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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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.