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Pledge Against Racism

Social and racial injustice are woven deep into the fabric our society. This story of my community is one more thread woven into that fabric. But the point is not for me to to tell my story or point fingers; it is for the story to make a difference in how you think and what you do. I know I have no idea what it is like to be black, but I also know that racism is a product of ignorance taught under the disguise of denial. Yoga teaches awareness and shines light on our shadowy places. Like all thoughts, racism can be conscious or unconscious.

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than it’s opposite.” Nelson Mandela

When I became a business owner in Burlington in 2012, I made the sensible decision to keep politics out of my yoga studio. This included choosing not to display yard signs for any candidate and staying away from political discussions. There have been instances when I tolerated comments that made me feel disappointed and dirtied, in the interest of my business. On occasion, I have had to speak privately with students who felt comfortable using our community for divisional political rhetoric, even though it was in keeping with my personal beliefs. Developing a yoga community and supporting our growth demands inclusivity. Our differences are doorways into understanding and accepting each other as seeds from the same package. We have the opportunity to learn so much about ourselves from the lens of someone with a different view. What annoys you is where your work is. What you fear is opportunity. Acceptance of differences brings unity.

Racism is not political. It is not conservative or liberal. Racial injustice is both systemic and individual. It is not only the fault of our leaders and representatives. It is in our hearts. Even when it is not in our hearts, our silence gives it consent.

I marched for #blacklivesmatter last week with the LGBTQ community. It was easy. It was a cop-out. I hid among thousands of masked faces in Milwaukee. My community is Burlington, where the underground railroad freed fugitive slaves before the Civil War. My ancestry is this town – the pioneer log cabin in Wehmhoff Square used to be my Mom’s playhouse. The Meinhardt Bank (now Chase Bank), which was started by my family, was the only bank in town to make it through the Great Depression. The Historical Society building and the Lincoln Statue were donated by my Great Grandmother Antoinette Meinhardt and Great Uncle Francis Meinhardt. Burlington has been my home for 22 years: the place where I chose to raise 3 children who have made it clear that they are disgusted and want change. At their age, I passively listened and hoped during the Rodney King trial. This is their Rodney King moment, but this time, peaceful protests, grassroots organizations, and businesses are bringing change. This time, as a business owner in this community, I have a voice. This is bigger than my business, and this is my business—the heart centered purpose of recognizing the divine in everyone.

The feedback I see on social media seems to believe the peaceful protest in Burlington is indicative of a lack of racism and supportive police force. I have heard a few people placate themselves by insinuating that Burlington is “better than most places” for black people to live. We practice what I call “sheltered racism” here. If you don’t see it, it is only because you live in a white bubble of protection. If you can’t admit racism exists in our town, or don’t care, there is no place for you in my yoga community. This is not politics. It is humanity. And if you see my choice to write this as something that causes division, so be it. Perhaps seeing the vulnerability of my business from COVID-19 emboldened me, but human rights are more important than any financial business goal. I am blessed to work in the yoga industry with many compassionate hearts. In doing so, I admit that it is easiest at this time to surround myself with like minded people and pray for peace. But we are all accountable. Complacency breeds racism. It exists because we let it.

Racism exists in Burlington and always has. The fact that you have not experienced it does not mean no one has. Every summer when I was growing up, my Dad would have his office party on Browns Lake. For a whole day, our yard was a beautiful palate of skin colors. I remember what seemed like innocent comments from locals asking why we had so many brown skinned people at our house, or if black people can swim. As a kid, I didn’t understand those questions. I didn’t need to. I am white. Now, when my black family members visit, we joke that the African American population in Burlington increased by 500%. The laughing stops when parents picking up their kids from a play date with my kids ask why there are black people on my lawn, or when neighbors publicly use racial slurs to describe my family members. Skip to 2008. I helped to open and volunteered at the Burlington Obama office. In addition to countless times being called a “N” lover and other sick comments to my face and on the phone, I had my tires slashed and was nicknamed “The Little Obama Girl” by a Burlington city official. More recently, as a yoga therapist, I have worked privately with several grade school students in the BASD who have anxiety and sleep issues because of the racism they deal with regularly in school. I was thankful to have attended the Diversity Night at the high school last winter; and while BASD gets credit for acknowledging the problem and giving the students a voice to talk about racism, I left wishing more people heard these brave young community members.

Police violence also exists in Burlington. It was encouraging to see our police chief take a knee at the protest, and I acknowledge that it is likely a case of “a few bad apples.” But as Chris Rock said comparing pilots to police officers, “some jobs can’t have bad apples,” even in a place that might in your opinion be “better than most places.” In my racially diverse family, “better in Burlington” means that when my son goes out with his black cousin, they take extra precautions just as they would in Chicago. My son knows too well what it looks like when Burlington police officers use excessive force on a handcuffed friend. We grieved for his friend who was hospitalized but felt some sick sense of relief that his black cousin was not there. If you think this fear is not justifiable, ask a black man. And if you want to believe it is unusual behavior and our police do not profile, sadly, working across from the station has shown me otherwise.

If reading this upsets you, it should. The next thing to do is ask yourself: what can we do. First, listen. Listen to the minority members of our community. Ask them what it is like to live in Burlington and what you can do to make it better. We cannot change L.A. or Atlanta by reading stories on the internet; diversity starts in our community. Attending protests during the COVID pandemic may not be your thing, but get out of your comfort zone. Be proud of the heightened activism of people of every race and age. Don’t lump the peaceful protestors in with the rioters or looters. I am a big believer in meditation, but it’s time to stand up and do something. Don’t be afraid. Don’t make it a fight. It is an opportunity to unite. Have a respectful dialogue on racism in your home and with neighbors. Be stronger than hate. Call out racism and stop stereotypes. Donate silently to causes that promote social and racial equality. Educate yourself. There are wonderful books, movies, and podcasts on racism. Accept that racial injustice is not someone else’s problem. Our country was founded on racism. If you are reading this and don’t live here, make it your mission to bring unity to your community. Racism is just as much a part of our global history as it is in our hearts; one we change with the power of the vote and legislature, and for the other, we have inner wisdom practices and the power of love.

BFY makes a pledge to stand against racial injustice. Please join me.

“The beauty of being human is that we are incredibly, intimately near each other, we know about each other, but yet, we do not know or never can know what it’s like inside another person.”
– John O’Donohue

Choose Love,

Megan

Gardening the Soul

Have you considered going on a spiritual quest?  The short, cold days and holidays season provide a particularly inviting opportunity and energy to explore spirituality. But the problem is we cannot take a spiritual journey because we are spiritual beings having a human experience. What we can do in the dark of winter is garden our soul.

On our human journey, accomplishment and success are measured by our intellectual pursuits that are sustained by what we learn and do in the external world. Make no mistake; how we interact with our outer environment is critical.  But as spiritual beings, we have the innate ability to perceive our outer environment through intuition instead of intellect.  Intuition is sometimes a soft voice inside ourselves, but more often it is a feeling in the body – the heart racing or butterflies in your stomach for example.  These voices and sensations are misread or missed entirely because of the constant stimulation in our outer world. Even though intuition is our essential nature, it needs to be cultivated like a garden through meditation or another practice of inner knowing.  When we purposely get quiet and still, intuition becomes the all powerful weather app for Spirit. Except, it actually predicts correctly because it relies on our internal senses.

In spiritual practices, there is an image that is widely used of the body being the temple of the soul.  I prefer to think of the body as a greenhouse.  Everything we take in with our five senses is a seed that is planted in our greenhouse.  Our words (to ourselves and others) are containers of energetic vibration that we put the seeds in. The enlightened spiritual Self is the gardner who decides what to water and where to make the best use of our Light energy. Spirit gardens from a higher sense of knowing than intellect, even though it may defy reason and logic.  It is the mind that often makes the mistake of providing the wrong seeds. The seeds of the mind can either take us toward or away from our recognition as Spirit. The good news is that even when we unconsciously plant rows of weeds, and no matter how much they take over, the spiritual gardener can step in and pull them to make space for new plantings. 

When you know your stress is at an unhealthy level and things are so overgrown in your greenhouse that they are blocking out the Light, 2 things can happen: 

Option One – the glass on your greenhouse will break; the body will experience anything from a cold to slight physical discomfort to disease. 

Option Two – you can remodel, split the heathy plants, reuse what you want and reseed. Sometimes that includes making changes in relationships, jobs, or moving.  If external changes can’t be made (at least right away), there is the opportunity for climate control within the greenhouse; establish and honor boundaries.  Spirit as the gardner has the right to say “no” to anything that is detrimental to our Being-ness. If visitors to your greenhouse are annoyed by your boundaries, it is because they are the ones who benefit from you not having any.  In recognizing that we are spiritual beings, we can offer unconditional love to others from the heart, but not like what they do or let them seed our mind.  It’s the heart, not the mind or body, that is in tune with our infinite nature. In remembering this we transcend the stories and trauma on the human journey.

When I live from my soul as Spirit, I am empowered to honor the notices the gardener posted in my greenhouse:

Refuse to just cope with things or settle.  Unfortunately, our human system is hardwired for that – coping or settling.  The proof is in our tendency toward addiction and all the drugs created to mask pain, depress emotion, function with disease etc. When I remember I’m a spiritual being, I want more. Joy is the natural state of Spirit, but it doesn’t fall into your lap on the human journey. I’m disciplined and motivated to find happiness. 

Refuse to be a victim. No matter what difficulties I experience, it is only the mind that can take me away from spiritual wholeness; and only if I let it.  Pain is real – physical and emotional – but the mind can make me a victim of that pain or lead me to my true nature as Spirit, where every difficulty, flaw, and failure is an opportunity for growth and transformation.

Refuse to have expectations.  As humans, we need to have desires and goals to guide us.  But Spirit asks that we include a clause that when we ask for something, we understand that we only get it if it is in alignment with the highest good of all.  In yoga, this is referred to as ishavara pranidhana – surrendering to a force greater than ourselves. Failure does not need to cause pain and suffering; it is a flaw of the mind and ego. Spirit does every action for the sake of itself and not for reward.

Refuse to feel alone.  I am never alone when I am in the presence of my higher power.  It also helps to be grateful for and keep contact with my friends in the garden club. 

Peace and Light,

Megan

 

In the Irish tradition, honeysuckle was believed to have power against evil spirits. In other places it’s believed that grown around the doors it will bring good luck. Its clinging nature in the language of flowers symbolizes, ‘we are united in love’.

Honeysuckle or Fairy Trumpets

Spiral Meditation

If you would like to experience the Spiral Meditation as a guided practice, it is available as a digital download on my website: Spiral Meditation

The Spiral Meditation is a technique developed by Dr. W. Brugh Joy that uses sacred geometry as means to heal and nourish the body, mind and spirit. It can be used on a daily basis when dealing with illness or as desired in a healthy person to maintain a deep sense of inner harmony. It is also beneficial as a pre-surgery meditation to encourage the body to heal more rapidly, or before any stressful situation to bring your whole being into balance.  To experience flow of energy in and around the body more fully in this meditation, please use your hands as guided and/or sit in a comfortable position.

You may also consider doing this meditation in place of “counting sheep” before bed! If doing the meditation to promote sleep, you may want to lie down and keep the hands on the heart center throughout the meditation; it is not necessary to close the spiral before sleep and you can set your intention for the light field to finish the expanding spiral pattern if you fall asleep before it is completed.

The power of this meditation is in its ability to teach the meditator to experience their conscious awareness as both the giver and receiver of energy. This meditation is taught to practitioners in the Healing Touch Program as a technique for self-care and often given to the client to do as self healing. It is also used by the practitioner on the client to encourage a deep state of expansion and peacefulness.

Energy is a dance, and a spiral is a very special dance. By placing the center of energy awareness in the heart, the higher states of awareness in the upper energy centers can be integrated with those in the lower energy centers. Above all else, enter a state of Unconditional Love when you experience this meditation.

As with all guided meditation, once you have done this often enough, you will no longer need my voice to guide you. You may choose to listen to the music only file as you bring yourself into the Spiral Meditation’s expanded state of awareness.

Peace and Light,

Megan

 

Meditation Into the Chakras

Why an Audio Meditation on the Chakras

When someone begins to experience their subtle body or energy body, whether it is through an assisted healing modality like acupuncture or reiki, or in a yoga class, skepticism turns to curiosity. I am often asked for recommendations on books about the chakras.  Despite my collection of worthy books by knowledgable writers about chakras, nadis, kundalini, marma points, tantra, etc, personal and professional experience have taught me that meditation is the most creative, authentic way to introduce oneself to, explore, and expand the seven energy centers. Reading books on the chakras without experiential play time is like reading a cook book and never getting the satisfaction of eating any of the recipes. The intellectual knowledge a book provides on the subtle body only finds its power when it is in harmonious relationship with our intuitive perception. I believe intuition is organically accessible through sound healing and meditation.

Mind Body

Unlike when many of the ancient spiritual traditions were developed, we now have a scientific explanation on how the brain works.There is excellent research being done on the benefits of meditation all over the globe (and at our very own Center for Heathy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison). Written words are fodder for the left brain, which intends to intellectualize and rationalize the information that comes through our five senses. Just as the five senses are gates of perception for the mind, the chakras feed the body information about the the world around us by metabolizing energy. To heal all levels of our being, we need to enter the expanded state of consciousness of the right brain. Where the brain goes, energy flows.

“ I maintain that cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest incitement to scientific research” – Albert Einstein

Energy Body

Called Chi, Qi, astral light, Prana, the field, or depicted as a halo as it often was in ancient paintings, all religious and spiritual traditions recognize our bodies as light energy. Spiritual awareness is a transformational process that takes place in this realm. Even in conventional medicine, we see the use of sound and light for both evaluation and treatment of the physical body. When we block experiences from our mind (often unconsciously), we also block the electromagnetic energy flow of the experience. To use a term I don’t particularly care for, energy gets “stuck” in our bodies, causing pain, physical and emotional discomfort and disease. Our bodies naturally attempt to remove these blockages; an example of this is the flow of tears, yet we are taught from a young age not to cry. Sound healing and meditation are safe acceptable ways to release physical and emotional trauma and agitation from the body. They can also help to balance an overreactive energy system.

Disbelievers

In my field, I compassionately excuse cynics. They do not have the ability to believe in something they have not experienced for themselves. Undoubtably, it is not because they can’t. We all have higher states of consciousness available to us. It is our mental conditioning, the gluttony of information flooding our sympathetic nervous systems, and the way in which modern society holds intellect above intuition that prevents us from reaching our energetic potential. Expanding our state of awareness is a matter of accepting our unlimited potential and being still with as few external distractions as possible.

Motivators

This project is for all of my students who have journeyed into their subtle body, perhaps unintentionally in a yoga class or sound healing; you are my instigators. With every awakened encounter you experience, my inner child jumps for joy! We are ALL always healing from something; only the significance and awareness varies. Remember to set your books and phones down and put technique and tradition in the back seat. Study your heart. Love is the universal healer.Thank you to all my teachers in the fields of Yoga, Ayurveda, and the Healing Touch Program for making me see that there is more than one way into the subtle body – and there is no right way. In gratitude to my gifted musical counterpart, Michael, for exploring planet earth with me from the inside out.

Utilize

I value the Western medicine model, but the bio-mechanical paradigm is about curing. Healing occurs separate from curing. It can take place within any level of our being – physical, psychological and spiritual. Start by utilizing this meditation for your own healing. Keep it simple – we are energy and awareness. Enter the subtle body. When you are ready to be your own greatest healer, bring your energy to the level of the heart. Share that with others through a gentle touch or hugs. And never stop wondering, growing and believing we are infinite.

With Love and Light,

Megan

Digesting Spring – Ojas

Ojas is the beautiful sanskrit word that explains the essence of life. It is the subtle form of radiance, heath, immunity and longevity. On the physical level, Ojas corresponds with our bodies’ muscle, fat, bones, bone marrow, blood, plasma and semen. Ojas, along with Prana (physical vitality) and Tejas (mental clarity), make up the three positive forms of our constitution or doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha)in Ayurveda. In spring, this essence of life makes itself known in the sprouting buds and singing birds. After a stagnant winter, everything around us is bursting with life and creative juice; and so should we! As our earth receives life from water, air and the heat of the sun, we have the ability to restore our Ojas through the food and thoughts we take in. Ayurveda teaches that we are all born with a certain amount of Ojas. Think of Ojas as your bank account – if you are always withdrawing (“burning the candle at both ends”) – this vital essence gets depleted faster. Some indications of low Ojas are feeling tired, weak, fearful or worried. If you spent this winter catching all the colds and flues around you, that can also be an indication of low Ojas.

Since Ojas is most simply understood as the byproduct of our digestion, (what we digest both physically and mentally), we have the ability to deposit into our life savings account through our diet and lifestyle. Everything from the food choices we make to our relationships can drain or sustain Ojas.

Building Ojas through our diet starts with how the food is prepared and eating mindfully in a peaceful environment. This leaves out sports bars with dozens of loud T.V’s and business lunch meetings. Even if we eat healthy foods, we do more to build our Ojas account if we take a moment before eating to appreciate the source of the food – what it took to come into your possession, who grew it and prepared it. It is with this same gratitude that we then invite our body to receive all the nourishing qualities of the food. There is a good reason why we don’t feel like eating when we are emotional; we digest our emotions with every bite. The awareness of the whole digestion process starts with smelling our food, letting it touch our lips, beginning to feel it in the mouth and tasting it on the tongue before the teeth get called into action. This 30-60 second process sets the stage to eat slowly while sitting down (and not in the car!) Even if we can do this for one meal a day, we are depositing into the Ojas account.

Another way to strengthen Ojas and make the energy available for use in our subtle body is with a regular meditation practice. We lose Ojas through the mouth from too much talking and through the mind with negative or excessive sensory input. The constant stimulation and stressors of our modern lifestyle are always depleting our life-sustaining source. Winter is the season where nature gets quiet and stores its energy like a long meditation. As spring arrives, there is a natural order of releasing the stagnancy of winter and stimulating just enough activity to flourish without exhaustion. As in nature, quality and quantity are both a part of restoring the balance of Ojas.

The home of Ojas is in the heart. So what makes your heart happy physically and mentally? Walking outside and connecting your feet to the earth and all your beautiful senses to the rhythm of nature is another way to rebuild your Ojas. Make your life digestible and Happy Spring!

Namaste, Megan

Yoga is Not About Getting Your Toe in Your Ear

Before we get into our new blog post, I have some exciting news to share!  My new studio Bear Foot Yoga Healing is opening next month with classes starting soon in Burlington, Wisconsin.  More details coming shortly, in the meantime, visit our Website!

Yoga Journal

I’m about to “paint my masterpiece” in the words of Bob Dylan and open a yoga studio, but first I have a confession. I stopped reading Yoga Journal magazine in the past year, which in my industry is like a trader choosing not to check the stock exchange. In part, my time is better spent doing studio preparations. That is not the reason for ditching YJ though. I haven’t been able to get beyond the cover photos lately. In the vein of “a picture is worth a thousand words” my preconceived perception of the cover is that it frustrates potential yogi’s more than it motivates them. Yes, the models are always gorgeous and wafting with a Shakti power that any woman (and man for a different reason) would want. That is not a truthful representation of yoga.

Truthfulness, or Satya is one of Yamas (principles)of yoga. The YJ cover makes any pose look flawless and effortless. But this is not the truth. Or at least the full truth. It has been drilled into me in every training – yoga is not about attainment of the perfect form. It is about the process not the pose. Why doesn’t YJ get this? Perhaps I am stretching it a bit by discussing Satya . I assume the intention is not to purposely deceive, but very few bodies are capable of achieving YJ photo perfection. With the exception of some Cirque du Soleil potentials, these woman have put countless hours in on the mat to achieve near perfect form for that one photo. Still it is not their beautiful physical bodies that keep them coming back to yoga.

When I look at the current cover, all I can think is “who in their right mind would wear an all white spandex outfit to class”? By the time I unrolled my mat, I would be wearing a patchwork quilt of spilled morning java, kiddie goo and dog prints among other things. Furthermore, what woman would dare, if she could, stick one leg straight up in the air a foot above her head wearing see-through white pants and smile? Too young for mentalpause, obviously, the model does not have her mensies. At least this month’s model is not in some funky version of handstand, abdomen fully exposed, sans Buddha belly and muffin top. Hair is not a point for discussion just on the assumption that the models most likely showered before the photo shoot. Until the glorious day they put a woman on the cover with messy hair, panties hanging off a sweaty bum, and an “I don’t give a crap if I look like hell because I feel good look”, I will not offer to model.

 

Perhaps I am being a bit hard on YJ. Please YJ people, don’t hold this against me. Your articles are informational and interesting. For decades, you have brought yoga to the people. I also get that it is good to have goals. And for some that may be the ascertainment of one of what I label the “party poses”; usually when some tiny part of the body is grounded to the earth and one of the four limbs is wrapped around it like a scarf in a blizzard. Even after years of practice, your cover shots are unattainable to most yogis. Until there is a camera that shows what yoga does to the body on the subtle level, your cover photos are intimidating art. Beautiful, but laughable. Even if you read YJ, please come and visit me when the studio opens. I will have copies available for your viewing pleasure. Just know that that the goddess cover models don’t have anything on you. Because what they don’t tell you on the cover is that if you breath you can do yoga. And even if you can’t smile in a pose, yoga will make you smile in the heart.