Play is My Revolution

Maria Skinner Every time I sit down to do my 10 minutes of Ageless Grace, I remind myself that I am choosing to change my brain via play and that this is a revolutionary act. Brains and Central Nervous Systems change. It is what they do.  We are always adapting to meet our environment, even if what we are doing is choosing to do the same thing over and over again. The most important words in that phrase are  “choose” and “play”.   I have many practices in my life that emphasize choosing. I practice Laughter Yoga which is about choosing laughter. I practice Nia, and BeSoul Dance, which are both about choosing Joy, and Ageless Grace which is about choosing Play.

I wonder sometimes if these practices chose me as well. My mother tells me that when I was an infant, I would laugh all the time and that my laughter was contagious. In contrast, my earliest memories of myself were as my being a serious child. And yet, humor has always been one of the things I have valued over all other things. There were external circumstances that invited caution and responsibility and even fear. When I was a toddler, one of my grandmothers was very ill and passed away. She lived with us, I recall the graveness of it all. In Uruguay, where I spent the first 8 years of my life, there was a military coup and we had to leave the country. My parents and sisters came to live in the United States, leaving the rest of the family behind, and learning English in Queens, NY was not a cakewalk. I knew that my true nature had been tempered by my life, yet I was not aware in any way that I could choose a different path for my emotional energy to flow in. I remember always looking for reasons to laugh, as in some way, I was anticipating the life I would later have.

Fast Forward a lot: Choosing Joy, Laughter, and Play…

In my late 20’s, as a Nia Teacher and then Trainer, I made my work all about choosing Joy! This sounds funny, I know, but in my mind, it was the only way I could have it, if I worked for it! Then came Ageless Grace which invited me to finally choose play. Did I need a reason to play? Did I need to understand that we actually learn better through play? That play will keep my body and mind healthier, younger and happier? That play would make life more fun? Ageless Grace has helped me release the final resistance I had to be okay with enjoying my life. Doing my 10 minutes and sharing Ageless Grace with others has taught me that PLAY is a state of being and a state of mind. It is an attitude I can choose even when I am “working” at something. Being in PLAY makes me feel good. It makes everything I do easier.

When people ask me who Ageless Grace is for, I say that is it for anybody with a brain. And then I say it is for anybody who wants life to move with more joy, ease, and spontaneity. Who does not want that at any age? The 21 Tools of Ageless Grace work in a two-fold way for me. When I do my 10 minutes I am giving my brain the PLAY food that it needs to keep functioning at its optimal capacity. My 10 minutes also set me up to remember to play more all day long. They are a reset and a reminder that feeling the humor and the lightness of being in everything is a choice I can make every day. That no matter what my external circumstances are, I can choose to PLAY my way through them. Thanks to Denise Medved, this is my revolution.

Book title and description:

Living High Like a Tree: Embodiment, Dance & Grace

This book is a collection of blogs about embodiment practices, dance, and the grace of living life in a body on this beautiful planet. Each section stands alone and together offers a new paradigm for living and being in relationship with our bodies, minds and spirits.

It can be purchased through mariaskinner.com

The book will soon also be available in paperback.

Maria Skinner is an Ageless Grace Trainer and lives in Groton, MA.

Every Single Moment is Dissolving as it Arises

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There is impermanence and then there is impermanence. I sit here on April 10th in front of my oscillating electric heater. It passes to my right side, then my left. I savor each moment that the hot air touches my skin and then feel the slight contraction as it moves on. This dance of hot and cold on my body reminding me of how nothing lasts, especially when oscillation is involved. Oscillation is basically a cycle and that is what the natural world is made of. 

Lately, I have been exploring David R. Hawkins‘ work on letting go as a spiritual practice. In the book Letting Go, The Path of Surrender, he offers a practice to free ourselves of everything, really. It entails surrendering to every emotion that arises, to feel it in our bodies as a sensation without the thought attached to it. In this practice, the invitation is to be willing to let go of things as they arise and to surrender wanting to control them, change them or have our own way with them.

There have been several times in the past when similar practices entered my periphery, but not with the simplicity and clarity that I have found in David’s work. During my Nia Black Belt we were given the practice of “no concern”. As part of a movement training, I feel this was offered to free us to be in the unknown, the play, to be okay with making mistakes. It was fun to be in a place of no concern, and although I could identify the sensation of it in my body (relaxation, shrugging shoulders, outstretched palms – it kinda felt like surrender), this was still a mental exercise for me. I was still judging myself, but then pretending to not care.  It had a rebellious quality to it.

I met this again with Vanessa Stone in the form of “receiving what is being offered”. This was closer in flavor in that I was looking at everything in my life as an offering from Goddess to me. Whatever is in front of me is what is being offered to me. I can receive it or I can deny it. Nonetheless, is it what is here. To surrender to what is here without condition is liberating. Without the grip of control, I am able to appreciate what is, to look for the lesson, to be grateful for any insights. When I am receiving without trying to control or change, I have much more available energy.  I realized at that time that much of my suffering came from wishing things were another way.  When I let go of the “if only’s” and surrender to what is, there is a creativity unleashed and appreciation for this very moment.

Now, thanks to David, along with “Receive what is being offered” I have other mantras. Here are the two that are on my fridge:

Don’t look for answers; instead let go of the feelings behind the questions.

Disappear it by choosing to be one with it and refusing to want to change it as it arises.

Although this is serious spiritual practice it is also deeply practical in its manifestation. Looking back at my like, these principles have been at play all along. Several years ago, my husband was working at a sleep-away camp. Every June we would pack up his stuff and off he would go, with the kids, for 8 weeks at a time. Initially I visited once or twice, but then realized that our relationship was suffering as a result of all that time apart. There were so many layers; feelings of resistance and why this loneliness?, why summer?, why now?  and disappointed expectations. So many questions in my mind about why this whole experience was happening to me. Eventually, I took what was being offered and began to organize my life so that I could be where he was more often. I worked at the camp office a couple of days a week and drove back down to take care of the studio for the rest of the week. After 3 years of this back and forth, I felt like I had got it down. It was finally working for me. Since he was telling me that he wanted to do this forever, I surrendered to the point where I was completely at peace with how it was going to be. That was the summer that he decided that he was done with working at a summer camp. Although it took me 5 years to truly surrender to it, in the end I disappeared it!

Becoming more aware of the letting go technique has helped me recall other times in my life when this disappearing happened. It is as if once the lesson is learned, or the resistance has been released, or I had felt behind the questions, the thing no longer has a reason or the energy to exist. And the more consciously and consistently I do this, the faster things disappear. Thank you, David for sharing your work! Participating in the impermanence. Magic. And yes, I am calling him David.

Meditation on meditations

What do you do to quiet the voluminous thoughts in your mind?
There are many paths of meditation. Silent sitting meditations are more associated with the masculine path and require stillness of the body and inner silence to quiet down the mind. It is a way of learning about ourselves, making space to hear all that we tell ourselves and get connected to a larger self. This quieting of the mind creates space for the wise inner voice, to calm the systems of the body so that the natural healing abilities of the body can shine, and allow for a deeper flow of creativity. This is the contemplative path.
Movement meditation is associated with the feminine path and requires surrender to the flow and can help is release stuck emotions, shake the mental loops around, show us another way to move through situations. Although it is an active path, movement also creates peace in the body/mind so that we can hear the inner voice, calm the systems of the body allowing the self- healing abilities to thrive, and stimulates creativity.  This is the ecstatic path.
I feel both are necessary for each person to cultivate in a way that works for them. The balance is important. Practicing both on a daily basis, builds the neural pathways that lead to inner peace. Having these tools at our fingertips gives us a place to go when things get tough. Stressful situations are potentially all around us  but is how we feel them from the inside that shapes our nervous systems long term.
On a very basic level, both kinds of meditation enhance self & body awareness that help us get to know themselves and  notice the stress response before it becomes acute. Meditation also creates awareness of the moment to moment life we are living and we can more deeply intend to enjoy and savor the beautiful things that surround us. The inner voice that only speaks of love gets louder when we make space to be with it.
Looking forward to meeting you on the dance floor or on the meditation pillow!
Erinfromabove

Astrology for the New Earth

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I am piloting a program for a new way to learn astrology in the month of April that I plan to roll out this summer. I am calling it Astrology for the New Earth. Although we have many planets in our charts, Sun Sign astrology has encouraged the identification with one sign.  This simplification encourage a powerful identification with the ego (which what the Sun is about) and diminishes the wholeness of the chart. It is important to find our uniqueness as individuals, but not at the expense of everything else. This journey we will take together is one of wholeness, of embodying all the 12 energies reflected in the Zodiac to create an appreciation for the diversity and similarities that we all share. We will be using sensation, imagination and intuition to learn about the astrological symbolism. Although we are using the lens of astrology, my larger goal for this work is that it will be a model for us to look into ourselves and into the world and lovingly accept it all as a part of ourselves.

As an astrologer, I have focused on the descriptive, instructive and inspirational aspects of the chart. I find in reading charts for people that the greatest gift they receive is the affirmation that they are who they are, that they are unique, and that they are whole. This interest in the whole is what attracted me to astrology in the first place. I was intrigued by how much of me I was able to allow myself to be after learning about my chart. I was also in awe of all the beauty inherent in the diversity. I used to wonder what the world would be like if everyone could live into the potential of their chart, owning all that they were without projecting, suppressing or repressing the aspects of themselves that they had not yet embodied.

Lately, I am becoming more interested in using the chart as a path connecting to the whole and expressing as a whole being. The potential for feeling both whole and part of a whole has moved from the purely hypothetical to the practical, partly through this practice of reading charts. My question when meeting a part of the chart that might be uncomfortable or expressed as shadow is how can this aspect be embodied and expressed in the healthiest way possible? I am intrigued by this the and by transformation that happens when we bring one of these denied parts of ourselves home.

One prime example for me is the Square between Neptune and Mars in my chart. Traditional astrology would say that I am going to be have men in my life that are poets, musicians, alcoholics, drug users, dreamers, spiritual, unrealistic, elusive; all or any of these depending on how conscious they are of their own need to merge with collective emotional field. And yes, for many years, all the men I was involved with were some combination of the above. However, because I was not yet meeting this energy inside of myself, the men I attracted also depleted my energy and drove me to lose my sense of self. I felt seduced at first and then sacrificial as I found myself playing the role of the responsible one.

I remember very clearly the day I realized that what I was really looking for was the musician and poet within myself. Knowing that this aspect was in my chart had led me to explore it as part of me. I saw that what I wanted was to be seduced by my own muse, to be the dreamy one. When I found it outside of myself it came in a warped way. I understood that to have the clearest expression of this energy, which is a kind of spiritual warrior, I needed to cultivate the ethereal poetic energy in myself. I called one of these men, whom I had loved dearly and continued to be friends with, and told him that I realized that my attraction to him was not so much about him but about the me I saw in him.  In that moment, I felt like I set myself free.

I am still attracted and attract men who are in relationship with the emotional collective field, but now they are healthier in their expression and responsible beings. They are supportive of my path and I no longer feel like I am losing myself.

This next phase of astrological exploration goes even beyond even this kind of embodiment, beyond specific aspects of the chart that I may not be expressing fully. The astrological chart is round, it is a circle that contains a whole and within that whole the matrix for our personal energy. What I am curious about and what I am exploring in this new class is what happens when I open up to all the energetics in the chart, even the ones that do not have a specific channel within me. I want to live in the shoes of all the signs of the Zodiac using sensation, imagination and intuition. This is the journey I would like to offer you on as well, honoring your body, mind and soul within the whole.

If you are interested, please email me at ynfl@msn.com. I will keep you all on my list. Please pass this on to others in your life that you feel are ready to embody the whole.

Cilantro, Take Me Away!

CIlantro

At StarFish Dance & Yoga, Sarah Shulman and I have been holding a monthly class where we learn to use essential oils for emotional support. Each month we all go home with a small vial of oil that is the perfect one for the feelings and emotions that we are moving through. We pick the oil by smelling the ones that relate to the emotion we are working with. For instance, this month, I was working with worry. I smelled wild orange, tangerine, sandalwood and cilantro. How do we know which is the right one, we literally let our bodies show us. The right oil always makes me want to take a deeper breath and bring my eyes up toward the sky.

The olfactory system includes the nose, the sinuses and the lungs. Air that we breathe enters our circulatory system via the lungs and the brain via receptor sites for the limbic system which is considered the emotional brain. The limbic system is connected to the parts of the brain that control the heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels & hormone balance.

By allowing our bodies to choose the oil, rather than our minds, we bypass the trial-and-error that happens when we simply choose by reference. We also may be able to bypass preference. Sometimes oils whose fragrance I prefer are not the ones my body picks. And the ones my body chooses have had extraordinary results.

What I brought into class this month was a discovery I made as I have been deepening into meditation. I have recently been experiencing deeper, more peaceful spaces, as I practice quieting my mind and staying with my breath. And right at that moment when I become aware of how relaxed I am, I hear a little voice in my head says, “so, what are we going to worry about?” And from that moment on, all the possible things I could worry about start spilling into my quiet space.

One of the definitions of meditation is “cultivating self” which can also translate into getting to know myself. What I have been getting to know with this worry thing is that I have had what I could call and addiction to being worried. Sometimes there are things that cause concern, but in this case, I could feel myself fabricating something that a second ago had not there. It almost felt like I was opening the window to let in the mosquitoes. And I do this in my meditation because it is what I have done all day long for much of my life.

The mind is in part, a problem solver. I have compassion for the part of me that wants to worry. It is the super responsible me that wants to make sure all the ducks are always in a row. However, a) do I really need to worry about anything and b) while I am meditating? In meditation and in life, worry has become a great distraction from living in the present moment and living in joy.

Although wild orange, tangerine, sandalwood and cilantro are all indicated for “worried” states of mind, they all deal with different aspects of it. Wild Orange is the oil of abundance and quells worries about not having enough. Tangerine is similar (both sweet citrus) but has an added emphasis on being carefree. Sandalwood inspires spiritual devotion and trust in the inner voice. Cilantro, the one I picked, is the oil of releasing control, specifically of others and the environment. It helps to release negative emotions and toxins trapped in the body, heart and soul. When I smelled it, it took me away. I love it and find that is has a citrusy undertone I had not noticed before.

I am using the oil, putting a drop in my hands, rubbing them and inhaling 3 times. I have a small vial in my purse that I go to if I get into a worry loop during the day. I am even eating more cilantro. I am sure the oil is helping me in ways I do not consciously understand because I have felt less worried since using it and am more easily going into deep meditation without distraction. In my daily life, it reminds me that I can choose to put my attention somewhere other than worry.  Smelling the oil is another way to focus, like having a mantra or an affirmation.

The positive emotions that cilantro essential oil encourages are cleansing, liberation, detachment, being untroubled, are what I pray for every day. I am more easily slipping into these emotional spaces. Bypassing the conscious mind, I am going right for the goodies, changing my body-mind from the inside out with the gentle support of the oils.

Join us for the next emotional support with essential oils class: go here!

 

Nutrient Dense – Guest Blogging by Chad Skinner

Alchemy Farm and Apiary is Chad Skinner’s project in sustainable lifestyle. Recently he has taken on growing food and plants with Nutrient Dense practices. Here is the scoop on what nutrient dense is. To contact Chad, you can reach him at chad.skinner@msn.com.

THE NUTRIENT DENSE STORY

Hundreds of years of agriculture have depleted the soil’s trace minerals.  Each year plants take up the minerals that they need to build and maintain their cellular structure.  We harvest the food for consumption, and the trace elements are removed from the land.  Farm lands that are depleted of the nutrients to support crop production are not a new thing.  The answer that was developed by the US Agricultural department during the great depression era, and into WW2 was to pump the soil full of Nitrogen, Phosphate, and Potassium.  It’s the NPK ratio that you will see on the side of any fertilizer bag.  What this has lead to is food that has less nutritional value, and crops that are grown in a weakened state requiring more water and pesticides.  This agricultural practice has left fields so devoid of the microbial, and fungal elements that play a major role in plant development that when turned under, corn stubble does not decompose.  The soil is drained of the building blocks of life.

Interestingly, at about the same time that the US Agricultural department was turning to NPK and pesticide, an agronomist by the name of Albrecht was developing another theory and method.  By measuring the amount of the different elements in the soil, and seeing the effects of each element on plant life Albrecht began to realize that the very same minerals that were important for human cellular development were also need by the plants.  Look on the back of any multi vitamin bottle you will find the following trace elements listed: Zinc, Copper, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Molybdenum, Potassium, Boron, Selenium, Manganese, Nickel, Silicon.  These are the very same trace elements that soil is measured for in the nutrient dense practice.  What Albrecht realized was that by balancing out the soil with the trace elements required, and boosting the biological components the plants were much stronger.

Today what has been developed based on Albrecht’s model is called nutrient dense farming, or re-mineralization.  It’s a combination of Albrechts work, the Organic/sustainable movement, and bio-dynamic farming.  The nutritional value of the plants grown in a nutrient dense environment are measured with a unit called Brix.  You may have heard of this recently. Some upscale restaurants in Manhattan are on the nutrient dense band wagon.  Essentially, brix are measured using a refractometer to determine the density of the sap within the plant.  The denser the sap the more the nutrients.  The refractometer is also used to determine what is needed by the plant on a real time basis.  Rather than scratching your head and wondering why your plants are not growing quite right the refractometer can help to determine what is out of balance.  Large scale operations are doing the very same by sending certain parts of the plants into be tested, and amending accordingly using drip irrigation.  In addition to balancing the soil, Nutrient Dense farming also includes adding the right biological elements to the soil, and to the plants.  These are the micro organisms that help facilitate the uptake of nutrients to the plants, and aid in over all soil health.

Not only do these plants and veggies look better, they are better for you. Enjoy and may these plants add to your thriving good health.