Homecoming to Ourselves: A Metaphor on Stability

Where does it all lead?
What will become of us?

These were your young questions,
And young answers were revealed.
It leads to each other. We become
Ourselves. 

– PATTI SMITH – 

At the end of August 2019, I gave away most of my material possessions save for a few boxes of clothes and books to move onto a 37’ sailboat moored at a marina near the Cambie Street Bridge in Vancouver, BC. In the past decade, I’ve moved around Vancouver eleven times, from Kitsilano to the West End, Main Street, and Commercial Drive. My strive to harmonize my external world through controlling my living situation, not to mention my work and relationships, only led to ongoing stress and chaos. The more I strove to build a world outside of myself, the more I had to work to maintain a lifestyle I wasn’t sure I wanted

The life I’ve created for myself at the marina is a metaphor on stability: I’ve let go of all the things I thought kept me grounded and connected to what it means to be me and connected to an inner landscape where I no longer need to question myself or what it means to be stable in body and mind. In the solitude and space at sea, cocooned in the rhythm of the water and calls of nature, I’ve been able to carve out some quiet for myself. In the process of letting go, I’ve been able to grow and connect to an inner stability that was there all along, I just never knew how to find it. 

In my travels around Vancouver cohabitating and adapting to varied personalities and living styles, I’ve discovered a lot about what it takes for me to feel grounded in any given situation. I’ve come to realize that my feeling of security may be influenced by external factors but ultimately comes down to my inner awareness. Stability is important in our lives for the simple fact that when we feel secure, we’re able to interact with our environment, and our communities with more integrity and love, overcoming insecurity and fear.  

 You have to create within yourself the experience of beauty, liberation, and infinity. -BKS Iyengar

BKS Iyengar, Father of Iyengar Yoga and author of Light on Life, discusses stability at length in terms of the yoga practice and how yoga asana may create a sense of lightness, precision, strength, awareness, balance, and overall harmony in the body and mind which ultimately translates to a higher state of consciousness and discovery of the Self. Iyengar’s approach to stability comes from an awareness of the physical self through yoga poses; to train the body and calm the mind. Ultimately creating harmony and inner stability that isn’t thrown off-course by our external surroundings. 

Iyengar provides that as stability becomes a habit, maturity and clarity follow.  In exploring the yoga asana, one will discover balance in the body and stability. Balance is not possible without stability and balance assists in stabilizing the mind. In the physical practice of yoga, the more grounded you are in your lower body through the feet, legs, and pelvis, the more lightness and flexibility you’re able to explore in the upper body through the spine, arms, and head. We explore this idea in our bodies when we move: the more connected you are through your feet and legs in any physical activity, the more ease and balance you have in your body through movement.

According to Iyengar, working with the body and discovering a physical balance produces a balanced and stable mind. A stable mind is one that is focused on the present. A stable mind is one that is free of judgments and limitations. A stable mind is one that is concerned with the higher Truth of what it means to be human and alive. A stable mind knows the Self as unchangeable and yet flexible regardless of external circumstances or forces. A stable mind is one who questions and constantly evolves.

Keep asking yourself the hard questions, continue evolving into who you truly are.
smiling vinyasa yogi
Clara Roberts-Oss
Yogi, Teacher, Student

Stability is a sense of inner groundedness that doesn’t come from where you sleep or who you’re friends with, though these factors contribute to whether or not you feel stable and safe. My current sense of stability comes from a deep knowing within that no matter where I live or what the external factors are in landscape, space, neighbors, and possessions, my sense of stability comes from a well within me. I am more grounded and secure in who I am now, more so than where I was ten years ago. I feel it’s a combined factor of pursuing yoga as a means to physically, mentally, and emotionally ground myself in my body and the present moment, my ability to let go of the small stuff that doesn’t matter and really shouldn’t affect my inner being, and my decade of experience putting myself in situations where I tested my strengths and fears.

On an objective level, stability means you have access to shelter and food and water; relationships where you feel cared for and loved and accepted, and access to resources that provide measures of safety. This is why it’s so devastating that a majority of human beings around the world, including the downtown Eastside of Vancouver, are lacking in such areas and will always be struggling at a level of mere survival. It’s elitist for me to say that stability is subjective when I’ve always had access to healthcare and healthy food and a roof over my head and a loving family who I can reach out to when I’m scared or lonely or frustrated. From my vantage point, stability is subjective in that what makes me feel grounded may be vastly different from what makes someone else feel happy or safe or stable in themselves.  

 

A Homecoming to Ourselves

Our lives are a narrative of trial and error; of beauty and terror. No one knows the answer and no one can tell you what is best for you. You have to go out and ask the questions and experience it directly for yourself. The best access point I have to get more clear and grounded is through my body. This I know to be true because I’ve directly experienced it through yoga and the words of BKS Iyengar. They ring pure and true for me through the dedication to my yoga practice. In all my years of picking stuff up and putting it down again, in diverse homes and careers and relationships, my constant has been my yoga practice, first in asana and later in breath and meditation. 

So, what is stability? I would ask each of you to sit down and contemplate for yourselves what makes you feel grounded; what relationships you’ve cultivated to give you a sense of belonging; if you’ve established a lifestyle that’s balanced and gives you purpose. For me, stability is a deep sense of trust in knowing I can handle whatever may come my way.

Stability is a homecoming to myself. 

Much love,
Stephanie 
stephaniedawntrembath

Enlightenment is _______

Enlightenment

One of my favorite topics of discussion, enlightenment. I find the term used frivolously within the spiritual community but rarely dissected. When asked what it means, I’m given the usual spiel: “Freedom”, “Free from suffering”, “Bliss”, “Stillness of the mind”, “Joy”, etc.

There are so many definitions of the term, which one is right? How do you know? Have you every experienced  enlightenment? How do you know you have? Is enlightenment the point of the practice? Is our goal as practitioners the same as the lineage creators had? Why are we trying to put our foot behind our head?

The inquiry continues.

I came upon this article and thought it relevant.

Stay curious 😉

(Below is an excerpt. Link below for full article)

Enlightenment Is ______.

The poll results may also reflect a deep confusion about what enlightenment is—after all, sages and scholars have been debating the definition for millennia. Depending on whom you talk to, enlightenment is a sudden, permanent awakening to the absolute unity of all beings or a gradual,back-and-forth process of liberation from the tyranny of the mind. Or both. It is freedom from feelings or the freedom to feel fully without identifying with those feelings. It is unconditional bliss and love, or it is a state devoid of feelings as we know them. It is a shattering of the sense of a separate self, a transcendent experience of unity, a radical freedom available only to the few who are ready to give up everything and surrender the ego to pure awareness.

Buddhists and yogis tend to agree that in a sense we are already enlightened; we are already there. “Enlightenment is really just a deep, basic trust in yourself and your life,” says Zen priest Ed Brown. The work that awaits us is stripping away the layers of delusion that we have accumulated through our karma, so that our natural state of peace and wholeness can be revealed. “Enlightenment is not a new state that is in any way obtained or achieved,” says Richard Miller, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and founder of the International Association of Yoga Therapists, “but rather, it entails the uncovering of our original nature that has always been, and always is, present.” Or as Robert Svoboda, the first Westerner to graduate from a college of Ayurveda in India, says, “The enlightenment process is much more about getting rid of stuff than grabbing hold of it.”

To understand how the concept of enlightenment is framed by today’s Western ambassadors of the yoga tradition, YJ interviewed five prominent teachers whose practices in yoga and meditation collectively total 125 years and span many traditions. When we asked them whether we must aim for enlightenment to practice authentically, the conversations often turned to intention—a word that comfortably carries the weight of hopes yet doesn’t sink under our expectations. The teachers agreed, and their own stories reflect, that our intentions often start with ourselves—we want to soften our stiffness, dampen our anger, quell our fear—but widen and deepen organically in the alchemy of practice. And this is a good thing.

When asked how they hold the goal of enlightenment in their own spiritual practices, not surprisingly, they each had unique ways of relating to liberation. But whether they view awakening as rarefied, permanent, and sacrosanct or hard-won, human, and imperfect, they all spoke of enlightenment as coming home to our deepest truths and aspirations—a gift a teacher gives or one that emerges from the depths of solitary practice. And like most precious gifts, it remains a mystery until we receive it, until our hearts open and do not close.

 

–Written by Colleen Morton Busch, at yj.com

 

PS.

Practice yoga online with me or catch me at my next yoga event

 

 

 

Japanese Yoga

Japanese yoga funny vid

The beauty of yoga is that different cultures and regions have been using it the way they find it best. Yoga is a broad concept and different kinds of yoga are fruitful for different reasons. Japanese yoga is an ancient practice that is still practiced by fitness gurus all over the globe. It is believed, and proved, that this yoga helps in healing one physically and mentally. If you are suffering from any kind of ailment, you will find betterment with the help of Japanese yoga.

How is Japanese yoga different?

Even though it is as effective for the body as other forms of yoga, Japanese yoga is slightly different in terms of practice. It changes as the seasons change. Depending on the season, the movements of this yoga differ. Also, you will be focusing on different things in different seasons. The reason why people do this yoga is that it helps in dealing with any kind of physical or mental illness. Whether the pain is in your body or your soul, this yoga relieves you from it. You will be performing several repetitive actions and they will help in reducing anxiety, promoting sleep, preventing digestion and improving digestion.

Sometimes, it is not about your health. You just want to improve your posture and be more flexible. Japanese yoga helps in keeping you flexible and also maintains your posture. With this yoga, you will be in charge of your health. As a result, you do not only build strength on the inside but also on the outside. Even if you are already doing yoga, you can bring variation in it by trying out Japanese yoga. Soon, you will see the multiple benefits that this yoga has for your physical health and cognitive functioning.

Benefits of Japanese Yoga

Japanese yoga is quite advantageous for your physical and emotional wellness. First of all, it brings mental clarity to your body. If you are in a bad place in your life and the depression is making you lose productivity and peace, you can relieve the stress and anxiety through yoga. It will help you relax so that you can think rationally and make better decisions with a clearer mind. Life can get hard these days, with all the things you have to manage at home and at work. Personal relations also get hard from time to time. Japanese yoga induces the release of endorphins in the body so that you can feel relaxed and happy.

Fitness is another aspect of your life that is enhanced with Japanese yoga. When you do yoga, your agility increases and the muscle tone improves over time, allowing you to be more productive. Consequently, your improved bone health will give you the ability to be more active than you have ever been in your entire life. Thus, you can expect an overall effect of Japanese yoga on your long-term wellness.

Sometimes Carolyn and I like to make funny things, this one is a video.

 

Check it out.

 

 

Lakshmi

Lakshmi goddess

I’ve never been drawn to Lakshmi as I am to Durga and Kali. Lakshmi is more widely known as the goddess of abundance, fertility and the ‘ideal wife’. Unlike Durga and Kali who are fierce warriors who step in when the going gets tough, pretty much kicking butt wherever they go, Lakshmi is a bit too demure…or so I thought. I came across this and my thoughts of this archetype have shifted. It’s always nice to have a shift of perspective…I thought I’d share. 🙂

 

“Lakshmi is the goddess energy who preserves life. In Tantric nature cosmology, she is the nourishing, cooling power of soma, or moon-nectar, that balances the fiery, lightning-like Shakti of Kali and the blazing solar energy of Durga. Soma was the drink of the gods, and supposedly it contained the power to give immortality. It was one of the substances churned up from the Milky Ocean, along with Lakshmi herself. According to Ayurveda, the traditional medical science of India, soma appears in the body as ojas, a vital essence found in bone marrow. Ojas conveys vitality. Sexuality and meditation both draw their power from ojas. It’s connected with rejuvenation (interestingly, the bone marrow is where stem cells are found); it’s also the subtle substance that can cool the body when kundalini Shakti is manifesting in a fiery, Kali-like fashion. Lakshmi’s Shakti is life sustaining both in the physical and subtle realms. She is, subtly speaking, the water of life and the subtle nectar that moistens the heart.

Lakshmi is an ancient goddess. The Vedic singers praised her under her most ancient name, Shri, and sang the ‘Hymn of Shri’ (Shri Sukta) to bring forth whatever is glorious and beautiful in the natural world. Besides being a name of Lakshmi, shri is an abstract noun that signifies all the qualities associated with auspiciousness: good fortune, lovingkindness, material prosperity, physical health, beauty, purity of motive, well-being, authority, energy, vitality, and every kind of radiance.”

Sally Kempton, Awakening Shakti

 

 

PS.

Practice yoga online with me or catch me at my next yoga event

 

 

 

 

Kali Morning Thought

Kali morning thought

The stories of Hindu Gods and Goddesses are so fascinating that you would be surprised by every deity and every event in the scriptures. The goddess Kali is one of the strongest Hindu goddesses. Being the destroyer of evil, Kali is worshipped by different tantric sets. Kali bestows liberation to the world and she is the one who is the protector of the world. The goddess Kali is worshipped by all Hindus and the idol shows that she is standing on Lord Shiva who is prostrating beneath her. There are many legends about Kali and all of them are of valour and protection.

One legend states that Kali killed an entire group of thieves on her own. These thieves found a Brahmin monk and wanted to sacrifice her to Kali. However, the monk had so much radiance on his face that it burned Kali’s image. Kali then took human form and killed all the thieves and drank their blood.

Kali’s Forms

Kali has two most portrayed forms. One of them is the four-armed form which is most popular. The Mahakali form of Kali is the one with ten arms. In some art, she is blue while in others, she is black in color. In all images, her eyes are red and filled with rage. Sometimes, she is shown naked while at other times, she is shown wearing a skirt that is made up of human arms.

The garland that she is wearing is made of human heads. She stands on a calm Shiva and there are serpents around her. In her ten-armed for, she has ten feet, ten faces and three eyes on each head. She is wearing ornaments on all her limbs. According to Kalika Purana, Kali has a dark complexion and is riding a lion. She holds a sword and is extremely beautiful.

Kali as God

Even though her physical appearance might seem a bit terrible, Kali is very kind at heart. She is one of the most loving of all the goddesses. Her devotees call her ‘Ma’ or the other of everything in the whole universe. Since she is so fearless, she also seems as the protector of the universe.

Kali

 

Endings and Beginning

 

“I sing praises to those whose hearts accept the universal order, which only appears to be chaotic and ever-changing. In actuality, everything is designed down to the smallest detail, to be in perfect operation. The dance of the universe is a happy one, with energy swirling and twirling in a never-ending celebration of life itself. Join this dance, dear one, and enjoy the remarkable journey of the weavings of the story of your life. Do not fear what appears to be change or loss. It’s only the transitioning orbit of energy interplaying with you and your loved ones. Embrace it as evidence that you’re alive! Embrace your deepest emotions as a signal of your true human essence!”

 

Sooooo nice to be back in front of my altar. Picked this gem this morning from #goddessguidance. Thought I’d share.

#lilavinyasa #kalisisters

Choosing the right yoga class

Vinyasa yoga teacher training

Choosing the right yoga class

So, you’ve decided to try yoga. 

You proceed to check out studios in your neighborhood and if you live in a big city, chances are, there are many options. Which option is right for you?

One of the most common comments that I hear from new students is that they are overwhelmed by the choices. They wonder, what are the differences in styles?  Which one is best for me?

Most classes are ‘open’ level which means there is an assumption that you know the basics. If you can, take a basic/beginner class prior to going to an open level class.

One thing to know about yoga is that no matter the style, you will get a good stretch. Most practices focus on opening the muscles around the pelvis, i.e. hips, hamstrings and quadriceps.

Picking a style has more to do with, how would you like your stretch packaged?

Here are some of the more popular styles, with their pros and cons respectively. Bear in mind, classes can range depending upon the teacher. I recommend trying a few different teachers out before making a decision on whether or not the style works for you.

Hatha Yoga
This is the least consistent style in that it can differ from teacher to teacher. Generally, it’s a slow moving class that incorporates breath work (pranayama), poses (asanas) and meditation. Classes start with breath work then go into the physical part, ending with meditation. Most classes take the time to open all major parts of the body, hips, back, shoulders, legs and arms.
This is a yin (mellow) style.

Pros:
For beginners: It moves slower than any of the other more yang (high energy) styles, so it can be easier to follow along.
For those suffering from lower back pain: Because this is a slow moving class, you can take the time to be aware of how each pose is affecting the lower back region.
For Type A personalities and those suffering from stress related disease: Hatha yoga focuses on creating an quiet, contemplative atmosphere. This helps relieve tension, relaxes the body and quiets the mind.
For ‘older’ people (50s & 60s): Since it’s a slower paced class you can stay more mindful of your how you’re body is moving through space so the likelihood of injury is smaller.

Cons:
Since it’s slower paced, some people get ‘bored’.

Hot/Bikram
This a practice done in a heated room, usually at 105 degrees Fahrenheit. In Bikram, it’s a set series of 26 poses that focuses on back bends and hamstring opening. In hot, the sequence can vary.
They both incorporate breath work at the beginning and end of each class. This is a yang (high energy) practice.

Pros:
For beginners: Since Bikram is a set series, you can measure your progress from class to class, which is encouraging for beginners.The transitions from pose to pose are slow, so people can follow along easily.  
For Type B personalities: Since it’s very heating, it can be very energizing.
For those with wrist injuries: Most of the series is done standing so there is little to no weight on the wrists.
For those looking to cardio: Since it’s so warm, your heart rate increases.
It’s great in the winter because it warms your body for the whole day.

Cons:
People with low blood pressure have been known to faint from the heat.
Dehydration occurs often. Hydrate prior to and as soon as you leave. You can loose a lot of electrolytes when you sweat that much.
Since you’re looking in the mirror the whole practice, I find people are much more competitive and are less likely to listen to what their body needs. This is when injury can occur.
*If you suffer from hamstring injuries avoid this practice, a lot of the practice is geared towards hamstring lengthening.
I find that set series practices generates an attachment to the series and a rigidity that ‘this is the only way’. Be hip to this mindset, it can limit your spiritual practice.

Ashtanga
Like Bikram, this style is based off a set series. All classes start with sun salutations. It goes through a standing series, forward folds, back bends, twists and inversions. It’s a very yang (high energy) practice that can move quite quickly. Ashtanga incorporates the use of bandhas (locks/engagement of the pelvic floor and lower abdomen) and breath work (pranayama) throughout the whole practice.

Pros:
For Type B personalities: Since the practice is constantly moving, it is a very energizing class.
For those suffering from stress related disease: Ashtanga is a set series, repetition can be very meditative. If you know where you’re going, you don’t have to focus as much on the external shapes and some people feel it takes them deeper into a meditative state.
For those looking to build strength: Ashtanga focuses on engaging the pelvic floor and lower abdomen throughout the whole practice, cultivating a strong core. There are many half vinyasas (plank, chaturanga, up dog), this helps build biceps and triceps.  
For those looking for cardio: Since these practices are continually moving, the heart rate increases.
There’s a lot of movement at the beginning of the class but the last half is usually slower and contemplative so it give students a taste of two both kinds of meditative states (moving and stillness).

Cons:
The practice generally moves at a faster pace, so if you have a hard time learning new things I would recommend taking a Hatha class or beginner workshop prior.
If you are dealing with lower back pain and are new to the practice, I don’t recommend this style. Since it is more fast paced, you cannot move with as much integration.
This practice is very hamstring lengthening focused, if you are looking to for more quadriceps and outer hips openers, so this may not be a beneficial practice.
I find that set series practices generates an attachment to the series and a rigid mentality that ‘this is the only way’. Be hip to this mindset, it can limit your spiritual practice.

Vinyasa/Power
These two styles were born out of Ashtanga. They flow through poses as Ashtanga does but the sequence varies depending upon the lineage of teacher. Most classes create sequences based on a peak pose that is done at the end of the standing series. Power tends to be a more fiery style since it usually has you holding intense poses while vinyasa flows through poses more. These are both yang (high energy) practices.

Pros:
For those looking to build strength and cardio: As it’s predecessor Ashtanga, these two focus on using the bandhas throughout the practice building core strength. There are also many half vinyasas (plank, chaturanga, up dog), helping to build biceps and triceps.  Since these practices are continually moving, the heart rate increases.
For Type B personalities: Since the practice is constantly moving, it is a very energizing class.
For those with tight hips, lower back and hamstrings and no pain: The standing series focuses on opening and strengthening the quadriceps and hamstrings while weight bearing. The floor sequences usually have hip openers, twists and hamstring openers that are a bit more passive.
There’s a lot of movement at the beginning of the class but the last half is usually slower and contemplative so it give students a taste of two both kinds of meditative states (moving and stillness).

Cons:
The practice generally moves at a faster pace, so if you have a hard time learning new things I would recommend taking a Hatha class or beginner workshop prior.
If you are dealing with lower back pain and are new to the practice, I don’t recommend this style. Since it is more fast paced, you cannot move with as much integration

Yin/Restorative Yoga
This practices differs from most other styles in that it focuses on stimulating the connective tissue (ligaments, bones and joints) versus muscles. The poses are held for 5 minutes each and the point is to soften into each pose, which takes time. The whole practice is done on the floor, sometimes with the help of props. Yin differs from Restorative which uses props throughout the whole practice. The idea of restorative is to be supported in each pose so there is no ‘work’ being done. This has a very calming effect.

Pros:
For Type A personalities and those suffering from stress related disease: Generally it’s taught later in the day and it’s a great way to unwind from the day and prepare for sleep. The slow movements are great for those who are new to body mind practices as well as for those who are used to moving very quickly. It also creates a more meditative state for the mind since there isn’t too much physical activity.
For those suffering from lower back pain: Most people who suffer from lower back pain have tight hamstrings, hips and a weak core. Yin yoga focuses on opening the the pelvis and strengthening the core.
For those with shoulder and wrist injuries: Most of the poses are done on the ground so there’s generally very little pressure upper body.

Cons:
This is not a great practice for those who are very flexible, they need less stretching and more strengthening of their muscles. If you are flexible and take a Yin class, focus on drawing in and up versus down and out.
Since it’s slower paced, some people get ‘bored’.

A few things to keep in mind when you go to class:
1)Let your teacher know of any injuries you may be working with
2)Let your teacher know if you are pregnant and what trimester you’re in
3)Sit in the middle of the room. We don’t always face forward and if you’re sitting in the back you won’t be able to see the transition or how to do the the next pose. Sit in the middle so you have people on all sides of you.
4)Keep an open mind and be patient with yourself.
5)Rest whenever you need to. Never feel pressured to do anything that you think may hurt your body.
6)If a teacher physically adjusts you and it hurts, let the teacher know. If you’re uncomfortable, write an email to the studio. Feedback is so important.

 

 

PS.

Practice yoga online with me or catch me at my next yoga event

 

 

Modern Yogis

Clara Roberts Oss yoga teacher

This is an article By Krys Hansen

Modern Yogis – Clara Roberts-Oss

 

I may be a yoga teacher but there are days when I just want to follow someone’s else’s lead for my yoga practice… Which is why I love online yoga studios such as Clara’s practice yoga online site.

It was using My Yoga Online that I discovered Clara’s classes and I just fell in love with the strong and playful sequencing. Her classes are challenging, and the transitions are often creative. It wasn’t too long before her classes were the only ones I had saved to my watch list. I am so excited to be featuring her as a Modern Yogi as I believe her playful and yet spiritual approach to the practice is the perfect approach in our society.

How long have you practiced yoga, and how did you start?

I studied dance in school but didn’t appreciate the competitive nature of the dance community. I’ve always felt that dance was my way of communing with the Divine. A good friend found the Jivamukti Yoga studio in NYC and thought I would love it, which I did. It was all the aspects of dance that I loved minus the competition. That was 13 years ago.

Share three lessons yoga has taught you.

Just three? The practice has taught me so much!

Be kind to yourself. Let go of judgements because it doesn’t serve or make it any easier.

Less is more. This has been a big one for me. On a physical level, learning to move from my energetic body versus my physical body has been transformational. Exert less energy and all of a sudden you’re more grounded, feel less fatigued and the practice is much more meditative. Off the mat, when you exert less you are able to observe more. You’re able to step back and see the bigger picture easier–so that means being less reactive and more responsive. It’s been a game changer! Mind you, it’s always a work in progress.

Stay inspired. Do things on/off the mat that truly uplift you because guess what? It’s all yoga. All things can give you a deeper connection to the yourself and Self, if your intention is clear. I used to think it was just what happened when I was on my mat but not anymore.

How often do you practise?

Asana? Four times a week depending upon how much I’m teaching. If I have a full schedule (16-20 classes a week) then I practice asana less, to conserve energy. I do more pranayama and meditation to even it out. I try to do something daily to connect to myself and Self.

Do you meditate?

Yup! One of my favorite things to do. Gets me grounded and clear.
What do you find most challenging about yoga or meditation?

Making the time when I’m traveling. It’s harder to maintain the routine when you’re in transit.
Your favourite yoga pose and why.

Ooooh, this changes every 3-6 months. Right now, it would be halasana/ plough. It’s been great for taking my awareness inside. My back body has also been asking for a lot more opening lately.

Name one book that changed your perspective.

Hmmm… again a tough one. There have been so many. What I’m rereading right now and LOVING is Paths to God by Ram Das. It’s his lectures on the Gita at the Naropa Centre. A ton of gems in there.
The other book that comes to mind is, Tantric Quest by Daniel Odier. I found this to be the most comprehensive book on Tantra. After reading it, I was able to go back to the other books on Tantra and have a better grasp of them.

Best piece of advice?

Stay open, let go of preconceived notions of yourself, what the practice is suppose to be about and life, in general. The surprises and the ‘ah has’ come when you let go of expectations. The hard part, it’s easier said then done.

 

 

Dios muertos

dia de los muertos

Dios muertos, a national holiday in Mexico (Nov 1-4th) when people reflect on those who came before. A beautiful time to celebrate those who have paved the way for us. Our ancestors of blood lineage as well as spiritual, our parents for initiating us into this incarnation and those who have been teachers to us.

It got me thinking this year…since moving back to my hometown, I keep seeing past incarnations of myself on the street. ‘As a teenager, I used to hang out in this park. As a vegan, I loved that restaurant. When I was goth…’, the list goes on. I’ve been reflecting on those many beings in this incarnation that have lived on these streets and I’m so thankful to all of them, fore their choices got me to where I am today.

To my grandmother for loving me as only a grandmother can.

To one of my great spiritual teachers, Constantine Darling, for sharing his wealth of experiences with us in a one of the most magical places on earth, the Grand Canyon.

To my teenage self for going out there and saying ‘Yes’.

Mucho Gusto.  
Hari Aum

 

PS.

Practice yoga online or catch me at my next yoga event

To see my latest playlists follow me on spotify

 

 

 

The Intentional Creativity Movement

Creativity Movement

I feel that we are all creative creatures. Some of us explore that aspect of ourselves more than others. Here’s a beautiful article about how we can change our stories/experiences through drawing. I found it here.

What is the Intentional Creativity Movement? 

We are a tribe of creative beings causing our own movement in art and image created with intention. I have worked in this creative technology for close to twenty years and thousands of women have participated in this work through making their own images and stories. A gathering is happening….the image of the feminine is changing in our own hands. A movement can happen when a quantum mass of people begin to gather and create around a specific theme or intention. Here is a little about about the story of Intentional Creativity as taught in the Color of Woman Method through Cosmic Cowgirls University. We call this style of painting – Contemporary Symbolism.

It all begins with a story, just like everything does.

I believe that story lives in image inside of our memory banks. So when we experience trauma or beauty, it ‘lives’ there and can be replayed by us by choice, and also not by choice. The ways memories rise for us is often out of control and we form negative thought patterns around these loops, which over time get even more ingrained in us. Like a groove that we keep falling into even though at some subconscious level, we know the groove is there. Because trauma can get stored not only in the spirit memory but also in the body memory, it becomes patterned into us in ways that we have very little control over.

For the stories to change how they live in us, we have to change how they live inside of us, how they are stored and how we relate to them. Talking about them through therapeutic tools is powerful and healing and has given a voice to the unspeakable stories. However, many of the stories, although related to differently than before because they were honored by the one who experienced them, witnessing and sharing them out loud – still many of the stories don’t change their domination over us. A lot of the grooves of how our old stories work are connected with how our brains work, which we are still discovering how to consciously communicate with through choice instead of random access. What if more than ‘talking’ and processing about it needed to happen in order to heal the trauma – to ‘change’ how the story lives inside of us.

How do we change our story?

We need to change our relationship to the story physically, spiritually and through ‘form’. The memory was created through witnessing and experiencing a form based incident – it was physical. So to change how it ended up ‘storing’ itself inside of us, we need to  have access to all three levels. Physical body- meaning our own form and where the story is lodged, Spirit Memory – meaning the way the story lives inside of the spirit of that human, and through the creation of a new story in the physical world – meaning the actual space and time continuum where the incident occurred,  where the story ‘happened’ which is what the brain and body use as their mechanism to form their patterns. Again, we have very little ‘choice’ as to where and how the experience lives in us. So how to get the story changed in the physical world becomes our missing piece in healing story by story trauma which over time creates an overall wholeness experience. The individual gets access to the stories that have shaped them, and their beliefs and they begins to be able to ‘narrate’ in the future, how story lives in them from now on, how an incident is stored up and handled by the body-mind-spirit connection. But also, they get to go back and deal with each of the primary stories of hurt and breakthrough so that they can more intimately work with the wounds, which often become tools.

Image is the way to change the story. But not just image that you see, that is a part of it. If a woman experiences a physical assault, images of women victims will trigger her own wound – this we know. If she sees an image of a woman of power, she can gather strength from that image to rise from her own story. This only takes her so far.

How this began in a therapist’s office

In the beginning of my career as an artist I worked with a woman therapist who worked in the mental health department asked me to photo copy images of my drawings so that she could share them with her clients who had experienced sexual trauma. She said there were no image references for them to use to ‘heal’ their images of themselves as wounded. I transferred the images onto stones, and she would lend out the stones to the women clients and have them apply the stone to their body in the place where they hurt. This was just the beginning of a movement that has now spanned close to twenty years.

After much urging from her, I created my first Coloring Book, Color of Woman and the therapists went wild, I could not keep the copies in stock. I had painted and signed each cover so it was personal from me and off they went to do their work. At the time I didn’t know that ‘coloring’ could break a psychotic loop, the books are now used in lock down facilities for women in the psyche ward, it helps them stop the pattern they get into that they cannot get out of themselves.  In addition to increase the ability to memorize. I began to wonder if they colored in a breast or a hip with ‘love’ for themselves. were they memorizing a new relationship to that part of them?

How making our own image is healing

Further on down the road I began to be ‘asked’ by moms to teach their daughter and children. I began to see the results of working with a feminine image that they created themselves, regardless if it was perfect or pretty – they identified with it as being ‘them’ and their self image began to shift.  Over time and thousands of books and students later I studied the trends and patterns that I witnessed in my students both on line and in person and discovered what I consider to be breakthroughs in the arena of how are can be a tool for healing. We have known this for a very long time and still in some ways we are at the forefront of just how powerful this could be in the recovery process. When we are hurt, our image of ourselves is altered and it is a long road, as anyone in the self help or healing worlds knows, from: I don’t feel good enough or I am ashamed to – I feel like myself. Long long road that becomes not a destination, but the path of life itself for all of us who are committed to healing and becoming awake in our lives.

So if making our ‘own images’ could help us change the internal image of how we view ourselves within, might that change how we relate to negative external images and how we let those images inform our view of ourselves and what we purchase and what relationships we have and how we treat our body – how we walk in the room and take up space is based on images we have seen and experience visually and physically. As beings of ‘sight’ our perception of who we are is informed greatly by what ‘see’ out there, which shapes how we ‘see’ internally and then how we see ourselves, but we have largely been just a bystander of how this seeing works. Having very little clue, no matter how smart or enlightened to work with how we structure this human design to recive informational stimulus from outside of us and how we let that inform our internal experience of ourselves – which informs all of our choices. Our story of ourselves, who we experience ourselves AS is what creates our life – if we don’t believe we deserve love we allow ourselves to suffer with less love. If we believe we deserve to be loved, we will continue to look until that feeling in us matches an experience of that.

Many of the images of the feminine are representative of women that we do not identify with, and yet since those are the icons of ‘what to be’ our chance of knowing how to shift that is rather intellectual – and most of us do not succeed in not comparing ourselves to other women. In addition the images of the feminine that existed for the past 50,000 years have often been hidden from our view and for many years we didn’t even know that there were images of the Goddess previous to the past 5,000 or so years. The movement of the ‘divine feminine’ has gone a long way in helping us to see ourselves as included in the creation. Even though we give birth we still needed to SEE the images of the Goddess to see that has life-giving enough to identify with it as powerful part of who we are.

There are several things that happen when a woman begins to create her own images. First remember, that almost all of us created when we were little children, crayon and paper was not just given to those who showed a propensity for creativity, they were given to all children so at some core level there is an understanding deep in the culture of our people that little people should experience drawing, which we do long before written language, it is our first language beyond sight and sound, that we make ourselves that is not really in response to anything external, as we are not drawing, a house out there, we are making scribbles on a paper, however incomprehensible in the beginning, that are our own language. I have worked with children and asked their parents to let me do their first drawing class when it was time for them to move beyond the marks on paper stage – I take their little hand and draw a circle over and over and then they do it, over and over and their experience of having control from within, begins with that connection point. This occurs differently than having them draw something outside of themselves to which they can notice it is not really ‘like that’. Teaching internal referencing can be profoundly powerful for the development of the individual teaching them how to lead with the right brain instead of the left as the origin of a particular action.

Is this just spiritual stuff or is it more than that?

We all know that the right brain and left brain function at different levels and capacities. Most of us are left brain dominant with some right brain sprinkled in. To change that and include more of the flow and image and color and light and insight of the right brain we have to choose consciously. The left brain thinks nothing of using the right brain in service to the desire of the left to make shape into form that makes sense and fits the boxes it needs to in order to sustain structure. While the right brain doesn’t always know it needs to connect to the left brain to make it’s thoughts and dreams manifest – hence why it is so hard to change our patterns even though we so desire it and how hard it is to create a life that reflects who we are. The right needs to learn how to include the gifts of the left, but to employ that we have to consciously choose how to use the right brain – to ask it to employ the left brain gifts in service to it’s dreams instead of the other way around. It is helpful to think of the voice inside of us when thinking about right and left and to imagine that the critic lives in the lift hemisphere and the muse dwells in the right. When the Muse is given the power to employ the left  the choices and results are different and often more balanced with the soul desire, and sustainability of that human.
There is a lot of neuroscientific backing to these thoughts, connected with how the brain works and functions so that we can study it and talk about it. Most of all, that we have the capacity to learn how it functions just enough to participate in how we seen and think and therefore act upon our lives. Through giving image and language of our own story we begin to understand what role we might have in the work of authoring our own future instead of just being at the effect of a life happening “to us.”

Working with art to transform our stories involved a process not dissimilar to transference. It is helpful in this case to think about a talisman – the creator of the talisman is literally ‘transferring’ their energy INTO the physical object. When something is transferred, there is an open space in the psyche.

When we create with intention we are making: Talismans

Talisman is from the root word in Greek teleo which means “To Consecrate”. The meaning of it has to do with the person who makes it, charging it with powers, blessings, healings through choice. They are charging it up, in essence, with prayer, hope, and dreams. Legend has it that the more specific one is with what they put into the creation of the ‘thing’, the form, the more direct the response is from the Divine. So often it is used in manifestation, calling in or awakening that which we choose to bring to our attention. The process can create an opening in us. Then we have access to information that we did not have before. Just as significant as that is – is the concept of transference. That we could MOVE a mind-body-spirit based story ONTO a physical surface (canvas) with the intention of changing how that story image lives in us. Finally, there is some psychic space around the gripping patterned synapses that have been living within us for so long.

The making of Talisman/Taliswoman is different than making an idol of something, as we are not worshipping what we made or confusing the thing with the divine. The act of making it itself, is what makes the opening happen in the universe for the information, the in-form-action to come through and is what brings our awareness into alignment and harmony with what it is we are choosing to focus on. It is not uncommon in the act of creation, whether that be a song or a dance or a painting or a sculpture or a soup or a garden or a necklace, for us to receive information, be in-formed by the process because we are focusing and paying attention with our deep listening. In anticipation we seek to be informed.

Bringing our intention to the canvas

This kind of working is called intentional creativity and asks that you bring your story to the canvas and into the canvas. We always begin a painting with an overarching intention. Then each step is a revelation in both consciousness and in design that creates the breakthrough, they just begin to happen there in the subconscious without efforting. The effort becomes the act of creating and is driven from another place within us that all of us have, the desire to express ourselves, to be seen and heard and loved, to belong to ourselves and to each other. When we create we are often creating from this place whether we know it or not. The choices to create with intention sets our brain into the track to access and employ memory and longing but we don’t then have to dominate the breakthrough  – it happens organically being carried by the original intention coupled with the creative actions that are based ultimately in movement, since we are moving when we add paint to a canvas. Connecting your intention, is like finding a clear signal on a radio that is tuned to a specific frequency that opens channels to the subconscious and unconscious that we are ready to deal with. The layers of consciousness then yield up into the creative process that which needs to be worked with next. Layer by layer new space is created. Once the story is transferred to canvas it lives inside of us differently – the way it used to operate is now dis-lodged and we can consciously choose what to do to work with the space we have now cleared up inside of our internal story pattern.

What is fascinating is that creating art is always good for us – but whether or not it is truly healing, because our brain and body choose to engage in that healing process, is through one specific thing. Our choice to engage ourselves in a conscious act of creating, instead of just creating. Many artists don’t experience their art as healing, although many would call it cathartic or life saving. Still, their capacity to use it as a tool to know oneself is dependent on one’s intention to do so – that is why we call it intentional creativity.

My own origin of intentional creativity began with a day in the studio of the Master Artist, Sue Hoya Sellars. I was wedging clay and complaining about how hard it was, how many bubbles, how many stones and how my hands were hurting. She is a chop wood and carry water teacher an so we had spent a long time digging that clay and mixing it to make our own. I just wanted to throw a put not make clay out of the mountain. As I complained, without looking up from stirring her tea she replied – you have to put your intention into what you are doing. She asked me, what is it that you truly care about. I said, I care about ending violence against women and children. She said, PUT that desire into the clay as you wedge. My whole life changed in that moment. I was set upon my path at the age of 23 catalyzed from that moment after a lifetime of my mother teaching me how to choose how I view the world and what my experience of it would be. And so I was trained and ready to have that thought about putting my intention into my work transforming not only how I worked but how it felt to work, and not only that changed the outcome of what was created, and the purpose that thing held and what its vibration was.

And so this is how this movement moves, one woman at a time. Through putting the tools of creation in her very hands.

Shiloh Sophia

 

 

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My Love Letter to Vancouver

Love Letter to Vancouver

Before I go

 
Before I go, I just wanted to say how happy I am that we’ve met, how much you’ve changed me.
Before I arrived I was tightly wound. I had been living in knots and was unsure how to untie them.
You taught me to let go,
You taught me to soften,
You taught me to listen.
 
Before I go, I want to thank you.
I never knew sangha until I met you.
I never imagined how much I could grow with just a little water (8 months worth) and a whole lotta kula.
You have changed this path, my path.
You have given me the grace to dive deeper and to share what I found with you.
 
Before I go, I just want to say how happy I am that we met.
You did not come off as welcoming but as soon as we broke the ice, I was met with open arms. You grew to hold me in such a deep, rich and, loving way. 
Your gave me the courage to fly!
 
Before I go, I just wanted to thank each and all of  you for showing up these past 7 years.
For showing up to the 6:30am, the 10am, 2pm, 4pm, 6pm and, all the other times we played together.
For being open to exploring this practice with me.
Our greatest teachers are those who hold us accountable, and that you did.
 
Every time we show up to our mats, may we remember those who came before us, those who have walked with us and those we are walking for.
 
Hari Aum Tat Sat

 

PS.

Practice yoga online with me or catch me at my next yoga event

To see my latest playlists follow me on spotify