The BTown Yoga Church Gatherings

What on earth is a Yoga Church? you might be asking yourself. Well, we are figuring that out and would love for you to help us with that.

What is it???

My dear friend Summer Cushman explains it here:

The Yoga Church is about Mystery and Love. The intention is to support you in your efforts to connect with Divine Mystery (however you define it) and build your capacity to love—we’re trying to learn how to love ourselves, our communities, and our world better.

Yoga is both a state of being and the practices that help us reach that state of being. It’s a vast spiritual science that includes so much more than postures. The root of Yoga is yuj, which means union. Yoga is the union of God and Self. Church is a word that signifies a community of people gathered together to explore and honor divinity. While the word church is most often associated with Christianity, it’s used by several non-christian groups including Buddhists and even atheists. The Yoga Church is not a Christian group that practices yoga postures. The Yoga Church is a gathering of diverse people with different religious experience and understanding, unified by their desire to live lives of intention, meaning, and mystery. Together we explore and honor the vast traditions of the East and West. Our only dogma is LOVE.

~Summer Cushman

If you would never walk into a church, this place is for YOU. If you walk into a church or synagogue or temple every week, this place is for YOU. If you would never try yoga, this place is for YOU. If you practice yoga regularly and want to dive deeper into your own spiritual practice, this place is for YOU. It’s interfaith and open to all.

History

I met Summer Cushman when I enrolled in my 200HR Yoga Teacher Training at CITYOGA in 2010. She was finishing seminary at the Earlham School of Religion and had discovered the healing powers of yoga. We stayed connected after training and I lived vicariously through her as she went on to dive into advanced teacher training and even yoga therapy training. She was then invited to be a part of a grant-funded project at Earlham that provided seed money to alumni who were interested in non-traditional methods of ministry. This is when the Yoga Church was born. She started publishing weekly sermon videos and I started watching! They were short videos recorded on her property out in the Pacific Northwest and they always offered rich food for thought and meaningful spiritual practices. Eventually she began to hold weekly gatherings in her town of Bellingham (another BTown! although they call themselves Bham 😉 ) and Summer took a chance and scheduled a retreat in the summer of 2019 to bring the community together.

Bringing it to Bloomington

I had the opportunity to attend that retreat last summer with Summer and some of the Yoga Church community members. I also got to attend her weekly in-person gathering in BHam and started to have a vision for how we could bring this offering to BTown as an extension of Summer’s work. When I asked her what she thought about that idea, she was so excited about the idea of the Yoga Church branching out to other communities. So, our BTown Yoga Church gatherings are a pilot project to see how we can do just that. We gather in community, take in Summer’s sermon, move our bodies, journal, and meditate; spending time contemplating the concepts shared and how they show up for us. This isn’t your traditional church….and it’s not a typical yoga class either. We are figuring out what it looks like and how it can be structured to best fit the needs of our BTown community. If you want to gather with others and dive into spirituality, we’d love to have you join us for this donation-based offering!

Looking forward to what this sacred gathering and the community that gathers will create! Much love,

~Marci

Links for more information:

I believe…

What DO I believe????

This has been something I’ve had on my to-do list for a long time. As a fully formed adult who has raised 2 <almost> fully formed adults, I wanted to get clear with myself on what I believe to be true. This has sat on my list of to-dos for a long time because if felt like quite a big undertaking.

Doing soul searching to see if my long-held beliefs are still really true for me sounds like a lot of work and a bit scary. In yogic terms, Svadhyaya can be translated to self study and it is not for the faint of heart. It can be scary to think that a long-held belief you’ve had may no longer be true for you….and what do you do with that.  I also had to let go of the idea that I shouldn’t make the list until I knew it was 100% (perfection being the enemy of progress, you know).   So, this is what came to me when I finally sat down to work on it. And I’m sure as soon as I publish it, more will arise for me….perhaps a Volume II will come down the line. But for now…in no particular order…

I believe in the power of prayer and stillness.

I believe in the power of hard work and determination.

I believe in a power much greater than myself.

I believe that power is within me, as well.

I believe that power is within all people, maybe even in all things.

I believe Jesus came to earth to show us the way.

I believe spiritual growth only happens with intention and is extremely personal.

I believe change is the only guarantee on this earth.

I believe when we grasp onto anything, we eventually will suffer for it.

I believe there are times when we are brought to our knees and the only thing we can manage to do is to breathe. And that process of breathing is enough.

I believe my heart has the capacity to grow 10x it’s size in an instant.

I believe that loving all people is a challenge and is challenging. We are here to navigate this obstacle course.

I believe my children have been my most significant teachers.

I believe people who hurt others have been deeply hurt themselves.

I believe there is much to learn from most of the major theological systems.

I believe in equality for all humans.

I believe there are people I’ve met to whom I feel a connection that transcends this lifetime.

I believe that laughter is really good medicine.

I believe it is not my place to tell others how to live their lives.

I believe there is a lot of miscommunication in this world that leads to a lot of wasted energy.

I believe eye contact is one of the most valuable tools in our toolbox. True listening another.

I believe I expect way more out of myself than I would expect of others.

I believe humans make things way more complicated than they need to be.

I believe life is messy and hard and beautiful and scary and exhausting and exhilarating and surprising and boring and happy and sad and fun and…and…and…and it’s the same for everyone.

I believe the more Christ-like I try to live, the simpler life becomes.

I believe we are capable of so much more than we think we are.

I believe my time is one of the most precious gifts I can share with others.

I believe that Love truly always wins in the end.

I believe we would all benefit from pumping the brakes on our lives. Look around and take stock of what you are blessed with.

I believe that underneath it all, we all really want the same things….to love, to be loved, to be safe and secure, to do meaningful work, to have something to show for our work, to experience joy, to be able to bear our struggles, and to do it all with a community of people we can trust.

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I invite you to the same undertaking. Spend some time considering what it is that you hold as true. And write it down. Get clear on it. Make sure your thoughts, words, and actions align with your beliefs.

~Namaste~  the light that lives within me sees and honors the same light living in you

 

Yogaville: a Place for Everyone

I recently had the honor and privilege of going on a journey with one of my yoga teachers, Marsha Pappas, to the place where she originally studied, Satchidananda Ashram Yogaville. Along with us, we took a group of women, many of whom didn’t know more than one or two other people.

Marsha and I arrived a day ahead of our guests to get settled in to the Lotus Conference Center (LCC), which happens to be the original building on the property. Yogaville is 750+ acres in the hills of Virginia with a gorgeous view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It houses the ashram founded by Sri Swami Satchidananda.  He came to the US in the 1960s and had a dream to create a beautiful, remote location where people of all faiths could come together and live (either for a short stay or as a permanent residence) in harmony with one another and the environment. It is a peaceful place and Marsha and I enjoyed a bit of time together to finalize plans for the weekend.

The beauty and peace of the place is palpable. Everywhere we were showed the beginning signs of fall and we thankfully even got to experience that crisp morning air we were hoping for.

As our group started to arrive, it was clear that they were all ready for a weekend away from the responsibilities of daily life. Laughter and connection came easily!

Mandala Cafe Hours

They also quickly discovered where all the contraband could be found.  You see, at Yogaville, there are very little sweets and no coffee to be found in the main dining hall.  No worries, though, the Mandala Cafe was there to fulfill those ‘needs’ and everyone was happy to steal away there when they could.

We attended many of the offerings the ashram had scheduled: Hatha, Yoga Nidra, Joint Releasing Series, Meditations, and even a Swami Talk. We were also quite fortunate to have a lovely practice space of our own. Meditation 101, Somatics, and a Chakra Basics gave everyone quite a bit to think about, talk about and experience.

We also found time for some lovely outdoor adventures where we walked among the trees for a little nature bath and visited the LOTUS (Light of Truth Universal Shrine) for meditation. The meditation hall of all faiths has such a differently energy…sitting still for 30 minutes has never been so easy!

It was quite delightful to see how this group opened up to one another in very real ways. We often have so many different hats to wear, labels to live up to, task lists to attend to that we can lose sight of what is real. We rush through our day-to-day lives just trying to make it through the day and we don’t realize how quickly it all can pass us by. Retreats are a lovely opportunity to set that all aside for a bit and just BE with one another. Get back to who you really are and enjoy just getting to know those around you a bit deeper. Many commented they felt like kids again, going off to summer camp….and I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. It does the mind, body, and soul good to find those inner kids again….to play, explore, learn, laugh, cry, and truly just be in each moment! I am so grateful for each of these ladies and all they brought to this retreat. One thing we all have in common is that we want to do it again!  Planning for Yogaville 2020 is already underway….stay tuned!!!

Thanks to Marsha Pappas for photo contributions to this post and all her efforts over the years to share her love of yoga with her students. I love to nerd out on this stuff with her!

Free to Be. You and Me: 10 Lessons from Pride

We were fortunate enough to be in San Francisco for the Pride festivities this year. ‘SF’ (as the locals call it) is the birthplace of Pride for the LGBT community and as you can imagine, they do it up BIG. It seemed like the entire city was out and about, enjoying the beautiful weather, the endless festivities, and the freedom to just be. Here are some of the things I learned at Pride.

  1. Unicycles and stilts are super impressive.  It takes a lot of talent to be able to keep your balance in such an unbalanced situation. This community likely understands that more than most.
  2. IMG_6133Costumes are fun. It really doesn’t matter what the costume is or what the occasion, it’s fun to dress up in something you wouldn’t normally wear. Surprise people, impress them with your creativity, or maybe just confuse them….regardless, they are fun and we should all do it now and then.
  3. Dogs unify. They bring people together in ways that nothing else can and they teach us a lot about loving others in a truly unconditional way. What you wear, who you love, where you work, or how you talk doesn’t matter much to a dog. They love you and are happy to be with you and walk beside you, wherever you’ll take them. They’ll also help you make friends….they’ve reached ‘pro’ status at that.
  4. IMG_6096Amidst the chaos, stick together. Some situations feel out of control at times. Out of control can feel scary…a sea of chaos waiting to gobble you up. This can happen whether you’re among jubilant revelers or on any given Tuesday in your day-to-day life. Stay together. Hold on to each other if you need to. Connection to your loved ones makes all the difference.
  5. Skin. You can show off a lot of it and still not get arrested, especially if you keep the critical parts covered.
  6. IMG_6142Some people really know how to level up. It’s impressive, for sure. It doesn’t have to be anything you would do or anything you even understand to appreciate the level of thought, dedication, and spirit someone puts into what they’re doing.
  7. Find your tribe.  They’re out there, I promise. There is a lot of societal pressure to fit in with norms and standards. It’s hard to feel like an outsider and to think that no one understands you. Regardless of what you like to do, how you like to act, or who you are at your core, your people are out there somewhere. Find them. You need them and they need you.
  8. Variety is the spice of life. A varied diet of food and activity is good for the body. A varied diet of people is good for the mind. A varied diet of experiences is good for the soul. Seek variety.
  9. humanWe are all humans. We are all unique and different in spectacular ways. We spend so much time pointing out how different we are and, sometimes, fearing those differences; but, take a step back and look again. Underneath it all, we are basically the same. We want the same things: love, safety, encouragement, joy, accomplishment, value, freedom. Maya Angelou said it best: ‘We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike’. This is from her poem Human Family and I encourage you to take a moment to take in her wise words.
  10. Freedom. This was the overarching gist of Pride. I felt it the whole time. People celebrating with joy this freedom of just being whoever they wanted to be in that moment. Maybe that’s something you are fortunate enough to experience everyday but please know and acknowledge that not everyone does. There are so many people who don’t show the world who they are for fear of rejection. For fear they will lose their families. For fear they will lose their friends. For fear they will lose their jobs. For fear they will lose their homes. The list of fears likely goes on as long as the list of people who battle them. I was honored to take part in celebrating freedom from fear. A song I had long since forgotten from my childhood kept running through my head: Margo Thomas’ “Free to Be…You and Me”. The song was originally written for children. The purpose was to discount common myths of the roles of men and women in society. It still applies today, in many different ways. Some of the lyrics:

Take my hand, come with me where the children are free

And you and me are free to be
And you and me are free to be
And you and me are free to be you and me

You be you and I’ll be me. We’ve tried fear; it doesn’t work. Let’s try this and see what happens. Be you, always.

Happy Pride, friends.

Simple Abundance

Simple abundance seems to be a way of finding beauty, nourishment, and contentment from what you already have. Most people (especially in America but maybe other places also experience this) think we need way more than what we do. There is a pervasive, underlying understanding in our culture that acquisition is important….and something by which we should measure success. Acquisition of things is valued above many (most?) other things. So much so that we seem to lose the desire for something as soon as it’s obtained…..forgetting what we even have because we’ve stored it away.

Simple abundance reminds us to look around…..realize that you likely already have what you need; to focus your energy on enjoying what you have, instead of what you don’t have. Find the value and enjoyment in what is around you: things, people, nature, time, activities, aromas, sounds, feels, etc. When you bring your awareness to all the abundance of what you already get to experience every single day (even sometimes the sucky stuff), you won’t have as much time to think about what is missing from your life.

There are times in your life when you have a car that works, and times when you don’t. Times when your house shelters and protects you, and times when it does not. Times when you’re on a strict spending budget, and times when you have a little wiggle room. Times when you have the love of friends and family surrounding you, and times when you feel secluded. Times when you love your work, and times when you despise it. Times of too much busy-ness, and times of too much quiet. There are times when you feel your cup runneth over, and times when you experience deep loss. Times when everything is stable, and all seems right in your world, and times when your world gets rocked. Times when you have it all covered, and times when you need help from your tribe.

It is the ebb and flow of life. In any given time, for most of us, one thing that is consistent is ABUNDANCE. It’s there if you look for it.

Stop. Notice. Soak it all in.