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!

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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.

A Fairly Charmed Life

It’s not Thanksgiving, or even the month of November; the season when we typically see people expressing thankfulness for the abundance that we have in this life. But I have some thoughts to share on gratitude, anyway….because gratitude is something we can practice all year long.

A few years ago, I was introduced to the concept of a gratitude journal. It’s a fairly simple concept, one that can easily be implemented into your daily life, regardless how busy you are: write down 3 things you’re thankful for each day.  That’s it.  They can be big things or small things. You don’t have to elaborate on them, or you can. It can literally be 3 words. Or maybe you want to just jot down 1 thing….or 5. We’re adults….we can do what we want here. 😉 it’s YOUR practice. And for something that you really don’t have to invest much time in, the results can be pretty fantastic. I’ve discovered, or maybe have just been reminded, that I lead a fairly charmed life. I invite you to try it out and see what happens.

Here are some of the things I’m grateful for, in no particular order….

  • running water
  • a supportive and loving spouse
  • causes I feel passionate about
  • the smell of spring
  • the ebb and flow of life
  • this next breath
  • days with perfect temperatures
  • my sister’s service to so many things: her home church, the broader church, her school kids, her family, those in need
  • the ancient, rejuvenating, practice of yoga
  • financial security
  • the moments that humble me
  • hellos…..and goodbyes
  • bread
  • sore muscles that remind me that I worked really hard on something
  • communities of support you find in so many different places
  • independence
  • the sun when you need it, the shade when you need it, a lovely breeze, or the lack thereof
  • modern medicine
  • a really nice glass of red
  • Dad being a ‘Worker Man’ and always willing to help
  • a really good hug
  • ancient wisdom
  • the healing that comes with a good night’s sleep: mind, body, and soul
  • warmth in the winter
  • new eyes to appreciate naked trees in the winter
  • visiting children who are out in the world, making their own way
  • the freedom to control my own schedule
  • the feet to carry me through the Narrows (and life), regardless of the pain they experience
  • a peaceful home
  • a good meal
  • my clothes….that aren’t very trendy and don’t always fit me well
  • a faith in and awe of something bigger than myself
  • parents who may think I’m crazy at times but love and support me anyway
  • the strength of body to build with the Habitat Women Build for 2 weeks straight ( and any other time I get out there)
  • fun times with great friends
  • the equalization of the breath
  • the understanding that we all have our own gifts to contribute to the world….I don’t have to be good at everything and neither do you
  • my niece’s faith and compassion for others
  • the eyes to see past things that sometimes derail others
  • considering what others are going through in any given moment, I rarely have anything to complain about
  • campfires
  • the way the body attempts to heal itself.  without our knowledge or awareness and the way it does this until our last breath
  • my tribe
  • the rebirth of spring
  • my mom’s desire to care for others
  • relativity
  • people who have taught me both how to act and how not to act
  • my son’s wit
  • the undying love of a dog
  • adventures
  • friends I’ve known since way back when I was in that awkward stage
  • compost
  • unconditional love
  • touch love
  • the comfort of my own bed
  • dark chocolate
  • my husband’s ability to figure the things out that frustrate me and cause me to give up
  • memories
  • my bike
  • that I’m not afraid of dying
  • the good, the bad, and the ugly of my past experiences – what I’m proud of and what I’m ashamed of….many lessons were learned and continue to be learned
  • my daughter’s balance of fun loving and hard working
  • new friends who you can just tell will be around for a long time
  • softball….the game, the ability to play just for fun, and the many hours of fun and sometimes group therapy that happens in the parking lot after the game
  • my kids’ friends
  • the difference a new layer of paint can make
  • proper gear/tools

I know.  It’s a long list and you’re bored now. But I could seriously go on and on…..what are you thankful for? I invite you to open your eyes, drink in the abundance you will find all around you. In the words of Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Much gratitude for you all,

Marci

How do you move?

It sounds like a weird question….what do you mean, ‘how do you move?’.  I just do it. I don’t have to think about it…my body just responds by moving when I need to get to the other side of the room. It’s not complicated.  right? Usually, we’re blissfully unaware of the movements of our bodies until something stops working. You have an injury or soreness from a workout or maybe your joints just ache.  Then you notice it, don’t you? This lack of awareness of how we move could be the single biggest contributing factor to how you feel day in and day out.

The snow that’s falling outside my door (in April!) reminds me that I have to slow down long enough to think about how I move.  When it’s icy or the snow needs shoveled (hopefully we don’t see that much fall today), it’s sooooo easy to injure yourself.  It happens before you even know it. If I go out there and just start slinging a shovel around, I’m bound to pay mightily for it later. But, if I really take notice as I’m moving and take care to follow proper form, all I get is a good workout, not a broken back.

This is true not just when I’m shoveling snow. Every time I get in or out of a chair, as I sit, as I stand.  The more aware I become of my form, the more control I keep, and the more my form starts to work for me, instead of against me. I simply feel better in the day to day activities. This is a big part of what we do on our mats when we practice yoga: we become aware of our bodies.  We think about how we stand, sit, move. We notice. We practice movements that nourish, heal, and restore our bodies. The more often we do that on our mats, the more we begin to subconsciously do that off of our mats.

There’s a spot just below the navel that I remember a yoga teacher referring to in a class…an inch or so down. Think of this spot as the origin of all of your movement.  Draw it in toward the spine and maybe up a little….anchor there first.  Then move.  Do it every time you move (or even while you sit or stand) just for today, and see if you notice a difference. I’d love to hear about your experience. What, if anything, changes for you? Where do you notice a difference? How does your body respond?  Share with me in the comments below!

Move intentionally, friends.  ~Namaste~

Fine China & Silver

We downsized just over a year ago. We moved from a 4-bedroom house with over 2,600 SF to a 2-bedroom house with exactly 1,008 SF. This was Step 1 in a long-term plan to simplify our life. To have less to maintain and more time and money to travel the country…and even the world. I realize I have a bit of an inner gypsy who is dying to get out and so far, my husband’s OK with that.

The big house was more than what we needed after the kids moved out. It had served us well over the years and provided a place for the kids to hang out with friends and for us to host treasured family gatherings.  We have many great memories of that big house on Wickens Street…full of the space we needed for that time in our lives. The first floor was a mostly open space…the Living Room opened into the Dining Room, separated only by a half wall. This space flowed into the Dining Room and then a large, dream kitchen with an abundance of space in the cabinets and pantry. Abundance. That is what we had. We were fortunate to have enough room to be able to keep everything I brought from my kitchen and everything my new husband Jim brought from his! Abundance.

Fast Forward several years to when the Tiny House bug first bit me and Jim saw the excitement in my eyes: his first response was something like “uuummmm…..we have 3 colanders….let’s just start there.  Which colander would go into the Tiny?”  As I thought about that question for a bit, I realized the answer was “none of them….we don’t own a colander that would be right for a tiny house”. The colanders I had brought with me to our marriage were old, cheap, and plastic.  They were used for different purposes but either one of them would take up too much precious space in a tiny house. The colander Jim brought is a beautiful stainless steel model that I love….but, again, too big for tiny. This is the only colander that would make it through the downsize. We took only the one that was beautiful and well made. I’m still trying to figure out what kind of colander we will need for the Tiny but beauty, function, and quality are the most important things to consider for any ‘stuff’ that deserves a place in our lives.

As a part of the move into a much smaller kitchen, there were many decisions to be made along the way. Some were easy. Some were hard. Some hit me in the gut like a pro boxer.  So much of what filled that big house was super easy for me to let go of. In general, ‘stuff’ has a tendency to make me feel a bit claustrophobic. However, I was shocked at the physiological reaction I had to the idea of giving up some of our things. The two big ones in the kitchen were the fine china and the silver. Both given to me by women who I loved deeply and had been very important parts of my life. I realized that I was more attached to my feelings for these women than I was to the this fine china and silver that I had rarely, if ever, used. I knew that intellectually. I knew through my practice of Aparigraha (a Sanskrit word that translates to non-attachment) that holding on to things can actually cause suffering. But the gut punch I felt when I considered giving these particular things away was more than I could handle. On the other hand, I had no room to store this stuff at the new house. What was I going to do? The only times I had used the fine china Granny Annie had given me were during those family gatherings when there were only as many people coming as I had place settings for. And I couldn’t remember ever once using the silver my Grandma Lil had given me over 20 years ago. I knew we had no room for things used this infrequently. But how could I part with them. Major. Gut. Punch.

Then I remembered how my other grandma always put her new things up and save them for “good”. While she puttered around the house in her ratty nightgowns, there were several brand new ones with tags on them she had saved  for “Good”. For “Good”…..what is that, anyway??? I’ve never seen “Good” on a calendar and I’m not sure when she thought it would arrive. She died with gift boxes under her bed and in her closet of nice, new things that she was always saving for some other time. I remember thinking it was kind of crazy that she had never enjoyed these gifts her loved ones had bought for her…they just took up space in her house. And for what? “Good”? When is this “Good” time coming that she would use them? For her, it seems as if it never came.  So, if I thought she was crazy for not using these nice things…..aren’t I also crazy for not using the fine china?

And so it was: we got rid of the regular dishes…we got rid of the regular silverware. And for the past year, my husband and I have been using fine china and silver for every meal. I absolutely love it!  I think fondly of Harriet Ann and my Grandma Lil when I eat….and, surprisingly, also when I do the chore of washing these precious gifts. What a bonus that has been. Weaving memories of these important women into a time that used to feel like work has been especially transformative for me. We’ve only broken one dish….and only had to polished the silver one time in that year, so I’d say the down side to regular has been fairly negligible. I also love that it makes every meal feel a little more special. Because, in the end, each meal with a loved one is quite special….and is, in fact, “Good”.

I’d like you to consider what it is that you’ve got tucked away for “Good”. Think about unpacking it and enjoying it today.

~Namaste~