Saturday, June 10, 2017

SHANTALA MAKING BEAUTIFUL MUSIC

A Friday morning.  Three hundred and twenty miles ahead of us.  Stuck in traffic.  And more traffic.  And crazy, impatient drivers who cut in and out of lanes with barely inches to spare between the vehicle in front or behind them.  People!  Chill out!

We were headed to our annual few days retreat at Breitenbush Hot Springs in Oregon.  It is a place of great spirit, such beauty, and the quiet of nature that is all encompassing, only interrupted by the rushing Breitenbush River and frog song at night.

The intentional community of Breitenbush is owned and operated by its inhabitants, providing a year round calendar of programs and workshops, rustic but comfortable accommodations, and organic homemade creative healthy meals three times a day, so bountiful it is impossible to get hungry in between.  Also those hot springs -- bubbling up into pools that soothe the weary muscles of a weary I-5 traveler.

Our reason for going this year, same as last, was to spend three days with Shantala, the duo of  Benjy and Heather Wertheimer who sing sacred chant, lead Kirtan, and dazzle with musicianship extraordinaire.  Joined this year by an outstanding musician in his own right, Sean Frenette, and yoga led by Seattle's Elizabeth Rainey, we knew we were in for a welcome respite from the tensions of the "real world".

The weather was cooler than expected, but still lovely.  Flowers bloomed, hiking trails beckoned, the soaking pools especially welcome.  Our two daily sessions with Benjy and Heather were filled with sharing, music, meditation, and grounding into a place of peace and calm.  Morning yoga helped get our bodies moving in ways that honored our individual needs and prompted us to be gentle with expectations and outcomes, accepting and loving our unique "earth skins".

We stayed two days beyond our workshop with Shantala to continue to soak in the Breitenbush magic, then it was back on I-5 again for the trek home.  We timed it mid-day, mid-week, so it wasn't quite so bad, but still noted aggression on the highways.  It's a wonder there are not more accidents and road rage incidents!  Everyone really should take a Breitenbush break to find out what is truly important -- and it's not speeding to any destination faster than everyone else!

So, do you wish you could get a taste of what we had?  YOU CAN!  And absolutely NO long road trip (if you live close to Yoga Circle).  Shantala is coming to AngelArmsWorks in Snohomish on June 25th.  Visit the Yoga Circle Studio website for more information under "workshops" or click here: http://www.yogacirclestudio.com/events/  You will be enveloped in love, beautiful music, sacred song, and a sense of peace you may be craving.   It's a rare opportunity to have these folks in our community.  Come!

Namaste,   donnajurene

PS.  What's Kirtan?  Here's a link to a previous blog post. http://circlingthemat.blogspot.com/2015/12/make-joyful-noise.html

Benjy and Heather offer a great introduction to the practice and even if chanting isn't your thing, they weave in more instrumental music than many Kirtan artists do, so you can sit back and drink in the soothing, mysterious sounds they create with their variety of unusual instruments. Try it.

Monday, May 29, 2017

WORKAHOLIC MIND


Can you relate to this?

My meditation time yesterday was a mess.  I could not settle my mind for the entire 20 minutes I'd allotted.  One thought after another screamed out for my attention; mostly reminders and 'to-do' list items.   My Monkey Mind was in full swing.

Monkey:  "Milk!  You have to buy milk today.  And a new nozzle for the hose.  Remember to pay the water bill.  I hope my veggies grow. Make sun tea.  Better get it out there on the table.  Wait...I need more tea.  Fruity would be nice.  Buy tea.  It will taste so good while sitting on the deck later.  I wonder if they have that little sandbox on sale anywhere?  Grandkids would love it.  Get online and check.  Sand too..."

And on and on it went.  I realized I was fighting it.  Every thought was followed by a sense of frustration and semi-decision to just get up and go do something.  But I kept sitting and watching it unfold and soon, instead of reprimanding my Monkey, I thanked her.  I told her she was like a workaholic, doing the thing minds do with such great dedication, but man oh man, she was working overtime!  Again!

Then with each new "reminder" I said, "Thank you.  Thank you for reminding me."  As as the thank yous piled up, the reminders became fewer.  My mind started to quiet, if not exactly calm completely down.  It wasn't like the workaholic knocked off early, but she did head to the break room for a cup of coffee.  Some days, meditation is just that.  A slight break.  A time of noticing.  A time of sending gratitude to those parts of us that are doing their jobs.  I appreciate that my mind keeps me on task and takes care of the details of my life.  My job is to encourage her to take more breaks.

Self-compassion takes many forms.  ©

Namaste,  donnajurene

Photo Credit and Resource: http://eocinstitute.org/meditation/how-mindful-meditation-tames-the-anxious-monkey-mind/  Disclaimer:  I thought this article had some good info, but it also links to something called EquiSync and I don't know what that is; I AM NOT ENDORSING THAT.

Monday, May 22, 2017

GARDEN YOGA

FINALLY!!!  We've endured a long, wet fall, winter, and early spring here.  The Puget Sound area set a new rainfall  record with over 44 inches between October 2016 and April 2017 -- more than our usually annual average!  This past weekend the sun came out, the temps soared into the 70's, and every single person who could went outside.

My husband and I spent hours in our yard and gardens.  We have a big yard with many spaces to tend.  We finally prepped our raised beds and got the veggies seeds planted, moved some perennials around, staked the raspberries, made plans for two new patio areas, and, as I write this, my husband is doing an asphalt patch on the cracks in our long driveway.  It feels good to be out, warm, and dry.

I've noticed before how often I am working in the garden and my awareness of yoga poses slips in as I bend, stoop, squat, and straighten up.  Today I was looking over some resources for activities to do in the yard with my grandkids and I came across this great poster.  My granddaughters, ages 2 and 7, love doing yoga with me.  I am eager to introduce "Garden Yoga" to them!

How about you?  Do you think of yoga poses as you go about your daily routine?  There are ample opportunities to incorporate asana practice off the mat.  You might want to start with a stroll to the backyard, gaze up at that brilliant blue sky, take in the fresh green of new growth and do a few simple poses to honor the return of the sun, the return of warmth, the return of long, lovely days of light and vitality as we dive deep into another perfect Northwest summer.

Namaste,  donnajurene

Photo credit: yogaforkids.com free printable poster

Saturday, May 13, 2017

YOGA = KINDNESS

Karen saw me jotting down some notes in class on Thursday and she knew I was cooking up something for this blog.  I told her I often have ideas during practice, but by the time I get home and have time to write,  the thoughts have floated away on a wispy cloud (just like we tell them to during meditation) and I have no idea what my brilliant idea was.

Apparently jotting down notes doesn't help that much either.  Here are my notes:  "kindness/yoga"; "edge - place between pleasure/pain"; "listen to breath, body - let go thoughts"; "effort, pay attention."

What did all that mean?  With notepad in hand, I was coalescing random thoughts into a grand topic idea and even conjuring compete sentences, composing a post that felt fresh even though I've previously covered topics about those disparate words.  Now, two days later, all I have are those cryptic notes.  I know I could just dive in and come up with something, but it wouldn't be what I wanted to write and it would feel forced.  Note to Self:  Next time take better notes.

So, let's talk about crying.  Yesterday we had a small class with Elizabeth.  Since she is gifted at gearing the class therapeutically around body issues practitioners might have, she always asks if people need to work on anything in particular. There were several requests, including a question about how yoga relates to our emotions.  Elizabeth explained that some believe that the connecting fascia "holds" emotional energy and when we stretch the fascia it loosens and releases those emotions.  She talked about a practitioner who has a chronic debilitating condition.  Early in her newfound yoga practice, this woman cried, even sobbed, all through the class.  Can you relate?  I sure can!

Maybe it was the power of suggestion, but yesterday after this discussion I found that tears welled up in my eyes several times during class.  Was it the fascia releasing emotional energy?  Maybe.  I had been feeling stiff and sore, inflexible and exhausted lately.  I told myself there was no reason for this so I've been concerned about it.  But as the class progressed, I realized that once again I was judging myself -- not remembering the two-week "vacation" from practice while traveling, the hours of gardening, the days of caring for my two year old granddaughter, the episodes of eating way too many sugary treats.  Naturally I wasn't in peak flexibility and strength form!  But instead of honoring that truth, I had worried that I was sick with some dread disease, or maybe just losing my stamina due to age or sloth, or the extra 5 pounds I've packed on over the winter.  Those anxieties weren't at the forefront of my thoughts, but stored inside my body.  As we worked slowly to release and strengthen our muscles, find proper alignment in our poses, and give ourselves permission to NOT do a pose at all, I found my emotions finding release as well.

I started to pay attention, without effort, letting my thoughts go and allowing my tears to come.  When I expressed frustration with not finding certain poses, Elizabeth suggested to me that my scoliosis and particular body might not "welcome" some poses, so don't do them!  Perfection has no place on the yoga mat; I always forget that and her reminder touched me.

There is an edge between pleasure and pain and it's our awareness of that edge that allows us to grow in asana practice.  I honor that awareness, but too often try to push myself beyond that edge to achieve those poses that my body wisdom knows to reject.  That's where kindness comes in; the kindness of a reminder from a yoga teacher and the kindness we offer ourselves by not judging.

If you see tears in my eyes, you'll know I've found that place of grace on the mat where, yes, yoga equals kindness.©

Namaste,   donnajurene

Photo Credit:  pixabay.com