Thoughts on Elevation

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.

When the yoga hits the road…

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.

Lessons from “my” fawn

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 akaevenstar.rising@gmail.com 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!

Full Moon Sound 7/15, Eclipse Gathering 7/16, weekly Monday evening Kundalini Yoga beginning 7/22, Waning Moon Rebirthing 7/24, All Night Gong 7/26-27, and Float through Sound 7/28.

Restorative Celery Gazing

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.

2019 = Action + Hope

“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!