If you were a compost pile
The first thing a compost pile needs is scraps. All the stuff you couldn’t use. But if all you do is pile up all the extra stuff and ignore it, you will likely end up with a putrid pile of rot. Because your compost pile also needs air, moisture and heat. And so do you. When was the last time you tended to your compost pile? Are you a nutrient-dense, symbiotic ecosystem of biological goodness, or are you an overburdened landfill?
Why it’s likely your compost pile needs some help
Think back to last Spring and take an inventory of all that has happened in your life over the past year – big and small, personal and global. If you are like me, this has been one FULL year.
This year I’ve been reading the Little House on the Prairie books to my daughters and the lovely slow pace of these stories provides a stark contrast to our overscheduled, information-packed modern lifestyle. It is quite possible that we take in more information and cover more ground each day than Laura Ingalls did in an entire year. Add to that the daily emotions of family, work life, media, media, media and the 1,000 or so meals that we each ate this year, and we’ve consumed a lot of stuff!
Creating space and taking time out is like adding air to your compost pile
That’s why it’s so important to pause, to take time and to make space. To digest. To integrate. To eliminate. Think of this Spring Cleanse as a big deep breath. The pause that will let you let go. Of all that stuff.
Because as Guitar says to Milkman in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon “You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” (Don’t worry, I’ll wait a few years before I read that one to my girls).
Your whole being is asking you to pause, to let go and breath. It’s free. You can do it right now. I’ll wait.
And if you want group support, if you need daily reminders, great recipes, the science behind detoxification, and how to compost a winter’s worth of food and emotions into an amazing nutrient-filled growth medium (aka YOU!), you can join us. We can do it together.
This Spring’s Cleanse is the best value I’ve ever offered and the most accessible too. With the Clean Living Guide in your email box this weekend you’ll have plenty of time to prepare. All the live teleconference/webinars are recorded so you can listen at your convenience, and you can connect with cleanse-buddies on the online forum for a full four weeks (April 10 – May 8), so if you need to start your cleanse a little early or late, you won’t be alone.
I look forward to creating space with you this Spring, April 17 – May 1. Join me.
For years I imagined leading a wild, tropical, yoga retreat that would bring my nature-nerd and yoga-nerd friends together for a down-home nature-loving, yoga-saturated week of awe-inspiring adventure. This winter my dream came true. Six of my most intrepid yoga students took the leap and joined me on Wild Open Heart’s inaugural Yoga and Bird Watching Retreat at Guaria de Osa’s eco-lodge on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. Yoga and bird watching quickly gave way to surfing, hiking, cliff-jumping, sunset watching, and snorkeling. Each day we woke to a sunrise cacophony of bird song, howler monkeys, the local rooster and the constant thrum of the Pacific Ocean. Each day we opened to the certainty of surprise, beauty and wonder and our hearts softened to the sweet company of new friends, human, feathered, scaled and petaled. Giddy with tropical heat and the perfume of ylang-ylang, we all took daring leaps into the unknown (sometimes quite literally). By the end of the week, like the local hermit crabs, we had a new place to call home. For me it was a dream fulfilled in the best possible way. A yoga adventure that brought us closer to the deep order and harmony of nature unbound. We we certainly be returning next year, and I hope you can join us!
Here’s another video of me that Steve Stone of Off Center Harbor made for his new site. This one features a lovely fresh cabbage slaw that is one of my favorites Spring through Summer. When I first told my mother that I was going to “host” a cooking show, she was horrified. Later she confided that she makes “Charlotte Soup” all the time! (Recipe Below). This video had to be short so Steve cut out all the fun food factoids – like how raw cabbage is full of skin-nourishing sulfur compounds that help you combat sun-damage when you’re out on the water all day . . . I’ll have to dedicate an entire blog to these awesome food facts.
I am working on my Clean Living Guide for this Spring’s Spring Cleanse, and I’ve been having a great time testing recipes, reviving old favorites, trying lots of new, and torturing my family with the mis-fires. (You might want to wait another week before you come to dinner at our house). Here are two of our standbys as the weather warms and we are looking to lighten and freshen up our bowls:
Recipe for the Three-Day Cabbage Salad
(3 servings, or enough for one hungry person if that’s all they are eating for lunch!)
3 c grated or finely sliced cabbage and carrots (any combination)
1 green onion chopped
4 Tbs apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs Braggs Liquid Aminos or Tamari
3 tsp fresh grated ginger or 1½ tsp powdered
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp raw honey or maple syrup
1/3 c olive oil
2 tsp flax oil
2 Tbs gomasio or hulled sesame seeds
Put everything in a small glass jar and shake well, pour over cabbage, carrots and
onion. The longer this salad sits the better it gets. Mix it occasionally to redistribute
1 leek diced
5 stalks celery diced
1-2 c root diced vegetables (beet, potato, carrot, parsnip)
2 c fresh spinach
Juice from one lemon
1 Tbs coconut oil
1 Rapunzel bullion cube (optional)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground corriander
1 tsp fennel seeds (or ground)
1/2 tsp sea salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
Melt coconut oil in a heavy soup pot. Add spices and sauté briefly, then throw in leeks, celery, root vegetables and bullion. Add enough water to cover vegetables, put on lid and cook until vegetables are just soft enough to pierce with a fork. Turn off heat, throw spinach on top, cover put again for a few minutes until spinach is wilted. Add fresh lemon juice. Blend with immersion blender or transfer from pot to blender and blend in batches (careful!!!). Serve immediately.
My older daughter is almost six, and it seems like the rising sap and rush of spring have filled her to almost bursting this time around. She wakes with a palpable feeling of excitement and longing – to be one with all that is happening – and there is so much happening! The bat is back roosting outside our bedroom window, a winter wren sings in fast-forward, the sun rises orange behind the trees, winged carpenter ants are emerging in horrifying numbers from every cranny of our log cabin, crocuses, a new one each hour, and each must be inspected and shared and contemplated in words and mood.
This morning we uncovered the rhubarb and saw – YES! crumply little leaves waiting to unfold. This is my dear daughter, fully alert, full of questions and longing to merge with the very life of life (as in the classic victorian poem “Look to this day: For it is life, the very life of life . . .”).
We too can emerge out of the muck, singing, peeping and blooming.
My friend Julie brought “The Bird Song” (by Heather Masse) to our women’s singing circle the other night. It was an instant hit with my daughter, and I love hearing her thin clear voice chirping these words as she exuberantly bustles through these full spring days:
I hear a bird chirping up in the sky,
I’d like to be free like that, spread my wings so high.
I see the river flowing, water running by,
I’d like to be that river, see what I might find.
I feel the wind a-blowing, slowing changing time,
I’d like to be that wind, I’d swirl and shape the sky.
I smell the flowers blooming, opening for spring,
I’d like to be those flowers, open to everything.
I feel the seasons change: the leaves, the snow and sun.
I’d like to be those seasons, made up and undone.
I taste the living earth, the seeds that grow within,
I’d like to be that earth, a home where life begins.
I see the moon a-rising, reaching into night,
I’d like to be that moon, a knowing, glowing light.
I know the silence as the world begins to wake,
I’d like to be that silence as the morning breaks.
(And yes, this Spring’s Spring Cleanse is going to be all about finding our place in nature’s grand dance. Together we will emerge out of the muck, singing, peeping and blooming!)
I have been practicing yoga for over 20 years and the recent yoga controversies in both the Anusara and Ashtanga worlds have provided hands down the best conversation we’ve ever had in the yoga world. If you know me, you know how much I love natural disasters for the powerful revelatory processes that they are. I hope it is not too insensitive to say that this “disaster” has in many ways been a great thrill! Because here we are, the demons and the gods churning the ocean, fearing our own mortality. And yes we have conjured up plenty of Halahala (poison), but if we believe in the power of myth, we know that Amrita (nectar) will eventually follow. Keep churning. Keep listening. Keep watching. This process is a little like opening a bee-hive to see how the nectar-honey is made. Of course, there are more and less graceful ways to do this – may we all err on the side of grace.
Growing Doubt (background for the conversation)
Over the past year or so many Anusara teachers grew concerned about the direction that John was taking Anusara Inc. As the sole proprietor of the for-profit business, he was making business decisions that many teachers felt were out of line with the fundamental principles that we all know and love (and practice and teach daily). It also seemed to some teachers that John’s personal choices were not consistent with the ethics of Anusara Yoga. This summer I emailed John my concerns about what I felt were inconsistencies with his teaching and his actions. I was personally uncomfortable with his repeated use of phrases such as “Trust me implicitly” and “I know you’re steady, I know you’re with me, I can trust you”, especially when I wasn’t feeling his steadiness or trustworthiness at the time. I was also uncomfortable with his lectures on relationships (they did not ring true to my own experience) and his newly developed Shiva-Shakti philosophy. Several other teachers including Elena Brower, Christina Sell, Darren Rhodes and Amy Ippoliti also approached John with their concerns at varying times over the course of the Fall/Winter and when their concerns were not addressed, these teachers chose to resign their Anusara license.
The Power of a Name
Just to be clear, the way it works is that each certified teacher pays $80/yr for the license to use the registered, trademarked name “Anusara”. [No more, no less – as might have been insinuated in misinformed internet gossip]. By paying for this license we help protect the “brand name” integrity such that the use of the word Anusara represents a meaningful standard of excellence in the wider world of yoga. Indeed the Anusara certification and licensing process upheld one of the highest standards of modern yoga teacher trainings around the world. A year ago John informed all of the licensed teachers that to insure this high-level of integrity we would be required to pay an additional 10% of our profits made off of all materials that used the licensed name Anusara. Also, these materials would need to be cleared by the office before release. Many teachers felt these policies were unfair. To date, as far as I know, John has not actually implemented the 10% rule (as in, no one has paid any royalties). Also as far as I know there is no copyright/trademark/exclusivity to practice or teach the METHOD of Anusara. So those teachers that choose to forfeit their license, are still free to teach the method and remain a Certified Anusara Teacher. [This is detailed information I realize, but might be helpful in understanding as future changes are made to the meaning of the trademarked name Anusara.]
Opening the Beehive
In early February a former staff member of Anusara released a slew of private correspondence between John and other teachers/staff. These emails were illicit and private and contained plenty of unsavory information regarding two secret relationships he had – one with a married staff member, another with a married student. While John was open about his relationships with both of his long-term girlfriends (both his students), many felt that secretly sleeping with students/staff crossed a line in that 1) It is not inline with the code of ethics that our yoga community has agreed to regarding personal integrity and relationships and 2) these secret relationships, their revelation and his reaction to the revelation threatens the integrity of the name of Anusara – which so many of us have built our livelihoods around.
Last month I joined John in Miami for two days for an advanced yoga practice to see for myself how he was reacting to all this. What I found was that he was emotionally torn apart and remorseful that he had “ruined” the name of Anusara for so many of us, but also that he was still feeling a good amount of righteous indignation and victimization at the revelations and the Anusara teacher community’s reaction. While I was personally wanting a more vulnerable response from John, I also felt great compassion for his personal situation (outside of the impact it will have on my own experience as a yoga teacher and on my dear Anusara yoga community.)
Recently John stepped down as CEO of Anusara Inc. and he has hired a new CEO to manage the company while an advisory committee of certified Anusara teachers figures out how to transfer the entire affair into a teacher-led non-profit organization. At the moment our community is divided among the supporters and skeptics – over 90 teachers have surrendered their licenses in protest to John’s behavior (people are upset with the actions revealed in the emails, but even more so by his response to the revelations).
I have been traveling during most of these recent events and have had the great gift of time and space to contemplate these events without feeling any urgency to respond with action. I absolutely believe in the efficacy of the method of Anusara and I am fully committed to teaching the method under any name. The legalities on all sides will take time to sort out and we (teachers and students) are learning a ton in this process.
Self-inquiry and accountability are huge for me right now, and I am continuing to process my own relationship to John over the last nine years. One unforeseen blessing of these events is the way in which I finding greater clarity in many other relationships in my life.
It is an exciting time in the yoga world. We are always free to choose, and these recent events highlight that freedom in a precious and quite wonderful way. The question is, how can we use our own personal failings to stand up and open to a deeper experience of abundance and possibility? That’s a practice I hope I never give up.
Christopher Wallis addresses “Factual Errors” in NY Times Article: Yoga and Sex Scandals
“The issue with the NY Times article is that it is attacking Yoga, as a whole, and completely lacks true factual integrity. It is written by someone that knows very little about the origins of Tantra and Yoga.”
Why This Might be the Best Thing to Happen to Anusara Yoga – By Katrina Ariel
“I think this might be one of the best things to happen to Anusara. It has the potential to actually save Anusara yoga from losing itself within one man’s vision. Not that it was a bad vision at all, but yoga is about union and expanding perspective, so it’s only right that the vision of Anusara continues to evolve.”
Grounding Anusara – By Matthew Remski
Grounding Anusara 2: A Brief Ayurvedic Follow-Up Consultation – By Matthew Remski
“Modern yoga culture is dominated by overdetermined methods and systems protected by branding and copyrighting. Branding and copyrighting amplifies a more traditional fixation upon “authenticity” and “completeness”. As those who have invested time and money and emotional ballast into the Anusara meme try to sort out the value of their stake, there’s a rising chorus emerging that suggests the Method is yet pristine, still universal, embodying a preternatural authenticity and completeness. While understandable, this reification will only strengthen the root of continued commodification.”
Grounding Anusara Yoga – a Rebuttal – By Cate Stillman
“Kula is a simple teaching of that it takes a community to do yoga. It takes a community to know who we are. It takes a community to see and support our growing edges.”
Scandal in Yogaland: Let’s Not Draw the Wrong Conclusions – Philip Goldberg
“So, while Anusara is not an ordinary business, it is also not a traditional guru-led organization; and John Friend is not an ordinary teacher or boss, but he’s not a swami or a guru either. This illustrates the ambiguous position of modern yoga in general.”
An Open Letter to Anusara, Inc. & the Anusara Community – Douglas Brooks
“The “standards” of Anusara must organically be reformulated without any single organization representing the method. Why? Because then “Anusara” can create a long lasting, community-based legacy that is entirely dissociated from the perceptions of the past and recognizes that irreparable harm cannot be undone.”
Yoga Coalition A group of recently resigned Anusara teachers are attempting to organically re-organize.
Whose Yoga Is it, Anyway? (Vanity Fair article regarding a recent controversy in the Ashtanga World)
“Krishnamacharya taught hundreds, maybe even thousands, of students, and there are only six who are well known today. “The students chose them,” she says. “The future of yoga is decided by the students, and whoever will bear the torch of Ashtanga yoga will be decided by the students. I don’t think we need to try to control it. We just need to sit with the uncertainty of it.”
The beauty of living and teaching yoga in a very rural, small and tight-knit community is that very little is hidden. We joke that if you live here for more than a week you’re certain to make the local paper. This is a blessing in many ways. Our intimacy encourages high personal integrity as well as compassion for each other’s shortcomings. Our relative isolation from outside opinions and goings on also helps. When outside storms do reach our shores, we most often respond with steadiness and authenticity. That said, as one of Maine’s two Certified Anusara Yoga teachers I feel compelled to offer a response to the recent public accusations that were made about John Friend’s unethical behavior.
You can learn more about what is being said here. I have studied with John for the last 9 years and have learned a tremendous amount from him. Many of us have. Perhaps the greatest teaching we have received is the gift of listening closely to our own truth and to sensitively feeling into and aligning with what is right in our own life, moment to moment. The beauty of this is that over the past decade we have built a tremendous community of Anusara teachers who are fully committed to this wonderfully life-enhancing process. Through our own experience of yoga, in our own communities, as our own students and teachers the practice of Anusara has gained a potency far beyond any one person. And so we rise up together because, as many of us see it, this is a fantastic opportunity to “Occupy Anusara” and to live the truth of our experience.
We keep one hand open to the abundance of infinite possibility and one hand closed with discernment: saying yes to what opens our hearts and knowing that we have the power to say no to what does not serve.
The logistics of how this will play out in the organization of Anusara is yet to be seen, but the method remains as potent as your own experience of it.
If you are interested in more discussion about the role of the teacher in yoga this is a good article by yoga scholar Christopher Wallace. If you want to know more about what other Anusara Teachers are saying, this is a good place to start.
Please know that above all I am dedicated to skillfully practicing and teaching what I know to be true. My greatest hope is that as I continue to find my own heart and my own voice, you will continue to find yours.
With warmth and love,
Steve Stone a sporadic but dedicated yoga student of mine is also a talented film producer. He talked me into making a “happy feet” video for his new instructional website Off Center Harbor. Of course if you know me, you know it doesn’t take much to get me to talk about feet! Enjoy this mini foot-freedom class and check out the rest of Steve’s videos – this is the best of Maine, the way life should be! Be sure to check out my upcoming Free Your Feet workshop July 29, 2012 at the Blue Hill Center for Yoga 3-5pm. This clinic is for yogis and non-yogis who want healthier, stronger feet!
My teacher Douglas Brooks often quotes his teacher Gopala Ayer Sundaramoorthy as having said “You become the company you keep, so keep great company.”
If you come to my classes in Blue Hill, you already know how much I love your company. It is one of the reasons I moved back here. We are a community of great company.
We share a common appreciation for solitude (our own company) and community (each other’s company). Here, with the broad starry sky overhead, and the endless ocean-horizon it is quiet enough to hear the sweet song of our own voices, still enough to feel the joy leaping in our hearts, and wild enough to see beauty around every corner.
We know what kind of company we keep because our small community requests of us a high level of integrity and accountability. Some might find this claustrophobic, but I find deeply gratifying. We are known. And we are loved. Sometimes in funny ways . . .
Very little is hidden between the post office parking lot, the town office and the pharmacy counter. We work for each other and while we keep the facts and figures more or less private, we transmit each other’s heart-stories loud and clear. We wave and smile when we pass on the road because that’s the kind of company we want to keep. Because that’s the kind of company we are.
If you want to join us for Maine’s first Anusara Immersion, starting this weekend, I assure you, you will be in great company![We are also mothers, grandmothers and artists, a d.j., teachers, craftsmen, midwives, a coffee roaster, filmmakers, a speech pathologist, a singer, a computer nerd, a book-seller, chef, farmer, and boat captains among many other things!]
Do we have what we need to be who we want?
Winter solstice, Christmas and the new year have us all anxiously anticipating the long-awaited fulfillment of our dreams and goals. If you’re a yogi it might go something like “If I get an awesome sticky mat (stretchy pants, teacher, studio, practice-buddy . . .) I will practice more and then I can feel the blissful truth of who I really am.”
I was thinking something like this when I enrolled in Anodea Judith‘s 7-week tele seminar Manifesting Through the Chakras. After all, an advanced yogi knows that material items like yoga jewelry don’t create happiness, but another online self-improvement course might! Right off, Anodea emphasized the practice of being who you would be if you did and had all that you desire. Meaning, you do not need to take this course to make you happy. Oh. This is in such fantastic contrast to my (and likely your) normal mode of thinking: “if I had a nicer husband, then I could be a better wife, and I would be happy”. Or the more enlightened sounding “I need money so I can eat well, so I can be healthy so I can be happy, so I can serve the world”.
Doing is a great way to avoid being
Managing my life in the have, do, be direction hasn’t really worked out, though it has proved a fantastic way to avoid being who I want to be. Instead of feeling and being the person I want to be right now I’ve become a spectacular micro-manager in hopes of accruing future happiness credits: “if I spend 36 minutes on my bike, then I’ll have 24 minutes to meditate and 9 minutes to make my green smoothie before my husband leaves for work, then I will feel happy enough to enjoy being at home all morning with my daughters . . .” Whoa, that’s scary (and super-stressful by the way). If you know me, then you know I am really good at over-achieving and I probably really could figure out a way to re-organize the entire universe in my favor. But you also know it won’t make me happy.
When I be who I want, I have what I need . . .
So, I decided to take Anodea’s experiment seriously. Instead of asking myself what I need to do each morning, I started wondering, “how do I need to be today?” Maybe you’re way ahead of me on this one, but I find being who I want, instead of trying to figure out how to do or get what I want, is nothing short of a miracle.
While it can feel ridiculously hard to let go of all my wants (things I want to do, things I want to have) if I simply engage in the task of being, especially of being absorbed in virtues and feelings such as love, joy and abundance, then magically, I am doing exactly what I desire and I have just what I need: I am being happy, I am sweet to my husband, he is a nicer guy! Magic; I am being love, my children are feeling love. Life is good. I feel well, I feel happy, I am serving. A Miracle.
Be you now!
If you are like me and still waiting for the stars to align perfectly so your heart can open to the love that you already are, it might be time to put down your planner and for a few moments (or the rest of this life) let yourself be as you want to be, crooked stars and all.
A spiral is a circle through time.
Spirals are the physical representation that “no form of energy can be exerted indefinitely in one direction only”*. Energy is often described as pulsing in waves – periods of expansion and contraction, of acceleration and decelration. This continuous dynamic pulse of energy and form through time results in the gorgeous spiraling patterns found at every scale throughout nature. The spiral growth of my sunflower seedlings, my own DNA, my daughter’s femur bones and the arms of our galaxy, these are all a result of the deeply organized, sequential pulse of potential and kinetic energy through time.
Solstice is the turning point from the contracting spiral to the expanding spiral
For us to feel good, to feel right in our own dance between form and energy, we cannot exert indefinitely in one direction. We must turn – following the spiraling arc of the sun, now we are turning inward. Traveling on the inward moving spiral to the single-pointed source – the still point of the sun, which occurs on the winter solstice. For the briefest moment the sun appears still, and we, having traveled with it to this point, hold still in our own heart, connected to the firey source that sparks every particle of our being, and every part of life. From this still point, renewed, we turn around with the sun and begin anew on the path of the expanding spiral. From this contraction of power, like a seed, we stand ready to unfold into our next complete expression.
Align with the spirals of your life
I have often found that when I feel stuck in my day – or directionless in my life, it is because I am not feeling the potential of infinite expansion. I often tell my yoga students that one way to know that your attitude and body are well aligned is that when you apply proper action you feel the potential of infinite expansion in your being. In the same way, throughout my day, the year and the curve of my life, I feel best when I align with the pulse and dance of nature’s spirals and waves. Right now I am drawing-in so I can shine back out fully.