Friday, December 5, 2014

JOY in Solemnity

I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil

Wisdom from U2


Inhale/ Exhale

Last night my loving husband of 22 years spoke truth to my heart. And it hurt like HELL. But apparently was exactly what I needed to hear from the person who loves me most.

"I don't understand where this self-loathing comes from. You used to be so confident in your intelligence. I think for some reason, you don't feel worthy of how very smart you are."


Tears sprang to my eyes because he had hit the nail on the head.  And I actually thought I had made so much progress on my healing path, addressing my abandonment wound over the past two years. A memory of the words that sprang  from my heart in meditation shouted "There is no EFFIN path! There is only HERE and  NOW.  Show up in the  way that I have taught you.  With compassion and LOVE for yourSELF, without judgment. Period."  Yep...God said "EFFIN".

Lord knows, I don't curse.

My children  had felt their  mother’s sense of unfulfilled, unrealized potential, and the emptiness inside that she occasionally tried to fill with wine, shopping, or gossip.  Yet I knew that she hadn’t found the truth that she was looking for.   All the while looking for attention in the world as the ego dragged her around with its lame attempts at wholeness and healing.  But the ego was disconnected from the True Self. How do I know this?  None of it worked!

We much prefer joy over sadness and yet they are inextricably related.  I have awoken with anxiety each morning for months now. The challenge for me  was to trust that a daily crying/meditation practice was necessary to simply BE ME, the natural one.  Then one day in the shower, it hit me-- the anxiety is a gift. My body's natural intelligence was  relaying a need to release and connect through centering prayer.  I have begun each day in the presence of the LIVING GOD.

I used to stuff the negative emotions down, hoping they would disappear. But energy never just evaporates. It settles into the body and for me manifested as infertility, IBS, depression, PMDD, loss of 4 teeth, and insomnia.  But, it can only be shifted and transformed, with awareness and mindfulness practices like yoga. I am grateful to share that I have NEVER been healthier and no longer suffer from any of these physical conditions.

I have  come to realize that denying  my wounds and faults has kept me from being my authentic self; that the quest is full of 'On my knees in humility' moments that can turn into days.   Just last month I failed my yoga teacher training written exam. Not once, but TWICE!!   Staying with the question, not needing an answer just yet, I waited.  After a few days I recognized a disconnect:  

For 4 years I had put off yoga teacher training out of fear around failing the exam.  All my prior scholastic and career successes- 5th in my HS graduating class, finance degree and 12 years in commercial banking had been erased while I stayed home, raising our now teenagers. I didn't "feel" smart  any longer and my mind convinced me I should play very small.   Maybe you can relate?

During the training my most frequent prayer  had been for God to create in me a humble teacher.  How did I think She was going to accomplish this?? 

  • Failure
  • Darkness
  • Self-loathing
  • Anxiety
All kindling for the internal fire of transformation.  So in the stillness of my practice, I continued to surrender.

The " I am not good enough" voice in the head is that of a frightened little girl. I acknowledge it simply as resistance to change, a fear of losing my center——  "Authentic competence has arisen" said the deeper, truer voice and so I  dare to be brilliant and wild.

I would like to share this "dark" poem I penned after learning of my failure on 11/1, All Souls Day,  after 7 months of hard work and dedication to the practice I  love.

Hallowing the Day of the Dead
heart wails
bounce off dingy, urine-scented  walls.
spiders scrutinize and hold vigil,
as I lie prone.

bowels twist like fishtail braid.
darkness arriving to shroud and
eclipse my soul.

resolutely, the will
to feel-
shame mostly, demands
anger cloaked in blame
masquerading itself
disguised and unrecognizable.

corner of veil lifts.
anarchy commences

malevolent, restless ones threaten insemination.
barrenness echoes a prayer:
"impregnate from the enchanted souls lying beneath the earth!"

YOU, the Christ!
Enter and shed eternal light.
I choose to carry your salvation
In all its Crowning glory.
I choose resurrection and hope.
I choose love.
I choose 

My Truth and Peace lie in the shadows, the interplay between light and dark, joy and solemnity.  I heard in my spirt on my mat a few days later, "Meet Grace".  I took that to mean I was being re-birthed with a new name.  God sure answers prayers. I think She especially likes to grant the ones that begin with
 "Humble Me".

Anita Grace

Monday, December 1, 2014

Being a listener

I like to tell myself that I have become a great listener(after years of practice)-- very present indeed, says the ego.

And it is true, my mind used to be on near constant fast forward-- worrying about what I would say next, completely unfocused. I am sure I was quite annoying with my constant interruptions. One of my favorite benefits of mindfulness meditation has been improved relationships as I continue to enjoy conversations that dive deep.

But unfortunately it was just a few months back that a dear friend shared something very shameful and I actually changed the subject.  But the oddest part for me was that I wasn't even aware I did it, until hours later in meditation.  While my friend was speaking I was actually tuning him out and pretending I couldn't hear him.  The following is a general and shortened recap of how this conversation played out.

You: an uncle hurt me in the basement. I was just a helpless child.

Me: pass the bread please

You: it was a pattern. The men in my family passing on their pain this way.

Me:  isn't the coffee good here?

You:  yes, this breakfast is great.

I sit and I recall on my meditation cushion (as the spaces between the breath remind me)  all the times I could not/would not be present to your pain.

Inhale: density molds my heart. It's strings tightening like the lacing of a shoe.

Exhale: stay.

Inhale: breath transcends my shame softening and loosening the ties that bind.

Exhale: my mind softens.

Inhale: my sense of failure forgiven

Exhale: God smiling in my heart!

Inhale: it bubbled up to spread across my face

I texted you a sincere apology for my rudeness. You extended a very gracious, "you are forgiven".  I am blessed to have friends who give me many chances to be better.

Have there been times you were faced with an awkward situation and found yourself handling it really poorly. Did you beat yourself up? I'm curious...

Friday, November 28, 2014

Why Thanksgiving cannot commence until my Peace is restored

It's Thanksgiving morning and I am filled with gratitude for my beautiful family and looking forward to our day ahead spent together with our loved ones. And yet, something is nagging at my heart that keeps me from heading out to the football game just yet.

I stay back to pray, meditate and listen.

There is so much the heart wants to say!  But how much time do we allocate to our inner communication?  The mind is so bossy!

If I can sit and settle, allowing my breath to guide me deeper, a new voice arises and it usually has a bodily sensation or reaction attached to it. Oftentimes, it is tears releasing a known or unknown sadness. Other times, I can tap into an area of tightness or tension, sending breath and awareness there and then I wait...

Thanksgiving Eve I taught a yoga class in Camden at our new, beautiful Kroc community center.  Enter two women who have never practiced and I am excited because sharing yoga with beginners really lights me up. I ask Rita how her day was and she says ,"Rough".  I say that I am sorry and ask if she will celebrate Thanksgiving to which she replies, "No".

I am sad but decide to begin class and get them centered, then moving energy.

I begin by telling them a bit about myself and my teaching at the prison in Philadelphia in the women's unit.  I share that the week before a woman spoke of being more free now while incarcerated because of her yoga and meditation practices, than while on the streets and stuck in the lies and stories in her head.

Rita (name changed) begins to quietly cry and I share, "Your yoga mat is meant to absorb as much tears as sweat. I should know, I have shed many tears on my mat over the years."  I tell them my hope is that the practice feels like:
-a visit to the therapist
-attending church
-a great workout at the gym
Yoga can achieve these three all at once and is one of the main reasons why I love to teach.

By the end, Rita is laughing at herself and moving with ease. The change in her countenance is palpable and I am relieved.  We chat about how she didn't always want this life, she remembers at 17 almost attaining her GED and wanting to find a meaningful career. But she had a baby, the father went to prison and shortly after, she herself was rounded up in a drug raid and put away. Now at 33 she can't find a job because of her record. She spends days holed up in a ball just trying to stay clean and out of trouble as her daughter lives a life on the streets. She occasionally gets to Sacred Heart church and loves the music, it makes her feel hopeful.

She says she can relate to so much I said, especially feeling like she is imprisoned in her own mind. The Kroc opening almost 2 months ago in her neighborhood has been a blessing as she comes most days to get out of the house.

Meeting Rita feels like divine intervention. The old voice in my head says something like  "You can help her" but the new deeper, truer voice KNOWS that her words will change my heart and that only God can help but I CAN LOVE.

I now know enough  about the sadness that can make me into a person I am not.  I have suffered from moodiness my entire life. I know I need to release the depressive energy before I emanate it to someone else.  I don't leave my home Thanksgiving until noon after having  shed tears for Rita's lot in life and prayed that God continues to feed her body and soul just enough sustenance to make it another day.  She is the first of many I will encounter and hold space for.

God speaks life into me and allows me to go forth in love to embrace and enjoy the ones closest to my heart.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Surrender

finding ease
the breath carries me
beyond doubt
into quiet emptiness

here lies safety
amidst the
comparisons and
desires for fame and fortune

yet god understands the ego's needs
we are only asked to look at them
one by one
surrendering their grip on our hearts
we expand into
His Grace
where our smallness is
until we, no longer disconnected
from our source,
experience ONE-NESS

and the fear trickles out

where I and God and You

dualism is a lie
there is nowhere i can hide where God does not find
console, and caress me
dry my tears
in this body

Monday, November 3, 2014

hallowing the day of the dead

heart wails
bounce off dingy, urine-scented  walls
spiders scrutinize and hold vigil
as I lie prone

bowels twist like fishtail braid
darkness arriving to shroud and
eclipse my soul

resolutely the will
to feel-
shame mostly, demands
anger cloaked in blame
masquerading itself
disguised and unrecognizable

corner of veil lifts
anarchy commences

malevolent, restless ones threaten insemination
barrenness echoes a prayer:
"impregnate from the enchanted souls lying beneath the earth!"

YOU, the Christ!
Enter and shed eternal light
I choose to carry your salvation
In all its Crowning glory
I choose resurrection and hope
I choose love
I choose 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Trying to explain the unexplainable

Hebrews 11:1  The evidence of things not seen

A three day heart2heart retreat began at the Philadelphia FDC prison with 15 female participants on 3 south.  Overall there were 5 sessions which included yoga, meditation and non-violent communication skills.  Our program director chose the theme 'we are all connected'.   Each of us volunteers spoke to how this is true but that in reality we experience much difficulty connecting deeply to ourselves and others authentically.  Why is this?

Trauma, pain, addiction, distraction...the list goes on.  We shared a variety of  tools to help the women feel better connected to both the Self and others and shared three sessions of yoga and meditation.

Ieasha, a 30-something inmate had never practiced yoga before and tried her best to stay in the room as we breathed and stretched in simple asana.  But her discomfort was palpable and she left half-way through.  She came back the next day, only to leave unexpectedly.  Initially when discussing the agreements we would all hold to, one of which was "stay" in the hard stuff, Iesha was the first to give her buy-in and contributed boldly to the other agreements like 'what is shared here stays here'. 

What's more, Iesha couldn't make eye contact, was twitching and admitted to feeling extremely irritable.  I am currently learning more about being ungrounded and its origin in the root chakra in my YTT.

In our final session she attempted to bow out saying, "I just showered and lotioned. No one told me this was yoga again."  I promised her we wouldn't sweat and asked if she would give our new volunteer a chance to share her gifts.  I will never forget how she respectfully replied, 

"I will try it Miss".  

The sincerity of her words struck me in a way that almost made me cry.

I believe she stayed with the opening string breath meditation and two of the seated asana and then I saw her out of the corner of my eye retreat to a spot in the back of the room, eventually leaving altogether.  I was told she never returned for afternoon session but peeked in the window several times.  I was saddened at the thought of the pain she must be carrying.  I sensed her desire to learn and grow but there was such resistance she just couldn't get past the blocks.

Later that evening as I walked the dog in the park, I looked up at the fading blue sky and felt its expansiveness deeply.  I then noticed the ground supporting me as if for the first time and I began crying and repeating, "I am rooted. I am rooted. I am rooted."  

Something shifted and I began shouting, "Ieasha! Ieasha! Ieasha!".  My entire body was trembling.

Next thing I knew, I was crying hysterically as if her pain was my pain and I prayed to the Heavens, "Heal her! Heal her!"  

My breath returned to normal and the tears dried.  I continued to pray, "Let some small tidbit feed her. Let the breath carry her toward healing."

I was connected to Ieasha undeniably.  I can only hope my prayers were heard.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

feed my sheep

If you saw author Paulo Coelho on #Oprah soul series you will know from whence my inspiration came!! the world needs more #poetry

feed my sheep

speak truth into the hearts and minds and ears
of your fellow man
feed him the living bread of life
with your words

his ears will devour this very provision
like a hungry wolf
waiting in the dark, wooded corner
of his soul

he will
chew and chew
and chew
on your offering
until all at once
it will fill him to overflowing,
his mouth spewing
the prized excess

he will know
that this very sustenance
shall abide in him
all the rest of his days

at first, he will nervously proffer
just the fallen crumbs
to the starving,

will these scraps
in fattening the calf?

repeatedly surrendering and trusting
the amplitude

And like a loaf growing
10 times in size,
this newly trained shepherd
shall find
his own speech
contains the proper nutrients
to nourish the
not-so innocent lambs

the sheep and shepherd
shall wander the pastures as ONE

contentment and purpose
the dung-scented
meadow air

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

fraught with peace

fraught with peace

watershed tears
no reason
and every

clarity and confusion
share gray matter space
knitted together
the fibers marry

body sways and rocks
through cerulean gloom

hope danced
and twirled
like a ballerina on tiptoe
above the rising pain
arms raised
releasing  the world's anguish
one angry fist
one praise hand at a time

the heart speaks:

imperceptibly at first

resplendent light
lifts the dense
fog of mourn

immobility and helplessness
spiral into backbone
erect and courageous
like a monarch being beckoned
to life's garden
boldly, colorfully demonstrating

IT as all Bliss[f]

Friday, September 12, 2014

The mat and the snot-stained shirt

It's a beautiful September morn, cool and sunny.  I awake extra early filled with an unexplained anxiousness.  This week has been filled with meaning, purpose, friendship, family, work and practice.

As a little bit of background:
Science shows us that everything is made up of energy and exchanges that with everything else at all times in a most complex way. It is the building block of all matter. The same energy that composes your flesh is the same one that composes the bricks of your house and the trees outside. It is all the same. It is constantly at flow, changing form all the time. This is a very simple explanation of a rather complex thing."

In his book, The Divine Matrix, Gregg Braden starts off one of his chapter saying:
There is a place where all things begin, a location of pure energy that simply "is".

Last evening was different; in our heart2heart sharing with a new group,
I sat next to a very depressed young man.  After a little encouragement, he openly shared his underlying hope that was just a glimmer beneath the heavy darkness he lived in. He held the oppressiveness of the world inside his heart and it showed like a gloomy mask over his young face.  I listened with empathy as he and the others talked about life's challenges.  I was in the position of table leader and therefore, did not share.

The purpose of the gathering was to practice the language of the heart, starting with non-violence toward your own self. We connected with breath and got centered; acknowledging both the inner wisdom  and the attempts of the mind to instill fear, smallness, non-enoughness etc.  It was an open, honest dialogue and I left feeling blessed.

But energy, both light and dark, is real and in search of a home.  I had absorbed some of this young man's depressed state and now if felt like my own. So I took to my mat and allowed the feelings to arise:

I feel like a failure

A bad friend

A  judge in search of my own agenda


Disappointment in not being heard

Underneath all this mess, I knew there was a center I needed to return home to.

One that would provide  peace and space. 

Out in the park I used the only item I had to blow my nose and dry my tears-  a light-weight sweatshirt.  The outpouring went on for quite awhile as the awareness continued as to how life works and how healing takes place starting in the physical body.

I had practiced with an excellent teacher on Wednesday who opened our hips and psoas consistently for the hour of yoga.  We focused on our center and the concept of sattva as compared to the other two extreme Gunas: rajas and tamas.  When rajas is dominating there is selfishness and greed  and with an excess of tamas one is reckless, inactive or delusional.  All we humans are working these out and returning to our true nature.

But the road to get there looks like a stop on the mat and resembles a crumbled mess of a woman surrendering all her ugliness and faults to the earth.

I am grateful that my heart continued to speak clearly --"you are a human and all of these faults and fears are normal.  They are not to be judged, they are to be surrendered.  THIS  is how you find liberation, ease and comfort in feeling more like yourself, your truest self.

I humbly moved with breath, opening heart, hips, hamstrings and shoulders;  continuing to trust that the physical body's release would serve the Highest good in healing me and allowing me to show up more whole and connected to my TRUTH as a teacher of these tools.

Why am I grateful to have 'caught' this dark energy?

I have found more compassion for those who suffer regularly from this condition, especially the women I teach at the FDC who are away from their families for extended periods of time.  They suffer depression in large numbers in a very negative environment where it is nearly impossible to see or 'catch' the light.  I am grateful for any opportunity to be in humble warrior, face planted in supplication, tears releasing fear and lies and rigidity.

May we all  confidently step out of the shadows and into the L I G H T, finding liberation and          
P E A C E.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Nowhere to land

When we are connected to Self we can say that we are one with our experience.  Whether that experience is pleasurable or painful makes no matter.   We can breathe and allow the inner fiery light merge with the grief or shame or sadness and stay with it until it dissipates or transforms.  This past weekend, the term "holding space" reminds me of what I've experienced during my healing meditations.  I was learning how to hold space for my experience.

I find  that what I am left with feels like freedom.  I think that the mystics teachings on emptiness means that there is nowhere for the emotion to land.  The energy passes through and we are left impregnated with full potential in the moment.  In other words-- ALIVE.

Yoga physical asana creates space in the body and mind which allows prana to keep flowing and thus the lower vibrational energy has nowhere to land.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Gift of YOU

So my big AHA from today's amazing gathering of love energy in yoga teacher training left me with this tidbit:

It's not so much about sharing the gifts you've been given as it is sharing the YOU you've been given.

YOUR LIFE?'s not yours!!

It was a total gift  and it's how you deepen your knowledge of Self that matters.  You can embrace the gift, open the box and share yourself freely with the world because you recognize it was never yours to begin with. It would feel like cheating to hold back.

Tapping deeper and deeper into what makes YOU YOU...that space feels like more than enough.  The Self is  actually so connected to Source it's overflowing with competence, gratitude, love, compassion, kindness, generosity.

Dive back into Life! And watch it not only sustain you, but the bravery it took to jump results in YOU being absorbed and lifted by the Great Wave-- losing yourself and finding yourself all at once.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Trinity of Parenthood : I and Love, and You

Relationships serve many wonderful and challenging purposes in our lives don't they?

We are meant to love and be loved. We laugh together and hug and cry together. Oftentimes, we may sense a holiness to our interactions.  If we are lucky, we are aware of the beauty in the words, the sincerity behind the selfless actions.

Even the trials and arguments bring with them opportunity to better understand another's heart, their relationship with themselves and life.  As parents it can be so difficult to separate oneself from your child.  I feel  my teenagers experiences as overarching and  imminent.  The import of their trials seem life or death to me.  I place having brought them into this world as my sole responsibility for raising them to be not only loving and contributing young adults but their safety and health weigh heavy on my shoulders.

This morning I'm realizing it is time.

The time is ripe to begin to Let go and Let GOD more and more as they approach the last few years of high school.  It will be up to them to navigate the waters of life very soon and I need to trust that God  will guide their hearts.  We have held tightly to them and I pray have lived by example of how God wants us to love him with all our hearts and all our minds and all our souls and others as we love ourselves and Him.

I breathe and I know that beneath the worry and the anxiety that I need to control their actions and whereabouts  a little longer, is the true knowledge that they are meant to learn and grow from EVERY ONE of Life's experiences, just like U S.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

When the two become O N E

Before I ever stepped foot on a mat, I almost exclusively operated from a place of non-presence.  What I mean by this, is my mind was either racing to assemble what I had to say or I was trapped in the past in some sort of emotion or memory.  I first read Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth in 2008 and absorbed as much as my mind was able to at that time.  He speaks about the power of NOW and how this moment is all we have.  True joy and authentic relationship can only occur in this very moment, where the slate is clean.  I desired this but without a practice, I was unable to grasp fully how this concept could become my reality.

For creative types, using the right-brain regularly will tap into pure presence and allow you to become fully engrossed in the beauty, space and peace that is already there.

Yesterday when I read Jesus' quote in the Gospel of Thomas, "When the two become ONE" I was initially a bit confused and decided to sleep on it.  On my mat this morning I found myself resisting the physicality, initially because of a rough night's sleep and overall muscle soreness.  But as I began to move with breath, I dedicated my practice like a prayer to my brother Jesus and I envisioned his loving gaze.

About thirty minutes in, I was in a deep forward fold, hugging my legs close when I began to think "My top half is one with my bottom half. They are no longer separate but whole" and then as I moved   with breath the concept went a bit further: "When the lower chakras of the body are joined with the upper, then the two become one".  I realized that this kind of "thinking" wasn't normal mind chatter or problem solving--this was heart wisdom coming through.

I kept smiling a deep, knowing smile that emanated from my heart when ultimately, the message deepened:  When Heaven and Earth are O N E.  The mystics and sages taught that ALL of life is Divine-- the light overcomes the dark but the stars would not be shining brightly if not for the dark of night.  Think of all the times you've had to learn from loss and pain.  You wouldn't wish those on anyone and yet you might feel deep down that the depth of beauty and love experienced where you are now would be incomplete if not for those trials.

I believe that God wants to transform all of our unresolved pain.  That is the message of the cross: surrender our worst fears and lies we tell ourselves of not being good enough and find that God will use these as raw material for  the treasure he wants to place in our hearts and lives.  My yoga and meditation practices have given me the tools to find the space to shed the tears and release the pent up emotions. When the two limbs of the cross become one: where they become one--  at the                    C E N T E R, our C E N T E R.  The heart chakra.

I use my body to pray and thus embody my faith in the Light placed within each of us.  This is one of the many reasons why I choose to share this gift that has set the Spirit of my childhood free. I trust  that Life is meant to be lived NOW, fully and entirely with wide open hearts rich with mercy and grace.  I fondly recall another inspired message from above,
"Even here. Especially here!  We are called to release Heaven on earth by acting authentically in a way that our soul feels nourished and satisfied".

I encourage you to only take what resonates and then spend time in stillness listening to your own heart's messaging to chart the path that was drawn for you alone. And above all else, find more ways that make your soul feel nourished and satisfied.
Namaste' friends

Thursday, July 31, 2014


you in prison green garb
gazing back at me softly with misty eyes
i see love and admiration
appreciation mixed with a bit of awe
i feel warmth spread across my face and neck, down my chest into my belly
i know this is gods' love for me
this is how he sees me
with your eyes you show me how God sees me
he wants  me to know in my bones that i am
i am enough
i am loved unconditionally and forgiven all my shortcomings

i desire to spread this incredible almost indescribable feeling to others
i want to gaze in their eyes in a way that they leave full
overflowing even
knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that you, the God of the universe
want union with each and every one of us
until there is no separation
we are One with the Divine creator
and One another

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

drowning voices

she speaks
but no one listens
she cries in the night
the owls hoot their reply

her feminine truth remains lodged
in her throat
like a jumble of linguistic jargon
in warm spittle
her wisdom buried
beneath molten guile and disguised agenda
the musty earth protecting a cauldron
of nurtured secrets

birthing and vomiting at once
the Real woman
clutching her boldness
her complexity
frighteningly lovely
her magic stemming
from infinite depths
and her circle of sisters

she was incomplete,
a proliferating fetus of
cells enmeshed in purity and goodness
multiplying at warp speed

awaiting God's perfect timing
to arrive

men revere her
fluid words
they carry prudence
and unlikely humility
moses lying in the basket
floating downstream in muddy waters
his cries gaining strength
the princess drawing him out
his vocal chords beginning to resonate
a universal hopefulness
and red-blooded blessing
to live and speak
and drown only
that which must die

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

mama nature

again and again spongy mat absorbs surrendered tears and sweat
in equal measure
mother gaia at work
balancing excess or trapped energy
transmuting calm
the frequency of the shaking leaves
in trees
applauding life,
my life

Monday, July 28, 2014

I See JESUS in the lotus everyday

Yoga: union of mind, body and spirit.  I  feel better connected to God and others when I operate out of a place of wholeness and have recently had a MAJOR aha!  There must be Divinity in ALL of me-- my body has an innate wisdom to communicate, I use my mind to learn and problem solve and my heart/spirit guides me in ways I can trust but  that are not always readily apparent.  One important message that came through on my mat recently was "I have found a place of paradox where I can live peaceably.  It is there that I am confident I am enough, I know enough and my unique gifts are enough. AND YET, I actually know very little of the larger reality at work.

For most of my 48 years I  have ignored the communications generated by my belly pains, tears, goosebumps, hangovers and tiredness...forging ahead with an abundance of ice cream, margaritas and pasta!  It seems that after 10 years of regular yoga and meditation practice, I have been regularly receiving communication from the wisdom placed in my physical body.  What a revelation that my spirit isnt to be revered above my mind and body.  What a confirmation from my main man, JC, that He is the Truth-- Divinity and Humanity co-existing in one being. Herein, lies one of the many similarities between yogic philosophy and  Jesus's teachings, but somehow history has separated the two. And not just separated but much of traditional, fundamental Christianity will point to yoga's roots in Hinduism as satanic.   It is one of my missions in life to work so that people who are intimidated by trying yoga at a local studio can experience embodying the Divine alive inside each and every one of us.  The obvious space is in the local churches!!

I am journeying toward equanimity and respect for each.

I love my body and I love my spirit but there remains judgment about the mind. For many of my students, it seems that most of their criticism is toward their body.  As I get older, my mind is challenging me with memory issues and focus.  However, I initially pursued a meditation practice to aid in this  holistically nearly three years ago and that step was the first in me finding my true calling: teaching yoga and meditation to the incarcerated and now other underserved populations.

Alan Watts says that 'the loss of paradoxical thinking is the great blindness of our civilization' and Father Richard Rohr goes on to say "which is what many of us believe happened when we repressed the feminine side of our lives as the inferior side. It was a loss of subtlety, discrimination, and capacity for complementarity."  Each of us houses masculine and feminine energies.  May the gentle, compassionate and interconnected in each of us arise and flourish.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Challenge to the anawim (ordinary)

Are you a nobody like me?  An ordinary person with a pretty ordinary life and background…
or maybe you have some real juiciness going on, like you could write a book!!
Either way, it's the average Joe and Julie who are being asked to share the good news.

What is the good news you might be asking? Well from my humble perspective this day it's  that life is full of paradox and it can all be transformed for not only your highest good but the good of humanity. That what appears to be tragic, painful, and heretical may  turn out to be your greatest strength that God wants to use to change and open hearts: first and foremost our own!!

We are being called to release ALL of our pent up emotional "stuff" that is holding us back. How do we do that? Just to name a few: yoga and meditation, creative outlets like writing , music and art.
QUIET, still sacred time where we can tune into our own HEARTS AND GUT…dropping out of the mind chatter and into somewhere deeper that is connected to the rest of the universe.  The breath can take you there…or meditating on the ocean.

Listening to the roar and rhythm of the waves crashing, one can sense that when we feel alone we imagine we are like just one drop of salt water in a great sea. We can oftentimes feel insignificant and unworthy. We can suffer a  disconnection and feel  very, very alone.  The great fix for this dreadful sensation?  Go inside yourself and enter the spaciousness there.  Most of the physical body is made up of empty space, but we feel trapped and suffocated by our own self oftentimes. Why?  the mind just won't shut up!!

By getting still, we can begin to sense that all of our pain, all of our shame is not so unlike everyone else's. When we can surrender to what is, that's when the miracle happens.  A rush of love, divine GRACE and fullness enters. we are immersed in goodness and compassion and it is ALL inside of us, everything we need. In the spaces between the thoughts, carried on a single breath of life we return to our source. We were created ordinary for an extraordinary purpose. If and only if, we can tap into our connection to all that is and ever was. Our expansion from singular drop of sea water merges into the fullness of the oceans and we are lifted higher than we ever imagined, buoyed by an arising trust in our life's meaning and purpose.

Friday, May 30, 2014

the meadow

enter the meadow
not as wee, insignificant, embryonic you
breathe in
sigh out

Allow your once companionless self
To surrender her germinal trifles
to mother gaia

this essence of yours, odd as it may seem
is as eccentric
as it is  N O T  dramatic

truly and miraculously
the meadow

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

G R A C E, a Name We Can All Adopt

A store clerk looked at my credit card last week and asked, "What does your name mean? Anita? It is so beautiful".     I responded that I once knew,   but had forgotten… that I would google it.

Apparently, my name means GRACE and I couldn't have been happier to learn or re-learn this little fact.   I have always loved that word.

While I was preparing for yoga with the ladies of the Phila. Federal Detention Center (FDC),  I decided to research the meaning of many of their names:

Donna- lady
Lee- shelter from the storm
Amy- beloved
Michele- gift from God
Gwen- blessed
Stacey -resurrection

I asked them to lie on their backs and after centering through breath to begin to repeat,   "I am …fill in your name" and after a few rounds, replace your name with the meaning of your name.  I spoke gently of "who" they are when they drop the unhelpful labels (like inmate) and false identities (like criminal).  I suggested we practice together in the spirit of honoring how we each share all of those strong and lovely qualities. Then,  I explain that in yogic terms how we speak of karma and what you put out into the world will have equal repercussions--like in physics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  We are taught to be careful and intentionally put out more good than bad into the world!!


Along comes this thing called GRACE to upend this karmic concept; where all of us get a second chance and a third and a fourth.  No matter what crime or sin or evil we've committed, we can turn to the Light and allow it to overcome  or transform the darkness--   THROUGH GRACE.  Yes, it is a radical concept-- Love interrupts the course of our karmic path and redirects us, not just onto a new path but we find we have a new and deeper understanding of who we are in relationship to God and to one another.  

My favorite, simple poem is Mary Oliver's :

Pay Attention
Be Astonished
Tell About it

I continue to be astonished that it is by feeling an actual dying "within" the dark wound itself, that energy is released and converted.  Especially in stillness,  we find we can  surrender our wrongs and our trauma.  Infinite spirit uses them as raw material to create something new, an original melody meant to be sung in our voice alone.  We must die to the sad, same, old tune and  awaken to a new song in our hearst.   The beloved Maya Angelou passed away last week and left us with her incredible message of love,  personal empowerment and yes, transformation. Ms. Angelou said,

“I would like to be known as an intelligent woman, a courageous woman, a loving woman, a woman who teaches by being.”

Back in class it is now  3:15 p.m. and  time for final rest for the ladies of the FDC.  They recline into savasana and listen as I describe this as one of the most difficult poses because we are left alone to just "Be".   There is no one instructing us,  no one encouraging, or guiding us any longer. How much self- trust and knowledge have we cultivated to "Be" here?  It's brave and vulnerable and totally worth it to stay.

I suggest we might try resting in the knowledge that GRACE is personal and For us... Lest we might begin to think that all our effort, all our self-improvement was the reason for our shining, expansive heart.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Making Me a Channel of God's Peace

Two and a half years ago I attended my first Centering Prayer retreat at the St. Francis Renewal Center with  a special group  of all ages seeking God's friendship in the stillness.  I sat in one of the later sessions of the weekend and began pleading with God:

"I cannot do this on my own.  I do not know enough to teach this meditation in the prisons as you've called me.  Who am I to go forward in this way- I am a wife and mother and not an expert on this topic, by any means. I don't know enough yet!!!".

Through my shaking and tears, I began to feel God "breathing me"--
like nothing I had ever experienced
as my chest rose and fell--
as if by His spirit moving in me.

And then I very distinctly heard, "Go forward have MY LOVE. That is enough".

I continued to practice almost every day and after a few set-backs and disappointments over the coming 6 months, I was invited to begin teaching a weekly class to the incarcerated men at the FCI. This was a moment of Divine intervention as I traveled by car to NYC with a prison warden I had never met and he agreed to let this inexperienced woman try her hand at teaching in his facility.  After a few sessions volunteering with 12 men on average, a second class in the minimum security was added. I was blessed by the honesty and compassion of these men week after week for an entire year. I quickly realized that as I served, I was the one whose heart was expanding and was blessed abundantly.

God had made true on His promise. His LOVE was always enough.

The men often shared how the practice was effecting their relationships with their families.  They felt less reactive, more open to believing change was possible and having a more positive outlook on utilizing their time away from their families as an opportunity for personal growth and knowing God in a deeper way.

They were able to connect to their "enough-ness" in a new and consistent way.

In October of 2013 the organization I volunteer with was offered an opportunity to teach the women at the Philadelphia FDC a combination of non-violent communication skills, yoga and meditation.  I have been there almost weekly since and again am encouraged at  the way that God has healed and opened hearts.

This practice has raised my awareness so that I am choosing which thoughts are helpful and which are hurtful.  Because I am choosing to operate wholly much more often, I am choosing love (both for myself and others) and I have found that this has brought me to a new level of self- acceptance and compassion.

The inner journey is now being mirrored in the outer world as I continue to enjoy a strong sense of purpose and meaning, sharing these tools and my personal story.  I continue to pray to be emptied for His use, a channel of His peace.   I am in the midst of my 200-hour yoga teacher training and doors are being opened each week full of opportunities to share with new, hungry, hurting people.

I pray that I be used well to serve in a way that continues to draw and heal hearts back to Our Creator, where one-ness and peace abide.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

When He said LOVE your enemies

the enemy within
should not be discharged
after all,
she is your loyal soldier
and wounded healer,
i might add

the lusty dancer in  sweat-soaked silk shirt
desirous of …a legion of lovers
is not the adversary

and yes, the courtroom judge outfitted in
flowing black robes
trailing a whispered "how could you?"

even that dummy in the corner
donning dunce-cap

and what about the jealous one
wishing for
high-powered divisions
in which people respond "how high?"
in reply to your--

i really love my small, snarky self
when she wants to arm herself with
your daddy and your sisters
into her own battalion
and wishes you would stop sabotaging both... for once

oh how I love her when she attempts to recruit the
extravagant and fanciful
into her service

as if those trappings could penetrate
and seep into
and vessels
establishing residence
like a marigold seed planted
and prepped by the deluge
for spring's blossoming

i surely do love
the enemy within

she's human and fallible,
imperfect and struggling,
participating exquisitely
and rebelling as necessary

i shall simply wrap her
in a knitted and yes, undeserved
and quench her
supposed need
for  gold stars and purple hearts
with a

Monday, May 5, 2014

volcano love

peak ascending skyward
stable and steady like rooted oaks
hot rocks spewing
temps rise
pink lava flows
as if blood mixed with tears
staining the surface
in a streaming fluid
releasing the pent up "strength"
oozing like ketchup squeezed
from plastic packet
until spent
one with the earth


sheds cocoon -like protective covering
expands colorful wings
then south
then west
testing legs
still wobbly
trusts an inner knowing

I can FLY
High as the volcano
beyond the rainbow

Friday, April 4, 2014



a wise man told me
i was sanctified today

so i returned to the river
coursing through my veins

felt the life that swayed to and fro
like a tiny fishing boat trying to settle

what appears monsoon
may be rainbow

come follow me, said Nazarene
and the damn broke

causing rivulets to bubble up
and stream freely, and I

trusting aqueous intelligence
experienced cana's feast

in acceptance of
the ripe hour

to cast my net
to become

a fisher of
men's souls

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

I wanted to know when I was being a Jerk

You are inherently, objectively, totally, and forever a daughter or son of God. You cannot gain that or lose that by any achievement or failure whatsoever. God doesn’t participate in the honor/shame system. Christianity’s role is always to tell you that you are  a child of God! Our primary job is to keep proclaiming the true identity of things, and not to create contests whereby some few can attain their identity—if they are good enough.  Yoga and meditation help us have a bodily experience of the Divine alive inside of us!!
But much of religion has bought us right back into the honor/shame system. All we did was change the cultural rules to religious rules. Now there was yet another way to be superior—by being pious, publicly religious, and “moral” about one or two things which are usually not central issues. Yet Jesus’ teachings against status-seeking and building up religious reputation tell us again and again, “Don’t go there!” (Examine Matthew 6:1-21 and Luke 18:9-14.)
I used to be one of those people with a fairly low level of self-awareness and compassion and then I began a meditation practice.  Nice enough….BUT, I used to expect people to know inherently that change was good for them.  If you were my friend, I made it quite clear that you were "NOT ok" just as you probably had some changing to do.  Of course this all stemmed from something deep in me that I  then reflected out into my world.  I am so happy to say that I have learned that not only am I "enough" but that you are too!!

Fortunately, about two years ago because of a  concern over my memory declining, I pursued a holistic approach to helping myself and came across  "How God Changes Your Brain".  This miracle of a book not only taught me how to meditate, but helped me find my calling.  I had spent 5 years after staying home to raise my now teenagers, trying to figure out how best to share my gifts with the world.  Meditation was not only making me a nicer person but I was letting go of the anxiety over whether I had signs of early Alzheimers at 46.  I had a deep desire to bring awareness to when I was being a jerk (joking, but not really).

After about a year of almost daily practice of sitting with intention and following my breath, I had a profound message come through regarding change.  My soul was relaying this in no uncertain terms ;  You have it all WRONG and quite backwards!  God is not waiting to use you when you better resemble Mother Teresa.  God does not want you to work at changing yourself at all. You are already connected, whole and equipped.    All I was being asked to do was practice and show up.  I had been afraid  changing was my responsibility and would be painful.  In actuality, this was a huge relief that God would use me right in the midst of my imperfection, that change would occur pretty painlessly.

It seemed like almost overnight, I was experiencing a deep level of self-compassion.

Now I have a much easier time accepting myself and everyone else exactly as they are. My level of trust and surrender are deepening.  I also  have better control over my thoughts and words which results in more peaceful relationships. An aha! moment for me came at 5a.m. this morning when I realized I always was called to be an agent of change because as Marianne Williamson best said,

'The greatest force of personal liberation is the decision to widen our circle of compassion, moving from focus on self to focus on service.'

But there is no need to muscle it. It's more about surrender and practice. Now I teach meditation and yoga classes weekly in two local prisons sharing my story of God's graciousness.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mr. Sandusky, I am your new Vipassana meditation instructor

This was the question I posed to my tan-garbed  guys behind the walls when the now infamous Sandusky was put away.  "What is your role?  How would you handle Sandusky being placed in this facility?"   I told them, "My role is simply to teach; there is great freedom in that. I am no one's judge or jury, thank goodness. I could not do my job if I felt otherwise. "

Every Tuesday for over a year, I taught two meditation classes at a nearby medium security facility.  The men were always open, appreciative, honest and occasionally raw.  This combination made for a sacred circle that allowed for our most authentic selves to show up.

For most of my life, however, I had the voice in my head that was ALWAYS judging, mostly me.  As Anne LaMott quips,  "My mind is like a bad neighborhood, I try not to enter alone".  Even yoga alone was not enough to raise my awareness of my negative thought patterns. It wasn't until I began practicing seated, silent meditation following my breath with the intention  that the shift occurrred. First and foremost, I began writing poetry ( meditation opens your creative channel and helps you better utilize your right-brain) and found that to be another  extraordinary tool for further healing.

Not all "sits" were obviously fruitful nor were they all peaceful.  That is not the point. The point is to practice awareness of the mind without judging it.  Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation. It is a way of self-transformation through self-observation that focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body. This can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind. It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion.(1) 

This eventually carries over into everyday life and that is where the magic really happens.  There is very little story-telling any longer and when one can be present to Life, open to finding that joy and miracles are everywhere.
The spiritual nature produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I like to quip that I haven't always been this nice.  More importantly, the men at the FCI would share that they found they were more hopeful, less reactive and having healthier, problem-solving conversations with their loved ones back home.

Scientists have been able to prove that meditation and rigorous mindfulness training can lower cortisol levels and blood pressure, increase immune response and possibly even affect gene expression. Scientific study is also showing that meditation can have an impact on the structure of the brain itself. Building on the discovery that brains can change based on experiences and are not, as previously believed, static masses that are set by the time a person reaches adulthood, a growing field of neuroscientists are now studying whether meditation--and the mindfulness that results from it--can counteract what happens to our minds because of stress, trauma and constant distraction. 
There is a swath of our culture who is not going to listen to someone in monks' robes, but they are paying attention to scientific evidence," says Richard J. Davidson, founder and chair of the Center for Consciousness. Because whatever goes on happening within us, is not only within us, it affects people who are close by.  To meditate with these incarcerated people, just to sit silently with them, one will be pulled more and more towards our own intrinsic potentiality.

1. Vipassana website

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Crying Method

So there are people who've responded to my vulnerable way of sharing saying it gives them permission to find out how strong God is living in them when they are at what feels like their weakest.

This morning I notice I am feeling unappreciated and misunderstood.  The house empties and it is just me and the baby and piles of dog hair and dust accumulating in the hardwood corners.  I know the crying is necessary (again) to release these emotions, although by now I recognize the need to be patient and surrender what else might be arising.  What feels like a huge "AHA" in the midst of the tears sounds like, 'When you cry you talk to Me and your trust and reliance on Me grows. This is part of my plan to draw your heart closer.  Keep right on crying and do whatever feels necessary to stay in the flow'.

I find a book of poetry and letters by Fr. Michael Doyle of Sacred Heart church in Camden under the chair as I'm folding laundry. It is called It's a Terrible Day, Thanks Be to God.  I begin singing this to the baby through my tears and I notice that to him, whether I am laughing or crying it makes no difference-- he smiles at me just the same.

My sweet neighbor gave it to me a few months ago as she recognized both  my growing love for writing and commitment to Camden, the city I lived in until age 8.  There in his beautifully crafted words, I read of women and childbirth.  He references Beauvoir, "You are not born a woman. You become one." I am reminded that one of my daily manifestation prayers is to embody the woman God created.  Deep to my core I acknowledge that God is drawing every experience and every tear to accomplish this. I also sense that part of my grief today is for my own passing fertility.  I am going to be 49 this year and I believe I am about to enter menopause.  The realization that there will be no more babies traveling through this passage makes me momentarily sad.

It's ok to allow the feelings of aging and being on the brink of a new decade sink in like seedlings sprouting a blossom of heartache.  I surrender to it and head to the park with the dog.  I've written before about how healing lying on Mother Earth can be.  I gaze at the expanse of sky in the still-brown field and with a grateful heart hear , "Let God transform your ugly cry into tears of  joyful thanks and laughter".  I know this is my message for the ladies of the FDC this afternoon. Do not be afraid to try the crying method to break your heart open, allowing the Light in.

p.s.  a passing car beeped and I rose up as he yelled "Just checking. Are you ok?".   "Why Yes,  I am great!…thank you!!'