The Poetry of Retreat

Wake up well before dawn.

Set an alarm, just in case. I don’t want to miss a moment of the five a.m. sadhana.

Under the veil of darkness, stroll along the starlit, lapping lake to the candlelit temple where White Tara beams down upon us all every day and night.

Location: Sumaya, which means “a long awaited dream come true”; a.k.a. paradise found.

Akasha shares his personal practice with us, in such a down-to-earth, accessible and friendly way. Casually imparts the wisdom of years and decades of practice. So humbly, with the authenticity of actions and the nebulous precision of words. The time flies by.

Breathing, chanting, moving, holding, listening. Paying attention.

Sun rises, pastels paint the sky. We invite the morning light. The lake’s daily awakening. All the sounds, the water, the boat motors, voices, birdsong.

And now, a series of seven-minute chants. I read from the sheet and marvel at all the people in the room who has these long strings of Sanskrit syllables memorized.

Mid-morning Ashtanga practice. Powerful. Right effort. Knowing boundaries, challenging limits. Mountain men and women gaining strength, vitality. Soaking up inspiration from our teacher and his teacher’s teachers.

Just one week, and yet we go so deep, transforming energy on all levels. Strangers swiftly become sangha, friendships are forged over meals and spirit animal tarot cards.

Healing circle, full moon, New Year’s Eve evening; glowing hearts, positive energy, splendid synergy. Giving and receiving.

Inner transformation, outward evolution. Deep bow of gratitude, dream come true. The closing of one chapter leads to the opening of the next.

sunrise-sky-blue-sunlight-67832.jpeg

Thank you. I love you. Please forgive me. I’m sorry. Namaste.

Advertisements

The Yoga of Yawning

By Michelle Fajkus & Charles MacInerney

{Read the full, original post on Elephant Journal}

pexels-photo-69895.jpeg

Only we humans, conditioned to be polite, suppress our urge to yawn. Our suppression of a natural, healthy, physical urge is actually detrimental to our health.

Yawning is an ancient and vitally important reflex. Human fetuses begin to yawn and pandiculate (stretching and yawning at the same time) during the 12th week of pregnancy. All vertebrates yawn—humans, primates, mammals, marsupials, birds, reptiles.

There is a misconception that yawning implies boredom, disinterest, or tiredness. Yawning helps us transition from wakefulness to sleeping at night, and it also helps us transition from sleeping to wakefulness in the morning. Yawning increases circulation of cerebrospinal fluid and plays a role in arousal. Yawning also helps us relax and reduce our stress levels, which is why Olympic athletes are often seen yawning prior to competition.

I (Charles) began taking yoga classes in Oxford when I was 11. At the end of the practice, during savasana (corpse pose), I went into a state of deep relaxation. When my teacher closed the class with an Aum chant, I started to yawn. Not wanting to be disrespectful, I tried to suppress the urge and when it got away from me, I covered my mouth.

After class, my teacher advised, “Don’t suppress the urge to yawn. Let it out,” and yawned herself. After that, I indulged in yawn after yawn, until my eyes watered, and I felt alert, calm, and happy.

In a workshop he taught at the Texas Yoga Retreat last fall in Austin, I (Michelle) witnessed the humorous way in which Charles can yawn with his entire body—mouth, arms, legs, fingers, and toes! He encouraged all of us in the class to practice yawning and considers it the perfect yogic “complete breath” and an underutilized form of pranayama. (Charles is one of the main organizers of the annual weekend retreat and always offers a few fun, fascinating workshops.)

The scientific community is just beginning to realize how important yawning is to our overall health and well-being. Repetitive yawning increases the beneficial effects.

Read more

The Trecena of Imox: 13 Days of Inspiration

pexels-photo-207001.jpeg

Happy new now! Today is the first day of the rest of your life — and of the Trecena of Imox in the Mayan Calendar.

The next thirteen days are ripe for creation, flow, trusting the universe, giving and receiving and connecting with the primordial Mother energy through the elements of earth and water. We are living in exciting times of rapid change, expansion of consciousness and development. The flip side of this, of course, is technology overtaking humanity and we, society, destroying our home planet. It’s overwhelmingly scary when the ground beneath us, and our attachment to the concept that “I am in control” is revealed to be an illusion.

According to Birgitte Rasin’s book, The Serpent and the Jaguar: “On Imox days, the Maya give thanks, ask for rain and water, and pray that their dreams and visions bring them beauty and wisdom rather than delusions and madness.” During these two weeks, the energy is ripe for us to “dive into the vast ocean of ideas, concepts, dreams and possibilities and possibilities” that Imox brings in droves.

The spirit animals of the Imox sign are the crocodile, dragon, dolphin and all sea creatures. The shadow side of this nahual is distrust and these days can often be challenging for those of us who prefer routine, stability, predictability.

The Mayan Oracle by Spilsbury and Bryner reports that Imox “represents the root source of life, the nurturance and support of primary being, and within it are found the primal waters of unity.” Imox is a feminine sign, unstable, creative, inspiring, dramatic and exciting. The number of Imox is one and its color is burgundy. Some Mayans and scholars of the Mayan cosmovision consider today, 1 Imox, to mark the beginning of a new 260-day cycle (13 trecenas times 20 nahuales = 260).

This poem, “Boast of Quietness” by Jorge Luis Borges, burst off the page of a book I picked up yesterday, and I want to share it with you now in closing.

Cheers, and enjoy this ride through Imox!

Writings of light assault the darkness, more prodigious than meteors.
The tall unknowable city takes over the countryside.
Sure of my life and my death, I observe the ambitious and would like to understand them.
Their day is greedy as a lariat in the air.
Their night is a rest from the rage within steel, quick to attack.
They speak of humanity.
My humanity is in feeling we are all voices of the same poverty.
They speak of homeland.
My homeland is the rhythm of a guitar, a few portraits, an old sword, the willow grove’s visible prayer as evening falls. 
Time is living me.
More silent than my shadow, I pass through the loftily covetous multitude.
They are indispensable, singular, worthy of tomorrow.
My name is someone and anyone.
I walk slowly, like one who comes from so far away he doesn’t expect to arrive.

 

Not Eating Animals

636050193187483138-1065512399_635959312881347802-2113731765_635844938523954716879276320_eat-vegetarian-4

“We need to change our way of thinking and seeing things. We need to realise that the Earth is not just our environment. The Earth is not something outside of us. Breathing with mindfulness and contemplating your body, you realise that you are the Earth. You realise that your consciousness is also the consciousness of the Earth. Look around you–what you see is not your environment, it is you.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh

I became a vegetarian in college, inspired by my studies of yogic philosophy. To become vegetarian in Texas, the barbecue capital of the world, in the year 2001 was neither easy nor deemed acceptable by many of my relatives, friends and acquaintances. Nevertheless, I was a strict vegetarian (not vegan) for about ten years before backsliding into an omnivore I humorously labeled “flexitarian” — which basically meant I would eat meat on occasion, usually when on vacation in rural Colombia or Guatemala, where choosing not to eat chicken is totally unheard of.

Like the author of Eating Animals, an excellent, disturbing, inspiring and eye-opening book on industrialized agriculture and factory farming, my family and I would eat meat “only whenever we felt like it.”

I read Eating Animals a few months ago and it immediately inspired me to renew my vows as a strict vegetarian. I want nothing to do with the cruelty, torture and greed that is factory farming. Choosing not to eat meat that comes from factory farms is the first, most obvious step. Attempting to inspire others to make this choice is my duty as a writer and conscious human being, though I accept that I can only attempt to inspire. Only you can make the choice to change your consumption behavior. Perhaps cutting out all meat is unrealistic. Even cutting back by 50%, when done on a large scale by millions of people, will make a significant difference to our Mother Earth.

Here are some key quotes from Jonathan Safran Foer’s book (published in 2009), which inspired the production of a documentary that came out in 2017:

  • “Just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else? If contributing to the suffering of billions of animals that live miserable lives and (quite often) die in horrific ways isn’t motivating, what would be? If being the number one contributor to the most serious threat facing the planet (global warming) isn’t enough, what is? And if you are tempted to put off these questions of conscience, to say not now, then when?”
  • “Perhaps in the back of our minds we already understand, without all the science I’ve discussed, that something terribly wrong is happening. Our sustenance now comes from misery. We know that if someone offers to show us a film on how our meat is produced, it will be a horror film. We perhaps know more than we care to admit, keeping it down in the dark places of our memory– disavowed. When we eat factory-farmed meat we live, literally, on tortured flesh. Increasingly, that tortured flesh is becoming our own.”
  • “It shouldn’t be the consumer’s responsibility to figure out what’s cruel and what’s kind, what’s environmentally destructive and what’s sustainable. Cruel and destructive food products should be illegal. We don’t need the option of buying children’s toys made with lead paint, or aerosols with chlorofluorocarbons, or medicines with unlabeled side effects. And we don’t need the option of buying factory-farmed animals.”
  • “Something having been done just about everywhere just about always is no kind of justification for doing it now.”
  • “Choosing leaf or flesh, factory farm or family farm, does not in itself change the world, but teaching ourselves, our children, our local communities, and our nation to choose conscience over ease can.”

I highly recommend reading this book. It’s not an easy read, and there were some particularly grisly descriptions of animal treatment that I had to skim over. Yet, it’s an important book to read and one that I wish every person on the planet would take the time to peruse.

“We need to consume in such a way that keeps our compassion alive. And yet many of us consume in a way that is very violent. Forests are cut down to raise cattle for beef, or to grow grain for liquor, while millions in the world are dying of starvation. Reducing the amount of meat we eat and alcohol we consume by 50% is a true act of love for ourselves, for the Earth and for one another. Eating with compassion can already help transform the situation our planet is facing, and restore balance to ourselves and the Earth.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Love What You Do; Do What You Love

“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”
~ Dalai Lama XIV

I get up in the morning and love that I woke up for another day of life on this amazing planet.

Despite the ache in my left shoulder blade and the fact that I will someday die, I can still go stand outside and listen to the birds sing, the wind rustling the leaves of the trees.

Love triumphs.

I don’t love washing the dishes, but I love having a clean kitchen so the inconvenience of washing the dishes becomes worth it.

The more presence and awareness I bring to each moment, each task, each conversation, each breath… the better I function. Trying to multitask just results in a bunch of things done with mediocrity.

I love to write. I love to read. I love to listen to music. I love to dance when I’m by myself. I love to gaze at flowers and the lake and volcanoes and sky. I love to hang out with my girl and my man. I love a free afternoon. I love coffee, chai, getting to work and having a productive morning. I love chocolate and yoga. I love love. I love me. I love you. I love Life.

I used to not love what I was doing. With my career, in my relationships. Once I realized this, I made changes. Small and big changes, over a long period of time, that have led me to where I am today. Which is nowhere. And everywhere. And the ideal place for me in this moment.

May all beings be love and be loved!

pexels-photo-269583.jpeg

My Silver Yoga Anniversary

Last week, on February 1, during a chakra breathing session up the hill, tears of gratitude came to my eyes as I realized that it was twenty-five years to the day since I first encountered yoga.

I’ve told this story many times so won’t dredge up the specifics here. Suffice to say I was in the seventh grade and discovered the treasure of hatha yoga in a paperback book. I remember the date was February 1, since the book had a 28-day program to follow and February conveniently had 28 days that year (1993). I’ve been hooked ever since and bow with the utmost gratitude and respect to the countless generations of yoga teachers who’ve passed down the dharma teachings which have enabled me and so many to evolve into better, more flexible, strong, balanced, sane, happy and kind people.

Life has been exceptionally intense and challenging thus far in 2018, and we’re only just getting started. The flip side of this intensity can be rewarding gratification for being able to handle our ever-evolving, moment-to-moment experiences with grace and patience and/or buckling under the pressure and spinning out into emotional meltdowns.

silver_anniversary_hearts_tall_card-r6ebce56ef0df4952931a739936b1f1b7_xvuat_8byvr_324The practice of yoga, specifically asana (poses), pranayama (conscious breathing) and dhyana (meditation) empowers me to invite in more grace, patience, presence, and compassion instead of desperately turning to addictive substances and behavior patterns in an attempt to escape (not to say this hasn’t happened in recent history).

“We all love our own melodramas. We each have one. Everybody thinks they’re somebody doing something, or somebody thinking something, or somebody wanting something: “I’ve gotta have sex tonight or I’ll die.” “I’m so lonely!” “I can’t meditate!” “I’m so high!” We all get so involved in our melodramas, so busy thinking we’re the actors, so busy thinking we’re doing it all – and it’s really all just this lawful stuff running off. How funny!

But in order to see that, in order to begin to appreciate the lawfulness of the unfolding, we need to develop a little perspective. It can be a nice meditation to take a seed, and put it in a bit of earth. Put it on a kitchen window sill, and watch it grow into a plant, into a flower. Just observe it everyday. Use that as your daily meditation exercise; see the way the whole process unfolds.” ~ Ram Dass

Intentions for today and the coming weeks and months of internal work:

  • Clear away the obstacles and hindrances lodged in my energetic field (especially those I feel blocking my 2nd and 3rd chakra energy centers) in order to be of greater benefit to all beings, including Mother Earth and myself.
  • Take back my power.
  • Call in strength, independence & interconnection, clarity and creative inspiration.
  • Continue growing into a more present, kind, compassionate, patient and loving human BEing, mother, partner, daughter, sister, friend and member of Team Love (which is always accepting new members, as the apt bumper sticker of a tuk-tuk driver reminded me the other day).

Mantras:

  • Forgiveness Practice:
    • For whatever harm I have caused others, may they forgive me.
    • For whatever harm others have caused me, may I forgive them.
    • For whatever harm I have caused myself, I forgive myself.
  • Show me the way.
  • I am ready to receive.

I love you; thank you; Amen and Namaste.

Putting Radiance in its Place

202e6c5076cd6ae09ebd1205d0d5bb02

Earth, water, fire, air. Which element are you?

I am a water baby with a need for natural bodies of water around me, within view, within reach. To swim, yes. Moreover, to see and feel. The energy of the water is the energy of movement, emotion, feeling, fluidity, ripples.

Who were you, growing up?

I used to be a star student, an overachiever, a compulsive planner (still, I have a fetish for calendars and agendas), a teacher’s pet, a classroom teacher, an office worker, a copy writer, and a fourth-grade math whiz.

Who am I, growing up?

I am irreplaceable. I am ordinary and extraordinary, and so are you. I am a starter, not a finisher. I am a lover of kitties, birdsong, laughter and the poetry of each passing moment. I am a teacher and a writer and a mother and a friend. I am afraid of death and old age and abandonment and automobile accidents and hurting people’s feelings. I also embrace the reality that old age and death are coming, later or sooner. I am observant. I pay attention to detail, if it’s interesting detail. Boring detail is hell. Spending long hours at the computer screen is not the job for me. Dealing with the general public, though I know I am them and they are me, is not the job for me.

May you be you.

I am radiant. You are radiant. Let’s put radiance in its place. Let’s let our hearts shine and our voices sing. Let’s whisper words of wisdom in our own ears and let ourselves be. Do when it’s time to do, let go when it’s time to let go.

Praise be the sky, the wind, the lake, the flame.

5 Simple Mantras for Daily Use

I’m sorry.

Please forgive me.

Thank you.

I love you.

(Aloha, this is such a beautifully simple practice called ho’onopono, originating from the indigenous peoples of Hawaii)

&

Show me the way.

(Instead of planning and plotting and “figuring it all out,” let things unfold and watch for the signs and guides that continuously arise, moment to moment.)

Chakra 1st