love is the field

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loveistheField

earlier today i was thinking of a man i’ve loved deeply since the day we met. today is his birthday and even after all this time, i don’t love him any less than the instant i melted into loving him completely. for a moment it felt bittersweet, as if he was “the love of my life” or that love like that is something singular and no longer available to my open heart, soft gaze or tender palms…

then i realized love is not an experience nor was my past lover a place that love was found and lost. love is not a contraction – something to hold onto or release…

love is a field of awareness that expands out to touch all that is – interconnected with everything else…

collected moments of rapture, a particular lover, all serve to touch into a pre-cellular memory of timelessness. they are a keyhole to glimpse into the landscape of the infinite that we so often blind ourselves to by so many distractions, contractions, the naming of things, regurgitation and re-stimulation of past hurts…

i want to be a storybook floor-to ceiling window, a highway to the infinite. i want that any seeker can wander through the broadway of my heart and land in the arms of the beloved, sweetly embraced by the entire cosmos, held unconditionally. whole. complete. loved entirely. viscerally at home.

love is the field. thinking (even for the briefest of moments) that it is lost with my past lover is like saying a mountain is no more because of the displacement of a single grain of sand. i have love. it is what i’m made of, where i come from and where i seek to forever return. heart emoticon

happy birthday beating heart of the collective consciousness. with you i will always remain

ps. i love you

pss. YOU.

YES! You.

,

~ artemisia shine

Go Ahead, Provoke Me!

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Go Ahead, Provoke Me!

“Over time invite and create ever more provocative situations to deliberately trigger the psyche to be disturbed, to be challenged, to feel perhaps overwhelmed in order to strengthen your capacity to remain in the witness.  It’s easy to be peaceful when there’s not provocation. It’s not so easy where there is. Welcome to marriage. Welcome to children. Welcome to your life. Those provocations that are happening externally, are only reflections of our inner lack of clarity, lack of resolution. So, the yogi works internally.” ~Yogarupa Rod Stryker
(Moon & Sun Vinyasa: Mastering the Mind, Awakening the Vital Force, Nov. 15, 2013)

40 Day Journey: 40 Steps For Growth & Inner Freedom
Day 1: August 5, 2014

Trikonasana in marsh sunrise

Sometimes the biggest battle is getting out the door and onto the mat. The early morning dewy marsh air amply rewarded my effort. – Arcata Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary 8:30am

Utthita Trikonasana : Extended Triangle Pose
(oo-TEE-tah trik cone-NAHS-anna)
utthita = extended; tri = three, kona = angle

“The three angles (tri konas in Sanskrit) of a triangle make it one of the stronger and most stable shapes in nature…The triangle pose represents many sacred trinities in our world, such as the trinity of earth, space and heavens or that of birth, life and death. Trikonasana also symbolizes the three gunas, or qualities, that compose our bodies and minds.” (p. 36) Alanna Kaivalya & Arjuna van der Kooij, Myths of the Asanas: The Stories at the Heart of the Yoga Tradition.)

As I was riding my bike to the studio to teach my morning Hatha Flow Class, I was listening to a workshop lecture I attended last year with Yogarupa Rod Stryker. The day before I had been momentarily deeply disturbed by some personal family drama with my son’s father. It was this disturbance that inspired me to proactively choose to take intentional steps in the direction of my own personal growth.

When life is comfortable and free from challenges, it is easy to get complacent in my personal practice and neglect my continued commitment to inner growth. This summer has been far from easy. Life has provided me so many delicious opportunities and reminders to not only return to the grounded space of calm that can view my life from a place of tranquility but also to notice, question and work with the mirror that my external circumstances are providing me. Tantric philosophy states that there is nothing outside my body that does not exist within my body. There is nothing within me that does not exist externally in the world. If I take the view that what is happening in my body is a mirror for what is happening in my life, than I can also see that what is happening in my life is a reflection of what is happening in my psyche. 

Back to my bike ride…

I had just finished a sweet early morning solo yoga practice at the Arcata Marsh and was arriving  at Om Shala Yoga 15 minutes early to meditate before teaching. As I crossed the front door I saw two of my students arriving on bikes and being verbally and physically threatened by a large gentleman who had left his truck in the middle of the street to get out and scream at them over some perceived right-of way indiscretion. This gentleman returned to his truck only to stop and get out 3 more times all the while threatening physical violence and property damage and warning them that he will “remember what their bikes look like.” At that moment I hear Rod Stryker in my ear saying “It’s easy to be peaceful when there’s no provocation.”

We all get provoked. How we handle it at any given moment is our yoga, is the practice of inner asana or posture. Life is challenging. Suffering is a noble truth. The yogi works from within. Regardless of whatever swirling mass of chaos or raucous celebration is present in our lives at any given moment – our ability to drop into the witness is directly proportional to our experience of grounded, calm, ever-present spaciousness and awareness.

I came into the world on fire. I seek not to drown my fire but instead to stabilize and create a pitim (or hearth) for that fire in the sacred temple of my body at the center of my belly. Practicing trikonasana is a way to physically plant our feet firmly in the earth and our awareness in the present moment while opening our hearts to the vastness within us alongside the support of the universe. The top hand reaching to the sky is a reminder to reach into the highest aspects within us as we connect our material self with the broader consciousness of the entire cosmos. The triangle is a messenger that no matter the pressures behind us or in front of us, we can plug into the inherent stability within and reconnect with the truth and beauty that we are.

Provocation is child’s play.
I say bring it on.
It’s just a training camp for the experience of inner divinity.

Just for today, how can you use whatever is provoking you to take one small step back home to yourself?


I’m on a 40 Day Journey for personal growth. I’m taking baby steps. One. At. A. Time. Read more about it and join me here.

 

September 11th, Violence and Love

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September 11th, Violence and Love

lovemakeslifeI was pregnant with my love child just weeks after September 11th. I remember protesting US government violence in the middle east with a swollen belly and a broken heart. I’ve often wondered about the “American” children en utero at that time. How was it for them to grow cells, develop organs, to feel the collective fear, anger, morning and horror of that moment in history? My womb did not protect my son from the chemical warfare of my sympathetic nervous system.

And then I think of all the pregnant mamas and babies living in the world who wake up to the sounds of warfare every morning — for generations. Places where every child born develops alongside that fear, that violence, that despair – except that it is unrelenting. And it’s next-door, or worse it’s where your house and family used to stand.

I seek to uncover the violence, the anger, the repulsion, the fear within me that keeps me from acting in love. This morning I am grateful that my young son is still asleep in his bed. He is sick and it’s 10:00am. He has a warm bed in a quiet neighborhood where he can take the time to recover. We have privilege beyond our own awareness.

“Wanting to reform the world without discovering one’s true self, is like trying to cover the whole world with leather to avoid the pain of walking on stones and thorns…” — Ramana Maharshi

I love you this morning. I love you yesterday. I love you tomorrow, and it starts from within.

pregnantHobbit

2001/2002 – Growin’ a Bodhi Shine in my belly.

Love!

~ artemisia shine

Healing Breath

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Healing Breath

Source: Yoga Journal • Kate Holcombe • August 2012

Try these three simple practices to reduce stress, quiet your mind, and connect to your inner Self.

By Kate Holcombe

healingbreathSized

A few weeks ago, my seven-year-old son, Hayes, told me he was having trouble falling asleep. He said that he was having “many thoughts” at night and couldn’t stop his mind from thinking. I told him about a breathing practice that I had taught his older brother, Calder, a few years earlier, and I suggested that Hayes could try it while lying in bed at night to help him relax and fall asleep. The practice was simple: a few minutes of diaphragmatic breathing followed by a few minutes of consciously and gently extending each exhalation.

“Maybe you’d like to try it?” I said to Hayes. “I think it was helpful for your brother sometimes, and maybe it will help you, too.” Just then, Calder, who had been passing through the room, announced: “You’re wrong, Mom.” I held my breath, wondering if he’d tell Hayes that my advice wasn’t going to work. “It doesn’t help me sometimes,” he said matter-of-factly. “It helps me all the time.”

I was pleasantly stunned. I hadn’t realized that Calder was still using the practice I had taught him three years earlier. As I knelt on the living room floor to teach Hayes the same practice, I was reminded that pPranayama, the fourth of the eight limbs of yoga outlined in Patanjali‘s Yoga Sutra, does not have to be complicated.

Pranayama, which literally means “to extend the vital life force,” or prana, is an incredibly rich practice made up of many breathing techniques that vary in complexity from ones simple enough for a child to do to those appropriate only for advanced practitioners. While the best way to practice pranayama is under the guidance of an experienced teacher, there are simple techniques—such as gentle diaphragmatic breathing and comfortably lengthening the exhalation—that can be used at any time to transform not only your breath but also your state of mind.

In my work as a yoga therapist, I treat people struggling with a variety of issues, including depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, chronic pain, and even life-threatening illness. Time and time again, I’ve seen simple pranayama practices reduce stress and anxiety; promote restful sleep; ease pain; increase attention and focus; and, on a more subtle level, help people connect to a calm, quiet place within so that they experience greater clarity and well-being on every level.

In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali describes pranayama as a process by which you can break your unconscious breathing pattern and make the breath long, easeful, and smooth. Most people’s unconscious breathing patterns are anything but easeful and smooth; they tend to be tense, shallow, and erratic. When we are afraid or hear bad news, we often gasp—inhaling and then holding the breath. These breathing patterns can activate the sympathetic nervous system (often referred to as the “fight or flight response”).

One of the primary reasons that pranayama techniques that foster a long, smooth exhale (like the ones presented here) are so beneficial is because, when practiced correctly, they can support the parasympathetic nervous system and activate what is commonly known as the “relaxation response,” reducing stress and its effects on your body and mind. As a result, your resilience in the face of challenge or adversity increases, and your mind becomes more focused and still.

A Quiet Mind

The eight limbs of yoga outlined in the Yoga Sutra are a path to help you reach a state of Yoga, or focused concentration. But this focused concentration is not the end goal. As Patanjali tells us, the result of reaching this state of attention is that you experience clearer perception and a greater connection with your true Self.

When you’re connected with your true Self, it becomes easier to see what is not your true Self—your mind, body, thoughts, feelings, job, and essentially all of the changing circumstances around you. This discernment allows you to act from a place of the Self, and when you do that, you experience less suffering.

Pranayama is an important tool to get you to this state of more focused concentration, leading you to clearer perception, a greater connection with the Self, and ultimately a happier life. In Yoga Sutra 2.52, Patanjali writes, “As a result [of pranayama], the covering that blocks our own inner light is reduced.” In other words, through the practice of pranayama, you can reduce all of the mental noise—the agitation, distractions, and self-doubt—that prevents you from connecting with your own inner light, your true Self. In this way, pranayama can have a profound effect on your life.

The Practice

Though practice of pranayama is safest and most effective when guided by an experienced teacher who knows your needs and capabilities, there are several simple techniques you can try at home as long as you’re in good health and you don’t push beyond your capacity.

The three breathing practices that follow—relaxed, diaphragmatic breathing; Sitali (or Sitkari) Pranayama; and gentle “extended exhale” breathing—are a good introduction to pranayama. Each supports the parasympathetic nervous system, quiets the mind, and helps to bring about a state of more focused attention. As you continue to practice these techniques over time, you may start to notice when you are unintentionally holding your breath or breathing shallowly. You also may begin to associate patterns of the breath with your moods or states of mind. This self awareness is the first step toward using the practices of pranayama to help shift your patterns and, through regular practice, create positive change in your life.

Try each practice daily for a week and observe how it affects your body, breath, and mind in order to figure out which is best for you. You can do them at just about any time of day, though preferably not immediately following a large meal.

Basic Breath Awareness

This gentle introduction to diaphragmatic breathing teaches you how to breathe more fully and consciously.

Benefits: Quiets and calms the entire nervous system, reducing stress and anxiety and improving self-awareness.

Try it: At least once a day, at any time.

How to: Lie comfortably on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor about hip-distance apart. Place a palm on your abdomen and breathe comfortably for a few moments, noticing the quality of your breath. Does the breath feel tense? strained? uneven? shallow? Simply observe the breath without any judgment. Then gradually begin to make your breathing as relaxed and smooth as possible, introducing a slight pause after each inbreath and outbreath.

Once the breath feels relaxed and comfortable, notice the movement of the body. As you inhale, the abdomen naturally expands; as you exhale, feel the slight contraction of the abdomen. In a gentle way, try to actively expand the abdomen on the inhale and contract the abdomen on the exhale to support the natural movement of the diaphragm and experience the pleasure of giving yourself a full, relaxed breath. Continue the practice for 6 to 12 breaths.

The Cooling Breath

Sitali Pranayama is often translated as “the cooling breath” because the act of drawing the air across the tongue and into the mouth is said to have a cooling and calming effect on the nervous system. To practice Sitali, you need to be able to curl the sides of your tongue inward so that it looks like a straw. The ability to curl the tongue is a genetic trait. If you can’t, try an alternative technique called Sitkari Pranayama, which offers the same effects.

Benefits: Can improve focus; reduce agitation, anger, and anxiety; and pacify excess heat in the system.

Try it: Twice a day, or as needed during stressful times. Sitali and Sitkari Pranayama are particularly supportive when you’re feeling drowsy in the morning or during an afternoon slump when you need to improve your focus.

How to: Sitali Pranayama: Sit comfortably, either in a chair or on the floor, with your shoulders relaxed and your spine naturally erect. Slightly lower the chin, curl the tongue lengthwise, and project it out of the mouth to a comfortable distance. Inhale gently through the “straw” formed by your curled tongue as you slowly lift your chin toward the ceiling, lifting only as far as the neck is comfortable. At the end of the inhalation, with your chin comfortably raised, retract the tongue and close the mouth. Exhale slowly through the nostrils as you gently lower your chin back to a neutral position. Repeat for 8 to 12 breaths.

Sitkari Pranayama: Open the mouth slightly with your tongue just behind the teeth. Inhale slowly through the space between the upper and lower teeth, letting the air wash over your tongue as you raise your chin toward the ceiling. At the end of the inhalation, close the mouth and exhale through the nostrils as you slowly lower your chin back to neutral. Repeat for 8 to 12 breaths.

The Long Exhale

This 1:2 breathing practice, which involves gradually increasing your exhalation until it is twice the length of your inhalation, relaxes the nervous system.

Benefits: Can reduce insomnia, sleep disturbances, and anxiety.

Try it: Before bedtime to help support sleep, in the middle of the night when you’re struggling with insomnia, or at any time of the day to calm stress or anxiety. (In general, it’s best to avoid practicing 1:2 breathing first thing in the morning unless you’re experiencing anxiety. The relaxing effects of the practice tend to make it more difficult to get up and go on with your day.)

How to: Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Place a palm on the abdomen and take a few relaxed breaths, feeling the abdomen expand on the inhalation and gently contract on the exhalation. With your palm on your abdomen, mentally count the length of each inhalation and exhalation for several more breaths. If the inhalation is longer than the exhalation, you can begin to make them the same length over the next few breaths.

Once your inhalation and exhalation are equal, gradually increase the length of your exhalation by 1 to 2 seconds by gently contracting the abdomen. As long as the breath feels smooth and relaxed, continue to gradually increase the exhalation by 1 to 2 seconds once every few breaths. Make sure you experience no strain as the exhalation increases and keep going until your exhalation is up to twice the length of the inhalation, but not beyond. For example, if your inhalation is comfortably 4 seconds, do not increase the length of your exhalation to more than 8 seconds.

Keep in mind that even an exhalation that is only slightly longer than the inhalation can induce a calming effect, so take care that you don’t push yourself beyond your capacity. (If you do, you’ll likely activate the sympathetic nervous system, or stress response, and feel agitated rather than calm.)

If your breath feels uncomfortable or short, or if you’re gasping on the next inhalation, back off to a ratio that is more comfortable for 8 to 12 breaths. Then finish your practice with 6 to 8 natural, relaxed breaths.

Kate Holcombe is the founder and president of the nonprofit Healing Yoga Foundation in San Francisco

Ram Dass: Fierce Grace

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Ram Dass: Fierce Grace

I love this man. This beautiful movie is about Ram Dass’s experiences aging and the radically life changing event of getting “stroked.”

“Healing does not mean going back to the way things were before, but rather of allowing what is now to move us closer to god.” –Ram Dass