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