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 !!!!
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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

Eye Gazing in Prison on Holy Saturday

I spent Holy Saturday at the Philadelphia FDC 3South floor with 12 incarcerated women attending a 2-day Heart to Heart retreat. I was there to share the gift of yoga and meditation. The women really appreciate our visits and openly express their desire to learn.
Our last exercise was an eye-gazing and I was partnered with Smoke, an African American woman of about 35. Smoke smiled a lot and agreed that she was willing to try it but admitted it made her nervous to stare into a stranger’s eyes for a total of 6 minutes. I looked forward to it immensely- you hear how the eyes are the windows to the soul and what I have seen each of the prior 3 times is infinite love.
During the first 2 minutes we were instructed to repeat to ourselves ‘I, just like you, have experienced pain, grief and fear’. Smoke didn’t seem to have too difficult of a time focusing and we both had tears prick our eyes as at once we knew the other had certainly experienced these human emotions. Her body continued to move however, as she crossed her arms over her chest, pulling her arms into her gray T-shirt. I realized she was trying to keep warm while I had a North Face jacket on.
The second 2 minutes we were to repeat ‘I, just like you have experienced joy, love and peace’. This time Smoke nervously laughed a lot which made me laugh. She couldn’t keep our gaze going for very long and fidgeted in her shirt some more.
Finally, as we took a short break before round 3, I got up and put my jacket around Smoke’s shoulders. She vehemently resisted and tried to take it off but I insisted that she wear it for the last round and warm-up. It wasn’t a big deal— to me. We returned to our silent gazing and repeated in our minds ‘I just like you have dreams and aspirations for myself and my loved ones’. I just remember thinking, you have such a warm, inviting smile Smoke. I sure hope you see how beautiful you are when you look in my eyes.
We briefly circled up before departing for a few insights on the exercise. Smoke shared that she enjoyed it very much and that she could see right down to my very goodness. She repeated that she knew for certain that I was very, very good inside. Hearing this made my heart sing because I believe I was just a mirror for this brave woman. I came home and penned this poem for her.
Priestess, when did you lose your Head Dress?
beloved i have come to remind you of your internal compass, guiding you toward goodness.  you speak of guilt and shame, temptation and unruly thoughts.
as a child, one never imagines she will end up behind bars, locked away from society— a common criminal.  you are someone’s daughter.  if your earthly parents did not know better to tell you of your royal bloodline, it should be my honor.
there is no past. there is no future. just here and now where you make your peace, in this body you very well may abhor.
i have crept into the wilderness of your heart when  the darkness returned to breathe  you into newness of life. with each exhale, I, with a force and power heretofore unknown to you, release you from the ties that bind. emptying the trashy contents of your mind.
i have come prepared to speak words of SURETY and CERTAINTY. without a doubt, you once walked and talked like no other, the natural one. you did not pose, nor attempt to impress, attracting that devil named greed.
once you robustly sang lyrics  of a long-forgotten song in a soap shop, smelling the fragrance of the sandalwood (love) and the rose(hate), and scrunching up your nose to show exactly what you thought.
as you lay sobbing and crumpled like a page torn our of a diary, mumbling abouthaving lost something, not sure exactly what or where, in a hushed tone i say i see through your temporary breakdown and remind you that a bad day for the ego is a celebration of the soul.  i shall sing  leonard cohen’s infamous tune about cracks and light and shattering and all things working toward the highest good, if only you can surrender to the pain. this pain– name it.
it desires freedom!!!  exhale! let it go..
i will you draw you into the nonjudgmental space and capture the cruciform  juxtapositon of good and evil.  where gray pervades and paints broad strokes until the time comes to step back into the light, out of darkness where dirty underground creatures dwell .
your birthright is one of phoenix and pegasus, star, ash, flame and all things vivid and taking flight.
refusing to classify the profane as wrong
preferring  crow-speak over hummingbird
prison over church
its an upside down and backwards proposition .
replete with lullabys and magic
because the darkness will revisit
and you will likely forget for a while .
so gaze into my soul as i whisper
‘you are a priestess.’haunted_mirrors2
press onward with purity of devotion
to transcend
beyond the cheating heart
and spiritual bankruptcy.
you are clothed in moonbeams
and crowned in angelic halo.
you cannot feel
the stardust in your veins so
i hold up a mirror that unveils its sparkle.
an invitation: place your hands over your heart
and repeat
THIS IS THE PLACE WHERE TRUTH LIVES!!
hello self that desires to FEEL– ALIVE, PASSION, Connection…these are not WRONG!!
my words spin out across space + time reaching into your heart and shaking it — wake up!!  you are still BEATING.
if i’m not a mirror i should drain my pen.