Pushy or Present?

“Pushy Mothers’ is a national organisation that started around Newcastle and aims to help young mothers to get or stay fit and well. It’s a great idea and a great name . . . or is it?

We’re working on our first sales strategy and really need to ‘get out there and sell’. But we’re terrified of looking ‘pushy’, especially in yoga circles. I’ve looked it up and the definition of ‘pushy’ is ‘excessively or unpleasantly self-assertive or ambitious’. No. We definitely don’t want to be that.  And yet, when we read all the sales and marketing ‘stuff’ that’s what we need to be if we’re to survive in this terribly competitive environment.  Is it easier to be pushy online?  We could get some lead management software to turn contacts into ‘hot prospects’ (?!) but doesn’t that mean pestering the virtual life out of people until they simply unsubscribe?  Still, then, we’re struggling with the balance between that which we (think we) can control and the the influences of the wider world.  Is it enough just to be present?  To be there?  Will business come to us when we’re ready? Or do we have to push with all the resistance that implies?

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And still, incredulity . . .

Image courtesy of cranky caregiver.wordpress.com

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!

the camera never lies

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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.

What yoga is for

Yoga juli 2012 007-1(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.