Bedtime Story

 

“Bedtime Story”

by Christa Sperry

 

A renegade New Moon

Whispers to a valley.

This Dark-Skinned Mystic

Reminds clay

That no mountain can dictate

The way

Mother Earthworm

Squirms within it’s breast,

For she is shy

Yet immense

Birthing mountains herself.

Perhaps forgotten

Is that Time is a hobby

Of night-crawlers:

They bulldoze earth’s past

To grow grass of future,

Knit with needles

Made of moment

And yarn spun of eon.

Their quilt of illusion

Comforts villagers

On deep nights

When New Moon

Feeds choke cherry

And magpie to youth.

This Charcoal Orb

Tells secrets to a valley.

 

There is speak of Alabados

Being bodies of God

In unison with juniper.

Solid Spanish hymns

That move man from within

Inviting rhythm to spit

Venom at voyeurs;

Coyote Women who plant word

So as to cultivate herbs

That reek of poetry.

This is not a voice that speaks

Of dust mesa,

Or forgot how to breathe

Without metaphor.

This voice lingers

In trout throat

And first bloom

Like shade,

Sings lullabies

In the key of my beloved’s last breath

And masquerades as a canyon.

A canyon that impregnates

Apple skin with flesh,

Beehives with royal jelly,

Fire in winter,

First fetus of summer.

 

This fugitive New Moon

Tells the story of a valley:

A place gorges crack crust

Like Jesus broke bread,

Whilst hot springs

Feed dreams primordial soup.

Where mud bricks are ribs

That protect hearts of generations.

Where acequias of mind are cleansed

By children

To allow growth atwixt households,

And Sangre pulsates

Through memory

Like lightning through nimbus.

The air is thick now

Like hair of native youth,

New Moon braids yucca in wind

As it wakes villagers

With gossip of Sun.

A yawn of gold

And stretch of crimson

Expose a nude day,

Caressing itself –

Wet with dew.

Christa Sperry- Copyright 2005

 

I grew up in the shadow of the Sangre de Christo mountains in northern New Mexico. Even though I moved to Maryland back in 2007, I still find myself getting homesick regularly. New Mexico is, and always will be, my home. Until I moved to the East Coast, I had never known any other way than the ‘natural’ way when approaching health and wellness issues. I mean, obviously when one had a broken leg, they saw a doctor or surgeon because no amount of pink Himalayan salt or tea tree oil was going to cure it (c’mon now). But one would see Grandma (yours, mine, theirs...any Grandma would do) before going to the doctor if they were sick or unwell in other ways (physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally). There were usually some herbs, chilé, rest, fresh air, and water prescribed. Homemade food made with love and care using ingredients that came from straight from the earth was the norm, not the exception. Stopping in the middle of the road to talk to friends and family while holding up traffic was not something you honked at people for. Building your living space to be an ever-evolving, breathing work of art because it is good for the soul was just a part of everyday life.

  The land and the people of New Mexico have instilled in me a great sense of pride and satisfaction from working with my heart and hands, and that is why I do what I do. I believe that massage, yoga, meditation, food so fresh you have to wash the dirt off of it, and art can go a long way in facilitating healing for the whole human being. In that spirit, I would like to share a poem I wrote about my home. I hope it imparts a bit of what is important to me and causes you to think of what is important to you about your home, wherever that may be.

 

Christa Sperry RMP, RYT-200

Registered Massage Therapist and Yoga Teacher specializing in:

Thai Yoga Massage, Deep Tissue, Swedish

(240)848-0068

 

 

Why Yoga?

Why Yoga?

Here we are in the beginning years of a new millennium. Advances in computerized technology, automotive creations and biogenetic manipulations have propelled the modern world into an extreme fast-forward rhythm. These changes that are experienced, and the effort spent in coexisting with them, can be tremendous. This heightened state of living must have a counterbalance, a state that is steady and serene. To many, this state is called yoga.

What is yoga? One might say it is a way of being that encompasses a multidimensional awareness. This allows an individual to gain realization(s) into life and how to be with their ‘self.’ The general public might associate yoga with the image of a bendy, breathing person twisting and stretching in and out of physical positions. Another idea, might be of a person sitting in stillness, who embodies a calm and introverted presence. One other idea, might be a gathering of health food eating, herbal tea drinking folk united in glee & song. All of these examples are reflections of the deeper aims of yoga - to shed light upon the primordial questions of, ‘What is it?’ and ‘Who am I?’

So, how do practices in meditation, respiration, physical postures, introversion and relaxation relate with the examination of the spirit? One might answer, ‘to sense the body-mind unit, as an instrument of the self, within the heart of relationships and the environment.’

Shifting in and out of asanas aka physical shapes, one might find delight in some and not so much in others. Asanas might provoke moods that affect one’s prana (qi) aka life energy. A steady awareness of this provides a ‘clear seeing’ of the koshas aka layers of the self: physical, energetic, mental, transcendental and integrated.

There is no one-way to do yoga, there are numerous ways, and the best is to find your own way. When you take the time to slow down, tune in and be alive in your unique nature, you take part in a timeless custom shared by all of humanity. A mantra of ‘curiosity & creativity,’ might be kept in mind and in the breath, which resides in the heart... that lives in the body.

Sensations and Pain

Every time a yogi moves his or her self into different physical shapes with intentional respiration, an opportunity arises to scan his or her body for sensations. This might provide insight into states of being, anatomical structure and function. Yet, if the mind is conditioned to only name intense feelings as ‘pain,’ then important corporal information might be overlooked or covered up.

Unfortunately, there is a common misconception that pain is supposed to be a part of exercise and that it is actually needed in order to receive health benefits. This might suit the sports mentality of winning or perhaps conquering. The yogic view, looks for liberation not domination, and a simple way to do this is by carefully tuning into the signals of the body, both obvious and subtle.

Yes, there are times in my own practice when I may experience pain, but I will stop and witness the actual signal. Then, I can give it a description - depending on the quality that the feeling emanates. Curiously, I find it may be tenderness, sharpness, dullness, electrical or perhaps an undulating vibration. I slow down, tune in, pay attention and become interested in what messages are showing up.

Sometimes, what might be unpleasant is really my mind’s association of the sensation with an old injury, past event or lesson. It might be a fear of going into a new place that is unknown or confusing. When I hold a steady awareness, I experience the sensations differently with an improved understanding of their origins. This fresh insight, reveals a connection to the energy body aka pranamaya kosha. This opens a new door to an inner dimension of yoga.

Solo Practice

The brilliance of a personal practice is the simplicity of its beginning. It can always begin by being mindful of how one breathes. Take a moment right now, and notice the inhale & exhale.

This alone, is a good start to cultivate a regular solo practice. Pay attention to breathing, and automatically become aware of the internal life - presently. The breath is an instant reminder of one’s presence. When one observes the pattern of breath with care, it’s a gentle reminder of ‘being.’

Some find it difficult to make time to practice at home or outside of class. What can be done, is to accumulate incremental minutes of practice during the day. What might happen after sitting in a chair for a few hours? Get up and stretch a bit! This takes about half a minute. How about add one or two more stretches to that? Then do a couple of sets of those three things? That might be about 5 minutes of practice right there. Add conscious breathing to those movements and look at that, a yoga session is being created!

Once ready to practice more thoroughly alone, create an area on a floor space or use an outdoor place. Work with what is available to integrate practice into daily life. When I lived in a small studio apartment in the city, I would practice tai qi by modifying movements to fit in the small quarters. Luckily, next door to my building was an abandoned embassy, with a parking lot and a wrap around porch, that I would use for solo practice from time to time.

Time is usually the main excuse for not practicing. There is a difference in not ‘having’ the time and not ‘making’ the time. In reality, what one makes time for is what is priority. So, what are the priorities? What changes can be made?

A solo practice, provides space for beautiful self-discoveries. This is a wonderful gift of yoga. Sun salutations don’t have to be done every time and neither do headstands (unless you like to). Do whatever! Just take the time to sit, be, move, breathe, feel and observe. Just like that. It can be a subtle and powerful way to profoundly see into the many layers of what it is to be a human being.

Namaste, (respect) Daniel

Meditation doesn't work...

From one of our acupuncturists, Clark Mollenhoff:

I often hear people say they are not good at meditation, or “it doesn’t work for me.”

Meditation, at its root, is about familiarizing yourself with the felt experience of your body and mind, and learning to witness the mental activity that is occurring without engaging.

The act of sitting upright with my legs crossed and eyes closed has never made me immediately more peaceful. If anything, trying to breathe deeply and stop my mind from spinning has only increased my level of agitation or suffering. With enough practice, and when I am practicing regularly I do experience more peace in my life. This is the result of practicing, but not necessarily the experience of the practice it’s self.

It is when I bring my body to rest and reduce external stimulation that I am faced with myself. All of a sudden there is more thought, more discomfort in my body, more tightness, agitation, stress, etc… Usually this is why I keep moving or keep myself stimulated by something. With stillness comes an onslaught of ideas, judgments, and worries. A tightness in my chest must mean this or that. I am flooded with preferences. I don’t like this, I do like that. I can’t wait to be done with this so I can watch TV or get back to my emails. A beer would be nice. It is at this point that I wonder, “Why am I even doing this?”

If we meditate thinking that we are going to get rid of all this noise, we are likely going to conclude that meditation does not work. Or, at least, it does not work for us. The goal of meditation, as I see it, is to face these uncomfortable voices and sensations. When I am unwilling to face this inner world of emotions and thoughts, my only hope for peace is in escape. In this sense, my ignored inner state drives me towards compulsive action or inaction in the world as a means of anesthetizing the pain I am unwilling to acknowledge or deal with. Simply put, we become predominantly run by our unconscious selves rather than our conscious selves.

From this perspective, the practice of meditation is about bringing awareness into our unconscious self and basically “waking up.” This is what the term “enlightenment” means to me. I don’t see it as a state to reach, but a practice of turning on a light inside. In the beginning, the switch has to be flipped again and again, but as you practice, ideally, the time spent in the dark decreases. It doesn’t mean that someone farther along the continuum of practice can’t become stuck in the darkness. However, the sharper your tools of practice are, the better chance you have of staying out of it.

I realize that using terms like “conscious” and “unconscious” can sound like psychobabble—or vague, new-agey words. But they are the best words I can think of to describe my perspective, and I will do my best to unpack them into more tangible concepts when I can.

Our breath is the gateway between our autonomic processes and our somatic processes. This is because our breath is controlled below our consciousness, and it is also controlled with our consciousness. If you have experienced a panic attack and tried to do deep breathing, you may have likely experienced the sensation of the panic getting worse as you are unable to override your unconscious rhythm of breathing. The breath is shallow, and any worry or fear about your breathing is likely going to make it shallower, which, in turn, will create more fear. This is the vicious cycle of panic.

The technique I employ in this situation is the foundation for how I engage the practice of meditation. The more you familiarize yourself with a technique during a semi-controlled practice, like meditation, the more likely you will be able to use it in a moment of difficulty. In a relatively normal state of being, I will start the practice with 1-3 deep, conscious breaths, and then I will allow my body to take over and breathe however it does naturally. Then I will practice keeping a gentle observation on my breathing. When I catch my mind wondering, as it certainly will, I bring the attention back to the breath.

In the case of panic, you may not be able to get 1-3 deep, conscious breaths, so I often recommend starting with the second step of allowing the breath to be as shallow as it needs to be.

 

1) Take 1-3 deep, conscious breaths.

2) Allow natural breathing.

3) Observe natural breathing. 

4) Intermittently consciously suggest a deeper breath, and then just observe.

5) Continue observing the natural flow of breath while allowing it to deepen when possible.

 

The point of this exercise is to begin a conscious dialogue with your inner state. It is a practice of listening and offering. By listening, we allow the body to be as it is, and by offering, we are suggesting another possible way of being. This is where you will often hear a meditation instructor saying to “soften the shoulders, allow the breath to deepen, and breathe into the heart.” The breath allows us to make this connection. It allows us to bring awareness into the depths of ourselves. This is not an easy practice because what we often find are old thoughts, and feelings and struggles that we have been escaping from externally for many years. The only problem is that those old beliefs, and thoughts, and feelings haven’t gone anywhere. In fact, our methods of escaping them have likely become very engrained into our identities and uncovering them can threaten our sense of self. Why would anyone want to meditate then? It sounds like it could be quite an awful experience. The benefit comes when we begin to change the way we relate to what is uncomfortable or scary in ourselves.

Meditation can become difficult to talk about because ultimately it is a practice of disengaging analysis-type problem-solving, and allowing ourselves to spend time in our senses. It is difficult to talk about because, in the realm of the senses, words are meaningless and so are the thoughts about those words. The moment we put a word to a sense, we are in a thought and no longer purely in the sense. If I say I am angry, I am using a word to hold the place of a deeply complex series of movements and sensations that I am generating in response to something. It may be a very useful and appropriate response in one situation and totally unnecessary in another. The words we use are shorthand for the emotions we experience—not the emotions themselves. As long as I call it “anger,” I can delude myself into thinking that I understand what’s going on. It is also easy to feel as if this “anger” is happening to me, rather than realizing that it is a natural and practiced response, which I have the power to use effectively, or discharge in a way that is not harmful to myself or anyone around me. This empowerment comes from a practice of leaving the words behind in order to explore the world of sensation. This is where we pick up after step number 5.

 

6) Practice entering the sensed experience while maintaining a peripheral awareness of the breath.

7) When you realize you are distracted, bring your attention back to the breath or to another sensed experience. This could be sounds, smells, colors, tastes, etc…

8) Explore the world of sense that is actually occurring in that moment. 

 

This part takes some practice. In essence, practicing meditation is a cycle of moving through these steps repeatedly. The felt experience of the present moment is often a foreign one to remain in for very long without interpreting, judging, or documenting the experience from an active mind state. What do we smell or hear? Our inclination will be to label what we smell. (“Oh, that’s lavender!”) But what is the experience of the smell? This is a question to be explored through sense, not answered through description. The categories of words we organize our experiences with, allows us to make sense of our experience. When you taste wine for example, it would be useful to recognize a taste like tobacco or cherry in order to create more sophisticated observation skills. The problem arises when we leave the experience of the flavor and simply say it tastes like cherry. What is the sensed experience of cherry? What kind of internal movement do you notice in your body? We can practice this same type of labeling and observation with our thoughts.

When a thought arises we label it, “Oh that’s a worry thought,” or a fear thought, or an angry thought. In my experience these types of thoughts are paired with uncomfortable feelings somewhere in my body. My instinct tells me to figure out how to not feel this way, leading me to attempt to think my way out of it, or blame something external to myself for the discomfort that is occurring. In many cases this is an accurate response. If there is an actual solution to the problem it is necessary to identify it and make a change. Unfortunately many of our thoughts lie in the future or the past or in a situation or person we have no control over. When these types of thoughts arise and there is no external solution to discharge them, the emotional/biochemical consequences in our bodies build up creating a feed back loop of more negative thoughts. The only ways I am aware of discharging that build up is to become very aware of how our body needs to move, rest, and emote. This is the purpose of labeling our thoughts, then moving our attention beneath to our physical experience. What does anger or anxiety feel like? What does my body need from me? From an intellectual perspective it may be clear that our stress is the result of someone else’s behavior or choices, or even our current life circumstances. We may even feel certain that we have a genetic predisposition to feeling a certain way. Any of these explanations may be true, but as long as we perceive that our inner state is at the mercy of our environment or our genetics we will have no power in changing that experience. The most important step is to take responsibility for our own internal response to our lives.

We have a capacity for an infinite number of thoughts in any given moment. How do we choose which thoughts we will engage and which ones we let drift on by? In meditation, we practice not engaging any of the thoughts that occur. This takes away the need to assign a judgment or preference over the thoughts, and in effect, takes away the charge that hooks us. This practice is not intended to make us non-thinking sense-organisms, it is meant to allow us the freedom to choose which thoughts are useful to cultivate and which ones create unnecessary suffering in our lives

Meditation is not a practice used to banish the pain from our lives, it is about the courage to actually feel it and learn from it instead of intellectualizing it or running from it. When I have the courage to sit and feel and breathe, I am faced with myself as I am in that moments. If I have the patience to stay with my breath long enough, I might feel discomfort. I might cry. I might notice how tight I am in my body. I might deepen my breath. I might accept something I was fighting. I might remember something in my heart. I might offer myself or someone else some compassion. I might even forgive myself.

--Clark Mollenhoff MAc., LAc. www.mollenhoffacupuncture.com

Year of the Rooster!

"I am on hand the herald the day, 

and to announce its exit. 

I thrive by clockwork and precision. 

In my unending quest for perfection

all things will be restored to

their rightful place. 

I am the exacting taskmaster, 

the ever watchful administrator. 

I seek perfect order in my world. 

I represent unfailing dedication. 

 

I AM THE ROOSTER"

-- Theodora Lau

Read More