Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Joy farmer

This past weekend was a whirlwind of activity. I am still sifting through all that I learned and experienced, much of it was subtle and must be cultivated in order to grow into something even more beautiful. I spent the weekend at Yogaphoria ,a gorgeous and love filled studio in New Hope, Pennsylvania. This was my second visit, and was just as delightful and just as much of a joyful challenge.

The trip this weekend was for a workshop with Todd Norian, often called one of Anusara yogas most open hearted teachers - he also happens to be a fantastic musician. I had never experienced Anusara yoga and so went in with no expectations and a wee little bit of anxiety - for some reason I was fighting myself on this trip and it took a little bit to shed that anxiety and just get in to what this beautiful yogi was teaching us all.

Anusara is a modern form of yoga developed in 1997 by John Friend and it focuses on poses that open your heart, strengthen your core and tap you into the deeper meaning of life, it is Tantric in nature. Anusara opens their practice with the most beautiful invocation - I cannot get it out of my head and have been singing it for days. The studio's high ceilings echoed our voices, lifting them up - each time it gave me chills.

Om Namah Shivaya Gurave, ॐ नमः शिवय गुरवे
Saccidananda Murtaye, सचिदनन्द मुतयै
Nishprapanchaya Shantaya, निसपपचय शनतय
Niralambaya Tejase, निरलमबय तेजसे
Om, ॐ

By Sunday the workshop was coming full circle. Todd made us laugh and sweat - every day I was sore and exhausted. He lead us into some challenging poses, he changed the way I was used to aligning myself, he explained the body and how it moves in interesting ways. He had us working together and assisting one another to get into handstand, intense back bending and some how he got my foot behind my head and then had me do an arm balance. He had us laughing and he reminded us that this yogic path is a choice and one that must be cultivated and explored. He reminded us that the poses are for fun, the real work is what is going on inside. He called us joy farmers (which I love). And the diversity of the group and willingness to try was inspiring to anyone.

In the end though what I came away with was not so much about the physical practice of yoga - but once again I was uplifted, inspired and catapulted deeper by the spiritual lessons. And I was reminded why I am doing the Off the Mat challenge - that the seed of the divine is within us all and must be allowed to shine, must be cultivated. That we are all born free, so freedom is not what we seek but rather diversity so we learn. And all of it reminded me why I believe so strongly that everyone, everywhere deserves to find the infinite within themselves, to find their freedom and explore it. That no one should be allowed to take that from another and that if you can help inspire and encourage children to be free, to laugh, to love life - that is really good work.

Here is what Todd sent to us today...

May you continue to plant seeds of joy by affirming your connection to the Universal.
May you cultivate the soil of your body every day with breath, asana, and awareness.
May you tap into your unlimited potential by embracing contrast.
And may you protect your joy by being soft on the outside, like ghee,
but strong and unwavering on the inside, like diamond.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Gratitude and fun...

Thank you, thank you ~ To everyone who came out yesterday and supported the 2009 Seva challenge by donating and skating. The event was a huge success, we raised a little over $700, with a few donations still coming in from people who could not attend.

This event was a blast! It was wonderful to see people out with their families and roller skating is something that everyone should do. It took me a while to get out there on my skates, since it had been about 20 years, but once I did I did not want to stop. And for some reason when you fall it just doesn't hurt that bad.

A huge thank you to Rob & Tara who made this event happen by renting the rink. A giant shout out of gratitude to DJs Jason Forest and DAMN GIRL! (Jocelyn Wray) for spinning while we all cruised around. Thanks to the staff at Olympic Skating center for doing the limbo, rolling the dice and being so friendly and fun. Big hugs of thanks to my family who all showed up - and thank you to all my friends, friends of friends and strangers that participated as well. Every dollar of donation counted and we received some very generous contributions. And to my Rasa kula ~ xoxo ~ I saw some yoga moves out there, nice!

It was so fun I am definitely doing this event again ~ so if you missed it this time I suggest you get your moves ready for round two! Next time I want to see three times as many people out there - we really ought to fill the place.

Much love everyone - we are getting closer and closer to the goal... only about $19,000 to go!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It's time to ...

Gather your friends, family and people you hardly know and get ready to bust out your best moves... or just have fun while saving lives and brightening futures.

SUNDAY, MARCH 29th , 4:30 - 6:30@ Olympic Skating Center in Enola PA.
(that is this weekend)

DJs Jason Forest and Jocelyn Wray will be spinning our favorite roller skating tunes ~ it is looking to be a very fun time!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Shout out to Kutztown U...

A huge thank you to the students at Kutztown University involved in the Act 101 program, the SSSP (Student Support Services Program) and SALSA (Student Alliance for Learning, Success & Acheivement), and to ACt 101 Assistant Director (and fellow yogini), Heather Walke Meadows...

Heather is a dear friend and when I spoke to her about the 2009 Seva challenge she was all about helping in any way she could. So...

This past Tuesday, March 17th, the students involved in these groups participated in and attended a talent show with the proceeds from ticket sales going to the efforts of Yogini for Uganda.

Thank you to everyone who attended, and whose talents contributed to the show. Your efforts and generosity are helping to brighter futures and make education accessible for children in Uganda!!

Schools building schools... that is what I'm talking about ~ higher education in action. Yeah!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Gratitude... the first of many notes of appreciation

So many individuals have contributed to Yogini for Uganda. As we move towards manifesting plans and the first events come to fruition I want to thank you all. But today I want to especially thank the beautiful, talented and generous Megan Caruso - her creativity and vision has created the Yogini for Uganda logo... Isn't it lovely!! Thank you Megan ~ endlessly.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Revolutionary roller skating

When I was in elementary school and in junior high we would have skating parties... and oh they were glorious times!! I have vivid memories of my mother braiding a florescent ribbon into my extremely long hair and I would swing that braid as I cruised around the rink. And it never hurt that there were boys there, and a snack bar. Ah the freedom of youth...

So why is roller skating revolutionary?

Well because not all youth has this freedom and by participating in an upcoming fundraiser you could simultaneously enjoy the freedom of flying around the rink on wheels - while actually saving lives and brightening futures.

Who knew saving lives could be done while roller skating... who knew that a few dollars in a donation jar could add up to a school, or a birthing center for mothers with HIV/AIDS, or a sustainable farm for a village. Well it can...

Sunday March 29th, 4:30 - 6:30
please join me for
Donate and Skate
at the Olympic Skating Center in Enola PA.

For two glorious hours the rink is all ours. Bring your friends - all of them. Bring your family - all ages. Invite strangers. Invite everyone from your school or your kids' school. Get the crew back together to relive that routine you did once in 1989.

100% of the money collected from donations will go towards the 2009 Seva Challenge! The rink fits 1000 people... lets fill it. I will be there with information about Yogini for Uganda and Off the Mat, Into the World. Please join me...

Hokey poky for peace!!

** Olympic Skating Center will charge $1 for rentals - that charge is not part of the donations.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Brick by brick...

So we raise the money... we donate, we contribute... what happens then? What happens in Uganda and where is this money going? All good questions... here are some answers.

During our last call with Off the Mat, Into the World Seane Corn, one of the organizations founders, gave a wonderful overview of the projects and organizations we will be working with and donating funds to through the 2009 Seva Challenge. They are all very exciting and challenging. The work will not be easy - physically or emotionally - but it will most certainly be beautiful. Here is some information about where your donations will be going - and what I will be working on should I have the opportunity to travel to Uganda next year.

YouthAIDS: Our trip and purpose will be launched by spending some time with the YouthAIDS organization. They have a location Uganda - and Seane Corn is one of their Ambassadors. Working with them we will gain insight on the cultural significance and impact that HIV /AIDS has on the African continent and the people. They will help us to educate ourselves and others in order to reduce ignorance, fear and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS.

Building Tomorrow: Working with Building Tomorrow we will literally build a school, community center and sustainable farm from the ground up - side by side with the residents of a rural village in Uganda. The community center will also serve as a place of residence for the teachers of the school. And as an added bonus of its completion the government will pay the salary of the teachers if a school is present ~ so let's get one there!!

Shanti Uganda: Working with the Canadian based Shanti Uganda - we will work in a very remote area of Uganda to assist nuns and villagers in building a birthing center for mothers infected with HIV/AIDS. Not only will the center serve as a place for safe birthing - it will also create opportunites for the women in the community by educated them in midwifery, giving them an income producing skill and fostering community.

New Hope School and Orphanage: The New Hope School and Orphanage is home to many many brilliant, bright, beautiful children that have HIV/AIDS and have lost parents to either the internal war in Uganda or to AIDS. Their nearest water source is over a half mile away, and it is the same water that animals bath and shit in. Our hope is to buy these children new mattresses for their sleeping quarters. As it is right now the children sleep 2 - 3 children per bed, one child peeing the bed is enough, 2 or 3 children peeing the bed makes it unbearable. Let's help to create a brighter reality for these children by giving them all a clean bed of their very own.

In addition to the projects above some of the money we raise will stay right here, within our own trouble borders and communities. Funds will be used to support teachers and programs that work with at risk youth, teaching them yoga and to honor and love themselves and one another.

All of these projects are amazing. Raising the money is one part of the journey - manifesting the work is another. Off the Mat, Into the World works hard to find organizations to partner with that have a long term commitment, presence in Uganda and plan - this ensures that the money is monitored and used to its fullest potential.

Please take some time to check out these organizations. Let me know if you have any questions.. and stay tuned ~ events are coming and soon to be announced.

Namaste ~ B
Image courtesy of OTM

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Conference Call Connection

It is the first Wednesday of the month. Over my lunch break I make it home just in time to connect with the beginning of the Off the Mat, Into the World conference call. I hear the now familiar voice of Suzanne Sterling and then that of Seane Corn. I hear my new friend Elif on the line from New York. I breathe in the excitement and wonder that is churning through the circuits and get ready to reconnect with the Bare Witness Uganda challenge and listen to what these amazing women have to say and what developments have occurred - the participants of 2008 challenge have just returned from Cambodia.

All over the country individuals are working on ways to raise money for this challenge. In my mind we create a huge mala circling the country, linking communities and people together. 70 people total. 70 individuals have taken on this challenge and decided to see what they could do within their community to create lasting change and living legacy. And from those 70 people the circle grows included all the individuals that are donating their money, time, resources and talents to the cause. I like it - it is good stuff in these dark hours. These conference calls serve as a way for me to reconnect to the challenge that lay before me, reconnect with the purpose and the beauty of it all, and to share my enthusiasm - which is overflowing these days.

Over the last couple of months I have reached out to many individuals, groups, bands, musicians, artists, yoga studios, family and friends - asking them to help, asking them to take part, telling my story and seeing what presents itself, seeing what rises up out of the mystery. The response has been thrilling - and as the challenge progresses my excitement for events to come only grows. I often hear people complaining about living in a small "city" like we do... but it is these moments that small, tight communities shine. Circles overlap, opportunities knock, doors fly open, people want to help - they want to be a part of something bigger then themselves and they want to serve a higher purpose. It is some good good stuff.

I am finding little corners of myself being revisited and reborn. I am finding my voice again. I am reminded that this experience is as much a journey into the self as it is an outreach to others. It reminds me why I love yoga so much. That yoga asanas are a microcosm of the world and how we move through it; what you face within yourself on the mat is magnified once you get off of it and really begin the work. I am reminded of our duty to bare witness to what is going around us - and while doing so bare the inner most part of our souls and our own story. And in the words of Suzanne Stearling "when we think we are serving we are really being served".

Photo of Seane Corn with children in Uganda ~ courtesy of Off the Mat, Into the World

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A love note to the shadows

Dear sweet Fear,

Why are you so hard to break up with? Where is it that you dwell and hide? And why do you sneak around and pop up when we seem to be in our brightest moments?

Oh sweet fear... arising out of Winter's contemplative days. You demand that we face you in order to move forward. You are a mirror and a tool.

Ugh, fear... seriously. Sometimes I do not want to deal with you or recognize that you exist in me. But you are there, silently waiting to be recognized. To be dealt with. To be embraced and conquered.

For some time now I have been thinking about inversions and balancing poses. These, for me, are the most difficult although I know I have the physical strength to do them... making it even more of a frustrating puzzle for me. As my practice increases I am faced with these challenges everyday. Almost everyday I try and go up into headstand - I am almost there on my own. I have the action down, I have positioning and the strength and control. Then why do I feel like a shaky tower swaying in the breeze? Why am I still afraid to fall? Every practice I approach wide legged stretches with resistance - these ask that we move weight out of our heels and lean forward, our fragile heads to the ground. And every practice arm balances both intrigue and frustrate me. I try, I want to fly into them and feel my body held aloft by my own strength. My energetic body is already doing it - but my physical one cannot seem to let myself sit back on my arms, and lean weight out of my strong parts and into the unknown.

All of this has led me down the path of contemplating what holds me back - not just in yoga but in all areas of life. What am I resisting? What is in me that needs the support of another to hold me up? And what can I let go of so that I find the strength within myself to balance on impossible perches? What am I holding onto from the past that is feeding my fear and where is it residing in my body? And how can I use this to serve me - to learn - to let go of fear and serve from a higher place? What is my deliciously clumsy arm balance teaching me? And how can I shift my resistance to surrender...