Silent Sundays: In Pursuit of Purpose

Today’s Silent Sunday reflects upon Purpose, and those times when one’s sense of that oft-elusive concept has waned or become clouded. To be clear, Purpose-Big-P aligns with Destiny: purpose-little-p corresponds more closely with earthly obligations and decisions that may arise from circumstance. Many of us spend years, even full lifetimes, committed to a purpose: a job to sustain a family, or an ideal born of societal demand. These are valiant, valid pursuits for one’s time on Earth. For the growth and evolution of the Soul, however, Purpose signifies avowal to that which God and the Universe deem yours. 

The seeds of this contemplation first sprouted with the diagnosis of my hip osteoarthritis. My daily activities were curtailed; I wondered about the reality of holding a job when sitting, standing, and walking were seriously compromised. My purpose-little-p at the time was to make it to surgery before full collapse.

And then, the Pandemic: Nearly everyone I know or spoke with felt the stirrings of, “What will I do differently when this is over?” Most of these queries referred to purpose-little-p; some were fraught with the existential uncertainty that often points to the imminent arousal of Purpose-Big-P. But as human beings who adapt, we became accustomed to the ongoing protocols of the Pandemic; subsequently, the drive to ponder purpose or Purpose simmered to a slow, if at all, boil.

Cut to today. For anyone, perhaps illness, injury, family need, or travel has taken you out of your usual routine; perhaps grief or medication has pulled you away from a feeling of connection to the divine and the Universe. Or, as does happen from time to time, perhaps you have reached a personal or professional impasse: Possibilities have fogged over, and the ability to shine a light on a solution has dimmed.

For me, over the course of the past few weeks, I have realized with a powerful punch my tiny place in the grand universal scheme. The pain-filled road to surgery; the weeks of self-focus during rehab; and the unanchored feeling that has accompanied my emergence from surgical pain and meds—all have ushered me to a seat that feels entirely unfamiliar.

More than that: I am left with the sense that I have left my “old life” behind. It would stand to reason, then, that I am embarking on a “new life.” Certainly, most of us can divide our lives into chapters or phases—their delineations are clear, be it in the form of a job, a person, or an impassioned pursuit. Yet, my current condition feels more like a second volume; the previous tome contained particular lessons, growing pains, and emotionally fraught chapters. These new pages seem pre-written with invisible ink: It is the energy of my active participation that will allow their intention to be revealed.

I am feeling the early stages of nervous anticipation: However, with Faith, nerves settle, and anticipation becomes imbued with curiosity and a promise to open to and uphold that which the Universe and the Divine decree for me: my Purpose.

How to trust in that which one has not met, has yet to experience, and initially inspires trepidation? How to feel strong and sure when all that is to come is as yet unrevealed? 

It seems to me to be yet another adventure with Faith. Wherever you have arrived in Life, whatever is going right or terribly wrong: Faith that you are in the place you are meant to be, and Faith that circumstances are exactly as they should be—this is the mindset and Heart-hold that will carry you through, unto the next.

Thus, when you recognize a change in your very vibration—and are uncertain of its significance or outcome—that is the time to double-down on whatever version of Faith has brought you to this point. While you may need to reframe thoughts; shift perspective; adjust the construct or nature of your practices; or—often most challenging—subsume plans or desires to the vast Unknown, you nevertheless continue to have choice. 

Choose courage over crumbling; choose open eyes over head in the sand; choose promise over despair; and, as ever, choose to look to the Universe and the Divine for strength and guidance. Regardless of when or where your path diverges or darkens, Faith in the wisdom present throughout eternity will grace your process.

As such, today’s practice calls for a “dig deep” commitment. Let today be the day that you fully immerse into each moment, throughout the times suggested: Tasks can wait, and mental chatter will dissipate as you spend more time within the folds of the process.

To begin, lie on your back. In order to spark the gritty determination and confidence needed to evolve, stimulate the Third Chakra, or Solar Plexus. As its name implies, this energy center corrals the Sun Energy, radiating power throughout the body and mind. The full posture, Stretch Pose, requires legs and feet 6-12 inches off the floor, with upper body raised to allow the eyes to be at the same level as the feet. Arms are stretched long by the sides, palms up, and Breath of Fire begins. 

If, as you move through this 3-minute challenge, you need a break, lower the head. Or, place one foot on the floor, and lift one leg; switch sides halfway through. After a break, perhaps you will be able to resume the full posture.

After the previous “Stretch Pose,” place both feet on the floor, knees bent, hip width apart. With the arms on the floor, lift the hips and torso up as you inhale; lower down as you exhale. Continue as rapidly as possible for 26 lifts. This move will stabilize the energy stirred in the first exercise, and root you into the goal of discovering Purpose.

Now, help yourself into a seated posture. Extend both arms to the sides, and pull them slightly behind the line of the body, thus opening and stretching the chest and fronts of shoulders. Palms face up as cups, fingers long and together: The thumbs extend up way from the hands. Again, do Breath of Fire with this arm and hand mudra for 3 minutes.

Next, relax and shake out the arms for a moment. Renew your focus on Purpose and your lot in Life. On each hand, curl the index finger into the thumb; the other fingers are together and straight. Bring the left hand in front of the Heart Center (not touching the body), palm down; place the right hand underneath a few inches, palm up. With eyes closed and gazing at the Third Eye, breathe deeply and steadily with this mudra for 7 minutes.

For the final mudra and breath portion, bring the hands in front of the Heart: The backs of the hands touch, fingers pointing down, with palms open to the sides. Rest the hands against the sternum, and close the eyes to gaze at the Third Eye. Remain here, breathing fully and slowly, for another 7 minutes.

When you are done, sit quietly, hands resting (palms down) on the knees. Or, release into Svasana for as long as you like. 

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: (And When They Are Not…)

On this Easter Sunday—a Sunday of all Sundays to submerge into silence—I will not be dwelling in that inner sanctum.

Instead, I will be traveling with friends to a nearby city. There, two of us will receive our COVID-19 vaccines. (The third in our party has already done the deed.)

And I am somewhat torn. Torn, that I will be introducing a “new brew” into my body; torn, that in order to feel one with society, I must do this; and torn, most of all, that what has become a truly sacred time for me must be sacrificed.

Yet, I venture forth. For when one is torn is when one calls out most vehemently for guidance. I do feel the presence of divine accord with my choice: More accurately, I sense the guiding omniscience that led me to this day, with the company I will have. I followed several serendipitous bread crumbs to get to this point: each one seamlessly sprinkled after the next, as if I were barely a part of it.

So, while “torn,” my rend is a small one, and one that can be repaired with resilient faith. On this day, when silence will be had only on the inside, I suggest the following techniques to feel at one with the Divine Universe—centered, guided—even in the midst of whatever fray one must enter.

Each of the following practices may be done individually, or combined. None will garner curious eyes or questions: They may be done at any time, in any situation. What matters most is that you summon your focus; use it to quietly connect with that which you abide as divine.

First, find the breath: As you inhale and exhale through the nose, steady and deepen each intake and release. With your mind’s eye, track the inhale from the First, or Root Chakra (basically, the perineum) all the way up the front cross-section of the spine and through Chakras 2-5, to the Third Eye, or Chakra Six. 

Upon exhale, draw the breath from the Third Eye to the back of the skull, attuning with the pituitary gland: Continue a long, slow exhalation as the breath travels down the back cross-section of the spine, to return to the Root. Breathe in and out with this visualization at least 3 times, more if circumstances allow.

The next piece engages the fingertips. From a reflexology standpoint, when the fingertips are activated, the brain and nervous system receive stimulation. In this sequence, the orderly and repetitive nature of the move helps the nerves to settle and balance. On both hands, touch first the index finger to the thumb; release, and touch middle finger and thumb; release, touch the ring finger to thumb; release, and finally touch pinky and thumb tips together. Continue this pattern, over and over.

If the situation allows, silently chant, “Sa” with the index touch; “Ta” with the middle finger; “Na” on the ring finger; and “Ma” with the pinky. This mantra represents the eternal cycle of Life, and as such, helps one see beyond earthly confines.

Still using the hands, interlace the fingers; leave the thumbs free. With the right thumb, begin to make a tiny, massaging circle, counter-clockwise, in the center of the left palm. The circle is so small that no movement will be perceptible visually: The firm, but slow pressure is detectable only by your sense of the touch. Breathe slowly and completely with the massage of this Heart Point for about 1 minute. Then, with the fingers remaining interlaced, switch sides: Use the left thumb to circle the center of the right palm. Continue for another minute or so. 

Finally, as a closure to whatever combination of moves you have selected—or, as a practice unto itself—sit upright, and draw your attention to the soles of your feet. (Even with shoes on, this visualization is effective.) Inhale long and deep through the nose: Exhale through the mouth to send the full breath down through the torso and legs, and out the soles of the feet. The lips are only ever-so-slightly parted; no observer will notice any change. This breath will shed any unwanted energy that may have entered your system when surrounded by others. Continue for as long as you like.

Happy Sunday… 

Nobody’s Fool: Lessons from Pain, Rehab, and Beyond…

On this April Fool’s Day, I am nearly six weeks into post-operative (hip replacement) rehab. The more-than-3-year journey that led up to this point has taught me many things. When it comes to fitness and exercise, for example, I have learned that so much of what one considers a workout to preserve or bolster health is the fun, often advanced stuff. What is essential for resilience of body and mind, however, is fairly simple, yet nonetheless challenging, especially when one is compromised.

Special note: Although this piece reflects my experience with osteoarthritis and post-surgical rehab, the routine is an efficient, effective alternative practice for anyone short on time; needing a mental or physical boost; or looking for an “off-” or “sick-day” source of circulation and limbering.

Since my mid-40s (I am now 57), my favorite forms of physical activity have been swimming, walking, and kundalini yoga. I considered these to be “softened” versions of what I had done previously: biking, running, dance, and full-body cardio moves, often with weights. And throughout my 30s and early 40s, I was an avid ashtanga yogi: I taught, practiced, studied, and thrived on the power of the fast-paced, acrobatic, contortionist tradition. I will always revere what the form did for my stamina, mental stability, and fluid strength.

But as with so much of what a younger body loves, there comes a time when a reprieve or retooling is necessary. With that admission, I grin a bit, sigh softly, and slightly roll my eyes as I imagine my late father’s satisfaction: Finally, he would be thinking, she has seen the light.

“Moderation in all things…”

That refrain, stated outright and continually, was my dad’s siren song. As an enthusiastic, curious, stubborn young ‘un (and even when not so young), I heard those words as a dampening, strangling threat to my own determination to try everything, and to do it with gusto.

But dang it if Dad was not on to something…

While I can not possibly regret the joy, emotional catharsis, strong muscles, or mood-balancing that extensive, intense workouts provided, I do question the near-obsessiveness that accompanied them. And when my hips tried to call a truce in 2018, I shrugged and assumed that they would be fine, that my ways would prevail, and that we—my hips and I—would find a way to continue on as always we had.

Cut to 2020, and my first desperate need for cortisone, shot straight into the withered, crying hip joints. Even then, I would not quit: Movement had always been my mental and physical sustenance, and pain seemed no reason to doubt that.

But by December 2020, when even the forgiving water of a compassionate pool could not assuage my pain, I knew that my approach had to change. Although it was too late to save my hips, I vowed to be kinder to my body once the hips were replaced. I had a new mission: Move for the mind, move for function, and move with the gratitude that only the threat of immobility can engender.

So, here I am, having stumbled through the first month of post-surgical recovery; recognizing progress, as I simultaneously contend with the ever-worsening pain and dysfunction of the other hip; and deeply considering how I will move forward, and what those moves will look like.

The following practice consists of the techniques and exercises that I have found to be invaluable to recovery. As such, I have realized their place in any day’s routine, for any body, at any age: For hard-core fitness folks, they may seem simplistic; however, to forget the basics is to forget one’s human-ness. Engage with the moves as if they are as vital to your health as a long run, heavy-weight session, or challenging yoga class: They are.

Start seated, on a chair, on the floor, or in bed. Close the eyes, and breathe: Inhale through the nose as you feel the chest rise, and the ribs expand; visualize the descent of the diaphragm and its gentle pressure onto the organs. As you exhale, be conscious of the belly’s retraction and contraction, and of the diaphragm’s slow, steady rise into its nest beneath the ribs. Take 3-5 of these deep, focused breaths.

With the abdominals, lungs, and attention awakened, shift your seat to ensure that you are perched atop the sit-bones: spine and head upright and aligned, shoulders and neck at ease. With the hands on the knees, begin Sufi Grinds: Circle the entire torso to the right, allowing the pelvis to partake of the motion. Inhale as the body circles through the front half of the circle, tipping the pelvis forward; exhale to circle through the back cross-section, tipping the pelvis back. Make 8-15 circles, then reverse directions, moving counter-clockwise, for 8-15 circles.

From there, bring yourself to stand. Taking a cue from qigong, place the hands next to the hips, palms up: Inhale, and arch the spine, pulling the elbows back. Exhale as you flip the hands, moving the backs of the hands forward as you round the spine deeply. When the hands nearly touch in front of the torso, inhale as you turn the palms up again, pull the elbows back, and arch the spine. Repeat for a total of 10 undulations.

Now, extend the arms straight forward from the shoulders, parallel to each other: left palm down, right palm up. Inhale: As you exhale, shift the weight into the heels as you do a slight squat, only enough to feel the bends at the ankle, knee, and groin; simultaneously, the left arm rises 30 degrees, as the right arm moves down 30 degrees. 

As you inhale, straighten the legs, and bring the arms back to neutral, left palm still down, right one facing up. Immediately exhale into the modified squat: This time, the right arm lifts 30 degrees, as the left lowers 30 degrees. Inhale back to neutral. Repeat the squats with alternating arms for a total of 10-15 times.

Still standing, open the side body with focused lateral bends. Again, this variation stems from a qigong move for the Liver and Gall Bladder meridians: These energy channels are associated with the clearing, cleansing energy of Spring. Stand with the right hand a few inches above the left: right palm down, left palm up—imagine holding a ball between the hands in front of you. 

Inhale as you turn from the waist to the right. As you do, the left palm turns up as the left arm straightens up toward the sky; simultaneously, the right palm turns down as the right arm pushes down alongside the hip and thigh. The fingers of the raised, upturned left hand face the right; the fingers of the lowered, palm-down right hand face extend forward. Exhale here.

Inhale long and deep to return the hands to “hold the ball” mode as you turn slowly through center; this time, the left hand is on top (palm down) with the right hand below, palm facing up. Exhale to push the hands into their opposing stretch on the left side: right hand and arm up, fingers pointing to the right; left hand and arm pushing down, fingers pointing forward. Move fluidly back and forth with the breath and movement: Complete 5 stretches on each side.

Next, still standing, bend forward at the waist, so that the torso is perpendicular to the legs: Feel free to bend the knees. Inhale as the left arm swings forward alongside the ear, and the right swings back to the level of the hips; exhale as the right comes forward, and the left swings back. Continue vigorously with powerful breath for 1 minute.

Then, help yourself back to a seated position. If you choose to sit on a chair, sit sideways, so that you can lean back 30 degrees. With the torso at a 30-degree lean back, raise both legs 60 degrees. You may choose to support the legs with the hands; have the hands by the hips; or, for a more intense version, extend the arms straight forward or up alongside the ears. In your selected position, begin Breath of Fire: rapid, equal inhales and exhales through the nose, with enough vigor to pump the belly. Continue for 1 minute. 

Special note: If you can not raise both legs, do one at a time, Or, lift both legs, but let them bend at the knees. Either option will modify and ease the posture.

Now, gently resettle into seated mode, legs long and straight in front of you. If necessary, place a pillow or bolster underneath your bottom and/or knees. Interlace the hands behind your back, lengthen through the elbows to straighten the arms, and raise the arms up and away from the back. With the arms behind, fingers interlaced, and arms raised, ease into a forward bend: Keep the spine long; think of bringing the chest toward the feet, rather than the head toward the knees. Find your personal place of stretch, close the eyes, and breathe in and out through the nose: Complete 8 full breaths.

Finally, resume your favorite seated posture. Begin alternate nostril breathing: With the right thumb closing the right nostril, breathe in through the left nostril; block the left with whichever finger of the right hand feels natural, and exhale through the right. Then, inhale through right, close the right, and exhale through the left. Continue in this manner for 11 full rounds, finishing with an exhale through the left nostril.

Close your session in whatever way your energy dictates. Perhaps you feel inspired to move more: Do your thing! 

Or, if you feel pleasantly still and seek to deepen the state, sit quietly, hands on knees, palms up, eyes closed: Focus on the sound and sensation of your breath. Finally, if you prefer to enter Svasana, lie on your back, arms a few inches from your sides, palms up, and rest. Whether seated or supine, enjoy the peace for as long as you like.

Silent Sundays: Empty Space, Empty Breath

In recent months, I have watched more—and more varied—DVDs than ever before: First came the viewing uptick due to COVID lockdown and subsequent restrictions; then, arthritis limited my outings and overall mobility. I read, meditated, wrote, visited with neighbors (properly distanced and masked, of course), and became more comfortable with talking on the phone at length. But my favorite way to cope with limited activity has been to explore diverse genres of television and cinema.

I became particularly enthralled with programs that centered around the cultural and culinary adventures of chefs: Vivian Howard (“A Chef’s Life,” on PBS) and Anthony Bourdain (RIP: “No Reservations,” on Travel Channel) have made multiple repeat appearances in my living room. There, I have been granted admission to worlds near and far: from the American South—Eastern North Carolina and its neighbors—to the more exotic lands of Asia and the Middle East.

An unexpected theme arose, and it yielded an even more unexpected relationship to my pranayama and meditation practices: That theme is “empty space.” In one of Howard’s segments, she instructs an inexperienced kitchen helper on the use of “negative space” in the plating of food. In Bourdain’s lesson on Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), he learns the importance of not only selection and positioning, but of the space left unoccupied around the floral construct.

This idea of untouched space—whether it be deemed “empty,” “negative,” “white,” or “dead”—forms an integral part of most artistic traditions: photography, painting, architecture, etc. Where there are objects, there is space; where there is subject, there is the field in which it sits. And in that field lies the opportunity for emptiness and the promises it holds.

As I began to contemplate this aspect of space, one thing became clear: I was not—could not—and likely will not ever be comfortable with the term “dead space.” To me, the space that surrounds and mysteriously exalts a subject is clearly alive with its own vibration and meaning; to me, that is the opposite of “dead.” When I think of space and its role when left vacant, I prefer the phrase “empty space.”

And this term holds an inherent correspondence with my practice. In pranayama, the breath when held out often is referred to as “empty breath.” Thus, I could not help but consider Empty Space and its possible relation to Empty Breath. Both ironically yield a fullness unfound in the more obvious subjects of attention: form and breathing, respectively.

When one considers a favorite, famous, or new painting, for example, the eye is drawn to the person, place, thing, or abstraction represented through medium, stroke, and color. Upon extended viewing, however, one begins to explore the corners, the pockets, and the seemingly inexplicable swaths of “empty” canvas. It does not take long to recognize the balance that these voids establish in conjunction with the occupied space. Further, the Empty Space seems to act as a throne for the subject-king: That which is evident is uplifted by that which is not.

The breath, too, when stilled, reveals secrets generally not experienced during the active phases of respiration. In the briefest, newest moment of sustaining Empty Breath is the best chance to experience an integral aim of meditation: absence of thought and realization of pure essence. As one breathes in, the mind is inevitably attached to the process: While one may not be thinking of anything specifically, the mind’s sensory engine tracks the intake of air. And upon exhalation, the mind acknowledges the relief of release. 

But for the almost imperceptible moment when the breath ceases to be drawn in, the mind yields to “emptiness,” to the value of void, to the truest expression of Life: the consciousness of the Universe, without the input of one’s earthbound mind. And the same fleeting sense of Truth and Being occurs as the flip switches from exhalation to retention of No-breath: With the breath out, that light of Nothingness—which paradoxically is the essence of Everything—flickers with a brilliance beyond brightness. 

And then it is gone.

But the smallest iota of a nanosecond is all that it takes to feel certain of the power of all that we can not see. And in the surety of that Empty Space lies the potential—and yearning—for entering into its expanded essence. And this is perhaps the unspoken—or perhaps unimagined—reason to practice that which draws you closer to divine and universal connection. Typically, when one thinks of connection, it is to a person, an idea, or a feeling: Even when considering union or communication with God or the Universe, one may retain a sense of “me and It,” strongly connected, but nonetheless discrete.

Yet, Empty Breath provides the portal to the possibility of the full expression of connectivity. In that mode, there is no distinction between Breather, Breath, and No-Breath: There is but the boundless expanse of Infinity and its home in Eternity. When touched, however briefly, it reveals that which pulls us through this rough, great, gorgeous, treacherous trek called Life. In Emptiness, we find the Whole of it all.

So, with this concept at work in the conscious mind on this Silent Sunday, give yourself 15 minutes (give or take) to explore the top and bottom of breath: the suspension of a deep and completed inhale; followed by the retention of a long, steady, full exhale. As always, your mind and body will be more amenable to the fruit of this practice after a few minutes of spinal warm-ups and full-body shaking or tapping. 

Once you have released the muscular tension that can inhibit breath and physical stillness, find your preferred seated posture for meditation. Relax the hands into the lap, palms up, one hand resting in the nest of the other, thumb tips touching. Eyes are closed and intently focused on the Third Eye: Inhale through the nose, and exhale through the nose, without pause or over-effort. Breathe peacefully, but with focus, steadiness, and depth. Continue this preparatory breath for 1 minute.

Then, bring the hands to the knees: Place the left hand palm down, resting easily on the knee or thigh; right hand is palm up, resting contentedly. The eyes remain closed and gazing to the Third Eye as you breathe in deeply through the nose, and, without pause, exhale slowly and steadily through open, rounded lips. Repeat for a total of 3 breaths.

Now, bring the hands to the root of the thighs, and settle them, palms up, into the crease there. Allow the fingers to relax into whatever form they do: This is a mudra of reception—to energy, to possibility, to Truth. With the eyes continuing their gaze upon the Third Eye, inhale through the nose: Keep the breath aloft, and “watch” the space, the form, the elements that flicker through your inner field of vision and awareness as you suspend the breath. Note any shift from the first moment of observation to that which develops over the course of the next 2 or 3 seconds. Then, slowly, consciously begin the exhale through the nose.

At the end of your complete exhale, activate the same subtle sense of observation as you float on Empty Breath. Again, the miniscule glimmer of  glowing Emptiness that you experience upon the first inkling of No-breath may quickly scamper out of reach. Make no attempt to recapture it: Simply acknowledge that it graced your awareness.

Continue this pattern of inhale/Empty Breath; exhale/Empty Breath, with focused attention to the No-breath phase, for up to 11 minutes. Then, resume natural breathing, either seated or settled into Svasana.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Divinity Over Division

By nature, the physical human body is polarized, as demonstrated by our control center: The brain itself is comprised of two hemispheres, each connected to the opposite side of the body. What can this set-up be about? Why is the seat of our earthly existence divided in half? Why is each half said to represent seemingly opposed sets of traits—i.e., masculine/feminine, logical/emotional?

These polarities further manifest in respiration. Each breath we take seemingly occurs through two nostrils operating in unison: However, when one moves to alternate nostril breathing by sealing the aperture of one nostril to breathe through the other, it becomes apparent that at any given moment, one nostril dominates the inhale and exhale. When the right side is a bit stuffed, the left side—the moon, or feminine side—likely is clear, breath flowing easily and steadily. When the left is full, the sun/masculine side of the right dominates our breath. Thus, what appears to be equal, steady breathing when inhaling and exhaling through both nostrils often is a favored breath of one nostril over the other.

This illusory unity often disguises the polarities of Life. In the current state of our global society, polarities and the illusion of unity abound. Whereas the world has experienced the public health crisis of the coronavirus in unison, polarities inevitably developed and permeated the brief period of One World/One Cause. 

Just as the virus swept in and leveled our everyday lives in the first half of 2020, racial tensions erupted. In the midst of a unifying global concern, the ever-present disease of racial divide reached a fever pitch. Then, as voices raised louder and louder over the ongoing injustice of racism, our focus turned to the newest divide wreaked by COVID: mask or no mask, touch or no touch, gatherings or no gatherings.

As factions began to develop with regard to protocols and precautions, individuals and social groups—families, even—separated into Mask-wearers and Non-compliers. Under the appearance of one overarching concern—COVID—polarities persisted.

And now, with the advent of a vaccine, yet another polarization occurs. Friends and families, workplaces, and social events are beginning to divide with regard to who has been vaccinated, and who has not. There is a faint, but ever-increasing odor of judgment entering the fray: If one has not been vaccinated, questions and doubts follow. 

I, for example, am currently ineligible to receive the vaccine at this time. Although part of me smiles inwardly at the irony of being “too  young and too healthy” to obtain the shot, the greater part of me feels mildly threatened: not by the virus, but by those who have had the vaccine. A tone of superiority and righteousness sounds from some who have had the shot; suspicion begins to rise toward those who have not been vaccinated.

Is polarity necessary? Can we as human beings on Planet eEarth ever hope—should we even try—to unify? If our human bodies are built upon two discrete hemispheres of neural pathways, why do we think that Unity should be a goal? Perhaps the divisiveness upon which we were formed exists for a reason: Perhaps the opposing forces and ideologies that we encounter in Nature, in cultures, in beliefs, etc., are exactly the way this earthly dimension is meant to be.

I am, however, deeply uneasy with the thought that racial, religious, gender, and more divides could be intrinsically “correct” or “on purpose”: Such a construct has, does, and always will lead to mistrust, unkindness, and all too often, violence. Yet, in confronting polarities and divides, we challenge that construct: Perhaps the act of rejecting discrimination and segregation is, in fact, ever so slowly altering not only social outlooks, but the very matter of our brains. What if, without knowing it, we are actually evolving the duality of our minds? What if, one day, through centuries of seeking Union, we do become beings who thrive on Unity, versus Polarity?

Or, is the ever-swinging pendulum of flux and change an eternal constant? Are we doomed to forever take sides and seek sovereignty over those with whom we disagree or who look different?

I believe, now more than ever, that the surest way to move toward Peace as the pervasive mode (versus strife as the set point) is to reach outside of our human vessel body—outside of this energetic realm—toward Union with the dimension of the Divine. Certainly, this is the root of most religions and spiritual philosophies that seek to connect with Higher Powers and creative forces. Yoga, for example, as has become commonly known, means “union.” 

And yet we forget in our daily encounters with various socio-cultural and physical polarities that Union may not pertain to “unity” here on Earth, in this particular dimension of energy. To override —or at least soften or diffuse—earthly polarities may be a factor of how consistently and profoundly one can work toward Union with divine energies outside of this realm.

To that end, this Silent Sunday offers a short physical practice designed to open bodily channels of divine communication (e.g., prayer, meditation), followed by a simple, but highly focused mantra with mudra. 

To begin, come into your preferred seated posture for meditation. With the spine long, upright, and relaxed, bring the hands to the knees for a basic spinal flex: Inhale as the spine extends, arching forward to open the chest and shoulders; exhale to flex, or round the spine, stretching and opening the back body. Allow the pelvis to partake of the action: It tips forward upon extending the spine, and tilts back as the spine flexes.Keep the head stable, so that it does not flip up and down with the spinal movement. Eyes are closed, focused on the Third Eye: This drishti (focal point) acts as a beacon to guide the kundalini energy from the lower chakras to the upper. Continue for 3 minutes.

With the hands remaining on the knees, begin Sufi Grinds: Circle the entire torso in large clockwise circles, allowing the pelvis to tip forward as your circle through the front space, and backward as you round and circle into the back half of the circle. Inhale as you circle forward; exhale into the back space. Continue for 1 minute, then reverse directions (circling to the left, or counter-clockwise) for 1 more minute.

Now, sit quietly for a minute or so; feel the ease and opening throughout the torso, and the steady, relaxed nature of deep inhales and exhales through the nose. When you are ready, bend the arms at the elbows, so that the upper arms rest against the rib cage: The forearms extend straight up, with the palms open and facing forward. Keep the fingers straight up and apart, with the upper arms snug against the body; then, begin to make small U shapes with the hands. (The forearm will move, too, but try to think of the hands moving alone.) Inhale as the hands move down, out, and up; exhale as they come back—down, in, and up. As the hands move back in toward the center line of the body, keep them from touching each other. Move fairly rapidly for 1 minute.

Next, with the hands and arms maintaining their shape, begin to circle the forearms in outward-moving circles: The right arm and hand move clockwise; the left moves counter-clockwise. This time, as the hands circle back in toward the center, touch the thumb tips together briefly: They simply brush or kiss each other quickly, and then move on. The breath is powerful, but quick, almost a Breath of Fire through the nose: Inhale as the hands circle out; exhale as they circle in toward center. Continue for 1 minute.

Then, extend both arms straight forward at shoulder level, parallel to each other: The fingers are together on each hand; the right palm faces up, the left down. Rapidly begin to alternate the arms moving up and down: As the left arm moves up 4-6 inches, the right move down 4-6 inches. They seesaw to create an energetic pump in the magnetic field of chakras 3, 4, and 5. Inhale as the left moves up and the right down; exhale as the right comes up and the left goes down. Keep the arms strong, and move quickly and vigorously for 3 minutes.

When you have finished, sit quietly again: Place the hands on the knees, palms down. Breathe deeply and steadily as you feel the energy within. Contemplate the physical sensations, and wander toward an acknowledgment that they are but one facet of You as a human being. On the vibrations you have created, float toward an expanded sense of Self: In truth, your essence is, was, and always will be one with Universe.

To underscore this realization in your psyche and spirit, bring the arms to shoulder level, and bend them at the elbows: The forearms are perpendicular to the upper arms, and parallel to the floor (“genie arms”). The right hand hovers a few inches above the left; both palms face down. With this mudra, chant the mantra, “Om So Hum.” The words reflect oneness with the Universe: As you chant the Sanskrit that translates to “I am that,” your entire being becomes imbued with the eternal truth that each of us is one with—is in union with—the Universe. As you chant (aloud, whispered, or silently), polarity dissipates, and universal unity descends, transcends, and ascends—the energy of this union spirals within and without, continually and eternally. Chant with the mudra for 11 minutes.

Happy Sunday…

 

Silent Sundays: Revisit Peace

On any given day, if most of us were asked to define “peace,” or to describe what “peace” means to us, some likely responses might be: 

Absence of war

Inner calm

Truce

Emotional stability

All desires or needs met

Yet yesterday, a friend offered a new perspective on Peace. Some background: This friend, “L.,” teaches social policy and is is actively involved in Christian-Jewish relations: In particular, she is drawn to and has led multiple student groups to Israel. There, her aim is to dispel some of the stereotypes and misguided notions that many Christians may have with regard to Israel and its Jews. Primarily, her aim is to show that both sides of any given story have some validity, somewhere, at some point in time. Certainly, she has been immersed in a region and a topic that has spurred her to consider not only the meaning of, but how to achieve Peace.

After one of her trips to Israel, she presented me with a lovely gift. At a market in Jerusalem, she had found a beautiful plaque with but one word: Shalom. From the City of Peace, she had returned with a reminder of Peace. The plaque hangs on my door to this day.

Cut to my recent bout with post-surgical swelling. As previous posts have revealed, I have tried everything—doctors orders, esoteric healing techniques, prayer—to alleviate the condition. 

To no avail…

As is her kind-hearted wont, L. had taken my struggle into her heart as part of her morning prayer sessions with her husband. Knowing this, I felt a supportive strength that I felt would undergird my own healing rituals: However, as I described to L. yesterday, the right words with which to frame my intent have eluded me. Sanskrit and Gurmukhi yoga mantras calm me, but seem to have no bearing on my physical concern. My supplications in English yield words or phrases that feel trite, or yield no intuitively “correct” resonance. 

As my frustration to discern how and with what to address the swelling grew over the course of the past week, I learned yesterday that L. had begun to center her prayers on Peace. She had been spurred by seeing her gifted plaque on my door: She revisited the meaning of Shalom—and of Peace from a biblical perspective—and discovered its original, intended meaning.

Peace in that regard refers to wholeness, to a centered, aligned union with Spirit. Peace is a state of perfect balance, of harmony. Hearing this, I immediately recognized its inherent value to my situation: Of course Peace would be the antidote to my body’s clear state of imbalance. And although I have addressed this over-saturation of the Water element in my physical body, I did not connect it to the concept of true Peace.

After our conversation, I realized that to pray for the draining of fluid, to ask that it be flushed from my system, signals my distress and dissatisfaction with my body. Rather, I decided to approach the healing from a Heart-centered place: To usher in Peace, the Heart must be open. To regain systemic balance—to instill the perfect wholeness of Peace within—I must first offer the Heart’s love (which in my mind, is born of and ultimately one with God’s Love and Grace).

To that end, I have revamped that which goes into my thoughts and ears; I have shed what I think I need, in favor of what will be given according to God and the timing of the Universe. I now fill my space with sounds and music designed to resonate with the Heart Center; and my prayers and meditations center on coming into alignment with Spirit.

Further, I find this to be a profound lesson in Faith and Healing: Both require ongoing patience and fine-tuning; in order to progress and evolve, both require attitudinal exploration and adjustment. And these continual reassessments extend to all aspects of the living of a spiritual life in this earthly realm, which often can seem antithetical, if not downright inhospitable to spiritual development. 

Today’s Silent Sunday, then, is more about helping the Heart call to and welcome Peace: in my case, Peace for healing, Peace to promote physiological and spiritual alignment. The following short practice, though, is designed to address any situation wherein the ego may have usurped the Heart. Whether your personal trial is professional, psychological, socio-political, financial, or spiritual, to center within the Heart will lead you toward the truth of your particular matter: Once the True Way has been revealed, you can begin to move forward with divine guidance.

The practice is short and sweet. Begin standing. Bring both hands to the Heart Center in Prayer Mudra (the classic palm to palm gesture). With eyes closed and gazing at the Third Eye, give yourself a full minute of deep breathing and grounding in the energy of the Heart: As you press the palms firmly together, simultaneously press the edges of the thumbs into the sternum. Give yourself a full minute of this entry into Heart energy: Contemplate the circumstance to be addressed, and commit to the call for Peace. Think not of the negative aspects that drew you to remedy a situation; focus solely on the opening of the Heart.

Still standing, bring your hands behind you, interlacing the fingers. (You may slightly open the eyes to aid balance.) Inhale as you stretch the arms up and away from the body, slightly arching the spine to stretch through the chest; exhale to bend the knees into a small squat as the arms relax down toward the buttocks. Continue this inhale to rise and open the Heart Center, exhale to gently squat and relax the arms behind you, for 3 minutes.

Now, come into a seated position on the floor or a chair. Ensure that the spine is upright and long, and that you feel balanced atop the sit bones: As the body is aligned, it makes way for the energetic alignment of Peace. Here, with eyes closed and gazing at the Third Eye, once again interlace the fingers, and bring them to the level of the Throat Chakra, palms open and facing down. Inhale, then exhale and forcefully press the interlaced hands down to the Navel Center. Inhale and exhale powerfully through the nose as you lift the hands to throat level and press down to the level of the navel, respectively. Find a steady, fairly rapid pace, and continue to energize the Heart’s magnetic field for 3 minutes.

Next, with your eyes remaining closed, return your focus to that which you seek to remedy. Realign your thoughts with the idea of Peace, of wholeness, of the Heart’s openness to the presence of Peace. Extend both arms straight up, and then open them into a V: Each arm should be at a 60-degree angle from the body. Crook the wrists, so that the palms face up as much as possible, the fingers of each hand pointing out to the sides. In this full-body mudra, begin Breath of Fire, igniting the power of Peace and its partnership with the Heart. Continue for 3 minutes.

Finally, return the hands to the Heart Center. Create Lotus Mudra: From Prayer Mudra, separate the palms while keeping the edges of the thumbs together, and the edges of the pinkies together. The other fingers are straight, with some space between them. As you inhale, draw the essence of Peace into the awaiting vessel of your hands; exhale, and guide it into the Heart. Continue to breathe deeply and steadily through the nose for 3 minutes.

When you have finished, feel free to sit quietly, hands resting palms down on the knees. Or, if you prefer, take Svasana for as long as you like.

Happy Sunday… 

Silent Sundays: Water, Water–Part 2: “But” Check

In last week’s Silent Sunday, I described the persistent edema (swelling) of my post-surgical leg: From thigh to knee to ankle, through the entire foot, the swollen limb has been aesthetically disconcerting and extremely uncomfortable. “Pain” is not entirely appropriate to describe the sensation of the tightly encased sausage that is now my leg; however, “insidious discomfort” aptly reflects the state of my leg… and my thoughts about it.

For today’s writing, I revisit the treatment that I created last week. After a week of noting my response to queries about my healing, I decided that both my attitude and last week’s therapeutic routine needed some tinkering. Throughout the week, I would answer the question of, “How are you doing?” or, “Are you making progress?” with a pause; then an affirmation of steps forward; followed immediately with a “but…” That “but” led into the description of the edema that would not quit. I found that my focus was more on the negative, i.e., incessant swelling, than the overall positive and real demonstrations of progress.

As I thought about the way in which I responded, I realized that my one-pointedness with regard to the edema may well be the thing that is preventing the full release of fluid. I was holding on to my discomfort and disappointment in a way that usurped the wonder of a new hip. Instead of accepting and encouraging the swelling and its drainage, respectively, I felt beleaguered and betrayed by its refusal to abate.

I do believe that each aspect of the original treatment that I created last week is beneficial. My demeanor around it, however, either negated or hampered its full effect. To remedy that, I have vowed to eliminate the “but” when asked about my recovery: From here on out, the answer will contain no reference to the edema (unless specifically asked).

Further, I have redesigned the routine itself to include a more developed pranayama; an essential oil blend to aid the goal of moving fluid; and an intense cleansing and energizing portion. Anything that may have appealed to you from last week’s suggestions certainly has its place in this new version: for example, color visualization and therapeutic sound. Keep the pieces that resonate with you, or try today’s variation as a brand new routine unto itself.

Special note: Although the following treatment arises out of my need to eliminate post-surgical fluid retention in the leg, the intricate pranayama and enlivening core exercise are profoundly effective means to center and refresh. If you are on your feet a lot, or conversely, sit for most of the day, today’s offering provides a full recharge.

First, I created an oil elixir that I applied to both legs and feet before embarking on the practice. Although I typically use only jojoba oil as a carrier for essentials, I for some reason intuited the need for a carrier blend: My base consists of sweet almond, Vitamin E, and jojoba oils. Roughly, I used 3 parts jojoba, to 2 parts almond, and 1 part Vitamin E.

For the healing essentials, I chose cypress, geranium, rosemary, and lavender. My first choice would have been Juniper Berry (instead of Cypress), but they offer similar effects: Cedarwood also would be a fine substitute. Feel free to select according to intuition and your nose’s preference. 

Once the therapeutic blend has been absorbed (the Vitamin E and Almond oils need that time; jojoba, with its natural likeness to human sebum, absorbs almost immediately), position yourself on your back. Legs and feet should be elevated high enough to be clearly above the level of the heart. Cover yourself if that feels right to you.

Now, once again employing Varun Mudra on each hand—pinky finger held down into the palm by the thumb—position your hands, so that the three available fingers of the left hand (middle, ring, and pinky) line up and lie against the 3 free fingers of the right hand. Rest both hands where they naturally fall on your belly. Close your eyes, and begin the following pranayama pattern:

Ujjayi breath: 6 rounds, deeply inhaling and exhaling through the nose; the tongue rests down, away from the roof of the mouth, so that the throat gateway is fully open.

U-breath: This means that you will breath in through the mouth; out through the nose; in through the nose; and out through the mouth. For the first inhale, curl the tongue back toward the throat, touching the tip to the rear roof; breathe in through slightly parted lips. 

Keep the tongue in place as you exhale through the nose. Then, breathe in through the nose, ujjayi-style, and out through the mouth: With lips in an O shape, exhale a long, steady “whoosh.”

Repeat the U-breath 3 times.

Now, do 1 ujjayi, followed by 1 full U-breath. Repeat for a total of 6 rounds.

Next, keep Varun Mudra, but leave the left hand resting on your torso; the right hand comes to the nose. Use the right index finger to close the right nostril: Breathe in and out through the left nostril 3 times. Breathe slowly, deeply, and steadily. Change hands, closing the left nostril, and repeat 3 breaths in and out through the right nostril.

To continue, bring the left palm to rest atop the belly button; release the mudra. Bring the right hand (without Varun Mudra) to the nose: Use the right thumb to block the right nostril; breathe in through the left. Close the left with the right ring finger; exhale through the right. Inhale through the right; then block the right to exhale through the left. Repeat Nadi Sodhana for a total of 3 rounds.

Finish with one more round of the opening pattern: 1 ujjayi, followed by 1 full U-breath.

Let both hands rest on the navel, one atop the other. Rest for a moment, allowing the breath to steady and find its natural flow.

Now, bring both legs to 90 degrees. In my case, I had to use a pillow to bolster my hips, as well as hold my legs steady. If you need to accommodate any limitations, do so. Like me, you may find that after the first round, you will not need to use support.

With the legs at 90 degrees, begin Breath of Fire. Aim for 26 of these rapid, belly-bouncing breaths through the nose. Then take a brief break, keeping the legs up.

For Round Two, raise both arms straight up from the shoulders: You will resemble an upside-down bug. Again, Breath of Fire, this time for 30-40 pulsing breaths.

Relax the arms down, resting about 6 inches away from the body on each side, palms down. Repeat Breath of Fire: Aim for 10-20 more breaths than the last round.

For the final round of this purifying, energizing, strengthening set, interlace the fingers behind the neck. Give your all to Breath of Fire for at least 50 breaths.

When you are done, slowly lower the legs back onto your elevated support. If possible, ease the feet down off of the elevation, knees bent, to lift the hips either all the way or as much as you can toward Bridge Pose. Breathe deeply in whatever position you can attain.

Then, with your legs either elevated or resting down at the level of the heart, enter Svasana. Remain here for as long as feels right to you.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Water, Water, Everywhere

When my best friend’s daughter was very young, she wrote a story that featured a character based on me: “Starly Robinson, the Water Droplet.”  Little did the child know that she had pinpointed my elemental and astrological essence. My sign is Cancer, a water sign; and I do tend toward “watery” traits—physical fluidity, emotional sensitivity, intuitiveness, etc. Additionally, I gravitate toward Nature’s water, and swimming soothes my soul. 

While these tendencies contribute to my overall ability to flow with Life, an imbalance in the system can result in decidedly challenging moods and outlooks. Recently, however, I have been wrangling with the clear and disconcerting result of surgery: edema. This fluid retention is the Water element run amok: The appearance and sensation of the swelling are yet another challenge for my psyche and physiology. 

Today’s practice hones in on Water and its inherent quality of flow. Whether you wish to address bloating or edema (or the opposite: dryness in the body); or a feeling of “stuckness” or disconnection (or, conversely, over-sensitivity), the following routine will help to restore balance to the emotional and physical fluid systems. Included will be the use of qigong, mudra, sound, pranayama and visualization. Below is the recording I used during the meditation:

The initial movement, based on Bear Swing in qigong, may be done standing or seated (floor or chair): If using a chair, be sure that it is armless. Moving from the waist,  arms hanging loosely, gently twist to the right; without a break, swing through center to the left. The arms will respond naturally to the weight shift and momentum: Allow them to flap lightly against the body, front and back, as you swing.

This move eases the lower back into a more supple state. Because the Bladder meridian flows through the entire back body, attention to the back is crucial when working with Water.

Special note: If twisting is contraindicated for you, you may proceed to the next move. Or, as I do, move slowly and gingerly: Hip replacement surgery precautions advise against twisting; however, I find that this gentle, flowing move releases tension and aids digestion. Be mindful of your stance, and keep the hips facing forward and still.

Next, attend more fully to the back. Remain in your chosen position (or change, if you need to): Begin an exaggerated, slow version of spinal flex; let the arms flow with the movement. Inhale to softly arch the entire spine as the arms drift behind you, palms facing forward; exhale to completely round the spine, drop the head, and float the arms forward, backs fo the hands moving toward each other at hip level. Continue for 1 minute.

Now, if you are not already seated, come to the floor (or bed or couch). Extend the legs straight in front of you. For this subtle, yet strong move, I have combined two physical therapy moves for post-hip replacement surgery, with the knowledge that one of them is a kundalini move for detoxification. The two movements—heel pumps (also the detox exercise) and thigh presses—help to move fluid from the feet and ankles; and stretch the hamstrings while activating the quadriceps, respectively.

First, with long legs in front, alternately flex and point the feet (“heel pumps”). The ankles will quickly respond, even if full of fluid. After 10-20 pumps, pause: Inhale, then exhale and engage the thighs by pressing the backs of the knees down into the ground. Hole the empty breath and muscle activation for 3 counts. Then release to repeat up to 10 times.

Now put both pieces together: Inhale to point the feet (simultaneously); exhale to flex the foot and press the backs of the knees down, pausing for 3 counts. Repeat 10 times.

The preceding warm-up prepares the Bladder and Kidney meridians—the Water element—to receive the benefits of the following meditation. To prepare, build an elevated support for your feet and legs; allow the lift to be about 1 foot high, and be sure to have some bolstering behind the knees.

Next, turn on the provided sound source. Settle into a supine position, legs and feet elevated, the sound resonating around you. On both hands, create Varun Mudra; it is a variation of Budhi Mudra. Whereas Budhi Mudra touches the pinky and thumb tips; Varun Mudra, holds the pinky down with the thumb. Budhi addresses low water levels in the body (and the corresponding psychological traits); Varun tends to fluid retention and “watery” characteristics.

Thus, with Varun Mudra engaged (pinky held into palm with thumb on each hand), rest pinky sides of the hands on their respective groin (the crevice where the belly meets the leg when lying down). Set the scene for the meditative visualization by conjuring a shade of black or blue (Water’s associated colors). With mudra placed, begin Ujjayi breathing: in and out through the nose with an open throat (tongue dropped down from roof of mouth); the breath’s sound should be steady and audible. As you breathe in, paint your selected color around your entire body; as you exhale, allow it to imbue within. Continue for 2 or 3 minutes

Now that you are swathed and immersed in a sea of blue (or black), focus on the area of your body where fluid has collected: Inhale to connect with spot; exhale to visualize the lowering level and drainage of the fluid. Be sure to continue deep, complete Ujjayi breath for another 2-3 minutes. 

Then, allow the breath to seek its natural rhythm. Breathe into the blueness, still holding the mudra. At some point, when it feels right to you, release the mudra and place the arms and hands on the ground, palms up, for Svasana. Maintain the elevated supports, and allow the breath to resume its natural flow. Remain here through the end of the musical sound.

Happy Sunday… 

And The Evolution Continues…

The following piece is specifically intended for my monthly contribution to the gym I attend (where I have not been since early December!). In response to a photo on the gym’s Facebook page, I realized that my intense struggle with hip arthritis and the current recovery from my first hip replacement have resulted in a significant change in my outlook on movement and health.

Special note: Because this post leans heavily to the side of personal observation and insight, I here include a previous practice that reflects the theme of today’s writing. Thus, a reader may choose to try the routine before, after, or instead of reading the entire following discussion.

https://everythingelsa.blog/2021/02/21/silent-sundays-fill-with-what-you-will/

Now, back to the aforementioned photo, which read: “Exercise is a celebration of what you can do, not a punishment for what you ate.” Because these words crossed my screen at a time when I am homebound and tethered to a walker on which I carry a “reacher;’ unable to bend forward past the waist; and enduring extreme swelling in leg and foot, I reacted with a visceral power that surprised me.

If one were to cut off the end of the quote (i.e., “… for what you ate”), the statement certainly has applied to me in the past. As much as I cherish and am elevated by the true joy of movement, I also know that I sometimes would beat myself into submission through physical activity: I ran, jumped, lifted, danced, and shook away frantic anxiety, anger, or fear. When at a loss for what to do or where to turn, exercise was a trusty battle partner—one that I would send in to destroy negativity, but ultimately would bring harm to my body.

For the past 15-20 years, I have been essentially free from that mindset. Yet, when COVID struck at just about this time last year (March 2020), I became very anxious—despairing, even—over the loss of access to a pool. At that time, however, I was still able to take long walks and, despite the pain after each outing, I committed myself to 45-minute walks almost every day. 

That turned out to be the precisely wrong thing for my already deteriorating hips.

Cut to September 2020: Increasing pain and lessening mobility reduced the walks to 15-20 minutes.

By November, they were officially off the activity list. December was the turning point of no return: Most movement that involved placing weight on my legs, save for errands, was eliminated; only Pilates and kundalini yoga remained accessible to my body.

And then: surgery on February 19, 2021.

The recent days of early recovery and rehab have been eye-opening. At first, I worried that my usual vitality would send me through the roof: How would I expend pent-up energy, both physical and psychological? But the extreme state of a body that has been hammered and sawed upon (and filled with drugs) inherently diminished my fervent need to bounce around.

What was crucial to me, however, was the need to maintain circulation (to help with swelling and digestion) and overall positivity. Additionally, I learned that both anesthesia and the prescribed oxycodone place significant strain on the lungs. Thus, I began to create short practices to address both: lots of seated upper-body movements (culled from kundalini kriyas) and pranayama sets. 

By revitalizing and strengthening the body in this way, my spirit has entered a wonderfully centered and open-hearted state. My past tendency to use exercise as a weapon against all that troubled me seems now an unfortunate, misguided approach to the wondrous miracle that is the physical body. Now, the innate ability of the body to heal from trauma (coupled with outside aid) colors my every choice: If I do x, will it set me back? If I do y, am I introducing kind, supportive energy, or am I unfairly frustrated with my body?

At the age of 57, I consider all of the above to be a clear message and exceptionally generous gift from God and the Universe.

Movement, mobility, health, positivity: These are wildly phenomenal treasures that deserve—need—to be celebrated. And by doing so—for example, through exercise—one bolsters their quality and increases their presence. When “what you can do” becomes limited, think not of loss; rather, find the challenge and opportunity in creating a path for change. When the body falters, it needs you and your mental and spiritual strength: Give it, live it, and share it.

Silent Sundays: Fill With What You Will

Two days after a total hip replacement, I enter today’s writing with one thing in mind: Where once my hip held unresolved emotion and pain, now it will be consciously refilled with only that which will aid and better myself and others. 

In kundalini yoga and studies of somatic and cellular memory, the hips are said to be the storage unit for emotional “baggage.” About midway through my experience with hip arthritis, it occurred to me that perhaps the deterioration and subsequent loss of the “hips I came in with” was a truly divine gift. I do recognize that so, so many of the emotional reactions I have had throughout my life thus far are a direct result of previous events and circumstances. If given a chance to clear the clutter of long-past, unnecessary feelings from the hips, why not?

Given that the first hip to be replaced is the right one (read into that what you will), I have begun to hone in on the more aggressive reactions and emotions that have heretofore been part of my life. The right side is said to be the masculine side—aggressive, hot, active. (Disclaimer: This is not meant to be a debate about gender roles or traits.) Certainly, despite my overall mental and emotional stability, I have retained the ability to flare, to roil, and to strike when stricken.

This is not to say that I will never again become angry or defensive or vehement: My aim, however, is to fill the new hip with a solid set-point of kindness, beneficent strength, and peace.

Today’s suggested practice involves self-contemplation; seated auric clearing; pranayama; and basic mudra. The contemplative aspect introduces your own ideas into the practice: What would you remove, and with what would you fill the space of unwanted thoughts and feelings? Who would you be, base level, with that which you will into your life?

Then, when you have integrated your motivation for meditation, begin to clear the auric field around you. I have offered several previous practices for energy clearing: Fundamentally, if one does large, vigorous, multi-directional moves with the arms, the magnetic field is cleared of stagnancy, blockages, and negativity. If you are physically capable, allow the torso to join the movements; if you need to stay somewhat stationary through the core, engage the arms more powerfully. Actively move and clear for 3-5 minutes.

Then, with the left hand resting palm up on the left knee and the right hand palm down on the right knee, begin deep breaths in through the nose, and slowly, deeply, and fully through rounded mouth. As you breathe, align your breath with your “willed fill”: As you inhale, draw your intention in through the left palm; upon the cleansing exhale, envision all that you wish to eliminate through the right palm. Stay with this meditation, eyes closed and gazing at the Third Eye, for 11 minutes.

When you are finished, simply sit and allow the breath to resume its normal quality, or feel free to enjoy Svasana for as long as you like.

Happy Sunday…