Writing as a Path to Awakening

By Albert Flynn DeSilver

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Writing as a Path to Awakening with Albert Flynn DeSilver August 13-17, 2015 — click here to learn more

Writing as a Path to Awakening is a dynamic and fun process using mindfulness as a way to deepen your writing practice and expand your creative potential. Spiritual practice has always brought insight to my writing—increasing the flow of ideas, the big open inclusive ideas of beauty and of being and of surrendering to a state of love and compassion.

Too often we get pigeon-holed into false conceptions of ourselves. There are a million distractions, negative self talk, old voices of doubt and self recrimination often holding us back. We experience it in the form of writer’s block, in the creation of flat characters, in novels left half-written collecting dust on the table.

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I know if my heart of hearts when people have a safe place to express their true poetic self they can realize who they really are, and this process of awakening can change the world. If you take a look at the great spiritual teachers from around the world— Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Amma, Thich Nhat Hanh — they have something in common beyond their spiritual practice and messages: they are writers. They have to be in order to spread their messages of compassion and love. Think about it. Is there anything more powerful than the written word? “In the beginning was the word and the word was with god and the word was god.”

How powerful would it be to follow in the footsteps of these leaders, to integrate an expansion of consciousness into your writing and vice versa? Writing as a path to Awakening is a process of utilizing the practice of writing toward further self-awareness, increased emotional intelligence, and overall expansion of consciousness. It can allow you to express the truest form of yourself to the world through your writing.

I want people to remember that creativity isn’t something that some people have and others don’t. Creativity is not something you go and get at a workshop, or even a thing that you learn. Creativity is you, it’s who you are at your very core. One just needs to stop, turn off the computer, phone, i-pod, etcetera and listen in silence, spend time in nature, and there you will merge with the creativity that is you!

No matter what your vocation is in this life, you can integrate mindfulness and certainly writing if you are so inclined. In order to live the awakened life, you need to get in touch with who you really are. Writing as a Path to Awakening can be part of that journey. When you open up your mind to your inner self you begin on a journey into creativity—exploring your sociological, emotional, psychological, and spiritual story—over time you gain insight, understanding, further clarification of the self, and ultimately the ability to transcend a lot of perceived limitations.

Through mindful being and reflective writing you will find that your very existence is miraculous. This simple and profound insight is not only worth writing about, but a courageous and beautiful step toward changing the world.

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writing-retreat-with-albert-desilverAlbert Flynn DeSilver is an internationally published poet, writer, speaker, and workshop leader. He served as Marin County’s very first Poet Laureate from 2008-2010. His work has appeared in more than 100 literary journals worldwide. http://www.albertflynndesilver.com/

You can follow Albert on Facebook and Twitter

Thank you divine order…

By Sue Frederick

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Bridges to Heaven: A Grief Healing Workshop, led by Sue Frederick, June 5-7, 2015

My husband Gene just drove us up to Four Mile Canyon to the little Chapel of the Pines where my first husband Paul and I were married in 1979. So many memories flooded me of that happy sunny September day filled with love and hope.

As we drove back down the canyon we saw the little cabin down the road beside the creek where Paul and I first lived and had our sweet wedding reception. Both places have survived flood and fire and are impossibly still standing.

Think Paul must have watched over them…

It brought back so many powerful sensory memories to be there. I sat on the chapel steps and cried for 20 minutes. I remembered how happy my dad was that day and how much he loved Paul, our wedding, and our cabin. Dad and Paul are both watching out for me now from the other side.

Sitting on those steps I felt my dad, Paul, Crissie and Marv all with me. In the hard years following that amazing wedding day in 1979, I lost all of them to cancer – except for Marv who died of a stroke at the age of 44. Yet I’m grateful for the heartbreak I experienced then which sent me on my spiritual journey.

Today I have my incredible husband Gene Malowany and our miraculous children Sarah and Kai – and my amazing career as a grief intuitive and author of Bridges to Heaven: True Stories of Loved Ones on the Other Side – none of which I would have without going through my journey.

Gene sat beside me today listening to my memories and soaking up the experience. He understands everything about my life and where it’s brought me. It was his idea to drive up there. I hadn’t been up that canyon since 1980. I was grumpy on the drive up finding a million reasons not to go – some part of me realizing what I’d remember as soon as I saw that sacred place.

Yet once I released the flood of emotion that rose up in me… I saw with great clarity the gift of my life story and the gift of loving so many amazing souls along the way.

Thank you divine order…

Click here to learn more about Sue’s upcoming program at SMC

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SueFrederickSue Frederick is the author of Bridges to Heaven: True Stories of Loved Ones on the Other Side; I See Your Soul Mate and I See Your Dream Job. An intuitive since childhood, Sue has trained more than 200 intuitive coaches around the world. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, CNN.com and Yoga Journal, among others.  Visit her websites to learn more: SueFrederick.com | Bridgestoheaven.com

Mindfulness in Lila Yoga (VIDEO)


Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Lila Yoga Mindfulness Retreat, June 4-7, 2015 — click here to learn more and to register.

We’re thrilled to have the wonderfully skilled Yogacharya Erica Kaufman returning to SMC this June to lead Lila Yoga Mindfulness Retreat.  And, also very glad to be able to offer you a glimpse into her brilliance as a teacher and the profundity of the practices that she’ll be leading here on the land next month.

Please take a few minutes to enjoy this lovely video which explores the mindfulness aspects within the Lila Yoga practice. Erica describes and defines how mindfulness is an intricate part of our learning process and how it is woven into this style of yoga.

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Lila Yoga Mindfulness Retreat, June 4-7, 2015 — click here to learn more and to register.

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EricaKaufmanYogacharya Erica Kaufman is the founder of Lila Yoga® and the owner of Lila Yoga Studios. She began daily devoted yoga practices at age 9. Influenced by Jiddu Krishnamurti’s philosophy and Krishnamacharya’s teachings, she spends three months a year in India.

Since 1984, Erica has taught ancient wisdom as a daily practice and holds the highest level of Registry with Yoga Alliance. Her teaching expertise and sophisticated gutsy openness awarded her Yoga Journal’s Karma Credit and features in publications such as The Times of India. Erica is on faculty at Shambhala Mountain Center in Colorado, at Penn State University, and at the International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh India. As a mentor to yoga teachers, aspirants, and community members alike, Erica tours the USA, Europe, Israel and India teaching seminars on Lila Yoga® and Contact Improvisation.

What Happens When We Die

By Sue Frederick

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Bridges to Heaven: A Grief Healing Workshop, led by Sue Frederick, June 5-7, 2015

Last night I spent two hours having a “what happens when we die” conversation with a friend I’ve known since the 80s.

She’s dying from stage 4 cancer. It was diagnosed in December. She said her friends don’t talk to her about spirituality and crossing over. She’s been an atheist much of her life – although she’s done amazing work for the world in her career.

She had my book Bridges to Heaven: True Stories of Loved Ones on the Other Side – on her nightstand. She asked me to sit with her to talk about it. She said she’d spent her life not wanting to believe in that kind of “woo-woo” stuff. But now she was having experiences that she believed were some kind of inexplicable divine order and wanted to explore ideas she’d not been comfortable with before.

She cried for most of the two hours during our talk – releasing so much fear and grief she’s been holding on to. She’s devastatingly frail and in constant pain. She lives alone. Hospice visits twice a day. It was so hard to see her suffering and so afraid of death.

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I taught her to meditate – as well as some other sacred techniques for releasing fear – like my Break Your Heart Wide Open meditation. I gave her a rosewood Mala – which she loved. She was so grateful I’d visited and will try to meditate now when’s she’s alone and afraid. She wants me to come back. And I will…

But it was so hard to be there. I’m so inadequate in those situations. The visit brought back so many memories of my husband Paul, best girlfriend Crissie, and my dad who all died too young – from cancer.

Afterwards, my husband Gene and I talked about my visit. It helped so much to talk to him and feel his love and support. Our views on life and death are fully aligned and I’m so grateful for him.

But today I can’t get the images and smells of the visit out of my head. All I want to do is go shopping and buy some expensive Eileen Fisher clothes that I can’t afford. I know that’s just my grief acting up. It’s my old relentless question of why do good people often take the path of suffering before they die? That one painful question launched my spiritual exploration journey in the 80s. And it still fuels the work I do today.

And I realize that I’m so much better at helping grieving people – rather than the sick and dying. I can truly help with spiritual and emotional pain. But I can’t relieve physical pain and I can’t bear to see that kind of intense physical suffering – especially in young people who only months ago were vibrant and full of life.

I guess I’m still traumatized from taking care of my young husband Paul in my 20s as he died from colon cancer. It’s clear that I have some kind of post-traumatic stress syndrome: it makes me want to run from the sight of physical suffering.

Last night I kept feeling like I might throw up when I first walked into her room and saw tubes everywhere, the oxygen tank, and the pain on her face as she struggled to sit up a little in her bed to greet me.

I had to work so hard to focus on her spirit, her beautiful radiant undamaged soul, and not on her body. A big part of me just wanted to run out crying into the night, to stand under the stars, to look at beauty instead of pain.

But instead I took a deep breath, opened my heart and sat down beside her – with love as my intention. Our heart to heart conversation helped calm her – and I hope our future conversations will help her release fear and find an inner peace about crossing over.

I shared many stories with her of the departed coming back to show me that life continues and that death is not the end of anything. I’m so deeply grateful to those spirits – Paul, Crissie, my dad and so many many others who’ve made it so abundantly clear that we are all souls who come here for a brief physical experience to evolve consciousness – and that crossing over – taking the final breath – is simply an act of love – of returning to the divine realms from which we came. I’m so grateful for every moment of this lifetime that has pushed me to recognize this truth and for all the sacred teachers I’ve had along the way.

And last night, my dying friend loved listening to those stories of departed spiritsshowing up, and she wanted to hear them again and again. She cried and cried as she listened – as her heart broke wide open.

To all the nurses, hospice workers, healers and physicians who care for the dying – I honor you so much for what you do in the world. It’s the hardest and best job there is. Nothing else compares.

I’m so inadequate in the face of other’s physical suffering. I have to fight the impulse to run and instead focus on their spirit – which is after all what my work is here.

I hope you’ll forgive me for writing this story about my friend. It is a very private thing, I know. And perhaps I shouldn’t share it. Yet the experience of seeing loved ones suffer is a shared experience amongst all of us.

Writing this has helped me process – not the visit itself – but my visceral reaction to seeing my dying friend. Writing has always helped me heal pain and step into wisdom – to see things more clearly. It’s why I write. And maybe now I can resist the pull of Eileen Fisher, of seeking superficial comfort in the face of pain, of longing for beauty instead of what is…

Thanks for listening.

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SueFrederickSue Frederick is the author of Bridges to Heaven: True Stories of Loved Ones on the Other Side; I See Your Soul Mate and I See Your Dream Job. An intuitive since childhood, Sue has trained more than 200 intuitive coaches around the world. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, CNN.com and Yoga Journal, among others.  Visit her websites to learn more: SueFrederick.com | Bridgestoheaven.com

Floral Notes and Bardo: I Drowned a Tick in Booze


Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident
 is a regular feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

Recently, Heather and I have been helping to water the seedlings for the community garden.  What seedlings am I watering right now — in the cosmic garden?

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Compassion feels sore and self-righteousness is a rush.  I want to strengthen my tendency and love for the former, and decrease my lustful craving for the latter.  Buddhism.

Yesterday I kicked off my new schedule and was able to practice — meditation, writing — and study — buddhadharma, poetics — and do good work in the marketing office, community service, have some lesiure time and get a good night of sleep.  The leisure time was only partly leisurely.

What I really don’t want to write about — and so chose to describe my routine — is the way that I’m feeling about a cultural attitude that I think ought to be examined.

I’ll not be specific here because it seems charged, sensitive, and some actual discussion with human beings in the community may need to come before published contemplation.  Skillful?  Timid?

Shantideva: Be like a log.

In other news, Sasha and I in the shower this morning, and a small mouse in the tub.

This morning — after bragging a bit yesterday about how I told the ticks to leave me alone and they obeyed — a tick jumped onto my leg.  I put it in a Kahlua bottle with a bit of booze in the bottom — left it to die.

I was discussing parasites with a friend recently.  In his view, karmically, ticks and mosquitos cannot get much lower, and so it seems fine to “send them on their way” — my friend said that Trungpa Rinpoche said this about mosquitoes.

I decided to kill his tick to send a message.  To let them know that I’m not messing around here.  After I put it in the bottle, I went outside and, while urinating in the grass, told them again, very sternly, with a few cuss words thrown in, that they must leave Heather and I alone!  I explained that I really don’t want to kill them.  And I attempted to explain that their behavior brings great misery to us.

I don’t think they understand that.  They’re too caught up in their blood-thirsty ways.  They are addicts.  Insane.

Reading Pema/Shantideva this morning.  The teachings describe how we fall under the spell of kleshas — anger, lust, and so on.  The ticks are extremely taken.  Myself and my homies may become tick-ish, but we snap out of it and return to humanness.  We’re fortunate to have that capacity.  Precious human birth.

Strengthening the non-virtuous habits though, leads to greater and greater tickishness — and maybe the Kahlua botlle.

And so in considering my feelings about certain policies and attitudes that are in effect here at SMC, I need to be careful — like I’m walking along the edge of a cliff, as Pema/Shantideva says.  I need to be deeply considerate.  In my actions, and even thoughts, am I chasing the buzz of self-righteousness, or is it compassionate action?

It happens a million times each minute — probably a lot more.  Choosing.

— April 15, 2015

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PortraitTravis Newbill is a writer, musician, and aspirant on the path of meditation.  He currently resides at Shambhala Mountain Center, where he serves in the roles of Marketing Associate and Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Drum Your Prayers – Creativity & Spirituality

By Christine Stevens
(Edited by Jeff Newman)

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Healing Sound Retreat with Christine Stevens, May 28-31 — click here to learn more

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“Life can become boring when the spark of creative fire is not lit in the soul of our spirit.”- Music Medicine, the science and spirit of healing yourself with sound

We all listen to music. Many of us dream of playing an instrument, yet most of us don’t. How do we move from being only consumers of music to becoming music creators?

Creativity is our birthright, an organic medicine of healing. No matter where these limiting beliefs originated, you are the one who can remove them and take action! Otherwise, you may never express the song of your soul that wants to be sung. As the old saying goes, don’t die with the music inside you.

The Science of Creativity – Mind & Body

In a study using functional magnetic resonance imagining (fMRI) to look at brain activity, surgeon and jazz pianist CJ Limb compared improvised piano playing to a rendition of a rehearsed piece of music. The results showed that when musicians used their own creativity, a very specific small area of the brain’s frontal cortex — the medial prefrontal cortex — became activated. This part of the brain functions in self-reflection, introspection, personal sharing, and self-expression; it is often thought to be the seat of consciousness. The medial prefrontal cortex area is also activated when we talk about ourselves, telling our personal story. Simultaneously, a deactivation occurred. The two larger areas of the frontal cortex — the lateral prefrontal cortex and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — were deactivated. These areas deal with self-monitoring, judgment, and self-criticism. It’s a paradox; the larger parts of the brain inhibit our self-expression, while the smaller part reveals the greater self. No wonder it’s a challenge to express ourselves creatively in music.

Are you ready to begin to be a creator; not just a consumer? Try these guided practices and awaken your Creative Spirit through rhythm.

This video demonstrates creativity. Done in collaboration with a friend, this shows a nice balance of masculine and feminine. This is improvisational and multi-cultural. Our prayer is for the beauty of dialogue of cultures, in this case of middle east and Native American. Music is the dancing ground in the center that unites people.

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Healing Sound Retreat with Christine Stevens, May 28-31 — click here to learn more!

Jon Crowder will join me at the Retreat this year offering tai chi, African chants, and wonderful rhythms. He is the founder of Peak Rhythms based in Boulder, Colorado.
Here are a few more ideas to enhance your creativity;

1. Dance to the Beat of your own drum

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Drumming is an immediate portal into musical expression. Everyone can be successful immediately. Whether you are more comfortable drumming or dancing; both are great tools for awakening your musical creativity.

Click here to listen to the free play along track!

Select Rhythm (Chapter 3). Scroll to the bottom and play the last two tracks: Reviving Rhythms and Beauty Groove play-along tracks. Get out a drum, rattle, or homemade percussion sound and play-a-long, improvising the beat that only you can play. Each track is more than seven minutes, giving you time to get out of your head and into your drum. Remember, there is no right or wrong here; simply the joyful feeling of self-expression.

2. Tone your note

Toning comes from “tone,” a single note that is an inner sounding. Give yourself permission to sing your note, whatever it may be, and let it resonate your whole being. Trust yourself. Don’t think about it. Just take a deep belly breath and exhale a note. Now, sing the same note only louder! Repeat. When you complete the toning of your note, allow yourself time to sit with the vibration. Feel the resonance of creativity, of musical freedom reverberating through your body, mind, and spirit.

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Healing Sound Retreat with Christine Stevens, May 28-31 — click here to learn more!

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Christine Stevens, MSW, MT-BC is an author, music therapy consultant to REMO drums, and founder of UpBeat Drum Circles. Her new book, Music Medicine (Sounds True, August, 2012) includes more than 40 guided practices and 50 audio tracks of healing music. www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUGTmeDh8E8

 

Interview: Waking Up to the Wild with Kay Peterson

 

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Waking up to the Wild: Mindful Hiking with Kay Peterson, July 24-27 — click here to learn more

Like trees in the forest or fish in the sea, we have an innate ability to live in greater harmony with our environment. While trying to navigate our busy, high-tech world, we can develop habits of mind that leave us feeling disconnected and unfulfilled. Delving deeply into the practice of mindfulness/awareness in nature, we turn our attention toward the subtle interplay of our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and sense perceptions and rediscover how we can open to our fundamental interconnection to all things. Rather than always needing to change where we work, live, or who we love, we can change our relationship to these aspects of our lives in a way that brings us greater happiness and contentment.

Next month, psychotherapist, wilderness guide, and Shambhala meditation instructor Kay Peterson will be leading a wonderfully nourishing retreat here in the powerful natural environment of Shambhala Mountain Center.  Recently, Kay took some time to discuss the importance of tapping into the natural world, and how doing so can benefit our daily lives.

Enjoy this interview below, and to learn more about the upcoming retreat, please follow the links at the top of this article.

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KayPetersonKay Peterson, MA, MFT Intern, is a psychotherapist, wilderness guide, and Shambhala meditation instructor. She has been facilitating nature-inspired programs focused on individual transformation, creative group processes, and mindfulness since 1996. Kay also teaches Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and is adjunct faculty at Naropa University.

5 Things I Learned on a Meditation Retreat

By Ryan Stagg

Shambhala Meditation O'Hern - For Web5

At the end of a recent week-long meditation retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center another participant remarked about how difficult it would be to explain her experience back home. “We sat a lot, walked in circles, and didn’t talk much,” she said with a laugh.

And yet somehow after a week of performing this simple routine, often in complete silence, we all had smiles on our faces and a clear appreciation for the journey we had just completed. It was hard to pinpoint exactly what, but some transformation had undoubtedly occurred. The atmosphere in the room was simply lighter and more spacious.

There is something very radical about choosing to go on a meditation retreat. In many ways it stands in contrast to the speediness and excitement of our everyday lives. It also creates a fundamental shift in our perspective—rather than seeking fulfillment externally, we resolve to sit and look inside, at our own bodies, hearts, and minds.

The effects of embracing this contemplative perspective have long been promoted by practitioners and more recently by scientists. What’s fascinating is that the benefits don’t come from outside as we are so often socialized to believe. They come from within our own being. Somewhere in the midst of sitting and walking circles people continue to discover something magical. In Shambhala we call this our “basic goodness.”

To discover basic goodness is to glimpse one’s own inherent worthiness and completeness. It’s a feeling of contentment with things as they are. Of course there are many benefits of going on retreat and everyone will have their own unique experience, but I’d like to share five things that I’ve learned about the journey:

1. I had to take a leap. Breaking out of the cycles of everyday life to come on a meditation retreat is not easy. I worried about getting behind at work. The long winter was finally breaking and warm spring days made me wonder if leisurely weekends might be a better way to spend my time. I knew from retreats before that my back would hurt…a lot. The list goes on. A definite leap had to occur out of my daily routine and all the momentum it carries. It’s really the first step of the practice—to break the attachments to habitual tendencies and comforts. It’s a challenge to put aside a week or a month, but that decision becomes the essence of the practice; it lays the foundation for letting go.

2. There is no replacing the full immersion of extended retreat. I’ve sat a number of weekend retreats recently, which are certainly a good way to spend a weekend. However, I find something happens around day 3, a kind of immersion where the practice becomes a little more embodied, a little more effortless. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to sit even 25 minutes in a day but the transition to sitting hours and days at a time is surprisingly simple. The container created by the retreat staff and the other participants becomes a powerful support and I seem to find a hidden patience and resolve.

3. Relentless kindness to one’s self is key. The Shambhala teachings have really done a number on my idealistic expectations of meditation. When you try to be a Buddha you end up being very hard on yourself, when you try to be a human you end up being kind to yourself. The Acharya of this retreat led us in a three part exercise each day where we’d feel what we were feeling—maybe pain in the body or a particular emotion—extend kindness to that feeling, and then relax into the feeling of being kind to oneself. It’s a simple and powerful practice that helped me reintegrate the more difficult parts of myself I’d rather not sit with—the parts that don’t seem “enlightened.” This technique helped alleviate a lot of the conflict and struggle of sitting meditation and replaced it with a holistic appreciation of what it means to be human.

4. I felt a lot. Sometimes more than I’d like to. I find it amazing how the world opens up from sitting. Maybe distant memories in which I could smell my childhood home and feel the warmth of a glowing fire in the hearth. Maybe a rush of emotion of the deep love I have for a close friend.

We also had a much-needed “aerobic walk” each afternoon. I live here at Shambhala Mountain Center but each time felt like the first time I’d ever seen this incredible land, my perceptions were heightened, I could vividly feel the point of the pine needle and the pleasant ruffle on the water of Lake Shunyata.

5. I found a lasting place of calm. Many of us go seeking externally for peace and quiet, awaiting our next vacation or moment to escape. But real peace and quiet comes from working with the mind. The depth of meditation I cultivated on retreat is something I can come back to over and over; it isn’t based on external conditions. It’s subtle, but that sense of my own basic goodness grows each time I make the leap to sit a retreat. I couldn’t think of a more valuable way to spend my time.

Click here to learn about Dathun / Weekthun Retreat 2015 — Your opportunity to meditate for a week or full month!

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10524698_676605145764845_4615874047729965354_nRyan Stagg received an MA in Contemplative Religious Studies from Naropa University, and currently lives and works at Shambhala Mountain Center, where he explores the dharma as a personal, social, and professional path.

An Eleven Minute Journey — Healing Shamanic Music

 

We’d like to invite you to lovingly interrupt your current state of being by pushing play on the music box below.  Generously give yourself eleven minutes — eyes closed preferably, but while at your desk writing emails is acceptable — to experience the rejuvenating power of this music from Byron Metcalf, an award winning musician, transpersonal psychologist, shamanic practitioner, and healer.

Also, we invite you to lovingly interrupt your current life trajectory by attending the upcoming retreat that Byron Metcalf will be co-leading at SMC May 1-3:

Click here to learn about Shaman’s Heart: The Path of Authentic Power, Purpose & Presence

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ByronMetcalf_1214Byron Metcalf, PhD, is a transpersonal guide and educator, shamanic practitioner, researcher, and award-winning professional musician. For nearly three decades, he has been intensely involved in consciousness research and spiritual development, specializing in the transformative potential of alternative states of consciousness. As a drummer, percussionist and recording engineer, Byron produces music for deep inner exploration, breathwork, shamanic journeywork, body-oriented therapies, various meditation practices and the healing arts.

As workshop, retreat and ceremonial leader with over 25 years of experience, Byron has facilitated personal growth and healing workshops featuring Holotropic and HoloShamanic Breathwork and The Shaman’s Heart Program/Training throughout the US. He lives in the high-desert mountains of Prescott Valley, Arizona and is the founding director of HoloShamanic Strategies, LLC. Learn more at his website, www.byronmetcalf.com.

FLOW: I Move Because I am Curious

By Katharine Kaufman

Katharaine Kaufman will be leading FLOW: A Meditation and Yoga Retreat, April 25-27

I start in stillness. Then I recognize I am breathing. The breath appears to be more clear—prominent. I recognize a sense of body—what is touching the ground, what is a little snug, what feels tired. Hello body. I relax my jaw and shoulders and along with this, discursive movement relaxes too. Breathe out. I am landed. Where does movement start? Mind? A reflex? Breath? I move not because I am uncomfortable and want to change my posture. I move because I am curious. I am looking for what my mentor, Barbara Dilley, calls, “kinesthetic delight.”

I open my peripheral view to the others in the room. Pretty soon we are moving through space, slowly, and somewhat together. I don’t have to hold this body up—by myself. I think of my yoga teacher, Richard Freeman who always said we can “ride the breath.” And there’s a sense of support from the group. When we slow our movement we can take care of ourselves as we enter and leave the poses. When we slow even more we don’t need to push at anything. The breath seems to carry us. Gravity seems friendly.

DSC_2289Photo by Barbara Colombo

The creative yoga sequences are funny— and there is some laughter, and a few groan as someone is challenged with how to unwind from a pose. When we enter a twisted posture it seems that the breath is all that moves. Our entire body works as a unit in strong poses. When we balance there is a tremor. Someone who usually toughs it out chooses to rest for a while and then joins a little later. So it goes—starting simply, we move into more complex poses and then return to the simplicity of sitting or standing, or lying. We have been around the block -–looked into our alleys and windows… With each sun-salutation, plank pose, and savasana we feel both the limits of our movement and the expansiveness—We know ourselves as moving beings. After all this moving it feels natural to sit, so we do.

This is what we do with our short time together. This is practice. The land supports us in our practice. The staff understands. They are friendly and gentle. Other programs support us in our practice and the practice itself supports our practice. Zen Master, Kobun Chino said, “practice is a fancy word.” It’s not special. It’s ordinary and visceral. We have the opportunity to go to the depths as well as shallows, and to let our recognition of each current exploding moment expand us.

Then there are meals –beautiful vegetarian meals —waiting for us. We walk in the springtime mountains. Are there flowers yet? I forgot. It has been a long time. Maybe there is a puffy spring snow that melts as it touches the ground.

After lunch I walk up to the stupa and around the perimeter a few times. I only hear the sound of my steps on the gravel so I try to walk more softly to match the silence. This allows me to really feel each step and swing of arms, legs. The wind shoots through the land. I realize I don’t know much about wind, this land, myself…I find this hysterical and burst out in a big laugh. When I enter the stupa I am surprised by a rush of energy and clarity as I sit, facing the mystery of who I am, what phase I am in. I feel the vulnerability of this human life. Here, I don’t need much to be satisfied.

Being removed from my habitual routes and places gives me the opportunity to look at my thoughts, body, relationships, and days from a bigger perspective. Questions arise as we move through our practice—in relationship with our own mind and body. They are questions that can be translated to our lives. I may ask, Where is space in this back bend? What flows? What is necessary? With what kind of energy and awareness am I stepping on the ground? How gracefully do I perform these stops and starts? Can I let go here—and here? Is my movement too swift for how my body really feels? The questions are enough. They don’t require answers.

Katharaine Kaufman will be leading FLOW: A Meditation and Yoga Retreat, April 25-27 — click here to learn more

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Katharine_Kaufman2Katharine Kaufman, MFA, is ordained as a priest in the Soto Zen lineage. She studied Yoga in India and practiced and taught for many years at Richard Freeman’s Yoga Workshop and Wendy Bramlett’s Studio Be. Katharine is an adjunct professor at Naropa University where she teaches Contemplative Movement Arts and is a student of poetry.