Monthly Archives: November 2011

How To Use A Neti Pot

Winter is fast approaching, and that means, for many of us, sniffles, sneezing, colds, dry nasal passages, and coughs. At the first sign of a tickle, instead of calling your doctor or rushing to the drugstore for pills, how about trying a natural method for maintaining healthy nasal passages: the neti pot!

The neti pot has been part of Ayurveda for a long, long time. Used to clean and clear nasal passages, the neti pot has been used for allergies, colds, sinus congestion, and many other respiratory ailments. Using simply warm water and salt, a neti pot is used to irrigate, or wash, the nasal passages.

Daily nasal irrigation may be too much for most people except when treating a cold or allergy that has already manifested into something present. For maintenance, using a neti pot a few times a week is good enough for most people.

Nasal irrigation removes pollen, dust, particulate matter, as well as any viral or bacterial material that may be caught in that other gunk. Nasal irrigation also keeps the nasal passages moist, which is important for increased immunity against microbes (a nice layer of mucus will help protect the delicate skin on the inside of the nose).

Here’s a very simple article on how to use a neti pot, re-posted from The Well Daily, as well as a video for anyone curious about adding a neti pot to their winter wellness routine.

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Crazy Wisdom: Rinpoche Chogyam Trungpa Explored On Film

This weekend, I saw Crazy Wisdom, a documentary about Tibetan lama/Western guru Chogyam Trungpa. Trungpa was and is considered a “bad boy” of Buddhism, a reincarnated lama from Tibet who spread Buddhism’s wisdom to the West in his own, inimitable style.

A smoker, a heavy drinker, and a man known for having intimate relations with many of his students, Chogyam Trungpa was not the stereotypical image of a guru. He was known for having “crazy wisdom,” the kind of insight that could be seen as being entirely, totally free or entirely, totally crazy. And what is the difference, really? So long as one can exist in society, there is room for our eccentricity, our total humanness.

Loved by his followers for being totally, completely human and having no apologies about it, Chogyam Trungpa taught by example. He challenged accepted memes and spoke wisdom in such a way that it forced people to think for themselves. One of his most famous books also contains one of his (still) most controversial ideas: that those on the spiritual path may be reinforcing the ego instead of dismantling it if they become too enamored of their spiritual knowledge or pursuits (I’m referring to Spiritual Materialism, one of Trungpa’s most important books).

Crazy Wisdom has lots of great archival footage of Trungpa as well as of the Vermont meditation center that later became the first building of the growing Shambala spiritual community. There’s some footage of Tibet and Trungpa’s travels around the world, and at the end of the film, Trungpa’s cremation ceremony is shown.

This documentary sheds some light on Trungpa’s life and personality, although there is still a sense of “who was this man?” at the end of the film. And that’s probably just as he would have wanted it.

More on Trungpa from the Shambala website: http://www.shambhala.org/teachers/chogyam-trungpa.php

Crazy Wisdom Trailer – NEW from Matthew Mecer on Vimeo.

Check out Crazy Wisdom through Saturday, December 3, 2011 at the Ruben Museum of Art in NYC.

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From the Archives: A Swan Appeared To Me in Kundalini Yoga

Here’s another archival yoga post from my old blog Metropolitan Observer. I wrote this post after a memorable and remarkable experience in a Kundalini Yoga class. I guess animal totems are still a potent theme, as just yesterday I blogged about animal symbology in divination.

Have you ever had a visual experience in a yoga class that stuck with you? If so, please share it. Would love to hear how others are being affected.

Namaste!

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Today’s class was to build intuitive faculties. This is an ability all humans have but lays dormant in many. In those who have it and know it, it’s often pushed into dormancy by ignoring it, not believing in it, or feeling cursed by it (I was one of these people and am now in the process of healing my intuitive powers).

We did two sets: one for the pituitary gland, as represented by the third eye point (6th chakra, its color is royal blue), which is the seat of intuition, and one for creating and conserving prana (life force) energy.

One of our first exercises was to assume a lunge pose and do breath of fire for about a minute while “seeing into” our future, literally lifting our gaze (eyes closed or open) and staring deep into our third eye point and seeing what comes.

I saw many things but the one that suprised me the most was a swan. A swan? I don’t even really “like” swans. They’ve never been an animal I felt any particular way about. I certainly never felt drawn to them as an animal totem as I do to the owl or the frog. So the vision of a swan in the midst of breath of fire was certainly bewildering.

Just a few days ago I found a site that has compiled a decent amount of symbolism about animal totems. When I got home, something reminded me about my swan visitation, so I decided to look it up and was amazed by what I found.

Swans represent grace, union, transformation, balance, dreams. Since they spend most of their time in water, usually building their nests at waterside, they also take on the symbolism of water: intuition, dreams, creativity, the subconscious. Finally, the swan represents harmony and balance as it exists seamlessly between three of the four elements: gliding along the water, flying through the skies, and nesting on earth. I was further blown away to find out that the swan represents divine partnership in Hinduism where the swan is the Hamsa bird, or two swans, Ham and Sa, float around “living on honey from the blooming lotus of knowledge.”

I am feeling my intuition growing throughout my Yoga Teacher Training and the puja we performed on May 14th, the night after the New Moon in Taurus (for which I also did some rituals at home) seems to have kicked it into overdrive.

I can’t recall ever thinking of a swan before. Sure I have seen them before, but I have not thought of a swan in ages, maybe ever.

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New Decks: Pathfinder, The Animal Totem Deck & Kenneth Ray Stubbs’ Shaman Cards

I’ve always been interested in tarot, but it was my Sensual Shaman Immersion that really brought me face-to-face with animal totems. I’ve always had a passing interest in animal totems and guides, and had even downloaded some basic apps to my phone that I could look up an animal if one randomly crossed my path in a way that made me take notice. But I’d never explored it with the depth I found out this subject area has.

I’m an animal lover and have been all my life. If I could do my life over, I would totally become a zoologist or some kind of person that works directly with a wide variety of animals, not in a veterinary setting, more in a behavioral and observation setting, like a zoo keeper or other animal handler. So animals and animal symbolism have always played a role in my life. When I discovered the Pathfinder deck, I knew I had to bring it into my world and learn more about working with animals as totems and guides.

The Pathfinder deck is an 83-card deck that features a different animal portrait on each card. The Pathfinder can be used in much the same way any tarot deck is used, although there are some readings designed specifically for this deck, like the “Cat’s Paw” and “Bird Claw or Talon” spread. Each of the animal portraits was commissioned to an artist, and the cards were then sold online, mostly via word-of-mouth, by each individual artist and at a site about the cards. There’s even a blogger who dedicated a blog solely to readings done using the Pathfinder cards, but she seems to have abandoned the project since 2011. There’s still some interesting reading there.

Another deck I was recently introduced to is Kenneth Ray Stubbs’ Shaman Cards. This deck uses animal symbolism but in a very different way than the Pathfinder deck does. Kenneth Ray Stubbs’ Shaman Cards have an image of an animal included amongst three other images: a plant life, a crystal, and a human. Tuning into the animal, crystal, plant, and human for “entrainment” (aligning your vibration with; coming into vibrational harmony with) to these different energies allows users of the Shaman cards to explore these energies and archetypes which are part of our collective consciousness.

The Shaman cards are used differently from typical tarot. First of all, the cards are large, about the size of a standard 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. Each card has so many opportunities for entrainment that you really don’t need more than one card, although I’m sure someone has devised readings using multiple cards. But each individual Shaman card has so much to offer that it takes time getting through just one. The first step is entraining to each of the four energies (plant, animal, crystal, and human) on the card face, then entraining to the concept in the center (in the image I used to illustrate the Shaman Cards, it is “Strength”). Then you entrain to the concept, and how the four energies on the card relate to the concept in the center. It is a fascinating process that has much to reveal. For more details on how to use the Shaman Cards, as well as how to order them, check out Kenneth Ray Stubbs’ site.

I’m definitely a fan of animal symbology on both cards and in life. As I was just writing that sentence, two pigeons swooped by my window. Pigeons are common in the Northeast urban centers, but I checked Pigeon animal totemism anyway, and it says “love of home, love of community. Security in family and numbers. Your foundation, your heritage. The promise of a loving home.” Sitting here at my desk, clacking away at my laptop while looking out the window, I am in full glow of the love of my home, the love of my foundations, feeling the community I am blessed to have that offers me strength, love, and common bonds.

If you have any interest in animal totemism, symbology, or animal guides, I encourage you to look into it because it is an area rich in information. Are there any animals that speak to you? Do you have any memories of a particular incident involving an animal? Is there an animal you feel a particular affinity towards? These might be clues that may help you discover one of your animal guides.

During Isis Pheonix’s Sensual Shaman Immersion, we used shamanic journeying to discover our animal guide. In a complete surprise, mine was Eel. I will blog about that at some other time. Not a few days after discovering my totem animal through shamanic journeying, I literally came face-to-face with another animal that had uncannily similar information to Eel to offer me. That was American Woodcock, a lovely round bird that shouldn’t be in New York City, but was probably flying through on a migratory route, hit a window, and was injured and afraid when I found him huddled in a corner on 3rd Ave. and 43rd St. I’ll blog about him soon too. Then all weekend, I have had a fly in my apartment. I even opened the door, shooed him out, and he returned (or another, bigger hairier blacker fly took his place). Fly teaches adaptation, making the best even out of displeasurable circumstances. Fly can also warm us about our ego. Perhaps we are “bugging people” with our big buzzy ego. Maybe we are annoying someone just for kicks, to instigate something for fun or to get things moving.

Animal totemism can work like tarot in that it offers us a lens into our current inner world and allows us to organize our thoughts, perhaps even revealing things to use which we might not see if we were observing our situation just in a literal sense. Allow animals to speak to you and enter the world at a level beyond conscious thought; engage with the universe archetypically.

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New Moon Sagittarius Nov. 2011

The New Moon of Nov. 25, 2011 is in Sagittarius, the sign of adventure, truth, learning, expanded perspectives, good fortune, and freedom. A ritual you may like to observe for the New Moon days is to align with the energy of the new moon (a fresh start, as well as the cosmic signature that will preside over the moon for the next 2 weeks of its cycle) and speak or write some intentions for how you could invite or use this energy in your life. Referred to as “New Moon wishes” by many of us in the astrology community, starting out the next two week period consciously aligning yourself to the archetypal energies of this moment can sharpen your perspective and bring clarity to your intentions.

New Moon wishes for Sagittarius should be formulated in the areas of

  • Adventure
  • Freedom
  • Travel
  • Truth
  • Risk-taking spirit
  • Helpfulness
  • Optimism

Sample wishes for this New Moon are:

  • “I want to easily find myself making choices that lead to my feeling a greater sense of personal freedom in every area of my life”
  • “I want to easily find myself discovering the truth I am seeking in the area of _____________”

Write down a maximum of ten wishes, then come back to these intentions throughout the next two weeks from time to time. See how they are growing, along with the moon. See if your thoughts towards freedom and truth are growing with light and energy, as the moon is in the night sky.

Wishes are most potent Saturday Nov. 26 from 12:01am-7:05 pm, and 10:04 pm – midnight and on Sunday Nov. 27 all day and night.

Jan Spiller’s New Moon Power Days are the source of much of this information, but you can intuit your own New Moon wishes or areas of intention by meditating on what the sign of the new moon represents. By connecting with the energy of the sign the new moon is in, you can align with archetypal energy over the next two week cycle. You may do this either by action or insight/introspection.

Symbolic and archetypal information is everywhere.

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From the Archives: How To Make a Living as a Yoga Teacher

Before I started this blog, before I started teaching yoga, I would blog about my practice at my other blog, Metropolitan Observer. In the interest of keeping things organized and sharing content previously created but still (hopefully) interesting or relevant, I’ll be cross-posting some old articles from Metropolitan Observer from time to time.

This one is from June 2010, around the time I’d just finished my yoga teacher training at Reflections Yoga.

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How to make a living as a yoga teacher

I really wish I knew. I haven’t even gotten my Yoga Alliance certificate yet. Heck, I haven’t even gotten my certificate from my Yoga Alliance-certified 200-hour teacher training program yet, but I am already thinking about how I can transition to making a living doing what I love. I love yoga. I love many things, but I really love yoga. And more than loving yoga, I believe in yoga and what it can do for human being. This is the biggest impetus behind me wanting to devote my life to yoga: because humanity NEEDS yoga, and I want to share it.

I want to teach yoga, and eventually, I would like to work full-time for myself teaching yoga, writing about yoga, blogging about yoga, doing thai massage, offering web services for yoga and wellness related businesses. I think it’s a viable idea, but the little bit of searching I have done on “how to survive as a yoga teacher” or something like that have turned up one of two answers.

Let’s call answer 1 the yogic answer, and answer 2 the marketing answer. The yogic answer is something along the lines of “you’ll never make a living teaching yoga, so get right with that first and understand this is something you are doing out of love.” The yamas are quoted. Ideas about how much money is really needed to live are debated. The dedicated say the make just enough to pay their bills and attend some continuing education classes and that’s enough!

Answer #2, the marketing one, is totally different. You know these studios and these teachers. They take on marketing almost as another branch of yoga, the mysterious 9th branch of yoga, that says something along the lines of “marketing is necessary to continue to provide yoga to those who need it. And now, the marketing of yoga.” These websites are slick and full of search-engine optimized keywords. There is a sales funnel. There’s a form on every page! These teachers are so buff. They are beyond fit. Their bodies are as hard as their bank accounts. I’m generalizing, but just sayin’.

So where does the truth lie? How DO we make a living teaching yoga and not become the very thing we came to yoga to escape, namely stress, conventional thinking, shoulds, to-dos, and oughts?

I wanted to share this nice thread I found entitled “The Care and Feeding of Yoga Teachers.” I will add more to this overall topic, how to earn a living contributing to society in a positive and transformative manner, as I gather more information and learn more via experience. If you have any insight to the topic, please comment!

Cross-posted from Metropolitan Observer

 

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Tantra as path of self-awareness

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