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Monique Minahan

yoga. life. love. grief.

We Were Wild Once

IMG_2143We were wild once you know.

We howled without embarrassment,
we cried out for what we needed,
wanted,
loved.

We did not know our skin color mattered because
our heart pumped so perfectly.

We did not know looks were important because
we saw smiles instead of symmetry.

We did not know judgement because
we were too busy being curious.

I wonder if we can take off our otherness now and then
(and hang it in the closet next to our fears & judgements & inadequacies)
and just sit here

you and me in our strong bones,
listening to our beating hearts,
asking our questions that have no answers

maybe in this magic moment we will feel the urge to howl
and not care what we sound like.

When it is time for us to part I hope we
put on our otherness slowly,
so that perhaps we see our laugh lines instead of our wrinkles,
our sameness instead of our differences,
our humanity instead of our insanity,

maybe we walk away a little wilder, a little more whole and a little changed
having remembered where we came from is not so different from where we are.

Originally published on elephantjournal.

The Words

writethe words don’t ask us to fake it
and the words don’t ask us to make it
the words just ask us to open
to where we are, to what we are, to who we are

they invite us to tell our story
and they encourage us to speak our truth
they remind us we are free and whole
even when we are broken and caged

come here and be, they beckon
and who can resist that, to come here and be
it’s too easy, it’s too free
it’s too you. it’s too me

when our wail can no longer be contained
we find ourselves at their door
we enter clumsy human beings
and exit creatures of grace

they hold our hearts shamelessly
shape-shifting to whatever is needed
allowing us to unravel our cells
one word at a time

when we are tongue-tied and writer-blocked
they wait patiently for
the trickle or the flood or the downpour
with open arms

so write your words whatever they are
the words your heart is whispering in your ear
the words you are afraid someone will read
the words that will set you free.

Choosing Moments Over Memories

IMG_2033I am asking myself these days how can I slow down inside so that the external speed of life does not diminish my ability to soak it all in, marinate in it, allow it, and not be bulldozed by it.

My little one is growing so fast and I don’t want to have memories.

I want to have moments.

Moments that I was Here for, moments that I laughed in, cried in, broke in, and healed in, but moments that I felt echo through my whole being.

And if at the end I remember them, well that would be wonderful. Call it a bonus. But I want more than anything to be here now.

I’ve been really inviting myself to be more present in my day-to-day life because while meditation and stillness feel miraculous, the majority of my time is spent in unstillness, in movement, jumping from one moment to the next without time to pause.

So I tried a trick I learned a lifetime ago but get lazy about. I try to engage with life as if I am doing everything for the very first time.

It’s the very first time I’ve seen water come out of the spout.
It’s the very first time I’ve seen my son smile.
It’s the very first time I’ve seen a blue sky.
It’s the very first time I’ve smelled garlic toasting in the pan.
It’s the first time I’ve tasted a strawberry.
It’s the very first time I’ve sat on this couch and felt my body relax.
It’s the very first time I’ve changed a diaper.
It’s the very first time I’ve heard a dog bark.
It’s the very first time I’ve hugged my husband.
It’s the first time I’ve smelled a rose.
It’s the very first time I’ve felt rain.
It’s the very first time I’ve heard my son cry.
It’s the very first time I’ve felt tired and achy.
It’s the very first time I’ve done yoga.
It’s the very first time I’ve moved my legs to walk.
It’s the very first time I’ve smiled.
It’s the very first time I’ve looked in my husband’s blue eyes.
It’s the first time I’ve said, I love you.

Oh how things slow down inside me, melt inside me, and how the gratitude rises like a bubble I can’t suppress. I’m always close to tears because the magnitude of life on this level is hard for my small human form to hold. So I keep stretching my heart bigger to hold it all, to receive it all, and to reflect it all back.

The world keeps speeding along, but as much as I can I try to slow down my perception, my experience, my quality of life so I can soak up the moments fully during the only time they will be with me, right now.

The Exhale

FullSizeRender (5)The bottom of the exhale is the scariest place to be.

In yoga
In the ocean
In life

We are beyond empty here
Completely exposed,
in need,
at the mercy of life to grant us that next
precious
inhale.

As terrifying as it is,
it is just as liberating
just as f***ing freeing
to have nothing,
to hold nothing,
to own nothing

except this pause,
this longer-than-I-can-stand pause
where mortality and humility and fragility merge
into a kind of this-could-be-it ultimatum

That’s why it’s so scary
That’s why it’s so necessary
That’s why we must visit the darkness,
the emptiness,
the bottomless pit of our exhale

So we learn what we must do with our inhale

Our lifelong gift of inhales that are never guaranteed,
but so rich and fertile with the promise of life
that we take them for granted

We expect them to be there
until they’re not.

They’re not there, inflating the heart and soul of the mate you’re hugging.
They’re not there, lifting the belly and warming the skin of the mother you need.
They’re not there, creating that oh-so-familiar sound you expect beside you.

Then we realize we’re there,
at the bottom of our exhale,
without everything we need to survive,
to move, to proceed with this moment.

Yet while our surface starts its slow crumble
and we feel our feet begin to give way,
our heart in a slow-motion implosion,
something deeper is not moved by the terror,
by the fear

In between reaching and releasing there is this:
just this.

Just this nothingness,
just this everythingness,
just this radical presence,
just this.

When your next inhale graces you
try not to forget the landscape of nothingness
in your rush to climb to the top of everything

Visit it from time to time to remember
why you are here
why we are here
what really matters
while we still can.

Healing the BodyMind Through Yoga

Early on in my yoga practice I would often experience an emotional reaction during corpse pose (savasana). Lying still, I would get a lump in my throat and suddenly find tears quietly rolling down my cheeks. I didn’t know it at the time, but my yoga practice was releasing long-held grief from my body.

When grief and recovery from trauma have been processed by the mind, life may begin to seem approachable again and many people feel they can move forward; but the same processes of recovery and healing are essential to the body as well.

Feeling a strong emotional release in a yoga pose or during final relaxation is far from uncommon. One of yoga’s most powerful side effects is its ability to release and heal the BodyMind. Not just the body. Not just the mind. The combined, interconnected, undivided BodyMind.

BodyMind is a term coined by Dr. Candace Pert, a neuropharmacologist who pioneered scientific research into the field of Mind-Body Medicine, advancing our understanding of what are called neuropeptides, or messenger molecules that carry information from the mind to the body and back again through body fluids. These neuropeptides are found throughout our bodies in the heart, sexual organs, and the limbic system, to name a few.

Dr. Pert breaks this concept down with an example of the gut. The entire lining of our intestines is lined with these particular transmitters. She posits, “It seems entirely possible to me that the richness of the receptors may be why a lot of people feel their emotions in their gut – why they have a ‘gut feeling.’”

She further comments: “I think unexpressed emotions are literally lodged in the body. The real true emotions that need to be expressed are in the body, trying to move up and be expressed and thereby integrated, made whole, and healed.”

When we move our bodies through yoga, our BodyMind is allowed expression. It can begin to release emotion and tension that’s been stuck in our bodies perhaps years after we think we’ve mentally processed the event.

Exploring these heavy emotions in our yoga practice, whether intentionally or accidentally, might feel intimidating. Resourcing is a technique that helps us stay present during uncomfortable or overwhelming sensations by finding and connecting to a resource, such as the breath or one of the five senses. This connection works like an anchor for a boat and we can begin to observe sensations safely, without fear of getting lost in the sea of our experience.

mothersdayflierJoin me this Mother’s Day in San Diego at Yoga One for a special commemorative practice where we will explore three ways to use resourcing with yoga, as well as learn how to identify where emotions reside in our individual bodies. We will focus specifically on how to apply these tools when dealing with loss and grief.

This practice is for anyone interested in learning how to use yoga as a supportive healing modality, but especially for anyone who has lost their mother and would welcome a supportive, safe, non-judgemental environment to honor their mother on Mother’s Day.

Loss is something we will all experience in our lifetime. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when. Our yoga practice will not show us a way out of grief, but it can show us a way through and support us through every stage of healing.

Note: If this is something you’re interested in but find the cost prohibitive or cannot attend for some other reason, please contact me to arrange a way for you to receive the information.

Stillness.

Stillness is a secret door,
isn’t it.

Hidden,
in plain view.

Locked,
until you find the key.

Plain to the untrained eye.

Uninteresting,
A dead end,
Boring.

Until you stumble into its wondrous garden of mind-blowing wonder.

What was that?
How can I get back there?

Call it meditation
Or call it prayer
Call it the universal pause
At the end of each exhale

You get there through God
I get there through stillness
They get there through movement
Others get there through alcohol

We must get there
Which is Here
The space between doing and thinking
Where everything,
I mean Everything
Reveals itself.

And when we come to,
our hearts will have expanded
through breakage or gratitude
at the smallness of being human
and the largeness of our experience.

We will return Here
you and I
to sit in the garden of Truth
where everything is as it is
and where the nothingness gets transformed
not into something,
but into Everything,
into All The Things,
into This.

This hug
This look
This pain
This heartbreak
This laughter
This wail
This darkness
This glow
This confusion
This anger
This love
This kiss
This question
This answer

This moment.

Love Itself

I’m in a kind of dance with love lately. Sometimes it’s cheek-to-cheek, sometimes it’s a graceful waltz, sometimes it’s a wild gleeful swing, and sometimes it’s a solo sway to the rhythm of my heart.

When my ears stumbled upon the words below, I felt compelled to share them here, as I think all our hearts are heretics of the free spirit.

One of my favorite people on the planet was Marguerite Porete, lived around 1300. And she lived a very — she was a Beguine, and she lived a very kind of proper, Beguine life as a lay monastic kind of person.

But she wrote a book called The Annihilation of the Simple Soul. And in that book she describes how she has fallen in love with love. And as a consequence, she has left behind the virtues. She leaves behind the virtues in order to embrace love itself. And then she quotes Augustine, “Love love and do what you will,” that this becomes the moral axis.

So it’s no longer the church telling her what to do. She says, “I leave the little church and now I go into the large church, the great church.” So, she left the little church of the virtues. Because she, I think, discovered the source of the virtues themselves, codified and rigorously enforced.

She was burned at the stake as a heretic of the free spirit.

That’s the heresy. I think she was 600 years ahead of her time. And we all have that possibility now of making that discovery, stepping out.

Most of us have, I think, in this room, probably stepped out of the little church and may be finding our way to the big church. – Arthur Zajonc

Coming Home

rainbowI tap on the walls of my heart.

Are you in there? Can we talk?

She seems so close at times, resting a few inches deep in my chest, only a whisper away. Yet today it feels I must travel miles to see her clearly.

So I begin my journey. Miles in silence, miles in movement, miles in questioning.

Where are you? When will you speak? I cannot hear you. Are you saying something? Come closer still.

When all is silent I know it is not because she lacks the courage to speak but because I lack the courage to listen.

So I stop asking, stop moving, stop meditating, stop trying so hard to catch her.

And I start listening. To the wind howl and the rain drop. To the birds chatting and the leaves rustling. To the ambulance wail and the motorcycle’s blast. To my baby’s giggles and my dog’s bark. To my own footsteps and the silence between my breaths. To my own heart beat.

Slowly I begin to hear her. Speaking the truths she always speaks.

She is back, a few inches deep in my chest. A whisper away. Where she always was.

Waiting for me to come home.

Finding Our Soul Rhythm

“A child’s natural rhythm is much closer to a soul rhythm than that of most adults.”-Shefali Tsabary

reflectionLately my son has been trying to talk. He curls up his tongue and spits out whatever noises, grunts, or howls he can muster.

Unlike when he was learning to walk, he’s not cautious about it. He just keeps hammering away at sounds until, word by word, he’ll slowly begin to talk.

It’s made me wonder, When did I stop trying that hard?

Because if he tried to talk like I sometimes attempt new things, well, he’d never talk. He’d get frustrated with slow progress or self-conscious at how he appears and stop trying so whole-heartedly.

I love observing his nature and seeing how limitless, curious, and in sync with our natural rhythms we all start out. Somewhere along the line we forget that moving in time with our nature, trusting our five senses and listening to our intuition is how we accomplished amazing feats like crawling, walking, and learning to speak. No one tells babies this is what they should do. They are just naturally propelled forward by an innate drive to grow because it is how they survive and thrive.

I often observe myself reaching out for answers instead of diving in. I know people have been where I am or stuck where I’m stuck or going where I want to go, and so I want them to give me the shortcut so I can skip the hard stuff and get right to the gold.

The self-help empire is booming ($10 billion/year in the U.S. alone) because people are obsessed with getting happy, fixing themselves, self-improvement, and with “getting there.” On the surface this seems like a good thing, but what is being sacrificed in exchange?

Are we letting other people tell us what happy looks like, feels like, tastes like? Are we subscribing to other people’s definition of success, failure, and growth? Have we lost touch with our own version of happy? Have we stopped following our dreams, our instincts and listening to our soul speak?

We are here to support each other as we grow, often in deeply personal and intimate ways, but there is some work we must do alone. If we try to cheat and get the answer from someone else it may get us by for a while, but at the end of our lives we may realize we were walking someone else’s path the whole time and not our own.

Trusting my heart sometimes feels awkward because I spend so much time in my head. Speaking my truth sometimes feels vulnerable because I spend so much time listening to other people’s truth. Then I do the things I do to reconnect, recenter, self-regulate, and suddenly it doesn’t feel so awkward, so vulnerable. It just feels so right.

In those moments I know how my son feels: at home in his body, full of trust for his process and in sync with his soul rhythm.

If Walking Down the Street Was a Yoga Pose

If walking down the street was a yoga pose, how would we do it? Would we walk more mindfully, consciously, and with attention to how our breath informs our every step?

If sitting in a chair was a yoga pose, would we place our limbs with intention, keep our spine lifted and our gaze soft?

If having a conversation was a yoga pose, would we stay present the whole way through, listen attentively to every word, stay open and receptive?

If weathering difficult times was a yoga pose, would we root down into our reality, hug in to ourselves, and find the space we need to breathe, to survive, to endure?

If loving other people was a yoga pose, would we keep practicing it over and over, year after year, finding more expansiveness as we soften, stretch, and open?

If getting older was a yoga pose, would we observe our wrinkles without judgement, allow our hair to gray with grace, and stand tall in the body that has stood by us our entire life?

If today was a yoga pose, would we live every minute mindfully, simultaneously stand our ground while submitting to our hearts and aligning our actions with our intentions?

Alignment. Presence. Patience. Strength. Acceptance. We practice these things on our mats all the time, but all of life can be a yoga pose. We can limit the benefits of yoga to a few hours a week or we can tap into these same benefits every moment of every day for the rest of our lives.

photo: Corinne of Corinne’s Yoga Things

Originally published on YogaOneBlog.

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