June 5 – 6, 2021
Saturday, June 5, 2021: 3-5:30 pm + 6:30-8 pm Ireland/UK time (10 am – 12:30 pm + 1:30-3 pm eastern time)
Sunday, June 6, 2021: 3-5:30 pm Ireland/UK time (10 am – 12:30 pm eastern time)
Do you ever feel that your life is out of balance? Do you long to deepen your understanding of Benedictine wisdom? Are you yearning to explore a yoga that means so much more than acrobatics?
Balanced living in spirit, mind, and body is a dynamic conversation between steadiness and motion, work and prayer, sound and silence, activity and rest. Study and application of the balancing way of Benedictine spirituality and yoga are useful markers on the path. Their wisdom has endured the test of time with its evolving cultural norms, politics, theology, technology, and medicine precisely because these traditions bring a steadying dialogue within an ever-changing world.
Join us for a mini-retreat on Zoom to explore the complementary principles of: humility and hospitality; listening, stability and conversion; rhythms, silence and sabbath. Through gentle yoga, meditation, journaling, and discussion, tap into time honored wisdom and practices that affirm a balanced approach to daily living.
No prior yoga experience is necessary. All levels welcome.
We will record the session and make it available on our course platform for those registered but encourage you, if possible, to join us live.
There’s a new book on my ever expanding to-be-read-list. Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard. “In her new book” writes Jonathan C Slaght of the New York Times, “Simard contends that at the center of a healthy forest stands a Mother Tree: an old-growth matriarch that acts as a hub of nutrients shared by trees of different ages and species linked together via a vast underground fungal network.”
This seems at once obvious and astonishing. According to the article, Simard’s meticulous science affirms long held Indigenous wisdom. This too, seems obvious and astonishing.
What strikes me is the depth of mothering in this world. The long, deep cut of it. The exchange of care and communication and sacrifice. By sacrifice I mean sacred offering. A kind of giving that is holy in its generosity rather than exhausting abandonment of self. The mother duck with her ducklings tucked under her wings. The chickadees bringing tiny green worms to the very loud hatchlings in this dilapidated birdhouse in my garden.
My grandmother who died two years ago: her resilience, her strength, her stubbornness. She was not a soft woman but a woman of great devotion and love who flew across the country to attend every ballet recital, play and graduation. I am thinking of my mother who is woman of warmth, of generosity, thoughtfulness, strength and kindness. I am thinking of my friend who, at 37, became the matriarch in her family when her mother died too young. She too is generous, strong, resilient and loves out loud.
And I am thinking of the mothers who’ve lost their children and the children who’ve lost their mothers. Or the mothers who are not kind or resilient. And everyone in between.
We’re all just doing what we can.
Whether we are women or men or anywhere along that spectrum; whether our children are human babies, grown babies, furry babies, winged babies, aquatic babies or plant babies; whether we have a good relationship with our mothers or not, we all carry the Mother archetype within in us. We all have the potential to “act as a hub of nutrients” shared by the different parts of ourselves. We all have within us some capacity to nurture the development of one another.
Notice the word “nurture.”
The process of nurturing, of caring for, of fostering, is long, slow and deep. Like an old-growth tree, it takes time. And a lot of letting go.
I wonder what it is like for the Mother Trees when the saplings they’ve tended grow up, or are destroyed by fire or a plague of beetles. Surely the Mother Trees must know the holy arts of sacrifice and surrender. Does it cause them pain, this letting go? What parts of themselves do they give up only to find greater riches hither to undiscovered?
I pray that you take time this month to honor all the mothers in your life – biological or otherwise. Honor the women who’ve tended to your growth. And more, I pray that you take the time to celebrate all the ways you mother your self.
Photo (c) Melinda Emily Thomas
The sky is glowing that particular sheen of silver just before a spring rain, and the world glimmers as though about to share a lovely little secret. There’s a freshness to the air, an earthy plumpness to this hydrated world of Spring. And I can’t help but revel in the Mahabhutas – the great elements of ether, earth, water, fire, and air – at play during this season.
Relishing my relationship to nature’s rhythms and cycles offers an abundant source of nourishment and wellbeing. After an unruly bout with some seasonal and state-of-the-world ennui this winter, I notice that my mood is lifting. There’s hope in the world again. (At least in my world. I pray you have the same.) Last year’s stunning spring in North Carolina felt like a pleasant consolation prize for lockdown. This year, I find it to be more of a pollinated promise. There’s plenty of dust and chaos – that won’t change – but blooms are coming. Peace can be found in tiny pockets of flowers and young maple leaves and reuniting with vaccinated family and friends.
As a woman, I have long learned what it means to live in rhythm and cycle. As a woman who does yoga, I have learned the power of organic, rather than linear, practice. I’m never going to be one to complete a 30-days-to-handstand-challenge or some such thing. Much as I would like to. I know myself better than that. What brings me sustenance is a practice of adaptation. Adaptation to my mood, to varying degrees of physical or spiritual energy or fatigue, and to the rhythms of 28-30 days.
One of these adaptations is incorporating yin yoga into my catalogue of practice. In yang style asana – typically where we “work hard” or flow from one pose to the next – we are stressing (in a good way) the yang tissue of the muscles, blood, and skin. In yin yoga we stress (in a good way) the more yin tissues of ligaments, bones, and joints. Yang loves to get hot – like the sun. Yin loves to get cool – like the moon. For me, this attention to the yin side of the body and spirit is deeply nourishing. Like drinking hot water early in the morning, the long holds of yin asanas settle and revive. Even more, the long holds afford an opportunity to saturate my being with a little moon glow of attention to its generally anxious state, and shift it to a deeper gratitude and serenity.
All this internal renewal keeps me thinking of the greening of Spring. I see that silver sky and think of happy ligaments. I see the blossoms and chartreuse silhouettes of new growth and think of happy marrow and bones. I feel the breeze and my joints move. And the pollen – that’s the clutter that gets integrated through the deep focus of a yin asana.
On Saturday, April 24th I’ll be leading a yin practice from 11am-12pm on Zoom. It will be recorded so if you can’t join live you can participate later on. We’ll do another long, slow, and deep practice in May – though that won’t be yin specific. More on that later. And, I’m pleased to announce that in June I’ll be leading a virtual, weekend workshop on the themes found in my book Sacred Balance in partnership with Abbey of the Arts.
I hope you will join me and one another in embracing the rhythms that bring you nourishment.
Welcome to 2021.!? I’m not sure which punctuation to use. If 2020 taught me anything, it was the reaffirmation that we never know what comes next. The unknown is our constant companion and learning to embrace it, respond, and work skillfully with the way life unfolds is one of the great benefits of a yoga practice. And, to tap into the Rule of St. Benedict, this unfolding invites us to begin again, and again, and again.
To start off this new year here’s a little gift from me to you – a sweet yoga nidra practice for release and possibility. All you need to do is lie down (preferably on the floor), maybe cover with a blanket, close your eyes, and just listen.
Yoga – the art of uniting or dancing with complementary opposites – is paired with nidra, which means sleep. Yoga nidra is a practice that facilitates deep relaxation and transformation by taking the practitioner on a journey through the 5 koshas – or “sheaths” – of embodiment. The koshas are a map, a way of describing various layers of our experience.
Annamaya Kosha – The layer of the body. In yoga nidra we connect with this layer through a rotation of body consciousness.
Pranamaya Kosha – The layer of breath and subtle body. The next stage which is accessed through focused breathing.
Manomaya Kosha – The first level of the mind or mental body. This is the expression of waves of thoughts, processing data that moves in and out of our awareness. In yoga nidra this is practiced through imagery and alternating attention on opposite experiences such as heaviness and lightness, heat or cold, etc.
Vijanamaya kosha – The intelligence or wisdom body. On this layer of consciousness we absorb deeper insight into ourselves and the world. In yoga nidra this is accessed through a guided meditation. It’s a bit like dreaming, but here you are in control of the dream.
Anandamaya kosha – The bliss body. Here the witnessing experience of the dream dissolves and you rest in a feeling of wholeness and integration.
I confess I don’t practice yoga nidra as often as I could, or probably should. But when I do, WOW!
I hope this gift brings you a lovely bit a respite as you cross the threshold into 2021.
May the Grace of Love and Peace guide you in the days to come.