Each New Year starts for me with the idea that I’ve got one or two goals that I’d like to accomplish over the next year.
Since free time’s precious I usually pick hobbies or interests which sound enjoyable – like the year I attended a stained glass workshop at Pearsons in Liverpool (really enjoyed that!).
This year though my choices could turn out to be life altering. It’s pilates and meditation for me this year. Pilates because I don’t enjoy exercise classes but want to improve my core strength and meditation because I’m interested in the mind-body connection and want to bring some calm into my life.
I’ve been attending Jane Henderson’s mat based pilates class for three weeks now and must say I am enjoying the class and look forward to attending my fourth class next week. If you live in the Dumfries area check out Jane’s website.
I wouldn’t say I’m finding it easy to engage my stomach muscles because truthfully I’m not. But I’m going to keep at it for at least 12 weeks and if it does have any effect you’ll hear about it first!
At present I’m going to one class a week – that fits in with my schedule so I should be able to keep it up. But I did wonder whether or not I would see any visible change if only going to one class a week. So I was browsing Pilates DVD’s to see if I could find anything which I might be able to do at home. I noticed a book on Standing Pilates: Strengthen and Tone Your Body Wherever You are which looks interesting.
It gets to one of my main issues with exercising – I’m lazy! – you have to change into tight, unflattering clothes, lie on the floor like a beached whale and because it doesn’t fit into your life it’s so easy to give up. Maybe by incorporating some standing Pilates exercises into everyday life there would be a better chance of seeing a visible difference. One for the wishlist I think.
I think the key to starting any new exercise regime is to start at the right level – there’s no point it trying to keep up with advanced exercisers if you’re not fit and haven’t exercised for years but on the other hand you’ve got to feel as if you’re having an effect in order to keep motivated.
So on to my second challenge of the year – Meditation.
For many years I’ve thought of trying to develop a meditation practice but I’ve not really seriously given it a go. So as the famous saying goes – when the student is ready the teacher appears – I’ve started attending drop in meditation classes at Gracefield Art Centre. The classes in Buddhist Meditation are provided by teachers and nuns from the Kadampa Buddhist tradition. They are open to everyone whether Buddhist or not.
Over the last three weeks we’ve been given instruction in three variations of breathing meditation. Each class has two meditations one at the start and one at the end of the class so there’s plenty of practical experience of meditation. In between the practical sessions the teacher explains more about meditation, it’s benefits, what we are trying to achieve and how it can bring about a sense of wellbeing.
The classes are suitable for everyone as the meditations are carried out in a seated position. There’s no need to go every week but as with the pilates I’d like to stick with regular classes for 12 weeks and then review how I feel about continuing. Each day I try to carry out a 5 minute meditation usually before bedtime with varying degrees of success. Sometimes it can be difficult to still the mind especially if you’ve had a busy day.
I don’t know much about the Tharpaland International Retreat Centre or the Kadampa Buddhist tradition yet but they run regular meditation courses in Castle Douglas, Dumfries, Annan, Thornhill and Biggar so they are easily accessible in most areas of Dumfries and Galloway. There are also regular residential meditation retreats held throughout the year. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, founder of Tharpaland has written many books and audio CD’s on meditation a few of which are shown below.
Geshe-la, as he is affectionately called by his students, is primarily responsible for the worldwide revival of Kadampa Buddhism in our time. He is a humble Buddhist monk dedicated to helping people throughout the world find true happiness in their hearts through the practice of meditation.
quote from Tharpaland website
It seems that Kadampa Buddhism is a relatively new group which is spreading in popularity.
For a comparative and informative history of the various Buddhist traditions click here.