I saw this video yesterday as a part of a meditation series I’m participating online. It really changed how I felt and so I share the video with you. You can participate for free, in the 21 Days of Gratitude Series here.
National Poetry Month 4
Sitting for peaceful purposes,
I am flooded by the pain
of what we do to each other
and what we do to ourselves.
I am reminded of the idea
that evil is just the absense of good
and that we have forgotten
that we are the ones we are looking for.
If God is a reflection of the eyes I am looking at
then what happens when God forgets
who they are and what they are here for
so I remind myself, again, to remember.
So I embarked on this journey called The Artist is You Mandala Experience a couple of weeks ago. My friend Cathleene is teaching this. I went into this as a non-artist, meaning my creative expression doesn’t normally come into this arena (meaning paint, drawing, etc). I don’t want to sound too airy-fairy about what this experience has been or what it is. What I can say is that we start with some seated guided meditation and then let things come out as they come out. Cathleene really keeps us stayed tuned into ourselves, where and what we’re feeling and keeps us on a path that I would describe as “stepping into the void.” The picture on the left is the piece that I finished last week. This came from nothing. I didn’t know where it was going, or coming, I just went with it and stayed. What has emerged has shocked me. The two animals, a jaguar and a dragon, were not a part of the original thought. They came as a result of the evolution of the piece. There were “mistakes” that were then realized as not mistakes but what was to be this piece.
These two animals, in viewed as totems, are very powerful signs. So in my research of discovering what they mean, I’ve found a lot of information. The Jaguar represents Shamanism , Intuition, psychic abilities, integration of spiritual beliefs and morals, while the Dragon represents Primordial Power, overcoming obstacles, courage, strength, and grounding. I feel like because this was not forced, this project was very much a moment to moment exercise, that these symbols emerged because they needed to tell me something. This is a piece that is now hanging on my wall and I will be meditating with. The messages that I have found from these websites are resonating with where I’m at this moment. Which is touching the deep of the void and finding out what’s there. This is why I’m in this class and what is being called forth at this moment.
I’m so excited….
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Viktor E. Frankl
I grew up in a very restrictive, fundamentalist Christian household. Many Holidays celebrated, including St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Palm Sunday revolved around different traditions in our household. This time of year does bring fond memories back and also unpleasant ones. Even as a child, I questioned a lot of what we did and what we believed, it was as though I really couldn’t grasp or better, buy into what I was being told. This did not bring out the best in me or make me very popular. What it does is make me question what I’m being told, whether it’s the “news”, “facts”, or “information”. Where is this coming from? Who is telling it? Is this how life really is? Is this coming from someone’s perception and how is their emotional state, upbringing, life circumstances affecting their point of view. Is this a point of view being touted rather than a factual recollection of events?
For instance, If St. Patrick was known for driving the snakes out of Ireland, serpents being the ancient symbol for rebirth and ridding the old with the new of the early Pagan religions, the day celebrated by many Irish and Catholics takes a whole new meaning. I have Irish heritage, raised somewhat Lutheran (which studies the Catechism) and celebrated Easter every year. Do I then have to perceive the “evilness” of the organized religion that overtook many Pagan holidays and made them their own as a way of converting? Is my wearing green symbolizing this? Is my eating of those lovely Cadbury cream eggs full of corn-syrup mean the commercialization of Easter lessens the meaning of “Christ’s Resurrection” meaning the Rabbit has won over Jesus? Only if you believe that Jesus was resurrected that day. Only if we want to believe only part of history, part of story and partial truth.
This time of year, Spring, is a time of birth and renewal. Flowers grow, leaves spring from the deadened trees, and animals are birthing their young. Can I see renewal in my life? What old beliefs or thoughts can I release to make room for new ones? Do these traditions I uphold in my life today stand for something that I no longer believe in? Can they evolve into something else? Can I evolve into something else? What do I make room for in my life?
Someone else’s shoes
“I used to have a sign pinned up on my wall that read: ‘Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.”
— Pema Chödrön (When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times)
I can get really caught up in my own stuff sometimes. Little occurrences, missteps, changes in plans can sometimes become the focal point of my day. Today someone was supposed to do the dishes and didn’t which led to a chain of events that really didn’t destroy the planet or end an endangered species. But it interfered with my day and the events that were supposed to happen. But then I run into someone who has something real happening. Those “little earthquakes” that take you to your core. Life stopped and then took a radically different direction. Wasn’t a part of the plan that someone got sick or died, but they did and what is left is the rumbled remains of life as it once was but never will be again.
I am reminded of the idea that you never know what kind of pain someone is walking around with. That woman who was pushy in the grocery line, the guy who cut you off and yelled at you for it, the kid who trampled your rose bush, whatever it is. The person who gives you a smile sometimes and their insides are dying but you’d never know it.
I am reminded to treat others better. Not about turn the other cheek or “let it go” but just treat others better. No matter how it is or what I do, just better. I am reminded to quit judging. Someone may have an ocean full mind of a burden that I can’t comprehend or begin to think of how to deal with it. Is it important that I label it, dismiss their behavior or condone it? Can I be less interested in the wrongs I’m dealt and more interested in the things I can do right?
Last night in class I set the intention to cultivate and share more love. That’s an intention. The action, is when I put it into action. Maybe I can dedicate my practice to someone who might need that extra energy? Someone who needs some extra strength. Maybe I can smile at someone and make their day? Maybe I can just smile more.
Someone lost their best friend. Someone didn’t wake up this morning. Someone took the box to their car, the last one that was in that house that is no longer theirs. Someone can’t call their mother anymore. Someone had to explain to a child that mom or dad isn’t coming back. Someone had to make that phone call. If I can treat everyone like someone, maybe their burden may get a little lighter.
I had to share this.
Like a lot of people, money continues to be a struggle for me. It was difficult for me to write the newsletter this month about finances. As a yoga teacher, I try to incorporate the ideas, aka practice what I preach. The art of allowing for space for abundance in my life. The idea that the universe provides for me.
I’m teaching at another studio in Eastlake this morning and one of the students walks up to me and tells me that she’s practicing spontaneous tithing, and hands me a check. She feels spiritually blessed and wanted to pass it along.
My heart just fills. It’s not about the money. It’s about the practicing of faith. Faith that my body will feel better after a practice. Faith that in spite of the many difficulties that may arise, that life will continue, not always as it was but in a new form. The universe responds in ways that I can’t begin to fathom. So I will continue to allow it to do it’s job and not question in what form it comes.
This month, I’m practicing gratitude. Gratitude for what I have, not what I don’t. Gratitude for my life in this moment, not what I want it to be. Gratitude grows, this I know. Life brings me gifts all the time, if I open my eyes wide enough to see.
Again, I Thank you for spiritually (and literally) feeding me.
There’s a quote from Proust that I am reminded of:
“We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world. The lives that you admire, the attitudes that seem noble to you, have not been shaped by a paterfamilias or a schoolmaster, they have sprung from very different beginnings, having been influenced by evil or commonplace that prevailed round them. They represent a struggle and a victory.”
— Marcel Proust
Recent experiences have taken me to a place of deep sadness and introspection. How do we look at the darkness, examine it, but not get taken down by it?
I found myself in a bit of a spiral and having to honor my feelings. I have suffered from depression and haven’t experienced it in this capacity for a very long time, ten or more years. It began to frighten me.
I trudged to my mat today. I haven’t felt like doing yoga, even though I teach it. These experiences have left a dark and heavy impression in my heart. Really, in my soul. It’s like that song from Peter Gabriel “Digging in the dirt/Finding the places where we got hurt.”
When I arrived today at class, yet again, the transformation comes.
As I’m flowing, my focus is on my breath. It takes my thoughts away from these circumstances. There is a playfulness encouraged by my teacher. I become light-hearted again. I release and let go. I find some compassion for myself and in that, find compassion for others.
While the journey isn’t over, I am reminded again the solution is come to my mat. Come to my mat and begin again. Come and be present with this moment. Breathe.
A Spiritual Choice
Elizabeth Lesser from the Omega Institute:
“….Everyone one of us longs for something more than just getting up and battling our way through life. We have a sense that there is something more, something more meaningful in our journey. This longing is spirituality. Religions formed to try to answer these questions, who am I, what am I here for, what does this all mean.”
We all have that inner tug which draws us to different belief systems that help us on our journey. Those belief systems, whether it’s Christianity or Buddhism or Atheism, are our individual choices to make.
In a yoga class, we aren’t actively participating in a religious practice. A goal in class may be to unify mind, body and spirit. There are many ways we do this. First by focusing on the breath or a mantra to help quite the mind from all of the mind chatter. Second, we bring ourselves into our bodies by focusing on anatomical alignment or stretching and strengthening areas that are holding a lot of physical and psychological tension. Third, we come to yoga because something in our spirit takes us there. We want something different. We want to feel different. And if you practice on the previous two things, you will be different at the end of a class. This is where your journey comes in. It’s your unique choice and expression. It’s your spiritual choice.
Often times, students come in and are afraid or refuse to go into savasana because it might contradict their religion. There are a few things to consider. One, the physiological benefits of a savasana for your body is what is most important. By lying down, closing the eyes and simply bringing awareness to the breath, a person is slowing down the flight-or-fight response in the body with their breath. They are also taking away all of the information that the central nervous system tries to process through the eyes. These are putting the body into a relaxed state, which reduces stress, relieves tension and may lower blood pressure. Secondly, taking time to put oneself into a relaxed state, whether it’s a nap or it’s a savasana, is a great demonstration of self-care. It’s been proven that people who take naps are more effective after taking a nap than those who don’t. By taking time out for yourself, you become more effective at caring for others. You can call savasana meditation or you can call it focused relaxation, it’s your choice with those few moments on the floor.