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Posts tagged ‘breathing’

Why Retreat?

“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.

Neuroscience chat with Urvashi Hawkes

We invoked you (Urvashi – PhD candidate in neuroscience and Certified Teacher of Dancemeditation)   yesterday morning at the Advanced Group here in NYC.  I need to describe what we were doing.
We were using the inward Shafi. (Arabic: to Heal, to Cure)

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Breaths as Jewels

During the recent NYC Intensive, I wrote:
I entered the Black Velvet Inner-ness where breaths float as jewels.
Breath is the activator and lens of subtlety. In the realm of subtlety we can dissolve into that which is most infinite and most intimate. For Sufis, the court of love is found inside the subtlety inside the breath. Read more

Dust and Light

I lie in bed after reading Mary Oliver‘s Winter Hours, close my eyes, let what I’ve read — and how that reading has woken life and feeling and sensation and contemplation — stir around me, settling the way dust blown up by passing footsteps re-settles in a spot beside where it had been.

I lie in the morning gloaming. The City traffic noises, well underway, elbow through the open windows past early day breezes, to dance at the edges of my awareness. I lie on my side. My top arm slops down onto the bottom one. The top edge of my pelvis tips toward my head, swaying gently with my breathing. I think a little. I feel some emotion, some awe, some full-heartedness at Oliver’s words, which are already fading, my memory lets them slip onto the floor, like dropping a silk scarf, its fading trace remembered in skin.

I breathe. Full. And think of an oblong patch of sun stretching cat-like across one end of my kitchen table. In the winter, the shadow reclines undisturbed, or until clouds come along, or until it is time for midday to pick the shape up like a book, and move it to some other table in some other apartment. By spring, the light shudders as opening leaves of the tree outside push their shadows into its geometry.

For 20 years, a dancer lived in the apartment across the street, across the 4-story ravine. I saw her dancing behind her window frames late in the afternoon until she drew her curtains and blasted the wall with a rectangle of yellow light. In April, she put pots of flowers out on the fire escape, then stuck her head out several days a week until October to water them. She lived 30 feet away but I never met her. Then she left. The new tenants are rarely there; the window wears a manicured blind that is mostly closed, mostly dark. So there it is, slabs of light, appearing and disappearing without cutting a groove, tell me about the day, the neighbors.

Ric arrives home late in the evening after his full day. We have our decompression chat, his day, my day. We have our dinner ritual and our side-by-side movie watching ritual. We have our climbing into bed, and the moment of toes; he is already asleep as I reach my toes to lightly touch his foot or lower leg. And here’s the test for me, in the midst of his heavy slumber breath, he reaches back. He might even be snoring, yet his foot reaches back to mine. Our side-by-side, much of it wordless and repetitive, is a sure sun patch in my life. A miracle of us lying, light as light, across one another’s beings.


Taking Retreat Home

I’ve been feeling the spaciousness of retreat inside me since getting home from Movement Monastery. If I keep the practice going, not in an overwhelming way, but in a moderate, easy way, I keep panic at bay. That big wave of never enough time or money or recognition or whatever is bugging me at the moment doesn’t build up and crash on my head.

In the past I have liked setting aside time to practice in a sanctuary environment. It’s more solitary than at retreat, but I can replicate most of the circumstances (music, privacy, resting.) Recently I am enjoying practice ˜in the marketplace”. Simple and unobtrusive practices — breathing with awareness of different aspects of posture or motion is a good one — integrate well into workplace mechanics. The computer becomes a place of daily practice, and walking to the subway, shopping in Whole Foods, or sitting at a social dinner. I may have honed the skill in a vaulted room, bamboo swaying out the window as classical Persian music played, but awareness on breathing and embodiment fit in any room anywhere.