6 Tips for Yoga Newbies

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Is this the year you’re getting into yoga? Congratulations! What a wonderful beginning!

 

So…being a newbie might mean that you sometimes feel a little confused, hesitant, or self-conscious about your practice. You might be asking yourself: “Am I doing this right?”

 

Working with yoga newbies is my passion. I love helping people find relaxation and confidence, as they step into the yoga world.

 

Here’s my list of 6 tips to help you get started on your unique yoga journey.

 

1. Breathing is the most important thing. 

If you’re confused about how to move or how to position your body, that’s okay. Understanding the poses will come in time. For now, simply set the goal of paying attention to your breathing throughout your yoga practice. Conscious breathing is the cornerstone of yoga. When we pay attention to our breath, there are innumerable benefits to body, mind, and spirit.

 

2. Yoga is pure love.

When we practice yoga, we say YES to a world that is full of more beauty, more love. When we practice yoga, we say yes to a world where people take care of themselves and each other. At the end of a yoga class, when we bow in namaste, we are saying “I see the goodness in you, which is the same goodness in me.” When we unite our intentions in this way, we usher in a new world—a world of love.

 

3. Five minutes is better than no minutes.

If you only have five minutes today, then why not roll out your mat and do some yoga? Getting into the regular habit of doing yoga is so amazing for our wellbeing. When I hear my students complain that their lives are too busy for yoga, I remind them that if they have five minutes, they can practice. I’d rather see someone doing five minutes every day than doing one long session per week. Each time you roll out your mat, you are building new neural pathways that reinforce the feeling that yes, you do indeed like yoga, that yoga is fun. And who knows? You just might develop a pleasant “addiction” to yoga—if we skip a day, it just feels incomplete!

 

4. Yoga is not a competition.

When you’re in a class, the aim is not to do “better” than the other students. The goal is not comparison. Rather, yoga is all about community and collaboration. When we see the woman on the mat beside us holding a beautiful, complex pose, we can compliment her after class (Instead of getting jealous that we can’t yet do that pose.) When we see the man in the back of the class struggling to attain a posture, we can mentally send him warm thoughts. After class, we can strike up conversations with our classmates. “It’s so great to see you today. How long have you been practicing yoga?” Through these simple gestures, we can actually assist our teacher in co-creating an environment where we are a supportive community, rather than merely individuals taking a class.

 

5. Yoga is not a race.

Ultimately, our practice teaches us that time is not important. In fact, we enjoy our practice most when we relax and let go of timelines. We are not trying to get somewhere by a certain date. There is no rush. Our yoga practice teaches us to breathe and surrender to the wisdom of the Now. We realize that everything we need is right here, in this moment.

 

6. Explore different classes.

There are many, many styles of yoga and many, many different teacher personalities. There are yoga classes that make you jump and sweat and there are yoga classes where you sit completely still for many minutes. There are yoga teachers that make you laugh hysterically or cry tears of relief. They are yoga teachers who are more like personal trainers and seriously kick your butt. Try different classes to get a sense of what’s out there. No need to rush the process. In time, your perfect teacher will appear. For me, when I discovered my teacher, it felt like coming home.

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Hope you enjoyed these tips, dear friends! If you’d like more inspiration for your yoga journey, please feel free to drop me a line and I’ll add you to my FREE weekly newsletter. Namaste.

Healing Trauma with Rest

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In our fast-paced modern culture, we have a need for speed. The collective psyche is a blur of BusyBusyBusy.
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To put it bluntly, this is insane behavior. It’s harmful for all of us. And, for trauma survivors in particular, the impulse to rush and push ourselves is incredibly destructive.
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In order to fully heal our trauma, we need plenty of rest.
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If you are a survivor of trauma, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, more important than rest on your to-do list. In fact, I invite you to make it your number one priority.

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After resigning from a promising academic career due to sheer exhaustion, I remember so many days of just sleeping. There was literally nothing else I could do. A blue couch became my home. My partner Robert cooked my meals and rubbed my sore, aching head. I had PTSD, migraines, depression, anxiety, candidiasis, adrenal fatigue, leaky gut syndrome, severe food/environmental allergies, eczema, and other chronic illnesses. However, somewhere inside, there was a gentle, loving voice. She was telling me that I could recover, with patience and time. She was telling me that rest was a crucial part of my healing journey.
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I’m so glad I listened.
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Learning the art of rest has been one of the most valuable lessons of my life. I cured myself of PTSD and most of my chronic conditions. (I’m still working on healing my lungs). I feel so much freedom and joy. With each year that passes, I seem to be getting younger! Each year brings more vitality and health. It’s incredible.
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And yes, I still do have difficult days on occasion. When that happens, I give myself full permission to stop what I’m doing and rest.
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I have learned the delicate art of cancelling appointments and saying “no” when I’m feeling overwhelmed.
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I wasn’t always so easygoing and relaxed, though. The healthy Anya who writes this article today is a very different person than the sick Heather who I was back then. (During my healing journey, I changed my name from Heather to Anya as a symbol of my spiritual awakening.) Back then, as Heather, I was a classic Type A personality: impatient, competitive, stressed, and constantly planning and micromanaging life. I was constantly seeking validation from the outside world. I felt little inherent worthiness inside myself. And, because of this, sleeping often felt like failure because I was judging myself by the standards of Western culture. In the West, we judge our worthiness not by our spiritual wisdom but by our ability to “get things done” in the world. Our success is judged by how productive we are. Unfortunately, in my recent travels to India, I discovered that this mindset is slowly seeping into the East as well, which is a true tragedy.
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Success means not how much money you make, but rather listening to your body. Success is not about how popular you are, but rather being brave enough to stop and sleep when you are tired. Success means not building an impressive resume, but rather being brave enough to step outside the box and learn the miracle of self-care.
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If you are on the path of healing trauma, I want you to know you can do it. I thought I would be an anxious mess forever, and now I am happy, with a thriving healing business and a circle of conscious friends who support each other. Life is good.
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As we heal from our past, we can question standard societal definitions of success. We can rewrite the standard scripts and reach for something more deeply fulfilling. We can tune into our own sense of self-worth, regardless of the opinions of others. We can find we love ourselves.
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And it is this love, this unconditional self-love, that is the core of healing trauma.

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My dear love, release the guilt and shame. That’s society’s bullshit—and you don’t need to carry that anymore!
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Please know that are not lazy if you need lots of rest right now. You are not lazy at all… in fact, you are one of the bravest people in the world. You are doing what so many do not yet have the courage to do. You are lighting the way. As you heal your trauma, you allow others to heal their trauma, too.
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Sleep is vital in the trauma healing journey. If what you need right now is 14 or 15 hours of sleep at night and lots of naps during the day, then I invite you to do so. Have compassion for yourself. Listen to your body and soul.
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I invite you to not only give yourself permission to rest but also to find a way to enjoy it. And who knows?…you just might find that rest is a delicious medicine.

This life is not the only life

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The air was July, thick with campfire smoke and dandelion. He came to my apartment. It was mid-afternoon.

His soft, long brown hair…these are now stormy waves upon my neck, face, chest. A pillow holds my thrashing head.

His lips find every…single…place. Gently yet commandingly he lowers his body, full, against mine. His form is heavy and solid. Masculine. His lips. Oh his sweet lips. Slowly, he raises his head. His face is parallel to mine, hovering.

The bedroom blinds are drawn. There’s just enough light to see the expression in his wide eyes.

I know it’s time to say something…something…because I feel a restless bubbling…a heart that is growing hotter, somehow, a flame that is rising to some strange end. Without knowing what the words mean and in one breathless exhale I say I’ve known you before! My voice sounds strange—deep and husky; it doesn’t sound like mine. His eyes melt a bit. His smile is tender. He pulls his torso upward, hips now straddling my hips. He inhales deeply and speaks. At least, this time, you don’t have to watch me die.

Everything goes black.

I have no choice at this moment but to allow his words. There is a stabbing sensation in my chest. I bring hands to my heart, twisting my torso to the side in a silent request for him to move. He does, and I curl like a fetus. There is nothing now but a black, swirling, empty hole—empty yet not empty, windy but not windy.

I am nothing.

I am a tree, blown over by the storm.

I begin to howl violently. I shake and cry, a heaping mess. A small insane child. He rests on his side, front facing my front, embracing. Thankfully, he has a thousand arms.

We hide in bed for hours. Tears, mouths, kisses. We whisper of the past, remembering details from that particular death, and others. I start to write poetry without paper. We unravel the knots by speaking them. Horseback, swords, rain. I begin to understand.

Unconditional love as the essence of yoga

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By Ram Dass

 

Unconditional love really exists in each of us. It is part of our deep inner being. It is not so much an active emotion as a state of being. It’s not “I love you” for this or that reason, not “I love you if you love me.” It’s love for no reason, love without an object. It’s just sitting in love, a love that incorporates the chair and the room and permeates everything around. The thinking mind is extinguished in love.
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If I go into the place in myself that is love and you go into the place in yourself that is love, we are together in love. Then you and I are truly in love, the state of being love. That’s the entrance to Oneness. That’s the space I entered when I met my guru.

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Years ago in India I was sitting in the courtyard of the little temple in the Himalayan foothills. Thirty or forty of us were there around my guru, Maharaji. This old man wrapped in a plaid blanket was sitting on a plank bed, and for a brief uncommon interval everyone had fallen silent. It was a meditative quiet, like an open field on a windless day or a deep clear lake without a ripple. Waves of love radiated toward me, washing over me like a gentle surf on a tropical shore, immersing me, rocking me, caressing my soul, infinitely accepting and open.
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I was nearly overcome, on the verge of tears, so grateful and so full of joy it was hard to believe it was happening. Opening my eyes, I looked around, and I could feel that everyone else around me was experiencing the same thing. I looked over at my guru. He was just sitting here, looking around, not doing anything. It was just his being, shining like the sun equally on everyone. It wasn’t directed at anyone in particular. For him it was nothing special, just his own nature.
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This love is like sunshine, a natural force, a completion of what is, a bliss that permeates every particle of existence. In Sanskrit it’s called sat-cit-ananda, “truth-consciousness-bliss,” the bliss of consciousness of existence. That vibrational field of ananda love permeates everything; everything in that vibration is in love. It’s a different state of being beyond the mind. We were transported by Maharaj’s love from one vibrational level to another, from the ego to the soul level. When Maharaji brought me to my soul through that love, my mind just stopped working. Perhaps that’s why unconditional love is so hard to describe, and why the best descriptions come from mystic poets. Most of our descriptions are from the point of view of conditional love, from an interpersonal standpoint that just dissolves in that unconditioned place.
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When Maharaji was near me, I was bathed in that love.
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 This article, initially titled “How does unconditional love help us rediscover our souls?” was originally published on RamDass.Org


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Ram Dass
is an American spiritual teacher, yogi, and author of many books such as Be Here Now and Walking Each Other Home.

Healing Trauma by Listening to Your Body

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This topic is important for everyone.  Chances are, we ALL have some layer of information that our body is carrying that doesn’t feel good.  

 

Trauma can manifest in the body in many different ways: tightness, discomfort, pain, and dis-ease to name a few.  

 

The word “trauma” may evoke immediate thoughts of abuse and molestation. However, trauma may also have been a time in sixth grade when a bully knocked your books out of your arms and laughed; it may have been when a parent yelled at you to stop singing because they had a headache; or maybe it was a time when you were told you were ugly or not good enough.  Any of these types of experiences, and many more, can cause your body to hold onto stuck energy.

 

Trauma is when we have stuck energy in the body. 

 

Trauma can be initiated by many circumstances, including:

  • Rape, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse
  • Experiences in war
  • Being bullied
  • Car accidents, falls, surgeries
  • Sports accidents
  • Being shamed, yelled at, teased
  • Having emotional or physical support withheld; parents not physically present;  parents present but not emotionally available

 

Having these events happen does not automatically mean your body will hang onto it as trauma. It’s all about how it is met in the moment and how the body and brain responds.  An event that has no long-term effect for one person can create trauma in another, or an event that causes one type of response in one person can cause a completely different type of response in another. (An excellent example of this is the car accident story with Ute and Stan in Chapter 14 of van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.)

 

The events that happen in our life intensely shape our bodies and our minds and drive our actions into adulthood.  Sometimes the events that are particularly mysterious or terrorizing are the ones that happen in the early stages of life as our brains and bodies are newly developing, often before we have a way to verbalize what’s happening. 

 

Peter A. Levine, PhD, pioneer in the field of trauma and developer of the Somatic Experiencing method, describes how we can heal trauma through simple awareness of body sensations:

 

“I learned that it was unnecessary to dredge up old memories and relive their emotional pain to heal trauma. In fact, severe emotional pain can be re-traumatizing. What we need to do to be freed from our symptoms and fears is to arouse our deep physiological resources and consciously utilize them. If we remain ignorant of our power to change the course of our instinctual responses in a proactive rather than reactive way, we will continue being imprisoned and in pain.” (from Waking the Tiger, page 31)

 

I have seen in my work with my own body, and in my work over the years in thousands of hours with clients, a new way of looking at trauma.  I’ve seen over and over that all it really comes down to is this:

 

  • Are you in your body?
  • Are you in the present moment? Is your body on-line? (Brain research by van Der Kolk has shown that certain areas of the brain shut down during trauma. These areas must remain on-line to be able to heal from trauma. Therapy won’t work if we keep being pulled back into the past.  We must be grounded in the present moment: this opens up the possibility of deeply knowing, at a body level, that the horrible events belong in the past.)
  • Are you listening to your body?  (Slowing down)
  • Would you like to make a change? (Honoring free will)
  • Are you willing to feel? (To balance the feeling-heart with the thinking-mind)

 

When all of those answers are a “Yes,” then we can release patterns and rewrite the old scripts that we have been reliving. It often initially helps to have some guidance from someone who can hold safe space for us; but, in time, much of the work can be done alone.

 

We can let ourselves go into the wisdom of our body. All the wisdom’s in there.

 

We also don’t need to feel like we’re stuck in the box of a diagnosis forever. Our body’s capacity to heal itself, to align with its original template of well-being, is immense.

 

It’s really about listening to the guidance and wisdom of the body, and the willingness to be in it.

 

So, no matter what name we give our past pain, I invite you to slow down and take note. When your body gives you a message, listen to it.

 

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Leslie Blackburn, MS, RCST® woke up from a lifetime of “holding on, numbing out and keeping people out” to reconnect with her body, her power and deepest authentic purpose in life.  In that journey from fifteen years in corporate engineering to now ten years as Sacred Sexual Healer & Transformational Guide, she birthed her own unique medicine informed by the wisdom of a wide array of teachers and experiences. Leslie has worked with and inspired thousands of people on the path of Sacred Sexuality, she’s honed ways to liberate others through her story, spiritual teachings and deeply embodied experiential practices. She now offers a path of connecting with your own deep clarity and soul purpose through sexual empowerment.  Leslie bridges the realms to bring deep mystery teachings back into our world from a place of clarity, joy, wisdom and giggles so that we create a culture of love and respect for honoring ourselves, our bodies, each other and the planet.  Love in Action!

 

Leslie offers private sessions to support you to connect with and listen to your body.  She also offers a 3 month leadership and sexual empowerment program supporting sexuality educators and somatic professionals to feel joy and clarity on their soul purpose, learn new tools and build their skills in supporting other’s sexual empowerment.

 

Also, for more about this topic and much more, stay tuned for her upcoming book “Sacred Sexuality: Listening to Your Body.” Subscribe at her website for notice of its release at http://www.LeslieBlackburn.com

 

A Brief History of My Spiritual Awakening

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In childhood, I’d always had a sense that I was different. I didn’t quite fit. I remember the adults around me being obsessed with sports and money—but it all seemed so boring to me. I remember my friends desperately striving to get good grades at school—while I couldn’t care less. I slept through most classes. What I wanted, rather, was to hug people, to play, to explore, to laugh, and to learn about love and relationships… unfortunately, these were not on the curriculum.
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As a kid, I longed for creative expression. I remember dancing silly, even somewhat sexual dances in front of my bedroom mirror: I was utterly fascinated by how my body would move. I remember skipping school in favor of writing long, epic poems and randomly weird stories. I remember creating incredible, off-the-cuff songs that nobody heard but me.
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And I remember the mystical moments, too. Moments when there wasn’t any explanation. Like when my stuffed animals and dolls would move by themselves. Or when I would dream something and then it would come true. I particularly loved those lucid dreams on lazy Saturday mornings, where I’d float outside my body and be taught by angels.

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And, yet, despite all of theses amazing experiences, I suffered deep depression. As my childhood years passed into young adulthood, I began to slip more and more into a coma of forgetfulness. I entered the mass delusion, the Matrix. I believed the advertising and made sure my makeup was perfect. I hated my small breasts and wanted plastic surgery.

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And then comes a poignant afternoon. I am in my early twenties, smoking a very potent strain of cannabis. Leanne, a dear friend of mine, is playing guitar by my side. She is happy and carefree. I am watching the light dance on the wall from a nearby curtained window. All of a sudden, I erupt into a rush of giggles! I begin shaking and rocking with utter joy! As Leanne watches in amazement, my giggles soon turn into howls. I begin to slap the table like a madwoman, gasping for breath, delirious in bliss. I know my friend is confused, so I try to force my mouth to make the words, to try to somehow explain to her what’s going on, but I just can’t. There is no way I can explain it in words. Some kind of veil is being pierced. I have the thought: “Everything they told me about Jesus was a lie.”

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This is the moment that began my journey as a mystic. The moment when I moved from religion to spirituality. It was the first crack. And although I didn’t stay “high” (as in, higher consciousness) and soon resumed the normalcy of my depressed life, the shell of my ego was beginning to crack.
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The crack became a full-fledged break about five years later. On this particular afternoon, I am sick in bed (as usual). Browsing through documentaries on Netflix, I discover this offbeat documentary called The Workshop. It’s about a spiritual teacher named Paul Lowe. On the cover of the documentary are a bunch of naked people, smiling and making all sorts of quirky faces. Even though what initially attracts me to click on the documentary is an interest in the nude retreat he leads, where he teaches about the value of radical honesty, I cannot help but be captivated by his deeper mystical message. He keeps saying: “Be here now. Right now. Don’t be anywhere else—just now. In this moment.”

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Although my brain is accustomed to high logic (I am in graduate school at the time, fully absorbed in the “truth” of the scientific method), his simple words somehow penetrate me. A wave of palpable relief fills my body. I slowly let my head sink downward, finally resting my forehead against the softness of my palms. Inside this dark little cave, I smile to myself. I am aware of the feeling of breathing. I am aware of being alive. I distinctly realize that my thinking mind has stopped. I am present. I am in the here and now. Whoah.

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For the next two weeks, I am high without any form of drug. (This is what’s known as a temporary Kensho experience.) I wake in the morning in ecstatic bliss and my feet no longer seem to touch the pavement. All my friends and classmates ask “What happened to you???”, their eyes a twinkle of curiosity and amazement. But I cannot explain to them anything. I just know that I’m finally free and happy.

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Since those two precious moments—the first one with plant medicine and the second one with Paul—my life has been a whirlwind of revelations. I’ve befriended shamans, healers, and teachers of all kinds. I became a Reiki Master. I travelled to India and began teaching yoga. I became self-employed and wrote a book about how to create outside-the-box relationships. My life is amazing.

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I have the very clear sense that I’m being guided by a vast power. It’s not about “me.” It’s about something greater. I’ve surrendered to the Light, to the Divine Will. It’s not about the pleasure I can gain from life, rather it’s about how I can serve and how I can grow. It’s about waking up as fully as possible in this lifetime.

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In the end, our stories are not so different. We all wake up sleeping, and then we move—gradually or speedily—towards a sense of waking dreaming. Isn’t that amazing? Indeed, we learn (to our surprise!) that everything is a very lovely illusion. We learn that suffering and trauma might seem real, but our stories shape that “reality” and we can quite literally heal the past, the present, and the future with our thoughts. We learn how powerful we are.
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We learn other lessons, too. We learn that our bodies are beautiful and it’s good to take care of them, but we also learn that our bodies are a temporary manifestation that we must, eventually, leave behind. We learn non-attachment. We learn how to say goodbye. Hopefully, through all our spiritual training, we can do it with grace.

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Ultimately, we learn that we are a speck of consciousness floating in a sea of eternal mystery. We learn so many things… we gather up so much “information”… and, in the end, we laugh. We remember the cannabis, we remember the documentary (or whatever it was that woke us up), and we laugh. We bow our heads in gratitude, saying: Thank you for this life. Thank you for helping me remember. 

 

Finding Yoga in the Stillness of Loss

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“A mountain keeps an echo deep inside itself. That’s how I hold your voice.”
—Rumi

 

Even as I type these words, the fingers feel the fatigue of grief in them. They pause as my brain fades into silence and I freeze over the keyboard like a printing press coming to a halt. The mind wafts ghostly sensory memories over the memory’s eye, and I see his face and hear his voice merely days before his physical decline. In a nanosecond I remember the long train ride, the smell of his room in the dim New England afternoon light. His tears, the fear in his eyes, the softness of my hands as they reached to care for him. And then a swift frame-by-frame film of every memory of him that I have, captured in the mystery of his death. In this pause of remembering, the Witness—the Watcher—sees, and waits. And then, like running out of air after being under water, I surface, and the words flow once more over the stillness of this grief.

 

No universal description of how grief comes upon us, passes through us, or drags us along exists. Indeed, there is no good reason here in this message to create one, for in many ways the uniqueness of our attachments cannot—and perhaps should not—be generalized. There is good reason, however, to accept that we are not alone, and that acceptance is a spine that supports our humanness in this experience.

 

Amidst the unsettling haziness of this heartache, the muscle memory of daily yoga practice has brought me to the mat, and asana offers a seat upon which to safely grieve. In accepting that we are not alone we may find solace in this system of postures that invite human bodies to move with breath, experience the lifeforce that sustains us, and bond with a universal serenity that transcends the body. In finding this solace, we may come to understand how the practice of yoga can accompany and hold space for us in the midst of great loss.

 

If one is able to move to the mat, one may find that the physical and emotional manifestations of grief find themselves in conversation there. Breath, as always, is the thread. Inhale the weight of the arms up, then exhale to release the weight as the body folds in sun salutation. Inhale and exhale to chaturanga as the breath steadies the body in strength, maybe even all of the way down to the Earth. Inhale as the chest rises, and awaken for a moment in cobra or upward-facing dog, then exhale as the body reaches and lets go in downward dog. Pain, heaviness, lightheadedness, or stiffness entangle with sadness, anger, confusion, trauma, relief, fear. The ethereal and the grit of the body weave into one another, fight, separate, and melt in the movement from asana to asana.

 

We owe ourselves the simplicity and the challenge of listening to the breath in our grief—it is a gift of self-nurturing. We may be tempted to feel guilty for trying to settle our minds on something so essential, though lost in loss. We may worry that we’ve forgotten about the loss when we have a moment of pure focus on the breath, and we may rush back to the suffering. Remember, though, that in practice we can be infused by shared purpose, and that peace of mind is unselfish. We can remember that the body’s efforts to find balance with exertion and ease is a portal to stillness in the mind, and that in finding stillness we find a shared peace.

 

Requiring courage is the knowledge that we may not predict what accompanies the stillness, and so a quiet mind can be a scary place. Fears may think themselves more fearfully, and sadness may want to fill up all of the space that stillness has to offer. Thus, practice may seem like a horribly unpeaceful idea when we are held tightly in the arms of grief, and it may seem easier to numb the pain or to remain frozen in disbelief.

 

One foot, then another: roll mat, feel feet, listen. Let the breath take the weight of worry as you listen to it journeying through the body. Let tears come, let the thoughts present themselves and depart, let anger wrench its way in, and listen to the breath lead each movement of the body. Soften into the practice.

 

It’s okay to do that.

 

And when our practice concludes in Savasana, where we lie recumbent and exposed, what do we do then? What if stillness is a haunted space of regret, or of replaying how we lost what we lost? What if that surrender feels like fullness of pain and the grief overwhelms us in this vulnerable position, lying prostrate on the floor? Why will we not be swallowed into the Earth? How will we get up? Why would we bother?

 

Loss has its own stillness, and that is the sharpest edge of it—the stillness of loss is the foreverness of ending. It seems monstrous in its eeriness and insane in its ability to evade our understanding; it cuts through the noise of day-to-day and grips the heart and belly. And yet, again, we owe it to ourselves to find out whether we can tunnel through it to something deeper and different, something clarifying and undisturbed.

 

In grief, our practice proposes a simple question: can it be possible that the excruciating pain of loss lends to us its stillness so that we may learn how to be still?

 

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Rebecca Ingalls, Ph.D., MSN, CNM, WHNP-BC, is a certified nurse-midwife, women’s health nurse practitioner, and yogi. She is a mother of two, and she has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga for 11 years. She lives with her family in Philadelphia.

How to Enjoy Meditation: Three Tips

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The biggest reason that meditation can be so difficult—at least initially—is that people are misinformed about the nature of meditation itself.

 

Meditation can be fun. Meditation can be easy. Really!! In this post, I’ll share three simple tips for how to enjoy meditation. Through these tips, I’ll simultaneously clear up some prevalent myths that often cause us so much confusion and difficulty.

 

Tip #1: Meditation is like dating. Keep searching around until you find the perfect partner—for you. 

 

If meditation has felt like a chore, or perhaps super confusing, I can promise you one thing: You haven’t yet found a technique that suits you.

 

There are thousands, literally thousands, of meditation techniques. Some involve sitting, some involve walking, some involve chanting or visualization. And even within a single technique, the way that various teachers will teach it are always varied. The permutations of meditation are seemingly endless.

 

Keep searching, my friend. I promise, you will find one (or two, or three) that you adore.

 

About eight years ago, I started my meditation journey. It began with Reiki. Yet, my teacher never called it “meditation.” As the months passed, however, I realized that Reiki  (a form of hands-on healing) was a powerful form of meditation.

 

I was absolutely in love with Reiki. It was literally something I could do for hours and hours and not get tired or bored. Reiki was my meditation: it helped me clear my mind of worried thoughts, it helped my nervous system decompress, and it helped me tap into an inner reservoir of self-love that I never knew existed. It was wonderful! It was amazing! My life began to change in innumerable ways.

 

Reiki was my doorway into meditation. Before Reiki, I had tried to meditate a number of times and “hated it.” I tried going to Zen centers, only to leave in annoyance. I tried using techniques I found on Youtube or that I read about in books. All of them felt weird. Nothing clicked. But then I found Reiki, and everything began to flow. Eight years later…and I’m now teaching meditation!

 

My Reiki journey led me through my transformations. And, over the years, I’ve ventured into other meditation techniques. Some have felt wonderful; some have felt tense or awkward. And, I have fallen madly in love with other practices, too. Every day I do a combination of mantra chanting, singing, prayer (yes, this can be a form of meditation), yoga, dance, and transcendental meditation. All of these bring me inner peace and help me remember my true self.

 

 

Tip #2: Meditation is NOT about trying to stop our thoughts. Rather, it’s about noticing our thoughts.

 

No wonder people try meditation a few times and then quit! If meditation was about stopping thoughts, I’m sure there would only be only two or three people on the planet who would persist in the practice!

 

Simply put, the human brain does not have an “off” switch. That’s not how it works.

 

Meditation is not about stopping thoughts. In fact, this view is a very violent way to look meditation. Why would we want to stop something that the brain was designed to do?

 

Instead, there is a more compassionate, gentle way of viewing meditation. What we are doing in meditation is simply noticing our thoughts. We learn to watch them as if we are a detached observer. As if we are a neutral witness.

 

As we learn to observe our thoughts, we can choose to gently (and lovingly) release them. As we release them, we are choosing to cultivate a calm, clear mind. This kind of mind is like a beautiful, blue, pristine lake on a cool spring morning. With that kind of beautiful mind, our sadness, worry, and suffering is also released. In its place, there is a natural, radiant joy.

 

This is our true state. Our true nature.

 

When we realize that meditation is not about stopping our thoughts but rather about patiently noticing our thoughts, we stop judging ourselves. The practice of meditation then becomes sweet.

 

When we become a witness to our thoughts, we cultivate compassion for the human predicament. We realize the veil of illusion in ourselves, and on this planet, is so thick. We realize how fortunate we are to be one of the lucky ones who have found meditation.

 

This kind of awareness is intoxicating! It’s incredible! We find ourselves drawn to meditation again and again, because it feels so good. It’s like a safe cocoon. We want to go to that cocoon as much as possible. In comparison with the rest of the loud, busy, harsh world—meditation seems like heaven!

 

Tip #3: More meditation is not always better.

 

When beginning a new meditation routine, it’s good to start small, with easily-attainable goals. We don’t want to try to run a marathon before we can crawl.

 

In the beginning, I recommend simply practicing for 5 minutes every day. No matter how busy you are, I know you can attain this goal.

 

After a few months, you can check in with yourself and see if it would feel good to increase your time spent every day. If it genuinely does not interest you to increase your time, then don’t do it.

 

Only increase your time when you have a natural urge to want to do it.

 

Too often, spiritual teachers drone on and on about the value of discipline and hard work. But does this really work? I suspect not.

 

Human nature is both cautious and passionate. Most people will happily invest hard work into things that we know we enjoy and that we know will reap benefits. Yet, in the beginning, when we are warming up to meditation, we probably aren’t certain if we enjoy it yet. We probably are still testing the waters. Thus, why would we invest so much time in it?

 

In the beginning of our spiritual journey, to force ourselves into meditation for long periods is a premature act that can actually be counterproductive. When we are too stern with ourselves, this creates a subtle feeling of tension and self-judgment, which then can create a backlash. The annoyed ego might then decide to quit meditation altogether!

 

At the beginning of my Reiki journey, I remember that my teacher advised me to practice every day. But she did not recommend a precise minute count. She just said to practice. Looking back, I really appreciate that she framed her guidance in that gentle way.

 

In effect, my beloved teacher gave me permission just to explore. To play. And, in relatively short period of time (just a few weeks), I found myself doing two-hour Reiki sessions. This was completely natural and not forced in any way. It was simply a natural desire pouring forth from the depths of my heart.

 

Your situation will be unique to you, dear friend. It may take you some time to test out various techniques. As I mentioned, it’s good to keep seeking until you find one that resonates with you. Once you do find a technique that calls to you, then allow yourself to gradually expand your practice at your own pace. Don’t compare yourself with others. Spiritual practice is not a race. Just have fun with it. See what happens. See what evolves.

 

♥♥♥

 

The choice to begin meditation is one of the most important moments of a human life. You are choosing to venture into territory that most human beings do not yet have the courage (or leisure) to choose.

 

This life of yours is blessed.

 

No doubt, on your journey, there will be times that meditation seems challenging or scary. It will not always be peaches and roses! For me, for example, there have been many Reiki sessions where I have cried tears, allowing many old, toxic emotions to be released. Practicing Reiki is not always blissful or easy.

 

But even when meditation is challenging, it is always something we want to do. It’s something we appreciate, something we gravitate toward, even when it’s hard. This is what is so remarkable about meditation. Once we taste the sweetness, the tenderness, the love of the practice, then we long to return to its arms, again and again and again. Meditation becomes our dear friend. Meditation becomes a blessing.

Healing Pain with the Power of Reiki

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About three months ago, my life partner Terri was suffering from intense lower back pain. She’d injured herself while working at her job. She works in a kitchen, where she continually lifts economy-sized cans of food.
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Terri’s pain was incredibly severe. She felt like her back was locking up. I was concerned. If she didn’t act soon, her back issues might worsen, raising the risk for further injury. We both knew it was time to utilize Reiki to promote healing.
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The Journey to Healing

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I’m so grateful that I’m a Reiki healer. It’s awesome and amazing that through my hands I can facilitate healing for others.
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On a Monday evening, I had Terri sit on a cushioned chair in our living room. To create a more relaxed atmosphere, I dimmed the lights and turned on calming music, infused with water sounds.m
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Terri was ready to receive the life energy flowing from my hands. Neither of us harbored any fears or concerns about the process: we felt only hopefulness and faith. We knew that the healing would come.

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As the scent of lemongrass filled the air, I placed my hands on her shoulders. I allowed myself to focus completely on Terri. I put my other thoughts aside. And then I initated the opening prayer.

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Opening Prayer

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For me, a Reiki session begins with a prayer to help connect me with God and with the power of life energy that’s available to us for love, comfort, and healing. This is what I said:
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I call on the universal power and energy of Reiki that’s in and around us, at all times. I ask that its healing energy go exactly where it’s needed most for Terri’s healing, with unconditional love and support.

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Let the healing light and energy that is a part of me, touch her back and bring relief; let it flow from me to her, and spread throughout her body.

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I pray that Terri’s sense of knowing be strengthened and that any blocks in her connection to God’s love be removed.

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I call on the energy of those who have practiced Reiki in the past, and those who practice it now, to assist me. I ask you, God creator of the universe and great healer, to bless me and bless me in my healing work.

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The Healing

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The first session lasted about thirty minutes. During this time, Terri fell asleep. (This sometimes happens when we receive Reiki.) Using my intuition, I worked on various areas of her body, including the major chakras.

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Following the initial session, Terri confirmed that her pain had lessened. Evening though it came back the next moring, it was not as bad as it had been the previous day.
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Each night, after arriving home from work, we would begin the healing ritual again. After each Reiki session, I would also massage certain pressure points on her back and feet.
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With every day that passed, Terri’s pain continued to diminish. After nine sessions, at around 30 minutes each, she confidently declared that her pain was gone.
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To this day, she has not experienced any intense back pain.
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We are both grateful for Reiki, this gift from God. That we can heal one another through our hands is an amazing miracle!
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Sarah Atwell lives in Oregon and is currently studying various methods of healing. Connect with Sarah on her blog

How to Prepare for Your Life Coaching Session: Five Tips    

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The choice to book a life coaching session is a crucial moment in your life. It is the first step, among many, that will move you toward empowerment and the manifestation of your deepest dreams.

 

Prior to your session, it is essential to prepare your body, mind, and spirit.

 

As a life coach, I have witnessed the difference between clients showing up haphazardly versus those who take the time to prepare themselves prior to our meeting. The difference is always obvious.

 

A coaching session is like a dance: it takes two to tango. The coach plays their part, and the client plays their part. If both parties are playing their part to the fullest possibility, that’s when the magic happens.

 

When you are committed to the process of transformation, the Universe will assist you—in every way possible!—so that you may have an amazing, awe-inspiring experience with your coach.

 

Now that you’ve booked your session, it’s time to begin the dance. It starts today, right now, as you’re reading these five powerful preparation steps.

 

  1. Write the specific questions you will ask your coach.

 

Going with the flow is usually sage advice; however, in this particular situation, creating a plan for your meeting is a better idea. But don’t worry…it doesn’t have to feel like “work.” It can be fun and effortless.

 

Here’s how you can make it easy. Set the intention that you will create 2-3 questions regarding a certain topic. The topic could be a relationship, finance, spirituality, family/parenting, or something else. Then, simply go about your next few days as normal. The words will simply come. The trick is to carry around a notebook with you wherever you go…and then—bam! Suddenly, inspiration will strike! While you are at the grocery store or having tea with a friend, you can pause to write down the perfect words, as they flow into your mind spontaneously, effortlessly.

 

That’s how the subconscious mind works. Just give it the right space to do its work (set the intention, have the notebook ready), and then it will feed you exactly what you need to grow.

 

After you write down a first draft of your questions, go back and see if you can refine the wording. Be as meticulous as you can. Be precise. The words you choose matter. For example, the question: “Should I get a divorce?” is not so good because it frames your concerns in terms of right or wrong. This kind of black-and-white thinking is not going to produce much personal growth, because reality is never actually set in terms of right and wrong. Reality is much more beautiful than that.

 

Reality is a dancing web of choices, in a variety of shades and colors, and we—each one of us—have the power to choose our destiny.

 

The question “Should I get a divorce?” assumes that there is a right or wrong answer. There is not. If you are feeling unhappy in your life circumstances, then there is a cornucopia of new choices available to you. Some may involve getting a divorce and some may not. What’s best? Only you can tell.

 

Ultimately, there is nothing to fear. Only exploration. Only self-reflection. There is no grim, bearded Father God in the sky judging you. No. There is only you, your heart, your beautiful intuition, and an endless play of creativity and passion.

 

In addition, the question “Should I get a divorce?” is not so wonderful because it subtly places all the power into the hands of your coach. If you’re asking a “should” question, you are looking for your coach to give you the “correct” answer. But to proceed in this way is unwise. Your coach is not a fortune teller. Rather, your coach’s job is to simply hold space for you and to deeply listen. Through that deep listening, they will gently guide you toward self-discovery.

 

When writing your 2-3 questions, allow for some flexibility, for some exploration. Questions based on curiosity and creative play (rather than the desperate search for the “right” answer) allows the collaborative dance between you and your coach to unfold. It is here that you will find the highest expression of your truth.

 

For example, a better question might be: “What might be the hidden challenges of getting a divorce?” or “Why am I feeling so afraid to stay in this marriage?” or “What are you sensing about the arguments I’ve been having with my spouse?” All these questions are excellent because they invite your coach to offer you some nuanced, intuitive insights. Ideally their intuitive offerings will then be filtered through the powerful lens of your own intuition. Which brings me to my next tip…

 

  1. Carve out some alone time for yourself.

 

A few hours prior to your session, make the conscious choice to disconnect from the voices of friends, family, and colleagues. Disconnect from your phone, from gadgets, from all social technology. If the demands of your schedule do not allow for a few hours, then at least take twenty or thirty minutes.

 

This is an important step because you are setting the tone for the session ahead. You are signaling to the Universe that this time is about you: about your own wisdom, your own healing, your own knowledge and self-care.

 

Women often have a difficult time prioritizing their own self-care. We have been trained to be the rock for others. If we do not take the time to support ourselves, though, how can we expect to support those around us?

 

As we come into a space of stillness, away from the opinions and speech and communications of others, we may choose to take a long, soothing bath. Or we may take a walk in the forest or on the beach. Or we may roll out our yoga mat. Whatever we may choose to do during this precious time, we are coming into our own awareness of who we are and what we need. We are learning to trust ourselves. And this is important, because, in order for our session to be truly transformative, the guidance from our coach must be filtered through our own intuition.

 

Sometimes what our coach says may deeply resonate—and, at other times, it may not. Some advice may be spot-on, while some might feel generic or not relevant to our situation.

 

So, how do we tap into our inner-knowing? A simple method for learning to trust our intuition is to ask ourselves: Does this piece of guidance make me feel expanded? Does this advice make me feel excited, intrigued, or happily challenged about the possibilities for the future? Or, does this guidance make me feel contracted, small, fearful, or confused?

 

If we feel expanded, then that is our inner-voice saying “Yes, yes, yes! This resonates with me! This will help me!” On the other hand, if we feel contracted or small as we listen to our coach, then that is our intuition saying, “Nope, that advice might be beneficial for someone else, but it’s definitely not for me.”

 

One part of a powerful coaching session is to be open to the fact that your coach might be wrong about certain things. And, if this happens, it’s actually—strangely!—a cause for celebration.

 

When you can trust yourself enough to truly listen to your own intuition (over the voice of an “expert”), in that moment you have become your own teacher. 

 

Am I saying that you should continue to book sessions with a coach who gives less-than-stellar advice? No. If your coach is not resonating with you overall, then it’s perhaps time to look for a new coach. If, however, you have a fantastic coach but—once in a while—they say something that doesn’t resonate and you choose not to follow it, then this is direct, wonderful evidence that you are learning how to trust yourself. You are learning the art of discernment.

 

 

  1. Practice Visualization.

 

How do you want to feel after the session has concluded? Do you want to feel peaceful? Happy? Relieved? Grateful? Focused? Energized? Joyful?

 

Listen to your intuition and allow it to name the emotional state that would best serve your healing journey at this time. And then, visualize yourself feeling that state. For example, let’s say you want to feel energized. You can imagine yourself running along a beach, arms outstretched, a giant grin on your face. You are effortlessly leaping and doing cartwheels and the warm sun is shining down upon your back.

 

When you take the time to imagine how you want to feel after the session has concluded, you are helping to manifest that very same future. You are inviting it forward.

 

  1. Move Your Body.

 

Moving your body prompts stagnant energy to unblock and release. Indeed, exercise is one of the simplest yet potent ways we can prepare ourselves for our coaching session.

 

If you are not already an avid exerciser, I encourage you to find an activity that you love to do. A day or two prior to the session, spend at least an hour doing that. It could be walking, it could be riding your bike, it could be dancing naked in your living room, it could be yoga. Whatever it is, make sure that it feels fun for you. (Incidentally, this is the way to create a long-term exercise program that you won’t want to quit—by making it fun!)

 

Before you begin your movement practice, I invite you to take a few moments, close your eyes, and speak aloud (or silently) an intention. Say something like: “I am ready to release old energetic patterns in my body. I am ready for new, healthy, fresh energy to flow through me.”

 

  1. Get plenty of sleep.

 

Be mindful to get extra sleep the night before your session. It’s so important to recharge our body’s batteries before our transformative coaching session! Your intuition works much better when you are well rested.

 

♥♥♥

 

As you explore the support of a life coach, it’s important to remain aware of the patterns and dynamics of that relationship. Working with a coach can be empowering, or it can (unfortunately) become a source of toxicity in your life.

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A great coach will want to empower you, not addict you to their advice and pressure you to do endless sessions. If you sense that your coach is not holding this high ideal, it is recommended that you find someone who will. You deserve a coach who will help you grow to your highest potential!

 

With that having been said, most coaches are wonderful. There is nothing to fear if you simply state your intention to remain awake and aware.

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Participating in the field of coaching and holistic healing is not only healing for you, but it’s also healing for the whole human family. In today’s hectic world, the person who takes the time and directs their financial resources toward personal growth is someone who is a model for others. Too often we are taught by our society that it is “selfish” to love ourselves. But that is the farthest thing from the truth! By digging down and carving out a space in our lives for coaches, healers, and wise guides, we then empower ourselves to be the shining light that is so desperately lacking in our world today. By healing ourselves, we give others permission to heal themselves.

 

Through a coaching session, we invite the wisdom of our guide into our own heart. We become like them.

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Every teacher has a teacher. Every healer has a healer. We cannot always struggle onward on our own, alone. Sometimes it is so wonderful to have a friend: someone who can be our trusted mirror.

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This is a path of wisdom, a path to enlightenment.