For everyone who has visited, commented, enjoyed, or given a cursory glance to this blog… Thank You.  I’ve changed venues (still WordPressing) and created something new… less wordy, more visual.  Still me.  I’m literally going to be moving in the next couple months so this virtual move is an easy precursor.  Stop over at asherdays.wordpress.com.  Sit down, grab a cup of tea.  There’s lots to see.

It’s a gorgeous day as I type this… but it’s also undeniably summer!  And along with sweltering heat, afternoon rainstorms, and lots of time spent in the pool, ocean, or river, I often equate this sultry season with it’s Food!  Think: corn on the cob and grilling with friends, cold watermelon, Rainer cherries (mmm, my favorites!), cold soups like Gazpacho, ice cream, salads with orange slices and strawberries….

Ok, now I’m hungry!!!  And that’s exactly why I’m writing this post today.  Can you imagine being a child and not having any of that yummy food to eat?  And it’s not because your parents don’t like watermelon… it’s because you are growing up in a low-income or homeless family that may not have enough money to feed you.

Devastating.

In our local community, there are children who are hungry.  And Bags of Hope Central Florida has addressed this need with a program to benefit homeless & displaced children called “FEED and READ”.  At school, these children receive a meal at lunchtime, but come Friday they may be heading “home” to a situation where there isn’t enough food to eat over the weekend.

The program works like this.  PART ONE is to FEED these children.  PART TWO is to strengthen their academics.  Bags of Hope of Central Florida has developed a care package to be given to these children on Friday afternoons, so that they will, a) have food to hold them through the weekend and into the following week, and b) have age-appropriate books for them to keep, as their very own, so they can continue learning outside of school.  The care package has been carefully planned considering the weight of its contents and nutritional value of the food included, as children will be carrying these care packages “home”.  There are so many children to help and Bags of Hope needs your help collecting the following items…

FOOD

Family size Mac n Cheese, Vienna sausage (can), tuna (can), chicken breast (can), cereal bars, Instant oatmeal packets, powdered milk packets, Ramen noodle packets, rice (16ox package), beans (dried or can), peanut butter (18 oz), fruit (can), crackers (small box), cookies (small box), ready to eat pasta meals (Chef Boyardee, etc), ham (canned), stew or chili (can), vegetables (can), fruit snacks, pasta/spaghetti sauce 

BOOKS

New or gently used children’s book (levels, Kindergarten to 7th grade)

Please help us support this amazing effort by bringing your donations to one of these locations:

Shine On Yoga, located at 619 N. Thornton Ave, Orlando FL, right across from Dandelion Communitea Cafe

* The Yoga Shala, located at 927 N. Pennsylvania Ave, Winter Park FL

* Everything Zen Yoga, located at 801 Woodbury Rd, Suite 101, Orlando FL

* Mindful Body of Maitland, located at 110 N. Orlando Ave, Suites 2 & 3, Maitland, FL 32751

Rasa-Lila Fest, on Sept 10th at The Pines at Windermere (3409 Maguire Rd)

OR become a Care Package Sponsor!

The care packages cost $10 per student.  You can sponsor a week’s worth or a single child’s worth depending on your budget.  All donations are tax deductible!  Any monetary donations should be made payable to:  Bags of Hope Central Florida (a registered 501(c)3 Non Profit Charity) and mailed to: P.O. Box 915732, Longwood, FL 32791 OR go onto their WEBSITE (www.bohcfl.com) to make an online donation.

The entire team of Bags of Hope Central Florida are volunteers and 100% of all donations go directly to feed the children!  Together we can make a difference in our local community and the lives of these children 🙂

THANK YOU IN ADVANCE FOR YOUR GENEROUS DONATION.

Why is it that we typically give the best of ourselves only to others?  Why not extend that same love and greatness to our own hearts and souls as well?

In the Level 3 class this week at Shine On Yoga (a HUGE shout out to Erica, Mel, Katie, Martha, Shallu, Marcela, Rose, Michelle, Ed, Faith, & Cheryl! y’all rock!), I read a favorite poem of mine called “The Truelove” by David Whyte.  I had written a line of this in my journal as a way of expressing my own seesaw feelings of faith and self-doubt…. and yet when I actually reviewed the poem before class I realized something had dramatically changed.  Instead of reading it as a love poem TO someone else, the words actually invited me into a profound sense of love and gratitude FOR myself.

Take a moment and savor the poem below…

Precisely in those moments when we feel low and unsure about ourselves, there waits an invitation to say “Yes”… to commit ourselves again and again, on and off our yoga mats, in and out of relationships with others, to accept the invitation to be our own Truelove.  As I read the poem with this new perspective, the extended hand, the one that belongs in mine, no longer represented someone else’s literal palm… it is my own life spark, my own heart inviting me, saying, “Let’s dance!”

This life, the sensual experience of being embodied, is meant to be savored and expressed and fulfilled, at least in the Tantrika’s philosophy.  Allowing my practice of yoga to uplift me and affirm my own goodness… this is one of the most inspiring ways I know of deepening my relationship with myself… learning to embrace the light and the shadow within.

Me and my heart… this is the most intimate relationship I will ever have.  As each of us empowers ourselves with self-acceptance and affirmation, we encourage others to do the same.  Be love!

The Truelove

There is a faith in loving fiercely
the one who is rightfully yours,
especially if you have
waited years and especially
if part of you never believed
you could deserve this
loved and beckoning hand
held out to you this way.

 I am thinking of faith now
and the testaments of loneliness
and what we feel we are
worthy of in this world.

Years ago in the Hebrides
I remember an old man
who walked every morning
on the grey stones
to the shore of the baying seals,

who would press his hat
to his chest in the blustering
salt wind and say his prayer
to the turbulent Jesus
hidden in the water,

and I think of the story
of the storm and everyone
waking and seeing
the distant
yet familiar figure
far across the water
calling to them,

and how we are all
preparing for that
abrupt waking,
and that calling,
and that moment
we have to say yes,
except it will
not come so grandly,
so Biblically,
but more subtly
and intimately in the face
of the one you know
you have to love,

so that when we finally step out of the boat
toward them, we find
everything holds
us, and confirms
our courage, and if you wanted
to drown you could,
but you don’t

because finally
after all the struggle
and all the years,
you don’t want to any more,
you’ve simply had enough
of drowning
and you want to live and you
want to love and you will
walk across any territory
and any darkness,
however fluid and however
dangerous, to take the
one hand you know
belongs in yours.

There are some times when it just feels good to dance.  You want a night out with friends to release the week, shake off tension from work, and literally unwind your body into rhythm and flow.

John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga, set “Dancing with the Divine” as the mantra and the rhythm for 2011, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  The “Divine” means our essence of Being, the presence within us… and aligning with it allows us to move according to our values and express our talents and gifts in a way that encourages us to reach towards our highest potential.

We are all watching and holding the space for the tragedy that has taken place in Japan.  And we are all affected by it.  But that doesn’t mean that we have to stop aligning ourselves with the Divine just because that is something that uplifts and empowers us. When we see someone whose life is more challenging than ours we shouldn’t have to pretend we don’t live a gifted and blessed life.  We do.  What “dancing” means is that we need to stay aligned even MORE closely with our Divine essence!  We must learn to weave into our experience the pain AND the radiance in order to continue to feel the rhythm and keep creating, keep connecting.

In the face of something unimaginable or a situation that we just don’t understand, can we open to the suffering it brings with compassion, generosity, and service?  And can we receive the news of financial donations, offerings, and assistance being flown in to this ravaged country with gratitude?  Rumi reminds us…

“Dance, when you’re broken open.
Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of the fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance, when you’re perfectly free.”

Situations like the one in Japan ask us to open to our own vulnerability.  To honor the confusion, fear, frustration, panic and sadness that arise when we experience something out of our control.  When I imagine something like this happening here in Orlando, I wonder, How well would I handle not having clean water, or electricity, or (gasp!) access to the Internet for long periods of time?  It seems silly but we are all used to these attributes of our lives and something like a natural disaster doesn’t call and ask first if this is a convenient time.

We don’t want to merely survive a challenge.  We want to meet the momentum of it, thrive even in the midst of it, and expand out of it in ways that leave us stronger and more resilient than before. Can I turn inward to my own strengths and courage so I can reach outward with a supportive hand?  And can I be thankful for the outward stability of my own daily life and start to internalize that steadiness?

Just like on a cloudy day we know that the Sun continues to shine brightly, on the other side of this horrible situation is the Divine to which we continually align.  In this moment, as we examine the pictures and videos streaming from another country, can we connect ourselves deeply with our brothers and sisters there, to offer what we can of ourselves, even a prayer… and continue to dance.

This song really gets me.  It’s simple… and it’s been playing in my iTunes for weeks now.  Honest.  Raw.  Go ahead and listen while you read the rest…

This past week, the theme in my classes has been pratyahara…. that sweet moment when we turn from distraction (outer form) to direction (inner guidance). Pratyahara is the process of “turning inward” and acts as the tipping point in our practice when we start to focus our energy on the Heart, both a reflection of our individual Light as well as the abundant and reflective Light of the Supreme Self.

We’re on a journey.  For each of us, it has a starting point… the house of beginning that sets the foundation through our family, through discipline, curiosity and growth.  Whether we can recall the pencil marks on the door jam that show we’re getting taller year after year, the familiar way the house smelled after we’d been away for awhile, or just the comfort of being in our own room, we can all feel what it’s like to go back home.  And sometimes “home” doesn’t have to mean our first house.  I envision a number of places where I gained wisdom, shot up like a weed on the inside as I gave myself valuable lessons on trust, relationships, cooking, living well with others and, at least for me… when to leave.

To continue on our path, to deepen our sadhana, a Sanskrit word meaning “that which leads straight to a goal”, implies first turning inward.  Soften the body and receive a breath.  Listen.  And recognize that this process is ever-evolving, ever-expanding.  The effort of the process is in deciding what direction we are taking ourselves: deeper into the material world of the ever-changing… or is it finally time for the Self?  To feel less like we’re in constant competition with others, and more like we’re welcome here, like we’re at home.  I think David Whyte puts it well:

“When one thing dies all things die together and must live again in a different way,
when one thing is missing everything is missing,
and must be found again in a new whole
and everything wants to be complete,
everything wants to go home…”

His poem, “What I Must Tell Myself” hints at a solution to what many of us do; we spend a lifetime worrying about what others think about us. We live lives bordering on co-dependency until we’re willing to break the pattern.  In the world around us, we can become distracted and try and locate “I” out there.  Even in our yoga practice, we can become enamored by the perfection of a posture and miss the subtle focusing power of Awareness waiting for our attention.

It’s time for the Self.  It’s time to turn inward, and go home.  Not in a way that transcends this life, but in a way that creates a deeper intimacy with all that is.  As Douglas Brooks says, “Grace is receiving the gift that we can’t give to ourselves.”  And our effort, of deciding on direction rather than distraction, of deciding to turn “home” towards the Self, puts us in a position to receive the warm, loving Light of the Divine.

Om Shanti~

Retreat dates: May 19 – 23, 2011

Lauren Gaines & Debra Corso invite you, with pranams and oms, to the Mountaintop Yoga Retreat at Hawkesdene House in Andrews, NC.  Set in the Snowbird range of the Smoky Mountains in western North Carolina (southwest of Asheville), this 26 acre “home away from home” is a serene spot for yoga and gathering the kula for a mountain vacation!

Our five day yoga retreat offers two yoga classes daily, lovingly prepared and plated meals (by our incredible hosts Rob and Phil!), lush landscaping and natural surroundings, elegant accommodations, satsang by the fire pit under the stars, and a unique llama trek up to the mountaintop.

Your choice of accommodation includes rooms in the Main House as well as one, two, and three-bedroom private cottages. While pricing is similar for each accommodation, please take a look at all choices as these are FIRST COME, FIRST SERVE 🙂

MAIN HOUSE

Amenities include comfy signature robes, an alarm clock with iPod dock, a hairdryer, and the Gilchrist & Soames collection of eco–friendly hair, bath and body products.

The “ZEN DEN” is a sweet, ground floor room that sleeps two. There is a king-size bed, reading chair, dresser, private bath with a shower, and access to the outside patio overlooking Phillips Creek. Perfect for someone looking for a solitary sanctuary or a couple to retreat to for some quiet time.  $850 per person. AVAILABLE



The “RADHA (and Krishna) REFUGE” is a ground floor room with two queen-size beds and dresser. This room sleeps up to four. The bath with shower is located just outside in the hallway close to the game room and there is access to the outside patio.   Sleep with the windows open and you can hear the beautiful lulling sounds of Phillips Creek!  $850 per person.  Double occupancy required.  AVAILABLE


The “PRANA PAD” is a sunny upstairs room that sleeps up to four with a vaulted ceiling and great room with windows overlooking the gardens and the Nantahala National Forest behind the house. There is a king-size sleigh bed, a queen-size sleeper sofa and a large private bath with shower.  There is a dining area and full kitchen equipped with a stove, oven, toaster and coffeemaker as well as all cooking utensils, cookware and dinnerware.  $850 per person.  Double occupancy required.  AVAILABLE


The “RASA ROOM” is a quiet upstairs room with a window seat overlooking the rushing mountain stream that runs through the estate. There is a king-size bed and dresser, private bath with large glass shower as well as a trundle day bed that pulls out for two twin beds.

This room can accommodate up to four guests.  Just outside the room is a sunny little library with seating and shelves stacked with books!  $850 per person.  Double occupancy required.  AVAILABLE


The “ANANDA ABODE” is an elegant upstairs room with a balcony overlooking the animals, barn, pastures and Snowbird Mountains. There is a king-size four-poster bed, dressing room, and private bath with a double vanity, large glass shower and Jacuzzi tub. This is a wonderful place for two to stay snuggled in between yoga sessions!  NOT AVAILABLE


COTTAGES

All cottages include a living room with flat panel TV, cable, DVD player, central heating/AC, an indoor and outdoor dining area, wood burning fireplace with a supply of split wood, an iPod dock with alarm clock, hairdryer, iron and ironing board.

Each cottage has a full kitchen equipped with a dishwasher, microwave, combination oven/stovetop, refrigerator, coffeemaker and toaster. They are completely equipped with all cooking utensils, silverware, dishes, bed linens and towels.  There is limited WiFi in and around the cottages, but there is a WiFi hotspot in and around the open air pavilion near the main house.

The “SHAKTI SHACK” has an open floorplan with a king-size bed and a queen-size sleeper sofa. There is a large stone fireplace, dining area, one bathroom and full kitchen. There’s even an outdoor patio with dining table, fireplace and BBQ grill.

There is a separate utility room with a washer/dryer located next to the cottage.  A perfect romantic setting for two or an intimate bungalow for up to four.

NOT AVAILABLE



The “BUDDHA BUNGALOW” and “CHAKRA COTTAGE” each have one bedroom with a king-size bed, a second bedroom with a queen-size bed, a queen-size sleeper sofa and one bath. Each sleeps up to six people.  Perfect for good friends to share or for meeting someone new while having your own space.  $850 per person.  Double occupancy required.

BUDDHA: NOT AVAILABLE

CHAKRA: AVAILABLE

The “LILA LAIR” has one bedroom with a king-size bed, a queen-size sleeper sofa, and a second bedroom with two sets of bunk beds – perfect for our budget yogis!  There is one bathroom to share and this cottage can sleep up to eight people.

Individual bed, $850 per person.  Bunk beds: $850 per person.

AVAILABLE

The “SHRI SANCTUARY” is has two bedrooms with a king-size bed, one bedroom with a queen size bed, a queen size sleeper sofa, two bathrooms and sleeps up to 8. The cottage sits up against its own creek and pond and has a large private fire pit with seating for 8 and plenty of split wood. There is a gas fireplace in the living room and a separate router providing excellent WiFi coverage. $850 per person.  3 person minimum.  AVAILABLE

Each of these cottages is equipped with a washer/dryer, picnic table, BBQ grill and a screened porch overlooking the Snowbird Mountains. Rustic rocking chairs are included for your relaxation.

RESERVATIONS

Prices include twice daily yoga and meditation sessions (all levels welcome!), 3 gourmet meals per day, and your accommodation plus tax/gratuity.  Not included are transportation, recreational activities (listed below), and alcohol.

PAYMENTS

We are offering a payment plan to help spread out the cost of the retreat!  A MINIMUM $350 deposit is required to hold your room.  A second payment of $350 will be due by March 15 and the final balance of $299 must be paid in full by May 7th.  A full refund will be issued up to 45 days before retreat date.  However, payments are non-refundable within 3 weeks of event unless a replacement is found.

A la carte activities include massage, ziplining, white water rafting, and horseback riding.

Please contact Lauren and Debra at ncretreat@gmail.com for more information, reservations and questions.  Limit 25 participants!

Ommm and Namaste, Lauren & Debra

As a Yoga “guide”, I am fascinated by ways in which we can open ourselves to different yogic states of mindfulness and receptivity.  But our pervasive use of asana can sometimes obscure other means of accessing these states that often utilize transformative modalities we come in contact with on a daily basis.  Like music 🙂

I’ve always been mesmerized by drums.  And if you’ve ever been in the car with me, you’ll know that I spend a majority of my time thumping my thumbs on the steering wheel, keeping the percussive beat of each song.  And often I’m listening to Tool, so I’m channeling an inner Danny Carey 🙂 When I sat down with local drummer, Martin “Greywolf” Murphy, to talk about the many programs he has put together to incorporate drumming into our opportunities for healing, I was so reassured to learn that my habit of “listening” to music through my thumbs can actually lead me into more harmonious inner rhythms and health.

In this post, I want to share with you the rhythmic healing modalities that Greywolf and drummer Mark De Maio are offering to promote deep levels of vibrational healing.

Come join them at Shine On Yoga for these events!  Or find Greywolf on Facebook to receive updates on events in other locations 🙂

Gong Flow

(Offered: Shine On Yoga, Theta Tuesdays!, 4th Tuesday of each month)

From time immemorial, certain instruments (rattles, singing bowls, and gongs) have been utilized in shamanic and ritual practices to cleanse the body and soul.  By creating an sanctuary of sound, at times unpredictable and chaotic, participants move into an innerspace of vibrationally breaking up old patterns and knots of energy.  By internalizing the sound, we are able to open to deeper levels of mental receptivity.  What helps us get beyond our normal “story” is the constant novelty of sound combined with intense harmonics. Waves of sound literally flood your body, helping us drawing up and out these energies that can keep you “stuck”.

Each one-hour, wordless session offers a transformational evening of deep somatic mindfulness and release.  Come dressed in comfortable clothes as we often begin with a brief stretch to unwind and prepare.

HealthRHYTHMS

(Offered: Shine On Yoga, Sound Healing Sundays, 1st Sunday of each month, 2 – 3:30 pm)

If you are a drummer, you would recognize instantly the drum company’s name that provided financial support for the peer-reviewed research leading to the “HealthRHYTHMS” program.  As soon as Remo Belli, of Remo Inc., heard Dr. Barry Bittman’s idea for a research project having to do with increasing immunity through drumming, Bittman had his money.

With easily replicated research as its foundation, the HealthRHYTHMS program has established a diversity of wellness benefits ranging from increased killer T-cell activity to improvement in cancer-resistant immunological responses.  Amazingly, while these studies showed that the vibrational healing of group drumming did improve certain health factors, these results were based on two qualities of life that improve our general wellness: a sense of belonging to a community, and a feeling of pure personal power.

These fun music-making sessions create the right combination of participation, sound and vibrational therapy, and community in which to relate and grow.

“REI”, or Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention

(Offered: By request)

Music is a magic carpet ride, where a slow song can remind you of an old love and a familiar rhythm can bring up long-ago faces or bridge the distance to your anticipated future.  Music can literally be medicine, and that’s what Jeff Strong, founder of the StrongInstitute, is dedicated to bringing to us as healthcare.

Having spent over a decade researching therapeutic rhythm techniques from around the globe, Strong has studied pulled methods from North America to Europe and Africa, witnessing the use of both shamanic drumming and rhythm healing.  And what he has learned has led him to discover certain rhythms which, when played for people suffering from neurobiological disorders, lead to relief of symptoms.  The effect is created by “entrainment”, a phenomenon that explains why a room full of grandfather clocks or a house full of women will all, over time, develop the same rhythmic pattern, or “cycle”.

The brainwaves of someone with a psychosomatic illness present disorganization in the area of the brain associated with these symptoms. These custom crafted sessions provide the rhythmic drumming patterns necessary to assist the brain in synchronizing, or “entraining”, to healthy brainwaves so that proper function and health is restored.  Sessions specifically target alpha waves, responsible for receptivity, relaxation, and information processing, which are often the waves disrupted in the brain of someone suffering from neurobiological disorder.

It’s a bit like running the “de-frag” program on your computer and the results are the same, regardless of culture, race, or time period.  These sessions can be scheduled with Greywolf individually.  This is a non-participative session in which a custom program is designed for each individual based on an extensive outline of your current health and wellness needs.

Spirit Journey Drumming

(Offered: Shine On Yoga, Sound Healing Sundays, 2nd & 4th Sunday of each month, 2 – 3:30 pm)

With the medicinal and ecstatic “Shaking Medicine” program of Bradford Keeney as a core inspiration, this modality provides something similar to a “vision quest” in which each individual creates the inner sanctuary and freedom to journey through what “rises up” in their experience.  While guided visualizations are not given in these sessions, they offer a conscious and alert entrainment to the alpha, theta (trance), and delta (deep sleep) brainwaves.

The sessions follow a pattern of entrainment to alpha waves, a descent into delta waves, and re-ascent into alpha, where each participant begins with a particular vision in mind, much like setting an intention or dedication at the beginning of asana practice.  Each of us is receiving internal messages all the time, the natural communication from our inner guide – be it our intuition or helpful spirit guides.  When our brainwaves are scattered, it is more difficult for us to “hear” our inner voice… and these trance-like sessions create a cocoon in which we can meet ourselves, to receive the spiritual information that longs to be brought to consciousness.

Trance Dance

(Offered: Shine On Yoga)

If you’ve heard the name Gabrielle Roth (or even Shiva Rea), then you know the premise of this rhythmic, healing dance. Participants are led along a themed journey – the first one was the 4 elements (earth, water, air and fire) and Spirit; next up… “the Quantum serpent”! – guided by a dance facilitator who teaches simple, rhythmic movements that act as physical expressions of the trance-driving rhythms and the brainwaves they manifest.  By stepping and swaying into a gentle state of “trance” through these timed movements, we can intentionally begin to assimilate the healing inherent in each of the brainwave states.

Drum ‘n Chant

(Offered: Shine On Yoga, Sound Healing Sundays, 3rd Sunday of each month, 2 – 3:30 pm)

The drumming healing potential discussed in the previous programs applies here as well… and while these sessions rely on the healing inherent in vibration, they really are just FUN!  With a light combination of drum beats and singing, each session is guided for the easy transition of chants into “drummable” rhythms.  Come join an animated community as you sing and tap your way to health!

Ommm ~

So join in…. Dance to the rhythm of your own beat!  Find your visionary pulse and let it flow!

I embrace my desire to feel the rhythm

To feel connected… to feel inspired, to fathom the power,

To witness the beauty, to bathe in the fountain, to

Swing on the spiral… to swing on the spiral of

Our divinity and still be a human.

~ “Lateralus”, Tool

Namaste~

Two friends of mine are now parents. A new little yogini, Willow, has been welcomed into our community in a beautiful, homemade, natural way. Her mother, Amber, gave birth in their living room, in a pool of warm water, surrounded by friends who sat vigil while the birthing process gathered intensity and strength well into the tiny hours of Wednesday morning.  Immediately a relationship began for this little girl, and it is sweet, and welcoming, and kind.  And it got me thinking about what it means to give birth, to have an inherent creative power.

This week, many things in my life have changed. I still sleep in the same bed, I’m still teaching the same yoga classes… but I have steadily been rearranging the furniture of my life around a sudden shift of energy.  And the reminder of “birth”, of manifestation and creativity, has been a welcome path for me to travel during this time.  I listened to an online radio segment about Karma and relationships by Yogi Baba Prem which highlights perfectly the process of our own birth and lends much insight as to why we’re here.  He explains:

As many of us can figure out, our first pivotal relationship is with our parents. However this looks for you, you were drawn to their vibration, their life experiences, their karmic patterns.  And in turn they drew you into their lives as well.  Turns out we do this intentionally so that our own karma, through this relationship of parent and child, can be brought to the surface, the lessons can be learned, and the karmic patterns resolved.

So……

How many of you would say that you learned all that you *really* needed to learn from this karmic “agreement” with your parents?  Are any of you experiencing patterns in your relationship(s) that continue again, and again, and again…?  If we don’t allow our karma to resolve itself in this initial relationship of family, then we seek out partners with whom we can role play the same experiences we were meant to learn from in our more formative years.  Hence, the patterning we continue to experience.  Hence, the same guy or girl that we continue to romantically bump up against, or the same friendship that develops or ends in the same way.  And although my heart is wide open right now, still embracing, still loving, I see that there is “work” to be done.

I was raised in a Christian family, going to church on Sundays, attending Bible study occasionally throughout my life, and even traveling to Jamaica with my church one summer to be of service at a local school for deaf children.  From these earlier experiences of an approachable, familiar “God”, I was witness to others’ impressions that all gods from other religions were impersonal and distant.  And yet, this description of Karma is quite touching to me.  Being “chosen” by our parents and choosing them in return, to allow each of us to resolve what is holding us back from being the Light and the Love that we truly are… how is that anything but a gift from this Loving and benevolent Universe, a caring God?

Truly, we are blessed with our own births as well as our inherent ability to “give birth”.  Whether it is a project that we are bringing to life, a new business venture that we are manifesting, or a spark that ignites a whole new desire and direction in our lives, we have within us the power to create, to give rise to the lives of our dreams.  And this realization can remind us to pause and reflect on whether or not any new path that we’re following (intentional or not) wasn’t actually drawn to us by our karmic desire to feel whole, to complete our lives’ work.

Just when we think we have “this” all figured out, we get surprised by the Mystery.  And so we let it dance before us, within us, drawing to us what will help us manifest and give life to our truest self. Especially in the “final frontier” of our relationships, where we come together – not to fight, to justify, or tear down – but to resolve, to grow, and to learn, as best we can, how to open ourselves to Be Love.  In each moment, whether manifesting a more compassionate relationship with your spouse or turning towards your mother and really hugging her for all of her own hurts and joys, we can begin to see how our relationships are here to support us, to assist us in being true to ourselves – and thus one another.  And we can release any blame or feelings of injustice and recognize the incredible gift of another’s entrance into our lives and how we can be mutually beneficial to one another’s path.

Be love!  Jai, jai, jai…. 🙂

As we embark on a new season, embracing autumn, we also experience the Harvest Moon, the closest full moon to the fall equinox.  At its brightest peak in the lunar cycle, the full moon represents the height of our embodied energy – which can explain the increase in “craziness” that accompanies this active, dynamic time of the month.  In the tradition of Ashtanga Yoga, practitioners even refrain from asana practice during the new moon and full moon to honor the extremes of energy at these peaks in the lunar cycle.

During the time of “purnima”, or full moon, we most benefit from releasing what no longer serves us, detoxifying and purifying the way we live.  Similar to weeding a garden, or donating those clothes that we simply no longer wear, we acknowledge what we have accumulated in our lives that can actually lead us away from peace, contentment, and happiness.  In doing so, we examine what we are most bound to… because in the process of ‘letting go’ we must explore our deepest attachments.

In honor of this Harvest Moon, I’m making ‘moon water’, this one with a sprig of rosemary.  Starting with a clean glass jar, I blessed the container with some sage and set the intention for creating a powerful drink, full of energy and purification.  Then I filled the jar with clean, fresh water and a sprig of rosemary.  If you want an herbal water, choose herbs that allow for cleansing or that will carry you through this time of transition as you release what may have formerly brought you guidance or strength.  Then set the jar out in the moonlight, allowing the rays to seep through the glass and into the water.  I’m setting mine out for three nights, one before and one after the peak of the full moon.

In our yoga practice, we can facilitate detoxification and letting go through kriyas, such as kapalabhati, or skull shining breath, which helps clear the lungs and any stuck energy in our solar plexus.  If you need help in focusing your mental activity and bringing awareness to the abundant energy into your body, you can practice the “ha kriya”. Standing in Goddess pose, inhale as you extend your arms in front of you and with a sharp “Ha!”, pull the arms in to your sides, fists clenched.  Take the arms out in front for 10- 15 breaths, then up over head for another 10 – 15 breaths.  Then 5 each.  Then 2 each.  Then 1 each.  Then gently fold forward and embrace the rush of prana and presence in your body.

Twists help to cleanse the body of physical and emotional toxins and to encourage the flushing of pure blood and prana into the system.  And a chant or meditation on Ganesha, the elephant-headed “remover of obstacles”, can help you smooth over the speed bumps on your path to letting go with ease.

For those of you who enjoy the process of ritual, here’s another method of acknowledging the full moon.  On a sheet of paper, write down a list of your personal attributes, habits, beliefs, and patterns that you would like to release.  As close to the peak of the full moon as possible (will you be up at 5:17 am on Thurs morning?), read the list, then tear it into pieces.  If possible, burn the paper and then pour the pieces into liquid to flush it away – you don’t want to keep this list around!  Just don’t pour it into your freshly made ‘moon water’ 🙂

In this universe of Shakti, the power of manifestation, we discover a more intimate relationship with being embodied, honoring the responsibility we have for creating our own lives.  Just like the moon’s “albedo”, or reflective nature, we honor the Divine by recognizing our true source and aiming to reflect its peace, presence, and freedom.  We cycle, just like the moon, wave by wave, form by form…. yet we continually reflect and shine… we are “shri”, radiant and abundant, without the need to attain anything.

Enjoy the full moon!

So many changes are taking place in the yoga community here in Central Florida!… new spaces are being revealed, teachers are shifting their energies, and the pulse of our practice is a steady rhythm of mats being unrolled and rolled back up, invocations being sung, and hands and hearts joined.  Across the many styles, among the many preferences and options we have for practice, our community is deepening its roots.

In the style of yoga I love, an important and unforgettable component of sadhana (practice) is the kula.  This little word is often defined as “community” but it has mighty tendrils that reach deeply into how we live.  Doug Keller writes, “The heart of all practice is its fruition in experience.”  This is Kula, the commitment to ourselves, to each other, and to the world in which we express the spiritual awareness of Oneness in our daily lives.

In addition to our personal practice, uplifting ourselves through asana and meditation, and our own personal inquiry, delving into the mysteries and idiosyncrasies of who we are, Kula opens us to the wisdom of our spiritual path and provides a myriad of opportunities to apply the teachings.  In this way, we pour every breath, every thought, every act into the Self, which is universal.  Kula helps us experience the ekarasa, the single ‘flavor’ of the Truth, that reveals for us so intimately, often more than we allow, that we are connected, we are family, we are the Many and we are the One.  As a dear friend of mine reminds me, “There is space for it all.”

More than just a gathering of beliefs, Kula is an authentic community dedicated to helping one another wake up.  Each member grows individually, supports the community, and participates in creating positive growth and change in the world. Hearts are actually joined, at a deep cellular level, with heart beats syncing and thought patterns coalescing.

Here in Central Florida, I’ve been blessed to study with a number of you, lay my mat next to many of you, and learn from each and every one of you!  As Rumi writes, “The lamps are different, but the Light is the same,” and I wanted to take a moment to extend my Gratitude.  Through Kula, we lift one another up, we help one another drop the psychological rocks in our pockets that weigh us down, we illuminate for one another (sometimes without even knowing it!) where we hold ourselves back from being ourselves (Love!), and most of all, we teach one another how to live well, love well and let go with Grace.

To each of you, whether you stand at the front of a room of sweaty, yearning yogis or you practice steadily on your own… I extend my heart in thanks.  For the Light we share and the life we all co-create.

Maha joy!  Jai, jai, jai… 🙂

Saprema (with Love), Lauren

Weekly Classes

Mondays
9:30-11 am, Vinyasa Flow, In Balance

Tuesdays
12-1 pm, Hatha, Shine On

Wednesdays
11-12, Yin Yoga, Citrus Club
6-7:30 pm, Level 3 Flow, Shine On

Thursdays
12-1 pm, Hatha, Shine On

Fridays
12-12:50 pm, Vinyasa Flow, Citrus Club

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