The Path of Beauty: Yoga & Writing Weekend Retreats

pathofbeauty

Yoga has altered my life, for the better, for more than two decades. I’ve been teaching for the past sixteen years. I’ve also been writing pretty much since I can remember. Diaries, journals, blogs, poems, essays, articles. So I’m beyond thrilled to be offering a few weekend retreats in August & September that are all about yoga and writing — and gratitude and practice and community and love and kindness and laughter and the path of beauty.

YOGA & WRITING WEEKENDS at Villa Sumaya in August & September!

{2 day/1 night, Saturday & Sunday affairs} * Suitable for ALL LEVELS!

Join me at the divinely inspirational Villa Sumaya for a weekend getaway to relax and recharge with a heart-opening yoga practice designed to accommodate all levels, ages and body types. Participate in a writing circle, focused on introspective journaling and optional sharing, clarifying your life goals by tapping your creative muse and inspiring new growth.

AUGUST 18-19        SEPTEMBER 1-2        SEPTEMBER 22-23

We’ll start Saturday at 11am with the opening circle, followed by lunch, free time, afternoon workshop, dinner. Sunday we’ll gather together for morning practice, breakfast, and finish with a closing sauna ceremony.

About the Instructor

Michelle Margaret Fajkus is a longtime yoga teacher, writer/blogger, and heart-centered human being. She has been  joyfully teaching yoga for over sixteen years and has facilitated yoga and mindfulness retreats in Guatemala since 2010. Her classes are suitable for all levels, ages and body types and incorporate hatha, vinyasa flow, dharma yoga, yin yoga, pranayama/breath work, chanting, mindfulness and relaxation.

Details: http://villasumaya.com/event/group-retreats-michelle/

Discounted day passes available for lake friends!

The Neverending Nuisances of Life

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The ants are everywhere. Mosquitoes buzzing in our ears, flies of all sizes, scorpions scurrying out from dry hiding places, spider communities weaving condominiums of webs in the garden. It’s rainy season in Guatemala, and all our insect friends are seeking shelter.

Furthermore, we are all getting older with each passing moment. Aches and pains come with greater frequency. Just this week, I tripped on the stairs and twisted my ankle. It was sore for two days, immediately followed by the arrival of an intense stabbing sensation in my upper back that made me feel elderly, as it caused excruciating pain whenever I tried to reach for something or bend over. Gradually, it’s getting better, though the soreness is still there.

Do you ever have the feeling that “someday” — after you get through the current difficulty — life will be good again? Just past this uncomfortable or even painful challenge, we will reclaim contentment and ease! We will be healthy, gainfully employed following our bliss, in harmony with our partners and families, and restored as an all-around kind, wise, compassionate, intelligent, inspired and inspiring beings on the planet. When we get bigger. When we grow up…

What a farce. The reality is that life is never going to reach this ideal state. There always have been and always will be a continuum of suffering to deal with, from paper cuts to bug bites to misled ego-based arguments to rampant corruption, confusion, contamination, death and taxes. These are the facts of life. The more we can accept them and let go of viewing them as negative nuisances to be avoided or resisted, the better. My practice lately is to instead acknowledge and experience whatever irritation arises with direct awareness, if not utter gratitude for the tiny opportunity for learning that it brings.

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On another note: the present, beyond-imaginable situation facing immigrants, including children, who’ve attempted to cross the southern U.S. border and are being criminalized and detained, their families separated indefinitely by official policy enacted in April — show the true colors of Trump and all the government leaders and stupid citizens who support him: heartless, tiny-brained, self-centered worms.

Everyone with an open heart is upset, and many people are trying to organize meaningful actions. The masses desensitized to the constant lies and inhumane practices of this administration are waking up and saying No, this is too much, we cannot stand for this.

The root of the problem of illegal immigration stems from interminable situations in countries such as Guatemala (and so many others) where people are so driven to desperately try to escape the cycle of poverty and crime which surrounds them that they are willing to risk their lives and lose their families for a chance at higher earnings en el Norte. 

The roots of this unjust situation were put into place 500 years ago through colonization and more recently (in the mid-20th century) through the United States’ CIA operations to destabilize pretty much all Latin American governments. Why? To maintain a profitable bottom-line for soulless corporations and keep a system in place that continues to benefit only those with the most wealth and power. To keep the oppressed oppressed. There is a pitiful irony in these same oppressed people seeking asylum right in the place where the oppressors rule.

This is more than a buzzing nuisance, it is the air we breathe and the society of which each of us is a member. The ever-widening gap between filthy rich and downtrodden poor? When will it be enough? Will the tides of our world ever turn to provide basic human rights for so many struggling just to eat decent meals and drink clean water and have a roof over their heads and a warm bed to sleep in?

Those of us who are lucky enough to have food to eat and houses to shelter us must step in and help, in whatever ways we can, for no one can truly be free until all beings are.

Life, Death and Volcanoes

eruption of volcano during dawn
Photo by Pete Johnson on Pexels.com

Holy wow, what a week. Last Sunday, June 3rd, el Volcan de Fuego (“Fire Volcano) erupted violently, killing at least 100 people. It is one of 22 volcanoes in Guatemala, although only a few of them are active. Fuego sits several miles outside a popular tourist destination, the colonial city of Antigua, and is known for its impressive shows of smoke puffs which are a regular fixture on the skyline visible from Guatemala City, Antigua and even from where I live, 3 hours away, at Lake Atitlan.

The villages that sat near the base of the volcano were hit hard. So many people and animals were killed, burned or otherwise injured and traumatized by this natural disaster. There is no possible evacuation when pyroclastic (gas and rock mixture) explosions speed down the mountainside. This makes the recent, slow moving lava on Hawaii’s big island look tame. The destruction is unfathomable, and the pain and suffering are palpable. All of us “gringos” who live in Guatemala have received countless messages from friends and family asking if we are okay. We are. The ones who are not okay are the people who lived by the volcano, most of whom were struggling to get by financially from day to day even before the tragedy hit.

Adding salt to the wound is that fact that the Guatemalan government, if you can even call it that, is so defunct and corrupt that the powers-that-be are not able or willing to provide meaningful aid. International aid is slow and minimal, since foreign countries know that most of the money they send will not be applied toward the disaster at hand. This display of rampant greed and ignorant cruelty is disgusting.

At the same time, thousands of people have been contributing to the relief effort–rich and poor, Guatemalans and expats, everyday citizens and emergency professionals–to search for and rescue survivors, to collect and distribute donated supplies for those who lost their homes and all their possessions, to build shelters, to comfort the brokenhearted with their outpouring of love and kindness.

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Me and Volcan de Fuego puffing, 2010.

Overnight, hundreds of crowdfunding pages were created by caring individuals to raise money for the medical care of those injured and the rebuilding that will certainly take years. (Hopefully, they are caring … as always with tragedies, there are some who look to profit personally from it.) Guatemala is home to hundreds of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) due to many issues in this country stemming from extreme poverty of much of the mostly Mayan-indigenous population. These organizations are the ones to support.

If you would like to donate to the relief effort, here are 3 highly-recommended, vetted, grassroots non-profits that will doubtless use every dollar in the most effective and efficient way to alleviate suffering:

Thank you for caring!

May all beings be safe.

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.