Claudia Cummins

Inspiring health and happiness in body, mind and spirit

Fall 2016 Classes

September 21, 2016
I'm so excited for our Fall 2016 session of classes to begin. We will be moving to MindBodyAlign's Butterfly House, which I'm sure will feel like a homecoming even though the studio is brand new. So much love and care has been put into the space - I know it will be a beautiful spot to practice.

Starting in October, my weekly schedule will include classes on Tuesday afternoons, Wednesday mornings, and Thursday evenings. In addition, I will be participating in several afternoon workshops in the coming months.

Please visit my Classes page to learn more. I hope our paths will cross at one of these gatherings!

Rejoice!

September 9, 2016
My friend Emily died recently. She was 89 years old and she had lived a long and beautiful life, but still her passing left a hole in my heart. The planet seems a little wobbly without her.

Emily was one of those rare souls who seemed to shine more intensely than the rest of us. She was filled with spirit and goodwill. She was kind and thoughtful and fearless and bold. She became your friend the instant she shook your hand for the very first time (no matter that she might be forty years your senior). She delighted in even the smallest cup of afternoon tea and also in the grandest proposals to change the world. Her devotion and good will convinced us all that the world was even more beautiful and wondrous than we had already thought. In addition to all her other gifts, Emily knew how to sing the praises of this life.

I worked with Emily at the White House when I was still in my twenties, and my brightest memories there include Emily and her strong Yankee presence and zest for life. Her spirit and her delight were magnetic and infectious. She could find the good in anyone and anything. She said yes more than no. And she seemed able  - through sheer, magnanimous will and delight - to make just about anything happen.

Emily managed to get the Queen of England to plant a tree on the White House lawn. (We got to watch.) She convinced the president to urge us all to plant trees to help create a greener world. (And she managed to get us into the motorcade to hear the speech in person.) Cheered on by youthful interns, Emily even befriended the Grateful Dead and took her younger friends with her to a concert with her VIP tickets and backstage passes. (No matter that she was sixty - she introduced us to John Barlow during the intermission and later marveled at all the stoned teenagers in the parking lot.) There was no delight too small for Emily and no cause too large to embrace.

AWAKENING TO WONDER
Sometimes when the world seems dim and small, I imagine I am sitting once again with Emily by my side. I remember how safe and sheltered I felt in her orbit, and how wonderful, too. I remember how my vision would shift when I was with her, with everything seeming to sparkle just a little more than I had noticed before. I try to take on her vision and see the world through her eyes.

I wonder what we would talk about. I imagine what small detail in the life before us she would marvel at. I lean in to hear what brilliant musing she would share with me. I hear her chirping voice and her strong laugh, and feel my heart brighten just a bit, as Emily’s sparkling presence returns me to a place of wonder and delight.

Perhaps you, too, have an Emily in your life, someone who helps you see the world in living color, who reminds you that you are larger than you thought you were, who reassures you that the beauty will inevitably outshine the despair, and who returns you to your own good heart.

And if so, perhaps you might use that dear one as a muse, just as I hold Emily close to me, coaxing your heart out of hiding and reminding you to savor each morsel of delight that comes your way. When your vision is dim, perhaps you can call upon the eyes of your friend and let that person remind you how to rejoice in the blessings of the world.

Or perhaps you don’t even need a muse. Maybe rejoicing comes naturally to you and you can lift your gaze and find a delight that lifts you back up onto your feet. And maybe you will even live your way into being a "rejoicing muse" for someone else.

SING OUT IN JOY
Either way, let’s take up rejoicing practice with whole heart and soul. Let’s take time each day to marvel, to give thanks, and to sing out in joy. Let’s marvel over an extraordinary act of kindness, the sweet crunch of the blueberry muffin, the shape of the wind just as it shifts across the landscape just now. Let’s exercise our muscles of delight and stay in close touch with the many mysterious beauties of the world.

Let's take to heart poet Wendell Berry's words: "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks."

Like my friend Emily, let’s sing out and share these wonders with those around us. Let's not keep life's glories to ourselves. Let’s change the course of the day by naming its delights. Let’s help one another through those moments when our vision begins to falter. Let’s direct one another’s eyes toward the brilliant and the bold.

We can start right now, by naming ten beautiful things we can rejoice over in our lives. We can sit down next to someone we love and whisper to them three wondrous things we love about them. Like Mr. Putter in those classic children's stories by Cynthia Rylant, we can pull out a piece of paper, write down, "Good Things," and start a list of all our loveliest loves. We can even offer "Happy Reports" at the dinner table, as my family learned to do from this wonderful essay by the ever-wise Katrina Kenison. The possibilities for rejoicing are endless.

I have a feeling that as we do this, our love for the world will deepen even more. Life will shine just a little more brightly. And together we will remember what a gift it is just to be here, now, together, celebrating this singular moment of goodness and glory. This truly is a moment for rejoicing.

Dwelling in the Heart

August 15, 2016

I am thrilled to invite you to join me in my latest online adventure called Dwelling in the Heart: A Month of Lovingkindness. In this course, we'll join together for the month of September to cultivate a deeper sense of love, understanding and joy in our lives.

My motivation for offering this online immersion stems from anxiety  I've felt these past several months about the state of our world. Violence and ill-will seem to have worked their way into the fabric of our lives, both far away and close to home. It feels to me like collectively our societies are losing touch with the kindness and care that virtually all spiritual traditions offer as the bedrock of a life well-lived and a community that thrives in good health.

LIVING IN LOVE AND THROUGH LOVE
My intention in Dwelling in the Heart is to help keep our eyes trained on the possibility of love and peace, so that we may live with greater kindness toward those around us and with an ever-deepening sense of ease in our own lives. My plan during our course is to offer practices that keep our eyes trained on the possibility of living through love and in love, helping to keep the planet spinning in a more positive and supportive way.

My hope is that my offerings will be meaty enough to incline our minds toward love but simple enough to fit into our busy lives with ease. Along the way I hope to inspire us all to commit (or recommit) to the practice of lovingkindness meditation, which helps anchor the mind and heart in love.

OUR MONTH TOGETHER
Here's how the course will work: Each weekday day I'll send out an email with the day's dispatch from the land of good heart. I'll offer tried-and-true practices as well as some less traditional ways of living with a friendly mind and a wide-open heart. And I'll feed us all with inspiring resources from around the web and beyond. (All of our materials will also be posted on a private website, so that you can easily find inspiration any time you need it.)

I'll also urge us all to find time in our days to sit quietly for at least a few moments to explore the traditional practice of metta, or lovingkindness meditaion. I'll do my best to keep our minds focused on our shared journey and to inspire us all to stay true to our commitment to fostering a deeper love and care in our lives.

FIND YOUR OWN WAY
In keeping with the low-key nature of my immersions, there will be no formal assignments or time requirements. You will be invited to move at your own pace and integrate the teachings into your life in any way you like.

Ponder the offerings while sipping your morning coffee, save them to read during your lunch break, share them with a friend while walking down the lane, or offer them up as dinnertime conversation. If you have a contemplative practice like yoga or prayer or meditation, you might look for ways to sprinkle into it some aspect of our lovingkindness practice. The possibilities are endless, and I hope you will find your own unique way to make the offerings your own.

AN INVITATION
I am thrilled to offer this course and I hope you will consider joining me. Lovingkindness has become a bedrock practice in my own life, and I relish the opportunity to share its gifts with you in a way that I hope will add clarity and happiness to the world.

I have set a suggested fee of $45 for the course, but if that feels excessive for your budget you are welcome to set your own price. To enroll in the course via credit card or Paypal account, please, click the "Buy Now" button below. If you have questions, prefer to sign up via check instead, or if you would like to join the course but would like to pay less than the suggested fee of $45, please email me using the contact form on the right side of this page.

Thank you so much for your interest. I hope to dwell in the heart with you this September and beyond.

Presence: An Online Meditation Immersion

March 17, 2016
I am thrilled to invite you to join me in an online adventure called Presence: A 30-Day Meditation ImmersionIn this course, we will join together for the month of April to explore the twin practices of meditation and mindfulness in a way that I hope will nurture a new-found sense of unshakable happiness and ease in your life.

Presence is an opportunity for both new and seasoned meditators to dive into the well of life within that sustains us through ever-deepening balance, clarity, wisdom and joy. Through formal and informal meditation practices, we'll explore the wisdom of slowing down, the power of paying attention, and the sweetness of listening deeply. We'll find ways to quench our thirst for a more genuine sense of ease and balance in our lives, and we'll cultivate a deeper feeling of being at home in both ourselves and our world.

Together we'll commit to opening ourselves to the deepest gift meditation offers: reclaiming the clarity of mind and purity of heart that is our natural birthright and that naturally appears when the mind is calm and our vision is clear. We'll cultivate an abiding sense of presence that opens us to an unconditional faithfulness and peace that sustains us through both difficulty and delight.

And we'll explore the great truth of life that all the world's sages have taught: that our small and personal lives are deeply rooted in a far more vast and brilliant play of light and life that illumines the entire world. Out of this profound insight comes a natural urge to participate in life more deeply, to serve as a source of comfort and support to everyone and everything around us.

OUR MONTH TOGETHER
A private website will be the course's home base for the month and the virtual town square around which we will congregate. Everything needed for our time together can be found there. Participants will find all the course updates, dispatches, meditation instructions, guided practices, question-and-answer sessions, poems, images and meditation resources somewhere on these pages. I hope the shared space will feel like home and I hope you will breathe a sigh of sweet relief when settling in there.

Here's how the course will work: Each day I'll send out an email with the day's dispatch from the sweet land of presence and peace. I'll offer formal meditation practices and also ideas for slipping informal mindfulness practice into one's daily life. I'll also send along updates with guided audios, poems, quotes and images that I hope we'll hold close. 

And I'll feed participants with lots of inspiring resources from around the web and beyond. I'll urge us all to find time in our days to sit quietly for at least a few moments. And I'll do my best to keep our minds focused on our shared journey and to inspire us all to stay true to our commitment to fostering a deeper sense of presence in our lives.

FINDING YOUR OWN WAY
None of this is required, of course. There will be no papers to write or tests to study for. Any or all of this can be done at your own pace and in your own way. The offerings will work best, in fact, if they are considered suggestions and explorations rather than commands and demands. Save the emails for a quiet moment in your day, or ignore them completely and just head on over to this site when you have a chance. Skip over a practice that doesn't appeal to you (although it's always a good idea to be curious about that which you resist). Return to practices that nourish you, over and over.

Come when you like, stay as long as you can, catch up in any way you like. You can even take your time, stretching out this journey into six weeks, or two months, or whatever schedule best fits your life. Shape these explorations to your own life in your own unique way, crafting a personalized practice that becomes a good friend that sustains you day in and day out, through thick and through thin.

FOOD FOR THE SOUL
Previous participants in Presence have called the course food for the soul. Many have said that after years of trying to learn to meditate and failing, the course has finally inspired them to commit to practicing regularly. And some longtime practitioners have said that through the course, practices that had begun to feel like chores once again felt like cherished gifts.

Others have said that through Presence they have found new ways to cultivate clarity and wisdom not just while sitting quietly, but also within the folds of their daily lives. And some students have called the shared website a balm and a comfort, a place they have turned to for a healing dose of reassurance, clarity and peace.

AN INVITATION
I am thrilled to offer this course and I hope you will consider joining us. Meditation has been a source of comfort and sustenance to me, and I relish the opportunity to share its many gifts with others in a way that adds clarity and happiness to the world.

I have set a suggested fee of $50 for the course, but if that feels excessive for your budget you are welcome to set your own price. To enroll in the course via credit card or Paypal account, please, click the "Buy Now" button below. If you have questions, prefer to sign up via check instead, or if you would like to join the course but are hoping to pay less than the suggested fee of $50, please email me here.

Thank you so much for your interest. I hope to meet up with you in the land of Presence soon.

The Gift of the World

December 27, 2015
I am so happy to invite you to join me in The Gift of the World, an online New Year's immersion. In this offering, I will share a series of 20 essays delivered during the month of January that I hope will inspire us all to live happily and wisely in the year ahead.

I've designed The Gift of the World as an alternative to the practice of setting New Year's resolutions. My experience has been that on January 1, we set goals for ourselves that we secretly know we'll likely never attain. We take the beautiful blank slate of the new year and fill it with promises that usually last for a few short weeks. And when the new year slips behind us into the horizon, we are left with our same old selves, disappointed that yet again that we failed to perfect our lives as we had imagined in the promise of the new year.

Instead, I've decided to use the new year to focus my mind on the values that I hope will guide my thoughts and actions not just in 2016 but in all my days ahead. I've spent a little time exploring the gifts that fuel my own life, and the ways I can nurture and nourish those gifts each and every day.

In the process, I've written a series of short essays that focus on how I'd like to live in the world. They focus on values, attitudes and practices - like beauty, simplicity, kindness and ease - that I would like my life to embody. And now that they are written, I would love to share them with you.

The offerings of The Gift of the World are part meditation, part instruction, part pep-talk and part blessing. They aren't prescriptive how-to guides, but my hope is that they will inspire us all to live in ways that feel truer our core values and deeper loves. My hope is that they will keep our eyes and our hearts trained on what is most important to us, so that we may live each and every day with wisdom and love.

I've kept this offering simple by design. I'm offering no homework, no recommended resources, and no links for further study. Instead, each weekday in January I will send you an offering in the form of a short essay, delivered early in the morning to your inbox, for you to read and contemplate in your own way and in your own good time.

My inspiration for this project comes from a passage in the introduction of To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings by John O'Donohue. In it, he writes:

There is a quiet light that shines in every heart. It draws no attention to itself, though it is always secretly there. It is what illuminates our minds to see beauty, our desire to seek possibility, and our hearts to love life. Without this subtle quickening our days would be empty and wearisome, and no horizon would ever awaken our longing

Our passion for life is quietly sustained from somewhere in us that is welded to the energy and excitement of life. This shy inner light is what enables us to recognize and receive our very presence here as blessing.

We enter the world as strangers who all at once become heirs to a harvest of memory, spirit, and dream that has long preceded us and will now enfold, nourish, and sustain us. The gift of the world is our first blessing.


My hope is that The Gift of the World will help us reconnect with that "quiet light" that fills our days with passion and that recognizes our lives as the blessings they truly are. My hope is that our month together will inspire us to reclaim our lives and the world, so that we may live deeply with our hearts wide open for all the days we are blessed to shine.

I have set a suggested fee of $40 for The Gift of the World, but if that feels excessive for your budget you are welcome to set your own price. To enroll in the course via credit card or Paypal account, please, click the "Buy Now" button below. If you have questions, prefer to sign up via check instead, or if you would like to join the course but are hoping to pay less than the suggested fee, please email me.

Thank you so much for your interest. I hope to share The Gift of the World with you in the new year.

Yoga As Community

November 24, 2015
It’s 8:55 on Wednesday morning and students are filing into the studio. Coats are hung, shoes are kicked under the bench, and mats are dropped onto the floor. Hellos and hugs are offered, and the lovely chatter of friends begins.

I listen carefully to snippets of conversation, catching up on news of the day from my perch at the front of the classroom. I take in tales of travels, illnesses, community happenings and family delights. I notice who is here and who we’re missing. And all the while I gauge the mood of the group, rejiggering my plan for our morning according to the energy my friends have carried with them into class.

At 9:05 each week the last student predictably breezes in, reminding us to begin. And for the next hour and a half we stretch and move and breathe and relax. We explore the limits and possibilities of our bodies and our minds. We shed our stress, restore our energy, and reclaim our lives.

We’ve come together like this for nearly 20 years. The cast of characters shifts from week to week. The location changes occasionally. But two things never change: First, we practice yoga. And second, we cultivate community. We foster a sense of friendship and camaraderie that reminds us that we are part of something greater than our small bodies and individual breaths.

WHOLENESS AND EASE
The word yoga means “to yoke,” and in the beginning the practice teaches us to reconnect the scattered parts of ourselves back into one complete whole. With each ounce of stress we shed, with each tight muscle we relax, we are brought back to a sense of wholeness and ease. We are returned to our truest selves.

With continued practice, though, a deeper understanding of yoga evolves. We begin to see how the practice not only yokes the body, mind and spirit together, but also yokes us to everyone and everything around us. Through yoga, our sense of self expands farther and farther beyond our skin until we take on all of life as our own.

It’s our Wednesday morning yoga class that has taught me this deeper understanding of yoga. I didn’t set out to build a community, just to teach a few friends some healing yoga stretches and relaxing ways to breathe. But yoga works its magic – creating community it its wake – whether you ask it to or not. Thanks to my yoga students, I now understand that in some beautiful way, yoga is community. Yoga is seeing clearly and experiencing deeply the strong bond we share, the shared experience we live, the extent to which I am you and you are me.

You get to know someone pretty well once you’ve done enough downward dogs together. You learn how people move and breathe and think. You learn who runs hot and who runs cold, who runs fast and who runs slow. You learn who can be counted on to add a little humor to the morning, who always has the perfect book recommendation, and who is always ready with a hug and a supportive word.

And in the beautiful container of yoga, you also learn to take on everyone around you as family, in the best sense of the word. You begin to love people not just in spite of their curiosities and foibles but because of them. You take an interest, as a matter of course, in the ups and downs of the lives of others. You embrace each soul around you as a vital and important light in the great constellation of life.

BREATH BY BREATH
I think about this every Wednesday morning, as I watch this mystery unfold in our yoga class. Each of us enters with our own frustrations and fears, wishes and needs. And yet each of us, just by virtue of showing up, is knit into the greater whole of all of us. Breath by breath and moment by moment, we are banded together into a beautiful circle of care and support.

Every week I remind my students about how this works. When we’re feeling energized and balanced, we share that sense of vitality and support with those around us. We reach out to those who are struggling. We offer our support and energy. And when it’s our turn to feel dispirited or empty, we let ourselves be held and carried by that beautiful network of helping hands that surrounds us.

After 90 minutes of stretching and breathing, we settle into a few blissful moments of deep relaxation. I smile as I survey the room, which has settled into a soft and lovely glow. I sigh as my eyes survey my friends resting quietly, restored to some deeper peace and softness. I thank yoga, yet again, for working its magic, for guiding us back to ourselves, and for knitting us all together into one.

I pick up my Tibetan bowl, ready to chime us out of relaxation and off into our days. But then I inevitably pause, reluctant to disturb the collective peace and reverie that has descended upon us. Bowl still in hand, I sweep my gaze across the room, silently wishing each lovely member of our yoga community well. “May you be happy,” I think, looking at one beautiful being. “May you be well,” I offer another, and then another. On and on, until I have wrapped the whole room in a blanket of goodwill.

I offer up my silent thanksgivings to these beautiful souls, to this Wednesday morning tribe that embodies all yoga can offer, a living expression of yoga’s ability to connect us to one another, to create community, to share the joys and sorrows of life with the world around us. And then finally, I chime my bowl and bodies stir. Slowly, happily, each of us gathers our belongings and slips out into the day. And even though we head our separate ways, we remain yoked together by the practice of yoga, and by the invisible strands of love and support that carry us all.

*****

Fall 2015 Yoga

September 7, 2015
Hello, my yoga friends. I'm writing with updates to share about our local fall yoga classes...

Our Wednesday morning class at Yoga On Main keeps chugging along, and I am so thankful to all of you who have made our weekly gathering a part of your lives. I always look forward to our mornings together, and love to see the sense of friendship and community that continues deepen there. This class is open to all, and no pre-registration is required, so feel free to join us anytime. Please remember that starting this week, the Wednesday morning class will be back on its school-year schedule, running from 9AM to 10:30.

I'm going to shake things up with our Thursday evening schedule this fall. Starting September 17, I will offer a four-week series called Yoga In Depth. Each week we will explore one particular theme (balance, flow, energy, ease), looking for ways we can use these principles to carry our yoga practice in new directions and also to enrich our lives off the mat. Although the class will likely be a bit more intense than our open classes, anyone with some yoga experience who is willing to take things at his or her own pace is most welcome to join the class.

Yoga In Depth will meet on four consecutive Thursday nights beginning September 17 at Yoga on Main from 5:45 to 7:15. The fee for this session will be $50 and pre-registration is required. You can enroll by emailing me directly, or by clicking the button below, which will let you register and pay online.

Please feel free to share news of my classes with anyone who might be interested. Fall is a wonderful time to start anew, to dive into a practice that will carry us through the seasons ahead with both clarity and ease. I hope you will consider joining me as we settle into the new season.