Friday, November 29, 2019

An Incomplete Reflection on Climate Change

I've been attending a general sociology class at the University.  And I tell you, nothing is more depressing than taking a microscopic view at all of our social, political, economical and environmental issues. But we cannot change that which we can't see. So here I am taking a good look.

I am fascinated by humans, and our behavior.  And I am increasingly curious to understand how we got to where we are now.

To say the least, we (and I mean mostly we the people of the U.S.) are out of balance from gender issues, to politics, education, prisons, healthcare and the environment in which our life depends on. This week in class we took a look at climate change. I say "take a look" because to call it anything more would be a stretch. The professor tries his best to engage the class in discussion - but he is easily defeated by students, 18-20 year olds, unabashedly engaged with their phones, still with the request to put all screens away. Is this not another reflection of the loss of attention, respect and discipline that is being asked of us? Distraction is at our fingertips. It is now even easier to avoid the pain and discomfort of difficult times, and to our demise, the urgency of it.

The issue of climate change depresses me not just because of how real it is today, and because of the inevitable catastrophes that are already happening and are sure to come in my lifetime.  It depresses me on a soul level because what is happening to planet Earth - whatever fate that might be, whether it's another episode of extinction of all life and eventual regeneration of life due to extreme temperatures, or if she'll allow us to stay and survive technologically dependent, who knows - it is a direct reflection of the cumulation of the underbelly and shadow of humanity. If I choose not to look away - from the protected cushion of privilege - it darkens my soul, and leaves me hopeless.

This video brings tears to my eyes. Sure, there is ebb and flow, and the Earth has her rhythm and cycles that persist regardless of human (and other animal) life. And perhaps we who are alive on the planet are perfectly positioned along Earth's timeline in a rapid transition, a global shift of counterbalance. And, it is clear that we humans have done some serious damage. If we were to have to pay the debt that we owe, we'd pay for eternity. But the Earth, like a forgiving mother, continues to give and give unconditionally; and at times pushed to her edge by her unruly children has no choice but to raise her voice. 

The shrinking of arctic ice aside, this video brings tears to my eyes, as it simulates a pulse and rhythm of breath, no different than our own. Reminding me of how inseparable we are from each other and the planet. As ethereal and utopian it might sound, it is true that we all share the same breath, we are all breathing the same air. Every individual action and thought has consequence whether good or bad.

Which begs the question, how can we believe that our actions are insignificant and inconsequential? How can we not see that excessive pumping of blood from the Earth and burning it wildly does not create heat? How can we not see that cutting and clearing the Amazon rainforest (20% of Earth's oxygen supply) only to be replaced with methane producing livestock does not have a detrimental affect regardless if science can show us how or why? And so much more. The environmental damage done only scratches the surface of our problems.

Perhaps we know this, but are so deeply embedded in a different rhythm, a chaotic free-for-all kind of rhythm, dissonant from the Earth's and destined for destruction that there it is nearly impossible to realign.

However, there is a different story being written and narrated by those who understand and believe that their choices are significant and when added up, can create systemic change. This is known as the the 'butterfly effect'; that a "very small change in initial conditions can create a significantly different outcome". And by those who are bringing forth the science and information, and pushing through resistance. And by those who commune with nature, giving back to the Earth in ways that show honor and reverence. And by those who are elevating consciousness to the degree that choosing another way, beyond the self-interest, and in the interest of sustaining life and living in harmony with each other and the Earth, is but the only choice.

More and more people are waking up and making small yet significant changes. The more that we can do individually, the more collective change can occur.

I know, it seems unfathomable and quite utopian. If you are skeptical that there is even a small chance that we can turn the sinking ship around, think about this. The 'tipping point' is a sociological theory which says that the tipping point is "a point in time when a group - or many group members - rapidly and dramatically changes its behavior by widely adopting a previously rare practice".  Researchers on the subject, say that "just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society".   You may have heard of Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big DifferenceHe goes on to explain some of the key roles that certain people play in setting in motion a tipping point situation.  There are a million examples of how this has already played out, in political campaigns, in advertising and especially social movements, like the 60's liberation, and more the recent MeToo movement.

So why not now with climate change?  Surely at least 10% of U.S. population believe that climate change is real.  Notice the word, unshakable, in the above tipping point definition. I wonder if every action, every choice and thought must reflect that unshakable belief in order for a tipping point to occur.  If so, we as individuals need to make some difficult decisions. Which might mean trading convenience for integrity; comfort for moral; cravings for satisfaction; and most of all money and profit and cheap goods for basic human needs and simplicity. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Tales from the Heart Cave

As I mentioned before in my last post, the heart cave is an inward journey into heart and soul, where dharma lives.  It turns out that the "heart cave" is not always a physical place; it is barely an allocation of time and space. 

I carry within me the heart cave everywhere I go. 

And thank god, because this is not a time for renunciation. It is not a time to sit for hours in contemplation - at least for me right now. This is a time for balance of action and inaction; balance of Self and other; healing trauma and being in service; retreating and integrating; individualism and the collective. Yes to the rituals of practice, yes to love and light, yes to healing! AND yes to taking action every single day. How each and every one of us chooses to live daily, makes a lifetime; makes a culture, a society. Unless you are completely content with life - this is how we can create change personally and collectively.

Simultaneously we heal and show up for work. Because if we wait until the perfect time, the perfect place, the perfect job, the perfect weight or perfect partner - it will be too late. And besides perfection is completely subjective. As the saying goes, "all is perfectly imperfect".

I am mostly an idealist; and believe that Love and Light will prevail and save us all - someday.
And we need more than that right now. 


Part of my intention for taking a break from teaching public classes is to open up mental space and allow me to explore, in more depth, my relationship with yoga. I was suffering from burn out big time. I was dragging myself to teach; uninspired and unmotivated. I was ready to throw in the towel and move on to something else. A break was needed to sort this out. 

When I was on retreat with my teacher Seane Corn in June, I had the joy and privilege to sit eye to eye with her and ask for advice. I asked if she had ever suffered from burn out in her 25 years of teaching and what did she do about it. I was surprised to hear that she never had. But she did offer me some very helpful advice; "take a break." It's that simple. And she shared that practicing and teaching with intention, ritual and prayer has kept her connected and inspired all these years. Okay, got it. I can do that. 

But there is more. I want to be more challenged. I want to have more of an impact. I want to be in service to a cause that can create change for those who need it the most. This has been eating at me for at least a couple years now, if not more.  I am still exploring this; and learning and researching not only the skills required to do so, but also what's in my heart that wants to come forth. At the same time learning to accept that, right now, I am doing enough and doing my best. 

This period of burn out was also saying to me, it's time to either change or quit. Now that I've had some time to reflect, to quit teaching is clearly not the answer. The beautiful thing that happened during this burn out phase is that I became completely unattached to teaching, to the results of it, to the expectations that I have for myself and any perceived expectations from others. It is so liberating! I feel like I can move forward now with less tension, less fear; and with less hesitation to allow what is in my heart to come through. 

I have also wondered if what I was experiencing was really actual burn out or resistance to necessary growth. I believe it's both. Being on the edge or precipice of change, there is almost always tension. Tension manifests in a myriad of ways and is also known as RESISTANCE. For me, it has shown up in my left hip and leg, in my neck, and the moments just before heading to class, throwing a tantrum in my mind; and when I am simultaneously aware of the injustices happening in our country and the world, while I am in my insulated bubble of contentment. 

The burning question remains, "what do I do?!" 

The work always begins within.

Often when we take a good look in the mirror, it can be very enlightening and a good wake up call. I realized I had been slacking in my own practices of yoga on and off the mat. Duh! Of course, this is going to show up when I teach. And how can I ask others to be present with their bodies, to breathe, to reflect their yoga practice off the mat in their relationship with work, family, partners, the Earth basically every choice we make, if I am not not fully doing it myself? Okay, got it. 

First, I need to commit to the choice I made to stay with yoga and evolve. Which means going into the tension, feeling it, and listening to what it has to teach me. Only then will I be able to transform it. That means, showing up on my mat more often. Another huge a-ha moment, which is more of a reminder than anything (thanks again to Seane Corn and her book that just came out, Revolution of the Soul) is that, the yoga really works! I'm reminded that there is so much more happening on the mat than I realize as a teacher - and yes, teaching yoga can be enough, if we allow the yoga to do the work. 

Knowing what I know about yoga and its precepts, yamas and niyamas, its a really good place to start to take action in everyday living. When the amazon rainforest was ablaze this summer from wildfires caused by slash and burn practices to make room for cattle grazing (20% of global trade of beef), I cried. I felt the devestation in my body. I decided to significantly reduce my consumption of meat. Now, I source from local growers and farmers only. Which is more expensive and difficult if not impossible, when eating out. So, that means less consumption. This is only one example of a choice I can make that is aligned with my beliefs and my feelings in my body, and that may have a ripple effect. 

I know there is so much more I can do and am continuing to do, to live in alignment with truth, love, compassion, and respect for the Earth and for each other; and ultimately living in alignment with my heart. 

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Entering the Heart Cave

And finally with much consideration and consultation from some of my most revered teachers and friends, I've decided to - at the very least - step away from my weekly public classes, for a sabbatical of sorts. My intention is to zoom out on my life to see the bigger picture; and to get into the heart cave. 

Maybe its a slow unraveling. Or a careful severing of an identity that I have over thirteen years shaped and molded into something I can lean into. (To be clear, the severing is the letting go of any attachment to the identity of me as "yoga teacher", and not a severing of my commitment to show up and teach yoga.)

My yoga life has everything to do with who I am today; and will likely have everything to do with who I am becoming. 

I''m also 42, considerably middle age. It comes as no surprise that I have arrived at crossroads. I feel as if I am at the end of a singular path, and now I'm standing at a juncture where I see a thousand paths to choose from. I've taken to Brene Brown's term a 'the midlife unraveling' over the more notorious phrase "midlife crisis".  A crisis would imply an emergency, instability and an urgency for a decision to be made. Sure, that may also be true for some. When mis-aligned, spirit will continue to speak until heard. It can feel like an emergency. But how I see it is this: it's the need to re-evaluate life. Rather then making hasty decisions that provide only temporary satisfaction and momentary feelings of youthfulness, it is a heart call to deem what is most valuable, most meaningful and to reflect those values upon every facet of life.  It requires serious carving of time and space.
Hence, the heart cave.

For me the "crisis" - if it is one - is coming up against the reality that time is not slowing down. In fact, it seems to be speeding up. It is realizing that there's no more time to waste on living in fear of being honest, of speaking truth (satya), of doing the things that live inside dreams, there is no time to waste on indecision, on confusion and on looking away from the all the disparities; because being disengaged, and numb only perpetuates the suffering.

Entering the heart cave.

Customarily, the cave is a place for solitary meditation and spiritual practices. Going "into the cave" signifies going inward into a place that is dark, damp and of the Earth; like a womb. Intentionally going in, asks that pockets be emptied at the entry, leaving all but the body - the vehicle of the heart and Self. Choosing to go in is equally choosing to let go of attachments that cause confusion of who we truly are. Attachment (aparigraha) is the ego clinging to something - whether it be a material object, a person, or job - that affirms and maintains a sense of identity in relationship to that thing. The thought of not having the thing, is death to the ego, which shows up as fear. Ultimately, rooted in universal fears of abandonment; fear of not belonging; fear of not enough; fear of death itself.

The dark, damp space is also a place where seeds are planted. It is an exceptionally creative space. Seeping with potential. The ego also fears this, because it is unknown territory. As a gardener, it's the dense compost rich with nutrients that is ready for seeds. When the seed is planted it does not question or fear the darkness. It actually needs the dark soil to sprout and the seed simply goes on to be what it is designed to be. This is dharma.

The heart cave is where dharma lives. The heart is where the seed of intention (sankalpa) is planted, and spreads its roots to every cell of the body. This seed is more than intention, it is an undying truth flushed with devotion and love, and is the blueprint of the soul in this life.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Summer Solstice and Ritual

I was reflecting on the rituals that I have practiced in the past on these sacred junctures of time and space; 108 sun salutations, Yoga Trance Dance, mandalas made of fruits and flowers, setting intentions and offering to the fire, meditation at sunrise. This solstice snuck up on me, the last spring equinox came fast and I fell behind, the winter solstice I was quiet and reserved. For the past year or more, these rituals have remained in my heart and my acknowledgment of these points in time are reflected in my day to day living and the energy that is prevalent.  On the solstice I found myself being pushed to the edge of what I can hold as a householder, mom, wife, teacher, friend and mystic. All so equally important to me. 

Summer solstice represents the fullest, the greatest, the peak of light, the most abundant amount of prana all around. Internally and externally. So it is no surprise that the schedule is packed, the weeds in the garden are taking over while most everything is in full bloom. 

The energy leading up to the solstice is very similar to a waxing moon (which was also happening simultaneously); it's like the womb leading up to menstruation; or pressure cooker building heat and pressure. This is prana building, increasing and expanding to its peak capacity. There is no stopping it or slowing it down. How we move and adapt to it is the question and the practice of living yoga. 

The solstice literally means "to stand still" in reference to the sun. But we all know the sun does not stand still, neither does the Earth. Its the point at which we can go no further. Directionally, there's a stopping point. From our perspective, the rising and setting of the sun begins its journey south once again. We change directions. We wane. 

My rituals are much more simple these days. There is beautiful stillness in the early morning hours that is so sweet. I have my coffee, with the back door wide open to cool morning air, I walk around the garden, I watch the bees zooming in and out of their hive, listen to the cooing of the morning doves. And if I see the ants get their wings and fly out from the cracks of the stone pathway, I know it is the solstice. 

What does the solstice mean to you? What rituals -intentional or unintentional- do you recognize?

I love the idea and the practice of sacred rituals not just for the solstice but for many of the junctures that represent a shift or change in direction personally and globally. 

The point of ritual is to provide meaning, from the heart, to something that is often mundane and universal. Perhaps, it is a way honor and recognize the mystery that is at play, to recognize the spiritual heart that each one of our hearts is a part of. 

Monday, April 22, 2019

Manipura Chakra: CORE POWER

We have the energy and power of the sun contained within us. Manipura chakra is the power center, our solar plexus, inner sun. Here we generate power through digestion, assimilation and transformation of latent energy into usable energy. Power is generated through the breakdown of the energy stored in the food we eat, through the expansion of breath, the passion of our hearts desire, from the swelling and regulation of emotions and from our spiritual essence.

This is the place that we hold ourselves together with such strength and fluidity and equally the place of collapse and coiling inward when we cant hold it all together. Structurally, there is only the spine holding the lower and upper parts of the body together. Here, major organs and tissues are soft and squishy, somewhat "unprotected" and vulnerable. We must cultivate personal will and engagement of muscles to build protective strength, to stand up straight and tall, to hold it together. 

Interestingly, this is also where we were connected by a cord of lifeblood in the womb, fully dependent on our mother. And at birth, severed. Giving us no choice but to coil into the Self, and learn our very first lesson of separation. The Self folding in on itself. And still when we are born, we are completely dependent on our caretakers. 

This is one of many paradoxes of the human experience. We are all connected, born of the same blood, dependent on one another. Yet alone in the dense confinement of body and ego. Longing for connection, and the immersion into the sea of Bliss, of God, of Unity consciousness. 

In this separation, ego develops. Because it has to. On our own, ego and fear helps to protect the body from real life threats; like bears, venomous snakes, a cliff's edge. These things remind us of how fragile and vulnerable we are as humans. Ego becomes proud to protect and serve. Power grows and ego grows. But left unchecked, we are burdened with fear and lose connection with the power of our heart and our source. 

When energy is bound or stuck in third chakra, its a good time to look at our relationship with power and control. Too much energy here can often express itself in the need to try to control outcomes, attachment to results, and there can be a deficiency in grounded energy that allows for surrender and letting go; and fear shows up in the unknown, the unpredictable, in the possibility of "losing control."

Not enough energy in third chakra, power is weak, it may be difficult to get anything done, and we lack the power to take necessary action, to stand up for ourself and we allow others to make decisions for us, or be in control. Deficient third chakra energy follows the path of least resistance (energy stuck in lower chakras, as water and Earth do); and/or energy from above - spirit, consciousness, passion - is unable to integrate and assimilate into the body, and again it is difficult to put anything into action, to manifest dreams or visions. Fear can show up in relationship to asserting oneself, in expressing authenticity, fear of judgement and of change.

Without a strong clear grounded lower chakra development (safety and security) we can easily be lost in an on-going identity crisis rooted in the fear of judgement, ridicule, and abandonment from our tribe. And without the descending energy from above, we can feel disconnected to a higher purpose, and forget that our actions have meaning, significance and consequence.

Regardless if our third chakra center is excessive or deficient, the unfounded fear that can show up here holds us back from taking the actions necessary to unleash our potential and the burning desire of the heart (sankalpa). What we need is to bridge the energies of the third and fourth chakras (heart).

The ego, the power and strength of the third chakra can play a supportive roll for the passion and fire of the heart to lead the way.  Just as fire (third chakra) needs air and space to burn efficiently and steadily, we can create an opening in the heart for the fire to breathe our heart's desire into action.