Marcia Miller

Radical Self Acceptance

Yoga on High in FEBRUARY, Love Yoga, Love You!

by Marcia Miller

Right after I received the following quote I was asked to write a blog about one of the values we have listed in our Yoga on High mission statement, radical self acceptance. This value has become one of the most important markers for me of whether my spiritual practices are working, and what I most want to offer to my family, friends and students.  This quote was transcribed by Janine Harris  Degitz from a talk given last November by our teacher, Robert Gonzales.

 

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Moving on from Cancer Day Long Retreat, May 2013

By Marcia Miller

Thanks to our donors to the Yoga on High Foundation we were able to host 37 women with cancer for a day long retreat designed to give them rest, rejuvenation and tools for dealing with the stress and symptoms of their disease.  Thanks also to our 17 volunteers who took a day off to be with us for this special program. In addition to offering them the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy modalities of simple movement, restorative yoga, guided relaxation, reiki, and essential oil therapy, all participants were trained in basic reiki techniques.  Participants from our previous retreat requested to learn reiki for their own self-care and to be able to offer it to others in their families and community.  We were very happy to give them what they wanted.
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Featured Teacher: Marcia Miller

Join Marcia Miller for her open Hatha Level 3 class or one of several upcoming Holiday Restorative workshops.

  

Why do you practice? To stay humanly divine or is it divinely human? I want to live a life of freedom, service and joy and yoga seems to help.

Why do you teach? It’s how I learn and serve. There is nothing more satisfying than supporting someone in finding more peace and strength in his/her life.

Inspirations? The wide sky, my favorite trees (they seem so wise and patient), so many incredible yogis and poets who have gone before, my students!

Who have you trained with? SO many great teachers over the years—do you really want the list? Swami Satchidananda, BKS Iyengar, Ramanand Patel, Rodney Yee, Angela Farmer & Victor van Kooten, Richard Freeman, Aadil Palkivalha, Judith Lasater, Jean Couch, Noelle Christians Perez, Mary Schatz, MD, Tom Myers, Roger Cole and many others. Thanks to them all.

What style do you teach? eclectic hatha

What’s your favorite food? Fresh corn on the cob, garlic (how I met my husband)

Do you own any animals? A beautiful black cat that just returned to us after being gone for 4 months. Yay, Zappa.

What’s on your playlist right now? I’m hooked on Lama Gyurme and Brazilian Dance music.

Favorite yoga pose? I love so many of the arm balances but for resting give me viparita karani any day.

Favorite quote? “I just want to be fully alive, even if it kills me.” Kevin Eigel This one makes me smile every time.

What is your favorite TV show of all time? the Wire

Your favorite item of clothing? The first sweater I made that fits me!

Backpacking or a luxury hotel? I must admit I do like a bed at night these days but not a luxury hotel—too boring. I like a hotel with a dedicated owner who can help me understand the place where I have traveled to.

What word describes you best? I asked my husband and he said, “competent, friendly, steady.”

What drives you every day? A passion to fulfill my dharma—to be myself in the fullest sense of that. Which may end up being no one in particular—stay tuned.

Who do you admire? People who know how to say yes and give of themselves, but also know when to say no.

What is your mission? to see the beauty in everyone (including myself).

What is the kindest thing anyone has done for you? The thing that popped into my mind was something Martha did for me. My first darling daughter died after 3 days of life. I had her at home in a wonderful yet challenging birth. Once she was gone no one thought to ask me about the birth but Martha. She courageously gave me the opportunity to talk about that powerful experience even though I was devastated by loss. This was one of so many kindnesses that I have received over my life from many many people.

Fun fact about you?  I’m always reading at least 10 books at the same time—many by my bedside and others on CD in the car.

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Ahimsa—The state of the heart that is free of enemies.

By Marcia Miller

Ahimsa, often translated as nonviolence, is the first Yama (ethical guideline or precept) of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It is one of the foundations of yoga and something I have practiced and thought about for many years.
At a recent retreat a Nonviolent Communication trainer, Francois Beausoleil, translated ahimsa as “the state of the heart that is free of enemies.”. Somehow my whole body knew that this translation offered me some keys to deepening my practice of ahimsa. In his presentation Francois taught a skill called “Dissolving Enemy Images” that was simple, effective and very powerful. I immediately re-committed myself to this practice which I had learned previously but had let go. I felt absolutely buoyant and excited about the possibility of more peace in my own heart.
And as is so often the case when I commit to a new practice, within a day a situation arose in my life that gave me the opportunity to test my commitment and hone my skills. This was not a tiny misunderstanding but something that was extremely painful for each of us involved. When I looked at what was true for me in the situation I felt feelings of anger, confusion, disappointment, annoyance, concern and a very deep sadness. I was longing for connection, trust, consideration, respect and communication that might lead to a true understanding between us.
The funny thing is that when I tried to see the situation from her side I imagined that she shared these exact same feelings and longings with me! What I know for sure is that when I am in conflict with another and I have a sense of blame, my whole body, especially my heart, feels hard, tiny and cold. This is NOT a feeling I enjoy, even if there is the momentary thrill of feeling righteous. I want to use the skills that will help me feel more curious, open, accepting and compassionate. This is not easy and it requires a deep personal honesty and an attentiveness to all parties involved. I am invited to notice the moment my mind goes to a negative judgment about someone or I have the feeling of being “right.” But “being right” means having a heart that is hard instead of loving, so I’ll pick up my righteousness and trade it in for compassion as often as I can. I have to admit I’m a bit nervous to write this publicly because I fail at this so often. And yet, I am longing for a community of seekers who can support each other in a powerful commitment to ahimsa.
One of my absolute favorite feelings in the world is that moment when something shifts in my understanding that allows an “enemy” to become the “beloved.” It is such a relief and my cold heart floods with the warmth of compassion, love and gratitude. Ahhhh.
Some of you know my favorite yoga text these days is the Vijnana Bhairava translated by Lorin Roche as the Radiance Sutras. Because I couldn’t find a sutra that exactly talks about my experience I decided to write my own.
Your heart is stone and
Your mind is full of outrage.
Your whole body is ELECTRIC—buzzing with righteousness,
You have been wronged!
There is power in this righteous stance but also pain.
The hardness carries a price—
The pain of disconnection with another.
Right here
The moment of transformation.
Breathe, ahhhhh
Remember, all is not what it seems.
Now, see under the waves of distress
You have strong feelings and deep needs—
Go slowly, name them, pause, feel them, pause and rest here.
This is the gift of anger—to know what you most care about.
The other also has strong feelings and deep needs—
Name them, feel them, rest here. ahhh
The moment of softening the heart toward an “enemy”
is as sweet as a kiss on a baby’s fuzzy head.

Marcia has created a class for the fall to share some of the skills involved in practicing ahimsa. Please visit Ahimsa Yoga if you would like more details.

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The Secret Life of Dreams

By Marcia Miller

Last night I dreamt I ran a 3 mile race and came in 20th out of 200. I could feel the joy of the camaraderie with the other runners and the excitement of running that far without pain and discomfort. These feelings were present in my body as a flow of energy and aliveness that felt fantastic. Each cell seemed to shimmer with delight at the experience. The exhilaration of running in the dream was still with me as I awoke and persisted, even after awakening

This dream and the joyfulness after it were in stark contrast to my feelings over the last two weeks when my sprained ankle acted up and I could barely walk. I was feeling discouraged that I might never be able to hike on uneven ground, run or even dig potatoes in my own fields. I thought that I should be doing better than I was, and was afraid I might never fully recover. I had been cheerful and patient for five months and hadn’t realized that despair was becoming my partner. What would it be like to be a yoga teacher who could barely walk? What if I move like an old person filled with pain? Am I a failure somehow for not healing completely?

So it was doubly thrilling to have that total joy and confidence in my body as I awoke. I liked this feeling and remembered one of Patanjali’s yoga sutras about inspiring dreams: 1-38 Svapna nidra jnanalambanam va. That means The mindstuff retains its undisturbed calmness by concentrating on an experience had during dream or deep sleep. So, according to Patanjali, we can meditate by recalling the deep inspiration, connection and coherence of a dream and use that as the focus of our meditation. And I did.

While still in bed, I made myself even more comfortable and lay there relaxed and resting in the exuberance of the feelings already present within me. I just allowed and invited that energetic flow to run through me, especially my legs. It felt so good to have confidence in my legs and ankles again—and so natural. I hadn’t realized how much fear and discouragement I had been carrying until I was free of it. It was easy to stay like that and I did for many minutes. I did not feel as though I was ignoring the very real injury in my ankles. Rather I felt as if I was remembering the template of wholeness that would guide my legs in their healing process.

When I arose and began my asana practice I let my body set the tone and do whatever it wanted. It wanted to be filled with prana and breath and I went to an outside deck adjacent to my yoga room to feel the fresh air flow into my lungs. Before I realized it I was in hasta padanguthasana, a one-legged balancing pose that has been very challenging for me these last few months. It didn’t feel like “therapy” it felt like fun and I lingered in it for the sheer joy of it.

It has been nearly a week since this dream and I have meditated on the feeling of it every day, mostly during my time in savasana (deep relaxation.) I lie there, let the body feel its weight as it settles into the floor, and then remember the sensations I had in the dream and after it. I let them run through me and bring my awareness, as if in a blessing, to all that is arising in my body.

Those yogis of old really knew a thing or two, and I am so grateful to be a part of their tradition.

Translation of the sutra is from Integral Yoga, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, by Swami Satchidananda

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