Friday, May 1, 2015

What are You Doing About the Weeds?

I received a text from a friend last night.  She asked what I was doing?  My reply was:  “Brooding!”  She replied that she was too and let me know that she was on her way over.  This life has its own type of perfection, when two gals clue into each other and end up spending a Thursday evening wrapped in a blankie, on the couch, lamenting about the vagaries of life and it’s many challenges.  

In the course of conversation she asked me:  “Why has everything become so intense?  It feels like someone has turned up the heat!” with no access to the thermostat.

I had no answer to give her, but the conversation reminded me of an image from an ancient story, that I have been contemplating of late.   It’s in the garden story, long after Eve emerged from an Adamic sleep, even after she herself had woken-up, from snacking on the “apple”,  offered to her by a particular kind of worm.  
In studying the image, I realized I was contemplating in my mind, the particular part of the story where Eve learns she’s stuck there now; entangled in the branches of the Tree of Knowledge.  That’s what we gals were brooding over.  That pesky underpinning, we can't seem to grasp that keeps us grappling.  She was asking me (for probably the ten-thousandth time): “How do I just be happy?  How do I break free from the pain?”
Though I didn’t share it last night, her question reminded me of one of my favorite excerpts from William Wordsworth’s “Prelude”, written in 1888:

"Two miles I had to walk along the fields
before I reached my home. Magnificent
The morning was, a memorable pomp,
More glorious than I ever had beheld,
The sea was laughing at a distance; all
The solid mountains were as bright as clouds…
And in the meadows and the lower grounds
Was all the sweetness of a common dawn,
Dews, vapors, and the melody of birds,
And Laborers going forth with the fields.
Ah! need I say, dear friend, but to the brim
My heart was full: I made no vows, but 
vows were made for me; bond unknown to me
was given, that I should be, else sinning greatly,
a dedicated Spirit, and on I walked
in blessedness, which even yet remains..."

My friend's lament, my own brooding over those vows that “were made for" us, that “bond unknown" to us given and the image (pictured above by J. Kirk Richards), they all had something in common for me.  These old stories that lay before me, like a manuscript to be deciphered, the challenges current in life; the hidden answers that seem to come somewhere between the literal dogma and metaphoric-spiritual evolution they offer.
In the garden story, Eve makes a choice, prior to the possibility of knowledge.  Such a paradox and reminds me of Wordsworth’s morning walk, of those “vows that were made” prior to understanding the promise, yet the promise remains, and the bond that regardless of anything, there is blessedness that restores itself, as we search their meaning for us.

I love that after Eve took the apple, her Divine parents directed her to the Tree of Life, where placed there to guard her from moving too fast, were Cherubim (not one cherub with a heart-shaped arrow), but plural guardians.  I’m sure it she felt like someone standing behind her had just struck LOUD symbols together and the reverberation rattled her vision from one to three.  I love that J. Kirk Richards painted three guardians, because it was like a little confirmation of something I have suspected since I was quite young: 

If I were to use this image as a map into the metaphor, I would say that the guardians placed around the Tree of Life are the cherubim of our own body, mind and spirit, separated out for us to learn to work through.
Prior to taking a bite out of mortality, none of them were really possible in the realms of the un-manifest.  But here, well here it is a different story, here we get to work with them, without the emergence of congruent ongoing union.
Sometimes I work or play in my body, sometimes in my mind and sometimes in my spirit, yet what happens to one, reverberates through the others.  The reverberation can feel gross or incredibly intricate.  Sometimes it feels like my very agency pits them against each other and like quarreling sisters, it can feel like they’re mutual affinity, also has the capacity to create my own worst enemy and they become the very guardians to entering into full-happiness.  This, I think is what was going on last night 

On my path, as a yogi, I have experienced a communion of these three more often than a gal deserves. I know what it is, but if I really sustained it, like standing in God’s presence it would burn me up, from my head to toe.  It is not meant to fully blossom in this place, while also remaining the gate to the next. This place is not the place to fully embrace it, but to glimpse it, to cultivate it, to train these guardians to grow as one…not unlike the garden She came from, yet far beyond its borders.

Something I can say, is that when the three cherubim, body, mind and spirit are yoked as one, the Tree of Life is not a metaphor, and the map of lasting happiness begins to reveal itself through me more soulfully, for the moment. 
Sometimes that map leads me to my knees, where I kneel before the three of them and the flaming sword that keeps my happiness at bay feels like my own head, with a that old familiar heat that piercing down my spine.  I am the flaming sword, that’s me, body, mind and spirit, as I am now.  My work here, is the very juicing of apples (hopefully worm-free).

The only way I know to truly sin greatly in this life, is to hide from being a dedicated spirit; to live divided, body-mind-spirit; to go through the day with each one choosing for itself, as though the others don't exist at all.   So I find that, one night in good company, helped us enjoy the brooding and the weeding, as much as we enjoy the garden itself.
I had an experience of such weeding, just this past week.  My garden is in the back yard, in the form of a walking labyrinth.  And while I have been distracted by watching the grass in the center fountain and flourish, with no water source (indicating the immense flow of Spirit that pours into this life), the soft-rich soil had begun spouting weeds.
I was a wee bit puzzled, as several weeks passed, that I had no desire to drop to my knees and go to work on it.   A few days ago, however, following a recent rain, I noticed the soil was soft, the air was moist and felt sweet on my tongue, through my breath.   The time felt “ripe” for weeding, so I dropped to my knees and went to work.  Brooding or not, the process felt like a privilege. 

The pictures here really need none of these words above, other than to dedicate them to Karen and to Wordsworth, and Mary Oliver (of course) and to anyone else who knows what a blessing weeding can be, when it comes to this process called life, and to the intricate practice of yoking body, mind and soul.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

My sister said lately that she felt like she was taking one step forward and two steps back.   This morning I woke to taking one of those steps forward out into the backyard and wondered if that counted as the same thing.  As my Saint Valentine's Day treat, I thought I would begin my day with a walking meditation through the Labyrinth.  Valentine's tends to be true to its roots in my circles.  Though not widely recognized, when tasting those chocolate covered strawberries, this day is dedicated to Martyrdom in the name of love.  

Recently, I've been integrating a 7-month old puppy (Nala) with my older, high-strung Belgian Mallinois, Bailey.  Given my current doggie-oddesy, I seem to have relationship harmony (and disharmony) on my mind.  In fact, this entire 2015 is turning out to be a series of relationship themes streaming though every aspect of my life.  

As this year starts to show it's personality, I'm spending quite a bit of my time mulling over dynamics, with son, sisters, family, friends and clients, ahem...and dogs.
This was all mulling in my mind, when I got out of bed.  I bundled myself up in my bathrobe, furry scarf and favorite knitted snow hat (the kind that has braided tassels down the sides).  I am sure I was quite the picture.  It wasn't extremely cold this morning, but I knew the gossamer hints of frost would quickly distract my body from the warmth that meditation offers the soul.

Stepping into the path, beginning the turns to the light flip of my adidas sandals (I forgot to mention that part).  These sandals have spa soles, a bunch of little acupressure points that help the arthritis in my feet relax, so I can walk in the morning when I get out of bed.

As I looked down and studied the stones that bordered the outer path, I thought of the approaching New Moon next week. 
I thought of the four quadrants of my backyard "Lab" as a metaphor for the four lunar cycles of each month.  These cycles rebirth past culminations (both good and bad) into fresh potentials each new Moon.  Next week will be a "blue moon", happening only so often and I am looking forward to sending some fresh intentions out into the ethos.  

My mind continued on the path with her usual chatter, rolling through conversations with others in recent weeks. I could hear myself speaking my peace (that usually comes to mind long after the discussion has ended).  It's an innocuous, yet very therapeutic, way that I give myself a good talking through, on a regular basis.   

I cycled through thoughts of how to stay authentic, while being more loving in my relationships with loved-ones, without loosing sight of what's true in me.  How to send my son off into the world, with a willingness to see him as a man-in-process, rather than my little-boy.   How to keep my own energy in a good place as I help these two dogs, in ways that feel harmonizing for all three of our very big hearts? 
 I looked down at my choice of clothing and wondered if maybe I've reached that crone stage?  What would one think, if you were to peek into my backyard and see such a scene: A woman bundled up in all sorts of mixed garb, walking in circles through some sort of weird path, mumbling to herself...Maybe I don't even need to ask.  Some questions answer themselves.  

I have been thinking lately that I feel like I'm ready for a face like Mary Oliver's, but for now I'm just looking like a gal who's definitely not young any more, but not old enough that my wrinkles and loosening chin are considered weathered-character yet.
Regardless, I kept winding along the path's greater curves.   Meandering through the four quadrants of Healing, Enlightenment, Prosperity and Peace.  It was helping me let go of the surface self-awarensses and embrace a deeper breathing pattern in my body.  Through the bridge of my nose, I could feel the sweet, pre-dawn air, spiral crispness deep into my heart, gently opening the tender folds of my lungs.  

Before I realized it's approach I was standing still, ready to enter the center.  Looking down at the meditation chair, I felt a unique sensation.  My heart could see two presences.  I stood faces to face with my past and future self.   There I was, a guest between them both; who I have been and who I will be...They stood potently before me, both beckoning and challenging me, to step in and take my place in-between them.  I did.  It was deep.  One of those meditation experiences where everything and nothing happened simultaneously, as I sat between my past experiences and my future potentials. 
Seated there, I up looked up toward the entrance, where I started my meditation.  From my vantage point, sitting in the center of the Labyrinth, I contemplated the "Alpha and Omega" section.  It's a middle point between the center and outside border of the path.  It guides you, turning in at the beginning of your journey and out from the center, at the end.  Sometimes when you glance it on your walk, you can't remember if you're moving toward or away from the middle.  I mused at how often it seems impossible to tell the two apart; whether I'm at the end of something, or just the start.

When ready, I began my pilgrimage back out.  I could still feel the two presences, my past and future selves, ready to merge more fully into who I am right now.  I felt encouraged by these two as they both became who I have always been and who I will always be.  

On the way out, I was chatter-free.  I took my first curves back through the healing quadrant and mused on my past perspectives as I heard the reminder from my past self say: "It's already been taken care of Sister, I've got your back".   

Wending through more curves outward into my day through the Peace quadrant, I heard again, that same message so clearly, from where I am going and who I will be: "It's already taken care of, you're already where you're trying to go".
As I completed this morning's pilgrimage, I reflected on my sister's recent comment and realized that those two steps back and one step forward are a really great teacher for learning to walk the middle way.  

So on this day originally set aside for a Martyred Saint (a totally relatable metaphor where such high expectations of chocolate and love abound), my hope for now is that when I feel those pesky minions of inner-martyrdom, that I will remember it's time to treat myself to a little centering.  After this morning's walk, I'm a wee bit more resolved to allow both my beginnings and my endings to take care of themselves.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Four Corners of the Soul

Of course I've been thinking about the Christmas Spirit of late, but not in the way other's may assume.  The holidays used to be such an extraordinary time of year.  I don't need to reminisce, to show what I mean, so I won't.

What I will recall, is another time in my life, a time when I was feeling vulnerable, healing hurts, waking-up and getting centered.

Tom was two-ish, playing in his room.  I was pretty much bed-ridden.  Life was falling to pieces.  One afternoon, I had made my way into the living room rocking chair, trying to take a few vertical breaths for the day, when I heard his soft foot-stomp down the hall to me, where he asked:

"Mommy, come see what I am doing in my room."

I explained a couple more times, that I couldn't stand up, as he repeated his sojourn back and forth between me and his room.   My heart sank a bit deeper each time, until I relented and used the momentum of the chair to get up onto my feet.

Walking behind him, I looked at the back of his blonde hair and heard his soft voice say:  

"Thank you for giving up your rocker for me Mommy."

Who was this boy!  What an old, deep soul to say such a heartfelt thing, at such a time.  I will never forget it.  His sweet sentence, that simple moment, gave me the courage to heal my life.  

Through the practice of yoga, therapy, bodywork and a myriad of tinctures, books and just plain life-expereince, I was able to take on the healing process.  Several years later, during the holidays, I realized that this time of year used to feel so exceptional.  In truth, over the years of my healing journey, the holiday season had become no-less different than the way I felt every day.  

I know, I know!  It sounds glib to say I keep the Christmas Spirit all year long, but it is true.  That's what the healing process does to a person.  Marrying the body and mind, as part of a daily routine creates a heart-opening that also happens, for the masses, so naturally during the holidays.  

To practice the healing journey, through the breath between inhale and exhale, what's past and what's ahead, tends to converge a soul more fully into the present.  Diligently working to clean up a person's psychic messes, those spills that slide OH-SO easily into real-life circumstance as one goes along, is also a unique kind of hero's journey.  

For me, a regular yoga practice (everyday, or even one or two times a week), naturally stimulates the flow of the milk of human kindness. The type of kindness I am talking about, begins with being kind to one's Self, by healing my life as I go along.

This past Summer, that same milk of kindness created a 45ft by 45ft walking Labyrinth in the back yard, with four quadrants dedicated to the healing process. One for Healing itself, one for Enlightenment, one for Prosperity and one for Peace.
The East—Enlightenment:

The Eastern quadrant of this sacred path, a circular metaphor for life, is dedicated to the energy of Enlightenment, of course.   To those big A-ha moments (like with 2yr old Tom in the hallway), or little one's, like the nagging in the back of the mind calling me to mend my life.  The first thing a person needs, in order to feel the flow of harmony in life, is to get honest with what doesn't feel that way.  Over time that discomfort is like a good friend that will tell you the tag is hanging out on your obnoxious holiday sweater. 
When finishing the labyrinth, I found the stones I chose to place along the rings of the Enlightenment quadrant all ended up being long and narrow, like a strand of biwa pearls, to help the energy of waking-up flow swift through an open, clear channel.  With the sweet, moist, morning light pouring in from the east, this is the quadrant that so aptly sprouts the seeds that perpetually land there, from the trees above.  As Enlightenment should be, it's alive with possibility.

The South—Healing:

The Southern quadrant is dedicated to healing.  This area of the "Lab", as I call it, took the most work to open up.  I had to cut back nearly 7-feet of old, dead, wild rose bush thorns.  I admit, I was nervous about what I would uncover, as I hacked away at the thorny branches.  

It got to the point, when I went to sleep at night, when I would close my eyes, all I could see was a forest of thorns; like prince charming hacking away at the forest to wake Sleeping Beauty, with love's first kiss.  Healing the soul takes nothing less!  

I knew I had gone far enough, when I found, tucked back under feet and feet of dead thorny-branches, a hovel that was home to a backyard quail bevy.  (It's a fitting metaphor that the Healing section is the quadrant where bird-crap falls abundantly and moss grows underfoot). This uncovered hovel reminded me of Maurice Sendak's children's book, "Where The Wild Things Are".  It was perfect.
A cave made by mother nature Herself, tempting you to enter, to face your fears, to uncover what's unknown and to continue being brave, even in your hestitations, along the way.

The Healing quadrant is where I began, in life and here.  This section is where I knew I needed to ask for help.  I got honest with the truth that I could not face a task this large alone.  So I put it out on Facebook.  Julee made a comment that gave my spirit courage and Maria showed up in person.  They were the first responders.  It is important to ask for help, when one is in the healing quadrant. 
The stones that ended up bordering the path in the healing quadrant are cracked and uneven.  Someone interested in consistency throughout the "Lab" may have discarded them, but they called me to keep them here; to remind me (in the words of Dicken's Tiny Tim): "Of Him who made beggars walk and blind men see".  The Healing section is where the imperfect come to be reborn, through the courage and support of small miracles that start happening on their behalf, all along the way.

The North—Prosperity:

The Northern quadrant is dedicated to Prosperity, to abundance and to your ability to become vulnerable to it.  You may not associate prosperity with vulnerability, but guess what?  People with an abundance of hurt, lack, poverty of all kinds, mind and body, are abjectly vulnerable to it.  

Again, If it is so easy to walk around feeling vulnerable to a circumstance, vulnerability can also be a pathway to prosperity on the good-side of the life experience spectrum.  It just takes experience and you begin to create a habit of continually trusting it.  The reason the "rich get richer", as they say, is that the longer they stay that way, the more they don't know any different. It really is that simple.
The stones in the Prosperity quadrant are AUSPICIOUS, large, round and many look like the shape of a womb that promises the abundant spirit of new life itself.

So how do I embrace, more fully, a prosperity consciousness?  Well, I begin by waking up, being brave, doing the work, asking for help and then learning to be open to good things happening, in equal or greater measure to my habit of dealing with "bad" things.  I begin to be able to say:  "I KNEW IT!" when good stuff happens, in equal measure with how I used to say it, when life's challenges hit me hard.  

Here's where we talk turkey:  A daily prosperity practice, happens one day at a time, that's what makes it a daily practice.  I have to make space, to open up a place for my healing process, to be vulnerable to it in some way, on a daily basis.

To move my body in yoga poses, restorative, flow, chanting, meditation, reading, writing, artwork, whatever moves me, on a daily basis, relaxes the habit between mind and body, called "the stress response".  It teaches me, line upon line, that I can set aside the space to be open to living and feeling differently than I have.  

Through daily vulnerability, I feel the gift of the present, the joy of knowing something different than what I have so readily accepted about myself.   I feel a warm glow and the promise of new birth.  I feel the energy of wisdom, from wise men and women, from the philosophies of "the East" and little by little, this practice transforms the bleakness of the past and despair in the future into abundance.  When I begin to experience this type of prosperity of heart, I start to echo the shepherds in the fields, following the angelic messenger by "glorifying and praising God for all they had seen".  I have felt that praise in me from God and from me to God, by learning to feel more at home in my body, in my daily life.  This is where prosperity begins to grow and grow and just like the rough stuff, it begins to spill over into every facet of my life.

The philosophy of the style of yoga called "Bodhi Yoga" (that I developed from moving through the healing process again and again and again) explains this process: 

"Bodhi", a Sanskrit word for Awakening, is a yoga practice designed to help you be more aware, better able to notice and understand how your yoga moves your body, mind, emotions and spirit toward a place of balance and abundance.  Overtime, the result is that you are able to naturally increase your tolerance for that wonderful awareness.  Your yoga in this space is a great tool to bring the abundance and prosperity you learn in class outward, to enrich every other area of your life.

The West—Peace:

The Western quadrant of the Lab is the Peace quadrant.  The stones here are smooth, in a consistent rapport with one another, that is collectively beautiful.  The ground is smooth and stays clear of leaves and debris without any work.  There is a feeling in this section, of this sacred space, that opens you up to the feeling that whatever is going on right now, wherever I am in the healing process, is enough.
The elegance of simple contentment, of Peace, is the reward of working with healing, enlightenment and prosperity.  Peace happens when I can say:  "Lets call it good", whatever my circumstance.

Peace is the transcendence of want.   Peace can happen when we gain the emotional maturity (the ability to make use of your emotional healing), to be able to understand and recognize those moments when we feel contentment.  When we practice life in this way, we then consciously co-create more of them with God's Grace, because that is who we have naturally become.  

Contentment is a kind of emotional literacy.  Peace and contentment can happen all year long, but during the holiday season, we tend to allow ourselves to feel it more.  Peace is the natural result of apprenticing myself (or yourself) in the art of allowing, where a quiet kind of "Joy to the World" becomes your daily mantra.

Peace is the soothing quadrant, in this girl's backyard Labyrinth, that leads you to the entrance of the sacred center.  Yet, as in life, as soon as you start feeling dizzy in your excitement to be able to feel centered, you're off balance again.  As soon as you say I'm working on releasing my ego-centeric ways, you are bound by them in some form.  
The primary way to be at Peace on Earth, to get centered, is to stop seeking after it and beging living it daily, as best you can.  When I learned that a sense of Peace on earth, good will to my fellow men and women, was a ongoing matter of yoking (the English word for "yoga") myself with the healing process, I discovered that Peace, more often than not, is the window to feeling content, happy, light and joyful all year.  

The best way to feel peace all year is to practice being receptive, when you're in the middle of everything else.  It's a practice that all the masters teach...Receptive to what's going on, mind and body, in yourself first and then with others.  And lo' and behold, your everyday becomes something extraordinary.

If I could wrap you a gift and set it under your tree, this would be it. 

What happens in the center, while there, as well as when you make your way, weaving through the outer rings of this Labyrinth, is a story for another time. So for now, I am simply going to wish you holidays of Healing, Enlightenment, Prosperity and Peace from this day to the next.

Noel & Namaste


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Tales From the Labyrinth—Endings (Completion & Rebirth)

The Straight & Narrow of One Eternal Round

I certainly did not know the ending from the beginning, when I began building a 45-foot walking labyrinth in my back yard.  If you had told me, amidst the hot and earthy smells of July, that by October I would be steward over such a place, I likely would have felt that old familiar overwhelm.  Moments in life, than seem larger than it, run the risk of sending me into distraction, within the thickness of other thin things.  My way of changing the subject until I am really ready to go there.

I know, as well as anyone, that running away from our Dharma can have weighty consequences.  When prompted to succumb to such impulses, I have learned to let my inhale begin as a slow sip, toward the bridge of my nose and cascade back through an exhale into a long, deep, soothing sigh.  This most basic of yoga practices, helps me attune inwardly and steward the wiles of overwhelm.  Skills such as this, have been invaluable in teaching me the value of taking life one step at a time. 

So, by mid-August, the throngs of helpers had left this beautiful path complete. One evening, close to that time, I was near the back of my house rolling up the garden hose of Summer.  Out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed a quiet visitor, a monarch butterfly.  I thought how fitting (as she landed near my feet), that this sacred presence would grace this path.   Her life was a perfect metaphor of the many personal metamorphosis' that had already and would continue to occur here.  

My desire to snap a picture, without disturbing her faded quickly with a flush of sadness, when I realized that she had likely reached the end of a glorious journey, one that lasted all summer for her too.  It was clear that she did not have the energy to take flight again and was sharing her final moments with me.  

I watched over this beauty intermittently over the next 14-hours, as I allowed nature to take its course, until she had slipped fully away.  I will reflect eternally on the end of her journey, inseparable now, with the beginning of mine, as steward of this lovely Labyrinth.  

Many personal experiences have taught me, that endings are always some sort of beginning.  What a beautiful truth, what a beautiful paradox this is; and privilege to know it in body and soul, through this experience.

The sacred Labyrinth path, now laid out in my back yard, is for helping people realize that there is truth in both sides of paradox; to be able to feel it softly pound up their bare feet, as they walk from beginning, to center, to back out again.  A turning inward, as one also turns outward.  Winding in the same, yet different on the way out, as what seems unmanageable, becomes gradually more so.    

The Labyrinth path relaxes the width between Heaven and Earth, through each person walking it.  The path perpetually lends itself to naturally resolving paradox, just as this experience with vibrant wings turned to fade, is also a letting go of Summer and all the colors in our flights of fancy.  

The beautiful journey of creating something stunning together and the many epiphanies to come, leave me feeling blesses in this moment.  This path is a resolution of God-Source’s way that is both straight and narrow, while simultaneously, holding the beauty of One Eternal round.  

So, here's to the unanswerable questions and how they resolve (if only momentarily), on this precious path called Life; where (to paraphrase a scientific concept), given the opportunity, the shortest distance between two points, is the line between God and us.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tales From the Labyrinth—Middles

“Are We THERE Yet?”
This Labyrinth of mine.  It’s quite something.  I’ve patterned her after the Labyrinth found in the Chartres Cathedral, just outside Paris.  Though many Labyrinths date back over 5000 years, this particular style was first used during the time of the crusades between 1095 and 1201 A.D.

The crusades were a time when there was an intense struggle for control of the Holy Land.  A time when many were not able to make the journey, so Labyrinths were built (mostly in cathedrals) for people to walk, in order to metaphorically participate in the spiritual pilgrimages of the day.

As I have been building this sacred path in my back yard, I have reflected on how similar my time is to the time the Chartres was built.  Listening to NPR on my car radio, as I travel to buy the smooth gray-blue stones, purchase gardening equipment of all sorts and groceries to feed the groups who’ve shown up to help, I hear tales of conflict and great human tragedy in the Middle East.  I have felt so sorrowed for the brothers and sisters of my human family, who are suffering there, in so many ways and for so very long.  I feel a deep wish that I could do something to help ease the burdens of both sides, but here, I work away in my own space.

Yes, this path in my back yard is quite something; and here I am today, with such similar world circumstances, to the times of the crusades and so little changed beyond surface comforts.  The human heart, I think, is ageless.  This may be why we continue the struggle.  

I believe it is advanced work, this path of life, to balance the desire and struggle for attaining or maintaining what is outer-surface with the pilgrimages among the inner-disciplines.  Walking a Labyrinth is a wonderful opportunity for working with both simultaneously.  Using the outer gesture of taking each step, one by one and surrendering both thought and action to our source, our center, is a unique approach to modern meditation.

Last week I was asked to speak in my church.  The topic I had been assigned was called:  “The Power of Prayer” (of course).  So, here I was building a literal walking prayer-wheel in my back yard; working in the soil, as I contemplated what I would say in speaking to a local group of brothers and sisters.  

I thought of the words of a female leader in my church, Cheiko Okazaki, who wrote once of the founding prophet Joseph Smith.  He was a boy of 14 years old, who circled his way through a grove of trees, to a place he thought would be a good spot to pray to God with questions about his faith.  He had a Divine visitation there, a revelatory experience, that Cheiko was referring to when she said:

“We don't have to be in a sacred place for spiritual things to happen.  The Sacred Grove was just a stand of trees before Joseph Smith walked into it.  It became sacred because of what happened there…”  and then she asks the esoteric question:  “Where is your Sacred Grove?  It could even be in you car, if that's were you spend a lot of time thinking through problems and attuning your heart sensitively to the Spirit.”

During my talk, I also quoted another female leader, who was also one of my personal young women’s advisors, when I was 16 years old and wife to one of the current twelve apostles in the mormon church, Patricia Holland also said:

“We have to pray as the ancients prayed. We are women now, not children, and are expected to pray with maturity. The words most often used to describe urgent, prayerful labor are:   wrestle, plead, cry, and hunger...In some sense, prayer may be the hardest work we will ever be engaged in, and perhaps it should be.” 

In contemplating these women’s words, I added in my remarks that:   

“I believe that at our life’s end, the cumulative of our prayers, over the days and years of our sojourn here, will be reflected upon as one of the most powerful aspects of our mortal experience...of our humanity.”

Working from dawn to dusk, over the past seven weeks, I have mused at the process of building an ancient path of prayer and meditation in my back yard; of going to this type of length, in order to create a sacred space for the inner-discipleships of the human heart.  The events that have already taken place here, the many who have showed up to help, the gifts each one has given of time, attention and attunement, have already given this place a sacred feel. 
I’ve been reflecting this past week that during this, the second and middle phase of building a Labyrinth, the process of constructing this path is also mirroring the actions of pennetant souls of ages past, who showed their pioety and dedication to changing human behavior, by changing the path of the heart, with the practice of walking the Labyrinths of old on their knees. 

I smile to myself, each time I stand up, taking to heart that the work being done on this path right now requires each of us to physically kneel, as we add the twist and turns that will eventually take us to the center.  The center of a Labyrinth, the middle-path, is a sacred place for meditation and prayer, set aside for one to be more open and able to receive whatever insights or guidance that is there for you to receive.  
After a week of saying "we're almost done" about fifty times and as I write this evening, with just one more quadrant to complete, I am working a bit more prayerfully, on my own and at my own pace. The final section needed to complete this path holds the energy of PEACE and I am trying to respect that place.  Peace... An energy, that is so very aptly, also my prayer today for all my brothers and sisters, both near and far.

Loka Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu
May all beings in all times and spaces
Be Happy and Free

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tales from the Labyrinth—Beginnings

I’ve always wished for a Labyrinth in my town.  During cancer treatments, I printed one out on paper and would trace my finger along it’s path to remind me that even when moving through the valley of the shadows, I could occasionally glimpse that in the larger view, my suffering was but a small moment.  My Labyrinth tracing, during this time, brought me to the mantra that come what may in life, it's all really Just For Now.  I learned a bit more, to cherish the prosperous heart and keep cleaner-clearer perspectives within some of my greatest challenges.

Simply put a Labyrinth is a metaphor for The Path, the one we all must walk in life, full of twists and turns.  Just when we think we’ve got it down, it throws us a curve and we find ourself headed in an entirely different direction than we had originally planned, or so we think.

Labyrinths are found all over the world.  Many date back over 3500 years.  They offer a guided walk, that will bring up whatever you are holding at bay, helping your ego let go of the need to control everything.  As your feet gently pound left, then right, then left again, the path itself helps you release a sense of feeling entitled to, or immune from life’s blessings. You learn anew the power of Being, just for now on a course greater than your own will.  A great way to find your center, to walk the middle way, to learn to let go and to learn to appreciate greater allowing in life, on a new level.  

When I moved into a new home, closing on the date of February 10th, 2014 (dear Rex’s birthdate, coincidentally), I walked out into the snow of the back yard and traipsed out a circle of where my Labyrinth would be.  Come spring, I was pleasantly surprised to find a tuft of grass, that had grown right at it’s center. 

Come Summer, last full moon to be exact, I lit a fire in the back yard and sat bathed in the warmth of the flames and the cool light of July’s Super Full Moon.  Sitting there, I resolved to begin a very literal Labyrinth journey of my own.  My good friend and former Bishop from church, had recently come, at my request, and dedicated my home.  Over the next few weeks, I contemplated his words as we knelt in my living room and listened to him say that my home was “being set apart as a place of personal revelation”.
I believe it is no mistake  that a Labyrinth resembles a cross-section of a human brain; as using this walking meditation will open up new neural-pathways between your mind, body and spirit.  As it does this, you receive insights that have been just out of your reach.  

In preparation for laying out this path, I have been weeding out old tufts of grass from the soil.  As I turn the soil and pluck and pluck, I cannot help but notice, that they each look like mother nature's little neural synapses. I can feel the benefits mind and body, in the metaphor of plucking out old ways of thinking, inaccurate beliefs about myself, others, or my life approach itself and the gradual change a Labyrinth offers.  Changing inside the circle, as I (and many friends who are joining me), cultivate The Path and create in this, miracles of insight, large and small, for all who will walk it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Amanda Taylor Her Gifts Acknowleged

Tonight, sleep is not coming so easy, but I believe it will, once I pen a small gesture of gratitude here.  
Amanda Taylor (a dear student of mine, who had just finished her 5-month personal immersion in Bodhi Yoga's 200-hour Teacher Training) was swept off her raft, while riding the Arkansas River in Colorado, this past Saturday.  At the Bodhi Yoga Center, we love and adore her bright spirit so dearly.  As her mentor, I want her tucked safely into bed, before I rest myself.  These are my desires and they would be near unbearable if I had not taken a moment to say thank you this past Tuesday.

You see, Amanda had to miss our last Yoga Teacher Training weekend, to ride another river a few weeks ago.  She called to say she had made each of the lovely women in our group a beaded bracelet.  

I had been so busy our last weekend, that I had not made it to the mailbox.  A few days following our training, I saw the package and opened up to discover, she had not strung several identical bracelets, but each had it's own beadwork, with the bracelet and name of each member of our group designated with a small white name-tag.

 I laid them out on my spice rack and wanted to text her the picture immediately to say thank you.  I could feel the love she put into them and as I ran my fingers over each one.  I could feel that Amanda also needed a well-deserved thank you, but I was immediately distracted by life.  

A day or so later, I got the bracelets down to the center, for each woman to pick up.  I wanted to text her then and let her know.  I wanted to call her and hear her voice and laugh together and catch-up on what she was doing and when we would connect up at Bodhi Yoga again, but then I noticed the time, and with a wisp of overwhelm (at my list of obligations) I went on with my day.

This past Tuesday, when taking a moment to check in on FaceBook, there was a post on my home-feed, from Amanda; a fortune cookie that said:

 "Quality Counts and You've Got It" and I got it, right then.  That fortune was absolutely right.  And I took a moment and commented my thank you to her.  

I took a picture of her lovely beadwork gracing my hand and enjoyed a thread of reconnection.  

She said she couldn't exactly remember the beads she used on mine, but knew they were for my Crown Chakra, Divine Connection.  It felt good to reconnect, to say thank you for such a lovely gift. 

This exchange more than others had pricked my consciousness.  It felt important at the time, I was aware of it and grateful for the opportunity.

No words, however for only a few days following, when I got a text from another student, letting me know about the rafting accident Saturday evening, and the search for her, still ongoing this very night.

When I heard, my concern was for her well-being and for that of her family.  I took a moment, closing my eyes and dropped into to a gently, meditative breath.  Once my mind quieted, I felt a deep and abiding gratitude, that I had taken a moment, that the space opened up, through a fortune cookie message, to say thank-you to her.

With in just a few moments, I felt a wash of gratitude along the left side of my face and heard the words in my head, very clearly from her:  "Everything is SO BEYOND okay." I felt a deep sense of both joy and peace, that surpass my limited understanding of the contexts of this experience and what it means.  I also reflected back to our time together at Bodh Yoga..
During our five months, we learned so much more that just how to do a pose.  We cover much more than simply teaching a class to future students.  We spend a large portion of our time there in sacred sanctuary, learning how to use our lives to walk the yogic path; a path called Bodhi, a Sanskrit word that means:  "The journey through which one experiences enlightenment", a journey through which we become comfortable living with the higher wisdom in things, of acting on what's best within us,  of widening our ability to awaken an awareness and recognition of the universal truth in things.

She was deciding, this past January, whether or not to enroll, but called me at the last minute to joyfully say:  "Syl, I am so excited. I am just going to go for it.  The timing just feels right.  I can't wait until it's more convenient, I know I have to do it now".  
We went deep together.  When it came to the cosmology of the soul, Amanda could not get enough.  When it came to the dynamo poses, she embraced past fears and accomplished yoga asanas, she had never done before.  We both have Rheumatoid Arthritis and I could relate to her personal limitations and what each success meant, body, mind and soul.  Tonight I feel immense comfort in the wisdom that, come what may, she is well-prepared in the practice of process and journey.
She was a pleasure to watch, during our time together there, she was generous and kind and made sure each one of us knew that individually.  She shared willingly the gift of Acknowledgement.   It brings to mind a few lines of one of my favorite poems by David Whyte called "My Daughter Alseep":

May She discover
before she grows
not to choose
so easily
between past
and present
may she find
one or the other
her gifts 

This morning the students attending classes were each generous enough to dedicate our practice to Amanda's well-being.  We each drew two cards from the Chakra Deck, each student held the intention of both cards for her.  Such love, such gratitude.  Each holding the space for a blessing on her Soul, each a blessing on her body.  I find myself holding her with me, in that space this evening:
So tonight, as I drift into a much needed rest, I send a thousand prayers, a thousand kisses on your cheek, and a thousand thank-yous, for each one of your gifts acknowledged, always.  

So tonight, I hold the space for you in the two cards I drew for me and for you this morning:

Asking for our continued prayers on her behalf and for her family.

P.S. Chose to wear my "wildest" yoga pants, in honor of your clear mind and wild heart, dear sister. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti