Open Heart

heartopen

Surgeons call it scar tissue – the telltale sign of damage and repair. It is what remains when we have been hurt and healed. It is the something left behind.

My journey began there, about a year ago, with scar tissue that had been carefully woven over time and was sitting heavily across my heart. If I closed my eyes, I could feel the stitches. It was as if I was sitting under that blanket. Everything seemed a little shadowed, a little muffled.

In a moment of serendipity, I had received a red reminderband with the words “Hearts Open No Matter What!” It is the rallying cry of a local yoga instructor, and it was suddenly singing out from my wrist. Heart open. No matter what.

But how does one open a heart? Since this was the mantra of a yoga teacher, I started with a Google search for “yoga poses to open the heart“ and found a number of suggestions I could easily add to my regular yoga practice.

The beauty of these types of internet searches — and these types of journeys — is how one thing leads to another. Like this playlist of heart opening music by yoga instructor Martine Marie Holston.

Say, John Mayer
Don’t Be Shy, Cat Stevens
Love and Happiness, Al Green
Stubborn Love, The Lumineers
California Sunrise, Dirty Gold
Go Outside, Cults
Give Love, MC Yogi
Say Hey (I Love You), All Rebel Rockers
Heartbeats, The Knife
Beauty in the World, Macy Gray
You’ve Got The Love, Florence + The Machine
Happy Pills, Norah Jones
Young Blood, Birdy

This playlist became my soundtrack for months — like chanting almost, rhythmic and repetitive through spring and into the summer of 2014.

“A practice like chanting gradually bestows on us the ability to let go of pain in our hearts.” — Krishna Das

Gradually, there was letting go. Movement. Small things, like the appearance of heart shaped rocks, and the multiple messages from the Universe that spoke of new love and increased joy.

But the watershed moment came in late July with a crescendo of rapid-fire closure: a health scare resolved, the return of lost items, a reconciliation, an apology long overdue. If a window does indeed open for each door closed, that one week saw every window in the house thrown open and every molecule of air replaced.

What came in through those windows was pure abundance: a beautiful reception for my book; a deeper level of connection with loved ones; a freer, easier sense of being in this world; more honest and heart-felt writing; and a new relationship in which I am fully present and fully loved.

I am not sure what one thing set me on this journey a year ago, but I am most grateful for every moment of it. It has been life altering, and heart healing.

Thank you for being its witness.

With Love, jensig-left


IMAGE: Heart mixed-media collage, ©Jen Payne.


At Year’s End…

shavasana

At the end of a session of yoga, you make your way to a pose called Shavasana, which comes from the Sanskit words Shava (corpse) and Asana (posture). Corpse pose.

The intention of Shavasana, the ritual closing of any yoga session, is to allow your body to regroup and reset itself.

Perhaps that explains my general sense of things here at year’s end. I am not so much slothful or lazy as I am in an extended, two-week Shavasana — allowing my psyche to both reflect and regroup. Stealing the chance to process this year that has been so full and so good I find myself wondering when I returned the Gobstopper!

At the beginning of the year, astrology guru Rob Brezsny predicted things would move more rapidly than usual in 2014. “You will be traveling a more direct route, and you will be both wide and deep.”

He neglected to mention that by the end of the 12 months, I would have faced fears, found sweet closures, accomplished life-long goals, felt greater and safer connection to the world around me, and fallen in love.

But no one would be so brash.

Better to experience that kind of year slowly, like a well-paced session of yoga: breathe, stretch, move, bend, and breathe some more.

Better to step into the new year in the same way, I suppose. No heavy lifting of resolutions (yet). No twisty reflections on what was or wasn’t or could have been better. Just a quiet deep breath with the earth firmly supporting what is about to become.

Wishing you a refreshing year-end Shavasana and a joyful start to 2015…

With love,

jensig-left

Holiday Yoga 101

christmastreeelf2

HOLIDAY YOGA POSE #1: Holding tongue, restraining ego, walking on eggshells. Breathe.

HOLIDAY YOGA POSE #2: Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Rinse. Repeat.

HOLIDAY YOGA POSE #3: Feet firmly planted on the ground, eyes closed, shoulders surrendered. Mantra: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

HOLIDAY YOGA POSE #4: Allow shoulders to drop weight of the world. Unfurrow and relax third-eye chakra. Convince hips to let gravity keep you grounded. Remind lungs that the body needs oxygen, most especially this time of year. Breathe.

HOLIDAY YOGA POSE #5: Find a comfortable seated position, close your eyes. Feel yourself firm against the ground and be grateful for gravity, the earth, the floor, the place you call home. Breathe deeply and be grateful for oxygen, your lungs, the ability to breath. Clear you mind of its week-before-Christmas busyness and fill it instead with all of the things for which you can be grateful this moment, this day, this week, this month, this season.

HOLIDAY YOGA POSE #6: Lie on the floor with your eyes closed, arms and legs relaxed. Get comfortable – maybe a pillow for your head, or a blanket to cover up. Let the ground hold you up, and breathe long, slow, deep breaths. Let your thoughts drift away, and enjoy this traditional Shavasana (Sanskrit) / Nap (common) pose to rejuvenate body, mind and Christmas spirit.

Namaste.

Discover the Magic of Nature: Just in Time for the Holidays!

lookup-cc

Offered as an antidote to the fast pace of our lives and the toll it takes on our minds and spirits, LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness is a clarion call to get up and get out — to look up from our work, our distractions, our routines — and to find our way back to the simple pleasure of being in Nature.

– – – – –

“LOOK UP! asks us to pause for a time, look around us
and breathe 
in all the magic in our world. This is a book
to keep close by and re-read again and again.”

– Margaret Iacobellis, Poet/Writer

– – – – –

Written by writer and poet Jen Payne, LOOK UP! includes 75 essays and poems, 100 original, color photos of the woods and shoreline of Connecticut, and quotations by philosophers, poets, naturalists, and treasured writers.

BUY the BOOK!
LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness
288 pages, 5×7, 100 Color Photos
Index, Bibliography
ISBN: 978-0-9905651-0-9
$24.95

*** CLICK HERE ***


Closure

childpose

I can put this down now.
I haven been carrying it for
eight months…and now
I can put it down.

I can put this down now.
I have been carrying it for
21 months…and now
I can put it down.

I can put this down now.
I have been carrying it for
six years…and now
I can put it down.

I can put this down now.
I have been carrying it for
19 years…and now
I can put it down.

I can put this down now.
I have been carrying it for
25 years…and now
I can put it down.

I

can

put

this

down.

 


Words: ©2014, Jen Payne
Image: Child’s Pose, from oilpaintings4less-com


hope is the thing with feathers

ijustwearmywings

You may recall, a while ago, I wrote about how I created a vision board, how a quote founds its way into my sightline…

You’ve got to jump off cliffs

all the time and build

your wings on the way down.

…and how suddenly, feathers were appearing at every step.

Feathers continue to appear — more than two dozen since this all began — and they’re showing up figuratively as well.

On a small shelf in front of a cash register at a store recently, a book called I Just Wear My Wings, by Virginia Barrett caught my eye. With the bird on the front cover and the wonderful reference to Emily Dickinson in its title, I just knew I had to have it!

The book is a lovely collection of poems about nature, spirituality and meditation. Like this one that showed up midway through…

feathers
I often find
while walking
remind me
I can always
decide to fly

It is all connected, my friends. And WE are all connected.

Namaste.

• • •

Wings quotes by Annie Dillard. Feathers poem by Virginia Barrett from I Just Wear My Wings, which you can learn more about here.

Spatial Anomaly

“Have you had a gunshot wound?”

“Do you have metal pins, screws, plates or staples?”

“Have you been fitted with artificial limbs?”

It could be worse, I think to myself as I check the boxes: No, No, No.

On the way to Yale’s MRI Center we passed the Smilow Cancer Center and I think: it could be much worse.

I’m here for a routine scan. “Routine” is a nice way of saying I’m not worried…and you shouldn’t be either. I’m not worried about the results anyhow, we’re just getting a better look at something. I am a little worried about the process.

“Do you get nervous in small spaces?”

“I don’t know,” I write in pen next to the Yes and No. It’s not every day I stuff myself into a 2’ x 6’ tube.

It’s days like this when I think:

“Make sure you remember where the exits are.”

“Who thinks up these things anyhow?”

“Damn, where is Bones McCoy when you need him?

But I’ve come prepared. A good friend is here for moral support and hand-holding. My spiffy iPhone keeps me connected to the outside world while I wait — and take photos (see above). A CD of music is at the ready for the 45-minute E-ticket ride that is about to commence.

I’ve been here before. Twenty years ago after a car accident. I remember enough to know three things about an MRI: it’s loud, it’s long, it’s boring.

They’re running late today. Six of us sit in a waiting room — three in street clothes reading magazines, three in one-size-does-not-fit-all hospital gowns with IV tubes taped to our arms, waiting.

Two hours later, I am led down a long corridor and I hand my CD to the technician before she straps me down and hooks me up.

I hope they don’t mind my choice of music, I think. Krishna Das singing kirtan is not for everyone. And it’s playing very loudly. But as the table slowly slides into the machine, I let go of all of that. I hear the first few notes of familiar words and music and…

Namo. Namo. Anjaninandanaaya

… I start to breathe.

Jaya Seeyaa Raama, Jai Jai Hanumaan

And I start to relax.

Jaya Bajrangbalee, Baba Hanuman

Slowly, I let the breath in.

Sankata Mochan kripaa nidhaan

And slowly, I let it out.

Jai Jai Jai Hanuman Gosaaee

In my mind, I am doing yoga.

Kripaa karahu Gurudeva kee naaee

Familiar postures with familiar breath.

Sankata Mochan kripaa nidhaan,

With familiar music.

Laala Langotta, Laala Nishaan

Slowly in my mind.

Hare Raama Raama Raama, Seetaa Raama Raama Raama

Until the table itself moves slowly. Out.

“I have to ask,” says the technician as she unhooks me, “What were you listening to?”

“Krishna Das,” I manage from a lovely state of bliss.

“Kirtan?”

“Yes?”

“It’s very similar to what I listen to,” she says.

As we walk back to the waiting room she tells me about Jai Uttal. I spell out K-r-i-s-h-n-a D-a-s and give her the CD to take home.

In the dressing room, I look at the person in the mirror thinking: there is method to the madness, order among chaos, and reasons for everything.

Live Long and Prosper. Namaste.

• • •

Photo ©2013, Jen Payne. Lyrics from “Baba Hanuman,” from the Krishna Das CD Breath of the Heart.

Guardians

Like my breath in yoga, I am both expanding and contracting today.

Full inhales of breath open me up and stretch me farther.

Deep exhales draw me inside, grounded.

A desire to set my writing out into the world has me reaching, taking bolder steps. Stating my intentions clearly and with full purpose like full breath.

At the same time, recent health concerns find me going inward, centering myself and my thoughts on healing. Quietly meditating on positive and easy outcomes.

This morning,

as I inhale

and exhale

I spy an Owl perched upon a branch outside my window. It is the second day she has kept watch, and it is magical.

“The Owl is the bird of magic and darkness, of prophecy and wisdom,” writes Ted Andrews in Animal-Speak. Over time, the Owl has been associated with the feminine, the moon, the night, fertility, higher wisdom, protection, clairvoyance. It is believed to have healing powers, and is able to extract secrets from the darkness of the human spirit. Owl brings with it the message of truth and awareness.

In my breath today there is both.

There is an inhale of truth as I claim my words and my story as my own to tell.

There is an exhale of awareness as I listen quielty to what my body needs to say, to the story it has to tell.

And so this morning,

as I inhale

and exhale

it is no surprise that my spirit guide the Hawk alights upon a tree just three branches above the Owl. Hawk is always with me, guiding, protecting. Hawk “can wake visionary power and lead you to your life purpose,” Andrews explains. “It is the messenger bird. Whenever it shows up, pay attention. There is a message coming.”

A message. A blessing. And breath.

Namaste.

• • •

Weathering the Storm

Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.
Red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning.

If you doubted a storm was coming, the sky on Monday morning was a tell-tale sign. Sandy was fast approaching.

The breath of the One breathes in us.
It’s OK to be messed up, to feel small and sad and hurt
with no hope of ever seeing a good day.

Angel de la Guarda
At 5:00 Monday night, we lost power, just as the winds began to howl outside. I lit a candle and set about to quiet the noise: yoga, reading, writing, prayers.

Let yourself float in the beauty of your own heart
into the ocean of Love that fills all space,
that ALWAYS is…that ONLY is.

Que Sera Sera
At some point, in moments like these…in moments of life…you realize there is nothing more you can do but wait out the storm and be ready for what faces you tomorrow.

The breath of the One breathes in us.
Breathes us.
Even when we don’t know.

• • •

Translations of “Baba Hanuman” by Krishna Das, Breath of the Heart, www.krishnadasmusic.com.