ACIM Body Image

Flossing and Feldenkrais: One Good Habit Can Change Everything

pink backgroundNot only does flossing do the obvious and maintain the health of my gums, but it also is one of those habits that reinforces the power of good self-care.  For many years I knew I should floss my teeth, but I didn’t.

And it was discouraging that for some reason I just couldn’t manage to cultivate this healthy habit which I knew would save me from unnecessary pain and expense down the road.  The dentist told me.  My father told me (he’d learned the hard way).  I told myself.  One day I confided to my psychotherapist that when I started flossing my teeth, my whole life would change.  It sounded kinda crazy, but I knew it was true!

One day it finally happened.  I flossed.  And then the next day I flossed.  And the next.  And I’ve pretty much been flossing since.  Did my life change?  Yes, it did.  And I’m not sure which came first, the flossing or the self-discipline, but when it finally happened, several good habits fell into place.  My confidence increased.  My self-acceptance increased.  My gums stopped bleeding 🙂  My yoga practice became more regular.  I achieved a whole new level of self-love and self-care.

Flossing was a simple, ordinary thing.  The basic practicality of it appealed to me.  Being special had been important in my home and it had created too much pressure for me.  I longed to be ordinary, enjoy ordinary pleasures and feel easy with other people.  Flossing was my practical spirituality.

So where does Feldenkrais come in?  Over the years, I’ve had many back issues and tried many healing modalities including tai chi, cranio-sacral therapy, yoga, Alexander technique, rolfing, Trager, and Feldenkrais, to name a few.  I loved them all, and Feldenkrais was particularly delicious because listening to my body was really all I was asked to do.

Frania Zins, the brilliant Feldenkrais practitioner who treated me, taught me that running my tongue around each of my teeth slowly and thoroughly would release my spine.  It was extraordinary.  I would lie on her table and while I waited for her to begin, I would trace my teeth with my tongue and feel my vertebrae lengthen as my back muscles released and relaxed.

As my back improved, I happily returned to my busy life and forgot all about Feldenkrais.  Until I added oral irrigation to my dental hygiene.  One day I went for my cleaning and the oral hygienist was fresh out of school and full of enthusiasm!  I got a big smile and a dose of love while she cleaned my teeth.  We passionately discussed oral hygiene, since I had learned long ago that it was crucial for me and rarely did I have the opportunity to relish my personal advances with someone so interested.

As we talked she recommended a little-known product called “Shower Floss” that I could get at the local Ace store.  She said it was really a waterpick that you attach to a shower head and then you could spray and splash to your heart’s content without spattering your bathroom mirror!

I ran out and got me some “Shower Floss” and to my surprise, as I ran the water carefully around each and every tooth, front and back, I felt my back completely relaxing and elongating.  Never was dental care so fully pleasurable.  Flossing had actually led me to a form of “WaKrais” (I just stole that from “Watsu” which is water shiatsu–worth another essay 🙂 ).   Now I actually look forward to “flossing”!  My back is thanking me every day.

What does flossing and Feldenkrais have to do with A Course in Miracles and “How to Use the Body While You Think It’s You”?  Combining those two had to be God-given.  What an unlikely pair.  And how perfectly they fit together.  Only my willingness to take guidance from the Holy Spirit could result in such unexpected delight.  As God’s Messenger, it is my purpose for the body is to be a clear channel for receiving and transmitting His miracles.  The miracle always heals the receiver first and then emanates through her.  Try it yourself and let me know what happens for you!

* If you liked this essay, you may enjoy others in my ongoing series, How to Use the Body While You Think It’s You.

Gatita’s Metamorphosis Into The Lady

The Lady muted eyesIt has been about eight months since Gatita gently laid the body aside and emerged as The Lady.

Some hours after shedding her skin, I had the clear sense that Gatita was no longer a cat.  When I spoke with her in my mind she was now The Lady.  She had emerged from the confines of form.

The Lady has the elevated essence of Mary’s love, purity and kindness.  She is numinous, sublime and retains a feline inscrutability.

The Lady is another way of saying the Holy Spirit.

The Lady understood my great appreciation of Gatita’s form and we could mind-meld as She loved me and communicated ideas like,

“That was an exquisite form.  I understand your love for it.  You can love the Gatita I was and yet you don’t have to miss her.  When you drop your Amy form you will not miss that.  You will experience pure freedom.  And you can experience that pure freedom before you drop the form as well simply by shifting your attention from form to What Is.”

All grieving felt sweet; it was a confirmation of the love Gatita and I shared.  It didn’t feel like loss.

This grieving feels like a tribute to unconditional love.  It is confirming of the Formless.  It is liberating and tender.  It is strengthening of faith and courage.

Om Namah Shivaya.

Click here to read an earlier post on the miracle of Gatita’s passing.  And this may inspire you as well: Inexplicably Predictably Happy

“The Lady” illustration was lovingly and beautifully drawn by Harper Wood.  If you would like to commission artwork, email harper@harperwood.com

Body Health Is Not a Measurement of Spiritual Unfolding

sick teddy bearIt is a common misinterpretation of the Course to believe that body illness is an indication of giving in to the ego.*

Jesus is very clear in ACIM that the only illness is mental illness and that illness is believing we could separate from God and the guilt that perpetuates this mistaken belief.

There are places in A Course in Miracles that could be misinterpreted when read at a superficial level, but go deeper and it is clear: the only use for the body is to serve the Holy Spirit’s purpose of forgiveness. The form this takes is not for us to judge.

Physical “maladies” are of no consequence when we have peace of Mind. The body is a vessel for the Holy Spirit to send miracles through us. Miracles are mind-healing.

Mind-healing gives us peace of Mind. Taking care of the body is common sense and an outcome of Love, but simply the way we would maintenance the car or any other device we are using for a while. You are not your body. You are God’s Child, the Self.

It can seem very unfair to have an illness like COPD when, for instance, you were never a smoker.  Certainly, it could be linked to repressed emotions, but that’s only one of many possibilities. The ego’s world represents an insane thought system, so there are many reasons from an earthly point of view to account for illness. Don’t blame yourself, but do be accountable and look at your health situation with the Holy Spirit.

In my case, I was guided to do lots of work releasing deep feelings in psychotherapy. It’s a great way to open up, flow, and release hidden shame, guilt, anger, hatred, grief, aggression, etc.  It helps us come out of denial.  The work was so liberating for me, that I became a psychotherapist myself, and assisted many people in this same process.

However, as a Course student, it is missing the point if we only work on the body level.  And to use body health as a measurement of spiritual unfolding is to disregard everything Jesus is teaching us. There is so much confusion around this, I started http://facebook.com/acimbodyimage. Visit there for more on this subject.  Also, watch this video from Mooji, which points “beyond the body” (as ACIM says) to Eternal Life:  Mooji on Eternal Life

* “Giving in to the ego” is a blatant indication that we believe we have to fight the ego, which is exactly what the ego wants. That would “make the error real”– to engage with the ego is to operate as if the ego exists, when the real solution is to give our fears to the Holy Spirit. Request to recognize What you already are, and remind yourself that you could “see Peace instead of this” (the seeming problem).  Open your mind and guidance will come in a form that serves you well at this point in time in your dream — that form might even be physical illness.  Remember, as Jesus tells us over and over again in ACIM:  we don’t know anything and we cannot judge anything.

If you liked “Body Health Is Not a Measurement of Spiritual Unfolding,” you may enjoy other essays in my ongoing series, How to Use the Body While You Think It’s You, including, “The Purpose of the Body,” “How to Take Yourself Less Personally,” “Death Is Just a Belief,” and “Flossing and Feldenkrais.”   Be sure to watch Webinar #10: The Purpose of the Body on YouTube 🙂  And check out my Facebook page devoted to body issues: http://facebook.com/acimbodyimage

 

How To Find God Through Percussion

More than one student has commented on my measured reading of A Course in Miracles. They say it’s soothing, or grounding, or helps them slow down; they say the reading is unhurried and steady.  I attribute that to my dance background. I’ve always had a great love of rhythm and percussion. The melody was always secondary to the beat when it came to my enjoyment of music. Back in the days when I first started attending kirtans,* I heard someone say, “God is in the space between the notes.” Another way of putting it is, “God is in the space between the thoughts.”Is&Amy check

The ego mind uses “splitting” to keep us unaware of God. (Splitting is a psychological term that means dissociating from what’s real because it is too painful or disturbing to tolerate. A Course in Miracles explains that the ego mind uses this device of splitting and dissociating from God to believe it is autonomous–although that is impossible.)  Along with splitting comes a racing sensation. In yoga they speak of “monkey mind” which is a ceaseless chatter that keeps us unaware of God’s Stillness which is ever-present.

Many spiritual paths teach that the ego is using the past and future to keep us out of the present moment which is where God resides. The ego seduces us with guilt, fear and worry based on past experience (or even without experience– cautionary stories we’ve been told and swallowed) and projects those fears onto the future nimbly bypassing the present.

A Course in Miracles explains that the ego is actually reviewing the past, which is over and never even happened–the past is actually a delusional state of mind. That’s a juicy subject for another day. For now, suffice it to say, speeding up is a ploy for keeping us from our natural Stillness.

We each have an internal rhythm of our own. My Sufi teachers, Puran and Susanna Bair, say the heart is our signature rhythm, akin to our fingerprint–wholly unique to each of us. When we are able to slow down and focus on ourselves internally, we discover our signature rhythm. Once we’ve done this, we can honor our rhythm by connecting our voice and our breath and our movement to our organic flow.

The more we are loyal and true to our own flow, the calmer life gets. Phones and cars and cyberspace can zip and zoom around and we can remain unshaken. This provides the opening to recognize Spirit.

22178_1229352977280_1332755229_30579231_4122325_nAs a yoga teacher, I find this important because it keeps students centered and calm, and keeps the practice balanced as we hold a pose on the right side of the body, and then switch to the left. Many yoga teachers hurry a little and the second side gets short shrift.

Puran Bair taught me to have more impact on the world than the world has on me. He demonstrated the potential in this when he participated in an experiment where he placed his arm in ice while being monitored on medical equipment. Normally the body rejects the arm to save its life. Puran connected with his heart and mindfully sent warmth to his arm–eventually he melted the ice. Pretty impressive. But more important than this sort of feat is the practical application in everyday life of remaining connected with our own internal rhythm so we can be open receptors for God’s Stillness.

Many people believe that God’s Stillness is boring. And that it means doing nothing. But think about it–isn’t music riveting in the moment when all sound stops–just before it kicks in again? Don’t we hold our breath with pleasurable anticipation during that musical pause? Stillness is the Absolute–absolute Peace, Love and Joy … Unified Oneness. As long as we believe we are human, we can choose to apply the wisdom of rhythm to experience the space between the notes.

Musicians might experience this as a unified oneness while they jam. Dancers feel a seamless communion as they dance with a partner, a group, or God Itself, whether the movement is improvisational or choreographed. When doing the Sufi turn (the dance Rumi discovered to heal himself of a broken heart from losing his spiritual teacher, Shams), I feel the Oneness and the Joy of Cosmic Self. Union is natural and reveals itself between the beats–we become One with the Universal Heart.

A Course in Miracles tells me I can change my mind and experience a shift in perception called a “miracle.” One way of making this happen is, like any good percussionist, plugging in to a solid pulse and holding that beat no matter how many other sounds and distractions are around me. I practice this until I can stay the course, hold the rhythm, become constant. In this way I become an open conduit for God’s Rhythm. When that happens, I recognize what I’ve always been–the Source of percussion Itself. zmarmay2013_506_w435_h580

*In Sanskrit, “kirtan” means “to repeat” and is used in devotional services. Live musicians play the harmonium, tamboura and other instruments, and lead chants or mantras (repetition of sacred sounds to facilitate direct connection with God–Om Namah Shivaya is a classic) in a call and response format. Krishna Das is a well-known contemporary Westerner who has embraced this genre, performs regularly, and has recorded many CDs.  ACIM Lesson 183. “I call upon God’s Name and on my own” in the reading below, expresses something similar.

Copyright © 2011 Amy Torres.  All rights reserved worldwide. 

Amy Torres is an established spiritual teacher, as well as a Gestalt psychotherapist, interfaith minister, and yoga instructor. A Course in Miracles is the foundation of all her work.  To contact her, call 212-340-1201 or email: miracles@amytorresacim.com

A Course in Miracles and Yoga

J meditatingA Course in Miracles offers us a highly individualized curriculum where we use the body as a learning device under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Yoga is one of the classrooms the Holy Spirit offers me, to use my body for spiritual purposes. ACIM provides a mind-training; therefore, all of its practices are in thought-form, or ideas. This can be challenging, since the body demands our attention all day long. Yoga offers a body-based sadhana, or spiritual practice, using the body and breath to reconnect with God’s Mind. This way, instead of letting the body run the show, we have concrete techniques so that the body serves the Mind.

“The body, valueless and hardly worth the least defense, need merely be perceived as quite apart from you, and it becomes a healthy, serviceable instrument through which the mind can operate until its usefulness is over.” W-135.

Most of us think of yoga as a physical practice, but the physical movements or asanas, known as hatha yoga, is but one of five yoga systems.  (Hindu philosophy speaks of hatha yoga, raja yoga, bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, and karma yoga. Each of these systems can be used autonomously to realize God, or they can be used in combination.)

Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj” which means “to yoke” or “join” as in union with our brothers and communion with God.  Swami Satchidananda defines yoga as “the science of mind” and explains that “the mind is a veil woven with thoughts.”  Yoga is a system that helps us harness the mind, because as long as the ego mind gives us the runaround, we’ll remain unaware of the One Mind in which we all truly live.

Hatha Yoga
SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAHatha yoga is the physical movement of yoga, the asanas, or postures. The Rishis of five thousand years ago inadvertently “invented” hatha yoga when they surfaced from deep meditation and felt stiff. The stretching they did to limber up was based on what they saw around them in nature: they mimicked animals, mountains, and trees to loosen up and invigorate the body. Nowadays, hatha yoga is used as preparation for meditation. It can also be seen as a moving meditation in itself. When the movements are linked to the breath, and smooth transitions melt one pose into the next, the mind is smoothed also. By relaxing and strengthening the body, we calm the mind and are more able to harness our thoughts and concentrate, which leads to meditation.

ACIM is not strict about a formal ongoing meditation practice. “Nor is a lifetime of contemplation and long periods of meditation aimed at detachment from the body necessary. All such attempts will ultimately succeed because of their purpose. Yet the means are tedious and very time consuming, for all of them look to the future for release from a state of present unworthiness and inadequacy.” T-18.VII.4:9-11. Yoga is an unhurried, ancient practice based, to some extent, on an accumulation of good karma. It takes time to balance chakras, activate kundalini energy, and transcend the sheaths of the koshas.2 The Course is a refreshing counterbalance to yoga in this way: ACIM promises us over and over again that it will save us time. It provides a structured practice of meditation in the Workbook Lessons, but after that, we are on our own, listening to our Inner Teacher and using the Holy Instant to connect with Universal Mind as often as possible, and in our own way.

Bhakti Yoga
gopis n krishnaBhakti yoga is a path of selfless devotion to God. Krishna’s gopis exemplified bhakti yoga. Gopi mean “cow- herding girl.” The story goes that when Krishna played his flute, gopi women dropped what they were doing, whether it was cooking, tending to the cows, or washing clothes. Everything would be left in the middle and the gopis would abandon their families to dance ecstatically around Krishna as he seduced them with his flute. At night, Krishna would visit every gopi, in a unique form just for her, and make love to her. Bhakti yoga has a quality of unreserved love and passion for God, a full faith that recognizes that God comes first above all others.

Mirabai, the thirteenth century mystic poet, valued her spiritual marriage to Krishna over her family’s arranged marriage for her. She spurned convention, surrendered entirely to her passion for Lord Krishna, and experienced Love alternately through knowing It, and yearning for It.

A Course in Miracles asks us for the same level of devotion. Lesson 157.5, “Into His Presence would I enter now” expresses it this way, “From this day forth, your ministry takes on a genuine devotion, and a glow that travels from your fingertips to those you touch, and blesses those you look upon.”

Jnana Yoga
acim book coverJnana yoga uses the study of scripture as a means to comprehend our true Self. What starts out as an intellectual pursuit deepens into a felt experience. Jnana uses inquiry to uncover meaning beneath meaning beyond meaning until the Self is revealed. The great sage and realized master Ramana Maharshi taught through the question, “Who am I?” This question, aimed at everything, takes us back to the Witness, the Observer, the Decision-Maker (in Ken Wapnick’s parlance). “It undoes the veils that the ego has interposed between its little slice of mind and its Source.

Jnana yoga helps us return to the decision-making part of our mind by stripping away the false self, layer by layer. “This single purpose creates perfect integration and establishes the peace of God.” T-3.II.5:6. Ultimately, the Course tells us to “Forget this world, forget this course, and come with wholly empty hands unto your God.” W-189; but, until we reach that point, immersing ourselves in scripture can be the royal road Home. Rather than be lost in the ego’s unconscious, we saturate ourselves in the Holy Spirit’s teachings.

Karma Yoga
happy crowdKarma yoga is the yoga of taking action in the world through selfless service. It is a pure practice of brotherhood. It is the natural expression of the miracle, seeing Christ in everyone indiscriminately.  It is the application of the Course concept of “generalization,” which, essentially, recognizes that all actions should be equally loving toward all people, places and things, because we are all the same. “You will recognize that you have learned there is no order of difficulty in miracles when you apply them to all situations. There is no situation to which miracles do not apply, and by applying them to all situations, you will gain the real world.” T-12.VII.1:3-4.  And the way to do this is to see Christ in each other.

Raja Yoga
Patanjali, the sage who compiled the Yoga Sutras, lays out the path of raja yoga. Raja means royal and is considered a complete system. Its goal is to improve our concentration so we can move all our attention toward our Being in order to become that Being. Raja yoga is also called ashtanga yoga because of the eight limbs on which the system rests:

crown_chakra_poster-r31596d0ab74c4af2819dd4bc933ed9ef_w2q_525They are 1) Yamas, outward morality, consisting of non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing, self- discipline and non-coveting 2) Niyamas, inner ethics, consisting of cleanliness, contentment, purification of body, mind and nervous system, study of metaphysical principles and self-examination, contemplation of God 3) Postures, or asanas 4) Control of breath and life currents, or pranayama 5) Withdrawal of the senses in order to turn within, or pratyahara 6) Concentration, or dharana 7) Meditation, or dhyana: prolonged periods of concentration which becomes contemplation and 8) Holy Trance, or samadhi, what the Course would call revelation, a direct experience of God.

As the Course says in the Clarification of Terms, “A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary.” ACIM also has a curriculum, and uses a text, workbook, and manual for teachers as its “limbs,” which, when used vigilantly, integrate its teachings and deepen our learning. The ACIM curriculum is not aimed at teaching Love or samadhi because that is beyond what can be taught and is naturally revealed as we remove the blocks to the awareness of Love’s presence.

The Yoga of ACIM
Though I was introduced to yoga first, along the way it became clear to me that ACIM is my path. The lack of ceremony and ritual, the lack of deities and complicated practices, suits me. I have a gypsy nature, which finds the “no baggage” dancing girl via bettina casimir clarkstyle of the Holy Spirit alluring. Still, it comes naturally for me to practice ACIM hatha yoga, where I find my mind often goes pleasantly blank and I spontaneously experience the peace of God. And ACIM bhakti yoga emerged effortlessly too, as it became natural to devote the fruits of my practice to God. ACIM jnana yoga is the pleasure of reading and re-reading the Course, experiencing a deeper and deeper understanding as I do, as well as cultivating the relationship with my guru, my inner teacher, the Holy Spirit. ACIM raja yoga is applying the practices, the Workbook lessons, and allowing the Course to work through me as an integrated whole. ACIM karma yoga is seeing Christ in my brother.

lotus headstandIt’s fun to reverse my upside-down perception simply by doing a headstand, and to evoke the holy instant by chanting “aum.” It’s fun “to let my words be chosen for me by ceasing to decide for myself what I’m going to say” (paraphrased from M-21). Recently, I heard myself giving a guided meditation to my yoga class during savasana inviting them to contact a glowing light within them that is always there, allowing it to permeate their bodies and then extend, radiating Its light through them, so that their very presence was a source of healing to all they came in contact with the rest of the day. “The light is in you,” I said, not realizing it was a line from Chapter 18, channeling straight through me. “You need do nothing except not to interfere,” I continued, transmitting Chapter 16 from the True Empathy section. The Light flowed through me on Its way to them.

In concluding, I say to you, “Namaste. The divine Light in me bows to the divine Light in you” or, in ACIM– speak, “You are one Self with me, united with our Creator in this Self. I honor you because of What I am, and What He is, Who loves us both as One.” Lesson 95.15:3.

———————————————
1 These are five well-known yogic systems. Kundalini yoga, tantric yoga, and kriya yoga are also frequently studied and applied, and the list goes on.

2 Yoga is a vast subject and there are countless books and online resources to explore karma, the chakras, kundalini energy and the koshas, as
well as many other esoteric topics, if you are so inclined. David Hoffmeister has an interesting chart in his book, Awakening Through A Course in Miracles, that maps the ego mind and the layers are remarkably similar to the koshas.

 

Copyright 2009 Amy Torres. All rights reserved worldwide.

Naked Honesty is Required