Dishes and Berries Equal Food On The Plate

Day 4 at the Ashram Karma Yoga

Day 4 at the Ashram and on the agenda was, for me, a reintroduction to Karma Yoga. My first practice of this type of yoga can be enjoyed in another blog post called “The Karmic Carrot”.

The agenda for each day pops up on a website at 6 pm the previous evening for a reason. It doesn’t give you too much information and whole lot of time to decide if you are going to like doing the task or not. Don’t think too much about it, is the advice given by the yogi. Good advice.

Before we suited up in our winter wear to battle the balmy -9 degrees outside, which is necessary for most activities while we are still in quarantine (I came from Lethbridge which is -32 right now) we were instructed to watch a video by Swami Radhananda. The Swami talks about many things in the video but focuses mostly on Karma Yoga and why the Ashram began to incorporate it as part of their practice over 45 years ago. She muses that people pay to come here and do service in this way. The practice is built on the principles of light, social action, compassion, evolution, health, surrender and love. It’s believed that if “something needs to be done, you should do it!” I especially love the example she gives of no job is too small or insignificant to complete. You pick the berries and wash the plates which leads to something to eat and a vessel to enjoy it. It’s pretty simple right? Another interesting point she makes is around work and what we value. Most of us go to work from 9 to 5 then go home and do our personal work for the rest of our awake hours. Here at the Ashram, you see more of a connection between the work that gets done during the day and the immediate consumption or usefulness of that task.

A trendy label these days is something called “an essential worker”. Everyone at the Ashram is essential to it’s sustainment. We could learn a thing or two about how the world functions and what is actually essential to do and what is not.

Ok, back to the Karma Yoga. After I watched the video I was to come up with an intention to ponder while I practiced being in service. There was a ton of great nuggets to ponder and yet the one that stuck out for me was this “limitations cause us to rethink and change”. The Swami was referring to the necessity to constantly adapt. Not very many people are permanent residence at the Ashram, therefore as beings are switched out, the ecosystem has had to learn to rethink, adapt and change over and over again. Some folks have been invited to stay for a longer term and a few are here to stay. Can you imagine a life where everything changes all time? Practicing non-attachment would be easier I would like to think. The same theme as yesterday came back up today in the video “you learn to trust”. No wonder, in a place where you rely on that next helpful resource to pop up out of nowhere you have to “let go” and “trust”.

There is a desire for action and it’s moving the place toward a strong commitment to a connected community.

The Karma Yoga ended up being putting sand on ice covered trails. Good use of time. I am forever falling on ice and I am amazed that I don’t have a cracked skull or brain damage from hitting my head. Ouch! Normally I would have went off on my own and meticulously covered all the trails I could find with a nice coating of sand. I rethought my actions today and changed up my practice. Another newbie was on a trail and I joined her a few feet apart. We chatted and poured sand. We learned what we had in common and what made us unique. I realized another intentions as we walked. I miss people, other human beings that I can stare into their faces in real life instead of a webcam. It was overwhelming to realize the depth of loneliness that this pandemic and working from home had caused in my existence.

Karma Yoga has migrated me towards a community who are embedded in a shift towards Ideals, Intentions, Goals and Focus and it’s feel wonderful.

“I want to be who I want to be…I want to help”

Namaste Swami Radhananda, may you rest in peace, divine light and love

Day 3 Set Your Intentions

In yoga it is customary to dedicate or set your intentions for a practice. It helps with focus, purpose and direction. Today at the Ashram we had orientation. We went for a walk through the woods and eventually navigated down to the beach. We formed a circle, more loosely than pre COVID and were asked two questions:

  1. How did it feel when we first arrived at the property? Our first impressions, feelings for day 1 and 2?
  2. What is our intention as we immerse ourselves into Ashram life and practice? What do we want to get out of this experience?

I shouldn’t have been surprised by the responses from the group. As I listened to confessions of being overwhelmed, exhaustion from traveling, relief at getting here. A sense of isolation from the community due to quarantine restrictions. It all rang true and familiar for me also. You know that feeling when you step into a church or a holy/spiritual place? I don’t think it matters whether you believe in a deity or not. There is calm energy there and you find yourself sinking into a warm, liquid comfort. You can’t help but weep a bit. A necessary purge of pent up emotions that can no longer be denied. Surrendering to a higher power? I also felt welcomed and oddly more connected than if I would have been part of a physical group packed into a room.

The second question is an interesting one. I have been to lots of retreats, workshops and meditation groups. We are always asked to set an intention. I recognize that the person walking into the Ashram will be quite different than the one walking out. I can feel the shift even in the very short time I have been here. Physically, I have never ate so healthy…lol. My body is craving the opportunity to get started in Karma Yoga activities. I know, from what some of the guides have said, I may regret that. There is always lots of manual work to do on a self sustaining compound.

So, what is my intention for now?

As I think about it, I can start to almost see it forming in front of me. Memories are coming up of the being I had intended to formulate into the body I currently occupy. What parts of the dream still ring true for me? What parts no longer fit?

I am drawn to the pursuit of divine light. We have enough cynical, cruel, me first people in the world. Consumerism is a drug that I have been guilty of taking. As I let go of all the “stuff” I am feeling lighter and lighter.

For now, my intentions is to dedicate my time here to being present. Noting the changes, opportunities to learn and unlearn, don’t talk so much( some of you will be relieved to hear that one…lol) and learn to listen with my heart and intuition. I think it’s a lofty place to start and who knows as the weeks pass by it may evolve and clarify.

I am making necessary connections that feel right and good for now. Connections aren’t just about interactions with others, they are a recognition of patterns and opportunity to rewire your internal engine.

I had the opportunity to explore the property and shoot some video. Hope you enjoy the view…I know I am.

Namaste

You Gotta Learn How To Trust

Day 2 at the Ashram

It’s day two at the Ashram. I slept like a newborn baby. The quiet is different here. There is a certain lack on ambient noise you can’t get anywhere else. Yesterday I was introduced to “Ruth” she is going to be my guide and help me to acclimatize to life here.

COVID has changed so many things. Even an Ashram can’t get around the challenges of how to mitigate protocols and a continuous cycle of people coming in and going out of the community.

How do you make and keep connections when you are trying to reduce the amount of time participants are using their phones or smart devices?

I am not a big texter, right now those that know me are saying “that’s an understatement, she never answers a text or a phone call”. So the constant transfer of information via text, zoom or website has caused me to increase my screen time instead of reduced it. Hah!

The connection to Knechtion (see what I did there…lol) is ironic. My guides have been very attentive asking me if I need anything or how I am finding my experience so far. I said I was a bit concerned because one of the doors to the house doesn’t have a key to the lock. I had asked a couple of people that had texted me and the response was the same. “We don’t lock our doors here”. I had brought some expensive computer equipment with me and, if being honest, hadn’t ever stayed anywhere on my own where i hadn’t locked the door as soon as I could for the night. I decided to “let it go” and not think about it. Ruth had brought it up today and asked if I slept ok knowing the door wasn’t locked? Truthfully? I didn’t even think about it and slept deeply. What she said next struck me profoundly.

“You have to learn how to trust”

Whoa, when did I unlearn that? It took me back for a few moments and I think she saw the reaction on my face because she raised her eyebrows over her mask and looked me square on.

“That’s really good advice” I said.

I am learning to ask for what I need. It’s an adjustment being in a quarantine situation for 14 days. It’s even more challenging when you are trying to make connections and get to know the community. They have been very attentive and I feel safe and wanted. I can’t wait to bust out of the isolation period and start Knechting.

Namaste

Virtual “Drive-bys”

Today, I had the most interesting virtual experience. We were having our weekly team update meeting. However, instead of updates, our leaders decided we’d do “drive by visits” to other people in our department. Since COVID has all corporate employees working from home, there are no spontaneous chats in the kitchen, by the elevators, or when passing desks. So, to recreate the experience virtually, they sent out invitations for people join our meeting after it started.

It was fun to see our other HR partners join us. They didn’t really know what was going on, but quickly realized we simply invited them to chat and check in. As a new employee, it amazed me to see how close this team is. They have clearly worked together for a while and know each other very well.

This type of activity may not be as effective in every work environment, but it has for the environments in which I’ve found myself. I’ve worked on teams where we were dispersed across the province, so scheduled a meeting every two weeks to simply chat and catch up with each other. We’ve used apps to match ourselves with others in the department to set up “coffee chats” and get to know someone we don’t work with everyday. Some people got together for book chats, and others met to talk about articles or podcasts they’ve discovered.

This is the first time I’ve been onboarded into a new position in a 100% virtual environment. I have to say, it’s going very well. I’m starting Week 5, and I feel just as involved with my team as when I started jobs in person. My leader gave me a list of people with whom to set up “meet and greets” and everyone has been extremely welcoming. Our department gets together every Friday – either for an 8:00 a.m. breakfast together (yes, virtually), or an “It’s 5:00 somewhere” gathering at 3:30 – where we bring our beverage of choice.

I think, in some ways, working virtually creates deeper connections. We see each other in our home environments. We get to ask questions about what we see in the background, meet each other’s children/partners/pets, and get a glimpse into the lives of our colleagues. It sparks discussions we may not otherwise have in an office setting. Since it’s not possible to have “drive-by” discussions in an office, we are intentional when we reach out to people. We realize everyone’s time is valuable, so if someone is willing to share theirs with us, it means something.

I’m interested to hear what others are doing to form connections in our virtual world.

Missed Connections

February is about connections for us at midlife arises. Ever heard the saying that “what you don’t say it just as important as what you do?” I think that’s pretty accurate. I am sitting at my kitchen table in the Yasodhara Ashram looking out the window at the most incredible view of Kootenay Lake. It’s my first night here and the peacefullness hugs me like a friend. I am feeling truly blessed and at the same time hurt by moments of missed communication between my husband and I over the last few weeks. He has never been a man to express his feelings. Especially ones that involve being vulnerable. As he holds onto an argument over an electric grill staying in a kitchen cupboard the moment to talk it out, as rational adults, has passed.

We have created a negative pattern of exchanging concerns years ago. We used to argue and talk back and forth for days to try and resolve issues. There were some tears, some words and a night on the couch sometimes. Now? There is silence. When we get mad at each we just stop talking to each other. The trouble is that neither person gets heard or understood. It resolves nothing and if left, it leads to more division than devotion.

Accountability to speak up is crucial to a healthy relationship. To be heard and mutually understood is extremely important. You must be wondering why I am opening up about this here? As adults we are always being watched. Our kids, young relatives are always looking at our relationships and trying to figure how to communicate. They watch us, mimic us and repeat our patterns whether they are great examples or bad ones.

Let’s not live a life of unsaid feelings, suppressed emotions and missed connections. Regret happens for what we don’t do more often than for what we do.

I am excited about opportunities for personal growth over the next few months and learning more about how I express how I think and feel. It’s healthy and key to finding happiness.

Namaste

I Do…For Now

Here I sit, a week before Valentine’s Day, thinking about the “connection” theme Vanessa and I chose for this month. One of the most significant connections we make is with a life partner…or in my case…partners.

You see, I never did find my “one and only” life connection. Unlike my parents who were married for 53 years, I have a history of “I do…for now” marriages.

My first marriage happened two months before my 21st birthday. We met at university, dated for two years, and got married the same week I wrote the last five finals of my Bachelor’s degree. At the time, I made vows to love and cherish for the rest of my life – and meant it. What do we know when we’re in our early twenties? That marriage lasted 5 years, though it was over shortly after the first two years. My husband decided to devote himself to piano studies at the detriment of our marriage. I now tell friends, “When your husband buys you a dog to keep you company, go directly to your lawyer.” A dog can’t fill the void created by an inattentive spouse. However, it did spawn a life-long passion with dog training and competition, and for that I am grateful.

I met Husband #2 online. We chatted for a while, started to call, and eventually met in person. We clicked. Within a year, we had bought a house and moved in together. A year after that, we were married. Again, I said “I do” in front of a (much smaller) group of friends and family – and meant it.

There was a twelve year age difference between us. It wasn’t an issue when I was in my early 30’s and he in his mid-40’s. It became an issue when we adopted our son a few years later. While we had many similarities that grew and developed our relationship early on, our ideas about how we wanted to raise our son were different. I wanted to be outdoors, active, and experience new things. He was content to sit at home, watch TV, and read. I wanted us to provide a life of experiences for our son. He was happy to have me do it on my own.

That marriage lasted 12 years. Once more, I hadn’t found my life-long connection.

After the second marriage, I didn’t want a relationship. I started to online date again and developed “friends with benefits” connections. This worked for me. I was happy on my own. I had my home, my son, and companionship when I wanted it. Over time, one of the FWBs turned into a dating relationship, which turned into co-habitation. This time, I didn’t want to get married. I was happy living together. However, he’d had a common-law relationship and wanted a marriage. In the end, I acquiesced.

The cracks started to form after a couple of years. I was determined to make this marriage work. After all, it was my THIRD marriage – I HAD to get this one right! We’ve discovered we were together more for my son than for us. He wanted to be a dad, and I was (subconsciously) looking for a dad for my son, as his had moved away and wasn’t a daily part of his life. Despite my best efforts, we weren’t able to function as a married couple. At some point, we will divorce, sell the house, and go our separate ways. For now, we are fortunate to have the space to have distinct living quarters so we can continue to enjoy our home, yard, and neighbourhood.

Which brings me to my current relationship. Have I finally found my life-long connection? Who knows? What does “forever” mean after three failed marriages? The series of “I do….for now” is done. There will be no marriage for us. We love each other too much to ever want to feel beholden or trapped. Our relationship is based on what we feel for each other in the present. As much as we’d like to think what we have will continue to grow and sustain, we can’t be certain. All we have is “…for now”, and for now, that’s enough.

The Spirit Moves Me

It’s February, and as my Facebook memories are reminding me, I’m supposed to be in Hawai’i right now, or at least counting down the days until I’m there. For the past 12 years, I have spent 2-3 weeks on either Maui or the Big Island every winter. It’s not just the warm weather and beaches that draw me there; it’s an indescribable ‘something’ that makes me feel connected to myself and the surroundings.

Hawaiians talk about, and demonstrate, “Aloha Spirit”. “Aloha”, while often associated with being the word for “Hello”, actually refers to “the presence of breath”. It is the “coordination of mind and heart within each person.” (Chapter 5, Hawai’i Revised Statutes) It is a way of life on the islands, where goodwill and kindness are extended to others.

I felt it on my first trip. As soon as the aircraft door opened and I could smell the air, I felt at home. It doesn’t matter which island I’m on, it’s the same. There is something about being there that makes me feel completely connected – physically, mentally, emotionally.

At first, I thought it was being near water. I can sit near the ocean for hours – watching and listening to the waves crash on shore. I get a similar feeling sitting near the lake at home, so I knew it was more than that. Is it the humidity in the air? The scent of the plumeria flowers wafting on the breezes? Being surrounded by so much natural beauty?

I remember the feeling I had when hiking into “The Bamboo Forest” (Pipiwai Trail) on Maui on the way to Waimoku Falls. As far, and tall, as the eye could see – it was bamboo. Greenery everywhere. A slight breeze added subtle percussion sounds as the bamboo swayed. A gentle rain started to fall. All I wanted to do was sit on the forest floor and experience it.

Whenever I am on the islands, the urge to be creative is overpowering. I want to write, draw, paint (and I’m not a visual artist!). Something about the Aloha spirit connects me in a primal way to myself. I feel things more deeply. I feel a profound sense of peace. I feel whole in a way that’s completely different from how I feel anywhere else.

Connections are interesting things. It’s not just the connections between people, but also things, feelings, places, experiences – everything it means to be human. Some connections can be explained, others cannot – yet they exist for a reason. How a girl who grew up in a land-locked Canadian province found such a profound connection to her being on the tiny islands in the Pacific, I’ll never know. But, I’m grateful.

Since that first trip (and there have been seventeen, to date, in total), I feel I leave a small piece of my soul behind when I leave the islands. Maybe I’m called to return in order to connect all the parts of my being.

“We Follow The Road We Are Accustomed To”

Above is a quote from The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho. The book is about his journey on the SanTiago trail in Spain. My sister and I started planning a trip to Spain a few years ago that involved trekking on some of the trails. We got distracted (ok confession, I got distracted) as we talked about the adventure with other relatives. Soon the group had grown to 11 people and as we tried to accommodate individual tastes and wishes the trail got left behind. I have had lots of time now to reflect on the trip that actually happened and to wonder at the trip that would have been if I had stuck to the original plan. The trip was epic as I ended up in North Africa (Morocco) riding a camel in the desert. I don’t regret it and yet I do wonder what I missed.

The rest of the excerpt from the book reads…”We know which is the best road to follow, but we follow only the road that we have become accustomed to.”

I am a firm believer in “Redos”. They happened to me all the time. Do you ever get the feeling of “deja vous”? A real life scenario starts to unfold and then something triggers in your mind…wait a minute…haven’t I done this before…now what was I supposed to remember about this again? Dang…I know it’s really important that I (fill in the blanks). The event unwinds as it does and then later when the dust settles you find yourself going WTF? I knew the road. I knew what I wanted to change in my approach, actions, thoughts towards it and yet, here I am still reacting and acting the same way AGAIN! Sigh. I had the opportunity to follow the right path I chose not too. As I reflect on those opportunities and now chart what the alternate path would have perhaps looked like I am trying my best to be self aware. Please, if there is any chance that my higher power is listening, let me choose the best road to follow instead of the one I am accustomed to.

On Monday, I start on the road to the Ashram in BC. I have been on this journey before in 2013 and got side tracked. Wow, that long ago! 2 months to rewire this brain, thought patterns, habits, behaviors and anything else that no longer serves me to be well. I am extremely lucky to have the awareness that you can live “You do You”. It feels like I am going to throw up, I am anxious and unsettled. That’s a good feeling I think…lol. It tells me that by being uncomfortable I can finally get out of this self induced rhetoric. Short term pain for a longer more stable gain.

For Every Action

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

I went for a walk today. In my head I had planned the route, decided I would not listen to a podcast and just concentrate on moving. I needed a clear headspace to just think and home wasn’t providing it. I parked, got out of my car and was instantly distracted by my three eagle friends circling high over the coulee edge. I had intended to go the other direction but soon found myself chasing the eagles and their flight path. I tredge up the side of a cliff with my head down and feet forward. My mind now consumed by sighting the eagles once again. As I approached the top of one incline I began to see there were rows and rows of up and down paths. I looked up to see where the eagles were so I could choose an optimum path. They were gone. I zig zagged up and down the mounds and kept looking towards the horizon in hopes they would reappear.

Nope, they were gone. I had filled my space with lingering thoughts of more messages I could use in upcoming decisions I need to make. I wrote about a shaman journey in a previous blog. In that journey, the eagle had given me explicit instructions, heck even hand gestures to use on how to sort my chaotic mind.

So why was I still looking for more?

Newtons’ 3rd Law is not lost on me here. It can relate to decisions we make in life just as well as physics. I had asked the eagles for help they had given it. Now I was just being greedy and I suspect eagles are not big on needy types. So they had decided to move in the opposite direction from me to get me back on track and focus on why I needed a walk in the first place.

I applied for a residency at an Ashram in BC. It’s for two months and I will be totally cut off from most of my social media and communications. It’s an opportunity to grow in my yoga practice, my meditations routines, “Karma Yoga” character building and being in a community of like minds and souls. I am excited and thrilled.

I am terrified and second guessing my sanity and judgement.

For this action, I know there is an equal and opposite list of reactions. My husband and I have never agreed on this type of stuff. He doesn’t get it, though mostly he just says whatever he is going to say and then knows I will do whatever I feel I need to do. I have gone away on trips for up to a month before but never this long. I am nervous about this big of a change in both our lives and yet, I need this in order to be “Me”. The book, on our podcasts, talks about “You do You”. It doesn’t say “Doing You” will necessarily get you points with others or disrupt their lives and routines.

So, do you step forward on a path not knowing if it leads you to Shangrala or the “River of Sorrows”? The eagles gave me tools to guide me if I choose to ask and honor their method of sorting my chaos. The book “The Magic of not giving a F#” gives me a way of understanding what I value and the limitations of my”Fuck Budget”. I am sure the yogis at the Ashram won’t appreciate my choice of words here but I do know they will understand the language of my heart. Nothing like big open spaces to clear your core.

I was on a good path of clearing space. As I worked through my shit, I soon understood that it wasn’t enough. I needed to go deeper to unpack past trama and triggers. I know two months isn’t very long and yet, to some, it’s a very long time.

I started the “action” my wonderful readers by accepting the residency…stayed tuned to learn what equal and opposite reactions are yet to come…

What We Learned From Not Giving A F*&^

Warning, this isn’t an episode to play around your kids as we do use the F word.

On this episode we dig into Sarah Knights’ book “The life-changing magic of not giving a f*ck”. We get real about what matters and have a very open conversation about Time, Energy and Money.