You might think it easy to determine whether you are moving forward, stepping backward or captured in the stillness that lies between.  It may be, however, that your ability to do this depends directly on how you are connected to your surroundings.   The quality of the threads that attach you to the people, objects and events in your life make it more or less possible to know what kind of movement is happening for you in the moment.   A strong attachment to something or someone outside of you, by its nature, pulls you off center, and the strength of that connection affects the energy and effort required to remain centered.   Weaker sensations may not sway you one way or the other.  They may not even figure in your movement consciousness; perhaps their influence is so subtle that it bypasses awareness altogether.  In either case, we may not be as independent as we think we are.

What really determines our spatial orientation?  Isn’t movement, after all, always in relation to a central point?   You can be moving toward or away from this point or even staying in place, where movement is happening without having committed to a particular direction.  What’s most important here is that movement is relational.  And, in many respects, we truly are relational beings.

Once you acknowledge whether you are moving forward, stepping back and remaining still, do you find yourself accepting of where you are on that continuum?  Would you rather be at a different point?  This stage is often where the “shoulds” show up, sometimes masked as nagging perceptions of others who seem to be further along than you.   Have you ever picked up the energy from the people around you – finding yourself swept up in the momentum of wants or needs that are driving others?  How difficult or easy is it to step aside, let them run past and follow your own path?

It can, especially during times of great upheaval in our lives, require extraordinary  energy to hold your own ground, to tap into our own inner wisdom.  It can sometimes be impossible to hear the voice inside or even be aware that it is there behind the louder, more insistent voices outside our own.  Especially difficult is when we find ourselves in a situation that is new, for which we lack the framework of experience.  At times like these, we often feel the need to look elsewhere to find the expertise  or experience to help us find our way.  Not a bad choice, however, how might it possible to remain grounded within ourselves in the midst of looking outside ourselves?

How would it be to take a deeper breath, focus on what’s happening now in the present moment as if it’s the most important time for you?  There you are within the stillness of a mindful presence – perhaps only for the very briefest of times – but might it not be enough to notice what direction you are headed?  Maybe the surge is interrupted long enough to allow the element of choice to surface and help determine whatever movement follows.  And perhaps, in that brief experience, is the opportunity to realize the possibility of carrying the stillness with you as you move, knowing that forward and back are all part of the changing journey that we take.

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The question is – When I show up on my yoga mat or my meditation cushion, in what way is this practice mine or all about me?  Not that it’s about someone else.  Of course not, but perhaps there is a way to be with this practice that can shift my attitude of possessiveness toward it.  My intention here is that it would be less about me.

One might believe that this is about playing with words, but consider the larger picture.  How might I show up for this practice so that the experience is more  “being” with than “doing?”   What comes to mind is that perhaps I can participate in the practice instead of directing it, and, in that way, I am less involved in the doing.  How would it be to step onto the mat with the intention of the practice unfolding as it needs to, in this moment and then the next?

Imagine that you don’t have to try hard or make something happen.  The perfect posture or pure meditation moments are not the ones where I’m driving the boat.  Instead, they are the ones where I get out of my own way.  And I trust that all of you know what I mean – when you show up with SERIOUS intention and, of course, expectation of what is to come of your intention.  And then, too often, it’s all about you – how balanced, how strong, how focused, how flexible!  That’s when the moment of self congratulation sneaks in and takes over, and, again, it’s all about you!  Or, perhaps, the situation goes in the other direction, and you identify how weak, how tight, how distracted, how uncomfortable.  Judgment or disappointment lands, and it’s still all about you!

What might it be like to simply BE with the practice, allowing the energy of what is unfolding to be the guiding force?  I have a very clear past memory of struggling to do a particular yoga posture,  aware of the difficulty in the moment and the focus on my breath, my muscles, my alignment, my attempts to create ease.  I was occupied with the sense of expending energy when it occurred to me that my experience could be re-framed in an opposite way.  In this new scenario (isn’t  it  always a story that we’re telling ourselves), I was  receiving energy by being in this posture.  I wasn’t doing the posture; I was being it.  At that moment, the struggle was gone.  Did the posture then look any different?  I don’t think so.  But my investment in the experience had shifted so that I wasn’t doing the pose; I was being it.

What works for you to get out of your own way?  Is it simply a shift to the present moment or a change in the story line?  Try interrupting your hold on what’s happening for you the next time you show up for yoga practice or meditation.  See how it is to allow “unfolding” to be the energy out of which your experience arises.  If it turns out to be less about you, there may be more room for being with the actual experience of practice.

It begins with the body.  It’s the physical body that is the medium, providing fertile ground  for exploring.  And “exploration” is exactly what takes place by attending to the inner experience of what is happening – moment to moment – in the body as well as in emotions, thoughts  and in the connection to what feels greater than all these put together.

You might wonder how this happens.  Essentially, it is through an amazing process of noticing sensations, memories, feelings, words and phrases, colors and images that surface as the body is moved and supported in postures and patterns.  As this occurs, the Witness (the Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy practitioner) allows the client to explore whatever is noticed, spoken or not.  While the focus of the client throughout the session is inward, the practitioner provides physical safety, active listening and an invitation to explore whatever shows up at the edge of awareness.

I want to say, “That’s all there is to it,” but one must appreciate that simplicity can only truly exist when there is a solid foundation beneath it.

At the core, Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy is a process, not a protocol or a treatment.  It is a relational process guided and supported by the practitioner in which the client interacts with himself, navigating his inner body experiences.  This way of being with a client is based on a two-fold path: one that incorporates the eight limbs of yoga, anatomy, body mechanics and verbal skills and a second that develops the skills of mindfulness, compassion, intention and appreciation for whatever happens.  The core combines both; the practitioner combines both.

Simply put, the process facilitates the client staying in the present experience of his body as he explores what’s happening now, in that moment.  It all happens for the client from the inside out – enabled by the Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy practitioner.  And while the therapy session moves forward from beginning to end, the take-away is created by the client, never prescribed or taught by the practitioner.

A Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy practitioner is so much more than a teacher or a healer, emerging out of a process that is based on the fact that human beings have the capacity to heal themselves.  They require only fertile ground and a climate that promotes healing and change to occur.   What can happen then is truly amazing…

There has been some space since the last writing.  Weeks have gone by with life reflecting an unsettled, at times, refusing-to-be-named, inner experience.  It wasn’t until walking meditation this morning that the name surfaced and clarity ensued.  It’s the Weight of Loss.

How is it that changes in life that result in the loss of a person or place or familiar role, or an event that changes forever the idea we have of our world, can leave us carrying such a burden?  How is it that loss can be so heavy?  Isn’t there an oxymoron in there somewhere?  And even as the weight of loss shifts and becomes lighter over time, how is it that it can get so heavy again at the time of the anniversary of that life-changing event?

Perhaps, in part, because we unconsciously feed this loss and nurture it, thinking that we can go back to what was.  All the practices that support our awareness and acceptance of change, our experience in meditation, doing or being yoga, becoming mindful of the present moment again and again, don’t often shift the core of loss that we carry.  We walk around it, observe it, sometimes challenge it, rage at it, but almost never do we greet it with compassion and gratitude.

What would that even feel like?  Does it seem possible to be grateful for an experience of loss that we didn’t ask for or welcome?  Perhaps one needn’t appreciate what happened, but in order to take the next step, to move forward in life, there must be some letting go.  Otherwise, what happens is that weight accumulates, and with each loss, the burden becomes heavier.  Then, at some point, there is no going forward, and letting go is more and more difficult.

Consider that compassion and gratitude may be as light as loss is heavy.  Maybe instead of putting on the heavy overcoat of loss today, one could try (or even simply imagine) wearing a coat woven of compassion and gratitude.  It doesn’t have to be gratitude for the whole event or experience of loss.  It can be compassion around one small aspect of it.  A kinder, softer way of relating to that one piece.  It would be akin to having an intention of being kinder and softer towards oneself – toward the one who carries this burden.

That might be a beginning – a next step down the path of lessening the weight of loss…

This post is dedicated to all those who carry the weight of loss – especially from the events of 9-11-2001.