We gathered for the Befriending Yourself: Spring Meditation Retreat in Berkeley Springs, WV last weekend like students of spring in the nature that we are as well as nature all around us. We turned to the element of wood, our revered teacher for the season, and asked: "What can we learn from you about growing into who we are?"
As we brought attention to our own experience, we found that one of the signature sensations of spring is discomfort. While we practiced being with it and using acupressure as well as mindful tools to support ourselves, I couldn't help but inquire why... why does it feel like so much discomfort is involved with growth?
I took this question out with me to an early morning meditation on the bench in the picture above, just steps away from our cabin. I looked at the trees all around me and wondered if they feel pain. When the growing gets tough, what do the trees do?
They seemed to whisper in response. In the hush of the morning, in the soft drip-drop of rain, in the rising sing-song of birds, the trees seemed to say: we just keep on growing. Well, I thought, so do we! As I sat there listening, I felt how the energy to grow is an impulse. It's innate. We are a constantly evolving organism. Our cells regenerate continuously. Our brains build new pathways all the time. Our bodies are renewed with every breath. We are intelligently designed for growth!
So much of what feels uncomfortable to us humans is not the growing itself but the departure from the familiar. Familiar feels comfortable. Familiar feels well-known. All this newness of growing feels risky. We haven't tried it before. We don't know if we'll succeed. We don't know what supports we might need, what new coping mechanisms, who we might want by our side. We don't know yet because it's all brand new. And unfamiliar.
This is so tough for us because our minds translate familiar as safe. You could be working an awful job for 5 years, and it will feel safer than looking for a new one where you might thrive and blossom. Why? Because the awful job is what you know; it's familiar. It doesn't matter that the boss doesn't appreciate you. It doesn't matter that all your talent is going to waste. It doesn't matter that the pay is miserable and the commute horrific. It feels safer than what you don't know. This is primal brain logic.
So when the growing gets tough, what do those of us who feel tough and those of us who feel not-so-tough do? Like the trees said, we just keep on growing. We consciously remind ourselves that this feels uncomfortable because it's new and we've never done this before. We remember that uncomfortable does not mean wrong or unsafe. We listen carefully to the innate pulsation of growth within ourselves and let it guide us. Then we turn to discomfort compassionately and say, "It's ok sweetheart, I know you're scared. I see you, and I am right here with you."
We hold ourselves by the hand and preferably find someone or something else who would too, and... we grow. Yes, just like that. Just like the trees supported by the earth and sun and rain. Discomfort or not, we just grow.
May spring support us to shed what we are not and gently grow into who we are,
-- Shira Oz-Sinai
Below are a few of my favorite pictures from the retreat, but there are many more! Check out the full album @ https://www.facebook.com/shira.ozsinai/media_set?set=a.1492328310904096&type=3.
Please join me for the next retreat, Befriending Yourself: Autumn Meditation Retreat, on Oct 25-27, 2019. Fitting for the fall season, we spend the weekend honoring what no longer serves us, bidding it farewell, and holding dear and near the spirit of life and our unique treasures. Prepare for a deeply illuminating experience!
Register now to reserve your spot @ shiraozsinai.com/autumn-retreat.
In the last few weeks I've been watching a new growth shoot in my indoor ZZ Plant. It's been reminding me of what a delicate dance of contraction and expansion growing is. This lesson is just in time for transitioning from winter to spring!
Out of the moist soil climbs a bright green, tightly wound stalk. It stands in stark contrast to the dark, thick green of the mature leaves around it. Slowly, over the course of many days, it unfurls one tender leaf after another. While one leaf opens, the rest remain softly bound together until just the right time.
I enjoy gently touching the new leaves. They're so soft. Soft and delicate. They remind me of how it's ok to stay curled up inside and that I too will know the right time to open. They remind me that when it is time to open, I can do so slowly. And, they remind me that as I open, expand, and grow, I will feel tender, soft, and delicate. This is the wisdom of early spring.
Are you experiencing early spring rising in you? Are you feeling like some days you want to stay curled up in bed? And other days you want to take on the whole world? Are you starting to envision what the next few months will be like for you? Perhaps venturing towards summer plans? Most importantly, is there some tender part of you that's beginning to emerge, take shape, and expand?
The Spring Equinox on March 20th marks the astronomical first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. So how about an evening of magic, play, and inspiration using oracle cards to call on the wisdom within? This is your invitation to a not-your-ordinary card night! Come celebrate the new season!!!
Wednesday, March 20, 2019, 6:30 - 8:30pm
@ The Spectrum Center for Natural Medicine
8555 16th Street, Suite #402, Silver Spring, MD 20910
REGISTER @ shiraozsinai.com/spring-meditative-card-night.
Light refreshments included. No previous experience necessary.
May the rising spring energy support a new part of you into blossoming,
-- Shira Oz-Sinai
If you have a heart that beats and you're over the age of two, you've likely had the thought "I am not good enough" at least once in your life. Most of us are visited quite often by this thought, or one of her sisters: "I don't know enough," "There's not enough time," "I don't fit in," and "There's something wrong with me."
When we believe these thoughts to be true, when we believe that we are somehow less than, flawed, or damaged, we forget all about the wholeness that we are. It feels far away and frankly unbelievable. In our minds, it may sound something like, "Me? I am whole? But I feel so broken... so imperfect... so limited!"
But wholeness is not for the mind to comprehend. If you have a heart that beats and you're of any age at all, you are whole. You're wholeness itself. It is your nature.
Feelings of brokeness show up in the wholeness that you are. Feelings and thoughts of imperfection and lack show up in the perfect wholeness that you are. Beliefs that you are somehow damaged or no good arise and dissolve in the vast, luminous, and peaceful wholeness that you are.
Are you curious about this wholeness? Do you want to experience it for yourself again and again? Do you wish to have such an intimate relationship with wholeness that it reminds you that it's here, that you are ok, that everything is alright, like a good ol' friend? Are you tired of "not good enough" thoughts filling your head? Are you tired of aches and pains in the body that fool your mind into believing that this body is really all there is to you?
If it's a yes to any of these questions, I invite you to join me in inquiring into wholeness. While the in-person version of the new Wholeness I Am: Yoga Nidra Study Group has filled, there is still room and time to join online. The recordings from each live session are uploaded monthly, and you can leave your questions, comments, and reflections on the private webpage. Learn more @ shiraozsinai.com/wholeness-i-am.
To experience the first few minutes of the Study Group as well as a brief practice with wholeness (9 minutes long), please enjoy the FREE recording below of the opening words and meditation from the first session of Wholeness I Am: Study Group. Enjoy!
Want more? Register now @ shiraozsinai.com/wholeness-i-am.
May all beings intimately know the interconnected wholeness that we are,
-- Shira Oz-Sinai
Remember when you were a kid and Mom, Dad, or another adult taught you to say “Thank you”? Maybe some uncle or aunt gave you a small gift, like a piece of candy or a toy. Maybe a neighbor paid you a mysterious compliment, like “Look at those long eyelashes! You’ll be a heartthrob some day.” But you’re 4 years old, you don’t like sweet mint or that toy, you have absolutely no clue what eyelashes are, and frankly, heartthrob sounds really painful. While you’re trying to hide behind your parent’s legs, someone turns to you and says: “It’s polite to say ‘Thank you’. It’s the right thing to do.”
Fast forward 20, 30, 40 or more years and again someone is telling you to say “Thank you,” only this time it’s your favorite yoga teacher, trusted meditation instructor, or latest email from your local and truly beloved wellness center. Maybe because it’s “The Month of Gratitude” (aka November). Maybe because the latest research shows what the ancient yogis knew, that a gratitude practice results in better sleep at night and a host of other health benefits. Whatever the well-founded and valid reason is, here it is again: someone telling you to be thankful.
Me? I hate gratitude! That is, I hate fake gratitude. I hate having to fabricate gratitude when I don’t actually feel it. I hate it when my mouth forms the words “Thank you,” but there is no resonance of gratitude in my body. I hate being forced to give thanks. It feels disingenuous, formulaic, hollow, and unnatural. I also really (and I mean really) hate gratitude by comparison. You know the kind, right? You’re somehow supposed to feel grateful cause your lot in life is comparatively better than someone else’s? I can still hear the echoes of an old childhood refrain from the dinner table: “You ought to be thankful and finish your plate! There are starving kids in Somalia.”
How on earth are starving kids in Somalia supposed to make me feel more thankful? Do you feel more thankful every night after you watch the news and learn of the recent tragedies that have befallen humankind? I don’t. Someone else’s misfortunes can never make me feel more happy or grateful. That just leads to sadness, inner turmoil, tension, and guilt. So no, sorry, I cannot feel gratitude for what I have just cause someone else doesn’t have it. That doesn’t work for me.
Which brings me to Thanksgiving. I believe there is a reason why Thanksgiving is in autumn, and it has little to do with pilgrims, harvest, turkey, and Native Americans. It’s because as we witness all the letting go of the season, truth is exposed (read: Fall is not about letting go!). As a tree sheds all its leaves, bare limbs are revealed. As we watch what no longer serves us release out of our lives, we’re inspired to feel and truly appreciate (i.e. feel grateful for) the bare truth of what is.
For me, it’s been more than a season of letting go. Try a year and a half of witnessing about a quarter of my body weight dissolve into thin air along with many long-held core notions of who I am in this body, in this life, and in this world. As I pass through the gates of loss and grief and witness this new nakedness, I am inspired to feel into who I really am and what I am truly thankful for. It ain’t big. I don’t feel thankful for months of trying to figure out what to eat or how fast to go on the treadmill or how to deal with the resulting stomach aches, back aches, and headaches (respectively).
Nope. I am thankful for the cozy little blanket that keeps me warm at night, not because someone else doesn’t have one but because I really love mine. I am thankful for all the support my loving family, friends, and practitioners have given me as my spirit took my body through a deep and cleansing initiation that is preparing me for what’s to come (don’t worry! I am healthy and well). And, I am grateful for all of you and the trust you literally place in my hands daily. How you allow me into your lives. How you share your biggest secrets and most harrowing moments with me and trust that I still stand, still smile, still receive you just as you are with an abundance of love in my heart.
Me? I love gratitude. Real gratitude. And I am so thankful for you, for life, for love.
May shedding the no-longer-needed expose deep gratitude in the heart for what is,
-- Shira Oz-Sinai
Over the last few years, I've developed a tradition of sharing some special treat with you in the month of November as a way of saying "thank you."
This November is no different.
Please receive my deepest gratitude for YOU! For taking part in classes, workshops, retreats, and private acupressure sessions; for serving as my teachers; for your thoughts, questions, suggestions, and comments; for your continued support and love; and most importantly--for sharing with me your precious presence.
You have filled my life with a vital richness that inspires me to do what I love most. For this, I am beyond grateful. Please enjoy a FREE iRest Yoga Nidra Meditation on gratitude, available below throughout the month of November. (Learn more about Yoga® Nidra HERE).
Looking for more holiday ease? Acupressure sessions continue regularly throughout the month with sessions available the day before and the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Learn more and schedule your session @ shiraozsinai.com/acupressure.
May feelings of gratitude remind you of the precious gift that you are,
-- Shira Oz-Sinai
I'M SORRY, this recording is no longer available. Please sign up to receive the weekly email updates (if you aren't already) to learn of FREE recordings and other goodies when they are released.
WHAT ARE YOU GRATEFUL FOR?
Shira Oz-Sinai is a spiritual teacher trained in iRest® Yoga Nidra meditation and Soul Lightening Acupressure®, two modalities that share the common principle of noticing what arises in awareness as the foundation to living life with ease and in deep and loving friendship with yourself. These are her musings.