“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” - Aristotle
Watching the bees on a recent walk, I sat and listened to their buzz, collectively it was a dramatic hum, a wholesome sight and sound. Knowing how valuable bees are to the harmonious state of the planet and our life on earth it was reassuring to hear and see them so industrious. There were so many blossoms with a busy bee at their centre. Magical to think of the teamwork involved in collecting the pollen, pollinating the flowers, returning to the hive, contributing to the health of the colony and creating honey. Individually a bee cannot make honey and therefore survive on its own, however as a colony they are able to communicate and work together to produce the sweet healthy elixir that is honey.
Whether you consume honey or not, out of personal preference or for ethical reasons (veganism) it’s health benefits cannot be ignored.
6 Raw Honey Benefits*
1. A good source of antioxidants
2. Antibacterial and antifungal properties
3. Heal wounds
4. Phytonutrient powerhouse
5. Help for digestive issues
6. Soothe a sore throat
"For bees, the flower is the fountain of life, for flowers, the bee is the messenger of love." - Kahlil Gibran
There is a reciprocal exchange between bees and flowers, one could not survive or thrive without the other.
Bees will tend to forage on a variety of pollen sources and bee pollen will tend to be a mixture of pollen from all the different species of plants that the colony’s foragers are able to visit.
Not all flowers are alike, not all bees are alike and not all humans have the same complex needs for well-being.
It was once thought that the Bumblebee defied the laws of gravity, that scientifically it was too heavy to fly, however we just didn’t understand how it flew. The Bumblebee its own way of flying that at the time was not understood by scientists.
Cultivating health and well-being may look different for different people, nevertheless it is essential to get the whole picture to find out what will work, so that each of us individually can find our own way to fly - our
individual path to well-being.
Health = a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely
the absence of disease or infirmity.
Wholesome = Promoting health/well-being of mind, body & spirit. Conducive to moral/emotional well-being.
Heal = to make whole, to restore health, bringing to balance
Whole = single entity compromising a collection of parts. Entire, undivided.
To create overall health and well-being we need to consider the whole-sum of our being - Mind, Body, Soul, and the whole-sum of our lifestyles, which in turn have an effect on our whole being (mind body soul).
“The art of knowing is knowing what to ignore......ignore those that make you fearful and sad, that degrade you back towards disease and death." Rumi
If any ‘part’ of ourselves is not working towards towards health then it’s likely we may not feel fully whole, fully healthy and balanced.
Yoga is a wholesome practice if it is practiced with a wholesome intention. A well structured yoga class will have many ‘parts’ that may be familiar from other activities ie targeted physio exercises, post workout stretching etc, however anyone who has attended yoga regularly over a period of time will have experienced at least one class where you leave in a blissful state, that’s impossible to describe. The whole class has done more than ease aches, build strength, increase flexibility, relax the mind….it’s created something more ….something extra that wouldn’t have been experienced without all the parts being practiced together with the connection to breath and a wholesome intention. When all this comes together, requiring a connection and work from both student and teacher much like the bee and the flower, I believe it embodies my understanding of Aristotle's quote.
The practice and philosophy of yoga itself is multifaceted and complex. A richly woven tapestry with hidden threads. 10 years ago, I considered myself a knowledgeable and capable yogi, and with that confidence I embarked on my teacher Training. My confidence was quickly knocked as I realised I actually knew very little about yoga! That was the most valuable experience and it had a powerful affect. From that moment on I had a fresh sense of awe and wonder a desire to learn and experience more, excited to realise it would take many lifetimes to fully comprehend the whole rich tapestry of yoga.
"Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself." - Rumi
Much like the worker bee we can visit different flowers, different aspects of yoga within our lifetime’s practice of it. Over a period of time collecting all the sweet nectar from the different aspects of yoga, our colony - body, mind, sprit, can thrive and enjoy the sweet nectar of life.
The ancient texts of yoga, like the Samkhya Philosophy, Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali's sutras talk about the three essential aspects of nature. The Gunas.
"The word guna literally means “strand” or “fiber” and implies that, like strands of a rope, the gunas are woven together to form the objective universe. " -Yoga International
All of creation (Prakriti/universal nature) is made up of the following 3 qualities (Gunas):
TAMAS - Manifests as the energy of concealment, darkness, inertia, dullness, lethargy and heaviness.
RAJAS - Manifests as the energy of change, passion, desire, effort, and pain
SATTVA - Associated with the principle of harmony, shows itself as beauty, balance, and inspiration, and promotes health and contentment.
According to these ancient teachings these qualities are in a constantly changing relationship with each other and different combinations of these three strands underlie all matter, life and mind.
Most often one Guna is dominant, for example we will feel mostly Tamasic if we need a strong coffee before we face the day, or if we are feeling hyperactive mentally, then Rajas is dominant. If we are experiencing ‘that’ feeling after a yoga class, Sattva is dominant as we are feeling calm, peaceful and content.
The gunas are at play in every thought word and action, in the food that you eat, in your work that you do, in every relationship you have, and so on.
If we are unaware of these constantly changing, fluctuating qualities of the Gunas we can get attached to different states, mistaking impermanence for permanence. However if we are able to observe the ‘play’ of the Gunas, to accept the impermeance of all of life, to be ‘ok’ with it all (whole~sum), we will find balance and wholeness.
This brings us back to intention as we practice yoga asana. We could witness three students all performing the same asana but the intention could be different in each student, depending on their dominant Guna in that moment.
Tamas—a sense of lethargy and inattentiveness.
A student with this dominate guna would be half hearted in their asana, with a lack of alignment and engagement of the body. Not connected to the synchronicity of breath and body.
Rajas—a generous serving of exertion and competitiveness
A student with this dominant guna would be pushing themselves actively into the perceived shape, looking around at other students to see if they can hold it longer, move deeper, get a stronger bind and so on.
Sattva—clarity, mindfulness, and contentment.
A student with this dominant guna will be mindful of the teacher's cues, connected with the synchronicity of their breath and the body, mindfully working to their safe edge as they engage and align the body.
There is so much to explore in the realm of the Gunas and the interconnectedness of all of us and all of life.......but ....that will have be explored another month, another blog!
This month’s practice is to:
Observe the whole~sum of your lifestyle, and the whole~sum of your being (mind, body & soul), not with judgement or labels, but with wonder and awe.
Watch the play of the Gunas .......in everything!
Cultivate a wholesome intention in all that you think, do, feel and eat.
If we’re sharing a practice together this month, whether virtually or in person, it is my intention to share a wholesome practice with you and that we get to experience the rich, sweetness of that moment.
The lily urges her young buds
to open their eye and behold
the splendor of the Garden.
Stirred by the wind that carries
the sweet scent of union
the branches dance in celebration.