October 28th, 2011. Three years ago today I worked my last day at the Weber Studio. Seven magnificent years of architecture concluded with one fantastic going-away party, and a giant faithful leap towards who-knew-what at that time.
What did I want? What did I need? What was missing in my life?? What was that little voice saying that persuaded me to leave such a ideal life??
I didn’t have a clue what it was saying, just that it was talking. Telling me Miami wasn’t for me. Telling me there was something else, somewhere else, and that maybe even I was someone else.
I came here to throw myself back into health: of body, mind, heart, and soul. It's working beautifully :). Ultimately, we are here getting our certification to be tantric yoga teachers. The reputation of the word 'tantra' in the western world is almost totally known for it's sexual means, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. Tantra itself is a rich Yogic Tradition of personal and spiritual transformation, easier felt than explained ;). "The optimal achievement is utmost happiness simply with being alive and in a state of ecstasy to access our full potential as individuals." Tantric yoga is the most ancient of all yogas. It is slow, relaxed, drawn out, building patience and awareness. A full tantra yoga class is 2.5 hours, of which over half is total relaxation, laying motionless (savasana) between every active position. The asanas (the poses), although deliberate and essential, are less important than your the state of mind. We don’t correct our student’s bodies, at all. We aren’t even learning the meticulous positioning ourselves. Almost all of the series can be completed with eyes closed, so there is no pressure to 'perform perfectly' … it's all about the relaxation. Tantric yoga’s objective is to create a habit of taking your moment of relaxation before you begin the action; and this can be transferred to everyday life. Breathe. Relax. Calm. Then act with purpose and intention.
Yes we are here to become teachers, but in same way that a tantra yoga class is more than physical, this entire experience is soooo much more than gaining a certificate.
Everyday (and all day) we do our yoga, but it feels like a small percentage of our very full days. More-so we do meditations, we learn mantras and mudras, we have classes about chakras, our energy channels, shamanism, ayurveda, our prana (life force). We are learning about the elements and energies in relation to our bodies and the universe. Which organs produce with emotions, which movements move our energy, which foods work with our strengths and areas of improvement in relation to our Doshas. We are learning tantric massages and greetings, foot reflexology, facial shiatsu, tools to communicate effectively in all relationships, carnal or platonic. We are learning how to dance within ourselves.
One day we learned a fabulous tantric dance, which was nothing more than moving intuitively to the loud, pounding music. Up, down, around, smooth, fast, slow, laying, standing, crawling... No shame, no correction, no right way, no wrong way. You must stay in your body. You must always be present and aware of what you are feeling and wanting and needing. You can’t always try to give and do. Once you love yourself, then you can love others. It was incredible. Everything here is incredible, seriously!
There was Ayurveda day-- 4 hour class by a swiss doctor, passionate about holistic living. “You must stop putting shit in your body. You can do all the work you want, but if you are full of garbage you do nothing. Food is medicine. You must do good in the world. You must find your purpose and share it with the world. When you gain knowledge, you must share it or else you are a thief. Don’t eat meat...animal treatment is horrible and must stop. Practice non-violence to the self, to others, and to animals. Get rid of your ego. Be humble. Serving is the easiest path to gratitude.”
Whoa. whoa. whoa. Everything I have learned in the last 3 years and bits throughout my whole life, all came rushing back in this intense and powerful presentation, capped off by a ridiculously amazing fire ceremony of singing and offering and bonding.
We had a rad visualization where we envisioned our bodies as a tree, our feet were grounded. We imagined roots sprouting from the soles going deep deep into the core of the earth, where we found the red hot magma. From there we pulled it back up our roots and into our 1st chakra, the root of our being. We visualized pulling the sky down in through our crown, filling every cell of our body with light. It was awesome. Felt so real, so intense.
There was an amazing kundalini yoga session (well, many), with a kriya that is meant ‘to break bad habits and allow new improved ones to enter’. You hold your arms up and out, stretched, flexed, without moving for 11 minutes... you ‘think’ you are dying, that you can’t hold them anymore....but you use your breathe, your prana, and your willpower to keep them up and keep going. Wow... I can see why it’s meant to ‘break’ habits. It’s clear that the physically challenge is but a tool to prepare for the mental challenge. Yes, yes yes, it did make me feel like I can conquer whatever challenge!
We learned a tantric greeting, sitting knee to knee in diamond pose, hands in pranama mudra (prayer). You lean forward to touch foreheads, and while staring into the eyes of the other, stay there and sing three Om’s. Then you sit back and say, “I accept you just as you are in my life.” It’s simple and beautiful.
Another dance: first with eyes open, looking at nothing in particular, but able to see everyone. As we danced, the idea was to simply react to what you saw without really seeing it. Full freedom yet similar movements. Then we changed to extended full eye contact with another as you whirled around the room. A powerful exercise, discussing that when we looked directly at someone, it would bring up insecurities (am I doing it right? does it look okay? what will be next? will I be able to follow?) whereas the big picture view, without eye contact, had much less pressure. This is amazing, relating to how easy it is to just go through the world without ever looking into people’s eyes to avoid the uncertainty. But, if you stay within yourself, focusing on your center and feeling love for self and the other, what an strong connection you can share; as well as growing your own confidence.
Once we just sat across from each other, and simply looked into each others eyes for 5 minutes, no talking. What you see is what you get. Here I am, there you are, we are both perfectly imperfect. I love these exercises, looking into others eyes really feels like a window to their soul, and bearing mine is one of my favorite things :).
We started one class by re-familiarizing with the anatomy of the body, an introduction to the Alexander Technique: Learning how and where our bones attach and how they want to move. From there we lay on our backs and are walked through a birth, to crawl, to walk dance, always aware of every movement and every bone, aware of it’s own intuition. Wow! For me it felt like a great first dance lesson: focus on your body, forget what you ‘should’ be doing.
Then there was the Temazcal!!! Better know to most as a Sweat Lodge, but soooo much more; an ancient art of expelling old and inviting new, of purification. Wow, powerful! It was a very small dirt hut, a half dome, dug into the ground such that you had to crawl in. When closed, it was completely dark aside from the embers of the fiery rocks. It was very ritualistic, with a certain way to enter, certain things to say. Christian, the calm and peaceful facilitator, would periodically sprinkle herbs on the volcanic rock. It would sparkle and dazzle before smoking into an aromatic vapor, almost instantly turning our small space into a sweat machine. I was dripping, like full-on-body-dripping, but I wasn’t miserable. It was beautiful. We chanted and prayed and rubbed special herbs all over our soaking bodies. I untied my shawl and just let it pour out of my naked and unmasked me. It felt as if there was a clear signboard in front of me: This is the path I want to be on... this one of unique and powerful experiences: with open mind and heart and spirit.... and a whole lot of sweat. Ohhh, I do love to sweat :).
|Fancy photography… the grass was not really red ;)|
We learned a RAD interaction, where we sit face to face, knee to knee, and each take 10 minutes to monologue about what we are feeling. No interruptions, no talking, only listening to the other. We do it twice each, with no reply except to thank each other for sharing and for listening. Wow, this. This!!! It’s such an honor to be confided in, to be the recipient of such honestly, such vulnerability, such real pain and fears. It’s a relief to share mine as well, without judgement or advice, just listening.
We learn another interaction, similar, but where we actually lay next to each other, side by side as if we were in bed! ;) The mere act of being in this position actually does provoke a closeness. There we experience two types, a dialogue, talking back and forth for ten minutes, and then again a monologue, no responding or interrupting at all. The dialogue vs the monologue is very interesting... When in a dialogue, it’s so easy to reply, to put advice, to console, to advise, to think about what you will say, to turn the story back to yourself... but when you aren’t ‘allowed’ to respond at all, there is a huge pressure released, for both parties. As the speaker because you know you won’t be judged or given advice, and as the listener because you just listen! No need to come up with a reply, or think at all really. Just listen. I love this! I dare you to try this with your loved ones :).
We learn an incredible Shiva/Shakti interaction dance. Shiva (the male part) is the intention, the stimulus; and Shakti (the female part) is the response, the movement. Acting as Shiva, I would touch or shift a part of the other’s body (acting as Shakti), and with the touch, she then translates that touch into some dance movement, whatever it feels like it should be. Then we switched and I receive some small touch or beginning of a movement and transform it as I felt. Ohhhhhhh, soooooo sensational!!!
We learned a tantalizing tantric massage, which of course is great to use with your partner, but can be used between anyone you want to connect with. We’re urged as the receiver to sigh, make sounds to affirm that it feels good, to let the giver know you are enjoying. Giving, not just receiving, a massage is a gift. I remember hearing this years ago. The gift of making someone feel fabulous: YES.
After all of these exercises and interactions we always discuss how it felt, what was our experience. In doing so we are not only practicing our communication, practicing being vulnerable, but seeing how experiences can be so different or so similar in the same space, growing our empathy, our hearts, our horizons.
There was a Full moon, red moon, female uterus healing ceremony. There was an evening of ethnic music from Ruben Silva, a shaman who played at last 15 different native instruments in a dream-like state. Of course there was the life-changing San Pedro Medicinal Ceremony-- which was so powerful it got it’s own blog (here!). I’m still marveling about that, and feeling it’s everlasting impact.
Full moon celebration
All of this has happened in just over three weeks here at Casa Kiliku. It was built 20-some years ago by Iris Disse, a visionary woman from Germany. She is a tantric master, an author, an ambassador for the indigenous people, a filmmaker, a changemaker. She is a woman of humble wisdom, awareness, authenticity, enthusiasm and ambition. I loooveee her :)
There’s Daniella, the main manager, petite but powerful, honest and hardworking and a true pleasure to communicate with. She is extraordinarily gifted in Chinese medicine and shiatzu massage, and shares her knowledge freely and thoroughly. I loooooveee her!
There is Satya, the elegant beauty of Kundalini yoga and shakti dance. She is Italian/Croatian, a walking goddess whose every movement is graceful, peaceful and full of compassion. I loooovveee her!!!
There’s Jackie and Erika, Caridad, Nuria, Monica, Shadia, Valentina, Nancy, Fanny, Mercy, and Catty. Each of the women (and two girls-11 and 10!!!) have talents and fears and a beauty that deserves tribute. Isn’t it true that everyone you meet has a story worth knowing?? A true pleasure of life is getting to know someone beyond the superficial layer, and it’s a place like this that creates a catalyst for connection.
|Always a good time w/ these ladies :)|
|Satya and I in hammocktime:)|
|Always tea time :)|
|"Dia de Los Muertos" celebration|
|Karma Yoga- trash clean up fun!|
|Karma yoga--- New Garden!!|
I get that a lot of these things that are happening here may seem way out-there for some people; that’s cool, I still love you and won’t press it on you :). Too eccentric, too hippy, too spiritual... but I am in love, and I think all of life is about finding where you can be in love, where you can thrive. Being here has attuned me to that inner voice. It started talking to me long ago, whispering to me since my first semester of college in Miami 2000. It got louder in 2011, finally convincing me to leave what many would consider a perfect life in Florida. It lead me subconsciously to my first ashram experience in Australia, then to India to delve into the spiritual world. It lead me to the commune in California, gave me doubts as I started fine tuning the Bloom Woods too rigidly last winter, exposed me to the fast-paced falseness of this summer that I absolutely don’t want, and it has lead me here to Ecuador, to this magic place, to seal the deal. The more unconventional, the better :).
Three years ago today I started the journey of a lifetime, which has only just begun!!!!! Slowly, slowly, bit by bit, I am finding my way, and it's soooooo EXCITING!!! Tantric yoga is an apt analogy for my life: Slow down, relax, rejuvenate; profoundly enjoy the simple, the small, the quiet... and then, the action!!! Deep, powerful, meaningful action!!!
Balancing the extremes, making them work in harmony... this is me in a nutshell :)
When I think back over the last three years, all of my favorite memories, of many forms, have the common thread of great depth. Whether that was via chanting, dancing, silence, climbing, hiking, connecting, creating, writing, loving, appreciating, bonding, persevering, overcoming… the vehicle doesn’t much matter...
... clearly though:
|Hehe :) xoxo|