mardi 31 août 2010

Road to wisdom... A conversation with Joan Matthews

A conversation on  love, fear vs faith and leadership  with Yoga teacher Joan Matthews

Mrs Mattews, founder of the Sutton Yoga Center, teaches yoga since 1987. Her fascinating background is varied, having worked as a kinder garden teacher, as well as counsellor in prisons and in a psychiatric institution .  As a wisdom seeker, she lived her passion for self improvement  by studying yoga and Buddhism in India and in various Yoga Centers across the world, and in experiencing life in Amerindian reserves.  She decided to give back so much of the teaching she had received.


MK. You presently teach yoga and act as a therapist and personal guide.  Interpersonal relationships seems to be your forte. You inspire trust and openess.   I think, to develop harmonious relationships is one of the biggest challenge in a person’s life.

JM. We have to leave our judgemental mind behind, and realize that we are all on different levels of consciousness.  It is not a matter of right or wrong; it is a matter of how enlightened we are.  We are here to learn something, not to put guilt on ourselves; which creates a pattern of  false believes in who we really are.  We need to explore our own tendancies and our own nature.  We have to look at ourselves objectively and as a witness… which is virtually impossible.

There is a bouddhist saying: “We cannot use the conditioned mind to figure out the mind that got us in that condition in the first place”. 

M.K. Are you saying we cannot reflect alone on our problems?

JM. We need to be heard by someone who is trained in this area, as well as practicing our chosen path of meditation.

A friend has a vested interest in you. You need to choose someone who is completely neutral and is there to empower you to make your own decisions with clarity.

MK. This perspective, I guess, brings understanding and compassion towards others?

JM. Definitely! This way, they can open up to you in authenticity and generosity. We grow in sensitivity to other people.

To go further on that subject, I suggest you read  any of the books by Ken Wilber. 

MK I just bought one of his book : Sex, Ecology, Spirituality.  The spirit of evolution.




MK. If you had one quote for the wisdom cookies, one sentence taken from your deep experience of life that sums up what you learned… what would it be?

JM. I think the basis of decisions at the deepest level is motivated by either fear or faith.

MK. Isn’t it all a question of what constitutes fear or faith ?

JM. Fear is false believes. Anticipations. Expectations.  Faith is the acceptance of what is in the moment.  Faith comes from a quiet mind. 

MK. Look around you: do we live in a world where decisions are based on faith?

JM. Presently, we mostly put our motivation before our faith.  We live in a state of fear… Fear of missing something. Fear of not getting enough.  Fear of doing mistakes.  Fear of not meeting expectations… ours, and those coming from others.

We have to let go of control, and accept the impermanence of life.  I strongly recommend you read The Art of happiness in a troubled world, by the Dalaï Lama. Thomas Mirton books are also very enlightening.


MK. And what about faith? If it comes through a quiet mind, does it mean that we already have the answers and simply (…!) need to let ourselves speak at a deeper level?




MK. I see that you brought me many more quotes, some of which I will choose for my Kukkii.  One of them reads like this:

Love is the perfect liberty.  Helen Luke

Intriguing… I always thought love captivates our mind and spirit, our body and soul, to such a point that we feel we loose our freedom to control  ourselves.  As if we were literally possessed!  Quite the opposite of the perfect liberty, don’t you think?

JM. (Laughing) Not passion. Love! When we love, it is an overwhelming feeling that covers everything and everbody, like a beautiful veil. But it doesn’t hide; it reveals. 

Love is towards ourselves,  first of all. We are acceptant of who we are. We are not doubtful of our essence and feel hurt when somebody else judges us.  

Loving is also towards others, and is to be cultivated in the acceptance that people have different level of consciousness, different backgrounds and experiences.  The way they act is a reflection of what is going on in their reality. It should not affect the desire to maintain a loving flow in and out of ourselves.


MK. But how can such a state of mind give us a sense of liberty?

JM. Your appreciation of yourselves, of others, of what happens to you, of your entire life, in fact, does not depend on exterior factors anymore.   The perfect liberty.

MK. Again, if I refer to my experience, when we are in love, our state of mind changes completely.  We are in a definite positive mood. Everybody is nice, and when they are not… well, we just keep on going in our bubble of happiness, undisturbed.

We feel more creative, optimistic, grateful and understanding. What surrounds us has more colour, more flavor, more texture. And we don’t even ask to be loved in return.  We are just a bundle of love. Can it be permanent? Is it what you are talking about? Love being the perfect liberty?




MK. I have a friend who has a question for your, Joan.  She is single, 49 years old, gorgeous, interesting and intelligent:

Why is finding love so complicated?

A bunch of people is looking for it, sometimes desperately.  It is at the center of our happiness. A priority for most of us. Why, in that case, does it almost become a treasure hunt?

JM. Each one of us are different in terms of the brain biology and the way it functions and reacts.  We all have different genetic inheritance, parenting and childhood experiences.  In a relationship, love is complicated!

MK. Keeping this in mind, we should learn what type of person suits us better; who is a better fit, considering the complexity of intimate attraction and also of harmonious behaviors. That, we rarely do!  People tend to repeat the same mistakes in term of choosing a mate. 

Can we, at least, become wiser in love?

JM. I consider love as a finishing process of a labor we have started long, long ago.

Remember, we are here to learn things.  To increase our level of consciousness. 

The reason we keep choosing the same version of a partner, (often the mirror of one of our parents), is that we still have to learn from them.

Our personality has been built in the context of them interacting with us.  This is what we know, and want to repeat.  As long as we are reactive to this certain type of person, we let their view affect us, and this reactive process shapes who we are. 

Love for ourselves and others stop that reactive process.

Then, you discover another kind of love, where you let go of the expectations.  You welcome who the other person truly is, because it doesn’t affect you anymore.

You give yourself that liberty, and you give it also to your partner.

Love becomes the perfect liberty!




MK. My birthday is tomorrow (August 4th). I always like to look back at what happened last year, and what is coming next. Kind of a New Year retrospective for myself.

JM. Oh! The same day as Barak Obama! Leos are leaders. 

MK. I really don’t like to see myself as a leader. It has a connotation of arrogance and superiority. As if you knew better where to go and what to do, so that you should lead the pack. 

I am very uncomfortable with the notion leadership, and refrain from being a leader.

JM. You should not be. Not at all. If this is your Nature, well, embrace it, and let people around you benefit from it.

It is not a better attribute to be a leader than to be a good executive.  In our society, we worship power and money. And so, leadership is often at the service of power and money.

True leadership should be made to service others.

Whoever you are, you should become!

Now, here are 4 traditional Zen stories chosen by Joan to enlighten our own road leading to wisdom...

Four well known Zen stories

The first three are about freedom through non-attachment and letting go:


1.   In the material world

2.   In our personal world

3.   In the world of the mind


1.   In the material world


A Zen monk sat deep in meditation in his sparsely furnished hut.  Two thieves entered and stole all his possessions.  As they fled, he came out of meditation and ran after them yelling: « Wait!  You forgot this. », as he was removing his robe.


2.   In our personal world


In a small village, early every morning, the people would gather at a Zen monk’s hut and sit on the ground outside where he sat with them in meditation.  Once a week, a young village girl came to help him with his vegetable garden and to wash the floors and walls of his hut.  One day the girl told her parent that she was pregnant.  « Who is the father? » they asked.  She would not speak.  The parents and all the village people decided that it must be the monk.  They rushed to his house yelling and screaming angry accusations.  He stood in front of them and as they yelled: « You took advantage of that girl », he softly replied « So you say ».  When the baby was born, the villagers brought the child to the monk saying « This is your son so you raise him ».  He took the boy and said: « So you say ». 

Six years later, the mother of the child told her parents who the real father was, a young man of the village.  Everyone raced to the monk’s house saying: « Give us back the boy, you are not his father ».  He replied « So you say » and give them the child.  Every morning after that, all the villagers once again gathered around the monk’s house to sit with him in meditation.  They said:  « We are sorry, you are a good man » and he softly replied « So you say ».


3.   In the world of the mind.


Two Zen monks stood beside a shallow river.  One was young, one was old.  A young woman arrived to cross the river that usually had a boat to carry people to the other side.  The boat was gone and there was no way to cross.  The old monk told the woman to climb onto his back and he would carry her over the water.  The three of them slowly crossed to the other side where the old man placed the woman on the ground.  The monks walked on continuing their journey.  After a while, the young monk broke the silence.  « You are a monk and should not have carried a young woman across the river. »  The elder monk replied: « I put her down and left her on the other side.  You are still carrying her. »




What is called a spiritual path has many different approaches.  Number Four story illustrates that:


Three Zen monks wanted to make the long and hazardous trek up a mountain to the top where a very old and enlightened monk lived.  The mountain was in a land that they were unfamiliar with so they needed a guide.  A young girl from the village offered to lead them if they would permit her to bring her small pet monkey.  Amused at the request, the monks agreed.  As they set off on their journey, the men had to pay attention to where their guide so confidently placed her feet for the terrain was extremely challenging and the weather cold and windy.  The girl knew the mountain well and would find a sheltering rock for them to sit by to have their simple nourishment and a few hours rest at night.  On these stops, the monks would sit in meditation.  The girl would give most of her meagre share of food to her monkey.  When the chilling winds blew, she would remove her jacket and wrap it around her pet to keep it warm.  When drinking water became scarce, she would give the monkey her share.  Three days and three nights passed in this way with the sure-footed guide leading them ever upwards, until they reached the top.  The monks were ecstatic, calling out the name of the wise one.  And when he appeared at the door of his hut, they dropped to their knees and placed their forehead on the ground, close to his feet.  The young girl stayed back and because she held her small monkey against her chest, could not assume that position as it would crush her pet, so she simply sat in humble silence and gazed with wonder at the very old man sitting in front of her.  One of the monks spoke: « O wise one, we have made this journey so that You could teach us about the nature of enlightenment. »  The old monk responded slowly.  He pointed to the girl and said: « Watch her, she knows. »  And he turned and went back into his hut. 




samedi 21 août 2010

L'inspiration d'une visite au Jardin botanique

Un petit message réalisé par Richard Leclerc, alias Rikkii, lors de sa visite du Jardin japonais au Jardin botanique de Montréal.

Vos commentaires sont bienvenus.