Letting go with kundalini

It may be 7.30am but Kundalini is something I was really curious to try before this trip. So here goes. As I expected, the teacher focussed on our breathing, guiding us to take short, fast breaths in and out through our nose, while holding different poses. It was hard work. It felt odd and I struggled to keep the intense breathing going for as long as everyone else.

Nevertheless I felt the effects. Strongly in fact. Throughout the practice the teacher kept mentioning emotions and that we should just allow them to come up. I thought little of it, feeling only irritation that I couldn’t keep up the breathing, but then suddenly I felt an overwhelming urge to cry. I did as I was told and allowed tears to form and plop on my mat, angling my body slightly to the wall so that B wouldn’t notice my dramatic change of mood.

At the end of the class I darted out to the bathroom and splashed my face with water. It was useless. Still the urge to cry. I went to find the teacher and ask him if this was this normal. ‘Do I look shocked?’ he replied, with the most calm, serene yogi face you’ve ever seen. ‘There’s always a handful of people after every class who go off and have a good cry. Go down to the river and get it all out.’

So I did. With my feet dangling over the bank I let memories like sad movies flood in and I felt awful. I wondered how these feelings could still be stored up inside of me when currently life is happy? ‘Don’t over-think it. You don’t need to know why your body is choosing now to let stuff go’, the other half of the teacher’s advice. Gradually other thoughts crept in. How long should I stay here? Is B ok? What must he be making of all this?

I settled upon a final thought for the morning. Whatever heartache had passed before, right now I had a commitment to the current chapter of my life, and to B and his happiness. I retraced my steps through the grounds of Yoga Barn, through walk-ways and thatched domes searching for him. At last there he was. In Garden Kafe. With an enormous slice of cake.

Walk the city

We’ve walked for miles. Every day. Central Park, past career girls sunbathing on their lunch-breaks. Brooklyn Bridge, overlooking the expanse of the Hudson River. The Met, through towering tribal effigies and cool-skinned Roman gods. I didn’t expect to like New York as much as this. Having recently moved out of London, I didn’t think I was ready to fall in love with a city again, but I was wrong. It was Union Square that did it, in the baking sun against the backdrop of the Hare Krishna drums. There were men, both old and in their prime, sitting patiently at chess tables waiting for players, passersby. There were pop-up market stalls selling fistfuls of lavender, together with a side of soap. By night, street-dancing teens captured my heart, each with their own set of moves. One girl shook and tremored like a robot. Another bounced with her hands sent high and hair bobbing. She was my favourite, Joy itself and the last to leave when the pack dispersed. B remarked how none of the dancers were drinking and how only one of them, robot girl, smoked. We couldn’t imagine a scene like that back on home turf, unbridled yet bottle free.

Come back somewhere new

The big day has arrived. As I write I’m on a plane to New York City. I have an old friend in Manhattan who will be putting me up for the week. Me and my fiancé that is. After the U.S. we’ll fly to Java, Indonesia, where we’ve given ourselves a further 2 weeks to make our way down through the island and over to Bali where we’ll end our trip.

Why is travel so vital? Well if you live in a big town like I do then nature is a big part of it. Ok, I’m not going to get that in New York, but in Indonesia it's guaranteed. I’m craving warm rain lashing down on jungle mud, releasing that smell. Earthy bliss. I’m also craving temples. I know you can meditate anywhere but to have space, peace, intricately carved stone - what a way to get in the mood. I want to use these ancient structures to sit, to gaze in wonder, to appreciate.

I haven’t meditated as much as I should have since I last wrote. Perhaps that’s why I’m so desperate for it now. That and lots of walking. I’m looking forward to feeling physically tired at the end of each day. I heard a good definition of discipline the other day: 'the ability to come back, to return to our chosen path or intention'. I can’t wait to touch down and 'come back' somewhere new.

Guest post: Up Your Creativity with Hypnotherapy

Throughout June, my Up Your Creativity workshops have been helping artists unlock their creative potential. Today, London-based hypnotherapist Catherine Spence explains how she uses hypnosis to help creatives achieve their goals.

If you’re looking to have more creativity in your life, hypnotherapy may have the answer. Maybe you’re starting a new project and not sure what direction to take it, or maybe you’re halfway through something but hit a wall of creative “block”, or perhaps you’ve made something you feel is ready to market, display or to be read but you’re lacking the confidence to get it out in the public realm. Hypnotherapy can assist with all of these critical stages of the creative process.

Hypnotherapy is not really as stage hypnotists would have you believe; it’s not about someone else controlling your mind, but about being guided to a mental state where you are on the border between being awake and being asleep. This is the point where your brain is most creative, as you will know from those occasions when you’re nodding off and find your thoughts becoming very dreamlike and often completely nonsensical! This soft and dreamlike state is extremely powerful however, if you learn to harness it and use it to form new associations in your brain.

As hypnotherapists, we are trained in helping people with very different types of mind or personality to relax and let go of the busy mental chatter of London life and to centre themselves with a clear mind and soothed emotions. From this position, we can help you mentally rehearse situations you may find very anxiety-inducing, such as approaching shops who may be interested in selling your work. Our brains work by forming connections between individual nerve cells; whenever you learn anything you are creating new neural connections in your mind. Many of us grew up feeling anxious in certain situations and now have a learned habitual tendency to always be nervous in similar situations. We may think it’s just part of who we are and we’re stuck with it, but the truth is that if you can learn one behavioural pattern, you can learn new ones, at any age. And as an adult, you have the power to choose what kind of patterns you want to develop. For instance, you can learn how to be relaxed and confident while networking, just by using visualisation and mental rehearsal. Hypnotherapy gives the opportunity to learn these new patterns in a safe and supportive situation and studies have shown that mentally rehearsing tasks has a positive effect on performance in real-life.

If it’s a creative boost you’re after, rather than help with anxiety, the good news is that as creative types, you are very likely to be a good candidate for hypnotherapy, because being generally in touch with your imagination and your emotions is very helpful in inducing a trance-like state. In this state, your brain produces the same frequency of electric activity as it does during REM sleep, which is when it produces dreams at night. By keeping yourself in this state, without waking up or fully nodding off, you can look at your project from novel angles and find original new approaches that are unique to you. The hypnotherapist’s role here is to provide a bit of structure to the trance, to give suggestions, to notice if you’re slipping too deeply into unconsciousness, and to be a supportive person to talk through any feelings of vulnerability that often come up when you’re creating something from your heart.