Enthusiasm: Get Your Dance On

RoaldDahl_Snooker

“I like enthusiasts of any kind.” – Roald Dahl

I started to wet my feet on the spiritual path of yoga during college. I had this way-too-early-in-the-morning-for-a-sophomore-stoner-course called The Religions of India that I was flunking. My professor was a mild-mannered Buddhist (very accepting) and gave me lots of options for experiential bonus projects to help bolster my grade. Meditation classes, yoga, an extra research paper on tantric art – and a most memorable visit to a central Pennsylvania Hare Krishna farm with him and a van full of blond Kappa Kappa Gammas – brought me up to B+. Yes!

 

So when I met my primary teacher of tantric yoga in my mid twenties, a mad professor and practitioner of another sort named Douglas Brooks, it was a natural evolution for me. I was already at home. Our lineage of Hindu tantric yoga called Rajanaka Tantra is an esoteric, Goddess-centered vision of spirituality – and immersing in this lineage can feel like a very intellectual, collegiate affair. And we get accused of being too heady all the time. Whatever, haters! There’s a yoga for everyone. Truly. And in NYC we have a world of options for yogic engagement. Best advice? Explore. Find your home. And because you’re a complex, diverse and wildly interesting Human Being, I bet you have more than one home. Rajanaka Yogis tend to also be at home in more than one place, so it’s a great path for enthusiasts of life’s diverse flavors.

 

Over the past few months I’ve found a most welcome home in spaces held by Natasha Blank. And I’ve found a new way to unpack my heady yoga with even more heart and soul. Before I ever even met Natasha I read a blog she wrote in which she promised to dance every single day. I was intrigued. I love dancing. My club-ravaged mind was one of the things that brought me to a yoga mat on a regular basis. I used Natasha’s promise as an example in my own asana classes to illustrate a theme I’d been playing with in my classes about the power of our spoken word. At the time I had started doing a lot of work around the integrity of my own word, making promises to myself for the sake of my own evolution and growth – and working with others to catch myself in and out of integrity. In the Indian cosmology a promise or vow is called VRATA. Making meaningful promises, and keeping them, is so very powerful.

 

So when my Monday evenings opened up and I could promise to regularly attend Natasha’s Get Your Dance On: Sessions – a  special hybrid experience of yoga asana, full tilt dance party and restoratives at Atmananda Yoga on Irving Place – well, I knew that was a promise worth keeping. I’ve come to treasure Monday nights and am super thrilled to be co-teaching these sessions with Natasha, Abby Paloma and others on a more regular basis. Join us there sometime soon. Better yet! Come home to one of my homebase’s – Abhaya Yoga – THIS SATURDAY for Get Your Dance On. (We’ll skip the asana and Natasha will facilitate a dance party for yogis and their pals.) I attended several epic raves at #10 Jay Street back in the day. How cool that fearless leader Tara Glazier has the gumption to reclaim a slice of that lineage for us? And hopefully without some staggering drunk puking on your shoe. Cuz you’ll be barefoot. Yesterday when I was teaching there I noticed a new disco ball had been installed. Love it! 


Get Your Dance On is a safe space to let it all hang out. To feel the depth of your humanity through a process of dance, just like you do in asana. Maybe more so. It’s a chance to get out of your head and into your body – intuitively and with wild abandon. And to those of you who say “I can’t let it all hang out on the dance floor without a few pills or a few tokes or a few drinks…” just stop it right now.  Your words! They’re so very important. Let them create worlds, not limits. Get Your Dance On is a real practice. Natasha lays good ground rules. No chatting! And she always has amazing cues to foster individual and group expression. This practice is a chance to act a fool, to feel silly, sad, embarrassed, rageful, ecstatic, nasty, compassionate, proud, expansive, sexy. And more. Abhaya is a fearless home to feel it all. And Natasha starts at Abhaya THIS SATURDAY with a brand new sound system! March 2nd. 7.30p. Get. Your. Dance. On. Make it a regular promise. And feed your enthusiasm for this precious gift of embodied life.

Fire & Water – An Elemental Adventure in the Land of Volcanos

Image

My BFF, soul sister and Nordic embodiment of magic and mayhem Siri Peterson and I are hosting another outrageous week of surfing and yoga at Buena Vista Surf Club in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. March 17 – 24, 2013.

Image

Our bohemian retreat center overlooks Playa Maderas, a surfer’s paradise for novices and surf gods alike. Treehouse accomodation at the edge of the world, where the jungle meets the sea, will be the perch from which we explore the wonder and beauty of Nicaragua with an intimate company of fellow seekers.

Together we will create a sublime, fun-filled week of yoga with intoxicating asana, potent meditation and shamanic ritual. Throw in bio-luminescent moonlit dips in the sea, surf boards, active volcanos, lovingly prepared meals, locally grown organic coffee – and a dash of the unexpected. Rejuvenation is the capacity to self-generate: ours is the yoga of more.

Image

We’re also coordinating a service project with our friends at Communidad Connect. Last time we planted fruit trees and an herb garden for the local elementary school. Our Dutch hosts Marc and Marielle have a beautiful promise to enhance their local community through projects like this. It was such fun to leave a mark of abundance for the schoolchildren of San Juan del Sur that we’re delighted to do it again.

Image

Whether you’re a seasoned surfer or a novice (like Siri & me) you’ll have ample opportunity to ride waves of beauty that will flow in diverse forms of expression all week. Please email me at easnyc@gmail.com to reserve your place.

Investment: $1350 (couples desiring a private room $1650 pp) includes:

Lodging; family style breakfast & dinner (veg/vegan avail upon request)

inexpensive lunches available on the beach!

2 yoga classes daily

Surfboard rental and lesson

Service project

Optional day trip to Nicaragua’s famous Masaya craft market and hike an active volcano, conditions permitting

International airfare, gratuities & ground transportation are not included. We will be happy to help coordinate ride shares to & from MGA airport. $450 deposit secures your space. Balance due March 1, 2013. All payments are non-refundable. Please protect your investment with travel insurance.

Image

Forever’s Gonna Start Tonight

Image

I have been so blessed to work this month with a group of lunatics. I mean that in a good way.  These students have gone on a journey with me through a lunation, or moon cycle, of Nitya – the Moon Phase Goddesses. These waxing and waning energies are reflective tools by which one can draw evocative inspiration any given day, or night. They work in sets – and they cycle from New to Full Moon. It’s also fun to work with them backwards, Full to New. Kind of like listening to that old Pink Floyd album backwards. It all syncs up to a Wizard of Oz like adventure in Consciousness. 

Tonight her name is Nitya. [The whole set of 15 are also called Nitya, so this one is like Nitya Nitya.]

Nitya means “Forever.” Or “Always.” So tonight: “Forever and Ever.” 

Her distinctive bling among the others in the set of 15 are her trident and a skull. None of the others carry these particular icons. The skull and trident are typical emblems belonging to Shiva. And here the Goddess has taken them for her own. I’ve been drawing some great juju from these icons today. Here’s a little of what I’ve learned from her as I’ve plugged in to her resonance…

The skull is where we’re all headed. Literally. Death is an eternal promise for all humans. The Indian imagination tends to have a more elastic view of death compared to the finality we are encultured to believe as Westerners. And the eternal moon phase goddesses are part of that cyclical vision. Death is a bigger cycle of life and regeneration – and we get to play a role in that universal pulsation. And like taxes, death is somethin’ you can count on. Forever, we humans can count on death.

The role we play as individuals in the bigger universal cycle is quite elastic. We shape and contour our lives through our dreams, desires and actions. Life is never stuck. It’s always a work in progress. Always unfinished. That’s why her name tonight is Nitya. One might think that the “forever” goddess would land on the climax of the full moon. But no. When you look at the moon tonight, notice how it’s about 2/3 revealed. You can see where it’s been (in the waning cycle) and you know it has somewhere to go (in the waxing cycle.) In other words, “Forever” is moving. “Forever” is a work in progress. “Forever” has been somewhere, and somewhere to go. 

Her trident has loads of interpretation. I’m using it tonight to plug in to the triadic nature of TIME. While lots of Eastern traditions give preferential treatment to the Present, to a “Be Here Now” model of yogic engagement, my lineage of Goddess-centered wisdom prefers to engage time in a more pliable fashion. Life would be too harsh if you were only and forever in the present moment. That would be like squirrel consciousness, you would be only plugged in to one part of your nature. And human consciousness needs to reflect as well as to vision.  I’m not agaisnt the Be Here Now strategies of yoga, they’re super useful. And there’s more.

What is the present moment anyway? We say it’s the future flowing into the past to make this moment. It can work the other way, too. The past is flowing forward to create right now. Past, present, future. A spinning trident of possibilities constantly flowing one into the next. All time is eternally present. Now. In this very breath.

So tonight then is a great night to VISION the future. Forever’s got to start sometime, so why not now? The great teachers of MANIFESTATION all teach that when there’s something we’re wanting in our lives, the best way to draw it in is to hold a feeling and a vision of that future desire NOW as if it’s already here, already fulfilled. To live life backwards. (There are so many resources for these practices if they are new to you. Just google Law of Attraction. A great place to start is here.)

Your life is moving towards her skull. So it is for all of us. The New Age Mystics all say that the solstice on Friday, December 21 marks a kind of cosmic alignment with vibrant energies which will enhance and magnify all of the vibes we’re currently generating.  Tonight would be a great moment to assess our own resonance. Tonight I’m getting really clear about some of the cyclical patterns of thought and reaction that haven’t been serving me so well of late. Im going to let them die. Along with one or two old relationships that are just plain toxic. Forever. Tonight. Bye-bye. NOW is the time!

So what are we wanting? Collectively and as individuals. Tonight I’m holding a vision for UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE for my fellow Americans! I know so many bright and shiny souls who would rather be doing something ELSE with their lives, but feel stuck in a job that provides their health care. What if all those wonderfully creative and inspired folks we all know – or maybe it’s you – could DO what their dreams are calling them to and at the same time feel safely taken care of? That’s a world I want to live in. That’s one biggie on my list for our collective. What’s on yours?

There are dreams you have personally, too, for the New Year and beyond. Forever’s gotta start tonight. Write down your vision. Hold the feeling of the desire already fulfilled. See it, smell it, taste it, hear it and feel it as best you can. Live from the future tonight. Draw the future into the present. It’s all informed by your past. Often it’s the life experience we’ve had that we DONT want that draws us towards the life we DO want. The solstice this year is extra special. It’s the end of the world! And forever can start tonight. 

As ever, would love to hear your thoughts. 

Tortoise Imprint

Jane’s Carousel, Brooklyn, NY

The tantric practice of mudra is the art of imprinting. The world is always making impressions on us. We are imprinted (assaulted?) with a constant stream of images, attitudes and beliefs every day, every hour. Every New York minute can be a stimulating barrage of input. How do we slow this down and learn to receive what is valuable? For the tantric yogi, the art of mudra is one such technology.

The past week or so has left quite a mark on NYC. Some of us met with chaos at our polling sites yesterday, some of us (me) were in and out in less than 5 minutes. Sandy blew in and we all felt her impact. Mother nature has reminded us once again that nothing lasts forever. Walking the streets of downtown Manhattan last week I felt really vulnerable. This great city of ours – it seems so solid and permanent – could all disappear in an instant.

The rhythm of daily life has shifted for so many of us since the storm. Time itself is still moving in strange circles. The boundaries of time are less sharply defined. I depart earlier than ever to ride the buses and subways but I continue to arrive late to my destination. There’s a kind of relaxed mood about it though. Clearly we have all been counting our blessings. And now a nor’easter is coming to remind us to stay home yet again.

There’s no place like home. I feel that more than ever as I see images of my fellow New Yorkers whose homes have been destroyed. It’s pure anguish, seeing these pictures, hearing the stories of neighborhoods and lives ravaged. And yet how many times have I seen images like this in my lifetime? More than I can count. They are also so familiar as to be tedious.  It’s a strange mix of feelings to hold.

And I actually had a super sweet week in the aftermath of the storm. My son was off school, we had friends from downtown living with us – and it was a most jovial time cooking tasty food, building legos and marble ball tracks (Uncle Harrison taught us some epic new tricks) and savoring wonderful company. And trick or treating. At the same time as counting my blessings I was ravaged emotionally by images and stories of loss and destruction, guilty that I was not doing more to help, and anxious for the future. Again, how to hold this complexity?

The tantric imagination looks to the image of the tortoise for inspiration. A wise and ancient being – they live a long, long time and have seen it all, the tortoise takes her time and is always at home, wherever she is. Some might argue that the turtle withdrawn into her shell is hiding. The tantrica says not so, rather she is drawn into worlds of infinite possibility. It’s just like a seated yogi who closes her eyes to meditate, not to withdraw from the world but to find a home at the heart of the worlds inside.

Try this simple grounding practice of mudra. It’s called tortoise mudra, or kurma mudra. It helps me get centered before I meditate, and it’s also a piece of tantric technology that works on lots of levels as you begin to make it your own. It makes an imprint. (And you wanna be the one making imprints in your life, otherwise the world will do that for you.)

Place one palm on top of the back of the other hand. It doesn’t matter which one goes on top, go with what feels good to you. Your four main fingers are touching, thumbs splayed open. It’s a turtle. See it? Relax into this gesture for a few breaths. It’s really grounding. And also seems to slow down time. When we open ourselves to a rhythm of repose we can receive what’s valuable. This gesture reminds us that we can learn to be at home wherever we are, and that includes all the places of difficult emotion. And for me lately, creating this mudra is an offering to my fellow New Yorkers. It’s like an antenna beaming blessings of home, warmth and love to those who need it. Join me in this practice and let me know how it feels.

Photo taken by my teacher Dr Douglas Brooks in the early 1980s in Tamil Nadu, South India. The young hands belong to his teacher Sundaramoorthy’s son, Sriram.

Summer 2012

 

Today I saw some some more hoo-ha doom and gloom for the End of Days / Mayan prophesies 2012.

I believe Mama Earth is aligning with a cosmic cycle that’s urging us to move boldly forward in our lives, disentangled from toxic relationships that no longer serve our heart’s deepest aspirations.  I’m up for that challenge. It can feel a bit like the end of the world.  Heartache and anguish. But more so, brimming over with love.

The Wisdom of 10. A Collective to Count On.

The Goddess lineage of tantric yoga I’ve been reared in – Rajanaka Yoga – has a rich & heady complexity and also a few very basic tenets that will lead the planet on a visionary new spiritual path in the Age of Aquarius. That’s why I’m leading a new course at Yoga Teacher Academy on the Dasamahavidya, the 10 Great Widom Goddesses. If you want to evolve and heal with the planet, I’d love to have you in our constellation of seekers.

Ours is a GODDESS tradition. Can we please turn over the running of the world to Mothers and Grandmothers ASAP? It’s coming. Little by little. Stats show that among dual household incomes in the US, women are bringing in more dough. The Green Movement is obviously all about Mother Nature. The narcissism of patriarchal conquer/colonize/conquest consciousness is blowing up and dissolving at every turn.  Some people are freaking out about that. To them I say, time to catch up. A shared, collective, speedy and sometimes gossipy information flow is beginning to dominate the world. Hi Mark Zuckerberg!

In a goddess tradition, empowerment is self-realized as much as it is a collective endeavor. The Age of the Guru is over. That singular being who’s come to save our sorry asses has been exposed as a fraud in virtually all areas of contemporary life: witness the Penn State Coaching scandal, endless financial meltdowns on Wall Street or the radical blowup of my own tradition of Anusara Yoga. (A very happily ex-Certified teacher, I am loving watching the bold moves of my colleagues who are willing to be brave in their own power and in extraordinary new collections of connectivity. I’m grateful to have taught for 10 years at Vira in NYC, a studio named by Elena Brower to be an abode for the courage one’s heart’s commitment.)

The Goddess traditions provide visionary technology to awaken, provoke and inspire us. From the inside out. We need to do this well and better in 2012 and beyond. A new student recently shared with me that she’s been attending the same teacher’s class for years and years. And years. And she said she only recently realized how dangerous it was to pin all her yoga on 1 person, that her yoga was all about her teacher and not about her. Frankly, yeah, it’s kinda silly to be so insulated on the spiritual path. We must look out into the collective of great company if we are to evolve and heal and grow.

We can do that. Profoundly. Powerfully. And there’s a set of 10 Wisdom Goddesses who are our guides. Every single person I know, including me, is at some kind of tipping point. Some very dramatic. Major life changes. Some much more subtle. Stirring beneath the surface. An undercurrent of radical change is coming for each of us. It’s 2012. End of the World! And we can plug in to a set of 10 WISE women who, collectively, stand for the totality of human possibilities. I’m not gonna be presenting this material as a sanskrit scholar.  This isn’t some ancient wisdom I’m purporting to have special access to. This course is all about right now. NOW is the time we come together to begin our study of yoga. And at the same time we will stand with the great beings who’ve come before us while designing the collective and personal dreams we crave for our future.

I’ve learned what I know about these 10 in the wisest and most brilliant of great company. And I’m eager to share it with you in such a way that you can bring this greatness forward into your everyday life, just as I have done. We can count on these powerful energies to support, uplift, churn, transform, inspire and expand us.

You don’t need a guru to teach you the secrets of these sublime wisdoms. And while you can find a ton about them in books and online, there’s nothing sweeter than the transmission of an oral lineage. You and I need a collective, dynamic community in which to open their resonance as our own. I’m gonna facilitate that in this course. You should join me.

And I don’t know what will happen when we do this! I don’t have all the answers already. But I am boldly, bravely willing to enter the darkness in the company of these 10 Great Ladies with you. Together we will make magic. I’ve been working with their resonance for a long time. They have nourished and protected me like no others. I have confidence in them and their evocative charms. Cue Willy Wonka.

Come with me
And you’ll be
In a world of
Pure imagination
Take a look
And you’ll see
Into your imagination

We’ll begin
With a spin
Traveling in
The world of my creation
What we’ll see
Will defy
Explanation…

There is no
Life I know
To compare with
Pure imagination
Living there
You’ll be free
If you truly
Wish to be

Sign up for the course at no obligation. Listen to my free preview call. I’ll see you on the Digital Cloud.

“never without duality”

The Art of Shiva. And My Decade as a WASH.

Upon checking my email during a welcome pause (art overload!) halfway through the epic show at the Met “Wonder of the Age: Master Painters of India, 1100 – 1900” I learned from my friend Susannah that this week marked 10 years of dedicated study with our favorite teacher of tantric yoga, Douglas Brooks. She reflected on it so beautifully. Thank goodness I have clever women in my life reminding me of important anniversaries. Do my wife and I count our elopement in Las Vegas at a drive-thru wedding chapel – or the private ceremony officiated by Douglas a few weeks later – as our wedding anniversary? Lucky for me it’s NEVER NOT a question. (That is to say… Always.) And so I start to pay attention to the dates well in advance.

Now this show at the Met was huge. And the works of art small. Any show where you get a magnifying glass with the audio tour is gonna be a compelling commitment. Towards the end of my experience it was all starting to wear on me. Another vision of Vishnu. Ho hum.

Then in one of the last galleries I saw the image above, “Shiva Descending Mount Kailash.” ca. 1800, attributed to Khushala. Shazaam. Wide awake. Mesmerized. Drawn in to this miniature world in ways that I hadn’t yet experienced with any other piece in the exhibit. The artist is from a long family line of great painters. His generation captured “masterly detail, dreamy lyricism and raw emotion” better than anyone according to the gallery guide.

Who are these strange celestial beings leading the way? Half men, half beast. Seeing them in person, they literally seemed to sing from the canvas. Actually, I did hear singing. Another moment of unexpected and wonderful insanity in the life of a yogi. Dreamlike lyricism indeed!

Thus enraptured, I observed Shiva, here as a very pale, ethereal and tender fellow. And I realized that this is a night scene. Forget Radha and Krishna in the luscious flowered forests by day, this couple clearly create magic by moonlight. Though impossible to see in this small image I lifted from the Met website, Parvati is done up in fine, luxurious detail: makeup, nail polish, furs. The fetching little leopard skin hat with orange tassels reminded me of the well-groomed ladies in head to toe mink one sees on the crosstown bus along 57th street in the winter here in New York City.  Here is a lady who belongs in fur pelts as her birthright.

They just look so comfortable in their roles, leading a motley caravan of strange and extraordinary beings down the mountain. Though the central and largest figure is a man honoring them with a humble bow to their feet, the experience of seeing this picture live doesn’t create any clear focus on him. It’s almost instead like he’s a quiet void in the middle of the work. The artist is saying, sure, you can do that (Shiva and Parvati’s expression toward him are more bemused than anything) but truly, it’s more fun to participate in this circus with eyes wide open. I for one wanted to get into the conga line in the foreground.

If YOU want to join the conga line with me, and enter a richly beautiful lineage of yoga, join me for my Tantric Yoga Vision Quest. We’re gonna have an amazing time. The gods of yoga welcome you to see all the world as art when you learn to see the world through their eyes.

PS – A WASH is a White Anglo Saxon Hindu. “We’re a happy little cult.”