A Wholehearted Life: finding freedom from suffering through Yoga and Meditation.
A 5 week (10 hour) course to learn and explore Yoga and Meditation practices that can be valuable resources and tools to support us during challenging times.
Part of being human is to experience loss and pain; and it is often our fearful reactions to this discomfort that we experience as deep suffering: we may retreat into depression or low-energy states, we may experience the more high-energy states of anxiety and nervousness, and/or we may find ways to either numb or escape the pain (addiction to drugs, alcohol, food, work, sex, tv/internet, keeping busy etc.). Often we feel a generalised unhappiness, a sense that we’re not OK, an emptiness that can fill us with fear. With stress levels on the rise and a greater number of people suffering than ever before it is clear that as a society we need to learn ways to handle these situations.
Some of the most powerful ways to help ourselves come from the teachings of Yogis over 2,500 years ago. The Buddha saw very clearly this human condition of pain and suffering but he also saw, and experienced himself, how we can be liberated from suffering. Thankfully for us he also gave very clear and practical steps to take which lead us beyond the confines of unhappiness and into a place of wholehearted living.
Buddhist teaching encourages us to accept pain as a part of life (pain is inevitable), what transforms pain into suffering is our resistance, our reactions and responses to the discomfort. Suffering therefore is dependent on our thoughts and emotions and so is optional. This is good news and the key to finding freedom: we have the power to choose the way we respond, to embrace the inevitable pain, to relate to ourselves, to others and to life in a wholehearted way. Today neuro-scientists are discovering similar things: that the brain doesn’t stop growing, that we can change the structure of the brain through the focus of the mind (neuroplasticity) creating new synaptic connections and regulating our nervous systems.
OK, sounds good but how do we do that? Through the art of cultivating mindfulness. Mindfulness is the intentional giving of attention, without judgement, to what is going on right now. It allows us to be fully present with ourselves, to increase our awareness, and allows a shift from a “doing” mode to a “being” mode where we naturally gain insight and clarity. Coming home to a wholeness of being and to a more relaxed acceptance of the flow of life.
During this course we cultivate mindfulness in different ways:
- The Body & Breath: through yoga movements we learn to bring our attention back to our physical sensations, to reconnect with and live more fully from the body;
- The Mind: through meditation practices we develop mindfulness of the movements of thought and give a rest to the often exhausting mental activity;
- The Heart: true healing resides in the heart, an important element of this course is to open the heart through specific practices that cultivate qualities that lead to well-being, compassion and understanding.