Nourish beginnings

 

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Yesterday was all about looking back, reflecting, processing. On the last day of 2016, I spent the morning at a poetry retreat at Healing Ground in Summerfield, N.C. and immersed myself in poignant and moving poems. This is my second year attending, and it never fails to move me. My friend, Jacinta White, who facilitates the retreat every year, always selects poems that make my heart ache. This year was no different. The poems, the sacred space, the people, the sharing from their hearts, it was such a gift to carry into the new year.

One particular phrase from Muriel Rukeyser’s poem, “Elegy in Joy,” has stuck with me: “Nourish beginnings, let us nourish beginnings.”

Today is all about looking ahead. This new year is a new beginning, a clean slate. When I woke up this morning, I felt different, lighter, hopeful, joyful. A new journey has begun. As I walked my dog through the woods this morning, I noticed how the sun was trying to push its way through the gauzy clouds from an earlier misty rain. Eventually, there was a crack, and the light shined down.

I’m a lover of rituals, but I don’t make new year’s resolutions anymore. Instead, I set intentions for the year and try not to set the bar too high or too low, or create an extremely long list of things that I already feel defeated by because I’m trying to tackle too much. This year my intention is simple: Choose joy. In all things, I’m going to strive to do the thing that creates joy.

After my yoga class today, I stayed after to create a Do the Work Jar. As my yoga teacher described it, a Do the Work Jar “is a support system to help you move toward what you want. When you get stuck-physically, energetically, emotionally, mentally-pull out a slip from the jar for inspiration and motivation.”

On slips of paper, I wrote down simple actions I can take for when I get stuck this year. The idea is to help you stay focused and get positive traction, according to my teacher. As I type this, my mason jar of actions is sitting next to me on top of my desk where it will be in my view daily. (I spend a lot of time here.) All of the actions tie back to my intention: choose joy. It’s my joy in a jar.

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There’s another jar I keep in my bedroom that I call the Good Things Jar. Throughout 2016, I filled the jar with good memories-small and big. I dumped the slips of paper on the living room floor this evening and read through each one. I counted only 17 pieces of paper; 17 good things! There were huge three to five-month gaps in the year where I didn’t write anything. And then there were simple, little memories like warm, homemade blueberry pie on the 4th of July to a hoarse throat from screaming at my first hockey game. In 2017, I intend to fill my Good Things Jar to the brim.

 

This evening, I opened the windows throughout the house and lit a smudge of white sage to cleanse ourselves and our house of negative energy and welcome in new, fresh air and energy into our lives and home. Out with the old, in with the new. I walked throughout our home carrying the smoking sage into every nook and cranny while I repeatedly asked the universe to bless our home and its inhabitants. I already feel a sense of peace and harmony. There is a lot of power behind intention.

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At my poetry retreat, we read some beautiful poems about “letting go” (my familiar theme of 2016) and shared our thoughts and feelings surrounding that phrase. We also contemplated the things we wanted to carry into the new year. We were given a few minutes at the end to write a poem and then share it with our intimate group of 10. This is what I wrote.

Burying the Year

By Carla Kucinski

Bury what was

What could have been

What would have been

What should have been

All of the what ifs.

Unearth what is

Embrace it

Live it

Carry it forward.

Wash the residue of the year from your hands

Every last grain of dirt hiding under your finger nails

It’s time to let go of it all, everything that no longer serves you.

Say goodbye to your grief

Thank it for the gifts it’s given you, the lessons it’s taught.

Your sutured heart soon will mend

You know this because it has healed before.

You are stronger now because of it

A changed person.

You can taste hope in your mouth,

Smooth and sweet like a square of milk chocolate.

Take it in, remember how it feels—like your whole body is smiling

Then hold your head high as you walk into the new year with determination

An open heart

An open mind

Don’t worry, everything will be okay.

***

Thank you for continuing to follow Addison and I on our journeys, and sharing your own insights and journeys with us through your comments and emails. You words mean so much to us. We wish all of you love and light in the new year. Nourish your beginning. Namaste, dear ones.

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Somewhere in the middle

I’ve been craving calm lately, and rejuvenation. I’ve spent the last few weeks perusing yoga retreat websites, searching for the perfect destination. I needed something restorative but also inexpensive.

Then I heard about Yoga Fest from my yoga teacher, Andrea. The annual day-long retreat in Raleigh features dozens of yoga sessions from meditation to acrobatic yoga. I attended my first Yoga Fest on Saturday, and it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. It was a day of releasing for me. I let go of emotions, tensions, judgments. By the end of the day, I felt cleansed, lighter and looser. It was a powerful experience and more than I could have imagined.

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My day started out with an amazing Yin Yoga session with my yoga teacher Andrea. She’s the coolest yogi I’ve ever met. I just adore her! She’s a wonderful teacher. See how happy and relaxed I am after her class? 

The biggest turning point of my day came in the afternoon. Between sessions, I visited the exhibitors’ area and had my aura read for $5 by a woman from a Raleigh yoga studio. I’ve always been fascinated by aura readings and curious about what my own aura looked like. I’m not an expert on the subject of auras, but I’ve been reading about them since I received mine. The best way to describe an aura is it’s a field of energy that surrounds a person and reflects their essence — who they are and what’s happening at their core. The rainbow of colors that appear in an aura are supposed to reveal one’s emotional, physical, spiritual and mental well-being. Since I’ve been dealing with some heavy emotional “stuff” these past two months I was eager to see what my aura would reveal. I placed my hands in the outlines of what looked like two metal fingerprints and within seconds my aura appeared on the screen in front of me.

I studied it for a second and turned to the woman beside me anxiously awaiting her analysis. My aura contained an overwhelming amount of red, which she said represents high energy, creativity and love. “You have a lot of passion,” she said to me. I smiled and nodded. But red, she continued, can also indicate anger, stress and too much thinking and analyzing. She asked if I had been under a lot of stress lately, and I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Not really.” I’ve been managing my stress better at work, doing more yoga and meditation every morning and sleeping well. So no, no stress. She said I have so much energy, creativity and ideas that I want to accomplish, but I’ll never be able to accomplish any of them unless I focus my energy. True. That’s been an ongoing issue.

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“This concerns me,” she said, pointing to a darker area on the screen. I looked closer at the cloudy blob of darkness sitting in the center of my chest. It looked like an ominous, black hole and it was near my heart. I noticed more murky blackness along the edges of my aura, around the crown of my head, but the hole in the center of my heart appeared the densest. “You’re protecting yourself, keeping your emotions closed in,” she said balling her hands into fists and pulling them to her chest. She mentioned illness and grief. I told her I had suffered a great loss in February. She nodded as if she already knew.

It’s been almost two months since my husband and I lost our baby. And it’s a loss unlike anything I have ever felt. It’s a shock to the heart, to the body. Most of all, I grieved the potential, what could have been. Now, what I’m mostly left with is anger. I’ve been through a lot of tough experiences in my life – chronic illness, deaths, divorce – but nothing compares to losing our baby. That black hole, it feels like an abyss. And I was staring directly into it. As I sat there studying my aura on the screen, I saw so much sadness. It’s a strange thing to see your emotions displayed in front of you. It was almost like looking at a self-portrait I had painted. But it’s up to me to change the canvas. The woman who did my reading recommended I meditate more, do some deep meditative breathing and yoga postures to open the chest and release the emotions I’m holding onto. “The gong bath will be good for you,” she continued. “It’ll be interesting to see what your aura is like after the gong.”

Gong bath. I had been hearing about this all day but had no clue what it was, and for some reason I never felt compelled to ask someone. I guess I wanted to be surprised and not go into it with any expectations. With my phone, I took a photo of my aura on the screen, thanked her, and went off to my final yoga class of the day: Cultivating Calm. How appropriate.

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The whole time I was in the class, I couldn’t get the image of my aura out of my head. Every time I tried to concentrate on a particular posture or my breath, my glowing red silhouette with that black hole in the center kept popping up. I kept thinking about how much better I thought I had been doing, how my life was getting back to normal … almost. But I’m still healing. As a friend so eloquently put it, I saw my “true colors,” and it scared me.

“Breathe in possibility and optimism,” the instructor said during our final meditation. “Breathe out fear and doubt.” As I breathed out, I pictured the black hole in my chest leaving my body and light coming in. My closed eyelids trembled as I tried to hold back the tears.

As I waited for the gong bath to begin, I pulled out my phone and Googled “gong bath.” The first result brought up: “A gong bath is a form of sound therapy where the gong is played in a therapeutic way to bring about healing. … The term gong bath means that you are bathed in sound waves, there is no water involved, or clothes removed.” Well, that’s a relief.

I closed my phone and laid down on my yoga mat, waiting to be healed. A woman with thick, blonde curly hair, black and white geometric yoga pants, and an off-the-shoulder black flowing t-shirt entered the room pushing on wheels a gong the size of a Smart car. She suggested lying down on the yoga mat with your head toward the gong and laughed as she told us one of her friends describes the gong bath as a “magic carpet ride.” The idea of floating around on a magic carpet sounded good right about now. The ultimate metaphor for freedom.

She turned off the lights, and as I laid there looking up at the dark, empty ceiling, I kept thinking about the words “healing” and “unreleased grief.” “Give yourself the gift of letting go,” the blonde-hair girl spoke gently into her wireless mic. And with that, the gong bath started. The sounds of the gong began gently like ripples of water, then increased in intensity. I could feel each sound wave reverberate throughout my body. I tried to stay grounded in the present and not let my mind drift, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the past – and that black hole. Eventually, the obsessive thoughts stopped and I let myself just be.

I’m not sure how long the gong bath lasted. Ten minutes? Fifteen? When the gong music stopped, I laid there waiting for something to happen to me. Was it over? Am I healed? What am I supposed to be feeling? Do I feel any different? With the lights still off, a musical recording began to play a New Age song I wasn’t familiar with. I didn’t know what the song was about because the lyrics were in another language, but it was beautiful and moving. As I laid there flat on my back, palms turned upward toward the sky, something broke inside of me. Hot tears slipped from the corners of my eyes and slid down my cheeks. My throat tightened and my chin trembled as I tried to hold back the tears. This is the stuff I’m still holding onto. Let it go. I surrendered to my grief and started a flood. Tears streamed down both sides of my cheeks. Some tears pooled in my ear canals and slid down my jaw bone and down my neck. Others rolled off my skin not knowing where they landed. I felt like I would never stop crying.

When the lights came on, I dug in my bag for a tissue and dabbed the tears from my eyes. I was a mess. My cheeks were wet, my neck, my chest. I felt like my whole body was covered in tears. I kneeled on my mat and started to roll it up when I noticed there were tears the size of dimes pooled on it. I had never seen my tears manifested in that way. They looked so big — perhaps the larger the grief, the bigger the tears.

I took a few deep breaths, then collected my things and hurried out the door to my car. I didn’t want anyone to see what a mess I was. When I stepped outside, the gray rain clouds that followed me on my morning drive had dissipated and the sky was now a cloudless blue. I turned my face to the sun and let its rays dry the rest of my tears. And I told myself, “I’m going to be OK.”

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Andrea introduced me to the works of poet Thomas Merton after her Yin Yoga session. “Sit still and rest.” Ah yes. And I love the second poem “At the End …” I think I’m somewhere in the middle.