With the current boycott of spending advertising dollars on Social Media platforms, it reminded me that I was overdue in speaking out about our departure from Social Media last year, aka Social Media Distancing.

From the time the Information Super Highway was a dirt road, I have been an optimistic pessimist in regards to the Highway …reading Clifford Stolls: Silicon Snake Oil paved that Highway for me.

At the Sol Center, we had been questioning the efficacy of social media platforms for a long time. Cambridge Analytica, constant false news and adverts, personal privacy, the incendiary ramblings of elected officials, etc …it was all really just too anti-social, and not at all compatible with the verdant mindful mission of the Sol Center.

In the fall of 2019 it all became abundantly clear, that it was now the time to depart and no longer offer any support to Social Media platforms in any fashion.

The catalyst for this departure came about after reading what happened with Suzie Kelly and the loss of her retirement savings. The data that Facebook and Aristocrat had compiled about Suzie, allowed Aristocrat’s behavioral analytics to easily recognize and prey upon her gambling addiction, or that of any Facebook user.  Good News! Susie, and two other Plaintiffs were able to reach a class action agreement in principle totaling 155 million in the Spring of 2020.

Reading about the peril of Suzie, I had come to realize that our departure from Social Media needed to happen with immediate effect, Natasha understood and agreed. The business implications of a social media presence for the Sol Center or Natasha could no longer, in any form, be justified …and with that we were gone.

From a purely business perspective the decision was difficult, but it was conscience, reasoned, and liberating.

I do miss the adventures of: Felix at Huddersfield Station, Augie the Plant Doggie, my cousin washing his RV, Sadie Golden, and of course your adventures as well. So for now whilst we practice Social Media Distancing, I just imagine.

To be truly effective in forcing the hand of change on Social Media platforms, an entity cannot simply temporarily or permanently suspend the spending of advertising dollars. Entities must remove themselves from Social Media platforms entirely …and the same for individuals.

At the time I was born, my mother was 29. She was now the mother of 3 living in Hyde Park, Illinois. She often said she missed the 1960’s because she was already with child by age 18; but she was still a woman of her time. She was an artist and writer, she had been a playboy bunny in the clubs, she married a Jew when her family had never met one, she befriended and often housed unusual, interesting, radical, struggling people, she was anti-war, she was gay friendly, had campaigned for Kennedy.

She is gone now so I can’t ask her to refresh me, but I imagine she was devastated by the assassinations of President Kennedy and years later, in my third term in her womb, Martin Luther King. I was born the day Robert Kennedy won the California primary for their Democratic Presidential Nominee, he was killed the next day. And we lived minutes away from the riot scene of the Democratic National Convention. I was probably in her arms when she watched the TV those days and heard the city around her in chaos.

Flash to now: I watch, listen, and sense into the events of these past weeks. The tragic death of Ahmaud Arbery. The knee on the neck of George Floyd. The ridiculous responses of our president, who has fanned racial tensions flagrantly all along. What am I to do? How am I to meet the moment? Me, a babe of the civil rights era, the daughter of a performance poet, and an ordained minister?

Looking around my life, I am aware, more than ever, that it is lily white. No black friends or neighbors, very few places where I come into contact with any diversity. I had not noticed. It happened gradually as I left work in organizations and focused on creating something of my own. Like my mother, who was sucked into domestic and suburban life; only worse because I don’t even have children to draw me out into the community they might have, or make me think about the youth perspective.

I attended the “Black Lives Matter” event on the U of A campus this past weekend and thought of her, my mother. She was more socially active than I am. More dramatic. She would have carried a sign. She would have known some of these performers on stage, or their equivalents in her day. She was someone who could get up on stage and speak and sing of the aches of the wounded heart and the ravages of oppression. She was someone who would affirm anyone who tried to as well. She wasn’t political, but she was a champion of truth and justice and the power of the spoken word.
Two of the speakers at the rally spoke of the need to stand up, the need for all marginalized people to raise their voices, the need to risk offending the powers that be. I heard them. And then heard them again, when they said that those who are standing here will turn away again. White people in particular. Will retreat. Will collude. Will comply. Again. They were scolding us and I felt it, and deserved it. They also were voicing their despair; you might feel good about being here letting us be us, but you will forget about us tomorrow….

A client I had been with earlier in the day- grieving deeply the wounds of her family combined with the grief of our country and world, likewise had doubted that any protest would matter. Not just this but in general- all that has been trampled these last 3 years….
It’s too big and pervasive. All the brokenness. And the Powers That Be, that serve themselves and their kind alone.

And yet: Something finally does seem to be happening. Moving the needle. Shaking the status quo. What can I do? How can I contribute to the moment? How will I remember, tomorrow and in the weeks, months, years to come what is happening and what is needed to help others up and out of not only personal despair (which I am trained to do), but systemic oppression (which I am not)?

Please know this reflection is primarily personal. I am sharing it to expose my own process rather than to wave a sign of any kind. As a contemplative, someone who is more introverted than extroverted- more emotional than intellectual- more spiritual than practical- I am searching for my authentic response to how will I remember and act.

I will take heart and inspiration from those I see standing up, speaking out, calling out, crying out. One of the presenters yesterday, sang a song about the places she can’t go because of the risk of being killed by police. It was stunning and at one point she screeched and screeched and it was just, right. Just as we would hope in our grief workshops when people connect to the rage or fear or desperation that really was a natural way to react, but most likely was repressed to stay alive. We have to allow ourselves and others to grieve, which includes rage and anger properly directed.

I will continue to listen and care and beam a deep faith in the potential of individuals to connect with deeper powers than the powers that be. As a black minister said of Trump’s photo op at St. John’s Church, “The God I serve is higher than that.”
I will continue to commit to my own contemplative path of Yoga. Prayer. Meditation. Not as an escape or evasion, or personal pursuit of health or wisdom, but as a form of purification and the innate desire to provide places of refuge and processes of insight for others. Refuge, that Thomas Merton referred to as necessary to make active work “fruitful.”

And I l will commit to learning more about systemic oppression, about my own bias, about what is now referred to as white fragility. I truly don’t understand these things- have not felt it was relative to me yet. Now it is.

All this does not alieve the pain of those actively oppressed, the real suffering of so many, but it is something I can and will sincerely do. From a black president to a racist president to the unknown future. We each have plenty we can do that matters.

While the moment is ripe for change, while the situation is dire for so many, while hope is sincere, it will not be easy. In the words of Thomas Merton again, and in the spirit of the long view, and the contemplative I am, “concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. ” Thomas Merton

When considering what to share from my practice this month, the idea of pace came to mind as a relevant theme.

As I tried to write about it, it became overly complex.  So I am going back to basics and simply sharing some personal thoughts that I hope are useful for you.

Years ago, I read an article by the excellent teacher of the Vedic sciences, Robert Svoboda, regarding the cultivation of Prana.  Prana is the Sanskrit term for subtle energy, similar to the Chinese term Chi.

The article had a wonderful effect on me during an especially difficult period of life.  I felt stuck and thwarted in many ways then, and was undoubtedly being hard on myself.  Why was I so slow?  Why did I have no energy?  These were constant, semi-conscious questions I circulated in my mind.

I share with you the first paragraph of this article and a few reflections about how it helped me and informs me to this day.

Whoever you may be, and wherever you may live, you live your life well when you live it at the right rate. Plow your way through life and life will wear you out; poke your way along and your life will grind to a halt. Find a pace that suits you, though, and amble along it accordingly, and your world will spontaneously level a path for you.

The article goes into some depth about yogic matters that I jive with, but what struck me right away was the possibility that slow was my pace.  That being upset about my pace was perhaps the drain of energy.  That maybe it was time to surrender to a deeper understanding of my rhythm, and to life’s rhythm for me.

This insight paradoxically allowed me to slow down more, to drop down deeper, to rest and rejuvenate, to ask different questions, to hear from my heart, and to follow my heart.

In this period since, about 5 years now, I understand my pace more and I do my daily best to honor it and amble along accordingly.    I don’t expect the world to spontaneously level my path but I do seem to understand more what is meant by such a statement.

Our pace connects us to our heart.  Our heart emanates our unique emotional and spiritual longing.  This is what influences the course of our path.

May you know and honor your pace.  May your heart illuminate your path.

May our practice and our healing be of benefit to the whole world.

Here is a link to the entire article for those that are inspired: Prana

Here are some reflections from my practice and hopefully some inspiration for yours:

This winter and spring I have been concentrating on getting stronger through hiking.  It has felt important as I enter into middle age to not just move more, but to be in nature and to be reminded that my body is a vehicle for connecting with the wilderness.

My asana practice is simple and sweet these days.  I don’t try and get much out of my body- rather I attend to it so it feels good and balanced.  This attitude has been distilled from years of practicing in ways that were not necessarily simple and sweet.

Even though I have always gravitated to gentle styles and found teachers who understood the meditative and spiritual dimension of yoga, I still pressured myself to do more and more.  I imagine I thought that was my duty as a professional yoga teacher.   It took some time to realize I was inflicting pain upon myself rather than resolving it, and that was serving no one!

This is really a lesson regarding the Mind.  I didn’t know I was being aggressive.  I didn’t know I was off track.  My teacher Rama always emphasized a will-less way of progressing and I loved the message.  It just took years to bear fruit and flowers. Perhaps there is much more to come.   Meanwhile, I am pain free, at ease, and in awe with the way my practice has evolved.

This brings me to the concept of Mind/Body that I am playing with lately.  In the new brain science we see more than ever that the mind and body are integral, not distinct.  The mind is the body, the body is the mind.  Awareness and sensitivity are keys to integration, thinking and dissecting are disturbances.  Yogis and Buddhas and Mystics of all stripes have essentially agreed upon this- now there is a modern wave of contemplative science and study that affirms and explains the phenomena of integration.

It is an exciting and exhilarating new way of conceiving of self and human potential.   What does your body tell you?  How does the thinking and judging mind distort the information?  How do we enter into the energy and information of the mind/body, learn from it directly?  How do we translate this integration of being into our lives and world? What might it mean for the future?

In regards to your practice, I hope you have the opportunity to move more and the wisdom to will-less from your body.  I wish you the enjoyment of nature and the opportunity to touch into wilderness.  I pray that your own mind/body journey flowers into good health and spiritual integration.  And that each of our practices aids to the healing of the world.

Blessings and Light, Natasha

Our normal daily life creates a pattern of mental focus that often takes us out of our physical, present moment reality.  Our attention goes away and in many directions, often for long periods of time.  This way of being, while it may seem necessary, productive, and even creative has many limitations.

The primary limitation is that it accentuates the mind/body disconnection- our body is doing one thing, our mind is doing many other things.  This disconnection makes us highly susceptible to physiological stress or sympathetic nervous system arousal.  That means our bodies are revving up to prepare for danger and emergency, its information is based on our conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings, and in most cases there is no danger- the threat and thus the stress is in fact, unnecessary.  This unconscious and unnecessary ‘’revving” of our nervous system agitates, confuses, and exhausts us creating less productivity and more vulnerability to illness and accident.

The secondary limitation of our attention moving around constantly away from the present moment, is that we do not get to live our moments fully.  We in fact feel less because our senses are not activated and our emotions are not integrated into what we are doing.  While this can be a relief sometimes to just “do” life, if this doing prevails we are more prone to over-indulge the senses- which in turn exacerbates physiological stress, and we are easily overwhelmed by our feelings.

With the Mindfulness practices offered below, you can begin to gradually shift your attention back to the present moment reality.  This simple act of harnessing your attention, will help you develop your mind body connection, reduce and manage stress, and bring more beauty and balance to your life.  With practice, you will see that learning to attend to yourself is an act of intelligence and self-worth and that you are better able to attend gracefully to all that is needed in your life.

  1. Be aware of your breath.  Simply notice.  No thinking necessary.
  2. Be aware of your body sensations.  Simply notice.  No thinking necessary.
  3. Move your body mindfully, focusing on the experience of sensation. No thinking necessary.
  4. Shake.  Rattle.  Roll.  Rub.  Hop.  Yawn.  Sigh.  Stomp- whatever connects you to your body now.
  5. Be aware of raw feeling states.  The feeling of yes.  The feeling of no. The feeling of maybe-so.
  6. It doesn’t matter what you feel.  It does matter that you notice how you are feeling.
  7. Notice your thinking, imaging, inner dialogue.  Is it true?  Is it helpful?  Is it skillful?
  8. Notice that awareness- this faculty that can notice- is bigger than thinking.
  9. Sensations, emotions, thoughts drive impulses, actions, behaviors, consequences.
  10. The future is shaped moment by moment- be intentional and notice when you’re not.
  11. No judgment necessary.

I used to teach a lot of yoga, hours every day.  I joked that I was a marathon yoga teacher.  I taught different types of yoga practices in those many hours, it wasn’t all super physical.  It was also in one facility, so I didn’t have to drive hither and yon.  I loved what I did and I made a good living in the days when yoga teaching wasn’t really a profession.

It is said you teach what you most need to learn, maybe that is true.  I guess I needed to learn how to be in my body, how to be myself and connected to something more.  I also learned a lot about teaching, communicating, relating.  For me learning is primarily about self-awareness, and secondarily about information.  This is why I teach Yoga and not history, which was incidentally what I studied as an undergraduate.

For some reason, my desire to talk about the breath today brought me back to reflecting on these early days of marathon teaching.  I taught this morning, a short 75 minute class and everyone was very focused.  It felt like what it took me many years to learn were transmitted and absorbed by everyone in the room.  It was a bit of a time warp really, it felt like we must have practiced for hours to get that deep.  At the heart of this story is the breath.

If you have practiced yoga with me, you will know there is a special way that we breathe.  This comes from my teacher Rama and is the essence of her method, which she will not name.  She calls it Yoga.  There are lots of layers to this method, but in a nutshell it is a way of using the breath to create shifts and changes in our being without activating the ego or the will.  It is a way of working within the yoga poses that takes you into deep states of meditation where subtle conflict is resolved.  It is a way of converting the oxygen we breathe into the prana or energy we need to be both transformed and to maintain our integrity.

How does all this happen through breath?  I wish I could describe it here, I actually have been trying (and editing it out) but it is really something you have to experience.  For now I will simply say what I have said billions of time by now, breathe.

Meditative Yoga Practice Series

Saturdays 9:30-4:30

Saturday, February 20 – The Fifth Chakra: Heart’s Desire

Saturday, March 26 – The 5 Flows of Prana

Saturday, April 23 – The Third Chakra: City of Gems

Saturday, May 14  – The 5 Mind States & the Breath

 

This series of practice days grows out of a desire to support our continued healing, growing, and awakening.  The beauty of Yoga is the experiential process;  this strengthens our connection to inner knowing, the inner teacher or Guru.  Longer practice sessions, well-paced and designed, are an important part of our development. These sessions are open to both new and experienced practitioners.  Each Saturday will have a similar format yet there will be distinct themes and practices.  Here are some other thoughts about how a day of practice can benefit you:

* Extended practice increases your concentration and stamina, which will translate into all you are doing.

* This meditative way of practicing will help you stay in and expand your comfort zone, you will be invigorated rather than exhausted.

* I have taught Days of Mindfulness Practice for many years and see how profoundly it affects people; there is even research that indicates that a day of meditation can affect gene response in a positive and measurable way.

* You will explore and refine your general practice, so you understand anew how Yoga works for you outside the class structure.

$100 for the day or $325 for the series.

Please contact me to register.

 

Full Day of Meditative Yoga Practice

9:30 – 4:30 $100

This is the first of what will be a series of practice days designed for students who love Meditative Yoga and want more than the 90 minute class experience. The day will include a variety of movement, breathing, sound, and meditation practices; while most practice is solo, there will be some interactive components as well. Pace & sequencing will match the natural flow of the daylight and guide you effortlessly to the deeper healing and regenerative dimensions of Yoga. In honor of the Martin Luther King holiday this month, the theme of our practice day will be ahimsā (non-violence). This is an important principle in Yoga that inspired Ghandi and then King’s civil rights philosophy’s.

Please contact me to register.