I hike frequently, when I feel up to it, because it feels good in my body and soul, and the air feels different… but mostly because I need to change my perspective. So today, I was up on top of a hill in Pattee Canyon, looking over Missoula, realizing how big everything seems when I’m down in the valley. All of the things that are difficult, the societal and socio-economic crises, how much space, energy and time they take up. And realizing that, in a way, I hike and I change my elevation, I change my altitude so that I can get a different perspective. At first I thought maybe I’m escaping, but it’s not an escape. It’s a change of perspective so that as I descend down, into the valley, back down towards home, I take with me the widened perspective, the ability to see all of the fall colors instead of just seeing the trees that are right around me. The perspective where everything is more clear, and the town is so much smaller than the mountains, and the mountains are so much smaller than the skies and the clouds. That perspective. I take it down with me so that when I close my eyes, I can see it, smell it and taste it and hear nothing but the wind.
This is one of those times where words routinely fail me. What to even say? And I’ve had a lot of time to think about this, since limiting my time outside the house so that I don’t heighten my nearly 90 year old Grandfather’s risk of contracting novel coronavirus. What I can say with certainty is that in person classes and events are suspended until late April at this point, and that I am excitedly exploring options for online sound meditations: definitely some short & sweet IGTV videos, probably a few Facebook Live videos (follow me on Facebook at akaevenstar.rising and @evenstarrisingllc on Instagram to be in the loop on those.) And Purusa Yoga will be offering online classes, hopefully in the next week or two!
It has been so heartening to observe the reaction of local businesses here in Missoula to these times. So many yoga teachers are offering online classes, small businesses are limiting their hours or temporarily closing their doors to encourage us to practice social distancing. My personal hope is that we will come out of this experience as a society where self-care practices, from sound meditations to yoga, are so much more easily accessible and affordable for anyone looking for them. This ability to put experiences online is the best part of the Internet!
So keep an eye out for online sound meditations with my universe of instruments and I coming your way, keep on breathing and listening deeply, and do what you can to make your part of the world safe and cared for.
In 2014/15, as I was doing my Level 1 Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training, a whole series of events kicked off in my personal life that felt impossible to deal with. The first of these was my grandmother, with whom I had a complicated relationship, deciding to end her life via physician assisted suicide. My parents and grandfather helped her navigate the paperwork, and I will never forget the feeling of hearing that she’d been given the provisional green light to continue the process, that it was actually a real possibility for her to end her life by choice. I got this news right before one of my intensive KYTT long weekends, and was so distraught and emotional that I missed the first of the 3 days. But I was back for the second day, and when a friend gave me a warm hug, asking how I was doing, I completely lost my composure. Sobbing onto her shoulder, I wasn’t aware of much beyond the pain I was feeling, until I noticed that there was a circle of women in white around me, that suddenly I was at the center of this enormous group hug, being physically and emotionally held by every person there. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life, and that feeling of being seen, held, and loved through something that felt overwhelmingly sad and difficult is one of my most cherished memories of my Level 1 teacher training experience.
Sometime around that experience, I started referring to times like that as the moments when the yoga hits the road. When stressful circumstances arise that feel impossible, those are the times that, for me, a strong yoga and meditation practice can hold me steady. As I went through the agonizing decision to end my first marriage, it was my practice that stayed steady. No matter how hard things got, I always kept my sadhana, even when I cried through the whole thing. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, and it felt like every part of my being was in agony as we moved through the process. At the time, I was practicing the Compassion Kriya, and I stayed with it throughout that summer, crying through it sometimes, always feeling held by it.
This last month, the yoga has been hitting the road for me big time. As my parents have been dealing with their individual and collective issues and making big changes, I have kept my sadhana – even if it’s just chanting Japji every day. Over the last two weeks, there have been so many times when things felt impossible, when the pain of seeing two people whom I love so dearly suffer has felt completely overwhelming. I have been crying a lot. I also added a strong kriya and powerful meditation to my sadhana a few days ago, and it is already making a difference.
September always feels like a transitional time to me – summer ends, kids go back to school, routines that we may have let go over the summer come back, and it’s something of a new year for me. And it’s another perfect moment to observe the yoga hitting the road. It’s wonderful to have a strong practice when things are flowing and feeling easy in life, because that prepares us for the challenges of staying steady when things get tough, when the rubber meets the road. The more our self-care habits are rituals when life is going great, the more they will be there for us when things shift and there seem to be challenges every way we turn.
So let your yoga be there for you in good times and bad. And it doesn’t have to be physical yoga. Maybe your yoga, your practice of union, is your time at the gym. Maybe it’s your time in nature, or creating space to work on your art, or make music. Whatever that thing is, the one that lights you up, let yourself have a daily experience of it. Creating space in your day for that, even if it’s only 3 minutes, has the potential to change your life. Let it fortify and strengthen you when things are rough, and when things are easy let it fill your soul so that your light can overflow to brighten up this world of ours.
In my new neighborhood, deer are part of the landscape. Until we raised the fence in our backyard, they were a constant part of that space – and I admit, now that they’ve begun to focus entirely on our front yard, I’ve thought of them as a nuisance. Nuisances that eat the flowers and blossoms off my clematis (beautiful & delicious evidently!), nuisances who may kill my day lilies before I can transplant them safely to the backyard this fall, nuisances that dictate what plants I will even think about adding to the front beds.
Then last night happened. We came home with groceries, and I insisted on showing off to my husband the 7 or so foot tall pile of dead branches I’d amassed over the past several days, cleaning out our juniper stands. Walking quickly in that general direction, eager to show off the result of my hard work, I startled when a small, white-spotted fawn jumped up from the side hedge, trying to get its balance. Immediately, we could see that one of its front legs was broken. Just imagining the pain it must have been feeling hit both of us hard, and we quickly backed away, not wanting to scare the poor baby any more than we already had.
For the rest of the evening, we watched this little fawn, in between reading up on how to know when a fawn needs help, wildlife rescue, etc. We knew that the mother was just a few houses down, and that interfering with the fawn was the last resort. It hurt to imagine the pain and fear that s/he must have been feeling. Mostly, the fawn lay calmly, curled up in our side hedge. Right as I was going to bed, it took several painful looking steps, then settled down again. We decided that in the morning, if it was still there, not moving well, we would start making calls. I laid down, still reading up on fawns and broken limbs, unable to shake the image of the little baby limping so badly. A bit later, my husband came to bed telling me that he couldn’t see the fawn anywhere: the mother must have returned, and somehow her baby was able to keep up with her.
This morning, there was a different fawn in our yard, walking on four solid legs, and in the afternoon the story continued. Across the street the fawn that we’d come to think of as our broken-limbed front yard dwelling baby and its sibling, who’d been in our yard in the morning, were nursing. It was clear that our baby fawn’s leg was in worse shape, and also that it had gotten much better at 3 legged walking. And when the mother walked away, clearly done nursing her babies, her limp was noticeable. Maybe she had also been a fawn with a broken limb, who healed as best she could and kept going.
Now, these 3 feel like friends somehow. The limping mother, moving on with her life, but slow enough that her broken-legged baby can keep up, the rambunctious 4 strong legged sibling, and our front yard fawn. The baby who stared at us, struggling to balance, who seems to be becoming a functional 3 legged deer. Friends that we care for, that I notice and keep an eye out for. Friends who I don’t mind sharing my front yard with (after all, I have an entire backyard where fruit trees, lilacs, tomatoes and other berries and herbs can safely grow) because, like me, they are growing up in Missoula. I came to this town as a not quite 2 year old with my parents, and this place is where I began to become the person that I am. Just as these fawns are becoming the deer they will be – one a dainty 3 legged walker, one an energetic 4 legged walker.
This past 24 hours with our local deer has made me think deeply about many things: urban wildlife, land stewardship, why humans have more rights than deer, and who am I to call them a nuisance? Our broken-legged fawn captured my heart last night, and I felt some semblance of what I imagine a mother would feel, caring for a sick baby, but unable to wave a wand and ward off the illness. There is so much more that unites us than what separates us in this world, I have long believed, in relation to humans. Thank you, broken-legged baby fawn, for expanding my worldview last night. More unites you and I than separates us. After all, both our mothers enjoy gardens (though mine spends much more time caring for it than eating it.)
Side note: I am beginning to offer private sessions that pull from my vast array of tools (sound, Reiki, Kundalini, card readings, behavioral analysis, and crystals) to create more energetic balance and harmony. Curious? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s chat!
P.S. There are several magical public events happening in the next few weeks, including an intimate by donation meditation class in my home studio: follow the links below for more info!
15 days ago, I felt completely and totally overwhelmed. My husband and I had just navigated a very fast move into our new home, which is nearly 3x the size of my former condo in which we’d somehow managed to cohabitate, my immediate family had just had a therapy session in which we deliberately talked about the elephant in our familial room for the first time, and I felt so off kilter I could hardly breathe. I had to do something for me, and for months I had been wanting to juice. Actually, I’d promised myself that once we were in a real house, I would get a juicer. And, in somewhat typical form, I had not yet done it. Just like the water structuring device that I’d purchased to purify all the water on our property that was still sitting in a box, not yet installed to provide us with amazing structured water, there was no juicer. No way for me to make fresh vegetable and fruit juices, which I both needed and wanted to do. So I grabbed my 20% off coupon for Bed, Bath and Beyond, and off I went to buy myself a juicer!
I was going to get myself the cheapest one there… after all, we’d just bought a house, and a washing machine, a dryer, a dishwasher, and countless smaller things. But the gods of BB&B had my back – Breville, the brand I had planned on purchasing, was excluded! That teeny tiny fine print had a long list of brands and items that did not qualify for the coupon. But Omega, the slow masticating juicer that I had read about and thought longingly of, was not on the exclusion list. So it was that I bought the exact juicer that I had longed for but was not going to allow myself the pleasure of having. Saving $60, a 15 year warranty and other potentially useful functions (i.e. making baby food, nut milks, nut butters?) Winning formula!!!!
14 days ago, I woke up in the morning and made fresh celery juice. My husband, always a good sport for experiments, joined me on the juice in the morning train. For several days, the first thing I did was get out and assemble my juicer, rinse two heads of celery, and run them through my Omega. Then I’d take it all apart, rinse the pieces, and put them in the drying rack, to be ready for the next morning’s juicing.
I’ve since figured out that juicing for 3-4 days at a time makes mornings run much more smoothly, that I tire of buying celery every day, and that I have not yet tired of drinking that bright green elixir on the daily. So things are smoothing out: celery and I have gotten into a bit of a routine. A couple times a week, I purchase a ridiculous amount of celery. The next morning, I juice it all, filling up old mason jars, kombucha bottles, ghee containers, lemon juice bottles… any glass I can remove the glue from with a solid lid, I now hold onto, because you never know when there will be more celery juice (or broth – another story, another filler upper of random glass jars.)
That feeling that I had, pre-celery juice? Complete overwhelm? For the most part, it’s still there. So phase 2 begins: I will grow my own celery! No rose-colored glasses here…. I know that the amount of celery we go through cannot reasonably be grown in my living room window, but a few days worth every few weeks? That has to be possible. And thus it begins: 10 little baby celeries growing from the roots of their long gone and digested family, sitting in the sunlight in their little glass containers filled with water. Note that these glass containers mean that we now have almost no small containers for leftovers – something of a hardship for people who cook as much as we do in general, but particularly now that we are on a liver cleanse and eat almost exclusively from home.
For the first few days, my baby celery plants who began after I cut their stalks off for juicing didn’t look like much at all. The only celery plant that I’d somewhat brutally broken off stalks from, that celery baby started looking like it was growing with a day or two, but all the others seemed to be struggling to poke their green heads up out of their safe spaces. I understood them. They looked how I felt.
Daily, I would inspect my baby celery plants, top off their water, wonder if I should move them to a different location. Inevitably I decided that they were fine where they were, that they’d come out when the time was right, and that it would all be all right in the end. And you know what? They did come out! Their teeny little yellowy fern-y looking heads peeked up, then they started to green up, and now I have a miniature forest of celery that needs to be planted into dirt. And I’m avoiding it.
Somehow it feels like they betrayed me. All the hours I would spend gazing at them, admiring their beauty, trying to get a photo to adequately capture it on my phone, giving them just a teeny bit more water, that was all done and then those little twerps did exactly what they were supposed to do – grow! Which means what, that I need to accept and enjoy the fact that I too have the perfect ingredients to grow, and allow my ferny bright green leaves to reach out to the sun? It kind of feels like my celery babies are judging me. Like I need to grow as much and as fast as they are. And maybe I am not up to it. My resources might be so low that there is very little leftover to put towards growth. Those first few days of my cut off celery roots, the days where there seemed to be no growth evident? That’s how I am feeling right now. It feels like clinging to the stillness in the eye of the hurricane. If I take my eyes off my celery, there are so many things to do and situations to cope with and people’s emotions that I can’t not see and the stories behind them and on and on.
But if I focus my gaze in on the tiny green fern-y looking leaves of my celery babies, and admire their bold greenness, and think about how I will plant them and arrange them in my sunny southern exposure living room window, that is all I can see. The usage of resources to push upward towards the light, the courage of pushing through the dark safety of what has ended. Somehow, gazing at celery restores me, one moment at a time.
“The one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope look for action. Then only hope will come.’’ Greta Thunberg, 2018
As we move into 2019, this statement encapsulates it all for me. My husband and I have been talking about changes we want to make, and both of us avoid New Year’s Resolutions. However, we are firm believers in the power of changing habits, and that is our focus as we shift into the new year: how can we shift our eating habits to better support optimal health? From negotiations over a house we are considering purchasing to meal planning, we are in the middle of action steps wherever we can be in our lives.
This afternoon I read Shiv Charan Singh’s annual post breaking down the numerology of the changing year (read it for yourself here) and it got me thinking, as it has for the last few years. Hope has been of paramount importance to me – the darker things seem to get in the external world, the harder I’ve been working to stoke my inner light, to integrate my shadow, to “be the lighthouse” as Yogi Bhajan famously said. And, simultaneously, over the last few weeks I’ve been doing a lot of resting, rejuvenating… and maybe dipping into inaction. So here I am – writing this post, working on my last newsletter of 2019, because as much as I would love to put my laptop aside and pick up my new Charles de Lint novel, these things matter. AND these small actions already have me feeling more energized and ready to shift into 2019 than I was 20 minutes ago. So thanks to Shiv Charan, and to Greta Thunberg – your words were exactly what I needed today.
Happy New Year!
P.S. check out all the amazing events & classes that are coming up – this weekend alone has New Moon Sound at The Women’s Club (5pm Friday) and Dark Moon Gong at Good Medicine (5-6:30pm Sunday) and there is so much more to come!
This past moon cycle has felt really difficult for me at various points. There are days when I feel like everything is flowing beautifully, I am part of the flow, my life is charmed. And then there are days when all that I can think about is my frustration at the waiting games that my husband and I are currently stuck in. The remedy? For me, keeping my focus on hope. That yes, things feel stuck, but we live on an ever circling planet in an ever shifting multi-verse – so despite my feelings, I never really am stuck.
I have been leaning heavily on music and my instruments lately, particularly at those moments when frustration is the first thing to come up. One of my greatest joys is making music with my dear friend Amber Jackson of Jewels Sound Alchemy.
Combining our instruments and musical aesthetics results in magic for both of us, and just last month we made a collective dream of ours come true by recording the first New Moon Meditation (Essence of Grace – for the Scorpio New Moon – find it here!) So, naturally, the New Moon in Sagittarius came around this month and we had our sights set on continuing this *not quite a* trend.
Here it is – our second little baby, up on Soundcloud and ready for you to take 30 minutes of quiet space. Let yourself Tune in to Hope – this is the season and time to focus in on it, and I am delighted to bring this to you. Click on the image above or go here to find this month’s meditation, Tuning In to Hope.
And, if you’re around Missoula this holiday season, make some time to go into music with Amber and I on December 28 – our second Gong Songs. Part Gong & Himalayan Bowl Sound Immersion, part song and music circle… last month was our first ever Gong Songs and we loved it. Bring yourself, an instrument that you love if you’d like to, and a $15-20 donation, though none will be turned away. This is about showing up as ourselves and harmonizing our way through life together. As always, you’ll find a list of classes & events I have going on here, and on my FB page.
This week was a big one for me! I was featured in an article in Missoula Valley Living (check it out here.) And, that same day, my dear friend/collaborator Amber Jackson and I took the first step towards a dream we have been calling in for some time now. Our first recording together is up! Enjoy this 31 minute meditation, the Essence of Grace, with the soundscape provided by my 32″ Shamash gong (by Shawn Aceto.) May it flow you through this New Moon and into the new year.
If you’ve been reading my blog lately ( Clarity Part 1 & Clarity Part 2 here) you’ll know that I’ve been focusing in on what is and is not mine. The latest iteration of that came this morning, as I was having breakfast with a dear friend. When I arrived she looked at me curiously, noticing my slightly off-kilter affect, and her kind eyes opened the emotional floodgates.
This last week has been full of challenging emotions for me. 17 years ago, my youngest sister Eleanore died in tragic and unexpected circumstances in late July, and her memorial service was a week later, on what would have been her 12th birthday. Every year, grief comes flooding back in different forms and at different times, but it always appears around this anniversary week. I began trying to describe the strange state of grief I was experiencing to my friend, and asked her if it was weird to be there 17 years later.
“I don’t know” she said, and as our conversation continued I realized that my work was to observe the place I was in, not bypass or ignore it, and still keep moving through it. When I get hit by grief, it gets sticky, like I’m in this place where I could spend the rest of my life reliving the past, experiencing the traumas again and again. For me, the most important thing to do is to keep moving, not set up camp and stay put. I began laughing as I realized the truth of the words. “Let it be what it is, but whatever you do, don’t pitch a tent Arwen! You’re not staying there.”
This whole conversation was not more than 10 minutes before we continued on to enjoy our time together, but the impact of these words has been vibrating through me all day long.
So, without further ado, here are my marching orders:
- Let it be what it is, observe it
- Notice when things get sticky
- Keep moving (don’t pitch a tent!)
Because, in the end, the traumas did happen, and they made me who I am. I don’t know who I would be were it not for all the good and hard things that occurred in the past, because every step has led me to this moment right here. For me, holding onto and reliving the traumas of the past feels like trying to live in the past, and that doesn’t work. So my job is to be here now.
May we all let ourselves be here now.
Happy Birthday Eleanore – I miss you, and I’ll see you on the other side of this world ocean.
These words, the statement that “my joy is based on my adherence to truth,” is from the final track on East Forest’s album The Education of the Individual Soul. Since I began listening to this album, these nine words have rolled around in my head. What does it mean? Adhering, or not adhering to truth… what is that in real world terms? I think of myself as an honest person, but is this lyric really about the dichotomy of honesty and dishonesty? What is the real truth?
The more I sit with it, particularly in this season of my life where pieces are falling into place, the more I realize that for me, adherence to truth is 100% an inside job of self-acceptance and empowerment. My truth, my Sat Nam, is based entirely on me taking responsibility for myself and owning my personal power, not holding on to anything that is not mine to hold.
If you are following this series, you may remember that in the summer of 2016 I upended my life (for a catch up or refresher, click here) and ended up eventually relocating to my hometown of Missoula, Montana. During that summer, when I felt like a shadow of myself, knowing that I needed to reclaim my truth, I took myself totally out of my known world before returning home.
For just over 40 days, I was a sevadar (volunteer) at Chateau Anand, an amazing place near Poitiers, France. Going all the way to France to reclaim myself may have seemed extreme to people who cared about me, but I followed my inner knowing to that pink castle, certain that I would fast track my self-reclaiming process. How did I know that would happen? Daily practice!
Aquarian Sadhana is a 2.5 hour morning practice of prayer, yoga, and meditation from the Kundalini Yoga tradition that occurred every morning at Chateau Anand. I went into my time there knowing that I would be there for 40 mornings, and promised myself that I would do Aquarian Sadhana every day. So every day I was up by 4 or 4.30 and participated in group Sadhana before beginning my work for the day. That was the most transformative 40 day practice I have ever done, and I’ve done many since I began practicing Kundalini. How could it not be? 150 minutes of prayer, yoga and chanting in the early morning hours every single day for 40 days is a recipe for clearing up one’s internal world (in my experience, anyway.)
My days at the Chateau were always a combination of sadhana, work and time by the river. I would wander down to the river to pray, read, journal, meditate, and just let myself be at least once per day, by myself or with friends. More often than not tears would come. Feeling as frayed as I had been for years, having virtually nonexistent resources to keep me steady besides my daily practice, I would sit on the metal footbridge and stare at the water. On one side of the bridge, it was calm (as pictured below) – and on the other it was a crashing waterfall, chaotic and in perpetual motion. My perspective dictated what I saw, which was exactly the reminder I needed.
Clarity was the gift that the river and my time at Chateau Anand gave me. I walked away firm in my resolution that I would listen to and trust my internal wisdom in any decision making, fully committed to maintaining my daily practice, and feeling like me – a pretty tired, needing TLC, worn out version of me, but more like me than I had felt in years. There are no words to describe the enormity of that return home to myself. As I became more my true self, my joy increased – “my joy is based on my adherence to truth.” (East Forest)
Don’t get me wrong, this was not a magic pill to solve every challenge I was coping with at the time. This is an ongoing practice – my time at Chateau Anand was amazing and exactly what I needed that summer of 2016, but like all watershed events it did pass by. So to keep myself clear, and keep only my monkeys in my own personal circus, I continue to practice every day. Starting the day on my sheepskin, moving and breathing and chanting, brings me back to my true self. That, to me, is what clarity is all about.
Note: if you are in the Missoula area and want to increase the clarity in your life, check out this class that is beginning at Red Willow in August. And if you want a laugh, regardless of where you are, watch this 2 minute video we made about it!