SEPTEMBER 2109 NEWSLETTER

Dear fine folk,

I hope that summer’s twilight days finds you well-tended. Can anyone guess what is in the photo? I have just been holidaying on the Wild West Coast of Ireland and it was taken somewhere there. There was quite a bit of weather drama, and we needed to hold the tent down by using rocks. Some days the winds made 50 miles an hour! The Furies were very much at work. There is no doubt, some profound truth in the fact that you don’t choose your weather, internal or external. But we have options as to how we experience it. The great lesson of the tent in high wind and rain, is that it takes a lot of concentrated time, energy and purpose to perform even the most basic of tasks like boiling a kettle. Much to my surprise being a sun-loving creature, I really rather enjoyed the complex logistics of making a cup of tea without too much of a murmer! There are obvious parallels with the seemingly chaotic patterns of our time that seem to be reaching something of a crescendo, at least in this part of the world. Rather than treating them as ‘bad weather’, causing gloom and depression, maybe this is an opportunity for relating to what is going on in a more opportune way. For me this is not about transcending what is happening, but an opportunity to be more receptive to the deep and loving Being of this world. I also view this moment in history as about learning to be inclusive and collaborative as more and more people find that their compass bearings settle on deep waters, that far from receding, seem thankfully closer to the surface.

This collaboration in depth is so very full of promise. In light of this I am intending to host four sessions of contemplative conversations, on four weekly nights starting from the 16th October, at Jericho Community Centre. Each evening starts with a meditation so that our participation in the group is one that may arise from the abundance of our depths. Each evening asks a question posed in such a way that we can meet what comes to the surface with an an open and receptive heart, so that mutual learning turns the listening ear to the inner voice.

The first question is simply 'what is alive in you', which is such a profound inquiry. The other questions are common ones in many traditions, but they are usually put forward as moral imperatives, as ways we should behave. Here we take the 'should' out of the consideration and ask how it is when we orientate in these ways. We can inquire as if we had never heard the questions before. So the second question is 'what is it like not to cause harm', the third 'what is it like to be helpful to everybody' and the fourth is a curious question which is 'what is it like to be clean'.

This is the tine of year we start to think of returning to Yoga Classes. I have had my summer break too and will be restarting regular classes on Saturday the 7th September. For the schedule please press here. I would like to highlight in particular the Wednesday evening class at Jericho Community Centre where the class resonates with the clock chimes of St Barnabas's Church.

There is an exciting new project which is a new class I have developed called Three Elements Yoga which will be held at the Yoga Venue on Monday evenings. A brief description of it can be found here. The practitioner has the opportunity to explore a fluid connection with themselves through both repose and movement. The emphasis is less on a teacher’s guidance and more on how we build on our own sense of ourselves, particularly through the medium of the current of our own breath and how that inspires us to move and be still.

Also coming up is a Workshop on Yoga and Insomnia during the afternoon of the 28th of September at the Yoga Venue. The human body really does need sleep. There is no question about it. If one were to point to a single most compelling factor in our physical, mental and emotional health it is the ability to sleep deeply. We live in a time where there is an epidemic of fragmented sleep. I was inspired to take up this work as I was once a long term sufferer of insomnia. As a result of this I trained not only in the science of sleep but in utilizing some of the methods of encouraging repose that yoga is so good at. This workshop will cover some of the science that underlines the importance of sleep, some of the changes in lifestyle that help manage sleep and most important, some of the tools to help repose.

I am also giving advance notice of a workshop on Managing Anxiety with Breath coming up in October, which will explore some of the mechanisms involved in being anxious, and how we can work fruitfully to lessen its impact through our own breath.

I for one, find compelling reasons for being outside during the summer months. Winter months are are so much more tent like, giving shelter for expansion in a different way. More and more people seem to be drawn to meditation. I was extremely fortunate in having being introduced to it in my late teenage years, and I find these moments of quietude an integral need and resource in my everyday. I will be hosting a four week course called Deep Peace, Meditation for Modern Times at the Yoga Venue, starting on the 19th October onwards. The course is suitable for everyone, whether starting a meditation practice or deepening an existing one.

Lastly this phrase took my attention. Any feedback is very welcome. This one seems multi-layered. It is a quote from Pat McCabe.

'Your joy matters'

With much love

Derek

JULY 2019 NEWSLETTER

Dear fine folks,

I am hope you are all well and enjoying this fine summer. I am at this moment tramping over the hills of Wales. Even though where i live is quiet, this is really quiet and i am loving it! One thing that is truly brilliant is how bird song stands out with such clarity. There is almost space in the quiet for the song to become part of my own physicality. It inspires me to offer a space to gather for a celebration in song in the middle of the summer. The date will be the evening of the 8th of August where we can be together for Kirtan, song and chanting. Everyone is welcome. Details in the sidebar.

There is a person whose works I have read for many years called Ibn’ Arabi. He lived in the 12th century and left behind a large corpus of work which is the most extraordinary rendition of the nature of Being. We know from him that his wife recommended five qualities she felt it important for a human being to embody. These are Trust, Patience, Resolution, Veracity and Certainty. I have a desire to explore these qualities further, so would very much like to be graced with the opportunity to explore them with other people. I am proposing that in the autumn, there will be 5 evening sessions, which will contain some breathing practice, some meditation and a mutually ‘real’ conversation based around these 'embodiments'. The dates are not yet fixed and it will probably happen on a Wednesday evening. It will be open to anyone who is prepared to commit to all five sessions. If you would like to express an interest then please email me.

I would like to draw attention to one-to-one work. This is part of the practice I offer and I want to emphasize how valuable it can be. One-to-one restorative yoga practice is available to everyone as it does not involve movement. People seem to place immense value in what comes to the surface during this deep practice. One-to-one movement practice is something I have valued highly, either for those starting out in yoga asana or for those individuals with an established practice who would really like to fine tune the detail. I seem to have been working with a lot of men recently who have started yoga post-40 onwards. Since this was my own pathway I probably have a good understanding of what it all feels like with a male body. The other one-to-one work is with people who suffer from insomnia and this is an invaluable resource.

I have over recent years correlated various courses to explore how we orientate to the proposition of the Oneness of Being and the ways in which this surfaces in the vital context of our own lives and the life of the world. I recently wrote some material for a course in ‘Deepening Unity’ I hosted along with the lovely Ally Stott. It seems a pity to bury this work in a cupboard. It might be useful to someone and any feedback of any sort is very welcome. There are six short transcripts and I will attach one in each of the newsletters to come. See the first one here

Next week Extinction Rebellion are back in London and I hope to join in at some point. For those who might not be aware of this, it is an ever increasing group of activists, who aim to bring about a much greater focus to the urgent action needed to address the climate crisis. It does this through non-violent disruption. In relation to this I have asked myself a question I would like to share.

'I joined with other climate rebels because there is a threat to our human homeland. I would think then, that the motive was out of fear of what might happen. But I find the predominant response in myself and I think others, is one of inclusion, connection and some occasional joy. That doesn’t seem to be a normal response to threat. So my question is: - what am I responding to? '

Wishing everyone a lovely weekend

With love

Derek

JULY 2019 NEWSLETTER

Dear fine folks,

I am hope you are all well and enjoying this fine summer. I am at this moment tramping over the hills of Wales. Even though where i live is quiet, this is really quiet and i am loving it! One thing that is truly brilliant is how bird song stands out with such clarity. There is almost space in the quiet for the song to become part of my own physicality. It inspires me to offer a space to gather for a celebration in song in the middle of the summer. The date will be the evening of the 8th of August where we can be together for Kirtan, song and chanting. Everyone is welcome. Details in the sidebar.

There is a person whose works I have read for many years called Ibn’ Arabi. He lived in the 12th century and left behind a large corpus of work which is the most extraordinary rendition of the nature of Being. We know from him that his wife recommended five qualities she felt it important for a human being to embody. These are Trust, Patience, Resolution, Veracity and Certainty. I have a desire to explore these qualities further, so would very much like to be graced with the opportunity to explore them with other people. I am proposing that in the autumn, there will be 5 evening sessions, which will contain some breathing practice, some meditation and a mutually ‘real’ conversation based around these 'embodiments'. The dates are not yet fixed and it will probably happen on a Wednesday evening. It will be open to anyone who is prepared to commit to all five sessions. If you would like to express an interest then please email me.

I would like to draw attention to one-to-one work. This is part of the practice I offer and I want to emphasize how valuable it can be. One-to-one restorative yoga practice is available to everyone as it does not involve movement. People seem to place immense value in what comes to the surface during this deep practice. One-to-one movement practice is something I have valued highly, either for those starting out in yoga asana or for those individuals with an established practice who would really like to fine tune the detail. I seem to have been working with a lot of men recently who have started yoga post-40 onwards. Since this was my own pathway I probably have a good understanding of what it all feels like with a male body. The other one-to-one work is with people who suffer from insomnia and this is an invaluable resource.

I have over recent years correlated various courses to explore how we orientate to the proposition of the Oneness of Being and the ways in which this surfaces in the vital context of our own lives and the life of the world. I recently wrote some material for a course in ‘Deepening Unity’ I hosted along with the lovely Ally Stott. It seems a pity to bury this work in a cupboard. It might be useful to someone and any feedback of any sort is very welcome. There are six short transcripts and I will attach one in each of the newsletters to come. See the first one here

Next week Extinction Rebellion are back in London and I hope to join in at some point. For those who might not be aware of this, it is an ever increasing group of activists, who aim to bring about a much greater focus to the urgent action needed to address the climate crisis. It does this through non-violent disruption. In relation to this I have asked myself a question I would like to share.

'I joined with other climate rebels because there is a threat to our human homeland. I would think then, that the motive was out of fear of what might happen. But I find the predominant response in myself and I think others, is one of inclusion, connection and some occasional joy. That doesn’t seem to be a normal response to threat. So my question is: - what am I responding to? '

Wishing everyone a lovely weekend

With love

Derek

JUNE 2019 NEWSLETTER

Dear folk.

I realise  haven't written a newsletter for a while. So i hope this finds everyone well and enjoying this gorgeous early summer. I find it particularly precious this year. Even when i am head down in preoccupation, my body instinctively responds to the wonderful fullness of scent and sight. I catch myself smiling at times where usually i might be worrying!

During the spring and onwards, i got involved with the Extinction Rebellion movement. To explain for those not in the UK, this is a multi-cultural movement of non-violent activists trying to encourage people and institutions to take very seriously the implications of our effect on the planet and consequently for ourselves. I took part in the London disruptions in the spring and the experience was very moving. It feels like something deeply influential is making itself known from deep within our communal depth.  A decision perhaps from our mutual humanity which wants us to embody whatever it means to be human. How we understand that sense of purpose is probably different for everyone, but it seems to affect all of us, even if that affect is felt through resisting it. Although it might seem on the surface that people are increasingly dividing themselves into different camps, my impression at least that there is a defining current which has a quality of immense kindness which cannot help but prevail in the end. On the ground in London i saw a sense of inclusivity that bound campaigners, police and passers-by which felt quite different from the us and them mentality of many protests. And it moved many people. The maturity of people's responses gives me hope for the sustainability of the learning process it represents.

As a yoga teacher it gives me greater pause to reflect on how what is offered in classes can be offered in a more inclusive way, where a climate of supportive interaction comes more to the fore. Plenty of modern yoga practice in the West is built on the cultural ascendency of self-regard and wouldn't it be great if this energy were to shift more fully to a mutual regard for what we all embody. To this end i have introduced three potential evenings which will start as a restorative yoga practice to settle and still our receptive way of being, followed by a period of conversation where we can mutually explore whatever it is that seems to want to come to the surface. These have been developed for Extinction Rebellion activists but are equally open to all where there is space. Numbers will be limited for ease of conversation. Please email me if you want to join in rather than just turning up. There is a brief explanation of restorative yoga on this link.

I am trying to make the effort to announce in advance the theme of each weeks posture practice. It helps me to concentrate and gives people a flavour of what they might like to work on. This appears on my facebook site.

I would also like to draw people's attention to an afternoon retreat being offered by the lovely Ally Stott called Earth Dreaming. You can look this up here.

Quite a few people have asked me as to when Kirtan sessions are happening. There is now a summer's break. In am hoping to resume in the autumn, but there will be one midsummer Kirtan, the timing of which i will announce early July.

DECEMBER NEWSLETTER

I recently watched a film about the events surrounding the defence of the countryside during the building of the Newbury bi-pass, the last great protest against road building in the UK. It was stirring stuff. I recognised many of the activists as people I know in Oxford now, but hadn’t known this part of their history. It’s a tender connection. Inspirational examples like this encourage me to ask myself questions about my own activism. Like many I feel passionately about broadening the common response to the inherent Beauty of this planet and all who are present in it. At this moment of my life this may not include chaining myself to a tree, but who knows? But it brings up this question about activism, about what is my response

Activism is very much a verb form, a doing form. Rather than giving it the boundary of ‘my’ activism, it seems much more fecund to simply ask what is active. We usually use the word in the sense that it is to bring something about that is not yet present. But it seems more propitious to take it as meaning what is already active. The blessing that comes from this sense of what is already alive, is that it is naturally contagious. There is no shortage of life and life wants to communicate itself freely. It’s effect is so much bigger than anything that can be circumscribed as ‘my’ activism. Listening to the people who took part many years later, it seemed clear that they were very effected by their involvement. They hadn’t lost. Curiously they had gained. The opening to life they discovered, which wasn’t really about protest but about acknowledging what was alive, still gave them momentum. There was much more of a sense of love rather than failure.

We engage in movement practice, meditation, contemplation and whatever else seems to draw out this opening to life. We are culturally primed to approach these with the the sense that something needs to happen that is not already happening. How much clearer it is when we approach what we practice, with the intrinsic knowledge that life is coming up with a suggestion of how to meet it. Sometimes this includes protest, but protest doesn’t have to be in opposition. It can be a vote for rather than a vote against. Mostly when we want something to change, it is because we judge it as lacking something. How would it be if we approached this matter of change from the perspective of what is alive rather than what we think is missing. And what better place can we start from than with ourselves.

Starting at the end of January I am offering to share four weekly evening meetings devoted to deepening meditation. It is subtitled ‘Loving Being’. The intention is to follow the sentiment followed above, that there is nothing to be banished. We are naturally present with all of our humanity and this active principal is completely congruous. It wants to communicate Itself since it is who we already deeply are. These sessions are going to take place in the warmth of the Community Gardens in East Oxford which is quite a special environment. All are welcome and details are on the flyer below.

A Kirtan has been planned as a pre-Xmas celebration at Jericho Community Centre on the 15th of December. All are welcome and details are on the flyer below. If you have never tried Kirtan before, why not give it a go. It has a sense of real community.

I want to wish everyone a lovely festive season

and to thank you for all your company and support over the last year.

With love

Derek

MAY NEWSLETTER

A dawn spent milling in the early morning happiness of the crowds drawn to celebrate first light, brushing all souls present with bursts of colour pouring into song and dance, soft eyes and gratitude. An Oxford tradition; Magdalen bridge on the first day of May, lifting curtains in bodies that had almost sunk into mourning with the sheer longitude of the cold wet winter days. As in legend it felt at last a prince or princess dressed in vibrant green walked in our midst.

This soft regal sense of friend greets us every time we receive the gift of a breath. In the majority of traditions breath is a wind carrying to us the scent and colour of our origination in the deep interior. Nothing is more constant or intimate in our experience of ourselves than our own breath. It is beautifully arranged, essential and completely accessible. When we grant ourselves the time to trace its subtle course in our own forms, it makes us aware not only of the essential quality of life that it endows but also illuminates the landscape through which it passes. When the body lightens to follow the sensation of being breathed, breath has something of the quality of light. We live in a culture where light is associated with vision, and our idea of vision is often of something that divides, assesses and lists. Whereas the illuminative quality of breath offers an experience where everything is lit up uniquely rather than separately. It is bedded in the freedom found in loosening rather than tightening. It’s energy easily engenders gratitude and gratitude engenders happiness.

Pranayama or breath practice offers a simple toolkit for deepening this consciousness of our own breath. Popular ideas of pranayama often include a lot of huffing and puffing and hard work, an idea of breath work, which is achievement based and goes against the grain. Breath freedom is really simple, and a real soul practise. Following the subtleties of our own breath in different ways slowly builds the capacity and the desire to embody its quality of illumination that can be felt in a profoundly embodied way throughout the physical structure and our deeper layers.

I am really enjoying sharing this way of being. One of the really good things about being a yoga teacher is that the teacher has to practice to offer a practice. It keeps us honest! Consequently by necessity I am spending more time with breath practice and I love what happens through it. So thank you all that come to the pranayama and meditation class on a Wednesday evening after yoga. Your presence offers me a gift. I hope it does the same for you. Breath work asks for a degree of constancy and quite a bit of repetition to be effective. But it is really worth it. And it leads us into meditation in a way that I find rather remarkable. I have deliberately made the cost of this class modest to encourage this gift. And like all good gifts we can at some point pass it on to each other. Tonight is the last pranayama practise for three weeks. It will start again on the Wednesday the 30th of May for most of the summer. The more of us involved the better the energy.

Next Wednesday the 9th of May I am offering Kirtan in place of this breath class. Please come and join in and explore the inner voice. You can find a description at https://www.derekelliottyoga.co.uk/kirtan/ .

After this I plan to move the Kirtan to a different venue on a Friday evening once a month so it doesn’t clash with the breath practice. The Community Centre is not available then, so if anyone has a bright idea as to a venue, then please drop me a line.

With much love,

Derek

January News 2018

From darkness into Light’

 We have only just passed the darkest day of the year. I am probably one of the many who usually feel it is a long way to spring. But this year I feel the darkness strangely seductive. I love it when the bright days come along, but the underlying feeling is the pull towards seclusion. Darkness can be comforting, like black velvet, opening up a mystery, releasing the pressure from thought, a sensual way into the sub-structures of our sensations. It also releases fears, since we don’t know what the darkness contains. These days are a great opportunity to give ourselves more time to explore the myriad sensations that pass through us. Much of the time I am ‘blind’ to the depth of these movements. I am so taken up by the ‘habitual’ response to what is moving inside me, that little space is given to explore what I am actually responding to. But when a pause is introduced into daily pursuits, and awareness given the opportunity to settle into these sensations, without any predetermination of what they are, then the mysterious universe opens up, and starts to illuminate this ‘darkness’. This kind of exploration is what Yoga can be so good at, offering opportunity to spend time exploring sensation where it arises, which is within ourselves, within our bodies.

The notion of the ‘blindness’ is prevalent in the writings of sages from more than one tradition. It can refer to the unconditioned reality that the conditioned mind cannot comprehend, since this mind considers itself separate, and what we fear most of all is giving up this idea of ourselves. But once we start to become free of this mistaken notion of separation, then we start to lean into this ‘blindness’, into this ‘unknown’ and feel its inherent benevolence. There is also great compassion in this, as we are protected from too much ‘download’ of the truth until we are ready. So this veil is not really hiding the unknown, it is simply not accessible to the heart not yet prepared. The pull towards a kind of hibernation, or simple retreat into the inner space, however apparently ‘dark’ seems very strong at this time of year.

I intend to follow up this sentiment in the first five Wednesday evening Yoga practises of the year, starting on the 25th of January. The theme is ‘From darkness into Light’, which doesn’t mean banishing darkness, although we are moving towards spring, but more how we move into the illumination of its velvet lining. Simply that we can start from an attitude of ‘not-knowing’ so we can move with an awareness unencumbered by an already formed idea of ourselves.  Each practice will encompass one of the five elements, working from the ground up through the body. In Yoga philosophy there are five elements, not four. In order they are, Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether or Space. These also describe various energetic ways of being or moods of the body. Hope you can join me in this exploration.