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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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.

Being a listener

I like to tell myself that I have become a great listener(after years of practice)– very present indeed, says the ego.

And it is true, my mind used to be on near constant fast forward– worrying about what I would say next, completely unfocused. I am sure I was quite annoying with my constant interruptions. One of my favorite benefits of mindfulness meditation has been improved relationships as I continue to enjoy conversations that dive deep.

But unfortunately it was just a few months back that a dear friend shared something very shameful and I actually changed the subject.  But the oddest part for me was that I wasn’t even aware I did it, until hours later in meditation.  While my friend was speaking I was actually tuning him out and pretending I couldn’t hear him.  The following is a general and shortened recap of how this conversation played out.

You: an uncle hurt me in the basement. I was just a helpless child.

Me: pass the bread please

You: it was a pattern. The men in my family passing on their pain this way.

Me:  isn’t the coffee good here?

You:  yes, this breakfast is great.

I sit and I recall on my meditation cushion (as the spaces between the breath remind me)  all the times I could not/would not be present to your pain.

Inhale: density molds my heart. It’s strings tightening like the lacing of a shoe.

Exhale: stay.

Inhale: breath transcends my shame softening and loosening the ties that bind.

Exhale: my mind softens.

Inhale: my sense of failure forgiven

Exhale: God smiling in my heart!

Inhale: it bubbled up to spread across my face

I texted you a sincere apology for my rudeness. You extended a very gracious, “you are forgiven”.  I am blessed to have friends who give me many chances to be better.

Have there been times you were faced with an awkward situation and found yourself handling it really poorly. Did you beat yourself up? I’m curious…