#GratitudeProject2017

Lammas FB CoverA very Blessed Lammas to all! May your harvest be bountiful, nourishing, and joyful. May your cupboards overflow with the blessings of this season, your heart overflow with love, and may magick find you, wherever you are!

Today begins the annual Gratitude Project.  I plan to add my entries to this blog post so they are all in one place.

The Gratitude Project:Many, many moons ago, over on livejournal, a Harvest tradition was started by Estara T’shirai. That tradition has since taken on a life of its own, growing beyond her circle of friends, past LiveJournal and even beyond the Pagan community.The Gratitude Project runs from Lammas/Lughnassadh (August 1) to Mabon/Fall Equinox (Sept 22) and you find something to be grateful for each day between those dates. No repeats – you can be grateful for your spouse/kids/job/friends, but the reason for the gratitude needs to be different for each entry.Please join me 🙂 And no self-punishing if you miss a day. Life happens. Just pick the ball back up and keep bouncing it 🙂 In this seasons of abundance, of harvest, the important part is to cultivate gratitude! 💚🌻🌽

GP Day 1: Today, I am grateful for the wonders of modern medicine. Last night, I woke from a nightmare into a wave of pain. There is something particularly miserable about migraines in the middle of the night. It is a remarkable thing that a little tiny pill can dial the pain down to the point that I can sleep. Feeling that wave slowly recede, and being able to slip back into slumber, was amazing. I am grateful for modern medicine. #GratitudeProject2017

kittenGP Day 2: I wasn’t going to get a kitten. I’m around available ones pretty regularly – I teach Yoga with Cats, I have the local animal shelters on my Facebook feed, friends regularly share kittens looking for homes….I even went and played at the Kitten Corral at the Berkeley Springs cat cafe. And I was fine.

But then a friend dropped me a line. Some jerk human dropped a litter at their mountain property. They sent me this photo. And I just knew.

Today, I am grateful for the excitement of adoption. I am looking forward to meeting a new member of my family. And I’m even grateful that the Gods routinely laugh at my plans and introduce unplanned-for variables.

I suppose, as someone in service to a deity associated with cats, I shouldn’t be surprised. Lol

#GratitudeProject2017

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Beginning Pagan Practices

Learn the basics of Pagan spiritual practices with Frederick CUUPS Co-Chair Irene Glasse. Build a strong philosophical foundation, develop your spiritual connection, learn common beliefs and practices and deepen your journey into Pagan faith. This is a beginner’s course and everyone is welcome. The course can be taken as a whole with homework, feedback and personalized guidance or as drop-in sessions. Each class includes a lecture portion, open Q&A, practical application exercises, and a handout.

Cost of course:
Full course with homework and feedback: recommended donation of $120.
Drop-in sessions: recommended donation of $10 per session.

The Course:

March 14th: What is Paganism?
March 28th: Crafting the Pagan Soul
April 11th: Energy & Energy Work
April 25th: Powers That Be
May 9th: Tools of the Trade
May 23rd: Spells and Rituals
June 13th: Pagan Crafting
June 27th: Defensive and Protective Magick
July 11th: Divination
July 25th: Self-Initiation Ritual for those who wish to participate

To sign up for the full course with homework, visit http://www.frederickuu.org/ase/register.php

 

Deepening Pagan Practices

Expand your Earth-Centered Spiritual Practices with Frederick CUUPS Co-Chair Irene Glasse. Focused on aspects of Paganism that are challenging to learn from books or online sources, this 8-session class series will help you advance your spiritual practice. This is an intermediate course: a basic familiarity with Pagan practices and beliefs is recommended. Each session includes a lecture portion, open Q&A, practical application exercises, and a handout. The classes can be taken individually or as a full course.

This series meets the 2nd and 4th Sundays (with one exception) of the month, April through July, from 1 to 3 pm, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick. Each class costs $10. Full list of class titles with dates below:

Sunday, April 10th: Cultivating Connection

Sunday, April 24th: Raising, Sustaining and Directing Energy

Sunday, May 8th: Speaking the Sacred

Sunday, May 29th: Daily Practices for Living the Path

Sunday, June 12th: Creating Meaningful Spells and Rituals

Sunday, June 26th: Witchcraft in the World

Sunday, July 10th: Pagan Songs and Chants

Sunday, July 24th: Where to go from here

Online registration is available here. You can also sign up in the Adult Spiritual Enrichment binder at the UUCF.

The Love of Thousands

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When my students are in savasana, I pray.  I sit cross-legged on my mat, hands open to face the sky, eyes closed, the sweet, restful peace that comes after practice filling the room.  I pray for my ancestors in that space.  In my mind, I hold them in the light.  I imagine a sunlit space, bright and brilliant, and I see them all there.  Uncle Len, Granny Penny, Daddy Don, Granny Millie, Grandpa Fritz, an Ancestral guide I call Laurel (it is the name she chose – I have no idea if it was her name in life), and then behind them…shadows.  The wise, holy and redeemed ancestors whose faces and names I do not know, but to whom I owe my very life.  I hold them all in the light, the faces I can see and the ones I can’t.

The ones I could not see until this morning.

My beloved sister bought me a genetic test from Ancestry.  The way it works is you send in a DNA sample, they analyze it, and then they send you a breakdown of your heritage.  Mine arrived last night.  I am mostly what I expected to be – Irish, Scottish, Welsh, French…these countries I knew.  The region I did not expect was Western Europe – Slavic countries.  8% of my blood hails from the Bulgaria/Romania/Ukraine part of the world.

That little piece of information changed how I think about myself.  I realized this morning that part of the story we tell ourselves about who we are includes where our family comes from.  I’ve always said ‘I’m a Heinz 57 of Northern Europe.’  That’s still mostly true.  Mostly.  But now there’s more to the story.

This morning I was turning this new piece of my story over in my mind as I settled in to pray.  I closed my eyes and saw my sunlit clearing.  I welcomed my beloved, known ancestors in.  And then I said ‘I welcome my Slavic family,’ and my mind was filled with a splash of color – reds, browns, oranges, dark hair, smiling eyes. In an instant, they stood before me.  This bright, colorful gathering of family I had not been able to imagine before today. ‘I welcome my Irish family,’ and before me stood my red-haired ancestors, green-eyed and fair as I am, freckled and laughing.  ‘I welcome my Scottish ancestors,’ and they were there, darker of mien and more somber, proud and strong and brave.  I welcomed my Welsh family, my French, my German family…each call brought to mind more and more spirits, fully envisaged and vibrant with spirit.

I found that my sunlit clearing was full, not with shadows, but with an immense army of bright colors, movement, life.  And as I gazed upon that huge gathering, the thought hit home.

THIS is my family.  This huge gathering of people…they’re mine.

And I’m theirs.  I belong to them.  I am of them.  And a part of me that didn’t quite know where I fit before suddenly understood.  I suddenly got it.  Sitting in a circle of my ancestors, I finally felt the truth of it.  I am the product of the love of thousands.

I am loved by thousands.

“Pray for your ancestors.  Because they’re definitely praying for you,”  I heard Orion’s voice say in my head.

They are.  The tide does not only flow one way.

And so I prayed.  That they should be at peace.  That they are loved.  That they know their lives mattered, and had value.  That I carry them with me, always.  That I am grateful beyond words for their lives, and for my own.  I looked upon the vast gathering of my family, and I prayed.  And they smiled at me, and I felt I could have drowned in so much love.  So much brightness.

I had to pull myself back from the edge of tears so I could bring my students back from their own meditations.

I have felt them with me all day, my family.  The spirits that have always been with me, part of me, that until today I could not see clearly.  I have more aunts and uncles than I could count.  More grandmothers than anyone could ever need.  Their wisdom and life beat with my heart, their voices sound in the soft wave of my breath, and their bright spirits shine in my eyes.

Welcome home, my beloved blood.  And welcome home, Irene.

We are the love of thousands.

 

 

A Year in the Life

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In late 2014, I hit the reboot button on my life.  I ended a marriage that had become toxic, a lifestyle that was completely counter to my values, and quite a few friendships that were unhealthy, or were based on an illusion and my ability to maintain said illusion without screaming or jumping off a cliff.

I’ve now spent an entire calendar year living this new life–starting over from scratch, and building my world in a way that fits my soul.  Some of you who know me personally are aware of the fact that I view my existence as a grand experiment, with me as the guinea pig.  I try things.  When I find things that work, I tell people about them.  A lot of the things I try, I learn about from you–it’s only fair that I share my toys, too 🙂

So, here are things that are working for me.  ‘For me’ is important–this list might not work for you.  But maybe you’ll see some things you’d like to try.  Or maybe you’ll understand your weirdo friends better by reading it.  Or maybe you’ll have another thing to add to the ‘why Irene is a nutter butter bar’ list.  Good times, either way.

  1. Go small.
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    Okay, maybe not THAT small.

    I downsized from a five bedroom, three floor house that was beautiful but ultimately made me miserable.  I now live in a two bedroom apartment that I absolutely love.  I can deep clean it (like pull all the furniture away from the walls, Marine Corps Field Day clean it) in two hours.  A tidying up takes 45 minutes or less.  It’s amazing.  The reduced stress of not having to care for and maintain that much house is beyond price.  I hadn’t realized just how bad that was until I got away from it.  Small is freeing.  Seriously.

  2. Declutter.  This ties into the first one.  If you’re going to live in a smaller space, start by getting rid of all the useless crap you’ve accumulated.  Even if you don’t plan to downsize your domicile, get rid of your useless crap.  Obviously this doesn’t apply to disorders like hoarding, but for most of us, clearing space is psychologically good medicine.  It frees up energy in our homes, puts us back in control of the consumption cycle, and means that Great Aunt Bertha’s hideous tea set is no longer hiding in wait, hoping for an unsuspecting houseguest to open the cabinet.  506b3078d9127e30da001763-_w-540_h-600_s-fit_Start with your closet.  Most of us wear the same 8 to 10 outfits over and over again because we like them.  Turn all your hangers the wrong way out (like in the photo).  In three months, the clothes you still haven’t worn will be obvious.  Give them away.Want to keep going?  Start in one corner of one room.  Look at your possessions.  If you do not love it and use it, chuck it into the center of the room.  That’s the give-away/yard sale pile.  If an object belongs elsewhere, make a second stack for ‘will return to proper home later.’
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    Well, they’re either cleaning or creating Modern Art…

    Then from that corner, move in one direction along the wall, cleaning and purging as you go.  If you are holding onto something out of guilt, let it go.  If you are holding onto something because of the memory attached to it (but not because you love it or use it), let it go.  The thing is not the memory.  The memory is yours forever.  The thing is just a thing.  Finish that room.  Start on the next.  Keep going.  I made over $600 from my yard sale.  And I don’t miss a single thing I got rid of.

  3. Don’t buy stupid shit.  This is tough.  There’s a constant push by our culture to purchase things.  Decorations. Organizers.  The new clothes for the new season.  Knickknacks, nerdy bric-a-brac, stationary supplies, kitchen gadgets….  Just stop.  If you are standing in Target, holding a super-cool-but-will-ultimately-end-up-collecting-dust-on-a-shelf Star Wars lightsaber/letter opener/can opener, PUT IT DOWN.  Walk away.
    gifts-to-avoid-this-season

    But how else am I supposed to celebrate Take Your Watermelon To Work Day?

    The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to envision that object’s place in your life in 6 months.  In a year.  In two.  I’m corvid – I love shiny things.  But you know what?  I don’t wear jewelry.  So every time I pick up yet another set of super-cute dangly earrings, I try to imagine them fitting into my life.  And promptly realize that the only life they’ll see is the inside of my jewelry box.  So I put them down.  The same goes for clothing.  With kitchen gadgets, if it won’t save you a metric fuckload of time, put it back.  There are lots of cute gadgets, but most of them aren’t actually helping enough to justify the space they take up in your cupboard or checking account.

  4. Buy experiences instead.  Go to the museum.  Walk in the park.  Rent a bike and ride around town.
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    What do you mean there’s no wi-fi here?

    Start saving the money you’re not spending on impulse purchases toward a trip you want to take.  And focus on microadventures if big-ticket trips just don’t fit your financial situation.  Microadventures are trips within driving distance (say 4 hours).  I love these, and take lots of them.  The memories are far more valuable to me than yet another booster pack of MTG cards would be.

  5. Declutter your schedule.  One of the aspects of the life I blew up was a constant state of busyness.  Some months are still hard, but most months out of the year I have at least one weekend, often two, where I have nothing planned.  And I’m careful to keep that weekend open.  Just because there’s a blank space on the calendar doesn’t mean you need to fill it with something.    This allows you to…
  6. Cultivate spontaneity.  Let go of your plan.  I think we’ve all figured out by now that the Gods just laugh at plans, anyway, right?  So let it go.  Elect not to adult in favor of going to a trampoline park or botanical garden.  Stay home and color.
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    Can someone give me a push?

    Build a blanket fort.  Allow those little nudges to spread their wings.  You don’t lose anything by letting go of the plan.  So you didn’t get groceries that exact day.  So what?  You’ll just get them tomorrow, and not having them means you get to have pancakes for dinner after going to the zoo for the day.  Everyone wins.

  7. Kill the screens.  This one is hard, but incredibly rewarding.  No devices after dinner.  Nothing with a screen.  Put your phone away, don’t touch the computer, do not turn on the television.  Sit and talk with the person you love.  Take a walk.  Read.  Play an analog game.  I also couple this with low or no electric light.  We eat dinner by candlelight (also no screens allowed) and after that we keep the lights low.  It’s tough at first, but you’ll find the quality of your off-time increases dramatically.
  8. No media in the bedroom.  This is also tough but awesome.  No devices, and no books/magazines/other distractions.  Your bedroom is for sleep and sex, and that is all.
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    Less reading.  More rumpus.

    Believe me, you’ll come up with ways to amuse yourselves if there aren’t books in the bedroom, and those ways are a good deal more fun (and healthier for you) than yet another re-read of Good Omens.  I do, of course, make an exception for illness and injury.  Nothing like the flu to inspire a binge-watch of West Wing.  But for everyday?  Read in the living room.  Then go to bed to actually go to bed.  Or…you know…pursue bed-themed activities.

  9. Set an intention every monthintentionEvery dark moon, we have a check-in.  We talk about how things are going in our relationship, in our lives, if there’s anything that needs to be addressed.  We also set an intention for the coming month.  Those intentions are phrased as affirmations (‘I am making healthy choices’ as opposed to ‘I need to stop eating junk food’) and are written on a white board that we see every time we leave the apartment.  It’s been an incredibly powerful tool for helping us stay focused on the kind of energy we want to cultivate.
  10. Choose your partner.
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    “Pinky swear?”  “Pinky swear.”

    Every morning, we take a moment (right before we sit down to breakfast) and choose each other.  There’s a tendency in long term relationships to take partners for granted.  Remind yourself of why you’ve chosen your partner.  Remind them that you do choose them.  Take a moment to sink into how much you love them.  Do it every day.

  11. Be patient with your process.
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    What if the hokey pokey really IS what it’s all about?

    Many of us are so busy doing that we forget to be – to grow, to become, to transform as people.  Don’t let who you were, or what your own ideas about yourself were, slow you you down or scare you away from uncovering a beautiful new layer.  And know that it takes time.  I’m still sifting through the pieces of me, figuring out what is truth and what is leftover illusion or people-pleasing.  Go gently, and with love.  Allow yourself time to grow.  And allow your own Mystery to be just that.  You don’t have all the answers, not even about yourself.  And that’s actually okay.

So there you go.  These are the things that have been working for me.  Hopefully they help you too.

I wish you a beautiful New Year.  May the coming days bring ever greater joy, laughter, love and adventure into your life.  Have a wonderful 2016, everyone.

Yule

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And then sometimes, when you’re supposed to be wrapping up your Holiday present-making, this happens:

Clear the sky and cold the wind
It is in darkness we begin
To plant the seed and set the light
Strengthen in the dark of night

Holly red and ever green
Standing in the space between
Brightest star and darkest night
Fill the winter sky with light

Round and round the circle turn
As the Yule log brightly burns
Round and round the circle dance
Spinning in the dark expanse

Growing daily with the sun
The tapestry we winter-spun
Feeds the flame of our desire
A sapling rooted in the fire

Like the waxing moon on high
Shining in the midnight sky
Every night the spell will grow
Magick flowing over snow

Round and round the circle turn
As the Yule log brightly burns
Round and round the circle dance
Spinning in the dark expanse

As the winter silver fades
Into green and growing shades
Like a tender curling leaf
Magick rises from beneath

Breaking through the warming soil
We see the flower of our toil
And seeds we planted in the night
Fill the springtime with Yule’s light

Equinox Attunement

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I write Attunements to read during my Thursday Reiki & Restorative class at The Shala in Frederick, MD.  Here’s a new offering for this evening’s class.

You can feel the change coming in the air around you. You see it in the flashes of gold, orange, and yellow as you pass sprawling green farmland. The sunlight glows warmly on the vines and broad leaves in the fields, orange treasures of autumn growing with every passing day.

Every drop of sunlight is sacred now, and you treasure the deep green of the leaves above you, filtering the golden light as it spills through the forest. The sky is somehow bluer, a deeper shade of infinity in air so clear that everything around you seems outlined in light. Brighter. Deeper.

You can feel it in the quiet of evening. Summer still reigns in daylight, but as darkness falls, gentle tendrils of cool air wrap themselves around you. The night orchestra plays fullest, most beautiful, at this time. They know, too, that their concert must end someday soon. And so jubilant song fills the night. The sky is a riot of stars, the clear skies brilliant with that celestial dance. The crisp night air brings color to your cheeks as you gaze skyward, starlight in your eyes.

When you wake in the morning, the grass is heavy with dew, and mist hangs in the air. Every surface bears the touch of the night, glimmering as the sun reaches out to warm you.

The vibrant green of the leaves will soon transform—flames of yellow, red and gold licking at their edges, then sweeping across hill and field, as though the very wind carries color in its wake. The clear air will sharpen even more, and you will nestle into your blankets, savoring the warmth as night descends.

But for now, you treasure the sunlight, the warmth on your skin, the birdsong in the air. All the more precious as the season winds down. For now, you gather up the glory of summer, drawing it deep into your heart. For now, you stand between. Between summer and autumn. Between long days and long nights. Between growth and rest. And you balance, and savor, and breathe.

Teaching at Sacred Space Conference

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This just in 🙂  I am honored to have been selected to present Vinyasa Flow Yoga and “The Healing Labyrinth: Releasing Burdens with Sacred Sound” at the 26th Sacred Space Conference in Hunt Valley, MD, March 10th – 16th, 2016.

The Sacred Space Conference is a simply amazing annual esoteric conference on the East Coast for intermediate to advanced practitioners. Each year their featured teachers and incredible array of highly qualified regional teachers offer a wide variety of workshops and rituals developed for a more advanced audience.  I have attended SSC a few times and it really is amazing, especially for those of us past the Wicca 101 material.  I always return from the conference full of new fire, new ideas, perspectives and techniques.  Gratitude is not a strong enough word for how I feel about the wonderful people who make Sacred Space possible.  I can’t recommend the Conference highly enough.

The early-bird registration rate for SSC runs till September 1st.  Click here to learn more and register.

For my own perspectives on Sacred Space Conference, here are two entries where I talk about how awesome it is 🙂

Reflections from 2013, my first year attending

Reflections from 2014, my second year attending

 

The Spirituality of Embodiment

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This past Sunday, I was invited to speak to my congregation at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick on the subject of The Spirituality of Embodiment.  As a yogi, Labyrinth facilitator and outdoorsy type, I was honored to be able to share my story.  The transcript is beneath the video link.

My name is Irene. I facilitate the monthly Labyrinth walks here, and teach the free yoga class on Fridays.

In 2010, I had reached a place of spiritual darkness. For me, my connection to my spirituality had never been something I questioned—it was always present. It was a sensation of light inside my chest, and this nebulous idea that the light inside me was connected to everything else around me. Somehow, through an overburdened life and too many worries, that light inside me faded. And I didn’t know to get it back. My usual routes of connection – ritual, prayer, meditation – weren’t working. I felt lost.

As I wrestled with that particular problem, a friend invited me to go to a gentle yoga class with her. I had tried yoga through a gym once before and didn’t like it, but I didn’t have plans that morning and thought ‘Sure, why not.’

I am so glad I went.

That class was the first thing I had done in months that felt GOOD. The breathing practice – what yogis call Pranayama – helped clear my mind. The gentle movements of the practice freed me of the constant whirl of thoughts inside my head and allowed me to simply concentrate on lifting my arm or moving my feet. No extraneous mental noise. When we lay down for the final rest of the practice, a pose called savasana, I felt like I was floating in a pool of light. The same light that I experienced when my connection to my spirituality was healthy.

I was hooked, of course. The way back to the connection I had taken for granted wasn’t gone. It was just something I had to reach through a different door. I began taking yoga classes.

That fall I went to a Pagan spiritual retreat in Massachusetts. At that retreat, called Twilight Covening, attendees work in smaller groups on one particular focus. My group was working with the Labyrinth. I discovered through that retreat a very similar phenomenon. Through walking with intention through the labyrinth, I shed layers of darkness and disconnection, and felt the light kindling inside of me. Sometimes growing so bright that the physical world paled in comparison to the radiance I felt inside myself.

I was learning something important: that my body wasn’t the vehicle I’d always assumed it was. It was more important than that. More than a mere tool.

When I came home I continued to take yoga classes, gradually moving from a gentle yoga class to a level one yoga class – a slightly more vigorous practice. The strangest things started to happen to me. For about 6 months, whenever I lay down at the end of practice, into savasana, I would start to cry. I didn’t even know why. I wasn’t sad, or upset in any way. But every time, the tears would come while I floated in that perfect, glowing space of rest.

I know why now, of course. Five years later, I’m a yoga teacher. I want to be able to give people the same transformation I experienced myself.

The poses we do aren’t just movements or postures. Your body isn’t just flesh. When we stand in a warrior stance in a class, we are definitely strengthening our legs. We’re also strengthening our confidence. When we stretch the shoulders and chest to open the pectoral muscles and relax the upper back, we are also opening ourselves. That class of poses aren’t called ‘heart openers’ for nothing.

When I was crying during savasana, lying there on my mat, it’s because all of those physical movements I was doing were breaking up stiff places in my body. Not just stiffness of muscles and joints, but places where old emotions and hurtful memories had been stored. I was releasing poison that I’d been carrying. Darkness that had taken up residence in my very cells.

In many theological and philosophical traditions, we relegate the body to a role as a chariot—something the spirit or psyche rides. What I have learned through my own path is rather different. My body is the tip of the iceberg jutting into the air of the world. But as with that iceberg, there is a whole world of self beneath the surface. And what happens to the part of the iceberg above the water deeply impacts the unseen self. What you do with your body, what you experience with it, how you move it and care for it and feed it, has an effect on your mind and on your spirituality. Because it is not separate. Your body and mind and spirit are one being.

Five years on, I spend the warm months outside. I went from being someone who hates sweating to someone who loves it. I went from watching television to not even owning one. Instead, I spend my time out walking under the trees, breathing the warm, rich scent of growing green things, and feeling the way that tickles my spirit. I travel the rivers in my kayak and fill my mind with the glitter of sun on the water and the quiet lap of the current against my boat. And I feel that light in me grow brighter.

And I do yoga. LOTS of yoga.

And now I know exactly where my light is. It’s in the center of my chest, and it radiates out to connect to all living things. It’s in my chest. Not my spiritual chest, or my psychic chest or my imagined chest. It’s here. In my body.  And to nurture it, to care for it, I spend time IN my body. I allow my body to be the beautiful, integrated space that contains and transmutes and amplifies my spirit. Because truly, those divisions are illusion. We are whole. And what we experience on one level echoes within every part of us.

I’d like to invite you to rise in body or spirit as you are able. Bring one hand to your chest and one to your belly. Begin to concentrate on your breathing. Feel the swell of your breath as it rises against your hands. This is the breath that remembers to breathe you, even when you do not remember to breathe it. Feel that breath growing deeper. Lengthening and expanding.

On your next exhale, release your hands down by your sides. On your inhale, allow your hands to rise with your breath, riding up the center channel and then exhaling, releasing, letting your hands ride the breath back down. Inhale to rise. Exhale to lower. Inhale to expand. Exhale to ground. If you would like, close your eyes and allow this movement, this breath, to be all you think about. Inhaling up. Exhaling down.

Gently return yourself to stillness. Feel your breath as it moves within your body. In the moment of silence to follow, you are welcome to settle back into your seat as you feel led.