Image courtesy of cranky caregiver. wordpress.com
It happened again this morning. At the end of the Today Programme (after the ‘real’ news) there was a feature on mindfulness in UK schools and its usefulness in helping young people to be aware of their conscious minds and of the stories they tell, and to be able to listen without judgement, focusing on the silences in between. (Actually, the Head who spoke about it claimed it to be more like a self-taught CBT but to be fair, it’s not an easy concept to understand or to explain in the briefest of broadcast moments.)
But it was the presenter’s attitude that I noticed the most – one John Humphrys, known for his misplaced assumption that listeners’ understanding would be incomplete without his take on the news he relays. He first scoffed at mindfulness as ‘some kind of yoga’, in a voice that betrayed his scorn, later expressing his incredulity that a practice aimed at improving young people’s thinking should be considered by the school head as ‘essential’.
Yoga classes are now so widespread that we could be forgiven for thinking that it has become a mainstream practice. But beyond asana practice, yoga’s philosophy still appears to be little more than madness at the margins. Mindfulness and meditation remain the preserve of the old hippie. What a pity. What a waste. What a relief for those of us who know. And what a job we have on our hands to encourage others to share our focus and our peace!
I’ve been away for much of the week filming with a friend on a TV house-hunting programme, and (naively perhaps) was struck by the amount of ‘story-telling’ that shaped the footage, and the amount of time it took – four rather demanding days – to produce an hour-long programme. Then, I thought in complete contrast, I attended a seminar on the philosophy of yoga. Quite soon, however, I saw parallels in the two experiences.
During the seminar, we talked about reality and the nature of illusion. I have to admit that the unreality of reality is something I’ve struggled to understand in a meaningful way in the past, but days spent in front of a camera have helped me to come to terms with the concept and the possibilities. There are truths that make good stories: our love for each other as friends and relations, the enjoyment that brings to shared lives, the good that people do every day. And these can be compared to the stories that we see on TV screens in a range of reality TV programmes – sketched, sculpted and scored in order to draw us in.
And then there is the truth. And the difference between what we perceive as reality (or what we are fed by the media) and what actually is is remarkable. So I’m wondering if what’s left when everything else is stripped away, when the mind is emptied of thought, is the same as what’s left on the cutting-room floor when a programme is finished. If, for most of us, our lives are manufactured to create something that looks more attractive than the real thing. And if The Truman Show wasn’t entertainment at all – but a missed opportunity to explore what our lives are truly about.
We’ve got a full on week ahead – two new outlets for our books and we take our first delivery of MyogaMarzipants (this year’s coolest look – on and off the yoga mat. Pictures soon). Admin mounts and so the iBook version of the MyogaManual will have to take a bit of a back seat (despite the fact I’m up to chapter 11 of 13) as we’re both pretty much occupied by the day jobs too. It’s hectic. And it would be so easy to fall into the trap of becoming busy fools, running frantically around getting frazzled and enjoying very few of the little treasures each day offers if only we could slow down enough to see them.
My promise to myself? To perform two activities a day with mindfulness. My favourites are (1) my morning shower and (2) eating cake – and of course my yoga practice. Here’s hoping this will help with the busyness and make us more productive. We can hope.
So, no cake yesterday – a shocking state of affairs that will be remedied at our earliest convenience (which might be some time actually). In the meantime, we’re reflecting on our first 6 months in business. It’s early days of course, and in yoga terms, we’re still mastering Dandasana. But we’re amassing crumbs of wisdom that, one day, might make a substantial cake of their own. This is some of what we’ve learned so far:
- People will only engage with you if they like you and what you stand for
- Selling is harder than mastering Hummingbird
- Saturdays and Sundays are pretty much like Mondays
- Yoga may be magic – but it’s not an instant fix and that’s what a lot of people are looking for
- Wisdom isn’t highly rated. Handbags are
- Cake is a must at meetings. It can make or break your day
- A little bit of fairy dust goes a long way.
In summary, I think we can say that, after the first few months, we pretty much know what we’re up against. And we’re grateful for these little wisdoms we’re picking up on the way. The challenge is ours. Everything is sent to you for a reason.
We’re still a very little start-up business but we’re trying to be ‘green’ and to keep our carbon footprint to a minimum. We’ve published our first book and all our suppliers have been local to the City. We’ve used paper only from sustainable resources, and as little of it as possible. And we’re just embarking on a fair trade project with Marzipants. We’re publishing the MyogaManual as an iBook soon (once the grim and painstaking reformatting is done) and are looking at an audio book/CD for our next publication. And pretty much all of our marketing is done via the web. Smugness isn’t something that sits well with yogis but we thought we were getting it right – at least a bit.
But now I read that the power consumption of one Google search is equal to half that needed to make a pot of tea (a figure contested by Google of course) and someone’s avatar in second life (and I tried this once so I know what it’s about) uses as much energy as a real-life Brazilian! Well I don’t know about you but I’ve yet to see a carbon footprint calculator that asks you to include browsing and parallel living in the estimate of the number of planets we each consume.
So, what to do? No bloomin’ idea. But I’m pleased to say that, as it’s Thursday again tomorrow, the afternoon will see us easing off on Google and using our quota of energy to heat the tea. And if we have more ‘board meeting’ cake, I’ll post a photo, wondering how much energy that consumes. And I used to think the biggest problem was the kilojoule . . .
(Warning: this is a bit of a rant!) Since starting this blogging business, I’ve been reading lots of stuff on the web about yoga and why people do, or do not, go to yoga classes. And I’m in despair about the amount of it that still relates, in one way or another, to the need to be stick thin before you can be seen walking around with a yoga mat under a skeletal arm. And also to having to be able to wrap one leg around your neck while balancing on the other. Wake up people. Yoga is not aerobics, And three decades (or more) have passed since the obsession with flat stomachs, thin thighs and high kicks. Seminal feminist texts that changed the lives of many in the 70’s and 80’s have clearly been buried under mounds of glossy magazines that still peddle the ‘thin is beautiful’ story. And it seems we are still buying into unachievable aims (without even knowing why we would want them).
Hear this people. Yoga is not about this stuff. In fact, yoga is the antithesis of all of it. Practising yoga regularly, at home as well as in class, removes that persistent need to be better, perfect, or anything other than you are. It teaches you that you are, simply, good enough already. And you can’t be either good or bad at yoga because your yoga practice is just that – yours – however you choose to do it. You don’t need to hang upside down to get this fresh perspective on life (‘though it helps).
Imagine, for just one minute, what the world would be like if we all practised yoga! Now that really would be something.
We’re very excited today. As you can see from the visual guide to our austere existence, we had another board meeting yesterday. (There really is nothing like a cup of tea and some cake to oil the wheels of commerce) and we visited the lovely Sutra Teahouse in Newcastle www.teasutra.co.uk. (Thank you, Amora, for recommending.) But that’s not why we’re excited.
We’d just been to a great lunch meeting with yoga teachers from all over the city -to get to know each other, find out about the different kinds of yoga we offer (or can offer), and work together in a spirit of community. Thank you. Jo Hutton, for organising this. And after the buzz we got from stepping outside ourselves and into the greater world of sharing, we continued the theme by celebrating our first business partnership – with Maree Gecks at Marzipants (www.marzipants.co.uk).
Marzipants sell luxurious, ethically-made, Thai pants, perfect for yoga, from their fair-trade workshop in India, and the first myogamarzipants will be on our shelves (and our website) really soon. We’ll be offering these as a gift to our partner teachers who sell or give myogamanuals to their yoga followers to support their practice. So if you think you’d like to promote the manual for us (no matter where in the English-speaking world), as well as Marzipants, come and share in our excitement and sport some of the coolest yoga wear this Summer!