Tag Archives: Self-Discovery

BREATHING LOVE by Michelle Bernard

yoga 3Every time I tell someone that I teach yoga, they respond by saying something like, “I can’t even touch my toes,” or “Do you have to stand on your head?” Most people assume that their body must be pretzel-like before they can do yoga.   What they don’t understand is that the practice of yoga is far richer than touching one’s toes and much more than the mere movement of one’s body. Yoga has been marketed with images of quirky, tattooed, thin, new age, free-spirits sitting in a lotus position, or posing with one leg stretched up to the heavens, or standing contemplatively on their heads.  So many people attend yoga classes hoping to tie their legs behind their necks, tone their bodies without becoming “bulky”, or sweat profusely in the hope of melting away excess pounds.

Western culture has placed more emphasis on the physical rather than the spiritual aspect of yoga, despite theYoga 6 profound transformational  potential of this ancient, spiritual practice on body, mind and soul. I found my way to my first yoga class in 1995.  I was in my twenties and living in Hollywood pursuing the life of an entertainer.  Ironically, I was also battling the demon of depression.  The path my life as a singer no longer felt fulfilling.

I was suffering from  the awareness of dishonorable choices that I had made in my personal Yoga 7life and was unable to free myself from them.  I needed desperately to change my life — both in terms of my career and my personal relationships, but I didn’t know how to begin.  I really didn’t know how to re-direct my energy.  Moreover, I had no idea who I really was beyond the person that I had turned into.

I knew that the latter was not me, but I didn’t know who I was beyond the identity that I’d developed so far.  I was afraid.  Fear devastated me.  I was living in darkness.  And in this darkness, I was blind. But something led me to the Hollywood Y, a place where I could teach step aerobics and stretch classes.  So when I took my first yoga class, I did it merely so that I could  learn new Yoga 12stretches to incorporate in my fitness classes.

The yoga class was held on the basketball court upon a sea of thick, blue and gray Velcro-attached gymnastic mats.  The teacher, a brown man draped in a white, cotton loin cloth and a crown of bound “locks” spoke very little, like a guide. All I remember about the physical poses was standing with my arms at my side and breathing (tadasana, the mountain pose), standing on one leg and breathing (vrksasana, tree pose), and lying on my back and breathing (savasana, corpse pose).  What I never forgot was how the brown man spoke.  He was gentle, calm, compassionate, loving.  He wasn’t speaking to the physical me; he was speaking to my soul.  He was moving in oneness with my spirit.

And for the first time, in a long time, I felt an inner peace, that flowed from my own spirit.  I remember how quiet I became inside.  He guided my mind towards my breath, breathing in and breathing out, in and out.  There was peace in the breath.  There was peace in the stillness.   I found comfort.  I could begin again in the darkness.  I could breathe through it; and it wasn’t as foreboding. When I thought about the transformation that I had witnessed through the love of  breath from my own body, I was moved to tears.  I cried on my walk home.  Ninety minutes of standing, rolling, moving, breathing . . . .  had awakened something. I kept attending the Yoga Class at the Y.  I kept standing in mountain pose, engaged in the deep breath, guided by my teacher.

Through the stillness, through the energy, through the breath, I began to see more clearly — despite the darkness within.   I began to look at life differently, and I began to listen.  And there it was.  An illumination.  Great Spirit was with me, speaking to my soul, and showing me more of my Self than I’d ever seen.  I saw the essence of me.  I saw new courage.  I saw that I was capable of releasing the old Self.  Spirit was breathing in me the strength to uproot and recreate in a direction I had never considered.

I aligned with a deeper part of my essence.  Yoga, I realized, was not simply stretching; it was stillness.  It was the stillness that I needed to go within, the stillness that I needed to hear the Great Spirit, the stillness that I needed to move forward in peace. From those yoga classes, my life changed forever. Michelle Bernard is a licensed yoga intructor and personal trainer, as well as the owner and creator of  exquisite and original jewelry — each piece of which is an original work of art. 

See www.aboutpebble.com; www.thewanderingpebble.blogspot.com  Michelle is also facilitating two Retreat Workshops, “Breathing Love” and  “Transforming the Body.”

GOD’S LOVE EXPRESSING AS US by Sherri Roberts-Lumpkin

DSC08154[1]Mother Teresa put it aptly when she wrote, “I am a tiny pencil in the hand of God, writing a love letter to the world.” But would God use me — a brown girl — to express love in the world?   The answer is yes.  Love is part of the very fiber of our being — not separate from who we are; it was created when we were created and it never stops creating itself.  Love is in our hearts; and we are in the heart of love.  As John says, “[e]veryone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”  (1 John 4:19) Many brown girls the world over suffer from a lack of self-esteem, which is really a lack of self-love and self worth. We are inundated with so many negative opinions of us — from the media, family and friends, or our own minds. We are obessessed with who we aren’t, what we aren’t, what we haven’t done, how we don’t look, where we haven’t been, why we can’t — rather than focused on the love of God blessing us and lifting us unconditionally.   Roberta Flack sings, “where is the love?”  To find love, we have to stop looking outside of ourselves and dig deep within.  We have to release the beliefs that society imposes on us, as well as our own self- imposed negative thoughts about ourselves. The best way to start loving yourself is through forgiveness.  We have to forgive society.  We have to forgive the world.  We have to forgive ourselves.  We have to forgive the haters and even the discriminators.  We have to forgive those who hurt us.  We have to forgive those who Sherri Lumpkin Photolost our trust.  The amazing thing is that forgiveness is not for the other person, it is for us.  Forgiveness opens our hearts to accept the love that is always inside — and by so doing, forgiveness creates spaces to accept the love of others.  Brown girls need love like everybody else.   Brown girls have a tremendous capacity to love too — because we are here to radiate the love of God as us — in our beauty, in our rhythm, in our warmth, in our strength,  in our wisdom, in our creativity, in our dance, in our song, in our power, in our intelligence, in our compassion.  The problem is that we need to believe that we are the best thing that ever happened to us — not a man or a job or an opportunity — just us.  When we brown girls truly begin to believe in our self-worth, then we will begin to pass our love to the world. The Ragbaby Exchange uses doll-making to help release the layers of self doubt and unforgiving attitudes to uncover the love and beauty of the brown girl.   The magic of making and embracing our love through dolls is healing. Doctors use dolls to calm patients with dementia. Social workers and therapist use dolls to help victims of abuse express what has happened to them. Children hold and play with dolls to comfort them but while playing they learn how to be nurturing. God is a Brown Girl Too 2010 Retreat 032The Ragbaby Exchange engages participants of all ages in doll-making as a way to express themselves. The dolls becaome their self-portrait.  This self-portrait begins the process of discovery that brings about a sense of acceptance of one’s own love and beauty. Through our doll-making workshops, we peel back the layers of negative thoughts and allow you to: • express your thoughts and emotions in healthy growth producing ways, • gain a sense of accomplishment, which helps move you toward self affirmation and divine potential, • learn to forgive, accept and value yourself and others, • see your own inner beauty and feel the love inside of you. Once we can see our own beauty and feel our own love expressed through this doll, we are able to be that tiny pencil. Through our release and acceptance of self, we become the words in God’s love letter.  When we decide to pass our beautiful loving self-image to another person, in effect, they are given a love letter from God, which says, “I love you.”  Peter said,  “above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”  (I Peter 4:8) Change your life by joining me at God is a Brown Girl Too, and start a chain reaction of spreading God’s love with a little brown doll filled with your love.   Sherri Roberts-Lumpkin, Founder/Creative Director,  The Ragbaby Exchange, will be doing some fantastic workshops at the Retreat, using the power of dolls to transform a Brown Girl’s love and appreciation of herself.