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.

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

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Airplane Meditation

{original post on elephant journal}

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I’ve always loved flying.

As a girl, I would have dreams of flying, floating above the earth, having been gifted the ability to lift myself and defy gravity, slowly levitating further and further up into the treetops—and higher, looking down upon the earth below without fear.

My first plane trip was as a toddler when my mom took me to California. I don’t remember it consciously, but perhaps that experience lent itself to my lifelong fascination with air travel.

At age 14, I boarded a plane alone for the first time—again to California—to visit a close friend who had moved there. I remember looking down upon the land, so in awe of the shades of green, the yellow and brown patterns of the fields, the tiny cars on city highways, and the hills and mountains we passed over. I remember the amazing feeling of being in the fluffy white clouds, careening as if magically through the vast blue sky.

I’ve taken countless plane trips since then, and I’m always awed by the experience—especially the liftoff and ascension into the sky.

I recently came across this intriguing “meditation for the jet-set,” in a book by Osho. Whether you love flying or feel anxiety around it, may this guided technique be of benefit!

“When gravitation is less, and the earth is very far away, many pulls of the earth are far away. You are far away from the corrupted society that man has built. You are surrounded by clouds and the stars and the moon and the sun and the vast space. So do one thing: start feeling one with that vastness and do it in three steps.

The first step is: for a few minutes just think that you are becoming bigger…you are filling the whole plane. Then, the second step: start feeling that you are becoming even bigger, bigger than the plane—in fact, the plane is now inside you.

And, the third step: feel that you have expanded into the whole sky. Now these clouds that are moving and the moon and the stars—they are moving in you. You are huge, unlimited. This feeling will become your meditation, and you will feel completely relaxed and non-tense.” ~ Osho, Meditation: The First and Last Freedom

7 Sacred Directions ~ Weekend Retreat

June 23 – 25, 2017

“Hold on to what is good even if it is a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe even if it is a tree which stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do even if it is a long way from here.
Hold on to life even when it is easier letting go.
Hold on to my hand even when I have gone away from you.” ~ Pueblo Blessing

On this weekend retreat in the land of eternal spring, we’ll voyage through the seven major energy centers in the body: root, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye and crown and the seven sacred directions: east, west, north, south, above, below and heart center.

The circle is open to all levels and all body types. Take time to unwind in our lakeside paradise… enjoy group practices, wholesome vegetarian cuisine and free time for reading in the hammock, spa treatments, swimming or simply being.

Schedule

Friday

3:00 arrival & settling in
5:00 opening circle
6:30 welcome dinner

Saturday

8:00 yoga & meditation
9:30 breakfast
11:30 chakra workshop
1:30 lunch
3:00 cacao ceremony
6:30 dinner

Sunday

7:30 breakfast
8:15 Mayan fire ceremony
10:30 closing circle
12:00 lunch & farewells

*Also being offered September 1-3

Learn more!

Location: Villa Sumaya

Full Moon Wisdom Quotes

“Life goes on. I can heal my wounds. I can clear my karma. I will ready, study, practice, realize. I will enlighten. I will be. I was. I am. Buddha nature in this flesh, in this body.” ~ from a 2010 diary entry

I was reading through a six-year old journal this morning. Wow, a lot has changed (and in many way improved) in my life these past six years. I used to be a lot more neurotic, insecure, obsessive… I feel more grounded, trusting and accepting these days. Thankfully.

Today is the full moon in Aquarius. Lately, I have been delving into some new material, gaining new perspectives, shifting paradigms. I feel that a lot is being processed, digested, reflected upon, slowly understood. It is good.

In less than a week, I will be back in Texas, back in my childhood home, for the first time with my partner, who is Colombian. This will be his first trip to my country. The last time my daughter and I went, she was just under two, and we were there two weeks. Now she is just over three and a half and a bundle of fun. We will be in Austin/Central Texas for about 3 weeks, then going on a road trip through NM and AZ to LA and SF… All in all, a trip of almost two months.

I came upon these three gems of dharma wisdom in that old notebook and thought I would share them with you!

Just as the ocean has waves or the sun has rays, so the mind’s own radiance is its thoughts and emotions. The ocean has waves, yet the ocean is not particularly disturbed by them. The waves are the very nature of the ocean. Waves will rise, but where do they go? Back into the ocean. And where do those waves come from? The ocean. Thoughts and emotions rise from the mind, but where do they dissolve? Back into the mind. Whatever rises, do not see it as a particular problem. If you do not impulsively react, if you are only patient, it will settle once again into its essential nature.
~ Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything.”
~ Suzuki Roshi

“The more and more you listen, the more and more you hear. The more and more you hear, the deeper and deeper your understanding becomes.”
~ Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

 

 

July/August 2016 Retreats!

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I am super excited to be offering two yoga retreats this summer with my dear friend and fellow yoga teacher Paola at Villa Sumaya… Join us!

Living from the Heart: Stress-Free Lifestyle
July 2-9, 2016
Yoga, mindfulness, writing workshops. Nutrition, Ayurveda, Hikes and Healing

Yoga, Mindfulness & the Transformation of Suffering
August 13-20, 2016
Yoga, mindfulness, writing workshops. Permaculture, Learning and Healing

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Yoga Freedom Retreats—2015

10401987_10153420103665400_7268956794610482626_nIntroducing our NEW Tiny Retreats!

WHO? You!

WHAT? Personalized retreats involving a tiny community of 1-3 participants and 1-2 teachers

WHEN? Choose your own retreat dates. We are open and available throughout April, May, June, July and August 2015

Basic daily schedule
(Subject to change, because it’s your retreat!)

7:00 group meditation

7:30 guided yoga practice

9:00 breakfast

10:00 workshop (choose from a variety of topics such as mindfulness, chakras, heart opening, writing, gardening, cooking, art, music, swimming, eco-building, and sacred geometry, to name a few)

12:30 lunch

Free time!

4:00-5:30 yoga circle

5:30-6:00 meditation circle

6:00 light dinner

7:00 activity (possibilities include tarot card reading, kirtan/chanting, bonfire, sauna, games)

WHERE? Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

HOW? Register and confirm by making a payment via PayPal or BAM (local bank in Guatemala)

RATES (per person)

Yoga, meditation & workshops only
3-day getaway $35-70
5-day retreat $70-150
7-day retreat $150+

All-inclusive (lodging, food, yoga, workshops)
3-day getaway $100
5-day retreat $180
7-day retreat $200
(Does not include travel to/from Lake Atitlan, but we are happy to help arrange your shuttle from the Guatemala Airport.)

Another Option: check out our calendar of group retreats in May, June, August and December!

Encountering Orchids & Poetry Where You Least Expect Them

{Check out the expanded, prose version of this post on Rebelle Society. Here’s the poem that came first: }

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We were invited to Jose Raul’s garden
On the edge of a small town in the south of Colombia
(He is a smiling security guard at my sister-in-law’s place)
We walked in to his family’s humble abode
Greeted by dogs, kids, a bunny and a cup of homemade blackberry wine from his lovely wife
He has over 200 species of orchids growing there in a tiny greenhouse
Some microscopic, some medium, some large
One that only blooms once every six years
He’s also a poet, with two published books to boot
Jose Raul the smiling security guard, the hospitable botanist, the published poet
Thank you for showing me your flowers and poems
Thank you for reminding me to drop expectations
Thank you for reminding me not to judge a book by its cover
Thank you
Mil gracias

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Using Our Privilege for the Greater Good. (Part 1)

Praying boys

“The only people who see the whole picture,” he murmured, “are the ones who step out of the frame.”

~ Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet

I stepped out of the frame and moved outside the border of my homeland almost five years ago.

Living as an expatriate in the beautiful, fertile, mountainous land of Guatemala continues to be an eye-opening and heart-opening experience. My lifestyle has changed in deep and lasting ways, and my quality of life is, in my opinion, sky high.

I feel fortunate, because I am fortunate.

I am privileged. I am white. I grew up in a loving, middle class family. I was born in the United States. I excelled in school. I finished college with a degree in a field I no longer cared for (advertising) and was privileged with the ability to switch to a more suitable career (education).

If you’re reading this, you’re probably relatively privileged as well. If you’ve traveled and visited any “developing” countries, you’ve no doubt witnessed poverty. Did you avert your eyes? Did you wonder why you were born so relatively rich while others have next to nothing? Did you feel guilty for it?

Feeling confused about our privilege is a natural phase.

Why are we so lucky while others are not?

Why were we born into the family and place that we were? Getting over the guilt is important. It is the first step toward using our privilege for good.

Guatemala has plenty of poverty, but nothing in my experience here compares to the several weeks I spent in northern India in 2008. The barefoot, hungry children swarming and begging for money, food, anything, was almost too much to bear.

If I had never traveled to India or Mexico or Guatemala, I might still be living in Austin, getting pedicures, drinking $8 cocktails at happy hours with my friends and shopping at Old Navy for superfluous garments and shoes to stuff into my closet. I might be driving a gas-guzzling car and working for the weekend. I might be donating to charity, more to make myself feel less guilty than any more noble aspiration.

Living here has made me super conscious of the value of money. In the States, one can easily spend $50 or more on a haircut at a nice salon. Fifty bucks goes a loooong way in a developing country, toward buying books, healthy snacks and supplies for schoolchildren. Full disclosure: I cut my own hair these days for zero dollars.

This is not to say we should feel bad about occasionally splurging on nice things for ourselves and loved ones. But when such “splurges” becomes routine, they’re no longer a treat, they are examples of mindless and excessive consumerism.

Acknowledging and owning our privilege is key. Leveraging it to benefit others is essential to creating an enlightened society of conscious, compassionate beings.

Several years ago, I invested $300 in various projects via Kiva.org in lieu of Christmas shopping. Now, the site tells me when I log in, I’ve lent $1275 in 21 different countries. They paid me back, and I reinvested. That’s the power of micro-lending. People I will never meet have benefited from tiny loans from my and others’ humble bank accounts.

Do you know how many orphans there are in the world?

Over 140 million. That’s an unthinkable statistic, and if you’ve been to even one poorly run orphanage, you’ve surely felt the palpable sadness and suffering.

In the year 2000, my friend Caroline took a round-the-world trip with a stop in India. Witnessing the despicable conditions of a rural orphanage she visited changed her life and motivated her to create The Miracle Foundation. Today, 14 years later, she is opening her tenth orphanage. She has, through trial and error, created a system that prevents corruption and promotes healthy, sustainable practices in the orphanages that her organization supports.

She looked unimaginable deprivation, overwhelm and fear in the face and instead of shrinking away, she did something about it. She redesigned her life, switching from a high-powered career in PR to become the founder of her own non-profit. Even if we can’t make such a drastic change personally at this time, we can support the work of Caroline and other karma yogi go-getters like her. (Stay tuned for an upcoming article I’m writing on Caroline and her work for Mother’s Day!)

This world is full of problems, pain and suffering. It can feel overwhelming when we look at the heap as a whole. But as the saying goes, no one can do everything but we can each do something.

We can recognize our privilege and use our educated minds and money to create waves of good karma, compassion and care that radiate out from our hearts into the world.

How are you using your privilege for the greater good?