Self-Care in a Politically Charged New Year

Self-Care in a Politically Charged 2017
Loom and Doom?
 
With tomorrow’s inauguration looming on the horizon, it’s really easy for people to become weary of the ‘negativity’ in the air, caused by others obvious concern / angst / pain. With social media being such a prevalent ‘in your face’ release of expression and voice, the words that we speak hold a platform of power — even if for a millisecond, or 140 characters. Values and opinions are cast forth for all those who dare read, view and comment. And so begins the volley of expressed emotions often steeped with discontent, brewing with an undercurrent of milky self-interest.
 
For myself, the political campaign brought with it a spectrum of intensity that was divisive, far-reaching, eclectic and scary at times. Can we agree that it felt like reality TV gone awry? Even if one didn’t want to bear witness, the unfolding was in-your-face everywhere, everyday for nearly two years. It was exhausting as a Canadian to bear witness to the political slash and burn mentality; the demoralizing emotions stirred up within Americans reflected a polarity of beliefs and value systems that seemed to shake the political system to its core. After election day, many just wanted to forget about the political mud-wrestling match and move on with life. Unfortunately for the popular vote, the sludge had dried, and those who emerged from the cracked womb were probably feeling the pains of postpartum depression settling in. Too real for words, actually, and we are only 3 weeks in to 2017!
 
When I bear witness to the media frenzy extended through the constant drone of ‘news’, blog entries, facebook comments and twitter postings, I find it challenging to experience such constant distress. Peoples’ uncertainty and division continues to be transparently painful, volatile and palpable.  Words matter. Emotions and feelings matter. Humans in all their diversity matter. 
  
 
Political Charges
 
I believe that countries are not divided or defined by borders; humans of all nationalities belong under one umbrella. It’s my civic duty to make this world a better place, by pledging to be more authentic, accepting, peaceable and compassionate to all, regardless of ones birthplace or heritage. I truly understand how easy it is to finger point in this era of North American political charge. Strong opinions and political anxiety fill my social media feeds … many people have ‘taken sides’, per se. In essence, it’s our democratic right to choose. It’s how President-elect Trump came into being. And yes, I’ve been caught on the sidelines of the political camp with strong opinions, and in fact, I’m still there. I stand behind my values and notions of truth and goodness. But, for me, it’s time to draw in the claws of fear. I know where I stand. Others hold their own values. And that is perfectly ok. That’s what makes us diverse and human. Tolerance and acknowledgement is key. Self-care is so essential for weaving ones way through the messy web of political activism. Because we all want to be seen, heard and have meaning. However, violence, in its many forms is NOT okay. Displayed behaviour, whether its physical, emotional or mental, with the intent to hurt or damage another, is not acceptable. Accountability for inappropriate actions is vital.
 

When I read remarks such as: “get over it”, “accept the new normal”, “be one with Trump” and “be more positive”, my mind instantly jumps to the notion of my inner-core urgency to come together in our differences and heal as a society. What I’m most curious about is the question behind how can we become more empowered in this era of disempowerment and disengagement, especially in the face of violence, propaganda, homophobia, media frenzy, fake vs real news, political uncertainty and power struggle? With such widespread suffering, it’s challenging to think about what one can do, to think outside the box of comfort while keeping peace in ones heart as we move forward, one positive step at a time. 

 
I applaud those people who come forward with peaceful ways to address divisive issues and feelings within the community. For example, the initiative behind the #MakeItAwkward campaign put forth by Jesse and Julia Lipscombe is a vital rally for social justice. 100%, I’m standing behind their important efforts “to start difficult conversations and engage in honest dialogue about racism, prejudice and hate”. Thriving in a world of alarm, concern and political charge begins with Self-Care.
 
Lao Tzu quote

Self-care at its finest

Self-Care

Healing, as I know it, is a complicated process that often depends upon a greater supportive and inclusive community. But ultimately, the healing journey begins with self-care. There is great truth behind the fact that suffering is a self-imposed personal choice. To overcome the hurdles associated with any resultant feelings of fear, anxiety, disconnection and/or helplessness, its important to acknowledge ones own personal choices and culpability with emotions that arise. Sarah Schulman states it so eloquently in her book Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair: “Sometimes, when we are hurt, our selves are so fragile and it is so hard to keep it together, that any request to rethink our assumptions feels like an “attack.”” And then all of a sudden, the mode of self-care becomes self-preservation. Dealing with change is never an easy task when there are external battling forces that go against ones values and beliefs. And that’s why, I suppose, they call it a journey.
  
With this premise of self-care and healing being my mantra for 2017, I am standing behind my resolution to take power back, by way of exemplifying what’s good in the world. How you may question? By being more compassionate, respectful, loving, understanding and connected to those who feel pain, anxiousness, hatred from others, marginalization and discrimination. My role as a community volunteer is huge in keeping me on track. A greater perspective on life is tremendously grounding. Many people are certainly tired of the political rants, the lobbying and volleying of threats and opinions (think Twitter and Trump). As am I. It’s truly time to shift from a stance bathed in volatile emotions for a political system I personally have no vote or control in, and be the voice of change in my community where action speaks volumes, and all lives matter!
 
A New Year brings the opportunity to say yes to delving deeper into the things we can control in our lives. Who cares to join me in this march forward, committing to a campaign of self-care? Let’s start 2017 off right with steps forward to peace and ease, self-driven with care and love, beginning with ourselves. I’ll begin to write blog entries that focus on self-care in this ever-changing environment. 
 
What are your visions and concepts of self-care in this political climate?
 
 
P.S. Please feel free to offer comments and suggestions on self-care articles that you’d like to see me explore more, and I’ll proffer what I can, with a yogi twist in mind :).

Things You Do Not See From Driving The Interstate – Indiana

Precious timesLeaving our amazing and dear friend Barbie June in Illinois (after a few days of hanging just west of Chicago with her), we made our way eastward towards Jackson Center Ohio, home of the Airstream birthplace. Of course, deciding to take the road less travelled offered up many cool opportunities to reflect, sightsee and enjoy the slower pace.

We chose to start a list of the unique things one does not see on the Interstae. I am hoping that this is a trend which we can establish on this blog for each and every state and province that we drive through. Sound like a plan?

Things you don’t see from driving the Interstate in Indiana

  • Amish ladies dressed in red dresses, riding palomino horses
  • blondes mares, manes glistening in the sun faithfully drawing black buggies
  • beady eyed buzzards collecting carrion from the roadside
  • playful ponies dancing with their foals
  • simple farm houses sustaining the moral soul of america
  • towering oaks shading the road
  • family cookouts on memorial day
  • small little white steeple churches
  • placid ponds with swans upon

Dropzone in Indiana

  • cool little airports (without fences and such)
    • Whoa! There’s a dropzone in Fort Wayne Indiana, right along Route 20 (Angola Airport West of US 69)! Skydive Fort Wayne. So we decided to stop and say hello. With perfect weather conditions (no wind), clear skies and a plane just having landed, we were persuaded to make an unplanned 4-way skydive. Well I’ll be …. Prettiest little random mid-west DZ I’ve ever jumped at! We introduced the previous DZ owner, Audrey, to some yogaFLIGHT. Made for a remarkable roadtrip distraction!
  • people gathered around a 100 foot tall bonfire

Kirtan at the PCC

Last night an incredible evening of joyous kirtan music (spiritual songs) took place at the Pacific Cultural Center (PCC) in Santa Cruz. The PCC is affiliated with Mount Madonna in that both non-profit organizations belong under the Hanuman Fellowship. The students of Baba Hari Dass established the Fellowship as a vehicle for the teachings of Yoga (Ashtanga 8 limbs of Yoga). The PCC along with the Ashtanga Yoga Institute, Kaya Kalpa Wellness Center, Sri Ram Orphanage, the Ashtanga Yoga Fellowship of Toronto, Salt Spring Center (in BC, Canada) and Mount Madonna all belong under the Hanuman Fellowship.

Because of the close connection with this community, it’s natural for monthly hosting of kirtan to be graced with the radiant voices of Baba Hari Dass’ students. The melody and uplifting joy that tonight’s music brought within me was healing for my wounded spirit. I’m feeling rather worn lately and I needed the lift and nurturing balm of the community satsang experience.

Hustle & Flow

MMCAdyashantiWow, what an incredibly long past week this have been. A 9 day silent meditation retreat with Adyashanti was held in the main conference center and throughout the grounds of Mount Madonna. In this retreat, 250 people remained silent for the duration of their stay. For those of us volunteering with the YSC program, it meant really crazy busy long shifts that had us hustling beyond our scheduled format. Whether it be cleaning dishes, preparing food in the kitchen (3 delicious vegetarian hot meals daily), cleaning the bustling bathrooms, monitoring the mealtimes, replacing food items, clearing up messes or catering to the needs of 250 people, we were all moving at animated speeds, organized by a crew who were very familiar with attending to such large group numbers. Yes indeed, it was an extensive week of bustling non-spoken mix of chaotic energies. And today the retreat’s group broke their silence, had a final lunch break and vacated the mountain as quickly as they had come.

To think that I was tired before their arrival :)! The reprieve in our workload for this upcoming week is most welcome and needed. Until the next group of 150 descends for 12 days, starting all over again next week. It’s ultimately a dance of hustle and flow, in which I do my best to find an equanimous balance for self-growth and nurturing whilst aiding in the spiritual enlightenment of others.

In the Garden of Plenty

MMC gardenToday was a day filled with wonder, weariness and a certain emotional level of self-discovery and challenge. A family member went in for a surgical procedure that had my senses wound up and on the brink of tears and worry. I was wishing that I could have physically been there to support them through their process. Thankfully though, they have a huge life and love-force there to guide them through the next difficult few months whilst I am here with my beloved husband at MMC.

In my work service today, I spent several hours weeding through the magical garden that exists here at the Center. It is filled with vibrant yields of organic produce and flowers that, although off-season, still amaze me at their splendour and plenty (such a foreign concept: growing vegetables + flowers through the winter — outside of a greenhouse). With todays crew of 7 individuals, we were able to clear away a weed laden area that would be re-purposed as an additional growing area. Within a two hour time span, a large plot of wild overgrowth was cleared and opened, transforming it in to an enchanting new space of fertile availability. Interwoven in the mix were some herbs that I had never seen before beyond a herb book: mullein, foxglove, wild chamomile and milk thistle. I am not very proficient with learning names, especially that of the botanical kind (sort of like trying to learn the Sanskrit names of people within this community — foreign with no real context to relate them to). But I will take it slow and learn what I can, even if it means pestering people to repeat the names over and over again.

Within my 4 hour kitchen shift, I learned some interesting tidbits. One being that they use neither garlic nor onions in the kitchen. I can’t imagine eliminating those items from my vegetarian cooking diet as they’re usually a big part of my regiment in food prep. But as it happens here, those types of foods are suited to a specific Ayurvedic dosha, so the food preppers eliminate these items from the community diet. Same goes for spices or hot sauces. However the latter are provided as additional condiments. Garlic and onions are not. I actually miss them, to be honest! Secondly, I learned a neat tasty trick for preparing delicious mashed potatoes without Dairy. When mixing the potatoes, add Quinoa to thicken and intensify the protein and nutritional content of the mash. It is an incredibly yummy vegan option that I intend to try once I get back to cooking for us on a regular basic. Yummy! All in all a lovely day intermixed with the strong influence of meditative practices to bring an easier equilibrium to my internally wound emotions and senses. Life here on the mountain is proving to slowly bring evolving positive changes. Me likey …

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!

One full week

BabajislaDE and I have been at the Mount Madonna Center for one full week. So far the time on the mountain has given me a chance to:

  • become evermore curious about Baba Hari Das (a silent monk) and this exciting community that he has built here at Mount Madonna;
  • recognize familiar faces and associate the names behind the friendly features {many community members have chosen Sanskrit names — not an easy task to remember them all, let alone pronounce people’s chosen moniker);
  • discover the vegetarian menu as it unfolds (there seems to be a cyclical and rotational consistency to the menu with moments of surprise and awe thrown in);
  • develop a beautiful routine within these amazing surroundings ~ daily walks in the Redwood forests, a consistent yoga practise, evening visits to the magical garden, etc.;
  • feel comfortable and safe within this spiritual and yogic community.

menuI love that this communal environment, so far, has given me an incredible amount of space and flexibility to discover / accomplish whatever it is I have come to MMC to do (whatever that may be! I’m still assimilating and digesting this new reality). I’m learning such a wealth of information about the history and philosophical principals of Ashtanga yoga within our weekly gatherings, and at the same time, I’m flourishing within my own spirituality, exploring on so many levels, beyond the schedule of my volunteer tasks. Karma yoga in it’s most beautiful form!

Since finding the strength to participate in the early morning Pranayama classes, I haven’t missed a beat with my daily yoga and dinacharya session. This is such a fabulous fresh start to a new year. Not that I made a resolution as such, but rather, I wanted to give the full-on experience of this lifestyle a dedicated effort with supreme love, attention and devotion. I must admit, it’s been good for me, despite my continued and petulant flu / cold sickness. This nasty bug persists unrelentingly despite my daily efforts of Ayurvedic attention and nurturing. Time to be at peace with what is and know that I am doing my best to quell the beast within my body :). Hopefully it won’t drag on for months like it did 3 years ago. If the chesty cough and flemmy goo still lingers on for another week, it’ll be time to schedule a doctor’s visit.

Full Moon Blessings

Here in Northern California, the sun sets later than it does back home. The glowing sunset over the ocean eases into finality around 6pm this time of year. A bonus to have an extra hour of daylight compared to our Toronto friends. Tonight the full moon shone brightly as the darkness settled over the valley. It made for quite the magical walk through the tall redwoods surrounding the Center and the Hanuman Temple. At 6:30am and 6pm each day at Mount Madonna, Aarti is performed in the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple. As explained on the wikipedia website, “Aarti is a Hindu religious ritual of worship, a part of puja, in which light from wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) or camphor is offered to one or more deities. Aartis also refer to the songs sung in praise of the deity, when lamps are being offered. Aarti is not only limited to God. Aarti can performed not only to all forms of life, but also inanimate objects which help in progress of the culture.” It’s about a 1/2 hour ceremony that involves chanting, Kirtan, the blessing of a TilakaPrasad offerings, and lots of ringing of bells and joyous invocations.”

It was an incredible experience surrounded by the thick smoke of incense. I must admit, the smoke irritated my already angry throat which made for an uncomfortable ceremony at times with hacking coughs to accompany the ringing of bells.

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.