Sunday, December 25, 2011

January 2012 teaching: The Bravery to Bloom

 "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."   ~Anais

Yoga practices help us to clear away the debris that gets in the way of expressing our innermost and highest nature. It helps us to clear away all that is false to be
our true selves. Many of us, I daresay in the Western world especially, all of us, at one time or another struggle with our confidence or our self-image. For some of
us, that negative view is debilitating and robs us of all real joy in life. For some, our harsh self-view is the ultimate obstacle to freedom in life. There comes a
point when, as Rumi calls it, we reach, "self-hating fatigue", the point at which we cannot stand to be so filled with hate, anger, guilt, and sadness. This is the
point from which we give up clinging to our fear, and we are ready to blossom. We can give up the habits of negative self-talk, self-depreciating, passive-agressive
self destruction and finally begin to have compassion for our self as a living being.

Anyone can sit in self-pity and misery if it is their habit, but it takes true bravery to begin to care for ourselves. And once we do, we see that to care for oneself
is not selfish, but is the only way to care for others. When the cup of our heart is empty, we have nothing to give to others, we are not kind or compassionate. But
when the cup of our heart is full, that which overflows can be given to all around us, we are automatically kinder, more joyful, more helpful and patient. Being deeply
honest makes the world a better place by our mere presence. Following our heart conscience is the way to blossom and brighten the world. Our happiness lights the way
for those around us.

Building trust in your own heart-conscience by experience, you learn that you can withstand anything that life brings and that there is beauty to be found everywhere.


On the night when you cross the street
From your shop and your house
To the cemetery

You'll hear me hailing you from inside
The open grave, and you'll realize
How we've always been together.

I am the clear consciousness-core
Of your being, the same in
Ecstasy as in self-hating fatigue.

That night, when you escape your fear of snakebite
And all irritations with the ants, you'll hear
My familiar voice, see the candle being lit,
Smell the incense, the surprise meal fixed
By the lover inside all your other lovers.
This heart tumult is my signal
to you igniting in the tomb.
So don't fuss with the shroud
And the graveyard dust.
Those get ripped open and washed away
In the music of our final meeting.

And don't look for me in human shape,
I am inside your looking. No room
For form with love this strong.

Beat the drum and let the poets speak.
This is the day of purification for those who
Are already mature and initiated into what love is.

No need to wait until we die!
There's more to want here than money
And being famous and bites of roasted meat.

Now, what shall we call this new sort of gazing house
That has opened in our town where people sit
Quietly and pour out their glancing
Like light, like answering?

'No room for form' by Jelaluddin Rumi page 138 'The 'Essential Rumi' translations by Coleman Barks. Harper Collins 1995

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Attitude of 'no gain' in Relationships- from Tricycle

?MY TEACHER Charlotte Joko Beck pretty much sums up her attitude toward relationships when she says, “Relationships don’t work.” Rather than talk about everything we normally think that we gain from relationships, like love, companionship, security, and family life, she looks at relationships from the perspective of no gain. She focuses on all the ways relationships go awry when people enter into them with particular sorts of gaining ideas and expect relationships to function as an antidote to their problems. Antidotes are all versions of “If only...” If only she were more understanding; if only he were more interested in sex; if only she would stop drinking. For Joko, that kind of thinking about relationships means always externalizing the problem, always assuming that the one thing that’s going to change your life is outside yourself and in the other person. If only the other person would get his or her act together, then my life would go the way I want it to.

Joko tries to bring people back to their own fears and insecurities. These problems are ours to practice with, and we can’t ask anyone else, including a teacher, to do that work for us. To be in a real relationship, a loving relationship, is simply to be willing to respond and be there for the other person without always calculating what we are going to get out of it.

Many people come to me and say, “I’ve been in lots of relationships where I give and give and give.” But for them it wasn’t enlightenment; it was masochism! What they are missing from Joko’s original account is a description of what relationships are actually for—what the good part is. In addition to being aware of the pitfalls that Joko warns us about, we should also look at all the ways in which relationships provide the enabling conditions for our growth and development. That’s particularly obvious with children. We would all agree that children need a certain kind of care and love in order to grow and develop. Nobody would say to a five-year-old, “What do you need Mommy for? Deal with your fear on your own!” The thing is that most of us are still struggling with remnants of that child’s neediness and fear in the midst of a seemingly adult life. Relationships aren’t just crutches that allow us to avoid those fears; they also provide conditions that enable us to develop our capacities so we can handle them in a more mature way.

It’s not just a parent-child relationship or a relationship with a partner that does that. The relationship of a student with a teacher, between members of a sangha, between friends, and among community members—all help us to develop in ways we couldn’t on our own. Some aspects of ourselves don’t develop except under the right circumstances.

Aristotle stressed the importance of community and friendship as necessary ingredients for character development and happiness. He is the real origin of the idea that “it takes a village” to raise a child. However, you don’t find much in Aristotle about the necessity of romantic love in order to develop. His emphasis was on friendship.

Aristotle said that in order for people to become virtuous, we need role models—others who have developed their capacities for courage, self-control, wisdom, and justice. We may emphasize different sets of virtues or ideas about what makes a proper role model, but Buddhism also asserts that, as we are all connected and interdependent, none of us can do it all on our own.

Acknowledging this dependency is the first step of real emotional work within relationships. Our ambivalence about our own needs and dependency gets stirred up in all kinds of relationships. We cannot escape our feelings and needs and desires if we are going to be in relationships with others. To be in relationships is to feel our vulnerability in relation to other people who are unpredictable, and in circumstances that are intrinsically uncontrollable and unreliable.

We bump up against the fact of change and impermanence as soon as we acknowledge our feelings or needs for others. Basically, we all tend to go in one of two directions as a strategy for coping with that vulnerability. We either go in the direction of control or of autonomy. If we go for control, we may be saying: “If only I can get the other person or my friends or family to treat me the way I want, then I’ll be able to feel safe and secure. If only I had a guarantee that they’ll give me what I need, then I wouldn’t have to face uncertainty.” With this strategy, we get invested in the control and manipulation of others and in trying to use people as antidotes to our own anxiety.

With the strategy (or curative fantasy) of autonomy, we go in the opposite direction and try to imagine that we don’t need anyone. But that strategy inevitably entails repression or dissociation, a denial of feeling. We may imagine that through spiritual practice we will get to a place where we won’t feel need, sexuality, anger, or dependency. Then, we imagine, we won’t be so tied into the vicissitudes of relationships. We try to squelch our feelings in order not to be vulnerable anymore, and we rationalize that dissociation under the lofty and spiritual-sounding word “detachment,” which ends up carrying a great deal of unacknowledged emotional baggage alongside its original, simpler meaning as the acceptance of impermanence.

We have to get to know and be honest about our particular strategies for dealing with vulnerability, and learn to use our practice to allow ourselves to experience more of that vulnerability rather than less of it. To open yourself up to need, longing, dependency, and reliance on others means opening yourself to the truth that none of us can do this on our own. We really do need each other, just as we need parents and teachers. We need all those people in our lives who make us feel so uncertain. Our practice is not about finally getting to a place where we are going to escape all that but about creating a container that allows us to be more and more human, to feel more and more.

If we let ourselves feel more and more, paradoxically, we get less controlling and less reactive. As long as we think we shouldn’t feel something, as long as we are afraid of feeling vulnerable, our defenses will kick in to try to get life under control, to manipulate ourselves or other people. But instead of either controlling or sequestering our feelings, we can learn to both contain and feel them fully. That containment allows us to feel vulnerable or hurt without immediately erupting into anger; it allows us to feel neediness without clinging to the other person. We acknowledge our dependency.

We learn to keep our relationships and support systems in good repair because we admit to ourselves how much we need them. We take care of others for our own sake as well as theirs. We begin to see that all our relationships are part of a broad spectrum of interconnectedness, and we respect not only the most intimate or most longed-for of our relationships but also all the relationships we have—from the most personal to the most public—which together are always defining who we are and what we need in order to become fully ourselves.

Relationships work to open us up to ourselves. But first we have to admit how much we don’t want that to happen, because that means opening ourselves to vulnerability. Only then will we begin the true practice of letting ourselves experience all those feelings of vulnerability that we first came to practice to escape."

From Ending the Pursuit of Happiness: A Zen Guide, © Barry Magid 2008. Reprinted with permission of Wisdom Publications,

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Don't Throw Away This Day

As I am about to write dates onto our 2012 calendar, I can easily get ahead of myself. Ooooh, next year's vacation, how great that'll be! But, I read a great blog article by Galen Pearl (Ten Ways to Find Your Happy Place and Stay There), that called us to remember that every moment is precious and we shouldn't throw any away, even in excited anticipation.

It is so easy to get caught in our heads, looking back, looking in, looking forward. But we have to remember to be here; just spacious, engaged and here, for as many sacred moments as possible. Every moment we are here is sacred. Every moment free of concepts is true freedom. This can be any moment of any day, regardless of where it falls on the calendar.

Throw no one and not one moment away. Each moment lived honestly and fully is a moment we are truly alive. Follow your truth with no fear, only love. There is not time but the resent, and today as beautiful as any other day.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Music as Yoga Therapy

I had nearly forgotten what music has done in my life. Ever since I was old enough to know how to play a tape or CD, I would play a certain song or two, or album, over and over until I felt finished. That song or that album hit just the right chord in my heart: expressing the love, the loss, the longing, whatever I was experiencing at the moment. It would help me to move that energy through me, to process those feelings, insteaad of letting them get stuck. I'd feel fresh and new when I was finished.

Sharon and David offer music as one of the four pillars of the Jivamukti Yoga Method, and I totally understand why all over again. Not only the mantram, or sacred sounds, but any song or sound, if it is the right one in the right moment can be a mover of prana, of life energy. It triggers that feeling in the heart, and lets it flow. Sometimes it also helps tears to flow, further washing the energy through. Very often, at least for me, it is not enough to merely listen, but to sing the song, to belt it out, is what really does it. It is a form of pranayama.

What is the right song or sound? The one that you really want to hear, the one that feels right in the moment. You'll know when you've hit it- it'll be all you want to hear. It will leave you feeling fresh, present, expansive, clear and free.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fresh mind, Trusting Self, Flowing on the Blessed Path

When we embark on the spiritual path, that mere intention sets things into motion. With awareness comes information, feedback through the heart and body. We may receive a lot of feedback we consider positive or neutral, which is easy to honor.
We are greatly challenged when living in harmony with inner truth means doing something difficult, truly difficult. We are put to the test. And we will be slowly, quietly grinding until we walk the talk and listen to our spiritual-heart's intelligence. The karma will repeat, the groove (or pit) will get deeper, we'll get increasingly stuck until we finally take responsibility and take the appropriate measures to become in harmony with the truth.

We can learn from each instance where we ignore our truth until a crescendo of consciousness makes it impossible to turn a blind eye anymore. We can use it to increase our awareness and trust the inner knowing above the rational sense of propriety, hoping not to fall into the same mistake again. If we vow to only follow our inner truth, and live up to it, wouldn't that be 'pushti marg', the path of grace? ...following only the inner light of knowing, the Divine Self... so very often it is effortless effort, but sometimes it is agonizing, relentless, and cruel... But it always facillitates the highest good of all. Follow with trust in your inner knowing at all times, and proceed with unconditional loving tenderness for all.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Love demands us to start fresh

A man (or woman), can never step into the same river twice. Both are constantly changing. It is never the same river, and we are never the same. Always changing, we keep evolving through our experiences. We can develop unconsciously by developing habits through conditioning or we can develop consciously through our awareness and choices.

To think of each other as solid entities and sources of happiness kills love. To each be who they are moment to moment, and feel the light of love in the sharing of spcae and time is the real gift. But we cannot take this for granted. It requires honesty with ourselves, not just each other. It requires openess to be maintained through practice.

To a great extent, labelling love and trying to disect it for rational understanding does little for the world. To open oneself to feel love naturally without judgement or boundaries is pure bliss, a connection to the Divine in our own hearts. Love is such ecstacy, that it is easy to become attached to it, that is, selfish and fearful. There is a real poverty mindset towards love in our culture. So when we feel it, we can automatically become afraid to lose it. That egoic attachment and fear is exactly what destroys love. It wants to control, it is jealous, it is attached to the high.

Starting fresh in each moment by being present, we can enjoy love fully. We can worry less about "how long will it last?" and instead just delight in it. By being our Self as honestly and courageously as possible in each moment, we can continue to love and feel loved just by being alive. The gift of love becomes omnipresent. The fear can disappear. We are new and open in each moment to the love that arises from within.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

December Teaching: Starting Fresh

 When we meditate, we are clearing the slate of our mind, habits, and views. We can come out of each session fresh and new, and
consciously choose how to act, think, be. We do not have to act in accordance with the habitual personality that we have created or fallen into. To do so (blindly
follow the habits/personality) is to let conditioned beliefs, inherited ideas, stale views and patterns that cause discontent to rule us. Whatever habits or patterns
are conscious and leave us feeling spiritually peaceful, content, loving, and generous are likely the ones we should keep. Resentment, jealousy, inadequacy, drama,
anger, and judgement are some of the patterns we should let fall away, no matter how well we can make excuses to justify them.

Every moment is a moment that we can
start fresh in. It just takes self-control to resist the hard pull of our habits. Coming out of our old comfort zone can be frightening, but nothing can be more truly
liberating. In fact, if we do not venture into new territory, starting anew every moment, we can never be liberated or live life fully. We are responsible for our own
life's bhava, or tone. Set the tone, and all will follow.  --from

Ram Dass Holiday Interview (Spirituality & Health magazine)

“Better Souls than Roles:" An Interview with Ram Dass
By Paul H. Sutherland
from Spirituality & Health magazine * November-December 2011

Ram Dass, which means “servant of God,” was born Richard Alpert into a Jewish family in Newton, Massachusetts, in 1931. He earned a PhD in psychology at Stanford and began his spiritual awakening in the early sixties, using hallucinogens at Harvard with Timothy Leary. In 1967, he traveled to India, where he met his Hindu guru, Neem Karoli Baba, whom he calls Maharaj-ji. His most famous book is the 1971 classic on meditation and yoga, Be Here Now; his latest book is Be Love Now. Recently, Spirituality & Health columnist Paul Sutherland visited Ram Dass’s home on the island of Maui and spoke about giving and the holidays.
Paul Sutherland: What meaning does Christmastime have for you?
Ram Dass: It’s a celebration, the giving of gifts on one hand and the celebration of Christ Jesus’s birth on the other. I’m Jewish, so we celebrate Hanukkah. At Christmas, we got a tree, which was a bush (laughs). When I was a child, my peers were celebrating wildly, and I sort of didn’t know about Christmas, and so, I fell in love with Christ, fell in love with Jesus — and I am in Christ, and I didn’t know then, but I know now what Christmas is all about.
What about presents?
The giving and receiving is the tricky thing. It’s not the gift. It’s what the heart says in giving the gift, and from my point of view, one doesn’t give or receive — that’s a role we have to play. But the gift — it’s God’s gift. I think that it’s better to be souls than roles.
Roles of giving?
Right, yes. The present is two souls, come together. The giving and receiving is the way for them to come together. I think that people should give gifts by really recognizing the spiritual worth of the person and their (the givers’) own worth. You usually give a present that the other person needs or wants, and I think it just emphasizes wants and needs. Now, of course, with kids, it doesn’t matter, you know, because they want, they want, they want, they want . . .
If you think of the gifts that you’ve been given, what gift comes to mind?
At Christmas? I think I would say that the gift of the love of Jesus. That’s the best gift.
And how did you discover that?
Well, I usually go to church at Christmastime, and I’m meditating while I’m at church and usually meditating on Jesus. And it’s his love, and that’s a pretty good gift. Now I’ve gotten cigars, and desk sets, and dictionaries, and shirts — lots of shirts — and slacks, and jellies, and jams. We had a raspberry patch, and Dad likes to make raspberry jam, and that’s a big thing at Christmastime to give — to give raspberry jam.
What would be on your Christmas list today?
Spiritual books.
Which ones?
All teachers are one person. I read Rama Krishna, or I read Ramana Maharshi, and it’s just like Maharaj-ji. In fact, it’s not just Eastern, because the Christian mystics or the Jewish mystics — they’re all the same person. Well, they’re different — they have different paths up the mountain — but they’re all going to the same place. They’re all as One. When you try to differentiate — like Buddhism from Theism or something like that — it’s good for your mind, but actually, they’re all the same place. They just have different signposts. I think that it’s good for you.
When you’re climbing that mountain, what’s at the top?
Your spiritual heart, which is the One inside. It’s the little voice in the heart. The mountain isn’t external; the mountain is inside.
It’s easy to start walking up a mountain, but if it’s in here, the path is a bit obscured, perhaps?
Well, you could take many paths. You could attend to the moment. Because if you stay in the moment, the moment is not time and space. The moment is infinite. I usually like to use love, and I love everything. And that brings me to the place where I am love. You are love. And so are all the trees and the ocean and all. You get Oneness with everything — to love. Or you can, say, use energy, like Hatha yoga. Bring the Kundalini up, bringing it up gently, through the chakras. Or it can be to use the mind; read books. It’s the place at the top of the mountain, the place, and it’s not, and it’s not, and it’s not, and it’s form and it’s not form. But it’s both.
And the words make it hard to describe? Is that what you’re saying?
Yes. In fact, the top of the mountain is clouds. The clouds are in your mind.
When you talk, you talk about everything is love, and I’m wondering about your stroke and how that changed the way you see things.
I was depressed, and think that was because my faith was wavering. Before the stroke, I had a graceful life. His grace was an incredible part of my life, and then the stroke, and I said to him in my mind, “What were you doing? Where were you? Were you out to lunch or something? Because this isn’t grace.” And then he told me, “This is grace.”
So in that depression and in that state of realizing that your life had changed forever, you came through that feeling grace?
Yeah. It made suffering graceful in my life. I wouldn’t say, “You’re not suffering; it’s all grace.” No, no. I would say there was just a little change of attitude. I came around from the stroke in the hospital, and everybody said, “Oh! Isn’t that too bad — your stroke.” I sat with Maharaj-ji’s picture, and I asked, “Well, is it really that terrible?” And he says, “No.” For example, I was a long time without speech, and I was really that silence. I was just loving.
You didn’t want everybody else to be silent, just you?
No. I was giving speeches. And silence isn’t great. I realize that dependency has just a little essence thing that I had never met. It’s like when you’re on the curb in your wheelchair, and somebody comes along and asks, “Can we push you across?” and boy, it’s gratifying to get that. It’s not the push across the street, but it’s the motivation.
How do we get out of that mind that’s always sort of judging and looking at the differences and not the similarities?
The Maharaj-ji taught me that I could identify with my soul. He said, “Ram Dass, love everybody.” I said, “I can’t do that. I can’t do that” [points to his head]. He says, “Yes, you can.” Then he said, “Tell the truth.” I can do that. “Tell the truth and love everybody.” No. I can’t do that. And I kept saying no [motions to his head], and he kept saying, “Yes [motions to his heart], with your heart, and you can see the souls.” You can see the souls. —S&H

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Love is the Guide, Are You Brave Enough to Follow?

If the ultimate the purpose of yoga is Self-realization, or releasing all that not an expression of our essential nature, then our spiritual heart is the crucial compass on the journey.
If we live "normal" lives in tune with culture, we should seek happiness in material goods, and we should base our relationships to others on appearance propriety according social norms, which includes ignoring or supressing our honest experiences. No wonder cancer is at an all-time high, general morale is low, and people are fed up enough to occupy Wall Street.
Our culture gives us no model for truly following the guidance of the spiritual-heart/soul. Beyond loads of romance novels or chick-flicks that make it look so clean and easy, it can be much more complicated then that. Real life living based on the heart means lots of self-control, unselfish passion, and the guts to practice kind but incredibly, brutally raw honesty.

Following the rational or socially-accepted way of life, we see numerous examples of how we don't want to live: loveless marriages filled with passive-agressive rage, understimulated brilliance in people of all ages, and a fear of life that keeps people bored, frustrated, lonely, and generally unfulfilling their life's entire purpose. It is not worth trying to fit in, especially when normal in America means some level of dis-ease; tragic lack of self-esteem, cynicism that makes life miserable or physical maladies.

For God's sake (literally!), we need to wake up and come to our senses. Stop ignoring the cries and wisdom of the body and heart! Learn to hear the "small, still voice" within by paying attention to the sensations within the body. We feel our physical and energy bodies in the frame of our physical body. Tune in. Learn to trust your inner knowing and deepest experience.

For what we have to shell out in restraint, effort and determination, we are rewarded manifold with limitless joy and satisfaction, feeling truly fulfilled in how we use this precious life.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Veggie 'meatballs'

These are simple and delicious! They make for great vegan spaghetti and 'meatballs', or change the spices (add fennel and crushed red pepper flakes) to use these as a faux Italian sausage.

dried White beans, cooked in a slow-cooker on high 6-8 hours until well done
bread crumbs
whole wheat flour
dried oregano, thyme, parsely, and garlic granules
Combine all but the flour. Puree with a blender, and add flour slowly, a couple tablespoons at a time, mix thoroughly by hand, aiming to achieve a very stiff dough. Refrigerating the dough for at least an hour before cooking helps it to stay together.

You can bake the little veggie balls on an oiled cookie sheet, or I chose to sautee in a little less then 1/4 inch of high heat oil, like safflower. Keep moving them as they become golden/medium brown. Serve with tomato sauce.

For a gluten-free version, perhaps sticky white or brown rice would work, possibly adding GF cracker crumbs as well.
Enjoy in good health and clear conscience! Namaste!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lentil Carrot Soup

Fall is a great time for vegan soups, stews, and chilis. This soup is simple, hearty, and delicious! We used crumbled chunks of whole grain bread to toss is, but crackers, brown rice, or barley are also great toss-ins as well.
Start this in the morning for dinner, or before bed for lunch.

dry Lentils de Puy (french green lentils)
carrots, peeled and cut crossways into coins
a head of garlic, chopped or minced
oil of choice
lots of water (3 times as much as lentils for stew, about 5 times as much or more to make this a brothier soup)
a few servings of "better then boullion" vegetable base (available on the Nature's Place ailse at Hannaford)
dried spices to taste: garlic powder, ginger, parsely, cilantro, curry powder
a decent serving of salt
Put it all together on high setting in your slow cooker and let it go for 8 hours or more! Check in when you can, about midway if possible, and adjust the water level if you need to. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

November Teaching: Gratitude and Perception

"Yoga provides the means to reintegrate all aspects of one's being. If one's heart is filled with sincere,
pure, and selfless intention, then one will experience a deep internal healing and a deep inner peace in one's own body,
mind, and soul".

  -Sharon Gannon,  Cofounder of Jivamukti Yoga

November 2011: Gratitude and Perception

The Buddha said, "What we think we become." What we are looking for and
expecting colors what we find, as does our attitude. Therefore, life truly is what we make of it. It doesn't mean everything
is easy or clear just because we have a good attitude, however, we do have the option not to struggle or suffer. Pain and
discomfort are inevitable at times, but if we keep ourselves open and remember that everything is an opportunity for mental-
emotional-spiritual growth, then we will be connected to the peace deep within. Even when we are sick, we will have gratitude
for whatever is good in our life. Our very life depends on the sacrifice of the lives of others- both in the sense of hard
work, and at times, literally the giving up of life so that we may continue on. Plants are just as alive as animals, and they
sacrifice for us constantly. Our breath and their breath is a constant exchange: we breathe in the oxygen that they breathe
out, and they breathe in the carbon dioxide that we release. If we open our minds and hearts to revel in every small and
large wonder, we can regain a connection to the sacredness of every moment. In finding that connection, we live a compassionate life, filled expansive freedom, unlimited love and deep joy. If you look for the good, the connection, and the opportunity to love and be loved, you will find the kind of life that you long for. Change your perception, change your intention, change your actions to embody a vibration of conscious compassion, and this is what you will find within all life.

Throughout the month of November I will try and post many thoughts on living a life of gratitude, non-harm and compassion, and about the consequences of our expectations and actions. I will share ideas for a healthy, compassionate, sustainable, and delightful Thanksgiving feast (which can be applied to your holiday celebrations if you don't celebrate Thanksgiving).

While plants and animals sacrifice their lives to support our lives everyday, we can choose to eat only plants, which spares hundreds of animals per person each year, spares our health from the main killer diseases, spares the earth unsustainable and unneccesary abuse, and provides a bounty of delicious, affordable, enjoyable choices. Choose life, choose sustainability, choose compassion, choose plant-foods! 

Friday, September 30, 2011

October 2011 teaching of the month~ Integrity with the Truth

October 2nd is World Farm Animals Day. Every year, in the US alone BILLIONS of animals in factory farms live short,
miserable lives, suffering horribly, and are killed for food that is not even healthy for humans to consume.

Many people say things like, "if I knew the animal, I
couldn't eat it", or "I am an animal lover, but I eat meat" or "if I think about what it's like I don't want to eat it, so I won't think about it."

Plugging our ears
or turning a blind eye to the horrors that humans, animals and the earth suffer does not vindicate us from our responsibility to live ethically and in a way that is
harmonious with our deepest, highest conscience. It is very difficult to make changes in life, especially changes that take us further from cultural norms. However, if
we wish to be free from suffering, we need to live our lives in a way that strengthens our hearts and enriches not just ourselves, but all whose lives we impact everyday and with every choice.

 Reflect on how many lives yours touches, from those on the road with you, neighbors, loved ones, tiny creatures on the ground where you walk, creatures that are affected by the creation of products you buy, people working to make those products, the animals who gives their lives to give you meat, milk, eggs, the earth who gives everything and takes so much abuse... reflect, from the center of your being outward, on all those lives you touch.

 How do you want to impact the world?

Do you want to enslave people and animals by buying cheap sweatshop made goods, cheap chocolate bars at the expense of child labor, products (including eggs and dairy) that come from animals whose lives end in traumatic and excruciating slaughter? Is that your vote for how the world should be?

Get informed about veganism, about fair-trade products and foods. Do your best everyday and in all ways to live in integrity with the truth, living in a way that enriches you and all of those you touch. Inner peace cannot come while we are harming others. Contemplate integrity, truth, deep and total honesty on all levels. This is the beginning of the path to freedom.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Nothing But Here

I have felt distracted lately, like I have been allowing too much energy to go into my thoughts and not being present. It manifests as a guilty feeling and almost a panicky sense of time going too fast to handle. I am with my son all day but distracted by chores, thoughts and not paying deep enough attention to him.

This is all subtle stuff, meaning that I am watching my son, he is staying safe, but we can be here and simultaneously somewhere else with our thoughts. It comes in cycles, I find. Sometimes its easy to disconnect from the constant thinking, and sometimes it lures you in. The ego is what the devil represents, that and the kleshas, or roots of suffering, such as avidya, or ignorance to Reality. It is interesting that the Qu'ran refers to the devil as "the obsessor", because the mind is filled with obsesive repetition of thoughts. Unenlightened beings tend to identify with and pay a lot of attention to, these thoughts. We miss consciously participating in life as it happens.

So I realize that the guilt and sadness I feel is a red flag, not something to keep creating or ignore. If we listen to our hearts and balance our emotional and rational urges, we can live a balanced path that honors love and service to others, especially those our dharma leads us to be completely responsible for (as minors), our children.

A clean house, good hygeine, pure water, and plenty of healthy food are important. So is living as an example of our highest beliefs. And one of those beliefs is that it is our honor and duty to pay our child as much undivided attention as possible. Being here and not in the fluctuations of mind-stuff (chitta vritti) is the most important way to show and share love. In our conscious, loving, gentle but passionate kindness, we don't just say I love you, we are unconditional love. Unconditional love is the highest high and the most ecstatic sensation of joy, it is a glimpse of the Self. It is this way in giving and in receiving. It is who we are, what we are, and the only way to feel it is to be nothing but here in the moment.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Global Mala Project Equinox Workshop-

Wednesday September 21st 2011-

Participate in the first or second half, or stay for the whole event, dedicated to finding inner peace for the sake of world peace. Each half is a whole practice, but the entire workshop is going to be a deep hike into the heart!

5:15-6:40~ vigorous practice dedicated to discovering and dissolving the roots of suffering, freeing us to be peace and love. Practicing deeply physically, we will relax deeply as well.

6:40-7:45~ beginning with a little mantra, guided relaxation and meditation, our movements will be mainly inwardly directed explorations of being. Opening ourselves deeply, we go within to find the roots of peace and unconditional love in our heart.

Suggested donation $20, but any donation is accepted, as always.

This is in connection with Shiva Rea's Global Mala Project, creating a network of worldwide events for celebrating the UN's World Peace Day.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

VEGAN Recipe: Simple Black Beans and Barley with Winter Squash

I'd like to start sharing lots of beautiful vegan recipes. Hope you enjoy!

winter squash of choice~ here we used spaghetti squash, but butternut or acorn, or any others for that matter, are perfect

dry pearled barley

dry black beans

1 onion, size of choice
vegan broth or boullion or concentrate

grapeseed or safflower oil, or other non-gmo, high-heat oil

oil of choice for drizzling
sea salt

The method: I put dried black beans in a crockpot to simmer all day, about 12 hours, or you can do them overnight. With them I added plenty of water (at least 3 times the amount of beans), dash of salt and splash of real maple syrup, but blackstrap molasses is wonderful too. I coursely chopped an onion and tossed that in midway through.

For the barley, I threw it in a rice cooker with 2.5 times as much water as barley. You can use vegetable broth or add some concentrate such as Better Then Boullion's vegetable base. It can be started around the same time as the squash.

I used grapeseed oil on a baking sheet and on 375 degrees F let a lovely spaghetti squash bake. It was seeded and place shell side up. It took about 55 minutes or so to cook.

I tend to love simplicity, a good sprinkle of sea salt, a drizzle of grapeseed oil and voila! But you can actually change this dramatically with your choice of herbs and spices. Cumin and chili powder with the beans or thyme and a tiny touch of nutmeg with the barley make a very different dish!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Vote Now for the Holidays and Beginning Anew Week at Enlighten

Dear Ones! It may seem too early to consider the holidays but please text (518-866-3621) or respond via FB to let me know your vote!

DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING: still coming to Happy Hour at 5pm?
BEGINNING ANEW WEEK: Dec 26-31 (M-Sa) we would like to host special classes and workshops instead of our regular classes... What would you like? Let me know your ideas!! Here are our ideas so far...

Jivamukti Yoga Workshop led by John Smrtic... maybe that Wednesday evening...?

Family Yoga Camp: 11am-12noon classes each day with a theme of living yoga, living health, living peace. Drop in $15 per fam or $65 for the week per fam.

Monday Night: New to Yoga Workshop: what Yoga is, how to practice, learn basics and have a great practice.

Tuesday Night: Natural Yoga Method Workshop: what the Natural Yoga Method is, a nice long practice and learning why we need to bring consciousness and sustainability to all we do for health and happiness. Led by Laura, the founder of the Natural Yoga Method.

Friday Night: Enlighten Your Life, Live Your Yoga: after practice share tea and healthy vegan snacks while we discuss what it means to be a Yogi or Yogini in this era.

Any requests for other topics.. Yoga, sustainability, vegan cooking...
Morning Practices or Daytime workshops with Christen... Any requests on times or topics???????
Thank you and namaste.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Back To Eden

Visit to watch Back To Eden for free. I haven't had the chance to see it yet, but I plan to. It shows techniques for highly productive, highly sustainable and enriching agriculture.

It is so very true that by working with nature in growing and eating a plant-based diet we can feed the world, live healthier as individuals and be freer. We are sold so much biased information as fact these days. Whenever anyone stands to make a buck off of us we should question the information they present us with. The media often represents the highest bidder.

Having just dug my potatoes this week and with ideas for next year's planting dancing in my head, I won't wait long to watch this film. Jai Ma! Salutations, Mother Earth!

Indoor Gardening: lemons in the Northeast

This lemon tree was started from an organic grocery store lemon's seeds in the Summer of 2009. She has been transplanted to this spacious pot and has taken off, growing her first branch recently. Anything is possible!

Tomatoes, greens, & even curcubits (squashes, cucumbers, melons...) grow phenomenally well in ots or 5 gallon buckets. Even potatoes can do famously well in buckets.

Everyone is a gardener at heart!!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Secial note for female yoga practitioners (and teachers)

This is about the effect of inversions on energy during a women's cycle...

Inversions are very powerful energetically, and can reverse the downward flowing prana. This is why they should be done very lightly during menstruation, because the strong earthward flow of energy is very important and shouldn't be reversed. It is not about fatigue, lack of strength or any other issues. It is not gender-bias. Doing inversions like you normally would can prematurely stop the unless you are consciously choosing to play with that as part of your sadhana, they should be minimized or avoided during the peak days.

During pregnancy, especially during the last trimester, inversions should be avoided, even mild ones like downward facing dog, to avoid moving the baby out of position or disrupting the powerful downward flowing prana (called apana). Inversions can be used as directed by a midwife to help the baby to move into position during the last weeks of pregnancy.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Resistance and Letting Go- who's in control here?

As we sat in the Wild Woodstock studio practicing meditation, David Life said, "Let go of everything that get in the way of that peace within in each moment."

According to the philosophy, yoga, or oneness is our natural state. Yoga's practices help us to expand our consciousness to its natural, limitless state. They help us to see all of the ways that we resist our natural state, which is described a pure consciousness and bliss. Unparallelled joy is our default state, so where is our problem, why are we resisting?

From conception we start to get confused about the source of our joy (internal), we start to pick up habits, preferences and unconscious views from our friends families, culture and other experiences. This would be fine, but we cling to our likes and run from our dislikes, and form a hard, unchanging idea about who we are, what life should be like and where happiness comes from. As soon as we solidify these ideas and cling to them, we shut out the actual reality in each moment. Our experience becomes increasingly tainted by our ideas and we no longer see the truth. We suffer in this rigid state, constantly seeking a narrow range of approved experiences, averting ourselves to any newness or challenge.

Yoga practice helps us to see and remove these filters one at a time. We make the unconscious conscious. We embrace the unknown, the discomfort of newness, and the freedom of being unattached to our preferences. We can have preferences, but if things don't go "our" way, instead of throwing a fit we instantly accept that reality, and move on consciously.

I notice my habit of being constantly in motion, sometimes beneficial and appropriate, sometimes incredibly inappropriate. It is okay when doing chores or work, but when I give in to it at the wrong times it robs me of my most precious resource- time with my son. I remind myself to stay conscious, checking, "do I need to do that now, is it beneficial to us all?" Then I try and remember when I am with my son, or at other times, "now is not the time for this- let go of everything that gets in the way of this love and peace."

We all can get pretty addicted to constantly rushing, it becomes a strong habit. It takes recognition and strong self-control to break the habit of running at inappropriate times. Recognizing when we seek busyness or distraction just for the state of it, dilligently letting go of urges, compulsions, addictions we can regain self-control, literally taking the reigns back from our habits, placing control back in the conscious mind and heart.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Is Yoga for Real People?

Some people feel like yoga is too esoteric for them. They are turned off by seeing others eat, sleep, live, breathe yoga in an outwardly apparant way 24/7. Maybe the Sanskrit terms, concepts and chants turn them off because they don't understand them. Yoga doesn't have to be esoteric. It doesn't have to look one way or another. But real yoga does influence the way practitioners live, at least in the sense of changing their point-of-views and priorities. You don't have to emmulate Indian culture, and you don't need to learn Sanskrit to benefit from yoga. You don't have to be "wierd" or isolated or be anyway that you don't want to be.

If anything, practicing yoga is about being yourself with less inhibition. It encourages open-minded acceptance of yourself and others. It encourages you to accept changes, challenges, limits and growth in life without suffering. It benefits the body, energy, emotions and mind all at once. It is about the middle path, sponteneity and developing an ever clearer view of reality and universal truth.

So just because the way other people express themselves under the influence of yoga turns you off or you have no desire to chant mantras doesn't mean that it won't benefit you. And in time, maybe you'll change your mind, or maybe not. Yoga is for anybody interested in highest health, happiness and the ending self-consciousness and uneeded suffering. You can be as "normal" as you want to be. But with your attention becoming stronger, you may very well notice that the need to fit in, and other habits become boring, annoying or are seen as unbeneficial and thus no longer useful to continue. Yoga helps you to discover who you really are, past all those conditioned responses and unconscious habits. From there you can know what makes you tick, how to be completely satisfied and happy in life. There's nothing "new-age", "superstitious", "wierd" or impractical about that. It sounds exciting to me!

Natural Migraine Relief

Depending on what your trigger is, you may find different things relieving. My trigger is light, heat, what is known as "pitta" in ayurveda.

Feverfew is an herb that can be taken (always check with your doctor and pharmacist!) preventatively, or regularly when you feel one coming on, or have one more full-blown.

Fasting once my headache gets strong helps to avoid severe nausea, but with a weak headache or while fighting one off, eating something comforting helps. Sometimes low blood sugar contributes to tension and pain.

Relax the facial muscles, massage the face and scalp, especially the points around the forhead, temples, eye sockets... Use peppermint essential oil on the temples and hairline.

Shirodhara is an ayurvedic treatment in which warmed oil is slowly dripped from the hairline over the scalp, while you relax on a massage table. It is very excellent for regular migraine sufferers.

I love using a cool, wet cloth over my eyes and forehead, it helps immensely. A long bath, a soak in the hot tub or hot shower can help relax tense muscles that contribute to a migraine intensifying and going full-blown.

If you can, go to sleep! Stay cool (but not shivering cold) and relax your body and especially the face/scalp. Use a wet cloth and keep flipping it to the cool side when you stir. I used to put my forehead up to the wall to keep it cool when I was younger.

If you have to work or stay alert, relax your facial muscles as much as possible. Cool down, or quiet down, if sound is your trigger. Keep your mind present as much as possible, you will feel much more pain as soon as you even subtely stress.

Migraines can be treated with regular meditation, yoga, and staying well hydrated, in addition to observing and respecting your triggers. I have been able to make a full-blown migraine go away with some feverfew, a cold-cloth, consciously relaxing, and resting a little bit. Even while teaching yoga classes, or playing with my toddler, I have been able to keep migraines down to a dull roar with increasing success using these techniques. I have never taken migraine medications and don't plan to. And yes, I experience real migraines. Regular meditation/yoga practice is key because it hones the powers of observation and conscious relaxation that are crucial to recognizing the triggers and actions that make it feel better and worse.

One blessing of migraine pain is it can help you become more acutely conscious of the way you tense your facial and scalp muscles. There is a Guru in everything! namaste!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

September Events at Enlighten

Blessings to all! It has been heavy times in our community, but may we all know when to take help and when to give. May we be as generous as possible and assist in any way we can to restore peace and safety to our neighbors. May we remember that selfless service is rewarding in a deeply profound way that no material reward or fame could touch.

Our true success in life is measured by the way we live in relation to others. If our choices, words, thoughts and actions enrich the happiness and freedom from suffering of the world around us, then we are truly successful. Being rich spiritually is to love unconditionally all and to uplift others in any way possible. This will give us more lasting joy then owning any amount of posessions.

This September, we have many events to choose from, so we hope you find something that uplifts and inspires you! Namaste!

SEPT 11~ Satsang 3-6pm: a long, deep, devoted practice to bring us to our Source, followed by a vegan potluck and conversation with other positive-minded people. Suggested donation is $15, but if you have been adversely effected by the floods, please come for free. All donations will be used to buy baby and personal care items for those in need.

SEPT 21~ Global Mala Equinox for World Peace 5:15 to 7:45pm: come for the first or second halves or the whole practice.. 5:15-6:40 We will dig deep with a vigorous practice, devoting the fire of our effort to removing the obstacles to inner and outer peace... 6:40-7:45 We will use gentle movement and restorative postures to bring us to a deep state of inner communion, finding the peace within. $20 Suggested donation goes to SEEDS OF PEACE. ~World peace truly starts with commiting to inner peace as individuals, making peace a worldview and way of life.

SEPT 24 AND 25~ Classical Dance of South India- "An Evening of Bharata Natyam for New Audiences"- two shows, Sat 24th 6-7:30pm and Sun 25th 2-3:30pm... Join us for a performance of richly ornate, precise and narrative dance sponsored by Dakshina Palli, a non-profit dance school and company dedicated to preserving and sharing the tradition of this unique dance style. Tickets are $20 at the door ($12 for seniors and students with ID), and support Dakshina Palli and Enlighten.

SEPT 30~ Global Wave of Yoga 7-8:30pm: celebrating the culmination of "yoga month" the global wave of yoga is a synchronized practice. By practicing at our local times, we will wrap the earth in a practice of unity, love, peace and compassion. We dedicate our practice to the healing, well-being and complete joy of mother earth and all beings. Any donation accepted. Hosted by Christen.

All events hosted at Enlighten~
clock tower complex
37 Prospect Street
Amsterdam NY 12010

contact Laura by call or text: 518.866.3621
more info on:

Also, please save the date:
OCT 24th~ 3-4pm Gene Baur, founder of Farm Sanctuary will give a talk and host Q&A. Gene has been on the frontlines, advocating for farm animals, and rescuing them, from factory farms for over 25 years, seeing firsthand the cruelty and destructive results of human greed and ignorance.

Please tell your friends!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Learning about love~

Love is said to be the feeling-tone of the universe. It is also called bliss or bliss consciousness. It is our goal, as yogis, to expand our sense of Self to include all beings, all of existence. Union, the meaning of yoga, is this, a visceral recognition of the quantum oneness of all that is.
Our culture doesn't equip us for this. We learn that love is something that is conditional, tempermental and exclusive. We are allowed to love our family members, our pets and our "one true love", and to an extent our friends. There is no allowance to be in love with others, or to care too deeply about our neighbors, strangers, or animals that are considered "useful" for food or other "uses".
This leaves the one Self shattered into bits and pieces. Why can't we love and respect the life of others. Why can't we be extremely generous with neighbors, strangers, or other species without being considered wrong or inappropriate? Why can't we fall in love with everyone we meet, without wanting anything from them? The one Self that is the entire universe, the one Cosmic Consciousness, also called God by many people, is in ALL equally. Omniscient, omnipresent, invisible and everywhere simultaneously, equally in trees, people and animals of all shapes and kinds, rocks, the earth herself.

Our society encourages a disconnected pity more then sympathy. What about empathy? If we take a moment to imagine ourselves in the same situation as the people, animals, or planet, I mean really think for a minute, we can feel a little of what they may feel. How would we change our reactions? Would we stop supporting the exploitation of children for cheap labor in coffee and coccoa fields by supporting fair trade chocolate? Would we purchase only fair trade teas to end the exploitation of women in the tea lands? Would we think again about paying for someone else to slit an animals throat (or worse) for us to eat it? Or change our minds about how acceptable we think wool is when we know that the world's major suppliers rip large areas of flesh off of the sheep without anesthetic?
Part of the course of enlightenment is is shining the light of consciousness to all the dark places within us, making peace with what we find. We also have to shine that light on all of the dark corners of our lives externally, learning the truth behind what we purchase, therefore vote for. We need to know where it came from and where it will go. In this truthfulness and open search for justice, we find an integrity developing. And from there, unconditional love arises, because we can see what others may see and relate to what they feel. We can empathize, see ourselves in them, and them in ourselves.
Some say that unconditional love arises in response to a recognition of the divine in another. We love that holy essence, the universal being. We can be in love with anyone and everyone, for me that means feeling strong, unconditional love for them. But ultimately we recognize that the love is not coming from them or because of them, but in reaction to finding our Self there, the love comes from within us, the other is a mirror of the Divine source and essential substrate of the entire universe: one ecstatic, fluid ocean of pure conscious love-bliss, of which we are all a drop.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Guerilla Volunteerism: just do something

I have been very lucky in this very destructive aftermath of Hurricane Irene's wake. Not everyone has been that lucky. People have lost their homes to the floodwaters. All of us who have gotten away unscathed should be humble and grateful. Sitting home pretty much taking it all for granted and saying, "phew!", doesn't cut it. Can we do something to enrich the lives of those who have been affected? Can we do something to lessen the suffering, to bring some peace and happiness?
Donating to the Red Cross certainly helps, but can we take just a little more time and effort to go beyond throwing a buck in a jar and actually serve those in need? Volunteering for the Red Cross would be even better. We met two kind, strong, unselfish beings today, volunteering at one of the local schools serving as an emergency shelter.
We should rise up when others are in need, just like the hand goes to the foot when it is hurt. We are all one. We shouldn't do it for the glory, the pat on the back, the credit or thanks. We should do it because simply it is what is right, it is the least we can do. It is our privellege to help others.
Even if you aren't already a volunteer with the Red Cross, or if you don't think you have the time to make a difference, then you should do something anyways. We went to the school and just asked who was there what they needed. Then we went to the store and bought a few things and dropped them off. That's it. It really wasn't much, but we did something.
There are opportunities to help in many unglorious ways: see some trash, pick it up, throw it out; help an elderly neighbor; save a worm from scorching to death on the sidewalk; take a genuine interest in how someone is feeling; whatever opportunity is presented before you, it is your duty to rise to meet it with a fully opened heart. All volunteerism needn't be formal, recognized or remarked upon. It enriches us to serve others. That is it, the ability to serve is a privelege.
So rise to the next occasion for guerilla volunteerism. Take the time to enrich the life of another being, feel yourself enriched.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Feet as an expression of integrity in consciousness

Freeze. Notice your feet. Are they equally and evenly touching the earth? Are your legs crossed? Try this while you are standing, while you are walking. Just notice the quality of awareness and the degree to which your feet twist or do not press into the ground actively with every step.
This is like a physical representation of how conscious you aren't in the moment. We resist Reality, the way our feet resist the floor. We can activate our feet, and feel the corresponding blossoming upward and opening of the chest. The degree to which we engage the feet is the degree to which the heart/chest can open. It is the degree to which we can be free and compassionate.
In our asana practice we should strive. Strive for engagement, strive for eveness, strive to activate. In shavasana, we relax fully, and the degree to which we can open, relax, transcend is the degree to which we were able to strive, work, strengthen. The harder we push without strain is the harder we can let go.
The we open up physically the more we can transcend the physical in meditation.
It all starts with the feet, our foundation, telling us how our relationship to the divine Consciousness is. Are we really open and accepting of everything life brings? Watch your feet and take the challenge to embrace life entirely.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Overcoming difficult relationships

The true test of how far we are on the path is not how proficient we are at the poses or other techniques and practices, but how conscious we are in daily life and how conscious and compassionate we can be in our interactions with others.
We cannot think we are so enlightened if one harsh word from another crumbles our values and has usacting hateful and enraged. Its not to say that pain, anger, etc, will disappear, it is to say that enlightenment resides in our hearts, in our reactions, actions, intentions.. We can feel the anger fully, we can witness it and choose how to act consciously. We can cultivate the opposite emotion as Patanjali said to do in the Yoga Sutras. And at all times, we can look into our experiences as the Guru- opportunities to investigate where we are resisting our natural state. Everything is an opportunity for spiritual development.

We can dedicate the interactions that are challenging to revealing the Divine within as much as we can dedicate our joyous moments. The people who push your buttons are cosmically doing you a favor- they are acting like a catalyzing agent- speeding your growth if you accept the challenge.

Different techniques for working with difficult relationships exist, and really the number of techniques is limitless. You can find your own as well.

Witnessing: cultivating the identification of who you are with that witnessing state of consciousness invites a broader perspective. By stopping and witnessing the anger, jealousy, fear, etc. you can watch its effect on your mental state and physical form and begin to see the unconscious, automatic reactions that you employ. Slowly you will be able to witness the emotion and choose a new reaction.

Blessing: Sharon Gannon, co-founder of Jivamukti Yoga recommends a meditative technique that tranforms both yourself, the other and the relationship. Grounding in a meditation posture, inhaling, think "blessings to", and exhaling allow an image and name to arise. Starting with loved ones, moving to neutral beings and then to those that challenge you, push your buttons and whom you may very strongly dislike. David Life, the other founder of Jivamukti Yoga, tells a story of how that technique transformed his relationship with a person that was violently hostile towards him. After some time with that practice, the same man that had threatened his life at one time spontaneously greeted him like a very dear friend.

Step into their shoes with compassion: reflect on others as holy beings at heart, seeing how their unkind actions may come from pain, loneliness, and other places where they have been hurt. See that they are someone's child. See that we all bleed, laugh, cry. We could be in the same place ourselves. We all do the best we can with the awareness we have. Take the higher road and do unto them as you wish they could do unto you. Don't objectify and demonify other beings.

See the Divine everywhere: looking at all beings as the Divine consciousness transforms our interactions. When you are looking to see God in the eyes of others you are not going to be as prone to fixate on the less amicable qualities. You will begin to see what you look for, the indwelling consciousness At the heart, not the habits of personality unconsciously operating on the surface.

Everything is the grounds for enlightenment. The keys to happiness are right here within and everywhere in everyone. When we think of yoga not as a workout on the mat, but as a practice to transform our relationships and lead us to enlightenment, we see the opportunity in each moment. We accept all beings and experiences with the open, grateful heart of the student. We make the unconscious conscious. We live love and become whole.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Family and children's classes to begin again...

As Fall approaches, we will soon begin family/children's offerings again.

I need to know who is interested, and what you would like. I want these classes to take off, but I need your help, through feedback, to serve you and your family!

What age are the children you'd like to bring? What day of the week and time would be perfect for you?

I am starting to envision a very loosely structured class where toddlers are welcome to play with toys or join in. Bigger kids can participate and be examples and learn to help the little guys. Classes would build friendships, family and communal bonds, patience, concentration, confidence, fitness, compassion and reverence for life. Children raised with these qualities become gifted at anything they do and are valuable local and global citizens.

Class activities include partner poses, imagination activities with poses (which also are relaxing and strengthen concentration as well), mindfulness/meditation, and other activities such as stories, songs, games, or coloring and relaxation.

I envision one class, Saturday mornings, for families and kids 18 months and up. Younger kids will watch and freeplay with parents (who are responsible to be with their youngest kids first) and bigger kids can participate in a more structured way. Big kids can sit out and watch, journal or color instead if they choose. Kids older then ten are welcomed to participate on a more adult level. Ages 11 and up are welcomed to come to our regular yoga classes with a parent or other family member over 18.

Yoga and meditation provide body awareness, tools to develop confidence, inner peace; they impart invaluable coping skills for lifelong mental health. Yoga poses are a fun, non-competitive way to encourage fitness through strength, flexibility, balance and cardiovascular wellness.

Please let us know how to serve you and your family. Namaste!

What is real freedom?

In our society, freedom is viewed commonly as the ability to buy, say, do anything at anytime, in spite of the consequences. However, this ties us deeper to the suffering of being at the whim of the ego, the false identification with thoughts and body as the full extent of the being.

If we can do and have anything, if we can hop on a plane anywhere, we can run away from everything- except ourselves. We can eat anything we want or have relationships with anyone at anytime, we are not free of the after effects, nor are we free from our inner experiences. No matter what we do, where we go, we are not free if we are prisoners in the tyrrany of the thoughts.

The thoughts are relentlessly streaming and if we participate whatsoever, it is like throwing fuel on the fire. The thoughts are repetitive, unconditioned behaviors and habits absorbed and strengthened over the years that we allow to define us. Only as we begin practicing mindfulness or meditation do we begin to notice that the thoughts define us- many of them can be very judgemental towards ourselves and others and are just echoes of things we've seen and heard from others.

We do not have any peace and therefore freedom until we begin to loosen the grip of the ego and stop limiting who we perceive ourselves to be by the defined parameters of personality. Then we become truly free to be what we are in each moment. Then we are free to be boundless. Then we are free to just be. This is true freedom, limitless freedom.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Powerfully Liberating Practice

The past has happened, and this moment is happening. We can't change it by complaining, we can't stop it by resisting, and if we fight, we suffer. If we cling too hard to our preferences and expectations, we suffer. The end of suffering is the end of clinging. When we open our hearts wide enough to swallow reality we are free. When we surrender the struggle against what is happening, we have the energy to accept it.

Our culture doesn't give us a healthy structure for this way of living. Opinions and preferences are considered important ways to express our existence. They strengthen the ego, the false self. Its not that preferences are evil- its that we suffer when things don't go our way. Freedom is found in having an opinion, but fully accepting the outcome whether it jives with our opinions or not.

Complaining is used as a way of life, a form of social bonding. This unhealthy practice affirms the mindset that we know better then reality. If we constantly disagree with life, constantly complain, make critical and sarcastic remarks, we are out of harmony with reality. We cannot find peace when we fight the moment.

We have to be dilligent and whenever we feel frustration, strong tension or a sense of anxiousness or sad dragging or longing, we have to ask ourselves, "what am I resisting?". This simple practice becomes one of the most powerful and freeing of all!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Expectations cause suffering...

Even compassion expectations, such as hoping and expecting that our tired child will fall asleep right away, create suffering when we get attached to them. If we get too wrapped up in the goal of napping, then all of the time between then and now becomes cheapened- precious time together thrown away and brushed aside with an anxious attitude.

By fixating on an expectation or even on something like a trip or event, not only do we give away the ability to fully appreciate all the time between then and now, but it is as if we tell ourselves that our happiness depends on getting what we want or on being somewhere other then where we actually are. Our attitude changes, our way of relating to others changes. The quality of our lives and of those around us drops.

Its not that having hopes, goals or exciting plans are bad things, its that being too attached to them causes suffering. If we cling too tightly to what we think SHOULD BE happening, we are disconnected from what IS ACTUALLY happening. This causes us suffering. If we have hopes, but remain open to what unfolds, we will be much happier, much more present and able to maintain inner peace through the changes life inevitably brings.

If we are not so attatched to our preferences, our likes and dislikes (raga and dresha in Sanskrit), then we are free to receive and enjoy what comes. If we let go of struggling for the goal, we effortlessly come into harmony with life itself and feel that the journey is the goal, that each moment is the goal.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Power of Yoga.. To change your perspective in daily life

A lot changed when a child is born. I knew that I was signing myself up for a challenging-yet-exquisite experience. I look at everything in life as a means to Self-realization, so my daily life, my relationship with my son, and the change I've made to care for him are no exception.

However, what I never thought about were the effects of practicing yoga formally much less then I had been. I was practicing 6 days each week pretty solid for at least 3 years, and almost everyday for 4 1/2 years when my son came. Now I rarely practice when I am not at work (due to the fact that my son needs supervision and attention), and to be an almost-stay-at-home mom, I reduced my work week to four days.

It took me a while to realize, but I really feel it on the days when I don't practice. And I don't mean just physically, although I am conscious of the compression in my spine I start to feel increasing if I don't redirect the posture properly with very frequent reminders. I mean that that sense of loving-bliss and patient resillience I have come to be is tested by the normal circumstances of life faster and faster the farther I am away from my last practice.
I am thankful for this opportunity to experience the power of daily yoga, then to have had it taken away, and to be able to feel the changes. I am aware that daily practice is incredibly neccessary if one really wants to transcend all of the pitfalls and negative habits of the human experience. If we want to be free from suffering, to live life from the still, loving center of consciousness, then getting to the point of being able to practice on our own and practicing in between classes is key.

I feel my mind heavy with junk, with sediment, and I feel the overthinking wearing me down in between sessions. I am not as loving, in fact I can fall prey to negatively perceived sensations that set off a cacade of energy blocking thoughts, actions and experiences, which drag my energy and mindset down.

Doing even 10-15 minutes of thorough sun salutations every morning, utilizing ujjayi breathing could be enough on the "in-between days". Over time, we can easily guide our own asana practice, and use group classes as a well to drink from once a week to keep us energized, creative, in-touch and on-track.

For a while I felt this slowly edging in, and I thought doing daily meditation would help clear and recenter me. Its not that meditation wouldn't work, but that for me, the difference between meditating "cold" or right after an asana practice is so profound that I have absolutely no desire to sit unless I am in the "right" state of mind, even if I have the desire to have the desire.

I think that my small, almost daily, window (a.k.a. nap-time), during which I have to fit all of the computer work that goes into running Enlighten and numerous projects, will be best used to include an asana and meditation practice on the three days each week that I don't teach classes. This is a more important self-discipline I feel then struggling to sit for ten minutes, when I can very clearly feel the alignment of my physical and energetic layers are off and need adjusting, so that the prana can flow as it should. Yes, this is what I feel, and its what you can detect with your senses too, and much more, simply by practicing yoga everyday. It may be 3 hours some days or only 15 minutes a day, but any bit helps expand your consciousness. Then there will come a time when you will know how much it takes to get yourself to the place where you are able to walk taller, meditate joyously, and live from your heart with an extraordinary amount of loving-bliss and brilliant creativity that allow you to be successful at all levels of life.

Balancing the mind and body

There is definately a correlation between stress, fatigue, burnout, thinking too much, not getting outdoors enough and time spent using with technology (TV, computer, phone, video games..). The more time that is spent indoors on a nice day, or in front of the computer, the more a subtle, anxious energy builds up. Pitta, or fire in Ayurvedic terms, or rajas in Vedic terms. There is an imbalance that builds when the body is very inactive and the mind is very active.

The average person spends hours in front of a computer or rushing on the job, both of which speed up brainwaves, then comes home and plops in front of the TV to "rest". We become exhausted from mental exertion, and we zone out in front of the TV, relaxing the body, but keeping the mind sped up, and since we are tired, the mind absorbs all of the imagery like a sponge.

To balance this split between mind and body, try getting movement outside as much as possible, while relaxing the mind by not actively thinking. Enjoy gardening, yardwork, walking, cycling, or hiking for example, or take your yoga practice outside. Whenever possible incorporate practical tasks as to get the job done and not make more "things to do" to stress you out later. Life can be your gym if you embrace it- between chores and outdoor hobbies one can stay very active and fit physically.

It seems that if our physical exertion can match our mental exertion, we start to feel balanced, and after a session, maybe 15-60 enjoyably vigorous (to our own definition) minutes, we are integrated and rejuvenated. We can then relax more fully. Our mind can be more still, even as we move through the rest of our day.

That is why at the culmination of our yogasanas, after the cleansing of pranayama, we are most open to meditation. After we tense and finally release, we are more clear, the lake of the mind more calm, and we can see the bottom more easily.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What do you want to know about Yoga???

I am inspired many times during the day to write, but only have so many chances to actually write. I write to share yoga with the world, and for the benefit of all.

So please let me know-- what would you like to know about yoga (practice, philosophy, lifestyle...)??? I am so inspired to share, and would love to answer specific questions or requests. If I don't have an answer, I can send you in the right direction of one who may have the answer you need.

I am at your service! In loving presence, Laura

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Yoga insights

Guru~ may I be a guru to those that I can be of use to. May I be able to shine the light of unconditionally Loving-Awareness and celebrate the Self in all. I am here to be of service. I-AM here to enrich the earth & beings around me, it is my delight and joy to be useful to others.
Freedom~ true freedom is freedom from the tyranny of the ego, and consciously deciding how to live. Self-control with loving-awareness, living joyfully, compassionately and consciously is bliss. Running amok, packing it all in, quantity over quality and doing anything, anytime, anywhere is not real freedom; it perpetuates ignorance, ignore-ance and contributes to suffering.

Love~ "prem" or "priya" is the love of a mother for her only little baby. Some love Existence/God like a lover loves Beloved. Some love like a friend loves a Friend. Some enjoy the relationship as a subject loves a King. Some experience It as a Parent-child relationship. While I enjoy moments of lover/Beloved occasionally, I very often explore, sample, delight in Life with the holy wonderment of a child. I spend the vast majority of my time loving Life/Earth/God as a mother loves her only precious child, seeking to tenderly serve and pour unconditional Love into all. How do you Love the world?? I am not special, you too have an essence of unconditional loving-awareness. The way it manifests is effected by our age and stage in life's journey.

Practice~ we have to practice. It is as simple as that- check in every day. We can't think its a good idea and not do it. We just have to do it, to the best of our ability, each day. Compassion and consciousness need to be practiced everyday, and with that little effort, big transformations grow!

Dedication~ dedicate everything to something meaningful- to God, to serving others, to compassion and freedom from suffering for all, to unconditional Love and pure consciousness, the the Greater Whole... When you dedicate everything, something inside ignites, and life really responds.
Remember that we are all one. When we serve others we serve our Self.

"It is in the shelter of each other that the people live" ~ Irish proverb

may you be free from suffering and find your bliss and Love, may my offerings serve your path to freedom and Love-bliss. To ALL, everywhere.
Lokah samasta sukhino bhavantu.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

108 nights ~ how meditation prepares us for enlightenment

108 nightly sessions of meditation from 8-7-11 to 11-22-11

I have decided to begin again, a new cycle of nightly meditation in bed. I think diving into Tantra/Mahamudra reminded me to think less and be more, but I also think that what felt so homey about it is how it excuses the laziness and resistence of the ego. To the ego, the small self that doesn't want to disappear, the idea of not challenging oneself with any discipline is exciting.

I was enjoying my sessions until I found an excuse to stop. I was learning a lot from them, and I witnessed so much egoic resistence to practice, although it was actually relaxing and enjoyable.

I won't set a forceful time limit, so ten minutes will be my basic standard, but more as I feel comfortable, following my bliss.

The goal of meditation is to enter consciously into Samadhi, a state of super-consciousness. To enter peretually after years or lifetimes of practice is enlightenment. But initially, entering Samadhi is like falling asleep: one can't force it to happen, one can only present the proper condusive conditions and let it happen naturally. So our practice of asanas, pranayama, bandhas, mudras, and meditation is all designed to prepare our mind and body for the intensity of Samadhi. We prepare, practice and let it happen.

Samadhi versus our typical state of awareness can be likened to electricity: the voltage of typical unconscious living is very low, whereas the voltage of Samadhi is extremely high. So through years or lifetimes of practices, we can cleanse, strengthen and prepare our nervous system, mind and body for that very intense state of consciousness.

In each moment our brain weeds out a vast amount of information, only presenting us with a very simplified version of what is actually pouring in through the senses. As we practice yoga we can handle more information, we become more conscious. We can experience heightened senses and I even find that greater sensitivity translates into occaisional overload, especially in boldly stimulating places such as malls, department stores, grocery stores. Continuing dilligently we can handle the greater and greater load with more and more peace and equinimity.

By practicing our indentification with "the witnessing consciousness", or sakshi in Sanskrit, our indentification with thoughts and body decrease and we abide more and more in a witnessing state, where we have peace and equinimity. From there we can develop the concentration and openess for the experience of Samadhi. From there we begin to live from our heart and in harmony with the higher Self.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Oh, pity us, the lumbering sleepwalkers!

eIn the introduction to Will Johnson's "Yoga of the Mahamudra", he discusses the idea of correlation between degree of human consciousness and how straight and upright the spine is. The straighter we become the more conscious we become.

You might be saying, "hey, well now, aren't we all standing up pretty straight?" No, well, some of us more then others but no. We are much straighter then our ancient ancestors but evolutionarliy speaking, we have more work to do. "What?!" Yes! Check your posture. Even after six years of sleeping, eating, breathing, teaching, living, constantly seeking yoga I am still day by day discovering a new degree of alignment and a new degree of awakening consciousness, and I think that I may have quite a ways to go.

Thankfully, yoga and the awakening of consciousness (and the awakening of alignment, for that matter), is a process-oriented experience-- their isn't a need to struggle or race to the goal, because the goal is the process.

I am not an engineer, but if we talk in basic terms about the body as a structure, we can feel and understand this concept. Think of the four-leggeds, the quadripedal animals. Imagine them standing up onto two legs and prancing around. Oh, isn't the idea of prancing doggies and kitty-cats so cute? :) But seriously, whenever meow-meow and woof-woof come up, they can't stay long, because their entire structure is designed for their four-legged lifestyle. For humans to make the jump from knuckle-dragging apes (said with love) to bipedal beings was nothing short of radical, revolutionary and maybe even random.

Coming from that vision of humankind's two-leggedness, we can now shift to contemplating gravity- a force that we have to work to overcome, or that can effortlessly stabilize us, depending on our alignment. Posture has gone by the wayside, sacrificied to the frantic multi-tasking monster devouring our society. In ages long past, parents consistently worked on their children's last good nerve with postural reminders. Even if it was done just out of ettiquette or tradition or habit, it was quite beneficial. In the last century and especially last few decades, people don't seem to pay attention to their own banana-like posture, let alone their children's, we have just forgotten to care. We plod along like dinosaurs, with the posture of a jumbo shrimp.

There are many factors compounding the Western constellation of issues- illness, unhappiness and unconsciousness- one of which is poor posture. While we stopped paying attention, or where we never thought to pay attention, we have left our bodies to fall slowly into gravity. Most people don't actually think much about posture and bodily structure, how they sit or relax or stand or sleep. To stand in poor alignment increases structural pressure to 150% and to sit slouching increases that preasure to 200% or more. This constant, daily pressure is the equivalent of carrying that much extra weight, it prematurely grinds down joints like the spine and knees. It chokes circulation to a minimum, it starves the major organs very, very slowly. It pinches nerves and diminuishes their ability to function profoundly. It also makes our torso distend, get bloated, feel heavy and look much bigger then it is, making us feel very uncomfortable and unhappy with ourselves. It can cause major digestive issues, including contributing to IBS. We are paying a heavy price for our ignorance and laziness.
If we don't give any thought or attention to how we sit, stand and move, then we are relying on unconscious support, gravity is having its way with us, and we actually spend a lot more energy whenever we sit, stand or move just to stay up. Proper alignment takes months of transition to make it past getting some sore muscles (because they have to strengthen in new ways), and years of transtion to newer and newer levels of straightness and lightness. But its only work for a short while. Once we reach a critical mass point, we suddenly feel horribly uncomfortable if we slouch and have to stand up straight because it just feels so much better.

Consequently, since it takes reminding ourselves every time we notice postural deviation, we also strengthen our ability to be conscious. We have to develop a level of mindfulness, a low-level watching that monitors at least the body position, if not the body's other senses and signals as well. This is where the mind-body consciousness connection becomes clear. As we develop posturally, we develop a clearer and clearer level of consciousness.

So how should we be using our body, to stay well and evolve our brains in all our true bipedal glory?

step by step...
Whatever part of us touches the ground is our foundation- feet or feet and hips when sitting. Feet should be flat (watch how you may be habitually shifting weight to the side of one or both feet!), and especially when standing, should apply a gentle to moderate amount of pressure downward into the earth. Pushing down just a little activates the legs, and those big muscles do the majority of the work of overcoming gravity for us. Next, point the tailbone down toward the earth a little, drawing the lower-belly diagonally up and in, navel toward spine. Continue the gentle lifting upward through the chest, and allow your heart to be held high and openly, shoulders opened out to each side. The muscles in the upper-center area of the back will become much stronger and the chest muscles will need to get a bit looser. Slide the ribs back a bit to place them over the hips, and I know, it feels like leaning back at first, it's okay, it just takes practice.
So, to recap, feet (and hips when sitting) push downward, which encourages a lifting motion. Engage navel to spine and lift and open the chest high, allowing the ribs to slide back over the hips.
The stranger this feels the more important it is that you patiently and dilligently practice EVERYDAY, even weekends and holidays. The more you practice the more quickly it becomes natural. Practicing yoga poses helps speed this process tremendously and make it more comfortable. Working out usually makes it harder, because unconsciously, or maybe unavoidably, when we do resistance training we tend to strengthen our muscles in the same imbalanced patterns we hold all day- in other words the imbalanced tightness-looseness of the muscles is what causes improper posture, so working them out gets them stronger, but at the same level of imbalance- unless you work with a very exceptional personal trainer. ( I can help you with that, actually.)

To work on building proper posture similtaneously stimulates the opening of awareness. When we pay attention to our posture and regularly check in on it, we begin to develop body awareness. We hear the body's signals more clearly, we may even start to listen. In time we have found greater all-over health, we eat better because we feel the effects of junk food, we are more joyful because we are better taken care of, we have less stress because we feel better. Just by practicing better posture, we have practiced better mindfulness. We transition from unconcious living slowly to more and eventually fully conscious living, enlightenment.

So physically and mentally, practicing proper posture is one of the most powerful and important endevors possible. It is crucial. It is the work needed in our times. Through the doorway of the body we become more truly human, more alive, fully conscious. In this very lifetime we make a huge leap in evolution. By finding bodily peace we find mental/emotional peace, and with that, our desire to harm or hate others melts away. We become peace.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

108 Days of Meditation~ sips of mindfulness + dancing with delight

Originally attempted to post July 13, 2011

Inspired by Daniel Odier's book "Desire", I am changing techniques, but retaining my pledge of meditation for 108 days consecutively. Instead of requiring myself to sit in classical meditation for 20 minutes, I am going to take mindfulness breaks for 15-30 seconds each, and I'm aiming for 10 times an hour-every 6 minutes or so. So I will have been present for closer to 30-60 minutes daily, instead of just 20.

The shift from traditional practice is in line with my heart and experiences. I believe that forcing things is never as fruitful as allowing interest or delight to guide the consciousness freely.

I rather enjoy sitting to meditate directly after my asana practice. I can feel such a delightful pulsation of energy throbbing through me, I am joyful to just be. At other times, I'd rather delight in my senses, and get a similar experience from taking in a sunset, tree, fresh air, the wind, my child, colors or textures, sounds, Cooking, cleaning, gardening, movement, playing uninhibitedly with my son... life, I'd rather delight in living life.

It's a very high feeling to live this way. Its highly devotional. It's a kind of ecstatic feeling, like being turned-on or post-sex relaxation, but its not sexual. Its the same high, the same jovial loving-bliss, free of worries, energized but totally smooth and mellow, very sacred. Its like being in love, but without one particular target. I think this is where yoga is leading, what enlightenment is like- a constant loving, blissful, ecstatic state, no hesitation, just intuitive from the heart-center.

It's my asana practice that feeds this level of consciousness, it frees my body and brings it into harmony. My asana practice is a pilgrimage within, a long drink from the well. The rest of my practice is in taking sips while living life boldly and blissfully. By drinking from the Source frequently, a level of peace, openess and joy is maintained and fueled by life itself. Instead of being frustrated because I can't maintain continuous mindfulness, the intention to sip whenever I remember to is powerfully affirmative and profoundly effective. It has brought me full-circle in a mature way.

This is how I intend to practice.

108 Days of Delight: following the rules and seeing how it goes

So again my transformative commitment of 108 days takes a turn. I realize that what I need is to deepen my practice in an unconventional way-- by actually living it even more fully.

This is more challenging because much of my time is spent with my young son. I am frustrated when what I need to do, or think I need to, is met by his sadness: he wants my full attention and I feel the need to do other things. Sadly not all of it is probably necessary at the moment, but I assure you, its pretty paired down. Dishes, cooking, peeing top the list, doing laundry and sometimes sitting with him instead of carrying him when I'm tired. But there are random, inspired bursts of cleaning/organizing, gardening or other creative acts that are very much a meditative/flow state experience for me, that are sometimes met with his joyful participation or happiness to play his own way, or may be faced with his frustration or sadness. I endevor to find my flow without causing him or others any sadness or harm.

But what if I meet his resistance the same way I'd meet my own inner aversion?? What if I trust that the "sweet spot" will be found as it has so many other times, when he will be in the mood to play or sit or help me do some chore, and we enjoy the moment together? What if I let go of another layer of resistance and ignore-ance/ignorance and truly surrender to my body-heart-mind's spontaneous guiadance?

This is how I am deepening my sadhana these 108 days- I am answering each moment spontaneously from my heart-conscience before my brain/ego gets in the way and starts debating. So much guilt, resistence and tension is eliminated by trusting the gut, so to speak. And in that way I am following my bliss. I do whatever non-harmful (non-stressful to myself or others) acts pop in my head without second-guessing or rationalizing them. I speak my heart. I am practicing raw, loving honesty. My quality of mindfulness is improving, because I am following fascination and wonderment of the senses, with whatever I experience. Whatever works. If I feel like asanas, playing wildly and whole-heartedly, seated meditation, getting lost in the sky... I just live from my heart.

In fact today, during walking meditation to the park I took 2 minutes to swing, and it was amazingly blissful and profound. I felt such an expansiveness gazing into the sky and flowing on the swing... I really had to hang on because I was so relaxed I could've just laid down or floated away!

My mindfulness, my moment to moment level of awareness is the greater goal, and it is improving, so I am having success with this experiment. In some ways I output a little bit more energy, but I am getting so much more consciousness, lightness and bliss. I feel myself in that post-yoga-practice spacious-bliss-flow longer, I'm out of it much less then before.

Beautiful things are happening! All it takes is practice and true willingness! Namaste!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Solar Oven: cheap, simple, gourmet, and helping to feed the world"s poorest

Solar Cookers International, sells the CooKit solar panel cooker for US$25 online here.

Check this link to see information related to solar ovens. There is a DIY plan to make your own for under $10, then google up some recipes and cook away. Cook with a solar oven like you would a slow cooker, or you can even bake- the person who gave me the link said he made some AWESOME banana bread in his!

There is information about Solar Cookers International, from which you can purchase a very sleek version of the solar oven for $25, supporting there work in impoverished areas of the world. Places that are ravaged by poverty and disease still use cooking fires, which as romantic as they sound, produce a lot of smoke and force people to keep buying and burning coal or other fuels. The smoke is very unhealthy, especially for someone suffering diseases such as AIDS or who are otherwise weakened, or the young and elderly as well. By providing these solar ovens, SCI is helping people to afford more food and to stay healthier by avoiding smoke, plus doing the earth a favor, reducing burning that releases greenhouse gases.

Plus, I love the idea of putting out a suntea jar and the solar oven on my picnic table, and having a delightful dinner all ready to enjoy al fresco. Keep the house cool, keep power bills lower, and do the earth a favor! Please feel free to send us your favorite solar cooker recipes to share! NAMASTE!