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Social Distancing or Spiritual Retreat

See this sunrise? It’s not an NCAA basketball game where I could have won my bracket. It’s not the voice of Sinead O’Connor at the canceled concert I was looking forward to seeing Sunday (and Happy St. Patrick’s day today!) It does not come with the knowledge I stood to gain training with Dr. Vasant Lad at the Ayurvedic Institute in 2 weeks. It also doesn’t give me back the proud mom moment of watching my daughters unfinished musical or the happy human contact of the postponed trip to visit my companion in another state that FaceTime can’t replace. But this sunrise brought joy to my reality after a sleepless night. Today, that is what the world gave me and it is enough.

A difficult but confident decision was made Sunday night to close the studio until April 1. I attended my last class for awhile yesterday knowing that it didn’t feel right. My desire to support neighboring studios at this time cannot take precedence over protecting loved ones and those who may be asked to care for them. If attending a class as a student comes with guilt, why would I offer them? No amount of essential oils or pranayama will keep my parents, my kid’s teachers, our health care workers or anyone else safe right now.

What I struggled with in making this decision is not the idea of closing or staying at home, but how it is being presented. The terms “social distancing” and “quarantine” make me cringe and contract. Sorry, I accept the purpose, but the languaging is brutally depressing right now, even for an introvert. Its only a stones throw from solitary confinement to me. So in finding purpose in my petulance this weekend, I am training my brain to substitute “ spiritual awareness” for “social distancing” and “retreat” for “quarantine”.

Disassociation from the outside world does not need to be seen as a punishment. It’s an opportunity. When I first got divorced, the 4 day weekends without my kids were devastating.  Their bedroom doors were kept closed as if I couldn’t see the empty space, it didn’t exist. I went from being “mommy multi-tasker”, to experiencing painful absences from my kids and acquaintances and having time on my hands to brood. In an unconscious argument with what was real, I made plans doing anything that would avoid silent time alone;  keeping so busy that there was barely a moment for denial. In time, those moments left deep cracks in me. The saying goes that the cracks are where the light comes in. Exhaustion. Grief. Financial fears. Loneliness. Anger. You can only hide yourself from those feelings for so long. Then, against my best judgment and pocketbook, I went on a silent retreat. Intentional silence was nails on my chalk board. I realized I was drowning myself in busy when I didn’t even know I was in the water. Compassionate spiritual silence (mauna as it’s called) was a life vest. Since that retreat, when I’m submerged, I can’t hide from myself. Coming up for air looks a lot like “social distancing”.

As a result of the painful yet insightful retreat, I  began to occasionally schedule purposeful silent extended weekends that I called “home hibernation”.  There was lots of outdoor time to practice presence and gratitude. I had “dates” with myself for dinner, consciously cooking a healthy meal. In time, something changed. Slowing down brought clarity and spiritual awakening. “Home hibernation” was re-titled “ashram weekends”.  I could open the door to my kids empty bedrooms again without tears. I learned to reach out socially not as an act of defiance but with love. I get it that a global pandemic is not a fair comparison, but it invokes the same feelings for me and I recognize them. What do you feel right now? Can you name it, be with it, and know that you are still a Divine Being?

I have been listening with hopeful anticipation for either the state or federal government to close non-essential businesses, or for other local business to start the trend. Then I would not have to make this decision and I wouldn’t be alone in my community. Removing props and extra studio cleaning per CDC guidelines carries good intentions, but no guarantees; and perhaps a false sense of security for some students with compromised heath. It is a simple supply chain. If I keep the studio open, it gives people a place to go. I would like to avoid being one of the places that potentially held the bomb if it goes off. The financial implications of closing scare the crap out of me as they do any small business owner, but worry plants aggressive seeds. Fear is a form of self-mutilation, as opposed to human insufficiencies and difficulty which are normal. I cannot control a pandemic that at times still doesn’t seem real. However, I can influence my own biology with my thoughts and perhaps shine positivity through the veil of universal consciousness. Imperfection is human – the “I, me, my” of what I am forced to give up keeps surfacing. But part of my is job to keep up the morale. I see my daughters’ grief and my son’s anger and feel both of those things. Spiritual awareness is not perfection; it is recognizing, accepting and redirecting selfish egoic thoughts. More than ever, our connection is obvious and terrifying all the same. Are the choices you are making helpful to some and harming to none?

Ask yourself, “what’s my role?” Mine is to take my classes online. I believe it is my highest good and the best way to reach out to my students and beyond. I am genuinely excited to offer daily video classes and communal meditations! I know the difference between creating “busy work” that blinds me and using my gifts. What are your gifts? Find your purpose and reach out to others with that purpose in whatever wacky cyber-social ways you can. We are still allowed to laugh and smile. Thank you for the spoken, written and silent support you offer me and each other. I am here for you and we are all on retreat together.

When I got in the car yesterday to drive to class, the first random song that came on was the Pretenders “Hymn to Her”.  Many years ago in a time of difficult transition, that song gave me strength.

Let me inside you
into your room
I’ve hear it’s lined
With the thing you don’t show
Lay me beside you
down on the floor
I’ve been your lover
From the womb to the tomb
I dress as your daughter
When the moon becomes round
You be my mother
When everything’s gone

And she will always carry on
Something is lost
But something is found…

Peace, Megan

MindBodyRadio Interview – What I Wish I Said

I did a twelve minute interview on mindbodyradio.com today and you can listen HERE.  Since I am more comfortable writing than public speaking, after the interview, I wrote down what I wish I would have said.

What do you do?
I offer a variety of accessible weekly classes at my studio, teach individuals meditation and work privately with clients to co-create a daily yoga therapy practice that best meets their needs and goals.  To find a yoga therapist near you, visit the International Association of Yoga Therapists. ​ Or you can visit Yoga Therapy and Meditation on my website. I also offer energy medicine by appointment to enhance healing and increase well being and am certified through the Healing Touch Program and California College of Ayurveda.

Why are you passionate about this line of work?
It’s an exciting time in my field of yoga therapy! Our western culture has opened the doors wide to yoga and meditation. When I moved to Wisconsin 20 years ago, there was no yoga within 30 miles. We will soon have 3 studios in my small town. When I was introduced to meditation in Boulder, CO in the 1980’s, it was for the Buddhist students at Naropa, the long hairs and the granola’s (like me!). Now there are apps with thousands of meditations where you can see who is meditating with you across the globe. I’m thrilled to have my meditations available on the Insight Timer app for free. Science continues to line up with wisdom traditions. Everything from anxiety to pain care are being explored through the bio-psycho-social-spiritual model which is congruent with yoga therapy. Medicine is embracing yoga, but there is a lack of information about appropriate yoga for heath challenges, chronic pain and mental wellness. A disastrous over-emphasis on the physical aspects of yoga and misunderstanding about mindfulness leaves yoga outside of the reach of many who could greatly benefit from the practice.

What is your background?
I was raised Catholic and attended 12 years of Catholic school including an all girls high school. When I was in grade school, I told my Irish grandma that I wanted to be a priest and she assured me that could happen by the time I was her age. I have always been spiritual and introspective and somehow that dharma found me through yoga.

I dealt with panic attacks in college and my holistic doctor put me on imipramine and xanex and encouraged me to find a long term solution to a healthy mind. I registered for a class called S.M.A.R.T – Stress Management and Relaxation Technique – which was yoga in disguise. As awkward as learning alternate nostril breathing was, it was better than breathing into a paper bag. At that time, I had mountain biking and skiing to keep my body fit. There was no need for the physical practice of yoga. Short meditations and breath awareness helped me to make friends with my anxious mind. Once I had kids and got locked into Wisconsin’s brutal negative temperatures, yoga was something I could do at home to move and beat the winter blues. It kept my body fit. With twins, I would also dampen the emotional stress of sleep deprivation by doing mini-meditations. Now I get up early and look forward to awakening with pranayama, chanting and luxuriating in a long meditation. Some mornings, the timer goes off way too soon. Other mornings, I’m thinking about my oatmeal cooking as I struggle to stay present, or tears come to cleanse my emotions.

What is your focus?
The juxtaposition as a yoga teacher is to teach a balanced class for mind and body; The mind needs stillness and the body needs movement to heal. As a teacher, I try to weave in stories and themes to bring my students beyond posture and show them that their awareness is a precious gift. Awareness is what yoga gives me. It is a gift I have to keep giving myself and no one else can do it for me – or take it away. We have so much potential to influence our own outcome. To this end, some or all postures may not be necessary or appropriate.

In yoga, there are two teachings I often think about for my students. The first is “everything is medicine and everything is poison”. We need to get to know ourselves on an intimate level and work with a practically trained teacher who can guide us to find our practice of yoga. The other idea I teach is that embodiment can lead to a peaceful place and it can also lead to feeling like you are locked in a bathroom stall with a lunatic talking to you. If you are comfortable, its my job to stir you. Those who are suffering get soothed. Yoga is not all blooming lotus flowers. The lotus grows in the mud. Part of the yoga ride is to find comfort in the uncomfortable. Philosophically, yoga teaches that pain and suffering are a result of forgetting who we are. We can learn a lot about ourselves when we are challenged in a posture – everything from the crazed monkey mind to physical limitations show us our boundaries. We learn to make space within those boundaries.

It is easy to forget who we are. Over-stimulation is the accepted norm. Just as we digest our food, our bodies have to “digest” everything our senses experience. We are constantly exposed to negative images globally through TV, movies news etc. We also unconsciously compare and judge ourselves and what we have or don’t have to others on social media. Our own thoughts expand or contract us. The body is hard wired for survival; it reacts negatively to physical and emotional “enemies” – the lion chasing us might be our own thoughts. Chronic pain is contraction in the body, and it can be of physical or emotional origin.​

What are you working on?
In the past decade, I have been blending my training and personal exploration in yoga and energy healing. The result is a somatic yoga practice which I lovingly call “Body Prayer in Motion”. It is therapeutic movement that blends neuromuscular re-education, emotional self-regulation and pranic (life force energy) enhancement. It is in keeping with my current educational focus on yoga for chronic pain and self-regulating energy therapy. I want people to be empowered to fix themselves.

Where can we find you?
At the studio! Speaking of empowering, if you want to change yourself, consider a retreat. My daily practice supports me, but going on retreats transformed me. My studio schedule limits me to offering one week long retreat to Ireland. We hike and do yoga to move the body. The spiritual mysticism of Ireland is palpable. There are lots of laughs and joy getting to know each other. But we also practice silence, meditation and “time off the grid” (nothing that plugs in) to get to know ourselves more intimately. It will change you. The energy of your new tribe is there to support you in remembering who you are on retreat and to remind you who you found when you leave. I am not a big fan of traveling a lot, so my dream is to have a small retreat center somewhere, someday. Environment is important but we don’t all have the time or money to live “Eat, Pray, Love”. The retreat should mirror your lifestyle so you can recreate some of it at home. If you live a lavish life, then go five stars. But a retreat just needs to be far enough to get away from the daily roles, requirements, drama and stores for an extended period of time.

In addition to offering free meditation recordings on Insight Timer and my website, I have practice videos on YouTube.

If you are a teacher, body worker or mental health professional, I have a six hour Somatic Movement – Body Prayer in Motion training coming up on December 8. If you would like to bring  my somatic movement course to your studio, I am willing to travel for two day trainings.

Who is someone you admire?
Dr. Richard Davidson, ​ a Neuroscientist and the founder of the Center for Healthy Minds, University of Wisconsin. I respect his insight and dedication to researching the neuroscience of contemplative practices and appreciate his desire to educate medical professionals, teachers and our veteran population. I have no interest in research to prove what I already know intuitively and am so thankful for people like him.

Any last thoughts?
In the end, we can master yoga postures like a collection of trophies, but the highest goal of yoga is spiritual awakening – remembering you are Divine. That’s what I want for my students.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Love,

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

The Heather Tree

There is a pine tree on the golf course across the road where I live. I remember the day it was planted over 35 years ago. I was 9 years old with a new golden retriever puppy and given the grown up responsibly of walking her. I would take her to that tree and let her off the leash to swim in the river while I rested my body on the wobbly trunk. Eventually, the branches made a good perch. This is how life flew though my childhood summers…walking to that tree with my dog and a smile in my heart.

Now I am older with 3 dogs and the wacky Wisconsin seasons test the hearty winter lover in me. Some days the walk is a chore. However, a small miracle occurs at that pine tree.  It is too large to climb, but instinctively, my hand reaches out to touch the trunk; a warm flow of energy goes up my arm to my heart, and I smile unintentionally.

You see, that tree is me.

The once flexible branches, are no longer able to bend on a whim with the wind. Where the outside was once smooth and soft, weathered lines appear on the thickening bark. Yet in the harshest of winters, the roots have been nurtured, growing deep and strong. As the tree grew bigger, it took on more responsibility; providing a warm shelter, restful shade, and happiness for the creatures who come in contact with it. If we could see the rings, we would know the inside has not died or changed; it still radiates with pure childlike love.

In memory of my first 4 legged love, Heather.

Peace, Megan

In Praise of Spider Webs

Mind is the spider;

spinning, spinning, madly spinning.

Recreating the past; restless and poisonous.

A tapestry of turmoil.

Thoughts all connected with one unsubstantiated thread.

I lost my place in the center.

Terrified of heights,

I grip the edge, fearful of falling back down.

So desperate for a satisfying meal,

unable to get beyond the gasping fly.

Too self-absorbed to see the beauty of the whole web.

Be patient. Be still.

Web is an intricately woven Mandala; unique and purposeful.

A single silky strand crosses my forehead,

knocking me conscious.

Hitting me like Newton’s apple as I walk to awaken.

Spinning stops; I reconnect to Self and Source.

Using all eight legs to walk the path of the Eight Limbs,

I crawl back into now.

Namaste, Megan