Schwarze Steine mit Text - Oneness

Meditation on Oneness

[Image: Google]

The women’s meditation group that meets once-a-month in Central Watford, is currently working its way through Christina Feldman’s book: Woman Awake.

 

It is creating something of a hotbed of discussion within our group, especially on typical themes of women’s lives.

 

So what does this have to do with meditation?

Everything! When we sit for formal meditation, we are bringing the whole of ourselves to the cushion. The myth of clearing the mind and no-thought is nigh on impossible.

The sessions I run and create are firmly rooted in reality and how life and all its challenges cannot be left behind because we wish to take 15 minutes or so to unplug.

 

We will keep getting the reminders via intrusive thoughts, events that have happened appear on the mind’s screen on an internal video-loop it seems, or alternatively, we are rehearsing what we will say, what someone may say in return. This is what happens when we get quiet.

 

Then why bother?

So that we can create space between ourselves and all that’s intruding. We do this by acknowledging what’s present, in each moment as it appears. Then we come back to our point of focus.

 

Over time, this trains the mind – yes, I used the word train, in pretty much the same context as we would train for a marathon or something else that requires our undivided attention.

 

As women, we are tasked with many complexities that we have to navigate on a daily basis, sadly due to the fact that the world hasn’t caught on to the fact that we are still faced with inequality. For this reason alone, it becomes a feature of discussion as to how meditation can support us as women and in our lives as a result.

 

This Saturday (08 July) we shall be discussing chapter 3 from the book and undertaking the meditation that the author has provided; meditation on oneness.

 

Join us if you can. Full details can be found on the website: Claire Murphy Yoga & Meditation

 

 

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Woman Awake

Well, it’s hello and goodbye.

Last Saturday, the Meditation & More group finished our reading guide – The Untethered Soul (Michael A Singer). Despite personal preferences, it has offered us a very rich source of topics for discussion. On Saturday, Chapter 17 (Contemplating Death), prompted much debate.

In particular, what stops us living a life of no regret or fear? How not to fear death, if we are living a life that’s full. “It shouldn’t take death to challenge you to live your life at your highest level.” (p158)

Each day provides us with many opportunities, it’s simply how we choose to relate to them is what makes the difference.

These are issues that arise during our meditation. Practice is about being able to sit with the full spectrum of life, not just the prettiest things.

It would be true to say that the meditation group has grown and ripened into one that isn’t afraid to approach many topics.

One of which on Saturday was the practice of ‘othering’ (this will be covered in the upcoming A Mindful Woman course starting next month). Othering: how we put others before ourselves and our own needs.

Admittedly it’s necessary at times, but all too often it becomes a habit that leaves us feeling depleted.

Which segues into our new reading guide: Woman Awake (Christina Feldman).

I for one am excited at the journey this book will take us on! Why not join us?

Details of our next session (Saturday 20 May), and details of A Mindful Woman (the 5-week course starting 08 May) can be found here: claire-murphy.com/courses/meditation

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A mindful woman

A Mindful Woman: finding the balance

As a woman are you…

Managing pain, juggling more thoughts than humanly possible, or simply looking to find clarity in your life?

Perhaps this describes you or someone you know?

The response to the upcoming 5-week course – A Mindful Woman – has been very positive, and there are still a few places remaining for when we begin the 5-week course on Monday 08 May.

Many are often unsure what the benefits of a mindfulness practice and approach to life can bring. I can only speak from my own experience, as well knowledge of having worked with others.

Clarity is one of the main benefits (for me). I am able to look at events and thoughts from a different perspective. Awareness of how I may have been applying a negative or conditioned approach, allows me to have choices.

Reduced Pain – many of you know the issues that I face daily. I apply mindfulness and my meditation practice as a daily care programme, and am still, three and half years later following my accident, not having to fill my strong pain medication prescriptions. Pain is very personal and subjective, and there is of course, our own thresholds for discomfort. I am simply offering a perspective of how it has supported me.

Ability to recognise when a story is being told – this is when we have a thought, opinion or judgement about something (often directed negatively towards ourselves). Mindfulness encourages us to look at the nature of the event and rather than ask why, we ask how is it making me feel?

Improved brain stuff – a regular mindfulness practice and approach to life activates the prefrontal cortex in the brain. How does this help? The parasympathetic nervous system is activated (this is our soothing system), which leads to increased hormone releases of dopamine and oxytocin (which helps the body to relax and slow down).

What do you get from attending?

  • 5 x in-person sessions
  • Comprehensive manual (value £25.00)
  • mp3 tracks for home practice where necessary
  • Ongoing support between sessions
  • An opportunity to view life differently, just for 5 weeks, to see how it can help you

Interested? More details and booking can be found here: A Mindful Woman

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Sound Healing Meditation

Sound Healing Meditation in Italy

At last year’s Italian yoga retreat, it was probably unanimous that our time at the Convento del Carmine, was a highlight.

 

We were very fortunate to have this beautiful venue to ourselves, to experience its stillness and utter beauty.

 

I am delighted that we shall be returning again this year. After arriving, I shall take you through a gentle series of movements in the cloisters which are based on Tibetan Healing Exercises. Then you will be treated to a sound meditation, as the acoustics are wonderful there.

 

During your stay at the Watermill, you will experience a variety of meditations, whether its mindful walking of a morning, guided practice during our yoga sessions, as well as the optional silent sitting of an evening.

 

Sound is a healing modality as it is based on the vibration created that is not only heard through our ears, but felt at a very subtle level by the cells within our body.

 

“Music & rhythm find their way into the secret places of our soul”

Plato

 

I shall once again bring along my Tingshas (as in the image). These are used in many rituals within Tibetan Buddhism, as well as having a more recognised place in yoga and meditation classes. They are made of a sacred 12 metal alloy and are generally used to cleanse space before and after sessions.

 

Most of you will be familiar with Tibetan singing bowls – these come in a variety of sizes, but due to luggage restrictions, I shall only be bringing one with me. Bowls are made from consecrated 7 metal alloys that are created skilfully to produce at least five individual yet simultaneous tones.

 

The bowls sounds are said to synchronise brain waves and encourage a therapeutic effect on the body.

 

The seven alloys used and the principles attached to them are:

 

Silver               – Moon, time, joy, instinct

Gold                 – Sun, heart, spirit

Mercury          – Mercury, intellect and speech

Tin                   – Jupiter, insight and wisdom

Lead                – Saturn, conscience and discipline

Copper            – Venus, love and art

Iron                  – Mars, action and sexuality

 

“There’s no organ system in the body that’s not affected by sound, music and vibration”.

Mitchell Gaynor

 

All you will need to do is sit (we are fortunate that the cloisters has a very low wall all round, just perfect for sitting on) and allow the sound to come to you.

 

Even more fortunate, we shall be spending longer at the convent this year, and will enjoy a picnic lunch together, giving us longer to soak up the magical atmosphere that it offers.

 

Unable to join me in Italy? Then why not take a look at the many yoga and meditation offerings I have in Watford, Hertfordshire: Yoga & Meditation with Claire Murphy

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Italy- Alternate Nostril Breath

Sun & Moon Breath in Italy

The foundation of yoga is the breath. It is also an important aspect as a means of support for meditation too. So throughout your time on retreat at the Watermill, you will hear me mention the breath an awful lot.

 

We often give it very little regard unless we have a heavy cold and therefore blocked sinuses, or we may have asthma or other respiratory conditions.

 

Our whole system relies on the nourishment that is provided with each breath that we take; it boosts our energy; improves our ability to focus; can reduce anxiety and bring calmness, plus many other benefits.

 

Alternate nostril breath helps us to align and balance the energies of the inner body. Most are unaware, until they are experiencing a heavy cold, that one nostril will be more dominant for a couple of hours and then the other. This cycle continues throughout the day, mostly unnoticed, that is until we are congested. (We all know that scenario: we can only breathe through the right side of our nose, and then suddenly we feel the left side clearing, only for the right side to then become bunged-up!)

 

The science of right / left side nostril breathing and how it corresponds to the hemispheres of the brain is quite a lengthy subject, and one best saved for another day.

 

“The sun (right nostril) and the moon (left nostril) divide time into day and night”

Hatha Yoga Pradipika 4.17

 

However, you can check right now which channel in your body is more open. Sitting upright, hold the back of your hand beneath one nostril and breathe out, then move your hand so it is beneath the other nostril and do the same. Notice which side is stronger?

 

When repeated a couple of hours later, you may find it has changed – it normally does every 1 ½ to 2 hours.

 

Practising alternate nostril breath promotes the balancing of the energies within the body, the masculine and feminine, the hemispheres of the brain and helps to prepare us for meditation.

 

I look forward to seeing you on the cushion in Italy soon where we can explore this and so much more.

 

For full details of this all-inclusive retreat, please visit our hosts at the Watermill for more information and to secure your place with a deposit.

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Creative Journal Writing for Women’s Day

[Image: http://www.officeholidays.com/countries/lao/]

 

Join us for a morning of creative journal writing to celebrate International Women’s Day on Wednesday 08 March.

 

I shall be hosting a 2-hour workshop at Watford Women’s Centre 83, Market Street, Watford, from 11.00 until 13.00.

 

No prior experience is necessary, as I will take you through a variety of writing practices to help you connect with your inner story and help you overcome the hesitancy of getting words on the page.

 

Session will provide complete confidentiality and support in a non-judgemental atmosphere.

 

Numbers are strictly limited, so please call: 01923 816229 to secure your place.

We are requesting £2.00 per person. All monies secured will go to women’s centre services.

 

Sorry! On this occasion the centre is unable to provide creche facilities for this workshop.

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Gift of a discount

I am pleased to announce that the wonderful people at YogaBliss and YogaBloke, have kindly offered my students a 10% discount* across the whole of their range.

 

Whether you are treating yourself to a new mat, something for your meditation practice or buying a gift, they have a terrific selection.

 

Even nicer is the fact that they too are based in Hertfordshire, assuring a fantastic service, which also supports my ethos of buying from local, independent suppliers wherever possible.

 

*Discount code is made available in booking confirmation emails and also on request from existing students.

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Here’s the thing…

I perhaps need to learn to manage my expectations, that’s one thing I’ve learnt about being online recently. Especially when it relates to online learning communities.

 

I’ve taken advantage of many online opportunities and can now see the good, the bad and the ugly awards. I take online learning as their relative ease appeals to me: lack of unnecessary travel being one and being able to sit in my pyjamas, the other.

 

Following my most recent experiences, I’ve now begun to doubt the whole process of these offerings. The apathy and lack of commitment of some groups I’ve been part of has put a downer on the whole thing.

 

There’s the general flourish of anticipation and excitement at the start of the course: brilliant introductions and backgrounds are shared, leading me to believe I’m in the presence of many like-minded individuals.

 

Gradually, or maybe not even gradual, this veneer wears off. Those interesting opportunities of connecting with others on topics of mutual interest dissipates. This then leads to despondency on my part.

 

Can no-one show up? I mean really show up? Chat spaces go empty and unused – it’s like lovers having had a tiff and nobody is talking.

 

Perhaps it’s me? Many times I will initiate conversations, questions, or simply share my thoughts around a recent teaching topic and then … nothing.

 

Where have all those interesting people gone from the beginning?

 

The not needing to be present physically in a room with others simply reinforces the falseness that is experienced through social media. It lacks integrity.

 

Very rarely do true connections get made anymore, unlike in-person situations where there’s rooms alive with … wait for it … conversation!

 

This is just one aspect I’m currently struggling with. The other is the delivery of course materials. I’ve always known myself to be a visual learner, and never has that been reinforced more than of late. I’m currently engaged in an online meditation group and it’s dry. Very little thought has been given to how the material is presented and it’s for me, my worst nightmare. It’s all audio.

 

Audio has the ability to represent a bedtime story. It doesn’t matter if I perch myself on the edge of the most uncomfortable seat, I nod off. There’s nothing else engaging me.

 

Despite the best intentions of those offering the course, no thought has been given to this aspect.

 

Of course nothing can replace in-person teaching that’s vibrantly alive and pulsing. There’s feedback between the teacher and those present. This ensures the speaker can gauge how what they are saying is being received and, if necessary, make adjustments. This keeps it fresh.

Sadly this is lost in the sterile container of the lesson box on screen.

 

Also, there’s no being held to account. Not that I’m suggesting it being like school, but the sessions quickly descend into bunking off.

There’s a schedule for online gatherings, live, with the facilitator(s) to check in with how the course is going (or not).

 

Leading up to the scheduled slot, apologies start rippling through the message boxes. The boxes start to see more action than they have done for a week or more.

 

I get it. I know life does get jammed up sometimes, though I often wonder if there would be the same non-attendance levels if attending in person? (Just wondering).

 

All of this means that the online dynamic gets blasted and what may have promised to be a lively exchange is lost.

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cartoon from Edudemic.com

I really enjoy online webinars where we not only see the facilitator – ‘hello there, you’re looking grand today!’ – but also have the added bonus of them sharing visuals and slides. (Big tick for the GoToMeeting kind of format here).

 

Zoom isn’t so brilliant (in my opinion). There’s a lack of online etiquette (again, this is a facilitator role to address) and many forget to mute their microphones. Imagine: twenty minutes of hearing someone’s clock ticking until the tutor finally notices they have messages complaining about the said ticking clock masking the audio. (True story). Not only that, we have a birds-eye view into the lives of complete strangers. “We can see you and everything else”.

 

VoiceThread is brilliant. The facilitator uploads their presentation and those signed up can leave comments in audio or text format to each slide. It’s great. It opens up a whole new way of interacting without the frustration of dodgy webcams and broadband connections getting in the way.

 

None of this relates to the go-at-your-own-pace offerings. You pay your money and you have all the lessons there – bang! Even better if the material is evergreen (big tick). No complaints here. It’s the real deal – WYSIWYG.

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image: enhanced-learning.org

I’m sure that many who take online teachings, do so with the best of intentions, don’t get me wrong. However, I would ask that we do so with honesty and clarity about the level of commitment that we’re willing to give, especially when writing our flowery introductions to the rest of the group at the start.

 

And finally, I need to mention the facilitators themselves. On the whole, I salute those who show up, physically, in front of a camera and walk their talk. It’s scary. It doesn’t matter how many times you do it, I’m sure it’s daunting for you. Even when I make iddy-biddy videos for my meditation group it’s a big deal. Keep up the good work, I think you’re all brilliant.

 

Unfortunately I’ve had the experience of a course that run for a whole month – interactions required each and every day – only for the facilitator to go AWOL for 2-3 days at a time (several times).

If in your sales blurb you say you are going to show up, online, then you do it. Just do it. No excuses.

 

In the future, I will think long and hard about whether I sign up for any more online learning opportunities. Sometimes what I’ve learnt online isn’t necessarily what I signed up for.

 

 

 

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Invisible Zip: The importance of good posture for our pelvic floor

[Featured image: Google]

 

Regularly in class I’m heard to cue with the words, “lengthen your invisible zip”.

 

I use all sorts of cues with everyday objects to enable women to understand the function of their bodies in an easier way.

Also, I try not to use too much jargon (a) because it sounds like my ego wants to run the show and, (b) not everyone knows their linea alba (the fibrous structure (line) that runs down the centre of the body from the xiphoid process (sternum) to the pubic symphysis (pubic bone) – or zip as I refer to it.

 

So just what do I mean by the invisible zip and why’s it so important?

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In this image we are being given a perfect snapshot of our bodies to show the zip on the front of the body (linea alba / abdominal wall); our pelvic floor; breathing muscle (over-simplifying the term, but diaphragm relates to many other components too) as well as the back of our body.

 

This shows ‘optimal’ alignment, which, in an ideal world, our bodies would in some way resemble and would result in ease of movement, breathing and function. Meaning: unlikely to be experiencing regular back pain, shallow breathing or dysfunction with the pelvic floor (stress incontinence for example).

 

So what happens if our posture isn’t so great?

 

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[Image: http://www.athletespotential.com]

The image on the left (above) demonstrates poor posture.

Posture issues build up over a period of time (that wonderful Feldenkrais term I recall from a teacher some 20+ years ago: use affects function).

 

Only the other day I was explaining to my 21 year old daughter, who was complaining of hip pain, that it’s the habits she has got herself into in how she sits with her laptop writing endless essays for Uni. Needless to say it didn’t have much impact because, after all, I’m her mum so what do I know? (I’m sure we’ve all got one of these at home!)

Posture problems can be exacerbated from pregnancy, then into the postnatal period (think: all that bending, picking up, carrying). Also an underlying diastasis recti* (space between left and right sides of belly widening owing to stretching that happens in pregnancy).

 

Employing the ‘invisible zip’ ensures that everything internally stacks and sits in the correct position it’s been designed to. If the diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles are not aligned with each other (see top image), then this creates force and strain internally = pelvic muscles not working efficiently = issues with stress incontinence.

 

This is the tip of the iceberg and to go further would warrant a blog of lengthier proportions than I have time for today.

 

Poor posture means we recruit other muscles to help us to do the work that those meant to can no longer do efficiently. This means we are over-working our bodily systems = higher risk of injury = more aches / pains = reduced mobility.

 

You can zip up now!

Wherever you are, you can always zip up. It’s not a severe movement, in fact, quite subtle. Lift from the centre of your chest (remember: gently – nothing military here!) and imagine a lovely long line running from the heart all the way down to the front of your pelvis.

 

You can do this when sitting or even pushing a trolley around Sainsbury’s (there are other supermarkets out there, I have not been paid to promote this store!)

 

Want to find out more?

I run weekly classes in Watford, Hertfordshire, for women, promoting good alignment principles, helping you to regain function.

More details can be found here: Claire Murphy Yoga

 

 

* A diastastis recti issue needs to be handled correctly with professional advice. It warrants good posture, breathing and more importantly, correct movement and exercise protocols to promote a healing of the diastasis and a return to good function. 

Look out for professionals (myself included) who have trained with Burrell Education

 

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It's the tools

Attachments: what are you clinging to?

Goodness me, 18 January already – this month feels like it’s marching ahead with some kind purpose (or is that just me?)

 
Classes are all now underway and it’s good to see many students who’ve returned following our break for the New Year, and it’s also so lovely to meet those who are new or returning after a break of a period of time.

 
Today I have shifted my ‘office’ to a temporary setting (the sofa). Sometimes you just have to acknowledge that you need a little more care.

 

On Saturday I ran a long, yet incredible workshop (Women’s Stories) in Stamford, Lincolnshire. The women that attended were all AMAZING and the level of focus and engagement was brilliant.

 
I’m currently making the final adjustments to the next meditation session on Saturday 11 February and was aware that the theme within this session can be applied to our yoga practice as well.

 
We are progressing through our group reading guide – The Untethered Soul: Michael A Singer – and I have invited the meditation group to look at their attachments.

 
At first glance we may immediately consider attachments pertaining to relationships. But what about those daily habits we have? Coffee? Sugar? Or even the way we dress? We are attached to so many ways of being that they often don’t register, not until we remove them. (Well, don’t remove the clothes, it’s a little too chilly!)

 
How about the way we approach our yoga practice? In last night’s class, I invited the group to keep the focus of ease (Sanskrit: sukkha) in mind. Often, as in life, we are too preoccupied or attached to the destination and omit to pay attention to the journey itself.

 
We may approach a yoga posture the same way because it’s a habit. Stepping away from the familiar, we can appreciate the subtleties of sensation that we may have previously overlooked.

 
The women who attended the workshop had no idea what to expect from the day (many readily admitted), so this meant there was no attachment to a certain outcome.

 
You see, attachments take many forms.

 
Join us for February’s meditation – it’s a great group (honestly) and as well as 2-3 meditation practices in each session, there’s lively discussion too.

There’s still time to join the daytime women’s yoga that began last Thursday – drop-in is available at this class. (Full details in the link).

 
The evening class is currently fully booked. The next course will be open shortly for booking.

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