Saturday, January 21, 2012
Copyright Lance Kinseth, Bird Totem, 3”hx6w, wood/beads—maize patterns/leather/brass, 1990
SACRED: To regard with reverence and awe—every experience; not when we decide to certify something as “special” or “divine” or “holy” or the subject of devotion.
Sacredness is inclusive and commonplace rather than exclusive to some events and not others. Water and grasses and trees and people are inherently “holy” and miraculous, simply in their presence, in their being-ness, just-as-they-are. When sacredness appears to be rare, it is an expression of our limits.
Sacredness involves the experience of reverence and awe. Each of us might find some events more appealing than others, but, again, this is our limit. The most seemingly irreligious event is graced and miraculous. Even our work and garbage/waste and tasks that we find distasteful and boring and occurrences that we find negative have sacredness in, for example, what they offer us, teach us and how that process may potentially strengthen us.
The authentically sacred is real and concrete, in all form and force, rather than something esoteric and distanced. Rather than overlook, perhaps gaze at the most obscure object—a chair, a painted wall, a light bulb, a brick, a corn flake, and a pencil—and begin to acknowledge—by slowly tracing back—the millions of natural events and tweaking of human designs that brought it to fruition.
Our most rational scientific measures all still sing “mystery” to us. The more we look and the more we seem to understand, the less we subsume. The “dark energy” that may form the largest component of the cosmos is still not described. And when described, it will likely not bring clarity. Vastness and smallness open to infinities rather than end points. And at any magnitude, we encounter an eloquence and complexity that triggers awe and reverence. And while events are mysterious, they are concrete.
Copyright Lance Kinseth, 2012
The everyday that can seem dull is nothing but magic, miracle. Today I spend some time with the venerable oak that stands guard over the house. Just this. Its bark expresses the miracle of fractals, seemingly chaotic yet patterned, that run the everyday world. The oak is a living miracle—an expression of complex hydrology and earthen minerals. And more, the oak is star-made, magically building mass from energy. The oak has been contrived from atoms born in exploding stars. And as organic macro-molecules, it is an expression of the outer evolution of a star rather than something separate. In a very real way, an oak tree would be nearly impossible to imagine if it was not right in front of us. And outside the window, right next to the venerable oak, the disprized “weed” presses upward through a crack. In this weed, the eloquence of design that capitalizes on soil disturbance is present. We stake our very lives on this weed design in corn, soy, and rice—smaller roots and overproduction of seeds.
When we slow and quiet, as an artist or as a meditation practitioner or soft body-mind practitioner, or shaman, we have the opportunity to fall inside a world within this world that may be the world for we have been searching. In the short flash of life that we are offered, it is, perhaps, an obligation, and, certainly, an optimal opportunity, to go inside that which we presume to be next to nothing, and to open a wall in our thinking.
BODY-MIND PRACTICES that slow and quiet and calm, such as restorative-yin yoga and tai chi and qigong, can optimize the chance to gaze into sacredness as an aspect of our everyday life, as a dynamic in which we are deeply immersed. Mental awareness is guided toward slowing and surrendering to the body physiology. The everyday chatter begins to dissipate. We may begin to listen more than to think. In body-mind practices, we no longer simply think about or read about the practice, we do the practice, and the billions-years-old tested wisdom of the body teaches. We mentally calm rather than think, and the body relaxes. We find that we are not just a face and out thoughts, but this body and more. If we are fortunate to have the time, we may begin to open to the way that we outspread into the landscape. And in this calmness, we begin to not overlook and to not dismiss and disprize. We begin to see grace and eloquence and harmony that literally buoy us up in the universe. We begin to look with reverence and awe, and we are the richer for it. We may begin to discover that the world that we experience is the longer reach of ourselves, and not simply a stage-set for our lives, as if the world turned around us.
Body-mind practices are not done to simply acquire a skill or to bring relaxation into our lives. They have evolved and sustain because we find something surprising there. We optimize by being alert to a larger process that overrides the everyday, and then coming more into harmony with that world overriding our everyday world, and express it.
MY VERY BEST goes out to those of you who have managed to find this blog and to follow it to some degree. I am not sure how you have found it. It doesn't appear easily on Google or other search engines when you look for restorative yoga or yin yoga. To date, Islands Of Grace has reached over 53 countries. Restorative and Yin yoga are practices that appeal to people oriented toward the deep heart of body-mind-spirit. There is, I believe, a global, passionate interest in this approach. It would be wondrous to be with you in India, Mauritius, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Russia, Romania, Canada, and the Philippines, and on and on.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Copyright Lance Kinseth, Penetrating Light / Tetsuko, 2011
WE MIGHT IMAGINE the Earth as having been created eons ago and over-old. But in geo-time, the world has barely appeared. Earth has barely begun with the whole of cosmos still in ongoing creation. Despite all of our intellectualization, we continue to be an expression of the Earth and more, and in the process of becoming the beyond of ourselves.
BODY-MIND PRACTICE, if authentic, is inside the cutting edge of ongoing creation rather than something created long-ago and over-old. In this era, yoga is new, as are all body-mind practices. We are not going back and replicating an ancient, unchanging yoga. Still, in all of these changes and this ongoing creation, there is a sense something enduring and eternal. The ancient path offers a clean way forward—a set of deep guiding principles more than a set of techniques. We sit down on the mat, and we fall into the cascade of the moment as it falls into the future. Were we to rigidly follow the ancient path, we would likely be practicing only superficial techniques, not unlike trying to stop a river. We would have the mental “form,” but not have acquired the “heart-mind” essence that surrenders and opens and listens. In any body-mind practice, the master-task is one of following a few simple principles. Then, there is the opportunity for a “no end to technique.”
Body-mind practices offer creative experiences. In yoga, each pose can speak to us—“child,” “tree,” “dog,” “bridge,” “supine goddess.” Each pose is an invitation to open, to expand, and to create/transform.
Language and imagery change with deep relaxation. With poses that calm and quiet, the everyday chatter stops and words and images become more heart felt, and mind becomes more xin [心 “heart mind,” integrative and heart-felt rather than dissecting]. It’s a little madness, in that it is a different state from everyday life, but a good madness—a softening of roles and expectations.
When the chatter slows, there is the deep eloquence of memory, and the many pathways that you might have taken—still there for the taking, and the power of childhood—a living state, not a stage of life. There is the genetic remembrance of Earth and still a hunger for the elemental--for fire before the hands and for wind and its breath in wild grass. There is the primal core of life—the initiations of trauma and sorrows that teach us, and key life rituals of transition of birth/birthing, loving relatedness, and death. All of this, and more, wait within us as an ember, in that unbreakable place that is both at heart’s center and in the universe. Our creation comes from our unending capacity to imagine, in a cosmos that is still in creation. And when we rest and quiet and calm, our imagination can flower from being imaginary or fantasy to become imaginal or deeply mythic and intuitive and real.
Everyone is innately creative. Human essence might be our never-ending stream of imagination. We become aware of the continuous nature of imagination perhaps best in meditation, where it seems to continually “interfere” with quieting of the mind. This process of imagination continues even in sleep where it comes into conscious awareness when we dream. Our imagination may be dominated by attention to what we did or what we believe we need to do, but there are innumerable doors other than routine waiting to be opened. We need to acknowledge this ever-present quality, and then, engage in processes that evoke non-routine imagery.
Creativity training is dominated by training strategies that aspire to enhance business success. The focus of these programs is upon organizational objectives such as design thinking, critical thinking, problem solving, experimentation, decision-making, and innovation. While some the elements are common to most efforts to foster creativity, yoga-as-creativity-training might focus on personal objectives such as life-changing transformation and identifying hidden strengths. And the practice of yoga offers somewhat different training emphases, such as physiological relaxation or de-stressing, quietness to turn off the chatter or noise and listen to intuition, a shift in brain chemistry and integration of right-left hemispheres, more effusive themes such as inspiration/surrender/wholeness, affirmations, and/or imagery of light, inversion, a quiet place where one can reflect as well as listen to the quality of one’s voice. The dominant creative methodologies target thinking differently, such as “thinking outside the box.” Yoga’s calmness and quiet methods aspire to step outside thought. The focus is much more on using the mind to mollify the body, to see what then appears.
Body-mind practices can be designed to offer provocations for artistic creation and invention and general intuitive inspiration or the nurturance of a deeper sense of clarity and freshness in our imagination rather than an artistic end product. Creative products [writing, drawing and painting, musical voice/song, movement, specific problem-solving—scientific, work objectives and goals and vision] can certainly be concrete outcomes of along a pathway of a creative life.
A sample brief body-mind practice focused upon stimulating creativity:
Creative Journey: A Good Madness & Yoga
BRING: Journal, laptop or notebook, sketchbook, other
2+ Blankets, shawl, eye-pillow or bandana
Personal meaningful/”sacred” objects: stones, feathers, jewelry, etc.
3+ hours minimum [Can also be a longer retreat]
Intro: Cutting through chatter, intuition, presence, and favorites: what are not being expressed, crystallizing personal directives/philosophy, and style
Practice: Asana & Creativity—selected and intuitive, with creative expression
Light lunch [veg wraps & tea/juice & treat]
Practice: Perhaps Shaman Drum & Nature
Practice: Asana & Creativity—selected and intuitive, with creative expression
Provocations throughout sessions by facilitator(s): music,
recorded voice, guided imagery, fragrance
Friday, January 6, 2012
Copyright Lance Kinseth, Great Peace / Dainei, 2011
A YEAR OF RESTORATIVE-YIN YOGA practice is completed [1/2011—1/2012] and documented in the blog, Islands Of Grace: Restorative-Yin Yoga Journal [http://santosharestorative-yinyogajournal.blogspot.com].
Some Overall Outcomes:
What might restorative-yin yoga practice offer?
- Obviously, Relaxation: First, “doing nothing” does a lot: neuro, cardio, lymphatic, endocrine, and not something grossly overall, but something reaching down to each cell.
Softness, Calmness, Islands Of Grace
Modern life is inherently stressful—fast paced in work and even in “relaxation” where TV images quick-change, where physical care is a “WORKout,” where meals are quick, where sleep may be restless, and where even holidays are rushes of preparation and travel. Time maybe the driving force. As a result, life is becoming faster and faster, and we glance into life rather than gaze and contemplate. Irritation is daily and frequent, and there is never a surplus of time. Even sleep is not as relaxing as intentional practice, because in the nightly cycles of dreams we tense muscles as well as experience frustration in our dream content.
- Strength and Flexibility From Holding Poses: Physiologically, “spindles”—sensory receptors within the belly of the muscles that primarily detect changes in the length of the muscle—provoke a chemical release that resists the stretch to protect the muscle. With time and gentle holding, there may be a “spindle release” or a desensitization of the protective response. With repeated practice that holds poses long enough to create spindle release, flexibility as well as strength in flexibility can be increased.
Restorative-yin yoga emphasizes “turning off muscles” and focusing on connective tissue, but with fascia and gristly connective tissue, the need to hold poses is amplified. And work with this connective tissue lies near the heart of long-term health where breakdown of this tissue is the primary cause of debilitation with aging.
- Lumbar Emphasis: In Relax & Renew [p. 7], Judith Lasater writes,
Lower back pain may be the price of being human and standing upright. A major health problem today, back pain ranks second only to the common cold as a reason for patients to visit a physician.
…. Most of us sit, stand, and move in ways that do mo maintain normal curves of the spinal column. Spinal muscles are found to overwork to hold the body upright, creating muscular tension and ultimately lower back pain.
Restorative-yin pose sequences may alternate between moving the lumbar region outward and then inward. This attention to the lumbar region incorporates a yin yoga emphasis upon the lumbar region and hips. Utilizing poses that focus on the lumbar region and continuing consistent restorative-yin practice may be very beneficial in restoring this almost global human health problem. And because much of the lumber structure is supported by fascia or connective tissue that requires sustained stretching, holding poses rather than quickly flowing through poses also optimizes the benefits to the lumbar region.
Restorative-yin also attends to the hips and to the fascia that wraps the spinal column, and secondarily, to listening to the connective tissue that is found throughout the body, even in the muscles.
- Healing Life: not just body, but your aliveness and others’ lives and the Earth, calmness, peacefulness, contentment, gratitude, balance, restraint, and obeisance (use without destroying the base).
Quieting and calming provoke physiological calmness, to which the body attends, restoring the neuro, lymphatic, endocrine, cardiovascular, and energy systems of the body. There is a reduction of the “chatter” of thinking and awareness, making us less reactive and more observant and eliciting a calmness and restored energy that others can see, and perhaps an expanded seeing, especially of events that, heretofore, were ignored and missed, yet that were miraculous.
- Deepening Body-Mind-Spirit Practice: Eloquent concepts may be generated across a year of restorative-yin yoga, from quieting and stillness that evoke expression from a deeper place than everyday chatter:
For examples, see specific blog posts throughout the year, such as serenity, clarity in defining a pathway ahead, touching a deep ground of being, transformation, deep calmness and contentment, resonance with life experience, release, awakening, flow, spirit, sacred space, stillpoint, lightness, centering, harmony, grace…
- Camaraderie of like-mined practitioners oriented toward contemplative body-mind-spirit practice
- Thriving/Optimizing outweigh surviving that is an evolving shift in our perception of health, moving from referencing the absence of illness, physical fitness, more holistic wellness, to thriving/optimal health:
- Activating an unbreakable space within, an INHERENT HEALTH already present, so that optimal health can even be found in terminal illness.
- COME FROM A PLACE OF STRENGTH rather than from loss, creating a meta-motivator which you need [80% quit fitness after 2 months]
- FOCUS: What is NOT wrong [Thich Nhat Hanh]
- Health is primarily PSYCHO-SPIRITUAL [Viktor Frankl: Man’s Search For Meaning] rather than physical
- Rather than concentrating on symptom, ASPIRING TO OPEN A BLOCK in holistic body
- Problems/ADVERSITY AS OPPORTUNITY/information/ as “initiation” vs. “wound”
- Health involves a COMPREHENSIVE MULTI-FOLD PATHWAY: body, art, contemplation/philosophy
- Awareness of something shared, IDENTITY EXTENDING BEYOND SELF AND “DIVINE/SACRED”
- Relaxation into CALMNESS crucial to access internal unbreakable place: RELAXATION AS A PARADIGM SHIFT: Physiological relaxation begins a sequence of “calmness” that opens awareness, and that “senses” new information, and that fosters “transformation” to be authentic.
- HEALING vs. curing/excising [embracing adversity and personal traits as opportunities and as teachings]
- EMERGENCE OF BODY-MIND-SPIRIT CENTERS pioneering a new health literacy, actualizing concepts such as “thriving,” “optimal health” as more than uber-fitness and nutrition, “creativity,” “flow,” and “intuition.”
- RICH ATTRIBUTES become a part of daily life, becoming normal rather than special or exclusive: Eloquence, grace, wonder, contentment, humor, compassion, and gratitude.