Wa Yo Yogi

Leanne Kitteridge's adventures in Yoga

Anusara Chaos and the Dance of Shiva February 11, 2012

  • ‘Shrishti’ – creation, evolution
  • ‘Sthiti’ – preservation, support
  • ‘Samhara’ – destruction, evolution
  • ‘Tirobhava’ – illusion
  • ‘Anugraha’ – release, emancipation, grace

These are the 5 acts of Shiva. All of them are happening all the time, everywhere. This week they happened in a very impactful and resounding way throughout the Anusara Yoga community of which I am a member. Our teacher and founder of Anusara Yoga, John Friend, has been accused of and admitted to, behavior that is not in alignment with the Ethics and guidelines of Anusara. I learned one hour before I was about to teach Monday night that literally all hell had broke loose~ and my teacher , who I held in the deepest respect and  great esteem,  suddenly was shown to have clay feet.

I could wax on about what he did, but honestly, I don’t really care. John is a brilliant man and the method he synthesized is the best I have ever taught, practiced or experienced.  I am also very much a liberal and you can do what you want in your private life,  as long as it doesn’t hurt others and it’s not unethical to the standards of which you hold yourself and others. I hate hypocrites. But  I mean really… smoking weed??? It’s almost legal where I live! Unfortunately the issue is that John denied the behavior or hid the behavior from the community at large, which has now been to the detriment of all those associated with the method. He was not ” walking his talk” and that has created a large “disconnect” in a method that tries at its heart to create connection- to our own hearts, to the  pulsation of nature around us and to the Absolute.

We know when we are “disconnected” because there is this uncomfortable unsatisfactory feeling of rubbing up against something that creates a friction, a pain, a suffering. Part of this is truly God given as it causes us to then change the behaviour, the thinking, the heart- to move back into connection. This is  part of the Dance of Shiva- the dance of life.

We conceal our hearts and create illusions of what is the truth and then these creations of the ego become unable to sustain themselves and they crumble back into their component parts. The heart is still there- it is indestructible: but we continually go through this process of concealment and revelation, creation and destruction, as a cycle of manifested life. We dance the life of shadows and light until we die. The true yogi still dances, but there is an abiding stillness that remains at the center- at the heart.

The Dance of Shiva contains – “sthiti” – preservation; the leg that stands upon the demon of ignorance as it wiggles to get free. Can you stand in the chaos of this dance of life and not get swept away- lost in the chaos- thrown off balance to let the demon arise? This is what the yogi- in the form of Nataraja- represents. The yogi sees through the illusions, stands in the wildness and yet remains in a meditative state in the heart. Grace helps hold them there.

Awakening to the wisdom that this is the cycle and this is your dharma does not allow you to waver- the foot remains firmly rooted out of profound love. Grace is the power that holds the heart to the highest- even when life can be at it’s lowest.

When I signed my certification I signed on to a method – not a personality- and I have a profound love of this practice that is not going to let the chaos waver my steady leg – a leg that is in direct correlation to my heart. As I taught shortly after the chaos began , I felt the strength and power of the teachings flow through me and my heart sang a song of connection. There was nothing there that felt anything but beautiful. I realized that this is destruction of the old, immature, adolescent dependence that we had on John as the figure head and that we now have all the component parts in front of us to  create again . The heart is not lost, the heart is not broken, it is there waiting for us to Open To Grace and rebuild and create in a mature way- seeing the illusions, staying steady in the heart and yet remaining in the chaotic dance of life-

what will we create out of destruction?


Anusara Harmonic Recalibration Retreat in Maui/ May 2011 June 7, 2011

I purposely did not take my computer to this retreat…. so it could be a retreat. I have to say I felt a little guilty as I usually blog from every training but I really wanted time every night to just relax and absorb the teachings. What this makes for on another level then is a more reflective blog. So rather than from my usual ” in the trenches” mode of writing, this will have a little more of a sense of impressions…shadows and themes of the week as what was most potent hopefully rises to the surface.

First of all this was a crazy event to have happen. I had planned out my year to spend May 21st in Christchurch with the Merry Band for my birthday- first ever trip to New Zealand. I was sacrificing my yearly Japan training to do it but I have roots in NZ and thought why not. Well, we all know the terrible crisis that rocked through Christchurch; and the trip was cancelled. I thought about trying to make it for Japan training when tragically the Tohoku area of Japan was devastated. It seemed John’s tour was not going to go as planned this year. Suddenly Maui was revealed as a new venue for a training ; the shakti provided a beautiful alternate- on days I could travel!

The days were divided into morning talk and meditation, a breakfast break, morning practice, long lunch break, and afternoon talk- 7am to 7pm for 5 days. I have to say it was one of my favorite schedules. We did not get in the usual two asana practices a day as we do during most trainings, but the practices we did do were full on.

Day one started with an introduction to the theme of the week: Harmonic Recalibration. I laugh as I write this because I am not honestly sure if it was calibration or recalibration but really- you get the point. Everything in the world is vibrating- Yantras and sacred geometry are forms of this greater vibration. Mantra is sound as vibration. We started with the most familiar sound to us- the invocation. John explained that OM as the form A*U*M represents the “A” as the first sound of most languages- the first sound in Sanskrit and “U” is the 16th and final sound in Sanskrit. The alphabet itself contains vowels and consonants. The vowels are refined- they can be likened to Shiva and the consonants represent the outer form- Shakti. The “AU” is sung together as “O” and the “M” actually has a dot over it called an anuswara ( not to be confused with Anusara) which gives it a reflection of the previous sound- so “M’ sounds like “ng” and goes up through the palette to vibrate in your head. You do not actually close your mouth to make the “M” sound. Try it sometime…

He went on to say that the God you hold in your heart- no matter the name it is given, vibrates at OM- and so do we. Even the universe has a sound- the sound of radiation- a background hum to the universe. ( you can check out this link I found to John G Cramer– prof of physics at U of W.. Can you hear the OM in that?)

The Maha-mantra “Om namah shivaya” – has been chanted now for 1800 years- its vibration has been expanded by  the length of time it has been chanted. It takes form in the akashic space- “namah” we bow out of awe- we are uplifted not subordinated. “Shivaya” goodness, auspicious, sacred- that which is at the essence of all that awes you is benevolent. Every time we chant we expand the global mind and collective consciousness through it’s vibration. Part of our practice is to get so sensitive we can attune to that harmonic vibration- to the vibration of spirit. ” If you can attune to spirit it’s all there”- John Friend

John then introduced our first drawing lesson. The dot and the circle- the circle represents the absolute realm- no form, time, sound, or space. In Buddhism, they refer to the circle as the void- shunyata– but in Shiva/ Shakti tantra we see the void as purna– full- full of yet unstruck potential. The bindhu– the dot- then becomes the way in which the unmanifest becomes manifest- it is manifestation that comes out of the attributes of the circle; the attributes of the Absolute: Sat Chit Ananda Svatantrya Shri Purna Spanda.

SAT: “IS”ness , truth

CHIT: conciousness, awareness, self knowing, light that is self reflective

ANANDA: our soul is bliss, love, joy

SHRI: Goodness, only goodness, no concept of evil

SVATANTRYA: ultimately unbounded freedom

PURNA: fullness of creative potential

SPANDA: how the one becomes the many, pulsation and vibration as waves

Manifestation then follows a deep order and organization ( krama)  from this seemly empty place- because really it is not empty. “ In what appears to be empty is spirit- not a vacuum or a void. There is nothing that is no thing”- John Friend

The week, John explained, was about cultivating direct knowing through practice- the direct truth of experience. For us to understand the absolute we have to understand from the relative- because that is where we are. The absolute is beyond words- but words are all we have. We use numbers to express something that is infinite, we use sequence to describe what is not linear and time to describe that which is beyond time. In my words,  we are being described a strawberry without actually ever having tasted one. This week was about having a taste- an indescribable taste.

To get that first taste we have to go to the first principle: sensitivity. This is the first practice of attuning to spirit. Our sensitivity is directly related to one’s clarity. John likened it to rust on an antenna. I would go as far to say that our yoga practice then become the mechanism which cleans some of the rust off our antennas. This image of the antenna seemed to stay with me as John talked about the “highest opportunity to see the dancing delight of the universe”. We receive this clarity and then there is a transformation and finally a transmission back out. We start to create clarity in others. Everything during the week was in a process of relationship: receiving and transmitting in a relation to the energy of spirit.

The body than becomes a yantra- a condensation of spirit in form- made of vibration that all starts from that one bindu in the circle. The practice that day then became of one of co-participating with nature- seeing the patterns in our hands and feet that are slower, grosser vibrations of  the Absolute. We started with just the hand and seeing the order of the finger pads, the meta carpels, the 4 corners laying them out in krama ( deep order) while staying sensitive to the bigger energy. The flavour was much different then “do this in order because it is the order” it was do this as a way to be receptive to the bigger energy- to create the body into a pattern that contains the vibration of the highest consciousness. Dance with the divine in you- make sacred art. It was a very powerful and beautiful practice.

After our break- which I spent swimming far off into the ocean- we gathered for our afternoon session which I like to call art class- sacred geometry simplified. I wish I could produce nice drawings on my blog but all I have is my notebook which I copied for you to see. (Please don’t laugh at my spelling or poor drawing.) We drew two over lapping circles horizontally  which represents Shiva/Shakti. The part of the two circles that overlaps becomes an oval that can represent the yoni (shakti) or the lingham (shiva). By putting a bindu in the middle of both circles you can make a triangle in the top part of the oval. We then took the upward facing triangle ( shiva) and downward facing triangle ( shakti) . In the absolute realm shiva is still and shakti is active- as the two pass through the magical mirror of maya they become reversed and the upward facing triangle of shiva becomes action ( yang- masculine- fire) and the downward facing triangle of shakti becomes reflection ( yin- feminine- water). This was our introduction to the shri yantra which John would expound on through the rest of the week.

Day one notes

Day 2 started with John asking about our sankalpa– our intention. Our intention is based on the degree of our will ( iccha). One of the interesting things he brought up was that before intention comes our darshan– our viewpoint. For one of the first times,  John started to more heavily draw out the Buddhist philosophies and how they align with Shiva/Shakti tantra. He said that “ even though the Buddha had everything there was still a hole. That hole is God given- we do not feel full” this longing to feel full is what spurs us into action. In the Buddhist philosophy, they say ” sarvam dukam” – everything is suffering. John flipped this around to say in Anusara we say ” sarvam sukham” everything is flowing. These two terms “ sukha” and “dukha” we have come to know as ease and suffering but they actually come from the description of a wheel.  When a wheel turns true and causes no friction or wobbling  that wheel is said to be “sukha“.  “Dukha” is the wheel that is off. If the wheel wobbles and it bothers you that is suffering. The wobbly wheel will create heat from friction. So we chose our view- to see suffering or to see flow. Your view becomes your philosphy of life- the way you look at things is also your shradda ( faith).

Your view is important because it determines how you direct your mind- how you imprint the akashic field. Wherever you have directed the mind the most becomes like the deepest hole you have dug in the field of the akasha. This is where you will go during under stress. We can dig out so to speak- we can chose to change our view if it has not served us. You really are what you think. So this becomes your darshan. In Anusara, our darshan then becomes the first line of the invocation “ Om Namah shivaya” I see the good. What is your darshan? It’s a great consideration. I ended up teaching a whole class on “is your glass half empty or half full?- how do you see the world?”. The responses I received from students were interesting and brought out a lot of deep questions and stories after class.

During the practice John talked more about the invocation and specifically about the meaning of words in the lines.  For example,  “satchidananda murtaye“: “murtaye” is from the root ” murti” meaning form. (Some of you may be familiar with statues of Hindu gods being called “murtis”). Therefore  Truth, Consciousness and Bliss take form. The form is an imprint of the formlessness, an imprint of the Absolute. Because we also contain these qualities,  we can take the form of the bliss of consciousness.

At the level of the Absolute there is no relationship. Relationship has the connotation of the relative world- the world where we live our lives. The  word “ratio” is a term we use to describe the relationship between two numbers or measures. Form is constructed in nature through ratios. For example the ratio between your hand and your forearm is  1.618- this is known as the Golden Ratio. So the line ” nishprapanchaya” – is saying that all 5 elements ( pancha) are held together in relationship. The form can arrange itself in relationship there is intelligence to the manifestation of form. “Niralambaya” , John said, was relationship held in partnership but it doesn’t need the support to exist but chooses relationship to enjoy life more. “Tejase“, the light or luminosity, then allows us to see that all relationship has deep order- we become “enlightened”.

We traced our hands and then drew the five elements with their glyphs down on paper.

Thumb= space – it is represent by a dot- a bindu

Index=  air- represented by a circle

Middle= fire- represented by an upward facing triangle

Ring= water- represented by a downward triangle

pinky= earth- represented by a square

The foot works exactly in the same way. You can have fun playing with your feet and hands in poses and seeing which part lifts up – which part fidgets- how it feels if you change an ” element”. The body is a fractal or hologram for the whole web and the hands and feet, even the ear, then are microcosm of the whole. This is one of the reasons why acupuncture or reflexology in a foot or ear can affect some deeper part of the body.

We had a beautiful evening concert that second night and suddenly my girlfriend Jean bumped me and pointed up- there in the dark night around  the luminous moon was a circle. We had the circle and the bindu…just like John had been teaching. It was one of those crazy things that happens around trainings – you literally start seeing exactly what you have been learning- everywhere!

Day three started with a clarification of the Shiva/ Shakti tantra that informs Anusara yoga. John explained he used the tantric system because it really had the best explanation to the questions of life: ie. If God is good why do bad things happen? If the Absolute is completely free why would it chose to bind itself? The energy is so free that s can choose to create an energetic appearance of being limited. It can bind part of itself but does it without ever reducing or taking away from itself. It is never reduced or disturbed as it creates a world of limitation. Out of freedom and delight it can play a game with itself: it can express itself artistically. Why do children play? It is not for outcome or conditions- it is for the fun of it. The absolute does the same and we call that play lila. The Supreme literally plays hide and seek with itself.

When we have the relationship of hide and seek, love and loss, we have revelations about ourselves. Accomplishing what you thought you could not do- that is revelation as well. The Supreme cloaks itself like a magician to create abuta– astonishment and wonder- the child that squeals with delight as you pull your hands away to reveal again what they thought was gone. The very dark times in our life can often hold the most revelation- look back at your experiences and I am sure you will find one like that.

One of the coolest things John talked about was the story of the caterpillar. There is an actual stage in the chrysalis where the caterpillar complete liquefies and reforms to the butterfly. I had to go look this up because it so captured my imagination ( here is great link). He explained that there is a point in the cycle where we can become something else- we can recreate ourselves. Concealment and revelation are happening in unison, sometimes it takes a while to see that. There is always a cycle of creation, highest refinement and dissolving happening- in our own bodies, in nature, in our experiences.

In Anusara, we use the three Goddesses: Saraswati, Lakshimi and Kali to explain this cycle. Saraswati is the beginning of the cycle and is represented by the colour white. Lakshimi is the height of the cycle and is represented by the colour red and Kali is the end of the cycle- the dissolving- and is represented by the colour black. Saraswati’s name has the root “sara” in it- to flow ( as in Anu”sara”) and her color of white represents purity and you will often see her holding a stringed instrument called a vina. She represents the beginning of the wave pattern a climb that brings with it the beginning of language and fundamental music. There is an innocence and purity at the beginning of the cycle. Lakshimi represents the fullness of the cycle- fullness of power, fertility, creativity. She takes the developments of the first cycle- ie. the alphabet and basic music- into greater complexity and refinement- the highest artistic beauty at the crest of the wave. Kali is the downward pulsation of the wave- the devourer of time- that which takes back in all the creative power to wait to start to create again. Within each of these cycles is smaller cycles- all parts of the cycle have a purpose and can be an entry point into the center- into the bindu.

That afternoon was a wonderful potpourri of information which I think I was too absorbed in to write proper notes or it could have been distraction as it was the day that my friend fell out of a tree in the mango grove right before lecture and dislocated his shoulder. It was a bit of a crazy start to the afternoon- I think John would agree. One of the notes I did make at the beginning that really sat with me was “We live this life to wake up“. I talked with my husband about his at some length after I returned and mused how much simpler life was in some ways “before I woke up”. Now I am not saying life was better, in fact I think it is supremely better now, but there is a level of responsibility that happens when you wake up- we don’t get to stick our head under the covers anymore and cry ignorance. It can be rather upsetting when you look around your life and the light of consciousness shines on some things you would rather not deal with- and now you HAVE to deal with them. I will leave it at that for this blog but I may go a little deeper in that vein on a future date.

John spoke of shri and defined it as the sacred, divine, auspicious- the highest goodness; that which we consider to be sacred. He explained that is why when we see something beautiful we immediately become reverent- the highest level of beauty reminds us we are all divine. We also touched on a touchy subject for some- beauty or auspiciousness that has been stolen by that which is malevolent. Specifically we spoke of the swastika. That yantra which is so auspicious in India that people draw it on their door steps to ward off evil and bring in luck , and yet,  when we see it,  we feel revulsion and sorrow for the hate it contained for only a few short years. Just think- a symbol that represented good for 1000’s of years was completely corrupted in 12 years. Can it ever be recovered or is the samskara so deep in the akashic field that it is beyond reclamation?

From there we talked about the fact that we wake up in relationship. At the relative level the highest purpose of relationship is love. Love ( prema) then is the relative slow vibratory form of bliss (ananda). So relationships are mixing of energy fields. We spoke a little on what then are the key elements for your highest relationship- your highest beloved. The first element is trust-similar vision- how you see the world. The second element was compatibility of mind- ability to communicate- emotionally and intellectually. The third was polar energy- yin and yang. All of us have both energies in us- it is not male and female in gender but in energy.

Day four morning was a meditation on the bij sounds of the chakras. We started out by talking about the view of maya in Tantra vs Vendanta. You will often hear maya refered to as “illusion” but in Tantra we call it the “magical mirror” where the absolute reverses itself as it passes through. You can use this idea to think that as the universe breathes out we take our first breath; and as we expel our last exhale the universe inhales and takes us home. As above so below- the universe is breathing and therefore we breathe. Tantra also looks at incarnation as a gift- it’s not like you screwed up and now you are back. John recommended we become a connoisseur of life~ we get better and better and then we come back and we enjoy it even more: this is the Tantric perspective.  This perspective is our darshan– we keep it fresh, we question, we experience. We then made the chanting of the bij sounds of the chakras like a science experiment inside each of us; letting the auspiciousness of the vibration open us up. We would receive the divine in the form of the inhale to manifest it into that particular chakra and let it vibrate. We went up the chakras 2 or 3 times- focusing on the elements and color of the chakra as we did it. I liked the idea of bringing the divine in through the form of the breath- it gave a meditation I had done previously a whole new perspective.

Practice that day was amazing- back bending heaven I seem to recall. The talk was fascinating to me as we covered so much material and some really new stuff. John said basically he was getting ready to set the foundation for his tour next year  including Egypt and a broadcast from the Mayan pyramids. John will be in Tulum when the Mayan calendar ends. I am not going to get into what that means or the significance but just to let you know in case you want to join the merry band. John talked numbers and base systems to start with. For example the number 108 which is an auspicious number is made up of 12- the number of the universal and also the guru- and the number 9- the number of the individual and also the top number in our base 10 numbering system. The number 12 is actually from the base 60 system- 60 minutes in an hour, 360 degrees, 12 hours in a day. The base 12 system was used by the Egyptians and Babalonians. The Mayans used a base 20 system- and it is this system that the Mayan pyramids were built on. I am sure there will be more interesting lectures on this as the year goes by. Might be worth some self research if you are going to study with John this year.

John also discussed the periodic table as being a chart of sound or vibration. The columns of the table just are more refined vibrations as they move down the chart. It’s incredible that I never even thought of that approach to the chart…makes me think I could have been a much better science student if John Friend was my teacher! So even though they discover new elements- the chart dosen’t get more columns.  The size of the atom decreases from left to right, and increases from top to bottom: and atoms are vibrations. If this is confusing think of the Tantra tattva chart and it might become a little clearer. The conversation veered into GMO’s and modification of food and what that does to the vibration and what it does to us as we ingest it- makes you think a little more about having a fake sugar in your coffee. Your body recognizes the vibration of sugar from a plant…might not be great for you but at least it is natural. Messing with our food is literally messing us up- from the inside out. Another thing that we can’t hide under the covers from ….

The last chart we copied down before practice was the astrological chart. I read my horoscope occasionally but I have no deep knowledge of the astrological calendar. The chart of years moves in reverse order to the monthly one we follow for people’s birth month. Each age last 720 years. We are currently in the Age of Pisces (though at some level this is heavily debated) and moving into the Age of Aquarius. The two previous ages were Aries and Taurus. If you look at the glyphs for these ages there is some interesting notes for the history buff. The Age of Taurus, with its bull glyph,  is known to be an age where the worship of bulls was common in Assryia, Egypt and Crete.  Aries, represented by the ram, was a time in history where various gods rose with the name contain that sound: Rama, Bhrama , Ra, Abraham etc. and the sacrifice of sheep replaced that of bulls. The Age of Pisces marks the rise of Christianity and the glyph of the fish- still seen on countless bumper stickers across North America. The Age of Aquarius  is marked by a glyph of two waves- which may represent not just water but is speculated to represent vibration, electronics,( wifi?) etc. Perhaps the age of Aquarius being harkened in as an age of awakening, is that we will be able to use technology to create freedom. Though I do have to say I feel like a slave to my computer a little too often….

The afternoon in the mango grove was calmer that day and John spoke of many of the teachers such as Babamuktananda and Maharaji and their shakti and some crazy stories of things they could do. He said that pictures of your teachers then are yantras that are passing the shakti of that person. The form then holds the vibration- holds the shakti. There is a great little picture we have of Maharji with his hand held up and we have always found it mesmerizing. It’s like it contains some special message that we have not yet figured out- a yantra we have not yet deciphered. John talked about never showing the souls of your feet towards your guru. We all started nervously tucking our feet under ourselves and John laughed and said God is everywhere- so don’t worry about your feet around him.  He said that spirit and blessings are also in the feet. He told the story of Muktananda getting completely recalibrated one night walking home with the gift of his guru’s shawl-wrapped sandals on his head. One mile with his guru’s shakti sandals changed his life!

Anywhere we create a place to worship , prana will accumulate in that area. If we worship at certain hours, then prana will circulate more in that specific time- we create a momentum so to speak- a swirling around a bindu. This harnessing of energy can be used as a practice. John suggested we journal our mind for the last hour at night. By using mantra to anchor ourselves we can be in a beautiful space even in intensity. We can then cultivate what we think as we dissolve this cycle of the day. The energy of that last cycle is what we carry into the next. If we carry momentum and our anchored in our darshan, we are less likely to get knocked off balance. Something to consider if you watch TV before falling asleep every night.

Shri yantra and sacred geometry notes

We spent that afternoon learning to draw the shri yantra– really- it was hilarious.  We were breaking into fits of laughter as we tried in desperation to follow John’s drawing- some of our renditions were so bad! I was sitting right up front and I still messed up. I have since bought myself a yantra colouring book- maybe that will help…. The book that John was using to draw from I also bought and recommend for further study Yantra: The cosmic Symbol of Tantric Unity by Madhu Khanna. The shri yantra itself is a pictographic vibratory diagram of the tattva chart- it represents how shiva/shakti bring everything into creation. The upward and downward triangles represent these two energies. I am still reading right now and have a very raw understanding of it so I will not continue but I find the book very useful.

Day 5 started as guru vs guru principle. For the guru principle is present at anytime and any place- we can learn to access it wherever and whenever through skilled means. John explained that serendipity is not raw luck. It is the revelatory power of the shakti at work. I see this more and more in my own life and I can see that really nothing is random- it is all the actions of the shakti. My favorite phrase when things go a little haywire is ” the shakti is messing with me” and rather than freak out I look to see what it is I am supposed to be awake to in that moment. It is a much calmer way to react to life’s obstacles.

Shakti has a frequency that is infinite. It can be felt as low energy or high energy in a space that we can get recalibrated to: it can change our mood. I am sure you have had experiences like that. When we hear the truth, when we see beauty we are momentarily shifted by that vibration- we have an experience beyond mind- it is intuitive. It may only be a second or two but that’s all you need for a revelation. Our practice is about learning to be skillful in holding that resonance- extending it. So through the dharma- in alignment with Grace- the guru principle reveals you. That which opens the curtains and brings in the light- a person, an object, an experience can be the guru. Once we have had moments of the curtains opening, and become more skilled at holding the vibration, then everyday becomes a moment of shri. We become shifted at some level. Everyone is different. We could all be watching the same sunset, but one person will have an unbelievable experience. We often look outside ourselves to seek these moments, but it is always there inside of us and there are practices to connect you with that guru principle.

For example, John spoke of the fact that the shakti is not air but in the air. So when we do ujayi pranayama we set up a resonance with the shakti. We try to hold that resonance we find and use it to ride the waves of doubt and fear,anger and sadness. The waves are all from the same source. You can literally ride the wave of anger straight back to the bindu of love. This is a very Tantric way of thinking- anything can be a gateway. Anything can be a gateway because the shakti is in everything: and shakti is always full of Grace.

We then did pranayama and traced the breath back to the bindu and waited and served the shakti in the air. You don’t grab or push- you just open to it and it comes in. We worked with a few pranayamas including nadi shodana. John explained that there are 5 nadis in each nostril, which relates to the five elements, and one can actually get good enough to affect and manipulate the different elements thorough their pranayama practice. The energy in us changes every 2- 2.5 hours so you can use this understanding to align and calibrate yourself with what time it is. We can garner energy or slow ourselves down as long as we know the bigger energy. Day 5 was the top of the cycle- the accumulation of 5 days of shakti- the purnahuti. There was extra magic available that day- a high resonance we could calibrate with. You could chose to shift right there- I like to think of it as “make a wish day”….. what is your highest desire?

Someone asked a question about people in dreams and John discussed how people are doorways to the energy- the shakti. So if you dream of someone it may not be that person specifically that you are engaging with but the energy that form takes. The forms will change but the shakti comes to us at our level of understanding- even in our subconscious. May be interesting to journal who comes up on your dreams and what the energy of that person means to you. I dream of my dad a lot when I have questions- his energy was one of love and stability- he calms me down, makes me feel brave. I feel empowered after I dream of him. Ram Dass often speaks of his teacher, Maharaji ( Neem Karoli Baba) being a gateway so I understood this from my talks with him. Don’t get lost in the form- get lost in the energy behind the form.

Day 5 practice was in relationship to the guru principle. There is a leader and a follower- a dancing couple. But the dance does not begin with the leader; it begins with the follower- the student. The student has to ask the question first. Both the student and the teacher contain the guru principle- there is nothing subordinate in the relationship- both have Grace. We call these terms ” chalikripa” the Grace of the student and  “Gurukripa” the Grace of the teacher. The teacher will only help you once you ask- this is dharmic. The teacher will not answer what has not been asked. The guru appears when the student is ready- when the students adikara( studentship) is high enough to have the ability to hear and see the guru. The student must always stay open and questioning for the path is not straight- it is a dance. We form a question and then we are just open and we listen- we wait for the shakti to dance with us.

All of us can dance with the divine- we just need to practice coming back into ourselves- realize the preciousness of the moment. We humble ourselves without putting ourselves down and we look to our strengths and our shadows. We all have talents and tendencies- we all have a heritage of blood and DNA. All these things come together to makes us our unique selves- to make our dance unique. The shakti wants to dance with all of us because of that uniqueness. To stay dancing with the shakti we keep going to our strengths and stop feeding the shadows- sounds simple but it is a lifetime of practice. Every moment of every day is a choice- every moment is a gateway to the heart- can we truly learn to live that way? You can if that is your vision.

Day 5 ended with a guest- Dr. Jacob Liberman. He is an optometrist who now researches light and how it affects us. His story is that during a meditation he had a profound experience of seeing the air between things and a sparkling of something in the space between things. When he came out of meditation his eyesight- which had needed corrective lenses- was vastly improved. He could read things see things he hadn’t before without glasses. The crazy thing his when he hooked himself up to the machine in his office it said his eyesight was unchanged!It led him to question what is it to see and what is seeing?

The eye doesn’t move- it only responds. For example we say ” it caught my eye”. The eye responds to light but no one has ever seen light. It is formless, it has no attributes and no mass. It is the biggest mystery of science. In religion though we have phrases such as ” God is light” – so what is it about light? Why is it so important?

We absorb 2%  of light through our skin and 98% through our eyes. 75% of that light goes from the retina to the hypothalamus and then to the pineal gland which is our biological clock so to speak. Before artificial light we were all entrained ( guru principle ?) with nature by light. Think about rising with the sun and going to bed with it- what a novel idea in our current times.  We all need a certain amount of light to be healthy- in fact studies have shown that populations in northern countries with less sunlight have a higher incidence of multiple sclerosis. Light is necessary for our body to work in harmony with nature.

We also need the dark. Dr. Liberman spoke of how light at night during the time we sleep can affect us by affecting the pineal gland which affects melatonin. Things such as “light pollution” in big cities, night lights or bathroom lights left on at night in our home- can actual affect our patterns of sleep. The pineal is the regulator of all the rest of the regulators of the body- the endocrine system. He took us through an interesting mediation he called the train journey. Seeing which color stations( by the chakra color) we felt like we wanted to get off and visit and which color station we just wanted to go past.  ( I just wanted to hang out in the green station all day)It is based on chromotherapy which is use of color to determine how to better balance your energy. Color is determined by light and the vibration of that light- we don’t see the colours but visualize them and yet there is a perception inside of us interacting with that vibration.

He went on to say that life is looking for us- it is calling to us and we actually have to work to NOT hear it. His experience with light and his sight opened him up to a whole new revelation in thinking. Though a doctor and a student of science, he is also a mystic. Taking time to see that little simple things are really so profound.  “Consider that every instance is a miracle” – Jacob Liberman . Interacting with awareness is a qualitative different experience than thinking. We stop using our thinking and then we see- we see that life has been looking for us, inspiring us, breathing us. Imagine meditating not just once a day but through every minute of every day. What would that be like? I have to say he was a very cool guy. ” There is nothing like direct experience- we confuse the menu for the food”- Jacob Liberman

It was a beautiful way to end a five-day retreat. Five days of exploration, study, practice, absorption- all used in a way that created a deep resonance inside all of us. What we carried away in each of us that week was more than just knowledge- we carried at the cellular level a shift in who we are and how we are in the world. We didn’t just read the menu- we ate the food- and it was delicious. But don’t take my word for it- practice and taste it for yourself…... om


Free Anusara Movie Night! August 29, 2010


Mercury’s Messed Up Weekend September 15, 2009

mercuryIt’s official. I have been accepted into the Anusara Certification process. I now have one year to complete a 30 hour written exam and submit a video that passes the certification requirements.  With 550 hours of training behind me in Anusara and almost 3 years as an Anusara Inspired teacher you think I should be ready for this, and I am in many ways, but in others it feels like the whole playing field kinda shifted. I am excited and scared all at the same time.

I had an interesting weekend where I combined my flying with my yoga. unfortunately it didn’t quite go as planned. I had a 24 hour Toronto layover and thought I could maybe get in a yoga class with some of the TO kula while there. My friend Josie Houpt mentioned that Martin Kirk was in town for a Master Class and Anatomy training so I decided that maybe I could catch a small part of that. I phoned to register and pay my money and looked forward to a fun layover. The fact that Mercury was in retrograde didn’t really phase me…then.

I woke at 5am to get ready for work and was heading out the door in full uniform when scheduling called to tell me there was an 1:40 delay. Great. That would make me possibly late for the workshop and I started to stress a little but thought “yeah- I will be fine.” I phone Toronto and made arrangements in case I was late and headed off to work. I was chatting to the agents at the airport when their radio went off. I could clearly hear the words, ” Flight cancelled”. The agents looked at me and I pulled out my phone to call scheduling. They weren’t sure what they were doing with me yet and asked me to call back. The rest of my crew walked by a few minutes later and informed me we were dead heading ( aka going as a passenger) to Toronto now.  That was strange but hey- I was just going with the flow. It ended up only 3 of us made the flight and I sat for 5 hours as a passenger but got to read more Ram Dass and watched Star Trek- which was actually really good! We got in to TO during rush hour and after a long drive to the hotel I quickly changed and had to pay a crazy amount of money to catch a taxi to the venue.

I arrived one hour late and walked into the Master class as they were doing bound parsvakonasana, to bound trikonasana to bird of paradise. Bound poses? You have got to be kidding me! 5 hours in a seat plus 1.5 hours in a cab= no hamstring mobility and stiff shoulders. So without even one down dog or sun salutation, I rolled my mat down and joined the class. I was feeling strange and out of place until the two yogis next to me smiled and said, ” Hi Leanne!” Jenn from London ON now in Toronto and her best friend Elyse. They looked so happy to see me that I just immediately felt better and all my crazy day softened away. We had a rockin’ practice and then a few of us went for dinner and had some great laughs.

We rejoined early the next morning and Martin led us through a really great anatomy workshop. I was only able to do 4 hours of training but what we did cover in that amount of time was in-depth. Martin’s passion for the mechanics of the body is clear, but what I found interesting was that his new roll of parent( Jonathon is 9 months) has made him even more fascinated with how the human form actually manifests and grows. He gave a great talk on embryonics which I loved and it all just seemed to so seamlessly fit into the metaphysics and philosophy of Anusara.

I had a quick bite with Josie and then headed back to my hotel, got changed and rode back to the airport. My colleague and I sat chatting at our gate waiting for our aircraft when they announced a gate change. Ok- no problem. Then I looked at the screen- delayed two hours and a downgrade of the aircraft. So once again the cell phones come out and once again crew scheduling is not sure if we are even leaving. Two thoughts arise ” Crap- I have a yoga workshop I am teaching tomorrow” and ” Well, if I had known I could have stayed for the second part of the workshop with Martin!“. Damn Mercury. At this point I realize I am starting to believe all this Mercury in retrograde nonsense and shoot my mind forward a week to my Japan flight: which is immediately followed by my 6 year olds hula birthday party which is immediately followed by a 3am drive to Seattle to catch a plane to Maui. Double crap.

Well the good news is we did leave finally and I got home too late to review my workshop and too tired to practice early in the morning. I did a few handstands, lunges, down dogs and then headed out the door to Newport Yoga where I arrived on time ( unbelievable after the rest of the weekend) to a lovely bunch of yogis who all learned to balance on their hands or balance better in some cases. After all the craziness it felt so wonderful to just be doing what I truly love- share yoga.

I hope that Mercury has finished messing with me…….


A Summer of Transformation August 31, 2009

I laughed when I read Sjanie McInnis’ blog because I know exactly how she feels. What a crazy, outrageous, glorious summer!  Like the wild fires that burned through the mountains of B.C. all summer, a fire blew through the Anusara Yoga community of B.C. as well.  The fire that raged through the kula was like Shiva’s hand of flame- everything became clear in that light and the fire transformed and tempered what was there before.  We now have 4 teachers in the certification process and over 100 students that have completed an Anusara Immersion. Elissa Gumushel kept the embers burning, Sjanie McInnis and Christine Price Clark  stoked the fire to a warm brilliance,  Todd Inouye  brought our teacher to see our light and I just made sure everyone helds hands and sang Kumbaya…or something like that.  Our Inspired teacher community  now includes Lauren Hanna , Shelley Tomczyk, Brent Kuecker, Trisha Wilson , Bree Greig, Carol Wray, Lara Luer, and  Josie Houpt who is joining us from Toronto. If I neglected to mention someone I apologize~ we are getting so numerous now and new Inspired teachers will be stepping into the light with rapid speed over the next few months.

Sjanie is prepared

Sjanie is prepared


The event that topped the whole summer off was John Friend’s visit to Vancouver during his Ultimate Freedom Tour. Vancouver hosted a two day weekend workshop and a 3 day therapy training.  To be quite honest I remember very little of the training because I was too busy running around helping. ( warning to those of you that host….) I am not saying that was a bad thing- it was actually the BEST thing. There is a time and place for everything and this training was not about the studying of the technical aspects of the method but of studying the dynamics of the greater community, the kula, and seva. I was especially happy to see so many of my students and friends having such amazing awakenings in the method. My favorite was running in at the last minute to see John drop back my husband into full wheel! Seeing those you love enjoy themselves is better than doing it yourself I swear! We had quite a few emails after the event saying how well it was run and how warm and supportive the Vancouver Kula was. It was good to hear.

Cp and Sjanie

Cp and Sjanie

We had a few surprises, twists and turns during the week- the biggest one being Todd’s ruptured appendix! Poor guy!  Christine stepped up to MC  and her sincerity and warmth could be felt by all.  We were all a little worried about the location of the event as John likes lots of natural light . The venue was the performance hall of the Roundhouse Community Center and basically it is a big black void ( I kept calling it the heart of Kali…). If that wasn’t worrisome enough, poor John came in to preview the venue and found a technician with a head wound lying on the floor and an ambulance on the way! Let’s just say… not a good start. 


The Vancouver Puja


Ganesha rockin it out

Thanks to Carol Wray, her husband Lori, and many other hands and feet , the room was transformed a few hours later into a radiant  Indian tent of gold, orange and red with dozens of murtis watching over our practice. It was quite funny to hear Christy Nones- certified teacher from Miami and one of the Anusara tour staff-  come in on Monday and say it was one of the loveliest venues she had seen. Amazing what a little shakti can do!

Carol's magic

Carol's magic


The training was also my first opportunity to meet Chris Chavez and his wife Ozlem who have been in Vancouver teaching workshops and Immersions at YYoga. Originally from LA, they are now traveling and teaching all over the world. I was immediately struck by Chris’ openness and warmth- he has a soul of extreme generosity and Ozlem is no less beautiful inside and out.  We celebrated Chris’ 39th birthday during the workshop and John did a big spiel about the significance of 39 and I listened with great attention as it is my 39th year as well. Seems like a good year to start certification…..

And on that note Robin Golt will be my mentor teacher for my video during the certification process. Yes folks- I sent in my paperwork. I am hopeful that I will be accepted into the process but I will not assume. There may be areas that John wants me to work on before I go forward and I totally respect that.  Many people have emailed me and asked me, “How do you know when you are ready?” I can now see me asking that question to Christina Sell a few years ago. Her response was,  “Have you ever thought that the process will make you ready?”  I have the hours, I have all the requirements, I have read all the books, but I had that months ago~ what changed? Somehow a sense of natural progression brought me to apply- it was just the next step in the journey. I look at the process as a way to become an even more dedicated student and to learn even more- to go DEEPER. I think that is what Christina was trying to explain to me. It also helps that Sjanie and CP are swimming in the current and yelling “JUMP IN! THE WATER IS GREAT!”

…so here I go ….”SPLOOSH!”


Montreal Intensive Day 3: The Picnic June 26, 2009

Montreal day 2 004Day three happened to fall on St.Jean Baptiste day which is a provincial holiday in Quebec. Illias(sp) from New York via Mexico, suggest that we all bring our lunches and have a picnic on the lawn of Dawson college as most stores would be closed.

Well, what I thought would be just a little sharing turned into the most gorgeous array of food and abundance I have ever seen come together in a short time. We found a group of picnic tables to set up food on and then laid our blankets, mats and shawls around the lawn. We laughed, talked, shared and even played Frisbee. We really were a merry band.

Day three also fell on Gurumayi Chidvilasanada’s birthday. John spent the morning in a really playful and celebratory mood and the Guru principle led our practice through the morning. He said that the Guru is really a tattva- a principle of existence even though it is not on the chart. It is the revelatory power of spirit that is found in every one of us. The teacher’s dharma is to show the student the teacher within them; the students grace (chali-kripa) allows the teacher to take the seat of the teacher. In the practice of sadhana ( spiritual practice), we awaken in relationship. We learn to see the Absolute in others and others show us the Absolute in ourselves. This revelatory power is found in every one of us, even if we don’t believe it.Montreal day 2 001

John told a great story about being very down and after just a short visit from Gurumayi he was completely changed. Those with a high vibration of light can lift the dark from us. We can also learn to do this ourselves. Tantra is a science- it is alchemy- it is the process of turning the impure into gold. We learn to turn negative situations and emotions into positive ones- it is not just a simplistic changing of your mind but it is through skillful means and practice.  When you are going up into backbend number 12 with John, I know he is not joking, and no matter how my body responds, my heart sings with the possibility that this next one might be the big one that changes and illumines everything. Every moment- especially the intense ones- is a gateway. It is a chance to do alchemy.

Alchemy happened. For the first time in my life I rocked up from urdva dhanursana to drop to my knees and then rocked back to urdva. I spent a minute going tick-tock smoothly back and forth laughing- it was so powerful. I realized all my skillful means of doing ustrasanadrop backs ( thanks again SJ) had now prepared me for this pose I had never even tried…or thought I could do. It literally “rocked” my world! (get it? tick tock… rocking…I know – it’s a groaner….)

In the afternoon we went back to basics: what is our vision? How is Anusara yoga different than other hatha yoga systems?

1) We see everything as a manifestation of Spanda. Tantra can literally mean the “loom” on which we weave- it is a philosophy that sees the world as an interconnected tapestry. Nothing is separate- nothing is discarded- it is merely woven back into the new fabric of understanding. We assimilate what has gone before- we do not forget the past- it is useful as a reference for that we chose to emphasise or not emphasise. We serve the present in life enhancing ways and we plan for the future so whatever we do now counts.

2) We use technology, a methodology that aligns with nature that we call the Universal Principles of Alignment.

3) We work in community. We bring everybody up- we are all members of the same orchastra. We celebrate each others success and we have great picnics together.

We ended the afternoon lecture with a very deep question: If the world is supposedly intrinsically good, why do evil things happen? I think that may be a blog unto itself after I do I little more reading that John has suggested.

The afternoon practice finished with giddy laughter trying to think of how many ways we could theme iccha, jnana, kriya and we ended up tying the whole Wizard of Oz to every possible notion. I had the tin man iccha- heart, the scarecrow as Jnana- mind and therefore the Lion as kriya – courage, but John started going on about Oz being the manifested word in all it’s colours and the downward shape of the tornado being in the shape of shakti’s downward pointing triangle and it just got really funny and silly. Ami beside said “Ok- let’s do Starwars now…..” . At least I have lots of themeing ideas for the next little while!

Well, the next time I will see John will be Vancouver in August 2009 and though I will be busy during the event as a volunteer, I hope to blog that training as well.

A bientot! Merci Montreal!


Montreal Anusara Intensive: Day two



On day two we dove deep into metaphysics first thing in the morning and discussed the Malas. The malas are like impurities. The dust that covers the mirrors of our hearts. It creates confusion and suffering and yoga is then the means to clean the dust , the malas, away and allow the true heart to shine through. We used the following chart to look at how the malas work.

Top 5 Tattvas                               Malas                                            Elements                               Dosha

Shiva                                                                                                         Sky

Iccha                                              Anava                                              Water                                      Kapha

Jnana                                             Mayiya                                             Fire                                         Pitta

Kriya                                               Karma                                              Air                                          Vata

Shakti                                                                                                        Earth                         

When Iccha ( you also can use the term Sat) gets covered by Anava-mala then our sense of fullness becomes impure. We suddenly feel we are lacking; we feel fragmented.  The natural outcome of anava-mala is to then to increase the water element and increase Kapha which can cause depression.  When Anava-mala is then lifted by polishing the mirror through practice, we feel our natural state of Iccha which is peace. We are full again.

When Jnana ( you can also use Chit) gets covered by Mayiya-mala our sense of connectedness becomes impure. We see difference- we become prejudiced. Mayiya-mala is related to the fire element and when it increases then Pitta increases and we become angry. When Mayiya-mala is lifted we feel love.

When Kriya ( or Ananda) is covered by Karma-mala, then we lose the agency to act- we feel powerless. Kriya is related to Air and when it becomes out of balance then Vata is increased and we experience anxiety. When Karama-mala is lifted we feel joy.

The malas then in some way help move the spanda back and forth between these states of emotions. The yoga practice helps create longer periods in the higher vibrations of peace, love and joy but we all feel the negative emotions sometimes too. It is very natural. What is really amazing about tantra metaphysics is that they have a method to get from the lower, darker, vibrations to the higher ones. We don’t have to stay angry, we don’t have to stay depressed. We can learn to recognize that as part of the spanda and use techniques to help us get back to a more desirable plane of being.

In the afternoon of day two we touched on intention. Intention can be conditional or unconditional . Unconditional is like children at play- why do they do it? Just for the fun of it- it is not dependent on conditions. Conditional is more like ” I do this to be free”: free from pain, free from suffering.  A yoga practice can have either of these intentions. In Anusara, we always make our intention the highest- we desire to be free. Sometimes we just like to play though….

John had some encouragement to give us too about being our unique selves. We have to all find our own unique frequency- how can you make music with one note? At least that’s how I looked at it. It is not a free for all- you are all in the same orchestra but we all play different instruments and our notes blend in harmonies. In a room full of very different practitioners, I could truly appreciate that we all had something unique to offer. The Spanda needs these differences to be able to pulsate. I like that I am part of a group yet unique. As John said, “do not diminish yourselves”.

If Spanda is everything, then even the difficult things that happen in our life are Spanda. If we never had difficulties, most of us would not appreciate the blessings in our life. This is a great lesson from many of the Hindu mythologies such as the Ramayana- do not ask the Absolute to take away your problems- ask the Absolute to give you the strength to deal with them. We learn and grow from the difficulties in our life- they can be wonderful gifts that, when we emerge from them, give us greater awareness. The Spanda is greater sometimes in those really intense situations- if we learn to work with the spanda it can bring us openings faster than ordinary situations.

It was a crazy asana day and I got to do a great demo with John- well it was  great according to everyone that saw it. It’s weird- John just says do and I do. Total trust and back I went into what I think for me ( aka stiff girl) was a pretty deep standing backbend. Maybe someone in the kula has a pic but of course I have none…

We ended the day with a lovely dinner and gathering of the growing Canadian Anusara teachers. It was a wonderful night to share and chat and feel a little more connected to the Eastern side of Canada. There is some really beautiful, bright, spirits in the group and I was blessed to get to know them better.