Yoga as a Symbol For Movement…

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A list I made close to a year ago had one thing on it near the very top that I thought would never, ever in my deepest dreams be achieveable.
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t that wild of a goal, but for someone like me who finds it hard to locate even the goalposts on a football pitch let alone take a shot at one and score, it was a pretty out there task for me to set myself. I’ve probably confused you now with thinking my aim was to become some kind of sports guru and become successful playing for some prolific team or other – I regress.
No. My goal was yoga.
“Yoga. Yoga. Yoga”.
I had written this after a hastily scribbled list of numbers, on a cheap paper towel probably acquired from the latest coffee shop where I’d sat in confusion flailing about mentally and trying to somehow quieten my racing thoughts and notions by writing them down on the closest thing available. It looked something like this:

2. “I want to be able to do all the really really difficult yoga poses”

The funny thing is I don’t think I even knew what I was talking about when I said ‘all the really difficult yoga poses’, because, let’s face it, there are hundreds! Even now after a years’ full practice and endless research, both online and group-setting classes taken, I am still encountering new poses and variations. New variations that have kept varying as the practice has grown and been shared over centuries of yogis discovering the benefits of it. I couldn’t possibly have known the extent of the goal I had set myself. It was almost like setting myself the challenge of sampling every flavour created of Bertie-Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans – a task made all the more challenging given the fact that they are a fictional confectionary craze, but let’s not bring the blurred lines of ‘fact and fiction’ arguments of Harry Potter into this…

My point is that in setting myself such an unrealistic goal, I was inevitably setting myself up for failure. Not failure in the sense that I have not achieved anything since I began practicing yoga, but failure in that there will always be something new about each pose or breath to learn; new variations to experiment with, and ultimately, new things being established that I do not know about the practice of yoga. Not only that, but in my practice these days, I no longer aim for the perfection of doing the ‘difficult poses’ for the sake of it – if my body is feeling up to it, I do them. If not, I don’t. The focus has shifted from wanting to do the poses, knowing that they are achievable, to actually just being in the moment and feeling and listening to my body.

In seeing how far I’ve come in a year, and realising that although I have progressed and learned a great deal, not only in regards to yoga practice, no surer have I ever been that there will always be more out there ahead of us in life to experience, and that the world is an ever-evolving, ever rotating sphere of confusion on which we just happen to be positioned; downward-facing dog or not.
The point of writing this was not to brag about how steady and reliable my headstand now is- although I am quite proud of it! – but merely to reinstate a point I’ve made before which we all know to be true, yet always seem to gloss over in the heat of moments that seem as endless as they are intense;

Life is a continuous progression from one moment to the next, each one irrelevant to the one which has gone before it, save when we choose to link them together.

In setting myself the task to learn things that I not only did not know existed yet, but were yet to be established as the variation of themselves that they currently are practiced as, I was straining my gaze into a black hole of impossibility, instead of focusing on the now.
The poses I have perfected to date have only been perfected in the moments in which I was positioned in them. I have the ability to say that yes, I have done this, but in reality every headstand I have done since the first has varied, and every one I will do from now will vary from that also. Things change. People move on. We grow; lose weight; gain weight; balance out; live.
In the end all we have is this moment.
All I have and can know for sure right now is the truth that I possess the ability to do those yoga poses, and that last year I didn’t, or else, hadn’t discovered I could yet. I’m not saying every time I do them they are perfect, or correct, or the same as before, but I know that I have previously achieved some sort of competency in them. If I never try to do a headstand again, I’ll be content in knowing that I once achieved it, and so achieved a part of a seemingly impossible goal I had once set myself and considered important. But like I said, the importance of actually doing them has disappeared completely. I’ve gotten to the stage where I see even setting myself goals to be slightly pointless, preferring rather to keep possibilities as dim ideas in my head, instead of focusing my energy too much upon the future.

All we have is now, and when we consider the syncronization of thought and action that yoga makes achievable, all the lists and plans for potential action or future possibilities that have not in fact happened yet seem fairly pointless. With correct yoga practice, we move in the now, for the now, with no agenda or hidden desires behind our movement save a need to feel our physicality and sit comfortably within it in that moment; a return to the Sattavic principles of spirituality where childhood and the purity that is associated with it are sought after.

I will definitely someday qualify officially as a yoga instructor, but as of now I have no set plans in place to do so. If it happens, I’ll be all the more appreciative of it having not thought into it and over-planned practices that haven’t yet occurred. I’m comfortable right now sitting as I am, as I would be were I positioned in any of the many poses I have thus far encountered, and have yet to try.

‘Wilder Mind’

‘Wilder Mind’ – Mumford & Sons, 2015

The cherry blossoms are in season. It’s that confused kind of not-too-warm, not-too-cold time of year when going out of the house requires an assortment of potential necessary items of clothing, as the weather is as subject to change as my mind when I think about how I feel that Mumford and Sons have neglected to include the banjo in their newest compilation of songs, the highly anticipated ‘Wilder Mind’.

 In the beginning, I automatically adopted the generalistic hipster belief that any Mumford and Sons album not featuring a banjo somewhere amongst it’s folky depths should not have any right to call itself a Mumford album, and expect to have the same appeal to people.
It’s an easy side to take. It is different.
But man is it good.
I have tried to be unbiased in my judgement, which proved near impossible as my love for the London quartet is still so strongly rooted in good memories and positivity that I was forced to mentally detach myself from them in every way before listening to the album in full – a move ultimately made easier by the slight alteration in sound made by the exclusion of Mr. Banjo (*tear*).

The colloqiualization of the opening track ‘Tompkin Square Park’ invites us away from our present situations to briefly meet in this obscure location, and from the opening electric guitar riff sets the pre-affirmed tone of ‘different’ – undoubtedly giving hardcore critics exactly what they wanted within seconds of their listening. However as the track progresses, the reliability of frontman Marcus Mumford’s acute ability to capture complex emotions within a few short words is thankfully reassured with the line ‘No flame burns forever, you and I both know this all too well”, leaving a relatable echo of regret and a sense once again of the question of the Laura Marling love-affair as inspiration being left unanswered.

Believe’ and ‘The Wolf’ consistently follow, having been the first two tracks released from the album and subsequently the subject of much Mumford-discussion over the past weeks. Crashing drums and guitars further cement the progression of the bands’ sound to a more rock-fueled and bassline orientated expression of the same old beautiful melodies, Marcus’ distinguishable vocals ensuring it does not in fact stray too far from the Mumford and Sons we’ve grown to love so much.

The more I listen, the more increasingly difficult I find it to describe my feelings for the title-track ‘Wilder Mind’. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve actually pressed ‘repeat’, trying to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes it so damn incredibly special. There is a combination of truth, positivity, and natural beauty to the intense lyrics which suggest a deeply-rooted origin in mental health and the tribulations of having an uncontrollable ‘wild mind’, as it is in this sense, so aptly put. ‘You can be, every little thing, you want nobody to know”. …To me, it perfectly captures the potential and power of our own minds and the will to steer our lives wherever we wish. We are so easily influenced by external sources and beings that we so often forget and lose ourselves to the fact that we are all the masters of our own destiny, for want of a less cheesy expression. ‘You can call it love, if you want’ – it shows me that life and relationships and the world are literally what we each make of them, and that we ultimately are in full control of our own lives. It’s an empowering, emotional, and deeply-reaching four minutes of pure bliss to listen to, and I’m genuinely already excited to experience it live someday soon. I could probably do an entire post/review dedicated to this one song, but for now let’s move on.

 The album continues with its’ discussion of love and relationships with a somewhat dark-undertone, the likes of ‘Just Smoke’ and ‘Snake Eyes’ declaring young love to be a fleeting and unreliable source of happiness, yet with a more mature and knowledgable approach to the ever-present possibility of hurt – ‘it’s in the eyes, I can tell you will always be danger”. While this may seem negative, I feel it also reflects a sense of personal growth and strength as the realisation of one’s own worth and independent awareness is deemed separate and stronger than any relationship could ever be – an evolution of sorts from the earlier sorrowful ballads of ‘Sigh No More’.

Worth a mention aswell in the sense of personal growth and independent acceptance is the more upbeat ‘Ditmas’, the leading line of which ‘This is all I ever was” again giving a sense of positive contentment with one’s current existence, embodying the practice of mindfulness in a single line.

I could honestly discuss the ins and outs of each and every track on this masterpiece of an album, imagining hearing them live on a Summer’s day at an outdoor gig and being completely contented with life at that moment. ‘Hot Gates’ being the most recent release, the ebb and flow of the swelling bass echoing that of the earlier ‘Lover of the Light’ from ‘Babel’, I can perfectly imagine the dimmed lights and uplifting harmonies of the choir as it’s performed, a chilled atmosphere and sense of peace eminating from the extended bass lines and lyrics, once again suggesting a personal growth and final movement away from past hurt and troubles. The ‘Hot Gates’ that lead on to somewhere more positive and an acceptance of circumstance ‘There is no way out, of your only life, so run on, run on…’ really leave us with a sense of peace and positive progression as the album finally comes to a close, a sincere, honest, and flawlessly-worded message of contempt to any haters who doubted the bands’ change of sound, while also guaranteeing the validity and certainty of positive things to come.

While I never thought I’d manage to glean over 1,000 words writing an album review (and if you’ve actually kept reading this far, I thank you kindly for your patience!), I have to admit I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the analysation and excuse to intently listen to these songs again and again.

The falling petals of the cherry blossoms even celebrated the beauty of ‘Wilder Mind’ like confetti around me as I listened again on a walk home, and I realised that this album is in fact a flawless compilation of songs that will stay with and comfort me for a long time to come.

On External Influences….

Today I was faced with this image. ‘The Buddha of Our Times’.

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It really got me thinking about our values and influences as human beings, and how we have allowed them to shape our current personas, situations, and everyday lives in general.

The Buddha – a figurhead of mindful awareness that has (somewhat ironically) shaped people’s beliefs for millenia, in which a lot of faith and trust is placed, has been transformed in this picture into a representation of 21st century compartmentalized life and chaos.

Maybe ‘allowed’ is a bit too strong a word. Growing up it is rare that we have any sort of control over our external environment and relationships, and so often we find ourselves answering for the actions of others that have unfortunately become intertwined with our own experiences. Parental influences in particular are things that people find difficult to differentiate themselves from, as exposure from an early age is one of the key issues when it comes to shaking off unhealthy practices – children learn only what they are presented with, and so a negative habit or notion of a parent will ultimately affect them more strongly than it would were it coming from another aspect in their life.

But there are influences coming at us from all angles. The aeroplanes, helicoptors, and various other air vessels prove that it’s not just the obvious and visual aspects of life that can influence us. Things we wouldn’t expect, things that aren’t planned. They all impact on our inner peace and even more interesting is when we consider that they themselves have their own journey and personal goals and destinations they are trying to reach. We all get in each others way at some point.

The important and most difficult part is staying grounded and within your own two feet on the ground when this happens. Though this image is at first somewhat unsettling to observe, and would even evoke a sense of dystopian loss of identity and independence, on the whole I feel that after a time of considering the different elements here (and of our world), the overall form of the Buddha stays true to his original message, and is strong and accepting of the challenges posed by the world around it.

Níl Saoi Gan Locht

“I won’t tell them that people are starving in China or anything like that because it wouldn’t change the fact that they were upset. And even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn’t really change the fact that you have what you have”.
—Stephen Chbosky

Everybody has something. Níl saoi gan locht.
Acceptance happens when you can finally look in the mirror and say “Yes, this is me. And I’m ok with that”.

There are certain things you can only understand and appreciate after being within inches of rock bottom. There are certain moments when you realise you are actually happy again, and that very fact makes you happy. Saying the words; “I’m okay”, and actually knowing you mean it. It is nearly worth all the hard times put together and shoved in front of you like an ignorant pedestrian walking out in front of your car when there’s clearly no green man in sight.
All of a sudden you become aware that the fog has lifted somewhat, that there actually was a fog, a kind of blank apathy that literally nothing could penetrate – but that things are clear again. Like opening the curtains and seeing a pure blue sky for the first time in months, and you know it means that Summer is coming, and whether or not you usually enjoy Summer doesn’t come into context because you know that it can be whatever you make it.

It’s not a matter of choosing to be happy, because that’s just not possible. You can choose to implement things into your life that you know will affect you positively. You can choose to remove things from your life that you know affect you negatively. It all sounds very black and white when it’s put like that. But it’s more technicoloured than that. It’s a palette of colours and moods and emotions and contributing factors that combine to establish your dominant mood over a period of time. And everyone’s are different. There’s not a single person on this earth that can have possibly experienced the same as you. It’s about recognizing and knowing yourself. Mindfulness. Knowing your own mind and emotions and how they work. Knowing your own body. Being able to control what influences it. It’s a work in progress. Nothing is finished yet.

But here’s to being happy again.