This is an edited piece posted originally August of 2018. Now that I’ve arrived at a new position at the University, I realize that the assessment phase feels like a bit of a labyrinth.
After a morning appointment in St. Paul I decided to make a stop at the College of St. Catherine in order to walk the labyrinth.
Have you ever walked a labyrinth? I considered taking a photo while there but I was without electronic devices on my walk, so I did not. However, I found a great article on how to meditate in a labyrinth, so I am cribbing a photo from that, and the link as well.
I used the walk as a meditative experience, starting from the outside and following the path toward the inside. Then I spent some time on the inside, taking a few deep breaths, and slowly walked back out again. I walked barefoot, and did not worry about the acorns that occasionally stabbed my feet. I did nudge away a few small branches that had fallen along the path to make it easier for the next person’s journey.
My intention was to reflect and consider the big changes happening in my life, the opportunities that are ahead, and any possible fears I was holding. It was a walking meditation, a slow and intentional trip back and forth through the “folds” of the labyrinth. It occurred to me how little I knew about meditation last time I had walked it a decade ago. Yet repeating it gave me sacred feeling both times.
As we traverse through life, our paths are rarely linear. Some of them meander and fold back on themselves. Some of them seem to go in spirals, and we wonder: Are we in the same place AGAIN? But really we are never in the same place twice. Even if an event seems similar, or we seem to repeat a mistake we have made before, we are not exactly the same people this time.
Our lived experiences give us a different context. This is why I love the work of Marion Woodman so much. She understands that many of us learn in a non-linear way. We forget things we have learned, or sometimes we must re-apply lesson we have learned, but in a different way, or in a different relationship.
Our learning and wisdom are never lost, even though it may seem like we did not absorb a lesson the first time. Maybe we are ready to learn in a new way. Maybe there was resistance the first time, and we were not ready to complete lesson. We receive multiple opportunities and invitations for our souls to expand and grow.
The journey inward allows us to check our soul’s intentions. The journey back outward allows us to live our ultimate purpose. This is the essence of a life well-lived.
This is an edited post I wrote in July of 2018. As I have decided to take an August sabbatical from writing new content while finishing my YTT certification, I am reading and editing some pieces from my 2018 archive. Hope you enjoy!
One of my favorite guided meditations is spoken by Sarah Blondin on Insight Timer called “I would like to give you permission.” It is about the ways in which we tend to hide our true selves from the world, and I think it was originally recorded for the Live Awake podcast.
Sometimes we have a good reason we hide our true selves (Martha Beck would call this the essential self vs the social self). Most of the time it is because we have been taught to act “appropriately” or to hide our feelings. These are often well-intentioned pieces of advice, but they may not serve our highest good.
There is a line in this particular meditation that moves me: “Force no pain away, for it is all conspiring to bring you home.” What I like about this is the fact that we must embrace our feelings, admit them to ourselves, in order to be fully human. To push them away, or not to acknowledge our sadness, pain or discomfort, is to run away from our experience. We often do this in an attempt to be more positive, or because we think we should not experience negative emotions.
But emotions are just vibrations in the body, and we are likely to experience about half and half, positive and negative. It is the contrast between these emotions that makes joy so sweet. There is nothing wrong with us when we experience sadness or grief. These are normal and appropriate parts of being human. Getting angry at injustice can help us realize when we need to take action, for example.
When I consider how my emotions bring me home to myself, and I understand what thoughts drive these emotions, I fully claim my experience. There is no need for denial or resistance of these feelings. Indeed they provide the compass for a live well lived.
Yesterday I finished the fourth and final session of a girls’ empowerment course that I was teaching every other week for an hour at a local community center.
During the third session I had an eye-opening realization working with these young women (ages 12-14). We got into a discussion of safety and violence, and once again my privilege slapped me in the face. Many of these women had observed or experienced violence in their families or with close loved ones in ways I am unlikely to ever understand.
I had begun reading the book “My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies” by Resmaa Manakem. I wish I had discovered it when I first designed the course. There are many amazing practices that are yoga-like to help both black bodies, white bodies, and police bodies heal the trauma of racism in America.
I managed to teach “legs up the wall” pose first as a calming pose. Then we laid on the floor to do belly breathing for a couple of minutes and to notice where we felt the breath. We tried crocodile (on our bellies) to again notice where we felt the breath. After a few cat/cow transitions, there was silliness and I realized 15 minutes of yoga was the upper limit for this group on this day.
Though this group of women rejected “yoga” when I attempted it on the first class, by starting with legs up the wall, as a way to calm the nervous system, they seemed open to the other poses as well. Less talking, more demonstrating and practice in the future. Good lessons for me.
I thanked this group for being my teachers in this class. They seemed surprised that I would put it like that. But they taught me far more than I could teach them.
On the eve of another 3-day yoga teacher training weekend (#6 of 7), even if I am unable to count those hours toward my practicum requirement as initially planned, I am profoundly grateful.