Month: June 2022

 

I was annoyed with myself, and even beginning to feel angry at myself.

 

I was in my 20s and had been living in New York for a little while. I wanted to travel and nourish my spirit with adventure! I wanted to go solo and create a pilgrimage of meaning. 

 

As a dancer, barista, yoga instructor, and emerging Thai massage therapist, I had managed to gather a little bit of money together but always thought that it wasn’t enough. Why did I keep procrastinating? It was only me who was holding myself back.

 

I began to make ritual of thought. And I have come to find, that I believe this is possible. That we can ritualize thoughts.

My daily practices, rituals, of thinking of traveling shifted towards the positive. I started to envision what the traveling experience would offer me. I started to speak to myself and to this desire in more expansive, open, and loving ways. It all started to feel much more close to my heart and accessible; I was going to make it happen!

And then I did it! I booked my flights to Thailand!

I could write many stories about my time in Thailand. And as a bodyworker, one of the reasons why I chose Thailand was so that I could study my craft!

Perhaps someday I’ll share more stories of Thailand, but in the theme of rituals, one of the most beautiful aspects to Thai massage are the rituals.

 

Here’s a snippet of how I ritualize my A.L.I.G.N sessions and Thai Bodywork:
 
 

Even before I connect physically with a body, I connect with my own. I make sure that I’m a little bit stretched, and that I am clear of mind and grounded in energy. When I meet my client, we take some time to connect and check in on where they’re at on that day. All of this is ritual; even setting up the space that they will enter into.  

 

And then one of the most sacred moments is just before I make my first physical contact. That is the moment where ritual is so potent. I invite the client to take some slow steady breaths, using the last breath to invite the knowledge that this is for the higher goodness of their own well-being. I sit at their feet, say a blessing for this work, and then look at their energy. I become an open channel for the work to happen.  

 

And then I ritualized the first touch. It is a grounding, firm, and loving connection so that safety, sacredness, and connection are present.

 

What are some of your rituals, dear reader?
What aligns you with your highest self as you move about your days?
What do you do on a daily basis that supports you in positive living?
 

 

Maybe it’s sipping your morning beverage, reading to your kids at night, rolling out your yoga mat, or saying a blessing at your altar space. Maybe it’s taking a moment with the picture of a beloved who has passed on. All of these are just examples of ritual. Call it practices, act, habit, or procedure if any of these resonate with you more.  

 

Some definitions of rituals I really love

I really love the way my dear friend, Lauren Mahana, defines ritual:

“Ritual by dogmatic definition is a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. In modern culture, we have begun to take back the meaning of what the word ritual implies.

She further writes:

Simply stated, a ritual is an action that creates a moment of sacred space for the commune of self with higher self. Taking this broader term we can apply ritual to everyday mundane actions that hold the strongest magic in our lives.

From our morning cup of coffee, and evening walk through the park, sitting in meditation, even sleeping in on a Sunday. These moments that create space for connection are deeply needed for spiritual and personal development.”

As I began to lead classes this week around the theme of ritual, I had no idea how many rituals are embedded in my day. Let alone one yoga practice. Think of those first grounding breaths when you start your yoga practice. Or that closing om. These moments, though brief, are some of the most important because they connect us to that higher self.  Think of that lovely savasana! 

Jack Kornfield writes in his book, “The wise heart: A guide to the universal teachings of Buddhist psychology”,

“The simplest gesture may become a ritual.”

Where in your day, dear reader can you envision a small, short act of breath to connect to yourself? 
And what thought would you like to add with that breath? Hint: make sure it’s a positive and supportive thought! 

Ritual comes from the Latin root word, ritus, which means “to fit together.”

 

Through daily practices, we are bringing all the pieces of ourselves into our wholeness. Through our daily actions and thoughts, we can connect and remember our Oneness. 

 

This reminds me of last week’s intention around slowing down and the Purna Mantra, read that blog here.

 

The 19th principal of Buddhist psychologies states:

“What we repeatedly think shapes our world. Out of compassion, substitute healthy thoughts for unhealthy ones.”

Rumi says the same but in a different way:

“When you go to a garden, do you look at thorns or flowers? Spend more time with roses and jasmine.”

There’s a large spectrum of daily practices and rituals that one could implement. But what’s most important is that you make them a practice.

You make it habit. You come home to it time and time again because you know how it makes you feel.  You know how it shifts your thoughts or your energy. You know how it affects how you feel in your body.

 

In yoga we talk very much about daily sadhana, or daily practices. There’s a whole spectrum of practices, the lengths of the practices, whether they have to do with the body or the mind or the breath, or whether they entail anything physical or not. 

 

A daily practice might look like connecting with a gemstone. It might be taking slow deep breaths. It could be sitting on a folded blanket to meditate.  

 

A daily ritual might be taking a breath and speaking and uplifting mantra to yourself as you take one step over the threshold of your front door. This is a ritual I learned in Thailand. They don’t necessarily do it every day out their front door, but you do have to step over the threshold of the entryway into a temple.  And the ritual of taking your shoes off before taking that step.  All of these processes even before entering the temple begin to connect you to that sacred place within yourself.

 

And that’s what ritual really all comes down to. Is to connect with what is. To connect to that higher self within. To remember what is important.

“Rituals can help us find our sense of purpose, to orient and support ourselves amidst the fragmented polls of our busy modern life.”

-Jack Kornfield

And when we connect, what healing is possible.

Rupi Kaur writes a beautiful poem:

To heal

You have to

Get to the root

Of the wound

And kiss it all the way up

What rituals could you implement today that support your healing process?

Because these rituals are also meant to support you and remembering that you’re not alone.

 

When I came to this next passage in Jack Kornfield’s book, I was nearly brought to tears.

“…(you) Do not carry your burden entirely by yourself.  The altar is a daily reminder of how the forces of compassion throughout the world uphold (your) dedication. We do not work alone for change; the power of life works with us.”

How incredibly beautiful and what a sacred gift and blessing.

 

All my love,

Shawna

Breathe and Believe.

 

P.S. – A student of just sent me a lovely article on How We Need Rituals, Not Routines. Hope you enjoy this read too. 


Spending time in nature is a beautiful way to slow down

Slowing down. 

 

What does this mean?

How can we do it?

What benefits might come from it?

 

As I attempt to integrate back into “normal life” after co-facilitating an emotional, yoga, healing-centered retreat this past weekend, I find myself trying hard to hang on to the slower pace that I experienced.

 

Is it possible to still ‘slow down’ even when things are fast-paced?

Can I still slow down even when I don’t have time? Can I slow down when I’ve got two little kids running around me?!  Can I slow down even when I have deadlines?

 

This was the intention of my classes this past week. I did it partly for myself, and mostly for anyone who wants or needs to slow down. It is from my own point of view that we could all use a slowing down.

 

‘Linger’, by Melinda Yeoh:

Linger…

Smile a while,

Rest a while,

Laugh a while,

Read a while,

Let your racing heart

Slowly walk a while.

What does it mean to slow down? 

What does it mean to you, dear reader? For me, it means many different things.

 

Slowing down, by definition means “an act of slowing down” or “to be less active and relax more”.  -Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries, respectively.

Mary Oliver wrote This passage as taken from a larger poem entitled ‘Entering the kingdom’:

“The dream of my life

Is to lie down by a slow river

And stare at the light in the trees –

To learn something by being

nothing

A little while

But the rich

Lens of attention.”

Though it might seem as if slowing down is mostly a physical action, I would like to challenge the notion that it has only to do with the body! As I believe, everything is interconnected. And, as yoga teaches us, all the different layers and parts of our self dance with each other.  

 

You might be able to slow your body down, but can you slow the thoughts?

So how can we slow down other than slowing our physical form? What are other practices that can help us to slow down?

 

Here are some ideas I have come up with:

breathe

-listen deeply

-hold silence

-behold (acknowledge without judgement nor expectation)

-honor all that is

-assume positive intent

-go into nature

-turn off your devices and other “noise”

-spend quality time with your friends and family and pets

-Make more time in your day to not rush

-choose to become more mindful

-offer compassion

-sip your tea or coffee

 

What are some other things, dear reader, that help you to slow down?

 

And when you slow down, what happens?

What do you notice?

How do you feel?

 

Slowing down doesn’t always have to mean carving an hour or two hours out of your day to rest.  Sometimes all you need is one minute, or even just one breath. Sometimes our lives circumstances don’t allow for even a minute, so what then? Then it becomes one breath.

 

One breath can drop us into awareness. And, awareness creates change. 

When we slow down, that’s the moment when we can actually begin to hear what our body needs. We can actually begin to listen to our heart. When we slow down, we are actually able to notice what is present in this moment.

 

When we have the awareness of what this moment holds, we can begin to discern. We start to begin making sense of our experience. We can start to notice any emotion, or a physical sensation, or notice our thoughts about the situation.  

 

As we continue to observe all that we notice within the slowing down, our intuition and our wisdom can then begin to see the choices and possibilities. We can move from a heart centered place of response rather than reacting. We can even slow down enough just to see that we have choice at all! We don’t have to plow through things and not feel, not discuss, not contemplate, and not process.

 

From this place of seeing choices, we can take action, even when the action is to take no action. One of my mentors has taught me that we can always “stay, go, or change”.  

 

One of the beautiful aspects to this slowing down is that we can move into better relationship with ourself and with others. 

Building these relationships builds trust within the relationships. Slowing down can therefore support self-love and self-care, as well as offering the same love and acceptance to others.

 

Slowing down can offer peace. 

It can offer spaciousness and connection. It might even offer more enjoyment of life! Slowing down often brings about happiness and more compassion. Slowing down can bring us clarity, even allow us to be open enough to observe divine insights. Slowing down might enable us to forgive. Slowing down might offer us, or other, grace. Slowing down invites away of opening up. Slowing down and bites tenderness and love.

 

Slowing down and can allow us to see possibilities.

In slowing down we make connections and from these connections we might feel a sense of hope.

 

All of the yogic practices create the space for us to slow down enough to quiet our busy mind and to touch that place of peace within each of us.

 

When we are able to access that place within ourselves, we can experience ourselves as whole, full. This is why I chose to use the Purna Mantra. Listen HERE.

 

It’s also why I chose to use the hand gesture, mudra, of the heart. Hridaya Mudra is done by curling your index finger tips into the base of your thumbs.  Then connect your thumb fingertips with your middle and ring fingers in each hand respectively. Leave your pinky fingers extended.  Rest this gesture and your lap for a few moments and slow down; notice what you notice and feel what you feel.

Slowing down supports us in being able to feel and notice!

 

The next time you’re rushing to catch a train, to make a meeting, to pick up your kids, or whatever the situation may be, can you slow down in your mind enough to offer yourself grace? Can you slow down in your mind enough to remember that no matter if you don’t catch that train, miss making it to that meeting, or are late to pick up your kids, you are going to be okay?  

 

I believe it is possible to slow down our thoughts enough in a moment of chaos and speed to remember what’s important to us.

 

This is why I wanted to make the case that slowing down is not always only with your body. But it is also with your heart, mine, and spirit.

 

“There is more to life than measuring its speed.

 

Let me look upward into the branches of the towering oak and know that it grew great and strong because it grew slowly and well.

 

Slow me down, Lord, and inspire me to send my roots deep into the soil of life and during values.” -Unknown

 

I take a deep breath as I slow down now.

 

All my love,

Shawna 

Breathe and Believe.

A reminder to all readers that you are enough

 

Have you forgotten your significance?

 

In the face of great loss, perhaps you feel you can’t make a difference?  Or, perhaps when faced with fear, you don’t feel as if you are worthy, capable, or brilliant enough?

 

Let me tell you something, YOU ARE ENOUGH. Period.

 

I know that you may have heard this saying before. I know I have said it in my yoga classes.  Perhaps you have read it before. And, maybe, you have even cognitively taken it in.  Knowing through your mind that it is quite possible that you do play an important role in the grand scope of life. But, have you embodied it? Have you let your heart truly receive this birth given right?

 

Join me:

 

Stand tall. Taller now, but with ease. 😉

Breathe slow, deepen breaths.

Wiggle your toes and then let them drop.  

Breathe up from your feet to the top of your heart.

Feel your heart beating.

Release and exhale all the way through your body into the earth.

As you continue, option to close your eyes, or gaze forward.

Add this root gesture, muladhara mudra, of your hands if you like, or let your arms move freely.

Feel if your body wants to sway or be still; or some of both.

Notice where your attention goes.

When you feel ready to close this embodiment experience, strengthen through your leg muscles, lift your toe tips, engage your core muscles, take a deep breath in, and raise your arms to the sky!

Release when you want to.

Notice whatever you notice.  There is no “right” or “wrong” here, just your own experience.

 

(Option to let me know what you experienced, felt, thought, or whatever.)

 

 

As I approach this weekend’s “Dear Self; a Healing-Centered Yoga Retreat” with my dearest friend and collaborator, Liz Moyer-Benferhat, of We Heal for All, I am feeling all sorts of nerves.  Nervous for it to go well.

 

 

I had the same nerves as I approached this week, also starting a new teaching position every Wednesday night at Heights Meditation and Yoga. Sign up here; either in-person or online for any of the classes.

 

 

With all my own nerves woven in with my desire for each and every person and child to know they have a right to be here, a right to be loved and respected, I started there.  At the roots. 

 

 

A sweet poem came through and made me cry.  It was especially potent as I am also navigating some physical health journeys which I shall share at a later time. But, for now, please take this into your heart and body:

 

 

Offer Yourself Welcome

You belong here.

You don’t need to do anything or

be any way.

This, your place here, is not

 meant to be earned,

 it is simply yours because you were born.

 

The moment this earth breathed life

 through the thousands of channels of Light

 within you,

  the birds sang.

 

And when you surrendered your

 first exhale, 

  the Universe was listening;

     awaiting your entrance.

 

This place is meant for you,

 was created for you,

  was designed with your unique fingerprint

    in mind,

     in heart.

 

You belong here.

                                              -S.Emerick, May 30th, 2022

 

Join me in saying these affirmations out loud.

Say them every day!  Add them to the standing movement from above!

 

“I am safe.”

“I am secure.”

“I am loved.”

“I am protected.”

“I am.”

“I trust myself.”

“I have what I need.”

“I am real.”

“I am sacred.”

 

Rupi Kaur has always inspired me, and she was such a perfect artist for this theme of welcoming one’s Self.  She wrote these two poems…

 

i get so lost

in where i want to go

i forget that the place i’m in

is already quite magical

And she also wrote:

it was when i stopped searching for home within others

and lifted the foundations of home within myself

i found there were no roots more intimate

than those between a mind and body

that have decided to be whole

You ARE whole, dearest reader.

I love you.

You are welcomed here.

 

 

 

 

Standing with you,

Shawna

Breathe and Believe.