An Almost Midnight Muse in Praise of 2013…

In this very moment, immense gratitude spills from my heart, as I reflect upon this year, and all the blessings that have been bestowed upon me. Realizing fully, that nothing in this life must ever be forced. For me, 2013 was a year of pure abundance, and one that emit a pure fragrance of heart. This year, I walked the path towards challenge, only to bi-pass through deep fear. I tread the waters of self-doubt, only to emerge from an ocean of clear confidence. I gracefully traversed the path of sisterhood, listening intensely to the curiosity of my heart, only to find myself deeply held inside the womb of numerous powerful women. And in this moment, I am recognizing that when we sip from the cup of this world’s abundance, savouring every experience, that one must say thank you for all that is nourished.

2013…

I am thankful to you for blessing me with sacred beaches that steal my heart, and all that comes with them – sunshine, fresh coconut, handstands and tan lines…

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I am grateful for meeting Mara Branscombe – a true spirit sister who inspires, supports and welcomes me deeply, in all of my forms.

I am grateful for Meghan Currie, and the fact that she said to me one day, in a moment of doubt – “then don’t suck.” Meg, thank you for walking me to the edge – I carry you and your one of a kind heart with me, always.

I am grateful for having the honour to mentor under Christine Price Clark – a fierce mother who taught me so much, and carried me deeper inside the realm of my own heart, only to set me free in an abundant land of voice, purpose and intention.

I am grateful for bearing witness to the utter magic and mystery around divine connection, as I traversed the globe with my teacher, mentor, and heart sister, Suzanne Slocum-Gori. For 23 days in Bali, we shared everything from breakfast to backseats, and forever always, I will cherish the yoga practices we shared, and our late night goodnights and I love you’s . Placing myself in this woman’s wake was beyond an investment of heart and mind, for Suzanne, I believe, knows the working of my being better than I do.

Lastly, I am grateful for having dove into a weekend of study with Sianna Sherman, a woman who’s presence and teachings un-earths a dormant spirit in my soul – one that often hides in the shadows. Sianna – thank you for a weekend of true awakening, and for opening the channels of my heart – I think you and I both know where this river of bhakti will lead me in 2014…

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Authentic abundance only comes when it is welcomed, and from the deepest crevices of my heart, I thank all who brought me into light this year. May 2014 be one of full awakening, and may we forever dwell deep inside the terrain of the fearless heart.

With love,

Alli

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Our Journey of Connecting Worldly Hearts as ONE

In less that 48 hours, I went from barefoot and bikini ridden, to layer upon layer, with moccasins upon my feet. But my tan lines are still intact, as every part of my spirit exudes endless love for what I just experienced in Bali. Warning: there is no word count on this deep musing of my heart…

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photo credit: http://jonchiang.tumblr.com

I’ve said this many times to myself and others, but I left Vancouver, Bali bound, with absolutely no expectations, other than to serve. To serve the dearest of my teachers, Suzanne Slocum-Gori, and the 19 other miraculous beings I would meet at Suzanne’s first teacher training. I was also unaware of how this service would impact every part of me. BeforeI left, I had friends who had travelled to Bali, share with me, mystical stories around conception, divine union, Bali’s beauty, and her ability to transform ones heart, mind and spirit. I didn’t return with a baby sprouting in my belly, or a ring on my finger, but check yes to the transformation of heart, mind and spirit part. To everyone I met and re-met along the way, thank you. My practice, and practices exploded.

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photo credit: http://jonchiang.tumblr.com

As I sat beside Suzanne,  from day one to twenty six, I scribed our daily happenings. Everything from start-times to lunch breaks. From meditations, to themes…sequences, sutras, femur bones and the frequencies of the collective experience. And on day 10, I wrote this:

“A protective Grace falls upon those who share, collectively, a ritual. This is what transforms the perception…our ability to recalibrate, see and feel.” – Suzanne Slocum-Gori  

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photo credit: http://jonchiang.tumblr.com

Fast forward to our final day of training and picture this: a circle of open hearts, wise minds and teachers of all colours, deep from the inside out. As I witnessed reflections, transformations, and full on celebration, this idea of protective grace continued to stream through me, for that was exactly what we had created for each other in just over three, succulent, sweet weeks. Everything about our experience together was collective, and every day was full of ritual. Our mornings before practice were always silent, in honour of the space inside and around us. Daily, out spread was papaya, pineapple, watermelon and banana at breakfast. Juicy 3 hour practices…meticulous meditations. Mind blowing yoga practices, often with Suzanne doing the same right by my side. Study groups. Sharing. Questions…banana fritters. Silent meditation walks to the beach…Om Namah Shivaya over and over and over again. Sita and Rama…more mantra. The forming, re-forming and deepening of relationship…the best chai tea, delivered every afternoon between 3 and 4pm. The practice of these teachings; the holding of space for one another, and of each others hearts. 

Now PAUSE; rewind, and allow me to shine the spotlight on the woman who lead us through it all…

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photo credit: http://jonchiang.tumblr.com

I remember the day I first saw the poster for Suzanne’s 200hr teacher training in Bali as it adorned our studio walls. And I also remember thinking in my head how I would have loved to have been able to partake, somehow. I too remember the day Suzanne asked me to assist her in Bali one night after class, as proud, tiny tears began to brew behind her eyes. Every day I sat beside Suzanne was a blessing, and as an out/insider looking in, day by day, I witnessed her innate ability to transform the fabric of another’s being, thread by thread. Through Suzanne’s offerings, ones that are endless and rich, a full transformation of perception was presented to those who sat before her, and myself included, as I flowed behind her wake. Strength through vulnerability; giving through surrender, dropping out of the head; landing deep inside the heart. Freedom. Authenticity…deep listening…the power of presence. I have pages and pages of pearls and teachings that were passed down by Suzanne, and I know her students do too. Suzanne soaked our hearts with her love, her grace, her wisdom, and fierce knowing, while she bathed us in the deep waters of bhakti, and flooded our minds with the science, structures and teachings of yoga. The woman is a gift, a protector, and a gracious mother to all forms that cross her path. Suzanne, I love you and can’t wait for next year. 

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photo credit: http://jonchiang.tumblr.com

Recalibrate, see and feel. Cozy in an cowichan sweater as I type, this is now, and will always be my work. In my experiences travelling the world, everything is a recalibration from the moment you leave, until the moment you return, along with all of the precious, challenging moments in between. Through others, we are offered opportunities to see ourselves, immersed in a deeper light, and may we ever remain committed to our willingness to see ourselves, the exact same way that others see us. Suzanne, thank you for making me feel alive again, and fully protected and armoured by the grace of your love. To the teacher trainee’s; thank you for reminding me of what it means to receive by witnessing, and remember this: “the spiritual quest can be a bondage in itself,” so surround yourself with a barrier of protective grace, and forever remain within the circle we created together. Open yourself fully to the process of cutting through and ripping open…soak yourself raw with the virtues of life, and your yoga, in all its forms. Receive all that is around you, inside you, and offered to you, and like Lakshmi herself, refine the fabrics of your being. Comb through them gently, and continue to uncover the beauty, perfection, love, and unbounded, conscious freedom that rests inside your heart. 

I offer my deepest gratitude to Suzanne Faith Slocum-Gori http://www.suzannefaith.com, Jon Chiang http://jonchiang.tumblr.com, One Yoga for the People Vancouver http://oneyogaforthepeople.ca and my beloved parents, who I hold with me in every deep moment of this life. 

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photo credit: http://jonchiang.tumblr.com

go. be. love…The World Needs You

time and time again over the past few weeks, i’ve been brought to my kness, simply from the pull of life. each time, as I place my hands on the earth, with fear, with self doubt, with questions, all of it, was caked in gratitude, for. this. life. for the hard days. for the good days. for the love you remember is there, even if you’ve forgotten, for lonliness…for comfort. for the teachings…for the teachers.  it’s the remembrance of love that we must return too, time and time again, in any given moment, and every given moment.

trust, that in whatever you do, there is bound to be an element of fear that lies before you, always. fear of not being good enough, not loved enough, not worthy…never without fear for, I hate to break it to you, but you are human. we must also remember though, that behind fear, lies a deep love that has brought us closer to all of the things that scare us + our hearts, so, if you’ve ever thought about walking away, giving up, “throwing in the towel” because it’s just too fuckin’ hard, too scary, too tough, stop and come back to the one thing that got you to what you longed for for so long in the first place; the strength, the will, and the burning desire of your own heart.

like seasons or a fierce wind, we all know that the atmosphere of the mind can be turbulent at times, but through our practices, whatever they might be, we must continue to strive to find our breath, our body, our deep, deep spirit, and our hearts, over and over and over, for calming the winds of our minds, will only feed the currents of our hearts. these words, remind me that even the best suffer, and that comforts me. i hope it comforts you too.

“And i, in my own practice, also work to nurture and hold the darkness, that at times, drops down like a veil on the blackest night sky…the moon sometimes glows above me, but there are moments when not even the most powerful stars can penetrate the hard thoughts in my mind…” 

I practice, for moving my body sheds lights on the dark shadows of my mind, the way sunshine illuminates the sky. I practice to cultivate the strength to keep moving forwards, long after my hands and feet have left the earth. i practice so that i can love others, and myself more, and as we continue to practice, as one, and dive deeper into the seas of our selves, we must be forever prepared and willing to confront the many faces of our being. The ones that say you can’t…the ones that say you will. the ones that say you suck, and the ones that say you aced it. the ones that say i don’t like you…the ones that say i love you. seeing past the mind is a practice, and diving deep inside the heart space is an art.

so keep practicing and moving forward. keep practicing love, and yoga, and mind fullness…and compassion,  and when those moments strike your being, making you feel like none of it’s worth it anymore, plug your earphones into the space inside your heart. listen to what’s playing in there, and start listening, deeply.

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The Brilliance of Your Being

 

It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
abandoned.
If you know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
falling toward
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.

I have heard, in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.

— David Whyte

from Fire in the Earth

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It’s a little late, but it’s never too late…

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These words have been sitting atop my desk for a few weeks now, and finally, I feel compelled to send their seeds out into the Universe. Enjoy, and may we continue to vow truly and deeply to our own heart forever, and always.

Dear Dharma,

I’m coming for you. Here’s to 2013: I am living fully in all of my light. 

Let Grace be present in everything you do, and with every new day you meet, surrender to the perfect fullness that is yourself. There is nothing to run from, nothing to rid yourself of, and if it’s anywhere you turn, turn into the light of your own heart, and watch the shadows melt away. Hold yourself to a standard of Grace, not perfection; forget the “I will’s,” and let them meet the “I do’s” instead. Vow fully to yourself, to your heart, and believe truly that you are enough and worthy of it all. Say thank you to all of the fallen offerings that find themselves in your hands, and your heart, and say your deepest thank you’s to the greatest offering of all; YOU. 

In full pranam I bow,

Alli

Broken can be Beautiful…when Grace sings the melody.

Grace

I read this the other day…

“The fullness of experience comes from the fullness of the heart.”

We’ve all had them, those days when you feel anything but full. Lacking light, lacking love, lacking self…picking up the pieces of a broken heart, or just feeling down right lost, unsure, and wanting to sink nowhere, but down, even further into the depths of your dark self, for in that moment, it’s the only place that feels, safe.  Having recently passed through a full moon, I’ve been thinking a lot of what it means to become full, and remain that way, in everything that you are. In yoga, we call it Purna, which means to be whole, complete and full, and this idea teaches us that there is a place inside of us, where we are just that: full, whole, perfect, and lacking absolutely nothing.

Full bellies…full hearts…full minds…it feels good, but when we’re empty, we feel nothing more. Buckle up; here comes the practice of Purna

In those moments, those days, those weeks, or years, when our light of loving ourselves darkens, dims, or down right burns out, busts and shatters, we must remember that Purna is a FULL recognition of the self; dark to light, good and bad, like and dislike. When we allow ourselves to sit fully in the depths of this self recognition, we begin to deconstruct and tear apart the self-inflicted judgements and blinding limitations we entangle ourselves in, day after day. “I’m not good enough…I’ll never get there…no way, not me.” But by interrogating our deepest selves, ironically, we can access more easily, our own innate goodness…the Ananda, or bliss, that already lives inside of us. And then, from this fullness inside, just like the moon, we can expand more fully, and explode into our worlds, and be of higher service to our own hearts, and the hearts of others, so why hide it all in someone else’s shadow, or your own?

I read this the other day too…

“What we hide from the world owns us.”

Start to become a witness to the longing of your own heart, and in those moments when you want to shy away from your self, and the world, step fiercely into your light, and shy away from your shadows. Sit with the broken parts of you, and pick up the pieces, for those broken places are the gateways to our awakening, the gateways to our becoming full, again and again and again.

No doubt, the dark days will show themselves, and our wholeness will become cloaked and covered by the veils of life, simply through the act of living, but it is through this concealment, that we strive more for a deeper longing, an unveiling, and that desire to feel whole again. When you’ve wanted to fix something about yourself, how many times have you looked outside? Your food, your clothes, your lover, your friend, your yoga pose. The most overlooked place lies right inside yourself, deep in the fire pit of you, where there and only there, can the Purna, the wholeness, the fulfilment, arise once again.

What you are never changes, for at the core, you are whole, perfect and complete, perfect as you are. You will always be this way, so meet yourself with courage and wonder, and say hello to all parts of yourself.

 Take a look at your deepest to-do’s and pray for what you want. 

Let go.

Revisit your priorities, over and over, and for goodness sake, separate yourself from what doesn’t serve you, for if you’re going to do that, you might as well just say “here, have my light.” 

Open to grace, and to the fullness that already exists inside your own heart. 

Reach for a higher vibration in all things, and love yourself, first. 

What’s Your Practice?

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I’ve been blessed with an injury. Key word here: blessed.

As we move through our days, and our lives, it becomes inevitable that we will bump into each other, and that this “each other,” is us, and the pulse that is life. Maybe that bumping takes the form of a table end, as you stub your toe. Perhaps you bump into your own self, or the shadows of your heart, as you uncover the subtle insecurities around who you are, in this body, right now. Or maybe you bump into the depth of a yoga posture, that leaves you in the wake of, oh shit…

I call this injury a blessing, for it has allowed me to see why I love my practice so much, and how I deeply miss it, for when its roots are no longer as accessible, day in, day out, whenever I please, this is when it truly becomes a practice, and my practice as I write this. Injury becomes a practice to soften, to step back, and retrace all of the steps that drove me to this seat, but through this stepping back, I’ve been able to cast a brighter light on the awareness of what qualifies, and illuminates our “practices,” and how deeply you can heal yourself, by serving others. I’ve been assisting my teachers in their classes, helping the bodies of others, by means of my own hands, my own breath. I’ve been steaming kale, roasting squash, and creating in the kitchen, as a means to nourish my heart, and another’s. I’ve found a new appreciation for the power of meditation, hot baths, heating pads, and MyYogaOnline videos, where I can at least watch and listen. The in betweens are filled with anatomy, creative stretching, muscle rubs, and all in all, a deeper knowing for this body. It’s all yoga. It’s all awareness. It’s all a practice, all the time, and here, Jivamukti’s birth mama Sharon Gannon, just nails it:

“Whatever yoga practices you engage in, should help you resolve your obstacles to enlightenment — in other words, ( your “practices”) should help you resolve your relationships with others, and thus bring you to the state of yoga. How we treat others will determine how others treat us; how others treat us will determine how we see ourselves; and how we see ourselves will determine who we are.”

Practice whatever your practice, and when that practice becomes unaccessible for whatever reason, due to your bumping into life, dig a little deeper inside yourself, in order to cultivate a creative expression, by means of the unfamiliar. Practice to observe, dissolve and resolve your personal obstacles, and allow it all to bring you to a state of yoga; a union of body, mind and heart, in whatever you shall do. See yourself in the bright light that brews from the centre of your being, and not from the dark shadows or winds of your mind. Trust that you can see yourself the way others see you, and love the skin you’re in. Practice compassion, practice kindness, and practice loving, and receiving the love of others, like it was your last chance, ever. Practice patience, and understanding, for when things don’t go our way, or they get taken away from us, like a beloved, and friendship, our trust, or our yoga practice, all we want is to get the entirety of it all back, right now.

You are who you are, and right now, whatever you sit with, is meant to be right there beside you. Trust that. Say hello to what sits beside you, or inside of you, and welcome them, the way you would welcome a loved one, into your heart, into to the depths of you, for that might be our eternal practice, always.

Trust the process of this unfolding, or this union, of this yoga that is life.

Read the signals, and trust the signs.

There is a web out there, known or unknown, that connects us with everything that is.

So can you, do this: Can you surrender to the truth that you are being breathed, guided and loved by something so incredibly larger than yourself?

Each day, the Universe serves up sweet, subtle, and sometime not so subtle signs, that encircle themselves around us. They teach us, they guide us down our paths, or at least a little closer towards them. Connection, re-connection, opportunity, inspiration, ideas. Fear, heartbreak, loss…they’re all there, good and bad, all the time, and wrapped up in all of it, you must acknowledge and accept that there is no need for a rational sense of explaining these happenings, for they simply are, meant to be. Think about it; have you ever walked away from an experience, and asked yourself why you met that person, on that day? Or why you were at that place, at that time, in that moment. Or why you were gifted with an opportunity, that blows your mind, despite the fact that you know you’re worthy of it? Don’t try to understand these messages, for they have no meaning. Instead, surrender to them, and pay attention to their signals. Trust, listen, and delight in the opportunity that awaits you.

Like the spider who carefully and cautiously spins her web, we too must learn how to move forward from the very depths of our centre, and remain there, always. For when we drift away, we lose our balance, we fall, and sometimes that’s ok, but we must stay connected to the web that we so carefully weave around our own hearts and stay connected. Like the spider battles the predators and the elements who search to destroy her web, the element we face, is the mind, so make it your practice, always, to move your attention away from your mind, and deep into your heart. From mind to body, and into our hearts, we must learn to read the signals, and acknowledge them, and trust them, for if we fail to see them, we’ll never be sure about the difference that lie themselves between our hearts intuition, our deepest heart calling, and the fearful voices that project themselves, constantly, in our heads. You are not your fears, you are not your fears, you are not your fears. Now say it.

Start to say thank you for every little happening, every single signal, and every single beautiful being that lands gracefully on your path each day to teach, you. Sit with all of them, and trust in there very being present, to you, for everything is meant to show you, something. Surrender to the flowing current of Grace in your heart, and remember this:

…something need not validate those intuitive moments along the way, for they simply need to function as our teachers, our signals, our guides. Know that that “something,” in all its spanda, its pulsations, is the way of life, for it unravels the path of steady observation, allowing us to measure our responses to what the Universe drops on our hearts. Sensations in the body, encounters with the heart, in the outer world, that only take us deeper inside. Things line up just as they should, like the little miracles they are, so trust in that…

This post is dedicated to all of those who have showed me the signals lately, with deep love, allowing me to do nothing but trust, in myself.

Here’s the mantra that I’ve been weaving from heart to mind and back again…

Start believing…in yourself. 

I Feel It All

This post has come to me by means of nature, Feist’s song I Feel it All, and peeling papaya barefoot in the kitchen. Random yes, but meaningful? Absolutely. From it all, I asked myself this: If we aim so much to practice self-love, why are we so hard on ourselves?

This idea relates back to my previous post this week, but where I’d like to go with this one, lies around the acknowledgement that sometimes, you just have to quietly tell yourself that everything is going to be ok. Relax the reigns a little. Breathe, and for everything that you think you’ve done wrong, think of all of the good things you’ve done right in between that time. If you actually fall behind your mind for just a minute, you’ll see how fast she runs, and how harshly she judges. “How could you skip a day of practice?” ” You should be on the mat?” I’ve always said that “should” is a bad word, and it is in these moments, that we need to stop and  ask ourselves this: what other forms of practice can we engage in, that will fulfill us in the same way as our asana can?

Have you ever considered the power of sitting beside a rushing river? Look to that as your pranayama some day, and listen deeply, for Mother Nature always has something to say…

Are you willing enough to stop for a minute, and fully breathe in the air around you, while you tune in to the natural highs and lows of your body as you pick your way through the side of a mountain? When was the last time you truly felt that authentic heat that stemmed straight from your body, your movement, and your breath, while the cool air surrounded you?

Can you see nature, and her teachings as a practice?

Will you allow yourself to be filled up?

Can you just stop and listen? Listen truly to the heart, and quiet your mind?

I sat riverside this afternoon. I breathed it in. I listened. I realized, and welcomed, the power behind the other practices in our lives, not just the ones we perform on the mat. Nature. Conversation and good company.

Go easy on yourself. It’s ok to skip a day of asana, really. The yoga will always be there, and your practice will truly grow, when you discover all of the  delicious ways to tap into her, from afar.

I read these words via Elena Brower’s instagram this week, and they’re just perfect  for tonight’s teaching…

“…it is very important not to follow somebody, or anybody. Not to have a particular teacher, but to learn from the river, the flowers, the trees. From the woman who carries a burden, from the members of your family and from your own thoughts. This is an education which nobody can give you but yourself, and that is the beauty of it. It demands ceaseless watchfulness, and a constantly inquiring mind. You have to learn by observing, by struggling, by being happy, and tearful.”

If we aim so much to practice self-love, why are we so hard on ourselves?

Give yourself the permission to feel it all.

Alive in the Fires of Life

Ok people, it’s time to get real. I’ll share with you, what I’ve been feeling over the past 24hrs after standing atop the mat. Ah yoga, the never ending journey into ourselves…

Feeling small. Feeling self doubt. Feeling my own deep sensitivity, and being over sensitive to take it even further. Feeling un-worthy. Feeling un-deserving of success and growth. Feeling under-qualified for the job. All of these feelings, most days, for minutes, or hours, remain inflamed under my skin, while they burn fires in my mind, over and over again. But inside the heat of our practices, whatever our practice, what we feel is often real, especially the not so nice stuff. I’m talking about the feelings that lie deep behind the actual sensations, in body and mind; the ones that don’t pass by so easy. It’s a fact, whether recognized or not, that all of us hold on to old scars…the samskaras that we can’t seem to heal. The hurtful pieces of ourselves that have been born from the memories, the experiences, the patterns that we just can’t let go of. These samskaras, these deep grooves, ruts and dark pits in the body, impression themselves deep inside of us, and the ruts become even deeper through our “stories.” The stories we attach to our feelings, which lead to tendencies and habits, that  in turn effect our daily lives; our ability to grow, and our ability to see that we are in fact enough, full, whole and worthy, of all of it. Within the cycle of scars, soon we become  stuck, deep in our ruts, deep in our patterns, replaying the same stagnant old stories, that have been heard by ourselves, or by others, over and over and over again. So here’s the  burning question: What will it take to become unstuck?

In order to rid ourselves of what burns beneath our skin and to become unstuck, ironically, we must kill it with more fire, and the heat of discipline. Heat generated by intense commitment to practice; a practice that must be fuelled by self-discipline, commitment and compassion. The tapas, over time, will burn, purify, illuminate, and eventually replace our scars, our patterns, and our ruts, with positive impressions, leaving ever lasting, loving impressions on our hearts and minds that will support us on our paths towards cultivating the ability to shower ourselves with more kindness, more compassion, more love and more growth. By intentionally acting in a way that will cause positive changes in our bodies, and our minds, by consciously choosing to shower ourselves, and others with compassion, we slowly build new patterns, and push the old ones out. Guaranteed you will feel all of it, the good and the bad, but in time, you will heal. Trust this.

Work daily to rid yourself of the scars that bury themselves deep beneath your skin, and each day, no matter how much, or little gets done, remind yourself that you are enough.

 Freedom begins when you can identify the aggravation you’ve been accommodating for so long.