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In 1973 a spiritual teacher named Ram Dass and I got together and talked about helping prisoners to use their time for spiritual growth. It was a quiet chat, no solemn pronouncements or bolts of lightning, no press releases or fund-raising campaigns. We just sat together on the lawn of the ashram where Sita and I were living with our two-year-old son, Josh, and mulled it over: "Wouldn't it be nice to do something to help?"
"Humanity grows more and more intelligent, yet there is clearly more trouble and less happiness daily. How can this be so? It is because intelligence is not the same thing as wisdom.
When a society misuses partial intelligence and ignores holistic wisdom, its people forget the benefits of a plain and natural life. Seduced by their desires, emotions, and egos, they become slaves to bodily demands, to luxuries, to power and unbalanced religion and psychological excuses. Then the reign of calamity and confusion begins.
Jesus in word and deed was almost violent in his call for death, for denial, for stripping, for abandoning, for letting go, for leaving all, for the journey up by going down. . . . This whole dialogue runs deep in us and all things. One could say, with complete honesty, that life is really no more than a series of heart-breaking good-byes, so full is it of having and letting go, of embracing and parting.
-- from My Song is of Mercy by Father Matthew Kelty
Go ahead, light your candles and burn your incense and ring your bells and call out to God, but watch out, because God will come, and He will put you on His Anvil and fire up His Forge and beat you and beat you until He turns brass into Pure Gold.
- paraphrased from Saint Keshavadas
I looked at the jail that secluded me from men and it was no longer by its high wall that I was imprisoned; no, it was God who surrounded me. I walked under the branches of the tree in front of my cell but it was not the tree, I knew it was God. It was God whom I saw standing there and holding over me His shade. Or I lay on the coarse blankets that were given me for a bed and felt the arms of God around me, the arms of my Friend and Lover...It was not the magistrate whom I saw, it was God, it was God who was sitting there on the bench. I looked at the Prosecuting Counsel and it was not the Counsel for Prosecution that I saw; it was God.
- Sri Aurobindo, 1908
On June 17th, 1744, the commissioners from Maryland and Virginia negotiated a treaty with the Indians of the Six Nations at Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Indians were invited to send their boys to William and Mary College. The next day they declined the offer as follows:
Dear Family,
From a talk given by Bo Lozoff at a meditation center in Tallahassee, FL, December 11, 2005.
In the past several months as I've been speaking across the country, many people have approached me and asked with some degree of excitement in their voices, "Bo, have you seen The Secret yet? Oh, you'll love it! It will change the world! Let people know about this!"
Transcribed from a sermon Bo preached at the Ainsworth United Church of Christ in Portland, Oregon.
Learning to decipher what is important in life is a key ingredient in creating a life of happiness, balance, and joy, and yoga trains us how to do this. Students usually come to yoga first for the physical benefits, although it soon becomes apparent that yoga has profound effects on the psyche as well. Yoga teaches focus and concentration, and over time these skills have the effect of reducing mental clutter. In class, for instance, instructors draw students' attentionto the specific muscles and actions that are important in doing a particular pose. An
often overlooked benefit of a home practice is that students begin to make these choices for themselves.
My major feeling about Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior 3 pose) used to be relief when it was over! Recently I have been exploring poses I haven't previously enjoyed and Warrior 3 made the list! Its particular combination of strength, flexibility, and balance are difficult to master with grace and ease. I have discovered that this pose is transformed by my choice of focus. Instead of just trying to stay up (and endure the pose till it is over!), I can direct my energy on lengthening from my low belly in two directions: out through my legs all the way to my toes and from my low belly forward through my torso, arms, and into my fingertips.
One of the lesser-known benefits of establishing a regular yoga practice is that we complain less. It's probably a surprising and an unintended result ... most students don't come to yoga to stop complaining! But it happens almost automatically ... and surreptitiously.
We are in challenging times with the most significant economic downturn since the Great Depression, 2 wars, international terrorism, and global climate change. People are worried about their finances, keeping their jobs and homes, and the bleaker future that may face their children and grandchildren. Research has shown that stress is a major risk factor in just about every disease and physical condition. One of the most intelligent choices you can make in these stressful times is to invest in your most precious resource: your health and well-being. Making that investment through yoga benefits all aspects of your being: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
If you want to have a beautiful garden you have to nurture what you want (the flowers) and remove what you don't want (the weeds). Otherwise we all know the weeds will take over. The mind works the same way. If you want to have joy and appreciation in your life you have to plant those seeds, but you also have to actively remove what you don't want: the negative thoughts filled with doubts, insecurities, and fear. One way to move your mind away from negativity is to become aware of the amount of complaining you do.
July 20, 1969 was an historic day for our country and for the world. It was the day that we landed a man on the moon, and Neil Armstrong uttered his oft-quoted phrase, "One small step for man, one giant step for mankind".
We take space travel for granted now, but back then it was an awesome achievement. When President Kennedy set the vision in 1963 that we were going to the moon by the end of the decade, it was an almost unbelievable proposition. At the time the technology had not been developed to support the vision, but Kennedy had faith in the ingenuity and creativity of our NASA scientists and engineers. He trusted that they would be able to figure it out. He set the vision and the rest is history.
In September I read a seminal book that I found transforming: Waking the Global Heart by Anodea Judith. I could hardly put it down! It spoke to me at a deep spiritual level and validated many ideas that I've been contemplating. We've chosen it for discussion at our next book club meeting on February 12 and I will be presenting a short overview of the book. If this resonates with you, please join us!
I recently attended the Anusara Certified Teachers Gathering in Denver, CO. A group of 150 certified teachers came together for 5 days of inspiring practices led by Anusara founder John Friend and transformational presentations by Paul Muller, an internationally recognized scholar in the field of Tantric philosophy. One of the major emphases in Anusara is to take our yoga off the mat and into the world, so that we are living our philosophy that we are all part of One Big Spirit. To that end, John invited the Karma Krew to come to our gathering. Karma Krew is a yoga-inspired non-profit organization created by two like-hearted yoga teachers in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
This past summer I turned 60 years old, a milestone age, I feel. Ten years ago, when I turned 50 a friend gave me a button that said,
"Youth is a Gift of Nature;
Age is a Work of Art".
I still have the button on my bulletin board as a reminder of that bit of wisdom. Since we are all getting older it's something worth considering. As we move along in years, I think the pertinent question to ask ourselves, is not how many years have we lived, but what are we making of our lives? And how can we make our lives a work of art? How can we turn our lives into a masterpiece?
A friend and delighted owner of a new puppy sent me this story that explains all about pets.The Institute for Biblical Archaeology today announced the discovery of an early version of the Book of Genesis in the Dead Sea Scrolls. If authentic, it would shed significant light on the question, "Where do pets come from?"
... And Adam said, "Lord, when I was in the Garden, you walked with me everyday. Now, I do not see you anymore. I am lonesome here and it is difficult for me to remember how much you love me."
...God responded, "I will create a companion for you that will be with you forever and will be a
Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, and forever again. Chinese inscription cited by Thoreau in Walden
At a recent yoga retreat I was presented with a unique opportunity to fly on a trapeze! I remembered that people at the end of their lives most regretted not taking more risks... So, on the appointed day, 11 other yogis and I headed out for our adventure. After a short practice on a trapeze only 5 feet above ground we graduated to the real experience.
Peter, the trapeze artist in charge, emphasized that we could come down at any time. One woman burst into tears on reaching the platform and another decided to come down after starting the first swing. When my turn came I climbed the narrow ladder and found myself standing on a platform the size of a sticky mat, 30 feet above the ground.
There are several characteristics about a good yoga class that produce the magical experience of yoga. The instructor facilitates a space for students to do three things in particular:
- to slow down
- to pay attention
- to listen in
Just walking into the yoga center begins the process of calming down. After a few visits walking through the doorway becomes an automatic trigger to take a deep breath and allow the spinning wheels of the mind to start slowing down. Ahh ... we're here! We've come to an oasis. We can give ourselves a respite from our hectic lives. We can finally relax and be totally present with ourselves.
Dear Friends,
Many greetings!
We find that our beautiful Yoga Hall in Eftalou grows more welcoming each year! This May and June we held courses with wonderful students from fourteen different countries around the world and enjoyed the benefits offered by superb body-workers and therapists who also traveled to study with us.
For over thirty years we have been traveling continually to bring our teaching around the world. Now that we have finally built this lovely Yoga hall on the island of Lesvos, Greece, we feel it is time to call it "home" and teach our courses and workshops for as long as possible here.
Believe me, I get it - what we hear about the dreadful price that yoga has paid for coming West. The apparent absence of its spiritual element in classes, teacher certifications that take a weekend to procure, peculiar fusions with fill-in-the-blank-fad-exercise regimens, yoga pose competitions, overemphasis on the physical elements of the practice, the ubiquitous growth of yoga accessories, yada yada yada. Yoga Incorporated. I get it, I promise.
A survey of opinions on whether yoga is a religion offers a range of answers to suit any predisposition or bias. Passionate, polarized debates on 'what yoga is' surface time and again in books, on websites, and during awkward discussions with family members or friends trying to understand what it is that has drawn their loved one to this mysterious ancient practice. Is it religion masquerading as exercise? Eastern mysticism? A fitness regimen? Applied Hinduistic theism? A sister tradition to Buddhism? Pantheist philosophy? An atheist doctrine bent on sabotaging Christian beliefs?
Maybe it's an inevitable, vital, phase for anyone who first shows curiosity about starting a meditation practice. Reading a slew of books on how to meditate, attending group meditation classes, experimenting with different ways to still the mind, and listening attentively to teachers guide you through this or that technique. It's marvelous to get exposure to different techniques for sliding into the fertile void of clarity-rich silence so that you can learn what works for you.
Use the heat of your attention to cleanse your consciousness: KRIYA YOGA
Kriya means "action", or "deed"; Kriya practice is the "divine action" of purifying your consciousness.
We are Pure Consciousness. But in the manifest world, as our consciousness mixes with the senses, it is influenced by the limits of those senses. The more the two mix, the more we begin to identify with and believe we are that limited perception of the world.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
This profound technique creates a balance between the right and left sides of the brain.
The right nostril governs the sympathetic nervous system; it is related to teh mathematical, aanalytical, active, left side of the brain, harnessing Ha, or sun energy.  The left nostril governs the parasympathetic nervous system, the creative, free-associative, passive side of the brain, ruled by Tha, or moon energy.
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John is featured in the Yoga Journal Asana Column
When it came to the fitness benefits yoga can or can't provide, yoga teacher John Schumacher had heard it all. A student of B. K. S. Iyengar for 20 years and founder of the Unity Woods studios in the Washington, D.C. area, Schumacher was convinced yoga provides a complete fitness regime. But many people, even some of his own students, disagreed. Yoga might be good for flexibility or relaxation, they'd say, but to be truly fit, you had to combine it with an activity like running or weight lifting.
Schumacher just didn't buy it.
Green Yoga
Sarah PowersI could not think of a better class to start my Winter Solstice 90 days with than a kidney sequence with Sarah Powers. I consider Sarah Powers to be one of my teachers, even though I have only practiced with her in person TWICE! She came to Virginia and I followed her from Richmond to Yogaville. But this is the power of media and why we created iHanuman.
I had so much fun with my 30 days of gratitude that I am commencing on another project, 90 days of yoga!�Â�  2011 marks the tenth year of my serious studies as a yoga student. And I will take back the seat of the teacher in the Spring of 2011! I finished my teacher training in 2004 and immediately began teaching. It was something I absolutely loved! But then we started iHanuman which took up a tremendous amount of time and energy and I could feel my energy for teaching begin to wane. I also had some personal healing to attend to.
(Meditating with Asha is an ongoing sharing of my experiences sitting with Asha Greer. For an introduction to Asha and previous stories with her, please see Part 1andPart 2of this series.)   Beautiful Mess
If people walk the eight - limbed path of yoga they do not harm, do not steal, nor do they lie. They are more clean and healthy, more moderate, more content. If the reason we walk this planet is to know God then we cannot see ourselves as separate from. When we see ourselves as separate from, it is easier to want more for our own goals, instead of being content with what is. This is a life long practice and why we return again and again to experience it. So to break free of the cycles of suffering, we practice yoga. This also means we study the scriptures or ancient texts and we seek the community of practitioners.
I have to say, in many ways, I am grateful for a reprieve from the daily gratitude post, but it has also been an excellent discipline and learning process. Typically I write my morning pages every morning and move on with my day from there. But this month, I have had to stay put in my seat and write for another hour to get a Gratitude Post on iHanuman. And the fact that I am writing about gratitude has set the tone for the day. So I would like to keep as part of my daily ritual to contemplate what I am grateful for every day. It is also very possible to write a post every day and still get to work by 10am.
My sister and I like to go on an annual retreat if we can. This year we return to We Care Holistic Health Center for a cleanse. During my first visit, I was very impressed with the whole energy of this oasis in the the Palm Springs Desert. I attribute this "vibe" in large part to the Center's founder, Susana Belen. Susana took her healing crisis into her own hands and turned it into a program to help others. Most of her philosophies are simple and many of them are typical teachings of the traditional healing methods. One philosophy, however,�Â�  struck me in particular during one of Susana's afternoon classes.
Today we shifted our life around literally and figuratively. Literally because we are moving spring and summer clothes up to the attic in favor of the warmer variety.�Â�  We did so just in time for our first heavy frost last night of 25 degrees! And I am just about to receive many boxes from my childhood which were waiting for us to create space. In some senses it feels like a grandiose task. Figuratively because this is what happens when you move things around.
Because we grew up on the water, I find that I cannot live too far away from its rhythm for too long. The visit is always sacred. Today I stood strong for the winds were heavy, watched, felt and listened to Neptune and Poseidon. I breathed their breath. It was definitely too chilly for a swim. Today I am grateful to the vastness of the ocean and all of its stories of triumph and failure.
On a bad day,�Â�  the over-consumption in our culture can cause me to rant and rave. On good days, I tend to just look at it as the way things are. Usually my husband and I boycott shopping on Black Friday in particular. But this year actually felt a little bit different. We have been working hard in 2010 to simplify and de-clutter. We have made several trips to the recycling center and donated countless items to the free-cycle shed and the local thrift store. By doing this, we have a more accurate accounting for what we have and what we need.
After a very powerful ceremony a few days ago, I woke up thinking of this blessing for Thanksgiving. Hold Hands. Close your Eyes. Take a couple of deep breaths and drop the weight down into your feet. Feel your place on the ground. Give Thanks for the solid foundation on the earth and for this physical structure surrounding you; This beautiful home; a place for families to gather.
We have FOUR events to attend over the next 36 hours! This is how my very social new married family rolls, but it is important for me to have a plan in place so I can enjoy myself physically and emotionally during this busy time.�Â�  So what is my plan of attack to survive this holiday with grace? 1. Exercise - Our families live just blocks from the Atlantic Ocean and I can never keep myself away while I am home. I plan to take several walks on the beach over the next 3 days. (And there are several little furry friends who can join me.) I will walk tomorrow morning and since I can walk to my parents house from my in-laws house I will walk to and from Thanksgiving Dinner. How cool!
Those of you who know me well, know that I came to yoga almost 13 years ago because I sustained an injury in a dance class in Africa. I have actually never fully recovered from it, but it teaches me something every day. Particularly lately I have been yearning to dance again. My friend Christine also studied dance in Africa and she teaches an AFRI-CArdio class at the local community center. She stopped teaching for a while because of a broken toe, but she taught a teaser class last night to get people ready to start up again in January. I decided to go and I am so grateful that I did.
Last night was the full moon and I spent the entire day in ceremony. This full moon was a particularly auspicious one because it is the Full Moon of Initiation and the Lunar Celebration of the Beginning of Winter. Traditionally�Â�  all of the harvest had been stored for the winter and all debts for the year were paid. Traditionally ceremonies were held to release our shadow selves to the eternal flame that burns through the winter and let it burn in transformation for the spring. We release those parts of ourselves that no longer serve us so we can preserve energy for that which we want to flourish in the new year.
Today was the full moon and I spent the entire day in ceremony. It was the final day of our herbal medicine class. The ceremony was one of my favorite aspects of this class. We brought it into every day by brewing herbal teas, lighting candles and gathering in circles over the course of nine months. The idea of coming together as a community, a tribe or a counsel harkens back to ceremonies of yore when everything was sacred. If you did not hold ceremony before planting this year's crop, you could not expect a good yield.
This past weekend was the last weekend of a 9 month course in herbal medicine. I felt tired on Saturday and on the tail end of a cold so I actually contemplated not attending! We spent the day giving each of the 15 women and men in our circle about 20 minutes to present what moved them over the past 9 months.
I take a weekly walk with some girlfriends and each Friday we wonder if we will walk the next week. We have had several frosts here in the Blue Ridge Mountains and each Friday could be our last so I am thankful for these walks. Even though I could feel a cold coming on, I decided to walk anyway hoping that the fresh air might do some good. I think it did. I progressively felt a little bit worse by the end of the day, but the fresh fall air and gorgeous yellows, reds and orange colors were pleasant and peaceful for my mind's eye and gave me something to reflect upon as I lay in bed wishing I could be back outside. Are you still enjoying the fall or has it turned more to winter where you live?
Last night we had dinner with our friend and musician, Alex Schein, who is currently recording in our studio. Alex uses his music to promote peace and raise awareness of international issues. He is a very uplifting individual. Inevitably, however, our dinner conversation turned toward current events and Alex introduced us to the increasingly common practice of fracking. Needless to say, we all became a little depressed. Alex, ever the orator, continued to be upbeat and encouraged us to get our stories out there.
"I work at a job I truly love. I work with people I love and who love and respect me. I express myself creatively through my work and I earn a good income doing it." ~ Louise Hay


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