Creating an altar

altar

I often talk about creating a special place to meditate in my classes, workshops, and immersions. Having a special place that one can go to at any time can create huge shifts or simply bring you back to the present moment if you are having one of those days where the mind is extremely busy. So, I’ve been wanting to blog about my altar for some time. In many ways, it’s extremely personal. But I think it will be helpful to those of you seeking something similar for yourself.

This is my altar. Almost everyday, you can find me here meditating, chanting, or offering thanks and prayers (or asking for guidance). It’s usually before and/or after I practice, but I will also sit here on some evenings. This is my sanctuary. I sit in front of this altar and my body immediately feels at home. The items on my altar change from time to time and I’d say right now, my altar has a “busyness” about it.

Here’s what’s currently on my altar and I’ll tell you why these items are on there. I have a stature of Mother Mary. One of the things I have great appreciation for growing up Catholic, is that the Church holds Mary in such a high regard and I’ve always felt close to her. To me she represents courage and beautiful grace. Next to Her, I have a picture of Buddha and Jesus in a drawing called “Lords of the dance”. This picture reminds me that all spiritual practices and religions, at their purest, are the same…”love one another and show compassion and kindness”. Hanging from that picture is a rosary from the Vatican blessed by the Pope. The other is a red Buddhist knot blessed by HH that I was given on my first trip to India. Ganesha, sits in the middle and reminds me of the obstacles I have overcome, of the obstacles I still face, and reminds me that we all have our obstacles and to act with compassion and kindness to those I encounter. The picture of Neem Karoli Baba reminds me that there truly are Saints walking among us, and that Guru’s do exist and can create huge shifts in the people they encounter. Hanuman reminds me that I am simply a servant to God and that God exists in all who I encounter, so I serve them as well. Green Tara represents enlightened or compassionate action (my dharma, I believe) and reminds me that when I work with those who are hurting and working on their healing, that I can meet them where they are whether is just eye contact, one breath together, teaching yoga or even a smile.

I have three Malas on my altar. One rests on Ganesha and was given to me on my first trip to India (made by Tibetan children in Clement town India.). The second mala made of mostly turquoise, I had made on my first trip to Nepal and spent a great deal of time selecting each and every stone. The third mala (with a thread from Neem Karoli Baba’s blanket and infused with Maharaji’s love) was given to me by Ram Dass at the retreat I went to in December. I have a brass container of water from the Ganges given to me by someone who is very special to me and reminds me that life is like a river…constantly moving and changing and it’s best to just ride it out than fight what I don’t appreciate.

Every color of the chakras is represented on my altar. Right now the two crystals are amethyst and lapis to help with the energy in my 5th, 6th, and 7th chakras. I have three candles. I use one strictly to meditate on and the others just to clear the energy in the room. I swear the purple and blue candle’s flame shows up like a heart. And, finally I have a Ganesha incense holder.

My altar started out really simple and has evolved to this over time. So if you create one, it can be one item, can rest on an already existing countertop, or you can create a place specifically for you. It doesn’t matter. Sitting, quiet, and connecting even for a few minutes…that’s what matters. I hope you get the chance to sit today.

On being a mom…

on being a mom

Being a mom…..

How do you know when it’s the right time to start something? For me, I think it’s something I have to feel. For the most part I am a very logical thinker, which is a skill that often serves me well. It’s when I need a more intuitive look at something, where the end result isn’t so cut and dry, that I have gotten myself in trouble. Doubt creeps in, fear creeps in and those feelings can dilute my ability to know what’s right.

Sometimes I have to throw logic into the wind and trust my instincts. This is a new practice for me and one I started a number of years ago. I think it started when our oldest became a teenager. Here was kid who was perfect in every way (at least according to my definition, at the time, of what perfect was). As he asserted himself to gain more independence, and I lost more control, I had to revisit what my role was as his mother. I mean, really, do we want to orchestrate their every move? There comes a point where a shift needs to occur and they have to learn life’s lessons for themselves. Some kids will do this without having to experience it. Others need that live it to determine if some things are right for them or not. And, this is where we need to let go as painful at times as that may feel.

It was this experience that put me on a different journey. I needed to reconnect with myself so that I wasn’t focusing on everyone else. Quite honestly, it was driving me crazy and I was miserable. It’s funny how life can hand us a situation that may seem painful, but is really meant to help us grow. So, I’ve been getting to know myself, which has been great. It’s kind of like reconnecting with an old friend, you know the kind you really like, but then don’t know why you didn’t keep in contact. It’s also like finding an old piece of silver that, with a little buffing, can be shiny again.

In doing so, I have a new clarity on what I want to do. I’m throwing caution to the wind and putting my energy where I think it needs to be which is helping myself and others heal. The thought of failure doesn’t occur to me, I think, because I probably don’t have the same definition of success and failure as others do (like my engineer husband–but my discussion on the benefits of marrying an engineer will have to come at another time). I now focus on enjoying the experience instead of judging it. I’m a yoga teacher, I’m creating support groups for sexually abused women and I am finding it to be very rewarding. It’s changed my perspective on so many levels.

Now, as I look at my children becoming young adults, I look at them as individuals creating their future and I just get to watch for the most part. It’s really freeing and so much more enjoyable. Honestly, they have as much to teach us as we do them. Recently, I thanked my oldest son. I said, “you know if it wasn’t’ for you I wouldn’t be doing what I’m dong right now. And I just want to thank you”. He looked at me, like a deer in headlights, not quite knowing what to say, and finally said, “uh, you’re welcome?” Two years prior to this moment, that would have been an entirely different conversation. So, I guess timing is everything.

Inspiration from Maui

mauipic

I just got back from a very beautiful retreat in Maui. One didn’t have to look very far for inspiration, whether it be listening to the brilliantly inspiring speakers or watching the beautiful sunsets (sunsets are my favorite…sunrises are pretty great too). A favorite take away for me, was from the Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzberg. This particular quote, goes something like this, “we all want to feel connected to one another and in order to connect, we need to see everyone as equal and believe that everyone matters. We cannot connect through hatred and anger. We can only attain this through love…love of oneself and love of others”.

Gratitude Day 11

Last September I was leading a retreat near Tahoe and after the last session I taught there, a group of us went on a hike. During the hike, we came across a man who was wearing a Vietnam veterans hat. I thanked him for his service and we chatted quite a bit. He told me how great it feels when people thank him for his service because it wasn’t that way when he returned from Vietnam in the 70s, when people who were against that war took their frustrations out on returning veterans.

I told him I was co-leading a retreat to Vietnam next spring and he said he is ready to go back and see that country in a different light. We discussed my work with veterans and I suggested he try yoga which, surprisingly, he seemed open to the idea. He said he was grateful to the VA for all they did to help him with his PTSD. His wife was with him and I told her he was lucky to have her to support him through his healing. He and I had a connection and we probably could have talked much longer.

Two weeks ago, I went to an art show for veterans. The art these vets created is part of their treatment. I was surprised at how talented they are. And , of course, I was humbled by their brutal, raw honesty reflecting their process. Grateful for our veterans and their sacrifices, grateful for chance encounters, grateful to the VA and all they do to help our vets, and grateful that I get to have a tiny part in all of it. ‪#‎breathefirst‬ ‪#‎breathelosgatos‬‪#‎thankyouthankyouthankyou‬ ‪#‎veteransyoga‬ ‪#‎veteran‬ ‪#‎yogalife‬ ‪#‎yoga‬

Gratitude Day 2

Center for Survivors of Torture

Center for Survivors of Torture

I’m grateful for these people at the Center for Survivors of Torture. I’ve been volunteering for the last two years here and I look forward to this class every Monday. These three are from Bosnia, Syria, and Iraq. Some of the people who come to class take two buses and it can take up to an hour and a half each way to get to and from class. We have fun and laugh a lot, especially when the instruction gets lost in translation. They are surprisingly fit, as their cultures generally move more than Americans and they’ll try anything I throw their way. I adore these people and am grateful that I get to serve them once a week. ‪#‎thankyouthankyouthankyou‬ ‪#‎breathefirst‬ ‪#‎livinthedream‬‪ #‎gratitude‬ ‪#‎weareallthesame‬