Archive for November, 2013
By Peggy Cuthbert
It’s easy to underestimate the power of human touch. A casual kiss goodbye, the palm on palm press of a handshake, an accidental brush against another person’s back on a train. We often don’t even notice these small daily exchanges that happen as a matter of course. Sometimes though, the healing power of physical contact with others can be overwhelming – so overwhelming that it can change the very quality of our life. We forget that once our basic needs of air, water, food and shelter are met, what we require most for our very survival is connection with others, or put another way, love.
Love can be transferred in many ways and often the verbal communication is simply a confirmation of the many other messages we send – the slightly longer held gaze of eye contact, when we meet another in pure openness without judgment, the little shivers of energy that run up and down our spine when someone close to us comes to mind. But sometimes the best and easiest way of all to communicate our love for another is with the gift of touch.
From a purely scientific perspective, our skin is a labyrinth of receptors, designed to first receive messages and then send signals to our brain to interpret pressure and sensation. On a deeper level, our skin holds the ability to give and receive love when pressed against the skin of another. We can take our cues from the world around us – the kiss of bills between two swans who mate for life, the polar bear nursing her cub for the first three years of infancy, the newborn puppy who can only sleep when lying against his mother’s flank. Even amongst non-sentient nature we see the signs of love and touch intertwined:
In trees and plants one may trace the vestiges of amity and love…The vine embraces the elm, and other plants cling to the vine. So that things which have no powers of sense to perceive anything else, seem strongly to feel the advantages of union.
But plants, though they have not powers of perception, yet, as they have life, certainly approach very nearly to those things which are endowed with sentient faculties. What then is so completely insensible as stony substance? Yet even in this, there appears to be the desire of union. Thus the lodestone attracts iron to it, and holds it fast in its embrace, the attraction of cohesion, as a law of love, takes place throughout all inanimate nature.
- Desiderius Erasmus
So next time you come across someone who looks like they could use some hug-love, or maybe you are unsure on how to speak the words you feel about another, you might give a hug instead. Here is a little how to on embracing someone using the language of love: Set your intention to give a beautiful hug. If there is any doubt about how your hug might be received, ask first ‘can I give you a hug?’ and be perfectly happy if the answer is no. Take a long breathe in to soften your body and then exhale to release any lingering tension. Gently enfold the person in your arms. Breathe deeply a few times, softening again, smile, and then release and step back. Now enjoy the warm glow as it spreads throughout.
By Lauren Flaherty
“The French mathematician Blaise Pascal wrote, ‘All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.’ We have become experts at filling our lives with noise and activities. We wake up to the sound of the radio blaring and dress while the television is on. We drive to work listening to the latest traffic report and spend the next 8 hours in a bustling office. When we come home, at the day’s end, we delve into the evening’s activities against the background sound of television, ringing phones and humming computers”
This excerpt from Life Lessons from the Monk who sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma articulates why for the month of October I have chosen to participate in Quiet Quest, an initiative by The Yoga Foundation to raise money for people suffering with mental illness and cerebral palsy.
The challenge is to spend 30 minutes silently and mindfully each day for 30 days without all the usual distractions of the modern day. No electronic devices, smart phones, music, TV, radio or talking etc.
Having suffered for a number of years with anxiety, I know first hand how debilitating it can be and there was a time when even just the thought of having to be alone with my mind and thoughts was enough for me to start having a panic attack.
Over the last couple of years, and particularly the last 5 months while completing the Teacher Training at Sukha Mukha, I have learnt that yoga is so much more than stretching your hamstrings in downward facing dog or being able to touch your toes in a forward bend. I have been inspired to take my yoga off the mat and have realized that my daily dose of yoga doesn’t have to be an asana practice and that I don’t have to be a yogi living in a cave to practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and engaged in each moment. It is an opportunity to see the true nature of who you are and how you live your life. The benefits of mindfulness are widely known and include an increased ability to focus, experience greater clarity and decrease stress, anxiety and depression. Overall it promotes greater happiness and well-being.
In his compilation of The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali writes that yoga is the cessation of the fluctuation of the mind. While Quiet Quest has given me the perfect excuse to have 30 minutes all to myself, it has also reminded me that my mind is in a constant state of fluctuation.
Quiet Quest has also taught me a lot about my own asana practice, particularly my reliance on music to distract me from the mental and physical discomfort I experience in certain poses. As an example, where I would usually tune out of myself and into the music in hip opening poses, for the purposes of Quiet Quest, I have had to sit with and accept the feelings of anger that come up for me in these poses, where on a subtle level, I clearly hold a lot of negative emotion.
My teachers have often told me that the attitude that we bring on to the mat can often be a mirror of our attitude towards life off the mat. During a silent practice focusing on forward bends I was forced to admit that I still experience a case of the “I’ll be happy when” mentality. Specifically I’ll be happy when my chest is lying on top of my thighs and my back is flat. My off the mat “I’ll be happy when” equivalent is usually something equally as superficial like I’ll be happy when I buy that dress and matching pair of shoes. And while I’m embarrassed to admit this – I was forced to hear it was the case in that silent practice.
Overall, through my experience with Quiet Quest I have been able to recognize how much noise is in my life and how beneficial it is to unplug and listen to the sounds within. I have learnt the importance of making room for quiet each and every single day and I intend to continue on this quest long after the fundraiser ends.