Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Inspirational Yogis

I am so inspired by our chair yogis. 
All of these kind-hearted folks have come to our Tuesday morning Chair Yoga class because, for some reason or another, they are uncomfortable with getting up and down for work on the floor.  So we practice either sitting in chairs or standing beside them.  We work together to find ways to modify the poses for reconstructed hips, tender shoulders, and arthritic ankles, using the ties and the bricks and the chairs.

Today we sang "Happy Birthday" to Esta, who just turned 87.  She says, "You hurt as much if you stay home than if you come out, so you may as well come out."  Her philosophy: "Just keep moving." And she feels better at the end of class having worked out some of the kinks.

One of the most common reasons I hear for not trying yoga is "I'm not flexible enough."  Fortunately,  we don't begin with perfection in yoga.  You just start where your own feet are today, whether you are 87, just feel 87, or you want to be like Esta when you're 87.  

Today we watched the cardinals in the garden as we practiced our tree poses.  The crocuses are up and I'm happy we have this morning class. We enjoy sharing this morning of peacefulness and camaraderie, encouraging each other for the week ahead of us.

I hope that you all keep moving, that you decide to come out anyway and just start where you are today. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ashes to Ashes

I don't really go out dancing very much anymore - especially not on a Tuesday night.  But last night was Mardi Gras and I met a few friends for drinks where my friend's band was playing classic rock with a few New Orleans tunes thrown in for the holiday.  We had fun, people watching, singing loudly, and we even got up and danced for a couple of songs.  I left feeling happy, glad I didn't just hit the couch and grab the remote.

That mid-week merriment means that today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, the day of making a sacrifice that will remind you over the next 40 days of the suffering of Christ.  Lent was never part of my childhood tradition.  My Fundamentalist upbringing avoided doing anything that might be Catholic, so we never did ashes or Lent or even candles during worship.  My young observation of Lent was that the Catholics went out for seafood on Friday night.  I couldn't figure out how lobster related to Jesus. As I grew older, Lent seemed to be a bit like a renewal of failed New Year's Resolutions: I'm giving up candy, or soda, coffee, wine, fried foods.... Most sacrifices seemed dietary.

But considering how much I enjoyed just an hour and a half of fun with friends last night, I've decided to give up not making time to enjoy life. I'm sure, like all vows, I'll have lapses where I'm working all day, on the weekends, crowding out space for joy.  I'm going to count on my children and my friends to remind me - even if I do have to schedule it on the calendar weeks in advance.

But fortunately, joy doesn't have to be time consuming. I can find simple moments of joy when I release myself - even momentarily - from the tension that arises from expectations: expectations about the helpfulness & motivation of my children, expectations about my productivity, expectations about my body. Not that I won't nag or write lists or eat cake, but for Lent, I am giving up my attachment to expectations of perfection. I will breathe deeply, letting my exhale blow those expectations away.  I am an imperfectionist.  Much easier than it's opposite. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Karuna® Reiki

Saturday, I completed level 1 & 2 of Karuna® Reiki. It was an all day class, surrounded by 8 other Reiki Masters.  It was an amazing experience.  Reiki is a Japanese healing technique discovered by Dr. Mikao Usui, a seeker of the healing ability that Jesus passed on to his disciples.  Dr. Usui felt that Jesus would not have passed on this ability to folks on earth if He did not want it to continue, so he made it his life mission to discover what happened to it.  After many moons of searching.. and fasting on Mount Kurama, he had a divine enlightenment and became a powerful healer, legendary in Japan.

I have been a Traditional Usui/Tibetan Reiki Master Teacher for a few years now.  That means that I have been attuned to 4 degrees of Reiki, attaining the highest level of the Usui practice, given the ability to attune and teach others, in addition to being taught Tibetan style Reiki for teaching purposes.  I have been amazed at the miracles I have witnessed in my Reiki journey, never having dreamt of some of the things I have seen.  I am astonished at watching the changes Reiki has created in my students lives and feel supremely blessed to have been given such a gift.

Karuna® Reiki is a system developed by William Rand, a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher who felt led to explore beyond Usui Reiki.  When I first heard of it, I felt it was just a gimmick, just a way for Rand to make money, something made up for when students were finished the attunement process.  I felt that the Usui lineage was pure, the healing perfect, why try and improve upon perfection? But when a class became available in my area, I was intrigued.  I'm a learning nut, perhaps I needed to continue on... why rest on my laurels if there was a possibility of continuing to refine myself? Maybe I was being too judgmental.. or maybe Rand was just crazy.  I waffled back and forth, even posting on facebook to get advice from my buddies, who were all united in the feeling of what did I have to lose? (except a couple hundred bucks LOL)

The long and short of it is: it's amazing. Karuna® is referred to as the Reiki of compassion since it uses symbols from other traditions representing peace, love and wisdom. Karuna is a sanskrit word meaning compassion.  All Reiki works with symbols, sort of a way to really focus your intentions quickly.  Think of drawing a heart in the air.. instantly you feel love, it's a conditioned response.  In Reiki, our symbols condition us to hone in on what our client needs.  In traditional Usui Reiki, there are 3 symbols in level II,  a master symbol in level III and 3 more in the teacher level.  Each time you are attuned to a symbol, it raises the vibration of your energy a bit more. On Saturday, I was attuned to 8, that's right, 8 more symbols.  Lordy.  All in one day.  Each one really refines the original Usui 3.  They are not meant to replace Usui, in fact, they are quite an enhancement.  Usui symbols sort of remind me of the Christian tradition of Father, Son, Holy Spirit.  Karuna® reminds me of  the Hindu tradition of different gods for different purposes, Karuna® is love, peace, wisdom, grounding, etc. Together they create a full circle of healing.

We had a Reiki Share today that was so wonderful. Our Healers got the opportunity to work on some new brave souls who had never tried Reiki before. They got to work on each other. Everyone was exclaiming all day about how powerful the energy was today, even more so than usual.  What they didn't know was that before they got there I had infused the room with both Usui and Karuna® symbols. I think this is going to be a wonderful addition to our practice.

Now if I could just figure out how to shorten my "title".  Traditional Usui/Tibetan Reiki Master Teacher &  Karuna® Healer seems a bit excessive, don't you think? :)

Love & Peace coming your way...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Clearing mental clutter

I've been spending my mornings with a new friend.  Most every morning recently I've been having my coffee with a friend who let's me do all the talking, without judgment or interruption.  I've been able to share my worries about my children, my new career, my relationships. Together we've explored my evolving faith. It's like starting my morning with my analyst.

This morning meeting has been with my journal.  Writing in my journal is completely different from other types of writing, primarily because of the lack of an audience. I spent the last few years writing for a living, writing advertorials and editing general interest articles.  While that was interesting and sometimes challenging, it wasn't personally relieving.  No brain dump involved - in fact it added to by brain clutter.

And I have kept a few blogs, which is a great tool, useful for communicating and sharing, maintaining and finding friends. But the public nature of the blog limits the topics. Some information isn't mine to share.  Some feelings I don't want the world to know about.

Last weekend we had the first in our series of Journaling workshops. We shared many ideas for inspiring and expanding our practice.  We talked about how journaling let's us explore the darker sides of our selves. Our discomfort with our anger, our anxieties, our depression or laziness makes us want to pretend those don't exist.  Ignore them and they'll go away.  But in journaling you get to explore those and embrace them as part of who you are.  It is both our darkness and our light that makes us who we are. 

If you've never tried journaling before, consider getting yourself a notebook and writing in it - every day if you can. Don't go overboard.  Limit yourself to 2 or 3 pages a day.  You'll be amazed at the relief you create for yourself.  Getting those thoughts out of your head creates space for creativity and growth.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Just the word Church can be a loaded subject.  What do you think of when you think of Church?  Committees and Meetings? Friends and Family? Oppression and Judgement? Or Comfort and Love? For me, it has meant all those things and more.  We have a guarded relationship, church and I.  When I was 16, I swore I would never step foot in a church again.  When I was 18, after much debate, I got married in a church other than my own. At 27, I became a Taoist. When I was 30, I felt like my kids should at least see what a church was about so they could decide whether it was for them or not so we took them at Christmas and Easter.

In 2002, after much debate, I stood at the altar of the church with my husband and children, being baptised, becoming members of the church I was married in. I'd like to say we lived happily ever after, church and I. But alas, 5 years later I swore I'd never set foot in the church again. I lied.  When I don't go to church, I start to miss all the hugs and beautiful energy of my church family.  When I go to church, I get annoyed at all the politics and craziness that goes along with having a family. Everyone wants things their own way.  Me too.  I will fight for your right to have things your way, however, I do understand not everyone likes things the same way I do.

If I were Queen of the world, my church would be Taize' style.  Taize' is a community built by a loving monk who believed worship should be a community affair.  Brother Roger said,
“Since my youth, I think that I have never lost the intuition that community life could be a sign that God is love, and love alone. Gradually the conviction took shape in me that it was essential to create a community with people determined to give their whole life and who would always try to understand one another and be reconciled, a community where kindness of heart and simplicity would be at the centre of everything.”
Taize' is community worship.  There is no choir, the songs are not projected on a screen, they are simple, repetitive, easy to learn.  You can sing... or not.  There is silence, lots of it.  There is time to hear that "still, small voice" spoken of in I Kings 19.  There are readings but not necessarily just from the Bible, any passage that gives a feeling of God is accepted, all religions are honored.  The prayers of the people are truly that.  Anyone moved to speak a prayer may do so. Each prayer is followed by a short chant, as if the community is affirming the prayer.  No one is in charge.  Just God.  It's a beautiful thing.

Ritual is important in religion.  Many folks find great comfort in ritual.  Taize' is not for everyone, especially if you like structure and leaders.  But it is a refreshing change occasionally from the hustle and bustle of regular church service.  I am excited to get to plan 2 Taize' services for my church.  One is this Sunday for our Stillness class, the other will be during Lent.  The nicest thing about my church is that they are open to explore different things.  Like yoga. And Taize'. And Reiki. The hugs are pretty sweet too :)

Join us in Imagine Center Sunday at 9:30am for a Taize' Style Worship Service. Namaste'

Sunday, January 23, 2011

First SoulCollage® Reading

Some things are better experienced than explained.  I was reminded of that yesterday at my first full SoulCollage® workshop

I have been on the fringes of SoulCollage® for a few years now, hearing Linda and others talk about this artistic self-exploration program.  I even built a card and came close to witnessing a reading, but was too busy and had to step away.

At yesterday's workshop, I was caught off guard by how revealing it was.

So let me back up.  SoulCollage® is an on-going program where participants create collages on big cards, using pictures from magazines or personal photos. Participating artists create cards that have a uniting theme that is sometime apparent to anyone, and sometimes more ambiguous.  As with the images in a tarot card deck, the interpretation of each card is in the eye of the beholder and is unique to the present circumstances.  The cards eventually sort themselves into four suits. (For more on the suits, read here.)

I had fun creating cards, letting my creativity have a chance to come out and play.  I admired the cards of the collagers who had built sizeable decks.  I was soothed in the meditation portion of the afternoon.  But the time came to read the cards and I was skeptical since I had to use someone else's cards.  How personal could it be using cards created for personal use by another person?

My skepticism was squelched by a reading that was almost too authentic to discuss, my emotions welling up to make speaking a bit tricky.  But the artists around the table were patient, allowing me to collect myself and share what I saw.  They were familiar with these encounters and how emotionally revealing they could be.

Here is a picture of my reading, although I can't convey the intensity of the moment with my words.  But I invite you to experience it yourself.  You will learn more about yourself than you thought you could. 

And I will never look at a magazine the same way again!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Practice makes Peaceful

Last night at yoga I was the student while Ann was the teacher.  This is the absolute best thing about having a partner.  The snow was softly falling, when we laid down in relaxation we could see it through the tops of the big windows.  It felt like it was gently shimmering right down on us. It was hard to close my eyes and go within with such beauty all around.

We are on our second week of this new adventure.  In many ways, it feels as if it has always been.  A Reiki/Yogi friend of mine told me yesterday that she is so thrilled that we have accomplished our dreams without making our students uncomfortable with the thought of change. Change is scary.  Necessary, but scary.  Finding solutions to accommodate the need for change while minimizing fear is a great goal.  It's hard to accomplish great things while you are terrified. Not impossible, but it's easier when you can take a deep breath or two now and then. And speaking of breath...

As much as I love teaching yoga, I have to admit that doing yoga is better.  Or perhaps a better statement would be that finding a balance between teaching and doing is sublime.  I get to feed my need to share... and my need to breathe.  Ahhh, the breathing! When you teach, you sort of have to talk through the breath so the class understands, "Inhale.... Exhale".  When you are quietly holding a pose, focusing on the breath, riding the wave between expansion and relaxing... ahhh.  I love watching a student experiencing the beauty of a pose combined with a deep breath, seeing their shoulders suddenly melt and their feet spreading out on the ground as they sink deeper and deeper into the comfort of the pose.  There is nothing like total focus on the task at hand.

We are thrilled with the turnout for the classes.  I am so happy to see so many of my "old" yogis returning and reaffirming their commitment to their practice, and by doing so, their health.  I am delighted to meet so many new folk-- it's astonishing how many live right around the church, and hence, right in my neighborhood.  I've lived in my home for 27 years and rarely have met the people on my block... and yet here they are, enjoying Yoga... trying out Reiki... what an unexpected gift.  We are blessed with the opportunity to form a community.  A community based on seeking wellness, seeking kindness and laughter, what a joy!

See you soon :)