words to live by | mushim patricia ikeda

Great Vow for Mindful Activists

Aware of suffering and injustice,
[tara scott], am working to create
a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world.
I promise, for the benefit of all,
to practice self-care, mindfulness, healing, and joy.
I vow to not burn out.

Burnout and self-sacrifice, the paradigm of the lone hero who takes nothing for herself and gives everything to others, injure all of us who are trying to bring the dharma into everyday lay life through communities of transformative well-being, where the exchange of self for other is re-envisioned as the care of self in service to the community. The longer we live, the healthier we are; the happier we feel, the more we can gain the experience and wisdom needed to contribute toward a collective reimagining of relationships, education, work, and play.

~Mushim Patricia Ikeda
I Vow Not To Burn Out via Lion’s Roar
related gem: spirituality, social justice + healing spaces

Special Event [Nov 1st]: Inviting Mindfulness: Reconciling With The Body


20/person through October 20
25/person after October 20

REGISTER NOW: Just B Yoga Workshops

So long as we are in conflict with the body,
we cannot have peace of mind.
~ Georg Feuerstein

Reconciling with the Body is a practice of learning to acknowledge, witness, accept and embrace our body as it is in this moment.

We learn to inhabit our body with the full awareness of its nature to change — to age, to become ill or injured, and to experience limitations.

We learn to take care of the difficult feelings that arise in the face of these changes and to tend to ourselves with great tenderness.

We look deeply into our self-perceptions and, with diligent effort, patience and kindness, begin to release beliefs that are harmful or no longer true.

From this place of skillful understanding, we can explore our capacity to nourish ourselves with meaningful movements that restore or inspire new ways of seeing, thinking about, and caring for our bodies.

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

moving in the spirit of self-love

Health is not an optimal way to make physical activity relevant and compelling enough for most people to prioritize in their hectic lives…We should count any and every opportunity to move that exists in the space of our lives as valid movement worth doing.

~ Dr. Michelle Segar

I taught group fitness classes in an athletic center for 7 years and more or less squandered the “perk” of having a free membership. Much of it was due to the logistics of time and distance: managing a roster of classes taught at multiple locations, coordinating childcare, and being a single-car family with a staggered lineup of activities. The rest: my hard-to-shake sentiment that gyms suck!

But when the frenzy of a hectic period collided with the pressures of meeting everyone else’s needs before my own, I knew that soothing myself with a 20-minute meditation practice wouldn’t be effective. So I decided to burn off the stress with some tension-busting cardio. However, instead of feeling relaxed and restored, I found myself getting increasingly disgruntled.

Creeping in was the crazy-making noise of negative self-talk! I replayed frustrations and common scenarios that had (or would) hijacked my self-care routine; imagined the endless hours and superhero dose of willpower it would take to reach my pre-pregnancy weight; and lamented how little I had appreciated my body in the past. Then a clear voice cut through the chatter. Enough! This is not healthy. I jumped off the elliptical and headed straight to the sanctuary of my favorite park where sunshine, open air, and quiet woods always nourished my sense of sanity and well-being.

trailblazing in the rain

As a practitioner and advocate of the principles of mindfulness, I recognized in that moment that exercising in a state of duress and dissatisfaction would only feed my discontent. I, like so many others, transformed what is intended to be an endeavor to improve health into an act of self-violence. Yes, even the seemingly noble goal of self-improvement can be fraught with violence. The struggling and striving to be better — to be or have enticingly “more than” in this area or “less than” in another — can lead us to unsavory places. Comparing, criticizing, loathing, harming. For me, the gym can be a hostile space where self-contempt breeds like staph bacteria on a locker room floor. Far too many people are hating themselves into exercising.

I vowed from then on to only move in the spirit of self-love: to saturate every cell and fiber with affirming thoughts and feelings; to strengthen and energize body, heart and mind with meaningful activities (like walking in nature) that made my muscles sing. I refused to participate in or propagate the “self-improvement hustle” (inescapable in the fitness industry and, well, our culture in general) and recommitted myself to cultivating self-understanding. A core tenet of my spiritual traditional, it is through diligently seeking to know ourselves that we can make skillful and compassionate choices. When I have a case of the blahs, I listen deeply to take the appropriate course of action: sometimes it means I rest and turn off my brain, at other times it signals that I must hit the trail for a run to unravel tensions and uplift my spirit.

Reframing exercise in this way enabled me to integrate it more consistently into each busy day. It no longer felt like an agonizing chore that generated guilt if I had to keep putting off (like the clean basket of laundry that takes days to fold, hang and stow). Other key factors in making exercise more sustainable for me:

1) Letting my partner know just how essential it was to my well-being (teaching classes did not count) and requesting extra support from him around scheduling adequate time for self-care. Bonus: It proved to be beneficial for both our endeavors to correct physical imbalances and rehab from long-standing injuries.

2) Turning exercise into a social event. Aside from being an ambassador of a running group, where organizing and leading weekly runs kept me accountable to my commitment to train several days a week, I began setting up walking dates with my girlfriends. Bonus: We share news, laugh, contemplate, problem-solve, air grievances, blow off steam and…save money we’d spend on food and beer!

The gym is still not my first choice — not when the park is closer and free — but I’m now fully inoculated against the toxicity I once experienced there. Running on the treadmill or lifting weights, I am fortifying myself with a deep care and respect for the vitality this body of mine possesses.

Read more about Dr. Segar’s research on reframing exercise:  NYT.com | Rethinking Exercise as a Source of Immediate Rewards
[updated on 30 March 2016]

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!

The Girl Who Got Up | TashmicaTorok.com

A truth about meditation: it can be uncomfortable or even excruciating, as my friend Tashmica so eloquently shares below.

First we meet the process of physically conditioning our bodies to find and sustain a steady posture (practice note: for me, “conditioning” means understanding how to take care of the tensions in the body not torturing ourselves to endure a rigid alignment that can create more distress). Holding the body through sitting meditation, in particular, takes time…just as training the body to walk a half marathon takes time, diligence and patience.

What we may be surprised to learn is that meditation is not “passive.” Rather, I’ve found it more accurate to frame meditation as I would yoga asana — in which we discover that the opposite of being active is not being passive; it is the more complex and dynamic energy of being receptive.

Sitting within the quiet space of receptivity, we open up to the possibility of encountering the hidden/neglected/protected parts of ourselves. With that, difficulties and discomforts may arise well before any insights or understanding that we may be longing for.

How, then, do we take care of ourselves through those moments when we discover that this practice, which is so often extolled for delivering peace, actually puts us face-to-face with the stunning reality that cultivating peace is a process…a training, not unlike a marathon. Tending to our hearts and minds requires our patience, diligence, and self-compassion.

I love that Tashmica is choosing not to give up but to keep getting up!

The Women We Are [promo video]: Community Conversation “On Reconciling With The Body”

How can we cultivate the voice of self-love and devote ourselves to radical acts of self-care?
How do we tend to ourselves through the reality of our aging, changing bodies?
How can we learn to take refuge in our bodies and reclaim beauty, wellness, and strength in our own terms?

Join us on Thursday, 19 February, at 7 pm for a compassion-filled, community-centered conversation
on reconciling with the body and seeing ourselves whole!

The Women We Are is a documentary portrait project created by Amanda Grieshop.
Learn more about her work at Magpie Imagery.

embodied wisdom: 15-mile meditation

My foot, poised for motion, rests upon solid Earth.

My lungs balloon open to capture Air. An expansion that readies my heart for the journey.

Oxygen combusts into compassion. Fueled, I step into Wind’s welcoming arms.

Blade-sharp chill cuts through illusion.
Clear comprehension arises.

Movement is my refuge: those sensations, vibrating upward from sole to soul, become a massage that awakens equanimity.

Steady footfalls, rhythmic and soothing, lull mind inward.

Penetrating deeply but gently. Flushed through arteries to appendages. Aligned. Attuned.

The course (my design) landmarked by old injuries and hard-won victories in self-understanding.

A training in awareness: an inside-out, 360 degree study of my body gliding through space, covering distances immeasurable by miles.

No striving. No pursuing. (No race, no finish line, no medal.)

Simply abiding.

Cheered on by the thrumming of heart and the rejoicing of cells and muscle fibers.

Spirit soars. Boundless.

In call and response, I am guided by the synergistic conversation between my lungs and legs.

Who will lead? Walk now? Or run? They negotiate in whispers with the lumbar.

Adjustments are made to pace and posture. Muscles contract and relax in a reassuring hug.

My complex weave of supple tissues and resilient fibers, in harness, I am anchored–

Head to heart, hip to heel–as shoulder blades kiss my spine to bolster each vertebrae toward open Sky.

By my stride: 30,000 steps or so.

By my breath: a fusion of body, mind and heart.

Reclaimed. Reconciled. I am solid, steady, free. In this body. As it is.