Showing posts from March, 2010

First, Accept - Then, Transform!

Accepting what is - is perhaps the hardest lesson to learn and to embody gracefully. At least, it is for me... On Saturday afternoon, I attended a yoga workshop with Betsey Downing , one of the first Anusara Yoga teachers to be certified, and now a co-chair of the certification committee herself. The theme for the session, which focused on forward bends and pranayama - was: "Accepting What Is." I couldn't help but think of Byron Katie's book - Loving What Is , and of essential Buddhist teachings which tell us - that when we resist what is - we suffer. Wanting situations or others to be what we want them to be invariably leads to pain. Freedom comes in letting go. But of course, that is more easily said than done. And working on this, is nothing more and nothing less than a life-long enterprise! Here are some of the insights from Betsey I managed to record... "Self-acceptance reminds us that we are all part of the same thing. You are born worthy - you don

Courage and Grace

Yesterday, I spent the day studying with Betsey Downing , one of my first yoga teachers, and one of Anusara Yoga's true gems. It has been both amazing and an honor to have witnessed her evolve both as a yogini and an human being over the course of 15 years. I wanted to share some of her insights from yesterday... In the first session of the day which highlighted backbends, Betsey spoke of the origin of the word "courage," which is derived from the French word "coeur," or heart. Courage invites us to be our most authentic self... "Yoga is living with virtuosity and being your authentic self... Anusara means to be in the flow of your own essence... Courage means you are able to lead with your heart... We need to re-commit to practices that make us grounded and whole... If you consider a golf ball, the outside or exterior is hard - and it is representative of our ego. But the inside is bouncy, and the center is surrounded by rubber bands. Our Light

Honoring Our Teachers

This weekend, I have the wonderful pleasure of studying once again with Betsey Downing , a Master Yogini, whom John Friend has affectionately referred to as the "Grande Dame" of Anusara Yoga. Betsey was one of my first two teachers, and I took my first yoga teacher training with her, back in 1996. And, she was the first person who game a job teaching yoga back in 1997. But here she was, beginning the Friday night session of her weekend workshop, taking the time to honor her whole lineage of teachers - all those who had gone before her and brought her to the place that she is today. I marveled at the fact that here I was, at her feet once again, with my current teacher, Suzie Hurley, who is also a dear friend of hers. In her introduction of Betsey, Suzie expressed gratitude and joy for the opportunity to enjoy Betsey as a student herself this weekend. And as I have noted before, a good teacher is always - first and foremost - a good student! Another one of those present

Yoga is Seeing the Divine in All

I've spent much time this last week, contemplating and reflecting upon Professor Bill Mahoney's definitions of yoga, particularly this one: "Yoga is seeing the Divine in all beings." As I mentioned in a recent entry, he also defined yoga as a state of being - and as a technique or practice leading to a state of being. So, I chose to focus on this idea of yoga as seeing the Divine - or the good in everything - in my classes this week - challenging my students a little more deeply than I have, and a few had breakthroughs and experiences that they had not had before... Last week, when I studied with John Friend, he reiterated over and over again, that as practitioners and teachers of Anusara Yoga, we must look for the good - and for the highest always. It is one of the distinguishing hallmarks of our system. This is a practice - and a technique that leads us to a state of being and conversely, this state of being enables us to see the Divine in all. This does not m

Embodying Divine Attributes

I awaken slowly, still filled with the insights from last week's study with John Friend , the founder of Anusara Yoga , drinking in the sweet singing of the birds outside of my window - as if, they, like Rumi , were instructing me, "Don't go back to sleep!" They urge me to awaken, not only on this day, but from the deep, dark sleep of living unconsciously: "The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don't go back to sleep. You must ask for what you really want. Don't go back to sleep. People are going back and forth between the door sill where the two worlds touch. The door is round and open. Don't go back to sleep." I arise, in fullness, with greater awareness, drinking in the light of day, and note how in the simple act of rising, and awakening my consciousness more deeply, I have manifested some of the attributes of the Divine! I recall John Friend giving us an overview of the the Nature of Ultimate Reality, of the attributes of

The First Buds of Spring

I go for a walk, and drink in the first buds of spring...My soul is deeply enriched and fed after a week spent in the energy of my teacher, John Friend and my Anusara Yoga family... I think of the song, "Blossom," by James Taylor, and the adolescent still very much alive in my heart, sings these lyrics once again... "Blossom, smile some sunshine down my way Lately, I've been lonesome Blossom, its been much too long a day Melt my cares away... Blossom, there's an empty road behind Sit you down beside me Blossom, there's a sweet dream in my mind There's a song inside me Take these chains away..." I am full of insights, gratitude, and awe - for the birthing of spring - for the week I had - and for the many blessings and expressions of love given and received - in so many ways. Truly, love is all there is... My heart aches for eternal union - yet my soul knows there will be a day millions and billions of years in the future when all sou

My Teacher Shares His Wisdom

I have concluded a week of sitting at my teacher's feet with about 100 or so students within the Anusara Yoga community. Some of those attending were Certified teachers, some Inspired, and many were fairly new on the path. But that did not matter - for each soul in attendance reflected a unique ray of the Divine's light. Each one of us is simply in a different stage on the path. And, we were all there as students with a beginner's mind... The week was filled with insights, doubts, fears, breakthroughs, inspirations, turning points, revelations - all the typical things that a week spent with John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga always seems to elicit. He never says that we should not have doubts or fears - but it is how we use and transmute them that makes a difference in our practice and ultimately in our lives. Every time I study with him, I come away with profound insights and gems that I take and cast in the river of my students' hearts, where the ripples wide

A Good Teacher is Always a Good Student

Every good teacher - is first of all a good student. My students have always heard me say that they should not study with someone who is not studying with someone themselves. So, here I am, in Columbia, South Carolina, doing the Anusara Yoga Immersion Part 2. This is a program really designed for students relatively new to Anusara who want to learn more about the principles and the philosophy undergirding the method. But here I am, with a beginner's mind, taking it all in... I had hoped to make regular entries here, but it has been a bit busier than I had anticipated... The days are long. We meet twice a day from 4 hours, to 4 and half hours at times - doing 2 to 3 hours of asana at a time, and then covering philosophy, principles of alignment, and so forth. It is a good experience for me to review all of these teachings and then embody them in the practice, which John Friend always does, so masterfully. He is incredibly gifted at weaving his themes into the practice - in a way

Will Power in the Words of Yogananda

I have arrived safely in Columbia, SC, after driving down with a friend and colleague to study with John Friend for a week. We will be delving into the Anusara Yoga Immersion, part two, and it will be a very busy time indeed. I will be touching in as the opportunities arise. Tonight, as I review the writings of Paramahansa Yogananda in his Spiritual Diary , I notice that all of them for this week have to deal with the subject of "will power." As often happens, what I read in his Diary, often is precisely what I need to hear... "Always be sure, within the calm region of your inner Self that what you want is right for you to have, and in accord with God's purposes. You can then use the force of your will to accomplish your object; keeping your mind, however, centered on the thought of God, the source of all power and all accomplishment... Mind is the creator of everything. You should therefore guide it to create only good. If you cling to a certain thought with d


I am in the process of cleaning the house like a divine domestic goddess, and packing to go to Columbia, in South Carolina to study with John Friend the founder of Anusara Yoga for a week. It will be a long and intense week of delving into the second part of the Anusara Immersion - the jewel of the Anusara Yoga curriculum. The Curriculum Committee worked hard at standardizing this back in December, so I am excited to experience the fruits of our labor from the hands of a Master Teacher. Yesterday, I went to take my own yoga class with Suzie Hurley, another Master Teacher, and the owner and director of Willow Street Yoga, and as always, she did not disappoint! And, as often happens, she delivered a message I needed to hear. Suzie spoke about how we become trapped and defeated by our need to be perfect, when we are already that in essence. We worked with hip openers, and instead of striving for perfection, we were invited to embody the fullness we already manifest on so many levels

Mahasamadhi Musings on the River

I sit in meditation on this, the Mahasamadhi of Sri Yukteswar , who was Paramahansa Yogananda's own guru, and I drink in these words from him to Yogananda, coming from what is perhaps, one of my favorite passages, for it denotes what a true soul companion does for another: "I will be your friend from now to Eternity, no matter whether you are on the lowest mental plane or on the highest plane of wisdom. I will be your friend even if you should err, for then you will need my friendship more than at any other time... You and I shall smile together, so long as our two forms appear different in the maya-dream of God. Finally, we shall merge as one in the Cosmic Beloved; our smiles shall be His smile, our unified song of joy vibrating throughout eternity..." The day is sunny, warm, and radiant, like an invincible spring emerging from the rubble of winter, undefeated, and I make it down to the river which is perfectly still, and undeniably placid... I pa

Yogic Musings on the River

After teaching this morning, I made my way down to the offices at Algonkian Park , and bought my 2010 boat launch pass for Grace, my kayak. I spontaneously decided it was time to make it into the Potomac River after a long winter hiatus. At exactly 2:00 PM, I pushed away from the boat launch and paddled out into the waters, breathing in the fresh, crisp air, and delighting in this unexpected opportunity to commune with the river once again. I could see a couple of blue herons off in the distance. I cannot remember when I last went kayaking, but I suspect it was some time in October. This, was the first opportunity I have had this year to go paddling, even if it was only going to be for a brief period... It is hard to describe how vibrantly alive one feels in the river. I enjoyed my moments there as I relished the memories of teaching my yoga class this morning. I worked with the theme of holding the mirror up to where we need to do our work, inspired from an blog entry I made last w

A Guru's Mahasamadhi

I awaken at 4 AM, intending to meditate early before I am off to teach yoga on the side of the river. But, I fall back asleep and finally get up at 5 AM instead. I go into my meditation room and my heart rejoices as it sits before my altar, festively decorated with peach colored roses and surrounded by the warm glow of the two long lasting votive candles that I lit at twilight yesterday - intending that their flames, span the length of two Mahasamadhis on alternating days - that of one guru - and his own guru... I sit for an hour, giving the intention to merge my prayers and meditations with a dear friend, drinking in the sweet nectar and graces of this Mahasamadhi - the day that Paramahansa Yogananda consciously exited his body and merged with the Divine. It is said, that on such a day, special blessings and graces are available to the devotee, so I ask for blessings not only for myself - but for special friends and family members as well. I ask that all receive what is meant for

Re-Setting Intentions to Heal

In the last few weeks, I have undergone a significant shift in consciousness regarding how to approach pain and various issues in my life, and it basically comes down to shifting my whole perspective and taking on the ownership of my own healing. For too long my focus has been on the total elimination of physical pain, rather than dealing with it mindfully. I have been slowly moving more intentionally in the direction of trusting my inner wisdom. So, most of entries in the last few weeks have dealt with various aspects of this journey. And in a very real way - I write and share what I need to hear and learn myself. We teach in order to learn. I shared a lot of my insights today with my gifted craniosacral therapist, who nodded affirmatively in acknowledgment of my realizations which were primarily about letting go of a goal - and focusing more on the process. As spring begins to make its presence manifest - I have a desire to work on so many of these issues. For the first time in a

Reflections in Mirrors and Murtis

I do a practice that is slow, and mindful - deliberate movements flowing with the breath - dancing with the Universal Principles of Alignment of Anusara Yoga . I end with many Urdhva Dhanurasanas - a pose I have avoided because of all the emotional issues it unleashes. But now, as the dry "vata" season of the fall and winter - yield to the wet "kapha" season of spring - I feel drawn to a practice and cleansing rituals that will balance my primary dosha. Something deep inside is awakening once again, after a long hibernation and deep slumber... For so long, I avoided a practice of intense back bends even though they held up the mirror to where I needed to work. But I was not ready to go there... If we are honest with ourselves, we will recognize that we are offered many opportunities to see our reflection in the mirrors dear friends hold up to us to do the work that we need. These opportunities come in all our experiences on a daily basis - and often they are offe

How to Be More Positive

Jon Gordon's Weekly Newsletter for this week offered these 5 simple suggestions to neutralize complaining in our lives, and thus contribute to a more positive outlook and behavior. I list them here because they compliment my entry from yesterday so well! On this first day of March - as we joyfully enter into the emerging season of spring - we are presented with a wonderful opportunity to start spring cleaning our souls - thus preparing them to be filled more deeply with radiant life! Practice Gratitude . Research shows that when we count three blessings a day, we get a measurable boost in happiness that uplifts and energizes us. It's also physiologically impossible to be stressed and thankful at the same time. Two thoughts cannot occupy our mind at the same time. If you are focusing on gratitude, you can't be negative. You can also energize and engage your coworkers by letting them know you are grateful for them and their work. Praise Others. Instead of complaining abou