Once More With Feelings …

I’m feeling some deep, heavy feelings.  This moment feels choked with them, almost as much as my throat and my thought bubbles are.  I was wondering if it is a result of all this tension at Kanekiki, but when I sat with that thought, I discovered that those experiences are merely flavoring the soup … they aren’t the stock.

I have decided the best way for me to work through this emotional experience is just to dive into it and swim about and see what greets me.  This is never easy for me.  In fact, I think the fact that it isn’t easy is a huge component of what makes it so powerful and so necessary.  I feel Pele is working on me again.  It’s like she’s giving me one more big, beautiful, painful gift before I leave Her island.

And while I’m thinking about the fact that I’m leaving this place, I am recognizing that I have so much sadness and apprehension around this leaving.  I feel an umbilical attachment to this place that keeps telling me I haven’t finished feeding yet.

I feel a strong attachment to the idea of coming back here … sooner than later.  And coming back to Hilo, not Kanekiki.  While I appreciate so many of the charms of the farm and of Puna, it is not where my heart feels most full.  And it is only when I remove myself from it that I am able to fully recognize this.  I feel sadness for the sadness that this news might elicit from some of the people at the farm.  I feel a strong surge of gratitude for the relationships with which I’ve been gifted during my time there.

One thing I am feeling pretty strongly right now is a growing sorrow and anguish surrounding my relationship with one particular friend.  I’m feeling joy and love, too, though.  It’s become very clear to me how much I honor and appreciate this friendship.  Recently my friend set off to explore some new opportunities.  These explorations appear to be leading to a new path for my friend, one that is less concurrent with mine.  I am facing some strong feelings of personal irrelevance, separation anxiety, and even heartbreak.  I’m delighted that my friend is being embraced by a community that is supportive in so many new and wonderful ways.  I must be honest and confess that I also feel jealousy that I am not finding this for myself so easily.  And I feel some pretty unexpectedly powerful sadness at the idea that do not seem to have as prominent a place in my friend’s life now.

I recognize that this is part of the ebb and flow of life.  I recognize that sometimes we are aligned with certain people during certain experiences to share and gain certain gifts, and that once those gifts have been processed and those experiences navigated, it is sometimes time to move on to whatever comes next.  It is not definitive that this relationship is complete at this time.  But, either way, I am learning the importance of taking time to mourn when I have needs that do not get met, or do not get met in my preferred way(s).  It’s up to me to seek out other strategies for meeting my needs.  It is not for anyone else to meet my needs.  It is not for anyone else to provide for my fulfillment.  That is my job, and my job alone.  Others might willingly contribute to my joy as they are walking their paths alongside me, but, ultimately, only I can make sure I am making choices that bring me joy.

I’m in Hilo this Sunday morning.  On my own after two nights with some other friends here in town.  Tonight I stay in the hostel.  I’m having a second breakfast at a local cafe.  I’m writing my feelings and eating my meal amid the din and kinetic energy of the Sunday morning crowd.  I’m recognizing just how much soul nourishment I get from being here … being a part of the flow of the moment.  I feel more connected, right here, right now, to the world community and the flow of life than I have in all my time at the farm.  What a strange and unexpected awareness.  What a welcomed clue to help me make the decisions soon awaiting me.

This is becoming clear:  I don’t want to invest in Kanekiki.  I don’t want to commit to one particular way of life or way of being.  I don’t want to root down in any one particular place.  (How many times must I learn this lesson?)  I want to experience so much more.  I want to make my decisions in the moment, as options arise and as my feelings and needs dictate.  

I am choosing to eat a cooked [vegan] breakfast this morning without shame or guilt or fear, because it sounds good right now.  And I will let it nourish me in the ways that only this meal can.  It might not be the optimum choice for my physical nourishment, but it provides a less tangible form of nourishment for me:  It feeds a part of my soul that is needing this particular kind of sustenance in this particular moment.

I had a wave of awareness wash over me as I was walking to town this morning.  I became aware, in a very powerful and specific way, that I want money in my life.  I want abundance.  I am ready to be a magnet for money, and I am retraining my thoughts and patterns toward abundance and away from the scarcity mentality that I’ve been carrying like an albatross for most of my life previous.  (Another recurring lesson!)

I recognize that I am coming to many of the same understandings that my friend has come to this same weekend.  We are receiving similar messages from different sources.  She is getting hers from a group of new friends and new adventures, and I am getting mine from a room full of strangers and a few stolen moments with my Self.

I’m feeling inspired to create a life of wealth and passion and joy.  I am feeling inspired to rediscover my passions.  I am feeling inspired to define my life by what makes me feel most alive.  And to redefine it moment by moment as I grow and evolve and transform.  As with most of the influential experiences in my life, my time in Hawaii is proving to be a chrysalis for some very potent and transformative growth.

I am so grateful.  I am grateful to Pele.  I am grateful to Hawaii and her inhabitants.  I am grateful to the ocean.  I am grateful to Kanekiki and everyone who has touched my life there.  I am grateful to my family and friends who continue to support and love me no matter how strange my thoughts, words, and actions might seem to them.  I am grateful to my Self for being able to navigate these experiences, and for being open enough to go through this learning process and to allow this growth.  I am grateful for being brave enough to be with my discomfort and my fear and to nurture these feelings and appreciate them and give them voice to share their stories with me.  I am grateful for this moment.  I am grateful for this life.

New Year Resolutions – 2017 Edition

It’s January!  My word, but the passage of time seems to move faster and faster in this age of immediacy.  This is one more reason that I am so grateful to be living in a place that keeps a slower pace.  (Thank you, Kanekiki, and thank you, Big Island Hawaii!)

As per usual, I have compiled a list of Resolutions for this fledgling year.  As a reminder, I view Resolutions in what I believe to be a purer view than most tend to do these days.  To make a Resolution simply means to resolve to do something.  It’s basically like making an agreement with myself.  And since the agreement is with myself, I can make the executive decision to allow these Resolutions to change and evolve over time if I’m so inclined.  After all, I will be changing and evolving throughout the year.  Why shouldn’t my Goals?

I also like to remind myself that Resolutions, as I put them forth, are Goals intended to cultivate more bliss, passion, health, and love into my life.  These are not chores.  These are gifts.  Gifts I’m giving my Self.

So, here are my Resolutions for 2017.  There are fewer than in years past.  I think this is largely because I am living a more authentically blissful and healthy life, so I need fewer Goals to bring more of this magick into my life.  And that, to me, shows me that my Resolutions have been working for me.

2017 RESOLUTIONS

  1. I resolve to continue to build my personal yoga practice.  Asanas 6 days a week.  Working up to alternating the full Ashtanga primary sequence with the full Sivananda sequence by year’s end + daily pranayama + PT/abs exercises.
  2. Cultivate full and easy lexicon of Nonviolent (Compassionate) Communication (“Giraffe” language).  Practice communicating with NVC enough so that it becomes my natural language.
  3. Hike as much of the Appalachian Trail as brings me joy!
  4. Get a reliable, mechanically awesome truck.
  5. Stay low fat, raw vegan all year … joyfully!
  6. Build my Experiments In Bliss business so that it’s both enjoyable and profitable.  Make at least $X/week from online business by year’s end.  Publish three ebooks:  recipe book, raw vegan holidays book, Living in Bliss book.
  7. Meditate daily on love, gratitude, bliss, and/or peace.

That’s it.  Simple and sweet and sure to help me continue to live the most blissful, healthy, abundant, love-infused life ever!

Happy new year, beautiful beings!

Namaste,

Melanie

Best Skincare Practices + DIY Home Facial 

 

 

Today I’m going to share some of my best skincare practices with you.  Being a skincare professional as well as a woman of a certain age, I have tried a plethora of potions and notions to try to keep my skin as healthy and happy as possible.  Through years of research and trial and error (and, eventually, success!) I have developed a pretty fool-proof plan to keep my skin looking and feeling young, beautiful and glowing.  In fact, I get compliments on my skin all the time – even from strangers on the street!  People are often surprised to know my age when I divulge it, commenting that I look so much younger.  I’m constantly being asked what my secret is.  And the answer is …

… it’s no secret at all!  It’s good, simple, healthy living!  There is a caveat with that, though.  “Good, simple, healthy living” means different things to different people.  In many cases, what is commonly believed to be healthy and natural is simply not so.  It is just the current conditioned way of perceiving healthy and natural.  I truly believe that the way I live is in much closer alignment to true and natural health, and that shows in my appearance.  To that end, I’m going to share my not-so-secret secrets for amazing skin with you right here and right now!  Plus, as a special bonus, just because I like you, I’m going to include my favorite DIY home facial regimen for all skin types at the end of the post … so keep reading!

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My Best Skincare Practices are:

  1. Get a lot of good quality sleep!  I aim for ten hours of sleep every night.  Most people really need between 8 and 12 hours of good sleep nightly for optimal health (and optimal skin), despite what the current accepted ‘wisdom’ tells us.  It’s during sleep that our bodies are given the time and rest needed to make repairs and manufacture new cells.  This is the time of elastin and collagen production, which are two very important components of firmer, more resilient skin.  It’s also the time for repairing things like scars and discoloration and, yes, pimples.  Give your body the time and rest it needs to heal itself and you will see miraculous results!
  2. Eat fresh, ripe fruits and vegetables!  Eating a low fat raw vegan diet consisting mostly of sweet fruits and tender leafy greens is ideal.  Everyone I see transitioning to this more natural way of eating very quickly develops the same amazing results:  a clearing of blemishes, the return of a rosy bloom to the complexion, and a healthy glow that instantly makes them look younger and incredibly beautiful and vital.  It never ceases to amaze me the transformations that can take place in one’s appearance with such a simple (and delicious) change in diet.  However, if you are unable or unwilling to consume only ripe, raw fruits and vegetables, then at least add more of these amazing foods into your daily diet.  Try eating a smoothie bowl for breakfast made from a blender full of ripe sweet fruits like bananas, mangos or papayas.  Then have four or five oranges before lunch.  Add a large green salad with dinner.  Your skin (and the rest of your body) will thank you for it.
  3. Stay hydrated!  If you are already eating a largely fruitarian diet, you will already likely be as hydrated as you need to be.  But, if you’re eating any foods other than ripe, raw fruits and tender leafy greens, then you will likely need to supplement your diet with lots of liquids.  Purified water or spring water from the source are, of course, ideal options.  Herbal teas and  fresh squeezed fruit juices are good secondary options.  Generally speaking, the drier your insides, the drier your outsides.  And the drier your skin, the more wrinkles you develop, the more congested your face is (read: more pimples), and the more likely your skin is to flake and crack.
  4. Use less stuff on your skin!  I know this one might sound a bit radical what with people everywhere telling us we need tons of different products to fix tons of different problems.  But I’m here to tell you, the less you put on your skin, the more beautiful and healthy it will be.  When we apply a specific packaged product designed for a specific targeted need, our skin has to work hard to filter out all the extra preservatives and emulsifiers and various and sundry other chemicals (natural and/or synthetic) that it doesn’t need in order to make use of the ‘action’ ingredients for which we bought the product.  Those action ingredients may or may not give you the results promised, but with the use of these products come new problems as a result of the toxic byproducts caused by our skin processing all those chemicals.  What cosmetics companies don’t want you to realize is that using all these fancy specialized products actually cause our skin to look worse in the long run than using nothing at all.  A person who is living in optimum health will have naturally beautiful, healthy, young-looking, glowing skin.  Plain and simple.  However, if you are not living in optimum health, as many people in modern society are not, there are simpler ways you can address some of those negative effects of less healthy living.  Don’t wear makeup.  Or, at least don’t wear a lot of it.  If you must use makeup, stick to things like mascara, eye liner and lipstick.  This will allow you to play with a number of makeup looks without adding too many chemicals to your skin.  Also, use simple, natural foods when caring for your skin.  Yes, foods.  Your skin absorbs everything you put on it and sends it into your body for processing, so keep your skincare products simple and clean.  Check my DIY Home Facial below for ideas on what to use to clean, treat and pamper your skin in a healthier, more natural way.
  5. Get regular sunshine!  Yes, I know, the current recommendations are to keep skin always protected from sunshine.  But this is faulty logic.  This is blaming the sun for the sins of the unnatural and unhealthy lifestyle.  Sun doesn’t cause cancer.  Exposure to sun can exacerbate already unhealthy cells in a body that eats a standard modern diet, gets too little and/or poor quality sleep, endures unnecessary stress, and takes in toxins by the boatload in the form of cleaning products, personal care products, recycled air, automobile exhaust, and even the sunscreen they are told will help protect them from the very cancer it contributes to.  But the sun, itself doesn’t cause cancer.  Our bodies are designed to work in harmonious conjunction with sunshine.  It is understood that the Cradle of Life, the birthplace of the human species – was a warm, tropical environment.  Our physiology suggests that we are designed for warm, tropical living.  Our body relies on regular direct sun exposure to perform vital bodily functions.  It is unhealthy and unnatural to deprive our skin of that regular direct exposure.  So, here’s my recommendation:  If you are living a healthy, low fat raw vegan lifestyle, then don’t wear sunscreen … ever.  If you are living a lifestyle in which you are eating fast food, meats, dairy, lots of cooked meals, and lots of fats, are overworking, over-stressing, under-resting, are perpetually dehydrated, and using a lot of commercial products for home and body, then use sunscreen.  But, regardless of your lifestyle, give yourself at least 10-20 minutes a day – every day if possible – of direct sun exposure without sunscreen.
  6. Find ways to increase mental and emotional poise.  This is a fancy way of saying ‘relax’.  Learn to cultivate equanimity in the midst of the chaos and tension of modern life.  Practice yoga, do some breathing exercises, meditate, journal, take walks … whatever it is that allows you to decompress and detach from your monkey mind … do that.  The stress you carry in your life shows up on your face.

There you have it.  It’s simple, really.  It’s like I always say:  We tend to get healthier, happier and more radiantly beautiful the closer we live in accordance with the Natural Order.  Find that alignment with Nature in simple living:  eating raw fruits and greens, lightening your load with minimalism, finding center with meditation, breathing fully, getting good and ample rest, smiling and laughing often.  Using our natural resources to cultivate health and wellness is always a good way to live.

As promised, here’s a good, simple go-to DIY home facial regimen for those who are looking for one.  Admittedly, if you are living a fully raw, Naturally-aligned lifestyle you will not need to do even this much work for pristine skin.  Still, it’s a nice way to treat yourself to a little indulgent self-care when you’re feeling in the mood to be pampered.  If you are not living a fully raw, Naturally-aligned lifestyle, as most people are not, then you will benefit a great deal from implementing this facial regimen into your regular practice.  In fact, you can mix and match pieces of it to create your own daily skin care routine that will leave your skin glowing with health and vitality, not weighed down with chemicals and toxic byproducts from the commercial tinctures, creams, lotions and potions sold in most boutiques and chain stores.  Enjoy!

 

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DIY HOME FACIAL

  • CLEANSE – The best cleanser I’ve found anywhere is raw honey.  Apply in gentle circles for approximately one minute and rinse completely with water.  It works for all skin types.  It’s antifungal, antibacterial, antiseptic, and antimicrobial which make it great for oily and acne-prone skin types.  I recommend raw honey because it still has those wonderful enzymes in tact which provide exfoliating and skin softening power.  It’s got humectant properties which make it great for dry and mature skin types.  It’s inexpensive and readily available. There is, however, an ethical question to ask when choosing whether or not to use honey.  Honey is one of those “gray area” subjects in the vegan world.  On the one hand, it takes a lot of bees a great deal of time and energy to produce even a small amount of honey.  For humans to take that honey – and in great quantities – is exploitative.  On the other hand, bee populations have been dwindling at alarming rates in recent years.  Many beekeepers are taking on the role of stewards for the bee population as a whole, fostering careful colony expansion and cultivating species growth.  These beekeepers are supported, often, at least, in part, by the sale of honey produced by the bees for which they are caring.  It is up to every individual to decide if honey is an appropriate product for humans to consume.  If you decide to use honey, I strongly recommend purchasing it from a small-scale local beekeeper who uses ethical beekeeping practices.  If you choose NOT to use honey, African black soap is an awesome alternative that is totally vegan.  It can be slightly drying to some skin types, but is still an all-around excellent cleanser.
  • EXFOLIATE:  finely ground oats (preferably organic) OR baking soda – Mix with a little water or 100% aloe vera juice or coconut milk to make a paste.  Apply in gentle circular massaging motions.  Rinse completely with water.  *If in a hurry you can combine the oats and honey together for an exfoliating cleanser*
  • MASK:  For inflammation/heat:  cucumber – Peel and thinly slice cucumber (preferably organic).  Apply thin slices all over face.  Leave on for 10-30 minutes while you lie back and relax.
  • MASK:  For acne/congestion:  betonite (or other) clay – mix with a little water or coconut water to make a paste.  Apply to face all over OR just in areas of congestion/breakout.  Leave on until it is just shy of dry.  You will feel it beginning to draw and tighten the skin.  Rinse with water.

*Masks do not need to be used super regularly.  At most, I would do one or both of these once a week, but it’s fine to do them once a month or not at all.

  • TONER:  rose water or 100% aloe vera juice (or a mix of both) or witch hazel – Apply via spray or cotton round before moisturizing.  This will help to soothe any irritation and calm redness.
  • DAY MOISTURIZER:  jojoba oil, or any lighter oil (sunflower, grapeseed, sesame, apricot kernel, etc.), or De La Terre Sun Diffuser – Apply all over to face, neck and décolleté. (De La Terre is a holistic skincare line out of Asheville, NC.  It’s a bit pricey, but the products are super pure and simple and based around herbs, clays and oils.)
  • NIGHT MOISTURIZER:  coconut oil or shea butter (or a mixture of the two) – Apply all over to face, neck and décolleté. You can enhance the effectiveness of the night moisturizer by mixing coconut oil and shea butter, then warming them in a double boiler and adding some lavender oil and lemon balm.  Once they’ve cooled, you can then put the mixture in an airtight container (preferably glass) and apply as needed.  The lemon balm will reduce inflammation and acts as a good preservative due to its high antioxidant activity, and the lavender helps soothe inflammation/irritation and promotes skin cell regeneration.  Plus, it smells nice.  You can also just use the De La Terre Sun Diffuser if you like it, followed by the De La Terre Balm (for drier or more mature skin).

The Art of Letting Go

Aloha!  I was cleaning out my computer today (a process that will no doubt take longer than today), and I stumbled upon a blog entry I wrote back in July of this year.  It seems that I wrote the post with the intention of sharing it, but I failed to post it.  So, with a toast to the Better Late Than Never crowd, here it is.  I hope you enjoy it!

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Banksy’s Letting Go

Today I want to talk with you about the art of letting go.  I have been doing a great deal of letting go in the past month.  And while I am no expert, I have managed to learn a few things while navigating the waters of this often difficult challenge.

For starters, I’ve been letting go of a lot of material belongings.  I am getting ready to travel for several months, and it just made sense to use this as a catalyst toward a more minimalist existence.   I’ve done this purging before, mind you, but, somehow, in the meantime, I managed to amass more stuff.  (The powers of consumerism are alive and well.)  This has been my chance to lighten the load again … significantly.  I’ve sold, donated or dumped almost all of my earthly possessions.  I’m now down to a mattress, a mirror, a TV and a bookshelf.  And at the end of next month, all those items, save the mattress, will be happily at home with family members who will be able to enjoy them in my absence.  The mattress will be stored at a friend’s house.  I will be living out of a 19L backpack and a lightweight tote bag for at least the next four months.  Letting go of a lot of this stuff was easy, but there were several bits and bobs that had strong sentimental attachments.  These items were most difficult to set free.  When faced with these items, I just reminded myself that the object wasn’t the memory.  The memory I carry inside me.  The object is just a reminder of it.  So, if it was a really strong attachment, I would photograph the object.  Then I could still look to it to spark that memory anytime I wanted without needing to hold on to the object itself.

Another way I’ve been letting go is a bit more personal.  I’ve been reading through all my old journals.  I’ve been writing in journals – off and on – since high school.  (Well, I did have a diary when I was even younger, but it’s secrets have long been lost.)  It’s been a very sobering lesson in self-awareness and a fascinating experience in tracking my growth.  The goal was to read through all of them and then ceremoniously destroy them by burning the pages, thus releasing all the angst of my younger days from my present life.  As I’ve been reading, I’ve noticed my Self attaching to some of them, while others are having no hold over me whatsoever.  (In fact, there are more than a few that I am delighted to have removed from the world.)  A part of me is really ready to release these old stories into the Universe to rid my connection to them and allow for new change and new growth and new stories.  Yet, another part of me wants to continue to hold them so that I can read them again later and remind my Self how far I’ve come on this journey of Life.  Alas, I suppose I will make that final decision when I’m finished reading them all.  The important thing for me is not to get rid of everything, necessarily.  It’s to let go of the things that do not bring me daily joy.  It’s about releasing those things that might be holding me back from living a life that truly excites and fulfills me.

Last week, I had to say goodbye to my beloved bunny companion, Anisette.  That was the hardest challenge of them all.  But, in my heart, I know that it was the best thing for both of us.  She was very, very old and her quality of life had begun to really deteriorate.  I couldn’t allow myself to prolong her suffering out of my own selfish desire to keep her around for my needs.  We got to spend some good quality time together in the days leading up to her death.  I tried to focus on how lucky we were to have shared our life paths for so long.  And in my grief over her absence I am trying to focus on the love that we created together in our little family of two.  That love will always live with me, and will make my heart stronger so that I might share more love with others I meet.

While letting go can be a super difficult process, it is also a great teachable moment.  It is only in letting go of those things whose time has passed, that we can open up enough space for new opportunities and connections to arrive.  This is growth.  Just like plants need to be pruned occasionally to encourage new and fuller foliage, so do we need to periodically cut away the ballast to encourage new adventures and experiences.

What are your experiences with letting go?  How have you handled them?  Please feel encouraged to share your stories in the comments below.

Much love!

Melanie

Experiments in … Creative Expression

I thought I’d offer up a little poem today.  This is both to celebrate the bliss of creative expression, and to act as a nod to my continuation down the path of the Road to Minimalism.  I hope you enjoy it.

Aloha!

A GOOD CLEANING IS IN ORDER

digging through the trunks of my past
filled to overflowing
worn out versions of myself
crammed semi-neatly
in the attic, the closet, the garage
dust mixes with humidity
the slimy grime
leaves a residue on my skin
filmy memories cover my eyes
like used contacts
skewing my vision til I can see
the ghosts of my life
all around me
shades of the people, places, experiences
that have touched me
and shaped me
molding me – creating me
so many moments tucked away
trapped in these trunks and boxes
carelessly, or selfishly,
I’d forgotten they were here
wasting reminders that rattle
their chains in my dark quiet places
I know now what is to be done
the time has finally come
a good cleaning is in order
so, gingerly, I pack up these memories
I embrace these old ghosts
and thank them
and release them out into the world
I sweep away the cobwebs
open the shutters
and let the light bathe me
in the promise of new treasures
to come.

Let’s Learn About Yoga! (Part 1)

Being that this is a blog about my experiments for cultivating more bliss in my life, I feel like it’s high time I do some posting about one of the experiments that has been consistently paying off for me:  Yoga!

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I plan to cover this very broad topic in a series of posts, so be sure to check back often for more yoga talk.  For now, we’ll begin with some basics …

Yoga, as many people will already know, translates to union.  To practice Yoga is to practice the unification of body, mind and spirit.  We practice asanas (postures) to tonify the body.  We practice meditation to clarify the mind.  And we practice pranayama (breathwork) to purify the spirit.  This all leads us toward samadhi or enlightened connection with the divine.

Yoga, itself, has become a pretty vulgarized philosophy these days.  We westerners have picked at it, like the culture vultures we are, and pieced it together to suit our own modern needs.  And just to be clear, I think that’s okay.  That works for some people.  It works for me, sometimes.  But I also think it can be helpful to at least have a basic working knowledge of a thing before it gets restructured into something else entirely.

So, today’s blog post is about sharing a basic understanding of the foundations of Yoga.

I’m going to keep this pretty simple since this is a blog post, not an encyclopedia entry.  However, the philosophy of Yoga is vast and, in my opinion, worth exploring if you get a little free time in your days.

Let’s begin with the 8 LIMBS OF YOGA.  These 8 limbs consist of practical steps for working toward enlightenment.

8 LIMBS OF YOGA:

  1. Yamas
  2. Niyamas
  3. Asana
  4. Pranayama
  5. Pratyahara
  6. Dharana
  7. Dhyana
  8. Samadhi

Let’s learn what each of these lovely sanskrit words actually mean, shall we?

  1. Yamas – These are universal ethical recommendations.  They are designed to make us better contributing members to the World Community.  The more people who practice these moral recommendations, the healthier and happier the World Community becomes.  There are 5 Yamas:
  1. Ahimsa – Ahimsa literally means an absence of violence toward others.  This can be expanded to include not just a lack of physical and/or verbal violence, but also a general compassion and kindness towards all sentient beings including one’s own self.  This concept also means adopting an attitude of thoughtfulness about how one’s words and actions affect others.
  2. Satya – Satya means truthfulness.  It is the idea that it is best to express one’s Self authentically in all interactions.  The one caveat is that speaking your truth should never inhibit your ability to practice ahimsa.  If speaking your truth is likely to cause great pain to another, then it might be best to abstain from speaking altogether.  More simply stated, sometimes if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.
  3. Asteya – Asteya is the Yogic equivalent of “thou shalt not steal.”  This includes, of course, material items, but also applies to ideas (intellectual property), proprietary information (secrets), and even others’ attention (the old ‘bait and switch’ schemes).  Aside from the notion of taking from others, asteya also urges us against using the property of others in ways other than their intended purpose, or beyond the expected time of use.
  4. Brahmacharya – This yama is most commonly associated with sexual abstinence, but that is a limited interpretation.  Brahmacharya teaches us that it is best to be conscious about how we utilize our personal energies.  To throw away our energy freely and recklessly, either through meaningless sexual encounters or through over-committing to too many projects, is to further segregate ourselves from the divine.  It is best to be impeccable with how we offer our energies to the world.
  5. Aparigraha – The lessons of aparigraha are two-fold.  First of all, this yama is an advocate of minimalism.  We are cautioned against hoarding and greed with both material items and situations.  Aparigraha teaches us that if we burden ourselves with too many things, we leave no opportunity for the Universe to provide for us, and, therefore, implies a lack of faith in divine providence.  The second piece of this yama is the notion of only taking that which has been earned.  We are cautioned here, too, of the inappropriateness of taking advantage of that which has been produced by others.

2. Niyamas – Where the yamas provide a universal ethical code, the niyamas offer us a personal code of conduct.  These basically make up a how-to for living a happy, healthy, productive life.  There are 5 Niyamas:

  1. Sauca – Sauca is about purity.  Purifying our external environment means cleaning our living space, getting organized and decluttering.  The same can be applied to our internal environment, as well.  Cleaning up our bodies with proper diet, hydration, sleep, exercise and other practices that increase optimal physical functioning is always advisable.  (Using practices like asana and pranayama can help here.)  Likewise cultivating purity of mind and spirit can bring us great benefit. Speaking in positives rather than negatives, utilizing affirmations, practicing meditation, and so forth are invaluable tools when putting sauca into practice.
  2. Santosa – Contentment is the gist of santosa.  This niyama encourages us to cultivate equanimity even in the face of challenge.  Doing so reminds us that the Universe is always conspiring to bring us to our Highest Good, and even our challenges are part of that process.  Everything happens for a reason.  The Yogis refer to this concept as karma.  This doesn’t mean that we lie down when we’re being kicked, but rather that we take what actions we can, and accept with gratitude what remains, trusting that all will unfold to our greatest good.
  3. Tapas – The lesson tapas teaches us is how to cultivate and control our internal fires.  These fires are both physiological – the digestive fires, the kundalini energy – and mental/spiritual – namely, our passions.  Tapas relays the importance of stoking and directing these fires with self-discipline.  The ultimate goal is a transcendence of suffering as we align ourselves with our highest purpose and passion.
  4. Svadhyaya – Svadhyaya translates to self-study.  If we regularly redirect our attentions to ourselves, we are given the opportunity to learn about, and to address, recurring patterns and limitations.  This is the way we grow.
  5. Isvarapranidhana – This niyama can be summed up quite nicely by quoting George Michael:  “You gotta have faith!”  Isvarapranidhana is the acceptance of and reverence for a higher power or creative force.  It could mean a belief in a monotheistic god, polytheistic pantheon, the Natural Order, or even Science.  It is the recognition that that force is present in all of creation – that we are all one, and the notion that it is important to pay homage to that legacy on a regular basis.

3.  Asana – This is the Yoga most of know and love (or don’t …).  Asana is the physical practice of postures.  It is through regular asana practice that we cultivate tone and flexibility in our bodies.  The resulting suppleness allows us to sit for extended periods of time while practicing the remaining 5 Limbs.

4.  Pranayama – Pranayama is the practice of measured breathing.  There are many individual exercises for doing this, but they are all geared toward improving respiratory function and control.  When we have trained our lungs to optimum performance, we are better able to foster a sense of connection between the mundane and the divine.  The breath is, essentially, the intermediary between the two, and the more we develop its capabilities, the stronger that connection, and, therefore, the greater our ease of existence.

5.  Pratyahara – The word pratyahara means to retreat from that which feeds the senses.  Basically, this Limb is the practice of restraining our focus.  It’s about keeping our inner magpie in check so that we can maintain focus on living a spiritually grounded life, rather than getting distracted by every sparkly object or idea that is presented to us.  The way to do this is to practice always returning our awareness to the present moment, getting in touch with how we feel in our inner environment about what’s happening in our external environment, and choosing our responses accordingly from that place of authentic awareness.  It is also a useful practice which teaches us to sever the connection between our minds and our senses.  In doing so, we are preparing ourselves for the Limbs that follow.

6.  Dharana – With pratyahara we practiced the restraint of our senses.  With dharana, we are practicing the controlled focus of the mind.  When we are able to free ourselves of the stimulation of external distractions we are able to then start training the mind to disconnect from internal distractions.  This is what we often refer to as quieting the monkey mind.

7.  Dhyana – Dhyana is, essentially, meditation.  But it is really more than that:  It is devotional meditation, or meditation with the pursuit of discovering the inherent truth of that upon which one is meditating.  The idea is that intensely meditating on an object gives one an intimate understanding of that object, ergo, intensely meditating on the divine gives one an intimate understanding of divinity.  And since Yogis believe that we are all containers of Divine Spirit, then it goes to reason that meditating on the divine gives us a more intimate understanding of ourselves and each other, too.

8.  Samadhi – It is in the attainment of samadhi that we are finally and fully merged with the divine.  We cease to exist as separate, and experience ourselves as the energy of all that is.  We truly embody oneness, which is a bit of an ironic choice of phrasing since we are really transcending the physical experience altogether.

There you have it:  The 8 Limbs Of Yoga broken down into what is, hopefully, an easy-to-understand bite-sized chunk.  Stay tuned for more fundamentals of yoga philosophy to come!

Namaste, y’all!

(above photo by Steve Clarke)

6 Key Ingredients To A Truly Magnificent Inner Sanctuary

I’m feeling like I’m an incubation tank for Feelings that haven’t fully formed yet.  They’ve made it through the most significant stages of gestation, but, for whatever reasons, they just aren’t quite yet ready to be sent out into the wide world.

This leaves me feeling contemplative and craving Silence.  I feel a sacredness in this state – like I want to be very precious in my duty to make safe space for these Feelings.  I want to treat them – and my Self, as container – very gingerly and tenderly.

That’s not always an easy feat when living in a bustling community of more than twenty people.  It’s not always so easy to create a silent sacred inner landscape for oneself when one does not have a silent sacred outer landscape to which one can retreat.

Still, I suppose, this lack of personal space is yet another lesson I’ve been brought here to learn.  Perhaps it’s time I spent an equal amount of energy cultivating my silent sacred inner temple as I’ve often spent working on my external surroundings.

For as long as I can remember, I have been a super spatially sensitive person.  I have rearranged and fengshui-ed and smudged with sage practically every living space I’ve ever called home – and multiple times, too.

But, I’ve never really allowed the same efforts toward my internal house.  I mean, sure, I’ve made a few attempts over the years at meditation and I’m certainly no stranger to spiritual study and yoga asana practice.  I’ve even sought the services of a professional inner house cleaner – commonly referred to as a licensed psychologist.

These were all fine and good practices, and were helpful, too, but I never put them all together for any extended period of time with the express intention of healing the psycho-spiritual parts of my Self.  And I’m really starting to (finally!) understand how important that is, and what the key ingredients for creating a truly magnificent inner sanctuary are.

To make a truly magnificent inner sanctuary takes the following:

  • Time – It doesn’t happen overnight.  Just as the physical Self needs ample Time to heal dis-ease, so does the psychospiritual Self.
  • Commitment – It takes an active dedication and Commitment to the process to continue doing the necessary work when things start getting really real.
  • Forgiveness – It’s going to get hard if true healing is allowed to unfold.  The ability to Forgive is paramount for continuing to delve into the darker, more neglected areas inside – Forgiveness of old transgressions (committed by Self and by Others), and Forgiveness of the Self for wanting to find distraction when the Work becomes difficult.
  • Silence – Sometimes it takes getting really quiet to hear our inner truths – especially the ones that we might not be so comfortable hearing.
  • Permission & Priority – This is a big one for me.  I am someone who tends to focus on the needs of Others and to place a higher value on them than on my own.  But, in order to really dig in and sort my internal affairs, I must first give my Self Permission to do so, and then place the highest Priority on that task.  I must relinquish my hold on the desire to help others on their journeys and instead put most of my energies and resources on meeting my own Needs.
  • Love – Pain is what blocks us from flowing fully and freely in the Waves of Pranic Bliss that is all around us.  Untended Pain is what most of us have buried deep within ourselves, until such a time comes when we feel strong enough to tend to it.  Love provides that strength.  Love allows us to tend to those old wounds.  Love is the only sure tonic for Pain.

This is the lesson I’ve been dancing with most closely these past couple weeks:  Only I am responsible for meeting my Needs, and I am NOT responsible for meeting anyone else’s needs.  I might ask for assistance from others, but they are under no obligation to give it, nor are they obligated to give assistance in the way I am asking them to do.

And since my Feelings are generated as a direct reflection of whether or not my Needs are being met, then my power to meet my Needs also translates into my power to determine my emotional state.  This is huge!  No one else can make me happy.  No one else can make me unhappy.  No one else can bring me out of a swoon and into a foul mood.  Only I can do that.  And I can also undo it … by getting clear on what my Needs are and finding alternative paths to meeting them.  I have the power!  I am in control!  I’m driving this train!

While it may seem as if I’m getting a little tangential here, there is relevance in this inelegantly jumbled mass of words and thoughts.

And that is to say that I am feeling ready – even called – to start some committed conscious work on my psychospiritual Self.  I’m committed to spending some time and energy on my Self so that I might get clearer on what’s cooking in my soup pot of Feelings and Needs.  And then it is my hopeful intention to find joyous ways to meet my Needs and authentic ways to express my Feelings.  I have a sneaking suspicion that once I am successful I will have found the magical elixir which will transform the barbed tongues of Blame and Shame and Guilt into the sweet honeyed tongue of Love.

And Love, after all, is all we need.

Thank you for continuing to let me share my journey with you.  I am so grateful for you.