Tag Archives: meditation

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!

At the pace of what is real

I’ve been travelling a lot over the past month – South of France, French Alps, London, Amsterdam, and now back in India…with a full heart, relieved to be home again, and grateful for all the soulful joyful reunions with friends and family in Europe. Also with a tired body, taking time to rest and get comfortable with the monsoon weather and crazy beloved India.

The need for rest has been appearing synchronistically in conversations with friends and coachees for the last few weeks. For example my GP and health coach cousin who works with women in their 30s that have developed a range of psychosomatic conditions, often because of a diary full of everything, but rest. A coachee saw her emotional eating habits transformed once she allowed herself proper rest. And my partner Shivi needs complete rest to recover from a viral fever – no phone, no movie, not even a book…

This – naturally! – comes at a time when I’m learning how to rest properly, for example deactivating after lunch and dinner, taking a break after every hour spent behind the computer, no phone 1hr after waking up and 1hr before sleeping…and the health effects are so clear. More peace of mind, clarity, ease, stability. Less stress, cravings and fewer outside events triggering annoyance or frustration.

Mark Nepo calls this state ‘At the pace of what is real’ in one of his poems in ‘The Book of Awakening‘. I love sharing it with my Joyful Living Retreat participants on Day 4 when we look at how to flow through life..

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In my search for rest, I’m facing a big saboteur – the one saying ‘you’re not working hard enough, you’re not productive enough, you don’t deserve rest, you’re not doing anything with your life.’ Or even ‘You’re already meditating and doing yoga every day, what more rest do you need?!’

Luckily my inner leader is telling me that I’m more productive when fully rested because the right things happen at the right moment, effortlessly. And that in rest and quiet we create the space to listen to our soul and where it’s guiding us. As Rumi puts it so beautifully:

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I’m curious to hear your thoughts and experiences with busy-ness, rest, going at the pace of what is real and listening to your soul. Respond to this post, email me or join us for the next Maitree Community – the Sangha of Joy’s monthly call where we’ll be exploring what INTUITION and GOING AT THE PACE OF WHAT IS REAL means to us..

The August Sangha calls are taking place on Sunday 14th August at 11am Central European Time/2.30pm Indian Standard Time and Thursday 18th August at 4.30pm Central European Time/8pm Indian Standard Time. Get in touch with me if you’re keen to join (julie@maitreecoaching.com)!

Dance Your Yoga!

(This article was first published by Sivana Spirit Blog)

13442384_10154036524167702_3904981438406740640_nImagine peeking into a barn in the middle of a forest in South India on a full moon night.

About a dozen women from across the world are silently swaying their hips to slow music, smiles playing on their lips.

Occasionally a giggle, a ripple of delight, a delicious yawn weaves itself into the music. Some women lead the dance, some are caressing their sisters’ bodies, tracing their movement.

They sit down in triads, one by one sharing their intimate gifts, wordlessly witnessed by the others until sil
ence descends when they massage the shared abundance back into the body.

The women gather by an open fire in the moonlight, one by one offering to the flames whatever quality they are willing to leave behind in their lives.

This is the spirituality of embodiment, honoring the feminine aspect of creation. Shakti.

Now imagine a silent meditation retreat at the rise of dawn in Himalayan mountains.

Meditators sit straight-backed and motionless, covered in blankets as the first sun rays pierce through the peaceful morning cold.

For hours on end, they aim to observe their bodies and minds without responding to impulses to adjust their position, always returning to their object of meditation.

They cultivate equanimity, the ability to move through life without attachment, maintaining at all times an attitude of loving-kindness, no matter what trigger or provocation they’re presented with.

In the same way, yogis will breathe through difficult asanas, learning to feel free from discomfort, trusting that all things will pass.

This is the spirituality of consciousness, honoring the masculine aspect of creation. Shiva.

Both Shiva and Shakti are essential for creation to unfold. Without consciousness, our bodies would be inert mass. Without mass, consciousness would have no means to manifest.

Yet shakti, or the feminine element of spirituality, is often overlooked as Ashtanga yoga and Vipasana meditation appeal most to the masculine, competitive spirit of our times.

Especially for women it can be harmful and ungrounding to focus only on raising consciousness, overlooking how our body is actually the birthing ground of life.

This is not to say that women should only dance and men should only meditate. Shiva and Shakti are present in all of creation in different measures, so it’s important to discover for yourself what is your mix.

Some men are excellent dancers and some women are profound meditators. Ideally, we’re both honoring our Shiva/Shakti nature.

What are the benefits of embracing the Shakti element of spirituality? For men and especially for women there are 5 key reasons to include free dance and other forms of embodiment in your practice.

Reason 1: Melting Ice Cubes

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Embodying life through movement and dance is a powerful antidote to the ice cubing that can happen when we become too attached to raising consciousness, to cultivating equanimity.

When a strong emotion overcomes us, a meditator may be tempted to shortcut their return to a peaceful state of non-attachment.

Instead of giving space to their emotions with loving kindness until they observe a gentle shift and the emotion becomes less powerful, they may be tempted to force their attention back to their breath, perhaps annoyed that they have let themselves be disturbed in their equanimity.

The subtle violence of repressing emotions is what Chameli Ardagh of Awakening Women’s Institute refers to as ice cubing.

We ice cube our strong feelings because we prefer to be in a state of bliss and positivity, ignoring the fact that these strong feelings find a home in our bodies to manifest later in life as much more complex forms of emotional and physical distress.

Instead of ice cubing through meditation or even yoga, free dance offers a powerful way of expressing, processing and integrating our full range of emotions.

Reason 2: Celebrating our Shadow Side

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On the dance floor we can shake off our attachment to positivity.

We move through anger, anxiety, fear, sadness as well as ecstasy, joy, even sometimes bliss when we a feel at one with the universe. Fully embodying our emotions, every move, becomes a simple intuitive expression of what is present in the moment.

Towards the end of our dance, we experience a deep sense of release and lightness. We’re full of energy, eager to celebrate life.

Embodiment & Life Coaching
In my life coaching practice, this release of energy is what I am looking for when working with clients to process their emotions.

In what is sometimes called ‘process coaching’, I create a safe space for clients to go into the experience of a deep emotion that they may have put the lid on in fear of it taking over.

I help them to breathe into and embody their emotions and simply be present to what is there.

We go deeper and deeper into the experience, and every time the client starts talking about the feeling, I gently bring them back from their mind to their body.

Then suddenly there will be a point when there is a release and the client bounces up full of energy. This happens typically at the moment when the fear around being present to a strong emotion has subsided.

There is now space for relief of having experienced the emotion without life falling apart.

Now the emotion can be integrated instead of being stuck in the body – the probability of emotional blockages and illness manifesting later on, is greatly reduced.

Dancing does exactly that. It is like a washing machine for conscious and subconscious emotions. It offers a safe space for coming clean with the ebb and flow of life.

Reason 3: Being in Flow

IMG_0327Sometimes when dancing in a trance-like state, we can get close to perceiving the Shakti beat of creation and pure life force pulsing through our every move and feel fully alive.

Taking our practice from the dance floor into everyday life, we get more in tune with our experience of life. It gets easier to express simply what we feel and then flow with whatever life’s response turns out to be.

I remember the moment when after a good few years of spiritual practice, I asked myself, ‘What are you experiencing in your body?’ when a particularly strong wave of emotion hit me.

Instead of following my default strategy of trying to understand my feelings, I closed my eyes to be present to the currents of desire, separation, and exclusion stirring in my stomach.

I slowly moved to these currents, expressing them simply as they were.

A strong impulse came up to go out of the house which I followed even though I had nowhere particular to go. Relying on my intuition to guide me, I ran into the person to whom I needed to express those feelings. Simple as that.

In fact, dance helps to keep our body and mind fluid, welcoming change.

Neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to change and learn, benefits from the movement because the brain associates it with learning, as animals typically move out into new territory looking for food or being chased by a predator.

So by moving and dancing regularly, we avoid getting stuck in repetitive patterns and instead approach life with a fresh outlook.

Reason 4: Honouring our Roots

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Dance is often a key part of indigenous people’s daily rituals and more elaborate ceremonies such as rites of passage.

We have mostly lost these practices in modern life, yet they offer great opportunities for transforming consciousness, the aim of many spiritual seekers.
Embodied ceremonies which often include dance and movement can bring us into liminal space, a transitional state we experience when we leave behind what is familiar and known to us and move towards the unknown.

We start to undergo transformation, and our psyches are open and malleable. The limits we’ve created for ourselves soften.

Especially when our dance becomes a trance, we charter new territory, and our consciousness shifts gear from separation into oneness. In ecstasy, our movements become an expression of Shakti’s power of expression; we become nature’s heartbeat.

Women and men’s circles were also a regular feature of life in many indigenous cultures.

In this American Indian tribe, women have a close group of friends with whom they regularly go away, even when they have families. Sisterhood often revolved around the menstrual cycle which synchronizes when women live in the close community.

Red tent groups and women’s circles are becoming increasingly popular around the world, filling in the void of a true female space in our lives.

Honoring both unity and diversity, it is liberating to share in equality with women of all ages and backgrounds.

The Awakening Women’s Institute has created some powerful guidelines for women’s circles, highlighting our commitment not to fall back into that competitive, back-biting and gossiping streak that can sometimes mar female get-togethers.

Reason 5: True Female Leadership

The more women experience the enchanting joy of real sisterhood and support, the more they may start to lead from that place.

Instead of beating men at their game, we learn to rediscover our own.

Instead of being rivals for a man’s favor, and in spite of the strong objectification of women’s bodies to sell anything from socks to perfume, we swing our hips to the beat of our intuitive power.

And when we step out of our women’s circle, what we bring to the world is true listening without judgment, empathy and a deep sense of connection. We reclaim an enchanted universe where we are in touch with the depths of our souls and our sisters’ souls.

We reclaim wonder and meaning in the face of a mechanistic soulless society bereft of meaning and purpose.

We dance consciousness into this world, and it is about time.

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This article was published by Sivana Spirit Blog. The first and second images are by Bibbie Friman. The fifth by Christian Schloe and the sixth by Caroline Manière.

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!

Summer Retreats in Greece!

Joyful Living 1: Make ordinary days extraordinary | Crete, 28 May – 4 June
Joyful Living 2: Be the change you want to see | Evia, 26 June – 3 July

I’m excited to announce the Maitree Coaching Summer Retreats in Crete and Evia. Come and celebrate the Mediterranean summer in magical and relaxing Greece.

We had an amazing time at Joyful Living 1 in Auroville, South India, end of March. A great opportunity for busy city people to take a break in nature, eat wholesome food and focus on what really matters to them in life. 

A month later we’re still messaging each other about the changes to our lives – from turning vegan to getting up at 5am to making time for regular journalling in our mornings…big changes!


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“The retreat group feels like a family tribe…after many retreats across the world, I said to myself no more retreats but Julie is different, she is unique, she is real, you can trust her. With her powerful tools you will discover yourself and believe in yourself more than ever!” 
Ariana, Entrepreneur, Spain


 

Now summer in Europe is coming close and bookings are speeding up for both Joyful Living 1 in Crete and Joyful Living 2 in Evia.

So if you’re thinking of joining and/or have questions, get in touch soon!

Love, and hope to see you in Greece 🙂

Julie


“The Joyful Living retreat was one of the best experiences of my life. I’m incredibly glad I signed up for it. I am a stronger, happier, more positive person now that i learned so much about myself and life. Thank you Julie!”

Mouna M’Rad, Conference Interpreter, Paris

“I LOVED the Joyful Living retreat! Your coaching was perfect for me. I feel reborn and experience a radical shift of perspective. I am going through my days with mindfulness and the results are astonishing. My friends are amazed.”

Katarina Fischer, Author, Hamburg


 

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Joyful Living 1: Make ordinary days extraordinary

Welcome dinner on 28 May
Workshops 29 May – 4 June

Do you want to:

– Live with joy and ease?
– Improve your work life balance?

– Cultivate mindfulness and gratitude?
– Enhance your health and wellbeing?
– Find peace in a hectic life style?

I created the Joyful Living program for participants to cultivate mindfulness and gratitude amidst the busy-ness of modern life.

The programme’s five themes are designed to anchor your days in the things that matter to you and bring joy into your life.

In a warm and supportive group, we will explore how to make ordinary days extraordinary.

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“You have changed my life and given me the confidence to open up and live with joy and ease. You’re an amazing coach who opens people’s hearts. Thank you!” Giacomo, Italy

For more info on the five themes, click here. For more info on the retreat, click here.

 


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Joyful Living 2: Be the change you want to see

Welcome dinner on 26 June
Workshops 27 June – 3 July

Everyone is a leader. Everyone can make a difference.

Dare to be unapologetically you and make an impact from a place of authenticity.

Learn to turn from reactive into proactive. Be a changemaker in your family, in your work, in the world.

The program’s five themes are designed to take you on a journey to remember who you have always been.

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At the end of the journey, you will own your purpose, passion and the unique footprint you leave on your environment.

For more info, click here.

 


Practical information

How to book?
Limited places available as we’ll be smaller groups of 8-10 people. Please reserve your place in advance via Julie@maitreecoaching.com.

How to arrange accommodation?
Both the retreats include accommodation. On Crete we’re being hosted in Sfakia by the wonderful Eugenia in her family home at YogaOnCrete.  

In Evia Liana and Alexis are our hosts at the Villa Averoff, a historic property set in the lush countryside of the island.
How much are the retreats?

Joyful Living I Crete: EUR600-790* (depending on type of room) including 7 nights accommodation, welcome dinner, and 6 days of workshops, breakfast and lunch.

Joyful Living II Evia: EUR685* including 7 nights accommodation in double ensuite room, welcome dinner, and 6 days of workshops, breakfast, and lunch.

* If you feel you qualify for a (Auroville!) discount, do let me know!

 

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.

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

About meditation

On Thursday I came out of a 5 day silent meditation retreat in the green mountains of Sri Lanka. I would like to share with you 5 insights I gained as many of my coaching clients are keen to keep up a regular meditation practice and lead more mindful lives.

I often work with clients on addressing the balance between being and doing. Meditation is a great antidote against our tendency to perceive ourselves as ‘human doings’ instead of ‘human beings’.

1. The middle way

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One of the challenges of meditation is finding the middle way between trying too hard and too little. The meditation instructor at the retreat explained that he generally taught Northern Europeans to reduce their current effort by 50%. Southern Europeans should reduce their effort by 25%, while Sri Lankans should increase their effort by 500%.

Continue reading About meditation