A note from Erin:
It’s hard to know what to write these days when there are kids in cages, families experiencing such unimaginable tragedy. And when it’s so tempting to numb out because it’s all just so heavy and too much to take. Yesterday’s announcement about Trump planning to roll back the Endangered Species act just slayed me.
I’m doing my best to lean in and not shrink, even as I’m coming out of my own well of grief. Yesterday I was so heartbroken by the news of the world that I broke into tears several times, even in the dentist’s waiting room. Today I’m finding my bearings again by leaning into some helpful practices.
This morning with my coffee I made a list of ten things that bring me pure delight. Leaning in to relish the beauty around me, as well as leaning into the broken-open heart as I tune into the news seems like an essential combo.
It takes intentionality not to go numb, and we simply cannot go numb. It hurts to care, it all feels like too much, the weight of it is so very heavy – and we have to stay open and take it in anyway. We must. It takes noticing a lot of beauty to be able to bear the suffering. And wow – there really is a lot of beauty when I pause to take it in!!
Ten things that bring me pure delight:
1. The little green curling vines that reach out from the birdhouse gourd plant in our back garden and curl themselves around a twig, a branch, a pitchfork, anything, with the sweetness and strength of a newborn’s grip on your finger.
2. The black-eyed, golden-furred, nimble squirrel standing on her hind legs in the maple tree, reaching for seeds to munch as she holds them in her tiny little fingers.
3. Coffee. Coffee and silence on a cool morning in a favorite mug, black, strong, steaming, delicious.
4. Red clover blossoms. Calendula blossoms. Mullein blossoms. Orange marigold blossoms. Fuchsia geranium blossoms as big as your fist. And especially the gaura blossoms, which I recently learned are also called “shooting star plant” which continuously bob up and down on their long stems because the bees love them more than anything else. Oh, and the bee bath I put in the yard.
5. Fresh strawberries, spotted glowing red between the dull green leaves, picked and popped into my mouth. Also my awe and wondering how people ever end up with a bowl full of berries of any kind from the garden because all I ever do is pick and pop them into my mouth.
6. My son’s sleeping face. Those eyelashes, those soft and smooth cheeks, those full lips. The dreams happening behind those eyes. The sweetness of witnessing a child sleep.
7. Storybooks told from the perspective of mice. Just now we’re reading Tumtum and Nutmeg, book two.
8. Skateboarders zooming down the street – the sound that comes before I see them, then their lean bodies leaning into the turns as they carve their way down first avenue. The prayer I whisper for their safety as they head toward the intersection.
9. The tiny old man who lives up the street who looks rather like a leprechaun wearing black instead of green. My son always asks if he’s a leprechaun. I have to say, “I don’t know!” He always stops to admire the dinosaurs in our front yard and takes a moment to upright any who have fallen over. I like him. Yesterday I thought of the invitation in one of Sark’s books: Invite someone dangerous to tea. Maybe I will!
10. Texts. A text from my husband on his way to retreat with Michael Meade saying, “I marry you. I love missing you.” A text from a dear friend saying, “How can I help be the wind that carries you?” A text from my mom planning dinner at her place and sending me a photo of my kid in a wool hat he just knitted with her help. A text from a friend sharing new music she thinks I’ll like. What a gift, each and every one.
After writing this list, and pausing to feel how each of these lives in my body, I feel 100x better than I did just taking in the tragic news yesterday. I feel more resourced, rich, and awake to the good. I’m not ignoring the news, but using joy as fuel to keep me present and my heart soft. Basically to keep me from losing my shit. It takes practice. :)
What is bringing you joy and delight today? If you feel like writing back, I’d be so honored to read your list of ten, or even just three!
I made a video I shared over on Instagram (@embodimentmatters) – Reflections on Pain – which I invite you to check out if you’re there, where I go into much more detail about the practice I write about below.
There are many levels of the beautiful practice of tonglen (giving and taking, also known as the exchange of self and other) from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition Carl and I have studied and practiced over the past 20+ years. It’s a potent practice for times like these.
Its basic orientation is about doing exactly the opposite of what comes naturally. The invitation is to courageously open our hearts to suffering rather than battening down the hatches to try to protect ourselves from it.
It’s about making the non-habitual move of moving toward the pain and getting more intimate with it.
It’s about bringing courageous kindness toward our suffering. We can find the sufferings of the world right in our own bodies if we’re open to it.
We often say that it’s not good to start with heart-opening practices until you’ve grown a reliable sense of presence in your lower body, particularly your lower belly and pelvis, as well as the ability to feel your feet in relationship with the ground.
Can you feel the resonance of your breath all the way down at your pelvic floor?
It’s also so important to be in an aware relationship with the ground itself, the actual ground supporting you right in this moment.
Can you feel the ground along with whatever else you’re feeling?
It’s so helpful to start with the foundation of being embodied and grounded, rooted in this body on this spot on the earth – so we’re not trying to hold it all ourselves, but realize that we ourselves are held by mother earth as we open our hearts.
Without these foundations, it’s just too overwhelming to open the heart.
With them, we can welcome life.
It takes no small amount of courage and intentional willingness to be touched by life, to be permeable to it, to give up the attempts to wall ourselves off as a “separate self.”
We are woven into the world with every breath. We can feel it. The soft animal of our bodies knows it. We are always feeling along with the world.
This practice makes it conscious and allows us to become something like human air purifiers, but instead of air, we become filters for suffering – breathing in the awful stuff, breathing out blessings. You know what’s truly amazing? We can do this!
Shall we do it for ten breaths? Let’s do. Right now. I know you can afford a ten-breath pause.
C’mon… let’s do it.
Feel the ground. Feel your breath. Feel, “I’m right here.”
Try welcoming whatever is here to be felt as you inhale. Soften to it, even if it hurts.
Try sending out care and blessings and beauty with your exhale. Ahhhh.
Breathe in suffering, whether it’s your own knee pain or money worries or heartache, or breathe in the suffering of separated families, refugees, species whose land is being decimated.
Breathe out blessings. Breathe out “I care.” Breathe out “may you be well.” Breathe out flowers, beautiful skies, clouds of offerings, an ocean of lovingkindness.
We’re invited to breathe in all that is right here to be felt: the achy heart, the worry, the not knowing what to do, the ever-so-heavy weight of the world – to let ourselves be genuinely touched by it – and then to breathe out kindness, beauty, love, compassion, anything that brings delight, any kind of good wishes at all.
The piece that becomes obvious over time is that your small self can’t do this practice.
Your tiny, separate self? Just can’t hold it all.
But your true heart, your vast-as-the-sky heart-mind?
It absolutely has room for it all.
You know what else is amazing? And I’m really feeling this today…
The way that dark times can invite our best selves to come forward.
And like a fountain getting wet, when we send out loving-kindness, both as tangible acts as well as a practice of attention, we can’t help but get it all over ourselves.
If you’re local and want to join me to practice embodied sitting meditation including tonglen practice as described above, along with many other unique and brilliant practices that powerfully help us to tap into our inner and outer resources, I hope you’ll consider joining me for one of these two offerings: The Great Turning (my new fall class) or Root & Rise, my upcoming weekend workshop.
I deeply believe in the power of an intentional community coming together to practice being human, including movement and stillness, including quiet and connection, including gratitude, grieving, and visioning how we might bring our unique perspective and gifts to co-create the better version of the world we wish to see manifest. It is important and necessary work that we cannot do alone.
What I won’t do in these workshops is stand in front of you and talk and talk and feed you a bunch of information as if I’m the expert.
What I will do is invite your fully embodied presence, the wisdom and confusions you have, to come more clearly into awareness and then be shared in a healing community.
The potent, buoyant power of a compassionate community circle can’t be overestimated! People are always blown away and tell me this is the thing they miss the most between classes. I feel so lucky and blessed by the quality of humans who come to my classes. In a recent movement immersion workshop, a new attendee said, “You have really great students.” I agree. They’re real. That’s the biggest blessing.
The link with info and registration for both of these opportunities is below. I’d be honored by your presence. Space is limited and several spots are already filled. I hope you’ll join me in SLC! (I’m working on making some of these practices available in an online way soon, so if you’re not local – stay tuned.)
I’m offering a workshop straight from my heart:
Root and Rise is coming right up August 23-25th.
I’d LOVE to have you join me in SLC for this heartening journey into practices that will welcome you just as you are and help you move from despair to active hope.
I still have space for you and there are multiple price options.
Joanna Macy, one of my sheroes and the creator of this work says, “The central purpose of the Work that Reconnects is to help people uncover and experience their innate connections with each other and with the systemic, self-healing powers of the web of life, so that they may be enlivened and motivated to play their part in creating a sustainable civilization.” Doing this along with embodiment practices is so powerful and nourishing. I hope you’ll join me not only for your own healing but to support the healing of our world.
We need your active hope:
“Active Hope is not wishful thinking.
Active Hope is not waiting to be rescued by some savior.
Active Hope is waking up to the beauty of life on whose behalf we can act.
We belong to this world.
The web of life is calling us forth at this time.
We’ve come a long way and are here to play our part.
With Active Hope we realize that there are adventures in store,
strengths to discover, and comrades to link arms with.
Active Hope is a readiness to discover the strengths
in ourselves and in others;
a readiness to discover the reasons for hope
and the occasions for love.
A readiness to discover the size and strength of our hearts,
our quickness of mind, our steadiness of purpose,
our own authority, our love for life,
the liveliness of our curiosity,
the unsuspected deep well of patience and diligence,
the keenness of our senses, and our capacity to lead.
None of these can be discovered in an armchair or without risk.”
– Joanna Macy
Let’s do it!
I’ve created a new fall course
The Great Turning: Introducing Evolutionary Embodiment
We’ll be applying our powerful embodiment tools to healing ourselves while we commit to healing the world. This class meets locally in SLC, UT.
Having been engaged in my own grieving and reorienting process as I really let my heart take in the realities of the climate crisis and the many challenges facing us in the world right now, I feel strongly called to create a learning context and a community gathering place where we can use and deepen our embodiment skills and aim them toward the healing of our world. A context where we can admit how much we care and how much our hearts are aching. A place where we can listen within our own wise body-mind and to each other for the wisdom we need at this time. A place where we are welcomed exactly as we are, and where we can root into support to live a life aligned with our values.
Your voice and heart and unique way of responding have never been more needed.
I want to take your hand and invite you to do this work with me – together – with respect, kindness, and room for it all.
Also, here’s a friendly reminder that this fall is the last season that I will be accepting new clients into my private practice. You can contact me by replying to this email if you’d like one of my remaining spots for the fall. As of the new year, I’ll only be working 1:1 with people who are already established private clients or who are students in my training program. Carl is still seeing lucky people for hands-on work, and oh, is it amazing. Contact him to get on his schedule.
Please remember this:
“The world is churning all around us, overheating with climate change and intensifying conflicts, but also awash with profound problems and rising seas. We live in critical times, amidst a worldwide shaking up and breaking down, surrounded by radical changes that severely affect both nature and culture.
Given the size, scope, and complexity of the problems that currently threaten the world, there can be no single idea, specific political movement,or patented belief system that can save us.
All kinds of ingenious solutions are needed; all types of inspiration, invention, and originality are now required. The idea of a genius self already present and trying to awaken within each of us may serve us better than more common notions of a heroic solution.
The question becomes not whether or not you are a genius, but in what way does genius appear in you and how might it contribute to your own wellbeing and benefit the world around you.”
Excerpted from Michael Meade’s excellent book, The Genius Myth.
With so much love,
and a deep bow to your inherent genius and the possibilities that remain,