Bound By Certainty

I remember moving away from home at the age of 18 feeling confident that I was already worldly, independent and smart.  I was full of hope and in my opinion, already had an incredible sense of knowing.  It amazes me when I look back and marvel at my young confidence.

A fortunate epiphany and my greatest learning that first year away from home and attending university was the realization that what I thought I knew was so small compared to what I still had to learn!  It was a humbling acknowledgement and I am so grateful that it started me along the path of seeking not only answers but also seeking more questions!

To be good at anything we need to first be full of questions.  Certainty can only bind and close us off from other possibilities.  In my chosen field of yoga and mindfulness study there are many avenues of debate.  So many different lines of yoga with various approaches to the movement, the breath and the perceived benefits of each “method”.  It is always interesting when a room full of yogis come together to learn.

In December I was taking part in an amazing workshop with the highly knowledgeable Tom Myers (an integrative manual therapist and author of Anatomy Trains).   We were learning how to see and understand postural patterns so that we can work smarter, not harder.  We were also discussing how the body moves and settles into holding patterns during our days and in specific yoga poses.

There was a moment when the learning environment went off the tracks so to speak and the learning became bound by individuals perceived certainty.  A heavy discussion (or rather a passive aggressive argument would be a more accurate description), occurred when a few teachers jumped in to “evaluate” a certain yoga pose.  They brought their determined certainty, their ideals and their methods of yoga into the discussion and the learning stopped.  It quickly became a debate about what was the “right” way to be in the pose and what was “wrong” about this specific posture.  I remember feeling disappointed in the gathered group of yogis by how vehemently each method of yoga was defended and proclaimed as the way it should be.

For those involved in the heated discussion, it was obvious to see that they had lost themselves in their certainty.  Their certainty eliminated the need to pay attention. Certainty shut everything down.

So this begs the question, how can we approach learning mindfully?  How can we let go of what we believe to be true?  How can we cultivate ease in the discomfort of uncertainty?  Can we turn to our practice on our yoga mats, or meditation cushions and explore the unknown with an openness to what is new?

With time, our mindfulness practice teaches us to notice and acknowledge it all.  We hope that with practice we can cultivate an awareness to multiple perspectives and to be open to every way of knowing.  We hope with practice that we can stay fresh, curious, sensitive and alert and to be comfortable with the vast unknowing that will always be.

I find comfort knowing that we are all on the same path of learning.  My teachers, my mentors, my parents, my husband and children are both knowing and uncertain; as am I.

Note:  Tom Myers presented a wonderful workshop and in the moment of “blind certainty” that I described above, he mindfully observed the discussion as it moved through its various forms.  Eventually the teachers involved sensed their mindless distraction and Tom was able to use the “debate” to deepen the discussion about how our beliefs can be stored in our tissues.  Fascinating work!

 

~Robyn

The Sweep

Of the virtually unlimited information available in the world around us, approximately ten billion bits per second arrive on the retina at the back of our eye. The optic nerve attached to the retina and sending impulses back to the visual cortex has only one million output connections, which means that only six million bits per second can leave the retina and only ten thousand bits per second make it to the visual cortex. After further processing, visual information feeds into the brain regions responsible for forming our conscious perception. Surprisingly, the amount of information this conscious perception is made of amounts to less than 100 bits per second. From 10,000,000,000 to 100 bits per second – if that was all the brain took into account, this thin stream of data would hardly produce a perception. To add to this picture, of all the synapses in the visual cortex, only ten percent are devoted to incoming visual information from the retina. Thus, the vast majority must represent internal connections among neurons in that brain region. This shows how little information from the senses actually reaches the brain’s internal processing areas, and how extensive the processing of information through internal connections within the brain really must be. May I dare say that what you see is mostly what your brain constructs from scant data coming from the outside world. I guess Shakespeare was right when he has the fool tell his king: “Sir, what you see is not what you see!”

You may think that the brain lights up in different ways when you perform different tasks, and that it turns off when you are at rest. Far from it. There is a persistent level of background activity, called the default mode, that is critical for overall brain functioning and the planning of future actions (deeply sounds like the mechanism of being alive). When your mind is at rest (daydreaming, meditating, sleeping) dispersed brain areas chatter away to one another, and the energy consumed by this ever active messaging is twenty times higher than the energy the brain uses to accomplish specific tasks. Everything we do marks a departure from the brain’s default mode, and the energy used for such specific activities is only about five percent more than what the brain already consumes in this highly active default mode. During specific activities the default mode continues ‘underneath’. Because this background default mode of high energy consumption is difficult to see and was difficult to find, brain scientists gave a reverential nod to the dark energy in astronomy and called it the brain’s dark energy. This dark energy was later found to be predominant in four widely separated areas of the brain, the lateral parietal cortex, the lateral temporal cortex, the medial parietal cortex and (no surprise) the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC). Together these areas constitute the default mode network (DMN), thought to behave like an orchestra conductor issuing timing signals to coordinate activity among different brain regions. Damage to the DMN may be involved with a whole series of mental and physical disorders. In this way the brain integrates all its regions in a way that allows them to function and react in concert to stimuli. Integration is the key.

Moving from neuron to narrative I am telling you about neurons in order to shed light on the story of meditation. We only use very little information residing in the outside world to know that world. Instead, we mostly construct a perception of that world by means of a staggering amount of internal brain processing involving neural networks that are widely distributed throughout the nervous system. To do that effectively it is essential that the integrative function of the DMN be intact and unfolds in optimal ways. Proper ‘brain hygiene’ including time for play, goal-oriented focusing, sleeping, physical activity, connecting with others, non-focused day-dreamy downtime and time for inner reflection ensures such brain health.

Central to these aspects of brain hygiene is time for inner reflection, also called time in. This is what we hone through mindfulness meditation. We harness the power of the master integrator in the brain, the middle prefrontal cortex (MPC), to create a still point, different from, but not unlike sleep, a state of concentrated and ultimately effortless rest. This allows the brain to get out of its own way, and were I to put my money on something, I would put it on the hypothesis that this concentrated rest optimally activates the DMN for its sweeping integrative function throughout the body-brain. Integration is the linkage of differentiated parts and stands at the core of health. For integration to occur it is not problem-solving that is at the core, but the ability to differentiate between the parts of the whole system and then connect them by holding them in awareness. Awareness changes everything it becomes aware of. Relative to neurons, we are talking about the differentiation and linkage between widely distributed brain regions, neural networks and neurocircuits; relative to narratives we differentiate between the different physical sensations, feelings and thoughts, between embodied and cognitive self-awareness. Holding it all in awareness we then allow the DMN sweep to creatively reconnect all these parts moment by moment in ever new ways, thus forever changing everything in its wave-like repetitive surf movement.

Following the principle of the DMN sweep, and with the same ease we try to move from neurons to narratives, from science to subjective experience, in examining the intricacies of our internal world we need to learn not to focus too much on solving problems, but on finding new connections instead. This is the hallmark of creativity and health. If you are depressed, it is more important to stop fighting the obvious, deeply examine the space of darkness and find out how you create a dark reality devoid of connections to other possible ways of constructing reality, than it is to try to solve the problem by substituting negativity with positive thoughts. This latter project never really works, because positivity that tries to replace negativity without exploration of the relationship between the two only leads to the repression of darkness, which then lurks in the unconscious depths waiting to return with a vengeance at the first opportunity that arises.

What makes us sick is the combination of lack of clarity about the differentiated details of our internal sea and lack of connection between these details. What paralyzes people in depressive states is the lack of connection between the darkness and the larger context of the living organism, not the presence of darkness itself; for darkness is always around as a matter of course in a human life. It is not about here and not wanting to be here, nor is it about there and wishing one was there, but about the ways here and there are connected or not. It is the nature of transitions from one mental state to the other that is crucial for integration and healing. Like in the Tango, with its unique aspect of improvisation also so prevalent in brain functioning, the excellence of either dancer is secondary to the couple’s ability to move in mutual attunement. Without the latter, no amount of expertise will put you in awe of the dance’s inspired aspirations. We need great curiosity and acceptance in simply being as we closely examine the complex intrigues that make up the story of the mental state we don’t desire, more so than the conscious problem-solving wish to get rid of the undesired state. In approaching our inner world this way, we stimulate the brain’s creative propensity to find and create new connections, and that very process is the one that will lift us out from underneath the wreckage of chaos or rigidity.

The DMN works largely below the radar of consciousness, and in order to reach the non-conscious realm, we have to surrender to the unknown. The most powerful forces that influence our lives are not the ones we know about and are conscious of, but the ones we don’t know our mind has decided to adopt and work with as its own.

My lecture in early December was a sweep across domains of knowledge to gain access to the one elephant of truth with its myriad of facets. Within the world of narratives, it was one way to open access to the brain’s black energy.

Dr. T.

Create Mindful Moments

Many people think that meditation is difficult.  They can’t even fathom sitting still for a few minutes let alone 45 minutes.  Who has time for that???

I know that a formal sitting meditation practice is difficult.  We are busy.  We have lots to do.  But consider approaching a meditation practice as not something that we have to “do”.   Why not approach meditation as connecting to your moment as it is right now?  That’s it.  Take the pressure off and redefine what meditation can mean for you.

While we don’t “do” meditation, what we can “do” is learn to create an environment where meditation can happen.

How do we create environments for mindful moments?

As a beginning student, make it simple.  Set your timer on your phone or computer or your stove as a reminder during your day to stop what you are doing and enjoy a moment to be mindful.  When you stop, feel your feet on the ground and notice how your body is breathing. That’s it.  Expect your mind to wander away from your breath; it will and that is ok.  When you notice that your mind has shifted away from your breath and has begun thinking, you will have a choice.  You can continue with the thinking or you can go back to your breath.  This choice will come every time you notice to yourself thinking.  It will probably happen over and over again.  You created a mindful moment.

Another simple practice when you hear your timer go off is to first notice your breath moving in and out.  Then turn your attention to your hand and slowly make a tight fist.  Do this with your eyes closed if that is possible.  Feel the tension in your fist and notice how it feels to breathe with your fist closed tight.  Then very slowly, begin to let go of the tension.  Release the tension slowly so that you can feel the levels of sensations that will change as you release the fist and notice how your breath feels as your hand unfolds.  You just created another environment and moment to be mindful.

As we become more experienced in a mindfulness practice, you will discover many other opportunities to practice.  At any time, feel the breath.  Notice sensations in your body as you sit, stand or walk.  Notice the scent as you cut through a fresh cucumber or notice the taste on your tongue with your first sip of coffee or tea.  Feel the water envelope around your hands as you wash them and observe how your hand naturally moves in unison with the cascading water.  Notice how you feel physically when you see someone you love or someone who intimidates you.  Enjoy how these mindful moments will reveal themselves to you more frequently as you continue to practice.

And when you do feel the draw to sit still and practice a sitting meditation, let the sitting meditation unveil itself just as these small practices have unfolded for you during your day.   Moment by moment, sensation by sensation.  Ask questions and find teachers.  Let your meditation practice be as unique as you are.

Give your practice the space it needs to unfold.  And knowing that a meditation practice can be difficult,  don’t forget to embrace the simplicity.  That is where you will discover the sweetness of an ongoing practice.

How do you create mindful moments or environments in your day?

(What works for you could also be fruitful in my practice!  Please share!)

~Robyn

The Silence of Writing

Meditation is difficult because life processes unfold automatically to ensure survival, and they are so intricately connected to the brain’s awareness circuits that we don’t realize how much more on autopilot we are than we think. That’s one of the issues I talked about yesterday in my lecture.

Today I am supposed to meet an expectation Robyn and I created with this blog – the expectation of reflecting on the lecture. However, I find myself in a situation of having nothing to say. I am talked out and both audience and panel have done such a good job participating and exchanging ideas that it appears as if nothing important is left to say and silence imposes itself.

I feel the pressure to produce something, just because we committed ourselves to doing so. On autopilot mode I would be tempted to force myself to write about some thing. Yet what imposes itself on me is silence. Giving into the pressure is not an option if I am mindful, yet you are all waiting for a blog post which by definition requires words. This leaves me with the task of writing about silence … or maybe writing in silence … writing silence … silencing writing?  I hear the vast echo of silence and how my problem-solving mind wants to take over and force a noisy solution outside silence. I have to reassure my problem-solving mind that it is a worthwhile ally, but that I am in charge, not it, and that I need its help to honor my need for silence.

I did not mention this in the lecture, although I hope the great silence of Being spoke through me: Maybe the most fundamental hindrance to meditation is forgetting about the vast stillness heralded by silence. When we forget to settle in the stillness of Being, being gets very difficult, thus meditating gets strenuous. For stillness is not the absence of movement, but the depth to which we are able to get out of the way of nature’s natural movements. When we can get out of our own way in this manner, we begin to feel the ease that comes with not having to push the river anymore, and we hear the great stillness of Being. It speaks loudly when one has learned to hear its whispers among the noise of the thousand things.

What carries and connects us more than anything – you the audience, the panel and me – is the nameless stillness of Being as we know and feel each other’s presence in this lifetime. All of you are here right now with me in this very moment of writing. You are all present in my Being, as I am in yours, way beyond words and memories of a bygone time. Even deeper than that, there is no such thing as my and your Being. We are all immersed in the one great timeless Being, and when we know that, when we realise that, we are naturally connected – we converse without having to chatter all the time. We are together shaping the universe’s destiny, as a natural matter of course, simply but powerfully united, not needing words beyond what they are useful for – to name the beginning of wordless love.

Hey Robyn, hey everybody, do we need this blog?

Dr. T.

The Seat Of Awareness

When we prepared the lecture topics and I proposed one on the MPC, Robyn asked me why anybody would want to know about it? My MPC’s self-esteem got bruised and I began to defend it by making my case to her not only why it is so important, but also that unless she was a reptile, she likely benefited from her MPC desperately trying to make itself heard right then as we were speaking. Once the lecture was advertised, Robyn sent me an email and asked: ”What on earth am I going to write about the MPC?” To which I responded: “A lot of sand, pebbles and dirt.” I seemed to have been inspiring to her, because her way of rethinking Yoga through the perspective of the MPC in her post is really interesting and wonderfully refreshing – so much so that I felt I had little more to add. So where do I turn now…???

One little sequence of words jolted me in Robyn’s blog. Since in the lecture I already told you about the functions of the MPC, I thought this little jolt might be a good direction to take my blog. Indeed, thanks to the MPC we are capable of awareness of awareness. We are capable of an advanced form of meta-processing thanks to the highly integrative function of the MPC. The seduction is to then deduce that the MPC is the seat of awareness, as Robyn does in her blog. That’s where my sympathetic nervous system went into slight over-activation. Oh – mindfulshemindfulhe, not mindfulhemindfulshe – as you know from my lecture I dare not criticize the superior gender, and in fact there is a grain of truth in what she says. Without the MPC we would not be capable of the kind of human meta-awareness (a fancy short form for awareness of awareness) we enjoy. And yet, this being said, seeing it as the seat of awareness can lead our minds into the wrong direction.

As I read Robyn’s blog before writing this one (my sneaky way of letting her MPC inspire my lazy one), I felt my MPC was expanding into and infiltrating my whole body and beyond it the world around me. What may seem to originate from a place in the forehead, through her text became alive in my whole body and the environment I live in. This is Robyn’s genius, of course, but it also means that there is something to explore with regards to where awareness sits.

Awareness is a process, not a thing, which involves at least three aspects: a known such as the object or the ‘thing’ (a rose, a rotten apple) that you are aware of and have a sense of; a knowing which is the subjective sense of being aware that something is in the spotlight of your attention; a subjective felt sense or the subjective quality of that of which we are aware, such as your sense of the wonderful scent or color of a rose or the disgusting appearance of a rotten apple – this subjective quality forms a bridge of sorts between the knowing and the known in the form of a quality of experience that defines the way the known is bound or appears to the knowing. Does this process of awareness occur in the MPC? Partially.

The way the known, the knowing and the subjective quality of it all appear as awareness involves every part of the organism all the way down to the cellular and molecular level and all the way up to conceptual thought. Awareness is the result of a process of awarenessing that begins at the receptors that respond to stimuli from the external world and the interior of the body, moves through many layers of processing all the way up to the MPC and cognitive thought, and includes the myriads of resulting adjustments and actions the organism engages in as a way of adapting to the demands of the circumstance. In scientific parlance we say that awareness is an emerging property of the living organism as a whole. Were you a cockroach with a completely different set of receptors, organs, cellular organizations etc., you would experience (or maybe not experience but be enveloped by) a very different awareness sense (I can tell you from experience in a previous lifetime when I had to pay for past sins!). To make this more intelligible let’s take the example of Beethoven’s ninth. You would be hard-pressed to come up with an answer to my question where the seat of Beethoven’s ninth is. As you sit in a concert hall, there is the hall, the audience, an orchestra, a choir, many different instrumental sections of the orchestra, many individual players and their own views on the music, the director, the music score, Beethoven’s intended imagination and finally the act of performing. All these elements contribute to the emergence of something that appears in your consciousness as the experience of his ninth symphony, yet that experience is not seated in any of the aspects that give rise to your sense of marvel at this exquisite piece of music.

Such is awareness. It does not have a seat anywhere as it roams everywhere. It sits everywhere you pay attention to – in your left big toe, in the red Sumac bush, in the feeling of love for your child, in your math homework, in the most distant galaxy you see through Hubble, in the most unlikely non-existing world of your imagination. It has no color, no attributes, no characteristics you can pinpoint and is transparent and clear. It is the coming together (1) of the known (2) and the knowing (3), yet beyond all three. You cannot create, expand, change, lose or find it because it is always already there. You can only get out of your own ways of obfuscating its presence – with the help of the MPC.

I am glad I have your MPC on board, Robyn.

Dr. T.

Why Would Anybody Want To Learn About The MPC?

I remember teasing Dr. T. several weeks ago.  I poked at him,  “Why would anybody want to learn about the MPC?”   He rolled his eyes, laughed at me (as he usually does) and then sighed and spoke.  He said with a coy smile on his face, “Robyn, this lecture will change your life!  It will allow you to understand what you teach more fully.  Robyn, you will come to love the MPC!”

So here I am a few days after his lecture, “The Amazing MPC” and I must admit … he was right.   The MPC is amazing.  More amazing than I gave him credit for.    What I didn’t realize at the time, was that so much of what I teach as a mindful movement teacher and advocate originates in the MPC.  The MPC lies in the epi-center of the brain and is where awareness is born.  I now have a better understanding of how the MPC is an integral part of my daily yoga practice, my teaching and learning.

A mindful yoga practice accesses the MPC is so many ways.  I have explained to my students in the past, that I try to approach teaching by looking at the movement from many angles.   I speak about “coming in the back door” to wake up a different part of the body.  This is true of the MPC.  We access the power of the MPC in unique ways during a mindful yoga practice.  To me this is fascinating and exciting!

We begin our yoga practice usually on the floor in shivasana.  This is a time where we give ourselves the space to transition away from a busy day and move towards an environment which is more quiet and even. While we settle in shivasana we begin to focus on the ground, the body and the breath.  The breath feels round.  It moves in, it moves out.  It is a lullaby.  It soothes and calms the nervous systems.  The breath begins to regulate the body.  Dr. T. explained in his lecture that there is no health without body regulation.  This is the first function of the MPC … body regulation.

As we settle deeper into shivasana, we begin to bring an intentional attention to our body through a body scan or conscious softening.  Through this practice we invite the MPC to “come online.”

Many of us know that there are days when we move through a yoga practice with no awareness or connection to our body or breath.  A busy brain can easily hijack a yoga practice and then the practice quickly becomes nothing more than exercise.

When we are working mindfully and deeply our internal attunement is made active while observing and feeling the body.   While connecting to moment by moment sensations, we encourage a level of openness in our awareness which is free of judgement or expectations.  Our quiet, inner intelligence in our own self becomes stronger and more trusted.  We slowly develop our own “me maps.”  As our practice and connection to self deepens, we realize that we will never really understand the mystery of our body and that becomes enough.  In a mindful practice, we welcome the mystery just as we learn to welcome each unknown moment.

A mindful yoga practice is a breeding ground of empathy for the self and for the outside world.  We are able to move beyond our selves and think about the greater social group.  No longer islands in ourselves, an interconnected relationship to the world expands and multiplies.  The practice of mindfulness is no longer an individual practice. Connection to community, environment and the world extends far beyond the yoga mats.  We develop strong “you maps” and “we maps”

Yoga is so much more than a set of exercises or shapes or postures.  For me, the yoga postures have become a set of tools that I use as a pipeline to a deeper awareness and respect for my self and others.

Dr. T. smiled at me that day with an existing understanding of the power of the MPC.  He knew that with this acquired knowledge ,  the shape and understanding of my practice will intensify.  And that, could very well change my life!

Is Setting Goals Not Compatible with Mindfulness?

The Mindfulness Lectures were launched this past weekend and it was nice to finally “let it go”.  Dr. T and I entered into the event with a huge sense of unknowing.  It was liberating to not have expectations.

With 22 lectures under our belt, we began to see the possibilities of how the Mindfulness Lectures can expand this year.  We have witnessed a beautiful, slow growth of an emerging community that has become stronger and more engaged with each lecture that we present.  It was obvious to us, that the lectures were beginning to evolve and a unique voice was about to emerge.  This new voice is the growing community.

For the first time we asked for others to speak and share.   The collective voice that came out was honest, supportive, highly experienced and encouraging.  The lines blurred between student, teacher and presenter.  The studio became a melting pot of ideas and words of encouragement.  At times one would hear the teacher emerge out of a student and then the flip, a teacher become once again the student.  As there is truth that we all have something to learn and so much to teach.

A poignant moment came for me when a question was raised by a member of the audience around the idea of the absence of goals when practicing mindfulness.  This sparked a conversation that raised more questions and provoked students and teacher alike, to ponder and reassess their thoughts on this topic.

I approached the question from a movement point of view.  It made me wonder if I have “goals” when I practice my yoga?  Many modern yoga styles seem to be quite goal oriented.  I want to be more flexible.  I want to be stronger.  I want to perfect my headstand or be able to move through 108 sun salutations.  The yoga that I practice and teach tends to shy away from goals of that nature —  but is it completely without goals?  Even though I believe I embody a mindful yoga practice, is it really free from goals?

Is moving smoothly and slowly so that I am able to FEEL not a goal?  Is moving as a way to connect deeper into the body sensations not a goal?  Is practicing being open to the moment to moment experience not a goal?  The discussion on Saturday has raised these questions in my practice and my teaching.

Is goal setting really not compatible with a mindful practice?

Has this questioning alerted my mindful inquiry?  YES!  Has it made me look deeper and move deeper into my own mindfulness practice?  YES!

Job well done to the group that gathered on Saturday!  The mindfulness conversation will continue for me!

Thank you to the member in the audience who asked the question.  Thank you to the several panel members who also pondered this question and admitted that they have not yet found the answer to this as well.

What are your thoughts?  I would love to hear what you think!!!

The Expert Panel

Saturday, September 28, 2013, 3pm: The public lecture on the mindful brain is supposed to start; it is a charitable event for the ILC foundation. Over 60 people turn up and some are still at the door. We begin 15 minutes late – introduction by Robyn; I then guide a short meditation before embarking on my lecture. A break, and then Q&A. Instead of finishing at 5:30, questions from participants keep coming until 5:50. Robyn and I have never done this before – we invited a panel of experts to participate in answering people’s questions. They are all sitting and movement meditation students of ours with years of experience in mindfulness practice, all of them also accomplished professionals in different fields (doctors, psychotherapists, teachers and more).

I have taught these students for years. We have gone through many trials and tribulations together, exploring the vast landscapes of human suffering and joys, the great spaces of human experience. Over time, every single one of these students taught me as much as I taught them. At times some disliked me, or they disagreed with me. They protested, complained, inquired, doubted, disappeared, came back, opened up, feared vulnerability, took risks, mustered courage, criticised, admired, fell in love, became passionate, experienced anger, rejected the teachings with frustration, fell into despair, got lost, found a new identity, settled, calmed down, became tenacious, became patient, began to accept with curiosity, gave themselves space … space … space (a sigh) – contemplating, reflecting, holding in awareness, reserving judgment, open to the unknown, beginner’s mind, waiting, watching, knowing that everything worthwhile takes lots of sweat and time – wisdom.

They were experts – not because they passed an exam or published intelligent papers. They were experts in the humble ways they engaged with the audience asking questions. They spoke from experience, an experience based on the foundation of thousands of hours of mindfulness practice. They gained experience in taking themselves seriously and knowing that they are the instruments of their lived lives. They often gained their expertise despite themselves, against their grain and against all odds, pushed by the winds of destiny. This enabled them to be profoundly connected with the participants from the audience asking questions, fellow human beings on the same journey to peace.

These panel members have lots of experience getting lost or stuck and not giving up, but know to work all the harder at investigating their predicament. They have experience in failure and learning from setbacks and dead ends. They are experts in circling around the grail of vulnerability, opening, softening and penetrating deeper and deeper across endless layers of conditionings and releases. All that has made them experts in presence, just being; and when they forget, lose it, turn reactive and fall into autopilot, awareness kicks in quickly and repair is possible. They are experts in flexibility, knowing there is no perfection, knowing there is more to unlearn, knowing that being free and easy in the market place is the name of the game.

In this way, they are transparent to themselves and to others, not dogmatic, but connected and open to the complexity of existence, and able to give freely of themselves. They know that the highest form of knowledge is love.

In the presence of such distinguished students of life, I cannot help forgetting the distinction between teacher and student. This is what mindfulness does to all of us. The layers of ignorance and pain soften, and the foundations of wisdom come to bear and inspire our journeys together. In fact, there was a point where teacher, panel and audience were one, a large cauldron of accumulated life experiences interweaving in a moment of cross-pollination. Many members of the audience were experienced students of mindfulness themselves, and the newbies, those who had never yet had exposure to this work, through their curiosity were already unsuspecting teachers of beginner’s mind. Don’t we all know that asking a question means we intuitively already know the answer? There was a moment, a long moment in fact, when bodies, hearts and minds opened beyond the layers of distortions and fears, filling the whole atmosphere of this creating-space-yoga room, and where audience, panel and presenter were all experts beyond the limiting categories of our puny egos. There were so many moments, where it seemed to me we all felt how the only answers worth giving are the ones that lead to better questions.

Thank you all, audience, panel, Sandy, ILC and Robyn for the gift of your presence.

Dr. T.

A Retrospective

I don’t remember the exact circumstances around which Robyn and I first met, the way I also don’t remember the day of my birth. I do know however that there was a day I popped out of my mother’s womb and the full catastrophe of a lived life ensued. I also know that Robyn and I share a common Yoga mother, Helen Duquette, who still teaches at the Creating Space Yoga studio. When I first met Helen many years ago I discovered that her teaching was unlike anything I had ever encountered before. Although I was deeply steeped in the mindfulness tradition when I originally came to meet her, I had not yet experienced how mindful awareness can be so deeply honed through movement. Helen’s core teaching was to help me undo the idea that I was coming to ‘do’ Yoga. Instead, she taught me to be in Yoga and honour the wisdom of undoing. Coming from the same Yoga womb, no wonder Robyn and I can read each other’s mind on this score. I suppose this makes us rightful siblings – and kindred spirits we are as we unexpectedly find ourselves sharing a common journey in mindfulness.

To compare our collaboration to the full catastrophe of a lived life would be wildly overstated. Our journey together has felt more like a meandering evolution with twists and turns, doubts and bouts of confidence, dead ends and open freeways, always blessed with a healthy dose of questioning what we are doing. At the core of our Yoga family is mindfulness, and at the core of our mindfulness family is Yoga. ‘Yoga’ comes from the Sanskrit for ‘yoke’, ‘religion’ from the Latin ‘religio’, meaning ‘reconnecting’, and ‘tantra’ from the Sanskrit for ‘weaving’ – can you see the common thread in these three metaphors? In our work we strive to reconnect with the essence of human life and reality as a whole, to yoke the visible to the invisible and weave the tapestry of unfolding life into the mystery of awareness. Life is movement with stillness at its core; reality is stillness manifesting as movement. I see myself finding through Robyn the movement that keeps the stillness alive, and Robyn finding through me the stillness that inspires movement. This is the dance of form and formlessness we are all part of.

The public lectures are testimony of our synergy. Through our collaboration a community of like-minded students of wisdom has emerged. Robyn sends her students to me for mindfulness meditation training, and I am told that they come back to Robyn transformed, more deeply attuned to the faint whispers of their bodies and souls in the present moment. In turn, I can observe my students sneaking away to Robyn’s Yoga classes to deepen their awareness through movement. When they come back to sitting meditation they have a deeper appreciation of the embodied nature of mindfulness. After all, Yoga is meditation, and meditation is in Yoga. I feel privileged to be part of this unique community of like-minded students, who explore the cross-pollination between awareness through movement and awareness through stillness, and manifest a passion for this dance of love, this dance of life’s impermanent eternity.

Dr. T.

The Mindfulness Lecture in Numbers…

studio chairs lectures9 Seasons

22 Lectures
44 Hours
800+ Participants

It is hard to believe that we just completed our 3rd year of the Mindfulness Lectures.  While the numbers are impressive, what they don’t reveal is the blended magic that has come from combining the Creating Space Yoga community with the Mindfulness Centre community.   The product has been an incredible network of like-minded individuals which has created a curious, supportive and growing community.

I always walk away impressed by the diversity and intelligence of the group of people that participate each month.  I feel very grateful and very proud of the slow growth of these lectures and the quality of information and discussion that is shared.

A big thanks to Dr. Treyvaud for leading us down this insightful path and an enormous thanks to all of the participants who join us each month.  Only through a strong and active community are we able to continue to bring you these lectures.   We thank you for supporting us.  We enjoy spending the time with you.

Earlier this month we sent a survey out to those individuals who attended the lectures this year.  The response was great and the feedback so valuable.  It was so insightful that I wanted to share some of it with you.

Have a wonderful summer.  We are excited for the upcoming fall lecture dates!

Robyn