One Month of Ananda

August 18, 2012

I’ve been here at Ananda for a month, and it’s flown by. It’s beautiful here, and I’ve been meeting new people every day. Most of them thought they knew me or had met me before, that odd sense of familiarity – what is that? Is it the knowing of a prior lifetime? A soul recognition, a soul resonance? Is it a product of my Irish/English face, the genes that have spread around the globe? Is it merely my love for people in general, my work at being open that causes them to feel that we are closer than strangers normally are, that I accept them like an old friend would?

My days at Ananda usually begin around 5:30am. Recharging exercises (a series of breathing and muscle tensing exercises), kriya yoga, and meditation at 6am or a shorter one at 7am, in the temple or the yoga hall. Breakfast served at 8:45am – homemade yogurt, fresh baked bread, honey, oatmeal, cream of rice, corn flakes, fruit, coffee, tea… and, occasionally, unfortunately, Nutella. I cannot NOT eat Nutella if it’s within eyesight.

While here at Ananda I participated in the ‘Yoga in Action’ and ‘Service is Joy’ programs, so for a discount on room and board I volunteered around 20 to 30 hours per week, washing dishes, peeling potatoes, vacuuming the large dining room, cleaning bathrooms. We were given a few tips on working joyfully that were actually quite effective, so I almost always enjoyed the work – I even learned to scrub toilets without minding. This for me was quite interesting. I feel like I didn’t really learn to clean the house growing up – searching my memory banks (which are fairly sparse on childhood memories), washing dishes, cleaning windows, washing the car and taking out the trash were some of the chores I remembered doing. I don’t remember ever actually cleaning the house or bathrooms, so I think for those reasons they were always chores I’d avoided after growing up. Through this work at Ananda I learned (and practiced) cleaning efficiently, without negative feelings or resistance. The daunting concept of cleaning has become more manageable.

Sometimes in the morning we would have Sadhana meetings with Tony and Namasia, the two directors of ‘the Service is Joy’ programs, during which we would meditate and discuss spiritual readings and topics – part education, part therapy. During ‘Yoga is Action’ we were allowed to take one of the courses offered at the center – I did “How to Live With More Energy” and the incredible art workshop with Dana Lynn AndersonPainting from the Heart and Soul”.

Lunch is served at Ananda at 1:30pm. Vegetarian/vegan, always a salad bar and fruit and steamed veggies and rice and then the day’s offering – gorgonzola pasta or stuffed zucchini or a lentil dish. I’ve been eating entirely too much as I always want to try everything, and the fresh bread is so good.

Afternoons are more work or class, yoga and meditation around 5:45pm, dinner served at 7:30pm. Most evenings there’s something to do after dinner – kirtan music and dancing, a talk about art or community, a concert by the resident cellist or a visiting violinist.

There are about 150 people who live here in the Ananda Community, and anywhere from 30-100 guests who stay at the retreat center. So there are always people around to chat with and new people to meet.

Everything is in Italian and English, which I absolutely love. I’ve gotten to translate a few times – in a yoga class, in a meeting. It’s a skill I’ll have to practice more – it’s challenging to be talking at the same time someone else is an trying to keep up – but I enjoy it.

Sunsets here are amazing. In 30 days I think I only saw one sunset that wasn’t spectacularly vibrant reds and oranges. And the views are 100% Italian – rolling hills, patchworks of fields, green trees, stone houses.

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Guess where it is?

I’m surprise it wasn’t in India… but the next most logical spot: San Francisco.

Photo by Bay Cities News

I remember how delighted I was to see a sign for a “Meditation Room” in the Albuquerque airport; a yoga room is even better! I’ve been tempted to do yoga in airports before, especially with all the traveling I’ve done in the last year, but I never managed to summon up the cojones to do a downward dog in the passenger waiting area.

Photo by Bay Cities News

How did this happen? The director of SFO has been practicing yoga for 18 years, and after hearing someone make an offhand remark that they had everything but a place to do yoga, he made it happen.

And, it’s free to use! They even provide mats.

The world is a-changin’!!! I look forward to the day when it’s normal for everyone to meditate and do yoga, just like everyone brushes their teeth and showers.

LAX has gotta be next.

Official Yoga Pictogram - Photo by Bay Cities News

 

*Thanks to Mariana for sending me the article!

Who Are You… Really?

January 12, 2012

So I’m still trying to figure out how to follow up the Death post… the response was incredible, and filled my heart with love. Thank you to everyone who sent love, I can feel it.

While wrestling with the draft for my next blog post, I came across this mind-blowing video:

This is pretty much the deepest fuckin’ video I’ve ever seen. I get the feeling I’ll be spending the rest of my life trying to live the truth spoken here.

And don’t you just want to BREATHE that air!?!

“You are free. You are whole. You are endless. There’s not bottom to you, no boundary to you. Any idea about yourself appears in you, and will disappear back into you. You are awareness and awareness is consciousness. Let all self-definitions die in this moment. Let them go and see what remains. See what is never born and what does not die. Feel the relief of laying down the burden of defining yourself. Experience the actual non-reality of the burden. Experience the joy that is here.”

I’m trying out a new challenge today.

I’m only going to check email/facebook/twitter twice today; once at noon, and once after I get home from work.

I find myself compulsively checking those three throughout the day for a sense of connection and validation. Mini pick-me-ups, mini mood-boosters.

I don’t want to rely on technology for that. I want to control technology; I don’t want it to control my mood.

I may do the same with my cell phone – just shut it off 90% of the time, and have a specific time that I turn it on and check messages and respond. I seek (and receive) that same sense of validation/connection from text messages.

I’m tired of being dependent, and I’m tired of being distracted. I want to channel my energy purposefully. I want to DO things that will make me happy long-term, rather than RECEIVE things that distract me from my dissatisfaction in the short-term. I want to push my personal boundaries of clarity and progress towards my goals.

I’m excited to conduct this experiment with my life and see how it goes. This morning I did not get online and spend my usual 45ish minutes checking email/FB/Twitter. Instead I wrote my Three Morning Pages, meditated, took a walk around my neighborhood while listening to Philosophers Notes, watered the spinach I’m growing in the backyard, did some yoga, and ate breakfast with my roommate. I can tell this is going to be a great day.

Feel free to join me in my experiment and let me know how it goes for you!

How to Create Energy

February 5, 2011

A friend asked me the other day what I do to get so much energy.

There are probably 100 factors but here are a few I feel I have control over right now:

1. Eating Clean

I’m 36 days into my Clean Eating Challenge. I’ve dropped intoxicants (alcohol, caffeine) and severely limited refined sugars, processed foods (including bread), dairy, and meat (when I do eat meat, it’s chicken). I really feel like my body needs less sleep now – I’m guessing less recovery time from the stress you create in your body by eating foods your body isn’t made to process. My skin is so much softer and clearer. My memory is better – I realized recently that I now remember people’s names after hearing them one time (that one’s pretty strange), and I find I can remember everything without having to write it down (I’ve started shopping without grocery lists). My sense of smell is sharper. I have fewer emotional lows. My psoriasis is fading. The pea-sized subcutaneous cyst that I’ve had on my neck for a few years is almost entirely gone (when I put the paste my Ayurvedic doctor gave me on it it shrinks, but I have to keep that up or it returns).

What I AM eating is foods from Farmer’s Markets. I no longer shop at Whole Foods due to their policies on Genetically Modified Organisms and Monsanto, and I’ve been to Trader Joe’s about 3 times this year. I’ve started to get to know my Farmer’s Market vendors in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills and Culver City, and they’ve started cutting me deals! Last weekend I made my Leek, Sweet Potato and Pear soup, with Ginger Asparagus Quinoa with a Carrot Ginger sauce on top of that.  I’m also eating a lot of Bolani (available at both the CC and BH markets). Bolani is my new favorite thing – it’s like a quesadilla made with super-thin naan-like tortillas, and instead of cheese it’s stuffed with lentils or pumpkin or spinach or potato (the first two are my favorites). When I need a sugar fix, I eat fresh melt-in-your-mouth dates. If you have a sweet tooth and you’ve never had fresh dates, you need to try them.

2. Meditating

Last year I meditated about 6 days a week; on the 1st of 2011 I made a 100% commitment to daily meditation, and intend to keep that for the rest of my life. Some days it’s 15 minutes, and some days it’s an hour. Some days it’s in my room, some days it’s on my porch, some days it’s on the beach. Like eating clean is clearing out my body, I feel like meditating is clearing out my mind.  Science is proving that meditating is exactly like working out. Your brain is a muscle, but instead of physical strength you’re building focus and clarity. Ideas flowing to me.

3. Exercising

I do yoga two days a week; I run a few days a week as training for a 1/2 marathon I intend to complete in May; I try to talk a walk every day either during lunch or after dinner, and I try to hike on the weekends. We all know that, paradoxically, exercise energizes you.

4. Saying No

In 2011 I’ve been practicing saying No to energy drains. Energy drains like intoxicants  and refined sugar and sub-optimal foods, but also energy drains like people, or like doing things I don’t REALLY want to do. I’m simply being honest with people – everyone – including my boss. If I don’t want to do something, I tell them. If I’m not available to talk to them on the phone about their problems, I tell them. I make it clear that it’s not personal and my saying no is not a reflection of how much I do or don’t value them as a person or as a friend; but I’m just getting more real. It’s so refreshing, and I’m finding out that it works better for everyone.

5. Doing what I love

I wake up crazy early because I’m EXCITED to get up!!! I want to meditate and write and create! I want to read empowering and inspirational quotes on Twitter! I want to come up with ideas and work on co-creative projects with people I love working with! That could be #6: co-creative projects. I am working on awesome, fun, inspiring projects, (outside of my day job) with about 6 different partners right now. These are projects I’m doing just because I WANT TO, but working with another person keeps me moving forward when, if I were trying to do it by myself, I might give up. I’m hoping that eventually I will be able to support myself I know that soon I will be able to support myself doing things I love with people I love. That’s my #1 goal. Create my perfect day, every day. And with these small steps, create my ideal life.

So,  this is where I think I’m getting all this energy. Join me?

 

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

– Alexander Graham Bell

“One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power.”

– Tony Robbins

[quotes shared by the awesome Mastin Kipp at TheDailyLove.com ]

Jim Morrison on Pain

June 29, 2010

Contrasting my last blog (A Satisfied Mind) with today’s topic, it’s good to note that I’m feeling the full gamut of emotions. Ha!

…Though I suppose being satisfied doesn’t mean that you don’t experience pain, or that you have to be happy all the time. Thanks for the reminder, Jim:

“People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that’s bullshit. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they’re afraid to feel? Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they’re wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It’s all in how you carry it. That’s what matters. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you’re letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.”

– Jim Morrison

I realized today that my fear of pain is always worse than pain itself. I’m talking about emotional pain, but I suppose this applies to physical pain, which is just a construct of your brain anyways… So perhaps all pain is just emotional?

The most painful experiences of my life have been the ones that have led to the most emotional growth. What if I could welcome pain as a catalyst for growth, rather than fearing it and causing myself anxiety and trying to avoid it? I suppose that’s what courage is.

“Life without pain is a long endless chain of errors repeated again and again. So don’t be afraid of pain, don’t run away.”

– Pain (punk band)

Before learning mindfulness/meditation/yoga/breathing techniques, I don’t think I ever knew how to effectively deal with pain. So I would deny or avoid it. Now that I know what it is, and what to do with it, and that it’s not that scary, it passes in a few minutes. And then I have the space to feel another emotion – contentment, joy, satisfaction. I like that.

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”

– Dante A. Lavey

Lots of great music this past weekend! Between shows I was thinking about how I prefer yoga and dancing to any church or service because there’s no separation of spirituality & physicality. When it comes to dancing at house clubs, I’ve pretty much decided I don’t want to drink anymore. Not only is it cheaper & I feel better in the morning (and don’t look glazed in pictures or lose chunks of time during night) but for me dancing is exercise AND spiritual… if you think about it, no one has a drink before going to yoga… at least no one I know. Which, actually, is a bit surprising.

Here are a few pics from the weekend:
Miike Snow at the Fox Theater in Pomona on Friday:

Tortured Soul at King King on Saturday, with Adam Auburn (click Adam’s name for his sick set!!!) & Zack Hill & Steven Dimitri (who all totally killed it!):

then the xx at the Wiltern on Sunday (love the deco-ness of the Wiltern):

Between those shows I squeezed in yoga at Bhakti Yoga Shala in Santa Monica, a trip to the Farmer’s Market where a guy was playing the sax and I bought some Dahlias:

and a gorgeous hike in the Palisades, with a stop off at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine.

Still doing my Consumer Fast as far as not buying STUFF…but experiences are a different thing. 🙂 Thoroughly enjoying life and I am so grateful for all of the wonderful, positive, joyful, fun, caring people that surround me. I’m a lucky, lucky biotch!

I’m also a lucky biotch because, despite accidentally anointing my laptop keyboard with an alarming amount of safflower oil, my laptop continues to function. Praise the computer gods!!!!!!!!

Here’s one of my fav Tortured Soul tracks to help the Monday go by faster:

Climbing higher.

May 16, 2010

Oh, man. What a weekend! What a month! So many things to write about… I wish I had more time to write. As in, I wish I had a ton of money and could sit around all day and write. Hopefully I will someday. Where’s that rich hubby? 😉 KIDDING. I’m working on writing and getting paid for it…

Regardless, I have been making progress in my goal to creating more time in my life for writing. Not drinking alcohol (no going out and getting drunk) or caffeine (can’t go out and stay up late using caffeine to keep me up or to artificially “wake” myself up in the morning) has helped that. As was true of last time I did no booze/no caffeine, I miss coffee more. Oh, I miss having a nice glass of wine or a beer while I’m out with friends, or if we have a dinner party like we did on Friday night. But it’s ok, probably because, like I said, not wasting time with intoxicants is enabling me to spend more time on writing (and hiking and cooking and yoga…and my other focuses for 2010). Also, I simply haven’t felt like going out dancing. I know there have been a bunch of good djs around this past week, but when it comes down to it, I don’t want to go out. I’d rather stay home (in my beautiful room or living room or dining room) and work on all these awesome projects I have going on. I think I’ve danced enough hours away over the past 13 years…I think I can take a break. Maybe I’m getting “old,” or my priorities are shifting – ok wait, that’s not a maybe; that’s a fact. And actually I DID get to dance in the yoga class I go to on Saturday mornings at Yoga Bhakti Shala. Govindas is the most awesome yoga instructor ever (hmm him and Colin Kim), and this past Saturday we danced and shook and jumped and shouted and HUGGED. I think I got about 16 hugs in class, and probably about 4 more later that day. Hugging actually has a bunch of psychological and physiological benefits. I told that to some friends that I went hiking with today, so we had a hug fest, and I think I got another 10 or so hugs. HUG IT OUT!

So: I really want to write about my and Katy’s New Mexico trip…I’ve got photos too. Kick-ass photos. Of llamas and chili peppers and skulls.

But I also want to write about my awesome weekend. It encapsulated pretty much everything I love – a dinner party, meditation, yoga, dancing, talking with friends, laughing with friends, Indian food, writing, Flight of the Conchords, The Office, 30 Rock, the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, dates (the fruit, not the other kind), hiking, more laughing, taking pictures, climbing rocks, climbing trees, wearing my Vibrams, a waterfall, collaging, cooking, eating an artichoke, driving around on a gorgeous day with the top down, blueberry corncakes, introducing friends to new music and a new nommy restaurant, talking about Don Miguel Ruiz, more laughing… Ok, there are more things that I love, but that’s a damn lot for one weekend!

Rock climbing...

If I had four more hours in this day I’d write more, but I only have one and a quarter, and I still need to make dinner (sauteed swiss chard from the farmer’s market and wake up early enough to fit in a jog and more writing before work. I hope your weekend brought you as much happiness as mine did!

This post is about my recent successes and failures in the challenges I’m doing for the month of May (no sugar, no alcohol, no caffeine, no dairy, no processed foods, etc etc).  I read today in Tal Ben-Shahar’s book Happier that it is the process of striving after goals – rather than actually attaining them – that makes us happy. Good news for those of us who aren’t perfect!

FAILURE = Missed a blog post again yesterday. BUT,

SUCCESS = I was also sugar-alcohol-caffeine free. This was with the added temptation of stopping at a Spanish friend’s birthday party at what looked like a fabulous tapas restaurant on La Cienega (La Paella). Y’all know that I love wine, and I LOVELOVE food. But I partook of  neither. I had mint tea instead. I was very proud of myself.

SUCCESS = I also haven’t logged on to Facebook at work AT ALL since April 30th. That is a huge accomplishment for me. I still allow myself to check Facebook on my Droid occassionally, but you can’t waste quite as much time on FB when you’re interfacing through a phone. So, WIN for me!

FAILURE = Haven’t been practicing harmonica. I always do this with musical instruments. I’ve figured out that I have some deep-seated fears around self-expression. I’m musically talented but after the initial rush (one week), I lose motivation. I remember this being a habit since I was in 2nd grade (at least)… So, I haven’t been practicing, but I DO want to become proficient, and I’ve already booked two gigs so…time to start practicing. Maybe visualizing will help…

SUCCESS = Have been meditating or doing yoga every day.

SUCCESS = Woke up at 5:45am this morning (internal alarm clock) and went to a 7am yoga class at Bhakti Yoga Shala in Santa Monica. My goal is to go to yoga 3 times a week. I did yoga on Sunday in Santa Fe (it was incredible, a gong was involved, I had no idea what an audible tickling a gong can give you if played correctly), so today was my second time this week! I felt wonderful afterwards (and for the rest of the day). Hoping that I’m forming a new habit. I really want to check out Yoga West, which specializes in Kundalini (my favorite type) and is much closer to my house.

I have a blog drafted about why I do these challenges that I haven’t written up yet. It comes down to that you grow through challenges. I’m treating my life as an experiment & trying out different modes of living.

I also realized while writing this post that exposure to failure is good for me. Somewhere along the way I picked up the belief that you should never fail. It’s been very rare in my life that I’ve actually tried to do hard or challenging things, and risked failure. Better to do the minimum, the easy stuff, and not try my best. Then if I do fail, I’ve got excuses to fall back on. So, committing to all these challenges, and posting this blog detailing my failures, is a huge step forward for me. Woo hoo! This fear of failure also ties into perfectionism and starting things, but never finishing them. I have about 10 blog drafts I’ve started in the last year that I still haven’t published. I don’t like to “finish” things because once they’re done, you have to put them out there. You’re exposed, you’re open to criticism; you’re open to failure. Of course, this belief isn’t even true – I can always go back in and edit a blog (which, actually, is what I’m doing now! LOL).

This is tangentially related – I should use this in my future, fleshed-out post on why I’m doing the all the crazy challenges – but I saw this quote on my good friend China Brook’s blog tonight:

“Your former habits of thinking and being must disintegrate before better ways of behaving can begin to integrate.”

-LWT

True dat! Check out her blog at http://chinabrooks.com/words/spiritual/

She’s my inspiration.