Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Depart Without Regret - Be One With God

   As my mind starts to turn towards preparing to leave, I've been struggling to find the words to express all that this trip has brought for me.

I wanted to say something about reconnecting with many deeply loved friends, some whom I haven't seen for many years.  Those kinds of friendships where words are not needed, and sitting in silence side by side with someone while they let it all unravel, connects you in a way much deeper then years of superficial chatter.
I wanted to acknowledge the many new friends I have been blessed to meet here, but I'm not sure there are words to express the joy of witnessing new seeds of fellowship sprouting up, and the wonderment of meeting someone for the first time and feeling like you've known them for years.

Or I could write about reconnecting again and again with this deep and transformative practice, and the awe I feel each morning as I surrender to what IS.  This practice opens my heart, and touches my spirit in ways I cannot explain.  It is like beholding a miracle that takes place each morning as I watch the peeling layers of myself falling away.

I could talk about many things... the magic of India, the beauty of this practice, finding peace within the chaos, and a little space within a small corner of time where I can breathe freely and connect more deeply to myself, and to God.

I'm not sure that there are the words for me to convey the depth of gratitude I feel whenever I reflect on my time here in India.  This focused period of practice has been both intense and refreshing, and from it I will be forever changed.

I read something recently that I feel expresses more completely some of what India has been teaching me over the past three months in numerous and inexplicable ways...  

Relax without laziness
Focus without tension
Perceive without projecting
Witness without judging
Enjoy without craving
Reflect without imagining
Love without condition
Give without demanding
Receive without possessing
Serve without self-seeking
Challenge without dominating
Meditate without identity
Correct without blaming
Overcome without pride
Laugh without cynicism
Cry without pity
Confront without hatred
Guide without superiority
Be without self-defining
Live without arrogance
Enter without self-importance
Depart without regret
Be one with God


February 2014

Monday, February 10, 2014

One More Month in Mysore...

Jeff has arrived back in Canada, meanwhile I'm starting the first week of a full month of single-parenting in Mysore, India!  This is certainly a new frontier for me!

If you are in Calgary you can practice with Jeff for a full week of Mysore classes straight from the Source!  - there is still a little space if you want to register or drop-in - please get in touch with us directly.  After this week he will be back in Victoria... so be on the look out islanders!

The longer you stay and practice here in Mysore, you realize that each month carries with it a very different feeling, and it is impossible to predict what each period of time will hold.  It's only when you look back that you can observe an occurring  theme.  Like many things, it is a strange phenomena that seems to happen here in this little microcosm more acutely then at home.

In many ways these changes are very quick and obvious with old friends leaving and new people arriving, and in other ways this change is much more subtle, and yet more significant overall - it is the hint of something deeply internal transforming within you.  

Sharath gave conference yesterday, as he does most Sundays, and it was again a very sweet gathering.  I will share some of the highlights I enjoyed with you.  My friend Nea Ferrier also has shared a lovely summary in her blog: New Memories: Home Cooking and Sharath's Conference 9.2.14

My Favourite Bits & Pieces from Sharath's Conference: Feb.2/2014

He touched upon the importance of Parampara (the direct lineage of teachers), "Yoga has to come from the Parampara.  You can't learn by watching a video or going to a conference or a workshop. A conference or video is like entertainment, but it cannot be an education in spirituality.  A real experience of yoga is different then entertainment.

Ashtanga yoga is about the transformation that happens within us.  Our perception of life changes.  It gives our life a new meaning.  Trying to realize what we are - that journey is called spirituality."

He used a great metaphor: "In life we are always running behind something... something that is ultimately unnecessary.  Everyone is running off to somewhere or running to do some training or workshop.  What are you searching for?  Where are you going?
Is it a new posture you are after?  Getting a new posture doesn't make you a good yogi.
Go to the Source which is within you.
Realize What You Are and Why You Are Here!'

"Don't run behind Yoga.  Yoga is within you."

He reinforced that Yoga is to create mental fitness through spirituality, but this must arise from within each person.   How you change and transform yourself through your practice - that is Yoga.
It takes time for the body to change.  We must be patient in our practice.
These days there is very little respect for Yoga and the power of it as a spiritual practice, and the power that is inherent within your own body and mind.

He reminded us about "samsara halahala mohashantyai" saying, Samsara is full of poison, but yoga teaches us how to bring peace to our mind through all different experiences. It helps us to manage the stress of daily life, and is like a "terrain management system" in a car.  (I'm not great with the whole car metaphor, but I get the general idea!)   

"Yoga is the only tool we have to spiritually transform yourself.  This Yoga is Not only an asana practice.  Asana is not the final stages of Yoga.  Yoga is Not just a physical practice."
Ultimately, Yoga is the realization of the Oneness of all.
To realize this Oneness you have to give up many things - anger, greed, fear, desire, and realize you are the same as everyone - you are not different.

"You are Prakriti - nature.  From the earth you came up and at death you will go back to the earth. Birth and death are a mystery, but what you do with the years you have living here on earth is the important part.  The effects of your actions here will remain."

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Saturday is Oil Bath Day…

We've been in Mysore 6 weeks now.  It is usually around this point in the trip that my body starts to reach what feels like might be a breaking point; more over, my mind starts to really dive in upon itself and all sorts of buried thoughts and emotions start to bubble up to the surface and express themselves quite loudly in my body through what one might call "pain"!  Not to mention there is an underlying feeling of irritation and discomfort that never seems to go away.   

I'm reminded of the power of the practice.  Bringing yourself fully to your mat day after day without letting yourself off the hook, or taking the easy route out.  It's like undergoing a deep operation of your mind, whilst restructuring your entire body!  

Not to be too dramatic, but it is a very raw and profound experience to undergo and witness this subtle process taking place, not only in yourself, but in those around you as well.  It is difficult to explain, and until you've been practising in Mysore India for a period of time, I'm not sure you would really understand how intense this process of unraveling can be.  

It reminds me of a poem by Leunig that Dena Kingsberg, an incredibly gifted yoga teacher & practitioner, whom I feel blessed to consider both a friend and mentor, introduced me to five years ago: 

Let it go. Let it out. 
Let it all unravel. 
Let it free and it can be
A path on which to travel.

As a side note: Dena and Jack are here in Mysore right now practicing, along with their two kids, each morning with Saraswathi - How Inspiring! - the whole family practicing Ashtanga Yoga together - a new generation of practitioners here in Mysore!  It is so wonderful to have people like them here to share their wisdom and experience in both the practice and life.  It really makes our time here very special, graced with their energy and expertise, as an added highlight to our own personal practice.

So, what helps to sooth the aches and pains that start to manifest in oneself on various different levels? 

A Saturday Oil Bath! 

This is a very old tradition in South India.  Guruji always used to prescribe a weekly castor oil bath to his students to help rejuvenate the body and release excess "heat" that arises as inflammation.  It also has many other added benefits...      

Thus, today, being Saturday, to help soften our minds and eliminate the stiffness arising in our old bodies… we awoke early and landed in a traditional Castor Oil Bath - in a manner of speaking.  

For those of you who are interested I have posted a couple of funny videos made by our friend and fellow Ashtanga teacher Kimberly Flynn that show the correct method for giving yourself an Oil Bath (in case anyone wants to give it a try!)

Guruji always said to use Castor Oil, but it is very thick and can be difficult to find in some areas of the world.  Almond Oil, Coconut Oil, or Sesame Oil are also great to use and more widely available, not to mention a little less gooey!

Anyway, that's what we're doing this fine Saturday morning.  

Well that, and chasing our child around the house... maybe not what Guruji had in mind when he suggested "resting" after the oil bath.   

However, it's the very full and action-packed life of a householder for us, which means we've got to keep up with an almost-three-year-old who had endless energy and doesn't stop going from dawn to dusk.  Now that's the other part of the practice here for us… keeping a steady mind and having an infinite patience while running non-stop after a little monkey-man who is into everything!  

We are very grateful that Sharath has both compassion and an experiential understanding of this phase of life as well.  We are so blessed to have him as our teacher, to be practicing with him here, and to  witness his ongoing care and attention to each individual student and to his family.  He is truly inspirational! 

Om Sri Gurubhyo Namah 


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!


I can't believe another year has gone by… We began 2013 in Mysore last year, and it is here that we end the year again.  It's like coming home to yourself and discovering that indeed you have been changed by the course of time after all.  Personally, I've always found my time in India to somehow highlight the areas in which I've grown, and also make painfully obvious all areas that I still need to work on.

The New Moon at the start of this New Year brings with it an excellent time to reflect and reconnect to your purpose.  The New Moon symbolizes 'new beginnings' and so it is an opportunity to set an intention or goal, or even just take a glance at where you've been, how far you've come, and look ahead to where you are going.  How auspicious that it all happens as we pass from 2013 to 2014!

Some of you know our tradition of coming up with 2 words at the beginning of the New Year. One word reflects your feelings or thoughts about the year past and the other word reflects your intentions for the year to come.  These are Not two words that you should sit around and contemplate, they are simply the first words that come into your head when you think about 2013 & 2014.  We invite you to join us in this fun little game we started now a full decade ago!

So, maybe you're wondering what we've been up to for the last month here in Mysore…
Well, we've been going deeper into our practices, which is spiritually and mentally a wonderful experience, but physically we're feeling a lot of the "sweet pain" that Guruji would talk about.  Some old openings are 're-opening', as we delve deeper into the process of purification that always goes hand-in-hand with practice in Mysore. I'm not sure there are words that can describe the metaphysical process that goes on through the practice here in this place, but it is awe-inspiring.  I am both humbled and grateful to be a witness to it.

On a purely mundane level, we tried to see if Jediah would take to preschool with the other kids who are here, but after 3 failed attempts and his many angry statements like: "I will not go to school" we decided it was better not to traumatize him with a debauched "Indian preschool" experience, and so we have a fairly proud "preschool drop-out" to contend with, and that pretty much keeps us literally running around all day long.

On a typical day, we have a sitter who comes to our house at 4am, so we can leave before Jediah wakes up and has a massive melt-down that we're leaving, potentially waking our neighbours, and so if all goes well, we can peacefully leave for practice. Afterwards I come home and Jeff continues to assist Sharath for another 2.5 hours.  After that we're pretty much occupied with trying to keep our little man distracted and busy.  Breakfast, coconuts, parks, pools, more parks, walks, climbing, running, more coconuts, hopefully a late lunch in there somewhere or dinner,  a bucket bath, and finally bed.  Something like that.  I'm pretty sure Jeff and I can tell you all the best parks near Gokulum at this point.  Occasionally we get to chanting, and some days we might even get to study some Yoga Texts or have a nap - if our little man is napping, which seems to happen once or twice a week at this point!

Health wise we were all doing much better, that is until Jediah got an eye infection, and I got a lung infection, and both Jeff and I went down with a fever.  Hopefully we'll all be back to our "New" healthy selves by the end of the week!

That's my little New Year update.  Just wanted to stay in touch and keep you connected with where we're at and how we're doing over here in India.

Wishing you all the best in 2014! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Back in the Arms of Mother India

OK - So I realize I'm horrible at writing this blog, considering the last entry was almost a year ago!
It's not that I don't have great intentions, it's just that we are so busy when living and teaching in Canada I honestly can barely find time to sleep, let alone write something intelligent or even remotely worth reading!

Now that we have returned to our home away from home, Mysore India, I am feeling the start of an indescribable release into a deep inner space where my heart and mind can once again come into synchronicity with each other.  I have only had three days of practice at the Shala with Sharath, but even in those three practices I feel that all the effort, energy, time, and expense of getting here is worth it.  Each breath, every vinyasa, I could feel an inner strength gathering and growing once again, the pain in my body starting to subsiding, my mind relaxing and moving inward while my spirit softens. 

However, any trip to India rarely comes without many other accompanying difficulties.  As you probably know, Jeff and I are here with our almost 3 year old son, Jediah.

We spent our first two weeks in Goa, at the beautiful Purple Valley Retreat Centre teaching a retreat. The centre itself is lovely, the staff there are incredible, and the students who came were all a delight.

We couldn't have imagined a better entry into India.  I am always amazed at the beauty and openness from most of the local Indian people.  There is something so honest about their attitudes and interactions.  It is such a gift.

That said, it was a bit of a rocky start in other ways, as both Jeff and our little Jediah have been struggling with tormenting health issues since our arrival.  Jeff had a terrible case of bronchitis, and Jediah has been plagued with bites and infections, as well as a cough and cold.  Luckily, Mysore has several very good physicians and specialists who live in Gokulum, so we have been able to get some really good care for him here.

However, just when we thought Jediah was on his way to fully restored health, he woke up extra early yesterday, (1:30am) and started vomiting by 4am, which made us quite nervous.  I postponed going to practice until Jeff returned from assisting Sharath in the Shala. Sharath is really understanding with parents and gives them a lot of compassion about coming to practice whenever they can, and understands that with kids, sometimes there are unforeseen circumstances that you have to attend to, which might mean you have to practice earlier or later or even in the afternoon.

Anyway, after a little nap Jediah's spirits were once again high and bright.  He is a real trooper, and always has such a happy and positive attitude, you would never guess he was feeling ill at all.  We are very fortunate he is such a good little traveler, and today he is back to his normal healthy self, minus a few skin rashes we are still treating.

Mysore with a child is a very different place… but it definitely doesn't take away from the magic of the practice here, or the depths you can go within yourself.  It maybe even adds a little bit of magic of a different sort - to see the world through the eyes of a child is an unspeakably beautiful gift, and one that I cherish every moment of!

To sum it all up, despite some of the health difficulties we've been dealing with, after only three days of practice in the Shala here, I am feeling so nourished and happy to be home.  It is such a blessing to have this time to once again dive into the sea of yoga;  and I cannot even guess what discoveries may await to be explored in its depths this time around.  

 Om Tat Sat…