Clarity Part 2: Joy and adherence to truth

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!



Weeding the garden of my life

Wow, what a summer. It has felt, more often than not, that every time I looked to the outside world there was chaos and trauma in every direction. Honestly, I did not know what to do with it all! The feeling of overwhelm was in charge of my life for a few weeks. I let go of my morning meditation practice, stopped playing my musical instruments, wasn’t singing, barely got in a little hiking… in short, all of the tools that connect me to myself were thrown aside. After all, what was the point of taking care of myself when life felt like a hurricane? I was struggling. Emotions were ruling my mental state. I felt overreactive to news about absolutely everything in the world that I cared about (which, of course, is infintely more than I have any ability to directly impact or control,) and I was so depleted that I told myself I was stuck in this space. But was I?

In the summer, my beloved  mother spends hours at a time weeding her gardens. She carefully removes bindweed and quackgrass, creating room for vegetables and fruits to have optimum nutrients, light, and air. I would spend hours weeding with her as a child. She taught me that gardens grow best when the weeds are kept under control – if you want to have fresh strawberries, you have to make sure they have space and water. In my internal garden, I had generally been keeping up on my weeding , but when overwhelm took over, there was no room left. All the light and air was gone, and I was in a rough spot. Luckily, I have a great support system, and one of my mentors  spoke up and reminded me that I need to do my work. Chop wood, carry water, pull out those pesky weeds.

So last week, I took my garden back! I began to wake early every day, to have quiet time for yoga & meditation so I could connect to my higher self before heading out for my day. I got myself outside more days than not. I sang my heart out every day, played the piano, worked on some original compositions, and almost immediately I was back to myself. Coming home to myself, tending to my own internal garden every single day – that work is the most important thing I can do in a day. When I’m centered, connected to my higher self and in touch with my guides, work and life flow with ease.

If you can relate to this experience, consider joining me for Growth Essentials: Sound & Meditation. Beginning on Monday, July 9, we will spend 90 minutes a week focusing in on clearing out those weeds in our gardens! Using yogic tools and sound to support us, we will create space in our lives so that we can flourish in this season of growth. Tend to your garden, you magnificent human being. The best thing we can do in these times is care for ourselves so that our actions can have the maximum impact. It all starts at home.

Sadhana: what is it and why does it matter?

In the summer of 2016, I spent 40 days volunteering at an Kundalini Yoga ashram in the French countryside. Every morning before work I did 2.5 hours of Aquarian Sadhana, and every afternoon/evening on a break or after work I ended up by this river. I spent more hours than I can count sitting on the bridge over the waterfall pictured here. Those two daily practices moved me through one of the most difficult times of my life with so much more grace than I realized was possible.

Sadhana means daily spiritual practice. Check out this article for more information. Four years ago, I was convinced that I didn’t have time to do anything for myself every single day. It felt impossible. At the time, I taught children with ASD and spent most of my professional life helping them change their behaviors using the principles of behavioral modification. I made it to exercise and yoga classes several times a week and told myself that was enough, that it should keep me in a centered and balanced place.

A few months later, when I began my training in Kundalini Yoga, one of the requirements was that we complete a 40 day sadhana of at least 11 minutes/day. That, to me, felt completely overwhelming… how was I supposed to cram one more thing into my day?! My teachers encouraged me to take it slow, start with just 3 minutes a day of a practice that I absolutely loved. So I began chanting Ra Ma Da Sa every day for 3 minutes. Somewhere along the way, I realized that all my years helping my students make changes had prepared me perfectly to modify my own! So I embarked on a journey of self-study. I applied the principles of applied behavioral analysis to myself and taught myself to maintain a daily practice, bit by bit. I developed systems for rewarding myself (checking things off is so satisfying for me,) and began to feel the steadiness that sadhana imparts. Fast forward to today, and my daily practice is the cornerstone, and always at least 20 minutes, bare minimum. If I feel out of whack, and I take the time to recommit to (and sometimes repeat) my daily practice, it invariably helps me move back towards my center.

One of my teachers said that he does his sadhana (daily practice) every day so that he can run his day, instead of his day running him. That line resonated deeply and stayed with me, and describes the reason that I prioritize my sadhana. Is it always easy? Do I have magical self-discipline powers? No and no. What I do have is nearly 4 years experience of proof that when I do my sadhana, my life flows more smoothly and I feel better. That’s what gets me to my practices every day. Is it perfect? Nope. There have been a couple days this year when I’ve missed on part or all of my sadhana. And the best thing I do when I flub up? I focus on being as supportive and kind to myself as I tried to be to my students when they invariably had a lapse. Instead of blaming and getting upset with myself, I tell myself that it’s ok, life isn’t perfect and neither am I, but I’m going to get back to it and start again. After all, sadhana is a practice, and so is life.


The bridge in this photo is at Château Anand, the 3HO ashram near Poitiers, France. In the summer of 2016 , I spent 40 days volunteering at the Château.  Every morning I practiced Aquarian Sadhana, 2.5 hours of yoga and chanting. Every afternoon, by myself or with friends, I would go down to the river that borders one side of the Château, and spend time on the bridge.


There were days when I would find myself on this bridge for hours at a time. Peering through the metal slats to the rushing water below, seeing the calmness of the water before it crashed down the rocks, listening to the sounds of passersby in their kayaks and canoes, writing, meditating, crying… that bridge was the space that held me as I faced what felt like an endless pit of darkness in myself.

Dianne Reeves, an amazing singer, sang Sergio Mendes’ “Bridges” on the first album of hers that I was ever given.

“There’s a bridge to tomorrow
There’s a bridge to the past
There’s a bridge made of sorrow
That I pray will not last
There’s a bridge made of colors
In the sky high above
And I think that there must be
Bridges made out of love”

(listen here)

Her voice soared through my head…. bridges made out of love. What would that look like? What would it feel like? At Château Anand, it looked like an old, solid metal grating going across a small waterfall, and it felt like the patterns that formed on my legs and backs of my thighs as I sat there, cross-legged, writing everything out, crying all the tears I’d suppressed, feeling everything that I’d tried to keep myself from feeling. The small red lines on my legs always faded away, as did the intensity of my emotional agony.

40 days after I first arrived at the Château, an old friend picked me up. We walked down to the river, and I showed him the bridge. To him, it was a simple metal bridge. To me, it was everything. It was the place where I’d spent enough time looking into the dark to see the light glimmering in the shadows. It was the home of my new self, the woman who honors her inner knowing. It was, and is a sacred space. A space that I revisit when I close my eyes, and the safe, comforting feeling of sitting on that bridge stays with me. One day, I will return. I will go visit “my” river, “my” bridge: the place that gave myself to me.

Until then, this simple bridge over the healing river at Château Anand stays with me. May each of us find our bridge. Metal, wooden, whatever its physical makeup is or is not, may it be a bridge made out of love.


2017: Plant seeds in darkness, be the light

“Travel light, live light, spread light, be the light.” – Yogi Bhajan

Quote - Be the light (Yogi Bhajan)

These words have been special medicine for me during the transition from 2016 to 2017. It has been a time of change, of upheaval, and emotions have been running high.  2+0+1+6=9. From the standpoint of numerology, the number 9 is the end of a cycle. The last number before the cycle begins again with 10, an amplified return to the beginning, to 1.

Shifting from the 9 year of 2016 to a 10 or 1 year (2+0+1+7) is the transition from the end to the beginning. Planting seeds that will take root, bloom, and mature over the next 9 years.

For me, the seeds sown over the last several weeks are showing vibrant signs of life. In a dark time, training my focus on keeping my light aflame and bright has held me up. And now, it feels brighter and stronger than it was. The tools that I used to keep myself steady in the darkness, to shield my light that was flickering weakly? My sadhana, my daily practice. For me, chanting Japji, practicing the Kriya to Keep the Body Beautiful, and keeping up with the Spirit Voyage Global Sadhana Oneness of Heart held me up through the rough and tumble ending of 2016.

Now here we are, in 2017, beginning again. The end is the beginning of the new, and it leads to another ending. So the wheel turns. May all of our lights shine ever more brightly as we plant seeds into the darkness of the earth.

Sat Nam.