Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Gifts

From me to you, an at-home in your pajamas practice you can do tonight or tomorrow to welcome in 2017! I send you all love and the highest wishes and vibrations.


Also, here is my digital New Year's Card, some scenes from our front yard in winter with delightful birds and squirrels, and a few haiku verses celebrating our deep connection to nature and the earth, and to each other. 


NEW YEARS BLESSING & POEM: #haiku #verses
Birds, beasts and people - In harmony with Nature - May we always live. 
Finding solace in - unbreakable connection - to our sacred Earth. 
Spirit manifest - in every cell and atom - man, woman and child. 
Holiness and Light - continuous, non-dual - Symphony of Life. #flow #harmonize #realize#nonduality

Friday, December 16, 2016

Meditation for Advent, Week 4

The Gospel reading for this fourth service of Advent at my church will be chapter 11 verses 2-11 in the New Testament book of Matthew. John the Baptist wanted Jesus to answer the question, "Are you the Expected One?" Jesus told his disciples to go and report to John what they had heard and seen. What had they witnessed in the presence of Jesus? Nothing short of miracles: the blind receiving sight, the deaf who could hear again, the lame who could walk and the dead coming back to life, with the good news of the Gospel being preached to the poor.

Jesus instructed the disciples to tell John that no one like Him had come before and no other Expected One would come after Him. He proclaimed John the Baptist to be the greatest man who had yet to walk the Earth, but also this: that the least important person in the coming Kingdom of Heaven would be greater than even John the Baptist!

It was time to make way for a new reality, a new world order. It was time for the world to open its eyes and embrace an entirely new vision. All had been blind, yet all were invited to see--to see what? To see something they had never before seen, something beyond their frame of reference, beyond any reality they had ever known, imagined, hoped for or dreamed.

This Expected One, Immanuel, God with Us, this miracle worker Jesus, can He make us see? Can he achieve the miracle of letting us see with our human eyes into this Holy vision?

For a few brief moments, let us close our human eyes and rest them. Rather than straining our eyes to see, we'll allow our eyes to close. We'll embrace once more this quiet, still place of watching, waiting, turning and dreaming. 

Here in the still darkness, repeat this prayer mantra silently to yourself: Maranatha, Come Lord. {Allow for silent reflection}. 

As we prepare to open our eyes once more, for the next few breaths, breathing in we'll say silently, "Expand our vision," breathing out, "that we may SEE."  

Come Lord, and expand our vision, that we may see your glory! Amen. 



Friday, December 9, 2016

Meditation for Advent Week 3

{For the third Sunday of Advent the church I attend is using the Week 4 scriptures on December 11th, so this week's meditation is based on those scriptures and the general themes of Advent. It is easily adaptable to any Advent service.}

The scriptural passages for today contain the prophecy of Jesus' birth and Matthew's account of the circumstances leading up to it. Isaiah 7:14 proclaims, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel." Immanuel means, God with us. God incarnate. The Divine on Earth in Human form! What a magical, mystical, fantastical idea: a living, breathing deity, the embodiment of holiness and divinity!

Some interpretations of Christian spirituality cast shame on the human body, viewing it as an impediment to spiritual progress. This ancient view of our bodies is also present in the other faith traditions of the world. This type of thinking is linked to a certain time in history, and the philosophies which dominated at that time. But our scriptures for today tell us that God chose to come into our physical world through the womb of a woman's body, taking birth as a human. Matthew chapter 1:18-25 tells the story of Mary's pregnancy and Joseph's struggle to preserve the couple's dignity as he contemplated hiding Mary away. In a dream an angel reassured Joseph, telling him about the great blessing awaiting the world, and that they should call their new baby by the name of Jesus. And so, Joseph and Mary went ahead with their wedding plans and believed themselves that Mary's body was holy, that their marriage was holy, that their baby was holy; and they put away their shame and fear.

What more evidence do we need that we ourselves, in our very bodies are holy and beloved, than the Lord of all coming to us in a body just like ours?

Find a comfortable seat where you can be at ease in your body. Bring the hands together in prayer at the heart. Gently close your eyes. Bring your awareness to your breath. Allow your breath to slow down and deepen, naturally soothing your body and mind. In this reverent, peaceful position, allow your focus to turn to the Holy One, Immanuel. 

Begin silently repeating the prayer phrase, "Immanuel, God with Us" to yourself. Silently repeat Immanuel as you inhale, and God with Us as you exhale. Without judgment, let all other thoughts come and go as you bring your awareness consistently to your prayer phrase and your breath. 

With each breath, welcome in the presence of the Lord. With each heartbeat, experience your connection to the heart of Christ. 

Feel the inner Light of Christ expand through your heart, through your chest, throughout your entire being. 

Envision the Light of Christ surrounding you here and now, encircling your body and radiating from your core. 

Immanuel, God with Us. As a church, we are the Body of Christ on our Earth here, today. 



Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Meditation for Advent, Week 2

Last week in our meditation we remained awake and alert, ready to welcome the Lord's presence, even in the midst of dreary darkness. We welcomed unknowing and uncertainty. We allowed the nebulous darkness and waited in the stillness. In the second week of Advent, as we wait, what message may come to us? 

Our New Testament reading this week comes from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 3 verses 1-12. In this passage we receive a wake-up call from John the Baptist, the voice of the one who cried in the wilderness. His message did not appear to come from a place of unknowing, but instead from a very different place in the mind and heart, a place of intense zeal and passion! 

There is talk of what we know, and what we think we know: "...do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father; for I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.'" John the Baptist called for repentance from the conventional ways to which we've grown accustomed in all our comfortable knowledge of how the world works, and how the Kingdom of God works. He was speaking to the spiritual leaders and the devout people in his time and place in history, and if we want to extrapolate that message to our time and our people, what do we make of the call to repentance? It seems like an invitation to take a good look at what we think we know, and embrace a willingness to open up to a new worldview, to turn away from the familiar, and again, to be ready for something big about to happen! As Monty Python fans will appreciate, this announcement sounded a lot like the refrain, "And now for something completely different!" 

Read the passage yourself and see if you get that sort of impression. Perhaps for you it will be something else, again, something completely different. Think about the theme for this week's worship, that of turning away from the past and the habitual. Then, prepare yourself for meditation. 

Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Set a timer for the time that you have to meditate.

You are invited once more to the experience of open stillness. Without judgment, welcome what is happening for you here and now. Take a few moments to allow the quiet---allow inactivity---allow receptive consciousness. Embrace this silent, reflective time. 
As this time draws to a close, behind your closed eyes, see this word, "Turn." 
Sit with this word.
Here is a prayer for your contemplative meditation this week: Breathing in, I listen to your voice. Breathing out, I turn to receive your message. Breathing in, I listen. Breathing out, I turn. Come Lord. 



Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Meditations for Advent, Week 1

During the four weeks preceding December 25th, Christians observe the season of Advent. In a literal sense, the four weeks of Advent are the darkest of the year in the Northern hemisphere. Where I live, the sun rises at approximately 7:00 a.m. and sets at 4:30 p.m. giving us only 9.5 hours of daylight out of 24.

We await the return of the Light at Advent, as our brothers and sisters in other faith traditions observe different yet similar practices designed to sustain hope in darkness and stay alert for God's presence: Milad un Nabi is celebrated by Muslims to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad--gifts are exchanged, food is distributed to the poor, and prayers are offered in mosques decorated with lights. Hanukkah is the festival celebrated by Jewish people in this season, championing the triumph of light over darkness and commemorating the continual burning of the Holy Temple menorah for eight days when only one day of oil was available. Yule is the Pagan European festival upon which many Christmas customs are loosely based, hailing the rebirth of the sun/return of the Light and the commencement of Winter. Many Hindu families in the Western world participate in cultural Christmas traditions. In addition, modern Hindus observe a five-day festival, Pancha Ganapati, honoring Lord Ganesha and decorating the home with lamps and lights.

It is my opinion that in order for it to have practical value, any religious faith must be firmly anchored into the concrete experience of daily human life. We live and breathe and move in human bodies, in human dwellings, in human communities--our faith practices must serve our core humanity or they become meaningless.

As we live in increasing physical darkness and cold, how do we meaningfully engage with our present experience? And what of mental, emotional or spiritual darkness? The practice of meditation teaches us to allow and confront rather than escape our present experience.

In the scripture for the first week of Advent the Gospel of Matthew tells us to remain "alert" in times of uncertainty. When it's harder to see, harder to know, harder to understand, what can we do? We can take comfort in our collective unknowing. Not even the angels know, says Matthew, but this is no excuse for becoming dark and dull. We are instructed to "be ready," prepared to respond: awake, vivid and sharp in the midst of  indistinct shadows. What is to come we do not know, but turning away from the darkness and giving up is to denounce the valor of the common human struggle. Face the darkness, allow the uncertainty and stay awake to the world's suffering. The Light may yet return!

This first week of Advent we meditate on this scriptural passage from Matthew, chapter 24 verses 36-44. First read the passage then find an undisturbed place to practice your meditation.

Please sit comfortably and close your eyes. Set a timer for the time that you have to meditate.

You are now invited to the vivid experience of stillness. See the darkness behind your eyelids. Breathe into the void of activity. Sit in the presence of yourself, and welcome unknowing. Greet uncertainty. Be with what is, and stay alert. {Allow for silent, reflective time}. As this time draws to a close, know that you do not know. Know that the angels themselves do not know. Here is a mantra to repeat this week: breathing in, I am awake. Breathing out, I am ready. Come Lord. 



Thursday, September 29, 2016

Godself

What if in every self, there were a Self,
a divine yet unique expression of a person,
like a titanium crystal snowflake?
Super strength and brilliance to Infinity,
with real personality attributes and feelings,
brazen power encasing vulnerability?

What would my Godself be like?

Solid, steady, illuminated,
pulsing in perfect rhythm
and singing in perfect harmony
with the other Godselves.

Creative, passionate, nurturing,
seeming at times capricious,
effusive and obsessive and gentle,
given to sudden destruction
of the sickly, stale and staid things,
sometimes a creator,
sometimes a sustainer,
sometimes a destroyer,
like You
and Me.

Godself, by Alex Grey
alexgrey.com

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Amoureux

Imagine intimacy 
with the vast universe.

Envision engagement
with the fabric of time.

Suspend substantiation,
allowing truth to materialize.

Touch tentatively
what lies beyond birth and death. 

Be bolder
and see with closed eyes.

Acknowledge affection
from your most loving friend. 

Prioritize presence
with the omnipresent lover. 

Entirely envelop
your being in love. 


Friday, September 16, 2016

Elements

Let the soft water
meet with a yielding body,
nothing to resist.

Welcome the warm fire.
Melt internal resistance.
Unfold into bliss.

Sitting on the ground,
root into abiding peace.
Surrender to earth.

Step outside the door,
greeting wind's inspiration.
Ride the currents, free.

Enigmatic realm,
a universal matrix,
ether permeates.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Bypassing

What can't you accept?
Identify your taboos.
What if they show up?

Don't try to banish,
simply let them go away
without wincing or bracing.

Don't try to avoid,
pretending they are absent.
Meet them at the door.

Look them in the eye.
There is space in you for all
you think you can't face.

Critique and reject
and scrub away the dirty
bits and pieces of your life.

Call out bad actions
and bad words and ideas:
watch them reappear.

All that you reject
lies dormant in your psyche
just waiting to reemerge.

Judgment and dismay
become your mode of being
so you are depressed.

Then you turn to God,
your idea of Perfect,
some future reality.

Doing rituals
which make you feel protected
from the things you hate.

You say lock the doors,
keep all the windows covered:
bad people outside!

You criticize all,
working towards your Heaven
some Hell lurking within.

You hate in others
what you reject in yourself.
Try to be open.

It is not too late
to soften your perspective
finding a new way.

Faith is seeing love,
embracing the possible,
releasing strictures.

I can't make you see
or make peace with your demons.
You gave birth to them.

Instead of control,
let all the chaos inside
the sanctuary.




Sunday, September 11, 2016

Flesh

Straight lines could live inside,
but I don't know where.
I can't find anything else
besides gentle slopes and curves.

I love it all now,
peachy and ruddy with spots,
and shades of brown and gold
with a touch of blue.

Mellifluous qualities emerge
with patience applied,
nothing is metal or rubber
or battery powered,
we're more complex and beautiful.






Weekend

Hazy, indescribable, purplish sensations descending steadily through the spiral, 
lit from the bottom and radiating up and out to all sides,
feelings I am seeking to extend indefinitely,
so I won't have to turn them off and on. 

Recreate some experience I can't remember, that's what I want to do on a weekend night,
find a little rabbit hole to plunge into,
so I can engage my mind in stimulation
and my senses in pleasure. 

 
                                                 Sexy Slime, from theblogofbaphomet.com

Friday, September 9, 2016

Eight

Yama
Niyama
Asana
Pranayama
Pratyahara
Dharana
Dhyana
Samadhi

Treat others with respect and conduct yourself with the highest integrity,
Amen.

Apply effort to self-cultivation, going within to find your divinity and bring it forth,
Amen.

Find peace and good health through mastery of inspired movement,
Amen.

Develop a sacred connection to your breath to harness and sustain your vital energy,
Amen.

Retreat into your inner self becoming free of external distractions,
Amen.

Learn to focus your mental powers towards ultimate freedom,
Amen.

Establish your foundation in perfectly balanced and unchanging truth,
Amen.

Experience the state of everlasting bliss,
Amen.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Rescue

Tiny tweaks, tinkering a little bit
this way or that way,
like moving a lens one millimeter
to the right, or focusing the lens
the smallest amount,
will dramatically alter experience.

Habitual attitudes and opinions,
clung to like tattered life rafts
in a hurricane,
can mean living or dying,
sooner or later.

Rock hard or malleable,
proud or humble,
unyielding or surrendered,
fully ripe or still growing on the vine?

What will it be for you?
Restlessness, pain, discomfort
can be harbingers of growth,
or predictors of impending death,
not only of the body,
but of the soul,
your soul,
which you know you have.

It matters. You matter.
Start piecing it all together
and find a way to stay

with Us.

Open arms are always waiting.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Rise

Root down into the firmament,
and lift up your spirit!
Do your practice.
Meditate, or contemplate, or pray,
or sing, or run, or dance, or paint,
break through the trance however you can.

Do this in your way
on your terms
in your time
in your space
in your body
in your mind
in your heart.

Where is God? In you.
Behind you,
in front of you,
beside you,
above you,
below you,
sending power to you
and through you,
propelling you forward
on your course,
through your orbit.

No matter
what power hungry leaders
and groups
tell you about how you
Should think
Should speak
Should act
Should earn your money
Should spend your money
Should spend your time
Should say
Should do...

Sink to your depths and rise to your heights,
you Gods and Goddesses of Humanity.
We have held back our own power for too long.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Ancestors

Making me think of my ancestors' ghosts,
on the edge of sleep my heart was aware,
what had gone missing was what I missed most,
would their lost hopes for me yet still be there?

The faith that I had two decades ago
that the path I was on had been chosen,
and that I had divine help here below
lives inside me somewhere, it's just frozen.

Most of my formative conversations
centered around the unknowable God,
and how to resist so many temptations
so I could receive their approving nod.

What here was just rote and what was inspired?
This end result might be what I desired.



Monday, September 5, 2016

True

Your truth is yours alone.
When you are in your own presence,
fully aware of your body and breath,
inhabiting your space
and paying attention,
you know it.

You can seize it. It's yours.

You don't have to do what someone else
tells you to do,
in that moment.
You can hear them.
You can honor them.
But in the deepest honoring
of yourself,
you can comply
with your own truth.

Go within and ask yourself,
what truth could be so bad
that you would reject yourself,
banish yourself, punish yourself,
like an angry grandmother or father
or uncle
who saw what you did alone that day
and shamed you to your soul,
with dirt on their own hands.

What is that truth which would keep you running away?

Who loved you, who loves you?
Is it unconditional? Can you feel
unconditional love?
Can you give it to yourself
so much that
you can tell the truth
to yourself?

Then you are undivided.
Then you are strong.


Sunday, September 4, 2016

Man

I feel you, man.
I know where you're coming from.
I think I get you, you know?

It's what it takes
to get you through the day,
bro. I got you.

You're awesome.
I'm serious.

I hear what you're saying,
and
I am sorry it feels like that
some days.

But fuck that. Fuck those thoughts,
and what somebody said,
some person who doesn't have
their shit straight themselves.

It's all good. Feel that deep,
man,
deep in your cells.

I really feel you, man.
We've got each others backs,
you know it.

I love you, man.



Saturday, September 3, 2016

Hate

Hate
is the flip side of
Love!

Cherish your strong emotions.
Know that how you feel about others
Transforms you in the end.

Use your inclinations to
Progress yourself and
Others.
They are the flip side of
You.

People annoy me,
People annoy my son,
People annoy my husband,
People annoy my father-in-law,
We say we "hate"
We laugh about this,
But I know,

Hate
is the flip side of
Love.

Indifference is
Evil.



Friday, September 2, 2016

Bodies

Eyes beginning to focus,
zooming in on fingers, a hand,
what's this? A foot! Toes!
What can the baby do with her body?
How does she love it?

Watching infants and toddlers
move and navigate space,
is a study in how
we move
as we feel, according to our needs,
according to pleasure and pain
and natural balance.

Keep watching, keep asking, keep moving
with Respect
and Awe
and Love
love love your body.
Your heart beats out the Rhythm
of your Life.

Admire, immerse, luxuriate
in your bodies,
Appreciate the beauty and
Strength
of all bodies as they perpetuate
Us.

Remember the first times you noticed
the Glory
of the body
of the Other,
on the subway seeing a muscle flex,
a shirt lift,
watching a boy
or girl
do a pull-up
and play
moving freely and with ease
and Joy.

Bodies are a source of
Life
and
Joy.






Thursday, September 1, 2016

Present

I feel finitude. The fragility and priceless poignancy
of this life,
with every indication that it has always been
so very good,
And I don't need to detach from everything
or rise above or keep trying to climb levels
to see over some imaginary fence or wall.

For me there are no barriers
other than the End which is coming for sure,
I know. And this life is Holy, I am indeed
this body, and the mind, too, and the
Consciousness is in all of it, but I can be
all of it,
without having to shed anything.

I wish that I could be at once in many places,
so just maybe that is a future which exists
for me and you.

We are here for each other,
all of us.

I wish that I could comfort everyone who needs it.
Some people who have needed comfort from me never got it,
and other people,
I want to go to them and say,
"let me help you with this,"
but it's an imposition.
And so we are all here for each other,
with choices to make in our precious lives
as to where we spend our time and who we are with,
who we think about and who we let in,
into this finitude.

In that future beyond the End of you and me
maybe we will be We and everyone is comforted
and no one has to ask or impose or say,
"hold me" or "let me hold you now."

Don and Maxine Simpson, married 62 years, died on the same day

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Contrast

Sameness of shape,
four limbs
and 20 digits,
topped by a spherical
eight pound object.

Sameness of elements,
a composite of blood,
lymph, cartilage
and bones.

Sameness of expressions,
smile, frown,
sigh and laugh,
blush and cry
and shudder.

Difference in sex,
high or low voice,
scarce or bounteous hair,
male or female reproductive organs,
acceptance or rejection
of gender norms.

Difference in language,
short or long vowels,
hard or soft r's,
ideograms or pictographs,
euphonious or guttural.

Difference in background,
peasant or noble,
religious or secular,
sickly or robust,
landed or dispossessed.

Starting from the same point,
theoretically,
sameness sets the stage for contrast
and comparison.
Competitions have losers and winners,
determined by standards
of good and bad.

Other people always decide
if you win or lose.
Success is not defined in a vacuum.
Success is a product of culture
and biological dominance.

But you can fail on your own terms.


Mare di nudi-Spencer Tunick

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Open

Accepting something you can't explain
does not equate with being insane.

Pledging your full allegiance to reason
may not serve your heart in every season.

Just because an idea seems true
can't guarantee that it won't make you blue.

People who love to prove they are right
often get caught in the snares of spite.

When we draw a fence around what we allow,
there is not enough space for growth in the Now.

                               * * *

At a point in your life when you cease to be open,
you're not smart or sophisticated or safe.
You're just CLOSED.

When you're closed you hold on and cover up
you reject
you deride
Yourself.
It's not Them. It's You.

What if you didn't know?
Not Knowing.
Undecided.

Grace needs a Space
to enter.

Hope, Joy, Wonder,
even Peace,
elude the Hard,
Impenetrable
and
Proud.

Can you Love and not Understand?




Monday, August 29, 2016

Togetherness

"Let there be spaces in your togetherness,"
said Kahlil Gibran.

Living in a shanty,
or in slaves quarters
with many children,
or in a yurt in -20?
No, but you are blessed.

There will always be someone
to tell you "no,
don't be selfish."

Their world is not your world,
and what do they know?

Sometimes it's quality,
and sometimes it's quantity.
Don't resent that time
taken by the other.
Follow the lead.

When there is no solitary run,
no walking alone,
no yoga or meditation
behind closed doors
no reading
no sleeping by yourself,
when it's no you tell yourself,
what is the quality of your togetherness?
Poverty.

Why feel poor if you're not?




Five Poems Written in Niagara

Poems 18-22
Control
Naturally plans fall apart,
people places and things
disintegrate.
Yet we,
like blind mice,
scurry from the center
to the extremities
trying to piece all the bits
together
to keep parts intact.
It's not if,
it's when,
she said,
her bruises and scars visible.
Enjoy,
she said.
Yes.
Force
Arresting vibrant pull
of three senses
anchors straight down
into now,
and there's nowhere else to go.
Dynamic fierce intensity
rouses unnamed currents
which merge into the greatness
that's here.
Feel this power
seeing how the world
keeps going
in an unstoppable universe.
Amitabha
Namo Amitabha
We read this
and thought this
then.
As if summoned
a sweet man appeared
speaking to us,
asking questions and telling us
gently
what to do to come back
into refuge.
They always come back to get us.
Flypaper
More and more of the time
it's like this,
the same types of experiences
and characters filling our container.
Follow the scent.
You know what you like.
It gets better.
It's more like this,
expanding on all sides,
harmonious.
Somewhere they are all waiting
together in a separate slice of reality.
Monument
I don't know where it stands,
the towering block of stone
enduring all erosive forces
and protecting what continually returns
as love.
Love under different guises.
Salutations, my friend!
Pay homage to consistent recurrent
dominance.
Wrap your arms around it,
this feels solid.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Taboo

Some words are not only safe to say--
you are actively encouraged to say them,
and from a very young age:
please, thank you, hi, bye bye,
nite nite, bless you.
If you live in another country
the words you must say
are a little different.

Many many words are safe to say.

Generally,
most every word is neutral,
in the right context.

Certain words are safe to say,
but they make most people
uncomfortable,
like death, die, decapitate,
disembowel, incest,
necromancy
and so on.

Cultures
and sub-cultures,
have their particular words
and phrases,
like Peace be with you,
Shabbat Shalom,
Merry Christmas,
God willing,
Asalamalaikum,
Oy vey,
Y'all come back and see us,
Namaste.

Curse words,
colorful slang,
carefully crafted insults,
piquant sarcasm and
stark realism
are generally not welcome
in America.

Everybody Loves a Good Euphemism.

Exploring Taboos,
Dabbling in Dirty Words,
Dancing with the Social
Devil,
rips the band-aid off
your bad eye.
See?

The Safety of Group-Think,
how safe is it?
How Cute is your Culture?
What can't you Say
and Why?

Whose Pain are you avoiding,
and how long can you put it off?

Think of Nietzsche
and Neo.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Liberté

Is the only real freedom economic?
Or is it ideological?
Or spiritual?
Is there an intersection
of belief
and liquidity?

Freedom from
cultural restrictions
and class restrictions
is a worthy aim.
Is this possible
without a roof over your head,
a place to call your own?

Some hungry people
may be nonetheless free.
Some free people
may be wealthy.
Many wealthy people
are hungry,
just not for food.

Certain places we go,
people we trust and serve,
roles we agree to play,
later deprive us of
natural freedom,
as do ideas we consume
by swallowing without chewing,
runaway mental machinations,
comparisons,
crunching around
and sloshing around
on our insides,
lacking proper digestion.

Do or do not do,
and be with that.

Create your standards
if you can
where you are.

Throw out the charts
made by the others.
Don't answer their questions.
Only answer with a question.

Can we be free and poor?
Can we be free and upper class?
Can we be free and uneducated?
Can we self-educate?

Is there another kind of freedom?


Apples

Shoes go on feet,
gloves on hands,
briefs on bottoms,
hats on heads,
chapstick on lips,
lotion on skin,
rings on digits,
polish on nails,
necklaces around
the neck.

As with the body,
so with the mind.

No one who could benefit
will listen to this,
I know:

Do not try
to use the same methods
of rational analysis you use
(with your mind, let the reader
understand)
for reading a news article
filled with reported facts,
as you use to analyze
an ink blot test.

Stop and think about that.

Now:
We can all be rational.
Smart people know
to use different aspects of
the intellect
to interpret
different data
and phenomena,
such as:

Paintings
Poems
Dreams
and this shit:
Tarot cards
Doreen Virtue Angel Cards
(suck back the vomit in your
mouth)
Psychic readings
Shit you hear about crystals
Astrology
(use it like an ink blot test,
conjure your inner Jung, people)
and Reiki (go within and use your
brain and inner strength
to channel your energy to heal
yourself).

Healing arts are arts,
not sciences,
but arts and sciences
overlap.
AND: they work,
like Freudian and Jungian analysis
and Indigenous Medicine.
You make it ALL work.
Don't make it all literal.
If you do that,
it makes you light years
underdeveloped.

Also:
if you are a crystal healer
reiki healer
astrologer
or psychic,
Do not try to make it
literal, empirical or
scientifically reasoned.

Don't wear a fucking hat
on your feet,
in other words.

Christ alive, people!
Get on with it, then.

Trip

One sunny moment in his golden van,
going to the Shore with a wife
and little daughter.

It's a Saturday
in August,
not a work day.
Maybe things
are working out,
improving,
a trip away,
today.

A peripheral glance,
a sixth sense, one
final millisecond of knowing
terror.
Smack,
thud,
screeching
rolling tumbling
smash and skid
to a halt.

And someone
some other people
see it all.
Don't look at the driver's side.

Clothes packed this morning
strewn across
three lanes and shoulder.

CPR administered in the sun
on the eastbound side,
someone else saw and
updated the other people
on 78.

Daddy forevermore,
nothing else.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Peace

Peace!
You can define it
positively
or negatively.

Peace is not:
stress
conflict
war
aggression
angst.

Peace is:
serenity
tranquility
stillness
harmony
ease.

Instead of focusing on what is missing,
when peace is present,
see what happens
when you fill your container with peace.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Jai

Baba Nam Kevalam,
Love is all there is,
I am that beloved.

There is a balanced place
between too much happening
and not enough happening,
where we are not even aware
of how much is happening
because we are in it,
moving and breathing
in synch with it
and
fully a part of it all,
as orchestrated and orchestrating.

There is never too much or too little
or too dark or too light
or too loud or too quiet.
Only our perception goes to these extremes.

In certain moments,
maybe for an afternoon
or a week
or half an hour one morning,
we perceive and experience
the Love
in everything within and around us,
even our thoughts,
resting on the immediate and also
on persons we love in a different space
or time
and there is nothing we are rejecting, then.

Baba Nam Kevalam
Madhu-vidya
All of it
Everyone
Everything
is a part
of the Whole.
See the Love in all of it,
Beginnings, Middles and Ends,
Conditions and Finite
bits and pieces,
like your self.

Praise and Thanks
to the Self.
Hari Om Tat Sat.




Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Thoughts

Words

when offered in greetings 
or chit chat
in texts and comments
sometimes written on postcards
or clumsily spoken into voicemails

can be received. 

Words are often received,
but sometimes not
and often not the way the words
were intended. 

Other times there is weak or unclear intention behind words.

Thoughts create a flow, a stream, a river
that cuts through a valley.

Thoughts can be felt deeply
and never properly represented
with words.

Thoughts connect us more than words ever could,
unconscious and conscious
thoughts. 

Thoughts without a thinker,
yes,
but there's more than that.

Cherish the substance,
harness it,
and watch
what's in your thoughts. 


Sweetness

Mercy, grace, comfort, safety.
Love makes you relax,
Support lets you release. 
Let go.

Acceptance heals.
Don't fight what is.
Notice the resistance.
Embrace instead.

All is love. All is love.
Sleep now, secure.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Champion

Stay strong and
Clear.

Step back and
Survey.

Others are lead
Astray.

Others are trapped and
Mired.

You cannot be like
That.

From the womb you were set
Apart.

You know this and
You are not
Alone.

Standard Bearer,
Hold your head
High,
Always.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Endearment

Nothing unnatural about the trajectory.

Choose a random starting point,

Ask no questions,

Keep nothing in your pockets,

Stay open,

Wait without waiting,

See without looking,

Listen without eavesdropping,

Take no credit for anything.

Revel in the mystery. 

No one can make this happen. 

Cataclysmic but not sudden,

gradually the slow moving molten substance,
felt but never seen,
spreads over a larger area until 
light and heat emanate 
from your hands and feet
and chest
and the top of your head.

Who can see it in your eyes
the steady life-giving flame,
it will not burn your house down,
or lay waste to your village.
No.
This fire will nourish you
as you feel it burn.

It hurts a little,
like everything underlying 
creation and transformation. 

Gratias tibi. 

FireHand photo by maphimi

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Shell

Porcelain veneer on a mended heart,
patched over with pulsing organic matter
resembling a heart,
quivering below a smooth surface.

See it shine.

Look into the sheen to see a reflection
of the one that got away,
the one you lost and keep searching for. 

It's ok if you drop it.
Like a planarian,
this heart regenerates. 


Friday, August 12, 2016

Exceptional

All Love is the Same,
and the nature of Nature is Emptiness,
nothing you cherish about your
Uniqueness
will endure beyond a few centuries,
or millennia for the exceptional.

So They say. So They say.

And yet the longing persists,
a desire to be an Individual
with your own rarities
talents
and peccadilloes,
even big Sins
and little Accomplishments,
grand and petit prizes
for your signature dishes and dalliances,
your specific specialness:
those eyes, that voice,
this riveting personal history,

Please: Tell me more, tell me all of it,
let me listen to you speak taking all of you in,
as my petty-seeming self is engulfed for awhile in your outstanding, extraordinary presence,
the way you fill the space around you like no one else can.

Come here and fill up this void of my space,
the place I inhabit while the second hand sweeps away
minute by minute
the torturous illusion
of a particular life.

Longing of a Ghost by Brightsoul.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Arc

We interAre
here, there and all over the great wide world,
hand in hand and abiding in seeming separateness
in far flung efficiency apartments
and bridge underpasses
gated communities and slums
in India
and everywhere else we can be,
we Interare.

Thought has a substance and a source,
not what you may imagine.
Thoughts never need you to think them.
Therefore you Are.

People come and they go back to and from
places you may not consider.

Find the straight lines in the sphere,
where they stop and start
and piece together how I met you
and why we know someone who loves us
who never knew we knew each other
and who had the same dream my mother had
in her bed
when she was twelve years old visiting a cousin
in California.

Tell me why the same stories keep repeating
and whose feelings are these,
really?

Lights, passing around the sphere,
bouncing in perfect arcs and changing colors
just when you thought you could see
the end of the rainbow that has no end.

World without end,
Amen,
Amen.

Rainbow Ball by LordFlasheart

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Enamorada

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
On Earth as it is in Heaven.
As above so below.

He makes me remember God,
down here,
another marvelous fractal
inviting me to love and love fiercely.

Nothing and no one escapes the awe and the glory.

You and I are magnificent in all our splendor.



Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Virtue

Virtue within and virtue without. Few are those who never seek

Purification.

Take a mikveh
for your mentality.
Soak it away,
all that defiles you.

Defilement.
Impropriety.
Stain.

What is dirty in dirt?

Blood bath.
Salt bath.
Salt in your wounds.

Effort. Can it feel easy?

Like water the thoughts and impulses rush in
and out. The outside of the container may sparkle
but the inside is sometimes cloudy, sometimes opaque,
it may shine like onyx,
then soften. It may ooze through pores smelling
earthy.

To the earth we will return.

I won't struggle against what is impermanent,
fleeting by nature.
I won't judge
or run
like prey.

Do not divide yourself
against yourself.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Mirage

Not now. Not yet.
Perhaps never.

One day I will open it,
this door,
this message,

this:

gift.

Why must it be a gift?
It's not.

In walking innumerable miles,
over such varied terrains,
sometimes so very tired,
and straining to see one, just one

person

a sentient shelter

a kind of oasis.

And then there is one,
like the last time but different again,
Oh,
the act of recognition,
and an awkward embrace,
and some muted period of time
feeling,
possibly a sort of resolved satisfaction-
still far away even when it's close.

And then it's gone,
and that's supposed to be a gift.

Keep going, eyes to the horizon,
look up, look forward,

look within.
Again.

It's still here somewhere.

Don't open this. Only tears which will never come.



Sunday, August 7, 2016

Conquistadors

How can something so old, so familiar and ingrained,
appear in an instant so new, so poignant and pristine?
Each time masquerading,
or maybe it really is
a second, fifth or twenty-third time
to be seen and experienced?

An opportunity to replay a narrative which gets richer with each telling,
a newer edition of a work you always prized,
and, but,
it's better than that,
if it is truly ripe yet new.

It offers another occasion
to palpate
to sample
to sip
to float upon
to swim within
to dive into
uncharted lands and waters,
to be a Good and Moral Explorer,
shedding preconceived notions and
receiving
all of this in earnest,
with a heart wide open.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Great Horned Owl in the Mirror


Awareness of our deep connection to wild animals is a great gift we receive from spending time in the outdoors. I have long been interested in animal archetypes and symbolism as part of my spiritual and psychological development.

I grew up hearing my mother and grandmother talk about meanings they assigned to animals, some purely superstitious such as a black cat crossing the road being a bad omen, or a bird flying into the house being a harbinger of death. They also spoke of the spiritual symbolism of different animals. My mother always collected owls and elephants. My mother and grandmother tended to fear the natural world more than they deeply loved it, whereas my children and I deeply love it more than we fear it. The new generations of my maternal line are returning to a more unified vision of our part in the play of nature, whereas the prior couple of generations saw themselves as mostly separate from it (from what I witnessed). My father's family had more farmers in it, as well as the influence of Native American spirituality from one of his grandparents; they were the gardeners and canners I knew growing up, celebrating the advent of each new season in an earthier way than my Mom's side did.

With my husband and two male children, I have immensely enjoyed spending time outdoors getting to know the wildlife and plants in our immediate surroundings: bugs, birds, and all manner of critters! We like to anthropomorphize everything and give it a voice, speculating as to what the crows might really be saying to us as they greet us in our comings and goings. Did you know how social and intelligent crows are? Something else to read about.

This week and over the next few weeks I am driving my boys up to an outdoor adventure camp at the Agatha A. Durland Scout Reservation, which spans 1,400 acres and borders Fahnestock National Park in New York State. I am loving making the half hour drive with them, not only for the scenery but also for our conversations.

My kids tend to talk about their interests and relationships while we drive. Just this morning we were discussing varying approaches to friendships and the values each individual places on socializing. My older son was upset about another boy having told him he hated him and found him annoying. We discussed the relative importance of certain people not finding us to their liking, and agreed on the triviality of being liked by others. My younger son was not so sure he agreed. Like one of my sisters and my sister-in-law, he wishes to have and keep a lot of friends. While I can appreciate that attitude, I have never shared it. One opinion we all shared was the importance of family over friends, and of our own happiness over pleasing others. We easily agreed that family comes first and family relationships are more rewarding for us than friendships have been. I told them that it has taken me most of my life up until now to realize that I am happiest on my own and with my family, with little to no friends, cultivating what is truly important to me rather than spending my energy on developing and maintaining social bonds. I can be a bit of a misanthrope, in spite of my anthropomorphizing tendencies. My eldest son already recognizes that he is also quite independent and feels lukewarm about the idea of having many friends. My youngest son enjoys being well liked by others. We are happy to have him around to liven things up at our house!

No sooner had I dropped the boys off and started back down the hilly dirt road to the exit than I saw an impressive flutter of movement out the right side of my car. I turned to look at the magnificent wingspan of none other than a great horned owl. It stopped and perched on a tree branch very close to the car. I gleefully parked for a moment. The owl looked right at me, and it was the closest I have ever been to a great horned owl in the wild. I rolled down the window and it looked away, then looked back at me. I said, "aren't you beautiful? May I take your picture?", and it turned its head away, then back for one more look at me, then opened its wings and departed further into the woods and away from the trail. My day was made (maybe even my week).

I immediately reflected on the preceding conversation with my sons and connected the owl sighting with what had been expressed: embracing being a loner, strength in individualism, loyalty to family, confidence in one's own choices and values. I projected onto the owl beauty, strength, confidence and poise. I felt that as I looked at her. As I drove home, I thought about the predatory life of the owl with no apologies given, the loyalty of the great horned owl to her lifelong mate, and the solitary nature of these creatures. I felt my soul stir as I identified with my image of the owl.

When I got home I typed "great horned owl symbolism" into Google, and found this:

"The warrior archetype is not only known for ferocity, but loyalty. Great horned owl spiritual meaning relates to fiercely defending what you believe in as well as staying strictly loyal to where you are most at home. You’ll be able to avoid conflicts by avoiding the busyness of the tribe and retreating into the quiet and less active areas of your life. Do not fear the medicine of great horned owl, she will not lead you into mindlessly injuring others. Instead, she will teach you about the wise use of warrior power and the amazing gifts of strength and courage." (great horned owl symbolism, from Wild Gratitude)

Now, more than ever in my life, I am embracing the loner aspect of my personality. As a female growing up with a mother who valued friends and social status, I felt so much pressure to make friends and be "friendly" and "nice." Often this felt unnatural to me. I genuinely like some people but I dislike having to pretend that I like everyone. I want to be pleasant but neutral, instead of "nice." I enjoy solo pursuits, such as writing. I like to be alone in nature as much as being in nature with my family. Just this morning my younger son had also said, "I keep working on my personality. It keeps changing and I am finding what I like. I change my personality when I am around different people." I told him that in recent years I finally feel like I have settled into myself and he will feel like that, too, at some point.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Restoring Homeostasis

Our bodies, our psyches and the ecosystems we inhabit have an innate ability to return to a balanced state. Change, upheaval, extreme conditions and the pull of various forces on our systems test their ability to return to center, to return home, to homeostasis. Here's a definition of homeostasis as applied to the body:

The tendency of the body to seek and maintain a condition of balance or equilibrium within its internal environment, even when faced with external changes. A simple example of homeostasis is the body's ability to maintain an internal temperature around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, whatever the temperature outside. (dictionary.com)

When you think about your own naturally healthy tendencies, you realize that balance is integral to a state of good health: we don't want too much or too little of any given quality, and all qualities working in harmony make up the whole of a healthy individual. There are many little actions we perform which have equal and opposite counterparts to keep us balanced: when we sweat we rehydrate, when we exert ourselves we rest afterwards, when we sit we feel the need to get up and walk around, when we feel cold we seek warmth. These equalizing actions are obvious, but there are also subtler mental balancing acts we perform to keep our lives balanced: when our lives are too predictable we seek out creative change, and in times of crisis or upheaval we find ways to anchor ourselves in comforting routines and sensations. When we feel stressed by mental challenge we can shut off our ruminative minds with a comforting daydream. There are so many maneuvers we employ, both physical and mental, to keep ourselves in an optimal state of homeostasis. 

In yoga practice, there is a concept of staying in balance called pratikriya, a Sanskrit word meaning counteraction, opposite action or remedial measure. For every yoga pose, there is a counter pose. For every existing or desired state of the mind/body, there are specific balancing techniques we use involving breath, movement, meditation and rest. Instead of a simple routine we mindlessly repeat, when we apply the concept of pratikriya, we pay attention to our need to stay balanced and structure our practice according to what we need each day. Within a yoga sequence, we use specific poses to compensate for any imbalance created by certain other poses. There is an art and a science to developing any yoga sequence.

Often in my sequencing of my own practice, and even in the classes I teach, pratikriya is intuitive as much as it is planned in advance. When I do a backbend I follow it with a pose to neutrally extend the spine, to rest, and then to fully counterbalance by forward bending. Sometimes I do these things simply because it feels better, and not because I am consciously thinking about pratikriya. 

I practice and teach restorative yoga because resting in restorative postures is the perfect counterbalance to leading a stimulating and physically active life. Restorative yoga is the Sabbath of yoga asana practice, the fraction of time I give my body to completely relax with awareness. I tend to skip my own restorative practice quite often, but I do teach one restorative class per week and can feel the balance it restores from teaching my more active classes. Restorative yoga is not for everyone. Some people feel that their lives are already too sedentary due to the nature of their work and lifestyle, and they feel most refreshed by an invigorating asana sequence in the one or two classes they make time for each week. Other people may be recovering from illnesses or dealing with what feels like an excessive amount of stress, and restorative practice feels right. Whether or not any particular form of yoga practice is beneficial depends entirely on the individual doing the practice. 

I invite you think about your own natural tendency toward homeostasis, and the methods you use in your life to apply pratikriya, in your yoga practice and in general. Make a habit of checking in with yourself week to week and choose the type of practice which will guide you back to your healthy center. 


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Yoga as a Complementary Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis

The undisputed ubiquity of arthritis does not soften the blow of this crippling disease when it hits. Who hasn’t seen the toll arthritis takes on a loved one or a colleague, relentlessly chipping away at vitality sometimes in the prime of one’s life? As a registered yoga teacher (RYT), I can vouch for the prevalence of arthritis in the population where I live; fully one half of the students I teach have come to class reporting some form of arthritis, either doctor or self-diagnosed. A quick look at national statistics bears it out much better than anecdotal evidence could:
·         An estimated 52.5 million adults in the United States were told by a doctor that they have some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus or fibromyalgia.
·         One in five (22.7%) adults in the United States report having doctor-diagnosed arthritis.
·         By 2030, an estimated 67 million Americans ages 18 years or older are projected to have doctor-diagnosed arthritis.
(Arthritis-Related Statistics. (2016). Retrieved March 14, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/data_statistics/arthritis-related-stats.htm)

Seeing yoga students with arthritis improve over time with regular class attendance and home practice personally motivates me to learn about therapeutic applications for yoga in the treatment of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) interests me specifically, since I have a family member who has suffered for many years with RA, and, one of the more successful yoga teachers I know uses yoga as a powerful self-healing tool for her recently diagnosed RA.
Is there existing scientific evidence demonstrating my hunch that yoga is indeed beneficial as a complementary medical treatment for RA? The news is both good and bad: yes, there are recent and very promising preliminary studies pointing to yoga as an effective complementary treatment, but unfortunately the evidence base is limited and existing studies preclude drawing scientifically definitive conclusions (Haaz, Bingham, Wissow & Bartlett, 2015). It is currently safe to assert that yoga practice is, at the very least, feasible as a complementary approach for people with RA (Evans, Moieni, Taub, Subramanian, Tsao, Sternlieb & Zeltzer, 2010). Had certain improvements been made in the quality of the studies, particularly in their size, scope, normalization and transparency of intervention protocols, there would be no question remaining as to yoga’s proven efficacy in successfully treating RA (Haaz & Bartlett, 2011). The lack of definitive proof notwithstanding, those who suffer from RA can look to the most positive and consistent findings to date as encouragement to add yoga practice to their current treatment regimen for a generally improved outcome.
According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 1.5 million adults in the US suffered from RA in 2007. New evidence suggests a recent rise in the incidence of RA, specifically in females (Rheumatoid Arthritis Incidence on the Rise in Women, PubMed n.d.). Coincidentally, yoga practice among women in the US continues to increase; women with RA who are well enough to stay active are already choosing yoga as a therapeutic form of exercise (Bernstein, n.d.).
A particularly debilitating form of arthritis, RA is a chronic disease that significantly impacts quality of life (Evans, Moieni, Taub, Subramanian, Tsao, Sternlieb & Zeltzer, 2010). RA is “an inflammatory, autoimmune disorder resulting in a degeneration of the synovial lining in joints, making them swollen, stiff and less functional” (Telles & Singh, 2012).
RA impacts not only the joints, but the entire mind-body system, having a strong correlation with deteriorating mental health. As with other autoimmune disorders, previous studies have found that RA is associated with psychological stress (Telles & Singh, 2012). Increased stress hormones have been found in the blood of patients who developed rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus. In one study, people with post-traumatic stress disorder were found to have a higher risk of developing autoimmune disorders (Telles & Singh, 2012). Continued mental and emotional stress is known to worsen RA symptoms, and the pain experienced in the body as a result of the disease contributes to mental health symptoms such as depression and anxiety (Telles & Singh, 2012). According to data compiled by the CDC, arthritis (all types, not just RA) is strongly associated with major depression (attributable risk of 18.1%), linked to the patient’s experience of functional limitation. Nearly 7% of adults with arthritis report severe psychological distress (Arthritis Related Statistics, 2016).
Because of the prevalence and severity of all forms of arthritis among adults in the US and the resultant loss of functioning and lifestyle impairment, more people are seeking relief beyond what they have found through traditional medicine in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). “CAM is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine […] CAM practices may be grouped within five major domains: alternative medical systems, mind-body interventions, biologically-based treatments, manipulative and body-based methods and energy therapies. A survey released in May 2004 by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health in the United States, found that in 2002, 36% of Americans used some form of alternative therapy in the past 12 months, 50% in a lifetime. Most people use CAM to treat and/or prevent musculoskeletal conditions or other conditions associated with chronic or recurring pain” (Tabish, 2008). Ayurveda, which originated in India more than 5,000 years ago, is an example of a complementary and alternative healing system; yoga, meditation, massage, diet and herbs are encompassed under the umbrella of Ayurveda, and all of these tools are being used in the complementary treatment regimens of RA patients.
Medical doctors are increasingly open to the CAM treatment trend for their patients suffering from the stress of chronic pain: “Rheumatologic conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, provide an optimal disease framework for using CAM because these conditions are prevalent, have no known cause or cure, are characterized by chronic pain and variable disease course, and often adversely affect functional status” (Rao, 1999).
As a CAM therapy, yoga’s mind-body emphasis makes it especially suitable for the treatment of RA, since yoga provides concrete tools for addressing the co-occurring mental health challenges tied to RA’s autoimmune, inflammatory and pain-management components. Yoga practice trains people to internally focus their attention, “pinpointing the sources of pain or anxiety and learning to relax them” at will, and consciously (Bernstein, n.d.). Yoga therapy “involves marshalling multiple techniques that involve the mind, body and spirit. Treatment is individualized and dependent on the presenting symptoms” (Tabish, 2008).
Yoga as a tool to manage both musculoskeletal and mental symptoms of RA has shown promising effectiveness in eight different studies completed before 2012. “After reviewing the eight studies, the following points emerged: (i) each study indicated that yoga is a useful add-on therapy for treating RA, (ii) the studies all had limiting factors, (iii) the most significant benefits were observed when yoga was practiced in a combination of physical postures, regulated breathing, meditation, and yoga philosophy, and (iv) there have been no noteworthy attempts to explain the mechanisms underlying the changes observed. […] Sufficient evidence exists to suggest that yoga should be considered an add-on therapy for RA, but further research is necessary to account for limitations” (Telles & Singh, 2012).
For both yoga therapists and researchers who continue to blaze the trail of yoga as a complementary treatment for RA, it is useful to underscore the symptoms which have shown the greatest improvement under a yoga regimen. Fortunately, recent results from multiple studies have shown promise in addressing a broad array of RA symptoms. In Yoga for Arthritis: A Scoping Review, we find a summary of the most effective results up to 2011: “…the most consistent findings were for tender or swollen joints in persons with RA, which improved for all 3 studies that used this outcome. Another common outcome was pain, which improved in 6 out of 8 studies, measured by various tools. Disability improved in 3 out of 4 studies. Self-efficacy improved in both studies in which it was measured. Mental health and energy improved in 2 out of 3 studies. For grip strength, improvements were in seen in both studies of RA” (Haaz & Bartlett, 2011). One randomized controlled trial from 2015 analyzing yoga therapy outcomes in patients with osteoarthritis and RA aptly summarizes the comprehensive treatment outcome: Compared to a waitlisted group of participants, as early as the eighth week of Integral-based hatha yoga practice, “adjusted analyses showed yoga participants reported significantly less impairment on SF-36 role physical, body pain, general health, vitality, and mental health scales, with trends (p < 0.08) evident in physical function and role emotional” (Haaz, Bingham, Wissow & Bartlett, 2015). Specifically with respect to mental health symptoms, this study found that “the yoga group reported significantly fewer depressive symptoms (CES-D) and higher positive affect (PANAS).” Underlying this improvement could be the benefit of decreasing perceived pain, since the yoga group reported that their pain significantly improved. Furthermore, “yoga was associated with substantial improvements in physical and general health perceptions, physical roles, walking […], energy and mood. Regular yoga practice was not associated with worsening joint symptoms or adverse events;” specifically for the 25 RA patients included in the study, “swollen and tender joint counts decreased significantly with yoga”  and “PtGA scores improved” (Haaz, Bingham, Wissow & Bartlett, 2015). The authors believe that yoga’s particular effectiveness for treating arthritis can be explained by the combination of “physical activity with potent stress management techniques, including breathing, relaxation, and mindfulness.”
Moving forward from the successes of the studies cited above, those of us working with RA clients would benefit from agreement upon a generally applicable yoga intervention protocol which is readily adaptable to individuals. As has been previously noted, in prior studies using yoga to treat RA, “the styles, doses and format varied.” We need to agree on “the delivered intervention” making sure it is “population appropriate,” since “patients who have considerable musculoskeletal limitations and symptoms” require specific modifications (Haaz & Bartlett, 2011).
As a newer RYT (I’m a 3 year veteran), I have already noticed that too much too soon, for any yoga practitioner, can quickly lead to burnout and an abandonment of the practice of yoga, temporarily if not permanently. In the studies I reviewed for this project, several authors commented on the difficulty in keeping enough participants in programs which met very frequently (more than twice per week), due to scheduling conflicts. Certain of the studies under review in the journal articles cited above required the participants to do yoga daily for an extended period of time, in a controlled setting. Clearly, this sort of regimen would not be adaptable to most RA patients’ lifestyles. There are definite advantages to practicing in a group (camaraderie, encouragement) with a well-qualified teacher (safety, efficacy), however: I strongly believe that some of the greatest breakthroughs in healing are facilitated by home practice, with the yoga practitioner self-applying and adapting methods he/she has previously learned under a teacher. For these reasons, I suggest that RYTs and yoga therapists work with newer RA clients one-on-one or in a small group yoga class once per week on an ongoing basis, while helping the clients to create a safe and reliable home yoga practice they can repeatedly adapt according to their needs. This is, of course, the standard yoga therapy model widely used by most all yoga professionals. The clients who are willing and able to attend private or group sessions more regularly can choose to do so when appropriate, without feeling pressured to create more stress for themselves by constraining their schedules.
With respect to the content of the yoga sessions, given the preponderance of evidence, postural yoga alone is not an effective intervention for RA. The most effective tool to reduce stress and mental health symptoms is breath work; each session should begin and end with a focus on helping the client to connect to the healing power of regulated breathing. The postures should be introduced as therapeutic movement which is rooted in and facilitated by the breath. Meditation and relaxation techniques such as supported savasana and other restorative yoga postures should be practiced in sessions with the teacher and adapted to the client’s home practice at his/her discretion. Finally, as the existing literature on the topic reveals, yoga philosophy should be included as a tool to assist those suffering from RA to cope with the mental stress of unpredictable flares and chronic pain. The home practice element of yoga philosophy could include assigned reading of yogic texts, and journaling to keep track of symptoms and mental reactions to disease progression. Improvements in mental health symptoms are likely to be seen with increased self-awareness and self-regulation.
Predictably, my particular yoga for RA regimen harmonizes with current yoga therapy and CAM models in its holistic and patient-driven emphasis. Many previous developments in the fields of yoga therapy and rheumatologic medicine have contributed to the beginning success we now see in the research cited herein. The interdisciplinary collaboration of medical and yoga professionals in the treatment of RA patients, though already steadily progressing, merits increased attention and support from the wider medical and yoga communities.


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