My first introduction to the mind body connection was at a yoga class my primary school arranged for us to take in the schools assembly hall, next to the climbing frames and ropes. I was around seven years old at the time and remember feeling intrigued as we moved, breathed and listened on the mats spread out evenly on the well worn gym floor.
To close the session we had some quiet time, or what I now know was meditation. Taking time to carefully scan our bodies, clear our minds, taking deeper and slower breaths while imagining our happy places. Mine flitted between an English meadow, similar to the wild flower filled ones in the soft focus television ads for Timotei shampoo and a hot tropical beach where the coconut trees softly move in the evening sea breeze and the waves lapped the beach rhythmically. I could hear the sounds as if I was really there and I enjoyed the escapism and how the practice made me feel. After the class I recall going to my happy place whenever I could. Little did I know that this was the beginning of my meditation practice.
Years later having tried a few flavours of meditation and mindfulness techniques; both in their own right and in combination with movement practices such as yoga and pilates I got the privileged opportunity to practice with former Buddhist monk Karuna Priya and later his partner at both at home and in business, Nitima Priya. Karuna is based at the Imperial College Chaplaincy which was accessible to me during my time at the Kensington campus of the Royal College of Art.
Having a weekly group session established the foundations of my practice beyond teaching myself through yoga, books written by Buddhist monks under the Dalai Lama, podcasts and much later, apps such as Headspace. Karuna’s gentle guidance led to a more grounded and versatile practice. The sessions were based on the Buddhist tradition, which spiritually I find a great affinity to. However it didn’t matter if you did not have an interest in the dharma’s (teachings) as modern Zen and mindfulness practices are deeply rooted in the Buddhist tradition, so everyone in the group could benefit.
Today I am now based in a different part of London and have yet to find a suitable group to practice with. However I now bring the lessons I learnt and the friendships that grew through Karuna’s sessions into my [almost] daily meditation practice and general mindfulness throughout the day. And one day I hope to go on a tropical meditation and / or yoga retreat to physically, not just metaphorically, to take me to my happy place.
Photograph © Akanista Mindfulness