Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.
In New York’s Adirondack mountains, we say we have five seasons. The time between the end of winter weather and actual warm spring is known as “mud season.” During mud season, the snow is melting, it’s still cool, nothing is growing, and the ground is mush. We are discouraged from hiking off the trails and in the higher elevations to avoid trampling the tender sprouting plants and disturbing nesting wildlife.
I haven’t spent much time on the mountains over the past couple of years, but this year my body feels ready to get back to it. Since I’m limited to the flatter trails for now, I’m revisiting the yoga asanas that support my body before, after, and between hikes, and looking forward to the view from a summit in a couple of months.
The sunrise never failed us yet.
Practicing these energizing poses at the trailhead before hiking will loosen stiff joints, warm your muscles and improve circulation. To begin, stand in mountain pose and take a few deep breaths while you enjoy the sunrise.
Standing Forward Bends
From mountain, inhale and raise your arms overhead. Exhale and fold forward, reaching towards the ground. With your knees slightly bent, inhale and lift your torso, leading with your heart, and raise your arms back overhead. Keep arms well apart as you lift to open your chest. Repeat the down and up flow three to ten times.
Standing Head to Knee
Step your right foot forward and lift your arms overhead with an inhale. Exhale and fold your torso over your right leg, bending your right knee slightly if necessary, and drop your hands to ground (or your shin to modify). Take at least two breaths, then inhale and lift, leading with your heart. Repeat with your left foot forward.
Shoulder and Arm Stretches
Interlace your fingers, turn your palms out and lift your arms overhead. Take at least two breaths while you lift your ribs. Exhale and rotate your torso to the right. Inhale back to center. Repeat to left. Exhale and bend your torso to the right, stretching your left side. Inhale to center. Repeat to left side. Drop your arms with an exhale.
Step into a straddle and turn your right toes to the right side. Stretch arms out to sides at shoulder height. Bend your torso to the right and reach your right hand to your leg and your left hand overhead, stretching your left side. Hold for at least two breaths, then lift, change your feet, and repeat to the left side.
Straddle Fold with Twist
Standing with your legs in a straddle, toes forward, inhale and reach your arms to the sides, about shoulder height. Exhale and fold forward, leading with your heart, and reach your hands to the ground under your shoulders. Inhale. Exhale and twist your torso to the right, lifting your right arm towards the sky. Inhale your right hand back to the ground. Repeat the twist to the left. Lift your torso with an inhale, leading with your heart.
Lie on your back with your arms by your sides, your knees bent, and your feet approximately hip distance apart and flat on the ground. Inhale and raise your arms up and over your head. At the same time, lift your hips. Lift until your hands touch the ground over your head. As you exhale, lower your hips and bring your arms back down to your sides. Repeat the flow three to ten times.
Is it a cool Adirondack morning? Add some gentle Sun Salutations to your warm-up to build heat in your body before you head up the trail.
In the aftermath of the shooting in Newtown, Conneticut, Spirit was speaking strongly to me. The following poem was written then. Six years later, to the day, my dear friend’s brother was killed – murdered – in an act of violence with a gun. In the week since, Spirit has again been speaking to me, helping me to navigate the myriad of emotions that have surfaced while bearing witness to my friend’s anger and devasating grief.
In the pre-dawn hours this morning, I remembered what I wrote in 2012, which honestly feels like decades ago, on a blog long abandoned, and was called to publish it again. It is a call to hope and a call to action during dark times on the darkest day of the year.
On the Winter Solstice
In the dark waiting womb
there is a quiet rhythm,
the sound of intention unmanifest.
It will become with a wail.
To call the first tendril of pink
from beyond the horizon,
a feathered minstrel lifts its head
and trills its morning anthem.
Do not sit silent in the growing darkness.
The universe was not born in a flash but a bang,
the resonance of the heart of the Divine,
speaking its name into all of creation.
Invite the sun with song,
be it frenzied drumbeats,
melodious carols, quiet lullabies
or the echoing sound of om.
All songs are one song,
as all hearts are one heart.
Sing your Divine name
into the creation of a new age.
And when, in the deepest darkness,
your song fades to stillness,
a collective pause for breath,
listen. Listen for the waiting refrain.
Listen for the muted pulse of love.
Listen for the hushed jingle of peace.
Then take up their song, your song,
and roar them into being.
(c) Debbie Philp 2012
As we step over the threshold from autumn to winter, from darkness to light, from violence and hatred into the blank slate of a new day, I wish you peace and love. Sing their song with all of your heart. Pass it on.
In the Shamanic Flow Podcast episode for the new Flower Moon, explore the archetypal Greek love goddess Aphrodite and endangered vaquita porpoises, plus a way to support sustainable fishing. Discover thymus tapping as a self-care practice and enjoy a 30-minute yoga practice to open your heart space and fill it with light.
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.
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.
There 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.
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.
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.