Body Ease

I have helped heal myself in many ways from various life traumas through developing a practice of reconnecting to the natural world daily, through therapy, through spiritual seeking and nutrition.

But the single most lasting, recurring struggle for me has been my sense of being in body, embodied. I have written about this in the past in different forms (Apology to My Body).

Each time this sense comes up, it’s like a background, low-level static itchiness from the inside out that is separate from how I experience mental anxiety. Like an inability to fully be at home where my home is, and like I should consider escaping. Intellectually, I have connected this to four years of wearing a stiff, plastic back brace in high school, because every time I meditate on it to seek an answer, the “dis-comfort” is felt around the torso.

Emotionally, it has impacted my life in similar ways to people who have experienced far more severe body trauma or abusive childhoods. (Since I experienced neither but have been drawn to people who have, this has confounded my quest to heal myself and constantly wonder why? how?). This body sense has recurred for 3-1/2 decades and I believe now in hindsight may be a root of many actions I took – moving 30 times in a decade, difficulty with intimate relationships, and confining my life’s work to a desk chair, to name a few. I began to wonder whether physical confinement coinciding with brain development during teen years left me with a sense of a “phantom” experience of my own core body, as people with prosthetic limbs describe for a limb that is not there.

During my Compassion Diet this month, I worked with replacing judgments about body with compassion statements about acceptance. And I recorded a guided meditation for myself that spontaneously arose where a thin wire of golden light emanates from the base of the spine (some will immediately recognize this as the root chakra) and winds itself around my torso up to my shoulders like a cocoon. The light has tensile strength of spider thread, and it is just as flexible, free flowing. It feels like a cocoon of safety and nourishment. When I feel into that meditation, it is healing, and I suspect a similar type of visualization might be healing for anyone with any area of body discomfort.

During a month focused on nourishing the body with optimized nutrition, mental and spiritual tools, I encountered the helpful book, In Touch, below at precisely the right moment. I highly recommend it to anyone who struggles with a chronic disconnect or discomfort in their own skin. I love how the practices throughout each chapter are called “experiments,” and the personal stories of both author and clients are powerful lessons for a wide range of experiences.

To be honest, I have not completely finished the book yet, but one teaching I find especially helpful is “Four Stages of Groundedness:  No ground (I am not in my body), foreground (I am in my body), background (my body is in me), and homeground (everything is my body).” (page 110). This has helped me have greater appreciation for when my awareness is flipping between any of these states.

Ultimately, my goal is to experience body as an instrument of awareness more of the time. 

A fantastic film I “accidentally” discovered with many favorite teachers (even the ladybug makes an appearance), and it dovetails my work of learning ease in the body. The documentary provided a revelation about the paid work I do when I watched Marina Abramovic‘s stunning exhibition of “presence” at MOMA. I recognized for the first time a clue about my sacred purpose in 25 years of transcribing people’s spoken word. Rather than not being the purpose I would have chosen for myself or somehow a less than desirable profession, it is in fact sacred because I listen with 100% presence, experiencing emotions of speakers while capturing their words. I have sat nearly motionless 8-10 hours at a time in a chair keyboarding daily for 25 years and have been spared physical injury of repetitive syndrome. That feels like a near miracle or supported by the sacred. Anyway, enjoy the film if you can on Netflix.

Free Write on an Unwritten Page

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The child’s wings are nearly formed.

Halfway to 100, I stare at an ocean,

a mirror, an unwritten page.

I see I have mastered nothing I have been told is necessary.

Language of intimate partnership,

Fluency in economic excess,

Ownership of home or property,

Ambition to build.

What I need I have attained.

Ability to sit in a room with nothing and find happiness.

Life is a gift, food is a gift, water is a gift, breath is a gift.

Molecules are celebration of atomic particles and subatomic particles infinitely attached to all that is.

Peace is possible until the day it no longer exists inside one human heart.

In proportion to people’s capacity to live into love and peace, true power can outlive control of a few.

Community is the law of survival. Even a lifelong loner-learner belongs to the circle of gold crowned sparrows.

Whether I remain, float or swim to a new shore is immaterial to the ocean. I have all I need.


Nourishing With Love

In my efforts to consistently inch toward a healthier, happier life, I’ve been digging the roots of late. Root vegetables are where it’s at for nutritious, low-cost, rainbowlicious sustenance. The homely root ball above is the watermelon radish. But just look what happens when you slice a single radish on a bed of kale, cilantro, red pepper covered lovingly in a lemon garlic tarragon dressing with a dollop of beet hummus on top. You have just made yourself a $5 salad that looks fit for the finest of royalty.

Behold the roasting dish full of roots: Carrot, red potato, sweet potato, red beet, golden beet, covered with a chopped jalapeno, garlic clove, tarragon, oregano, lemon juice, salt/pepper, teaspoon of honey. Total cost: $12, enough for 4 meals.  Parsnips and turnips are other roots I’ve included in a veggie roast. Often the last 15 minutes of an hour’s roast in a 325-degree oven, I’ll place chopped kale tossed in cumin on top of the dish for the crisp of a kale chip.

I’ve been on a 30-year journey toward being vegan, the lifestyle I’ve held for over a year now. Slowly, bit by bit I eliminated foods that made me feel yucky or made my asthma worse and consumed more foods that made me feel good. Convenient that veganism synchronizes with my closest held values.

I have learned by logging intake for over two weeks that I need to consume around 1,200 calories a day to be the weight I want to be. And that in an “average” day, I tend to hit below that bar.  I wondered how is it possible to carry 50 extra pounds, walk 2-3 miles a day, eat only plants and limited calories?

So far, my logging-induced awareness points to enough days where that extra handful of almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, 500 extra calories here or there can be easily mindlessly consumed. That plate of pasta three times the size of a single serving. Thus far, I’m losing one pound a week and intend to keep logging my intake until such time as I, A) evaporate, or B) have enough portion sizes and nutrients memorized to remain aware without the scaffolding of the food diary.

Meantime, it’s fearless joyful celebration of the vast vegetable kingdom.

 

 

By Erin W Tagged

String of Hearts

Ceropegia woodii – “String of Hearts”

When I learned a favorite poet’s grave resides yards away from my own grandparents’ in Seattle, on the weekend of my grandmother’s birthday I went to pay tribute. This marvelous giant, sheltering tree reaches a branch over Denise Levertov’s stone. Letters that are dry are the only ones that can be seen on the black granite on a rainy day, so the name appears like a word puzzle. I left a rock with a peace symbol to thank her for her poem Making Peace. Someone else left a silver snake charm, which led me to look up her poem To The Snake. This poem of hers has been attributed to symbolize money, addictions, greed, etc., all of which are front of mind on today’s stage. (Not to mention THIS).

I left a shell my daughter picked up from a beach in Bristol, England last year and a heart stone from a beach on Whidbey for my grandparents. I felt some profound connection in honoring all these people who came from Europe and ended their stories in Seattle.

(And as usual for a cemetery visit, I guided folks in the steady stream of visitors to Bruce Lee & Brandon Lee’s grave that by coincidence triangulates the place of my grandparents and my favorite poet).

My journey took me down memory lane to the Plant Conservatory in Volunteer Park where my grandfather took me many times as a young girl. All the glorious colors felt like a celebration of spring and life and love for those who have loved me. Most magical of all, as I entered the tiny gift shop, the plant my grandfather raised that I have been looking for many years and even tried to order through a plant nursery to no avail was sitting in the shop for me to pick up. It’s called A String of Hearts (top).

In front of a neighborhood café/former corner store of my grandparents’ neighborhood in days long ago was this sign. Should you wish to order one for yourself, click below image.

By Erin W

Sending Light Wherever Needed

Yesterday I was swimming in gratitude for a rare opportunity to be outdoors during the middle of a day that was sun-filled rather than eternally gray and raining to wander among the trees. As I walked, I felt extremely fortunate to live close to such living breathing space among dancing trees. My heart felt the intention of sending the light I was walking in to everyone who needs such light.

 

By Erin W

The Self-Compassion Diet

Something red in solidarity

I am generally content and able to view my life as is, something beautiful. Or as Pema Chodron says, “Looking for alternatives. . . keeps us from realizing that we could stand with pride in the middle of our life and realize it’s a sacred mandala.”

When I focus attention on spirituality or creating something, my physical body becomes irrelevant, other than a vehicle that needs nourishment and care to function. As soon as I shift focus to body, that’s where I feel less sacred mandala-ish and more lower frequency emotions, sadness, frustration, shame.

Facing the demon. I am now for the third time working toward losing 40-50 pounds. Why? I keep thinking life at an optimal weight will help me feel more at ease inside my body. Each previous time I reached goal, I discovered I did not feel much different, other than a bit more confident in public. I’ve participated in big-name diet programs before, but daily tracking intake & activity in one of the many free online programs has worked for me (SparkPeople, Cronometer). Tracking increases awareness.

This time, I am giving myself a diet of daily self-compassion in addition to nutritional diet and see if anything shifts. Because clearly if I have felt little difference at various weights and strengths, it is the mind I need to retrain.

Daily Self-Compassion Diet

  • Each night, write down every judgmental thought about my body.
  • Write an alternate compassionate response to each judgment.
  • See if I can obsess about what I like and work toward a list longer than the judgments.
  • Sit in meditation for 5 minutes with clear intention to: 1) Practice feeling completely at ease in body scan awareness for 5 minutes, 2) Ask the question, “Where and how do you feel the discomfort about being embodied?” and allow any answers given be my guide to what I need to do to shift to a more integrated sense of inhabiting a body.

I am writing about the topic of body and self-compassion on Women’s Day because I believe in Western society, some breed of warped body-mind relationship is endemic to our culture. Shifting the way I experience physical self will allow me to finally feel deeply at home in the home I was given. It’s empowerment.

International Women’s Day

Here are a few humbling examples of truly inspirational women to celebrate their legacies.

  • Berta Caceres – Honduran Environmental Activist
  • All the women at forefront of the DAPL movement and spearheading protection of indigenous rights and lands everywhere.

To honor A Day Without a Woman, I will wear red and be in solidarity with all those striking.

We recognize that some of the 82% of women who become moms, particularly single mothers, may not have the option of refusing to engage in paid work or unpaid child care on March 8th. Many mothers have always worked and in our modern labor force, almost half of all households are women-lead, yet motherhood remains the number one predictor of poverty and a woman’s earning potential is diminished further with each child.  We strike for them.

Best talk on self-compassion in context of parenting, for all you parents out there. Or really anyone who wants to work on more self-compassion.

Peace, What Is It?

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My first retreat for peace generators this weekend was a beautiful gift to myself and others. I will post another event in April to support all those who want to explore the nature of peace and could use a bit of restorative stillness and nature connection in these roiling times. Everyone present receives a free copy of my own nature connection exercises. We also share self-care practices that I compile to share with whoever is present. Stay tuned.

After a search for writings on the topic of peace and finding nearly all to be war poems (does peace need the duality of war to exist?), this one stood out among them all and raised its beautiful hand. This poem will be read at each of my gatherings. If you click on the title, you can enjoy more of Denise Levertov’s poems over at Poetry Foundation. A bit of research later, I discovered this poet’s grave is in the same cemetery as my grandparents, a few yards away. I will be making a pilgrimage soon to honor them all.

A voice from the dark called out,
             ‘The poets must give us
imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar
imagination of disaster. Peace, not only
the absence of war.’
                                   But peace, like a poem,
is not there ahead of itself,
can’t be imagined before it is made,
can’t be known except
in the words of its making,
grammar of justice,
syntax of mutual aid.
                                       A feeling towards it,
dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have
until we begin to utter its metaphors,
learning them as we speak.
                                              A line of peace might appear
if we restructured the sentence our lives are making,
revoked its reaffirmation of profit and power,
questioned our needs, allowed
long pauses . . .
                        A cadence of peace might balance its weight
on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence,
an energy field more intense than war,
might pulse then,
stanza by stanza into the world,
each act of living
one of its words, each word
a vibration of light—facets
of the forming crystal.
Denise Levertov, “Making Peace” from Breathing the Water. Copyright © 1987 by Denise Levertov

Piano Therapy

We are never the person we were decades ago, but I am joyfully recently rediscovering my love of piano with the dream of my hands being able to do again what they once could do.  The day I no longer computer keyboard for a living each day of the week, I intend to devote my hands once again to piano. To do both now means injury.

Incredible example of musical activism.

The moment my daughter was notified she will be living in Poland next year, we looked at one another and said “Chopin.”  If you want to hear a fabulous interpreter of Chopin’s music, listen in to Evgeny Kissin. I cannot believe I did not learn of his work until this month. One remarkable thing about him as a prodigy is that he did not travel the usual path of competition to gain accolades. Instead, his performances spoke for themselves.

This is what he was doing at age 12 when I was graduating from high school:

My interpretation of this Rachmaninoff show piece was never recorded (though it shall live in my poor dear family’s ears for eternity since they had to listen to endless hours of pounding on the upright piano).  It won piano competitions for me at 14.  (I do not believe I was a prodigy but simply a self-motivated learner).  An intention for my future is to re-strengthen my hands and spend my last days reuniting with my first love, piano, grace and a new way to earn a living willing.

By Erin W Tagged

Firebird

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Whidbey Rocks

On my morning walk, reflecting on the meaning of the Lunar Year of the Female Firebird, the corner of my eye noticed this beautifully painted rock an artist left in the woods for me to find. It may be a tufted puffin, on the endangered species list in Washington since 2015, or some other puffin. Regardless, it is the perfect rock shape for the subject and I was thrilled to find it.

Two new poems arrived through me this week.

Year of Female Red Firebird

Feathered flames,
Female power
Contained, warms faces in glow
Freed, disintegrates buildings and towers
Or a rigid place inside a heart
Where fear and illusion of control collide.
Leaves ashes churned in wind,
Readied for the ultimate power,
Something new.

 

Darkroom

Open heart’s door as you are able,
No more, no less often than you care.
The world is a mighty storm.
Welcome it as you would any beggar, any refugee.
Leave the world a better place for you in it.
Hear it, embrace it, witness it.
Practice cracking the door a minute, an hour, a day
So the faces of your darkroom guests are illuminated
Without destroying the film.

Expansion

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No, I don’t mean waistline, though that does happen with time, trust me.

I have for most of my life been aware that our experience wherever we focus our attention expands. This is a core of mindfulness practice. A kernel of conversation with my mom recently made me appreciate where this originated in me. Because I was the first child born of my parents in their early 20s and because they had few resources at that time, my mom apparently gave Toddler Me a single cookie as a special treat and say something like, “Make it last, because that is all you can have right now.”

So I proceeded to take a full hour to eat my cookie. I never once remember feeling deprived. I appeared to enjoy the cookie thoroughly.

It occurred to me that this was the seed of mindfulness unknowingly planted. Today, I find myself using the same approach whenever I start to think something is lacking in my life. I focus on some mundane thing and find great happiness there. I experience the sun and rain in my bowl of oats and my cup of tea or coffee. It is what Thich Nhat Hanh meant when he wrote:

“It is possible to live happily in the here and now. So many conditions of happiness are available—more than enough for you to be happy right now. You don’t have to run into the future in order to get more.”

Along lines of expansion of experience, since so many of us are having feelings of anxiety, grief, tension around the uncertainty of our current political climate and people in power who nearly black out our news cycle to revolve around their sun, I have been turning my attention toward other news. News that brings me hope instead of despair.

For example, many other things that don’t rhyme with rump happened recently:

  • Ireland’s leaders voted 90 to 53 to divest from fossil fuels entirely. Coal, oil, gas. The most assertive plan from any country on climate change.
  • Some people are developing a platform called Voterheads to allow people to more easily monitor and be involved in government actions they care about local to them.
  • One company has developed biodegradable plastic bags made from Cassava root. It’s fully dissolving, edible plastic without the oil. Others are selling a plastic with a hybrid of oil polymers and natural polymers to speed up the degrading process. India’s largest city banned all disposable plastics.
  • A great thinker’s documentary opened everywhere in theaters.
  • A woman in my small community began a program to support refugees and another I know is going to a camp with knitting supplies simply because doing nothing in the face of the largest humanitarian crisis ever is not a choice they can live with.
  • And holy cow, just as Google doodle and every news outlet this week mentioned, 7 new planets were discovered that may be habitable or at least contain liquid water. Amazeballs. Yes, it would take 39 light years to get there, but who knows where we’ll be on earth in 39 years?

And there interrupts my expansion, because I just thought of what earth may be like in 39 years instead of relishing the moment of discovery and the fact that there are people working to solve human-created problems everywhere.

Peace Generators

In December 2016, I received a spiritual directive or message from the great realm of unconditional love that told me I should host groups on the question of “What is Peace?”  So I am. First one this weekend and intend to offer more in 2017 that will be more advertised.  As Ghandi actually said instead of the bumper sticker:

“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the inner world. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.”

It so happens I encountered a great resource this week that focuses on this very topic. The book is inclusive and instructive enough that even confused people like me who do not know if they have an identity in a specific faith but have carried on for years what are considered spiritual practices will find the discussions of great value. Where we focus expands. Wherever you are right this moment, watch your breath and focus on feeling peace for 60 seconds. Maybe we can change the world’s tendencies.

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