Pause for Peace

Friends, I invite you along with me to take part in 15-Minutes of silent prayer or meditation on Friday August 29th at 10:00AM Mountain Time (9:00AM PST, 12:00PM EST). I invite you to stop what you are doing, and take a moment to pause for peace. You can honor this time how you wish, and can do this from wherever you are. The idea is to set the intention and energy towards peace.

Right now, as I write this many people around the world are experiencing some form of violence in their own homes, communities, and countries. And, here in our country a young innocent child named Michael Brown was killed-unjustly. I can’t ignore that this happened. I can’t ignore the fact that it is completely heartbreaking.

I remember a very clear moment in my last year of teaching at Chelsea High School in Chelsea, Massachusetts. One of my students had witnessed his friend being shot. I remember not knowing what to do, and I remember realizing that there was nothing I could do but show up to work the next day and teach. I knew deeply that his life would be forever changed. I knew that innocence was lost that day. As a result of a series of violence, Chelsea held a peace walk. In unison the entire school walked throughout the town of Chelsea. It was powerful and memorable.

Violence creates a ripple effect. We all feel it in subtle ways no matter how far removed we are from it. I feel we all are responsible for creating peace in our selves, our homes, and in turn our communities. Peace instead of violence can become a ripple effect when we take action towards creating more peace, and less violence.

I am asking you to join me in taking a pause for peace for everyone that is experiencing suffering in the deepest of ways, and for every child that loses his or her innocence to violence.

My deepest blessings. May all beings be free from suffering. May there be peace.

Beauty of Impermanence

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You witness, you embody, you hope, you pray daily, you cry, and you let go.

Every day transformations

Every day growth.

You attach to one moment that completely amazes you, opens your heart more and more to joy, and then another comes.

You practice impermanence quietly praying that this moment will last forever somewhere deep inside your heart,

and then the next moment comes.

 

 

 

The Passing of a Legend

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“…We have only finite means to know the infinite. When the finite merges in the infinite, everything becomes infinite. Consider the sky. The sky is finite as well as infinite. None can touch it, yet we are in contact with it at every moment of our lives. Similarly, you and I have to use finite means–body, mind, intelligence and consciousness–to reach the infinite seat of the soul which is the mother of all these things.” BKS Iyengar from The Tree of Yoga

This post is in dedication to BKS Iyengar who has recently passed. His passing has deeply touched me. Iyengar yoga has been a healing practice for me. Yoga brought me and my beloved together, and it is a very much a part of our lives. Iyengar yoga is the very practice that has taught me how to be in my body, and be aware of every cell of my body. We may think and desire to get out of our body to evolve or transcend. In my experience, evolution is about being in our body and in every cell of our being becoming fully grounded, present, and connected.

Guruji leaves behind

teachings that grow like roots through

our extended limbs

our expanded minds

wisdom continuing on

in the roots of practice

ever growing

ever illuminated

ever present in experience.

My deepest gratitude, blessings, and a deep bow to Guruji BKS Iyengar. Thank you for your teachings and wisdom that carries through.

 

I share my practice with you that I did in celebration of Guruji Iyengar.

Before practicing this sequence please note the following as it is a more advanced sequence. Please only practice inversions if you have a regular inversions practice, and do not attempt if you have a neck or back injury. Please refrain from practicing back bends or inversions if you are on your moon cycle. Please adjust all asanas for your body, and use supports where needed i.e chair, bolster, straps, blocks. Also, check in with your regular teacher for guidance on any postures discussed here. Thank you and blessings!

1. Adho Mukha Virasana (downward facing hero pose)

2. Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog)

3. Uttanasana (forward fold)

4. Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana (standing split)

5. Ardha Badha Padmottanasana (standing half lotus)

6. Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (extended hand to big toe pose)

7. Uttanasana

8. Parsvottanasana (intense side stretch)

9. Prasarita Padottanasana (wide angle standing forward bend)

10. Sirsasana (5-minutes)

11. Adho Mukha Virasana to Adho Mukha Svanasana with heels at the wall

12. Ustrasana 3x’s (camel pose)

13.Urdhva Danurasana 3x’s (wheel)

14. Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (with or without props ; two legged inverted staff pose)

15. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose with props)

16. Supta padangustasana series (reclined hand to big toe pose)

17. Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana II (upward facing intense west stretch) then bring your knees into your chest

18. Rest as you wish.

 

 

Relaxing into the Back Body

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A group of monastic sisters sit eating. Their backs are hunched over, bodies caved in, hearts protected, and heads bowed quietly eating. Their backs covered in energetic armor.

Our back body and spine tell a story. What does their story tell—devotion, protection, shame, or obedience? What does our back body and spine say about our experience? Are we aware of what we hold in our armor?

We experience life through our front body as we engage with our world through our sense organs, while our back body responds to every one of these encounters. Energetically, we undulate between our front and back body balancing in the core of our being—our spine.

Our spine is our divine channel. When we relax into our spine we open the energetic channels of our entire being.

Practices for relaxing into back body:

  1. Svanasana: Resting on your back in svanasana begin to pay attention to your back body. Bring your awareness to the back of the head, neck, shoulders, back of the arms, spine, whole of the back, back of the knees, legs, ankles and heels. Once you get to the feet bring the energy back up through the spine. Focus on each vertebrae starting at the base of your spine from the sacrum and moving up towards to the back of your head. And, then rest for 10 minutes or longer.
  2. Elongate the spine vertebrae by vertebrae. You can do this through a series of asanas focusing on extending the spinal column. My suggested asanas are uttanasana, paschimottanasana, virasana with arm variations specifically urdhva hasta and baddhanguliyasana, sirsasana (5-minutes), sarvangasana (5-minutes). Please only attempt inversions if you have a dedicated inversion practice and can maintain alignment and stamina in those asanas. To rest into your back body more deeply, I recommend practicing restorative asanas like supta badha konasana and supta virasana.
  3. Use essential oils to awaken your spine, such as frankincense, wild orange, lavender, or fir.
  4. In meditation visualize your spine being an open channel reaching through the earth and up through the crown and beyond.
  5. Express the story of your back body. Are you protecting your heart so fiercely that you have built up energetic armor? Do you experience back pain from past trauma? Do you resist opening your back?
  6. Lay in the grass! Rest into the earth!

 

 

 

 

Body as a Sanctuary

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“The yogi never neglects or mortifies the body or the mind, but cherishes both. To him the body is not an impediment to his spiritual liberation nor is it the cause of its fall, but is an instrument of attainment. He seeks a body as a thunderbolt, healthy and free from suffering so as to dedicate it in the service of the Lord for which it is intended.” -BKS Iyengar, Light on Yoga.

 Three-years ago, I didn’t feel confident and felt disconnected. I was in a new relationship with my now partner, and in that ambiguous stage of fear and uncertainty. I began to compare myself to a lot of voluptuous women. I was daydreaming of what it would actually be like to have curves, and actually be voluptuous. I was thinking of those old Vargas girls. I always thought of them as deeply feminine, and had wished I had that body type. One night at 1:30am I was curious about breast implants, and started doing all of this research. Luckily, I was incredibly horrified at what I found out. In the middle of my in-depth research my cup of almond milk, ghee, cardamom, and cinnamon spills all over my computer. My computer was covered in my tea concoction. I freak out, and laugh because clearly I needed to stop the madness. The divine has a sense of humor at times. I bring my computer to the Apple store and the Mac Genius dude opens my computer and looks at my computer very confused. Ghee and almond milk are crusted onto my entire motherboard. I had to buy a new computer, which is much cheaper than plastic surgery, I may add. Full of shame and feeling rather ridiculous, I came to realize that I needed to accept myself as I was and cherish my body, instead of focusing on what I didn’t have, which was causing me suffering.

When we look in the mirror we see what we don’t have, and desire a different image. We compare ourselves to the next woman. We don’t see our true essence or beauty. We end up embodying not our own body but the desire for another body, look, and image. This creates separation within us and between our sisters.

Our body is our sanctuary for our own unique divinity. Yet, so often we desire to recreate, and re-imagine our body. The body changes and will always change through age.

Give your body the food it needs to be healthy, honor your spirit’s sanctuary through positive and nourishing relationships, see and feel yourself as beautiful, remove the mirrors, remove the magazines, try to limit negative self-talk, practice self-love and self-acceptance daily, and feed yourself nourishment that your body needs to thrive and be vibrant.

 

Be Nurtured

All because of a flower. Yes, it’s true. A White Ceanothus in the form of a flower essence or tincture of this potent little flower called Mother’s Milk or Loving Support. I feel like myself again. I got into vigilant nurturing of myself. Amen to a host of rituals that bring us back to ourselves. As women we feel called to nurture-as mothers, lovers, partners, friends, and beyond, and so we need to nurture each other and ourselves more often. This has been a deep lesson for me in the past few weeks, as I stopped nursing my daughter. Taking time to nurture myself has given me the energy I need to be a mother and partner, and I am getting back into my grounded place again. I asked myself, “What am I missing? And, what do I need to do to nurture myself?” First, were roses, chocolate, sage burning, and then my oils.

Be nurtured with roses, chocolate, an altar and a prayer, divine essential oils from DoTerra (patchouli, ylang ylang, clary sage), a feather and heart along the way, and taking time to nurture yourself in the ways that only you know how.

What are you missing? What nurtures you? What do you need?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Reminders

sf sunsetApproximately six-months ago we were facing our deepest fears as our 7-month old daughter was being admitted to the hospital. We had no idea what was going to happen. We were scared, bewildered, and traumatized. And, when we received a diagnosis we didn’t understand and only heard the words “rare genetic condition” and “tumors” you can imagine our shock and trauma.

Trauma leaves a reminder. A reminder that rests in you until you can find a way to face and heal that trauma. Some traumatic experiences we may not heal in this lifetime; however, we can begin to unravel and evolve from them.

The reminders for me appear in an empty crib my daughter refuses to sleep in due to her own trauma, the emergency seizure medicine in my purse, the bi-monthly appointments with a development specialist, her ash leaf marks (white skin pigmentation), the supplements, the actual thought that she has benign tumors in her brain, the neurologist appointments, and the yearly MRIs she must endure. For some parents of children with Tuberous Sclerosis Complex they face daily complications like regular seizures, autism, developmental delay, and behavioral issues.

I write this post for everyone that has experienced trauma and other parents in similar situations. My daughter’s diagnosis still remains as a trauma I can’t deny or forget. I have begun to scratch the surface of facing my trauma, and this begins the healing process. I thought that I wouldn’t ever actually write this post. Healing is a private journey and process for many, including myself. The challenge here is that no one can do this healing for you. You have to heal your own trauma. Of course, if it’s too daunting seeking support is best. Honestly, I didn’t want to face the fact that I haven’t even begun to heal and need more time.

Trauma has a way of keeping you in a place of continual fear, and fight or flight. We want so deeply to heal and to completely erase it from our being and memory.

What if we had the ability to transform and evolve from our trauma? What if we became empowered from these very challenging, and traumatic experiences instead of hiding out or feeling victimized by them? I know it’s possible. 

I have watched my daughter at 15-months transform her condition from something potentially debilitating to becoming a healthy, determined, manifesting fire-child. She is making progress daily. Every day that she does well and continues to demonstrate progress, I am grateful, heal a little bit more, and have unwavering faith that my daughter will thrive. She keeps me in grace and in believing that miracles are possible.

The Sleep Ingredient

“The needs of the body are the needs of the divine spirit which lives through the body.” BKS Iyengar

In Ayurveda (see Caraka samhita Su 11:53) there are three things needed to support life: food, sex, and sleep. When you have too much or too little of any or all of these there is imbalance. Sleep is the missing ingredient for so many of us. For some of us it’s due to our hectic non-stop lifestyles, chemical imbalances, stress, or in my case a 15-month old. We can’t take a pill to make up for sleepless nights. We can’t buy back our mitochondria, or buy new adrenals. Once it’s gone it’s gone. Sleep is an essential ingredient and without it everything is affected. We need sleep to rejuvenate, function, heal, and to replenish ourselves.

Sleeping hasn’t been something I can do well. I like late nights, and late mornings. My daughter apparently follows the same schedule. She doesn’t sleep. I have tried almost everything. She wakes up every 2-3 hours. Everyone tells you it gets better and then proceeds to give you more advice. She won’t sleep in her crib because she has associated it with being in the hospital, and sleeping with us seems like a better option. It is only when you meet someone else whose 15-month old doesn’t sleep that you get some sort of reassurance that you are not the only parent awake all night.

Since I don’t sleep much through the night, I have realized how imbalancing this can be for me and anyone else who has a hard time sleeping through the night. You lose touch with your own practice and yourself, your mood and emotional state changes, you become more vulnerable and susceptible to illness, and you go to vices like coffee and chocolate to function. Most days, I wonder how I actually function and think that it has a lot to do with my practice and an instinct that kicks on biologically when you are a mother.

I have incorporated some ways to stay grounded during this process of sleeplessness and new motherhood.

  1. Routine. I’m not a routine person, but need routine. Going to bed at a set time keeps me from staying up until 12:30am writing.
  2. Abhyanga (oil massage). This is a deeply relaxing ayurvedic practice that calms my nervous system instantly.
  3. Sitting in meditation for 5-10 minutes every morning. If I can practice asana or pranayama, I practice for at least 20 minutes daily.
  4. Not eating chocolate. I love chocolate. Yet, it keeps me ungrounded throughout the day. Chocolate increases every constitution. Also, not eating too many carbs or sugars to keep me fueled helps. Instead, I reach for protein.
  5. Perspective. My daughter will only be 15-months old once and so I sacrifice my sleep so that she receives exactly what she needs at 2am.  I have found that mantra at 2am works and knowing that the sleepless moments will pass.
  6. Finding moments to rest and take a break throughout the day. When you don’t sleep at some point during the day you completely crash. This is the time to stop and relax if you can.
  7. Acupuncture. I love acupuncture. I go right into a deep sleep for an hour.
  8. Avoid taking sleep medicine, it will only make you feel groggy and doesn’t solve the problem.
  9. Restorative yoga and or yoga nidra. This is a way to reset your body and heal by practicing asanas that are restorative in nature. Yoga nidra is yoga sleep. You put your body into a mindful state of sleep, where you can recuperate from a sleepless night.
  10. Surrender and let go.

 

Deer Medicine

What happens when we stop forcing everything we want to happen or try to make happen? What happens when we let go of all that effort-making, planning, and forcing our agenda to the max to actually relax? What if we stopped forcing everything and let what we are trying to manifest or make happen come organically?

For some of us, we don’t realize that we are doing too much until we get sick, we keep reaching a dead-end adding further frustration, or we keep pushing ourselves until we are bottomed out. Usually, I don’t get the memo until I am sick and can’t do anything. I am then reading the universe’s message while convalescing, which is not how I envisioned relaxing.

As I was literally convalescing this week, I looked out the window and two deer came walking onto my patio. They stood there quietly looking at me with a gentle gaze in their eyes. Hmm, what’s this about I thought. The message–be gentle with yourself.

When we push ourselves, we are not being gentle with others and ourselves. We lose touch with the naturally graceful organic flow of life.

When we are forcing everything we want to happen and so busy forcing our lives to happen, we are not being gentle with ourselves, with life, and those we love. In essence, we are creating a more agitated reality. Nothing happens that we actually want to happen when we are in an agitated-forceful state of mind and reality.