My introduction to mindfulness meditation and to Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy happened within months of one another. Although I had been practicing yoga for almost a decade, I had only flirted with the idea of meditation. It seemed mysterious and conjured up images of monks in robes and years of practice and devotion. In short, daunting, something that required much investment without any guarantees of reaping the often-touted rewards such as calmness, clarity, and peace and let’s not forget enlightenment.
My initial experiences with mindfulness meditation stand out as embodied memories; that is, I remember what it felt like in my body—sensations in specific locations, some linked to images and memories and a whole lot of thoughts and commentary on what I was noticing. I remember the contrast of sitting meditation to walking meditation and how walking meditation seemed easier. It seemed like I was become aware of parts of my foot and body for the first time while also being aware of my breath and matching my steps to breathing in and out. Engaging my body physically supported me in being more present to what was happening for me in the moment.
The Sanskrit word smriti (Pali: sati) is often translated as “mindfulness,” however my meditation teacher, Frank Jude Boccio, often points out that it literally means “remembering” and that the act of re-membering or re-collecting brings together all the seemingly disparate parts of our experience into an integrated whole.[i] Our remembering, our mindfulness, is dependant upon paying attention to what is happening now and occurs in relationship to ourselves, to others, to things and the phenomena around us. Mindfulness is not a tool or strategy outside of us, but rather it is an internal capacity to be cultivated and strengthened.
Looking back I’m very grateful for the unplanned timing of starting both a mindfulness meditation practice and beginning my journey as a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist around the same time. As I’ve grown in my personal meditation practice, my capacity for mindfulness has deepened and supported my development as a PRYT practitioner. The more that I’ve studied mindfulness, the more I appreciate and understand the synergistic aspects that make Phoenix Rising such a powerful and effective modality.
Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy is a modality built on mindfulness; being with what’s happening now, just as it is and is not without judgment, is at the heart of the work. Although there are many definitions of mindfulness, I’ve found that the one used by my teacher captures many of the qualities that Phoenix Rising practitioners learn to cultivate. In his book, Mindfulness Yoga, Frank Jude writes, “Mindfulness—the quality of mind that embodies “bare attention”—is the observing of things as they are, without choosing, without comparing and judging, without evaluating and without layering or adding any of our projections or expectations onto what is happening.”[ii]
PRYT provides a framework to guide embodied self-inquiry through intentionally working with mindfulness as a means of personal insight and healing. Through mindfulness, moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surroundings is maintained and these experiences are “re-collected” into an integrated whole as a source of personal information and knowledge. The pieces of the Phoenix Rising framework creates a synergy that places at its center mindful attention on the body—a source of cellular information, memory, emotions, and connected insights—and enables people to use what they learn to improve the quality of their lives, their wellbeing and their relationship with themselves and others.
In part 2 of this post, I will explore specific similarities between mindfulness and aspects of the Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy framework.
For more information about or to contact Lori visit embodiedyogatherapy.com