Sunday, September 8, 2019

Embodied Integrity

Embodied integrity practices begin with cultivating presence.

Presence starts with body sensations – inhabiting our bodies and sensing in and through our embodied experience.

Presence deepens as we attune with and include subtle energetic movements within our embodied awareness.

Presence deepens as we notice our thoughts, and feel their energetic tone and impact on our experience.

Presence integrates as we progress in our capacity to include physical, emotional, and mental dimensions within our awareness, and easily shift attention among these three areas.

Presence expands with a sense of spaciousness.

Spaciousness opens up our capacity to bridge past and future and to begin to digest past, unresolved experiences which allows new possibilities to emerge.

Spaciousness opens up our capacity to relate with others, and to attune with their experiences whether they are similar or different than ours.

Spaciousness allows us to notice the impact of our behaviors.

Spaciousness allows us to sense cultural dynamics which we are a part of and which are a part of us.


Join me to practice presence:

Friday, September 6, 2019

Channeling

Whenever I read or hear about someone who says they channel their work, or channel another entity, I am intrigued.  What I understand is another -- higher, more evolved, better...? -- source is being cited. 

I wonder, higher than what?

Usually I don't perceive harm or intended harm in these claims, although a claim to channel a more highly evolved source could be used as an attempt manipulate others.  Mostly though it seems to be a way to separate from ego structures, as if to say, "I am not claiming that I am evolved, and look, my creation is!"

This perspective inspires sadness in me.  I'm sad that we live in a world where we believe a better answer can come from somewhere outside us.  I'm sad that many people, including me, still struggle at least some of the time with reliably trusting ourselves, and our own resources and creativity.

When we ground ourselves in who we are and how we actually are in this moment, AND open ourselves to the freshness of discovery, grace, insight, creativity, we bridge our past, present, and futures into a new possibility.  We channel who and how we are becoming.

Thomas Huebl speaks of it as locating our particular cosmic address:
- Grounding in this moment right here, right now, including whatever remains unresolved.
- Attuning with our bodies, emotions, and thoughts, as well as a sense of spaciousness.
- Connecting ever more subtly with spaciousness not as a way to avoid or disconnect from embodiment, but as an expansion of embodiment, into what's new and what's next.

People channel in many ways, including movement practices such as ecstatic dance, yoga, tai chi, martial arts; stillness practices such as meditation, contemplation, and prayerful listening; and engaging in what they love to do, which Gay and Katie Hendricks describe about discovering and living in genius. 

Happy Channeling!


Monday, August 5, 2019

"Scared" is an Invitation to Self-Connect & Align with Your Inner Guidance

"Scared" is a feeling,
as well as a reflection of the current state of our nervous system.
Like all feelings,
fear needs to be included within awareness
and fully responded to
for us to be at home in embodied wholeness.

Fear blocks us from self-connection,
responsibility, and empowered actions
especially when we are numb to it or avoiding it.
What we are actually avoiding is ourselves.

When we are scared or anxious, our fear needs attention,
and connecting with it supports us to recognize
and align with our inner, felt wisdom of “yes” and “no.”

When we choose an  evolutionary path,
continually choosing to open to discovery, connect,
and expand capacity for love, contribution and fulfillment,
we continue to discover pockets of fear within.

 How people discover their inner blocks
- fragments of fear -
may vary from person to person.
For me, interactions with people
tend to show me my inner blocks.

Presencing fear-blocks,
which is another way to say trauma,
especially through connection with someone
who is sensitively attuned to feelings / energy,
allows fear which was fragmenting and blocked
to release into our wholeness
and re-join our greater flow.


Contemplation questions to wonder about:

- How do I notice when I feel stuck, anxious, defensive or afraid?

- When  I notice any of those states, how do I experience that in my body?

- How can I support myself ( or receive support ) to sustain attention with my experience in a friendly way so that I can connect more deeply with myself ?

- How can I appreciate myself for my willingness to engage on my path of discovery?

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Yoga and Mastery

The topic of mastery is of interest to me.  I am a practitioner, student, teacher and teacher trainer of yoga who learned through a traditional guru-student tradition, which benefited me immensely.  I have not personally experience abuse of power in yoga.  Since I'm writing about mastery, power paradigms, and abuse of power, it is important to me to say that clearly, and to express my gratitude for the generosity and wisdom of my teachers, who made major impacts on my life.  I literally cannot imagine being here today without these transformative experiences.  *

I am aware of instances where power has been abused in teacher student relationships -- these things have been in the news and are being revealed.  I think moving into greater transparency, responsibility, and accountability, as well as a greater understanding of power dynamics, is good and much needed. 

The traditional way to learn yoga was (to be a man) and study with a guru - a master teacher.  Today, people are still drawn to learn from teachers and spiritual leaders they perceive as masters.

From Merriam-Webster, here are two definitions of mastery:
1. The first definition is: "a. the authority of a master : dominion" and "b: the upper hand in a contest or competition : superiority, ascendancy"
2. Merriam-Webster's second definition is: "a: possession or display of great skill or technique" and "b: skill or knowledge that makes one master of a subject : command"


When we admire someone who is highly skilled at what they do, we can consciously or unconsciously perceive them as more evolved in general.  For instance we might assume that a spinal surgeon knows all about rehabilitating a back injury without surgery.  We might trust that a political activist for social justice would be fair in their personal relationships.  We might believe that a yoga teacher who can do extreme yoga poses -- related to flexibility, strength, or balance -- behaves compassionately and respects personal boundaries.  We might assume that having mastery or a gift in one area will naturally include other areas. 

We might put a person on a pedestal even if the person we are admiring doesn't want to be perceived that way.  And, there are people who exploit others, who see themselves as better than, higher than, or more evolved than others and will intentionally take advantage.  There is a long line of people who have perpetuated this sort of abusive power-over in most every area of life:  entertainment, politics, business, religion, spirituality and yoga. 

There is another way we can perceive mastery, cultivating our ability to relate in an empowered way even as we acknowledge a person's mastery and gifts related to a particular topic or area of life.  In a competence hierarchy, people who have knowledge and wisdom and expertise can share that with others who want and choose to learn and/or receive their expertise, without giving away their own power and authority.  This paradigm of mastery is built on self-empowerment and responsibility, collaboration, and empowerment of others, and a valuing of all humans, all life, and nature. As we integrate this paradigm, we can expand our capacity to align our actions to value life and move toward restoration where there have been abuses of power.

~~

I’m launching two Embodied Leadership & Yoga Teacher Trainings this fall to share what I’ve accumulated in the 20 years I’ve delved into yoga, meditation, leadership, embodiment, and teaching.  I’m happy to share these with you!

* A foundational 200 hour training for people who want to deepen their knowledge and integration of yoga, and learn to teach, whether or not they plan to teach yoga.

* An advanced 300 hour training for people who have already completed their initial 200 hours, whether or not they are teaching or plan to.

All the information is on my website: evolutionaryyogacollective.com



* My c.v. is here, which includes my studies and major teachers!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Life is a Dance

Trauma is life energy that freezes, holds, or stops moving when faced with a situation that our autonomic nervous system (an automatic physiological response) classifies as life threatening.  This action protects -- or attempts to protect -- us.

While life exists, the possibility of healing exists too. 


Like springtime after a long, cold winter, the buds of life bloom again, and for those who are willing, the possibility of healing exists.

Just like the seasons, life is always moving. 

When we feel emotional pain that has a disproportionate intensity to it, we are contacting the energy that once couldn't move through.

Life wants to connect.

Emotional pain is a funny thing.  So often it's not about what we think it's about, although that doesn't make the experience of hurting any less real.  The emotional energies within long to be presenced, held in compassionate awareness.  We humans are wired to connect with ourselves and each other.

We are made of compassionate awareness.

However entrenched or stuck we may be, with compassionate, connected support, gradually the trauma re-emerges to be felt through, allowing the energy to move again.

Movements of Healing -- Choose Your Verb(s):
meeting how you are,
listening,
connecting,
participating with,
breathing,
feel-thinking,
loving,
creating,
collaborating,
expressing in a non-linear way through art, vocal expression
and dancing.  I saved the best for last.


The next class is October 10, 2019.


Sunday, April 28, 2019

Infinite Connection


Connection to ourselves, and all that we are as human beings is an infinite journey.  Whenever we look into an aspect of ourselves and begin to refine our awareness, more and more details become available to us:  there is infinite depth.  As we continue to grow and adapt to the world which is also changing and growing, we discover infinite breadth.  And since our body-mind systems have an innate potential to restore and heal, we are continually re-weaving as we deepen our practice!  Factor in relating with the beings around us, who are also on their own evolving journeys, and we begin to get a sense of the scope of discovery that is possible.  In this exploration, as we explore and learn and understand more, and we also expand a sense of how much more remains unknown to us. 

Meeting the unknown, we practice grounding ourselves in curiosity and openness to discovery.  At first, this seems risky.  Yet as we continue on this path, we begin to be touched by beauty, which supports a sense of softening, acceptance, compassion which leads us to an embodied experience of love.  Not love as a concept, but love as an energy, a way of being, which unfolds itself in mysterious ways. 


Art - Source Unknown

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Will or Surrender?

(Originally shared in a newsletter - January 19, 2019)

Hello Friends,

Many years ago, I remember sitting with my teacher.  It was time for a new mantra for me, and he explained to me that there were two main doorways into the tradition I was studying, called Sri Vidya, which means resplendent wisdom.  One of the doorways is characterized by practices that cultivate and hone the qualities of will, knowledge and action.  The other doorway is characterized by practices related to surrender and devotion.  Both doorways and both sets of practices lead to the same place, the same divine center of wholeness, containing fire and light.  Years later another teacher drew a diagram of two paths, one moving actively up the spine as the personal evolves to gradually include the collective, and the other receiving light from above down the spine, from divine receptivity to embodiment.  In both cases, separate practices are prescribed on a particular path that is distinct from the other, AND the paths are ultimately “not-two,” in that they each culminate in embodiment, humanity, wholeness, and are lit by a spark of divine blessing, evolution, and creativity.

In the first meeting I described, I chose the path of will, knowledge and action.  It sounded exciting to me – spiritual warriorship!  And it was; it is.  In this last year, I have sometimes felt amused (in my good moments) as I have faced into life-changes that I did not see coming.  Wondering how I could cope with challenging and unexpected events, it dawned on me that I could actively choose to surrender and do practices to cultivate my connection and receptivity to light. Now I understand these two paths, and how they are different and similar, in a more visceral way than I ever expected.  I am grateful for this gift.

Let me know if you’d like to know more about these pathways and related practices.  I include this information in my yoga teacher trainings, and I have a very special teacher training offering in the works which I will announce soon.  I will also include some of this information in my upcoming online class – Evolutionary Embodiment.

I have landed in St. Louis, and I am happy to say it feels like home.  My process of arriving here reminds me of the story, “Are you my Mother?”   Here as I ask, “are you my home?” I feel a “yes.”  And I smile, grateful!

I have added a few subs at my long-term yoga home, Big Bend Yoga Center.  See the dates here. 
I am starting a weekly yoga class (Wednesday mornings 7:15am) and a weekly Transformation Playground Dance Class (Tuesday evenings 7:15pm) at Yoga Source this week. 

I am available and in the market for more work, such as the following:
I am looking for other places to teach regular yoga classes, and regular Transformation Playground Dance classes.  (Preferably not on weekends, so I can keep those available for workshops and trainings.) 
I am also available for Yoga private sessions, group sessions, corporate yoga, or specialty classes. 
I intend to add workshops, special events and online classes very soon. 

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of service to you or your community.

And, I am wondering specifically where and how I want to create a more permanent living arrangement here in the St. Louis area.  (Is anything in this world permanent? …. Well, maybe not, but still that’s the kind of thing I want to create.)  My exploration is still unfolding – commence daily action plus surrender! 

Abundant Blessings,
Rhonda

Thursday, April 4, 2019

The Beauty of Meditating Together

Meditation supports, empowers, and expands my healing and personal growth, for many years now.

What most excites me about individual meditation these days is two-fold:  embodiment and inspiration.  These two forms of meditation complement each other.  Like a yin / yang symbol, a joining of opposites, their energies require each other for wholeness and integration.

  • Mindfulness meditation connects us with our bodies and with what is happening within, dissolving tensions and resistance.  This form of meditation supports integrating various aspects of experience:  body sensations, breath, senses, feelings, and thoughts.  Through practice we build capacity to attune with these various inner "frequencies,"  weaving together our consciousness seamlessly, cultivating embodiment.  Embodiment brings us to the *ground* of the present moment, which we might think of as standing on what has come before, what was built on the past.  History is present within us as human beings, not just mentally as ideas and stories, but actually wired into our physiology. 
  • Inspirational meditation connects us with spaciousness, light, and growth.  This form of meditation supports turning toward our callings, yearnings, a magnetic pull to who we can become.  Through various practices (such as surrender, prayer, mantra, contemplation, intention, or meditation on sacred texts, spaciousness and light) we connect with higher, faster, or more subtle vibrational frequencies toward becoming:  an evolutionary update for our our body/heart/mind structures.  Inspiration calls us forward, individually and relationally.  
While meditation creates many benefits, it's not a magic pill.  It's common to discover various tensions, numb places, energetic blocks, and disturbances, and sometimes psychotherapy, body-centered therapies, and / or inter-personal connection is necessary to resolve issues that come to light while meditating.  A paraphrase from Thomas Huebl which I resonate with is:  "What was hurt in connection heals in connection."  The do-it-alone mentality which is an ideal of many yogic and spiritual communities can itself be a manifestation of trauma, an avoidance of connection.  And still,  meditation is a powerful tool, in combination with whatever other healing support may be needed.


What most excites me about group meditation is that whether the group is united in physical proximity, coordinated timing, and/or joint intention, collective practice strengthens the impact of the meditation for each meditater individually, for the whole group, and also expands benefits into the collective field.  The possibilities of such practices are profound.




I'm hosting a monthly meditation gathering at the Big Bend Yoga Center, New Moon Meditation.  The next gathering is Sunday, May 5 at 5pm.  All details are here.  


Saturday, March 23, 2019

Heart Friends: Grief and Joy

Grief touches the heart.  Joy touches the heart too, but one might miss the central portal in a frenzy of celebrating. 

Perhaps, grief's power lies in stripping away illusions: things that seemed important or real, weren't.  Grief shows the truth.  Then, joy and grief reside near one another in the heart, tenderly, poignantly affirming life's beauty together.



Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Danger of Pseudo-Unconditional Love

Learning to face what love is not is one of the most difficult and valuable lessons I have ever learned. 

Confusion about what love is and what it’s not seems to be a widespread issue.  Just last week I overheard someone referring to child sexual abuse say it was difficult to recognize the abuse since the situation was complex and love was also present.  My perspective is abuse is distinct from love, and abuse is not complex.  According to the Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine the definition of abuse is the following, “Abuse is defined as any action that intentionally harms or injures another person.” The distinctions between abuse and love only seems complex when we are unclear about what abuse is and how love behaves.  Only within the blurry (mis)understanding of love, do we enable violence or abuse to continue.  

It's no wonder that people are confused.  We live in a time where pain and trauma are rampant and seem to be normal.  Since so many are suffering, perhaps trauma is normal, but it’s not natural.  It's a by-product of violence, abuse and domination on a global, cultural, and personal scale.   

But, I am getting ahead of myself...  Back to my experience:  

Part of my difficulty in learning to face what love is not, is that I have experienced moments when the saying, “love is all there is” seemed true, moments when I experienced love permeating me and everything around me.  Another difficulty in recognizing what love is not, is that I've seen unconditional acceptance and love can dissolve inner conflict and sometimes even conflict with others. After cultivating unconditional love in this way, it can be confusing to discern what love is not, or even to wonder why this is necessary.

While cultivating unconditional love is indeed powerful and needed, there is a shadow side:  we can fantasize that we are loving unconditionally (pseudo-unconditional love) when we are actually avoiding facing and responding to difficult, painful truths.  The most dangerous thing I have found about pseudo-unconditional love is it can enable harmful, violent, and abusive behaviors to continue and escalate.  

I experienced a relationship where the threat of physical violence escalated into actual physical violence.  I did not even register the threat in the beginning: I was confused and had an inner block which prevented me facing what was happening.  Instead, I focused on being loving.  With others in my work, I have seen similar situations —  when violence was happening and even being talked about openly while people didn't respond to it continuing.     

There is a reasonable explanation why I and others may not recognize or respond to violence even when it is right in front of us, or literally happening to us.  Not facing is a trauma-response which protects us when we don't have another coping mechanism that we can resource in the moment, which can be exacerbated by our past (personal, relational, or generational), or even something in our culture.  Unconsciously shutting down part of our nervous system results in our shutting down our capacity to see, feel, hear, and respond in the present moment.

One of the things that helped me to clearly face and respond to my situation was studying loving behavior, from the work of Steven Stosny, PhD of Compassion Power.  

Love connects.  Love appreciates.  Love improves.  Love protects.

- Love connects us with our beloved.  Connection involves cultivating our capacity to hold and value two (or more) perspectives simultaneously, ours and our beloved's, even when the perspectives conflict with each other.  Love does not coerce or attempt to overpower.

- Love appreciates and bestows sensitive awareness toward the beloved.  The nutrients of attention and appreciation contribute to the well-being for the giver of appreciation, the receiver of appreciation and the connection between them.  Love does not withhold attention as punishment, or stonewall.

- Love improves the situation for whomever is involved in the connection, contributing to making things even a little bit better which the receiver benefits from.    Love is not criticism or contempt, based on thinking someone is fundamentally flawed, disguised as improvement.

- Love protects who or what is loved and valued.  Protection can take many forms, depending on the context.  Love does not harm, or especially repeatedly harm the beloved.  If love accidentally harms, love acknowledges the harmful impact and moves toward reparation and restoration.

I found learning these four behaviors of love was uncomfortable and downright painful, as I had to sort out my experiences and face what was not included in loving behavior.  Physical assaults where I feared for my life was not protection.  Improvement masking criticism of who I am was not a true attempt at improving the situation.  Attempting to prove my perspective was wrong was not connection.  Withholding attention and connection was not appreciation.  In writing, it sounds very simple, but learning to discern the truth was not easy.    

From the first threat of violence, about a year passed before I left the relationship to protect my life.  In leaving, I lost not only the relationship, but also our blended family, the country I was living in, the work I had built, the home I had invested in with my partner, and the apartment I had gotten a loan to install myself in after we split up.  I lost nearly all my possessions and accumulated significant debt in the year after leaving.  At times in the months that followed, I could not see my way forward.  I experienced the lowest lows of my life, and at times I wondered if my life was over.

But I came through this experience.  I stopped enabling abuse in my life, and began a long journey of emotional, mental and financial recovery.  My life now is better because I learned to recognize what was not love, to disallow ongoing violence in my life, and to ground my life in loving behaviors.

One of the results of my experience is greater compassion for how difficult it is to face the truth when violence, abuse or domination is present.  Numbing ourselves is a protective mechanism in moments when we simply do not have the resources to cope and respond.  In order to move toward facing and responding to abuses in our world, we need each other.  As I write this, I am reflecting on the many “others” – friends and family without whose loving support and generosity I literally cannot imagine being here.  I am blessed that when the life I had created collapsed, people were there and I was able to open and be loved, accepted, supported, and protected.  I mourn that not everyone is so lucky and blessed in these troubled times. 

Culturally, as violence and abuse that was previously in the shadows becomes more apparent, each of us needs to face and respond to what is around us, discerning what love is not and moving toward loving behaviors.  The call to wake up, face the truth, and align with love exists at home, at work, in the media, entertainment, politics, and in the environment.  We may not be able to face everything at once, but I believe can face the one thing that is in front of each of us.  And together, we can face and respond to more than we can alone.  **

Contemplation:

I invite you to consider and wonder about connection, appreciation, improving things (even just a little), and protecting what you love.  This contemplation can apply to your treatment of yourself, your loved ones, and the world and our environment.   I'd love to hear what you discover!


** If in your exploration of love / not love you discover domestic violence, sexual violence, or child abuse, please prioritize the protection and safety of the person being victimized.  Professional therapy or counseling is often a necessity in these types of situations.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Because Life is a Dance

Years ago in 1998, a friend turned me on to Joseph Campbell, specifically the series of interviews of Mr. Campbell by Bill Moyers.  I was captivated!  So much so, that I changed my life direction:  from  dance performance, choreography and teaching to body-mind transformation, which eventually led me to study and teach yoga, become a life-coach, study nonviolent communication, and create Transformation Playground Dance.  I offered my first free-dance and journaling classes in 2001, and called it Transformation Dance.  Years later I taught under the name of Dance Journey, offering regular classes in St. Louis, as well as movement classes at a treatment center for people with eating disorders.  Today I call it Transformation Playground Dance.

"People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life.  I don't think that's what we're really seeking.  I think that what we're seeking is an experience being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive..." * 

That's the kind of dancing, the kind of moving, and the kind of living that interests me.  When I listened to Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell and their explorations of meaning, stories, cultures, and myths, something in me was touched.  I remembered my fascination with learning and various dance and even martial arts techniques throughout my dance career.  I had noticed that moving in different ways, with a different focus and intent, changed how I experienced myself in my body.  This was unexpected.  I wondered - Just how many facets of me are there!?

Later, I went on to study with Kathlyn Hendricks, a psychotherapist, movement therapist, and teacher/trainer for individuals, couples, and coaches interested in conscious relationships, embodiment, and creativity.  From her, I learned that bodifying -- trying on movement in a way that matched my inner state -- was a way to move through stuck experiences in my body, relationships, and work-life.   This only reinforced my calling to facilitate people to put our bodies into motion.
◯ "The whole world is a circle.  All of these circular images reflect the psyche." * 
I also am fascinated with cycles.  Whether it's the cycle of the an inhalation and exhalation, the cycle of a traditional prayer, seed to plant, the moon, I discovered something interesting in dancing specific aspects which are part of a greater whole.  So often we get stuck in duality:  focusing on something being right, and something else being wrong, less than, bad, or forbidden.  So inherently it seems to me that dancing something is a way to experience it fully to unlock the gifts of it, and intending to include a full cycle of movement is a gateway to wholeness.  It turns out that this is a key tenant of Tantra, and non-dual embodied spiritual awakening.  Who knew?
MOYERS:  "Then heroes are not all men?
CAMPBELL:  "Oh no.  The male usually has the more conspicuous role, just because of the conditions of life."  * 
Originally to me it was just play.  And it still is!  Although now I have a greater cognitive understanding of why this type of play is so liberating, powerful, and often life-changing for people.



* Quotes are from The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers

- Read more about Transformation Playground Dance here.
- Join me next Tuesday evening January 22, at 7:15pm at Yoga Source in St. Louis to dance.


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Writing to Bridge the Gap: Lifting, Lifting

Writing to Bridge the Gap

Lifting, Lifting

There are many ways which we can close off inhabiting our bodies in a protective maneuver to try to reduce pain and suffering.  Thomas Huebl refers to these coping mechanisms as childhood heros, because of the protective function served by these originally intelligent movements.  Over time, what was once actively creative recycles itself, no longer within conscious awareness.  

Since rising above our difficulties is often equated with spiritual maturity, Lifting, Lifting makes a distinction between rising above in a way which is resourced in wholeness vs. avoidance and closing as a traumatic, survival mechanism.  We can't fully respond when we have closed off a part of ourselves, since the very process of shutting down and disowning our experience creates inner fragmentation, and negates the possibility of a response that is grounded in wholeness.

The good news and the bad news is that what is disowned will find a way to express, through our own behaviors or in relationships.  What is disowned lives through us individually, through the generations and through our culture.  Life wants to move!  

Waking up in our bodies is a process of discovering these unconscious loops of once-creative protective processes, appreciating their once-necessary protective function, and releasing the habit in favor of newly emerging creative movements.  



Lifting, lifting,
I don’t want to drop…
It’s scary down here!
And unpredictable.
Can’t I just hide?
If I hold myself up,I will be ok.  
Positive, inspired.  Loving.  Lovable.
All the good things people taught me to be.
When I drop, I become real.
And, what will happen then?