If you have been to one of my asana classes you have probably heard me talk about “superpowers”. I believe everyone has one or two or three (or more!) and that when we recognize what they are we have an obligation to hone our superpowers and use them in the world for the benefit of all beings. I think our superpowers are clear indicators of our “dharma packet”, the actions that are to be completed while we are in this body during this lifetime. If we work towards fulfilling that packet, which is individual to each of us, we contribute to the maintenance of harmony, light and love in this world. The ironic thing is we don't usually recognize what our superpowers are, and when others point them out to us, we shrug the information off in an attempt at humility or because we are embarrassed or confused.
We don’t usually realize that not everyone sees things the way we do, or knows things that we know. Not everyone can calculate the gratuity on a bill just by glancing at the total, or find a 4 leaf clover in a sea of grass, complete a jigsaw puzzle in a few hours, or craft the theory of relativity. Not many people can recognize a note out of tune, see a in a person's eyes when they are untruthful, or hear the proper course of action for someone who is at a crossroads. We might think people understand and hear things the way we do, and when they don’t seem to notice what we notice we either think there is something wrong with them, or something is wrong with us.
This was really driven home to me during my trip with my family this past month: Imagine traveling to foreign country with a man who is colorblind, hard of hearing and is on the continual search to make new friends, a 19 year old who can't bear loud noises and crowds, doesn’t want to make any friends, and can tell what cell phone a person is carrying by the set of their jaw, a 17 year old who sees patterns in all things, eavesdrops on conversations (even if they are in a different language) to see which person is going to be her new friend, and is constantly on the lookout for her next feeding, and a person who has the worst sense of direction in the history of directionless people, over-appreciates textiles and footwear to the point of dangerous distraction, and is seriously invested in keeping her family out of harm's way (that’s me!), you begin to realize that when you all walk into a new room, everyone in that small group of 4 just saw and experienced something completely different. What we notice is driven by our own personal superpower (or super- annoyance) to experience, or not experience what is in that room.
But really, that all is not what I wanted to focus on in this writing. That just slipped out, and maybe it will be useful to someone. What I wanted to highlight is that for some reason, even after seeing clients for years now, I just got (I mean really got it) recently that a lot of people just don’t know what to do about their aches and pains. People don’t know how to find a comfortable way to be or the right questions to ask themselves. This realization, after so many years working with people as a Yoga Therapist, was actually startling to me. Crazy, right!?
I have been studying people's bodies for about 45 years now. I imagine it started because I couldn't understand why my parents bodies didn't move like everyone else's, and of course I wanted them to be able to move like everyone else. What kid wouldn’t? I remember sitting with my mom and saying “But can’t you just move that finger like this?” And no, it wasn’t possible. I have never stopped looking at people's bodies and imagined how they could move more efficiently, gracefully, joyfully and painlessly. My recent ah ha moment was less about my knowing that this was one of my superpowers, and more about me realizing it is not everyone's superpower, or even an interest. Remember when you were a kid and you had a favorite toy, or food, and you wanted everyone to have the same thing because you figured they would like it as much as you did? I think that is what I was thinking, everyone has this, or everyone wants this. But really, not everyone wants to know the ins and outs of body mechanics, fascia and prana. I get that. Now. When I was younger I worked for a woman who thought everyone in the factory we worked with in rural Tennessee wanted to be like her and dress like her because she lived in NYC. I remember thinking how crazy that seemed. So now I get it that not everyone wants to know what I know, it would be just as crazy to think that was true.
It has been part of the journey as a yoga teacher and therapist to recognize that not all people care about maintaining their bodies according to classical yoga systems, or even any system. It is something that I try to stay observant about- watching how I might react, judge, or take it personally. Seeing through the lense of one of my superpowers, which desires a harmonious working of all body parts and pranic systems, it can be hard to step back and know that even if I might be able to assist with this or that, it doesn't mean I should. I think it's important that all yoga students recognize this struggle that their teachers must at some point address in themselves. My experience is that it is quite obvious when a yoga teacher has not chosen to look at this. I think it comes across quite plainly in their teaching and assisting. But that is my perception because I am watching for it in myself, and at times it is all I see when I enter a room.
If you are one of my students, I thank you for your patience with me as I work this through. Clearly, from this rambling, you can guess that new layers are either being torn away or forming. One thing that I am clear about is that we have to balance our superpowers with appropriate action. Know that I will always offer information, and if you are interested, I am willing to share what I know, see and perceive. And if you are not interested, it’s ok too. It is your body after all.
Now to the real point of all this rambling! I started to write this to simply offer a new course that I am very excited about. You can read more about it here. I hope during this course to give those who want to know, practical advice and tools to address mobility issues. I hope to instill a curiosity in you about your body, with this curiosity leading to concrete questions, experimentation, data gathering, and action, that will help you get to know your body more, and help you to maintain it. Here is my reasoning on why you should consider this course, putting aside my compulsion about harmonious body structures: If you have not recognized your superpowers yet, you need more time on this earth to do so. And more time on this earth requires a healthy, mobile body. That is not always true of course, but it makes the journey easier. What do I get out of it? I get to fulfill one of my dharma packets, maintain my business, and I get to ensure that there is one more body out there who is actively searching for Steerum Sukam Asana (steady comfortable seat, Yoga Sutras 2:46). It is only from this steady comfortable seat, the yogis tell us, that we can find the light in ourselves and so be able to shine it outwards to the rest of the world. If you have any questions about the course, please email me!
Hope to see you in the space, searching for and honing your superpowers!
The wisdom of rental cars
When I was in Spain a few weeks ago we rented a car that apparently had a really cool feature that I was totally unaware of. My son let me know about it just around the time we were returning the car. Apparently there was an indicator that told you what gear you should have the car in based on the speed you were going. I thought he was referring to what we called in the old fashioned days a tachometer, but no, there was actually a readout on the dashboard that said it was time to shift to 3,4 5 etc. gear. I have been thinking about that indicator since I got home from two different angles. On the one hand, I was surprised that I didn’t notice the indicator. Because the car was so quiet, I did find myself in 3rd gear driving 100 k/hr a few times and thought, wow, I better shift! I realized I had been so focused on driving correctly in a foreign country in a foreign car that I ignored a feature that would have actually helped me drive better. We are like that, aren’t we? We are so desperate to get things done that we don’t always see the thing that will help us do the thing we are trying so desperately to do. Then I started thinking about how, in the old fashioned days, you would know when to shift a car by the sound of the engine or the feel of the ride. My 1965 Harley does not have a tachometer OR a speedometer, and the only way to know when to shift is to listen and feel.
We have gotten far away from knowing what to do by feel and by trusting our senses in so many ways. Yesterday I went to see Toy Story 4 with my kids (I totally recommend it and I don’t think I am giving away any spoilers here) and there was a running theme about listening to your inner voice. Woody tells Buzz he knows what to do because he listens to his inner voice (meaning his conscience) and for much of the movie Buzz Lightyear would push one of the buttons on his space suit and a pre-programmed message would play and he would follow that course of action, without any hesitation, believing he was listening to his “inner voice”.
I know for me sometimes my inner voice is pretty loud, and it does seem like it projects out of an amplifier (except it doesn’t sound like Tim Allen usually) and I move forward without hesitation. Mostly though it’s really quiet and I have to listen deeply to realize it is talking to me and to understand what it is saying. It is a long time practice indeed to trust what you hear.
We touched upon this idea this month when we talked about rajas, sattva and tamas. Listening to the inner voice can help us to know if we need to act more, less, or not at all and just be. Hopefully it was helpful to get a feel for this while doing asana. Our asana practice is designed to lead us to stillness. If we find that as we are moving through a vinyasa (more rajasic) or holding a pose (more tamasic) and we fall into a deep stillness, our work is done! We can just stay there and enjoy that place that we have worked so diligently to get to.
It is important in the heat of the summer especially to trust our inner voice and know it’s time to take it down a few notches if we are being too rajasic. Rajas, tamas and sattva are not meant to be used to define us as a personality type, they are to guide us in our action. So even if you consider yourself to be the most rajasic person on your block, looking to see when you can add more tamas to your life style could result in making it through the summer with energy and clarity.
One of the things I realized being in Europe during the heatwave is that staying in the heat 24/7 is very draining. It was very different than going in and out of air conditioned houses, stores, and cars. (We were tempted to stay in one particular metro in Barcelona for the entire line when we realized it was air conditioned!) But even with the AC you are going in and out of, respect for the heat is still needed. So we have added (one so far!) a pop-up restorative class with Deb Kline on August 16t at 5:30 pm. Stay tuned for more to be added. Maybe you can also consider attending some of the gentle classes and SSR classes coming up if you are finding yourself deeply exhausted. Remember that yoga works with your energy as much as your body, so practicing yoga is different than napping. Sleeping is fine, but charging the pranic body is longer lasting.
Click here to register for the Summertime Cool Down sessions
Listen to your indicator, your inner voice, your tachometer. It is telling you something!
Last week I wrote about how sitting is the new smoking. I wanted to expand on that a bit this week. One of the reasons is that I have been noticing my own declining mobility. I know that people think since I am a yoga teacher I am constantly doing yoga asana. Truth be told, if when I have an available hour or two in my day I am more inclined to sit in meditation. This is a dramatic change from 10 and 20 years ago, when I would prefer to jump up into several handstands with a few hundred vinyasas in between. But preferences change as we move into different stages in our lives and we get older. Unfortunately as we age and we move less, the lack of movement has more of an impact on us.
I believe it is imperative to find the kind of movement that is both enjoyable and beneficial. My experience working with many people has helped me to understand people don't always choose the best type of movement for their structure and their needs. We may remember an exercise we did in high school and think we should still do that. Guess what? No. I am going to say stressing your system with the wrong movement is worse than not moving at all. You might as well smoke. It is why it is so important to work with a teacher, therapist or fitness professional to help guide you. We can't know everything, and there are people trained to observe your body and they have studied movement and can guide you. So consider that if you find you are just not sure what is the best way to stay fit is for you, your task is simply to find the person that you vibe with best. Let them do the rest. If you want more education, ask ask ask questions. If they can't or won't answer your questions, find someone else.
I can remember as a young girl my mother feared being confined to a wheelchair, as do many disabled people who are ambulatory. A few weeks ago I was helping her unpack some things and found a sheet of paper that has exercises that a PT worked on with her. I asked if she wanted to keep it. She said no. She is now in a wheelchair and has lost much of her mobility including her ability to transfer from her chair to the car, which does not make either of us happy. It is so easy to forget what our priorities are. It is true sometimes they change, and sometimes we just lose motivation for so many different reasons.
To help you stay motivated and find your best way of keeping mobile I developed a short course in September called "Reclaiming Your Body" . You can find out more details here:
We have a lot of subs coming up in the next few weeks with me, John and David being on retreat. Take advantage of taking classes with new teachers. Everyone has a different approach to movement and a different way of saying it, and I can guarantee that you will discover something quite new about yourself, and a new way of moving.
This morning I saw my neighbors little girl making her way down the street in the general mode that girls who are about 7 or 8 get around, that is by skipping. Walking is not acceptable at that age, it is too slow and morose. Watching her I was sent backwards in time to the sweet era when my children skipped, or sometimes sashayed, to get where they needed to go. As soon as I got back home, I roused my sleepy teens for a bike ride. There was some grumbling, but after the promise of a doughnut, they agreed. On the trip back I was treated to the above scene; my 19 year old slammed (or rather squeezed) the brakes because he saw ripe black raspberries out of the corner of his eye. The two dropped their bikes and started grazing, just like they did when they were skippers. I am almost sure they sashayed back to collect their bikes for the return trip.
A few days ago I was listening to a lecture by Tom Myers that was so very compelling, and dismaying. He was saying how for the first time we are in an age where technology makes it unnecessary for anyone to actually move. Tom emphasized that it is imperative for movement specialists to figure out how to keep people in this new age moving. Just now I was listening to a news story about how services that deliver cooked meals to your door are exploding in value. These kinds of delivery services are most popular with the millenials. Much of this generation works remotely, communicates with friends via video calls or texting platforms, and shops online.
It is distressing to think that movement is going the way of dial phones. You have probably heard that sitting is the new smoking. The counter to sitting is not just to stand up. This proclamation points to our level of sedentariness.
Your prana is directly affected by movement. Your mind is directly affected by your prana. You body is affected by prana, and your mind. Movement affects your joy-muscle. It heightens your senses, especially when you are out in nature. If riding a bike can make a 19 year old tech-head introvert like my son, who would rather sit in an airconditioned room surrounded by his 2 computers and 3 phones, joyfully munch berries and skip (ok, maybe that is an exaggeration- better to say "he moved lightly") imagine what it could do for you!
Of course if you are reading this, you probably already have a proclivity to do yoga or something like that. So consider this- what can you do to help encourage movement in your friends and family, neighbors and co-workers? Sharing early morning or moonlight walks, going dancing, gardening together, all of these are great communal activities that keep us moving. Flea markets, antique and arts & crafts shows will give you plenty of walking opportunities. Invite people to join you in what you like to do. And of course, shopping local is a great way to stay moving! But watch those times that you engage in the dreaded sitting for too long. What gets you going again? Observing this in yourself may help you to change someone's life by inspiring them to get going too.
I can't always help myself from doing this, its shameless and I am sure very annoying. I almost always ask my family, after dragging them biking, walking, or to the gym in the wee hours of the morning "See now, don't you feel better?". And while they hate to admit it, they usually do.
Summer Special- For each person brand new to Yoga Loka enjoy a gift certificate for a drop in class. You can use that for yourself or give it as a gift to a friend. Offer ends 8/31.
When I first considered doing yoga teacher training, I wrote it off as mostly impossible. I had long ago adopted the narrative that I was much too needed at home to take any time for myself on weekends. I had a high maintenance daughter with special needs, and a husband easily stressed out by domestic management. Time went on, another child joined the team, and my story was cemented. A six month program that involved plenty of weekends? I might as well just forget about it. I didn’t even have the right to consider taking that much time for myself.
However, the idea wouldn’t let go. I had been practicing yoga for some time and especially loved the philosophy and self-study aspect of yoga covered in the many meditation and Yoga Sutras workshops I had taken at Yoga Loka. In our self-study practices, I had observed this story of mine about being indispensable and I recognized it as both a trap and a comfort. Part of me wasn’t ready to give up the control of the household, to lose the identity as the one who keeps it all together. The real fear wasn’t “what will they do without me on a Saturday from 12-6?” it was “What if they are just fine without me?” Then I knew that there was so much more to learn about my mind, my body, and this ancient philosophy, and that something important was waiting for me on this path. I didn’t know that I would teach yoga and really wasn’t sure I was capable, but I wanted to at least see where the immersion would lead me.
Flash forward to three years later, and my story has evolved. Not only did my family survive without me during training weekends, but they developed their own rhythm and dynamic, and wound up closer for it. In the yoga immersion portion of the training, I found answers to mysteries regarding my body, mind, and place in the universe, and these answers have changed my parenting style and relationships. I formed lasting deep friendships with my fellow students and teachers, never before realizing how badly I was missing these authentic connections in my everyday life. And in the end, I discovered my passion for teaching yoga, which is almost a lesser benefit when compared with the others. In short, practicing yoga changed the direction of my life, but the Yoga Immersion/Teacher Training program gave me the vehicle, the road, and the map to travel that path well.
So what’s your “true” story? What is holding you back from taking steps forward towards a deepened experience of the Self? If you are considering the program, share your questions, concerns, and story with us this Sunday the 9th (11:45 am) at our practice session and Q&A. Graduates and teachers will be on hand to talk about the program and training experiences. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP. Thanks for reading! - Laura
Learn all about this September's Yoga Immersion/Teacher Training program by CLICKING HERE!
I just had a bizarre experience. I was eating lunch in my little backyard minding my own business. I heard a strange noise coming from over by my planter and saw the strangest thing- a little sparrow bird was splashing around in the bird bath, really for a good long time. I was taken aback- I had never seen a bird in the bath before. My kids gave me these cute little gnome bird baths last year for my birthday. We (when I say "we" I mean "I") have dutifully keep them filled with water and cleaned out when they became mucky. So why then am I so surprised to see a bird in it, using it for what it was meant to be used for? Basically, because I never really considered a bird would find it and want to use it. Again, I never saw one in it before, and today, on a kind of cool day, there one was, happily splashing away. You might be wondering two things - how many other times have birds been partying in the red gnomie tub when I wasn't looking, and why am I writing about this?
This encounter reminded me about spiritual practice (you knew that was coming, right?). We may do some meditation, or yoga, or mantra, because we think we should or because someone gave us a gift certificate, or we have nothing else to do... and then suddenly something happens in life and we realise we are actually using the gifts we have been given by our practice. We may practice yoga without thinking we are ever going to "need" it. We may practice stress relieving techniques (meditaiton, TRE, mindfulness etc) without thinking about how stressful things can stop us in our tracks and affect our health. But then we remember to breathe deeply like we learned in yoga class. Or we remember to shift our awareness to sensations in our body like we practice in meditation. We don't always notice the bird in the bath, but it's in there, fluttering around happy as can be even if you aren't looking, and so are all the things you have practiced in classes.
Isn't it great that our practice has given us back something, maybe something unexpected? Maybe you have been practicing all along looking for results, for example a way to age with ease and mobility, and then you might realize that you got something else too, like remembering to breathe when stressed. My kids gave me the bird baths with the gnomes on it because I was saying (they may say complaining, but I think that is too strong a word) that when the gnomie village disbanded on the tow path a few years ago (if you missed it, I am sorry! I was quite a site!!) many gnomes found homes in front of local businesses, like the bank, a few stores in town, but not in front of the yoga studio (we hadn't yet moved to 23 Race Street) so they got the bird baths really for the gnomes, not to lure more birds to the backyard. I love birds in my backyard, and now I realize that I have gnomes and birds.
Coming in June we have a lot of opportunities to practice things that will serve us in ways we may not expect. I hope you will consider using the lazy days of summer (and close-to-summer) to get yourself a birdbath- metaphorically speaking.
To help you along, please use this code to purchase any of the workshops below at a 15% discount. (Not valid on the presentation by Nitin on the 29th. that is by donation only.)
coupon code is good for workshops only and expires 6/1
You can use the code up to 3 times!
Click here to register
Do you remember either reading or watching the movie of the story of Helen Keller. Remember that moment when she understood the sign for “water”? Can you recall what happened to your own body and energy when she made that life changing discovery?
There is a beautiful expansion of prana when we understand something vital. When something that was deeply known, but not touched, is uncovered and then it is understood in a way that we can access it, it is an “enlightening” experience. We literally feel light in body and we emanate light from our eyes and our skin. We glow! As a teacher, I have had the privilege many times to experience that beautiful energy shift when people recognize a truth. That truth can be something as simple as recognizing an old injury and making the connection between mind and muscle, or more complex like recognizing a past experience is driving an undesirable behavior.
What that expansion of energy gives us, other than light, is another way to see things and a new path to interact with the world around us. This enlightened vision will change the energy and environment around you. This is not a little thing. If we had maybe a hundred or a thousand “truth” ambassadors go out right now to the streets, seeing things through this prism of truth light and the energy, similar to Helen Keller’s water moment, this would affect at least one person, if not many. Things will shift around us, it is inevitable.
What are ways you can encounter these enlightened moments if you are not being followed around by an Annie Sullivan-like teacher constantly trying to get you to “see” ? Here is a simple list:
Pay attention to the environment around you, it is pointing out something to you.
Listen to people you respect and trust. Really listen to them, without defending yourself or immediately shutting them down.
These people are reflecting you back to you, the way they see you. Don’t discount that, it is a powerful tool in finding truth because we can only see a limited picture of ourselves. Sometimes we are behaving in a phenomenally amazing way (which we may not see or acknowledge) and sometimes we are behaving badly (which we may not see or acknowledge). Seeing these behaviors gives us insight and leads us towards “ah ha” moments. I think most of us will more likely have an “ah ha” moment when we are behaving badly actually, so keep your eyes open!
Stop when you encounter beauty and see how your body reacts. This is your benchmark; you will feel this same or very similar sensation when you have found truth.
Engage in new activities that challenge your belief systems. This may not always point you to truth, but it rattles things up enough for you to be able to sort through the old stagnant things you gravitate towards that hide truth.
Keep doing yoga! Whether it is exploration in your body or mind, the practice is set up to reveal truth in some form and lead you towards “ah ha” moments. That is the whole point of yoga.
Stay excited and curious. Don’t get defeated. It is not an easy task to see what you have not already seen, but if you want to participate in the wonderment of discovery badly enough, you will find it.
And maybe it wont hurt to watch the Miracle Worker again too!
SWAMPED, again, and as much as I wanted to write a post for this newsletter, too many papers are stacked up on my desk demanding my attention. I was thinking how much I wish I could just record something that was said during class that might be relevant to share on a big scale, I realized this has already happened! One clever student, who is also an amazing transcriber, has been sending me transcripts here and there, so I thought I was share a few relevant lines, relevant to our crazy cold weather, which requires that we attempt to balance vata so we don't get too crazy! Vata will go haywire when we have these extreme temperature changes. So if lately you feel stiffer, more tired, have more joint pain and more confusion, you are not alone! This is an example of how our environment can have a strong impact on how we are doing. Sneaky...
(This followed transcript is after practicing the Palm Tree Vinyasa)
"This is a set of movements that is specifically designed to lower vata, that is to calm the air element, the air and ether element in us, and once that is done we're able to focus a little bit more, we're able to feel more grounded, we're able to relax. And we're able to hear what's going on inside, to see what's going inside."
After 1 round: "Give the body permission to relax and settle, and notice your ability, the depth of the attention you can pay to yourself right now"
After 2 rounds: "Draw the attention inward, see how easy that action is, see how much you can pay attention to what is going on inside. One thing that happens when our vata starts to balance is that we pay less attention to what is going on outside of us, for fear that there's threat, and we can spend more time paying attention to what is going on inside of us. And that inward attention is not a selfish attention, it's an attention that allows our energy to expand, and include everybody. So see if you can let the body get a little softer here, the attention a little sharper, inhale, etc"
After 3 rounds: "Feel the body a little like liquid, rigidity softens, tension releases, attention comes inward. See if you can hear the beating of your heart. If it helps, place your hands directly onto the heart."
Attention rides on the breath. It is said that the mind is pure prana and prana is brought in on the breath. And we have more access to that prana when vata is balanced. Because the vata that's not balanced is moving all over the place like a tornado. And as you view these slow rhythmical movements with awareness and encouraging the mind
to stay active in what's being felt, you will notice that attention increases.
See above for a link to the Palm Tree Vinyasa. Try it and see if your experience matches the above description. You may find this experiment also helps to balance your vata!
The tour guide I who took me through south Mumbai my last day in India was very curious to know what I found different in India from the time I was there 9 years before (when he was probably like 3 years old, lol). I told him then that the signs on the roadways encouraging drivers to not blow their horns, to save water, to be mindful of trash were all new to me. That and also air-conditioned cars with seat-belts. I wrote him later to add that I noticed more people on motorbikes texting (yikes!) and that there were more western toilets. I think though the biggest difference was within my own microcosm body! (I mean, other than being almost a decade older.) The difference was more from my involvement in spiritual practices and what I was “seeking” this time.
I think it is safe to say that whenever I have gone to India I have hopes that I will get the “Thunderbolt” in some way. I will be knocked off my feet by an experience, or have a sudden download of something extraordinary. While there was admittedly a little of that going into this trip I feel like it was far less than before, perhaps because I have come to appreciate the steady climb into my being that has accelerated in the last 5 years or so because of my trainings and my practices. There does seem to be a natural inclination towards fulfilling a hunger, searching for the self and the highest something that accompanies big journeys like this, and I am in no way against that! But I didn’t leave this time with that hunger, instead I feel that packed my bags with the desire to offer something to the places I was going to visit, namely the places my teachers Gurus came from.
A Guru desires the liberation of their disciples, at least that is my understanding. The Guru who gives practices does so with the intention that the followers engage in those practices because the Guru knows that is what will lead them to liberation. And if the Guru desires your liberation, what is wanted is that you liberate! It is a show of love to give the medicine to cure samsara and reduce the suffering inherent in life. To take that gift of love and use it is, well, a way of showing gratitude, right? Unlike taking the cut glass vase Aunt Sadie gave you and stowing it in the closet until her annual visit, if given this gift we need to use it! If we have been offered a spot among the multitudes of beings who have done this practices for thousands of years, we should stand tall and active in that space! So now that I have landed in a consistent rhythm of practice (of sadhana), I felt like I was able to give something to those Guru’s who have given so much to so many people. What I was giving was my dedication, my discipline and my devotion.
When I met people in Devipuram who were from London, Singapore, Cananda, India, etc and found they do the same practices I do, I was touched. It was like meeting long lost family members. There was a mutual respect as we were all attempting the same thing-that is to embody the light the Guru offers to the world. We know we will not do any of it perfectly, but we attempt, we practice and then we show up to learn more. That in and of itself is a beautiful connection, one that runs very deeply without any words needing to be exchanged. It is just known with a nod, with a “swaha”, with an “om”.
As with many things, we may not realize what we are wanting until we either have it, or we recognize we absolutely don’t have it. Really, I didn't necessarily realize what my deep desire was going into the trip until I recognized it in the moment, many times over. I can ask myself the hard questions Ramana Maharshi asks in Arunachala, I can participate in a Guru Puja and Homan in Ganeshpuri, I can sit for an Agni Mukham in Devipuram. What I feel this showed is I trust and believe in the work the Guru gives. What else is there that I can give?
Well, I can also give this sweet story: On my way to the airport to go home the cab driver who picked me up a the hotel told me there was no way I was going to make my plane. Too much traffic! He has a huge shrine on his dashboard to Ganesha (by the way, this was NOT one of the air-conditioned, seat-belted cars I had grown fond of). I chanted mantra to Ganesha the whole trip, when not commenting on the sights around me. About 15 minutes out from the airport the driver began to exclaim “you are a lucky lady! Very lucky! We made very good time, lucky lady!” I told him it wasn’t my luck, it was Ganesha grace. “Ganesha Kripa!!” he sang out. He stopped the car in front of the terminal and I handed him the last cookie I had in my bag to offer Ganesha as I chanted the mantra. He tucked it under the Ganesha statue closest to the steering wheel, held my gaze with his smiling eyes (we had a moment) and off we went in our separate directions.
If you are interested in participating in the upcoming Spiritual Studies session
at Yoga Loka click here for details
It is very good to be home from India! As much as I love traveling, I also love coming home, even if it is to a broken furnace and no heat, and a yucky head cold.
A big thank you to Laura sharing a post last week (thank you Laura!) while I was still away. She captured the essence of the retreat and the part I always love, which is seeing people come together and finding a true heart connection.
As some have asked about the trip, I will be offering some stories and pictures here and there that I hope you will find interesting.
The question I asked most during the retreat in Ganeshpuri (other than how are your dreams?) was this (paraphrased)-"What would your life look like if you had no fear? How would you live, what would you be doing now, how would you change the way you dance through life, if you had no fear?”
Fortunately I was able to point to my friend Nitin as an example of this question in action. I met Nitin about 11 years ago when I first went to Ganeshpuri with Mukunda. Nitin has just come off of a powerful 12 year spiritual journey that started with him leaving everything behind-family, lucrative job, possessions, to find his “path”. Once he landed in Ganeshpuri he knew he was home. It was there he started The Learning Space, with Mukunda’s encouragement. Back then the Learning Space was housed in a small sooty office in the downtown area of Ganeshpuri. The following year when we visited, Learning Space was in a larger campus outside of the town and could welcome a good number of children to participate in the supplemental educational program. Now the program has exploded and is a part of over 100 schools across the Maharashtra district. During this visit we were able to see the additional building on the site which is named after my dear teacher Mukunda, and is now used for training teachers and making presentations.
If you ask Nitin how his journey has unfolded in this way, he simply says it is the grace of the Guru. Of course recognizing and receiving the Gurus grace requires something that usually freaks us out-SURRENDER. Nitin was willing to do this, and so for the past decade or so he watches the actions born from surrender unfold into a bigger picture. This includes not just the Learning Space, but also the animal shelter that he started, the Womans Cooperative he has supported, and the two books he has written. He described the huge joy that has come from seeing the young children he worked with a decade ago now taking on leadership roles and supporting the younger children. One of the young men we met, Ganesh, was a fatherless child when he started at Learning Space in the beginning. He now runs a computer department and according the Nitin is supporting village children of similar circumstances with his own money.
Paying it forward, as we say.
I have worked with Nitin on many fundraising projects for Learning Space over the years. Now, he says, they don’t need money as they have financial support. What is needed is for people to form a relationship with some of the learning space teachers. Most of these teachers are very young locals who want to make a difference in the world, as many of you do. Nitin’s vision is for people to simply have conversations, whether via email, Skype, or using some other technology. Through these conversations everyones world expands. And the expansion offered these teachers will filter into the classrooms, and your world expansion will filter into your relationships. That is what so much of travel and connection is about after all, right? Expansion! One of the retreat participants has already begun to connect some of her USA friends who are music teachers to some of the Learning Space teachers who want to start up a much desired music program.
If you are interested in something like this please reach out to Nitin directly at email@example.com. He will be visiting us in May, so stay tuned for more information so you can meet him in person!
If this short story inspires you, then maybe you want to ask yourself what your life would look like if you had no fear. We all have something (or many things) we are destined to manifest in this life, but often we can’t see or recognize them because of the clouding of our ordinary fears. Admitting we may be blinded doesn’t make the fears go away suddenly, but it does help us to maintain the courage and strength to move through them, reconcile them, and attempt to manifest what the heart has known all along. If, like Nitin, your heart-voice is loud enough, the familiar sounds of your fears will be less so.