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Monday, 25 July 2011


"When you love yourself unconditionally, you are not afraid to express your love. You live your life in love and see that love reflected in everyone around you. Love is your truth, your nature, see love come out of you like the light from the sun."
~Don Jose Ruiz

Desire. It is one of the most powerful forces in the Universe. It's deeply connected and interwoven with Love. And when expressed through love, with love - It defies what we think we need. It challenges who we think we are. It is the fuel that drives us. It's at the core of who we are; the very essence of what propels us forward. Yet, from our earliest days we're taught to control it, to suppress it, to banish it. There's something liberating about just saying - this is me. This is who I am. This is what I want. And then let the chips fall where they may.

So many of us are walking around denying what we really want, pretending not to feel what we really feel. This life is but the blink of an eye. Truly - it's not a long time we have here. Why not reach for something amazing? Why not believe that you can, indeed, have all that you desire if only you would decide what that really is. What would make your heart sing? What feels so good, so right, that no matter what is happening around you - you remain completely centered within the fire of your own passion and love for life?! Decide. Be grateful. Accept. Then act. Make it happen.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Coming Home

The summer officially started for me yesterday. What a beautiful day.

Every year, at about this time, marks the starting of Roxanne Stolk's summer yoga session in the nearby town of Port Colborne. Roxanne is a dear friend and a wonderful teacher who lives in Israel and returns to her roots here in Niagara each year. She is a true yogi and it is always such a pleasure to practice with her. Usually I drive to the next town to partake in yoga sessions if I ever feel the need to do a class. I have yet to find a studio, or a teacher, in the Niagara Region that I am interested in practicing with. (and that's not for lack of trying). That's not to say that there aren't good teachers in this area. There are. I've just found the whole energy/attitude around these here parts a little too focused on competition and a mentality that seems driven by everything but Union. So instead I have been finding solace within the more welcoming vibe I feel in the Burlington and Hamilton studios I'm fond of attending. In my experience I have found there is a definite difference between teachers who have been traditionally trained and those who have not. The actual energy in the room, the air itself, just feels different. Anyone can "get certified" to "be a yoga teacher". But, let's face it, not everyone can really teach yoga. In it's essence, it is truly so much more than the deltoid strength required to glide through a few rounds of Sun Salutations. It requires the courage, and the internal strength, to actually salute and honor the light(sun) in yourself and others.

When you teach as much as I do, it's always such a pleasure, every once in a while, to leave your solo mat at home and go, anonymously, to someone else's class and simply immerse yourself completely in the flow of the group. I love it. And Roxanne Stolk is an absolute blessing when she is here in the summer.

Last evening's class marked the starting of Roxy's 13th annual summer yoga program.
It feels like I wait all year for this. Especially this year as I've taken myself on a mini sabbatical, teaching only a minimal schedule, so as to have the time/energy to focus on my own practice for a while.

Right from the moment I walk through the doors of her make-shift "summer yoga center" I feel as though I am coming home. After a long journey away. That welcoming scent of incense, the creaking of the old rickety steps lined with candles, the lovely breeze blowing in through the huge picture windows. Even the smell of food wafting in from the neighboring restaurants and the sounds of the laughing drunks from the bar next door - there's such an unpretentious, authentic-ness to the whole experience. (Such a difference from the huge, corporate, almost clinical feeling studios I've been to recently. Which, by comparison, feel nothing short of utterly soul-less)

Everyone knows when we arrive for class that there will be no sugar coating here. There's an almost nervous anticipation as people begin to file in. The practice itself is infamously strong. And yet it is also soft at the same time. Beginning with nearly and hour of pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation; that feeling of coming home gets even more palpable.

Roxanne's discourse this first evening was about the Mind. She reminded us how, from a Yogic perspective, the mind is considered the 6th sense. And that the problem with the mind, and it's incessant chatter, is that we believe it. Often not realizing that the mind is really the biggest obstacle to achieving the state of Yoga. We discussed how many of us are continually bantered about by our obsessions, our desperate striving to be right and the onslaught of our continual emotional fluctuations. Like treading water in a storm, this can at times be exhausting. Until we learn that the mind is like a wild horse that needs to be tamed, we will continue to suffer. Roxanne reminded us that everything we experience, absolutely everything, is Karma. Absolutely everything is occurring as a consequence to what we have once thought, done or said. Everything.

As she spoke I felt an electricity in the room that made the hair on my neck stand on end. The reality of this teaching was like a light bulb flicking on in my brain.Involuntary tears streamed down my cheeks as I sat and processed some of the recent stress in my life. Karma means, essentially, consequence. And, once understood, challenges the whole concept of Victim vs. Wrong-Doer. If everything is happening to you as a result of what you have once said, thought or done, there is no victim. There is only consequence. There is no blame. There is only the quiet acceptance of the reality which you, yourself, are creating. Through your own perception.

Challenging as it may be to accept, a few moments of quiet reflection may reveal to you the profound truth of this 5000 yr old teaching. A teaching that invites each one of us to take full and complete responsibility for the state of our lives, our health, our happiness. 100% responsibility. No one is to blame. There is no blame. There is only our choices and how we have decided to create our lives.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Shake it off

I heard a really great story that I can't stop thinking about. It was told by this preacher guy named Joel Osteen from the States. He's quite a story teller. Very engaging. For some reason I just found this particular story really memorable. (Thanks Mr Osteen for the inspiration...)

It was the story of an old farmer named Jacob. He had a big piece of land and he was out one day with his donkey, walking his land. Suddenly his mule fell into an old well. Bewildered, Jacob stared down into the well and couldn't see the animal. So, feeling horribly badly, he made a tough decision. He figured the old donkey was probably killed when it fell into the hole. So he rounded up a bunch of his fellow farmers and they all gathered at the well and started to shovel dirt into the hole; figuring it was probably for the best to just close the thing up for good.

One by one the farmers started shoveling dirt into the old well.
The donkey, who had been knocked unconscious by the fall, was startled awake by the first few loads of dirt that hit his back. Realizing he was trapped, but not wanting to die, he shook the dirt off his back. But the dirt just kept coming in.

So every time a pile of dirt was thrown onto his back, the donkey would keep shaking it off. As he shook, the dirt piled at his feet. And as the dirt kept coming in, he kept shakin' it off and it kept piling up, and piling up. Soon, enough dirt piled up that the donkey could step right up on that pile of dirt. So - dirt was thrown on his back, he'd shake it off, and step up. Over and over. He just kept shaking it off and stepping up.

Until finally so much dirt had piled up that the lucky lil' donkey's ears appeared at the edge of the well, much to the surprise of all those hard working farmers shoveling away. I think it's funny, don't you, that sometimes what feels like dirt being thrown onto our backs actually ends up being what saves our lives and elevates us to a whole new level.

So - just shake it off. And step up.

Monday, 4 July 2011

What's The Rush?

I try to give myself lots of time to get places, lots of time to get things done. Life is busy. And I HATE rushing. So much so, in fact, I implemented a "no rushing" policy in my life a couple of years ago. There are always those days where that doesn't really work out, but for the most part I've adhered to my policy quite diligently. That's not to say I am meandering through life; sauntering along with nowhere to go. Quite the opposite. I'm extremely active, and love being that way. But the inner attitude and energy that comes from being in a rush is different. There's a clutching, forceful quality to it that really is only another form of resistance. Rushing is, simply, totally unnatural. It creates so much unnecessary stress.

When I think of beautiful natural things in life - like a fine wine, the blossoming of the cherry trees in spring, the 9 months it takes to "grow" a baby, the hatching of lil' eggs into baby birds - none of it involves rushing. Rushing is a product of our modern age. There's "never enough time" because everyone is just always "so busy". And, as a result, everyone is always in such a hurry to get everywhere.

I've been doing a fair bit of commuting to nearby cities like Hamilton, Burlington and Toronto on a regular basis. Sometimes - I really enjoy the drives. But more often than not I'm barreling down the highway at 120+kms/hr and, even in the early hours of the morning, it's astounding how people are tailgating each other and trying to inch the average speed up a few dozen km's....everyone seems to be in such a rush! Like - where's everyone going at 7:30am on a Saturday or Sunday morning?! Is it really that urgent that they have to drive like maniacs?! Hardly.

And as happy and mesmerized as I am by technology and the wonderful things it can do for us - it really truly adds to this underlying feeling of pressure to hurry and speed everything up. It's like we are becoming addicted to the speed of everything happening instantly. Especially in our relationships. Between the constant texting, skyping, emailing and all the internet dating, the majority of our communication is now happening through electronic devices. In my last relationship I got to a point where I cringed whenever the phone beeped. I spent more time answering texts than actually connecting with my partner. I eventually grew to resent being chained to my phone 24 - 7.

Sometimes I'm so aware of this distasteful, pushy feeling of urgency - to connect with people on the Web or at a social function, to forge new friendships we think we ought to have at this particular age or stage in our personal lives, to make people love us before they race off and find somebody else to love more. I keep seeing this everywhere....and it's exhausting. It's like people have forgotten the fine art of allowing true intimacy and trust to grow and develop naturally over time. As well, what's so wrong with a little voluntary solitude?! I am, by nature, a highly social person. I am, also, by nature someone who deeply enjoys a little quiet time with my own thoughts. Since when did spending quality time with yourself, to gently reflect and hit the reset button, become such a loathsome event?! Do we really have to always be attached at the hip to another person in order to feel secure?! You see so many people waking up a few months (or a few years) beside the person they rushed to marry/move in with, only to realize that once the honeymoon is over they are completely un-compatible. They suddenly recognize - I don't really know this person. In fact, they don't really know me either. Wow. In fact - I don't even think I know myself! Duh. Personally, I just can't really cope with all this false speedy intimacy. I simply don't feel comfortable sharing my inner sanctum that fast; or being the receptacle of people who do. (It's just creepy and desperate.)

So although it becomes increasingly difficult it seems, I'm sticking to my "No Rushing Policy". I'd rather take my time - pick my own berries in the summer, savour and enjoy creating a special meal from market to plate and take the long way home to avoid the highway whenever possible. Why not? That process of gradually unraveling the mystery of life, or getting to know someone, truly -from the inside out, is meant to be approached with great care and attention. It's one of life's greatest gifts. It is sacred. The clutching and clinging that's bred out of our need to run from ourselves (for whatever reason) will eventually catch up to us. And, when it does, Nature will only guide us back to what is natural - allowing things to take their course and reconnecting to the small quiet voice within that is constantly trying to guide us to our ultimate bliss and greatest joy.