Saturday, December 31, 2005

Dec.31: Nature and Love

Nature is who we are, so loving Nature is just our real Self loving our real Self. Of course, loving another person is this, too, this God loving God. This is “falling in love,” which is a falling away of the veils of I am over here, you are over there, we are separate. That veil falls away. I am you, you are me, we are one. Won-derful. I want to be with you because you are me and being with you is being closer to me, to God, to Reality.

Something like that.

And, too, falling in love can be as simple as loving the strawberry in our mouth; it tastes so sweet as it merges with us.

Roses are strawberries for the eyes and the nose. A giant redwood is a strawberry for the mind and the heart and the arms, if you are willing and able to give one a hug. That feeling of deep peace that emanates from the hugged redwood, just writing it reminds me that it’s been awhile since I’ve hugged a grandfather tree. Better get to it, Chris. Even to look at the redwood is to sense that mighty, rooted grandeur, to begin to take a little of that as food for our souls.

A grand tree is hard not to love. Many people, to most of us, are easy not to love. Why is the tree so much easier? Because we take the tree just as it is, we relate to it as being just what it is. We don’t want it to lose ten pounds, don’t want it to stand up with a little more perk, don’t want it to be a rose, don’t want it to learn English, or Spanish, or Sanskrit, don’t care if it can do yoga, don’t care how much money it makes, don’t care what its political view are. Begin to get the idea of the burden of all our requirements in the human world, and how free we are of those requirements in the realm of Nature?

Even better for our souls and our ability to love, around the redwood tree we are free from all that greedy grasping and wanting that is our lot around people. We don’t want the redwood to like us, love us, appreciate us, approve of us. But we can give those qualities without getting, for a tree, for a rose, for a sunset. How about that? We can appreciate a sunset without demanding that it appreciate us. We can love a rose without needing love in return. We can worship a meadow or the ocean or a cloud without demanding worship in return.

A good teacher, Nature, a teacher in what love really is. We give, we don’t worry about what we are getting, we like it just as it is: this is why we feel so good when we connect with Nature in a straightforward and appreciative way. Think how un-fun a hike would be if we were obsessing about whether the creeks and the clouds and the rocks and the wildflowers really understood and cared about us. Think how wonderful it is to just get outside, move the body, breathe the fresh air and dig on What is as just how it is. Ain’t that a kick. And it’s so easy, if…

If we break the house box habit, car box habit, and just get to the garden, get to the meadow, get to the trail, get to the ocean: go out and fall in love, again and again, with Nature, with the God that comes shining through Nature. This is who we really are, might as well give ourselves the chance to get back home.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Dec.30: More Fun on All 4's, wagging and learning

To stand on all fours is to be in a deeply balanced state, a reminder of what most of the animal kingdom is like. Are you willing to get back down on hands and knees and learn and play and experiment a little more? I hope so. This can set a tone for this book, an understanding that we can go for really under standing, what stands under this amazing ability of ours to walk about upright on two small feet.

Not a small feat at all.

So, let’s do it, friends, let’s get us once more to the floor and begin to crawl a bit, forwards, backwards, noticing the pattern of which hand is followed by what leg. Let’s go for the pure here-and-now of sensing the feel on our hands as they touch down and the feel as they leave the floor or ground, and begin to pay attention not only to the lifting of our knees and legs from the floor, but where that lifting is taking place. Connecting more of us to more of us will be an aim throughout this book, as well as an aim of the Feldenkrais work. So let us enjoy paying attention to pelvis and back and ribs and even neck and head and eyes as we fool around, letting ourselves be crawling people once more.

Okay, let’s give it a go.

How was that? If you experienced yourself in the here and now, that is enough of a start. If you began to sense what this is like, to be on all fours and to be moving around, so much the better. In this book, the goal is to return to that joy of life where discovery and attention is the core of who we are. We don’t have to accomplish anything that can be put into a verbal framework, though that is sometimes nice. All we are after is the pure sensory input of our lives in this moment, now as we read or write, now as we crawl, later as we get up and go about our day to day lives.

Try this, now, in the all fours position. Move your head from side to side. Let your right ear move toward your right shoulder and your left ear move toward your left shoulder. See how far down into your back and spine you can feel this. Do this slowly and enough times to come to an enjoyment of this side motion.

Now go on back down and try this; keeping your right knee on the floor, lift your right foot just a bit, and let it move out to your side and back. Do this enough times to get a sense of it and to enjoy it. Then rest. And then let your right foot come up and swing across (over) your left leg toward the left. And rest. And now do the same with your left foot. First swing it to the left, and then across your right leg and to the right.

Now, bring your head back into the picture by swinging your right foot to the right and turning your head to watch your foot as it comes out, and then bringing your head back to the middle when your foot returns to the middle. And rest. And then let your left foot swing to your left and let your head and eyes go to the left to watch your foot. Notice what’s happening to your ribs and spine as you do this.

And rest.

And then let your right foot come across to the left and wag your head to the left, as if to watch your foot through your body. And rest. And then the left foot across the middle to the right and turn your head to watch this on your right side.

And rest. ( What are all these rests about? Letting your brain recompute. Letting new patterns and learnings have a chance to sink in. Letting the quite sensory part of ourselves have a chance to make literal sense of the movements we are making. And this too: to get out of our rush, rush, get things done, do-do framework of mind, which is often no more than mind-less-ness.)

Now rest even more, on your back, on the ground. Sense yourself again the floor, and enjoy this. Then come to all fours again and do a tail wagging thing, leaving your feet out of it. What do I mean? Wag your butt to the right as your turn your head to the right, turning your head from way down in the middle of your back, so your right side shortens and your ribs do something on this side and your ribs do something else on the left side. Notice this, and then swing back to the middle and wag tail to the left and head and eyes to the left and notice what’s happening to your ribs as you fold to the left side and then back.


Then go back to bedel-asana, head up and butt up, head down and tailbone tucked under. Get the sense of your spine and ribs as you do this. See how many vertebrae you can sense in this arching and bending of yourself.

Then go back to side bending and side wagging of your butt and your head. Allow yourself to exult in having a mind that can follow this, and a pelvis that can allow and enjoy this, and a spine that has so many possibilities. Consider this a metaphor, if you wish, for a life that can move in many directions, with pleasure and learning and grace.

Moving with ease and grace. This is what we deserve. This is what we love. This is what you are invited to learn as we progress along through this exploration of now ) and love and nature ( our human nature of being in a mind and body that function as one when we function well, as well as the nature of trees and earth and water and sunlight and bees and rain and ocean and desert, of garden and wilderness, of north pole and tropics, of snail and elephant. How do you feel? Love yourself for feeling however it is and come back to your breathing if you wish.

What difference does coming back to your breathing make? This is learning: noticing differences. With learning we can never be bored.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Dec.29: Learning, Fun and Feldenkrais®

The Feldenkrais Method® is an amazing and powerful system of body/mind learning that enables people to move, breathe and think with greater ease and flexibility. It doesn’t set out to “fix” people. If you have a sore back, the idea isn’t that there is anything wrong with your back. The understanding is that sore backs and necks and shoulders and hips, as well as inability to function after a stroke or injury, as well as troubles with perfecting some skill in golf, tennis or yoga, come from a lack of certain abilities in the whole system to organize at a higher level. The problem, the so-called problem, is between the ears, in our brains.

This could sound unappealing, brains being a bit scary if we aren’t Bill Gates or Steven Hawkins, but brains are what got us learning to speak and sit up and crawl and walk, and let us figure out how to get to these words, wherever you have found them. As I mentioned in the last section, learning is part of happiness, and one of the key aspects of the Feldenkrais work is that it’s fun. It’s fun to relearn, or re-experience ways of moving we’ve “left behind,” or never really perfected.

Take crawling. If you were to stop reading this for a few moments and get down on the floor and crawl around a bit, something of your youthful joy in life and discovery might return to you.

Did you take a chance to have some fun, to do something different than your usual routine? We all read. We very few of us take some time to crawl. Go ahead and give it a go, if you didn’t yet.

I did it and the temptation to avoid it was strong, since I write these words first time around in a cozy warm bed, and it was cold to get out and dress and crawl around, but it was fun, indeed. I’m glad I did it. It reawaked old and very alive parts of me. I enjoyed sensing one hand after another touch down onto the floor. I enjoyed being on “all fours,” as it is called, a set up for the single most useful yoga asana, called Bedelasana.

In this asana, or pose, you are on “all fours” and you breathe in and puff out your belly and arch your back and let the back of your head and your butt go toward each other. Then you breathe out as you pull your belly and navel back toward your spine, bending forward as you push your back up into the air and lower your head and tuck your tailbone under. It’s smooth and enjoyable, rounding and arching. It helps breath and spine and feeling good about life. It’s easy. It helps the neck remember that it can be all the way down to the tailbone. It helps your pelvis remember how crucial it is to organized and elegant movement.

In Feldenkrais we add on the eyes, looking down between the legs and then up to the ceiling as the head goes up and down. We pay attention to the front and the back of the pelvis as it rotates toward and away from the face. We notice the change of pressure on hands and knees. We play around: what if your eyes were to go up as your head goes down, and your eyes were to go down as your head goes up. This seems “hard,” but it’s only hard if we forget to play, forget to explore. We can go slowly, we can make smaller movements. If we put our attention on learning instead of instantly succeeding, we can discover if we are holding our breathing, or tensing our jaw.

Then we can let this extra work go and learn to perfect something that seems strange and almost impossible. To make the impossible possible, the possible easy and the easy elegant: this is an aim of the Feldenkrais work. Try the eyes and head in opposite directions. See if you can slow down and enjoy the learning, and come to a way of doing this in a relaxed and easy manner. Elegance cam come latter.

But for now, see what it’s like. See if you are giving yourself a hard time if you don’t learn something instantly. Or you want to give it up if you don’t have instant “success.” Consider how this attitude prevents you from learning all sorts of things you’d like to learn.

And then, after you’ve perfected the head and eyes moving in opposition, let them rise and fall together and see if you can feel a great ease and connection of your head and eyes and neck and breathing. It’s fun to be a learner. Welcome to the path.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Dec.28: The Flavors of Happiness

A major flavor to happiness, perhaps the major flavor, is NOW. Crying over spilt milk is unhappy. To be interested in the shape of the spilt milk on the floor, this could lead to happiness. To be astonished and delighted by the splashing sound of the spilling milk, this too could bring happiness. To notice where my attention had strayed just before I spilled the milk, and to have my attention once more by noticing that it was gone, this too could yield happiness. To return to my breathing and sensing myself as I clean up the mess, again, here I could find happiness, in the moment of moving myself in the real world and being aware of myself in that simple moving.

To wish an alternate universe where I never spill milk can only bring the misery of fighting with reality. To be curious about how this “mistake” came about points to another flavor of happiness, the flavor of learning. Learning is close cousin to now, because learning sets out to discover something new, something previously unknown or unnoticed. One opposite of learning is taking everything for granted, which is to say: being asleep to the rising newness of each moment. Another opposite to learning is a closed mind, the mind that thinks I already know it all. This is not only dangerous and false, it is dull as well.

How can I have the fun of learning if I already know everything? This is one of the delights of the Feldenkrais Method.® Rather than aiming to “fix” someone’s back, neck, shoulder, walk or dance, the goal is to set up conditions for learning to function at a higher level, a level of more options and choices, a level of more ease and grace.

This is another flavor of happiness, the flavor of ease, the opposite of being out of sorts, of being filled with dis-ease. Consider the rainy day. To listen to the rain, to find an umbrella and walk in the rain, to smell deeply the scents that the rain brings out: all these speak to a simplicity and ease, an attitude of enjoyment of that rain. To cry over, complain about, resent or be annoyed by the rain, all create a mind in which unhappiness will reign about the rain.

Another flavor of happiness is play. Watch a child with the mud, or a pet, or a bicycle, or a stick in the creek. Fascination. Experimenting. Learning and discovery. Messing around. Having fun, improvising to the tune of now.

Now in nature is where the happy child points us. Of course, a child can be happy indoors, too, banging on pots and pans, or pulling the cat’s tail. But that banging is nature, the nature of our body loving sounds and rhythm and movement, or the nature of a cat, a creature of the world living in the here and now, free from the verbal shroud into which we adults so often disappear when we drift from the moment and stray from our happiness.

Now in nature. This is what we love of creeks and clouds and redwoods and meadows and the ocean. They pull us into the moment, get us away from our inner chatter, or worry, our schedules, our habits of unhappiness. They remind us of how good it is to be alive.

Another flavor of happiness: gratitude. Love. Call it what you will, but sometimes we are just thrilled with life or with another person. In that love, happiness glows forth as what life is all about.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

An Invitation to Adventure, Tuesday, Dec. 27,2005

POSSIBILITIES, December 27, 2005
At any given moment, we have the possibility to be aware of whether we are breathing in, breathing out or are between these two actions. The breath goes in and out and pauses without our direction, luckily. Also luckily, it feels gentle and sweet to ourselves to put attention on our breathing.

Lungs expanding, lungs contracting, the ribs rise and fall, the ribs expand out and to the sides and even to the back of us. The belly comes forward and then falls back toward the spine. We might even feel our breathing in our pelvis, in our neck, in the back below the ribs.

What an adventure, always available to us: this adventure of following the breathing.

As adventure we are usually too “busy” to undertake. Why?

Oh my, that is the sad story of our lives as robots. We do what we have programmed ourselves to do, with a lot of help from others, from the social system in which we find ourselves, from our so-called education.

Some think of education as math and literature and ideas, languages and history, the world of discovery and learning. That’s what I hope these essays will be: a reminder to you and to me, gentle reader, of the possibilities of expanding our lives, day by day, breath by breath, awake moment by awake moment.

But – the ever present ‘but’ butting in to remind us of the contradictory nature of life – most of what we are really educated in is the art of dulling down our lives to a sort of robotlike compliance with a set of rules of which we are mainly unaware. These rules have everything to do with fitting in and not rocking the boat, with keeping it a secret how asleep and robotlike we are, or keeping up appearances and helping other people maintain whatever image it is that they want to present to the world. The push behind these rules is to avoid the discomfort of something new, something out of the rut, even if getting out of the rut might mean a wonderful and sweet improvement of our lives. The conditioning is this: if it’s different it might be worse.

This “education” has us stuck in uncomfortable ways of moving and holding ourselves, has us so disconnected from nature and the outdoors that many of us are unable to happily walk a mile or two to get to the next place, has us unable to actually listen when another person is talking, so anxious are we to get in our two bits, that we interrupt or spend the time not listening but preparing our next canned bit of words we have said again and again.

And this is the great trap of our false education: our attention is always on what is in the future, our “to do” list, or the words we have to spout out next, the next place we have to go, or our attention is stuck in old resentments, in feelings of how we were misused or not treated with enough love and gusto in the past. We need only look through our phone books to discover a batch of people against whom we hold not too delightful feelings, feelings all based on keep past stories alive.

And even I, writing this first by hand, then typing into the computer have the challenge: can I be aware of breathing and sensing my arms and legs and spine, be aware of sounds and light as I put one word after another out into the world? And you, gentle reader, can you be here now, too, hearing or reading these words. ‘Tis an adventure we are on, an adventure in awareness. Let us sally forth.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

'Tis the Season

‘Tis the season. To take a walk in the cold. To realize that night time is part of life, a time of dreams and snuggling in warm, and hugging close to the ones we love. A time of sitting around a fire, or reading poetry together. A time to stay out of the car for a couple of days while everyone else rushes around like a preprogrammed robot. A time to read a good book, or reread a good book, or write a story to be read to our friends or children. A time to listen to our children without any advice or agenda. A time to listen to nature, as the winter pulls us in to the quiet and, perhaps, the sacred.

The night is long, and the moon waxes and wanes. Where is it tonight? The leaves are falling. Which trees still have their leaves and which don’t.? Where are some good leaf piles to kick and walk and skip our way through? How long can we go without the television? How long can we keep following our breathing?

It’s a good time to come back home to the breath. To breathe and know we are breathing is to know we are alive.

When we know we are alive, we don’t need to be human doers, we can be human beings.

When we follow the breathing, we can notice when we are tense and tightening, when we are starting to speed through our eating, or a conversation. What’s the hurry? In the next thing we do it’s the same story: we are either awake to the breath and the moment, or asleep and in a rush to get to the next thing.

What’s the hurry?

Maybe this season, like all the others, is a good one in which to slow down. Take a breath. Notice the difference that noticing the breathing makes. Notice what it’s like to be alive right now, what’s around us, where are we right now in this big world of many possibilities. That might make now seem like a very good time indeed. The way back home is simplicity itself. Slow down.

If you wish.

Best wishes and sweet mindfulness to one and all,

Solstice and Slowing

• Spend time alone
• Spend time in nature
• Spend time out of time: breathe,
and notice the breathing
• It’s okay to be a human be-ing
•Hang out w/ friends, kids, plants,
trees, birds, rocks, clouds, rain
• Join us for slow and mindful
(and fun) moving

Friday, December 23rd, 2005
Moving and Mindfulness
12:30-1:30 PM
Sonoma Ballet Conservatory, $10

Saturday, December 31, 2005
Feldenkrais® Review/Preview
12:30-1:30 PM
Sonoma Ballet Conservatory, free

Possibilities and aims of Feldenkrais®
• Feel taller, lighter, happier
• Improve breathing and balance
• Re-pattern your brain
• Increase co-ordination and vitality
* Transform your life

Group lessons in 2006:
Moving & Mindfulness : Sat. 9:15-10:15 AM;
And Fridays, 12:30-1:30 PM

Chanting, Moving and Meditation,
Thurs. 6:30-7:45 PM

Adult and/or Children on the Move,
Thurs. 1:45-2:45 PM

Chris Elms 707- 996-1437
See more in other listings on this site