Beauty Report: The beach and being in the present moment

Sandy beach, Long Beach. Long Island, New York, USAMy partner and I went to the beach on Monday. Being at the beach erases all troubles and allows us to be our most natural selves. When we’re at the beach, everything is ok. The sound of the waves caressing the shore lulls me to sleep. We soak in the rays of the sun, build sandcastles, watch seagulls. In this moment, life is perfect and beautiful. As we live only in the present moment, let me rephrase that to say…life is perfect and beautiful.

There is nothing like being in nature to reconnect us to Beauty. Nature soothes. Without distractions of phones, computers, traffic, noises, advertisements, or schedules, we can simply experience ourselves as human animal, primal, perfectly made for basking in the sun and playing in the waves. This is healing.

Beauty Reports are something we do in Forrest Yoga to acknowledge the overwhelming beauty of our lives, and to help us reconnect to our spirits, the things that feed us. A-ho.

 

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Asking For What We Need: The Empowerment Triangle

empowermenttriangleA friend of mine posted this to her Facebook wall today: “What you resist persists. Gotta feel it to heal it. Avoiding life does not lead to transformation or enlightenment.”

Let’s break this down. “Feel it to heal it” aka “the only way out is through.” Sometimes “feeling it” means going thru a period of shadow willingly and without resistance. Our emotions don’t come with a time-table; sometimes we get activated by processes or life circumstances and we’re IN IT. The right time is now. The other day at lunch with some friends I started crying. My friend said “feel that.” As soon as she said it I knew what she meant. Don’t push it down. Get what that feeling is. FEEL THAT! I’ve learned that if we push down or deny or reason away our emotions, we’re going to end up numb and disempowered.

Avoiding life…just because we are active in our work and social lives and personal life doesn’t mean we are present. Non-avoidance means acknowledging what comes up and grappling with it, not shrinking away, having courage to admit “this is here” and then taking the next most healing step.

This dovetails into “what you resist persists.” When we know we have something to deal with and we don’t, it’s just going to sit there like mold growing on one strawberry in the box; eventually, the whole box is contaminated. What we don’t address gains momentum and strength, like opportunistic bacteria that thrive the danker and more toxic their environment gets.

For whatever reason, I was born in this life with a drive towards liberation and freedom, my own and others who are suffering (which is, everyone). All my samskaras (past and present life karma) are here to teach me. I have trained myself to view challenges, injuries, and “shit that happens to us” as teachers. I was not always this way. Peace is a long road. We all come to the path with different strengths and weaknesses. And we are all walking it together.

To couch this post in a constructive light, I’d like to make a request of anyone reading this: TODAY, please FEEL your feelings around something that triggers you. Do NOT avoid it. Then, write your comment here, what you felt, what you did not resist, and how you did not avoid life.

Here is mine, for today: I need to start ASKING for what I want and need in a clear and precise manner instead of assuming people will understand what I want/need and give it to me. This is especially true in intimate partnerships and work situations. This also applies to creative situations, where I am working with others. My programming around asking is that I will either not get what I ask for or I will get something less than what I asked for, or a replacement. For example, as a kid, I wanted to play the drums and wanted a drum set. My father said NO!, then a few weeks later brought me a small hand drum. I remember feeling as a young child that I was expected to be ok with this hand drum, but it was not the drum set with drumsticks that I yearned to bang on. I did not ever end up playing the drums. In relationship, when I have asked a partner for something I needed, like assistance when I had an injury, the expectation I had was not met. I was helped in the most rudimentary (and reluctant) of ways, and I felt burdensome and ashamed, especially because he lacked compassion for the condition I was in (needless to say the relationship ended). This is just an example of how I learned that asking did not mean receiving.

To heal this, I have to move out of “victim” mode by identifying how I feel. How I feel when I am confronted with need is afraid, vulnerable, unsteady, knocked off balance, shy, and anxious. How I will avoid avoidance (hah!) is by identifying when I need to ASK for something to have my needs met and finding the courage to ASK with clarity and precision. If my initial ask is not acceptable, I will NEGOTIATE until a solution can be reached.

This process was inspired by my friend Alex’s “empowerment triangle” he mentioned at dinner tonight. The image of it is above.

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Psychic Attraction or Twin Flame? How addictive personalities can justify all sorts of things…

BlindSpotFatalAttraction4Astrologer Lynn Koiner, in writing about Neptune’s retrograde period in Pisces from June 9, 2014-November 16, 2014, urges us to watch out for “psychic attractions” during this period. What’s a psychic attraction?

Psychic Attraction is an emotional reaction to another person whereby you get swept up with feelings…that this is destiny, karmic…but this is usually a “mood” that allows you to escape reality. I always say, “Thinking about it is better than doing it,” where some of these relationships are concerned. People who have severe boundary problems or who are going through a strong Neptune transit (affecting one’s sense of boundaries) are susceptible to this type of negative attraction.

Since completing my Forrest Yoga Foundations Teacher Training in May 2014, I have been very interested in the topics of addiction, habitual behaviors, conditioned reactions…a rubric you could sort of lump under “things we do to prevent ourselves from feeling.” Upon reading Lynn’s description of psychic attractions above, I was hit by the part about this attraction masquerading as destiny and karma, but being more accurately a “mood that allows [you] to escape reality.” Yes.

A strong attraction to someone may be used as a means to escape reality. If thoughts about that person are preventing you from working, sleeping, and meeting your obligations to yourself and society, perhaps the attraction is functioning as a behavior that you are addicted to and using to numb out feelings. People with addictive personalities can be extraordinarily clever. If alcohol or drugs or gambling is not your thing, you can still check out by “totally crushing out” on someone, going into an obsessive state. Having had periods like this before, the amount of time spent thinking about the person, looking at whatever I could find about them online, etc. took up countless hours, that if I could get them back now, I would be able to do a whole lot of great stuff! But at the time, I was very caught up in the romantic idea of “destiny” or “fate” because of the magnetism.

Since many people visit my blog for the article about Stages of a Twin Flame Relationship, I thought it would be pertinent to add to the conversation by bringing up this idea of psychic attractions. Have you ever mistaken a psychic attraction for a twin flame? Twin flame relationships are characterized by spiritual growth and a sense of expansion, but a psychic attraction could mimic the early stages of the twin flame relationship. ANY new love affair could mimic the early stages of a twin flame dynamic if we are still working through a lot of karma because the Beloved always reflects back to us what we cannot yet own in ourselves (shadow and light!).

If your strong attraction to someone is not expanding you spiritually and is causing your focus to narrow, you may be using the attraction to stay in denial about other things and feelings percolating in your life. I’d love to hear back from readers on this topic.

 

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Beauty Report: The return of my personal yoga practice

yogapracticespaceSince completing the Forrest Yoga Foundations Teacher Training, I am so grateful that my personal yoga practice has returned. My strongest intention going into the training was to get my personal practice back on track. While I received far more than this, one of the greatest gifts has been to get back on my mat every day, now for 33 days in a row.

It’s oddly common to hear yoga teachers talking about the loss of their personal practice when they begin teaching professionally. It really doesn’t make much sense: how can you teach something you no longer practice, no matter how many years or decades you did it before? Lack of logic aside, I couldn’t seem to motivate myself to get on the mat. The excuses were legion: I don’t have time (of course I do!) I’m not in the mood (ew!); my apartment isn’t really set up for it (ok, but there’s alternatives and creative solutions to this); I am tired (yoga will help get you untired); and on and on it went. Somehow, I equated the little bit of mat time I got through my various teaching gigs to count as practice. It’s not!

Our personal yoga practice is so much more than simply doing poses. What I’m finding out is that personal practice, especially daily personal practice, is a commitment to myself and a deep care-taking of my self that gets stronger each day I return to my mat. This has been the secret gift of getting back on the mat everyday: that the more days that go by continuously, the less likely I am to let a day slide, the more I actually tremble at the idea of a day going by.

I am healing from a lot of self-abuse. I need to practice regularly. I need to keep the well of my own sense of trust, appreciation, and love for myself topped up. Daily practice is, so far, the best way to do this I have experienced. I am so grateful to Ana Forrest and her amazing assistants for helping me get into the habit of daily yoga practice. This is one habit I definitely don’t want to break.

Here’s a photo of me practicing in my mom’s apartment’s gym space. To me, meeting myself on my mat daily, and letting it be discovered what comes up (am I focused; am I rushing; am I adhering to my intent; am I using my neck in the poses?!; etc) is one of the most beautiful things I can imagine. This is my therapy, my salvation, my healing, my gift to myself.

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Forrest Yoga Classes in New Jersey

I recently completed the 200-hour Forrest Yoga Foundations Teacher Training at Fresh Yoga in New Haven, CT with master teacher Ana Forrest. It was a life-changing experience.

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Some of the many gifts I received from this training are:

  • I got my personal yoga practice back. It’s not unusual to hear yoga teachers bemoaning the loss of their own personal practice. As of today, I have practiced yoga 31 days in a row. And I have no intention of turning back. One of the personal ethics I created for myself during the training was to practice a minimum of 6x/week for at least 30 minutes per day. So far, this ethic is guiding me into health, a sense of wholeness, and a sense of trust in myself that I have not felt for a very long time. My strength is growing by the day.
  • My connection to breath has deepened exponentially. I have always felt a strong connection to breath and had a good intuitive understanding of how to teach breath. But since this training, my application of breath is becoming so much more skillful. I am better able to share this understanding with my students, and teach them in a practical way HOW TO USE BREATH FOR HEALING. This will revolutionize your yoga practice and your life.
  • I realized through this training how I had a plethora of habits that were holding me down and dimming my light, as well as showing up as obstacles to moving forward in life with clarity and conviction. Social drinking and partying (I have been a DJ in the nightlife scene for 10+ years), mindless eating, even social media use suddenly revealed themselves as ways that I would distract myself from what was essential in my life at the moment and choose a behavior that took me away, that numbed me out. Getting clear about the myriad ways I was squandering my life energy made me see that all those things we take for granted as being normal, “let loose” or “have fun” type behaviors are actually hooks that drain our vitality. I have since reformed how and what I eat, and my tendency to casually use “party favors” (drugs & alcohol) in favor of clarity around how these actions keep me from feeling what I need to feel. The pull towards addiction or compulsion is insidious, and our modern culture accepts and even encourages our slavery to various forms of addiction, from shopping to gambling to online porn to recreational drugs to exercise. Getting clear about my tendency to fall into these traps and speak about it to anyone who will listen has been liberating.
  • I have learned how to connect to my spirit by breathing well, finding beauty in the everyday, and speaking my truth from my heart. These concepts sound nice on paper, but applying them is ironically not as easy as it sounds. When our thoughts are poisoned by a steady stream of negative inner dialogue, our spirit is often in hiding or maybe even not in residence. If our spirit is our essential, truest self, the best version of ourselves, why would that best version of yourself hang out for the punishment most of us put it though on a daily basis? In Forrest Yoga, we learned to see ourselves as ENOUGH. I am enough. This is a radical concept because our culture is always telling us we are NOT enough, that we need one more degree, more money, less cellulite, more hair, more boobs, etc. to be worthy. This is the furthest thing from the truth because who we are is ONLY and EVER from our spirit, never from what we do, what we earn, what we learn or accomplish along the way. It is WHO WE ARE at the essential, spiritual level. Developing tools to help us connect with this essence of who we are is one of the most powerful and healing aspects of Forrest Yoga.

These four paragraphs above sum up the four pillars of Forrest Yoga: Breath, Strength, Integrity, and Embodying Spirit.

Forrest Yoga is a healing, therapeutic approach to yoga. It heals at the physical, emotional, and energetic level. I am so grateful that my spirit guided me to Forrest Yoga nearly four years ago. Before I was even ready to begin the healing I’m experiencing now, my spirit guided me in this direction. Healing is a process. We must have patience and put in the time to reap the rewards. The rewards are nothing less than a transformed life, freedom from addictive and compulsive behaviors, clarity about life and what we most want and need, letting go of our rackets (ritualized and rationalized behaviors designed to keep us from being present to what is actually happening in the moment) and life-zapping mental habits.

I am offering Forrest Yoga privately in Jersey City, NJ and New York City. If you are interested in private instruction in Forrest Yoga, or an inter-disciplinary approach utilizing the other styles of yoga that I teach, along with thai massage and shamanic reiki, please contact me.

 

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Shamanic Reiki

Shamanic Reiki blends wisdom from many traditions, including Mayan, Native American, Earth-based wisdom, etc.

Shamanic Reiki blends wisdom from many traditions, including Mayan, Native American, Earth-based wisdom, etc.

I recently completed a Level 2 Shamanic Reiki certification with Stacey “Sky” Gibbons, a Forrest Yoga teacher and Reiki master. I completed Level 1 with Stacey in October 2012. Level 2, as Stacey noted, is a much deeper attunement than the Reiki 1 attunement. But wait. What’s an attunement? A reiki attunement is given by the Reiki  master to the student. An attunement is a series of reiki hand positions, symbols, and breath techniques to transmit the energy of the reiki master, along with his or her lineage of reiki masters, to the student, empowering him or her to give the reiki treatment at that level.

Symbols are used in reiki. These symbols were said to have appeared to Dr. Usui, the founder of the system of reiki that has since been used as a platform to evolve new styles of reiki (in a nutshell, “traditional” vs. “Western” reiki). Symbols are given in level 2 that allow the practitioner to send reiki at a distance, or in other words, to perform distance healing. In the reiki system, “distance” can be interpreted as physical distance or linearly, as in time (sending reiki to events in the past, for instance).

Shamanic Reiki differs from tradition reiki in that shamanic techniques are layered on top of the reiki energy treatment to give, in my opinion, a much more complete and personal healing experience. Some of the shamanic techniques we learned and practiced during this training included shamanic journeying, the use of stones/crystals/plants or other earth elements in the reiki session, and “cutting cords,” or energetically severing ties between people.

As reiki sees “no future, no past, no present,” energetic ties to people from our past can persist to this day. Stacey even told us that women retain energetic ties to any man she has ever been intimate with. It was in this context that we performed the cord cutting ceremony, to allow the energy that woman naturally gives out to come back to her luminous field, aka her light body or energy body. Stacey taught us that feminine polarity is give/receive, symbolized by the void of her vagina/uterus, so the woman continues to draw energy, much in the way the Galactic Center continuously pulls things towards it. She compared this to the masculine polarity which is a more outward-directed/searching energy and is fed by movement, variety, and conquering. This is a blog post in itself, so let me stop here before getting carried away…

Using shamanic techniques before, during, or after reiki treatment brings added insight. Reiki moves energy in a very palpable way for those sensitive to such things. For example, during a treatment I thought for sure the person treating me had her hands on my right hip. It was not the case. She was not touching my right hip, but I felt the most heat, pressure, and sensation in that area. In other scenario, a woman receiving reiki treatment could not stop a tremor in her shoulder, even though reiki hands were not on her shoulder. Reiki students are taught that reiki energy goes where it is needed, so while hands may be on one part of the body, the energy is activated throughout the body. Shamanic techniques add another layer of insight to what is going on in the body, so a student could connect to the areas of greatest sensation and use visualization, for instance, to see his/her energy body as a transparent crystal, then look for “occlusions” in the crystal body. The seeing is done intuitively, and this is an area where Shamanic Reiki shines, for intuition is a major tool of the shaman.

On the first night of our training, after receiving the Reiki 2 symbols, I was exhausted. The same thing was reported by most of my fellow students in the training, due to having loads of energy moved in the work we did that day. On the 2nd day, we felt much revived, and the evening of day 2 I did not feel so wiped out. Stacey told us that over the next 21 days, the energy from the attunement will settle and move within us, and to be alert to changes subtle or overt. Within 24 hours of completing the training, I broke out with pimples and a cold sore! It was like my body was literally erupting and purging. Break outs are not too common for me, and I felt like this was directly tied to energy I was moving via the work. The training did help me bring to the surface a few issues that had been rattling around in my brain, which I did not know needed as much ventilation as they did, but I found out just how much I needed to release these energies by sobbing quietly throughout an entire 30 minute reiki treatment. During this experienced, I observed which hand positions caused tears to well up, and which helped them subside. Placements over the heart center definitely welled up more tears, while positions over the crown chakra helped them dissipate.

Shamanic Reiki both strengthens and reinforces intuitive power, in both the giver and receiver. Shamanism gives a new context in which to practice reiki, and the combined forces are far greater their either on its own. I will write more about my experiences working with reiki energy and shamanism as I continue learning. I am grateful to be part of this lineage of healers, which goes back to my teacher’s teacher, Llyn Roberts.

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Does the 200-hour yoga teacher training produce well-qualified teachers?

Signs you are in a TT: colored pens & pencils; binders & notebooks; foam yoga blocks used as desks :)

Signs you are in a TT: colored pens & pencils; binders & notebooks; foam yoga blocks used as desks :)

As yoga grows in popularity, more scrutiny is being cast upon teacher training programs. Is the 200-hour teacher training enough to really prepare someone for teaching yoga? I look into this question in a blog post I wrote for Pravassa.com. This is a multi-layered question with no right answer since many of us decide to do a yoga teacher training only after we’ve had decades of practice, while some of us jump in after only a few months. These, and other factors, weigh in on the final answer of “does a 200-hour teacher training adequately prepare people to teach yoga?”

In my opinion, a personal practice is where a teacher finds his/her wisdom, but a yoga teacher training, or “YTT” in the parlance, obviously fills in certain key gaps (like anatomy, a structured approach to the Sutras, etc.) that practitioners may not have dove into in their own practice.

Read more here…and please comment if you have something to add to the conversation.

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