Archive

calm mind

Before you get up.
Before you eat.
Before you go to the next thing.
Before you hit SEND.
Before you speak.
Before…pause.

Even in the middle of everything.
A nourishing, intentional, sacred pause can make all the difference.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

DANCING WATER CLASSES ~ ~ ~ I’m delighted to announce that I will start offering classes at the studio at Dancing Water* on Thursday mornings from 11-1215pm starting THIS THURSDAY, May 2. Come join us in the trees by the river for grounded, flowing, spacious movement. For the month of May, I’m offering a discounted rate while we work out the kinks together! Go HERE to sign up!

 

  • Dancing Water ~ 2370 Old Lynchburg Road, Charlottesville VA 22903 (detailed directions can be found in the SHOP section under Additional Information).
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I told myself not to say it. I think I actually bit my tongue. But suddenly, I heard the unkind, impatient thing fly right out of my mouth. I saw the words, sludgy and dripping, hang in the air between us and immediately, I regretted them.

I saw his face and shoulders fall. He responded with his feelings and I did my best, I really did, to feel my feet and my breath, to reflect back what he’d said, to be present.

Instead, I was swamped with pain and regret and a mind-flood of talk about what a bitchy jerk I am and how I always do this and how the people I admire would never say such a thing. In a heart beat, in a breath, the discomfort was so strong that I unplugged and split from my body.

Embodied presence – connecting mind and body, being in the present moment – sounds simple and easy enough. We’re living in these bodies all the time, after all, so how tough can it be to be in there? The truth is that it’s a huge challenge for most of us even when we’re sitting quietly on a cushion with sunlight in our hair and flower petals falling around us. When we are upset, angry, tired, hungry, in pain, afraid, or uncomfortable in any way, the practice of keeping body and mind in the same place at the same time can feel utterly impossible.

In her two dharma talks about Embodied Presence (which you can find here and here), Tara Brach invites us to explore the unpredictable wilderness of the body. The mind does what it can to control the uncontrollable and tuck in all the loose edges but that neatness is a false refuge. The body in all its messiness is the only place to connect to empathy, love, freedom and unfolding of life itself. The only place. She suggests that whenever we leave the body, when we vacate the premises, it comes down to one thing: there is something we are unwilling to feel. We find ourselves disconnected and separated from direct experience because there is something that feels scary or dangerous or uncomfortable and on some level we think we can’t handle it. So we run.

Last week, we focused on Embodied Presence and the practice of getting body and mind in the same place at the same time. This week, we continue this exploration by looking at the ways we take ourselves out of the body and how to get back in.

It’s such a common state, to be up in the control tower of our heads that we might not even realize we’re doing it. Tara Brach offers four signs of being in trance and out of the body:

  1. obsessive thoughts on a loop often as a way to prepare to avoid something bad,
  2. negative judgment about myself or others (see above example of me thinkingthinkingthinking about being an impatient jerky pants),
  3. distraction of any kind especially on screens or online (like habitually reaching to check my phone when I feel nervous, for example),
  4. speeding around and rushing, as if getting more done will keep the difficult feelings at bay

When you see this list, do any of these feel familiar? Perhaps you’re like me and they ALL feel familiar. When we are in this auto-pilot, sleepwalking state, we are intentionally (although often subconsciously) avoiding feeling something edgy or uncomfortable. Mindfulness – in movement, in meditation, or in the moment – invites us back into the lush wilderness of the body.

Brach teaches that the intensity of any of these states is in direct proportion to our unwillingness to feel what’s in our bodies. In order to come into embodied presence, we have to make the courageous and intentional choice to wake up. She teaches that first, we must notice what’s happening (ah, I have hurt someone’s feelings and that feels wretched), then name it (pain in my heart and heaviness in my stomach), and breathe (amazingly difficult when I’m suffering) and interrupt the pattern – even briefly – by allowing ourselves to feel whatever it is.

This practice leads to what is sometimes called The Lion’s Roar which is the ability to be with, to roll with anything, ANYTHING that happens. The Lion’s Roar is the fearless proclamation that everything that happens is workable and that I have the ability to handle and feel anything. Imagine the freedom of trusting in our capacity to be with whatever life delivers.

Notice that this state of presence is not called “The Roaring Lion” which feels startling, fierce, and threatening. Instead, the Lion’s Roar is the energy of confidence. It is the knowledge that this power is available no matter what arrives. When we practice, The Lion’s Roar is a strength that infuses life like an aura, a light that allows me to face anything.

Few of us will be able to claim the Lion’s Roar as our way of being all the time, but the practice of noticing, naming, breathing and interrupting the well-worn sleepwalking pattern offers glimpses into the possibility of freedom.

The next time you find yourself caught in one of the signs of being out of the body, ask yourself, “What am I unwilling to feel?” This question alone is the first step toward finding your Roar.


I had a dream that I died. Or that I was about to die. I had gotten some kind of diagnosis and (true to my food-centric, vegetarian form) the plan was to eat my lunch salad, then take a pill that would end my life.

This might sound like a bummer of a dream but it wasn’t. First, I was overjoyed to wake up. Then I was intensely aware of the unspeakable sweetness of living…and of its impermanence.

Since The Dream, I’ve been renegotiating my relationship to time. I’ve been paying attention to when I rush through, scrabble over, gobble up my life. I’m doing my best to slow down, savor more, embody presence.

Sometimes it goes better than others.

Last week, I was having a rough go of it when I came across two dharma talks by meditation teacher and author, Tara Brach. Her words often inspire me but these connected straight to everything I’ve been feeling about transience. The two talks are Impermanence: Awakening Through Insecurity, Part 1 & Part 2, and I strongly recommend them both. Listening to them brought me to tears and to laughter. Her stories and words reverberate in my heart and mind still. (These two talks have planted seeds for a whole slew of focuses for our movement together, so stay tuned for more on them in coming weeks.)

In the second talk, Tara tells the story of a woman who’s been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer with the prognosis of one year to live. She has a 2-year-old daughter. Her mantra, her mission becomes this:

No Time To Rush.

When we are truly aware, not in an intellectual way but in a heart and soul way, that our lives will one day be over, what becomes important? What matters? Perhaps counterintuitively, all my hurrying to accomplish things, all my squeezing as much as I possibly can into every single day suddenly seems like the opposite of what is important.

Yesterday, at the busy, noisy grocery store, I waited in the cashier’s line to pay for a cart full of vegetables. When it was my turn, the cashier hastily picked up my reusable bags, “I’m sorry, hold on, please,” he said as he set them up on the counter, “Let me get your bags ready to load.” With the dharma talk words moving around in me, I looked at him and said, “It’s no rush. Take your time.”

He stopped propping the bags up and look straight at me.
“Did you say, ‘It’s no rush’?” he asked.
“I did.”
“Well, let me take a sip of coffee then,” he smiled and stopped long enough for a swig from his travel cup.
He took a breath and so did I.

Rushing is contagious. I wonder about the countless times I’ve impatiently checked out of grocery stores, silently urging the cashier to go faster. In all those hurry-up encounters, the humanness of the moment, and actually, the moment itself was lost. In our Get ‘Er Done culture, it is a gift to give each other a little time, a little breathing room, a sip of coffee.

It’s been a curious exploration to slow down my rushing. Coincidentally (if you believe in those things), I am reading Sarah Susanka’s book The Not So Big Life. In it, she invites the exploration of priorities, questioning of choices and an examination how we spend our time. She writes,

Now is experienced not as time but as presence and although we are aware of flow, it’s as if its duration is incidental, it barely touches us, much as a leaf floating along on a stream would barely be aware of the water’s movement. (p. 147)

This is the dance of No Time To Rush. Allow time to be a flow rather than a commodity. Allow myself to be the leaf floating effortlessly rather than the dam trying to control it.

It is inexpressibly precious, this life. Even with all its messiness and pain and confusion, it is exquisite and worth savoring. None of us has time to rush.

In this season, it can be easy to get caught up in the things, the activities, the expectations. I know I get focused on what am I going to give, cook, do? Who will we see, what are the plans, what will I wear and do I have everything? But the truth is, this season — and this life — is about our ability to show up. It’s about our presence.

Take some time every day, especially in this week, to drop into the sensations of your body, to notice with your full attention whatever is happening. Make the choice — especially when things feel familiar and are full of memory — to really smell the spices, to taste the cookie, to hear the laughter, to see the faces, to hold the hands. Make the courageous choice to really BE with the people you are with — including yourself.

Presence is the real gift.


ONE WORD 2018 & 2019

As the year comes to its end, it’s a great time to find One Word for 2019. For the past many years, instead of making a resolution, I’ve been choosing one word to guide me through the year. I often think think think about it for a while and then when I stop and ask myself how I want to FEEL in the coming year, the word finds me.

These are the words I’ve lived with for the past several years:

2011 – OPEN

2012 – RELEASE

2013 – SPACIOUS

2014 — WORTHY

2015 — FREEDOM

2016 – heARTful

2017 – AWAKE

2018 – HEALING

Living with one word for a year is a simple way of creating a year-long focus to guide and inspire choices. Now is a great time to open your attention to the word you might like to be with for 2019. And if you had a word for 2018, now is a great time to reconnect with it.


My husband is building us a house. It’s a big and exciting project full of details and a dozen workers. When I tell people about it, the one question that nearly everyone asks is,

“When will you move in?”

Sigh. Who knows? Maybe December. Maybe January. Maybe March. There are so many variables and so many things that are in flux and changing. We have no idea. But that’s not the answer anybody wants.

Our culture is addicted to attempting to know what will happen. Whole industries have been created around predicting the future.

Polling for elections.
Odds-making for sporting events.
And everyone’s favorite: weather forecasts.

These predictions have varying degrees of accuracy. (Hurricane Florence and the Trump presidential campaign are two good examples of predictions that looked pretty certain and then swung wildly and suddenly at the end.) Which begs the question, Why do we keep listening to them?

Fear.

We are afraid of not knowing. It is uncomfortable to live in uncertainty. So we create illusions that we know what will happen that give our brains a false sense of solidity and clarity.

Instead, what if we practiced getting comfortable with not knowing? What if we focused on allowing ourselves to relax into uncertainty? What if we were willing to embrace the bigger truth of complete groundlessness, as Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron calls it?

Experiment with letting your body and mind relax and let go of their grip on wanting to know. Soften into not knowing.

And when we move into the house, I promise I’ll tell you.

When I’m looking to make changes in the way I do things, I need to know what’s actually happening first. Otherwise, I’m working from faulty information.

Recently, I’ve been playing with going deep into what I’m actually feeling.
Not what I’m thinking about what I’m feeling
or what I’m afraid of feeling
or what I plan to do about what I’m feeling
but what I’m actually feeling.

A freaking revelation.

Here’s my habit. I feel a little something and quick-like-a-bunny, I wrap an idea around it.

Instead, what happens if I look at what’s under the blanket?

When I do this, I can respond and take care of what’s actually happening instead of the blanket idea I’ve wrapped around it.

This happens a LOT with hunger.

In an effort to avoid the feeling and the fear around getting hungry, I quick wrap it up and go eat something. Or a bunch of somethings.

Instead, I can determine if that’s really what’s happening. Or if I need to support myself in another way. (Often, I need water.)

This “blanketing” habit happens with lots of feelings.

Distraction is sneaky and can draw me away from something I want to avoid. If I find myself doing something mindlessly like a zombie, then it’s a pretty sure sign that I’m wrapped up in the blanket.

Again, looking under the blanket tells me more about what’s actually happening and what I really need. (As in, “Ah, I don’t want to do my taxes. If I just get it done, then I will free up time and energy to do what I want to do and not mindlessly scroll through Instagram.” OR at the very least, I know why I’m doing what I’m doing so I have a choice to keep doing it or not.)

The best place to start is in the body. If you feel the blanket descending, take a moment to feel whatever physical sensations are arising (including numbness or “no feeling”).

When I drop the blanket, I can make real choices for change that get to the heart of what’s really happening.

This week’s post is about intensity. More specifically, it’s about the benefits of mindfully choosing intensity. Even so, the topic can be a little, well, intense. So I offer the post in illustrations and color with a black cat on the side…

I know I find myself doing this. Avoid riding my bike because it’s easier to drive. Avoid doing another back bend because GAH! Do you do this, too? If so…Click here on the link to the research. It’s kind of amazing.

You can do that right now. Take a moment to take a deep breath before you keep reading. Okay, two more reasons to mindfully choose intensity.

To be clear, mindfully choosing intensity does NOT mean to beat yourself up, push yourself to exhaustion or anything like that. This is about feeling the urgency of intensity and allowing yourself to find the place where you are challenging yourself and able to keep breathing, stay balanced and present. Mindful intensity is an opportunity to offer kindness and strength to yourself. SO…

Meow, y’all.


P.S. Let me know what you think about the illustrated post!

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