Category Archives: iliketothinkabout/

Lungta: the wind horse of flow and ease

I’ve been privileged to spend the last weeks of October in an old Buddhist monastery in the Himalayas. Spending a lot of time looking at prayer flags, I was delighted to discover the meaning behind the horse that features on them.

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The horse is called Lungta, or Wind Horse, and similar to Ganesh it symbolises the ability within you to turn stagnation into flow.

Windhorse is success. It is an aliveness, an alignment, a vibrancy. You have windhorse when things are flowing; when there is ease; when you feel “in the zone”.

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The opposite of windhorse is what the Buddhists call drip: when energy is clogged up. You know drip is in your life when there are a lot of obstacles, when things are not going your way.

So how do we cultivate wind horse and minimise drip? The teachings point to integrity, looking after yourself and your surroundings – looking within yourself for fulfilment and connection.

Spending time in the Himalayas around Diwali end of October, I loved seeing the villagers busy cleaning and painting their houses to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and abundance. 

In the picture are Lakshmi’s footsteps traced by the women of the family I was staying with. 

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Inspired by all this activity I put up the goddess feet mandala on our own door (see picture), and started cleaning and cooking myself.

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It’s a cleansing experience to declutter and create clarity. Especially with the intention of welcoming abundance and flow.

This was also inspired by Chameli Ardagh of Awakening Women’s Institute whose Parvati sadhana I was following at the time. Chameli writes:

“To clear out drip and welcome windhorse, choose to clear one drip-producing thing per day in your surroundings.

Declutter a drawer.

Fix something that is broken.

Do something you have postponed.

Apologize.

Throw out your secret stash of addiction-food.

Pay a bill, clean something or beautify your entrance.

Notice how these outer actions liberate energy.”

Decluttering our home is also a metaphor for sweeping up our emotional dust and blocks so flow has free passage through us. As we traverse life our experiences form and shape us, and some our so potent we carry them with us for a long time.

Sometimes we neglect parts of our being or they may even be frozen if we’ve experienced trauma. Cleaning up the dusty corners and slowly thawing the frozen ones helps us feel more complete, whole and flexible. We become freer in our responses to the world and experience more flow.

Chameli writes:

“What makes energy take form as drip versus windhorse is the attachment to the idea that who we are is a fixed, limited “me” who is fundamentally separate from our surroundings and other people.”

In the Maitree Community – the Sangha of Joy November calls we’re exploring how to allow the flow of the windhorse circulate freely, and how decluttering your physical space is as important as keeping your emotional space dust free.

Get in touch if you’d like to join next month’s call!

Restoring the Lotus

I’ve been much resonating with this passage from Anodea Judith on ‘Restoring the Lotus. Healing the Fifth Chakra’:

“If we express ourselves before our truth is fully ripened, then our actions are out of sync with our potential fullness. This is commonly experienced as ‘poor timing’.

Years ago, I habitually pushed myself in my work rather than waiting for my organic fullness to motivate me. When I rushed myself ahead of my own natural rhythm, I felt unprepared, stressed, anxious, and even a bit breathless. We push our timing out of sync because of financial pressure, emotional insecurity, fear, hunger for power, and the excessive rule of our mind as it orders our bodies with its barrage of “shoulds.”

Instead, when mind and body are balanced, we can dance to the rhythm of our own personal vibration as it resonates with the environment and the people around us.”

From her beautifully complete and masterful work on the psychology of the chakra system, ‘Eastern Body, Western Mind.’ Highly recommended!

The last full moon highlighted for me a blockage in my throat chakra and in the process of working with that I rediscovered Anodea’s work.

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I realised I was very much fighting to acknowledge and express two realisations brought up by my return to Auroville which coincided with this strong Aquarius full moon. I’ve noticed a funny pattern over the past half year – all my travels have been aligned to the full or new moon.

In Auroville I feel the presence of the moon stronger. Being in the forest the night sky is more visible, and the absence of city vibrations leaves more space to notice the moon’s impact.

This month’s full moon was in the sign of the future. Aquarius, the harbinger of things to come. A curveball moon, full of unexpected turns.

These turns were twofold for me – in love and work. And they shook me, making me feel quite wretched until I let go of attachment to what I thought was meant to be. As soon as I found back my flexibility, I could see new perspectives open up.

In Anodea’s words, as soon as I lost my rigidity of fear, paralysis of uncertainty, I could resonate at a new vibration, and create opportunities. Another approach to going at the pace of what is real.

I acknowledged two core inner truths about my love and work, and now feel fully aligned again.

In love, I renewed my vows to my life partner and committed even more deeply to a love and union of evolution.

In work, I moved on to work with those people whose values I share. Again, it comes down to the frequency – we resonate more fully when we work with people and organisations that we are aligned to. Then creativity can flourish.

Let’s see what the next full moon has in store!

Ikigai or the reason you wake up in the morning

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IKIGAI

iki (生き) / Life
kai (甲斐) / The realisation of what one expects and hopes for

As a life and executive coach I’m intrigued and inspired by this Japanese idea that is said to contribute to the many healthy centenarians living on the islands of Okinawa in Southern Japan, where the word originates.

Having ikigai means that you feel fulfilled and have a reason to get up in the morning. Even if it’s a dark morning, you’ll feel purposeful and balanced. Like this 100+ karate teacher.

Karate Master Uehara Seikichi - A 26-yr old student spars 96-yr old Karate Master Uehara Seikichi

Ikigai is a key component of a long and healthy life in addition to a plant-based diet, daily exercise and a strong sense of community. Okinawa’s population counts 50 centenarians per 100,000, compared to 5-10 in the US. They are healthy, independent and happy.

In fact, people do not retire in Okinawa. Instead, they belief that one should make life worth living no matter how old you are. You help others and continue to express your ikigai.

“Our ikigai evolves and transforms with us, just as much as the knowledge and identification of our ikigai transforms us.” Goju Karate

Everyone has an ikigai. So how do you find yours?

According to the Japanese, finding your ikigai requires a profound search of self, a natural and spontaneous process of self awareness.

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The diagram shows how ikigai combines four key elements in life:

  • Passion
  • Mission
  • Profession
  • Vocation

Those four key elements in turn consist of the overlaps between:

  • That which you love
  • That which the world needs
  • That which you can be paid for
  • That which you are good at

Together these make up your ikigai, which evolves and transforms over time. All ikigai are equally important and powerful because by definition they are the reason of living for someone.

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It is vital to our health and wellbeing that we find our ikigai. Yet it can be a challenging process to identify, refine your awareness, and clearly communicate your ikigai to yourself and others.

Life coaching can help with just this. I’m offering ikigai sessions in which we explore your life purpose through guided visualisation and creative conversation.

Email me at julie@maitreecoaching.com if you’re interested in discovering your ikigai!

Heart Space: the magic of synchronicity

“Is it always like this or are we special?” asked one of the participants of the my latest retreat in Crete. I replied: “Both. It is always like this and it is always magical.” In the months leading up to the retreat I was observing the group coming together – some signed up months in advance, others cancelled last minute. Coincidence? Or is it a complex cosmic law that our limited understanding is (yet) unable to grasp?

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It has been two weeks since the end of the Joyful Living retreat in the remote village of Sfakia in the South of Crete. I’m still in awe of the perfect synchronicity – perhaps the best term for that complex cosmic law – that brought this group together. So are the participants who are already booking their flights for the reunion in October. One of them, a theatre producer from Zurich, writes: “I’m astonished at how open and warm we were in the group and this very quickly.” “It was a real joy to see how the group evolved into a small family in just the space of a few days!” shares Mouna, an interpreter from Paris.

The swift intimacy created after sometimes only a couple of hours is a marvel to most people attending my workshops and retreats. In my experience, connection and transformation happen when synchronicity enters the scene. Then meaningful coincidences start occurring, such as people find themselves working on a similar life purpose, or bringing an identical inspiring object to the workshop. Or I will intuitively share an experience which is deeply meaningful to one or more participants.

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To trust in synchronicity is one of the cornerstones of being a transformational facilitator and coach. My coaching school CTI calls this skill ‘dancing in the moment.’ To surrender control initially feels counterintuitive because as a faclitator you are ‘doing nothing’ but following the flow of a session. Slowly you build trust that whatever is unfolding, is exactly what participants need in that very moment. When I feel I am working hard, I now know something is wrong!

In fact the only thing to ‘do’ as a facilitator is to role model how to interact with an open heart, a sensitive spirit, a curious mind and a flexible body. Thus you give the group permission to enter into a safe space. They respond by sharing the full spectrum of their humanity. It is as if in this ‘heart space’ we can uncover the strength of our vulnerability. We recognise each other’s stories of feeling intensely alive or of sabotaging our wildest dreams. By “taking the lid off ourselves” (‘The Heart of the Buddha‘ by Chogyam Trungpa, p6) we give each other permission to relax, be present, connect with our inner self and leave our unique footprint.

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Occassionally I come across a group where the heart space is unstable. This usually indicates that one or more participants has become sceptical and closed their hearts. The crucial thing to do as a facilitator is to stay curious and avoid closing our heart in retaliation. Fear can easily make us defensive or judgemental. Yet when we stay open hearted we invite a participant to express their doubt and neutralise the impact. Mostly this is enough for the air to clear and for synchronicty to work its magic once again. I remain in awe.

Watch this space for my next piece on how flow and synchronicity are related to gut feeling.

Unwind

What will be your summer holiday reading?

I’m looking forward to relaxing soon at this beautiful spot below in YogaOnCrete. It’s so important to properly unwind and allow yourself time to recover.

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It’s actually in relaxation that we find most alertness so we can face any situation in life skillfully and with awareness.

The fifth and last theme of the Joyful Living Crete Retreat (21st-26th June, http://www.yogaoncrete.gr/en/joyful-living-retreat) is ‘Unwind – how to close your day and prepare for sleep’.

Closing your day is as important as starting it. Some people list the things they’re grateful for. I always make sure to check out the night sky — watching the moon and stars connects me to the bigger picture of life.

At least 30 minutes before going to sleep, set your devices on airplane mode. Keep your bed for sleeping and only go there once you’re ready to sleep. Set your alarm for the 7-9 hours of sleep you need plus a little extra to account for falling asleep. The more regular your sleeping, the easier your body will unwind and rejuvenate.

My body’s natural rhythm is to sleep early and wake up with the birds when a fresh new day is about to start!

Keep it simple

The fourth theme of the Joyful Living Crete Retreat (21st-26th June) is ‘Flow through your day: how to keep things simple and follow your heart’.

Whatever comes your way, keep it simple. Flow with the day, observe what it brings, and play with it. Keep your mind cool, your heart open, and you’ll make sharp, intuitive decisions.

It helps to set your priorities so that you’ll feel content about having written that article, or gone for a run. What is the one thing that you want to do today, if nothing else?

Combine being organized and flexible. I always leave free time so that on a beautiful day I can go out in nature. Do you allow yourself to do something spontaneous, like curling up in bed if you feel like it?

This is not selfish or self-indulgent. The more you do the things you love, the more fulfilled you’ll be. Consequently, you’ll have more energy to grow and be available to the people you love.

Love Your Food!

Great fresh vegan meals are soon to be served at YogaOnCrete’s large communal dining table.

Join me for the Joyful Living Crete Retreat (21st-26th June).

The third of the five Joyful Living themes is Eat joyfully: how to eat what your body needs.

The food you take in makes a big difference to your day, but first make sure your food goes out! Rehydrating your body does wonders to kick start your digestion. I drink a liter and a half of lukewarm water and herbal tea every morning, ideally before starting my yoga routine.

Then it’s time to think about food! What are you craving? What does your body need? If you’re fighting a cold, add turmeric or echinacea to your smoothie. If you’re anticipating a demanding day, make a filling breakfast, like oatmeal. I mostly eat fruit and vegetables to complement the body’s nightly detox. Think of breakfast literally — better not to break your fast with a huge meal.

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Mindful Routine

I can’t wait to practice on this beautiful open air yoga platform, feel the soft breeze, the morning freshness and gaze at the deep blue sea.

Join me for the Joyful Living Crete Retreat (21st-26th June): http://www.yogaoncrete.gr/en/joyful-living-retreat

The second of the five Joyful Living themes is Mindful Routine – how to build a regular yoga and meditation practice.

It’s important to dedicate a part of your morning to a routine, such as yoga or meditation. If you prefer to potter around the house or go for a run, that’s fine too. Most importantly, create an oasis of calm so you can anchor yourself in your values, even if only for 10 minutes. If you have a family, carve out some time before everyone wakes up, or during your commute.

My own practice combines meditation and yoga. It normally lasts an hour, but I can shorten it to 30 minutes. Meditation stills my mind, and mindful breathing connects me to life’s flow. Yoga offers an opportunity to love my body. I add restorative or energizing poses according to my body’s needs. Even after sleeping restlessly, 10 sun salutes will refresh me.

Wake Up Mindfully

How about waking up to this??

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Waking Up Mindfully is the first of the five themes of the Joyful Living Crete Retreat (21st-26th June).

When your alarm rings, take a moment to notice the blank canvas of a new day. I always feel mornings are freshly quiet as the day is still unwritten. Don’t check your messages yet, and get present to this particular morning. Is the sky blue or gray? Are your dreams still with you? Are you feeling rested or restless?

Slowly turn your attention to the day ahead and set an intention. What matters most to you today? An example could be “I want a loving relationship,” or “I want to deliver a flawless presentation.” Repeat it a few times, write it down or pick an object like a bracelet or picture to remind you during the day. Once you’ve made your intention clear, you’ll be surprised how often it comes true, usually in an unexpected way.

Want to know more about Joyful Living? Keep following the blog, every day we’ll be going through each of the five themes.

India, land of paradox

Living in India is a great reminder of the power of paradox. I love paradoxes because embracing them creates so much new energy and possibilities in my own life. And I often work with clients on discovering how they may hold themselves back by self limiting beliefs.

Predominantly Hindu, India is also the second largest Muslim country in the world. It’s daily life is infused with spirituality, yet there is a strong atheist tradition dating back to the early Middle Ages. It’s poor, and yet immensely rich. It’s chaotic and dirty, yet beautifully pure and quiet.

There’s a great lesson in this. Having no option but to embrace paradox, we have to accept that two extremes can exist at the same time. And life becomes much simpler. Why waste energy arguing that it’s this or that when it can be both at the same?

However, our mind seems keen to keep things black and white.

Continue reading India, land of paradox