Marcia Miller

What does it mean to be a channel for Reiki?

Marcia-8436ccWhat does it mean to be a channel for Reiki?  We often hear that Reiki is Universal Energy that is channeled through us. The image given by one of our dear teachers, Hyakuten Inamoto, is that of being like a “hollow bamboo.” This beautiful loving energy flows through us—it is not “our” energy. Air flowing through a bamboo flute, for example, doesn’t come from the bamboo, it comes through it.

This image is very helpful but doesn’t go far enough in my experience of Reiki. There IS a sense that something is coming through me that is not originating within me, and I think this is what Sensei Inamoto means by this comparison. However, a piece of bamboo with air flowing through it isn’t changed by that experience, yet I am deeply changed by the Reiki flowing through me. Just before I started writing this article I did my Reiki self-practice and paid close attention to my experience. I immediately felt more relaxed and at ease. I felt a warm, tingly, energetic flow coming through my hands and into my body, and my whole body felt spacious with room for all parts of myself.  My mind didn’t get especially quiet, but there was room for the thoughts I was having and so much more. Everything felt in context and interconnected. I felt meditative and happy for no particular reason. As I gave myself Reiki I also sent Reiki energy to many other people I love and care about. (This is a practice learned in Reiki Level 2.) I felt the connection with them as well and my heart welled up with love. Even when my main intention is to give Reiki to another, it is still affecting me as I offer it. Read More…

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Living a Big Yes

“Our hospice staff works so very hard and needs the Urban Zen experience. Will you come to South Africa?” asked the head of Helderberg Hospice, Gail Sykes.  “YES!” Said Lori Moffett; “YES” I said after hoping for this moment for years.  YES, YES, YES! And so began our African adventure. One of the elements that remained a powerful gift throughout the whole trip--the planning, the travel to get there, the work itself--every part of it-- was the ongoing experience of a whole-hearted and whole-bodied “Yes.”

I hope you know this feeling--this knowing that you are doing what you absolutely must be doing in a given moment. Perhaps there is the sense of doing what you were born to do, or what all your time on earth has prepared you to do. There may be the beautiful sense of Life living through you in a way that is at once deeply personal and yet vastly impersonal. Or maybe it is the fulfillment of a deep longing of your heart. Whatever the details, there is a sense of being in the right place at the right time, a sense of purpose and flow that feels so right.

This feeling doesn’t need to wait for something monumental like a trip to Africa--it could come when you are playing with your cat or watching your baby sleep.  It could be you posting on Facebook, just the right comment to your friend who is suffering, or celebrating. It could be anything that is yours to do, that no one else could do like you would do it. And they don’t need to because they will hopefully do what is theirs to do.

Anyway, back to our trip….We lived in the flow of our big YES for 3 weeks. While much of what happened was challenging and required lots of effort we always knew we were where we were meant to be. That helped us to let go of any resistance to the moment and to be present over and over to what was actually happening. We used ALL our skills, including ones we didn’t know that we had. And because of this feeling of being held in something bigger than ourselves, we could just relax back and let Life happen through us and the people we were with.

For me, living in this experience for 3 full weeks gave me a deep drink of what it means to live from my heart, and I will use this feeling more and more as a guidepost for other things I am doing in my life. Can I live my big ‘yes’ and leave the rest for someone else? Can I discern more and more what is mine and mine alone to do? Why is my to-do list always bigger than what I can do? Can I use this ever-deepening compass to help me navigate? We’ll see but I’m definitely trying this on.

Marcia Miller recently traveled to South Africa with her friend and colleague, Lori Moffett and her husband Kevin Eigel.  They taught UZIT (Urban Zen Integrative Therapy) to staff of over 15 hospices at 4 locations around the country. If you would like to hear more stories Marcia and Lori will be sharing on Thursday, September 15 at 6:30 at the Yohi Teacher Training Institute.

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Benefits of a Beginners Yoga Course

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2016 is my 40th year of teaching yoga to beginners and I still love it! For me, when I am sharing yoga with someone new to the practice, I’m giving myself the assignment of synthesizing all I have learned over the years in a way that keeps it basic, yet rich enough to help students experience the depth of a yoga practice from the beginning.

At Yoga on High, we have drop in classes for beginners so people can try out yoga with a minimal investment of time and money, but our favorite way to teach beginners is in a 6- to 10-week course. Many people have tried yoga at various studios, at a gym or online, but those locations don’t always have series of classes designed specifically for beginners. Dropping into an ongoing, mixed-level class can be confusing or, at worst, dangerous. Here are a few of the benefits of taking a course designed specifically for beginners: Read More…

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Handstands

Hatha_LowRes-155I love handstands.  I have loved and practiced them for decades and I never tire of the exhilaration I feel after each one. They help me feel strong and alive, even as I move deeper into my 60s. As a yoga teacher I also know that almost anyone can learn to do at least some version of a handstand, and that many students will be surprised, thrilled and amazed to get up in either a handstand prep or the full pose. Handstands empower us.

Because I teach handstands almost every week in at least one of my classes I am always looking for new ways of making this pose more accessible to my students. I’m always asking myself what alignment tips and various muscular and energetic actions can move my students (and me!) toward more ease, fun and airtime in this amazing pose.

This year I found another physical action that can help us balance in the pose. If you are not yet able to get up into handstand against a wall, then come to class to learn the basics. You can also practice this tip and get your body ready to support you.

The premise behind this practice is that handstand is not just about strength in the arms and wrists as some people imagine. An easeful handstand requires balanced muscular actions throughout the whole body. My students are telling me that doing this exercise, especially right before doing a handstand, awakens what they need to happen in the body to balance off the wall. See what you think.

Begin by lying on the floor on your back. Create the shape of Supta Padangusthasana (SP) with the left leg stretched out along the floor and the right leg up in the air with a strap looped around the center of the arch.

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In this version of SP the main actions of the pose happen in the leg on the floor.  The top leg can be extended into the strap but have enough ease through the back of the leg that the whole pelvis (especially the lower half) is completely on the floor.

As you focus on the bottom leg, feel it spreading lengthwise and sideways along the floor. Let the leg feel wide and completely glued to the floor. Keeping the leg glued to the floor, create the action in the body that would lift it off the floor and do that action strongly even though the leg is staying on the floor.  You’ll immediately feel the whole front of your leg and the left side of your torso up to your ribcage “wake up” with the toning of muscular action. These muscles are the stabilizers that will help you get up into handstand easily and balance once you are up. Relax effort and let the toning go, and then pause and do it again. Repeat on the other side. Be sure as you do this action that you are not flattening or overarching the back; let the front of the body do all the work.

If you look at the photo below I am pressing on the front of Evan’s shin and asking him to push me away. This way I can feel if he is getting the action correctly, and, if you are a yoga teacher, this is a useful assist.

Marcia Miller is teaching a Restorative Master Class on Inversions at Yoga on High February 21st from 9:30a-4p. You can also catch Marcia teacher her favorite handstand variations during her Wednesday evenings Hatha Level 2 & 3 drop in class at 5:45p at Yoga on High.

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On Aging

marcia-3982_0_0By Marcia Miller

As I write this I’m on my way home from teaching a weekend yoga workshop to a group of people over 50. One of the most meaningful parts of the workshop for me was the time we spent answering the question, “What do you know now that you didn’t or couldn’t have known when you were 20 or 30?”

The wisdom in the room was felt viscerally, as one person after another offered a phrase or two about something they had learned, often with a poignant story from their lives as examples. One woman described an unexpected acceptance of life’s difficulties, despite a deep longing for health and happiness for all. Another described understanding her own mother’s maxim, “This too shall pass.” She shared the face she used to make when her mother would say that, but lately she realizes her mother was correct. You may know that saying, that our parents get smarter as we get older? This turned out to be true for her. Another described a life in which his longtime question, “How do I get this right?” evolved into more interesting questions, including, “What can I learn from this situation?” Or, “What are my choices here?” It was quite a relief to not have to always get “it” right, whatever “it” is. We heard one woman speak movingly of a hard-won realization that she could not control the world around her. Life can take us to our knees, and, while painful, the lessons are precious.

Most spoke of a deeper understanding of what is really important in their lives now, having lost loved ones or faced death themselves. This clarity allows them to let go of that which is not important anymore and move on. And of course—love. We spoke of realizing that the essence of life is love—it all comes down to love.

These are likely ideas that we all heard when we were younger, but what I saw this past weekend was embodiment. Life turned concepts and ideas into lived experience that we could embody as truth.

In a culture where youth is revered and our elders are often invisible, I was inspired by us this weekend. Personally, my 20s were painful for me in many ways that I would never want to return to. I was naïve and judgmental, often sure I knew what was best for everyone around me. I was also earnest and caring, but without many of the skills I have now that make my life so rich and meaningful. Those of us in of 50s, 60s and beyond have lived life, earning our grey hair, our wrinkles and our shining eyes, and, to some, we are invisible. But our lives do not depend on being noticed—they are precious and empowered either way.

Marcia Miller was one of the original co-founders of Yoga on High, was the genesis behind The Yoga on High Foundation, teaches yoga classes on the public schedule, and runs many of the upper level specialty studies at Yoga on High, such as the Urban Zen program and the Therapeutic Teacher Training Program. She teaches workshops throughout the US, this workshop on yoga and aging as an example.

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Community of Care

by Marcia Miller

I live in a Community of Care and this has never been more obvious nor more intentional that this past year.  What does this mean--Community of Care?  It has several elements.

The first element is self-care.  One of the greatest obstacles to compassion is exhaustion. Those of us in the “business of care” need to know how to replenish our own energy stores, and we can be relied on to do this most of the time.  We are not perfect but we do our best.  We have daily practices that we know restore us.  We do them over and over even when we may think we don’t need them.  In addition to the daily rhythm of self-care we have occasional, longer periods of self-renewal that involve  stepping out of our daily lives for vacations or retreats. This is as essential as our daily practices.  We also schedule time together for fun and important conversations about what we value—we share our celebrations and our struggles.

The second element is community. We work together to care for the people in our community who need help at any given time.  No one person is indispensable, and we stay in communication to know who is able to help and to what degree.  Sometimes it is like a big puzzle as we figure out who can step up and who must step back.  Just this past summer one of us lost a beloved relative.  She needed regular support, so a group of us stepped forward to offer her what she needed including housing, food, Reiki and company.  We developed an email list of her support team and kept in touch about what she needed every day and what we could offer.  We created a schedule so everyone had clarity about who was doing what.  Then one of the support people found out that a relative of hers had a dire medical diagnosis and that she was needed at home.  She was able to step out of care for our friend and tend to her relative.  And we began to check in on her to see what was needed there.  And so it goes.  None of us is always a giver or a receiver--we take turns.

The third element that helps make this possible is self-knowledge.  We are checking in with ourselves on a daily basis to see what we realistically CAN do without causing ourselves harm.  We know that there will always be someone in our community needing support, and we are committed to our own sustainability which will allow us to continue the blessings of embodying compassion.

And along with self-knowledge we are cultivating honesty and increased skills in communication.  Knowing that you don’t have enough energy to help does not always translate into being able to say that to another, especially if the other is in trouble.  Many of us have been trained to believe that everyone else is more important than we are, and it can be hard to say no to a request for help or to take time for ourselves.  Learning to know what is true, and then speak what is true, are two different steps that are works in progress for each of us.

Back to community--if one of us loses track of what is reasonably possible to accomplish, another of us will be alert enough to help them step back and take more rest.  It may be as simple as a 10 minute restorative pose at just the right time, or a more extended sabbatical from helping.

It can also be a challenge for those of us who are used to being “helpers” to receive the care of our community, but we are getting better at this as well.  I have been amazed and gratified to see the grace of this. Another of our dear friends was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer this past summer, and has received much love and help from many of us since then.  She has been a beloved caretaker in our community for most of her life and now she is a beloved receiver of our care.  It has been really gratifying for us to be with her as she has opened herself up to receiving nearly daily Reiki and food deliveries.  She has received cards and outpourings of love with grace and gratitude.  There have also been a few times when it felt challenging for her to be on the receiving end of such love, and we worked through that together as well.

The words “giving” and “receiving” do not really do justice to the process I am describing here.  In everyday language they seem like opposites and very different from each other.  One of the things we have learned in our Community of Care is that giving and receiving are so closely intertwined as to be virtually the same thing.  When a friend is willing to receive our support she is giving us a huge gift: the ability to be present with her.  We share love and, in love, there is always complete giving and receiving simultaneously.  We are not giving from our own storehouse of energy at that point, but from an endless Universal Love that flows through us.  We are both renewed.

When I broke my ankle a few years ago I, too, was the recipient of much care.  Each day someone brought me food and Reiki.  Often, the person giving me Reiki shared something they remembered that I had offered them in a yoga class or in a conversation that was meaningful to them.  I realized that each person was glad to be able to offer back something to me (I was a teacher for most of them), and that helping me was a way of completing a circle of love. It was a beautiful gift to know that something I had said held meaning for them. And what they told me supported my healing process.

I am excited and a bit in awe of the communal wisdom that is present in our group.  We are so much more powerful together than we are separately.  I can rest in this.  The final element in our community is Trust.  We trust ourselves, we trust each other and we trust life to be enough just as it is.  This is a miracle of high proportions.  This goes against my personal training and much of the training of our culture, and I am grateful for all who keep reminding me of the beauty of what is possible.

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My Friend has Cancer part 3 What to Do?

As you may have heard our friend, colleague, teacher and one of the co-founders of Yoga on High, Martha Marcom, was diagnosed with cancer over the last two weeks. She has a site at Caringbridge.com in case you want to stay in touch with how she is doing and see the opportunities for help. Please at this time do not call them or send emails (in order to keep their inbox manageable with planning and medical info). If you would like to send a card please send it to Yoga on High at 1081 N High St, Columbus, OH 43201 and we will be sure she gets it. And of course send prayers, reiki, blessings and any dedications you like. She is already feeling the river of support and is floating along in it. Read More…

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My Friend has Cancer Part 2

As you may have heard our friend, colleague, teacher and one of the co-founders of Yoga on High, Martha Marcom, was diagnosed with cancer over the last two weeks. She has a site at Caringbridge.com in case you want to stay in touch with how she is doing and see the opportunities for help. Please at this time do not call them or send emails (in order to keep their inbox manageable with planning and medical info). If you would like to send a card please send it to Yoga on High at 1081 N High St, Columbus, OH 43201 and we will be sure she gets it. And of course send prayers, reiki, blessings and any dedications you like. She is already feeling the river of support and is floating along in it. Read More…

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

My Friend Has Cancer

As you may have heard our friend, colleague, teacher and one of the co-founders of Yoga on High, Martha Marcom, was diagnosed with cancer over the last two weeks. She has a site at Caringbridge.com in case you want to stay in touch with how she is doing and see the opportunities for help. Please at this time do not call them or send emails (in order to keep their inbox manageable with planning and medical info). If you would like to send a card please send it to Yoga on High at 1081 N High St, Columbus, OH 43201 and we will be sure she gets it. And of course send prayers, reiki, blessings and any dedications you like. She is already feeling the river of support and is floating along in it. Read More…

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