All posts filed under: Creative Expression

Writing as a Path to Awakening & Healing

by:  Albert Flynn DeSilver * One morning when I was twenty-two years old, I woke up handcuffed to a hospital bed with no idea how I got there. And I was under arrest. It was the seven words of the District Attorney, uttered with searing conviction, that saved my life. “You will not get a second chance.” I didn’t tell her that this was my second chance. Two years prior I was at a rowdy party drinking myself to oblivion in order to numb-out a recent break up, when I wound up stumbling around outside then passing out face-down in the driveway. A couple hours later my best friend jumped in his car, cranked up the tunes, and with no idea I was there, drove right over me. Another story. I took my first verbal standardized test when I was twelve scoring in the lower tenth percentile. In the parent/teacher conference that followed I heard the phrases “he has trouble expressing himself verbally” (Yeah, no shit) and “he’s showing signs of dyslexia.” Dyswhatsia? I had no idea …

Giving ourselves grace, Part 1

Marissa C. Knox When life is painful or difficult, we are often told to “give ourselves grace.” But what does this really mean? How do we give ourselves the thing that is already and always here? Perhaps it means to be self-compassionate, or to allow ourselves to be human. Or maybe it is about prayer, asking for help, seeking guidance. Some might give themselves grace simply by giving themselves space – space to feel, space to rest, space to breathe, space to be. It may be the act of listening to a song, a bird, a river. It may be a delicious nap. Yes, and there is no one right way to give ourselves grace. For me, giving myself grace is a life practice. It is a way of being that guides my days and provides an anchor, a compass, and a map for how I want to be in each moment.  Trusting in the presence of grace is how I begin and end each day of my life. Though, this is not something that …

Befriending Your Inner Critic

The Inner Critic relationship is pivotal as we “do our work”.  These parts of our inner world can offer such rich feedback as to how we care for ourselves, what we perceive as threats and how to move beyond a fraught relationship into one that can be healed and ultimately so very supportive in our journeys. Best selling author Sara Avant Stover speaks to us on how being an Internal Family Systems (IFS) practitioner can provide guidance on cultivating our relationship with the Inner Critic through different modalities as we work to heal old wounds.  SMC is delighted to host Sara’s upcoming Online retreat offering: Befriending Your Inner Critic.   Join Sara for Befriending Your Inner Critic   About the Author Sara Avant Stover is a bestselling author and teacher of feminine spirituality. After a cancer scare in her early twenties, Sara moved to Thailand, embarked on a decade-long healing and spiritual odyssey throughout Asia, and has since gone on to uplift tens of thousands of women worldwide. The founder of the world’s first Women’s Yoga …

New Weather Patterns

by Kay Peterson // As citizens of the earth, events of the past year have certainly illuminated the preciousness of this human life and offered us an opportunity to reflect on how we’ve been living it. Now, as we find ourselves collectively navigating yet another palpable transition or “change in weather,” we have a choice: to be lulled back into comfortable, familiar patterns, or to meet each new moment with greater awareness and intention together. You probably noticed that while we were trying to adjust to quarantine in our homes through the storm of a pandemic, nature continued to offer us examples for how to adapt, to strive toward better balance no matter what the obstacle, and in many situations, to even thrive in the space less encumbered with human confusion. With far fewer people traveling and emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, air and water quality significantly improved in many areas and a variety of species seized the opportunity to thrive in the places we’d vacated. Though this simple observation is not a panacea …

The Yoga of Slowing Down 

by Heather Lindemann // Our world is steeped with movement. Walking to the car, cooking dinner, hiking a mountain path, or playing with your children — the body is meant to move. Like all aspects of our practice, however, we need balance. Some might think that the opposite of movement is total stillness, like seated meditation or even sleep. However, there’s another way to slow down, find balance, and teach the body that there is grace in doing less.   Slow and gentle yoga practices like Yin or restorative yoga can embrace the midpoint between movement and stillness. Sometimes, moving slowly and tuning in to subtle sensations can feel more challenging than movement or total rest. Yet gentle yoga practices can offer the body, mind, and soul tremendous wisdom.   Teaching the Nervous System to Regulate  On a physical level, we know that slow movement practices allow the body to settle and regulate. When we slow down, the body and mind respond by turning on the relaxation response, which is part of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). While meditation, sleep, or even Yoga Nidra are direct pathways to …

Graceful Entry: The Bardo of Becoming with Andrew Holecek

The silence and majesty of the Colorado Rockies provides the ideal backdrop for exploring the Buddhist approach to the end of life. This seven-day program is the second in a series of three retreats designed to give you a complete preparation for death by understanding the three death bardos or “transitional processes.” Each retreat is a stand-alone program. This means you can enter the series at any time. This program will examine the karmic bardo of becoming, which constitutes the majority of our after-death experience. It’s a fluid and volatile time, when the winds of habit blow us involuntarily into our next birth. With preparation, it transforms into the bardo of opportunity, where we can become anything we want by waking up to the experience and taking control. This Eastern body of wisdom will be augmented with Western medical, legal, and logistical approaches to the end of life. The uniqueness of the retreats is their comprehensive nature – no stone is left unturned. Learn what to do before, during, and after death – for yourself and for others – from …

Coming to Our Senses:  Practicing the Four Foundations of Mindfulness   

by  Gaylon Ferguson // The gentle practice of mindfulness-awareness meditation allows our senses to awaken. First, we enter into meditation by sensing the body. The basis of our entire meditation journey is mindfulness of body, directly connecting with this earthy, elemental aspect of being human. We begin by attending to our sitting posture, listening to our own bodies and settling into physical sensation as a good working basis. Gradually synchronizing body and mind, we feel more grounded. We are cultivating a sense of being fully present with our bodies, moment after moment after moment. This experience of groundedness allows us to open out, welcoming all our experience with less judgment, more friendliness.  Next is sensing our feelings. Sometimes our meditation sessions present dramatic and vivid displays of emotions. Sometimes there is boredom. The overall approach is to include our inner emotional weather as part of the sitting practice of meditation. Sunny or cloudy, cool winds or thundershowers, all are welcome. This approach is called “touch and go.” We gently touch an emotion, rather than avoiding or ignoring it. If it moves on—as emotions sometimes do, we let it go. If it stays, we allow …

Summer Women 

by Katharine Kaufman //  We walk from the dining hall up the path, through aspens, and field. We walk alone or in groups of two or three. And onto the road, up into the pines and the indoor/outdoor pavilion. If it’s raining and cool, we walk beyond the pavilion to the lodge. We find our place, lay our mat there and sit or lie down. We are with other actual bodies. This year has been inside and online and not getting to see who we need to see. The grief may feel distant or near. We’ve been too busy, or we haven’t had enough to do. We’ve been worried or we’re not thinking of the past at all. We’re wired and underneath, exhausted. We’re learning to hold our seat. Something is forming about what we can or will not tolerate. We’re thinking of the year ahead. We feel lucky in some ways. We’re here to pause between worlds, seasons, dream a little, write something down on paper, prepare.   We sit and breathe. We notice sensations that have been waiting for us to listen. It’s a relief and it’s not as hard as we thought, and we listen to the other women and find something in common. The days are simple. We begin each day in silence. We sit and then walk and wander. We practice yoga on our mats. Somebody says …

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Innate Beauty 

by Janet Solyntjes // Have you noticed how human beings can express themselves in such a variety of ways? We can be fantastic, imaginative, inexplicably wise, and quirky.  We can be kind, generous, patient and courageous in the face of challenges.  We can also be stingy, grumpy, angry and confused. When we make the choice to inhabit our being––fully present and aware––we can then learn to embrace all parts of our experience, uncovering the wholeness and goodness that is the basis of all life.    I love the following poem by poet Mary Oliver for its ability to communicate the rich complexity of our human experience and of our relationship to nature:   The sea can do craziness, it can do smooth, it can lie down like silk breathing or toss havoc shoreward; it can give   gifts or withhold all; it can rise, ebb, froth like an incoming frenzy of fountains, or it can sweet-talk entirely.  As I can too,   and so, no doubt, can you, and you. Often we experience our “crazy-froth-frenzy” as unwanted and unwelcome, judging these experiences and comparing them with “smooth-giving-sweetness.” The practice of meditation is one way, perhaps the most direct pathway, to dropping the critical mind and softening into what is present, into the ups …