I am lucky to have a non-stop. The storm is supposed to have passed through. So I can enjoy myself know matter what travel brings, I pack up a variety of reading materials — philosophy, handouts for the workshop, and fiction. I switched my ankle warmers to bamboo knitting needles so I could get through security and knit (the ankle warmers are on size 2 needles, so it is taking me as long as a sweater). I have my journal and a pen. Best, I am traveling with two friends (all different flights, but no one waiting alone in the airport) with whom to visit, who are going to the same retreat. Takes the edge off of the early wake up time. Starts the retreat when I leave the door instead of when I arrive at the retreat center.
It has been my experience that there are times when a hug feels like too much or not right or that it will not ease what hurts. First there is a need for an openness of heart, a little intrinsic brightness, some recognition of worthiness to receive the love, before a strong embrace feels right. In Anusara, we are taught to practice the opening, brightening, expanding principle of “opening to grace” before we draw in with the embrace of muscle energy.
“Shoulder loop” helps us refine muscle energy and by drawing the shoulder blades onto the back of the heart and then lifting and expanding the chest, it can be incredibly powerful and healing. My experience with shoulder loop, though, especially when I have active shoulder or neck pain, is that if I am at all collapsed, if I am not doing maximum “inner body bright” shoulder loop feels OK, but it it is much harder to access and receive. When I open to the possibilities by radically filling with light and energy, especially around the back of the heart — in a word, meeting the possibility of embrace from the inside out — then the embrace of shoulder loop is almost instantly healing and empowering.
Note: If you would like to receive newsletters or previously subscribed, but changed your email or have not been receiving emails, please resubscribe directly through the website or send me an email and I’ll try to get you on the list. I do get some mysterious bounce backs.
I hope this email finds you well. I’ve been enjoying the decorative lights outside and candles inside as we move towards the Winter Solstice. Even with the excitement of the holidays, it is a great time to turn inward, to pause and refresh our remembrance and recognition of the light inside us all.
Many thanks to all of you who came to the Thanksgiving Oxfam class (in spirit as well as in person). Thanks to the generosity of Willow Street and all of you, we raised almost a $1,000 for Oxfam. All of you who come to regular classes help support the Wednesday night practice being 100% for charity. All fall, in recognition of one of the biggest issues of our day, the charities selected have been health-care focused, and I’ll continue that for December. If you have any suggestions for cause of the month for 2010, don’t hesitate to share with me.
December Serenity Saturday: Give yourself or a friend or loved one a holiday gift of sweet relaxation at the next Serenity Saturday, which is December 19th, 3pm-5pm, at Capitol Hill Yoga. Do a little local shopping or dining at Eastern Market and then join us for the delight of a deep restorative practice. To register, please visit www.capitolhillyoga.com. $5 discount if you register more than seven days in advance.
New Year’s Day Workshop: Flow into grace with an all-levels asana practice, followed by yoga nidra from 2-4 pm on New Year’s Day. Suitable for the well-rested and late-night revelers alike. Go to www.capitolhillyoga.com to register.
Needing a little extra yoga or to get back into the swing: come drop in at William Penn House on Tuesdays at 6:15 for all-levels or at Willow Street on Saturdays (level 2 at 8:30am and gentle/therapeutics at 12 noon).
Willow Street is on break from December 21st through the end of the year. I’ll be teaching through December 19th and then teaching free classes as part of free class week on January 9th. Yes, there will be class at the William Penn House on Tuesday, December 22nd, but alas no class on December 29th.
As always, please visit the website at www.rosegardenyoga.com to get more information on classes and upcoming workshops and to enjoy the blog.
Peace and light,
These cookies are loosely inspired by the peanut butter cookies from the Joy of Cooking because those were my first peanut butter cookies.
1. Soften a half cup of vegetable shortening (preferably organic), then cream with 1/4-1/2 cup of sucanat (sweeten to taste). Beat in 1/2 cup agave nectar or maple syrup. Add in equivalent of one egg of either “egg replacer” or flax seed emulsified with water. Cream in peanut butter (make sure the peanut butter is organic; creamy works best in this recipe as they are crumbly cookies), a dash of salt, and a 1/2 tsp of baking soda.
2. Mix together 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour. Then mix the combined flours into the wet ingredients until well combined.
3. Blend in 1/2 cup of toasted wheat germ (flax seed meal or a combination also would work).
4. Chill the dough for at least 1/2 hour for best results. Lightly grease a cookie sheet while the dough is chilling. Shape the dough into walnut sized balls (or make them smaller, but shorten the cooking time). Make an indentation with your thumb to flatten slightly. The dough will rise and the thumbprint will disappear during the baking process, leaving a smooth, round pillow of a cookie.
5. Depending on your cookware and whether you have convection (needs lower temperature) or conventional oven, bake at 335F-375F. Starting from a cool oven (many baked goods are fine without the oven preheating; to save energy, try to start baking with something that doesn’t mind starting in a cool oven and then baking several items at the same time to take advantage of the already heated oven), bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on whether the oven was hot already, until golden.
6. THIS IS IMPORTANT: these cookies crumble very easily when first taken out of the oven. Leave them to cool for at least 15 minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring directly to a plate.
Variations: any nut or seed butter. Hemp would be particularly good, as would almond.
How different the tone of these two photos just from the direction the camera was pointed, how much was included in the overall image, and the shift in the shape of my mouth. The clowns with their paint, the angle of the camera, the reflection all pointed out for me how little I sometimes understand, despite my best intentions and efforts, in going about my day and interrelating with others. Today I went to visit a friend who is in the intensive care unit. She has been struggling with severe illness for many years. Though she cannot really speak at present, I thought she was trying to reveal something of great moment. Not knowing how to react or what to say, I held her hand and told her I loved her. As I was leaving, I told her husband what I had observed (carefully not saying what I thought, which is hard for me). Later in the day, thinking of the limits and perils of common speech, I composed this found photograph, wishing for more insight, more clarity, and more power to help, but knowing that love was all I could offer.
I received the following spam today: “????????? ??? ???? ???????, ???.” Not a bad one and certainly inoffensive. Although I deleted it, I copied the message first. For the past few days I’ve been thinking that sometimes the act of posing a question itself reveals an answer.
I give thanks to and for all of you and wish that you find a true sense of gratitude in your very being.
Yesterday I received a rather negative email in response to my posting a suggestion on a list serve connected to a religious organization that people write to their elected officials about the health care bill pending in the Senate. I sent the email because my contribution to this group is to serve as the designated liaison between a lobbying group that was established by the religious organization and the religious organization. Once of month or so, I highlight issues that are the focus of the lobbying groups email campaigns. The email took me to task for thinking that politics has any place in connection with spiritual practice and therefore the on-line discussion should never be about politics. The person assured me that our political views were different, although I did not actually suggest what people should write; I only said that they should write. I have been pondering this deeply as it is a topic I have thought about, taught about, and wrestled with deeply over the years, especially during the Presidential elections.
As one who believes that body, mind, and community are inseparable from spirit, I am unable to separate political action from spiritual action. I believe that I have a duty to be knowledgeable about the issues challenging society as a whole, to take action within the framework of society to seek the embodiment of my spiritual beliefs (grossly oversimplified, that the rules, commitments, and support networks of society should recognize the light of all beings — human and not — and foster the seeking of that light by all), and to challenge the very framework of the discussion and rules when they obscure the light and its recognition.
One of the reasons for discussion is to explore, to learn, to be challenged, to expand both knowledge and understanding. That can be a hard process. I certainly do not expect people to agree with each other at all times, but that is not the point of discussion. While I think this sort of discussion perfectly appropriate in the context of a spiritual discussion, it might be less welcome where what is being sought is an immediate sense of peace and harmony in the connection of a particular practice. For example, if it is known that family and friends have strong disagreements about “political” issues, it might be disagreeable for digestion and the day to bring up the issues at the Thanksgiving dinner table.
My students this fall and those of you following the blog know that I have been teaching the basic Anusara physical principles of alignment in sequence as the focus of my weekly classes. I did not set out to do so at the beginning of the session, nor did I pick it just for this week, but it just so happens that using my session theme and sequence brings us to “kidney loop” for the Thanksgiving week.
John Friend’s Anusara Teacher Training Manual explains that kidney loop starts in the core of the abdomen, just below the navel. It flows up the back body to fill and open the kidney area to the bottom of the shoulder blades, moves forward through the top of the diaphragm (heart focal point) to the base of the sternum, and then down the solar plexus to just below the navel. The act of opening the back body at our core before engaging the front body helps enhance and refine the physical aspects of the fundamental Anusara alignment principle of “opening to grace.” By opening the back body, we open to the unknown, to that which is greater than ourselves, to untapped sources of power. Opening in this way, draws in and strengthens the front body and helps us find our own inner power.
Among other things for me to give thanks is the very beauty of this magical sequencing moment: What better way to celebrate and honor the tradition of Thanksgiving than by recognizing that we are not fully in charge, by opening in such a way that we are not hardening, demanding, or constricting ourselves, but rather are seeking an opening of the spirit that can bring us to a place of recognition and empowerment.