Blessing for the Senses

10989214_10153405997592731_8942801385909838552_n

We enjoyed the first week of the Moving Into Meditation class at Yoga Bliss.  We meet in the early morning and simply practice presence in moving and stillness.  As I recall our time together my heart is lifting into lightness – just like the birds in this photo.

I bow in thanks to this miracle of being alive, together.  May you enjoy the blessing we shared from poet, priest and philosopher John O’Donahue:

Blessing for the Senses

May your body be blessed.
May you realize that your body is a faithful
and beautiful friend of your soul.
And may you be peaceful and joyful
and recognize that your senses
are sacred thresholds.
May you realize that holiness is
mindful, gazing, feeling, hearing, and touching.
May your senses gather you and bring you home.
May your senses always enable you to
celebrate the universe and the mystery
and possibilities in your presence here.
May the Eros of the Earth bless you.

– John O’Donohue in Anam Cara

Little Altars Everywhere

IMG_1394A few weeks ago Tim and I went to visit our friends Chris and Cathy’s home and school at Wild Gardens.  You can take a digital visit through their SoulArtSystem website.   It’s a place where they nurture family, friends, plants, animals and earth.  Magical green things seemed to sprawl in every direction.  I couldn’t take it in fast enough – in fact my mind was moving too fast that day – with jittery agitation and busyness.  I could feel a sense of avaricious, grabby energy around “taking in” something new.

Cathy offered us a breath centered yoga class in the sunlit studio overlooking a verdant tree-scape and unruly garden plots.  I found myself trusting her guidance and then coming home to the place underlies surface turbulence.  She suggested we simply say yes to our experience – even if it was yes to saying no – which made me smile. I started feeling my body’s yes to the areas of spine and pelvis Cathy traveled with words.  Relaxing, breathing, trusting.

When we emerged from the studio, I could savor my friends, the sights, sounds and smells more slowly.  Cathy gave us a tour of the land, art and living spaces.  She generously invited us into her family’s special way of living.  Together they grow grasses, herbs, trees, vegetables, raise farm animals, craft foods, drinks, willow reed baskets, build, paint and mosaic.  Expressions of their creativity surrounded us.

Continue reading

Step 4: Empathy to Beyond

AP_Nepal_earthquake_avalanche_bc_150426_16x9_608

You seem to be you
and I seem to be me.
My sorrows are no greater
than your sorrows.
Thou art beautiful,
o my loves,
as tears are. – Terrance Keenan

We held our Monthly Meditation & Communi-Tea practice at Yoga Bliss. One Sunday a month we will offer students more time to go a little deeper and make new friends. We’re drawing inspiration from Karen Armstrong’s “Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life”. Ms. Armstrong is a best selling author and TED Prize Winner who created and launched the Charter for Compassion.

During our first meeting we focused on the 1step: learning about compassion. The following month’s 2nd step involved taking a deep hearted look at the world around us and focusing on how we can actualize compassion within our family, workplace and nation. Last month’s 3rd step explored extending compassion toward ourselves. Why bother? Today, we explored the 4th Step: empathy and beyond.

We contemplated some of one my favorite writers, Rebecca Solnit‘s, observations:

“Mostly we tell the story of our lives, or mostly we’re taught to tell it, as a quest to avoid suffering, though if your goal is a search for meaning, honor, experience, the same events may be victories or necessary steps. Then the personal matters; it’s home; but you can travel in and out of it, rather than being marooned there.  The leprosy specialist Paul Brand wrote, ‘Pain, along with its cousin touch, is distributed universally on the body, providing a sort of boundary of self,’: but empathy, solidarity, allegiance – the nerves that run out into the world – expand the self beyond its physical bounds.” 

Continue reading

Mindfulness Bells

the_bellIn our Sunday Introduction to Meditation Class at Yoga Bliss we practiced mindfulness of breathing and physical sensations in both sitting and walking meditation. We drew on guidance offered by author and meditation teacher, Michael Stone.  In a recent “dharma talk” or lecture he reminded aspiring meditators of the following:

As the breath gets quieter . . . the mind gets quieter; as the mind quiets the breath quiets . . .

He observed that when our minds get caught up in thinking or “story-making” our breath often becomes more labored.  One of our group members described her very stressful life and the difficulty she has breathing.  She often falls asleep in the final relaxation period in yoga class.  The breath is like a mirror or reflection for our state of mind.  We discussed ways that we can adapt our approach to mindfulness to support our current state of being.  In very stressful times – it may be most beneficial to relax and do some belly breathing.  While it may be really challenging to stop one’s busyness – a short afternoon nap might be what you really need.

Continue reading

Step 3: Compassion for Your Self

Hands over HeartWe held our Monthly Meditation & Communi-Tea practice at Yoga Bliss. One Sunday a month we will offer students more time to go a little deeper and make new friends. We’re drawing inspiration from Karen Armstrong’s “Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life”. Ms. Armstrong is a best selling author and TED Prize Winner who created and launched the Charter for Compassion.

During our first meeting we focused on the 1step: learning about compassion.  Last month’s 2nd step involved taking a deep hearted look at the world around us and focusing on how we can actualize compassion within our family, workplace and nation. This month’s 3rd step explored extending compassion toward ourselves.  Why bother?  Karen Armstrong writes that if we cannot love ourselves we cannot love others:

“We have a biological need to be cared for and to care for others. Yet it is not easy to love ourselves. In our target-driven, capitalist . . . societies, we are more inclined to castigate ourselves for our shortcomings and become . . . down by any failure to achieve our objectives and potential. It is a terrible irony that while many . . . are suffering from malnourishment and starvation, in the West an alarming number of women – and . . . men – are affected with eating disorders that spring from a complex amalgam of self-hatred, fear, feelings of failure, inadequacy, helplessness and yearning for control. . . . The Golden Rule requires self-knowledge; it asks that we use our own feelings as a guide to our behavior with others. If we treat ourselves harshly, this is the way we are likely to treat others.” 

Continue reading

Giving Birth to Conscious Beings

Heart of My HeartYesterday, I got together with a group of very committed yoginis in Essential Yoga Therapy teacher training. Our aim was to explore how yoga can help women during pregnancy and birthing.   I’d been preparing for weeks, wanting to bring the best of my experience in teaching perinatal yoga classes to the group.  Right before class, I read a post from my doula friend, Sarah.  It was a reflection about her 15 Years of Mamahood.  This week, Sarah became the mother of a fifteen year old son.  This marks the anniversary of the many years in which Sarah has either been pregnant and birthing or helping others do it too.  She organized her thoughts into encouraging messages.  I think her encouragement applies to every stage of life that presents us with an opportunity to transform and grow:  to birth ourselves anew, again and again.  This is what my yoga teaching friends are doing now.

Sarah:  Growing a baby inside oneself is humbling

We began our day exploring the incredible changes our bodies go through as we grow a baby.  In yoga-speak, we used the holistic Koshic Model to explore what happens in the different “bodies” or dimensions of being we are:  physical, psycho-emotional, intuitive and spiritual.  Every change offers challenges and choices.  Some of the first challenges we encounter is a heightened awareness of our bodies because they don’t feel the same.  (We have to share them!)  We often experience fatigue, nausea, sense-sensitivity and a myriad number of “growing pains” as the journey continues.  Long time doula, instructor, writer and national treasure, Penny Simkin, reminds us that this is pain with a purpose.  Something miraculous is happening inside us – our very being is an expression of life.

Continue reading

Step 2: Look at Your Own World

yourworldWe held our Monthly Meditation & Communi-Tea practice yesterday at Yoga Bliss. One Sunday a month we will offer students more time to go a little deeper and make new friends. We’re drawing inspiration from Karen Armstrong’s “Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life”. Ms. Armstrong is a best selling author and TED Prize Winner who created and launched the Charter for Compassion.

Last month we focused on the 1step:  learning about compassion. This week’s  2nd step: taking a deep hearted look at the world around us and focusing on how we can actualize compassion within our family, workplace and nation.  Life passes quickly while we are swept up in our day to day busyness and digital distractions.  Having a regular mindfulness practice – developing a habit of pausing to simply be in the present moment completely aware of unadorned experience – makes a sincere examination of the world possible.

Continue reading

Step 1: Learn About Compassion

To Be OneWe held our January Meditation & Communi-Tea practice yesterday at Yoga Bliss.  The last Sunday over every month we will offer students more time to go a little deeper and make new friends.  We’re drawing inspiration from Karen Armstrong’s “Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life”. Ms. Armstrong is a best selling author and TED Prize Winner who created and launched the Charter for Compassion.

You can be inspired right now by watching her brief TED plea:  “Let’s Revive the Golden Rule.”

Karen spent years researching and studying religious traditions in many parts of the world.  In her initial TED presentation, “My Wish: The Charter for Compassion,” she shares her concern that

” . . . we are living in a world . . . where religion has been hijacked.  Where terrorists cite Quranic verses to justify their atrocities. Where instead of taking Jesus’ words, “Love your enemies. Don’t judge others,” we have the spectacle of Christians endlessly judging other people, endlessly using Scripture as a way of arguing with other people, putting other people down. Throughout the ages, religion has been used to oppress others, and this is because of human ego, human greed. We have a talent as a species for messing up wonderful things.”

Continue reading

Now Is The Time

Old Growth Douglas Fir

Now is the time

Now is the time to know
That all that you do is sacred.
Now, why not consider
a lasting truce with yourself?
Now is the time to understand
that all your ideas of right and wrong
were just a child’s training wheels
to be laid aside,

When you can finally live
with veracity and love.
Now is the time for the world to know
that every thought and action is sacred.
That this is the time
for you to compute the impossibility
that there is anything
But Grace.
Now is the season to know
that everything you do
is Sacred.

by Hafiz

Continue reading

Thank You, I’m O.K.

Raging River RagingIn our Sunday Introduction to Meditation Class at Yoga Bliss we practiced mindfulness of the breath in both sitting and walking meditation.  We drew on guidance offered by Gil Fronsdal who is the guiding teacher of the Insight Meditation Center (IMC) of Redwood City, California. Gil is the author of various books and makes his courses and talks available on line at http://www.audiodharma.org.

I listened to one of his more recent talks focuses on Gratitude.  I appreciate his down to earth authenticity in speaking of all the things that go right in the world – there are so many of them we often don’t recognize them.  For many, 99.99% of life works to support our well being yet we focus on the 0.01% that may not be working.  My body is functioning,  I have food, shelter, electricity, transportation.  I could go on and on about the blessings I enjoy and often take for granted.

Continue reading