every day that I am faced with seemingly unbearable odds, I am grateful for the lessons I have learned and my spirit that is strengthened by these things.

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gratitude challenge day eighteen: November 24   

“Every day that I am faced with seemingly unbearable odds,

I am grateful for the lessons I have learned

and my spirit that is strengthened by these things.”

Steps to completing the gratitude meditation challenge:

Read.  Breathe.  Smile.  Sit in stillness.  Read again.  Express your gratitude for this moment and for all of the many blessings which bring you joy in this life.

 

day eighteen

Why gratitude?  Because it’s the only reasonable response to being alive.  Read more here.      

With gratitude,

-lisa

 

breathing through allergies.

My allergies are killing me.

Last Tuesday I woke up at 3:30 am gasping for breath. It seems I accidentally closed my mouth while I was sleeping (which wouldn’t be a problem if I could breathe through my nose like an ordinary human, but apparently it’s a death sentence for someone suffering from spring seasonal allergies.) During my yoga class last night, I not-so-sneakily-snuck out of the studio while everyone else was in savasana for dose of decongestant spray and peppermint oil… oh the joys of loving to play in dirt and take long walks in the Great Outdoors.

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the promise of all things allergen

I almost skipped my Mysore Ashtanga practice on Monday because my nose was completely stuffed.  Ujjayi breath in and out of my nose seemed impossible.  And it was, at first.  My initial downward facing dog felt like I had wrapped my face in a cotton pillow and plunged it underwater.  That great.  But something miraculous happened: by my first Sun Salutation B, I could breathe. I mean, really breathe into the opening of my throat and listen to the familiar sound of ocean wave that the ujjayi creates.  It was as if breathing deeply… helped me breathe deeply. (Novel, I know.)

Instead of feeling frustrated and fatigued, I felt relaxed and rejuvenated.  I could literally feel myself becoming happier and less anxious every time I inhaled.  I felt my spirit lift—I felt connected with my body, instead of feeling annoyed with it.

And it reminded me of this beautiful explanation of Breath from Max Strom’s book, A Life Worth Breathing:

“In our breath there is so much power to be harnessed, so much grace to be found. Many ancient languages associate breath and spirit, or breath and soul, as the same word. Spiritus comes from an old Latin word, meaning “to breathe” but also [meaning] “soul” or “spirit.” Another example is aloha which originally meant, “Breath of God” in ancient Hawaiian. So, when we say aloha to each other, it essentially means “I breathe God with you.” It seems … that human beings understand the act of breathing to be much more than mere physical survival, but as an intimate connection with the divine source, and that breath is actually associated with spiritual life.” – Max Strom

I often tell my students that if they ‘do nothing else but stand here and breathe, their practice is already a success.’  But I often wonder: do they really get it?  Do I really get it?  When I am powering myself into arm balances, am I looking for grace within my breath?  Or am I just using it for the power it provides my muscles?  Probably the latter.

When I take a deep breath after (waking up from) savasana (relaxation pose) do I remember that it is a Divine Gift?  Usually my first thought is to check the clock and see how many minutes I have to change clothes and get to my next class.  So… no, I’m probably ignoring that wake-up-inhale as “an intimate connection with the divine source.”
Fact: being unable to inhale through my super-stuffy nose reminds me that breathing is a gift.  (Trying to look on the bright side here.)  And with that gift, my Spirit is connected with every living creature in the past, present, and future.

If you too struggle with seasonal allergies, check out this article from Gaiam which gives advice on the best yoga poses to relieve allergies.  And if you are a science nerd, like I am, this article details the physiological details of respiratory allergic reactions.  And lastly… take a deep breath and cherish it like it is the only breath you will take today.  Cherish your Spirit.

Get on your mat, even if your allergies are killing you.

photo cred MAD

photo cred MAD

Aloha,
-lisa

Earth Day meditation.

Sharing this meditation from my friend and spiritual guide, Katie Harmon-McLaughlin.

Happy Earth Day (which should be EVERY day).

“Meeting God is not a momentary ‘spiritual’ affair; rather, God is the ether, the reality, the body, the garden in which we live. God is never absent; God is reality (being). Everything that has being derives it from God (we are born and reborn by God). The entire cosmos is born of God, as is each and every creature. We depend on this source of life and its renewal absolutely. We could not live a moment without the gifts of God’s body- air, food, water, and other creatures. This realization is an overwhelming experience of God’s transcendence; it calls forth awe and immense gratitude. Yet, at the same time, as Augustine puts it, God is closer to us than we are to ourselves. Where can we go where God is not, since God fills heaven and earth?” -Sallie McFague, A New Climate for Theology

 

Take a few moments to breathe deeply and know that with each breath you are inhaling and exhaling divine love; the unifying, life-giving spirit in all of creation.

Consider how this matters for you now.

Consider your connectedness with all other life.

Consider all that you have done so far today; all that you have eaten, all that you have touched. Pay attention to the fabric of the clothing you wear and think about where it came from. Pay attention to the place where you sit and the materials that surround you. All of these came from the earth.

The gifts of God’s body, the earth, are sustaining your daily existence. Pause in gratitude. 

Some of the things you touch and wear and use today have caused earth destruction. Pray for forgiveness for the ways we sometimes live unaware as though we are disconnected. Pray for greater awareness and compassion in the days ahead.

Become aware of the surrounding air that embraces every part of you, touching your fingertips, resting on your shoulders and head. Know that embracing-stillness as God, holding you in each moment. Know that there is not a place you can go in this world where you will not be in this loving embrace.

There is no distance between you and God.
There is no distance between you and love.
There is no distance between you and the rest of creation because you are part of sacred creation and are daily sustained by this planet.

How will you live this holy connection today?

for more from Katie, visit the Community of Christ Spiritual Formation Center Facebook page.

photo cred HM