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all of life is yoga, aum + amen, cradle your heart, recycled + repurposed

Elder Wisdom: Ruby Sales | On Being with Krista Tippett

Terence Crutcher. Another innocent, unarmed black man was assasinated. Unarmed. In need of help. In the middle of the highway.

Gunned down. On film. Demonized for simply existing. By another white cop.

Real talk: I don’t have enough skillfulness to see beyond the savagery of this act. The savagery of white cops who are authorized to wage war on black and brown bodies without repercussion, on a whim of a notion hastily stitched together by any misperceived glimpse of what?! suscipious movements or weapons?! direct or implied threat?!

Nope, plain and simple: their hate-fear and our melaninated skin.

I sat down to have lunch, inhaled the fragrant broth, and exhaled tears. In that moment I touched the amorphous and unameable feeling, which had been building for days (at turns, subdued by moments of refuge with beloveds and then piqued by a few personal and familial woes): A quiet deep-down hum of dread.

Dread…that we are doomed to the misery of oppression and supremacy no matter how many good white folks divest of their racism, bias, and fear and leverage their privilege to enter into the good work of liberation and justice. Dread that systemic change is too slow, that the real and apparent need for the transformation of millions of hearts and minds is inconceivable.

Dread that if I hear one more story like this, I won’t find my way back to the center from the cliff’s edge of my compassion.

I needed to hear this today. It had been in my queue of Must-Listen-To’s, and I woke to a text from my dear (white) friend telling me that she was in the middle of listening to it this morning. I was meant to hear it. So I sat with my dread and tears and listened deeply to the voice of elder wisdom.

It was salve and comfort — as nourishing as my steamy bowl of spiced broth and noodles. A touchstone to what holds most heart and meaning for me in building an inclusive spiritually-centered community of refuge where we can restore our wholeness, commit to nurturing skillful relationships, and engaging in practices that bring about reconciliation.

The dread dissipated. Still I make room for its return.

Thankful for these gems of wisdom from human rights activist and public theologian Ruby Sales.

Cry of Liberation: Black Lives Have Always Mattered

Let me just say something about Black Lives Matter. Although we are familiar with it within a contemporary context, that has always been the cry of African Americans from the point of its captivity, through enslavement, through Southern apartheid. And Northern migration and de facto segregation was the assertion that black lives matter in a society that said that black people were property, in a society that said that black lives did not matter.

Spiritual Crisis of White America

there’s a spiritual crisis in white America. It’s a crisis of meaning, and I don’t hear — we talk a lot about black theologies, but I want a liberating white theology. I want a theology that speaks to Appalachia. I want a theology that begins to deepen people’s understanding about their capacity to live fully human lives and to touch the goodness inside of them rather than call upon the part of themselves that’s not relational. Because there’s nothing wrong with being European American. That’s not the problem. It’s how you actualize that history and how you actualize that reality. It’s almost like white people don’t believe that other white people are worthy of being redeemed.

And I don’t quite understand that. It must be more sexy to deal with black folk than it is to deal with white folk if you’re a white person. So as a black person, I want a theology that gives hope and meaning to people who are struggling to have meaning in a world where they no longer are as essential to whiteness as they once were.

Love, Outrage + Redemptive Anger

...love is not antithetical to being outraged. Let’s be very clear about that. And love is not antithetical to anger. There are two kinds of anger. There’s redemptive anger, and there’s non-redemptive anger. And so redemptive anger is the anger that says that — that moves you to transformation and human up-building. Non-redemptive anger is the anger that white supremacy roots itself in. So we have to make a distinction. So people think that anger, in itself, is a bad emotion, and it’s where you begin your conversation.

I became involved in the Southern Freedom Movement, not merely because I was angry about injustice, but because I love the idea of justice. So it’s where you begin your conversation. So most people begin their conversation with “I hate this” — but they never talk about what it is they love. And so I think that we have to begin to have a conversation that incorporates a vision of love with a vision of outrage.

And I don’t see those things as being over and against each other. I actually see them — you can’t talk about injustice without talking about suffering. But the reason why I want to have justice is because I love everybody in my heart. And if I didn’t have that feeling, that sense, then there would be no struggle.

On Human-ness: Universality + Particularity

What it means to be humans. We live in a very diverse world, and to talk about what it means to be humans, is to talk with a simultaneous tongue of universality and particularities. So as a black person to talk about what it means is to talk about my experience as an African American person, but also to talk about my experience that transcends being an African American to the universal experience.

So I think it — we’ve got to stop speaking about humanity as if it’s monolithic. We’ve got to wrap our consciousness around a world where people bring to the world vastly different histories and experiences, but at the same time, a world where we experience grief and love in some of the same ways. So how do we develop theologies that weave together the “I” with the “We” and the “We” with the “I?”

HEAR HERE [for deep listening]: Ruby Sales | “Where Does it Hurt?”
READ [for clear-seeing]: Transcript 

 

 

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all of life is yoga, cradle your heart, dharma, for real: living the lessons, meditation, mindfulness, practice, sangha

words to live by | alice walker

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Expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.
Become a stranger
To need of pity
Or, if compassion be freely
Given out
Take only enough
Stop short of urge to plead
Then purge away the need.

Wish for nothing larger
Than your own small heart
Or greater than a star;
Tame wild disappointment
With caress unmoved and cold
Make of it a parka
For your soul.

Discover the reason why
So tiny human midget
Exists at all
So scared unwise
But expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.
~Alice Walker
Anything We Love Can Be Saved

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all of life is yoga, cushion to community, meditation, mindfulness, sangha, toward wholeness

spirituality, social justice + healing spaces

 bookends to my summer:
two radical events steeped in activism, equity + healing.
drawn into these moments by either
an endorsement or invitation from dear friends —

i arrived without expectation,
holding the intention to be present + open-hearted.
i departed: aligned, affirmed + inspired.
fully nourished, energized + equipped to continue the good work.

18th annual
allied media conference
wayne state university | june 19, 2016

It was truly an honor to have been a part of the Allied Media Conference‘s healing justice practice space where I led a session on cultivating embodied self-compassion. To my surprise, the beautiful souls who joined me filled the room with breath, loving awareness, and the good energy they carried from Ann Arbor, Detroit, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Montreal, Seattle, Boston, NYC, Maryland and Mississippi!

Afterward, I had the pleasure of connecting with Nse Umoh Esema, Program Director of MIT CoLab, and Sofia Campos, a student affiliate of the center. Our conversation became part of an interview they selected to be featured among CoLab Radio’s profiles on how “workshop facilitators from the 2016 Allied Media Conference use collaborative processes grounded in media, art and technology to address the roots of problems and advance holistic solutions towards a more just and creative world.”

what i experienced + witnessed

freedom of movement, creativity, + being
joy of human expression in body, voice + spirit
abundant power of  multi-generational, multicultural, multi-gendered collaborative energy

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learn: allied media
meditatethe practice of arriving
read: how to awaken self-compassion through meditation

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buddhist peace fellowship’s dharma + direct action workshop
zen temple of ann arbor | sept 3 + 4, 2016

I spent a week slowly emerging from the dharma bubble created by the cumulative energy of holding and being immersed in a healing-centered space with compassionate, justice-minded folk committed to integrating spirituality with social awareness. There’s still much content to process and unpack! But I’m excited to share this glimpse into our weekend of laughter (or “blessed foolishness,” as my friend so-aptly sanctified it), truth-telling, idea-sharing, and fellowship over thoughtfully-prepared meals and simulated exercises in direct action.

amplified and affirmed

I experienced the buzz and boom that arises from living in alignment with my deepest values and connecting with others who are doing the same! Below are two contemplations that I’ve sat with over time, unpacked with my circle of good spiritual friends and, with diligence and discernment, have integrated into embodied practices. It was gratifying to not only voice them in this larger forum of peers, but to also hear them amplified and affirmed throughout the weekend of training.

  • My discomfort with and desire to dismantle hierarchies of learning where one person is positioned to bear and transmit knowledge — often deferring to age, experience, education. I’ve always approached teaching as the facilitation of a process or experience rather than the imparting of instruction and information. That one-way funnel creates a sense of bloodletting that leaves me feeling drained. So I encourage a collaborative dynamic wherein practitioners learn to trust and be accountable for building their capacity to integrate new information in ways that develop skillful action and wisdom.Whether in friendships, spiritual communities, professional environments, or social activist circles, how can give room for the range of understanding — newly-formed queries and untested ideas, emerging insights, and seasoned wisdom — from elders and youth alike? By embodying “the posture of the listener” and learning alongside one another as tutors.
  • In discerning how to skillfully inhabit the role of a sangha builder and facilitator, I resonated deeply with the teachings of Master Linji (chronicled in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Nothing To Do, Nowhere To Go) who offered a more equitable view of teacher and student in the form of guest and host. Challenging traditional notions of occupying an elevated status as guru or “master,” Linji radically accepted and encouraged the fluidity between roles — where guest becomes teacher and teacher the guest. Just as Linji considered himself to be a good spiritual friend, we can expand our idea and practice of being an “ally” to one who embodies the deep care and commitment to support the liberation and well-being of others.

a few shining examples

Ideas and practices offered by the facilitators (marked BPF) and a fellow participant.

  • Block Harm. Build Solutions. Be Present to What Arises. (BPF) — The three elements around which the Buddhist Peace Fellowship centers its approach to integrating spirituality and social justice.
  • Communicate Access Needs (BPF) — Naming the accommodations, considerations or support we need to best access the learning.
  • Cultivate Sympathetic Joy for Marginalized Communities (BPF)– Neither spiritual nor activist groups are immune to the sting of white privilege, guilt, shame, defensiveness, confusion, fragility and misperception. The complex process of healing and reconciliation is different for the marginalized and the for privileged (especially, when there is a mixed level of capacity, experience, understanding and resilience). Engaging in justice work together all too often re-exposes marginalized folks to the very same toxic thoughts and behaviors that are rooted in systems of oppression. This triggers deep hurts that can hinder or derail the collective endeavor toward impactful change. So it is critical to provide refuge–time and separate safe space–to center, care for, and protect the mental/emotional/spiritual/psychological needs and well-being of people of color, disabled persons, LGBTQ people, and others.

To that end, the facilitators established caucuses based on racial identity. (True story: this elicited a moment of cognitive dissonance for me and later sparked a conversation with my dear friend and training companion on earned trust, which merits its own post.) In this process, white practitioners were asked to recognize that part of “doing their own work” as allies/good spiritual friends is to block harm. They were also invited to draw on the spiritual faculty of mindfulness and turn their gaze inward, looking deeply into any arising discomfort/fear/resistance and transforming it into sympathetic joy for our safety and well-being.

  • Develop + Refine Skillful Listening — Deep Listening and Skillful Speech are core principles and foundational practices for Buddhists. So it was hardly surprising that, when asked to pick a dharma superpower to use in direct action exercise, several of us chose the power of listening. During the discussion that followed the exercise, we were able to unpack the challenges and limitations of our capacity to listen in heightened emotional circumstances and reminded, in particular, of the many biases that further hinder it. A fellow practitioner offered the insight of the four levels of listening, which she later sent to me:

1. Listening from the cocoon where everything sounds like the people from Charlie Brown talking.
2. Listening for whether people are for or against you.
3. Listening empathically.
4. Listening people into their own wisdom.

  • Vow Not To Burn Out (BPF)  — Referencing Mushim Patricia Ikeda’s Great Vow for Mindful Activists, the facilitators spoke to the real and unmerciful impact of justice work on our well-being: secondary trauma, burn out, compassion fatigue, phyiscal harm and ill health. To sustain our engagement, we again call on the Buddhist wisdom of looking deeply with equanimity into how we balance our aspirations with our available resources to take/sustain action. We then assess our present-moment capacity within the frame of the “long view”– imagining how now-based actions reach into the future to touch generation after generation, as indigenous elders teach. Alongside of such honest evaluation, we honor and tend to our well-being with healthy practices that restore, energize and ground us!

As we embrace and live out the call to serve and create a more just world, may we cradle in our hearts this beautiful question lifted up in the training: “In this moment, what best serves life?”

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learn: buddhist peace fellowship
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all of life is yoga, dharma, for real: living the lessons, meditation, mindfulness, practice, sangha

gathered + rooted: a new season of sangha

The 2016 Fall session of  the 3 Jewels Yoga Sangha will open on Sunday, October 9 with a deep focus on my oft-referenced endearment (and zen-trendy hashtag), The Suchness of Sangha.

In the Buddhist vernacular “suchness” is the translation of the Pali world Tathātā and seeks to describe the essence of our perceived reality — and all the conditions that make our experience of reality possible — in the moment. It points to impermanence and interdependence. Reminding us that all the elements (people, places, objects, etc.) and our perceptions and responses to said elements in any given moment create a quality of “thusness” or “thatness” which cannot be replicated. Because these very things at this very point in time uniquely converge to form a fleeting experience. It is the vibe, the stuff, all matter seen and unseen, that is gathered and drawn together and felt so deeply. It becomes a knowing, a rooted cellular memory…a dream, an inspiration, the aspiration we seek to nourish.

So we’ll sit in these queries, turn them over, and test them in our daily living:

  • What is sangha?
  • How is it formed, nurtured and sustained?
  • What do we seek in our connection(s) within spiritual community?
  • What do we contribute?
  • How are we transformed?
  • And any number of questions that will emerge from our collective effort to learn and practice cultivating mindfulness together as good spiritual friends.

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Fall Schedule

October 9, 16, 23

    • 10/16 ~ Monthly Mindfulness Immersion
      A half-day retreat including our regular #wholyhappyhour practice, food + fellowship, and an Orientation to Foundational Practices — walking meditation, sitting meditation, and the criteria for skillful communication.

November 6, 13, 20

    • 11/13 ~ Special Workshop | Inviting Mindfulness: The Heart at Rest
      Following our regular #wholyhappyhour practice, this restorative workshop will introduce an embodied meditation in mindfulness to awaken self-compassion and skillful understanding of the relationship between body, breath, mind and environment.

December 4, 11, 18

    • 12/11 ~ Monthly Mindfulness Immersion
      A half-day retreat including our regular #wholyhappyhour practice, food + fellowship, and an Orientation to Foundational Practices — walking meditation, sitting meditation, and the criteria skillful communication.
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all of life is yoga, cradle your heart, dharma, for real: living the lessons, meditation, mindfulness, practice, sangha

monthly sit-together [8/14]: the stickiness of attachment

Relaxing our grip. Cultivating steadiness in the face of challenge and change. A timeless and always relevant topic was proposed for this Sunday’s monthly contemplation and discussion: Non-Attachment!

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3 Jewels Yoga Sangha will explore the sticky dimensions of attachment — including in our exploration the relationship of Non-Attachment to Equanimity (steadiness or evenness of mind); the subtle differences we might experience between Non-Attachment and Detachment; and, what the 4 Noble Truths remind us, that suffering arises from clinging or craving.

The Second Mindfulness Training | Non-Attachment to Views

Aware of the suffering created by attachment to views and wrong perceptions, we are determined to avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. We are committed to learning and practicing non-attachment from views and being open to other’s insights and experiences in order to benefit from the collective wisdom. Insight is revealed through the practice of compassionate listening, deep looking, and letting go of notions rather than through the accumulation of intellectual knowledge. We are aware that the knowledge we presently possess is not changeless, absolute truth. Truth is found in life, and we will observe life within and around us in every moment, ready to learn throughout our lives.

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RESOURCES:

On Equanimity

On The Four Noble Truths

On The Four Parameters of Clinging + Co-Dependent Arising of Clinging/Craving

On Non-Attachment

On The Mindfulness Trainings (Plum Village)

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on ground sacred and fertile

I treasure our Sunday practices and our time together on August 7th was all the more special because, for the second year in a row, I was able to spend my new year in the full embrace of Sangha.

After a week full of celebrations with loved ones (and a few more to come!), I am feeling deeply ALIGNED, AFFIRMED and INSPIRED to honor and lift up WHAT I VALUE, WHAT I WISH TO PROTECT, and WHAT I WISH TO LEAD WITH:

fostering compassion, skillful understanding, and connection through this sacred and fertile ground we cultivate in the form of a like-spirited, open-hearted, wise-minded community of practitioners who revel in silent contemplation, take delight in nature, and find refuge in communion with #‎GoodSpiritualFriends‬.
See upcoming dates below!

 

 

3 Jewels Yoga Sangha’s Practice Schedule

August 14 ~ 11 am – 12:30 pm | Monthly Sit-Together

August 28 ~ 11 am – 12:00 pm | Walking The Labyrinth

September 11 ~ 10 am – 1:00 pm | Walking The Labyrinth + Gentle Yoga with Ann Lapo

September 18 ~ 11 am – 12:30 pm | Monthly Sit-Together

September 25 ~ 11 am – 1 pm | Walking The Labyrinth (end of season)

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embodied meditation: the practice of arriving

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The Practice of Arriving

I’ve experienced the deep bone-weary tension of walking into a studio or temple after a full day of “doing” and feeling like I have to wrestle a boa constrictor before I can relax into my practice.

It took time for me to recognize the insidious pressures and misconceptions that arise with contemplative practices like meditation and yoga; especially, when we encounter hardcore folk — teachers and students alike — who translate noble silence and the noble postures into perfect control and transcendence of bodily realities (neglecting to acknowledge or offer accommodations for ability, injuries, illnesses). So grows the ill-formed notion that the moment our butts touch the cushion or we stretch into our first pose, we will instantly be filled with peace and relief…Oh! and be infused with the superpower of levitation.

As a teacher, I’ve witnessed the struggle in practitioners who then expressed frustration at not being able to get things “right.” After observing the cues of many students who would walk in early, immediately drop from exhaustion on their mats, close their eyes, and beg for restorative poses, I shifted my approach and started each class with deep relaxation. For my sake and theirs, it was essential to honor the fact that our brains and bodies need ample time to spin down and transition from one activity to the next. Reclaiming the space to transition  from the rhythm of striving to the rhythm of relaxing and finding refuge enabled us to bring our biological, emotional, psychological, and energetic layers into alignment. We gave ourselves time to catch up in body, mind and heart in the present moment.

I drew upon the Four Foundations of Mindfulness (the core of my personal practice) and began guiding practitioners through an embodied self-awareness sequence that supported our capacity to cross the threshold of any room and allow ourselves to fully arrive. Breath by breath, inch by inch, we learned to first unravel the tensions in body, heart, and mind in order to relax completely. Once we felt relaxed, we could awaken and inhabit our bodies with full awareness.

Listening deeply, seeing clearly, responding skillfully
to whatever showed up.
Greeting and acknowledging our sensations, thoughts, emotions and perceptions with compassion.

Taking refuge in the rhythm of our breath, we could gently align body, heart, and mind and then joyfully abide in this state when we transitioned from the privilege of an intuition-led practice back into the world around us (whether a casual gathering with friends, a family celebration, or an office meeting).

Arriving is the first of four guided meditations in my series, Embodied Self-Compassion: The Four Energies of Mindfulness

I shared this practice during the healing session I taught at the Allied Media Conference in June and, afterward, had the honor of being interviewed about it for MIT’s CoLab Radio: How to Awaken Self-Compassion Through Meditation.

A 3 Jewels Yoga + Ari Chillman Production.
Recorded June 2016 at Sherwood Forest Live.

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all of life is yoga, meditation, mindfulness, practice

abiding in light

We have not forgotten nor begun to recover from the massacre in Charleston on June 17, 2015. And here we are once again, nearly a year to the very day in a month that has become bloodied by another act of terror against people who were simply being themselves in what was thought to be a safe haven to celebrate, dance, laugh, connect with others.

With hearts heavy with sorrow, let us turn toward and abide in light to cast away this looming darkness. I bow deeply to dharma teacher Rev. Zenju Earthlyn Manuel for the healing wisdom she offers in this relentless cycle of violence and recent loss of 49 precious lives in Orlando.

 

 

For All Beings
excerpts from the chant written by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

May all beings be cared for and loved,
Be listened to, understood and acknowledged despite different views,

Be accepted for who they are in this moment…
Be allowed to live without fear of having their lives taken away or their bodies violated.

…Be treated as if their life is precious,
Be held in the eyes of each other as family.

…Feel welcomed anywhere on the planet,
Be freed from acts of hatred and desperation including war, poverty, slavery, and street crimes,
Live on the planet, housed and protected from harm…

Read and share Zenju’s Chants Against Hatred.

 

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(em)body: the thinking, feeling, moving body, cradle your heart, dharma, for real: living the lessons, kiss your brain: biology, mind, behavior, mindfulness, practice, toward wholeness

conjuring grace in moments of distress

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I put together these sustainable acts of self-care for a loved one after a conversation we shared about the challenges of tending to ourselves when the “stuff” of life storms through and leaves everything in a state of upheaval. Reading it over, I quickly recognized how necessary it was for me to remember to dose myself with the same centering prescription. (The joyful surprise in holding space for others is that we come to see that we are fully equipped to hold space for ourselves.) When we learn to conjure the attitude of GRACE and move from that grounded, relaxed, aware, centered and energized posture, we are able to discern how to respond skillfully to “madness” brewing within and around us.

Compassionate Actions for Spiritual Self-Care:

1) 5-minute doses of quietude and conscious breathing.

Pay attention to your exhale to awaken the parasympathetic nervous system’s function to “rest and digest.” With every release of breath, enjoy the sensations of relief. Visualize all toxins and tensions of body, mind, and heart flowing out on the wave of the exhale. Abide in the feeling of being calmed, cleansed, centered and clear.

2) Give space for insight and intuition to arise.

When troubled or ruminating on an issue, simply ask: WHAT IS THIS?

When overwhelmed by your feeling of others’ perceptions/expectations of you, simply ask: IS IT TRUE?

Repeat these questions as mantras in rhythm with your breath. They will help you to interrupt the tornado of thoughts and help to sort and settle your mind.

No struggling or striving to think or rationalize an answer. ALLOW understanding to stretch out and unfold in its own time.

3) Find a touchstone to what is good, what is working, what is in this clear in this moment.

When feeling weary and defeated, simply ask: WHAT CAN I CELEBRATE?

Reflect and connect with what is solid, reliable, true, hope-inducing. Be it the miraculous act of drawing a new breath each moment or the simple joy of taking a walk with a friend, pausing to honor the goodness can help us from drowning in worry, fear, and chaos.

Similarly, I’ve been practicing what another friend recently shared had helped her to cut through negative self-talk, frustration, and anxiety. When feeling compressed by expectations (real or imagined), deadlines, paperwork, and commitments, replace the SHOULDs, MUSTs, and HAVE TOs with energizing and self-affirming language. Stating “I GET TO [insert task or activity]” reminds us of our agency — that we can choose what we do and the spirit in which we do it — and transforms our perceptions about the activity.  

May you find relief and ease from these simple practices.

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Note: I created the graphic for the g.r.a.c.e. acronym above but did not come up with the concept. I learned it from a fellow facilitator after a presentation I gave on skillful communication. He could not remember the source and my research revealed that it has been widely-used without any attribution given to the original author.

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sangha harvest party

our outdoor practice season has come to a close,
and it could not have been a more beautiful fall day!
the abundance was overflowing: a feast of homemade goodies and raided-refrigerator treats, plenty of laughter, a reflection on how each of us is connected and all the overlapping threads we share, and crafting the harvest of herbs from a friend’s garden into bundles of sage, rose petals, mint and lavender that can be dried into smudging sticks.
excited for all that our new season of practice will bring.

 

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all of life is yoga

our space | how we heal

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Behold the radiance that filled up “Our Space” at All of the Above in REO Town on Wednesday!

It was a beautiful night to share an embodied meditation for restoration and self-compassion with beautiful souls who are invested in self-care, equity, and healing justice. Afterward, the space was blessed with laughter, connection, dance and poetry during the open mic/open floor segment.

I was honored to be invited to help plant and water the seeds of this inaugural community healing event, which was dreamed up by a small group of friends who felt bereft at the lack of safe space to unpack and process the brutalities against Asian, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Muslim and LGBTQ communities that wrenched our hearts, ratcheting vice grip-tight in quick succession without pause after every vicious assault this summer. Charged with the call to fill this void, they recognized the power that sharing our arts — the multitude of creative and embodied expressions — has to burn off rage and despair, to soothe aching hearts and wounded minds, to inspire new ways of hearing-seeing-understanding, to illuminate the unfathomable, and to transform all manner of things.

How do we heal? We make space for sorrows to be shared not silenced. We make space for joy to move through our bodies and be released in song, smiles, word, embraces, applause, call, response, dance, muscles melting into the earth and a deep-slow sigh of relief.

I’m excited to keep planting, watering, and nourishing this community with (my three jewels) the energy of compassion, skillful understanding and connection so that we can harvest love.

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woman horizontal | the sound of him

he wakes whistling, thrilled by the zipping wind
he conjures and reshapes into sharps and flats

snaps a crisp unpatterned rhythm
with supple-skinned thumb and middle finger
(wiped dry between refrains)
flickering his wrist for triumphant emphasis

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mutters a play-by-play commentary
to an imagined audience of rapt gamers
punctuated with shrieks, chides, wails and groans

jigs an exuberant popiscle-sugared dance
wagging his pineapple-cherry coated tongue
shuffling feet,
flexing knees,
scuttling erratically to a giggle-inflected beat
oh! mustn’t leave out the slapping bum finale and encore

drills up and down 14 stairs,
thunderous heel-stomping laps
and cushioned drop-and-rolls,
parkouring over and around the furniture
a streak of joy unleashed

bumps and bangs precede whimpers and squealed tears
beckoning empathetic triage,
strokes of comfort and mild caution to remember,
in all this play, that his body is growing and does not yet know
the new dimensions marking where it ends and external objects begin

hides, hushed and stockstill in a closet
awkwardly wedged behind the vacuum and laundry basket
clamping back unruly titters, lodged between throat and strained cheeks
crackling with anticipation to jumpscare an absent parent now returned

tucks into the curve of torso reserved
for bedtime storytelling and goodnight prayer songs
mommy-kissed lids and curled lashes
shelter sleep-craved eyes,
burning from the effort to see through
one minute more of the darkening day
a puff of minted air,
humming ‘love you too’
before sliding into blessed dreams

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