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!