The demands of modern life leave many of us feeling rushed, stressed and exhausted. Anxiety and depression often follow, taking us into a downward spiral, and away from our authentic selves.

Heart-Mind Consultancy is run by Lucy Draper-Clarke PhD, offering a range of services for anyone interested in working with the body, heart and mind to increase their awareness and sense of well-being.

These offerings include:
  • Mindfulness meditation - individual consultations, courses and retreats
  • Mindful yoga practices - weekly classes/courses and retreats
  • Celebrating rites of passage - births, weddings and funerals
  • Individual consultations 
Weekly yoga and mindfulness courses are offered in the cosy, intimate studio in Auckland Park, while retreats are run at the Tara Rokpa Centre (near Groot Marico, NW Province), the Buddhist Retreat Centre (near Ixopo, KZN) and Dharmagiri (near Underberg, KZN).

Auckland Park Studio

The company has taken its name from the Pali word – citta. This is often translated as mind, yet also encompasses the emotive aspect of mind and is increasingly known as heart-mind. Our constantly changing moods and states of mind condition all our thoughts, speech and actions. By connecting to, and taking care of, our heart-mind we can grow more skilful in our thoughts, words and deeds.

To keep up-dated with courses, retreats and information on mindfulness and mindful yoga, please subscribe to the mailing list in the right-hand column, or click here. To read past newsletters, click here.

If you'd like to experience some of the yoga and mindfulness practices recorded as mp3s, click here for my SoundCloud account.

Spring at the Tara Rokpa Centre near Groot Marico

Ideas for Contemplative Activists

It's protest day today - Friday 7th April. People are marching along the roads with banners. So far things are peaceful, but I was disturbed by the veiled threat from the new Minister of police, saying, "We don't want another Marikana..."

I feel so powerless. That doesn’t help anybody though. So here are some ideas of what to do when we can’t do anything…
  1. Meditate each day – transform your own anger into mirror-like wisdom, so that you can see more clearly, and from a longer-term perspective.
  2. Tithe – many spiritual traditions suggest this formula for giving, as of benefit to the world, but also self-protective and a skillful way to develop generosity. Give 10% of your income to others, and make that choice based on the changing needs of the day. Right now, we might consider donating to organisations that are pushing back against corruption, e.g. Freedom Under Law, Black Sash or OUTA.
  3. Act with Intention – Let each action be imbued with intention so that it takes on a far greater meaning. The other night I was giving out rice at the soup kitchen near Ellis Park, with the intention that this, in some way, could alleviate the hunger in the whole world. Of course it didn’t, but it did help 120 hungry people, and allowed me to do something small, yet constructive. 
  4. Volunteer – “Just because we can’t do everything, doesn’t mean we should do nothing.” Choose an organization within your own community and support their work with your time. When we connect with others, we honour the truth of interdependence and this gives us the resilience to continue, even when the work has no forseeable end. 
  5. Unite – find commonalities as human beings, rather than focusing on differences. We all have a frightened Trump or a greedy Zuma inside of us, but we don’t need to let them project out onto others and cause harm. And we certainly don't need them to be ruling nations... but we need to work within the law. We also have skillful human qualities of love, compassion and wisdom. Let these be the qualities we nurture. 
  6. Practise – whether it is yoga, qigong, meditation, chanting... whatever feeds your spirit. Do this so that you don’t become overwhelmed and give up. An ounce of hope is powerful. Look at reality clearly, without buying into despair. 
  7. Trust your gut - listen to your intuition more than your social media feed. Remember that we are all susceptible to false news especially if it bolsters our own opinion.
  8. Pray – it may feel like wishful thinking, but it keeps us buoyant and hopeful, especially when we are in for the long haul. The Dalai Lama has not managed to change the political situation in Tibet, but he has benefitted millions of others through his time in exile, and prays for the Chinese each day.
  9. See deeply – these individuals making poor decisions right now are all human, ruled by their shadows of greed, fear and self-interest. Believe that they too can change, the way we know we can change. Give them a ‘get out of jail free’ card. 
And now I am off to protest by way of a Group Meditation and Mindfulness Walk... Thank you to Salochanee Reddy and Dr Ela Manga for waking at 4am with an idea, and making it into a reality. That is how things change...

Good luck everybody.

Retreat to Dive Deep

A retreat - a time of solitude in a secluded, natural place - is a wonderful opportunity. The word ‘retreat’, though, can bring up resistance in some people, particularly if we associate the idea with running away. We may feel it is an admission of defeat, a sense of escaping from life, rather than facing it head on. Yet there is immense potential contained within time away from daily concerns. Sometimes we need to retreat, in order to chart the most skillful way forward. In order to advance, we need time to get to know our own mind. We need to dive deep.

When we are in the fast flow of an urban life, we can easily lose sight of who we are, and become distracted by outer experiences. Our self-image is filtered through social perceptions. Every single person has a slightly different view of us, based on their own mind, so we twist and turn, trying to fit into the mould that others create. Social media has exaggerated this, as we get real time feedback through ‘Likes’ from others, instead of realising that we have far more authentic real time feedback, by tapping into the world of our feelings, physical sensations and intuition. We need to take time to inhabit our own mould; our own body, heart and mind. Is this selfish? Let’s see. When we turn to our unique selves we find that we connect with the universal aspects of all humans. We can understand our own shadow, and the shadow we see in others. We also recognise our own light, and help to bring out that light in others. When we notice what makes us happy or sad, we are more able to recognise or even pre-empt those feelings in others, and behave skilfully in order to provide support.

Time on retreat gives us the chance to shift our level of consciousness, so that we suddenly see solutions to challenges or habits more clearly, and are easier able to let them dissolve away. As Einstein is often quoted:  
"No problem can be solved 
from the same level of consciousness that created it."

The Quicksand of Bureaucracy

Mindfulness Practice for Foreign Nationals in RSA

I love South Africa. I want to stay here. I’ll get permanent residency.

I look into the application process. I can either apply under the Extraordinary Skills category, or as a Spouse of an SA national. My ego likes the idea of extraordinary skills. I have my PhD from Wits in a cardboard tube, but realise that I will have to get my overseas certificates accredited by SITA. This is bound to take months and cost a fortune, and the word on the street is that this is a difficult category to qualify under. I speak to my ego and ask for its understanding. I’ll be a wife; maybe not so helpful for the nation, but helpful for my husband. But now I have to wait 5 years after marrying to prove that this is real, not a marriage of convenience to be allowed the privilege of living here. I practice patience, which is not my strongest quality. I wait 5 years.

Three easy steps, they say. If only...
The magic date arrives and I try to apply online. A few years ago, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) realised that they could not cope with the number of visa applications. They were taking months. So they employed the services of VFS Global, a for-profit company that helps governments to process visas. It still takes months, but there is a charge for their services (R1350) and the additional layer of the inhuman computer interface. I set up a username and password, and look through the website to see how to apply. I teach a yoga class. I come back to the website which says, “You can only use one login at a time and hence need to log out from existing login to log in again for a new account.” (that is not made up!) It sounds like the rules of cricket, where you need to be in to go out, and others are trying to get you out to get an innings. I send the screen shot to the helpline and a couple of days later am told to close my browser windows and wait for some time and then try to log in again. It doesn’t sound hopeful. But I fiddle around and something works. I am in.

A Downtown Jozi Incident and the Unexpected Side Effects of Meditation

I’d been away for a few days in Durban, and wanted to get home in time for a dog walk in the park. So I took the Gautrain from Oliver Tambo, and planned to hop in an Uber for the last few kilometres home. I’d never taken Uber from Park Station, but what could go wrong? The area has been renovated and there are always security guards to watch out for travellers. Nevertheless, being a Jozi resident now, I Whatsapp’d my husband so that he knew my route, just in case.

As I came up the escalator, it was clean and light, with a curved seating area for people waiting. I called Uber, and a vehicle was just 3 minutes away. I was almost home and off to the park. Emmarentia is my happy place where any residue from the day dissolves into gratitude for towering trees and delighted dogs. My phone rang, bringing me back to the bustle of Wolmarans, “Can you walk up to Smit Street to meet me, the metered taxis don’t like Uber?” said my driver. I did so, and chatted to a man on the corner, also waiting for his work transport to take him home. When I saw the number plate of Phuti’s vehicle, I walked across the road, wheeling my little suitcase. A guy stopped the car and started speaking to the driver. I went to the passenger side and jumped in, holding phone, backpack and suitcase. The voice was quiet but threatening. I looked up and an expressionless face attached to a skinny body was standing in front of the car, then a third guy was at my side, opening the door. Twice I grabbed it, pulled it closed and tried to lock it, to no avail. On the third attempt, he reached across me and grabbed the Uber driver’s phone. I held onto mine and gave him a ferocious look. The driver said, “Get out, get out quickly.” What should I do? Stay in the car, surrounded by aggressive men, or get out, and stand amongst them? It wasn’t much of a choice. Strangely, though, I didn’t feel afraid. I felt angry for the driver losing his phone as he’s just someone trying to get by. As I got out, I looked at the guys, and what came out of my mouth? Nothing particularly wise, but maybe not antagonising either. “You are not being kind,” I said, “Not kind at all”. And I stomped back down the street, eyeballing one of the guys who walked beside me.

Effortless Flow

At our retreat in early December, I was exploring an over-riding intention for the year ahead. 'Effortless Flow' kept popping up to see how I felt about it. Is it possible, I thought, just to flow along, without effort? Doesn’t that mean that I wouldn’t be trying hard enough, working hard enough? Would that mean being passive and getting swept away by other people’s demands?

When I just explore the words, I feel restricted by language. Yet when I take this idea into daily life, and into my yoga practice, it contains a potency that has helped to bring me back to the joyful wonder of human existence. There is a sense of navigating around obstacles, flowing with a force that is bigger than my narrow-minded, ego-centric focus. I am reminded of my time in Thailand, floating downstream in monsoon floods, and as long as I relaxed, I wasn’t bumped against the rocks, I could flow round them, past them in an energising, exhilarating, yet effortless way.

You see, I can get very serious and anxious at times, particularly about things that feel like my responsibility. Late last year, I was waking at 4am, worrying about a role that I play. Except it didn’t feel light, like a role, it felt heavy, like a weight. It felt that it was about ME – the me that had to solve the problem, the me that had to work even harder to make things right, the me that needed to put in yet more effort to shift the blocks and allow things to flow again. I trusted that flow was possible, and that this was a temporary moment of stagnation, yet I couldn’t believe that the block in this particular drain might actually free itself, without me having to call in the spiritual version of Roto-Rooter.

The Crashing Waves of Emotion

I’ve recently been contemplating the way we relate to challenging, battering emotions. After spending some of the December holidays body surfing in the ocean, it feels like a wave analogy is particularly apt for the times we are swept off our feet with the intensity of life and the pain we feel. This idea formed into words when I was asked to be funeral celebrant at the memorial service of a friend’s mother. Bereavement is one of the inevitable hardships of living a human life. Grief is one of the most powerful, life-shifting, emotions.

The greater our love for someone, the larger the wave of grief seems to be. As this wave rises out of the calm of the sea, we act from our instinct of threat. The wave nears its peak and we can’t bear it a moment longer; we try to swim from it, we turn our heads to distract ourselves, and then get swept away, tossed and tumbled, bruised and battered, onto the shore.