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




Practicing Generosity

I’m reading Norman Fischer’s book, The World Could Be Otherwise: Imagination and the Bodhisattva Path.  I’m in the section on Generosity, the practice of the “perfection” of generosity.  We can begin by being generous with ourselves, open to the abundance that is here.

Norman writes, “One of my teachers taught me to practice generosity by taking an object in my left hand and giving it to my right hand.  This seemed a bit silly to me, but when I tried it, I detected subtle feelings of gratitude or stinginess, various tiny clenchings of holding back or grasping, and sometimes, the ease of delight and joy. The inner details of actual giving are more complicated than you might think.”  

He goes on to say that the practice of self-generosity is not easy, requires “that you care about yourself in the same way you care about others – not more, not less.  This is not easy to do.”

I’m struck by this because I came to my teacher of Sensory Awareness through Norman Fischer.  I was in a poetry class with him and we weren’t cohering as a group. He requested we stand in a circle and touch the shoulders of the person in front of us.  He guided us to mindful touch. We then went outside to the grounds of Green Gulch Zen Center and wrote. When we came back together to read what we’d each written, we sat in a circle and went around the circle reading.  What we read was all of a piece. It was as though one person had written the whole. In touching each other, we’d bonded, cohered. 

He said if we were interested in what had just occurred, we should sign up for a workshop he’d just taken with one of his teachers, Charlotte Selver, and do it soon because she was very old.  At the time, she was 92. She lived to 102, practicing all the way. I signed up for a Sensory Awareness workshop with Charlotte, and was so entranced, I then followed her to a fishing village in Barra de Navidad, Mexico to study with her for a month.

Charlotte liked to work with stones.  We’d choose or be given a stone and become attached to it.  We might do exactly as Norman says here, practice giving it from one hand to the other, but then the big test came, giving it to someone else.  How is it to give the stone, this precious stone, to another?

One time in Barra, the stones were of various sizes, some small, and one so large and heavy I would call it a boulder.  One delicate woman went right up to it, hefted it up in her arms and struggled around the room, unwilling or unable to pass it to another, which was the task of this particular experiment. The idea was to know and bond with a stone for awhile and then either willingly or begrudgingly, but certainly with care, give it to another while receiving a different stone in its place. 

I’ve never forgotten the symbolism of watching this woman struggle to carry the burden of one huge stone. She held it close to her chest; she couldn’t let it go.  

In my book, Airing Out the Fairy Tale, I talk about meeting Charlotte and what her work has meant to me. I find her work well-expressed in these words of Eckhart Tolle.

To bring your attention to a stone, a tree, or an animal does not mean to think about it, but simply to perceive it, to hold it in your awareness.

Something of its essence then transmits itself to you. You can sense how still it is, and in doing so the same stillness arises within you.  You sense how deeply it rests in Being – completely at one with what it is and where it is. In realizing this, you can come to a place of deep within yourself.

I went to bed last night with news of one shooting and rose to read of another.  I suggest that each of us find a stone and pass it from one hand to another, perhaps find two stones and do this with someone else, passing stones back and forth for as long as is nourishing for you both.

There are many ways to heal. May today bring the changes we want to see, a unifying knowing we all are one.

Rock from Monhegan Island, Charlotte’s Summer Home


Connect

I’ve been intrigued by a branch that extends up and out from a tree in our yard.  It’s flimsy and yet seems a sentry place and point of delight for a variety of birds, large and small, and for the squirrel who scampers out to the top and swings back and forth.

It allows me to consider what it is to stretch and play and even feel that the squirrel, and I, as I watch with my mirror neurons, have wings.

Today in my Sensory Awareness call, I became aware that in closing my eyes, the lid wasn’t quite meeting the ball of my eye.  There was a holding back, a gap, a “mind the gap” awareness of an unconnected space.  

Curious, I explored and realized in my intention to live in impermanence, I had forgotten, or denied a place for tears.  I was trying to be brave, a noble pursuit, of course, but it is a pursuit, and not a momentary response.

I felt the tightness in my jaw, and in allowing that noticing, the hinge began to loosen and I felt the lower part of my jaw, the support for the front of my teeth, let go, like a hammock or net springing back and forth.  

There was rest there, movement, and support, and that allowed moisture to come and fill the space of my eyes, and with that wetness, a fluid glue, lid and ball came together to rest in connection, to kiss.

The heart moistens when we feel love.  So do the eyes. Moisten and connect in the joyful grace of swinging and living fluid and elastic. It is our birthright. It is our birth rite to use all of our being and trust the net.

Find a branch and swing



Impermanence

My sensory awareness group met today.  As I settled into myself and felt the support of the floor and the chair, a tear came and rolled down my cheek.  My throat felt tight and scratchy and I began to cough. Grief extended into my heart and down to my feet.

I shared that I was experiencing a visceral feeling of grief from my brother’s death on April 14th.  I had hoped I’d moved on.

Later, a woman  who’d just completed a workshop at Spirit Rock on death, dying and aging asked if I thought what I was feeling related “just” to my brother’s death.  I knew that it was more than that. She suggested that my feelings related to impermanence.

I could feel how true that was.

Later we worked with flexibility using partly inflated balls.  I felt my holding and inflexibility. I was trying to hold a stance of strength. I felt the work of holding back tears, what it does to my legs, neck, and spine.

What I learned today is that flexibility and impermanence relate and when I can honor the waves of both, float a little more openly on the natural movement I am, I can breathe, and tears may come, but in and through the tears there are waves, and released, I breathe, and am breathed.

Allowing immersion in impermanence, I hold both joy and sorrow, no dividing, and there I celebrate the wonder of being alive. Vitality is my wand and spring when I honor that impermanence is the ocean and land we share.  There’s nothing to do and nowhere to go. I’m here.

Even rocks know tears –

Day 75: A Little More on Grief

I sit here now after a Zoom call with three close friends.  The four of us spoke about and shared the weight and pain of grief.

I shared how on Tuesday I broke down when I bent to pet a little dog.  Sobbing I told the man who held the leash that my son and his wife had just lost their little dog Velvet/Vellie.

I’m not one to cry in public and certainly not with a man simply walking by.  What’s happening to me now? What is this weight that continues to break apart?

Anna led us today in Sensory Awareness.  We began by moving from our elbow, allowing our elbow to lead.   We then allowed the wrist to lead, the pinkie. As we moved the arm and shoulder blade, we felt into the back of our lungs, the front of our heart.

I felt how I hadn’t been breathing fully, had been holding onto my breath.  We spoke of how there may be a place for that, a place to hold back, and as I sit here I think of how grief, all grief, touches us deeply within and asks us to pull apart as though removing a shirt.  What is it to live with a full heart, open and exposed, beating, beating, beating, pounding the sound of breathing, connecting transition with love?

We agreed it may feel painful to allow the full pulse and weight of grief, but only those who do so are allowed to reach into the tangled thorns and bring forth the rose.

I look out now, allowing my eyes to open, flowers on a stalk, birthed and berthed, in the soil and soul of my heart.  

A rose in my garden


Sensory Awareness

I’ve been immersed in the practice of Sensory Awareness for over twenty-five years. I came to it when I was forty-three and knew immediately I was home. If you live in the San Francisco bay area, there’s a workshop coming up April 13 and 14. It offers an opportunity to taste more deeply and expansively this lovely world we share.

Here’s a photo of me and others touching a Gingko tree at Vallombrosa in Menlo Park. This year the workshop will be at the Shambhala Center in Berkeley to make it easier to access.

The practice of Sensory Awareness is a gift in my life.

If you’re interested, check it out: https://sensoryawareness.org