Svadyaya (cont’d)

Go to Radici Studios for free coloring pages!

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

Dear Friends,

How are you feeling today?

Right now I’m far from discovering Divine in myself … I am feeling equal parts frustration, impatience, enthusiasm & hope.

As we continue to navigate the choppy waters of personal life, community life, & the global realities of COVID-19 & racist policies & systems … which many experts in a variety of fields predict we’ll be swimming in for months, even years, to come … how are you feeling today?

This question has been asked of me daily for the last 8 weeks by my teachers BEFORE any breathwork, asana or meditation — before what I’ve assumed is “the REAL Yoga” — happens. Jivana Heyman greeted us each morning of our Accessible Yoga teacher training with, “How are you feeling today?”Β And would proceed to WAIT … online, with 300 people … for us to contemplate this question. Silence over the airwaves. Gasp.

How often have I asked this question to a person / group in passing, simply as a transition to my next thought?

Jivana then let us know how HE was doing that day … from his home in California, with vulnerability & authenticity. “Today I’m feeling a bit anxious …” WHAT?! Our teacher is feeling anxious? Isn’t he supposed to be transmitting love & light & good vibes??

IT WAS A RELIEF TO HEAR HIS WORDS.

What a RELIEF to hear that folks farther along the path of Yoga are real people with real feelings & all the day-to-day thoughts that race through and/or clutter my own mind.

Sprouts in our little garden!

In the traditional Hatha Yoga practice of the Himalayan Masters, like many other traditions, we begin practice with centering – a time to arrive, check-in with our body & begin to settle our breath & mind for practice. This internal check-in is super-important to let our nervous system transition – to send our body messages like, “Hey, we’re going to do this now, you’re safe, pay attention.”

In my own Yoga practice, I take time to notice how my body is feeling, how my breath is flowing & maybe set an intention. I think it’s a good start =). To sit with, “How am I feeling today?” for any amount of time is … for me … hard. I wanna get to the “real Yoga” … & this contemplation hasn’t been on my Yoga radar.

During a group feedback session, our moderator Melanie Camellia challenged my way of thinking about group yoga classes & check-ins. I remember saying, “The check-in concept has been a revelation to me … I’m a task-oriented person, & have assumed that I need to make the most of people’s time by getting to the ‘real part of the practice’ … & from this [accessible yoga] training I’m re-defining what the ‘real practice’ actually is …” They listened as I worked through the revelation that the “real Yoga practice” is about PEOPLE, not a sequence.

IT WAS A RELIEF TO TAKE IN THAT TRUTH.

Yoga is about regular people like you & me re-membering the Divine in each of us. That may be through living an ethical life (yamas/niyamas), practicing certain postures (asanas), practicing breathwork/meditation (pranayama/dharana/dhyana) … that may be through gardening, walking with your loved ones, or taking naps … which have been my Yoga practices the past few months. Feeling what it is we feel in the moment without judgment. Finding the Sacred in the Ordinary.

So, I am feeling frustration, impatience, enthusiasm & hope. I sit with these feelings AS PART OF my practice, AS EQUAL PART of the “real Yoga” as I currently understand it ;). I look forward to broadening my understanding — I thank my teachers at Accessible Yoga, my teachers Kate & Tracee, their teachers Panditji & Rod Stryker, their teacher Swami Rama, & his teachers of the Himalayan Tradition of 3,000 years & beyond.

I look forward to checking in with YOU during our online & outdoor yoga experiences together this summer. I thank each of you who continue to regularly check in with me — it means so much to connect with you. E

This Week of Svadyaya – Self-Study

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

Dear Friends,

SIMPLICITY.

What are you craving right now? My introverted, Taurus-Sun soul is enjoying simplicity as summer begins. While I continue my Yoga studies in lieu of teaching live classes for another week, part of my practice of svadyaya has resulted in taking my Yoga into the garden … into daily walks with Jim & our “boys” Baxter & Tortilla … into creative practices. (I’ve also enjoyed your messages sharing your wildlife sightings, your Yoga practices, your summer happenings! Keep ’em coming!)

Yesterday I took part in a virtual “tea meditation” with Being Tea. Pre-COVID-19, I would toss a tea bag into my mug & run out the door, then gulp it down mindlessly throughout the day. During this 2-hour session, the simple act of brewing & drinking tea was made profound & meaningful.* We practiced two different tea meditations along with journaling prompts. Suzette offers an informative, relatable, & soothing experience … I highly recommend checking out an online experience (or if you’re in Chicago, check out a live event when she re-opens!). In addition, all donations for this particular event went to The Bail Project.

SIMPLICITY.

I continue my studies with Accessible Yoga in order to complete this additional teaching certification. Over 300 students from across the globe participated in the live virtual training, & my perspective has widened 100-fold. I learned how much I DON’T KNOW, & how many more questions I have.

With continued reflection, I’m re-visioning how to widen the circle of practice & accessibility of Yoga in Fayette County. First, I pay homage to the souls who share Yoga locally — Laura, Jenny, Courtney, Kim, Caitlin, Crystal, Kristin, Leah & Leann, Cathy, Brynn, & more. What a pleasure to share Yoga in their company. Second, too many of us have been taught that Yoga is making pretzel shapes, or for those who are a certain body type, or only for those who can afford it … & if we’re honest, too many of us have seen Yoga portrayed as for white cis-gender women only. (ALL of these conceptions are false. Period.) As a white cis-gender woman, I fall right into the stereotype — haha, whoa, yikes! — so my studies have been / continue to be exercises in humility. And simplicity. To return to the simple, holistic Yoga system with humility & gratitude toward the Indian & South Asian cultures who have brought this system to the West.

SIMPLICITY.

I’d love to hear from you. Keep it simple. Which often leads to the profound. How can we, together, widen the circle of practice & accessibility of Yoga right here in Fayette County? Get in touch with me about your thoughts.

THANK YOU for sharing your Yoga practice together in community with me. I look forward to practicing with you online & in-person (outdoors!) soon.

Deep bows to you, Erica

*I would love to have tea when we practice together again!

Self-Study & Reflection

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

Dear Friends,

As you know, in our group classes we’ve begun to introduce the ethical limbs of Yoga, called the Yamas (outer restraints) & Niyamas (inner observances). The Yamas include Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya & Aparigraha … ways we interact with others in order to cultivate a peaceful, equitable, enlightened society. The Niyamas include Saucha, Santosha, Tapas, Svadyaya, and Ishvara Pranidhana … inner observances we take on to get more familiar with & embody the Divine within us all.

Did you know, according to some Yoga traditions, that a student would not be allowed to practice Asana (postures) unless & until they had mastered the Yamas & Niyamas? (It begs the question for me: Would I even be practicing Asana right now? Haha!)

These past few months, & I believe for many months & years to come, have once again opened deep wounds, intense emotions, past traumas, generational traumas — both on an individual level & global level. Father Gregory Boyle of Homeboy Industries states that our systems – political, healthcare, economic, criminal justice & more — have been predicated on the idea that “some lives matter less than others.” My white skin has offered me unearned advantages, my body with relatively few aches & pains has been given unearned advantages, & more … what am I to do with this knowledge that my white, able, cis-gender body is advantaged by these systems? 

Hari Kirtana das has offered a quote in relation to the Bhagavad Gita, a primary text of Yoga: “The one thing a yogi cannot tolerate is injustice.” We who are students of Yoga have a duty, according to the Bhagavad Gita, to discern when to fight for what is right both within ourselves & out in the world. We begin with ourselves.Susanna Barkataki of “Honor Don’t Appropriate Yoga” says we can reunite with the true aim & purpose of Yoga through Svadyaya, orself-rule and inquiry, and “truly learn the full, honest integrity of an authentic yoga practice.” Our authentic Yoga practice propels us into the world with clarity, a sense of purpose, & an ethic to work for a better world.

Currently, I’m wrapping up an Ayurveda Immersion course with Luvena Rangel this weekend, & am in the middle of a 30-day meditation teacher training in the Himalayan Tradition with Tracee Stanley. I’ve been accepted into an Accessible Yoga Teacher Training intensive, which begins June 15th. (If you’re into Ayurveda at all, this drive to learn is my Pitta coming out, haha!)

I share my recent Svadyaya practices with one priority: to highlight just a few of the BIPOC teachers & organizations doing the work of sharing the full scope of Yoga. I hope you’ll check out each of these teachers / organizations as soon as possible. Too often, Yoga has become diluted in the West, i.e. equating this holistic system with “making shapes with our bodies,” mostly white bodies, mostly bodies with certain abilities (I am guilty of perpetuating these stereotypes).

That said, I want you / I to go deeper, to unlearn, to re-learn, & to honor the depth & breadth of Yoga — to learn from these qualified, lineage-based teachers/organizations that provide traditional wisdom in a modern context. We study ourselves in order to discover the Divine in ourselves & every other human, creature, & aspect of our environment. I am making mistakes on this journey daily … & yet am committed to self-study, reflection, & deep listening. I hope we are in this together.

I look forward to hearing from you, & connecting with you soon. What does Svadyaya look like for you these days? Not out of a “look at me” standpoint, but from a “this is what really moves me,” “this is what I notice in myself,” “this is where I want to dive deeper” reflective stance.

THANK YOU for sharing your Yoga practice together in community with me. I look forward to practicing with you online & in-person (outdoors!) soon.

Deep bows to you, Erica

*Listen to an interview with Tracee Stanley on the Commune Podcast HERE

Notes to Self

First harvest from our garden …

Day 40 of #the100dayproject …

Venus Retrograde … May 13 – June 25 – Reflect, review, revision, revise, reclaim, reassess, realign, reacquaint, rebel, remember …

What is “essential” in my own life?

What do i value?

What brings me pleasure?

What grounds me in my senses?

What is my gift to the world?

What am I learning about love, beauty, finances, & that which is valuable?

How am i communicating with myself re: love, beauty, finances, and/or that which is valuable?

Observe, reflect, restore, revitalize.

Use Your Skills

Thank you, Creative Workers of all disciplines, for using your skills to ease the effects of this pandemic in your local communities.

Enterprising creative workers are using their skills to ease New York through the public health crisis.

Mr. Rogers said, “Look for the helpers.”

May we look to the helpers today, including looking within ourselves. We are the helpers – through small & grand acts of kindness, generosity & compassion to our fellow humans & living beings.

Explore

Day 32/100 #the100dayproject

So much to explore within … & yet.

The information is non-stop. The critique is non-stop. The truth is non-stop, & then the truth that’s “really the truth” is non-stop. I have experienced myself dealing in knee-jerk reactions right & left these days. I’m alternately dealing in anger, frustration, acceptance, compassion, & on & on. It’s exhausting.

I cannot imagine folks (maybe you) who are dealing with real, on-the-ground life/death issues right now. Currently, my personal world is simply inconvenienced by the global pandemic – not jumping in the car to go somewhere (I’ve not driven my car but twice in 60 days), not getting take-away tea lattes, or not getting to traipse around Target. Our budget has been crunched more than it already was – we, like many in the United States, are one personal disaster away from financial crisis. We are grateful for community & our families for their constant psychological, physical, & financial support.

I continually appreciate the wisdom from senior teachers in the Himalayan Tradition. Realizing I am privileged to be able to access, take in, process & choose to act upon this wisdom … & if you are in the same boat, please join me … I must take action on their advice for the well-being of myself SO THAT I may use my privilege to highlight & support those in really dire straits right now — whether mentally, physically, financially, or otherwise.

I think we are realizing, as Buddhist nun Pema Chodron has said, that we are in an ever-present state of groundlessness & yet constantly (futilely) trying to gain ground. We are realizing, as many proponents of #regenerativeagriculture have stated for decades, that our current global systems are NOT as stable nor as safe as we may have thought. Many of us have sensed, & yet now see in stark relief, that not all lives matter — whether that life be human, animal, plant or the environment.

Enter Fear.

Whether you or I feel like we’re handling this global upturning handily, or that we’re gasping for air — there’s a measure of fear in each of us, because there’s fear permeating the entire GLOBE. I’d hazard to argue that the “bring it on” cry by some toward this pandemic is a misguided use of the warrior archetype … there’s a book on my shelf by Paulo Coehlo called “Warrior of the Light” … a warrior at his/her best knows when to take pause & honor fear, rather than charging forward blindly because someone else riled them up (these warriors probably survived to tell the tale as well).

I am riled up. I feel anger that folks aren’t taking my grandmother’s life seriously with their brush-aside comments on social media. I feel frustrated that folks share memes versus scientific articles to ‘prove’ their point, & then call me all sorts of names when I express disagreement. I feel anger that workers deemed “essential,” like waitstaff, grocery store workers, & in-home caregivers are paid so poorly. I feel despondent that I can’t do much of anything to solve this global emergency. & I feel fear that myself or someone I love will contract the virus — my extended family has experienced the virus, & it’s terrifying.

I sit with these feelings daily, as I’m sure you do too.

There are days when I feel empowered — when I plant snap peas & see them growing, when I order from a local farm (check out Footprints Farm & Redrange Farm), when I see people in our community donating supplies to the domestic violence shelter or East End United Community Center. And when I teach yoga, resolving to bring some calm amidst the underlying currents of anxiety.

I hold (or I try to) these dualities — this feeling & also that opposite feeling — sometimes adeptly, sometimes like a drunken toddler. The modern Yoga industry would have us believe that it’s all love & light, that if we clear your chakras enough or work hard enough & we’ll receive the blessing, that you CHOSE what’s happening to you. I call BULLSHIT.

Sometimes shit happens in this world because shit happens. I’m not saying we bear no responsibility for the choices we make, so let’s just put that discussion aside for another time. What I’m saying is, maybe we practice holding the duality: that there are times when the choices we make DO have consequences AND AT THE SAME TIME sometimes shit — like being born into oppression, like miscarriage, like an unexpected illness, like a global pandemic — happens. No matter how much someone practices love, light, yoga, or making smoothies … we cannot blame ourselves (or passively-aggressively cause harm to others’ mental health) for a heartbreaking situation out of our / their control.

Maybe there’s a BOTH / AND to this life.

And here’s where I defer to Mr. Fred Rogers.

I need to go back & watch Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood reruns right now. Because Mr. Rogers didn’t deny feelings that are uncomfortable. He didn’t try to fix or make better or say, “Well, if you would’ve just worked harder or believed differently or …” He simply listened & witnessed without judgment. And he didn’t drive folks to be more productive. He encouraged kindness.

What a revolutionary. A warrior.

Father Gregory Boyle of Homeboy Industries comes to mind as well. Check out his books “Tattoos on the Heart” & the one I’m currently reading “Barking at the Choir.” You don’t have to subscribe to a faith tradition, in fact you may resonate more if you’re not!

In his over 3 decades of work with gang members in the most violent barrios of Los Angeles, Father Greg consistently holds duality right up to our hearts as he describes the unbelievable burdens former gang members carry alongside the absolute childlike wonder they experience in recovery / starting a new life … & elicits tears of joy & laughter simultaneously. “What if,” he says, “we stood in awe of the burdens people have to carry, rather than in judgment over how they carry those burdens? This is kinship.”

All of us worldwide — worldwide — are carrying unbelievable burdens right now. There’s so much information coming in, & furthermore the information changes daily. It’s overwhelming.

I’ve been listening to amazing speakers on the Resilience Summit with Ashley Turner. Koya Webb knocked me out when she said the following — if we are in the category of being able to take time for reflection, it’s our duty to do so. Some folks can’t take reflection time – they’re essential workers, maybe, or stressing about rent or how to take care of a sick baby. They don’t have time for reflection, & that’s appropriate. But those of us who are able to get quiet, we honor those who can’t by going within ourselves. In this way, we are part of the solution rather than the problem.

We reflect,

  • What’s going on around me? How am I feeling about all this right now?
  • How can I hold any dualities lightly, get curious, take pause, see in a new way?
  • If I’m feeling overwhelmed, how can I prioritize kindness rather than productivity?
  • When do I go into judgment? How does that feel in my body?
  • What burdens is that person/group carrying that I’m judging? How can I move from judgment of how they’re carrying those burdens, to AWE at the burdens they do carry? How does this feel in my body?

The mandala above was created a few days ago when I was feeling overwhelmed by all the non-stop & changing information coming in about my job(s), the virus, state re-opening policies, & the resulting vitriolic commentary on social media. Creating the mandala helped me to visualize what I was feeling, & then reflect on the fact that there’s a whole world within me to explore for wisdom (according to Yoga philosophy). I can create boundaries around my physical, mental & emotional being … I can trust the peace, quiet & clarity I find within.

So much to explore within … if you have the capacity, let’s honor those around us by getting quiet & listening. The solutions may be a breath away.

Morning … Meditation?

Morning practice

Looks peaceful, inspiring, right? Yes … aaaannnnddd … πŸ˜‰

What really happens …

Wonder “do I really want to get up?”

Yes, do it.

Wander to the bathroom, past yawning & stretching Tortilla 🐾.

At top of stairs, consiously bend knees so the dog rush doesn’t take me down.

Let dogs out.

Start 🍡 water. Neti pot. Wait, go open curtains for plants. Wait again, go outsode and uncover plants … Wait, go get compost to feed worm bins. Maybe I should walk early before it rains. Tortilla! Stop eating what’s probably gross.

Back inside. Make tea. Grab herbs/vitamins, protein drink, muffins. Head upstairs for morning practice. Wait, what was i thinking? Nevermind.

Consiciously slow at bottom of stairs so not taken out by dog rush.

Too many cars moving outside. Too early. Slow down.

Sit. Gonna meditate. Wait, get candle. Man, this space is messy. Am i more creative? Give myself a star? Ok, meditate.

Turn on phone … There’s FB … Crap, I’m gonna open it and look, aren’t i? Yep, down the rabbit hole. Stop. Close it. One more scroll. Oh well.

Ok, meditate. Eyes closed. Fidget. That FB post … Why? Breathe. Relax yoir breath. Really? Again w the posts? Noise. Outside. Too many cars. Slow down. Ok, meditate.

Start over.

A moment of quiet. Thank G-d.

And we’re back.

Time to draw. Thanks for this time #ourmandalauniverses … going off on my own here. Ah, now settling in. Just draw.

What does it mean? And why is it so noisy outside? Let the birds have the airspace a bit longer. Anyway …

Music. Radici Studios. Thank you.

Finally a deep breath. Just one. When will one be enough. When will we / I be satisfied that we / I have, be, do enough.

And Baxter & Tortilla sleep soundly.

How’s your morning “meditation” going? 🀣

The Yamas & Niyamas of Public Health

Here’s an article from The Himalayan Institute’s Yoga International website that can support our current study of the yamas & niyamas, or ethical principles of Yoga. Enjoy.

https://yogainternational.com/article/view/the-yamas-and-niyamas-of-public-health

I hope you’ll join me on Zoom on Sundays at 4pm EST & Tuesdays at 9am EST for live Hatha Yoga classes. Please email me at erica.seaverengel@gmail.com for the links & password =). Classes are donation-based, & donations of any amount can be made securely on Venmo to @erica-seaverengel. Thank you. I look forward to practicing with you!

Feel Your Feelings

A few things giving me solace in quarantine …

Check out Radici Studios on Facebook & Instagram for thoughtful coloring pages … A welcome pause in my day.

And this …

From the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association and Foundation

And this …

Facing Pandemic Fears with an Awake Heart, by Tara Brach of Insight Meditation Center

“May we grow back, not to what was, but instead to what we can become.” -Radici Studios

Friday? Yes, Friday.

Has it happened to you – that you’ve questioned what day it is?

It’s only been a week, with what looks like several more to come, of physical distancing in Uniontown, PA due to COVID-19 pandemic. A colleague & friend, Jennifer, said this during our online check-in meeting:

“It’s like a month’s worth of communication has come down in one week …”

Yep.

This afternoon, I participated in a well-being webinar for 4-H professionals, & the moderators asked “How are you feeling?” The answers were placed in a collage based on the number of times the feelings were mentioned … What did people say?

OVERWHELMED.

ANXIOUS.

STRESSED.

Those were the big 3 words in the collage, with riffs on those feelings in smaller font.

And I continue to hear the economic drumbeat to “keep going,” “find a new normal,” “make the most of your time,” etc.

And yet smart, hardworking professionals in that well-being forum clearly stated what we are collectively feeling – overwhelm, stress, anxiety. What does it say when our society brushes off the truth of human feeling in favor of “business as usual” (albeit in alternative ways)?

I don’t have answers … Heck, I have to think about what DAY it is …

I do know it’s not business as usual for me or many of my friends, family, & colleagues.

So here’s what I’ve been listening to & watching today … to support my nervous system & recalibrate my understanding:

Facing Pandemic Fears w An Awake Heart, talk & meditation practices by Tara Brach of Insight Meditation Society

Focus on the Navel Center, at-home practice w Kate Kill of The Himalayan Institute

How We Must Respond to the Coronavirus Pandemic, TED Talk w Bill Gates

Oh, & daily Viparita Karani …

See previous blog post for instructions πŸ™‚

Let me know if you check out any of these talks/practices & what you think … Also, who are you listening to that supports your mind/body right now?

Wishing you moments of deep peace … whatever day it is ;).