embodied practice: walking the labyrinth

we meet to walk in silent contemplation

of earth, cooling our feet

of air, tickling our skin

of water, rushing as sound + current to dampen our ears

of sun, blazing warm on head + hearts

we spiral in + quietly in

stepping

breathing

cleansing

clearing

sorting

settling

centering our awareness on new beginnings, grace, gratitude, friendship

we spiral out, expanding once more

greeting one another on the path

a momentary pause

a deep bow

a gaze into eyes of compassion

we sit then, steady of heart + mind

soaking in the suchness

of the four elements

of dear companions

of movement that awakens understanding

embodied practice: seeing into habit energies

As far back as I can remember I have been fascinated by the marvelous transformations which take place when a very simple sort of magic is applied to things.

Even the most everyday transformation of something undesirable into something desirable has, to me,  a tremendous magic power back of it, and it is a power which I believe in using more deliberately and often than most people do.

Everyone marvels at such transformations when they come by accident, but it never seems to occur to anyone to make them happen at will.

I am shocked by the ignorance and wastefulness with which persons who should know better throw away the things they do not like. They throw away experiences, people, marriages, situations, all sorts of things because they do not like them. If you throw away a thing, it is gone. Where you had something you have nothing to work on. Whereas, almost all those things which get thrown away are capable of being worked over by a little magic into just the opposite of what they were.

So that in the place of something you detest you have something you can adore. And you have had the most thrilling kind of experience, because nothing is more thrilling than working the magic of transformation…It is not work at all. It is, simply, magic.

But most human beings never remember at all that in almost every bad situation there is the possibility of a transformation by which the undesirable may be changed into the desirable.

~Katherine Butler Hathaway, The Little Locksmith [p.12 -13]

As I prepared for sangha’s contemplation of habit energies, I encountered an article on Access To Insight, which included a portion of the quote above (see the bolded text). It beautifully and succinctly captures the tendencies we have to avoid, discard, or turn away from what we find difficult or unpleasant and to doggedly pursue what brings us pleasure or comfort. Neither is inherently wrong. In fact, it is a primal neurobiological instinct to assess threats (response: fight, flee, freeze) and opportunities (response: accept, seek out, multiply). The question is one of looking into whether our habitual response is skillful–does it generate understanding and compassion?

When we perceive an arising “threat,” we may flee from it–finding it easier to deny, ignore, suppress, push away, or discard it. Our mindfulness practice invites us to strengthen our compassion and equanimity so that we become steady enough to stay where we are in the midst of swirling change, uncertainty, and discomfort. We learn to greet the difficult/unpleasant with breath and loving awareness. To embrace the moment tenderly as a parent would a crying child–to tend to our suffering wholeheartedly. Nothing is left out. All becomes part of the practice of nurturing the heart and mind of love and skillful understanding.

Explore:

Buddha’s Brain  ~ Rick Hanson

embodied practice: the healing power of community

The energy of a community of mindfulness can help us embrace and release suffering that we could not reach by ourselves…

father's day practice.13a

If we open our hearts, the collective energy of the community can penetrate the suffering inside us.

~Thich Nhat Hanh, The Art of Communicating

embodied practice: a perspective on “engaged” buddhism

It is hard to define engaged Buddhism.
But I think it has to do with a willingness to see how deeply people suffer; to understand how we have fashioned whole systems of suffering out of gender, race, caste, class, ability, and so on; and to know that interdependently and individually we co-create this suffering…
Some days, I call this engaged Buddhism; on other days I think it is just plain Buddhism — walking the Bodhisattva path, embracing the suffering of beings by taking responsibility for them.

—Hozan Alan Senauke in Upaya’s Newsletter (11 March 2014)

awakening the voice of self-love

Be careful how you are talking
to yourself because you are listening.

~Lisa M. Hayes

At the beginning of the month, Sangha decided our aspiration for study and practice in February would be (1) to dissolve the inner critic and (2) to awaken the voice of self-love.

We all have experienced the harsh self-defeating tones of an inner voice that chastises, doubts, belittles, and discourages us. We may struggle to hear the gentle voice of compassion that encourages, nurtures, assures, and reminds us of our strengths, gifts and possibilities.

This two-step process of dissolving self-criticism and awakening self-compassion invites us to first shine the light on the deep roots of that oppressive, self-defeating commander.

Can we see the seeds of fear, unworthiness, shame? Can we see all the hands that planted and tended them? These internal and external messages that feed and strengthen that critical voice?

To identify these embedded roots may also unveil a cycle of self-abuse that we easily trap ourselves in. As one practitioner pointed out, we recognize that we’re beating ourselves up and then reprimand ourselves to be better and nicer to ourselves! But how will such self-lecturing ever help us eliminate self-judgement when the critic thrives under abrasiveness?

Thich Nhat Hanh encourages us to “cradle” our suffering (in the form of anger, fear, pain, judgement etc.) as a mother would a child. So when the critic begins its denigrating rant, we neither silence nor strengthen it. We embrace it with a gentle acknowledgment, “Ahh! I see/hear the suffering.” We do not abandon ourselves, convinced that we’re being weak or wimpy. We whisper words of kindness to soothe that wounded voice. I understand. I am here for you. You are hurting. I love you.

Receiving such tenderness, the raging critic begins to soften and relax—to exhale its relief at being seen, heard and understood. Now there is room to sow and water seeds of compassion. We keep exercising the voice of compassion by speaking to ourselves in a hushed and soothing tones. We retrain our inner critic by filtering its skills of observation and analysis through the four gates of speech (a Sufi and Buddhist practice I wrote about in a musing about mindful communication in motherhood) asking, Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it helpful? Is it kind? We learn to assess our choices and decisions honestly, using words that nourish and support rather than berate us. With skillful effort, we develop a booming voice of wise and compassionate discernment.

So practice gently, relentlessly, and lovingly to awaken and constantly feed the voice of self-love. What’s been helpful for me in moments of self-doubt is to remember what another friend in sangha shared. Inspired by a story she’d heard about Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, she echoed his words of encouragement in a tender lilting voice: “Don’t be afraid, you can do it.”


To stop and communicate
with yourself
is a revolutionary act.

~Thich Nhat Hanh

Last week I shared a reading from Sandra Ingerman‘s Medicine for The Earth (a going-away gift I’d received from a friend when I left Brooklyn, NY  in 2003), which provides a template for the transmutation—or ability, as Ingerman defines, to transform poisons in the body and environment—of negative, self-destructive communication to healthy, harmonious self communication:

Words and thought forms create a vibration that goes far into the universe, creating musical notes. We need to look at whether we send out harmonious notes into the universe, which in turn create harmony, or whether we send out disharmonious notes, creating chaos and illness. We call down the powers of the divine and call into being with our words…The seeds planted will decide what kind of plant grows.

We rarely pay attention to the power of the words we use. In our ignorance we end up calling into being a great deal of chaos and pollution. We do the same with our thought forms. If the divine created us in its own image and the divine is perfect, then we are perfect. If we say things about ourselves that is against our perfection, we move out of harmony with the divine inside and outside us, which can cause illness. For example, if you say that you are not good enough or if you believe you are not worthy, your words are out of harmony with divine creation.

You must work on bringing your words and thoughts back into a song of harmony. Without this harmony there can be no union. Without harmony and union there can be no transmutation. The universe sings glorious harmonious notes. Is the song of your life and beliefs harmonious?

EXERCISE [an excerpt]:

Imagine your life as a garden. What seed words do you want to plant, nurture, and watch grow? Choose your seed words carefully.

As you begin to notice the energy and vibration of words, be more conscious of the words you use in your conversations with others. Think about what you are calling down for yourself and others. Think about what plant will grown out of the words you planted.

To heal the earth through transmutation, you must speak to yourself and others with words that create a vibration of love, harmony, and union with the divine. With words you can decree that pollution be reversed. Parts of the formula for transmutation used here: Intention: Words create intention to heal or create illness.

Love: Words that have the power to heal embrace the vibration of love. Love heals.
Harmony: Harmonious notes sent out into the universe will create harmony reflected back to you in your life and the environment.
Union: Where there is harmony, there is union. Union is the energy behind transmutation.
Focus: You must have strong focus to create the intention to use healing words.
Concentration: It takes a great deal of concentration to be aware of the words you use in your self-talk and your conversations with others.
Imagination: You must be able to imagine the energy and vibration that is sent out with the words you use.

Related Musing

On Mindful Consumption

on mindful consumption: magic of deep listening + skillful speech

essential food

nothing can survive without food.

everything we consume acts to either heal us or to poison us.

we tend to think of nourishment only as what we take in through our mouths, but what we consume with our eyes, our ears, our noses, our tongues, and our bodies is also food. the conversations going on around us, and those we participate in, are also food.

are we consuming and creating the kind of food that is healthy for us and helps us grow?

when we say something that nourishes us and uplifts the people around us, we are feeding love and compassion.

when we speak and act in a way that causes tension and anger, we are nourishing violence and suffering.

…nourishing and healing communication is the food of our relationships.

~ Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh
The Art of Communicating

heart, sweetened with intention

toward which direction is your heart stretching?
know that this organic force, opening and guiding your heart, is the seed of intention

what are you breathing life into?
know fully that the breath is the fuel growing into aspirations.

heart-sweetened-with-intention connect with and align your thoughts, words and deeds with the seeds of intention blossoming in your heart.

nourish and energize your hopes and visions with the compassionate wisdom of breath.

each inhale grants space for each blossom to stretch out and unfold.

each exhale invites those roots to merge with every fiber of your being.

with such loving awareness, tend to your heart.

bathe it in the sweet, steady flow of breath.

as the petals of intention bloom, they will stretch open your hands, heart and mind.

every breath, thought, word and deed becomes a flower,
saturated with the fragrance of clear intention.

your aspirations — a beautiful thousand-petaled lotus.

new year, new name, new site

dharma yoga arts

will now be known as

3 Jewels Yoga

ALL NEW POSTS WILL APPEAR ON THE NEW SITE + THIS WILL REMAIN AN ARCHIVE.

PLEASE FOLLOW 3 JEWELS FOR THE LATEST MUSINGS ABOUT MOVEMENT + MINDFULNESS + MEDITATION!

I offer my deepest gratitude to all who have supported +
followed my journey as dharma yoga arts over the years.