Tuesday, 31 December 2013

hello new year

indeed. another one over. 2013. wow. I will spend this evening thinking on what the past year has been for me. wow. learning. growing. building strength. laughing. loving. traveling. crying. feeling.

~working hard at trying to find balance between work and yoga and friends
~coming off anti-anxiety medication and feeling the effects of crazy withdrawal, and then feeling things deeply in a way I haven't in years
~finding a new friend who was a gift to me, bringing ease and pleasure in a time of transition and struggle
~taking ski lessons with some girlfriends
~finding a niche in my yoga teaching that I love, that seemed to bring joy and ease to people's lives
~spending a week with a dear friend in Utah, and being reminded that joy and bliss and connection is all around, all the time. if we only get quiet enough to sense it
~paying off $40 000 in student loans, and having a party to celebrate!!!
~making the decision to leave a job that I was no longer happy in
~actually leaving that job
~camping and adventuring in beautiful Lake Placid
~spending 2 months in a yoga ashram, meditating, facing my demons, learning so much about so much
~spending 2 months living with my family of origin, feeling so much about so much
~getting to spend a whole lot of time with my beautiful niece, and falling absolutely in love with her
~coming back to my home in Ottawa, and feeling excited about this next chapter - whatever will it hold?!?!
~and at the end of this year, reconnecting with an old friend I haven't seen in 13 years. wow.

~~~being supported and encouraged and loved and held and known by such amazing, loving, wonderful, wise, kind, strong friends. oh my god, I am so grateful for my friends. I could name them all right now, but I fear I'd accidentally forget someone and hurt their feelings.  I hope you know who you are. the ones who said "go for it. take the risk. follow your heart. you are wise. you can do it." and all the ones who I have tea with, coffee with, wine with. all the laughing, the crying, the talking, the learning, the playing. you are all, each of you, so precious to me. Thank you.

This past year has been one of tremendous learning. Of learning to let go. Of learning to laugh:) Of learning to weep. Of learning to breathe. Of learning to notice. Of learning to be. Of learning to soften. Of learning to accept. Of learning to say yes, and learning to say no.

I am grateful. for the beautiful people in my life. friends. family (many of whom are friends). fellow adventurers and seekers. playmates. my teachers. my therapist. my career counsellor. you all make such a difference in my life. my heart swells with love for you.

huh. I guess at the end of 2013, I know that I am loved. and I love. what a delightful thing to know. I am so frickin blessed!!!!

so I wish you all a wonderful last evening of 2013. and hold in my heart a desire for an upcoming year of delights, of learning, of love, of beauty, for myself and for each of you, dear readers. yet another year of new adventurers and rememberings of how wonderful and magical this life really is. enjoy each moment. be true to yourselves. love yourselves, and watch that love pour out of yourselves to others.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy. ~Max Ehrmann
thank you for reading and being with me this year!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013


hey all.
listening to Hawksley Workman (http://hawksleyworkman.com/2010/) - do you know him? he's an artist I appreciate. love many of his lyrics, his rawness, his poetry, his voice.
one of the lyrics stood out to me this morning:
be thankful that you're in pieces
oh my god, this resonates with me because I have felt in pieces for the past few weeks.
so, for those who followed my blog before, I spent 2 months at a beautiful ashram in Pennsylvania, called the Himalayan Institute, this fall. September and October were exhilerating, challenging, soul-stirring, heart-opening, wild and wacky months for me as I learned more about yoga and lived in a community that embraced and encouraged healing, health, contemplation, and self-realization.
And then I came home.
Or rather, I came to live with family for a couple months, until I could get back into my place (which I had subletted out for 4 months).
I am truly grateful for the generosity of my family, who have hosted me for the past 6 weeks. It has been so precious to spend time with my gorgeous 17-month old niece, to get to experience her growth and learning and giggles and joy and enthusiasm about living. I taught her to moo, received a million wide-open-mouth kisses and giant hugs, and those are memories I am so glad I will always have:) It's been so nice to spend time with my sister, to chat and visit and share stories and build our relationship. it's been important to spend time with my mom and dad.
but let me tell you, when you've spent 2 months having your heart opened, exploring vulnerability and softness, and then you go home to your family of origin, well, my friends, it can be a raw time. Add on to that the fact that this is a time of tremendous change and transition and uncertainty in my life, and it is messy. All my buttons pushed, all my issues roaring to the surface. the unlovely ways of relating, the self-protection, the old angers and hurts rising in me and in my family members.
I've shed more tears in hurt, fear, and anger in the last 6 weeks than I've done in a long time. Do you know, when I first came "home" from the Himalayan Institute, I was worried that the healing and processing and good juicy stuff that I'd experienced would stop when I came home? ohhhhh no. in fact, what I've found, is that I seem to have broken through the walls of self-protection and image and hardness I have built up for the past many years, and now the healing and processing and awareness won't stop:)
And I don't want it to stop.
Be thankful you're in pieces. I've felt in pieces for the last many weeks. and it's ok. because when I'm in pieces, I feel real. I feel broken, but I feel alive. not in a masochistic way. but rather, i see that old patterns and fears and things that have stopped me from living fully and passionately and truly as me are coming to the surface, being acknowledged and accepted, and then seem to let go. And I know, that when the season of brokenness is over, there is more strength, more clarity, more stability and more solidness than I've had before.
so if this being in pieces means there is greater wholeness, greater joy and love and freedom and awareness of ME in my life, then I'm on board:) and I'm grateful.

peace to you all. in your seasons of ease and joy, and your seasons of brokenness. they're all part of this crazy thing called life:) love to you.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

final hurrah

wow wow, 2 months has flown by. I have now left Pennsylvania and am writing this from my parents' kitchen table.

what a wild time I had. not in the typical sense of wild - ashram living doesn't really support that:) I had wine and meat twice in two months, and my wildest indulgences were the occasional chocolate chip cookie and chocolate bar from the gift shop. So, by wild, I don't mean hedonistically wild. Rather, it was a ride, internally.

So much learning. So much stretching. Lots of rest. Lots of glorious reading and walking and thinking and writing and breathing and loving and time. Time to be mindful, to notice what was going on around me and inside of me. I developed a new appreciation for vegetables in particular, and food in general. The beauty of a beet, the softness of an eggplant, the freshness of celery. It was always so delightful to see all the vegetables we'd chopped and prepared for the whole community, lined up along the buffet table for people to enjoy. There was pure joy and an amazing feeling of fulfillment in seeing the direct expression of our hard work, knowing it would nourish people. I also received an awesome "reprogramming", nutritionally - after 2 months of eating a fresh, live, organic, vegetarian diet, veggies, fruits, whole grains and non-animal proteins, my body feels amazing. Three meals a day, medium breakfast, big lunch, small dinner, and my body is thriving. I have so  much energy, and feel light and fresh and easy in my body. And I want to keep it up - I drive past McD's, which used to be a weakness of mine, and I have zero desire to go in. Now, I realize that might change as the days and weeks go past and I'm bombarded with images and opportunities for junk. But for now, I'm enjoying how my body is reacting to pure good food!!

I met so many amazing people. People from all walks of life - people as young as 21, and as old as 70, there for various reasons and with a multitude of personal stories and journeys, but all there to learn, to grow, to heal, to be part of a community that is focused on health and wellness. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it is not all glory. When people live together, they rub up against each other. Buttons get pushed, issues arise, tempers are lost and friction occurs. But it is acknowledged that that happens, it is accepted as a natural occurrence, and seen as an opportunity to grow, to learn more about oneself, and to discover strategies to deal and live with each other. One thing I learned from my short time in living in this community is that while sometimes another's actions might be the cause of friction, my responsibility is to look inside of me, to see how I am affected, to see what is happening in my mind, my reaction, my perception of the situation, and see if there is something I need to address or breathe through or see differently. I guess it comes back to what I've written throughout my time at the ashram - everything truly can be for my upliftment, every person and every situation can be seen as a gift, as a way for me to understand myself better, learn new strategies, shift my perception, and figure out how I can find peace, regardless of another's actions. Ultimately, can I get to the place of clarity and solidity inside of me, so that no one can take away my peace? Cause, really, they can't... I choose to let it go. I choose to give it away. I choose how I see or perceive things, situations, or people. It is not easy. Holy shit, it is the hardest work I've ever done, no doubt about it. There were times in the past 2 months where I was consumed with rage and anger. Irritation. Hurt and confusion. But I am so grateful that I was in a place where it was understood, and where I was encouraged to go write about it, or talk it out, sit in the meditation room and meditate, go for a strenuous walk up the hill to work it out of my body, or have a good cry if needed. Self-contemplation, drawing inward to look at what's going on in me is NOT EASY!! But I have learned that it brings so much more health and peace and stillness inside of me, eventually, rather than stewing and soaking in the rage, misery, sense of injustice, etc. Because, really, that rage and irritation only hurts me. I've seen it's effects on me, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Anyway, that was a big paragraph about the less-pleasant parts of community living. There were also so so many wonderful parts, memories I'm taking with me. Lots of laughter, lots of amazing conversations, some deep lovely friendships that might last a long or a little while, but had such an incredible impact on my life and in my heart. I was often a recipient of great kindness and great generosity.

And, as I've raved about in previous posts, some of my favourite times and memories are from the beauty of nature around the property. I will miss my daily deer sighting:) and my hikes up the hill and around the trails. What a gorgeous place to have a season of rest and healing. I am forever grateful.

My journey is not over. I don't think our journey is ever over. Now I get to come back to my "normal" life, of family, friends, paying bills, etc, but with so many amazing tools, so much more self awareness and self-knowledge, and with beautiful memories. There are things inside of me that have been forever shifted, toward greater wholeness and health, on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual planes. I am so grateful to the teachers, the friends, the spirit and energy of this place, the chefs, the community that welcomed me and supported me on this particular step of my journey:) My heart is filled with so much love and gratitude. And tremendous excitement (and a little bit of nervousness) for how life will unfold now. But one thing I do believe, with all my heart: The Universe, God, Spirit, Love, is benevolent. It is unfolding exactly as it is meant to, and I'm right where I'm meant to be.

I'll leave you, for now, with two of my favourite poems/writings that kept recurring in my life and thoughts and interactions in the past two months:

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love – for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment is it perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you from misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.Max Ehrmann, Desiderata: A Poem for a Way of Life

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-- Jelaluddin Rumi,
    translation by Coleman Barks
And now, home. farewell for now, and thank you for reading my ramblings and being with me on this little journey. be well. xo

Sunday, 20 October 2013

in sickness and in health...

first, some pictures for your viewing pleasure...

my own form of tree pose... gaze into the space and light and beauty of a tree while lying on your back in the lush grass of a field. or a path in a forest. and breathe:)

sunrises are magical, and definitely worth getting up for...once in a while


so much beauty in this place. it's easy to feel love and gratitude and peace and bliss here.

sunny happy me:

and now some thoughts and ramblings...

ridonculously, I have been sick again. Yep, that's twice in less than 2 months here. I echo a friend's thoughts, in the assumption that this was some kind of utopia where only health and beauty would exist. huh! not true!! I was knocked out flat with some kind of virus, with flu/mono symptoms that drove me to my bed for about 20 hours a day for a week. Not what I had in mind when I thought I was coming here for a rest! There were times I felt really grumpy, really lonely, mostly really sick during that time. But every so often, in between fever flashes, I would think, there is good here. For the first time in a long time, this sickness did not come with the guilt I usually feel. Most times when I get sick and have to stay in bed, I carry with me all kinds of guilt - I should be at work, others might think I'm faking and lazy, maybe I am lazy and just a wimp, I should be stronger, should get going, should be at work!!! This time, I didn't have any of that! partly because I was just too sick to worry about what anyone could possibly think of me. Partly because I'm in a place where it's encouraged to listen to your needs and honour them, to show compassion to yourself. And I'd like to hope that it's partly because I am learning to be compassionate to myself, to show kindness, to allow myself to be where I am; and to let go of guilt and self-condemnation, cause hey, does that ever really help anything?!?! nope. likely I got well more quickly and rested more deeply because I didn't berate myself - I let myself rest and heal as I needed to. so I'll celebrate that new way of being sick:)

AND, second great thing, I got to work with a homeopathic pharmacist here. After the first couple of days of feeling like death, I'd drag myself out of bed and stumble down the hall to his office, and sit with him each day. for like 15-20 minutes, he'd ask me all about my symptoms. physical, emotional, mental symptoms. what was I feeling? what was I experiencing before I got sick? we'd talk, he'd listen, and based on all my symptoms and states, recommend and grind up some remedy, combined with various vitamins and minerals to build up my immune system. the next day, i'd drag myself back in, and go over it again when the first remedy or two didn't work, and he was so patient, listening, really seeking to help. and slowly, we found a remedy that worked, when combined with Echinacea and goldenseal. and slowly, day by day, I began to feel stronger. I just loved that it was not an in-and-out, "take some Tylenol/cold-and-flu/antibiotic" quick answer. it was specific to  me, to my symptoms, to the changes each day that was going on. how extremely lucky am I to have been so sick 100 feet from this man! it was so great to be able to experience alternative medicine in such a direct, easily-accessible, helpful way. i'm digging it.

so, yucky to be sick. no doubt. but some great came of it - I got to rest very deeply, I got to get away from the busyness and often uber-chatty environment here, I got to experience being sick without guilt, and I got to work with a brilliant homeopathic pharmacist. I dig this philosophy of seeing everything as an upliftment, as I wrote about in an earlier post. why not? if nothing else, it puts a positive spin on life! :)

And now, I'm looking forward to being well. I love how when I've been sick, I come back with a new vitality and appreciation for life and health. Today I went for a slow stroll in the sunshine (my strength is slowly returning) and enjoyed it. my body is craving slow movement, stretching, breath and life. Being sick gave me ample time to be contemplative and thoughtful, and even spinny and uncomfortable in my mind, and now that I'm slowly coming back to life, I feel solid and peaceful and confidant. Rebuilt, somehow.

Peace, people!

Thursday, 10 October 2013



today I took a walk up the hill, as I do most days, and was thinking as I was walking, how grateful I am to have this precious time to be away, to have space to think and process and heal and learn about myself. I was thinking how lucky I am, because I know that most people have such busy lives, with so many responsibilities, that there is very little time to sit, stroll, think, journal, read, process, ruminate, breathe, heal in natural organic ways. I am so grateful that I have this space and time right now. It is precious.

I'm also surrounded by a lot of amazing teachers, thinkers, meditators, people who are so wise and so in touch with how to come to a place of stillness and rest and quiet. People who radiate gentleness, peacefulness, love, warmth, and joy, and I get to walk the halls of this place and eat dinner and occasionally sit for a chat with these people. I'm grateful for that.

I'm also surrounded by a lot of people who are processing, dealing with their own shit, struggling with stuff, learning how to live and be and accept who they are in the moment. It's not always pretty. Living in a community is tough! I'm still just a visitor, so mostly I watch, see it all in action, but regardless of where you are, offices, marriages, classrooms, etc, people are people, and we all rub up against each other in sometimes seemingly ugly ways. I guess the good thing is that this seems to be a place where people are aware that we're all working through things, and that the yucky stuff can be part of a growing, learning, healing process. It's interesting. and frustrating. and very much real life.

Last night, I went to this lovely restaurant in a town close by with three new girlfriends here, wonderful warm women who wanted to take me out for my birthday. The town is called Hawley, and we found this fabulous little restaurant called Glass, which would fit in in Ottawa so perfectly. Raw stone and brick walls, small plates and wine, delicious food and a wonderful atmosphere. After 5 weeks of rice, beans, veggies and grains, the foray into crab dip and cod sliders and charcuterie and cheese plates was divine. truly. I saw God:) We shared wine together, and laughed and told stories and vented about our days, and it felt so wonderful. It felt so real, so honest, so easy. I enjoyed it so deeply, and feel really refreshed today. Isn't that funny?

I was thinking about it this morning, why that is. Part of it is that it was a fun reminder of fun times at home; wine and cheese and gabbing with friends in a charming little restaurant is one of my favourite things to do. Part of it was that here at the ashram, I see the same people and the same places and the same routines day after day after day, so it was nice to have a change of scenery and different interactions. But the biggest part, I think, was that I tend to be a little intense and all-or-nothing, and have thrown myself into the yoga ashram thing pretty seriously for the last few weeks, and it was so good to let it all go, let my hair down, so to speak. Man. I want to live more in balance, where I don't get so serious about one thing, and then need a break from it. There are people here who are very advanced in their yogic path, who have very strict practices, who follow those practices so faithfully and seriously, and I see tremendous peace and stillness and love that radiates from them. And I desire those qualities. And my intense side, my Pitta side, for those of you who know Ayurveda, jumps in and strives and wants to accomplish and be perfect in those areas. But happily, I have a solid Kapha side as well that loves rest and pleasure and lovely things, and it draws me back to balance when I get too serious and intense about something I think I should be doing.

Perhaps there will be a time in my life when I am called to a deeper practice where I give up meat and wine and sweets and such on a more permanent basis. But maybe, for right now, what I am learning by being here, is that balance is so important for me. I wasn't balanced when I was living my life in Ottawa before I came here - I was so busy, so stressed, so caught up in work/life/socializing/paying bills, etc, that I wasn't living a balanced life in the area of food, exercise, rest, downtime, and people time. In my time here, I have had time to really focus on what I need and want, healthy eating, exercise, rest, meditation, interactions with others, and I feel wonderful, and can happily, occasionally, indulge in a little "worldly" pleasure. And I treasure and enjoy it so much, when it's only once in a while!

Every day is such good learning.  I am totally blessed to be here, for this time in my life. ahhh.
much love to you all. wishing you a little space in your day to process, feel, think, and rest.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

September: Done

Holy moly, where did this month go?! My first month at the Himalayan Institute concludes today. I can't believe it. At the beginning of September, 11 of us arrived for the month-long program. 5 of us are staying on, for another month, and the rest have already left or leave today. Next Thursday, a whole new group of people will come for the next month, another 10 people to join our remaining 5. It should be interesting to see what personalities and characters will come.

So today I am a little reflective of what this month has been for me.

It has not been quite the restful time I thought it would be. Karma Yoga and practicums Monday-Friday make for busy, scheduled days. I feel a little resistant and frustrated about that. But it does give me the chance to look at how I handle busyness and tasks and schedules. I don't handle them well, I'm learning. I tend to stop breathing, to get grumpy, to get overwhelmed. The past week I've recognized the same feelings of anxiety and spinniness that I experience on the "outside", even though I'm in a place that is meant to allow for rest, healing and peace. Interesting. I wonder what that's about!! I happily am in a place where questioning and inquisitiveness is valued, so I can take time to be curious. Why, if I'm in a place of rest and beauty and simplicity, am I reverting back to my old patterns of anxiety, stress, jaw clenching, non-breathing, etc? Guess it must be a pattern I brought with me:) Because even though my situation and circumstances have changed, very dramatically, I am still me, with my ways of coping, of dealing with life, of seeing the world, or responding. I brought myself with me on my journey, habits and patterns and all! And I realize that I have a deeply ingrained pattern, a deep groove on my record, of wanting to get things right. wanting to figure things out and become perfect at them. now. I want to take the teachings I've received in the last month, on meditation, relaxation techniques, breathing techniques, eating habits, and asana practice, assimilate them all right now and get them all perfect right now, and start doing them all perfectly right now. and if I don't, then I am failing. I am weak. I am no good. Man, we are sometimes so unkind to ourselves. cruel words, cruel judgements. so I've watched that happen this week, this build up of stress at not getting things right, not accomplishing, not perfecting things. And then I've had several wonderful conversations with people that reminded me that nothing has to be accomplished. nothing has to be perfected. all these things are interesting tools, that I can play with, explore, discover, try out, over the next many years of my life. they are meant to bring joy, ease, to uplift, to relax, to bring peace. if they bring stress and anxiety, then I can back down for a while. I can soften. That seems to be the message for me in this journey. I need to soften. I do have a tendency to throw myself at things and give 110%. I see this in my attitude towards jobs, tasks, friendships, so many things in my life. Only eventually I burn out and lose all joy and feel stressed. What if I could learn to soften, and give maybe 75% most of the time, 25% occasionally when I need to rest, 100% occasionally when something needs an extra push, but averaging 75%? I know that is so contrary to the working world, corporate world, our society's values. But that 110% push doesn't seem to be serving me very well. I see the pattern of push push push, and then crash. over and over in my life. what is the definition of insanity? doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results? I seem to have been a bit insane in the past few years. I can admit it:) but maybe I'll try a little experiment in the next month that i'm here - I'm going to soften. to back off a little. I don't need to chop veggies with uber-intensity. I don't need to approach meditation with uber-intensity. I don't need to be super strict with my schedule. I'd like to try to slow down, notice my breath, and soften a little. that will be my intention for this second month. and see if I feel more rested and less stressed in the end. i'll let you know how it goes!

In fun news, the past two weeks have been apple picking time here! what a glorious way to spend the mornings, picking in the sunshine. thousands of apples that will feed the community here, and make yummy apple cider!

The weather has been amazing this month, I am so grateful for that! sunny days, cool nights for sleeping. The deer are regular visitors, as I mentioned in an earlier post, but yesterday morning they were literally 10 feet from the building as I went out for a morning walk!

Sunset Pond is a favourite spot of mine (I have so many!), to read a good book or journal or just nap in the sunshine. Isn't it a sweet spot?

The leaves are changing colour here, as they are all over this part of the world. a sure sign of the changing of the seasons, even though the sunny days feel like summer time! I'm so grateful to be in a place where nature is everywhere around me, and there is time to stroll, notice, enjoy the beauty. it is good for the soul!

Well, dear people out there, I wish you a joyous end of September, and hope you take time to breathe, and to enjoy the beauty in our world. Peace to you.

Saturday, 21 September 2013


Look at this pretty place where I live! It's been glorious weather here - sunshine, heat, cool nights for sleeping, divine. The days are flying by. I've been enjoying the days - lots of learning, lots of chopping, lots of visiting and meeting interesting people. The days are very scheduled, and I did succumb to a cold that was going around here. I think I'm still pretty tired and a bit run down from the stress of leaving my job, leaving my apartment, leaving my city, leaving my friends, and I guess my immune system is a little weak, so I got the cold. But, I'm living in a place where it's ok to sleep when you need to, take a day or two off of chopping, where there is amazing food prepared that I can eat when I need to, where there is free-flowing tea every moment of the day, and where there is an all-natural pharmacy right down the hall from my room. literally 50 feet from my room, with a brilliant pharmacist to listens and recommends supplements and such. Which means my cold, which would likely last 10 days in Ottawa (pretty typical for me!) lasted 2 days! brilliant! I know the moment my fever broke, yesterday, and have been feeling stronger and stronger with every hour. Man, the body works so well, so brilliantly, when there is no stress. when there is space to rest and eat well and let yourself heal. It is so clear to me!!

Here are a few more photos, of places on the property. the first two and the last one are a view I see each morning on my morning walk. The next three are of a waterfall that you find at the end of a little hike, where many people who live here hang out, read, journal, meditate, swim. It's so beautiful.

There's a common phrase used around here a lot: everything is for your upliftment. At the heart of this phrase is the principle that no matter what happens to us, every situation, every circumstance, every encounter, is in our life to uplift us. move us forward. bring us closer to the best Self we can be. In a spiritual sense, it is the belief that God, or universe, or Spirit, or Divinity is at it's core, benevolent, kind, uplifting, healing. That everything that happens is for a purpose, and that purpose is to uplift us, in a variety of ways.  On a psychological level, it works with the idea that our mind can affect the way we live in the world, that "the mind is it's own place and in its self can make a heaven of hell; a hell of heaven". John Milton knew that our mind could interpret situations in ways that made us feel great, or made us feel shitty. Choosing to see the glass as half-full. Choosing to see the silver lining. It  may be that we are uplifted by learning something, by receiving something, by heading on a path that is ultimately the best path for us. I'm pretty sure most of the time we have no idea how we're being uplifted, until weeks, months, years later. Or perhaps there are times we have no idea how we were uplifted, but we choose to believe that in the big picture of our lives and the lives of those around us, we have been uplifted. I think of friends who have had events in their lives that seemed like absolute tragedies. And yet years later, perhaps, can see that there is so much goodness and love and wisdom in their lives that wouldn't have been there if the "tragedy" hadn't occurred. I'm not for a second saying that these events or circumstances don't bring all the very real, very valid human emotions to the surface. Grief. Anger. Resentment. Confusion. All very normal and very right reactions. And I don't believe that any pat answer should be given to someone who is grieving, or going through something that seems wrong and unfair and terrible. But maybe, just maybe, could there be reasons for things, for meetings, for things we label as good and bad, that we can't even imagine or visualize? I wonder. No, I don't even wonder. I know. Because I've definitely seen it in my own life, in very small and pretty big ways. That I can't see the big picture, and maybe there are purposes I can't imagine. So for now, I think I embrace this: everything comes into my life for my upliftment. Maybe it's not true. Maybe I'm delusional and idealistic. But hey, it seems to make a heaven out of what could be seen as a hell! And I might not remember this in the midst of deep sorrow or crisis, so friends out there, please remind me!! But it is easy to see the upliftment when I'm living in such gorgeous surroundings:)

One fun little thing happened to me... so I was sick for those couple days, and spent a lot of time napping and resting in my room. Yesterday, someone came and knocked on my door. It was a resident from here, asking if I'd like to come participate in a workshop for the weekend, for free (regularly $300), all about a massage technique called Abhyanga. Check it out online - think flowing, moving massage with very warm oil all over your body, and then a steam room afterword. Talk about upliftment!!! So I've now learned a new massage technique, given massages and gotten massages! what a delightful gift, especially after having been a little sick and feeling a little low and homesick. so very nourishing, for my body and soul and spirit. I am so grateful. And it's reminded me again of how much I love body work, love healing works, feel my heart swell and my eyes tear up with the beauty of sharing love and healing, being able to be a vessel to facilitate healing. That maybe that is where I want to be in the future. Not maybe, most likely;) A lovely serendipitous offering that I am enjoying this weekend:) I'll share my new techniques with you when I'm home:)

so dear readers, I hope you are all well and taking good care of yourselves, and maybe being able to see something that is an upliftment in your life.
Love and peace to you.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

beauty and health and food, oh my!

today is the one-week mark since I arrived here at the Himalayan Institute. In some ways, it feels like I just got here; in other ways, I feel like I've been here for a long time.

 First, some pictures. The top one is the auditorium, one of the rooms where we gather for workshops and hatha yoga classes. Last night a bunch of us hung out there and watched a movie, KumarĂ©. Such an interesting movie, I highly recommend it! It's a documentary, created by a filmmaker from New Jersey who set out to show people that they do not need a guru - that most gurus are frauds - that everything anyone needs to know is inside them already. To do this, he grew his hair and beard long,  took on the character of a guru from India, and gathered a following of people who thought he was a brilliant, life-changing guru. He created his own yoga poses, his own meditations, his own philosophies, and people flocked to him. Or at least to the image he'd created. it is a really powerful film. very funny in parts, very sad in parts.

 the next three photos are of inside the main building here - the front entrance, the beautiful shop for retail therapy, when needed, and the cozy library I get all my good reading in.

So for the past week, it's been busy! I've been adjusting to life here. I'm much more tired than I anticipated. I imagine it's due to adjusting to a new schedule, a new way of eating, a new rhythm, a new community. Our days are quite busy, Monday to Friday, with a lot of cleaning, veggie prep, learning, and activity. Today I had a rest day - no hatha classes, just naps and strolls around the property:

man, nature is good for the soul. so peaceful, so restful, so beautiful. the sound of the stream rippling over the rocks, the lushness of the moss on the forest floor, the sudden burst of birds from bushes along the edge of the lake, the sunlight flickering along the surface of the water. all so beautiful. it is so so wonderful to have the time to be able to wander and notice and appreciate it. I am grateful.

This morning we met Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, who is the Head of the Himalayan Institute. He came from India in 1979, I believe. He is this brilliant man, with 2 PhDs, who has travelled the world, met and worked with political and spiritual world leaders, who is the most down to earth, jolly, joyful little man I have ever met. He is very wise, very knowledgeable, about philosophy, history, politics, religions, and really, any topic you could care to get into conversation with him about. And he seems to be very loving, very kind, such a warm gentle spirit. It was lovely to learn from him this morning, about the importance of health, wellness, the importance of learning about ourselves, drawing inward, beginning to listen to our own wisdom. He said that even as we become aware, even as we pay attention to what is happening in our bodies, in our minds, in our spiritual lives, healing and wholeness can begin to develop. It can be that simple. Of course, that requires that we slow down enough to listen. To pay attention. To be aware. But in the very act of listening and paying attention, we cultivate healing, happiness, wellness. To pay attention to our breathing. To pay attention to how our body is feeling. To notice what is happening in our emotional state. By doing these things, we are showing compassion to ourselves. We are showing love to ourselves. And healing occurs. Not so tricky, not so complicated.

Every afternoon we prepare veggies. You can't imagine how many veggies 100 people consume in a vegetarian centre!! this weekend we'll also have about 50 people here for a conference. That's a whole lotta carrots, kale, beets, onions, bok choy, yams and celery!!! Yesterday I was on onion duty. 11 of us gather in the dining room and spread out on the tables to chop side by side, but onions are isolated from the group - I was banished to onion island. and chopped about 90 cups of onions. That smell may be on my hands for the next year or two. We also cut about 70 cups of beets, and the dining room looked like a slaughterhouse after we were finished. But have you ever noticed how beautiful beets are? when you cut them, the colour is so rich and stunning, and there are these beautiful rings inside. Hmm. This mindfulness practice has something to it. As we do our veggie prep, we're asked to stay mindful - to be aware of our breathing, to be aware of how we feel, to be aware of how our body feels, to be aware of what we're talking about. And I have to say, though it might sound a little cheesy, as I pay attention, I start to notice how beautiful food is! I start to notice when my breath is getting shallow and I'm feeling annoyed with the person beside me. I start to notice when I'm not thinking about what I'm doing and I get close to cutting my finger. I notice how amazing fresh kale and fresh cucs and fresh collard greens (what!!?!??! yes, they're big down here!!) smell, so clean and fresh and delicious. I have to say, it's only been a week, but I haven't missed meat at all, not with all this amazing organic delicious food! I think I could very easily be a hard-core vegetarian, if I had a team preparing my meals for me every day:)

so. week 1 done. loving the food. loving the learning. loving the surroundings. missing home, my friends and family and cats and apartment. craving lots of alone time, and having the space and freedom to take it. lots of thinking, journaling, questioning, processing. resting, adjusting, watching, observing. yep, i'm still digging it;)