Saturday, April 7, 2018

Legs Up the Wall Pose


Legs Up the Wall Pose
  1.  Begin by sitting on the floor with a wall next to your side. Your legs should be stretched out straight in front of you. Exhale and gently lie down on your back, engage your core and hip muscles to bring your legs up into the air with the bottoms of your feet pointing to the ceiling.
  2. Pivot your body so the backs of your legs are now touching the wall. Bring your sitting bones flush to the ground and as close to the wall as possible so your torso and legs create a 90-degree angle.
  3. Relax your neck and place your hands on your belly or to your sides with palms facing up. Focus on your breathing and with each breath release any stress or anxiety, starting from your feet and down through your body.
  4. Stay in the Legs Up the Wall Pose for five to 20 minutes. To come out of the pose, gently press the bottoms of your feet into the wall and roll to one side, making sure you support your legs until they reach the ground. Stay on the ground for a few seconds until sitting up so as to avoid lightheadedness.


Modifications & Variations



Performing the Legs Up the Wall Pose can strain your lower back and hips. You can place a pillow or a rolled-up yoga mat or towel under your lower back to relieve excess strain. 

You can also place a pillow or mat for support under your head. 

A strap can be used just around your thighs and above the knees to help hold legs in place and take pressure off the low back and pelvis.

You can also bend your knees up onto a chair which will soften the low back and ease the strain in the back of your legs.


If you are a beginner, focus on using your breath to help “ground” your body as well as relieve excess stress. On each inhale, imagine your breath is moving through your torso and pressing your thighs closer to the wall. On each exhale, imagine your thighs connected to the wall as your let your torso release any tension into the floor.




Precautions

Be careful when lifting your legs to the upright position if you have lower back or hip pain. One way to relieve excess strain on the lower back is to use a rolled-up yoga mat, towel or pillow.

Like any inversion, people with glaucoma should avoid this pose. In some yoga practices, doing this inversion while menstruating is not advised.

Do not do this if you have a hernia of any kind. Also, if you have high or low blood pressure, be careful when performing this pose for extended periods of time or avoid it altogether. Lifting your legs higher than your heart can increase blood pressure and lead to heart and other health problems.

The same warning is also suggested after completion of the pose when you transition from lying to the standing position. Standing suddenly can cause blood pressure fluctuations which can lead to serious injury.

  



Saturday, March 24, 2018

Mindfulness...What we pay attention changes everything




Mandi on Mindfulness Part 2:
Paying Attention and Mindfulness – A Pep-Talk

Have you tried any mindfulness or contemplative prayer practices yet?  If so I would love for you to comment in the blog stream below.  I am hoping the following will be a pep-talk to further your thirst for this practice in your life. I would love to know both your positive experience, and your frustrating experiences.

We know the desert fathers practiced silence and solitude in the un-institutionalized desert communities of pure devotion and removed from religion.  Religion becomes toxic when it becomes hollow “form without power”, or structure without Spirit. Religion was growing less intimate and authentic as Rome integrated and infiltrated the Christian faith into government. But, what in the world did they do out there that would cultivate such deep soul-stirring testimony, writings, and tradition?

You have to be a special sort of person to read their works directly and glean gems that are available to pull down into the here-and-now. Personally, I find it far more accessible to read books by OTHER people who read those original books (full disclosure). 

And now, in addition, we have gifts from the psychological side of our existence which offer of lots of empirically, evidenced-based techniques to pick from as we decide what fits and what serves us in our unique, personalized expression of this mission to “pay attention” to what we CHOOSE in greater and greater measure.

What we pay attention to changes everything. When we get out of the locked cell of this business of the mind and look AT our thoughts rather than FROM our thoughts, deciding which ones hold truth and are worthy of our investment, and which ones bring us distraction and loss. - MJP

Thompson (2010) lists a great summary of the Biblical stories peppered through and consistently laced into our faith legacy:  Adam. Eve. Cain. Noah. Abraham. Sarah. Moses. Gideon. Deborah. Samuel. David. Mary. Joseph. Wise astronomers. Jesus. Paul.” The argument couldn’t be any more solid from a Biblical perspective…mindfulness is imperative to a soul that is alive and connected” (2010). My favorite are the details found in the story of Moses and the burning bush:

Exodus 3 The Voice (VOICE)
3 Now one day when Moses was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, he guided the flock far away from its usual pastures to the other side of the desert and came to a place known as Horeb, where the mountain of God stood. 2 There, the Special Messenger of the Eternal appeared to Moses in a fiery blaze from within the bush. Moses looked again at the bush as it blazed; but to his amazement, the bush did not burn up in flames.

Moses (to himself): 3 Why is this bush not burning up? I need to move a little closer to get a better look at this amazing sight.
4 When the Eternal One saw Moses approach the burning bush to observe it more closely, He called out to him from within the bush.

Eternal One: Moses! Moses!

Moses: I’m right here.

Eternal One: 5 Don’t come any closer. Take off your sandals and stand barefoot on the ground in My presence, for this ground is holy ground. 6 I am the True God, the God of your father, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

May we "Practice paying attention and awaken to that which is extraordinary in the midst of the ordinary. And as we live our lives in response to the One who is calling to us out the burning bush in our own lives, we discover that we are standing on Holy Ground more often than we think!" (Barton 2007)

All of us, no matter the level of thriving or suffering, have to undertake the endeavor to collect ourselves – mostly our minds – on a moment by moment basis to apply ourselves to the thing which we pursue with our presence in the particular moment at hand. - MJP

Even before that, we need to pay attention to if the thing we are pursuing in the moment at hand is the thing we WANT to be pursuing, even in micro-measured behaviors and the direction our day takes.
Our awareness is constantly shifting from this to that. It is my belief that the more we govern that shift, the more we move into the sweet land of thriving.


Mindfulness Offering Installment #2:
Legs Up the Wall Pose 
Use this pose in connection to the Thirds Breaths 

Barton, R. H. (2007) Sacred Rythms. Intervarsity Press. Downers Grove, IL.  
Thompson, C. (2010).  Anatomy of the Soul. Tyndall Press. Carol Stream, IL


Friday, March 23, 2018

Mandi on Mindfulness


Usually “buzz word” trends make me roll my eyes.  But I drank the Kool Aid before it was even a thing…and fell forever in love and define myself by what we now hear called ‘mindfulness’.  It’s because it is what I stumbled upon 20 some years ago when I started doing yoga to save my body and realized it totally cleared my attention to swipe clear a sight-line between the Lord and I. But the truth is…this is one of the most ancient of ancient practices that people have used for thousands of years to hone their focus on what serves them best. We see this in church fathers and mothers, many from the contemplative stream like Thomas Merton, St. Teresa of Availa, and more recently Henry Nouwen and others in his tribe…but the tradition goes back even further:



“As the Christian church moved from bottom to top, protected and pampered by the Roman Empire, people like Anthony of the Desert, John Cassian, Evagrius Ponticus, and the early monks went off to the deserts of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria to keep their freedom and to keep growing in the Spirit. We are still carrying the DNA of our great, great grandparents of faith, and knowing that can give us deep identity and meaning.”, writes Fr. Richard Rohr. 

Now, thankfully we do not have to physically go to the dessert, but we do have to cultivate a desert of our own, as Henry Nouwen writes in The Way of the Heart:

“We are responsible for our own solitude. Precisely because our secular milieu offers us so few spiritual disciplines, we have to develop our own.  We have, indeed, to fashion our own desert where we can withdraw every day, shake off our compulsions, and dwell in the gentle healing presence of our Lord. P. 30.
Our compulsive, wordy, and mind-oriented world has a firm grip on us, and we need a very strong and persistent discipline not to be squeezed to death by it. By their solitude, silence, and unceasing prayer the Desert Fathers show us the way.” P. 94
In my experience, the GREATEST block to sensing the grounded, rooted center that mindfulness (A.K.A practicing the presence of God) offers is a lack of discipline to make space for it and the common enemy of familiarity – form without power.  Undoubtedly, “fashioning a desert” will come against opposition in your schedule, in your fatigue, your responsibilities, and the nature of your mind itself. “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love…”

This last week of lent, approaching the crescendo of Easter, might you consider clearing a few minutes a day to dial in with intentional and substantial attention to some of the practices that draw you close to God? You can't loose! Only gain. 

Mindfulness has been defined in so many similar variations of these words:  purposely paying attention and focusing our awareness on what is present within (body, heart, mind) and outside of yourself (your environment).  The psychological definition also always includes a criterion that our awareness be free of criticism or judgment. It is just noticing with as much commitment as possible to abstain mental threads we would lead us astray from God’s presence.




Nouwen, Henry. 1981. The Way of the Heart. Seabury Press. New York, New York.
Thomposn, Curt. 2010. Anatomy of the Soul. Tyndale Press. Carrollton, TX.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

When the cocoon is also the secret place – Cocoon Conclusions in 2018

There is an agenda that presses toward the end-game in the cocoon.  In addition to anchoring in, being still, night prayers, there is a letting go and there is a secret place agenda.  I don’t think it is coincidence, rather syncretistic that the new year of 2018 is upon us as I arrive to a settling close of butterfly insights.  There is a butterfly crescendo on the horizon. This final work takes place in the Secret Place and is accomplished through a final act of bravery and surrender.



Surrender to the initially affronting idea that this darkness is not inherently bad is hard to reconcile because it feels so bad sometimes. It is also hard because the darkness involves the eating away of what we are…the caterpillar’s whole self must dissolve

There must be an agreement with the Lord to this plan of decompensation – we have to say yes to this night prayer.  We have to be overwhelmed by these imaginal cells so that the new thing can be birthed.

But the moment of surrender, I recognize as I have experienced it myself, it feels like death.
In this metaphor, by imaginal cells I mean the new thing that we have not yet laid hold of, that we may not even have an outline or perception of, that thing on the other side of our liminal space that calls us into the cocoon in the first place. It’s that unfulfilled desire to lean into the next right thing for us or to become the next healed layer of our being…this is the substance of imaginal cells in my discussion here.

Jan Richardson links dark emotional or circumstantial experience with newness it like this: “I believe that Christ came not to dispel the darkness but to teach us to dwell with integrity. The one who grew in the fertile darkness of Mary’s womb knew that darkness is not evil of itself. Rather, it can become the tending place in which our longings for healing, justice, and peace grow and come to birth…with a perception that goes beyond visual sight, we re called to know and to name the gifts of the night and to share the visions that emerge from darkness.”

What do we see with out night vision in the cocoon?  What affections to we become aware of?  What do we host on a regular basis – thoughts, fears, desires? What corner of our emotional experience cries out for healing? What desires have we tucked so deep we dare not become aware of them for fear of disappointment? What whispers the cramp of labor pains…what wants to be born in us during this season of darkness?

These answers cannot be known in the light, in the of scurry of life activity, where we live uncocooned and where our eyes know all the answers.

Once we stop railing against the “imaginal cells” we find our way into the secret place. It is in this secret place that we begin to make out the form and outline of the “butterfly” – of the thing God is leading you to that is the new place, the next provision, the emerging identity that will support the thriving that is our next plateau to run across. The Secret Place is where we get clarity on those questions above. 

We all have our own unique road map to this Secret Place.  Very incomparable from person-to-person, inimitable and matchless are the practices that we become faithful to, that lead us to our Source, our Secret Place. The point is to pursue them.  Daily.  To live into them until they breathe the life into the potentials we long for.

He who takes refuge in the shelter of the Most High will be safe in the shadow of the Almighty. (Fill your name in here ___(Mandi)___ will say to the Eternal, “My Shelter, my mighty fortress, my God, I place all my trust in you.” For He will rescue you from the snares set by your enemies who entrap you and from deadly plagues. Like a bird protecting her young, God will cover you with His feathers, will protect you under His great wings; His faithfulness will form a shield around you, a rock-solid wall to protect you. Psalm 91:1-3

Guys, a shadow is dark.  By definition. Under the great wing of a mother bird light doesn’t burn bright.  Our experience of dark can take on two different tones…the first is an experience of fear, abandonment, inadequacy, and lostness.  That same moment in the darkness can alternatively be experienced as a sweet wrapping, a holding in the Presence of God sealed around us closer than the air in our lungs.  What makes the difference is the intention and awareness we daily choose to define our darkness with and our faithfulness to spend cocoon time in the Secret Place, laid open for God to re-order our form.

In that environment we find the vision and courage to let our new form and outline emerge with security and surefootedness.

I think it is making peace with the goodness of darkness that has been my greatest point of resistance through my cocoon experience…and I have found pressing into the sweetness of it is the only way to exist in it and the only way to find the exit without sight.

*Spiritual Practices Workshop offered on 2/10 in hopes of providing some practical tools to find your unique road into the Secret Place*








Monday, November 20, 2017

Advent, Waiting, and the Goo Phase


What happens when you combine the “like -it-or-not”, encapsulated, broken down to “goo”, anchored in for the long haul, stuck in the process and nowhere else to go sort-of existence…. with Advent? 

Advent’s very definition means waiting.

First consider what is happening in the cocoon while we …
We enter the goo phase; a phase in the caterpillar’s process in which the imaginal cells overtake the old, ill-fitting, non-serving confines of the caterpillar’s silhouette. 

It is fascinating.

Once overtaken by the imaginal cells, the caterpillar is broken down into a jell, a goo, that becomes reconstituted into the shape of the butterfly, sharing almost no molecular similarities with the former organism that it once was, the caterpillar.

For some of us, being in the cocoon is a choice – we dive in because we want more of life.  For some of us, “life on life’s terms” gets us there without our consent, but we dare not come out too soon. Can you imagine, what if the cocoon burst open during the goo phase? Y. U. C. K.

For those of us who can relate to the broken-down state of waiting,
Advent just might be EXACTLY what we need.

What exactly are we waiting for?  What is it exactly that we need? Resolution? A happy ending? An answered prayer? Jesus riding in on the clouds, returning to set all wrong things right?

I am learning that the resolution or healing or whispered prayer is not really the hope.  It is easy to make it my hope. REALLY tempting.  But I am learning.  Learning that if I insist on the happy ending, I begin to serve it. And anything we serve, as good and holy as it might be, if it isn’t the Fountain of Living Water, it will tear us apart and dangerously drain us.

Didn’t Jesus say, the kingdom of God has ALREADY come? It is here. We don’t have to wait for things on the outside to line up with what we know on the inside, in the unseen. Jesus is in the middle of our mess, our hurt, our dirt- he is leaned in close – and He comes to us now….as a baby… bypassing not one single human emotion but dignifying and honoring them all.  We don’t have to wait for heaven.  Heaven came down to us here and now, in this present moment as you take in your next breath, so that we don’t have to wait for the outcome or our specific shape of our healing or resolution.

I think Advent looks like tuning into the frequency that takes us, transcends us, beyond the need for outcome. It is the Presence. It is the Person. It is Jesus. He is available in each moment. If we slow and pay attention.

It is curious: Advent means waiting…but we don’t have to wait.  During Advent we have the invitation to relish the completeness that began on the day of Jesus’ birth.  To fix our eyes on what is unseen instead of what is unresolved in our cocoons. To say yes to the goo phase for as long as it takes for our outsides to match the knowing we have on the inside.

I love the line in this song “If you are not done working, God I’m not done waiting” When you have a minute…let it minister to you.

Advent is an instrument. We get to decide if we play it or not. We get to decide if we dust it off after a year of focusing elsewhere.  We get the invitation to the revel at the Beauty that calls forth transformation out of all this goo.
Mark 7: This is the beginning of the good news of Jesus, the Anointed One, the Liberating King, the Son of God.
Isaiah the prophet told us what would happen before He came:
Watch, I will send My messenger in front of You
    to prepare Your way and make it clear and straight.[a]
You’ll hear him, a voice crying in the wilderness,
    “Prepare the way of the Eternal One,
    a straight way in the wandering desert, a highway for our God.”…

 He preached a message in the wilderness.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Thirds Breaths And Breath Prayers

Thirds Breaths And Breath Prayers
Keep mouth closed – only breathe through nose throughout this exercise.

• Take the fullest breath that is comfortable for you. Fill the whole container of your body with breath. You can think of Filling your belly, flaring your rib cage, and flooding your collar bones with breath

• When you begin to exhale - KEEP LIPS SEALED, BREATHE THROUGH NOSE ONLY

• Exhale a third of your breath and pause

• Exhale the second third of your breath and pause

• Exhale out the whole last third of your breath and empty your lungs of breath completely
You can stop here…or
As you do so, focus on one of these breath prayers-most are just ones I have made up…and make up your own. As you inhale, claim the first phrase over yourself (e.g. Speak, Lord), as you exhale, claim the second phrase (e.g. Your servant is listening).
·     Speak, Lord/Your servant is listening
·     Come/Lord Jesus
·     Be Still/Know
·     My heart says, “seek your face”/ Your face Lord I will seek
·     I am here/Yes
·     Let your promises ring from my lips/yes
·     I recognize the sound of your voice/yes
·     Lord Jesus/Have mercy on me, a sinner (this is noted as the “Jesus Prayer” and has been handed down for hundreds of years in this tradition)
·     Into you hands/I commit my spirit
·     Help me be present/to the One who is always present
·     Hide me/in your shadow
·     Redeem me/Oh God of Truth


Finding your Cremaster

How do you begin this cocoon business?  You have to find your Spiritual Cremaster.

What in the world is that? It’s the place you start. It’s your anchor. 

“When the caterpillar begins to spin its chrysalis, it forms a spiny little protuberance at the end of its abdomen called the cremaster. The cremaster is like a button or patch of Velcro that fastens the pupa in the cocoon and holds it in place.  It’s the anchor point, the place from which the caterpillar hangs “

The still point is our cremaster. Without it, there’s no dance of transformation. It’s the place where all cocoon making starts.  We need to find the point in our soul where we go neither forward nor backward but are fastened in our waiting. We need to discover the “protuberance” from which our lives can silently hang and become new.

What IS this still point?  It represents the Center, the quiet core where God’s Spirit dwells in us.  “Do you not know that…God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16)”

To lay hold of this spot, we quiet our minds, guard the door to our inner world, get alone and SLOW ourselves down and we STILL our breath.  After that, it looks different for each of us. Some gravitate to stillness. Some to vigorous exercise, some to a walk outside, some get out an easel…some to yoga. 

It takes constant practice.  God wanted to BE with Adam in the garden. I was made aware of the insight recently that God took the 7th day of creation "off"  to be at rest with Adam in the garden. Consider though that a garden requires constant attention, being in God’s presence, being “in the garden” takes constant attention and a million “begin agains”.

There is this anchoring into who God says you are, who God says he is, and the promises that define our living and moving and breathing.
The cremaster is a place.
It’s a practice.
It’s a way of life.
It’s a coming home.
It’s our center of gravity.
It’s our reference point.
It’s the stiller of our water.
It’s our stronghold during the storm.
It’s the place we trust to curl up around and wait for the transformation to happen.


When we see the look in Jesus’s face and hear the tone in his voice, when we lock eyes with the One who loves our soul deeply, when we feel him knelt down in the mess with us cupping our face…we have found our cremaster.