Today’s intunement helps us connect to another way of finding grounded presence through using our attention to our breath. Kevin guides us to being with this simple practice used for ages in so many healing modalities in a way that the experience of grounding itself becomes self-aware.
What is the quality of your breath? What comes for you as you are holding space for your breath? How does that help you be with what is there for you today?
Start your day with this short exploration and see what comes.
Maybe it has happened to you, too, that small secret moment of intimacy with a non-human creature. It’s a powerful experience yet easily dismissed by the mind. The one I want to tell you about happened on a trail in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in northern California. It is a rocky, spare place, steep and windswept and intensely alive. High on a ridge above a mountain lake, the trail weaves among pines and Douglas Fir growing singly or in small groups, huddled around granite boulders. On a hot late September afternoon, their combined scent rose like incense; the air was charged with it. I walked briskly, enjoying the vigorous motion and the give of the trail surface, changing from rock to needles to bare earth to patches of coarse grasses. I became keenly aware of an added dimension, the arrangement of bodies in the middle distance, so often lost in our habitual focus on panoramic views. I mean by that the sense of my body mass relative to trees and boulders, the way trees stood in twos or threes or alone; a pine and boulder together; or the way the boughs formed a screen so that only slivers of blue were visible, and then suddenly parted to allow a full view of distant peaks. My steps slowed to a walk as I absorbed this new pleasure. My hand reached to touch the furry patch of lichen on a granite boulder, the deep furrow of Douglas Fir bark. I put my arms around a Jeffrey Pine, maybe my age in pine years, glowing deep red in the late afternoon light. I laid my cheek against the bark and was enveloped in a light, sweet aroma, like vanilla, very different from the more pungent “conifer” fragrance that rose from the forest as a whole. (I read later that pines, and especially Jeffrey Pines, are unique among North American conifers in distilling this vanilla-like scent.) There we stood for a long while, the pine and I, in a timeless embrace of arms and branches, skin and bark, one breath.
In her book, “The Legacy of Luna”, activist Julia Butterfly Hill describes her relationship with the giant redwood in whose canopy she lived for more than two years in order to save it from being logged. Hill is positive that Luna knew Hill was there to save it, and gave her support in its tree-ish way. Similarly, with my arms around the pine, I felt very strongly, from the tree, a wave of – encouragement? Support? Was the pine hugging me back? These are human terms and they don’t quite fit. I felt that the pine and the land it sprang from were holding me up, wanted me to continue my work to save the Peace Valley in my home province of British Columbia from being dammed. I was being offered a gift – an experience of joy and unity, and something more: confirmation, confidence and strength to persevere in my work. Joy and gratitude buoyed me as I walked back to the cabin.
Looking back, a year and a half later, I see how this moment marked a turn in my work on the Peace River campaign. I felt invigorated, emboldened and supported. My health and energy improved and I was able to take on tasks that would have daunted me before. At the same time, I remained very much aware that the ultimate outcome is beyond my control. I was not “saving” the Peace – not by myself, not even all of us together. We cannot save anyone or anything. The Peace river has its own path. That path, like the path of other beings, may include wounding and suffering. All any of us can do is allow the land to become alive in us, and then act from that place.
In a culture less rigidly dualistic than the one that dominates our time, I believe experiences like this would be accepted by the society at large as valid and true. I feel gratitude that moments like these are still able to shine through the cultural conditioning that has been instilled in western peoples over generations, dividing nature from spirit and denying spirit to other creatures. What an impoverishment! Experiences like these bring incredible abundance and depth to our lives. They are our true birthright.
To read or leave a comment please click on the word Comments next to or under the photo at top left-hand-side of this page.
In this latest conversation between Addie van der Kooy and Kevin McEvenue, they explore fear and it’s potential. Given the current state of the world and all the unknowns, how do we find a way to transform fear into a potent ally that can support us through difficult times.
Enjoy this conversation between Addie and Keven and learn how to explore the potential of your own fear.
To read or leave a comment please click on the word Comments next to or under the photo.
I look out of the huge windows that open to the sea in the retreat center at Punta de Tralca, Chile. It is the morning. The sea is quiet. The sky is looming pale and it is hard to see where the sea ends, where the sky begins. Yesterday red warning flags waved on the beach. Wild, foam-headed waves wandered loudly to the beach. The water was cloudy brown from the sand.
On the fourth morning of the Focusing Weeklong, during the bio-energetic movement group class, I move according to the sounds of nature in me. I become nature itself. It is not easy, because I am used to the fact that all the sound, which arises from me, should be wise, reasonable or right. I am now the wind, I am swinging in the breeze. I am a seagull skipping on the beach.
Then we settle in a circle. Everyone who wants can step into the middle, move and make the sounds their body wants to express. I step into the middle without making any sound. I look everyone in their eyes swinging my body from side to side. At some point, I feel timid. Is it acceptable to be silent, if we were asked to make sounds?
Is it acceptable to be silent if using our voice is what was asked? This question lives in me until the end. Only at the very end, a new thought sneaks into my mind: silence is a voice.
During the Weeklong I sometimes get tired of speaking English. I don’t understand Spanish at all, or just a word now and then. In the cafeteria, I start to think about speaking Finnish without waiting for anyone to understand me. In this way, nobody would be confused nor would they find it distracting or worry about the meaning, because that wouldn’t be my point. It would just be…my voice. With this thought in my mind, I try to listen to Spanish with the idea of listening to the “voice of another,” another person with a voice and language different from mine.
I have been writing Haiku about the energetic patterns of my days. I write them fast with very little editing to capture the moment and post them to Twitter.
I love the format of Haiku and have always used it to describe my urban experiences even though it is traditionally known as a form of poetry honoring nature. Since I love urban life so much, I include the urban built environment as part of “nature.” It is a product of humanity, therefore, for me, a part of nature. Almost everything we touch in cities is part of nature in some way. My very large apartment complex, for example, is constructed from bricks made from the clay residue of the glacier that became the Hudson River. I take great comfort in this as someone might living in a log cabin.
It is very warm this morning. I have the overhead fan on to keep me cool. As I hear Kevin suggest that I connect to something outside myself I notice the sensation of the cool air on my skin. And then Kevin suggests that the sensation of something outside myself can be how my skin feels. He asks me to wait for something to come and I realize that my feet are already moving and my arms are wrapped around each other. My body is here with me today. Is there any goodness in me today? I wait for the answer. My thoracic spine releases the tension it was holding.
Kevin McEvenue explores Participatory Spirituality as a new experience of his ever evolving Wholebody Focusing Practice.
by Kevin McEvenue
Participatory Spirituality: I am introducing a new topic to be shared and explored together.
As I say the words out loud, I notice I stop! I feel confused—as though I don’t know what to think. I don’t know! I pause; I wonder.
I don’t panic or shutdown; I wonder as though I am curious. I am aware of both.
I stop and I notice, and then something comes into my awareness! It feels new—like a new direction—as though a door has been opened in this way of responding. And holding both with equal positive regard.
Something comes that is clearly unexpected and not of my own making. Body, mind, and an awakening that is not of my own making! This is what we will be exploring as this new direction takes us to a place we have not been before, a kind of engagement with life that seems very personal.
Please join me here in this new experience of myself as I explore what happens in me when I take this next step and then the next step, and then the one after that. It seems to have a life of its own. I am given a choice.
“I am stuck, I am so stuck” seems to awaken a very powerful shaking in my body, vibrating all through me. Just a few simple but very clear words, but direct and passionate in its delivery with the full force of intention. “I am stuck!”
A Contribution by Kevin McEvenue
Photo Credit: Diana Scalera, East Village, NY 2009
When the opportunity to tune into myself and hear myself speak out like this, my body responds immediately as though I am having this experience all over again. At the same time, I am noticing that I am doing so. This enables me to hold both at the same time, one after the other. The physical experience in the moment coming alive again, and then to be able to report to you what that brings in my consciousness as a thought about this experience. So, I am trying once again to hold both the experience and then the thought from which the experience has awakened.
This short recording of about 15 minutes seems to have a series of three different physical experiences that seem to follow one after the other, coming with the first outburst, “I am stuck!”
“I am stuck, I am so stuck etc.” seems to awaken a very powerful shaking in my body, vibrating all through me. Just a few simple but very clear words, but direct and passionate in its delivery with the full force of intention. “I am stuck!”
I am almost shocked that I can actually speak out this way as though I have broken some kind of taboo. I say it again because I feel I want to—as though I like the sound of my voice. “I am stuck.” I actually begin to smile—almost into laughter—and say even more clearly with more vigor—as though I am enjoying myself!
This vocal experience, sounding off like this, feels very new and very freeing, breaking through some kind of prohibition that I mustn’t speak. I must not say this or something bad will happen to me. There is also a fear right there that is so familiar, a fear that stops me from expressing myself, fearing that something very, very, bad will happen! A belief embedded in me that comes right there when I have a deep reactive felt response that feels so not right. Yes, something bad will happen, I’m sure of it. This fear is like I will go to hell for all eternity, I will be punished severely, I will break my mother’s heart. Very dramatic fears that hold me back enough to remain silent.
But in this moment, as I hold both the experience and then my awareness, something also happened at the same time that I can mark right now. I can feel the physical vibration, the shaking. The fear is there and the words that come saying, “I mustn’t”! but there is more in this experience that feels new. My body is moving, shaking out, vibrating all the way through me, the very opposite of what one would describe as being ‘stuck’! The stuck is not happening, something new is happening and it seems as a very different experience of what that word ‘stuck’ points to!
The word is still there–‘stuck,’–but the experience has moved on to something quite different from what I believe that word is pointing to: stuck in place, rigid, held, tight etc. That is not the experience I am having right now; something quite different, something that I can’t describe, no words yet but the feel of it is so different! What I also notice is that I am noticing. That I have some sense of space to notice these two different expectations and reactions which enables me not only to notice but also to choose, to choose what I might want, rather than the familiar habitual response (I mustn’t), some form of stoppage. I am actually enjoying it, enjoying my own empowerment that I can choose, perhaps for the first time. And I like that.
The whole situation has changed, and in this moment, by holding both, I can speak and perhaps even begin to put words to what has now happened. Physically, I am shaking all over, and at the same time I am enjoying myself in this experience, enough to keep repeating it with a kind of bad-boy intention, I am feeling so stuck, ha ha ha! Yes, whatever is happening, even before I can put words to it, I know I’m having a life-affirming experience right now and I want it. Yes, that kind of bad-boy sounding out there feels almost sexual and knotty in some way. I am feeling so stuck now feels so good: so stuck, so good! And I’m not in hell! My mother is not there, nothing bad is happening! So, I play with the freedom of that, enjoying the freedom that comes in speaking that way, speaking out against something that I believe must never be said!
I am allowing myself to express “what I mustn’t” with passion! It is as though I am almost daring to challenge life itself!
I realize this is only the first part of the recording. As I enjoy this speaking out in this way and having this enjoyable experience of empowerment, something more comes in my consciousness to remind me of something else about myself. Something of how it was for me as a young boy growing up in the school where I didn’t seem to fit in because my experience was different from those of other boys. This is coming out of nowhere now, but the recording seems to have moved on towards another experiencing that want to be noticed too. Other painful places that are stuck in some kind of old belief systems.
I was reminded about being in grade 3, being taught basic arithmetic. I was taught “1+1= 2″. It was implied that this was the first principle of mathematics; truth number one and all else follows. But I was surprised that what seemed to be the accepted truth was not my experience! In fact, I could not accept that this statement was true at all! I knew I had to comply and pretend, perhaps, that I agree with it. But at the same time, I knew in my heart that this was not true for me. What to do? How to live with that split in me? It is still there, stuck!
So, I took the opportunity here to play with my experience once again with counting the numbers from 1 to 10 and then to notice how that was for me. As I spoke out these words slowly, I was surprised to find myself able to count is this felt way, pausing before the next number presents itself. It seemed to make room for another experience that didn’t exclude the mathematical principle, but it included something more too, a sense of space inside, a spaciousness around me and beyond me, life happening over there too.
So the principle could be accepted as a truth, a function that worked in a particular way, but I also could make room for other experiencing happening at the same time. It was not a question of having to choose one or the other. I have the capacity to hold both. The basic principle of mathematics seems to come from a different place, kind of man-made place. Perhaps an essential place for a man to function today. In short, I was able to hold both for more. So much more which included not only thinking but also feeling, tasting, touching, smelling, seeing, hearing etc. So rather than arguing with this formula, there was room in me to expand my experience of more possibilities that are also true, each in their own way. Not just one truth, perhaps many; many I have no sense of—at least not yet.
Feeling satisfied with this long-held anxiety about basic principles around mathematics and finding some kind of peace with the ability to hold differing ways of thinking and experiencing, something new appeared out of the blue again. What came was the recent memory of a shared experience with another person in a Heartfelt Listening situation. It seemed directly connected to the first experience of “I feel stuck”. That kind of sounding off reminded me when another person just did something similar, similar enough that felt somehow mutual like, “we know this place!”
This person said something out loud as she noticed her hands. Staring at them she cried: “My hands are so busy, they are always so busy, they never stop, they drive me crazy.”
I listened to her outburst and also noticed her hands. I noticed her hands were pulled inward at the beginning and then they seemed to do something quite different when she gave voice to what she felt about that. That kind of direct voicing of such an experience seemed to awaken her hands to expand in some new way. They looked bigger, with a different kind of expressing. She too was struck by happening in here, in her hands, and I heard her say, “Oh my God, my hands feel so different, they feel so loving of me. Wow, I love that!”
That whole thing over there, in her, felt true in me too! It felt like she was speaking ‘truth’. And as she did it, I could see the change happening. Her hands seemed to take on a life of their own, independent of her prior outburst of pent-up frustration. They seem to be coming from a very different place now.
What was also very surprising in me was that my own hands were doing something similar too! Something was happening in my hands that felt good, very life-affirming. And I wanted to speak up. I didn’t quite know how to describe that, so I said something: “It feels like I am borrowing your hands for a moment so that my hands can do something like that for me too.” And as I spoke, I could feel my hands beginning to move upward beside my head space to nourish this part of me that had felt so tight and tense at the start of this recording.
Something mutual had happened between us, a kind of ‘energy presence’ that was not of our own making, a presence that has a mind of its own that was mutually supportive in both of us each in our own way. It felt like a Heartfelt Connection as though I could say, “loving is happening here!” Something loving was happening between us that was life supporting for each of us as needed! The only way I could describe this was that “the life in her hands seemed to awaken the life in my hands for more in some way that was needed in my life too.”
The whole thing seems to be complete and I knew it was time to end the recording. So many different events in my life seemed to come together in one moment of integration and awareness in a variety of very different situations at different times and events in my life. Coming together one after the other right now. So grateful, Amen.