Soul transition.

It has been a month since I boarded the flight that brought me back home. I have relished these past four weeks, taking in every familiar sight and sound and taste as if for the first time. Hugging commonplace conveniences like my washing machine. Wandering around for hours at the grocery store. Driving. Running. In my transition, there has been little room for reflection and I imagine it’s similar to the first visit to the lake every summer. You know that water is going to be damn cold so, standing on the edge of the dock you muster up a whole heap of courage, plug your nose and make a dash for the water. You plunge beneath the surface and for a few moments are suspended in a watery dream. It is damn cold. For a moment, there is nothing but pure adrenaline pulsing through your veins. Then you realize you survived the jump, the cold and shock of the first plunge and you smile, knowing the rest of the summer is going to be easy living. And as you resurface, life is a bit different. You have a new confidence. A new outlook. I imagine my transition in this way. The fifteen days I gave myself between making the final call on leaving my apartment in Los Angeles and boarding a flight to New Delhi: that was
me, standing on the edge of the dock as I mustered up a whole heap of courage and made a dash for the water, a whole lot of unknowns. The five months I spent in India, completing my yoga teacher training and life transition as a person: that was the plunge, the watery dream. It was damn cold (and then unbearably hot). For a moment, there was nothing but pure adrenaline pulsing through my veins. I realized I survived the jump, the cold and shock of the first plunge and I smiled, knowing the rest of my life is going to be easy living. The four weeks of chaos that have buffered me from becoming too nostalgic about my experiences in India have been a blessing, from losing my best friend to switching coast lines. And now, it’s the final resurfacing, the breath of fresh air, the knowledge that life is a bit different because now you live with a new confidence, a new perspective. That’s the moment to reflect on, the moment not to be missed among the trinkets and remnants of India.

This is my soul transition.

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No more coconut cookies: a resolution

Many of the fantastic people I’ve met during my India/yoga journey are jaded by their American experience. The reasons range from politics to the food industry to unemployment but the theme is the same: We are leaving the U.S. and taking our talents elsewhere. I understand this aversion but cannot overlook a very real concern: We all can’t just leave. Some of us need to stay and help. We need to return home with these ideas, techniques, skills and share them; that’s the only way things will get better. So in just over two weeks, I’ll be returning to Virginia and I will be hitting the ground running. Here are some resolutions to start with:

– From here on, no more processed foods. Furthermore, what I do consume will be local, seasonal and organic to the great Shenandoah Valley. No more coconut cookies, no more tortilla chips (oh man), no more chocolate, no more of a lot of stuff. Does wine fall in the no more category? If it’s local, seasonal, organic…I can find that, right?
– Support local VA farmers! Find them, learn from them, buy from them! Most of all, love and appreciate the wonderful work they do. Integrate their work with my work: yoga and food. A holistic relationship.
– Yoga retreats: I’ll be starting up yoga retreats in the Blue Ridge Mountains by August. The beginning stages of a yoga platform are already coming together, with big flowing curtains of Indian fabric that can be tied back during practice or let down for meditation. Also, there is a plan for a floating yoga platform in the middle of a lake. An important part of the retreats will be organic, fresh meals prepared by a good friend and phenomenal chef who is committed to seasonal, nutritious and delicious food. I’ll also be teaching food mediation classes on why we eat, how to eat, and what to eat to improve our health, physically and mentally.

Ready, set, GO!

Marriage and death

A favorite slogan of yoga teachers goes something like “Be present on your mat; do not worry about what your neighbor is doing.” How we relate to what’s going on off our mat directly relates to what’s happening on our mat, so it’s a valid suggestion. But suppose for a second we look up from our forward bend and take a look around. What’s going on? For me, I see lots of people getting engaged, married, lots of relationships starting. And what’s happening on my mat, in my world? I’m separating from the relationship I’ve known for most of the last three years. Simultaneously, I’m starting a relationship with myself (take the clich√© and appreciate the beauty it holds; something that rings true is timeless).

We can talk about relationships and marriage by talking a little bit about death first:

We once knew eternal joy, eternal love. It is what we are. Soul matter. Our natural state is one of peace and joy. An easy example is to consider the first thing we do when we are born: we cry. If a baby doesn’t cry, the entire delivery room knows something has gone wrong. Why do we come into this world crying? First, our eternal soul, which is infinite potential, is tucked into this tiny, confining body. Then we come from an internal, pure, free, existence of peace into an externally focused world of duality, pain and suffering. We come into this existence crying, knowing what we have left behind. So then life begins and life is a process of forgetting. Imagine giving a ball to a small child. Without any questions they explore it. They will try to eat it. They might throw it or bounce it. They will probably sit on it or try to pop it. Give that same ball to an adult and what happens? They ask “What am I supposed to do with this?” No potential at all. A completely external approach to the world, looking for an answer from somewhere outside themselves. As we grow older, we are confined more and more until the world of infinite potential becomes a world of this or that. We are conditioned: do this, don’t do that, pay this, watch this, don’t watch that, be this, don’t be that. Duality. Duality is not our true nature; duality is the nature of the mind, the dirty, rusted tool we use see the world by. The mind is always pushing you towards yourself, towards infinite peace and love. The mind is on a never ending search for that feeling of eternal joy, because we carry it within us; it has experienced it before and wants it again. But we keep giving the mind external solutions of peace and love that are always changing (that’s the nature of the external world; the internal world is stable). And then we die, kicking and screaming because we think we haven’t found that eternal source of love. Its just that from very early on we have forgotten that we are that source. The goal is to reverse the conditioning, reverse the forgetting. Remember your infinite potential, remember that your true nature is peace and happiness. By remembering, we begin to appreciate every moment for the infinite potential it presents. Death can the be seen as a transition we need not to be afraid of. We come in crying, but the trick is to leave with a smile.

So then, some way, we come to marriage: People get married because they think they have found the ultimate source of happiness. Then a year in, they realize the peace and happiness is gone. Its not really gone though. The reality is that we can’t give what we don’t have. If we don’t understand that we are peace and happiness, those things are not accessible to us and therefore we cannot give them to others. A solid relationship is built on the understanding of mutual peace and happiness; you bring that to a relationship, you don’t find it in one.

So while my relationship with another soul is ending, I am expanding my understanding of our true nature of peace and love and I can relax into the pain that comes with losing someone you love.

Unicorns

Sutra scholar on campus this week. Came in from Chicago to be with us and his presentation tonight was equal parts light and heavy. We are talking universal consciousness, after all. At the end of the talk I asked him about manifesting and why we manifest trees that are green and flowers that are yellow and so on. His first response is that the green I manifest is different than the green someone else manifests. I prodded further and said ok well if we are the universal consciousness and out of nothing comes something, then I could manifest a unicorn if I wanted to! He said yes but there would be two unicorns, the one I manifested and also the one that would manifest itself when it’s optimal manifesting potential presented itself in that unicorns life journey. Woah.

After the talk, I chatted with him about how the universal mind manifests itself all the time, in moments we have come to label as “coincidence”. He agreed and shared some of his experiences of tapping into the universal mind and I shared my experiences of running around in chaos and wonderment yelling “The universe is so silly!!!“.

As I left for the evening, just as my hand touched the door handle, I heard this elder sutra scholar call out after me: “Don’t forget to bring your unicorn to class tomorrow.”

Partner Yoga

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1. Spiritual gangsters
2. Like little hippie sponges
3. Your butt is like a shelf for my butt
4. Two sides
5. Same coin
6. Lift
7. Flying bow
8. The hippie crashes to the ground, partner narrowly misses certain death
9. A borrowed tantra pose; we all were wanting our men for this pose.
10. Duh.

Where to go from here

I’m laid out with a mild fever and I can’t help think it’s a result of stress from thinking too much.

I leave India in a month and I have no plan.

Well, I do have an idea of a plan that involves living in an awesome giant barn with a wheel and a kiln and a jewelry bench and where I can push open the big doors and teach yoga and hold yoga retreats and have a garden and a floor loom to weave awesome yoga mats with the chakras on them. This is what I am going to do. But how??

A few days ago, I sat with one of my colleagues/teacher/friend and asked him to do a Tarot spread (Osho version) for me on this major situation: where do I go from here? The spread that I pulled was super silly…

1. Present moment: I pulled the projections card. Of course. Projections are the clouds that prevent us from seeing reality as it is. What is reality? Reality is not, for example, the economic recession, bills, insurance, having a 9 – 5, although some people will argue to the death that it is. These are just thoughts. In the Yoga Sutras we read that all thoughts break down into 5 categories. Thoughts are fine until we decide to attach to one and claim it as being true; this is what people who claim reality is having a 9 – 5, etc are doing. The category of thought this falls under is ignorance about the true nature of things, not seeing reality as it is. Fearless expression of yourself is ultimate alignment with reality. My fearless expression: being a jewelry making, pottery firing, yoga teaching, gardening inspiration.

2. Resistance: I pulled the Compromise card. I thought this meant that I must give up some aspects of the little hippie life I want in order to be happy or able to move forward…because this is what some people in my life expect of me. HA! Not so! It is one thing to meet another halfway or work towards some type of harmony. It is quite another to “cave in” and betray our own truth. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing, limiting myself by compromising my fearless expression.

The spread went on to highlight my internal support as sharing: creating an environment where I have an opportunity to share my love, joy and laughter. External support was giving up the illusion that I have control over the external. And ultimately this all leads to maturity, where a solid base is formed from what has been experienced within.

I walk around all day on high alert. Where is my barn? What country is it in? Should I go home? How will I find this amazing barn? This continues on loop all day.

Once we stop holding so tightly onto our thoughts, we can be free.

Upside downside – Part ll

Follow up post on the inversion workshop with Ali G the other day! Main lesson: I’ve got to improve my arm strength.

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20130401-070801.jpg This was practicing Ali G’s method of getting up into handstand: starting in Adho Mukha Svanasana, use one leg to push off the ground with, swinging your other leg with the momentum and hoping you hit the wall. I didn’t like the chaos that ensued with my body’s alignment so I switched around a bit and came into handstand via the arm exercises I’ve been practicing.

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20130401-071409.jpg Now, to stay up on my own is the goal. Strengthening my abdomen, lower back, and arms should help; any other suggestions? What’s worked for you?

Scorpion

A photo adventure documenting an inversion workshop Ali and I did today. One of the poses we focused on was Vrischikasana (Scorpion Pose). The benefits of this pose include:
– building strength in torso, back, arms, and shoulders
– improving stamina, endurance, and balance

Vrischikasana is an inverted back bend and the stretching of the torso and compression of the back is very intense. After becoming comfortable with non-inverted backbend postures like Ardha Salabhasana (Half Locust pose), Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), or Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), begin easing the body into Vrischikasana, using a partner and a wall for support. Always counterpose any backbend with a pose like Balasana (Child Pose) to release the lower back.

20130330-213600.jpg Coming up was a bit of a challenge, which I plan on addressing in a post about handstands!

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This wall was perfect because of the ledge; it provided added structure and support as I explored how far I could go in the pose. We added the bolster for height and once I experienced that I could go farther, we moved it away. Be creative in making your own ledge, perhaps with the back of a chair or desk edge. Introduce padding with pillows or blankets.
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Ali helped ensure I wasn’t collapsing my shoulders or lower back by gentlly pulling up on my legs.
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Always release a pose the same way you got into: slow and controlled.
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