The link below is an essay I have been working on for the last six months. I'm sure there will be other editions after this one, but it was aching to be birthed, so here it is, dear friends who read. I hope it is helpful for you on your journey. xoxo, anna
I write this not to necessarily provide any answers, but to put forth and explore a question I have been thinking about/experiencing for a while now.
A few years ago, I realized that what I had sometimes labeled as “the Spirit” communicating to me, was probably, more accurately, my anxiety. It started me thinking about times in my life when that might have been true, and how I might be able to sort through that a little bit better.
I’ve been an anxious human since childhood and also highly valued and connected to spirituality since a young age. Both have played a prominent role in how I make decisions, and looking back, I think sometimes got mixed up.
As I’ve studied more body-centered approaches to art and well-being, I’ve learned more about our limbic system and its function in our life.
Limbic System: An important and complex system within our brain and body that responds, remembers, and protects.
“The limbic system isn’t a specific organ or part of the body, but rather a group of brain structures that work together. … The limbic system acts as a control center for conscious and unconscious functions, regulating much of what the body does. In some ways, it connects the mind to body, bridging the gap between psychological and physiological experiences. For example, by activating the fight or flight response, the limbic system triggers a physical response to emotional experiences such as fear.” (https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/6-ways-the-limbic-system-impacts-physical-emotional-and-mental-health-0316197)
The Spirit: Higher divine being/universe/inner self communicating to us peace and good direction.
Both the Limbic System and the Spirit communicate important things to us. And I think they are not necessarily completely separate from each other - I can imagine that there is some kind of working together. But I’ve realized that there were times when my brain and body (limbic system) was communicating to me a anxiety/trauma/fear/protection response and I was calling that direction from “the Spirit,” when a response that might have been more appropriate would have been for me to pause and tune into my body and mind and listen to what it was communicating to me - fears, protections, etc. - reflect on that, process that, and then get myself to a place where I could feel the peace and good direction.
So my questions have become:
When is it my limbic system communicating to me, and when is it the Spirit?
How can I tell the difference?
How do they work together?
What is my limbic system communicating to me? How can I respond to that?
What is the Spirit communicating to me? How can I respond to that?
In this time of great unknown and potential anxiety, maybe your limbic system communicating loudly. (Mine certainly has been!) I’m finding it helpful to take time doing mind-body practices to help me work through these feelings/communications and get to a clear place: writing, qigong, yoga, walking in nature, speaking with trusted loved ones, breathing meditations, laughing, etc.
Thoughts? I would love to hear them!
Happy soon-to-be-Thanksgiving! I invite you to take a few minutes to read and ponder these beautiful scriptures about the fullness of the earth that God has ordained for our temporal and spiritual wellness. In my Ayurvedic studies, one of the key aspects is eating the right food in the right season - how lovely to have that confirmed through modern day revelation! Truth is truth, my friends. And that is not the only nugget of gold within these scriptural passages. I would love to hear your thoughts and questions. Below the scriptures, I will share a bit more about what Ayurveda has found about the benefits of eating “in the season thereof.”
16 Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;
17 Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;
18 Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
19 Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.
20 And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.
10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man--
11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.
Ayurvedic Teachings: Ayur-what? Ayurveda is the “science (or wisdom) of life,” an ancient whole-istic medicinal system. I am currently studying the preventative medicine/lifestyle health side of it through the Chopra Center. I’m loving it. Like I mentioned above, one of the key aspects is eating with the seasons. As far as I currently understand it, the basic idea is that preventative medicine is all about returning to a state of equilibrium/balance BEFORE things get too much toward dis-ease. In our modern age we have a tendency to only stop when we drop - whereas being preventative means taking time to listen and slow down and shift things a while before we drop. We naturally want to find ways to take us to a state of equilibrium - when we feel cold, we want to bundle up; when we are to warm, we want to cool down; etc. In conjunction with the seasons, nature has provided foods that help our bodies find balance. In the heat of the summer, cooling fruits and vegetables grow. In the cooling of fall, root vegetables that must be cooked (and are thus warming) grow more naturally. In the muddiness of spring, cleansing greens are in abundance.
Now, we live in a time where you can pick up almost anything at your local grocery store - no matter the time of year. But being aware of what naturally grows in which season, and knowing that the qualities of those foods are incredibly helpful in my body shifting back to health and balance, motivates me to meal plan around seasonal foods. My family and I have noticed that a) we naturally enjoy eating those foods more during that time of year anyway, and b) we feeeel the goodness of it. And really believe it is helping us stay healthy!
One of my other favorite aspects of these scriptures, are the comments on enjoying your food with thanksgiving. In Ayurveda, there is also a big focus on mindfulness in eating. Like the French, who eat for the experience and enjoyment of eating, Ayurveda encourages a relationship with food that is full of awareness, gratitude, and presence. This is a biggie for me. As in, it’s really hard for me to eat slowly. WOOF. If I ever get to a place where I can’t say that, it will be a miracle. But it is so important to slow down, digest, and engage thoughtfully with good and mealtimes. You can learn more about that here.
So: may your Thanksgiving be full of delicious seasonal foods, and gratitude and presence for those around you and the food in front of you. Namaste!
This is the dressing room I used for a recent theatrical production I was blessed to be in. In theatre, your body is your instrument. Keeping up on my yoga (it's been years since I performed!) helped me to keep connection with my body and be a conduit for story. Yoga is union between your body, mind, and spirit. Today my musings are on connecting with and honoring your body. Questions to ponder: What is your relationship with your body? What do you believe about your body? (what do you THINK you SHOULD believe… and what do you ACTUALLY believe?) Maybe you meditate in gratitude on your body. Maybe you have compassion for the season that it is in. Maybe you listen a little more for an understanding of how you can treat it better. Maybe you imagine how you would want a little girl or boy to think about their body, and allow yourself to think similarly. Maybe you give your feet a little coconut oil massage before bed. Maybe you take a warm shower. Maybe you eat a seasonal piece of fruit and really savor it, feeling the nutrients soaking into your body. Maybe you drink a tall glass of pure water and feel the deliciousness flowing through your body. Maybe you turn on some music and just let your body move how it wants to. Maybe you give someone (and allow yourself to receive) a safe, wonderful, long hug. If someone borrowed your body for a day, how would you want them to treat it? I send love to you and your body.
One of my first yoga teachers and mentors, Syl Carson, would say that on days that she couldn’t muster an active practice, she would try to at least take 10 Long Deep Breaths. Even if she had only done this, she had done some yoga that day. This has sustained me through many-a dark and quiet day. My sister-in-law studies Kundalini yoga and we talk/laugh about possibly the main reason why yoga works is because it gets you to TRULY breathe. Maybe all the other stuff doesn’t really matter - it’s just about the breathing! I really enjoy most of the other stuff, so I’m going probably going to keep doing it, but I know that when I’m in a yoga class and I’m not breathing well, that is when things aren’t as awesome. I get hurt, I stay in my head, I leave feeling funky. When I get stressed or anxious, I notice I'm holding my breath or breathing very shallowly. Just taking the moments to start deeply breathing again eases the feelings. It's kinda magical. (I actually started doing it with my kiddos during mealtime when we were all eating too quickly. We washed our arms up and down slowly as we'd breathe audibly. They loved it! We use it to help them - well, all of us - calm down.) So breathe well, my friends. Even if it’s just 10 long deep ones. Maybe just do it right here, right now. Take a few seconds and really RECEIVE the gift of breath. Inhale peace, exhale tension. 1... 2... 3... 4... 5... 6... 7... 8... 9... 10... Namaste.
This is a topic for a text book, and I think there are probably many written, so I’ll just give a couple thoughts on the idea. We come from nature - at least, I believe, our bodies and minds do. Our spirits come and inhabit our physical and subtle bodies. (I also believe our spirits are made of the same stuff as nature.) We are kin to nature. When we go amongst it and are present in it, we honor that relationship and this can bring us closer to divinity - the divinity in nature and in ourselves, and the Divinity who created us. If “yoga” really means unifying your body, mind, and spirit, then I submit that spending meditative time in nature is yoga.
A women in my church told a story about how she loves nature and she would go out in it almost daily. She would always bring her phone and text or call people that she wanted to minister to while she was out - double duty, you know. But recently she has started leaving her phone at home and allowing herself to truly enjoy nature. And guess what? This has had a profound effect on her. She enjoys her nature time more and, in general, she is much less stressed.
Try it out for yourself, even if it is just three minutes. Next week, maybe you try five minutes. Maybe in a month you try going on a 30 minute nature walk. Maybe you find out about a nature journaling class and you decide to go take it. Then maybe you fall out of the habit, and you start again with three minutes. Maybe instead of jumping on your phone or computer the next time you feel the impulse to go on social media, you go take a little walk outside. It’s a practice, friends. So be compassionate on yourself and find the nature witnessing practice that is right for you today.
Heyo, my friends. My relationship with social media is in constant ebb and flow, and I’m feeling like it’s time for a little more flow. Starting today, there will be weekly #yogamommamonday posts! (Oh gosh, that’s a mouthful. Maybe I’ll shorten the hashtag somehow.) Every once in a while I’ll post something on #thoughtfulthursday. Point is, I’ll post a little something I’ve been wondering about.
My goal is to post short, thoughtful, and hopefully helpful musings on engaging in yoga and yoga-esque perspectives and activities while in the midst of daily living. I still very much consider myself a beginner and hope I am not too presumptuous in offering my thoughts. If you ever feel to respond or share, I will be so glad to witness your sharing.
My quest is to Nurture Divinity. My own divinity, my children’s divinity, the divinity of those around me, and of my environment. I hope that these little blips in your Mondays will add to your own journey to uncover and embody your divinity. I recently heard a yoga teacher end her class with a salutation that I now love: “The divine and wild and light and dark in me… honors the divine and wild and light and dark in you. Namaste.” (The shadow side of me ends this post with the short version: “Namaste, bitches!”) (My grandma may call me out for that one.)
PS I’ll only be on Insta/FB one day a week, so if you need to reach me in a quicker fashion, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Musings on engaging in yoga and yoga-esque perspectives and activities while in the midst of daily living. I still very much consider myself a beginner and hope I am not too presumptuous in offering my thoughts. If you ever feel to respond or share, I will be so glad to witness your sharing.