If you have not already heard, the retreat to Zion was EPIC! From start to finish. Our days were filled with yoga, meditation, hiking, unbelievable landscapes, pools and hot tubs, star gazing, delicious healthy meals, and FUN! The next retreat is already in the making – March 31 – April 7 2018 we are going to Belize! More info to be released later this week! Here are some photo highlights of this year’s retreat:
Latin root com = together in mind; prehendere = to grasp it, or pick it up
“To comprehend something means to pick it up and be one with it. There is no other way to understand something.” Thich Nhat Hanh
Latin root respectus; from the verb respicere = look back at, regard; consisting of re = back; specere = look at or look back
“Respect means to look again, to keep looking with increasingly sensitive eyes.” Zoe Slatoff-Ponte
From Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Heart of Understanding:
“When we want to understand something, we cannot just stand outside and observe it. We have to enter deeply into it and be one with it in order to really understand. If we want to understand a person, we have to feel their feelings, suffer their sufferings, and enjoy their joy.
If we are concerned with peace and want to understand another country, we can’t just stand outside and observe. We have to be one with a citizen of that country in order to understand her feelings, perceptions, and mental formations. Any meaningful work for peace must follow the principal of non-duality, the principal of comprehension [and respect]. This is our peace practice: to comprehend, to be one with, in order to really understand.”
It has been 8 1/2 months since I broke my arm, 6 1/2 since the cast came off. The doctors told me my arm would never be fully straight again. As a yogi and yoga teacher, my response was, “that is unacceptable!” My physical therapist told me otherwise. She said we will get it straight again.
There are two kinds of people represented above: those who see the impossible, and those who see endless opportunities. I could have taken what the doctors said and just given up my yoga practice, stopped teaching, gone back to a job that made me completely miserable, lived with a crooked arm. I chose to see space where there seemingly wasn’t. I worked every single day on getting my arm back to what it was. It wasn’t easy – there were definitely days when I felt like giving up. But now, 6 1/2 months later, my arm is almost perfectly straight (the last bit is inconsequential), I am back to my full practice, and even holding handstand longer than I was before I broke my arm!
The new calendar year allows for enormous possibility. It is a way to start fresh, see opportunity where maybe we didn’t before. As David Life says in this month’s focus at Jivamukti, “A new way of approaching the future is expanding what is possible rather than limiting it. There are actually a thousand different ways you can get to work instead of taking the same route each day.” We often get stuck in a pattern, doing the same thing over and over again because that is the way it’s always been, even if it means wallowing in misery. As Albert Einstein says, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity!”
Even though we have a calendar date of January 1st that tells us it’s time for a new start, really every breath that we take is a new moment to start over. Each breath is a brand new moment. With every inhale, our rib cage expands and our diaphragm lowers, creating space, and with each exhale we move deeper into that new expansiveness. With every inhale there is a moment to pause and think about what you are about to put into the world, and with every exhale is its result. If you tell yourself something is impossible, then it will be, but if you allow at least a little bit of space for something new, opportunities abound!
Happy New Year!!!
An opportunity for transformation in 2017:
Join me on what is sure to be a life-changing experience on a yoga/hiking retreat in Utah/Zion National Park! March 13th – 17th, details can be found here: infopacket. Put down a deposit by January 10th to reserve your spot at this pricing!
I am so excited to be leading a yoga/hiking retreat to Utah March 13-17! Details are below. For more detailed information, secure your spot or ask questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Full detailed information here: infopacket
It is hard to believe that Yoga People is closing after 18 years of service to the Brooklyn Heights Community. Yoga People will always hold a very special place in my heart, as this is where I started my own practice 8 years ago, where I met my first Jivamukti teachers, and where I have been teaching for the last three years.
I’ve recently added a new page to this website featuring my artwork. I am not trained in any way, other than taking classes in middle school and high school (the last time I took an art class was 1998!) I actually stopped drawing in 1998, and did not start again until 2012. In truth, what inspired me to start drawing again was complete boredom, which then led to actual inspiration from living life.
What are mostly drawings using pencil, colored pencil, and sometimes marker (with a few random mixed-media projects) are placed in four categories for right now: Wildlife, Drawings Inspired by Short Sweet Poems, Yogic Artwork, and Miscellaneous.
You can view the page here: Artwork or click on the tab above.
Sometimes there is this moment when I am in class, and the teacher holds a longer pause than usual before the second Om, and I’m waiting, and waiting, and almost want to start the next Om for them, because I just CAN’T wait! It’s like, is it now? Not yet? I want to Om!
But the thing is, that long pause is supposed to be there. There are four parts to the sound of Om: Aaaaah, Uuuuuu, Mmmmm, and the silence that comes after. And although hearing the sound of Om is special, hearing the silence and feeling the vibration is even more so. This is the sound of yoga.
I have two thoughts about this:
1)Many of us are always looking to the future. We just can’t wait for the next thing. The new spring line of clothing. The newest technology. The new season of Game of Thrones. Predicting what is going to happen on the new Game of Thrones. Rather than being in the present moment, we are always looking for the next best thing. This happens in an asana class also – thinking you know what is coming next in a sequence (because trikoṇāsana HAS to come before vīrabhadrāsana II, right?) Or being one step ahead of the teacher during sūrya namaskāra. I’m ready for the next Om! Where is it??
2) In discussing this with a friend, she also brought up the idea of not being able to handle the silence. Of being afraid of the silence. Of having a moment to actually hear your constant thoughts, or citta vṛttis. We live in an age of constant worry (about the past and future) and sustained din, especially if you live in an urban area (where there is worry and din.) If you don’t live in an urban area, there is still the always available and attention grabbing phones, music, tv, etc. For many, silence is scary. It is an unknown entity. Many are afraid of the unknown, and therefore try to predict the future (see #1. It’s all just a vicious circle.)
It is not a true silence we are seeking though. Well, eventually it is. But first, according to the Hatha Yoga Pradīpikā, we want to hear Nāda. I am not referring to the Spanish word that means nothing, but it’s a nice resemblance. Nāda is the sound of yoga, the sound of the universe, or essentially, Om. The Hatha Yoga Pradīpikā (HYP) is a book that outlines the physical practices that will allow us to achieve yoga. The idea of nāda does not appear until the very end of the book – saving the best for last right? All of the physical yogic practices that we do both in an asana class and outside in the “real” world, are to prepare us to hear nāda. Chanting Om gives us a little taste of what nāda is – especially that 4th part of om, the silence and vibration you feel after making the audible sounds.
In regards to eventually hearing nothing at all (nada in the Spanish sense!), the HYP also states that in Samādhi, not even Nāda is heard. With that, I’ll close with two verses from Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra:
PYS 1.1: atha yoga-anuśāsanam Now (right now! Not before or after! Now!) this is Yoga as I have observed it in the natural world.
PYS 1.2 yogaś-citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ Yoga is when the fluctuations of the mind cease to exist (I am paraphrasing.)
Don’t be afraid to be in the present moment. Don’t be afraid of the silence. Don’t be afraid to sit with the silence. To listen to the sound of silence. To FEEL the sound of yoga. SILENCE SPEAKS VOLUMES.
I am so honored and humbled to be featured as the “Teacher of the Quarter” at Jivamukti Yoga School. I had so much fun working with Connie and Russell, the photography duo know as Guzman. They are so perfect at what they do, and make the process so enjoyable. The photo that was chosen for the wall has another magical element to it – I was actually in the middle of chanting Samadhi Pada, the first chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, when they caught this shot. I’d like to think that it is the Sutras that really allows this photo to shine the way it does. You can see it in my eyes 😉
Some of the other photos from the shoot are below. I have multitudes of gratitude for all of my teachers, past and present, and to all the students of Jivamukti. Thank you.
PYS 1.28 taj-japas tad-artha-bhāvanam
By Chanting Om one realizes the meaning of Om.
PYS 1.29 tataḥ pratyak-cetanādhigamo ‘pyantarāyābhāvaś ca
From repetition of and reflection on Om, comes Cosmic Consciousness as well as destruction of physical and mental diseases.
Although our true Self is not the body and mind, we do have a body and mind, and are very often victims of disturbing thoughts or physical pain. It is the nature of the human form to feel this way sometimes, and it is often difficult to get past. Unfortunately it has become custom in our society to turn to “pain-killer” drugs or anti-depressants to deal with these issues, but there is a better way! According to Patanjali, all we have to do is chant Om!
Om (made up of four sounds: ahh-ooo-mmm, and silence), when chanted, vibrates throughout the body, starting in the abdomen, moving through the heart, and then finally through the skull. Om is the first sound that was, when the world was created, and it resonates in all that surrounds us. It is universal. It is boundless joy. We are “Om”.
In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Om is referred to as pranava, ever new, and each time it is said, you are re-newed, “brought into alignment again.” Repeatedly chanting Om will allow you to start fresh, wiping the slate clean of the pain we feel.
In PYS 1.29, Patanjali prescribes the repetition of Om as the cure for antarāya – blocks or obstacles; or rather, physical and mental diseases. He goes on to name these obstacles – sickness, dullness, doubt, carelessness, laziness, sexual preoccupation, error of perception, failure to be grounded, instability, and distractions of the mind. But how? What is it about Om that can cure these ailments? Well for one, Om is God (in whatever form that means to you), and if Om resonates in everything of this Earth, including us, then we are God too. When we chant Om, we are connected to everything and anything that is part of this earth, and eventually we realize we are the same as everything of this Earth. If we are all the same, then the pain and suffering we feel is unsubstantial. Unfortunately the mental and physical afflictions we feel prevent us from realizing this right away, or even realizing it in this lifetime. In order to become a Jivanmukta, one who becomes liberated, or enlightened, in this lifetime, one must realize that they are not the pain and suffering that they feel. Om can help us get there.
Om is also considered to be the most powerful of mantras. A mantra is a word or phrase that has “transcendental powers”, traversing, or protecting, the mind. When chanting Om, no other thoughts can break through. Any distractions are forgotten about. Om is like our own personal magical elixir that causes a shift in perception – the cure is inside of us. But the trick is to keep going, working at it, practice – pratyak means you relinquish going out – you want to turn back, but you keep going.
We often feel these physical and mental afflictions when practicing asana. Tightness in the hamstrings and hips, thoughts about something that happened earlier in the day, week, month, year. If we focus on the pain, it can become a burden, stopping us from becoming a Jivanmukta. But by chanting Om while in various asanas, it will allow the mind to stop focusing on the physical difficultness of the pose, maybe even make the pose easier. Om into the pain. Feel it vibrate through the body. Let the silence that comes after permeate through you. Feel the pulsation of the entire universe inside the body, and eventually realize that you are the entire universe. You are Om. You are God.