Who Is That Woman and What Has She Done to Mimm?

CIMG0083Im not feeling myself these days.  Wait.  Thats not entirely true.  I feel very much like myself when Im in the studio practicing asana with a group of students.  Thats where I feel fully present.  In the moment.  At ease.  Loving and loved.

Im very grateful, therefore, that in a few hours Ill be in the studio teaching my facilitated Yin workshop, Giving and Receiving.  Ive been looking forward to this workshop from the moment it was added to the Samyama schedule.

I am looking forward to it for all the right reasons.  Its another opportunity to share the benefits of a quiet and soulful practice.  Plus partnered yin – an offshoot of traditional yin practice that asks two individuals to work as one – builds on a foundation of open trust.  Melting into the asana with your partner’s support explores ideas of control and release, surrender and outcome.

Meanwhile, outside of the studio, I have a stranglehold on control and outcome.  Theres little room for surrender and release.  I am preparing to move into my new home and have a clear image in my mind of how this should unfold.  But the image in my mind – the story Im telling myself of how this should all happen – is not congruent with reality.  Im surrounded by what I believe is chaos. My soft edges have begun to harden into corners.  Ive lost my ability to roll.  Ive lost my practice.

It doesnt matter that the hurdles in front of me are joyful pursuits.  It doesnt matter that the end-result, when the chaos around me clears and the dust settles, will be a home of my own.

I am desperate to be finished so that I can return to being the woman who remembers that this mad pursuit is like running a race with ghosts.  These walls that I call mine, this carpet, that furniture – these are all ghosts that will one day crumble to dust.  Yet I am desperate for the illusion of warmth and safety to wrap itself around me. I am desperate to wake each morning with the man I love snoring beside me. Desperate for a fresh cup of coffee and the latest Economist on a quiet Sunday.  I am desperate and I am in this race so that I can have the story Ive told myself but there is no traction, my feet spin but I cannot move.

These cravings have filled the space once held by my practice.

Wanting to shape the future I see for myself is not a bad thing.  Locking in the trajectory of my future without accounting for all the variables that make life interesting is.  I want a home.  But if Im ever to find it I need to surrender.  I need to loosen the grip I have on the outcome I see in my minds eye.  I need to soften my hard edges and learn to roll.


Samyama’s Mini-sabbatical

The Patanjali mural at Samyama Yoga Center in Palo Alto

The Patanjali mural at Samyama Yoga Center in Palo Alto

Life is filled with small blessings. When word arrived that we were going to take a ten-day ‘mini-sabbatical’ at Samyama Yoga Center I accepted the news but couldn’t help but ask “Why?” It’s unsettling when the schedules we’ve created for ourselves shift. It feels like a violation of our trust. It feels as if everything is out of our control. But it serves as a reminder that all we have is change. The good news about this particular change is that it will be brief and very soon order will be restored. We should remember, however, that sometimes the change we push against turns out to be exactly what we need.

In Yin I talk about creating space. Our little Samyama Sabbatical is doing exactly that. It’s creating space. It’s offering a few days of self-reflection and a shift in perspective. We can take time to consider our personal yoga practice and how we bring it into the world. We can take time to consider what it means to practice yoga. Is yoga only about showing up at the studio for asana class? What would happen if we used the time Samyama’s sabbatical is giving us to volunteer? To offer something of service to our community?

My regularly scheduled classes at Samyama are cancelled from Friday the 13th of February through Sunday the 22nd.

They will resume on Monday the 23rd of February.

I will, however, be teaching my partnered Yin workshop “Giving and Receiving” on

Saturday the 14th of February from 1:00 to 3:00 pm. There are still a few spaces left.


A Place Called Home

January 19:

CIMG2014I suppose there is always the chance that something catastrophic will happen.  The seller might change her mind.  Or maybe the numbers wont add up. But those possibilities are, at this point, remote at best.  It looks like escrow really is going to close in seven days.

Ive never owned a home before and until I signed the first sheet of paper that initiated the home buying process I didnt know it was something I wanted.  But my signature on that piece of paper delivered a powerful and unexpected wave of energy that was at once euphoric and grounded.  Some might feel that home ownership ties you to an impossible commitment.  I had the opposite reaction.  For the first time, I felt free.

Of course, that sense of autonomous freedom is tempered by the heavy burden of borrowing enough money to purchase a four-bedroom home in Des Moines, Iowa.  But the Below Market Rate program exists so that individuals like me have an opportunity to stay in the overpriced Bay Area.  Even if instead of a four-bedroom home what Ive found is a perfectly located one-bedroom condo to call my own.

But the burden that follows debt is not the only weight I have to process. As I fill boxes to move and boxes to donate to charity, I am struggling with the weight of accumulation.  Im asking myself if the gathering and release of too many belongings is indicative of a lost yoga practice.  How do I reconcile my yoga life and my worldly life?  Are the boundaries blurred or hard-edged?  Where do they overlap?  Or are these two lives really the same?

January 23rd:

Last week, I made an unsettling decision.  I set the intention to rid myself of ghosts.  Five years ago my move into this small studio apartment was an act of self-preservation.  Personal difficulties offered no alternative. I brought what little furniture I had and gathered what else I needed from gracious and generous friends.

But the pieces of furniture that I brought with me then now hold ghosts from that past.  I cant bring those ghosts with me.  Its time for a new beginning. And so the desk, the book cases, the chair and the fold-up-futon are being sent away to neighbors and strangers who wont notice the memories tucked into the back of a drawer or molded into the crease of a seat cushion.

But I wonder if the willful release of these very functional pieces of furniture demonstrates a lack of fiscal responsibility and an all-consuming selfishness?  As a yogi should it not be part of my practice to mindfully detach from the troubling memories and emotional scars? What surrounds me is little more than an assemblage of particle board and veneers of inexpensive birch.  How can a desk hold the imprint of trauma? How can wood hold memory?  Yet the very glue that binds these pieces together also binds me tight against the energy of events that unfolded years ago.

January 24th:

It doesnt matter if you move across an ocean, to another state or down the block.  Moving creates CIMG1757chaos.  It stirs up dust.  Surrounded by the boxes I began to pack when finding home was still only a hope, Im reminded of the promise I made to myself to live simply.  I ask myself if, after everything that has happened since my return from Ireland, I deserve the happiness Ive enjoyed over this past year.  The answer is easy.  Yes.  Of course I do.  We all deserve happiness and we all deserve a place to call home.  Even me.

And so, for now, this is my practice.  I will remain in the happiness of the present moment.  I will humbly remain mindful of the truth we call change.  With each breath I will be grateful that I am loved and that, as of January 26th, 2015, I have a place on this astounding planet that I can call my home.

 

 


Shakti What?

IMG_3249I’ve been leading early morning practices at Samyama Yoga Center since the studio opened in April of 2013. And I’ll admit that until this moment I had no idea why our wonderful and fearless leader John Berg chose the name Shakti Reset to describe my one-hour classes. I would have gone with something boring like Slow Flow or Beginning Hatha.

Today my inquisitiveness finally inspired me to find out what all this Shakti business was about. I found this:

Shakti energy restores balance and re-establishes order.

It is energy without beginning or end. Energy that alternates between motion and rest.

It turns out John wasn’t simply being clever. He gave my morning classes the perfect name. Labeling a class Slow Flow or Beginning Hatha is adequate but subjective. How slow is slow? And what part of the pantheon of hatha choices are you beginning with?

Shakti Reset is less a name and more a description. In my morning classes we alternate between the flowing motion of an alignment-focused standing sequence and the stillness of soft restorative shapes. We begin the hour with the clarity of collective silence and end with the unifying intention to carry our practice into the world and to keep our thoughts clear, our words kind and our hearts filled with compassion.

I am so pleased that beginning Friday the 16th of January I’ll be able to offer Shakti Reset three times per week. You can now join me on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8:15 to 9:15 AM. The first class at Samyama is always free.

 

 

 


A New Practice

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To say it has been a busy few months is an understatement.

A friend asked the other day, So, how do you feel now that its all over?  She was referring to the conclusion of two years of study at Sofia University and the success of my final paper (which you can read here), my year-long adventure in yoga-therapy training at Niroga Institute, and the end of Samyamas first 8-week teacher training program, The Dharma Path, where I had the honor of assisting John Berg in the teaching of asana and methodology.

Are you excited?  Or is there a void?

The possibility of there being a void in my life was something I hadnt considered.  But Hillarys question encouraged me to step back and assess how it felt to reach the end of this hectic and amazing chapter.  When I did, I realized there is indeed a gaping hole where writing assignments and reading texts and lesson preparations used to reside.  The undercurrent of urgency that roiled through my psyche has mellowed to a gentle ramble.  The fractal-esque symmetry of lifes repeating pattern of work, teach, study, sleep, work, teach, study, sleep has been disrupted.  Like a Jenga tower with one too many blocks pulled form its foundation, Im teetering toward the unknown.  Im restless.

And its unnerving.

Its the faith I hold in the order of life that binds my fragile personal yoga practice together.  When my faith is challenged and order is disrupted, my practice is challenged, too.

The charge, however, is not how to keep my practice alive, its how to keep it moving forward.

The key, I think, is to accept this shift in my space/time continuum as a gift.  The end of school and the other recent commitments that took constant and attentive energy did not generate a gaping black hole.  Nor did they manifest a void in my life.  If anything, the end of these commitments created an opportunity for me to see my world and my personal practice with a new perspective.  I have a chance to re-tool my practice and to put the pieces of my life together in a new way.

And thats what I intend to do.  To accept the gift of open space instead of searching for ways to see it filled.  Is it possible that this is what my personal practice was meant to be all along?  That I should allow my arms to open wide and that I should listen – really listen – to the sound of my breath and beating heart echoing in the space of a less busy life?

 


Into the Light

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Into the Woods, Land of Medicine Buddha, Soquel, California

I’m back!

It’s been the longest two years of my life. Yet it flew by and it’s almost over. In January of 2012 I attended my first seven-day Opening Seminar at Sofia University (formerly Institute of Transpersonal Psychology). In a few short weeks I will complete my final requirements and will be set free, the requirements for my master’s degree in hand.

Much of the work at Sofia is experiential – especially in the first year of the program – and it took quite a bit of trust to stay in the program. This was, after all, unlike any master’s program I had read about. How could I be learning if my assignment was to take a two-hour walk in the woods?

And yet, somehow, I was.

The first year charted the course, and without my noticing, refined my thinking. Those first twelve months focused my energy even through my frustration and resistance. It was a struggle and a retreat and not unlike crawling into a spiritual cave.

But this second year? The stone has been rolled away and there’s light. During this second year the curriculum asks us to gather what we’ve discovered during our first year and figure out a way to bring it into the world. This second year asks us to make a commitment. To live, as the cliché goes, by the courage of our convictions.

My final assignment on this two-year journey is to create an e-portfolio. If you go to my Sofia page you’ll be able to view my resume’, mission statement and philosophy. I’m also including some poetry and artwork created over the past twenty-four months. (Since posting this I’ve continued to re-work the presentation of my e-portfolio.  My intention is to blend it seamlessly into the Practically Twisted site rather than holding it as a separate page. To facilitate that I’ll be removing the Sofia page.)

My Transpersonal Integration Paper will be available to read as a separate post pending approval from the Chair of the program. My topic was A Kosha Model for Creating a Yoga Therapy Based Healing Protocol. (Since posting I’ve learned that my paper has indeed been approved!)

So…these two years are nearing an end. I’ve about to complete the masters and I’ve completed the first 500 hours of Niroga Institute’s yoga therapy program. The question is – how will I fill my days?

Is it time to stop collecting pieces of paper? I think so.

I think it’s time to start using what those pieces of paper represent. It’s time.


The Dharma Path

IMG_2063Tonight I’m taking a break from my social media fast to share with you a program that will be starting at Samyama Yoga Center in Midtown, Palo Alto on Tuesday 7 October.

If you feel the calling to become a yoga teacher or if you want to immerse yourself in pure and true yoga study then you’ll want to join us for The Dharma Path. The Dharma Path is an 8-week, 200-hour Yoga Alliance sanctioned course. With the core curriculum being written and taught by John Berg with support from Natalie D’Onofrio, Hillary Easom, Lindsey Armien, Devin Begley, Louis Jackson, Anirudh Shastri, this comprehensive and intensive course will strengthen the relationship you have with your practice whether yours is a teaching path or not. I’ll be there, too, humbled and honored to be assisting John with asana and methodology.

Honestly? The Dharma Path is not for the faint hearted. John has created a teacher-training program filled with compassion, light and humor but one, too, that will challenge and call us to make a clear commitment to ourselves and to our practice.

I’m ready to make that commitment. Are you?

You can find out more by clicking here or by emailing our Program Director at natalie.d@samyamayogacenter.com.