Fear, the Biggest Hurdle

They say that deciding to make a major change in ones life, following through and taking that initial first step, is the biggest hurdle to accomplishing goals and approaching transformation head on (whomever ‘they’ are). At this juncture in my journey, I can honestly say that indeed yes, ‘they’ are correct! A statement that I heard today resonated profoundly to the depth of my being regarding change: “Live fearless. Find joy. Live large.”

Leaving on a Jet PlaneI’m in the throes of excitement sparkled with fear as slaDE and I plan a last minute trip to Europe for 9+ weeks. I’ve always been a very spontaneous and somewhat fearless international traveller. If I felt an urge or craved an adventurous getaway, I would jump at any chances or opportunities that oozed my way regardless of their shape, size or form. My passion and enthusiasm for stepping beyond my own comfort zone into a different country and an unfamiliar culture in the past has been my strength and motivating force to perpetuate adventure in my life. And I am so feeling this with the notion of taking yogaFLIGHT to Europe. Specifically to Barcelona. Initially however, I was faced with a whole different and puzzling challenge of extending to my husband the premise that such a trip could be hugely viable, sprinkled with the potential for yogaFLIGHT greatness. I really wasn’t expecting his walls of uncertainty. Fear was getting in the way. For the first time in a longtime, we were at a crossroads in the way that we approached our life’s journey together.

Historically, I’ve tended to leap before looking, without forethought of the potential consequences when it came to travel (BS ~ before slaDE). On the flip-side, slaDE tends to logically think out and rethink every step of the odyssey. Me, I just go. And live with whatever unfolds along the way (I may be generalizing somewhat hugely, but you get the picture).

When I travelled in my twenties and thirties, I didn’t have the internet or the massive educational resources (library books, travel blogs and DVDs, etc) that we have today at our fingertips ~ instant consumption. Back in the day, I was an intrepid nomadic global wanderer. Now that, as a society, we have opportunities to go crazy in online planning, I’m finding myself overwhelmed by the possibilities and the plethora of vast information overload available online. Such a different medium and age in these travel plans. This however seems to be a positive influence for slaDE and his process, helping him work through any anxieties and fears that might have existed. After watching an instrumental inspiring video on living life fully (What would you do if Money Was No Object ~ Alan Watts), slaDE has now boarded the sKYtrain line of thinking, and currently, we are in the process of booking flights! Hurrahhhhhhhhh!

I’m noting that once an initial decision is made to actually go forth and explore, the rest is awesomely ‘easy’ and hugely fun!  For me, lists play a HUGE part in maintaining my sanity and organization. Thoughts, ideas and must-dos come tumbling out at the most random of times. And having a notepad at hand is vital to keeping me sane and on-track! One challenge that I am discovering, however, revolves around the planning details of currency exchange and money. I’m still trying to figure out best and common practises, and what would be the ideal choices for uS. My days of backpacking in the 90s revolved around the usage of Travellers Cheques (TCs) and cash as a way to live, with little difficulty in travelling from country to country currency wise. However, I’m repeatedly hearing that TCs are not as globally painless or accepted as they once were, during my heyday of overseas trekking. But I’ll leave that for another blog posting :).

As of now, I am so ready  and excited at the decision to catapult into this next shifting and phase. For the longest time, my head and heart have been out of the starting gate with an engine vibrating at the ready, yearning for international travel. It has been WAY too long!!! Yahoo!!!! Europe, here we come.

Here’s the transcript of Allan Watt’s video if by chance you are interested and searching for answers to that very same question of “What would you do if money was no object”!

What do you desire? What makes you itch?  What sort of a situation would you like?

Let’s suppose, I do this often in vocational guidance of students, they come to me and say, well, “we’re getting out of college and we have the faintest idea what we want to do”. So I always ask the question, “what would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?”

Well, it’s so amazing as a result of our kind of educational system, crowds of students say well, we’d like to be painters, we’d like to be poets, we’d like to be writers, but as everybody knows you can’t earn any money that way. Or another person says well, I’d like to live an out-of-doors life and ride horses. I said you want to teach in a riding school? Let’s go through with it. What do you want to do?

When we finally got down to something, which the individual says he really wants to do, I will say to him, you do that and forget the money, because, if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing, which is stupid. Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.

And after all, if you do really like what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what it is, you can eventually turn it – you could eventually become a master of it. It’s the only way to become a master of something, to be really with it. And then you’ll be able to get a good fee for whatever it is. So don’t worry too much.

That’s everybody is – somebody is interested in everything, anything you can be interested in, you will find others will. But it’s absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like, in order to go on spending things you don’t like, doing things you don’t like and to teach our children to follow in the same track.

See what we are doing, is we’re bringing up children and educating to live the same sort of lives we are living. In order that they may justify themselves and find satisfaction in life by bringing up their children to bring up their children to do the same thing, so it’s all retch, and no vomit it never gets there.

And so, therefore, it’s so important to consider this question: What do I desire?

What are your biggest hurdles in initiating change? Do you have someone cheerleading you on the sidelines when faced with the obstacles of doubt and indecision?

Three words … Clarity. Determination. Fulfillment.

Clarity. Determination. Fulfillment.

These are my three words. They just emerged in the heat of my Moksha practise, from the depths of my being. I wasn’t looking for anything actually. But yet the words popped in to mind, clear as day, as if I had sought out an intention to rock my world for 2014. As I wrote in ‘A New Year‘, I am not one to set resolutions at the rollover from one year to the next. But somehow, this feels different. Perhaps the seeds of desire from another have soaked into my consciousness, and from there they have manifested as three guiding words? Mental and verbal cues that bring me back to conscious action. A visual framework of sorts that represents three major focuses that I want to evolve in my life.

3 words

Words of Focus

1. Clarity:

Lao Tzu quote
I’ve been feeling extremely muddled and cluttered the last few months. Mental disarray to the extreme. Focus in thought, word and action has not been my strong point. Clarity in intention is vitally important, and has  been lacking. Sifting through my disarray means that I need a roadmap of sorts, to guide me through the chaos of my unhealthy patterns. For me, prioritizing and being accountable to a person or schedule is a big first step. I’m really good at sticking with a course of action that requires a daily commitment. I’ve successfully accomplished several yoga and smoothie challenges over the past year. But I didn’t have anyone to answer to, beyond my own desire to maintain a 30 day habit.  I have Maneesh Sethi to thank for my current impetus: “Hack The Habit Program”, which I stumbled upon more on a whim than with a plan. And before I knew it, I had two accountability partners, one in Singapore and the other in South Africa. 30 days of answerability. The concept – create a daily habit that is enforced through daily accountability checkins. My daily task must be cued by an already established pattern or routine  ~ i.e. after brushing my teeth every morning, I will do my 4 sets of plank holds. What happens if I fail to accomplish my desired task? A monetary stake is established for every day that I miss. At $50 a pop, the motivation to carry forth with my task is high.

I hope that with digging deep in my daily motivations, I can expand on my accomplishments and pave a pathway of clarity throughout my daily life.

2. Determination:

A seemingly simple word that establishes firmness of purpose and resolve. A commitment to my greater self, of establishing what it is that I want (clarity) and dedicating my all. I know that depending on others can be scary and messy, but depending on myself can at times be simultaneously empowering and terrifying. What if I fail? How do I bounce back without allowing my vision to dwindle away, disguised by the clutter of defeat and distraction?  By seeking out tools to guide me through the process of resolve, I might find that staying the course is easier than that without a plan. Meditation is a wonderful place to start. Starting small, committing to watching the breath, allowing for distraction to flow through rather than build story: this is my first step to building success on the path to determination. Creating an actual written daily plan of action, such as Donald Miller’s Storyline Productivity Schedule is helping me be productive. An aid to overcoming procrastination by setting forth an action plan. Focusing and prioritizing what’s truly important in my day to day life is vital. By establishing my current state of being, and accessing where I am going / where I want to be, I can navigate both the path to clarity and resolve, in tandem.

3. Fulfillment:

The power of Gratitude is mind-blowing. Appreciation for all things {from the most basic elements of the cosmos to the most complex of thoughts and emotions}, I believe, will help me in the process of finding more clarity in life. By envisioning and understanding things differently (creating an alternative paradigm of thought and action), I am beginning the process of wanting and desiring from a place of transformation. Stepping outside of my comfort zone, and being open to the challenges and opportunities of daily living, allows for a flow of grace that is juicy & balanced, wondrous and accepting, guiding my innermost truest self to complete fulfillment in all that I do.

“We can lift ourselves, and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude.”

~ Thomas S. Monson

The biggest challenge through this entire process? Knowing myself, honouring my needs and being kind to all those around me (including myself ~ especially when I stumble and falter).

A New Year

My 2014 New Year BlessingFor weeks now, I’ve been receiving emails and newsletters about the impending New Year. Messages transmitting peoples’ immense desires and wishes for 2014: the potential for starting a clean slate with set goals and resolutions; tips on how to keep and maintain them; habit changing 21 day programs that’ll establish a lifetime of wonderful healthy choices; etc, etc. I’ve glanced over them, trying not to get sucked in by the enthusiasm and propaganda, taking them in with the finest grain of salt. I know that humans, for the most part, have the best of intentions. Excitement kicks in at the thought of starting anew, refreshed by the reset button of a new year upon us. Giddy with enthusiasm and positivity, many people kick their proverbial butts into high gear and start the marathon of a lifetime with a sprint rather than a casual trot. I’ve witnessed it all too often, within my own life and within the context of those friends and family around me, the habitual pattern and results of setting too many lofty goals all at once. The end result? I’ve gleaned that we can all be highly fallible in our choices and actions when resolutions are set and established. Without the enduring and subtle commitment necessary to be at the core foundation of our resolve, we tend to set ourselves up for failure. With this in mind, I’m choosing to continue life as per normal: open to receiving this new year with an open mind and unwavering forward motion.

My life as a teacher and student has me consistently on the lookout for ways to propel my life forward to higher heights of health, wealth, renewal, integrity, generosity and empathy. Human as I am, I fall down (far too often for my own liking). But after the lesson is (hopefully) siphoned, it’s important that I pick myself up and brush myself off (both mentally and figuratively ~ oftentimes with tears and cries of pain), so that I may continue on this amazing life journey, with forgiveness and love in my heart. For this, I need and resolve to move inwards (meditation and journaling are perfect tools in this internal pilgramage). It’s critical that those insights are conceptualized, contextualized and garnered from within, or I will find myself continuing to propagate an unhealthy pattern ~ sometimes leading to destruction of self and relationship. It’s vitally important to remember that I have all the information within my being that I could ever need or want in sustaining a healthy and happy life: I am my most perfect role-model and mentor (Nelson Mandela and Mother Theresa aside … RIP). If anything, religion and spirituality (or lack thereof) has taught me this greatest of lessons. Positive momentum in an imperfect world is renewal enough, regardless of the outcome.

For me, this decline from the winter solstice is a time to excavate the deepest bowels of my wisdom, and tap into the intelligence of intuition. Such a challenging task, especially when nigglings and nuances of fear, uncertainty and trepidation get in the way. But I know that my well is full. It’s time to seek clarity at the deepest roots of my core.

Whoa. Looks like 2014 might be a rocky but highly rewarding year of deep channeling and discovery!

Missed Opportunities

The brave may not live forever, but the timid never live at all.

Today, I was unwinding and enjoying some quiet time, shopping at the local market, intent on a selection of delectable dinner fixings. Food for the soul: mundane but comforting after a flurry of activity over the past week. Sadly, what really elevated this day into a strange cataclysm of emotions was a simple interaction at the checkout counter.

As I approached the Cashier who was assisting the Gentleman in front of me, I overheard the employee sharing an unfortunate incident that she had experienced earlier in the week, all the while elevating her voice so that the whole checkout line could share in her harrowing tale. This Lady had hit a motorcyclist, almost changing the destiny of the young man involved. Fortunately, both lucky souls walked away relatively unscathed, although the motorbike was totalled and the Rider was undoubtedly shaken AND stirred. Who knows what emotional scarring may have been experienced by either party involved? All I could do was listen intently with compassion. Until the Cashier blurted out that she had no idea why this bike or Man was on the road at this time of the year. She started purporting that motorcyclists should stay off the roads in the Fall & Winter, and the Gentleman with whom she was conversing exclaimed that they should ban motorcyclists entirely. She nodded her head in agreement, smiling & exclaiming at the craziness of her misadventure. I was thinking … what next? Ban pedestrians from crossing the road? Outlaw cyclists from ever being a nuisance? Hinder any attempts at free will in a democratic society? What really blew me away was the Cashier’s total neglect for taking responsibility. She had in fact hit the motorcycle, seemingly (and obviously) unaware of her surroundings and of him.

Yet I suppose, what really stirred me were the emotions coursing through my soul at remembering my brother who had lost his life in a motorcycle accident, 22 years ago. One of the less lucky ones. 🙁 My family crawled away, scarred for life, losing a son, brother, artist and mentor.

As the transaction was completed before me, I remained calm, quiet and somewhat terse when the Cashier asked me if I was okay. I nodded numbly, turned away quickly in the midst of my tears and briskly walked away. In this moment of quiet angst, I had lost an opportunity for sharing my story. Such was the potential for education that could have ensued on a matter that wreaked of crazy bias and self-righteous indignation. But I was too afraid to speak, lest my emotions runneth over into something uglier than what I was witnessing and hearing.

Sigh. A missed opportunity to be sure, but this was a point of reflection for myself that shifted me. Surprisingly, I moved into a sense of compassion for the checkout Lady, once I was able to step away from my trigger point, assessing what had actually transpired before me on this beautiful Fall day.

Have you ever missed such an opportunity for growth in conversation where you held your tongue, for fear of emotion overtaking your sense of duty to educate and communicate? Or worse, spoke your mind in anger or judgment without really allowing room for conversation? Life truly does begin at the end of ones comfort zone.

I feel that it’s so important for all the involved parties to take a figurative walk in the other person’s shoes, rather than expressing theoretical proponents of insight that are most likely non-relevant to the situation at hand. Informed insight is a far better way to educate oneself, learning through experience, than by espousing our self-imposed belief system. Knowing that we are all imperfect, human and hopeful allows room for growth, trust and the potential for mutual understanding, in a life worth living, with every sense that we can muster.

The brave may not live forever, but the timid never live at all.

As Colin Wright has quoted: “Think. Do. Learn. Share. Grow.” Add in ‘Breath’ and ‘Repeat’, and here I have myself a winning formula to a life full of exploration and positive development.

I feel that it’s our duty to humankind to create a better AND kinder world for those around us, one loving and compassionate breath at a time. What do you think?

Trashing Stupidity is Ok

Emptying the trashI remember the times growing up when not wearing a seatbelt was pretty common, gravel running with a 2-4 was a Friday night gig, smoking in a vehicle with the windows up or in an office and bar was acceptable, and throwing one’s garbage out the window was a recurring sight. Times have certainly changed, and for the better, in my opinion. People and their health are ‘better’ protected, the environment is being considered, and all around, such changes have left a marked impact on many lives.

All these thoughts are trailing through my mind this morning, as I’m marvelling at the gorgeous Autumn weather being blessed on us as I pole-vault into my daily walk. Sadly, a few minutes in, I stumble across an empty Tim’s cup {with the non-biodegradable plastic lid intact} haphazardly thrown from the window onto the road. And I think, REALLY?

What kind of person still throws their garbage out the window? I am truly mystified. Delinquency indeed comes in all shapes and sizes. Moreover, I think said actions stems from a combination of laziness, self-centred stubbornness and climate change denial. Ignorance about one’s own actions, in this case, is certainly not an excuse. Such careless and disrespectful actions leave me sad and a little bit seething. Just because it’s convenient certainly doesn’t make it right!

I try to think compassionate thoughts, but my no-nonsense environmentalist brain won’t stretch that far today. All I can do is roar an inner growl, pick up the offending rubbish and make a small prayer to Mother Earth for our transgressions. If only our Politicians were as thoughtful and caring in the roles that they fill, cleaning up the garbage and mess that they’re leaving behind instead of stomping all over terra firma and the law-abiding thoughtful citizens of our planet (most of whom are tax-payers supplementing government incomes).

roadstretch-cleanPerhaps if everyone in this world had a daily duty to clean up a mile-long stretch of an Adopt-A-Highway, and/or had the moral obligation to show compassion in some form to Mother Earth, we could literally bag all the offenders and realize that the tiniest of self-imposed actions can all make a difference. The snowball effect would be incredible!

Now if only we could clean up all the political trash, turning the wasteful actions of the delinquent into something positive to help those less fortunate and able.

/rant. Full-stop.

envirothief

I Dream of Cirque

The culmination of our tour in Las Vegas was the gift to each other for tickets to see the world-reknowned Cirque du Soleil show “O“, in permanent residence at the Bellagio Hotel since October 1998 (grossing over a billion dollars since it began!). I concur with the Los Angeles Times synopsis: “‘O’ is liquid magic …”. The mind-boggling contortionist display of pure fantastical imagination defies any sort of classification or categorization that I could give it. It’s even challenging to find words to describe the soul and beauty of the etherial quality behind the artists display of their incredible talents. The colourful, creative costumes and aerial aquatic displays … oh my! Flying silks whisked across the theatre and stage, creating a magical feel that seemed perfectly natural and unpretentious. I was completely gobsmacked and poised on the edge of my seat throughout the dazzling 2 hour performance. I felt utterly seduced and sucked in to this theatrical world of romanticism and fluidity. The display of sheer imagination felt so serenely real and other-worldly, all centered around a 1.5 million gallon pool / stage that fluxed from zero to 25 feet in depth. It was mind boggling to see the actual stage be a character, just as dynamic and fascinating as the other 11 acts. I’d be supremely privileged to attend another performance of this show …. in a heartbeat, if it weren’t so expensive! But to be honest, it was worth every penny to share in this with slaDE. A MUST see for anyone visiting Vegas!

Wikipedia provides a great outline of those enthralling acts:

O has eleven acts in total, which are performed both in, out, and above of the water.

  • Synchronized swimming: A group of synchronized swimmers perform in the pool.
  • Duo trapeze: Two aerialists perform on a single trapeze above the water.
  • Barge: A unique combination of banquine and adagio is performed on a floating raft on top of the water.
  • Bateau: A group of acrobats perform a combination of aerial cradle and parallel bars on a swinging boat-shaped apparatus high above the water.
  • Fire: A group of artists perform fire dancing.
  • Russian swing: Acrobats propel themselves high into the air with three sets of Russian swings and dive down into the water.
  • Cadre: A group of acrobats perform on a suspended frame high above the water in an artificial rain storm.
  • High dive: A group of four world-class divers leap from 60 feet above the stage into a 20-foot-deep (6.1 m) triangular section of the pool.
  • Washington trapeze: An artist performs on a fixed trapeze that swings in a long pendulum motion and is raised and lowered.
  • Contortion: Four young women with extreme balance and flexibility create graceful and lithe figures and movements.
  • Aerial hoops: A group of performers perform on hoops attached to the ceiling to perform various tricks both in and above the water.

Acts in rotation

  • Solo trapeze: An aerialist performs on a single trapeze high above the water.

Here’s the official O trailer: http://youtu.be/Vm11jzx7Ka0

 

slaDE and I have seen 3 other Cirque Du Soleil shows, all memorable and amazing experiences. But for me, I think that “O” will be the highlight of my Cirque Du Soleil viewing experiences, thus far! Do you have a favourite Vegas show? Have you ever seen any shows from Cirque Du Soleil? If so, what was your experience like? I’d love for you to share!

Maha Shivaratri

Shiva altarShiva NatarajaMaha Shivratri (Sanskrit: महाशिवरात्रि),is a Hindu festival celebrated every year in reverence of the Hindu deity Lord Shiva who represents the Pure Conscious Principle. Shivaratri literally means the great night of Shiva or the night of Shiva; Shiva literally means “auspicious” and as Shankara, he is the giver of happiness and the god who destroys evil. This year, Shivaratri will be celebrated on Sunday, the 19th of February into Monday, the 20th. The program begins on the morning of the 19th with the ritualistic creation of 1008 Shiva Lingams (a Shiva Lingam is symbolic of the creative power of the universe. It denotes the truth that God does not have any definite form). At sunset the community continues their vigil: chanting kirtan to Shiva and performing ritual throughout the night in the Community Building. The closing ritual ends just before dawn.  Offerings are then carried to the Hanuman Temple for Arati, and finally to the Newt Pond where the offerings and participants submerge into the cleansing waters.

Lingam BabajiTraditionally Shivaratri is observed on the lunar fortnight, when the moon is waning, in the western month of February or March. This particular night is considered a time of consecration and dedication, which can result in the mind’s illumination. The festival is principally celebrated by a multitude of offerings to Lord Shiva, with all day fasting by those participating in the ritual circles and an all night long vigil by those who wished to celebrate in Shiva’s name.

Kirtan played the biggest part of the evening with Puja and Yajna ceremonies intermingled between the kirtan marathon sessions. The holy mantra most commonly chanted throughout the evening {with many different artists offering their renditions and blessings} consisted of five-syllables: “Na” “Ma” “Shi” “Vaa” “Ya” (Om NamaH Shivaaya) in praise of Lord Shiva. Nataraja (the king of dancers) is a favourite form adored by dancers and musicians.
An example of one of the evening’s mantras:

Sanskrit Wording:

English Meaning:
At dawn I contemplate on Shiva, the God of gods, the remover of the fear of transmigration, who holds the Gangã in his locks, and rides a bull, the Lord of Ambicã (the Divine Mother), the wielder of the club and spear (in two of his hands) and with the other two offering boon and protection and who is the one infallible remedy for the afflictions of relative existence (Samsãra).

Tantra Sadhana

mudraToday is our precious day off from our hectic volunteer schedules here at Mount Madonna. Getting up at 5:30am for our daily yoga, meditation and pranayama session has been difficult at times and really challenging, especially as we both have diligently practiced Dinacharya each morning prior to our 2 hour morning yoga class. This morning we instead chose to arise at 4am as we were asked to participate in a Tantra Sadhana practice. On Thursday morning, Amita (the teacher and first female Puja Priestess here at the Center) asked slaDE and I if we practiced the 3 bandhas (interior Body Locks used in Yoga – Jalandhara Bandha {Throat Lock}, Mula Bandha {Root Lock} and Uddiyana Bandha {an Upward Abdominal Lock}), and if we had practiced it consistently over a 3 month period. As I had learned about the bandhas when I first learned Ashtanga Yoga asana in India 6 years ago, I have regularly used at least 2 of the bandhas in my practice (Jalandhara not so much). This was one of the desired requirements for participating in their Tantra Sadhana ceremony as taught by Baba Hari Dass at MMC. slaDE has lesser experience with using the bandhas in his practice, but as they needed a 7th couple, we were both invited in to the circle. Those undergoing their YTT 500 (yoga teacher training) were especially encouraged to join in this sadhana (a spiritual practice). From the email we received, these were the prerequisites:

Requirements are:

  • a working knowledge of the 24 hand mudras preceding meditation and the 8 following meditation;
  • intermediate pranayama practices (including Bhastrika, Sahit Kumbhaka, and the Maha Mudra series);
  • intermediate asana with some breath retention (modifications will be given);
  • and the ability to comfortably sit for roughly 2-3 hours, staying in the circle for the entirety of the practice.

In order to move forward with this practice, we need, but are not limited to, 7 couples: 7 men and 7 women. Gender difference is the only stipulation to create a couple; you need not be connected romantically to form a pairing.

We were delighted at the prospect of particpating in such a spiritual practice reserved for the community members who were longer residents, practitioners and residents here at MMC. What an experience this would be, we thought. Truly I had NO idea. Prior to this morning, slaDE and I practiced the hand mudras as taught by Babaji. The 3 hour ritual was an amazing ceremony that invoked a pinnacle of male and female energies. Couples were placed in one big circle, reflecting an infinite wheel / the 6 chakras. The 7th pair were the facilitators and the altar, seated in the centre of the circle. There were beautiful observances of prayer, meditation, asana and advanced pranayama over the entire span of 3 hours. It was incredibly powerful, deeply moving and challenging at times (especially knowing that I couldn’t fidget or move from the room … I’m was born restless :)).

The Maha Mudras explained:

Jalandhara Bandha {Throat Lock}

  • a Bandha for your throat, the throat chakra and the thyroid gland, stimulating blood flow and letting you breathe freely

 Mula Bandha{Root Lock}

  • stimulates your nervous system while moving muscles consciously that you have never moved before

Uddiyana Bandha {an Upward Abdominal Lock}

  • better digestion, no sexual problems, self-esteem and a healthy blood flow are only a few benefits of this very effective pose

Service at the Community Level

serviceThe Mount Madonna Center is a conference and retreat centre for those looking to get away and pursue workshops and programs set out within the confines of a gorgeous setting and property. For us, within the community that supports the centre, our assistance is within the context of selfless service. Living with the guidelines of karma yoga has allowed this community to peacefully grow at an astounding rate, since the beginnings of MMC back in the 80s. Although there is plenty of opportunity for personal time and growth, the intent behind this residential service learning program that we have both volunteered for is to live within an intentional yoga community, with service as a primary goal.

Depending on the Center’s needs, the daily tasks include housekeeping, event set-up, kitchen prep, dishes, recycling, general maintenance, gardening and landscaping. Today was my first real day of work within the kitchen. I’ve had 2 previous kitchen shifts, but both times, I was turned away and told to rest whilst this wicked bug has overwhelmed my body for the past 2 weeks. I am so grateful to feel better, despite the cough that continues to wreak havoc on my sleep patterns and vocal chords. Up for the challenge, I was allowed access to my kitchen duty where I spent my shortened shift chopping up swiss chard for both the simple soup and today’s soup du jour (tomato). From my perspective, it’s interesting to note how the intent behind doing certain food prep tasks allows, for me, a greater appreciation for the sustenance which ends up on my plate. The vegetables and food here are plentiful and organic, most locally sourced and prepared with abundant love. Today’s swiss chard was grown at the base of our mountain in a town named Watsonville. I was saying to slaDE that the food here at MMC, over the next 3 months, would probably be the most healthful and ecologically friendly choices ever to have graced our lives. It’s truly bounteous and amazing! I am feeling very nourished and blessed … so much for losing weight whilst here :). I’ll have to cut way back on the quantities (buffet style with 3 full meals a day lends itself to overeating on my part), weaning myself off the freshly baked breads and bounteous selection of nuts and high-fat munchables. At least I’ve been diligent with my daily yoga and dinacharya practice!

Day 1 & 2: Mount Madonna Yoga Retreat

Technically, our first day of our 3 month yoga retreat of karma selfless service and yoga started yesterday. We arrived mid-day, driving up the mountain along this crazy narrow winding path / roadway that was ensconced by towering redwood trees. It was magical and quite scary (with the hurtling traffic flowing downward, NOT hugging the curves as we were) to be hypnotically drawn to the place of our homestead for the next 3 months. Mount Madonna, a yoga retreat tucked away amidst the beauty of the redwood forest, overlooking Monterey Bay from a 2000 foot stance. Our view is unbelievably gorgeous. How lucky are we! I have to keep pinching myself every time: I glance down from the mountain and take in a breathtaking California coastal sunset; I am surrounded by glorious nature that psychologically hugs me as I wind my way through the many Redwood forest trails; I am blessed to eat lovingly-created organically grown local vegetarian foods that fill my body with nourishment and love; and so much more. Right now I need these heart-warming moments. I am so sick …. I believe it’s the flu, and boy is it ever heavy, painful and debilitating. My body quakes with each hacking cough, my sinuses are overflowing and my voice is husky and barren as I whisper my way through communicating to new-found friends in the YSC program. I’m trying not to let this drag me down amidst all this amazing goodness and vitality. I’m fighting it with all that I can muster, holistically and with much attention!

This morning I practiced my first daily ritual of Dinacharya. A daily cleansing of sorts with skin brushing, sesame seed oiling, tongue cleansing and all that goes with the healing benefits of nurturing and preparing my body for a day of yoga, service and healing.

What an incredible 3 month journey this will be … I’m so excited at the beginnings we’ve started to create within our work community. My 24 hour work week schedule is perfect in all ways. We start this on Friday after our final training tomorrow.

Here’s hoping that my cough recedes and I can participate in the 2 hr morning asana, pranayama and meditation practice (all before 8:30am). Yay! Time to load up on the ginger-lemon-honey tea and make my way to bed. 5am comes early for me!