Monthly Archives: August 2017

Forming Compassion Through the Messy Contradictions


It seemed like just another Friday morning. I woke up too late, had breakfast, rushed 1.2 miles on my bike to the yoga studio. Drenched in summer morning sweat (WHY had I worn long sleeves?), I walked in the studio just in time for iRest® Yoga Nidra class.

For 2 to 3 years now, I’ve engaged in this practice of deep relaxation and guided meditation that helps practitioners heal “the various unresolved issues, traumas, and wounds that are present in the body and mind. It is restorative in that it aids its practitioners in recognizing their underlying peace of mind that is always present amidst all changing circumstances of life.”

I don’t know about all that healing unresolved stuff, but the rest and relaxation I receive in this practice more thoroughly combats the stress and toxicity of daily life than any other practice I have tried. It is totally worth all the rushing around to get my 8:15 a.m. Friday morning class.

I had spent nearly the first 2 years doing this practice purely as a way to rest. Most of the time I didn’t hear (consciously) many of the words of the guided meditation. More recently though, I come in and out of a conscious knowledge of the flow of the words of the meditation. I actually engage in the practices which only a totally relaxed mind and body could delve into.

That morning’s practice was a new one to this particular class. After an extended progressive relaxation, we were asked to pick an emotion that was cropping up for us. Then, we chose the opposite of that emotion. Our soothing and present teacher, Stella Cornett, asked us to alternate between the two emotions, exploring how they resonate in our bodies and minds. This part of the practice was not new to me; but the next part was.

My conscious mind had dropped out of the meditation for a few minutes after the emotion exploration. When I woke up enough to hear consciously again, Stella invited us to allow the emotion to take a visual form in our minds’ eyes.

Probably because my conscious mind was so relaxed, an image immediately leapt to mind — I saw myself as a child. She then asked us to interact with the person or image we saw, to ask it for its wisdom.

The wisdom this child-like version of myself offered came not in words or images, but crashed upon me in a huge wave of knowing — she was my own vulnerability, loneliness, feelings of unwanted-ness that I mostly try to escape in my conscious life.

The emotion I had chosen was unworthiness. I had alternated between unworthiness and worthiness. I had rested in what those two opposites felt like. Unworthiness was far more familiar and comfortable that experiencing its opposite, worthiness.

The waves of knowing continued to crash upon me. If we are able to accept ourselves as that vulnerable, hurting and lonely child, and are willing to sit with her in all that glorious mess of conflicting emotions, we are only then able to embrace others in their limited and conflicted selves. We can even learn to recognize the beauty and strength that lies on the sunny side of that shadow.

I did not rush to class that morning to have a life-altering revelation. I just wanted to rest. But, that’s when the practice always opens up so much more for me (for all of us really) when we are not expecting it. This is why we engage in these practices for weeks, months, years. We can rest into the practice long enough for the layers of our mind begin to peel back like an onion.

THIS is the place where compassion is formed: in the place where we develop comfort and even reverence for our messy, conflicted selves. Those shadows always have a bright side, a place from which our giftedness grows. They can then flourish in ourselves when we accept ourselves — vulnerability, flaws and all.

So I ask, what spiritual practice helps you engage your messiness, your conflicts, your unpleasant emotions? Do you have a practice and faithful guides who help you along the way? If you do not, what practices can you begin to incorporate?

Rev. Nicole Havelka has been integrating yoga into her practice as an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ for the past 13 years. While serving as a chaplain to at-risk youth, she competed a 200-hour yoga teacher training in Chicago in 2009. She now currently serves as Minister for Resourcing, Networking and Creativity for the Ohio Conference United Church of Christ. You’ll find her on her mat as often as possible in her spare time. As an extension of her yoga practice, she swims, bikes and runs in triathlons. She loves exploring the spiritual dimensions of these physical practices and applying them to her work with local churches.

Connect with Nicole by “Liking” her Facebook page, following her on Twitter (@revnhavelka), Pinterest and Instagram. Her personal blog can be found at


News about Jerry Marcom, One of our Teachers

From Marcia Miller

Dear Yoga on High community,
Seems like I have been writing a lot of blogs recently that are hard to read. This will be another of those. I’m not going to say “brace yourself.” I can imagine you doing that already and instead I invite you to feel into your feet and the surface you are resting on. Get grounded and stay as open as possible.

Our dear Jerry Marcom has been recently diagnosed with a brain tumor.  He is in the hospital now awaiting surgery, currently planned for this Friday, August 4.  We will know more about the type of tumor and what comes next after the surgery. Much is still unknown.

Now, feel your feet again, and let your breath keep coming and going.

JerryAs you can imagine, this is a shock to all of us--he and his family are still deeply grieving Martha’s death, and this is a huge punch to the gut and heart. We are sad and bewildered as we come face to face with this new reality. I imagine this is hard for each of you to take in as well. He welcomes your blessings and kind thoughts through all this.  As one family member said, the more love and prayers sent his way the better. If you are a Reiki practitioner, please send Reiki. If you have another special juju send that.

If you want to send notes please send or drop them off at Yohi and I’ll be sure he gets them. We are very aware of and grateful for the big heart of this yoga family. We are so very glad to have you physically and energetically with us.

I am taking much support from some of my favorite texts and practices these days: Urban Zen Integrative Therapy, iRest and The Radiance Sutras, a version of the Vijnana Bhairava, by Lorin Roche. In one of his notebooks Lorin wrote about one of the meanings of the word, “bhairava.” “Bhairava is the aspect of life that accepts our terror as prayer and opens the door to revelation.” I’m tearful each time I read this— I am helped to honor my humanity and not have to be “more enlightened” than I am. I need not transcend these feelings I am feeling—I can be with them and know that LIFE is hearing them as prayers. I can also connect these powerful feelings to the deep love I feel for Jerry and his family. For now it is enough.

I’ll end with Sutra #89 from The Radiance Sutras. This is one I always turn to when life is not going as I wish it were. May it offer you some wisdom as well.

You are stunned, powerless.
You thought you knew
What was going on.
Now you realize you don’t have a clue.

You are stopped in your tracks.
Everything within your skin is shaking.
Enter this shaking.

Right here, in the midst of commotion—
Get curious and look around inside with wonder.
Unmind your mind.
All the walls have fallen down.
Go ahead and dissolve.

The One Who Has Always Been,
Who has seen much worse than this,
Is still here.

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