WBF and Yoga Nidra

Are we only Wholebody Focusers when we are in partnership with other Wholebody Focusers, or is it a way of life? For me, it is a way of life, a theoretical structure that holds my experiences. The most important concepts are:

Body Wisdom knows what our bodies need.

We hold space for everything we find within us with equal positive regard.

Our bodies only need our awareness to begin and support the healing process.

What happens when we are living our lives? How do these concepts come into play? Do we ignore them? Do we fully enter other worlds and adapt to other ideas? Or do we integrate what we know supports life within us? These are questions I ask myself when I want to participate in other energetic practices.

Yoga Nidra

I became very fond of Yoga Nidra when I worked in NYC public schools. My days were always long and full of demands and challenges. To relax, I would use an audio guide to help me get into the Yoga Nidra state when I returned home from work. I would take 20 minutes to allow my body to recover while my dear husband cooked our dinner. I am not an expert in Yoga nor a scholar of its history. I am approaching this discussion as a student in a yoga class.

Yoga Nidra is the part of a Yoga class when you lay on you back with your arms spread out and palms facing up and legs hip-width apart. The goal is to enter a state somewhere between awareness and sleep. This state is profoundly relaxing and acts like a tonic that recharges your body.

As one listens to the teacher’s guiding words, you notice different body parts. Some teachers might say something like “ask your toes to relax” and proceed through the body from bottom to top asking all areas to relax. I began to wonder if even this small demand on the body was out of step with my Wholebody Focusing practice?

Can I find this place of deep relaxation and apply what I know about WBF? In other words, how can any energetic practice become a Wholebody experience?

I changed this practice to make it more in line with my Wholebody practice by setting a different intention for the Nidra state. Instead of asking my body to do something, I want to give my body a chance to do what it needs to do. By observing a particular body part, it activates in some way. I feel energy churning. I stay with this felt sense until it seems to have found its rhythm. Then, another part becomes activated. I do not move on to another part of my body in a predetermined order but by what appears next. I stay with that new part until it recognizes my awareness.

I find my body seems joyful in that it has a chance to be observed in its natural state. It has become so used to being observed that I often do not have to speak or think the process but just let it know that I am taking time to notice it part by part. I set the intention at the beginning that I am giving my body time to be with itself and it just happens.

I tried to create an audio file to help you experience this, but anything I would say might limit your experience of WBF Nidra.

For me, as my different parts churn away (my energetic experience), I feel a great relief from the need to “be in charge.” My body knows I support its need to create this energetic movement and is happy to have a chance to have the time, space, and support to do what comes naturally.

I have learned something significant over time.  When I first started this practice and felt the energy, I would imagine that I had some illness that needed attention. Once I had a diagnosis, I would begin to create an action plan to treat it. My plans were so detailed on a particular occasion, I was able to observe the nonsense of it and just laughed out loud.

At first I would remind myself that I needed to let go of any ill health diagnosis that might come to mind. Without a diagnosis, there was no need for an action plan. My mantra became, “No diagnosis, No Action Plan.”

In fact, our bodies are constantly seeking stasis, an equilibrium of two opposing forces.  By holding these energy patterns with equal, positive regard, our bodies have a chance to use their innate wisdom to help themselves be the best they can be. I go deeper into my Nidra state and allow my body to have its own time to heal and come back refreshed and anxiety free.

Please try this and see what it feels like. Let us know what your experience is in the comments.
Namaste!

Photo Credit: Swamp Rose Mallow Hibiscus on the East River, Manhattan. Diana Scalera 2009

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Black Lives Matter Mural and Holding Both

I have begun to exit from my total COVID-19 lock down. My husband is a person at high risk for severe complications from COVID-19. We decided to stick to strict social distancing and other recommendations to keep both of us safe. Since New York City has reduced the number of infections significantly to below 1%, I’ve been venturing outside more.

During the height of the virus in New York, there were so many people protesting the death of George Floyd. We watched it from inside. A few days ago, I walked with a friend to Union Square in Manhattan, a central starting point of most demonstrations. There I found a colossal mural supporting Black Lives Matter. I was so moved by it I began filming with my cellphone to get a sense of it. I eventually went back with my video camera to record the experience. Here is what I found.

The artists divided the mural into two parts. On Union Square East, there are Black people’s names on grey painted plywood who have been killed by the police in the US and other countries. Feet and legs are moving forward from different cultures and places. It was, at once, a memorial to their lives and a celebration of their spirits. The grey tones also help one’s grief.

Around the corner On East 15th Street was something completely different. There were quotes by leaders of African American rights’ struggle on how to change these unjust situations from various decades. Once again, the plywood was grey, but the messages were is a bold and strong font. Not a scream, but a steady, honorable voice of encouragement to those who will struggle against this gaping in wound our society that has not yet been replaced with equal positive regard for all.

Here is what you will see if you come to New York City and walk around Union Square.

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Wordless Heartfelt Conversation/Senza parole

How would it look to have a conversation without words? Is it possible? What might two people share this way? How can Wholebody Focusing be the medium through which this happens?

Cristina Griggio and I were curious about what connecting via videoconferencing in grounded presence without words would bring. We agreed to sense into our bodies separately and then asked our bodies to move how they needed to move. While we sensed into our bodies and gave them time and space to move, we also sensed into each other to connect to the other’s movement. We became at once the actor and observer.

The video below is but a small slice at the end of that conversation. We were interested in the experience of the communication itself rather than any meaning it might have held. Sometimes we were thoroughly connected to self, and other times were aware of the other and sensing into what is coming for her.

It was fun, surprising, and felt like playing. It also helped us know each other more profoundly. Cristina’s natural ability to express herself through movement at one point filled me with awe.

We offer this video as a suggestion to others–that you too can have a non-verbal conversation between two bodies communicating using the concepts of holding space for what is present, asking your body to move in its own way while holding all that comes with equal regard. We also offer this video as a companion to you so that you have company if you would like to allow your body to communicate with you and move in any way it wants.

Let us know what happens.

Heartfelt Conversation Senza Parole (Google Translate)

Come sarebbe una conversazione senza parole? È possibile? Cosa potrebbero condividere due persone in questo modo? In che modo Wholebody Focusing può essere il mezzo attraverso il quale ciò accade?

Cristina Griggio e io eravamo curiosi di sapere cosa avrebbe portato il collegamento via videoconferenza in presenza radicata senza parole. Abbiamo concordato di percepire i nostri corpi separatamente e quindi abbiamo chiesto ai nostri corpi di spostare il modo in cui avevano bisogno di muoversi. Mentre abbiamo percepito i nostri corpi e abbiamo dato loro il tempo e lo spazio per muoversi, abbiamo anche percepito l’uno nell’altro per connetterci al movimento dell’altro. Siamo diventati subito l’attore e l’osservatore.

Il video qui sotto è solo una piccola parte alla fine di quella conversazione. Eravamo interessati all’esperienza della comunicazione stessa piuttosto che a qualsiasi significato potesse avere. A volte eravamo completamente collegati a se stessi, altre volte eravamo consapevoli dell’altro e percepivamo ciò che le stava accadendo.

È stato divertente, sorprendente e mi è sembrato di giocare. Ci ha anche aiutato a conoscerci più profondamente. La naturale capacità di Cristina di esprimersi attraverso il movimento ad un certo punto mi ha riempito di soggezione.

Offriamo questo video come suggerimento per gli altri – che anche tu puoi avere una conversazione non verbale tra due corpi che comunicano usando i concetti di spazio per ciò che è presente, chiedendo al tuo corpo di muoversi a modo suo mentre trattieni tutto ciò che viene con uguale riguardo. Ti offriamo anche questo video come compagno per farti compagnia se desideri consentire al tuo corpo di comunicare con te e di muoverti nel modo che desidera.

Facci sapere cosa succede.

 

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Tiny Problem, No Big Deal

What happens when we let our egos decide how significant a problem is? Here is the story of my toe.

I was born with an oddly shaped toe—the middle toe on both feet is the longest toe. The right foot has been more problematic. That foot is also a bit longer, and there is even less space in a shoe for it. If you look at the photo of the “perfect” foot, you will see perfectly conforming toes with the big toe being the largest and the subsequent toes gradually getting smaller. What happens when one of your toes do not fit such perfection?

When Someone Finds a Flaw in You

My teenage boyfriend was the first to point out the middle toe. He said I had square feet in a mocking tone. Bye-bye, first boyfriend. But now that I knew about this “problem,” I wondered how many other people might mock me for having an oddly shaped toe. “Square feet,” however, became a background feeling to describe my relationship with my toes.

As I aged, however, I understood that I could not wear “stylish” shoes because shoe sellers predicate their designs on everyone having a “perfectly shaped” toes and two same size feet. We all know from watching many police shows that shoes give away who you are. If you can’t wear stylish shoes, then forget stylish clothes. This tiny problem also impacted how I dressed, mostly in slacks with shoes that had square “toe boxes.”

I began spending exorbitant amounts of money, not on designer shoes, but orthopedic shoes that never really were comfortable. My middle toe would never have enough space to be itself, and the nail would send painful shock waves up my leg. I decide to get professional help from a podiatrist who happily cut away the nail. Two years of nerve pain later, the nail just grew back. So what’s a gal to do with a non-compliant toe?

I wear Crocs as much as possible because Crocs designed their shoes to give one’s foot support and space. Three months of lock down made me forget my toe. I only wore Crocs. But now, because I can leave the house occasionally, I began wearing shoes again, and the pain came back.

How Merchandise Controls Our Perceptions

I decided to hold space for my toe with love and compassion. The first thing I noticed was how central this toe is to my well-being. There is nothing in being longer than average that makes it a defective toe—it performs all the tasks one expects a toe to do. Because it is different from what our society acknowledges as a middle toe, few produce shoes to accommodate it. The basis of shoe design is the supply and demand economic model. This model impacted how attractive I felt, the people I dated, and the shoes and the clothes that I wore. Somehow even though the boyfriend is long gone, his harsh words hang in the air as an acknowledgment of the limitations of not having a “classic” foot form.

Getting to Know my Toe

When I hold space for the toe, what comes is how it has been my reliable bellwether. If Diana Foot.jpgthe boyfriend didn’t like my toe, he needed to go. He was a nascent domestic abuser. When I felt pressure to dress in the hyper-sexualized clothing that society promotes, I thought, “what’s the use, I can’t wear the shoes to make the style work.” If I do not regularly care for my toe when I have to wear outdoor shoes, the unbearable pain makes me stop everything else and care for it. I’ve learned to be proactive in caring for my toe so that I can move, walk, dance, and play without pain. Maybe when I stop my ritual care for my toe, it is the same time that I am not taking care of other parts of me. So my question is, what does my toe need now?

The first word that comes is “constant.” When I have outdoor shoes on, there is never enough space for this toe. My toe develops more hard callus right at the point where the regrown nail is as a way to protect itself. The coming together of the callus with the nail’s edge is what alerts me something is wrong. My toe wants me to know that it constantly suffers from this constriction and works hard to protect my toe by reinforcing the callus already there. Then, I work carefully to remove the callus because that is what relieves my perceived pain.

I have more compassion for my toe and its lifelong journey to live under conditions that do not support it. I also hold an appreciation for the role it has played in my life to give me a reason to leave unhealthy people and activities behind. I hold space for the “not knowing” how to support my toe so that it is not under constant pressure to protect itself only to have me undo that protection. How many other ways do I undo my body’s natural activity to heal because it doesn’t fit my perception of what is right? By holding space for my toe, I trust my body to inform me of what it needs.

Perfect Toes: Photo by Lisandra Medonça
Diana’s Toes: Diana Scalera

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Black Lives Matter: Stop Police Violence

The past weeks’ protests demand that I hold space for many aspects of this historic moment simultaneously. There is activism in every state of the United States that inspires me. People in countries around the world also demand an end of racial violence in the US and their own countries. At the same time, we need to hold space for those brave enough to leave their homes and risk transmission of COVID-19 to have their say.

On one of the first days of the protest, I was able to see that so many of the people participating in the demonstrations are teenagers, like the students I used to teach. I see they are getting arrested, and police are putting them in jail for their activism against police violence. These jails are epicenters of COVID-19 transmissions. I cry because I love them. I have a special place in my heart for teenagers, having spent so many years sharing important life moments with them.  I love them because they want a better life for everyone and are willing to risk their own well-being for the greater good.  I also grieve for the tragedy of their young lives. First COVID-19, the loss of school, maybe the loss of loved ones, perhaps poverty, and the experience of how little the society they live in values their lives.

I also need to hold space for “there is no other way to get to where our world needs to go.” I sense that the brave souls leading and participating in this journey are not just doing this for themselves. They are acting with a “we” consciousness.

How is this Happening?

As I try to make sense of this moment, I kept asking myself how is this happening? As a child, I watched Vietnam war end because of demonstrations around the world.  I thought that the demonstrations just happened spontaneously and the politicians surrendered to pubic opinion.  I later found out that ending the war was the result of an immense effort to organize and educate society along with the the persistence, and the power that that desire to stop the war created.  So I knew to look for what is not visible to me.  These new and powerful voices that seemingly emerged overnight are not new.  The events are the result of years of effort to organize and educate society along with power that the desire to end police violence other aspects of racism creates.

This post offers a chance to meet the leaders of this movement–African American women who used their anger around the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, to create a vast network of organizations that helped us get to where we are today. They will tell you how they used their body sense of their lives to propel us to this moment in history. They offer many suggestions of how to be part of this energy and power. I hope you enjoy the video below hosted by Jane Fonda of Fire Drill Fridays in conversation with the leaders of the Movement for Black Lives Jessica Boyd, Colette Pichon Battle and Chinyere Tutashinda.

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The Impermanence of our Narratives

Photo: Diana Scalera, Windscape, Cape May, NJ 1987

One of the characteristics of our Stay at Home experiences is that they heighten the feeling of impermanence. What is scientific information one day—don’t wear masks—becomes what will save us the next day–wear a mask! One day COVID-19 is a respiratory disease then the next day, blood clots and kidney failure are a more significant danger. 

We also create expectations of what will happen next that are not reliable. When attempting to buy food, I found that the store where we had been buying food no longer included our zip code in their delivery zone. NYC has been quiet, and the air so clean. Our window sills stayed clean of the usual amount of soot, and we were able to see beautiful blue skies. But, today, all that changed. I could hear the roar of cars and motorcycles on the nearby highway, Police helicopters were flying overhead, and seaplanes were landing on the East River. These annoyances were absent for the last eight weeks. It was a calmness not felt in this neighborhood for many decades. And now, the noise and soot have returned in almost full force. 

What is Impermanence?

In Buddhism and other healing traditions, embracing the impermanence of life is what relieves us from suffering. The doctrine asserts that all existence, without exception, is transient and unreliable. By learning to accept that all life is in constant flux, we might not be surprised by change. We learn that, while impermanence might bring grief and sorrow, it can leave space for renewal and love. It also helps us value what we have at the moment because whatever that is, is also impermanent. We are living in a time that is helping us connect to impermanence on a moment to moment basis. We can use this experience to become aware of and strengthen our ability to appreciate the present, process our losses, and anticipate that good might come from impermanence.

Consolability

When I was studying to be a teacher, I learned about the Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale that measures, among other things, neonates’ consolability. This assessment is used immediately after birth. A team measures various aspects of the baby’s state of being. In the case of consolability, someone disturbs a sleeping baby and then observes how quickly the baby consoles herself. The faster the newborn returns to a calm state, the more emotionally stable she is assumed to be. I think about that test when I consider living with impermanence. It starts with the concept that our bodies have an instinct to return to a calm state. Wholebody Focusing connects us to the part of us present at birth—the ability to console ourselves.

When Narratives go up in Smoke

On a personal level, I’ve been holding space for a health issue. I had created a complicated narrative that explained everything. Then, one day when I held space for the energy of the narrative, it dissolved into a puff of smoke. What my body let me know was that my story was not only a small part of what was happening but also the narrative was limiting me from being open to a larger truth. My search for the magic bullet that would resolve my health issue in one neat package became useless. This revelation put me on a path to encounter a fuller picture. New insights have emerged. What is happening to me is an amalgam of long-held nameless somethings that are wanting  my attention. Energetically, a larger area of my body is involved than I had connected to before and it includes the space surrounding my body. 

As part of my healing, I am taking a constitutional homeopathic remedy to help deep-seated traumas to emerge. I’ve adapted my chanting process, to begin with sensing the energy of my concerns before I start chanting. I can feel that energy in my hands as I ground myself. 

I have small singing bowls on my desk and ring them whenever I need to connect to “me” again by pausing. It ensures that I do not work non-stop.  The sound of the bowls have a long duration, and I make sure I do not begin something new until the vibrations  have returned to a calm state like that of a newborn.

When new energy or a narrative emerges, I let my hands feel the energy.  Sometimes movements come.  As the vibrations diminish, I remind myself that nothing is permanent, and my body has the capacity to console itself and reconnect to joy.

Challenges Big and Small

After I started writing this post, I got word that my dear friend Martin Blumenkranz, who lived 1,200 miles from me, had passed away. Even though we had not worked together for almost 20 years, we spoke to each other every week for hours. He was my assistant principal at a new, innovative school in Manhattan called High School for Environmental Studies. He hired a team of teachers passionate about improving the environment and gave us space to be our best selves. Since his death, social media has been alive with stories from people around the world who loved him. His leadership and undying belief in the goodness and creativity of humanity touched us all and helped us become the people we are.

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Wear a Mask. Save Lives!

Sometimes it is not about what your body needs now. Sometimes it is about what humanity needs now. While we get conflicting messages about how to save ourselves and others, what has emerged in the last few days is that wearing a mask when you leave your living space saves lives. The countries that require their “stay at home” citizens to also wear masks when they need to leave their living spaces have the lowest new infection rates.

If everyone starts wearing masks immediately, in a few weeks, the death rates should go down.  This mandate is not only about epicenters like New York, Italy, or Spain. It is also about places where irresponsible government leaders reject “stay home” orders and do not provide masks like they have begun to do in Italy. Wearing a mask and staying home are two things you can do to protect yourself and your fellow humans. According to New York City Guidelines, everyone should wear a face covering, cloth is fine, whenever going outside where other people may be present….while shopping for instance or commuting.  And homemade masks, a scarf or a bandana will do fine, just wash it once daily and use it again.

Take some time to sense into what wearing a mask triggers for you and hold space for those feelings. Then wear the mask!  Here’s a video from the Czech Republic about wearing a mask. Stay well, and help keep your community well too!  Share a picture of yourself showing that you are a “masker” at #Masks4all Encourage others to do the same.

 

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The Illusions of Others Do Not Define Me

There are many narratives about First Communion dresses (See Raining Stones). They are often about the parents’ struggle. On some level, these dresses are like prom dresses or even wedding dresses. They trigger parents’ need to establish a sense of prestige in their community and a fantasy about who their daughters are. The high stakes of these garments often overshadow any connection to their daughters or even to the ritual events.

How a Dress Can Hold so Much Meaning

A photo was taken of two seven-year-old girls who made their First Communion at the same time. One girl is me; the other is my cousin. Her mother was my mother’s sister, who was an excellent seamstress. She worked for a famous New York fashion house as a sample maker. The model Twiggy wore some of my aunt’s samples in fashion shows.

My mother took me to a local department store and bought my First Communion dress. I wanted a veil with a full crown. My mother refused because she said only queens get to wear crowns. I was heartbroken. I had envisioned what I wanted.

My aunt purchased beautiful, expensive fabric and created her daughter’s dress. Afterward, she took my cousin to a photography studio to take pictures of her daughter and the dress.

That afternoon my aunt showed up unannounced at our home with my cousin wearing her communion dress so she could take a picture of us together. My mother was not happy because I was playing in the yard with my friends, and she didn’t want me to change into my dress and get it dirty.

I didn’t want to take the picture because I thought my cousin’s dress was so much prettier than mine, and she had the full crown and veil that I had wanted. Also, my aunt often used me to show my cousin why she was “the best.”  The dress experience was full of shame for me.

A New Perspective

Forty years later, my aunt gave me the photo. I was amazed because my body immediately recognized the shame I felt at having an inferior dress. When I looked closely at the picture, however, I saw how the dresses were almost entirely identical.

The experience of being treated as inferior to my cousin was my designated role in our extended family. It was part of my mother and aunt’s issues with each other.

Letting Go of What Is Not Ours

The picture added new information to the experience. There was no inferior dress nor inferior girl, just a need to support an elaborate illusion that somehow addressed a suffering my mother and aunt experienced.  From a felt sense, I played with the photo in Photoshop and removed everything that was not me. Somehow, I found a wise smile hiding in the moment.  It helps me remember that the illusions others create do not define me.

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