Visit us on Facebook!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Greece and Italy Travel Notes

Just back from a family trip to Greece and Italy. (Really! I am jealous of myself.)

A few comments and observations:

*British Airways is amazing. There was no comparison with any of the American airlines that I have ever flown, even overseas; it cost a little bit more, but everything was included and was worth every penny.

*The people of Athens were amazing. Everyone (everyone!) spoke beautiful, fluent English. And many spoke several other languages as well. As for a command of their language, I now get the origin of the saying “it’s all Greek to me.” Their words look to me like someone pressed the caps lock AND the alt key and then sat on the keyboard. Utterly undecipherable.

*There was a sadness and desperation in Athens that made me sad. Everywhere people were so kind, but also apologetic for the state of their country. Protests and strikes everywhere. Small bands of police officers clustered in the squares. A trip near the Parliament building where we passed officers bearing uzi’s on the street. It felt like a little taste of what might occur in this country should our economy continue its current path.

*People were very kind. We were traveling with four adults and four children, three of whom are pre-teen girls. With the giggling and squealing and chattering there is no WAY you can even pretend to pass yourself off as some sophisticated European traveler. You may as well carry the American flag on a stick. Complete strangers would strike up a conversation or offer guidance. We felt very safe and looked after considering the difficulties in Athens right now.

*Solar panels were EVERYWHERE. On so many buildings in Athens; great fields of them in Italy. I kept wondering, “um, why, why aren’t WE doing that?”

*The Italian countryside is just breathtaking. I love how the country-quilt landscape of olive groves, fields of sunflowers, hillsides of grapevines. So many homes seem to have a little patch beside them with maybe a couple fruit trees, some grapevines, a small garden patch. Never just giant field after giant field of the same crop.

*The culture of walking; of taking a stroll. Of being out and about, visiting; I am sure this also springs from the fact that the homes are smaller, and there isn’t tons of personal space. But that sense of community really shines through. In the small town where we spent several days, I let my girls go to the piazza by themselves. They ran into five people that they knew. Very sweet.

*My children have returned as much more adventuresome eaters. Sure, they ordered French fries at every opportunity! But, hey, they tried a lot of different things, and truly got over any phobia about green things being sprinkled on their plates. We also developed some new passions (Greek cheese dip, potato pizza) and honed some others (my son had calamari daily, and we expanded our list of gelato favorites.

*Once again I was taught that you can plan your brains out, but at the end of the day, you gotta go with the flow. One of the most magical moments came after dinner one night when my friend spontaneously called her art restoration teacher to see if we could stop by his workshop. He kindly met us at his studio, and he had just completed restoration of a wooden sculpture of Jesus the Christ that was just in the beginning phases of restoratation two years ago when I had visited before. To stop by that evening and see the masterpiece (photo below!) completed; it was astonishing to behold.

*Traveling; meeting people from other places, other countries, other experiences; I realize that people -- US -- humans; no matter where we live on this planet. We are spirit, crammed into a body. They are no different than me, just born in a different spot on the planet. I hope, I truly desire, that when I make choices, decisions that impact the planet; that I will remember it's not just about impacting me and my children. My decisions, my choices; will affect them, and their children.



Christianity and Yoga

Hello kind blog readers: The following is a letter that I wrote in response to one of the several articles that appeared in our local newspaper over the past few months where certain sects of Christians expressed the view that yoga was a negative and . . . um . . . devil worship.

In order to get my sadness and anger out, I blasted out this response. After thinking about it, I decided not to fuel the flames (not to mention give their accusations any credit), and so I did not post this letter. Recently, however, I have re-read this response and decided . . . it wasn't too bad. In fact, I want to put forth and document my opinion, in a response to those who claim yoga is evil, or negative in any way.

Dear Mr. Moyer:

Recently you announced that you think Christians who practice yoga should stop because you consider it to be against the tenants of the Christian faith.

My first inclination was to ignore you; I think that when people make declarations such as this, with such obvious lack of knowledge or facts, I kinda don’t like to dignify them with a response. But, the more I think about it, you need to not be ignored, but refuted.

In the same way that all Christians are not people who choose to categorize individuals or groups of people into “saved” and “damned,” all who practice yoga are not converting to other religions, or turning their back on their Christian faith.

Please include this caveat in what I say – there is absolutely nothing wrong with other religions or ways of seeking God. Um, you might have heard this, but I’ll remind you that Jesus was Jewish.

I am in the midst of figuring out what it is I believe, and how best to serve God through my beliefs. I love to chant in the Sanskrit language, because it helps to turn off my brain and turn on my heart. Christian hymns about how I’m a sinner and saved only through the death of a saint just don’t help me to find God.

Being spiritual is much more important to me than choosing a label or a religion; religion is a structure made by man for and to serve man, not necessarily to serve God.

I’ll quote Anne LaMott -- “Religion is for people who are afraid of Hell. Spirituality is for people who have been there.”

I particularly feel the need to stand up for Hinduism, which is completely misrepresented and misunderstood in this country. There are many sects of this ancient religion, and I don’t pretend to completely understand it (of course, I can’t say I completely understand Christianity, the religion I have practiced since birth). But I will say that many people think that Hindus worships a series of Gods when most branches of Hinduism only worship the different aspects of God, in the same way that Christians revere their trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

No one has yet to accuse you of worshipping doves.

What is Yoga? Yoga is not a religion; it is a science; a system for solving human problems. It is a very ancient, proven system for improving one’s life by first becoming morally accountable for all actions – physical, mental and verbal -- and improving one’s life by disciplining the senses and mind. By attaining heath and equilibrium in the body, which is the temple, for it houses your spirit. By gathering the invisible forces of energy that flow through your body; and allowing you to raise those energies to the highest possible places, so that you can connect directly with that spirit, that higher power – God, the Divinity, Great Spirit, whatever it is that you call the highest of high.

I am wondering if perhaps your greatest problem with this is that it tells people that they do not need a guide to God; they can find God on their own.

For many people in this country, practicing yoga is simply an exercise class; it’s a way to get strong, and more flexible. And that’s totally fine. For many of us, the practice of actually inhabiting the body, of studying the mind has led us down a path of figuring out exactly who we are, and why we’re here. For many, it leads to you to attuning to a higher spiritual power, however you see that power.

Some see that power as Mohammed, some as the Blessed Mother Mary, perhaps others see that power in the forests and the planets; and some see that power as Jesus.

Who are you to say that any of them are wrong?

Mr. Moyer, I invite you to take my yoga class (you might want to start with the level 1 class); perhaps if you stretch your body, and soften your heart, perhaps you might open your mind to the possibility that there are many, many pathways to God.




My friend and contractor, Josh, is the salt of the Earth; a sweet, gentle, bear of a guy. One day he was at the house, working on our kitchen. A friend had been visiting, and when she left I gave her a card with a little cash in it to help out; she was having a tough time.

She must have driven down the road a while before she opened the card, and she came back, ran into the house and gave me a big, tearful hug. No words. We were both crying. And then she left.

He looked at me quizzically, and I said “Just helping a friend.” And he said “That’s how it should be; we should take care of each other – take care of the people around us.”

I try to always remember what he said, because he is so right.

Right now it feels like there is a deep awareness of sacrifices; much is falling apart and a new reality is being created. All around us, there is tremendous need. People in our community need money; food; help with the very basics of life. You may want to help and think "how?" Remember, each and every moment, every day, you have something to offer to others, even if it’s not cold hard cash.

It can be such a blessing to offer to cook a meal for someone; to watch a small child for a neighbor while they run an errand or go to the doctor. To mow the grass or plant some flowers for someone who cannot do it for themselves.

It is so simple to smile at everyone. To put down your cellphone and speak to the cashier who helps you with your groceries. To write a note of thanks to a teacher,a mentor, or a relative.

There is pain and suffering all around the world, but there is also pain and suffering right outside your door. We all can’t drop our lives and go feed the hungry in a foreign country. But we can serve a meal at our local soup kitchen. We cannot always send money to repair cleft palates in India, but we can provide toothbrushes to homeless students at the local high school. We might not be able travel to the Brazilian rain forests to save an animal from extinction, but we can go cuddle the pets at the SPCA.

We can use our collective energies to visualize a world at peace; to send light and loving thoughts to the troubled, the hungry, the frightened. We can pray and meditate for others, for the troubled people of Japan, for the wildfires in Arizona; and also for ourselves. So that we can become a beacon of hope, a rock of stability – for friends, for neighbors, and for anyone we meet along the path.

Two minutes, ten minutes, a couple hours, a weekend; the simple offering of your time and talent can change not only another person’s destiny, but your own.

Little things really do mean a lot.



Tuesday, June 28, 2011


“YOU are a manifestor.”

“I’m a . . . . what?” Sitting on the floor three years ago in the big, empty yoga studio, chatting with a woman who was interested in presenting a workshop, it hardly felt like I had “manifested” the Studio. At the time I was stressed, worried about making the rent, and thinking, ”Honey, this didn’t just appear; I have been working like a dog."

In the years that have passed, an understanding of manifestation and the laws of creation have become more clear to me. And I realize, this woman who I really didn’t know very well; she was right.

Nobody said manifesting didn't also occasionally include some blood, sweat, and tears.

I am thinking of this today because outside my kitchen window, there is a big raspberry bush. We did not plant it, but we are sure happy it is here.

When we moved into this home, our hillside was shady and quite thickly laid with layers of English ivy. We culled the trees, and in doing so, created space. I kept thinking how wonderful it would be to fill the hillside with berry bushes, redbuds, fruit trees. Wrestling with the ivy has been more challenging than I anticipated, so actually planting things on the hill is practically impossible.

Impossible for me, but not for Mother Nature; and into that space on the hill countless blackberry, and now raspberry bushes, have sprouted up. Now I realize; those bushes are a manifestation. I drew them into my yard, and my life.

When we first moved into the house, I spent much time looking from the front porch toward the mountain view, a view obscured by a huge weeping willow tree. I adore weeping willows, and admired it often, but often in my mind thought . . . “ahhhh, what a view we would have if that tree was not there.” It was not long until a great portion of the tree came down in a storm. Not long after that, the owners had it dissected and removed. A dear friend tells me that the tree wanted me to have the view. I’ve always felt a little bad about it. It was an excellent lesson about the power of the mind.

The concept of “aham brahmasmi” (I AM the creative principle) is central to yogic thought. Absolute and total responsibility for everything and everyone in your life.

Everything. Everyone.


And the thing is, the more you become self-aware and look to the symbols around you, the faster it happens. You dream a dream, and it creates. You have a desire, and it is fulfilled.

Though, not always in the way you originally thought. You have to be clear; you have to have a vision, and this vision needs to serve not only you but the Universe.

So lately I am studying manifestation with (hopefully) a little more self-awareness; reading up on creating our reality, and how to draw things, people, events, into your personal universe. The book I am reading suggests no coy wording; no “if I could” or “if it’s in my best interest . . .“ It says to ask for what you want; to give thanks for it coming towards you; and to have confidence and faith that this creation will be brought into form.

Whether you realize it or not, YOU are a manifestor. Vow to create more consciously; and to figure out what will bring you happiness, wisdom and joy. And before you begin to dream your dream, be REALLY certain what you THINK you want is truly WHAT you want.

Time to go pick some berries.


Uttara Yoga Studio, LLC. Blog design by Jessica Hedrick