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

move like a goddess

move like a goddess

the invitation to move like a goddess is to inhabit your body
with full awareness.

to embrace its realities.

to tend to it in sickness and health!

to find physical activities that are meaningful and nourishing.

that don’t feel like drudgery or punishment.

that make you feel strong, healthy, capable, full of joy —
absolutely alive!

it is also an invitation to reflect on how we move through
a room, a situation, a day…our one and only life.

with head held high? with heart wide open?

grounded. centered. connected.


Awakening The Goddess : A Day of Refuge for Radical Self-Care
~ co-hosted by 3 Jewels Yoga + Sybil’s Healthy Way ~

Sunday, 19 July 2015 | 12 – 4 pm

REGISTER NOW at Sybil’s Healthy Way!

#mindfulness over #madness: tending to the issues in our tissues or “the grinch tries yoga”

The Grinch had a little something extra behind that exhale!
And, yes, whether a belly-deep laugh or cry,
such a release can happen as we unlock and move tension through the body.

 

embodied practice: delighting in breath (cooling + calming)

I have found Kaki (Beak) breathing technique to be one of the simplest to teach, learn, and, most important, to make a regular part of my practice.  I use it to cool down my body when I’m running or practicing an energizing yoga sequence, to quiet and center my mind while meditating or when a task that requires my full attention, and to feel relaxed whenever I am feeling stressed.

You may practice this anywhere, at any time—sitting, standing, lying down or walking. With eyes opened or closed (as long as you’re not moving, that is!)

Begin by observing your natural breathing cycle for several moments.  Use each exhale to relax your muscles and to feel connected to the earth.  Use every inhale to create space in your body and to maintain a lengthened spine.

Relax your tongue and gently bring your lips together to form an “O” as if sipping through straw.  Allow your tongue to rest in your lower palate (perhaps touching the tip against the bottom teeth). Be sure to keep the lips softened—when pinched too tightly, you may feel deep creases in your lips and tension around your mouth and jaw.

kiiks does kaki breath.inhale
my kiddo–ever the willing model–sweetly demos “O”-shaped lips!

Slowly inhale through your mouth.  Feel the cool air flowing across your tongue. You may notice a sipping sound with the incoming breath, but don’t force it.

kiiks does kaki.exhale
ah, yes, to relax the mouth during the pause + smile gently sweetens the exhale!

Close your mouth. Pause briefly to retain your breath for a beat or two.
Feel the fullness of breath in your body. CAUTION: Only hold your breath for as long as it is comfortable—you should never feel any strain, dizziness or light-headedness.

When you are ready to exhale, slowly breathe out through your nose.  Feel the sense of relief in your body as it relaxes and becomes steady with this release of breath. [Allow your mouth to slowly stretch into a gentle smile, as my lil guru does above!]

Continue this breathing pattern for 5 – 10 repetitions. Inhale through your mouth with softly pursed lips; exhale through your nose with your mouth closed and relaxed. Invite the cooling sensation to spread from your tongue to the rest of your body. Allow a sense of calm and ease to prevail. As you cycle slowly and steadily through this breathing pattern, notice your mind beginning to soften, sort, and settle into a steady rhythm of awareness.

Return to your natural breathing rhythm. Spend a few moments noticing thoughts, feelings and sensations without judgment.  Delight in this quiet state of being—feeling cool, calm, and centered in body, breath and mind.

#magic + #mindfulness + #movement: the best medicine

image

The moment when I realized that the “ICKs” I’m feeling are not from sleeping too little but rather from MOVING too little! #SelfCareSunday #OnMyWayOut #TouchingTheEarth

embodied wisdom: on self-acceptance

selfacceptance.chinese calligraphy

~ from Mentoring: The Tao of Giving and Receiving Wisdom
by C.A. Huang + J. Lynch

In Body Awareness Bootcamp, practitioners are invited to “go deep to come home” and awaken clear comprehension and compassionate action (small steps, sustainable choices).  Home, to the center of the self: the heart, where the seeds of self-compassion, self-acceptance, and inner wisdom are bathed in breath and awareness. The invisible thread of breath connects body, heart and mind. As breath blossoms in the body, with our skillful effort, the heart and mind becomes synced with the steady and subtle song of breath. Space is created for all to unravel and unfold into its full expression. Toxins and tensions are freed and released. We feel rooted, connected and resilient enough to embrace our whole selves.  We gently shine the light upon the neglected parts, remembering all that makes us complete. Nothing is left out of our loving awareness. Now we freely bloom.

breathing beauty into the world: a mindfulness practice for children (who are learning to see with eyes of compassion)

Each day I rise, waking to a world of possibilities.

I breathe and smile, happy and ready to learn, grow and share.

I see the sky, sun, clouds above me.

I see the earth, plants, water below me.

I feel the air around me.

I breathe and smile, knowing that I am in the world and the world is in me.

I choose to see beauty in myself, my family, my friends, my neighbors, my teachers, my community, and all living creatures.

I choose to speak words from my heart that are true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind.

I choose to act from my heart in ways that are helpful, healthy, inspiring, and kind.

Even when I do not feel or act my best (whether I am sad, scared, confused or angry), I remember to place my hands on my heart and breathe.

I smile, knowing I can begin anew.
I can ask for help and comfort from those I trust and love.

Each night, I rest, thankful for all that I learned and shared.

I see the sky, moon, stars above me.

I see the beauty all around me. I breathe and smile, knowing that I am in the world and the world is in me.

[originally written Fall 2012 + published on dhamma4mama* 2013]

This writing has multiple sources of inspiration:
  • My experiences as an aunt, mother, and substitute teaching assistant for a preschool program;
  • My experiences as a practitioner and teacher of yoga and meditation, which is rooted in my practice of Zen Buddhism in the lineage of Thich Nhat Hanh;
  • My dear friend TaNesha Barnes, who asked me some time last year to create an affirmation for Beyond The Surface, the critical thinking and social justice academy she literally built in her own backyard!  A 21st-century embodiment of Wonder Woman, TaNesha is a mother, entrepreneur (t. barnes beauty), educator and social justice advocate with a clear heart-driven mission to empower students to become “global thinkers for equitable living.” When she recently posted the draft version of this piece (typed one late-night and stored as a memo on my BlackBerry) on Facebook, I was not only honored that she announced it would be recited daily in her upcoming program, Breathing Beauty Rites of Passages for Black Girls, but also compelled to add some long-awaited finishing touches! I am so deeply grateful to have lived, learned and grown up with TaNesha over the last 19 years and, on this 50th anniversary of the March on Washington (#MOW50), am excited to continue collaborating with her on programs that merge spirituality and wellness with social justice.

 

remembrance + reconciliation: prayers for thanksgiving

On my run this morning, I contemplated the freedom/independence “we” are celebrating as a nation today and instantly recalled this prayer of gratitude I posted for Thanksgiving on dhamma 4 mama*–my blog on parenting as a spiritual practice.

Given the complex history of the United States and the current political landscape where civil liberties of marginalized populations are continuously being threatened, there is no monolithic and concrete experience of freedom for all Americans. There’s a myth of a dream that is a nature to shift and transform just when we imagine it’s within reach.

My deepest sense of freedom came from committing to the bodhisattva path and taking refuge in the Five Mindfulness Trainings and in the Three Jewels in 2006. So today I embrace and celebrate my personal and subjective spiritual experience of freedom, which I have learned to cultivate and embody wholeheartedly through movement, mindfulness and meditation.

dhamma for mama*

Today, may we appreciate this food
and remember those who are hungry.
May we appreciate our family and friends
and remember those who are alone.
May we appreciate our health
and remember those who are sick.
May we appreciate the freedoms we have
and remember those who suffer injustice and tyranny.1

I spent Wednesday morning in our tiny kitchen blanching, boiling, carmelizing, chiffonading, chopping, cubing, dicing, sautéing, seasoning, smelling, stirring, and tasting.

As I breathedin the swirl of pungent and sweet aromas from the herbs, vegetables and meat, I breathed out loving awareness and prayers of gratitude for the gift of being able to prepare and share a Thanksgiving meal with my family. My mate and I openly acknowledged that our blessings outweighed any minor irritations that come with hosting a holiday gathering: our good health, solid relationships, comfortable home, and modest but sufficient financial resources.

I quietly returned…

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#music for #MellowOutMonday: “Retrograde” | James Blake

…for magic + mindfulness + movement + meditation

AND, most especially, to honor mercury retrograde‘s final day of madness!