Many people experience chronic back and neck pain at some point in their lives and it can be debilitating. If you aren’t one of these people, I’m sure you know people who are. A new study published in September 2022 demonstrates the efficacy of using pandiculation with Hanna Somatic Education (HSE) to relieve chronic back and neck pain. This unique self-care method releases chronic muscle tension by retraining the nervous system. I personally am a testament to HSE for relieving my own chronic muscle pain since I’ve been training and teaching this powerful practice.Continue reading
Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW wrote in “Rising Strong,” “To embrace and love who we are we have to reclaim and reconnect with the parts of ourselves we’ve orphaned over the years.” Those orphaned parts are stored in the library of our false beliefs of lack and limitation, feeling separate. Judging and comparing ourselves, our bodies and the lives we live to others all have the common root of “I’m not good enough.”
In this meditation we will select books from this library of not enoughness and open to deep inquiry and the opportunity for integration into the authentic being and wholeness of “I am enough.”Continue reading
Sleep is essential for all aspects of health, according to neuroscientist Mathew Walker, author of NYT best seller Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. Sleep is vital for maintaining immune system, cardiovascular and reproductive function. It helps improve memory, psychiatric disorders and neurodegenerative decline and prevent cancer. Yet, according to a National Sleep Foundation survey (in the US, Canada, UK, Germany and Japan) at least 50% of people don’t get sufficient sleep (7 hours or more) on weekdays. If you routinely get 5 to 6 hours of sleep your body, mind and well-being are paying the price. Sleeping longer on weekends doesn’t replenish your sleep deficit.Continue reading
Beginning a new year, it’s customary to reflect on our desires and create intentions and resolutions we wish to fulfill in the coming year. For some of us a new chapter of our life is eager to unfold and goals are being called for to charter the course. I rather believe this process can be likened to waking up out of a deep sleep as we do each morning. For each day offers us new possibilities, hew horizons and opportunities to restart anew.
Whatever deep desires we may hold for our lives, we are not alone in this world. Everything we do affects the world around us, as it does us. We are not separate from one another, but interdependent. This interdependent nature calls for cooperation with one another. As you form your intentions, I invite you to consider your impact on the world around you. The following poem may offer some guidance in the process.
At the top of this post, you are welcome to be guided into a live recorded meditation to help you with this process.
May this poem and blessing enlighten and inspire you as you venture into a new year. With wisdom and grace, Larry Robinson’s poem holds many contractions and heartaches of our world with wisdom and grace.
At the end I offer you a guided year-end meditation from a recent live group session for you to gather your own year-end reflections.
New Year’s Blessing
A year of loss and chaos draws to a close.
Stories from a thousand cultures remind us that the cosmos is born – and reborn again and again – from chaos.
We have passed the darkest night of the year but the light only returns slowly.
The old order has passed as well but the new is not yet apparent.
Life does renew itself and new forms emerge as old ones pass away.
It has always been this way.
For all the misery of the past year, we have also seen astounding acts of beauty and courage and generosity.
This liminal space we inhabit is a time to dream, to imagine and to plan.
There are times when seemingly small acts can have out-size impacts.
I believe that we are in one of these times – actually a hopeful time, a time of possibilities.
Cynicism is as perilous a path as naïveté.
Hope is a choice, not a feeling; we create it through our actions and through our words.
At this turning of the wheel I invite and challenge you to dream grandly of the world you wish to bequeath, to proclaim it proudly and boldly and to join with your brothers and sisters to take the practical steps to make it real.
Remember that every act of kindness bends the arc of our shared life toward love.
Unhurried mornings, greeted with gratitude;
good work for the hand, the heart and the mind;
the smile of a friend, the laughter of children;
kind words from a neighbor, a home dry and warm.
Food on the table, with a place for the stranger;
a glimpse of the mystery behind every breath;
some time of ease in the arms of your lover;
then sleep with a prayer of thanks on your lips;
May all this and more be yours this year
and every year after to the end of your days.
One more poem to reflect on from Angela Farmer, a gifted yoga teacher who lives on an island in Greece.
She gathers up the shattered pieces
From those dark and dusty corners
of her past.
She strings them on a thread-
as long as her life
And touches each one in the soft moon light . . .
All the pains and fears,
All the loss and failures
She arranges amongst the pearls of her beauty,
the diamonds of her friendships
and the sparkling gems of her success in life.
Yet in her woman’s heart,
She notices . . .
those broken pieces glow more deeply-
those broken pieces glow more deeply.
Lovingly she ties the string around her neck.
Enjoy this iRest guided meditation
Loving the Whole Enchilada
A colleague went to a Mexican restaurant and on the menu, he found what he thought was the perfect meal. It was called “The Whole Enchilada.” When the server took his order he said, “I would like the whole enchilada, but could you hold the cilantro, pico de gallo and red chili peppers?” Her response was, “Sure I can, but then you won’t be getting the “Whole Enchilada, will you?” This for him was really a teachable moment as he reflected on how judgmental we tend to be about what we want in life.
Most of us are seeking to experience the whole of life with nothing missing—that is except for what we don’t like. After all, who really has the desire for conflicts, problems, pain or illness? Surely peace, love, light, blue skies and green lights are what we long for. Yet, whether we like it or not, the menu of life offers us the whole enchilada—both the good and bad. When we try to eliminate what we don’t like, we are missing the parts that help link us to innate wholeness. How can we then be loving the whole enchilada?
A life hat is perfect, whole and complete requires us to love the totality of whatever life serves us—without judgements.
Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude Meditation
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n positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Why? Because gratitude can help us experience more positive emotions and better able us to relish good experiences and even reduce symptoms of depression. It also can improve our overall health, help us better deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. While this research is relatively new, the principles have been a part of human being’s traditions for eons. This is particularly true in many of the world’s faith traditions, as well as indigenous peoples, such as our own Native Americans who truly practice an attitude of gratitude as daily practice.
Learning from past traditions
I write this in the week of Thanksgiving, which is traditionally the time we take pause to give thanks for all we have harvested during the year – goals accomplished opportunities ensued and people who made a difference in our lives. Yet going back in time the first Thanksgiving was celebrated after the first harvest and attended by 90 Wampanoag Native American people and 53 Pilgrims (survivors of the Mayflower). Having always lived close to the Earth, Native peoples must have understood the great hardships the Pilgrims had endured. They could teach the newcomers how to live with the land and the changing environment.
I recently read of how Native Americans have always had a tradition of expressing gratitude in all their gatherings. Unlike most of us, I am very intrigued with how broad they cast their gratitude. Whether for a council gathering or of family they always begin with a ritual of giving thanks. They believe they have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things.
Bringing minds together as one
They start by bringing their minds together as one as they give greetings and thanks to each other—so their “minds are one.” Then they proceed to thank what they refer to as their “Mother the Earth” for all it’s bounty. Thanks for the waters to quench their thirst and nurturing life to all beings. Thanks for the fish, plants and animals, and for medicinal herbs for health and healing. They give thanks for the trees and beautiful songs of birds. Each day without fail the sun travels the sky from east to west, bringing the light of a new day providing the source of life and the moon that governs the movement of tides. Finally, they thank their ancestors and the very source of creation itself.
Author Daniel Defoe’s famous 300-year-old novel, “Robinson Crusoe,” provides a portrait of how gratitude can enhance one’s life. Crusoe is the sole survivor of a shipwreck in which he finds himself alone on an unknown island. Rather than falling into despair and focusing on loss and regret, Crusoe begins to count his blessings. He’s alive and has been able to salvage many useful items from the wreckage. Thus. thanksgiving becomes a part of his daily life.
Ways to cultivate gratitude
Gratitude is a way for us to appreciate what we have instead of always reaching for something we lack. As we learn from native peoples, there is a whole world—much of which we take for granted—to be thankful for. Some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis include writing a thank-you note and keeping a gratitude journal. Meditation and prayer produce positive healthful hormones. Even thanking someone mentally produces can do the same.
Whether we are inspired by fiction, native peoples or our faith or family traditions, gratitude is an essential ingredient for living a healthful and engaging life. It involves both receiving and giving. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is like a growing a currency from which we can never be bankrupt. The more we feel it and express it, the more deposits in our master gratitude account, canceling out facing “notes” of regret at the end of our life.
Join me now as we cultivate an attitude of gratitude
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iRest Loving Kindness Meditation.
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The attitude of Loving Kindness is one of the pillars of the Yoga Sutras and Buddhist teachings. I invite you to rest back and experience this heart-based iRest meditation focused on connection, communion and tenderness towards all sentient Beings. This includes ourselves! Enjoy being guided in this 35-minute iRest practice into your loving spacious essence.
Feel free to listen, download and share these imperfect, unedited, live iRest practices recorded during my weekly group sessions. I trust they will benefit all of us as we navigate times of uncertainty and change.
Today I honor all the women who read my jottings and I trust you—all the men as well—will do the same by honoring the special women in your lives. Some of the qualities I most admire in women are courage, compassion, integrity and love.
As I watch and listen to the unfolding tragedy that is going on in Ukraine and neighboring countries today, I am so utterly saddened. But because today, March 8 is International Women’s Day, I find myself reflecting on two special people who have touched my life from that part of the world—a Ukrainian and a Pole. They both introduced me to this very special day that is celebrated in their cultures. As things unfold in their countries I watch in amazement as Poles graciously help Ukrainian women and children escape to safety.
I had never heard of International Women’s Day until several years ago. I knew that March has become the month to honor women in the United States. But I first learned about it at one of my tango nights. One year on March 8, Inga, a Ukrainian woman who organized our group, brought sweets and flowers for all the women. We have a lot of Eastern Europeans in our tango community. This was my first introduction to this celebratory day. Inga continues to do this every year on or around March 8.
A couple of years later when I was having my kitchen remodeled, Christopher, a very pleasant Polish man was doing most of the work. One day in March, I opened the door for him and he immediately bowed to me and gave me a box of candy. I was so moved! He later explained that this day was a really big deal in his country. ALL women are honored on that day–not just mothers—and they are treated like queens.
Origins of honoring women
This day was actually first observed in New York in 1909. But Clara Zetkin, a German feminist, pushed for it to be a holiday in 1910. It really took off in Europe and especially in Russia. There, striking women workers sparked the February Revolution on International Women’s Day in 1917. It later spread across the world as an important day to recognize the contributions women have made to both family and the economy. Dozens of countries mark it as an official or unofficial holiday—from Brazil to Afghanistan to Nepal. In addition to flowers and candy, there are often parades and protests.
I suspect, that even though there is much disruption in these countries today, there will be tiny moments taken to celebrate the courageous women involved in this crisis. And perhaps we can honor these women and all women by honoring our own special women!
Now that holiday celebrations are over, it’s time to put those New Year’s resolutions to work. Start the new diet, exercise regime, marketing tactics, job search, new business or work strategies, find a mate. There is no time like the present! Well—maybe not. And, maybe the Omicron virus is telling us to take a break, stay safe and take time for dreaming a more conscious life.
What does nature do during winter? With the sparseness of the nurturing sun’s energy, nature turns inward and retreats. It becomes cold and dark. Creatures hibernate, plants submerge their energy into their roots and ponds harden into ice. Nature doesn’t go to the Bahamas for fun in the sun! Nature doesn’t push its high-energy button, because there is little energy to spare. If nature closes down its work during winter, why don’t human beings do the same? For most of us, work and economics runs our lives, and a hot sunny island may seem like the only way to retreat.
With the increasing disharmonies we now face in the world, isn’t it time to rethink what governs our lives? Isn’t it time to learn how to live our lives with less effort and more ease, rather than with great effort and dis-ease? Isn’t it time to reflect on what is really important in our lives, contemplate our spiritual nature and how we fit into the bigger scheme of things? The work of winter is to store away and shut itself inside. It conserves until spring when the energy rises again. When nature retreats, an ideal time for self-reflection emerges.
Connection with our journey
Chinese medicine associates this time of year with the element of water. Water is essential to life. We are born in water and it comprises 78% of our bodies. Water can be forceful or serene, refreshing or murky, fluid or stagnant. Water connects us with our journey—our past, our ancestry and our destiny. It seeks truth, virtue and honesty, and reveals the hidden mysteries of our unconscious. Our thoughts and feelings are filled with secrets about our life, often deeply negative and self-destructive.
The emotion associated with water is fear. We fear change, failure, hurt, the unknown, loss, and abandonment. At the deepest level, we fear our very own death. In many ways, winter is a time of death, as parts of nature wither away. Water imbalance in the body may cause us to identify more deeply with our fears, outwardly expressed in un-ease, worry, tension, and phobias.
Surrendering to life
The kidney is associated with the water element. Its function is to extract from fluid waste what is pure for recycling and send the impure to the bladder, its mate, for elimination. The bladder receives, holds and releases. Its true nature is adaptability, going with the flow. When we urinate, we surrender and release, yielding to the flow of life.
The kidney is considered the storehouse for the vital life essence—the very root of life. It regulates the amount of water in our body and all the organs depend on it. It does the work of warming, moistening and regenerating—lest we become cold, rigid, degenerate, or fearful.
Fear is governed by our ego, which holds onto patterns from earlier life. When we resist letting go of the toxic waste of our past, those dark secrets rule our lives. But these patterns are not part of our authentic self. When we learn to accept the past, release its power, dis-identify with the ego and live more fully in the present, we surrender to the freedom of being in the flow of life. When our life path is flowing well, it is like the flow of a river that adapts to the changing course. When it is not, it may feel like a quagmire in which we feel overwhelmed or in despair.
“When you surrender to what is
and become fully present,
the past ceases to have any power.”
Authentic conscious self
The surface of a lake may appear still as though nothing is happening. Yet, submerged is an incredible depth of conscious aliveness. This conscious aliveness takes place when we are dreaming during sleep. When our true source or identity is never truly grasped, we experience doubt and insecurity, which stimulates fear. But truth is the absence of fear. When we go beneath the surface to the depths of our being where truth resides, we connect with our authentic conscious self, our gateway to the Divine.
Dreaming a more conscious life
Death is not the opposite of life, but of birth. The true work of winter is to go within, to gestate, germinate, and conserve essence. It is preparing for rebirth in the spring. Surprisingly, when we conserve our energy resources in winter, shed toxic patterns that no longer serve us, we are refreshed, renewed and ready to implement a better life plan when the elevated spring energies return to support us.
So, allow yourself to slow down and examine your life path. Use water for purification with baths or long showers. Contemplate your essence, life’s meaning and purpose. Dream, meditate, journal, brainstorm, visualize, create affirmations and goals. Engage your body minimally, such as with walks or gentle movement. Economize your energy essence. Preserve and regenerate your resources. Retire early and rise later, when you can. Spend more time in the warmth of friends and snuggle with loved ones. Live in sync with nature and surrender to the flow of the precious aliveness of life in the midst of dreaming a more conscious life.