Yoga Stories – Tibetan Bowls

I love teaching yoga. There is a new story every day.

One of my playlists features Tibetan singing bowls. People generally respond well to them. One of the ladies in one of my classes LOVES them. Any time I play them for shavasana, she is so happy. She tends to set her mat down in the back of the room. Sometimes just for final resting pose, I move my portable speaker back there, closer to her, knowing how much she enjoys the sound.

But, it turns out there is a guy in class, that hates sound of Tibetan singing bowls. After I’d played them lots of times, he took me aside one day and told me they hurt his ears, making shavasana feel like fingernails running down a chalkboard for him. I was glad he told me, and glad I’d at least been moving my speaker to the back of the room, since he usually parks his mat more toward the front, and on the opposite side.

What to do? What to do? I don’t want anyone to be miserable in my class.

Being ever so helpful, I decided to gift a CD of the bowls to the woman that loves them. If she can’t have them in class, at least she could play them on her own. I told her only to play them at home, never in the car, they might relax her too much. Hardy-har.

It was a few weeks later, when I noticed them leaving together in the same car.

Turns out they are a married couple.

I inadvertantly sent the singing bowls home with her, to torture him at home.

Oops!

If you want to check out Tibetan Singing bowls to see if they resonate with you there are lots of sites on You Tube. Put some headphones on, and notice the effect they have on your body. Even closing your eyes for five minutes and listening to the bowls can give the worry- weary brain a needed rest or re-set. Or, try playing them as background noise and notice if they have a calming effect on your mood.

If you don’t like them, I promise not to send them home with you.

Before the Body

This meditation has been kicking around in my mind lately. I wrote about it back in 2008 on my old blog, and I repost it here, with love.
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I want to tell you about a meditation I sometimes do. It is a modified version of something I read in one of Rachel Naomi Remen’s books (Kitchen Table Wisdom, I believe). She was working with terminally ill patients and using this to help with their fear.  She is a physician who endured Crohn’s Disease, and has done much work to bridge the gap between our health care system and the spiritual health of our health care workers, particularly physicians.
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You start where you are and go back chronologically in age.
I see myself now, then go backward in time.
To Virginia, to Maryland.
Seth is born.
To Illinois.
To Binghamton.
Riley is born.
Todd.
I envision what I looked like. What I felt like, at each stage.
At 27.
24.
When I lived in the DC area.
21. Fresh out of college. What did I look like? How did I feel?
High school.
Jr. High.
Elementary.
4 years.
2 years.
Newborn.
I picture myself as a fetus.
Floating.
20 weeks.
8 weeks.
6 weeks. An embyro.
A tadpole.
A cluster of cells.
16 cells.
Eight.
Four.
Two.
One.
It is here I always hesitate, hovering for a while, unsure.
The question comes, “….and before that?”
Finally, the egg splits.
I’m still here.
The freedom.
The exhilaration.
The peace.
The vastness.
I’m still here.
Before the egg.
Before the body.
I am.
I AM.

Haaaaapy Now!

I’ve written here before about Jack, the boy with Down Syndrome I grew up with. The one who is my age. The one who was ring bearer in our wedding. When Todd and I were first dating, before it would have been cool to even mention marriage, the first time Jack met Todd he got down on one knee and demonstrated how Todd should propose. He pointed at him and said, “Groom!” And then he pointed at me, and said, “Bride.” And then he looked us each in the eye and nodded, satisfied we’d gotten the message.

Then he gave me the once over because there was really only one reason for us to be visiting him in his group home. Presents. He knew I’d have them and he wanted them. He is obsessed with music, so it had to be cassette tapes or CD’s (easily found in cheap discount racks). Arrive with some music and Jack is over the moon.

When I’ve visited him, I like to torture him for a while, act like I don’t know what he wants, and then finally give him the loot, which is hidden in my bag or in my pocket. He takes the CD’s greedily, blows me off completely (my usefulness being over) and starts opening the gifts.

“Haaaaapy now!” He always says.

It’s become part of our lexicon. Todd and I use Haaaaaapy now! Whenever we’re happy and feel it’s worth mentioning.

This morning, it is raining hard. I woke up and noted it, and as I brushed my teeth, I realized it is Saturday and I don’t have to rush off or get anyone up and moving. I quickly grabbed a towel, a jacket, and went out on the covered balcony off our upstairs. It’s old, with a tin roof and the rain sounds awesome up there.

As I settled in on the chair and looked around me at the hard rain blowing around the trees, I wondered how everyone wasn’t outside enjoying this? People are crazy not to be out in the blustery rain at 7:30AM!

I closed my eyes, prepared to clear my mind, and the words I thought were, “Haaaaaapy now!”

Thank you Jack. I have not seen you in a long time. I hope you are happy now, and always.

Meditation Before Glee

Busy day, and now in the first lull, the the kids want to watch Glee, which means I have to sit there with them because there are parts I must forward through. Not really into it but it means the world to them. I strike a deal.

“I’ll watch Glee with you, but first we do a meditation.”

Riley groans. Seth shrugs compliance. I bring my computer into the living room and sit on the floor, Riley sits next to me, Seth on the pink couch.

I bring up iTunes and choose a Martha Beck mp3 on anxiety. Riley and I snuggle up on a pillow on the floor, she rests her head in my arm, then moves it around in non-verbal insistence I stroke her hair. She’s pushy like that. Sometimes it gets on my nerves. The mp3 starts and it is nice and relaxing, and soon Seth is tucked in my other arm, and Yippee is on my chest, and we’re all in a heap on the floor, and yes, I’m stroking her hair.

And I forget being annoyed about it, because how lucky am I? To have these kids? Ones who at 9 and 11 will indulge their mother and get on the floor and meditate with her and how awesome it is that we came from a place of almost constant anxiety and walking on egg shells for years and now we pretty much just delight in each other.

Soon we’re all breathing deep and slow, and I’m no longer “the mother” but just with them, and we are all in a place of stillness, no thought, no time, together.

Twenty minutes later, we’re watching Glee, and the day marches on.

But the meditation, it’s there. It’s in us.

Proud Little Mermaid

If any of you read my contribution to the Special Gifts anthology, you would know about our early experiences with swimming pools and Riley. The sensory bombardment of a locker room, a hot day, bright sun reflecting off the water, people splashing, the strong smell of chlorine, kids squealing, cold water, adult chatter. It was pure hell for Riley as an extremely sensory defensive toddler.

Throw a new baby into the mix, and us living in an area with no family what-so-ever for support and swimming was put on a back burner. Important, yes….but so many other things had to come first.

She’s taken private one-on-one lessons but it was a delicate thing. With her intense anxiety, if you pushed her too hard, you would never get her in the pool again. So, she’s eleven and still can’t swim.

We went for her second lesson this week with a new teacher. It is a different way to learn.

It almost reminds me of the floor time we did when she was little. The teacher rocks her like a little baby in the water. Riley looks completely blissed out. The point is to get her to enjoy and be soothed by the water. When you are tense, you can’t move your body effectively to swim. So by relaxing her, I mean REALLY relaxing…I swear her brain is being re-patterend.

As Riley walked over to the pool to meet her teacher Monday, Seth and I joined hands, closed our eyes and I led him on a gorgeous meditation, where we saw him and his sister on vacation somewhere beautiful, swimming freely, enjoying the water. We imagined Riley underwater like a little mermaid….pure joy.

After that we read a little from a Cricket Magazine someone had left on the table. The next time I looked up, I saw my daughter go underwater up to her goggles. Mouth and nose submerged.

WHAT?

I held my breath.

The next time I looked up, I saw my daughter go completely under water, remain there for a second, then come up smiling.

WHAT?

And then she did it again. And again. And again.

And I cried.

This was her second lesson. And no, she can’t swim yet. But she has overcome the most monumental hurdle, and it won’t be long.

Great, now I’m crying again.

Talk amongst yourselves.

 

On Heels and Meditation

*image from boutiques.com

I was formally introduced to meditation in my early twenties. My karate teacher had invited a meditation instructor to come teach us how.

I knew nothing about this woman but I remember judging her. What was she doing waltzing into a feminist karate studio wearing a skirt and heels? What could a woman who intentionally “hobbled” herself for fashion…to look good for men, have to teach me about anything?

Heels. Please. Can’t even run in them. How smart is that? This was my thought process.

We sat on chairs and she talked about quieting the mind. She played music and instructed us to focus on the breath.

And I did.

And for some reason this meditation thing was easy for me. Unbeknownst to me, I’d been doing it all my life. Lying on my bed as a child, looking out the window at the leaves on the trees until I felt it. The disappearance of the little self. The merging with All that Is. Meditation was familiar.

For a long time I tried to put intentions to my meditations. I would want to be a better writer. A better mother. A better person. Help me be better. Striving, striving. Take away my not good enough-ness. Please.

Take away my arrogance.

Take away my longing.

Take away my temper.

Take away my unlovable-ness.

But lately something else is happening. I’ve just been asking God to be with me. I abide in You, and You abide in me. Let’s just breathe together. Breathe me God. Just for the joy of connecting.

No striving.

Just let me sink, deeper and deeper into You. Let the little me disappear until all my molecules are merging with All that Is. Just like when I was a child. Let me be in this a while.

Let me float here. Out of this body. Out of time and space. Nowhere. Everywhere. Buoyant.

That first meditation teacher…the one in the heels, generously gave us each a free cassette tape to take with us. I still have it.

I have no idea who she was, but I’m thankful for her.

And here’s the thing….I’m never gonna wear heels. The difference after all these years is, I no longer judge those who do.

Too Much Togetherness

Day six of being together 24/7 in a small hotel suite. I can feel myself gasping for breath. Not literally, but I do feel a slow suffocation. I’m out of my element. We can’t go out to eat (per Seth’s health issues) and therefore I’m preparing every meal in a tiny kitchenette with no counter space. No matter where I turn, someone is in my way. I am a person who needs a lot of space. I used to fight it, worried I might be too high maintenance. I no longer apologize for needing what I need.

Yesterday, during our lunch hour, I went out to the van and did a meditation while Todd took the kids to the outside play area and let them bounce on the trampoline. The wildest thing happened.

In my meditation, the whole crew at 4 Paws, all the families and staff, became a cast of performers. We were all there, doing a play about a place that trains service dogs. We were actually taking our curtain call. The two beautiful actresses playing the kids in wheelchairs, stood up and walked, unlimited in every way, smiling huge grins as they took their bows.

The  actors who played the other children with disabilities came forth one by one to the front of the stage, radiant, clear headed, composed. 

When Riley came forward, she got rave applause, her acting was so complex, yet so subtle, and had earned the respect of the audience.

We all came forward together, the supporting actors who played the part of concerned and loving parents. The siblings took their bows. The employees at 4 Paws.

Jeremy the head trainer came out, and took his curtain call with all the dogs in class. They all bowed together and the crowd went wild.

I came out of this meditation feeling exhilarated. Like I’d gotten a glimpse of who these kids really are, beyond their physical or cognitive limitations.

This afternoon I locked myself in the bedroom in our hotel suite and did another meditation. It was not filled with imagery, just relaxation. 

Whatever comes of it, I’m better when I take the time to meditate.  I’m a kinder person, a more patient mother, a more tolerant woman. I feel better about life.

I no longer apologize for needing time to myself.

If you have high expectations of the kind of person you want to be, high maintenance is required.