Blessing the Space

There has been a frost warning the last 2 nights. I wore a jacket into the studio this morning and felt happy that I didn’t have any plans to go fishing today with G and her father. (Brrrrr….)

(As it turned out it was a beautiful day for fishing and they caught 5 trout.)

The studio was so warm and cozy this morning. And filled with sun. I took my spot under the skylight and did lots and lots of backbends. Not because I like backbends, or need backbends, but because I was entranced with the light raining on me from above.

Filtered light. Blue sky light. Early May light. The skylight is framed in white painted wood. The windows framed a perfect blue sky. It always reminds me of a lifeguard chair.

My mind suddenly flashed on a line from a John O’Donohue poem about “postponing dreams no longer” so when I’d had quite enough of backbending, I went and found it and copied it onto my mat:

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I haven’t made my Divine Contract yet, but each day as I sit in meditation, I get closer to envisioning who might be waiting for my offering.

Back at home, alone, I set to cleaning and organizing my bedroom, with a heavy emphasis on culling my clothing. My guiding thoughts were: Am I going to look forward to seeing this thing when I pull it out next fall?  And, Kath, You wear 20 percent of your clothes 80 percent of the time. Just keep the 20 percent you wear.

I culled ruthlessly. So proud of myself.

I also changed my bedding from the heavy velvet quilt, to the light, fluffy Zen-inspired duvet. I feel ready now. Ready for lilacs and viburnums and reading on the sunny deck.

Yeah, and I’ll bet money those trout will taste great done in foil on the grill.

A Good Yoga Week

It was a good week. I feel especially happy about my morning practice at the studio. I have a home practice area, but the studio is really sweet. I love the gleaming hardwood floors, the skylights, even the smell which is combination of floor polish, and witch hazel.

I practiced by myself for the most part this week. One day Cheryl joined me for awhile, then changed and left for school (she’s a teacher.)

I sit in the front as the teacher, but I much prefer the back corner for my solo practice. Here is my little setup.

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I light the candle, put on a little soft music and begin. Most mornings I start with some strap stretches for my hamstrings. I looked up and saw my toes sillouetted in the skylight.

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On Wednesday afternoon I taught a Chair Yoga workshop at the University, so on Wednesday morning I  “road tested” my sequence.

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My practice tends to start soft because I am tired and stiff in the morning, but by by the end of the hour I am moving and breathing well and feeling great.

I felt really “glowy” yesterday and took this selfie to remind myself how serene and happy yoga makes me feel.

IMG_1663 (1)After I finish the physical practice I turn the music off and sit meditation for 20 minutes. When I open my eyes, I see this.

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Yeah, It was a good yoga week.

Namaste, everybody.

 

 

The Divine Contract

I talked to Jennifer, my Naturopath today.

We talk about everything, not just my eczemic ears. After I confessed that my “no coffee” streak is over, and that I like my “Kathinated” self SO MUCH BETTER, we got into the issue of my stuckness about my project and how I can’t seem to push “Send.”

She said I needed to establish a deadline and hold myself to it. I told her I am an Obliger (in Gretchen Rubin’s system) and tend to only honor commitments I make to others, and rarely ones I make to myself.

I have already set a million deadlines for this thing.  She then said, “I am going to give you some homework.” I thought for sure she was going to make me promise HER to be finished by a deadline, but no. She wants me to make a “Divine Contract.”

Here’s how this works. I am to get into a meditative state. She said, “Go to your happy place.” (I am not really sure I have such a place, but it will be interesting to try to find out.)

Once I am there, I am to call in my “spiritual guides” for support and guidance. (This won’t be difficult.)

Then I am to call in all of the people who would benefit from this project and allow them to speak and tell me why they need it and what value it would add to their lives.

These are the people I need to make my contract with, she said. These are the people I must make my promises to. I am also to ask them: When do you need this by? And let them set the deadline.

I’m thinking this could work. I am going to do it.

Stay tuned.

Sit Down. Shut Up. Don’t Move.

Remember Freeze Tag?

If someone tagged you, you had to stand like a statue until someone “unfroze” you.

Yeah. So here’s what you do:

You take a timer (I like this one) and set it for 10 minutes.  Sit down in a chair and try not to move a muscle for 10 minutes.

When the timer goes off, you’re “unfrozen.”

If you do this every day, you will know what you are supposed to do with your life very, very soon.  Some people call this “meditation” but you don’t have to.  You can call it “paying attention to your life.” Call it anything you like, just do it.

Start a streak.

Sending Metta

Today, someone I know who has been battling cancer for decades, was on her way to Johns Hopkins, shopping for hope in the form of some new clinical trial or some treatment that would stem the tide of the cancer cells in her body.

Her text said: Heading to Johns Hopkins. Asking for prayers.

When I was a little girl in Catholic school I knew how to pray. I would ask Jesus to help. I would even ask my patron saint to intercede with Jesus on her behalf.

But I don’t do that anymore. When you don’t have faith in a particular spiritual metaphysics, the whole “prayer” thing becomes problematic.

But I don’t do nothing. I do this thing I called “sending Metta” that I first learned at Kripalu a long time ago.

Here’s what happened.  There were a lot of us in that yoga teacher training that week, maybe 50, all sitting around in a big circle in the main hall the first night.

The directors of the program asked us to look around the circle and choose one person. This was going to be our secret metta friend. I don’t know if they actually called it that, but here’s what we were to do. Every time we saw that person in the coming week: in the hallway, at meals, in sessions, walking outside, we were to mentally think to ourselves: May you be peaceful, may you be happy, may all good things come into your life. We could also add anything else we liked of a sweet and positive nature.

So I picked this blonde woman named Carole. (We all wore name tags.) Every time I saw Carole that week I would say in my mind, “May you be happy, Carole. May your life unfold with joy.”

One time we were browsing in the bookstore together. I stood right behind her in line to pay and spent a good, solid 5 minutes sending her all this good mojo.

Carole and I were never paired up in a group that whole week, which was really unusual, but that’s how it rolled. Still, I would see her at dinner, and once I held the door to the bathroom open for her.

I was sending this woman a shit ton of metta. I remember sitting on the wide Kripalu lawn one afternoon during a break and watching her walk up the driveway. I sent tsunamis of metta to her every step of the way.

That whole week I almost felt like a love sniper the way I was always on the lookout for her, holding her in the cross-hairs of my attention.

After a week the training ended and we all dispersed and I never told Carole that I was her Secret Santa of Metta. I did wonder, though, how the week flowed for her. Did anything wonderful happen for her? Did she feel anything? Did she have great dreams? Was I getting through?

Surprisingly, I never thought about myself as the target of someone else’s metta.  If I was, I didn’t feel anything. One time I got into a meditative state and tried to pick up a signal but never got one. So I just figured that since there were so many of us, it was totally possible that no one targeted me.

What I did notice though, was that my obsessive meta-sending to Carole changed me. I was always on the lookout for her, I was always sending sweetness and good vibes and well-wishes for this random person’s happiness, and that act, in itself sweetened me.

So I realized, it didn’t matter at all if Carole got my metta-vibes; what was important was the sending, not the receiving.

So I think this is the way I pray. I don’t “pray to God” the way I used to as a child. I send metta. I think of metta like a radio wave that is really strong and can reach anyone anywhere if their antennae are up to receive.

And if it so happens that their antennae are not up, then the transaction just floats through the ether until it picks up one that is.

So when Cindy asked for prayers, that’s what I sent. When someone asks for prayers I think what they are saying is: My receivers are up and on. I am looking for metta so please send and if you do, I will get it.

I hope she got it.

This Analog Life

Woke up to a power outage this morning. No lights, no heat, but fortunately we have a gas stove and had the means to cook, and we had water.

Cobbled together some oatmeal in the dark, but didn’t risk taking showers. G walked the dog and went to the office where there was power.

I had a lot of computer work to do that I couldn’t do. The house started getting cold. I went up into my not-so-cozy lair and did a chilly 20 minute meditation.

Came back down, put the fireplace on, snuggled under a blanket, got out the  fountain pen and my book and wrote and read all morning.

It was heaven.

I love my electronics more than you know. iPhone, iPad, MacBookPro. Love, love, love. But they enslave me.

I have to say, I didn’t want the power to come back on. At least not for a while.  Without the hum of the fridge and whirr of the heating system cycling on and off, the house had no buzz, no pulse. Mine was the only pulse, and I could really hear it.

The gas fireplace emitted a little hiss, but that was it. Just the sound of my book page turning, and the little scritch of a pen nib across paper.

It was perfectly simple.

At first my inability to engage with my beloved gadgets was frustrating, but it soon turned into this unexpected gift: the gift of slow, unhurried time.

What would most certainly have been a morning of shooting off emails and getting through paperwork, turned into a throwback to a time without buzzy things screaming for, and insisting upon my attention.

I did have 2 appointment to get to however, so I had to get dressed and leave this “Little House on the Prairie” moment.

Soon after I returned, power was restored and I immediately dove headlong right back into my keyboards and my machines, and tried to catch up.

Now as I get ready to head up to bed, the house is warm and lit.

I just turned off the TV, and I am still thinking about my beautiful analog morning. I am not wishing for another power outage tomorrow morning –oh god no– I have a full day of busy tomorrow, but it is just too bad that it sometimes takes take a power outage to make me realize the power of my own power.

The First Day of Spring

Today it snowed. Two inches of heavy wet snow on this astronomical “first day of spring.”

I got up, made coffee and raisin toast, filled the bird feeders, then headed up to my cozy lair, turned on the space heater and settled in for a long write.

Yesterday a book I had ordered called, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings by John O’Donahue came.

I had come across a poem from this collection recently,  and fell in love with it, so I ordered the volume.

And today, while the snow fell softly, and my room filled with warmth, I sat and read it from cover to cover.

And wept.

And underlined.

And wrote notes to myself so I would not t forget this.

And stared out the window. And thought about my life, and my death, and time and love.

And as the snow continued to fall, I got up and checked the mail, and for the first time in many years there was no letter. And I was sad.

Every year for the past 6 or 7, I have led a Yoga Nidra class on New Year’s Eve and at the end, I offer the people who come the opportunity to write a letter to themselves.

I write one, too. And it always starts like this, “Dear Kath, I have been waiting for you to get really quiet and listen to me because I have so many things I need to talk to you about, darling.”

This is a letter from my soul, my heart, inner wisdom guide. And after yoga nidra, I am so deeply dialed in, that I don’t even write it. I just surrender the pen to her, and she tells me what I really need to know.

When the letter is done, I seal it in an envelope, and collect all the similar sealed, self-addressed letters of the participants, and then mail them all to arrive in mailboxes on the first day of spring.

But this year, I didn’t have the Yoga Nidra class. This year I didn’t write my letter, and so today, there was no letter from my soul.

Maybe that is why the universe sent me the astonishingly beautiful Blessings from John O’Donahue.

Spring has always been my favorite season. From this day until the Summer Solstice, I have always felt, since early childhood, a quickening and a coming to life at this time of year.

Spring does not always have the best weather here where I live in northern Pennsylvania. It is a fickle season of rain and snow. It is a season that teases, then withdraws.

It is often muddy and cold and sullen. But every day is a bit longer than the one before. Every day a new bird arrives at the feeder, a new flower pierces the snow crust.

Tomorrow I think I will write a letter to myself and give it to G to mail to me on the Summer Solstice. I like getting letters from my  spirit in the mail.

But for today I would ask that if you are so inclined, order this John O’Donahue book, and read it in your cozy lair.  I think you will be amazed. I will leave you with this excerpt from his poem ,A Morning Offering:

May my mind come alive today

To the invisible geography

That invites me to new frontiers.

To break the dead shell of yesterdays,

To risk being disturbed and changed.

May I have the courage today

To live the life that I would love,

To postpone my dream no longer

But do at last what I came here for

And waste my heart on fear no more.