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It's Fabulous Fire Friday! What does that mean? you wonder. Every Friday I pull an oracle card from @thelolapickett Empath Power deck that will help you focus your inner fire to strengthen your energy boundaries. And what better time to start than today, lucky Friday the 13th in the light of the full moon? 😃😃😃🌕🌕🌕 And what better timing than during the holidays when EVERYONE'S energy (both bright and dark) is amped up?! So so important to set boundaries. We don't need to carry the weighty energy of others. We've got our own load to carry. Today's card helps empower us to feel safe in experiencing our feelings. The words we tell ourselves are so powerful. Let's choose ones that strengthen and lift us up! 💪🔥 #setboundaries #energywork #fabulousfirefriday #whatsmine #whatsnotmine #fridaythe13th #fullmoon
The easy thing to say is: be grateful. After all, it’s Thanksgiving season. The time when we are called to appreciate the things of this life. Be grateful. Be thankful. When November hits, these messages are everywhere we turn.
Easy to say, but do you mean it? How do you express gratitude? How do you show it? How do you feelit? What about the not-so-nice things? Can you be grateful for those? Can you be grateful for the officer who pulled you over and ticketed you because he says you didn’t use your turn signal, when, in fact, you did? Can you be grateful for the experience of showing up in court to speak with the fast-talking don’t-look-them-in-the-eye prosecutor who tells you that the fine just increased by an additional $250 for simply showing up in court? I’ll be honest. That’s a tough one.
But think of it this way: every experience we have is there to help us learn and grow. To expand and evolve as spiritual beings having a human experience. (Why on earth would we want to evolve?? Hahaha! I make jokes.) No one said growth was pleasant or comfortable. Yes, sometimes those human experiences are difficult, painful, even traumatic. But there are gorgeous ones too. Like the daybreak on the beach with no one else around. Or watching someone’s eyes light up from within just because you said hello. (Oh, what a thing to be seen!) Or reading a poem that makes your body sing. But ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether you will learn from these experiences or not. If you choose to not grow (or if you are still working on your awareness skills and don’t know any better), the universe will send you plenty more experiences over and over until you finally learn the lessons needed to evolve your spirit-soul. So, be grateful for these opportunities to grow.
Gratitude brings abundance. Always. And when it’s hard to be truly grateful, simply say: thank you. And then watch what happens.
I’d like to take this time to say that I am grateful for all of you. For you—yes YOU!– reading this. For sharing your presence with me, whether in class, in text/email exchanges, as my teachers, as students, as friends. Simply for just being. I appreciate you. Thank you for being in the world. And for being in my world.
I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving full of love, light, and gratitude.
If you’ve been in my yoga world for a while (or even if you’re just my friend), you’ve heard me say that it all starts with awareness. Everything starts with awareness. Awareness of breath, of thoughts, of physical sensation. But, you might wonder, once you are aware, what then? What do you do with that awareness? Well, all kinds of amazing things! Like levitate! Hahaha! I’m kidding. Kinda. You can read Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras for more info on how to do that. 😉
I’ve been listening to Eckhart Tolle’s books, The Power of Nowand A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. (I spend half of my waking hours in a car, driving around half of New Jersey – this is the only way I can “read” books these days.) As a result, I’m gaining a better understanding of how awareness can change our lives. And that is not an over-statement. I’m serious. But don’t worry, I’m not going to summarize the books for you or try to impart all the deep teachings he shares in the books. I’m only going to ask you this:
What is one habit or pattern you want to change? What is one thing that you notice you do automatically, without thinking, and don’t like it? (Or maybe there is something you do that you’re not even aware of.)
No, I’m not going to tell you how to break that habit. I don’t have the secrets to success in just 21 days! Nope. What I’m going to do is invite you to pay attention. To be aware of what you are doing. Whether it’s a morning routine (a cup of coffee or a mug of warm lemon water) or a go-to response to certain situations (Guy cuts you off on the road. You flip the bird or yell expletives.). Just take this month and observe yourself. Be as objective as possible. Become the one who steps back and simply observe. Then observe the effects of the habit or pattern. Does it give you an outcome that feels positive? Does it keep you stuck in the same place? Be honest with the answers to these questions. I already know some folks will say, “yes, coffee makes me feel positive – it wakes me up and energizes me.” Take the question a little deeper: what happens when you take the coffee away? “I don’t feel positive. I feel tired and grouchy.” Next question: can you feel positive without the coffee? Is the coffee a crutch? Is your answer a story you are telling yourself? What is the real, truthful answer? (Don’t get me wrong – I’ve got nothing against coffee. This is just to illustrate how awareness can take you deeper within, to push inquiry and possibly create moments of growth, of evolution.)
This might feel like a lot to some folks. Just take it easy. Start with small observations. Noticing objectively, aka awareness, is already a powerful tool. Then take it from there. And remember to be kind to yourself. No judgments. Only love.
Don’t forget to check out the workshops I’ve got going on this month and next! Yin with a Bhakti Spin with Emily Katz – two opportunities at Lotus and Onyx! —a 4-week Kundalini series, and a couple of Kudanlini full & new moon workshops in November! Details below.
Have a great month!
Wednesday, 9 January 2019
This morning, I left my cozy bed to venture out in the pre-dawn darkness where a group of 15 people gathered. The intent? To hike up one of the Sahyadri mountains where the ecovillage is located. I must be nuts.
It’s been exactly one week since I arrived here at Govardhan Ecovillage in Wada, about 100km from Mumbai. One week since I began the 300-hr advanced teacher training and cultural immersion in the study of bhakti yoga. It’s been one week since I landed in Krishna Land. There’s even a miniature version of Vrindavan here.
And what a week it’s been. So full and intense. Studying sacred texts. Practicing morning sadhana, evening satsang. Asana practice. Learning asana assists. Learning kirtan, to play harmonium, to play the mrdunga drum, to play kartals. So so much.
And of course, there is the learning that is not so obvious, the kind that is happening on the spiritual level.
A little after 6am, our little hiking group set out for the trek. We walked across a field of hay in the dark. At first, I used the light from other people’s flashlights to lead the way. When we got to the trailhead, I was still good following the other lights. Then the terrain changed. As did the incline. It was slight, but it was enough for me to pull out my phone and use my flashlight app.
Just before the meet-up time, my friend, Dominique, offered to lend her hiking boots as she was not feeling well and was going to stay behind. Thankfully, I took her up on it. I had no idea what awaited me.
The path was narrow at times. In some spots, branches of various plants reached over. As we continued –in the dark!—I thought to myself: how’s this for a metaphor for the spiritual path!
You wander around in the dark, following a path that others before you have carved out of mountain rock. There are some things that get in your way –leaves, skinny broken tree branches. The incline gets a little steeper as you go along. There are some young trees along the path that you can grab on to for support, especially when you come across loose rocks. You are enjoying this hike. There are some tight bends and slippery gravel, but all in all, you feel good. You are enjoying the challenge. Then, after some time, you come to a big, wide flat part of the mountain where you are already taken aback by the views. You think to yourself: Yesss!! I made it!! You drink some water. Take a few photos. And then the guide says, “Let’s go.” Wait. What? you think. There’s more? He points up. You are headed for the summit.
You continue along the trail, one that is not marked except by the flattened down path of many feet on the earth. When you come to more rocks, you look ahead to figure out which way to go next. You look ahead for the guide. He is out of sight. You look ahead for others in your group. They, too, are out of sight. You can still hear them, though, so you scramble to catch up to them. This happens a few times. The pace is quicker than you’d like but you need to keep up. You don’t want to get left behind at the risk of getting lost. Your thighs burn. Your hands are slightly swollen and you don’t know why. You’ve forgotten those scrambles you had to make. You still push on. Once, in your haste, you trip over a rock you didn’t see and nearly fall flat on your face. Suddenly, you imagine yourself injured. How would you get down the mountain? There is no place for a helicopter to land. Someone would have to carry you. You do not want this. You make the choice to be more careful. To be quick but not too quick. To be alert and agile. You focus on your footing, on where to take the next step. But you must make these decisions quickly. There is no time to think.
The inclines increase. At one point, it is so steep that you are climbing rocks. It is no longer hiking. There is no path. Only rocks and the way up. So you climb. You don’t want to lose sight of the person ahead of you. You don’t want to get lost. Or left behind. So you keep going. You find yourself singing a song you can’t get out of your head. You realize it’s the refrain from one of the kirtan chants. You forget what it means, but you sing it in your head anyway. To sing it out loud would require more breath than you already have, so you sing in your head. You know you can do this. You know this chant will lift you up.
You stop for a moment to watch the sunrise. Standing on a narrow path on the edge of a mountain, you stop. What you see is breathtaking. The mist, the orange ball of light, the tips of tree branches. All of it. You take a deep breath and then move on.
You walk by a temple. You must be getting close. You walk by some caves. “Drinking water” the guide says. He has stopped to wait for people to catch up. Drinking water? you think, Hmmm – not gonna risk it. There are steps carved out of the mountain, leading to what you presume to be the summit. “Three hundred years old”, our guide says. Look how long these have lasted, you think to yourself. You realize you are not just talking about the steps.
At the stop of the stairs, you pull yourself up to stand and you are startled by the expanse before you. A vast swath of blue. You can’t tell where the earth and sky meet. They just blend into each other. The morning mist blurs the landscape. You are overwhelmed. You forget to breathe for a moment.
You walk over to one edge, step down onto a ledge and stand there, leaning against the cliff face. You take a deep breath. We are so tiny, you think to yourself. So, so tiny. And this world is so beautiful. Tears start to roll down your cheeks. Yes. This, is all you can say to yourself. This.
For the month of January, I will be participating in the Supersoul 300-hr advanced teacher training in India at the Govardhan Eco Village in Wada, about 100km from Mumbai. Since I’m all about taking the leap, I’m going to try to post some observations here through off-the-cuff personal essays. We’ll see what happens. Stay tuned!
As I continue my spiritual practices in yoga and meditation, I’m hoping to share my experiences here so that you might not feel alone in your struggle… because yes, there are many days I struggle. We all struggle. But many of us don’t reveal it. Perhaps in revealing my own journey, the practice of awareness and in opening our hearts won’t be so mysterious or scary. Perhaps. You never know what can happen.