good news Friday — yoga scholarships!

meditation hall, Spirit Rock

Many of you know that I was in the first Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation Training at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California. The 18 month program ran from 2007 to 2009. It consisted of three 10 day retreats held for the most part in silence.  There are readings, homework, and telephone conferences in between the retreats.  There is a core group of yoga and Buddhadharma teachers such as Anne Cushman, Phillip Moffit, Mark Coleman, Anna Douglas, Janice Gates, and Chip Hartranft. There were different guest teachers at each retreat such as Judith Lasater, Tias Little, Stephen Cope, and Sarah Powers, among others.

It was the first training that spoke to my entire being as a yoga practitioner and Buddhist.  My only regret was that Jack Kornfield was not a larger part of the program because I love his books and teachings. I can sit and listen to him for hours.

Now there is fabulous news!  From Spirit Rock’s website:

“Two yoga teachers will get full tuition scholarship to 18-month MYMT Program

Yoga teachers working with disadvantaged or under-served populations—for example, in prisons, homeless shelters, hospitals, or inner city schools—offer life-changing skills to their at-risk students. But they often struggle with stress, burnout and financial challenges. Now, through a new scholarship program at Spirit Rock funded by a grant from the Yoga Dana Foundation (YDF), two such teachers will have the opportunity to nourish their own yoga and meditation practice—and bring the benefits of mindfulness training back to the communities they serve.”

The above link gives all the information you need on the application process.  The scholarships will provide full tuition and room and board for the 18-month Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation Training beginning in January 2011.  I can’t tell you what an awesome opportunity this is to attend a training at one of the premier dharma centers in North America.  I was honored and blessed to have taken part in the inaugural program.  And the food is fantastic!

The teaching population to whom these scholarships are geared toward is one after my own heart.  My work with domestic violence survivors is pure joy.  They are my teachers and they have inspired me to pursue a Masters in Transpersonal Psychology.

Sometimes the path rises up to meet you and after my yoga therapy training in India next year, I want to somehow combine all my yoga/yoga therapy training with the degree so as to truly bring yoga to the people.

Don’t miss out on this wonderful opportunity, but you need to apply by October 25.

Good luck!

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my brother from a different mother

While I was at my final retreat for the Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation Training at Spirit Rock in California, YogaDawg sent me this video saying “this one’s for you, couldn’t help but think about ya….”

Thanks, Y Dawg, I LOVED IT!

I also received another blog award from Grace over at Graceful Yoga, a lovely and gentle yoga blog — she lists her favorite yoga blogs so check them out. Thanks for the blog love, Grace!

As for my final retreat, I will write about it soon. I will say that the retreat and the entire training was amazing. It truly was a groundbreaking training in the western yoga world. It was a never before offered training that combined Buddhism and yoga, the twins separated at birth, so to speak. If you think Buddhism can be separated from hatha yoga, think again.

There were 88 retreatants from around the world, but my “dharma buddy” and I were the only two yoga teachers from Illinois (there were only four teachers from Midwest America.) Out of all the yoga studios in Chicagoland, both of us came from the same studio in Chicago. We think that says a lot.

Enjoy the video and dance to the music — I will give you a little preview about my Spirit Rock retreat post….we ended the retreat (after a solemn graduation ceremony) with a yoga rave dance….Shiva Rea doesn’t have anything on the Spirit Rockers, believe me.

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Sindhu of Flower Girl’s Rural India commented on my sense of my new found spaciousness. She said that she felt the same:

“I practice Silence “Mouna”

My dad used to practice this for a Mandala period, when he would be on complete silence….I am refraining from responding unless otherwise required. I have reduced responding nearly 70% to 75%. (I’m very talkative)

It has given me real inner peace.”

In 9 days I leave for Spirit Rock Meditation Center to do the last retreat of my Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation Training. While we can talk a bit during the yoga training, the rest of the time we are in silence. I can’t tell you how much I love that. But when I tell people that I’ve been on more than few silent retreats, even yoga teachers say, “no way could I do that.”

Those sentiments lead me to thinking about speech in general, but particularly the first principle of ethical conduct in Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path which is RIGHT OR WISE SPEECH.

Silence makes people uncomfortable. I’m not a big talker to begin with, especially around people I don’t know, and that makes people uncomfortable.

We had to read Phillip Moffitt’s book Dancing With Life: Buddhist Insights for Finding Meaning and Joy in the Face of Suffering for this retreat (and I highly recommend this book.) When I read the chapter on Right Speech I kept nodding my head:

“The practice of right speech is built around meeting three conditions simultaneously:

Say only what is true and useful and timely. If any one of these criteria isn’t met, then silence is the wise form of speech. This is such a simple formula and easy to recall even in moments of strong emotion, but it is very hard to execute even under the best conditions, because the grasping mind corrupts speech faster than it does action….

You may not realize the aggressive nature of your speech until you try to make it a mindfulness practice….

Applying the filter of saying only what is useful is even harder. We live in a culture where ‘speaking your truth’ is promoted as a form of empowerment and good communication. Yet this is not the case if your words don’t provide useful information or better understanding….

Practicing right speech includes actively refraining from giving unsolicited opinions or stating your view when it serves no purpose….You also don’t use the truth as a weapon for making yourself look better in comparison to another, or to put others in their place…don’t use speech to satisfy your ego.

Right speech involves listening from the heart…you give full attention to the words of others and listen without judging, preparing a response, or comparing….

You may utilize right speech with others, but have violent, unsettling or crippling interior speech.”
(DWL, pp.233-236)

I am the first to admit that my mouth has gotten me into trouble over these many years. Not that I say malicious or hateful things to people, but I am outspoken and am guilty of giving unsolicited advice (especially about yoga.) But the longer I am on this Path, I am much more mindful of things I say. Believe me, I try, and intention and motivation are everything. I think before I open my mouth and if it serves no useful purpose then I usually keep my mouth shut (my friends might disagree with that but they can also keep their mouths shut…;)).

I also pay close attention to when I listen with an open heart. I notice whether I am fully present when someone is speaking to me. I notice whether my Ego is telling me “I wish they’d shut up….hey, I have to get some rice milk on the way home…I have to call….” I think you get the idea. I have heard the Dalai Lama admit that in meetings even he thinks “this is boring. I’m hungry. I want some tea.” True story.

Now with the internet and things like blogs and Facebook, it’s this Buddhist’s opinion that Right or Wise Speech is even more important. Right Speech also refers to the written word.

As bloggers many of us have dealt with trolls on our blogs, people who write nasty comments or argue with everything you write or insult your other readers. Useless.

As for emails I’m sure there is not one person reading this who has not regretted firing off a nasty response to someone and it’s come back to bite them in their yoga butt. I am very familiar with that one. I wrote an unflattering email about someone and sent it to the person I was writing about instead of to the person I had intended to send it — definitely the epitome of mindLESSness, not mindfulness. But I had the guts to own up to it and called the woman to apologize. I knew that this yoga teacher had said some untrue and nasty things about me before I wrote my email but two wrongs don’t make a right.

As for blogs, online newspapers, and Facebook and MySpace, we all know the things that are said publicly on those websites. Accusations, misrepresentations, insults, oneupsmanship, always having to get in the last word, you name it. We can agree to disagree but it’s good to remember to “say only what is true and useful and timely.” As I told my husband four years ago when he was not supportive of my going to India the first time, “if you have nothing positive to say then don’t say anything at all.”

One of my students told me about her 9 year old niece who she said was out of control ADD. She said that ever since the girl was born there has never been a moment of silence in her brother’s house, that a radio or TV is always playing, ever since this girl was one day old. I thought that supported Jon Kabat-Zinn’s belief in his book Coming To Our Senses that it is not the ADD child who is dysfunctional, the entire family is dysfunctional — we are an ADD nation. Think of all the people you see and know who are always texting, talking on a cell phone, or listening to their IPods non-stop. The thought of never being still or silent boggles my mind. We all know people who talk just for the sake of talking and end up saying nothing.

I am far from perfect and it will probably take me another lifetime or two to get over my penchant for sarcasm. I can certainly be the queen of yoga snark. I will always speak my truth but I’m definitely more mindful of what I say and how I say things. Intention and motivation are everything and each moment of mindfulness and awareness is a step closer to awakening. As Sarah Powers said in the last workshop I did with her, her favorite teachers are the ones who are also human as they teach and try to live the dharma. I am certainly human.

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the retreat, part 2: Yoga Dawg goes legit!

I have finally found some time to write a a bit about my second 10 day retreat for my Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation training at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California. You can read about the first retreat in October, 2007 here.

We had the same teachers from last year except for Stephen Cope from Kripalu. I missed him because I love his style. In his place was Chip Hartranft who wrote The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali: A New Translation with Commentary which is the version of the Sutras we are using for this training. In his book Chip skillfully shows how the buddha-dharma can not be separated from Patanjali’s yoga philosophy.

My interview with a yoga teacher was with Chip and I loved his style as much as I loved Stephen Cope’s. Chip is sweet and down-to-earth and the real deal in my opinion. We were both sorry that our 15 minute talk seemed to end so quickly. I look forward to seeing him next year as he will be one of the teachers leading asana practice, along with Jill Satterfield.

The guest yoga teachers for this retreat were my teacher, Sarah Powers, and Judith Lasater. It was good to see Sarah as she is my teacher for yin yoga together with Paul Grilley when they come to Chicago. We did a yin and yang practice with Sarah and restorative yoga with Judith Lasater. I will say that after spending two days with Judith and her style of yoga, I wanted to leave the retreat — more on Judith’s classes in my next post.

Anne Cushman, who wrote Enlightenment for Idiots (see my sidebar), is one of the coordinators of this training and she led us in classes and also gave a talk on yoga. Although it was a mostly silent retreat, I thanked her for sending me her book and she told me she was going to quote YogaDawg in her talk — so that’s how YogaDawg became legit, his book quoted at a yoga and meditation training. I was amused when I saw students furiously writing down his words about yoga students, and I wondered whether they realized it’s yoga satire….after all, Lindia is YogaDawg’s evil yogini sister, bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha (that was supposed to be an evil laugh.)

Anne opened her discussion by posing the question: how does asana practice help mindfulness practice? she said because everything — meditation, pranayama, Patanjali’s and the Buddha’s words — are used in the service of waking up. she said that yoga was never supposed to be for anything other than awakening and seeing the world clearly as it is. that is enlightenment.

in the retreat asana practice cultivates a deeper exploration of our emotions, mind states, and body and breath. we use our asana practice to explore our relief from suffering, to bring us ease, and to explore the Four Noble Truths in relationship to our practice and therefore our life. yoga is life — Krishnamacharya knew this when he said “breath is central to yoga because it is central to life and yoga is about life.” practice is life and our life is the practice. yoga has the toolbox to bring us blissful states but the problem comes when we think that’s the only thing yoga can do, i.e., when we use yoga as a quick fix. what do we do when there is no quick fix? what are the larger principles we can bring to our asana practice?

Anne named four things:

1. bring the quality of metta (loving-kindness) or self-compassion to your practice. she said that sometimes metta was more important than mindfulness because we are judgmental about our practice. we forget that we are already complete and as yogins we have too much internal criticism about our practice. when we practice self-compassion our mindfulness will flourish naturally.

2. remember to use asana practice AS IT IS; know the difference between goal and intention. be present and develop a new relationship with WHAT IS. be willing to be present in your practice and transformation will occur. use your asana practice as a counterpose to the culture at large where we are pressured to constantly and continually become “better” because it is never good enough to be just as we are.

3. don’t use your asana practice as a way to support your conditioning — use it to counterbalance and transform your conditioning. Anne gave the example of Type A personalities always doing the same type of practice which supports their conditioning instead of transforming them into a less agitated Type B. if you live your life in constant agitation, don’t do a practice that will agitate you even more. be flexible with your practice, not dogmatic. As Jack Kornfield writes in A Path With Heart, mental flexibility is one of the marks of spiritual maturity. embrace the yin along with the yang.

4. most importantly, use your asana practice as a means to get in touch with impermanence. our bodies are changing every day even though we act like they aren’t. all of us will die yet we live as if we won’t. use your asana practice to recognize the changes in your body while at the same time celebrating it and appreciating it.

Anne reminded us that our asana practice is a constant dance between form and formlessness. as yogins we devote ourselves to the study of form and to being healthy, but at the same time we must realize that the forms we turn our bodies into are impermanent, one asana flows into another, as do the seasons of our lives. embrace the two truths of form and formlessness at the same time and always remember that it’s just a pose.

This second retreat was a mixed bag for me, good, bad, and indifferent, yet I experienced some epiphanies. I used to tell my students that a wise-ass Buddhist once said, life sucks, but suffering is optional. I now realize that life is suffering, pain is optional — big difference, think about it.

During a meditation practice on forgiveness, I finally forgave the alcoholic yoga studio owner, I no longer feel the rage. actually, the forgiveness was ultimately for me, not her. I forgave her for myself, to relieve MY pain over being betrayed. self-compassion is a wonderful thing.

the entire trip was a lesson on impermanence. before the retreat I spent five days with a friend exploring the Big Sur area. as it turned out, we cheated death by a few days because when we left, Big Sur went up in flames. the restaurant and the store that we went to and the Tassjara area, all were engulfed in wildfires that are still being fought.

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body consciousness

Those of you who have been reading this blog regularly know that I don’t treat yoga as a physical exercise or performance art. I know that people come to yoga for all different reasons, and many people say “so what if people just do yoga for the work-out? they’ll find the non-physical part of it eventually.”

my contention is…maybe.

remember what I said before: in the pre-Yoga Journal days, that is, when I dabbled in yoga and meditation in college in the early ’70s, the only people I knew doing yoga and meditation were patchoulli oil wearing hippies who had already been to or were going to India. They lived in communes or had studied with white-robed gurus who did not separate yoga and meditation. Yoga was meditation and meditation was yoga. what a concept!

I also contend that if one is “doing yoga” for only the physical aspects, it ain’t yoga. it’s acrobatics. it’s gymnastics. but it ain’t yoga. I’ve heard Desikachar, the son of Krishnamacharya, say the same thing. you can call a dog a cat a thousand times, but that will never make that dog a cat. it’s still a dog, no matter what you call it. so you can call your morning work-out “yoga” all you want, but that does not make it yoga.

what I find in my classes both with beginners and experienced students is that they are very disembodied. their bodies are in the room, but their minds are not. my teaching is very breath-oriented, and I can always tell when someone moves first, and then breathes. it’s become second nature to me. and when they are holding the asanas, I can always tell how they are “out there”, instead of “in here”, that is, in their own skin. the darting eyes, the twitching fingers, the hard bellies without the softness of breath, the constant adjustments without stopping to feel the asana, the need to rush on to the next asana, these are all dead give-aways of disembodiment.

I teach a slow flow vinyasa, moving with the breath, and also yin. Yin is a style that can make people uncomfortable in their own skin because they have to be still for at least five minutes in order to stretch the connective tissue (and thereby the meridians of the body) in order to facilitate opening and an increased flow of chi. it’s a style that teaches you to stop resisting, first in your yoga, but more importantly, I believe, in your life.

it is also a style that connects you to the concept of surrendering to your body. I think the concept of surrender is a dirty word to many western yogis because the western mindset is conditioned for resistance and hardness, in other words, “working out.” I believe that the way you do your yoga is the way you live your life…soft v. hard, resistance v. surrender, rushed v. slow, pushing away v. acceptance.

In my Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation Training we must do periodic readings and one reading was a chapter called “Sensations” from Aligned, Relaxed, Resilient: The Physical Foundations of Mindfulness by Will Johnson. as I was reading a light bulb went off over my head and I said “YES!, this is why people are uncomfortable meditating”. not because our minds run away with us, which is what people always say, but because we run away from our physical sensations. what comes up in asana practice or when we try to meditate draws us into the present moment and sometimes that’s a terrifying place to be. the present moment helps us experience life in the here and now instead of regretting the past or anticipating the future. the present moment helps us become embodied rather than disembodied. when we stop feeling our physical sensations, when we run away from them, when we are “out there” instead of “in here”, that is when the monkey mind takes over. that’s when I see the twitching fingers and the darting eyes.

it’s hard to be still because we are conditioned to run.

Johnson says that “it is not possible to be aware of the full presence of bodily sensations and lost in the involuntary monologue of the mind at the same time.” Buddha said that “everything that arises in the mind starts flowing with a sensation on the body.”

Below is an excerpt from one of my favorite blogs The Absent Mind. In this post Mike writes about meditation, surrender, and acceptance:

I’ve been feeling that I could actually meditate indefinitely, if not for physical limitations. And even then, I could probably bear any level of physical discomfort. Somewhere along the line, I passed a point where I stopped resisting or expecting anything from meditation. Or life for that matter. The two go hand in hand.

…I still resist life here and there like everyone else. But not nearly as much as I once did. With regard to meditation, I am in awe of the beauty of utter simplicity. A friend of mine once said that transformation is the shift from nothing is very satisfying to nothing is very satisfying. Brilliant, and oh, so True.

When people ask me about meditation, they often tell me they have tried it but can’t sit still for even 15 minutes. What can I tell them? Practice.

Here is another hint that might unlock the door for some. The reason that people can’t sit still in meditation (or any other part of life) is that they want to eliminate what they perceive as the negative. In the case of meditation, it can be mind chatter or whatever unpleasant thoughts or feelings arise. How many times have I heard the words, “If I could only quiet my mind …”?

But the problem with that perspective is this: reducing the negative in anything only changes the scale on which you operate. It never eliminates duality. For example, if you reduce mind chatter to the point where you only have a fleeting thought once every 2 minutes, you may still be just as annoyed by that thought as you were with constant mind chatter. There is no escape from thoughts, feelings, or any other forms of negativity. There is only surrender, acceptance.

As one of life’s most excruciating ironies, a funny thing happens with surrender. Gradually one opens up to the profound beauty in every movement, thought, feeling, or stirring. One becomes able to perceive even the slightest shift in energy, and the Silence of Pure Being arises amidst the storm of thinking, feeling, and otherwise being alive.

(emphasis added)

In my comment to his post I said that when people try to meditate they usually run from any type of temporary physical sensation. Mike said: “I notice this, too, when attending yoga classes. The most challenging (yet also most satisfying) aspect of the asana is the relaxing into body consciousness. Of course, this is why breath is so important, because it is synonymous with energy flow and the consciousness of the body.” (emphasis added.)

Mike said that he pondered the question, “why does consciousness follow this body around?” and when he asked his teacher, his teacher said “‘the body is consciousness.’ …there is no separation of mind and body, they are one and the same.”

mind + body = no duality. until we understand that, we’re not doing yoga.

the retreat, part 1

Phillip Moffitt said it was an historic event. Jack Kornfield said that he has not been this excited since the Dalai Lama came to Spirit Rock. Stephen Cope compared us – the 90 yogis from around the world – to the original yogis, the sramanas, who in the 8th Century BC distanced themselves from the rituals of the Brahmin priests, taking to the forests and questioning the status quo.

I returned from the first 10 day retreat of the Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation Training at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California inspired but also with a confirmation of what I have always felt about yoga – that yoga taught without attention to mindfulness of the body and the breath and without meditation is not yoga, but merely acrobatics. Indeed, this is what Desikachar told us in my trainings at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram.

This training is a ground-breaking 18-month program for yoga teachers and experienced practitioners that integrates asana and pranayama, mindfulness meditation, and Patanjali’s classical yoga system. It is led by nationally renowned teachers in both the Buddhist and yogic tradition, using asana and pranayama as foundations for the more subtle limbs of yogic practice (meditation, concentration, and insight), using the techniques taught by the Buddha. Phillip Moffitt told us that planning this program has taken two years and as far as they knew, this training has never been taught anywhere in the world, that is, a program that integrates Buddhism with Patanjali’s classical yoga as written in the Yoga Sutra-s.

According to Spirit Rock’s website, the benefits of this blended program include: an experiential grounding in an integrated yoga and vipassana practice that can nourish practitioners in their daily lives; a solid understanding of the entwined history, philosophy, and techniques of both yoga and Buddhism; and the foundational skills and understanding necessary to practice yoga–and for teachers to teach it–in a way that embodies and facilitates a deep understanding of core Buddhist principles such as mindfulness, lovingkindness, compassion, equanimity, and the interdependence of all life.

There is a core group of vipassana and yoga teachers with guest teachers coming in for each retreat. The vipassana teachers are Jack Kornfield, Phillip Moffit, Mark Coleman, and Anna Douglas. The yoga teachers are Stephen Cope of Kripalu, Anne Cushman, and Janice Gates. The guest yoga teacher for this retreat was Tias Little. Future guest yoga teachers will be Sarah Powers, Frank Jude Boccio, Judith Lasater, and Jill Satterfield, among others. Dr. Dean Ornish is also scheduled to teach.

Before the retreat we were required to read portions from four books: Loving-Kindness: The Revoluntionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg; Seeking the Heart of Wisdom: The Path of Insight Meditation by Jack Kornfield; Mindfulness Yoga: The Awakened Union of Breath, Body and Mind by Frank Jude Boccio (who was also at the retreat but did not teach); and a recent translation of the Sutra-s by Chip Hartranft, The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali. This is the first translation I have read that takes into account the influence of Buddhism on Patanjali.

We woke up every morning at 5:15 for the first 45 minute sitting meditation at 5:45 am. The first three days we had 11 periods each day of either sitting or walking meditation, 30 or 45 minutes at a time, with two hours of yoga practice, together with a yoga talk in the morning and a dharma talk at night. The next 7 days we had 9 periods each day of sitting or walking meditation. We had a choice during one of the 45 minute morning time slots to do walking meditation or our own personal yoga practice. Most people chose yoga. At this point in the retreat we did not have the yoga talk in the morning, but had a three hour yoga seminar in the afternoon and this is when Janice Gates and Tias Little taught. We still had the dharma talk led by a different vipassana teacher every night.

I have never been to Kripalu but I’ve read Stephen Cope’s books. All I can say about him is that he is brilliant. A brilliant lecturer and a brilliant yoga teacher, besides being a classical pianist obsessed with Beethoven. If you ever get a chance to go to Kripalu, run, don’t walk, to sign up for his teachings. On the second night of the retreat he gave the dharma talk and drew us a yoga timeline from the Vedas to the explosion of yoga after 1975 when Yoga Journal was first published. He emphasized that the renouncers of the Hindu rituals, the sramanas, starting from the 8th Century BC to the 2nd century CE, used their own bodies and minds as laboratories for the direct experience of yoga and for the research on the nondualism of body and mind — just as we will do during the next 18 months.

He told us that Patanjali wrote the Sutras as a treatise for advanced yoga students and reminded us that only three sutras mention asana, all the rest are about meditation and the human experience. So when people say that “yoga is 5000 years old”, that really isn’t accurate because it was not until the Middle Ages (1300 app.) when the Hatha Yoga Pradipika was written followed by the Geranda-Samhita (1600 app.) and the Shiva-Samhita (1700 app.) that the yoga poses we do today were revealed.

Cope said that the core of the Yoga Sutra-s is not about asana practice but about uncovering the roots of human suffering. He said that yoga and Buddhism both grew out of the same cultural milieu of India at that time, that is, as a reaction to the dogma of the Vedic and Brahmin culture. Buddha (563-483 BC) lived about 700 years before Patanjali wrote the Sutra-s but Cope said that given the religious atmosphere of India in the 2nd Century (wandering Buddhist monks), it would have been impossible for Patanjali not to have been influenced by Buddhist thought. Both the Sutra-s and Buddhism seek to uncover the roots of human suffering. When Buddha said that “second hand answers have no power to transform”, he was talking about direct insight into known experience, the known experience of sitting and watching the breath, watching the body in the body and the breath in the breath.

the times they are a-changing

Y’all won’t be reading very many cathartic musings and rants because a week from today I am headed to Northern California for Spirit Rock’s Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation Training. I will be gone for 10 glorious days.

I can’t tell you how excited and grateful I am to be accepted into this program because it is truly a ground-breaking, leading-edge training, something that I have searched for for a long time — well, ever since I started teaching. According to the latest Tricycle magazine,

“the 18 month long training is designed to ground participants in the deeper, meditative dimensions of yoga as set out in Patanjali’s classical yoga system, through the integration of asana and pranayama with mindfulness meditation techniques…. The program’s integrated approach harks back to the way yoga was practiced thousands of years ago.

The teachers for this retreat — and what’s cool is that there are different yoga and Buddhist teachers for each retreat — are Jack Kornfield, Anna Douglas, Phillip Moffit, Mark Coleman, Stephen Cope, Janice Gates, Anne Cushman, and Tias Little.

The retreats follow a structure similar to a vipassana retreat, with regular periods of seated and walking meditation and yoga interwoven with dharma talks, yoga talks, workshops, Q & A sessions, and individual interviews with both yoga and vipassana teachers. Awesome!

Between retreats there are readings and practice assignments and we are assigned a “dharma buddy”, somebody in my geographic area.

So no blogging for me. It will be good to detach from the outside world, or at least detach as much as possible. It will almost be like going to India because when I am in India, I rarely read newspapers — maybe the international version of the New York Times occassionally — and I especially don’t want to read about the United States. When I was in India the first time, I completely missed Hurricane Katrina. and you know what? it felt good.

So try it some time, detaching from the constant barrage of negativity and the “live in fear” mantras that this culture is bombarded with 24/7/365. you will feel a difference, believe me.

And when I return I will tell the story of how I left the yoga studio where I have been teaching the last few years. Let’s just say that I had the guts to stand up and be honest about a situation that was based on delusions and lies and I got shot down in flames for it. Since Friday I have been honored and humbled by students who told me that they consider me their “spiritual teacher” — when most days I consider myself a fraud, merely an ant at the bottom of the yoga hill.

So this retreat at Spirit Rock can’t come soon enough because I feel disappointed, betrayed, and totally emotionally fried by the entire studio experience. if that sounds melodramatic, oh well, it’s the way I feel. I don’t live my life in delusions or lies. not anymore. and any life (or yoga studio) that is built on those two things will crumble soon enough, it’s only a matter of time.

But as they say, a door closes and another one opens. I talked today to a studio owner who sounds wonderful and we are getting together after my return. Plus I will learn a healing modality in November that my gut tells me is going to be an important part of my Path. As a reiki master I always intuited that there was something more out there, something much deeper and more profound. An akashic record reader told me that “reiki is too mundane for you.” And Ma India is only 86 days away.

I will leave you with the words of my teacher, Gelek Rimpoche, about how to deal with someone who upsets you:

You should try to realize that the person who is upsetting you is not doing it willingly. They are under the control of their own self-grasping ego and driven by delusion toward harmful actions. In that sense, their actions are like that of a drunkard or madman. With that understanding, ask yourself if it is worth getting angry with a madman or a drunkard. There is no reason to hate such a person, who is suffering under the control of their negative emotions.

Go with the flow, Sama, just go with the flow. Detach from the outcome and all is coming.

While I’m gone, please go over to the sidebar and look at “Compassion in Action” — please click one or all of the charity buttons to donate…it doesn’t cost you anything but about 10 seconds of your time.

salaam aleikum