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Dancing the 5 Elements

Dancing the 5 Elements

5elements dance

The Five Elements manifest in the body in the form of energy within the five sense organs, namely Space (through sound into our ears), Air (touch on our skin), Fire (lighting the vista before our eyes), Water (quenching our thirst on our tongue), and Earth (perfuming the terra firma for our nose).

Without ether, there would be no air, and without air there would be no flare for the fire. The hot, dry heat of the flame leaves way for the balancing element of coolly refreshing, wet water. Finally, earth is formed by the condensing of the former four.

In ether we can fly, with air we breathe, and fire catalyzes change. With water we flow and grow, and earth provides matter that grounds and stabilizes.   Each element offers the capacity for all matter and all means of energy to grow, change, stay, decay, disappear.   You can read more about my appreciation of the elements here.

Beyond the gross representations (gross as in manifest, not Ew) of the elements, we are privy to the subtle qualities that lie below. THAT, my friend, is where the real magic lies.

Have you ever been told to go with the flow? Or hold it steady? How about let it go? Or to light a fire under your ass?

I can certainly attest to the amazing balance of opposites. When I am burning up inside from anger or impatience, I step away to enjoy a cool drink or splash my face with cold water. As Winter progresses and the cold, damp winds blow, we find ourselves chilled to the bone, only finally finding the warming relief from spicy, hot soups or drinks. Examples of these types of balancing actions allows for blocked pathways (energetic and anatomical), so we can find ourselves truly rooted in our bodies with more awareness.

In this day of never-ending information downloading and uber cerebral daily workouts, I would argue that it’s embodiment that we need!

WHY DANCE?

I have danced ecstasy, anger, creation, passion, death and ritual. We may dance for the sake of performance or to get belly laughs from our children. We dance in community to celebrate, to sweat it out and be fit, and to honor the Divine or our Source of Universal strength and inspiration.

I am a born dancer. I started in ballet and jazz classes in childhood, and went on to study in college, even auditioning for big Broadway shows in Chicago and Detroit. As fate would have it, I suffered an ankle injury at age 17 that only accentuated the overwhelm I felt as a pre-professional dancer. I dealt with a lot of anguish about pushing myself to work through the pain and weakness, lest I see my classmates excel in their performance. Anyone who grew up seriously studying dance knows all about the search for the (unattainable) goal of physical perfection, the competitiveness, the “Bun Heads” (think Mean Girls in tights and very expensive wool warm ups). It’s a tough road.

After two years of college study, my grades suffered and I dropped out. Once a pure joy, the dance pivoted (kindly allow the pun!) and I transitioned into a career of nursing, leaving dance behind altogether. After a few years of academics however, I sorely missed movement.  I started practicing yoga pretty seriously, but felt the lack of lyrical flow from asana, and then thrillingly discovered tribal fusion belly dance while searching for adult dance classes online. I am grateful to have returned to dance in a kinder, more satisfying way, and one that allows for deep Inner satisfaction through movement meditation and conscious dance.

Mindful movement enables you to mobilize stagnant energy that has us spinning; it unearths stressors that have taken up residence within our tissues, and commands our ability to express our innermost emotions and feelings that cannot be verbalized due to limitations of our oral language.

The practice of mindful, moving meditation with delicate attention to the elements, both macro and micro, brings us into deeper awareness that improves our relationship to the physical body. Once we dissolve the inner barriers in our own body, the energies of our surroundings return to deeper familiarity and recognition.

I am Earth, This is Earth, You are Earth.

I am Fire, This is Fire, You are Fire.

I am Water, This is Water, You are Water.

I am Air, This is Air, You are Air.

I am Ether, This is Ether, You are Ether.

I love that no matter where I am in my cycle in life, I always have my ability to dance to convey my elemental wisdom; my lightness and adaptability, my flexibility and dynamism, my fiery determination and focus, my fluidity and giver of nourishment, and my steadiness and strength.   Conscious dance is yet one more amazing tool in my kit to Empowered and Lighter living.

This New Year, I invite you to investigate this for yourself. Find a space that you can freely dance, and put on a tune that moves you. Why does it inspire you to dance? What elements do you find called to and are naturally exuding? Try another song that ignites you. Can you find all 5 elements in your dance?   Afterwards, were you able to appreciate a shift in your physical, mental or emotional state?   *hint- dance has been known to be an amazing stress reliever!* Put it down in your favorite notebook and see what also comes up for you.

Feel like sharing? Please post below with your comments! Want to discuss privately? Email me at PurnimaWH@gmail.com. I’d love to hear of your experiences!

 

Are you a grateful mutant?

Are you a grateful mutant?

 

FAIRYstories

In the Thanksgivings of my formative years in the Midwest I was loaded with gratitude for a day devoted to stuffing myself silly with delicious food from sunrise to sunset, all while dressed in a comfy suit of terry cloth, with lots of time allotted for couch respite and reclining.  Heck, I didn’t even have to wear my contact lenses if I so chose, it was just my immediate family and a cat or two, and comfort was key.

Enter my partner/ boyfriend/ fiance/ husband…  Thanksgiving became more of a formal affair as we visited my in-laws in New England; Westport, CT to be exact. There was antique flatware, white linens and lots of political conversation among the adults.  Even though there was but one long table for the 16 of us, (and no “kids” table) it was very clear that you had to be over 50 to weigh in on such topics as the disappointments of Congressional action (or inaction, as it were) or the shortcomings of the educational system.  I was exceptionally grateful for the signal that it was acceptable for us to excused, and thus resign to a bar for cocktails with my husbands friends who were in town visiting. 

Then I was given the opportunity to provide a dinner item for the feast, which continued to be celebrated in CT, our new home, with my in-laws and extended family.  I was thrilled to have my mother in law’s trust to make cornbread, and my honey cornbread offering continues to be a yearly staple, and even the favorite of my oldest son.  I felt validated and proud of my ability to help feed family on our annual special gathering feast. 

Once kids arrived, I didn’t aim too high with my gratitude; I was pleased and greatly thankful if I was able to enjoy some hot food during the meal before having to constantly excuse myself to nurse a baby, refill a sippy cup, or collect a clambering toddler before tumbling off of a coffee table.  For some reason my assigned seat is also on the “inside” of the table, quick egress is not graceful.  Thankfully, the meals were always enormous, and I always had plenty to eat when I returned. 

Gratitude is soul medicine, and just like a well tended garden, it can yield great abundance and satisfaction. 

As it turns out, my recurring ability to perceive gratitude in a multitude of ways is a kind of a mutation, in a way. 

Thanks to glorious feedback loops and that lovely hormone oxytocin, when we build a field of grateful thoughts and sweetened dreams, the gratitude continues to come.  And with it, greater satisfaction and richer relationship, to self and others. 

If you are new to meditation, mindfulness or gratitude practices, Jack Kornfield shares a lovely exercise here.

“Let yourself sit quietly and at ease. Allow your body to be relaxed and open, your breath natural, your heart easy. Begin the practice of gratitude by feeling how year after year you have cared for your own life. Now let yourself begin to acknowledge all that has supported you in this care:

With gratitude I remember the people, animals, plants, insects, creatures of the sky and sea, air and water, fire and earth, all whose joyful exertion blesses my life every day.

With gratitude I remember the care and labor of a thousand generations of elders and ancestors who came before me.

I offer my gratitude for the safety and well-being I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the blessing of this earth I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the measure of health I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the family and friends I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the community I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the teachings and lessons I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the life I have been given.

Just as we are grateful for our blessings, so we can be grateful for the blessings of others.

Continue to breathe gently. Bring to mind someone you care about, someone it is easy to rejoice for. Picture them and feel the natural joy you have for their well-being, for their happiness and success. With each breath, offer them your grateful, heartfelt wishes:

May you be joyful.

May your happiness increase.

May you not be separated from great happiness.

May your good fortune and the causes for your joy and happiness increase.

Sense the sympathetic joy and caring in each phrase. When you feel some degree of natural gratitude for the happiness of this loved one, extend this practice to another person you care about. Recite the same simple phrases that express your heart’s intention.

Then gradually open the meditation to include neutral people, difficult people, and even enemies- until you extend sympathetic joy to all beings everywhere, young and old, near and far.”

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you and to give thanks continuously.  and because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude”  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Here’s to all the gifts we are endowed daily,

            for each breath,

                             for each step,

                                                                                                                                       for each dance,

                                                                                                                                                        and each sunrise. 

 

May you spend this week in deep appreciation for your lovely self. 

Independence Day.

Independence Day.

This is not really our Jeep, but I kind of wish it were.

This is not really our Jeep, but I kind of wish it were.

It’s official, Summer is here!

My husband and I took our two young boys and dog up to our family vacation house in Vermont to celebrate the 4th of July. The intense natural beauty of the woods is a wonderful way to celebrate our nation’s birthday, and we had a full house. My brother- and sister in law came up with their two kiddos and their puppy, and my father and mother in law joined us a day later.

Times have certainly changed since my days of partying all night, and making things go bomb for this holiday, and we celebrated our time taking in some sunny beach time at the lake, looking for wild berries and tromping around outside.   One of my favorite places to visit there is Billing’s Farms, and we saw the dairy cows, rode in a wagon pulled by Belgian workhorses, and munched on fresh maple walnut ice cream while chatting up the gardener at their display garden below the old farmhouse.

We didn’t make it to see any fireworks, the boys are still a bit too young to take this year, but David and I did stow away for a Jeep ride during twilight to ride serpentine up and down wooded country roads and atop vistas overlooking fields and valleys. I found myself really struggling with my sobriety, and when we drove past a neighbor’s field party I had to really go within and stay present, breathe. I still find myself getting myself early to bed, which is totally beneficial for me, and you, in so many ways (more on that later), but on nights when I find that my old nasty habits are being particularly noisy in my mental chatter, I definitely have no compunction or regrets about putting a day to bed and letting it go.

Of course as the weekend went on, and our very comfortable house felt as if it were shrinking, and the walls were gradually being turned to an echo chamber, my level of anxiety rose, while my ability to stay present, and calm, started to elude me. This came to a boiling point when my husband suggested I take our 4.5 yr old son down to the lake to swim and frolic for an hour before we hit the road.

Perhaps you have a 4.5 yr old headstrong maniac, or know one… but the concept of going to a BEACH and a super PLAYGROUND for just an hour, particularly when you know that you need to travel on time in order to make it back to teach a yoga class, may seem a little dodgy.   But I somehow had misplaced my ability to effectively convey how I was feeling to my dear husband and just blurted out some snappy, cranky comments, loaded up my son into the back seat of the Wrangler into his booster seat, and started to descend down the steep driveway.

Now I left off in a huff, and driving a red, standard transmission RED Jeep wrangler down dusty roads in VT brings out the spice in me even more, and I sped down the drive way. I was still in 2nd gear at the bottom of the driveway, and started onto the road to continue downhill, but noticed when I pumped the brakes, I got nothin’. Oh wait—that’s not true. I did get something- a little orange light on the display thAT said BRAKES. As in, Um- These are no longer working in this vehicle.

And lo and behold, the Jeep wasn’t lying. It was at that moment that I determined the Jeep would not slow and stop, and I definitely had to do something NOW. Continuing down the steep hill to the end of the road would certainly be the worst thing to do, and would likely result in my launching the Jeep with me and my babe with it into the field that lay at the bottom of the road and intersection. On either side of the road we were on were steep 3 ft+ ditches. So I got a wee Danica Patrick, and lifted the e-brake to slow us down, then executed the sketchiest 7 point turn ever using some twinkle toes and gear maneuvering. I redirected us back up the driveway and parked us safely back at the top, greeted by my husbands perplexed face.

I jumped out and got Son A out of the back seat and told David what happened. Turns out the brake lines were rusted clean through and we found a spray of brake fluid all over the inside of the hood. Yikes.

Once the adrenaline leveled off, and I accepted a pat on the back or two from the loving grandparents of my children, I started to think about our time in VT, our weekend celebrating Independence Day. And it might sound cheesy, but at that moment when I realized that it had hit the fan, I had a choice, to be hurtled down a hill to launch into tragedy, or I could stay the course, take a breath and not let myself be pushed out of the realm of presence… and that my friends, was true freedom. True independence. Looking back at all the times I was letting myself get so irked, impatient and aggravated with my kids, the dogs, my husband, the in-laws, was just silly. I have choices. I can choose to be free from emotional takeovers if I stay present, and embody that independence. In a book by Ram Das he states that when we suffer, the feeling can be so overwhelming and all encompassing, much like when we look at a photograph of a cloud that is too zoomed, but when we pan back, crop the image a little larger, we can finally see the deep blue sky all around it. That is the Grace, that is the choice, that is freedom.

 

I did this with my yoga classes this week, and I will invite you too to investigate and experiment with being open to the choices, open to the possibilities that exist if we just broaden our scope and therefore our options.

 

Summer Survival tip! Make your own ROSE WATER!

Summer Survival tip! Make your own ROSE WATER!

Being a fiery sort with an inclination to overheating, acne and rashes (Pitta imbalances for the win!), I adore spritzing either lavender or rose water on my face whenever I am feeling hot, or need some pH balancing for skin.  

I have purchased multiple brands of rose water, which I enjoy using, but when we moved to our new house two years ago, I started collecting the rose petals that fell from the huge rose bushes that we have in our yard and making my own.   I found the home made version to be earthier, and very easy to replenish!  Last summer I made a full bottle full that has carried me all the way to this summer.  Can’t beat that!  

If you have rose bushes, (and don’t spray them with any chemicals!) try this very easy recipe to make your own rose water and place into a pump spray bottle to spritz.   Use to refresh yourself whenever feeling prickly or too spicy for your own good. 

You will need:

  • A brick (scrub and wash off any debris).
  • A large stockpot with lid
  • 3 quarts of rose petals
  • water
  • Ice pack or zip lock bags of ice
  • Mason jar

Place the pot on your stove top, and the brick in the center of the pot.  Arrange enough rose petals around the brick to fill the pot about 3/4 full.  Place the jar on the brick, and then pour enough water to cover the rose petals.  Place lid on pot UPSIDE DOWN, and then bring water to boil.  Once at a boil, reduce heat to simmer and place ice pack or bag full of ice onto lid.  This creates a distilling of the water, and the droplets will condense onto the upturned lid, then collect into the jar.  Replenish the rose petals and water as needed, and repeat boiling and distilling until you’ve gotten enough rose water to fill your spray bottle.  You do not need to refrigerate the water, but when the temps are high, chilled spritz is heavenly! 

Enjoy! 

 

Spring cleaning

Spring cleaning

SPRINGTIME how I love thee!  The expanse of newly uncovered space in the environs that was previously cluttered with snow piles, snow suits and junk mail gifts a lift to my soul that makes it absolutely sing.  When Winter is here, I accept and comfort the natural inclination to hunker and cuddle, but when the ticket is punched for the seasonal shift, I greet the Equinox warmly.

The shift from Winter to Spring elicits a great rise in electricity, so much so that I need to do my due diligence to keep grounded and not spin off into overwhelm of the projects that lay afoot.  I remind myself to thankfully return to my practice in yoga that holds me steadfast, reminds me to breathe, and to embrace the energies of change with all the accompanying opportunities that are offered.

For instance, I have found great enjoyment in paring down my clothing over the last two years.  We moved to our new home in 2013, just 5 days after Baby B was born, and the amount of STUFF we had, er- I had, was impressive.  Little by little, I have continued to whittle away the items that no longer hold a place in my heart or my wardrobe, and it feels damn good to streamline the options.   Over the course of those 2 years I have lost approximately 30 #, so that helps too!   Each season gives me an opportunity to look back at the clothes from the past season, and if something wasn’t worn, it goes in the Goodwill bag.

Our new Old house was built in 1921, and our kitchen is wee, so paring down is essential.  I’m sensitive to odors and chemical scents, and have since come to love making my own cleansers.   Gone are the days of bottle upon bottles of toxic cleansers under my sink!  I use baking soda to scrub surfaces, and make surfactant spray cleansers with white vinegar, water and essential oils.  I just found this recipe for a homemade Orange Power cleanser (anyone who practices abhyanga will appreciate this!) and can’t wait to give it a day in my bathtub court.

My grocery list gets revamped as well.  In place of soups and one pot meals are meals built around salads, and lighter, cooler fare.  My morning green juices get Juicier with seasonal fruits and berries, and my juicer gets more action once the melons make their appearances!

In the sentinel classical yoga text by Patanjali, Yoga Sutra 2.40 discusses Saucha, or purity/cleanliness, and it’s pertinence to our practice.  When we skillfully minimize the complexities of material (and even emotional) possessions, we create and cultivate space for the Divine to breathe with us.   Without the clutter and chatter there grows space and freedom, and in turn, intrinsic wisdom that finally gets an opportunity to be heard, instead of throwing ‘bo’s against the superimposed media messages that argue we need more.

I first learned of Decision Fatigue from one of my teachers Dr. Claudia Welch, and once I heard the term, it was immediately understood, and I don’t know how I wasn’t aware of it before.  We live in a world where unplugging is virtually impossible!  How many decisions, no matter how minute or grand, have you made by 9 am?  By noon?  By 9pm?   By giving myself a simple outline for the next day (that includes what I will wear, meals, and activites/ work plans) the night before, I greatly reduce any potential for anxiety that can arise by too many options amid the hustle of the day.

Additionally I’ve adopted self care methods in order to avoid fraying at the edges.  Establishing a practical and nourishing dinacharya, or daily self care practice, has been key, and special attention is paid particularly to cleansing and simplifying  my day in every way.   When life comes at you fast and furious, it just makes sense to remove the rubble and allow for flow. 

How are you feeling in your transition from Winter to Spring?  What are you finding challenging or exciting in doing so?

 

The dimensions of health.

The dimensions of health.

When I was first introduced to the art & science of Ayurveda, it was foreshadowed by my preliminary knowledge of panchakarma (which recommends methods of elimination that I had found unnerving given all my schooling of Western medicine), aromatic and pungent spices, and recipes that I almost always mispronounced (kitchari rhymes with stitchery, I’ve since learned!).

In time, it became evident that Ayurveda was the medical science that I craved in my search for holistic and integrated health care delivery, as it has proven to focus health and wellness on the whole, utilizing the five senses.

The Five Elements manifest in the body in the form of energy within the five sense organs, namely Space (ear) , Air (skin), Fire (eyes), Water (tongue), and Earth (nose). Ayurveda draws from tridoshic theory, that there are 3 primary body constitutions, or prakriti, and combinations therein.

Vata symbolizes that which moves, ruled by the elements of ether, air and wind. Pitta is the metabolic force of change, cradling earth and water, while Kapha holds true with steadfast weight in earth and water. While an individual has a primary prakriti which carries forward inclinations in body, mind and spirit, imbalances may manifest during seasonal change, or during times of stress. The brilliance of Ayurveda presents with the opportunity for a person to identify these traits, and therefore a daily or seasonal plan of care that involves nurturing all five senses for optional wellness.

I have always felt largely attuned to the four seasons, being a Michigan native, and a Connecticut transplant, and have accepted the fact that I would not do without the seasonal variations. During the Winter, vata is highly prevalent, as winter is blustery and dry. (Cracked skin, anyone? Fidgety in body? Fluttery in thought? Constipated like mad? Thirsty as all get out?!)

In order to reign in our wind- blown souls we have many tools that nourish from inside out: Massaging the body with warmed sesame or coconut oil, with a few drops of essential oils for further grounding (try woody amber, green vetiver or frankincense) not only warms the body, but increases circulation and provides some well-deserved self love and connectedness.

Enjoy warm meals and beverages with warming spices like cinnamon, black pepper, and ginger, as well use ghee (clarified butter) in dishes like roasted yams and carrots to further lubricate your joints, as well as to keep the gut smooth and happy. Take time for meditation, and let your self be lulled into peaceful presence with the sound of your breath, a mantra or a recording of soothing melodies or vibrations. Lastly, give your sweet eyes a rest. My favorite part of the morning is splashing cold water on my face and holding my hands there for a moment or two, taking some breaths in preparation for the busy day ahead.

Throughout the day remember to take frequent breaks away from reading materials and electronic devices. As an extra midday treat, vigorously run the hands together to generate warmth, and then rest the palms on your eyes for a quick pick me up and hug. There is wisdom in the senses that communicate our deepest needs, if we are keen to listen. I invite you to reconnect with yourself in this manner to become deeply attuned to your inner intelligence and divine gift of body, mind and beloved spirit.