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.