Spiritual practices and self-examination

My spiritual practices include meditation and spending time in nature.I am a month into the year-long Shamanic Reiki Evolving Master Teacher program and still feeling a bit lost. I took a break from my personal Shamanic Reiki development in 2017 to focus on business. It was a valuable learning experience, although what I learned was not exactly what I had intended to when I started out a year ago. What I am discovering now, as I move back into a greater commitment to practices I had cultivated during the initial Master Teacher program, is how very important those spiritual practices are to the success of my yoga studio and what I am bringing to the community through my offerings.

2017 was a challenging year on several fronts, and I tackled those challenges in a very left-brained way. I believed the correct approach was to bring out the “accountant Debbie” and to dig into the numbers. I devised financial plans, social media plans, plans for new offerings, plans for expansion, and so on. Unfortunately, while I was busy making plans, I neglected the rest of me. I dropped most of my own self-care. I did not spend time connecting with my spirit guides and allies. I did not get quiet and listen. As a result, my plans were uninspired and did not align with any greater purpose besides trying to “do business.”

Disconnection from my spiritual practices

By the summer of 2017 I was stressed out, unmotivated, and uncreative. My father’s sudden passing in September drove me back to my spiritual side, but it was a place to hide and grieve rather than a source of inspiration and hope. I reached the end of the year in a low place, not only disconnected from my practices but beating myself up for my failure to successfully implement most of my plans and to meet my financial goals.

I’ve been slowly moving back into my physical and spiritual practices, but there has been some kicking and screaming as the self-inquiries assigned as we began the Evolving Master Teacher program brought my real and perceived failures to the surface. After a month of flopping between examination and avoidance, I am back on my meditation cushion. Just a few days has made a difference, not in the circumstances of my life, but in my ability to see them without sinking into despair.

During this last month of winter, while you are still called to turn inward, I invite you to consider where you stand with your own spiritual practices. Are you including those practices as part of a balanced, healthy approach to life? (If so, yay! Keep going.) Is there something that has fallen away that could be of benefit now? Please share what practices are supporting you or which you would like to begin or reignite. The waxing moon is a great time to get started, and I would love to cheer you on.

Yoga on the wild frontier of perimenopause

My body is changing and my yoga practice is like exploring an unknown roadWhat if you woke up one morning and found yourself in a different body, like Gregor Samsa in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis? That’s how perimenopause feels to me.

My body is changing so quickly I don’t know the body I’m in anymore. In some ways it is like puberty, but with the frightening self-awareness of age and experience.

I have been practicing yoga for more than twenty years. There have always been times when I felt like a beginner; those times were usually when I was exploring something more advanced or new to me. But now I feel like I am discovering what my body can – and cannot – do as if I have never done yoga before.

Achy joints

At the end of the day, whether my practice was restorative or vinyasa, I feel it in my joints. Often it is my hips doing the complaining, but it might be my shoulders, or my knees. On some days it is my hands or feet. I have a hard time getting comfortable enough to go to sleep. The feeling is less satisfying than the soreness that accompanied stretching and strengthening muscles in new ways when I was first learning asanas. I feel restless and frustrated by these aches.

Hand, meet wall

Balance poses, like tree and half moon, used to be my favorites. I would spend hours putting together long sequences of poses, moving from one to the other while balanced on one foot. Then, one day, I started losing my balance. To practice these asanas now means falling out often, or using the wall as a prop.

Two drishtis

Those who see me in person know that I started wearing glasses everywhere two years ago. My eyes have always had difficulty working together, but now I have developed severe double vision that cannot be corrected by contact lenses. Even with my glasses, if my eyes are tired or relax too much (which never happens in a yoga class, right?) I see two of everything. Focusing on one point is especially challenging, because I’m never sure which of the things thing I’m looking at is “real,” and which is the double.

Brain fog

I have the attention span of a goldfish. When I…

 

What was I saying?

And so on

I’ve been a bit grumpy about all of this, but I am finally moving towards acceptance. After all, what is my yoga practice for if not to feel deeply into my body as it is now? I am moving into new territory, and it is up to me to draw the map.

That means that my practice is, again, that of a beginner. I must see what helps and what hurts. I need to discover my new edge and let go of what now takes me past it. Even with two decades of experience, I don’t have the answers. If your body is changing – due to menopause, pregnancy, injury, a joint replacement, diet – neither you nor I know how your practice needs to be. But you are welcome to join me on the wild frontier to find out through experience.

Fear at the end of the year (a Winter Solstice reflection)

During the past four weeks, I have watched seven (or maybe more – I lost track) webinars promising four ways to boost Instagram followers, a surefire method to build my Facebook group, the best method to plan next year’s revenue, … You get the picture.

I was feeling the end-of-year fear.

Fear at the end of the yearThere is something about approaching December 31st on the Gregorian calendar that sends those of us with non-traditional work into a funk. I have seen even those incredible entrepreneurs to whom I have looked for guidance all year start to seemingly panic-sell their programs beginning December 1st.

We don’t want to close our 2017 books in the red.

I fell into the same state of fear as all those others. On top of the other challenges this year, 2017 has been financially difficult. I committed to adding and expanding a second location to my yoga studio, True North Yoga, invested in a Mastermind program, and got caught off guard on some unavoidable home and auto repairs. Summer yoga class attendance, which usually booms with visitors to our lake town, was flat. Put together, the numbers for 2017 don’t look that good.

Did you know I used to be an accountant? After years of writing financial statements, I know a secret.

The numbers don’t tell the real story.

I’m all for eating and keeping a roof over my head (and even splurging occasionally), so I’m not belittling the importance of having sufficient income to thrive. But numbers in a spreadsheet aren’t showing the real value of the healing work I have done this year, for myself and for others. I cannot put a dollar amount on the growth and magic I have experienced.

My tax return isn’t going to reflect that I uncovered a deeper truth about how I bring yoga and Shamanic Reiki into the world. It isn’t going to tally the hours I spent sitting in council with my lower world guides. It doesn’t credit the creative bursts that brought my Advanced Yoga Teacher Training modules into being.

When I was trying to figure out how to pay the bills in December, I started panic-selling. I almost rushed a training that I am excited to present next year, instead of allowing the creative time to make it exactly what I envisioned. I came close to letting fear push me through the Winter Solstice without slowing down.

I suspect that end-of-year fear has been around since humans were mostly agricultural. After the last harvest, the days would shorten, and the ground would freeze. There was no time to grow more. They had to get through the winter on what they had. Some years there would be plenty; other years they might run out of food. There must have been fear. And at the Winter Solstice, perhaps there was an acceptance that there was nothing else they could do except dream of spring.

My family had a small, simple holiday this year. We will have further financial challenges in the new year. We will make due.

No matter how your numbers are adding up for 2017, would you join me in taking long exhale to let go of the fear? Let’s instead take stock of the personal growth, the skills and talents developed, the healing that has happened and can still happen. There’s nothing more to do for now. Together, let’s let winter come. We will make it through.

Nobody said being a healer was easy

I’ve been following the coverage of the latest wildfires in California with a heavy heart. If you pay attention to the news, it seems like the whole world is on fire, literally and figuratively. To be alive at this time, especially for those of us who have been called to be healers, is no easy feat. There is just too much to do.

Yet, when I’m doing my work in the world – teaching yoga, training yoga teachers or Shamanic Reiki practitioners, running two yoga studios, or offering one-on-one healing – I feel my connection to that greater purpose. During those times, the discouraging news drops away and I feel “in the flow.”

But being in the flow doesn’t mean the work is easy.

It is okay for healers to be tired. Just don't quit.Every day the healing and transformative work I am drawn to do asks me to be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually at the top of my game. And that’s just not possible. Like everyone else I get injured, I lose focus, I grieve, and I doubt. I can’t count how many times I was ready to quit during the past year. When I was tired and overwhelmed, I thought of pulling the plug on the whole thing.

What if it’s okay to be tired?

I was listening to an interview with Jo Fairly, co-founder of the organic chocolate company Green & Black, on Carrie Green’s She Means Business podcast (which is a great resource for female entrepreneurs), and Jo was asked how she did it all. Her answer was, “When you’re tired, rest, don’t quit.” Hearing that, in her lovely British accent, made me realize it was okay to acknowledge that getting tired didn’t mean I had failed, or that I couldn’t do the work. It meant I needed to rest and renew my energy.

Accepting that sometimes I am going to be tired is a big shift for perfectionist Debbie. For the past few weeks, I have given myself permission to feel worn out, and to plan rest time into my day, even if it’s simply going to bed a bit earlier or treating myself to a yoga class that someone else is teaching. Then, when my energy returns, I start moving forward again.

I can’t quit, because there is healing work I need to do in this world.

If you are walking the path of healers and change-makers, I would love it if you give yourself permission to rest. Just don’t quit, because the world needs you to do your work. Can I witness and support your necessary desire to rest? Let me know with a reply.

Breathing with Trees

Breathing with trees in the AdirondacksI ventured out, alone, in my snowshoes, on a quiet trail through the woods. We had had the first substantial snowfall of winter a few days before, and I came to a part of the trail that had not been broken since the storm. I’m not experienced on snowshoes and it was only my second time out this season, but it was quiet and beautiful so I decided to push on.

Once my body started complaining, I stopped and turned back. It had begun to snow again, which was lovely to look at but made the trail more challenging. I caught myself getting short of breath as my heart rate came up and I took a break.

There was a time when I would have been frightened out in the woods, all alone, with no cell signal, my heart pounding in my chest, but now I have a relationship with the trees. Through my shamanic work I have become aware of the life energy that flows through the trees. I have seen them “lit up” with that energy. It is the same energy that flows through you and me.

Rather than panicking out in the woods, I sat in the snow with my back to a tree. I tuned into that energy. And I began to breathe with the tree. Plants and animals are the two halves of the beautiful life-sustaining oxygen cycle. Trees breathe out oxygen, we breathe it in. We breath out carbon dioxide, the trees breathe it in.

Sitting against the tree, I became conscious of breathing in what the tree was releasing. It was as if I could draw the breath right out of the tree into my back. Then I breathed out and felt the tree draw in my out-breath. Back and forth, the tree and I breathed together, until my heart rate slowed and I felt safe and held. I walked calmly out of the woods.

This simple but powerful practice draws my awareness to the interconnected web of life. While the woods are a wonderful place to experience it, I find the same sense of connection and peace when I breathe with the trees in my backyard or even my houseplants. I leave a small offering in gratitude for the breath when I can, and I always speak my thanks. I know I am heard.

In the Season of Hope

A couple of days ago, Americans acknowledged the festival of Imbolc (or Candlemas) by practicing the art of weather divination. In other words, some folks woke up a groundhog and, because the groundhog saw his shadow, declared there will be six more weeks of winter bleakness.

For the most part, I don’t mind winter and enjoy the snow, but sometimes it does seem to drag on and on. I suspect the Celts thought so, too, since they chose to celebrate the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It’s kind of an “over the hump” thing – the Wednesday of winter.

The temperatures this season have bounced between “too warm for winter” and “too cold for my liking,” and rain has alternated with snow leaving a thick layer of ice on places like my front steps. The political and social climate in the United States has been equally inconsistent and icy.

Yet, here we are at the middle of winter, and there is reason to hope. Can you feel into that?

We may be gathering in protest rather than in celebration, but we are gathering. We are leaving our homes, risking icy steps and, for some, arrest, to declare that we still have hope. After all, if we didn’t believe good things are still possible, why would we bother?

This is the spirit of Imbolc. It is a time to shake off the winter doldrums and cultural apathy and joyfully declare, “I know that spring is coming. We can get through this dark time.”

During our last Goddess Circle, the women who gathered took part in a simple ritual for Imbolc – burning the greens to show our faith that the green of spring would return. We had some boughs from my Yule tree on the altar, and took turns pinching off some of the green needles and dropping them on a lit tealight in a cast iron cauldron. As her pinch of greens burned, the woman spoke of something she hoped for the future. There was lots of hope in our circle that night.

You can do this ritual on your own or in your circle. If you don’t have a cauldron, anything fire proof will do. A terra cotta pot works well. You could also throw your greens into a bonfire or fire pit if you’d prefer to be outside. You can be creative with the ritual. It’s the intention that is important.

In this season of hope, what are you hoping for?

Sacred Spirals and Breathwork

“…no circle is ever closed. We walk ever in spirals.”
~ R. Scott Bakker

Experiencethe spiralsin yourbreathDo you feel like you’ve been here before? We see time as linear and circles in the patterns of nature. And so spring comes around again. Or does it?

During the past two moon cycles I’ve been quiet. Introspective. I’ve become aware of many patterns repeating in my being-ness. I’m seeing challenges that I’ve dealt with before, unresolved issues, and even childhood activities resurfacing. It’s frustrating. Why do I have to deal with this stuff again?

Then, a few weeks ago, I began seeing spirals everywhere and I became aware that I am not walking a straight line, or in a circle, but dancing through the labyrinth of existence. Spring has come around again, but it is not the same spring, and I am not the same person. I’m meeting familiar challenges with more experience and insight. And I am exploring new-again activities not as a child but with a child-like mind.

When I recognized and appreciated the sacredness of the spiral path I am walking, I opened to wonder and beauty and an order within the chaos of living. I see that each time a pattern reoccurs I am being offered an opportunity to apply new awareness, new tools and new skills to move through it with more grace.

You may, too, find yourself in a familiar place as you walk your own spiral path. What comes up for you again and again? And how do you respond? Notice if frustration, defeatism or despair arise. Then see if you can breathe into the sacredness and acknowledge who you are today. What more can you bring to the challenge? Maybe you are ready to release the pattern, but maybe you will spiral around again to face it as the you with even more experience.

There are a number of ways to connect with the spiral shape through breath work. I find spiral breathing both calming and centering. The simplest way to experience the spiral breath is to breath in up the back body, and breath out down the front body. Try it now. See, sense or feel the breath traveling up your spine as you inhale. Feel it flow down through your chest and belly as you exhale. As the breath deepens, you might sense it spiraling out until the breath is circling into the space behind and in front of you.

You can also spiral the breath in the coronal, or frontal, plane. which helps to bring awareness and balance to the breath and the mind while you explore the spirals. Take a breath in through your right nostril and draw the breath up your right side and into the top of your chest. Then exhale through the same right nostril and send the breath down the left side. Repeat a few times with the right nostril, then switch to the left. Inhale up the left side and exhale down the right. Practice through the left nostril a few times. Then try breathing through both nostrils while spiraling the breath. You will have two opposing spirals circling at the same time. Practice the two nostrils together a few times until you can feel both.

Dancing in the Moonlight

MoonlightOnce every three years or so there is a month with two full moons. The second is known as a blue moon. If you’re reading this on July 31st and you go outside right now, you’ll be standing under one.

Astrologers seem less excited about the second-of-the month aspect of today’s full moon than about the moon being in Aquarius. Breakthroughs in the midst of struggles are predicted. You’d do well to pay attention today.

But perhaps you were not even aware that the moon has just gone full. Why is the lunar cycle even important?

I grew up on the south shore of Long Island, on a skinny street between two canals. It was a poorly crafted street which went downhill as you traveled inland from the bay to its lowest point where the two canals dead-ended. When the moon was full, high tide was very high – so high that the ocean spilled over the bulkheads and flooded the street at that low point. If you needed something from the store, you were just going to have to wait a few hours.

Most of us live too cut off from natural phenomenon like moon tides to feel the consequences of the lunar cycle. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore it. The same gravitational pull that affects the tides draws gently of the water in your body. It changes you, in albeit subtle ways. When we start to pay attention – really pay attention – we become aware of those subtle changes.

Yoga is an excellent tool for building subtle awareness of your body. The practice of Chandra Namaskar, the moon salutation, taps into the cyclical nature of the moon while opening the hips, the seat of the second Chakra. The sacral energy center is the home of water energy. Water is changed by the moon. Do you see where this is going? The circling sequence of Chandra Namaskar itself represents the cycle of lunar transformation, the flow and ebb and flow and ebb that is the constant rhythm of life.

Are you tuned into the lunar cycle? Is it time to start exploring the moon’s ever-changing energy again? I’d love to hear from you. Share your comments below!

How to Make your Dream Come True

The stories are everywhere, always uplifting, always inspiring:

Every day, people just like you go out into the world and make their dreams come true.

They did it. Why not you? You’re no different than any of these individuals.

Why Couldn’t Your Dream Come True?

2015-05 butterfly+pulling+rockTrue, it sounds hard. In fact, it probably is hard, with a number of obstacles to overcome. That may be excuse enough to put your dream on permanent hold. But how would you feel if you made your dream a reality? How badly do you want that feeling?

“Obstacles are like wild animals. They are cowards but they will bluff you if they can. If they see you are afraid of them… they are liable to spring upon you; but if you look them squarely in the eye, they will slink out of sight.”
– Orison Swett Marden, writer

Could a Plan Help?

The easiest way to turn a dream into reality is one step at a time:

  • Choose one small thing to get done. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
  • Identify what scares you most about taking that step. Ask yourself: What’s the worst thing that could happen if I face this fear? Write down the worst-case scenario, and also write how you would confront it.
  • Choose a small reward for yourself once you’ve accomplished that activity.
  • Then just do it – and check that task off your list.
  • Now treat yourself to the reward, rejoice, and celebrate!
  • Repeat the above steps as many times as necessary and watch yourself get happier and healthier as you move in the direction of your dream. And enjoy the journey.

Need more inspiration? Check out Daily Good – a news blog full of uplifting stories. It’s my favorite source for good news.

What’s your dream? What one small thing can you do today to bring that dream closer to reality? What scares you? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below!

Inspiration to Run with the Wolves

One of my Goddess Spirit Circle sisters is reading Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ book, Women Who Run With the Wolves, and shared a reading from it when we met last month. I remember reading the book many years ago (Amazon.com remembers I bought a copy in 1998!) and being wowed by the powerful feminine archetypes. Ready to be inspired again, I just ordered another copy. And when I was putting together graphics for my social media posts this week, I added some quotes from Dr. Estés. Stand up and howl, sisters!

CPE Stretch

CPE Wherever

CPE Woods

CPE Defiant

Do you have a favorite quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estés? Share it with me in the comments!