A Quick Retreat from Winter

Christmas morning, and barely a sprinkling of snow. I suppose you could call it a white Christmas per se (here in the snowbelt area of Teeswater anyway; not-so-much in other areas around SW Ontario), but I’m thinking that there are a quite a few Canadian children who are disappointed by the barren dry grassy plains in their front yards. However, I am ecstatic that the no snow or ice graced the road with its coy slick nature. I’m hoping for clear highways and humble temperatures as we venture across the North American continent! You see, slaDE and I were accepted {last minute ~ literally 1 week ago} as paying volunteers for a 12 week residential service learning program at the world-renown Mount Madonna Center.

They don’t call us snowbirds for nothing! I am thrilled at the prospect of escaping another cold snowy Canadian winter in exchange for some yoga and skydiving fun. However, this winter, the Airstream shall be left behind, and in our trusty Optra steed, we find ourselves fully loaded with skydiving gear and minimalist clothing + items, making our way, this most quiet of mornings on the highway. Today is the chosen day to pioneer a new journey for ourselves, with a new winter exploration beyond the Airstream comforts we have travelled for the past few winter solstices.

On this day, we pretty much stayed true to our schedule and made great headway towards the border well before the break of noon. Our crossing of the International Boundary was a bit arduous and longwinded. Being a prior ‘avocado seed smuggler’ (their words, not mine), we were pulled over for inspection. But all in intention and belongings were displayed upfront, and honesty rang true and through. An hour after arrival, we were allowed entry in to the beautiful US of A. Seems like my prior status with the USDA in forgetting about an avocado on board our Airstream will haunt us in future crossings. Dang my premature senility in remembering all things food! 🙂

My Dad made me this awesome mini-desk for my laptop …. and it was put to good use on our first day. I now carry a piece of my Dad and his love with me wherever I travel. And that makes my heart shine.

A good long first day found us arriving in Illinois late evening, spending a few quality days with our friend Barbie June. Knowing the solace and company of a long-time dear friend (and second Mother to me) ever welcoming has me warmed by the comforts of friends during the Christmas holidays. What a spectacular season this has been for family gatherings and friend get-togethers!

Mount Madonna Center

Our Winter Home! Truly a last minute decision … and we’re elated to be accepted to attend this glorious mountain retreat: Mount Madonna Center. http://www.mountmadonna.org

Program Dates

January 3rd – April 1st, 2012

All the information below comes directly from the Mount Madonna website @ http://www.mountmadonna.org/programs/ysc.html.

If you are interested in an amazing opportunity for spiritual growth, yoga, community and service, MMC might just be exactly what you desire in this adventure of life.


A Conference, Retreat and Yoga Center in the Heart of California

  • Mount Madonna Center is a conference and retreat center located on 355 acres of mountain-top redwood forest and grassland overlooking Monterey Bay, between Santa Cruz and Monterey, in Northern California.
  • We are a community designed to nurture the creative arts and the health sciences within a context of personal and spiritual growth, inspired by Baba Hari Dass and sponsored by the Hanuman Fellowship, a group whose talents and interests are unified by the common practice of Yoga.
  • We offer a supportive community atmosphere for relaxation, reflection, and a wide variety of learning experiences. Program participants are invited to join in all ongoing Center activities – celebration, work, and play. Amenities include hiking trails, volleyball, tennis, and basketball courts, a pond (we call it “The Lake”) for swimming, a hot tub, a gymnasium for volleyball and basketball, and bodywork at the Kaya Kalpa Wellness Center.
  • A 12 WEEK RESIDENTIAL SERVICE LEARNING PROGRAM called Yoga, Service and Community is available at Mount Madonna Center for those interested in living and working within an intentional community with service as a primary value. Depending on the Center’s needs, work is assigned in housekeeping, event set-up, kitchen, recycling, general maintenance, gardening and landscaping. Participants receive single accommodation, meals, daily yoga classes, regularly scheduled group meetings, and participation in community activities. Please contact ysc@mountmadonna.org

Who We Are

The Mount Madonna Center (MMC) community, founded in 1978, is home to children and adults of all ages. Inspired by the teachings and example of Baba Hari Dass, a silent yogi and a master of classical Ashtanga Yoga, our aim is to create an environment where residents and guests are supported in the pursuit and fulfillment of their personal growth and spiritual goals. We eat communally, work together, share in study and meditation, and join in responsibility for our retreat and conference facility and our children’s school. The spiritual disciplines of yoga and selfless service are the foundations of our community life.

MMC serves the larger society through the retreats and seminars which it hosts; through Mount Madonna School, an independent kindergarten, primary and high school; and through the Mount Madonna Institute, which offers Diploma, Certificate, and Master of the Arts programs in several areas of professional and personal development. Most of the work of running Mount Madonna Center is done on a volunteer basis. We aim to work in the spirit of selfless service or karma yoga, one of our main practical methods of self-development.

What We Offer

Each Yoga, Service, and Community program includes daily offerings of many types of yoga classes, community service (kitchen, housekeeping, garden, maintenance, etc.), as well as evening classes and discussion groups in yoga philosophy and community themes. There will be free time for rest, study and recreation, and an invaluable opportunity to draw upon the 30 years of dedicated practice that many in our community have experienced. You are also invited to participate in MMC community retreats and special events occurring during your session.

Your Commitment

For the new three-month sessions beginning January, 2012, the fee is $975 with a weekly commitment of 24 hours work/service, 4 hours of weekly meetings, and 2 hours of instruction in yoga philosophy, pranayama and meditation; for a total of 30 hours per week. YSC fees include meals and indoor single accommodation.

Meralgia Paresthetica

Say what? Now that’s a mouthful, Meralgia Paresthetica. This is a medical term for a condition that I am currently suffering from. As the Mayo Clinic has defined, “Meralgia paresthetica is a condition characterized by tingling, numbness and burning pain in the outer part of your thigh. The condition is caused by compression of the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve, which supplies sensation to your upper leg.” My doctor stated that some common causes of this condition stem from wearing tight clothing (such as tight low-rise jeans or spandex), obesity or weight gain, and pregnancy. Excess sitting, squatting, extended walking or the wearing of a wide belt compressing the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve will increase symptoms. Umm, not such great news for me. I don’t have a standing desk and have no other option to do my work than to sit on various platforms (choices of a chair, exercise ball, the wooden floor or a bolster). Ideally, a standing desk would be optimal. However, I am still curious as to what might have brought this condition on! I’m not pregnant, my clothes are quite loose (think yoga gear), I may have gained some weight, but nothing too drastic, and I can’t be classified as obese. Hence the mystery, and a sometimes burning numbing and painful one at that!

After a bit more questioning about what my habits have been of late, we seemed to have wheedled the possible cause down to the fact that I’ve been using my laptop almost daily, for long hours, perched on my lap. Practically I would be working at a table or desktop, but with our mobile lifestyles, much time is spent on the computer in the truck or sitting on the comfy Airstream couch — no real desk but the kitchen table. I of course use a lapmount buckwheat pillow to separate the MacBook’s intense heat from my legs. But obviously, even the weight of the pillow is creating distress within my body. Sigh, this shifts so much!

I need to come up with a table like surface that doesn’t rest on my lap but allows me to work in the truck or on the couch. Any suggestions?


Berry Ginger Smoothie

Yummy early winter goodness, when fresh berries are not necessarily available. Thank you to The Well Daily for this recipe!:

Berry Ginger Goodness Smoothie (serves 1)

  • 1 cup almond or hemp milk
  • ½ avocado
  • 1 banana
  • 1 teaspoon spirulina
  • 1 cup frozen berries of choice
  • 1 teaspoon flax oil
  • ½ cup coconut water
  • 1 teaspoon fresh bee pollen
  • 1 teaspoon hemp seed fresh ginger root, peeled, sliced (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cacao powder

1. Pour the almond / hemp milk into a blender. Add the banana, frozen berries, coconut water, hemp seeds, cacao powder, avocado, spirulina and flax oil.
2. If it’s a chilly day or you’re feeling a cold coming on, add the ginger root.
3. Blend away and sprinkle with bee pollen for vitamin B-12. Serve.

Lululemon Karma

lululemon yorkvilleYorkville Lululemon workshopWe’ve been incredibly blessed through out our yoga journey, with so many incredible instructors, mentors, blessings and offerings gifted to us. In light of all that has been given to us, we are happy to extend our service through the form of karma classes, and Lululemon literally gave us flight with our first very workshop in Calgary. It felt so good to be teaching a karma yogaFLIGHT class in Canada again. It’s been a while, with all our travelling commitments and nomadic calendar. I worked pretty diligently at creating the two dates we set up at the Yorkville Cumberland Lululemon store. Much followup and email conversations. It’s kind of difficult establishing a class as an ‘unknown’ within a new community. Often, the team leaders who organize the Lululemon schedule want to visit one your classes or your studio before bringing someone on board to their community events agenda. The difficulty with that for us is that we don’t have a studio nor regularly scheduled classes. However, since our photoshoot in Vancouver with Lululemon, it seems that our web presence on their website gave us some ‘street credibility’. Not that we needed it, but as we don’t fit into the typical mould of yoga instructors or yoga ambassadors, every little bit of help in establishing set karma classes within the community is an added bonus.

Tonight, we rocked the Yorkville store with 24 eager new yogaFLIGHT enthusiasts. It was breathtaking, truly. And we feel very blessed for having an abundance of classes in such a short time span, within Toronto!

Healing Connections

What a day of healing! Physiotherapy, Craniosacral Therapy, Massage Therapy, Tuning Fork Therapy, Friend therapy {spending time with several dear friends before heading south for the winter}, Kombucha therapy. All in all, a very connected day of mind, body and spirit. All healing events in their own way. Some easy to just accept, assimilate and listen to in the lessons. Others, not quite so specific in their nature. But learning to flow through the experiences and being fully present was such a gift. Just beautiful …