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By infocityzen, Nov 14 2013 01:08PM

As some of you know, we have a donations box in our yoga studio.


There are some events we run from time to time which are for donations, and the money from the Buddhist meditation sessions often all goes into this box. Also, sometimes people are moved to put money in when they visit.


When we put the box there, we intended to use some of the money to offset the costs of running the studio (heating, equipment, repairs etc.) and some to send on to good causes. In practise nearly all the money has gone to charity. Because that is what has felt right.


I'm delighted to say that from donations in the box over the last few weeks, I was able to send £100 towards the disaster relief in the Phillipines.


THANK YOU for making that possible.


Wishing you every happiness and blessing,


Fateh

By infocityzen, Aug 22 2013 03:45PM

This blog post is in response to a question I came across about the usage of the word 'Yoga'. Can 'yoga' be used to describe activities which are 'healthy' or 'feel good' but not 'spiritually' transformational?


In a nutshell, yes it can because it already is. It is the nature of language to change and over time the meaning ascribed to words themselves can alter. However the original meaning of ‘yoga’ has little to do with some of the activities it now describes.


In the West, as we adopted yogic practises and taught and retaught them, the original intention became a little lost. The more immediate side effects of yogic exercise (health, good physique, flexibility, looking young and vital etc.) often ended up being the aspiration for those attending yoga classes. As such Yoga has been incorporated into the health and beauty industry. In the process the underlying spiritual intent (transcending the personal ego, service to others, embodying the universal qualities of wisdom, love and compassion) have become alien even to some ardent practitioners of yoga.


A spiritual discipline (for transcending identification with the body, lower mind and ego), has become quite widely used as part of the modern craze of worshipping the body beautiful. I’m sure Patangali (whose teachings many yoga schools are founded on) would turn in his grave! Or at least give a wry smile at the stubborn persistence of our folly.


But this is perfectly okay and part of the natural process of cultural assimilation. There is no need for us to be precious or attached to words.


The word ‘yoga’ has changed in meaning from one of obscure, specialist esoteric (hidden, mystical) usage, to one of common, almost mundane association. Now we see it applied to physical postures or exercises purely for cosmetic and physical gain (looking good, feeling good). Or sometimes to something that makes us feel better generally.


It’s easy to see why ‘yoga’ in particular was not a concept that could easily be grasped by our materialistic mainstream culture. In its original meaning, what makes something 'yoga' or 'not yoga' is the result rather than the method. Yoga is often translated as ‘union’ or ‘yoke’. It’s meaning being the experience (or method) of changing our identification from the individual to the universal. Since the determining factor for this is often related to consciousness, application and intention rather than exactly what is done.... from a practical perspective 'yoga' could encompass almost anything. So naturally there is a type of yoga associated with all of human activity and experience: emotions (Bhakti Yoga), understanding (Jnana Yoga) and actions (Karma Yoga).


Nowadays, some activities classically understood to be yoga (such as using yoga asanas/postures) may actually not be 'yoga' in its original meaning (not result in union or movement towards union). This is because if the consciousness and intention guiding the activity is only ego based (me, me, me), then the benefits may not go beyond having a healthier body. I have on occasion even met teachers of yoga whose motivation seems rooted in showing off their perfected bodies and their status as a teacher. I doubt that from a spiritual perspective their students receive more from them than tools for relaxation and keeping the body healthy. Which is great as far as it goes, but relaxation and health are useful preparations for 'union', rather than 'union' itself. We can buy a wedding dress (put it on and even show it off to our friends as much as we like), but that doesn't mean we are married. To do that we have to take ourselves to the meeting point and say our vows. And even that is only the beginning. The dress which seems so important and integral to getting married, by itself has no substance at all.


Returning to modern usage of the word 'yoga':


At least 'yoga' is a word that now evokes interest rather than scorn or apathy, and that is helpful. It is inevitable as anything become accepted by 'mainstream' that its purity is also diluted and may even be eventually lost. Just as now 'religion' for some people has become a dirty word, divorced from its original intention (a structure/method to promote 'union' between human and divine).


In the age of Kali Yuga (the spiritual darkness of our modern world) there will probably never be a term for uniting the individual with the universal which has mainstream acceptance and remains true to its original meaning. Desire for this unity is not a concept that has popular understanding or interest. But it does not matter what become of the term ‘yoga’. The spirit of yoga, just like the original spirit of religious practices, is indestructible. It is truth and purity itself. It will outlast even our solar system. So there isn’t any need for alarm. The most important thing is that we (who aspire to improve ourselves to make the world a better place) stay as true as we can.



By infocityzen, Aug 14 2013 09:45AM


What is it like to experience love without ending?


I was recently very blessed to volunteer supporting the Buddhist Relic Tour on a brief stop in Germany (http://www.maitreyarelictour.com). During this time I had what was for me, the most tangible experience I have ever had of unconditional, pure love. And this is what it has taught me.


It’s very easy to describe any loving experience as ‘unconditional’ because genuine love always feels open, expansive and flowing (as if it will never end). However for most of us, even sometimes small changes in the conditions we find ourselves in can shut down the feelings completely (a moment of ‘rejection’, a moment of ‘ingratitude’, a few careless words…). Of course, when by behaviour and deed, we still hold the posture of love (listening to, caring for…), we are ‘acting’ as if we still had the feeling. In that way we are still ‘loving’. And this is very good and very beneficial. But infinite love, unconditional love is so much more.


One of my volunteer assignments was to touch a relic of Shakymuni Buddha to the crown of anybody wishing to receive a blessing. In essence this meant that I spent several hours each day meditating on the relic and the transmission of a blessing through the relic. Often I would feel a pleasurable warmth towards those that came forward, and it was lovely to ‘bless them’. But sometimes that warmth would disappear. Through my limited and judgemental mind I might experience the person’s (and my projected) insecurities, obsessions, selfishness, defilements (what they were ashamed of) etc. Instead of wanting to help there was the impulse to reject. This could be anything from experiencing a mild dislike all the way up to disgust. My particular triggers were around being ‘greedy’ (always wanting more, more, more) or making too much drama. But when I tuned into what was happening through the relic it was always the same quality of giving. It did not matter who was there, what their motivation was or what they were doing. The blessing through the relic always had the same intention – give, give, give, give, give…. inexhaustibly, unconditionally. I firmly believe this intention to bless and keep blessing, would not discriminate between the worst exploiter or cruellest persecutor, and the most divine saint. I am not like this (purely unconditional) even in my most loving and ‘enlightened’ of moments. Yet through the blessing of this project, I had an impression of what pure unconditional love can be like.


What makes love ‘unconditional’ is not how expansive it feels at the time, but how endurable that experience is to changes in conditions. Yogi Bhajan once spoke of being impersonally personal. As people we have personalities and egos (likes, dislikes, beliefs, understandings, identities, opinions, desires, aversions, aspirations etc.). Our reference points are based on these for most of the time. To shift to unconditional love our reference point needs to be beyond anything personal. The personal still exists (how else?), but this is not where ‘our’ love is coming from. It is literally no longer ‘our ‘ love, but LOVE itself. As soon as LOVE becomes ‘our’ love, it is in the realm of the personal and therefore limited to what we love and how much we love. The reference point of pure unconditional love has to be beyond any condition, beyond anything personal. It is like energy, like a force of nature, like the sun. Its very nature is simply to shine. It makes no difference who is there to be shined on. If we want unconditional love in our lives then we too must aspire to move beyond the personal. And to do so is the greatest blessing for us.


It is incredibly healing to witness love shine no matter what idiot comes along. Why? Because sometimes that ‘idiot’ is us. And whenever we realise we being an ‘idiot’, we find it hard to love or forgive ourselves or others. We add to our mistakes and shortcomings with judgements, self-persecution and (often resulting from the pain of this) more mistakes and shortcomings. If unconditional love is real for any fool out there treading any self-obsessed path, with any amount of self-aggrandisement and selfishness…. then it is there for us too. And this is such a relief, such a burden lifted.


Love is not earned.


Love is not withdrawn.


Love is always there.


For us.


Forever.


All we have to do is turn towards it.


The biggest obstacle to experiencing this is our own biases and grasping or clinging. The making everything 'mine', my love, my pain, my hope, my belief, my feeling, my thought, my experience... my my my my my. This makes our space small. Whenever we say 'mine' we pull towards ourselves and hold on. We contract. We even ‘hold’ or ‘cling’ to what we are ashamed of (what we don’t want others to know about). We hope that by doing this we will hide it from others, from the Divine or maybe even from ourselves. To hold something down though, to push it out of the way and keep it hidden, we have to first grasp it. And that grasping is the problem. All this does is really make it ‘ours’. We identity with it because we carry it with us. Out of fear of exposure we often hold it closer to ourselves than any of our virtues. That’s why deep inside we may have such dread of being exposed as the wretches we really are. It’s all an illusion. We only make ourselves wretches by clinging to what we find wretched. This in turn increases our self rejection and loathing and reinforces our sense of wretchedness. Focus on something beyond instead. Relax. Let go. Let be. Accept everything, but keep the focus beyond. Everything can change. If we stop ‘clinging’, ‘hiding’ or ‘holding’ within ourselves (we don’t need to broadcast to others, just to stop to tying/pretending to be other than we are), then our inner space opens and the love (which is always there) shines in irrespective of what we think or feel or desire.



By infocityzen, Aug 4 2013 03:37PM

I saw an advert on how to eat sensibly to lose weight the other day. I was hoping to find some good free material to share on our blog, but on following the links the supposedly free advice, turned out to be just another sales pitch in disguise. So in response to that, here is some layman advice for FREE. Please add your wisdom too. There is no great secret or mystery to being a healthy weight. Unless we have a medical condition complicating the issue, it’s simply about remembering how to apply our common sense to a subject about which our whole society is hysterical. So here are some common sense guidelines for us to follow:


1) Be steady and sensible. Set targets around eating that are achievable and sustainable indefinitely (long term). Avoid crash diets and drastic changes because in general what comes off quickly, goes back on quickly.


2) Eat a balanced diet which includes daily helpings of fruit and vegetables. We don’t need to cut out all the favourite calories, just to eat them in some degree of moderation and to eat plenty of healthy stuff too. There are some healthier versions of sugar fixes for those (like me) with a really sweet tooth, and ideally these would replace some (but not all if we don’t want them to!) of our processed sugar fixes. For example fruit salad with a bit of yoghurt. Eating slow release carbohydrates such as porridge helps avoid the ups and downs of sudden bursts of sugar from biscuits, coke etc. But if a sudden burst is needed then bananas are a great way to go.


3) What we eat early in the day, our bodies have all day to burn it off. So try to form the habit making breakfast (or if we don’t like a big breakfast, lunch) the main meal of the day. Supper is the meal to eat lightly if we can. Late night eating of anything is the worst idea.


4) Regular exercise is important. We don’t have to join expensive gyms if we don’t want to. We don’t need to free up a huge amount of extra time. We can start by simply taking whatever opportunities naturally arise. For example to walk or cycle where possible instead of driving, or to use the stairs instead of the lift or escalator. On top of this, a couple of times a week breaking a sweat (aerobic) exercise would be ideal.


5) STOP eating in front of TV or whilst rushing, reading or working etc. Eat slowly and mindfully or not at all (to eat mindfully just keep returning your attention to the experience of eating). Leave a gap between helpings or courses (it takes a little time for the message to go from our stomachs to our brains saying ‘full’). When full stop eating! In fact a yogi once advised me to always leave ¼ of the stomach empty to help digestion.


6) When we overeat or eat the ‘wrong’ things, it is usually because we are compensating for being unhappy or stressed, and/ or because we are out of touch with our bodies. If we comfort eat, then not eating a certain kind of food may literally feel like taking the joy out of life. If we know we are not sleeping enough, unhappy or are highly stressed, then ‘dieting’ without addressing this is pointless. Even if we succeed in losing weight, we will only compensate in some other way instead (e.g. smoking). So it is important we address (including by seeking help if necessary) anything we are compensating for.


7) Before you chose what to eat, check in with your body what it wants. Our minds often desire food for other reasons than keeping the body healthy (e.g. to feel pleasure or to compensate for feeling bad), so our mind doesn’t always give the best directions to follow. The more we can ‘tune in’ to our bodies, the more they will guide us to naturally want what (and how much)is good for us. This might seem alien to start with, but if we keep consciously intending/trying to listen to our bodies, we will at some point actually start to do it. Listening requires being open to what is there rather than deciding (through what we want, don’t want, like, don’t like) what should be there.


8) Find in between meal snacks that are not full of processed sugar or fat (e.g. fruit or crackers etc.) and make sure that you have access to some. That way, if we’re hungry or munching out of boredom we are not piling on the pounds doing so. Even if nothing comes instantly to mind, if we investigate we will probably find something that will do the trick.


9) Rewarding ourselves for keeping to our programme is a great way of staying motivated. As is finding someone to collaborate with (report to or follow the diet with).


10) Cooking healthy food in bulk and freezing or putting some in the fridge is good time management. As is investigating healthy fast foods (things that are quick to make). Otherwise food preparation time can be an obstacle.


11) Don’t try and gage whether or not you need to lose weight by comparing yourself to skinny models on TV. Eat and live reasonably healthily, and the rest will take care of itself. Society is quite literally ‘mad’ in the way it is youth and ‘body beautiful’ obsessed. It is literally unbalanced, neurotic and unrealistic. The fashion, media, celebrity (and to some extent ‘health’) industries make huge amounts of money by perpetuating two lies. The first is that being attractive equals being happy. The second is that only young and skinny is beautiful. By doing this they ensure that we (or most of us) are constantly falling short. We are not slim enough to be happy. We can’t stop ourselves from aging. So we are suckers for all the products, fads, diets etc., that these industries can push our way. What’s more we idolise (buy products, magazines etc. in homage of) those glamorous celebrities who seem to have the perfect body and so the perfect life. But do they really? It doesn’t take too much pondering to realise that it’s just one big scam that we’ve all bought into. Not so long ago it was curves all over, not bones showing and child thin, that was considered sexy. There are plenty of models and celebrities whose fame, money and ‘beauty’ (or trying to keep them) hasn’t brought them any happiness at all. Chasing this ‘ideal’ from the position that there is something wrong with us just as we are, is a sure way to remain miserable (and of course susceptible to any salesperson who can touch on this vulnerability). With some models it’s not even possible to reach their size without becoming ill. What sort of happiness is that? What makes the farce a tragedy is that at this point most men would actually prefer ‘plumper’ women. We all have a ‘natural’ weight/size for us. There is no natural need to try and be ultra slim (just those driven by peer pressure, fads and insecurities). All body shapes and sizes can be beautiful, especially if the body radiates health and happiness.


To summarise: eat in a balanced way (neither extremely indulgent or severely restrictive), do regular exercise, learn to listen to what your body wants (instead of eating because of compensation or compulsion), and compassionately address any issues causing you to want to behave differently. You’ll not only become the healthy weight for you, you’ll be happier too.









By infocityzen, Jul 30 2013 03:20PM



I was at a lovely event last weekend with a lady from USA who claimed to channel Babaji (the deathless yogi mentioned in Yogananda's book Autobiography....). She was very convincing and very lovely. She comes from a Bhakti tradition (love, love love). Her lineage is here if anybody wants to check it out http://www.bhaktimarga.co.uk. I have every reason to believe it is genuine.


Anyway, the reason she came to mind is that during that day someone said to me, 'all we need to do is love'.


Whilst on one level I totally agree with this. On another level, love without wisdom or knowledge is just as blind as hate (although a lot preferable and more pleasant!).


I'll give you an example. Today I found a pigeon which had been badly injured. It was obvious that the bird was not going to survive. I felt lots of compassion, lots of love for it. I picked it up gently and chanted and prayed over it. But I had no idea, for all my heart's outpouring, whether it would be better to hasten its end, or let nature take its course. I didn't even know if it was suffering or so out of the body it was beyond suffering. Assuming it was suffering, I didn't even know if it was important that the pigeon go through the whole experience, die in its own time, in order to pay off its karma. Perhaps if I took it to the vet to be put down or killed it there and then, the pigeon would die with only part of the karmic bill paid and need to come back and do it all again. However strongly I felt, I had no idea what was best for the pigeon. It’s very easy to say, go into your heat and the answer will be there. But when I did, I found nothing there to guide me in terms of choosing. In the end I decided that the best I could do, was to make sure that I was in touch with my heart, my compassion, whilst I did whatever I was to do (walk away or put it out of its misery). Then I chose.


But I still don’t know if I chose right.


That is why in Esoteric Buddhism we try to simultaneously grow 3 qualities, Love (right intention), Courage (ability to act), and Wisdom (right choices). Of course, this is not to knock the Bhakti path. Open the heart and (I believe) wisdom will follow. It just might not follow immediately. As my grandfather used to say, ‘the road to Hell is paved with good intentions’.


Love is blind without Wisdom. Wisdom is cold without love.












Welcome to the CITYZEN blog:

 

A very warm welcome to our blog. We're a yoga, counselling and meditation studio in South East London and here you'll find posts about us or any related subject. wishing you every happiness and blessing.

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Mindfulness Dates Announced

 

Following a series of enquiries we've finally set the date for our next training. The wonderful Introduction to Mindfulness (M1) will run onon 4th, 5th & 11th Oct

 

for more info contact Fateh