Do Your Practice Part 2

by Virginia Macali

I sit on a stack of blankets on top of a flat bolster with blocks under my knees so my tight hips are comfortable.  The woman on the mat in front of me wears a black top with white letters on the back that say DO YOUR PRACTICE.  That’s exactly what we’re here to do.  

It is the first five-day intensive training for the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program.  Over the course of the training, we’ll practice self-care, reiki, yoga (standing poses, restorative poses, and gentle movements), body scans, breath awareness, essential oil therapy, how to speak about these practices, and how to work with patients.

As we begin, there is order in the room, as well as excitement, anxiety, and plenty of not-knowing.  Marcia Miller kicks it off with excitement, gratitude, and an open-hearted welcome to everyone.  This is a dream she’s had for a long time and it is happening right now.  Teachers and mentors line up at the front of the room in their black tee shirts.  They will provide guidance, grounding, and inspiration as we practice together.

More than 60 people fill the room, and many come from medical backgrounds—doctors, nurses, and other allied health professionals. Other participants are social workers, ministers, and coaches, and quite a few are already certified yoga teachers.

What was the very first thing we talked about?  Self -care.  This is one of the core pieces of the Urban Zen work.  It is the intention to care for ourselves so we can be present, bear witness to patients and caregivers we work with.  By practicing this we live and work with greater ease and integrity.

A big piece of self-care is comfort.  If we are not comfortable, well-rested, relaxed and open, we cannot serve others in a way that is useful.  We learned how to get comfortable, then how to get even a bit more comfortable as we folded—and re-folded-- blankets with precision for restorative poses.

We practiced paying attention to our breathing, not to change anything, but to just notice.  We practiced noticing what our immediate experience was—again, not to change anything, but simply to notice.  With the reiki, we practiced being open to the energy that’s already present. We used essential oils to support calm, grounding, and wakefulness.  We practiced giving and receiving.  We were reminded that it really is not “us” that is helping another.  We participate together and there’s a larger force at play.

From my mat at the back of the room, I practice and absorb all of this.  I am grateful to be in a community of self-care, practice, and service.

Virginia Macali is a trainee in the UZIT program.