Blessings

Feels like winter arrived in Humlebaek while we were down in Copenhagen.  Most definitely Autumn, anyway.  This morning, early, I could see my breath.  The sun is out now, and it has warmed up some, but the air still carries the promise of a cold winter.

tanza and the water devasIt’s not home, and it is not a perfect place to be, yet I am grateful for this clinic, for the sea, for the opportunities that continue to come our way.  Blessings abound, and it is important to be aware of them.

A dear friend recently shared some words about the nature of blessings, and how offering a blessing can create an opening for feelings to shift. It is good to recognize the blessings that are bestowed upon us, but maybe it is just as important to be the bestower of blessings.  Life is full of situations that we think of as “good” and “bad” – what if we can let go of the judgement, let go of the definition, and simply recognize “What Is” and in that recognition, offer a blessing?  Could that blessing, offered in purity, create an opening to shift from pain into freedom?

Bless this moment, bless this pain, bless these people who are witness to the pain… and suddenly I can more easily drop in to gratitude, and feel the bigness of All That Is.  Within a blessing, there is an element of surrender, of letting go.  Surrender does not mean giving up, or denying pain.  It simply means that we can recognize this moment as it is.  To be in resistance to the moment creates an incredible amount of “stuck-ness” and resistance in the body.  We cannot see clearly when we resist what is.

Maybe a  blessing momentarily frees up energy, lifts us out of the details, so that we can see more clearly the choreographed dance that is life.   It is hard to see the big picture when we get stuck in the details.

“The pain,  the illness in the body is the healing,”  I heard someone say, and perhaps he is right. Perhaps pain is the gift that can crack us wide open, the process that allows us to see that healing already Is.  If we bless every moment, and open to gratitude for life, then maybe we can see that we are already whole, that healing has already happened, does in fact, happen in an instant.

And maybe too, these are just words, spoken by a witness to pain.  In the dark depths of agony, none of these words matter, they are just philosophy, just ideas.   In the depths of pain, we can’t know anything for sure.

Which is why we all need a witness to our pain, someone who can step back and bless the moment, feel the gratitude, be there.

We need each other to heal.  In the presence of suffering, in the presence of pain, we want to fix it, to make it all better, easier.  When that is not possible, the best we can do for each other is to stay present. Be willing to stay, be the witness, allow the pain to crack us open.

All that is necessary is our presence.

~~

I am grateful today for the blessing of friends, for the love of family, for the generosity of people I have never met. I am grateful for the doors that open, and for those that close; for the obstacles that rise up guiding us in different directions, and for the unexpected removal of obstacles that allow us to see more clearly.

Today, I am grateful for this Life.


~~
May the long time sun shine upon you
All love surround you
and may the pure light within you
guide your way on.

~

Sat Nam
light

Published in: on August 30, 2010 at 01:35  Comments (3)  
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Miscellany

I can’t seem to write much, my words are missing….mixed up, or confused, or fuzzy, or something.  So, instead of a regular post, here’s a “random things i’ve learned in Denmark” list:

I am writing this in København, which in English is known as Copenhagen.

The Danish Monarchy is the oldest in the world.  The Queen’s husband is not a King, he’s a Prince.

A Danish breakfast consists of yogurt, muesli, bread, butter, and cheese.  Every morning.

Cheese is fresh, butter is fresh. Real.

Rugbrød is a dark rye bread, really heavy, that is served at breakfast. Often with cheese, or with loads of fresh, real butter. I think it is probably served at all meals, unless you happen to be in the hospital.

Hospital food pretty much sucks wherever you live.

There is a lovely park that surrounds Rigshospitalet (the state hospital), and is used by runners, bicyclists, walkers, soccer players, moms and dads pushing baby buggies.

No one uses strollers here…. babies are pushed around in baby buggies.  Dads are as likely to be pushing them as Moms.

Danes are having babies.  Baby buggies are everywhere.

Nine out of ten babies (age 3 and under) have red hair, although red is not quite the right word. (my unscientific observational statistics only)

Nine out of ten Danish adults have blond hair.  Today’s nurse has very dark hair…. her father is Italian, she explains, and she has relatives in Hoboken, New Jersey.

It is not uncommon to see baby buggies being pushed by people running.

Runners are common.  As are bicycles.  There may be as many bicycles on the road as cars.  There are bicycle parking garages at train stations, and long lines of bicycle racks at shopping areas and hospitals.

Bicycle lanes are built into the infrastructure, and at major intersections even have their own traffic lights.  Traffic lights are well coordinated, even from a pedestrian perspective.

Light rail train is a great mode of transportation.  Combine it with metro and bicycles and you’ve got a darn good system. There are no SUVs, the cars that are on the road are small.

We in the US need to get with the program, and improve our means of environmentally sustainable transportation.

Legos were invented in Denmark. They were originally made of wood, and the name comes from the phrase “leg godt,” or “play well.”

Playing well seems like a good way to live.

Danish (or Dansk) is a really difficult language to learn (for someone who is not a native speaker.)

“Tak” is the Danish word for Thank You.  There is no Danish word for please.

The Danes are informal – they do not use Mr or Mrs or Dr.  They just use first names.

If you smile at someone you pass by on the street in Denmark, you typically get a blank look in return.

In spite of all of the above, people here are very kind, and helpful.

and today’s great discovery:
There is an Astanga yoga studio on Blegdamsvej, near the hospital, for which I am very grateful.  🙂

Published in: on August 25, 2010 at 13:48  Comments (3)  
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Happy Is

August 19, 2010

It is cold this morning, and Autumn is in the air here.  The sky is clouding over, and it will rain again today, like it does in this part of the world: Rain, unrelenting.  You have to wonder about the weather in a place where “wellies” are part of the fashion statement.  Yesterday, at the train station, a woman wore wellies with her mini-skirt, making my birkenstock clad feet feel woefully under shod.  It was a fore-warning: at the other end of the journey, stepping off the train in Osende, my body was completely drenched within 2 minutes, and my feet had the long forgotten experience of wading in puddles.  I really felt as if I should have a yellow raincoat, rubber boots, and matching umbrella, just like the pictures in children’s books.

Early this morning tho, back here in Humlegaarden, birds were chirping, chattering, lively.  Someone mowed the grass yesterday (there is nothing they don’t do in the rain here!) and so the birds were in fresh grass heaven.  Lying in bed, I heard the birds, and imagined a warm summer day….

Well, it’s not quite warm, but the sun was out for a bit, and before the clouds returned, we walked down to the sea and soaked up the bright blue sky and drenched ourselves in sun and sand.  By the time we walked back for breakfast the clouds were already returning, the wind picking up, the chill in the air.

What makes you happy? What makes your heart sing? she asked.

Lots of things…

The sun, after days of rain.
Good conversation, easy company.
Yoga.          Breathing.
Teaching.  Yes, teaching.         Sharing with an open heart.
My cats.  and Kona.
Seeing new things,    learning new things.
Places i’ve never been before.
Writing, sometimes.          Morning coffee.
Sharing a laugh with jb.

Simple things.

I’m a simple person, really.

But here’s a truth.  None of those things make me happy.  I mean, sometimes I can do or be all of that and not be happy.  In fact, I can be unhappy, and do any one of those things and not come out the other side happy.

Here’s what I know: the happy comes first, and only then I can rest in the joy of the simple things.  The magnificence of morning sun only stirs the joy in my heart when I am willing to be present to it.

So what is it that makes me happy?  Being present?   Being open?   Where does happy come from?

I want you to be happy (she says, I say, you say) and I recognize that when we want others to be happy around us, it is really our own deep longing to feel our own state of natural happiness.

surise after a stormIt is true that when the sun shines, it is easier for me to tap in to joy.  And yet, even in the midst of deep fatigue, even in the presence of pain, even in constant rain, and with a gray day headache, or a migraine  –  I can stop for a moment, just stop, and breathe, and drop in to my center.  I can notice the beauty around me, notice the magic of a moment, and touch in to a place of “being happy” deep within my soul.

With that knowing, I can be happy anywhere, even in a clinic with crazy doctors, and radiology departments in hospitals where I don’t speak the language. I can be happy in the presence of pain, and suffering.  It does not minimize the pain, nor does it necessarily take away the pain, or the sadness, or the helplessness of any moment.  Maybe though, happy can exist along side the pain, along with the suffering.  Happy is a deeper state, a place of wellness beyond the sick, a place of joy beyond the pain.

We all have happy in us, somewhere.  Even in the depths of depression, happiness exists.  It has to.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  At our core, at our very essence, is laughter, and joy, and real love.  It is not based on anything outside of us… it is who we are.

How do we get there? How do we access that, and remember that truth?   When pain is unrelenting, when suffering seems the state of the world, when all it ever does is rain, rain, rain….  how do we drop in, and know that behind the clouds the sun is still shining?

Sometimes, we just forget, and that’s ok.  Somewhere, somehow, sometimes, we remember. In a moment, we see differently, suddenly present to the beauty around us, to the life that exists beyond stories, beyond pain, beyond identity…. and we remember, we awaken.

We are the Life that we live, we are the Love that rises up within us, unexpectedly. We are the beauty in a sunrise, the magic in a forest, the song in a heart.  We are here, having this experience called Life, with all its ups and downs, highs and lows, joys and pains… And we are the Joy that exists always beneath it… the pure joy of experience in this human body….

What makes me happy?

Laughing. Suddenly, for no reason.

Who knows, maybe pure, honest laughter is the cure for everything.

Published in: on August 20, 2010 at 04:30  Comments (2)  
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Circle of Stones

Circle of StonesThere is a small path that leads into the center of a magic forest, a patch of Guardiansancient trees next to the beach. In the center of the magic forest is a circle of stones.  The trees are guardians here, and I am certain they can pull up roots and walk around when no one is looking. If you look closely, you can also see spirits in the stones. The light is magical too, and there is a sort of glow that you can only really see if you look sideways.  The earth is warm and moist, and if you walk barefoot here after a long night of rain and thunderstorms, you might want to watch the ground for gooey brown slugs that blend into the earth.  Dunno if they are magic, but i am not fond of stepping my naked feet on one. Glow

You can see more photos if you click here.

A Guardian We all need a bit of magic in our lives…  to let fall away everything we think we know, and open to unlimited possibilities is to allow a bit of magic to transform us, and to really begin to see in new ways.

“When we have the certain belief that our view of the world is the way things really are, we give tacit permission to ourselves to stop investigating life.”  – Brandon Bays

I say… Investigate Life! Be Curious!  and Today, maybe for just a moment, suspend all your beliefs, and see what kind of magic the world offers up.  You never know, you may just find a sacred circle of stones in your own magic forest.  🙂

Published in: on August 17, 2010 at 11:07  Comments (3)  
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Asana

Whatever I said in a previous post about bicycling yoginis may be true, but you know, there is still just nothing like a real asana practice. I love my hatha yoga, taking my body through movement and stillness, finding the focus in the breath, the ease and strength in each pose. Not only do I feel more alive and energized after a yoga practice, I also notice that i am more open to insights, both during and after the practice. Regular asana practice keeps me centered, and grounded, and I am remembering now how important that is…

Click here for an interesting site for anyone who might want to explore some new asanas, and maybe try putting together a simple home sequence or two.

I did not bring my yoga mat with me on this journey, and so I have been practicing on a variety of different surfaces… wood floor, grass, cement (ouch!) and carpets…  all these different surfaces make for interesting adjustments, which can lead to interesting insights…

During standing poses such as warrior II and triangle, we tend to really ground through our feet, and hook right into our sticky mats. That’s good, mostly.  But on slippery carpet, I am unable to rely on a “sticky” surface.  What I need to do to keep my feet from sliding out from under me is to draw the energy up through my legs and use the core of my body more.  The feet definitely stay grounded, but they cannot be my sole support.  Playing with this from a muscular perspective I find myself exploring the lift from an energetic perspective.

Try this next time you are in a warrior II pose:  Ground your feet. Find those points – base of the first toe, base of the baby toe, heel – and feel how they are connected to the ground.  Then, lift your toes. As you lift your toes, engage through your thighs. You want to engage in such a way that you feel the energy lifting upward, and carry that energetic engagement right up into the floor of the pelvis. One way to do this is to think about the legs drawing toward midline, without actually moving them. The pelvic floor draws up (think gentle mula bandha)  and allow the energy to rise all the way from the ground up through the pelvis.

I think this must be how dancers learn to fly.  What happened for me, as I played with this energy is that my legs were very active, and my feet felt solid – I could feel a lifting that would keep my feet from sliding out and away while still maintaining a sense of grounding.  Very interesting sensation.  Play with it, and try engaging and releasing different muscles of the legs and hips and see what changes.  You may even begin to feel the core drawing energy up into the spine.   Beware though, that you don’t allow the engagement to become “gripping.”  Notice the tendency to grip, then let it go.  Don’t forget to stay with the breath!

I tried this energetic lifting in downward dog as well…  with much the same effect.  With the shoulders wrapped, draw the inner arms together and use that drawing in to lift upward.  At the same time, draw the inner thighs toward each other, keeping them spinning in just slightly, and draw that energy up into the pelvic floor.  Once again, an amazing energetic lift!  Even with a slippery surface you can stay in downward dog… grounded and flying all at once!

Ahhhhh….. asana.  I love my hatha yoga practice.

When my body has been stretched and worked and opened, then my mind is better able to find the stillness, the meditation, and yes, even an energetic lift.

So next time you find yourself without a sticky mat and are afraid to do your asanas…. do it anyway, and let me know what happens!

🙂

Published in: on August 13, 2010 at 13:10  Leave a Comment  
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Bicycle Yoga

This morning the sea is dark gray and opaque, with rough white capping waves.  At the beach, the wind and the waves create a comforting white noise that those (theoretically relaxing) noise machines can never truly imitate.  The skies are gray, with random raindrops…. very unlike the bright blue skies and warm sun of yesterday.
bicycle
Last afternoon, I borrowed a bicycle, and rode into Helsingor, a ride of about 8 kilometers.  It was a beautiful ride, along the coast, through tiny beach towns.  Many bicyclists, people walking dogs, sunbathing on the beach, swimming, picnicking, the deep blue water speckled with white sail boats, and closer to Helsingor, the ferries.  bicycle round-a-boutThis is a great place for bicycles….  not only are there pedestrian paths, but there are bicycle paths everywhere (even in the round-a-bouts!)  It is a very accepted and common mode of transportation here.

And can I just say….. Granny bicycles rock!  Ok, you hard-core bicyclists out there may disagree, but I think the old “Granny style” bikes (which is what Sven, a patient here, called it, as I was picking out a bike that would fit me) are definitely the way to go.  You know the kind… picture the bicycle ridden by wicked old Miss Gulch from the Wizard of Oz, basket and all.

Ok, so it probably means I am a pleasure bicyclist and not a sport bicyclist, but I really like sitting upright: spine long, heart open, smile on my face. It’s gotta be better on the body than being all hunched over, intent on the destination, forgetting about the journey.

And that’s the joy of it – not only is the bicycle something to get me from point A to point B, but it is also something that allows me to enjoy the journey… To see the sea, to smell the air, to open to all sensations…  feeling the breath, completely in the moment, this too is yoga.

Yoga is not all about asanas, although I love asana practice. Asana practice, hatha yoga, is invaluable for learning how to be in the body, how to be in the moment, how to be present with breath, and to stay centered in the midst of stress and chaos.  When you learn the focus of hatha yoga, you begin to see yoga in all of your life….

like on a bicycle.  Of course any activity can be yoga, or not.  I can take that same ride, and be lost in thought… thinking about yesterday,  and wondering how to make things happen in the future, and not be present to the air, or the sea.  That would be good too, and it would be healthy for the body, and good exercise, but it’s not yoga.

My preference is to take that same ride, and feel the air on my skin, the breath in my body, smell the sea and ride right out of time…. letting it become a meditation, a grounding activity, connecting me back to source.   Life giving, life affirming yoga.

When I can do that, on a bicycle, in an asana, in a sitting meditation on the beach, with joy, then I can also remember to ground and center even in the chaos and stress and pain that life may bring.

A street in Helsingor

Published in: on August 11, 2010 at 05:39  Comments (2)  
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Near the Baltic Sea

Sunday, August 8th, 1:30pm Denmark time ~

The rain came today.  Dark gray skies offer up a steady downpour, much like the rains in the Pacific Northwest. The past few days were beautiful, warm days, intermittently overcast with delicious breaks of sun.  The quality of light here is different…. perhaps because we are so far north? Or just different than what I am used to… I have been searching for a word to describe it, but have not been able to settle on one.  “Soft” is a word that comes to mind, and I realize that maybe the quality of light is more a feeling than a visual.  I did try to capture it in photos, to no avail.

The Baltic Sea is a 5 minute walk from the clinic here, and looking out The Baltic Seafrom the beach you can see Sweden, and the ferries and sailing boats that traverse the waters from here to there and in between.  The water is fairly warm; someone mentioned it was 18 or 19 degrees celsius (around 66 degrees F).  Many local people jump in for a swim early in the morning, and again in the evening. I haven’t been in yet, but it occurs to me a rainy day would be a good day to test it out.

Summer House with Thatched RoofThis morning, before the rain, we walked down a road that runs along the coast, lined with what must be summer cottages. They are so sweet, with windows that open wide to the sea air, and thatched roofs where birds peck around, presumably for morning insects.  Joggers and bicyclists passed by us, as we walked slowly and meditatively.

The days since we arrived here have been very full, and it is easy to lose track of the perspective of time. We’ve only been here 4 days, and already it feels much longer. There is a sense that time might pass too quickly here, and yet at the same time, the moments are so full that there can be no thought of the future, and what will happen next.  Those decisions will come when it is time…. my mantra since all of this began is ‘one day at a time’, and often I find myself shifting the focus to living even one moment, one breath at a time….

I want to write, to tell a story here.  Not Tanza’s story, for that is hers to tell, but a story of my experience here: what i am coming to know in the presence of this healing place, in the role of caregiver, in the connection to source and family and life…

The words, though, are not here yet. Perhaps I am still too close to the experience. I remember some writer somewhere, sometime, saying that you must have distance to write truly about a place, and maybe that is true for experience as well.

For now, I will keep it simple, share what there is to share in the moment.

I do know this – it is good to be in a nourishing and nurturing healing environment.  Imagine if hospitals routinely put more emphasis on treating the person rather than the disease: on helping a patient understand their treatments and meds, and giving them more personal responsibility for their own healing, on offering high quality food and conversation and connection, and allowing them to move and walk and participate in their own healing rather than confining them to a bed with wires and tubes and distracted personel who forget to take the time to listen.

Is it such a novel concept to care for the whole person?

It is a gift to be here, in so many ways, and I know without question that this is a healing space for Tanza, and for me, and for all who are connected to her, no matter what may come of it.  It is good to wake every morning, here, and alive.  It is good to feel the power and preciousness of life, and to take joy in the little things, and celebrate the beauty of each day…

Here is my wish for you, and for everyone: That you celebrate each moment, knowing that you yourself are a gift to this world. You (and that is every single “you”!) bring something to this world that no other person can bring…. celebrate that gift, whatever it is! Know your beauty, feel your connection to the earth, to this life, to our source, and remember, whatever you do….

Laugh, and feel the Joy!

That, my friends, is Real Yoga.

🙂

More Baltic Sea photos are here

Published in: on August 8, 2010 at 12:54  Comments (1)  
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Argenton Les Vallees, France

Argenton River from the HouseMy room here faces east. The shutters wide open, I wake to the morning sun.  The window overlooks the Argenton river ~ small birds call and chatter and sing in greeting to the day. It is very peaceful here, a very small village with old homes and buildings. This house was built in the 1880s, and its old stone walls need repair in some areas. The floors creak, the doors open and close noisily, it has a sense of having been here for a very long time, holding many secrets, for many years.

There is a lovely artist’s loft on the top floor of the house ~ open windows and a skylight makes it a beautiful place for Tanza to paint.  The bottom floor is a small dance studio, or as I keep calling it, a yoga studio.  Paul put in  lovely wood floors a couple of years ago, and the space has doors that open out onto the terrace. The two levels in between the loft and the dance studio are the living areas.  Every room has wonderful long tall windows that open wide to the world, letting the sun and light and bird sounds fill the house.  I am told it gets very cold here in the winter, but for now, in August, it is beautiful, not hot, not cold, just a very comfortable temperature.  (Almost, it feels to me, coming from extremes of hot and cold, a neutral temperature.  Weather that just IS, without any drama.)

Argenton RiverThe Argenton river is slow and lazy, and lower than it should be for this time of year. It is a beautiful place to walk, with areas that say stop here, rest, meditate, feel the air, listen to the birds.  A walk uphill, away from the river takes you to the small village square, where, of course, there is une boulangerie.  Oui, j’aime croissants!

I haven’t been out much beyond the little village, as there is much to do here at the moment.  Last night, though, Paul and I took a ride over to a neighboring village to meet Tanza’s friend Martine.  She is really lovely, and an amazing artist.   I’ve also met, over the last couple of days, some really lovely people here in Argenton Les Vallees. It is good to know that Tanza is so well loved, and has a network of friends willing to “come ’round” to help however they can.

My yoga practice has been somewhat limited since I’ve been here, but I am making time for at least a short practice each day.  For one, my body craves it, and for two, it keeps me sane.  I treasure the moments of meditation, and am grateful for this gift that allows me to find my center, and to stay solid.

Tomorrow we leave Argenton Les Vallees and head to Copenhagen for 3 weeks.  If anyone is reading this, I ask simply for your good thoughts and prayers for a smooth journey…

One day at a time.

Published in: on August 3, 2010 at 10:02  Comments (2)