In this blog I am going to review the Words of Wisdom book by Ram Dass. I am a big fan of Ram Dass and find that he has a wonderful way of concisely explaining sometimes complex philosophical concepts. This book has a sub title which sums up its content perfectly. “Quotations from one of the world’s foremost spiritual teachers.”
Ram Dass occupies a unique position in the field of spirituality having been a former Professor of Psychology. He bring this authority to his explanation and description of a range of spiritual traditions. To learn more about Ram Dass, you can’t go wrong with his autobiography Being Ram Dass. I wrote a review of that book here:
This book is conveniently divided into themed chapters covering a range of subjects and traditions. There are 14 chapters ranging from “Trusting the present moment” to “Approaching death with less fear and more curiosity.” Each chapter brings together Ram Dass quotes related to the title from a range of sources.
Ram Dass Quotes
Some of my favourite quotes from Words of Wisdom by Ram Dass are as follows;
“As the Tao says. “Truth waits for eyes unclouded by longing.”
“There is no best or right kind of experience in meditation; each session is as different and unique as each day of your life.”
“If you can’t stop thinking, can you let your thoughts go by without getting caught up in them. Just as a breath arises and then drifts away, can we let thoughts do the same. You don’t have to see where each breath goes. It’s just the breath coming and going. Allow the thoughts to be the same.”
“The qualities in yourself determine what qualities are in the world.”
“You are not holding on anywhere. You’re right here, always in the new existential moment. Moment to moment, it’s a new mind. You just keep giving up your story line.”
“I myself stand in need of the arms of my own kindness.”
Themes for Yoga Classes
Words of Wisdom by Ram Dass is a collection of quotes. As a result it is a rich source of inspiration for Yoga Teachers and themes to weave into classes. I have read many quotes from this book in my yoga classes and have written my own meditations inspired from it. A number of my yoga students have asked me for the details of the book.
In Summary– Words Of Wisdom by Ram Dass Book Review
A great book to dip in and out of for inspirational quotes. I highly recommend it.
West Kirby Bookshop
If you wish to purchase a copy of this book, at the time of writing West Kirby bookshop currently have this in stock. If it has sold they can order it in promptly. We encourage you to buy local and support your local bookshop.
West Kirby Bookshop is located at 6 Grange Road, West Kirby, Wirral, CH48 4HA. They can also be found on Twitter @westkirbybooks and also on Instagram @westkirbybooks
Their email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
If you enjoyed our “Words of Wisdom by Ram Dass Book Review”, check out these other resources:
Ram Dass’ website:
The Be Here Now network has some great podcasts to listen to;
Krishnamacharya his life and teachings by A. G. Mohan (with Ganesh Mohan)Shambhala Publications 2010
We review the book Krishnamacharya his life and teachings by A G Mohan in this blog. A version of this book review appeared in the British Wheel of Yoga magazine Spectrum Winter 2020 edition. A. G. Mohan describes his experience of learning yoga from his teacher Sri Krishnamacharya. Mohan studied with Krishnamacharya for 18 years until the death of his teacher in 1989 at the age of 100.
The father of modern Yoga
Tirumalai Krishnamacharya is widely considered to be one of the most influential yoga teachers on the development of modern yoga. He is oft referred to as the “Father of Modern Yoga.” It is without doubt that his most famous students spread the word and practice of yoga far and wide.
During his life time Krishnamacharya had no desire for personal fame or material success. This is the main reason why a lot of yoga practitioners may not know who he is and the impact he had on spreading the ancient wisdom of yoga. One of his favourite sayings was “a capable student brings fame to the teacher.” This book serves to shine some fame on this important, authentic, pivotal yoga teacher.
The book starts with a touching insight into Krishnamacharya the human being! Ganesh Mohan, the author’s son, describes how approachable and encouraging his father’s teacher was to him. He also details how he used to give him sweetened almonds as a treat.
Krishnamcharya was born in 1888 and his first teacher was his own father who taught him the vedas, yoga asana and pranayama. He was clearly a very intelligent man and obtained two degrees from Mysore University. Krishnamacharya obtained a scholarship and a further degree in yoga and the theory of samkhya from Patna University. It is clear that the young Krishnamacharya was academically gifted and had a thirst for knowledge which he pursued. A significant period in his early life was studying yoga in the Himalayas with his teacher for 7 years.
Mohan presents the overview of Krishnamacharya’s life with the caveat that it is difficult to ascertain precise details and that Krishnamacharya himself did give differing accounts himself throughout his life. He was a man who did not like to talk about his achievements and this humility results in a degree of uncertainty.
Meeting his teacher
Mohan talks about his own life and how he started to explore the deeper meanings of life. He was told whilst working on a project to speak to a colleague called Srivatsa Ramaswami who recommended he attend a lecture being given by Krishnamacharya. Srivatsa Ramaswami is today a respected teacher himself and studied for 33 years with Krishnamacharya. Mohan’s beautiful description of attending the lecture and meeting Krishnamacharya is a joy to read. It sets his life on a completely different course.
Mohan takes us through his experience of being taught yoga asana and philosophy by Krishnamacharya. It is interesting to learn how Krishnamacharya imparted his knowledge to his students. He never referred to notes or books, his knowledge retained in his memory, texts and scriptures recited from memory, with nothing written down. It is striking how basic and simple the room was in which Krishnamacharya lived and taught;
“He was a person of few possessions, and the room reflected the simplicity of his life. It was furnished with only a chair, a bed and a carpet for asana practice.”
It is very insightful how Krishnamacharya with his vast and detailed knowledge of many yoga texts was also very discerning in what he taught. He did not teach kriya to his students and also would not teach parts of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. This is quite refreshing to read, as I am sure many readers will know the Hatha Yoga Pradipika has some very bizarre practices detailed that would likely get teachers arrested if they tried to teach them to their yoga students!
The source of modern Vinyasa Yoga
Krishnamacharya created the vinyasa system of yoga. This is such a commonplace style of yoga in our modern world. Krishnamacharya was the first person to intelligently sequence asana one after the other with the movement between the positions being linked to the breath. This transformed yoga from a static practice to a dynamic practice. One of Krishnamacharya’s favourite vinyasa sequences that he frequently taught was based around the Warrior postures and is included in the back of this book. As part of this article, after the book review, I have laid out this sequence so that you can try it for yourself.
Krishnamacharya taught yoga one to one and also therapeutically to those with ill health. It was only in his early life of teaching yoga that he conducted group classes. When approaching asana his attitude was to “never use force in teaching or practicing asana.” It is a shame that some of his students who went on to become famous teachers did not adhere to this advice!
Some criticism that is often levelled at Krishnamacharya is for the yoga demonstrations that he held. These were mostly with the boys he taught at the Mysore palace performing advanced yoga asana, sometimes with Krishnamacharya standing on them! In this book Mohan describes how Krishnamacharya dismissed these performances as “Yoga propaganda” that were perhaps necessary at the time to popularise and publicise yoga. It is clear that this was not something he enjoyed as clearly demonstrated by how he chose to live the majority of his life.
The chapters of this book cover pranayama, kriyas, yoga therapy, yamas, niyamas and meditation. Mohan imparts his teachers wisdom on these topics.
The later years
Mohan was Krishnamacharya’s student until his teacher’s death in 1989. The later years of his life are fondly recounted. He was in good health both physically and mentally in his final years. His physical health was only really affected by a hip fracture which he refused to have surgery for! Mohan describes how he was able to assist his teacher and help care for him.
In Summary – Krishnamacharya his life and teachings by A G Mohan – a must read
In my opinion this book is a must for any serious student of yoga. It gives an authentic insight into the origins of our modern yoga practice. We see Krishnamacharya as the incredibly intelligent erudite father of modern yoga. A person who was devoted to learning and spreading the teachings of yoga. A humble man who never sought fame or fortune and in fact clearly struggled through his life to make ends meet. Yet a man who’s legacy is evident in all corners of the world. When we look at lineage in the yoga tradition, Krishnamacharya is the source that I find myself referring back to more and more frequently. A reliable intelligent reference for our modern practice.
If you wish to purchase Krishnamacharya his life and teachings by A G Mohan I would encourage you to buy ethically. Ethical Consumer website rate Blackwells highly and recommend boycotting Amazon.
In this blog “The Pottery Gardener by Arthur Parkinson book review” I will introduce you to this book, its author and hopefully why you might wish to buy a copy for yourself!
The Pottery Gardener by Arthur Parkinson is described on its front cover as “ravishing” by none other than Joanna Lumley. I would concur with this description. It is a lovely book with beautiful pictures, a personal love story to flowers and hens.
I purchased this beautiful book during the depths of winter for some colourful relief and inspiration for the coming growing season.
Arthur sets out his intention for the book;
“What I didn’t want this book to be was a heavy thing with tons of text. Elements of it, I hope, may prove to be of some practical use, but having myself amassed (like most gardeners) several shelves worth of books on the subject, I can divide them into two piles. One is for those that are for visual, inspirational use, much needed in the winter, and the other is for those that are practical and informative, often with very few pictures. This book is aimed at being in the first mentioned pile.”
Arthur sums up his approach to gardening as “Beautiful chaos is the look that is always wanted.” The pictures in the book show exactly this. Beautifully full beds, containers, dolly tubs and planters. The type of rich fullness behind which lies a great deal of hard work and creativity.
Arthur Parkinson – the author
Arthur is a young rising star of the gardening world and already has a good track record behind him. He details in his book his journey into gardening. Early inspiration came from visits to Chatsworth Estate, instilling a love of the gardens and the estate’s hens. Arthur’s father insisted he learnt a trade and young Arthur plumped for gardening. Training at college and Kew Gardens ensued.
Arthur became friends with one of his inspirations, Sarah Raven. On Sarah’s recommendation Arthur visited the Emma Bridgewater Pottery factory to inspect the garden there.
Gardener at the Emma Bridgewater Pottery Factory
Arthur visited the garden at the Emma Bridgewater Pottery Factory, discovering that it was fairly non-existent. He came to be the gardener at the factory and set to work creating a garden!
This is where the book becomes quite inspiring. Arthur had to build a garden upwards due to the industrial setting. Dolly tubs, galvanised animal troughs, raised beds, galvanised bins and more created the planting areas. Arthur explains that just because a space is small doesn’t mean you have to plant small plants. In fact, doing so just enhances the smallness of the area. He encourages planting of larger growing plants so that you feel as if you have worked into a rich and lavish garden dominated by fronds and petals.
Bare soil does not feature in Arthur’s plans for a garden. This is something I had not particularly considered despite being drawn to fuller looking gardens. The approach outlined in this book is to plant fully all spaces that you can with a wonderful succession of gorgeous flowers. In this way you can have cut flowers brightening up your house for a large part of the year. The garden at the factory provides beautiful flowers from early spring through to late autumn. Expertly planned successional planting is key here.
The pictures in the book of the Emma Bridgewater Pottery Factory garden are simply stunning. Enhancing the garden in many pictures are the beautiful rare breed hens that Arthur is equally fanatical about.
Inspiration and recommendation
Whilst Arthur’s intention for this book was to provide a delightful pictorial record of the gardens he has worked on, it also provides plenty of practical tips.
Arthur recommends many varieties of dahlias, tulips, alliums and many other of his favourite flowering plants. As I read this book I kept a pen and paper to hand and jotted down some of my favourite recommendations. As a result, I have ordered a number of dahlias. I always used to have dahlias in my garden at home as a child and I have no idea why I have not continued to grow them! This is being rectified this year! I’ve also purchased some interesting nasturtiums – it’s always a bit of a battle with my Dad about these at the allotment. I love them. He hates them. I am going to try and win him round this year with some colourful varieties. On the plus side they have a lovely peppery taste and are edible.
The book brims with recommendations for a range of different flowering plants. Enthusiasm for bee friendly flowers is present in a big way and I whole heartedly support this! Arthur also details suppliers and books he recommends.
I should also mention as part of this review that there is a chapter on hens. My purpose for purchasing this book was for the flowers but I have been wooed by the hens. They really are beautiful animals, particularly the breeds featured in this book. Unfortunately I do not have any space for hens – maybe one day.
I came to the book from a love of flowers and leave feeling love for hens!
My Own Experience of Gardening
Arthur makes some very interesting observations about how lacking school education is with regards to gardening and farming.
My own experience mirrors this. When I was in primary school I naturally gravitated towards the plants in the class room. My lovely teacher, Mrs Till encouraged me and made me plant monitor which involved looking after and watering the plants each day. Mrs Till presented me with a certificate for “The Boy with Greenest Fingers” at the end of the class year.
However, all that existed in the grammar school I attended was a voluntary nature / wildlife group. This group met infrequently to plant trees and clear wild blackberry vines. Other than planting a tobacco plant to see if we could observe acid rain burning its sensitive leaves, gardening did not exist on the curriculum.
I had my own plot of garden at home. In this plot I would grow lots of lupins, carnations and dahlias. I quickly discovered that I had “green fingers” and my enterprising brain soon saw me selling plants to school teachers. After all the school buses had ferried my fellow students home I would return to school chauffeured by my mum with the boot of her Datsun Cherry full of plants. I made some decent pocket money from this, selling boxes for £5 a time. Teachers would occasionally ask me to stay behind after class, not through any naughtiness on my behalf but to ask for some tips about their carnations!
I funded my hobbies of vintage scooters and records through gardening for older people in my local neighbourhood. Mrs Rees was a lovely lady who lived 5 minutes walk from my house. I gardened for her for many years and learnt so much from this gentle intelligent gardener.
Me and my parents
I was lucky to have been brought up by parents who loved the taste of fresh home grown vegetables. My father Graham and I have been helping each other grow vegetables for over 40 years now and counting! There is something very enriching and bonding about growing and working the land together. My dad brings his lifetime of knowledge, snippets of wisdom from “Treacle Toffee” Billy and other such characters that have crossed his path at the allotment. Having studied permaculture, I bring a different perspective to doing things. I also discovered Charles Dowding and his no-dig approach to growing vegetables. As a result this has revolutionised the way we approach the allotment plot.
Let me not forget my mum! Mum is a fantastic weeder. She clears a weed filled bed in no time at all. Mum also boasts super human strength when required and has been know to pull out trees with one hand!
In Summary, The Pottery Gardener by Arthur Parkinson Book Review
To quote Joanne Lumley, a “ravishing” book providing a wonderful splash of colour and inspiration. I have already spent a small fortune on ordering plants and seeds for the coming year. The entrance to my flat now features a lovely William Morris planter lasagne planted with tulips who are all peaking through ready to bloom and flourish as spring slowly arrives.
I have always loved gardening, having focussed in more recent years on vegetables in the allotment. Arthur’s book has reignited my passion for flowers and reminded me of my love for some that I had forgotten about.
I highly recommend this book. Both a beautiful coffee table book but also a useful book of recommendations and practical tips.
Having read our “The Pottery Gardener by Arthur Parkinson book review” blog you may be interest to know that Arthur has another book due out very soon. It promises to be another interesting and inspiring book. You can pre-order copies of it now. I’m a sucker for an autographed copy of things and you can get one from Sarah Raven’s website here:
“The Flower Yard follows Arthur as he gardens through the seasons in pots. It is a beautifully visual yet personal and highly informative read on his love for bold colours, cut flowers and bees. The chapters provide a fascinating insight how he grows his garden and ensures a bold a brilliant show from his pots, treating the garden as if it is a stage by growing plants from seed and using bulbs on a huge scale, despite the gardens size and being in the middle of a town. This book will prove to be a tonic with over 200 photos taken also by Arthur and will be especially helpful for those with truly small gardens, patios and balconies who want floral exuberance and escape.”
If you are a member of the British Wheel of Yoga you will have received your Spectrum Magazine for Autumn 2020. We are honoured to be on the front cover, all 3 of us! We couldn’t resist getting Archie in the picture. I’m sure you agree that he looks very smart. He even wore a fresh clean bowtie!
Spectrum Magazine Autumn 2020
In the magazine we discuss the importance of spinal health and consider all of the different ranges of motion that our spine has. Our spine has flexion, extension, rotation, lateral flexion and articulation. As a result we put together a sequence that takes the spine through all of these movements. It features across 3 pages in the magazine with detailed instruction. The sequence is mat based. This makes it very accessible and also adds an element of connection and grounding. We created an instructional video for this soothing Low Spinal Flow on our YouTube channel. You can check it out below. Let us know what you think and subscribe to our channel.
Low Spinal Flow as featured in Spectrum Magazine Autumn 2020;
DID YOU enjoy our article in spectrum magazine autumn 2020 edition? then join us for Online Yoga Classes
We currently offer a range of online yoga classes. Our approach to teaching the physical yoga postures is grounded in what is good for the body. We focus on postures that will help improve flexibility and build strength in the body. All of our classes include yoga postures, breathing exercises, guided relaxation and yoga philosophy. You get a well round yoga class covering many of the 8 limbs of yoga.
We feature on the Spectrum Magazine Winter 2016 edition. The article in this edition discusses our journey to becoming British Wheel of Yoga teachers. It was also about diversity in the yoga scene and we talked about getting married as soon as equal marriage had been introduced.
World Mental Health Day 2020 is on Saturday 10th October 2020. The theme this year is Mental Health for All. Greater Investment, Greater Access. Everyone, Everywhere. The World Federation for Mental Health set the theme every year. Check out there website here: https://wfmh.global/
MENTAL HEALTH FOR ALL
We all have Mental Health. As a result it is important to take care of it. Each and every one of us has to learn how to live with and interact with our mind.
Our experience of our minds changes and fluctuates throughout the day and our life. We go through periods where our mind is very busy and others where it is quieter. Whatever we experience is part of the human experience. It is almost certainly the case that someone has experienced it before or is experiencing it right now somewhere. As humans we have more in common than we have different. We are all in this experience of life and humanity together.
Our duty as humans is to look after each other and ourselves. This involves being aware of the mental health of others. Having discussions around our own mental health and the difficulties we face or have faced is important. Sharing information and being open is the healthiest policy both for us as individuals and for wider society. Can we reach a place where Mental Health is a topic of conversation for us all? Can we reach a place where mental health support is available to everyone across the globe?
COVID 19 AND MENTAL HEALTH
“Although the COVID-19 crisis is, in the first instance, a physical health crisis, it has the seeds of a major mental health crisis as well, if action is not taken. Good mental health is critical to the functioning of society at the best of times. It must be front and centre of every country’s response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The mental health and wellbeing of whole societies have been severely impacted by this crisis and are a priority to be addressed urgently.” United Nations Policy Brief: COVID-19 and the Need for Action on Mental Health, May 2020.
The above statement made at the Untied Nations in May 2020 clearly highlights the need to care for our Mental Health at this challenging time.
The World Federation for Mental Health
“The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) is the only international multidisciplinary, grassroots advocacy and education organisation concerned with all aspects of mental health. It was founded in 1948 to advance, among all people and nations, the prevention of mental and emotional disorders, the proper treatment and care of those with such disorders, and the promotion of mental health. WFMH has been an NGO in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) since 1963 and we are in official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO) and in formal association with the UN Department of Public Information (DPI).” from https://wfmh.global/
Yoga and World Mental Health Day 2020
Yoga is a wonderful tool to assist both physically and mentally in response to the current crisis. It can help us keep our bodies in shape as a result of the strength and flexibility we develop from the practice. However, let us always remember that the aim of yoga is not to do a perfect downwards facing dog. It is not perfecting a hand stand. And it is not pushing our body beyond normal functional ranges of motion. The aim of the physical practice of yoga is to enable one to sit still without discomfort or distraction arising in the physical body.
The aim of yoga is to find a place of calmness or stillness. The final limb of Yoga, Samadhi, can be translated as the great freedom. It is a sense of liberation from the fluctuations of the mind. The aim of yoga is to develop the ability to have a healthier relationship with our minds. This is to be able to turn the attention away from the fluctuations of the mind. As a result of doing so we no longer over identify with the fluctuations of the mind.
How do we utilise Yoga to help?
How do we do this? The 8 limbed path of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali sets out how to do this. As a result we have a handy guide in this ancient text. It is a path that has been trodden by many before us.
How is a 2000 year old book of use to us in 2020? The reason it is still useful is because the human condition hasn’t changed. Our day to day lives look very different from 2000 years ago but the experience of being a human with a mind is exactly the same.
The journey through the 8 limbs of yoga takes us from behavioural suggestions, through physical postures, to breath exercises, to withdrawing the senses inwards, to concentration – meditation – the great freedom. As a result Yoga presents a series of techniques to help find a greater peace of mind. A good Yoga class will incorporate many of these aspects. Well trained Yoga teachers will infuse their classes with yoga philosophy, breathing exercises, postures and guided relaxations / meditations.
There are some great initiatives starting to take shape as holistic health and wellbeing is being seen as very important. We are currently involved in a nation wide trial looking at the benefits of chair-based yoga. If proven to be effective this could result in NHS referrals to chair yoga classes.
Increasing access to Yoga is interesting to consider during the current global pandemic. As a result of moving our Yoga classes online we have have been able to continue teaching our students from the local area as well as welcoming people from across the globe to our classes. Students have joined us from across the UK, United Arab Emirates, Portugal, Australia, Canada, Spain, Germany, Italy and USA. The use of platforms such as Zoom has made Yoga more accessible than ever before. Anyone from anywhere is able to attend a yoga class if they have a digital device with a camera.
You can find details of our weekly yoga classes and book a place in our shop at : Shop
However, there needs to be a greater investment in Mental Health service provisions. Many people struggle to access help and waiting lists can be very long. Businesses need to take more responsibility for accessing help for staff and creating an environment where mental health is a topic which is discussed. As a result of reducing the stigma often attached to mental health people will feel more free to talk and as such seek to access support sooner.
We have free resources on our YouTube channel that anyone can access at anytime, anywhere. Check them out below and subscribe to our channel.