The Ring is a weekly open sharing forum at Tao’s Center here on Paros Island which runs all throughout the year (April-October). The summer sessions are guided by Ujallah, Tao’s resident teacher, who runs workshops throughout the season and offers one-on-one sessions and “tool-box” life coaching.
The purpose of The Ring is to create a judgement-free space of acceptance and a platform to share experiences and learn from each other. The idea is that in sharing, we go within to search our feelings, and in turn experience personal growth together and induce a collective sense of wellness.
This week we began with a guided meditation, seated in a circle in our tatami yoga hall downstairs with the summer breeze and the song of birds sounding through the open windows. Ujallah introduced our topic and posed the simple, age-old question: “what is life, and what does it mean to you?”
She looked around the room expectantly, waiting for someone to speak and begin the discussion and sharing. Of course, we were all silent! When asked such a simple but profound question, sitting in a circle of people you mostly don’t know, the first response was fear. What will they think of my answer, will I sound foolish, and, of course, what does life actually mean to me?
With a gentle push, we began to take turns sharing our ideas, with helpful dialogue and questions from Ujallah to guide our answers. We quickly became comfortable and open and conversation flowed.
“To me, life is about un-learning what we have been taught and surrendering; to just be.” Came one response. To add to this, Ujallah offered this analogy: “say you are planted as an olive tree but you have been taught to grow as an orange tree, you will of course feel unsatisfied until you trust yourself and therefore become what you are meant to be – an olive tree!”
Another answer came from one of our Long Stay Program participants: “In order to articulate my answer to this question, I first think about all of the moments in my life where I have truly felt alive, and what it was about those moments that made them so. These were moments where I wasn’t trying to be something other than what I am,” using Ujallah’s tree analogy, “if I’m an olive tree I felt alive when I was being an olive tree.”
One of our participants was a woman who visits Greece to come to Tao’s Center every year. “Life is full of peaks and valleys. And for me, now, life is about expressing gratitude for making it to this moment by moving through all of these highs and lows.” A reminder for us to express gratitude regularly and practice mindfulness.
Each participant gave a beautifully unique response reflective of their current stage of life, their views and their beliefs. We added our ideas and experiences into the pool of knowledge in the middle, and Ujallah seamlessly pulled out the common themes and threaded them all together. “So life is about movement,” she summarised, “following your intuition down the different paths and not being afraid of the mistakes. Going from mistake to mistake, or challenge to challenge, and learning.” So it was clear we are always learning and changing and growing. And indeed, after finishing with another meditation, we left the room having learned something, gained some inspiration, some comfort or even more questions to work on alone, through the simple act of sitting in a circle, sharing with and listening to others.
The Ring runs every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday through summer at Tao’s. For more information on Tao’s weekly activities, workshops and about Ujallah and her upcoming workshops, visit the Tao’s Yoga Center.