Spring Series: Body As Nature

we inherited nature the moment we were born.
the moment we came into existence,
we entered the landscape of nature.
in fact, we are nature.
nature is form.
body is form.
body is nature.
nature is body.

~Zenju Earthlyn Manuel


Inspired by our Winter Immersion reading of The Way of Tenderness in which Zenju Earthlyn Manuel offers a rich contemplation on the body as nature, 3 Jewels Yoga Sangha will look deeply into practices that support understanding, healing, and renewing our relationship with the Body.

Join us for this 3-week series:
11 – 12:30 PM
Heartdance Studio  | 1806 E. Michigan Avenue in #LoveLansing


Check back for updates to this list!

On The Five Remembrances

I am of the nature to grow old; there is no way to escape growing old.
I am of the nature to have ill health; there is no way to escape ill health.
I am of the nature to die; there is no way to escape death.
All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change; there is no way to escape being separated from them.
My actions are my only true belongings; I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
My actions are the ground upon which I stand.


On Impermanence


On Nourishment


On The Realities of The Body

for clear-seeing: On The 4 Nutriments + “8 Reasons Why I Don’t Want to Hear About Your Diet” | Everyday Feminism

“Regardless of my health status, I deserve respect at this size, which includes the right to make my own decisions about my body…

I’ve learned that the consequences of that weight cycling include greater risks for eating disorders, health problems, depression, lower self-esteem, and weight gain. So, when you keep talking about your diet, I’m just no longer interested.” ~ Judith Matz



I had a similar conversation a few days ago upon observing the pattern of an individual in my circle who is trapped in this very same cycle of dieting despair and weight loss triumphs. And on any given occasion, we will be subjected to the litany of foods they are abstaining from and the fitness program du jour they are “trialing” through in an effort to get their high school body back. I empathize with the struggle and am saddened and exhausted by the virulent self-loathing that fuels some folks’ mission to “improve” their health. So I was AUMing + AMENing when a dear friend, who is a registered dietitian, posted this article from Everyday Feminism.

In 8 Reasons Why I Don’t Want to Hear About Your Diet, Judith Matz , LCSW, breaks down the top frustrations of clients who are tired (like me) of being subjected to the mindless and harmful chatter about food, weight, and dieting that holds no regard for the deeply private struggles of others. More important, Matz offers ways to reframe these triggering conversations and to cultivate compassion and understanding for the multitude of experiences we have with our bodies.

The Buddhist Perspective

The 5th Mindfulness Training – Nourishment + Healing – reminds us to be aware of the suffering that arises from our unskillful consumption of the 4 Nutriments*: not just of Food but of Sense Impressions, Volitional Thought/Intentions, and Consciousness.

So how does it serve us to participate in conversations about the body that breed contempt, anxiety, frustration, and shame?!

What are skillful ways to discuss health and wellness?

*Note: In the Pali canon, the four nutriments are outlined in the Puttamansa Sutta, which I must warn, is a gruesome tale.

updated 7 april 2016

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.

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.

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]

special event news: conscious + fit clinic on 6/6

Ready to get Active?! Whether you’re just getting started, are rehabbing from injury, or are refreshing your fitness regime — learn the foundations of dynamic + functional movement to keep you ‪#‎CONSCIOUSandFIT‬ this summer. BONUS: Get tips to decompress + relax + sustain physical + mental well-being!

Open to All Levels. Co-taught by Tara Scott, teacher of movement + mindfulness + meditation, + Bianca Guess, certified running coach + group fitness instructor. Cost: 20/person. Location: Heartdance Studio, 1806 E. Michigan Avenue, in Lansing.



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.