Sunday, June 4, 2017

Finding Grace in Losing Face

Even the Buddha loses his head.
     While learning about massage and bodywork over the years, one common precaution tends to echo throughout the modalities. When people receive bodywork, you never know what will arise. This brings to mind a 10-day cranio-sacral (subtle bodywork) course I once attended. Although the seeds were being planted, I think I was the only one in the group who didn't believe that 'your issues live in your tissues.'

Fast forward a bunch of years... my issues are definitely alive in my tissues. Sometimes this awareness happens during meditation, yoga, or massage. I've also had the honor of witnessing many others dive beneath their thoughts, into the somatic experience of being alive. As the fascinating book, The Body Keeps the Score explains, there's so much more to our operating systems than what we are consciously aware. 

Exploring the subtle and energetic body is no small adventure. In fact, a deep yoga practice doesn't always sound like an easy invitation. Lately, I've been doing a great job at keeping it on the lighter side. When something deeper does arise, I'm pretty quick to put a harsh spin on it, dismiss it entirely, or cut the practice short. My mind has been negotiating a stay in the shallow end of the pool, avoiding those attention saturated, subtle body experiences.

Cutting myself short in this way started translating into some pretty unskillful and distorted communication with others as well. Of course! Seeing this direct connection has helped me slowly deepen my own experience again. I want to practice being a better listener, for myself and others. If I do lose my head, I'd like it to be because I'm inhabiting my whole body.

Getting back to some multi-layered, body focused practices can bring tears, extreme discomfort, unexpected irritation, indescribable joy, and much more. I can no longer doubt what deep listening and allowing can bring to light. Instead of wasting precious energy on creating detours and road closures for myself, I now see the importance of holding the uncomfortable even more gently.

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!