Maria Skinner

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Archive for As Above

Riding the Cross Waves

WaveToday, my beautiful friend, Alayne, was sharing her strategy for dealing with the topsy turvy time she is moving through in her life. I am paraphrasing, Alayne, and I hope I got it right… what I heard her say is that when things go down, she finds herself either going deeper or rising above the situation in order to stay connected. When I heard her say this, I caught an image in my mind of cresting waves, when playing on the shore, I either jump over the wave or dive underneath.  In the energetic cresting and  crashing waves of my life, this corresponds to times when I either ground more deeply into sensation or surrender to the will of spirit.  In either case. I am letting go of the grip of the mind and coming into the moment which makes either option a good one.

The image of riding waves evokes the emotional realm. The way feelings move through us has this quality of ebbing and flowing. As a student of nature, I watch and feel this ebb and flow within my breath as well my emotional body. Connecting to the breath is a great way to ground as well as to gain perspective. The first chakra, the chakra that says “I belong here” can be accessed through sensing the soles of our feet. The 7th chakra, the chakra that says “We are ONE” can be accessed through sensing the top of the head.  Both are sensed in the body. Sensing the connection between the feet and the top of the head ignites the whole of us. Regardless of which access point I choose, the potential for my whole being to come to life exists.

Another access point is the heart. Again, the breath and the heart have an intimate dance that they share. Every time I take a breath, my heart gets a delicious massage. The upper chakras and the lower chakras meet at the heart center. Energy is exchanged here between above and below and between inside and outside. The vertical meets the horizontal; this is the sacred cross of life, the symbol living through our heart chakra that says “We are connected.”

All you need to do to feel any of this is to tune into sensation. My feet, my breath, the top of my head, the subtle movement of my spine and ribcage as I move with the waves. I can sometimes feel these waves of energy move up and down or in and out, meeting and transforming in my heart center. This feels like a dance sometimes and like an ordeal at others but always, when I am in touch with it, life feels like a great adventure.

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The 4 Elements in Movement

We are all unique combinations of cosmic dust in an organic manifestation of fire, earth, air and water. A study of what is unique and what is the same in us has always intrigued me. One of the greatest gifts that astrology has given my heart and mindMaria is the appreciation for variety and diversity of expression. I think it is human nature to want to know if one thing is better than another. When I begin working with someone astrologically or elementally, they ask things like “Is that part of me good or bad”. And I have to say, “It just is.” It is the awareness, compassion and choice we bring to it that gives us the power to make the best of what we have been offered.

One of my favorite tools for exploring awareness, compassion and choice is the movement of the 4 Archetypal Elements; Fire, Earth, Air, Water as postural intentions. I have students sense each one separately and then how we blend them in dance and as we move through our day. The 4 Elements are symbolic and they are also real. Something is evoked in my body when I  imagine I am fire, when I dance in a fiery way, when I sense the fire within.  Likewise when I imagine I am water, dance as if I am in water, sense the water within me.

There are also relationships between the elements; fire and water can create steam, water can put fire out, fire can boil water. Imagine a fiery person, one who confronts and is full of passion, meeting a watery person, someone who is happy to go with the flow and not interested in getting ahead? Imagine this is you and your partner. Imagine this is two parts of yourself. Astrology gives us the gift of seeing the dance of elements within ourselves and between us and the others in our lives.

From the time I began studying astrology, I knew that for me, prediction or even just description was not going to be enough to offer myself and my students and clients. What I am most intrigued by is the process of becoming whole and living into my full potential. The practice of moving the 4 Elements gives me the keys to achieve that. I also get to play with the energy, try things out… test reality, push beyond my perceived limits. Did I mention this work is fun?

First I need to know where I am at this moment; which postural signature am I expressing. Can I find neutral and make my choice from there? This is the embodiment of what it means to act from a balanced place. That is the simplicity of this work. Instead of going to my habitual response, as if it is just who I am, I am able to witness and make another choice consciously by moving my body to a new place. And by bringing it into the body, I can bypass all questions around what something means. Can is really be that easy? This is what I have found and what my students are finding; fresh and simple ways to work with places where we were previously stuck.

Movement is our first form of expression, before the word, there is movement. In many ways, we react to each other’s body language before the words. What we say, how it sounds, how it is received also has so much to do with the posture we use to deliver it. Life becomes so much more fun when I am playing in the field of awareness and choice!

Next Workshop: The 4 Elements in Movement is April 4th, 4:3.0-6:30pm
at Yoga & Nia For Life, 135 Commonwealth Ave, Concord, MA 01742

For Astrological Readings or Embodied Astrology Sessions contact Maria at ynfl@msn.com

I saw American Sniper & this is what I came home with

imageMars, the God of War, was born out of Hera’s rage. This was the phrase that kept going through my head as I watched American Sniper today, holding my husband’s hand in a dark movie theatre. I know it is Hollywood and it somewhat one-sided and while fairly graphic, the reality of war is actually way worse than what I was seeing. People’s lives are destroyed, families are devastated – sometimes for generations. To what end? Is Hera’s rage ever vanquished? And how many wars are actually fought for a different master, or mistress, as the case may be?

Hera is the Queen of the Gods and wife to Zeus who is the King. When Hera birthed Mars, in her rage, it was through parthenogenesis. She was in enraged because Zeus had dared to birth a child without a woman. Athena came out of his head, fully armed and ready to do battle. Athena is the Goddess of War among other things.  Hera was appalled by Zeus daring to birth a woman from his won body, and probably angry at him for all his infidelities as well. She said, “Watch this”, and gave birth to Mars… without a man. So the Goddess and God of War were born each in their own unnatural way. Unlike Mars, who is the berserker, the savage pillager and rapist, Athena represents the strategic aspect of war and war as a civilizing force and the laws that control our primal urges. Although we may see her as the sane one, and indeed, she does prefer diplomacy, she can also be cold and calculating when standing behind an idea or a principle. Athena looks down in disdain on Mars and yet, she could not win the battles she stands behind without him. Mars, on the other hand, has no desire to look civil or cover up his acts in the mantle of morality. In the most primal of ways, he is coming from the heart.

I see this play out in the way we look at and treat our soldiers when they come back from war. They experience the ravages of Mars both in body and mind and yet, when they come home, the Athena in us is disgusted by what they have done, even as we romantically support it with holidays like Veterans Day and Memorial Day. It makes for psychosis within us. Mars is the baser cause, Athena is the higher cause, yet the polarity and collusion between them results in so much pain and numbness that whitewashing is often the easiest thing to do. Taking sides, you are either with us or against us. Is life precious or is life expendable?

As Hera and Mars are intertwined, so are Zeus and Athena. Hera and Mars are the feminine & the body and Zeus and Athena are the masculine & the mind. In argument, Athena is the cool logical one who can look past the personal and Mars is the one who fights passionately and is selfish and very personal in his reaction.  The two diads exist as a dichotomy only when we see them as disconnected. However, when we are dealing with our selves, it is easy to see that they actually are ONE and that when we separate them, when we polarize them, when we choose to call one bad and the other good, we create a rift within us that can only be resolved with violence.

Life is so much messier than myths. While I sense the symbols within myself, I wonder if there is a way to embrace both the brutishness of Mars and the loftiness of Athena? Can I love the part of me that is emotionally savage and the part of me the part of me that is purely logical… at the same time? No separation.  Just as an experiment, I am wondering, and maybe it is naive, if I can make peace on the inside, will it actually reflect in the outer life too? And would the outcome actually be peace or some kind of truce. I am longing to know.

 

Living High Like a Tree

Discipline defined as training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character

Devotion defined as a feeling of strong love or loyalty : the quality of being devoted or a : the act of devoting <devotion of time and energy & b : the fact or state of being ardently dedicated and loyal Image

Transiting  Saturn over my Natal Neptune these cold winter months of 2014. The lesson as it comes to me is this: that if I want to experience expansion and pure acceptance and bliss in this life, then I need to simultaneously ground to the same extent that I am expanding.  Discipline and devotion intertwined, what I love must be brought to the fertile ground. Sounds reasonable. In order to grow a tall energetic tree, I need deep rootedness. I feel this. Even as I reach out with my mind to touch new things that feel out of my reach, untouchable, the more I connect to the earth, the more I sense my beingness, the easier these things feel.

My body temple, I live in you and as you.  How do I tend to the temple when I realize I am the temple? So much of my life has become about that. It can be about what I eat or what I drink, how much I sleep, what I wear and put on my skin… but on a deeper level, the way I am learning to tend to my temple is to stay in it, to listen to what it tells me via sensation, to be a loving devoted witness to it, to myself. And to look through the eyes of my temple at those around me as the soul that lives within.  There is no separation of heaven and earth, they are one and they manifest in me.

Vanessa Stone’s writing frames the entrance to my mind (From Live For the Soul):

Look toward the temple within.

Tend to the temple…

devote your attention again and again to its sacred space…

invoke the light of your awareness to inhabit this space once again.

Turn in toward the temple of the soul and drink from the cup of sweet mercy for your wandering… simply to return… again and again.

The door is wide open…

Come as you are

There is no separation of heaven and earth, they are one and they manifest in me.

The patriarchal model has been this: I am in charge and your work, your manifestations, your life force energy is mine to use in any way  that benefits me.  Your dreams, your wishes and your desires, if they do not benefit me, they are worthless. This is the travesty of believing that authority actually comes from anywhere outside of us.

I want to be taken care of, I want to be accepted, I want to be supported, but if I am not doing all this for myself, how can I blame those who recognize my vacuum as a place where they can gain. Negative Saturn. Positive Saturn, saying no to outer control but also saying yes to my dreams, my desires and my wishes and taking responsibility for making them be so and feeling all that comes with them including the sadness and disappointment when they are not coming to bear.

Neptune, I am building an altar to you in my body and Saturn, I am bringing you in as the administrator.   To help my dreams come true. The patriarchal model is ending, so how do I find the stable ground now?  When I let go of the big “father” taking care of all my needs in exchange for my life force and labor, where am I left?

I am left with my body temple meeting your body temple and both of us, all of us, working toward a planet and a place where we all can thrive. I am pretty sure there are sacrifices to be made here. That is one thing that Neptune always demands.  Fear of what will be unleashed if I surrender control looms large. The path of the renunciate has always been littered with the perceived control given up to reach a higher vibration. However, in the patriarchal model, this has also been a disembodied place.

This time is about uniting. Not choosing one or the other, but choosing both. I can be with my body and my spirit and the heart is the place where they meet my soul where the greatest sacrifice and the greatest devotion is allowing all the feelings that exist in me to be felt and expressed in the moment they arise.

The sacrifice (sacrifice comes from the Latin sacra and facere, meaning “to perform sacred rites.” ) is in allowing the emotions to move through the body, this is where control is to be relinquished, and where grounding truly takes place. Like the lightning from the sky seeking earth, the earth, the body as part of the earth can take the feelings and give them flow. Neptune and Saturn in wedded bliss. Maybe this is not everybody’s path, but it certainly is how I am finding my way out of the morass.

Water Trine: Move that Emotional Body

At this very moment, Jupiter is sailing through Cancer, Saturn is slogging through Scorpio and Neptune is floating through Pisces. And everybody has the opportunity to feel the unfelt in a way that truly heals old wounds, celebrates life’s ups and downs and attunes us to the vast ONENESS that we all know exists in the great unseen realm.

Great article to prime your pump here.

why bad mThe Wind In My Hairoods aren’t as bad as we think

Neptune’s Child

Neptune Sky

An Alexander Technique teacher once told me that the best way for me to go through life would be just a little bit drunk. She was alluding to my serious nature. Uber responsible. Anxiety ridden. Since I don’t drink alcohol, well, that was not really an option. But I took her words to heart. What she was telling me, especially in relation to my body, was that in order for me to feel more free, I had to let go of feeling like I had to hold it all together.

Where did the serious one come from? When I was very young, my mother said I would laugh so hard that I would sometimes throw up. And it was because I thought things were really funny. I remember these days, crying and laughing and laughing and crying…and feeling very, very light. And that life was magical.

I have started touching those sensations again doing breathwork and often dancing…touching those places of simple existence when my body so clearly sees that my mind is not in charge and that existence really is funny and light in its realness. Imagine a life without anxiety. Shit would still happen, it always does, it’s part of life. But the possibility that I could not hurt myself with it, that I could be responsible – responding to life – without taking on the weight. Whoa. I am now living for that.

Drunk without drinking. So many layers around this. So many addictions and addicts in my life. Neptune in music and art and drugs and dance and drink of course. If something brings me closer to myself and I want to do it over and over again, is it an addiction? Can I be sober and relaxed at the same time? Escapism versus ecstatic merging. Sex…did I mention sex? Not all the time, but sometimes, sex.

I am seeing it all so clearly these days. I think this is the gift that sobriety has given me. I had to begin looking inside myself for ways to find a release from all the tension I was holding inside of me. A way to move past (or with) the anxiety that is not about escaping but about living in the present moment and in a healthy way.

If you know me, you know that I dance, a lot. But I freely admit that sometimes, even this is an escape. An escape from what, you ask? An escape from my fears, my insecurities, my unhappy feelings, my unfelt life. And most of all, the mundaneness of it all.  Sometimes, Calgon is a good option. And as far as ways to merge go, dancing not only makes me feel great, it also makes me look great. And you can’t really say that for all the things we use to feel more than the moment.

To be grounded. The great spiritual nature of this. To be grounded and yet also feel my never-ending self. Living in the moment, in the never-ending river that is life. Okay, it ends at some point, at least in this body. But in between here and there, I would like to be real.

Dream Teacher – Guitar Part 3

Last night, I dreamt a guitar lesson.  I had a generous hand show me how to move my hand  from A ma 7 to D ma 7/F# in a song that my real guitar teacher, Chris McDermott put together for me. That pinky is still not strong enough to really hold down the 4th sting in that fourth fret all the way down there.  In my dream, I was being shown how to land all three fingers in the right place by lengthening from the inside out. There is little grace yet there, but I love the sounds I am making and I could pluck those strings all day long.  And now, it seems like I will also be playing in my sleep.

My first guitar teacher, who I will call Seth,  is in jail.  Seth set me up with a blues scale and chords to finger pick. But what he explained about chord progressions was way too complicated for me. I know I’ll get it one day, but whoa! Seth  has been playing guitar all his life but really mastered his technique in his last stint in prison. He taught many fellow inmates to play guitar, which seems like a good thing to do if you have a lot of time on your hands. Seth also taught his fellow inmates yoga and tells the guys when they get out they should find a yoga class since that is where all the sober, together women are. This scares me a little bit. He is a paradox. He strikes people as hardcore at first but is one of the most caring people and most talented musicians I know.

For about a month, Seth was meeting with me once a week and giving me new chords to pluck away at. And then one day he was just gone. You see, he has been living in a tent for the past few years in the middle of conservation land. It’s not legal, but after spending so much time locked up, he finds the outdoors much more appealing than a house.  We are not sure how it all came down, but apparently, his latest girlfriend went to his tent in the middle of the night and freaked him out and something happened that landed him in jail.  The thought of  him being locked up again and without his guitar breaks my heart. He always had it with him. And I am sure his fingers are aching for it.

Before losing Seth to the authorities, I had decided to get some “real” lessons and called Chris McDermott, local celeb living right here in Pepperell, just 10 minutes away. I have heard his name for years and was surprised to see him offering music lessons. It came, not as a something thought out, but as a physical impulse.  I saw his flyer and took it with me. Call him, my inner voice said.

Here’s what I did not expect: Chris is a brother of Siere Munro, a Nia teacher I have known and admired before I even met her. The second routine I learned, Agolo, has her right there in the front row, “Hi Siere!” This was in the days when Debbie and Carlos shot their own routines standing on a step ladder in the back of the class with a video camera.  I met Siere years later during the first Nia FAB in Portland, OR. I found out Chris and Siere are siblings during my first lesson when I told Chris I taught Nia and he knew all about it.

The other thing I did not expect is to hear Chris’ music and be so moved by it. Radio Ghosts…get it.

As a teacher, Chris knows how to start from scratch and also how to give me something to work towards based on what I want to play. This is exactly what I need right now. I find from doing Nia for so long, I learn by watching and repeating and then spending a lot of time on my own. I am learning a new dance for my fingers and hands.  There are so many things to put together right now and I feel like I did when I first began teaching Nia. Tracking the music and the moves and the cueing and the pearls and the students and the focus… Last week, Chris got me working with a metronome to get used to being on time. I had a moment for feeling like it was going to cramp my style but then keeping time and awareness of space is what I do every time I teach a class! As Carlos Aya Rosas says, we get paid to find the ONE.  I am determined so I have been working with that metronome for a week. I love it. It is definitely the structure underneath it all.

The metaphor of building a foundation for playing music is not lost on me. I have always loved the details of that and even now, my foci in class keep coming back to the base. One of the things I love about Nia is how I can take one thing and explore it so deeply. Here are some of the things I explored with my classes this week: mobility in the hip joints by playing with foot directions, beginning all movement from the base (from that push into the earth), using the ankles to create spine mobility. We explore all this with a beat behind it. I have to show up in time, it’s what keeps the people happy.  Chris said something about what makes a great musician who can play with others is being able to keep time. And I suspect this is one of the keys to being a great Nia teacher too.

It all seems so simple, but in reality it requires attention and deep listening and no tripping out. I think I romanticize what music can do for us. I imagine that if I can be attuned to the rhythms within me and around me  then nothing can go wrong. But then that may not be the point at all.  Nia teaches me awareness and raises my sensory IQ, but the reason I do it is because I love to feel myself move in space. I love to become one with the music. Nia helps me take other people there too.  Playing the guitar is teaching me many things too, but I love it because I love the sounds the strings make and that my fingers are making them. And I feel so full when I am playing. Maybe I am not overestimating the power of music at all.