Goodbye with Love

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108 yoga

Tears ran down my face as we chanted Om, pressed our palms together in namaste and bowed to give thanks.

Tonight was the closing ceremony for my yoga studio. My beloved sanctuary – 108 Yoga – is closing. The sangha – our wonderful little community of yogis and yoginis – gathered to practice and offer gratitude for this space and the people who have filled it with intention, love, knowledge, shakti, laughter, and joy.

I stepped into this cozy studio six years ago a much different person than I am today. It was here that I was broken open and put back together again to be the woman I am today.  I was introduced to amazing teachers, teachings and fellow seekers – not of perfect bodies but rather of connection to self. I completed my yoga teacher training here with a wonderful group of women. And it was at 108…

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Chakra System of the Universal Mother

Sanskrit scholar and teacher of Tantrik Shaivism, Christopher Tompkins, traveled to the University of Jammu and Kashmir in 2012 to study a vast collection of ancient and revered Tantric works. The Jagad Mātā scroll presented in this video is one of these incredible texts. Wow. What a find!

“The Jagad Mātā Scroll (ca. 13th century) pre-dates all translated sources on the subtle body currently available. It contains a rich tapestry of empowering chakra symbolism omitted in all sources for the chakras currently in translation, and takes us far deeper into the known chakras (mūlādhāra, svādhisthāna, maṇipūra, anāhata, viśuddha, and ājnā) than any text available in translation today.”

– Christopher Tompkins

Yoga is…

Yogais-header

Ok. So I talk about yoga a lot. I can’t help it. When I’m passionate about something, I share the love. And because I do, I’ve been asked a time or two, “what is yoga all about?” Oh, where do I start? Honestly, I rarely give the same answer twice. Just when I think I know what “yoga is”, I have a new experience or discover a new description, definition, quote, etc, which alters, elevates, or deepens my understanding.

Yoga really has to be experienced to be understood. But saying, “you have to try it to know it”, seems to fall short for inquiring minds. So I’ve Googled, flipped through books, reviewed my notes, and asked a handful of teachers to see how they answer this age old question.

My discovery? The explanations are esotheric, practical, intellectual, thought-provoking, feel good, challenging, and philosophical. 

So what will I say the next time I’m asked, “what is yoga all about?”  Only time (and circumstance) will tell.  Today, I answer….yoga is my way to say hey there, how are you, I love you.

I hope you enjoy the growing list I’ve started here, and you’ll consider sharing your favourites with me.

Yoga is a Science

Yoga is a System

Yoga is Union

Yoga is a Way to Connect with the Self

  • A method for increasing awareness of the inner self (Yoga, Mastering the Basics, Sandra Anderson and Rolf Sovik)
  • Connection to the authentic self (Barron Baptiste)
  • Relation; means; union; knowledge; matter; logic; upaya (path) (Yoga Mala, Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois)
  • A tremendous opportunity to be honest with yourself. It’s like looking through a magnifying glass at yourself. And when you begin to see yourself as you really are, if you take the time to look, you get to manage your life in a different way (Yoga Is film, Eddie Modestini)
  • The way of establishing the mind in the Self…the means by which the mind is directed toward the Self and prevented from going toward outside objects…the means to the realization of one’s true self (Yoga Mala, Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois)

Yoga is a Path

  • a universal path as well as traditional teachings and practices to cultivate and realize our full potential (Shiva Rea)

Yoga is a Journey

  • A journey that culminates in sublime success and happiness (Rod Stryker)

Yoga is a Practice

  • Practices and techniques that are ultimately meant to lead you to an experience in which you recognize both the fullest, most essential part of yourself and the grandeur of the magnificence of the life around you (The Four Desires, Rod Stryker)
  • 99 percent practice and one percent theory (Sri Pattabhi Jois)
  • The backbone of every beginning class is practice – postures combined with breath training and systematic relaxation (Himalayan Institute)

Yoga is a Heightened Way of Being

Yoga is Skillful Living

Yoga is Life

Yoga is the Mastery of the Mind

Yoga is Being Set Free from Pain

 

Retreating in Nova Scotia

Lately I’ve been dreaming of returning to a little cabin I stayed in last November at Windhorse Farm in New Germany, NS. Just saying her name – Sweetwater –  makes me feel relaxed. Sweetwater. Ahhhhhh.

Sweetwater1

It was my first solo retreat, and I fell in love. Alone in nature in my little hobbit hut with just the basic necessities – a small wood stove, hot plate, a jug of fresh water, a bed and a table – was freeing. The simplicity gave me space to breathe and go inward.

I’m a city girl but this weekend retreat awakened a neglected desire to be in nature. Being away from the hustle and bustle and over stimulation the city Sweetwater2creates and emanates was just what the doctor ordered.

The more I practice yoga, the more I crave stillness and silence. Time to connect with the inner teacher. Luckily, there are a number of retreats in Nova Scotia that welcome seekers of all faiths who want a quiet place to practice or those who just need to get away from it all and recharge their batteries.

Sweetwater3

Many of the retreats in Nova Scotia are Shambhala Buddhist centers. Shambhala International, which is based in Halifax, links a worldwide network of Buddhist meditation centers, retreat centers, and monasteries founded by Tibetan Buddhist teacher the Trungpa Rinpoche. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is the present spiritual and executive head of the organization.

I’m very much looking forward to my next experience at one of the wonderful retreat centers or forest getaways in Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia Retreat Options

  1. Windhorse Farm
    New Germany, NS, 1 hr, 18 min from Halifax
    Surrounded by 200 acres of mature, sustainably managed forests, Windhorse Farm is an ideal place to unwind and relax in nature. Solitary and group meditation practice is a fundamental part of Windhorse. The contemplative and meditation practices are drawn from the Shambhala Buddhist tradition. Windhorse also offers a wood-fired sauna, The Kami Shrine and 20 kilometres of marked trails. I spent my entire weekend alone exploring the trails, writing, enjoying the sauna and practicing yoga.
  2. Milk Lake Shambhala Retreat
    Middlewood, NS, 1 hr 20 min from Halifax
    Milk Lake is a rural retreat centre nestled in rolling farm country on the South Shore of Nova Scotia. Three large cabins offer quiet seclusion for retreat or time alone for meditation and contemplation. Milk Lake is owned by Shambhala International.
  3. Namaste Nova Integrated Wellness Retreat
    Newport, NS, 45 min from Halifax
    A 100 year old farm house converted into a B&B on 135 acres of mixed forest and cleared land, with a 10 acre lake on the back of the property. Miles of hiking trails, animals (two dogs, six cats and four horses), and an option to explore Bodytalka holistic therapy that allows the body’s energy systems to be re-synchronized.
  4. Big Hill Retreat
    Baddeck, NS, 3 hr 51 min from Halifax
    Offers three secluded log cottages set on 200 acres of private land to explore with many kilometers of walking trails. It’s 12 km from the village of Baddeck – the beginning and end of the world famous Cabot Trail. Guests are invited to visit the family’s homestead which includes an active pottery studio (see Big Hill Pottery ) and organic garden where there are often extra vegetables for guests. There’s also a pond available for swimming and fishing.
  5. Buddhayana Forest Retreat
    River John, NS, 1 hr 57 min from Halifax
    During the Summer months Buddhayana Forest Retreat offers free temporary, self directed, intensive meditation retreats, in the Buddhist ascetic forest tradition. Buddhayana is a non sectarian Buddhist retreat center. It offers 16 retreat cabins and a Meditation Hall. Those on retreat gather each morning in the Meditation Hall to practice silent group sitting and walking meditation and then go to their cabins and the surrounding forest for personal solitary practice.
  6. Gampo Abbey
    Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton, 5.5 to 6.5 hours from Halifax
    Gampo Abbey is a Western Buddhist monastery in the Shambhala tradition. It offers in-house retreats for a week or two. Under the spiritual direction of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Gampo Abbey is guided by the Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche and principal teacher Acharya Pema Chödrön. The daily schedule at the Abbey provides a retreat-like environment aimed at providing four hours of meditation practice and service (work) each day. It also offers cabins for solitary retreat for those who are interested in doing a retreat for a week or longer and who have a solid meditation practice. 
  7. Birchdale Lake
    Yarmouth County, NS, 3 hours from Halifax
    Built a century ago, Birchdale Lake offers a remote setting in south west Nova Scotia. Situated on 56 wooded acres, the property surrounds one of four connected lakes. It includes the original log lodge, cabins, a woodworking shop, kitchen, office and two connected octagonal buildings that house the library and chapel built by monks. There are six cabins around the edge of the lake with full baths and wood burning stoves. Three of them have fireplaces. There is no electrical service. Each has gas lamps and a two-burner gas hot plate. The main cooking facilities being located in the kitchens at the lodge and kitchen/office. The Birchdale environment encourages creativity, exploring nature, and Yoga and meditation practice.
  8. Dorje Denma Ling
    Tatamagouche, NS, 1 hr, 50 min from Halifax
    Dorje Denma Ling is Canada’s only Shambhala International residential program centre. It is open year-round for individuals or group who want to spend time in a self-directed, individual meditation retreat. The retreats are open to all levels of practice. Meditation instruction is available for beginners. Tuition is $50 per day which includes accommodations and meals.

What are your favorite retreat spots? Recommendations are always welcome. Please send them my way.

Namaste,  Krista

Getting Gonged

Today on a whim I bought a ticket to the Gong Bath put on by Phil and Rita from Sound Beings. What an amazing experience of cultivating love energy within ourselves and radiating it out to heal friends, family, our community and the world.

Toning as a group (the sounds heard at the end of the video) was initially intimidating but letting go allowed me to find my voice and join the beautiful song of love and joy that filled the room. The intense waves of sound and vibration during the gong bath created a deep sense of relaxation, connection and peace. I left feeling balanced, relaxed and energized. Here’s a taste of what I experienced this evening.

Living Yoga

Ganges sunset

Watching the sun set over the Ganga during my pilgrimage to India

What does Living Yoga mean to me? My experience and journey has evolved over the past number of years. Two years ago, I may have said it meant taking a class once or twice a week – becoming better at poses and quieting my mind for a minute or two. Now, it means so much more. Yoga is my spiritual path and practice to connect with my higher self.

From focusing on perfecting poses to connecting with the inner divine is quite a leap. The shift in my experience and understanding of yoga didn’t happen over night. It’s been a slow and organic process of learning and becoming gradually more dedicated to a personal practice. Practicing yoga has heightened my awareness of who I am, who I want to be and the joys of living a fuller life. It’s a work in progress that will span this lifetime and likely a few more.

On May 12, yogis and yoginis from cities and towns in Atlantic Canada will gather to share their yoga experiences at the 1st annual Living Yoga Unconference happening in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Over the past two years, I’ve come to know and practice with many wonderful yoga teachers and students in Halifax. I was also very fortunate to meet many more from all over the US, Mexico, Brazil, Canada and of course India at the Kumbha Mela pilgrimage this January and February.

The Living Yoga conference will be one more opportunity to meet and learn from fellow seekers who are “living yoga” in their own unique way. Hearing Pandit Rajmani Tigunait’s keynote will surely be a highlight. I’m still digesting the many lessons and his inspirational words from the pilgrimage. He shares his wisdom and experiences with such openness, love and a sincere desire to help others on their spiritual path.  Pandit Rajmani lives yoga with an infectious joy and passion. I look forward to learning from him in person once again, and the many others attending the conference.

Ayoni

painting

Ayoni is a collaborative creation by me and my roommate Redmon. Before this painting came to be I’d observed Redmon for the better part of a year, admiring his ability to create with joy and without judgement.

Having worked in communications for over 10 years, I’m forever planning, writing, rewriting and editing to create what I hope will be a perfect end product. Striving for perfection in every piece that leaves my desk has affected my ability to create with abandon.

I’d tried painting a few times before, but paralyzing fear and doubt held my creativity hostage and inhibited any connection with the canvas. One evening while sitting around our living room, I turned to Redmon and casually said  “we should paint a piece together someday.”  He immediately went upstairs and came back down with a blank canvas, brushes and paints.

My inner pushy perfectionist took over at once. She aggressively shoved my dreamy, daring creative self aside. “Whoa, whoa. What’s happening?” she asked, fully not in favour of the idea. “Right now? What will we paint? We don’t have a plan!”

Redmon would have none of it. He set up the canvas and said “come on, let’s paint.” After a bit of back and forth we settled on a chakra inspired painting. I apprehensively approached the canvas with a brush full of bright yellow paint and then stopped short. What if I mess it up? Cheered on by encouraging words, I finally made contact.  And then the creative dance began.

Out of a fiery lotus came a radiant yogini surrounded by swirls of blue, green and yellow and a violet sphere of intelligence and bliss. I felt calm, connected and happy.  Here in this moment there was little evidence that a few hours before I’d been stuck in my head, feeling like a poser.

This experience was special. For the first time in a long time, I’d let go and allowed my creative self to shine. I thank Redmon for his insistence and encouragement.

There’s a funny story behind the name of this painting that I’ll leave to the imagination. But for all of you Google detectives out there, you may easily come up with a hunch or two.

To close this post, I’m inspired to share a poem by Tagore:

Fruit-Gathering: VIII

Be ready to launch forth, my heart! and let
those linger who must

For your name has been called in the morning sky. 

Wait for none!

The desire of the bud is for the night and dew, but the blown flower cries for the freedom of light.

Burst your sheath, my heart, and come forth!