[Links to exercises will go up next month when I get back, but in the meantime, enjoy the minutes!]
This year I’ve been putting much more thought into our three agreements. Last year, when I was much more in the moment with Dreamers & Schemers, I said whatever it was that came to me at the top of each gathering. This year, however, I am trying to be a bit more planful, and I’ve been highlighting aspects of the agreements to introduce certain skills we’d be learning in session. This month, Honor Self, was about honoring the body’s wisdom; Honor Other was widened to include others not in our circle, toward whom we may even feel anger; and Beginner’s Mind called us to regard our bodies with fresh eyes. Even though we’ve lived with our bodies our entire lives, on a day-to-day basis, most of us are acquainted only with the tip of the iceberg, and here in D&S we’re committed to plumbing the depths of our being.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
This one was particularly fun for me because (1) I let everyone else answer before me, and (2) up until then I’d come in with questions that I myself sat with over the last month, but yesterday I let myself answer in the moment. The questions were: What emotion have you worked through with success? What emotion is currently challenging you? I knew immediately that working through grief was a major victory for me. Not that I no longer miss my dad or find myself tearing up to remember him every now and then, but the really hard, heavy part feels like it’s over. I remember the moment really distinctly because it took me by surprise. I was sitting in meditation, without the intention to work through my grief, but nonetheless I felt a wave of emotion wash over me, run up my body, and flow out of my eyes in the form of tears. And then it cleared and I felt lightening that was just as sudden as that overwhelm. It probably took a second, but I felt the motion of the energy shift so powerfully, and I knew instantly what I had just released.
Answering the second question, what emotion I was still working through, was a bit tougher. It feels like I’m always working on something, if not many things all at once, but I couldn’t find the “negative” emotion so easily, though I knew it was there somewhere. The room was tickled that I had to check in with myself: “You’re just like us!” someone chuckled. (Yes, I am!) Then I started to get an answer: joy. But it wasn’t a lack of joy that weighed on me. In fact, I am probably living out some of the most joyful days of my life right now. The problem was about expressing my joy to others. This past month I noticed how often I bit my tongue when people asked how I was doing. I’d say, “I’m well!” “Great!” or sometimes I’d even tell a white lie and commiserate with others about the crazy world we live in or how it’s only Monday (I actually LOVE my Mondays). Why do I do this? GUILT. For some perverse reason, I feel guilty for being so freaking happy, for finally figuring out how to rearrange my life so I love just about every second of it, for learning to accept wherever I’m at, moment to moment.
This mini epiphany was all very convenient, given that we were going to talk about the sacral chakra, whose demon is, in fact, guilt (because it curtails the e/motion associated with this energy center).
We did our usual PEMS meditation, where we check in with ourselves on physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels, but I asked everyone to refrain from using easy labels. So, for example, instead of noticing “I am thirsty,” I would make note that “I have a dry mouth.” If you notice sadness, try to describe what that sadness feels like. Is it sharp, dull, or achy? Does it make you feel like a deflated balloon or a piece of lead at the bottom of the ocean?
I introduced this variation not merely because I like to shake things up and keep things fresh, but also because it warmed us up for the focusing exercise later on. One Dreamer & Schemer confessed that she usually has a tough time separating out which is her “physical” vs. “emotional” vs. “mental” vs. “spiritual” self, which is entirely understandable, since those distinctions are purely conceptual and I don’t think firm lines exist on an energetic level. Sometimes the categories act as points of entry for me, but more often than not, something I’m aware of on one level will bleed into another. Focusing, as the likes of David I. Rome and Ann Cornell teach it, dispenses entirely with these artificial categories, isolating instead a single “felt sense” that comes alive for us anywhere within our being.
One interesting discussion point that came out of this was where everyone’s attention went when I prompted them to attune to their “spiritual body.” Almost everyone reported dropping down from their head to somewhere lower down: anywhere from their heart to their gut to their root. One person described tapping into her inner goddess, which was really awesome to hear! To her this meant tapping into the part of herself that knows exactly what to do or say in the moment.
In my basic overview, I compared the first and second chakras so that everyone got a sense of how a strong chakra made possible a balanced expression of the sacral chakra. We spent the last two months talking about grounding, roots, safety, and fear, and these next two months we’ll be exploring motion, change, feeling(s), and guilt.
YOGA TO OPEN TO CHANGE AND EMOTIONS
I really wanted to give everyone a sensation of the connection and movement between the first and second chakras, so I chose a pose that Michele Theoret calls “Moon Pose / Chandrasana,” but which is known in Bikram circles as “Half Moon Pose / Ardha Chandrasana,” but is not the same as the one-legged balancing pose of the same name in other forms of yoga. Theoret’s moon pose is a standing stretch that begins in Mountain Pose and then turns into a side bend, comes back to center, and down to the other side. Done properly, we feel rooted in our lower body so that our upper body feels safe to move and stretch.
MEDITATION WITH HIGHER SELF
For this meditation we turned inward and connected to our higher selves. We asked our higher selves a series of questions related to our emotional life. To ward off the mind’s desire to be the one in charge, I reminded everyone to drop down further into their bodies whenever they felt their mind encroaching. I also snuck in a couple of questions that I thought the mind would have a tough time answering! Everyone appreciated the prompt to drop deeper / lower into their bodies.
FOCUSING ON FELT SENSE
This exercise opens with the GAP meditation and brings into focus a “felt sense” (a feeling in our body that wants our attention) for us to work with. One person found this meditation a bit easier to sink into than other meditation techniques because of the concrete focus of the body. This protocol, as outlined by David I. Rome, calls for journaling while we are still attuned to the felt sense. I added an invitation to draw the felt sense, in order to get even further away from linguistic traps and sink deeper into left brain intuition. This portion seemed to yield more insight to the guided meditation.
Anger (and it’s younger sibling, frustration) has been weighing a lot on everyone these last few months, and yesterday I felt really inspired by the example set by the likes of Gandhi and MLK, who inspired others with their ability to transmute anger instead of lapsing into bitterness, hate, and other corrosive emotional states. We talked about how our work with young people and in the broader arena of social justice requires us to dig deeper within ourselves and channel our anger into more loving expressions. We brainstormed a protocol that I’m very excited to share! I think it’s entirely within our grasp to deal with anger in our daily lives and have these seemingly small moments grow into something big and meaningful.
We’re moving our May gathering to the fourth Thursday of the month. Hope to catch you then!