Chanting, Ganesha, & the Magic of Yoga

Something amazing happened. Unknowingly, I took my first step onto the path laid out for me. 

 

I was maybe 21 or 22 years old. I was married to someone who had been keeping big secrets from me since the very beginning. My heart knew something was off, but my head couldn't figure it out. Knowing that you're being lied to, but not having any proof or any reason to believe it is a tricky situation. I was in love. We were riding this roller coaster together. Big highs, and even bigger lows. Sometimes I felt like I was losing my mind. Like pieces of me were getting lost along the ride. I floated on.


I don't remember how I found it. But somehow I learned about a group of yoga teachers that taught all donation based classes outdoors.  I found this great teacher and I went to her classes really regularly. Sometimes I was the only one who showed up. It was my therapy.


Those hours spent doing yoga in the park made me feel sane. They helped me see that there was so much more out there. And that it was okay to want more.


One day after asana practice she taught the group the chant to Ganesha. I had never chanted before. I had no idea who Ganesha was. I'd seen pictures of him before, but I never really knew who he was or what he represented.


She explained that Ganesha was the remover of obstacles. He is depicted with the head of an elephant and the body of a boy. His ears are large, for listening. His belly is large enough to digest any problems, any obstacles, anything that we can't stomach alone. He is often depicted riding a mouse, which symbolizes how light he is - free of any attachments to weigh him down.


Chanting felt... natural, but also other worldly all at once. I felt like this weight had been lifted. And it felt good.


Chanting opens up the most beautiful space around everything. This space is always there. Sometimes we forget because we're so focused on what's happening in our minds. When we chant, the sounds bring us back home to that space within.


After that very first chant to Ganesha, I had a strange almost out of body experience. Maybe not out of body, but certainly out of mouth. I went to the teacher after class to thank her and give a donation, and something strange came out of my mouth. I asked her where she trained to become a yoga instructor. I told her that I had been thinking of becoming one myself.


In fact, that thought had never crossed my mind. I felt like I had just lied to her. But to my surprise, she told me that she knew that I would do it. That I would become a yoga  instructor. Her faith in me gave me faith in myself. I let the thought linger. 

 

That night a friend of mine who is quite psychic read my tarot cards. The message could not be more clear. The cards told me that I was stepping onto my life path - the path of a healer. They told me to follow through with the thoughts that I had been having.

 

Sometimes signs are subtle. Sometimes they're so subtle that we may miss them. Other times, signs are neon

86109580-1ED5-424F-8C6A-66614B9DF044.JPG

reminiscing. missing.

I missed my grandfather today. I wished he could've been here in Barcelona with me. To show me the places he knew. That were his.


I've always felt that Barcelona was mine. Not mine in a possessive sense. In the way that a certain style is yours, or a habit. Barcelona was mine.


But today I had that sense that he was missing. This city where he had grown up. Where he had lived. That was his. Here I was just reminiscing about every day I'd spent here, without him.  Without him as a guide or a mentor. And now he was missing.

La Rambla de Catalunya, Barcelona  

La Rambla de Catalunya, Barcelona  

inspiration.

Sometimes it's good to remember that inspiration comes with preparation. When I have no inspiration, if I push myself to at least set up my space- whether that means setting up my easel and putting everything into place and mixing paint, or making tea and getting a notebook and my laptop ready for writing - the simple act of setting up my space creates the right mood for inspiration to come join me where I am.

Sometimes you just have to start. Light a candle. Make it special. Dress a certain way to prepare yourself for it. Put on music that inspires you. 

When I was younger, if I so much as painted  my nails I would get struck with ideas for a new painting. If I tried to do homework, simply holding a pen or pencil made me want to sketch. But I think as we get older and we get more responsibilities, we become less inspired because it feels like there isn't enough time for creativity. Of course that's not true. Creativity fuels you. Creating can give you energy to do everything else you do with just a  little bit more joy. 

Let inspiration hit you. And if it doesn't, seek it out. Create space for it. Tell the universe " I'm ready". And let inspiration meet you where you are  

 

set yourself free.

So humbled.


One of my students today shared with me after my chair yoga class that she cries in closing meditation every time. She lost her son to a car accident in January and she takes care of her sick husband at home. She has nowhere to cry. She hasn't been able to grieve.


I could see her pain. I could see her confusion. She almost wanted to stop coming so that she wouldn't cry.


Two other women noticed her crying and came over to comfort her. These are the two self appointed "chairmen" of the class (it's chair yoga, get it?). And it just made me realize what an amazing little tribe I have. They support each other, they laugh together, and for many of them that class is the highlight of their week. And the three of us just talked with her about what was going on and reminded her that it's okay to cry, and why it's healthy to cry.


We release things when we cry. When we bottle up emotions they cause tension in the body, and sometimes they can cause some very real harm.


Crying sets your pain free.


Human beings are not meant to carry the heaviness of emotions with us. We're meant to feel them. Process them. And then, let them go.


And in doing so, we set ourselves free.

IMG_3071.JPG

release through yoga.

So humbled.

One of my students today shared with me after my chair yoga class that she cries in closing meditation every time. She lost her son to a car accident in January and she takes care of her sick husband at home. She has nowhere to cry. She hasn't been able to grieve.

Two other women noticed her crying and came over to comfort her. These are the two self appointed "chairmen" of the class (it's chair yoga, get it?). And it just made me realize what an amazing little tribe I have. They support each other, they laugh together, and for many of them that class is the highlight of their week. And the three of us just talked with her about what was going on and reminded her that it's okay to cry, and why it's healthy to cry. 

We release things when we cry. When we bottle up emotions they cause tension in the body, and sometimes they can cause some very real harm.

Crying sets your pain free.

This made me feel so grateful that I get to do this work and hold space for people. I get to be a part of their emotional healing journey. 

I cant imagine devoting my life to anything else.  

 

sacral chakra & creativity

I've been wanting to write a blog about each of the chakras for a long time now, but not anything formal or even informative.  I just wanted to write the first thing that comes to mind about each. What I've written below actually wrote itself yesterday. It's about creativity. Which is exactly what I think about when I think about the second chakra. 

svadisthana_chakra

But first, a little about the second chakra.

The second chakra is the sacral chakra, or svadisthana. The element of the sacral chakra is water.

Flow. Movement. Emotion.

Amorgos Island, Greece  

Amorgos Island, Greece  

Imbalances here can show up as bottling emotions, or being overly emotional, intimacy issues, repressed sexuality, or issues with addiction. It can also show up as writer's block, loss of creativity, or a loss of authenticity

My svadisthana mantra is "Creativity flows through me like water." And some days it's, "I feel, I'm in touch with my emotions, I'm in touch with my sensuality."

So below is what I wrote yesterday about living a creative life. I felt like it was appropriate to share along with this. Hope you dig. :)

Writing can me to tears.

Reading about writers writing gives me butterflies. It's something that I know is mine. I can feel it in my blood. It rushes through my veins like words rush onto a page. 

I feel this way about teaching yoga. Sometimes I feel this way about painting too. 

You don't have to stick to one calling. You can have all the callings you care to. I nourish my inner creator every time I step on a yoga mat, every time I pick up a paint brush, every time I write.

Sometimes I feel like I don't do it enough but the truth is, I just do it when I feel inspired. And sometimes that's five times in one day and other times it's five times in one year. 

The reason I'm writing this is because it asked to be written. But also because I want you to know that you have permission to create whatever your heart desires. 

You have permission to become anyone or anything that you choose. You do not have to stick to the path you're on.  As human beings we are truly blessed with the ability to create. And we do it every day. We create style when we get dressed. We create culinary art when we cook. We create so much more than we give ourselves credit for.

 And that inner artist in you is begging to be recognized. Just to be acknowledged. Then maybe inspiration will flow to you too. And if it doesn't, just play. There is nothing wrong with making art that isn't "good", whatever that means. It's the process that counts, the journey if you will. The act of making the thing, not the thing itself that is important. 

This is our gift. 

To create. To be inspired. To play. To connect with our divine. Our inner creator. 

This is the magic that exists within each and every one of us. 

Whether you choose to accept the gift, or not is your choice.

This is a public promise to myself that I will write when I feel inspired. That I will paint when I need colour. I will move when my body asks me to move. I will live creatively, because it's the only way I can. This is my soul pledge. 

This is a formal invitation to join the movement. There is enough room for all of us. There is enough inspiration to go around for everyone. Will you come create with us? 

IMG_2351.JPG

how to let go: say goodbye to stress in seven days.

More and more people every day are experiencing stress. In fact I am constantly seeing articles online about the rise of stress related illness, and about the number of people who report feeling stressed at work or overwhelmed.

So what's causing this trend? And how do we start to reverse it? 

The top three common sources of stress are money, work, and family responsibilities in that order. These are all real things that we have to deal with to be a functioning part of this world. Neither money nor work can actually be avoided, and I'd be willing to bet the same people who say that their family responsibilities are a source of stress still love their families and wouldn't want to avoid them.

So if we can't avoid stress, what's the solution?

This is not the part where I prescribe a cure all or say some magic words and render you stress-free. Sorry.

This is the part where I offer you a solution that works - but it takes a little effort on your part. Consider this a seven day stress relieving challenge. 

IMG_2274.JPG

Day One: Where is your time going?

Do some soul searching. When was the last time that you felt truly free? It probably wasn't the other day when you got stuck in your Facebook news feed for 25 minutes when you meant to just go in and send one message. 

Maybe that was me. Oops. But maybe you've done the exact same thing. Or maybe you've spent six hours of your day binge watching Netflix. Recognize where your time is going. Ten minutes here and there, or a few hours a day may not seem like a lot right now but trust me the time adds up. This time is basically stolen from you.

Most people also don't feel particularly fulfilled after scrolling for half an hour or watching an entire season of something in a week. Usually once you finish that season, it's just like, what's next? 

Do you know what two things rarely seem to go together? Stress and fulfillment. More on that later.

For day one, your task is to recognize where your time is going. Be radically honest with yourself. Take notes all day. Write down every time you open social media and how long you spend on it. Write down what shows you watched and how long you sat in front of a screen - this gets fun when you time how long each commercial is and find out how much time you're being fed advertisements. 

Ideally you'll keep this time diary for the entire seven days. But getting one full day in will at least give you an idea of where your time goes. 

Day Two: What can you let go of?

Now that you have an idea of what is sucking up your time, it's time to make some decisions.

If you realize that over the course of one day, you spent an accumulated two hours of your time on the Facebook app, it may be time to delete the app. I'm not saying delete your account, just make it less easily accessible. Instead, give yourself 25 minutes at the end of the day to go through your news feed on your laptop or computer. Set a timer & stick to it. 

Let go of the things that steal your moments. 

The moments that make up your day are the moments that make up your life. Do you want to spend it scrolling? 

Release the things that aren't bringing you bliss to create space for happiness to grow. 

Day Three: What are you grateful for?

Create a gratitude practice. 

One really simple way to do this is to keep a gratitude journal by your bed and write in it morning and night. In the morning, write down three things that you feel grateful for. And at night, write down three things that you are grateful for that happened that day. 

Now I've already suggested that you keep a time diary for the week so if you're like, dude, I hate writing why are you making me write every day? Then another sweet way to practice gratitude is to do a daily gratitude meditation. 

You can totally find guided gratitude meditations on the Mindbliss app, or on YouTube, or any site that has meditation videos. One of my favourite gratitude meditations actually comes from the Tim Ferriss podcast. This meditation with Tony Robbins is super short, 11 minutes total. It's an excerpt from their full podcast. The full episode is amazing if you're into listening to podcasts, but if not just do the short meditation piece.

Eventually gratitude becomes a habit. It is literally a muscle that you build up. Once that muscle is strong, you'll begin to feel gratitude spontaneously throughout the day. Maybe you'll feel grateful every time you feel the warm sun on your skin, or every time you see a flower. These are moments of beauty. Look at you, getting those moments back!

Day Four: What jewels are you hiding?

This is where we get into fulfillment. Each and every one of us has something that lights our soul up. I love this quote from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, "The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them." 

Today you're going on a treasure hunt.

Think back to the last time that you felt truly, blissfully, free. Maybe it was last month, maybe it was in childhood. We are all creative creatures. What was it that as a child you loved to do? Maybe you danced, or played sports, or ice skated, or made crafty things. Maybe you loved to tell elaborate stories, or sing, or color.

I was in love with art. I loved to sew Barbie clothes and draw and write poems. Now I know that as an adult I need to write and paint and make things to fulfill my inner creator. This is a non-negotiable. And when I neglect these needs, my inner creator turns into one of those hangry beasts from the Snickers commercials. Not cute.

Do you know what happens when you don't eat for a long time? At first there are regular signs of hunger like the stomach growling. But after some time those signs subside. It becomes a dull ache. Something that you learn to live with, to cope with. It becomes background noise. (Until eventually it becomes literally all you can think about)

Your jewels, your talents, your creative needs have always been there. But because the body doesn't physically need for you to create to survive, those needs become background noise. A dull ache, a feeling of emptiness. Something missing. 

Stress & fulfillment cannot co-exist. 

Find out what it is that would fulfill you. Maybe your jewel is listening to people. Beautiful, go volunteer at an elderly home and listen to the stories of their youth. Maybe your jewel is dancing. Beautiful, take a dance class once a week or make it a habit to go dancing once a week. Maybe your jewel is yoga. Beautiful, do it #everydamnday.

Make these things a priority. 

Day Five: What moves you?

What literally moves you? Movement is medicine. I've said it a thousand times and I'll say it another million. Movement is medicine

Your body is built to move. It is not built for this world that we've created. It is built to climb, to run, to crawl, to dance. Your body should move in every way, every day.

But not everyone has time for that. So make it a point to move in some way every day. And make it a point to change the way that you move as often as you can. 

Exercise releases endorphins. Simple. It relieves stress. But when we're stressed we don't think that we have time to exercise. When in reality, it would ease our suffering. 

Often the thing that you resist is the thing that you need most. 

If you are already a regular yoga practitioner, then change up your routine. If you're a dedicated Barkan method practitioner, then switch to a Budokon class instead. Just try something different - even Pilates or a bootcamp class. Nothing good grows from stagnation.

Overall, the most important thing here is to move. 

Day Six: Where is your mind?

Come back to the moment. 

When you're stressed, your mind is not here. Your mind is probably trying to juggle all of the things on your plate and spinning in a vortex of repeating negative thoughts and worries.

So come back. 

When you are at home or at work there is nothing stressful actually happening. You won't be eaten by a dinosaur. You won't be chased by a bear. It's all good. The problem is that it doesn't feel good in the mind. And your entire experience happens within the mind.

Try sitting or lying down and taking a slow scan of your body. Notice exactly how your body feels in this moment, starting from the bottoms of the feet and moving your way up to the scalp. Notice each and every muscle, every joint, notice the sensation of clothing on your skin, notice the surface that you're sitting or lying down on, notice the sensation of hunger or fullness in the belly. Get completely plugged in to your body. 

And breathe.

Bring your awareness to your breath. Breathe deeply. Even if it's only for five minutes. Coming back to the moment will significantly reduce, if not eradicate your stress. 

Do this every time you feel stressed. Every day if you have to. Until it becomes a reflex. 

Do not let stress steal your moments. Live in the here & now.

Day Seven: Who's in charge?

Who's in charge? You? Or your thoughts? How do you take back control?

Medicate. 

Just kidding. Meditate. 

Become the observer.  

Meditation helps you to train your brain to observe your thoughts, rather than attach to them.  So when your head starts spinning with stressful thoughts, instead of getting caught up in them you observe them and let them pass. 

Start a meditation practice. Start small, just five minutes a day. After five days, move up to six. And then add another minute every day until you make your way up to whatever amount of time you can set aside. Maybe that's 20 minutes once a day, or maybe that's an hour in the morning and an hour before bed.  

I use the Mindbliss app for guided meditation, but you can meditate on your breath as well. They have meditation journeys that you can do which usually start as shorter amounts of time and gradually add a little time. Find one for stress relief! 

Ananda Yoga Shala - where we'll be practicing on my  Greece retreat!

Ananda Yoga Shala - where we'll be practicing on my Greece retreat!

It's time to break free from stress. Say goodbye!

I hope these stress relief lifestyle changes work for you! We will be going into all of these and more on my yoga retreat Awakening in Amorgos this August 19-26th! Pay your deposit by May 15th to save $200 off! Come ready to find true transformation and learn habits that you can take with you back home to lead a healthier, happier, stress-free life! I hope to see you on the island!

how yoga teacher training changed my life.

One summer I started a journey that would change my life completely. I was 24, freshly divorced, and I had no clue what I was doing. I planned to go away for three months. I grossly over packed.

This was my first solo trip overseas. In fact it was my first solo trip anywhere. I wouldn't be alone the entire trip though, my sister was meeting me halfway through the trip in London.

La Rambla, Barcelona 2014

La Rambla, Barcelona 2014

The first three days I spent wandering Barcelona in search of my soul. Enjoying this new freedom I'd never felt before. I walked the familiar streets I'd visited before, and some new streets I'd missed in previous trips. Streets where my grandfather grew up, where my mother spent so much of her youth, where I would put my pieces back together and learn to feel whole in solitude. And just as I had started to get my bearings and feel at home again in Barcelona, I flew off to Sevilla.

It was very hot waiting outside at the airport in Sevilla. The heat was dry, just like my home in the desert. I was sitting on a bench waiting to be picked up, listening to pieces of conversations in Spanish. I saw a girl in yoga pants, with a yoga mat. She looked like a hippie and was clearly doing the training with me. We started talking and became fast friends. We'd later discover we were roommates and our nickname throughout training would become "the twins".

Kayaking in Tajo del Aguila  

Kayaking in Tajo del Aguila  

Each morning was spent in silence. We were up before the sun and silently we would make our way to the yoga shala for morning meditation. Meditation was difficult for me. I hadn't yet developed a sitting practice. I learned to listen. I would listen to the animals outside, the chickens, the cats, the dogs, the peacocks, the horses. I heard them all. I could hear sounds in the kitchen and the occasional buzzing of bees. The silence was never truly silent.  After meditation we would take a short break  and then come back to the room for an energizing yoga practice. Sometimes practice was an hour and a half, sometimes longer. Each day I grew stronger. Each day I learned a new pose I had never before attempted. Each day I was surprised.

Suryalila Retreat Centre, Villamartin, Spain  

Suryalila Retreat Centre, Villamartin, Spain  

Finally we broke the silence in our breakfast groups. At first these groups felt like just a fun way to get to know people. But as training went on I understood that truly these groups were a form of therapy. Within a week I was sharing pieces of my soul with complete strangers over tea each morning. It was with this group of new friends that repressed memories from my youth came back to me. I pieced together a part of my story that I didn't understand with people who I had only just met. I know it sounds cheesy, but I found myself again. It was such a relief to finally understand why I had so much pain in my heart, why I had acted out and rebelled so much as a teenager. It all made sense. I gained a renewed sense of purpose and I finally began my healing journey. A journey that I am still on.

Ruins near Suryalila  

Ruins near Suryalila  

I remember walking through the hills, hiking to the tallest peaks, climbing through untouched ruins overgrown with tall grass and wildflowers without ever knowing what used to stand there. I remember roaming through endless fields of sunflowers, exploring the countryside, and making connections that I still hold close in my heart. I remember cool mornings walking barefoot across the property in the dark. I remember the sweat that dripped onto my mat, and the feeling of tears streaming up my face into my hair in wheel pose.

IMG_0728.JPG

This training didn't just teach me the names of poses in Sanskrit, or the history of yoga, or anatomy, or how to meditate. I learned the truth of who I am. Parts of myself that had been hidden finally came to the surface. I discovered my own path. I began a healing process that I didn't quite know I needed. This was my beginning. This was my rebirth.

IMG_0727.JPG

the journey towards a vegan diet.

I’m about to disappoint a few people. And to be honest I’m a bit disappointed myself. But if I intend to live my yoga practice - I have to be authentic and share the pieces of me that I’m still working on.

Seven months ago I decided to make a lifestyle change and go vegan. It didn’t go so well. I really tried for awhile, I did. At first I was cooking a lot and meal prepping and finding tons of great vegan recipes. But as time went on, the busy-ness of life got in the way. I felt so overwhelmingly guilty every time I ate something with cheese, or something that probably had eggs or dairy in it. I was really hard on myself. And finally I realized that all of that self judgement and guilt was worse for me than my diet.

I’ve been vegetarian for seven years now and that has been a breeze. At this point I don’t even think that meat would taste good, nor would I want it anywhere near my plate. To me, it’s a carcass. Decaying flesh. And for me, that is totally unappetizing and I literally can’t stomach it. Not everyone feels this way and I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind, but it’s something that I feel very strongly about. My boyfriend and a good portion of my family are still omnivores and I love them regardless. It’s just something I can’t talk to them about. I’m so against eating meat, I don’t even like to bite my own tongue! ;)

When I decided to go vegan I was really hoping that with time, I would feel just as grossed out by cheese and eggs as I do by meat. That didn’t happen. I don’t think I gave it enough time. But to be honest, I didn’t have the time to meal prep. I didn’t have the time to check every label. I wasn’t willing to do the work. Someday I will be.

I feel that timing is everything. I tried to go vegetarian twice before it actually stuck. Technically three times if you count the time I declared to my mother at 12 years old that I was going vegetarian - she didn’t let me and I wasn’t equipped to grocery shop and cook for myself. My hope is that in the next year or two, I’ll create a schedule for myself that is less crazy but equally rewarding and that will be the right time.

At this point I still lean towards vegan. I still aspire to eat that way as much as possible.  When I get to choose the restaurant, it’s always a vegan restaurant. I love LA because practically everywhere has vegan options and there are so many good vegan spots. I think in the future it will be even easier everywhere else in the world. This is the direction we are moving towards. And I’m moving that way too - just not as quickly as I had hoped.

So there you have it. This is a big piece of my work. Someday I’d love to be vegan, gluten free, soy free, sugar free, and alcohol free. But this isn’t the moment for that. I’m pouring my heart and soul into different endeavors. And I love wine and cheese. I’m finding my balance and staying true to myself - without beating myself up. This is a journey, and not as easy of a journey as I thought it would be. But of course, nothing worthwhile is easy.


I’d love to hear about your journey and your experience with trying a vegan or vegetarian diet! Leave something in the comments if you feel so inclined! Namaste <3

 

vegan-blueberries-yogawithadriana.png

the best damn smoothie I've ever made.

Hey guys!  

It's almost Thanksgiving, which means the season of pumpkin everything is nearing the end! Some of you may be sick of pumpkin by now but I don't belong in that camp. I love pumpkin. Judge me or join me I don't care. I'd proclaim it from mountain tops if Florida wasn't so damn flat. Anyway the other day I made a super delicious and not vegan or healthy in any way layered pumpkin cheesecake and I had some leftover pumpkin purée. So I did what any self respecting human would do and I put it in my protein shake. Usually my protein shakes are just a blend of everything in my house. Sometimes they taste like vinegar, and sometimes they taste like kale, because they're mostly kale. But this time I actually paid attention to what went into it and it was pretty magical. So that's a really long intro for a smoothie recipe but I hope you enjoy it! 

• 2/3 cup pumpkin purée  

• 1 frozen banana (peel your almost overripe bananas and coat them in lemon, or any other citrus juice then put them in a ziploc bag or other container & freeze. This prevents them from going brown) 

• 1 generous handful of kale, spinach, or your preferred greens

• 1 cup plain unsweetened almond milk 

• 1 scoop protein powder (I used Naturade Vegan Smart Chai, I also love Vega) 

• 1 (or 2) dates, or sub 1 tablespoon of Grade B maple syrup  

• cinnamon (to taste, about 1/4 teaspoon) 

• 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

• 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (or sub pumpkin pie spice) 

• 1-2 tablespoons of chia seeds (or hemp)

Blend everything until smooth, creamy, and delicious and enjoy! 

just a thought.

 .

Thought:

On the news I heard a woman say that holiday spending was forecasted to go up this year to an average of over $600 per person. She talked about it as if this is a good thing. A sign of the economy's health.

All I heard was hearts crying out for love, and hands reaching for plastic.

IMG_3234.JPG

autumn.

I am more than excited for autumn... and it's not just because of pumpkin everything. Although, yes.

Green Park, London

Green Park, London

Autumn is the season of letting go. As the air gets cooler, the leaves will change and eventually fall. Each tree lets go of a piece of themselves. Unafraid of change. Unafraid of having to reinvent themselves, or of feeling naked and vulnerable in the process of that change.  This is the perfect time for you to truly dig deep and ask yourself, what am I holding on to? What part of me can I let go of to create space for ________? Fill in the blank.

If you want new love, make space for that person in your life. If you want a new job, clear out time in your day for phone calls and interviews. Manifest it. But give it room to grow. 

Medicine Wheel in Sedona,AZ

Medicine Wheel in Sedona,AZ

In Native American cultures, many ceremonies begin with the ritual of Calling in the Directions. The West, the North, the East, and the South. Each of these directions has a corresponding element, animal, energy, and season. Autumn belongs to the West. The setting sun. Each and every day we let go of the sun. Knowing it will come back to us in the East. Fall corresponds with water. We use water not only to nourish us, but to wash ourselves clean. Washing away our old habits, all of which no longer serves us. The animal of the West is the snake. Snake sheds her skin continually. Leaving behind the cells that she outgrows. Snake leaves the past behind without looking back, lamenting, or questioning. Snake medicine is powerful. The snake is the symbol of medicine in many different cultures, including Western medicine. Our skin cells are constantly multiplying and shedding all at once, without us noticing. When it comes to parting ways with remnants of our past however, like old clothes or old photos, we often cling to things as if when we let them go, the memories we associate with them will fade away too. But Snake shows us not to force it. She glides right through the now hollow cast of herself. Teaching us not to be afraid of parting ways with the past. Slither on towards the setting sun. Aho.

Below is a simple cleansing meditation to help you get ready for fall. Give yourself plenty of time, but at least twenty minutes will do. Find a nice quiet space. Maybe some of your favorite ambient music. You can do this alone, or with a loved one or two. For this meditation you will need some water, and if you have some sage, or palo santo I highly recommend burning it throughout your meditation for cleansing. If not, lighting a candle or incense would be nice, but it's not necessary. (Unless it's a pumpkin spice scented candle and then yes, it's necessary.)

Begin by creating a space for you to meditate. Burn sage or palo santo if you have some. Maybe set out your favorite crystals. Get comfortable. Begin by setting a clear intention. Write down one thing that you must let go of. Whether it's your perfectionism, your fear, something from your past, you decide. Write it down on a small piece of paper. Crumple up that piece of paper and set it aside. Now write down three things that you are creating space for. It can be as simple as love, friendship, or just more space. Or it could be as specific as a new place to live or new job. Set this paper aside.

Now comes the water part of the meditation. If you are doing this meditation alone you can make your water ritual a bath or shower. Wash away whatever it is that you are releasing this fall.  If you are doing this meditation with others, a bowl of water is fine. Add some flower petals in the water to make it feel more ritualistic. Each of you will dip your hands in the water and symbolically cleanse away that which no longer serves you. Either in your bath or shower, or with your hands in the bowl of water, face West and repeat the mantra, "I release." Repeat the mantra 5-10 times, or for the duration of your bath or shower. Take the crumpled piece of paper on which you wrote down the thing you are releasing and soak it with water, either in your bath, shower, or in the bowl of water.

After you've finished the water portion, sit down to meditate, preferably facing West. Repeat the mantra "I release" as you exhale. And as you inhale, repeat the mantra "I receive." Keep in mind what you are releasing and what you are receiving (the three things you wrote down). Meditate for as long as you'd like 5-20 minutes is fine. 

Finally, take your soaked crumpled piece of paper and try to read what you wrote down. The words will likely be illegible. Washed away from the paper. And symbolically, washed away from you.  Keep the piece of paper where you wrote down 3 things that you are creating space for in your wallet until the winter solstice. 

attention, here & now.

The more a man knows about himself in relation to every kind of experience, the greater his chance of suddenly, one fine morning, realizing who in fact he is...
— Aldous Huxley, Island

No need for drama or stress. Get real with yourself the next time you're feeling angry or anxious. Where does it come from? Is it helpful? Can you find a better way to deal? I know when I have too much energy I need power yoga, and if I don't get that energy out it makes me all kinds of irritable. I know if my diet is subpar, I won't have enough energy - and then I need yin yoga and green juice. Get to know your body. What works for me may not work for you. What you read in one study about health will completely contradict another study. Get curious about what fuels you, what makes you feel good. And what doesn't. Your body is probably easier to understand than you think - as long as you're fully present and aware of the subtle cues your body gives you. 

image.jpg

If you've never read Alduos Huxley's  Island, I suggest reading it. And if you haven't read Brave New World, read that one first. Island is his response to Brave New World, decades after writing it. In Island, Huxley creates a utopian society that exists on an island where mynah birds fly about calling "Attention!" and "Here and Now!" to remind the island dwellers to stay present. Meanwhile, the rest of the world lives as we do, money driven and confused. The things this utopian society does can be incorporated into our lives to create a healthier, more sustainable way of life. In fact, this was the last novel Huxley wrote and it almost feels as though he wrote this last book as a blueprint for how he felt society could best flourish. You don't have to agree with everything in the book to realize that he had a lot of things right. 

I encountered this book when I first started exploring my spirituality. I was raised Catholic, turned atheist/agnostic, and was just beginning to re-entertain the possibility of something greater than myself.  This came in the form of Buddhism, Hinduism, Christian Mysticism, you name it. Wherever you happen to be on your path, you'll get something of value out of this book. But I happen to believe that you can get something of value out of every moment, every conversation, every piece of music. If you're open to it.

exploring pain.

There is something really liberating about realizing other people struggle just like you. Have stress at work, just like you. Have off days, just like you. Have days when they feel grumpy for no reason, just like you.

No one has a perfect life, though social media may lead you to believe they do. Everyone has ups and downs. There is value in the downs, maybe even more so than the ups. Very seldom have I learned a great lesson from a perfect day. It's always the moments of pain that teach us how to attain peace - if we're willing to listen. When we lean into the pain, explore it, really allow ourselves to feel it and be in it, only then can we unravel it. I've never heard of someone solving a puzzle by pushing it far away from themselves. And I've never heard of someone truly recovering from suffering by bottling their pain. 

In so many ways, our afflictions are like a puzzle. There is always a solution, and there is always a lesson to be learned. It may take years, decades even to learn what we need to learn. But each time we realize something, we grow a little bit. Have you ever felt upset about something and then laughed at yourself because it was so trivial? What if every time you experienced suffering, you later realized that it was just trivial? I'm not enlightened, but I imagine enlightenment must feel like this major realization that nothing needs to be suffered over. Every time you start to feel upset, ask yourself, "In one year will I still be upset about this?" Ask again, "In 5 years will I still be upset over this?" "What about in 10 years?" Create some space around it. And maybe you'll realize that it's not worth the stress. But if you find that in one year, this problem will still be causing you suffering...it's time to find a solution. 

So, how do you find a solution to suffering? Is this the part where you push it deep down and try to forget it exists while it slowly eats away at you? Hopefully not. Hopefully this is the part where you lean into it. Explore it. Go deeper. Depending on what you're dealing with, this might be the part where you admit that there's something wrong, and you seek out help from a professional. It might be the part where you decide it's time to talk about it, maybe just with a friend. The brain processes thoughts differently than it processes conversations. Which is why sometimes just saying something out loud can give you fresh insight and help you to create a soltuion. There is no perfect answer for how to stop suffering. But if you're willing to do the work, if you're willing to dig deeper, then you may be able to find some inner peace.  

In the end, only three things will have mattered: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.
— The Buddhe

transform.

Today someone asked me about hot yoga. He didn't see how it could be meditative or spiritual. Thought it was just exercise.

This is what I told him - We live a life of comfort. We are constantly changing the temperature in our cars and homes to be more comfortable, we listen to the music we like, watch whatever we want, even our social media/news source is tailored to be more interesting to us. We rarely experience discomfort, and when we do we usually run from it or change our surroundings. Hot yoga is not comfortable. First of all, it's hot. And when you're moving and getting sweat in your eyes, or trying to hold a balancing posture but there's sweat running down your face, all the while being reminded to stay aware of the breath - this allows you to experience discomfort. Learning to be present through it, I feel, can be truly transformative.

image.jpg

healthy & happy.

Lately I've been on a little health kick (and by lately I mean on and off for pretty much my whole life). I just made the switch to a plant based diet and I've been feeling pretty amazing. It's gotten me thinking about the way health care is handled - or not handled - in the states. For the most part, western medicine treats diseases, not patients. We go to the doctor when we're sick, not to keep us healthy or prevent us from getting sick. We have all of the information about health and wellness we could possibly need at our fingertips. There have been incredible technological advancements in the medical field that are constantly getting better. And we spend an immense amount of money on health care each year, possibly more than any other country. So you would think we would be one of the healthiest countries on the planet. But on the contrary, we're one of the sickest. Everyone has to die someday, but why do we live lifestyles and eat diets that send us into an early grave?

I think there's a huge disconnect between the health care system and actual human beings. This is a for profit system with making money as its number one goal, and that may not be changing any time soon. So who is responsible for our health? In my opinion it's the responsibility of the individual to educate themselves about what they're putting into their bodies. We have endless resources in the form of documentaries, books, and articles online that can give us great information as long as we use our discernment when taking it in.

So if we're not sick yet, why do we have to worry about our health? If it's not broken, why fix it? If you put shampoo in the gas tank of your car, will it run? Not for long. And if you just top it off with a little scotch instead of changing the oil, will the engine last very long? Of course not. Cars are simple. So is the body - however we have the added benefit of adaptability and our bodies do their best to adapt to their environments and they work with what they're given, until they can't. 

So let's stick with the analogy of the car and let's pretend that your body is the vehicle of your soul for this life. You want this vehicle to last you a long time, and you also want it to run well so it can drive you to exciting new places. You also need to take care of your car to avoid expensive trips to the mechanic every couple of years. So what do you do to optimize the health of your vehicle? Well, that's up to you. You know you need nourishment to keep it running. You also know you can't just stay sedentary or your battery will die. You have to take care of all parts of this body - including mind and soul - because nothing in the body functions separately from anything else. It all works together in perfect harmony - or dissonance depending on how it's being treated.

I don't have an answer for what's right for any one person's body. But I can tell you what fuels mine and I can speak from my experience. I know I feel best when I do yoga or practice some type of movement every day. I know I need lots of fresh fruits and vegetables every day to feel energized. I need human connection, not just small talk but actual connection. I also know I need to get some rest. I know when I'm feeling stressed, I need a few hours of self care and I have that ritual down to a science - I make myself some tea, use my neti pot, and spend about 15-20 minutes doing abyangha which is the Ayurvedic practice of self massage - I use coconut oil with essential oils, then I lay around in some restorative yoga poses for maybe another 20 minutes. That's pretty much my cure all, repeat daily until stress free. And whatever can't be resolved with that ritual, I treat with a heavy dose of nature.

I think it's important to find out what you need. What fuels your body? Find out what will make you feel healthy and happy. What does optimum health look and feel like to you? What habits do you think you need to break and what habits do you want to cultivate in order to achieve your version of optimum health? I think it's important to find out what that is and do it.

Astavakrasana at Red Rock Canyon

Astavakrasana at Red Rock Canyon

make a change.

I recently made a small change in my life. I recommitted myself to care for my planet, my world, by choosing not to support animal agriculture. Over 6 years ago, in an environmental studies class in college I learned about the destruction caused by animal agriculture. And I committed to becoming a vegetarian. I know this is a touchy subject. People are very attached to their habits and to their food. If this is going to offend you, stop reading and come back to it if/when you're ready to hear it. My aim is not to change anyone's mind or persuade anyone to start eating a plant based diet, I just think there's a lot of misinformation out there - mostly perpetuated by the meat and dairy industries. So I only aim to bring a bit of light and awareness to it. 

There are so many different reasons that people choose to eat plant based. Whether it's compassion for animals, care for the environment, or for health reasons - you inevitably reap the benefits of all three reasons. Your health dramatically benefits, the planet benefits, and of course animals benefit.

I grew up, like most people, eating plenty of meat and dairy and believing that it was healthy. Necessary even.  My grandmother is from Cuba and my grandfather was from Spain. Both cultures definitely eat meat and dairy. My dad's side of the family is American and live mostly in the South. They also eat lots of meat and dairy, and also believe this is healthy. It definitely took some time for my family to get used to me being a vegetarian, and it's taking time for them to get used to me being vegan. Food is a big part of people getting together, but it's not the important part. The important part is the connection you have, the conversations you have. Food is secondary. And to me, it wasn't worth risking my planet or my health for.

I honestly think most people who eat meat don't have all of the information. I don't think that people would continue to eat meat in such high quantities once they understand the consequences. But with so much bad information out there, how are we supposed to unveil the truth? How do we unwrite a lifetime of marketing from the meat and dairy industries? 

I encourage you to watch the documentary Cowspiracy. It's on Netflix and it's one of the best documentaries I've seen. If you're interested in learning about the health benefits of a plant based diet, I encourage you to watch Forks Over Knives, also on Netflix. These two films correct some of the misconceptions about eating plant based, and they explain what the risks and repercussions are for eating animal products. Once you know the facts, then you can make your own educated decision.

Leave me a comment if you've watched either of these and let me know how it impacted you! 

say aaa-ommm!

You've heard the sound "om". You've seen the om symbol plastered on the walls of yoga studios, in sticker form all over your yogi friend's cars, all over your favourite celebri-teacher's instagram page, maybe even tattooed on bodies. But what does it mean? According to Google, it's "a mystic syllable, considered the most sacred mantra. It appears at the beginning and end of most Sanskrit recitations, prayers, and texts." And it comes from Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. 

To go into a bit more depth, OM is a sound vibration. It is said to be the sound of the Universe being created. To chant OM brings you into harmony with the Universe, with all that is. Chanting OM in a group fosters a sense of community, togetherness, because it actually synchronizes the brain waves of everyone in the room. It makes you feel at hOMe. Beginning a yoga class by chanting OM gets everyone on the same frequency and produces a powerful, spiritual tone for the class. Ending class with OM lets you leave the class on that same high frequency. It has also been proven to produce a state of mental calmness, serenity and euphoria. 

But let's break it down a little bit more. OM is technically a four syllable sound. A-U-M-silence. The first part, the "aah" sound, represents the beginning or creation. The majority of the world's languages begin with the "ah" sound. It resonates in your lower abdomen, stimulating the lower chakras. The root (Muladhara) and sacral (Svadisthana) chakras. Grounding and connecting you to the Earth, and opening you up to the flow of universal creation. The "ah" sound is also said to symbolize the physical realm of existence.

The second part, the U "ooh" sound, represents the realm of thought or consciousness. The dream state, the imagination. This sound travels up the abdomen, resonating in the upper abdomen, chest, and throat. The "oh" sound activates the solar plexus (Manipura), heart (Anahata), and throat (Vishuddha) chakras. It connects your physical and esoteric worlds. Inspiring truth, clarity, and balance in your life. 

The third sound, the "mmm" sound, represents unmanifest potential. This is your experience during deep, dreamless sleep. It represents the void before the universe came into being. The "mmm" sound resonates in the head, the third eye (or Ajna) chakra. This is the home of your intuition, the pineal gland in your brain. It stimulates your inner sense of knowing. It inspires.

Silence. The final sound in "om" brings about a state of bliss and a feeling of oneness with all that is. It is experienced in your crown chakra (Sahashrara), which is your connection to cosmic consciousness. 

OM represents the waking state, the dream state, the sleep state. It encompasses past, present, and future. Physical, thought, and unmanifest. Essentially OM means everything

Now try it! Aaaaauuuuuuuuummmmm......

image.jpg

for the next seven generations.

Live with the intention to leave the world better than how you found it...for the next seven generations.  

There is a beautiful Iroquois law that states,  "In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation... even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine." 

This is The Great Law of the Iroquois. Everything you do, everything you create, everything you say - you must first consider the effect that it will have on the seventh generation. This law asks you to look about 140 years or more into the future. Look at everything you do...the car you drive, the food you eat, the materials you buy, the way you treat people... and weigh the effects of your choices. Always keeping in mind what it will mean, not only for you and your children, but for the children who are not even a thought yet.

I wish this law had been a universal law for the past 140 years. If we all lived with the next seven generations in mind, would climate change be an issue?

Many of us are good, kind people. Yet we make choices without getting all of the information first and without considering how it will affect even just the next generation. We consume things that destroy rainforests but we do it blindly. Even though we're aware of how awful industrial factory farms are for the environment, we consume. This blind consumption doesn't make us bad people, but it does make us selfish. What if we cared enough about the welfare of those who haven't been born yet to make ALL of our deliberations carefully and with them in mind? What if we truly wanted the best for our grandchildren's grandchildren, and their's after that? 

The truth is, we are responsible for the state of the planet for generations to come. Once we accept this responsibility and choose to honestly do our best I believe we'll take our time and think things through. Maybe the age of convenience will die. Maybe our grocery shopping trips will take longer because we would check the ingredients to make sure we weren't buying anything with palm oil or any other ingredient that could be destructive to the environment. Maybe we would pay closer attention to politics and the state of the world, in hopes that the next seven generations could enjoy peace in their lifetimes. Maybe we'll look ahead. Maybe, just maybe, our thoughts will create a better future for these children who won't exist until long after we are gone. 

 "A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in. " - Greek Proverb 

 

 

higher vibes.

Why do we talk about "vibes"? What does that mean? Vibe is short for vibration - which you probably could have guessed. Everything is made up of atoms. Atoms are roughly 95% empty space. Therefore, everything  is mostly empty space. We see things as solid because our eyes can only process electromagnetic vibrations. Electrons are constantly circling the nucleus of the atom, constantly moving, vibrating. This is what we, and everything else in this world are made of. Constant vibration. Energy. Energy which cannot be created, nor destroyed. What is consciousness? Energy. We can feel energy. We feel vibes. The heart generates an electromagnetic field that can be measured several feet away from the person's body. An aura. When two people are in close proximity, within each other's heart space, there is an undeniable exchange of energy. So what does it mean to "raise your vibration"? It means to be a source of positive energy. To me it means to let your heart radiate an aura of loving kindness. In order to raise your vibration, you first have to let go of fear and fear based emotions - like anger, jealousy, guilt, laziness, and selfishness. Replace those with love, and love based emotions - like forgiveness, generosity, peace, bliss, and unity. Meditate on the visceral sensation of love within the body. Radiate that energy out into this world. Vibrate higher, friends. 

Painting by Alex Grey,&nbsp;Yogi &amp; Mobius Sphere

Painting by Alex Grey, Yogi & Mobius Sphere