Welcoming Life

“Remember what it is that makes yoga different than exercise ~ for it to truly be yoga, there must be the mindfulness, the awareness, the willingness to feel and explore everything in your body, without judgment.  It takes courage to stay with what you feel….  ”

These words came from Angela, my yoga teacher, upon my return to her marvelous class.  As I listened, I wished for a moment that I were still teaching, so that I could pass the wisdom on….  and then I let that go, and came into the sensations in my body, discovering impatience and resistance, along with the joy of mindful presence.

I was recently introduced to a practice that comes from the contemplative Christian tradition, as taught by Father Thomas Keating and the Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault.  This practice, while coming from a Christian perspective echoes what I have learned over the years in yoga – that the willingness to feel exactly what is going on in your body without resisting it, and as Rumi says to “be grateful for whoever comes” – can lead you into a kind of surrender that allows for a deeper appreciation of life.

In this practice, called the Welcoming Prayer, you scan the body, noticing whatever is there …. pain, or numbness, or resistance…  any sensation.   If you find nothing to focus on, you simply become aware of the body itself, where it is in space, on the chair, etc.  Focus on the sensation, feeling it completely, sinking in to it,  and then say this word:

Welcome.

Welcome.  Welcome.  Welcome.

Then let go.  Let go of the need to change it, let go of the desire for this moment and this sensation to be anything other than what is.

What??  Welcome the pain?  Welcome the anger?  Welcome that annoying irritability?  OH NOOO!
But Yes…. perhaps I can welcome even the resistance to the welcoming…

This is what we work with all the time in yoga.  Feeling that edge of the pose that says “no more ” – feeling the impatience that comes up, or the wanting to quit, or the resistance to the practice itself….. and if we are truly doing yoga, we notice this, and notice how it plays out in our lives.  In practice, we learn to stay present with that anger until it moves into laughter, or not.  We learn to stay present with the uncomfortable sensations, feeling the freedom that comes when we let go of  resistance, noticing how we can use these tools in our life: in traffic, at work, with family.  We learn, if we are willing, compassion as well as mindfulness.

How many of us really want to feel our pain?  I’m not thrilled about welcoming the discomfort of being unable to breathe in an asthma attack after a hike up a mountain.  I don’t really want to welcome the irritability that comes up when reckoning with impatience as I struggle with a pose, or more practically learn how to live in a small space.  And I certainly don’t want to welcome the helplessness I feel when I see the pain my loved ones are in, and can do nothing.

Learning to stay present, however, opens us.  To stay present with pain can break open our hearts, deepen our understanding, teach us to be more compassionate, and grateful.  We can’t see with the bigger picture of All That Is. We can only know our own small piece of current being-ness. If we can stay with that little piece, maybe we will find that Rumi’s words are real… that whatever this is “may be clearing you out for some new delight.”

It does take courage. But then, living takes courage.  Whether we choose yoga as our path, or a Buddhist meditation practice, or the welcoming  and centering prayers found in the Christian contemplative tradition … or some other tradition….or no tradition at all…  it doesn’t matter.

What matters is our willingness to open, to welcome What Is in this life that we are living.  Call it the indwelling Christ, or the God I AM, or the Universal Presence, or simply Life….   Here we all are.  Can we live this moment, this now, as it is?    THIS is our experience.  And simply the fact of having this experience means that we are Here.

We are here, we are alive, this is good.

Today… Be in love with Life in all of its craziness.  Know that this is your experience, and because it is yours it is sacred and beautiful.

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Published in: on November 23, 2010 at 08:50  Comments (2)  
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The Guest House

Rumi spoke to me this morning ~ these words showing up unexpectedly, yet with precision.  Thought I would share their beauty….

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi ~

Published in: on November 14, 2010 at 08:15  Comments (1)  
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Small Spaces, Large Living

I’d forgotten how the wind can blow here in the Carson Valley. Hard and strong, whipping between the hills, whirling with yellow gold maple leaves. They dance together across the roof of my tiny trailer as I awaken, making me believe it must be raining. It’s not. The clouds, tossed about by the winds, are at first dark and stormy, then momentarily relenting, they reveal bright morning sun.

We arrived here on Monday, nearly a week ago, greeted by warm sun and cold uncertainties. Our little caravan consisted of a Penske rental truck (driven by the amazing JB) pulling our small 21 ft Komfort trailer that (yes, really) would soon be home; followed by me, four cats and a dog in the Honda Odyssey, pulling our vintage tent trailer (that might soon be up for sale – it IS a collector’s item – interested?) Everything we owned was there on the road… Maybe like a turtle we are learning to carry home on our backs. Learning, I say, because even this trip we carry too much. Let go of much of what remains in the rental truck – next trip, we carry only what fits in our home.

Downsizing. We’ve been downsized, people say sadly, yet here we are downsized, and gladly. It feels good to get small, to release the extraneous, to let go of the irrelevant baggage. Really, how little we need in order to live! Some things are admittedly hard to let go of… this must be my third full library that I’ve gathered, then sold or given away. Books are good friends, and while sad to see them go, I imagine their lives expanding into other people’s lives, sharing good words, good stories, good times. In letting go, we expand.

So what’s left in that Penske truck that would require temporary storage? JB’s tools, for which I will never begrudge him. They have saved us too many times to count, fixing what needs fixing, making life simpler, and most recently – keeping us on the road, and safe. And my tools – those implements I keep for work: massage tables and accessories, Thai mats and yoga mats, and books relevant to my learning.

And kitchen things. I said to jb, as he was selling and getting rid of our many household goods – if its in the kitchen keep it and pack it – but I hadn’t realize how many kitchen toys we have! I love the kitchen – want to someday grow my garden, to be able to can, freeze, and store food; cook, bake, and play. I love good food, nutritious, home made, organic. For now, though, in the simplicity of a small space, I will keep only those things that are currently relevant, so some sorting and selling and giving away will make our stuff even smaller.

(btw, here’s a great video animation about Stuff that’s been around for some time – if you haven’t seen it, take a look.)

We don’t need much stuff to live, and live well. While life circumstances necessitate change, it is also an opportunity to be really conscious about our lives. What is our impact on our Earth, our environment? Lessening our footprint, living sustainably, supporting life, living compassionately – these are issues that matter to us, and are informing our choices as we take new directions in our life. Living in a tiny space is certain to make us more conscious about resources – how we use what we use, and what the impact is on our immediate environment, and on Earth herself.

I love this Earth. Driving, traveling, exploring – there is so much beauty. How do you ever choose one place to live? The ocean, the mountains, the desert hills ~ from desert sagebrush to open sea ~ there is beauty in every landscape. Everyone should travel, at least a bit, even if its only around their own backyard. We need to see, feel, experience the beauty of this Earth in order to come back to our true responsibility of stewardship.

JB and I, and our country dog, are living in a city now (small, granted, by city standards, but large when compared to outskirts of La Pine) – we are re-adjusting to traffic noise, occasional sirens, an overwhelming number of people and dogs, lights that prevent us from seeing the stars at night. And yet, even here, we can see the sky, the sunrise over the mountains, the cloud patterns above us, the leaves falling to compost on the earth below us, the bits of green tenacity that rise up through (creating even) cracks in the concrete city. Earth: she is determined to Live, with us or without us.

I’d like it to be with us. Our lives are intricately connected with every other life on and including this planet. So how do we begin to align ourselves with the Earth, our Home, in such a way that we all survive? How do we come to realize that our health is intricately connected with the health of the earth, that the health of our planet is intricately connected with ours? (more on that later!)  How do we come to know that we need each other, in community, for health to be realized?

It’s all grass roots. Remember that famous quote from Margaret Meade: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Living sustainably, being good stewards of our home, is a choice we each can make, individually and in community. Maybe we don’t make changes all at once, but simply becoming aware of our impact on the earth is enough to allow the changes to begin to unfold… once you know, once you really see, changes begin to happen. How can they not?

So here we are, JB and I ~ living small in order to live large. We are making decisions with a new level of integrity, being aware of our every choice. Yes, we still have a car – we had to use oil and gas to get to where we are, and will again, as this is a temporary location. But we also now live where our bicycles and feet can become primary modes of transportation, saving the car for only occasional use. We are conscious of where our food comes from, what we eat, how much stuff we use and how much garbage we produce. Living in a small space will help increase that awareness. Our goal is to live lightly, to be more compassionate, to love the earth, and the people on it, and to live with the integrity that love requires.

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It’s late in the day now. The winds have gone, leaving rain clouds settling in the valley and snow dusting the higher mountains, and I am remembering that there are hot springs right here in Carson City…. mmmm, cold weather, hot springs…. Oh yes. Off we go to soak our tired, sore bodies in healing waters ~ a gift from the earth for which we are indeed grateful.   🙂

Published in: on November 7, 2010 at 18:14  Comments (1)  
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