Sensory Awareness

I came to Sensory Awareness in 1993 and for me, it’s been a lifeline, a lifeline of fluidity and connection.

Here’s a beautiful offering and taste.

Find a comfortable place to watch and participate as Stefan leads us From Isolation to Connection.

Honoring Movement in the Moment

I ventured out today and wore my mask into the grocery store.  It’s been two weeks and it was time, but the whole experience felt strange and overwhelming.

Yesterday, Lee Klinger Lesser ended the Sensory Awareness workshop by reading a children’s book to the 125 of us who were on Zoom and spread across the globe.  She read Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes, and we all joined in to sing along and clap our hands.   

I hate to destroy the ending for you but I will say that when Pete steps in blueberries, he sings, “I love my blue shoes,” and when he steps in strawberries, “I love my red shoes,” and when in mud, “I love my wet shoes.”  We sang together around the world a rather silly song but not really because no matter what was happening with his shoes, Pete loved them, and here we all are, caught in a situation we wouldn’t choose, and yet, we can clap and sing, “I love my shelter-in-place”, and in my case, “I love that those I love are currently safe in their respective shelters-in-place”.  I have hands to clap, a voice to sing, and feet I can move and tap and swing.  

I know it’s about how I meet what comes, so I put my hands together now, and feel that meeting, and hope as I meet myself, I meet you too, in the movement in the moment, this moment, now.  Peace!

Meeting

Each One of Us

This morning I’m thinking about superheroes.  I watched Superman as a child but have never really related to the idea of a superhero, and this morning I realized why.  We are all superheroes, and babies and small children show us the way if we forget.

My almost six month old grandson can now use both hands to put things into his mouth.  Somehow that new ability seems like the most superhero thing I can imagine. 

I watch this little guy learn something new every day as he reaches out to explore his environment.

I’ve been studying and practicing Sensory Awareness for 27 years, and yet yesterday being led on the Sensory Awareness Zoom call I felt and learned something new. I felt a new awareness of what it is to be centered, to be off-balance and centered.  I played with the two learning that the center is always there for me, and in that dance of play, I can branch out like a tree.

I felt what it is to be still enough to feel the movement of breath in and out, not just through heart, throat, and lungs but everywhere. I receive, and without doing anything, my inner moves in and out. I’m involved even when still, perhaps even more so when still.

We are all Superheroes, and letting ourselves feel and honor that, well, that is a gift.

My Maple Tree this morning!

Sensory Awareness

A Sensory Awareness workshop retreat was planned for this Saturday and Sunday in Berkeley, CA. Shelter-in-place has changed that. Now, it will be a free online retreat. If you are curious, you can check it out here:

https://sensoryawareness.org

There’s a beautiful video on the website that gives a sense of what the practice of Sensory Awareness is about.

I stumbled into Sensory Awareness in a poetry workshop with Norman Fischer at Green Gulch Zen Center in 1993. The group wasn’t coming together so Norman led us in some sensing. We stood in a circle and touched the shoulders and back of the person in front of us. We then distributed ourselves around the landscape of Green Gulch and wrote. When we came back together, we sat in a circle and read what we’d written. As we read around the circle, it was as though we’d written one poem.

Intrigued, I signed up to study with Charlotte Selver, the founder of Sensory Awareness. I studied with her in Mexico, and on Monhegan Island off the coast of Maine. Charlotte lived nearby so I also studied here. In 2005 and 2006 when I went through chemotherapy and radiation for cancer treatment, Sensory Awareness was my lifeline. It’s a gift you can give yourself, especially now in such challenging times.

This weekend offers an opportunity to check Sensory Awareness out in the privacy of your home. It’s an invitation for support. I’ll be there, well, here, but in a square on the Zoom screen.

A workshop at Vallombrosa Center a few years ago

Every Moment Is A Moment

We still “shelter in place” though this morning I rose early and walked around my neighborhood.  No one was out; all are tucked.

I wonder if there is a collective fear I feel since all in my realm are fine, even though we are all separately tucked.  

My mantra continues to be the words of Charlotte Selver, my teacher of Sensory Awareness.  I first met Charlotte in 1993. Over and over again, she said, “Every moment is a moment.” “Every moment can be cherished.”

Sensory Awareness carried me through chemotherapy and radiation. I return again and again to her words.

“What we allow of sensitivity is closely associated with love and innocence. A person who is self-conscious cannot allow.”  

I wonder if the banding together that is now required as we figure out how to share and function as a community is allowing us to return to love and innocence.  We don’t know what’s coming but we do know we’re in this together. I isolate to protect others, to allow the pandemic to come to calm.  I’m not alone in this. I have my place to stand and rest, my place to cultivate peace.

Charlotte continues, “It must come out of the direct contact of our real inner connection.”

I continue to reach within, to feel and allow. I trust what’s there to come forth in support.

Yesterday on the Sensory Awareness call, Stefan Laeng played the songs of blackbirds he’d recorded. I felt my heart sing in response.

Charlotte said: “There is a certain relationship which I have to have with my inner functioning – that of respect and that of wonder.”

I marvel at the functioning of the natural world, the world within me, and the world of which I’m part.  Birds are singing and I hear their wings pulse as they fly. They are supported by the weight of movement and space in their structure. We share the air.

Jasmine climbs the fence, jubilantly luxurious in answering the call and thrust of Spring

More on Sensory Awareness

In my last post I wrote about Sensory Awareness and an experiment where one feels what happens when making a fist and letting it go.

Here is more explanation of what it can mean in one’s life. It comes from Lee Klinger Lesser’s website in the section on the History of Sensory Awareness.

http://www.returntooursenses.com

Living with Fear – Surviving the Nazis

The impact of this work was far reaching. Gindler continued to teach in Berlin throughout World War II. She hid Jewish people in her studio and worked in subtle and powerful ways to help her students endure and meet what they were facing. One of her students, who was Jewish, Johanna Kulbach, describes her experience:

“The effect of the work was that I lost the fear. I was very much afraid. They were terrible times; we had bomb attacks and besides that we never knew when we were going to be put in a concentration camp – you never knew. I learned instead of staying in fear, to live in spite of it. That’s what I learned. So I got stronger and healthier, instead of really ill, as so many people did. I remember one time we experimented in making a fist and feeling out what it did to us. It was not only the fist that was tight; my stomach was in knots, my breathing was tight – it was total tightness. If you hold this for a while and are aware how tight you are, you yearn for letting go. Gindler kept us at this until I had a good sensation of what it is to be tight. Then slowly, slowly, the fist came open, and I tried to feel what changes happened. For the first time I experienced what it means to change after being afraid. . . That is what the work is: that you learn to sense where you hold, where living processes are not permitted to function. And when you are aware of the holding – where you are not allowing yourself to function – then it’s possible to let it go. But you have to sense it…”
(Kulbach, 1978, p.15).

Imagination

This is a beautiful talk on baking cookies, play, holding a snowball as it melts, and ushering in grief. Love ferociously! Live!

Honor the senses all the way!

Flow

Fog moved in while I slept.  I felt her coming so I closed windows and doors before I hopped into bed.  I’d been outside with the moon and stars, beacons and now the fog is a kiss, a soothing mist.  I know what it is to be a flower wet with dew that will lift.

I stayed in bed this Sunday morning; it was still dark. I opened and closed my eyes, played with reception, allowing what was here to come to me. 

Simplicity, noticing, opening, awareness.  What am I receiving?  And then, there was no separation; my hands rose, light.  

I considered the words that so affected Charlotte Selver when she heard them from Elsa Gindler.

“Do you feel the air through which you move?”

And in feeling the air, the weight of it, I thought, and “Do I feel the air that moves through me?”

And there I played, a dance of movement, air and me, relationship. Again, I was with the expansion I felt with my brother’s passing, doors opening until there are no doors; there are no walls.   

The words of William Blake came to me. “If the doors of perception were cleansed then everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern”.

Is that how I see? And perhaps for a moment there was a glimpse simply received.

And then the kitties called. It was breakfast time. After rising, feeding them, and watching water drip through a filter of coffee, and then, adding cream, I walked outside and was brought to the contemplation of non-duality, and these words of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj from his book I Am That. 

Love says: ‘I am everything’. Wisdom says: ‘I am nothing’. Between the two my life flows.”

Between the two, my life flows.  

Cascade Falls in Fall


Hugging and Arriving

My neighborhood book group met last night.  Walking home in the dark, I heard rustling in the bushes.  My flashlight revealed that a skunk was rummaging through grasses; he or she was intent.  At first, I felt a bit of trepidation, oh, great, I might get sprayed, but then, there was such serenity in the encounter, each of us with a mission and destination, one for food, and one for home.

I continued on, honoring that we each have our niche, our paths, and our meeting in the night was simply awareness, one with nuzzling, and one with steps.  

I’m with arriving.  What it is to arrive and be with ourselves all along the way?

I’m reflecting on arriving because two friends and colleagues, Pamela Blunt and Francesca Khanna, are offering a monthly workshop on Presence and Sensitivity.  One can be anywhere on the planet and call in or participate in a Zoom call.

Their invitation and introduction shares the words of Rumi from his poem “Bird Wings”.

Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced as birds’ wings.

Sinking into that invites a pause. I feel the beat of my heart, it’s transmission through arms to hands and fingers that touch this keyboard sending thoughts who knows where and who cares. Shoulder blades and neck wing, whisks stirring the lift in air. Spine responds, answers a call.

The Presence and Sensitivity invite offers the words of the Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, “Don’t say I depart,  I am arriving …”

A few years ago I participated in a Sensory Awareness workshop with Lee Klinger Lesser at Tassajara.  Tassajara is a sacred place of enchantment, and after I’d checked in, I was standing in front of the office smiling, feeling gentle with peace, joy, and gratitude.  Lee walked up to me smiling, and asked, “Have you arrived?”  

“Yes,” I said.  “I have arrived”, but after being there working with stones, lying on rocks in the creek, walking back and forth, aware of cleanliness being more than body and teeth, but also mind, a cleansing and flossing of mind and space and intertwining, I knew that with time and this space, I’d embodied a new understanding of arriving.

This moment, right here, enough. 

Perhaps arriving is knowing enough – fullness and emptiness and all that is between.  My head comes forward and rises, occiput soft to receive.  

And now I introduce Crissy.  The woman who hosted book group last night has a daughter with special needs.  Crissy is in her 30’s, and unabashedly creative in what she wears. Yesterday when I walked up the stairs to their home, she saw me, and gave me a great big hug.  She doesn’t know my name, but that didn’t matter. I was clearly there for a hug.

When we gathered in a circle outside, she went around and everyone received a hug, and not a touch of a hug. This was a full body hug that went on and on and on.  What a way to begin each moment, with a full body and spiritual hug. It’s not always possible perhaps, but then, intention can be set.

In 1966, Thich Nhat Hanh learned the power of hugs when a woman friend took him to the airport, and asked if it was okay to hug a monk.  He thought since he was a Zen teacher, that yes, it must be okay, but then he realized that he was stiff and uncomfortable with the hug.  In response, he created hugging meditation. He teaches:

According to the practice, you have to really hug the person you are holding. You have to make him or her very real in your arms, not just for the sake of appearances, patting him on the back to pretend you are there, but breathing consciously and hugging with all your body, spirit, and heart. Hugging meditation is a practice of mindfulness. “Breathing in, I know my dear one is in my arms, alive. Breathing out, she is so precious to me.” If you breathe deeply like that, holding the person you love, the energy of your care and appreciation will penetrate into that person and she will be nourished and bloom like a flower.

That might be enough but he continues on.

Hugging is a deep practice; you need to be totally present to do it correctly. When I drink a glass of water, I invest one hundred percent of myself in drinking it. You can train yourself to live every moment of your daily life like that.

Before hugging, stand facing each other as you follow your breathing and establish your true presence. Then open your arms and hug your loved one. During the first in-breath and out-breath, become aware that you and your beloved are both alive; with the second in-breath and out-breath, think of where you will both be three hundred years from now; and with the third in-breath and out-breath, be aware of how precious it is that you are both still alive. 

When you hug this way, the other person becomes real and alive. You don’t need to wait until one of you is ready to depart for a trip; you may hug right now and receive the warmth and stability of your friend in the present moment.

You won’t physically hug in Pam and Fran’s offering, but if you want more information, contact me, and meanwhile enjoy the continually expanding and contracting, the breathing hug of air we all share.

For Real


Curiosity

Yesterday, my Sensory Awareness group, a quartet, met on a Zoom call.  We were exploring balance and dizziness by noticing and experimenting with different ways to be with our tongue which leads to examination of all.  At one point, Siri joined in, and said, “I can’t help you with that.” How right she is. There are enjoyments and moments only we can create.

As I felt my tongue, allowed it out into the air flickering and tasting like a snake, my breath changed.  I felt my tongue like a tail, yes, an augmentation to my balancing act. When I allowed my head to come forward, I felt the muscles around my occiput let go, and sinuses filled with fresh air.  My eyes bloomed, and breath came, breath came up from the earth into my feet, up through my heart, and into the air, a shower, an embrace.  

Perhaps this sounds silly but maybe today you’ll feel inclined to place a finger on the muscular organ that is your tongue.  Maybe a quiver of intention will sharpen your attention as you honor this place the Egyptians called the Rudder of the Soul.

I’m noticing now that when I’m involved in a task, my tongue often comes out to help.  It offers ballast and balance.   

After this exploration with friend tongue, I went to my local grocery store, Good Earth, and chose three bunches of fresh basil.  Unwilling to stifle or stuff them in a bag, I carried them through the store like a bouquet.  

Home, I rinsed the leaves, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, then, garlic, a little salt, and then slowly pouring in olive oil pulsed it all together in the food processor.  Presto, pesto!   

I felt such gratitude in doing this simple task that I felt compassion for those so burdened with servants that they may never have worked with or prepared their own food, never washed a favorite dish.   It’s a balance of course, but Steve and I are living in gratitude these days, each moment, pure grace.  

And thanks to easy information access, I learn that the tongue is anchored to the floor of the mouth, and various muscles keep it “suspended” in the throat.

And so, I bring it out to play, and run it back and forth between my teeth, mind in teeth meeting flexibility and strength, the wave that is the tongue.

Sunset last night – moon floats off to the right – a rudder for the sky