Sunday, April 9, 2017

Now the Sun's Coming Up

Shadow & Light (Yin/Yang).
      I've been living with an open invitation these past few months. Open to experiencing all the uncomfortable aspects of being a human. Feeling at times, like I'm stumbling around in the dark, hitting my head on unexpected objects. When sensations of pain or discomfort arise, my reflexive habit wants to rush in with distraction. Distraction deadens down the unfamiliar and unpleasant sensations. I've been kindly asking those distracted rescue habits to take a break, in order to feel life more fully.

In a world filled with obvious despair, my own feeling tone had become tired, dark, and heavy. I was starting to wonder, how does anyone come out from the weight of the unending atrocities surrounding us? I found comfort in knowing that there is never yin (darkness) without yang (light).

Although it didn't coordinate with the calendar's first day of spring, I'm finally feeling the seasons change from inside my body. There is a distinct lightness in my step (I give credit to Feldenkrais classes for helping me find this new bounce), and lightness in my heart.

Tend Your Garden.
Light has come. It's shining on the truth of impermanence, the law of nature. For a few moments, I imagine humanity as a giant garden. Stocked with perennials, annuals, edibles, noxious weeds, poisonous fruits, and dead branches. Some of us root deep and take over large areas. Destroying other plants in the process. Some only bloom once. Some sprout out of garbage dumps. There are bunk, beneficial, and contaminated seeds. This imagery inspires me to care-fully tend my own soil and garden. It dares me to feel joy in a perfectly imperfect world.

Mary Oliver asks, 'What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?' My heart knows the answer to be presence. Yes, I want to be fully present with my one wild and precious life. I want to be willing to accept change within and around me. Willing to feel and evolve in any given moment.

             ~Every inhale enters into darkness, returning the exhale to the light.~

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

United States of Ourselves

Out of the Shadows
     With a silent soundtrack, I meet the ground with my body. Looking into what feels uneasy in me. Waiting with non-judgmental curiosity for whatever shows up. I want to know, where does resentment live in my body? What does it feel like? I watch the waves of discomfort as they arise and pass away.

 Since the election results, I've been diving into my own shadows. Aspects of myself sequestered to an unconscious realm are getting a warm welcoming back. I need to feel what is plaguing our society in my own body/mind. It's been a nauseating practice. When I felt the first ripple of resentment emerge, I almost didn't recognize myself. Resentment has a different quality than some of it's better known relatives. Anger and rage are easier to identify, more socially acceptable, and expected. With injustice all around us, tapping into anger is as easy as 1, 2, 3. Resentment is more elusive.

Every time we buy into thinking we're not quite enough, resentment sprouts. We feed insecurity to ourselves, our families, and friends (in commonplace, unconscious ways). Comparing ourselves with others has become a sickness. As Theodore Roosevelt noted, "Comparison is the thief of joy." As young children we notice the disparities. We juxtapose the opportunities and lifestyles of our peers. We even try to size up our experiences of love. If we come up short on anything, these feelings of 'not quite enough' may try to hide out, taking residency as chronic tension, stress, and anxiety. From this place of lack, we vote, hoard our belongings, and further feed illusions of separateness.

No matter how fortunate one may appear, feelings of not having enough are often hiding under the surface. Inadequacy becomes a mind-set that is independent of actual circumstances. We all want more of something, whether it's job satisfaction, unconditional love, money, respect, relationship success, contentment, stamps in our passport, attractiveness, talent, wit, health, power, or something else.

In addition to standing up and protecting the oppressed, we need to acknowledge the tyranny that exists within our own body/minds. We can continue to validate our inner oppressor, or overthrow it with awareness. Every time I act in disgust towards those I love, or use punishing and controlling behavior in any way, I empower my inner oppressor. Anytime I disregard another to get something I want, I feed the greed of the world. For comfort, we all build walls around ourselves. It's not just happening at the borders. Unchecked, these walls get stronger.

Bringing all of this internal tension out from the shadows, frees up the vital energy used in keeping it away. With compassionate understanding, I invite my stuck habits and deep conditioning to my meditation/yoga practice. All mental and emotional states, however seemingly outdated are allowed to be noticed and felt. Caring for what's difficult in myself is essential for understanding others.

Ideas of self-care can evolve beyond extra large Margaritas and a hammock. Catering to our senses is not necessarily care at all. Staying busy, distracted, and numb are actually the insidious self-neglect strategies encouraged by our society. I may call it taking care of myself, when I'm actually just engaging in some form of overindulgence, or avoidance tactic.

In order to prevent corruption, the government within myself needs ongoing investigating. I need to keep a close inner eye on my strong opinions department. My labeling and categorizing of people department causes problems, especially when I don't think I have that department. I can't forget to check into my moral police force, and all the other miscellaneous dogma I've unintentionally accumulated in my psyche. Left unchecked, self-sabotaging mind states flourish and contaminate those around us. It is up to us to take a regular and honest inventory of our thoughts, righteous beliefs, and behaviors they create. Society benefits when we can petition our own mind closures, and emotional road blocks.

Being with our difficult emotions, feelings, and sensations is a revolutionary act. The willingness to be with our own emotional pain is a form of personal and political activism. Uniting our own states, means bravely recognizing our limiting thought patterns, fear, inherited grief, pettiness, sadness, and all of the challenging aspects of being a human being. Compassionate awareness is an antidote. Bravely investigating our inner terrain, we can make better friends with ourselves. Softening our hearts around our own difficulties, we can better connect and unite outside of ourselves.

~May our hearts open in boundless compassion for the benefit of all beings everywhere ~

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Rub Down on Massage

A Circle to Center
     I completed a therapeutic massage training in Minneapolis twenty years ago. I wanted to bring more massage into my life. Who doesn't? I anticipated trading this skill with other massage therapists, friends, and family. In lieu of shopping for special occasion gifts, massage seemed like the perfect 'get out of shopping for life' card.

I was definitely not interested in massaging strangers, or dealing with money transactions. Massage seemed like something that should be given freely. The dreaded misconception of linking all massage with the sex industry was also something I wanted to avoid like the plague. I didn't want to be associated with the 'happy endings,' advertised as "massage," in the back pages of everyday publications.

Other mental obstacles arose. What if I wasn't good enough to charge money for massage? What if someone was offensive, demanding, or somehow repulsive? I didn't want to face any discomfort over these possible scenarios. Yet, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, has proven to be as valuable a skill as the massage techniques themselves.

My real interest in massage/bodywork came from experiencing it for myself. I loved being on the receiving end of what felt like profound (albeit momentary) bliss. Receiving massage introduced me to the state of being present in my body. Without massage in my life, I would likely have viewed yoga as just another routine exercise class, and meditation as a complete waste of time. Instead, these practices have given me a felt sense of being alive. Transporting me from an over-thinking mind, to what feels like a sacred state of presence.

In the last few years massage has circled back onto my radar. Giving massage has become almost as gratifying as receiving! Trust in the effectiveness of massage has replaced every one of those old fears. I know now that we all crave healing, human touch, and connection to a more centered self. People of all personality types, ages, sizes, and shapes want to be free from suffering. Massage helps to relieve suffering. I've also discovered that many non-massage therapists are as good (or better) than those with formal training. Asking a trusted friend to experiment with massage techniques can be a great way to get started!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Modes of Travel

A New Point of View
     Taking a break from habit in order to administer the medicine of change may require some kind of travel. Whether this travel involves an airline ticket, or a turn inward for meditative travel, resistance often lurks.

In order to embrace needed change, I first need to acknowledge any protesters to it. These mind critics sound a lot like the weather channel reporting on an event, 'Stay safe, don't travel unless absolutely necessary.' If it didn't feel absolutely necessary for mental, emotional, and physical health, I probably wouldn't travel outside of my known comforts.

A change of scenery can be as simple as taking a walk through an unfamiliar town, or finding a new tree to lean against for a while. One thing is for sure, fresh eyes awaken when our routines are shaken. Our brains work differently when we step outside of our patterns. We become more engaged, creative and interested in our surroundings. Mood is often lifted.

If traditional ideas of travel are not practical or accessible (or even if they are), we can always rely on a change of scenery through inner body travel. Inner modes of travel such as meditation, yoga, massage, tai chi, or acupuncture are excellent ways to break up our habit patterns. There is no 'Rough Guide' for inner body travel, which make it particularly adventurous. Sensing and feeling our way through embodied practices, we get a needed break from the deep grooves of habit.

Whatever the mode of travel, curiosity and non-judgment are the most important qualities to unpack. The depths of open-minded travel are uncharted. Staying curious to whatever is happening (during each movement, pause, and repetition) will help make a journey worthwhile.

It's said that an enlightened being would know freshness in all moments, no matter how mundane or redundant. Perhaps the Enlightened One has cultivated a traveler's mind in all circumstances? Whether traveling existentially, by train, plane, or yoga pose, you'll know you're experiencing a traveler's mindset when the moment at hand has the fullness of your loving attention.