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Birthday Musings

Birthday Musings

Birthday Musings

It is the evening after my 53rd Birthday.
It is as the German poet Rilke says, “ a strange and wonderful thing to be here.”

I am grateful for the spaciousness that has most likely arisen from years of meditation that allows me to live in open mouthed wonder at the deep bass notes of the russet leaves remaining on bare trees with branches ecstatically extending from solid trunks etching their expression into a crisp blue sky.

This spaciousness allows me enormous gratitude for my life, a deep love and appreciation for the relationships in my life, an ongoing fascination with the moon, awe of the breathtaking beauty of the planet as well as heartbreak at how systems of domination and oppression, and how the value of profit over people and the planet feed into, sustain and seemingly cement these systems.

With age comes the benefit of introspection and reflection. I can look back at my younger self with compassion for not having awareness of how scarcity shaped my thoughts about myself, the world I inhabited and what I was “ supposed” to look like, do with my life, etc…You know the “shoulds” that keep modern consumer capitalist culture entrenched and that  keep one from critically thinking and evaluating the insatiable need for more.  It is a deeply engrained culturally conditioned belief that still shows up for me. I always want more books! Snacks! Music! Yarn!

Spaciousness is a jewel that arises from contemplative practices that are grounded not just in individualistic introspection and reflection but are framed in a social justice framework that unpacks ranking identity to value life because it exists as a reflection of creation.  A practice that considers the well being, freedom, safety, sustainability and peace of all life. A practice that exists off the cushion and the mat that works for this for all beings and the planet.

Perhaps this is a part of growing older and the focus extending from beyond being consumed with ones own circumstances to seeing more and more the interconnectedness of life.

I consider the practice of contentment, santosha in the niyamas, which are personal observances in yoga philosophy to be a radical act of resisting consumer culture.

That doesn’t mean we don’t like nice things! It merely means we don’t try to fill our holes with the endless striving for unrealistic perfection, or stuff.

I was co facilitating a yoga group for survivors recently and one of our ice breaker prompts at the beginning of group was to describe your ideal life.

I was overflowing with gratitude with the realization that for the most part, my life that I am living now is my ideal life. I have a family that I love beyond measure. I get to love people in the most vulnerable of circumstances almost everyday in various settings. I get to make music with amazing beings. I am active and engaged in meaningful ways in my beloved community. I get to connect in extended community to people doing amazing work with yoga service and therapeutic music all over the country and beyond!

Okay, so the ideal life DOES include a large dog who loves long walks in the woods, financial stability and travel. But largely, my days are met with contentment and a feeling of gratitude for my own life and how I get to show up and do what I love.

I recognize what a privilege it is for me to be able to do what I love. It is my deepest desire to offer what I can as a prayer to this world. An embodied prayer that with the humblest of hearts says “Thank you” for another round around the sun.


Rachel Allen

Rachel Allen, B.A. Political Science/Sociology, is a Certified Music Practitioner, Sound Healer, Reiki Master, and Registered Yoga Teacher with a trauma informed/social justice framework. She has 20 years experience of working with some of the most amazing people on the planet; hospice patients and their families, patients in a variety of health conditions, survivors of sexual abuse, adults with mental illness and most recently, incarcerated women. Rachel is also passionate about supporting and working with caregivers to reduce burnout and compassion fatigue. Locally, Rachel teaches Creative Movement at Saint Francis University in Loretto, PA. Regionally and nationally, she teaches and presents at conferences and retreats, weaving live music, yoga, and creative movement into themes of compassion, self acceptance, and transformation. Rachel is committed to engaging people from all walks of life in the healing arts to create healthy, diverse, and joyful communities.