The Truth is Somewhere In Between

There is a meditative inquiry process I learned from my Integrative Restoration/iRest training that I find very potent.  It involves the alternation between polarities to create a new felt sense of something in between.

To keep this from being too intellectual I invite you to try a basic example of it here:

Feel your body contacting something solid right now…really feel it…describe it simply

Feel the parts of the body that don’t touch something solid…really feel it…describe it simply

Go back and forth, feeling one and then the other…distinctly…as fully as possible.

Now feel them both simultaneously…both together…as fully as possible.

What is that like? Can you describe it?

What most people report is that they don’t quite know.  The experience cannot be thought about so concretely.  The process actually arrests analysis. I almost feel it as a neurological release.

When we feel into it with interest, it often feels good.  Like something new and different.  As a well cited Rumi quote goes: Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing there is a field.  I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about….

This practice and quote are glimpses of a non-dual state.  A “place” that we long for on some level, and yet don’t trust as real.  A taste of it is liberating, and yet hard to sustain.  With exploration and practice it is an important element of healing the body, mind, and spirit.


I have a lot of tools in my bag when I work with people individually.  Depending on what people come to me for:  Yoga, Meditation, Mindfulness, Stress Reduction, Grief, Astrology, Spiritual Direction, I use the tools I think are relative to them and will work well for them at present. In reality I mainly rely on deep listening and deep faith. Faith that everything is part of the whole.  Even and especially when it is hard and heartbreaking.

The polarity exercise came up recently as I was hearing someone who is struggling, physically and emotionally, express a string of negative thoughts about what is happening to them.  When we did an inquiry exploring the negative thoughts and their opposites, she offered the insight “the truth is somewhere in between.”  We could both feel the power of her statement, and how it could help her navigate, but also the pull of the negative thinking and the struggle to be OK with not being OK right now.

There is a lot to explain there, and it won’t all come through clearly in words, but I will say simply that with all my tools and training, what is often most important when we are deeply struggling is letting ourselves feel our feelings through, finding safe ways to do that.  Giving ourselves time, it takes longer than we think it should.  And, being kind to ourselves as we grope.  It’s OK not to be OK right now.  It’s OK to not know what to do yet.  There may be nothing that can be done. The difficulty and vulnerability are its own teaching, its own worth and wisdom. We are learning to be in between.


The last part of this contemplation of the truth is somewhere in between takes me back to some teachings from the Yoga and Buddhist traditions as well as a few people I hold in my heart at this time.

In Yoga Philosophy, as expressed in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, there is the basic premise that wholeness, our spiritual origin, or the light of consciousness is always there.  It is the churning of the mind- our sensing, thinking, and selfing brain, that obscures the fuller reality of Oneness.   We confuse our own personal perception with the truth, again and again and again.

The path of Yoga is said to be simply, the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind, so the true light of consciousness can shine through.  While this sounds anti-intellectual, it is really about understanding consciousness and requires great amounts of viveka khyati, discriminative awareness, a high meta- cognition faculty.

To keep it simple, Yoga reminds us that our brain and perception are problematic. Even correct perception will ultimately be a stumbling block.  Yoga challenges us to hold to the oneness, rather than be caught in polarity.  To use our Rumi quote, to lie in that grass.  Again, to learn to be in between.

The Buddhist perspective, has a different take on ultimate reality.  Not as oneness or something constant to attune with; but as flux, change, impermanence.    It is our grasping and effort to control the uncontrollable that causes suffering.  Freedom from suffering is about loosening our grip. Like viveka kyhati of yoga- sati, mindfulness, is one of the important skills that helps us see what is actually happening in the body/mind and make choices that are freeing.  We are learning to be with life on life’s terms.

I won’t expound on Buddhism more, as I don’t want to do it an injustice.  What I will share are a few of the ways I felt it was conveyed to me that point again to the non-dual state. Both come from the Buddhist teacher I have been with most, Michelle McDonald.  She loves to refer to and quote from Nisargadatta Maharaj.  He was a modern Indian saint from the Vedic Tradition. Not a Buddhist, but considered by those of his time as a fully awake and realized person.  He did not teach theory, he only taught direct perception.  How to see through the duality to the deeper foundation of being.  His quote that I have rested in most is, “Wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. And between the two my life flows.” Once again, the invitation to acknowledge both /and.

The last story I will tell, related to all this is the response Michelle gave to someone’s question regarding the personal agenda of waking up; the paradox of seeking freedom when we are also told to let go of wanting, to be present now.  The younger teacher responded “Yes, that is the paradox, we learn how to bare it.”  Michelle in her maturity said, “No, it is only a paradox if you are in your head about it.  It is resolved when you stay close to the present moment, the direct experience of life unfolding.”

As closure I offer, you one more Michelle quote about the power and potential of true presence, which for me is the abode of the non-dual, in-between.  “The truth is we don’t know what is going to happen next…each moment is newborn or life isn’t alive.  Aliveness requires the birth and death of every moment. “

Blessings to my friend Katya who is currently living into dying.  And to my friend Nathan who slipped away too soon.

We are approaching Winter Solstice, the low point of sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere. The time of year and the election/transition predicament have me reflecting on an important myth in the yoga tradition.

It is called the Churning of the Ocean of Milk and tells the tale of a search for immortality. In order to find it, opposite beings must work & churn together; half on one side and half on the other. Alas, once it is found there is another struggle for which half shall imbibe it.

In the story, the light beings/Devas are the one half deemed to receive it. The dark forces/Asuras are tricked out of it; although, they receive much bounty along the way and would likewise have tricked the Devas themselves. Some of the dark forces get the nectar and are made immortal nonetheless- they continue to show their power in the form of eclipses, regularly blotting out light from the Sun and Moon. They also show their power in the form of wars and plagues in general; delusion, greed, and hatred in particular.

I image you are thinking, this sounds pretty familiar…

This myth, like many of its kind, points to the incessant struggle between light and dark forces. The supremacy of light, but also the relevance of shadow and darkness as well. In the full story, they were needed to churn the ocean and helped bring many gifts and splendors to the world. For instance, the last figure to arise from the Ocean with the chalice of nectar was Dhanvantri, a celestial physician and giver of medicine. And lest we think the Devas are perfect, there are plenty of stories of their follies and foibles.

What is useful about myth is the potential to see life from a non-logical, right brain perspective. They are links between our personal and collective dramas and a deeper understanding of life and humanity. The renowned mythology scholar Joseph Campbell called myths ”pubic dreams” and dreams “private myths”.

I invite you to gently consider what is useful about this story as you live into the rest of this strange, sad, and significant year? How do dream your private myth?

The outer light is waning at this time of year- the inner light is always available. Here’s my dream:

I shine my light for the benefit of all, without exception. We work together to create a better world for all beings.

Five Facets of a Mindful Person

One early analytical model of what it means to be a mindful person was developed by Ruth Baer PhD at the University of Kentucky. This model is significant in that indicates the most important factors and provides a way to measure mindful traits and how they might correlate to physical and mental outcomes. The analysis yielded five particular facets: acting with awareness, describing, non-reactivity to inner experience, non-judging of inner experience, and observing. Using this template, here are some key touchstones to orient you towards the cultivation of mindfulness on a regular basis.

1. Be aware of what you are doing.
This does not imply it is necessarily easy, pleasant, or interesting to pay attention; simply that you are showing up for the actual experience of living rather than going through the motions. Basic daily tasks can become mini- meditations: brushing your teeth, taking a shower, getting the mail, drinking water.

2. Find new ways to articulate your direct physical and emotional experiences.
We have lots of ways to talk about concepts and things, and often don’t know how to describe what we are sensing and feeling. There is great power in noticing what you notice and speaking from your present moment reality. Try it with simple things: How does a walk make your body feel? How does someone’s smile make you feel? How does it feel to be wrong or right about something? Or, to not know?

3. Recognize that you get stressed, triggered, reactive many times every day.
It may be related to past or future events on your mind; it may be situational or relational; it may be the state of world. Recognize that it is happening and work with the energy right now. These are your patterns and unconsciously influence how you will react and respond. Conscious breathing helps to harness the stress energy and shape the future.

4. Recognize that much of what you perceive is colored by your own judgments.
Judgements are unavoidable and limiting thoughts. It is helpful to remember that thoughts are just things, not fixed realities. They can and should evolve as we grow and learn. Play with catching some of your habitual judgmental thoughts, “Hello judgment!”

5. Awareness of Awareness.
The fifth facet has to do with the distinctly human ability to be aware of the mind itself, referred to as meta-cognition. This is where the formal practice of meditation is uniquely powerful as a way to be aware of sensations, emotions, thoughts, and not so reflexively driven by them. Meditation is linked to the phenomenon of brain integration, where the three levels of brain function coordinate in new ways.

Meditate in some way- it will help you live and lead with dignity.

Having a home yoga practice has a whole new meaning in this time of virtual yoga classes and social distancing.

Students have commented that while virtual classes aren’t quite the same, they have helped them create structure, practice more regularly, manage the stress of this extraordinary event; as well as, make, sustain, and renew connections with others.

There are also the privacy, convenience, and cozy factors.  You don’t have to drive across town for your favorite class, practice in your underwear if you want, and you have your pets nearby.

Taking all this into account, as well as some of the challenges, here are some suggestions about how to make the most of the virtual yoga experience.

  • Am I doing it right? Remember that Yoga is so much more than the poses and techniques; the process has its own magic. The way we endeavor to teach is extra awareness based so there is less chance of doing it wrong and more chance of learning from your direct experience.  *If you do have a particular question about technique, ask after class or email. 
  • What are we doing now? You can get lost at times….it may be that the teacher wasn’t perfectly clear or that you spaced out a bit….no big deal, just tune back in and find your way anew. If you have feedback for any of us in regards to clarity, tell us or email so we learn.
  • Is there anybody else out there? Sometimes it helps to notice the participant list of who is in class before we begin and recognize that you are doing this with other people at the same time. You are actually having a communal experience. There is a period before class and after class to say hello, and you can also just zoom in and out without socializing.
  • I really need to vacuum…It can be useful to create a dedicated space in your home. And to keep it clean and clear of stuff. This is a very classical recommendation for yoga, create the space that signals your brain that you are doing something special. If you can’t find that space in your home, or your device doesn’t allow that, it can just be your mat zone while you are on it.
  • Am I doing enough or am I getting lazy? Being physically challenged can be over-rated, you end up forcing it and creating pain rather than relieving it. And, it is hard for us as instructors to know what is safe and productive when we can’t see you. A good rule of thumb is to do 80% of what you think is doable. If you want to see how it is to challenge yourself with a particular pose, do it every day at 80% and see where you are in 1 week.

With the current corporate 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 …working on that Highway and reading Clifford Stolls: Silicon Snake Oil paved the Highway for me.

At the Sol Center, we had been questioning the efficacy of social media platforms for some 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.

Upon learning about the peril of Suzie Kelly in the Fall of 2019. It became abundantly clear, that it was now the time to depart Social Media platforms with immediate effect, and no longer offer any support to these platforms in any fashion. 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 also very liberating.

The catalyst for this departure came about after reading what had happened with Suzie Kelly’s 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.

I will 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.

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