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 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.

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…