Wa Yo Yogi

Leanne Kitteridge's adventures in Yoga

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

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Maui Therapy Training Oct/2010 Day 5 October 10, 2010

” The heart is in every cell of the body” – John Friend

This morning started by John asking us to condense all the information of the week and come up with some key principles. These are a few the group came up with:

– Go from the Highest- universal perspective

– Listen and Open – let go of some of the paradigms, be open to shifting

– Curve then length ( form then action)

– Polarity vs Duality

– The cure is in the poison when applied in the right amount

– Stability leads to opening ( stabilize the periphery move from the core)

– the governor of the back is the legs

– intentionality is fundamental to change

– Good alignment is good therapy

and my own that I never said out loud, therapy is establishing a new dominant pulsation in the body.

So Ivy came back today. Yesterday she sat with us after she told us her story and she stayed on stage with John as we all prayed and chanted and guess what….. she came back feeling better today and JOHN HADN’T EVEN TOUCHED HER!! By just listening to her story and making her comfortable and giving her hope, she had already started to feel better.

John said that the krama ( order) of therapy -after first principle- is to go from the ground up. John did a lot of root work on the pelvis to make the energy go down ( apana vayu) because after any trauma the body will naturally pull up energetically.

After grounding her a bit then John went through the following~

1) diagnostic

2) Manual shoulder loop- keeping an eye on the chin level

3) side body long from the back- pulling shoulders onto the back

4) felt the fascia of the head diagnostic

5) neck therapy by one hand on occiput and one on forehead to create a vector by squeezing the two towards each other as she relaxed tongue and jaw and she did shoulder loop for herself

6) diagnostic

7) kidney loop manual adjustment ( she did shoulder loop and John observed the energy in the head and neck

8 ) Standing forward bend with wide stance. ( Better to repeat than hold) John noticed a slight torque. stabilized her coming up to keep the rooting.

9) Laying supine. Tell them you are going to touch them before you do. John rooted her hips straight down and told us to be aware of when you are over top of someone to be slightly off their midline as being on the midline is too invasive.( *this was a really great point)

10) worked her feet a little to get the energy once again to move down

11) aligned all the body: feet up- femurs rooted and inner spiral, kidney loop, shoulder loop

One of things I noticed that I had not addressed in my own thinking was the trauma and what it did to her energetically. The rooting of the energy downwards in the pelvis  and in the feet was really a key point.

We then put everything on the board that we hadn’t yet covered that people had questions about. We grouped them and the started with the most gross ones ( structural things) to the subtle ( auto-immune).

It got a little crazy so I have only a few points on some varied topics. Obviously there are more in depth things you can do but some of these the basic thing to look at.

TMJ- usually flat neck 9 out of 10 times. Balance shoulders and build neck muscles. Don’t be surprised if their mouth  guard doesn’t fit.

Sciatica– Rubbing the piriformis dosen’t really work as it is a receptor of tightness in another area. A diagnostic is putting them on their belly and watching to see if the butt lifts up when you fold back the leg. Get the quads stretched out and the psoas flowing downward. Check spine after if no relief because it could be a disc issue. If after all that still pain send for follow up with MD.

Osteoporosis– get the alignment and then the circulation will flow better and the minerals will be in better dynamisim. Moving is better than not moving.

Knee/ACL– “drawer test” as diagnostic. Sitting  on the floor get the client to put foot on your foot and keeping the base often tibia back, track foot in a line as you move the leg up and down. Will also help reduce swelling in the knee. If you are getting ACL surgery tell them not to tighten it so much and then work the principles like crazy as the surgeons will tend to over-stabilize after injury.

Migraines- usually related to levator scapula and the rhomboids. Tends to be that the migraine presents more on one side. Often migraines have to do with environmental triggers etc which are out of our control but we can help mitigate with good alignment. Viparita karanai ( legs up the wall) may be used as treatment but it will initially INCREASE the severity of the migraine. After 10 minutes bring them up to sit supported at the wall and as the blood drains down it will often take the migraine down significantly.

Colitis/ Crones- usually have a flat thoracic. get the curves back in the spine and work on getting the energy to flow downward as it is usually stuck or flowing upwards.

MS– Most MS clients have a steady raised heart rate all the time. Use a heart rate monitor for accuracy and do variation exercises to get the pulse up and then go into a deep relaxation and when heart rate goes down for a bit go back to high heart rate activity and repeat. Short burst of activity and relaxation will help reprogram the pulsation of the body.

My mind is now feeling very full. What John has learned over 30 years he passed down in 5 days- it was incredible.  I was thinking if I could condense all 5 days of therapy training into one sentence what would it be……

“Honor the Spirit and align the outer form – from that all freedom will flow”

om namah shivaya

 

Maui Weekend Workshop- The Three Goddesses September 28, 2009

Well I am writing two blog posts in one night which is unheard of but I am up so here we go. I am going to summarize the weekend in one go.

Day One Morning

John opened with a talk on Navaratri. It is the 9 sacred nights of the Goddesses- three Goddesses in three incarnations.  He talked about the deep orderliness of the universe. The krama or order of life. You plant a seed in the dark and the roots go down and the stalk goes up and the stalk bears branches and the branches leaves, then fruit and the fruit ripens and falls and goes back into the earth and the cycle starts again. The dark is not necessarily bad or empty- in actually it is one big blank slate full of potential. It is full of anything you want to dream.

We started out our practice with Kali. Kali is raw- she comes from dark where you plant a seed of intention. She is the muscle energy of the pose. We hugged in tight and did really strong poses that need stability. It was a morning of long standing poses and things like press handstand and half lotus handstand- which I had never even thought of let alone tried! It rocked pretty good though and we came out to see the Laulima Farms gang and others from Kipahulu and a truck full of coconuts! For the screaming deal of $3 we had Jayanti open a coconut for us and after drinking the milk he would make us a bowl of the nut and even a little spoon to scoop it with. Oh so good……

We took off during the long break  ( 10am to 4pm) and hit the south side of the island going to Makena and big beach. We had our first swim at the beach in front of the Maui Prince but the lifeguards came by and showed us a portuguese man of war which were in the water. The sting is apparently excruciating so it kind of put a damper on the swim time. We had lunch from the Jaws Taco truck in the Big Beach parking lot and then sat and watched the waves at Big Beach. There is finally a lifeguard tower there which is a longtime coming. The have 90 spinal injuries every year at that beach due to the high shore break which dashes people head first into the sand. I had a bad toss there once and it scared me very badly and I am not a weak swimmer.

We finished the south side with a drive further down the road but the clouds were rolling in from the north- which we had come South to avoid!- so we headed back to prep for afternoon practice.

Day One Afternoon

We started the afternoon with questions and one of them group asked why we ( the Anusara community?) chant so softly. I know why we do, but it was interesting to hear John phrase it. He said it related to integrity in relationship of all of the parts. Can you hear yourself but also hear across the room? Can you blend rather than stand out? I have to say the group took it to heart because day two’s afternoon chant was one of the sweetest I have ever heard- it just rode the flow of the island itself. So good…..

John also talked more about the Turiya state ( see my blog on the Dancing Shiva) as being the “ground of being”, the undifferentiated universal place from which the Goddesses arise. I don’t think I have ever thought about it in that way- like this primordial soup of all potential but it makes sense in the thinking of Spanda or Divine pulsation and where that comes from.

One of the other questions was on why a teacher made the Australians role to the left after savasana. Apparently it really threw the practitioners. John gave an explanation of why we roll to the right. It is not about anything anatomical- as some teachers may say- but it is following what is called “pradakshina”. Pradakshina literally means right in Sanskrit and it is in line with moving clockwise which is considered the movement of nature. In temples in India one always keeps the diety on the right side of the body as the circle the diety in prayer. Pradakshina therefore can also mean circumambulation. If you therefore chose to roll left you should know why. That’s what I love about this method- know what the origins are and why we do something and then choose. Being the southern hemisphere, I guess that teacher thought it more in line with nature to go left.

We had a totally fun practice of being spacious and listening and Ty Burhoe  ,who is one of the foremost tabla players in the world, came in and joined the group. I met Ty in Japan a few years ago and I was pretty stoked when he set up his tabla right in front of Sjanie and I . We had randomly picked a new area in the room and plop- there Ty sat playing right in front of us during our practice. We really had a practice of Sarasvati, for she is the first sound and she is really the goddess of all sound “nada”. John and Ty both explained that we recognize sound from not the sound itself but from the space in between the sounds. I know- ponder that one for a while…..

The physical practice was  full of very deep hip openers, half standing lotus, deep pigeon, yogidandasana, and for the garnish we did firefly which- thank god- Sjanie had introduced to me about a year ago. I got in from the standing entry but John also taught getting in from yogidandasana. I opted out and went for the known but Sjanie decided to rock it out with the new entry and had success. Cool.

Day Two Morning

Day two ended on the last day of Navaratri and we had a very “juicy” practice.  We talked about the higher octaves of the middle three elements: air, fire and water. The higher octave of air is prana- it is charged by sunlight and has the ability to move. Fire’s higher vibration is Tejas- a luminosity. It is the flash of light at the beginning of conception. The higher vibration of water is Ojas- the juicy power of life itself, the nectar of our life force.

John took the juiciness into a curvy spiraling practice of backbended forms of trikonasana and pincha mayurasana and of course the matrix backbend. It was all about keeping all the goddesses in our form: Kali in our strength, Sarasvati in our awareness and then letting Lakshmi pour her delight into the vessel of the body. This is really important to note because you can have all these curved fluid forms without muscle energy and then the juiciness just drains because you have not first created a strong vessel to hold it. Sjanie and I both have found we need a little more play in our practice- we are both strong enough that the rigid forms take away our juice. It can dry you out if you move too quickly and too rigidly. You have to build strength first- that is essential – but then you have to have some flow and play in there once that is established.

We did handstand with our legs revolving around in both directions- thank you Chris Chavez for introducing that to me- and dropbacks with one hand on the collarbone assists. We then finished the practice with a pose I have never ever attempted- mandalasana. It was so juicy by that time it actually seemed easy. I realized that pose would be impossible if you tried to stay rigid or muscle your way through it. It had to be this playful delight that just kept running your feet around your head. We finished the morning in seated meditation and was surprised to have a little voice whisper in my ear,” Breathe deeply” and was delighted by a sudden hit of fresh gardenia under my nose. It seemed super powerful after the morning practice. Tiff, Kelly and a few others softly made their way around the room with scents of the island for all of us to delight in with our eyes closed and hearts open. Sjaine and I were grinning like idiots at the end of practice and we kept it juicy with breakfast at Colleen’s in Haiku. Hawaiian spiced bread french toast seemed oh so appropriate.

We hit the beach for the afternoon in the most amazing weather and managed to finally “be one with nature” during the trip. The wind and water were perfect and the sun felt exquiste…everywhere!

Day Two Afternoon

The afternoon purnahuti ( final celebration) was a deep talk by John on how to really live your life . It was about the four cornerstones of how to live: arta/kama/moksha/dharma. How to keep the juicy delight but have resources to support yourself and be in line with nature and have a sense of pleasure about what you are doing. Many of us get stuck in careers or relationships that literally drain us. You can’t necessarily just run away for that may be adharmic ( against dharma)  if you have a family to care for or responsibilities to others. The key is to find ways to increase  the others to find balance.

We had a practice of discharging excess vata in the body. Vata is usually the first dosha to go out of wack and it’s home in our body is the lower region which regulates elimination in the body. If energy is not moving down naturally ( apanavayu) then it can create discomfort and illness in the body. By releasing vata and getting this to move more naturally the ojas goes up and we get that juicyness back again. 

Getting you thigh bones back helps calm vata and we did lots of poses with that intention. We also did headstand and shoulderstand. Now that might not sound like much to you but John hardly ever teaches those two poses. It was actually really great to get the King and Queen poses ( Headstand/shoulderstand) taught by him because, done well , they can be super healing poses. The whole system responds so well to shoulder stand and it can energize you if you are down or slow you down when you are feeling anxious. It has amazing recuperative effects on the body. I love it for flying because it just feels so good to get upside down when you are in another time zone. Those two poses, handstand and a good walk, makes life pretty good on the other side of the planet.

It was a full and fulfilling workshop. John was really in sync with the island and all of us were really there with him. It seems so funny to look back three years ago to Maui where I first met John and see how far I have come, not just as a student or a teacher, but as a human being. John commented on my luster and I said “I feel so good, I feel so right. I just keep my vessel strong and let the shakti fill me up.” Life is good~

mana mahalo~ thank you spirit of the islands

 

Day 3 – Ram Dass and John Friend Intensive Maui

The Bhakti yogi Hanuman

The Bhakti yogi Hanuman

The theme of day three, the last day of the intensive, was ” Faith, Devotion and Grace”. We covered the last 6  chapters of the Gita- except for chapter 15. (Don’t ask) It was really the emphasis of the Bhakti path or devotional path of yoga which was contained in the last chapters of the Gita.

The Bhakti path is not really unfamiliar to us in the West as the worship of Christ is a bhakti path. Many people worship God but the figure of Christ as the embodiment of God and his attributes makes it easier for us to understand than the disembodied divine spirit. As we are manifested in physical form it is hard for us to understand and conceive that which is beyond form and so we take manifested objects and our love for them is what triggers our love and understanding of the universal. We need form or a name in order to have that opening.

I often think of my Dad that is no longer alive and my love for him takes me straight into that place where abstract thought cannot take me. My love for him teaches me about devotion. It takes the absolute realm of the universal and manifests it into something that I can understand. Love is in relationship. You need to love something to understand love- you can’t understand love from a book or from a lecture- it is experienced in relationship.

John asked us all to write down what was the secret of the Gita that Krishna gave to Arjuna- the highest teaching. This is what I wrote, ” That God is in everything and everything is in us. Knowing this, live skillfully with love in your heart”. It is amazing that it takes 18 chapters to get that but you know how we are…..Arjuna keeps asking and doubting and Krishna has to keep explaining and going into more detail….I am wondering if Krishna was a wife….hmm.

We had a rockin’ practice of love in the morning which culminated in hand stand drop over to urdva dhanurasana. I know we did some other cool stuff like a dwi pada with an assist that had our foot in our partner’s back-( I actually adjusted Sjanie’s spine….*pop* ) but we were so blissed out that I forgot. I practiced right beside the Hanuman banner and Maharaji’s picture and it was like Maharaji and the monkey were really digging our practice.

Ram Dass came back for the afternoon and I got brazen enough to ask him to sign my book. As I walked into the room he was in I signaled a bewildered Sjanie and had her grab her book. This is not something Sjanie would normally do, so I kind of cajoled her into it, but I don’t hesitate to say she has no regrets. Ram Dass was very sweet to us and I told him how my daughter loves the monkey ever since we had Satsang with him. He was very pleased about that. Sjanie and I returned to the yoga room with our books clutched to our chests and a little misty trying to soak up Maharaji’s shakti and lookin’ like we just had our favorite movie star autograph our book. Yup- yoga geeks…..

Ram Dass gave the most uplifting and warm talk and he spoke for two hours. He talked about his stroke which was very moving. He said it was like his chapter 11 in the Gita when Krishna reveals himself in the universal form. Before that Arjuna didn’t have faith- he had belief ( which comes from the mind) but he didn’t have faith ( which comes from the heart. When he has his stroke he said he lost faith- he said to Maharaji, ” Hey- did you go out for lunch??? What is THIS?” He was completely depressed in the hospital  and he stared at the picture of Maharaji on the wall. People would come in and say ” How could Maharaji let this happen to you”. It was ” all very sad” he said.

Over time though he started to realize that the stroke wasn’t from Maharaji- it was from nature. It was his karma.  His abilities that he was left with were Maharaji’s Grace. It was fierce Grace, but still Grace. Because Ram Dass had slowed down his audience had to slow down too. His wheel chair and paralysis softened people to him and he was better able to open their hearts. These positive things Maharaji supplied. Maharaji used to say to him, ” I love suffering- it brings me so close to God”.  That’s not saying that suffering is optimal, but isn’t it usually in our darkest times we seek out answers?

Ram Dass explained that devotion cannot be done by intellect. It is done by the heart. A devotee is one whose heart has been opened. He explained that he loved Maharaji and was his devotee but what he really loved was the God within Maharaji. You cannot fall in love with the God in you, your atman, but you can fall in love with the God in someone else.

John had a great quote that went, “ When I don’t know who I am I serve you- when I know who I am I am you.”  It really summerizes the path of the bhakti yogi.

Maharaji used to tell Ram Dass to meditate like Christ. ” Lose yourself in love” he would say. This puzzled Ram Dass so Maharaji showed him and, as Maharaji meditated, tears rolled down his face. Meditation can become like a ritual that is empty of love- this is what Maharaji was trying to explain. Ram Dass said, “You can sing hymns like you are reading the shopping list- but these are the beautiful words of Christ- you need to sing with love”. Ram Dass’ name means servant of God. It also is another name for Hanuman.

This segued into Ram Dass giving us a mini synopsis of the Ramayana. He kept saying he was talking too much and apologizing and we were all ” NO- please, please continue.” His assistant said he hasn’t talked that long to a group since his stroke. His assistant figured our attentiveness was feeding his desire to share. It was so very special.

Ram Dass finished his time with us by telling us his mantra- “ I am loving awareness“.  John sweetly gifted a shawl made from cashmere to Ram Dass and wrapped it around his shoulders. It was so obvious to us that it was like Maharaji’s famous blankets. It all just seemed so right. The perfect way to thank him and honour our time together.

After Ram Dass left,  John took the mantra Ram Dass told us and we used that as our japamala mantra for the afternoon. We also turned our mats and faced one person who we did  a meditation and a partner exercise with. We had to look at them and tell them what we liked about them~ what we saw. It was fun and brought back memories of doing that with Christina Sell many years ago.

We ended the whole day by making a huge circle and taking the whole three days and summarizing it into a few words or a phrase. We went around the circle saying our personal summary. There were some classics. Some of my favorites were, ” Be the loving dude I actually am” ” Love everybody” ” love makes us one” ” Hare Krishna” “Hare Ram” ( back to back no less… ) and “Yum, yum, yum” which is what Ram Dass would say every time he talked about getting to that deepest part of your soul.

I asked Ram Dass only one question during the intensive. I said, “Ram Dass, can faith and love in us awaken it in others?” He emphatically hit his good hand on the arm rest of his wheel chair and said, “YES! Absolutely!” 

My dharma thickens…….

 

The Road to Paradise…. September 23, 2009

Maui flora

Maui flora

Well I am back in Maui for the John Friend/Ram Dass workshop on the Bhagavad Gita with my yoga sister  Sjanie McInnis.  We arrived after a long day/night/day to our little cottage in Haiku and spent the afternoon exploring the wonders of Mana foods in Paia and having an evening swim at a local beach as we watched the sun go down. Not bad for day one. Day two started off with the most amazing oatmeal-coconut porridge from Sjanie- inspired by this months Yoga Journal (Oct/09) and taken to a new level of scrumptious by adding cardamom and fresh young ginger.

The deal is Sjanie cooks and I drive- which if you know us is the wisest split of duties you can get. Today I got off light though as Sjanie still cooked but Geordie Milne drove- another friend and yoga teacher from Vancouver. He has been here two weeks already and was desperate to show us all his discoverys on the South-east side of Maui aka the road to Hana.

We began our journey by driving up to Kula and then followed the road- sometimes lack of it- all the way to Hana. I knew some people drove that way but I thought the road had been damaged during the earthquake a few years ago but it was actually in pretty good shape. I recommend a sturdy vehicle and a driver with a sense of mountain driving though. It is not for the faint of heart. Flatlanders be warned!

Our guide and driver Geordie

Our guide and driver Geordie

Laulima Farm om the South-East side of Maui near Hana

Laulima Farm om the South-East side of Maui near Hana

Our first stop was the Laulima Farms. this place was incredible. For all of you that are interested in sustainable farming and organic  food this will be an inspiration. We were cheerily greeted by Beth and quickly ordered fresh coffee with coconut milk. The coffee beans are grown and roasted right there along with the coconut milk. It was delicious!! Sjanie bought a key lime popsicle ( $2) which was raw, creamy from coconut milk and to die for. Geordie’s banana bread was pretty darn good too. We wandered through the farm a little but if you meet at the fruit stand at 2pm on Saturdays you can take a guided tour of the kitchen and upper gardens. We stopped to talk to Jenn who worked in the kitchen and she told us about the community lunch she was preparing and it sounded heavenly. It is a kabutz of sorts and everyone there seemed pretty happy to be there. It was inspiring to say the least.

Beth serving us inside the Laulima Farm Fruit stand- awesome food

Beth serving us inside the Laulima Farm Fruit stand- awesome food

Sjanie and her raw key lime popsicle~yum

Sjanie and her raw key lime popsicle~yum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was hot on the hill and we needed a little moisture so our next stop was the O’heo Gulch waterfall pools- known more commonly as the 7 sacred pools. Sjanie and I were in the water so fast. So many people came to see them but we were some of the only ones in the water. Of course the scenery begged for some yoga poses on rocks etc so I have a few here and the ones of Sjanie you will have to look for on her blog.

O'heo Gulch aka 7 sacred pools

O'heo Gulch aka 7 sacred pools

Wild thing at the 7 sacred pools

Wild thing at the 7 sacred pools

Geordie rockin' Mayurasana

Geordie rockin' Mayurasana

Sjanie and I cooling off- 7 sacred pools

Sjanie and I cooling off- 7 sacred pools

From there we drove a little further down the road and hiked into the Venus pool. Now that was really crazy~ it was salty and buoyant and had a little island in the center.  The rock was so hot I burnt my feet and I couldn’t get into the water fast enough. I could spend the whole day there floating around. Some guys were jumping off cliffs but frankly I am not that brave …or stupid. Great when you are 20 not so great at 40……

The Venus Pool~ amazing swimming area

The Venus Pool~ amazing swimming area

We had our lunch at the Hana Hotel but missed actual lunch and had pupu’s- snacks and stuff. Expensive but tasty. Sjanie had a great wheat beer with lilikoi in it and I think we may have to go search it out. We drove the rest of the windy road back with a stop in a bamboo forest that reminded me of Crouching Tiger and then set foot right back to our little cottage on the beginning of the Hana Highway. We started at 8:30 that morning and got back at 5:30 so it was a full day but not rushed.

It was so great to see this part of Maui that we had never ventured to. Now that my kids are a little older they can maybe handle the drive and there are some spots that are really unique and worth the effort so I plan to get out there again~ especially for the Laulima Farm coffee and popsicles!

 

How to Breathe on Maui June 3, 2009

Local fishing at Baby beach....

Local fishing at Baby beach....

Yes- I am alive. I have been extremely busy lately and I have been putting my blog last on my to do list. I was supposed to be practicing this morning but I have a weird virus of some type that has left me weak and achy and so rather than sit on the couch I decided to sit at my computer. Lucky you.

Part of my crazy schedule was flying back to back crazy so I could manage a week off work and secretly take my two kids to Maui. They thought their father had left to vacation without them- which he did on my insistence- to Haiku , Maui.  Haiku is located on the north side of the island on the road to Hana and it is a slice of heaven to our family. My husband practices Ashtanga with Nancy Gilgoff when he is there and I usually hang at the Studio Maui if I am practicing Anusara. Yes- we only take yoga vacations….

Because of my flying, we couldn’t take a two week holiday all together so I sent my husband without us. He thought he was going to be alone for two weeks but I spilled the beans to him- and swore him to secrecy- that I was going to surprise the kids and take them to join him during week number two. He was extremely pleased as he misses the kids when they even go for a sleepover! I secretly packed bags for weeks and surreptitiously snatched various vacation items from my unsuspecting children’s rooms. On D-Day ( departure day) I told them we had to drive their Grandma to the airport- which was true- and then we were going out for lunch after I stopped at my airport office. As I parked in the employee lot and got out I asked them if they still wanted to go for lunch. To which they responded with resounding choruses of “YES!!!” I said ” Well we can go for lunch,” I then dramatically pulled a blanket off the suitcases in the back of the truck, “ Or we could go to Maui?”.

I think my son literally stopped breathing. My daughter lit up like a little sun and they both starred at the suitcases. “Mom!!! We are going on the plane? I think I am going to explode!” Words of joy out of a nine year old boy. My daughter couldn’t believe I had everything- she kept asking me if I had her bathing suits. She is five and is going through a stage where she changes every five minutes and gives us a fashion show- her latest one being her swimsuits. In order to keep the secret I had to go out and buy two new ones for the suitcase!

Over to the airport we went and I was so glad as I checked in that my husband carried a cell phone and that I did not keep the trip a surprise from him. Apparently you can’t take your kids on a plane out of the country if you are one parent…you need a letter from the other parent giving permission! Yipes! I made a call my husband who happened to be not far from a fax machine and voila- 30 minutes later we were at the boarding gate. After a lovely flight to Maui- my kids were so good on the plane- we arrived to a very happy husband and father.

I was dissapointed to find out that I would not be doing much yoga with a teacher as Skeeter Tichnor was out of town teaching an immersion, but I made the most of self practice which consisted of many handstands in the playground with my kids. I don’t know if I will ever be able to kick up without a wall or a spot but I have to say I feel much more comfortable on my hands than I used to . There is a familiarity to handstand now that has come over the last few years and I can hold away from the wall now for a while. It really is such a playful and joyous thing to do! Chris managed a daily practice with Nancy which was great. There is lots of yoga on Maui no matter what your style and no matter where you are on the island: the other islands have lots to offer as well.

Practicing on Maui always seems so effortless to me. There is something in the air there that is just conducive to practice. I feel like I can breathe more deeply there. I remember when I was in Maui for an Anusara Immersion with John Friend, he talked about how you could feel the island breathe: the island itself was alive with pulsation. One of the local teachers commented saying ,  “Polynesians call non-Hawaiians  “Haole” -which actually means one who can’t breathe.”   Yup- us white folk really don’t know how to breathe. We rarely breathe deep into our bellys and are breath is short and fast. When the breath slows, we slow, and therefore we get to enjoy the present moment that much more. That’s how I feel on the North side of Maui.

Haiku Heaven- Max and Tracey's

Haiku Heaven- Max and Tracey's

I wanted to tell you about some of our favorite places on the North side if you ever give Maui a visit. First of all is Max and Tracy’s place. Our little studio cottage that is home on Maui is one of two studios you can rent year round. The property is beautiful with 180 degree view of the water. There is an abundance of fruit trees on the property and they always have a basket of what’s in season waiting for you when you arrive. Lychee was just about in season when we left but my son managed to find a few ripe ones to try. The avacados, apple bananas, mangos and oranges are some of my families favorites. You might have to compete with Buttercup, the golden lab, for ripe bananas. My kids call her a banana retriver and she is our rent a dog on Maui. If you really want to get a feel for what it’s like to be a local check it out: ludwig@maui.net.

We do most of our shopping in Paia town which is down the road a few miles. Mana Foods is a local legend and all your organic, health, specialty foods can be found there. I recommend buying the cotton shopping bag which doubles as a great beach bag/purse. Most of the saleable fruit from the property we stay at goes to Manna so they really help support the local farmers. Support them during your stay.DSCN2073

We always pick up a few shorts and T’s and sandals when we are in Maui and our favorite place by far to buy these things is the Hana Highway Surf . They carry all your basic beach needs and they have really great t-shirts with their logos on them. My husband and son love their hoodies.  Jud and Kelly Lau, the husband and wife that own it are really welcoming and Uncle Squidy- the owners uncle and local surf legend- has wave reports for Maui at (808) 871-NALU ( 6258).His absolutely hilarious advertisment on local radio is what sent us searching for them many years ago.

We tend to make our own dinner but there is nothing better than breakfast after primary series in the morning so check out Colleen’s in the Haiku Cannery Market near the Studio Maui. The french toast and fresh squeezed OJ is to die for…

Colleen's in Haiku french toast

Colleen's in Haiku french toast

Swimming and beaches on the North side are limited. The far west side of Baldwin Beach is located close to the residential area of Spreklesville and contains a small lagoon- perfect for family swimming without the shore breaking waves. The locals call it baby beach.  Of course famous Ho’okipa Beach is located on the North side just past Paia near the equally famous- and expensive- Mama’s Fish House. Hanging out at Ho’okipa during a good wind is a real North shore experience- some of the best windsurfers, kite surfers, and just plain old surfers are there all day for free entertainment. It really is amazing to see the talent and althleticism out in the water.

My son investigating the reef at Baby Beach

My son investigating the reef at Baby Beach

 If the weather is wet on the North side- which it often is- we suggest driving down into Makena area and checking out the beach  in front of the Maui Prince Hotel. It is a public beach with washrooms and a shower and the waves are great for boogie boarding. We do not recommend swimming at Big Beach in Makena with children. The wave break is very high and very close to shore and in water no higher than your knees you could be picked up and dashed into the sand. People with broken bones are taken off the beach daily. The locals call Big Beach “ Killer Beach” for a reason.

Having a yoga vacation on Maui dosen’t have to cost you a lot and it really is a fabulous place to practice.

I am looking forward to going back to Maui in September to study with John Friend andRam Dass. Let’s hope I get accepted and if I do I promise to blog during the training!!

 

Maui is like that… March 9, 2008

Filed under: travel yoga,yoga — shibuiyoga @ 9:51 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

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Sorry for the long break in writing but we did not have computer access in Maui except for an Internet cafe and in a way it was extremely liberating. I realized how much of my day I glued myself to the computer. It seemed that 30 minutes twice a week was really enough to check e-mail and such. The only downside was not being able to write my blog so unfortunately these entries from our time in Maui will be less fresh and probably condensed from my normal writing. Maybe that is a good thing…

We spent every morning practicing Ashtanga Yoga. Ashtanga? I know many of my yogi friends are confused about why I would chose to practice Ashtanga but really I never stopped practicing it. Every Sunday I still do primary and Ashtanga was my first introduction to the practice of yoga and for that I am grateful.

After practice one morning, a practitioner beside me mentioned there was kirtan at Maui Studio with Ram Dass. I knew a little bit about Ram Dass having read about him on the internet and having encountered other teachers that had spoken of him. Basically he is an American spiritual teacher who is more infamous for his experiments with pyschedelic drugs at Harvard University than his spiritual teachings.  I stole most of the following bio from Wikipedia.

In 1967, Dr. Richard Alpert ( as he was known then) travelled to India, where he met the American spiritual seeker Bhagavan Das. As he guided him barefoot from temple to temple, Bhagavan Das began teaching Alpert basic mantras and asanas, as well as how to work with a mala. After a few months Bhagavan Das led Alpert to his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, or as he is better known in the West, Maharaj-ji. Maharaj-ji soon became Alpert’s guru and gave him the name “Ram Dass”, which means “servant of God”. Under the guidance of Maharaj-ji, Ram Dass was instructed to receive teaching from Hari Baba Dass, who taught in silence using only a chalkboard.  Among other things, Hari Dass Baba trained Ram Dass in raja yoga and amhisa- non violence. It was these life-changing experiences in India that inspired Ram Dass to write the contemporary spiritual classic, Be Here Now,  in which he teaches the harmony of all people and religions.

He moved to Maui sometime in the 1990’s and has been a fixture there ever since. I wasn’t sure what to expect at kirtan- which is usually devotional chanting- but what we actually came across was a satsang- a lecture by the spiritual teacher. With his stroke he speaks very slowly and deliberately and at first it seemed slow and frustrating but then it became easier- like the slow delivery made each word more significant. Ram Dass chose that night to speak of being a servant to God- a servant like Hanuman- the devoted servant of Rama. He basically retold the Ramayana in a way that those of us modern day yogis could understand. The basic story line is that Sita, a  princess, is kidnapped by a serpent like prince of Lanka , Ravana. Rama is a virtuous prince, and Sita’s husband and he searches all of India for her- with the help of all the animals and especially Lord Hanuman. It was insightful and humorous.

One of the things that I had never heard before was that in some versions Hanuman is actually Shiva manifested- Shiva felt sorry for Rama and chose to come to help him- but in the process of becoming the monkey he forgot that he really was the powerful Shiva. This is an interesting metaphor. We are born with incredible possibility and no knowledge. When Hanuman jumped or flew to Sri Lanka to find Sita he was full of fear. It was too far and too dangerous- it was impossible. He did not know the power that was within him- if he remembered he was Shiva he could have easily done it- but he did not know that. He was a simple monkey who was deeply devoted to his master Rama. It was his devotion and love of Rama that gave him the courage to believe he could jump- and so he did. Hanuman found Sita and eventually Rama and Sita were reunited. Love and devotion- this is the story of Hanuman.

Ram Dass went on to say that this is his story. He said that his story is the story of unconditional love. He said his guru looked at him and knew small details about his life that were unknown to others. He realized then that even those things he wished to hide from his guru- things that were embarrassing and unsavory- were all exposed- and that his guru loved him anyways. Unconditional love- that is what his guru taught him. People asked him “Why do you worship a man?” and he said ” I do not worship a man- I worship a doorway to God- my guru was this doorway.” 

He said a few other profound things which I tucked away in my mind, but one thing he mentioned I missed. My husband could not recall the quote either. It bothered me for days after as I felt it was somehow significant and now I would never get the chance to ask him again. I thought I would have to put it out to other teachers and see if they maybe knew the answer- but of course it would be speculation as only Ram Dass could again tell me the exact quote.

A few days later we had dinner with the owners of the cottage who we have become friends with. They said a neighbour was coming over to join us. The lovely woman that joined us was bright and articulate and she went on to say she had left a successful career and life on the Mainland to be with her spiritual teacher. My brain leapt back to satsang and I realized she was there. We started to chat excitedly and I went on to ask if she knew the answer to my question about Ram Dass’ satsang. She said “No- but I am his personal assistant.  Write it down and I will give it to him. I will call you tomorrow with the answer.” And so she did.

I mentioned the amazing set of circumstances to Nancy Gilgoff, our Ashtanga teacher, and she said, “Maui is like that.”  We continued to have more experiences like this during the trip. Like John Friend said to us in Seattle- there is no random.

For those of you curious to know what Ram Dass said that I was so eager to remember you will have to email me! So much for condensed….