Autumn asks that we turn inward. As we enter the colder months, we might use this time to reflect on the months past and the final months of the year ahead. The outer environment’s darkness provides space to focus on our inner landscape to see how and where we may shift to discover a more profound sense of alignment. Alignment occurs when we come into an agreement within and with the world around us. Alignment is possible when we move from a space of integrity; when we ask questions and examine our lifestyle to see whether or not we’re moving in the direction we intended. Alignment also means receiving change. When we’re open and receptive to the changes in the world around us, we come into harmony with the universe.
Nature is symbolic of inner transformation. The transition into fall symbolizes a season of harvest and of letting go. Resisting the swift shift into the next phase results in inner turmoil; what we resist, persists. Witnessing the cycles of the seasons is a practice of reception and allows events to sweetly unfold with a sense of surrender and assurance that all things come to pass.
The breath is one way yogis work with the process of letting go; the inhale is the inspiration and creation, while the exhale represents death and surrender. In Indian mythology, the deities represent specific energies that contribute to the cycles of change. The Tridevi and the Trimurti, specifically, express the cycles of Creation, Preservation, and Destruction, which are all necessary to the evolution of the universe.
Clara and I interviewed Sara Jade, or SJ, to discuss how we celebrate nature’s cycles and how to use ritual to create alignment and inner harmony. Sara is a Kundalini teacher and co-owner of The Dharma Temple living in Vancouver, BC. “My life is a spiritual practice. My breath, body emotions, and environment create my sacred space. I hold what I have with deep respect and reverence. I love and nurture through cycles of joy and grief.” – Sara Jade.
SJ is offering an Inner Harmony Workshop with tools and practices to shift into Autumn. At Practice with Clara, we launched a 30-Day Yoga Challenge, Feed Your Whole Self, for October. Feed Your Whole Self is a ritual to explore the many ways we feed ourselves spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Ritual, sacred space, and ceremony come in many forms, so we hope to introduce members in the challenge to a wide assortment of tools and practices in hopes that something will align and encourage a state of groundedness as we shift into the darkness.
Introducing Sara Jade and the Inner Harmony Workshop
Inner Harmony is meant to be a supplementary practice for autumn with videos that include breath and movement. I provide simple tools that have worked for me to offer that individuals may choose what they want and practice when and how they want. It’s more of an offering to create your ritual. I share what my practices look like and how to do them, but there’s no set way to do it. I wanted this workshop to be more about exploring the shift of seasons and discovering your intuition, so finding what works for you and making it your own.
One way I honor the shift into fall, and something that I offer students is to slow down. To allow yourself to turn more inward and notice the stark contrast between the extroverted summer energy and what we’re experiencing now.
I’ve started to consolidate and revisit some of the things I shelved during summer. My practices have slowed down. As far as breath, I’ve been doing a lot of Nadi shodhana, alternate nostril breathing, and longer exhales. Longer exhales to calm and come into rest and digest.
This program, overall, really asks the practitioner to honor what serves. Much of my work is a practice of surrender, acknowledging what I can do to ground and stay connected. I wanted to provide a space for others to step into their ceremony of self to rediscover ritual and sacred space.
Follow Sara Jade on Instagram, @radianceandritual
Honoring the cycles in the practice
SJ—Much of what was offered in The Dharma Temple reflects my practices, which use Ayurveda and working with the elements. My approach is reflective of the cycles we see in the seasons and how they shift and change. Inner Harmony embraces the aspect of living with the seasons and aligning with the cycles, the cycles being life and death, and everything in between.
CRO—In terms of Indian philosophy, from the Hindu Pantheon, the cycles of life are presented in the form of deities. There’s the masculine aspect with the Trimurti and the feminine aspect with the Tridevi. In the Trimurti, we have Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu. In the Tridevi, we have Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Durga. Each of the deities represents a part of the universe; they represent the beginning, middle, and end.
Brahma and Saraswati represent the creation of the universe, Vishnu and Lakshmi represent the preservation of the universe, and Shiva and Durga represent the destruction of the universe. For the universe to exist, we need all three.
When we work with the deities in yoga or mindfulness practices, we ignite these different aspects within ourselves. In the creation, we bring in new energy to start new projects or relationships; in the preservation, we develop the ability to sustain whatever it is we’re moving through; and in the destruction, we energetically shed whatever it is that’s holding us back.
We’re moving from the light into the darkness. This period is a time for introspection and an opportunity to go inside and observe what’s there and what needs to be harvested and what needs to die.
The other question I like to chew on, is what is my role in all of the chaos? What is my relationship to what’s going on inside me, and what’s going on globally for us as a collective? We all play a part in the events that occur. There’s so much happening right now; there are so many shifts occurring in the world at large. I’m asking myself what I want my role to be and how I want to create change inside my household and community.
And then the next question is, what do I want my role to be? And, and how do I want to create
Space for ceremony and tea as the teacher
SJ—Tea ceremony came into my life about four years ago. The first time I sat, I felt so calm. I love tea ceremony for its simplicity; it serves everyone. If you go into anyone’s home, there’s a chance that you’re going to be served a cup of tea, and it’s this beautiful gesture of generosity from the heart.
Tea has this innate quality as being the teacher. There is no hierarchy; that’s what I love about tea. There’s no one person on the podium leading the practice. It’s just leaves in a bowl of water that’s served, so we are working with the elements and connecting to nature. That’s a teaching if you know how to sit with it and read it and be receptive to the experience.
When we opened The Dharma Temple, I had a toddler and was very busy with being a mom and the studio. I had to wear many hats, and sometimes, I wouldn’t make it to my mat or even to meditation. I struggled to balance my inner energies, the masculine and feminine, one being more focused and achievement-based, while the latter is a state of intuition and ease. The way that I began to rebalance these energies within me was through tea. Tea was a powerful instrument for me to slow down and take more time and space for myself; to tune into my receptivity and the softer, feminine space.
Tea ceremony is similar to a Zen-style meditation. It’s silent, and you do one thing at a time. You pick something up in one hand and pass it to the other hand before setting it down on the table. It’s a very intentional, mindful practice, and also very engaged. It also works with spiral energy as you serve others, you move in circles from the heart coming in and out. So you’re really connecting with your guests in a shared experience. I fell in love with it. It was what I needed and is still a huge piece of my day and who I am.
Many things take our energy, and we really need to simplify and take a good look at what we’re doing and all we have. I like to ask myself, what am I really grateful for in this space right now? Tea ceremony made me more aware of the spaces around me; it opened me up to healing. Tea is the teacher, and it prompted me to examine how if things are not adding to my life, they’re taking away. So I ask you, where in your life do you feel that things are not adding to what you want to create?
How we create sacred space
SJ—Ceremony to me is a means to induce a change of state, almost like a marker to reflect the change of state. The process of ceremony is like you come in on one side, and then you’re not the same on the other when the ceremony ends. That’s a yoga class; if you can use the act of stepping onto your mat as a ceremony, and once the class has ended, you’ve changed your present state from how you felt at the beginning of class.
Sacred space for me, is where you claim it. It’s similar to the space I create for the tea ceremony; it’s all in the intention you bring to the space. Ceremony is sacred as it creates a transition in the day, that moment when we decide that whatever our actions will be, are sacred. It’s as simple as that, really. I don’t think there needs to be incense or bells; it’s about the moment that you create for yourself. The moment is sacred because you’ve carved out the time and space and set the intention. The intention being to transition from the mundane to the sacred.
CRO—I feel like it’s a decision, the decision to shift gears. It’s the biggest one for me to shift my mindset, and this generally starts for me with a deep breath. I make the decision, close my eyes, and take a deep breath, and as I exhale, I envision I’m letting go of the mundane and what came before. I focus on letting go to bring myself to the present moment. Sometimes it involves lighting a candle.
I like to burn something in the room and envision that the smoke is literally clearing away the room’s energy. Before I teach my morning intensives or teach a training, I’ll burn something as a way to clear. I think the way that we start creating sacred spaces is through the decisions we make, through the breath, and then through clearing the space in some way, shape, or form.
SJ—Energy sweeping is another way to clear, through physically sweeping the room with a broom or energetically sweeping the body by brushing the arms and legs. This is a way to prepare before stepping into the sacred.
CRO—Sacred space is a decision; I think the biggest takeaway for listeners is that sacred space is a decision you make that you can take with you anywhere. It’s in the way you wash dishes, eat food, or walk down the street.
The idea of the sacred is to come to the present moment. To arrive here and now, and allow everything else to fall away just for a little while.
On letting go with grace
SJ—By nature, I want to hold on. I love my people. I love my things. I really savor those things. I can really speak to the letting go and letting go of the physical space of Dharma temple; that’s the largest piece that I had to let go of recently and was a big loss. Dharma Temple represented a creative portal that I poured my energy into for the last four years. It was a container for the community. With the way things shifted and ended due to the pandemic, it was so abrupt; there was so much to let go of all at once.
When we let things fall, it’s like the leaves fall to the trees being supported by the earth. And I hold onto that image, that the earth is there for you and we are supported. The practice is to let go and have trust, to surrender to the process, and be held for a time. There will be a time to regenerate and create something new, but letting go comes first and we have to rest when it does. Receive the rest and digest represented in the fall and winter; the letting go is expressed in nature’s cycles.
I feel like I’ve got the sustenance, I’ve got the nourishment that I need to go forward with respect to letting go.
Grief is not linear. Grief needs continuous movement. It comes up at weird times, and I haven’t had the opportunity, like many others, to visit community spaces to share the grief we carry. There’s still a lot of grief around letting go of the Dharma Temple. There’s still more to let go, so I’m continuing to move through that.
New yoga class
Unwind with a hip-focused class to treat the legs and pelvis; this class brings length and ease to the adductors, hamstrings, and glutes. Fluid and slower-paced, this class features rhythmic movement using the arms and legs to stimulate the flow of prana (breath) through the body. Stay low to the ground for a reclined spinal twist flow, hip mandalas, and abdominal crunches. Come up to sit for Janu Sirsasana (head-to-knee forward bend) and a supported variation of Paschimottanasana (forward fold).