Healing Is an inside Job...and a Community Project October 28, 2019 18:42
We're all healing from something, which means we're all on a healing journey of one sort or another.
I recently taught a Malas and Mantra Workshop at a yoga studio in Fishers, IN. I enjoy sharing what I've learned about the history, benefits, and techniques that can be used in a daily japa practice. A friend who I hadn't seen in several months happened to attend this workshop. She is currently on a Category 5 healing journey of her own--unfortunately, her cancer has returned with a vengeance, and she was interested in incorporating a daily mantra practice into her healing regimen.
Her parents happen to live near the yoga studio, so after the workshop ended, she invited me to their home so we could catch up and chat. I drove along the tree-lined, gravel driveway to a lovely, two-story home. I was greeted by her father, who had been working in the garage, and the sound of wind chimes drifting from the porch.
Michelle greeted me at the door and led me to the basement, where her parents had remodeled the space into a fully functioning kitchen, specifically for her healing. The kitchen table was loaded with fresh fruit and veggies, and she had an impressive two-step PURE juicer that would grind, then press produce into nutrient-rich juice.
She had conquered cancer before, and the first time around, she endured the standard Western medicine protocols: chemo and radiation. Unfortunately, years later, the cancer returned, and this time around, she listened to her intuition. She's following the Gerson Therapy protocol, which includes a holistic, nutritional approach to healing, and it encourages the body to heal itself.
While we chatted, she made a batch of fresh carrot and green apple juice. She poured it into two prom goblets, and we toasted to each other's health, healing, and friendship.
One of the things that impressed me the most was that Michelle was surrounded by loving people who supported her healing choices. She has the support of a team of physicians, dieticians, herbalists, energy workers, healers, friends, and family who respect her decisions, and who don't sabotage her healing by planting seeds of fear and doubt. Michelle is confident and at peace with her healing regimen, and the best news of all is, she is responding well to this protocol. Recent test results indicate dramatic improvement, she's gaining strength, and her complexion is healthy and radiant. She's listening to her intuition, and her intuition is leading her to healing.
While I have not had to contend with a cancer diagnosis, let alone two, I have had to contend with some serious obstacles. Long before I learned about the benefits of mantra and practiced japa on the daily, I grew up in a home with a severely mentally ill mother and an emotionally unavailable step-father. Growing up in this environment was certainly not easy. Even after practicing japa for several years, I'm not immune to suffering. However, the practice has helped me navigate my way through life's challenges.
Mantra recitations have helped give me the courage to leave a toxic, narcissistic employer; it helped me find steadiness during periods of financial uncertainty; it helped me remain calm in the face of fear, hopelessness, and anxiety; it helped me stand strong when I needed to set boundaries and assert myself; and it continues to help me offer kindness, compassion, and forgiveness to those who may be unkind, cruel or harsh in the midst of their own suffering.
Japa is not a panacea, by any means, but it is a powerful tool for healing. The seeds of our healing and potential for growth are ultimately internal, and it's up to each of us to cultivate them, whether it's honoring our intuition, making wise nutritional choices, or choosing to meditate every day. Healing can't fully bloom, however, without the loving support of others. Community, too, is essential to our healing and growth as well.
Interested in starting your own japa practice to help you navigate and manage life's challenges? The Middle Moon Malas collection offers several beautiful designs. Or, contact us for a custom mala design.
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 www.middlemoonmalas.com.