Body as a Vessel

I was in an emotionally-charged spiritual group meeting last night and had the following download.

Though I am a broken vessel

I am the perfect container

for the Divine to shine forth

and provide guidance and support

to me and to all who come to me

I am full only with Thee

there is no other experience

substance or distraction

that can take Your place

I am fulfilled.

Have you thought of your body as a vessel? This language is familiar to me as I grew up in a Catholic school/church system, but as I read back over what I had written, I was surprised. It didn’t come from me. I “know” that the body is the vessel for the soul…a container, but last night was the first time I had thought of (and felt) the body as a container for the Divine. It was a new perspective. It doesn’t matter what condition the container is in…it can be somewhat damaged physically, emotionally, or spiritually, but it is always the perfect container for the Divine to act through.

I think when we feel down, we collapse inwardly. It is harder to find the Divine within during those times. We tend to see the Divine as outside ourselves and pray to It/Him/Her for relief and assistance. But when we are happy, or in a state of equilibrium, it can be easier to serve and connect with each other, and from that place, we feel the Divine as part of ourselves.

We do have a responsibility to take care of this container. That is part of the job of life. But even if we feel a bit “cracked” or “broken,” we know that we are full of Divine love and wisdom to be in service to each other. So how do you take care of this vessel? What do you do to keep it together?

For me, I do the best I can to take care of myself. However, there are times where I don’t feel like I am enough. Insecurity is a huge burden, and I think I feel the collective crisis as well. When I feel insecure, I don’t feel like I am able, or worthy, to put myself out there as a source of comfort or hope to people. The message last night was clear, though. It doesn’t matter what emotional burdens we have or what insecurities we are facing if we trust and surrender to the Divine, we become fulfilled.

 

 

 

In Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, I am so grateful for this life…my family and friends, students and sometimes strangers that offer a smile when I’m feeling down, the studio, my yoga practice and the beautiful yoga tradition I am so privileged to belong to. Those who know me will not be surprised to hear that I am also so grateful for books! This holiday, I offer you the beautiful, inspirational words of Swami Vivekananda that I read today:

Therefore, stand up, be bold, be strong. Take the whole responsibility on your shoulders, and know that you are the creator of your own destiny. All the strength and succour you want is within yourselves. Therefore, make your own future. “Let the dead past bury its dead.” The infinite future is before you, and you must always remember that each word, thought, and deed, lays up a store for you and that as the bad thoughts and bad works are ready to spring upon you like tigers, so also there is the inspiring hope that the good thoughts and good deeds are ready with the power of a hundred thousand angels to defend you always and for ever. From a lecture “The Cosmos: The Microcosm” delivered in New York on January 26, 1896.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

240_F_96189498_oKGJxPlJGmcDepktTGKryVsYkzT2a8vF

You Are a Blessing

I do not know who to credit this image but it is fabulous!

It was my birthday recently but I am determined to celebrate every day of this month-not by boozing-up or eating cake every day but by taking care of myself and celebrating my life.

In the past, I’ve had little enthusiasm for my birthday. But, someone gave me some great advice last year that shook me–it changed my way of thinking and being.

She asked me “What are you doing to celebrate your birthday?” I gave my usual response…oh nothing really I don’t like to celebrate it very much.” (The fact was for some reason I always felt melancholy on my birthday.) She said to me “What happened to you? When did you stop celebrating your life?” That question hit me like a blow to the heart. Did I not appreciate my life…was I just floating by? As painful as it was, I knew the answer…

My husband committed suicide on Ash Wednesday in 2003. He did not seem depressed to me…he wasn’t lying around in bed moaning about the darkness and hopelessness of life. He was going to work and getting things done. I was oblivious to what was going on inside him. At that time, family doctors were giving out samples of “mood managing” pills with a “let’s see how this one works” approach. I don’t think they realized the damage they were doing in the constant stops and starts. I am sure this contributed to his instability. I didn’t even know he was taking anything until after he died.

I am sure he felt out of control. He did not ask me for help. He did not confide in me the depths of this overwhelm. Sure, he complained to me about this or that but never said he was in danger of committing this act. We had fun times, went on dates, he still did so much for me. The day before he died we took the little ones to see Barney Live (creepy dinosaur!) When we got home he ran me a bath and poured me a glass of wine. He took care of me. The next day we met at the Cathedral for the noon Ash Wednesday service. I took my daughter to art class, he went home and killed himself. Who knows why people do what they do.

It is so important to me now to help people find the tools they need to nourish their mind and heart. My grief (and my guru) led me to the study of Yoga and Ayurveda. I have learned so many things about myself and what I need to reduce my own pain and suffering. I do still suffer though…obviously. I have dark moments, dark days where I feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Some days it is harder to find light than others. This is the stuff of life. But despite the details, despite my depression, despite my anxiety, despite my PTSD from finding my husband’s body in the garage, despite my overwhelm there is a bottom line and here it is: It is a blessing to be a human being and to be alive...I am a Blessing! The details of your life may not be ideal. You may be suffering in health, finances, creativity, depression, sobriety, relationship…any number of things. But, your heart knows the truth of this bottom line. Say it to yourself over and over. Let it inspire you to keep going. Ask your Divine for help or direction if you need to but stay with the bottom line. There is a reason you are here. You are a blessing. Believe that.

Healing is Holistic

What is the number one therapy? Change your life. Oh, but how do we do that? If we have a goal of reducing stress, losing weight, reducing our depression or anxiety, we typically go through a process of mentally trying to figure it out, or we kick in our willpower and forge our way ahead. Unfortunately, using these methods, we run out of steam very quickly and fall back into old habits.

The sages of the East have long known that we are multifaceted beings. Specifically, in yoga philosophy, it is known that we have three bodies ( the gross body, the subtle body, and the causal body) and five layers or sheaths (the food sheath, the energy sheath, the mental/emotional sheath, the intelligence/discrimination sheath, and the bliss sheath). Sometimes, you will see the layers represented visually as a spiral. These sheaths intertwine and interconnect. To achieve our goals of health and well-being, we have to take care of each of these layers.

When I work with clients, I  assess, and bring attention to, all of the layers of their being to promote the desired result. For example, it is documented and scientifically validated that if one does not breathe deeply and diaphragmatically, there is a greater occurrence of anxiety. So sometimes, to treat anxiety, I need to teach clients how to breathe as well as modify their nutrition and provide tools to calm the nervous system.

Also, we are all different in our needs, and one method that works for one may not work for another. The treatment modalities of yoga therapy and Ayurveda are centered on the individual, not on the particular imbalance. This is why it is best to find a guide for your health and not simply grasp at answers that you find on social media or the Internet. Self-care means taking care of each layer of ourselves, constantly assessing how we can nourish ourselves.

The physical body, the outer-most layer, requires nutrition and lifestyle modifications that are specific to one’s physiology. The energetic layer requires breathwork training to keep the nervous system calm and less prone to episodes of fight or flight. The mental/emotional layer requires meditation, prayer, and study to understand the root of one’s state. Unfortunately, we are not taught how to manage our mental and emotional life. There is no class called “Acceptance 101” or “Managing Life 101.” We do try to manage the ebbs and flows, the highs and lows on our own, usually by using rationalizations or intellectual analysis, unfortunately, a lot of times in isolation. Finding healthy nourishment for the mind (mantra, affirmations, inspiration, loving community in which to share) is essential. Practices in developing one’s intuition help build internal trust and resilience, and we find a healthy level of discrimination from which to operate. Finally, connection to the spiritual, one’s concept of the Divine, helps to move through one’s daily struggles in a posture of surrender. It is very stressful to believe that we are alone in this world, solely responsible for ourselves, our happiness, and our well-being.

Once we understand our duty to all of the layers of our being, accepting the ebbs and flows with equilibrium and grace (a practice for sure!), then we become more compassionate with ourselves and the world.

Fortunately, the sciences of yoga and Ayurveda supply the tools we need on our journey of self-discovery. The purpose of these philosophies is to establish a way of living that removes pain and suffering so we can live in a state of joy.

If you are interested in working with me to find your joy and balance…shoot me an email at justina.namaste@gmail.com, and we’ll work together to find the best fit.

Thank you for your interest in my work and my blog.

Namaste.

 

Bear

A bear is a furry person, a relative, that goes underground when the earth sleeps and emerges when it wakes. Giving Voice to Bear, David Rockwell.

BEAR

For my birthday this year, I have started a Facebook fundraiser for the Appalachian Bear Rescue. I have always felt a connection to bears. I have a collection of bear figurines from all over the world. I have been gifted bear images, wood carvings, and journals. I have never seen a bear in the wild, but it terrifies me to think of a world without them.

Some years ago I read in Living with the Himalayan Masters that my guru Swami Rama had a pet bear named Bhola for company as he wandered through the Himalayas. His own guru called Swami Rama a “bear charmer.” 

Bears are honored across the world. Indigenous populations in North America have said that bears are half human because of the similarity to humans in their physical structure. They stand on their hind legs and occasionally walk upright. They stand and reach for berries and have amazing dexterity in those large paws. The blackfeet word o-kits-iks means both hand and bear paw, and the Ojibwa called bears anijinabe, which also meant Indian. Several tribes claim to be direct descendants of bears…that the spirit of the bear is there in all of their gatherings. Remember the Disney film Brother Bear? The bear and the boy were one. Bears can shapeshift into anything. The bear’s fierce maternal instinct, their diet, their knowledge of plants and herbs all were revered by native people. Because of their knowledge of plants, the bear is associated with health and medicine. If you are suffering from an illness, you can call in the spirit of the bear to help you find the right medicine. 

Bears encourage feelings of security and grounding. Did you have a teddy bear as a child? Just looking at images of bears is enough to feel more stable. I carry a silver medallion in my wallet that has a bear carved on one side and on the other it says “Draw upon your inner strength and potentials.” This is the energy of the bear…strong, patient, and resourceful.

There are an infinite number of stories about bears. They have their own mythology in which they display all of the characteristics of human beings, yet remain godly. Bears in these stories are kind and generous or fierce and destructive, depending on the intent of the speaker/writer. Do you know the myth of Devil’s Tower in Wyoming? It varies in detail from tribe to tribe, but essentially some children were running from bears and the Divine saved them by lifting up the earth and raising the kids to the sky. The bears were left to claw at the sides of the tower as they tried to climb up. It was easy for me to imagine this happening as I stood in front of Devil’s tower years ago. It is a sacred place. 

Bears can be dangerous, it’s true. They deserve our respect. They are also wonderful gentle giants that need our protection.

Please, donate to my fundraiser.

If you are interested in reading the book Giving Voice to Bear, you can find the link below.

For further reading: