would tell us that this ‘play’ between the formless and the form is merely about experience and being in relationship. The open field of consciousness that is spacious, timeless, empty, formless and full of potential, wishes to experience itself. And so it gives rise to the 5 elements, which give the us our solidity (earth), our fluidity (water), our definition (air), and our radiancy (fire).
Ultimately, this understanding can heal a fundamental riff, the one that thought perpetuates. Entering and absorbing fully into the free energy of our emotions helps point us back to our spaciousness; our inner presence and vastness. As these experiences increase, the experiences of feeling small, limited and separate from the whole decrease. The thoughts are needed less and less as references points to remind myself I exist, and what remains is a beautiful play between space and its devoted allies, the elements. They dance together in a grace-filled dance that reminds us that in fact, we have come here to dance! We arise from a field of unified consciousness, and we dissolve back into that field. This is the yoga of mind – to foster the growth in ourselves of an experiential-knowing (knowing that is grounded by actual experience) that the boundaries of self the mind creates do not actually exist. Over time, this allows the mind to rest, by virtue of its very nature, while enjoying the magnificent play and display of the 5 elements as they ‘dance in the space’.
If you are interested in learning more about this the path of the Yoga of Mind, the author, Amanda Ings, is offering her 7-month intensive online program for a 3rd year, beginning on Jan 1, 2018: “The Yoga of Mind: 5 Elements & Emotions Mandala.” Go to amandaings.com to find out more, book a private Skype consult with Amanda, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss if the program is a good fit for you!
Thank you, Amanda!
You can reach Amanda the following ways:
Facebook: Amanda Lynne Ings / Amanda Ings: Yoga, Meditation, Tantra
Instagram: Amanda Ings
Yesterday I slipped outside, and broke both bones in my left wrist. I will be out on commission for at least two months. You can still contact me by email or telephone if you need help finding a practitioner or a teacher.