You can see on the web right now hundreds, if not thousands of “retreats” from yoga and ayurveda (like mine:) to writing, sufi dancing, cooking, raw food, weight loss, meditation, surfing, tribal ceremonies, indigenous immersions, to sacred temples, archeological sites and scuba diving. There is nearly no end to what you can explore nowadays. The question is, why go on retreat? Is it worth it and what is our cost benefit? We take time off from work, family and friends and spend a small fortune to go away, immerse ourselves into a world away from our routine and after a week or so, return home and then what? Are we back where we started? Was it worth it?
Here in Santa Cruz, we embarked on our first Divine Light Yoga 200 HR Teacher training course with Divinitree Yoga Studio last weekend. Ann Averbach, the studio co-owner and Hannah Muse, fellow teacher are sharing the stage as we journey forth for the next 7 months with our 33 very aware and devoted yogis. Each group of enthusiastic teacher trainees brings a life of its own, and this group, the largest one I have been privileged to teach, has shown me already something very powerful and new.
As we began with the Yamas and Niyamas, I was captivated with the already clear understanding that these yogis possessed. There is clearly an openness, a vulnerability and a sincerity that usually takes many months to express in a group, already present here. Is this just another California “thing” or is there something more to this I wondered? The way the group held space for each other to share personal views, fears, hopes and ideas was solid and gentle at the same time. Watching the playful, yet serious way each asana was taught to a new partner showed me a real depth of personal practice, of integration of that practice and a consistency in listening.
I began to see that within just a few hours of being together, the group energy was amping up to one of unprecedented support, devotion and curiosity. Ann, Hannah and I would chant Om to bring attention and quiet back after group work, and immediately things would refocus. I felt a bonding with these two teachers that grew with each hour we taught together. I noticed how each of us brought our unique platform to the classroom, which is what created such truth in our teaching. There was great respect and humility between us as we worked together seamlessly.
On the third day of the training, still the first weekend, we recognized an opportunity to hold these teachers in training to a new standard and Ann asked them to each take a concept from the weekend, and to bring it to conception. As we sat in our large circle, each yogi rose to the challenge and excelled with their own teaching voice. This is something that indeed takes months to cultivate, to integrate and we witnessed this on our third day.
At the end of Sunday, we closed our circle and began to clean up and hug goodbye, there was not a rush for the door, instead there was a lingering of love, offerings of help to clean up and most of all, there was such gratitude. Gratitude from each student to us the teachers, gratitude from us to them, gratitude for the space we were occupying, gratitude for these sacred teachings, and gratitude for the gift of Breath. As I received hug after hug, and gazed into the eyes of each student, I felt so overwhelmed that it was almost hard to accept the love. This is where I realized there was something going on with me.
The next day, I was not exhausted from a three day weekend of teaching, I was exhilarated. I was still feeling very emotional and there was a funny feeling in my heart. I spoke to one of my spiritual teachers and she asked me if I understood that what we had experienced was a reflection of the light that we emanate, and thus, each of us were reflecting that back to each other. Why did I feel a bit of disconnect? It then became clear, that that little ego part of me that may not want to believe that “I am that”, Twat Twam Assam”, was acting up. There was still a bit of my old protective shield up, wow, there it was! As soon as I melted into my true Heart and felt that warmth, I did realize that I am that, again.
We meet people everyday, and when someone looks right into our eyes and sees the light of our Soul, and we deny that in any way, we are not allowing ourselves to see not only our Light, but theirs too. It was hard for me to see the light because I was blinded by it by so many. When I got out of my own way, it was shining so brightly, I could not miss it. To deny our own Light is to deny the Divine in each other. It is not an ego trip to see that light in ourselves, it is the truth of who we are and it is our ego that blocks us from seeing that. We may believe that our ego will inflate us with grand ideas about who we are, but truthfully, the ego will limit you, hold you down and stop you from seeing who you are. Because, you are pure Light, you just have to get out of the way for it to shine.
We are just back from a beautiful retreat to Costa Rica, where the sun, ocean, breezes and fresh food nourished our bodies and the opportunity to practice yoga and meditation twice a day fed our Souls! Thank you to those beautiful beings who came from as far away as Germany and Canada and as close as Panama, as well as Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California! Thank you for taking time to pause from your busy lives to explore stillness within.
Back home, in my beloved Cali, thrust back into the business of Life, I observed something. I observed the lack of “Pause”. Certainly living here in Santa Cruz, we do have Pause, maybe more than anywhere else I have lived. But my conversations, emails, and interactions are with many from all over, and, just catching up on news, what I see is this huge lack of Pause. We hit the button so fast with sending off a text message, tweet, email or comment that where is that moment to simply Pause and consider the impact, the implication of our thoughts coming out as words or actions?
Where is the Grace in our response or are we just reacting? It is easy to witness in myself how I can jump and make a quick statement, so I want to encourage all of us, to Pause. Like we may have been taught as kids, count to 10, give it a moment, consider what you are releasing into the Universe: it will carry a vibration for a while and it may swing back around to grab us.
On retreat, we get to retreat from all that pushes us, dictates to us and demands of us. This dogma, doctrine, obligation and responsibility is there when we get home, but hopefully with fresh eyes, a more open heart, we may witness to ourselves what is important and what is not. What we want or shall carry and what we will drop.
And that is what I call Grace, our ability to willingly and consciously choose. To use our maturity to decide, and to act from a place of graceful kindness. Isn’t it so “old fashioned”, to think before we blurt, to consider before we text or tweet and to pause before we react…just give it a moment and then consider…is it necessary? Is it kind? Is it contributing to the good of your Spirit and that of the other? I sure am going to do my best here, let me know what you think. In heart with you,
Denise Kirpal Kaur
All Levels INVITED!! Every Tuesday morning 9:30-11:00 am and Wednesday evening 6:30 -8:00 pm AMAZING SLOW FLOW VINYASA WITH SACRED CHANTING
at the beautiful and invigorating Divinitree Art and Yoga Studio:
Slow Flow Vinyasa
Tuesday mornings 9:30 am – 11:00 am AND
Wednesday evenings 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
We will move to an inspiring playlist of music that will get you going and mellow you out, using
a sequence of asanas that will challenge your practice and soothe your heart and soul. Each class
will end with sacred chanting for a few moments and a Gong Relaxation during Savasana.
Slow flow means holding poses long enough to integrate the physiological, mental, and spiritual benefits
while engaging muscles of both the body and mind. Pranayama is an integral part of the entire class and
will be taught throughout.
Sweat, soul, heart and mind all united to create Yoga!
Come and have fun.
Fall into Vata Season
September 22nd was our Autumn Equinox, and for those of you living above the Equator, we begin our gradual transition into Fall and Winter, and with the changing winds, Vata, the elements of Air and Ether increase. You may feel dry, light and spacey or some even have mucus coming up or difficulties breathing. Mostly we experience a feeling of lightness in both mind and spirit, as well as body.
Tips to stay G R O U N D E D and calm!
- Phase out of raw foods, juices and cold, light and dry foods.
- Phase in warm soups, stews, cooked foods like mung beans, kitchari, lentils and plenty of healthy oils and ghee.
- Practice a daily routine and STICK with it, even if you do feel like you need to be flexible, do so, but within healthy rhythms, rhymes and routines!
- Oil your body with warm Sesame or almond oil before your bath.
- Meditate and Practice Gratitude, and be amazed at the gifts that flow into your life.
- Enjoy one of my yummy favorites: Chyvanprash, an Indian blend of many herbs and spices that are cooked to form a jam like paste and is delicious! Eat a teaspoon a day on warm bread, in oatmeal or even by itself. Very nuturing and nourishing.
Segmented Breathing for Steady Spirit
Sit in a comfortable seated pose
Hands on knees in Surya Mudra (Ring finger and thumb touching)
Eyes closed looking downward towards tip of nose
Inhale in 2, 4 or 8 distinct sniffs
Pause with breath in
Exhale in 4, 8 or 16 parts using abdominal muscles to aid in breath release
Pause with breath out
The ratio is 1:2, so for 2 inhales, you will exhale in 4 parts, etc.
Calmly do this for 3, 6 or 11 minutes daily to establish a calmer and stronger connection with your Parasympathetic system.
In our go, go, go world our Sympathetic Nervous system and the adrenal glands experience incredible stress and depletion. This simple pranayama (breath control) will help to “reset” the link between the systems and give relief to the Adrenal glands, as well it will ground Vata for the Fall.
By Dr. Mercola
Many people spend their lives waiting to be happy. You may think, “if
only I had more money,” or “could lose weight,” or you fill in the blank,
then I would be happy.
Well here’s a secret: you can be happy right now. It’s not always easy,
but you can choose to be happy, and in the vast majority of circumstances
there’s no one who can stop you except for yourself.
The truth is, happiness doesn’t come from wealth, perfect looks or even a
perfect relationship. Happiness comes from within. This is why, if you
truly want to be happy, you need to work on yourself, first.
22 Positive Habits of Happy People
What’s the secret to being happy? You can learn how to do it, just as you
can learn any other skill. Those who are happy tend to follow a certain
set of habits that create peace in their lives; if you learn to apply
these habits in your own life, there’s a good chance you’ll be happy too.
The featured article compiled 22 such behaviors that you can use to
enhance your life and your happiness:1
1. Let go of grudges
Forgiving and forgetting is necessary for your own happiness, as holding a
grudge means you’re also holding onto resentment, anger, hurt and other
negative emotions that are standing in the way of your own happiness.
Letting go of a grudge frees you from negativity and allows more space for
positive emotions to fill in.
2. Treat everyone with kindness
Kindness is not only contagious, it’s also proven to make you happier.
When you’re kind to others, your brain produces feel-good hormones and
neurotransmitters like serotonin and you’re able to build strong
relationships with others, fostering positive feelings all around.
3. Regard your problems as challenges
Change your internal dialogue so that anytime you have a “problem” you
view it as a challenge or a new opportunity to change your life for the
better. Eliminate the word “problem” from your mind entirely.
4. Express gratitude for what you have
People who are thankful for what they have are better able to cope with
stress, have more positive emotions, and are better able to reach their
goals. The best way to harness the positive power of gratitude is to keep
a gratitude journal or list, where you actively write down exactly what
you’re grateful for each day. Doing so has been linked to happier moods,
greater optimism and even better physical health.
5. Dream big
Go ahead and dream big, as you’ll be more likely to accomplish your goals.
Rather than limiting yourself, when you dream big you’re opening your mind
to a more optimistic, positive state where you have the power to achieve
virtually anything you desire.
6. Don’t sweat the small stuff
If the issue you’re mad about will be irrelevant a year, a month, a week
or even a day from now, why sweat it? Happy people know how to let life’s
daily irritations roll off their back.
7. Speak well of others
It may be tempting to gather around the office water cooler to get and
give the daily gossip, but talking negatively about others is like taking
a bath in negative emotions; your body soaks them up. Instead, make it a
point to only say positive, nice words about other people, and you’ll help
foster more positive thinking in your own life as well.
8. Avoid making excuses
It’s easy to blame others for your life’s failures, but doing so means
you’re unlikely to rise past them. Happy people take responsibility for
their mistakes and missteps, then use the failure as an opportunity to
change for the better.
9. Live in the present
Allow yourself to be immersed in whatever it is you’re doing right now,
and take time to really be in the present moment. Avoid replaying past
negative events in your head or worrying about the future; just savor
what’s going on in your life now.
10. Wake up at the same time every morning
Getting up at the same time every day (preferably an early time) is
deceptively simple. Doing so will help regulate your circadian rhythm so
you’ll have an easier time waking and likely feel more energized. Plus,
the habit of rising early every day is one shared by many successful
people, as it enhances your productivity and focus.
11. Don’t compare yourself to others
Your life is unique, so don’t measure your own worth by comparing yourself
to those around you. Even regarding yourself as better than your peers is
detrimental to your happiness, as you’re fostering judgmental feelings and
an unhealthy sense of superiority. Measure your own success based on your
progress alone, not that of others.
12. Surround yourself with positive people
The saying “misery loves company” is entirely true. That’s why you need to
choose friends who are optimistic and happy themselves, as you will be
surrounded with positive energy.
13. Realize that you don’t need others’ approval
It’s important to follow your own dreams and desires without letting
naysayers stand in your way. It’s fine to seek others’ opinions, but happy
people stay true to their own hearts and don’t get bogged down with the
need for outside approval.
14. Take time to listen
Listening helps you soak in the wisdom of others and allows you to quiet
your own mind at the same time. Intense listening can help you feel
content while helping you gain different perspectives.
15. Nurture social relationships
Positive social relationships are a key to happiness, so be sure you make
time to visit with friends, family and your significant other.
Meditation helps you keep your mind focused, calms your nerves and
supports inner peace. Research shows it can even lead to physical changes
in your brain that make you happier.
17. Eat well
What you eat directly impacts your mood and energy levels in both the
short and long term. Whereas eating right can prime your body and brain to
be in a focused, happy state, eating processed junk foods will leave you
sluggish and prone to chronic disease. My free nutrition plan is an
excellent tool to help you choose the best foods for both physical and
Exercise boosts levels of health-promoting brain chemicals like serotonin,
dopamine, and norepinephrine, which may help buffer some of the effects of
stress and also relieve some symptoms of depression. Rather than viewing
exercise as a medical tool to lose weight, prevent disease, and live
longer – all benefits that occur in the future – try viewing exercise as a
daily tool to immediately enhance your frame of mind, reduce stress and
19. Live minimally
Clutter has a way of sucking the energy right out of you and replacing it
with feelings of chaos. Clutter is an often-unrecognized source of stress
that prompts feelings of anxiety, frustration, distraction and even guilt,
so give your home and office a clutter makeover, purging it of the excess
papers, files, knick knacks and other “stuff” that not only takes up space
in your physical environment, but also in your mind.
20. Be honest
Every time you lie, your stress levels are likely to increase and your
self-esteem will crumble just a little bit more. Plus, if others find out
you’re a liar it will damage your personal and professional relationships.
Telling the truth, on the other hand, boosts your mental health and allows
others to build trust in you.
21. Establish personal control
Avoid letting other people dictate the way you live. Instead, establish
personal control in your life that allows you to fulfill your own goals
and dreams, as well as a great sense of personal self-worth.
22. Accept what cannot be changed
Everything in your life is not going to be perfect, and that’s perfectly
all right. Happy people learn to accept injustices and setbacks in their
life that they cannot change, and instead put their energy on changing
what they can control for the better.
Namaste fellow beings of light!
Utterly incredible that it has been a little over nine months since we shared. I had just moved to Cambridge, MA from Annapolis, MD, my home since 1982! Geez! It seemed so fitting to move north in the worst of the Blizzard of “11, 84 inches of snow total last winter. Yet I did not feel immersed in my new home, as I continued to travel back and forth to Maryland to complete the yoga teacher training that Paulette and I were teaching in St. Michael’s and each month from February to June, I was back in town, visiting friends and still keeping one foot in both camps.
April added the travel to Miami, FL for the beginning of Ayurvedic College, so now I really was not HERE, because I was either in MD or FL, and only here for a week or two each month. I had begun teaching my one and only Kundalini Yoga class at the beautiful Kundalini Yoga Boston Studio, and that was very grounding. But, really I was mentally and emotionally in the pseudo visitor mode. After June, with Summer Solstice in New Mexico, a visit to my sister in Arizona and my son visiting me here, well, the bulk of the travel stopped. Everyone graduated the Teacher training, June was done and suddenly, it was like my life here was staring me right in the face.
Thank God for summer, the weather had turned warm and beautiful, and people were out and I could sink my feet into my new “hood”. For weeks I was happy just to walk the town, hang out with my new friends and study. I had a LOT of studying to do, catching up and rewriting months of notes to ground myself in the previous four months of school.
Then, by the end of July a very weird thing began to grow inside of me. I found myself vacillating between relaxed peaceful joy and deep longing and sadness, a sort of melancholy began to drape itself over me like a dark cloak, and all the while I was struggling to understand myself. It began to feel extremely unsettling, I began to have huge sweeping times of self doubt that I had made a huge mistake to move, and yet underneath all of that, was a voice reminding me that this was exactly what I needed.
Daily I meditated, practiced yoga and began to write in my journal, practically feverishly to try to make sense out of this. Each month I travelled to Florida for school, and even there would experience waves of doubt/sadness and uncertainty. I felt completely unsettled, ungrounded and day by day it was increasing and a sense of inner peace was draining out of me and being replaced with a very uncomfortable feeling. I “knew” in my heart that I was exactly where I “needed” to be. But then, what was this?
I opened my eyes more to what messages were coming to me. I had begun several months ago to work with a Transformational Breather, and we had been working or rather I had been “breathing” with her for many months now. Perhaps this was a lot of old buried guck finally surfacing?
A powerful book by Adyashanti came to me, “The End of Your World”.
Yes, the end of my world as I had known it was present now. Every great spiritual writer I had ever read consistently said, if you want to grow, to really know yourSelf, you have to get uncomfortable. We don’t grow in our cozy cocoon, although that seems counterintuitive, doesn’t a butterfly develop there? But, yes, I had stepped WAY the hell out of my comfort zone for sure.
I remembered that part of moving meant letting go of all that I had known or rather all that I had felt was my security and stability. Leaving Annapolis, my home for nearly 30 years, where I had moved of my own choice right after college, where I had established my career, married, raised two amazing kids, divorced and re-established a new career and spiritual focus, clearly was beginning to impact me. What caught me by surprise, was that this was happening in August and I had moved in February. Ahhh, then it began to dawn on me, even though I had moved in February, I had not really MOVED yet in my heart. I had not let that cord, that attachment go yet.
Then it really began to hit me. Who was I now? Had it not occurred to me in Annapolis many times over, that even though I may have created a new life after our divorce, had I still not attached myself to that new life, to that new way of being, to that new identity as a yoga teacher? Now, here I was in a new town, where besides my daughter and two other people, no one knew me. I was in many ways anonymous.
I felt like a jellyfish, floating along with my roots or tentacles just swimming around not anchored in anything.
Life became a ride up and down, painful and happy, but this time, as compared to other times in my life, underneath it all, there was something different, that small voice was strong and was present. It told me to stay steady, to keep opening and allowing, just get bigger in your heart.
Face your fear, it is the opposite of LOVE, remember that, it said. Be in LOVE.
I talked with my mentor, my spiritual teachers, a shaman, and my dearest friends. Each was lovingly compassionate and supportive which helped me to know that I had within me the resources to fully experience that moment. There were many times that tears overwhelmed me, missing my son in Annapolis, missing my friends and our phenomenal yoga community. I realized that all those years of teaching, it was really ME who was fed so deeply from the well of their love. Teaching each class and joining together afterwards for tea, was my sadhana as much as theirs, in fact, it was for all of us. I missed the “things” that I “thought” made me feel secure, my home and the routines of town, running into friends in Whole Foods, at Starbucks, and meeting for lunches and dinners.
By the middle of August, my entire body erupted in a sort of energetic release and for 5 days all I could do was to literally SIT in it. It was powerful, painful and halting. It demanded my full and complete attention. The messages that came in were palpable.
I could not ignore, distract or indulge in anything except exactly what was happening. So, I made a LOT of room for IT to grow and grow. and when I let go and felt IT, and realized in my heart what IT was, I could release. IT said to me:
This is YOUR life, you are ROOTED in your HEART, it matters not where you live, you are always HOME inside of yourself.
Who you ARE is just that, you are that, only that and all of THAT which is, always was, always will be.
All is perfect, exactly as it is.
Just BE, that is all , just BE.
Stay deeply RELAXED, Serve, feel joy, make every moment count.
and my favorite, stop trying to figure it out, stop trying to control, make sense or organize it, let go, surrender, trust and go with it.
All of September, I strengthened my meditations, and began to open my self more and more to what was right in front of me, and my friendships here began to really expand. My heart and Soul began to soar.
I realized that I am HERE NOW, and not THERE anymore. Being here, means I am not there. It felt like letting something so huge go, but in that moment of letting it go, I was free to be where I needed to be and the knowingness that even with letting it go, did not mean I don’t love what is THERE, it just means that I am HERE. and here became in side of me, yet again.
I also saw how much I identified with my mind, my ego and that part of me that likes to organize and hold on. Letting go of that has strengthened a part of me that I did not know existed.
Stepping off of one support and floating in space in between before I could reach the other step, is what it has been like.
By October, when I returned to Annapolis, and was overwhelmed with the gifts of love and friendship and many unexpected sacred moments, I was at peace, with exactly where I am. I am grateful for my life and learning.
My encouragement to you, is if or when you experience great or small change, as much as we know it will involve a bit of “suffering”, that is small in comparison to the gift of expansion and grace we get when we Let Go, and Let God.
I hope to hear from you, and know, you are in my heart, wherever you are:)
in light and love
What kind of fabric are you wearing?
Are you aware that natural fabrics like cotton, silk, wool, linen and even bamboo create a feeling of ease on your skin and in your actual well being and that unnatural fabrics like polyester and many microfibers can create a feeling of un-ease? Often we fail to connect these ideas, that our general feeling of comfort and ease can be so intimately related to what we are wearing. Try noticing how you feel when you are in all natural fibers that work to naturally conduct your own bodies electromagnetic energy more smoothly and thus, your thinking and behaviors may become less prickly and agitated.
Massage is one of the most nourishing and nurturing things we can do for ourselves. For Vata and Kapha benefit most from sesame oil while Pitta thrives with almond or grapeseed. Mix in the above essential oils to create a smell that suits you and massage your body before your shower to allow the oils to penetrate deeply. At night, wash your feet in cold water and then massage with the oil for a relaxing and deep sleep. A dab of Brahmi oil on your Crown Chakra will also calm and ground a restless
mind. Dry brushing before oil is another great way to stimulate your skin and open the pores and release old cells.
Try this delicious and simple tea to gently pull some of the aam or toxins out while rebuilding your own capacity to digest, assimilate and eliminate! We often focus so much on detoxing that we don’t give enough credence to rasayana, the art of rebuilding our ojas or deep strength, vitality and glow. This simple tea is Tridoshic and will benefit most everyone. Always let me know if you experience any concerns and I will help modify it for you.
Tridoshic Detox/Fortifying Tea
6-8 cups pure clean water
1 heaping teaspoon organic cumin and fennel seeds
1 Tablespoon fresh cut or grated organic ginger root (scrubbed but does not have to be peeled)
Optional: 1 heaping teaspoon of Licorice powder for Pitta, Dashamoola for Vata or whole Cloves for Kapha
Grind your seeds and bring to a boil in the water. Sip throughout the day for a week or two. Great tea to take to work in a thermos or just sip when you feel sluggish, foggy, slow or burdened.
Licorice and dashamoola are available online through BanyanBotanicals.com
Springtime is filled with so many amazing smells!
Plant a container with fresh cilantro, parsley, basil, and dill and allow these healing herbs to grace your meals and kitchen or porch with their fragrance.
Take time each day, to smell at least one plant as you come and go from your home, where ever you are!! Look at the leaves, smell them and be amazed at the simplicity and power of smell!
Vata will love lavendar and cinnamon, Pitta will benefit from sandlewood
and rose and Kapha is uplifted by eucalyptus and cedar. Essential oils can be used
in the bath, mixed with an organic body oil or a drop or two mixed in water and
spritzed on your pillow for sound sleep. Natural beeswax candles with these natural
scents are good too.