August 2016 – How to bow

Monday Night Explorations for Aug 2016

Start time 7:25pm; address is 967 College, just past Dovercourt at Octopus Garden Yoga.


DATE: Aug 1
THEME: From habit to ritual
MEDITATION: Hold it now…..hit it
INTERACTIVE: Slow and low, that is the tempo.

Everybody catch the boogaloo flu.  Actually, don’t.  It’s incurable. Before you know it, you’ll be on automatic, boogalooing up and down the avenue, unable to stop enough to catch your breath.  During this non-Beastie Boy themed session, we are going to tune into automaticity, not the easy response that comes from a natural place, but it’s evil cousin, the habit, the entrained neural pattern that activates our behavior before we have had time to decide whether an action serves us.  For the sit, we focus on subtle activations, for the interactive, we identify a space in our life where habit has crept in over intention, and next week, see what space ritual has in slowing us down. making us alive to our power.


DATE : Aug 8
TEACHER: Avi Craimer
THEME: Meaning and symbol
MEDITATION: Ritual intention setting
INTERACTIVE: Transform your life with symbolic action

We automatically respond to the meanings of things on both a conscious and an unconscious level. Ritual is a way to take control of and leverage this innate meaning responsiveness. In tonight’s meditation we’ll use a simple opening ritual to enhance our meditative concentration. In the second half, Avi will lead us in a creative process to discover and design symbolic actions to transform stuck patterns in our lives.


DATE: Aug 15
THEME: How to bow
MEDITATION: Full surrender.
INTERACTIVE: How low can you go

The world is a beautiful place, but it is a hard one too.  Despite our furtive attempts to know it, even how  we fit, it consistently outpaces both our hopes and imaginations.  The search can leave us feeling alone, irritated, confused.  A question emerges, as possible antidote: are you bowing deeply enough?  To the mystery, to the person passing you in the subway turnstile fighting the same big questions, to yourself, as jeweled as any other facet of  Indra’s net. This week, we sit, and let go.  And let go.  And let go.  Perhaps we find, even with all that letting go, somehow, we are still, somehow held.  Then, we bow.

DATEAug 22
TEACHERJeff Warren
THEME: The Practice of Perspective
MEDITATION: Layers of Our Discontent
INTERACTIVE: The Art of Moving Out

This week, we explore perspective from two directions: in sitting practice, where we’ll tease out some of the understated and not-so understated ways we find our moments lacking (and in the seeing, a subtle freeing), and, for part two, a wonderful art practice designed to take us out of ourselves into some of the insightful and often healing perspectives that surround us.

CEC_MeditateDATE: August 29
THEME: Liminality
MEDITATION: Opening to possibilities
INTERACTIVE: Labyrinth walking

The middle stage of ritual, begun but not yet complete, is called liminality. Rife with ambiguity, confusion and possibilities, it’s a rich time for discovery. We’ll meditate in that middle space, opening to the compelling nature of our ever-changing experience. Then we’ll take our interactive practice on the road to a local park and walk a labyrinth, a contemplative journey embodying those liminal twists and turns. How we’ll emerge from these rituals – transformed, solidified or something else entirely – is anyone’s guess. We can go for ice cream afterwards and discuss!


CEC #126 – How to bow

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space.
-Viktor Frankl

We are born with few tools, but there are some.  Our eyes register light.  We can cry.  We even have a few reflexes.  These responses to stimuli are so automatic and reliable in every human, that should we not reproduce them, it can signal something wrong with our ability to interact with the world.

Touch an infant’s cheek, and her mouth twitches to that side, prepared to latch.  Startle her, or simulate a brief fall, and her arms open wide, then close, and often, she cries.  There are a few others.  In most children, with time, these early ones fade, though in some rare people, traces remain.   If you stroke Jeff’s cheek, for instance, his leg beats up and down like a rabbit’s as he weeps.  Try it.

Others appear.  Before an infant has even stood, the parachute reflex emerges, her arms automatically extending as if to catch a fall.  Teenagers across the world, at the precise age of 14, reflexively roll their eyes as soon as their parent’s utter a word in public.

Maybe we’re talking about habit now, an action not riven into a neural pathway as part of a nervous system’s normal development, but one for which, over time, the turnaround has become so fast, it can be nearly lost in the tide of our consciousness.

Nearly.  As Frankl says above, there is often a space, even if disappearingly small.  For reflexes, not as much.  Many of them, like the one a doctor taps from the tendon of your knee, do not even travel to your brain, just loop from stimulus to response right in your spinal cord.  Most other complex inputs, though,the ones to which our response  leads to the patterns of behaviour that form a life, there is processing in our awareness, even if subtle, even if lightning quick.

There was a time, once, when such stimuli lead to longer consideration.  Should I try this cigarette?  Wow.  It made me cough.  Should I try another? Oh, I’ve received a message on my phone.  Is now the right time to check it?  How does this thing work again?  With time, and practice, smokesmokesmoke.  Checkcheckcheck.


I work in the emergency department.   As soon as I open the curtain, I receive many inputs.  Does this person’s clothes tell me they sleep on the street?  That’s a great risk for many things.  Is that a facial droop?  Have they had a stroke? Is this a doting daughter beside the bed, or one visiting from far away? My mind races with questions, starts lining up tests and diagnoses.  So many variables to consider to make it safe for this person, for the ones I left behind other curtains.  The processing can be so automatic that it borders on the habitual and I almost forget my job: to recognize properly the whole worried person shivering in the hospital sheets.

So I slow down.  I add, to the encounter, my own version of ritual.  I sit, put my pen away, smile.  “I’m Dr. Maskalyk.  How can I help you.”  They tell me, and my mind races, as it must, deciding and planning.  When the questions are done, I stand, and nearly every time, take their wrist, feel their pulse, and wait.

Bump.  Bump.  Bump.

This is a person, with a beating heart.  Wow.

The world we’ve built for ourselves is nearly as fast as our mind.  If we’re not careful, between the two, it can seem that so much  is happening in each, we’ll never catch our breath.  We become overwhelmed, frenetic, hurried along.  The space between stimulus and response disappears, and with it, room for us to choose the life we want.

We can claim it.  That’s what this month is about.  Slowing down, making ritual from habit.  We’ll do it sitting and surrendering.  We’ll do it by noticing the subtle tug of a stimulus, the twitch of our response, the almost infinitesimal space between the two.  Perhaps, we’ll even watch that space grow, get a glimmer that if we pay attention, there is in fact great space, and we’ve been living in it this whole time.  Then, to the freedom it holds, to ourselves and to others, we will learn how to bow.

Dr J.
Director of Science and Celebration
The Consciousness Explorers Club