for clear-seeing: “Love Your Body” | NOW Magazine

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Tiq Milan + Kim Katrin Milan | NOW Toronto Magazine (Jan 2016)

SHINING THE LIGHT

In this season of resolution-making, NOW Toronto Magazine’s LOVE YOUR BODY issue cuts through the cacophony of guilt-and-shame-inducing messages with a photo-essay project featuring folks of different abilities, shapes, ethnicities, gender identities who are celebrating the realities of their bodies in naked glory and sharing personal stories of reconciling with their bodies!

Kudos to the Radical Monarchs, an Oakland, CA-based leadership and social justice program for young girls of color, for its initiative to combat body-shaming with its #RadicalBodiesUnit! I’ve loved what they’ve shared so far to promote understanding and body positivity–especially for preteens, whose changing bodies can be the source of angst and ridicule.

In solidarity, I’m taking taking up their #AllBodiesAreGreatBodies and #LoseWeightNotHate hashtag campaigns as lead-ins for my upcoming workshop, Inviting Mindfulness: Reconciling With The Body.

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(h/t: Radical Monarchs | photo credit: Rachele Cateyes)

 

embodied practice: four foundations of mindfulness

3jewels.winterimmersion.faith1As sangha opened the 2016 Winter Immersion series last week with the 5 Spiritual Faculties, I pointed back (as I often do) to the Four Foundations of Mindfulness to anchor us in the spacious awareness of body, breath, emotions, and mental formations as we develop and strengthen Concentration and Diligence/Effort.

Here are a few resources on the Buddhist discourses on the Mindfulness of Breathing (Ānāpānasati Sutta) and the Foundations of Mindfulness (Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta). This list was originally compiled for a previous post on the wisdom of the exhale.

3 Jewels Yoga

Bhante G

Gil Fronsdal

Updated 15 February 2019

On “Building A Community of Love” – bell hooks + Thich Nhat Hanh | Lion’s Roar

“…from childhood into adulthood we are often taught misguided and false assumptions about the nature of love. Perhaps the most common false assumption about love is that love means we will not be challenged or changed.”

Sixteen years and six days have passed since this conversation between bell hooks and Thich Nhat Hanh was published. It recently resurfaced in my social media network and incredibly — in ways both unfortunate and impressive — the message is so timely, it seems as if it was written today.

Thây and hooks have both figured prominently in my journey of spiritual awakening and self-understanding. Though I only held a cursory knowledge of their connection to one another, I am following the magical-mystical thread that connects us all (and merits its own reflection). This is the interbeing they speak of, what we Buddhists touch through our practice of looking and listen deeply in order to understand, to heal, to embrace, to love.

Read the full conversation on Lion’s Roar: Building A Community of Love

toward wholeness: On Tending to ‘The Terror Within’

“Most of us are unaware of the extent of the fear that we carry. Fear builds upon itself, or more precisely, fear creates more fear. As a result, our accumulated fear becomes a deep-seated terror that is challenging to uproot. If we view fear as terror—as a pervasive human condition rather than one bound to singular events, and incidents—we are more likely to feel the urgency of attending to it. We constantly speak of terrorism in the world, but we don’t necessarily acknowledge the terror that has invaded our inner worlds. Instead, we present ourselves as brave or courageous…

How can we continue to release terror?

Surely, it doesn’t work to try to unload the entire mass of fear inside at once.

We can release terror moment by moment, bit by bit.

In meditation we learn to cultivate and stretch the moments of being unencumbered, those places of non-suffering. We can experience the state of non-suffering with each breath, moment by moment, breathing in and breathing out.

In meditation we feel the fear without having to do anything about it in the moment. We simply breathe. There is no past or future. We are not harming or being harmed. The terror within is being attended to in a gentle way. There may be tears or trembling. We are alive.”

~ Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

Read Zenju’s full article on Tricycle: The Terror Within

zen + the art of celebrating your dopeness

Don’t let this stop you from reveling in
your own real, hard-won dopeness,
or from believing in yourself…

But does everyone else need to know?
Are you still dope if no one hears you say it?

Our lives have meaning beyond the public gaze. In the intimate spaces that we do not share with the online world is a life on our own terms, in the company of un-Instagrammed friends at un-tweeted gatherings, where we remember that being truly known is reserved for the people who might not even know our Twitter handle.

~ Rebecca Carroll

 

Without question, our lives do not have to pass the public’s litmus test of “likes,” “shares,” or “Amens” to be full, rich, valued, and meaningful. We all wish to be understood and embraced. To be heard and seen means we have a voice and a visible presence. Together these factors forge the life-affirming human need for connection. With family and friends, being seen, heard, understood and embraced is the grounds for skillful communication and nurturing healthy loving relationships. In community and professional spaces, this is the grounds for expanding one’s opportunities, solidifying partnerships or collaborations, and establishing one’s capacity to contribute in meaningful ways.

In social media? Well, I hold the same questions and frustrations as Ms. Carroll about the trend that conflates self-trumpeting oversharing with being authentic, vulnerable, and transparent. There are many a comment, photo, tweet of mine that have gone unpublished when, pausing to give space for a second thought, I wondered if it was necessary, helpful, true, and kind? Even when my “idea” meets those criteria of skillful communication, the ancient spiritual wisdom frequently prevails. These four gates of speech are the touchstone I use for cultivating skillful communication whether in private personal spaces or the public sphere. To relinquish thoughts, images, perceptions and emotionally-driven ideas is a way of strengthening non-attachment and equanimity.

When a thought is unshakable, I am moved to share. I do so in full recognition that there is power in curating galleries of images that represent our wholeness.

Especially for women of color who advocate holistic health and wellness, mental health awareness, LGBTQ inclusivity, and social justice.

Especially when mainstream media feeds us heaping troughs of deep suffering.

Let us be saavy enough to cut through the false presentations and attention-hungry pretentiousness. Let us commit to skillful communication and check our intentions before we make public record of our mental formations. Let us flood the atmosphere with authenticity, integrity, kindness, and peace. Let us continue to transform social media and reclaim the space to express our wholeness, vitality, beauty and joy.

3jewels.viorejoices
This image is a tribute to my dear friend + spiritual sista, Vi, in honor of her 30th birthday!

Read Rebecca Carroll’s full article, “The Digital Wellness Charade,” on TheGuardian.com.

embodied practice: Zenju’s Meditation on Surviving Acts of Hatred

In the wake of the Charleston massacre, I led a dharma discussion for my sangha, Lansing Area Mindfulness Community, on being ‪‎good spiritual friends‬ and reflected on ways we can take care of ourselves and one another in the face of racism, bias, and injustice. I shared passages from Zenju Earthlyn Manuel’s book, The Way of Tenderness, which I had been studying since its release last winter, and invited all to deeply penetrate the body as nature:

“Seeing body as nature is to directly see form
as nature, as of the earth.

It is to see the pure form of life without the distortions…
Rage springs up when certain embodied forms of life–blackness, queerness, and so on
–are not recognized and honored as part of nature.”

Once again, Zenju offers healing wisdom through an embodied practice of breathing. I hope you will share this far and wide with others who are seeking to reconcile with and find refuge within the body…as nature, as home:

“May the great light of this Earth surround me,
May I be released from past harm and imposed hatred.
May I come to recognize my existence in the true nature of life.
May I come back to this breath, to this body,
as the sacred place in which I remain awake

and connected to the fragrance and taste of liberation.”

May our healing continue…

Read Zenju’s full post here:  I Can Breathe: A Meditation on Surviving Acts of Hatred

embodied wisdom: commentary on “Choosing the Right Running Shoes – NYTimes.com”

“Perhaps most unexpected, running shoes designed to somehow “fix” someone’s running form turned out often to be ineffective and even counter-productive.”

~ Gretchen Reynolds | NYTimes.com

Shin splints, patellofemoral syndrome (aka runner’s knee), a broken toe, stress fracture of the foot, a sprained ankle, a strained piriformis, sciatica, chronic hip and sacroiliac pain…and this list only covers my lower half!

Mine is a body that has sustained and, thankfully, recovered from numerous injuries.

With the exception of fracturing my foot after jumping cross-legged off a cement post when I was 8 (and apparently crazy), I can trace all of my physical dysfunctions and subsequent recurring pain back to the three years I spent on my high school track team hurling a shotput and discus across fields. I suffered the consequences of overuse and repetitive stress from being under-coached and under-conditioned (the inequities in girls’ training and conditioning in sports is a topic for another post) well into my 30s.

No single pair of shoes or orthotics — whether those prescribed and specially-designed for my feet by two different podiatrists as well as the “over-the-counter” from a footwear store — successfully resolved my bouts with pain. I’d get temporary relief then the pain would resurface and continue migrate between my traumatized body parts (shoulder, hip, sacrum, leg) with varying levels of intensity and duration. Finally, two years after pregnancy, childbirth, and the ensuing exertions of parenting had magnified these strains, I could no longer live with short-term fixes that only addressed the afflicted area of the moment.

I needed and ultimately benefited from a holistic approach to rehabbing my body. I worked on realigning my pelvis; strengthening and stabilizing my deep core muscles, hips, shoulders, and feet; mobilizing strained tissues with massage; and maintaining/returning to a neutral posture throughout my day.

I’m not saying that shoes aren’t a factor at all. But I don’t think it’s a wise practice to focus so much on what we put on our feet while neglecting to pay attention to how we take care of our feet and the rest of our body.

Full disclosure. I’m a skeptical/mindful consumer and am fully aware that shoe companies have a vested interest in our buying new shoes every few months. So I challenged my own rehab doctors with questions about the validity of the commonly circulated advice to swap our running shoes out after 300 – 500 miles. The response was non-committal — it may be more of an individual choice based on one’s biomechanics and how quickly they wear down shoes.

My bottom line.
Be the expert of your own body! Become fluent in the messages it relays through sensations of pain, fatigue and imbalance as well as those of strength, freedom of movement, stamina, and well-being. Keep testing out what’s true for you!

Read more about the research on biomechanics and running shoes via the NYTimes.com: Choosing The Right Running Shoes.