Two years ago at Yasodhara Ashram in the Kootenay Mountains of Western Canada I had the perfect Christmas. A walk alone on the beach followed by a beautiful brunch with my good friends, a gift exchange, helping cook Christmas dinner and then after dinner time alone reading books. It was the perfect balance of time alone, time in nature and time with people I loved.
Two weeks ago I chipped my heal bone doing a front flip and for the first week it was improving substantially each day but then last weekend I went a little bit overboard with activity (walking, dancing) and this week the healing seems to have plateaued.
So I began to ask myself – what is healing? How does it work? And how does the body heal?
It seemed like a fitting time to read the Yoga of Healing by Swami Radha again and as I begin to read a message rings out to me loud and clear. Do not ask for a miracle, if you’re not willing to do your part. Don’t ask for spiritual healing if you’re not willing to rest your foot, get enough sleep, eat well.
Bone healing takes calcium, rest. And so this week I work from home to save the travel, take Friday off completely, use a cane, drink more smoothies.
Radha then goes onto describe the practices taught at Yasodhara Ashram as tools to aide healing. Meditation, relaxation, pranayama, yoga.
And I remember that I know these tools, I have these tools.
And as I reflect on my injury, I can see it as a reminder to do what I already know is healthy for me. To eat well, get enough sleep, rest, and make time for meditation and relaxation in my daily life.
Fall 2014, I participated in the 108 Poetry Challenge to raise funds for the Young Adult Program at Yasodhara Ashram. The Young Adult Program supports young adults to explore their ideals and bring them forward in their lives. It had an incredible impact on my life and hundreds of other participants who have moved through the program.
My goal was to write 108 poems in 6 weeks and raise $1000 for this amazing program, both of which I completed. You can scroll down or click here to read my poetry!
And if you still want to donate – you can even though the official fundraiser is over – click here :)!!
Recently we had a fire at Yasodhara Ashram where I live. The roof of our Temple was burnt and it has had a big impact on the community. Now we are in the assessment phase – asking is it structurally sound? What is the best way to rebuild? What has to come down before we can build up?
I have also been reading a book about the coup in Chile and all the awful things that the human mind is capable of manifesting. And it’s got me thinking that there must be something bigger – there must be something more than emergencies and torture and lies. And its rekindled the desire in me to connect to this something more.
The main symbol that we use for the Divine at the Ashram is the Light and we talk about the light of understanding and the light of wisdom. We also refer to the symbols from the Hindu tradition – Krishna – the blue god – a playful trickster who plays the flute beautifully and will steal your heart, Tara, who is young and playful and brings compassion, and Durga, a fierce feminine force that rides a lion and kills the demon of egoism and pride. These symbols represent the particular qualities of the Divine personified so they are easier for the human mind to grasp.
And so my question is – how do I create a personal connection to something as intangible as Light or as foreign as a blue flute playing god? How can I bring this something more into my life?
I start where I began. My first experiences of feeling really connected to something greater than myself occurred in nature, in movement and in listening or participating in amazing music. And these are three ways that continue to help me to feel connected. So I start with what I know and go for walks, spend time at the beach and remember to play music for myself.
And then these other ideas that are less familiar become trials – experiments in my life. Can I see the light of understanding in myself? In others? And does this really help me to feel connected or does it become an intellectual game??
And where does playful compassion come into my day? And what happens if I write a letter of all my sorrows addressed to the blue god? How do I feel afterwards? And what changes in my day if I visualize a fierce warrior riding on a lion walking along beside me as I work ready to pounce on judgmental thought patterns?
Trial and error. Experimenting and figuring out what helps me to feel connected and what doesn’t. What works and who works? And how do I keep this connection alive?
Because what I’m learning is that it’s easy to say that I want to stay connected to this something more and it’s easy to feel the connection at the perfect moment but remembering that I want it and keeping it alive day to day is very challenging.
And so my experiments continue. No conclusive results yet but there is exciting quality to the mystery of the search. What is the essence of drifting piano melodies? What is the essence of the stillness in the forest? And what is the purpose of my life?
I would easily call myself a feminist. And yet there’s a part in me that hates women. It cringes when certain women speak with confidence and gets annoyed when certain women take control of a situation. Women, that this part for some reason, doesn’t think deserve to speak or have power.
When I realized that this was in me, I was very startled and saddened. How can I be an advocate for change in others and at the same time harbour this part within myself?
And as I begin to look at it more closely, I am realizing that it is an old pattern in me and that it’s easy to indulge. It’s easy for me to slip into annoyance or disgust and in some ways I feel like I can’t help it. But on another level I know I have choice and when I realize what a destructive part of me is speaking it makes it easier to step back and not indulge.
Some people say that spending time at an Ashram is running away from the problems of the world, running away from the real work. In an article on living in spiritual community Bo Lozoff writes that most people who come to his Ashram want a life that’s easier and when they arrive they realize really it’s harder. Most people don’t last more than three months.
At the Ashram I live at we are asked to genuinely look at ourselves and to take responsibility for our actions – including our thoughts. And sometimes it’s totally ugly – like this part of myself that hates.
But if I’m going to advocate for change in the world, I have to start with myself. And to start with myself I have to take the time to really see what’s happening for me.
And so I’m taking the time – finding out what’s really happening. And as I do I can work for change within myself, live what I believe in and at the same time work for change in the world.
 Lozoff, Bo. “Life in Spiritual Community,” Ascent Magazine, Issue 11, Fall 2001.
I’m the type of person that when I find something I LOVE at a restaurant I order it every time. And its something that I believe in – sticking with what I know works.
And it’s something that I sometimes forget.
Recently I’ve been feeling a dissatisfaction with my life here and have been dreaming about other possibilities. About truly being an artist and living in this place without these rules. Breaking out and being free.
And then tonight at Satsang I was overcome with the feeling that I long for when I go to a music show. And I had this realization that I could spend $100 on a concert ticket and not walk out feeling like this. And the essence of this “art” a part of me is searching for and longing for is here.
I love where I live. And I know that it works.
I love that we believe in the potential of each person to find out who they are and struggle/grow/evolve into who they want to be. I love that we’re asked to take responsibility for ourselves. And I love that singing together brings us together as a community.
The teachings work.
It’s not always easy or fun but they work.
So I’m sticking to it the way I stick to green curry at Thai Kitchen. Yogic pioneer Swami Sivananda Radha says don’t dig a lot of little holes, dig a well. Find something that works and go deep. That’s the only way you’ll ever hit water.
I know that I’ve found it, so I simply have to keep going. I get distracted and I get back on track. And one day, I know, I’ll hit water.
In the Yoga Development Course I took last winter we studied the Bhavagad Gita – an ancient yogic text. And we read the entire text out loud in groups in four days. Then wrote a couple of papers.
And I’m realizing now that it’s a text that I could spend years studying intensively. That the initial four days was only dipping my toe in.
In the text Krishna says, “By the delusion of the pairs of opposites arising from desire and aversion, O Bharata, all beings are subject to delusion at birth.” And ‘the Pairs of Opposites’ was something I was beginning to understand then, and as I continue to reflect I am able to understand more fully now.
Last week I went on vacation from Yasodhara Ashram, where I work and live. It was beautiful and special. It was spacious. I spent lots of time outside, with people I love and alone. I went to a few dance classes and helped my sister look for jobs in the non-profit sector.
And suddenly I was seeing the world outside of the Ashram as a beautiful place and almost immediately after this realization began to see my world inside the Ashram as a place of limitation and pressure. One was good and therefore the other must be bad.
Now that I’m entering back into the Ashram, I’m seeing the tricks of my mind. Yes, there are limitations and challenges living here, but there are also supportive aspects and beauty. There is an amazing team of passionate and intelligent women who run the place and who I get to work with.
And so it’s not that one’s good and therefore the other must be bad but both experiences – living at the Ashram and living away from the Ashram – are dynamic. In both experiences I have choice of how I work with the supports and limitations that exist. And in both situations I am in control of my life.
And for me – for today – that is transcending the Pairs of Opposites. Things are not black or white but grey. And wherever I am I can take responsibility for how I experience my life.