Yoga Therapy & Astrology Posts

The book fell off the shelf and opened to this page when I picked it up.   When Things Fall Apart, Heart Advice for Difficult Times  by Pema Chodron   page 91

 

Spiritual awakening is frequently described as a journey to the top of a mountain.  We leave our attachments and our worldliness behind and slowly make our way to the top.  At the peak we have transcended all pain.  the only problem with this metaphor is that we leave all the others behind-our drunken brother, our schizophrenic sister, our tormented animals and friends.  Their suffering continues, unrelieved by our personal escape.

In the process of discovering bodhichitta, the journey goes down, not up.  It’s as if the mountain pointed toward the center of the earth instead of reaching into the sky.  Instead of transcending the suffering of all creatures, we move toward th turbulence and doubt.  We jump into it.  We slide into it.  We tiptoe into it.  We move toward it however we can.  We explore the reality and unpredictability of insecurity and pain, and we try not to push it away.  If it takes years, if it takes lifetimes, we let it be as it i9s.  At our own pace, without speed or aggression, we move down and down and down.  with us move millions of others, our companions in awakening from fear.  At the bottom we discover water, the healing water of bodhichitta.  Right down there in the thick of things, we discover the love that will not die.

That’s what we do in yoga therapy,  we dive down.   It’s an exhilarating journey, if you are on a path of spiritual awakening.  It doesn’t matter what shape you’re in, there’s a lot to learn and discover inside your self.

Join us this Fall for Yoga Therapy for Grandma, An Introductory Course   On Zoom.  Are you on the mailing list?

 

Ancient Wisdom Buddhism Yoga Yoga Therapy

Feeling kinda beat up, exhausted, and emptied out.  The adjectives attached to (Hurricane) Ida were quite negative and unpleasant to hear/read/see.  Verbal abuse from every quarter with no regard to my feelings.

As a facilitator for mind/body experiences it’s been a fruitful time to practice what I preach.  I watched myself talk back to the newscasters and explain why it could be a good thing to be:  relentless, forceful, and rapidly growing.  I tried not to take anything personally….nor, to swell with any pride about my strength, persistence, determination.

The story continues, and will for a while.  I think Ida will go in the history books for reasons we haven’t even realized yet.

 

As for me, my lunar return is in a few hours so the best self-care I can think of right now is a nap.  There’s a long to-do list waiting at the next new cycle.

more later….

 

Namaste.

Blogging The Lunar Cycle

I’ve been hearing and seeing my name on every type of media for days. Here’s an excerpt from my upcoming memoir:  Becoming Grandma.

 

 

 

 

Becoming Ida………………….

I’ve had a rocky relationship thru the years with my birth name, hating it, loving it, wanting to change it somehow, spell it different.  It’s such a simple name.  I’m anything but simple.

I was named after both Grandmothers.  Ida, was a derivative of Gaetana, my mother’s mother. Fae, the ‘middle’ name’ by spelling but meant to be attached to Ida as one name,  was my father’s mother, Fanny.  Both had passed on before my birth so I had no living role model for being  an Ida Fae.

As soon as I was old enough to read (early ‘50’s) I began to search for my name in print. I remember feeling sad that I could never find a magnet or a card or anything with my name printed on it.  My mother sent away for some small fabric labels with my name on it and sewed them on my clothing for sleep-away camp.  That didn’t count.

Throughout high school I did see my name in the newspapers a few times.  

It wasn’t as if kids made fun of me regarding my name.  I never experienced that. No.  My experience was more of an issue around being seen and heard and  feeling invisible. Who am I if my name isn’t included by those that make things with names on them?

Although I would not meet another Ida until I was 45, I met lots and lots of people who had an Aunt Ida, a grandmother Ida, or some other older elder who was greatly loved.  I never met anyone who didn’t like Ida if she had one in her life.  Hmmm.  I wonder how I’m doing?

The first significant meet-up with another woman named Ida happened at Kripalu Yoga Center during  one of my earlier visits.    And, then, again at Kripalu  I met a 2nd Ida.  We had a wild moment when all 3 of us were in the same place at the same time!  Their experiences of being named Ida was similar in context but not in content.

“Who I am”  would become a life-long search in and of itself.  Never mind that Ida is quite prominent in sanskrit.

Although I’ve traveled the country and a bit of the world in recent years, and I’ve yet to find a magnet, or a mug, or any kind of chachke or card for a generic Ida.

That said:

In 2009 Hurricane Ida hit the Jersey Shore.on the day before my birthday!  There were headlines everywhere.  “Ida’s Coming!” was one.  I couldn’t get out to buy the paper but it’s online here.    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Ida_%282009%29

In 2015, Ida won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

In 2016, I spotted this book in Barnes & Noble and Ida dies.  There was so much synchronicity for this story at that time that it’s hard to believe it’s coincidental.  The same could be said of the movie, too.

………..   end of excerpt

 

 

 

 

 

And now, Hurricane Ida…..strikes again.   Hard to be invisible these days.  I guess it’s time to re-think who I am.

Namaste.

 

Blogging Creative Non-Fiction

How to draw? Click here.

My love affair with geometric drawing continues with this recent rendition of a jaali screen with ‘tabla’ (drum) design found in Akbar’s Tomb, Northern India.

Drawing out dual-level patterns is another level of complexity that can be frustrating and satisfying at the same time.  Over time it’s easy to train the eye to see different levels or layers and inscribing that on a 2 dimensional piece of paper using just a compass and straight edge.   Measurements not allowed.  I completed the pencil drawing early May.  And then, as usual, it sat there, unpainted and ignored for months.  Each time I saw it in my unpainted stack I waited for inspiration to come.  I’ve looked at thousands of pictures of patterns and their coloring, or lack of.  So many possibilities!  Choosing colors is the best and most confusing part….there’s a beauty in every color when used creatively.

Then, after a stressful week of turmoil, grief, and exhaustion, I needed to play with my watercolors.  Just watching the water carry the pigment around is meditative and soothing.  No ‘trying’ to “paint a picture”.  Recognizing my turbulent mental state, I decided to limit my palette to only three colors. Structure helps.   However, at the very end of this process/painting I did add those antique gold lines for just a little bling.  Otherwise, it’s all about: Ultramarine Blue,  Yellow-Deep,   and Burnt Sienna  mixed in varying proportions. A lovely neutral palatte that eliminates all that unnecessary picking and choosing of what to dip the brush in….just mix…add water….paint…..repeat…    and there are no freehand or biomorphic swirls here either,  just lines. Follow the lines.   A Mindless, Magical, and mesmerizing meditation to paint.

It is all about the process and breathing thru it.  Yoga & Art…  Within each layer are mistakes, judgements, opinions on how it’s coming.  My attachment to ‘outcome’ rears it’s ugly head at times.  And, then I remember.  The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts.  The difficulty lies in when to put the brush down?  When is enough?  There is a line between too little and too much.  Looking for that middle ground where balance and harmony co-exist.  That’s art.

namaste, everyone.   stay safe.

Dharma Geometric Art StudioIFC Watercolors

Our one-day retreat during the Summer Solstice at the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ was a wonderful way to be together with my sangha after such a long, stressful separation.

We found a wonderful nearly-private space under a grove of Apple Trees and reconnected to nature, to those we know and love, and to strangers passing by.   We sat on the ground, picked at the grass, rolled around and rested in corpse pose. We practiced our co-listening skills by breaking into small groups and answering some thought provoking questions.   We sat in one big circle for breathing practices and meditation.   And then, we broke up for awhile and explored the grounds in what ever way we felt inspired to do so.  Some took pictures, drew sketchs, wrote in a journal.  Others used their time diffently.  All was perfect.

By the end of the day it was hard to say goodbye.  The connections we make with our spiritual tribes are deep, comforting, and nurturing to the human body/mind/spirit.  It’s just the way it is.

I’m looking forward to facilitating more events that help us move thru these unprecedented times.

We are in a process.  That process continues.  Breathe.

Remember the practices for the Brahma Vihari’s    “…the only emotions worth having”.

Om shanti.

 

REBIRTH
What brought you here? Rebirth: Kang Muxiang

 

As I was putting our curriculum together I was eager to find this sculpture.  Over the course of the day  as I wandered around I looked for it, with no success.   However, after we completed our final OM and said our goodbyes, and I dizzily headed towards my car  I saw it….re birth….and the others by the same artist….all in group, yet alone, too.    It was a perfect day.

 

 

Blogging Yoga Yoga Therapy

 

During the winter months I took a writing class with Ann Randolph and the prompt was

Think about a time that you were wild and green in the ways of the world…the whole world was before you, green a newness, a novice, sense of adventure, anything was possible…a curiousity, maybe stumbling and fumbling during this time too…excitement, anticipation, or maybe the wild and green in the ways of the world got you into trouble….if you think about the phrase Wild & green in the ways of the world…is there an openness & Curiosity to that now…and if so, what does the picture look like? we just to a future moment of being wild and green  in the ways of the world…what would it look like for you, in this case green= learning something new that brings you joy, delights you, brings you adventure? 

A month or so after that I participated in an online watercolor class where we would learn how to paint The Green Man using various techniques involving crackle paste, ink, and other stuff.  Purist that I am, I prefer to limit myself to one medium.  Choosing colors is complicated enough.  The Green Man is part of Celtic lore and gets Spring up and running. 

Green is the color that aligns best with the Heart (4th) Chakra. Anahat in Sanskrit. Within the heart space are the Four Immeasurables (also know as: heavenly or divine abodes, divine abidings, or the four Brahma Vihari’s.

Equanimity,

Compassion,

Sympathetic Joy,

Loving Kindness (Metta)

The philosophy and practices that focus on these four *states of being* have attracted millions of *followers* who *like* it a lot, to use a modern-day cliche. the instructions are simple. stabilize your mine through: mindfuness, or calm abiding, or meditation. Then bring each immeasurable to mind, first to yourself, always, and then over time extending out toward all sentient beings.

Many have said that these four are the only emotions worth having.

June 21 is the Summer Solstice and I guess I’ll have to find a different face to paint? For the solstice I will be facilitating a one day retreat at the Grounds for Sculpture. I can’t think of a better place to connect with nature, art, silence, space, and the heavenly abodes. Namaste.

Blogging Buddhism StudioIFC Watercolors

Drawing lines is (sometimes) easier than writing words. So I’m posting these pictures to show you what I’ve been doing  This video tells the whole story in 30 seconds.

The artist is Richard Henry and I’ve been taking courses at his school since the pandemic locked me down.  There’s something very soothing and fulfilling to drawing lines, straight & curvy.  Using a straight edge and striving for perfection can be easily witnessed.  And, letting go brings joy.   The whole of the process can be, and frequently is a meditation.

This particular geometric pattern falls into the category of 8-fold.   It’s a common pattern seen  and pictured here in an archway at .Humayan’s Tomb,  Delhi, India .

Often, it is used as a pattern for a jaali screen.  Here we use shades/blinds/curtains to adjust the amount of sunlight that enters a space.  In other places……jaali screens.    

This is as far as I’ve gotten.  Soon, it’ll be transfered to watercolor paper and then the fun really starts!

It’s a full moon…….  See the Light.

ps.  see that shaded out shape.  It’s called a tabla.             

Om shanti,

 

Geometric Art Watercolors Yoga

Hibernation ends for me with the advent of the Chinese New Year celebrated this year Feb 11 – 16.

I fell in love with many of the  ancient Chinese practices & beliefs while working as a real estate professional.  One of my most memorable experiences was the year I was a featured speaker at the state convention for the North Carolina Board of Realtors.  It was held in South Carolina, and so many of the attendees were from New Jersey.

The room was packed with many waiting outside and we quickly arranged for a second session.  My topic was Feng Shui & Real Estate, and I was ‘in my glory’.  Selling and listing and managing and administrating never brought me the delight that I experienced when speaking and teaching to a group on integrating ancient wisdom with modern-day sales.  I was a pioneer here and I loved it.

About 10 years after that convention my attention drifted from the far east to the nearer east as my yoga practice evolved into teaching.  The Hindu/Buddhist culture of India took hold as I immersed myself in vedanta, yoga & ayurveda. Vaastu Shastra is the vedic complement to Feng Shui . Both ask us to pay attention to our environments.  Coming from different parts of the globe, with different climates and cultures, they both developed a systematic way of looking at our spaces and bringing more consciousness to what we see/hear/feel/touch.  Seeing the connection between what is in the environment to what is in the body usually goes beyond our conscious awareness.  It takes discipline and training to *really see things as they are*.

Within our homes, we all have things we don’t want to see. Some of those things are hanging on our walls in plain sight.  Other things are tucked into the way back of drawers and closets.  But, according to the feng shui masters, out of sight is NOT out of mind. We still *know* it’s there and can feel the emotional pull of it’s ‘story’.  Addressing clutter is the first step to improving the chi/prana in your environment. Defining what is and what is not clutter may take some professional help? Long before Marie Kondo came on the scene teachers like myself were encouraging the public to clean up their space.

Astrology is also a major part of far east philosophies.  Both China & Tibet use a system 12-year repeating cycles.  Each cycle is an animal, which is then divided into 5 categories representing the five elements.  It’s unlike any other astrological system that came out of Babylonia, Greece, or India.  And, I don’t know much about it.  This year, 2021 is the year of the Ox and that’s me!  I was born an Ox, and if you were born in: 1937, 1949, 1961,1973,1985,1997,2009 or 2021 then you, too, are an Ox.   It’s possible that I’ll still be around for the next ox year,  2032, but I know not to count on that. So I am encouraged to celebrate myself for this whole year and live every day as best I can.

I’ll be incorporating these topics into our weekly classes and more specifically into this month’s workshop:

Inquire Within

Feb 21, 2021  1-4 pm

Hold the date.  Details to follow.  All Welcome.

 

Yoga

Tanpura - WikipediaIt was midnight of the third day when the chanting ended.  Jan 1, 2008.  We’d been at it, 2 hours on and 4 hours off, around the clock. After the first 24 hours I felt myself slipping into an altered state that felt amazing.  For the entire 3 days, the chant never left my mind…there was no room for discursive thinking, worrying, obsessing, analyzing, wondering,. There was no past, no future, just the chant. …there were no thoughts…just the chant…   Looking it up for the first time I discover that the moon was conjunct natal neptune/ketu.  It feels good to *know* that.

I was one of the musicians alternating between harmonium and tamboura.  This was my first time on a harmonium for ‘performance’ and I was nervous about that.  The tamboura however was sheer joy for the memories it brought up.  Years before I accompanied a local sitar player with his gig at the nearby Indian restaurant.  He needed the droning of a tamboura to play his best. He had one and taught me how to play it.   Loving all stringed instruments I was eager to learn and quickly mastered these 4 strings.

The tamboura I was handed at Kripalu was an entirely different instrument.  Little did I know that tamboura’s could be female, like the one I learned on, or male, like this gigantic gourd that was bigger than me!     The powerful, resonant, droning sound could project throughout the entire Main Chapel at Kripalu with only the most gentle touch.  I’m in trouble I thought, for I always err towards loud.

I was grateful for the time we spent together earlier getting to know each other, learning the chant, practicing with the instruments, and rehearsing the ‘changing of the chanters/musicians’ from one shift to another. Although I had received many invitations to join this team, I was only able to participate twice due to family responsibilities

I remember the first meeting of our team.  We sat in a circle on  dusty pink velour cushions and listened to Bhavani & Atma lay out the program and how it was going to work.  After time spent on the logistics, Bhavani brought out the instruments and introduced the chant.  I can still feel my excitement at being one of the musicians.   Although the Sanskrit was short and simple to say, the melody was difficult.  It required good breath control, along with some notes that were hard for me.  I was really impressed with those on the team that were the lead chanters and yearned for a voice as beautiful as theirs.

Over the course of the next three days we would chant Om Nimah Shivaya in Swami Kripalu’s chapel.    It was my favorite room in the whole building with it’s soft pink carpet and cushions.  The light wooden paneled wall behind the riser was rounded.   In one corner was a supply closet hidden behind a wooden door that matched the paneling.  On the other side was the space that housed the artifacts from Swami Kripalu’s time in the USA.  This was also the room where Amrit Desai, the founding Guru of Kripalu Center, would have his most intimate gatherings, I supposed.

On the last night, without missing a beat or a syllable, we moved ourselves to the expansive Main Chapel on the 2nd floor.   The backdrop to the riser we were sitting on displayed a huge OM symbol. Behind the OM backdrop is a mosaic left behind by the Jesuits who previously owned the property   The alcoves on both sides were open with the a/v station on the left.  I am sure that it looks very different today.

Everyone from the surrounding area of Lenox was invited for the final 2 hours of live chant and they began arriving soon after we began.  Slowly the room filled while all 20+ of us, all dressed in white chanted away.  I was grateful not to be the tamboura player for that last session as I was so high from bliss using a “gentle touch” would have been impossible.

There were easily 500 people on the floor in front of us all chanting and swaying away.  I saw thefamiliar faces of teachers, mentors, fellow students, and strangers that I have come to love in my years there.  The entire room was one with the chant.  You could feel it.  Everywhere.  Surrounded by sound & vibrations.

And then,

finally,

we chanted the final Om.

I understand now how “Silence is deafening”.

I don’t have the words to describe the exquisite experience of those silent minutes.  I don’t remember how long it lasted.  It might’ve been 2 or 20 minutes?  Time stopped.  Tears streamed down my face adding to sensory experience of this silence.  It became easy to understand the devotional Bhakti path if this was the reward for practice.  Of course, I had been immersed in it for 72 hours, not 2, a realization that took some time to comprehend.

Eventually, the sounds of bodies moving and voices whispering spread throughout the room.  Most of the audience had only joined in for 2 hours and maybe occasionally during the 3 days in the other chapel.  I wondered if they were feeling what I was feeling.  There was no way to know.

It didn’t take too long for the holiday cacophony to erupt.  It was New Year’s Eve and the kitchen had prepared a feast that everyone was eager to partake.  I didn’t have a bite.  Even though I hadn’t eaten much that day, I was filled up with something that left no room for food.

The next day, we met again to say goodbye and share our experience of that year’s Saptah.  After the hugs I floated out of the building and made my way back home, a 4 hour drive.

 

This year Bhavani & Atma will be leading the Saptah Chant on Zoom & on Facebook.  I’m excited to participate in this way!  I don’t have a tamboura or a harmonium, so I’ll use my harp & a drum for some musical accompaniment.  The chant itself is a difficult one and requires a lot of practice to do it well.  At least that’s how I felt about it 10 years ago.  That said, the melody has never left my mind even though I haven’t heard it anywhere since that night in the Main Chapel.

I’m not sure how long they’ll keep the Facebook link live.  There may be some issues around “recording” this particular melody?  That said, I’d recommend to those who are serious about their seeking to keep the chant on repeat until the clock strikes midnight of 2021.  Om Nimah Shivaya.  Jai Bhagwan.  Jai Gurudev.  Namaste.

Blogging journal entry Music Teachers Yoga

May I be a guard for those who need protection

A guide for those on the path

A boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood

May I be a lamp in the darkness

A resting place for the weary

A healing medicine for all who are sick

A vase of plenty, a tree of miracles

And for the boundless multitudes of living beings

May I bring sustenance and awakening

Enduring like the earth and sky

Until all beings are freed from sorrow

And all are awakened.

Shantideva    6th century sage

Yoga