Four Timely Healing Questions

A note from Erin:

Good day, friends!

First things first. Are you aware of your body, right now as you read?
Whether you’re reading on a computer or a phone, I wonder: could your spine be longer, so you sit or stand with dignity and ease and not all hunched over in email-posture? How’s your neck?  Could your eyes soften a bit? Perhaps your jaw unclench, your belly relax, your shoulders soften? How would it be to exhale completely, letting the inhale come on its own, 3 times in a row, right now, with awareness? How might you make yourself 10% more comfortable right now? Perhaps more generously giving your weight over to the ground or your chair so you can receive the support that is always, always there to hold you?

Oh hi! There you are. :)

So simple, so important.

Sunset at Bayon, near Angkor Wat, in Siem Reap, Cambodia
There’s a line, attributed to Gandhi, that is a central teacher in my life. It keeps me congruent.
“The means you use must embody the end you seek.” 
I’ve been thinking of this a lot lately.In my circles of local friends and my online communities, there’s been a lot of talk about “the resistance.” I agree that standing against destructive policies is very important. Like selling off 75% of my favorite national monument to oil and gas leasing? Um, no way. I’m fighting that.

I also wonder how clearly I, (and we) have a personal or collective vision of what we are standing for and moving toward, whatever our political persuasion.  I want to invite myself and my community to be curious and creative about exploring our vision for what a life-giving world might look like. What’s your vision for a beautiful world? I confess I’m embarrassed to say that while I’ve spent a lot of time envisioning ways of steering my own life and supporting clients and students in the same, I’ve never thought it was my place to envision a country or a world I’d love to live in. Seems silly, now that I say it, but it’s true. I’m committed to spending time wondering into my own vision for my country and our world. Join me? I’d love love love to hear yours.

Back to Gandhi’s quote. When Carl and I were planning our wedding many years ago, we took this quote as central. What was the end we were seeking? For us, it included deep love, connection, honoring our relationship as a refuge, and making time for enjoyment of each other and our community. When our means (at that time it was deciding on table-cloth colors or choosing who was invited to the rehearsal dinner) started making us feel other than connected and loving, but rather stressed out, we stopped immediately. “This is not the end we’re seeking.” And we rerouted in such a way that we could have the deep love, connection, and appreciation of each other NOW, in the planning process too.

Is the means we’re using now lining up with the ends we’re seeking? 

In addition to hearing a lot of talk about “the resistance,” I’m also hearing so many friends bemoaning that they’re feeling disspirited and disheartened, and frankly, exhausted of the news and the whole situation. I get it. 

In addition to committing more strongly than ever to my gratitude practice, it got me thinking of Angeles Arrien’s brilliant expression of a series of questions that are common to some indigenous cultures.  When someone was feeling dis-spirited or disheartened, the community’s healer or shaman would ask them these 4 simple questions:

When did you stop dancing?
When did you stop singing?
When did you stop being enchanted by stories, especially your own life story?
When did you stop being nourished by the sweet territory of silence?

Here’s the late Angeles Arrien speaking gorgeously about these 4 questions. (It’s only a 2-minute video, so shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for the modern attention span!)

Our boy watching fish at Kuang Si Falls in Luang Prabang, Laos
Seems to me it’s a great time to ask ourselves these questions. Like right now.
And not only ask them, but intentionally make choices so our answers might be something like:
When did you stop singing? Oh, I stopped for awhile there, but I sang a Gillian Welch song in the shower just this morning! Then I rocked out in the car with Adele. And when I do dishes, I always sing along with Lake Street Dive. What are you singing these days?
When did you stop dancing? Well, for a time I was glued to my computer for hours at a time. What was I thinking? That sucked. And now? Dancing! I just took a 10-minute break with some Afro-Cuban music and it felt so damn good! I do that with different music every single day. It’s amazing what a difference even 5 minutes makes!
When did you stop being enchanted by stories, especially your own life story? Well, today I spontaneously asked my colleague to tell me the story of how she first fell in love. Just for fun. And then she asked me to tell her the story of the first time I traveled abroad. It was so great to connect over our stories! And I also started listening to one of Britain’s best talents reading Harry Potter, which just so happens to be an amazingly apt modern myth for our times. (The muggle-born registry? Voldemort and his cronies? Seriously, the story is sooooo good. And if you haven’t heard Jim Dale reading, I highly recommend it.)
When did you stop being nourished by the sweet territory of silence? Can you imagine answering, “I find, in this current political climate that it is so important for me to spend at least 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening in total silence. Sometimes I sit. Sometimes I lie down. Sometimes I just gaze at the sky. Sometimes I soak in the tub. No music, no nothing. It helps me so much. It’s an essential nutrient to keep me going.”The opposite of dis-spirited and dis-heartened?
That’s what the world needs.
You, heartened.
You, spirited.
You, fully alive. 

And whatever your politics, whatever activism you are or aren’t engaged in; even if you’re making calls to representatives, reading articles, signing petitions, tracking the emerging details of the newest scandal, perhaps we could also, right now, sing. (I dare you!) Or maybe dance while you’re on hold. Let’s make the means we use embody the end we seek. And let’s envision a beautiful, life-giving “end” for all. I’d love to see that include lots of singing and dancing and stories and silence and laughter and good food and poetry and respect and vast kindness.

With love (and a shimmy),

my nephew and I are  feeding bananas to our elephant friend in Laos
1. There are just 2 spots left in Carl’s upcoming Hara class! Details are below.2. Mark your calendars for September 21-24, when I’ll be hosting an amazing retreat at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, with my dear friend and gifted teacher, Nan Seymour. I’ll have details and a sign-up link within the week. So excited!

3. Russell Delman is coming to town in March! He’ll be offering a free talk at the gorgeous Vitalize Studio on Friday, March 17th and a weekend workshop at the Commander’s House on the U campus March 18-19th. More details below.  Check them out!

4. We are quietly working away on our new and long-coming online course, The Art of Sitting. We are so passionate about this topic and can’t wait to share with you! Carl and I will be sharing movement lessons, short teachings, guided practices, and “quickie” somatic practices in our upcoming course to help meditators and all of us who sit a lot to do so with greater ease, comfort, and presence. We are so excited! Registration will open in a few weeks. More details coming soon!

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By training and profession, I am a somatic educator. Over the past 25+ years I have trained in and taught modern dance, tai chi, Indian and Tibetan yoga, yoga therapy (specializing in back pain). I completed a 4-year professional Feldenkrais training in 2007 and a 3-year Embodied Life training in 2014. I also study and work with somatic meditation and the profound practice of embodied inner listening known as Focusing.

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