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Inner Refuge & Felt Safety

Felt Safety.  What does this mean and why is it important? How do we orient to it, and is it possible to orient no matter the conditions and circumstance?

Safety is one of our most basic needs as a human being.  When we feel safe, our organism feels regulated and balanced. We have space for the more evolved aspects of our humanity: self reflection, growth and learning, insight and understanding, connection and empathy.  When we don’t feel safe, we usually attend to the more immediate needs of survival.  Instead, our attention is scanning for threat, the need to guard or defend, or perhaps to fight or flee, in some instances freeze.  While this is an important survival mechanism, it also places us in a heightened state of vigilance and activation.  When unconsciously prolonged, it adversely impacts our sense of well-being and health.

So what does safety mean in daily life?

There is the safety of our physical environment. While there may be troubling situations arising in the world, I may feel physically safe within the bounds of my home or perhaps in the serenity of nature.   There is also felt safety within relationships.  Some relationships may put me at ease, while others make me uncomfortable or uneasy.  If I am in a relationship where I am regularly criticized, or perhaps the object of snarky humor, I may not feel safe or at ease.  Instead, I am awaiting the next remark that I may need to protect myself from. On the other hand, we may have a trusted friend, partner or an animal that exudes a compassionate and kind presence toward us.  We feel at home in ourselves when we are with them.

Equally important is the safety of our inner experience.  If I constantly judge or diminish myself, tell myself I need to do better or do more, I might not feel at ease within myself.  Instead I might constantly be striving to become something else, rather than feelin at rest with how I am.  This is not to suggest that change is always unwholesome, but if it is regularly rooted in a sense of lack or not enough, it can be incredibly depleting.

So what allows you to feel safe with yourself?  This may call for clear and compassionate boundaries at times, an inner atmosphere of kindness and acceptance, taking refuge in your home, safe communities, or nature.  The answers are unique to each individual.

In the practice of meditation and specifically iRest® yoga nidra, we take time to explore this felt inner refuge during the beginning pieces of practice.  This can create an atmosphere of ease through which we meet the moments that are arising. By felt safety I am referring to the lived experience of safety in your body as sensation and vibration.  We can think all day long about what safety is, but its impact becomes real when it is embodied.  The more we touch and taste the felt quality of security, ground, and ease, the more accessible it becomes in life, and especially in the moments that something distressing arises.

How do we evoke this inner refuge?  We can call forward imagery or memory.  It might include a wise being, a trusted friend or community, beloved animal, a place, or a memory.  There may be corresponding images, sounds, tastes and smells that make it all the more vivid.  Slowly, we feel what is lighting up in our body as sensation, the rhythm of our heart beating and the body breathing.  We come to know the lived experience of safety and well-being in our flesh and bones.

While imagery and visualization can be a great support, the ultimate expression of this inner refuge may arise through the ground of simply Being; being with moments as they are, without pushing anything away or needing to pull anything closer.  There can be a profound experience of safety in meeting life in this way.

We will continue to explore this in classes this week.  If you would like, you might explore at home with the following guidance:

Find a posture that feels easy on your body, sitting on the floor or on a chair, or reclining.  You can choose to keep your eyes softly open, or closed.  You might take a few slow breaths in and out through the nose, a little longer on the exhale … as you feel your body grounding toward the earth below …  Feel yourself held and supported as you allow your breath to return to its natural flow. 

Call your attention within your body, resting heart centered, feeling the rhythm of your body breathing and your heart beating.  You might feel a quality of ok-ness, or perhaps well-being in this living, breathing body …  Gently open into the feeling of safety and ease.  Notice what you feel in your body… You might call forward imagery or a memory that enables you to feel safe and at ease now.  Perhaps there are images of a trusted friend or community, a beloved animal, a symbolic object.  It may include a place or a memory.  There may be sounds, scents, taste, color and shape.  As this becomes vivid, begin to feel how your body is resonating with sensation and vibration.  Open to sensation across your head and face … eyes, ears and jaw.  Feel through the inside of your shoulders and hands … your torso, across the front of the chest into the low abdomen … the upper back to the low back.  Feel the subtle vibrations through your hips … the length of the legs, the soles of your feet …  Simply Being, feel the whole body of sensation and the felt safety of an inner refuge … just to the degree that it is available… Rest here as long as you like.

When you feel ready, begin to feel your body, the ground, the space you are in.  Slowly open and close your eyes, gentle wiggle your fingers and your toes, wrists and ankles.  As you begin to navigate your day, know that you can return to this inner refuge any time you want to feel safe, secure and at ease.



Simplicity of Being, March Retreat

In a few weeks, I will be heading out to offer a weeklong retreat with Karlie Lemos in Tulum, Mexico at the beautiful Shambhala Petit.  This will be an opportunity to slow down, to immerse in the beauty of the nature as you return home to your most essential self. There will be opportunity for morning meditation, afternoon yoga asana, and evening guided yoga nidra and relaxation.  You will be invited to participate as it serves you, with ample space to restore and replenish.  We hope the restlessness of the world can subside for a time, as you reconnect with yourself, and with what carries meaning and purpose in your life.

The retreat dates are March 17 to March 24, and we have one remaining casita left (two people) and two roommate spaces.

If this interests you, please feel free to connect with me.



Nourishing Joy

Nourishing Joy.  This can sound somewhat self-indulgent, but instead I believe it to be self-sustaining. It is important to take time to reflect on joy, what it means, how it comes forward in life, and how it feels in our bodies. By joy, I am referring to the feeling of lightness and happiness within. Perhaps the deepest joy that we might explore is the one of being at home in ourselves.  Without recognition of joy, life can feel dull, and our attention more fixated to the things that are not going well for us.  Instead, joy helps us to feel resilient over time, balancing the heaviness of life with a vital lightness.

Joy can be personal. Perhaps I feel light when I am in nature, when I have the opportunity to paint, write or be in a loving relationship. Joy can arise for many reasons.  A skillful inquiry is to reflect on whether our joy feels wholesome; that it does not arise out of disregard for or diminishment of others or the environment.

We can also open to a joy that arises without cause; one that is innate to us, and an expression of our essence. It can become available just by virtue of meeting life as it is, without agenda.  This might be at odds with what we believe, that life must go our way for joy to be available.  However, I invite to explore what emerges when you meet life as it is.  Is there a background of ease that becomes known? This joy is less personal, and more subtle, but it exudes a warmth nonetheless.  This flavor of joy might feel closer to stable peacefulness or equanimity.

This week in classes we will explore making fresh commitment to include joy in our lives. In my experience, a key component is to have periods of time to slow down during my day. In time, the inclusion of joy can enable a fresh and skillful way of meeting life that is less burdened by history or conditioning.  While I share these thoughts and explorations, know that I am equally on the path with you, making mistakes along the way and feeling the joy of being aligned when it arises.

This week some of the questions we will consider might be:

  • How does joy resonate in your body? How does it arise as sensations? You can bring forward imagery or a memory that evokes the feeling of joy for you now to explore.
  • Where and how do I experience wholesome joy in my life?
  • If you broke down your life into a few broad categories: home, professional work, relationships, etc. – what does it mean to feel light in any one or more of these areas?
  • How can you include the time and space for joy in your day?
  • What is your felt experience of joy when you are deeply at rest, perhaps in those moments where one task has completed and the other has not yet begun? Does this joy depend upon circumstance? Or is it always here? What enables you to orient to this feeling of joy?


“Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.” 

Kahlil Gibran


New Guided Meditation: Body, Breath and Being, iRest® Yoga Nidra

I have uploaded a new guided iRest® yoga nidra meditation to the guided meditations page.

This sixteen minute practice invites you to welcome your experience as it is, moment to moment. You will journey through the body and the breath, while taking moments to open to the ease of Being as it is revealed. Toward the end, you will be guided to feel both the ground of Being and the play of life and sensation, recognizing how both are true and here in this moment. In closing, you will be invited to listen for intention, and if available, envisioning it into your day.

Find a comfortable place to practice.  I invite you to lie down if you would like, perhaps place a cushion beneath your head and the backs of your knees. If you prefer, you can also practice seated in a chair or on the floor.  Your body temperature can drop, so you might choose to place a rug across your body.  Many receive deep, restorative rest or sleep through this practice, and this can be very healing.  It is common to experience this for some time while you restore your body and mind.  Once more replenished, you will begin to feel alert and awake, and open to the aspects of self-inquiry that this style of practice offers.

Fresh Commitments to Ourselves

As I continue to teach and explore classes in a more thematic way this year, I will share my thoughts here occasionally.  We have spent several weeks exploring the feeling of purpose and longing in life.  We will now begin to dive into the experience of intention.  You can think of intentions as more short term, whereas heartfelt direction, longing or purpose is an overarching theme that spans a lifetime.

Intentions can be affirmed for a single practice, or they can span the duration of a day, a week, a month.  Intentions help us to recognize why we are choosing to practice.  On any given day it might be to return to the feeling of Being with life, rather than constantly planning and doing life.  Intention can also be to return home to our true self, perhaps to remember the clarity of presence, or to take time to meet an emotion or a memory that has been arising.  When recognized and felt at the beginning of a practice, intention becomes an internal compass that reminds us to pay attention to the moment that is unfolding.  This said, sometimes intention is less cognitive, and rests as a feeling sense.  You are here practicing without interpreting why and that is perfectly fine.

Over the course of the next few classes, we will also inspire a fresh commitment to practice itself.  By practice, I am referring to anything that allows you to feel at ease and grounded in yourself.  This might be meditation for some. It can include yoga asana, walks, painting, tai chi, cooking, or whatever this means for you.  A beautiful way to uncover fresh motivation for practice is by taking time to appreciate and embody the gifts you have already received from them.  Then as we venture into our day, and we veer away from ourselves and our practices, the motivation and commitment we have come to know in our bodies will eventually bring us back.  Perhaps after days, weeks or months of falling away from practice, you might feel like something is missing and slowly make your return.

A fresh commitment to practice is also skillfully paired with a commitment to minimizing the things that pull us apart from ourselves.  You can make a commitment to do less of something.  For me, this has meant less time on my phone, eliminating social media for now, and taking in news by choice rather than being inundated by sources that are not serving me.

In the following weeks, we will also explore bringing alive the intention for joy.  The world is full, and life has its ups and downs.  It is important to recognize what brings us moments of lightness, and true and wholesome joy. By wholesome I mean a joy that is not harmful to other sentient beings. Joy can arise both as a result of something, and also as byproduct of simply Being with life exactly as it is.  Taking time for these kind of reflections can help us to make room for Joy, both caused and uncaused.  I am not implying that we should only experience joy.  Instead, making room for lightness in life helps us to feel resilient during moments that are difficult and outside of our control.

While I will be leading classes with a progressive theme, they will be offered in a way that is completely accessible for beginners or the occasional drop in.  The Monday, Wednesday and Friday classes at noon at Yoga Yoga North include time for check-in, breathing exercises, a few minutes of light movement that would be fine to do even in work clothes.  I will lead you through a 25-30 minute guided iRest yoga nidra meditation, often followed by inquiry as appropriate.  I would love to hear from you if you have feedback or comments. Feel free to comment here or to send me a private message through the home page.