In the midst of my sister’s fairy tale wedding in Prague I realize that we are all children of the Great Divorce between Mother Earth and Father Sky. The legacy of this divorce is the myth of separation of body & mind that permeates every layer of our culture from the induvidual to the collective. Acknowledging that life as a love affair between our form and our spirit through the daily practice of self-dating invites us back into the house of belonging with all of nature and away from existential homelessness. The primary task of the sacred activist, those of us committed to healing this world and ensuring its future, is to break down the walls of separation in our own hearts. So I proposed- to myself.Read More
The yogi, or sadhika, is asked to purify, strengthen and refine her unique alchemical vessel, composed of the five elements- Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Space- to stir them together in varying degrees depending on the situation and imbibe this alchemical brew to invoke her own transformation. The concoction usually taste something like wellness, balance, ease, love, truth and power. Yum, de-li-cious!
This article gives you the raw materials of this process- the practical mystic’s tools of the trade. To the skilled yogi, the applications are endless. We can use them to cool the flames of anger or focus our burning passion with precision, to stimulate the watery flow of creativity or channel a storming torrent of challenging thoughts or emotions towards the highest possible outcome, to inspire ourselves and others like the cool freshness of a deep, slow inhale or to navigate the winds of change with the ease of a bird floating through the endless immensity of the sky, we can use them to ground ourselves in the face of anxiety or to plant, fertilize and harvest the stability of financial security.
While the elements may seem theoretical in their raw form, they aren’t meant to be simply mused upon. Yoga offers an infinite number of practices to create balance inside of ourselves that immediately or eventually translates to our outer environment through our interconnection with all things via what the yogis called the anandamaya kosha or interconnected matrix of all things.Read More
Most of us take backbeding poses in the place it’s the easiest- exactly where we shouldn’t! When we practice unskillful backbends we reinforce old patterns of instability and imbalance both physically and emotionally. Unlock the healing potential of your deepest backbend by understanding the simple yet ingenious design of your spinal curves. Embody the metaphor of an open heart by honoring not only the art of deep poses but the science.Read More
As I sat alongside other unsuspecting hipsters at Arbor Cafe this morning, violence erupts, illustrating both the roots of iniquity and well as the power of embodying compassion amidst chaos. These are deep lessons for our march this weekend.
Arm in arm on Saturday, embodying peace, courage and justice with our hearts held high, breathing deeply, may we wrap our roots around each other for greater strength and resilience. May we return downtown Oakland to it’s pre-industrial roots: a forest of redwoods.Read More
Since 11/9, poetry has been saving my life.
It's been pulling me out of bed and dragging me to my altar for morning practice. It's been lulling me to sleep, gently stroking my hair, reassuring me that everything is going to be okay, that I have a purpose here. Now. That it's okay if I don't yet know exactly what that purpose looks like in action.
It's been reminding me that turmoil and challenging emotion are the mothers of vision and hope. That the peace and the wisdom of the body is available in every moment by simply drawing awareness to my senses. That the earth is holding me and I can embrace her back by simply touching my own heart with my hand or by touching the backs of those I love. That the fiery passion of creativity is a byproduct of confusion. That making love to the moment saves us. That "each moment lived fully awake cannot help but be both prayer and lovemaking" and that "our lovers are everywhere," even in the midst of the chaos, death, disappointment and the impending rebirth of this historical moment.Read More
Every thought is either a worry or a prayer. In addition to donations, don't forget to offer your greatest resource to Standing Rock: intention.
Every time I feel stress, overwhelm, fear or powerlessness that I can't physically be supporting our brothers and sisters and the healing waters at Standing Rock, I've been offering this simple prayer:
Great Spirit, that which doesn't change with the seasons, the tides, with age or circumstance,
Please protect our brothers and sisters at Standing Rock
Please protect the Healing Waters from the Black Snake
Please help me to understand and experience myself as an embodiment of earth
Please protect the rivers of my blood, the fire of my power, the winds of my breath, and the clay of my my body from the stress, tension, worry and fear that sap my life force
May my life be a beautiful offering of love to the Earth and all of her beings
Physical tension limits our ability to embody peace and therefore, to create social change. When we live from the neck up, our body creates tension. Tension is a lead wall blocking the experience of our interconnection with people who who are different from us. Instead of embodying acceptance, we unconsciously embody fear. Hatred is the product of unchecked fear.
To be present inside of our bodies in a culture that threatens those bodies is a radical act that sharpens our swords for action. To be present in this moment, with all of it’s tenderness and horror, is a radical act. To deepen our breath and to relax in the midst of collective anger and hatred is a radical act.Read More
As we begin to organize to cultivate clear-seeing and big picture vision, how we treat our bodies serves as the framework for how we treat each other and our country. Our presence is our greatest resource. We must redouble our effort towards equality by starting with ourselves. A quiet nervous system is the only way we can begin the hero's journey of creatively imagining the yet unimaginable, the world of our great grandchildren where walls are torn down not built up, where diversity is strength, where the earth is the sovereign and our leaders take their authority from her.
A new world is coming. We must strengthen our vessels.Read More
The more I've embraced yoga as a physically, mentally, emotionally, and energetically transformative lifestyle, the more I've stopped demeaning it by confusing it with a workout (despite the increased strength, muscular balance, the sweat, the sensation of empowerment and the delicious booty that are often lovely side effects).
Since I've stopped confusing yoga with a workout, I've been yogifying my workouts, meaning I've been wedding my playful, self-imposed booty kicking with conscious breathwork (pranayama), meditation, intention, big picture goal-setting, positive affirmation and dedication to the benefit of others.
And, guess what- this marriage feels good. I mean, REALLY, REALLY good.Read More
Can we bring meditation and fitness together?
The body is an alchemical vessel. Everything we do with our physical body affects our energetic body. Therefore, taking an hour to workout is a huge dose of potential transformation that is often underutilized! In our culture right now exercise one of the main ways that people disembody and move away from the experience of the moment. A workout that makes your world a better place is a practice of intentional, focused awareness of mind, the merging of breath with movement, and dynamic alignment of the body.Read More
Learn a quick and easy technique to ease the stiffness, tension, pain and discomfort caused by computer sitting, driving and SAP (Standard American Posture). This is a sweet way to connect with your partner, kids, roommates, lover or family. Intentional touch is a powerful medicine in and of itself. Make sure to stay connected with your breath while giving or receiving and keep checking in with your partner about pressure!Read More
Each challenge of our lives is an initiation. Can we keep breathing deeply, our jaw soft, in the face of stress, challenge and crisis?
I’m fresh from the shamrock-mint green, mist-soaked landscape of west coast Scotland to the drought-ridden, west coast desert of my homeland. California, once laden with an infinitude of indigenous spiritual sites on a coastline worshiped by the Native Americans as the home of the spirit world, has long since been bulldozed over by colonialism. While the traces of ancient spiritual practices of our indigenous ancestors are now present only to those who are sensitive to the energy of place, on the west coast of Scotland, in Kilmartin Glen, you can’t throw a stone without hitting a site of ancient spiritual significance. The Celts were, as all Earth based cultures, a nature revering people. The creative use of stone was not only how they marked community gathering spaces and spiritual ritual sites, but how they tracked the movement of the planets, the seasons, ancestral lineage and wealth and expressed themselves through artwork. In fact, you might want to reconsider even throwing that stone- considering it could quite possibly be marking the spot of a mass burial cairn.
Kilmartin’s optimal placement as a major ancient trading port makes this one of the richest concentrations of surviving spiritual sites in the world, officially containing over 350 monuments within a 6 mile radius. While in California, you can be pretty sure any remaining structure created prior to 1800 will be celebrated as a state monument and commemorated with, at the very least, a plaque, in Scotland, the stone henges where Druids met 2,000 years ago to ensure the future of their people unobtrusively dot the kelly green cow fields on the side of the road. If we count the profuse amount of gargantuan, one-off standing stones and mysterious stone etchings sprinkled (seemingly) helter-skelter across the misted landscape, the number of historically significant structures jumps closer to 3,000- in a six mile radius!
The ancient Celts were no stranger to ritual. In fact, all earth based cultures live by ritual, marking the movement of the moon and the planets and Earth’s shifting seasons, praying for abundance, celebrating death, new life and all the shifting seasons in the lives of human beings and communities. Ritual is about consciously creating a space and a time in order to find yourself, ironically, outside of space and time, in order to connect with the whole- the universally mysterious flux of which we are part.
Ritual has largely disappeared in our culture.
Among this Scottish wonderland of rain-kissed natural stone monuments I found myself in, these testaments to humankind’s will to find the deeper meaning of their soul reflected in nature, I’ll never forget one particular pile of giant stones I encountered in the middle of a breathtaking pasture between an icy loch and age-old mountain speckled with sheep. Guided by a local kilt-clad Scotsman, my fellow pilgrims and I were instructed to climb through a tiny crawls space into the womb of the earth, underneath the stones. Mystified and confounded, we found ourselves in a 4 x 10 foot underground cave, covered over by rocks and earth. This was a 5,000 year old initiation chamber, made sturdy enough and continually commanding the reverence of the locals in order to survive, fully intact, up until the present. Initiates included newly chosen leaders, spiritual and political, undertaking the responsibility of guiding their people, girls stepping into the responsibility of womanhood after their first blood, seekers entering the sacred path of mystical exploration and every day people-turned-pilgrims seeking guidance from the source of all wisdom and creation, the Earth-womb herself.
One of the few places that contemporary ritual still spills into modern life on California’s west coast: yoga class. For a few moments, through the portal of our bodies and the ancient tool of our breath, we transcend space-time, connecting with the depth of our essence even while grounded in the pleasure of our own form.
Underground initiation chambers also once existed on the coast of California. While we mourn the loss of the spiritual lineage of our own land, today, without needing a physical space to seek inner truth, we can still reconnect with this innate impulse of our forebears. Wherever we are on our home planet Earth, wherever we are in the calendar of eons, we are just like those who suffered willingly on vision quest on top of or underneath the Earth. We share this same exact urge to understand our own significance in the seeming chaos of existence.
Can we think of the body itself as an initiation chamber?
The contemporary initiation: can we keep breathing deeply, our jaw soft, in the face of stress, challenge and crisis? Hell, can we sit at our computer during our workday without our shoulders climbing towards our ears? Each challenge of our lives is an initiation. The purpose of initiation is not to impart or impose wisdom and knowledge from the outside but to inspire us to tap into our own internal source of power and wisdom, our internal compass, nature within our own bodies. In fact, I believe this is the true purpose of all teachers and all institutions of learning.
The simplest way to connect to contemporary ritual is to go into nature. When we tune into the shifting cycles of our home planet, we are transported out of time, to the eternal present, the same space where we meet all of those who walked this path before us, alternatingly confused and lonely, heartbroken and disillusioned by death and darkness, and filled with joy and inner strength, passionately in love with themselves, the world and their lovers.
When we find ourselves in nature, if we calm our minds enough to pay attention, we automatically feel a sense of grounding that allows us to naturally inhabit our bodies more fully. An enhanced sense of embodiment translates to improved postural alignment, a heightened sense of meaning and confidence and an amplified sense of ease and lightness that comes from the organic release of fear and anxiety.
In the wise words of Celtic mystic, John O’Donohue, “the body is your only home in the universe. It is your house of belonging here in the world. It is a very sacred temple. To spend time in silence before the mystery of your body brings you towards wisdom and holiness. “
Rituals of self-care are rituals of connecting to the Earth and her cycles. Planning a consistent weekly hike, going to yoga class, receiving or offering massage, eating or cooking food from the ground- all of these are ways to experience nature in the form of your body, to connect with the space of ritual, which is beyond time, constantly nestled in the nowness of the present. These are also ways to fortify our bodies as the sites of our deepest initiations, the space from which we ask and sometimes answer the hardest questions, the space from which we offer back to something grater than ourselves, the space from which we will, one day, hopefully, walk bravely into the ultimate unknown.
In our culture, to relax is a radical act. To connect to your deepest self is a radical act. To create conscious sound with your body for the sake of feeling good and dissolving stuck patterns is a highly radical act.
Radicals have more fun.Read More
Accepting the radical responsibility of living in a body means becoming our own teacher and our own healer. Make feeling good a lifestyle by taking your yoga off the mat and into your life with the help of these six tools.Read More