Movement and Mantra: Connecting Breath, Body, Heart, and Mind January 28, 2021 09:17

Several colorful malas lined up like bones in the spine. These designs are available now on the MMM online shop.

If you prefer to listen to this month's blog post, (and you might since I've included a mini-meditation in this article) please click here.

I started my morning with a Feldenkrais lesson. 

It wasn't something I had planned to do, although I typically do practice some sort of Awareness Through Movement lesson at some point during the day. However, today, I happened to catch Joe Webster's live class on his Thoughtful Movements FB group.

Joe is a Feldenkrais practitioner in London, and typically, when he teaches his live classes, it is very early in the morning for me. Luckily, I was awake today and decided to practice with him.

I was still in bed, and even though he instructed us to do the lesson in a seated posture, I decided to practice lying down. I scooched pillows out of the way so I could stretch out comfortably. Maya was curled up at my feet snoring softly.

This morning's lesson was very subtle--focusing on the breath and the connection between the ribs and the vertebrae of the thoracic spine--more specifically, the thick, cartilaginous discs between each vertebra.

Joe has a very soothing, calming voice, and he began the lesson by inviting us to focus on our breathing--to notice how the chest cavity would gently rise and fall with the breath.

Then, he asked us to imagine the vertebrae of the middle back spine--to notice how these bones would gently lift on each inhalation, and then softly fall back on each exhalation.

He led us through an investigation of each disc between the twelve vertebrae of the thoracic spine. We spent a few minutes on each disc--observing the breath (about ten breaths for each disc)--and imagining each disc rise and fall softly with our breathing.

Joe didn't suggest this, but I realized that ten breaths and eleven discs add up to about 108, so I decided to incorporate a simple mantra into this early morning practice. (There are perks to being a bit of a rebel--I found doing this lesson lying down on a soft surface to be extremely helpful, and incorporating a mantra practice with it was the icing on the meditative cake!)

The mantra I chose was Aham Prema. It is a short, simple, and powerful Sanskrit mantra that translates as "I am Divine Love."

As I imagined each thoracic disc rising gently on the inhalations, I imagined the Sanskrit word Aham.

With each exhalation, as the disc moved back toward the soft mattress, I imagined the word Prema.

Gently, slowly--visualizing each disc nestled between the vertebrae, the chest rising and falling in a slow, steady rhythm. The spine responding to this gentle, effortless flow, and the mantra steadily leading, guiding, and unifying the practice.

This subtle Feldenkrais lesson became more than an embodied somatic practice. The mantra transformed it into a powerful meditation connecting breath, body, heart, and mind.

As Joe led his listeners through each pair of vertebrae--and each disc in the middle back spine--a journey was unfolding for me:

I imagined the disc nestled between T-1 and T-2

On the deep inhalation: Aham

and with it...deep gratitude.

On the slow, steady exhalation: Prema


I imagined the disc between T-2 and T-3

On the inhalation: Aham

and with it...profound understanding.

On the slow, gentle exhalation: Prema


I visualized the disc between T-3 and T-4

On the next inhalation: Aham

and with it...selflessness.

On the relaxed, easy exhalation: Prema


I visualized the disc between T-4 and T-5

On the next, deep inhalation: Aham

and with it...transcendence.

On the slow exhalation, Prema


I imagined the disc between T-5 and T-6

On the inhalation: Aham

and with it...meaningful service.

On the steady exhalation: Prema


I imagined the disc between T-6 and T-7

On the next inhalation: Aham

and with refuge.

On the next, deep exhalation: Prema


I imagined the disc between T-7 and T-8

On the steady inhalation: Aham

and with it...connection.

On the release of the exhalation: Prema


I imagined the disc between T-8 and T-9

On the next inhalation: Aham

and with it...a vast, infinite expanse.

On the exhalation: Prema


I visualized the disc between T-9 and T-10

On the inhalation: Aham

and with it...deep healing.

On the exhalation: Prema


I visualized the disc between T-10 and T-11

On the next, slow inhalation: Aham

and with it...forgiveness.

On the next, deep exhalation: Prema


Finally, I imagined the disc between T-11 and T-12

On this next inhalation: Aham

and with it...compassion.

On this next, slow exhalation: Prema


One of the benefits of having a regular mantra practice is the ability to incorporate the practice into daily tasks and parallel interests. I've found that mantra practice makes everything better. It improves focus, enhances the state of being present, and makes tasks and activities more meaningful and interesting.

This lesson and mantra practice was a wonderful way to start my day.

 For those of you who may be interested in exploring this Feldenkrais lesson with Joe Webster, click HERE for the YouTube recording of the lesson.

For those of you who prefer to chant mantra with a beautiful mala--or if you would like to share a mala with a friend or loved one, please visit the Middle Moon Malas online shop HERE.




Personal and Public Practice: Striking a Balance June 14, 2019 12:27


I love my personal practices (meditation, mantra recitations, somatic movement), but I also enjoy sharing a common space with other practitioners, too.

Whether you're an introvert or an extrovert, ideally, a healthy spiritual practice requires a blend of both private and group settings in order to foster personal growth and social connections. 

Benefits of Personal Practice

Privacy and Agency: 

I begin each morning with a sadhana practice that my teacher gave to me. I sit in bed in my jammies while my dog and cat sleep on either side of me, and I recite, chant, and visualize the practice in the privacy of my own home. 

If I'm at school, and I have a few minutes between student tutoring sessions, I'll walk around the track and chant mantra. Adding movement to a japa practice with a little fresh air and sunshine is a great way to boost my energy and stay focused and sharp for my students. 

I also like to chant if I'm in the car alone on a long commute. It helps me to stay focused while I'm driving, and it's also a great way to ward off stress and anxiety during rush hour.

In the evenings, I sit on a cushion near my altar space to meditate. I'll light a candle or a stick of incense and practice for an hour. If I'm tired, sometimes I'll practice lying down on the floor. I have options--and I've learned the importance of being gentle with myself and taking care of myself as I practice.

Recently, I've discovered some wonderful Feldenkrais lessons online. I love ending each day with a movement lesson. I'm on a circular green mat in my living room. The lights are dim--the TV is on mute, if it's on at all, and it's just me, myself, and the movement practice.

Having the space and time to deepen and explore my own practices on my own terms and in my own way is nourishing and delicious to my spirit. I absolutely need the privacy and the time to practice every day in order to function properly.

Benefits of Public Practice

Connection and Support: 

 There's something really beautiful about sharing the practice and the space with other meditators or movers, too, however. In the last year, I have attended three, week-long retreats at a meditation center in Colorado.  Meditating in a large  group is very different from a session in the home space. Not only are you sharing a common physical space, and typically you're sitting very close to one another, but you're also holding space for each other in a communal practice setting. In this environment, you pick up on the subtle energies of the location and on the other practitioners around you.

The last time I was in Crestone, I kept getting images of eyes--close-up, huge, luminous eyes--of horses, of people, of cartoonish animated characters--big eyes everywhere! I'm not sure whose energy I was tapping into, but I was accessing unusual images and cultivating opportunities to sit with these differences in a non-judgmental way. It was interesting...and challenging.

Practicing in a group also lends itself to learning new ideas and strategies, too. I saw so many creative prop arrangements for seated meditation when I shared the space with 100 other meditators.

I recently started attending somatic movement classes. It's been nearly two years since I practiced in a group setting. I used to practice and teach yoga at a local studio, but I've since become a "reformed yogi" and prefer Feldenkrais lessons and other alternative movement modalities. I've missed the camraderie and friendship that practicing in a group environment can bring, and I'm so glad that I've found a local somatic group that I can practice with and feel safe. They are warm-hearted, friendly, and accepting. Having the courage to step out into a group space again has been a little unsettling, but it's important to nudge yourself beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone every once in a while. 

Practicing with a group is great, if the group dynamics are supportive and healthy. It took me some time to heal and deepen my own personal practices before I was ready to join another group, but I'm really glad I did. That supportive connection with others is so important.  

The closest I've come to chanting in a group setting is when I've attended an occasional kirtan event. Chanting and singing Sanskrit mantra with musicians in a group setting is a blast! It's an uplifting way to connect with others and clear away the energetic cobwebs. No one leaves a kirtan event depressed or angry.

I've also attended pujas and ceremonies at TMBCC in Bloomington where Tibetan monks have chanted prayers, sometimes for hours at a time. The energy of the temple is transformed when a group of a dozen or so monks are chanting. It is an energetically moving and powerful experience.

Introverts will gravitate to their own personal practices, and extroverts will undoubtedly be drawn to the public ones, but it's important for everyone to engage in both personal and public practices in order to benefit themselves and share these rewards with others.

For more information, or to view the online mala collection, visit