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Jesica Hanley Vega

Sing Your Song

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discipline

Finding Stillness Through Movement, Part 1 of 2

IMG_8027
Kayaking as spiritual practice? Sure, why not.

Last week I wrote about simple stillness practices that enhance your experience of connection, communion and awe in everyday life.

This week, I’ll explore the tremendous power of movement practices to do the same. Just because you’d rather do anything than sit cross-legged and watch your breath, doesn’t mean the healing power and grace of contemplation must be lost to you. After all, whether you dance, walk or kayak, movement itself – when done with intention and focus – can be just as powerful a vehicle for fulfillment and awakening.

Through dance, as well as a variety of other physical disciplines, movement has always been a way of affirming Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s famous statement: We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. After all, is there anything more human than using our bodies?

And yet, despite longstanding traditions of celebrating the physical, humanity has also suffered from equally tenacious beliefs separating body, mind and soul. This system of beliefs regards the body as an impediment to spiritual fulfillment at best, and a sinful temptation at worst. Unfortunately, when the body is regarded as something to be disciplined, overcome or ignored, its potential as a vehicle for spiritual fulfillment can be lost. This attitude can lead to shameful feelings about sex, an over-emphasis on appearance, eating disorders, obesity and even overwork.

But being trapped in a belief system doesn’t mean you can’t be free. It simply means that you must become conscious of your relationship with your body and make active choices about what to do with it. Getting present to our physical selves and feeling at home in our bodies, without judgment or disapproval, is the focus of contemplative movement practices. For when we come home to our bodies, we feel more at home in our hearts and our minds as well.

10 Simple Ways For Slowing Down A Life That Moves Way Too Fast, Part 2 of 2

IMG_2470Last week, I wrote about the lack of stillness so many of us experience in our busy modern lives. This week, I’ll offer 10 simple practices for cultivating stillness that can be achieved at any time.

Before that, however, I want you to consider how much you probably HATE being still. Sure, you may complain about being “busy and stressed,” but often the real suffering doesn’t start until you stop moving. After all, you don’t do anything unless you get something out of it and, more often than not, what you get from being busy is an escape from how you feel.

We don’t only live in a high speed world, we also live in a world in which it’s often not okay to feel strung out, sad, disappointed or bored. It’s not okay and, even worse, we may not know how to handle those feelings in a healthy way. Frequently, the first thing we feel when we slow down is antsy impatience. And if we sit with that long enough, we may feel hopeless, sad or in pain. It’s enough to make a person check their phone.

So, it takes something to cultivate stillness. Yes it requires discipline, but it also demands courage: the courage to face yourself head on, be who you really are, and feel how you really feel. Right now.

That said, here are 10 suggestions for chilling out and taking a breather. But first, turn off your phone.

  1. Take a bath and, if you like, add epsom salts, essential oil or bubbles.
  2. Enter a sacred space or chapel and just sit.
  3. Sit on a park bench.
  4. Sit on your sofa.
  5. Eat lunch alone with no media on.
  6. Sit by a fountain or body of water.
  7. Take in a view.
  8. If there’s a float center nearby, discover the wonders of floating.
  9. Turn off the car radio while driving.
  10. Look at the stars. Or close your eyes and just imagine them.*

*Thanks to Asya Tabdili-Azar at Hive.org for #10

A-Buzz

coffee pot
For a long time, espresso has meant home to me. At least for the time being, something else will have to do.

A few weeks prior to heading to San Francisco, I wasn’t feeling my best physically. I was suffering from body aches, my energy levels were erratic, and my appetite wasn’t good. Making my bed more comfortable helped, but I thought I might feel even better if I improved my diet and eliminated coffee

After the initial withdrawal wore off, my energy levels and mood quickly  improved  and my thinking got more clear. I considered the experiment a success and decided to keep going.

And then one day, stuck with nothing to do while my husband discussed alignment with a mechanic at a used tire shop I took a walk. Even before I set out, I knew that if I walked far enough, I would pass Bluebeard Cafe: where I’ve made many pit stops to make a bad day better, where I’ve brought visiting guests to show off my adopted hometown and where they serve the best espresso in Tacoma, 

Even before I could see it, I felt my body pulled towards the familiar entrance. Conditioned to know that pleasure and relief were on the way, my physical excitement mounted and I started to wonder why I’d quit drinking coffee in the first place.

Espresso; it was a bright spot in a bad day, a boring day, an exhausting day or a good day. It  was a guaranteed pleasure, my one daily indulgence and part of my heritage.

But rather than going in, I kept on walking and instead stepped into a healthy tea and herb shop where I found a book called Rumi’s Four Essential Practices. One of those essential practices, I discovered, is fasting.

I’ve never been a dieter and, though I am a spiritual practitioner, I’d never taken on fasting as a spiritual discipline. And yet, without realizing it, in addition to improving my physical condition, my new diet had actually been giving me the opportunity to deepen my relationship to self.

I brought the book with me to San Francisco and was glad I did when the first thing I found upon checking into my room was a gleaming Nespresso maker. In addition to providing an exciting opportunity to join a community of impassioned and accomplished leaders, my weekend at The Hive was clearly going to be a continual challenge to my resolve.

But I kept in mind these words from Rumi, which were a constant reminder that my commitment to hearing my soul was stronger than my commitment to having a buzz.

yesterday you filled your stomach 
with all kinds of bread and foods
you became so sluggish 
so sleepy

what comes of such indulgence?
either recklessness
or the need to go to the toilet

sounds of moans and mourning
come from the soul while fasting
but the only sound that comes after a meal
is a low-pitched rumble from the rear end

so friend
if you want to hear what the soul has to say
then skip the meal;
it you want to hear from the other end
then bring the bowl closer to you

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