I hope your Thanksgiving holiday with all your beloved was filled with goodness! It was truly a day of love and blessing in my home with my family and friends; I am one grateful human!
And yet I must also address what continues to weigh heavy on my & many hearts... the struggle at Standing Rock! Native Americans are standing up for the sacredness of the land & water for all of us. Risking themselves each day. What is happening is tragic!
We will gather this week in community to uplift those at Standing Rock, to remember the essence of who we are, from where we came & how we can stand up & show our support and solidarity for our brothers and sisters who are fighting the great fight. Draw strength from the words of Mark Gonzales:
"Look up. Look around. Listen. See and hear the echoes of your wounds and dreams all around you. Know that you are never alone as you think. We may even be in the majority. Each point of connection with another transforms them from stranger into ally in the healing process.
If you read this and still feel abandoned, walk with your head held high knowing there are generations of ancestors inside you. We will survive this era as we did the eras before: using the skills we have, inventing the ones we need.
On those days when the spine or the soul becomes tired, imagine all of humanity whispering a twelve word prayer inside your ear, "we are not the children or the descendants of a weak people."
Hopefully this gives you inspiration & strength to move into a December which is almost upon us. At EmbodyGR we will be living fully each remaining day of 2016, ending with a flourish. So much yoga, meditation song & dance, lots of volunteer & service opportunities and ways to connect in community! Let's dedicate ourselves to our practices, our mantra of "feel better do good" and to living each day fully!
Please, please, please show up Wednesday! We need you! The world needs you now more than ever! And Don Brooks will be playing special music for us :)
November 30, 2016
**We have child care! Aubrey is back! Sign up on-line.
Who: YOU and friends
What: EmbodyGR FREE yoga, meditation & service opportunities with Well House brought to us by guest Audrey Chapman
Where: Fountain Street Church Social Hall
When: Wed. Nov 30, 2016- 6:30-8:00pm
Why: To uplift Standing Rock & celebrate "H20 is life"
November 30- Heartside Ministry Christmas Decorating Party- 1-3:00 FREE
December 1- Standing Rock Global Day of Action- Rosa Parks Circle 3-6:00 pm FREE
December 3- Well House Orientation 11-12:30 FREE
December 21- EmbodyGR Solstice Celebration with special guest musician Carolyn Koebel
December 28- NO EmbodyGR
January 20-21- Women's March On Washington- cost $150 chartered bus through FSC March DC
As we say goodbye to November and reflect on all that has unfolded between napkins, stuffing, politics, and turkey I am left with gratitude.
This month at HQ brought conversations about abundance, gratitude and the most prominent theme among the HQ youth RESPECT. Before each gathering I have chosen a topic to discuss before we practice pranayama and meditation. A simple invitation for them to share their thoughts, desires and beliefs with me and their peers. It has been an enlightening time for me as my heart has been incredibly moved by their honesty and vulnerability. Some are willing to try anything, and some nothing at all... but either way we sit together and share each other's space. Even this is the practice of Yoga.
Every Wednesday as I walk through the doors of HQ I make my way usually to the music corner, as music continues to be the doorway in which to reach them. I feel fortunate for this door and all it has served to build trust and relationships. They love to sing and play guitar and piano or simply just jam out to their phone, but most of all they love being HEARD. After I listen I ask if they want to join me in meditation and breathing. More often than not, they are willing and sometimes even eager."
As always, thank you for being you!
Tribe of love and peace,
Gratitude fills my heart for YOU- your goodness in my life, your presence at EmbodyGR, your heart & hands that make GR better, and your light in our world.
The words below from the Iroquois tribe are my gift to each of you this holiday; one that my family and I hold dear & read at our table every Thanksgiving. Now more than ever our mother earth needs to be remembered as the source of all life on earth and revered as sacred- just like each of you...precious & sacred. May our circle of care not only protect & care for our brothers & sisters on earth, but also our great mother as she continues to provide blessings for us all.
Deepest gratitude, dana
The Iroquois Thanksgiving Address~
"Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as people.
We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time.
We give thanks to all the Waters of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength. Water is life.
As far as the eye can see, the Plants grow, working many wonders. They sustain many life forms. We give thanks and look forward to seeing Plant life for many generations to come.
We send greetings and thanks to all the Animal life in the world. They have many things to teach us. We are honored by them when they give up their lives so we may use their bodies as food for our people. We see them near our homes and in the deep forests. We are glad they are still here and we hope that it will always be so.
We are all thankful to the powers we know as the Four Winds. We hear their voices in the moving air as they refresh us and purify the air we breathe. They help us to bring the change of seasons. From the four directions they come, bringing us messages and giving us strength.
We now send greetings and thanks to our eldest Brother, the Sun. Each day without fail he travels the sky from east to west, bringing the light of a new day. He is the source of all the fires of life.
We give thanks to our oldest Grandmother, the Moon, who lights the night-time sky. She is the leader of woman all over the world, and she governs the movement of the ocean tides. By her changing face we measure time, and it is the Moon who watches over the arrival of children here on Earth.
We give thanks to the Stars who are spread across the sky like jewelry. We see them in the night, helping the Moon to light the darkness and bringing dew to the gardens and growing things. When we travel at night, they guide us home.
Â We gather our minds to greet and thank the enlightened Teachers who have come to help throughout the ages. When we forget how to live in harmony, they remind us of the way we were instructed to live as people.
Now we turn our thoughts to the gifts of Creation. Everything we need to live a good life is here on this Mother Earth. For all the love that is still around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greetings and thanks to Great Spirit.
Now our minds are one.
Division Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids is like entering a new world to many.
Life as a homeless or housing unstable human is one most steer away from, often without trying to help or even understand.
In a city that is gentrifying at a rapid rate, homelessness is generally a problem to be managed, not understood & healed.
At Heartside Ministry, EmbodyGR's Here To Be outreach community partner, this is not the case. Each individual is seen as a human being worthy of dignity & respect. The negative language of "homeless", "bum", "street person", is replaced with the word "neighbor."
Entering Heartside Ministry is entering an oasis of peace from the chaos of the streets. It is a place to belong. Artwork and photos of the neighbors adorn the walls within, instantly giving one a sense of welcome.
Friendly faces greet you, warm coffee beckons, and art abounds- painting, drawing, pottery, woodworking, and fiber arts. Neighbors can access the computer room to check email or work on resumes, access clean needles & safe sex supplies through Clean Works, sing, play in a band, get nutritional counseling, attend a motivational group, even get a GED. And now, with EmbodyGR’s partnership, yoga and meditation are part of the weekly experience.
I am thrilled to be part of Heartside, making life a little happier and healthier for those who struggle day to day.
Yoga and meditation are transformational, life enhancing tools for all people regardless of housing status.
But I have discovered that simply walking through the door and hanging up a sign does not mean someone will immediately feel comfortable with what I am offering. They do not know me well nor do they really trust me...yet. To get people into a "pose" or to explore their breath, or learn "meditation," I must earn both respect and trust. This is at the heart of my work, which is only possible by taking the long game approach. One of the main rules is to show up each and every week, in integrity, to build trust & confidence that I will continue to come back, week after week, as I promise. Consistency has been and will continue to be a key component to building a yoga and meditation community at Heartside that is understood to be safe and welcoming without judgement or expectation. Every week these relationships are being built one cup of coffee, one conversation, one breath, one pose at a time. And thanks to the generosity of lululemon, EmbodyGR is Here To Be in the Heartside for one full year!
These first four weeks at Heartside Ministry have been informative, challenging, and inspiring. I learned that coffee is more important than just about anything to the neighbors. And this is one thing that instantly bonds us...love of java! First thing Monday morning, we grab a cup of coffee, take a seat, and then, just maybe, they are willing to talk. I have found offering a simple smile, a gentle hello & good morning, along with a little "it's nice to see you" opens the door of possibility. It is from there where we must begin. Looking eye to eye, they try to read me, to understand why I am there in the first place, and perhaps look for reasons not to trust me. I gaze kindly back at them, seeing only their humanity, offering love and acceptance.
Day 1: My first conversation was with a man who immediately approached me asking "Are you the Consumer's Energy lady?" Ha.. I responded. "No, I'm Dana, a yoga & meditation teacher." He shook his head as he walked away saying, "I am more into pilates." End of conversation. Ouch. Okay. I said, “nice to meet you” to his back, yet I am quite certain we will talk again.
I have always known yoga "isn't about the pose" and my first month at Heartside has been revolutionary in a new understanding. I have come to see that to even consider getting to the pose, a relational foundation of trust must be built between me and the neighbors. Week by week we are getting there...drinking coffee, learning names, hearing stories, laughing, and working to build trust. We have been able to hold space in a circle, create personal intentions, breathe collectively, and move slowly and simply doing chair yoga. We have been able to share both our joys and our struggles. We have shared our eyes, our hearts, and connected our humanity. From that place I believe it is possible to feel safe enough to begin a journey together of healing, growth and transformation. Yoga and meditation are the tools we are beginning to explore that offer a sense of happiness, peace and the possibility of hope that life can change for the better! I am grateful. I am honored. I am humbled to do this beautifully challenging work.
All love and goodness,
Last week our world changed. And I was out of town, away from my family, away from y'all at EmbodyGR, & away from the community in which we live. It was difficult for so many reasons. Luckily I was surrounded by a group of change makers in the yoga service world who work tirelessly & beautifully for the betterment of our planet for all humans. We each in our own way coped with the news- we cried, we experienced frustration, anger, fear, even shut down... and yet we also intentionally chose to breathe deeply, to meditate, practice, & journal while continually calling on the power of love as a tribe. In all that rawness, realness, and love, I found myself able to soften enough to exhale.' Step on my mat. Breathe in deeply, exhale completely. Repeat.' That has been my loop... And thankfully I was also able to draw solace from across the country knowing you all were holding space & practicing Wednesday night in GR during my absence under Peri's sweet presence of light. Deep bow of gratitude to Peri!
A teacher of mine recently said,"So yoga teachers, please let your hearts break open. Don’t bypass your own fear and pain because you feel you have to be strong for others. Stand with your students in their pain, anger, confusion, numbness, optimism and hope. You don’t have to find a silver lining right now, you don’t have to tie a pretty ribbon around this, just be. It’s uncomfortable, it’s hard, and we’re in it together."
In that I find peace. I find courage. I find healing. I draw comfort knowing we're in it together. I stand with each of you.
So as we move forward into our unknown future, let us know we are not alone. Let us embrace these times as important ones which beg us to heal, to listen, to become informed, and then to act. Not until we are ready, but also not allowing too much time pass. We have work to do. We are build for this work. And never before has our mantra been so important to us all... "Feel better, do good." Do that and I will too.
Please join us this Wednesday to be community. NOTE TIME CHANGE & LOCATION WITHIN FOUNTAIN STREET: We will begin at 6:00 in the FSC sanctuary for the speaker & 7-8:00 in the social hall for our community potluck. You can drop off your dish early so you don't have to bring it into the sanctuary :) Please join our circle of care! Cannot wait to see YOU!
In love and solidarity,
“The EmbodyGR community embraces and supports, says ‘yes you can’ when the noisy inner voice says, ‘no you can’t’ – Kari Wilson, Community Member