hi november … exploration of non-violence

What does non-harming mean to you?

WHY non-violence? Why now? Why did the Yogis believe this ethic was THE most important of the 10 ethical principles of Yoga, the foundation of the following nine?

What does non-harming or non-violent mean to you?

What is the scope of nonviolence in your life? for example, one’s actions … one’s words … one’s thoughts?

WHO is included in our non-violent words, thoughts, actions?

  • Humans — friends? family? colleagues? classmates? strangers? people we disagree with? enemies?
  • Animals?
  • The Environment around us?
  • Yourself???

May we meditate on these questions …

Anxious Types & Making Mistakes

Check out Let’s Make Art tutorials on YouTube!

Creating these mini cards has been quite therapeutic over these last several weeks. In fact, creative practice in general has been a balm throughout 2020. I find my mind can go to a pretty dark place with all the turmoil going on in the world.

Unfortunately, left unchecked, that darkness has spilled out onto the keyboard or out of my mouth … usually in the form of judgment or snarkiness (hello, Pitta dosha imbalance 😉 ). I find myself apologizing a lot lately, either to myself or others. Thankfully, if I’m mindful, I can channel that darkness into creativity, humor & finding ways to be useful.

There’s a bit of an “anxious type” in my nature & family history — as Graham Panther, co-creator of The Big Feels Club, calls himself & describes those of us who “have a knack for catastrophic thinking.” Whether you love an anxious type, or have anxious tendencies yourself, Graham’s personal experience & empathy will warm your heart & induce a few chuckles as well. I listened to his July interview on the All in the Mind podcast (check it out here) — his thoughts allowed me to laugh at myself & also find some comfort in the midst of uncontrollable situations we continue to find ourselves in.

Ya’ll know me pretty well by now, & that I’ll provide my point of view if asked 😉 … & my views are pretty well-laid out in social media. I TRY to maintain consistency in my criticism of systems (& powerful people who uphold those systems) which oppress the disenfranchised, the marginalized & the historically oppressed. I TRY to maintain my upliftment of people & programs that bring awareness to & offer pathways to a more compassionate, loving, collaborative, joyful, socially just & beautiful world.

And I make mistakes.

I realize I don’t see the whole picture, & have much more to learn. My teacher, Luvena Rangel, in our Navratri Sadhana practice last week, reminded us of a story of 6 sadhakas (students) without sight who were given the task of describing an elephant. One grasped the ear & said, “Oh, an elephant is round, flappy & rough. That is what is an elephant.” Another grasped the tail & said, “No No! An elephant is long & thin with a wispy mass of hair at the end.” A third held one of the elephant’s legs & said, “You’re both wrong! An elephant is round & stocky like a tree trunk.”

And of course we know they were all CORRECT … & yet did not see the entire elephant.

An elephant DOES have a flappy, round ear. And yet an elephant is more than an ear. An elephant is ALL of these things …

Luvena asked, “So why would we think that WE can see the full picture of life, what is Truth? When we have these 5 senses alone to take in information, & each of us uses these 5 senses differently, from our own context, history, perspective? Even in Yoga there are MANY philosophies of what is Yoga …” [paraphrased]

Maybe you have heard this story before … it continues to remind me to be HUMBLE, to continue to LEARN … that everyone & every creature, every blade of grass … has something to teach me about Truth.

You & I may have similar or different views on the current pandemic, on the current U.S. election, on the pathways toward a more just & compassionate world. Yet I imagine, if you’re practicing Yoga — we are in solidarity that we DO want a more just & compassionate world for ourselves, our elders & youth, for the natural world & creatures, for our communities. For this is one of the (many) goals of Yoga!

So as I (& maybe you) work with the current anxieties within, may we 1) acknowledge our darker feelings & thoughts — simply recognize them & that it’s our bodies/spirits trying to keep us & our loved ones safe, & 2) find ways to channel these valid feelings / thoughts into creating something useful, beautiful and/or more loving for ourselves & those around us.

Our efforts will result in a more complete picture of “the elephant” – the more loving, peaceful, joyful & just world we all seek.

I’d love to hear how this post resonated with you. Feel free to message me here or at erica.seaverengel@gmail.com.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti (Om Peace Peace Peace)

New Moon Mandala Practice

Over the last few weeks, Jim & I have had some wonderful animal sightings on our trail walks … here are a few quickly-captured photos:

Looking into a deeper meaning of a few of these sightings, I found timely wisdom for myself … as the New Moon in Virgo recently graced us with the earthy-ness, the changing of seasons, the invitation to turn inward & prepare for the colder, darker months.

Go to Soul-Flower to learn more about Turtle symbolism, and this whimsical article for some thoughts on Opossum.

For almost 3 years now, I’ve been using The Moon is My Calendar journal as a way to tune into Nature’s rhythms & lunar time. April McMurtry has created an entire program around this calendar, & I encourage you to check it out if you have even an inkling of curiosity or are drawn to the Moon.

Each New Moon, there’s space in the calendar & journal to set intentions & to create a New Moon Mandala. This practice was super-intimidating to me at first … yet over time I’ve come to look forward to the morning when I get to meditate, putter, contemplate, & create something for the next moon cycle.

Today I followed a video by Let’s Make Art:

I’ve only done a few projects with Jesse Petersen, & I already absolutely LOVE her style — laidback, non-threatening, “you-do-you” tutorials. I put on some Virgo New Moon-inspired music & here’s what transpired:

Virgo New Moon energy is still around! So if you try this practice, please please please let me know, I’d love to see what inspired you! Happy Weekend, E

Life is in the Transitions (cont’d)

“The Divine loves you too much to see you stagnate.” – Yogarupa Rod Stryker

Dear Friends,

How are you feeling today?

Today begins “stay-cation” for Jim, me, Baxter & Tortilla. So I’m feeling a bit mixed — both disappointed, yet also quite content.

Usually around this time of year we’d be packing the backseat of the Subaru to the max with camping/hiking/lazy-daying gear (the very back covered with dog beds for the boys, of course!). Jim would have planned a general route for our travels, with plenty of wiggle room for side trips or extra days at a favorite spot. Our boys would be at our heels throughout the packing & loading — just to make sure we know they’re going too ;).

Last summer we returned to New England:

So it’s a bit disorienting to NOT be doing much planning … & no packing, loading, or (in the dogs’ case) shadowing right now. Instead, last night we started to make a list of stay-cation ideas =). A few things on our list:

  • Sleep in
  • Watch “The Umbrella Academy” (stumbled on this last night & we are hooked!)
  • Phone / Zoom calls with family
  • Paddleboard … without dogs (there’s a story here)
  • Climbing (possibly with dogs)
  • Catch up on The New York Times (me)
  • Novel editing (Jim)
  • Treats, snuggles, walks, more treats (B & T)
  • Backpacking in Dolly Sods (a fave place of ours back in grad school)

We may get to all, some, or none of these activities — that’s usually how our vacations go anyway. And our various work projects will inevitably seep in … yet we’ll attempt to take our sabbatical from those beloved projects while staying close to home.

How have your summer plans altered this year?

How are you feeling about your 2020 summer transitions?

I think about Yoga — when we first start out on our journey into asana, meditation, lifestyle practices — it’s all new, there’s much to explore. We may feel excited, uncertain, challenged, frustrated, empowered, (enter-your-descriptor-here). A whole new world with endless paths of philosophy & technique. We learn, practice, become familiar — then add new territory to our explorations, maybe a new posture, or a new breath technique or daily Ayurvedic routine.

But what happens when we “stay home?” When we get on our mats/chair & practice Mountain Pose (Tadasana) for the one-thousandth time? What happens when we come back to our breath for the one-millionth time? When our mind wanders … to the same places … A G A I N ?

“Staying home” in my yoga practice can be challenging. I wanna do the latest craze in postures/sequencing, try an esoteric meditation, or get that herb that I just learned about.

And maybe where the juicy stuff of life IS — maybe where I actually dive deeper into my own radiant Self — is in doing the familiar thing with new, deeper, more full awareness. Trusting that the Divine loves me too much to see me to stagnate.

Can tadasana be familiar & at the same time NEW … each practice? Can my breath — which is always with me, mostly unnoticed — evoke wonder & awe with each inhale & each exhale? Can my mind, ever-wandering, teach me about my own tendencies … & can I approach my tendencies with grace & compassion?

So we will stay close to home this summer. We will visit familiar places with new eyes & hearts. I will visit my familiar practices with a “beginner’s mind” — & have faith that I will be amazed by the new territory I discover within.

Thank you to my teachers in the Himalayan Tradition, & all of you in this community – who are my teachers as well. May we continue to grow in our re-membering how vast & radiant & beautiful the Divine Light within each of us truly is.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti – Om Peace Peace Peace.

Life is in the Transitions

(also the title of Bruce Feiler’s latest book, which is now on my reading list 😉 )

Dear Friends,

How are you feeling today?

I invite you to notice your next breath & the transition between inhale & exhale. How are you feeling today?

I’ve been feeling nostalgic & melancholy. Last night, Jim, our boys & I drove to Ohiopyle where we found an un-personed spot along the river to let the boys swim:

Our boy, Tortilla … dry for the moment 😉 … the stick-retrieving soon to ensue!

As we sat at the Youghiogheny Loop Takeout, I looked at the rapid for the kayak line — Charlie’s Washing Machine (avoid), Frog’s Back (fun sneak line) — & realized that, after not getting in a kayak for almost 2 years now, I may not kayak this river again.

I reflected, nostalgic, remembering the times of skirting in & out of the waves & eddies — never a pro kayaker by any means, yet always endeavoring for smooth lines & strokes. THAT was my joy — the transitions — the smooth sailing in my Dagger RPM.

A deep sigh. A tinge of sadness. And a boatload of gratitude for the opportunities this river has afforded me. And will continue to afford me in new ways as we transition in our relationship with one another.

Given the “positive vibes only” Western yoga culture, my feelings are uncomfortable to some, even to myself. I’m “supposed” to emanate these hyper-smiley vibes because I practice Yoga. More so because I teach its practices. 

Well, let’s set that thinking to rest right here. If you’re seeking a positive-vibes-only human to practice Yoga with, I may not be your gal ;). **

As I’ve gone through many transitions in my Yoga practice & teaching, what I CAN offer is this: 

A continuous, messy, & seeking process.

This process to understand my own self better. First & foremost, I am a student of the Himalayan Tradition.

This process to offer what I’m finding supportive, revealing, rejuvenating, clarifying from the Yoga practices of the Himalayan Masters. I am a teacher within a time-tested, lineage-based, & living tradition.

What I shared 5 years ago is different from what I’m sharing today … hence, the “living tradition” which evolves as humankind & the planet evolve. And I hope what I’m learning & offering 5 years from now will evolve as well.

A book I’ve picked up by Justin Michael Williams titled “Stay Woke: A Meditation Guide for the Rest of Us” demystifies this idea that meditation is meant to make us “feel better.”

Not so.

Meditation (which is Yoga) is meant TO MAKE US FEEL.

If you have a meditation practice, you know this ;). If you’ve tried a meditation practice, you may have tasted this fact — you may have felt bliss, peace, boredom, anger, joy, agitation, “when the hell is this going to be over” — & maybe in the first minute of your practice!

What if life is in this transition FROM an unattainable stereotype of Yoga as bliss … TO Yoga as one method (of many) to get to know ourselves better, with all our foibles & feelings & most of all radiance?

What transitions are you experiencing? How are feelings coming up for you? Do you notice discomfort, a fix-it mentality, a sitting-with these feelings? (no judgment, just an opportunity to notice)

May you feel all the feels today. May you be gentle with yourself. May we be gentle with each other. You are loved.

Baxter & Tortilla – brothers from different mothers 😉

**Note: There are Yogis & Yoginis out there who radiate positivity authentically, while also acknowledging their more challenging feelings as part of the process. Pema Chodron comes to mind …

Gentle is the New Advanced

“Study thy Self, discover the Divine.” – Yoga Sutra II.44

Dear Friends,

How are you feeling today?

The light, consistent rain is plumping my spirits today … Jim & I walked in a light rain this morning … it was restoring. (I do a little happy dance, too, because the garden gets watered!!)

Sheepskin Trail

The title of this entry – Gentle is the New Advanced – I first heard from J. Brown, a renowned yoga teacher questioning the West’s obsession with pretzel-like postures & repetitive postures that can lead to injury over time. He & I both share shoulder injuries which, in part, are a result of years & years of chaturanga dandasanas … & there are several high-profile Western yoga teachers who’ve had hip replacements due to, at least in part, prolonged, aggressive, asana-focused practice. This is not good! We who share in the Yoga practices have a duty to honor the ENTIRE system of Yoga, & to practice & share in its fullness.

To this end, I’m so excited to finally have the confidence to offer a gentle yoga & yoga nidra class regularly.  What does confidence have to do with offering a gentle yoga class? Well, expectation. I have felt the weight of expectation from myself … influenced by the Western yoga “industry” … that yoga = asana, slick asana, “hard” asana …

What images over the past 20 years have you seen of modern yoga in the West? If you’re like me, the images convey that a certain type of person doing a certain type of pose wearing a certain type of clothing & in a certain type of place IS yoga.

I think we’re cheating ourselves at best, & culturally appropriating & blaspheming at worst.

But that’s a soap box for another day ;).

For now, confidence. Confidence that the subtleties of a gentle yoga practice will seep into our bodies … not in an “in your face, ta DA!” way … rather in the gentle, light rain-like way of my walk with Jim this morning. Confidence in the Himalayan Tradition, which teaches a holistic system of postures, breath, relaxation, meditation & lifestyle. Confidence that the gentle-ness of the practices, rather than shoving us down the Yogic path, actually allows the body & mind to advance toward our own unique best selves in a more profound way.

This has been my own experience.

I’m still looking for a more authentic phrase, however. “Gentle is the new advanced” still has that Western competitive tinge to it, that “oh-this-is-better” framing. Maybe you’ve found a phrase in your own practice / teaching that conveys the need for a holistic view & practice of Yoga to truly reap the benefits for ourselves & our world. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

I look forward to seeing you online Sunday evenings to begin your week. What would it be like if, rather than striving to be more & to-do lists, we began our weeks/days/next moments with gentle care & deep rest FIRST thing?

Revolution.

I look forward to ALL of the classes I get to share in with you this week. Deep bows, E

Viparita Karani is a “gentle posture with deeply profound benefits. A great time to read a chapter … pictured here “Stay Woke: A Meditation Guide for the Rest of Us” by Justin Michael Williams.

p.s. (!!!!) In my e-newsletter (subscribe here) I shared a link to Beautiful & Blessed, a local, woman-owned business — I don’t get any kickbacks, just want you to check her out! Here’s one of the earring sets I ordered yesterday:

So fun!