Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Solstice!

Happy Solstice!

This morning, I enjoyed Winter's call to sleep in late and linger in bed for longer than usual. And I reveled in the stillness of the morning to sit in meditation longer than usual.

Winter beckons us to slow down and nurture ourselves like the womb nourishes a fetus. It is a call to go inside, to inquire into our true nature, to get quiet and listen to the wisdom of our beings and honor what we discover. Although we are returning to longer days, this is still the darkest season. It is in nature's flow to honor this precious time by reducing busyness, spending time with loved ones and practicing restorative activities like yoga and meditation that help us renew and rejuvenate before the Spring.

May you cherish this rich opportunity for inquiry and self-honoring. May your Winter Holidays be blessed with much love, deep presence and the radiance of the returning light.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Compassion and Kindness

- alternate version of 12/11 newsletter
I love this holiday time where we practice opening our hearts towards others by giving gifts to loved-ones and generously making offerings towards those in need. In Yoga, one of the highest practices of generosity is to generate compassion and kindness for all beings, but especially for those people who trigger you the most.

I've recently been faced with the opportunity to practice this quite a bit! While it has been very unpleasant to feel somebody's frustration pointed towards me, I've been able to appreciate the unique growth that has evolved from it. I've been watching my impulses to react defensively against the perceived threat; my ego wanting to defend it's position or wanting to counter-attack. This kind of response is so natural, so human. And yet as a conscious being, I've been doing my best to choose compassion and kindness instead. (Using e-mail has greatly facilitated this process as it's given me the space to think before I respond).

As I've shared in classes this week, what helps me to respond with kindness is first generating compassion (karuna) for this person. I try to see the ways we are alike and I try to feel how I imagine this person is feeling. I remember that it is because of their suffering that they are being unkind to me and that helps me to feel genuine compassion. Once I experience compassion, I can more easily respond with kindness.

I always feel better when I generate compassion and kindness than when I react out of my habitual or animalistic tendencies. And I know my words are much better received that way as well.

May you experience the true compassion that supports your kindness towards all beings

Sunday, November 6, 2011

We just got back from an overnight in a small town a couple hours up the coast from our house. Another beautiful ocean town. I taught 2 workshops and Patrick saw 4 bodywork clients. It was fun to be their first visiting yoga teacher. Many of the students had never done a yoga workshop so we started with the fundamentals of Anusara Yoga. I love teaching the basics and opening people's minds and hearts with the power of the alignment and Tantric philosophy. I talked a lot about Opening to Grace; opening our senses and being more receptive and sensitive to our inner energy and to the energy around us.

So it was auspicious that there was a blind student there with her hearing-impaired husband. I was inspired watching her navigate through my instructions using only her senses of hearing and feeling and the occasional whisper from her husband. She was definitely practicing being receptive! Luckily she is a regular yoga student so she knows the basic form of the poses. Since I'm so dedicated to clarity in my communication, I loved the challenge of having to articulate the details of what to do with the body. She would certainly show me when I was not clear by following exactly what I said, not what I meant or showed. She never got frustrated or upset and her teacher was always ready to dive in when needed.

Although I've read and watched films about people with visual impairments, I have never had an extremely visually-impaired student before, nor have I had an acquaintance or friend in my life who could not see. It has me pondering again what it must be like to live in the darkness, to rely so heavily on hearing and other senses to interpret what is happening, and on others to explain what they see. I wonder what it's like to have those senses heightened so much to make up for sight. I suppose it's a form of Opening to Grace, of really opening to What Is around you in the moment (especially in public spaces), and tuning in acutely in ways the rest of us can't even imagine.

This ability to tune in differently with the eyes closed is why I often ask my students to close their eyes during various times in the practice. I love the way it takes them into heightened receptivity; they feel their energy vibrating, their heart beating, the movement of their breath and the sensations in their bodies in ways they don't tend to notice with their eyes open.

May we all appreciate this great gift of sight and may we also remember to allow our other senses to teach us about the present moment and to help us Open to Grace.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy Samhain.  This is the Celtic festival of endings and new beginnings. It's the end of Harvest season and the beginning of going inwards for winter.  It is said that the veil between the worlds (this one and "other" worlds) is thin at this time of year, October 31 and November 1.  And therefore, it's a great time to put out prayers to the Spirit realm, especially for your hopes and dreams for new beginnings. It's also a great time to connect with the spirit of those who've passed from this lifetime as they're more likely to "hear" you.

It was fun for me to teach on this for the first time last night.  I could really feel it in the room.  We had a small group because of Halloween. When we started, there was tremendous activity out on the Arcata Plaza as all the little kiddies and their parents were Trick or Treating in costume around the plaza shops.  There was also a live band on the grass.  And yet in our classroom above the mayhem, we felt the absence of many missing students and the impending darkness and quiet after the festivities that ended shortly after we began.

I told the students about Samhain and asked them to consider anyone who's passed who they wanted to offer their practice to, or any prayers they wanted to send out for this new season.  I talked about how yoga makes us more sensitive; more aware of our selves and each other and the other energies in our environment.  So clairvoyance is a natural gift that some have, but I believe we can all develop it through our practice.  And especially at this window of the year, we may be able to see more clearly, to sense energy and to engage with it.  So we practiced opening our senses and tuning in and making prayers and offerings. 
The intention in the room was palpable.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fall Equinox - Taking Responsibility

Happy Equinox! It's hard to believe our precious Summer is officially over. (Luckily around here, we have what we call Indian Summer, so it's the one time of year we can count on a lot of sunshine). In the Celtic tradition, Fall Equinox is a time of celebrating the harvest while also reflecting back on all that has been created and how to use those creations.  This is perfect for me as I've begun a lot of inner reflection lately, looking at what I want to release and how I want to refine.

I've started doing some personal coaching with somebody who has a system and a style I really resonate with. This is awesome because I'm excited about clearing out some old habits and theories and stepping up more fully and powerfully in my life. And I love having support for this!

So one of the things we're working on is clarifying my dreams in several areas of my life. This has been a great process of putting the magnifying glass on how things actually are and why they're not a 10 and later we'll work on how I can step up to design my life as I want it. I think I've always been a self-starter and that's partly why I was attracted to yoga and meditation; because I could do it myself and help myself and empower myself. It's also why I love teaching and private sessions; because I love helping people help themselves and get empowered. I love giving people the tools they need to make a change and especially to find inner freedom. 

The other thing we're looking at is personal integrity, like being honest with oneself and others. Luckily, I've trained a lot in this over the years. It's another aspect of self-empowerment and an important part of yoga (Satya = truth or truthfulness and part of the code of ethics in yoga).  My time at Heartwood was so awesome in this way. I think it was there that I learned to "own" my feelings and to "take responsibility" for my actions and feelings, not that I've mastered it, but awareness is the first step!  My later training in Non-Violent Communication was another great tool set that helped me to distinguish my observations from my feelings and needs and again to take personal responsibility and not to blame others or situations for my feelings.  I've also been tuning into the tendency to complain.

So blaming and complaining have been on my radar lately.  I am not proud when I hear them coming out of my own mouth as it shows me I'm avoiding taking responsibility;  I may blame others, the weather, my body, my habits, etc. for why something isn't going the way I like.   It's like an excuse I don't even see until later that I didn't "own" my part.   And it's a way to get out of being completely honest.  Luckily,  I'm already recognizing these habits and catching them earlier in the process and often before they come out of my mouth.

Since my awareness is heightened around this, I'm easily triggered when others blame or complain at me.  It's no fun being blamed or whined at.  And I notice how hard it is for me not to get defensive in that moment, or even to want to blame them for blaming me!  I've gotten tested a few times lately and I can't say I've passed with flying colors, but I can certainly say that I've done my best (with room for improvement) and learned a lot, and that I'm fairly proud of my ability to use good communication skills.  Emails help for sure as they give me space to think.  I can write it and then let it steep for a while, edit again and then steep before another possible edit before sending.  Even better is sleeping on it. I am very committed to NOT sending anything impulsive.

This communication stuff and really knowing what is true is part of my karma yoga, the yoga of action and of service. I serve myself and others so much more when I'm honest with my feelings and needs and when I can share with kindness. My great practice is to breathe, to honor my truth, to not take it personally, and to speak from my heart with kindness and compassion for myself and for others.

Onward into the Fall!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Wonder of Play

- from my latest newsletter
Dear Yogis,

We've just returned from three great weekends of yoga and play: our annual Trinity River Retreat, a great workshop with Desiree Rumbaugh, and a super fun AcroYoga Intensive.

These events have sparked my intrigue about the spirit of play. What is it that makes an activity playful versus serious? Is it just the outer activity or is it how we approach the activity? I'm espec- ially interested in this now as I head from Summer into my more busy and focused season of Fall. How can I keep that playful spirit alive in these busier times?

I've definitely noticed I'm more likely to have fun when I'm with others, like in these Summer yoga events. It was a huge delight to use our bodies together in partner poses or celebrate each others explorations on the mat or in the river.

In the yoga teachings, play is known as lila, and it refers to the play of divine consciousness. The one big conscious energy (Shakti), freely and spontaneously creates all forms just for the play and the joy of it and ultimately, to know itself more fully. It plays by concealing and revealing itself to us like a cosmic game of hide- and-seek with the idea that each time there is revelation, there is greater knowing and greater wonder and joy.

And this sense of wonder or marvel (adbhuta), is an important ingredient in play. Young children model this perfectly when they get extremely fascinated in seemingly the most mundane things: an ant, a weed, a tire, a cloud. When we're in wonder, we're lighter and more expanded because we're free of attachment. The teachings tell us grown-ups to explore life in a similar way, like a big game; to remember emotions and situations are a play of energy that we can watch come and go with a sense of wonder and curiosity. When we can do this, we feel expanded and lighter, like when we play. It's when we get attached to our story as Me or My body or My beliefs, or My stuff, or how it Should be, that we get stuck in a state of contraction; life gets too serious and the wonder and lightness get lost.

So remembering to be curious, full of wonder, and free of attachments to outcome are keys to keeping life expansive and playful, even in serious times.

May your transition into Fall bring you great wonder and delight

(You can sign up to receive monthly newsletters on our website:

Monday, August 29, 2011

Weekend with Desiree Rumbaugh

We just got home from a full weekend of workshops in Ashland with the fantastic Anusara yogini, and our friend, Desiree Rumbaugh. We've been studying with Desiree since 2003 and it's so fun to see what cool stuff she comes up with. She has a great flair for creativity and is always inventing new ways to get the alignment across and to help people deepen their practice.

Originally, I was just planning to attend 3 of the 5 classes, and Patrick just 1, but we were having such a great time, we stayed to assist the Therapeutics class and then took the last arm balance class as well. It was awesome to assist as many people were in pain or having questions and we loved the opportunity to help. It was also sweet the way Desiree honored us as certified teachers and gave us lots of kudos and support and even promoted our upcoming trainings! She really turned a lot of people on to Anusara Yoga in Ashland so many of them are excited to join our upcoming Immersions there and in Arcata!

This time, I was quite impressed that after the first 2 classes, all the neck tension I'd been having from the computer and the car drive had vanished, just through intense focus and alignment in back bends, shoulder and head stand. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised because the principles really do work when we apply them deeply and sometimes it takes an intensive workshop like that to get in deeper than we normally do at home.

So I learned lots of new tricks and was reminded of many older tricks I'd learned from her which I'm excited to share with my students in classes this week. Desiree has a great gift of keeping the yoga experience real, authentic, and yet light and accessible to everyone. She makes it fun and playful and like a big game that we all want to play. And she just kept me laughing! She would crack jokes in class and crack herself up, cackling out loud and just her laugh and smile would get the rest of us going. Such a bright spirit she is.

We are super lucky to have her coming to Arcata October 7 - 9!!! Don't miss it! It's been since 2007 since she taught here and it could be a long time til she returns! Check our website for more info on this.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Shri of Speech

Patrick and I are back from a delicious two week vacation, visiting for a week in Oregon with family and friends, then a week at the Wanderlust Music and Yoga Festival in Squaw Valley, Ca.

The Wanderlust festival left us especially full of joy. We had the great opportunity to enjoy classes, trainings, and socializing with our beloved teacher, John Friend, founder of Anusara Yoga, as well as some of the top instructors in Anusara Yoga and two great scholars of Tantric philosophy. Each day, we felt our heart exploding more as we received some of the highest teachings of non-duality delivered with incredible grace and mastery. We felt completely embraced by the kula (community of the heart) as we communed with old friends and students from all over California and the world. It was a great time of celebration for all.

One teaching that was especially potent for me was one that I shared in classes last week. It is a core teaching of Anusara Yoga: seeing the shri (pronounced shree): the good, the beauty, the auspiciousness, the divine splendor. Shri is the nature of the Divine and thus it's the true nature of every one of us. Although I've been exploring shri in numerous ways over the 10+ years I've been with Anusara, I was especially struck by one of our teachers' living embodiment of it. As John said: "You will never hear her say anything bad about anybody." Wow, that is no small deal.

Our thoughts and speech are incredibly powerful; we all know how sweet it feels to be appreciated and how awful it feels to be condemned. Her example inspired me to look more closely at what I think and what I say about others. I can see how I embody shri more easily in a positive, celebratory atmosphere like the festival. Kindness and loving energy seem to flow more readily when we're surrounded by loved ones in an uplifting setting.

But where the rubber meets the road is when we're back in the daily grind. Can we see the shri and speak kindly of others when stuck in traffic, dealing with back pain, listening to the news, or speaking about the person who triggers us the most? Can we drop the judgments and seek out the positive in each person or situation? And can we be kind to ourselves when we fall into old undesirable habits? (I'm not suggesting that we paste on a smile in the difficult moments with a false "it's all good" attitude, but I am suggesting that with awareness and practice, we ride the waves of what we're feeling and then seek the highest response. More on this in another article soon).

In yoga, the power of speech is called matrika shakti and it relates to all levels of words: concept, thought, written word, spoken word, songs, etc. It even relates to the foundational attitudes we cultivate that form our thoughts and our beliefs. As we inquire into our own matrika habits, we understand that thinking or speaking negatively of ourselves or others is never helpful and that cultivating shri can be truly life-changing for ourselves and everyone we meet.

Through the practice of aligning ourselves with the highest intentions again and again, and aligning our energies with the highest vibrations (through clear attitude, alignment and action in asana, and all activities), we increase our awareness of our thoughts and beliefs and we can begin to consciously choose what comes out of our mouths. Or if we say something we wish we hadn't, we're more likely to catch it right afterward. Then with practice, we can self-edit before we even utter the words.

Ultimately, I believe we can live from shri, where kindness naturally flows from our lips because our internal landscape rests in love.

May your eyes open to the shri around you and in your own heart

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Self-Honoring Through Discipline

Since the finish of my cleanse a couple weeks ago, I've been thinking a lot about discipline. The cleanse is a deep commitment to healing the body by restricting food to only fruits and veggies, making fresh veggie and fruit juices and taking special herb products 2 - 4 times per day.

It is a great journey into self-discipline. I've done many cleanses in my life and I've noticed that because of my strong commitment to the cleanse, I don't find the discipline difficult. I discipline myself because I have a desired outcome and because I enjoy honoring my body through cleansing. And truthfully, after the first few days of getting into the groove and exercising self-restraint, it no longer feels like discipline. The cravings subside, and it's just something I'm doing for myself because I want to. There's no more inner struggle about "should I or shouldn't I eat that stuff?" or "why am I doing this to myself?"

Immediately after the cleanse, I notice how hard it is to stay disciplined in this intense way. Not that I want to or think I should keep up the diet, but it's fascinating to watch my process around what I "should" or "shouldn't" eat. I get so burnt out on all the salads, the extra efforts of juicing, the cutting and cleaning up that I'm happy to do something different. So it feels good and natural at that point to let go of the disciplines and allow for some freedom to eat other healthy foods; to stay committed to my health while relaxing to find more balance.

I've been tuning in to other areas in my life where I'm exercising self-discipline and I realize that I generally do it where I have a certain desired outcome, otherwise, why not just relax or blow it off? My yoga and meditation practices are a regular place where I discipline myself. I ask myself to take this time aside for something special because I know the rewards are great. I feel better and more connected to myself when I practice. And since I've been doing it for so many years, this, too, doesn't feel like discipline most of the time; it's just something that I build into my day and that I want to do for myself.

But there are days when I feel rebellious. I resist the discipline of sitting down to meditate because I have other things I want to do or that I think I "should" do. On these days, if I manage to resist the temptations and meditate, it is because I used great discipline to get there.

I love the idea that self-discipline is sort of like making a promise to myself instead of "shoulding" on myself. When it feels like a "should," I find myself rebelling. But when I remember the positive outcome, then I'm much more likely to follow through.

Perhaps in a lot of cases, the discipline needs to be more fierce in the beginning of starting something new, and as we progress with the new activity or habit and appreciate the positive outcomes, then it no longer feels like discipline and we can find our balance between the effort and the release.

It was fun bringing these reflections to my classes the last 2 weeks. People seemed to relate. I think we all struggle with discipline in some way, whether it's around diet, exercise, studying, working, or getting to yoga class. We dance with when to deepen discipline and when to relax it; hopefully finding that ideal groove we want to sustain.

May you find your sweet groove while navigating the great path of discipline and freedom.

Until next time,


Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence from the cleanse

We've been in Denver for a few days now, having a family reunion with Patrick's family and celebrating his mother's 80th birthday. It's been a great joy to get to know his siblings and their kids more, not to mention having more time with his own two daughters and his two grandsons and his mom. Great folks.

The interesting part has been the fact that we decided to continue our Ejuva cleanse for a couple more days while here. We got some extra herbs and brought our cilium shake mix and even have a juicer to use, so we're set. It's triply being around SO much good food. They are feasting on bacon, quiche, steak, salmon, pancakes, grilled veggies, corn, alcoholic beverages of all sorts, etc. and we are either watching while drinking juice, or eating our simple fruit or green salads. For me, I haven't been craving "real" food, but it's kind of a head trip to be around it and not partake when I am a great lover of food. I am too committed to the great results I'm getting to want to stop just yet.

We are both bummed we didn't have the time scheduled for the 4 full weeks the cleanse is designed for before this trip, but…what to do? We did 3 full weeks and now 2-3 more days here and it's going fine. We are stoked we could do it at all this year and it's been a great process. Nice to see the body still have decent energy, or sometimes great energy, while eating very little. I always marvel at this, actually. How can I feel so good and eat so little when normally I eat like a cow? (The truth is, I notice I don't have as much endurance on the cleanse and there are those low energy times. Not much protein consumption happening). But still, I feel pretty great overall with such a clean, pure diet.

I also love how doing the cleanse together brings us closer. We bond over making almond mild (super tasty), preparing our apple-catelope juice together (another sweet favorite), or discussing our energy level or bowel movements. It's awesome to have support in this often exhausting or trying journey and to have somebody to celebrate the wins with as well.

And so yesterday, we started coming out of the 3rd phase and back to the 2nd. We added a second meal. We had a small fruit salad with the family as they indulged in pancakes and eggs, etc. for brunch. It was yummy and filled our little stomachs. Coming out of the cleanse can be the hardest part. It's so tempting to indulge in salty, greasy foods again, especially when it's all around! I am looking forward to my favorite foods again but also want to remember the benefits of eating so clean and not let that slip away. Moderation, I always say. Pray for me!

Happy 4th!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sankalpa for the Summer

This is from my latest monthly newsletter with some editing:

I hope this finds you enjoying these first glorious days of Summer. Summer is definitely my favorite season of the year. I cherish the warmth, the gardening, the beauty, the play, and the feelings of spaciousness and lightheartedness. So I've been contemplating: Can I generate these feelings from the inside, every season or every day? And the answer: Of course! I can create whatever outlook I want. And I am responsible for how I respond to every experience I encounter.

So, I brought these sentiments to classes all last week. I asked my students: What is your favorite feeling that Summer invokes? The answers were things like: laughter, playful, fun, and freedom. Then we worked with embodying those feelings through our asana. We set the intention (sankalpa), to generate one specific feeling/mood (bhava) for the class, and constantly returned to that in our minds and then breathed it into our bodies in the poses. We let it expand and radiate through our poses from the inside - out, so the poses were "moved" by our feeling, our bhava. This is elemental in Anusara Yoga and why I love it so much. Our asana is inspired by the heart's longing and it is potent.

I truly believe that through the power of intention and consistent long-term practice (abhysasa), we can turn our minds towards whatever we want. We see this when we decide to notice the color red. We start seeing it everywhere! Well, can we decide to start feeling spacious or lighthearted every day? I think we can. We have to want it and we have to practice. This is the power of sankalpa and this is the power of sadhana, a spiritual practice.

May your summer be sweet and filled with light and love.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Solstice!

I love this poem by the great American poet, Mary Oliver:

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

A few weeks ago, I used this poem as the theme for my classes, as the last line had called to me so strongly in my quest for clarity and truth:
Tell me, what is it you plan to do 
with your one wild and precious life?
In addition to this call for clarity, I love the overall feeling of solace, prayer and reverence she generates in the poem (especially because it can be such a great support for the clarity we all seek)! It reminds me to slow down and listen to myself, to the nature of my own being, and to seek my answers there. What is it I plan to do? What is it that truly resonates with my soul?

For me, the summer time can be a wonderful period of deeper listening. I find myself with less work and more time at home, in the garden, dancing at festivals, teaching and playing at yoga retreats, and exploring the wilds of nature. Even though I may be traveling more, my activities are often geared towards play, connection, and relaxation. This is so deeply nourishing for my inner being!

This year, I feel myself taking a big pause, like a retreat, to re-evaluate the trajectory of my life and what I want to create and manifest for the busy season of Fall and the new year ahead. So I'm basking in this precious pause, truly letting myself slow down, eating in silence, writing, reading, taking longer baths, and soaking in the present wonderful moment.

Tell me, what do you plan to do with this wild and precious summer?

Which reminds me, if you are needing some sacred retreat time for yoga in nature, communing with friends and frolicking in the river and on the mat, there is still room in our August Trinity River Retreat (see side bar). We'd love to share it with you and help you to dive in deeper to your practice!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Inner Cleanse

written on 6/11/11

One year ago this weekend, Patrick and I finished our first Ejuva cleanse at the Harmony Festival in Santa Rosa. We had bright energy and a great time dancing to great music, seeing friends, shopping at some amazing vendors, and eating solid and salty food again after a month-long cleanse.
Yesterday, we started the cleanse again. I love the ritual of honoring my body in this way at this time of year, clearing out toxins, spending extra time with food prep, indulging in avocados, and all the luscious fruits and veggies of the season, anointing my body with rose oil, and making special treats like organic almond milk, YUM!
I've been pining to go to Harmony this weekend, but we've opted to stay home. It feels right. Another cool and cloudy June day. It's not my preference, but it seems supportive to the pensive state I'm in today. Last night, after the first day of the cleanse and a big salad with about 80% raw veggies, mucho avocado and soaked almonds and pumpkin seeds, I woke up around 1:30 a.m. wide awake and buzzing with energy and clarity. (Not a time I usually wake up). I was not anxious or worried about anything, I just had energy. Hmm, it must be all that salad. Perhaps I was hungry. Perhaps one of my organs was working over-time. Tonight I'll have some alkaline grain with my dinner and see if that makes a difference.

The interesting thing is, after lots of dreaming and not quite enough sleep, I feel very lucid today. My meditation was quiet, serene, present. As usual on Saturdays, Patrick has gone off to teach and see body work clients, and I am home alone. Although I have a big list in my head about all the gardening projects I want to accomplish today, I feel very peaceful. The house is quiet and I am choosing to write in my blog for the first time in 16 months. This is a sign. This is a good sign. I feel an inner shift in my being, one that I've been praying for. I can sense it is here by the way I've been sleeping more deeply recently and by the quality of my meditations.

I am happy to be home. I love our beautiful home and garden. It feels so nourishing. I am home a lot these days, since I changed my teaching schedule in April (another good sign). I only teach one class Monday eve, three classes on Weds and one on Friday morning. It feels so simple and so luxurious. This is the least amount of weekly classes I've taught in over 13 years. It feels spacious and it was an important shift to support the extra teaching I've been doing on weekends. So I am savoring my days at home. I am living the life I want to live in so many ways and perhaps this is why I feel that inner shift. I am following my heart. I am prioritizing my practices of some pranayama, meditation and an asana practice on these home days and gardening and taking walks near the beach. I feel much more balanced and at peace when I practice and spend time outside. And I feel much more connected with my Self.

This idea of following your heart, one way to translate the Sanskrit word, Anusara, the kind of yoga I teach, has been a theme for me my whole life, but especially for the last month. All week I have been using a variation on this theme in my classes, after one of my Immersion students introduced a partner exercise at our Heartwood Retreat, where you repeatedly ask your partner, "what are you passionate about?" What are you passionate about? I loved the exercise: you sat across from somebody you didn't know very well and one person asked the question repeatedly for 2 minutes. You had to answer it quickly in one word, and they responded with "thank you" and then asked you again until the time was up. Then you switched roles. I could really see how each person had small revelations about what makes their heart sing. And I am truly passionate about helping people to find what makes their heart sing, helping them to follow their bliss. In fact, I find it quite sad when people live their lives feeling trapped doing things they really don't want to do, in jobs they dislike or with partners who pull them down or limit their fullness in some way. So in classes, we explored the question. I asked them to answer the question out loud in the class opening, and then periodically throughout the class, I asked them again (to answer it silently), with the idea that the movement and breath and presence of yoga would help them to know themselves more (chit = self knowing), and discover more of the truths about where their passions lie. It seemed powerful for some people. I'm sure I could develop this for many more weeks. We'll see what happens.

The funny thing is, I just keep finding myself teaching on some version of this theme. In my last newsletter, I asked the question, "what do you really want?" I wrote about desire and the Tantric idea that desire is a good thing as it motivates us to act and to listen to our hearts. The newsletter before that, I wrote about being deeply inspired by stories of people who make big life changes like leaving an unhealthy relationship (as I finally did over 10 years ago), losing weight, changing careers, etc. because they are learning about who they are on a deeper level and seeing that their "old" ways/lifestyle choices are no longer serving them. They are choosing to follow their hearts.

So this is what I'm passionate about right now, probably because it's something I'm inquiring into for myself. I love what I do, but I've been realizing that I haven't been striking a healthy balance between work and play and practice and relationships, etc. So, changing my teaching schedule was a start. Hiring a part-time helper who comes and works with me at home was another move in that direction. Taking more time to garden and to write, to play music, to spend quality time with friends; more moves in the right direction. Seeking balance and refining, refining, refining. I think for those of us on a spiritual path, life is always about refining. We contemplate, we get clarity, and then we refine based on what we learn. This is following the heart or aligning with Grace, as we say in Anusara Yoga. We may just refine something on the outside, like change our diet or take up yoga classes, or we may refine something on the inside, like letting go of blaming, of being the victim, being greedy, or playing small. And ultimately, I think, we refine not only our actions or our character or our beliefs, but we refine our energy, our very inner vibration. Or perhaps better said, as we refine our energy, the frequency with which we pulsate, we come into greater harmony with our True Nature/Inner Essence, our true Self (or whatever you want to call it), that unchanging Inner Being who we truly are on the inside, and we open to greater ease, greater joy, more radiance, and more pure love can shine forth.

So this is what I'm up to in this life time: refinement and finding harmony and ultimately, living in a place of deep love. I am on the path of yoga to know myself (chit) and to celebrate and radiate this knowing as love and joy (ananda) and offer service to others (seva) so that they may find it too. And this path of Tantra non-dual Yoga is a perfect road for me, because I get to play with and explore my physical body and investigate my mind and my self in relationships with myself, with others, and with the world. Want to join me? It will be fun!