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connecting with ancestors

3-gogo-and-the-ancestors-marietjie-henningphoto by marietjie hemming

I like to think our ancestors are rooting us on through life.

There is a mindfulness practice from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh called Touching the earth that I learned while on retreat at Blue Cliff Monastery many years ago where we place our palms in front of our chests in the shape of a lotus bud and slowly lower ourselves to the ground so that our four limbs and forehead gently press against the floor. We bow and return to the earth and our roots, connecting with our spiritual and blood ancestors. We know that we can never be alone as we are always surrounded by love, by divine beings who only want the best for us, by the earth. We touch the earth and reconnect with each bow to all of that life and recognize that we make up the earth and life and can never be separate. We are all connected.

Breathing in, I breathe in the earth. I breathe in connection. I breathe in life, strength, stability, love, nurturing, protection. Breathing out, I breathe out separation. I breathe out suffering. I breathe out anger, fear, shame, sorrow, grief.

I wonder if each time we engage in a healing practice, are we touching our ancestors? In engaging in the practice and connecting deeper with ourselves or transforming an area of suffering, are we also lessening the suffering in that whole ancestry chain? If we release a story steeped in limitation and inadequacy that we used to cling to, do we release suffering in our whole ancestry line? Is our growth a shining light of hope and pride to them?

—lissa

(This post is an updated version of a post that appears on lissabliss.com)

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background image by carolyn doe
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Being with Grief

everything’s going to be okay, I tell myself. this will pass.

I find so much peace in those simple words during challenging times. this will pass.

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photo by joniwoq

Grief has been increasingly present for me. A collective grief for all the beings who it feels like are gone too soon, for the state of the world, the conditions of the earth, institutional racism and all the other -isms that just repeat seemingly without end.

Grief used to scare me. The way it inhabits. It feels like water — giant waves overwhelming my heart, my body, my spirit that cannot be ignored, have to be felt, and have to be expressed. Its water-like state transforming from ebbing and flowing waves into varying forms of floods and erosion when ignored and into a soft intermittent stream when heard, acknowledged, and held.

I hardly notice grief when it arises and passes like the soft stream. When it starts to linger with the large waves that may flood though, there can often be a worry about what if it never leaves and I fall into a permanent state of grieving. There can definitely be an underlying wanting to get rid of grief and a wonder of what it would mean to never have grief again.

Is it even possible to never grieve and to have a full experience of life? With the reciprocal nature of grief and love, grief and joy — can one exist without the other when life is so precious, so impermanent?

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photo by llbolek

Deeply nourishing practices I find helpful for being with grief:

-Comforting and releasing grief through my cycle of breath, knowing that although I may feel grief that I am not grief. Breathing in, I am aware of my breath flowing in. I follow its journey through my body and feel its life and energy. I can feel my breath encounter grief as I breathe in. I shine light into the grief with my breath: touching grief with my inhale, releasing it with my exhale.

– Self-soothing with my hand at my chest, belly, or another part of my body that resonates as a reminder that I am not alone and I will always be there for myself no matter what.

-Engaging in rituals and celebrations that honor what has been lost starting with a land acknowledgment to remember the indigenous people who stewarded the land and to name all the loss and traumas taken in and healed within the land.

-Seeking support from nature. I find certain lands particularly supportive for being with grief where I can lay down all that I am carrying even for a moment and allow myself to be held by the land, to rest my body against a tree trunk, to be fully present for the way the tall grass at this particular hillside I often frequent effortlessly dances with the wind.

– Being active. Yoga, qigong, dancing, going for a walk/run, etc.

– Cooking and eating balanced, supportive meals.

– Engaging in activities that draw a deep belly laugh. I invite my favorite books and comedies to help with this.

– Communal grieving. Being around loving, welcoming people. I allow myself alone time and it’s really important to be around others as well to avoid getting too caught up in my experience. And if there isn’t anyone in your circle for you to be with in this way, please consider utilizing one of these resources from the Grief Resource Network.

– Journaling. Writing. Singing. Humming. Being creative and allowing for expression and release.

– Accepting each moment for what it is and bringing a gentle curiosity to each moment. I have started to realize the incredible peace and freedom in befriending each moment  — not just the ones that take my breath away with their joy but the more difficult moments that arise where I feel lonely or overwhelmed. Adding a layer of compassion and acceptance to challenging feelings and experiences can make them so much easier to navigate through.

-Remembering that everyone grieves differently and at their own pace. It’s really important for each person to find what works for them and to become aware of when they try to compare themselves to others or rush themselves through the grieving process.

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Writing a piece like this helps tremendously. It helps dissipate the grief, helps me to feel less isolated and more connected by sharing my experiences with others rather than keeping them a secret. We don’t have to grieve in secret. We can create space for us to grief together, allowing our collective grief and love to be held by each other.

—lissa

 

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The Body as Teacher

samuel-austin-omeaSFHIxYk-unsplashphoto by samuel austin

In Leaving it All Behind by Ayya Anandabodhi and Ayya Santacitta, Ayya Anandabodhi writes:

THE BUDDHA SAID that everything we need to awaken is right here in this fathom-long body, but most people I know have a lot of difficulty being in their body. That presents a bit of a problem. If the main teaching is here in the body, and we can’t be with our body, how do we access that teaching? How can we start developing a relationship with our body that is kind, friendly, and curious, so that we can learn from it? — Ayya Anandabodhi

How is your relationship with your body? Is it one that is kind, friendly, and curious? Do you consider your body to be a teacher?

Is it one with much discomfort and challenge? Please know that that’s okay. Our bodies hold so much history. They remember what our minds cannot. They hold the vibration and experiences of our ancestors, our traumas, our wounds, our lived histories. They are a perpetual beacon and anchor for the present moment.

I can really resonate with a relationship with the body that is kind, loving, and curious. I have that relationship now but I didn’t always. Growing up, it felt like something was always going wrong with the body whether it was chronic pain which I experienced in my adolescence or feelings and emotions that showed up so vividly in the body that I wanted nothing to do with, and not to mention the physical appearance of my body and how that landed for me.

It was the chronic pain which led me to say, “There must be another way.” That pain led me to a doorway of mindfulness consisting of an ability to be aware of and to be with what is present with a sense of acceptance, allowing, and friendliness. Mindfulness practice allowed me to soften and expand where I would reject, relentlessly judge, and try to control. I made space and welcomed whatever showed up in the body and it changed my life.

If chronic pain led me to the doorway of practice, finding movement teachers who could not support me without needing to fix and change me developed the embodied practices that are the guiding light of many of my offerings. I went to teacher after teacher and class after class only to find there was something wrong with me and that the teacher could not help me as I was. They didn’t know how to work with someone with a body like mine and instead taught me how to be with and work with a body like theirs. I experienced a violence in the perpetual rejection and shame this dynamic caused which resulted in continual injuries and a heavy ache that persisted for some time.

It persisted until I was able to listen, allow, and nourish rather than to push away; I was able to do this by trusting the mindfulness practice that I cultivated in sitting practice to also be a practice that could support and guide me in moving meditation. I slowly began listening more until over time a deep listening began to be present for the body. I began to trust the wisdom of my own body to guide me. I began to see the futility in elevating the guidance of external authorities who did not love or listen to their bodies. I began honoring the way my body wanted to move and the way my body wanted to rest. In turn, I then began offering those practices to those who came to my movement classes.

In the end, I really want to help everyone I work with create this space to be able to listen to and trust their own bodies to be their true guides because everything we need to awaken is right here in this body.

 

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InterPlay & Meditation Gathering on Being with Grief — Oct 26 & Oct 28

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Please join me for an evening of community, support, and healing where we will utilize movement, meditation, storytelling and more to dialogue with grief and give voice to that which is lost and that which is also being created anew.

Limited space is available.

 

For a complete list of Lissa’s upcoming offerings, please visit here.