I recently read an article today by Linda Ross Swanson, free-lance writer from Portland, Oregon – that left me flooded with so much awareness, attention, inspiration today. Love here – healing energy medicine in this story is in action.
Sitting Downwind from Flowers
By Linda Ross Swanson
A few years ago, Seattle, Washington, a 52-year-old Tibetan refugee named Tenzin was diagnosed with one of the more curable forms of lymphoma.
After the first chemotherapy treatment, Tenzin, usually a gentle man, ripped the IV from his arm. He argued with everyone who came near, even shouting at nurses.
In speaking with Tenzin’s wife, the staff learned that he had been a political prisoner, held and tortured by the Chinese for more than 17 years. She said that the hospital’s rules and regulations, coupled with the chemotherapy treatments, gave Tenzin horrible flashbacks of what he had endured.
In conducting research about former prisoners of war who are later admitted into hospitals to receive treatment for diseases, I discovered that for some, the mere architecture of the hospital brings on painful memories. By design, the structure hinders opportunities to form a patient community, to interact with others in similar situations. Such patients often feel lonely and isolated. Identification bracelets seem to take away their rights, announcing that they are now hospital property. Stripped of their clothing, they suffer humiliation and torture by technicians who, unaware of their prison history or current feelings, painfully seek out veins and antagonize them further with tests and procedures. In Tenzin’s case, one treatment was enough for him to flee.
“I know you mean well, but your treatments are causing my husband to feel the same hatred he felt toward the Chinese. He would rather die than have to live with these feelings. He needs to be able to pray and cleanse his heart.”
Taking her advice, the doctors discharged Tenzin and asked the hospice team to visit him in his home. Marsha, a palliative care consultant was assigned to his care. She called the local office of Amnesty International for advice.
“This man has lost his trust in humanity and feels hope is impossible. If you are going to help him, you must find a way to give him hope.”
When Marsha suggested talking things over, Tenzin held up his hand and stopped her. He said, “If I am to heal my soul, I must learn to love again. Your job is not to ask me questions. Your job is to teach me to love again.”
Marsha took a deep breath, and asked, “How can I do that?”
“Sit down. Drink my tea and eat my cookies.”
Tibetan tea is strong black tea laced with yak butter and salt. It isn’t easy to drink! But Marsha did as he asked. On visits for the next few weeks, Marsha sat with Tenzin and his wife and learned to drink the peculiar tea.
At the hospital, she consulted with doctors to find ways to treat his physical pain. But after her visits, she noticed that it was his spiritual pain that lessened.
As time went by, Marsha found Tenzin sitting cross-legged on his bed reciting prayers from his books. Then he and his wife began hanging more and more colorful “thankas” — Tibetan Buddhist banners, on the walls. The room fast became a beautiful, religious shrine. Tenzin aligned himself with God, and Marsha learned to listen without talking or responding—the pure attending to another human being.
Springtime arrived and Marsha asked him how people in Tibet heal from illness and grief. He said, “They sit downwind from flowers.” She thought he spoke poetically, but his comment was literal. They sit downwind from flowers so they can be dusted with the new blossoms’ pollen. For them, this is strong medicine.
Wanting to help Tenzin, Marsha searched for flower blossoms; however, finding enough of them seemed daunting. One of her friends suggested that she call a flower nursery and explain the situation. She persisted until she found one that was finally willing.
The following Saturday, she picked up Tenzin and his wife along with their afternoon provisions: black tea, yak butter, salt, cups, cookies, prayer beads and prayer books. She dropped them off at the nursery. While curious employees watched, the couple wandered from one area to another until they found just the right place, then they sat down and enjoyed their tea. The following weekend, Tenzin and his wife visited a different nursery.
Soon nursery owners all over town were calling Marsha vying for the Tibetan’s presence. One of them said, “We’ve got a new shipment of nicotiana coming in and some wonderful fuchsias as well as great daphne! I know they’ll love the scent of daphne!” Another called and said that they had colorful windsocks that would help Tenzin predict the direction of the wind.
So during the week, the couple sat downwind from flowers at nurseries all over Seattle. Chairs were placed to match the direction of the wind, and fresh hot water was provided for the couple’s tea. Some of the regular customers started parking their wagons of plants and flowers near the two Tibetans. A community grew around Tenzin and his wife. The activity, or non-activity, of sitting downwind from flowers and drinking tea caught on.
At summer’s end, Tenzin returned to his doctor for a follow-up CT scan. The test revealed no evidence of cancer! Dumbfounded, the doctor told Tenzin that he didn’t know how this had happened
Tenzin lifted his finger and said, “I know why the cancer has left. It can’t live in a body filled with love. When I began to feel all the compassion from the hospice team, from the nursery employees, and all of the people who wanted to know about me, I began to change inside. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to heal in this way. Doctor, please don’t think that your medicine is the only way to cure.”
That spring a transformation took place in Seattle—not just for Tenzin—but for everyone who dared to sit downwind from flowers.
(Linda Ross Swanson is a free-lance writer in Portland, Oregon. Her work has been published in magazines, newspapers and anthologies all over the U.S. and Canada. She is also a respite care hospice volunteer and seminar presenter for two hospital systems in Portland, Oregon. Lee Paton is the hospice nurse who told the following story, submitted by Linda Ross Swanson in Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul. See the book for the whole story. The names have been changed in the story. She can be reached at Linswnsn@aol.com )
This release has some really great sequences that flow directly and smoothly into each pose. I feel like this release is about movement and the repetition allows our minds to settle and our body slowly unravels each time. Ann-See Yeoh, Les Mills Presenter, says “can you tease more length?” in one of the tracks in the instructor video. This resonated with me and I feel like this question or statement is true to the whole release.
Tai Chi: Yellow Flicker Beat, by Lorde
Elegant, simple, powerful.
This track starts of slow, allowing participants to ease in and acclimate to a rhythmic, calm and spacious breath. Feet are together for this one, but I always give the option of feet hip width. Personally, I love when my feet are feet width — I feel more stable.
Crescendo hits. Then the tai chi sequence begins and has so much energy. It’s powerful. It’s simple but can be complicated if you overthink it. When you allow yourself to feel the movement, the breath starts to breath you. The repetition is magic, you start to really let the muscle/fascia memory move you.
Sun Salutations: Two Songs/Two sequences
Omen by Disclosure featuring Sam Smith then Deliver Me by Sarah Brightman
1st Sequence: Traditional Sun Salutation C with lunges, unconventional that we do a total of five instead of four. The four beat count plank to crocodile is genius. Again, simple and each time I feel more warmth in my body. Prana is dancing.
2nd Sequence: This sequence Jackie Mils calls the “Dragon Sequence.” I feel like this may have been inspired by Paul Grilley’s Yang Dragon Dance Sequence. I am biased here, I already love Paul Grilley’s Dragon Dance and this one evokes the feeling of openness, balance and strength. When I cue this, I think of the story of Bhagava Gita and the inner conflict that Arjuna faced.
Standing Strength: Real Life by The Weeknd
A short track, but it does it job to get into the legs. The addition of the heel lift definitely is great for working my arches, ankles and calves. I wasn’t sure about the pointing because I was told as a child never to point because it’s rude (insert sarcastic laugh here) but it works.
Balance Track: Take Me to Church by Hozier
Very challenged by the dynamic movement from standing knee lift to flower pose. I really like that side plank is added here. It would be nice if we had tree pose in the beginning, it would go with the tree side plank. Otherwise, it does sequence together nicely!
Hip Track: Purple, Six60
What a beautiful track. I love the flow from swan to lizard lunge to half lunging camel to seated half lotus. The way we can inch a little further with the lingering music as we side bend is genius to cue “can you give me just a little bit more?”
Abs: Two Songs/Two sequences (supine and prone)
Ain’t Nobody, by Felix Jaehn featuring Jasmine Thompson
Freedom by Pharrell Williams
Honestly have mixed feelings about this track. I love it but man oh man, my core is challenged!!! Phew! Simple, logical sequence for the first song with the crunch and single leg extension and cross-crawl.
The second song features spider planks. I love how the song goes with the hand taps. I love the way my core is challenged.
Back Track: As You Are by The Weeknd
This one is a very hard track. It taps into the strength and flexibility. I see lots of stuff happening here and you have to be very good at cueing participants in their body to use the posterior muscles. I love this when I feel properly aligned and use proper muscles Always making sure to tell folks that they can rest in child’s pose.
Twists: Alchemy by TALA
No lunges but seated twists. Love the transition from seated hip width twist to the lift of the hips. Striking cobra with neck stretch is amazing here. The detail is simple yet effective.
Forward Folds: Two Songs/Two Sequences
I was made for Loving You by Tori Kely featuring Ed Sheeran
Something Beautiful by Jacon Banks
I’ve taught standing Forward Fold with Eale Arms in my Yin Yoga classes before. However, the entry into this one with the music is just so beautiful. I can feel the vunerability in this track. It’s hard not to get lost into it as I teach it.
The second sequence has all my favorite cool down poses. Squat Pose with twists, supine hamstring stretch and supine twist. Need I say more?
Relaxation/Mediation: As She Passes, Levi Patel
It’s delicate, it’s a perfect song to a beautiful release.
My students love this release. The WHOLE THING. The songs. The movement. Another thoughtful, potent release. Thank you Jackie & Diana.
Phillip Bossant, RYT and I are excited to create another Partner Yoga Workshop at the Yoga Company in San Ramon. Last session we did lots of great partner exercises and experimented with some great stuff, even Acroyoga!
So join us as we explore more partner yoga poses and enjoy another afternoon soaking in an abundance of love, laughter and joy. Because it’s truly about enjoying your partner/friend’s company and seeing what you can build together, right?