“My experience is what I choose to attend to.”
“I felt one with the grass, the trees, birds, insects, everything in nature. I exulted in the mere fact of existence, of being a part of it all—the drizzling rain, the shadows of the clouds, the tree-trunks, and so on.”
Ananda Flow, literally the flow of happiness or “bliss,” describes the state of mind where pure, abiding joy radiates from and within us. The sage Patañjali, and the Buddha as well, prescribed paths for finding an uncluttered mind, free from the habitual patterns and thoughts that we so often spin around and around in our heads. Patañjali talks of vairagya, which is the letting go of habitual patterns, and of abhyasa, which is the cultivation of new, calmer, patterns in the mind and body. And the Buddha spoke of an appreciation of “the moment,” and of not allowing the memories of the past or the imaginings of the future to disturb our tranquility.
Another path to finding joy and contentment in our lives is to begin to see how interconnected we all are with one another, with the earth’s creatures, and with the very pulse of existence. As William Blake said, “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to us as it is, infinite. For we have closed ourselves up ‘til we see all through the narrow chinks of our cavern.”
Through the venues of mythology, science, philosophy drawn from a variety of “yogic” traditions, and of course, by immersion into the greatest guru of all—Mother Nature—I have been exploring, and writing about, these intricate connections to this Universe we inhabit. The further I have ventured on this path, the more wise I find to be the words of Henry David Thoreau when he said that “our life is frittered away by the detail…simplify, simplify.”
For it is in those moments where we are able to simply “be,” when we can lose ourselves in the vastness of the river of stars streaming across a desert sky, or when we are lost in the rhythm of the waves crashing against a rocky shore during a pounding rainstorm, or, perhaps, while mountain biking through endless fields of flowering mustard set against a robin’s-egg-blue sky, that we can relax into the infinite. Those are the times when are able to reach beyond the boundaries of ordinary perception to feel the pulsation of the universe as She breathes with us.
The ancient Śiva-sūtras tell us that the “desire to function in the external world may remain after touching the deeper levels of consciousness.” We do not need to seclude ourselves in a cave on a mountaintop to experience these depths. Rather, we need to venture out to far and beautiful places on the planet, or maybe only as far as beneath the fluttering branches of a tree in our own backyards—as far as we need to go to reach those deeper levels of consciousness, to remember the pulsation of the Earth and her creatures. We need this to remind us of how much we are a part of her, and her of us. And, when we have found that connection again, we can live in the world with a greater sense of harmony, equanimity and happiness.
I first discovered yoga at the age of eight or nine by practicing along with Lilias Folan and her PBS TV series, Lilias, Yoga and You, and have been treading this path ever since. Exotic India has also called to me since I was a young girl. The smells of the flowers and spices, the vibrant colors of the saris, and the echo of vedic chanting rippling across the Keralan backwaters lures me back year after year (I have now ventured to the “Mother Land” twelve times). Inspired by my travels in India, I love to integrate Indian folk tales and myths, philosophy, and sacred mantra into my classes.
My teacher, Dr. Christopher Chapple, had the vision to create a Yoga Philososphy Certificate and, eventually a Master’s Degree, at Loyola Marymount University. I am honored to have graduated as part of the inaugural class of the MA program (the first MA in Yoga Studies program in the country). I focused my research on the interconnection between mythology, philosophy and modern science, and am now finishing the writing of a book, “Interconnected.” I also have an MS in Neuroscience, and I am particularly intrigued with how ancient wisdom correlates with modern science to allow us to lead happier, more fulfilling lives.
Over the years, I have ventured along many divergent and convergent yoga paths. I began teaching yoga in 1999. For many years, I was an ashtanga devotee, completing 1st and 2nd series ashtanga teacher training programs with my beloved teacher, Tim Miller. I did my advanced training with Edward Clark of Tripsichore Yoga (a more dance-based form of yoga), as well as completing several other, shorter, trainings along the way with David Swenson, Karin O’Bannon (Iyengar-based program), Erich Schiffman, Andre Lappa and others, and have practiced in India with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and Sharath Rangaswamy.
My intent is to integrate not only breath and alignment, but also a spirit of playfulness and a sense of history into this beautiful practice. As far as the asana part of the practice, I have come to understand the importance of joint stability (so many yogis tend to push towards hypermobility of the joints), and I use a variety of functional anatomical techniques to create kinesthetic awareness before moving more deeply into a pose. I also, very intentionally, use a diversity of movement in class to promote new neuromuscular connections.
I am honored to be on the faculty for the Yoga Works 300 hr teacher training program. I mentored for Yoga Works for many years, and have had the joy of watching so many of my students blossom into the amazing teachers they are today. I also teach several modules on yoga philosophy, adjustments, Vinyasa sequencing, backbends, advanced asana, and other topics for a variety of other teacher training programs. This past year, I am so happy to have been a part of my dear friend, Rebecca Fink’s, vision in helping to create a 200-hour training of our own, offering the best of what we know (our next session begins July 5th, 2016).
Starting in the Fall of 2015, I was entrusted by my teacher, Dr. Christopher Chapple, to launch the LMU Yoga Philosophy Certificate Program in Orange County. So far, we have had courses on the Upaniṣads, and the Bhagavad Gītā. We will be starting the Yoga Sūtras in September. Upcoming classes will include: Star Wars and Eastern Spirituality, Sāṃkhya, the Haţha Pradīpikā, and beginning Sanskrit (geared for yoga teachers and students). We meet at Be The Change Yoga on Wednesday afternoons.
When not on the mat, or busy writing, my passions are playing with my kittens, gardening (we grow a lot of our own produce), mountain biking, hiking, and traveling with my husband.
In 2007, I began Yoga Trek Adventures, leading groups on yoga tours in places such as India, Mexico, Costa Rica, Oregon and Ojai. This December we are embarking upon another India trip. And in September, we will enjoy a long weekend in Sedona.
I hope to see you on the path.
Love and light,
Photo: Carrie Cowan
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“To hear even a few notes of it you must first live here for a long time, and you must know the speech of hills and rivers. Then, on a still night, when the campfire is low and the Pleides have climbed over rimrocks, sit quietly and listen for a wolf to howl, and think of everything you have seen and tried to understand. Then you may hear it—a vast and pulsing harmony—its score inscribed on a thousand hills, it notes the lives and deaths of plants and animals, its rhythms spanning the seconds and centuries.”