Learning to Fly

Live life to its fullest

Awareness May 22, 2009

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 1:27 pm
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It’s been a great week in getting ready for baby. We’re now two weeks into our Birthing From Within childbirth classes, and I’m loving the discourse they trigger and the focus on how, really, this is a way of life, not just a way to approach birth. This week, we practiced non-focused awareness, a technique I had started playing with last year that I simply love. It’s a way of noticing what’s around you, what your body is experiencing moment-to-moment, without judgment.

You can practice this technique any time, anywhere, and the more you do it, the more easily you can slip into it. While it definitely works as a pain management technique, it also works as a walking meditation, something you can take into your day that increases your experience of the world and decreases your judgment of it. To begin, I recommend closing your eyes, and starting with a few moments of breath awareness. Then, allow your awareness to reach out from your breath. As I sit here, I can hear the whir of my computer fan, the singing of the birds outside my window, the music playing softly in the other room, the sound of my fingers striking the keyboard as I type, the difference between the sounds made by the letter keys and the space key. I can feel the cool tile underneath my toes, the edge of the desk cutting into my elbow, the support of the chair beneath me, the feel of my robe on my skin, the subtle movements of baby adjusting inside me. If I open my eyes just a smidge to allow some visual sensations entry, I notice the grain of the pine of my desk, the bright red of my mouse pad, the quality of the light in the room, the striking contrast between the white of the computer screen and the black of the rest of my computer peripherals.

The version we practiced this week includes cues, so your partner finds a rhythm and gives you cues to help you shift your awareness from one modality to another to help with the flow: Breath. Touch. See. Hear. Touch. Breath. Hear. See. And so on. At first, I found it distracting for someone else to determine my rhythm, but as I got used to it, I found it meant that my attention was always being brought to something new. This meant that I didn’t end up “following” a single sensation. For example, we were using holding ice in class to give us a discomfort that we could practice with. The cue “Touch” inevitably brought my attention to the strong sensation of the ice in my hand at some point during that awareness cycle, but it couldn’t linger there, turning from awareness into “Oh wow, that is really uncomfortable” into “Oh my god, that really hurts!” It was just another body sensation to be observed, much like the feel of the carpet under my feet or Sean’s hand stroking my arm.

The best part was putting this into practice out of the blue when one night this week, I was feeling really nauseated, my body’s response to being overtired these days, and I was complaining about how I felt like I was going to throw up. My attention was so tied into what I was feeling I was literally making it worse. Sean said “Breathe,” and for a moment I was annoyed, thinking he was trying to dismiss what I was going through, but a beat later he said “See,” and my whole body relaxed as I figured out what he was doing and went into my practice. Within a few seconds, the queasy feeling in my stomach was a non-issue. It didn’t disappear, but I just wasn’t paying it any attention. I was able to finish what I was doing from a place of consciousness, and enjoyed the remainder of my evening instead of being sucked into an icky place of not feeling well. Small example? Perhaps. But still a powerful reminder for me that this works when you practice it, and that life truly is a practice. Namaste.

Photo: “rain over street lights,” originally uploaded by s m


Annie Dillard quote May 6, 2009

Filed under: quote of the week — jennsheridan @ 7:00 pm
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How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.

~ Annie Dillard


In Blackwater Woods April 3, 2009

Filed under: inspiration — jennsheridan @ 1:47 pm
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The past couple of weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster ride. The highs have been fantastic and have been wrapped up mostly in the baby who is now doing somersaults in my belly. I’ve started prenatal yoga, and this small step of self-nurture has been absolutely golden, completely necessary and fulfilling, and yet another beautiful way for me to connect with baby. We had an incredibly productive day last weekend where we unpacked enough of the right stuff to finally feel like we truly live here. Now all of my inspirational books have been moved onto a new bookcase in the bedroom, the beginnings of a new reading nook we’re creating in there. It all feels so good.

The lows have surrounded love and loss and probably a fair amount of nostalgia. I went to visit my family in Georgia and spent a couple of days with my grandparents on my mother’s side. They spend their days remembering how things used to be, resisting the way things are now, and are slowly slipping away into Alzheimer’s and senility. My last few visits, I’ve been highly conscious of how this may be the last, and so I try to soak up as much as I can while I am there, but it is easy to slip into a place of nostalgia, of remembering the good ol’ days through the rosy veil that memory provides. Home again, I find my uncle scanning in old pics of my father’s family, including some true gems of my early days with my grandfather, who made his transition several years ago now. The pictures make me smile, but also bring tears to my eyes as I remember just how much I miss him.

Life truly is a cycle, and these past couple of weeks have been full of the reminder that this new life in my belly in some respects replaces life that has come before. Individuals ebb and flow into our lives, and we are truly blessed to be touched by so many. Now that my books have been freed from their two-month bondage in boxes, I was pleased to be able to pull Risking Everything back off the shelf and uncover a wonderful poem by Mary Oliver that connects with the feelings tumbling around within me. Her words remind me of the power of love in this ephemeral world. Enjoy, and namaste.

In Blackwater Woods
by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Photo: “1930’s postcards- in sepia,” originally uploaded by aussiegall


Einsten quote August 26, 2008

Filed under: quote of the week — jennsheridan @ 7:00 pm
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Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.

~Albert Einstein


Emerson quote August 11, 2008

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Nothing is secure but life, transition, the energizing spirit. . . . People wish to be settled; but only so far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson


Anais Nin quote July 27, 2008

Filed under: quote of the week — jennsheridan @ 7:00 pm
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Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.

~Anais Nin


Frida Kahlo July 26, 2008

Filed under: art — jennsheridan @ 2:13 pm
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I was blessed to be able to view the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the San Fransisco Museum of Modern Art yesterday. While much of her work appears to be full of sorrow and suffering, there’s a cathartic quality to it and rays of sunlight shine through from time to time. The image above is my favorite from the exhibit, full of energy and vibrancy and life. In her short life, Frida produced a range of powerful pieces influenced by love and sorrow, joy and pain, passion and suppression. It is my belief that in the end, she found the deep peace that comes from within, from an understanding that pleasure and pain are transitory. It is definitely an exhibit worth exploring, although I would recommend going in the morning on a weekday so you have some time to linger away from the press of the crowds.

Image: Frida Kahlo. Sun and Life. 1947. Oil on Masonite. 40 x 49.5 cm. Private collection.