Saturday, April 30, 2011

Jai ma! (Salutations to mother earth!)

I feel so ecstatic I can hardly write. I feel the beat of prana pulsating through me to the rhythm of Aum. I am so alive. Maybe not in samadhi, but certainly somewhere in between, in the doorway between, dervish in the doorway.

Everything is alive, growing, pulsating, reaching to the light and glowing by the night. If I am anything other than an anomoly then its working, this whole Yoga Sadhana, the natural yoga method.

To shut the windows and be closed in the house is to die a little death. I mourn the severing of the umbilical cord of fresh, living breathing air. If I cannot smell that 'nature' smell on my son's hair and on my clothes, we have not been outdoors enough. To be stuck inside is to be half-dead, babbling, stark-raving mad, disconnected. It is a miracle we survive the Winter, but then again, we go out then too. We have to connect to the mother beat, primal spacious experience.

Clear your home of clutter. Throw the windows open- it's all or nothing really, either its too cold to keep your house that temperature or else they are opened all the way. Rip down the curtains and bathe in sunlight. Drink crystal clear pure water, and feel it soak into your insides like water into a dry, thirsty sponge. Say 'thank you' to the water. While you're at it, say 'thank you' to the sun, sky, rain, soil eco-system, plants, insects, birds, farmers, truckers, stockers, and the dinosaur that died a million years ago to create the petroleum that was refined to the diesel that got your food to you. And tell me again how self-reliant you are?! They all danced to bring your wheat to the table. They all sacrificed life force, some surrendered their forms, their life, just so that you, you know who, could sustain your life.

And what will you do with this one very precious life? Will you chase payments, objects, praise and look for something lasting in a world of transience? Or will you be alive so fully in each moment that you remember that you are the dance that dances life into being? Will you live in a way that is limited, polluting, enslaving to yourself and your fellow creatures? Or will you live spacious, loving freedom and set others free with your thoughts, actions, and choices?

Nature is a pure crystalization of the source of life, nature does not manifest contrary to the will of Life Itself. To become one with nature is to be so close to the breath that breathes us all. To be natural is to seperate from all the toxic avenues for mind and body and come home to present moment wholeness, and live every moment in love and non-harm.

Let the breeze caress you, the sun warm your skin, touch the living earth with your bare feet. Contemplate the billion organisms living in every teaspoon of healthy dirt, the interbeing of which is the dirt. Is the dirt a solid object, or an entire world? The rainforests are the lungs of the earth, taking one breath each year, in and out. But we have carved out chunks of her flesh, did she suffer from a cancer called humans? Can a cancer learn to nourish its host and no longer put to death the very ground of its survival? Can we nourish the earth? Can we care more about life and less about plasticy stuff or what rot is on the tube tonight?

Oh mother earth, living, breathing earth. We are just cells in your body, we are cells out of control. Just as our cells are individuals, our tissues are communities, our organs countries, our body a world- so too with you. Let us nourish you while we nourish ourselves. You give us everything we need to live an amazing adventure. We do love you, and we do care. jai ma!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Natural Yoga Method

Enlighten mainly offers Natural Yoga. Here is a little information about it...

Natural Yoga is a blend of mainly Yoga practices and philosophy with Buddhist meditation and philosophy, with a strong focus on respecting, protecting and connecting with nature.

Natural Yoga is based on universal philosophy that compliments all spiritual/religious paths. It offers practical, health-enhancing, life-affrming and inspiring practices intended for daily use.

The most important daily practices are mindfulness, proper posture, non-harm and connection with nature.

Weekly, or ideally, daily asana (Yoga pose) + meditation practice leads to top physical health, mental clarity, confidence, deep peace, greater awareness, and leads one along the path toward enlightenment.

Four Main Ideas:

Vinyasa: (meaningful flow of exeriences) Life is precious and every moment is meaningful. Life is primarily a spiritual journey. It is up to each of us to not waste the gift of life we have been given.

Smriti: (presence/remembrance/mindfulness) Practicing mindfulness (on the breath, on the bodily sensations or on consciouness itself) is the important practice of being present. If we are not present in life, we are absent from life. Mindfulness is a powerful catalyst for growth, transformation and liberation.

Avinaabhava sambandhu: (all life is inextricably interconnected) We slowly realize that all life and everything is thoroughly interconnected. Everything act, thought, and deed counts, all life is sacred, and there is no "time out" from that. The earth is our home and we are ALL inextricably connected to the whole of the planetary and universal eco-systems. We are all inextricably interconnected with all that is.

Ahimsa: (non-harm) recognizing the oneness of all that is, we recognize the right of every being to peace, health and joy. In order to uphold our own joy, we must rise to every opportunity given to us to alleviate the suffering of others. We must not ignore our "heart", but live as a celebration of life.


So many paths... One goal. What is enlightenment? The realization of the oneness of being. What does this mean? First recognizing that all that exists is thus part of the whole of Existence... Then walking the long road and doing the inner work required to dissolve the attatchment to individuality and become whole and wholly connected to all that is. Along the way the mind and body are brought to peak health and harmony. The process unlocks the fullest potential in all ways.

**************************** is being developed to share the philosophy and practices of the natural yoga method. It is up and running, and will be renovated this May, to offer more information and to be presented more neatly.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Seed festival~ grassroots gathering

In connection with enlighten~ yoga + community center we will offer the Seed Festival Grassroots Gathering as an annual event, here in Amsterdam NY.

The event's mission is to offer lots of free information about healthy, eco-friendly, natural and interconnected living; empowering locals to make conscious, informed lifestyle choices and enabling a strong, joyful sense of community.

The gathering is offered as a solution for the common complaint, "there's nothing to do here". To that, we offer the festival, our community center, and a challenge in the form of a motto- "We believe that it is each person's responsiblity to create the kind of community they wish to see. Don't complain! Live vividly, participate, create!"

The debut will be in May or June of next year (2012), and the festival will run from the afternoon into the evening. It will be held at Riverlink Park. There will be information tables set-up by topic, offering free information on subjects like hydration, energy medicine, vegetarian (vegan) lifestyle, yoga, meditation, eco-friendly living and more. There will be a bounceybounce for the kids and a farmers market as well. Artists will be invited to display their works & crafters their wares.

Well-known speakers will be invited. Speakers will offer inspiring information and moving reasons why we should take good care of ourselves and each other. There will be a group meditation offered, and a playful group yoga session.

There will be an abundant and delicious vegan feast for all to enjoy. Donations will be accepted to fund the experience, but admission will be free.

The evening will hold a public yoga chanting workshop, drum circle, and live music. The evening will culminate with a fire-spinning performance.

We will be going for zero-waste, using the least amount of energy possible, selling or offering no food with packaging and selling very inexpensive stainless steel water bottles (with free refils) instead of bottled water. We will purchase carbon offsets after paying our expenses to balance the energy used. Giveaways will include cloth bags and any other eco-friendly items we can get our hands on.

Volunteers and donations will be needed to make this amazing event a reality. If you are an artist, crafter, musician or performer and are interested in participating, please let me know. We need many volunteers- two for each table, four for the water set-up, four for the meal... We will need donations of food, dish service, insurance, PA system, cloth bags, and possibly even the stainless steel water bottles. We will be applying for not-for-profit status very soon, so when that is complete, all donations will be tax-deductable.

Your comments, suggestions, and enthusiasm will also help fuel this project. Very soon T-shirts will be available for order to raise funds for this awesome endevor.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Defining Ishta-devata, How Hinduism is Monotheistic (+ Comparison with Other Religions)

Most people, including most school teachers, think of Hinduism as polytheistic. On the surface, it clearly is, by definition. But in practice and in its cultural context, the main traditional philosophy when read just a little deeper reveals this false appearance.

The main philosophy linked to Hinduism is Vedanta, the philosophy of monism. Monism, not to be confused with monotheism, is the belief that there is only one thing in existence, that all that is is part of one whole, which is the entire contents of reality. This doesn't mean that Hindus can't distinguish a table from a telephone, it means that below the surface, on the quantum level of reality, they believe that all is connected, all is really one. Modern science doesn't exactly disagree, either.

All that is is One. That fundamental Whole, the entirety of reality is what we commonly hear reffered to as God. Even in Christianity, where people tend to personify the concept of God and "trap" God in human form, there is the basic concept that God is 1. Omniscient and 2. Omnipresent. That means that whomever we refer to as God certainly isn't limited to a single human form. God must be everywhere always. This is why Muslims consider it a huge sin to draw or create representations of God, because it betrays what God really is- everything, everywhere, always. Although Hinduism is the only explicitly monist of these three, at their core they agree. Hinduism is monotheistic and monoist. Islam and Christianity are monotheistic, and hint at the concept of monism. Islam integrates that concept fluidly in its Sufi branch, which is ecstatically monist. It is amazing how diverse the cultural wrappings are, and how one and unified the essence is!

And it is to this cultural wrapping we will speak next. Although monotheistic and monist at heart, undoubtedly there are a number of Gods and Goddesses in Hinduism. How can this be? Well, how can all of us exist in a world that is just one Whole? These Gods and Goddesses each embody a different aspect of the fundamental Reality, a quality of God. Each one is a piece of God. Each of these representations has a long set of allegorical stories, mantras, songs, images. Each God has a Shakta, a Goddess. They come in pairs, like Yin and Yang. Hindu families will worship one particular aspect of God or pair over all others, that is their Ishta-devata. The purpose of this whole confusing concept is to allow the worshiper to 1. Learn values and spiritual qualities from the stories, 2. Form a personal relationship with their form of God, to be able to Love God.

It is hard for some to feel devotion to an indescribable reality, while loving and honoring a representation of that Reality in the form of human incarnation, through teaching-stories, songs, mantras, and festivals is easier for most people to live.

There is a time in our spiritual evolution to go beyond the forms, the representations, the limited image of the Indescribable. However, the Ishta-devata concept serves many well, for many lifetimes before they are ready to "go beyond". In fact, in Christiany, Jesus Christ is an Ishta-devata, considered an incarnation of the Divine. Through loving Jesus, by hearing his teachings and story of his life and sacrifice, through singing songs, Alleluiah and Amen, people form a personal, devoted relationship to the Divine. Islam, most recent in the trilogy of the Abrahamic religions, does away with this concept- Jesus is a revered prophet, not embodiment of God, and this is the difference and root of rivalry between the two.

Interestingly, Buddhism teaches the same concept we have defined as God- the existence one unified Ultimate Reality manifested in the multitude forms, but uses no term God. The Buddha taught that to try to describe the indescribable and to label what is far beyond labelling was simply not to be done. One can only experience Ultimate Reality through very deep meditation, but words were hollow in trying to convey it. So experience, not labelling or describing, is the Buddhist path. Many think that belief in God is not possible in Buddhism, but it is there, pointed to and not trapped in forms or labels. This really agrees with the Islamic value of not limiting God by representation in any image or form.

Ishta-devata is very powerful and useful to so many people, helping them to strengthen their faith in Ultimate Reality and to practice their values dilligently, to be the very best and highest they can. It is the heart of Bhakti- devotional practice of chanting, loving and trying to see the Beloved everywhere in everyone and everything. In Bhakti, ones personal relationship with God becomes ones personal relationship with life itself, loving until all distinction between lover, beloved and loving merges into wholeness, Yoga (union/wholeness).

Saturday, April 16, 2011

New Bolivian Law Will Give the Earth Rights

New Bolivian Law Would Give Rights to Nature

By Erin La Rosa, ecorazzi

It’s an annoying fact that not everyone recycles or turns the lights off or makes efforts to so much as conserve water. So, what if the government stepped in and forced everyone to do all of those things?

That’s what lawmakers in Bolivia are taking steps toward with their “Law of Mother Earth” bill. It’s a piece of legislation that would grant nature equal rights to humans.

The laws would be the first of their kind, with 11 in total, and would recognize that the planet has an equal right to be protected.

The Guardian outlined the laws as: “the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.”

Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera said when describing the new law, “Earth is the mother of all…the harmony [between man and nature] must be preserved as a guarantee of its regeneration.”

The South American country has been threatened by environmental changes, with temperatures steadily increasing and its glaciers (a source of water and electricity for them) disappearing at rapid rates.
Hopefully Bolivia’s bold move will lead to laws like this being implemented elsewhere!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Brief Insight Into the Differences Between the modern Schools of Buddhism

In the original Buddha's day, he was the only cat in town. Over the first few hundred years after his passing, numerous schools began to appear due to differences in interpretations or emphasis on certain teachings. This is a very general overview to just introduce you to the broadest and most basic differences between the schools. In each Buddhist country in Asia, there are local differences as it was adapted and evolved uniquely once it arrived.


THERAVADA~ ("the elder's way") the oldest branch surviving, they emphasize the important of reaching enlightment for oneself. They source "the Pali canon" of texts and use terms in Pali. Vipassana meditation is a main practice.

MAHAYANA~ ("the greater vehicle") The broadest branch, this includes many diverse schools of Buddhism, including Zen, Vajrayana and more. The unifying element is the teaching of Bodichitta- the Bodhisattva vow: cultivating one's enlightenment not just for oneself, but out of devotion to the well-being of all others. There are source writings in Sanskrit and in vernacular languages in each coutry, perhaps especially in Japanese.

VAJRAYANA BUDDHISM: Tibetan Buddhism, of which His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the head. Tibetan Buddhism uses various unique meditation techniques, including visualizations, prayer wheels, calm abiding (very similar to vipassana) and more. There is a merging between the indigenous beliefs and worldview (Bon) and Buddhism, which results in a very rich, unique form of living practice.

ZEN BUDDHISM: mainly thought of as a Japanese school, there are Zen schools in China (where its called Chan), Vietnam and other Buddhist countries. Zen is known for its paring down of everything to its simplest form. Its main practice is mindfulness. Seated and walking meditation are used, along with verses, stories and riddles to help the mind come deeply into the here and now. Zen practitioners generally spend a lot of time meditating on the cushion.

ENGAGED BUDDHISM: Thich Nhat Hanh, actually a Vietnamese Zen monk, founded Engaged Buddhism (and monks order of Interbeing) during the Vietnam War to help encourage monks, nuns and lay practitioners to take there practice beyond the meditation hall to be peace and share peace as compassionate activists. Thay (Vietnamese for teacher), encourages mindfulness practiced equally in all moments, not just on the cushion. This is a Zen teaching, but Thay seems to make it even more practical and accessible for the lay person.

NICHIREN BUDDHISM: a Japanese school of Buddhism based on Nichiren, a Buddhist reformer. This schools focuses on studying the Lotus Sutra as the Buddha's ultimate teaching, chanting the Lotus Sutra, and its title in Japanese (namo myoho renge kyo) in front of a special altar (the gohonzon) representative of the journey to Buddhahood.

There are many other schools, but these are some of the main ones you will encounter. Following what intrigues you, you can look deeper into that which resonates for you. This way you may find inspiring practices to serve and uplift your life.

Modern Yoga Lineage~ about contemporary schools of Yoga + their roots


 Sri Krishnamacharya~ Father of modern Yoga:


"Krishnamacharya is known today in the world of yoga, because he was the teacher of  B.K.S.  Iyengar,  Pattabhi Jois, and TKV Desikachar, three of the great teachers of contemporary yoga.  As such he has been called by some the father of modern yoga. Shri Krishnamacharya’s lineage can be traced to the Yogi Nathamuni, a ninth century South Indian saint who was renowned for his great works in Sanskrit and Yoga – the Nyayatattva and Yoga Rahasya.
Krishnamacharya was born on November 18, 1888, at Muchukundapuram in the Chitradurga district in the State of Karnataka. His parents, Shri Tirumalai Srinivasa Tatacharya and Smt. Ranganayakamma were of distinguished ancestry and lived their lives according to the shastras. Krishnamacharya was the eldest of three brothers and three sisters.
Krishnamacharya had his initial education under his father who taught him the Vedas, yoga sutras of Patanjali and the other religious texts in the traditional gurukula (pupil in the house of the guru) manner. The seeds of yoga were also sown in young Krishnamacharya by his father. He would be woken at two in the morning and made to chant the Vedas and perform asanas. His father who was his first guru planted the seeds of knowledge in him, encouraged and guided him in his quest for learning. He lost this precious guidance at the age of ten when his father died.
At the age of 16, the entire family then moved to Mysore to join his great grandfather who was the head of the Parakala Math. It is here that he studied Vyakarana (Sanskrit grammar), Vedanta and Tarka (logic) under the religious Guru to the Maharaja of Mysore. His thirst for knowledge increased and at the age of 16 he took the examination in Purva Mimamsa and the different shastras at the Maharaja Sanskrit College in Mysore.  In his early adult life he studied with the pundits in Benares (Varanasi), and further studies on the Vedanta and advance Sanskrit grammar in Mysore before returning to Benares.
Once while he was practising asanas as taught by his father in Banaras, a saint saw him and advised him to study yoga under Shri Jha who had the title of Yogacharya. Yogacharya Jha advised Krishnamacharya that if he was seriously interested in Yoga, then he must travel beyond Nepal to Tibet, where Rama Mohana Brahmachari lived. He also  recommended a book called Yoga Kurunta in the Gurkha language, which gave practical information on Yoga and health.  this knowledge secured Krishnamacharya the permission he needed  to leave the country when he was unable to improve the health of the Indian viceroy who was ill with diabetes. The viceroy was so pleased, that he made the necessary arrangements, provided clothing and even sent to aides with him.
After a long trek across the Himalayas,  Krishnamacharya reached the sacred lake Mansarovar near Mount Kailash. There he searched for Rama Mohana Brahmachari and on finding him Krishnamacharya prostrated and requested him to accept him as his disciple. Krishnamacharya became a part of Rama Mohana Brahmachari’s family and lived there for seven and a half years. For the first three years he memorised the entire texts including the Yoga Kurunta. The following three years he practiced yogabhyasa (Study of Yoga)and the next one and a half years he studied sikshana (teaching) and chikitsa krama (yoga therapy). His Guru then asked him to return to society, lead a married life and spread the message of yoga.
After these 7 years of study, he came back to South India and studied Ayurveda, the traditional Indian system of medicine. His fame as a great scholar led to an invitation from the Mahraja of Mysore Krishnamacharya accepted the offer and lived the remainder of his life devoted to the spread and teaching of yoga. In accordance with his Guru’s wishes that he should live a life of a householder – he married Namagiriammal in 1925.

After Indian independence and the close of the Maharaja’s yogashala,  Krishnamacharya   and his family left Mysore  for Madras.  as he aged Krishnamacharya’s teaching style changed.  Iyengar said of him "in the early days, he was like a militant. He was a  fierce, strong, demanding individual. Pattabhi Jois  echoes this saying "if you came one minute early or one minute late you would not be allowed into class. He demanded total discipline and was very tough." His son Desikachar, who did not begin yoga studies with his father until Krishnamacharya was 70 says " Later on, he changed and began to teach people differently. He began to cater to the needs of the individual, rather than to teach everyone the same way.  His teaching methodology also involved, which meant that he reduced and adapted it to the needs of individuals, to their culture and mentality. It was not standardization of their "everyone has to do this asana" variety. Although many considered him a Yoga Master he continued to call himself a student because he felt that he was always “studying, exploring and experimenting” with the practice.
T. Krishnamacharya died in 1989, just after his 100th birthday. His work lives on through his son T.K.V. Desikachar who lived and studied with his father for 3 decades. Sri Desikachar still lives in the family home in Chennai and is semi-retired so that he can spend his days translating the library of work that T. Krishnamacharya left for future generations of yogis. So Krishnamacharya will be providing us with yoga teachings for many years to come. He lives on through these teachings and the family that is carefully disseminating them to the world.
T. Krishnamacharya’s work was revolutionary in his time because he believed that yoga was universal to all people, irrespective of age, gender, culture, faith, abilities and interests. He is one of the few masters of m modern times who understood the whole gamut of yoga’s tools and their potentials for health and healing. For him yoga was not merely a form of physical exercise, but one that helped us in our journey towards our authentic selfs."

Modern Teachers + Schools Descending from this Lineage...

Sri Krishnamacharya taught B.K.S.  Iyengar,  Pattabhi Jois, and TKV Desikachar.

Iyengar Yoga- a modern school that is known for using lots of modifications and props to create a very safe, effective and therapeutic Yoga practice.

TKV Desikachar has taught many teachers to work one-on-one with a thoroughly customized Yoga program for each student, taking after his father's later teachings.

K. Pathabi Jois, founder of modern Ashtanga Yoga, has taken after Sri Krishnamacharya in that he has taught many of the most notable teachers of the "second generation" of modern Yoga...

"Jois was born on July 26, 1915, (Guru Pūrṇimā, full moon day) in the village of Kowshika,[3] near Hassan, Karnataka, South India.
Jois's father was an astrologer, priest, and landholder. From the age of 5 he was instructed in Sanskrit and rituals by his father, as were all Brahmin boys. No one else in his family had learned yoga or even professed interest in it.[4]
In 1927, at the age of 12, Jois attended a lecture and demonstration at the Jubilee Hall[5] in Hassan by T. Krishnamacharya[6] and became his student the very next day. For two years Jois remained in Kowshika and practiced with Krishnamacharya every day. Jois never told his family he was practicing yoga. He would rise early, go to practice, and then go to school.
In 1930, Jois ran away from home to Mysore to study Sanskrit, with 2 rupees.[1][7] Around the same time Krishnamacharya departed Hassan to teach elsewhere. Two years later, Jois was reunited with Krishnamacharya, who had also made his way to Mysore. During this time, the Maharaja of Mysore, Krishna Rajendra Wodeyar, had become seriously ill and it is said that Krishnamacharya had healed him, through yoga, where others had failed. The Maharaja became Krisnamacharya's patron and established a Yoga shala for him on the palace grounds. Jois often accompanied Krishnamacharya in demonstrations.[8] Krishnamacharya remained in Mysore with Jois until 1941, when he left for Madras after the death of the Maharaja.
Jois remained in Mysore and married a young woman named Savitramma[7] (but who came to be known as Amma), on the full moon of June 1937 when Jois was 21 years old. In 1948 they, with the help of Jois' students, purchased a home in the section of town called Lakshmipuram, where they lived with their children Saraswathi, Mañju and Ramesh.
He held a teaching position in yoga at the Sanskrit College[8] of Maharaja from 1937 to 1973,[9] becoming vidwan (professor) in 1956,[9] as well as being Honorary Professor of Yoga at the Government College of Indian Medicine from 1976 to 1978.[10] He taught there until 1973, when he left to devote himself fully to teach yoga at his yoga shala. He had studied texts such as the Patañjali Yoga Darśana, Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā, Yoga Yajñavalkya and the Upaniṣads,[10] and in 1948, he established the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute at their new home in Lakshmipuram.[11]
In 1964, a Belgian named André Van Lysebeth (1919–2004) spent two months with Jois learning the primary and intermediate asanas of the Ashtanga Yoga system. Not long afterwards, van Lysebeth wrote a book called J'apprends le Yoga (1967, English title: Yoga Self-Taught) which mentioned Jois and included his address. This marked the beginning of westerners coming to Mysore to study yoga.[7] His students included Madonna, Sting and Gwyneth Paltrow.[6] All his students, including the celebrities and his grandson, received the same training.[7]
His first trip to the West was in 1974 to South America, to deliver a speech in Sanskrit at an international yoga conference.[9] In 1975 he stayed for four months in Encinitas, California, marking the beginning of Ashtanga yoga in the US.[12] He would return to the US several times over the next 20 years, to teach yoga at Encinitas and elsewhere.[12]
He wrote his only book, Yoga Mālā, in Kannada in 1958, and it was published in 1962, but was not published in English until 1999.[12] A film was made about him by Robert Wilkins.[13]
Jois continued to teach at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, now located in the neighbourhood of Gokulam,[3] with his only daughter Saraswathi Rangaswamy (b. 1941) and his grandson Sharath[8] (b. 1971), until May 18, 2009 when he died aged 93 of natural causes."

Ashtanga Students (they have also studied other schools as well) that became influential teachers included 

Shiva Rea (Prana Flow) (
David Life (Jivamukti Yoga) (
Baron Baptiste, 
John Friend (Anusara Yoga) and others. 

Other Influential schools of modern Yoga include:

Anusara Yoga:  Started by John Friend.

Kundalini Yoga: Founded by Yogi Bhajan

Bikram Yoga: Begun by Bikram Chodhury

Integral Yoga: Founded by Swami satchidananda

SivanandaYoga Vedanta: Founded by Swami Sivananda (Swami satchidananda's guru) 


Sai Baba Quotes to Inspire You~

Man learns through experience, and the spiritual path is full of different kinds of experiences. He will encounter many difficulties and obstacles, and they are the very experiences he needs to encourage and complete the cleansing process.

Do not be misled by what you see around you, or be influenced by what you see. You live in a world which is a playground of illusion, full of false paths, false values and false ideals. But you are not part of that world.

Let love flow so that it cleanses the world. Then man can live in peace, instead of the state of turmoil he has created through his past ways of life, with all those material interests and earthly ambitions.

Life is a song - sing it. Life is a game - play it. Life is a challenge - meet it. Life is a dream - realize it. Life is a sacrifice - offer it. Life is love - enjoy it.

Look out into the universe and contemplate the glory of God. Observe the stars, millions of them, twinkling in the night sky, all with a message of unity, part of the very nature of God.

Love one another and help others to rise to the higher levels, simply by pouring out love. Love is infectious and the greatest healing energy.

Man is lost and is wandering in a jungle where real values have no meaning. Real values can have meaning to man only when he steps on to the spiritual path, a path where negative emotions have no use.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

April~ teaching of the month: Exploring what Yoga is + the benefits of practice

Exploring what Yoga is + the benefits of practicing...

All month in the studio and on our blog we will explore the meaning of Yoga and ways in which regular practice benefits real life. Yoga means "union" or "to yoke, or join". Yoga practice includes numerous styles and types of techniques, the most common being meditation, poses, specific dietary choices, breathing techniques, voluntary service to others, study of philosophy and chanting. Yoga science came out of India, with some practices rooted in philosophical teachings as old as 3,000 years or much more.
Since the philosophy is based in psychology and simple morality, the teachings are timeless and universally applicable. They in fact, compliment and encourage a deepening of one's own spiritual path. The purpose of practice is to create unshakeable health and peace in the mind and body; to encourage "mindfulness", a more open but focused level of attention, which joins mind with body in the present moment; and ultimately, to achieve enlightenment, which is defined as the realization of the ultimate oneness of being, the oneness of all life. (more on enlightenment another month!)
Sadhana, or Yogic practice, can consist of a many or as few components as you wish. The most basic components would be poses, meditation, mindfulness, and some form of study with a teacher or books. In order to redeem benefits, one must practice consisently over time, even if it is only once each week. The effect is cumulative- the skills develop over time. Practicing 2-3 times per week is even better, and 6-7 days per week is ideal.
Benefits manifest through the body and mind, on and off the Yoga mat. Here are some common benefits, but not the only possibilities:

  • increased flexibility, strength, muscle tone
  • maintain and come to a natural, healthy weight
  • reduced aches and pains
  • improved posture, which carries numerous benefits unto itself, including protecting joints from abnormal wear
  • improved immunity, digestion
  • stimulating and re-aligning spine, encouraging optimal nerve functioning
  • tonifying all major organs and glands, benefiting overall health and wellness, disease management + prevention
  • increased mental clarity and focus
  • increased self-confidence, self-image
  • increased patience, calm and ability to handle stress comfortably
  • reduced effects or occurance of anxiety and depression
  • increased positivity, satisfaction in life, everyday happiness
  • inspires and encourages creativity
  • benefits interpersonal relationships and conflict resolution skills
  • heightened body awareness and mindfulness (which contain numerous benefits as well)
Yoga practice is well worth the time, as it benefits every aspect of health and life. It only requires that we are interested and regular in our efforts. It is said that when the student is ready the teacher will arrive. If you want to manifest these benefits and more, just practice. It will unfold in the best way for your path.
Offered with Love,
~Laura Harrison

yogini, environmentalist, artist, activist, creator of Natural Yoga Method, founder of Enlighten

The Yoga of Sustainability


All of us certainly take paper for granted, which is a shame in general, but especially considering the majesty and miracle of living trees. These gorgeous, ancient plants are the very lungs of the Earth. Rumi likens them to ecstatic Sufis in dancing prayer. Too many people think too little of these incredible lifeforms. Here are some ideas for conserving precious trees.

Whenever you do purchase paper products, especially notebooks and toilet tissue, please choose 100% recycled, post-consumer content if possible. Tree-free is even better.

Whenever you use paper, make sure to use both sides and recycle or compost it when it has completed its useful life. You can use an old blender to puree used paper and spread it onto a screen to make decorative or perhaps functional, papers. Use every scrap of paper to the max-- including art projects such as collage and paper mache (a great use for magazine and catalogs). If you aren't crafty check your local library or school to see if they can make use of your old magazines.  

Stop buying tissues, paper towels and paper napkins. Use cloth napkins and kitchen towels instead. Turn old soiled T-shirts or ripped up, old towels for the truly gross stuff. (and remember that you can compost old cloth bits.) Use handkerchiefs. Flannel clothes make soft and durable hankies that don't cause soreness on your nose when you are sick. When eating out, be bold and bring a cloth napkin, or use the minimal amount of paper napkins possible, and reuse or compost them after. Dry your hands on your shirt if no hand dryer is available in public restrooms. Speak out and request cloth napkins and hand dryers at your local eateries, or at least encourage a change to unbleached, 100% recycled paper napkins. 

Hemp, kenaf, banana and sugarcane are some of the options for computer and notebook papers, and for the stubborn, even paper plates and napkins. Using reusable dishes are always preferable, but if they are not possible, there are even elegant, compostable plates made from fallen leaves! Plant fibers are ecologically preferable to plastics and Styrofoams, so it is great that finally there are many alternative options to using trees.

When it comes to furniture, nothing is more study and healthful than real wood. Pressboards and cheap composite and laminated faux woods are filled with poisonous chemicals. Using fallen trees or wood from sustainably managed forests is a viable solution. Don't be afraid to ask for documentation as to the source of the wood- never trust just the word or suggestion on a label. False representation can happen on accident, so don't let your wishful thinking lead you into a harmful choice.

Fast-growing and durable, bamboo is a versitile and highly renewable choice for flooring. Cork too, fascinatingly, is renewable because the tree still lives while a certain degree of its wood is harvested every so often. Both make excellent choices for wood flooring. Marmoleum brand flooring is another sustainable and natural option for elegant, functional, healthy, and environmentally-kind flooring.

One of the only times when plastic is a better choice environmentally- recycled content plastic lumber, perfect for decks and similar outdoor building. Durable, there is no need to refinish or ever use any chemicals on it- making it safe and practical.

One way to help is to of course plant trees, or donate to arboretums- plant conservatories, that often care for precious old-growth forests. You can also donate to organizations such as The Arbor Day Foundation that plant trees.

If you have enough of a savings, you could simply buy a forested piece of land.  Influencial Yoga teachers Sharon Gannon and David Life have done just that- maintaining a 125-acre forest sanctuary near Woodstock, NY. Perhaps you can't find or afford that large of a space, but no matter how small it is, you are helping the trees and the entire eco-system by preserving precious forest land and allowing it to remain wild and natural. Never be discouraged by the size of the action, remain inspired by the intention.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Only goals accomplished in love can succeed... How I came to Yoga

Too many people pack into gyms with negative self-image broiling within, prodding them, in self-depreciating punishment, to work-out in retribution for some state of unworthiness. I know, because many years ago, I was one of those people. Not everyone at the gym is in that state, but many people are and to varying degrees.

Any goal we wish to accomplish, be it physical, mental or spiritual, can be fueled in two ways: with a wholesome, peace-driven and compassionate energy or with a sort of grinding, rocky sense of self-loathing.

Either we think that we are not worthy of compassion in some way, or we have learned that habit of poor self-image and never investigated it, but that self-depreciating attitude colors everything in our lives. Interpersonal relationships are rotten from the inside when one or both partners are in that state. The negativity leeches through into shared space and kills the joy of loving, of living. It crushes creativity, health, inner peace and joy. It pushes others away. Children learn it like a deadly, contagious disease. And any goal which we accomplish with that negative energy will inevitably lead to suffering, it will come undone. We truly have to learn to love ourselves before everything else in life can work smoothly.

When people said that in front of me, as a teenager, I felt rage! How clearly, I thought, must they be foolish! Of course I was capable of love. I loved others, just not myself I thought. But that love was hot/cold and dependent on my mood. It was qualified and attached love for the most part. I gave of myself as much as I knew how, but my lack of consistent inner peace wrecked one of the most important relationships in my life.

No matter how toned, tight or tiny I became, at 2 hours a day in the gym, I still had no peace. It was as if my weight were a golf score- the lower it was the better of a person I felt like. I suffered so many digestive problems, and was always so hungry. I counted calories like a tyrant, and was so strict it wasn't real. I'd be so hungry that I'd binge at times, because I was so very hungry and my body was wearing out. Somehow, I realized that I couldn't live like that anymore.

I couldn't tell you exactly how, since I had about 10 minutes experience with Yoga previously, and had said that I had no time for it because my "real workout" took too much time everyday, but somehow, all I wanted to do was learn Yoga. I printed poses off the internet and practiced without knowing anything at all. Within a few months I was moving to Miami and undertook a Yoga teacher training.

Once at the ashram, while studying, and once a few years later, I had an opening, a huge release of past tensions, negativity and blockages. It hit me like a wave of depression, and I had to cry, sob, weep, loud and long. The first time, I felt miraculously relieved right away, and strolled back to the ashram on the beach filled with love, gratitude and light. The second time it was foggier, and took a few weeks or more to assimilate. I beleive these kinds of openings are common at certain points on the path. They help us to burst open and shed our previous skin, leaving behind the mistake of self-loathing, of judgement, of poisonous negativity.

Over the years, I literally had to gain back all that weight I lost so painfully and finally lose it all over again in a self-loving way. I don't know what I weigh anymore and don't care to know. I am happy with my self and my body, I am healthy and that's what matters. But its funny that by my old standards, my body gets better all the time. Once I stopped beating my brains out trying to get it, once I surrendered and finally found some peace, then it came, once I had given it up!

I have practiced dilligently, to the best of my awareness, since then. Slowly over the next few years I was completely cured of my tragic self-image issues. Having a child and recommitting to veganism killed the rest of those negative seeds. Now I have great inner peace. I am content with who I am, my body, and my life. I am not enlightened by any means, but I am on the path everyday, inch by inch, breath by breath feeling really beautiful changes in my heart and life.

I am here to attest that if you don't have self-love or inner peace, make THAT the goal. The body or beauty or riches will come by that path, or by none at all.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

5 Easy to Grow Natural Remedies


Read more:

By Dorothy Foltz-Gray, Natural Solutions
Luckily, you don’t have to head to landscaping school to create a medicinal garden. You don’t even need a backyard, since many healing plants do well in containers. Growing herbs is so simple that even people who routinely kill houseplants will find they can do it. Many herbs, in fact, thrive on benign neglect; the less water they get, the stronger their medicinal compounds. And in most cases, there’s no need to fertilize them. Turning the herbs into soothing teas and tinctures is easy, too. Below, we’ve picked five of our favorites and asked experts to help us understand just how to grow and harvest them—and how to transform them into aromatic, and often tasty, healers.
What it’s good for: Sharpening memory
When British herbalist Anne McIntyre was a student, she kept rosemary sprigs on her desk during classes, squeezing the oils onto her hands. “The scent stimulates blood flow to the brain and aids concentration,” says McIntyre, author of The Medicinal Garden and ten other herb-related books. Years later, science came to the same conclusion. In a 1998 study, University of Miami researchers exposed 40 adults to three minutes of rosemary scent. The group showed increased alertness and worked math problems faster—and no less accurately—than they had before the aromatherapy session.
How To Grow It: Rosemary is a Mediterranean plant, thriving in sun and well-drained soil. If your winters are very cold, grow it in a pot and take the pot inside for the winter. It’s hard to grow from seed, so start with a plant. Or cut a spike from a friend’s plant at the woody end. Add rooting hormone (available at plant centers) to light soil, insert the cutting, and chances are it will root.
How To Use It: Ancient scholars used to wear wreaths of rosemary around their heads, but you don’t have to go that far. Nurse Dorie Byers, author of Herbal Remedy Gardens, simmers a cup of rosemary needles in two quarts of uncovered water, letting the smell waft through the house whenever she’s doing brain work. Or you can brew rosemary tea, adding one to two teaspoons of rosemary needles to one cup boiling water. Steep it for five minutes, strain the herbs, add a squirt of lime juice, and enjoy.....

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Enlighten~ing offerings for all ages:

Since growing into a community center we are beginning to spring to life and blossom with fresh new ideas + offerings. We strive to serve the whole community. Here is a list of our current + future offerings for children, teens and adults.

For kids: (6 mos. to 10 yrs):

*little yogi playgroup

*sprout yoga for toddlers

*family yoga

*afterschool yoga program for ages 5-7 + 8-10

*we are hoping to have kindermusik, speech therapy + art therapy someday

For youth (11 to 18):

*welcome in any adult yoga class

*opportunity to start their own groups at Enlighten

*hope to have a monthly Friday Night Dance Rave 8-10pm: no drugs, no alcohol, no shoes. Just loud music and dancing.

*Inspiring information about volunteerism + volunteer travel opportunities around the world

*hope to soon have poi spinning classes

For adults:

*yoga + meditation classes

*private lessons

*inspiring volunteerism and service travel info

*hope to have poi spinning classes soon

*hope to have summer retreats beginning in the next couple years

*summer "introspective art" workshop series

If you would like to make suggestions, volunteer, or perhaps offer your holistic service at Enlighten, please let us know! Namaste!

Marsh Mallo Farm: Locally Growing Gorgeous Organic Heirloom Produce

Purple Topped Turnip - Heirloom - TerritorialPurple Topped Turnip - Heirloom - TerritorialPurple Topped Turnip - Heirloom - Territorial Purple Topped Turnip - Heirloom - Territorial 
Purple Topped Turnip - Heirloom - Territorial
Roodnerf Brussels Sprouts - Open-Pollinated - Territorial
Roodnerf Brussels Sprouts - Open-Pollinated - Territorial
Golden Zucchini - Heirloom - Seedsavers
Golden Zucchini - Heirloom - Seedsavers
Black Beauty Zucchini - Heirloom - Seedsavers
Black Beauty Zucchini - Heirloom - Seedsavers
Turk’s Turban Squash - Heirloom - Seedsavers
Turk’s Turban Squash - Heirloom - Seedsavers
Fairytale Pumpkin - Open-Pollinated - Territorial
Fairytale Pumpkin - Open-Pollinated - Territorial
Long Island Cheese Pumpkin - Heirloom - Seedsavers
Long Island Cheese Pumpkin - Heirloom - Seedsavers
Regatta Spinach - F1 Hybrid - Territorial
Regatta Spinach - F1 Hybrid - Territorial
Guardsmen Onion - Open-Pollinated - Territorial
Guardsmen Onion - Open-Pollinated - Territorial
Red Head Radish - Open-Pollinated - Territorial
Red Head Radish - Open-Pollinated - Territorial
California Wonder 300 - Open-Pollinated - Territorial
California Wonder 300 - Open-Pollinated - Territorial
Super Sugar Snap Pea - Open-Pollinated - Territorial
Super Sugar Snap Pea - Open-Pollinated - Territorial
Oregon Sugar Pod II - Open-Pollinated - Territorial
Oregon Sugar Pod II - Open-Pollinated - Territorial
Ching Chiang Pac Choi -
Ching Chiang Pac Choi -
Crown of Thorns - Heirloom -Seedsavers
Crown of Thorns - Heirloom -Seedsavers
Cobham Improved Marrow - Open-Pollinated - Territorial
Cobham Improved Marrow - Open-Pollinated - Territorial
Thai Green Eggplant - Heirloom - Seedsavers
Thai Green Eggplant - Heirloom - Seedsavers