All posts by Deb Sherrer

Thich Nhat Hanh: Joy of Meditation As Nourishment

~of wings and wonder

Pair your breath cycle with the meditative phrases/instructions and then drop to the individual word. You can choose how much time you stay with each instruction depending upon how long you wish to practice. You can also utilize this as a recitation, pairing each instruction and singular word with your breath cycle for one round.

Breathing in, I know I am breathing in
Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.

(Inhale) In
(Exhale) Out

Breathing in, I see myself as a flower.
Breathing out, I feel fresh.

(Inhale) Flower
(Exhale) Fresh

Breathing in, I see myself as still water.
Breathing out, I feel clear.

(Inhale) Still water
(Exhale) Clear

Breathing in, I see myself as space.
Breathing out, I feel free.

(Inhale) Space
(Exhale) Free

~From the book: The Blooming of a Lotus, by Thich Nhat Hanh

Reflections on suffering and perspective-taking

While perspective-taking is an important life skill, I observe repeatedly that many individuals have been taught to use it as a tool to minimize their own suffering and grief. Paradoxically, this simply creates another obstacle to integrating one’s authentic life experiences and the potential healing benefits for self and others. It also often creates another layer of suffering, as the comparative subtext is: Who am I to claim I’ve suffered?

In The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca Solnit, speaks to this with great clarity and eloquence:

Other’s woes can be used as reproaches and sometimes are: how dare you think about your own private suffering when wars are raging and children are being bombed? There is always someone whose suffering is greater than yours. The reproaches are often framed as though there is an economy of suffering, and of compassion, and you should measure yourself, price yourself, with the same sense of scarcity and finite resources that govern monetary economies, but there is no measure of either. In high does suffering is boundless and incomparable and overwhelming.

Furthermore, whenever we connect to our own authentic life experiences, it expands our capacities to relate to and care about the suffering we observe in ever-widening circles of relationships: family, friends, community, state, nation, and the world.

Today, through the Parliament of World Religions’ 2021 Conference online, I had the privilege of speaking with two bright, emotionally intelligent, compassionate individuals engaged in youth work in India. While we could all imagine the differences between our respective worlds and work, the connecting threads were that youth in India and the States (and everywhere) meeting the obstacles: of poverty, family distress/dissolution, educational access challenges, employment demands or access to employment, etc. need community support, mentorship, and compassionate, skillful programming to help them create a life beyond survival mode. We made space for the fullness across landscapes and time, and plan to connect again to explore more how therapeutic yoga and mindfulness practices can support resiliency and healing for youth and those who provide services to them.

light shapes, heartscapes

The recent gestures of two people reminded me how simple acts of gratitude, generosity, and kindness connect us to our shared essential goodness, the inherent light within us. One gesture inspired the poem below. The other filled my palm with sea glass, followed by a heart-shaped stone. Both brought joy and helped me to remember that blessings are where we find or open to them, passing them back and forth, hand-to-hand, heart-to-heart.

sunbeam heart: “You are a beam of light, too.” (shared photo)

sunbeams and shadows
like stars cut through
the dark cloth of night,
all portals, parts of the universe
we embody as one

~love under a blue sky

Where wonder Lives

“…there’s so much around us we cannot see, and there’s also so much we can. The gap between the two is where wonder lives. Depicting the gap is nearly impossible, and yet we have to try. It’s how novels are written, how great vistas live in representation in museums all over the world. We also have to save some for ourselves. More and more, I also think this is where sanity lives. Living in a time of an erasing horizon, I’ve found my eyes still go upward, reflexively.” ~John Freeman, excerpted from Where Wonder Lives in Orion, spring issue 2021

Nurturing Independent practice

glory of the snow

Today in our Monday morning, gentle vinyasa class, we explored creating a short practice utilizing tools from basic mindfulness and the Vajra Yoga sequence by Jill Satterfield.

When entering a short (or longer practice), it is beneficial to start by settling the body into an upright and relaxed seated posture or coming into Shavasana. Ask yourself: “Where am I starting from? What is arising in the present moment?” Then you can ‘investigate with kindness’ the arising sensations, emotions, thoughts, breath quality, as they are present and shifting.

Once you have investigated this for a couple of minutes, choose to let your attention rest on the flow of natural breath or engage a simple pranayama of choice (e.g., add-a-little breath technique (let the inhale get slightly fuller than natural breath flow and relax the breath out on the exhale) or Ujjayi breath, etc.

Consider ‘skillful means’ as you approach your practice. Skillful means is choosing to engage in poses and breathing practices, etc. that serve what is present on any given day. Listening intuitively to how energized versus tired you may be, can both guide your practice choices, as well as nurture your attunement to the ongoing feedback and dialogue that is always occurring on the edge of our attention and/or consciousness.

The Vajra sequence can be found in the graphic below. This sequence can be used for a short practice and/or interwoven near the beginning of a class. It is helpful for waking up the whole body and opening the hips before entering standing poses. In this graphic, the spinal rock sequence is offered as a gentle warm-up before the Vajra sequence.

This is so analog or non-tech, it makes me smile.

To Harbor or release

“Humbly, we are asked to keep the flow real between what is taken in and what is let out. We have only to breathe to remember our place as a living inlet. Experience in, feelings out. Surprise and challenge in, heartache and joy out. In a constant tide, life rushes in, and in constant release, we must let it all run back off. For this is how the earth was made magnificent by the sea and how humankind is carved upright, again and again, by the ocean spirit that sets us free.”

~Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

resources to consider: changing habits, breathing practices for wellness, & healing grief

Here are some resources on: the neuroscience of habit formation and cessation (spoiler alert: It’s not about willpower!), the power of breathing practices to support wellness , and the importance of deep presence when meeting grief.

An excerpt from Proper Breathing Brings Better Health, in Scientific American, By Christophe André on January 15, 2019

MIND UNDER THE INFLUENCE

“Even a rudimentary understanding of physiology helps to explain why controlled breathing can induce relaxation. Everyone knows that emotions affect the body. When you are happy, for instance, the corners of your mouth turn up automatically, and the edges of your eyes crinkle in a characteristic expression. Similarly, when you are feeling calm and safe, at rest, or engaged in a pleasant social exchange, your breathing slows and deepens. You are under the influence of the parasympathetic nervous system, which produces a relaxing effect. Conversely, when you are feeling frightened, in pain, or tense and uncomfortable, your breathing speeds up and becomes shallower. The sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s various reactions to stress, is now activated. Less well known is that the effects also occur in the opposite direction: the state of the body affects emotions. Studies show that when your face smiles, your brain reacts in kind—you experience more pleasant emotions. Breathing, in particular, has a special power over the mind.”

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/proper-breathing-brings-better-health/

Megan Devine, a psychotherapist and creator of Refuge in Grief and author of, It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand, narrates this animation on the importance of presence when grieving.