I subscribe to “The Sacred Science” blogs and received an email this morning reminding me of a synchronicity I’d already forgotten about. I believe we receive messages from the Universe all the time and that acknowledging those messages is what turns the spigot on for more of the same. So receiving this reminder email simply added to the synchronicity demanding to be heard, recognized, and celebrated. Just like a good friend that’s encouraged to share more personal stories when they see we are listening and are present for them, the Universe will quit sending messages if we aren’t noticing them. So please let this post be my way of saying to the Universe: “Thanks! I needed that!”
I often share a similar sentiment in my yoga classes that the more we listen to our body’s messages, the better our intuition becomes. There’s a wise suggestion known in yogic philosophy to listen to your body whisper so you don’t have to hear it scream. As you read on, know that I needed to relearn that lesson too.
I’ve been having some physical issues this summer, to put it mildly. Without going into a lot of boring details, let me just say that it’s my opinion I may be experiencing side effects of the hypothyroid medicine I’m on. There’s a long list of them. It wasn’t until I researched and found that one of the side effects is favoring a hip with a limping gait that I sort of lost it. My hip has been an issue for about as long as I’ve been diagnosed as hypothyroid. I hadn’t connected the two until recently learning that there’s importance in knowing the root cause of an auto-immune diagnosis so I’ve been analyzing it a lot. It’s all very intriguing.
I had cut back on some anti-inflammatory supplements to trim down my intake and then my side-effect symptoms starting appearing more prominently. So I might have been medicating the side effects with anti-inflammatories for awhile. Lately my hip had literally been giving out at times, causing my sacroiliac joint to be very unhappy from all the jarring, not to mention the hip pain. Thank God for my yoga practice. It has been and always will be my lifesaver in so many ways. It’s like an etch-a-sketch for what ails me.
My visit to the doctor only resulted in “normal” thyroid readings. I plan to see a functional medicine doctor soon to see if we can unravel the mystery.
I also decided to finally get a mammogram. It had been ten years since my last one—I know, I know. I consider myself very holistic so it was incompatible to me to have X-rays looking for cancer when X-rays are known to cause cancer. But since advancing age is also a cause of cancer, I decided to pull my head out of the proverbial sand and get a mammogram. They considered this a baseline since it had been so long and I was told more than once that to try to find my ten year old mammogram would probably not be worth the effort because of the typical file purging; and that even if I did find it, it would be too old to be helpful. So I left it at that.
They needed me to come back for a second mammogram because of suspicious micro-calcifications. And that mammogram was not enough to rule out cancer so they recommended a biopsy. Again I was told finding my old mammogram would not be helpful. The biopsy was done on a Friday morning and I had to wait until the following Tuesday, early PM, to hear back on the results. I had originally thought I should write about that ordeal and my blog title was to be “walking the talk”. But it felt too personal at the time. I needed some space.
I will say that I had a good long talk with myself, during the stressful four-day-wait for results, as I kept sliding into panic mode. I told myself, “If you can’t use the skills and wisdom you share with your students about handling stress, then what kind of yoga teacher/therapist are you?”
I am always reminding my students to take the time to regularly practice stress reducing activities like yoga, meditation, and breathwork so that they’re in their “back pocket” when they’re needed most. These routine practices are like old friends, ready to soothe. It’s only a breath practice and a silent meditation away. My daily personal yoga practice always gives me just what I need physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
When I arrived for my biopsy appointment, I explained to the receptionist that I might smell like sage as I had smudged myself earlier to keep the bad juju away. I also wore my protective hand /“hamsa” shirt to ward off the evil eye. I was laughing as I shared this with the receptionist which caused her to comment that she was so glad I did what I needed to take care of myself. She shared that most of the time people show up and they’re a basket case. She didn’t know I kind of was a basket case inside. Thank God for my sweet husband, Ed, who came along for support.
Four excruciatingly long days later, the doctor called to say the micro-calcifications were benign. There was a lot more detail than that but enough said. He recommended that I come back in for a follow up mammogram in six months since this was considered the “baseline”. I mentioned the ten year old mammogram and the comments his colleagues had shared more than once about not needing to find them. On the contrary, he was very interested to see them. Okay, sure. I’d try to remember where I had the mammogram ten years ago.
It took me all of maybe ten minutes to remember, call, and have the ten-year-old mammogram digitally sent to the doctor who did my biopsy. He called me within an hour to say “Good news! It looks like the micro-calcifications have been there since 2007!” He then added, “I sure wish we’d had these sooner because it would have saved us a lot of trouble.” In other words, had he had them, he would not have seen the need to do the biopsy in the first place. Well that was more than frustrating to hear. Yet and still, good news is good news and I was more relieved than words can say! My husband and I had a celebratory dinner out that night.
The summer still had more in store. Two weeks later, Ed and I went to the Polish Festival here in the Twin Cities. Last year we attended but there was no dancing to be had since Ed had fallen 15 feet only 14 weeks prior and he broke his left talus (foot) bone and right big toe. So this year was extra special as we danced our “dupas” off on the polka floor, making up for lost time. Was that smart considering my hip had been acting up? Probably not. But I will never turn down an opportunity to dance! This I know about me! (So much for listening to my body whisper, right? The thing is, my body was also screaming to dance the polka!)
It may have been a combo of bad shoes and a tender hip but I didn’t realize until the following day that I screwed up my right knee and my left peroneal tendon pretty bad. We even walked around after dancing without issue, so who knows. It was quite warm and we were so content to have come full circle from Ed’s fall the year before. Perhaps the festive atmosphere and our sheer joy numbed us to the after effects.
I couldn’t walk without pain at all the following day. I have not been able to walk without extreme pain in the left heel and a very spongey right knee going on the second week now. In case you’re wondering, except for some soreness for sure the next day, Ed appears to have been no worse for the wear! I must have been the one out of practice! Go figure!
Here’s where the synchronicity popped in—just by “coincidence” I only had to cancel one class in the next two weeks due to vacations having cancelled the others prior. And the one class I did have was a private client appointment so it required less props to carry into the location. Plus my husband drove me so he was there to help since my car was in the shop (oh, that’s another summer story!). The Universe somehow knew I would need the time off to rest, recoup, and heal.
It’s not in my nature to take time off no matter how bad I’m feeling—which brings me back to the yogic philosophy I mentioned earlier—listening to the body whisper so you don’t have to hear it scream. Apparently I needed to learn that lesson again. I realize I really should have taken the time to do less sooner. Remember I said I’d needed some space? Why didn’t I listen?
The whole breast mammogram, recall mammogram, biopsy, four-day-wait fiasco had taken more of a toll on my psyche than I cared to admit. We can’t just keep sweeping things under the carpet and expect to continue on our merry way without repercussions. I knew this deep down, but I didn’t listen. I really hadn’t walked the talk after all, at least not as well as I could have. Lesson learned.
I have to wonder if I’d taken some time to decompress after the mammogram results like I really wanted to perhaps my body would have been in a better state overall when I danced the polkas. The mind really is connected to the body. They are inseparable. So not only did the Universe pre-plan my much needed time off in my business schedule, it also gave me reason to sit still more than I had been due to the injury. Apparently I really needed to stay put. Maybe the next time I need to learn a lesson, the Universe won’t have to resort to bodily injury to get me to listen. One can only hope.
Photo taken just after our polkas!
So content and happy to have come full circle
I’ve written about my mother-in-law receiving the gift of daily songs from her husband after he passed in 2003. She heard those song messages every day from 2003 to when she passed in 2015. In that post I wrote “I’ve heard it said that communicating after you’ve passed is not easy.”
Dream visits are a sweet, sacred gift and you KNOW it’s not just any dream when you really feel like you’ve had an actual visit with your loved one. You wake up knowing something special just occurred.
It was several months after my Dad passed in 2003 that I had such a visit. In the dream I remember hugging him knowing that he was passed and I was being blessed with this very special visit. I was overwhelmed with just how much I missed him. I missed every little thing about him—even the smell of the nape of his neck as we hugged and I buried my nose into the hair on the side of his neck. And THAT’S the comment I made to him in my dream: “I missed your hair!” He threw back his arms away from me and said incredulously: “You missed my hair?!” and I woke up.
I’m sure he was thinking—this visit was NOT easy and your first comment is “You missed my hair?!” I chuckled to myself after I woke up knowing this would be just how he’d react. And I sent a message out to the ethers knowing he’d “hear”: “Tata, (Polish endearment for “Dad”) you know how dreams are. I just missed you so much and you did smell good. You smelled just like I remembered and I so miss our hugs.”
Since then, I’ve only had maybe two dreams of my Dad. The last one was fairly recent. I sure hope their scarcity isn’t because of my misplaced comment about missing his hair on his first visit! Here it is:
My husband, Ed, and I were swinging outside on a big two-seater swing suspended by long, thick, light blue ribbons. There was a slight breeze. It must have been spring time because we were surrounded by all kinds of flowers in every shape and color. Beneath us was a carpet of dark, lush, green grass. Ed and I were sitting close and swinging with long, graceful strides back and forth. In the dream I felt so happy there with Ed and all was well with the world. It was then that I noticed Dad sitting above us on a balcony of sorts just watching. I immediately shouted out “I love you!” and he mouthed back with a smile “I love you too!” Then I woke up. I remembered Dad used to say he loved watching us all from a distance at get-togethers when the family played baseball or croquet, having fun. I smiled thinking he was enjoying watching Ed and I as we swing through life in love together.
Dreams of my Mom are even scarcer and she doesn’t talk. She just appears in the dream. It’s still quite a special feeling.
Knowing the rarity of these visits personally, I was in complete awe of the dream my husband received a couple of days ago. I encouraged him to write it down because it was definitely an auspicious, once-in-a-lifetime, sacred gift.
Ed’s “Family” Dream…
The place is a large, spacious castle-like great room—one about 50 feet by 50 feet or more with no particular wall coverings but the room feels important like you are there to meet the King or Queen.
I see four people in this room, almost as creating a square. My Dad is to my left only a few feet away from me, my Mom to my right about 30 feet away, smiling. She gives me a slight wave. Just beyond my Dad, about 30 feet away, is my Father-in Law. My Mother-in-Law is across the room from him on the right about 30 feet from Mom. They all look about 10 – 15 years younger than when they passed.
I step to Dad, cup my hand around his neck and draw him closer. I remember looking into his face and having a sudden sense of loss, missing them all so! I break down crying uncontrollably. The dream comes to an abrupt end. ~
I got goose-bumps hearing my husband retell the dream. I could see it affected him deeply. All four parents in the dream at one time! It was as if his Dad wanted him to know “yes this really IS heaven” by the presence of all of them there. There was no mistaking that. It warms my heart thinking they’re all together “up there” perhaps playing cards as we often joke. It’s a comforting thought.
As I wrote in my “Finding Zofia” post about my maternal grandmother: I believe everything’s a message. I believe if you are open to signs, you’ll receive them. I believe our souls never die and they watch over us always. Thanks for the visits Mom and Dad. We’re anxiously awaiting your next one.
I started teaching yoga about nine years ago. There are two yogis in particular, LaVonne and Bebe, who have been coming to my classes since that time. Needless to say I absolutely adore them! We’ve become great friends!
Last year I had the utmost honor to work with LaVonne one-on-one as she battled cancer for a second time in her life. This time it was terminal cancer. There was no cure. She was a breast cancer survivor, so this news hit her and her family quite hard but they rose to the occasion, not missing a beat on staying positive. Throughout our time together this past year, she continued to be the most optimistic person I know—such an inspiration!
Everyone wanted to be around her because she was always smiling, always happy, and always looking on the bright side of life. She treasured her family. Time with her grandkids was sacred. She welcomed a new grandchild into her life earlier this year. Her husband shared with me recently how much joy that brought her. It gave her the strength to continue her treatments.
I saw her as a private client for several months. We used gentle, restorative yoga; Yoga Nidra; hand mudras; visualization; meditation/mindfulness; aromatherapy; sound therapy (tingsha bells, chakra bowls, healing music, nature sounds); grounding stones to hold onto and to surround her; and Reiki therapy in which I heavily use prayer. We consulted books on healing cancer, practiced rituals using candles and affirmations—you name it.
Mostly it was my sincere wish that our work together would give her hope and put her in a “rest and relax”/parasympathetic nervous system mode—the only time your body is empowered to regenerate. And as Wayne Dwyer used to say “If it’s placebo, I’ll take two!” She liked that quote a lot. She was up for whatever I brought to our sessions and she always had a smile and a hug for me coming and going. The trust she placed in me humbled me. I treasured our time together. It was such an honor and blessing to be invited into her home and into her family’s life throughout this tender time.
LaVonne passed away surrounded by her loving family this past weekend. I can’t stop thinking about her. Her energy goes on. As I said in my last post, I believe our souls live forever. I have been deeply blessed by this lovely lady. I will hold her close the rest of my lifetime and always remember that smile.
LaVonne’s in the middle and Bebe is on the right in this New Year’s Eve 2016 photo
P.S. A sweet addendum: My sweet husband and I went to LaVonne’s visitation as well as her funeral services the next day. Both functions were literally packed with her adoring friends and family. At the visitation, we saw many, many lovely photos of her life. There were numerous family pictures, pictures from her large group of “church ladies”, pictures from her wedding album, pictures of many fun trips to Europe and elsewhere. My husband and I really enjoyed viewing these memories and visiting with her family.
As we drove home from the visitation, “The story of my life” by the group, One Direction, came on the radio. The story of my life….I knew LaVonne’s spirit would be talking with me. I just hadn’t expected it so soon! The next song, back to back, was “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas. My husband has always told me he would like this song played at his funeral so LaVonne had this special gift for my husband too. This would be just the special consideration she’d give to a visitor—playing their song so they knew it was for them. We both broke down crying. I could just picture her joy at watching my husband and I view her lovely photos—”these are the story of my life”, she’d say. And oh what a wonderful life it was.
30 years ago today my mom passed away. It’s hard to grasp just how long it’s been. It seems impossible. I can still remember how she used to say my name with her Polish accent—both when she was happy with me (Sandy) and when she wasn’t (Sandra!). Some days I worry I’ll forget.
I’ve held April 11 close in my heart. This day has always been personal, safely guarded from anyone but my closest family and friends. I’ve chosen to celebrate life vs. death anniversaries. Yet and still, it’s impossible not to acknowledge when April 11 comes around each year. It’s impossible not to remember. There’s a silent nod, a spiritual awareness of the sacredness of her passing and the effect it had on my life.
I remember thinking the “11” was like an opening with borders left to right, a doorway of sorts, a gateway to heaven perhaps. The two numeral “ones” just stand there stark and cold. At least that’s how it seemed 30 years ago.
I wondered how the world could simply go on, how we could all just go on. It felt like the world should stop somehow, for a moment at least, to pay honor to this soul that had passed. The usual ceremonies (the wake, the funeral, the gathering of close friends and family, the burial) weren’t enough closure for me at the time. I’m not sure anything at that time would have felt like closure. It was so raw for so long. An open wound that wouldn’t heal.
I spent the week after the funeral with my dad trying to put their house in order and prepare him for taking care of all the details mom used to do. No matter how many notes I wrote, and taped instructions I adhered to appliances, I knew it would be a rough road for him. I called him daily for a long time just to let him cry. You see, while they had many fights in their lifetime, they had a common history—both were born in Poland and both were prisoners of war in Germany during World War II. They met in a displaced person’s camp after the war. I know their experiences in Germany resulted in post-traumatic stress (PTS) and I know their many fights were rooted in PTS. Deep down I also knew they both loved each other. It always surfaced when the other needed it most, like right before mom died.
None of us knew mom had cancer until the autopsy. She went into the hospital with pneumonia and was released a week or so later, but she wasn’t getting better. She wasn’t eating well. A standard blood test showed something major was wrong and she was rushed back into the hospital not too long after she was released.
I received a panicked call from my sister-in-law that I should come home right away on the same Saturday my husband and I were expecting his parents and brother to arrive at our home. It was a five hour drive from their farm in Indiana to Wisconsin where we lived. Cell phones weren’t common back then. We had no way of reaching them. We waited for them to arrive only to immediately jump in the car and drive the same five hours back to my mom. I found out my mom had passed away from the attending nurse when I called from a phone booth on the way home to Indiana. While no one was able to really say “goodbye” because no one knew she was about to die, I struggled with not making it home before she passed for years. It still bothers me.
This year’s anniversary seems more poignant than most. My step-mom, Prudy, passed away last Thursday. She met and married my dad several years after my mom had passed—somewhere around 1994 or 1995. They were married less than ten years with the last few being really rough on Prudy as my dad developed Alzheimer’s. He passed away in 2003, the year my husband and I lost both of our dads. She was a source of great comfort for my dad and a huge blessing in all of our lives.
My husband and I became quite close to Prudy over the last 20+ years. She was a dear, sweet, adorable, fun, wise and trusted friend. It’s a different kind of relationship with a step-mom, especially when you’re already an adult when you first meet. There’s none of the drama in your history. She filled our lives with much joy and we so enjoyed all of our visits and long talks. I think I was lulled into believing she would live much longer than her 91 years.
Maybe all these years I’ve kept the anniversary of my mom’s passing personal and close to my heart because I didn’t want to re-visit the open wound. Maybe I was afraid to stir up the emotions, believing the memory wasn’t as raw as it once was because I just didn’t go there; or perhaps couldn’t go there. They say sometimes you don’t feel the full blow until you’re ready to handle it.
This year’s anniversary of my mom’s passing is still personal—still held close to my heart. But this year I’m feeling it so much deeper because I couldn’t help but “go there” this year. This year April 11 came on the heels of another loss. My guard was down. This year it’s shared with the loss of my very last mom and I can’t contain my emotions. My first mom passed in 1987 when I was just 27. My second mom (in-law) passed away April 30, 2015. April has taken all of my moms and I can’t help but feel like I’ve lost my last anchor.
I’m so very lucky to have had three moms and I am oh so grateful to have had each and every one of them in my life. God must have known I’d need extra. Their memories will serve as my anchor now. I will always remember.
Mom and Dad
My husband and I just got back from a week-long vacation in Napa, CA; and we, uh, had a chance to visit just a few wineries while we were there…hiccup @#! One day we had a professional chauffeur, Rosanna of “Sip and Swirl”, drive us around—a service offered through the Candlelight Inn where we were staying. Mental note to self: Rosanna was retired and did this part-time, she shared that she gets invited to numerous events due to the nature of her job, and she appeared to be enjoying life! Having an escort was smart on so many levels! She knew places that weren’t on our radar and they turned out to be some of our favorite spots. She also had a lot of local trivia to share as we drove around.
Chándon (“Ch is pronounced as “sh” and the accent is on the second syllable) features sparkling wine, a.k.a. champagne. Lovely name, isn’t it? Rosanna started us out there first thing in the morning, because who doesn’t want bubbles to start the day? (I think I want them every day, but that’s another story!) Chándon has a gorgeous location with a lush landscape and beautiful Adirondack chairs in their outdoor seating area surrounded with “indigenous oak trees” for an amazing view. The tasting room has floor to ceiling windows so you had that amazing view wherever you went!
We also loved our wine professional, Karly. She was a hoot! She was not only fun, but everything she said about our tastings could have been put on a t-shirt I’d wear all day long! Seriously, she needs to be in their marketing department! My favorite was the title of this post: “Delicate but powerful”. Now couldn’t you just rock that t-shirt?!
Another golden nugget quote she used was “Sweet spice not heat spice”. And then there was “Approachable”. She had so many, shall we say, words of wisdom? Well they got your attention and made you smile! We joked about needing to take her home with us and made plans to stop by on the following Monday as we were headed back home toward the airport. At least I hope she realized it was a joke…hmmm.
The last quote I’ll mention here may have been from uh…the next winery—heck it may have been the next day (we were having too much fun!), but it’s worth a mention: “Always polished/Never dull”.
“Delicate but powerful” is the one I’ve haven’t been able to get off my mind. I’d love to be referred to with that descriptor, wouldn’t you? I see a black t-shirt in my future, seriously. Chándon’s beautiful star logo (the star could be a “sparkley”) and tagline “let’s catch up” on the front and the quote in royal blue or hot pink on the back would look stunning, don’t you think? It could even be a polo shirt with a collar to make it a little classier. I tried to configure something online with just the quote. It wasn’t what I was looking for but it’s a start! I’m a bit obsessed.
I wonder if Chándon realizes how valuable Karly is. How she does what she does is magic. While many of the wineries had great service, with great presentations, Karly’s was exceptional in her delivery. I mean I’m not making imaginary t-shirts out of any of the other’s now am I? She hit the mark. This was not the norm at all the wineries we went to. Karly made our visit just that much more memorable. I guess you could say she was delicate…but powerful….It’ll stick with you now, won’t it?
I would love it if you would subscribe to my blog/newsletter. I don’t publish on a regular timetable so subscribing is a good way to make sure you don’t miss out on any amazing posts such as this one! (Poking fun at myself. 🙂 ) You’ll also be the first to receive updates, resources, and more. I’ll even give you a free gift! 🙂 Click on the “FREE Chakra-Balancing & Loving Kindness Meditation!” link in the right-hand column. Thanks!
Have you watched the movie Field of Dreams? Ray Kinsella, played by Kevin Costner, doesn’t want to believe he’s hearing voices, let alone that they’re telling him to build a baseball diamond in the middle of his cash corn crop. Ray fights the magical message at first, but eventually he builds the baseball diamond.
The baseball diamond becomes a magical place where the ghosts of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the other seven Chicago Black Sox players banned from the game for throwing the 1919 World Series appear to play baseball. They enter the baseball diamond from the cornfield that is on the perimeter of the baseball diamond, and they exit the same way, disappearing into the stalks of corn as they walk in. The mantra from this film is the message “if you build it they will come” spoken by “the voice” in the cornfield.
The mysterious voice sends other messages, one of which is to find a 1920s ballplayer named Archibald “Moonlight” Graham. When Ray goes to Chisolm, Minnesota, Moonlight’s hometown, they find that Moonlight Graham has been dead since 1972. In his confusion, Ray goes for a walk to clear his head. During his walk he is magically transported back in time to 1972. You’ll have to watch the movie to find out what happens next!
I love all things magical and I believe that anything’s possible.
Perhaps it’s this belief that encourages a magical surrealness around my chiropractor’s office. Let me explain.
My chiropractor is Dr. John Hilpisch and he is an excellent upper cervical chiropractor in Lake Elmo, MN. Now doesn’t “Lake Elmo” sound like an old-time town name? If you’re not familiar with upper cervical chiropractic, check out his website or his Facebook page, and/or attend one of his free open houses where they explain it in great detail. It’s quite interesting, and from my experience, it really works for me! It reversed some dizziness I’d been experiencing for a couple of months a little over a year ago—in one adjustment. But back to my time travel story…
His office is exquisitely decorated with vintage prints from the 30s and 40s and well-used crackled leather chairs exuding comfort from an era gone by. Most, if not all of the prints, are water scenes, like my favorite one here:
Can’t you just hear the song “From the land of sky blue water” playing in your head? I often joke that they’re taking care of it for me because I love it so much. It has everything I love, an old time scene, a campfire, nature, and the full moon. I want to walk into that scene—**sigh**. Everything about this office is relaxing and encourages contemplation.
Part of his treatment protocol includes going into the next room to rest for 15 minutes after an adjustment. Here you’ll find recliner chairs to rest in, blankets for warmth and coziness, a timer to set so you can let go completely, an old-fashioned clock on the wall adding to the ambiance, relaxing music to coax you into slumber, and ….the calendar. Speaking as a yoga instructor, this room is the ultimate “final relaxation” room. It’s so soothing to melt into the chair and let the surroundings take you away. Even if you didn’t need an adjustment on that visit, Dr. Hilpisch is kind enough to invite you to go rest in there if you like, and there’s room.
The most important take-away is this: You can recreate this ambiance with little effort. Your body will thank you!
Surrounded by lovely vintage scenes, and lulled into a relaxing dream-like state, it was the old-time calendar that started to hold a spell over my imagination every time I entered the room to rest. I swear one of these days I’m going to walk out of there and be transported back in time to 1928 similar to Ray Kinsella in the movie. I wonder what I’d discover in 1928? I’ve often thought I was born in the wrong era. I love old-time music, wearing decorative hats is one of my favorite accessories; and of course, there’s the vintage art attraction. I think I might like it there…so long as I could take my husband with me. 🙂 Hey, it’s my dream so I can visualize it however I want, right?
Hat’s off to all things magical in honor of St. Patrick’s day this week! Here’s a link to an archived newsletter visiting the magical realm.
I would love it if you would subscribe to my blog/newsletter. I don’t publish on a regular timetable so subscribing is a good way to make sure you don’t miss out on any amazing posts such as this one! (Poking fun at myself. 🙂 ) You’ll also be the first to receive updates, resources, and more. I’ll even give you a free gift! 🙂 Click on the “FREE Chakra-Balancing & Loving Kindness Meditation!” link in the right-hand column. Thanks!
The Minneapolis Yoga Conference was this past weekend. I was oh so lucky to be able to spend all three days participating in the Yoga Therapy Track with presentations by Indu Arora (as well as Molly McManus whom I had the absolute pleasure of meeting for the first time! Molly’s Soma Yoga therapy is definitely something I’m going to pursue learning more about!).
I had experienced Indu’s wisdom a couple of years ago at the same conference for her presentation on mudras (yoga for the hands). I also attended her book signing for the launch of her amazing new book on mudras: Mudra: The Sacred Secret. I’d never experienced anyone with as much wisdom in her every spoken word. Believe me, you realize it when you’re in her presence—she’s the “real deal”. Are there any of you old enough to remember the commercial about E.F. Hutton? Well, the same applies here: When Indu Arora talks, people listen!
So when the opportunity to participate in three days of an International-Yoga-Therapy-Association-approved therapy track this year featuring Indu on several compelling yoga therapy subjects, I knew I had to attend.
She started and ended her classes succinctly on time, and when she gave a break, it was literally five minutes. No one complained, and they knew she’d be back to the discussion at four minutes 59.9 seconds! (And yes, it was a group of mainly women—upwards of 40 of us—with the usual three stall bathrooms in the area so getting through the line in five minutes meant there was no dilly dallying!) She joked once at the end of an hour presentation that her timer said 59 minutes and 59 seconds as she was completing her presentation. None of us wanted to miss a syllable! Seriously! There was so much wisdom packed into her presentations, she had our absolute complete attention. The expressions on my fellow-attendee’s faces reflected the same active listening I was experiencing. We were all gloriously present in the moment, ears wide open, not wanting to miss a drop.
Our Yoga Nidra class!
You might wonder how you’d command the same attention from your audience. I can only say that the level of truth coming from her resonated with each of us so deeply that I doubt I’ll experience the caliber of her teachings from another speaker any time soon. And that leads me to issue a disclaimer here. In her last class presentation on the components of yoga nidra/yoga sleep, we all were gifted with a luscious 45-minute yoga nidra practice. (Yes—it was an absolutely nummy experience, in case you were wondering!) Towards the end of the nidra, she suggested we bring to mind a teacher or guru who has made a difference in our life. I immediately thought of her. When I shared this with her later at her exhibit booth, she immediately reminded me, “No I am not a teacher! I am a student just like you. I am the same as you!”
Earlier that day in class, she gave an analogy of the difference between teaching and sharing. “When you teach”, she said, “You are like this” (showing her two hands palms down parallel to the floor with one hand higher than the other). “The ‘teacher’ elevates herself above her audience. But when you share, you are like this” (showing her two hands palms down parallel to the floor and even with each other). “I am the same as you! I share. I don’t teach.”
In India, where Indu is from, “a ‘Guru’ is a Sanskrit term that connotes someone who is a ‘teacher, guide, expert, or master’ of certain knowledge or field. In pan-Indian traditions, guru is someone more than a teacher, traditionally a reverential figure to the student, with the guru serving as a ‘counselor’, who helps mold values, shares experiential knowledge as much as literal knowledge, an exemplar in life, an inspirational source and who helps in the spiritual evolution of a student. The term also refers to someone who primarily is one’s spiritual guide, who helps one to discover the same potentialities that the gurus already realized.” Indu is much too humble to elevate herself to this description, although I suspect many of us view her as a true “guru”. I mean if she isn’t an expert, I could only hope to meet her guru!
I left the conference with my heart full of gratitude and my brain soaked in “purposeful information”—her words describing the courses offered. By the way, one of her “asides” was that literally every Sanskrit syllable has 20 possible meanings and how it comes into contact with the next syllable gives the meaning direction. I learned so much this past weekend and I loved every syllable!
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My husband and I thoroughly enjoy celebrating all things Irish as St. Patrick’s day approaches. Yes, I’m immensely proud of being a first generation Pole; but I was born and raised in South Bend, IN, the land of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame! Add to that, my Dad did the stonework at Notre Dame when he first came to America (from Poland with my mom and their two children). He worked on the grotto and helped with the brick work when they installed the Pieta sculpture of Mary holding Jesus into the Basilica. When Notre Dame didn’t win their games, he was NOT happy! So there’s a healthy admiration for all things Irish, especially this time of year!
We have quite a collection of Irish CDs. One of my favorites is The Best of The Irish Rovers. The first song, “The Unicorn”, holds a special spot in my heart because it was literally the first song I heard on the radio as a child of seven where I realized that songs told a story. This jig fills me with joy and turns me into that same seven-year-old wide-eyed child. Fun Trivia: the children’s book author, Shel Silverstein, wrote this whimsical poem and it appears in his book Where the Sidewalk Ends. Full disclosure: I’m not exactly sure I DON’T believe in Unicorns!
Many of you may know that about a year ago, my husband, Ed, fell 15 feet from a ladder while taking down Christmas lights. He broke his talus bone and chipped another in his left foot, and also broke his right big toe. He landed into the ladder, as he smacked down onto the driveway pavement. His nose was swollen and appeared to possibly be broken. He was bleeding profusely from the gashes on his face. Needless to say, I was beside myself when I found him. (Does anyone want to buy a ladder?)
The next few months it was my personal mission to surround him with as many healing modalities I could get my hands on. I became “Sumo-wrestler guard” when he moved, trailing him in a stooped position to make sure he wouldn’t fall. His doctor said it would be 18 months minimum for the healing process. So we’ve made it a year!
He is continually improving. Some days are better than others. Most of you wouldn’t know he has any remaining issues, but you don’t see him when he wakes up and it’s tight, or when he goes down steps, or has pain when he tries to go on a longer walk. He’s a trooper! Have I mentioned yet how very much I adore this man? Unbelievably, this has brought us just that much closer. We have a deeper understanding and appreciation for each other. I mean, he’s still here. It could have been so much worse. We’re intensely aware of just how lucky we are.
This past weekend we were listening to our Irish music collection and both of us were enjoying recalling happy moments from our past that these songs brought to mind. One CD was purchased on a trip to Sacramento during St. Patty’s day. We found a CD there that was recorded in South Bend and had to buy it (Seamaisin, Joseph Harvey’s Fiddle was Left in the Rain)! Another is The Irish Tenors in Belfast. Just hearing their deep operatic voices brings tears to our eyes. There’s a National Geographic “Destination Ireland” CD, and one purchased at my step-sister’s wedding from their band, Crazy Maggie (“Rock the Bow”).
But it was The Irish Rover’s CD that, again, delivered a magical new memory. Their “Goodbye Mick and Goodbye Pat” song came on. It’s quite a lively tune, not unlike a polka. I stopped what I was doing to gaze into my sweet husband’s eyes and he held me in his arms, returning the gaze. We spontaneously started to do a very low-key version of our usual Polka (prior to his accident, we were polka-dancing fools given the right song!) We stopped after a few steps, eyes locked upon each other, tears forming in our eyes from a knowing we both understood. This was officially our first polka since he fell almost a year ago! It was a memory of a lifetime. Life is so very precious….Don’t forget to Dance!
Thursday nights finds me at one of my in-home private residence yoga classes where a family meets weekly to practice yoga together. They were all newbies when I started working with them. Sister-in-laws commute along with their toddlers while the husband’s watch over them on the main level and we practice yoga on the bottom level. It’s a family affair. The owner and her 13-year-old daughter are part of this sweet group too. The mom thought it would be a good way for her daughter to learn relaxation skills as well as connect with family. How cool is that?
When you walk into their home, there’s a “sleeping baby monk on an elephant” statue to greet you. I fell in love with it on my first visit. Their décor is beautiful. It’s like walking into a sacred space.
I’d been coming to teach here for several weeks before I finally asked about what appeared to be a fine piece of Incan art prominently hung on their foyer wall next to the main entry doorway. Great Feng Shui! I’d been admiring it for weeks and just had to ask where they purchased it.
Imagine my surprise when the mom told me it was her 13-year-old’s school art project! It was only then that I noticed it was adhered to the wall via stick pins and was signed by her too! Beautiful! Knowing it was a teen’s art project didn’t make me love it any less! On the contrary, I adored it even more! Now I was in awe and admiration. In awe of this young girl’s talent and in admiration of the family’s pride in her work.
It is my absolute honor to connect with families such as this one and share the gifts of yoga, breathwork, meditation and relaxation. I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had been given the opportunity to learn these skills when I was 13 surrounded by a loving, supportive family; and to have these life-enhancing tools in my back pocket when I faced the stressors every teen faces as they navigate life. Each generation wants to give their children a better life. And I’m oh so humbled to be a part of this young girl’s journey.
Do more yoga!
My husband and I went to see Mamma Mia at the Orpheum this past weekend as an early Valentine’s Day celebration. We really had a great time!
It’s such a fun, uplifting show! You can’t help but feel good tapping your feet and singing along with all the ABBA songs. The storyline reminds you that while the choices you make earlier in life affect your future, it’s never too late to have your dreams come true. Age doesn’t matter when you’re heart’s in the right place.
I couldn’t help but recall the first time we saw the play in Las Vegas several years ago. My company had awarded me a trip because I’d had an exceptionally good sales year. Their outward approval meant so much to me then.
I’ve been teaching yoga since 2008 and when I left the corporate world in 2009 to pursue Yoga as my career, it was more than a little scary. I knew there’d be less income, but the reasons to leave were more compelling than the reasons to stay.
As I sat in the theater this past weekend, tears came to my eyes as I remembered how confirming it was to be given that trip as a sales award. I’d felt like I’d “arrived”. Since 2009, I’ve steadily grown my yoga career and progressed to having in-home private residence and on-site corporate classes. My old corporate boss used to say “nobody ever went out of business because of low overhead.” I’ve been working “lean”—perhaps too lean at times. I realize that maybe I need to take a few more risks going forward. Risk-taking has never been my strong suit, especially as I’ve gotten older!
Recently I achieved certification as a yoga therapist through the International Association of Yoga Therapists. I’ve been working toward that goal for a long time. So the Mamma Mia play was a two-fold celebration. Again, there’s that outward “nod of approval” that I still must need.
I realized the tears that came to my eyes in the theater this past weekend were not so much for remembering “then” as it was affirming “now”. “NOW” I was at this play because I chose to, because we wanted to reward ourselves, because we deserved it. So we did it. No outward approval required. It came from within this time. And being with my husband of almost 34 years having a blast was, as always, priceless!
I’ve written about my Mom (in-law) before. There’s the story of her hearing Dad sing to her each day after he passed until her death 12 years later. There’s the story of my sharing with her the mala beads that I pray Hail Mary’s with. She expressed no judgement of my choice of beads—she prayed the rosary daily, and I mean daily, sometimes twice a day. She commented at the time “it helps, doesn’t it?” I mentioned in a previous blog that she’s the only person I know of that wore her rosary out. She asked me to fix her rosary once because it had disintegrated from use. I often refer to her as one of two people in my life that I have considered a living saint.
So suffice to say that I believe there’s a whole lot of good energy built up within her rosary. Dad’s as well. I remember one time approaching their bedroom as they were about to retire for the evening so I could give them their evening good night kisses and hugs. I literally gasped when I saw Dad on his knees thinking he was hurt before I realized a split second later that he was kneeling by his bedside to say his nighttime prayers. I was constantly humbled by the two who raised my husband into the treasure that I now enjoy going on 34 years—37 if you count how long I’ve known him.
Recently there was a request for advice in a private yoga therapy Facebook group I belong to from someone who’d been asked to hold sacred space for her dying friend. There were many heartfelt contributions, including the one from a kind soul that shared: “Be ready to be present with what your friend “sees” as the end approaches. Regardless of belief systems, many will see dead relatives, or an opening in the room, or feel as though there is a trip to go on. Your friend may point (if non-communicative) or just give really strange looks, because no one has told them of this very normal part of dying. Affirm your friend, create the space for your friend to experience ALL of the emotions that go along with the end of death. Often the health care professionals also don’t “warn” people of this part.“
This touched me so deeply that I shared the passage with my husband and paused to insert his mom’s story right after the mention of “a trip”. The hospice worker who was there the day before mom passed, came after she passed to pick up equipment, etc. She shared that when she last visited the day before, mom had briefly woken up from her sleep looking all bright and cheery and announced “I’m going to heaven today” and then promptly fell asleep again. Our final visit with mom was very emotionally blurred so I didn’t remember my husband was not in the room when the hospice worker shared that story. Tears welled up in my husband’s eyes when I recounted the story (two years after she has passed). It was oh so poignant for him to hear. The look on his face was priceless. It was a sacred moment for both of us. I sent a note off to the author saying how grateful I was that her note prompted me to retell this story to my husband.
I use this box from mom containing both her and Dad’s rosaries daily when I do Reiki over my husband’s still healing foot from his fall last year (15 feet). I know like I know like I know his parents are present helping it to heal. And if you ever doubt that loved ones stay present in your lives after they’ve passed, ponder the story of Dad singing to mom daily for 12 years, and the story of the Facebook post prompting a memory my husband needed to hear. I know Mom was reaching out to say hello. Life is so very precious. ~
P.S. I’m adding this as an “update” of sorts, or perhaps the “rest of the story”. At the end of the day after I posted this I went upstairs from my office which is in the basement. There’s a light switch at the bottom of the stairs that corresponds with a light switch upstairs so you can turn it on and off at either end. We’ve lived here well over 20 years and the following has NEVER happened. Later I needed to go downstairs again and I turned on the switch at the top of the stairs and no light went on. There is more than one light bulb in the light fixture so it wasn’t a burnt bulb because that would have been too coincidental. So I wondered if I’d blown a fuse. I walked down the stairs in the dark and hit the switch downstairs up, then down. Nothing. Then up and down again. Nothing. Then up, because I’m stubborn! The light went on! Okay, I’ve posted about my dad using electricity to communicate after he passed before. Communicating through electricity is apparently a venue of choice for those that have passed: ”They also work through electricity – turning TVs and radios on and off, affecting lights, doorbells, phones. They seem to be able to manipulate energy – most likely because they’re energy!” http://www.grandtimes.com/communic.html. It’s the only explanation in my mind. I’ve used this switch several times since with no issues. Mom was having fun with me! Hi Mom!
Youve probably figured out by now that I am very Polish! My parents were born there and my husbands grandparents were born there too. I have always been extremely proud of my heritage.
Hearing any Slavic language pulls on my heart strings, especially Polish. This beautiful language enveloped me in my youth. Even though my parents did not teach me how to speak fluent Polish, I totally knew certain orders: Eat! Sleep! Come here! And Ive always joked that I knew when to duck for cover. They spoke their native language frequently, especially when they didnt want us to know what they were saying.
I was the youngest of five, so my parents had been in the United States ten years by the time I was born. Yet, to this day, I can still distinguish a Slavic accent even with those who have been in the States for a very long time. You never forget your mothers voice. In fact, new research suggests that babies begin to absorb language when they are inside the womb during the last 10 weeks of pregnancywhich is earlier than previously held. Newborns can actually tell the difference between their mothers native tongue and foreign languages just hours after they are born.
As a yoga teacher, Ive also picked up various Sanskrit words. Sanskrit is said to induce a sound therapy. The pronunciation of Sanskrit affects the meridians of the tongue and stimulates the roof of the mouth where the hypothalamus residesvery important to major bodily functions such as body temperature, appetite, thirst, metabolism, circadian rhythms, physiological responses to stress, etc. The science of mantra repetition creates sound currents and the vibratory effects create a sound therapy manifesting health and healing. It is considered a sacred science.
Imagine my delight when I discovered that Slavic languages, such as Polish, are believed to have common ancestry with the Sanskrit language! Perhaps its just me, but I find comfort and more than a little joy in the similarities. Joga in Polish is pronounced as yoga in Sanskrit, but it doesnt stop there. The Polish word, mówisz, for example, means you speak in English and sounds close to our English word movie. Doesnt it make you smile that a movie with a sound track is our definition of talkies?
Similarities such as, Sohamwhich means I am That or I am He in Sanskritsounds very similar to S?ucham in Polishwhich means I am listening. The word “Koham” in Sanskritwhich means “Who am I?” is also very similar to the word Kocham in Polish means I love. We are love, aren’t we?
When Soham applies to a person’s name, according to Vedic philosophy (ancient Indian scripture) it means identifying oneself with the universe or ultimate reality. Some say that when a child is born it cries Koham-Koham which means Who am I? That is when the universe replies back Soham. You are the same as I am.
Substituting the similarly pronounced Polish words and their meanings into the quote above translates to a beautiful message:
When Im listening applies to a persons name, it means identifying oneself with the universe or ultimate reality. When a child is born it cries I love-I love to which the universe replies I am listening.
We are meant to come into this world to love. When we do things with love, the Universe responds in kind. When we pursue a dream for the sole purpose of benefitting mankind in some way, the Universe listens.
When I discovered the common ancestry of the two languages and realized the similarly pronounced words, my heart just melted. I knew there was a reason I was so enamored with Sanskrit. Its similarity to Polish is undeniable. It seemed to be a sacred kind of kismetmy two loves colliding: the love of my Polish ancestry and the love of all things yoga. It was as if the Universe was saying my two loves have the same roots in my DNA: “You are the same as I am”.
Isnt Language beautiful? / Nie jest j?zyk jest pi?kny?
(“Who am I?”, “I love.”)
Better Day Yoga LLC
I used to share a blog with a colleague a couple of years ago. She has since removed that web page so I am rescuing some of my favorite stories here. Enjoy!
Feeling a little vulnerable lately? Or maybe someone is giving you the evil eye, sometimes referred to as “stink eye”. Sometimes you just want a little guaranteed luck, mojo and/or protection, right? You’re not the only one!
Amulets that are used for protection go back thousands of years. The open hand as a symbol of protection is universal. Symbols of divine protection based upon the open hand go by many names: Hamsa, Hand of Rachel, Hand of Mirium, and Hand of Venus/Aphrodite, among others. Hamsa literally means “five”. It predates Christianity as well as Islam. The Hand of Mary was used to protect women from the evil eye, boost fertility and lactation, promote healthy pregnancies, and strengthen the weak.
Some cultures adopted the eye as an amulet for protection while others favored the Hamsa (hand). Over time the two symbols were married and thus the Hand of Fatima was born.
This symbol is commonly seen hung at the threshold of homes where it is believed to guard the household and all who dwell there from the influence of negativity. The talisman is purported to offer special protection against fires making it a prominent fixture in many businesses.
Worn on the person as an amulet, the Hand of Fatima offers not only protection, but blessing. The wearer will be granted abundance, luck, vitality and will find the favor of benevolent forces.
The open hand symbol, especially the right hand, represents blessings, power, and strength. “Used to protect against evil eye, a malicious stare believed to be able to cause illness, death, or just general unluckiness, hamsas often contain an eye symbol.”
The “eye-in-hand” icon is said to represent both the act of observation (the eye) and the action of doing (the hand). “See and do.” It combines the sense of sight and touch, combining the sensory input with intentional output through the hands.
There are others, but need I go on?
My first hamsa came to me at a yoga conference where there was a display of symbolic hand-made jewelry. I was immediately drawn to one beaded necklace containing the hamsa. I remembered it was a protective amulet which the artist also confirmed.
I eagerly donned the hamsa necklace and didn’t think much more about it as I went off to a yoga therapy class working with the energy fields of the body/chakras. One exercise involved using a pendulum to check the health of your chakras.
We partnered up with another student. One was to lie down on their back to be tested and the other was to hold the pendulum between their thumb and forefinger above each chakra of their partner. As the pendulum started to move, we’d note the direction and speed, etc. (For a great article on how to use a pendulum to check your chakras, click here.
As I recall, my chakras were all spinning clockwise and fairly “normal”/equal to each other as we started with the root chakra at the base of the spine. My solar plexus chakra had some issues, so we noted that. But the real fun started when my partner got to my throat chakra. The pendulum wouldn’t go in a circle at all. It was all over the place!
Suddenly I remembered the hamsa necklace I was wearing and removed it. Upon retest, my throat chakra was perfectly “normal”/equal to the others! I joked that I could just imagine the energy of the hamsa with boxing gloves on, batting away at the pendulum, affecting the energy of the pendulum’s circle. THAT exercise was enough for me to really put some stock into the protective energy of the hamsa. I mean something was definitely going on there. No doubt in my mind.
How about you? Still not sure about wearing an amulet for protection? Perhaps try the hand mudra for courage and releasing fear that uses the open palm of the right hand facing forward. The right hand asks for help and is also the one used to give blessing. This mudra is often seen as a Buddha hand gesture called Abhaya Mudra translated from Sanskrit as fearlessness. It can also be interpreted to mean “fear not”.
Some say, with this mudra, you are asking for protection from whomever you put your faith in, which will vary according to your faith tradition. Likewise, the hamsa is worn by people of all religions. Knowing that the symbol of the open hand is recognized as a sign of protection across many societies, I believe its energy to be universal. How about you? Needing a little assurance? It’s only an open hand away.
(Here are two more hamsas I purchased on State Street in Madison—one this past weekend—from one of my favorite jewelers—“Wearable Archeologies”. I googled her name just now to find this synchronistic youtube where she talks about the hamsa being one of her most popular pieces. Enjoy!)
Here’s to keeping the bad juju away!
Better Day Yoga LLC
I used to share a blog with a colleague a couple of years ago. She has since removed that web page so I am “rescuing” some of my favorite stories here. Enjoy!
Have you had a dream that intrigued you lately? Did you record it anywhere? I don’t analyze every dream I have, but when I have a similar theme two nights in a row, I tend to sit up and take notice. A few nights ago I dreamt I used a Sunstone to “listen” to what other stone’s messages were. I would put my ear up to the sunstone and “hear” the message. It was as though the dream message was instructing me to use the Sunstone for this purpose. In the same dream I used a flat agate stone—similar to one displayed in my bathroom—and put it up against the right side of my chest. In the dream as soon as I did this, there was a discernible and undeniable “jump” in my body. There was no mistaking a cause and effect from laying the agate against my chest.
I woke up just after this dream which, to me, meant it was calling out to be remembered. The dreams you awake from are easiest to recall, aren’t they?
The very next night I had another dream about stones. Throughout this dream I was seeing a particular kind of agate native to South Dakota called a “teepee canyon agate”. It kept appearing in my hands and I’d investigate it closer and closer, sinking my face toward the stone and noticing the distinctive yellow/orange/red colors. It was almost as if I was awake inside the dream and I wanted to remember this stone. I kept saying to myself—“remember teepee agate, remember teepee agate”. I own a small teepee canyon agate from South Dakota near the Black Hills. My teepee canyon agate has a sparkly druse cluster of crystals on one end. In my humble opinion, druse clusters are like antennae to a magical realm. My husband and I love the Black Hills and this native stone serves as a touch base or talisman to our memories of this sacred land.
Indigenous tribes consider dream messages of great importance. Their messages and meanings are discussed during fireside gatherings. They are not to be taken lightly. Aborigines in Australia consider dreams integral to their spirituality. Native Americans consider their dream messages as being vital information pertaining to their destiny. Messages from the Universe come via your dreams. They appear in the “magic ‘tween times” happening between sleep and awake.
When was the last time you had a dream that seemed to stand out and call for attention? THOSE are the dreams trying to tell you something! I believe it was the “stone theme” two nights in a row that was the Universe’s way of saying “Hey! This one’s important!” The Universe has a way of pointing things out.
Metaphysically, Sunstone is said to be a “joyful stone” restoring life’s sweetness and helping you to value and nurture yourself. It encourages optimism, enthusiasm, motivation and positive action. Sunstone helps you develop your own originality, encouraging independence and alleviating fearfulness. It has a powerful connection to the light and power of the sun, bringing light to all situations. Carrying a piece around with you can help your personal power to shine. Sunstone brings good fortune and abundance making it a strong manifestation stone. It’s also useful in removing energy draining ties or “hooks” into your energy by other people.
Using Sunstone as the “filter through which I perceive and amplify messages” is an amazing dream message, don’t you think? My interpretation is that you should view everything through the veil of optimism and self empowerment. Celebrate your own achievements. Be yourself; be original; be independent. Let your personal power shine through. Lighten your thinking to improve your state of mind which will improve your ability to manifest your desires.
I’m wearing the only Sunstone I own—earrings wrapped in brass wire. Appropriate they are worn near my ears, yes? The dream suggested listening through Sunstone.
The Teepee Canyon Agate being red, orange, and yellow in color immediately brings to mind the base chakras—root, sacral, and solar plexus. I have always considered my Teepee Canyon Agate as a special talisman. Read this great article on how to personalize your own talisman or amulet. The dream telling me to “remember Teepee Agate” on the heels of using Sunstone as the filter through which to receive messages makes me think increasing the energetic pathway through the first three chakras will be enhanced with Sunstone’s positive influence. Strengthening the first three chakras is in order.
Agates are known as the “stone of balance and well-being”. It balances yin/yang energy and enhances courage and protection. It has a healing, calming energy. Agate is a stone of strength and was used by ancient warriors on their breastplate of armor to give them strength and make them victorious in battle.
Remember my dream message to put the Agate to my chest for a noticeable shift? How cool is that?
Energetically, Agates have similar qualities to Sunstone in that it increases self-confidence and strength—both emotionally and physically—and it dispels fears. It is a grounding stone allowing for bursts of energy as needed, similar to Sunstone’s ability to let your personal power shine through. Agate also transforms negative energy similar to Sunstone.
So are you ready to work more closely with your dream messages? I thought so! In Dick Stuphen’s book, Oracle Within, he suggests that right before you go to sleep ask for dreams that will assist you in understanding what is holding you back. And here’s the part I like—it suggests asking that the dreams be received literally, not symbolically. (I remembered thinking, “I can ask that?! Why didn’t I think of that?! Well why wouldn’t you be able to ask for a clear answer? The Universe is, after all, an aspect of your Higher Self.) Ask that you remember them immediately upon awakening and keep a pen and paper by the bedside for recording. (For more on my experience with asking questions and dreams, see my April 2013 newsletter as well as how Better Day Yoga got it’s a name.
Your dreams speak to you in profound ways if you but take the time to interpret them to your personal experiences. It’s my opinion that you know what your dreams mean. Your first inclination as to the meaning is usually the correct one. Trust your intuition. Listen to your dreams. Start a journal and keep it by your bedside to record dreams that call for attention. Your dreams are talking to you and have vital information pertaining to your destiny.
Better Day Yoga LLC
I used to share a blog with a colleague a couple of years ago. She has since removed that web page so I am “rescuing” some of my favorite stories here. Enjoy!
One of my yoga students is preparing to move after having lived in her beautiful home for, I believe she said, almost 45 years. She and her husband are preparing for their next amazing adventure together! Isn’t that how moving should feel? It’s been a joy to watch her meticulously organize and pack in preparation week by week. Five other amazing ladies, who have stolen my heart, make up the balance of the yogis in this weekly class held in the basement of her home.
In the process of cleaning out and packing, she accumulated an assortment of treasures in her three-season porch and invited us all to peruse her “Free Garage Sale”, as she worded it. This lady is one of the most generous, big-hearted human beings on the planet. I am truly blessed to have her and this whole amazing tribe of loving souls in my life. Did I mention I adore them?
Given her decorating style and taste, I knew that I would most likely find some pieces I had to have, but I had no idea of the treasures waiting to surprise me! She used to own a gift basket business so there were many items relating to that production, as well as gardening and floral décor.
And then it happened. There in the midst of a couple vases and a candle holder was a gorgeous, antique, standing Crucifix candelabra with silver-plate and a holy water font! She had picked up this stunning gem in France! I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. It literally oozed good energy like a magnet drawing me in. It was immediate attraction.
I knew I wanted it but thought I should ask my sweet husband’s opinion. I casually browsed the rest of her collection.
Then another animated treasure literally stopped me in my tracks. Sitting on the ledge in front of some silk flowers and an index card holder was a sweet, sweet wooden boy she lovingly referred to as “Geppetto”. She quickly added that she knows the story goes that Geppetto was the woodworker and Pinocchio was the wooden boy come to life, but Geppetto just seemed to fit for her. She found him in Germany and he pulled her heart strings too. I was completely smitten. Geppetto is decorated in red and green hand-painted attire. Now, anyone who knows me knows how much I LOVE Christmas!
I swear I heard the spirit of this sweet wooden boy whisper, “Look at me! Look at me!” It was a done deal, no turning back. Sure I would ask my husband’s opinion, but we’ve been married over 33 years. This man knows me. We are on the same page energetically. He’ll pick something up in a retail store and two seconds later, without knowing he’d touched it, I’ll always pick it up too. It’s freaky cool. We are often attracted to the same things. He loved it too, but I knew he would! Geppetto jumped into my arms (okay so maybe I picked him up), and that was all she wrote!
My sweet host was enjoying our extended visit after yoga class so much she asked if I wanted a cup of coffee as I “shopped”. You always feel like an honored guest at their house. She embraces you with her warm smile and genuine appreciation, making you feel like you’ve just been hugged—which, of course, she gifts freely at least a couple of times each visit.
There were a couple of other pieces that made their way home with me that day, but these two absolutely made my heart sing. I could barely contain myself! “My Tuesday gals”, as I often refer to them, threw a birthday party for me earlier that month—one of several precious moments we’ve shared that I will always hold close to my heart. It felt like my birthday all over again that day! I remember feeling a warm, fuzzy glow of contentment the rest of the day because of her hospitality. I treasure the memory. These gorgeous works of art from their home to ours will be a constant connection to a wonderful couple I am humbled and honored to call friend.
I think they both look quite content in their new places in our home. Don’t you?
Life is so very precious,
Storytellers Creed has become my favorite creed to live by. It was given to me by my wonderful, and oh-so-supportive sister-in-law, Mary Ann Krzyzanowski. The Storytellers Creed is hanging on a wall in my “she-cave” providing daily inspiration:
I’m moving to a weekly venue vs. bi-monthly since that obviously didn’t work for me last year. **Sigh**. I’ve also changed the headings a bit to spruce things up and add a little pizzazz and excitement to the mix. I hope you agree? Please let me know what you think. I would be honored to hear from you.
“My Better Day” is a weekly, rotating, heart-centered journal on:
Crack open the door to the magic awaiting inside. It’s always been there. Please visit often, as your spirit moves you to make your day a Better Day! And please share!
Founder, Better Day Yoga LLC
I’ve always had an affinity toward all things magical and totally agree with the opening quote: “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” How about you? Have you ever wondered what instills this magic inside of you so much that it becomes innate? Read on to hear the roots of my magical installment.
I remember my eight-year-old self riding my bicycle around with a Lego-made fairy house propped in my bicycle basket. Every fairy needs a home, right? I treasured shows like The Wizard of Oz, Cinderella, and The Borrowers. As an adult, I discovered Darby O’Gill and the Little People—a must-see this time of year with St. Patrick’s day fast approaching.
My March 2011 newsletter was my last installment on this magical, mystical, passionate subject. The time has come again. It’s long over-due if you ask me. This story has been on my periphery for some time now, begging to be shared. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did living it.
In that 2011 newsletter, I mentioned a favorite childhood book:
“Similar to other children, I grew up with a fervent belief in all things magical. Houdini was one of my childhood heroes. My favorite childhood book was a book about elves, fairies and mermaids. I think it was The Golden Books Treasury of Elves and Fairies or The Giant Golden Book of Elves and Fairies with assorted Pixies, Mermaids, Brownies, Witches, and Leprechauns by Jane Werner. Unfortunately, it didn’t survive my childhood. From the comments on Amazon for the second book mentioned, I have to believe the illustrator’s magical drawings affected more than just me as a child believing in magic.
One small mention of “the book” to my oldest sister and she went off on a tangent about the mermaids in the book. My special memory was a depiction of an elfin family beneath a tree. No space went unused. There was a loaf of bread stored in the crevice of one root, and others were used as furniture. I could get lost in that illustration and I did many times as a child.”
Well this past Fall I decided to finally go for it on Amazon and purchased what my best instinct/memory told me was the treasured childhood book. There were finally some used ones in Amazon at a price I could afford. A few years ago they were a couple of hundred dollars! From an array of various versions of Golden Books of Fairies and Elves, I chose the one with the blue cover.
I waited with anticipation for my beloved childhood book to come. Now keep in mind I knew what I was getting in the mail. I could barely open it quick enough I was so excited. The nano-second I saw the details on the cover up close and personal, my inner child let out a wistful gasp and my eyes started to tear up. With each page I turned, another and another squeal of excitement came out. “Oh! That one! I remember that one!” Hah! Yes! I remember him!” “Oh, yes! That one was really special!” And then the page came up: the elfin family beneath the tree….the tears flowed. I couldn’t quit crying. All of this happened literally within a matter of a few seconds as I quickly turned page after page. When I finally got to the mermaid story, I immediately remembered my sister’s fondness for this one and thought “of course—yes, yes of course! The mermaids!”
While I had yearned for this book for a long time, I could not have predicted this particular reaction was buried deep inside. I knew I would enjoy it. I knew it was a special memory for me. But not for one iota of a second had I imagined I’d be moved so deeply and instantaneously upon viewing the illustrations. I was brought right back to my childhood in a split second as if on a literal time machine. It was as though I found a long, lost childhood friend and confidant. I had rediscovered the portal to my magical childhood kingdom.
I can only say as a child I must have spent literally hours getting lost within the pages of this treasured book. I intimately knew each detail and had committed to memory every minute character illustrated within its pages. They were all still there, buried in my memory, waiting for me to come back and play. They each still held a special spot within my heart. They had comforted me when I was sad and lonely and had filled me with awe and wonder so many times so long ago and they still do—this was the big surprise. This was the special treasure. This depth of emotion still amazes me.
For the next few days I’d sit down to slowly re-read, embrace, and relive these treasured stories. My husband would catch me crying profusely. One time he didn’t know I was reading. He only heard me sobbing and asked out loud from the other room if I was okay. Through tears I sobbed “he made her silver slippers…” and my voice trailed off.
Of course, I was referring to “Singeli’s Silver Slippers” translated from Swedish by Martha Inez Johnson. It’s a story of a poor, shoemaker who wanted only to provide shoes as beautiful as his beloved daughter, Singeli. So he chose to make them with silver-colored leather vs. the more frugal, common, wooden shoes. One night the fairies-of-fortune came to the shoemaker’s house and stroked the silver shoe leather Singeli’s father was crafting for his daughter, whispering: “Little slippers, Go only on bright roads, Only on good roads, Only on right roads.” And whispered to the sleeping Singeli “If you, dear child, Go astray, Silver slippers will vanish away.” The shoes then turned into real silver. I don’t want to ruin it for you.
I try to logically explain the emotion: Perhaps it was because I knew my grandfather was a shoemaker (my mom’s dad whom I’ve never met) that this story touched me so deeply, or perhaps it was because my own dad always made me feel this special and he is now passed. Re-reading the treasured stories re-awakened the hopeful child within still full of wonder and awe at the magic of it all. (I’m not certain she ever went to sleep, truth-be-told.) Most likely it was a culmination of all of the above that brought me to my knees with emotion. I could not quit crying.
Each story left me overwhelmed with heart-felt emotion. The Pixies’ Scarf by Alison Uttley tells a tale of a young boy who finds a pixies’ scarf while picking berries with his grandmother. He’s told adamantly by his grandmother to return the scarf, for surely the pixies will know he has it and come for it; but he keeps the scarf any way. The scarf imbues him with magical abilities to hear and understand all of wild life—the birds in the trees and the fish in the river—even the stones spoke. “Like a mirror on the ground” he could see wildlife below like the rabbits nestled in their homes. “The earth itself seemed to be whispering, and the stream answered back.” Of course, the pixies came to claim their scarf and the boy barters it for some pixie marbles made of “pixie rubies and emeralds” –“green as grass in April, blood-red, snow-white, and blue as the night sky”. He knew they contained magic and “would capture every other” marble.
And if you doubt the magic this book carries, please read on. Seconds after just completing this magical story, I was still in a mesmerized stupor when my husband says “Listen to this!” and he shares a story from his business magazine: “A decades old plane crash, originating from India, has been found in the French Alps. They discovered a metal box believed to be on board the flight containing rubies, sapphires, and emeralds worth an estimated $332,000!”… Whoa!! Seriously? That’s the story he decides to share at that exact moment? Goose bumps! Does anyone reading this doubt that this book finding its way back to me was magically inclined? Thump on the head from the wee folk!
Fast forward a few weeks and I decide to order a couple more used books as Christmas presents for my siblings. My oldest sister has no idea what I am giving her. We aren’t even supposed to exchange presents. Only the younger members of the family get the gifts here.
I wasn’t sure what her reaction would be, but I was bursting out of my seat as she opened it. As she ripped the wrapping paper off, she immediately said “Why do I know this book?” She looked down at it and then at me in quick succession and immediate tears. Neither of us could quit crying. She looked and looked and looked at every page as we both bawled and hugged over and over. Our relatives have become used to our antics by now but even they were wondering “what the heck?”
She, too, shared that it “was like finding an old friend you thought you’d never see again.” She said, “It brought me right back to my childhood and I kind of want to stay there awhile.” She couldn’t believe her reaction either. It overtakes you immediately and whisks you off to the magical realm. But what about my brother….?
We celebrated Christmas with my brother’s family the next day. After some confusion as to where the second book I thought I brought was, I figured it was still in Minnesota nine hours away. So I started to ask my brother if he remembered a book from childhood about fairies and elves. I wasn’t sure if he read it. I mean do boys read about fairies and elves? We were close as children, but didn’t read together persé. He thought a moment and said “was the cover green?” “Oh no”, I said, “It’s blue—definitely blue.” All of a sudden I noticed the unwrapped book sticking out of the bag of gifts we brought. (I didn’t wrap it because I was considering giving it to my other sister if she came—which she did not. I was time-crunched for wrapping, as we all are. I knew my brother would understand.)
As I handed the book over to my brother I noticed the back was pure green. Here’s to the memories of our childhood! His reaction was slow and methodical, as is his demeanor. With girls I think it’s all about emotion and sobbing. With boys, there’s less outward emotion and more logic and details. At first I was a bit disappointed thinking he was not as moved as his sisters had been, but then he started his commentary: “Oh yah, I remember him. And that one. I remember that one. Oh yah…Oh yah.”
As he continued to page through, he came upon the page that had haunted my memory for so long—the elfin family beneath the tree. And he says “Oh…oh yah, there it is. That’s the one.” So it was a special illustration for him too! He silently continued to page through and then said with a lot of thought “I wonder what it is about this book that stays in your memory. Is it the color? Is it the storyline? There I am back in our basement again.” The basement was our toy room. We played there for hours in our childhood.
What was your favorite childhood book? Find it. It holds the key to magical memories. It is worth its weight in gold. You won’t regret a single penny spent in bringing it back into your life. Crack open the magic and take a ride back in time when scarves had magical powers and slippers turned to silver. Like Peter Pan you’ll be the boy or girl who never grew up. Meet me there and we’ll hang out.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” ~ Rumi
From a seated position, straighten your legs forward. Flex your feet pointing toes to the sky and pushing through the heel. This activates the leg muscles as well as encourages a stretch in the calves. Hinge at the hips reaching forward while maintaining the natural lumbar curve. Ribs stay tucked, leading with your breastbone. Use your abs to draw forward. Head stays over shoulders. Shoulders stay rolled back, relaxed and down.
Never compromise your low back for the reach. I often tell my yoga students that if you feel a sensation, it’s good. It’s when that sensation “crescendos*” that you need to pull back.
*Yes, I know “crescendos” refers to volume and intensity of sound, but to me it also relays the message I’m trying to deliver to my students. Heck—I’ll bet your body wishes it could make a sound before it goes beyond its limit! So this term and when I use it has become what I like to call a “Sandyism” in class.
When you’ve come as far forward as you think your body wants to come while maintaining your natural lumbar curve, add a flex to the spine as you bring your head toward your legs. Your lumbar curve will release gently. Hands can rest on legs, ankles or feet. Or even on the floor. Knees stay pointing up. Once in the pose, use the breath to inhale and elongate, exhale and deepen if it feels good.
So where do you experience sensation in seated forward fold? The Leslie Kaminoff anatomy training introduced me to a whole new way to look at forward fold. It’s funny that I refer to it as a “new way” when it’s really the way the Sanskrit term defines it.
Paschimottanasana breaks down to mean “west” (Paschima) which refers to the back side of the body and Uttanasana—a standing forward fold. (Traditionally practice is done in the morning towards the rising sun in the east. So the back side of the body is considered the “west” side of the body.)
Another version (from Svatmarama) calls it Paschima Tana with Tana meaning to lengthen or spread out. It describes where the stretch occurs more than the shape change. It describes an experience vs. the shape. To experience the stretch on the west more evenly distributed across the whole back side of the body/superficial back line is going to be different for “every body”. Each person is different. We all have different starting points with where we feel the stretch.
Spinal flexion, for some, may or may not involve the experience of feeling the stretch on the whole back side of the body—depending on how you are doing the spinal flexion. You may be in what appears to be in a perfect forward fold, but the stretch could be coming from only a couple of places. For well distributed movement, you want a lot of little movement across a lot of places in the back/west side of the body. Finding out what is more useful so that you can experience a more evenly-distributed sensation/experience is the goal.
One of the main themes in Leslie’s trainings is that you should be looking for a little bit of movement in a lot of places vs. a lot of movement in one spot. Over-using one spot means you may be losing out on potential movement elsewhere along your spine. Consistently over-using one spot repeatedly also breaks your body down over time, creating repetitive stress and strain. You want to move the parts that can’t move so easily first to be able to more evenly distribute the movement. Healthy movement is well distributed movement.
“Flexion” refers to the relationship of the spinal curves to each other: An increase in the primary curve of the spine which corresponds to a decrease in the secondary curves—lumbar and cervical curves—of the spine. The goal of spinal flexion—the very definition of spinal flexion—is to experience a stretch across the whole superficial back line. It’s not just a stretch in the hamstrings, for example. Each of your spinal curves contributes to the flexion. The lumbar curve contributes the most at 60°. The cervical spine contributes 40° and the Thoracic spine contributes 45°. Focus on the areas of your spine that are the least flexible first to make sure you have well-distributed, maximum movement. If you go to the lumbar area first (the most able to flex), you may miss stretching areas that are least able to move.
In one of the oldest surviving texts on hatha yoga, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Svatmarama suggests putting the forehead on the thighs for spinal flexion. Krishnamacharya, often referred to as the father of modern yoga, suggests you “Lower the head and press the face down onto the knee. Face on knee.” Yes, you read that right! I, personally, consider these cues the direction you are heading, not necessarily what you’ll achieve! (Let’s just say my personal practice hasn’t achieved head to knee or thigh—unless I bend my knees, which we’ll touch upon later!)
Considering the goal of spinal flexion, forehead to knee or thigh is a good direction to shoot for. It decreases the cervical curve which is least flexible compared to the lumbar. It encourages more spinal flexion than simply hinging at the hip.
It’s all about creating the experience of a stretch evenly distributed along the whole back/posterior side—the whole superficial back line. How best to do that is what you look for. The pose is about an experience of even distribution of sensation. It’s not just about how the shape appears. Ask yourself “where is the stretch sensation occurring and where isn’t it?” Your answer will tell you whether it is distributed well or not. A well distributed stretch relaxes the nervous system so that one area is not overwhelmed.
Typically you would suggest that the student with the tight hamstring or low back issues might want to bend their knees as they go into spinal flexion. What about a more flexible person? This was another aha moment for me!
A more flexible person is tempted to simply flop into forward fold, hinging at the hip—busted! Yet they are probably not feeling it across the whole back side of the body. By bending the knees and bringing your forehead toward them, you move your breath to fill the back side of the body which gets the stretch into the thoracic area of the spine. Below is my s-l-o-w progression toward my knees and as I make contact I started to release the knees toward the ground slightly.
This opens the sides of the rib cage and the lateral muscles of the back. This helps to create full breathing for the back of the lungs—an area often forgotten about because we tend to think the lungs exist only on the front side of our body. The lungs are actually much bigger on the sides of the body and even deeper and bigger in the back.
The whole back line starts to engage. Bending the knees gives a better sense of lengthening. Engaging the front of the legs by bending the knees creates resistance to just flopping forward which creates a different sensation. That sensation can then be more evenly distributed and they will feel a more well distributed stretch throughout the whole back line of the body.
Also the bent knees helps to contract the front side of the body which helps the back side/antagonist muscles release. It helps to engage the abdominal area. Shortening the front body triggers a lengthening of the back body.
I’ve really been enjoying playing with this “new” old way to experience spinal flexion. Your body will too! Enjoy!
Tension headaches, the most common type of headache, can be triggered by bad posture, muscle fatigue, overtiredness, and stress—conditions that are helped with yoga. The most common poor posture across all age groups is the Forward Head Position (FHP). For example, a forward-head position, with its accompanying rounded shoulders, curved upper back, and resulting muscular tension, will often cause headaches (and even known to cause TMJ). Because the muscles of the neck and upper back connect to the head, tension in the neck can be referred to the forehead and behind the eyes, causing headaches.
Asanas that stretch the upper back, shoulders, and neck relax the muscles and allow oxygen-rich blood to flow to the brain. The increased body awareness resulting from yoga practice can even help predict the onset of a headache and stop it early in its course.
Stressed postural muscles may also cause nausea, generalized fatigue, lack of concentration, and visual disturbances. Chronically overworked, the muscles become fatigued and go into spasm. This is compared to a “charley horse”. Just as we would stretch a calf muscle in spasm, we need to stretch the “headache muscles” to bring relief. We should retrain the upper back to extend, the chest to open, the shoulders to roll back and down, and the head to rest on the midline.
A yoga practice which focuses on alignment and somatic awareness provides the tools for this retraining. The most common cause of headaches is the forward head position, with rounded shoulders, a curved upper back, and the accompanying muscular tension. “Anything that distorts the spinal curves has the potential to cause headaches,”
Dysfunctional breathing patterns contribute to headaches.
Deep, diaphragmatic breathing releases contracted muscles in the upper body and belly. Headache sufferers often “live in their heads; they don’t breathe fully. They need time to be in the body and develop the balance between the mental and physical parts of themselves.”
Hatha Yoga is often been referred to as a “going within” to get to know the nature of your true self. What better way to accomplish this than spinal flexion. Embracing the “forehead to the knee/thigh” direction suggestion as explained above in the “alternative” option, truly curls you into yourself. As you hone into where you are sensing the stretch sensation, you are practicing pratyahara—control of the senses; as well as dharana—concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness. Experiencing the slow evolution of this pose—the slower the better—allows you to detach from the outer world and truly get to know yourself. You learn what’s going on in your body. You become intimately aware of your inner workings. This pose invites you to explore your inner self.
A well distributed stretch relaxes the nervous system so that one area is not overwhelmed. Relaxing and rejuvenating the nervous system is one of the hallmarks of spinal flexion. Curling inward is a protective reflex for many animals in nature—one of which is the armadillo. An armadillo’s armor is the shield it carries on its back. Their most vulnerable area is their underside—not unlike us humans.
I like to tell my students that unless you practice some form of relaxation / affirmation / meditation regularly, it won’t be “in your back pocket” to use when you really need it. It will be the last thing on your mind when you’re stressed. Armadillos teach you to carry your armor with you so you are able to use it when necessary. (Source: Animal Speak by Ted Andrews)
The fight-flight response of our sympathetic nervous system stems from fear. Stress stems from fear. By practicing the curling in of spinal flexion with the intention of focusing inward and honing in on the minute sensations you are experiencing, you are able to turn off your constant fight-flight response and turn on your rest and digest parasympathetic nervous system rejuvenators. It’s a mini-meditation asana.
Paschimottanasana / spinal flexion stimulates your first three chakras—your physical chakras. These are your stabilizing, grounding, creative, sensual, flowing energies as well as your energies of willpower and discipline. Knowing that what you need is found within and that curling inward isn’t a sign of weakness but an avenue to secure your inner strength and direction is the gift of Paschimottanasana.
Your drishti, or focused gaze, in this pose pulls you further into your very core, concentrating your intention inward, inward, inward. Intending to feel the sensation across the whole back side of your body reminds you that you are aiming for expansion in all areas—both on and off the mat. Lighting up your whole back line connects you energetically top to bottom. Your central meridian curls inward which empowers your governing meridian to vibrate outward (see photo below for a visual on where the meridians are in your body). They are partners and in their connection you are strengthened. This pose reminds you there is a time to curl inward and a time to express outward.
(Blue line represents your central meridian starting from the pubic bone and ending at the lower lip. Bright green line represents your governing meridian starting from the tailbone and ends between nose and upper lip)
I read an interesting article in the March Science of Mind: Healing our Lives, Overcoming our Fears: An Interview with Dr. Marc Schoen, by Diane Dreher. It talks about an “epidemic of fear” in our lives. Click here for his book on the subject.
Your sympathetic nervous system’s fight-flight response used to require danger along the lines of “a tiger attacking you in the forest” to set it off. Nowadays the level of when you consider something “uncomfortable” has been lowered significantly. Now all that’s required to set off your flight-fight / stress response is your latte taking a little too long to get done, traffic delaying you by a few minutes, or perhaps your computer stalling (let alone crashing). Fear used to set off your stress response—now fear has been downgraded to discomfort. You sense discomfort as danger. Nowadays you’re less tolerant of discomfort.
While you may not consider stress necessarily equivalent to fear, Dr. Shoen reminds that “the stress response really emanates from a fear response.” He also touches upon something I think we all instinctually know—as a society we are addicted to sensory stimulation. The more you increase the sensory stimulation, the more agitated you become. It only makes you crave more stimulation. Dr. Schoen refers to this as “agitance”. You’re so used to constant sensory stimulation from your devices, you’ve forgotten how to relax.
So when you’re asked if you’re under stress, you may be like my husband who likes to tell me he’s fine when I know better; or you may feel stressed but are unable to pin down exactly why. There are too many variables, too many things that bring you “discomfort”.
The solution? Generating positive change by combining positive thoughts with positive feelings of gratitude and love. I know, I know, you’ve heard this before…but perhaps this time you’ll listen?
So here’s where the magic of meditation comes in:
Do a gratitude meditation whenever you start to feel agitated, uncomfortable, or downright antsy. Focus with feeling on what you are grateful for, on what you love in your life. Connect to that for even a minute with eyes closed and perhaps a half-smile on your face and then continue on with your life. Do this as often as you remember to do it. It will become your natural state of being after awhile, and you’ll feel fantastic. Just try it! I know when I dwell on the absolute joy of being in this life with the greatest husband/ friend a gal could ever have, every moment becomes filled with joy.
What and or who do you love? How about those of us in the Northern Hemisphere about to recover from the worst winter in a looooong time and experience spring? Can you put a little emotion into that? Can you get excited about some green grass and walks in the forest OUTSIDE? When it’s spring, the world is your oyster! Go out and enjoy this great big beautiful world!
The list of things you can meditate on for a mere minute is endless—your hot cup of joe, your favorite song on the radio (or in your head as you sing along), your best friend meeting you for dinner, your team winning the game. You get the idea. Heck, you can meditate on being grateful for your ability to remember to take a moment for your mental health and the freedom to smile to yourself for a minute. The half-smile technique is a meditation in gratitude in and of itself. So when you’re fresh out of what to be grateful for, try it:
Thich Nhat Hanh suggests using a half-smile technique in his book The Miracle of Mindfulness. Half-smiling when you first awake along with three deep breaths, when you find yourself sitting or standing anywhere, while listening to music, and when irritated—all with three deep breaths. Trying it when I’m irritated works for me, calming my mind. It also surprises the person you’re irritated with!
“Our goal is to better manage discomfort and remember that too much discomfort leads to the fear reaction.” ~ Dr. Schoen.
When we “bring more of these positive emotions into our lives, we develop new neural connections, new synaptic pathways in our brains that counterbalance the old fear patterns. In this way, we can then use positive or corrective belief patterns in a much more powerful way.” He calls it “building up the discomfort muscle”. Building new synaptic pathways by bringing in the positive parts of our brain “makes it so much more possible to create substantive change to overcome these overreactive primitive fears.”
“When we learn to manage discomfort better, not to shut down, not to fear it, not to run away, we can realize our full potential.” ~ Dr. Marc Shoen
If you are familiar with chakras, then you can tell from my logo that I love chakras. The rainbow-colored spheres within my logo are representative of the chakra system within the body.
If you are unfamiliar, here’s a quick lesson: There are seven energy centers called chakras (literally “wheels”) that store energy/life force/prana. They are along the spinal column and correlate to major nerve ganglia branching forth from the spinal column. Each has a different relationship to a gland in the body’s endocrine system. Each stimulates different organs and systems in the body. Hatha Yoga activates these energy centers releasing the energy that flows through the spine. Yoga helps these energy centers/nerve bundles to function correctly clearing blocks that may be there. Each chakra also is associated with a mental/emotional focus. In each newsletter I’ll highlight how you can work with a particular chakra to correspond with the season.
In honor of St. Patrick’s day in this month of March, I started this newsletter (for the “full newsletter” click here) with the story of my magical, childhood book on Fairies and Elves finding its way back to me (with the help of Amazon). In this “Chakrascope” section, let’s touch upon the “Wee Folk” one more time! My regular readers know I believe in the magic and encourage others to be open to it. It’s all energy—Albert Einstein would agree.
Where magic is concerned, there is always an initial decision, an initial willingness to let it enter your life. If that is not there neither is magic. ~ Neil Gaiman
Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. ~ Roald Dahl
That’s the thing with magic. You’ve got to know it’s still here, all around us, or it just stays invisible for you. ~ Charles de Lint
“If you do not believe in magic, your life will not be magical. Magic, like the power of Stonehenge, is part of the unknowable—that which you cannot describe, but which exists and makes your life extraordinary.” –The Power Deck, The Cards of Wisdom, by Lynn V. Andrews.
When our ancestors encountered or experienced magical energies, they gave it their own “name” as an identifier. In Yoga, the Chakras are energy centers in the body storing life force / prana / chi / energy. Re-read the opening paragraphs to this section for more details. I repeat this section every newsletter as a touch-base reminder reference.
Your energy centers / chakras have a corresponding element in nature, as do your Ayurvedic Doshas. In the Vedic sciences, Jyotish (astrology) is given special importance. This science also corresponds to the elements. Sometimes Archangels take on this role: for instance Michael, Archangel of the Sun, is linked with Fire, and Gabriel, the Archangel of the Moon, with Water. Each direction has a corresponding element. One system connects the North with Earth, East with Air, South with Fire and West with Water. Feng Shui also uses the elements. The list goes on. The elements are considered to be the building blocks of life. Throughout history we have continually referenced the elements as a way to make sense of our world.
Did you know that the elements correspond to the faerie realm? In Ireland, the “Wee Folk” are part of their historical heritage:
“The Irish Folklore Commission (Coimisiún Béaloideasa Éireann in Irish) was set up in 1935 by the Irish Government to study and collect information on the folklore and traditions of Ireland.
Originally founded and directed by James Hamilton Delargy, it eventually finished in 1971. Its roles were superseded by the Department of Irish Folklore in University College, Dublin which has since served as a repository of the data collected, including the Irish Folklore Collection.”
It is said those that can see the “Wee Ones” are those that stay “close to the elements” of nature—who relate to the landscape. Perhaps if we all made it a point to connect with nature on a daily basis, like our bodies are meant to, understanding the energies of the elements would not be such a foreign subject.
Can you open yourself up to the possibility that when our ancestors encountered the “Wee Folk”, they were experiencing energy? Your crystal watch runs on the energy of that crystal. You don’t consider that woo-woo, do you? Your microwave uses energy to heat your food. It’s scientifically proven that everything is energy. Nothing is really solid. Some research speculates that the energy of computers, cell phones, and microwaves may affect our bodies.
The elements of nature are considered the building force of the Universe. Now there’s some energy! The elements also make their appearance in the world of the “Little People” as “Elementals”: There’s an elemental spirit of the Earth, Air, Fire, and Water.
“Rather than being creatures with a permanent form, the elementals are the forces or energies that in nature and magic give shape to living things and bring thoughts and desires into actuality, for example seeds into flowers and trees…They take on a particular form for a particular task…The elemental beings, as manifestations of these forces, are believed to occupy a kingdom between the material and spiritual plane and so act as a bridge between the two dimensions. The four elements can be regarded as one of the focused energy sources that for centuries were believed to be the building blocks of life.” A Complete Guide to Faeires & Magical Beings, by Cassandra Eason.
I’ve offered many ways to “work with” your chakras in this Chakascope section. How about “playing with” your chakras instead? Maybe channeling your inner child / playful side will manifest the energy you’re looking for? It’s worth a try. Don’t you think? Just let it be fun! Remember fun? Just for today, try summoning the energy of the Little People / Wee Folk / Faerie to awaken your chakras.
First chakra—earth element—Gnomes are considered to be the spirit of the earth, as well as leprechauns, dwarves and the sidhe. I have a friend who collects gnomes and likes to imagine them coming to life in the evening much like the movie, Gnomeo and Juliet. Point being—get outside and connect with nature, plant a garden and decorate it with gnomes. If you’re feeling more playful, meditate near your gnome collection outside, or perhaps near your favorite tree envisioning the roots below (tree roots are often considered home to the earth elementals) to connect to earth energy.
Second chakra—water element—Mermaids, undines, selkies, among others, are considered the spirit of water. Mermaids and water fairies appear across several cultures. Why is that? They can’t all be wrong! Do you like the ocean? Do you love to swim? Do you consider the “energy” of the water to be magical? Then play in your magic. Swim, go boating, run through the sprinklers, drink lots and lots of water. Go with the flow of life and let go of your worries. Hey, it’s Easter soon—celebrate Dyngus day! This is Easter Monday and in the Polish tradition (have you checked my last name?), this is the day to sprinkle each other with water—use squirt guns, buckets—whatever inspires you. In my hometown of South Bend, IN, Dyngus Day is celebrated much like a Polish St. Patrick’s day.
Third chakra—fire element—salamanders and fire sprites are considered fire element “Wee Folk”. This is the element of heat and light. Energetically this connects you to your desire in life. What is your passion? Take one small step toward it. What’s holding you back? Build a fire, write what’s “blocking you” on a piece of paper, and burn it. Not sure what your passion is? Stare into a flame and dwell on the question. Your answer is within.
Four chakra—air element—Sylphs and flying sprites are known as the spirit of air / wind. They may appear as butterflies or dragonflies (but those of us in the know know better, don’t we?). Notice them in your environment and connect to them mentally. They are associated with transformation. What is your transformation plan? This is your breath of life chakra, your heart chakra. It’s spring! How can you transform yourself into the butterfly of your choice? Move through your world in a new way—drive a new way to work, use your non-dominant hand once a day, notice which foot you lead with and switch, shake it up! Practice deep breaths. There are many breathwork practices you can try. (If breathwork interests you, please see the meditation/breathwork class I offer.)
Fifth chakra—ether or space element—some say “mineral” element as well. Since historically there is no element in the world of the “Wee Folk” associated with “ether, space, or mineral”, connect to your fifth / throat chakra by expression. The “Little People” love joyful dance and song. They understand the importance of celebration! Sing and dance daily! Use your throat chakra to sing as you dance to your favorite tunes. An uplifted spirit attracts the “Little People’s” energy.
Sixth chakra—nature element. The “elementals” are all about nature! Go outside! Enliven your body by connecting to nature! Embrace the outside! This is your “third eye” chakra. Using your intuition uses all of your senses and zones you into what feels right. Our circadian rhythms are balanced when you spend time outside. What feels right when you feel balanced? Everything!
Seventh chakra—spirit element—“Spirit is the energy that connects all the elements. Everything in this and other worlds has a spirit that makes it magical. As a result, spirit is often considered the fifth element or the union of all the other elements. This union forms the divine quintessence. Within fairy ritual, spirit is a key component and dwells in the center of the circle, symbolizing its role as the connector of all things.” The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Elves and Fairies by Sirona Knight.
In the chakra system, the seventh chakra is considered “enlightenment”—connection to the Universe / Spirit / God. I can think of no better way than to work with all of the elementals, oh so briefly described above, to connect to your Universe. Enlighten yourself through daily ritual with the “Little People”.
This was a brief, playful list of suggestions. Use your imagination!
The following Irish blessing incorporates the elements and is one of my absolute favorite blessings. If I weren’t Polish, I’d want to be Irish. Enjoy!
May the road rise up to meet you, May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And, until we meet again
may God hold you in the palm of His hand. ~ Traditional Gaelic blessing
Gemstones amplify the energy when placed in contact with your chakras. For those of you unsure on this subject, consider that it’s scientifically proven that everything is energy. Nothing is really solid. Why wouldn’t the energy of a stone work effectively with the energy in our bodies just as some research speculates that the energy of computers, cell phones, and microwaves may affect our bodies? At the very least, I find that holding a favorite stone is like a talisman for me, or a “worry stone”. As my favorite author, Wayne Dyer, likes to say, “If it’s a placebo effect, I’ll take two”.
A few weeks ago I devoured a new book by Hibiscus Moon called Crystal Grids: How and Why They Work. What is a crystal grid, you ask?
“A crystal grid is a geometric pattern of energetically aligned stones charged by intention set in a sacred space for the purpose of manifesting a particular objective….A crystal grid incorporates the use of crystals and stones because of their precise vibratory frequency.” ~ Hibiscus Moon. These “vibrations” help manifest your intention.
In short order, I created a leminscate (infinity symbol) for abundance in my business. Choosing your intention for creating the grid is personal. Hibiscus gives you some ideas—but the sky’s the limit! Have you ever used a vision board? I equate the crystal grids to being a beautiful crystal vision board containing the elements/vibration of my intention.
Choosing a shape using “sacred geometry” and known sacred symbols adds to the energy of your grid. This amazing book gives you many helpful suggestions on various sacred symbols as well as the types of stones to gather for your grid. I started to go through my collection of stones scattered all around our house to find the “candidate” stones. This process was actually more fun than it sounds but maybe that’s just me! It was therapeutic to handle all of my stones checking for the ones that spoke to me. Maybe it was their color, maybe it was their “vibration”. Who can say? I’ve learned not to question my intuition.
Green is the color of abundance, so I focused on the green stones in my collection like malachite and fuschite but also gathered various clear crystals which are good charger crystals to amplify what’s already there. Refer to the book for more fun, relevant suggestions! Hint: “Size does matter!”
I used one of my pendulums to check the “energy” of the candidate stones. You don’t need anything fancy for your pendant—it can be a long necklace with a charm that has some weight to it. I like to say “have pendant will travel!” (Click here for a good article explaining how to use a pendulum). The pendulum “helps you connect to your higher self, tapping into answers you already know on a super-conscious level.” ~ Hibiscus Moon.
Once I had gathered all the stones that my pendulum showed “wanted to play”, I began the process of setting up the crystal grid as explained in the book. Creating a sacred space is crucial. I already have an area where I meditate and practice yoga daily, so the choice was obvious. Your sacred space will be very personal. Finding your quiet corner, or shelf, or countertop will be a source of solace for you. So approach this task with awareness. It’s your sacred ground and no one else’s. The energy with which you approach anything will affect both the experience as well as the outcome.
“When you compare the floor plans of modern homes with those of ancient times, you will see that our needs have essentially gone unchanged. There is one major difference, however. In the space where the ancients once kept their altars, most modern homes now sport a television.
The effects of having a sacred space in the home are profound. In times of loss, extra stress, or when the world seems unfair, this place can be a refuge. No matter where you live or how much room you have, a corner or small shelf space can become a tool for creating closure, initiating new changes, setting goals and opening yourself to inner guidance. So make room for a few items (a candle, crystals, fresh flowers or pictures) that represent peace, calm and inspiration. Spend a little time every day in front of your altar and watch your capacity for reverence grow and overflow.”~ From the book Your Altar: Creating a Sacred Space for Prayer and Meditation by Sandra Kynes.
Location within your sacred space should keep foot traffic in mind. You want to keep your grid undisturbed. One of the placement options is placing your grid to face “magnetic North”. I did that—it’s supposed to add the magnetic energies of Mother Earth to “powerfully intensify your grid.” Who wouldn’t want that?
Before you assemble your grid bring yourself into an alpha state for focused attention and intuition. Yoga and meditation practices do that for me. What works for you? Something as simple as lighting a candle creates a sense of the sacred. Centering yourself with some deep breaths and your own version of prayerful contemplation is a great place to start. You’ll also need an affirmation outlining in a short, positive statement what you want your grid to accomplish to “activate or trigger” your grid. Remember to state your affirmation with feeling, emotion, and visualization. Again, this will be very personal.
I used an affirmation from a Coventry Creations candle. On the side of one of their candles, it says: “Affirmations, when fully embraced, can fill your body, mind and spirit with their life changing powers. The strength of an affirmation comes from the inner commitment you make to its success. Combining your affirmation with a candle specially designed for the same purpose further enhances your personal magic, deepening its effect.” I simply love these candles for the ritual and empowerment they’ve brought to my life, and they smell awesome!
There are other considerations, like an “activation wand” to connect the energy of the stones as you focus on your affirmation. Ideally this wand contains one of the crystals used in your grid. I purchased mine at Mimosa’s in Madison, WI. It’s made out of juniper root and is adorned with amber. It has a crystal “point”. You can also use a natural crystal with a terminated end. Your local rock shop, or the internet, is a good place to start. The wand helps direct your intentions into the grid and is an extension of your electromagnetic frequency. You are literally putting yourself into your grid—very powerful!
Remember to keep the energy in your grid hopping by meditating over it, sending good juju when you can. It is an energy creation so add your energy regularly! This isn’t the same thing as trying to force your intention to happen. As with all affirmations the “feeling of emotion” is feeling your intention as already here. Also remember to detach from the outcome. The Universe has much bigger and more unique plans than you can imagine.
This was just a quick break-down. There are many more important details in Hibiscus Moon’s book! I strongly recommend it!
Since creating my grid, I’ve noticed a clearing out of some stagnant energy in my career. Things I was procrastinating about became top of mind. Other new opportunities have lined up oh-so-subtly. I’m looking forward to being present for more magic to unfold—don’t wait for your magic! (Hibiscus likes to remind that “magic is the word many like to give unknown science.”) Create your own! Choose to be lucky and create your own personal crystal grid!
Mudra means seal in Sanskrit. Its a symbolic or ritual gesture using primarily the hands. Each position is believed to have a specific effect. Specific positions can lead to specific states of consciousness symbolized by the hand positions. For example, if a person frequently and with feeling does a position of fearlessness, they will also be freed from fearfulness in time. Mudras are said to engage areas of the brain and/or soul influencing them, sometimes physically, by their usenot unlike an affirmation, or reflexology for that matter.
One way that all of us can better care for ourselves is by developing techniques for coping with the irritations and anxiety that are part of life
Think of these gestures as self-talk for your hands. These simple movements, the gestures
that we often make unconsciously, can help us focus on our work, calm ourselves, release anger and energize us. Used for centuries by many different cultures, mudras are seen in Eastern dance and meditation, in ancient Egyptian friezes, even in Byzantine icons of Christ. Most of us use them today, too: we wave goodbye, we press a hand to our chest in distress, we wriggle our fingers to release energy, or press fingertips together to calm ourselves.
Easy to learn, mudras can be done anywhere, at any time: at traffic lights, in meetings, in airplanes, when were arguing, when were grieving, when we need to prepare for sleep. The word mudra can be translated from the Sanskrit as that which brings inner peace, and that s what mudras are: a physical means of quieting our bodies. Product description for Mudras: Ancient Gestures to Ease Modern Stress by Emily Fuller Williams.
The hands go ahead of you to meet the world. They symbolize how you are handling life or are being handled. They are the most outward expression of the heart energy, where you touch, caress, show love… Your Body Speaks Your Mind by Deb Shapiro. You use your hands to create, to write, to hug. While this section is usually dedicated to hand mudras, a commercial I saw yesterday for Extra gum touched my heart so deeply, it is all I want to write about today. So please indulge me. Ive learned to write whats in my heart first.
Tears streamed down my face when I first saw this commercial and again now when I found it on YouTube. You see, it mirrors a personal origami collection of my own given to me over the 31+ years my husband and I have been together. In that timeframe, weve been out to eat numerous timesusually at restaurants with paper napkins and paper napkin rings. Each time he has taken the paper napkin ring and constructed a heartfelt masterpiece delivering it with his typical lighthearted smile and a commentary about the vision behind his design. He always adds a humble joke about the end product being less than perfect.
I started putting these treasures in my purse and saving them each time. By now my collection has grown to .well lets just say there are many! Ive often commented that if we passed on and someone came to clean out our belongings, theyd really wonder about this eclectic collection.
They are currently stored along with the numerous love notes my husband has written to me over the yearsLittle slips of paper stuffed into my bags and clothes when I travelled for business telling me how much he loved me, or how great I was going to do. Others were left around the house when he travelled. They were left in places he was sure Id find them but sometimes hidden so I wouldnt see them immediatelyLittle surprises meant to keep my heart filled in his absence.
These little scraps of papersome with words of love, others manipulated into origami masterpiecespulsate with the energy of loving gazes, jokes shared, dreams imagined. I cant bear to throw even one awaythey encapsulate my husbands intention to always be there when I need him in thought, word, and deed.
In their own way, they are kind of a form of hand mudratheyre a ritual gesture sealing our love for an eternity. According to Japanese legend, anyone who folds 1,000 origami cranes will be granted one wish. I dont know if I have 1000 creations (I’m not done collecting yet!), but I do know all my wishes have been granted. Create your own energetic origami masterpieces for someone special in your life. You may just find out that indeed Sometimes the little things last the longest. Give Extra, Get Extra. Namasté.
One of my dearest friends cooks, bakes, and grills like a professional chef. She loves to chop vegetables, says things like “ramekins” and has her own tablecloth named after her—The Christine—for purchase at The Palate in Stockholm, WI: http://www.thepalate.net/. Preparing food has been her passion since before my husband and I met Christine and her husband, Mark, close to 20 years ago. It has been our good fortune to be the lucky recipients of many delicious meals and absolutely wonderful times in their home. Since I am all about following our passion, this is my way of letting her have an outlet for hers. Enjoy!
Asparagus and spring onions are in season now and can easily be found in any grocery stores. When buying asparagus, look for larger stalks as they are far more flavorful. Fresh spring onions should be easy to find but you can substitute leeks, sweet onions or scallions. Chives are abundant this time of year too. If you don’t have any ask a friend or neighbor, they will most likely be happy to share from their gardens.
This dish can be served as a meal with a salad or as a side dish.
4 large eggs
1 cup half and half or whole milk
2 small fresh spring onions (one leek, ½ sweet onion can be substituted)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup asparagus (cut into 2 inch pieces)
2 tbsp fresh chives chopped
1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
½ cup chopped ham
Salt and pepper
When prepping the asparagus, it is best to break off the woody ends. Take one piece of asparagus and snap it towards the bottom of the stalk. This is a natural break point and will leave you with the tender part of the asparagus stalk. Then take the remaining stalks of asparagus and cut them with a knife at this same point. I sometimes peel the bottom outer skin of the asparagus; it helps it to cook more evenly.
Added benefits of eating asparagus: ”
“Green onions, also known as scallions or spring onions, contain a wide variety of health-enhancing compounds like vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. They contain vitamins K and C for bone health and vitamin A for eye health. Vitamins A and C also have strong antioxidant properties linking foods containing these vitamins to a decreased risk of heart disease. Vitamin C may also help prevent high blood pressure which can lower your risk of heart disease. And the phytochemicals in green onions—like quercetin and anthocyanins—may support immune system function.” ~ Michelle Kerns (Full article at link.)
When I was in 7th grade, my teacher was a Catholic nun named Sister Roberta. She was a bit of a rebel in that she played the guitar and started “guitar masses” at our church. She also introduced weekly “prayer meetings” in our class where we each had a copy of the Bible to refer to. She encouraged us to share random readings and our thoughts about those readings.
I was not with the popular “in” crowd. I was more the quiet, goody-two-shoes-type gal. So it was more in my nature to be the wallflower when it came to sharing things in class. Looking back upon the story I’m about to share, it surprises the adult me even more that I shared the readings I found. It was as though the story could not be kept quiet. The synchronicity had to be shared. It had to have some sort of meaning, some sort of explanation.
I wished I’d written down the biblical references I randomly opened to, but there were several; and the prayer meeting was for voicing our thoughts, not taking notes. It started innocently enough with one reference to “wisdom”. I shared it, some classmates commented, and we moved on. My very next random opening of the Bible brought yet another “wisdom” reference, so I shared this as well with a touch of inner awe at the second reading involving “wisdom”. Two readings shared turned into several—many, many readings all randomly appeared when I’d close and reopen the Bible. It got to the point that I didn’t even need to raise my hand any more. I just started to speak out loud when I’d find the next one and the next one. Even my classmates were beginning to wonder. In retrospect, I know that “wisdom” is a central topic in many of the books of the Bible, but the sheer number of references I found in such a short time span still gives me reason to pause.
My best friend sat nearby and whispered something encouraging to me. I forget what it was. Right about then, I started to notice cold shivers in my body and I remember sharing this with my friend. My mom always overdressed me—but that’s for another story. The point being, I was not cold due to lack of clothing. My friend shared this out loud before I could say anything—not that I minded. I was caught in the wonder of it all. I remember Sister Roberta suggesting that perhaps the readings and the physical manifestation of cold shivers was a visit from the Holy Spirit since “wisdom” is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. I was thoroughly humbled by the idea.
It was from this auspicious beginning that my relationship with “wisdom” as a personal “gift” started. After that, any reference to “wisdom” was like an inside “wink and a nod” from God—an understanding between us. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t feel like I was this newly wisened, holier-than-thou human being. On the contrary, I still felt like I always felt—nothing special—no more, no less. It was just that the whole incident made a huge impression on me. It’s something I’ll never forget.
Fast forward several years. As I matured, my interests in all things magical and mystical grew. I was intensely curious about historical figures, metaphysical subjects, psychic phenomena, angels, fairies (see the opening section to this newsletter), and yes–goddesses. I started to have an attraction to various goddesses. I’m not the only one enamored with the “Asian-equivalent of the Virgin Mary”—Quan Yin. Click here to read about Quan Yin’s presence in my life.
My regular readers know that I am intensely proud of my Polish heritage. My grandmother on my mother’s side is Sophia. So of course I was drawn to studying the goddess Sophia—the divine embodiment of female wisdom. Her name translates literally as “wisdom” in Greek and is often represented in art as a dove. “Later history associated Sophia with the Holy Spirit in Gnosticism. Interestingly, Christianity depicted the Holy Spirit as a dove, imparting divine energy to its recipients.
Gnosticism—derived from gnosis, the Greek word for knowledge—grew alongside early Christianity….Later the Greek Orthodox church named her Saint Sophia.” ~ The Book of Goddesses. A Celebration of the Divine Feminine.” ~ by Kris Waldherr. “In Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christianity, Sophia, or rather Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), is an expression of understanding for the second person of the Holy Trinity.”
In my readings and research I found a connection with Sophia to “Athena”, the goddess of wisdom, and one of the most powerful of ancient Greek goddesses. Athena “was the daughter of Zeus, the Greek ruling god, and his first wife, Metis, whose name meant ‘wisdom’.” ~ The Book of Goddesses. A Celebration of the Divine Feminine.” ~ by Kris Waldherr.
“The word “sofia” was an epithet of Athena in ancient Greek philosophy, namely this word meant the wisdom and divine superiority of Athena in comparison with other Olympic gods.
…in ancient Greece Athena was the personification of wisdom and was the most esteemed goddess before birth of the Christ, but the image of Athena was rethought in understanding of the first Christians and was named Sophia the Wisdom of God, and also the name of Sofia was separated from pagan gods and compared to wisdom…” Source: http://www.numeralgame.64g.ru/num/num6en.htm
Athena became another very personal goddess connection in my life—we were practically related, after all. Athena is often accompanied by an owl—the bird associated with wisdom. Whenever an owl finds its way into my life, I smile. I’m drawn to owl photos, drawings, and sounds. I notice their presence. How about you?
These personal connections to the Divine Feminine are archetypes we all carry deep inside. You need only to acknowledge their existence and suddenly you’ll have your own “aha moment”. I promise. Do you recognize your “goddess within”? I’m sure there are several. Acknowledge and uncover your own personal history—your life stories, and let your inner goddesses evolve into a very personal, unique connection. You won’t regret it. It will be a constant source of inspiration and comfort.
A good friend of mine, Flo Schell, is also a very gifted artist. She has created the most beautiful, stunning goddess paintings and was kind enough to let me post a depiction and link here. I have, of course, chosen the goddess Athena. She’s absolutely beautiful, don’t you think?
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“My Better Day” newsletter contains tips for your yoga practice, yoga quotes to bring yoga off the mat and into your life, affirmations to brighten your day and motivate, and more! It is my wish for your well-being that I send this newsletter to help make your day a Better Day!
In this issue: Yoga quote, Practice yoga pose, Meditation on the go, Chakrascope, Hand Mudra, Healthy News, Featured Recipe, Favorite Yoga Music / DVD, Happenings at Better Day Yoga LLC, Final Relaxation Quote.
Founder, Better Day Yoga LLC
Five years ago my husband and I visited Poland—the homeland of our ancestors. I was having some issues with my left hip prior, but the pain was off the charts when we landed. The pain in my left hip wouldn’t allow me to walk more than half a block at a time without doing a “last resort” lunge wherever I could to alleviate the pain a little so I could walk another half a block. We had not rented a car so travel by foot was our only option within the various cities we were visiting.
It was still a beautiful trip with unforgettable, precious moments. I refused to let the pain dull the time there or the memories. We had an absolute blast visiting many of the top tourist spots like Krakow, Zakopane, and Częstochowa; as well as the larger cities near my parent’s birthplace villages: Kielce and Rzeszów. We were not in touch with Polish relatives at that time. So our visit did not include family.
More than one person shared their belief that the pain in my hip was a reflection of ancestral healing needed within either my family or even my homeland, Poland. We carry the stories of our ancestors within our energy field. Unresolved conflicts, emotional wounds, damaging judgments, and other limitations held by your ancestors past or present will continue to influence generations to follow. Our ancestor’s memories lie within our DNA. Deep, unexpressed emotions such as grief, anger, guilt, shame and fear can also be passed to us from our ancestors, just like our eye and hair color. Energy from our ancestors passes through the family tree. It’s an amazing thought, isn’t it?
My dad never made it back to the farm after World War II. He was taken from his home by the Germans when he was about 17 and was a prisoner of war on a German farm, as was my mom. Given the dates I saw on my grandparent’s graves, my dad lost his dad earlier the same year. His dad died in his arms—a story my dad repeated often. My dad never saw his mom again. This fact was driven home when during his final years with Alzheimer’s he would wander off saying “I’m going to find mama!”
We went back to Poland this past June. This time we visited family! We stayed on the farm my dad was born on in a 400-resident village in south-central Poland. My cousin, Henryka, her husband and two daughters currently live there. It was a deeply meaningful trip of a lifetime.
My cousin’s daughter, Anita, found us on Facebook in 2009. Since then, we have been in touch constantly. Her family’s connection with us and her visit here last year started the healing process of our extended families. Our visit back to Poland this year continued to “make right” the broken family relations.
Anita tells me that during WWII, my dad’s mom and younger siblings would hide in the fields for days when they knew the Germans were coming. Upon returning to the farm, the German tank tracks were visible near their home, some chickens missing, the house disheveled. When Anita recently took us for a walk in a nearby forest that surely my dad had frequented with his brother and sisters, the smoothed out hollows in the earth where the Polish soldiers and villagers would hide from the Germans were still apparent this many years later. It gave me an eerie, surreal feeling to walk through the forest. On the one hand my dad probably spent some wonderful hours playing within the forest area; but on the other hand, the energy of soldiers in wait and in fear lingered.
Back in the early 60’s my dad and mom sponsored his sister, Stanislawa, her husband, Henryk, and their three children—Maria, Krystyna, and Henryka—to come live here in America. After a huge falling out, my dad’s sister and family moved back to Poland. The details as given to me, a very small child, were sketchy.
Between the pain of being taken from his family home during WWII and then losing connection to his family a second time with the falling out years later, I’m thinking there was definitely some ancestral healing needed in my dad’s immediate family. But anyone who knows Poland’s history—(woah!..literally, as I typed the previous phrase and Googled the “history of Poland” to research the dates Poland was not even a country on the map, our electricity went out in the house for perhaps 30 seconds. Insert Twilight Zone music here. I’ve had my own experiences with electricity and communication from those that have passed, but that’s for another blog. Communicating through electricity is apparently a venue of choice for those that have passed: “They also work through electricity – turning TVs and radios on and off, affecting lights, doorbells, phones. They seem to be able to manipulate energy – most likely because they’re energy!”. “Hello!” to my Polish ancestors!) As I was saying, anyone who knows Poland’s history knows Poland’s borders have changed numerous times.
From 1796 until 1919, Poland did not exist as a county. World War II began with a massive German invasion into Poland. “Hitler’s policy was to eradicate the Polish nation and Germanise the territory.”
Within a matter of weeks, the Soviet Union moved into Poland, claiming its eastern half. “Thus, Poland was yet again partitioned. Mass arrests, exile and executions followed, and it’s estimated that between one and two million Poles were sent to Siberia, the Soviet Arctic and Kazakhstan in 1939–40. Like the Nazis, the Soviets set in motion a process of intellectual genocide.” Source: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/poland/history
When friends and therapists shared the concept of ancestral healing and connected it to the pain in my hip, I have to say I was more than a little intrigued. As a yoga teacher, I’d learned that we store a lot of emotions in our hips, especially the emotions we don’t want to, or can’t, deal with. Your hips generate any movement forward in your life. If you’re feeling stuck or blocked in some way, your hips are usually involved. The idea that an ancestral block was lodged in my hip resonated with me—especially since the pain went off the charts once we landed in Poland.
My Polish ancestors definitely had deep, unexpressed grief. Undeniably, negative influences from the past affect us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually; and as we’ve learned from mind/body science, they also affect us physically and energetically. Since the hips are where every initiative starts, any pain or trauma we have stored in the hips that’s stopping us from physically moving forward will also stop us from energetically moving forward.
Perhaps visiting Poland without connecting with family five years ago stopped my hip from moving forward with ease on our trip. Perhaps my ancestral homeland was “holding on” to my every step insisting I do more than just visit the tourist stops. Who can say? (Read about the chakra connection in the Chakrascope section below!) As we planned a return visit back to Poland five years later, it was more than a little on my mind. I didn’t want a repeat performance! But perhaps this trip with the sole purpose of meaningful connection to family would help shift the energy of unexpressed grief. At least that was my hope.
On a side note, I donned a karma bracelet for inner strength and courage early June, a month prior to our trip. Karma bracelets are designed to fall off when your karma is complete—when you have released your negative karma and achieved your personal goal. My “inner strength and courage” bracelet came with the following message: “Wear your bracelet to dissolve away any fearful or doubtful karma and give light to your inner strength. Confidence is the key to manifesting anything you desire.”
Karma is defined as “The total effect of a person’s actions and conduct during the successive phases of the person’s existence, regarded as determining the person’s destiny.” And another: “the cosmic principle of rewards and punishments for the acts performed in a previous incarnation.” If you look at karma in the light of our ancestral heritage, my bracelet was working on releasing any fearful and doubtful karma from my ancestors.
I’d witnessed a friend’s karma “complete” its journey quickly, falling off within a few days. So I expected my karmic “lesson” to be, at the most, perhaps a week or two. Why I thought I could estimate timing on karma is humorous in hindsight. Each lesson is personal, as is the timing.
As we approached the timing for our return trip to Poland, the karma bracelet still had not fallen off. I started to wonder if perhaps this once-in-a-lifetime trip to the farm my Dad was born on was to “complete” any unresolved karmic energies surrounding inner strength and courage.
The courage and inner strength it took for all Poles to rise above their violent history—let alone my parents—and to hold onto their Polish heritage under threat of death was not something I dwelled upon as a child of Polish immigrants who had been prisoners of war. My parents shared no bitterness for having had ten years of their lives stolen with the added humility of being held prisoners on farms and in war camps, their families ripped apart.
Both of my parents were prisoners of war on German farms. My mom was auctioned off to the highest bidding German farmer. She never, not once, discussed her time as a prisoner on that farm. I’m certain it wasn’t something she cared to remember and least of all share with her children. My parents and others like them buried their despair and their grief and moved on to a new life in the U.S. This is a common theme among WWII immigrants to the U.S. Their children learned to ask no questions. You were not to touch the sleeping dragon.
I was an adult before the reality of my history truly hit me: “My parents were prisoners of war on German farms, met in a war camp, got married in the war camp, and had two kids in that war camp.” And I was a yoga teacher in my 50’s studying the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) before I finally deduced that my parents weren’t just born with short fuses and erratic temperaments. Those are classic signs of PTSD.
I was told our recent visit to Poland was an “event” for this quaint village. When we would walk down the road, neighbors would step out onto the road to peak at us as we walked away. One cousin remarked as she met me for the first time: “It is impossible.” She was referring to my return to my dad’s birthplace village. Another had just lost her last sister and expressed gratitude for having met me and knowing she was not alone. Each and every one of them touched my heart and will live on there. I will hold them close as I know my dad did in his memories.
I couldn’t help but think about my parent’s decision not to remain in war-torn Poland; to move on to another land with two small children and start a new life. Now there was some inner strength and courage!
I felt lost simply not knowing the language fluently and I had a fluent bilingual relative accompanying me everywhere! My dad tried to take lessons to learn English here in the U.S. early on but holding down two to three jobs at a time got in the way of his studies and he had to abort the lessons.
My mom learned English all on her own, creating some of her own words and phrases along the way like “meat-lunch” for “lunchmeat” and things at an angle were “on an ick”*. She was my dad’s bookkeeper (he had his own ceramic tile, linoleum, slate business for close to 30 years) and took great pride in writing the checks and other business papers in perfect English after much trial and error. I know she felt self-conscious her whole life about the mastery of her second language. They both mastered the English language brilliantly, in my humble opinion.
Their struggles and accomplishments paved the way for my future just as the contributions of other famous Poles did:
(*Side story here: It was last year sometime in a conversation with my second oldest sister, Barb, who is nine years older than me, that the phrase “on an ick” was used by my sister. I started to chuckle and she asked why. So I commented that “ick” was a sweet “mom-ism”—a made-up word from mom. There was a long pause, and she said “Are you serious? That’s not a word? I’ve been using that word my whole life!” –a more humorous example of an ancestor’s struggle with learning a new language in a new land.
In Zakopane, as I walked among the Tatra Mountains my dad had often spoken so fondly of, I sent a silent message off to my dad’s spirit: “I am here, dad; and it’s as beautiful as you always said it was. I am here and I am home.” By the time we were in Zakopane, it was a little more than half-way through our trip. And after hiking 18 kilometers (a little over 11 miles) the first day—half of that all uphill—I knew my hip issues from five years prior were, thankfully, not going to reoccur! Of course, my husband and I also continued doing daily yoga throughout the trip each morning as well! Let’s hear it for the healing powers of yoga!
We even took another hefty hike up the mountain the second day to do a cave tour—a precarious walk up slippery slope rock-steps with an equally precarious, if not downright dangerous, path through the cave that deemed us worthy of saying we were definitely “spelunkers”! I teased my cousin’s daughter, Anita, that we were filming “How to lose your relatives in two days”. All joking aside, she apologized several times as we were in the midst of the cave tour among other tourists who were likewise in disbelief saying “Oh my God!” and “Jesu, Jesu!”
As we were waiting to catch the bus out of Zakopane back toward Krakow, I suddenly noticed my karma bracelet was gone! It fell off somewhere in Zakopane! “Wear your bracelet to dissolve away any fearful or doubtful karma and give light to your inner strength. Confidence is the key to manifesting anything you desire.” I have to say having lost the bracelet in Poland, and particularly in the midst of the Tatra Mountains, must have made my mom and dad smile. It was a sweet feeling to have left a little part of me there. Dwelling on my parent’s inner strength and courage, as well as the inner strength and courage of all Poles, undoubtedly “gave light to” my own inner strength and I can’t thank them enough for that gift.
I’ve read that ancestral healing allows you to make peace within your family going back many generations. Some say seven generations forward and backward. If my trip to Poland has done that for those that came before me and those that follow, for this I am truly grateful. If it has cleared the path for my own life’s mission, well that would just be the icing on the cake now wouldn’t it?
“Ancestral Healing can transform energetic patterns that are not in your highest good, or are preventing you from carrying out your soul’s mission and life’s purpose. If you are experiencing recurring patterns where things get in the way of feeling satisfied, enriched or successful, then Ancestral Healing may be the missing link that can free you to attain personal fulfillment.”
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, our trip to Poland has completed me. Before this trip I wouldn’t have thought I felt “incomplete” or “lost”. Yet after this trip I now know a sense of connectedness to family I have never known. It’s palpable. I have been hugged and kissed by cousins and distant cousins in numbers I cannot count. I have truly been “home”. My roots go deeper now and I am grounded in a way I’ve never felt before. I know where I come from and some of the stories that helped make me who I am. There’s a sense of security and safety in really knowing family. Having met, this family connection can only grow from here and the story continues…
How about you? What patterns, legacies, values, attitudes, key events, connections, struggles, triumphs and disappointments have been passed on from your ancestors? What impact have your ancestors had upon your present life? How will you embody their lessons and what will you pass on to those who come after? Are you disconnected from your immediate family? Only you can make the journey to complete yourself.
There’s no such thing as a lost soul.
I know where they are, and everyone makes it home.
Thanks for caring,
(Source: Totally Unique Thoughts from the Universe daily emails.)