Jersey City Writers at Art House Productions

imgjcwsuperTonight I will be reading short fiction written by Sarah T. Jewell as part of the Jersey City Writers and Art House Productions genre event series. The event Zap! Pow! Bam! Superheroes & Supervillains: A night of dynamic dare-do-well & dastardly deeds features work by local writers read by actors.

The evening will feature author, Keith R.A. DeCandido, American science fiction and fantasy writer, and local writers: David Boyle, Rachel Poy, Jonathan Huang, Jim DeAngelis, Beth Bentley, Stephen Weber, Mike Purfield, Sarah T. Jewell, and E.M. Kobrin/Mercedes Perez Kobrin.

Readings begin at 7pm at the Art House Productions space on Magnolia in Jersey City.

Poem selected for publication

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I’m happy to share that my poem, “Anoche,” was selected as the top poem for a National Poetry Month contest held by the Jersey City Independent (JCI) and Jersey City Writers. The poem is one of three that will be featured and published by the JCI during the month of April.

I’ll also have the opportunity to read the poem on April 13, 2016 at a literary reading being held at Barrow Mansion at 7 p.m. The event is being hosted by JCW, JCI, and Art House.

The event will also feature Claudia Cortese whose first full-length book, “Wasp Queen,” will be published by Black Lawrence Press in 2016.

Other poets selected to have their poems read that evening include: Abigail Pillitteri, Rachel Poy, Kevin Singer, Simon Pereira Shorey, Holly Smith, John Trigonis, Beth Bentley, Carol Lester, Joe Del Priore, Aileen Bassis, and Kay Dominguez.

This April marks the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month, which was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996.

 

 

Music and Mantra: Being with Sound

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As you go about your day, you may have words you repeat to yourself as a reminder, as a way to boost your confidence, or perhaps as words you live by. Sometimes you may find yourself repeating a mantra or something said in a yoga class. Thoughts or phrases you return to can have a powerful effect on your perceptions and behavior. Mantras especially can serve as a way to calm the mind, allow for healing, and open the heart to acceptance, self-love, and compassion.

Centering

A yoga class often begins with the chant of om, or aum, as a centering practice. A root or bija mantra, om represents beginningless time, it sets off an internal vibration, releases energy and prepares us for the physical practice. In meditation practice, a mantra purifies and focuses the mind and prepares us for the silence that follows.

Mantra derives from the sanskrit root word man, which means “to think” and the suffix tra, which means “instrument” or “tool.”

Nourishing

In “The Radiance Sutras,” Dr. Lorin Roche defines mantra as an instrument of thought, speech, sacred text or speech, a prayer or song of praise. He says classic meditative mantras can feel like sounds of nature or the hum of electricity while other mantras can be nourishing like food. When we return to mantras throughout our day, they can serve as a source of energy and fuel, a way to release burdensome thoughts, and a way to focus the mind. According to Roche, what matters is finding the sounds you love so much you want to be with them.

Understanding and offering compassion

In the space of the silence that follows mantra chanting, you may find insight and understanding. In “Teachings on Love,” Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh says, “To bring about harmony, reconciliation, and healing within, we have to understand ourselves.” Mantras carry meaning in them that with practice can help us learn self-acceptance but it begins with deep listening and allowing for openness in the heart. Mantras may also carry a wish for peace and healing in the world. The words can be infused with love and compassion for others as an offering.

Invitation to explore and be with sound

The workshop Live Music, Mantra, and Movement is an invitation to explore the healing and heart-opening sounds of mantra followed by movement and meditation. As a bonus, we’ll have talented singer and songwriter Diane Lutz sing mantras during the flowing asana practice.

A certified yoga teacher, Lutz was introduced to eastern philosophy and meditation at a young age. As a musician, she was magnetically drawn to chanting during her teacher training in 2010 when her journey began exploring the healing powers of mantra and kirtan.

For Lutz, chanting mantra helps to clear her mind from “chatter” and creates a great foundation for meditation.

“I find myself occasionally waking up chanting in my mind, which is such a pleasure to wake up to instead of, again, the “chatter” of my noisy mind,” says Lutz.

When she recites mantras she notices where the mantra resonates most within the body whether in the head, throat, heart, navel, etc.,

“I like to imagine that clearing of the energy in the space where I feel the sound as if the resonation is breaking up anything that may be blocking that space or blocking the flow of energy,” says Lutz.

During the workshop we will practice deep listening, tuning in to the powerful vibrations evoked from chanting then allow the mantras to resonate throughout the body through a flowing asana practice set to Lutz singing. We’ll follow the movement with silent meditation.

On how to get started with the practice, Lutz says, “Just start! The beauty of mantra is that it can be done anywhere…. all you need is your voice.”

She adds, “For my particular situation, being a stay-at-home mom, I am drawn to chant around 4 p.m. or 4:30 p.m. It’s nearing the end of a full day with the littles and it helps provide me with the energy I need and the patience I desire to enjoy the last few hours of the day with my kids.  My almost 4 year old has started sitting next to me and humming along from time to time.  Perhaps we all need it.”

Register now for Live Music, Mantra, and Movement with Adriana and Diane, being held Sunday, October 25, from 2pm-4pm: http://tinyurl.com/otkpwgn.

Originally posted on Yoga in the Heights blog.

How yoga can help you become more present

Credit: KatalinaStudio

It is easy to get caught up in the wandering mind that cycles through fear, worry, memory, planning and a whole host of other emotions, perceptions, and thoughts. While the mind wants to take you on a wild ride each second of the day, a number of techniques taught in yoga and meditation can help you remain centered and focused on the present moment. These include focusing on the breath, noticing sensation in the body, and being aware without judgement as well as practicing loving kindness towards yourself and others.

You are bound to be distracted throughout your day but pausing to breath and tune in can help you navigate whatever challenges you face. To learn more, check out my recent feature on the Yoga in the Heights blog, “How to become more present in your daily practice.”

Making yoga more accessible to Latinos in Jersey City

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“Offering a bilingual yoga class serves the community by fostering relationships among Latinos while also offering a bridge to connect with others through the practice.”

In a recent piece by Yoga in the Heights writer Laryssa Wirstiuk,’“Yoga Blend” Brings Yoga to Jersey City’s Latino Community,” I describe how the idea came about for “Yoga Blend,” a bilingual Hatha-Vinyasa class.

Check it out:  “Yoga Blend” Brings Yoga to Jersey City’s Latino Community.

A new class offering at Yoga in the Heights, Yoga Blend is a one-hour, Vinyasa-and-Hatha-blend class with instructions given in both English and Spanish. Instructor Adriana Rambay Fernández teaches Yoga Blend three times a week: on Tuesday and Thursdays at 5:15pm and Saturdays at 11:15am. According to Rambay Fernández, “Yoga Blend offers Latinos a sense of familiarity and a welcoming setting with soft Spanish music playing in the background. It is a way to ease into the practice and open up to the experience of yoga.”

Yoga in the Heights is located at 317 Central Avenue in a dynamic and evolving neighborhood in Jersey City.

Beauty at the beach in Jersey City

Jersey City Winter Beach

Winter scene at Jersey City’s waterfront facing downtown Manhattan.

During most winters, I live at the edge of resistance, fighting against the cold and doing my best to stay out of it but a walk to the Jersey City waterfront quickly nullifies any need to do battle. The sun glimmers off of the Hudson River and the crisp, cool air brings the New York city skyline into sharper focus. Breathing in the afternoon’s surrounding stillness, I let go and relax into what is.

In that space between the breaths, between the paragraphs, between the distracting, grumbling, “complaining about winter” thoughts, I find openness and acceptance. I’m free to move on and just be.

Why don’t we allow ourselves to just be? Why don’t we give ourselves permission to stay in the present moment and to open up to whatever exists in front of us? Perhaps we are inclined to get carried away with our memories or our to-do lists or resistance or rejection of something or someone because of the uncertainty that exists in that moment of “now.”

Meditation is one way that I’ve become more comfortable dropping in to that present moment. Using the breath as a guide, I’m able to see what’s going on. I’m able to appreciate the beauty of winter’s beach.

In her book, “How to Meditate,” Pema Chodron says, “There is incredible wisdom to this open, present space. We are opening to the wild display of surprising richness, the organic and unique display of the present moment. We aren’t trying, trying, trying. We aren’t controlling or attempting and efforting our way through it.”

So instead of trying to escape winter, trying to stay warm, trying to make summer happen now, I am in the practice of opening up to the wild richness of its current display. That it is here to stay as long as it wants to. That there is nothing I can do to change that.