Curvy Yoga and the Cultural Revolution

anna gj headshotBack to this blog again after a hiatus, I am still thinking about work.  Still working at the disability center, still writing, teaching one yoga class.  It’s just the writing that has changed:  I started freelancing for pay again, this time online.

But I felt a need to get back to this blog.  “Work from the Other Side” still draws me, because I’m still obsessed with questions of how we can work in ways that suit us, even energize us, but that are also gentle for the planet and the other creatures who live here.  And in my new freelance work I encountered a woman who started a business that fits the bill and also has a bit of that counter culture flavor that I dig.

That’s Anna Guest-Jelley and her Curvy Yoga “training and inspiration portal.”  Now here’s an innovative business meeting a true need.  Curvy Yoga provides podcasts, writings, videos, and now books that provide a new angle on yoga, one for people who are bigger bodied.  It serves as part advocate, part educator, and part trailblazer showing us a way to practice yoga that is good for our bodies and ways to make yoga more inclusive.

Guest-Jelley calls herself “a writer, educator, and lifelong champion for women’s empowerment and body acceptance.”  Says she, “I’m here to encourage people of every size, shape age, experience level & ability to grab life by the curves. And never let go.”

What I like about her work is that she has stepped up and spoken out about an issue that isolates many of us, that she is clear and professional and provides quality tools and education that are accessible and free.  She’s providing a tremendous service to many people who feel excluded from the fitness yoga craze, or even from the “gentle yoga” classes found in studios.  She’s speaking up about learning to accept one’s body and claim the right to honor it and to exercise as one wants and needs.  Guest-Jelley is also providing imminently practical advice.

Most of all I like that her business encourages women to be and love themselves while simultaneously challenging the paradigm of our society that values only certain body types.  On top of it all, it she is running an awesome website and has created her own niche.  Cool, I say, bring on more.  More of Curvy Yoga, and more new businesses that empower, more ways to make a living doing the empowering, more innovation in business and healthcare, more challenges to the status quo.

Gather the resources, network, spread the message.  I see Daniel Pink’s “right brain” approach in action, I see Seth Godin’s “post-industrial revolution.”  In Anna Guest-Jelley, I see finding one’s potential, clear presentation of message and values.  Hope my encounter with her “infects” me to spread a message, connect, and change the world.   Thanks Anna!





























What are your core beliefs?

IMG_0042A decade ago I moved from northern Virginia to a small town in Colorado with just a carful of belongings.   I left behind a marriage and a job and joined some good friends who were living what I saw as a conscious and sane life.  A part of me was looking for time in the mountains to deprogram and start afresh.  With more space and quiet, in a gentler town, perhaps I could get down to some wiser ways.

Did that happen?  In many ways it did.  The East is so dense with people, buildings, and culture that a girl sometimes can’t separate her own values out from those of the society.  In the cacophony, the quick pace, the getting and spending, one doesn’t even have time to think.  The attitudes of society soak in through her pores and affect her thoughts and behavior.

When I settled in Colorado, I found a job with odd hours, and I hiked up many a mountain.  I sought out yoga classes, then a yoga teacher training.  Slowly I began to unwind my physical patterns, my muscular tension and my defenses against the world.  In a hakomi, or body-centered psychotherapy, training I sat with peers in mindfulness and observed my core beliefs emerge.  I found an outstanding yoga teacher whose classes took me on an ecstatic journey, and after all this, I could feel my feet on the ground, my animal body engaged in the world, my heart open so that I engaged more easily with others.  I hoped work and love would flow more easily.  And they did, especially love.  Work?  I’m still progressing on that front.

Presently I find myself wondering how we in this country developed the mindset we have and the belief that we must work excessively and purchase new gadgets regularly.  I wonder how our environment, healthcare system, and political system all became so toxic or dysfunctional.  There is an armoring and network of habits at the national level just as there is at the individual level, of course.  We buffer ourselves against remembering another set of values by escaping into entertainment and the pursuit of status, or things.  I see a clinging to old beliefs and habits.  I see a belief in the dominance of a market economy above all.

I turned to history to understand more, and I read about the founding fathers and their ideas, about Christian fundamentalism, about the decline of intellectualism, about our perspectives on the body and about the evolution of psychology.  How, I wondered, did we become so materialistic?  How did a business mentality so thoroughly permeate medicine and education?  How did we get to this place where we must work such long hours and commute such long distances to have enough money for expenses?

At the same time I wonder what might help us to loosen hold of those beliefs and reconsider.  Let some new ideas in.  Would it be a change in education?  More yoga and less time on treadmills?  More time in nature?  That’s my prescription!  But each of us thinks we know what would be best, and none of us knows the whole truth about our troubles and what to do about them.

The good news is that younger people are coming up with new ways of doing things.  Whether it is because they are facing less abundance than their parents or just seeing what the world is now, they are already trying something different.  Generation Y, for example, is said to want a shorter work day and more time for family, more flexibility in their jobs, and meaningful work or lifestyle that includes work.  They want to support their communities.

I see this trend evolving in this small town I landed in.   Many young people are starting small businesses, collaborating to build a counter economy.  There are people making a living as web designers, social media managers, artists, and healers.  They find ways to network, or share office space, to promote one another’s businesses.  When our society can sustain these folks well, or if they can sustain themselves, we will all be healthier.

There is so much that is rich in life that becomes buried in business and striving.  I am a baby boomer with the values of Generation Y.  A yoga teacher in need of a job, a job in which I work with others for something I believe in and yet also have time for family and creative work.  Time to be outside.  Time for prayer and mediation and the study of history.  We need to really think about what we believe, what we feel in response to the world around us, and where we need to go.  Because if we don’t change course, we will pay a big price.

Can we not examine the bundles of assumptions and beliefs wrapped around us so tightly that we can’t notice?  It is time, right now, to slow down, to look both inside and out and consciously choose the values we will live.

“The Trouble with Yoga”

There is an excellent article of that name (in post title) here:

The trouble with yoga, says Lisa Nash, a chiropractor, Feldenkrais practitioner, and long-time yoga practitioner, is that we westerners approach it as we do most other things, with an achievement mentality, a “do it harder” approach. We do not really know how to unwind, and the poses present a challenge that we often rise to with gusto or retreat from in discouragement.

It can be different, but we may need Feldenkrais, or Continuum, or another Western somatic approach to teach us how to unwind old movement and muscular patterns, says Nash. I think she is right, and I only know that because I have had a yoga teacher steeped in Continuum, and I have studied Feldenkrais. Considering that I am a runner and hiker and am the tightest yoga teacher on the planet, I have needed a lot of help to unwind. Only particular ways of practicing yoga, only these Western approaches, really show me what it means to open to the flow of life streaming through me.

Here is Nash herself:

“From my vantage point, it is clear that many who are riding the wave of yoga’s immense popularity are practicing asanas without connecting with the heart of yoga—practicing diligently for years without ever experiencing the “union” for which “yoga” is named. At its root, yoga is about radical transformation or unveiling of the self; it challenges us to dissolve or transmute habitual ways of perceiving and thinking, feeling, and moving. But too often yoga instruction fails to meet modern Western students where they are; it fails to begin from the point where such profound somatic learning must begin. As a result, yoga classes often leave intact, or even reinforce, students’ unconscious embodied habits of trying, performing and straining. They inadvertently perpetuate, rather than defuse, students’ habits of violence toward the body.”

Perhaps there will be folks who disagree with us, or folks so open and limber that yoga does not directly reinforce old habits. But I believe we need help in learning the truer meaning of yoga, and I think we should sprinkle in more restorative, yin yoga as well as Feldenkrais, Continuum and other movement practices. Not lose the poses or practice, just shed new light on them.

My journey as a teacher has taken a detour away from working with veterans of war to working with healthcare professionals in a hospital. Here are some folks facing life and death scenarios, dealing with great stress to their bodies and minds; many are overweight, unhealthy themselves. Together we unwind and perhaps in time we will together meditation the deeper meaning of yoga, the union of body, spirit, and mind, or the union with our higher selves.

I don’t preach in yoga, but I sometimes mention this meaning of union. It is what keeps yoga fresh for me, the aspect of it that engages me on many levels and over many years. I would have lost sight of that without my teacher, and without Feldenkrais and Continuum. Thanks Lisa, for voicing a truth. I hope your article stirs the yoga community and gets it talking!

When the shell cracks

I’ve been wrestling with my job in a disability center since I started it a year and a half ago.  Once I went in to the boss to quit, which led to a surprisingly good outcome:  She clarified my job description for me and then for the staff, which seemed keen on having me do parts of their jobs.  But I continued to struggle with defining my tasks for each day.  All the while I’ve squirmed with my role in a free-form environment with a complex clientele.  To top it off I felt a disconnect between my identity and the role.

Yet this complex situation has taught me more than the jobs that felt like a natural fit.   I’ve learned to stand up for myself, to really assert what will and won’t work for me, and I’ve learned to let go of my ego, my previous way of defining myself.  Sound paradoxical?  Yes, and true, and the beauty in the paradox is more evident to me through the help of yoga and mindfulness meditation.

Here is one good lesson:  When new to the job, I met with three women working in similar positions at an organization in a town nearby.  These folks have created elaborate social activities for their constituents.  They go out to restaurants, take vans of people on weekend trips.  Made me want to run the other way if those things are part of my job.  But I’ve built my program with smaller support groups, based around assistive technology and other topics, leaving room for some sharing.  I started a yoga class.  And I carved out some time to retreat to the computer for record keeping, newsletter creation, and website management.

I’ve been able to find ways to serve that are compatible with my more introverted temperament.  Instead of den mother, I am behind-the-scenes facilitator.  I water flowers, set out recycling, demonstrate use of assistive devices.  I participate in community gatherings and parties through setting up, clearing up, socializing.  I connect more deeply with those in my yoga class.

I watch myself respond; I honor my nature; I let go of some resistance.  And the environment accommodates me.  Whatever this job is in terms of career development, I cannot yet say, but in terms of spiritual development it is filled with fruit.

This strange little job has cracked me open while yoga and meditation kept me grounded.  I have been witness to the lives of those with disabilities, and I have been part of a community sharing experiments on healing, on living with limitations, on finding our roles in the community.  It is an unusual job in a unique environment.  I love my alone time as much as ever, but I also love this way of being connected.  I love having the chance to experiment.

It’s been very uncomfortable and rewarding at the same time.  I move out in the world, and yet I am authentically quiet and gentle, finding the background when I need it.  The stories I tell myself shift; my experience in the world transforms; my body and mind soften; my feet stand steady; and my heart engages.  That yoga and mindfulness practice has taught me how to feel, how to open, how to free fall:  It is pretty smart stuff.

Out of step or a foot ahead?

Change is coming.  So said a healthcare recruiter to me a few days ago when I interviewed with him at the local hospital.  The company has been preparing for 10 years, he said, to develop new IT and wellness programming.  Wellness is included since new healthcare legislation is designed to instigate reimbursement for keeping people out of hospitals.  Finally!  But I’ll wait and see.

It’s the kind of healthcare I have been awaiting for a long time.   I want the hospital to hire me.  As a mind-body therapist.   I interviewed to be a wellness specialist/yoga teacher.  The description was for a health educator really.

The weird thing is that six years ago I had a job as an education coordinator in a holistic center associated with this same hospital.  I ran a yoga/qigong studio, coordinated classes and workshops, and supported the administration and holistic pharmacy.  It was part-time, and I had health insurance.

I loved that job.   I loved being a part of a holistic center within a medical center.  And I loved developing an integrative approach to healthcare and providing wellness services to the community as well as people in the hospital suffering from illness and injury.  We helped people through chemotherapy with acupuncture, people going through rehab with massage, people with chronic illness with nutrition, kids with ADD and depression with a more natural approach.  We also  supported dying people with reiki.  Our classes, open to staff, patients, and the community, included meditation, infant massage, and other healing approaches.

This center was closed down.  The healthcare company sponsored an exit lunch for us in which we talked about keeping our commitment to the cause alive in our individual work.  But it’s been lonely.

Yesterday, I talked with a recruiter for 45 minutes, took a break, then interviewed with two wellness managers and did a yoga demo.  Turns out all this was for a temporary position to teach two yoga classes a week.  While I wish for something more substantial, the wonderful part of the interview for me was the conversation with these three folks and the awareness I had of the growth in me since I last worked there.  I am bolder, stronger, and more articulate about wellness, yoga, and mindfulness and their role in the healthcare system.

Dan, the recruiter from a temporary staffing company, asked me why I was interested in wellness.  I said that I want to help people live healthier lives, to tap into their own immunity and stay well or find supportive therapies when they get sick.  I hoped to teach yoga to help people gain a sense of their inner healing capacity.   Dan looked at me and said, “that’s where our company is heading.”

When I sat down with two female managers from Wellness, one said to me, “You worked for the holistic center?  It was ahead of its time:  If it were created now, it would thrive.”

Will things really change?   We still don’t know what will happen with the latest healthcare reform bill.  And we don’t know how far policy changes will reach.  But healthcare expenses are getting too high, and more folks have less money and will be excluded from care.  When things begin to affect the bottom lines of hospitals and insurance companies, or when the people make enough noise, a shift will certainly occur.  We already see stirrings of movement.

In the meantime, us mind-body types will hang in there, learning about embodied experience, the immune response, healing, and inner work.  Practicing stress reduction and renewal, exploring our connection to ourselves, each other, and nature.  But there really isn’t time to spare:  We and our world will become much sicker if we don’t move forward.  I’m ready to work, and I think others are too.  Let’s get the behemeth moving a little faster.

Living and Dying

ImageI’ve been away from this blog for awhile:  First, I was off to DC to greet family, then home in time to say goodbye to a friend.  My yoga teacher.  I had not seen her since January when she was diagnosed with cancer, and I didn’t get to see her before she died.  I am just one of many fans, but I feel the loss keenly.

Most of us only knew Wendy as a strong, vibrant presence at the yoga studio, and now she is gone, killed by cancer at 51.  Some deaths don’t make sense to our human minds, and this one in particular challenges our beliefs and expectations.

Alive as only someone who is embodied and mindful can be, Wendy taught us basic and profound wisdom about being human.  How to notice the sensations within us, how to move with awareness, how to be alive in the moment, sensitive to our energy and engaging it, living it, with wisdom.  After her classes I felt enlivened, inspired to get home and dance, exploring movement and expressing deep joy.  I was more present with others; I relished the moments, I knew better how to live my afternoon, my week.  Now Wendy teaches me in death.

It is a startling contrast, at least it feels so now, as I struggle with the reality of her suffering and her physical end, or shall we say transformation?  I am still reeling, but when I settle I consider how I want to live my days.  This loss brings some things into clear focus, those things that feel worth pursuing; it  seems to obscure others that I must let go of.   My work path seems clearer.  Already I am inclined to less analysis and talk, more knowing and doing.

I make arrangements–quit a couple of my yoga classes and seek a studio to teach in.  Sign up for those writing classes and start studying digital journalism.  Contact a teacher who combines my loves of yoga and hakomi.  Check in with me in a couple of weeks, and I’ll tell you how I’m doing.  It is not a desperation I feel, but desire.  To develop my skills and communicate about somatic approaches to changing consciousness.

I think of the grace Wendy brought to her work as a teacher and studio director.  Keep things simple, look people in the eye, remember their names and treat them with respect.  Clean business practices, plenty of kindness. I learned from her how a good teacher (of any kind) helps others engage more fully with life.  Those of us who studied with her will teach others what she has taught us, maybe not through yoga, but through being more embodied, more alive, more divinely inspired, and a little less afraid of death.

Further adventures in yoga

I have so much faith in yoga to affect things physical or mental that I notice a need for it in many places.  Yoga for disabilities, yoga for kids in the justice system?  Amazing and effective in grounding, bringing more mobility and peace of mind: I have heard feedback from students corroborating my impression.  Now I have an opportunity to teach yoga, breathwork, and yoga nidra (deep relaxation) for veterans at a local clinic.

The prospect of working with vets traumatized by war is intimidating, but so was the prospect of teaching the other groups.  My friend Gina works at this vet center and is the one who invited me to teach; I ask her what it is like to work with these people, how they are affected by trauma the trauma of war and reentry into society.  She describes the anger, anxiety, and problems adjusting, and tells me it is challenging to work with this fallout of combat.  I get on the Give Back Yoga website and order CDs by folks who work with veterans:  They are on breathing and on yoga nidra, a practice for relaxing the body and even employing some hypnosis.  After years of my own practice and the influence of good teachers, I trust the ability of the yoga to do its magic, and I know how to incorporate feedback from the participants.   It’s a good starting point for challenging work.

We will meet once a week, equipped with mats, blankets, blocks, and bolsters.  My friend will be present, and that eases my mind.  Her experience dealing with the anxiety and anger that can erupt will be helpful to us all.  I will review all I have learned about dealing with trauma through the body and with mindlfulness.  With Gina there, and equipped with yoga and my own grounding through the practice, it may be doable.  It may be a healing experience.

There are now techniques for addressing trauma, whether from war, abuse, or accidents.  Yoga provides some that soothe the nervous system and rewire patterns in the muscles and nerves:  These other approaches, such as Somatic Experiencing, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, or Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, try to access traumatic memories and neuronal patternings and provide alternative experiences and a type of reprogramming.  My training in hakomi introduced me to basic presence and vocalizing with people re-experiencing trauma, and these other approaches go deeper in working directly with that trauma.

Twenty-three vet hospitals in the United States have yoga classes.  The Veterans Yoga Project is providing support and training to yoga teachers and centers introducing yoga to vets.  It’s pretty cool, really, to see an institution turn to yoga acknowledging the need and embracing the techniques and healing aspects of an ancient practice.  I am ready to jump into the pool and swim with the current on this one.

The Veterans Yoga Project’s mission “is to provide education and support for the mindful use of therapeutic yoga practices as an aid in the recovery process from post-traumatic stress and other psychological difficulties among US Veterans, their families, and their communities.”  The Project notes the following, information heeded by the vet hospitals around the country:  “Veterans coping with post-traumatic stress who practice yoga report better sleep, improved focus and concentration, less anger and irritability, and an overall greater ability to enjoy life in the present moment.” 

Teen Teaching

I’ve been writing in my journal about teaching yoga in county drug court, trying to find a way to convey an experience close to my heart.  The task intimidates me, and yet the program was recently cut, and I feel a need to record what I can on paper.  And so I find myself in the wake of this departing boat, touching into memories, emotions, and effects.

This blog is titled “Can we bring ourselves to work,” and yet in this instance, I have to say work brought forth my self.  I sought this position out because I wanted to share the grounding that yoga provides with these kids taking drugs and confronting the justice system.  I wanted to give them a sense that they have wisdom within themselves and that they can best access it when they unwind tension, relax, and listen within.  I knew many would be angry, or simply not receptive to my mission, but I sure wanted to try.  Only now do I realize how applicable the saying “we teach what we most need to know” was for me, because teaching these kids helped me learn to convey yoga from a deeper sense of bodily awareness as well as from internal guidance.

When we first started our classes, we met in a musty old probation building, in a windowless room where we had to move about 16 tables and numerous chairs to create a practice space.  I was very nervous, and I taught a rather rigid class, walking students through sun salutations over and over to calm both myself and them.  Some criticized or resisted, some listlessly did what they were told.  The mood was mostly resigned, and kids were quick to leave when class ended.

Meeting weekly and engaging in yoga, we began to connect with each other and create a practice.  I observed some that some were still going through the motions, a distracted look on their faces, but some began to notice sensations and satisfaction in the poses so that their eyes softened and their minds and bodies quieted, perhaps deepening in connection.  Some were angry and disruptive, asking why they had to do yoga and saying it was too hard;  I had to tell them to leave and try again in the next class.  Some, before and after class, talked to me.  One complained there wasn’t enough variety.  Others told me about their journey into drug court and their reaction to being there.  Some told me that yoga relaxed them, made them feel less angry.

Over time, with support from the magistrate, parole officers, and caseworkers, I learned how to handle behavior issues.  But more importantly, I learned from the blunt feedback and questions kids asked.  Can we do some new poses?  Can we make up poses?  Can we see who can stand the longest in tree pose?  Can we try handstands?   And, once I introduced partner yoga, can we get a partner?  I learned to loosen up, to teach what I felt.  Then, most importantly of all, I felt again the raw exposure to life and death an adolescent feels (particularly around confronting family issues, experiencing anger and drugs, sometimes the death of friends), and I witnessed naked courage.  When I met the mother of a kid hooked on meth and heard of the imprisonment of the family men, I was awed at the girl’s strength to pull up and choose her own health.  To finish school and begin taking classes at the community college.  When my favorite student killed himself, I was stunned by realization of how open his heart was and how much pain he’d been in.

Ultimately, I was opened up. I learned to trust myself, and I learned to respond more fearlessly to people of varied temperament, social adjustment, and maturity.  Less threatened by criticism or resistance, I felt a deep patience for all the kids, and yet I stopped behavior that disrupted class.   I learned to be real when I couldn’t do a particular pose or made a mistake.    In the mix of emotions and conflicts, I was pulled into community as I never had before.

Within a few years we moved into a peaceful yoga studio with a large window, calming yellow and brick walls and soft multi-colored tapestries.  Students who had been in class a few months or more did not want to be disrupted, and they let the new kids know by example or words.  I had some demonstrate poses, or sometimes they would tutor each other unasked.  And in the more peaceful environment, with the benefit of years past and supportive staff, we developed a strong practice.  In the afternoon light, we practiced mindfully, delighting in the sensations and resting deeply at the end of practice.

Through the teachings of the teens and my own extraordinary yoga teacher during these years, I learned to convey openness, gentleness, playfulness, and peace. I truly did bring myself to work, and I brought the teachings of the students into that self.  I became more whole, and I hope they did too.

Embodied Mind

The most profound experience I’ve ever had is the hardest one to write about.  Mostly because I doubt that I can convey this experience in words, but also because I believe it is elusive to those of us living in Western culture.  But I’m learning this is what writing, or at least blogging, is about:  sharing experience and letting the results take care of themselves.

I have experienced revelatory change several times in two years; it fades and then recurs, but always some part remains with me.    It happens in a yoga class.  Yes, yes, we’ve all felt our bodies awaken a bit in yoga as we move joints in new ways or stretch muscles we didn’t know we had.  But in this class, I come alive.  I learn elementary and transcendent truths about being human, and they are one and the same.

I say elementary because they are so simple:  There is a mindful way to be in our bodies, and we can learn it by paying attention.  Profound because when we are mindful in our physical reality, we are at one with the world, and we sense our way on our path.  I believe this phenomenon is world changing, and there are other writers who agree.

But first, my experience.  In my class with Wendy Bramlett in Boulder, Colorado, I was turned inside out and upside down.  As I lay there, unwinding muscles and habits and energetic kinks, I thought, “How could I live 49 years and not be informed of this truth?  How can we call what we do with kids in school “education” if we do not talk to them about embodiment?  And how can we be fully human if we “manhandle” our bodies?

These thoughts surfaced many times in the first six months with this teacher.  Yes, there’s been a rise in yoga and in fitness and wellness centers, and yes, many more people work out or park their cars far from the storefront.  But man, is that the best we can do?  No, it isn’t.

As a yoga student of 30 years and teacher for 10, I have experienced meditative peace, and I have felt much physical pleasure and relished the practice of yoga.  But in the past I brought my Western mentality, my mind vs. matter approach, and my need to accomplish to yoga. Only recently have I really begun to understand yoga physically, mentally, and spirituality.  I think that coming to a real understanding is a long-term process for other yoga teachers as well.  We may understand the philosophy, the energetics, the subtle body, the structure of poses on one level, but still not understand sheer presence and it’s profound effects.

And so my yoga teacher takes us on a tour of our inner bodies.  She cues us on how to observe, how to pay attention, how to trace effects of one movement through a limb, or an opposing joint.  We experience the mind-body connection, and it is much more than listening to the body.  In being fully present and embodied, we awaken.  I feel profoundly relaxed, even mildly disoriented when my bones and muscles have moved in new ways.  Prana, or energy, shoots through my body in waves or streams, quieting my head and leaving me speechless, unable to comprehend what is happening intellectually because this experience is new, and because it is not easily describable.  I find my way into what I recognize as yoga poses, but the process ofgetting there, and the sense of energy coursing through my body, are new to me.

It is not just that I become aware of sensation; it’s that I feel into and am fully aware in the sensation as it occurs.  My mind travels into my very cells, and prana lights them up as though I have touched a match to them.  Then my mind becomes conscious.  I am in the world open hearted, in a state of being rather than doing and  thinking.  I am flowing with life, participating in consciousness.  And I am guided by deeper wisdom.

Here is what other writers have said about the subject:

Joseph Campbell

“The ancient myths were designed to harmonize the mind and the body. The mind can ramble off in strange ways and want things that the body does not want.  The myths and rites were means of putting the mind in accord with the body and the way of life in accord with the way that nature dictates.”

Moshe Feldenkrais in The Elusive Obvious

“Harmonious, efficient movement prevents wear and tear.  More important, however, is what it does to the image of ourselves and our relationship to the world around us.”

Philip Shepherd in New Self New World

“At the core of this book is the belief that the individual and collective challenge of our age is to allow the mind to identify with its true sensitivity . . . As we learn to let the consciousness of the pelvic skull awaken to match that of the cranial skull, we will feel again the psyche pervading ‘every living part of the organism.’  Once that happens, and the corridor within us brings male and female into correspondence and opens to make room for all the world, then we will enter an entirely different experience of the self—one that we might call the felt self.  Until your awareness can journey to and merge with the mindful place in the body that enables you to consciously ‘be,’ the self will not be able to unify; and as long as your self is not able to unify, you will not be able to feel it.”

We can think about the idea of the mind and body as one, but until we experience the truth of this fact, it doesn’t mean much.  Pay attention when you sit, when you move.  Move more slowly, change how you move.  Notice some more.  How are you affected?  Start educating  yourself if you will; there is much wisdom to recover if we want to be whole.

The next step

On February 2, I celebrated my year anniversary at my current job at the disability center.  I am proud of having survived, and proud of having opened up to new tasks, new experiences, new perspectives.  And I’m ready to move on.

It’s true.  This year has been an amazing one for which I will be forever grateful.  I am now blind to physical disability, seeing people rather than wheelchairs.  I am well-schooled in the fact that appearances mean little, having been surprised by people’s resilience, love, tenacity, and wisdom, no matter what their circumstance or education level.  I have taught yoga to people who respond to the mindfulness and who wake up in their bodies, even though those bodies are injured.  And I have seen community at work in a loving way.  Best of all, I’ve seen societal values turned on their head:  There is no pretension here, where we are all equal, all struggling, all misfits in our way.  We cannot and do not pretend or posture or hide behind status.

At the same time, my mind is not on the government program I am supposed to oversee.  I am restless:  I am clear that I need to write and to teach.

On my anniversary day, I sat at lunch on a park bench in the sun, thinking of how sometimes opportunities fall in our laps, and how ready I am to more fully engage with work, how ready I am to teach and write about new models of health and healing.  Later that evening I received an email inviting me to apply for a position teaching holistic health classes at a community college:  I blinked and rubbed my eyes to make sure it was real.

Perhaps that higher power is guiding, is interacting with me.  In this work life, I seek to be open to presence, to letting go of my ego while honoring my temperament and my heart’s desire.  I am aware of my ability to deceive myself or simply to overanalyze, and I practice prayer and meditation to find my way.

Sometimes I feel a source of support:  It feel as though the spheres are aligning, and I am deeply grateful.  I believe we are one with the earth and with each other and that we need to listen for our true paths if we are to survive.  God or goddess, gaia or universe:  It speaks to us and we must choose whether or not we will listen.

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