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In Memory of George Floyd

Take a deep breath the teacher encourages, guiding the student to explore their capacity for a felt experience with their body’s divine tool of respiration. How quickly our understanding of this process of inhale and exhale has changed, how desperate is the cry of the planet to realize that our hate, greed, and ignorance is destroying this most beautiful wold. In the past few months we have globally experienced how corona virus impacts our individual respiratory functionality. This past week we have born witness to a new cry, “I can’t breathe!”  a horrifying statement that tragically highlights the way violence and racism has strangled and lynched people of color in the United States for centuries. As I practiced and taught today I was awoken to the trauma of the breath.

I can't breathe

George Floyd, October 14, 1973 — May 25, 2020

Generally, I revel in each inhale and exhale, and cue my students with specific feeling cues around the felt experience of the breath. Today I felt the poignancy, the emergency, the call to action of this cue. With each cue to inhale and exhale, I felt a constriction around my throat, recalling the vicious and heartless murder of George Floyd by four officers in the Minneapolis Police Department. With each felt experience of the breath, I too felt the trauma of not being able to take one. Sometimes the cueing needs to change. This too is a lesson of this time.

As a way to understand this trauma and support my sangha, I lean into embodied ethics as a form of and call to social action. This is the tool that I have right now, in this moment. By calling on the ancient sage’s understanding of relationship to self and the world, perhaps we can utilize these tools to support shining the light of awakening in a world that needs it so much.

The Buddha touched the earth in the lifetime in which he awakened. The time is now to touch the earth, feel our throats, and move, both within the body and externally in our worlds, to a greater understanding of hate, greed, and ignorance. From this place of understanding may we realign ourselves with compassion, generosity, balance, and kindness. May we do this again and again, as long as we need to do, and with great effort and discipline.

Below is an audio excerpt from today’s teaching in it I explore karma as an ongoing process of cause & effect, the call of bodhicitta a mind that strives toward awakening, empathy, and compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings and the path of a bodhisattva someone committed to understanding and ending pain and suffering withing themselves and the world, and the interdependence between ahimsa understood and felt in my teachings as non-violence, protection, care, & refuge embodied in Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling and Rosa Park’s refusal to move and satya   understood and felt in my teachings as honesty and truth   embodied as George’s final call, and a vow to not be silent at this time.

I offer these teachings to you with deep reverence for Mr. Floyd’s memory, and dedicate the benefit of these practices to his memory, to his family, and to all beings who are suffering.

Fangs Out

I have a daily reader I’ve worked with for many years, and this is today’s quote:
 
You menace others with your deadly fangs. In tormenting them, you are torturing yourselves.
-Milarepa*, 10152-1135
 
In past years I have wanted to skip past readings such as today’s, as they left me feeling uncomfortable, and at times I didn’t know how to deal with the intensity of these words, because generally I have been taught to look past suffering. This year I am able to sit with this teaching and understand it as a way to look more deeply within, to see the injustice, fear & bias in my own mind, and to understand the way it works out in others.
 
I see that so much of the insanity of race is based in fear, the industry of poverty is based in greed, and the true wisdom of the heart is based in love. This is not love in a candy, Valentine’s sort of way, but in the love described by Dr. King, the love of a peaceful path of revolutionary practice. The love of Hashem, Ram, Hanuman, and the love of The Christ. The love of a parent. The love of a commitment to a path of progress and undoing that by its very force yields an opening, undoing, evolution, a shift. This love is a verb, is embodied, and it is in the present tense.
 
I see this action of love in the kneeling of Colin Kaepernick, in the voice of Keedron Bryant**, whose song, lyrics below and attached as a link to this post, is the mantra currently running through many minds, including mine, right now, and in the indelible wisdom of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s dear Madiba, to recognize, even in his jailers, a space of humanity, and a path of freedom from apartheid, a most vitriolic form of systemic fear, separateness & racism.
 
I think of the horrifying murders and lynchings of James Byrd, Jr., Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Amdaou Diallo, and so many other black men and women, and I say their names with this kind of love in my heart, and to let my community know that I do know, that I do care, that I am here, that I continue to understand my privilege, and that I will continue to actively utilize my precious life to bring connection and understanding to a world that needs it so much.
 
Let us see your fangs — do not hide them, for when they are shown they can be polished by the light of care & understanding. And, it’s ok to not know all these things about ourselves — Jung says the first half of our life is biographical, and the second half is autobiographical. Step into the darkness to give more depth and understanding to the light. Allow yourself to be received as you are — and let consciousness shine and dismantle the conscious and unconscious patterns of slave and master both internally and externally.

snake-bite-dream-meaning-fangs
There is no panacea for the tremendous pain of our own creation — it is so deep, so insidious, so rooted in our psyche that we do not even realize how it motivates us (See generally the news), and also perhaps there are better micro and macro level changes and processes that can occur on the individual and collective levels to continue to heal (it is a process thank you social work friends!) this very broken society.
 
Know there is good work being done on a local level in each of our communities, and with the gift of each new day we can always start again and show up to serve in a place of, perhaps new, interest — if you are in Houston, please know about Houston Coalition Against Hate (HCAH) a network of community-based organizations, institutions, and leaders who come together to prevent hate and encourage belonging. Within the Coalition are organizations such as The Jung Center of Houston, Texas, Rothko Chapel, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, my friend Rev. James Caldwell’s Coalition of Community Organizations, dear Cherry Steinwender’s Center for the Healing of Racism, Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston (Official Page), ADL Southwest, and 60+ others committed to this mission — reach out to these groups, join in on our conversations, engage directly, and allow the tears to flow and change to come.
 
Do not be afraid of the fangs, let them be our teachers of a different truth. They are a sign of fear & protection, they are an access point to the heart.
 
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Links & additional info cited in this post:
 
*Jetsun Milarepa was a Tibetan siddhi, who famously was a murderer as a young man then turned to Buddhism to become an accomplished Buddhist disciple despite his past. He is generally considered one of Tibet’s most famous yogis and poets, serving as an example for the Buddhist life.
 
**Keedron Bryant
 
I’m a young black man doing all that i can to stand
oh but when i look around and I see what’s being done to my kind
everyday I’m being haunted as prey
my people don’t want no trouble
we’ve had enough struggle
i just wanna live
God protect me!
 
***Community Based Organizations in Houston
HCAH Houston Coalition Against Hate
 
Center for the Healing of Racism
 
COCO
 
The Jung Center of Houston, Texas
 
Rothko Chapel
 
Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
 
Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston (Official Page)
 
ADL Southwest
 
Thank you for reading this post. I see you & I know you see me.

Summer Series

Justine Fanarof online yoga meditation yoga nidra energetics

You are cordially invited to get your chill summer vibe on with this SUMMER SERIES — an embodied practice series exploring pranayama, qi gong, breathwork, energetics & yoga nidra meditation.

Thursday evenings, 7-8:30 PM CDT

June 11, 18 & 25

July 9, 16 & 23

$175 series* & $36 drop-in

Venmo @justinefanarof

*Sessions will be recorded if you can’t make a class.

**Scholarships available.

Namaste — Justine

Out Beyond

Life is so very precious — honoring the memory of those who paid the highest price for our freedom this Memorial Day —
may their memories always be a blessing to us all.
Below are two poems that resonate with me deeply.

Written by two poets almost 700 years apart,
their words echo and resonate profoundly in this current moment.

The photos were taken in 2017 in Provence —
we happened upon this poppy field under Mont Saint-Victoire
and were in awe —
in the magnificence of our natural world.

Holding all beings in loving care.

Provence Poppies Remember Memorial Day Justine Fanarof Yoga

Provence, Poppy Field Under Mont Saint-Victoire, May 2017, Justine Fanarof

In Flanders Field by John McCrae, 1872-1918

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Justine Fanarof Provence Memorial Day

Justine Fanarof, May 2017, Provence

Out Beyond Ideas by Jalal al-Din Rumi, 1207-1273

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’
doesn’t make any sense.

May we be well.
May we be at peace.
May we be happy.
May we be free from suffering.

May our practice be a benefit for all beings everywhere,
for our earth,
for our relationships,
for ourselves.

Shanti Shanti Shanti Peace Peace Peace Paz Paz

Who are you? Counting the Omer…

In Judaism, we count the days between Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot (giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai). We call this process counting the Omer. This intensely spiritual time is a movement in the soul–one from enslavement to freedom. A 49 day practice period, a pathway leading us upward and inward—which takes us on an inner journey from one place to another. The Jewish people repeat the practice of counting the Omer year after for millennia. It can’t be understated that we are experiencing this spiritual process in 2020 during the time of corona. The inner process of going inside, into isolation, into self-reflection can be a useful way to cultivate a deeper understanding of our sephirot, the innate attributes of the divine. It is a process to curiously inquire and investigate into the question, Who Am I?

There are ten sephirot three related to the intellect (wisdom, understanding, and knowledge) and seven to feelings. Each week of the Omer is related to one of the seven feeling tones of the divine. Each week we count the Omer we progress with deeper intimacy of the felt experience of the divine in our personal and collective realities. We use the sephirot to understand ourselves, and our relationships. Through this practice of self awareness, we are then in a more connected space to receive torah/wisdom. At the end of the counting period, we endeavor to end up in a different place more connected, with greater clarity, with greater respect for our soul, its desires and manifestations, and what it needs from us.

chakra rainbow body judaism justine fanarof yoga yoga nidra meditation teacher texas retreats

This new place, this personal Mt. Sinai, yields an outlook of deeper soul level connection to receive torah/wisdom. This vast expanse of self awareness yields portals to connect with self and others, and allows us to feel more healed in each characteristic in ourselves (sephirot) to be more whole — fuller participants in the world. Wow. What a beautiful and significant practice.

Our physical body is an expression of the soul. The sephirot are mapped onto the body, similar to the rainbow/chakra body systems in Buddhism and Yoga philosophy. This embodied relationship is endlessly fascinating to me as a yoga and meditation teacher with deep ties to Judaism, Buddhism, and Yoga philosophy. So when I had the honor of teaching a Jewish Mindfulness Center of Texas Yoga class today via Congregations Beth Yeshurun on Zoom, during the point in the Omer where we are in gevurah in yessod, I knew we had to get into the Omer/sephirot groove. And in we went. With care and curiosity.

As we are in the middle of a pandemic, whilst counting the Omer (things occur within the spiritual container of life, rather than spiritual practice occurring within the space of things occurring) today’s class was purposefully gentle, accessible, and spiritual. We focused on a foundational understanding of the Omer and the sephirot, which, because of their depth and connection to the energetics of spiritual practice in every day life and in the body, I feel should be a more pronounced and taught understanding in everyday Judaism.

I plan to share the class here once I have the video link. Until then, some useful questions to ponder relative to the sephirot and their attributes. A macro level question here is, “How do we nourish our lifeforce?”

1st week Chessed
Free flowing
Kindness
Loving kindness
Giving
Benevolence

Questions: How does kindness flow through me? Do I give in a peaceful, generous way, or do I give with an expectation of receiving in return? What does loving-kindness mean to me and how does it relate to my own personal ethics? What is my understanding of benevolence and how do I apply that to a life committed to tikkun olam/social action?

2nd week Gevurah
Discipline
Justice
Strength
Rigor
Calendar
Rules
Boundaries
Structure
Holding back
Questions: What are the boundaries I’ve created in my life? Do I say no with clarity and ease? Do I need more discipline? Structure? Practices? What does resistance feel like in my body?

3rd week Tifferet
Harmony
Compassion
Truth
Beauty

Questions: How do we create harmony in our lives? What are our creative practices that yield beauty in our lives and the world? How do I nourish my heart? How do I connect to the heartspace?

4th week Netzach
Endurance
Fortitude
Ambition
Victory
Majestic endurance
Power
Energy of creative
Drive ambition
Forceful energy that makes something occur
Hustle
Athlete, Entrepreneur, Builder

Questions: Where in my life am I ambitious? What am I dedicating my energy towards? How are we using our drive to bring into the world whatever we are creating?

5th week Hod
Surrender
Humility
Splendor
Gratitude
Realization that there’s a greater force that’s happening
An allowing
Savasana at end of yoga sequence—surrender

Questions: Do I allow myself to let go? How do I cultivate gratitude in a meaningful, ongoing, and significant way? Am I cool with not being in control?

6th week Yessod
Bonding
Our Foundation

Questions: How do I create secure foundations? What roots me to earth? How do I push and pull with energetic frequencies in my life to create stability? How do I bond in relationships? Do I recognize the balance required to maintain a desire to be there and the humility of letting go to what it is what it may be in reality?

7th week Malchut
Our essential nature
The value of our souls
Our forma de ser/way of being in the world
Nobility
Sovereignty
Leadership

Malchut is expressed as a loving gaze from mom to baby, knowing that you’re worthy just because you’re there. As an adult, malchut is in our giving our gifts to the world, our service, our actions, touching the lives of others.

Questions: What brings me/makes me come alive? Am I ready to live the autobiographical portion of my life? How do I nourish myself, through the changes and challenges of life?

Our physical body is an expression of the soul. Our physical body is an expression of the soul!

Understanding and working with/practicing the sephirot yields a deeper awareness that we are an expression of something great — we are an expression of the divine. In this period of counting the Omer, we can feel the true preciousness of our lives, we can work on ourselves, move from being slaves to personality, trend, and ego, and become more of our true selves.

Hallelujah!

Zoom Goddess in Drag

RAM DASS ZOOM CORPORATE CULTURE YOGA MEDITATION JUSTINE FANAROF ONLINE Compassion
Ranier Maria Rilke wrote, “The eye is the most refined of our senses, the one which communicates most directly with our mind, our consciousness.”

The next time you login to Zoom, flutter your eyes and take in the beauty of the faces with whom you’re sharing space.
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Rejoice at their lovely presence. Enjoy the time glitch, let it be a place to pause and feel, through the ether, their hopes, dreams, fears, joys, sorrows—and shining through, their lifeforce.
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Let yourself be seen, and enjoy the presence of other humans in this strange and wonderful time.
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The meeting is an opportunity to meet and be met.

Rejoice/Reset PM/AM Practice

I’ve been contemplating what would be nice to share with y’all this week, and am feeling a gem for this time is a Rejoice/Reset PM/AM Practice. As the mind is particularly powerful and sensitive to thoughts right now, may this bring you peace and ease.

Rejoice/Reset PM/AM Practice

Practice in this form:

PM
Every evening before you go to sleep you are invited to you REJOICE and ENJOY every beauty you’ve had in your life. Feel it all in a powerful, embodied way, the term hallelujah comes to mind!

Feel fully all the glory, goodness, beauty, joy, love, gifts of friendship, and sweetness in your life. Let those feelings move you, resonate, and radiate with you through every cell as the last thing you experience before you go to bed—no journaling or seated meditation, nothing overly formal!

AM

As soon as you awake the mind uploads the default ________ (insert your name here) and you can change the default state every time you wake up.

We can change the default state every time we wake up. Mic drop.

So when we wake up in the morning, let’s rejoice again at the gifts of our life—flutter the eyelids, feel the life force, rejoice, and awaken to a new day.

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If it’s helpful for you, print this out and keep it by your bed as a colorful reminder of REJOICE!

These images came to me today via snail mail from Elle in Marin. She’s the youngest daughter of my soul sister Jodi. They bring me so much joy. Thank you Elle! Love you ❤

Stay Home Texas, Take Care All Y’all

Texas population: 29 million. Per DSHS number of coronavirus tests given to date: 427,210. That’s about 1.5 % of the population. As someone with a Masters in Public Health, I’m saying to each & every one of y’all, including myself — stay the f*^# at home. There is nothing that we need that we can’t wait a little while longer for.

Mullets are now cool! Grey hair, cool! Long nails, no nails, cool! Patio time with friends, not cool. Support local restaurants by ordering pick up, cool! Staying home, physical distancing, cool! Walks in nature, cool! Going for a walk on the beach, practicing physical distancing, cool! Being out and about without a mask, not cool. Cooking with friends on Zoom, cool! Flash mobbing Central Market, not cool. Human beings are still generally cool, and/but we need to give our species some space to work out what it needs to with this virus, and vice versa (virus versa;). This requires time, patience, care, and understanding.

stay home and yoga on be calm texas corona virus patience dilligence care yoga meditation online houston

I know this is a hard time. And, we can choose to hold the challenge of this time in the field of care, with love and compassion. And, this too shall pass.

There have been much, much, much, much more challenging experiences/times, in recent & distant history, for our species.

Enjoy the challenge of this era–enjoy the quiet, the space, the silence, the lack of stimuli. Discover what it means to sit with yourself, with anxiety, fear, joy, all the feels, and discern what feels like is “yours” and what may not be. Work gently and diligently with the mind to sit with the uncertainty. Become an innernaut, fascinated with your own energetics, the feeling of your breath as it moves through your body, the way an onion transforms in a skillet filled with olive oil, the way the birds gently fly through the air. Lie on your back, with one hand over your heart, another over your belly and feel the sacred life in and through you.

Offer patience and willingness to learn to your families, friends, neighbors, strangers, and pets. Offer those gifts to yourself. First and foremost.

Be here now.