love

Pride in a Difficult Time

shutterstock_426023218by Daniel Sernicola

As the Arch City prepares for its 35th Annual Pride, bulbs in a hue of rainbow colors shine brightly from the arches on High Street and rainbow flags flutter in the wind. June is a month when we celebrate inclusiveness, love, and LGBTA+ pride. However, many of us are feeling spiritually wounded. The events in Orlando leave us with feelings of anger, hurt, and confusion. How could this happen? Why did it happen? How can we have pride when faced with such tragedy?
As a LGBTA+ community, we’ve spent most of our lives living in fear and aware that we are at risk. The Orlando shootings demonstrate that this fear is valid and very real. Many of us are reminded that the shooting could have taken place at any gathering or event. It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been out or how far down the road of self-acceptance and love we’ve traveled, we are always aware of the fear within. Read More…

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Our Hearts Are Big Enough

IMGP6019-horz_0How often we find that our work as Urban Zen practitioners hits home—in our guts and in our hearts. Today I signed my father up for hospice. He has needed a lot of help to stay alive lately though we have long abandoned any life-extending treatments.  When I met with his care team this week, I was mostly calm. I know he is near the end of his life—I’ve known that for a while.  Thankfully those of us who love him know that he is more or less ready to die and have talked about his wishes for end-of-life care.

I know that he could die at any time and, if I am honest, I am amazed that he is still here. I feel grateful to have had so much time and healing with this man and continue to learn from our relationship.  When we talked about hospice and as I type this now, I’m very grateful that he will be getting extra care AND I’m tearful and sad.  My head knows he is going to die, and I am mostly fine with it.  I believe in death—it is the closest companion of the life we live and celebrate.  These last few years have not been easy for him….and yet my heart is so sad. As I touch into the power of this sadness, I can also sense the cultural training that wants me to ignore and distract myself from anything that feels this uncomfortable. And yet, because of my years of yoga and my years of Urban Zen Integrative Therapy (UZIT)™, I also have training to be with and to feel all that is present in my life.  I can do it; I am doing it, but it is a practice—a remembering of what is important and true. Read More…

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ANAHATA CHAKRA: Is this love that I’m feeling?

by Stephanie Estice

In the womb, the heart is the first of our organs to form and be fully functional.  We might consider the brain to be of most importance, and yet, in a recent study of perception, when sensing images that were rated pleasant or unpleasant, it was the heart that had sensation first, before the brain. And, when the heart is in a state of coherence, it is the heart that sends signals to the brain that trigger states of well-being.

When you experience the energy centers, it becomes easy to see the depth of importance of the heart center. We are here to do our work in the physical, the emotional and the mental arenas of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd chakras, and yet many of us have a deep longing to explore the spiritual frequencies of the 5th, 6th and 7th chakras. What role does the 4th chakra, Anahata, the heart center, play in this dance of the energy centers?

Energetically the heart center is a bridge. It is a bridge between the earthly energy centers and the spiritual ones.  What we find in the heart center is love and compassion. It can start as that loving feeling you have when you feel good will towards another. It’s the sensation you have of warmth in the center of your chest when you connect with nature or when you hold an infant. And the more time you spend practicing this experience – through a practice of gratitude, through the heart openers you do in your asana practice, through noticing when you have sensations of warmth and harmony – the more you will gain a steadiness in this important bridge, a maturity of consciousness that will spill into all areas of your life.

I used to think that I would find my salvation in the energies of the spiritual chakras. At that time I didn’t realize that I was using my practices to try to escape emotional and mental pain. I had traded in meditation as a replacement for the role drugs had played in my life many years ago. There were times in yoga class that I heard the teacher speak of grounding, but from my years of experience trying to avoid the sensations of my physical, emotional and mental bodies, I had no idea what that meant. When asked to notice the sensation in my feet, I could sense nothing there. Thanks to the grace of a wise spiritual teacher, I was directed to practice being steady with the energy of the heart center – specifically that of the upper heart center, behind the collarbones. I worked on this for many months, and it has now continued on as a practice that has stayed with me for years. As many know with the Loving Kindness or Metta meditation, once we are able to connect with self-compassion, we are better able to see the suffering of all beings. Our heart grows. As my heart grew in more and more acceptance of all the places I had previously judged myself, I became gentler with myself and others. Ultimately I was then able to be with more experiences, with more sensation. Through the exercise of being with the energy of this bridge, I have been able to step into new learning that has helped me fully embody the rest of my human experience, which has led to balance throughout the energy body.

So listen…stop and listen to your heart center. Listen to the calling of your soul, that place of your knowing and remembering, to bring compassion to Self and others. Allow the harmony that this center radiates to wash over your being.

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