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Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas

It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you... yes, it is Christmas every time you smile at your brother and offer him your hand.
~Mother Teresa


Monday, 10 December 2012

For Katherine


Love is stronger than death even though it can’t stop death from happening, but no matter how hard death tries it can’t separate people from love. It can’t take away our memories either. In the end, life is stronger than death. ~ Unknown
Yesterday I received the news that someone I deeply admired had passed away. Katherine Louise Neumann, age 40, died on Saturday after a  heroic 4 year journey with cancer. The work I do sometimes guides me into working with people who are at various stages of illness & recovery. I've worked with Katherine regularly over the last few years, at multiple stages of her illness; both with private yoga sessions, hypnotherapy and some pretty honest candid conversations about life, love and our ability to heal. I remember the last time I saw Katherine... I was elated. She seemed so healthy, so vibrant.  I will always remember her that way. There was a strength in her that only those who have truly had to face, and overcome, major physical challenges exude. There is something about working that closely with your body, enduring treatment, navigating through those times when no one else is there and you are face to face with your own mortality, putting on a brave face for your family and friends.....There's an understanding that comes with that kind journey that you are not your body... and that produces a certain kind of power. An energy that can actually be felt in the room. 
(Photo of Katherine & her mum Karen compliments of Pamela Koudijs)

I don't know why some people get sick and others don't. But I do know that we are all here for a reason. And I do know that Love is always hidden inside every obstacle and every "lesson". Katherine's journey was not an easy one. But, then again, the really great teachers never have it "easy". That's what I see Katherine as - a healer, and a teacher. Katherine taught us about the importance of fusing medicine with other alternative healing modalities including: nutrition, yoga, meditation, vitamin supplementation. That was one of her dreams in fact...we often spoke about how important it is for medicine to become more well rounded to take the individual as a whole into account, and not just focus on the disease. She talked many times about how she would like to delve deeper into working more closely with the medical community or somehow assist in helping others understand all that's available to them.. above and beyond the chemo. As a nurse, this experience for her helped her to understand, on many different levels, what 'healing' is. And I pledge to honor her by continuing to raise awareness and further the work that she started. 
Katherine's journey here on Earth not only inspired many, but also invited those who knew her into a deeper experience of themselves, just by knowing her. I told her that many times. Imagine feeling, and knowing, that you had a limited amount of time here. On some level we all know that. But we still waste so much time and energy with our own pettiness, our silly judgments  and the resentments we allow to  control our lives. One of the gifts of cancer is that it forces you to live in the moment and to appreciate each and every day. It produces an honesty and a powerful vulnerability that cuts through the mundane bullshit of daily existence. It reminds us how fragile we are and how short this lifetime really is.
There's been a lot of sadness surrounding Katherine's passing. A lot of talk about how she "lost her battle" with cancer. But I see it differently. Katherine's life was deeply courageous. She is one of the strongest people that I have ever met. In the Yogic philosophy we believe that you choose the time of your death. That on some level, you decide when it is time to go. Katherine did a lot of work while she was here. She truly was a role model in many ways for her family, her little son Lawson, her husband. Katherine's illness sparked a lot of varied reactions in those who knew her. Some positive, others not so much. And that is the role of a good teacher: to assist you in elevating your consciousness. This is not always easy. In fact it can be very uncomfortable! Especially when certain aspects of society want us to remain blissfully ignorant with our 2.5 cars, our white picket fences and the belief that we should never be "uncomfortable" but that we are all supposed to be happy, healthy, rich and "normal". Katherine was, what I consider, a torch bearer...a carrier of the light. This is a job that is reserved only for the very very brave.
Physics tells us that energy cannot be created or destroyed - that it simply changes form. Our attachment to our bodies makes it hard to understand this when someone leaves their body. But according to physics ~ the essence of Katherine Neumann has simply changed form. She may no longer inhabit her body but she is still very much alive. Her spirit will remain with her family and with those of us who knew her. She will continue to look after Lawson in her own way and to inspire those people who were a part of this journey with her. I heard it said recently to Katherine's brother, Brent, that he "had a strong Angel behind him now." And that's exactly how I view it. Katherine will still be there in those still quiet moments. She will be there when her family and friends need her and with each new phase in Lawson's life. She will be there when that soft inner voice directs you to the answers you seek. And, I believe, when those beautiful butterflies come to softly sit next to you - that it is them, those strong angels behind us, gently making their presence known.



Monday, 3 December 2012

The Village Yogi (Inc.)

“When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before then, and sometimes they die before they get around to it. You can't make them change if they don't want to, just like when they do want to, you can't stop them.” 
― Andy WarholAndy Warhol in His Own Words

Well amazing changes are underway. By the most fascinating of coincidences and the luck of being at the right place at the right time. I have decided to re-open my yoga studio. After almost 3 years of deliberation, vacillating between uncertainty, fear, judgement and a hollowness within me that I just couldn't fill, I have decided to follow my bliss. The last 2 years working in Burlington and the GTA for a prominent hot yoga franchise have really taught me a lot.Almost as if preparing me for this time I'm now entering.  I've learned what works and what really doesn't work in the "business of yoga". I've watched, often exasperatedly, as people have driven their studios into the ground simply because they didn't have the respect they needed for themselves, their staff or the practice itself, to really allow the business to flourish.

After many months of offering advice, energy and endless hours teaching and driving to out of town studios, I realized my passion was still very much intact. I actually questioned that for a while. I have experienced a lot over the last decade as a yoga teacher. Some things beautiful and deeply inspiring. Others, well, other things very very upsetting. I have stayed calm and quiet as I watch inexperienced "teachers" open yoga studios where clients are repeatedly injured. I have remained silent when other yoga teachers blatantly bad mouth their fellow teachers in an attempt to fill their classes. And through all of this I questioned whether the popularity of Yoga was a good or a bad thing and whether it was really worth it for me to continue on this path or not. There has been a lot of doubt plaguing me these last few years.

But something has shifted. I realize I LOVE what I do. I feel most centered, most healthy, and most connected to a power far greater than me when I am teaching and interacting with my community in a way that actually BUILDS community and brings people together in positive healthy ways. I have missed having my own space where I can allow my creativity to flourish.

Sometime this September it hit me - I. Am. Ready. And the moment I made that decision in my heart everything changed. Almost as if things began to speed up. I found the most perfect space for the new studio. Well actually, the space kinda found me! It's spacious, a few blocks from my home in this town that I adore, and is actually so much better than I could have imagined. It is currently a PreSchool that has operated for about 8 years.Granted, there are a lot of renovations to do and a lot of work ahead of me. But I am happy. I am grateful. And I am so looking forward to creating a space where all people can feel welcome, supported and inspired. I have so many wonderful ideas!

With nearly 12 years of teaching experience and over 2000 hrs in certifications and courses under my belt I think it's time. It's time for me to step out of the shadows and into something wonderful. I am currently auditioning teachers to help create The Village Yogi's family and plan to employ only experienced teachers with a similar intention to mine - to create ripples of positive change, to help other's align with their True Selves, and to work together to spread love and compassion one breath at a time.

So far the studio is set to open Feb/March of this coming winter - just in time to help beat the winter blahs. There will be a multitude of classes offered 7 days a week. Even though I have absolutely no idea how some of this is going to work out - I trust that this is the right thing. Everything about it feels wonderful. I look so forward to sharing this journey with you....Stay tuned for updates, pictures and (I'm sure) lots of hilarity....

Heeeere we go!


Monday, 29 October 2012

The Art of Forgiveness

"Revenge, anger, and hatred are exceedingly low energies that keep you from matching up with the attributes of the universal force. A simple thought of forgiveness toward anyone who might have angered you in the past will raise you to the level of Spirit and aid you in your individual intentions. Forgiveness is really an act of letting go. We can do this letting go without even encountering the person we want to forgive. This is one of the most healing things you can do."

~ Wayne Dyer


Lately I spend a lot of time contemplating my intentions and committing to what it means to act in accordance with those intentions. This past summer has been nothing short of magical. This whole year in fact. I am aware of feeling like I am in an accelerated period of growth and manifestation. As my plans become more clear to me and my new business plan unfolds, I am reflective and excited at the same time. I have come to a new level of clarity with myself. In the recent past I've spent a lot of time (and energy) clearing my home, my mind and my life of people, and things that are no longer aligned with my highest goals. It has been an interesting and, at times, heart wrenching process.

Through that I've come to realize the internal work we do with ourselves, often in silence in the privacy of our own minds and hearts, is so much more important than trying to stay in unfulfilling relationships and job positions, or inviting those who have harmed you back into your life because you feel obligated to. Compassion and the fine Art of Forgiveness - both of yourself and others, does NOT mean you allow yourself to be taken advantage of, lied to or disrespected. It also doesn't mean you keep people around you because you pity them or think it somehow more "spiritual" to allow them in your life as they continue to harm you.

 Gandhi said it eloquently when he said "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong."



Forgiveness truly frees you, heals your body and your mind and opens up endless avenues for wealth, health and support. Forgiveness is an act of trust. It is detaching from the drama or the discord enough to recognize that - life goes on. And as it does, you can live it joyfully, playfully, or you can live it bitter and contracted. The choice, really, is yours.

It sometimes means that we do our best to understand and forgive the things that upset or disappoint us by remembering everyone is doing the best they can with the knowledge they possess. That's it. And through the dance of interconnectedness, as people move in and out of our lives, we can decide if we are in alignment enough to continue to foster the relationship. As for the past? Well - it's just that...past. Done. Over. It is YOU who keeps it alive by continuing to dwell on something which no longer exists. One thing I know for certain is that there is a fantastic mystery that surrounds each of us that somehow always maintains balance. That has never been more apparent to me than it is right now. Somehow, even in the most confusing darkest moments, a light will come to guide the way. So - walk through the doors that open to you. With child-like curiosity  let yourself be fascinated and intrigued by the process.



Monday, 8 October 2012

Giving Thanks


After one of the most beautiful and exquisite summers on memory the air has gradually cooled and the landscape has come alive with the richness of Autumn. The countryside is a wash of crimson, orange and yellow and we are now in the throws of one of the loveliest Falls that I can remember in Southern Ontario. This is the time for family, friends, food and fellowship. A time when we are all getting together to enjoy each other's company, have a few laughs and celebrate the bounty of the season with some incredible feasts and quality time with our loved ones. 

The energy in the air begins to change around here in the Fall. Quite noticeably. Fall is a busy time as the farmers harvests abound, the cooler nights have us indoors more and you can feel a coziness that no other season quite compares to. My fridge is full to overflowing with some of the freshest local produce and all I want to do is cook and entertain friends. It's a festive time.

There is much to give thanks for this Thanksgiving. So so much. Looking back on 2012 it's been a pretty wild ride. Unlike the stagnancy of last year, things are moving quickly and changing so rapidly it's sometimes hard to keep up! There's a vitality, an aliveness, to this year that has been very exciting. A little unnerving at times, but definitely thrilling. It feels to me as if there's an electricity in the air, an unseen power that seems to take thoughts and materialize them into reality with lightening quick speed. More than ever I am aware of the power that's available to us when we live mindfully and turn our attention to our wildest dreams - all the things that have seemed out of reach, impossible even, feel so much more accessible this year. The magnitude of that keeps me up at night as I sometimes find it difficult to slow myself down. There is so much I wish to create!


I give Thanks this Thanksgiving to my wonderful family that is a never ending source of strength and comfort for me. I am so blessed by your unconditional love. My niece Nika, is an endless source of joy and humor and I give Thanks for her innocence and the hope I see in my family's eyes when she is around. I give Thanks to my friends who, as you guys know, are an extension of my family. My soul sisters and my brothas from different muthas - you keep me grounded. Thank you for your support and for not letting me slip off the edge when the darkness comes. You know who you are and I am so grateful to have you in my life. And as cliche as it sounds - I think it's great that this building has turned into a scene from "Singles". It's reassuring to know that my Besties are just a few doors away. 


 I give Thanks to this wonderful lil' town that I call home. The Farmers Markets, the orchards, the safety, the picturesque Norman Rockwell-y-ness of it all, and just enough nightlife to give us all something to talk about in the morning. Ah the hilarity! I give Thanks to the couple of you who have broken my heart this year. I never really wanted you to go. And you know that I would be the last to let you know that. But thank you for helping me to soften into my vulnerability enough to discover what I truly want. Thank you for reminding me what my vision of a real man actually is and for helping me realize that I will never, ever settle for less than the love that I am willing and ready to give.

I give Thanks to The Good Earth and to Nicolette Novak for being a truly inspirational woman. A woman who has had the courage to unabashedly follow her passion, opening her heart and her home, creating a sanctuary for all to enjoy. I love going to the farm (the FunnyFarm as I now refer to it) as it reminds me of my Grandparents home in the country where I would spend summers gardening, playing with frogs, fishing, picking fiddleheads.

 My lil' "part time job" there has been an unexpectedly heart opening experience. Even though the chickens think they're dogs, the dogs think they're people and the staff is all a little left of center - I am so amused every day at how much I learn there. Working there inspires me to follow my own passion and makes it seem possible to create the life I long for. My job there this year has afforded me the great opportunity to meet some of the loveliest people I've met in a LONG time and to be surrounded by some of the finest wines and culinary offerings this area has to offer. It's a joy and a pleasure to work in an environment with zero pretentiousness where I feel refreshingly normal amidst the silliness and the quirkiness of my co workers. 


I give Thanks for the miracle of my body, my ability to move freely, to feel, to heal. I give Thanks for my Yoga Practice for being somewhere to turn when nothing else makes sense and for being the compass within me that guides me at every twist and turn. Thank you, humbly, to all my Teachers, to their Teachers, and to the Teachings themselves that continue to come alive in my life. What a blessing this practice has been. I humbly bow to all of you who have guided me to the deepest depths only to reveal to me there is still so much yet to discover.




Friday, 5 October 2012

Is it Me?? It must be this place....

Sometimes I get frustrated with "this place".

I get annoyed at the aggressive drivers, the litter-ers, all the cigarette smokers. I feel anxious about the winters, and the cold, and the months of darkness, and the ice. I get irritated, occasionally, about some of the shenanigans that go on in the evening hours at some of the local pubs in this small town of mine. I get tired of hearing the same ol' stories about the same ol' drama about so-and-so drinking too much and getting all gnarly and rude and simply not acting their age. I get mildly peeved about trying to do my groceries in peace and, on occasion, running into snotty, rude, judgmental, (usually) ladies who want to tell me all about their wondrous PhD's and ask incredibly condescending questions about exactly "where my business is going now?" Yes. It's true. There are certain days when I flop on my couch at the end of the day feeling nothing less than totally.....Done.

And I wonder - where else can I go? How can I "get away" from all these annoyances? I fantasize about packing a bag and fleeing town. Just getting on the next bus and....starting again. Somewhere new. Somewhere exotic and fun. Somewhere no one knows me and I can just...recreate myself! The funny part? That was, literally, most of my twenties. I never allowed myself to accumulate too many possessions. Just in case I decided to leave. It actually became an ongoing joke with people who knew me well. They'd joust about "a lover in every port" and "Oh Heather's got her running shoes on again!".

Now, after years of travelling and touring here and there - from coast to coast,and country to country, I realize that wherever you go...there you are. Truly. It doesn't matter how many times I displaced myself. I would meet the same people, see the same social impressions repeating, feel the same silly ways about myself. But at first it would look different. I would be captivated by how new and intriguing it all was. Only to eventually unveil itself as the same patterns I've always seen; always known. Different faces, different names. But quite the same patterns.

It wasn't until I realized the common denominator in all the ups and all the downs in my life was...well... me. It's all me. When I started working on MYSELF, taking full responsibility for my actions and my words...that's when I started to see the every day things taking on a whole new life. It became fascinating instead of aggravating. I started to feel real joy. Real hope that I actually have the power to do whatever I want to. And I can do it MY way, with compassion, with humor, with respect to myself and those around me.

In the unfolding of recent events I have noticed many people approaching life with a subtle defensive aggression. Like they're always ready to bite someone's head off or throw a tantrum. Or like they are some how "entitled" to something better. Those same people are the ones who "just can't understand" why they're having problems with people at work, or why none of their family truly knows them, or why certain situations seem to "always happen to them". Not realizing what it is that THEY, THEMSELVES who are actually putting that out into the Universe, every single day - with the words they speak, the lies they tell, the things they hide, the choices they make that encourage reactions, opinions, and responses from the world around them.

Oscar Wilde said it wonderfully when he announced "...one should never do anything one cannot talk about after dinner." A true Lover Of Life, I think Mr Wilde speaks a lot of wisdom. Everything we are, everything we do we should be able to own, fully. If we cannot; if who we are pretending to be causes the need to run away, or lie, or get trapped in cycles of cheating, pretense and suffering - it MUST be re-examined. Having known both - a life of wonder, filled with love, comfort, ease is so much healthier in all ways than a life of stagnancy and depression. Or worse - a life clouded by the constant need to numb or alter yourself with drugs, pills, alcohol and anything else you can find from keeping you from your own vulnerability, your own true strength. Why do so many of us fear our own strength? Our success? I can't quite figure that out. Is it the responsibility it carries? The unknown? The fear we might not be able to "keep that up"?

If we are given the choice to live - happy, impassioned, glorified....why choose the ugliness of lies, deceit and  pretense? Do as you wish. But embrace your choices. It's cool if you need to be angry for a while. Go right ahead. Rage. Feel that. But then be done with it. Let that energy move through you. If it isn't, and you find yourself stuck in it, ask yourself - what needs to happen so I can move through this? Get moving! Move your body, express yourself, find an outlet. Help it MOVE THROUGH.  If you need to wallow for a time - do it! Go ahead. Indulge in some wallowing. Lie around, brooding, watching reruns of bad tv. Go right ahead and fully embrace the wallow. But recognize this - emotions are meant to be exactly what they are - alive moving energies. Constantly changing. Just like the breath moving in and out, circling life through your body. Like the passing clouds in the sky - eventually revealing the sun again. Getting stuck, holding on too long, is much the same as trying to build a home on quicksand. Everything just keeps getting sucked under. Exhausting.

I believe I will always have a somewhat Gypsy Spirit. I like to travel. I like to be in motion. But now I'd much rather travel with an open heart, ready to experience love, abundance, joy, adventure in whatever way I can. My days of running away disguised as travelling are over. It's funny how powerful those silent intentions can be. Setting out into your day with an attitude of "I'm ready for love. I'm ready to celebrate." Or -" I Humbly Acknowledge My Fear(s) and today i will walk through my day one step at a time"...brings so much back.

 Suddenly your silent intention begins to shift, subtly at first, how you act, react and all you perceive. And breath by breath things transform in the most amazing ways. But what IS your intention? What are you waking up for? Do you know? How do you want it to be?  To Feel? To Look? Begin there.


Thursday, 20 September 2012

Harvest

"We can either make ourselves miserable, or we can make ourselves strong. The amount of effort is the same"
~Carlos Castaneda

Autumn seems to bring with it so much change. It's a time when we're settling back into routine, getting organized and, like the trees who are drawing their energy down into the roots, we too start to prepare for the winter ahead. Where I live Autumn brings with it an exuberance that makes this one of my favorite times of the year. It's Harvest Time here in Niagara! The farmer's markets are overflowing with the bounty of the season, the grapes are all being harvested for wine, and parties and festivals abound as we all come together to eat, drink, and celebrate the abundance of Fall.

Yet underlying all of that is a subtle seriousness to the season, a quiet voice that is whispering with each falling leaf that ~ it is temporary. The beauty of autumn is fleeting. Soon, winter will come. And with it, a time of stillness and reflection. The Autumn Harvest signifies how we reap what we have sown. In many of our personal lives, this is also happening. Eventually, what we put our energy into is what manifests in our lives.

The biggest lesson I am learning right now is to expect the unexpected. Just when I think I've figured something/someone out - I'm shocked again and again by the turning of events. Recently, after a good friend simply "disappeared" from his life, without a trace, I sat bewildered and confused unable to sleep, staring at the ceiling. For days I've been stressed, emotional, angry, afraid. When suddenly after another sleepless night - it occurred to me this morning - there is nothing to "figure out"! Sometimes I get so caught in the "why's" of a situation that I completely lose my center. We may never know "why" someone decides to hurt others, or lie, or steal. We may never know "why" relationships end or "why" all of our efforts go unappreciated. We may never get the answers about the "why's" ~ nor should we waste precious energy getting caught up in that. There is so much wisdom in the teachings of Eckhart Tolle in The Power Of Now. The present moment is really all there is. If something is happening, no matter how shocking, it is because it is supposed to. Accept the present moment as if you had chosen it - and then act from that place; calmly, deliberately.

These moments of bewilderment and confusion are the moments when one's yoga practice truly comes alive. Sometimes we forget what the essence of yoga actually is - to empower us and provide us with the stamina and courage to face life as it unfolds. The hours we spend on the yoga mat, the buckets of sweat, the discipline...it's all preparing us for This Moment. I realize now more than ever that I have NO IDEA what is coming next. I really don't know what's around the next corner. But I do know that I will trust that it will all be ok. Like the abundance of this harvest - each one of us will reap what we have sown. Each one of us is on a journey. Each choice we have made, each step we've taken, up until this point, has laid the foundation for what we are currently experiencing. Choose wisely. What will you cultivate today?



Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Best Light


The best light

Would you like to have less stress in your life? Then quit creating so much.

Instead of jumping at the chance to be offended, choose to be amused. Rather than filling your thoughts with resentment, fill your heart with forgiveness.

If someone is rude to you, let it be that person’s problem and not yours. Quickly move beyond each disappointment, while savoring and extending and sharing each joy.

The world in general is what it is. Yet your life in particular, and your experience of it, is the way you choose to make it.

When you encounter difficult, frustrating situations, choose to respond with patience and understanding. When things don’t go your way, see it not as a disappointment but rather as an opportunity to make positive improvements.

Take each occurrence in stride, confidently knowing that you can make the best of it. Life is good when you see it as good, so decide to always see it in the best light you can imagine.

— Ralph Marston

Monday, 20 August 2012

Awesomeness


I've had a few challenges as of late that have left me rather confused and, well, a little soured at first . I sat, grumpy, teary and melancholy the other evening...in the throws of a full blown pity-party when the familiar whistle of my text message sing-songed into the room. It was an unexpected lil shout-out from a warm friend that simply said: 
"You're awesome"
Out of the blue.
Just two words - You're awesome.
And those two little words cut razor sharp into my dark little space like a laser beam illuminating the whole block.
My eyes dried up a little bit and the fog in my brain slowly started to clear. Suddenly, somehow, there was some clarity beginning to emerge.

 The first of my recent challenges had to do with my work, the work that I love. Work that gives me so much joy, so many rewards. Work that I've poured so much of my life, my passion and my energy into. I was recently in a situation, that many can identify with I'm sure, where I was undervalued, under paid and frankly a little disrespected. I realized this when the twenty-something year old manager/owner of this establishment told me that "Yoga Teachers are easy to find. It's really not that big of a deal. It's simple because they're everywhere now."  And "Nobody really cares who teaches the class. They just want to work out." 
Huh. Interesting. 

While that may be true I pondered the more than 2000 hours in certifications I've acquired and the last 12 years of experience I've spent teaching throughout Canada, training Yoga Teachers and hosting international retreats. And I wondered in this world of "corporate" franchised cookie-cutter yoga studios, (many run by young people with very little life experience not to mention actual experience teaching and living yoga) what the future of this gloriously healing practice is destined for. The philosophy really does seem to be - train as many teachers as possible, as quickly as possible, pack as many people as possible into the studio, turn the heat as high as possible and make as much money as possible as quickly as possible. I realized the 45-60 minutes I've spent, multiple times a week for over a year; driving to this establishment, the effort I was making to really connect personally with the clients there, and the promise I was given of "growing with the company" were really nothing more than blahblahblahblah lip service. None of which really mattered at all. I realized my talents and experience were absolutely not honored as the people I worked for simply were not honorable. They were more concerned about themselves, their own titles and appearances than the actual job of a Yogi - which is to Unite, Transform and Uplift. Not just themselves, but their community, their sangha and their fellow teachers and torch bearers; many who are trying to live the teachings in a materialistic world that puts more importance on the car you drive than the state of your mind and heart.

When I left that job I felt relieved. Somehow lightened. Sure - I walked away from some financial compensation, but I knew in my heart, my soul actually, that I was so much better suited elsewhere. Where? I'm not quite certain yet. But I know that when you stay in a situation that drains and disrespects you the ultimate end result will not be favorable. And why do we do that?! The only answer is that we haven't embraced our own awesomeness. Did I spend years and years studying yoga, travelling the world to practice with the best teachers, and decades spent studying, cleansing and facing my own demons during training - to simply ....settle?! Settle for people who would rather fill their yoga studios with whomever walks through the door yielding their "certificate" than those who truly teach, purely and unabashedly, for the connection they experience with the Divine and the immense responsibility and satisfaction they hold of really practicing what one preaches in a yoga class. No. The answer is no. I will not settle for that.

The second of my un-savoury experiences as of late has to do with something even more personal. A close friend whom I've grown to deeply respect and care for. A friend whom I was lucky enough to re connect with after 10 years of not seeing them. This person and I have grown quite close this year. And recently I came to realize this person has some issues with Truth. Specifically, this lovely person whom I've grown to trust and whom I have let fully into my life, and home, actually turned out to be a complete liar. A pathological story teller of the first degree. At first it was quirky and a little endearing. Then I realized these stories involved so much more than I was able to handle comfortably. Drug use, lies involving family, former partners, finances. Intricate stories of deceit. Some silly little deceits that were more funny than harmful. Then more elaborate stories, and behaviors that I just couldn't overlook.
When this became apparent I wondered - is it ME?! How could I have contributed to this? How can I fix it? How can I help? What can i DO!??! 

And then it hit me! Am I also willing to settle for this?? Is this what I want in my life?  I am NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR HOW OTHERS ACT, THINK, OR BEHAVE. This is a big lesson to learn. And one that seems to repeat itself often. Because I'm wired to "help", always, I tend to get confused. I want to help people. Assist in whatever way I can. Because I see their potential for greatness. But I'm learning, as I seem to have attracted yet another of these lost souls, that my job is actually to embrace my own awesomeness - not work tirelessly at trying to show other's theirs. If everything we attract into our lives is truly a reflection, of  our innermost blueprints and our deepest beliefs, than the message is clear....

Accept Your Own Awesomeness. 
Love, honour and cherish yourself.
Become the person you wish to attract.
The rest - is really up to everyone else. 

Occasionally, we may come across true kindred spirits. True friends who complement us, complete us and would do anything to nurture and protect the sacred connection of our friendship. There's not many that I've found. But I know a few. I'm lucky that way. The rest - well, it really is up to everyone else. People make their own decisions, their own choices. And at the end of the day - that is completely 100% up to them.

Only when we accept that it is not our fault or responsibility what others choose to do or how they behave, will anything ever start to flow in the direction that will truly satisfy us. We can't declare what we want in our life while we act in exactly the opposite way. It simply won't work. It's like trying to put a square peg into a triangular hole. Ridiculous.



Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Radical Acceptance

I spoke last evening in my classes about "Radical Acceptance" - accepting the present moment as if you had chosen it no matter what it may contain. Because, on some unseen level...you have.

Often we forget how incredibly powerful we actually are. Every day, as we move throughout our tasks and activities, what we are continually, habitually talking about and focusing on we are actually choosing for ourselves... often without realizing what we are funneling energy into. A person seeking health and wellness who speaks constantly about how bad they feel, how horrible it all is, how fat they are, how tired they are - is definitely NOT setting in motion the proper energy to create vibrant health. Imagine how different that person would feel if they accepted, fully, their condition and then started researching healthy recipes, visiting local markets, going for walks each evening and concentrating on what they could do each day to support their intention of health and wellness.  A person wishing to excel in their career or increase their income will not effectively do that by staying in the same dead-end job, or continuing to focus their precious energy on complaining instead of hitting the pavement with resume in hand or researching schooling opportunities that might help open some new doors.
One of the most interesting things about teaching yoga is that I actually get to witness people's transformation. I see their self-awareness increase exponentially, their bodies toning and changing, and a new confidence, a brightness in their disposition. But this doesn't happen with everyone. Often people begin the class thinking somehow they're going to finish 10 weeks and magically transform into a lean, strong, 120pd version of themselves. Ha! Not realizing that the class is really just the beginning. It's everything else they do, what the eat, how they think and how they feel the other 90% of the day that also needs to be in alignment.  It's those people who haven't learned the art of Acceptance.

When you fully accept exactly where you're at in THIS VERY MOMENT - then you have the power to affect real changes. You're acceptance requires courage. That's why I call it Radical. Sometimes everything in the fiber of our being will try to keep us in our comfortable ruts. Because it's familiar; it's what we know. It feels "easy". Changing, moving out of your comfort zone, can be a little unnerving, even scary. But if you can really accept, fully and truthfully, yourself, your life, all the choices you've made to get yourself where you are now - you are in a position to make wonderful things happen! Your radical acceptance means you take full responsibility for yourself and your life - without blame, without "buts". It's you. All you. It always has been and it always will be. You are the only thinker in your mind. The only person who controls you...is you.

Accepting that fully means you clear yourself from anything standing in the way of you and your deepest desire(s). Radical acceptance frees you from the past. It opens you up to attracting the support, the information and the resources you need to move forward in your life in the most empowering way. When you begin acting from a place of total acceptance you will be amazed at how differently people respond to you and how much better you feel.

Try it now. Spend the day without resistance. Act from a place of acceptance. Whatever happens today - respond to it as if you had chosen it. Entertain the idea, just for today, that perhaps you are more powerful than you give yourself credit for. Perhaps what you're focusing on, what you continually talk about and how you react to things is keeping you from moving forward into the life you really want.


Monday, 4 June 2012

Love (life)

This weekend marked the passing of my 36th birthday. I actually love birthdays. I love life and birthdays mark the day life really began. So I always celebrate my birthday, in some way. This year felt particularly special for many reasons.

As I reflect on this last year I am, once again, in utter amazement at how much can actually happen within the span of one year. I feel warm inside at how far I feel I've come and how fortunate I am in my life right now. I am blessed with a wonderful family, a network of supportive friends and a job that is so marvelous it astounds me. It's funny that when I was young I used to dream about what it might be like to be this age. I couldn't wait to grow up! I thought by now I would have a couple kids, maybe some chickens, a goat or two, perhaps a porch swing. While I'm a looong way off from acquiring any of that, I really can't complain about the direction my life has taken me.

So far, from what I can figure out, I am happiest not with what I've accumulated but with the relationships I've built, the hearts that have touched mine, the people who've inspired me, and the amazing places I've been along the way. I'm so incredibly grateful to all of you who helped make this such an amazing time. Thank you for the surprise "party", the wonderful flowers, the non-stop hilarity, the sweet shiny things, the presents, the incredible food and the friendship and love that really does absolutely melt my heart.

It's times like these when I see so clearly the gorgeous interconnectedness of everything. It's a great mystery, this life, and I'm starting to understand how even the heartbreak and the times of disappointment are all merely just moments clearing the way to greater things. It's inspiring to be appreciated, to be loved, to be honored. Doing this for one another is so important. So - thank you, again, to those of you who help keep my head out of the clouds and always seem to give me the inspiration to keep growing. 



Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Love The One You're With

"When you live with an open heart, joyful things happen."
~ Oprah

Sounds nice doesn't it? But what exactly does it mean?

Ever been in love? Or really smitten with someone? You know - those juicy feelings coursing through your body and mind that make you feel like anything is possible? That feeling like the whole world is lighting up around you and you're filled with so much energy and excitement. Everything feels 'right'. You're inspired and life is gonna be allll goooood....you just know it. Like - somehow you are so connected to, and enamored with, your beloved that you can't even imagine where the heck they've been all this time or how you ever lived without them!?....... That is what living with an open heart feels like. Being in love gives us a palpable experience of what it feels like to have that deeply spiritual experience of an open, untainted, heart. It's the only thing other than hours of meditation, deep prayer and devotional service that can bring us instantly to that place of total connectedness with our Divine Nature.  It's said that the endorphins released when we are in love, particularly those early stages of infatuation and desire, mimick the same chemicals released during and after intense spiritual practices. It really is the holiest of human experiences.

But - what happens after infatuation fades? Or when your beloved turns out to be a deeply disappointing BigHugeJerk? Or that beautiful baby of yours grows up to be an unruly disrespectful teenager? Or when you've settled into a couple decades of marriage and those early days of starry eyed lusciousness have been replaced with mountains of laundry and the tedious tasks of maintaining a household?

Jack Kornfield speaks wisely of this in his book "After the Laundry, The Ecstasy."  I enjoy his insight into the  fluid nature of 'enlightenment'. Many people are seeking some sort of Big Bang experience whereby they will magically be delivered out of stress/illness/ dis satisfaction and into the land of Nirvana and "enlightenment" where everything and everyone is always happy and perfect. Pffffft! WRONG. Enlightenment is an energy, a reality that is sometimes fleeting. As humans I believe we move in and out of enlightened awareness all the time. Sometimes it happens when we're washing the dishes - that moment when the warm soapy water mixes with the satisfaction of the meal just eaten as you stand there, relaxed with your breath and body, feeling completley satisfied and un hurried. And you find yourself flooded with feelings of gratitude, supreme wealth and deep profound appreciation for the simple pleasures in your life. Only to be jarred back to reality when the phone rings and your best friend is on the other end ranting about what a horrible day it is and how annoyingly inappropriate her boyfriend is being! Aaaaand.....we're back.

It may be weeks, months, until you're able to return to that state. But, always, when it happens - however fleeting- the sweetness of those moments keep you wanting more. The utter peace and deep understanding that everything, truly, is exactly as it should be is a glimpse into the profound magic of this great mystery called Life. Which is why our focus should be on always reaching for something better. Love, deeply, the people in your life. Notice a dark mood before it turns into the abyss and  - reach for something better. Call a friend, move your body, power clean your house. Anything that helps you to reach for something higher. Train yourself to focus on what it is that you truly want, not what you see before you in this moment. And, please, don't fool yourself into believing or wishing for something silly like being in a perfectly enlightened state while you coast along in your stress-free life. It simply won't happen. And that kind of desire only leads to disappointment, depression and habitual self judgement. Which really is not only unproductive, but may cause you to miss those tiny miracles placed carefully in your path to help encourage you to keep moving forward into even greater levels of joy than you could possibly imagine.



Monday, 30 April 2012

Taking The Risk


...This lil' thought has been on my mind a lot lately.

I recently injured my knee quite badly and have been laid up with lots of time to think. Given that my knee injury seemed to happen really quickly, without me even realizing it - it's totally taken me by surprise. Since the injury occurred while horsing around with some friends and a few soccer balls, it took me a couple weeks to even admit to myself that something might be seriously wrong. I kept thinking - this is nuts! Why is my knee the size of a grapefruit!? After one of the many hours I've spent in the last few weeks icing my knee and staring frustratingly out the window wishing I was out cycling, it dawned on me!

I'm always trying to teach people about the symbolic nature of their diseases and injuries. Every day, I talk to others about "listening to the body" and about reflecting on what shows up in the body, when and why. So often people go through months, sometimes years, of unfruitful medical diagnosis, invasive testing and medication after medication that don't seem to work until finally they find themselves in my office, or at their local yoga studio, desperate for any kind of insight. I spend a lot of time with people listening to them explain over and over - "I just don't get it. I'm a healthy person. I never used to be this way/have this problem. I'm so confused." To which I always reply - "Well, the body never lies. It's incapable of lying in fact. So lets dive a little deeper and try to uncover what might really be happening." Always, the injury or illness in question is a symbol for something that is required to be acknowledged, learned or changed in order to bring the person back into harmony and balance.

Soooo..... as I sat staring at my throbbing grapefruit-sized knee I suddenly realized exactly what I think is going on. Knees are so essential in helping us stand, balanced, on our own two feet. Something I've been feeling a bit challenged about lately. And also, healthy knees help us to move forward easily in life, taking risks and having the agility to roll with the waves as we face challenges and hold steady, standing firm in our beliefs, while creating our life in the most fulfilling way possible. Injuries to the knees are definitely humbling. And symbolic, for me, of exactly what's been happening in my life as of late....a certain stagnation in a couple of areas that I seem to be getting really good at sabotaging the healing of. I find myself a little stir crazy....as I try to analyze my next steps. Literally. Being stuck here with an ice pack strapped to me knee makes me realize this is something I've been feeling for quite a while. There's been a couple important things on my mind that I've gotten really good at thinking about. But seem to have lost the courage to actually DO anything about. You see, the problem with too much analyzing is this - You stagnate!! Not enough DO-ing is simply not good. A lot of people spend their whole lives dreaming, wondering, pining... but never doing. Then wonder - why am I unhappy? What's missing from my life?

Truth is, not everything works out the way you "plan" all the time. So it's easy (for some of us)to get stuck in the details. You can "What If" until dawn, but ultimately everything involves eventually trusting that somehow things will work out just fine. If there's something stuck in your mind, and you really feel it in your heart, somehow, just jumping in, taking the risk and following your heart's desire has to be the best, the 'right', thing to do....right?


Thursday, 19 April 2012

If Something Seems Too Good To Be True...It Probably Is.

Blech.
I REALLY DISLIKE when people say this.

Since when did we become so pessimistic?? Since when did it become "the norm" to expect the worst?? Wtf is the point of that??!

Why do we assume that if we fall in love, or become inspired by something/someone, or get lit up by life; that it's obviously "too good to be true." Geez. What if it's supposed to be easier, happier, more inspiring??! Since when did it become so trendy and normal to expect the worst??

I remember recently being so excited about an inspiring person I had met. When I expressed my exuberance most of my friends replied with "It won't last" or "Everyone's interesting when you first meet them" and my personal favorite - "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is." Have we really become that jaded that we condition ourselves constantly to expect a let down?! Maybe that's really the problem. Last time I checked life was what you made it.

Nothing is 'perfect'. Sure. Ok. But what if Imperfection is actually perfect in itself? What if hidden inside the tests and tribulations is a greater capacity for love and awesomeness? What if everyone and everything that we attract into our lives is actually so Divinely perfect that if only we'd relax more, and go with the flow, expecting the best from all situations - we'd find ourselves in the Land Of Bliss And Happiness.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

What to Do When You Screw Things Up.

If you're reading a blog about Yoga and Love probably it's pretty safe to say that you're interested in living an extraordinary life. Probably you are the type of person who either practices yoga in some form regularly or subscribes, even a little bit, to some of the philosophical ideals of this ancient practice.
Or - it's waaaay past your bedtime and you're still wide awake, looking for something to entertain you. Either way....

With a regular yoga practice, you are continually putting yourself in situations that challenge you. While there, you're attempting to practice cultivating calm, control, joy, even humor, amidst that challenge. If you haven't yet realized it, the yoga practice is designed to assist you with Life. It's designed to offer you the tools, in a very real and experiential way, to allow you to manage yourself, your own neurotic tendencies, and also to manage the multitude of uncomfortable occurrences, button-pressing people and ego inflating (or deflating) situations you may encounter off the mat. A teacher once told me that "People always practice yoga the same way they live their life." It was funny because he told me that when I was straining, unnecessarily, to achieve a very simple posture - eyes bulging, face red, jaw clenched. I noticed my ridiculousness and that little lesson has stayed with me 15 years later.

One of the first things I say to new students is - Be Responsible For Yourself. In class, that means decreasing (or increasing!) the intensity of postures if needed, taking breaks to rest whenever needed, hydrating adequately and not forcing yourself into situations that you aren't physically or mentally ready for. Ideally the practice, much like life, should contain 2 important elements. In Sanskrit those are (as described by the great sage Patanjali) - Sthira (meaning: steadiness, firmness) and Sukha (meaning: gentleness, lightness, softness). So - to master a sequence or a posture we try to find that balance between Steadiness and Softness.

In Life, much like in the yoga class, we may fall flat on our face as we attempt something new. That may happen a hundred times before we actually achieve the desired outcome. Sometimes, even after we've achieved what we've worked hard for, we'll sabotage it, often without even realizing it. Like when I first learned to do a handstand. I was so pumped and exhilarated! Totally blew my mind actually. But I immediately went into excuses in my mind - 'that must've been a fluke', 'did that even just happen?'. It's funny. Because my own self doubt stopped me for weeks from actually achieving the posture comfortably again. Eventually, I just started practicing handstands everywhere. No joke. I still do. Which made the experience less elusive and helped me to become a lot less rigid about achieving it successfully.

This concept of Being Responsible For Yourself extends past the yoga studio and means to be aware enough to know when you may have made a mistake, or offended someone, or was inappropriately sarcastic at the wrong time, or got angry/depressed/scared/momentarily nuts. If your words or actions contribute to you, or someone else, feeling sad, unhappy or hurt - yes, you may have possibly handled that a little differently. And if you do the work now to take full responsibility, you clear yourself from having to keep making that mistake again in the future. So how do you exercise taking full responsibility? Send an email, send flowers, send fruit (probably not all of the above - choose one). Be humble. Be concise. Extend your apology sincerely. Then - Let. It. Go. Unlike on the yoga mat when you're dealing only with yourself, the rules change a little bit out in the world when you're working with/around others. In the very wisest of words from the great author Eckhart Tolle -
"Accept—then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it...This will miraculously transform your whole life."

When working with others, regardless of the nature of the relationship, you are only ever 50% responsible for the goings-on in that interaction. Own your 50% whole heartedly. Apologize if you've made a mistake. Then allow the other 50% to make their own choices. Ultimately, in the words of another great teacher - "You can't screw this up. So stop worrying. It's just Life. You can't screw it up."
This Life is a School of Choices. We make choices. Things happen. Doors open and close, and we keep moving forward. If you don't like the way something feels/looks/is - make different choices. Let more doors open and close. And keep walking forward.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Perception

I was recently reminded of the time I spent in Paris one winter. I visited one of the museums with a friend and we got lost for hours gazing into all the amazing artwork and sculptures. But this particular day I remember the two of us contemplating what I thought was a fairly simple straightforward painting. To me, it simply looked like a woman dressing (or undressing) behind a screen. But to my friend, it was something entirely different. He didn't see a screen at all but instead a complicated symbol for something that never even crossed my mind. Fascinating as it was, at the time I thought it was completely annoying as my friend was so adamant about his interpretation that I felt as though we were living on different planets. It just didn't make any sense to me at all!


How interesting that two people can be standing in the same room, looking at the same painting, having what appears to be the exact same experience, and yet - be actually seeing their own very personal and very opposite realities. I think this happens a lot. All the time in fact. Not just in museums or when people are critiquing fine art; but in the every day interactions at our work, in our relationships and throughout our day.

I'm also reminded of another friend who was driving along in his car, feeling pumped as he was rockin' out to some of his favorite tunes. As he was driving along, radio blaring, he waved his hands and arms in an excited way, dancing in his seat a little bit. The guy in the car ahead took it as a sign of agitation and started pumping the brakes, slowing down, and shaking his fist at my friend. How interesting!! As my friend danced away in his car, this other driver perceived his movements as aggressive and reacted to that - nearly causing an accident.

Perception is everything. And reality truly is subjective. There's just no possible way that we can ever know what's truly going on with another person ~ how they feel, what their past experiences are, what triggers them or upsets them. You just can't know. My father used to say a lot that "all of the world's wars could have been solved with proper communication." While that's debatable, I certainly agree that if we learned how to communicate - really listen and speak truthfully, vulnerably, without blame or finger-pointing, most of our problems would be so much easier solved.

But that's much simpler to say than to actually do, isn't it? Think of the last time you were "triggered". Maybe it happened when someone didn't appreciate you, or neglected to give you something you were rightfully owed. Maybe it happened the last time you felt insecure or when you convinced yourself of someone else's motives without really having the facts. Whatever the case, how do we stay true to ourselves, open to life, and clear hearted enough to give others the benefit of the doubt??

The yogic texts tell us to cultivate Awareness, Compassion and Detachment. Phew. Easier said than done!
What is it that makes us suspicious? Untrusting? And once we've been hurt, how do we possibly move forward without tainting our present with ghosts from the past?

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Raise Your Standards

"Who you spend time with, is who you become." ~ Anthony Robbins


A lot of people, I find, are lowering their standards in an effort to make life "easier". I happen to think this is a big fat load of hogwash. People with higher standards are apparently more successful and possibly even happier than most. People with high standards have made habits out of living their lives repeating rituals and actions that propel them forward toward positivity and power, every day. That's the difference between the world class athlete on top of his game and the guy who works a dead-end job, that he hates, just to "pay the bills" and maintain the status quo. All the while feeling tortured inside because of the utter soul-lessness of his job and lack of passion, true passion and drive, in his day to day life. When you wake up in the morning, how do you begin your day? When you move through the day, where does most of your attention go? What do you do with your free time? We all have certain things we repeat week after week. The difference between the highly successful, happy person and the struggling person is that the highly successful individual has made a habit out of pushing themselves to excel, staying fit and healthy in body and mind, and surrounding themselves with positive people who also have high standards.

Remaining in toxic or unhealthy environments with folks who live by lower standards than you may make you feel good for a while. Your ego can look down and say righteously "Look how great I AM. At least MY life isn't as bad as THAT person over there. I must be doing really good. Gee I sure am smart and great and wonderful." Then you don't really have to change your life, all you gotta do is hang around with people with lower standards so you can feel good about yourself.

But those feelings won't last. Ultimately a quiet resentment will build, a knawing discontent. Because you're still not living true to your own potential. The only way to really bring passion, power, and uncontrolled zest for life is to raise the bar. Raise Your Standards. Aspire to be more. To be full of Joy and Exuberance. (or Health and Wealth, or Power and Positivity....) What better motivation could there be?? When that is your motivation, suddenly the tv loses it's hold on you. That oh-so-comfy couch gets even comfier after you've been out all day moving your body, tantalizing your senses and gathering information and knowledge. It's easier to let go of stress because all your misdirected frustration and any agitated energy has been moved through and released in healthy and productive ways. Life is meant to be abundant, interesting, endlessly entertaining and maybe even a little exciting... but definitely not stagnant. And definitely not tainted with bitterness and suspicion.

The people who complain to me the most about how hard-done-by they are and how passion-less their lives and relationships have become, are always the ones who have developed daily habits that do not support a life (or a relationship) that thrives. Instead they do "what they have to do" to pay the bills and get through the day. How different would your relationship(s) be if you had habits and rituals that supported keeping the passion and the connection strong and alive?! Or are you content just heading to work, doin' your duties, then returning home to a life that is less than satisfying?

Tony Robbins, motivational mogul, puts it eloquently when he talks about "Daily Rituals". What do you do every single day that shapes your world? What are your daily rituals? How are you really choosing to live your life? I heard him speak recently about how you can have all the "vision" in the world - but if your daily rituals don't back that up, it's completely useless. In fact I believe his exact wording was "(if that's the case) stop lying to yourself."

Friday, 2 March 2012

The Truth About Mean People

We can’t hurt someone and not suffer because of it.
Byron Katie

I believe this to be true. I really do. I have to. Otherwise I wouldn't sleep at night.

Sometimes I think I'm a little naive. I must be. Or just a wishful thinker maybe. I put a lot of energy into trying to see the best in people. Again, I kinda have to. That is, if I want to continue to do the work I love. I have been trained to look past people's behaviors and to continually practice widening my capacity for forgiveness. That's not always a simple thing for me. But its getting easier.

There are a couple of exceptions though. A couple of very difficult people who have crossed my path that have ultimately become my greatest teachers. They've provided me with such powerful lessons in keeping my heart open and humbly picking up some of the mess they left as a result of gracing my life with their presence. Yoga has trained me in the language of symbols. Everything is symbolic. People's injuries are symbolic, the way people hold themselves and their bodies are symbolic, the words people use.....all symbols of the incredibly intricate and complex inner worlds that we carry around within us.

Interestingly, I've come to notice the people we somehow attract into our lives are also symbolic - of what we need for true growth. Which, is really what we're doing here, isn't it? Learning, evolving...? I mean, if you had real resistance, real difficulty with trusting people because you were terrified of being abandoned, for example, what do you think the best way to really learn to release/heal that? Probably to experience your way through it so you actually build up the necessary tools. Probably to attract someone into your life who does the exact thing you're afraid of. Why? Because you keep living. You keep going. It hurts for a while but then you move on, and are ultimately stronger eventually. And that old fear, that resistance, is calmed. Because you've already survived it.

Plus, MeanPeople are really just ScaredPeople in disguise. Funny how seductive the emotions can be isn't it? We can get all caught up in the drama of a situation or the indignity of it all that we forget to really notice what's happening. Looking at things symbolically can help change a lot of cycles and patterns that you find repeating themselves. Next time you find yourself confronted with a MeanPerson relax and try to understand that deep down they're just frightened. Deep down they're really a lot like you I imagine. Understanding that breeds compassion. It's easier to forgive when you see your same-ness with another. Underneath it all we're not really that different from each other.

When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That's the message he is sending.— Thich Nhat Hanh

And in these very wise words lies the real, heart of the matter, truly:

'Life is a mirror and will reflect back to the thinker what he thinks into it.' Ernest Holmes

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

You Have To Love

Someone recently told me that their view on life was that the purpose was to Love and to Work.

I liked that when I heard it.

I spent the better part of the last year pretending that I didn't really need closeness or love from anyone other than my family. And that if I just kept working and working and working I would somehow be "ok". I'm happy to report those feelings are changing.


“...You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”
~Louise Erdrich

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Tapas

I got a random text message the other day asking "So...what are you giving up for Lent??" To which I replied "Whaaaaat?? I have to give something else up!? Whyyyyy???" lol.

Upon further research I delved a little deeper into the tradition of Lent and was curious to revisit some of the history of this old custom. Lent, signifying the 40 days of intense spiritual practice, hardship and fasting that Jesus went through before his public ministry, is still observed as a 40 day practice where people from many religious and spiritual traditions use as a time of sacrifice. Often characterized by giving something up, or starting an intense spiritual practice of some kind.

I remember many years ago during a long stay at Yasohara Ashram in BC a "Tapas Practice" was introduced. It was right around this time too, very close to Lent. Tapas in the yogic traditions is one of the Niyamas (personal/moral observances). Literally in Sanskrit it means "heat" or "fire". And Tapas symbolically represents the discipline and burning desire of longing for transformation, or closeness with the Divine, that keeps us practicing. It's that fire that gets you out of the house and into the yoga class on the days you'd rather just stay at home and mope because you know that actually honoring your commitment to get to class will ultimately bring you closer to that which you seek- whether that's a calmer mind, better fitness, more joy, a lighter heart. You know you'll feel so much better after! Tapas also has an element of austerity to it and I think of it as a purification. Fire, indeed can be very cleansing. In fact I often refer to my yoga practice(s) as "Rituals Of Purification". Be that - mentally, physically or emotionally.

But as with all things Yoga, Tapas requires fluidity, flexibility and balance. Too much fire can literally scorch everything in sight. One of my favorite local Yoga Teachers from De La Sol Yoga in Hamilton recently said the following:

"I've been noticing the moments when discipline becomes fanaticism... When a life that is meant to be open becomes constricted and begins to suffocate... When the fire of Tapas that is meant to help us shine, begins to burn a hole straight through... When the dryness of asceticism cracks the skin... Take a nap:))"Steve Ferrell
Oh Steve Ferrell...I couldn't agree more!
It's no surprise that Shiva, the Hindu God whose mantra is used for protection and removal of obstacles - is often depicted dancing in a ring a fire. The perfect symbol, really for Tapas.




During that time at the Ashram everyone in residence there participated in the Tapas Practice. So for 40 days we were encouraged to add something to our existing spiritual practices that, as one of my teachers put it, 'involved some kind of sacrifice'. At that time I chose to do a special meditation involving the Divine Light Invocation which I performed 10 times a day for 40 days. As well, I gave up drinking coffee.(which turned out to be much harder than the meditation practice, surprisingly!)

Overall the whole experience was really amazing and provided me with endless opportunities for reflection as well as re-igniting a certain spark in me that I found refreshingly invigorating. I think it's good to move away from your comfort zone, willingly, sometimes. Just to prove to yourself that a) you can, and b) to be able to take a closer look at yourself and where energy/intent is being invested. It's a well known fact that having a specific goal increases focus, inspiration, and a certain motivation that propels you forward.

So I decided that perhaps over these next 40 days of Lent I would experiment with giving up wine. Something I love, something that brings pleasure to my life. When I announced this to a few friends these were some of the exact responses I got:

"Whaaaaaaaaaat??? Noooooo. Be civil!"
"Whoa. Slow down there. Don't be rash!"
"Jones. Calm down."

Hahahahahahahaa! I guess it's more than a little funny how wine has permeated our culture here in the Wine Region of Southern Ontario. Surrounded in all directions by orchards, and grapes and some of Canada's finest wines; a glass of Pinot has become just as meaningful in our social gatherings as the company we share. So - although frowned on by many friends, I have decided to significantly reduce my wine consumption while also ramping up my personal yoga practice to include a 40 day strong fire practice with a couple Kundalini Kriyas for forgiveness,clearing fear and invoking new and wonderful changes.

By the end of this 40 day practice - it will be spring! And everything will be re-energized, re-newed and full of vitality.

So - what are you giving up for Lent?
Om Namah Shivaya

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Clear-Hearted

"Let go of your worries and be completely clear-hearted,
like the face of a mirror that contains no images.
If you want a clear mirror,
behold yourself and see the shameless truth,
which the mirror reflects.
If metal can be polished to a mirror-like finish,
what polishing might the mirror of the heart require?
Between the mirror and the heart is this single difference:
the heart conceals secrets,
while the mirror does not."

~Rumi


This past weekend was a wonderful, magical and exceptionally tender experience for me. I hosted the annual "New Year. New You" Yoga Retreat here in Ontario on the shores of Lake Erie in the beautifully rustic Lansing Lodge at the Buffalo Canoe Club. A dozen or so of us came together and spent time relaxing, reflecting and nurturing ourselves as we set intentions for the coming year and spent time really dreaming about the endless possibilities our futures hold. There's a very special energy present when a group of people come together with the collective intention to rest and heal. There's a warmth in the air that's almost palpable. I'm so touched when I get the chance to see people just being themselves. I love it. And I love watching people just soften into each other's company and into the moment.

This retreat for me was the completion of a cycle. 2011 began with the yoga retreats I hosted in El Salvador - a wild adventure in many ways which ended up being a reflection of the tumultuous energy of the year for me. (Think - trapped in a whirlpool that's spinning you around and around without really taking you anywhere....)I felt like I really let go of many things this weekend. But more importantly - I started the delicate process of opening up again. To Grace, to Love and to a life filled with health and support.


A very very special thanks to Ginette Hunter, Feng Shui practitioner and friend, whose expertise helped to create the perfect environment for our guests. And who's hours of preparation for each guest just added to the supportive energy of the weekend. May the support and caring you show so many of us return to you multiplied! Also - Carrie Cottage-Bailey of Hannah's Euro Spa- thank you for your sweet energy and the your amazing massages. You are a true healer. Cindy Nilson - your presence and reflexology treatments grounded everyone so sweetly. Thank you for being there and being such a wonderful example of someone who so effortlessly "goes with the flow". And, finally, Nadia Esposito.....my sista from another motha - you are amazing. Thank you for creating such an incredibly nurturing and healing meal and for sharing your energy and your culinary skills. As always, you are amazing and I love you.

To my friends John Bauld and Bobbyji - thanks for making the trek down to the lake to be with us on Saturday and spread such wonderful energy through your music. So so much big Love to both of you. The waves are coming in my friends....enjoy.

There is a spring detox retreat happening in May. Please stay connected for details.

May the rest of this winter bring you rest and rejuvenation in all ways.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Retreat

We do not truly serve the world if we give to others but neglect our own truth and our own needs. It’s only when our own needs are fully met that we can generously and whole-heartedly give of ourselves. It’s not selfish to look after ourselves -- it’s essential!
(Borrowed from Ron Handrahan - photographer, father, grandfather, all round great guy...)

The idea of "retreat" is as old as civilization itself. It is to get away to a place of serenity where you can create, restore, share, and simplify your life. I firmly believe that our nervous systems are not really built for the array of stresses we put ourselves under in daily modern life. How wonderful it is to just surrender our cell phones, our responsibilities and our "schedules" for a short time so that we can return to the simplicity of our breath, of resting in a quiet corner of the room with a good book or enjoying the beauty of the sunset without needing to be or do anything else.

Ambition, drive, goal-setting and seeking continual evolution through change and growth and gathering of knowledge are all so important. But so is balancing those aspects with rest, meditation and gentle but honest inward reflection. Add to that coming together with other like minded people to share your energy and common intentions for healing and renewal and you've got yourself one powerful combination. And enough spark to ignite some wonderful changes and invoke some incredible manifestations.

Our modern world is full of striving. Each time I visit Latin America or return to the tropics, I am reminded of that. It's not until you actually step away from it that you realize just how intense our lifestyles are. "Rest" is not high on the list of priorities around these here parts. Accumulating more, doing more, being better, getting ahead - these are all themes that seem to permeate our culture. And when you're immersed in it, you hardly notice it. Many are hardly aware of what a wave of stress, exhaustion or defeat they've gotten swept out on.Almost as if this has become the "norm".

Taking time to reflect is unquestionably important. As someone who needs lots of "hj time" I have come to respect and understand this well. Modern living needs balance for many of us. This requires a bit of courage to really understand what it is you need and then to implement it. To ask for space or time isn't always easy. To honour yourself isn't always easy. But it IS essential as Mr Handrahan so eloquently pointed out above. (Thanks!)

Getting away on Retreat regularly is also something I've become accustomed to and something I hold as a really important thing that's one of my overall "wellness strategies" for my life. Join me this February 17th, 18th and 19th at the rustic and historic Lansing Lodge at the Buffalo Canoe Club in Ridgeway Ontario for a weekend of renewal and re-invigoration.

The weekend getaway will include 4 Yoga & Meditation classes, Breakfast and delicious lunch as well as an Ayurvedic-inspired Supper on Saturday night followed by a live kirtan performance by John Bauld and Ananda. Participants will also receive as part of their retreat - one aromatherapy massage treatment, one reflexology treatment, and a personalized Feng Shui consultation with Ginette Hunter (Master Feng Shui consultant) about how to best prepare for the upcoming year.

The weekend promises to be restful, inspiring and deeply nurturing in all ways. But space is limited.
Join us for the day, a class, Saturday's Kirtan performance and dinner, or the whole weekend.
Visit www.PlanetLoveCreations for more info...

May you be happy. And may your life be filled with ease....