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

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!!

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.

It was the Best of Times/It was the Worst of Times

An ordinary Tuesday that began and ended in tears. But what happened in between is where the magic happens.

It’s 6:30 a.m.

Making breakfasts and packing lunches for the teens. Telling myself to bring joy & gratitude to the activity– totally faking it.

Before I descend the basement steps for my daily meditation, I take a peek at the twitter feed and read “90 year old sisters still making each other laugh”.

I try and sit still and follow my breath and hold my spine upright. Really I do.

But after a few minutes it feels impossible and even a bit painful. I surrender and take child’s pose. I’m clasping my hands behind my head and willing the earth to absorb my tears and fill my heart with calm.  I am saying “I’m sorry for all the times I EFFED up! I am doing the BEST I can!”

The day you break your own heart and call bullsh*t on yourself for playing small, for believing the lies, for not knowing any better: you step into your power.

You NEVER look back.

I was ASLEEP at the wheel.

I am awake now.

What do you think the  bible means in 1 thessalonians 5:17 when it says to pray continually?
I used to wonder what the heck that could look like?  Now that I have a daily mindfulness practice I pay attention!!  To what I am thinking and feeling..I am fully alive and no longer on auto-pilot.

Right now I am feeling like a lonely, little girl desiring more time with my Oma to laugh with.  My grandmother and I were more like sisters, sharing a room for 18 years.

I decide to try to “sit” once again. I am still crying and imagining I am at the foot of the cross, pleading to my deceased Oma and Jesus to give me comfort.  Now I am saying, “I just want someone to laugh with. All I’ve ever wanted all those desperate times I forced relationships — boyfriends and girlfriends. God made me so serious. I just want someone to laugh with.”

I begin praying– show me new ways to serve. How do you want me to serve and self-empty?  Kenosis:  I love that word.

More kenosis…yes...more of YOU, less of me.

Then I am transported to utter emptiness, connection to ALL and a stillness beyond understanding. The crown of my head feels open and as if the contents are being drawn upward. Then there are bands of energy-like chords connecting me to something above. I sit in awe to the Presence.
I hear

  • That which you are seeking is seeking YOU
  • I am you and you are me
  • Stay….Rest
  • Yours are His hands, feet and heart
  • You will continue to be used well…Trust
Once in this place of deep, abiding grace I feel complete. There is nothing I need. I can barely sense where I end and everything else begins. 
Inhaling I expand. 
Exhaling I am ready.

I return to my laptop and check email and Facebook.  Here is an opportunity to serve:  Trans4m network event in DC this April.  I  sign-up as a volunteer and can attend for a very reasonable price.  Within minutes I hear from the administrator, ‘How would you like to serve?  Would you enjoy teaching yoga?’

Am I on Candid Camera?
I am laughing at the beauty of this opportunity.  My Oma and I used to watch that show and laugh till we cried.  My mind is blown open for the second time in an hour—- this is yet another occasion to come my way in 2 days to teach yoga in our Capital City.  Less than a week before I had put out into our benevolent universe my desire to teach healing mindfulness practices specifically to Congress after praying to be a part of the solution and not the problem.  Here are two steps in that direction.

Later in the day I am reading Jim Palmer’s daily blog, “Imagine yourself walking in that Garden, an atmosphere where there is only harmony, wholeness, and oneness. Feel it deep within you. Know it to be real in your deepest awareness and gut feelings. That reality runs through us all. That reality within us will save us and this world forever if we will turn toward it and lift it up.”

If this anawim (divine nobody) can have these profound experiences of bliss and one-ness with our creator, ANYBODY can!!!  Palmer is challenging us to lift it up out into the world.

I was sent this platform to share how one ordinary mom in New Jersey experiences daily challenges raising two teens, feeling loneliness and grief and then finds meaning, connection, love and opportunities for service. Yes, I have tools to share that bring reconciliation to the broken parts and I do believe my Oma is helping send me to DC to share them.  Happy tears.