Being empowered is to take ownership of and celebrate the pairs of complimentary forces that sustain my life: The Earth and Sky; The Sun and Moon; The Light and Shadow; Harmony and Conflict; Blessings and Challenges; Freedom and Limiting circumstances; Love and Fear… It is knowing that if I should be careless, that part of me that confuses me and steers me to be lost will take the helm. While I maintain my commitment to move with care and focus then that aspect of me that fills me with peace and joy will take the helm.
Being empowered is accepting and owning who we are, with all my Light and all my Shadow. That I resound with what I resonate and desire and yearn for what I desire and yearn. And it is good to have my own tune and not mimic the false resonance and whims that trend.
Being empowered is to remember who I am … and choose to be faithful to my own identity, my own pulse, my own criteria, understanding, sensations and perceptions, with my own values and my own life sense.
Being empowered is to recognize and tend to my own needs in lieu of waiting for someone to guess at and then provide them for me. It is to honor my capabilities as I do my limitations, it is being grateful for the degree of autonomy I have achieved, the joy of reminding myself that independence is always relative because I am intricately a part of the whole, along with all other sentient beings. Being empowered is to embrace the humility, which allows me to ask and to receive.
Being empowered is to take charge of my inner little girl, inner princess, inner mother, inner warrior, inner sage, inner magician. It is to know and accept that my inner archetypes gift me with their healing wisdom as they are their deep wounds, achievements and those to come. It is to know that these are not only inside of me, but recognize that they are in all women and like a mirror, reflect back to me who I am.
Being empowered is to recognize that I am an atom of a wondrous molecule called the Human Race, which in turn is part of a cell called the Terrestrial Animal Kingdom. Which in turn is part of the tissue called Pachamama, our beloved Blue Planet, beloved Earth. Which is part of the indivisible pulse of the system that governs our Father Star, our beloved Sun. Which belongs to the vastness of the powerful Milky Way, the visible face of a little corner of the infinite Universe in which my Being is navigating its emotional training.
Being empowered is to feel that I am, that we are a part of the Mother Goddess and her Creation, that she exists in the love from Mother Earth, in the wisdom of the Elements, in the strength of Mother Nature. And beyond the names that I choose to name her or the concepts I choose to maintain to comprehend the essential conscience. It is to marvel, love, honor and to respect my home that is Earth in which I have been engendered.
Being empowered is to know that my body is a part of our Mother Earth and is given to my care with full trust and complete love.
Being empowered is to be female, driven by the pure wisdom of instinct, which rejoices in the sacred red elixir that confirms that I am the guardian of life. Being empowered is to accept that I am on this blessed Earth to accept and model myself on the sacred art of joy. To be empowered is to be a woman, supported by my ability to differentiate, recognize and integrate. This gives me the freedom and courage to choose to integrate (unite) rather than disintegrate, move forward in lieu of stagnating. To be empowered is to gather the threads of my instinct, emotions and reason, to weave the beautiful mandala of my intuition. To be empowered is toward co-creating, together with fertile, loving Mother Earth so that my feminine-female-goddess-consciousness flourishes.
Be that for yourself
Our contemporary human diets consist for the most part of 12 plant species, but primitive humans had some 100,000 edible plant species at their disposal.
At the 1996 World Summit, 10,000 participants agreed that, “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” At that time, Chairman H.E. Romano, set a benchmark, " to reduce by half the number of chronically undernourished people on the Earth by the year 2015."
Will we make the deadline? Diversifying Africa’s food staples is critical to reach and surpass this goal, experts say. Countless studies conclude that hunger can be eradicated across the African continent by tapping into ancient crops that have fed people for millennia. Here are 15 ancient super plants that could eradicate hunger in Africa make the continent more bountiful. Some of them are gaining ground. Others have been barely heard of outside Africa.
Sources: Agriculture Research for Development (CIRAD) | Food Reference.com | University of Wisconsin |National Center for Biological Information | Feedipedia | Alternative Field Crops Manual | University of Wisconsin Agronomy | Research to Nourish Africa | Lost Crops of Africa: Volume II: Vegetables | | Archaeologyabout.com | Infonet-biovision.org | Nourishing the planet | Trees for Life | Botanvyn | University of Pennsylvania | Permaculture Research Institute | Food and Agricultural Organization | The Journal of Food Technology in Africa, Vol. 6 | R4dreview | Prota.org | Scientific Journals | Report on the African Eggplant | World Watch | Foodtank | Plants For A Future | Tropical Forages
1. Okra (Hibiscus esculentus)
Cultivated by the Egyptians and Ethiopians in the 12th century, okra is a fast-growing and high-yielding plant, providing three valuable food products with its pods, leaves, and seeds. It is hearty and grows in difficult climates. This gooey vegetable is an excellent source of vitamin C, calcium and potassium, and high in fiber, folate, and antioxidants. The seeds are used as a coffee substitute.
Sources: Food Reference.com | University of Wisconsin
2. Baobab (Adansonia digitata)
Besides its powerhouse delicious fruit, baobab seeds, kernels and leaves are packed with nutrients. The leaves of the “upside-down tree” are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, rich in calcium, and quality proteins. They make great salads and condiments and are used medicinally. It is said the deity Thora was not pleased with a baobab growing in his garden, so he tossed it out over the wall of Paradise and it landed upside down on Earth. Its roots kept growing to the sky. It is a symbol of the strength of Africa.
Sources: National Center for Biological Information | Feedipedia
3. Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata)
The cowpea is one of Central Africa’s oldest legume crops, dating back some 6,000 years in West African cereal farming. It was closely associated with the cultivation of sorghum and pearl millet. The pea itself and its leaves are edible, and the plant is drought resistant and thrives in poor soil conditions. It is rich in amino acids, lysine and tryptophan and is 25-percent source of protein. The cowpea is known in the U.S. as the black-eyed pea, having migrated with the slave trade.
Sources: Alternative Field Crops Manual | University of Wisconsin Agronomy | Research to Nourish Africa
4. Amaranth (Amaranthus)
This ancient grain was not long ago hidden in plain site, being considered a “poverty grain,” and ignored as a cash crop. It is now cultivated widely and becoming lucrative. It is a versatile plant, growing easily and quickly in humid lowlands of Africa. Amaranth is typically eaten in Togo, Liberia, Guinea, Benin, and Sierra Leone. The ancient grain, with roots dating back thousands of years to Mesoamerica, is rich in vitamin C and dietary minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. It is credited with an exceptional quality of protein.
Sources: Lost Crops of Africa: Volume II: Vegetables | National Academy Press | Archaeologyabout.com
5. Spider plant (Cleome gynandra)
The spider plant, also known as shona or African cabbage, is high in protein, antioxidants, vitamins, and micro nutrients. It's used much like the curry leaf in southern parts of Africa. It is a fast-growing plant and ready to cultivate in as little as three weeks. The leaves contain protein, carbohydrates and are high in vitamins A and C, calcium, phosphorus and iron.
Sources: Infonet-biovision.org | Nourishing the planet
6. Moringa (Moringa oleifera)
The super food that the moringa tree provides is packed into its pods, leaves, seeds, and roots. It is also raw material for products that make village life more self-sufficient, including lamp oil, its wood, and liquid fuel. Nutritionally it packs seven times the vitamin C of oranges, four times the vitamin A of carrots and the calcium of milk and three times the potassium of bananas and twice the amount of protein as yogurt. It is considered one of the world’s most useful trees.
Source: Trees for Life | Lost Crops of Africa: Volume II: Vegetables | Botanvyn
7. Enset (Ensete ventricosum)
A banana-like herb, the enset is a starchy staple from Ethiopia's highlands known as the Ethiopian banana. Like its cousin the banana, it has lost its ability to reproduce and can do so only by cultivation. Like most ancient plants, many parts of the enset are useful. It is able to hold its water content during droughts up to seven years. The enset's fibers are used for rope, mats, medicinal purposes and even housing. The pulped starch of enset is buried in large pits for three-to-six months to ferment into kocho, a hearty food staple.
Sources: University of Pennsylvania | Permaculture Research Institute
8. Shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa)
The well known source for shea butter is packed with vitamins, minerals and protein. The oblong seeds contain a mixture of edible oils and fats that produce the shea butter, a staple nutritional source that enhances taste, texture and digestibility for millions in rural areas of Africa. It is also used for skin care and has gone globally ballistic as an ingredient in countless health and organic beauty products.
Sources: Food and Agricultural Organization | Lost Crops of Africa: Volume II -- Vegetables
9. Bambara bean (Vigna subterranean)
The bambara bean or groundnut, Congo goober, ground bean, hog peanut, earth pea and njugo bean has hundreds of names to describe what has been considered by the scientific community a “poor man’s crop, despite its heartiness. It's one of the two most drought-resistant legumes. The seed makes a complete food, as it contains sufficient quantities of protein, carbs and fat. It can be eaten raw or cooked, milled into flour or made into a paste with long shelf life. Its energy value exceeds that of lentils or cow peas.
Sources: Biodiversity International
10. Marama plant (Tylosema esculentum)
The magic marama has many names including groundnut, gemsbok beans, camel’s foot, braaiboontjie, tamani berry, and most appropriately, green gold. It's rich in oil, and as nutritious as soy beans and peanuts, with twice the oil content. It tastes like roasted cashews and resembles a large tuber with seed pods. It is loaded with protein and high in amino acids, carbs, calcium, and vitamin A. It grows in the sandy soil of Namibia, Botswana, and the Kalahari Desert, and has been a staple of the Khoisan peoples for centuries.
Sources: Prota.org | Scientific Journals
11. African eggplant (Solanum aethiopicum)
A very significant indigenous crop for its high yield, the African eggplant is resistant to drought, has a three-month shelf life, and can grow in poor soil conditions. The leaves of the eggplant are eaten boiled. The red-orange vegetable -- technically a fruit -- is stewed, pickled, steamed and boiled for stews. It is 92 percent water and high in beta-carotene, vitamin E, riboflavin, folic acid and calcium. Like many of these ancient super foods, it is used medicinally, and is effective as an anti-inflammatory. It is a cash crop and has a high yield.
Sources: Report on the African Eggplant | World Watch
12. Argan (Argania spinosa)
The flowering argan tree, native to the southern coast of Morocco, produces fruit containing a valuable hard kernel of seeds which produce a thick golden oil with an unmistakable, rich flavor that's high in essential fatty acids. Argan has become very popular recently. A number of women’s cooperatives dedicated to producing the oil have made it a lucrative crop. The region relies heavily on argan oil economically and the trees are even a tourist attraction -- many goats climb the branches to reach the delicious kernels.
Source: Lost Crops of Africa: Volume II -- Vegetables | Foodtank
13. Fonio (Digitaria genus)
For the Dogon people of Mali, fonio is the “seed of the universe” and rightly so. It packs a nutritional super punch. Fonio has amino acids to help synthesize protein. Its ease of growth in the region feeds approximately four million people across West Africa. It's considered Africa’s oldest cereal.
Sources: Prota.org | Agriculture Research for Development (CIRAD)
14. Lablab (Lablab purpureus)
The mature seed of the lablab, also called the hyacinth bean, has a mild flavor when thoroughly cooked. It can be prepared similarly to soy beans, fermented like tempeh or sprouted and eaten raw like the mung bean. The pod can be eaten whole. Its leaves are tender like spinach. It is a staple food, rich in protein with excellent storage capabilities. It's said to have the medicinal properties for a host of ills. It tolerates drought conditions and is widely cultivated throughout Africa.
Sources: Plants For A Future | Tropical Forages
15. Celosia (Celosia argentea)
A beautiful edible flowering plant as well as a delicious green leafy vegetable, celosia has as many varieties as it has uses. Also referred to as Lagos spinach, Nigerian sometimes call it soko yokoto, meaning "make husbands fat and happy.” Celosia packs a high content of micronutrients and protein. It's used for a wide range of ailments including intestinal worms (especially tapeworm), blood diseases, mouth sores, and eye problems. The seeds treat respiratory ills and the flowers treat diarrhea. The leaves are used as dressings for boils and sores, and the boiled vegetables are said to be slightly diuretic. The celosia is also used widely in Asia.
Sources: Echo Technical Note | Prota.org | Lost Crops of Africa: Volume II -- Vegetables
Lord Shiva, in the yogic tradition, is considered not a deity but an adiyogi, or the first yogi. Thousands of years ago, legend has it that Shiva transmitted yoga to the Saptarishis -- seven sages who remained by his side watching him dance in ecstasy and abandon himself to stillness.
There on the shores of the Kanti Sarovar lake near Kendanarth, the first Guru was born as Shiva imparted his wisdom to the seven sages in the art, science and mechanics of yoga. The tradition continues. Here are 12 of the many yoga gurus who helped change the world.
Patanjali (5000 years ago)
“Yoga chitta vritti nirodha (Yoga is yoking the modifications of the mind stuff into stillness)" Sutra 1.2
The history of the great yogic sage Patanjali is populated with legends and contradictory accounts of his origins. We do know that Maharishi Patanjali is considered the father of yoga when around maybe 200 B.C.E., he wrote the Yoga Sutras (thread). Comprised of 195 sutras strung together to form a yogic framework of daily ethical practice, it resides in an eight-limbed path (Ashtanga) and teaches student to be free of suffering, or at least to lead a better life.
Today Patanjali’s seminal work is read by every student completing his or her yoga teacher training.
Swami Brahmanandna Saraswati (Dec. 20, 1868-May 20, 1953)
“Spiritual teachings destroy ignorance and therefore remove darkness, but they cannot throw light on the inner self, for the self is light.”
Also known as Guru Dev, he was born into the priest caste. At age 9 he left home on his spiritual path, renouncing his home life and heading to the Himalayas where at 14, he met his guru, Swami Krishnānanda Saraswati. He remained a recluse in a cave seeing his guru once a week for a decade, then emerged a siddha (accomplished one) and was immediately compared with the great Advaita philosopher, Adi Shankar.
He influenced thousands and his disciples were great teachers, including the transcendental meditation leader, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Swami Kuvalayananda (Aug. 30, 1883 – April 18, 1966)
“To practice Yoga daily and systematically is to develop immunity against all diseases.”
A pioneer in the scientific research and education of yoga in the 1920s, Kuvalayananda founded the Kaivalyadhama Health and Yoga Research Center, still in operation in Lonavla, Maharashtra, India. India is home to several other centers researching and promoting yoga.
His master, Paramahamsa Madhavdasji, (Bengalese, 1798-1921) imparted his passion for the discipline of yoga and thus was born the scientific study into the psychophysical benefits of this ancient system. Kuvalayananda had 3000 students per year, including Mahatma Gandhi, J.R.D. Tata and Shrimati Indira Gandhi.
Tirumalai Kishnamacharya (Nov. 18, 1888-Feb. 28, 1989)
Chances are whatever yoga you practice was shaped in some way by this Brahmin-born, 5-foot-2-inch yogi whose influence spread like wildfire worldwide. He ascribed therapeutic values (having spent time with Swami Kuvalayananda in his yoga research center) and incorporated sequencing with counter poses for optimal health results. Not much is known of his early years except that he was encouraged by his father at age 5 as a descendent of the great ninth-century yogi, Nathamuni.
Under his guru Sri Ramamohan Brahmachari, he is said to have mastered 3000 asanas and could stop his pulse entirely at will. His passion for yoga led him to Mysore, where he remained and began a school we know as Ashtanga Vinyasa. The school was made famous more than 40 years later by his best student, Pattabhi Jois.
Sources: YogaJournal, Ashtanga.info
Paramahansa Yogananda (Jan. 5, 1893-March 7, 1952)
"We are what we think we are. The habitual inclination of our thoughts determines our talents and abilities, and our personality. So whatever you want to be, start to develop that pattern now."
Like all of the other gurus listed here, Paramahansa was born under a different name. Raised in a devout family, he too left home for his spiritual search at an early age. At 17 he found his guru, Swami Yukteswar Giri. Like most of the other gurus listed here, he was dedicated to educating children and opened a how-to-live boys' school in West Bengal.
It was to become the model for his worldwide initiative, the Self-Realization Fellowship, which he opened in California in 1920 upon visiting the U.S. for a conference in Boston. He lived most of his life in the U.S. and died after reading a poem about India to a room full of dignitaries.
Anandamayi Ma (April 30, 1896-Aug. 27, 1982)
“I have no particular path. All paths are my paths.”
Her name means Bliss Permeated Mother, and like a maternal figure she supported her followers to seek their own true nature. She refused to be considered a guru and was always referred to as Ma, though her childlike body remained chaste even when wed at the young age of 15, obeying inner voices who would guide her.
Her teachings called on all humanity to seek self realization as a priority, with all other matters being secondary. Paramahansa Yogananda wrote of her in his well-known writings on self realization. She incorporated jokes, songs, and joyfulness into her teachings, which were always spontaneous and inspired. She went where she was invited and opened up the sacred rituals to female participation.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Jan. 12 ,1918-Feb. 5, 2008 )
“With transcendental meditation technique we have a natural and effective means to dissolve even deeply rooted fatigue and stress. This is the way to unfold full value of life.”
The Maharishi gives full credit to his spiritual leader, Swami Brahmanandna Saraswati, for inspiring his teachings. He said it took him two years to master that feeling of “oneness." This guru from an upper-caste family became a household name in the 1960s and '70s. He was the “giggling guru” to the Beatles, Beach Boys and other celebrities.
He taught his transcendental meditation technique to more than 5 million people while inducting more than 40,000 teachers and founding hundreds of colleges, universities and schools. Maharishi’s organization is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, all from that “one thing in mind that (he knew) would be useful to every man.”
Sources: Maharishi.org, TM.org
Sivananda Saraswati (Sept. 8, 1887-14 July 14, 1963)
“The mental ability to concentrate is inherent to all; it is not extraordinary or mysterious. Meditation is not something that a yogi has to teach you; you already have the ability to shut out thoughts.”
Sivananda was a physician for many years in Malaysia known for treating the poor. A frustration with traditional medicine led him back to India to pursue a spiritual quest. After meeting his guru, Vishwānanda Saraswati, he led a life of austerity and continued to doctor the infirm as he traveled the country.
Through his yoga of synthesis, he was able in 1945, to establish an ayurvedic pharmacy, and create the All-World Religions Federation. He established the All-World Sadhus Federation in 1947 and Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy. His yoga vedanta centers exist worldwide.
Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar (Dec. 14 1918-Aug. 20 2014)“
Yoga teaches to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.”
To the world he was the beloved B.K.S. Iyengar, King of Yogis. One of the earliest students and brother-in-law of Krishnamacharya, he went to Mysore at his invitation to study yoga and improve his health. Voted one of the most influential people by Time Magazine, he is known for popularizing yoga in India and the rest of the world, including getting the Queen of Belgium to stand on her head in sirsasana at age 80.
His teaching methods focused on flexibility and stamina, incorporating heavy use of props from his own unfortunate accident that left him with a back injury.
K . Pattabi Jois (July 26, 1915-May 18, 2009)
“Do your practice and all is coming.”
At age 12, Pattabi Jois attended a lecture by Krishnamacharya at the Jubilee Hall, and became a student the next day. He kept it secret from his family for two years. He made his way to Mysore, where later he was to meet up again with his guru and teach at his yoga shala (school). In 1933 he got married and had three children who ran his famous Shri K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore.
An article written on yoga mentioned Pattabi Jois, thus opening the floodgates of foreigners who flock there to this day to take the three series of Ashtanga. These include some of most famous celebrities.
Gururaj Ananda Yogi (March 3, 1932 in Gurujat-May 17, 1988 in Cape Town)
“It is so simple to be happy but so difficult to be simple.”
Gururaj was a mystic, a philosopher and a poet who imparted jnana yoga (that of knowledge). He moved from India to South Africa and became a successful businessman. After learning from his spiritual guru Swami Pavitrananda, he began by giving meditation practice in his living room in Cape Town. In 1974 with the assistance of his devotees, he started the South African Meditation Society, the International Foundation for Spiritual Unfoldment and several mediation societies around the world.
Sources: Gururajananda.com, IFSU.org, Britishmeditationsociety.org
Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Sept. 27, 1953)
“The duty of a doctor is to treat patients. In the same way, my duty is to console those who are suffering.”
Also known as Ammaji aka Amma, she is regarded as more of a saint than a guru, with a following that outnumbers the population of some island nations. From a young age she dedicated herself to feeding and helping those in need. She averted marriage and instead started a foundation, Mata Amritanandmayi Math.
She imparts darshan (blessings or to see) in the form hugs and is known as the “hugging saint” to more than 32 million people. She has recorded some 1000 bhajans (devotional chants) in 35 languages. She embraces the world with food and services through her foundations in more than 40 countries. Recently there have been scandals regarding her ashrams, however she remains within a halo of peace.
Sources: Amma, Awaken
This article I first published in AFK Insider.com
After recently relocating back north (after some 30 years!) from my beloved richly connected yogi community in Miami, I find myself like a fish in the dark ;) so to speak...
So it was that I needed to begin making myself known amongst the lovely people up here who do yoga. It's not been easy, what with my travel that has delightfully increased this past year and the not so delightfully inconvenient snow storms I have not been able to network as much as I had done back home in Miami. I've had cabin fever indeed...
That is when I discovered THUMBTACk and though I haven't connected to anyone just yet, I am hopeful.
I have to say though, that it has put me out there and made me make myself available and ready for taking Long Island by storm... not the snowy kind.
Have you tried it? Click on YogaSense above or below.
Let me know how you fare.
I love visuals. I love movement. And music is the bonding agent for all things and Videos, well Videos are the joy of all those things. Good videos make you want to vinyasa your asana.
Enjoy these, my favorite yoga videos curated over the years and as they are made available to you here. With much love. And eternal light.
PHILLIP ASKEW travels the world on his mat in a wonderfully edited video of his impeccable practice. Spreading peace, what greater adventure is there?
KARTIKKEYA MANDALA - GARLAND OF LIGHT in a silent meditative flow of mandala energy unfolding, draped with a Tai Chi garland, I love this shadow yoga and practice my own mandala flow inspired by silence and the sea.
MEGHAN CURRIE one of the first innovative edited videos I came across on yoga self practice.
I love her insect like agility in this time lapse video in her living room. Proving once again there are so many legends in our own living rooms.
And what can I say... Philip Glass composition... sublime.
String Quartet No.3: "Mishima": "Blood Oath" The Smith Quartet Philip Glass: Complete String Quartets
Mishima/Closing Philip Glass Mishima (Original Music Composed By Philip Glass)
MEGHAN CURRIE again, rocks it nature style. I love how it evolves, I wish it would end more poignantly. I love circles, beginnings and endings that could begin again... All the same, the mud on her naked skin, the mirror image creates a reflection as if off of still waters and the lush green of abundance camouflages her humanness. We see our natural form. Earthlike, primal and evolved all at once. Shhhh nature is creating.
Music: Örsten - Fleur Blanche (partial song)
BRIOHNY SMYTH makes a quiet, sensual morning practice ring vibrantly into your awareness that our bodies thrive in awakening its spirit. There is the physical sexiness in stretching, reaching, balancing, breathing silence into your skin and bones. She does this so lovely. This is Equinox quality production.
Download the stunning music: "Midnight"
BRIOHYNY SMYTH returns to the mat for an intimate session with her husband, DICE LIDA-KLEIN.
Nothing more needed.
Download that sexy tune: "Point Light"
I thoroughly am grateful for the amazing experience today at heart camp. To Kerry Gubson, on the board for the Shake a Leg foundation, as she melted into her chair and released herself to my words. To Sherry Bauer, my hero from TED talks whose sweet aura of authenticity helped brighten the room with her glow. To Raul, Macarena, Tatiana, and Jenny for filming the experience and holding down the light! To all those present who warmed my heart. Thank you namaste in every sense of that word.
A bit about me
I was a curious impetuous child. From a Jewish, atheist mother, and a Roman Catholic Father, I was left to my own devices to understand there was no God, if not a jealous one.
It was many years later after having my children that I experienced Christian faith. And I learned of the Word. It was abstract to me, like many religious concepts are and as the seeker I have always been, I desired to know what that Word meant. But I was told that I had to wait for the End Times… my Christian brethren would tell me, that only then all the secrets and mysteries would be revealed.
I was a Reiki Master at that time; in fact I had become one in 1991, at the young age of 30. I had co-founded the first Reiki Center in Argentina and thousands took our seminars . To me the Word had been a silent, all encompassing Universal Life Force Energy, which I experienced as God. With Reiki, I experienced first hand (hands down) how prana, life force, chi, ki, could heal the: physical, spiritual, mental/emotional and astral bodies that make up human experience.
I was healing and teaching, but I was still very young and had not yet lived out the necessary experiences of life to fully understand the passages of the heart towards its full expression. The suffering I helped people to overcome was through my channeling of Reiki, but I had not the wisdom of the heart that I have come to understand.
They say there are four passages of the heart toward this inner wisdom of spirit.
1. the first is darkness, which brings pain;
2. the second is seeking out of the dark, which brings compassion,
3. followed by clarity, which brings connection ,
4. culminating in openness, which brings us to the state of ananda, bliss, or as the Paul mentions in Corinthians (as that which is above all) love.
I was certain - in all those darkest moments- that the hand of God was passing over me, blessing me with greater wisdom so that I would experience the light all the more. I sought to reach out to others in hopes that my despair would be transmuted, That is how I came to help establish Habitat for Humanity in Argentina, which did bring about my own healing through the compassionate heart. But I had not yet been given my deepest lessons to take me to full clarity or connection.
It was not until a full blown out heartbreak some years later that brought me to seek out a quieting of my mind. As a writer, I was always engrossed in the story. I have journalled since I was 11 years old, I wrote poetry, (and now I am blogging!!) See, the story was the thing.
But it was not until a profound moment of sadness and despair that I finally realized what I was needing to do was to quiet my mind. I needed to stop telling myself, and others my story. I needed to stop focusing and reiterating the details of my perception of my life, the duality of pain, pleasure, bad, good, right, wrong, then and now... My story, I found, actually polarized my life, clouded my comprehension and kept me in that perpetual struggle and outward search for happiness.
I was brought to the understanding, like someone is brought to their knees, that I needed to sit down and shut up.
Coming Home, with the breath
Sitting in meditation, even with my Reiki hands to calm me down still did not quiet my mind. So I began to focus on the most obvious, my very own breath: the sound of it, the quality, the length of its inspiration and exhalation… Soon it became my inspiration and I began to deliberately cultivate it through yoga, swimming, and even more meditation.
It was through my breath that I began to experience the wholeness of this world, I was able to sit back and be the observer of this creation, of which I finally understood I was a inherent part of. It was through the silence and clarity that my breath taught me, that I was able to feel the spirit within me. It is said that the movement of spirit in the body is reflected in the movement of breath. And this became my experience, beyond the theologies I had sought to find answers, it was finally an experience, that of simply breathing, that connected me to love.
The Sufi poet, Hazrat Inayat Kahn said: "The healing power of Christ, the miraculous power of Moses, the charm of Krishna, and the inspiration of the Buddha--all these were attained by breath."
These avatars, spiritual leaders, legends of our religious iconography if studied have the same message. And yet have been misconstrued and the religions that formed around them have served to bring about division. And despite the universal oneness in their lessons, as The Course in Miracles teaches: "A universal theology is impossible, yet a universal experience is not only possible, it is necessary."
Yes, it is necessary, in times where despair, destruction, dis-ease pervades, a universal experience is necessary to bring about a much needed peace on this planet. But HOW can we make a difference, really make a difference? Well, how else to bring about harmony and peace then beginning with our selves. As the great Mahatma Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world. “
Well, To be the change, we must change the being. And we need a guide to lead us through the valley of the shadow of death. We need to find the spiritual teacher, that guide that resides within each of us, that empowers our heart. This inner voice of wisdom is stripped from our grasp as children through so many stories, interpretations, authorities… we are essentially removed from our divinity.
And yet we are told we are children of God, but we are more than that, we are the trinity, the Holy Grail, the Jacob’s ladder connecting heaven and earth through our bodies, our chakras… Our body as sacred vessel is filled with spirit. We must allow that spirit to move us along our path.
And this movement of spirit in the body is reflected in the movement of breath.
Experience breath consciously being present
So I would like to take a moment to share that experience here today. As we come together to speak of matters of the heart, I would like to take a moment to speak heart to heart.
Let’s close our eyes now, to begin what in yoga we call pranayama, or guiding the breath, the life force, within us to reveal this, our spirit. And afterwards share it with each other.
Place your hands facing up or down on your lap this gesture reveals to you your need to give or receive.
Start by taking a deep inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth softening the lips as if you had a mirror before you and were fogging that mirror.
Inhale to about 4 to 6 counts and hold the breath 4 counts and exhale like fogging that mirror. In this last inhale pull in on your uro-genital muscle kegel for women, pc muscle for men. Engage it, draw it in softly and as you exhale through the mouth release the energy seal, that muscle… the mulabhanda.
Engage your body in this experience. Become present by drawing up that energy of the root at the base of your spine, your main energy artery, and draw in your bellybutton, your navel, that source that nourished you bring it in towards the spine and corset your ribs together engaging the uryanabhanda… Build that strong pedestal of strength upon which to rest the precious anahata chakra that spins the light around your heart.
Shoulders up to your ears round them cascade down your back let them cascade down and relax them there opening your heart space. Feel the chest open. Focus here on the pulsation of the heart.
Now draw the chin towards your throat to engage the chalandranabhanda, bringing yourself into humility, or being humble toward yourself and away from defiance. Allowing yourself to be who you are right now right here, into your self.
Now begin to bathe your body with breath by closing the glottis at the back of the throat. So your breath sounds like an ocean wave rolling into your shore and washing back out to the great vast ocean of breath. This breath, the udjay breath, victorious breath to bring you into realization of your intention, in your daily practice.
Mudra your mouth into a slight curving upwards of the corners. A gesture of a smile and feel the energy shift to a lighter space. Feel the shift in your heart and your gaze.
Let the gaze soften and focus on a middle point between your eyebrows out into a vanishing point. Like sitting on the shore in the full moon light and looking out into the ocean horizon, the vanishing point out there in the deep inner space of your own awareness.
Return the attention to the breath. Known that you are expanding and contracting like the very movement of the universe.
You are sharing your atoms, your essence with the great vastness around you as you inhale all the molecules of the people in this room, this city, this planet, the particles and waves of the millennia are entering your being, and as you exhale you have transformed them adding your own personal atoms in the release of your breath.
Think consciously as you inhale: I inhale, I know I am breathing in. As you exhale: I exhale I know I am breathing out. Focus on this consciousness. Remember consciousness changes all experience. For the next few inhales and exhales, inspire that breath with the conscious inhale, release that breath with a conscious exhale.
Observe your thoughts. When your body relaxes you become more present. You can observe the thoughts that comprise your worries of what might be in the future, or your obsessing over what was or was not in the past. You can simply enjoy the presence the present, the gift of being alive, right here among us, right now in this beautiful day.
In that gentle landscape of breath where your body and mind are focused, let’s take a moment of gratitude. For all those things in our life we have and all those that we don’t have.
And filling your inhale with gratitude, “I surround myself with love, and releasing your exhale I surround others with love. “
Venture out there and live your unique life, one that is inspired, where you turn to your inner truth that is reflected in every breath you take, every word you speak and every move you make. Know that God is watching you, sharing you, moving through you.
So stay connected through the biological experience of this divine energy that is our breath. Allow it to be your inspiration, to be your voice, to be language that you express. A language that is infused with surrender, forgiveness, gratitude, trust, love… Indeed the language of our heart.
For more information about Heart Camp, click on the roses
I have been invited to speak at the first edition of the Ft. Lauderdale Heart Camp to take place this weekend at the Hyatt. So excited to share in the good vibrations, yeah, positive. Meet me there?
_It started as a flirtation. After addressing the issue of being on my own I finally realized I wanted to eat meals with someone over laughter and smiles again. I flirted with the idea of having someone to call at any hour of the day and hear his voice elated to hear mine elated to hear his. I wanted that kind of braiding of my life with another. Weaving our tastes, habits, ideas, physicality into one another, I wanted to share.
I decided this would happen before the end of the year (2011), and that was in September. After all it had been some 3 years since I had been committed and in love and it was time for something big and juicy to happen.
I was, in effect love starved. So I went out into the jungle like a hunter gatherer and picked under bushes, crossed the savannah strewn with plenty of frogs, and after only a few kisses, none fervent, I began to step into love.
It was a struggle to let go, at first, let go of all the memories of my one heartbreak and the ghostly fear of falling in love again to have to learn more lessons. I did not want to "fall" again in anything in fact... But in the end, I realized perhaps it is not really love if you fall and it hurts to no end. It is something else indeed. But that is another post altogether and one that stirs up the past...
In lieu of falling, I decided to Step into Love. And so it was that my man and I began our walk together, which quickly turned into a dance, a run, a bike ride during sunset along the boardwalk. It turned into the dream I held so high of having a man in my life whom I could totally spoil with all the wonderful things I discovered love to be and in turn be simply loved for who I am. For the yoga I do, the healing nature I have, the sensitive soul I possess, the vegan foodie I am, the radical lover I have always been...
Those who cook together, stay together, he has told me, as he undresses my smile. Cooking together is one of the sexiest forms of foreplay I have ventured to try. It is the most delicious, heart filling delight. We do it alone, and we do it with friends. Sharing the sensuality of our love with others over tacos and fruit. Who would have thought love was so sweet and crunchy and could be shared with great friends in wholesome goodness! Word.
He is right, it brings us together every day. He builds his body strong and when I suggested he try getting organic, quality and healthier eats by shedding his animal protein myth, he softly began to experiment. He taught me that Love is listening to the rhythms of the other and dancing along to a better beat. For us it means Juicing, shopping the organic fresh market on the boardwalk for greens, hemp, spirulina, fruits, beans, veggies, loading up in the bulk section with almonds, ginger, chia, quinoa... And anything and everything I can whip up he gulps down and that in itself is the greatest gift any lover can give his partner. Openness, receiving what is given with an open and eager heart.
I had envisioned a love like this and suddenly it came to me, when I was finally open to receiving it from someone as beautiful as I had wished for. The way to our stomachs is through our hearts in fact.
I always tell my girls, when your heart is broken by someone careless, rest assured you have more room in that heart and the next one who comes along will fit it even better.
Like everything else, relationships worth their salt take practice, patience, and most of all trust... trust that the love you give is your own and the love you get is equal to it, measure for measure... and suddenly this universal recipe becomes a feast for the heart. Bon apetit mon amours.
The ancient Chinese discovered that there were 8 signs of health:
1. Vitality. This means having a life full of energy. It should show in the way you walk and in the condition of your eyes. There should be a spring in your step and you should have the energy to do whatever is required for you to do.
2. Appetite. This means not only having an appetite for food when you are hungry, but also an appetite for new experiences (depending on your personal belief system this may even mean for sex). Perhaps a better term would be a lust for life.
3. Deep and Sound Sleep. According to the Chinese you should only need 4-6 hours of sleep a night. This does not mean that a way to health is to start cutting down on the sleep you need. Rather, it indicates that as you get healthier you will need less sleep. If you need 10-12 hours of sleep per night on a regular basis, however, you may want to see a doctor as this could indicate a medical problem.
Notice, too, that it is not just quantity of sleep which was recognized by the Chinese, but also quality. In this tradition "sound sleep" indicates a dreamless sleep. This, of course, is a misnomer. Perhaps it means a sleep with undisturbing dreams. Most of us have experienced nights where we slept and awoke feeling tired, have you? This is certainly not a sound sleep!
4. Good Memory. This is fairly clear and indicates that you should have both a good short-term and long-term memory. In a curious reversal of Western thought, the ancient Chinese believed that as you got older your memory should improve, not deteriorate. Old age was not seen as a cause of poor memory, disease was. Further, the Chinese believed that you should have a good memory of the past, present and future. Present memory referred to what we call short-term memory.
Past memory is long-term memory. Future memory is the ability to remember the plans we made, months and years ago, for our future. It also means that we should still be trying to achieve those goals.
5. Humor. We should have a good sense of humor to be healthy. We should especially be able to laugh at ourselves and the world immediately around us. As a friend of mine said, "Don't take life seriously ... you'll never get out alive!"
6. Infinite Giving. No, this does not mean that you should give away all of your possessions and money. Rather, it means that to be healthy you should be able to give of yourself to your friends and to those in need. Also, you should be able to give time and effort to yourself.
7. Clear Thinking and Precise Action. This indicates that a sign of health is the ability to quickly see through a problem, make a decision, and act on that decision without an undue length of time. Procrastination and fear are seen as types of diseases associated with imbalances in the body's energy system. There is also the implication that part of being healthy is having intuitive and psychic abilities which are correct more often than not, and our awareness and use of them.
8. Realization of Oneness. This is a state of utmost health. It is indicated by the having of all your dreams instantly realized. Perhaps another way of putting it would be that the healthiest person is a natural magician.
_The five Rites of Rejuvenation or Five Tibetan Rites are described in the book 'Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth' (1985) by Peter Kelder or in 'The Eye of Revelation', as it was originally known (1939).
The Five Tibetan Rites is a system of exercises reported to be more than 2,500 years old, which were first publicized by Peter Kelder in a 1939 publication entitled The Eye of Revelation.
Although practically nothing is known about Kelder, one source reports that Kelder was raised as an adopted child in the midwestern United States, and left home while still in his teens in search of adventure. In the 1930s, Kelder claims to have met, in southern California, a retired British army colonel who shared with him stories of travel and the subsequent discovery of the Rites.
Originally written as a 32-page booklet, the publication is the result of Kelder's conversations with the colonel. The Rites are said to be a form of Tibetan yoga similar to the more well-known yoga series that originated in India. However, the Five Rites and traditional Tibetan yoga both emphasize "a continuous sequence of movement" (Sanskrit: vinyasa), whereas Indian forms focus on "static positions". Although the Rites have circulated amongst yogis for decades, skeptics say that Tibetans have never recognized them as being authentic Tibetan practices.
Stand erect with arms outstretched, horizontal to the floor. Right palm facing up, left palm facing down. Gaze remains fixed on the left-hand thumb.
Spin around counter clockwise, until you become slightly dizzy.
Gradually increase (in increments of 2) practicing from 3 up to 21 repetitions per day, for each rite until reaching 21 times.
I have found that standing, for a few breaths, looking straight ahead (with eyes either open or closed), with the hands crossed over the chest helps to ride the momentary dizziness that is created, by the Whirling.
_ Rite 2
First, lie flat on the floor, face up.
Fully extended your arms along your sides, and place the palms of your hands against the floor, keeping the fingers close together.
Then, raise your head off the floor, tucking the chin against the chest. As you do this, lift your legs, knees straight, into a vertical position. If possible, let the legs extend back over the body, toward the head; but do not let the knees bend.
Then slowly lower both the head and the legs, knees straight, to the floor.
Allow all the muscles to relax, continue breathing in the same rhythm.
Breathe in deeply as you lift your legs and breathe out, as you lower your legs. Increase by increments until you are completing 21 cycles.
Lie on your back, while stretching your legs out lengthwise, for a couple of breaths
Raise your hands above your head
Bring the soles of your feet together (outer ankles lying on floor), while resting them on the floor-pull them up toward your pelvis
Interlace your fingers together, above your head; at this time extend your index fingers, into a "steeple" configuration
Raise the crown of your head, thereby straightening your neck
While stretching your fingers and arms, allow your knees to relax outward, toward the floor, stretching the inner thighs and hips
Breath deeply and fully, while relaxing
_ Rite 3
Kneel on the floor, with the body erect. The hands should be placed against the thigh muscles. Incline the head and neck forward, tucking the chin against the chest. Then, throw the head and neck backward, arching the spine. As you arch, you will brace your arms and hands against the thighs for support.
After the arching, return to the original position, and start the rite all over again. Breathe in deeply as you arch the spine, breathe out as you return to an erect position.s you complete this exercise. Increase by increments until you are completing 21 cycles.
When you complete this rite, remain on your knees and bring your toes together, allow your body to flex forward with our knees separated a bit rest your elbows together, between your knees place one fist (along the outer edge of your hand) on the floor, place the other fist onto the thumb side of the first wrist place your forehead on your combined fists take 3-4 deep full relaxed breathes allow your spine and pelvis to continue relaxing downward, into the floor feel for the continued stretch, within your spine, pelvis, and hips.
Sit down on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and your feet about 12 inches apart. With the trunk of the body erect, place the palms of your hands on the floor alongside the buttocks.
Then, tuck the chin forward against the chest. Now, drop the head backward as far as it will go. At the same time, raise your body so that the knees bend while the arms remain straight. The trunk of the body will be in a straight line with the upper legs, horizontal to the floor.
Then, tense every muscle in the body.
Finally, relax your muscles as you return to the original sitting position, and rest before repeating the procedure. Breathe in as you raise up, hold your breath as you tense the muscles, breathe out completely as you come down. Continue breathing in the same rhythm as long as you rest between repetitions.This posture produces a fine amount of stretch, at the end of the Table position. Increase by increments until you are completing 21 cycles.
Lie on your back, while stretching your legs out lengthwise
Raise your hands above your head
Lace your fingers together, above your head; at this time extend your index fingers, into a "steeple" configuration
Raise the crown of your head, thereby straightening your neck
Now stretch your full extremities in opposite directions
While stretching, cross one ankle over the other (for a couple of breaths), and then repeat, for the opposite ankle
When you perform the fifth rite, your body will be face-down to the floor. It will be supported by the hands, palms down against the floor, and the toes in a flexed position. Throughout this rite, the hands and feet should be kept straight.
Start with your arms perpendicular to the floor, and the spine arched, so that the body is in a sagging position. Now, throw the head back as far as possible. Then, bending at the hips, bring the body up into an inverted 'V'. At the same time, bring the chin forward, tucking it against the chest. Breathe in deeply as you raise the body, breathe out fully as you lower it. Increase by increments until you are completing 21 repetitions.
A comfortable stretching posture is pleasant, for the end of this exercise:
Close your eyes and breath deep full breaths, in and out
Relax your hands, while resting them on the floor, in their original position
Gently start to sit back on your heels.
Let your head drop toward your chest.
As you sit back, allow your hands to drag on the floor;
providing a sense of stretch to your upper body and down your spine
Take 3-4 deep breaths, while resting in this stretching posture.