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Breitenbush Retreat (and bringing joy back home)

rainbowI returned home last night from eight days away, five of which were truly on retreat — just meditating, bathing in hot springs, hiking, eating well, practicing yoga, and celebrating with dance and music.  To see pictures, click here.

The focus of the week was honoring the past and engaging in the present so as best to serve the future.

We left Breitenbush Hot Springs mid-afternoon on Thursday.  Rather than take a red eye, I stayed Thursday night at an airport hotel and took an early morning flight home on Friday.  I woke early Friday morning and rested in meditation to ease the shock of going from an off-the-grid community in the forest to an airport hotel.  This rainbow glowed over the airport while I was waiting for the hotel shuttle to take me there for my flight.

The rainbow reminded me to carry the deep joy of the retreat home with me.

Roasted Vegetables (and getting ready for vacation)

Yesterday morning, when I was starting to pack to leave for Oregon today, the most critical elements for getting ready (after making sure I had my wallet, camera, and some yoga clothes in a suitcase) were to water the garden well, pull some weeds, pick ripe vegetables, and cook.

I’d given away some produce a couple of days ago, but still had eggplants, peppers, tomatoes from the garden and half an onion from something I had cooked earlier in the week.

I cut everything in half, slathered it in olive oil, sprinkled the vegetables with coarsely ground pepper Himalayan pink salt and put it into the toaster/convection oven (my favorite kitchen appliance).  The vegetables roasted while I was doing other chores.  Now, on my return, I will be able pull from the freezer ingredients for a wonderful pasta sauce.

As much as I am looking forward to a week of yoga and exploration, I’ll be delighted to come back to garden and my own kitchen.  It is almost time to start planting greens, beets, and turnips for fall.

Reminder (blog copy of newsletter)

Dear Friends,

I hope you are having a rich and full summer.

To celebrate the yoga with John Friend, the delightfulness of the Pacific Northwest, and to get a break from routine — in a word to take a vacation — I will be out of town next week.

While I am on break (September 1st and 2nd), no Wm Penn or house classes.  They resume as usual on Tuesday, September 8th.

There are wonderful subs for Willow Street classes this Saturday, August 29th, but there are no classes at Takoma Park, Willow Street, Labor Day weekend (Saturday, September 5th).

Upcoming:  Free class week at Willow Street on September 12th.  Start of the new session September 19th.

Serenity Saturday, September 19th.

See you soon.

Peace and light,

Elizabeth

Bhagavan (what does it mean to be prosperous?)

Bhagavan — another name for Shiva — literally means “possessing fortune, blessed, prosperous.”

What does it mean in this context to be possessed of fortune, to be blessed, to be prosperous?

What does it mean in the context of balancing individual and societal needs, hungers, and wants?  What could it mean the current conversation about taxes, government spending, and healthcare?  In the discussion of budget, war, etc?

We live at one level in a paradigm in which communal wealth is finite and is fought over to obtain individual wealth.  How do we live within that paradigm and still find a sense of inner prosperity with what we have been given?

Construction and Reconstruction

I have lived in my house for almost 20 years.  The house came with a bottom of the line, circa 1977 Hechinger’s bathroom.  The bathtub has been rusting for a over a decade, part of the faucet would come off when turning it off, etc.

Finding myself without any pets and between tenants, it seemed like a good time to renovate.  Last week, in just a day, what was a bathroom, is now a gutted space.  Amazing how quickly something can be rooted out and undone.  It will be taking a lot longer to reconstruct.

What I am finding most challenging is not the physical chaos.  I am used to it as an old house often needs work, and this house needed work (though it was not the kind of fixer-upper that was completely missing floors, electricity, and plumbing).

Rather, what I am wrestling with is my emotional reaction to the idea of having a brand new, beautiful bathroom.  There is a big feeling guilty component to be spending money on something that feels not entirely necessary when so many are in need.  So while the contractor is working on the construction, I am working with a wonderful opportunity to help reconstruct (post deconstructing) my emotional relationship with things.  How do I find balance between honoring those in need, my impact on the planet, maintaining my house, and my enjoyment of beautiful things?  How do I feel at peace with my decisions once they already have been made?  How do I apply discrimination in my aesthetics to assist in this balance?

Shiva the Dissolver (and rare hybrid orchid)

The other day, it was announced that following a controlled forest fire, a rare hybrid orchid that hasn’t been seen in the wild in Maryland for the past 70 years has emerged.  This, I think, is such a wonderful example of the privileging of the destructive energy of of Shiva in the context of the triad of Brahma (creator), Vishnu (sustainer), and Shiva (destroyer).

Shiva in this context does not so much destroy for the sake of destroying, but is part of the inevitable and necessary part of life that strips away, dissolves, razes, eliminates, so that new life can emerge and be sustained.

“Sometimes I have nothing to say”

Several years ago, when I still had a working art studio in my house, the favorite thing to do of a friend’s child when the family came over was to go into the studio to see what I was painting.  I had just finished a piece on which I had painted the words, “Sometimes I have nothing to say.”  D was five or six at the time — just learning to read full sentences.  He chortled delightedly, pointed to the painting, and exclaimed, “I get it!  I get it!”

As I have been studying and contemplating yoga philosophy in a group setting recently, I have been thinking about the tension between saying and not saying, the conundrum of yearning to communicate the indescribable, and the countervailing desire just to experience and not to try and describe or communicate.

Creating Healing Energy (and communal knitting)

A friend of mine who is an avid and wonderful knitter decided to make a shawl for a friend who is about to have surgery.  Instead of whipping out a shawl herself in a few days, she invited other friends to knit squares and bring them to her.  She is going to piece together the squares to create, in essence, a physical manifestation of a gentle, loving, communal embrace.

I loved this idea.  Though I could not put name to face for the friend who is suffering (I think I would likely recognize her), to support my friend who is setting such a strong intention of sending healing, I am knitting a square or two with some beautiful handspun yarn leftover from a sweater several years ago.

As I knit, I am setting an intention to infuse the cloth with healing energy.  In having been invited to participate in this project, I have been given the gift of a potent reminder of how strongly our attitude and intention in whatever we create and offer can shift how it goes forth into the world — whether it be gifts, practice, speech, food, work.