When people hear my story and see how happy I am, there is one question I surprisingly get more than all the rest. My story is that I went from a job that I was good at and paid well to one that I love that pays less. The positive shift in my demeanor and enjoyment from that change has been massive. The question I get more than any other isn’t, “How do I go about doing what I love?” It’s, “How do I figure out what I will love to do?” My answer is always calm your mind and pay attention deeply to your heart. Then I get looked at like I said the answer could be found inside a magical alien spacecraft buried at the bottom of the ocean.
Here’s how it works. We can choose what we pay attention to. If we don’t choose, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. There’s a lot out there trying to get the grease. More and more, there are things vying for our attention. Have you ever gotten the pavlovian response to a stranger’s phone dinging… that momentary feeling of compulsion to check a message that couldn’t possible have anything to do with you? There are ads inside taxis now. There are ads on the little thing that prevents you from being burned, surrounding your coffee cup. There is social media (also with advertising!). Sales and marketing permeate our culture and ask moment after moment to draw us outside ourselves. But advertising is only doing it’s job. Why does it work? Advertising works, in part, because we tend to seek everything from answers to contentment outside ourselves. But we know that kind of happiness never lasts. What does last is real, consistent, practiced change. But to get from point A to point B, we have to start at point A. And that’s the tough part. Sometimes point A is uncomfortable, and to sit with it can be challenging. And that’s where the outside world swoops in. Advertising says, “Are you at point A!? Here, buy this!” There’s a Facebook feed to scroll through. A stranger’s phone dings…
In the middle of 2014, the entire US had a collective bad week. A young black man got shot unfairly and protests broke out. Then, the protesters also were handled unfairly. Then, one of the country’s most beloved actors took his own life. Everywhere had little bit of a dark vibe. During this time, people I spoke with fell in to two categories. There were those who turned off the news and didn’t want to talk about it, and those who allowed it to the front of their awareness. Those in the latter category began to feel a sense of camaraderie and hope. Some went to protests. Others engaged in debate or read and became more informed. Those in the former category could only vacillate between distraction and discomfort.
The people who allowed themselves to feel most became part of our society’s steps toward healing, while finding healing and connection in their own lives – it was feeling it that made the difference. Those who felt least were more likely to be, and remain, numb.
A teacher recently told me that the moral arc of humanity is long, but it bends toward freedom. I’ll add to that, our own moral arc is long as well, and it bends toward whatever we give attention to. If you want to be distracted in a moment, there are plenty of things to buy, scroll through, and ding. Want inspiration, peace, and happiness? Make a practice of giving attention to your heart. Want to know your heart’s deepest desire? Feel the difference between what is and what could be. Keep in mind the practice of paying attention to feeling is key. We can develop the ability to choose what we pay attention to. Otherwise the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Want to learn how to navigate feelings, energy, and the way it can change your life? Justin leads Laughing Lotus’ first 50-hour Energy advanced training, which starts January 26th (learn more here). As always, you can join Justin MWF mornings to get your energy kick-started for the day in Sun Celebrations, or Tuesday evenings for Lotus Flow 1 (see class schedule).
“I am the Avatar of God.” In my own opinion, human beings could feel happier if they realized they are not a “Me in the World.” “Me” Is very much a part of the world, as it appears, as the higher self witnesses it. Thus the world in front of “Me” is not separate from the world witnessed by the higher self, which is aware of, and watching “Me, Myself, and I.” However, my (Leo Rising) personal “Me” exist in a world separate from your (Reader) “Me” But for each of us, we are not within the world; the world is not within us. Each World and Each Me are one and the same, A world appearing and being watched by God –US – Together at absolute no gauge of time whatsoever.
Don’t get lost – just start breathing deeply right now!
November 2014, I went away to Lake Como, Italy for a workshop called “Free to Breathe” hosted at Breathecomo.com. This is where the world began to “appear” differently, and this is where “Me” accepted that was the situation, it all came down to the “Appearance of Me and the World.” For weeks prior, I kept feeling this pain in my chest, from whenever I questioned “to be, or not to be” BEING a term used in my years of acting training which lead me to practice yoga, because the idea of being felt tied to surviving, and not connected to fully realizing a present moment or experiencing, or even perceiving a present moment. It felt like a task, and that task caused me chest pains.
Now, I will not spoil the workshop in Italy, the study with Dr. David Norris and Christiane Piano is so unique and sculpted with practical theory and asana you must dive in yourself, but without it intentionally being a religion or spirituality workshop, in my personal world it appeared “Me” had a religious experience. I was felt closer to something more beautiful then “Me” with that knowing aspects of my ego’s worries have dissolved and with it chest pain. As you, the reader runs your eyes across those words again. “I Am The Avatar Of God” you might have a soft smile or a squinting stare, you might have doubts or feel empowered, whatever you’re feeling do not question it one bit. Actually follow it inward, follow the root of the opinion formed by your conditioning, “preference”, follow it and when you get to the point of thinking you can’t think another answer. Breathe in and out, then keep reading.
Some humans have reservations about the word “God” – citing what has been done in the name of God, but c’mon, what has not been done in the name of God? Science is the search for the root of existence. God is existence itself. Science investigates deeply from the appearing world of the human being and the human experience. The human being is a machine-like- entity with patterns and processes accompanied with circumstances that create identity from the data collected upon witnessing the world and forcefully making choices. The human being then holds an election for a group of lesser selves called “THE EGO” or “ME”. Now, “ME’s” have an opinion, about everything. “Me” is always worried about survival, and it’s needs, it’s wants and don’t wants. “Me” will survive at any cost even if it means the Human Being has to suffer, and suffer we do.
The worst acts done in the world are human acts, not GOD acts. God, which I believe exist within every human being, does not drive acts of terror, fear or harm. Humans are capable of acts of FEAR and acts of LOVE.” Me, Myself, and I” are not inherently good or evil, I believe “Me” to be quite grey. I am starting to release the fear-driven need to believe in evil. I mean seriously, EVIL is LIVE spelt backwards…what greater hint towards God, did we need. On what surface in the appearing world if we wrote LIVE on our forehead would the world EVIL appear???
It’s okay if you’re mind was blown, you should have seen me walking around Lake Como, Italy in the rain for 2hrs, no hat, no umbrella, JAW DROPPED! I kept thinking about the separatism of it all. How far I wanted to be from EVIL, and how far I felt from feeling fully A LIVE… instead of LIVE, Like a LIVEWIRE.
Skip ahead to all the good shared from world to world from the “Me” nobody knows, ego aids “Me” along the journey of Self-Realization. From my understanding and my process of the Yoga Sutras, Bible, and Spiritual Ancestral studies, the Oneness I seek with God, The Highest Spirit, Love Source has everything to do with the image “Me” sees in the mirror, and the illusion, of the “natural world” The world “Me” sees has laws and rules, physics (for the time being) According to human history these rules have been disproven, evolved, filled with magic and then aliens…what if they all were true, per case and per necessity? What if they were all equally a full on special effect of the power of EGO is conduit of Godtricity (electricity) in motion, along the journey SUPER EGO develops and says, I get it, I see myself, I am so amazed at my amazingness, GAH!, I must be what created me. I am God, now what do I want to do?
The realized God (that has always been out beyond ideas of right and wrong), then witnesses the mirror image of Superego “God” lost in its needs and wants for survival as “A God”, instead of realizing the surrender into the fold of ALL SELF. Surrendering is like a fold into one’s self, and with that fold “The World” and I” cease to exist, thus sacrifice, we hear so much about along the journey to God, releasing the illusion that the appearing world “Me” is in will die and with it all the stories, data, experience, and Facebook photos about ME! The funniest part is, this does not stick with “ME” very long. Our world has rules, we cannot expect this to stay with us, our mind cannot function, and early reincarnation is not an option because we have a concert to attend, we never ready to die. Not for too long – just a 12minute max savasana.
What believing yourself to be an imprinted expression or Avatar of God does for the mind has all to do with the bridging power of God’s benevolent creative energies. What works within you is infinite potential of your very TRUE BEING as a Patron Saint of Gratitude, Peace, and Harmony and Absolute Oneness. This supernatural belief is preparing the Superego the for it’s face to face interaction with the Absolute Self, so that it can gleefully surrender into the FOLD or Realization and detaches from Reality. That is what these yoga practices prepare us to do.
God has no religion. God has no bondage to time and space, God only has Light, Love and Absolute Knowledge of all things. Even in our own doubts about God, which we are right to feel that way, for in thinking within our own illusion of separatism we’re playing by the rules of the appearing world we are not separate from and so the shadows of the mind, can’t exist where God is, But God, can exist and does exist above the shadows, watching “Me” every which way.
Jesus, The Christian saint and sage is quoted to have said
“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:5
You too, Divine Reader, are that same Light, SAT NAM “I AM THAT” so be THAT!
Want to get started in yoga or know someone who does? Leo leads our popular Absolute Beginners series at the New York studios in January
(register here), so you can join our Lotus Flow 1 classes with confidence and excitement to learn more! We have Lotus Flow 1 each day of the week in New York and Brooklyn; Leo teaches MWF at 4pm (see class schedule).
Wow what a year! 2015 brings on so many changes and new beginnings for our cOMmunity. I’m so excited for it all! Throughout ride, we are together… breathing… loving… living… we keep showing up. One thing that never changes is how blessed we are to keep learning from each other, each time we show up.
To honor 2014, I want to share with you a story from one of our 200-hour teacher training graduates, Felipe Gonzalez, who will serve our family as the general manager of Lotus BK.
Like you, he keeps showing up. Like you, he keeps transformation flowing through each breath. His words express what so many of feel at Laughing Lotus.
I can’t wait to see you in 2015!
Loving you, loving life!
I have been practicing yoga on and off for eight years. I had often played with the idea of doing a teacher training but always found excuses not to do it – money, time, career dreams were just some of the excuses I’d give myself. I half -assed several attempts at other careers, but I never really gave it my all in any of the other ventures I “pursued.”
Then, I turned 30, took stock of my life and got a harsh dose of reality. I had not done, and was not anywhere near, where I thought I’d be by the time I was 30. I felt lost and wandering life aimlessly, searching for a path that I was passionate about that went beyond me. It was time for a change. I decided to bite the bullet and do the summer intensive at Laughing Lotus. Laughing Lotus Yoga Center has always been my favorite yoga studio, and I wanted to teach like so many of my favorite teachers. Initially, I wanted to supplement my income by teaching yoga – what I embarked upon was a life- changing journey.
The Teacher Training program at Lotus challenged me in ways that I never thought possible. The instructors continually encouraged us to show up, not just physically, but with our minds, and most importantly our hearts. They nurtured every student to teach from their own practice. A quote from one of our textbooks by T.K.V. Desikachar that really stuck with me was “Yoga should fit the yogi.” This mentality is what makes the Laughing Lotus teacher training so special. Yes, they teach you the essentials of asanas but also guide you to bring your own unique point of view to yoga. I began singing daily by implementing mantras, chanting, and a 40-day sadhana into my daily practice. I found myself getting so excited and using my love of movement to create and sequence my classes in our practice teaching sessions with my yoga mentors and buddy. Most importantly, I began to rediscover myself, and the importance of a daily spiritual practice.
What a transformative journey! There were lots of moments of meditation and an introspective look that made me realize the person I wanted to be was already within me. It ignited this hunger to continue to learn, grow, and dive deeper into this cosmic yogic path. It gave me the courage to be vulnerable with my classmates and share parts of me that I kept hidden. I discovered that I wanted to help people heal. It opened my heart, making me want to connect to others and share my love of this amazing practice. It also instilled the importance of community.
Laughing Lotus creates this amazing environment and makes you feel like you are a part of a loving community. Before, during, and after I completed the program, I felt like I belonged to this amazing family. I felt like I had found my home. Whether you want to become a yoga teacher, or just deepen your own yoga practice, I can’t recommend this incredible program enough. If you are ready to experience a real transformation, give yourself this amazing gift. You won’t regret it.
The next Laughing Lotus 200-hour Teacher Training program begins February 6 (find out more here). Happy New Year!
The Answer is YOGA!
I remember my first yoga class like it was yesterday…the teacher’s voice and the take away that has always stayed with me: There is no competition in yoga – not even with yourself.
This was and is remarkable to me. Even in a hip hop class I was competing to
learn the phrase, kick my leg the highest, or put the most flavor into it. NOW, right NOW, I embrace the invitation to show up relax and let go of being competitive.
YOGA is the answer, step by step with practice, and non-attachment. We begin to loosen the judgment, untie the knots, deepen our connection to each other, ourselves. and our SPIRITS. We can relax into the beauty of who we are.
We begin to feel like we belong here –
…in the breath,
…in the moment,
…in this house of love,
…inside the temple of our bodies.
We make friends and become a better friend to ourselves.
Yoga is the answer –
…we turn our wounds into wisdom,
…we befriend the most difficult aspects of ourselves,
…we marvel we witness we take refuge,
…we meditate on our beautiful lives.
We breathe in the wonder of being alive and finding yoga in this lifetime.
We breathe and experience ourselves more truly/deeply in the wonderful space that is available to us inside ourselves.
We pray together…
We listen more closely…
We are yogis, and yoga is the answer.
We stumble, we fumble, we keep trying.
Yoga is the answer.
We have signed on to do this work –
…to live better,
…to serve love,
…to awaken our heart to its fullness.
Yoga is the answer –
…nudging us to do God’s work,
…fight the good fight,
…mend our lives,
…fight for love,
…be more peaceful,
…bring more love to everything you do.
With passion, pray with passion, and make love says Rumi.
The poets want us to be alive, awake, aware –
Enlightenment is a radical shift in how we see things –
…how we see ourselves,
…how we SEE,
…how we live,
… how we give thanks.
Express gratitude. Feel the Blessings and count them. Never give up. Always let go.
There is no competition in yoga – not even with yourself.
You are love itself.
The body is the way in to love.
Movement is the medicine.
The breath is the truth inside of you.
Yoga is the holy science of transformation –
…reunion with highest self,
…reunion with love.
Yoga is the answer.
Thank you to this community of soulful yogis, together in our hOMe. Laughing Lotus grows and glows because of you!
All my love,
Join Dana and Kelly Kamm to ring in the new year at the NEW Lotus BK – 10-12pm. A kombucha toast and a brand new year await you! (Register here). Make sure to check out the new schedule at Lotus BK and new offerings at Lotus New York in 2015. Happy Wild and Free New Year!
You know that moment when it feels like you are involved in some kind of Divine joke and the characters in the story of your life keep reappearing, guised in new forms?
I have certainly noticed myself, at times, showing up to face circumstances that very creatively and sometimes humorously repeat themselves: a specific crossroads in a relationship, a difficult colleague who challenges my sense of self-worth, an impulse to act out in a way my wiser self knows does not align with my actual needs.
Pema Chodron wrote, in her book, When Things Fall Apart, “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” Wow. These words sometimes feel like a painful stab of truth, asking us to see difficulties as teachers. In my own practice, I have worked hard to get to know myself and examine the way I tend to escape from pain and difficulty. This awareness has allowed me to slowly (and over time) practice making better choices.
I have learned that the more I show up on my mat with an open heart to meet myself with kindness, the less I feel crushed by those darker layers of myself in other parts of my life. I have practiced, to the best of my ability and with a lot of guidance, taking a deep breath, stepping back, and seeing whatever I need to see from more of a bird’s eye view perspective.
“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”
Recently, I took a restorative yoga class on a night that I was feeling unsettled and overwhelmed by some unpleasant events that had happened earlier. I had a difficult time staying present, my entire body was aching, and I noticed a long decision-making dialogue happening inside my head. As the class was about to end, the teacher acknowledged how much courage it takes to practice restorative yoga – to choose sit, quietly with ourselves.
Even as a regular teacher and student of restorative yoga, these words nailed me. It was a sage observation and offering.
Choosing to be kind and loving to ourselves, even the not-so-pretty parts of how we sometimes show up, takes endless courage. Allowing ourselves to feel what we are feeling also is no easy task. As we move through the chaos of the holidays and the end of another year, we enter a time where reflection. Slowing down and self-care are vital. We need healing rituals.
Let’s enter 2015 soaked in kindness, gentleness and a whole lot of love.
Visit Anastasia in her new class on Wednesdays at 8:30pm: Restorative Yoga Flow, a blend of movement and sweet restorative poses to get you ready for rest through the night. You can always start the day with Anastasia on Saturdays during Sun Celebrations (see schedule here). For a whole afternoon restoring energy from the holiday season, join Jamie Skolnick on December 20th for Holiday Restorative with Aromatherapy (register here).
I have seen many Facebook and blog posts over the last few days and weeks of varying degrees of outrage, confusion and complacency. There is a lot of back and forth happening in comment sections and timelines. A lot of friend-deleting, name-calling, and presumption. Emotions are coming up, a whole lot of them, and being in a line of work that proposes to deal with taking a closer look at them helps you be more aware of the bigger picture.
At least that’s what I think we are helping, but all too often I see people use their yoga practice to shut down from what’s happening in the world around them. I understand that we need time to process our “stuff,” but are we dwelling too much in the space of our individual needs that we are becoming less aware and more closed off from everything and everyone else around us? Are we hiding behind our self-help slogans and positive yoga speak?
Often, when I share a teaching or idea with students, I ask myself if I can teach it universally. This has made me long ago shed such sayings as: “just think positive thoughts” or “your thoughts create your world, so change your thoughts and your world will change.” I am paraphrasing here and I also understand the wonderful intent behind these ideas. But can you imagine saying that to someone whose child has been killed or somewhere where there is no running water, food or shelter, or someone who has been raped? In these situations, anything is not really possible and reality is raw. And about this reality of ours, do we really create it? Is it really plausible to think that the 230,000 men, women and children who died in the 2004 Tsunami brought that upon themselves with negative thoughts and actions? What about Katrina, Sandy, The Middle East today? Can we agree that sometimes circumstances matter too?
When horrible things happen, I do believe we have to meet them with something positive. I think the power of yoga lies in raising the collective consciousness of society, which is not always going to look and feel like a positive thought or a beautiful flower with an inspirational saying on it. I know I disagree with some of my fellow teachers. Recently, I was instructed (Not in NYC) to push my thoughts away while on the mat. That seems to me like putting all your dirty dishes in your cabinets. There is a facade of clean kitchen, but you can’t ultimately escape the messiness, and it’s going to start stinking sooner or later.
I also sometimes hear things that echo the sentiment to push away anger, resentment, and fear- anything icky. You can’t just stick a smiley face on reality when it’s raw, you can’t hide from this stuff and you shouldn’t. But we can take this frustration and use it for positive and powerful change, both individually, and collectively as a society. That realization is acceptance, not avoidance. It’s not just acceptance of the way things are either-that’s too easy for some of us, and dangerous for others. It’s acceptance of the emotions that arise from the way things are. We are allowed to be upset – and horrified. Let’s use it to change the world. We have to create the space to not only accept our own anger, but also the valid anger of our fellow human beings and meet it with compassion, care and consciousness. It’s not just awareness, it’s proactive awareness, and there is no greater time than now to put this in to play, because as the good old saying goes, if not now, when?
Join Mary Dana as she explores the facets of healing hands in yoga on December 14th, during “The Art of Hands On Assists” (register here). Or, you can immerse yourself in the topic at the Hands On 50-Hour Training – the first 50-hour weekend program in Lotus BK. MD will also be DJ’ing the New Year’s bash at the New York studios to ring in the new year, Lotus-style (register here).
We’ve all been to the doctor. When we are sick or in pain, they prescribe the medicine and proper course of treatment for healing. I’ve never had a fear of the doctor, and I’ve always put my faith in their abilities and the resilience of my own body to restore me to health. About one year ago that faith was drastically tested.
In May of 2014 I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer that is neither genetic nor the result of any past habits or exposure. There is no real rhyme or reason as to why one person gets it and another does not. Approaching this frightening new diagnosis with the spirit of compassion, I defined the disease as a confusion on the part of my cells that caused them to start doing extra work that quite simply didn’t need doing.
I consider myself a pretty healthy yogi. I eat well. I get as much rest as possible. I get plenty of exercise. Throughout my life, my body has been one of my greatest teachers, and maybe you can relate to that. We all have faced our share of physical, mental, and emotional challenges, and as we move forward and do our best to care for ourselves, a new wisdom is gained and powerful lessons are learned. Never, in a million years, did I expect this news, let alone before the age of 30. For this lesson, how could anyone be prepared?
We can never be sure how the work we do on our mat will show up for us in our lives. I kept coming back again and again, showing up for my practice, trusting and knowing that it was serving me in my life. In fact, the summer before my diagnosis, I dove deeper into my practice and decided to do the 200-hour teacher training at Laughing Lotus. Little did I know how the transformation on my mat, and the community I had found, would show up for me down the road.
I can say without reservation that my yoga practice helped me to have a very positive experience with a health challenge that could, at many points, have been very dark and debilitating. What did I find on my mat that served me so well you might ask? Many things, but the brightest light I found was FAITH – faith in myself, my body, my mind, my courage, my compassion, my strength and vulnerability… and faith in the people around me. This faith also then extended to all of my doctors, to my treatment, my healing, and my life.
Over the course of my treatment (chemotherapy and radiation), I met and was looked after by many health care professionals and healers – doctors, nurses, and administrative staff, as well as dear friends, family, and the beautiful Laughing Lotus community. This month, as we celebrate the saints and sages, lets celebrate all of the people and practices that inspire our faith – for what is a saint or sage but some wise and compassionate being in whom we can place our trust, devotion and faith?
It has been one year since I finished treatment, and I am in full remission and feeling great! I am forever grateful for this beautiful life and for each of the teachers, lovers, healers, friends, and family that shine their wisdom and hearts. Without you, I might not have found my way through the darkness. Bowing down to all your sage-saint feet!
Namaste and blessings to all!
The wise guide Emily K Stone is hosting Absolute Beginners on three Wednesdays in January – in Brooklyn! (Register here). As always you can join Emily in class at Lotus New York, MWF 10am and TuTh 7pm, plus Lotus BK Sundays at noon, starting in January (see class schedule)!