There is a big idea is Sufism known as Nafs. Resistance to practice is entwined there. Nafs, in brief, are self-destruction. More gently put, they are the aspects of self that undermine core soul hungers of Self. They can show up as fear, doubt, or lack of self respect. Read more
Posts tagged ‘breathing’
In an earlier post I wrote about coming home from retreat and, with all that new juice, getting involved in lots of projects and using the energy lavishly though often unwisely. I remember those words as I return to NYC with recharged batteries, as if the New Mexico sun had charged my soul. I am aware that all the cleansing breaths I’ve taken on the mesa have been healing. The light has been healing. And my cells feel wonderful. Alive!
Back in NYC I focus on business. I sit in front of my computer and type away. I’m on the phone. I email. I organize Dancemeditation sessions and ‘run the store’. But as I do, I feel what I am doing. Inside my apartment, I inhale EMFs. As I walk along the street, I inhale heavy metals. With every breath comes poison.
NYC is a stimulant — caffeine or speed. It’s a great jolt, useful in creative tasks and for un-spooling complex ideas. The mesa is nourishment. Direct inspiration. I make the two sound very black and white. Who wouldn’t prefer the mesa? But the mesa has its rigors. Its austerity is a large part of its ability to heal, and that must be gotten used to. New York is materially cushy. Lots of water. Lots of electricity. Anything you could possibly want — for a price.
The power of NYC for me has always been its raw energy. If I can transform it with my practice I have a dynamic resource, but I have to transform it, not get lost in it, or follow its whims and tides which easily chew up a soul.
I feel almost as if I need to get all my business work done quickly before I lose my juice. But then I realize that the healing that took place on the mesa is changing how I am working. I breathe as I type. I tend toward balance. I don’t teeter on an edge. I am all here, and being all here is far less crazy, less volatile, less self- destructive than past ways I’ve lived in NYC.
I stopped in at Grace Church on 10th and Broadway to listen to the noon organ concert. That was a nice break. The cool colored light. The smell of wooden pews and leather prayer books. Timelessness, to breathe and be bathed in music.
The Dharma-Karma Thing is what I call the sense of two divergent, often dissonant, but equally substantial streams of purpose running through my time on earth. Karma—the world, family, business, stuff, stuff—feels a bit heavy. Dharma feels like the forward unfolding of spiritual Path, my reason for being born. Both carry responsibilities and both bring satisfaction or misery, but one is laden with the past and the other is the freedom of becoming True.
Many birds today. And the ravens!
Talking. It’s wind. Air moves in shapes and temperatures. I am mostly involved in expressing meaning and oblivious to the shaping by my tongue teeth, lips, and throat of little gusts of air into rounded, clipped, or coiled forms. Talking all comes down to breath. Gale, zephyr, breeze, wail. As I talked with a friend, I had a perception of my words as being buffoon-like, the wheeze of antique bicycle horn, or a guttering candle end. Part of me was present in my words while another part witnessed my conversation in abstraction, as sounds devoid of discernible content, and right there, in middle of throat motions and noises, I felt relaxation. Has the pressure to express meaning co-opted my breath?
Thought, perception, and reflection are beautiful. Talking is beautiful. Like everything, it is most beautiful when it is relaxed, not driven, compressed, or glued together in Frankenstein shapes. I love when a true perception forms itself in within me, rolls along my tongue, catches a flow of exhale, and, if it needs to, eddies gently out. I also love when my thoughts aren’t driven to emerge but instead, roam free and breathless through the my neurotransmitter corridors, becoming this and that, popping up, dying away, cobbling into new contraptions.
Could breath come and go, the throat open, sounds come out, and not mean anything? Is meaning so essential? Must every bodily squirt come to something?
Lisa Michaels, VP of Sacred Dance Guild interviews Dunya May 19, 2011.
The Sacred Dance Guild and Natural Rhythms offers an exciting tele-interview series focused on exploring the many ways people express spirituality in dance, hosted by life long dancer and current SDG Vice-President Lisa Michaels.
I lay belly down on the deck of my cabin, rolling my thighs on warming wood, smelling the day. I watched a small brown bird hop from blade to blade in the grass. All of sudden my breath opened deep. I felt my body melt into the wood, and my back absorb the blue sky peeling away the fog cover. All the days spent witness dancing in workshop in recent years, where I learned to watch people without ‘leaving my body’, suddenly clicked in. I’ve worked diligently over time to stay in my body and see, stay connected to my breath and see. This morning it blossomed naturally, unbidden and un-labored. I was seeing, breathing, feeling my body.
In the past, I’ve so often seen through a haze of my preoccupations. I’ve been afraid of letting time pass, of letting it slow, of letting it stop, sit beside me, and open the tight little packet in my chest.
Today the bees still toddled from dandelion to dandelion, but there were the front edges of autumn — choke cherries veined with burnt red, the sun leaning down at angle, and the first migrating ‘v’ of birds. Time so full. My body filling with it all.
by DDMcPherson (excerpt from new novel)
She let her breath sink oily and heavy into the bottom of her pelvis, then drew it up, hand-over-hand, along the center of her body. It made its quiet way into her head. where it spread, tickling the inside of her skull. Her breath touched its tendrils gingerly along this membrane, fine veiny lines of sensation, filaments or root hairs.
I watched an apocalyptic storm over Casco Bay for two hours, as I had watched long twilights at Summer Movement Monastery this past June.
Gray-green skies erupted in pummeling rain, rolled with gunshot cracks & cannon booms.
At first my body didn’t touch the ground. I breathed. Gravity took me. My tissues unwound.
The storm raged. I inhaled the scent of electricity & fresh cut grass. Leaves flipped their silver underskirts. Flashes of light strobed & spit, and the hot bony finger of lightening accused the bay.
I breathed & watched. This stayed with me and opened newly.
Turning away, turning toward.
Whirl clockwise and you’re on your own.
Turn counterclockwise, against time, and you’re with the Sufis.
Sufis melt fragments into the sky sea,
rain them on a desert garden,
bloom them in the shape of every Other flower, forgetting the birthright fragrance.
Foreheads rest on a warm iron planetary hub
and toes wander near the nearing moon.
Upside down, you think.
Inside out. She said this time and time again.
The wet smoke and dry blood,
sprouts dancing backward into the seed.
When the Earth is oiled with her own feathers
and the sky tumbles here and there,
we can still write still poems
and watch them drift off in our bottle minds.
To the monastery!
To where cleaner lies think themselves,
& where, thinking gone walking,
we get at least one trustworthy breath.
— D. D. McPherson
“Action expresses priorities.”
— Mahatma Gandhi
To change anything takes practice. Addictions — they’re bad habits. Very bad. Beyond our reach, we say to ourselves. Beyond our will power. Breaking them takes more than wishful thinking, more than a few days of intentionality. If you’re hooked on addictive substances, you’re dug in deep; you need a 12-step or more. But if you’re in a self-destructive rut, retreat works.
One part of Summer Movement Monastery is training out of self-destructive habits. The body needs time and repetition — more than once or twice. Two weeks of preparing and eating cleansing food isn’t only a yearly retreat clean-out; it’s a springboard to taking care of oneself by preparing and eating good food daily throughout the year. Two weeks gives our bodies enough time to retain the new experience, to develop a comfort with it, and a preference for it.
Amazing to think that many of us live on crap, dead food, predominantly cooked by slave labor of others, but we’re so busy, etc., blah-blah-blah. At Summer Movement Monastery, we get rid of blah-blah-blah for two weeks. We prepare and eat good food, envision how we will implement this at home, then prioritize this action.
We also practice Dancemeditation. Why didn’t I say this first? Because its more obvious. We know we are in session 7 hours a day, and we can imagine, or know from experience in other retreats, that we retain a craving, at least for a while, to do practice at home.
The most important thing about the 7 hours of Dancemeditation daily in retreat is what I call the Operation. Our time in retreat makes a permanent spiritual change. After, we return to our world in a changed condition. Yes, it’s possible to forget that this happened, possible to bury the change under dark choices, but why? A Path has called us. All we have to do is open to it, spend time with the Guide and group, and then not forget. Retreat is a spiritual rip in time. We enter Timeless Time concerned with our spiritual evolution. Permanent change — the Operation — happens because our Deepest Being needs Communion with the Deep, All-Pervasive Subtle. We need what is beyond the daily world of cars and screens and din.
There is plenty of discourse about whether or not a Path should be socially useful. Should spirituality be politically active to be relevant? Are our choices to make a better world a result of how evolved we are? Is positive change possible, and can we even effect positive change without changing our condition? Or is the world a mirage and all that matters is the internal spiritual struggle? Does activism distract from spiritual path?
No matter how you consider your own role in the world, or the role of spiritual path in your life, retreat is where the most accelerated growth happens. Looking at retreat from the most mundane perspective regardless of your philosophical stance, cultivating positive habits is, at the very least, good for you and the world.