We are currently knee deep in Eclipse Season, between the Lunar and Solar Eclipses. This is a time of great expansion, or at least opportunity for expansion. It is important to remember that expansion can be highly unstable if it isn't balanced with the right amount of change. Growth is only as strong as our ability to let go of the past. Life is a combination of taking steps forward as we sweep up the dirt left in our wake. In order to grow we must be willing to acknowledge why we are growing... that is to say, what is so wrong about our present situation that we need to grow from? This requires us to address our shadow selves, the darker sides of our life that we tend to ignore or cover up with excuses. What are the problems that we continuously circle around and find excuses for? As karma continuously reminds us, if we fail to address these issues head on we will eventually come back to them. What problems do we keep coming back to? What unfortunate and frustrating situations seem to pop up time and time again? Maybe it's time to use a different formula to work through them.
These are pivotal questions to be asking as a country right now, especially since the eclipse is working its way over North America specifically (coincidence? I think not). What dwells in the shadows of this country? There is a lot of light vs. dark lately and I think it is bringing to light a lot of traditions that are outdated and holding us back from being leaders within this world. This country prides itself on freedom to be who you are: freedom to speak, freedom to worship... but I am beginning to feel as though these "freedoms" are actually covering up and defending some very outdated ideas and institutions. When is the time to stand up and say that despite the desire for freedom, certain beliefs, institutions, holidays, customs, organizations are destructive towards the greater good of the country as a whole and it's path in a positive, forward direction? Should hatred and bigotry be a freedom or should it be addressed? How much can we grow as a country if we excuse this behavior as some sort of national right? Expansion is upon us, but if we aren't willing to let go of the past then we risk being torn apart.
This Eclipse season is being paired with Mercury Retrograde (again, I don't believe in coincidences). Where most people view Mercury Retrograde with a fair amount of disdain, I tend to appreciate it. This is a time when we are being asked to slow down and readdress what has come to pass, making sure it is the right thing and we dealt with it appropriately, because again if we failed to honor our higher selves in the addressing of certain issues then karma is sure to bring it back to light at some point in the future. Mercury Retrograde is a karma check. If we are not speaking, acting and behaving in alignment with our ideals then we will be called out on it. Mercury retrograde calls us out on our empty smiles and bullshit "have a nice day"s. In my mind, this mercury retrograde cycle coupled with the two Eclipses is bringing the light and the dark together to remind us that our expansion is only as powerful and long lasting as our ability to deal with all of the dark details of our lives. The sooner we get over the fact that we are imperfect and we all have secrets in the closet, the sooner we can start working through them and figuring out what we need to learn and how we can realign these secrets or let them go.
It is easy to get caught up in what is happening within this country right now. It is easy to point fingers and talk a big game of rights and wrongs, but we are a collective and the picture painted is the result of every piece of the puzzle. Each piece of the puzzle represents us individually. Belief systems can fight each other all they want but ultimately this changes nothing, because beliefs are always true for the beholders. The only way to change the picture we see is to change the depiction of our individual puzzle piece. As we expand through this season we have the opportunity to change the colors of our addition to this world. The sooner we are able to recolor our shadow side, the more vibrantly we can grow and shine. Trust in this process. It is so easy to point fingers of the shadows of the whole, but this shadow contains each and every one of our individual shadows. Trust that if we only look within, work within, change within that in the end everything will change.
Art by Sue Halstenberg
Much of the inspiration for this blog comes from Chani Nicholas' astrological work, which can be read here
Want to address your shadow side while realigning to your higher path and ideals? Then it's time for either a Higher Purpose Reading or a Resolution Reading. Email me and we can discuss the details.
Lammas is the mid-summer celebration of the harvest. It fell this year on Wednesday, August 2nd (Yes, I'm a wee bit behind). We are halfway between summer and fall, which means that in this piece of the cycle, the cycle is changing. The days will begin to noticeably shorten, the intensity of summer will begin its descent. We now see the first round of harvesting, though the big harvest celebration will come at the fall equinox. It is always wise to honor the first fruits of our labor and, most importantly, the natural forces that supported this creation. When we assume our own mastery without honoring all of the energies that collectively created it we end up in an ego-centric world.
I have found that one of the most liberating and humbling awakenings I have had is when I began to understand my own insignificance. We alone are nothing, every single thing we do is done together, even if it is ever so subtle. We are the result of everything and everyone that came before us or worked with us. Nothing we have ever done has been done alone or has been the result of our work individually. My work in my garden is a result of my work, plus the many forces of nature, plus the seeds and those who brought the seeds to me. Though I consider the fruit to by mine, it is not and I must be willing to honor all that supported the fruit's growth. Ideas recycle and each piece of the puzzle of the masterpiece that I am creating has likely been made by another. If the pieces of the puzzle weren't originally made by another human, they were made by nature. This isn't to steal the show away from the artist who put the signature on the painting; but it is a reminder of how wonderful it is that we are all connected even if it is ever so subtly. Tiny threads weave together to make the masterpiece of this world.
Just as humbling of a reminder that no man is an island, so to it is liberating. Several years ago it became very apparent to me that if I wasn't around anymore, the world would go on. I have always lived with a very strong work ethic, feeling as though I need to show up 100%, 100% of the time. Although this is a great work ethic, it is also very ego-centric. Selfless-selfishness, the belief that the show can't go on without us. Although it is great to be there for others, it is important to remember that our space will be filled if we aren't there. This realization helped me to build better habits of taking care of myself- instead of sacrificing my well-being to make sure that everything was running perfectly I began to realize that I am replaceable and my part can always be filled. Why? Because this world is a result of the collective and the parts are interchangeable. The understanding that we are all one, we are interchangeable, this is a collective experience bonds us in a very communal way. We no longer need to compete if we are ultimately seeking to create the same thing. The world will carry on, with or without us. This isn't the green light to be less present, but to remember that our presence is just as valuable as any other's presence. Our presence becomes more powerful because of the interactions and interweaving with the world we live in. If I don't do it, someone or something else will. We must learn to celebrate in the world as much as we celebrate in ourselves.
An activity that I am quite fond of is called Extended Gratitude... it takes gratitude exercises to a whole new level. When practicing gratitude, don't just stop at the person or the object that you are holding gratitude for, but express gratitude for all that brought it forth too. For example, don't just have gratitude for the food on your table, but the farmers who grew it, the forces of nature that grew it, those who picked it, those who transported it, etc., etc. Practice this just a few times and it will begin to change perspective of the interconnectedness of us all.
Below is an excerpt from We'Moon 2017, written by Kim Duckett:
"At Lammas, we appreciate the fruits of our labors. We stop and honor all that we have created, nurtured and protected. This Holy Day is time to be aware of the power of food in our lives. Feed one another in ritual, give each other drink in small chalices. Say the words "May you never hunger, may you never thirst" and look deep into each other's eyes. Look deep enough to know that there is more we hunger for than food.
Lammas is also about the potential loss of all we have worked for. After the planting, tending and petting, our plants and plans (and we) are large and full and near harvest and... everything could be lost, in an instant. The "locusts" could come as flood or drought of illness or accident.
We turn to old gestures of protection inherited from our foremothers. We may make a corn dolly and hide seeds in the folds of her dress, to be held by the Goddess through the coming dark time. These may be literal seeds of herbs, vegetables, flowers- or the seeds of ideas, dreams, hopes, desire for healing. We get to feel our original earth-based natures as we unearth old rituals for protection from the hard times. These times are now upon us. May we be strong and resilient for what is to come.
Lammas is the built-in moment, the true north of your inner compass for following what is right for you. Lammas is about gratitude, a true and deep emotion that can well up inside us when faced with the absolute magic of harvest, of gather in our true heart work."
I've been practicing for about eleven years now, teaching for over five and I am continuously learning and growing both through and with my yoga practice. Every accomplishment or setback I have seems to teach me something new about my body, my perspective, what Yoga is and what it means to teach it. To me, Yoga is the framework that supports a profound life. It is so much more than poses alone.
Most people get started with yoga through the asanas, there is a certain appeal to them for health reasons (relaxing, becoming more flexible) or even simply out of curiosity for the hype. It really doesn't matter why you start practicing yoga, what matters is whether or not you grow through your experiences in class. This has become one of my first intentions as a yoga instructor: to support students' growth through the yogic tradition. It is more than just poses- it's teaching people awareness, which is the first step in living well. Through the daily sequence of poses, breathing, relaxation and meditation we want to raise our awareness. This is simple: what are you doing? How does this make you feel/react? I say it is simple but that is a bit of a lie, for most people it isn't simple. When someone starts coming to class for the first time it is hard to not pay more attention to the teacher or the people around you than you do to your own self. I remember being a beginner and struggling with this. I also remember when I started to gain enough confidence to move away from this. This moving away was a turning inward- trusting that what I felt was just as important as what I was being told. My ability to do this was one part knowing the poses well enough to not watch the teacher and a second part getting better at focusing my hyper-active mind.
It is so important to know that this awareness takes time to build and is primarily built through the practice of focus. Throughout class I am prompting students over and over (and over and over) to set their focus on something: their breath, specific body parts, a point on the wall in front of them. Again, this is no easy challenge but every time I see someone fall out of a pose it is because their eyes are darting around the room. Focus helps to shut the mind and ego up so that you can pay attention (raise awareness) to the more subtle details of the body and breath. We cannot have awareness without the ability to focus and we cannot have any degree of control over our lives without awareness.
Upon reflection, I am always amazed by how much I have grown through my practice of Yoga, but what is more amazing to me is the knowledge of how much more I have left to grow. "Amazed," isn't synonymous with "impressed" either, but used to get the point across that when I began practicing I had absolutely no idea how much I would be able to use Yoga as a way to grow. I believe that the more we know, the more we know that we don't know- there is power to this wisdom. I find this especially true for anything regarding the body and mind, after all we grow and change on an almost daily basis and as such our practices must grow and evolve too. Currently, I am working through a hip and lower back problem and this has opened the door to yet another shift in my perspective of my yoga practice. I cannot sit cross-legged, do you know what that means for an instructor?! So yes, just as soon as I thought I knew how to have the best practice, I had to rebuild my "best practice" to accommodate my body today. I could get upset about how few asanas I can currently do, or how simplistic my practice has become, or I could see the depth of perspective I have brought to each pose that I can do. Because my body is currently so sensitive, I can very clearly see and feel how each pose is affecting me, raising my awareness further.
The reality is if you are practicing and not paying attention (low focus, low awareness) the opportunity for injury is significantly higher. One thing that is absolute when discussing yoga is longevity, for both benefits and detriments. I try to explain to people, especially beginners, that the benefits of practicing yoga are hard to experience if you only do it rarely or for short periods. Of course, any class is going to be great and make you feel great, but if you want to understand why this tradition has been effective for thousands of years there must be commitment. It's incredible to me how far I have evolved by practicing mostly the same poses over and over again. But back to the idea of injury and strengths over time... If you practice yoga regularly well, the benefits will astound you. Likewise, if you practice yoga regularly without focus and awareness, the injuries will also astound you. When the focus of the class is in "nailing the pose" you are going to be so focused on knotting your body into the position described to you that you might fail to notice that your body cannot physically get into that position right now. Yoga is an act of the Soul, not the ego. This example is applied to every single pose, not just the more advanced ones. If you do warrior 1 every day and you are focused on looking like the instructor you might fail to notice what your hips or knees are trying to tell you, then one day, years down the line, you don't understand why you have knee problems. I, the instructor, cannot tell you how to move every part of your body because I am not your body, I can guide the pose then tell you to check in and feel. The more you feel the more easily you can create the perfect pose for yourself. That being said, another one of my intentions as a yoga instructor is to teach people how to feel at peace within their bodies. I love nothing more than when every student in my class is slightly different within the pose because they are honoring their own needs over my directions. Just as it is with the injuries, so to the benefits- if you do a pose regularly and honor the confines of your physical body, the results over time will amaze you. you absolutely cannot force your body to do things, does that mean that it isn't capable of doing what you want? No. But it does mean that it will take an unknown amount of time to achieve the results you are looking for... Yet as I write that I question my point made, because the point is not to get "results" unless these results are to feel healthy, strong and in love with your body.
I get it, it is so tempting to challenge yourself to "nail" a certain pose and that can be apart of the yogic path, but that should not be the point. One of my intentions as a yoga teacher that applies to this query is to teach people to trust in the process. Make your intention to keep focused on only one point throughout practice, or to keep a beautifully fluid breath for all of practice, or to be aware of your body for all of practice. Do not make it your intention to do that crazy pose you see people doing. Trust that if you keep your intention on breath, focus, body, that the incredible pose will manifest itself, eventually. Yoga is a practice of time and patience, nothing comes quickly. Traditionally speaking, the whole point of getting into challenging poses is to master the mind and the ability to keep the body so calm and relaxed that it is capable of anything- it is not about manipulating muscles and joints into abstract forms. Personally, my flow/vinyasa/ashtanga practice has become one that I am good at because of my ability to be with my breath and my body, creating my own body's version of a beautiful flow. If I am distracted it is not beautiful, it does not flow and it might hurt later. Trust that when you nail the essential things that the rest of life manifests itself beautifully. It's about building the right foundation, setting the compass and then letting the rest happen knowing that it can do nothing but align itself to what you have already intended. Try it out in your next class: commit to the basics of breath and focus and absolutely nothing more and see how beautiful and meaningful that class becomes.
Chelsea M Latham
When I was a kid my mom would occasionally refer to me as a Reverend, because I had the need to speak so passionately about just about everything. Little did she know that some day I would build a business upon sharing the wisdom that I am so passionate about. So here you go, here are some bits and bobs of thoughts strung together for your enjoyment.