Mama puts on her oxygen mask first

Mama’s peace.

Mama’s come to recognize the value and necessity of self-nurturance, and homeostasis.

All the accolades and recognition don’t mean a hoot if Mama’s mind is on the what’s missing piece.
The gradual journey home begins with that eensy weensie brave step toward trusting there’s a sun behind those clouds.  If confusion and emotions are tossing her about, she must get still and lean in, lean into the pain, grief and fear (you know the place we generally and naturally want to run from?).

Maybe, just maybe she is all alone.  And if this is truly the case…no one is coming to rescue her, no one is going to turn on a light in the dark, or dry these tears. No distraction, sugary dessert, cocktail or habit is going to make her gray sky blue.

She might just find herself tethered to her own sweet soul.

The path a sled makes

The day after snowmageddon hit the northeast, the sun shone and I decided I wanted nothing more than to go sledding.  I practically begged my husband and was disappointed in his decline.  I turned to my 16 year old son only to hear ‘Not really, mom”.  So off I went sled in hand, outfitted in ski attire.

My first run taken over the already excavated path, I nearly hit a tree but giggled joy the whole time.  At the bottom I paused and looked up: the robin’s egg blue sky was serene and lovely. The naked, near dead tree branches blocking a clear view, I initially said to them, “Must you block the expansive spaciousness?”.  When instantly the story changed to — AHHHHH, you beckon me to love you just as deeply as the sky!!  You ask that I not see you as something in the way of glory but a part of GLORY.

The branches represent all the ‘troubles’ and challenges in life. When we can view them from a place of grounded awareness we might be graced with the big picture.

Climbing back up the slippery slope I stepped firmly and felt strong in my own footing.

The next few runs down, I navigated the trees and squealed as I caught some air. Gliding to the bottom and always just staying still long enough to catch my breath and be filled with gratitude for exhiliration and this amazing life.  I realized I was finding balance between riding high and embracing stillness.

My final run I held tight to my sled’s rope and forged a new path. I landed rougly against some tree branches jutting up and laughed hysterically at where my little adventure had taken me. I lay there and thought about how being stopped by these trees was fine by me.  I resist nothing; I am fierce with reality.

Separation is a LIE

Back in May 2015 I was signed up for a weekend training in NYC with Phoenix Rising Yoga therapy.

The day before I had the thought “I Love learning new things; especially about yoga!” and suddenly a new deeper thought came in– ‘This isnt about learning dear. This is about healing.”  Woah!!  What have I got to heal?  Haven’t I done enough deep work during the 8 months of yoga teacher training I completed in Novemebr?  Such a silly girl– there is ALWAYS more to heal.

Upon arrival our very first partner activity is gently placing two fingers on one another’s heart- front and back.  As Lea’s hand approached my sternum, I felt as if she had to push through a dense block to reach me.  After a few minutes of silence and breathing together, she is  instructed to slowly remove her hands from me. 

I instantly burst into tears. We have only just begun and there are two more days ahead of us.

I go home and sleep like a rock for over 10 hours, missing my alarm.  Arriving late to class, I apologize and explain that emotionally I do not feel up to partner work and will observe for awhile.  Within 45 minutes I am curled in a ball on the floor and back asleep!!

Suddenly, I am awakened crying and feeling ashamed.  I glance around the room and see everyone assisting one another in hip-openers. They are rolling and stretching one another and no one is crying.  I hear in my spirit ‘The hips hold shame. Release your shame’.  I yell in head — You are not even experiencing a hip stretch!!  How in the world are you the one releasing shame??

The crying stops. The emotion passes and we take a lunch break.  I head outside to take in the hustle and bustle of New York’s Soho neighborhood.  I find a tasty Indian spiced potato flatbread and chow hungrily.  I am awake, alive, grateful and open.

The afternoon continues uneventfully and I head back to my friend’s house on the other side of Hudson.

Sunday morning and I had almost forgotten I would awaken in a strange bed on Mother’s Day. I am filled with sadness missing my mom and my children.   But my friend had very thoughtfully been prepared this might be the case and greets me with flowers and a card!  I am verklempt. 

Heading back into the Big Apple, I feel mature and excited for our final hours together.  Living in South Jersey and mostly working from home, I don’t enjoy these adventures often enough I decide.

It’s now about 5pm and we are just a few hours away from finalizing our level 1.  We are instructed while sitting cross-legged, to close our eyes and imagine being divided in half, top of head to seat.

My eyes fly open and I am filled with terror as I had felt my body violently sliced in half with a huge machete. I look around. No one else seems bothered.  I wait, feeling anxiety rising.

The teacher wraps up and asks if anyone has any feedback.  I say with a tremor in my voice what just happened.  I then begin to lose sensation in my hands so I stand up and begin shaking them, hard. 
The tears come hard and fast and I almost hyperventilate but then return to focus on deep inhales and slow exhales. I say I am ok now and retreat to the ladies room for some water and rest.

As the months have passed since that experience, I have contemplated numerous times what my body was releasing and relaying.  My birth father visited me once in the hospital Novemebr 5th 1965 and I never saw him again after that day.  I believe there was a part of my psyche that believed it had been ripped from him.

This part was integrated back that day relaying the message that I am healed, whole and fully connected.

God wants the body to function efficiently and effectively in unity. Therefore, what happens to one part, or what one part does, affects the whole. What we do does indeed make a difference because we are individual parts of a living, spiritual organism. Our actions will produce an increase of good or evil, efficiency or inefficiency in the use of spiritual resources, effectiveness or ineffectiveness. For me personally, the practice of YOGA (union, yoking) has been key in healing abandonment trauma.
To understand this, perhaps we need nothing more than a deeper awareness that, despite the way things may presently look on the surface, our worldview – how we look at life and all its jumble of events – is quite narrow compared to God’s.  We are not separate from God now or ever. Just as we cannot disconnect from our own arm, we cannot sin or feel enough shame to plunge us into eternal darkness.
Isaiah 60:19
No longer will you need the sun to shine by day, nor the moon to give its light by night, for the LORD your God will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.
Once we see things from His perspective, we can see we bear a major responsibility to the body of Christ because God has included us in His great purpose.
Are you spiritually disconnected or knitted into the Body with Christ as the Head?  Actually, this would be a more accurate description –to ask your heart all the ways it has hardened from hurt and surrender to resurrected Love preparing a space in you for something new to be birthed this Christmas.

More human not less

More Human not less
If you’re anything like me, you may have spent some time and energy attempting to minimize the qualities of being human— e.g.
  • jealousy
  • distraction
  • judgment
  • frustration
  • playing victim
  • ungratefulness
  • entitlement 
Just to name a few…
I have found the practices of yoga and meditation tantamount in creating space to actually begin to witness these thoughts and emotions from a place of the witness, allowing me to respond instead of react.
Case in point:  I’m on my mat and we have a substitute teacher for my FAVORITE teacher, whom I have not seen most of the summer.  I tell myself to let go any disappointment and remain open to possibility.
I don’t actually feel that great this morning-  tired, distracted by having had nightmares, and female issues.  I don’t push myself too hard physically and as the teacher advises “take what I need”; which is lots of time in child’s pose.
I notice my desire to have her nurture me.  I notice my wishing she would run her hand down my spine, making a connection and honoring my choice.  I notice disappointment.  I breathe and let out a big, loud exhale.
I see the other women: fitter, stronger, thinner.  I notice my initial comparison and decide to let that go too. Inhaling I choose space, exhaling I choose emptiness.
We are about to enter fish pose and I go to grab for my block. The teacher unwittingly grabs it before I can and places it under her spine to demonstrate.  I notice my upset.  I grab the other block near the top of the mat and I CHOOSE to breathe into the feeling of disconnection and judgment. I lie back, open my heart and surrender into the earth. 
I tell myself to keep using my tools: pressing into earth, relying on breath, and engaging my core (the VERY CENTER of me).
If we can notice we have given our peace away, it is much easier to draw it back to us. It’s living in the space of being off-center and not recognizing our own power over the situation which leads to a downward spiral toward moodiness, anxiety, over-eating, or depression.  
What started out as me not feeling optimally could have spiraled into me having a bad day and beginning a story in my head of victimhood, woe is me.  Eventually, I would probably take this out on my unsuspecting husband.

In savasana or final rest I fully embraced nurturing MYSELF, no one else needs to do this for me.  I fully leaned into being human and having thoughts and emotions that in the past may have led me to judge myself but now I see are not the real me, they stem from a place of disconnection to my true self.  My Highest self desires peace and wholeness and that can only be embodied when I can allow plenty of space for every human emotion.  I don’t dare ever again trap my wild, flourishing & tender self in a cage of disparaging thoughts.  I am F R E E !!!!

THE LIE OF FRAGILITY

Whose voice was it which said we are weak?  Whose voice was it which said the body is less  intuitive than the mind?

I lie awake home in my bed attentive to the sensation  of anxiety in my chest 8 hours post-surgery.  a story on repeat in my brain– you are not ok…you are not ok.  My  husband  tries to  comfort  me saying ‘i don’t know why you’re upset, you don’t have cancer’.   He’s right isn’t he?  I shouldn’t be upset…so now the message on repeat becomes- you have nothing to be upset over. 

And yet just a few hours  earlier  the nurse  repeatedly  yelled  at me  to “breathe deeply Anita!!”  So I would inhale  fully  causing the  machine to  stop  beeping  its  alarm.  Once  she even had to put the oxygen mask on.

This type of urgent instruction to a  woman  not  fully  conscious  and  in pain  will instill  trauma  in the subconscious and  become stored  in the  physical  body– that is certain.

The  mind will  not,  cannot  calm the body  in the midst of full-blown  anxiety with a false mantra.

“If we can truly be mindful of what is going on in us or around us–that’s how we can find or feel ‘the Spirit’ in it. Then our response to the situation will be originating from the Spirit rather than from our knee-jerk feelings of fear or anger or envy. And whether the response is to endure bravely or to act creatively, it will be done with understanding and compassion–which means it will be life-giving.” Paul Knitter

i am grateful that i did not fall prey to an old habit of  ignoring and  distracting  myself  away  from a shouting  energetic  presence.

Because one minute  I am telling  my husband  I need to  pay attention to my body’s signals and the next I  am ready  to  put on  netflix.  One  minute I  am  telling  myself just be grateful the mass was benign and the next I  am wondering why my heart is pounding and I want to scream.

When suddenly a prick of tears  threatened to fall that I made the decision to just get  still.  In that space of breath and  acknowledgement I  recognized  something  indeed was in  need of prayer.  And so i queried  my heart, ‘what is  going on  in there?’.

How often do we place a hand on our chest and listen for love’s blessing over our lives?  Because this is how we begin to heal…old wounds, new wounds, makes no matter– it can only happen in the very moment the body is relaying distress.

Are we so bogged down with being entertained/distracted from wholeness that we’ve forgotten how good a belly laugh feels or how rich and peaceful silence can be?  
Sure enough–within just a few minutes, a peace beyond understanding descended and I heard this message:

You have been through a LOT these past few months (unnecessary surgery, a full-blown panic attack in yoga class and preparing to meet my bio-dad for the first time in 50 years)…allow yourself the opportunity to reveal what is alive in each moment expressed through bodily communication.  It is really quite simple…WHEN we  pay attention.  I  suddenly felt  strong, empowered, connected and  ready to  fully rest.

We are not fragile: 
NO, WE ARE EMBODIED GRACE.  VOW TO NOT MISS THIS ONE PRECIOUS LIFE— IT’S A TRUE GIFT WORTH SLOWING DOWN FOR.

The Body of Christ has a missing limb

multiply my eyes
so that i might glimpse all their glorious +
ravaged scars
O I see you!!

make me a hundred ears to
hearken sorrow’s echo
fervent
through the canyons
O I hear you!!

a thousand arms to embrace
the multitude of plagued + broken
dreams
O how I feel you!

a million feet
to walk a trillion miles
just to hold a single
thorn-pierced heart

the body of christ
revealed in mud–
winged lotus
gracefully blooming
+
dove engulfed
in holy flame

feverish pain
swirling inward
cooled only by
a cyclone of
seashell’s
whispers

transforming ashen wreckage
the body of Christ has a missing limb

weary, I
query
my own
tender + brambled belly
If one part suffers, every part suffers 
if one part is honored, 
every part rejoices 

the body of christ
has a missing limb

center-placed palm
stigmata-wound bruised for my iniquities
presses back
compassionate
touch
the body of christ
has a missing limb

one breath separates
suffering
from surrender
submerged then
found
knitted together
womblike
in the hollows

you…your wounds
your story
your limbs
your love
your peace
your voice

you are the missing
limb

Listening to the Voice of Tension

listening to the voice of tension



Eat pray love author, Elizabeth Gilbert was on Oprah Soul Series talking about her month-long journey into meditation and silence where she went to battle with the thoughts in the head. She realized this was not a battle after all. These fears, voices of negativity, past mistakes and shame represent parts of herself that one could liken to the little girl pieces that are crying out for attention.

One wouldn’t scold the child and berate her for her needs. After years of  trying what doesn’t work, one might find that with patience, love and light these “little ones” quiet and settle down, eventually acknowledging that “Mother” knows best.

I too have had a similar experience in Centering Prayer meditation numerous times. My description felt more like the “ugly, dark pieces of lead” wanted to be transformed into GOLD. By sitting with the inner blaze, following my breath, I could trust the alchemy-like process.

On my mat this morning, for the first time I began to hear the cries of my tension and stiffness as voices needing my compassion and kindness. Normally, I advise students to send breath to the sensation arising in the various parts of the physical body. Now I see for me the healing potential in identifying the resistance with a name.

Inhale up- arms overhead feel expansive and notice tightness between the shoulders in the back of the heart. “Ahhhh you are grief”. Well yes I feel the depth of your longing to be known my dear. You are like all the grief ever felt in this crazy, sad world. You are the grief of abandonment. A father never met in 49 years.

An emptiness desiring nothing but acknowledgement.

Deep and bottomless. With breath and love I hope you eventually find space to calm and then rest.

Runners lunge, exhale fold over right leg. Lengthen torso with breath. Engage root lock and steady. Yes I recognize you as the “inability to trust”. 

I know, I know…. I have not always been trustworthy.

Studying the balancing of the chakras I have learned this stems from the abandonment wound to the root chakra, the base of me. Muladhara: this place in the body should have experienced stability during childhood; but the little girl, me, didn’t know why her father left her. She felt unloved and unworthy. She went looking for attention in the world as the ego dragged her around with its lame attempts at wholeness and healing. But the ego was disconnected from the True self. How do I know this? None of it worked!

I was only left feeling guilt and shame. Yes, these beauties must live in my hips. That near constant nagging tightness. Bring on pigeon pose: stay, stay with this unease. Breathing life and spaciousness into the hips feels so necessary.

I’ll bet you can guess what word my heart whispered in our very first night of yoga teacher training when asked to allow space for one word to arise that will represent my primary area of growth over the 7 months—  R O O T E D!!  What is even more fascinating is the fact that something within me throughout our coldest winter in years was calling me to go out and lie on the ground. And each time I did this, a low level of anxiety I had awakened with would dissipate.

At the time, I wanted a word like the other students: love, connection, compassion. Now I see the accuracy of this single word in continuing to heal my childhood trauma. In a state of deficiency the root chakra can manifest as digestive issues, infertility, anxiety, poor focus and boundary issues. I suffered from all of these while I was disconnected from my physical body.

I trust I will meet students who will benefit from hearing how yoga has helped me find peace and healing and more teachers who will guide me to deeper and deeper levels of connection to myself and others.

I look forward to hearing from you and how yoga is putting the pieces of you back together!!