connective elements healing

honoring creativity - restoring balance - embracing wholeness

By observing nature, ancient traditions explained all of existence through five elements.  

Connective Elements Healing aims to restore you to your true nature through five healing offerings -

BodyTalk, Coaching, Meditation, Reiki and Yoga. 

Filtering by Category: Meditation

Dissolution in the Desert

It is dawn's first light greeting my tear-filled eyes, as I stand upon the desert sand and recognize my life's purpose.

It is a glimpse of the hole the hammer made on the outside of my locked bedroom door, as I clamored for safety in my bedroom of my childhood home. 

It is the wheezing of the 86 year old, his lungs chasing life-giving oxygen, each noisy breath evolving into a fellow meditator's richest teachings.

It is the palpitations in the chest as one connects with another human being on a level so deep that you hear not only your story in theirs, not only their story in yours, but the story of their lineage, your lineage and the echo of the story of each human throughout time. 

It is the dissolution of tensions in the body so profound that I feel my skeleton shift. It is the calm of my nervous system in a way that feels like lifetimes have been sifted through and healed. It is the stilling of my mind in a way where it feels like I have absorbed with ease the most sacred of knowings and yet let go of everything I've ever known in the very same breath and it is all perfect. It is the softening of my face, my belly and my heart in a way that nothing else - nothing else - has ever been able to evoke. 

This is Vipassana. 

As it is. 

Arising and passing away. Arising and passing away. Arising and passing away.

This is a practice over 2500 years old that transcends religion, transcends the realm of the body, transcends the realm of experience and yet parses everything else in the universe out to allow the practitioner to settle into nothing but their own experience. This is a practice that expands the mind and heart. 

Vipassana retreats in Goenka's tradition take place worldwide and are an incredible way to strengthen your mind, reset your entire life and simply let go. Based on the three tenets of sila (moral conduct), samadhi (concentration of one's mind) and panna (wisdom), Vipassana complements any (or no) spiritual tradition. Regardless of belief systems, we all want to be good people. So in this, Vipassana meets everyone where they are and teaches how to embody presence, compassion and love.  

I am blessed to have just completed another Vipassana retreat. 

I spent 12 days in Joshua Tree at the idyllic Southern California Vipassana Center, meditating about 108 hours with over 50 other meditators. We spent 9 days in silence and adhered to a strict schedule, waking at 4am and working arduously on our Vipassana practice until about 9pm each night.

"The Long, Winding Road" - Southern California Vipassana Center Trail, Joshua Tree, CA

 

About 11 hours each day was spent meditating. A beautiful, winding walking trail welcomed movement and facilitated the release of energy in both the body and mind. We refrained from reading, writing, eye contact and gestures. After the first night, we did not consume dinner, only breakfast and lunch, giving our bodies time to rest and truly digest on all levels. 

Living the lives of Buddhist Monks and Nuns, we relied on the generosity of others, paying nothing for the retreat. Dana, a selfless love-based offering, could be made in the form of service or monetary compensation post-retreat.  

My life has changed in incredible ways a mere day after completing my third Vipassana retreat. The clarity with which I see the world, the past, the future, the present is astounding. This was the toughest retreat I've endured to date. Psychologically, emotionally, physically and spiritually, I was put through the ringer.

However, I wouldn't change a thing. It was a necessary process, a direct experience, that was essential for my growth.

I had moments where I faced the very darkest nights of my soul, where I was literally in the midst of my deepest traumas, feeling them, healing them and releasing them. I had inexplicable moments of incredible sensory perception like hearing the flapping wings of a bird 30 feet away or feeling the atoms, yes, the very atoms, in my arm rearrange in response to someone coughing as they passed by me. Miracles, synchronicities and insights from the mundane to the profound abounded. Vivid previews of the next meal surfaced in my mind's eye. A rainbow appeared in the rainless sky. Soul-knowings about the person on the cushion next to me emerged. In silence and stillness, illusions dissolved.  

I am incredibly grateful for each and every moment I had in the desert. 

Right now, I am enjoying a gentle re-entry back into everyday life. I will likely share more learnings and epiphanies as I assimilate the insights I discovered during this incredibly precious retreat in the desert. 

Growth, Love and Church

As I gaze out at the trees, I am serenaded by the songs of the birds in a small town in North Carolina and I am grateful. Having just completed the most difficult retreat of my life, I reflect on that experience and remind myself how lucky I am to practice, how lucky we all are to carve out time for our growth. 

Upon completion of my retreat, I made the drive from Maryland to North Carolina. When passing through Virginia, I was treated to an impromptu tour of my elementary and middle school. Roaming the halls and stepping into classrooms I hadn't been in in nearly 30 years can't help but conjure up nostalgia. Growing up Catholic, attending parochial school from preschool to 12th grade, I was raised with the doctrine. I went to church twice a week. I believed much of what I was taught. I've learned since then that church comes in many forms. 

When I went to college, everything changed for me. I changed - for me. I learned that the "other" was not to be feared. I stopped attending Mass, much to my mom's dismay. I studied the world. I studied the "other." Majoring in Social Work, I volunteered actively, I sought out the most diverse populations to serve, so I could stretch and grow. I learned to love the "other." Serving others was the closest I'd ever come to God.

18 long years ago, I selected a Yoga course to fulfill one of my college requirements. The class planted seeds that I unknowingly cultivated until my early twenties, when I found my way to spirituality. Spirituality drew me in in the form of a belly dancing class. Church comes in many forms. Illuminating my path since then, my most beloved teacher, RoseMa, has served as a beacon in both my darkest and brightest days. Her practices and unschooling educated me about the goddess that I am. 

This spiritual path has bolstered reflection, forgiveness and spaciousness. I've been open to the myriad of sacred manifestations in my life. Dancing invited community and sisterhood. Movement gave way to meditation. Meditation issued an invitation for self reflection. Heartbreak ushered in the pursuit of refuge in an ashram in Colorado where I fostered my knowledge and practice. I earned my Yoga teacher training and the opportunity to receive training in bodywork. Giving back to others in this kinesthetic way left upon me an indelible mark. 

"Set Free" - Butterfly Release in Monteverde, Costa Rica, 2009

 

 

From Colorado to Costa Rica to North Carolina to Portland, Oregon, I met the embrace of nature. She became my church. I spent time listening and gazing at the beauty around me. I learned to recognize Her as a reflection of the beauty within me.

"Love in the Mountains" - Hike with Indigenous Women in Sapa, Vietnam 2015

 

 

 

In Portland, church took the form of Sunday morning ecstatic dance classes which expanded my heart, mind and boundaries. Returning to dance as the form that first drew me into spirituality felt like a full circle evolution. Evolution gave way to finally stepping directly onto my path as a healer. I found my way to BodyTalk, started facilitating weekly meditation groups, became attuned as a Reiki practitioner and actively worked as a Coach.

Travel and starting over has also been, for me, a form of spiritual practice. I continue to work with the elements and connect with others in my travels. Each new place is an opportunity for a fresh start. Each new place is an opportunity for new connections. From Nashville to Asia and now remotely, healing has become my church, my spiritual practice, the way I see God in myself and others. 

I am awed as I witness the growth around me.

I am awed as I reflect on the growth within me.

I am awed by the love around me.

I am awed by the love within me.  

My Own Two Feet

Written September 2015

I've spent my entire adulthood in partnership to make up for a childhood of uncertainty. Never having to stand on my own two feet, I'm ready for independence. I'm ready to step forward into my authentic, courageous self. I'm curious about the choices I'll make. I'm curious about how I will survive. I'm curious about how I'll thrive.

"Let Flow" - Gili Air, Indonesia

It is only when I set forth on a journey halfway around the world that I realized my deep need for independence in this way. It is only when I set forth on a journey halfway around the world that I recognized my need for a high degree of enmeshment. I am ready to let go. I am ready to breathe. I am ready to venture forth on my own.

I'm scared. I'm excited. I'm proud of myself. As I glanced at my feet on my yoga mat this morning, I wondered how they will hold up. I breathed into the connection, grounding and stability inherent in my own two feet. I felt the strength and stability in my feet and breathed in groundedness and connection. I breathed in capability and confidence and breathed out fear. I breathed in courage. I released fear.

This opportunity to recreate my life is exciting. It's scary, no doubt, but it's fresh, it's new. I want to live my way to the answers. I want to live the questions. My soul yearns for this choice. My heart trusts that my path serves my highest good. I recognize that it may not be easy. I also recognize I've laid the groundwork for a path filled with ease. As I near my fullest purpose, placing one foot in front of the other, I'm confident that I'm walking the path I was meant to walk, one step at a time.

Invite yourself to try this meditation, linking breath with intention. 

Find a stable, quiet place in which to stand.

Breathe into the connection, grounding and stability inherent in your own two feet. Feel the strength and stability in your feet. Breathe in groundedness and connection.

Feel the groundedness and connection coming up from the earth, seeping into your feet, your legs and spreading up your body all the way to the top of your head. Breathe in capability and confidence and breathe out fear.

Allow capability and confidence to likewise ascend from the earth, to your feet and then up your body.

"The Way" - Mui Ne, Vietnam

Finally, breathe in courage.

Allow it to seep in from the earth through your fee. Allow courage to it fill your entire body.

Exhale and release any and all fear.

Finally, one last time, breathe in courage and exhale fully. 

 

 

 

My Own Two Feet is part of a collection of writings that chronicles my inner journey through Southeast Asia.

Untethering

Early August 2015

It took me 36 years and 13 days to realize I've lived my life in full-on heart protection mode. The carnage has included countless missed opportunities in which to revel in the moment, cherish the relationship and simply be. The utterance of four words several months ago changed everything in my life as I knew it. Since then, intentional unbinding has been my modus operandi. My life has been comprised of intentional acts to cultivate freedom, untangle and release the ties that bound my heart. 

It's a process that by no means is over. However, today as I put it all together, I realize the nature of my bound heart and vow to take conscious action to continue the unbinding process. 

"I feel dead inside." As the words escaped my lips, intuitively, I knew they were a soul cry. Those four words unlocked a portal to change. As my heart and my soul cried out, yearning for something more, something better, they craved to be unbound, to taste freedom, to embody purpose. 

"Heart Aflame" - Vientiane, Laos

With each conscious untethering, I've tentatively tiptoed out of the bounds of each previous constriction, testing the waters, dipping a toe into each new, uncharted territory. What I've found is that with each new space, countless emotions arise. I honor each emotion by providing it breath and space to show up and full occupy that space. The emotion then dissipates and a new version of myself emerges. 

Since the day of my soul cry, I've chosen to forgo the security of job, home, relationships and nearly everything I own to give space for my heart. My heart desperately craves space in which to thrive. By recognizing my truest feelings and honoring my deepest desires, I hope that I may learn unconditional love.

Unconditional love starts with the self.

I must love myself first - unconditionally. I must recognize the cries of the soul and honor the desires of the heart. The next steps on my path are unclear. However, the spiritual practices that resonate with me most have led me here, to this moment, one step closer to an unbound heart. 

Connect: I invite you to honor your own heart through this meditation practice.

Find a quiet space and at least five minutes of uninterrupted time. Tune into your heart center. It may help you to rest one or both hands on your heart.

Breathe into this space.

Draw your breath into your heart.

Ask your heart what constrictions exist. In what ways is your heart bound?

In the safety of the silence, ask how you might untether any heart wishes that lie just on the surface of the heart. 

When you feel ready, ask what desires lie deep within the heart and if there are any messages that might be helpful in realizing those desires.

Throughout the meditation, as emotions arise, pause. Give them space and breath.

Allow the emotions to occupy the space until they start to fade, and they will. Simply trust the practice. Give each emotion breath as it arises. Give it more space and more breath. Let the emotion untether with each breath and gradually fade into the space.

Sit with your breath. 

As more emotions arise, rinse and repeat.

Take note of the heart wisdom that arises throughout your meditation. With regular practice, your ears will attune to the whispers of your heart so that you, too, may become untethered.

 

Untethering is part of a collection of writings that chronicles my inner journey through Southeast Asia.

My Three Teachers in Luang Prabang

Written August 12, 2015

I stepped to the side to let him pass me on the sidewalk. He approached me and pointed to what I thought was the ground. As the rain steadily fell, my feet stood in a bit of flowing water. I thought, at first, that was what he was pointing to. His eyes met mine. I studied what few teeth he had left in his mouth. His skin was dirty. His clothes were tattered. He had a cloth bag draped over his body, attached was a plastic sack containing some fruit.

As he pointed his crooked finger again, he crouched, lowering his body until his hands made contact with the top of my flip-flopped feet. He touched my big toe, then my little toe, then flattened his hand over the entire top of my foot. I thought at first that the couple of walking meditation rounds I literally just completed a block away at the oldest stupa in Luang Prabang, Laos, had earned a blessing in a very direct way.

"Inspired" - Luang Prabang, Laos

I stood agog, just observing. Then, he started trying to pick my feet up, trying to turn my right foot over while still in my sandal. I wasn't sure what to think at that point. I was simply in the moment, knowing full well that I didn't understand what was happening. 

Things started to shift. All of a sudden, he lowered himself to the soaking wet ground with his back to my lower right leg. At that point, panic set in. I repeated, "no, no, no, no, no" in Laotian, but he didn't budge. Finally, I had to physically remove his fingers, then his right arm from my body. Leaving him on the soaking wet ground wouldn't have been my first option, but as fear set in, I wasn't sure what to do. Had I been able to communicate with him, I would have wanted to help him up. 

As I walked away from him, I noticed 3 young Laotian women standing in the doorway of the nearby shops, taking in the exchange and laughing. In that moment, I experienced shame and was embarrassed about the last five minutes. I kept walking slowly in the rain, turning back time and again to ensure I wasn't being followed. 

My fear dissipated as soon as the saffron robes entered my peripheral vision. As the young monk quickly passed me, I centered back to the present moment, focused on the rain's steady pitter patter on my umbrella and the ground beneath my feet, the monk up ahead and the Nam Khan River to my right.

My soaking wet feet beckoned me to find refuge in one of the nearby temples to process all that just happened. The first temple I reached was closed. The second welcomed me with an empty meditation hall. As I sat down, the message was clear, I was to sit with shame, my own shame, but more so collective shame.

As I sat with the collective shame, images quickly flooded my mind. First, of the man recently at my feet. Then visions of another begging man and a young child at a local Buddhist temple entered my awareness. Three days before, while attending a temple ceremony, an older man sought our attention, squinted one eye, "aimed" his cane to the sky, aligned his face with the rounded handle of the cane and proceeded to "shoot" down what I can only imagine was my likeness. 

"Soles" - Luang Prabang, Laos

Seated next to me during the Buddhist celebration was a young child. As he sat next to me on the ground with his legs folded underneath him and his delicate hands clasping one another resting on his lap, I could feel the tears welling in my eyes. His little three year old body sat incredibly still as he patiently awaited the monks' procession through the temple grounds. He wiggled only his tiny fingers every couple minutes. Something about this little boy immediately etched itself into my mind and heart. 

These three males, their similarities, their differences flashed through my mind as this collective shame settled heavily upon me. Tears again welled in my eyes as I sat alone in the temple. Then, the flick of a light switch, literally snapped me out of my mediation. At two minutes after 12, a monk entered my empty mediation hall to turn off the lights as a gentle sign for me to move on, as it was time for the monks' lunch.

As I exited the temple, the downpour that had started the night before, ceased to a light drizzle and the sun started to emerge from the clouds. I stepped away from the last two hours' events realizing that direct experience is all there is. I experienced all the emotions I utter in my daily metta mediation - fear, anger, guilt, sorrow, shame, anxiety and regret. As I walked the sidewalks of Luang Prabang, careful not splash in puddles, I experienced each of these emotions in my heart, mind and body. With each step, I felt unburdened by each.

I bless each of my three teachers, the man at my feet, the man with the cane and the sweet little soul with the wiggly fingers. I am grateful for their teachings and wish them happiness, health, wellbeing and metta in this moment, and always.

My Three Teachers in Luang Prabang is part of a collection of writings that chronicle my "inner journey" through Southeast Asia.

Code Blue

Written July 31, 2015

 

"I feel dead inside." As the words escaped my lips a couple months ago, I knew immediately that they were the truest four words I'd spoken in a long time. Everything felt wrong. My life, itself, felt like it no longer fit me. My home, my workplace, my relationship, everything no longer fit my heart, my mind nor my soul. I wanted to escape.

Sacred Heart - Luang Prabang, Laos

Since I uttered those words, everything has changed. I intentionally gifted and sold nearly everything I owned, I quit my job, canceled my lease and shaved my head. Certainly being willfully unemployed and homeless at 36 may not have been my vision for my life, but as I sit here overlooking a lotus pond surrounded by the hum of motorbikes and the faint breeze whispering through the palm trees in Luang Prabang, Laos, I affirm the choices that brought me to this point. 

I have to be honest, as I stand amidst the rubble of an eight year relationship, I've chosen to continue this trip with him. It's not easy, this commitment thing - in or out of a relationship. it's hard. It's hard to look at him the same way or even a different way and not feel nostalgia, not feel how easy it would be to slip back into an ill-fitting relationship plagued by bickering and anger. It no longer fits me. Just as I wouldn't want to go back to the same home, the same job, the same situations that precipitated my code blue. 

Offered Heart - Luang Prabang, Laos

I have no idea where my choices will lead. I have no idea when or how or where I'll end up. I'm going by faith and trust in my self and my choices. I continue my daily spiritual practices and continue to take things one day at a time. It's all I've got to feel alive, one day at a time, to resuscitate my heart, my mind and my soul. 

Find a quiet space, bring your journal and invite yourself to connect with the following:

  • Do I feel my most vibrant self in each area of my life (emotional and physical health, abundance, education, career, spiritual life, relationships)?

As you sit and reflect on each area of your life, notice in your body if there is sensation that arises as you consider each topic (heaviness, lightness, absence of feeling, temperature sensations). Notice where in your body you feel the sensation. Tune into the sensation by focusing on it.

If you feel called, ask the sensation what message or meaning it has for you. Our bodies are magnificent barometers to transmit both meaning and messages about our experiences. With the conscious practice of tuning into our bodies, we can free our emotional and spiritual selves, realize our unbound nature and experience unconditional love for our truest selves. 

  • Are you feeling an imminent Code Blue in any area of your life?

If so, make the commitment to yourself for the next week to take at least 5 minutes each day to journal, meditate or otherwise check in with yourself. During this time, use the meditation above to tune into the area of challenge and provide your emotions with the space and breath to come to the surface. Again ask what messages or meanings the emotions and sensations have for you in each area of challenge, using them as a springboard for healing and resolution. 

Code Blue is part of a collection of writings that chronicles my current travels in Southeast Asia. 

New Year, New You, New Me

The New Year ushers in a fiery spirit that engenders change. However, this week I noticed the treadmills that thumped with resolutions over the last 30 days have gone silent. The waiting lists at the local yoga studio have vanished. Rather than grabbing the last bunch of kale at Whole Foods like I have over the last four weeks, I had my pick of the stack this past Saturday. How have the goals created a mere month ago already slipped from daily routines?

As a Coach, I know what goals look like without support and accountability. On my personal path, I’ve realized what goals look like without intention. Over the last year in my own life, I’ve replaced goals entirely, using intentions and my feelings to light my way (more on that in another blog post).

Thich Nhat Hanh, an incredible visionary and Zen Buddhist Monk, asks us to ponder a poignant question in this talk, "will the New Year really be a new year, or will it be just a repetition of the old year?" His answer? It depends entirely on us. He continues to say, "so in order for the New Year to be new, you have to renew yourself. You have to make yourself new. That is why in Plum Village this year we have the sentence: 'New Year, New Me'. I need to have a new me in order to really enjoy the New Year…If we know the practice of mindful breathing, mindful walking, mindful dealing with pain, sorrow, and anger, we can improve the quality of our actions, improve the quality of our life, improve the quality of our days, and months, and years."

  Connect  with the photo: Mindfully walking one of my favorite paths at Radnor Lake in Nashville, TN.

Connect with the photo: Mindfully walking one of my favorite paths at Radnor Lake in Nashville, TN.

The path to mindful living is here, AWAITING you to step UPON it.

Start now, with these three tips for mindful living:

1) Connect with your breath, right now, in this moment. This can literally be done in less than one minute:

Close your eyes. Feel your connection to the earth through your feet if seated in a chair, and through your Sitz bones (the bones at the bottom of your pelvis), if seated on the floor. Take a deep inhalation, breathing into the present moment. Release a deep exhalation, letting go of anything that isn't serving you in this moment. Inhale again deeply, feeling the expansion of your body with the breath. Exhale, letting go, sinking in more deeply to your seat. Inhale one last time, tuning into the sensations within your body. Notice where you might be holding any tension. Finally, exhale, releasing any tension. Feel your body and mind come to quiet.

2) Extend your intentional breathing into a 5 minute daily meditation.

You may choose to use the three breaths described above to start a meditation in which you simply tune into the sensations in your body. Notice the rise and fall of the body with each cycle of breath. Notice where the body is heavy and where it is light. Notice where you hold tension, releasing it with each exhale, when you are ready. Notice any temperature sensations that arise, where you are hot, warm, cool or cold. Practicing in the same place, at the same time each day, holds space for routine and invites habit.

3) Practice mindful eating.

Mindful eating allows you to fully taste your food, aids digestion and leads to a beautiful appreciation for your food sources and the time (and choices) you make to nourish your body. It takes 20 minutes for the body to realize it's full. As you learn to eat mindfully, your meal may extend to the point at which your body indicates it's full within the meal itself, assisting you with portion control.

Start with one meal per week, in which you eat mindfully for several minutes. To prepare for mindful eating, reduce distractions by turning off your phone, computer and tv. Sit at a table that is uncluttered. Take a deep breath, preparing a smaller bite than you usually would intake. Take a bite, placing your fork or food down after this first bite. If you would like to, close your eyes as you chew. Notice the textures of your food. Masticate longer than you normally would, breaking down the food slowly. Notice the flavors that stand out and which are barely perceptible. As you finish swallowing, take a deep breath. Notice how your body feels as you nourish yourself.  

I encourage you to rekindle the fire of the New Year, stoking it internally, through mindful living to foster more sustainable change. There are many opportunities throughout our day in which we can truly create a new experience. Ask yourself, “how might I create a new me in this New Year?” "In this month?" "Today?" "Right now, in this moment, how can I create a new me?"

The Wisdom Within: Reflections on Silence

Last year, I started down a path that has afforded me the deepest rewards my heart, mind and soul have ever realized. After an unexpected loss last June, guilt, shock and fear all fixed a stronghold on me. A month and a half later, awaking from the shock, I intuitively felt called to silence. I didn't know why or how or where I was going to create space for quiet, but I was heart-longingly drawn to deep, meditative silence. 

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