Dear Yoga Family,
Hello and happiness from Big Sur. I’m writing you this love letter from retreat on the great California Coast. It is magnificent here – the breathtaking landscape, the wonderful and wise guidance of our teachers. We are all slowing down to the speed of the majestic mountains and red wood trees. We are paying attention. And lazily, groggily, we are waking up.
The gift of being on retreat, the luxury of retreat, is this singular invitation to disconnect and recharge. The vacation alone is a treat we rarely grant ourselves. Add that delight to the feeling of pressing up against nature – the smell of eucalyptus, the sounds of ocean waves, the infinite beauty of sun and sky and stars. Delicious meals are lovingly planned, prepared and cleaned by someone else, delivering a spirit of freedom. Daily there is a sense of having more time. Intermingling deep practices of yoga and meditation with spacious rest, massage, walks, reading, laughing…. all feel so good. It’s what our body, mind and heart deeply yearn for.
Dear Yoga Circle,
Remember. Remember what it feels like after savasana, after class. Remember what it feels like after sitting quietly for a moment. Remember what it feels like to be with your breath. Consider asking – how do I want to feel when I wake up? How do I want to feel when I’m working? When I cash the check? When I look forward towards my year? How do I want it to feel in my relationships? In my inner-most conversation? Clarify the feeling – in the heart, not the thinking mind – and let that lead the call to action. Ask if there is anything holding you back from pursuing how you want your life to feel? What would it be like to trust the feeling and follow it?
One of my teachers says that “training is driven either by suffering or by curiosity.” Clarifying what drives us and what we value can help us remember why we are practicing.
“The purpose of life is to be happy.” -Dalai Lama
Remember your heart and step out on the path. Again and again.
The practices of yoga and meditation are all training grounds to bring us back to Beginner’s Mind. Every moment is a fresh start. We’re always beginning. Moment to moment a sparkling invitation to creation.
What a gift to have this time of year – a built in reminder to recommit to our values and dreams. An annual encouragement to see this day as new, to choose now what happens next. We craft our own road maps towards the treasures of greater ease and richer happiness, precisely by journeying on path that is unknown, brand new. Yogis heighten and maintain this awareness with regular daily practices. We want to see it all as if for the first time. As we begin to see more clearly and honestly, we realize things aren’t always the way we think they are. Slowly we let go of old opinions. We sensitize the mind to learning, curiosity, wonder, even bafflement. We train in expanding the knowing mind so wide it also includes the vast mysteries of life. Beginner’s Mind.
In this open, engaged way we nurture our spirit with real direct experiences of all possibilities. We reveal the most vital life force within us; the awareness that we can be at peace with all the flavors out there.
May you discover immense freedom and life-enhancing love in this new year. May your contentment overflow and ripple out to everyone you touch. And in this way, may this practice uplift us all.
It is pure delight to share the path with such sincere students, doing the real work, and each of us learning from each other along the way. Thank you all.
Dear Yoga Sanga,
Next week is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, the first real day of winter. It is a time to gather with heart tribes and celebrate. It is also a time of to turn inwards towards the warm, deep fires of spirit. The darkness of the season calls for introspection, integration, rest, more yin than yang. Honoring the earth’s turn away from the sun, from the light, allow darkness to envelope us like the seed in the life-giving womb, the hibernating bear in the cave, the pearl buried deep in the oyster at the bottom of the ocean floor. In this darkness we grow and transform like the butterfly forms in its cocoon. As an initiation to this inward journey, this time of real transformation, invite yourself to a meal. Create a date with yourself. This ritual will pair your intention with action, giving it potency. Spend the meal with yourself – free of conversation, technology, reading, music or any other distraction. Enjoy your food. Enjoy a mindful meal in your own magnificent company. You might begin with a blessing and end with gratitude or maybe just toast to a happy solstice. Then wrap yourself in the season’s velvet blanket and settle in for winter’s sweet shifts to take root.
The practices of yoga and meditation are invitations to be a part of the change. Aligned with body, mind, community and heart wise teachings, we as practitioners become the agents of change. Through our practice, we steady ourselves and in doing so, become steadier supports for the world around us. How much we pay attention now is of utmost importance. Our presence of mind in the present moment, immediately affects what happens next. On the mat, we place the hand just so; when we speak, we choose our words with precision; when we act, we aim for skill and grace. And our direct experience confirms that these commitments result in greater peace, greater spaciousness, greater capacity for contentment and laughter and love in our own lives.
We as practitioners take the internal and personal vow to pay attention – even to the unpleasant and difficult. Sensitivity expands. We physically feel ourselves more intimately, our breath on the inside, muscles moving. Patterns and places where we tighten, tense, resist, over-work, stress become more clear, more known. We begin to see more subtle tendencies of suffering – aggression, impatience, harshness – we bring to the world and ourselves. And to the degree that we learn how to de-escalate our own discontent is the degree we can bring about peace in this world.
I genuinely believe in the liberating and transformative effects of these practices. I hope you can join me for these upcoming offerings (retreat, workshops, teacher training, classes) to taste it for yourself. The new year calls for change. Make a declaration, a resolution, take a vow. Reaffirm your commitment to practice and reclaim your destiny and your joy.
Thank you for doing this profound work. May it benefit and uplift us all.
Dear Yoga Family,
Warming in the fires of movement and resting in the embers’ glow, this season is a time to fully embody both. Be active and passive. Sweat and sleep. Now is the in between place. Let the winds of change brush your cheek, allow your breath touch your heart and as you turn inward, remember who you – the one with the great capacity for kindness, patience, compassion and love. Join me for a harvest of practices that will bring you home to that place again.
With gratitude and joy,
Dear Yoga Tribe,
The delightful news is that when we begin to work with any heart-based practice – compassion, kindness, acceptance, patience – we see that it is intimately connected to all the others. By practicing non-judgement we notice becoming more accepting. By practicing forgiveness we come to know gratitude. Through practicing commitment, we come to experience contentment. All heart practices bring us closer joy and more capable experiencing great love. Through this work we make our lives more beautiful on the inside. Start small. Dare to be simple. Watch what happens next.
Maybe it is the drought or maybe it’s summer’s early call to the beach or maybe it’s all the talk of being in the flow or the upcoming retreat to Hawaii… I’ve been dreaming of the ocean lately. Spiritual endeavors are invitations to dive into the deep waters, float in the middle of the stream without clinging to the edges, move with grace and strength, be adaptable and buoyant. For the water there is no sense of broken, only whole.
In meditation, when the active mind can submerge beneath the surface waves, sink down to the bottom of bowl of the pelvis, the possibility of accessing life source is awakened. The Chinese call this vitality Chi, the yogi’s call it prana, Ayurvedics refer to the water and earth elements. The experience is grounding, calming and deeply nourishing. A long drink on a hot day.
I encourage you to mine these rich depths, to drop anchor and allow all the churned up sediment to settle. Simply by closing the eyes and deepening the breath we can taste a sip of this liquid gold. Sustaining these dives for longer sessions will offer even greater access to these rich reserves.
Loosen the ties that bind. Come flow and move with me in class, come sit and meditate together or come swim in Maui and discover this hidden treasure for yourself.