Claudia Cummins

Inspiring health and happiness in body, mind and spirit

Roots and Wings

February 20, 2017

May your feet have deep roots
that lend you stability and strength.

May your legs be strong and sturdy,
carrying you with ease and grace.

May your belly be filled
with a quiet fire that inspires you.

May your hands move with inspiration,
crafting beauty and delight.

May your head be filled
with sweetness and blue sky.

May your eyes shine
with beautiful visions.

May your heart have wings.
My you rise up.

May you be happy.

Meditation for Action

February 17, 2017

Meditation for Action 
Co-hosted with Annamarie Fernyak

Sunday, March 5, from 1 to 3 at
The Butterfly House in Mansfield
Free and open to all 

Meditation can be a powerful tool that promotes not just inner peace but also peace in the world around us. In this afternoon session and community gathering, we'll explore contempletive practices that help us stay calm and balanced in our ever-changing world. We'll also consider ways to serve as engaged citizens who promote wellbeing for all in a spirit of goodwill and unity.

How do we live in ease, even in the midst of unsettled times? How does peace in the outer world relate to peace in our own hearts? How do we speak up from a place of love rather than hate? How do we seek out common ground with those who disagree with us? And how can we use difficult emotions like fear and anger to promote healing rather than discord?

Together we'll consider these questions and more. Our afternoon will include meditation, discussion, an informal reception and an opportunity to learn more about local groups seeking positive change. Members of organizations promoting wellbeing for all are welcome to join us to share the news about their initiatives.

This session is offered in a spirit of peace rather than conflict, love rather than hate, and unity rather than polarization. Everyone is welcome, regardless of race, age, gender, religion or political belief. No prior meditation experience is necessary and no pre-registration is required.

Speak With a Loving Heart

February 5, 2017
Sometimes I wonder whether the true mark of an evolved society boils down to little more than a healthy dose of impulse control. Can we feel an urge without necessarily acting on it? Can we stop ourselves from falling headlong into an activity that feels good in the moment but may not be beneficial in the longer term? Can we pause long enough when feeling a strong emotion to decide whether to act on it or walk away? Can we learn to balance our immediate needs with the best interests of ourselves and those around us?

It’s worth considering from time to time how we are faring in this realm, and whether we are living deliberately enough to respond to the world rather than react to it. It’s also worth pondering how our ability to control our impulses may support a deepening sense of lovingkindness and care.

Most spiritual traditions offer teachings to help us find our way toward a healthy balance between bright spirit and impeccable behavior. The yoga scriptures offer the yamas and niyamas, or ethical restraints. The Christian tradition offers the ten commandments. And the Buddhists offer up the eightfold path.

A good place to start when considering the possibility of reining in some of our baser instincts might be with the invitation to practice "right speech," which simply means using our words wisely and well. And my favorite instruction in this department comes from Indian mystic Sai Baba:

          Before speaking, 
          ask yourself the following questions: 
          Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? 
          Does it improve upon the silence?

If that’s too much to keep track of, we could just cut straight to the chase: Am I speaking from a loving heart?

OUR OWN BEST EDITORS
Ouch. Because, honestly, most of what I say each day doesn’t meet Sai Baba’s test for wise speech. Most of what I say is utterly unnecessary, much is filled with opinion rather than truth, plenty isn’t exactly kind, and the world would often be better served if I would just keep my mouth shut.

How about you? What words have you spoken so far today? If you were able to be your own best editor, what would prefer not to have said? And is there something you  might have said that would have been truer, kinder or more necessary? If you’re like me, you may find yourself often leaning longingly toward silence as the safest answer, especially silence filled with calm abiding and loving presence.

When we master the basics of wise speech, we will be ready to move on to advanced practice: Managing necessary but difficult conversations with love and care. Right speech doesn't mean forsaking our voices or sacrificing our presence in the greater world. It merely asks us to use our words wisely and to speak up in a spirit of support and care. It means speaking and acting in constructive ways and always with a loving heart.

HEALING THE WORLD WITH WORDS
Perhaps today we might consider paying close attention to the words we offer up. Perhaps we can be guided by Sai Baba’s instructions and see what happens. Perhaps we can strive to speak from our highest selves and from our own good hearts.

I have a suspicion that we will discover that this is harder than it sounds. We may even be a little disheartened by how often our words are tinged with negativity and ill-will. We may be surprised by how strong our impulses can be, when we try to stop ourselves from saying something cruel but just can’t muster up the restraint to resist.

But if we spend our days spouting such slander, how are we going to heal ourselves and the world?

In the end, perhaps, our words and our actions are expressions of our hearts. When our hearts are blissfully peaceful and pure, restraint will no longer be an issue. We will only know how to speak in love and out of love. In the meantime, though, we may want to hold close to Sai Baba’s words, cultivating the will and the wisdom to speak in ways that cultivate a higher peace and happiness for us all.


This essay was written for Dwelling in the Heart, Claudia's 2016 online lovingkindness immersion.

*****

Mid-Winter Yoga

January 29, 2017

A message for my local students: Our next session of yoga classes begins February 15 and 16 in Mansfield. Classes will meet on Wednesday mornings at the Butterfly House and Thursday evenings at the Renaissance.  Click here to learn more.

I will look forward to seeing you then!

A Blessing for Living Big

January 22, 2017

Consider the possibility that you are not you. Or rather that you are not the little self that you perceive yourself to be, with your small story and your passing struggles.

Consider the possibility that you are an instrument of the greater You of the universe, of the vital energy that longs to spread and stretch through the cosmos, reaching all the way back to the beginning and all the way forward into forever. 

Consider the possibility that you are infinite and real. Drop your small-minded obsessions with your transient self and struggles. Invite the vast vitality of the world to flow through you. Have faith. Live big.

Be bold enough to reclaim your birthright as a strong and beautiful messenger of life. Serve the world as an instrument of its kindness and peace. Shine brightly as life plays its sweet and soulful songs through you.

~~~

Questions for contemplation: When in my life do I feel small and when do I feel as vast as the universe? In what ways do I sometimes live too small, sabotaging my own bright light that longs to shine? How would it feel to stand in my fullest strength and light, living as big as the world allows?

~~~

This blessing was written for Claudia's January 2017 online immersion 
called Illumination: Entering the New Year with Rekindled Light.

A Blessing for the Body

January 11, 2017

I pledge allegiance to my body, which has served so nobly and so faithfully for all these many years. I offer thanks for my strong legs and fierce belly and clear eyes and wide-open heart. I acknowledge the incredible might and mystery that has kept my lungs breathing and my limbs moving and my hands reaching out to the wider world. 

Oh, dear, body, how difficult I have made your journey - sometimes deliberately and sometimes in confusion. Perhaps I've overworked you or underfed you or shunned or shamed you. I have shown you so little mercy and have given you few reprieves. And I have too often treated you as unworthy or unbeautiful or not good enough. 

I have even lived with the illusion that something is truly wrong with you (which means, of course, with me). I have labored with the mistaken assumption that with enough will and determination I might shape you into something other than who you already are.

And what you already are, my one and only portal to the world, is beautiful. You have taken me on unfathomable journeys and have led me through unexpected adventures. You have been my home for happiness and bright thoughts. You have enabled me to participate in acts of creation and deep care. You are my lifeline to the infinite and the vessel through which the world's greater light flows.

I pledge allegiance to you (to me), beautiful body. I promise, from this day forth, to honor and appreciate your strength and your steadfastness. I promise to take good care of you and to offer you ample opportunities for nourishment and fresh air and rest and delight. I pledge to treat you with same compassion and tenderness that I strive to offer all beings. I bow to you (to me). Thank you for being my home in the world.

~~~

Questions for contemplation: In my heart of hearts, how do I feel about my body? Who might I be with a more friendly and affirming set of thoughts about my physical self? What steps might I take to practice more effective self-care in a way that offers my whole being greater affection and respect?

~~~

This blessing was written for Claudia's January 2017 online immersion 
called Illumination: Entering the New Year with Rekindled Light.

Yoga in the New Year

January 3, 2017

Yoga in the new year has begun!

Winter is a wonderful time to dive into the practice and to reap the benefits of its many gifts. The quiet light of the season urges us to turn inward, to move gently and to tend to our inner being. I encourage you to spend a little time this month on your mat, either at home or in the company of others.

Beginning this week, I have classes on Wednesday mornings from 9 to 10:30 at the Butterfly House and on Thursday evenings from 5:30 to 6:30 in the ballroom of The Renaissance Theater in downtown Mansfield. You can learn about them here.

In addition, there are still a few spaces open for our second Hatha and Harmony gathering on Saturday morning, January 21. This class, which features yoga and live classical music in a warm and welcoming environment, will be held at OhioHealth's Wellness Center in Mansfield. This is a unique opportunity sponsored by OhioHealth and the Mansfield Symphony, so even if it's been a while since you've dusted off your yoga mat, I highly recommend it. You can sign up here.