It has been almost a week now since my return from a silent retreat in Calgary. I continue to study yoga nidra and being on the retreat deepened my understanding and connection to this practice. Nearing the end of the retreat news of the pending catastrophic storm was conveyed, as some of us, myself included, would need to have knowledge of this in regards to being able to catch a flight home. As it turned out my flight home on Halloween night was not delayed by the storm. On the plane I sat thinking about what the coast line was enduring and attempted to began to return to the blissful state of interconnectedness that I had been experiencing for a week. I was taken aback by my feeling so connected to what was going on the east coast. And here is a poem that I believe sums up my thoughts around this.
The Mind of Love
“Today I love the world. Last week it was a vile place, broken, beyond repair. And my mind reached out in all directions, like a spiders spindly legs to mend and weave and fill the empty spaces, until falling, exhausted dangling by a single thread, discouraged and utterly humiliated that I couldn’t mend the fissures, that I ever thought I could.
Today I love the world, the faces on the street, the wind and chill. Pausing to look through dark bare branches, reaching out in all directions against the vast bright blue.
Soon buds and leaves will fill the empty spaces. In this mind of love the fissures mend themselves. ” S. Salzberg
Yes holding love, sitting in love does wonders for ones’ mind.
Rev up in the summer heat by eating lighter with more salads at the BBQ alongside the meats.
Romaine lettuce packs a protein punch. Add some hemp seeds or try a quinoa based salad and you have light very yummy summertime food.
Maintaining protein intake in your daily diet is important as our bodies do not store protein for later use. By dividing your weight in half you get an estimate of the amount of protein in grams that is healthy for your body.
With a busy schedule sometimes it is helpful to add plant based proteins like spiruluna into a smoothie for a fast and nutrient rich meal.
And we hear it all the time- hydrate, hydrate! With water or coconut water- though the later does taste great with some vodka, please drink to hydrate in this heat!
Have you ever seen a hummingbird still?
Arriving at the Albany airport today waiting for my flight to N.Y. I placed my baggage down near a window to sit for a moment. On the other side of the glass sat a ruby throated hummingbird. It remained there for a good 10 minutes as I “oh ahhh” along with the baggage attendant at such a remarkable sight. Eventually, a sparrow flew by sending the hummingbird into flight.
Such a beautiful sight, and it seemed like an appropriate send off for me as I have just come out of a deeply moving and inspirational meditation retreat at Kripalu. Hummingbirds have a special meaning around living a joyful life, and they also surprisingly have a psychopomp attribute given to them much like ravens. In some stories it is the hummingbird who comes to the dying and hums in their ear, assisting in the transition from life to death. Two very opposite meanings here which again goes back to the meditation training I just received. The focus was on being with the opposites that arise in our consciousness. Opposite feelings, thoughts, beliefs. Being in joy. Being with change. Just being. It was all and It is all so very beautiful.
Animal messengers are in our lives all the time. Blessings to you and to your animal messengers.
Oh yeah! I will be breathing in really fresh air in 2 days as I will be on a retreat, mountainside in the Berkshires. This is my first visit to Kripalu, a center for yoga and health. I’m really looking forward to this retreat where I’ll be studying yoga nidra meditation. The recent blog focus on breathing has lead me nicely to the awaiting yoga mat.
“Without full awareness of breathing, there can be no development of meditative stability and understanding”. – Thjch Nhat Hanh
Yoga nidra means “yogic sleep’ or divine sleep. Sleep yourself to enlightenment. Sign me up! Okay, it’s not sleep as we know it in bed. Rather it is a relaxation of the body into a slumber while the mind enters a meditative awareness. So with the body asleep, mind awake, one can observe deeply ingrained negative beliefs and habit patterns, and in doing so can then choose to release identifying with them.
At this point as I write I’ll be happy to just truly not fall totally asleep!
I’ve been fortunate as a therapist, working first with the arts/psychotherapy and now more body oriented as a Registered Massage Therapist/Craniosacral Therapist, that my occupation has guided me towards greater breath awareness. When I am beside a client the best way for me to feel centred and clear to work is to pay attention to my breath. By following my breath down to my belly I sense the definition of my boundaries and at the same time become more connected to my client, as conscious, calm breathing encourages a relaxed atmosphere for the person receiving in a session to be themselves. Breathing is a gateway to accessing feelings, and assists to clear feelings out of our bodies as the conscious breath creates a flow in the body. The relaxed breath can reduce anxiety.Daily conscious breathing retrains the nervous system to have a capactiy to hold a greater charge of energy. With gradual practice bringing on more oxygen in the body there is this increase in energy capacity. It is a natural approach to clear depression.
Here is an exercise you can try for 10 – 20 minutes, sitting or lying down. This exercise is wonderful for grounding and you can feel quite relaxed and expanded after doing this exercise. With your hands on your belly, gently fill your body with an inhalation. On the exhalations you will do a kegel, to then release the kegel and relax as you inhale. If you have done pilates or have been pregnant, kegels are probably known to you. If not, it is a contraction of your pelvic floor muscles. To do this pull up as if you are stopping yourself from peeing as you exhale. At any time you feel dizzy or uncomfortable, stop or modify with perhaps less kegels. Anyone with respiratory difficulties can check in with their doctor, or try some supervised breathing with a yoga therapist.
“What I feel is that you don’t change the infant, just like you don’t change the basic nature of the adult that you might repattern in a certain area. But you help them so that they can be more of what they can be”. B.B. Cohen
Stress comes at us from many angles, and reeks havoc on the body/mind. Focusing on following one’s breath, gently down into the belly has the immediate effect of lowering stress levels. There are so many different breathing techniques, and through experience you can discover which one works best for you. Raising oxygen levels in the body is important for health and well being. By paying attention to breathing, stressful breathing patterns that signal the body to be on alert can be calmed and erased.
Several check ins throughout the day on how you are breathing can reveal your pattern and placement of your breath in your body. Daily tuning in to your breath can reveal when you feel the breath is short and/or shallow, and at times when the breath may even be held in. This noticing is a step towards fuller, conscious breathing that when followed will enliven your being.
Take even 5 minutes a day to sit or lie down with your hands placed on your belly to then gently breathe thru your nose, slowly feeling your belly move with your rested hands rising and falling in rhythm to the inhalations and exhalations of your breath. During your exhalation tighten your stomach muscles just slightly near the end of the exhalation so that you can breathe out all the air to then fully relaxing your stomach muscles as you fill your belly up with air on the following inhalation.
Relaxing on your inhalation is important. Just falling into it. And at the end of your exhalation a little bit of tightening of the stomach muscles to release the air. Doing this exercise within your comfort zone, without much effort can start to give you more energy to go about your day, and some welcomed stress relief.
“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is the only moment”- Thjch Nhat Hanh
After a bit of a detour here I am once again returning to my meditative practice. I have always been attracted to breath as essential to transformative healing and healthy living through earlier experiences with kundalini yoga, tantric and rebirthing breathwork.
So as I return to my practice, I will be posting about breathing and sharing some exercises that may interest you.