Saturday, December 31, 2016

From Yoga, I Reach

From Yoga, I Reach

My feet.
My feet pressing firmly into my mat,
I know the smooth, the sticky, and the grit.
I know the Earth beneath me.
Pressing firmly into my past,
I know the heartache, the soul-ache, the life-ache.
From my feet, I reach. 

My legs.
I hug in from my skin, to my muscle, to my bones.
The same bones I have, in past, forgotten.
The same bones, from which I have asked too much.
The same bones I have stressed to break.
From my bones, I reach.

My belly.  
With feet grounded and legs strong,
I find the very core of me.
I pull in and up.
I lift my place of first connection to my heart.
From the place where I know things,
when I really know.
From my belly, I reach. 

My lungs.
With my lungs, I breathe 
The breath of life.
I breathe the outside in and inside out.
I am my breath.
Big belly breaths from my feet to my fingers.
From my breath, I reach.

My heart.
Dhakdak, beat. Dhakdhak, beat.
My heart carries the world through my veins
And takes me to the world.
I reach into my heart,
My place of second, and third, and fourth,
And all connections.
From my heart, I reach.

My throat.
I speak here.
I feel words both spoken and unspoken.
I feel the words that strangle me with their urgency.
I feel the words that close off my breath with regret.
Here, now, from yoga, I reach.
My voice feels free and true
Anchored to my feet, bones, belly, and heart.
From my voice. I reach.

My thoughts.
For so long, I thought they were me.
Each one, me.
This me of thoughts floated, struggled.
 Was deeply sculpted and cut by
All of the words.
From yoga, I see thoughts are not mine.
I choose the ones I want to hold.
I free the rest.
From my thoughts, I reach.

My feet.
My bones.
My belly.
My heart.
My lungs.
My voice.
My thoughts.

From yoga, I reach.

My arms extend from my core.
My eyes look upward.

Knowing what is me and what is not me.
Embracing my pains and joy, past and present.
Digging into the beauty and truth of this moment.

From yoga, I reach.

The Yoga Bag
Catherine Cook-Cottone

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Let Go and Be the Soul of It All!

Let Go and Be the Soul of It All!

Catherine Cook-Cottone
The Yoga Bag

The holidays are like ringing bells.

They ring from this present moment, out into the snow, the rain, even the sunshine- depending on where you are. The bells of the holidays also ring foreword and backward into the holidays-yet-to-be and from holidays-past. In this way, the present moment, in its essence, is all places and all times.

A beautiful thought.

In this truth, the holiday bells ring in the memories of all of those we have lost. They are still here; in cookie recipes, songs, traditions, family stories, and memories. I think it is for these reasons that the holidays can be difficult, even triggering for some.

I know for me, it is the first Christmas that I will not be with my family. With the death of my mom in 2015, things have changed. Our home in Lyons Falls is no longer our gathering place, making it hard, even impossible for us all to gather. I find that each song, each baking of a cookie, each flicker of a light from the Christmas tree makes my heart happy and ache in equal measure.

Heartfelt aches, ugh, they hurt deeply. It takes presence, work, and intention to feel and process it all.

In the past few days, within the context of the abundance of love and kindness all around, I have seen and heard stories of people – well - being sort of mean to other people. 

I have a mantra I save for those moments, “hurt (or hurting) people, hurt people.” I use this mantra to bring the compassion to my heart, to steady the moment, and to be the change I want to see in the world (and I thank my yoga practice everyday for making it possible for me to actually pull that off more times than not). Sometimes I wish we could all visually see the pain in each of our hearts so we could understand the why’s. For some, the hurting can be so big that we want those holiday bells- that tug at our hearts- to just stop, “Shhhhhhh, it hurts.”

For some, in the overwhelm- we snap, we push others away, and we hurt people who we don’t know. We even hurt people we love. I know, Lord knows, this work of life is not easy. Most certainly it is not as easy as the holiday songs make it seem.

I was running with my friends this morning- after a wonderful yoga class. We reflected on what might be a worry or hard over the next few days (Thanks Michelle). We acknowledged the possibilities. Then, we each described how we wanted to fill the space of the holidays (the stuff you can actually control). We described our heartfelt intentions. We chose how we might ring this year’s holiday bells.

I remembered Rumi.

 “Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place.”

Even thought I miss my mom and my family, even though my heart literally aches to not see my brother Stephen and the rest of my family this holiday season, I can be the soul of this place—right where I stand.

I can light candles; bake cookies; cuddle; smush my nose into our dog snowball's fur and remind him how much I love him; tell Chloe, Maya, and Jerry how much I love them (way too many times); and stop to facetime my family and pause to talk to mom- cause I know if there is anyway she could stop by for a visit with any one of us, she will.

With that, the echoes of ringing bells from 2016, when they are heard decades from now, will be bells filled with the sounds and memories of presence, love, and peace—because I chose to be the soul of that place.

With much holiday love,

The Yoga Bag