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watch me bloom

 

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I want to move in the direction of my fears. I want to fully speak my truth. I want to speak up against injustice regardless of the risks. I used to leave countless words unsaid out of fear, worry, doubt, and to protect myself. Life is too short to say silent though. And as Audre Lorde wrote, “My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.”

That quotation comes from Lorde’s essay, The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action. Here are other note-worthy excerpts from that essay as well:

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect.” 

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“What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?” 

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“And of course I am afraid, because the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation, and that always seems fraught with danger. But my daughter, when I told her of our topic and my difficulty with it, said, ‘Tell them about how you’re never really a whole person if you remain silent because there’s always that one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out.”

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“We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language.”

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“It is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.”

–Audre Lorde

Affirmation: I deserve to express myself fully in the world.

I am working on aspects of full expression each day in my practice. I approach my interactions with others with the intention of being present, available, and authentic in their company, not hiding or holding back out of fear or habit. I observe the moments where I most want to retreat inside of myself and reflect on what need is not being met in those situations and what I can do to make myself feel more safe and secure in those moments.

I hit the reset button each morning, preferably each moment, and practice loving kindness to myself if a situation arises where I am not as available as I would like. I begin again and again and again knowing that I have nothing that I have to hide or be ashamed of in sharing myself with the world.

Affirmation: I reject any attachment to people’s reaction when I express myself.

I do not have to silence or censor myself in an effort to placate others. I am here to live my truth and to share it freely. I am here to be the most authentic version of myself possible. I am here to inhabit the deepest expression of love available to me in each moment and share that with others.

I plant seeds of self-worth, self-love, and acceptance and I see them bloom into flowers rooted from the foundation of my body at my feet and reaching their most open state in my throat. I visualize these flowers when I speak. There is no room for fear with all this life and growth flowing through my essence.

—lissa

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

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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

 

pleasure activism

Pleasure Activism as a Form of Care and Justice

abundant tree
photo by @jeremybishop


What happens when we as a collective center pleasure as a form of care, justice and liberation?
I have been exploring this concept in my life and also in my offerings particularly InterPlay, deeply guided by the work of  adrienne maree brown and her book  Pleasure Activism.

I have found Pleasure Activism to be an incredibly powerful approach to healing that not only affects the individuals engaging in the practice but all of those who in turn come in contact with them. Pleasure, compassion, and care intersect with each other and promote a more just society where we have the agency and capacity to care for ourselves and each other.

It gives me great hope that I can center pleasure as not only a practice that allows for well-being but as a loving form of rebellion against oppression, a form of individual and collective perseverance and strength for me and so many others in my communities and my ancestral lineage.

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The permission that is the foundation of the work, according to adrienne maree brown, is a reclaiming of “our whole, happy, and satisfiable selves from the impacts, delusions, and limitations of oppression and/or supremacy.” This reclaiming is in complete opposition to what makes up many principles of capitalism and oppression as it centers abundance, our natural goodness and enough-ness, and tuning into what offers us happiness and making space for that. It is a reclaiming of the gratitude and celebration of the miraculous nature of the earth and all of the earth’s creatures. It emphasizes that pleasure is not related to accumulation, money, materialism, greed, or excess.

“It turns out, being present is the most important part of every single experience in my life.” — adrienne maree brown

I was never taught about pleasure growing up. It wasn’t something I or anyone that I knew placed value on. The value was in acquiring wealth and fancy objects, in assimilating to the dominant culture, in being perfect with the perfect house, career, family, etc. It always seemed so strange to me how acquiring something off that list only bought fleeting happiness followed by worry about what if I lose this or a quick momentum onto the next item on the list to be happy again.

I slowly gave up on the list and began allowing myself to be led by the simple moments of connection, the times of ease and expansion, the present moment experiences of aliveness, that I found great wisdom in and which seemed like sustainable forms of not only joy but vitality. By being with these experiences, I could see more clearly and live in harmony with life, with my experiences, with the universe,  rather than the previous disharmony of always needing myself, someone, or something to be different, to be better.

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Is it possible for justice and pleasure to feel the same way in our collective body? Could we make justice and liberation the most pleasurable collective experiences we could have? — adrienne maree brown

What’s your relationship to pleasure? Is it something you could make more space for and see as a form of care?

Is it possible to see a connection, a companionship between justice and pleasure and for it to be a collective embodied experience?

Feel into what arises in the body in contemplation of this.

Imagine the type of world we could live in if this was all of our embodied experiences. A pleasure devoid of materialism, oppression, supremacy, greed or narcissism. A pleasure that is simply a reclaiming of the whole selves we always were before systemic oppression and associated trauma, before the conditioning around scarcity and inequities, before the retelling around our good enough-ness.

A world where everyone knows how good enough they truly are. A world where your mere existence validates that fact again and again.

adrienne maree brown writes: Do you understand that you, as you are, who you are, is enough?” She asks us to be “stay mindful of our relationship to enough.”

What if you could feel that sense of enough-ness permeating into your every pore, your every breath? Would you welcome it in, make space, and invite it to tea? It’s here and available whenever you’re ready. I’m happy to remind you of this whenever you need it: You, as you are, who you are, is enough. Always have been and always will be.

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The Body as Teacher

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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.