Supporting and Practicing with One Another Here


Over the years here, now fourteen years, I have witnessed so much generosity and kindness within the community of folks who spend time here.  Informally and spontaneously folks reach out to support one another.  I am certain that the nature of our practices shared here, whether yoga or mindfulness practice or otherwise,  echo forward through our daily lives with a quality of genuine compassion. Simple moments here witness this, ongoing.

Over and over students have volunteered to supplement my efforts to offer scholarships and help pay  the tuition for someone with limited means.  Once, at new student had an disabling epileptic seizure in class and while I comforted her, two students volunteered to take her home.  Students have passed on with the kind acknowledging and genuine grieving of others here.  Many students give birth and proudly bring their new ones here to share their joy.  If someone has missed class for a few weeks and we know they aren’t well I’ll call them on speakerphone at the beginning of class to simply have all of us say “We love you” with a big shout.  Generous and heart-felt conversation and sharing flow across the moments before and after each class.

One of the most visible and beautiful recent contributions to the life and work here is the street sign one of my students, Bill with his dear wife Carol in the photo, offered to create; beautifully framed and hand-assembled cherry-wood like fine furniture.  In some ways it is emblematic of transitions we endure and can offer beauty toward; the acknowledgement of aging and maturity embodied in our practice and then brought back to life in transition in that beautiful sign; a sweet metaphor.  Note that transition from old to new in this other picture.  Me, the aging, with the frail 14 year-old sign, and my dear niece born about the time of that first sign’s creation and standing with the new, freshly created sign.

Many years ago one of my students came in to offer a beautiful, hand-made vase that has adorned the shelf near to front door downstairs since then.  Over a dozen seasons of flowers have found a home in that vase to share their beauty with folks in the classroom.

Another beautiful embodiment of the kindnesses received here is a hand-painted wall hanging the a student, near retirement and would soon move, offered as a gift to the folks here.  It now occupies the foyer upstairs.

Students continue to offer their kind presence and simple acts of generosity find their way; poetry, post cards while traveling, heart- rocks place in sweet corners of the classrooms, letters from students long-gone after a move but still close to heart and thankful for time spent in classes here.

Acknowledging here in classes and among folks nearby the transitions in life and how our practices, yoga and mindfulness, can be  helpful as we meet one another in those transitions; birth, aging, passing on, creativity, compassion, sharing and much more.

Kindest Regards  —  Brant

My Trainings with Police Officers and First Responders: New Research Paper About Results Just Released


Many of you know I have been training police officers, fire fighters, paramedics and other first responders with a program I developed called Mindfulness-Based Resilience Training (MBRT) over the past five years.  I developed the MBRT curricula and tailored for each group and taught the courses  in a number of places; here, police departments, Pacific University, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, Bend Fire Department.

Most recently and over the past two years the National Institutes of Health provided a grant to my colleagues at Pacific University where we worked together to tailor my MBRT trainings for a controlled study of the consequences of MBRT for police officers.

That study has now been published and is available online for your reading if you wish through May at this link:  Mindfulness-based resilience training to reduce health risk, stress reactivity, and aggression among law enforcement officers: A feasibility and preliminary efficacy trial.  The study confirmed that, true to my previous MBRT trainings and the many similar MBSR studies, there were significant reductions of aggression, organizational stress, burnout, sleep disturbance, and reported increases in psychological flexibility and lower reactivity after the training.

I feel so privileged to have been able to assemble such a training at the beginning and then work with organizations to develop and deliver them.  Now, I am devoting more of my time to other sorts of trainings, writing, and support of folks here while my colleagues a Pacific University continue to submit grants and intend to follow up with more research!  It’s kind of like I was Johnny Appleseed and planted a few mindfulness-training  seeds that others are now growing to nourish more folks.  Especially folks in those trauma-filled professions.  I am so very thankful to have played a part!

i have been privileged to support colleagues who bring their own expertise to training first responders.  Two colleagues, Rich Goerling and Dr. Stephanie Conn continue to work directly with police officers to support them in a number of ways.  Rich, who has worked with me and collaborated on many MBRT trainings, continues to offer trainings around the country through his consulting company Mindful Badge.  Stephanie has just release her insightful book, Increasing Resilience in Police and Emergency Personnel: Strengthening Your Mental Armor.  Bill King, my colleague at Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, continues supporting folks there as their Behavioral Health Specialist and now offers mindfulness trainings for TVF&R’s new recruits.  My colleagues Dr Michael Christopher and Dr. Mathew Hunsinger at Pacific University continue their mindfulness research ongoing.

Let’s all continue to do our best  —  Brant

Here are some links to video, papers, and research results of the other work I have done with first responders if you are interested:

 

Mindful Yoga Practice; Nourishing Our Universal Hunger for Generous Movement . . . Our Children Haven’t Yet Forgotten

It has become more and more apparent to me over many years of teaching that we hunger for movement.  Our bodies are made to move in generous and robust ways yet modern life has us live mostly above the neck ignoring how famished we have become for generous, nourishing motion.  Our practice can be helpful here.

Movement is nourishment for this body.  There is an innate longing to move.  Just as we hunger for protein, water, and vitamins our bodies hunger for movement.  And just as each of us can find an optimal diet that satisfies and keeps us healthy, we can move our bodies in ways that enhance our unique path toward optimal health and well-being.

Our children have fewer layers of numbness to their bodies and more easily find a path toward the joy of nourishing movement. They are more eager to simply explore the experience of life in motion.  During a recent visit with my children and grandchildren I had the lovely experience of waking early one morning to find a yoga mat in the living room and began a simple yoga practice.

Right away my 3-year old granddauther flew into the room and set up a yoga mat to began practicing with me.  The one-year old was mystified and perched nearby to watch and try a few of the apparently joyful movements as you can see in the photos.

Students in my mindful yoga classes will often ask how they can practice at home.  More than not I ask them to watch and learn from the children nearby.  How they continually move, explore, feel, and learn with playful interest during the experience of movement.  That is the heart of yoga practice I invite you toward in my classes. Let’s be playful, explore, and nourish this heart, mind and body.   As a helpful practice let’s remember what has been forgotten in the blizzard of unneeded adult distraction that leaves us hungry for the nourishment of simple, attentive, generous, and appropriately adapted movement.

Much Love  —  Brant

Daring Greatly. What Teddy Roosevelt had to say about meeting challenge; practice encourages us to ‘dare greatly.’

Teddy Roosevelt moved mountains during his lifetime.  From a sickly childhood to grand adventures across the globe and eventually to the presidency of the United States.  Hi bright spirit shined the light on many progressive issues of his era; preserving and protecting the natural world, policies to benefit common people and beyond.

Likewise his imperfections are apparent to us as we look back on his life.  One this that stands out is his willingness to lean forward in every era of his life.  He was perpetually “daring greatly.”

I have found, as many have in this small portion of one of his speeches, the encouragement to lean in no matter the challenge.  I have found and many of us find that our contemplative practice encourages us to dare greatly in the face of distractions large and small, internal and external.  Below are my recording of this portion of his speech often referred to as “The Man in the Arena.”  I hope it is an encouragement as you continue to practice and continue to meet life directly.  In kindness and encouragement  —  Brant

 

 

“The credit belongs to the man (*or woman)
who is actually in the arena, 
whose face is marred by dust
and sweat and blood (and tears);
who strives valiantly; who errs, 
who comes short again and again; . . .
who spends himself (herself) in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly . . .”

Theodore Roosevelt – Excerpt from the speech
Citizenship in a Republic”  delivered at the Sorbonne,
in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910
(*Modified slightly to include us all by Brant)

Last Night as I was Sleeping: An inspiring poem about listening at the edge of the great silence by the beloved Spanish poet Antonio Machado.

Antonio Machado was an inspiring Spanish poet of the early 20th century.  He encountered staggering personal loss during his lifetime and during the Spanish Civil War.  HIs mode of working with that loss and meeting life was to practice the art of poetry.   He became  one of the world’s most beloved poets of that era.

This poem, Last Night as I was Sleeping, is an expression of the consequences of meeting life without the distractions that hijack our hearts and minds.  He expresses what emerges in sleep and dreams for him and it seems to me parallel to our experience as we continue to offer an attentive contemplative practice or meditation practice over time.

As we settle onto that edge between distraction and presence we discover something like he describes, “My soul is not asleep.  It neither sleeps nor dreams, but is wide awake . . . and listens at the edge of the great silence.”

Here is my reading of his poem and below is the text.  The original is in Spanish and hopefully the intent comes through well in this English version.  I hope it will be helpful as you continue to practice.

 

Last Night as I was Sleeping

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt a marvelous illusion
that there was a spring was breaking out in my heart.
I asked along what secret aqueduct,
are you coming to me,
oh water, water of a new life
I have never drunk?

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt a blessed illusion
that there was a beehive
here in my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt a blessed illusion
there was a fiery sun here in my heart.
It was fiery because it gave
warmth as if from a hearth,
and it was a sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I slept,
I dreamt a blessed illusion
that there was God
here in my heart.

And then later in another writing Antonio Machado reflected on this poem continued reflecting on what emerged in his dreams at the edge of losing the experience he found in the poem.

“God, is my soul asleep?
Have the beehives of my dreams
stopped working, has the waterwheel
of my mind run dry, gone empty?
is there only shadow inside?

No, no my soul is not asleep.
It is awake, wide awake.
It neither sleeps nor dreams—
but watches with clear eyes
far off things, and listens at the shores of great silence”

Meditation and a Healing Transformation in Music: Rachel Currea’s Piano

Rachel Currera was 19 and budding pianist and composer with a bright future.  Her future in music came to a standstill at that age after a car crash and head injury.  For 10 years her capacity to compose music was dormant.  Soon after beginning a meditation practice the music began to flow again.  The lovely compositions emerged as her first album including the deeply moving I Found You, You Found Me.

The first time I heard the song I was moved to tears though I had no idea why.  I had never known of Rachel and only encountered the song in passing.  As I listened, I began to feel the message of the title.  Through the music she seemed to be expressing the warm joy we feel when we embrace a long-lost dear friend or family member.  In this case I sense it was her experience of knowing a vibrant and creative corner of herself once again, her ability to express herself in the language of music, after that decade of being away.

Her experience isn’t unusual in my experience.  Over the past decade many graduates of my MBSR program and Yoga students offer such comments about getting to know or remember a lost dimension of their lives.  Here are some student quotes about that:

“I have found a reservoir of strength that I thought I had lost..” 
–  Liz, MBSR graduate

“ I have rediscovered my capacity for joy and my ability to laugh.”
– teacher, MBSR graduate

“It would be worth going through chemo again to find this.”
– E.D., yoga student and cancer survivor

” I have a measure of control, humor, choice and joy back in my life.
My situation has not changed but I have.”

–Nurse, MBSR graduate

“I got myself back.”
-MBSR graduate

The destination of our practice: What Machine Gun Kelly, X Ambassadors, & Bebe Rexha have to share about our longing to find ‘Home.’

I was deeply moved by this song and video the first time I encountered it.  Though it is rap and hip hop and out of my usual mode of classics, concerto, classic rock, folk lyric musical-norm, Kelly et al’s song Home offers a powerful and poignant description of our human longing to find ‘home’ in the direct experience of life.  How life trends toward difficulty, suffering and madness when ‘home’ is distant. The lyrics and images of the music video, while not what many would find as substance for commentary relevant to mindfulness mediation and yoga, I think the song speaks wonderfully about our longing to come home to ‘this moment’ and a path in that direction.

The lyrics unfold with the chorus about the human longing to be at home:

Home
A place where I can go
To take this off my shoulders
Someone take me home

I take this to be longing for a state of mind and heart. A universal longing we all have, especially in the midst of difficulty.   Our experience in meditative or contemplative practice is to open the door to a path ‘home’ with what is; life’s direct experiences good and bad.  This way we acknowledge and work with the sharp edges of life that will always be here to distract us and to hone our ability to come ‘home’   A place of compassion and acceptance.  The domain of love and belonging.

The lyrics and video continue with Kelly describing his the travails of life and loss.  Lines like “. . . just can’t get to a place where  . . . I’m still safe . . . I still ache from trying to keep pace.  Somebody give me a sign, I’m starting to lose faith.”  He continues lamenting  “. . . And it’s hard to maintain and smile on my face ‘Cause there’s madness on my brain, So I gotta make it back, but my home ain’t on the map. . .”

The music and video continue with a beautiful rendition of Kelly finding ‘home’ in the embrace of music, friends and family.  A knowing community that offer him a ‘home’ to soften the difficulty of his path so overrun with pain and distraction.  This is graphic, very graphic love and compassion, hugs (man hugs!) sharing food and conversation.  Sharing attentive presence with one another even in the context of uncaring, heartless people at the periphery of those loving folks who are standing firmly with one another and Kelly.

Our practice here hasn’t included rap, hip hop or similar modes of learning . . . yet!  Though as I practice and as I listen deeply over these years to students, I realize when we veer far from ‘home’ we suffer in many ways large and small.  Our willingness to listen closely at these times and find a path back to attentive presence will always include loving and sturdy connections with those nearby.  This is the state of our experience in classes here and it echoes out toward others in our lives as we practice our methods of coming home;  mindfulness meditation, movement practices including yoga, Nia, bellydance, and the many informal practices introduced in an MBSR training.

Dance, sing and practice well with one another as you arrive home.  Even give those nearby hugs of assurance that they are ‘home’ in your presence.

In Kindness and Gratitude for You  —  Brant

Newsletter Spring 2018 with Schedule; starting Sunday, March 26th

Therapy, Yoga & Mindfulness Practice

Over many years I have the familiar and lovely  experience of dear students reporting that a particular ache or pain, a challenging mood or anxiety, even elevated blood pressure or a sense of burnout has diminished or gone away as a consequence of beginning yoga and/or meditation practice.  They often ask “Why?”

I don’t pretend to offer some sort of medical or psychotherapeutic explanation.  That’s not my job.  My job is to help them explore postures, movements (as in the picture) and contemplative practices  that may prove helpful.  Most often I tell them that our minds and bodies hunger for attentive presence and appropriate physical movement.  My physician and therapist colleagues, ones who refer their patients to classes here, confirm that many of our experiences of discomfort, tension, and physiologic difficulties are symptoms calling us to physical and mental engagement.  Kind of analogous to hunger pains.  Hunger pains are diminished when we nourish ourselves.  Many difficult physical and emotional states diminish when we experience attentive and appropraite physical movement and attentive mental presence.   Another form of nourishment.

Note that I am teaching a therapeutically-oriented class
that follows this spirit of learning.  
Wednesday evenings this spring, starting March 28th:
 Therapeutic Movement, Breath, and Attentive Presence.

One of the most encouraging yoga teachers and authors, Dr. Loren Fishman MD, offers his patients prescriptions of adaptive yoga practice for healing.  He notes in his books that there are many forms of therapy, some administered by physicians and therapists as treatments.  He acknowledges that some of the most powerful therapies are those we can do for ourselves and require no treatment, just our personal intention and devotion, like yoga.  Likewise Bessel van der Kolk MD, a renown physician specializing in PTSD recognizes yoga practice and mediation as well as MBSR training as some of the most effective interventions for folk who suffer PTSD and related ailments.

Read articles I wrote with my some of my professional colleagues about how medicine, therapy and the practices of yoga and mindfulness meditation meet:

Allowing. A poem inviting our practice to include whatever emerges; recording & written word.

A few years ago after a huge personal loss, this poem emerged one morning.  It felt as if I had no choice but to write it down and then share it to support others meeting such challenges.

Reflecting back on that time I am certain it was an expression of the consequences of our practice in the face of the periodic and inevitable heartbreak that is part of the territory of being human.  Practice may be a contemplative practice, mindfulness meditation, yoga or otherwise.  Some sort of kind discipline of meeting the inward regions of us; the mystery below the surface of day-to-day strivings.

While heartbreak will come our way, I believe practice will open the door, as it did this time, to a full-hearted meeting of that heartbreak and invite it to be expressed in a way that includes, shares, heals and ushers us kindly forward to a new way of living.

 

Below is the recording and  text of Allowing from my small collection, Mindful Grieving; Meditations on the Blessings of Loss in Relationship.

 

ALLOWING

Here, embracing life, this life

Allowing those near me to lean in, close

A thousand years is embracing this precious moment

Where sorrow and kindness are lovers

Anger feels as tears flow

Once shunned, longing, longing is now meets with affection

Resentment and tenderness hold one another

The unforgivable receives a kiss

Outrage meets itself, transformed

The gentle breeze of this breath

warms the room

Everyone is here, everyone is here

And now I meet you

A Place for Family & Friends to Learn, Move, 
and Share Joy: Yoga Hillsboro

 

 

 

Over these many years (now 14 – Oh my!) I have been privileged to share so many lovely experiences with students who came to class with dear friends, spouses, children, parents, grandparents, cousins, neighbors, workmates, and many others close to them.  I believe it is the nature of learning here that invites folks to bring loved ones with them to share their experiences.  To feel safe about moving generously and playfully exploring the direct experiences of life with one another.

 

 

Shared joy seems to erupt often here in class without need for any striving or ‘doing yoga the right way;‘ laughter, playful commentary, smiles are common.  I will tell new students, “There is only one requirement” and often their eyes get a bit big because yoga in many health clubs and studios can be a bit serious. “The only requirement is to have a least one moment of fun.” I smile, those nearby smile, they smile and voilà, a moment of fun!  Mission accomplished.  Now just enjoy the class.

 

 

 

 

This is a place where acceptance, appreciation and openness toward oneself and those nearby is continually invited.  Playfulness, interest, and trust emerge and then we learn together.  And that learning can be transformative as we just get to know ourselves and those near us with a kindness and honesty woven into the moments.

 

 

Sometimes in yoga class we partner-up (no requirement if folks don’t want too, just to watch is OK!) to help each other align and engage postures and movements that are ‘outside the box‘ of our more typical and habitual ways of holding our bodies.  This will often be a very delightful and surprising exploration in the sharing with one another.

I’ve included a few snapshots of folks here sharing the learning; mother and daughter, daughter and father, husband and wife, workmates, class mates.

 

 

By-the-way the spring Schedule/Newsletter is now posted online!  Lots of new and interesting classes and programs: Printable Newsletter for Spring 2018 with Schedule

In Kindness and Thankfulness for You  —  Brant