Dear stretchers and potential stretchers,
Often when someone asks me what I do for "work", I reply that I’m a gardener. What on earth (sic) has gardening to do with Holistic Yoga & Shiatsu Therapy, you may ask? One of the most important elements in gardening is that there is earth present (similar to the material body). Another aspect of gardening is that the earth is able to allow air to enter into it (similar to the respiration system). Another aspect of gardening is that water is able to circulate through it (similar to the blood circulation). These things must be present – along with mineral content, similar to the digestive system – in order to have a good-quality earth that can allow things to catalyze, germinate and grow. We need to be prepared to invest through time, effort, patience and care so that these processes can take place and that what grows will be healthy, strong, and resistant to dis-ease (similar to when we stretch regularly).
Perhaps this is why not everybody likes to garden! While there has been a significant increase in the number of people regularly attending stretch classes, which reflects the willingness to invest time, care, effort and patience, many people are struggling to create a space to work regularly on themselves (gardening). Life can present us with a host of problems and difficulties – I prefer to call them ‘challenges’. It is easy to become overpowered and lost when confronted with these challenges. Yet my own experience has been that regularly removing imbalances in the body leads to a reduction in the amount of resistance experienced towards coping with challenges in my life.
Regular balancing of the body also balances the mind and emotional fluctuations, allowing you to think and to act more clearly, more calmly and in a way that prevents the recurrence of tensions in the future. However, in order to progress to this stage we need to acknowledge, understand and remove the root cause of what is causing the imbalance and the tension in the first place. For instance let us look at the way in which emotions are connected with the various different meridean energies that flow (or don’t flow properly) throughout your body.
Balancing these energies changes the way you feel. In the coming Newsletters I am repeating a series of articles that discuss the characteristics of the 12 meridean energies in your body.
If you wish to remove weeds from your garden and you cut only the part of the plant that is visible above the surface (similar to that which is conscious) and leave the roots (similar to that which is unconscious) in the ground, then certainly, in time, the weeds will once again appear.
In the same way, if you experience your life as "survival", if you are having a hard time coping with challenges, then you can meditate, stand on your head for hours or whatever, but when you go home the challenges have to be faced and be dealt with. Stretching will help you to develop the strength and the willpower to deal with these challenges, because it will increase the faith that you have in yourself and in your ability to cope.
Unfortunately the mind very often sabotages this process. The mind has become established in certain patterns of thinking, which lead to action and reaction. Watch the way your mind works and you will become aware that it does not like have these patterns of thinking disturbed. So the mind will reject what it does not like, and hunger for what it likes. This process can be observed during a stretch class.
When I began to stretch, 18 years ago, there was very little that my mind liked! Everything was an effort. I felt resistance to everything and I was easily disturbed by a lot of things, both inside the class as well as outside, in my life. Yet at the end of my first class something told me that if I stopped stretching, if I ‘closed the door’ on what I’d become more conscious of and walked away, then I would take all the tensions and resistance with me, and they would continue to affect me in the way I led and experienced my life – much in the way that many people take their tensions with them on holiday, only to return as stressed as when they set off!
Over the years, the resistances and tensions that I experienced in the beginning have been reduced by at least 90%. The amount of times that I experience dis-ease has been greatly reduced. And my mind is no longer so obsessed with rejecting what it dislikes and chasing after what it would like – a change that has brought about a deep peace of mind. Increasingly I experience pleasure that is not dependant on obtaining something. I’m now able to go with the flow of things, and to let go of what I do not need, much more easily. My attention is increasingly able to remain focused on the present and not so much in the past or in the future. I am now able to be aware of and to accept reality, rather than lose myself in ideals. I feel much more and think increasingly less (which can be a problem sometimes !).
We live in a world where the search for gratification and quick results, rather than awareness of the long-term consequences of our actions, is being promoted as a new religion. With the willingness to stretch regularly (to do the gardening), you will certainly be preparing your ground, sowing the seeds, feeding yourself with love and care and eventually you will be able to reap the benefits that I am beginning to reap now. As I grow older, the flowers in my garden are increasingly beautiful.