Author: Sharon

No Time to Meditate

I know.  You don’t have time to meditate.  I don’t have time to meditate either.  No one has time to meditate and yet we all have all the time we are ever going to have.  We strive for peace, beauty and happiness, but our hours, days, weeks and then years seem to slip away and we are just as behind on our “to do” lists as we ever were.  While we are busy, it seems we are making things happen, being productive and that we are with purpose.  Resting and calming are considered luxuries that we simply can’t afford.

Our failure to rest makes us prone to panic, anxiety and depression.  Our unhappiness creates mental chaos and we find that even small decisions are hard to make with clarity.  Our sleep is elusive and of poor quality and we can’t remember our last dream.  Our health is “ok”, but we suffer headaches, digestive problems, chronic low back ache, exhaustion and most of the time we can function, but it always feels like just getting by.  Barely.  At times, our little aches and pains tip the scale  towards illness and unease that makes us miss work, school and the activities we enjoy.

Why are we so willing to invest time and energy in creating conditions of unhappiness?  We are terrified of what would happen if we tried to sit for five, ten or even fifteen minutes a day and check in with our bodies, ask our hearts their desire and to feel the breath moving in and out.  Maybe you tried to meditate once and became overwhelmed by the flood of thoughts, ideas and fantasies that came to mind in a powerful and uncontrollable flow?  Maybe you would like to meditate but you don’t know how and you have imagined that you need to sit somewhere quiet for an hour and “clear your mind” and you know that’s impossible for you?

Meditation is available to you and bringing acts of awareness and compassion into your daily life is a radical and transformative act.  You don’t need special clothing, to be able to sit on the floor or to be able to “empty” your mind.  All you need is what you have if you are reading this—your body and your breath.  You don’t need to sit for an hour (wouldn’t THAT be nice!).  You need to make a commitment to practice and there are infinite ways to practice.

I offer an online course called A Mindful Month that invites students to use their senses of taste, balance, touch, and smell to create a sensual state of mindfulness through the day.  The course gives written guidance for twelve 5-minute meditations, four 10-minute audio guides that you can download as MP3 recordings and a bonus 20-minute audio guided deep relaxation.  You can enroll here for INSTANT ACCESS.  The benefits of meditation have been proven, but you must practice to receive those benefits.  This is a perfect introduction to meditation or a lovely inspiration to re-inspire a dedicated meditation practice.

Written by Sharon Fennimore, a birth doula and yoga and meditation instructor based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Her Registered Yoga School (RYS™), Yoga Matrika, offers a variety of online yoga teacher training programs.  Private sessions are available on SKYPE wherever you are in the world or in-person in Pittsburgh.

Keep Something Beautiful

“In difficult times, keep something beautiful in your heart.” ~J. O’Donohue

I am currently creating an online course called “Radiant Heart“.  It is, at the core, a group exploration of a number of Classical Buddhist texts that provide the philosophical foundation for the practices of yoga and meditation that we have available to us now.  On a practice level, the course offers very accessible techniques for making meditation a part of daily life.  On an energetic level, facilitating this course is requiring me to re-think the heart as a seat of intelligence.  Asking what my heart wants has always seemed a little frivilous, but the more that I read these texts and the more that I consider what is at risk if I don’t open the lines of communication with my heart, I see that it is of great importance that I both ask and listen.

In one of the textbooks for the course, A Little Book of Love by Moh Hardin, we find this quote from “The Buddha” (no reference for source is provided):

“It is in this way that we must train ourselves: by liberation of the self through love.  We will develop love, we will practice it, we will make it both a way and a basis, take our stand upon it, store it up, and thoroughly set it going.”

Today, Earth Day, I am also thinking of a quote from Tagore, “Trees are the Earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.”  When the spring trees blossom and there is that lush bright hopeful green splashed across the still empty branches, it’s like the trees are reaching out to heaven with a display of their hearts.  The movement of water through their veins and the warming light of the sun mixing to support this magnificent and clear communication of life and beauty.  I think that if I learn to ask my heart it’s desire, wait for the answer and act on it that I will be like these trees.  The beauty will show in my actions, my appearance and in my life narrative.

If you are interested in reading these Buddhist texts and the breathing, movement and meditation techniques that are designed to enter into deep communication with the heart, there is still time to register for the course. Yoga teachers can earn 15 CEU credits for maintaining registration with Yoga Alliance.  DETAILS, SYLLABUS & REGISTRATION HERE

Benefits of Reading Sutras

This month, I am starting an online course called Radiant Heart and we will be reading a number of Classical Buddhist texts that provide guidance for both meditation and interacting with others that builds our capacity for happiness and joy.  This course is appropriate whether you identify with “being Buddhist” or not as none of the texts ask you to pray to a certain God or believe anything in particular.  Therefore, this course will not challenge your current belief system or commitment to a particular practice of religion.  Instead, the course challenges you to experiment with breathing, movement and mind practices that have the potential to change how you experience daily life.

In the preparation of this course I have come across a relatively new science: neurotheology.  Regardless of what part of this science makes sense to you or doesn’t, it appears that reading religious texts and taking the time to consider ourselves as living beings in relationship to higher power is good for our health.  I don’t know very much about this, but it is something that I am profoundly curious about because of the role that faith, in general, has played in my life.

My goal for this course is to help participants learn how to breathe, meditate and move in ways that create an improved sense of peace and well-being regardless of current circumstances.  Whether you have been practicing yoga and meditation for years or just feel curious, but have never tried to meditate, this course will be beneficial to you.  For yoga teachers, this course has the opportunity to earn 15 CEU credits for maintaining your registration with Yoga Alliance.  Find the complete syllabus, reading list and lecture and office hours schedule HERE.  This is an online course, so you can work at your own pace and all lectures are recorded so you can download the videos and watch anytime.

Course will be accessible on April 3, 2015, but you can register anytime before the course ends in June.  You will have access to the live events and office hours if you start in April, but everything is recorded and available online so you don’t have to worry about being able to keep to the schedule.  Start at your convenience and complete the course at your own pace.

Here is a list of the five texts we will be reading and exploring practices for:

Finding the Breath of the Heart
The Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing
Pali of the Anapanasati Sutta

The Heart’s Intelligence
The Sutra on the Establishments of Mindfulness
Satipatthana Sutta

Mindful Heart Practices
The Heart Sutra
Prajnaparamita Hrdaya Sutra

Radiant Heart
The Radiance Sutras
Vijnana Bhairava Tantra

The Sutra on Happiness
Mangala Sutta
Cultivating joy and abundance

 

 

Grief and the Heart

IMG_4801This week, I lost a cherished orange cat–Mushuk (muh-shook).  He would have been 19-years old this summer, but it turns out that he did not have another spring in him.  This winter was his last.  My son broke his leg sledding this past January and Mushuk watched over him as he recovered on the couch. He was that kind of cat.  Present.  Empathetic. I adopted him as a rescue in Philadelphia a few lifetimes ago when I had nowhere to go but up. As it became more and more clear to me over 18-years that the directional potential of life is infinite and unpredictable, Mushuk found ways to soften the blows of the lowest lows and sweeten the best of days.

As it turns out, I’ve been thinking a lot about the heart, our human capacity for both suffering and joy and how we can use the study of Buddhist texts as a tool for increased capacity for engaging with life.  This April I will be offering an online study opportunity of classic Buddhist texts on mindfulness, awareness of the breath, the heart and happiness.  The more I build the course curriculum, the more convinced I am that working with the heart is the key to health and well-being.  Even before finding myself enveloped by grief, I have been thinking about the heart as a bridge between spirit and matter as reflected in the organization of the energetic body and as suggested by John Selby:

“Below the heart chakra, lies the world of matter, of survival and procreation, of manipulation and mastery over the physical realms of life.  Above lies the world of Spirit, of pure thought and intuition, of interpersonal communication and, ultimately, universal unity and transcendence.  The heart chakra, in its most basic sense, is the marriage of matter and spirit, of concrete and abstract, of knowledge and wisdom, of earth and heaven.” (Selby 147 as quoted in Sausys 38)

In the Doors of Joy, Daniel Odier in his meditations on Love suggests that we ask ourselves “Have I already experienced a love that was not centered on an object or a human being—a feeling of love that included the world?” (111).  I love this question and I feel that thinking about the heart as a bridge between spirit and matter and also considering what the experience of love without an object creates for our human experience truly inspires the core of my objective for the course.

Even if you have limited experience with yoga or meditation or studying any kind of philosophy, I encourage you to consider taking this course with me.  Cardiovascular health is not just about aerobic exercise and limiting milkshakes and steaks, it is also about the heart as an energetic body with its own center of intelligence and desire for authentic expression.  Taking a few weeks to explore these texts that provide very simple, yet profound, techniques for living a heart-centered life where the intelligence of the heart can inform our actions, words and expression of our unique self in the world is likely to be an experience worth investing in.  And, you will save $75 if you register before March 23, 2015! 

REFERENCES

Daniel Odier
The Doors of Joy: 19 Meditations for Authentic Living (2014)

Antonio Sausys
Yoga for Grief Relief (2014)

John Selby
Kundalini Awakening: A Gentle Guide to Chakra Activation and Spiritual Growth.

If you are wondering whether or not you are technological enough to take an online course or if you just want to get a “feel” for how the online course works, then please feel free to register for this course for FREE.  It’s a very different type of course, but the platform is the same and so the way the course is organized into lessons, discussions and events and how you access the videos and recordings will be exactly the same.  Check it out HERE! 

Mountain Poems

Recently, I have been engaging in translations of Chinese poetry about mountains.  I love sacred mountains and poetry, so poems about mountains represent some of my favorite contemplative poems.  It seems to me that reading them reminds me that I am on earth and as I read and re-read the lines, I am reminded of the limitations of a cerebral experience of life.  I spend so much time in my logic mind sorting through details (lunch boxes, coats, swim lessons, babysitters, teaching, schedules, blah blah blah) that it is hard to remember the infinite possibilities.  These poems revive me.  If you are curious, I can’t recommend the collection of translations by David Hinton, “Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China”.  Published by Counterpoint (2002).

Partridge Sky
by Su Tung-p’o (1037-1101)

Forests end in mountain light, and bamboo hides walls.
A confusion of cicada cries, dry grasses, a small pond.

An occasional bird wings white through empty sky,
and delicate in scent, waterlilies shine across water.

Out beyond the village, along
ancient city walls, I’ll stroll
till dusk, staff in hand, then turn back in slant light.

Thanks to rain that came last night in the third watch,
I get another cool day in this drifting dream of a life.

(HINTON, page 235)

NEW Class: Chair Yoga

I am so excited to be offering a chair yoga class in Greenfield at the Staghorn Garden Cafe on Tuesday mornings.  Here are the details:

Instructor: Sharon Fennimore, MA
Time: 10:00 to 11:00 am
Cost: $5-10 suggested cash payment
Location: 517 Greenfield Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15201

This is the lovely Staghorn Garden Cafe on Greenfield Avenue a block up from St. Rosalia church.  Come early and enjoy a coffee, pastry and look at all the beautiful things they have for sale for your home and garden.

What is chair yoga?

You may be most familiar with yoga on “yoga mats”, but this is yoga and meditation that you can do sitting in a chair.  It is accessible for all ages, all physical abilities (and can accommodate disabilities and special needs very well) and you get all the benefits of yoga.  It’s not a workout as much as it is a carefully designed sequence that brings a beautiful mind-body connection, deepens the breath and brings a sense of well being and calm to the practitioner.  Who can’t use more of that?  It’s entirely non-competitive and I welcome everyone to give it a try.

Oracle Card Readings at the Staghorn Garden Cafe in Greenfield

FairiesOracle Card Readings with Sharon Fennimore, MA

Wednesdays 5:30 to 7:00 pm
Thursdays   10:00 am to noon

My readings are fun, gentle, positive and will always help you connect with your intuition on your questions and concerns related to professional and personal issues.  Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration!

Cost:  Sliding fee scale with payment in exact cash or by Visa/Mastercard credit/debit.
$5 single-card reading, $10-$15 for 3-5 card reading, $20-$30 for a reading with coaching

Schedule: Just drop-in!  Clients are seen in order of arrival.  Enjoy a coffee and pastry while you wait.

Location: Greenfield Neighborhood of Pittsburgh
Staghorn Garden Cafe
517 Greenfield Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15207

Knitting Mammas

A public craft group for mothers and mother lovers who knit and crochet.  We meet for conversation, excellent coffee and pastries, creative support and knitting and crochet on Fridays from 10:00 am to noon at the Staghorn Garden Cafe in Greenfield (see map and address below).  Join us!  Everyone is welcome and you can bring your current project, questions about patterns or just curiosity.  No experience with knitting or parenthood required.

Staghorn Garden Cafe
517 Greenfield Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15207

Phone: 412.315.7298

We meet from around 10:00 am to noon on Fridays, but this cafe is a lovely place to sit and knit at anytime!  Come early, stay late.

Monday Night Yoga Classes

Community Yoga Classes at Greenfield Elementary School

 

MONDAY EVENINGS

6:00-6:45 pm  Yoga for Children (grades 1-6)
7:00-8:00 pm  Yoga for Adults (all levels)

6-Week Winter Series starts February 2,2015 [REGISTER HERE  $48]
Winter Series Dates:February 2, 9, 16, 23 and March 2, 9

6-Week Spring Series starts April 13, 2015 [REGISTER HERE $48]
Spring Series Dates: April 13, 20, 27 and May 4, 11, 18

NOTE ON WINTER SCHEDULE: Please note that if the Pittsburgh Public Schools have a 2-hour delay or snow day for ANY reason, then our classes that evening are canceled.  We will add dates to the end of the series to make-up for snow days as necessary.

Join me for these non-competitive community yoga classes held in the library at Greenfield Elementary School.  All levels are welcome and no experience is required.  Register for a series or drop-in on individual classes.  Emphasis is on mindfulness, stress relief and releasing tension from the physical body.  You will learn gentle techniques for movement, stretching and strengthening the body that help to liberate the body of unnecessary strain and tension.  Classes end with a deep relaxation.  You need to bring your own yoga mat and wear comfortable clothing (t-shirt, sweatpants, leggings).  If you would like, please bring a water bottle.  We practice in bare feet, so come prepared to take your shoes AND socks off.  Yoga does not require flexibility.  EVERYONE is welcome for these classes!

Drop-In students are warmly welcomed into classes for $10.  You can pre-pay online OR pay with a credit/debit card at the class or with exact cash.

Location: Greenfield Elementary School in the Greenfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and can be found behind Saint Rosalia’s Church on Greenfield Avenue. There is a parking lot in front of the school. 1 Alger Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15207.

 About Your Tuition

A percentage of all tuition collected will be donated to the Greenfield PTA to support their efforts to raise funds to build a playground at Greenfield Elementary School.  A bowl for additional donations will be available to collect cash donations at classes and 100% of those donations will go to the playground fund.

About Your Teacher: Sharon Fennimore, MA

Sharon has been practicing and teaching yoga and meditation for over 20-years.  She has a Registered Yoga School with Yoga Alliance and facilitates teacher training programs for both 200-hour yoga instructors and 100-hour prenatal yoga teachers.  Her teaching is inspired by her training in Vajra Yoga and Meditation with Jill Satterfield and her continued professional and personal development in Vipassana Meditation and somatic movement therapy.  Classes are rooted in the ethical principles of Ahimsa (non-violence) and all students of all ages and experience levels and abilities are challenged to find peace in their everyday lives regardless of circumstances.  She loves teaching community-based classes and believes that yoga is a great tool for healing individuals and groups.  Read more about Sharon