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Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Things I Learned in 2011

"To the people who love you, you are beautiful already.
This is not because they’re blind to your shortcomings,
but because they so clearly see your soul."
~
By: Violet Vibrations

Wow. What. A. Year.
As this year is gently dissolving I find myself in a rather reflective mood. Looking back on 2011 is like watching the longest roller coaster ride ever!
To say this has been a year of Lessons is an understatement. Not only did I have my mind blown, multiple times, in ways I never imagined possible, but I experienced a whole new level of learning. This year, I'm certain, will go down in history as the year that everything changed for me.... The year that my eyes got opened wide and I started to see things clearly; for the very first time it seems. It's been "Interesting", that's for sure. Absolutely fascinating actually.

To all of you who've been a part of this year - thank you. And, yes, even the crazy angry spammers and those of you that follow, read and share "anonymously". LOL. Thank you. You've all contributed to making this year rather remarkable. Each and every one of you has been so important to me. For that, I'm truly very grateful. Here's a little bit of what I've learned from, and with, all of you:

-Everything that happens to you, even when it seems "bad" or negative, is leading you to a greater capacity for love. If you let it.

-Children are the spark of Life. They are pure, unadulterated Joy. And their presence has the capacity to heal, encourage and cleanse our hearts and souls.

-It's absolutely amazing how resilient we are and how much we are all capable of enduring.

-If something doesn't "feel right" it probably isn't.

-Positive, inspiring things are happening all the time, every day, everywhere. If you're not tuned in to them - you will miss them.

-Absolutely everything is energy. Everything. What you allow into your sphere of experience - everyone and everything you choose to associate with, is impacting your life in tremendous ways. Choose wisely.

-Never believe a guy when he tells you he "loves you" and that you're his "best friend" in the first month or two of dating. Ha! Chances are he says that to everyone and will keep saying it until he finds a girl who is equally as needy and desperate as he is.

-Most of the time, there really is no need to rush. So just slow down, turbo!

-Forgiveness is essential to true health and healing.

-Everything is constantly changing. So to ruminate about something that happened in the past is pretty much a waste of energy. It's done. And - it's already changed. Learn the lesson, and keep walking forward.

-What doesn`t kill you, definitely makes you stronger.

-When someone loves you, they really want you to be happy. Genuinely. When someone is repeatedly angry, rude and degrading - that is not love. It's a sickness and that person is responsible for their own healing. Not you.

-Sometimes you can send all the light and love in the world to someone, and meditate on Forgiveness until the cows come home. But if you are being harassed, abused or bullied - sometimes taking action is also required. Putting up with that serves no one. Sometimes you actually need to call the police, protect yourself, and hand the matter over to those who are better equipped to deal with it. There are laws that protect you against other people's b.s. Use them.
...Then continue to send love and light. :)

-When you fall asleep on the couch and wake up in the middle of the night - you don't actually have to go to bed. Sometimes just sleeping on the couch is really fun.

-There's absolutely nothing wrong with taking a "personal day" if you need one. You don't serve anyone when you're feeling awful. There's nothing more important than keeping yourself in a good space so you can be most effective - whether it's at work, at home or in your relationships. Sometimes an unscheduled day off is essential.

-When someone repeatedly uses the word `uber`in their sentences (eg: `that was uber fun!` or`this is uber cool`)that person lacks creativity and is trying to appear more interesting than they actually are.

-You are what you eat,(and drink). Hydrate, sweat, hydrate, sweat more, rinse and repeat.

-When a friend is angry or upset, it's ok not to know what to say/do for them. Sometimes just quietly listening is exactly what they need, and the most important thing you can do for them.

-Turns out being single is actually fun (and relaxing). Turns out I really enjoy my own company. Taking a break,by choice, from dating for an entire year (maybe more!)is also fun(and relaxing)and was probably the smartest thing I did this year. Who knew?!

-Revenge is futile. The only person it actually hurts is you. So - drop it like it`s hot. The Universe always maintains balance.

-Friends are definitely more important than money. But money is really wonderful to have too! It's ok to love money and desire more of it. Being abundant is just as spiritual as living in poverty by choice.

-Everything is Choice.

-Actions speak so much louder than words. Don't listen to what people say. If you want to truly know where a person's coming from - watch what they DO.

-...that being said...People are not their behaviors. Behaviors can be changed. People can not. Just sayin'.

-Sometimes the person who appears the meekest, and most insecure, is the one who is manipulating the most. Occasionally people learn how to get what they want by playing the victim. Victims sometimes want to stay victims. If someone doesn't want to be empowered, no matter what you do or say to assist them, will fail. You have to be willing to be ok with that. It isn't really personal. Let people be who they are.

-Nothing is really personal.

-I can love you, or anyone, fully and purely without needing you to love me back. How you feel,and what you do is up to you. Not me.

-I go out of my way for others and I'm now willing to accept the same because I deserve the same.

-I'm really good at what I do. Not in an egotistical way. But I've spent over a decade perfecting and working on my craft. I love what I do. I'm excellent at my job. I'm worthy of my own appreciation.

-We absolutely, unquestionably, create our own life experience, our own reality - every single day, every moment. What you think about, and talk about the most, is what you will literally create in your life.

Focus on What You Want.
Be grateful for what you have.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

What If?

"What if your job was to uplift those around you?"
This is a question that was recently posted online by a Semperviva Yoga Teacher.

It made me smile.

I attempt, as consciously as I can, to do that as often as I can. With every class I teach, every client that walks through my door, and with the every day goings-on in my tiny lil' world. It's not always easy. BELIEVE ME. I mean, there are moments (a lot more lately) when it's effortless. I do the best I can. But I'm human. Human...and capable of having bad days, big expectations and some fairly funky dark moods on occasion. Human...and always learning. Sometimes "my best" is better than others. And those "other" times? Well...let's just leave that for another day.

This holiday season has been an interesting one. I'm filled with a desire to celebrate getting through to the end of this year! But also a feeling of utter humility at the amazing lessons that have been learned.

As a community, a few dozen of us recently got together for a couple of very special yoga classes. Classes that collectively warmed us up, got us moving, and soothed our weary souls with the awesome energy of live drum and kirtan beats. The plan was to donate proceeds to a couple of local charities to help uplift others who may be in need this holiday season.

To be honest, I think we're all in need in some way. Regardless of our life situation we're all so very similar. Each of us searching and longing for basically the exact same things.

We talked at the classes about the interconnectedness of everything, about Yoga as a practice of cultivating Union. We reminded each other that all that we do, say and intend ultimately comes back to us and affects all those around us. And that part of our yoga practice was to be conscious of that fact and do what we can, however small, to honor the connection we have to each other by occasionally, whenever possible, giving back to the community without attachment or need for anything in return. Just giving, freely, for the sheer joy that that brings.

So - I wanted the money that was raised at the classes to make an impact and be donated to where it was needed most. After speaking with 3 different employees at the Port Colborne Community Outreach Center at Port Cares it became evident that what was needed was food. Simple as that. Specifically - fresh produce, milk, eggs and meat. So a generous donation was made in the form of a grocery store gift card that the good folks at the food bank will use to purchase much needed items.

After doing a bit more research I discovered that Community Cares here in the St Catharines area was in need of donations. So I went shopping! I purchased toiletries, soaps, deodorant, gift packs, candles and other luxuries that may not be affordable for some people at this time. Little things that you or I may take for granted every day.

So - for those of you who came out and participated in these special holiday yoga classes - Thank You. Your time and energy went to a very good cause and you contributed to making Christmas a little brighter for a whole lot of people!

Happy Holidays. Enjoy each other. Be safe. Be happy.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.


~ Rumi ~


(The Essential Rumi, versions by Coleman Barks)

Monday, 12 December 2011

Best Holiday Gift EVER.


One of the best gift I've ever received (and hope to one day receive again!), was the gift of Private Yoga Sessions. It's wonderful. Private yoga is like learning, from the beginning, how to ride a bike! With a little assistance you're off and riding - into untold adventures and hours spent getting lost in the amazing-ness of what yoga has to offer. Through private sessions you work one-on-one with an instructor to strengthen, release or re-build those areas that need it most. The experience can be far more challenging, more engaging and so much more 'you' than any group yoga class.

There's lots of different reasons why people choose private yoga. Some are new to the practice and just getting started, others are at a plateau and not sure what/where to go next as they search for new challenges, and others are working with specific injuries and looking for safe effective ways to rehabilitate.

Whatever your reasons for starting yoga, or wanting to go deeper into your own practice, one thing is certain: there are untold riches, releases, and wonderful discoveries that await you!

All my private sessions are taught in the coziness of my office, in downtown St Catharines, and are always tailored to your specific needs.

Check out my Holiday Yoga Package - only $90. Includes 2 Private Yoga Sessions and a 5 class punch card to the St Catharines classes.....

The Holiday Yoga Package.


Let the Holiday Bliss begin! :)

Monday, 5 December 2011

Keep It Simple.

Becoming more spiritually advanced does not mean becoming more spiritually complicated. It means we become simpler, as we learn to universally apply some very basic principles to all our circumstances: l) Only love is real; 2) What is not love is a call for love, and 3)Forgiveness heals all things. "How can I serve here?" replaces "What can I get here?," and "How can I open my heart more?" replaces "How can I get that person to do what I want?"

- Marianne Williamson

The days you remember the most are usually the days that changed you, and impacted your life the most. Recently I've noticed a trend with some of my clients - all from different backgrounds and walks of life, probably triggered by the upcoming holiday season. I've noticed a lot of people telling me the same story, with different details of course. Stories of deeply held grudges, hurts and resentments still replaying in the mind from the past, almost daily. Stories of dread, anxiety or downright denial having to do with the holidays. Stories of how this person and that person did this thing and that thing and how, because of that, happiness and true fulfillment just can't be found. Let's face it - Families are complex units. So are relationships. We are deeply connected to these people on intimate and very multi-faceted levels. It's inevitable that these connections will bring up things to help us evolve and teach us some of the most valuable lessons in life. It's also inevitable that some of these "lessons" will hurt and be really uncomfortable. If it was easy - would we really learn anything? Would it really impact us enough to illicit change?

In life, in our thinking, in our emotions, sometimes we require maintenance. Important maintenance just like we maintain our vehicles, our bodies, our homes. Maintenance that helps us heal ourselves so that we contribute to instead of contaminate situations that have, in the past, hurt, discouraged or disappointed us. One thing is certain to me...Forgiveness has profound healing potential. Holding on to anger, or stories of betrayal, or the desire for revenge does nothing more than keep you locked in a loop. A loop that you will find drains and depletes you and only keeps you from living, fully, in the present moment.

What does that even mean?? "Living in the Present Moment"?? And why should you strive for that? Because when you are stuck in a loop, one that's replaying over and over based on your hurt from the past, everything is clouded by that story. This moment, right now, contains the option of breathing deeply, relaxing fully, and smiling to yourself as you honor all the abundance and blessings in your life. Do you have a roof over your head? At least one person who loves you, no matter what? Do you have something to eat? When you look around your environment can you see at least one thing of beauty? Is there a song you love, a song that warms your heart and floods your mind with amazing memories/feelings/thoughts? Do you have dreams, wishes, hopes for your future? Then you, my friend, have a life rich with abundance and many blessings.

Some of the best gifts we can give people are the ones that can't be wrapped, or even seen. But thoughts are things. And spending time seeing your same-ness and similarity with those who have hurt you, allowing yourself to drop all the stories and open yourself to something new, something fresh and healthy and better for your future, is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself (and the world). You may not be able to rationalize or analyze the benefit in this kind of practice. But if you try it - I'm certain you'll find yourself softening. I'm certain you'll realize that letting yourself be free of the stories that perpetuate the illusion of separateness, victimization, and the whole drama of he said/she said - is really the best holiday gift ever.

Here's a little something that might help get you started...
Learn to relax, go inward, stop the cycle of re-activity....



Get one of your own.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Love Movement.

When you seek love with all your heart, you shall find it's echoes across the universe. - Rumi

Today someone brought this video to my attention. At first I wanted to stop watching it. I wanted to look away. But understanding what is going on in the world awakens us to the growing responsibility we all have to help humanity lift itself above the violence, the hatred, the outrage. Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we direct our energy, our focus and our intent toward peace. The more we focus on war, violence, or being "anti" oppression - the more we feed those very things. Be pro-love, pro-respect, pro-peace. For those of us who are not on the 'front lines', who are sitting pretty in our comfortable homes, watching our big screen tv's, enjoying the many comforts of living in a civilized, quiet neighborhood - we can do more than we realize to assist in the healing of the world. You are that powerful. Every time you choose love over hate, forgiveness over revenge, and do what you can each day to be a steward of peace - you send out waves of that higher vibration. That higher vibration is what the world needs right now. We, as a global human culture, are in a period of transformation. The old paradigms do not work any longer. As we shift, globally, please, please do your part locally to be part of the change for the better.

Om Namah Shivayah

Monday, 28 November 2011

Pre Holiday Musings

It`s already almost the end of November! Unbelievable that in just a month this crazy 2011 journey will be OVER. There was a point where I wondered whether this year would ever end. There were points when I haven`t been able to believe the undeniable gratitude I have felt for the amazingness of support, abundance and friendship I`ve experienced this year. To say that it's been a bit of a roller coaster would be an understatement.

As the holiday season begins to sparkle and shine all around me I find myself, for the first time in years, actually feeling a bit of the Christmas Spirit. I haven't felt that in several years. In fact, the last time I remember truly feeling that warm fuzzy holiday feeling was probably the winter of 2008. And, unfortunately, it didn't last long as that winter was not an excellent one.

I ventured into a few stores this past week searching for something special for the annual 'Girlz Christmas Party' that a dozen or so of my friends host every year. It's early enough in the season that the stores were still pretty mellow and there wasn't really an abundance of crowds. But as I meandered up and down the endless isles of SO MUCH STUFF I started to question whether more stuff really makes a good gift? Most of us have more than we could ever need. It's not more stuff that's going to fill us with the love and connection that we all crave. Or that delicious feeling of togetherness when we're around people we really enjoy.




This year I am so inspired by friendship. I have so much heart-swelling appreciation for the little things in my life that make me smile and for my incredible circle of family and support. If there was a way I could package and wrap my appreciation, or that warm buzz in my chest when I think of time spent with good friends this year, believe me I would. That's the stuff that's priceless; the stuff that true happiness, and true "holiday spirit" is made of.

So as the holiday hoop-lah unfolds around me I'm laying low this year. Please don't be surprised if I show up on your doorstep with a bottle of wine or a box of tea and a big bear hug. Because this year, that's what the holidays mean for me - togetherness, moments of comfort with good friends and a sharing of our journeys as we all flounder through this crazy life together.

If you're feeling the same sorta way this year - here's a few ideas to help you think outside the box, and outside the malls. Some feel good gift ideas for yourself or those you love:

-Biss Holiday Special - One hour private yoga session or stress relieving hypnotherapy session plus a 45 min spa treatment of your choice (hot stone massage, aromatherapy massage, reflexology) ~ $99

-Yoga Classes! or Private Yoga Sessions (honestly - the gifts that keep on giving, on so many life transforming levels....)

-Plants and lovely living green things.

-Feng Shui consultation The gift of organization, and activating parts of your life that need a lift. Awesome.

-Trips and Travel. There's nothing like some time away. Need a travel buddy? You know I'm always happy to oblige. ;)

Monday, 14 November 2011

Impermanence


Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ~Elizabeth Stone

I recently spent some time with my beautiful niece, Nika. Her and I are still getting to know each other. She`s 11 months old. I don`t get to spend much time with her. But she brings a smile to my face whenever I do. Children have a natural radiance about them that reminds me of how impermanent things are. Children have not yet learned how to hold grudges or how to harden their hearts. They cry when they are sad or hurt or frightened... and then they get over it. And, within moments, they`re laughing and smiling again, without even a second thought about what had upset them to begin with. They learn the habits of suffering and resentment from us - the adults that are supposed to be so `wise`. Like little sponges, they model their world after what they see us do and say.

Watching my little niece grow so quickly reminds me of how rapidly, and naturally, things change. Constantly. One moment she`s a tiny peanut that fit perfectly into the palm of my hands. The next minute - she`s saying words and mimicking and learning so much from everything she sees and hears. Children are a symbol for me of the Yoga and Buddhist practice of `Beginners Mind`. Every moment is new, everything is mesmerizing. Even when you present them with the same silly face or the same ridiculous game - every time, no matter how many times they`ve repeated or experienced it, they laugh and celebrate as if it was the first time! I remember recently spending nearly half an hour doing handstands while a friend`s 2 yr old son tossed things at me; both of us laughing hysterically the whole time. And when I got tired, or the moment passed, we simply moved on to the next adventure. Easy. Simple.

You don't really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around - and why his parents will always wave back. ~William D. Tammeus

This fact of Impermanence, when fully understood, really frees us to be completely present in each and every moment. Fully alive in today, this moment, right now. Knowing that, before we even realize it, it`s already changing. Because it`s all fluid and changing. So, holding on too tightly to anything just doesn`t make sense. When we get still enough, and brave enough, to really look honestly at ourselves and really listen to the stories we tell ourselves (and others); many of them are either centered around the past, or what may or may not happen in the future, or what we`ve convinced ourselves about other people`s thoughts/motives - none of which we can truly know for sure. Ultimately very few things that people do that cause us hurt or suffering is ever really personal. It is the manifestation of what they are carrying around within them. The essence of mastering Beginner`s Mind is embracing Impermanence. Letting every day be new, fresh, clear. So when we wake up and take that first step into our day, or unroll our yoga mat for yet another practice session, we meet ourselves, and the day, courageously - exactly as it is. With the innocence and inner radiance of a child, untainted by grudges, resentment or bitterness.

Try this. When you look at people whom you perceived as wrong-ing you, or when you find yourself in a rut - think `Beginner`s Mind`. Be fully present. Feel your feet on the earth. Inhabit your body fully. Breathe. Listen. Feel. Let yourself be renewed by whatever this day brings. Watch and make an effort to observe from a centered place; calmly detached from all your stories and expectations. Life, from what I can tell, is meant to be fluid. Embrace that fluidity. Be like water.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

What's The Big Deal About Yoga and Meditation Anyway?

"If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself.
If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world,
then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself.
Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of
your own self-transformation."


Lao Tzu

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Watch Your Words

"Become immune to gossip. When another person uses gossip to communicate, they are living in hell by attempting to hurt others. If someone is using gossip to hurt you, remember: If you don't judge yourself, no one else can judge you, and the judgements die in your mind. When you feel comfortable in your truth and are spending your time and energy on yourself, there is no room for gossip. You are too busy creating your own heaven." ~don Jose Ruiz


The funny thing about humans is that we will always prove ourselves right. Whatever the viewpoint is that we hold, we will surround ourselves with people and circumstances that make us right. Much of the time this is done subconsciously. Unless we are a little more evolved, and consciously making an effort to live with awareness. This requires honesty, a ton of courage, and an openness to actually reflect on our actions with a willingness to make changes. Really it's about attempting to live with excellence, reverence and responsibility.

Living with this kind of awareness means having the humility to know that it's not always about you, and your needs, all the time. Most people can't honestly be bothered (to reflect, or take other people's feelings/needs into consideration). They're simply too busy focusing on themselves. So they continue to blame other's for everything that doesn't go right in their life. I guess because it seems easier to do this. If everything is always someone else's fault, you never have to really be responsible for anything. Unfortunately, things are never that simple. Blaming other's for our unhappiness, our insecurities, our failed relationships, our problems, only dis-empowers us and perpetuates a cycle of victim-ness. When you are acting from the place of "victim" there's a pathetic quality to the fact that all you have, all you achieve is done through a subtle form of manipulation. Making other's always feel sorry for you, cater to you in the sense that you somehow need to be "fixed". But where do you fit in to the picture?

The truth is - we all need to be healed in some way. We all have our broken pieces that need to be sensitively and gently handled so that we can learn to put things back together in a way that makes us whole and happy and complete.

We all need support. We need a community of supportive people around us. Trusted friends who are there with loving eyes and an open heart as we support each other through the ups and downs of life. It is so important to our evolution and our general well being to be around people who see us, without judgement, and who are willing to be there even through the tough times when we may not be "at our best". However, sometimes supportive friends may not always agree with your perception or your actions. Part of evolving consciously means being able to take constructive criticism or knowing when to "just say No" when a friend is stuck in a story that is placing blame or dis-empowering themselves or others.

I've spent the majority of this year developing my private practice with yoga clients and hypnotherapy. And what I've learned is that most people have absolutely no idea how powerful they are. Absolutely no idea. Every single word you speak, every thought you think, has tremendous power. Organizing power that actually begins to draw experiences into your life. Literally. So many people are, without even realizing it, living in a world of self-fulfilling prophecies. What you focus on expands. What you constantly talk about also expands. What you expect others to be - they will become. Why? Because we will ultimately always make ourselves right. If you have an idea in your mind that someone is, for example, out to get you, or not being honest with you, or trying to demean you in some way - no matter what that person says or does that's exactly what you will see. Because that's what you're focusing on. You will see that person through the veil of your expectation and they will, literally, become what you expect from them.

On the flip side - when we're in love, or we deeply admire and respect someone, our interactions with them have a very different quality. Instead of being tainted with suspicions we interact from a place of understanding and patience. We focus on the beauty and the things we really like and respect about that person. We feel warm and fuzzy inside with them. We circulate a loving nurturing energy that the other person will, on many levels, pick up on and reciprocate. The whole interaction is very different.

Don't underestimate your own power. Experiment with making a real effort to understand your own triggers. When your buttons get pushed or you feel insecure, go inside and find out what you're really feeling. Are you fearful? What are the thoughts behind your feelings? How realistic and productive are those thoughts? Don't just live by habit. Perpetually repeating the same patterns over and over again. Get to know yourself and notice how much easier life gets when you stop the blame game.

Ultimately you are the architect.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Let Your Light Shine

I am not a "feminist". I love men. I love being a woman.

But I am appalled recently by the displays of female insecurity I have witnessed, and continue to witness, in students, friends and colleagues. I am constantly in awe as I watch gorgeous intelligent wonderful women demean themselves and belittle their own greatness because of....what? Because you're afraid your man might like someone else more? Because you don't look like the ridiculously un-natural airbrushed version of beauty that's on all the billboards and in all the magazines?

As women, we have come a long way in our society. We are blessed to live in a free and peaceful country. However, I believe that healing our own self esteem and learning to love ourselves,just as we are, and let our own light shine, despite oppressive forces trying to dim that light, is the best and most fabulous thing we can do for ourselves and for other young women struggling to find their way. Regardless of how "uncomfortable" other people are in the presence of your confidence - let yourself be beautiful, happy, vibrant,powerful, intelligent AND creative. Who you are is exactly who you should be. Maybe instead of working towards unrealistic ideals we can work towards being absolutely fabulous and totally comfortable in our own skin - scars, quirks and all!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend


It's beautiful. An absolutely beautiful day. I feel blessed and honored by life itself. As the Autumn unfolds around me in all it's bounty and color, I am excited that this year is nearly over. I am excited for the quiet of winter to descend. (never thought I'd say that - ever!). But I am filled with a calm I cannot really understand... A feeling like all is right. All is well. Everything is working out for my highest good.

The roller coaster ride of 2011 has been mind boggling. I've found myself in a few situations I never thought I'd ever experience. I've found myself challenged in ways that I've never felt. And yet, here I am, surrounded by beauty - a beautiful family who loves me (despite my imperfections), beautiful friends who support me and whom I consider family, a strong able body, a clear mind, a peaceful country where I am safe and free to be myself, and a whole future of endless possibilities yet to be discovered. Life is good. Not always easy. But good. I am grateful. Truly appreciative of all I have, as humble as that is ;), and all I will create in my future.

"Fill yourself with chi. Fill yourself until you feel vital, alive. Feel it until you become happy and joyful, grateful to be alive on this planet. Feel it until you know you are one with God, one with life, one with love. Feel it until you see how connected you are with all that lives." Melodie Beattie from 'Journey to the Heart'

Go outside today. Breathe the fresh Fall air. Be in nature. Fill your mind with peaceful thoughts. Take time to reflect on how far you've come and to be grateful, to truly honor, all who've graced your life - pleasant and unpleasant. It is all valuable. Hidden beneath every "lesson" there is always love. Always.

Friday, 30 September 2011

A Note for Yoga Teachers

Don't take anything personally.

At one point or another we all decided to become a teacher of yoga ultimately because there is, within us, a desire to help and an interest in healing. A desire to serve. A wish to assist others in feeling better.

But if you are a teacher of yoga, it's good to remember that many people come to yoga because they are seeking change. Whether consciously or unconsciously, there is a longing for transformation. For some - it is merely physical. They begin attending classes to deal with their injured or stressed-out bodies. For others, they're battling depression, loneliness or seeking relief from anger and the toll that non-forgiveness eventually takes on one's health and well being.

Change is not always easy. Natural, yes. Necessary, yes. But not always easy. Yoga classes can sometimes push our buttons in ways we never imagined. I always say that "yoga will bring you face-to-face with your own psychology". So, sometimes, as Yoga Teachers we must learn to truly remain patient, compassionate and open to our students, (did I mention patient?) We may, sometimes, become the recipient of their resistance as their buttons are gently pushed.

I recently had a very interesting phone call from a former student. This woman had purchased a series of classes at a discounted rate nearly 9 months ago. Because of the discounted rate there was clearly a date which all the classes had to be used by. The woman was calling because she wanted to attend the fall classes but her class card had expired. Her tone was harsh, defensive and extremely rude. (Not exactly the way to open a conversation whereby you are asking for something...) I calmly explained that the expiry date was there for a reason but that I would happily honor 5 out of the 10 remaining classes left on her card. This woman then launched into a rant about how she runs a business and works 7 days a week and couldn't possibly come to yoga with all this busy-ness and I should be more accommodating and blah blah blah. Interesting, I thought, I also run a business and I also work 7 days a week. I calmly explained that I understood however, I was not responsible for getting her to yoga class. How could I be? If you pay for classes, the rest is up to you.

Most of the time - people will think only of themselves and how to get their own desires met. As Yoga Teachers we are taught differently, and I believe part of our job is to help others view things beyond just themselves and their own desires/dramas/demands. This woman seemed to have forgotten that the money she paid for her classes (over 9 months ago) went towards the rental of the space, insurance costs, advertising, paying substitute teachers, gas and mileage costs on my vehicle and also my own time/energy, among many other expenses that arise. Her intention, it seemed, was to just find an outlet for the anger that seemed to be increasing as the conversation went on. Again, I offered to honor half of the classes left on her card.

Abruptly, she hung up. Huh. Interesting.

So I continued on with my day and when she didn't come to class the next morning I have to admit I wasn't surprised. Later that evening I found a message on my phone from the same woman. She informed me (in the same harsh angry tone) that she felt "we didn't have a connection" and that she "didn't like my attitude and will not be coming back." Again, she abruptly hung up. Huh. Interesting.

Sometimes, as Yoga Teachers, we will be placed in situations where we are expected to just say 'yes, of course. whatever you say. whatever you want.' However it's important to realize saying Yes all the time to everyone's demands doesn't serve you or your business. And in the long run, it doesn't serve your students either. Again, it comes back to the practice of Satya, Truthfulness. Being real vs. being nice. Let's face it, part of the training and practice of yoga is not only discipline but also learning to take responsibility for oneself. Learning that it is always us, ourselves, who are responsible for our own happiness and satisfaction.

The next day - 2 new students registered in place of Ms Nasty.
Huh. Interesting.

" Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured. "B.K.S. Iyengar

Yoga Teachers: You won't please everyone. It's impossible. Not everyone will "feel a connection" with you. And that's ok. There are plenty of teachers around. In fact it's good practice to learn who those other teachers are and what their strengths are so that you can send students to them if they are better suited. I do that often.

Ms Nasty: I wish you love, gentleness and kindness on your journey. May you find what you are looking for. May you be happy.

Om Shanti. Jaya Ganesha!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Rare and Precious. Hmmmm

“Growing into your future with health and grace and beauty doesn’t have to take all your time. It rather requires a dedication to caring for yourself as if you were rare and precious, which you are, and regarding all life around you as equally so, which it is.”

— Victoria Moran

I had an interesting conversation this morning with a close friend regarding commitment to truth. In Yoga this is the cultivation of Satya (Truthfulness)which is really the fine art of being real vs. being "nice". We were reflecting on relationships; with lovers, with friends, with family. And discussing what it takes for them to truly be successful. My girlfriend and I both share a similar commitment to being real. To being honest. And, although that has been called "harsh" at times, I maintain my faith in the necessity of being able to occasionally call people on their drama- especially when it is hurtful towards me, or someone I love, or affects my life in a negative way. My closest friends also do the same for me. Which I deeply appreciate. Because I know when a close friend says "Jones, get it together. Wtf are you on about now?!" it's probably because I've allowed my little stories to, once again, take over and cloud my perception of what is real and truly happening in the present moment. Whatever. We ALL do it.

I always give people second chances. Always. Because I know we all make mistakes and I know that as human beings we are all floundering at times, trying the best we can with what we know. But, when you give someone a second chance and they continue to hurt you, the problem now becomes yours. It's no longer about that other person. We are never really "victims" because we are always making choices. Think about it. It is us, ourselves, who are literally constructing every moment of our lives based on those choices. And at the end of the day, we all have to have a commitment to ourselves and our own well being. To truly be happy I believe we need to be our own best friends. To deeply care for and honor this body, this life, this person that we have become. I notice as I care more for myself and make my own well being a priority, the more I seem to be surrounded by people who reflect that back to me and the more supported I seem to feel.

Interesting how that works....

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Love Through Music

Folks, meet my friend John Bauld. An amazing musician turned yogi who now dedicates his music and his time to performing sacred healing mantras and kirtan music for yoga studios throughout the GTA. Including Moksha Hamilton, Some Like It Hot in Oakville, Kula Burlington and (sometimes) my classes here in the Niagara Region. The music is powerful and elicits the energy of true devotion, true Bhakti. The chants and mantras have the ability to transform your practice, open your heart and you'll experience truly being moved by the music.



Come on out this Saturday in Burlington for YogaFest to help raise funds for John's new Cd project which will pay profits forward to the Red Cross. Starts 4pm Saturday in Burlington's Central Park. Come on out and enjoy the beautiful fall weather. Bring your mat!

If Burlington is too far - join me on December 15th for a pre-Christmas Yoga-For-A-Cause charity class where John will perform live during the class. Proceeds from the class will be given back to the community to help make Christmas a little brighter this year for folk's who may be less fortunate.

Peace and blessings.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

My Inspiration for Today




Love this.

"We need to teach our daughters to distinguish between a man who flatters her - and a man who compliments her. A man who spends money on her - and a man who invests in her. A man who views her as property - and a man who views her properly. A man who lusts after her - and a man who loves her. A man who believes he is God's gift to women - and a man who remembers a woman was God's gift to man...And then teach our boys to be that kind of a man."

(Borrowed from a friend)

Monday, 12 September 2011

Happy Harvest Moon, Sept. 11th

Happy Full Moon. It`s a Harvest Moon. The last days of summer slowly fade and the grapes are almost ready for harvest here in the wine region in my tiny town in Ontario Canada. On this absolutely perfect late summer evening, the sky is clear, the moon is so bright it illuminates everything beautifully and I doubt I`ll sleep much at all tonight.

There`s always a vibrant excited energy around the full moon. My police officer and paramedic friends say they `just know` when the moon is full. Apparently life on the streets gets a wee bit crazier this time of the month.

Yet tonight, it`s not just about the beautiful weather and the richness of the bounty of our late summer harvests. It is also September 11th - a day that will simply never be the same after the events in NYC 10 years ago. It is the anniversary of a day of absolute horror. Absolute fear. Total and complete tragedy. My heart goes out to all who were affected by those horrible events. While we will never be able to erase what happened. We can choose to learn from it. In the Yogic philosophy it is taught that we are all one. We are all interconnected. And that because of that interconnectedness we have a responsibility to live mindfully, respectfully, lovingly. We have a responsibility because the more of us who remain connected to a non-violent, forgiving, supportive way of being the more we emit those frequencies that help to balance the darker aspects of those choosing to live their lives with other agendas.

Am I suggesting that we love and honor the terrorists who flew planes into the Trade Center, killing hundreds of innocent people? No, not necessarily. But I am suggesting we start where we are - at the level of our own lives, within our friendships, our families, our work. Start there. Forgive those who have hurt you. See your similarities with them. Forgive yourself for letting your jealousy or your anger or insecurity get the better of you. Surround yourself with healthy things that make you feel good. Try to help others feel good. Give back in a positive way to the world, even if it's just taking the time to hold the door open for someone, or buying someone's coffee who's in line behind you at the cafe, or calmly just moving into the next lane when you see the person behind you is in a hurry without engaging in ridiculous road rage games. It's in our day to day living that we can create the most change.

And, sure, it's easy to write such idealistic things. I write and I teach about the things I myself am also practicing. It isn't always easy. But, this is it. This is what we have. This is our life. And the energy of love can truly heal and it must begin with ourselves. Tragedies will happen. Senseless acts of ugliness will continue. But if enough of us align our actions and our intent with love and with forgiveness, we can support each other through the tough times. We can lend our strength to those who may need a little boost.

Ever wonder why there are so many Warrior positions in Yoga? Think about it. Because that's really what we are. Warriors for peace. Warriors that protect and defend our definition of heaven on earth. It takes courage and strength to really love, to really forgive, to really see past the illusion of your insecure little ego and all it's stories that seek only to keep you from your greatest potential. Live courageously. Be grateful. Appreciate. Practice cultivating the strength it takes to keep your heart open.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

To Miss or Not to Miss

Life is full of uncertainties.

Why is it that certain people who come into your life are harder to get out than others? And others - well they're just there for a lifetime.

Driving home from Hamilton this evening after an amazing yoga class at one of my favorite Canadian Studios - De la Sol Yoga, I drove right into the most gorgeous sunset you could imagine. On this late summer eve, the sky was ablaze with pinks, purples and oranges. It was incredible. I felt open, relaxed and calm after my yoga class. And my mind couldn't help but reminisce about good times had, good friends lost and dreams that have been shoved to the back burner. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to decipher other people's viewpoints and fend off other people's judgements that it's easy to forget why we're really here. For me - it's a quest for love and community. For others - it's a quest for money and fame. For others it's all about recognition. Maybe one day we can all come together and fuse our beliefs to create an amazing unified unstoppable team of dedicated people determined to support each other in their own awakening and committed to bringing out the best in others. Sometimes it's tough to feel like you are the only one who has such dreams.

We all fuck up. Let's be honest here. Everyone has bad days, bad months, bad years. We all get challenged. To think that you are immune to that is just preposterous! You're not special. Your'e not unique. You aren't any more important than any one else here. We are all in this together. Each and every one of us. Your problems are no more important than mine. And vice versa. There are times when you will be in the darkest of dark nights of the soul. There are times (lord knows) when I will be. There are times when we will be elated and mesmerized with the flow and power of our own creative existence.

But in the meantime - try, just try, to suspend judgement. We are all in this together. Forgive. See clearly. Focus on what you want. Be real. Drop the stories and the drama. This is it! Your life. You are creating it right now. With this thought.

Choose wisely.

May you be happy.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Endurance

Today was a very special day. September 4th usually is.

But, today, was even more memorable. Today was the celebration of my parent's 40th wedding anniversary. 40 YEARS! It's remarkable and unbelievable to me that they have remained married for this long. Two people that couldn't be more different from each other, and yet two people who are equally amazing in their own right. I am really truly blessed to have come from such a strong example of unconditional love, support and what I believe many relationships lack these days - the power of perseverance.


I've been thinking a lot this week about Endurance and how that applies to life, and to relationships. It's funny to hear my parents talk about their courtship. Country boy meets city girl in 1970-something...there's a spark... and then a long distance relationship ensues through writing letters and occasional visits as she pursues her nursing career and he - his university education. To hear them talk, and laugh, and see the light in their eyes when reminiscing about those early times is really special. Really sweet. It makes me wonder - in this modern age of instant messaging, facebook, texting, and cyber dating, how is it that so many people still seem so disconnected? "Connecting" has become effortless, instantaneous. We are now so accessible to one another. We don't have to wait 2 weeks to send a letter and (hopefully) get a response within the month. Yet - if you look at the divorce rates and the percentage of people still searching for love and the "right" relationship - it's challenged, it's happening much later in life and the whole tradition around the sacrament of marriage seems to be suffering. Why? With all that we have shouldn't it make things better? Easier?

Somehow my parents have managed to stick it out. Year after year. For forty years. Through some very turbulent times, and some magically wonderful times. Through all of it - they've supported each other, forgiven each other, supported their children and never left each other's side. How do they DO that?! It's a special kind of endurance. An endurance that is committed to staying the course. A commitment to seeing things through and honoring how things change. It's remarkable actually because both my parents have changed a lot over the years. Yet, somehow, their relationship has survived. My father looked at his wife this evening and said "Geez - forty years! Does it really feel that long to you??" "No. Not at all!" My mother replied.

At dinner tonight I had a few candid moments with my father. I mentioned my amazement and how much I looked up to them for the shining example they've been for so many people. I mean, my parents have got to be some of the most wonderful folks! Everyone in their neighborhood can vouch for that. They are loved by so many people because they are just there for so many people, always willing to lend a hand, give a pep talk, or help in any way possible to brighten someone's day.

My Dad had this to say - "You know it's the end of the summer and all I wanted to do was go fishing. I never got to go fishing. I just can't leave right now." (he was referring to the recent diagnosis of a serious heart condition with my mom who is waiting for open heart surgery to replace her aorta) I told him that he didn't have to worry. I'm here. I'm close if anything should happen, and for him to go fishing shouldn't be a problem, if that's what he really wants to do. We will call him if anything happens. No problem. Go ahead and enjoy yourself! He looked me square in the eyes and said "It's not about that. And you know it."

Huh?

"I told your mother I would always be here if she needed me. I will always be there for her. I always have been. And I always will be." And that is what it's about.

Because, you see, when my father says those words - he really means it. To him, it is the most honorable thing to do. He considers it his duty. And that, my friends, is endurance. If you speak to my mother - she'll say much the same thing. To her, no one has ever made her happier than my father. They're both willing to make sacrifices for the other's happiness and well being. They're both concerned with the other's best interests. Sure- they bicker like old people now and again, but at the end of the day, they seem to belong together. At the end of the day they go to sleep beside a person who knows all about them, has seen all of them, and yet still loves them anyway. Endurance. It's a spiritual practice all in itself...


Cheers Mom & Dad - Thank you for the example of what true love is supposed to look like.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

The Yoga of Life.

"Yoga practice is like life
Each circumstance in which we find ourselves is like a pose.
Some poses are hard to hold, others are pleasant.
It is how we hold the pose that determines whether or not we will suffer or grow
And whether or not we will listen to the drama of the ego or the wisdom of the spirit."




Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Summer of Love

"Falling into prayer is the same thing as falling in Love. It is an infinite fall. You can never come out of it. And in all of human existence these two experiences are the highest"

Yogi Bhajan


When I went to my meditation cushion this morning, a quiet rain fell soothingly outside and I realized that in a sense, this has been the summer of love.

As I watch everyone around me finding their perfect soul mates, dream jobs, dream homes and marrying the love of their life, I am quietly cultivating my own inner love for myself, my life and all the blessings that have come cleverly disguised as obstacles. This summer I am re-discovering my love for the outdoors, for cycling, for rock climbing, for practicing yoga (without the busyness of a hectic teaching schedule), and for living without expectation. I am practicing taking a good hard look at myself and what I've allowed to influence me over the last few years. And I'm acknowledging, for the first time really, just how much certain events have affected me and altered the course of my life.

For me, one of the biggest obstacles seems to be Trust. Or, maybe it's Faith. The two seem interchangeable sometimes. In a recent Anusara-inspired teacher training, we were taught about the Universal Principles of Alignment - not only to help our physical asana practice, giving it a more therapeutic advantage, but also to assist with the alignment of our inner attitude. The very first UPA is - Opening To Grace. Sounds so lovely doesn't it? Open To Grace. Yet, I struggled with understanding this. I mean, I understand it, but I don't think I really knew it.

I've always been a Do-er. I act. I work hard. I DO a lot of things, all the time. Talking about what you want only gets you so far. I'd rather take action. My mantra, for most of my life, has been "If I don't do it - who will?" and often "If you want something done right - do it yourself." I've always considered this a positive thing. Yet, it's come to my attention recently that in all my Do-ing I've somehow forgotten how to just BE. And with a significant deficiency in Trust/Faith, too much Do-ing can actually inhibit the flow of love, abundance and opportunity in one's life. Too much Do-ing is strikingly similar to escapism isn't it? Sometimes trying to "do" everything, all on your own, is akin to running away from all the things that present to try and assist you on your path. Without proper balance, too much of this inner attitude that one must accomplish everything on one's own is really just a lot of stubborn-ness and an obvious inability to open one's heart and just be vulnerable sometimes.

In the Anusara tradition of Yoga, this practice of Opening To Grace is the first alignment principle because it is from this that all the other principles stem from. When you are Open to the flow of Grace in your body, in your mind, in your life, there is a bright radiant quality to all that you do. To align yourself with Grace is to align with all that is Divine - love, forgiveness, truth, gratitude and following your heart.

In the words of John Friend, Yoga Teacher and creator of Anusara Yoga:
"Opening To Grace is about opening to the universal source of energy. It’s about remembering the highest purposes of the practice. Throughout the class, there should always be some instruction to remember the universal, to remember the big picture. The details should be put in context of the universal source, That’s really the overriding principle of Anusara, to remember the universal. And that universal spirit is one that’s grace-filled, so it assists us in our awakening and in making beauty through our yoga practice. it’s big for me."


At the starting of this year my intention was to listen to my intuition more closely and to surrender more. In a sense - to Open To Grace. To trust. To relax my compulsive need to control the outcome of so many situations that are just better left to the powers-that-be. I can honestly say I feel I'm getting a little better in that department. Although there seems to be a lot more room for improvement! So I keep practicing. I keep observing. I keep forgiving. And, slowly, step by step, I walk towards my heart's desire.





Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Ananda Fest




What a beautiful weekend.

I had the tremendous honor of being a participant in the first annual Anandafest - a weekend yoga retreat gathering of amazing music, incredible teachers, inspiring speakers, unbelievable food and an undeniable feeling of complete joy. Not only was the weather absolutely pristine in Keswick but the Loretto Maryholme Spiritual Center is a place of utter serenity and true natural beauty. Ananda, in Sanskrit, means Bliss. And, for me, that's exactly what the weekend embodied.

It was my first time at the Loretto Maryholme Center and I arrived with a bit of trepidation - not really knowing what to expect. But I was immediately calmed, as soon as I stepped onto the property. It helped that the place is gorgeous and that the grounds were full of smiling, beaming, positive people doing yoga, playing music and sharing stories about their loves,their lives, and what it means to commit to being yourself in a world that's constantly trying to make you something else. It was an absolute pleasure and I was so incredibly humbled and so touched to even be invited to take part.

I was reminded this weekend just how important community is. That feeling of being around passionate like-minded people who are all working in the world in a way that strives to create healing (both for ourselves and those we work with); is something that is so sacred to me. Sometimes it's so easy to disappear into our relationships - trying to make one other person our whole world. I see so much of this. People secluding themselves away into their little corners of the city trying to "make it work" by isolating themselves into their own private perfect little worlds. When the reality is that it really does "take a village" and life really is more fulfilling when we are growing, learning and working within a supportive framework of community.

Something powerful comes out of the ability to get together, to share and connect with others; to let yourself be seen...and to see without judgement. When we do that we realize we really are all the same. When you let go of all the pretentiousness, you realize we really are all working on the same shit, longing for the exact same things. The illusion of separateness dissolves and our hearts open just a little bit more. Powerful things can come out of isolation too. But the opportunity to really learn, reflect and grow increases exponentially when we connect.

One of the highlights of the weekend for me was listening to a couple of talks by both Jeff Brown (author of the book Soulshaping) and Colin Matthews (owner of Kula Yoga Studio in Burlington.) It was so interesting to listen to these men speak about their experiences of relationship as a spiritual practice, about taking responsibly and about what it means from a dude's perspective to really live authentically. Jeff put it so eloquently while speaking about 'The Awakened Man' when he said "Success without integrity is karmically incorrect." And that most men are searching for their power and their meaning in life by getting power over others (through various forms of competition) or by becoming attached to all the stuff they "have" and how much money they can make. The point was made that more than half of all yoga or self-help groups are women. Why? Simply - because the work hasn't proven itself yet as economically viable. Men are still so attached to just that one side of themselves. Why explore feeling? What's the point?

Colin continued along that line during his talk when he spoke about the importance of staying connected to yourself and not trying to have all the answers. Instead - experiment constantly. Keep listening and asking yourself - How do I feel? How am I making others feel?

He said the Universe never asks - why me? But instead - What of me? What is this situation asking of me?

When we shift the inner focus like that an answer comes. Always. And, there will always be a call to action. Always. He said, for him, that question was constant in his relationship(s) - What of me? The most powerful thing we can do is to sit, fully, in our own heart; even when we're hurting. To be able to say "I'm really angry right now." without blame or judgement. To own, fully and responsibly, all our 'stuff' without trying to make someone else to blame. Colin said - "As humans, if we can sit in a place where we can understand each other's needs - we will always get our needs met."

Essentially the whole weekend was a reminder for me that we are all, always, constantly creating our own reality. And that my intention is to live authentically at all times. To sit in my heart, even when I'm hurting. When we focus on being truly our authentic selves it's easier to accept things as they are. It's all ok the way it is. It's a practice of showing up, being fully present, as me, myself, and being fully receptive. I don't have all the answers. If you know a way that I can show up in the world that will make me feel better, happier, more fulfilled - please - share! I'd love to know. And if at first I don't understand - please - be patient with me so we can both grow.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Desire

"When you love yourself unconditionally, you are not afraid to express your love. You live your life in love and see that love reflected in everyone around you. Love is your truth, your nature, see love come out of you like the light from the sun."
~Don Jose Ruiz

Desire. It is one of the most powerful forces in the Universe. It's deeply connected and interwoven with Love. And when expressed through love, with love - It defies what we think we need. It challenges who we think we are. It is the fuel that drives us. It's at the core of who we are; the very essence of what propels us forward. Yet, from our earliest days we're taught to control it, to suppress it, to banish it. There's something liberating about just saying - this is me. This is who I am. This is what I want. And then let the chips fall where they may.

So many of us are walking around denying what we really want, pretending not to feel what we really feel. This life is but the blink of an eye. Truly - it's not a long time we have here. Why not reach for something amazing? Why not believe that you can, indeed, have all that you desire if only you would decide what that really is. What would make your heart sing? What feels so good, so right, that no matter what is happening around you - you remain completely centered within the fire of your own passion and love for life?! Decide. Be grateful. Accept. Then act. Make it happen.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Coming Home

The summer officially started for me yesterday. What a beautiful day.

Every year, at about this time, marks the starting of Roxanne Stolk's summer yoga session in the nearby town of Port Colborne. Roxanne is a dear friend and a wonderful teacher who lives in Israel and returns to her roots here in Niagara each year. She is a true yogi and it is always such a pleasure to practice with her. Usually I drive to the next town to partake in yoga sessions if I ever feel the need to do a class. I have yet to find a studio, or a teacher, in the Niagara Region that I am interested in practicing with. (and that's not for lack of trying). That's not to say that there aren't good teachers in this area. There are. I've just found the whole energy/attitude around these here parts a little too focused on competition and a mentality that seems driven by everything but Union. So instead I have been finding solace within the more welcoming vibe I feel in the Burlington and Hamilton studios I'm fond of attending. In my experience I have found there is a definite difference between teachers who have been traditionally trained and those who have not. The actual energy in the room, the air itself, just feels different. Anyone can "get certified" to "be a yoga teacher". But, let's face it, not everyone can really teach yoga. In it's essence, it is truly so much more than the deltoid strength required to glide through a few rounds of Sun Salutations. It requires the courage, and the internal strength, to actually salute and honor the light(sun) in yourself and others.

When you teach as much as I do, it's always such a pleasure, every once in a while, to leave your solo mat at home and go, anonymously, to someone else's class and simply immerse yourself completely in the flow of the group. I love it. And Roxanne Stolk is an absolute blessing when she is here in the summer.

Last evening's class marked the starting of Roxy's 13th annual summer yoga program.
It feels like I wait all year for this. Especially this year as I've taken myself on a mini sabbatical, teaching only a minimal schedule, so as to have the time/energy to focus on my own practice for a while.

Right from the moment I walk through the doors of her make-shift "summer yoga center" I feel as though I am coming home. After a long journey away. That welcoming scent of incense, the creaking of the old rickety steps lined with candles, the lovely breeze blowing in through the huge picture windows. Even the smell of food wafting in from the neighboring restaurants and the sounds of the laughing drunks from the bar next door - there's such an unpretentious, authentic-ness to the whole experience. (Such a difference from the huge, corporate, almost clinical feeling studios I've been to recently. Which, by comparison, feel nothing short of utterly soul-less)

Everyone knows when we arrive for class that there will be no sugar coating here. There's an almost nervous anticipation as people begin to file in. The practice itself is infamously strong. And yet it is also soft at the same time. Beginning with nearly and hour of pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation; that feeling of coming home gets even more palpable.

Roxanne's discourse this first evening was about the Mind. She reminded us how, from a Yogic perspective, the mind is considered the 6th sense. And that the problem with the mind, and it's incessant chatter, is that we believe it. Often not realizing that the mind is really the biggest obstacle to achieving the state of Yoga. We discussed how many of us are continually bantered about by our obsessions, our desperate striving to be right and the onslaught of our continual emotional fluctuations. Like treading water in a storm, this can at times be exhausting. Until we learn that the mind is like a wild horse that needs to be tamed, we will continue to suffer. Roxanne reminded us that everything we experience, absolutely everything, is Karma. Absolutely everything is occurring as a consequence to what we have once thought, done or said. Everything.

As she spoke I felt an electricity in the room that made the hair on my neck stand on end. The reality of this teaching was like a light bulb flicking on in my brain.Involuntary tears streamed down my cheeks as I sat and processed some of the recent stress in my life. Karma means, essentially, consequence. And, once understood, challenges the whole concept of Victim vs. Wrong-Doer. If everything is happening to you as a result of what you have once said, thought or done, there is no victim. There is only consequence. There is no blame. There is only the quiet acceptance of the reality which you, yourself, are creating. Through your own perception.

Challenging as it may be to accept, a few moments of quiet reflection may reveal to you the profound truth of this 5000 yr old teaching. A teaching that invites each one of us to take full and complete responsibility for the state of our lives, our health, our happiness. 100% responsibility. No one is to blame. There is no blame. There is only our choices and how we have decided to create our lives.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Shake it off

I heard a really great story that I can't stop thinking about. It was told by this preacher guy named Joel Osteen from the States. He's quite a story teller. Very engaging. For some reason I just found this particular story really memorable. (Thanks Mr Osteen for the inspiration...)

It was the story of an old farmer named Jacob. He had a big piece of land and he was out one day with his donkey, walking his land. Suddenly his mule fell into an old well. Bewildered, Jacob stared down into the well and couldn't see the animal. So, feeling horribly badly, he made a tough decision. He figured the old donkey was probably killed when it fell into the hole. So he rounded up a bunch of his fellow farmers and they all gathered at the well and started to shovel dirt into the hole; figuring it was probably for the best to just close the thing up for good.

One by one the farmers started shoveling dirt into the old well.
The donkey, who had been knocked unconscious by the fall, was startled awake by the first few loads of dirt that hit his back. Realizing he was trapped, but not wanting to die, he shook the dirt off his back. But the dirt just kept coming in.

So every time a pile of dirt was thrown onto his back, the donkey would keep shaking it off. As he shook, the dirt piled at his feet. And as the dirt kept coming in, he kept shakin' it off and it kept piling up, and piling up. Soon, enough dirt piled up that the donkey could step right up on that pile of dirt. So - dirt was thrown on his back, he'd shake it off, and step up. Over and over. He just kept shaking it off and stepping up.

Until finally so much dirt had piled up that the lucky lil' donkey's ears appeared at the edge of the well, much to the surprise of all those hard working farmers shoveling away. I think it's funny, don't you, that sometimes what feels like dirt being thrown onto our backs actually ends up being what saves our lives and elevates us to a whole new level.

So - just shake it off. And step up.

Monday, 4 July 2011

What's The Rush?

I try to give myself lots of time to get places, lots of time to get things done. Life is busy. And I HATE rushing. So much so, in fact, I implemented a "no rushing" policy in my life a couple of years ago. There are always those days where that doesn't really work out, but for the most part I've adhered to my policy quite diligently. That's not to say I am meandering through life; sauntering along with nowhere to go. Quite the opposite. I'm extremely active, and love being that way. But the inner attitude and energy that comes from being in a rush is different. There's a clutching, forceful quality to it that really is only another form of resistance. Rushing is, simply, totally unnatural. It creates so much unnecessary stress.


When I think of beautiful natural things in life - like a fine wine, the blossoming of the cherry trees in spring, the 9 months it takes to "grow" a baby, the hatching of lil' eggs into baby birds - none of it involves rushing. Rushing is a product of our modern age. There's "never enough time" because everyone is just always "so busy". And, as a result, everyone is always in such a hurry to get everywhere.

I've been doing a fair bit of commuting to nearby cities like Hamilton, Burlington and Toronto on a regular basis. Sometimes - I really enjoy the drives. But more often than not I'm barreling down the highway at 120+kms/hr and, even in the early hours of the morning, it's astounding how people are tailgating each other and trying to inch the average speed up a few dozen km's....everyone seems to be in such a rush! Like - where's everyone going at 7:30am on a Saturday or Sunday morning?! Is it really that urgent that they have to drive like maniacs?! Hardly.


And as happy and mesmerized as I am by technology and the wonderful things it can do for us - it really truly adds to this underlying feeling of pressure to hurry and speed everything up. It's like we are becoming addicted to the speed of everything happening instantly. Especially in our relationships. Between the constant texting, skyping, emailing and all the internet dating, the majority of our communication is now happening through electronic devices. In my last relationship I got to a point where I cringed whenever the phone beeped. I spent more time answering texts than actually connecting with my partner. I eventually grew to resent being chained to my phone 24 - 7.

Sometimes I'm so aware of this distasteful, pushy feeling of urgency - to connect with people on the Web or at a social function, to forge new friendships we think we ought to have at this particular age or stage in our personal lives, to make people love us before they race off and find somebody else to love more. I keep seeing this everywhere....and it's exhausting. It's like people have forgotten the fine art of allowing true intimacy and trust to grow and develop naturally over time. As well, what's so wrong with a little voluntary solitude?! I am, by nature, a highly social person. I am, also, by nature someone who deeply enjoys a little quiet time with my own thoughts. Since when did spending quality time with yourself, to gently reflect and hit the reset button, become such a loathsome event?! Do we really have to always be attached at the hip to another person in order to feel secure?! You see so many people waking up a few months (or a few years) beside the person they rushed to marry/move in with, only to realize that once the honeymoon is over they are completely un-compatible. They suddenly recognize - I don't really know this person. In fact, they don't really know me either. Wow. In fact - I don't even think I know myself! Duh. Personally, I just can't really cope with all this false speedy intimacy. I simply don't feel comfortable sharing my inner sanctum that fast; or being the receptacle of people who do. (It's just creepy and desperate.)

So although it becomes increasingly difficult it seems, I'm sticking to my "No Rushing Policy". I'd rather take my time - pick my own berries in the summer, savour and enjoy creating a special meal from market to plate and take the long way home to avoid the highway whenever possible. Why not? That process of gradually unraveling the mystery of life, or getting to know someone, truly -from the inside out, is meant to be approached with great care and attention. It's one of life's greatest gifts. It is sacred. The clutching and clinging that's bred out of our need to run from ourselves (for whatever reason) will eventually catch up to us. And, when it does, Nature will only guide us back to what is natural - allowing things to take their course and reconnecting to the small quiet voice within that is constantly trying to guide us to our ultimate bliss and greatest joy.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The bizness of Yoga

I've practiced yoga since the age of about 14. At first, it was honestly not by choice. I actually hated yoga when I first began practicing. I thought it was ridiculous. The fact that I was so young, and in chronic pain, might have had something to do with it. It didn't really help, either, that my first instructor was quite fond of chanting mantra during the class. As an awkward, gangly 14 yr old kid with ALOT of stiffness and some typical tween insecurities - I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out what "Om Mane Padme Om" had to do with 'strengthening my spine and feeling better' - which is why I started yoga in the first place.

But the results of those early experiences were immediate. I felt awesome. I felt clear. I wanted more. I was intrigued.

Taking my first 500 hr yoga teacher's certification was never about "becoming a yoga instructor" as a career. It was something I wanted to do for myself - to learn more, to further my practice, to delve deeper. But things took on a life of their own; as they often do when they are "meant" to. Being quite shy by nature (yes - I am shy)I couldn't fathom being at the front of the room while people watched my every move. That was, really, like my personal nightmare. At first - it gave me so much anxiety I can't even explain. But I've had fabulous training. And lots of it. My approach has always been - this isn't about me, this is a service I can provide to humanity to illicit more light in the lives of others. I understand pain, I understand the resiliency of the human body - I can help others. I just went with it. I started teaching classes. Just a couple at first. Then it slowly expanded. Eventually I found myself teaching classes all the time. Every day, multiple classes a day. But that was many many years ago. Before the current "boom" in the yoga industry.

At some of my busiest points I taught upwards of 18 or more classes a week - not always including the private sessions and semi-private work I've been doing with people for years. Teaching yoga never ever felt like work. It is something that is so deeply personal and so intricately interwoven into the fabric of my everyday life, that it only seemed natural to follow along when things got busier and I was asked to teach more and more. Nothing is more rewarding to me than watching people transform. Watching them literally transform before my eyes. To this day - it still brings a tear to my eye.

It's very special to see someone learning to relax, to soften the rough edges and the years of fear and resistance, to trust themselves and life again. It's remarkable to watch the human body respond as one learns to breathe properly, to move with awareness, to respect and honor the people around them. Seeing someone get stronger right before your very eyes is quite amazing. Oftentimes people get so caught up in learning the poses and the sequences that they don't even realize the magic of transformation at work. But I see it. Every day I see it. And it is extraordinary.

Yesterday I attended a class in the fair city of Hamilton at a very popular yoga studio 'franchise'. It was a "hot" yoga class - which I personally love just for the added intensity and the feeling of immense clarity and detoxification I receive from such a practice. (plus-it's really nice to be in a class without having to teach it sometimes! Bliss!) I was early to get there which didn't seem to be early enough apparently because there were ALOT of people there! I found a space for myself against the wall. It was extremely hot in the room - before we even started. But i didn't care. I was so excited to have the night off and to be able to practice, anonymously, that I happily took my seat and went through a few warm ups to prepare for class. The room kept filling up. It was incredible how many people kept piling in! I thought to myself - 'My God. It's going to get really hot in here!'

So about 5 minutes before the class was scheduled to start the instructor comes in and in a sing-songy tone of voice says: "Well there's 45 people in here right now and we need to fit a couple more....so....if everyone would just move to the right, that would be great." I look to my right and realize I'm already about 3 inches from the wall! Is she kidding me!? The dude beside me is sweating so much I'm not even sure he's going to make it and there are at least 5 people standing in the middle of the room, yoga mats in hand, wanting to push their way in.

But, somehow, they managed to sandwich everybody in. I just couldn't wait for the class to start. I mean - I was sooo ready for a good, strong class.

To make a long story short - the whole experience was rather lack-luster. So much so I actually contemplated leaving about half way through. Sure, I was in an immense corporate studio with state-of-the-art facilities. But - the instructor was terrible. Terrible. She talked and talked and talked so much at one point I wondered if she was even aware that over half the people in the room were just lying down on their backs, not doing any of what she was instructing. Not once did she even venture to my side of the room. Not once did i see her make any kind of hands-on adjustment or correction. And, trust me, the folks in my corner of the room were desperately in need of correction.

So - I am filled with more questions.
I am standing at the precipice of trying to make a big decision.
Do I enter into a franchise situation with my new studio - or not?

Last night's class actually saddened me.

I felt like a sweaty cow. In a herd of other sweaty cows, with no names - just credit cards. Herded into a very beautiful, and yet oddly impersonal, room named a "yoga studio". Sure - I can do the calculations. 50 people in each class - that certainly adds up. And, let's face it - Cash Is King. But - my vision is different. I like knowing my students names, and their injuries. I like giving hands-on assistance. I enjoy the feeling of having my yoga practice space feel comfortable and calming. As opposed to feeling like an athletic club.




Have I lost it? Am I really 'obsolete', as someone recently called me? Has absolutely everything become about the Almighty Dollar?! Even Yoga?! I mean - I love money. Money is important. We are meant to live abundantly. Look around you. Everything is abundant. It's natural. Anyone who's ever gardened knows that. Nature is abundant. And yet all around me I see "yoga teachers" with absolutely zero experience, who've never meditated a day in their life, with the bare minimum training (about 200hrs, sometimes less), opening studios and injuring people left and right. All in the name of running a "business".

Do I want to prosper? Yes. Of course. Do I want to do it by being fake or untrue to my lineage of teachers and all the people that have come before me? No. I do not. There is nothing extraordinary about faking it just to make a profit. However, that's what I seem to be seeing. Everywhere.

Will the magic of this 5000 year old practice just be lost as the business of yoga expands more and more into these corporate money-hungry "franchises"?! Ugh. Gross.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Don't Fear The Sunshine, Everything's Better In The Summertime...

Dear Universe: Thank you for surrounding me with so much amazingness.

The birds are chirping, the landscape has become lush and abundant almost overnight,the Canadian Geese in my back yard have had some cute fuzzy babies, people are finally emerging from the long cold winter and suddenly everything is starting to feel fresh and new again. Yep - something magical is brewing. That's for sure. I feel it. I see it. I embrace it.

There's a burning in my heart and I'm trying not to be alarmed but, wow, it is certainly growing.... and growing... and growing....



This week was a blurr of wonderful unexpected surprises and so so much love. A fresh new perspective and a feeling of immense gratitude has begun to permeate everything. I can't honestly imagine ever having a better birthday. There has been so many things that have happened recently that I have to be immensely grateful for.



To each and every one of you that I am, or have been, so fortunate to know - Thank You for being amazing in your own special ways. Such wonderful teachers you all are for me!

Specifically :
TM- (For teaching me how to be receptive and helping me learn what real gratitude feels like.)
KC- (For the constant reminder now that I can just Sit And Chill.)
L&M in Vacationland.
SG- (For the cupcakes. Once a cupcake, always a cupcake. Often imitated, never duplicated.)
VV- (For the birthday song! ...and the late night chats even when you're crazy busy.)
NE- (Just for being you.)
JF- (For all the little things. Girl, you are wonderful. See it, feel it, know it. And hurry, because we all already do!)
LIL' E- (For taking the time to make me a card. You are so thoughtful and so creative. Just like your beautiful mom!)


EM- (For working out hard and the Booster Juice bonanzas afterwards.)
The Stunning Women of Port Dalhousie- with your nuts & brie, your incredibly generous hospitality (and your wonderful home)- You make it look so easy.
NH- (For having the courage to bring #4 into the world. An amazing woman you are.)
Roey- (Excellent timing with the texts...)
MR DC- (For resisting the urge to ruin it again this year.)
CS- (For reminding me who my true friends are and helping me understand it's ok to express myself and be honest even when it might be a little raw, or make others "uncomfortable".)
CT- (For simply moving on. You've freed me.)
The super hot guy at Petro Can- (Just for looking! Lol. Thanks for making me feel like I haven't totally lost it!)
and Ma & Pa Jones. Thank you.

I've got so much love for all of you.

Oh and Ms. Catherine - I totally agree - "Carpe Diem."