Twenty years ago, me and five others trekked as pilgrims for a month through Europe visiting holy sites revered by the Judeo-Christian tradition. Beginning our journey with the death camp of Dachau and the hate that birthed Nazi Germany, we meandered our way through the shadows of medieval Christianity searching for those pockets of light, compassion, and resilience that dotted the landscape and lives of women and men who pushed back darkness with perpetual acts of selfless love.
For seven days we stayed with the famous ecumenical community in Central France called, Taizé and participated in their daily rhythm of prayer and work. Along with 5,000 international visitors, we gathered together three-times a day for morning, noon, and evening prayers. Called by the peeling of Church-bells that rang throughout the tiny village and over the rolling countryside, we were prompted and invited to live mindful lives; lives of kindness, lives of peace, lives of forgiveness, lives of goodwill toward all living beings. Reflecting on that profound spiritual pilgrimage, I am often drawn back to those echoing sounds of bells and chimes as sonic admonishments to live a grounded, calm, and charitable life.
In these days of pandemics, stress, fear, and the ruthless reality of the temporal, there is a faint sound resonating in the distance inviting us to a meditation of mindfulness; which Thich Nhat Hanh says in his celebrated work, The Miracle of Mindfulness, “is the miracle which [we] can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness, so that we can live each minute of life.”
The fourth week of the Lenten path is often marked by the weariness of the journey. Realities that seem bigger than one’s faith, easily overcome one’s fragile frame. The low-vibration of a mindful-way ripples through Earth’s air and water, and inspires us to be grounded, rooted, and calm so that we can turn our attention to a higher consciousness, a higher plane that bears the fruit of universal love in the minutia of everyday.
Listen closely; gongs, bowls, bells, chimes, and drums echo through the shadowlands piercing the darkness with points of light inviting you to pause, remember, ground, and meditate on living lives full of light and love.
Week Two: Yoga Pose & Meditation
YOGA POSE: PASCHIMOTTANASANA (SEATED FORWARD FOLD)
Step 1: Sit on the floor with your buttocks supported on a folded blanket and your legs straight in front of you. Press actively through your heels. Rock slightly onto your left buttock, and pull your right sitting bone away from the heel with your right hand. Repeat on the other side. Turn the top thighs in slightly and press them down into the floor. Press through your palms or finger tips on the floor beside your hips and lift the top of the sternum toward the ceiling as the top thighs descend.
Step 2: Draw the inner groins deep into the pelvis. Inhale, and keeping the front torso long, lean forward from the hip joints, not the waist. Lengthen the tailbone away from the back of your pelvis. If possible take the sides of the feet with your hands, thumbs on the soles, elbows fully extended; if this isn’t possible, loop a strap around the foot soles, and hold the strap firmly. Be sure your elbows are straight, not bent.
Watch A Demonstration of Seated Forward Bend
Step 3: When you are ready to go further, don’t forcefully pull yourself into the forward bend, whether your hands are on the feet or holding the strap. Always lengthen the front torso into the pose, keeping your head raised. If you are holding the feet, bend the elbows out to the sides and lift them away from the floor; if holding the strap, lighten your grip and walk the hands forward, keeping the arms long. The lower belly should touch the thighs first, then the upper belly, then the ribs, and the head last.
Step 4: With each inhalation, lift and lengthen the front torso just slightly; with each exhalation release a little more fully into the forward bend. In this way the torso oscillates and lengthens almost imperceptibly with the breath. Eventually you may be able to stretch the arms out beyond the feet on the floor.
Step 5: Stay in the pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. To come up, first lift the torso away from the thighs and straighten the elbows again if they are bent. Then inhale and lift the torso up by pulling the tailbone down and into the pelvis.
Step 1: Gently close your eyes and draw your attention to your body and the physical space that you are inhabiting.
Step 2: Scan your body looking for places to soften or disengage your muscles – beginning at the crown of your head; slowly making your way down, across your forehead, eyes, jaw, neckline, shoulders, torso, etc. making your way to the soles of your feet.
Step 3: Focus your attention on your breath; noticing as your belly and chest rise with each inhale and release with each exhale. As you breathe in through your nostrils, breathe out through the mouth by ever-slightly constricting your lips (e.g. like your blowing out a candle on a birthday cake). Establish this slow and rhythmic breath, deepening your breath with each inhale and lengthening your breath with each exhale.
Step 4: Now, draw your attention to the mind. We often buy into the lie that we can be in two places at once, we cannot. We can only inhabit the here and now; the gift of the present moment. Therefore, any thoughts that would seek to draw you away from the present moment, allow them to pass by. And any thought that would help facilitate your awareness of the present moment, hold onto lightly. When it no longer serves you, allow it to fade as well.
Step 5: Now with a calm body, a rhythmic breath, and a still mind, click the link below to begin listening to the sounds of the quartz crystal singing bowls. Allow the sounds to recall you to that place where you are most centered, most mindful and attentive.
Click below for the Sound Healing Recording
Step 6: To exit practice, return to natural breath and softly open your eyes. Next, take a moment to journal your experience.
Images and article by Mark Carter and originally published on March 16, 2020 on MC Photography