Staring at the path up the mountain on this spectacular day in the Rhone-Alps region of southeast France, I see a winding road, leading into a beautiful forest, dark and unknown. I have no idea where I am going, just up…. I do however, know where I came from. Today is the last day of my 53rd trip around the sun. The end begets the beginning. Only a short distance into the shadow of the mystery is visible, broken by glimpses of sunlight between the shadows. I take all parts of myself forward, everything I have been, the light and the shadow parts I’m not so proud of, the things that don’t get posted. All that has happened to me, all the experiences and people who I’ve crossed paths with this year and all years, are the summation of who I have been and who I am now. Stepping forward into a nine year, a year laden with endings, completions, ‘letting goes’, I know there will be freshness of new beginnings with the embrace of the unknown. I feel grateful for my past, the triumphs and challenges, all the hugs that hugged back, the joys and tears. It has been a beautiful cycle I am grateful for.
In this beautiful natural sanctuary I remember. The collective memory stirs my soul, and I remember all the churches, temples and holy sites I’ve been to all over the globe, spectacular monuments to the Divine. I remember, they have been built by slaves, brutality, death and pain, all in the name of love and God. Many of the natural holy sites of ancient culture have been decimated to reconstruct churches on top of them in the name of God. I remember. My mother used to take me to the cemeteries in the places we traveled, literally all over the world. They held deep reminders of the transient nature of Life’s path, the full cycle including birth and death, portals for Life to flow through as a gift of earthly spirit. It is a blessing to age, a celebration many don’t get to enjoy. I remember. I am grateful and in this I remember the future, my future and with hope, a collective future.
I sit opened eyes, snuggled into this green refuge of the Holy, She holds me like the trees, feeding and nourishing my Soul. I feel like a speck of nothing embedded in this endless beauty, and at the same time as exceptionally blessed and expanded as anyone could dream of. I feel eternal and grounded in belonging to Her, even with the relentless begging of the paradox of conscious existence in the fabric of time and space, the duality drama between my limiting ego and endless Soul.
As I move into this next cycle, may my will align with Divine will. I see tomorrow as I see everyday, a hidden path of shadow sprinkled with sparkling beams of light, continually unveiling itself like the rolling out of red carpet; destination, the mountaintop of my Life, a life fully loved and lived. With the trust only time can give, faith beckons me forward into the sacred journey of the wise carrying the seeds of knowledge only living the experience of love, loss and atonement can bring. Beyond seeking, I am feeling into my life, a holy pilgrimage, each step an offering, each step a gift into the deep listening to Life.
The songs of the birds attune to the fire of the sun, the whispering wind on my cheeks swirling clouds into angel wings pointing the way, the wild flowers at my feet guide my walk marking the boundaries and revealing the open pastures. This is the deep listening, the compass and the guiding Way up the mountain. May my will align to Divine Will, may I be where, when and with whom I need to be for the evolution of my soul and all souls. May my will serve the Divine, may my every thought, word and deed “plant a beautiful garden”. – Mabel. May we all plant beautiful gardens. I remember, Love. Amen, Om Namah Shivaya, Om Shrim Lakshmiye Namaha, Blessed be.
Uttanita, Flip it Good.
To honor the other 4999+ people who love to be upside down in Handstands Anonymous, I thought I’d blog a bit about philosophy of yoga handstands.
To be upside down instead of right side up, is paradoxical, it is uttanita. Uttanita in Sanskrit means to expand your awareness and shift your perspective, to see something in a new way. Uttanita means, flip it, the opposite is true and what is reality, truth, is the reality you don’t see. The world and your experience shows you ‘reality’, and the paradox is there is a whole reality that you don’t see or experience. (We know like 4-5% of the Universe, the rest is the hidden reality known as dark energy and dark matter, we don’t see.) Uttanita is the revelation of that which is concealed, when you can shift your perspective to see that which is hidden.
An example that I experienced has been the revelation that the challenging painful experiences of my life, no matter how much they have sucked, are just as intrinsically beneficial and necessary to the evolution of my soul as the ecstatic ones. The benefit, or Grace, was concealed in the pain. Another example is the polarity of Light and Darkness. To see it them as two different things is how you experience it through your senses, understanding and knowledge. Uttanita is to have the revelation that they are both expressions of the same Light, all part of the Oneness. The paradox of concealment and revelation is encoded into the cycle of life known as the Panca Kryta, five acts of Shiva. The five acts of Shiva are the five acts of creation. From the dark concealed potential, comes creation, sustenance, dissolution and revelation. They’re represented as the Ananda Tandeva, Nataraja’s Dance of Bliss.
It wouldn’t cross most people’s mind to do a handstand. Not in a million years on both hands, let alone one hand. They are missing out. To turn upside down is to physically shift your perspective, to choose uttanita, to choose expansion, to choose the unknown and hidden. You actually see the world in a new way, with fresh eyes, and a different perspective. Physically shifting the shape of your body shifts the energetic body, shifts the mind body, and it shifts your soul. It can radically shift you forever. A handstand actually gives me a little buzz that shifts my mood and energizes me for the rest of the day.
Adho mukha vrksasana is Sanskrit for downward facing tree pose, also known as Handstand. One of the philosophical roots of the asana (posture) of Handstand is from a 2000 +/- yr old yogic Vedic text called the Upanishads, a compilation of yogi sage’s wisdom. The Katha Upanishad says: “This universe is a tree eternally existing, its roots above, it’s branches on earth below. It’s pure root is Brahman, the immortal, from whom all the worlds draw their life, and whom none can transcend, for this Self is supreme.” Another yogic scriptural reference for the pose is the Asvatta Tree of Consciousness, from the Bhagavad Gita, Vs 15:1,2. “The shastras speak of the imperishable ashvatta tree as having its roots above and branches below; Its leaves are the Vedic hymns, and he who knows this is a knower of the Vedas. It’s branches extend below and above, and being nourished by the gunas create the entire universe with sense objects as sprouts; below in the world of humans stretch for the the roots promoting action. “
To me these verses are saying the roots are the Oneness and its branches are the Many. The reference is expressing my experience and revelation that I have had through my yoga practice. I heavily credit handstand as the pivotal transformative pose that that has given me the capacity to shift my view to actually see that the Oneness is HIDDEN with in the Many, the uttanita is seeing the Oneness is in plain sight, always as the Many. The Oneness exists eternally within and as everyone and everything, Oneness IS the Many. This revelation was the Uttanita of me playing around in downward facing tree pose.
My Personal Moksha Tandeva
Ultimately, the last pose of the 108 poses of the Ananda Tandeva, is the Moksha Tandeva. The Dance of Liberation. Shiva Nataraja is upside down doing a one handed handstand on his vehicle, the Being of Forgetfulness, Apasmara. It is the culmination of all the dances, the culmination of the spiritual path, the enlightened being. This is the uttanita of freedom. The revelation of the yogi handstander is ultimate freedom to live in the mystery and uncertainty, remembering that forgetfulness is part of the dance, the very thing the handstand dance is taking place on. Forgetting our Essence to remember our Essence is the point of the dance. That revelation is the uttanita, everything is the ecstatic dance, everything is Grace.
My yogic process has been an unveiling of my own free will, a shift of my perspective from a bound victim shackled to my story, to the freedom of empowered choice to create a new personal myth. I live in a world of uncertainty, we all do, where the only certainty is our own mortality, everything else, 100% mystery. I have recognized I am free to choose in this world of uncertainty, certain only of the uncertainty of the Mystery. The Moksha Tandeva is the my freedom to choose to whom, how and what to bind myself in the Mystery, knowing it is just dance of paradox, concealment and revelation, forgetting and remembering. The dance of ultimate freedom isn’t a release from bondage, it’s the recognition of freedom to bondage. Uttanita, the upside down, the revelation that we already are free, not prisoners, bound and seeking freedom, the uttanita is we are free to choose and create our own boundaries and attachments in this world of uncertainty. We are free, we get to choose!
Nothing like geeking out on the yoga of handstand philosophy. I love yoga, I love handstands. Ultimately, freedom is the empowerment of choice, the choice to bind, connect, create yoga with whom and what I love. I choose Love, and I love to do handstands, a lot of them, everywhere. Flip it, Good.
180* degrees of picture windows frame my view overlooking the ice clad Hudson River on this shades of steel blue and gray morning, I have been contemplating the last year and the coming year. I love the fact that no matter how the river and day is waking, it is beautiful. It’s spectacular when it’s sunny and warm, gorgeously contemplative on days like this, Nancy Drew mysterious when its misty, and exciting when there is an Atlantic hurricane. The River’s beauty isn’t dependent on the conditions, it just Is Beauty.
I feel so grateful for all the Love in my life, and I feel grateful I Love my life and get to do what I love! My kids, grandkids, family, all the beautiful friends and students I’ve had the honor to sit with and continue to teach Anusara yoga this last year. You have all been my teachers too. I feel grateful for all my friends who are supporting and managing the vision of ASHY, those who have hosted me, trusted me and my friends who see Me. All of you have held me in my glory and in my gory! I am grateful for your kindness, love and ferocity when I need it. Thank you
I commit to serving the Maha Shakti, Universal Flow, Energy, Supreme Consciousness, Nature, God/dess, whatever ‘label’ you put on that underlying Presence of Love. The next year is an invitation to anchor in all sweetness of the last few years of challenges as we’ve been transitioning from an era of love of power to the Power of Love. All the seeds that have been planted in our hearts must be ignited by our love to anchor and create expression in the world. It is time to root love and share the Power of Love in the world. I commit to holding, anchoring, igniting and sharing the frequency of Love, serving Love.
Looking over some of last year’s images, mostly the ones other people have taken of me teaching or playing, I find two that totally touch me in a way that no others do. They aren’t images of me looking holy, or rocking out a killer handstand or poses. My best handstands are seen only by the Unseen anyway.
The photos I chose represent the feminine in my family lineage. One is of my mother,
Thank you Mom!
Bette Wolfe and me. She taught me so much about who I am as daughter, mother, wife and wise woman, as well as the ways I heal my own feminine energy and make other choices as an empowered woman in any role. Grateful to her for everything, this image represents all the love and fierce Grace that healing of the Divine Feminine holds for myself, my sisters, the mothers, grandmothers, the healing in all our brothers, sons, fathers, husbands and grandfathers.
The other one is of one of my grand daughters, Lilly, and me. I dedicate this next year, and the rest of my life to serving the Power of Light and Love in her eyes, the same Light shining from all eyes, this is what I am committed to serving, Love. Happy New Year, New Moon blessings, the year of the Green Horse, the year to Anchor the seeds and grow the Power of your Love. Blessings to you for 2014!
Like the yoga mystic nerd that I am, my morning Goddess-food breakfast became an inspired metaphor for it all. After my kalecucumbapplegingerlemoncilantro green juice in the new juicer, I sliced open a pomegranate.
Two ruby red Sacred Flowers stared at me. Another moment of recognition, each ruby leaf the center of the vesica piscis, (‘fish bladder’) which is the mathematically sacred geometrical basis of all life. From the One become Two, the Vesica Piscis, the cells split in krama shakti (power of deep sequencial order) and become the Sacred Flower of Life, and ultimately a human being. 2014 is the year the seeds sown of the past will ground and grow.
It looks delicious. As I peeled apart the thin matrix holding the ripe red seeds together, I’m reminded of every moment embedded in each other moment that is happening now. Each moment of the last year, the last decade, the last 50 years, a individual yet never separate seed imbued with flavor, color and potential to create more thriving trees, flowers, fruits and more seeds. It is exponential potential and possibility. All of the moments strung together held in the matrix of the everyday worldly moments, every bit as holy and necessary for the succulence of the fruit to grow into ripeness.
There is a certain amount of self-effort and reflection necessary to extract the blessing of the alluring seeds. It is kind of messy and some of the blood red juice gushes out so I have to be mindful gently disengaging the sweet fruit from the slightly bitter matrix. Not so easy, until I figure out the pattern and get into that flow, and still some of the dull papery membrane gets stuck to the red treasure. It’s the fleshy stuff that we have to deal with, the obligatory duties or karmas that aren’t so juicy, sometimes boring, sometimes bitter, yet necessary for the nectar. It’s the parts of life that when it’s served it’s purpose, I can just bless it, and let it go. I don’t have to chew and consume that too. So I carefully separate the chaff from the grain.
Every moment is part of the whole; the juicy fruit, seeds, matrix all held together in the microcosm in the skin of potential. Our spiritual and yogic practices give us the tools to learn to gently disentangle the necessary mundane matrix from the sweet succulence of the colorful fruits. The invitation is to recognize it all as sacred. Gratefully let go of the superfluous, and relish the succulence of what you love, the sweetness, beauty and enthusiasm of delight. Save some seeds, nourish them and grow them into your own sweet delicious gifts to the world.
I love pomegranates. Life is a pomegranate.
May everyday in 2014 be another sweet juicy pomegranate seed to relish and delight, filled with Love to grow and share!
I’m sitting in a lovely apartment home on the hills overlooking the lights of Bogota, contemplating life, especially my last five days. I have just had two days of the most intense physical pain I believe I have ever experienced. (And I delivered a breech baby naturally, not today, but never the less.) At times the pain these days was so strong I couldn’t focus enough to understand what was being said to me. The culprit of this painful event, a crown gone bad.
I flew from the states to Colombia Monday and the pain in my jaw, glands and ear was so intense I cried, tears. I always cry over other stuff, emotions, frustration, etc., but physical pain? I don’t remember ever crying over that. I couldn’t eat or drink, not even water. I did manage to suck a single pack of almond maple butter. I arrived late Monday night and went to straight to a pharmacy. The young pharmacist gave me some weird anti-inflammatory drug, saying it would work and was safe. If you know me, my medicine cabinet consists of tea tree oil, a plethora of essential oils and good old aspirin. I took two of the prescribed ‘something-flams’ and then googled it. After reading the side effects I was mortified, hoping I didn’t bleed to death internally as I hopefully got some sleep.
Without going into all the gory details, this crown was the result of a series of unfortunate events and dental faux pas. When I say faux pas, I am the one who made the error by consenting to probably unnecessary work, i.e., changing out a childhood filling, which eventually had to be changed again and then the crown. My whole life my dentists have raved about my teeth. I didn’t have braces, only had one cavity and the only thing had done was extracted my wisdom teeth. I barely remember it, I guess because of the painkillers. I just remember the cloves packed in, feeling miserable and having to express and toss my milk since I had a sixth month old I was nursing. Horrible timing then too and I had totally forgotten how painful dental issues are. Nature gives us the blessing of forgetfulness so we can move on, it’s part of the healing process. I even sort of forget how painful it was two nights ago. It’s already fading. It is the blessing of concealment.
Yesterday was so bad, and I pulled my favorite Sanskrit card, ‘Kripa, Grace’. Indignant as I can be when I feel scared, tired and hurt, I thought, “how is this Grace? How will I teach tomorrow? How will I sleep tonight? How can I eat and drink? Why can’t I see the dentist today? I’m not taking these weird ‘anti-something-bleed-to-death-flams’. How is THIS Grace?” and then my Heart voice whispered, “you know it’s True, everything is Grace.”
It is true. So far, the Graceful blessings I have extracted (no pun intended) from this dental ordeal is a profound feeling of compassion for all my friends who have had serious dental issues, or root canals or any pain. I get it now. I apologize if I ever was nonchalant when you shared your story. I may forget the pain, and I won’t forget the feeling. I realized that pain can be so debilitating there was no way for rational anything, no meditation, no affirmations. I know this logically in my head, now I know it by direct experience in my body and heart. All I could do was connect to the pain, and experience it and feel it. That was Grace too. The fact I didn’t feel a thing for the three hours I was teaching this morning, Grace reigned and the class rocked. The dentists here are amazing. I have a possibility of using anti-inflammatories (that wont kill me), and antibiotics if necessary to get me through the month. It will be the third and hopefully last time in 25 ys. I have all my loving family and friends to support me, and I still have a mouth full of very healthy, straight, white teeth.
I have a 7:30 am appointment with a dental surgeon tomorrow before I teach. I hope she gives me the news I am envisioning. Whatever she says, I know for sure, it will be perfect and full of Grace. I will not forget compassion down the road and while the memory of the pain will fade as Nature’s plan of concealment, the only extraction happening will be the blessing of compassion, Grace revealed.
Gurupurnima is Full Moon Celebration to honor the teacher.
Driving over the Southern Rockies on the “million dollar highway” crossing the 11000ft + pass between the Uncompahgre National Forest and San Juan Mountains, the full moon of July, the Gurupurnima, rose in glory over the eastern mountain slope.
The tradition of celebrating the teacher on the July full moon came from the times of the Vedas in India, many moons ago, when the students of the great sage Vyasa wanted to repay their teacher of Yoga. He invited them to choose a day to honor the teacher as a way to express their deep appreciation. The students chose the July full moon, and ever since it has been Indian tradition to celebrate Gurupurnima on this dedicated day in honor of the teacher.
Today I had the great gift of being in one of the most beautiful towns on the planet. Breathtakingly beautiful, Ouray, Colorado, also known as the Switzerland of America, is brimming with flowers, charming 1800’s western architecture, ringed in rugged peaks draped in waterfalls, pine and aspen forests and good old western nice folks. No matter which direction I faced I felt overwhelmed with Earth’s magical beauty. We found a little place with a thermal hot spring and underground vapor cave that was once a mine shaft. They say it is 109*, and for sure it was hotter. One of Shiva’s favorite abodes is the cave of the heart where focused presence enlivens the Light of Awareness and the Power of Love.
The Guru can be anyone or anything. The Guru tattva, or guru principle, is anything or anyone that can shine awareness where there is no awareness, unconsciousness or ignorance. ‘Gu’ means dark, and ‘ru’ means light, so whatever brings light to dark, whatever wakes you up on any level can be ‘the guru principle.’ The guru means the ‘heaviness’ or weightiness of the teachings or the teacher. (It also means Jupiter, the big heavy planet.) It’s not a heaviness of burden, it the heaviness of grace filled blessings. Purna is the fullness of the teaching or experience, perfectly whole, nothing else needed, nothing to be cast off. The guru can be a song, billboard, animals, feeling someone and they call, the way the sun shines a certain way, a teacher, whatever reveals and inspires you to recognize and experience your intrinsic connection to the greater flow of all of Life is the guru principle. It’s your parents and family, friends and enemies, teachers and students. The gurus are the ones who have showered you in love and the ones who have shattered your heart, sometimes both, always cracking your heart open and guiding you back to your inner Source of wisdom. Any experience, anyone and anything that reveals insight can be the Guru. Whatever brings you closer to Love.
I settled in the heart of Gaia and I recounted all of the great teachers in my life. I held prayers of love, blessings and gratitude for my parents and siblings, my first gurus, (they still are), my kids who brought the greatest Light, (though there were times they were Gugus and brought more darkness to the dark), my grand drops (who are the most perfect and beautiful in all the Universes), all of my friends, (even the ones who’ve betrayed me), all of my lovers and wasbands, (even the ones who broke my heart), my yoga students who amaze, surprise and inspire me (including the ones who resist and frustrate me) and all my great yoga and philosophy teachers, (including the ones I don’t study with or see any more).
I heard the inner Voice from the cave of my Heart, the True teacher, always speaking, sometimes a whisper, sometimes a roar, reminding me Gee, U, R, U. Everyone I have crossed paths with has on some level been a teacher to me, directing me back to the inner wisdom that is the true Teacher. Bathing in the heated vapors of the cave, the inner light of awakened gratitude for all my teachers illumined my Soul like the fullness of the Moon reflecting the radiant light of the Sun. Everything I am shines with an inspired spark of all my great teachers.
In the afterglow of my time in the cave I basked in the cool breezes in the garden. Within the same couple of minutes, the great butterfly presented me with the gift of the beauty in evolution of the soul, the way change and challenge lead to freedom. The red hollyhocks summoned a bee, blessing me with the insight of community, service, the sweetness of slowing and smelling the flowers, extracting the nectar to share with others, then a hummingbird hovered transmitting the vibration of joy, spreading the sweetness to all the flowers open to receive it.
“Beauty in everything, it’s all Guru”, the teachings echoed as the Voice in the cave of my heart.
With humbled gratitude, blessings of love to all my teachers on this Gurupurnima! To all my relations. Aho. Om Namah Shivaya. So Mote it Be. Amen. Love.
Svatantriya. Freedom. One of the aspects of the Absolute Universal Supreme Energy is freedom. Unbounded, unlimited, freedom. Inexplicably uninhibited Conscious Energy. Eternal presence with no boundaries. A Universe so entirely free it can and does, unfold upon Herself, weaving an intricate web of everyone and everything. Svatantriya is a Sanskrit term and means “self weaving freedom.” The Uni – verse, or One-turn, is constantly unfolding upon itself and holds all the unlimited multi-verses within it. Just think of all the little universes spinning together, your own body, all the rest of the bodies, all the forests, oceans, heavens, all animals, beings, and on and on, all simultaneously pulsing with potential, with life force at this very moment in a symphony of ecstatic being we call, Life. If that doesn’t make sense, think of the movie A Bug’s Life,..the whole adventure took place in a drop of water.
One of the great gifts of the yoga practice, or hopefully any spiritual practice, is to experience or recognize this Universal energy (Spirit) within and as yourself, and ultimately with in and as everything and everyone around you. You are a Universe within the Universe and the Universe is happening as you. As Stephen Hawking said, “you are what the Universe is doing.” This is it, this moment, this body, this lifetime, your heartbeat right now. Svatantriya, unfolding and weaving the entire cosmos and you are woven inextricably into it. Whoa.
Photo by Laura Kay
The desire to feel free is a very powerful motivator. This desire instigates everything from a nation starting a revolutionary or civil war seeking independence from a dictator, to the guy next door starting a hatha yoga practice seeking freedom from low back pain. Everyone wants to feel free. We are always seeking freedom either “from” something, or someone, or freedom “to” something or someone. We abuse drugs, alcohol, etc.. to be free from pain, and we flee oppressed countries to be free to earn enough money to care for our families. Freedom is empowerment, having the capacity to choose, freedom from, or freedom to. The other side of that choice is the disempowered story, which is the victim story. When you feel free, you are experiencing your essential Nature, you feel empowered. You recognize your birthright that is Svatantriya.
Freedom is the difference between being a victim or being empowered. Ultimately, it is a choice, on some deep level, no matter what the circumstance. The highest teaching of Anusara yoga is the first principle, ‘Open to Grace’. To me it means, ‘open to whatever Life is presenting you in this moment’, which sometimes has to include bad, crummy stuff we don’t like or want. That takes courage. The courage to engage your heart, having fear, and facing the scary, unknown anyway. It means open to ‘what is. The tantric teachings call it the ‘yes’, no matter what, and then the empowered yogi looks for and acts in the highest way that enhances the greater flow of Life.
Victor Frankel, holocaust survivor, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, talks about the way he survived because ‘they’ couldn’t imprison his heart and mind. While physically he was imprisoned, he was free in his heart and mind. He was ‘free’ to search out the beauty in the iris of the dead fish head served to him in a bowl of dirty water as dinner, and he was grateful. When Annie Herz-Sommer, the oldest surviving holocaust survivor, was recently asked what her secret of life is, she answered, “Optimism, and looking for the good. I see beauty everywhere. I know about the bad things, but I look for the good things.” 109 ys Holocaust Survivor. If anyone has earned the right to hold the ‘victim’ story it would be both these great beings, and yet they consciously actively chose to look for beauty, look for the good when things were bad, bad, bad!!! And the greatest part of these stories, is there is gratitude. Gratitude for life, gratitude for the blessing of the challenge. There isn’t a denial of the bad, or pushing it away, it is a free choice to actively affirm good, beauty, what IS life affirming of the whole cycle of life.
Freedom is your intrinsic nature. “You are not a bound being seeking freedom, you are free being, free to choose to whom and what and how you bind yourself to.” –Douglas Brooks. This is one of the most liberating teachings I’ve ever received. The contemplation reveals an opportunity of empowerment in life as opposed to living as a victim of your own story. Free to choose to bind yourself, and create attachments. Attachments that serve the whole cycle of Life are the ones you want to make. You want to be attached to your spouse and kids! I feel so happy two of my friends who are gay and have been together for over 40 years, and FINALLY this week were free to legally marry, to public affirm their committed devotion to each other for all the world to witness. That public expression of chosen attachment, the chosen bond, actually creates freedom. You are free to choose your mate, choose your job, your home, choose how you spend money, what vehicle, kids or not, adopt or not, what you do with your time, energy and money, what ideas and beliefs you hold, the people you hang out with, pretty much everything. Or do you have a story of being held captive by attachments to your partner, your career, finances, your friends, possessions, kids or not, etc. etc? This is a big contemplation, attachment vs. freedom. Will the story of your life, your myth, be one of victim or one of the empowered hero?
Yoga’s boons are tools for empowered living. With practice, you learn you have a choice and you learn how to choose. You learn you are free to look for, to actively seek an opening, an opportunity, the good, the interconnectedness underlying everything and all experience. Easy when life gives the good stuff, the happy, happy, joy, joy. Looking for the Highest, or ‘good’ isn’t denying or ignoring horrible, demonic evil actions being chosen in the world. There is NO way to explain away hideous evil choices people make and do to others, especially if you have been in the path of anything atrocious. Most everyone has experienced some degree of being on the receiving end of someone else choosing to do harm and create suffering. Another great teaching I learned from Dr. Brooks is the good news is, you are a free being, free to choose, the bad news is, so is everyone else. Unfortunately, there are people whose hearts are so blocked from their connection to the Divine and each other, they do ugly things to each other and our planet. This is where empowerment and freedom of the heart and mind are challenged. Ultimately, the response, what you do with tragedy, is the juncture between empowerment or victimhood.
The practice of yoga, (practice meaning over and over, with devotion to the universal Energy within and without) coming back to your mat, your seat in meditation, the mantra, the ‘yoga practices’, cultivates the tools and capacity to see even dark experiences as expressions of the One. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna (the Divine) tells Arjuna (the Soul), again and again, that he is everything, both delicious and horrific. “I am the death that carries off all things… of beasts I am the king of beasts, I am the beauty of the beautiful.” Krishna. The Gita is something every yogi eventually will read and contemplate.
The highest perspective is the knowing that the Universe is so free even the ‘bad’ horrifying experiences are woven in as part of the web of Life’s cycles. Seeing the dark as an expression of the Universal doesn’t mean you like it, support it, grab or push against it, it’s the acknowledgement that is the empowerment. Then you are free to choose.
To me, the yoga is to look for and make the Universal connection in any experience. The empowered freedom of choice is how you consciously respond to and contribute to the world, no matter what. What will you do with your experiences? How will you show up? Can you be grateful for even the challenging hard parts of life? Will your thought, word and deed create more freedom, beauty, love and light ,…or not? Every breath, every moment is another opportunity exercise your free will of choice. You are a free being, free to choose how you receive Life, all of it’s experiences and happenings, how you move in the world, what you think, say, and do. You will make a difference, make a wave on this Ocean of embodied Spirit. What difference will your wave make? You are free to you weave your own life and your choices will be the legacy you leave. The Universe is so free, out of it’s own freedom it has chosen to become you, therefore, you are free, free to choose. You are Svatantriya. Choose Freedom, choose Love, choose Gratitude. (It’s always your choice.)
Happy 4th of July! Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. That is the birthright of the whole planet… Not just U.S.
“The secret to Happiness is Freedom, the secret to Freedom is Courage.” – Thucydides 471-440 bc
It has been so long since I’ve felt motivated or inspired to blog. Even journaling has been all over the place since the Anusara melt down. It seems like yesterday and a few lifetimes ago that we were all flitting around the planet coming together growing a dream and vision of ‘Goodness’ to change the world for the better. It will take a few more yesterdays and lifetimes to totally comprehend the complexities of what happened and why. There are as many perspectives on it as there are different people with opinions.
This past spring equinox I participated in a significant sweat lodge in Costa Rica with some very powerful teachers on the planet. The energy was so potent when I left the inipi (sweat lodge, or ‘womb’) I truly felt re-birthed. It was then I decided to reclaim my birth name, Benita, ‘Blessed’.
During the next 24 hrs we did a shamanic journey meditation calling in a power animal to guide us for the next cycle of our Path. I have had power animals join my life path before, so this wasn’t a new practice and it was to invite the energies of what I need now. In the vision, a Deer came to me. At first I was like “a deer?”, kinda wishing for something sleek and cool like a panther. As I contemplated the deer energies, I felt alertness, swift graceful power. I remembered the murghi mudra taught to me by my philosophy teacher. It is a story about the celestial beings that take form as deer to enjoy each other in intimacy and love. Intimacy is where art, love and learning take place. The mudra stands for sweetness of the conversation of teacher and student. It is a beautiful hand mudra of the kissing deer, to remember the love and honor between teacher and student. I love and miss that teacher and feel grateful for him, I feel grateful for all my teachers.
Deer has been teaching me about powerful authenticity inside and a sweet, mercurial gentle grace on the outside. There are stories and myth how Goddesses embody as deer, and highly sensitive, deer can perceive subtleties even in the dark. She is about the power of gentleness, grace and love. My intention is to embody and learn from the energies of deer as I move forward through this time of change and awakening we are all moving through.
About a month later, I woke up and noticed a little spider bite on my leg. It was a little irritating, itchy and I did my best to ignore it and not scratch. Within a couple of days it got red and angry, my beloveds urging me to go get antibiotics. I only had one day to get ready for a three-week teaching trip and going to urgent care seemed like a waste of time, besides, I do homeopathic and naturopathic care anyway. I had grapefruit seed extract, tea tree oil, all of the natural remedies you can think of. To make a long story short, the bite was horrible, with a fever and gaping infection. 24 hrs later I ended up on antibiotics in Argentina (the 2nd time I’ve taken them in over 25 yrs). The bite was from a brown recluse, and the muscle on my thigh was affected, and the skin and tissue died creating a huge hole silver dollar sized and very deep. Somehow I was able to teach and practice anyway.
As I was contemplating the bite and life, I realized the bite was ‘spider’ medicine, a call to consciously and creatively step into weaving a web of love and light for awakening on the planet. With the practice of bhavana, (contemplation, being with an experience or feeling) the spider reminds me about the infinite nature and interconnectedness of all life, I am the weaver of my own life.
The relationships we engage in are woven networks of love that touch everyone, threads of connection the delicate spider can move back and forth across with love and gentle strength. OR, the webs we weave create patterns that can be webs of entanglement, sticky and harmful. The spider represents feminine mother or grandmother energy, creativity, writing and communication and She is calling me.
Sitting on the threshold of high summer before the sun begins to wane and the dawn of the Super Honey moon, as I reflect over the past couple of years, I remember. The teachings of non-dual Tantra offer, everything and anything can be an opportunity for recognition and expansion of consciousness, gateways to awaken to our Divine nature. I’ve learned that the love transcends all the petty bickering and earthly stuff. I’ve studied with a few of my friends, ex-Certified Anusara teachers over the last year, and they are all still as excellent as before, evolving their individual expressions of the teachings that wove our hearts together into something they can name their own. I see my friends shifting and risking, finding their new path, opening spaces to share the love of yoga, creating programs and offerings. I love them and I truly feel joy for their great beauty, service and success.
My vision going forward on this full moon night carries the energy of the spider, a weaver of the web, a web of love, grace and yoga. As a spider weaver I walk the matrix with grace and ease. Holding the energy of the deer with her gentle watchfulness, attuned to her environment and subtle movements around her, I hold the murghi mudra in my heart, the symbol of the kissing deer, love and honor for my teachers’ grace, and love and honor for the grace of my students.
Tonight as the moon rises over the Rockies, I will envision the Web, a global community collaboratively woven with gentle power, grace and Love. Blessings to all under the abundance reflected as sweet luminous light of this Honey Super Moon.
“Envision the best expression of yourself, and then do your best to become your vision.” – Benita
Sitting with the quiet of the ‘sun standing still’, Solstice, coinciding with the mythic end of the Mayan calendar, there is no doubt of the potency of the moment. In the star filled heavens, huge cycles of time are ending/beginning as measured in galactic movements and alignments. Astrologically we are into ‘the dawning’ of the Aquarian Age. As our island planet has been hurling through space, collectively we have been exposed to belts of cosmic rays we’ve been traveling through, bathed in upsurges of solar flares and we’ve been experiencing shaking and shifts geologically, meteorologically, politically, socially, personally and spiritually. Everyone can feel it on some level.
Today is the gateway for tomorrow’s reality. It marks the invitation of revelation and awakening to all parts of your self on every level, in turn an invitation to a global awakening. When one awakens, we all awaken. Oneness is always happening, as you and everyone and everything around you. As luminous conscious Beings, the awakening is the moment to moment, ever-expanding awareness to the inter-connectivity of all beings….always immersed in Consciousness, always connected to each other.
For the next day or so, the energy of this great portal in time and space is still powerfully aligned for devotional appreciation and envisioning. If you haven’t already, take your journal, sit in a space that is meaningful to you, wherever you feel expanded and light. Light a candle, connect with your breath, drop your awareness into your heart space and ask yourself the questions.
What were the challenges of the last cycle (year) and how are you grateful for them? Be with the energy of those experiences, the joyful ones and painful ones, let them flow, feel and watch them. What did you learn and what blessings can you receive from them? Imagine and dream your future, write your visions in present tense, detailed because it already exists and is in process of who you intend to be for the next year, the next five, twenty and beyond. Do it for all areas of your life, spiritual, health, relationships, career and finances. In the same way journal about how you see the energy of our planet and how we will transform it together. You are the co-creator for our tomorrow, you are a free Being, and with your free will, your choice is to be who you came to be and move in the fabric of time and space in a way enhances the beauty of the fabric, or not.
“Only when we can peer into all corners of ourselves… Embrace our wholeness full of fearful dark shadows and light filled joy, only when we can gaze into ourselves and be comfortable and Love all shades of our self, can we heal. Only when we can love all shades of our self in every other being and love all shades of every being with in our self, will the world heal.” – Me, last week on FB.
This is the power of Love. You ARE a point of power. It is the power of Self Love, you have the power to give Love and the power to receive Love. The power of Love is the energy that is the connective force that is your Essence, Love weaves us together as a global community and Love is the energy that will heal the planet.
Now is the time to let go of the old ways of being, allow the new you to unfold, affirm and radically re-affirm you. You are free to choose….Radically Choose Love.
January 5, 2013
Sacred Feminine Rising
Anusara Yoga • Goddess Circle • Sweat Lodge
What if you remembered and lived from the knowing of your natural state of being that is the state of Grace?
It is the favor of the Universe to express itself as you, in this moment…now, the gift of embodiment… you, a radiant Being of luminous conscious stardust. Every moment in life is a grace filled jewel strung together on the silky gift of breath. Awakening to the blessing of living awareness, the yoga, is the invitation to receive everything and everyone with emphatic affirmation, the dark and painful as well as the joyful and happy.
What choice do you have to make in order to hold all of life’s experience in deep appreciation? To allow every experience cultivates appreciation, an internal feeling of esteemed value and meaning. Appreciation expands self limiting boundaries with spacious gratitude in your Heart. It creates heart waves of Love that ripple through old walls of disappointment, resentment and bitterness, melting them into loving forgiveness. Allowance and appreciation are tools to glean the vibration of a blessing from any experience.
Offering loving thanks from the infinite well of gratitude takes the internal experience of gracious appreciation outward. As the luminous stardust being you are, to give thanks radiates light beams of loving gratitude as prayer, infinitely shining out into the fabric of time and space. As rays of sunshine pour on all earthly life, all beings benefit from your Light, all of life is enhanced because you have made a conscious choice to give thanks.
Thanks, Love, Gratitude and Grace, all is For Giving. Every day is a day to give thanks. Full of thanks for it all, wishing all a Happy Thanksgiving!
Spring Equinox (Equi=Equal, Nox=Night)
Today in the northern hemisphere is earth’s threshold from the long darkness of winter towards the bright light of summer. All over the planet there is a balance of light and dark, equal daylight and starlight. In the north the earth deeply inhales, springing forth in vibrant blooms of the seeds planted in the waning light of autumn, held in the potential of the deep dark of winter.
First Principle of Anusara yoga, Open to Grace is the unequivocal affirmation of what is. It’s the affirmation that every moment, every thought, every feeling, person, experience, every thing is a unique vibration of one Supreme Consciousness.
The Divine pulsation of the Universe (Spanda) is the intrinsic throb at the Essence of everyone and everything, every cell in our bodies bursting with the pulsation of potential to be. In the relative embodied world, Spanda expresses through a constant contraction and expansion, the polarity of contrasting compliments, yes/no, here/there, now/then, up/down, winter/summer, good/bad, light/dark. Everything is a vibration of Consciousness, the one Light becomes the many, everything a unique wave with its very own unique amplitude and velocity. Think Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon. (more…)
Join us and settle into the Jungle Immersions!
1, 2, or 3 weeks of reconnecting, realigning, reaffirming and revelation to co-create and envision your new reality with the Universe.
For time immemorial, yogis (some known as the Pine Forest sages), have taken sabbatical from their families, work and villages to go explore the innerspace of their own Heart, Mind and Body. Leaving their families and work for extended periods of time, they would gather and go deep into the jungle to practice yoga, fully stepping into the forest of feeling and thought of their own Heart, realigning with their Essence to make themselves an offering.
Practicing yoga, meditation and sharing stories in satsang with their teachers, the Pine jungle sages awaken with each other to the Ananda Tandeva, the Ecstatic Dance, their own life’s Dance of Bliss. They make offering before going back into the currents of their householder life, forever shifted, yogis hidden in plain sight deeply connected to their Spirit with a deep awareness and understanding of their own Heart’s Core that is always connected, never separate.
Our fast paced westernized urban culture often knocks our physical, emotional and spiritual bodies out of balance from the earth’s natural rhythms. Being physically distanced from our householder lives, deep in Nature, fully engaged in learning and practicing how to align, we sync up our physical body to the natural cycles and Flow of the earth. The great benefit of doing all three immersions back to back, or one or two in the jungle is the opportunity created to truly immerse and invest in ourselves. (more…)
Happy Imbolc Day, the Northern Hemisphere cross quarter threshold between winter and spring, the Celtic holy day embodied by Brighid, protector of the flame of hearth and home. She is a triple Goddess, the matron saint of domestic life, motherhood and birth, poets, healers and magicians. It is a time to remember these aspects of yourself and ignite the seeds of intention you planted in the flame of your Heart’s hearth in the dark of the passing winter. Here come the spring flowers and summer fruit!
All beginnings are seeded by the end from which it came, and at this threshold I gaze back over the best winter holy day season I can remember. This year is unfolding rapidly and I feel fortunate I was able to end my 2011 Anusara tour in South America with Grace and then join John Friend in Denver for the culmination of the Dancing with Divine tour, and a Divine Dance it was!
The fullness of John Friend’s Anusara Yoga 2011 Dancing with the Divine tour ended with a perfectly revelatory explosion of Grace in Denver last weekend, setting the tone of love and harmony for a perfect new beginning of the 2012 Ignite the Center tour.
At the culmination of any creative cycle all the energy that has been created prior mounts to point and is cumulative in the Purna Huti, or the fullness of the Celebration. More than just the 2011 tour, the fullness of all the past 14 years of Anusara, and all those 1000’s of years of teachings, all the great beings who have walked before us, have seeded this Path of awakening are present in this critical point of power for the future.
After two days of excellent practice and play, pranayama and deep contemplation, John educated us about 2012. He spoke of the deep order of the way everything is related to everything else, mathematically through sacred geometry, astrophysically and spiritually, teachings that resonate as a deep ancient remembering of why we have all found each other.
He asked Anodea Judith, illustrious master genius and best selling author on the chakras, to comment on the coming times. She said “we are all unified in a similar vision, it is one of the most critical times, an initiation to humanity, into the beginning of the Godhood.” (more…)
I feel humbled sitting under the vast moonless heavens, in the silent pulsation of potential on the deep dark of this longest night. Heart dreams and intentions cook, and I wait for the morning light to permeate the crisp Sonoran desert. The power of the Goddess and how She moves through us all marvels me and I am dazzled by the bright steady Light with whom She dances.
Gazing back on this most wildly Shri-filled year, this is the time to see where we’ve grown, where we can refine, count blessings and extract the blessing energy from the heat of the year’s challenges. I feel so blessed and grateful to have been able to do what I love and love what I do! Every month was full of adventure, wonderment and love. So many highlights, so many new deep heart connections, strengthened old ones, inner thresholds crossed and inner challenges, sick loved ones, death and close calls, new babies, beautiful beginnings and even a few bittersweet and welcome endings, all of which are counted blessings.
From the twilight of this Master threshold year 2011 peering into the unknown darkness of the 2012, our counted blessings illuminate the inner scape of 2012 as infinite points of light on a moonless night. Our blessings light our way as we venture into the unrevealed cycle of Grace. Next year promises to be full of more blessings both joyful and challenging; friends we haven’t met and a deeper remembrance and recognition of our essential Nature and what truly is meaningful. As our awakening planet leaps into higher awareness and healing, I’m honored and grateful to share Anusara’s Tantric teachings on our playground of Shiva-Shakti, this Earth Island third rock from the sun. More opportunities for us to come together as world visionaries; envisioning, co-creating, and taking personal action aligned to something greater than ourselves, to serve the Flow in these uneasy critical times. May we all feel the blessedness of being alive, awake and free to choose how to offer to and cultivate this garden we’ve be given. (more…)
I read a lovely blog on alignment earlier, which inspired me to contemplate it… again,… and share my thoughts, scary, but here they are.
Alignment matters, from my perspective, an Anusara perspective. When I’m in alignment, I feel happy, connected to my Self and the world, I feel free; when I’m out of alignment, I feel contracted, alone and stuck, not free.
As a yoga student in class, I want to know ‘why’ the teacher wants me to align in a certain way, and I want to know ‘to what’ or ‘to whom’ am I aligning? Kim artha, for what purpose, why? The ‘goal, reason, purpose’ of our practice is to awaken to and recognize Supreme Consciousness in ourselves, each other and all beings and things, sentient and non-sentient. (more…)
As the sunset on the shortest day of the soul, (Winter Solstice, Yule) I pulled up to pick up my little granddrop Sebastian for a sleep over. I call him (and all my grandkids) Grand Drops because of an incident that happened when he was three…. he is now 6 and a half.
For those who don’t know the story, I had been at an Anusara yoga event with John Friend. When I got home I was sooo full of Shakti (Life Force) and so happy to see Bashi we were seated cross-legged on the floor, Bash in my lap while his mom was nursing Preston (Granddrop #2) on the couch next to me. As I cuddled Bash in my arms, his back to my heart, I could feel waves of Love transmissions passing between our hearts. All of a sudden, he jumps up, looks at me, looks at his mom, and says, “Mommy, where is God?” Off guard and puzzled, she answered something, I don’t even remember what she said. Bash cocked his head and looked at me, and I said, “Sebastian, YOU are a little drop of God!” A big smile ripped across his gorgeous elfin face, and he said, “Oh!” and bounded off to his room.
So, I pick up Bash on the solstice sunset, just after he tested for another belt stripe in karate. When we got in the car, he said, “Bibi, can we go to yoga?” I was a little puzzled. We play yoga on the floor at home, I fly them and play, but he hasn’t been to a kids yoga class since he was four. I told him maybe tomorrow, but there isn’t any kids yoga anymore and he’d have to come with me. (more…)
A few months ago my dear student, friend and hostess in Chile gave me one of those backpack purse adornments, a string of dazzling purple and gold hearts, Shri-ed (high beauty) up with golden sequins and bobbles in the Anusara colors. I immediately put it on my travel purse and have enjoyed the deeper meaning of the talisman ever since.
The closing day of Anusara Immersion One in Geneva came fast. It had built up to it’s peak, day five of five straight 7+ hour days, moving our bodies, cooling our minds and cooking our hearts together. A talented international group, Italy, France, Costa Rica, Greece, Spain, Switzerland, Israel, the UK and me, the American, were in the house. Three of them were somehow involved with the United Nations and everyone had their unique gifts to offer. Everyone spoke English, and of course the language of Love. The week ended in great awakening, love and friendships that will last a lifetime. Amazing Grace of the community, the kula, the family we choose to walk with on this path of awakening and love. (more…)
This weekend, Sunday to be exact, marks the traditional Indian celebration of Guru Purnima. It is the brightest, fullest moon of year, in the month of Ashadha of the Hindu calendar. Thousands of years ago, this moon was chosen by disciples to celebrate and honor their Guru, the ‘one who brings the light to the darkness’. Students would offer blessings, gifts and prayers to their teacher in deep gratitude for their spiritual knowledge and guidance the teacher had bestowed on them. Guru Purnima is still celebrated by millions of people to this day in honor of their teachers.
Sunday is the perfect day to celebrate my teacher John Friend, as well as all my teachers who have illumined the horizon of my ignorance, even the ones I didn’t like! I don’t believe in coincidences and find it auspicious that an article written on John will be featured in this Sunday’s New York Times. The article went live online on Thursday, and I got a hold of it on Twitter. Between emails and household details, I read it with delight and happily retweeted, “Yes, We are the yoga of YES!’ (more…)