It has been said that we came from the waters. As the story goes, all life was once a seed planted in the womb of Earth’s oceans. I feel this to be true in my bones when I’m close to the ocean shoreline. Maybe it’s just in my Mediterranean blood line, or perhaps it is simply the recognition of my body to its mother. It feels deeper than instinct.
I grew up without much of a conscious relationship with the Earth. We didn’t have a garden at home. My parents did their best to cook for my three sisters and I when they could, but we often ate fast food for dinner with how busy we all were. I didn’t learn how to speak to the Earth through song or dance. I never learned the ways of plants, and I didn’t camp (except once in my own back yard). It wasn’t until I moved to California that I began to develop a spiritual relationship with the Earth, mostly the ocean. As a child I was blessed to visit family along the Mediterranean Sea quite a few times, but never did I truly understand my roots until moving to California.
The ocean calls to me.
There have been days where the only thing in the world that could sooth my “mid-twenty weariness” would be to literally run into the cold Pacific Ocean waves. The deafening sound of the wind, and the soft but strong force of the ocean currents could rock me back and forth until my worries had simply been washed away. The salty-sandy texture left in my hair and on my sun drenched skin only added to the sweetness of release. I know the ocean as my mother, our mother. She has shown me compassion through the space she creates for healing, power in the sheer force of her body, and she blows my mind away with her vastness. Every time I go to her I am renewed; she gives me space to be, and I love her like I love my own birth mother…with an intensity i do not fully understand.
I sometimes wish I had gills so I could live within the ocean world and be close to Her in that way. As a child I have memories of submerging myself underwater in my grandma’s pool. I loved looking up at the surface from below. It seems I have always been a deep diver… someone who finds joy in going deep within myself and with others. I just feel comforted by the direction – IN.
This is a story is of recognition. We all feel the energy of the Mother in our own unique ways. With me, it’s through the waters. And now, every time I approach the ocean, I do so with reverence and gratitude. I honor the connection we have. The bond is sacred, and I hold it with deep love and responsibility. I feel it as my duty to do my best to return the love that she so selflessly gives to all of her children, to protect her as I would defend my own mother, and to honor her with every breath, every meal, every sip of water, every bath I take in her healing waters.
Mama Earth, I thank you for all that you do to sustain my life and the lives of us all. I love you.
<3 Alex Crow
“Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond…I wonder if much that ails our society stems from the fact that we have allowed ourselves to be cut off from that love of, and from, the land. It is medicine for broken land and empty hearts.”
~Robin Wall Kimmerer
Alex Crow teaches regularly at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center in San Francisco. She is also a Reiki Master and a co-founder of vîv, an all female Bay Area dance collective.
I’m a Vata, which means I’m in my head – a lot. When things don’t make sense, I grab a book and I throw on my spiritual tool belt and I pray, sing, dance or whatever else Spirit calls me to do. This past week, after the elections, as I laid in my hammock soaking up the sun, trying to hold space for the over-saturation of hate, confusion and chaos that was surrounding me, I reached for the Bhagavad Gita.
The Bhagavad Gita is a sacred Hindu text. For some who practice yoga in the west, it is a required text in teacher trainings and used as a guide in how us yoga teachers craft our classes and live our lives. A brief synopsis of this sacred ancient text – Arjuna is a warrior on the battlefield with Krishna as his charioteer. There’s an epic war about to go down and it’s up to Arjuna to go to war against his own cousins and uncles to protect and defend the sacred land. At first Arujna is like – no way Krishna, I can’t go to bat with my own family, I’d rather they kill me. And throughout the story, Krishna is educating Arujuna as to why it’s vital for him to follow his dharma (as a warrior to defeat his evil cousins).
Krishna drops gems like “Devote yourself to the disciplines of yoga, for yoga is skill in action” and “Strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world; by devotion to selfless work one attains the supreme goal of life. Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind.” And “The infinite joy of touching Brahman is easily attained by those who are free from the burden of evil and established within themselves. They see the Self in every creature and all creation in the Self. With consciousness unified through meditation, they see everything with an equal eye.”
As I was re-reading parts of the book, my natural Vata nature began to make infinite connections across philosophies, practices and our current reality. Darshana, the Sanksrit word for philosophy, literally means seeing. Ayurveda is a philosophy which allows physicians to see patients in the same way Nature sees them. Yoga is a philosophy that allows individuals to see themselves in their Divine Nature. The sages who codified these practices were called “Seers” because of their ability to perceive reality clearly.
Yoga gives us a tool belt to be able to sit with our own shadows, our own darkness and allows us to have revelation after revelation for our growth and spiritual r-evolution. It gives us a constant reminder of our Divine Spirit, our interconnectedness, our karma and our dharma. It brings us back into our physical bodies, our breath and our greatest super power – love.
Ayurveda, “the sister science” of Yoga, is the art and science of reminding us that we are the microcosm of the macrocosm and that our natural state of being is one of harmony, of living in unison with the rhythm of Mama Earth. It reminds us that everything we need, we already have inside and if we let our internal clocks mimic Mama Earths clocks, we should be good. “Spiritual health is a dynamic balance between a strongly integrated individual personality and the cosmic personality of Nature, a balance that is possible only so long as a being remembers its debt to Mother Nature.”
Here’s what else Ayurveda teaches us – there are layers to prevent us from getting sick and the body with its infinite wisdom tries to warn us before shit hits the fan. But lucky for us, our immune system and its intricate system is controlled by a single boss – ahamkara. Ahamkara constantly reminds every one of your cells of its identity and allegiance to the glorious entity known as you. Ahamkara is like our own personal Arjuna. Living inside with her own personal army, ready to serve and keep you aligned, safe and healthy.
Healthy in Sanskrit is Svastha. Sva = self and Stha = established in Self. So, Svastha, or to be healthy, means to be established in the Self – mind, body, spirit. And what did the Gita tell us about being established in Self? It said that we “see the Self in every creature and all creation in the Self.”
So this is why I always find it disturbing when one of two things happen – one: the physical yoga practice (‘asana’ – which is a pathway to getting us to be able to sit in meditation to reach these higher levels of our spiritual consciousness) is sold solely as a workout, stripped from the spiritual aspect of it and two: when people fail to see how the spiritual IS political.
If I am to be established in Self, then how do I do this while completely ignoring the ills of the world and all the suffering that surrounds me? If I am to strive to see everything through an equal eye – through a continual practice of mediation – how do I not take what I learn in this individual practice with me with every breath I take? If I am practicing yoga, ayurveda and reading these spiritual texts and yet only applying them to my own individual life, then I am just feeding my ego and not pushing myself into the uncomfortable spaces to have the necessary dialogues needed so that we ALL are established in Self?
It’s not a passive practice. It’s an active one. Being a peaceful warrior, a warrior of light, a Spiritual Warrior does not mean that we pretend that people aren’t suffering. It does not mean that we keep our eyes closed and avoid the uncomfortable conversations, confrontations and spaces. Everything about this practice teaches us the opposite. When we choose to not express what impacts us, when we choose to not listen to how and what deeply impacts others, when that expression is restricted, we lose our resonance and no longer vibrate in the chorus of creation. We become less alive, out of step and dissonant.
Ayurveda teaches us that the longer we stay dissonant and refuse to listen, the further we move from our alignment, and eventually our bodies will force us to listen by shutting down. Remember that the balance is possible only so long as we remember our debt to Mother Nature. So the more we refuse to listen and pay this debt, the louder Mother Nature will scream to wake us up into taking action to get back in formation! I don’t know if she can be any louder than she is right now.
The Spiritual IS Political and mama Earth is waiting for us.
Here are just a few ways to hold space for yourself and to show up for those most impacted by our violent political environment:
Minerva, a devoted yoga mat souljah, loves to lead folx back into their bodies, with their breath, to remember their Gift Of Divinity. She’s all about getting back to our roots – learn more at RootsHealing.org & join her in March for a beautiful trip to Cuba!
With the magic of music, asana, pranayama and meditation, Minerva’s classes are soulful, playful & makes you sweat – #coconutmagic Join her every Tuesday at noon for Soul Sweat, Tuesdays & Thursdays at 5:30pm for Happy Hour Flow, and Saturdays at 11:45am for a sweet Lotus Basic.
by Tina Spogli
Often the best thing we can do for ourselves when life gets crazy is to get outside. The summer season can leave most of us feeling a bit overwhelmed with activities and obligations. In the world of ayurveda (the science of life), summer is pitta season, meaning more fire and action. We need grounding Earth energy to find our center more than ever during this time.
So last weekend when a spontaneous invitation to camp in Big Sur was presented, amidst the craziness of things to do, it felt right to choose nature. Something undeniably happens when we return to the arms of Mama Earth – all of the other ‘stuff’ sort of just melts away. You’re left in the moment, with an indescribable connection with everything around. It’s only when we become fully present in nature that we’re able to receive her messages.
When we arrived in Big Sur, we drove to a camping spot at the top of one of the mountains. It was sunset, and words can’t really describe the incredible views, though I’ll try. We were so high up that you could see the cloud line below. Across the way there were more mountains with rows and rows of beautiful green trees, and an ocean that seemed to go off into infinity. The magic continued into the night, as one by one the stars appeared before us, and the crescent moon shed light onto the darkness. The Big Dipper and the Milky Way also made their appearance. Since we were above the clouds, it felt like we were so close to the cosmos that we could feel the vibrations of the stars.
When we look up at the cosmos, it’s a reminder that there is something beyond our scope of understanding. One of the things we know about space is that it has no end. Yoga teaches us that everything is linked together by Shakti – a feminine power source responsible for the creation of all things in our world. Wherever there is energy, Shakti is working – and everything is energy. Alan Watts says, “You didn’t come into this world, you came out of it, like a wave from the ocean.” We are indeed connected to all life – we are tied to the mountains, the wildflowers, the trees, the sun, the moon, the stars…and even to that unknown space in the cosmos!
Our yoga practice aims to connect the two selves – the known physical self, and the unknown cosmic self. The path to the unknown begins with our feet firmly planted in the known. Now is the time to connect with Mama Earth, to open our eyes, ears, and hearts to her great lessons. The mountains remind us of strength and foundation, the trees teach the importance of stillness, the ocean tells us we are vast and deep, the flowing streams show us the beauty of adaptability, and the cosmos reminds us that there is an unknown. David Polis says, “Must we always teach our children with books? Let them look at the stars and mountains above. Let them look at the waters and the trees and flowers on Earth. Then they will begin to think, and to think is the beginning of a real education.”
Now go get outside!
Tina developed a deep love for quieting the body and mind during her time living in one of the loudest cities. Yoga found Tina in 2007 while she was living in New York, and the practice quickly became her sanctuary amidst all of the hustle.
She believes in the transformative process of yoga, with its ability to bring us back into our bodies and breath, and stretch our mental limitations of what we think is possible – both on and off the mat. Her mantra is to come as you are, and observe what unfolds. Tina’s classes are thoughtful and intentional, sharing inspiration from her personal practice and life.
Tina is a 250 RYT, and a graduate from Laughing Lotus in New York and San Francisco. When she is not on the mat, you can find her in nature, exploring
photography, and hanging with her animal friends! She is very grateful to be a
part of the Laughing Lotus community of the east and west, and is thankful for
this space to share her heart and energy with you.
My experience with this theme always comes back to the way I relate to the Earth and Mother Nature and how that reflects in my relationships and Yoga.
This topic now has a name, it is called Eco Yoga. This would be the study of the environment in which plants, animals, and humans live, and the application of moral and spiritual principles of Yoga, an ancient practice, while applying it to our modern situation.
We can apply the Yamas (how we relate to others) and the Niyamas (how we relate to ourselves) to how we relate to Mother Nature.
I heard the acronym G.O.D standing for the Great Out Doors.
I believe in the sanctity of the great outdoors and know the power of connecting to spirit through a walk in the woods, a hike on the mountain, or a nap in the park.
So I ask myself: How can I apply the Yama-Ahimsa (nonviolence) to consciousness about what our planet needs? In what ways am I harming the environment? And how can I lighten my carbon footprint?
I picked some examples of how we can apply these principles starting with the Yamas:
AHIMSA translates to Nonviolence or reverence to ALL forms of life. The main practice here would be to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet. We are invited to be mindful of how we may cause suffering to animals and even plant life. If you choose to consume animal products, be mindful to not support the widespread and cruel practice of factory farming. Get educated! Join P.E.T.A
SATYA means truthfulness. Can we be honest about our situation with the environment? How can we stay informed and not fall into a pit of ignorance around these issues. We must remain awake on all fronts, not just for our own salvation but for the salvation of our surroundings. We might be concerned about the local air quality if we practice pranayama (breath control). And in order to sustain healthy bodies and eating habits we want to make sure our fruits and vegetables have not been laden with pesticides. Here is a site to keep you informed and to inspire you! earth911.com
APARIGRAHA means not hoarding or taking only what we need and relating to life in a balanced, non-grasping manner. Do I respect the rights of others to share limited resources? If you take something, consider how you can replenish it.
Here are a few examples of some Niyamas and how they help us relate to the environment:
SAUCA means cleanliness. I may consider how respectful of the environment I am. Do I pick up after myself or ask how I contribute to pollution? How I can eliminate it from the environment and my own life?
TAPAS means discipline or commitment. Am I personally committed to making an effort and making a difference no matter how small?
ISVARAPRANIDHANA translates to devotion to the Divine or to reality. G.O.D, the Great Out Doors! Do I revere nature and make an effort to commune and connect to my source and have respect for not only my inner environment but my OUTER environment too?
There are numerous efforts we can make. Maybe riding a bike instead of driving a car, or changing light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs to avoiding products with a lot of packaging (reducing your garbage by 10% reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 1,200 pounds). Planting a tree (a single tree absorbs one ton of carbon dioxide over it’s lifetime) or turn off electronic devices when not in use. The most powerful effort you could consider would be going vegetarian. 51% or MORE of global green house gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture!!!
These are some basic concepts most of us are familiar with.
We are now starting to look at them through the Yogic lens.
It is said we have two eyes we look out of, but really one we truly see from. Developing a relationship with the natural world and what sustains us as a species helps us to rediscover wisdom and live in the harmony and balance we seek as Yogis.
Astrud teaches Yoga, leads her Kirtan group https://www.facebook.com/Astrud-and-the-Cosmic-Caravan-126578667531850/ and leads retreats to India. *Upcoming retreat to India October 20-November 17th 2016 – For Info on all the above check out http://yogawithastrud.com/ Or my FB page https://www.facebook.com/AstrudMaitriYoga/
Since we opened our temple doors 16 years ago in NYC, July has been the Month of Ma! With our patron Saint Amma’s annual visit to NYC, July’s theme celebrates the power of community and countless ways in which we are blessed by the creative energy in the Universe: Shakti, in her many forms and our connection to Beloved Mother Earth. Our Yoga practice allows us to explore how through our Sadhana and daily lives we can worship, serve and awaken her gifts within ourselves.
Amma’s generosity and boundless energy of service of giving hugs, love, food, shelter, education and money to all her children, including all animals and the earth itself, mirrors our Great Mother Earth who is in a constant state of creating and giving and nourishing ALL BEINGS through her bountiful offerings. The aim of all yoga practices is to feel the interconnectedness between us, our environment, nature and to all beings as our beloved family. Sangha and community are an integral part of every spiritual tradition as a practice to experience this connectedness, as Thich Nhat Hanh says so beautifully: “It is possible that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community -a community practicing understanding and loving kindness, a community practicing mindful living. This may be the most important thing we can do for the survival of the Earth.”
Our asana practice certainly yokes us to nature through its infinite shapes that celebrates sacredness in all of creation as we worship every creature through celebrating its spirit and form. Putting LOVE into action through Karma Yoga, Self-less service and Bhakti Yoga’s devotional practices – all dissolve the illusion of separateness. This connection and awareness, which is the soul of Yoga, is so drastically needed right now as we are forced to look to at the racism, hatred and violence in our country and to save our beautiful blue/green home from extinction.
Let’s all rise up like Ma Durga, the great Earth Protector and inspire others by practicing activism through the powerful tools of Yoga which for thousand of years have actively transformed the human tendency towards ignorance, selfishness and aggression which cause so much suffering and destruction to compassion, healing and unity. The Yoga Sutras and Bhagavad Gita are bursting with practices to do our part and take responsibility for our environment in which we live. The Yamas, the very foundations of our practice all express the reverence for all life forms, and how to live in harmony with others. This is a time to lovingly recommit to our Maha vrattam, yogic vows of sacred union with the universe, the Yamas, which start with the practice of non-violence.
“Our task must be to free ourselves, by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”-ALBERT EINSTEIN
The practice of Asteya connects us by not taking more than we need, Aparigraha respects the rights of others to share the limited resources of our planet and creates a conscious balance between giving and taking and replenishing our planet’s recourses and Satya is not being afraid to tell the Truth.
“Look at the world through the eyes of a mother caring for her only child.” – Buddha
“In India, great rivers are named for goddesses, the ocean and the earth are considered the Mother, the Trees her arms, the mountains her breasts, the plants her nourishment, the Sky her lover. Usas, Kali, Lakshmi, Kamala, Parvati, Aditi, Saraswati, Devi, Gayatri, Shakti – all names of Mother as God. There is a goddess of the sun, the goddess of the dawn, and another of starlit nights. There is a goddess of wealth and beauty, a goddess of wisdom and aging, a goddess of learning and speech. There is a goddess of destruction and a goddess of all-devouring time. They are all the Mother.”
Chant the great names of the Divine Mother bring them to life through your healing asana ceremonies that celebrate the sacredness and love of all life. This is also great time to share your love for Ayurveda and I cannot wait to share the wisdom of my great teacher, friend and Ayurveda Master and Healer Sarah Tomlinson who will be here in August for a workshop and limited life changing consultations! Nab one while they are available.
One of the most direct ways to reconnect with Nature is by immersing yourself IN Nature! Make sure to visit parks and mountains and oceans…touch the soil, smell the flowers, hug trees, taste clean spring water and be in awe at all wild life as well as the Wild life in our urban environment.
In the pause, when we have the choice to sit in meditation or not, what comes up?
It seems there is both yearning for deep connection with ourselves/world and an impulse to flee into activity, anything that allows us to skim over the deep waters of our being.
If in that pause, without immediately directing ourselves to the meditation seat of formal practice, we feel some quality of being in our body – that is the first note of the ongoing music and dance of the path to liberation we could feel as the touch of the Buddha. The earth that he touched when asked how he knew he was enlightened, “the earth is my witness” he said, because the earth/our body is without opinion or contrivance, real in sensation and mystery and nongraspability, ever changing (the weight of the glass in our hand, the temperature of the floor we feel with the soles of our bare feet, the ache in our lower back – examples of body/mind synchronization that IS already meditation).
We refer to the earth as Mother and let us understand that as Archetype and principle free of gender – she who accommodates everything unconditionally with a love that is Wisdom.
Both wisdom and meditation are associated with the Feminine principle and the elements of Earth and Water.
Let us keep that in mind, as we struggle with our ambivalence and suffer from the conceptualization that bypasses and covers what is real, that our very ambivalence and discursiveness can be the felt experience awakening our heart to the truth of our humanity…
Attend me, hold me in your muscular flowering arms,
protect me from throwing any part of myself away
This beautiful statement by Audre Lorde could be considered the essence of our path, so that Lineage Wisdom resonating from inside ourselves is moved to see through the pain of aggression that denies us the right and ability to open, feel the natural beauty – as in the flowering and learn to protect ourselves from denial.
The act of taking our seat, of moving down to the roots where we plant ourselves for even a short time daily to tune into and stay with the flow of our experience is the gesture of a loving mother deeply interested in the reality of her child.
That child is reality before intellectualization and unwholesome social conditioning like the bubbling waters – life force and expression of the world itself.
In the Shambhala Buddhist teachings brought to the West by Chogyam Trungpa from Tibet and evolving through his son, Sakyong Mipham, caring and kindness are the innate medicinal qualities drawn out by fearless and direct connection to what is through meditation practice: our very Being. This requires a radical letting go of ancient and protective mechanisms that have caused such harm to others and ourselves through ignorance.
Fundamentally, the bravery of the spiritual warrior is to slow down, stop, and feel the aliveness of all that we are – more and more in love with the whole gamut and colorful display – until we can “smile at fear.” The basis of one of Pema Chodron’s books is “smile” because we get to find joy in the discovery of the ineffable reality of impermanence. Rather than rise above our suffering it becomes the touchstone of Compassion, and this is the only reason we would want to meditate, if we dare to look intimately. Then we see death/change as ongoing and our path, away from dependence on anything external (starting with our karmic mothers), builds the beautiful, strong internal structure like our spines rising from earth to heaven so that we can become the response able agents of loving enlightenment – healing the past and nourishing the generations to come.
In literally keeping our eyes open in the form of meditation I’ve been taught and teach, we simultaneously meet inner and outer worlds and increasingly experience the root of the word “kind” as derived from “kin” our family of everything that is born, lives and dies.
So happy to close with this chant written by Chogyam Trungpa:
THE SUPPLICATION TO THE MOTHER LINEAGE
We pay homage to the Mother Lineage.
Your robe is soaked in water,
Your hair is elegant and airy,
Your perfume is exquisite.
From a grain of barley dropped on the ground by seeming accident,
Great prosperity has sprung.
Your milk feeds the nation.
We like the crescent moon on your hair.
We emulate your openness and bounty.
You speak softly but your command carries weight.
Please do not stop loving us!
We bathe within a grove of bamboo.
Please help us to become gentle and tough.
Catch Alice every Monday morning for a guided meditation from 8:15-8:30am. Or contact us for a phenomenal Astrological reading by Alice!
by Valerie Starr
As the seasons start to change, so do our bodies’ needs. We can’t help but feel a pull to go more inwards as the days get shorter, colder, and darker. According to Ayurvedic principles, Vata season; or Autumn, is a time when it becomes more windy and airy outside. Internally, you may notice emotions getting stirred up, heightened anxiety, restlessness, fatigue, dryness, and constipation. Fortunately, there are ways of making sure that we keep in balance as nature provides exactly what we need to keep ourselves healthy! Foods that happen to be in season at this time are not only grounding and warming, but boost the immune system and also keep us feeling comforted.
Foods that grow below the earth (or just on the surface) have a rooting and grounding quality to them. These foods include: beets, carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes, squash, onions, garlic, ginger, etc. Also available, are citrus fruits such as lemons, grapefruits, oranges and tangerines that have higher Vitamin C content to boost the immune system and help to fight off infection. All of these nourishing and healing foods are made plentiful during the fall season because that is what we need at this time to stay healthy and strong. There is no denying amazing wisdom of Mother Nature and how she provides!
2 Tbsp coconut oil (or ghee)
3 medium golden beets, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, loosely diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1-inch piece fresh ginger finely chopped (or more if you like more warmth)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp clove
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
3 cups vegetable broth
1-cup coconut milk (full fat)
Salt and pepper to taste
Sprinkle of pumpkin seeds as garnish
1. Melt 1 Tbsp coconut oil over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan.
2. Sauté beets, carrot, and onion 7-8 minutes
3. Turn heat to low and add garlic. Continue cooking until vegetables are softened about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. In a separate soup pot, add 1 Tbsp of coconut oil, the ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, and turmeric. Sauté until fragrant.
5. Add broth and vegetables to the soup pot. Bring to a low boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer partially covered, for 10 minutes, until squash is tender.
6. Place ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
7. Return soup to pot, adding coconut milk. Salt and pepper to taste, add garnish
Add a dash of cayenne pepper for more heat and warmth
Add in a handful sautéed dark leafy greens for added nutritional benefit (Kale, Collard Greens or Swiss Chard)
Valerie has an optimistic, genuine compassion for all people and walks of life. Valerie’s dedication to her personal practice shines through in her heartfelt and soulful classes as she is continually educating herself and nurturing awareness of the body-mind-soul connection.
Valerie teaches Lotus Flow 2 on Monday and Friday from 10:15-11:45AM, and Happy Hour from 5:30-6:30PM on Thursday.
by Dana Marie Nielsen
“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”
― Henry David Thoreau
As someone who is only recently truly finding my feet on this beautiful Mother Earth, I couldn’t be more enamored with this month’s theme at the Laughing Lotus; the Divine Mother. To me this theme celebrates all Earth Energy, all things grounding, the Goddess in her many forms.
In the yogic culture and almost every ancient culture, the feminine form of God (Goddess) is representative of Mother Nature in all of her beautiful, real and at times even destructive manifestations. I have a deck of Goddess tarot cards and each day during my morning spiritual practice or Sadhana, I draw a new card and soak in the card’s wisdom. And each Goddess that I read about, regardless of cultural heritage, represents a cycle of birth and death, of creation and destruction. Through these cards I am reminded daily of these beautiful cycles, which I as a human being on planet earth cannot run from, or bypass.
The Goddess energy of the Divine Mother teaches me the power of being with each and every life experience, each and every human condition, emotion and moment. It reminds me of the importance of coming back down to earth and learning how to be in My Own Body. Here. Now. The energy of the Divine Mother inspires me to pay loving attention to my lower three chakras:
1) Muladhara: my primal earth energy that connects me to my physical existence
2) Swadhisthana my fluid and watery experience of emotions
3) Manipura my relationship with my ‘get up and go’ fire where I cultivate courage to live my life each day and believe in myself that I am enough.
Without the energy of these first three chakras, human beings don’t have the capacity to authentically and powerfully connect to others through the heart chakra, nor to transform, transcend, or grow in the upper chakras. For without the foundation and container of our physical body connecting us into the earth, how can our relationships, messages, and Divine connections have an impact on the very real human world that we live in today?
It’s taken me a long time to believe the above statement about the importance of grounding. I’ve spent some time of my life hopping from one thing to the next, floating along the path of spiritual bypassing, a term first coined by psychologist John Welwood in 1984 to describe using spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs. Spiritual bypass shields us from the truth, it disconnects us from our feelings, and helps us avoid the big picture. It is more about checking out than checking in—and the difference is so subtle that we usually don’t even know we are doing it. (Ingrid Mathieu, Ph.D.)
For me, this subconscious bypassing has been easier than actually dealing with the hum drum “stuff” of life. I’ve spent a lot of time daydreaming up in the stars to avoid the “stuff.” Yet, my life isn’t in the stars. My life is on this beautiful, amazing and very tangible Divine Mother Earth. Yes the stars exist and are also incredible! And don’t get me wrong – anyone who knows me will agree that I still love being ‘up there’ celebrating the ethereal, but just as the Buddha said, “Before Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” I am learning to honor the earthly experience of feeling my feet in the dirt and the tears on my face. I am channeling Mama Earth and all of her many cycles of birth, preservation and death that exist in each sunrise and sunset. And, I’m finding that life is so much sweeter with a little dirt in it.
Through believing that God takes form through the physical Earth, Water and Fire in the greater world and inside ourselves I believe that all cycles of life become Divine. Just like a seedling, I feel that we too need to grow our roots, our connection down to the Divine Mother Earth and allow all cycles of creation and destruction to take place so that we can evolve. For, just like a tree can’t outgrow it’s roots, we can’t outrun our own feet!
Dana teaches at Laughing Lotus on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9am, and Wednesday at 4pm. (Sign Up Here) She is currently studying a Masters degree in Somatic Psychology at the California Institute for Integral Studies, and aims to support people to reclaim their own embodied selves.
by Jasmine Tarkeshi
“Like a caring mother holding and guarding the life of her only child, so with a boundless heart hold yourself and all beings.” ~The Buddha
When I first started practicing yoga in my 20’s, it was with the passion and fury of a young soldier heading into battle with the promise of Moksha, liberation and the longing to free myself from suffering. The texts I read and my practice were ways of going beyond the body and the material world, claiming it to all be an illusion. You are not the body, you are not the mind was the mantra that I thought would free and detach myself from the triviality of the physical world. I thought that the divine was separate from the world of matter. And boy, was I happy about that!
You see the world was where all my pain was: my relationships, my body and material possessions. My spiritual practice became another way of escaping, to not feel, and to disconnect mostly from myself, who I had been running from. Asceticism and extreme self denial were self punishing attitudes that I was familiar and comfortable with and although I am eternally grateful for every step I have taken on this divine adventure, I am so blessed to have found the path that was to lead me to true happiness, peace and freedom and to my life’s work: Yoga as the Path of the Divine Mother which calls on cultivating connection rather than liberation from the material world.
It was through meeting the spiritual teacher and living saint, Matta Amritananda Mayi Ma or simply Amma or Mother, with one of her life changing hugs in New York City in 1998 that I began to experience what was to become the dawning of my awakening to living a spiritual life. Her intense love for all beings as her children, and her devotion to removing their suffering through love, compassion and action instead of denial brought me to my knees in tears and changed the way I would live and practice forever, including opening up a Yoga Center called Laughing Lotus with a beautiful Amma devotee, Dana Flynn and creating a practice together that was devotional and joyful as well as disciplined, called Lotus Flow.
In eastern philosophy, the earth is feminine and heaven is masculine. It is through the union of the two, bringing heaven to earth that we experience the body as a temple for the divine and live in a way where everything and everyone is holy. Even our suffering and the most painful human experiences and natural disasters are part of the divine and the Mother’s deep love to awaken us.
Yoga and it’s simplest meaning, “to yoke” is a means to bridge the huge divide between our minds and bodies, our thoughts and actions, ourselves and others to experience oneness and heal all duality. What we are actually freeing ourselves from is the illusion of separateness; true freedom is internal and eternal.
“Our task must be to free ourselves from this self imposed prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and it’s beauty.” ~Albert Einstein
This path asks us to be completely present and aware of our intensely intimate relationship to the earth, as our Mother, and live in a way in which every act in sacred. The very word for action in Sanskrit is Shakti, which is the feminine creative power within us all. Cultivating attitudes of caring and compassion and taking action to heal, nurture, nourish, serve and transform are all ways to awaken the power of the divine Mother within us. To come into our own body is to reclaim this power.
This month at Laughing Lotus we celebrate yoga and the path of the divine Mother or path of Love in action to heal ourselves and the world. We explore the infinite ways in which our daily practice of yoga, and seeing ourselves and the world as sacred can awaken the power to take loving action in stopping destructive patterns and creating positive change. Through exploring the hundreds of archetypes of the goddess through the world’s great traditions in her beautiful and horrifying forms, we will learn to recognize and bow to how she comes alive in our daily lives.
Here are the 3 main Hindu aspects of the Divine Mother from which thousands more unfold. JAI MA! (Praise or Victory to the Mother).
•Laxmi – The goddess of beauty, wealth and abundance. We can become aware of the boundless ways we are blessed by nature’s abundance and become more grateful and generous in return.
•Kali or Durga – The terrifying destructive forms of the Goddess. We can see how our difficulties can be viewed as the tough love of the Mother that wake us up and ask us to make necessary changes in order to grow.
•Saraswati – The Goddess of Arts, Wisdom and Speech. By immersing ourselves in creativity, we can realize our own creative power to create the life that is in tune with our truest nature.
Join us at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center SF, as we celebrate and explore the theme of the Divine Mother for the month of July.
Jasmine Tarkeshi is the Founder & Director of Laughing Lotus Yoga Center – San Francisco.