Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New Spring Chapter: Yoga Teacher Training!

It has been a great day so far! Woke up very leisurely on my day off, close to 11am, and had no guilt about it either. Yesterday was such a nice yet extremely loooong day and that was running on only four hours of sleep, so I felt no shame in catching up on my sleep this morning. Also I intentionally made no plans today because I precisely wanted no obligation to anyone else except myself today and the things I want and also need to do. Today has been a day of tending to me and getting some much needed R & R.
First I'd like to share that I officially began my Yoga Teacher Training two weekends ago at Bhakti Yoga Shala with the great and inspiring Govindas as my teacher!

It is an especially blessed and wonderful opportunity because I was able to work out a Yoga work trade with Govindas to help him with his own personal projects and also as an assistant to him during this Yoga Teacher Training program. Essentially what I am doing in exchange for taking this training, is:
  1. taking really detailed notes of everything that we do and talk about during the entire program (which is awesome because it means I am invested in being the best student I can be! :) 
  2. I am to bring my camera with me to each class and shoot anything that is especially interesting, such as Govind-das talking about a really interesting topic, the students doing various “asanas” (physical Yoga poses), etc. In the future, Govind-das wants me to put together both a promotional video with short interesting clips edited together with music for both his studio – Bhakti Yoga Shala, and for his Yoga Teacher Training course as well. 
  3. I clean up around the studio before/after our classes, light candles, sweep floors, etc.
  4. Anything else he may need! 
Govindas is very busy as an owner of Bhakti Yoga Shala, as a Yoga teacher, along with leading our Yoga TT happening now and a future one abroad, as well as a Kirtan music touring around the country (and abroad I think), writing a book and being a husband and father – Wow! And I thought I was busy, haha! Anyway, this is a really wonderful opportunity that I have right now and I just feel so blessed to be going deeper on my spiritual path and learning a lot more about Yoga! I have been wanting to do this for almost two years now, and have always thought about becoming a Yoga teacher. Who knows, in a year from now, maybe I will be teaching some of you dear people Yoga!?
Ganesha statue in Bhakti Yoga Shala studio
Anyhow, when I woke up this morning, I did part of the homework Govindas gave us to do this week. I built myself a little makeshift alter and meditated for about thirty minutes. We were told to only do five minutes, but again today has been about leisure and an easy pace, so I took my sweet time. :) One of the students had asked if it was alright if we make a temporary sort of alter where we build it and take it down each day. Govindas said yes, of course. So I was encourage by that to set up my little alter right next to the gorgeous pool in our backyard. Ever since we moved into this gigantic mansion as house-sitters several months back, I have mostly been drawn to the backyard space and the pool and trees. Maybe because it has officially been turned Spring, and also because we are set to move out in May, I realize I don't have much time left to enjoy this pool and backyard, so I m led to soak up as much time and pleasure as I can while we are still here. I grabbed whatever I could find easily accessible that would fit in my makeshift alter. A beautiful dark wood candle holder with an Asian clay Buddha face glued to the back that my dear friend Sara gave to me for my birthday years ago in college. A long brass cross necklace Nate gave me when he first moved to California. A gorgeous floral and vintage style collage cylinder art piece my sister gave me for Christmas. A tiny wooden box with an owl carved into the top that I gave to Nate for Christmas. Four freshly picked white roses off one of the rose bushes in the backyard. My yoga mat. My gloriously beautiful large-sized “Great Yoga Retreats” picture book Nate got for me. My new "Bhagavad Gita" book I just got for Yoga TT (a translation of the original Yoga texts).

It also dawned on me that every element from the “Five Great Elements of Ayurveda” were all around me, awakening my senses: 1. Earth (the grass and earth beneath me and trees around me) 2. Water (the pool) 3. Fire (the lit candle) 4. Air (the air around me and breath in me) 5. Ether (the mental and emotional space this meditative practice gives me).

I set up the alter around one of the corners of the pool, the sunshine glistening through the large tree onto the aqua blue pool. The soothing sound of the babbling baby waterfall coming down from the hot tub onto the pool calming my mind as I sat in the half lotus / Suhkasana (easy sitting pose) on my yoga mat facing my alter, the pool and trees my backdrop.

For a few minutes I based in the warmth of the sun, the soothing sounds of running water and the birds with their melodious chirping and the breeze rustling through the trees all around me. My senses were in heaven. The first page I flipped to in my "Great Yoga Retreats" book by Angelika Taschen, was a girl in white robes sitting in lotus pose on the edge of a gorgeous aqua blue pool somewhere in southeast Asia with palm trees around her and a half Buddha/half mermaid carved into the edge of the pool. It looked like a postcard for serenity. I found it striking how similar I look to this brown-skinned Asian girl with long black hair. I smiled.

Govindas said we could outwardly or inwardly chant or sing one of the mantas we learned. The tune of "Shanti, Shanti, Shanteeeee-eeee-eei," played in my mind, so I started singing that, simultaneously practicing my best “Ujjayi” breath (also known as “Ocean breath”) while I chanted. After sweeping up my hands towards the sky during an inhale and pressing my palms together into a prayer pose, and on my next exhale letting it first fall to the crown of my head, then my Third Eye, then to my lips and finally resting at my Heart chakra. My spine was tall and my mind felt clear. After this mantra I tried the simple “Om” chant a few times. After a full inhale I started chanting the sound 'Aaaaa,' transitioning into 'Auuuuu' then ending with 'Ommmmm.' This tri-fold sound is associated with the trinity “Brahma – Vishnu – Shiva.” “Brahma” means God as Creator and is the first sound 'Aaaaa.' “Vishnu” means The Preserver (or Sustaining Energy) and is the second sound 'Auuuu.' “Shiva” is The Destroyer (or Dissolving Energy) and is the last sound 'Ommmm.' Then, I actually surprised myself by remembering the “Guru Invocation Chant” we learned in Yoga TT this weekend! Even though I couldn't remember the tune of the song I made up my own melody which ended up being quite fun! :)
Namaste <3

After all of this meditating and chanting by the pool in the glorious sun I felt completely relaxed, recharged, energized and ready for my beautiful day to begin. I rode my bike to the grocery store and stuffed all my groceries in the basket attached to the back of my bike. Since it was a Whole Foods in Brentwood, with BMW's and Lexuses rolling by, I noticed a couple of onlookers at my concentrated effort to cram all of my stuff into my basket so it would all fit and nothing would fall out on my way back home. The greatest thing was noticing it but not being afraid of what anybody thought of me. In fact it was quite joyful realizing what a silly hippie I probably looked like with my two pigtail braids and my basket on the back of my bike. HA!

Nate got me this GORGEOUS electric ENELOOP bike for my birthday :)
As I started riding home, I felt overcome with a joy to be alive and to be feeling really comfortable in my own skin at this lovely point in my life. I also was thinking about how happy I am to get to spend most of my day off today with Nate (we are going on a date later tonight :). His birthday is coming up next week so I asked the lady working in the Whole Foods “Body department” what kinds of things I could get for him that weren't too “girly.” She chuckled and asked “Well how comfortable is he with girly kinds of things?” We both looked around the entirely girly section of the store filled with handmade soaps, scented lotions, soy candles and eco-friendly makeup. “Well, he's pretty comfortable with his feminine side if that's what your asking,” I said. LOL. She pointed me to a gorgeous bag of Pink Himalayan Sea Salt Massage Stones that you can heat up and use to massage your sweetie into blissful relaxation. 'Perfect gift!' I thought. “Yes, I'll take it please!”

Halfway home from the store, I spotted my sweetie walking down the sidewalk, completely barefoot and adorable. “Babe! What are you doing walking down here barefoot!” I asked, so happy to see him just when I was thinking about him and his birthday. “I was worried about you. You were gone for so long.” Awwww what a true sweetheart I have. We walked back to the house – he walked my bike with all the groceries in the back – and just talked about life. It dawned on me this weekend during my Yoga TT that many of the virtues stated in the “8 Limbs of Yoga (or 8 Steps) have coincidentally been happening in my life for the last few months. Nate asked me what was that. Well after reading the incredibly life-changing book I picked up at Whole Foods called “The Food Revolution,” by John Robbins, we became vegans in January. Although we have cheated and had some cheese (Yummmm. Cheese.), we have stayed pretty consistently vegan. And the first thing in the 1st Limb of Yoga – part of the “Yamas” (Universal Morality) – states “Compassion for all living things.” This is why traditionally Yogis have always followed a purely vegetarian diet.

Then just two days ago, I had a needed talk with Nate about being happy with what we have. Even though we don't always have that much money and not that much time, we can't take for granted how lucky and blessed we are to have each other. To have found true love.

My favorite picture from our Save the Date engagement photo shoot - Photo taken by Odd Hynnekleiv :)
This is a HUGE lesson for me. In a world where advertising and commercials and billboards tell us what we should desire, it can become easy to think that if we just have this thing or that thing, we will finally be happy. But this just isn't true.

LA billboard

Later that day, I had an amazing class with one of my favorite Yoga teachers, Shari Goodhartz, about the virtue of Contentment, meaning being happy and accepting exactly what is available to us right here, right now and not trying to push our boundaries to attain more that we can really handle. She was specifically talking about our Yoga practice and being OK if we couldn't go quite as deep or far as we wanted; sometimes that extra inch of flexibility or advanced pose just isn't available to us at that moment. And that's OK. The beauty of Yoga is we only need to focus on what is happening right here, right now on this mat. No need to compare ourselves to the guy next to us. This practice is not a competition. It's a unique spiritual experience. And I've been realizing this is so true in my life as well. We can spend so much time and energy seeking to “keep up with the Jones'” as they say, but what we often end up with is unhappiness and wasted energy that way. As it turned out, after realizing this great truth the other day, I found out yesterday in my Yoga TT with Govindas, “Santosa” (Contentment) is the second truth of the 2nd Limbs of Yoga, called “Niyama” (Personal Observance). Coincidence? I think not :)

I believe synchronicity is being weaved into the fabric of my life now. I just feel so blessed to see this unfolding like a blossoming spring flower while I am embarking on a deeper level of my spiritual path during this Yoga Teacher Training. As I continue doing this for the next two months, I intend to keep observing, writing and sharing what keeps unfolding on this beautiful journey into my heart.

Namaste <3

(PS: I wrote this yesterday, but had too much fun going out on my date with Nate last night so am only now getting this up here today :)
Date Night!!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Day at Home

Watching my love leave as I watched from through the glass door and through the gated driveway I felt that familiar feeling I remember feeling so poignantly when someone I really loved had to go as a child.  This bittersweet feeling... No... I don't want to be here without you.  I love you.  I don't want to miss you.  My heart hurts when we are apart.

And maybe it's because we've both been so busy.  Busy-ness really does have a way of catching up with you, after too much time of neglect, you're left with a stinging longing in your heart.  To spend more time with the one you really love, doing the things you really love.

I had another strange notion as I looked out and saw the beautiful, graceful branches of green extend out from the large tree in the front yard.  When I find myself alone I often find friendship - kinship - in nature.  With the trees and their kind branches offering hugs of support, their sturdy trunks offering hope and strength, their roots offering a feeling of grounded-ness and safety... Trees throughout my life have always been there to let me cry for whatever I was grieving for or missing in my life, as well as offer love, guidance and a sense of playful joy.

And then the beautiful sun.  The play of light dancing through the trees and touching my face and eyelashes with such bright and warm kindness.  A good minute in the sun's glory can quell almost any sadness I may feel.

They say sometimes, your heart has to be vulnerable in order to open and let in the love. Sometimes a good cry is the best form of therapy because it truly cleanses the soul.  I needed a day to come down from the busy-ness and spend time at home, savoring the time I had with Nate, before he had to go, as well as basking in the light and sweetness of nature around me.  I needed some time to process what is happening in my life at the moment and be tender with Nate and with myself.

The words Nate spoke before he left play in my mind... Even though we might be apart physically, I will always be here with you for the rest our lives.  You are never alone. I am always here with you...  We hugged a giant hug.  Hugs are awesome.  They are able to go beyond words and speak of the deep love that make two hearts in love inseparable.  I am so happy to have found the love of my life that I will be marrying in less that five months <3 <3 <3

Exploring Nate's favorite hike down to the Oswald Beach in Oregon

Cuddling in the roots of a giant moss-covered tree on the coast of Oregon <3