Earth-Air-Water-Fire-Space

Last week was spent wandering amid ferns and ancient redwoods, bathing in foggy mist and salty sea air, and meditating on the dancing flames of a campfire (mindfully and responsibly cared for). There was no cell reception, electronic distraction, or 24/7 news for the vast majority of the trip (thank goddess). For me, there is no better way to restore and replenish body, mind, and spirit than being in nature.

Walking as close to the earth as possible (bare feet, oh yes) is utterly grounding. Breathing the fresh air under a redwood canopy–deeply refreshing. Burbling water, crashing waves and salt spray–so cleansing (those fabulous negative ions, yes please). The deep, radiant warmth of a fire felt, sinking into bones and soothing the soul. Spending time watching the flames dance, and letting all else fall away–a recipe for clearing the mind and creating space to simply BE.

I believe, deep in my soul, this is how we were designed to live. Connected with all other beings, and to this beautiful blue planet that sustains us and supports us. During times of chaos it is imperative that we remember life is more than just our small selves. We are made of stardust, and to stardust we shall return.

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”― Nelson Henderson

I am in the midst of creating a meditation series that reflects what my meditation practice looks like. The first one is up and ready for you! (Find it here: https://vimeo.com/468731804) This first meditation is about learning to ground ourselves in the present moment through somatic body awareness. It is an invitation to rest, breath, and connect. Carve out 15 minutes in your day, find a space where you can be uninterrupted, plug in your ear phones, and drop in.

In closing, I wish you many, many opportunities for connection, grounding, and replenishment.

Musings on wash tubs, chaos, and change…

I have a very early memory of my grandmother’s basement.  She still had one of those old-school wash tubs with a manual hand-cranked ringer on it.  The world of modern appliances had moved on considerably, but for some reason my grandmother still had a manual wash tub in her basement. What I remember is the darkness of the basement, and the strange wonder I was feeling as I watched the wet clothes being squished, flattened, and pulled into unrecognizable shapes.  

This year feels a little bit (make that a lot) like being put through that ringer.  Here we are in September, and many changes have happened in my life.  Landslide shifts in what my work-life looks like, my mom needing personal assistance as she navigates another health scare, and an out-of-state move (goodbye California, hello Oregon!)–all while living with a global pandemic, political and social upheaval, and wildly insane climate-change driven wildfires and heatwaves (can we call it apocalyptic yet?).  These are huge, stress inducing changes.  I keep trying to clean, straighten, find some order, some normality, anything to keep the chaos at bay.  But, maybe what is needed is to lean into that chaos.  What if rather than turning away from all of the feelings of worry, frustration, anger, or fear, I really sat down with them and had a conversation?  Not in a let me wallow in them kind of way, but in a curious, interested, and compassionate kind of way.

While I can’t control the world, or the politics that run it, or the fear generated by it all–what I can control is how I respond.  I am sure that most of us have heard the Chaos Theory concerning the wings of a butterfly.  What it’s really trying to say is that tiny changes in a big system can affect everything.  How does this work for me?  I work on the one thing I can change–myself.  What are the roots of my triggers?  Why do I think/feel/react certain ways when x, y, or z happen?  Once I know, I have the power to choose a different, and better, response.  It can be very interesting, very revealing work.  This is radical self-care. 

“In chaos, there is fertility.” –Anais Nin

Some of 2020 has been undeniably bad, but some has been outstandingly good also–like purchasing a home. Another gift has been re-connecting with creative source.  For a while during my teens, I nurtured a macrame jewelry making passion.  It was tiny, intricate work that I loved very much.  A broken mala that I wanted to continue to use, put me back on the path of jewelry and mala making.  It’s both a meditation and a creative hobby that brings peace and joy.  

My new office/video/zoom/yoga space is a blank canvas that I am in the process of envisioning–from choosing a new desk and shelf set, to what color to paint the walls, to how to organize it all (the Virgo me LOVES this).  In this space, I will be creating programs, meditations, and videos–some live, some pre-recorded.  I can truly say I am excited for what is yet to come.  Please do stay tuned!

In closing, I invite you to connect with what brings you peace and joy.  It’s there, waiting to be discovered.  And, like a bee that harvests nectar from a sunflower to make golden honey, you too will create peace, joy, and be part of the tapestry of change that will spread throughout the world.

2019 Send Off

What a year it has been!

Full of many wonderful and not so wonderful events.  I am forever grateful for the support I received from family and friends as I navigated mourning, injury, and healing.  I am astoundingly grateful for the gift of time spent with family from far away and close-by, and the privilege to travel and explore with them.  But most of all, I am grateful to love and be loved.

The new year will roll some big changes into my life that are exciting, and full of questions yet to be answered.  I look forward to exploring the possible answers with an open mind and open heart.  In fact, as I write this now, it is with a sense of, “Bring it 2020!  I’ve got this!”

As I close out 2019 and roll into the holidays I spend a little time each evening reminding myself of the many things in my life I am grateful for.

“Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul.” –Amy Collette

How will you close out 2019?  Who or what are you grateful for in your life?

See you on the mat!

P.S.,  I have left a little gift for you below.  A Yoga Nidra practice for deep relaxation and stress reduction.  The literal translation of Nidra is sleep.  Yoga Nidra has been shown to reduce stress, depression, anxiety, and PTSD.  (See here, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31003664, and here, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30870017 for a couple of studies.)

Yoga Nidra practice:  https://vimeo.com/379139124

Fall Transitions

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”
–Henri Bergson

Autumn is the season of change and transitions.  From the falling leaves, the subtle browning of the earth, and the hints of crispness in the air, fall signals the shift from growth to dormancy.  Fall brings with it a predominance of the air element (Vata)–think dry, light, rough, windy, erratic, cool, mobile, and empty.

These external, environmental, and energetic qualities are also reflected internally.  Fall holds a certain sense of emptiness that can leave us feeling exposed, spacey, anxious, or disconnected from our ground of being.  But, it is also filled with possibility.  This is the time to ‘strip down’ to a quiet sense of being, to savor simplicity, and to reconnect with our roots.

Here are some seasonal tips for balancing the predominant seasonal fall Vata energy:

  • Choose foods that are warm, cooked, and moist.  Eat lots of warm soups, stews, steamed vegetables, and hearty grains.
  • Drink a warm tea of fresh ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon.
  • Eat more apples, avocados, dates, grapefruit, squash, chilies, beets, onions, amaranth, brown rice, quinoa, kidney beans, miso, butter/ghee, kefir.
  • All spices are good for Vata season: allspice, anise, asafoetida, basil, bay leaf, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, cumin, dill, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, rosemary, saffron, turmeric.
  • Get consistent, moderate exercise.
  • Practice periods of silence.
  • Use a neti pot to keep the sinuses and lungs clear of congestion.
  • Massage your skin with warm, organic sesame oil, followed by a warm, relaxing shower.
  • Commit to a regular meditation practice to help settle and clear the mind.

This month our yoga practice is filled with warming slow flows, grounding standing postures, and restorative forward folds.

See you on the mat!

Change Your Thinking, Change Your World

“The world as we have created it, is a process of our thinking.  It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
― Albert Einstein

Summer is sliding to a close, bringing the shift into Autumn.    I love witnessing the beautiful bloom of fall colors in the trees, the slow drift of leaves, and the hint of crispness in the air.  It truly is my favorite time of the year.  Fall always helps me reconnect with the practice of working with change, and the art of letting go.  

“Change has long been a fearful thing for human beings…and at the same time, it is our most Divine opportunity.  Clinging to the banks of the river may seem safe and more secure, but life’s possibilities are truly engaged only when we trust, release, and become part of the Flow of the Universe.”  –Chelle Thompson

There exists a radical release of suffering when we free ourselves of attachment and the need to control all that we have, or think we need.  Expectations are like leaves.  Let them drop.  Live as though this moment is exactly enough. 

This month brings us an asana practice rooted in prana, the flow of breath.  We are moved by breath–flowing, pausing, letting go, resting our awareness in the rhythmic inflow and outflow of prana.  Aware that this breath, this moment, this shape, this sensation is perfect, and exactly enough, just as it is.

See you on the mat!

P.S.  A simple 6-minute Falling Leaf Meditation to help with practicing non-attachment to thoughts:  https://vimeo.com/288997646

Let’s Talk Equanimity

“A modern definition of equanimity: cool. This refers to one whose mind remains stable and calm in all situations.”
~Allan Lokos, Pocket Peace

Every so often (or more), there comes a day that challenges my sense of stability, peace, or safety.   You may be familiar with this phenomenon. The morning news stirs up emotional responses, nothing seems to go right, every stop light is red, and rushing to catch up or move beyond only seems to increase the effect of frustration, or the feeling of unsettlement.  The solution to days, or moments, like these can be found in Patanjali’s Sutra 1.33.

Maitri karuna mudita upeksanam sukha
duhkha punya apunya visayanam
bhavanatas citta prasadanam

The mind becomes tranquil through
the practice of friendliness toward the happy,
compassion toward the miserable,
joy toward the virtuous, and equanimity toward
the non-virtuous.
[Gary Kissiah]

Upeksha, or equanimity, is a state of even-minded openness.  Even though we may be stirred or moved by outer circumstances, and are motivated to make things better, our deep inner stability and serenity remains undisturbed–if we have developed equanimity.  We are better able to respond in balanced and clear ways, rather than reactively.  A balanced heart feels without grasping, pushing, or pulling.

We never know what changes, or consequences, each day will bring.  Equanimity allows for things to be just as they are.  The qualities of friendliness, compassion, and joy are balanced by the stability of equanimity.  This enables us to offer an open heart in all situations, without expectations or attachments.

On the mat–and off–we have many opportunities to practice kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity towards ourselves.  Each time we fall out of a pose, compare ourselves to others, break that favorite cup, get cut off in traffic, we can repeat to ourselves, “May I not be caught in reactivity.”

As we enter the hot months of summer, we will be working with managing our inner tapas (fire), and developing non-reactivity.  See below for one of the cooling pranayam (breath) exercises we will be practicing.

See you on the mat!

 

Sitkari Pranayam
  • This pranayam can be practiced anywhere, anytime.
  • Gently press your upper and lower teeth together, and part your lips comfortably so that your teeth are exposed.
  • Inhale slowly through the gaps in your teeth, and focus on the hissing sound of the breath.
  • Close the mouth, and exhale slowly through the nose.
  • Repeat up to 20 times.

On taking yoga off our mats, and into the world.

“Earth, may thy summer, and thy rains, and autumn, thy winter, and thy dewy frosts, and spring-time. May thy years, Prithivī! and ordered seasons, and day and night pour out for us abundance.”
// 36, Prthivī Sūkta, Atharva Veda

The word “yoga,” defined simply, is “union.”  Patanjali, the great yoga master, referred to yoga as attaining mastery over the dynamic forces of the mind.  Once the mind has been purified, disciplined, and brought to one-pointed focus, then union occurs between body and mind, consciousness and mind.  We achieve wholeness.  Ultimately, yoga brings us to the understanding of our interconnectedness with everything in the Universe, including this precious planet Earth.

April opens with the celebrations of Easter, rich with the symbolism of rebirth and renewal.  All around us are budding trees and flowers, hillsides carpeted in lush green grass, baby birds hatching, and extra light at the end of the day.  Earth Day also falls on the 22nd of this month.

The Prthivī Sūkta of the Atharva Veda is a poetic description of Earth.  It’s hymns speak of a deep Hindu tradition of reverence for nature and all forms of life.  The earth supports us, sustains us.  Our health is intimately linked to sources of clean air, water, food, and time spent outdoors connecting with Mother Nature.

If yoga is about realizing the interconnectedness of all beings, how then can we take our practice off our individual mats and into the world?  The answers lie in the foundational ethical principles for living found in the Yamas and Niyamas, the first two limbs of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga.  Asteya (the third Yama) is the concept of non-harming, both towards ourselves and other beings.  Non-harming is practiced in thought (how we speak towards ourselves), word (how we speak to others), and through our actions in the world.

This month, as we practice on our mats together we will observe our thoughts regarding our practice from a place of loving-kindness.  As we step off our mats and into the world, we ask ourselves, “How can I help Earth, and all beings who share this planet with me?”

Here are a few ways we can increase our connection with others, and lessen our environmental impact:

  • Plant a garden.  Whether it’s flowers, herbs, or vegetables, it’s about getting your fingers into the earth and a little dirty!
  • Support your local farmers.  Visit your local farmer’s market one or more times a month.  Fresh, organic produce is healthy for you and supports the farmer!
  • Use re-useable cups and water bottles.  The amount of plastic produced and then thrown away is shocking. https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/07/plastic-produced-recycling-waste-ocean-trash-debris-environment/
  • Park it.  Walk, run, bike, ride Light Rail/BART/CalTrain one or more times a week if possible.
  • Unplug and connect.  Turn off the television, your laptop, your cellphone, and connect with your family or friends around the dinner table, on the beach, or for a walk in the woods.
  • Tune in.  Notice your surroundings, the colors, textures, and sounds, and how your energy responds to it.
  • Breathe.  Practice meditation and pranayam/breath-work.

LOKAH SAMASTAH SUKHINO BHAVANTU

May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my life contribute in some way to that happiness and freedom.

See you on the mat!

IMG_0387

I. Am. Enough.

Samtosad anuttamah sukha labhah
–Yoga Sutra 2.42

Contentment brings supreme happiness–so translates Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2.42.  This contentment (santosha) is the result of being just as we are, without going to outside things for our happiness.  Things come, and we let them come.  If they do not, it does not matter.  Letting go of attachments allows us to rest in the here and now, content, not living in the past and not anticipating the future.  In this way, it could be said, we walk the middle way.

When we review those occasions when we have been truly happy, “…we shall almost certainly find that they had one characteristic in common.  There were times when, for this or that reason, we temporarily ceased to feel anxious; when we lived–as we so seldom do–in the depths of the present moment without regretting the past or worrying about the future.”  [Christopher Isherwood]

Practicing santosha actively in our lives requires a certain amount of willingness to enjoy exactly what each moment brings, no matter how it arrives or what it contains.  Peace of mind can never be dependent on external circumstances, which are always changing in ways beyond our control.  It is easy to practice santosha when things are going well.   But, if we are able to be content when things are difficult, then we are truly free.

We practice santosha in small ways on our mats, by accepting what our practice looks and feels like, just as it is, on any given day.  Daily, hourly, even moment to moment, we continuously practice letting go of the past.  As my teacher puts it, “Hold close the yogic premise that whatever we have in the present moment is enough.”

A mantra practice to try anywhere, anytime:  Breathe in, “I am.”  Breathe out, “Enough.”

See you on the mat!