A Practice for Householders

I rush around a lot these days.  Motherhood elevates multi-tasking and what my entrepreneur brother calls "hustle" to an art form.  The pace is relentless and slowing down isn't really an option.  And I'm the queen of downshift and self care, or I was until September 2, 2015, the evening my son arrived.  

Life kicked up another notch recently, as I took on some additional projects and teaching.  Somehow I'd managed to re-introduce a brief time of morning yoga into my daily rhythm, thanks to early PNW spring sunrises as we move towards the solstice.  With these quiet mornings, I feel pretty grounded and less hurried, and was lulled into the sense that I had returned to my full practice of meditation and attention to nature's rhythms.  In reality, I'm still rushing here, there, and everywhere and not in tune with the moon's cycle, one of my favorite rituals.  

I spontaneously decided to use a lunar theme in the yoga class I taught Thursday evening at the Riveter.  I'd been wanting to bring in the concept to my classes there, syncing the feminine qualities of the moon with this beautiful female focused co-working and wellness space.  I quickly glanced at my calendar and saw "Supermoon" for Friday and assumed full moon.  I taught a practice focused on grounding during this phase.  While seasonally appropriate with the solstice approaching, I misled my students because I taught something I wasn't fully engaged in on my own.  I'd been spinning so fast, I'd shown up to class in-authentically, however well intentioned.  I continued on in my alternative facts bubble and based my personal meditation on Friday on the full moon Moon Angels card.

I realized my mistake when I finally did slow down.  Restorative yoga on a Sunday evening is about as quiet as one can get without going to bed.  I've been enjoying a class at Seattle Yoga Arts, where I have no connection as a teacher.  Perhaps this allowed me to show up completely as student.  For the first time in several years, a studio experience unexpectedly brought me fully and deeply into my body.  It was an equally intense and peaceful experience, focused on the throat chakra and a simple mantra "find my voice."  This 5th chakra, Vishuddha, is all about authenticity.  Once the practice as completed, I took my time leaving and walking the block home.  I lingered on the sidewalk and strolled another half block, looked up, and was shocked to see the crescent moon.  This little sliver was decidedly not the glowing orb I'd expected.  I felt the wind knocked out of me and had to sit down on the closest stoop to re-orient myself.  

Rebekah Erev Studio  Moons2017 (available for download here)

Rebekah Erev Studio Moons2017 (available for download here)

The difference between new and full moon energetically is significant, hence my strong sense of disorientation.  The new moon is about beginnings, a chance to start over on a monthly basis.  It exudes qualities of calm, quiet, and groundedness.  It can border on lethargic.  Sometimes it's appropriate to give into these aspects, other times we need to counter this energy.  The full moon is exuberant, lively, expansive, tending on chaotic.  At one time, not so long ago, my life involved rituals surrounding these regular markers.  The lunar cycle remains deeply resonant in my life, even if I'm not closely tracking each new and full moon.  It's drifted from my regular offerings as a teacher, yet feels so appropriate in this current hyper-masculine, regressive, and heated political climate.  I'm craving the cool, creative, life-giving moon.  

Speaking of lunar ritual, my friend Emily (aka the Ritual Coach) has a beautiful new posting on her blog, offering an honest and heartfelt new weekly energy ritual.  Giving ourselves permission...to explore what's stirring deep within us.  Yes, more of that please.

So how do we give ourselves permission to practice in the midst of busy lives?  How especially do caregivers of young children practice? If retreats and 20-30 minute (really, even 10 minute) meditations aren't available, do we just give up?  Absolutely not.  The Yoga Sutras (the original text outlining the philosophy of yoga) acknowledge that not everyone chooses a monastic life, and there are seasons to a lifetime.  When we're in the midst of careers and raising family and taking care of aging parents, we still practice.  It just looks different.  

My favorite Sutra has always been 1.33 - the "Householders Sutra."  It's for those who live in the world, not apart from it.  This Sutra acknowledges the way we come to any situation with an agenda, with our desires and hopes for the universe to be a certain way.  Here we are, very much in the world, in the messy weeds, yet have a choice to shift perspective and live within the context of four simple concepts that help us to set aside our wants and be present with what's happening for someone else.

I had the privilege to study with the amazing Jo Leffingwell for a couple of years and explore the Sutras in depth.  I'm pulling from my notes taken in her studio to offer an interpretation of the sanskrit for Sutra 1.33 that resonates most with me.  Rather than merely reacting to or mirroring others, we can stop spinning stories in our own minds and really see another person and situation.  From that place of stillness, we respond:

  •  where we find happiness, we express goodwill and friendship
  • where we find pain, we express compassion
  • where we find virtue, we express joy
  • where we find non-virtue, we express neutrality

It's not an easy practice, but it is accessible in the midst of busy lives.  It doesn't require signing up for a class, getting out a mat, finding a studio, or clearing a space on the calendar.  Through these straightforward concepts we can give ourselves permission to include a personal practice in our lives, to show up more authentically for ourselves and others.

Lunar New Year Intentions

For several years now, I've been experimenting with an extended New Year awareness.  I don't set a January 1st resolution (full disclosure - I haven't been up at midnight for several years now, but that has more to do with motherhood).   I've tied many of my daily rhythms to lunar cycle awareness, which includes celebrating the lunar new year.  Between Jan 1 and the next new moon I sit with ideas for intentions and let them percolate.  By the lunar new year, I’m ready to commit to a few ideas for shaking up my daily life.

It's taken me longer to settle on intentions this year.  But yesterday things clicked and I chose three lunar new year resolutions based on the theme of conscious living.

Pay Attention   I used to regularly set aside time to be tech free - nightly before bed and a weekly ritual silence for a few hours of family time with devices shut off.  As I slip further into motherhood, I've neglected this practice, spinning my wheels faster and faster to try and keep up and keep moving.  I try my best to say off computer and phone when my son is around, but am more hooked than ever in the time I have without him - eating breakfast alone, walking to and from appointments or meetings, sitting on the couch with my husband after our boy has gone to bed.  I'm equally disappointed with myself and addicted.  New year intention number one - conscious eating and walking.  I (re) commit, starting today, to just walk when I am walking and just eat when I am eating.  I will (try and) resist the urge to pick up my phone at the table alone and walking to and fro.  I commit to connecting with myself and the city around me. 

Moon Angels I love staying in tune with the lunar cycle through daily inspiration from Ryan Rebekah Erev's Moon Angels.  These cards provide thought provoking art and guiding descriptions for each day of the cycle from waxing to waning moon.  I've drifted from including these in my morning practice and have missed the ritual.  Today they are back and not a moment too soon.  Many of the systems in our country - political, corporate to name a couple - are dominated by a deeply ingrained patriarchy.  In itself, this solar powered energy we often associate with masculine qualities is not wrong.  But over centuries this way of living and governing has taken root to the exclusion of other ways of functioning and our systems are out of balance, serving only a few rather than all.  Lunar energy is linked to the feminine, to qualities of creativity, calm, and intuition.  Power is expressed in a very different way than we've come to know in our culture.  When we who live in a society dominated by the masculine/sun energy start to pay attention to the feminine/moon energy, we invite a shift towards balancing these two opposites.

Activism  Eight years ago I was inspired, like many, to go into public service following the election of Barack Obama.  I pursued a job with a councilmember at Seattle City Hall.  Two years later I left to pursue a Masters Degree in Sustainable Food Systems and, disillusioned with shortcomings, bureaucracy, and lack of creativity in government, never returned.  I stopped following local politics and grew complacent about (and took for granted) a national progressive agenda.  Eight years later I feel despair and anger at the election results and the decisions currently being made in Washington DC by mostly white, male political leaders.  I am inspired to activism, to an awake and conscious life that comes out of being and living according to a feminine, creative, compassionate rhythm.  

Conscious living - that's my motto for 2017.  Perhaps you'd like to join me?