Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Beginning Anew Celebration

Starting small like a tiny seed, we are creating a new holiday tradition. We offer you the Beginning Anew Celebration- a week filled with special events to give closure to one year and begin the next consciously. Since so many people seem to have time off between after Christmas and New Years Day, we'd love to host a special week of offerings just for you.

Next year we will really begin with more special classes, events & workshops- including family events. I hope that we can even have a special yoga/meditation workshop on New Year's Eve, say 10:30p-12:30a, to ring in the new year consciously.

This year we are hosting three 1 hour poi spinning workshops with guest instructor Corey White from Oakland, California.

We hope to have Corey back next year, and we'll plan ahead so that you can attend her exclusive workshops.

We hope to include family yoga, advanced & beginner's yoga workshops, meditation classes, and yogic lifestyle workshops in addition to poi spinning, meditative drumming, art, and more.

If you have any wishes, questions or feedback, let me know!

Enjoy safe celebrations this New Year's Eve and may 2011 inspire you to new heights!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Living Beings Can Never Be "Trash"

c/o Farm Sanctuary-

Urgent Report from National Shelter Director Susie Coston 
When I entered the stockyard to witness the live animal auction, I knew it would be disturbing and a terrible reminder of what happens each and every day to innocent farm animals. 
But I wasn’t expecting to save three terribly sick newborn calves who were otherwise destined for a garbage heap or slaughterhouse rendering system. I couldn’t turn my back on them – and I know that after I tell their story, you won’t either.   
Please help Farm Sanctuary care for these newly rescued calves and stop the cruelty they endured with an emergency year-end gift. 
Within moments of entering the crowded facility, I was overwhelmed by the staggering number of animals at the sale. Trucks were driving up filled with calves, a by-product of the dairy industry. There were hundreds of these babies, some less than one day old, frantically looking for their mothers.  
Their cries and confusion were met with fierce blows from wooden canes on their backs as workers tried to force them into different pens. 
 One of the newborns was a “downer” too sick to make it to the sorting area. No more than a few days old, the poor little calf had collapsed near the loading dock, filthy and shivering. It was less than 20 degrees outside and the barn wasn’t heated. But no one helped him.
As I vowed to help this tiny downed calf, the auction began. You could see the terror in the animals’ eyes as each one was run through the pen, being pulled and shoved by the workers for better viewing by those who were bidding. That’s when I saw two other helpless, suffering calves that I would save from the industry that day. 
One was especially frantic. He was very sick and his weak legs kept buckling under him as he made his way into the auction pen. The stockyard workers prodded him to try to get him to stand, but he could not. The audience mocked him.   
The buyers laughed even louder when they saw the other calf I would soon rescue. At just 37 lbs, this little one is literally the smallest calf I have ever seen. But what you and I see as a helpless baby in need, agribusiness deems worthless. 
The bidding on both these calves went down to $0. 
The people called them “trash.” 
But, you and I know that these animals are not garbage. They are living, feeling individuals. So I claimed these “worthless” animals – as well as the downed calf still trembling at the bottom of the loading dock – and rushed them for urgent veterinary care. 
Please donate now to help Farm Sanctuary save these neglected newborn calves and work to stop this cruelty for those who are still suffering.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

natural yoga guided practice CD's

Coming soon, I will be offering guided natural yoga practices on CD. The idea was inspired by my students, who have asked over the years to record the practice for use at home. One of my students directly suggested recently that I offer these CD's. I hear the universe loud and clear!

Natural yoga is a yoga style that integrates mindfulness meditation within the practice of poses, bandhas, mudras & deep breathing. It emphasizes living in harmony with nature and the present moment to discover health, happiness and inner peace. It shares that the secret to our own peace and joy lies in our honest desire and efforts to bring peace and joy to others without exclusiveness.

I hope to have these guided practices ready for the Spring, or at least by the Fall, just in time for the holidays 2011! ;)

Guided practice cannot replace getting a good foundational practice under a qualified teacher. But for those who have established natural yoga practices at the studio with me, these CD's will be able to help them practice on their own at home on the days when they cannot be at the studio.

I would like to offer several different practices. I aim to complete a restorative practice, strength practice, and vinyasa wave- a gentle/moderate practice. In addition I'd like to create disc that offers two short practices: one suitable the morning and one for the evening.

If you have any interest, questions or feedback, please let me know!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Oneness of All Life: holiday thoughts & wishes

I've been sharing alot of ideas about the material side of the Winter holiday season. I hope that the material aspects are understood as only a reflection of the deeper level of reality. There is so much meaning in every part of life, every smile, the change of every season, every moment enjoyed in presence.

In reflection of the cross-cultural sacredness of this season, I'd like to share my philisophical interpretation of the underlying oneness of all major religions and spiritual philosophies. I submit my ideas to the universe in a true intention of inspiring peace and freedom from suffering for all of existence.

We all are seeking to express the same truth, the same essence, the same depth and meaning of life, but we do so in our own subjective cultural and personal terms. Each religion and philosophy is like a hand pointing to the moon. There is only one moon, we are all pointing to the same light. Yet, over time, many influencial leaders and lay people from all groups have become distracted, loving their way so much that obsessively tout it as the only one possible way. They lose sight of the original purpose, which I believe some groups may call a form of idolatry or at least sin (which means "to mss the mark" as it translates).

There exist as many ways to point to the moon as their exist hands and more. But caught on the material, dogmatic or linguistic levels, the profundity of each tradition is flattened in the process. If we read a little bit about many different beliefs and worldviews, we can find that the original goals and teachings seem to overlap and really point to the same something meaningful.

Many ancient Indian philosophies, lumped into the catergory Hinduism, proposed an idea called monism. Monism means that all is one- that everything that is is part of one whole reality.

Monotheism is the term that refers to the belief in one God or Deity. Judaism, Christianity and Islam (and monism based Hinduism) are monotheistic belief systems. Many earth-based spiritualities believe in the male and female halves of a whole creative force, or a Creator that supercedes all other beings.

Buddhism refers to the "ground of Being", the source of consciousness, not as an entity, but as an experience we can access when we are fully present. Eckhart Tolle teaches religiously neutral spiritual teachings that refer to the importance of presence. Remembrance of God in each moment is an important Islamic and Sufi practice. Brother Lawrence, a Christian monk, found great peace through his "practice of the preence of God", remembering or being aware of the Divine in each moment.

Yoga teaches that all life is one on the deepest level. Quantum physics sees all of existence on the minute level as energy- no differentiation, just bits of energy.

The idea that this Creator, Source of life, ultimate reality, God, Allah, ground of being is an entity, a human-like figure is most likely a way people contrived to relate to this omniscient, omnipresent Reality. As Tom Porter, a local Mohawk leader, says, all beings see the Creator in their own likeness. To a bear, "he" looks like a bear. Thus to people, "he" looks like a person. But what if monism and monotheism are the same thing? What if we are all part of what is commonly referred to as God? What if all that is manifest is God, or Reality to call it by another name? So what if God isn't a person, but the ultimate underlying essence of all material life? What if what is commonly called God is the energy that forms everything in the material world? Could remembrance and mindfulness, the practice of being present and practicing the presence of God all be the same thing? Could we all be pointing to the moon together? Interpretting its light differently, calling it by different names, some seeing a face on it, others seeing it more abstractly?

During the darkest, longest nights of the year, many cultures celebrate with beautiful lights. We celebrate light, and the love that lights our hearts. We celebrate gratitude for those we love and the life we live. We celebrate light in all forms it may symbolize; wisdom, love, faith, gratitude, contentment, comfort, generosity and the world-view (religion, spirituality) that helps light our way.

May we all celebrate in our own way with love and peace in our hearts, respecting the different views and ways of others. May we love others as we love ourselves, do unto others as we would have them do unto us, harm none and celebrate the diversity and value of all life.

I wish nothing but peace, well-being and light for all of existence. Namaste! Happy Holidays to all!

If you are interested in interpretting various philosophies and religions for yourself to determine what you think, I recommend reading about Islam (especially Thomas Cleary's Essential Koran, Sufism (especially The Essential Rumi and Living Presence by Kabir Edmund Helminski), Advaita Vedanta philosophy, Judaism, Christianity (especially writings by Marcus Borg, Brother Lawrence and the Bible), Thich Nhat Hahn's The Heart of Buddha's Teachings, Sue Hamilton's A Very Short Introduction to Indian Philosophy. The Power of Now by Eckart Tolle is highly recommended too.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Baked With Love

Gifts from the Kitchen: Vegan Sweets Extravaganza!


Just because you don’t eat animal products doesn’t mean you have to play Scrooge when it comes to holiday baking and the giving of sweet treats for gifts. In fact, what better way to show your non-vegan friends how lovely vegan sweets can be? We’ve collected some of our favorite animal-free goodies from our recipe collection for you to roll up your sleeves and get baking! No animals involved–unless you’ve got some companion pets helping out in the kitchen, of course.

Read more:

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wrapping green & gorgeous

Most of the massive amount of extra trash generated during the holidays is due to wrapping paper and packaging. There are so many more sustainable options that are also a delight to behold.
Can't you just recycle the wrapping paper? No, not the vast majority of it. Wrapping paper contains metal, and not just the metalic looking ones. Gift bags as well, are not recyclable unless they are made of regular textured paper. However, some wrapping papers are recyclable- check the underside for the logo or a message indicating so. Our best option is to reuse as much as possible what comes our way or choose to buy more earth friendly wrappings.

Don't be shy to be that "paper saving tree-hugger" at each holiday gathering. You will never have to spend money on wrapping gifts again! People are usually glad that you'll take responsibility for the "mess"!
"Iron" out tissue paper flat with your hand. Sort it by color and fold it up. Save gift bags & boxes that aren't ripped or too worn. Even pieces of wrapping paper are useful, so iron with your hand, fold and save the non-damaged pieces. Ribbons and bows are reusable and useful too. Save old holiday cards as well.
Organize your salvaged treasures well at home. You can save wrappings all year to create a glorious gift-wrapping station. With scissors, tape, glue, glue sticks, and a hole punch you are prepared. You can even find fancy scissors or hole punches to really dress it up.

After wrapping your gift in elegantly and creatively coordinated wrappings. Using The blank part of the back of last year's holiday cards, use a glue stick to adhere a coordinating piece of wrapping paper to cover the inside. Cut it into any shape you wish, punch a hole for hanging, and you have a smart looking tag for your gifts.

The front of the card can be fashioned into a tag for another gift as well. Adding reused ribbons, ornaments, or tying another small gift to the outside dresses up your wrapping.
What if you want to (or need to) start fresh. How can you wrap without doing harm or giving shabby looking gifts?

For paper, choose 100% recycled brown paper, the kind you get for shipping. For bags, use pretty store bags or recycled natural paper. Use newspaper inside. A bit drab? The eco-chic beauty comes in on the finishing touches. Use pine cones cloth ribbons, ornaments, bells, a picture in a frame, a pendant or other beautiful and useful and eye-catching decorations. Seeds, nuts, beans or dried flowers can be glued onto packages or onto a ring cut from a toilet paper roll & fastened on. This can later be composted if not reused. Use hemp or jute twines as well for an earthy elegance.
When wrapping for kids, you can pull out some soy crayons and get to work. Have fun making pictures, patterns, or writing messages of love & joy. Use brighter ribbons and big wooden beads that can be reused. Using the color comics from the newspaper is another great option.
Another less conventional option is to use cloth circles, squares or rectangles of appropriate sizes, to wrap your gifts. Tying it up with twines, ribbons or contrasting strips of material, adding bells, pine cones or other flourishes with result in a unique and sharp-looking gift.

Choose sustainable materials such as hemp, recycled polyester or fleece, or organics. Less expensive options are to buy material at garage sales or thrifT stores. You can use a gift to wrap a gift- kitchen towels, cloth napkins, pillow cases, blankets or folded sheets can be used. Old T-shirts, sweaters, sheets, and other pieces of cloth can be repurposed for wrapping. Funky thrift store specimens can also be washed & cut into wrappings. Cloth is a great way to wrap odd shapes or gift baskets.

Reusable shopping bags can be a very useful way to contain gifts. Look for particularly lovely ones. Use newspaper or recycled packing paper to stuff and cover.
Many newspaper publishers may give away the ends of their rolls for free since they can't use them. Unprinted "newsprint" paper is great for stuffing gift bags, wrapping boxes (wrap with two layers for added durability), or used in shipping. Its also nice for sketching or making patterns!
We have so many options that are much kinder to the earth than the conventional routine trappings. Many of these options are less expensive than purchasing commercial wrappings. Mostly, what is required is just a little extra thought, a few more moments, and the care & creativity you infuse into your gifts as you wrap them with love.

Not only do we do a service to the earth as we wrap with care, but we make even the wrapping a part of the gift. Anyone can buy lots of coventional pizzaz & shine. Enjoying the act of creative & sustainable wrapping manifests another level of love and thoughtfulness, adding something deeper to each gift. The kind of something that is manifested through a little time, love and attention.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Who is Greener??? Real Tree vs. Fake Tree..

A brief article to end that debate...which is kinder to the earth? A real or fake tree..!!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Peace on Earth: no-stress holiday thoughts

What can be more cheery & bright than the holiday season!? But for so many, November and December are chaotic, draining & unhealthy.
How can we practice peace and non-harm when the season of giving turns into the season of road rage, junk food and exhausting over-commitments? Here are some ideas...

BE HONEST- kindly say no to any commitments you can't comfortably make. Being open & honest in the first place eliminates the emotional breakdown or disappointing last minute cancellations.

BE PRESENT- take things one day, one moment at a time. We get overwhelmed when we think too far ahead. Being present helps us to keep a broader perspective- realize that rushing or frustration are not inevitable and that in this moment, you can take a deep breath and be okay.
A little bit of planning and a lot of just being here and now goes a long way towards maintaining inner peace, all year long. During this, the busiest season of the year, it goes even further. Being here and now is the best way to enjoy each moment with our loved ones, which is what the season is truly about.

BE DIFFERENT- don't like the mall vibe? Well, then don't go there! Gifts don't have to come from the mall! In fact, if you avoid the malls & bigger commercial centers, you avoid a great deal of what's not so nice about this season.
Shop at smaller, locally-owned shops and boutiques. Make creative, simple gifts. And if you need to shop from the big chain stores, save energy ( & gas) and shop online.
Look for fair-trade and sweatshop free gifts. Think of giving useful gifts instead of more knick-knacks. Gift baskets of gourmet & wholesome, organic, fair-trade foods can be delightful. Think of what your loved one enjoys most, and create a unique mix of items that will soothe, inspire or heal them. If you are splurging anyways, always consider the most eco-friendly option to assure none are harmed by your giving. Enjoy the process of choosing gifts, be creative, and you will be doing yourself a great kindness too.

BE PREPARED- what makes us feel like more of a grouch than eating too much white flour and sugar? Eat healthy meals and pack healthy lunches for work. Eat every 3-4 hours so that you are never starving (thats when we eat a plate of cookies- when we were way too hungry to begin with). Bring healthy foods when asked to contribute to holiday parties, such as butternut squash soup, whole wheat quick breads, crudites, low-sugar apple cobbler, or veggie pates. Eat before going to parties, never go starving. Drink plenty of water with all those dry, crunchy party snack. Nibble & sample, but focus on the people or ambiance, not just the food.

BE COMPASSIONATE- think about the less fortunate during the holidays. Much of the holiday stress comes the infusion of capitalistic materialism into an otherwise deeply meaningful, universally significant season. Consider some form of volunteerism once a week to give back and stay humble. Animal shelters, hospitals, soup kitchens or homeless shelters are always looking for helpers. Or get friends together to knit scarves for the homeless or bake nice things for the soup kitchen, or any other creative way to offer more joy to those less fortunate then ourselves. In this way we slow-down and connect to the greater meaning of the season.

BE CENTERED- most people drastically alter their routes this time of year. They stop going to yoga class or the gym, their usual sleep schedule is shoved aside, they stop that lunch-time walk or eat more take-out instead of cooking dinners at home like usual. Perhaps that may free an hour or two, but severing from grounding, nuturing routines leaves us feeling unfocused, adrift and anxious. It's likely that you will alter your schedules somehow during the holidays, but aim for some routine to keep you centered. Keep up your exercise routine, or create a shorter routine for the season. Maybe take ten minutes to meditate each morning- sit comfortably and just breathe. Feel the moment and be no where else. Indulge in that ten minutes of just being and you will set a peaceful, focused tone for your whole day.

BE SIMPLE- some of the stress of the holiday season arises from our desire to give gifts to everyone that we care about, and not feeling that we have enough money to do so. We want to give gifts that can make our friends & family happy and show them how much we care. Its hard to compete with all of those flashy, trendy presents we see advertised. Truly, most of us need less stuff & more substance anyways. Think of simple ways to use your skills (or learn new ones) to turn just a little bit of raw materials, some time, and lots of love into hearty homemade gifts. Store-bought flash can never express love like hand-made cards & gifts can. Bake artisinal loaves of bread, knit gloves, sew a simple throw pillow out of old t-shirts, make ornaments from natural found objects, write poems, paint, frame a photograph, make a collage from old magazines, give I.O.U's for massage, help with projects, walks, tea time visits, etc. If you have a big family, consider drawing names & each person only has to buy one gift, secret santa-style. Or perhaps decide that only the children receive gifts.

Truly, we have to remember why we are so driven to give this season- because we love. Nothing is more precious then the quality of attention given to our loved ones everyday. Stay present as much as possible to soak in the light of love, the joy of sharing and the warmth of being together. Do that and the true bliss and peace of the season will be yours.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Green Gifts: make old Tshirts into great gifts!!!

This holiday season, consider a little DIY gifting. Its easy on the earth, and your wallet. Plus putting a little time into crafting a gift shows that you care. The next blog will be more simple gift and wrapping ideas that are easy on the eyes, earth and wallet.    --Laura

8 Ways To Reuse an Old T-Shirt

We all have them in our dressers: a couple of t-shirts that are past their prime, but we just can’t get rid of them. Whether it’s from an awesome concert or a really special family reunion, you can give an old t-shirt a new life with some crafty skills!

1. Laptop Cozy

The folks at Make share a quickie tutorial for turning a t-shirt into a laptop case by simply folding the shirt in half with the wrong sides in, stitching up the sides, then flipping it back.

2. Pillow

Cut a straight line from shoulder to shoulder and from sleeves to the bottom hem. Trim as much off of the bottom of the shirt as you like, then stitch it up inside out, leaving a bit of room to flip and stuff. Once you’ve flipped and stuffed your pillow, close the seam with a whip stitch or a sneaky ladder stitch, and you’re ready to go!

t-shirt quilt

3. Quilt

Is that collection of shirts a little bit out of hand? You can turn a bunch of old t-shirts into a super-comfy memory quilt! Just cut your shirts into squares, piece them together, and sew it up! If you’re new to quilting, About has some great, quick tips for quilters to help you out.

Keep it eco-friendly with organic or recycled batting.

4. Skirt

Ready for the quickest refashion yet? Cute Circuit shows you how to turn an old shirt into a skirt in 30 seconds flat!

t-shirt necklace

5. Necklace

Dollar Store Crafts shows you how to make a simple, elegant t-shirt necklace. I like how she added decorative beads to spice things up.

grocery totes

6. Grocery Bag

A grocery bag is another super-quick t-shirt craft. The ever-fabulous Martha Stewart walks you through how to turn an old shirt into a reusable grocery bag.

7. Applique

Is a little spot, tear, or stain keeping your favorite shirt from being wearable? That’s easy as pie to fix up! Just cover that pesky spot with your very own applique. You can use something store bought, or cut shapes you like out of fabric or felt and stitch it right on. If you’re using a machine to stitch, you’ll want to put interfacing inside the shirt behind where you’ll be stitching, or the fabric could pucker around the stitches.

8. Undies

Over at SuperNaturale, Logan shows you how to transform an old tee into a comfy pair of undies.
undies <<