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.