Attunement to Feeling

The vehicle of yoga helps us become more aware of the body. It may be difficult to understand, initially, the role of feeling in any yoga practice, and we therefore might focus more on the movement or postures, sensing where we are tense or tight and learning how to relax into the tense areas.  Of course, it is our sensing that tunes up this refinement and awareness, and over time we might notice that through our movement and gestures, we develop a certain lightness of being. In many ways, by simply following a set of movements, we open channels which when open, support an inner feeling of harmoniousness, a sense of ground, and a clarity of being.

 

In the practice I teach, attunement to feeling is one of the most vital aspects of the practice. It is valuable to build ways to recognize and then stay with feeling tones in a way that approaches direct experience. We might also prefer to use terms like ‘sensing’, or ‘sensing energies’ or ‘ inner experience’ as alternatives to the word feelings; this might help us to stay away from the cognitive overlays that we place on feeling. Most often, we are not in touch with a feeling as much as our label or description of the feeling, and that process is usually automatic, giving rise to a desire to somehow manage feelings we call ‘happy’, ‘sad’, ‘upset’. If we for a moment just dropped these labels, and allowed for the direct experience to unfold, we will open the doorway to a highly subtle and nuanced inner world.

 

It can be a true gift to develop a vocabulary of our sensory or vibrational universe; the touch, feel, aroma, taste, texture, space, luminosity, color, sound, direction–and so much more–of our inner sensory world. In fact the more specific we can be, the more easily we attune to the subtleties of inner and outer experience.

 

As we notice, and then stay with these sensory tones, a lovely alchemy takes place. There is a sense of deepening, and expansion and we can invite a soft breath into the center of our feeling.

 

We might first develop the ability to practice with pleasant or neutral feelings–the weight of our hands, the tingling in the toes–our ability can begin to extend into the edges and realms of less comfortable feelings often frozen at the edges of our awareness. These feelings often lock us into suffering. Most of us aren’t masters of these feelings; rather, they seem to often master us.

More challenging feelings can be compelling and intense, often met with aversion, or other strategies to cope or fix or avoid. But in the end–inside of them– they are forms of energy often trapped by judgment, conflict, and our unconscious avoidance. It takes great courage to sit down with this levels or discomfort. Most often, we’ll find a way to medicate, distract or avoid, and frankly, at times that’s the best we can do.

Let’s not begin with the most challenging.  Begin instead with noticing first the inner sensory world of right now. Left to itself, all experience changes, often in gradual and subtle ways.

As we develop curiosity and increasingly subtle awareness and appreciation, our labels become unhelpful, we can let them go, and go with the rich dimensions of our human experience.

We also develop the ability to watch feelings change. The metaphor of a sunset comes to mind. As the sun gradually sets, we’re captivated by the beautiful changes in the sky, clouds, and landscape, moment to moment. It can be as if a new masterpiece is being created each instant. This is one of the ways that we can, ‘be with’ and ‘stay with’ and develop our inner experience. We develop a kind of rapt attention.

Another metaphor may also help. When we cook, perhaps we add salt to taste, then sweet to taste, or we add this or that flavor to enhance our creation. Each addition adds to the wholeness, and we can detect both the whole, and what’s been added. Or sense of taste is extremely refined, energetically connected to our heart, attuned to what we take into us.

Feelings at times have personality; they may contain a sense of an identity that we developed or adopted years ago or even recently. As we allow the sense of them to expand, what was a fixed way of navigating the world, begins to support openness to all life as it is.

Some may view feeling attunement as a form of indulgence. However, we are tapping into a wisdom of the body that has been lost to us for a long, long time. It is a wisdom that allows us to be the true authority of our life and it is the bridge to the entire universe, and as we listen with our cells, we might hear the movement of distant stars.

 

Don McGinnis teaches Kum Nye Tibetan Yoga on Salt Spring, Duncan and Victoria, and offers one on one body centered counselling sessions  He runs a retreat on Salt Spring yearly. For more information contact Don at 250-897-5576 or email info@movingpresence.center or website movingpresence.center

 

 

 

 

All My Relations

Our sense organs habitually perceive things dualistically; that is, every sensory object that appears to us seems to exist from its own side as something concrete and self-contained. We think that merely because we can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch these objects they must be real and true, existing solidly out there in their own right, just as we perceive them. But this concrete conception we have about how they exist is also a hallucination and has nothing whatsoever to do with their reality. It takes time, training, and clear-minded investigation to cut through these deeply ingrained wrong views and discover the actual way in which things exist. But we can begin this process right now merely by being a bit skeptical about what appears to our mind. For example, as soon as we realize that we are holding on to a solid view of ourselves — “I am like this,” “I should be like that” — we should remember that this view is nothing but a fantasy, a momentary projection of our mind. Nor should we passively accept that external phenomena exist in the concrete self-contained way they appear to us. It is better to be slightly suspicious of what our senses and ordinary conceptions tell us, like the wise shopper who, when buying a used car, does not immediately believe everything the salesman claims about it.

Yeshe, Lama. Introduction to Tantra: The Transformation of Desire (pp. 58-59). Wisdom Publications.

Our Universe is relational, everything is connected, and everything in it is made of the same essence. I know this in my heart of hearts, and from that awareness,  sense my place in the order of things.

And yet, at the very same time, I imagine that what I see is solid, independent of me, and not at all touched by my experience of it.  I comfort myself with the seeming solidity of everything that appears to me. Its hard to see it as illusory, transient, based on how I see. In my day to day life, it is hard to remember that I often argue with the ghosts of my own creation.

At this visceral level,  I sense certain people are the enemies of my interests, and others I imagine are friendly to me.  Although I’d like to say otherwise,  I have compartments, based on an odd criterion of who is, in my view, either for me or against  me. There are some whose attention I crave, and some who I reject, some I want to push away, and some I wish would come closer. The figures change, the dance stays about the same.

I have hierarchies; I imagine myself  superior to this one, inferior over there. I want to know how I fit in the order of things, who I am better than, who is the lesser.   I watch myself arguing, attempting to convince, cajole, and reinforce my position, dismiss their position. I’m certain of who they are, how I might fix them, change them, put them in their place.

My ideas of who is good and not good for me are predetermined; I’ve decided already who will hurt me, who I will trust, how they’ll behave. Everyone seems to live up to or down to my expectations, and perfectly.  I have concretized my perceptions in a place where light is rarely shed, and the decisions are made at a level below ordinary awareness, accepted as fact, unchallenged. I have phantom ideas about how I am seen by others and a phantom sensing of ‘other’. I have this indistinct sense that they are withholding something from me,  what I need from them and may never receive.  Somewhere inside there is a struggle for the quality of love I think is missing. I may feel moments of deep frustration, anger, even rage that I manage to cover up. The way others dress, speak, appear or act will trigger a response of friend or foe;  when  I see them, I tell myself how they view me, what their opinion is of me, and my response is based on who I think they think I am. In an almost sinister loop, my response–subtle, non-verbal or energetic–confirms to me who they think I am.

This is the tricky part; I am always confirming, and struggling with the inner image that I have projected onto the world,  and it shows itself in an endless dance.  This is my inner relational universe which I’d guess exists in one form or another in everyone. It is a form of prison that endlessly competes for my attention, and the way out involves  vigilance and ruthless honesty.

According to some sources, this perpetual house of mirrors, this merciless narrative has gone on since  ‘beginingless time,’  and will continue until we wake up and find our way out.

I’ve found ways to soften the edges of this waking dream, at least, draw it into question, asking, as Byron Katie suggests, “Is that really true?, Can you absolutely know that it’s true?”  Like speaking kindly to a child. My convictions relax, my body relaxes.

Kum Nye practice softens the edges, opens up the space, bringing in stillness, balance, the gentle sweet kindness. When I move to the pure energy of experience, even the most ornery feelings dissolve like honey in tea.

The Loving Presence workshop brings us here too. What happens inside when I’m in your presence? What do I want to do to fix or change you? Can I develop comfort in uncertainty? Can I open to a place where I see you beyond the myriad stories I have running, drop the egocentric seeking and just see, be nourished by you, follow you, stop trying to run things.

The way  through seems to involve space and energy. The first step in beginning to dissolve the seeming concreteness and solidity of my perceptions, is by making the space and time, creating room to see. It involves embracing uncertainty, doubting the projected figures on the screen in front of me, recognizing their origins. It involves patience and compassion for self.

In meditation, I bring into awareness those who I would reject, dismiss, push away. The ones who seem more powerful, less powerful, disturbing, crazy, or  difficult. I bring into awareness those whose attention I crave, for whom I need something: money, love, approval, cooperation. My approach is to go to the body. Feel the sensations these projections bring.  Drop the narrative, then  notice and expand the feelings into spaciousness, enter into them with kindness, embrace, release.

There’s a celebration when a part of the narrative starts to fall apart; more room, more openness, more Self, more breath, more unconditioned life.  More true, true love for all humanity.

Don McGinnis is at the Collective Space in Duncan every Thursday, teaching Kum Nye Tibetan Yoga at 5 PM, one on one body centered counselling sessions from 10 AM to 3 PM, and offering  Loving Presence workshops monthly. He also teaches on Salt Spring and in Victoria.  He runs a retreat on Salt Spring yearly. For more information contact Don at 250-897-5576 or email info@movingpresence.center or website movingpresence.center

 

The image:

“Tantric Buddhism” by Soham Banerjee is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Deep Heart

The heart is our sanctuary, and yet at times it seems that it is the source of all of our pain, confusion and misunderstanding. What does it mean, to hold the heart as our refuge? The deep heart is found in the stillness of the heart, and the breath, subtle prana forces that pervade our whole being, and especially live in the sanctuary of heart.

The mind looks forward, future seeking, visionary, while the deep heart is feeling and sensing, looks into the past. Over time, the weight of the heart moves us backwards, while the mind seeks to continue it’s forward momentum.

You might be able to see this in the way that people stand, with the head far forward and the heart caved in. Or, they might try to push the heart out and create strain on the body systems.

To allow for the opening and expansion of the heart and its wisdom, we listen to its beautiful and subtle feeling wisdom, and in order to accomplish this, we must become still, allow sensations to arise without judging or getting caught up in history, to allow feelings to open and deepen on their own. We learn to open up the space and dimension of the deep heart in this very simple way. ​

 

Don McGinnis  teaches on Salt Spring and holds classes online He runs a retreat on Salt Spring yearly.  For more information contact Don at 250-897-5576 or email info@movingpresence.center or website movingpresence.center

Meditation is Time Management

As I settle in to write this article I am suddenly aware of how much I have to do, and feel time pressured. When I suggest people might benefit from a meditation class, they often look to the left and right furtively and then say, “I will, another time.” Time is an issue for most of us, in today’s world, there’s a demand to do more with a limited commodity, time.

When I first sit down to meditate, my ‘to do’ list looms up. The pressure of the unconscious, which holds all of our incompletions, has the opportunity to assert itself. The list itself begins to create inner tension and anxiety, because it suddenly seems that everything else is much more important than sitting and ‘doing nothing.’ Sitting doesn’t seem to do anything for my ‘to do’ list, or does it?

The irony here is that meditation creates time, and can establish the quiet, spaciousness and stillness we need to be clear.

When we’re simply observing, without grasping or judging, an inner alchemy begins to dissolve and transform negativity and worry, creating more clarity and balance.

The act of just sitting activates thinking, and this is frustrating for many beginners. But the truth is, thinking, being aware of thinking, noticing breathing while thinking is the way we assimilate experience and start to create inner space, and it’s that sense of inner space that helps us develop inner time. Inner time is the awareness that we have enough time and space to handle what is actually important to us, and confidence we can develop the ability to handle things as they arise.

Meditation itself prunes away the psychic clutter, and helps us to more clearly see what’s important to us. A heartfelt meditation or contemplative practice shows the way and begins to bring forward what is essential. It assists with the rhythm of time; everything arrives in the right timing. No need to tense up about it.

As we deepen into meditative practice, we enter the matrix of life, where that part of us that is greater than the little ‘I’ can orchestrate our lives. What’s truly important gets delivered in perfect timing because we are in greater alignment with our higher purpose.

As we learn to concentrate in a light and joyful way, and as our awareness expands, time itself seems different, more spacious, there’s more to notice. And, the less distractible and more attuned we become, the more we can genuinely accomplish.

When I first started meditation, I’d suddenly find myself standing at the sink doing the dishes or on the phone, calling a friend. The pressure of the ‘to do’ list kept pulling me away.  Many of our ‘to do’s’ are old and redundant: When you were six years old you said you’d write a letter to your grandmother and you never did. Although insignificant now, it may still hold psychic weight. Many of our ‘to do’s’ we’ve developed to create or maintain an image, or were promises made and never kept. When we just sit, we stir up a miasma including basic needs, fears and dreams, essential maintenance, other folk’s ideas of what’s right, forgotten promises, and a few genuine treasures. It creates pressure and discomfort that is challenging to sit through.

One suggestion for anyone struggling with getting to, or staying in your seat is this: First, take care of yourself physically. If you are agitated, angry, restless, or anxious, exercise first. Handle basic stresses. Have a notepad or journal beside you, and as you sit, write down you’re ‘to do’ list, as items come up. Once you’ve written it down, you can tell yourself that its handled. (But in order for this exercise to be effective, after you’ve finished your meditation, cut the list down to create spaciousness inside. What do you really need to do? What’s important? Out of a list of fifty items, maybe ten are relevant and timely. Take care of those.)

 

There are excellent resources available relating to setting and achieving goals, that’s not the focus of this article. However, to approach our beingness, we first learn to handle our busy ness, and begin to bring our actions in line with our values. Meditation can support us by creating the space to decide what is meaningful to us.

 

Don McGinnis is at the Collective Space, 166 Station Streeet in Duncan every Thursday, teaching Kum Nye Tibetan Yoga at 5 PM, and one on one body centered counselling sessions from 10 AM to 3 PM, For more information contact Don at 250-897-5576 or email info@movingpresence.center or website movingpresence.center

 

Featured Image: “Clocks”  by Paul Haahr, Creative Commons 2.0

 

Generosity

This paramita is the enlightened quality of generosity, charity, giving, and offering. The essence of this paramita is a boundless openness of heart and mind, a selfless generosity and giving which is completely free from attachment and expectation. From the depths of our heart, we practice generously offering compassion, time, energy, and resources to serve the welfare of all beings. Giving is one of the essential preliminary steps of our practice.

My practice starting this New Year will be an exploration of generosity, through a combination of Tibetan Yoga practices, and through a daily contemplative meditation. Generosity is quite abstract: an action, a spirit, a felt sense of abundance, an openness.  But more than concept, generosity is a living experience, the action of love. And yet, there seems already many facets, nuances, elements  in the puzzling out of this mystery, and as I  move forward the shadowy forces of grasping and neediness begin to surface.

There’s a self- sense that I haven’t been a very generous person –there’s a strong discomfort and judgment as I begin to explore —  I imagine that I have to protect and guard my time, my energy, my privacy, my money,  my etceteras. The list could grow longer, but I wobder if the details aren’t as important as the essence; there is something to protect,  a sense of loss or fear of impending loss, a right to protect what is mine, a right to indignation if someone attempts to interfere with what is mine.

I’m a private person, and I’m often content to stay in our tiny cabin reading, writing, contemplating or meditating, or doing nothing, lost in distractions. I jealously guard my time, the presence of others is mildly oppressive. A phone call feels like a pull away from the peaceful space I’ve created. I wonder. A slight change in social situation could throw me into chaos. Is this true peace?

As one of the six paramitas, or virtues, generosity is the doorway to the experience of selflessness, and this makes sense, to release the  ‘I, me, mine’ binding us to samsara and suffering. I see a kind of a  parallel in the third of the 12 steps of AA, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.”  I think this idea of giving up control to an abstract external force is discomforting. Even with the God I understand, that level of trust is a huge  leap. An argument, a panic ensues.

Selflessness disturbs me. A part of me immediately feels threatened, and senses the magnitude, the apparent impossibility of life without a central character, a ‘me’. And, as often occurs, when there is movement in that direction,  the shadow; greed, desire, ‘my needs’ looms up. Although ‘I am’ is a broken fragment of collected stories that reach back endlessly, this ‘I’ needs protection. The search for True Self circles back to generosity. Nothing real needs protection, and the great mystics and masters gave up concern for themselves.

Before I go further, I want to touch on a couple of ideas important this exploration:  In our world,  referring more to the Western world, we have a kind of a ‘bad me’ orientation, and an orientation to fix or repair or apologize for our imperfections. We might explain or express to our friends (or write an article about) this or that weakness or area we struggle to overcome, often in the same way we apologize for the dog’s misbehavior in the dog park. There’s this uncomfortable feeling; something in me isn’t right, and I need to change it, or erase it, or hide it. 

This impulse to correct or change is in many ways a form of violence against ourselves, often carried out with a quality of earnestness and pride, often with an intuition that we will probably not succeed; the virtue is in the effort.  But what if, instead of pushing through resistance, we simply met, engaged with, felt curious about, or even appreciated that quality of experience?

As well, we hold an identity connected to the problems we see in ourselves. “Be careful what you say after ‘I am’; that becomes your identity.” And, although we might try, we have no capacity to change identity from the level of identity. The image of the tar baby comes to mind; the more we attempt to pull away, the more stuck we become. We’re caught up in a made up story of ourselves, but caught up, just the same.

We do, however, have the capacity to assume a greater identity, including the poweful energy of Life itself, of which we are part; absolutely generous, containing and holding everything. Our ability to imagine and then assume a higher energy state is our liberation. This is an easier way for me to reach this point of understanding, unlike Step Three, instead of turning my will over, I assume divinity, and in so doing, false, lesser identities effortlessly fall away. We don’t necessarily let go, we let be, and in this abiding, there is an alchemical change.

If this seems odd, or irreverent, ask yourself what is the benefit of holding –struggling with– a negative self-image? 

I hold that we needn’t apply effort toward changing the behavior. Instead, we can touch the part of us that holds the tension, and begin to relax the space where the energy is holding. This opens the doorway to understanding, to compassion and openness. It’s the self-judgment that has to go, and that often shows up in tension patterns, which are not always physical, sometimes these knots are psychic.

I’d like to devote energy towards this kind of understanding, because  amidst my intention towards understanding, there is the opportunity to relax the protective role of  ‘I, me, mine’. This makes sense in this way too; Generosity, as a blind rule, exercised by force of will, might negate the natural and healthy impulse to take care of ourselves, the kind of positive selfishness that creates the space for generosity in the first place:  “I’m full enough, please have this,” we might say. 

So, the exploration begins, and I’ll continue to update as I go forward.

Don McGinnis is at the Collective Space in Duncan every Thursday, teaching Kum Nye Tibetan Yoga at 5 PM, one on one body centered counselling sessions from 10 AM to 3 PM, and offering  Loving Presence workshops monthly. He also teaches on Salt Spring and in Victoria.  He runs a retreat on Salt Spring yearly. For more information contact Don at 250-897-5576 or email info@movingpresence.center or website movingpresence.center
  “Man Giving a Wedding Ring to a Woman” by diazs is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Consumer or Creator?

The Collective Space has, since inception, envisioned a new way of being in the world, and is expressing itself in a bright new chapter. It isn’t a surprise to the majority of the people I connect with that our current consumer world fails us on just about every metric of sustainability.

 I’m aware of its failing from the personal and interpersonal dimensions; who are we, and who are we to each other?

A definition of samsara might be the meaningless and unconscious pursuit of external sources of fulfilment, always leading to dissatisfaction and suffering. Even though we know better, the search itself has an all consuming momentum, and a pervasiveness that is nearly inescapable. In this modern world, we are prized as consumers, not creators. 

Yes,  there  is a need for exchange and the recognition, in some form, of the value of our time and energy.  Even greater is the need for recognition for what is within us beyond our doing.  And then, when our beingness –our passion,  our purpose– is driving our doing, we become a potent creative force in this world, a point of light in the darkness.

I returned to the big city-world, Vancouver, around 10 years ago, and astonishingly quickly fell into a deep despair. Poor and isolated, I worked as a swamper for a retail warehouse for $8 an hour, and lived in a tiny room in New Westminster.  I was aware –because I had lost this status–that being a good consumer creates a buffer, a way to survive the isolation of a consumer-generated world. In other words, if we are doing work we don’t love, making enough money to live in the consumer world, our suffering is manageable. We might have our depressions and anxieties, but that’s the price of our freedom to consume.

The inner voice of clarity can become all but silent. What we crave– fulfilment, purpose, belonging, contact, intimacy, joy, engagement with life–seem distant or transient.

After arriving on the streets of Vancouver, I worked with homelessness for a few years, engaged with the profoundly disenfranchised, the ones that, in the vernacular of social services, fall between the cracks. I saw how the homeless structured their time to create a frenetic busy ness that kept them fully engaged in the world of homelessness. In part, that level of survival consumes a great deal of time and energy, but there was something else. There are also strong inner  forces at work keeping the way out closed. I’ve worked with addiction recovery for many more years, and saw how addiction fully engages us in activities that keep us in the addiction. That phenomena applies to all of us, though; there doesn’t seem to be an easy pathway out of the consumer universe, and it can be just comfortable enough to keep us engaged. Many say that it’s our social structure and the inevitable isolation it produces that drive addiction, but recovery is always an inside job. 
In the samsaric world, time and space seem to collapse around us. No room to breathe, no time for me. Nothing really happening, but we are spent running in circles looking for love in all the wrong places.

My own two teaching passions, Kum Nye and Loving Presence are gateways out of the world of suffering, and it is an inside job: To create the time and space to just be, and where we can be nourished by our inner world, nourished by the essence we see in others.

I was drawn to the Collective Space in Duncan because of the promise of something that has a chance to stand outside of the universe of consumerism. Brave imaginings, new connections. At the center, the value of being and the forces of creativity.

What’s exciting to me, and others at the Collective Space, is the convergence of healing and creative energies. There’s something shaping, defining itself as new, waiting, gathering, building.

Educare

Educare is the Latin root word for education, and it means, ‘to bring forth from within’.  A good teacher isn’t interested in filling the minds of students with facts and information, concepts and ideas.  A good teacher is interested in assisting the student in the development of their own wisdom, to build a foundation for creativity, and to bring forth inner knowledge.

A step even beyond that; a teacher may help facilitate the wisdom of wholeness, to help cultivate a trust in one’s own beingness, to support wholeness and empowerment. A teacher’s depth of appreciation for their students helps awaken a spirit in both of them.  A good teacher can help a student see beyond dogma,  support new connections,  see the world in a new way,  and build a new vision for the world.  A teacher may be a healer, and many healers take on the mantle of teacher. In essence, we help strengthen that which is beautiful, sacred and inspirational about another; that in turn touches and fills us.

We are inspired through our connections, there is a sanga, a sacred community that enriches the participants as well as the vision. I’ve been a part of many communities, and it is the vibrant heartfelt interconnection that make them thrive. A creative loving community can be contagious, spreading waves of influence far beyond the physical space, touching families and the larger community. 
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a wisdom school right here in Duncan? Perhaps that sounds a bit grandiose, but in it’s simplicity, a wisdom school could be a place for learning and growth in all the dimensions that bring forth wholeness and self trust. There is already a kind of vibrancy, an incubator of fresh new thinking afoot at the Collective Space already. How can we as healers and teachers bring that more alive?

With a little structure and care, a seed can grow. In this community, there are mentors for an abundance of  models of healing, models for social change, new economics, ways to rebuild relationship with the natural world. What if we began to shape our practices and times to create a vital learning center, where every day, the public could be exposed to vibrant new ideas?

What if we could find a sustainable way to create a wisdom school that also helps support us in what we already feel passion about?