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So, I’ll start with this: a couple years ago, an event planner called me because I was going to do a speaking event. And she called, and she said, “I’m really struggling with how to write about you on the little flier.” And I thought, “Well, what’s the struggle?” And she said, “Well, I saw you speak, and I’m going to call you a researcher, I think, but I’m afraid if I call you a researcher no one will come, because they’ll think you’re boring and irrelevant.” (Laughter) Okay. And she said, “But the thing I liked about your talk is you’re a storyteller. So I think what I’ll do is just call you a storyteller.” And of course the academic, insecure part of me was like, “You’re going to call me a what?” And she said, “I’m going to call you a storyteller.” And I was like, “Why not magic pixie?” (Laughter) I was like, “Let me think about this for a second.” I tried to call deep on my courage. And I thought, I am a storyteller. I’m a qualitative researcher. I collect stories; that’s what I do. And maybe stories are just data with a soul. And maybe I’m just a storyteller. And so I said, “You know what? Why don’t you just say I’m a researcher-storyteller.” And she went, “Haha. There’s no such thing.” (Laughter) So I’m a researcher-storyteller, and I’m going to talk to you today — we’re talking about expanding perception — and so I want to talk to you and tell some stories about a piece of my research that fundamentally expanded my perception and really actually changed the way that I live and love and work and parent.

And this is where my story starts. When I was a young researcher, doctoral student, my first year I had a research professor who said to us, “Here’s the thing, if you cannot measure it, it does not exist.” And I thought he was just sweet-talking me. I was like, “Really?” and he was like, “Absolutely.” And so you have to understand that I have a bachelor’s in social work, a master’s in social work, and I was getting my Ph.D. in social work, so my entire academic career was surrounded by people who kind of believed the life’s messy, love it. And I’m more of the, life’s messy, clean it up, organize it and put it into a bento box. (Laughter) And so to think that I had found my way, to found a career that takes me — really, one of the big sayings in social work is lean into the discomfort of the work. And I’m like, knock discomfort upside the head and move it over and get all A’s. That was my mantra. So I was very excited about this. And so I thought, you know what, this is the career for me, because I am interested in some messy topics. But I want to be able to make them not messy. I want to understand them. I want to hack into these things I know are important and lay the code out for everyone to see.

So where I started was with connection. Because, by the time you’re a social worker for 10 years, what you realize is that connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. This is what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter whether you talk to people who work in social justice and mental health and abuse and neglect, what we know is that connection, the ability to feel connected, is — neurobiologically that’s how we’re wired — it’s why we’re here. So I thought, you know what, I’m going to start with connection. Well you know that situation where you get an evaluation from your boss, and she tells you 37 things you do really awesome, and one thing — an opportunity for growth? (Laughter) And all you can think about is that opportunity for growth, right. Well apparently this is the way my work went as well, because, when you ask people about love, they tell you about heartbreak. When you ask people about belonging, they’ll tell you their most excruciating experiences of being excluded. And when you ask people about connection, the stories they told me were about disconnection.

So very quickly — really about six weeks into this research — I ran into this unnamed thing that absolutely unraveled connection in a way that I didn’t understand or had never seen. And so I pulled back out of the research and thought, I need to figure out what this is. And it turned out to be shame. And shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection. Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection. The things I can tell you about it: it’s universal; we all have it. The only people who don’t experience shame have no capacity for human empathy or connection. No one wants to talk about it, and the less you talk about it the more you have it. What underpinned this shame, this “I’m not good enough,” — which we all know that feeling: “I’m not blank enough. I’m not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, promoted enough.” The thing that underpinned this was excruciating vulnerability, this idea of, in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.

And you know how I feel about vulnerability. I hate vulnerability. And so I thought, this is my chance to beat it back with my measuring stick. I’m going in, I’m going to figure this stuff out, I’m going to spend a year, I’m going to totally deconstruct shame, I’m going to understand how vulnerability works, and I’m going to outsmart it. So I was ready, and I was really excited. As you know, it’s not going to turn out well. (Laughter) You know this. So I could tell you a lot about shame, but I’d have to borrow everyone else’s time. But here’s what I can tell you that it boils down to — and this may be one of the most important things that I’ve ever learned in the decade of doing this research. My one year turned into six years, thousands of stories, hundreds of long interviews, focus groups. At one point people were sending me journal pages and sending me their stories — thousands of pieces of data in six years. And I kind of got a handle on it.

I kind of understood, this is what shame is, this is how it works. I wrote a book, I published a theory, but something was not okay — and what it was is that, if I roughly took the people I interviewed and divided them into people who really have a sense of worthiness — that’s what this comes down to, a sense of worthiness — they have a strong sense of love and belonging — and folks who struggle for it, and folks who are always wondering if their good enough. There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. They believe they’re worthy. And to me, the hard part of the one thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we’re not worthy of connection, was something that, personally and professionally, I felt like I needed to understand better. So what I did is I took all of the interviews where I saw worthiness, where I saw people living that way, and just looked at those.

What do these people have in common? I have a slight office supply addiction, but that’s another talk. So I had a manila folder, and I had a Sharpie, and I was like, what am I going to call this research? And the first words that came to my mind were whole-hearted. These are whole-hearted people, living from this deep sense of worthiness. So I wrote at the top of the manila folder, and I started looking at the data. In fact, I did it first in a four-day very intensive data analysis, where I went back, pulled these interviews, pulled the stories, pulled the incidents. What’s the theme? What’s the pattern? My husband left town with the kids because I always go into this Jackson Pollock crazy thing, where I’m just like writing and in my researcher mode. And so here’s what I found. What they had in common was a sense of courage. And I want to separate courage and bravery for you for a minute. Courage, the original definition of courage when it first came into the English language — it’s from the Latin word cor, meaning heart — and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and — this was the hard part — as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.

The other thing that they had in common was this. They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they talk about it being excruciating — as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing. They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say “I love you” first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.

I personally thought it was betrayal. I could not believe I had pledged allegiance to research — the definition of research is to control and predict, to study phenomena, for the explicit reason to control and predict. And now my mission to control and predict had turned up the answer that the way to live is with vulnerability and to stop controlling and predicting. This led to a little breakdown — (Laughter) — which actually looked more like this. (Laughter) And it did. I called it a breakdown, my therapist calls it a spiritual awakening. A spiritual awakening sounds better than breakdown, but I assure you it was a breakdown. And I had to put my data away and go find a therapist. Let me tell you something: you know who you are when you call your friends and say, “I think I need to see somebody. Do you have any recommendations?” Because about five of my friends were like, “Wooo. I wouldn’t want to be your therapist.” (Laughter) I was like, “What does that mean?” And they’re like, “I’m just saying, you know. Don’t bring your measuring stick.” I was like, “Okay.”

So I found a therapist. My first meeting with her, Diana — I brought in my list of the way the whole-hearted live, and I sat down. And she said, “How are you?” And I said, “I’m great. I’m okay.” She said, “What’s going on?” And this is a therapist who sees therapists, because we have to go to those, because their B.S. meters are good. (Laughter) And so I said, “Here’s the thing, I’m struggling.” And she said, “What’s the struggle?” And I said, “Well, I have a vulnerability issue. And I know that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love. And I think I have a problem, and I need some help.” And I said, “But here’s the thing, no family stuff, no childhood shit.” (Laughter) “I just need some strategies.” (Laughter) (Applause) Thank you. So she goes like this. (Laughter) And then I said, “It’s bad, right?” And she said, “It’s neither good, nor bad.” (Laughter) “It just is what it is.” And I said, “Oh my God, this is going to suck.”


And it did, and it didn’t. And it took about a year. And you know how there are people that, when they realize that vulnerability and tenderness are important, that they surrender and walk into it. A: that’s not me, and B: I don’t even hang out with people like that. (Laughter) For me, it was a yearlong street fight. It was a slugfest. Vulnerability pushed, I pushed back. I lost the fight, but probably won my life back.

And so then I went back into the research and spent the next couple of years really trying to understand what they, the whole-hearted, what choices they were making, and what are we doing with vulnerability. Why do we struggle with it so much? Am I alone in struggling with vulnerability? No. So this is what I learned. We numb vulnerability — when we’re waiting for the call. It was funny, I sent something out on Twitter and on Facebook that says, “How would you define vulnerability? What makes you feel vulnerable?” And within an hour and a half, I had a 150 responses. Because I wanted to know what’s out there. Having to ask my husband for help, because I’m sick, and we’re newly married; initiating sex with my husband; initiating sex with my wife; being turned down; asking someone out; waiting for the doctor to call back; getting laid-off; laying-off people — this is the world we live in. We live in a vulnerable world. And one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability.

And I think there’s evidence — and it’s not the only reason this evidence exists, but I think it’s a huge cause — we are the most in-debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history. The problem is — and I learned this from the research — that you cannot selectively numb emotion. You can’t say, here’s the bad stuff. Here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment, I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. (Laughter) I don’t want to feel these. And I know that’s knowing laughter. I hack into your lives for a living. God. (Laughter) You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle.

One of the things that I think we need to think about is why and how we numb. And it doesn’t just have to be addiction. The other thing we do is we make everything that’s uncertain certain. Religion has gone from a belief in faith and mystery to certainty. I’m right, you’re wrong. Shut up. That’s it. Just certain. The more afraid we are, the more vulnerable we are, the more afraid we are. This is what politics looks like today. There’s no discourse anymore. There’s no conversation. There’s just blame. You know how blame is described in the research? A way to discharge pain and discomfort. We perfect. If there’s anyone who wants their life to look like this it would be me, but it doesn’t work. Because what we do is we take fat from our butts and put it in our cheeks. (Laughter) Which just, I hope in a hundred years, people will look back and go, “Wow.”


And we perfect, most dangerously, our children. Let me tell you what we think about children. They’re hardwired for struggle when they get here. And when you hold those perfect little babies in your hand, our job is not so say, “Look at her, she’s perfect. My job is just to keep her perfect — make sure she makes the tennis team by fifth grade and Yale by seventh grade.” That’s not our job. Our job is to look and say, “You know what? You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” That’s our job. Show me a generation of kids raised like that, and we’ll end the problems I think that we see today. We pretend that what we do doesn’t have an effect on people. We do that in our personal lives. We do that corporate — whether it’s a bailout, an oil spill, a recall — we pretend like what we’re doing doesn’t have a huge impact on other people. I would say to companies, this is not our first rodeo people. We just need you to be authentic and real and say, “We’re sorry. We’ll fix it.”

But there’s another way, and I leave you with this. This is what I have found: to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee — and that’s really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult — to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?” just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.” And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place I believe that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.

That’s all I have. Thank you.




via leanna:

The top five tattvas, or principles of existence, are Shiva, Shakti, Iccha Shakti, Jnana Shakti, and Kriya Shakti.

Shiva is pure consciousness, it is like the sun, and Shakti is the creative power of that consciousness, it is like sunlight. They are the same but different aspects of the same.  In the top five tattvas there is Iccha- the will of the consciousness. It is will that comes before action- we have an idea before we can create. Jnana is the knowing of that will and Kriya is the action- a spontaneous action that has no condition or expectations- it is action for the sheer delight if it. In with all these five tattvas is a fine “trembling”. So from this pure consciousness it the trembling that causes the Iccha to wilfully pulsate from fullness to contract part of itself- it creates the screen of prismatic crystal unto which and into which all the possibilities of diversity and colour then manifest. Shiva/Shakti loses nothing of itself in the process- it stays completely unaffected in  the unmanifest.

Iccha, Jnana, Kriya, then become the aspects of the wheel- the shaktichakra.  The wheel starts with Kali- the Goddess of destruction. She is the consumer of time (kala being time and kali meaning the one who consumes time) she represents the blank state of your mind, no form or colour from which everything grows. She is the dark ground where the seed of the tree is planted. She represents Iccha. Saraswati represents Jnana, she is the deep order, the sequence that the growth follows- she is the tree that sprouts from the seed.  Finally at the apex of the wheel, at the height of the cycle before it moves downward again is Lakshimi, she is Kriya, the final action that is the fruit or flower of the tree- that which decays and falls to the ground, into the dark and back into Kali. Kali who seems to represent chaos, and darkness and destruction then is just part of the wheel- she is the ground upon which all ideas sprout. (I know Sjanie will love that….)

Via Jessica:

The top five Tattvas, or principles of nature, as outlined by the Tantrics are:

1. Shiva – the one energy, Consciousness, stable and unchanging, the vibration of potential:

Shiva is the masculine principle of stability, stillness, and that which never changes. Out of his own freedom, Shiva, often pictured dancing, chooses to take the forms of the universe just for the fun of it – to experience and revel in the goodness of existence.

In Anusara yoga we choose to see even our limitations as opportunities to experience our own divine nature. All parts of our being, including our physical body, our thoughts, our emotions, and even the aspects of ourselves that limit us, are actually this vital, divine energy revealing itself in ever-changing form, or

2. Shakti – the infinite expressions of the oneness, in all the infinite, ever-changing forms of the universe:

Shakti is the expression of that one spirit in the multiplicitous forms of the world, the feminine principle of freedom and all that changes and is in constant motion. Shiva can only be seen in some form, the forms we see all around us in the trees and the wind: always in movement.

Why does Shiva become Shakti? Why would such vast spirit take form in such limitated ways such as a tree or our breath? Because…

it wants to experience itself
it is free
it is playful

The challenge of Tantric yoga is in seeing Shiva within Shakti, and Shakti in Shiva: seeing oneness in diversity, and diversity in oneness; experiencing freedom within limitation, and limitation within freedom; playing in a serious way, and finding playfulness even in serious times.

And the next three, from which come the 3 A’s, are:

3. SadaShiva – “I am this,” or Iccha Shakti: Desire (Attitude):

The One takes on the limitations of form out of a deep longing to experience its own goodness. Our deepest intentions arise from this same desire to experience our own true nature- what is often referred to as our heart. When we start a day, a practice or a project from this deep intention, we have access to immense power.

If our fullness is hidden from us, it becomes desire for fullness (raga), bringing feelings of unworthiness (anava mala). When we open to the deepest desire that beats our heart and breathes our breath, this is Attitude.

4. Isvara – “This I am,” or Jnana Shakti: Knowledge (Alignment):

We can learn how to open to and support this current of energy within us, and give it expression in our bodies and our lives. When we believe we can’t know this, we get ignorance (avidya), where we make judgments based on difference, i.e. , “that object is separate from me” (mayiya mala). Even taking steps toward opening to the flow of universal energy within is Alignment.

5. Suddha-vidya – “I am this, this I am,” or Kriya Shakti: Action (Action):

As the great epic the Baghavada Gita advises, “Perform your obligatory duty, because action is indeed better than inaction.” Yoga is about taking action. When the power to act is hidden from us, we feel impotent (kala) and anxious (karma mala).

When rediscovered, we remember the immense possibility of even our subtlest action to affect the world in a positive way, and delight in even the smallest action as an expression of the highest good within ourselves.

Thus, from the tattvas come the 3 A’s: Attitude, Alignment, and Action. In Anusara yoga, we:

1. Remember our connectedness,

2. Align with the bigger energy that flows within us, and

3. Express our inherent goodness.

When I began to follow these steps, my poses transformed like magic. Soon, I realized life is simply a series of poses, and I began to notice this magic everywhere.


Ms. Keshavarz: [Translating] When pain arrives side by side with your love, I promise not to flee. When you ask me for my life, I promise not to fight. I’m holding a cup in my hand, but God, if you do not come till the end of time, I promise not to pour out the wine nor to drink a sip. Your bright face is my day. Your dark curls bring the night. If you do not let me near you, I promise not to go to sleep nor rise. Your magnificence has made me a wonder. Your charm has taught me the way of love. I am the progeny of Abraham. I’ll find my way through fire.

Ms. Tippett: What do you hear in that? What do you reflect on in that?

Ms. Keshavarz: It’s about steadfastness, about staying centered and keeping your eye on the goal, but at the same time, very much being in love and allowing the ecstasy of love take over. You see, he is very aware of the fact that, as human beings, we are limited. We have our limits. We just are not able to do everything that we desire to do. Our rationality is there; it’s very helpful. It does its job in questioning things and showing the way, but that has its limits too. What opens the way beyond that is love. What enables us to feel the pain and still go forth in the face of all of that is experiencing that love. And if you look at our lives, you know, people who produce great works of art, who are creative, who do something that goes beyond day-to-day activities, have that kind of steadfastness, that kind of devotion that lets them go through. What I see in that poem is that I promise to have that, but that comes from you. It’s your magnificence, your love that gives me that energy, that power to stay, and I promise to hold onto it.

Ms. Tippett: And “you” is the beloved, is God, is Allah.

Ms. Keshavarz: Yes, and that’s where the ambiguity comes in, of course, because you should be able to relate to it as a human being in love with another human being. That would be your entry into the poem.

Ms. Tippett: It’s also probably important to note that Rumi had a great turning point with a friendship, with Shams, a Sufi master. I think it is actually helpful that the love relationship, out of which Rumi drew so many of his analogies, you know, is not a romantic love relationship. And what you’re saying to me is that love is the core, but to think about the many forms that love takes in our lives. I mean, there’s also the passionate love that we have for our children.

Ms. Keshavarz: Yes, and so they are a blessing and they all have their own place. And in the end, we don’t replace them with the divine. It’s like warming up, in a way. It’s like getting you ready for a major exercise, a physical activity. You warm up gradually. You get yourself to a state where you can do it, test your abilities, see your problems and issues, ask your questions, quarrel with yourself, and get ready for it. And I think all these forms of experience of attachment with other human beings are various ways of experiencing that.

Below is an excerpt from an interview between Krista Tippett (Host of “On Being” and Ms. Keshavarz a scholar on the beloved Sufi poet from the 13th century, Rumi.

In the “Song of the Reed,” Rumi reflects on the human spirit through the metaphor of the ancient reed flute or ney that is popular in Middle Eastern music. This poem opened the Masnavi, Rumi’s compendium of rhyming couplets that explored Sufi theology and the spiritual journey.

Ms. Keshavarz: [Reciting] Listen to the story told by the reed of being separated. Since I was cut from the reed bed, I have made this crying sound. Anyone apart from someone he loves understands what I say. Anyone pulled from a source longs to go back. At any gathering, I’m there, mingling and laughing and grieving — a friend to each, but few will hear the secrets hidden within the notes. No ears for that. Body flowing out of spirit, spirit out from body, no concealing that mixing. But it’s not given us to see, so the reed flute is fire, not wind. Leave that empty.

Ms. Tippett: There’s a theme that is part of that, that runs all the way through, about separation and longing as part of — well, not just the spiritual life, but being human, and also a kind of sense that the separation and the longing themselves are a kind of arrival.

Ms. Keshavarz: On one level, you have to get on the road. You have to get started. You know, just like the earth that, you know, have to plow the earth, you have to get moving. On another level, time and again, he reminds us that the destination is the journey itself. So there isn’t a point where you say, ‘OK, I’m here, I’ve reached, I’m done, I’m perfect. I don’t need to do anything anymore.’ In the incompleteness of that, the need to move forward is inherent in that incompleteness, in the process of going forward, that you make yourself better and better and you, in a way, never reach. So the separation is the powerful force that keeps you going. If you ever felt that, ‘I have arrived, I’ve reached, this is it,’ then you wouldn’t go any further.

Ms. Tippett: You know, and I think it is counterintuitive in our culture — not that we necessarily think this through very often, but we think of desires and longings as something that we need to find something to meet, right?

Ms. Keshavarz: Yes, yes.

Ms. Tippett: And …

Ms. Keshavarz: And we want to meet it really fast and perfect. Yes.

Ms. Tippett: Yes, because, somehow, the feeling of longing and separation from whatever it is, especially if we don’t know what it is we want, that that is unsatisfying and there’s something wrong with that.

Ms. Keshavarz: Yes.

Ms. Tippett: And yet, what Rumi is saying is that, you know, the longing itself is redemptive and is progress, kind of.

Ms. Keshavarz: Yes, and the longing itself — and also not to understand exactly what that longing is in itself is very productive. I think one idea or major concept that the Sufi tradition and Rumi in particular have to contribute to our current culture is value in perplexity, the fact that not knowing is a source of learning, something that propels us forward into finding out. Longing, perplexity, these are all very valuable things. We want to unravel things and get answers and be done, but as far as he’s concerned, it’s a continual process. We can’t be done, and that’s good.

from katie lane:

Pratipaksha Bhavana

This is a blogpost from *way* back when (circa 2008, see below)…a recent email from a new friend took me back to it… so I share it again this morning. I’ll call it an encore!

Last week, I taught a class on pratipaksha bhavana, a method suggested by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras for working with negative mental states and overcoming paralysis by cultivating, acting on, or even just entertaining its opposite. It’s been such a useful practice for me in every arena in my life and when my life or my heart is beset by fear or stagnancy, I always turn to it.

You see I am such a thinker (aka, obsessor). My mind will attach to one thing and pre-occupy itself with that one thought excessively. Having a healthy dose of the air element, I will run things over and over again in my mind yet also being who I am (in all my many splendoured facets) I tend however to keep working with it only in ONE way. Usually the first way it struck me. To the exclusion of all else.

Let’s call this the Capricorn banging her head into the same brick wall syndrome. Yet never connecting that practice to the headache that follows. Yoga and meditation have been fabulous for helping me make that connection (my head thanks you) and Patanjali’s method has been invaluable for helping me find a DOOR in the wall.

Whenever I am stuck or mired down – in my actual life or in my thoughts – I practice this now.
I contemplate, entertain, imagine, and YES sometimes even act out the opposite. Of what I’m feeling, what I’m thinking, what I’m believing, and what I’m doing. Have a read…

Saturday Samskara

These days I’ve become a bit of homebody… It’s not that I’m actively avoiding group socializing on the weekends but, with our cold and wet weather and adjusting back to my daily work routine, I’ve just been rather enjoying the regular date with my couch on Saturday night. An engrossing book, delicious meal, glass of red wine or steamy mug of hot chocolate and I’m all set! It’s become an easy and even enjoyable pattern.

In Sanskrit, my Saturday night habit (or RUT) is called a samskara. Like a deep groove in the road, a samskara is a tendency/habit/path that we keep tracking into. It is easy, comfortable, and almost inevitable that no matter which way we steer, we will tend to fall right into it. There are only two ways to break out of a well dug samskara. First, we have to be aware of and acknowledge our tendency or habit AND second, we have to create a new pattern.

Happily approaching preparations for last Saturday’s evening meal, I received a last minute invitation from a good friend offering a new possibility. Party. People I didn’t know. All the way across town. She dangled enticing descriptions of the house, the people, all of the planned activities…. But you know, my first instinct was still to say no. The deeply entrenched pattern emerged.

However, some delicate, whispering voice inside my head said, why not? The voice got louder. Why not do something completely different, completely random, completely new? What my friend Diane offered was enticing and beguilingly so. It was outside my usual plans and so much so that I made a quick and intentional decision to open up to the possibility of something new.

Where did this choice take me?
Handmade pizzas cooked in a handmade outdoor pizza oven.
A decadent hour baking in a handmade outdoor sauna
An invigorating post-sweat swim in the winter sea (ME? I don’t even swim in CHCH during the summer!?)
Bowl after bowl of decadent homemade ice cream
A rocking all night jam session (drums, guitars, piano, trumpet, and various creative uses for nearby cutlery, glassware, and/or pots and pans) in the warmth of heat pump and high energy fueled living room.


And these people do this almost every weekend?!?! Where have I been…?

Before any asana, before any finer detail of anatomical alignment, the very first principle of Anusara Yoga is Open to Grace. Feel the breath and open to the bigger picture. This means that I make the choice to take a pause and actively release my usual and oftentimes self-limiting ideas of who I am, what I think I can do, and where I think the ceiling is on the roof of possibility.

On the yoga mat this means I open up to the belief that maybe this pose is possible for me today. That maybe I can turn to my breath and follow it for just an extra count longer this time. That maybe if I just move and breathe and celebrate the glory of my existence in this body, this place, right at this very moment that all of the trouble I left behind at home may have a new perspective when I return.

And on last Saturday, this meant that when I left behind my couch, my book, my mug of hot chocolate, and simply showed up open and willing, I allowed myself to experience and enjoy one of the most fantastic and impromptu gatherings I have been to in a very long time.


from the lovely Katie Lane:

Doing some reading on my favorite poet and discovered that the word “dervish” means threshold. I like this! So looking at life and how it’s been spinning lately as not random or out of control but rather on the cusp of something really grand. “I am at home wherever I am and in the room of lovers I can see with closed eyes the beauty that dances.” Rumi

‎”A threshold is not a simple boundary. It is a FRONTIER that divides two different territories, rhythms, and amospheres…A real frontier can not be crossed without the heart beign passionately engaged and woken up.” John O’Donohue

leaves turn colour in the fall when it gets cold because the chlorophyll withdraws. the chlorophyll is what makes the leaves green. so that means the trees are always beautiful reds and oranges and golds, we just can’t see them! ripening of the fall, fall reveals the true colour of the leaves. revelation, chit. this could make people happy about fall instead of depressed!

On Spiritual Friendship by Roshi Wendy Egyoku Nakao

Kalyanamitra is the Sanskrit word for spiritual friendship. This friendship is something much more than someone to hang out with, but rather connotes a person or even a thing that becomes our guide, a teacher, and serves to inspire us along our path to awakening.

There is a common Zen expression that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. Ready or not, teachers are constantly appearing in our lives, but sometimes it is difficult to recognize because we are looking for someone that meets our image or idea of “teacher.” Or, we regard this person or thing as an obstacle in our life, rather than as something that can awaken us to life’s meaning.

For instance, we could say that illness is kalyanamitra. The death of a sibling can be kalyanamitra. The birth of our child can be kalyanamitra. Falling in love can be kalyanamitra. In short, anything which shakes us out of our ongoing slumber and creates an opening to a vista beyond our narrow image or experience of ego-self, is a spiritual friend worthy of our gratitude.

It may be difficult to regard a painful experience as a friend. We respond by pushing such experiences away or by grasping on to something else. But in zazen, we learn to sit in the midst of our suffering, much as one would do with someone in need. Just sitting. Just seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, awareness — recognizing and affirming the most essential nature of our situation, whatever it may be.

The Great Wisdom Heart Sutra is truly one of the great expressions of spiritual friendship. In this sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha expounds the truth of emptiness of all phenomena for his disciple Shariputra. He points Shariputra to prajna wisdom, the unsurpassable wisdom. Anything and anyone who points us to this wisdom is a spiritual friend. But the Heart Sutra does not stop at our own realization. It concludes with the great mantra, the vivid mantra, the unsurpassable mantra of “Gate! Gate! Paragate! Parasamgate! Bodhi svaha!”It means “gone, gone, gone beyond, together go beyond.”

This “together” speaks directly to our most basic vow to save all beings. Our realization only truly comes alive when it is used in the service of others, in helping others awaken to life’s essential nature. So recognize and appreciate the spiritual friends in your life: you yourself serving others in this way, and others and things continually befriending you, pointing to the unsurpassable wisdom that is our life.

Love this grounding class. Subtle awareness of organs bring us out of the thinking mind.

Tara’s cues I love:

– lean back into the support of the back lungs.

– jumping up to utt- soft heart before jumping so you center in heart focal pt

– tailbone anchors down like a rutter

– expansion of inner body out towards outer body

– dog- limbs move in opposite directions to make for great expansion of trunk.

-plank- back body magnetized to ceiling

– hip openers teach you process of taking on any intense experience and staying with your own inner peace. organs are peaceful.

– ME- intelligently organize muscles to shape the matrix of the skeleton

– being mind- when the thinking mind see’s a white wall, it is like 3 yr old saw a white who has a crayon- color all over it. the being mind can just see the white wall and let it be.

– pause, breath, harmonize

– in prasarita- pull feet in, feel inner thighs fire. pull feet out, feel outer thighs fire. pull feet back feel hams fire, pull feet forward, feel quad fire- this is ME on all four sides

– santosha= peace, natural state of being. yoga bringing us back to natural state.

– as you breath into the back of the lungs notice, how does that shift your experience?

– agnistombasana + twist= yum!

– not measuring against another but coaxing yourself into a deeper experience.

-how do we find being inside of ourself?

– really appreciate seeing people’s patience with their bodies. How we are with our bodies is an indicator for how we interface with everything else.

– set foundation cue- “organize feet’

– if our practice simply restores us to the ground of being… to that feeling of peace and wellness, it is a good practice. So to that grounding supportive energy please bow.


  • dog pose
  • lunges
  • SN x 5 (just utt, plank, chat, cobra, dog, utt)
  • parsvok stance with hands down to inside- big IS
  • Triko> prasarita> triko
  • dog leg lift
  • warrior 2
  • road kill pigeon > x-pose
  • anjaneyasana
  • parvritta parsvo – twist originates in organs)
  • pigeon
  • thread the needle in pigeon
  • agnistombasana
  • paschimott
  • janu shirsh twist
  • pasch
  • hug knees in
  • savasana
  • meditation

Transcript of the Interview:

Q. So I wanted to start with a question around inspiration.  What gives you inspiration in this life and who?

A.  So I’d like to begin with my parents, because I feel that my parents and my sister really embody love, and they help so many people and they are totally committed to helping every single person that they meet that could require help in some way, and they have been this way ever since I can remember and even in the times that I personally have felt maybe more like going into my room and being private and quiet they were the ones who were just like come on, you know and connect with us and let’s go help someone.  It’s amazing that they hold this very constant state of love for each other and for the people that they meet, and so that’s really one of my biggest inspirations. I’m also immensely inspired by nature and especially trees.  I love to be in forests, I love the redwoods of California.  I love all trees, but 5 years ago it was really the Redwood trees that drew me out here when I made a big move from the East Coast out to here.  So I love trees and I love all of nature.   And I love poetry, it inspires me greatly and Tantric teachings inspire me a lot, the text of Tantra, the stories, I love story tellers, {I} forgot about that, story tellers and music, absolutely light me on fire and there’s more too {laugh}.

Q. in a nutshelll {laugh}…yeah…Can you speak about the power of Revelation, you mentioned the Tantic teachings, what in particular inspires you about Anusara?  Why Anusara of all the of yoga systems?

A. Oh, okay that’s beautiful.  So Anusara, for me one of the things that just sort of went like this to me {gestures an embrace} invited me right into the best parts of myself is that in Anusara, we have what’s called First Principle and it’s called Opening to Grace. And in this First Principle, it’s allowing ourselves to be become more sensitive, more spacious, more with attunement, more listening, more present with however something is in the moment, and allowing ourselves to feel compassion and love in ways that we’re connected to ourselves and more than just ourselves in the moment, connected to the bigger picture we like to say in Anusara, so for me when I first started studying Anusara, it was so huge, because it wasn’t just about being in the pose, like okay, come to your breath, we have all these ways of opening to grace, come to your back body, your foundation, but it was more like what was happening in my life.  So when I would be inside a situation in my life that was maybe challenging for me, I would actually start to ask myself, what does Open to Grace look like right now in this moment in this situation, when I’m off my yoga mat, and here I am feeling all these challenges or intensities, or something that is pulling me off-center in a big way, and I started really asking the question, what does Opening to Grace look like right now in this moment and what would happen was an immediate bonding with a greater sense of love and self-love inside myself.