Every year, I celebrate Winter Solstice a little early by leading a yoga retreat the first full weekend of December! I spent this past weekend with a group of lovely yogis. We did some very long rejuvenating yoga sessions and beautiful walks on the beach. The full moon graced one of our evening yoga sessions as it peeped through the sky lights and illuminated the room. The wood stove kept us warm as we stretched, moved, breathed and celebrated life with every movement!
One retreat participant read a passage by Thich Nhat Hanh about breath. The passage made me think about how breath connects us to light (even during these short winter days), to a sense of peace, to the moment, and to a universal life force flowing within each of us:
When we take a breath, we are light, calm, at ease. We breathe in such a way that all generations of ancestors and descendants are breathing with us. Only then are we breathing according to the highest teachings. We just need a little mindfulness, a little concentration, and then we can look deeply and see. At first we can use the method of visualization to see all our ancestors making a step with us. Gradually we don’t need to visualize anymore. With each step we take, we see it is the step of all people in the past and future.
After I taught this morning’s yoga session here at Little Renaissance in Ocean Shores, Laurie led the group into a Loving Kindness Meditation. Below I include a transcript of the Loving Kindness Meditation. My teacher, Vikashananda, told us that if you have a difficult person in your life and you practice this Loving Kindness Meditation with that very person in mind for a given period of time (he suggested doing this daily for one month!), your relationship will improve greatly! I love this meditation and hope you will get a chance to practice it:
Taking your usual posture for meditation… feeling your body where it makes contact with the support beneath you, and settling in…
And when you are ready, bringing to mind someone who is easy to feel loving kindness towards… someone from the past or present, perhaps a child, or a pet… an easy, simple relationship may be best…
Allowing yourself to hold them in your awareness perhaps seeing them in your mind’s eye or perhaps feeling a sense of them in your heart… can you feel a sense of loving kindness towards them?
As you hold them in your awareness, beginning to send wishes of loving kindness to them …. Silently repeating these phrases
May you be safe
May you be happy
May you be healthy
May you live with ease
This process is repeated by calling to mind:
- someone to whom you feel neutral towards
- a person whom you dislike or someone who is very difficult to be around
- your family
- all sentient beings in your world
At the very end, call to mind yourself and say to yourself:
May I be safe
May I be happy
May I be healthy
May I live with ease
Lastly, I want to mention that on Friday evening, I cooked a Senegalese dinner! I made Mafe and Poulet Yassa (recipe links below) along with roasted yams and a great big salad. The dinner was absolutely delicious and a big hit! I wonder why I don’t cook Senegalese dishes more often? I had some Senegalese music playing and, just for the fun of it, I also wore an outfit I had made when I was in the Peace Corps. I still remember buying the beautiful fabric and going to the market to ask the tailor to make my outfit. Crazier yet, the outfit still looks brand new and fits me as if I just bought it…I had it made in 1985. Vintage Batik!
Mafe (peanut sauce and vegetables served over rice) http://ieatfood.net/2010/08/03/mafe-senegalese-groundnut-stew/
Poulet Yassa (Chicken and onions in a lemon sauce) http://www.food.com/recipe/poulet-yassa-chicken-yassa-from-africa-14936
Happy Winter Solstice!