i arrive at the 4-day bodymind workshop with a lot of tension in my neck-throat-jaw-head. i don’t think it is more than normal in my life, but in the last month or so, i have become much more aware of the tension i live with and take to be a part of me.

i experience the tension as a push—like i’m over-pushing, over-efforting, over-striving to live each moment of my life fully and well. as i’ve become more aware of it, it feels like i engage way too many muscles to do things. i find myself leaning forward to work on the computer when i could be resting with my back supported. i tighten my jaw as part of concentrating or making a point. i hold onto facial expressions, not allowing them to organically fade. i push a lot of energy into my head, causing my neck to tighten and my head to ache…it often feels like the energy is trapped and pushing in and through my neck-throat-jaw-head without releasing.

our first embodiment practice is about relaxing the face. perfect! that’s what i’ve been working with! so, as i open my jaw wide, allowing the breath and sound to move in and out at its own pace, i practice yielding the push, letting it go, softening, releasing. soft face, soft breath, soft chest, soft, alive core and pelvis. and breath, breath, breath…my face begins to sink into itself, yielding to its softer, more fluid self. noface.

i feel as if my yielding face has no familiar contours, no familiar holding patterns. noface erases the structures that i know to be me. i am sinking into a deeper and softer sense of self.

with this melting comes a clearer awareness of my core of aliveness and life energy. this experience of me is deeper, pulsating, flowing, softer. yielding to noface directs my attention to the circulation of life in my body. life coming in and life going out, with or without my conscious awareness or participation.

i practice yielding to noface all four days—in the workshop and out of it. i have no idea what my face looks like and i don’t care. i have no self-image worth defending right now. inner critic thoughts arise about what’s wrong with my experience. i return to noface.

dropping the thoughts and sinking into noface puts me in contact with life moving me, and the thoughts lose their power. i am here, yielding, melting, sensing, feeling, responding to and with life.

the quieter you become, the more you are able to hear – rumi

life practices: summer solstice

My intention is to blog once a season about Life Practices in order to share what I am practicing in my life, and to suggest opportunities to join me, as well as ideas to use in your own practice.

Summer Solstice was June 21st!
I had hoped to facilitate a Summer Solstice celebration this year at my Unitarian Church (Unity in St. Paul), but instead we needed to make a trip to visit Dave’s aging mom in Massachusetts. Carol Leborveau, a friend, lead a very simple ritual to welcome the first signs of the light at 4:30 am in the morning (!) in my absence. Only a few brave souls attended, but it was rich and meaningful.

The Summer Solstice reminds us to notice and celebrate the full return of the light. The daylight hours have been growing since Winter Solstice, each day becoming slightly longer until the Spring Equinox in March, when the day and night were equal in length. This full-on light invites us out of the house, into the warmth, into its embrace. The seeds that slowly prepared themselves in the mysterious darkness within the earth and within our souls are ready to bear gifts in the fullness of the light. We are invited into a season of fertility, abundance, vitality, and blossoming.

What is calling you into blossom? As the poet Mary Oliver invites in her poem The Summer Day, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” You may want to write in a journal or create a ritual to explore this invitation. How can you embody the gifts that have been growing in you? Does anything need to be released in order to allow these gifts to manifest? A short ritual could include:
• In the brightness of the day
• Write each “blossoming” or release on a small piece of paper
• Light a candle and say a blessing or intention
• Read one “blossoming” or release at a time, and then burn it in the flame, allowing it to be transformed into whatever form it will take in your life.

Remember that as this day came to an end, the days are now very slowly becoming shorter, until at Autumn Equinox, the day and night will be balanced, and by Winter Solstice, we’ll be back to the longest night. Savor and revel in the bounty of this Summer season and the gift of “your one, wild, and precious life.” Next year, I hope to celebrate the Summer Solstice continuing the ritual Carol started at Unity Church Unitarian.

If you’re interested in creating a meaningful ceremony to mark some passage in your life, read more about my work as an Interfaith Minister below.

Reverending! I feel so happy to be an Interfaith Minister! I just married a couple on Saturday, July 2nd at Irvine Park in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was a perfectly beautiful day in an old part of St. Paul. I get so much joy out of marrying people! The process of helping them to find the right words to express their love and their vision for their relationship is so inspiring and meaningful! And then to consecrate the relationship they are aspiring to with family and friends…You can tell I’m enjoying myself in this photo—the music for the recessional accidentally started playing at the beginning of the ceremony! 

I’m also going to be the Worship Leader at Unity Unitarian Church on Sunday, July 10th. I’ve lead worship a few times now and really enjoy it! The title of my sermon is With One Smile, inspired by a poem by e.e. cummings and the journey I’ve been exploring lately of allowing more gratefulness and joy into my life. I wrote about and collaged about this the theme in a previous blog post. You can read e.e. cumming’s poem in the poetry section below and one of Mary Oliver’s poems, also a pivotal part of this service, in the delight blog post mentioned above.

Here’s a brief description of the service theme: Sometimes opening to suffering is what awakens us to joy—the heart is cracked open to the depth and breadth of life. Another way to awaken to joy is to cultivate the soil in which it grows and is nourished—and we can begin at any time with one smile! Katy Taylor and Worship Associate Jeanne Barker-Nunn take delight in playfully exploring the art of savoring and welcoming all of life.

I’ll also be talking about a new practice in my life—Laughter Yoga. I’m getting trained to be a Laughter Yoga Leader, so you’ll hear more about that soon. But in the meantime, check out local Laughter Clubs near you, and if you’re in Minnesota, this is my teacher, Jody Ross’s site.

Be in touch if you’d like me to facilitate any Interfaith Ministry services, rituals, celebrations, worship services, and more!

Music. I have been enjoying sharing music at my Unitarian Church here in St. Paul—a few weeks ago, I sang a few of Hildegard von Bingen’s luxurious and mysterious chants as part of a service exploring the virtue of Wisdom.

If you don’t know about Hildegard, a 12th century feminist, prophet, mystic, healer, teacher, and abbess, google her! The group that I think performs her music most authentically is Sequentia—see the “Hildegard von Bingen Project.” You can listen to some samples on Amazon if you like. I was blessed to have the chance to study with this group at a Summer music workshop years ago, and have enjoyed continuing to sing Hildegard’s music.

I’ll be opening the St. Paul Classic Bike Tour on September 11th at 8:00 am with 15 minutes of Hildegard’s music this year. The organizer wanted to mark September 11th in a peaceful, prayerful manner, and Hildegard’s music is being billed as “Hymns of Hope.” Hope to see you there! Dave and I may be riding after I get done singing—it would be a great way to celebrate our anniversary!

I have recorded a few of Hildegard’s chants on a number of my albums, with Welcome Brigid being the most recent album available on my site.

Have you tried listening to different music lately? It’s easy to get stuck in one genre that we really like, but listening to a wide range actually stimulates us and helps us to get out of stuck personality patterns. If you don’t normally listen to medieval chant or if you’re used to plainsong, try Hildegard’s music; if you listen already, try something completely different. Notice how it affects you—not in terms of “good” or “bad, but the sensations, the feelings, the thoughts that arise. How can you nourish yourself with music?

The Enneagram is my favorite tool for understanding how my personality operates. It’s an amazing psycho-spiritual tool for really seeing through who we think we are to who we really are, to our Essential Self or True Nature. Check out more about the Enneagram on our site.

Dave and I recently started calling our business “Winged Heart” (see collage below). We really love the idea that the Enneagram along with other practices that we are involved in is about opening the heart to greater freedom and joy. The heart is the “pulsating core of our aliveness,” “the center of our being,” as Br. David Steindl-Rast writes in his book Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer. Dave’s and my work, both personal and public, is about freeing the heart to be touched, to open, to feel all things—to be wholeheartedly alive!

We are taking a break from teaching this Summer, but we’re looking forward to teaching again in the Fall—see our upcoming schedule which includes a workshop to help us in our psycho-spiritual growth (5 week series, Oct-Nov), a presentation with a new take on the origin of the Core Emotions of the Centers (mid-Nov—date TBA), and a Couple’s Retreat (early Dec).

We’re always both available for consultations with the Enneagram, both individual or couples. We’re also certified to offer the Prepare & Enrich Inventories, which we have customized to include the Enneagram and Nonviolent Communication (NVC) for premarital or marriage enrichment.
Collage. I wrote last season that I was too busy to make time for collage—and it’s still true! I am working on gathering images right now for a piece to explore an old wound from when I was teenager. I usually find that exploring an issue visually engages my process in a deeper way. New insights open when I’m not just analyzing the issue with my mind, but exploring what images attract me, how they want to be placed together, and what the final gestalt is. I’m looking forward to continuing this collage process.

In addition to engaging in collage as a psycho-spiritual practice, I offer workshops, consultations, and collage artwork. You can see more collages on my site and this blog.

What kind of nonlinear right-brain practices do you engage in? Do you make time for them in your life? How do you feel when you do?

Poetry. As you know, one my favorite practices is that of welcoming poetry into my life, whether I learn it by heart, or just read it. If you love poetry, too, you can sign up for my sporadic Poetry/Prayer List. And here’s the e.e. cumming’s poem that’s an integral part of my life and my July 10th Service.

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it’s sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there’s never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile

Summer Blessings on your life practice/practice of life, Katy

Delight in the New Year!

Delight, light, play, fun, happiness, laughter, wonder, presence, love, joy, freedom, excitement, stimulation, engagement, fullness, compassion…lightening up, taking it all in, embracing it, balancing it, smiling.

The defining image for 2011 is the one that came to me when I was trying to find a way to defend against an Inner Critic attack for having forgotten my purse on the way to an appointment for which I would need my checkbook. (Dave was with me and he had a check, so all would be well, but my Inner Critic didn’t want to drop it.) I was lying on the table before my myofascial session and nothing was working particularly well, but then I had the image of “jumping” my 1&1/2 year old nephew Zander up into the air and how he could jump and jump and jump and never get tired! And I “jumped” my Inner Critic up over my head in a playful way, smiling, telling her to “lighten up” to not be so serious. And the engagement was totally broken—I was filled with delight and warmth and compassion. I even smile thinking of it now. Since then I’ve been holding this image and it’s really working!

Then during the session, I had described how my left-side pattern had kicked in with something inbetween my shoulder blades going out. Patricia talked about that as the back of the Heart Center. Being with Zander over New Year’s was very heart-opening. I wasn’t working, just being present as much as I could be, with him and the family. And being with Zander was about play, delight, the joy in every moment of life. What a beautiful lesson and break from my oft-times very serious life! So, it’s not surprising to me that on the day before I was to fly home that my Heart Center might decide it had been open enough and it was time to feel more “normal,” more shut down, less impressionable…

Self-compassion is what Patricia found when she checked in energetically. Fits so well with the Katy who thinks she has to be so serious and who was afraid upon her return home that she wouldn’t know how to co-parent well, wouldn’t get what she needed, and so shuts her heart down. Self-compassion—it’s OK not to know how to parent, it’s OK to feel bad because I don’t always know what I need or don’t like the way my haircut looks…it’s OK to feel the hurt, the vulnerability, the sadness. Can my heart stay open to this and not have to close up to defend against it?

Spending so much of the trip on “Zander-time,” our lives were arranged around the living of his life. We got up with him, let him choose what to play and do as much as possible, and joined in. I was very engaged with him, following his energy and his lead, allowing my energy to be big, loud, playful, engaged, full, happy… At times, experiencing this energy, my type patterns wanted to interpret it as being “overwhelmed.” I caught myself in this story and went back to the sensations and feelings and stayed with playing Zander’s life with him. It felt like I was pushing the edges of my self-image—the serious, busy, held-in Katy gets overwhelmed with too much playful fun, too much activity, too much excitement—but what about delighted Katy? She seemed to really enjoy it!

This reminds me of some reading I’ve been doing lately about somatics. In his book Somatics, Thomas Hanna talks about the Red Light and Green Light reflexes. He describes the Red Light reflex as the impulse we have to pull away or withdraw from negative stress. The Green Light reflex, however, is about wanting to move toward something as a response to positive stress. Zander embodies this Green Light reflex a lot, as he invites us all in to join him in his exploration of the delightful, exciting, fun world. The problem comes when we adults use the Green Light reflex to move the body forward into action only in order to get things done, to be responsible in our “adult” world and and forget about moving toward things that delight us! A further problem is that this reflex gets engrained in the body as ongoing back and neck tension that we take for granted and don’t know how to let go of. In Zander, the Green Light comes on, leading him toward delight and joy, then turns off, allowing rest and relaxation; in many of us adults, it’s always on, pushing us not toward delight and joy, but work and responsibility…

At my first church service after returning home, we had the Tolling of the Bells service, in which we remember those that have passed away in the last year—Maureen McKessey, my uncle Harley, and my sweet Teddybear, who I still miss tremendously. And Mary Oliver’s poem Heavy was read and really struck home:

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had His hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friends Daniel
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it—
books, bricks, grief—
all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled roses
in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply.

“‘It’s not the weight you carry / but how you carry it— / books, bricks, grief— /
all in the way / you embrace it, balance it, carry it / when you cannot, and would not, / put it down.‘ / So I went practicing.”

I’m practicing. I’ve lived so much of my life with the adult version of the Green Light reflex on, carrying and trying to balance my books, bricks, and grief (although I haven’t acknowledged the grief much, mostly covered it up with a lot of improving, being serious, and doing…) There will always be books, bricks, and grief. How will I embrace them, balance them, carry them? Can I carry them in the way I carried Zander? With love, with delight, with wonder? Can I hold them compassionately, with presence? Can I jump them into the air and lighten up when they threaten to become too heavy for me? Can I take breaks from carrying them and allow myself to rest, to put them down?

The collage at the top of this post is a visual exploration of these questions. In the midst of the books, bricks and grief—(working, teaching, mentoring, learning to co-parent in midlife, doing my spiritual practices, learning to be present, learning to be a good life partner…constantly improving my life and my world and never feeling like I have enough time)—can I still embrace the joy, the breath, the beauty, the fiery life that sparkles, the fulfillment and freedom of awakening, the gratitude for and cherishing of all of it, the joy and delight?! YES!

How do you embrace, balance, and carry your books, bricks, and grief? How do you practice delight, laughter, and joy? I’d love to hear some ideas! There’s a start in the post I did on play last year, and I’d like to gather together even more ideas here so that when I forget and get caught in my serious and overwhelmed self-image, I can welcome the lighter jumping-in-the-air energy in, too!

deep power

I thank you, deep power
that works me ever more lightly
in ways I cannot make out.
The day’s labor grows simple now,
and like a holy face
held in my dark hands.

What deep power caused this to happen? A friend and fellow Diamond Approach student has a brain tumor. So suddenly this appeared. I saw him, practiced with him, lived with him on retreat, and a few weeks later he had a seizure. Now we don’t know how long he will live…

In Authentic Movement a few weeks ago, my body moved in such a way as to remind me of my friend. My deep sorrow at the loss of his life. And as I moved, I said metta for him:

May you be held in compassion
May your pain and sorrow be eased
May you be free

My body moved, blessing his brain, one open hand at my head extended to the world, the other hand holding my head in compassion and gentleness, breathing metta in and out.

I had the sense that I wanted to acknowledge his aliveness, his creativity, his brightness in the midst of this life-destroying tumor. How to hold both the reality of what is happening and the truth of his indestructible, beautiful being?

After moving in ritual prayer, in blessing, in metta, in walking meditation, I drew the central part of this collage. It looks like a spinal cord going up to his brain. It is full of not only dark, destructive tumor, but also life-giving color, possibility, and dark unknown.

There is no death. Life cannot die…Death is an end—the end of everything known. It is a fearful thing because we cling to the known. But life is. It is always here, even if for us it is the unknown…We must die to the known and enter the unknown.
Jeanne de Salzmann

The deep power of Being, moving in him ever more lightly, ever more difficult to recognize, but always there. Life is. In some ways, my friend’s days are simpler now—he must harness all his energy to meet this challenge, to feel/do what he must while he is here on this earth in this physical form. Life cannot die. Each day is holy, is lived, is loved, is held in the hands of life, of Being itself.

(Poem: Rainer Maria Rilke, I, 62; Quote: from The Reality of Being, by Jeanne de Salzmann)

mystery–life and death

i’ve heard about the cycles of life and death so much that it doesn’t usually mean much to me.yes, things die and things get born and of course they’re related, but  what does this really mean? what does it mean to me?

now it’s spring and new life is coming in. i’m loving all the different greens. i’m thrilled to see plants that i planted coming up again, flowers, life bursting forth from the brown  earth. my sister’s new baby is one year old this week, a niece-in-law is two, new physical movement is coming to life in me, my relationship with dave continues to grow and deepen, and friendships grow richer…

and this spring i’m really aware of the death that’s here too. in the last month, 4 people in my acquaintance-circle dying, 3 more diagnosed with scary diseases, the death of my dear old doggy, my boss’s dog, my singing partner amy’s dog, and my brother gone missing again into his drug habit…the list seems to be never-ending. and it is, isn’t it? there will always be death…and life…

somehow the two are inexplicably tied together. contemplating this brings up a real sense of the unknown, the mystery, and with that a sense of no control. no control of whether these friends live or die, of whether i live or die…touching into the mystery in both the death and the new life. the mystery means letting go of familiar ways of knowing, of understanding, of being–of not knowing what else is here. accepting that i don’t know how life will be or even is.

Osho says: “Look for the mysterious in life. Wherever you look – in the white clouds, in the stars in the night, in the flowers, in a flowing river – wherever you look, look for the mystery. And whenever you find that a mystery is there, meditate on it. Meditation means: dissolve yourself before that mystery, annihilate yourself before that mystery, disperse yourself before that mystery. Be no more, and let the mystery be so total that you are absorbed in it. And suddenly a new door opens, a new perception is achieved.”

the mystery of new life springing from the earth, from humans, from poetry, music, art–i am open to this mystery. this has also been very true for me in my body exploration–i’ve had to let go of what i thought i knew about myself to enter into a deeper knowing, a more intimate listening and sensing. and it has been amazing and wonderful. it’s easier when  the mysterious is full of obvious beauty and wonder… how to be open to the mysteriousness of death, of loss, of grief, of fear? my mind immediately wants to make sense of it in some way, which is why i suppose i’m writing this…

right now, what i know is the preciousness of life. right now as i sit in my sweet cocoon of a room, with the rain and verdant green outside my window, as i email a friend, as i walk in my gardens feeling the earth under my barefeet, as i sing to a dying woman, as i speak with a dear one, as i hold my fiance’s hand…this life we live is such a gift. i’m sure there’s more for me to take in during this time of birth and death, but now, this is what I am most aware of—my gratitude for this moment of this life i am in.

as my unitarian pastors would say at the end of a sermon, “may it be so, blessed be, and amen.”

Practice Loving Kindness

Practice Loving Kindness

After completing my “practice-makes-perfect” motto collage, I realized I wanted to look for a turn-around. Even with the inner meaning of perfect = whole = complete, I felt that actually changing the words of what I am practicing is important. So, I started playing with changing the motto:

  • Practice makes perfect
  • Practice uncovers wholeness
  • Practices uncover wholeness
  • Practices welcome wholeness
  • Practices invite wholeness
  • Devotion to unfolding
  • Devotional practice
  • Practice devotion
  • Devotional life
  • Devotional living
  • Mindful living
  • Living mindfully
  • Mindful devotion
  • Practice Loving Kindness

As I landed on “Practice Loving Kindness,” I realized how related this is to the themes in my life these days. I am struggling with owning younger, more vulnerable parts of myself that I have split off in order to be “capable, competent Katy”—

  • the side of me that was impressionable, open, sweet, connected, innocent
  • the side that was full of energy, gusto, aliveness, joy, bounce, and verv.

This has affected very much how I tend to live in the world, not making enough time for rest, for play, for ease, for gentleness, for wildness…And how I am with the boys, especially the younger one, Evan. Because of my own disowned parts, I don’t have as much compassion for the parts of him that are like the young, wild, energetic me.

So, this collage turned out to be a tribute, an honoring of these young and vulnerable parts of myself—parts of me that are still here, but haven’t gotten as much air time. It includes photos of me on both sides, and moves from younger me to more adult me as you move toward the center. This collage reminds me that it is the practice of loving and being kind to these parts of myself that allows them to be in balance, joining in friendship, allowing me to be more embodied, more whole, more “perfect.”

The whole collage is in the shape of a heart with wings. I love this image—which for me symbolizes that the practice of loving and being kind is freeing—it opens the way for the heart to fly, for the body to be a prayer, for the mind to be open, not caged in self-images…

As Janne Eller-Isaacs, my Unitarian-Universalist minister said in a sermon: we want to be open to the invitation that life extends to each and every one of us to become more fully and responsibly human. I can’t be fully human without embracing both of these sides of myself. As I embrace, allow, and honor these parts of myself, I will be more loving and kinder not only with myself, but with others, which has to have a loving effect on the whole world!

my body home

i’m playing around these days with pastels. i signed up for the creative every day challenge, which isn’t so hard, if you consider all the ways we are creative during a day, but i wanted to push my envelope and try new ways. pastels are new. they’re fun, but i am still learning how to use them and what they’re good for…

i created this one while recovering at the journey inn on the theme of home and how a bit part of what i am learning in my life is how to allow my body to be my home. to do this has meant allowing compassion, loving kindness for myself. not judging my body, but listening to her, valuing and appreciating her.

how is your body your home? what do you do to create home in your body? how do you define home?

practice makes perfect?

i was encouraged to consider what my motto was in the Certified Vision Board Counselor course i’m taking and i found that this has been the motto of my life…but what does perfect mean?

in the past, practicing was mostly about fixing myself. i wasn’t good enough—i needed to practice to get better. i still do that, but i’m not defining my perfection based on outer ideals as much. i still want to improve, to be a better person, to gain and refine skills, but it’s more of a sense of perfection being wholeness.

i want to be a whole person and there are areas in my life that are in need of healing. in those areas, i practice to uncover the wholeness, the completeness, the perfection that is there, waiting to be revealed, inhabited, learned…it’s not based on someone else’s perfect body or skills, but on my life, my body, my innate perfection, allowing that to be uncovered, to arise, to unfold as Katy.

integrity = the state or quality of being that is complete (and unbroken). practice makes whole, practice uncovers integrity.

so, here’s my collage that explored this theme–the top border got a bit cut off because my printer isn’t quite wide enough…

i’m working on another collage now that is the turn-around for this motto: practice loving kindness. i’ll post it, too, once it’s done.

i’d be interested in what you are practicing…and what perfect means to you…

walking the labyrinth for Haiti

my friend Rae posted on her blog this great idea to intentionally walk our prayers for the people of Haiti, in addition to giving what financial aid we can. she is calling on labyrinth walkers to join forces this weekend. we’re going on Diamond Approach retreat this weekend and if the labyrinth at the retreat center can be walked through the snow, i’m going to do that.

here’s a photo of the small labyrinth garden i started late this past summer, inspired by my friend steve carlson’s. i walked it most mornings until the snow fell. i look forward to seeing how it grows in this summer.