Join me for a practice that will take you deep into the areas within your body a regular asana class may not typically guide you into. Come experience the freedom.
Plus, the garden is beeeeautiful!
It's going down at 9:30am on Thursday, September 2nd and 9th, in the Sculpture Garden at the Eldorado Arts Center. I'm covering for the poetic Julia Horn who is the regular teacher.
Join me for a practice that will take you deep into the areas within your body a regular asana class may not typically guide you into. Come experience the freedom.
Plus, the garden is beeeeautiful!
Part One leads into this, and it's pretty brief so check it out then come back :)
Throughout the ages within numerous cultures and tribes, it's been used as an entheogen, and no surprise there. Even the most primitive of humans felt a calling to something greater in this life, even when there were no words to label it. Sacred plants all over this planet have helped us experience this greatness in a direct way, revealing truths that can only be confirmed by an inner knowing, never by spoken word.
Now, a rewind back to those morning sessions...
So many impactful events unfolded next, and the first was 9/11. At this time, I was working in Center City, Philadelphia. Like many of us who are old enough to remember, I recall vividly where I was when I learned of the World Trade Center being hit. Everyone in my office went to the basement and turned on the news. I didn't see the first plane hit, but I watched live as the second hit. It was absolutely unreal and we were all speechless...I still get chills every time I think back to that moment. My father had recently retired and given the time it happened in the morning, he would've been having coffee up on the 107th floor in the North Tower, looking out upon Manhattan from the Windows of the World restaurant. Needless to say I was grateful for his retirement. Bless everyone who perished that day.
The way this event impacted me was unexpected. When my beloved and I began making a contingency plan for what we'd do and how we'd find each other if another act of terrorism happened that separated us in some way, the fragility of life really hit me for the first time. Visions of having nothing but what I pack in a backpack, finding shelter wherever I could, became regular images in my mind. I started asking myself penetrating questions I hadn't thought to ask before... Who am I underneath my conditioning? What do I really like? What do I really need? What have I become addicted or attached to that I didn't realize I was addicted or attached to? What would happen if I didn't have those things?
I had been using cannabis nearly daily at this point, and knowing what a gift it was in my life and how much I enjoyed the relationship I had cultivated with it, I asked myself what I would do if life changed drastically and I had no access to it...could I find this state of being without it?
Over the few months leading up to 9/11, I had been studying quantum theory which catalyzed a thought process - everything physical has a non-physical counterpart, its frequency. Is there a way to tap into this frequency without the use of the physical substance? Inside I felt a definite YES, so definite there was no room to question it. I tasked myself, however long it took, to find a connection with cannabis' non-physical aspect. (I've been on this journey ever since)
What unfolded over the next few years was magic - with the help of cannabis intermittently, I learned how to: move prana/qi (I didn't know these names for energy at that time), unlock stagnation, identify limiting mental programs and stories, re-program new ones, question my beliefs/judgements/points of view, control my mind using the breath, and how it is 100% my choice how I feel inside. My mind and body were shifting in ways where I was able to hold the new alignments I was being guided into and no longer reached for cannabis as often. I shifted my relationship with it in the way it felt like it was asking me to. Rather than relying on it on a daily basis, I placed it in the category of a tool.
The analogy that first came to me when I did this made a lot of sense. When you wish to put a nail in the wall, you use something like a hammer to hit the nail until it's in the wall enough to do its job, then you put down the hammer...you don't keep banging the wall incessantly. In the same way, I'd learned to only work with cannabis when I felt a need for extra guidance to move along my evolutionary journey.
At this point in time, I gained a level of self-awareness that showed me instant physical effects of toxic thoughts and words. It became sickening to lie, to gossip, or speak negatively about myself or others whether out loud or in my mind. I had always been a people-pleaser, and began to feel a loss of energy when running that program.
I remember the first time I realized how heavy it felt to put something on my calendar because my mind said I "should" go. Instead of scheduling it, it being a non-essential company outing, I became curious how things would unfold if I follow what my body is telling me. I learned later that week that everyone who went got caught in an accident on the only highway out of the city in that direction and missed the event altogether. From that point forward, especially when it came to my calendar, only appointments and events that lifted my spirits in some way made the cut...of course except for those mandatory necessities that were exempt from choice if I wished to keep my job, haha.
Back to the system of Yoga. It wasn't until yoga teacher training when we learned about the yamas and niyamas that I realized they were what cannabis had been guiding me to learn several years prior. I knew them intimately, I was already practicing them consciously on a daily basis and they were such a foundational aspect of this new person I was becoming, the me underneath the me I had been identifying as throughout my life.
This is a very short synopsis of how cannabis taught me yoga and to this day it reminds me of what my soul already knows...that which this world, especially the western world, has done a great job at obscuring. The past two decades since have been a spiral dance around balance, sometimes hovering nearly at impeccable balance and other times spiraling far from from it.
Whenever I found myself a bit too far from my ideal state of coherence and needing a helping hand, there have been two loving Marys on my path that are ready and willing to help, Mary my mom and Miss Mary J.
I can imagine this sounds ridiculous to most people. And while I haven't heard anyone else talk about it this way, I'm sure I'm not the only one who's had this experience with cannabis. It makes so much sense to me, especially after learning what science has revealed over the years regarding the endocannabinoid system. Cannabis taught me how to bring the practice out from within me. Allow me to explain...
About a year after cannabis entered my life, yoga came onto the scene, first as a way to heal a spinal injury and then as a warm-up for cheerleading practice back in high school. This is when I first experienced the amazing physical benefits of the practice. Then in college, I had to do a lot of searching to find a yoga class, kripalu-based, which I finally found via a flier at a cafe. It was outside the university ecosystem in the basement of a lovely 60-something year-old woman's home along with a group of other 60 to 70-somethings...I was by far the youngest student.
It wasn't until my senior year that I began consuming cannabis intentionally, away from the social realm. I realized this plant was a teacher, a guide, something I felt called to pay attention to. Shortly thereafter, as I began my professional career, I found myself with nothing in my life to hold me accountable to keep my body limber (from 8 yrs to 21, I was always either on a cheerleading or dance team). It was then I made a pact with myself to ensure I'd do the needful to always be able to do wheel pose, even when I became an old lady, since I knew I'd be only as young as my spine was flexible...a saying I came to learn years later.
Up until this point, I thought yoga was purely a physical practice. The only ways it had been presented were through poses and breathing. I had no idea there were any spiritual aspects, or anything else for that matter.
Enter the school of cannabis I didn't realize I enrolled in. I started waking up at 5am to enter into wake n' bake-style stretch sessions that concluded with vision work and journaling. I created my own little routine that addressed all layers of my being so that when it came time to leave for work, I felt holistically nourished and able to anchor into a vibe that was unfuckwithable.
I loved how present I was able to be with my breath and body while high. I could feel all the nooks and crannies and realized very quickly that with each breath, I could follow the subtle sensations my body was giving me which would then lead me into a new shape. And if I engaged in subtle ways in certain areas while slowly breathing, I could open pathways of energy to flow that were constricted in some way. I didn't know this is what was happening, all I knew was that the places that felt not so bueno began feeling bueno after doing this, so I knew it was a good thing.
I didn't think of it as yoga though, I just thought of it as stretching. Of course I knew a bunch of poses from high school and college, but that number was quite limited and I thought they were only to stretch and create strength.
I'll stop sharing about this here and fast-forward roughly four years to my first yoga teacher training. The postures we learned as well as the primary yogic breath, ujjayi pranayam, were some of the things I learned through my wake n' bake sessions. The plant literally guided me to bring these out of myself. During training I felt so tickled inside...I already knew these things! And I knew them intimately, I now just had beautiful sanskrit names to label them with. I recall being in the lobby and having an epiphany - this is the path I've been looking for, the path to the state cannabis dials me into but without needing the physical plant to reach it.
Cannabis revealed that the state of yoga is already within me, that I just need to align with it and integrate it through all aspects of my life and being. It nudged my awareness in the direction of the proper purview to see how this is so.
Part Two coming soon...
"The grass is not always greener", you may say. And I fully agree with you. The grass may simply APPEAR greener on the other side. The wise ones see the illusion of this pattern, the belief structure at play in their lives, in real time. This is a lesson many of us either come to learn, or we continue to face repeated experiences of the same pattern from the past showing up after we’ve changed countries, changed jobs, or changed partners. It’s a pattern that we get engrossed with because we have a base belief that things can always be "better".
"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust
Just reading this quote reminds me of this scenario which shows up time and time again. Isn’t it interesting how we can be living an experience where life is full of dramas/sticky situations/conscious patterns we'd like to do away with - then once we give our life a massive overhaul where nothing is the same and we honestly feel like those dynamics are behind us, we realize the essence of all those things we thought we left behind are staring right at us? ...And so it goes, we experience the same patterns all over again, just dressed differently.
There we are as we arrive in our brand new life, feeling great, now faced with choices, as with any life, any day. What we don't realize is the invisible thread at work. It's nudging us to make this or that particular choice, no matter how big or small, which all become the building blocks to assembling the dynamics of our new life in a particular way.
If the grass is always greener on the other side, then why wouldn't we do what we can to make our own grass healthier? The key is to learn how to fertilize our own grass. How? Well, the true secret of happiness is wanting what we already have. This is the “other” side to all the points of view we have of ourselves and our lives that can create the greener appearance.
So what’s blocking us from appreciation and gratitude for that which we have, those we interact with, and any current challenges at hand? Perhaps it’s a feeling of lack as we compare ourselves to others around us or whom we see on social media? Have you tried comparing your life to someone living on the streets or in a third world country? (How does your own life feel now?) The enjoyment and appreciation of one's life is primarily about perspective.
If you haven’t experimented with trying on new points of view once in a while, you’re missing out on...a lot. Example- Imagine you’re standing at the base of the Eiffel Tower. You’re looking at a bolt fastening one piece of metal to the other, and that is all you choose to ever look at pertaining to this iconic structure. Many others can see the tower's brilliance and enjoy what they see. Yet you say, bah, it’s nothing great...you’re all crazy!
Ok, that’s one way you can do it. You could also soften up a bit and say, hmmm, I wonder what would happen if I moved way over there and looked up? Life is comprised of choices, and we’re free to make whatever choice of perspective we’d like, and this determines our level of happiness and fulfillment.
What else? There are so many people out there preaching this, I totally get that. As powerful as it is in action, can that alone have enough of an impact? Perhaps. But what if in addition to consciously trying on new lenses from time to time, we also seek to affect the invisible thread that's always at play arranging the aspects of our lives?
Coherence - Fertilizer for your own grass
Let's talk self-optimization. Now you can be into all the self-optimizing fads that exist out there, or none at all. Either way, taking two minutes to perform a simple sequence at the start of any new scene in your life can optimize it on it’s own. Why? Because it helps you be more coherent.
Coherence in respect to ourselves means bringing congruence to the heart-mind-body relationship which allows for thought, word, and action all to be aligned. Coherence is the quality of forming a unified whole. So rather than acting from a state of fragmentation, feeling a desire for something, judging it as right or wrong, then acting in a way that either draws it nearer or pushes it away, and being frustrated that our grass will never be as green as them over there, we can adjust some dials that drive our choices through finding coherence.
When we are more coherent, all our thoughts, words, and actions take on a quality of harmony, thus the building blocks that move into place to create our lives day to day are aligned in a way that matches what we truly want to create, not what we had been creating in the past that seems to keep chasing us.
The invisible thread is the point at which all our beliefs, judgements, points of view and conclusions about ourselves and life all converge to drive our choices in a particular direction. This thread weaves through everything. So to change the outcomes, this thread needs attention.
So what's this two-minute sequence? Well, it addresses the way this thread is weaving your life together. It's one part conscious breathing to bring your mind to the present, and two parts simple movement - one to release anything you're holding onto from the previous moments and become more present, and the other to bring balance to the left and right hemispheres of the brain, creating more clarity.
These together allow you to choose based on now and less from anything you've been clinging to from the past. The more you practice this, the more resonant you feel with your life and the less you find your life continuing to show up in ways you'd prefer it didn't.
Think of a scene as in a scene in a movie. One scene could be being in a meeting, wrapping up and leaving. The next scene could be back in your office. The next could be leaving the building and getting in your car. The next can be arriving at home. Each of these are different scenes and each requires a new level of presence and awareness of the intention behind that scene. This is especially important moving between two drastically different scenes, such as being at home getting ready for a big event, then arriving at the event immersed in a sea of people.
If you truly want to give yourself a shot at not recreating the past, take a minute to do these simple steps...
Take a minute to close your eyes, relax your tongue, shoulders, and the webbing between your toes. Exhale all your breath, and a little bit more. Then calmly inhale to fill your abdomen, chest, and finally the collar bone area. Linger at the top of the inhalation, then release the breath just as calmly, lingering for a moment with all the breath out. Repeat for about a minute.
Step 2: Shake out.
Some call it a SNS shake out. This addresses your Sympathetic Nervous System, flight or flight mode, which we want to shift out from as often as possible into our parasympathetic mode, allowing for calm breathing, connection, digestion, and feeling at ease in the moment.
Most of us walk around in the sympathetic mode, ready to fight, ready to react, ready to run. This is a whole other topic of discussion, but for now, the important note is that if we want to make choices in alignment with what we want rather than what we do not want, it's important to know how to switch modes when not in a life or death situation.
Yes, you may be in a gown and stilettos - no problem! Find your way to someplace private...if the bathroom is the only private space you can find, then b-line it to the bathroom. Shake your body as best you can, if nothing else, shake your arms, hands, legs and feet (one at a time if you don't want to take your shoes off, I get it), as if you're trying to flick off ectoplasmic slime (hyperlinked in case you don't know). If you're not all decked out and can shake out fully and safely, then think of when you saw a dog shake out from head to toe, and do the best you can to mimic that. You'll need to consciously soften all your joints enough to do this without resistance. F u l l y l e t g o.
Step 3: Cross-crawls.
This is a simple way to bring balance to both sides of your brain which results in a clearer mind, less confusion.
If you can create a habit of doing this throughout your days between minor and especially major scene changes, over time that invisible thread will be linking the building blocks of your life together in a new way...one that is more optimal and more fulfilling, comprised of choices made with greater clarity and presence. It's subtle, yet extremely powerful. It breaks the old patterns softly and with ease.
If so, you'll find one day as you look down at your own grass, that you're happy with it just the way it is.
...that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration,
that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves. Here's Tom with the Weather.”
― Bill Hicks
Join me tonight at 7:30pm MST as I offer a special candlelight yoga practice as a sacred ::pause:: amidst the COVID-19 crisis, as many have accumulated heavy emotions that are lodging themselves in the tissues of the body. This practice will be focused on releasing, nurturing and comforting both the mind and body, and will be especially nurturing to anyone who is currently isolating in solitude.
Since it will be on FB Live, it will be available after the fact for you to tune into anytime! Whenever you do practice, make sure it's a time when you have little to no food in your stomach and have about 90 mins to turn your awareness to just yourself.
With Love and Gratitude,
Anxiety got the best of you? It's easy to allow anxiety to take over during challenging times like the current COVID-19 pandemic the world is experiencing. There's no shame in feeling this way. What we can do is arm ourselves with tools that can be utilized to reduce emotions that may overwhelm us. Once we learn them, we just need to remember we have them in our toolkit and take them out to use as soon as we become aware that we're experiencing an emotion we'd like to shift.
Experiment with this easy breathing practice and feel how it reduces anxiety and calms the mind and body for you:
There are many many ways to make kitchari. Here is an easy way I like to prepare it to help balance vata dosha and apana vayu as we move into the colder seasons...enjoy!
1 cup rinsed brown or white basmati rice
1 cup rinsed split yellow mung beans (or soaked whole green mung beans)
1T ghee (clarified butter) or coconut oil
3/4 tsp of each: coriander, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon
(I also add some pinches of cumin, fennel seeds and fenugreek)
1 bay leaf
Pinch of asafoetida (for help with digesting the beans)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Lots of veggies such as root veggies, leafy greens, bok choy, fresh ginger, green beans, onion, even a beet if you want it to take on a fun color
Super easy instructions:
Melt ghee in a large pot and simmer (don't burn!) spices and fresh ginger. Add rice and beans and coat them in the spice mixture. Then add enough water to cover one inch above the rice and beans. Bring to a boil, then cover. Cook on medium-low for about 20 minutes, give it a stir. When about half the water has been absorbed, add the veggies and stir. Re-cover and cook until the rice and beans are fully cooked. Enjoy!
(Another way to eat this is by cutting a large zucchini in half length-wise, scoop out the core, stuff with kitchari and bake on a baking sheet with ghee and salt...YUM!)
Interesting question, right? Someone asked me this the other day and instructed me to give the very first song name that came up. Immediately, I said - Prelude, by Above & Beyond. I was a bit surprised this was the song that won it's place at the tip of my tongue...but only a little. While I have no bias of genres when it comes music preferences, if a song sneaks into my heart, incites an all-encompassing feeling, and even attune me to the "upper room", it will win me over.
Some say music is love in search of a word.
Some say music is love in search of a voice.
Some say music is what feelings sound like.
Ever since the first time I heard Prelude, it dials me in. I get taken through the phases of anticipation, wonder, inspiration, excitement, joy, and an arrival into a deep sense of innate power and contentment the stresses of life tend to obscure. Every time...it's incredible and I'm grateful. It's one of those tracks I listen to on repeat and is my soundtrack of choice for bombing the 12-minute downhill at Chapman's Trail after it's consistent incline journey up to Realization Point, or coming to the top of the hill on I-36 to reveal Boulder and the Flatirons in their full glory as the descent into the valley commences.
So I know why this was my answer - a final gift for me to offer, for anyone who finds them self at my funeral ;)
...enjoy the power and beauty captured in this video...brings me to tears every time.
What song would you want playing at your funeral?
When I first heard about the Four-Twenty Games, I instantly envisioned a bunch of people getting high and playing games. Well, it turns out, that's not even close to what the event is all about! I was planning to attend, to connect with the community as a representative of Sensi Magazine, as we were one of the media sponsors for the event. A couple days prior, I had agreed to teach the yoga warm-up and cool-down sessions, to fill in for Rachel Carlevale, the founder goddess of Ganjasana, who was called out of town. What an enlightening experience it was!
I came to learn this is a non-consumption, family-oriented event with the mission of de-stigmatizing the cannabis consuming community. It was established to show that cannabis users are not lazy, unmotivated stoners and that millions who use this plant on their journey of life use it within a healthy and responsible lifestyle. To help you envision the experience, picture hundreds of super friendly adults and children, enjoying treats from gourmet food trucks, practicing yoga, taking part in a 4.2 miles run/walk/skate/ride, competing in a kickball tournament with pro-athletes, cannabis and ancillary brands educating and showcasing their products and sampling out CBD topicals/drinks, X-Games BMX stunt riders wowing the crowd, a shaded beer-garden which was a great oasis out of the summer sun, all set within a beautiful lakeside park in Denver with the plushest, greenest grass my feet have stepped upon in quite a while!
I'm pretty sure every single person who took part in the yoga sessions came up to me during the event to express their gratitude. And it was super heart-warming to see and hear the smiles and comments from the police and park rangers stationed at the event :) They too were pleasantly surprised by what they witnessed.
The Four-Twenty Games is on tour around the country. Check out their website and see if there's one coming to your city: www.420games.org
I'm certainly not the only one to be amazed by how perception of time can change so much over the course of life. I remember playing at camp during the summer of '87 having just finished first grade. I had a moment in the field replaying in my mind all the memorable experiences from the previous school year and felt ahead to the next year thinking how looong that year will be. Back then each day felt like an abundance of time...and a hour felt like an eternity.
As I type this, I'm listening to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. The last time I played the album beginning to end, I was a young teenager, laying on the couch in the basement of my parent's house that became a work of art for me. It was a daily ritual for me to go down there and spend hours allowing my create juices to flow through a mixture of music, painting, choreography, and always ending with laying motionless on the couch -- lights off, incense burning, black lights on revealing the glow stars I stuck all over the ceilings and walls to make it feel like I was in space...and I'd lay there bathing in the music, contemplating on what "God" is and how big the Universe really is...and however big it is, what's beyond it's walls...and wouldn't that be the Universe then too? I'd feel the walls of my head pulsating as if my brain wanted to burst out beyond my skull.
Why am I sharing this? That picture above was taken a couple weeks ago, twenty years since the last time I laid on that couch. Twenty years, which feel like the space between the first and last note of that epic album. I asked my super-talented boyfriend to get a yoga-flavored shot of me during a recent shoot. I look at myself here and think to when yoga as a way of life began to infuse my every cell...I was so young and naive, clueless of how life would be unfolding, and it's stuck around as an old-friend who has yet to leave my side.
We've walked together over the years and gratitude overflows from my heart as I think of how many times it's taken my finger and pointed it back to myself. I now realize this is how I practice living harmoniously within myself. The practice of continuously taking ownership of how life reveals itself...recognizing the part I'm playing without taking things personally or creating limiting assumptions. It can be the hardest thing to do...to recognize it's not the other who's at fault for the way I'm feeling...it's me. I feel like this is the work of the Self...unwinding truth from falsehood, teaching the self who it really is.
~~~~~~ Om Namah Shivaya ~~~~~~
Carrot - Daikon - Ginger soup
This soup may make your house smell a bit, well, interesting, but man does it work wonders to help rid the body of excess kapha and ignite the digestion to help transition into the higher and lighter energies of spring.
I received this recipe from my dear ayurvedic lifestyle teacher in Philadelphia, Lilavati Devi. She would have us cleanse every spring and this would be part of the morning ritual within the ahara chikitsa, food practice.
If you've never heard of daikon, you're not alone. It's a white root vegetable used often in Japanese and Chinese cuisine that resembles a carrot. The flavor is very different from a carrot...daikon is spicy and tart with a pungent and sharp tastes. Here's the recipe...
Combine 1/2C grated carrot, 1/2C grated daikon, 1tsp grated ginger, 1C water. Bring to boil, simmer for about two minutes. Optional: add greens or 1tsp miso. Consume the broth first, then pulp.
Upon waking have some lukewarm water with a little fresh grated ginger and 1/2 a lemon. Take 1/2tsp raw local honey and drink with the ginger/lemon water. Then ave the soup sometime after and before eating your first meal of the day.
Enjoy the lightness!
And why not? We are all witnessing absolute absurdity as we approach the 2016 Presidential election, which makes the oddities of everyday life seem completely normal these days. I'm not someone who cares to speak much about politics. Every human being knows how to relate with other beings harmoniously and what kind of person can lead an entire country successfully, even if that knowledge is buried underneath heaps and piles of conditioned, judgmental ignorance. So I ask myself, how can I be a contribution to society at this moment in time? That's when I realize I'm right where I need to be. The changes must come from within each of our