Ever find yourself looking into a pond, river, or lake's waters? When there is wind, and turbulence creating motion it tends to make the water muddy. Reducing visibility, and the certainty of wait lies beneath. I don't know about you all, but I really don't want to be stepping into those uncharted water where I cannot see what might be lurking right under the surface.
Now, imagining that water on a still calm day. No wind disturbance, no motion. The silt and mud settled on the bottom allowing you to see everything with crystal clarity. Your reflection, and that of everything around you is visible.
Lastly, let us go a bit further and allow ourselves to imagine ourselves as that body of water. When we are rushing, harried, overly stressed, and unfocused there is turbulence. Thoughts may become muddy, swirling around and clarity disappears.
When we find ourselves feeling this way, the best practice to calm the waters is to find the stillness that Mindfulness offers.
Taking simply a few moments, or, frankly longer if that is needed, and allow yourself simply to sit. Without doing anything but allowing your awareness to just observe your breath, and the thoughts that cloud the mind. At first, this can be difficult, much like stepping into those waters where everything is unseen, no bottom in sight. I'm not going to tell you it will be easy, the mind has it's own plans, and this may be uncomfortable. Through staying the course, watching the thoughts, if a thought follows that thought, and simply noticing you had them-but then letting them go by without attaching to them begins to bring calm, and eventually clarity. The thoughts will start to settle, and in that stillness there is clarity.
If you ever want to create a tangible illustration of this, or have a child you want to demonstrate this concept to, try making a Mindfulness Jar. Using a mason jar, add some glitter glue, ( I like the fine stuff) 1/4 cup of vegetable glycerin placing them in the jar. Add hot water (please be careful, the glass can be extremely hot) and fill half way, stirring. Fill to almost top. Wait until it is cool prior to gluing the lid in place.
When you shake it the glitter suspends in the liquid representing 'all those pretty thoughts' and as you sit and just watch, those thoughts settle-and there is clarity.
I hope you try it
If you live in many regions of the Northern part of the U.S., you may notice the occasional butterfly floating dreamily in no specific direction, being taken about by the winds. My wild pollinator garden has begun to dry and brown, as the plants go to seed.....preparing. The mornings are cooler, the mist visible. The change of the season is upon us for all to see, even though the late afternoon warmth has been telling us otherwise.
We also are effected by seasonal change. As we move from Summer-Pitta, or Fire season that accumulated heat that we may have needs to be released so that we can move into fall prepared and feeling healthy. Ever notice Mother Nature gives us what is needed at the right time? Seasonal fruits come at the rescue , particularly apples. They aid in ridding the body of excess Pitta, add fiber to help the digestion clean house as it is to prepare for the dietary changes of the coming season. Farmers Market fare is there for the taking with corn (cooling to Pitta, and artistic array of squashes. If we don't rid the body of the warm,wet heat, and the cooler winds of Autumn blow, we may wind up with an unwelcome case of congestion.
Moving into Autumn-Air- Vata Season can be a sensory experience. Colors, scents, and experiences all around. This also can bring one out of balance. As my garden is drying, so does our body. The skin, mucous membranes begin to respond to the cooler, drier air. As the butterfly floats on the breeze appearing to have no direction, we too may get caught up in the business of the season and lose ours as well. The way to survive the seasonal change is by staying balanced with it.
Ayurveda tells us opposites cure. Vata is light, cold, and mobile. When in balance one may be energetic and expressive. But if we do not support the seasonal changes within, the Air of Vata can become loss of focus, ( think of our friend the butterfly) dehydration and constipation from the drying out, and very often anxious without the support of routine. Rising with the sun, and retiring by 10 PM will be sure that you get adequate rest. The practice of Abyanga, or self oil massage will keep the skin moist and supple, and prevent it from drying like the leaves. Transitioning to warm and moist foods such as soups and stews as well as root vegetables with their sweetness will help ground you and make for happy digestion. Small changes go a long way, we just need to implement them to notice the big difference they make.
Taking a few moments daily for your own meditation and mindfulness check in will also be supportive in keeping you focused, calm, and in tune with both your inner season as well. Try the following practice
Allow yourself to sit. Perhaps with a mug a warm cinnamon ginger tea. Outside if possible. Close the eyes for a moment, and take in the sensory experience. Breath in and notice the breath in the abdomen, as the navel moves away from the spine and gently contracts. Just being in the experience without changing it. Notice if your mind is racing with thoughts or it stays focused in the breath. Perhaps you can let the awareness travel out to the periphery of your body as you notice the skin-perhaps the air moving gently across it, and if it feels dry or moist. And then allow yourself to travel further to the sounds and scents around you, noticing each. Spending a moment here, and then return to yourself. Open the eyes and take in the sights and sensory experiences of the season.....and if your lucky, you may just catch a glimpse of a last butterfly floating along as a gentle and beautiful reminder that we each have our own season.
Brightest Blessings of the Season
This coming weekend will bring the Autumn Equinox, or Mabon here. A time of balance between light and the encroaching darkness that will eventually come as the seasonal change marches on. If you are a student of Nature, you may be noticing that Mother Nature is out of balance with the extremes of weather we are experiencing globally. Or perhaps with the newness of a back to school schedule, you are finding yourself increasingly out of balance. It is time to stop, take stock of what matters, to whom it matters, and to recognize what is needed to bring that balance back for all. To simplify is to live a life more in balance. Self-inquiry as to how you can bring this intention into your day to day experience.
For me, balance is something to continuously work towards.....and that it is
not always the easiest of tasks for someone who has faced some physical challenges. To listen and notice the signs my body and mind cue me into. As I have spoken to, my practice has changed. Things that once may have been easy, I need to move with awareness to stay balanced. My day to day has changed, and I am learning to find balance in slowing down. Taking adequate time for myself to rest, to say "no, I am not available" and if I need to sit in stillness and do nothing-allowing that without feeling guilt. Observing what and how I feel gives insight to what is needed to support balanced well-being.
Ever notice times where you are easily distracted and forgetful? It is your brain telling you a respite is required. Brain break time. Or perhaps you feel depleted and just cannot deal with one more task on your ever-growing list for life? And subsequently wind up with physical symptoms like a cold? A sign from your body that you are out of balance and rest is required.
One of the most helpful practices I use and encourage is the utilization of your breath, followed by some gentle seated movements to notice and find you center so you can balance mind, body, and Spirit...…
Finding a place where you will not be disturbed for a short time. Sitting in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Take your awareness to the tip of the nose as you simply observe you breath. Notice how it feels, and where you feel it. Perhaps noticing the back of the throat as you inhale, or the lower ribs as they expand, or the back of the top of the pelvis as the diaphragm extends. Just notice.
And then look a little deeper-are the inhalation and exhalation the same? Is one more difficult than the other? Try counting 1,2,3,4 inhaling, 4, 3, 2, 1 exhaling. Simply watch and be aware of balancing the breath for a few moments and see what changes...…and then add some gentle movement.
Arm raises on the inhale, releasing on the exhale with the breath guiding the movements.
Perhaps seated cat/cow lifting the sternum on the inhale, pressing and rounding the thoracic spine as the exhale drops the chin. Letting the slow and balanced breath lead you as you move.
And then bringing the hands so that one is gently resting on the heart with the other on the belly. Using the hands to connect to how the breath moves, ebbing and flowing gently like the tide...…noticing how just a few moments can be profound in enhancing your well-being.
A simple practice, a few moments in your day. But like the ocean can make us feel rejuvenated, so can our breath. It can keep you balanced, healthy, and perhaps, enrich your experiences of daily life.
You may, these days, out of the corner of your eye catch glimpses of color as you notice the trees beginning to drop a few tired leaves as they prepare for seasonal change. If you know me personally, Autumn is most positively my favorite time of year, hands down.
This year, there is so very much change. I am ever so blessed to be welcoming two grandsons this November.....10 days apart. It is going to be busy, miraculous, and preparations underway, as well as some concerns to be sure the mommies stay healthy. A health scare for one, and some ensuing craziness has left me feeling a bit ungrounded-as much as I practice mindfulness, and some anxiety that all is well as I wait to meet them. I am blown away by the almost cosmic timing, and the fact that my family genetically births girls, and bam- we now have boys! The birth of my book, has also happened and it is an amazing time.
I have also had a few health issues of my own, which have changed my practice, and while frustrating, these challenges are my teachers at the moment-but my personal practice has been transmuted, and changed. It has enabled me to find my roots again, and much like the trees, change with the season by gracefully accepting and letting go of what is no longer of service.
But, this IS the practice-to be able to come back to the roots of my practice to help me stay present in these times of change, growth, and uncertainty. To find acceptance with grace. Even writing my blog fell to the wayside for some time, and I am making it a practice to come back to and allow my thoughts to become words.
So, I offer you, dear readers, what is called in Yogic tradition a "Bhavana", or intention of the heart in the form of a meditative offering, with suggestions for a practice to follow. My hope for you, is that you allow change to happen and let go of any expectation and revel in the changes in your own season.
Allow yourself to find a comfortable seat, perhaps closing the eyes. Focus your awareness to the Root Chakra, where you connect to the Earth. Draw the breath up as though you were a tree taking nourishment, and send the breath back to the ground and feel the strength of the connection. spend a moment or so, just noticing. Let the hands rest upon the knees, palms up, thumb, ring, and pinky fingers connected with peace fingers extended in Prana Mudra. Draw and assimilate the energy of change. And then listen....allow the senses to slowly reach out beyond your physical parameters. Notice the scents, sounds, and feel of change all around you. Feel a shifting in the energies around you, and as you breathe, notice with awareness how you are in the moment. Looking within and see yourself releasing those tired leaves in life that no longer serve, so that you can move ahead with grace and ease into a new season of life. Affirming " I let go so that I can grow anew, I draw strength from my roots."
May your life be as colorful as the Autumn leaves
It For those of you that may be aware, I just returned from the Himalayan Institute, where I facilitated a training for children's yoga teachers to be for Yogachild. An awesome experience , but glad to be home with my ever-loving sidekick with four legs.
If you are anything like me, whenever you are able to experience a seminar, or are in learning/teaching mode, it gets the brain going, and also reiterates things you know but aren't always at the forefront-or things that are overlooked .
We teach "whole Body Listening" as part of our curriculum. (You may, or may not be saying wait-how is that possible, my ears are on my head?) But, I am hoping that you have an inkling of the actual meaning of the phrase. There are six ways to listen with your whole body....
1. Your Eyes, to look at the person, and REALLY SEE them
2. Your Heart, to EMPATHIZE with what they are saying
3. Your Body, to be STILL and hold the space
4. Your Ears to actually HEAR what the person is saying
5. Your Hands, to GESTURE that you hear them
6. Your Mind to really FOCUS on and process what is being said
You could also add your Mouth, to be quiet, while they say their words.
We all have an inherent need to be seen and heard. It validates to us that we matter, that others want to hear what we have to say. It feels good. It gives a sense of belonging.
Take that out into the world, and in this modern incarnation, it is not happening very often. Imagine going out to visit with an old friend. You are so excited, and have so much to say. When you come together, it doesn't go that way. Words are said, and while that is happening, there is not eye contact. You say something and the friend glosses right over, not acknowledging what you have to say. They are constantly on their phone, flipping through pictures, and social media. Simply put, It does not feel good, and yes it has actually happened to me- and it downright sucks! It made me want to scream "don't you hear me?"; and made me feel like I didn't matter-it hurt.
Perhaps, you finally get angry, or just shut down. And it seems to be more and more the norm. People will be in the same space, yet you wouldn't even know by the body language, the constant presence of the devices we all carry around, and the apparent lack of actual connection. It's kind of like the teller at the bank that asks how your day is going......it is just words without true connection most of the time. Just watch the people you observe out in public, it is epidemic. We are all guilty, I think, to some degree of empty "conversation" without connection.
Humans are social creatures. We thrive when we are in groups, especially of like-minded individuals. It supports our inner being, and having your words heard on a deeper level, activates those feel good hormones. The heart and mind connection is strengthened. Especially for the generation of children that are watching the behavior we adults emulate, we must make the effort to take the time to make your conversations meaningful. We are all busy, but the pause you take is pregnant with possibility to see each other, really see. To stop, be still, put down the cell and look into the eyes of the person that may really have something important to say or emotions to release, and hold space for their words. Focus on them, nothing else really matters in that moment. You might think that it is insignificant, but to the "other" it is monumental. Imagine a not being truly there for someone, and then them passing on. Being present for each other is a gift of shared experience. It will enrich your day to day relationships, and the more you do it, the more it will become your way of being.
To quote Baba Ram Dass-
"Be Here Now"
It's all you got.
The Moon. Mysterious, magical, beautiful moon. We are pulled by it's tides, and they impact both our way of behaving and emotions. We are about to experience what is being hailed as "the Eclipse of Our Lifetimes." There is a sense of apprehension, the electricity in the air is tangible. And just because you cannot visually see it, doesn't mean you won't feel or be effected by the sheer power of this one.
It is said in the Wise Woman Tradition, "As Above, So Below." and what is happening in the heavens manifests here on Earth. And right now, there are some pretty significant players lining up in the sky to create challenges, changes, and catalysts. Take a walk outside, watch the news, you'll see what I mean...…..interactions, have been, interesting to say the least.
This eclipse is in my sign, Aquarius. And, I am finding directional changes in the past 48 hours, literally hour by hour. It has been rapid fire, with nothing to do, really, follow it. Aquarius, the mover and shaker is ruled by Uranus, and their cold, changeable nature asks us to release and be unattached, while the Sun in Leo energy pushes us to bravely accept those upheavals. Mercury is retrograde, and it is letting me, and I am guessing you, to see what isn't working as we revisit it and decide to let go.
You may also be noticing a lot of anger, violence, and events of upheaval due to the red planet Mars. Notate all the fires and natural disasters, that are really exploding all over the planet? Mars is raising the fire under us, and it is testing our mettle to stay steady, and burning off what is illusory.
We are very fortunate to live in such a time, and we are here to help hold the light, and heal each other, and through the challenges we are being presented with, allow ourselves to grow. We have to do the work. Growth is painful, uncomfortable, and we fear change, but ultimately the shadow of eclipse asks us to look at the shadow of both ourselves and humanity so that we can come into the Light on the other side. Seriously, the struggle is real!
During this eclipse, EDT approximately 3:00-5:30 p.m. I recommend that you stay indoors. Pregnant women especially. It is said to fast several hours prior, and not to drink water during. (Think about the reflection of the moon) Sit in quiet meditation, perhaps light some candles and incense. Vedic scholars recommend chanting a mantra, such as one to the Supreme Light, which follows below. If not, simply sit in silence and listen to your inner voice. Afterwards, take a ritual bath with Epsom salt and lavender. Use this eclipse to find stillness in a world that is out of control, a time that is confusing, to connect to the Collective Consciousness so that we may light the way...….Peace With Ourselves, Peace with Each Other, Peace for the World.
"OM HREEM HAMSA SO'HAM SWAHA"
A story broke locally here the other day about Pen State University's Outing Club no longer being allowed outside based on a "descision" by administration, and "deemed to be to dangerous." Going down the rabbit hole of information on the web, the press that they are receiving is based on oodles of paperwork to be sure of student safety, proper protocols for health and safety, a no alcohol policy, and more. And while these seem obvious inclusions to any rock climbing or kayaking expedition, more and more frequently it seems like the great outdoors and the education it gives us is moving further out of our reach.
This is troublesome in so very many ways to me, for many reasons. One-it creates detachment from the Earth, her wonders, beauty. And HOW to keep her healthy. If folks don't see what is happening , they can turn a blind eye to environmental issues. Two, our children are being raised with, to quote a favorite author Richard Louv, "Nature Defecit Disorder" They are being disconnected from the natural world and the benefits it offers by spending time outdoors. Children that are exposed to green spaces. show enhanced cognitive development, Allowing exploration outdoors gives a chance to see science in action. Being barefoot in the grass, standing among the trees has been shown to reduce stress hormones and boost immunity. In a world where a young boy has been quoted in the above book to say his "favorite place is indoors because that's where all the plugs are" that is pretty huge. Most humans spend 90% of their time indoors.....that is saying something, and it doesn't bode well. Indoors we are being deprived of something miraculous . Getting dirty , being exposed to the panacea of natural organisms in the soil strengthen the immune system. Climbing, hiking and exploring build physical strength. Looking for rocks teaches geology, and foraging for plants shows the medicine and food that exist right in our backyard .
Fear of injury ( or the lawsuit that can follow) on an outdoor excursion, the unpredictability of environmental conditions, or the disease of our age-"busy" are taking us away from the healthiest prescription we can give ourselves.....a large dose of vitamin Nature.
Its healthy, it will make you happier, and....its free. A gift for us all. The acceptance is our choice.
My musings as I travel around the sun in this lifetime. I am fortunate beyond words to experience life as it comes to me. The people I meet, the experiences I have, all are my teachers. I write about nature, healing with the medicine that Panchamama offers us in the Wise Woman traditions, the connection between Mind, Body, Spirit, our children for they are the future, and how we can show them a better way through a reconnection to the Earth we all share.