Generous Wisdom | Spacious Heart: Encouragements, Updates & Future Offerings Sept. 2021

Hello Dear Readers, Writers & Yogis,

Welcome to the first Generous Wisdom | Spacious Heart Newsletter. I hope you’re as excited to read it as I am to be sending it. Just Three Things:

  • You’re doing amazing. We are in “Phase II” of the pandemic, and I want to remind you of how resilient you are. Last year I shared a post about nesting and I want to remind us to do that again. ReNest. I also shared a post about all the ways Love is Spacious. Practice Spaciousness.
  • Reconstruction & New Location. The website is still in its reconstruction phase. Soon you’ll find a new logo, new layout, and hopefully some cool photos. After that – online courses! Thank you for your patience and graciousness. I’m currently working on securing a new space for in-person classes. I hope to offer hybrid classes in addition to in-person only and online only.
  • Breathe, Laugh, Play: A Yoga Series of Movement & Meditation. The Wise Heart Yoga offering has a new signature series: Breathe, Laugh, Play. This group of classes will be a combination of yoga postures and extended meditation. All levels welcome! More details to come.

I miss you all. I’m looking forward to seeing you again, whether it is online or in person. I can’t wait.

Wishing you spaciousness,

Amy

A Universal Yogi

Write me a note and tell me how you’re doing ~

Evolution

Evolution

Yoga is a practice of liberation. It’s sometimes described as a discipline of freedom in which you learn more and more what it means to be trapped and what it means to be liberated. It is a Wisdom Tradition that draws your own wisdom from the core of your body out through all your limbs, your hands and feet, your eyes, your crown, and covers you with it. Your own goodness, your own wholeness, your own choice to be the way you want to be in the world.

When lying in savasana (resting in corpse pose), I’d hear my dear teacher talk about contentment, our true nature. I thought I knew what she meant. So I began striving for contentment. This is hysterical! I see myself as having chased contentment so much that I literally chased it away the way one keeps driving a puppy farther on by running after it. (You know, you have to get the puppy to wanna chase you, then you run home.)

Photo by Helena Lopes on

Hollowness, emptiness, obscurity, lack. That’s what’s left when contentment’s not around. But these non-feeling-feelings are vague and veiled, so sometimes they can seem like contentment. I’d say it to my own students, too, “Rest in contentment, your true nature.”

I had misgivings about this, about not being sure, exactly, what this true-nature-contentment thing was, so sometimes I wouldn’t say it. But I did know about the pause between breaths, that swirling spaciousness into which the exhale dissolves and from which the inhale arises. And so I’d invite my students to “Rest here, for as long as it lasts, and then enjoy the next breath whenever it comes along.”
This
felt
authentic.

20 years later

Authenticity
feels
full, warm, round.
Like a baby’s belly after just enough milk.

When my babes were growing into toddlers there was always a lot of talk about food. Meals, snacks, bites, feasts. Yoga is like this.

When my toddlers were growing into children, we talked about feeling full, stuffed, hungry, ravenous, and famished (never starving). I offered them “content” as a way of describing the sensation just shy of full. Did they feel (sense) they’d had enough to eat? What if we wait twenty minutes before having more? Did they feel content with what they had? Yoga is like this.

Photo by Pixabn

Memorial Day weekend of 2020 I was on my first ever silent retreat. My first ever silent retreat was fully online. So, not the experience I had anticipated, but one that was rich and layered with new ways relating and new ways of knowing. It was on that Saturday after listening to poetry, feeling it in my body, and understanding the ways metaphor (which is language itself) translates to sensation (through the motor and somatosensory cortex) that I realized I had been selling myself short. Or (and?) selling contentment short.

I began to understand that I had interpreted contentment as a neutral sensation, neither pleasant nor unpleasant. It seems I didn’t have a sense (a sensation) of contentment that resonated or vibrated in my body. Also, I had used the yogic practice of non-attachment as a way of trying to access contentment, and in so doing had separated it from sensation even further. In this way, contentment felt like nothing – no thing – there was no metaphorical/neural connection for me. When I thought or said the word contentment, neither my motor, nor my somatosensory cortex activated. My brain had nothing (no thing) to offer. There was not an embodied experience (a knowing) from which to draw meaning. No texture or temperature, no vision, aroma, flavor, or action. Basically, contentment was dead.

Enticing the Puppy

Have you ever felt a poem in your bones? Has your flesh ever vibrated with a knowing when your friend describes her experience to you? Has your body ever come alive as you describe your own experience to someone else? This happens because language touches the part of our brain that controls our senses and our movement. The only reason we know anything is because we have a body from which to draw meaning.

Through a series of contemplative inquiries, trauma-informed, resilience focused practices, and iRest yoga nidra meditation, I began to understand that contentment could hold really big things, like Ease, Security, and Safety. It was like a door had been opened, or the roof lifted off, and possibility entered in, lifting me like a cloud toward something even bigger – Joy.

I used to think, Joy? Who am I to feel joy? And then, Wait – why not joy? Why rest in contentment when I can rest in joy? Instead of coupling contentment with neutrality, non-attachment, non-touching, non-aliveness, I started connecting it with happiness, serenity, peace, tranquility, and even Bliss – full aliveness.

I began to turn away from striving, and instead began running home to my body. Contentment would follow me, like a puppy, and bring with her all the sensations of enlivenment like tingling, pulsating, vibrating, shimmering. This is Yoga.

Photo by Erik Izsu00f3f on

A touching. A coming together. A joining. A yoking. A completeness. A coming home. All of this inside me, coming to life.

The practice of contentment is one of non-grasping. It is deep below the surface where the waves do not disturb it. That’s how this all works. Have the experience of bliss and remain equanimous when bliss passes. Have the experience of spaciousness and remain at ease when spaciousness fades. Have the experience of peace and remain serene when peace dissipates. The depth of the ocean is content to remain in cold darkness, unmoved by the weather so far above.

The Evolution of Practice

Dear one, in the depth of your being be content to rest in joy, your true nature, unmoved by the circumstances of your life. Allow yourself to be breathed by the lifeforce of the universe. Feel the birth of the inhalation and the death of the exhalation. Allow yourself to rest in the spacious joyfulness between breaths where death dissolves and life begins.

Can you feel how big you are? Can you feel light radiating from you? Can you feel it in your blood? Your bones? Your skin? How you are touching Love and Love is touching you? How you are the ocean, how you are Love?

Photo by Irina
Iri

Take small bites. (Three little breaths.)

Nibble. (Have a few cat/cows.)

Just have a snack. (One goooooood sun salute.)

Eat just enough. (Two and a half minutes?)

Sense when you are content. (Relaxation.)

Feel when you are full. (Om.)

Get used to the idea
of being
such an amazing thing
as Joy,
and feast
when it is feasting time.

Contentment is big enough

And so are you.

Photo by NaMaKuKi on Pexels.com

A List for White People: Resources to work alongside Marginalized People & end systemic oppression

Hello, Friends! Hello, White Christians & White Yogis!

I’m spending time learning about how to work alongside Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color, because as Christians and as Yogis we are called to work toward union. We are called to live (out in the world) what we practice (on the mat and in the pew) – unity & love. I’m inviting you to learn alongside me.

A Place To Start

A place to start is Guide to Allyship, created by Amelie Lamot, where I found one of many helpful definitions of what it means to be an ally. From author Roxane Gay in her article for Marie Claire“On Making Black Lives Matter:” 

Black people do not need allies. We need people to stand up and take on the problems borne of oppression as their own, without remove or distance.

We need people to do this even if they cannot fully understand what it’s like to be oppressed for their race or ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, class, religion, or other marker of identity.

We need people to use common sense to figure out how to participate in social justice.

Lamot recaps:

“Being an ally doesn’t necessarily mean you fully understand what it feels like to be oppressed. It means you’re taking on the struggle as your own.

A individual from an underinvested community cannot easily cast away the weight of their identity (or identities) shaped through oppression on a whim. They carry that weight every single day, for better or for worse. An ally understands that this is a weight that they, too, must be willing to carry and never put down.”

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Furthering Your Education & Taking Action

Below is a list of resources from NPR’s Code Switch. It’s a starting off point to help us begin to take ownership of our education.

There are at least a couple of ways to approach these titles:

1) begin with the topics and titles we’re drawn to, and then moving on from there.

2) Begin with titles and descriptions that make you uncomfortable or defensive.

This list is long but not comprehensive. There are so many more resources out there for us to learn from. If you happen to feel overwhelmed (like I sometimes do), remember that these works weren’t produced in a single day, and we don’t have to read, watch, or listen to everything this week or this month. In fact, if we are committed to working alongside our marginalized and oppressed brothers and sisters, this is the work of a lifetime. It is not a passing fad.

I’m encouraging us to take enough time to let the truths of these resources sink in. As much as I wish I would’ve been engaging with these texts for my last 20 years, I know that racial and social justice won’t be served by me simply skimming through, checking things off the list. The work will be better served if I honor the truths in these resources by integrating them into my experience: Sit with the stories and lessons. Let them sink in. Notice my reactions. Welcome the discomfort. Get familiar with how systems of oppression manifest in me. Let the discomfort teach me.

Then, after learning from each resource – and my reactions to it – ask myself:

“What is mine to do?”

And then take the actions.

I am inviting you to join me.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The List

This information comes directly from the full article, which you can read here: This List Of Books, Films And Podcasts About Racism Is A Start, Not A Panacea.

Books

Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Raceby Beverly Daniel Tatum

This classic text on the psychology of racism was re-released with new content in 2017, 20 years after its original publication. By providing straight talk on self-segregation and inequality in schools, Tatum shows the importance — and possibility — of cross-racial dialogues starting young.

Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

A finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in History, Race for Profit chronicles how the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968 failed to stop racist, exploitative mortgage lending practices. Since the policy was supposed to be a balm to the 1960s uprisings — much like the ones we’re seeing now — it serves as a reminder to remain vigilant when policymakers promise change.

A Terrible Thing To Waste: Environmental Racism And Its Assault On The American Mind by Harriet A. Washington

From lead poisoning to toxic waste, Americans of color are disproportionately harmed by environmental hazards. This is detrimental to physical health — air pollution is linked with higher COVID-19 death rates, according to Harvard researchers. But Washington also argues that environmental racism is causing cognitive decline in communities of color. A deconstruction of IQ and an indictment of EPA rollbacks, A Terrible Thing To Waste is a stirring read.

From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America by Elizabeth Hinton

The origins of mass incarceration — which disproportionately puts black people behind bars — are often pinned on Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. But Hinton argues the carceral state was erected “by a consensus of liberals and conservatives who privileged punitive responses to urban problems as a reaction to the civil rights movement.” The 1965 Law Enforcement Assistance Act, part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society plan, led to today’s police militarization. This account of history poses relevant questions for today’s land of the free.

Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police and Punish the Poorby Virginia Eubanks

Algorithms are made by humans, so they are susceptible to human biases. From deciding which neighborhoods get policed to who gets welfare benefits, discrimination has gone digital. By scrutinizing statistical models and telling personal stories, Eubanks shows that machines do not correct racist systems — they only shift blame.

The End of Policingby Alex S. Vitale

In the wake of high-profile cases of police brutality, the same ideas for reform are trotted out — implicit bias training, body cameras, police-community dialogues. But Vitale argues that this fails to get to the root of the problem — policing itself. While calls to abolish the police are often met with skepticism, academics and activists have long-discussed alternatives to addressing homelessness, domestic disputes and substance abuse. A free ebook of The End of Policing is available now. (And you can read Code Switch editor extraordinaire Leah Donnella’s conversation with Vitale here.)

Blackballed: The Black Vote and U.S. Democracyby Darryl Pinckney

As young Americans take to the streets to say black lives matter, they’re often told to vote. While voting is important, it’s also important to remember how black political representation has been chipped away by voter ID laws, gerrymandering and felon disenfranchisement. Blackballed addresses the struggle for voting rights and for racial equality more broadly, drawing on Pinckney’s own experiences and writings of civil rights leaders to create a complicated picture of black political identity.

Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Classby Ian Haney López

“Entitlement mentality.” “Quotas.” “Welfare queens.” From Barry Goldwater to Bill Clinton to the Tea Party, politicians have relied on racially coded language to win over white voters and decimate social programs. Dog Whistle Politics makes the case that not only does this strategy endanger people of color, but it also hinders economic mobility for all Americans.

Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecologyby Deirdre Cooper Owens

The foundational knowledge of American gynecology relied on the exploitation of enslaved black women’s bodies. In Medical Bondage, Cooper Owens centers the stories of black women that have been overshadowed by the “discoveries” of white male doctors who experimented on them. Baseless theories about black inferiority and higher pain tolerance still permeate medical schools today.

Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discriminationby Alondra Nelson

The Black Panther Party is most remembered for its militant action, but health care was also a major pillar of its activism. The People’s Free Medical Clinics tested for hypertension and assisted with housing and employment. Its outreach also brought attention to rampant discrimination within mainstream medicine. Nelson writes that the Black Panther Party understood health as a human right, echoing today’s fight for universal health care. You can read Body and Soul online for free.

Films

13th

The U.S. imprisons more people than any other country in the world, and a third of U.S. prisoners are black. In this infuriating documentary, director Ava DuVernay argues that mass incarceration, Jim Crow and slavery are “the three major racialized systems of control adopted in the United States to date.”

I Am Not Your Negro

Narrated by the words of James Baldwin with the voice of Samuel L. Jackson, I Am Not Your Negro connects the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter. Although Baldwin died nearly 30 years before the film’s release, his observations about racial conflict are as incisive today as they were when he made them.

Whose Streets?

The 2014 killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Mo. was one of the deaths that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement. Frustrated by media coverage of unrest in Ferguson, co-directors Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis documented how locals felt about police in riot gear filling their neighborhoods with tear gas. As one resident says, “They don’t tell you the fact that the police showed up to a peaceful candlelight vigil…and boxed them in, and forced them onto a QuikTrip lot.”

LA 92

LA 92 is about the Los Angeles riots that occurred in response to the police beating of Rodney King. The film is entirely comprised of archival footage — no talking heads needed. It’s chilling to watch the unrest of nearly 30 years ago, as young people still take to the streets and shout, “No justice, no peace.”

Teach Us All

Over 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, American schools are still segregated. Teach Us All explains why that is — school choice, residential segregation, biased admissions processes — and talks to advocates working for change. Interspersing interviews from two Little Rock Nine members, the documentary asks how far we’ve really come.

Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise

In this two-part series, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. chronicles the last 50 years of black history through a personal lens. Released days after the 2016 election, some themes of the documentary took on a deeper meaning amid Donald Trump’s win. “Think of the civil rights movement to the present as a second Reconstruction — a 50-year Reconstruction — that ended last night,” Gates said in an interview with Salon.

Podcasts

Floodlinesfrom The Atlantic

An audio documentary about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Floodlines is told from the perspective of four New Orleanians still living with the consequences of governmental neglect. As COVID-19 disproportionately infects and kills Americans of color, the story feels especially relevant. “As a person of color, you always have it in the back of your mind that the government really doesn’t care about you,” said self-described Katrina overcomer Alice Craft-Kerney.

1619from The New York Times

“In August of 1619, a ship carrying more than 20 enslaved Africans arrived in the English colony of Virginia. America was not yet America, but this was the moment it began.” Hosted by recent Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones, the 1619 audio series chronicles how black people have been central to building American democracy, music, wealth and more.

Intersectionality Matters! from The African American Policy Forum

Hosted by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a leading critical race theorist who coined the term “intersectionality,” this podcast brings the academic term to life. Each episode brings together lively political organizers, journalists and writers. This recent episode on COVID-19 in prisons and other areas of confinement is a must-listen.

Throughline from NPR

Every week at Throughline, our palsRund Abdelfatah and Ramtin Arablouei “go back in time to understand the present.” To understand the history of systemic racism in America, we recommend “American Police,” “Mass Incarceration” and “Milliken v. Bradley.”