My Philosophy

We live in a world today where our relationship to food is largely augmented and unhealthy. Now, I live in a tiny town in Colorado where mostly everyone is fit, healthy, the ratio of yoga instructors to non is practically 3:1 and we have three health food stores with a plethora of local, organic, farm-distributed options. But I know that is not the reality for most people.

There something in particular that strikes me to be odd about our culture of eating. This is that many people eat for taste and not nutritive properties. When most people don’t realize that you can be eating a nutritious, healthy, well balanced diet, AND it can be tasty too. It does not have to come down to an either or. One of my missions on this blog is to raise awareness of our eating habits and how they affect more than just our taste buds.

It’s voting season, and I have to heard a lot of people say things like “There’s no point in voting.”, “None of these politicians are going to change anything.”, or “My vote doesn’t matter.” However, that is not true. You have a  have a vote and you get to make it three times a day, every day for the rest of your life. What you buy and what you spend your money on, ends up influencing industrial companies, farmers, livestock, and the environment. What you eat is more than just a friendly encounter you have at the cash register, it impacts your entire global community.

With this in mind, I want to advocate for responsible, sustainable, organic eating that comes from small, non-industrialized farms. I recently read an article about the Orangutans in the rain forest right now. Apparently, the span of 300 soccer fields in the rain forest are destroyed per hour. And, depending on location, 3-14 Orangutans are killed each day. orangutan_with_babyWhich puts them in a disposition where they are likely to be extinct for the year 2023. The reason that so much of this deforestation is occurring is because big companies are looking for ways to harvest palm oil. Palm oil is found in a large variety of products from nut butters to Pringles to marshmallow bunnies. However it can be sustainably cultivated and should be if the price of nonsustainable harvestation is the result of killing one of the largest biospheres in the world and some of the most beautiful, intelligent and miraculous creatures to ever walk this planet.

You know the phrase that says you are what you eat? I’m sure you do. Well many of us also know we shouldn’t be eating sweets, we know they shouldn’t be eating processed foods, or things that are placed in the colorful packets and advertised on TV. But what some people don’t know is that when you are what you eat, what you’re eating could mean that you’re a killer. It could mean that you support the death of innocent animal, or the loss of trees, or the loss of beauty with out even knowing it. And that is what is so truly sad: You have a vote and choice, but you may not even be awe are of the ballot your submitting. I do not mean to place blame in this post, sureley for every finger I point, three point back at me. I’ve never been 100% perfect in my diet, nor will I probably ever be. But there is good food for thought in this message to consider what you’re eating and how it impacts others. Think about the farmers. Think about the animals. Think about the rain forest. Your dollar can support every tree chopped down and every life taken away. But I can also support every farmer, sustainably cultivated product, and it can support the preservation of life rather than the obliteration of it.

Want to do something about it? Stop buying unsustainably cultivated palm oil from these companies: http://www.ucsusa.org/global-warming/stop-deforestation/palm-oil-scorecard-2015#fast

And vote here: http://www.saynotopalmoil.com/What_can_i_do.php
orangutans

Sources:

“Palm Oil and How It Threatens Orangutans.” The Orangutan Project. Just One Planet, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.

Mayell, Hillary. “Wild Orangutans: Extinct by 2023?” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 9 Mar. 2004. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.

How to Move Forward: An Open Letter to Finding Comfort in Discomfort

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They say that the two of the most stressful things a person can endure are moving and the loss of someone close to you. On September 7th of this year my grandmother, a women whom I loved dearly and will miss eternally passed away. The grief still unfolds new for me everyday, unveiling a new layer of knowing the absence of her presence. Each day it becomes more clear that I can’t pick up the phone to call her, that I will never hear her Brooklyn accent, eat her roast beef, ride with her in the back of her cherry red car, or share my life with her. She was the most amazing listener and the dearest of grandmothers. When she passed, our cousin who lived near her said, “I want you to know that even though you live so far away, she breathed you everyday.” I remember hearing that and thinking to myself, “Wow. What a sacred thing to breathe someone.” To breathe someone, to know that no matter the distance, no matter the situation you are loved by one another. You are held by one another in a way that is as permanent and as impermanent as the breath.

In the coming weeks, I signed a lease with my boyfriend, Josh. We ended up in a beautiful little apartment right off Main St. I knew that it was because of her that we got the place. I just had a feeling: The odds of a college student with no credit and a mother as a second reference with a post-grad swamped with debt made us unlikely candidates. Yet here we are.

The idea of moving in together was not a new one, nor did it come into play silently without any debate. Very early in our relationship I decided moving in with Josh was something I wanted. For eight months I continued to nudge and ask for this move. Finally, Josh said yes. He saw part of him wanted to pursue our relationship in this way and that he needed to get away from his current living situation.

I have never lived with a partner before. Needless to say, everything feels entirely new and not entirely how I thought it would be. Everyday since we’ve moved in I have felt heavy in my heart, feeling as if I broke something that didn’t need to be fixed. I have yearned and yearned for my old room, my old house, and my old roommates, simply for the fact that they were familiar. Last night, my partner looked at me and said, “When are you going to arrive? I feel like I have been living here a week and my roommate hasn’t showed up.”

Crushed by my self guilt and the notion that I am letting him down, I recalled a conversation I had with my mentor earlier that evening. With loving eyes and little detail of my situation she said, “Expectations take you out of the present. You cannot find happiness where expectations lie. Furthermore, you’ve signed a year-long commitment with this person so you need to give it your 100%. By the time your lease is up you will know what you need to do.”

All of this leads up to writing this post this morning. I flashed back to the moment another yoga mentor of mine told me in the most arduous of poses, “This is life, right? It’s so painful and uncomfortable, but it’s all about how you approach it.”

So yes, happenings like death and moving may be some of the most stressful things one can endure, amongst many others. However it is not our circumstances that define our quality of life, but the way we choose to navigate them that counts. I noticed, the most painful things require a great deal of adaptability, for it is great change, I believe, that haunts us most in this life. Still, each day is a choice to stay in Duhka (suffering) or find Dharana (contentment). Finding contentment is a continual practice, one that takes conscious and undivided effort. It begins with showing up in the midst of discomfort and knowing that is shall pass. Knowing that change will change again and it’s all about how you approach it, so you may as well enjoy the ride.

grandma

Dedicated to Shirley Klein Harwood

The True Purpose of Yoga

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Hello All!

Often when people find out that I practice yoga, one of the first responses is, “Oh that’s so wonderful! I wish I could do that.” The statement is often followed by me saying something to the effect of, “Well, why can’t you?”. The reply usually has something to do with not being flexible or strong enough.

I wanted to bring this into awareness because the idea that yoga has anything to do with capability or, rather, flexibility is delusional. Can you breathe? Yes? Great. You can do yoga.

Our culture has saturated our minds to believe that the practice that has so little to do with competition, value judgements, and image, is, in fact, all of these things.

It comes from a distorted idea that yoga’s true purpose has to do with flexible, hot, trendy-dressed, acrobats who sit in a hot room for an hour or so and basically do really intense stretching and contortions, with maybe with a little more focus on the breath than usual. THIS. IS. FALSE.

Yoga comes from the Sanskrit language and translates into the word “yoke” or “union”, meaning to unite the bodies (of which there are five: physical, energetic, emotional, wisdom, and bliss), mind, and spirit. It has absolutely nothing to do with Lulu Lemon pants or getting into a full Hanuman (splits). In fact, in yoga there is something called the Eight Limbs. The Eight Limbs function as a “Code of Conduct” for yogis and the practice of asana (poses) is only one of the Eight Limbs.

Additionally, while the limbs offer yogis guidance, there is the question of what they are guiding us to? If it’s not the toned body or sexy yoga instructor, what is it?

Often the next belief is that the purpose of yoga is enlightenment.

We see the eighth limb is Samadhi, often referred to as ecstasy or being one with the eternal. This, too, is not the goal. One does not practice yoga for the Physical Body nor does one practice yoga solely for the Bliss Body. Again, the purpose of yoga is not to strengthen our own desires to obtain a certain image of ourselves or perception of the world. These are, in fact, only the side effects of yoga. Therefore, we see a culture worshiping the chest and not the treasure.

Well then, what, pray tell, is the treasure?

Patience. I will get there.

Does anyone ever wonder why we practice Savasana (corse pose) at the end of every class? Why laying down is so, so important that every single teacher in every single lineage, home practice, or studio does it repeatedly, every single time, without fail?

So that we can take a nap because we’re really tired after our exhausting hour of stretching?

No, I’m sorry. That’s not it either.

Does anyone ever wonder why it is considered to be the most important pose? Why laying on the ground for five minutes is more important that down dog or a vinyasa, which most classes, including some of my own, do a hundred times in a hour?

It is said that the yogi practices Savasana to prepare for death. This idea is often taken quite literally, however, it took me a long time to understand what it meant on a deeper level. The truth is that yogis adhere to the knowledge that every second is death and rebirth. Every moment is wilting to blossom into a new one, every season is changing; constantly moving towards death and in the very same breathe moving towards new life.

We see this in every corner of our lives. Take for example oxygen: Billions of years ago, oxygen was introduced to our atmosphere. Cells quickly had to evolve to process this new element. Many couldn’t and perished, however, those that were able to lived on. Interestingly enough, this one element is what allowed single-celled organisms to evolve into complex organisms, that over the course of another billion years lead to us. But with this new found evolution also came decay. You see, oxygen, itself, gives us life, but it is also the very thing that causes us to age and eventually die.

And here. Here in this knowledge lies the truth. The truth that from the moment we are born, we are terminal. So we face death in the corner of every day, knowing someday it will greet us. Some people accept this as the sole truth of reality: every body and every thing dies. This is often looked at as a very sad thing, but yogis, on the contrary do not. We see death as a cycle of life, in line with the law of physics: energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed.

And so what does death really have to do with yoga? Do we just lay in Savasana so we can feel what it will be like to lay in our graves?

No.

For those of you who are familiar with Hindi mythology might recognize this linguistic clue: Savasana (pronounced Shiv-Aw-San -Nah) auditorally sounds a lot like the name of the God Shiva. Shiva is known as the destroyer, but also the creator. Here, we see again both life and death spouting from the same seed.

So now I will tell you: The true truth of yoga, unmasked by any marketing scheme religious, propagandistic, or the like is that yoga’s true purpose is freedom and ultimate liberation. Why is Savasana the hardest pose? Because death is the ultimate liberation. Because it is preparing for death in life. Death before death has occurred. The death is not one of pain, but one that causes the ability to renounce all pains and all things, and then renounce the renouncer of all of these things.

Imagine a moment, after a yoga class where you lay down and suddenly, you are no longer aware of whether or not you are in a yoga studio, you have no idea what you’re wearing or what magazine you saw it in, you have no attachments to your belongings, your friends, your family, your joys, or your sorrows. You are able to, for the first time, be completely capable of being present and allowing the present to leave and continuously show up again and again as a new gift. This state is completely aligned with the universe. You know all of your needs are met. You are whole. You are God remembering Self once again.

page1_blog_entry383_1 life and death